Thursday, December 31, 2009


Now that we’ve come to the end of another year, I guess it’s time to reflect a little on some of the things of note in pop culture. This years movies were a real mixed bag. Can’t say that it’s as clear cut as last years’ batch of films as to which ten were the best, but I made an effort to round up what I could...

10) DISTRICT 9 --Shot documentary style, this portrayal of an unintentional alien invasion picture reflects what would probably be the closest thing to reality of the SF films such as Alien Nation or the V tv series. Tragic and with touches of great humor.

9) OBSERVE AND REPORT --As outrageous a black comedy as you’ll see. Still hard to believe some of the things they got away with in this one. You’ll laugh, you’ll be baffled, you’ll watch a sick man totally lose his mind and totally understand his madness.

8) THE WRESTLER --Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei are both great in this character drama about a down and out wrestler and a stripper who is nearing the age where she will have to stop relying on her looks to get by. The two are on oddly similar paths, but only one of them can turn off.

7) THE HANGOVER --A comedy/mystery? Yeah, that’s the story of a group of friends so hung over that they can’t remember what happened the night before--or where their best friend has gone missing. A nifty ensemble of talent enhancing the craftily thought out plot.

6) THE HURT LOCKER --Easily the best of the Iraq war movies and the most realistic. It really gets the viewer into the impossible position the common soldier is in while occupying a country that is such a contrast within itself.

5) STAR TREK --How do you bring back a franchise from the dead? Push on forward with the natural progression of the characters as they have lived so far? Nope. Go back into the history of their reality and show how the events of the past have built up to the present ala Star Wars? Nope. Take the entire history, resign it to being an alternate reality and steer the franchise (with the characters from that great history) forward into a bold new future of unexplored possibilities so that the ideas seem fresh while retaining that tinge for nostalgia? I guess so. Worked for me this time.

4) 500 DAYS OF SUMMER --Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who has proven his ability in indie films like “The Lookout” and “Brick”, and Zooey Deschanel, whose quirky presence is always a breath of fresh air, play a couple of singles who fall for one another. The problem being one falls much harder for the other than the other does. Poor guy. So it’s an episodic look at their relationship throughout it’s 500 days of Summer. An interesting romantic comedy for a change.

3) AWAY WE GO --And here’s one that is at once romantic and comedic and also as introspective as 500 Days was. An even more indie film, but with superb performances from Maya Rudolph and John Krasinski--they lift this material to higher ground. There is no doubt about their relationship or their journey to discover where and how they will raise their soon-to-be-born child. Hey, wait a minute, I didn't see this one in the theatre! Oh well...

2) ZOMBIELAND --Zombies. Woody Harrelson as a wacky expert zombie killer. Neurotic young narrator and two lovely young ladies. Throw in what has to be one of the best cameos in movie history and you’ve got a thoughtful look at people living life during a zombie apocalypse without getting too worked up about it. You’d have to have those kinds of skills to survive and these are some of the last survivors. Hope they sequel this one.

1) THE ROAD --And now to the sadly realistic and depressing apocalypse. It’s the end of the world and the few remaining people are walking through a burning landscape of smoke and no sunshine, of starvation and completely unclean living. Viggo Mortensen is trying to raise a child by himself in this forsaken hell of bitter cold, earthquakes, toppling cinders of trees and a life full of bug eating. Harrowing, to say the least, this is still a movie about hope in the face of starvation, depravation and extinction.

And your obligatory list of movies that didn’t quite make the cut...

UP, which while brilliant in the first half, suffered toward the end.

DRAG ME TO HELL, fun, scary and well made--just decide which you want to be: funny or scary.

EXTRACT was darn funny and well acted. More humorous than laugh-out-loud funny.

ADVENTURELAND wanted to be a comedy in it’s ads and turned out to be melodrama instead.

I LOVE YOU MAN was out and out funny and very enjoyable--just short of the top ten.

CORALINE was beautiful to watch and imaginative, it just felt about 15 minutes too long.

INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS was another film that didn’t quite match it’s advertisement. However it delivered, my viewing was ruined by a malfunction of the projector during the last 10 minutes of the film.

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE wasn’t nearly as exciting on the island as I expected. Solid film, great beginning and ending though.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY did all it could with it's bare-bones budget and that says a lot. Taking the haunted house theme in a whole new direction, the chills come despite little on-screen evidence to show for it. It draws from both The Haunting and The Exorcist and puts on a good showing. The little horror that could.

THE INVENTION OF LYING didn’t quite live up to the promise of the premise, although he took the idea of the worlds’ first liar into places I would never have suspected.

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