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Saturday, March 6, 2010

Top 5 Best and Worst of 2009

It’s that time kids. My top five best and worst films of 2009. The list pretty much speaks for itself, so lets roll with it:

TOP 5 BEST OF 2009

5. Public Enemies **** out of ****
Nope it wasn’t nominated for anything. It wasn’t even particularly well received by critics, but that’s their loss. Johnny Depp flexes some of his best acting muscles and Christian Bale is equally impressive. Meanwhile, it’s absolutely criminal that Billy Crudup was not nominated for a supporting actor. Despite the lack of attention given to this fine film, Michael Mann made an excellent comeback with this top notch, suave and thrilling period piece. Gangster films tend to look worse and worse as years go by, but Public Enemies put the “cool” back in it while extending the beautiful merits of digital cinema.


4. Up
**** out of ****
A movie I wish I saw earlier in the year. After Pixar proved they could go outside the box with their stories in Wall-E, Up proved that great story telling can be minimalistic, but take different forms—And I’m not talking about the fact it’s a CG animated motion picture. With a gut-wrenching opening, impressively chalked with nearly no lines, and a wonderful reverence to the value of time (and life), Up ranks among Pixar’s very best films.


3. Inglourious Basterds
**** out of ****
Where do I begin? If it’s not Tarantino’s best movie, which I think it is, then it’s at least my favorite. A return to form for the great director, Inglourious Basterds is tiled with memorable characters, great laughs and some of the most fascinating scenes to grace the screen in years. His craft has never looked this perfect and my love for film has seldom been as passionate as it is when I watch this movie.


2. Up in the Air
**** out of ****
Jason Reitman knocks another one out of the park. Bringing text-book modernism back to the screen turned out to be a wonderful move. Up in the Air explores the paths of living in the current economic climate and ends at a destination of your choice. Strong and very funny characters carry the audience along for the journey.


1. The Hurt Locker
**** out of ****
And this is the one. Kathryn Bigelow’s war tale isn’t so much about war as it is about those who fight them. Focusing on an adrenaline fueled main character, played by the impressive Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker expresses the deepest and darkest fears of those involved in war—Including the love for it. It’s the Saving Private Ryan of our generation and it scares the hell out of me. “Awesome.” Simply put, and you can’t call too many “bests of the year” this, but it is absolutely “awesome.” I’ll be rooting for it Sunday night.



5. X-Men Origins: Wolverine
*½ out of ****
Though I’ll admit it gets better with repeated viewings, it’s still a mess. What should have been a dark, psychological origin story turns in to a bad X-Men 4, with characters that shouldn’t be involved and some really poor writing. Sure the action is fun, but reducing the title character to survive every suicidal stunt possible makes him a bore. So why care about him?


4. The Men Who Stare At Goats
* out of ****
Hippy bullshit for the masses. An all-star cast of some of the world’s best actors slip and fall face first in the dirt clot that is this movie’s script. Incoherent, contrived and contradicting-- Goats had the potential of a great movie. But it’s not a great movie. It’s just a great, big, boring disappointment. What a waste.


3. The Hangover * out of ****
Because there’s not enough stupid, college student targeted Mt. Everests of crap out there. What scares me is that this film, the same EXACT humor we’ve seen in other terrible movies i.e. Wedding Crashers, Superbad, Knocked Up, 40 Year Old Virgin..etc… is what passes off as funny to its target audience: Dumb college students. The future of our world assuring more bad comedy is made! Lets go through the list of predictability: Drunk jokes. Check. Not sure what happened on the “crazy” night before to incite certain [non]humor. Check. Bad Las Vagas clichés. Check. Bad movie. Check and mate.


2. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen ½ out of ****
Big, loud and stupid can be fun if the flick has certain charm to it. But this doesn’t. Bay tries way too hard to make it the “ultimate” summer flick, but bigger isn’t always better, and a lack of restraint seems to be dangerous. It’s as if the movie prefers to be as dumb as possible—Such a film makes me wonder how some directors/writers get away with what they do. Then again, what producer okays it?


1. Dragonball: Evolution ½ out of ****
‘Nuff said…


MOVIE REVIEW - Up in the Air

There’s a lot to be said about a film that examines the philosophy of living space. Materialistic living and courtly relationships have to be questioned without resolve in order to pull off the idea that there are many ways to go about one’s life. Up in the Air does just that—Without turning in to a giant cliché of any given film genre, director Jason Reitman’s latest masterpiece is relevant enough to tantalize the hearts of those unsure about jobs, relationships and, ultimately, where the hell to go in life.

Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) travels nearly non-stop from city to city to “dismiss” people being laid-off. When his frequent flyer miles plunges him in to a potential relationship, (Alex) an ambitious, but a naive new co-worker (Natalie) shadows him and prompts him to look at his happy seclusion in a different light.

Once again my vague synopses put readers at a disadvantage, but to divulge any further would take away from the films’ experience. Furthermore, as preachy as I make this movie, it actually stays away from being over-bearing. Instead of feeling like a pretentious art house boob with unrelatable insights, it reaches far in to the climate of today’s troubles and beyond.

Clooney’s Bingham is the man everyone does and does not want to be. He twists and turns throughout the movie with a slow exit from certainty. Is living on the move from one hotel to another really what he wants? Is Natalie’s American dream more likable? Is Ryan’s poor, underprivileged brother-in-law’s quest for love-over-success worth it? Like most modernistic films there’s not so much a straight answer as there is an examination. And there in lies the beauty of Up in the Air—It really is up in the air.

One of Reitman’s great talents is always pulling out the best of characters in the worst conditions, and what’s great is that their choices are never predictable! If Juno was his take on adult-like adolescence, Up in the Air is his extreme evolution of characters from Thank You for Smoking. Bingham, like Eckhart’s character in Smoking, is suave, smart and more professional than your dad on career day. But later on the many roads of life haunt him; though he ushers those who have lost jobs to take different paths every day, the same suggestion causes him to lose a focus many people can relate to. (Don’t tell me you’ve never looked at the ceiling and wondered, “What the hell am I suppose to be doing/should do/want to do.?” Angst. Tears. My Chemical Romance. All that fun stuff.)

Thankfully, instead of telling the audience there’s only one correct path, Reitman leaves us with a mesmerized Ryan Bingham, looking at the different paths he could take for his future. Reminding me of Cast Away's ending, Up in the Air throws a whole list of air travel destinations instead of a three-way road. I find Bingham’s choices a little more realistic. Sure such a list can be overwhelming, but when is life not overwhelming? Plus look at all the fun destinations! I really enjoyed where Reitman went with this film and if he continues this type of quality he may end up being one of the very best modern directors of our time. If it's not his best film, it's close.

**** out of ****