2009 FILM REVIEW (AND A PREVIEW OF 2010)
If last week’s traffic taught me anything, it’s that you like it when your friendly neighborhood Kaiderman talks film. Which is great because if there’s one thing I can do, it’s talk about film at great, great, often disturbingly great length. So here goes:
Being that it’s nearing the end of the year, we are being inundated with “Best Of” lists. So, I really didn’t want to do one. However, the more of them I read, the more and more I disagree and wanted to voice my own opinion. That of the fan and not of the critic. Technically, I should be doing the “Best Of The Decade” list (the decade ends this year, not next year… do the math). Unfortunately, due to the foolish ways of my youth, most of the decade is somewhat of a blur to me. So, I settle for this. Not really a best and worst list. More like a list of my favorites and biggest disappointments. We’ll start with:
MY FAVORITE FILMS OF THE YEAR.
The biggest problem with most critic’s “Best Films” lists is that they often sound like they are casting their Oscar ballots. The problem with that is that the Academy looks to reward certain types of films. Even when some of the better films manage to catch a nomination, they don’t always win (i.e. Ordinary People beats Raging Bull or Shakespeare In Love robs Saving Private Ryan… we’ll address those at a later date). When I sit down to watch a movie, I don’t judge it based on star power or genre or things of that nature. I judge it on whether or not it delivered on the emotion it promised me in the preview it would illicit. Did it keep me in suspense? Did it drain me of a tear? Did it scare me to the core? Or was it just plain awesome? That being said, while these may not be the quote-un-quote “Best Films of the Year”, I present you with my favorites. Here we go (in order):
10. AVATAR. Okay, this wasn’t the greatest story ever told, I didn’t love the blue people and the dialogue was a little wooden. Still, the story was good, the CG rendering was amazing and, if there’s one thing George Lucas taught us with the Star Wars movies, it’s that you don’t need great dialogue to make an enjoyable film. In fact, I liked Avatar, but it only makes #10 because it lacked the heart all of Jim Cameron’s other films had. However, I want it noted, that this was the most stunning film I’ve ever watched. The 3-D puts everything before it to shame (take that Jaws 3) and the technology developed to make this film will change the way we see films from here on out. The best part is that all that equipment is sitting in Peter Jackson’s Weta Studios waiting for him to take a crack at it. Can’t wait for that!
9. DRAG ME TO HELL. This film got great reviews but I didn’t believe it could be as good as people were saying. Sure, Sam Raimi, creator of the Evil Dead and Spiderman trilogies, was returning to the genre where he got his start, but people were obviously more excited about that and skewing their opinion of the movie, right? Wrong! This campy little horror flick was fun from start to finish and I still can’t believe the ending.
8. THE HANGOVER. I have to admit, when I left the theater after seeing The Hangover, I was a little disappointed. Mainly because the previews for this film were so hilarious that I was sure I was going to see the funniest film ever made. I mean, Mike Tyson singing Phil Collins, hitting babies that wear big people sunglasses with car doors, giving strippers you married in a drunken haze your grandma’s halocaust ring, Zach mutha f-in Galafinakis… Classic! Right? Well, maybe it’s not the best comedy ever but, I will say this, after a second viewing, I think this film will enter the cult pantheon with films like Old School and Anchorman. It is pretty friggin’ good!
7. UP. Doubt that I need to justify this to anyone. I’ll just say this… Pixar makes 2 kinds of films, great and phenominal. The majority are the latter. So is Up.
6. INGLORIOUS BASTERDS. I’m just going to go ahead and say it: Tarantino’s best film since Pulp Fiction.
5. STAR TREK. You know how I know Star Trek was a good movie? Because I don’t like Star Trek. I’m a Star Wars kid. I never watched the show or the movies (though I hear Wrath of Khan is da bomb). However, this film was so good it has me almost believing all the J.J. Abrams is the next Spielberg talk… they did say the same thing about M. Night Shyamalan in 2002 though. Look, reboots or remakes can suck. The best part of this one, which I don’t want to spoil for those of you who have yet to see it, is that they use a plot technique to retell the story of Captain Kirk and the gang of the Enterprise that allows all pre-existing Star Trek mythology to remain in tact within this universe. In a way, it boldly goes where no film has gone before. Sorry, had to do it!
4. WATCHMEN. Watchmen is the Bible to fanboys. Hands down the greatest graphic novel of all time. Sorry, Frank Miller! Due to it’s complicated narrative though, it was considered an impossible feat to deliver cinematically. Enter Zach Snyder who delivered one of the most faithful adaptations in comic movie history. You can literally skim the book while watching this film and see how much was taken right from the page. Sure, the ending was tweaked for cinematic reasons, but I, and I may be ridiculed by geeks everywhere for saying this, liked the ending even better than the original. It just made more sense. Ultimately, Watchmen did what no one thought it could do. Please it’s fans.
3. (500) DAYS OF SUMMER. I haven’t rooted for a couple like this since Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Sadly, things don’t work out. Not really a spoiler, as the narrartor tells you right from the beginning, “…this is not a love story.” What it is is an honest look at the foundation and dissolution of a relationship and what some people have to go through on their path to finding true love.
2. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. I’m not proud to say this but I, a 31 year old man, left the hallway light on at night for 2 weeks after seeing this film. I saw this with my dear friend Angie. As the film began, we braced ourselves for the scares the previews had promised. Half way through, we were gripping hands so hard our knuckles were turning white. Near the end, we had wrapped our arms around each other and were gripping one another in a fear fueled embrace. We were so nervous to watch the final scene, we whipped out her i-phone in the theater and googled the ending because we weren’t sure if we could handle what was coming next. All in all, for me, the best scares a movie has ever delivered. This Sundance favorite was filmed for $11,000, and given $3,000 to shoot a new ending for it’s mass release, at the suggestion of Steven Spielberg himself, and went on to gross over $100,000,000, officially making it the most profitable film any studio has ever had. It’s out on DVD next week but if you can still see it in theaters, I would highly suggest you do so!
1. DISTRICT 9. I don’t even know where to begin with this film. That’s how excited I am about it. This feature length remake of Neil Blomkamp’s short film was born out of Blomkamp and Peter Jackson’s inability to bring the Halo franchise to the big screen. Why is it amazing? Well, for one, what looks easily like a 100 million dollar movie was made for a mere 30 million. A modest budget for a studio film (the average is about 45 million), let alone a summer sci-fi action pic. Second, the performance of newcomer Sharlto Copley in his first screen performance. The transformation Copley’s character makes over the course of this movie is amazing. I can’t wait to see what he does in his next role as Murdoch in next year’s A-Team movie. Finally, what holds this together is a strong story. Available now on DVD. Check it out!
***I should note that, since I have children and don’t get to the movies as often as I’d like, there were some films I wasn’t able to see before posting this that look as though they have the potential to make this list. These include: Up In The Air, The Hurt Locker, Precious (Based on the novel Push), An Education and A Serious Man. Good to get that off my chest.
UPDATE (02-25-10): I was able to finally see The Hurt Locker which would move in to my #2 spot for the year!
Let’s move on to:
MY BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENTS OF THE YEAR.
These aren’t the worst films of the year. Worst is something of personal opinion. These are more films that showed a lot of potential but, ultimately, failed to deliver. Here they are in order:
10. JULIE & JULIA. A spot on performance by the great Meryll Streep as the late great Julia Childs and a solid turn by the always charming Amy Adams couldn’t even hold this picture together. Unfortunately, with only 2 hours to tell their story, the filmmakers tried to do too much with this one and were unable to deliver. A shame because the two seperate stories would’ve made cute movies of their own.
9. G.I. JOE. Look, I didn’t go into this one expecting to see Casablanca. And I had a fun time. I just thought it could’ve been a hell of a lot better. I hated the casting of Channing Tatum as Duke, which is a shame because I actually like him in most of his other roles. I also can’t understand why you cast a great actor like Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Cobra Commander then cover his face and make him distort his voice the entire film. And where the heck is Flint? Was that who Brendan Frasier was supposed to be? Oh well, the ninjas kicked ass and at least I got to stare at Sienna Miller dressed in skin tight black leather for a couple of hours.
8. TERMINATOR SALVATION. Can someone tell me why the helming of this reboot, of a beloved franchise, was put into the hands of McG? Was Brett Ratner not available? Personally, I don’t dislike McG. I just don’t know what he did to earn this one. All in all, this film wasn’t as bad as a lot of critics said it was. I just can’t help thinking what this film could’ve been in the hands of someone like James Cameron.
7. X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE. What are you doing to Deadpool, man? And what’s with the adamantium amnesia bullets? Come on! I love Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and Liev Schreiber hit it out of the park as Sabretooth but for all the fanboys out there, who know the origins of Wolverine, I’ve got to say, “What the hell?” Can somebody call Brian Singer and beg him to come back to this franchise and do what he does best… get it right.
6. PUBLIC ENEMIES. You take two of the best working actors out there, Johnny Depp and Christian Bale, Depp being arguably the best of his generation, and put them in Michael Mann’s new movie about famed Depression-era bank robber John Dillinger. What could go wrong? Sadly, everything. In the end, the most important component to a good film was missing here… the story!
5. BRUNO. What I think started out to highlight the insecurities other people have with “Gay America” seemed to slowly skew into an exploitation in and of itself.
4. SURROGATES. What can I say? This film made me nostalgic for I, Robot. That’s saying something.
3. THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1-2-3. Ugh… I don’t even have the energy! I wonder, what will be stronger in the end? Denzel Washington’s acting ability or the Scott brothers’ (Ridley and Tony) attempts to kill his career. It’s also sad that pretty soon Travolta better find another Pulp Fiction because he’s going to have to revive his career again. It’s a shame because I love these directors and these actors but I have no idea what they were thinking. This remake of a beloved 70’s film just had no purpose.
2. THE INVENTION OF LYING. I hate that this movie is on this list. Much like the trailer for The Hangover, this film showed sooooo much promise. Not to mention it starred one of the funniest men on the planet: Ricky Gervais. Unfortunately, like so many other films, all the best parts were in the trailer and what we got was a disappointing comedy with a pro-athiest agenda. Too bad!
1. TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN. Oddly, the (financially) most successful film of the year to date turned out to be the most disappointing. I wasn’t too excited for the first Transformers in a year (2007) that promised to deliver with films like 300, Indy 4, Spidey 3, Pirates 3, Die Hard 4 and The Simpsons Movie. However, in the end, it turned out to be one of the most entertaining popcorn films that year. Sadly, the sequel was all over the place and lacked everything the first film delivered… aside from Megan Fox running from explosions in skimpy outfits… they totally delivered on that one!
Finally, I thought we could take a look into the future and (in random order) look at some of the:
FILMS I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE IN 2010.
15. CLASH OF THE TITANS. I told my wife 9 years ago, if I was able to make it into the industry, this is one of the films I would pitch doing a remake of. Sadly, someone beat me to it. Luckily, we’ve reached a point technically where this film can be given the treatment it deserves. The story is rich and I can’t wait to see what they did with it.
14. KICK-ASS. I saw the early preview for this and it was nothing amazing. However, I heard it’s a bit misleading and the Comic-Con footage displayed a violent ass-kicking display. Mark Millar is one of the better comic writers out there and Matthew Vaughn has shown promise as a director, after years as Guy Ritchie’s producer. I think this one may be a real treat. If it turns out as good as Millar’s other adapted work, Wanted, I’ll be pleased.
13. WALL STREET 2: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS. If ever there was a time to revisit the corporate world of Gorgon Gecko, it is now, what with today’s financial climate. And who better to cast opposite Michael Douglas than one Shia Lebouf who continues to make good career choices and can, in my book, do no wrong.
12. JONAH HEX. This movie is about a little known DC Comics character starring a solid actor in Josh Brolin. Hopefully, Megan Fox won’t mess this whole thing up as she has been known to do on other films (See Transformers 2).
11. LITTLE FOCKERS. Ben Stiller is back, luckily for Teri Polo’s career, as the character he was born to play: Gaylord Focker. And he’s a daddy. Cue Hoffman, Streisand and De Niro and let the hijinks ensue.
10. THE LOVELY BONES. Didn’t read the book (Sorry, Oprah!) and wasn’t too excited when Peter Jackson announced this as his next project. Then I saw the teaser trailer. Not only is the story twisted but the film looks stunning. Peter Jackson does it again!
9. THE EXPENDABLES. An 80’s style action film, written and directed by one of the greatest 80’s action stars (Sylvester Stallone) and co-starring a motley crew of action veterans such as Dolph Lundgren, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Eric Roberts and Mickey Rourke… count me in!
8. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. I absolutely LOVE the casting of Jackie Earl Haley (Little Children, Watchmen) as Krueger. I also love that they’re looking to explore more of the storyline involving the parents that initially killed child-killer Freddy Krueger. Recent horror remakes, such as Friday The 13th and Last House On The Left, have left me a bit disappointed. Hopefully, they get it right with Nightmare… the greatest horror franchise of my youth and the 80’s greatest horror figure.
7. THE LAST AIRBENDER. Not titled Avatar, for obvious reasons, this big screen live action adaptation of a Nickelodeon cartoon (Avatar: The Last Airbender) looks promising. Believe me, I have no excuse for The Happening but if M. Night Shayamalan’s first 3 studio pictures (The 6th Sense, Unbreakable, Signs) proved anything, it’s that he’s capable of making good movies. So, come one M. Night… redeem yourself. I haven’t jumped off the bandwagon yet.
6. A COUPLE OF DICKS. Two of the biggest reasons I fell in love with film were Clerks and Mallrats. Because of them, I’ll see anything Kevin Smith does. With “A Couple Of Dicks”, Smith delivers his first film not associated with the Weinsteins brothers (of Miramax), that has his first real budget and his first certifiable star in Bruce Willis. Can’t wait!
UPDATE (02-25-10): This film’s title was changed to Cop Out prior to it’s release.
5. THE THREE STOOGES. The Farrelly brothers might be back with their new Three Stooges movie starring Benicio Del Toro (as Moe), Paul Giamatti (as Larry) and a fattened up Jim Carrey (as Curly). Sean Penn unfortunately dropped out as Larry. Probably because he exhausted that look for his performance in Carlito’s Way. Luckily, Giamatti’s a stud in everything he does. Jury’s out on whether this one will be a return to form for the Farrely’s but I’m excited to find out.
4. PREDATORS. Robert Rodriguez was given free reign at Troublemaker Studios to do his own interpretation of a Predator reboot starring… Adrien Brody. Rob Rod is one of my favorite directors and I love the quirky casting. I’m in!
UPDATE (02-25-10): Apparently, Robert Rodriguez has stepped down as director and is now producing and co-writing this film.
3. IRON MAN 2. The first Iron Man turned out to be, surprisingly, one of the best comic book adaptations to date. Thanks in part to the vision of everybody’s favorite fat man, Jon Favreau and a stellar performance by the one and only Robert Downey, Jr. With a born again star like Mickey Rourke joining the cast as bad boy Whiplash, and Don Cheadle stepping into the shoes of War Machine, look for this film to rock. Plus, Iron Man 2, along with the upcoming Thor and Captain America films, both set for a 2011 release, will begin the storyline that will bring us the ultimate star powered, superhero mash up in 2012: The Avengers. I just got the chills!
2. INCEPTION. Much like James Cameron, until Christopher Nolan makes a bad film, I will see anything he does. Inception, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, looks like a mind f–k about a corporation that develops a technology that allows them to hack into people’s dreams to extract information from their brains. Not excited? Watch the trailer, you will be. If for nothing else, watch it for the zero gravity fight in a hotel hallway… AWESOME!!!
1. TOY STORY 3. I’m sure everyone agrees with me on this one. Pixar is on a roll and Toy Story is, hands down, their best franchise. They came through with a sequel and my guess is they can do it again with this threequel.
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