Top 10 Favorite Films of 2009

Hello Everybody,

I stopped writing movie reviews a few years ago when I redirected my attention to "The Kids".  Since then I often get requests to start writing them again.  Apparently people still care what I think about movies.  So here's my Favorite Films list for the past year.  This year I'm actually ranking them in order of how much I loved them.  If you haven't seen these movies you can use this as a guide for renting films in 2009!  Enjoy the list!

Disclaimer:  I say this all the time but I just want to make sure everybody understands, this is my list of FAVORITE movies for the year.  It in no way represents what I believe were the best films released in 2009.  

Watchmen +

Update:  I cannot recommend enough the Watchmen Ultimate Cut Complete Story DVD.  This is the way this film must be watched.  You must see this version!  Favorite Movie of the Year, Absolutely.

It's 3:28am.  I just got back from the midnight sneak preview of Watchmen.  I'm so excited I can't sleep.  It will probably take much of the day tomorrow to process everything I just saw.  This is a superhero movie unlike anything you've ever seen before.  For many that will  be a bad thing.  The ratings I've seen so far are wildly mixed.  Scores of 100 at the top and I'm sure there will be some zeros by mid afternoon tomorrow.  Obviously I'm in the 100 category (as if I would be anywhere else.)  I went into this film expecting to come out a different person.  It happens every so often for me.  So now I'm living in the post-Watchmen era of my life.  Although I'm a huge fan of comic and graphic novel inspired movies, and a fair weather fan of comics and graphic novels themselves, I've never taken the time to read Watchmen.  So I went into this movie almost completely in the dark as far as story, characters, history, themes, etc.  I was going to get a copy and read it before the movie, but now having seen the movie and reading some articles that say the film IS the Graphic Novel, I guess it would be redundant to read it now.  And that's fine with me.  I'll write a little more tomorrow.  I have to get to bed now.

OK, Its the next day now.  I got 4 hours of sleep last night and I'm semiconscious.  I'm going to break my short review rule and write a full blown movie review here.  I feel I need to defend Watchmen against the slew of bad reviews I've been reading today.  I'm kinda loopy from lack of sleep, but let the madness begin!

Often when I give a great score to a poorly reviewed movie I like to say "They didn't understand it."  "Peter Travers must have been off his meds today."  "Most people are idiots"  "America is too dumb to get it"  "Reviewers are all stupid and too critical and I hate them."  I still believe all of those things apply for Watchmen, but I can understand, in this instance, why people don't like this film and I will start my review with warnings where I tell you 10 reasons why you shouldn't see this film.

  1. Including previews this film is 3 hours long.  For me that's a sign of a good film that is being allowed to show you everthing they wanted you to see.  So if you can't sit still or focus for 3 hours in a row, don't go see Watchmen.

  2. Multiple story lines, flashbacks, timeline fragmentation over about 100 years.  Remember in Pulp Fiction when John Travolta got killed in the bathroom and then at the end of the film he was eating with Sam Jackson in that restaurant.  If that blew your little mind then you're too stupid to see this film.  If you can't follow a story line that unfolds in a non-linear direction don't go see Watchmen.

  3. Ultraviolence.  This is not Spiderman.  The "bad guys" are not captured and left in a web for the authorities.  Most are dispatched in the most violent way available at the moment.  Not a fan of seeing people literally beat to a pulp, blown up, have their head and limbs ripped, cut and bashed off?  This movie is filled with that.  Don't go see Watchmen.  

  4. Full frontal male nudity.  Squeamish about that?  There's lots of it.  Don't go see Watchmen.

  5. If you want to take your kids to see the new "comic book" movie.  For God's sake, don't go see Watchmen.

  6. Practically every character in Watchmen is bad.  There are no "good guys".  There's just bad guys, really bad guys and really really bad guys.  Need a movie with easily distinguishable Heroes and Villains?  Don't go see Watchmen.

  7. With one exception, all the characters start the movie with their powers and for some you never really understand what the power is or how they got it.  Need Origin Stories or explanations of how and why a superhero has a special gift or power?  You're not going to get that here.  Don't go see Watchmen.

  8. Are you a literary or source material snob?  "It's not as good as the book"  "They left out Tales of the Black Freighter"  Blah blah boo freakin' hoo.  This is the FILM Watchmen.  If you don't want to see the film version, Don't go see Watchmen.  (Incidentally, along with 300 and Sin City, this might be the most faithful adaptation of source material in history.)

  9. "There's too much hype!"  "Nothing popular is cool."  "If the corporate suits want me to see it, then I ain't going."  "The soundtrack wasn't released on SubPop"  "No one will ever understand me!"  If you've said any of these last few quotes for any reason - Don't go see Watchmen.

  10. Mom & Dad Wiseman.  You will hate this movie and when you tell me you hate it it will just make me mad.  Don't go see Watchmen.

Now that we got that out of the way, let me just say - WOW!  I LOVED this movie.  I cannot wait to see it again and again and again.  This is an epic supehero movie.  The characters are all super-cool.  The special effects are incredible.  The action and violence comes in fast harsh bursts and is connected by interesting storylines that keep the film on course and ever driving forward.  

Rorschach played by Jackie Earl Haley is awesome.  Every scene he's in is riveting.  Best line in the movie, when Rorschach is in prison and he attacks a guy who threatens him, he shouts to everyone "I am not locked in here with you!  You are locked in here with ME!"  The Comedian is also a very bad superhero.  Often employed by the US government to do it's dirty work, his story is told in flashbacks.  He's bad.  Really bad.  But he's the fun one.  Ozymandias is super rich, smart, fast and strong and has built his fortune by unmasking himself and doing things like selling action figures of himself.  Silk Spectre II is just a super sexy second generation ass kicking chick.  That's all that needs to be said about her.  Nite Owl II is kinda like Batman (Plus as a bonus, out of costume, he looks and acts like a young Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold) but he seems to have enhanced strength.  Actually all the supers seem to have enhanced strength and speed but this is never explained.  We do see examples in the past though where supers are gunned down, so most of them are not immortal.  And that brings us to Dr. Manhattan.  The only super who gets an origin story and the only one with truly super powers.  He is, for all intents and purposes, a god.  

In a nutshell, the whole story is that the Comedian gets murdered and Rorschach investigates his murder.  There, I explained the whole film in one sentence.   

Zack Snyder is the director.  He made 300 and the Dawn of the Dead remake and can, in my book, do no wrong.  Plus if you listen to his commentary tracks, he's like an excited kid about making movies so I know his heart is in his work.  I can and do vicariously take joy in his success and exuberance.

Go see Watchmen.  I can't guarantee you'll like it, but I can guarantee that you've never seen anything like it before.

Star Trek +

Update:  Since this movie was released on DVD in November I have literally watched it about 10 times.  It's that good!

OK.  I just got back from the midnight sneak preview of Star Trek.  It was so awesome I thought I might literally explode from excitement!  I had huge expectations and it surpassed even my wildest dreams.  If the theater had been less packed, I would have been standing in my chair jumping up and down through the whole movie.

I consider myself a Trekker or Trekkie.  I've seen all the shows, all the movies and read a bunch of the books.  I'm not fanatic though.  In other words, and I've said this before, I like "reboots".  Especially the reboots of late.  For example the last Batman movie wasn't just the best Batman movie ever, it was one of the best movies ever.  So when it came time for Trek to get a do-over.  I was excited by the prospect.  When they cast Sylar as Spock, I was ecstatic.  When I heard there were going to be some "changes" I was not alarmed and I welcomed them.  I trust J.J. Abrams completely.  He has never done anything I didn't LOVE.  And the new Trek is just his newest triumph.  

The action is off the charts exciting.  The story which was tasked with re-introducing all the characters of the show, had enough of a plot to propel it past the confines of the standard 1st episode origin story.   All the casting was perfect.  As a fan of Heroes, it took about 30-45 minutes to get used to Sylar as Spock (I kept worrying that if he got too angry he might saw Kirk's head open.)  But other than that, everyone did a great job with their roles.  Chris Pine was awesome as Kirk.  He had just enough of the swagger, but without making it too cartoony.  Karl Urban was great as Dr. McCoy.  His was probably the closest thing to imitation but it was very enjoyable.  Shaun of the Dead is hilarious as Scotty, but doesn't show up until very late in the film (I almost forgot he was going to even be in the movie).  And finally Eric Bana is great as the villain.  

The effects and sound are off the charts cool.  The scale of the bad guys ship is breathtaking.  I saw it on an IMAX screen and I highly recommend you see it that way too.  Everything's better in IMAX.

Anyway, I don't know what else I can say.  I can't believe I'll probably have to wait at least 3 more years for the next film.  But I can always go see this one again.  And probably, sometime in the next few days, I will.

District 9 +

Update:  I just watched the DVD last week and I can't believe how awesome this movie was.  Very original.  Nice to see something new.

I had pretty high expectations for District 9.  The teasers looked really cool but I had no real idea what the story was.  10 minutes into the movie all my expectations had been blown away.  I LOVED every second of this movie.  And it just gets better and better and better as it goes along.  

It's filled with action, has a really cool, new and unique storyline.  It's filmed in a part of the world (South Africa) that we almost never get to see in movies and uses all unknown actors so you can be worried for everybody.  

The special effects are top notch (From the Lord of the Rings Weta team).  There's an alien weapon that basically explodes anyone who gets shot with it in a giant wet burst like a bloody water balloon.  It's also cool to see the way the whole film is all edited together using TV news reports and video surveillance footage.  

Not giving too much away, it's also super-cool to see a flip on the alien invasion scenario.  The humans are terrible and cruel and the aliens are the ones you sympathize with and root for.  They were not really invading, they just kinda broke down over our planet.  

Looking back over my favorite films of the year so far, District 9 has shot up the list to the number 3 spot right behind Watchmen and Star Trek.

Inglourious Basterds +

Update:  Of the potential Nominees (they have not been announced yet) This is my pic for Best Picture Oscar.

So obviously I liked the new Quentin Tarantino movie.  He's never made one that I didn't love and this film is as "Tarantino'd" as all the others.  Long stretches of stylized super-cool dialogue punctuated by bursts of extreme ultraviolence.  I felt the time between action sequences was a little bit longer than I had anticipated but maybe that was because I watched Kill Bill again earlier in the week and that movie has a greater amount of action than typical QT films.  I kinda went into this expecting 2.5 hours of Nazi's getting killed and brutalized in lusciously horrific ways (such is what you see in the movie trailer) but that actually represents a tiny fraction of the film.  This is not an "Action" movie.  The story and characters (as in all QT films) are the show.  Probably because I'm still amped up on the mindless energy of summer popcorn flicks, I went into the theater with the wrong mindset.  But after the first opening sequence (that lasts about a half hour and consists of a single conversation) I remembered what a Quentin Tarantino movie is all about and was able to enjoy and soak in the film noir/war movie/spy genre re-imagining that is Inglourious Basterds.

2012 +

Update:  Destructo-Porn will always show up on my Top 10 List, but I'm not sure this one will ever be topped.

2012 was everything I wanted it to be.  The movies of Roland Emmerich are among my favorites and include my all time favorite movie ever, Independence Day (The movie that Alan's 5+1 rating was invented for).  The previews for this movie pretty much tell you exactly what you're in for.  Massive global destruction (Destructo-Porn as some call it) on a scale you have never seen before on film.  If you want to see every city on the West Coast break into pieces and slide into the ocean... then this is the film for you.  If you want to see the White House crushed by a aircraft carrier and then swamped by a 1000 foot tidal wave... then this is the film for you.  If you want to see the Papal Basilica of Saint Peter collapse and roll over and crush the Pope and the masses gathered there to pray at the End of Days...then this is the film for you.  I don't know why I love these types of scenes so much, but I do.  I LOVE THEM!  However, if you want a realistic story with characters that you care about, then for Gods sake... this is NOT the film for you!

Paranormal Activity+ 

Update:  Tease me all you want, but my experience in the theater, opening night, was great scary fun.

Paranormal Activity was super crazy scary.  I don't remember the last time I was this tense in a movie (Maybe The Hurt Locker, but for different reasons).  It's not a stuff jumps out at you kinda film like Japanese Horror (The Ring, The Grudge, etc.)  It builds slowly and that's one of the things that's so scary about it.  

The film basically involves a couple who leave a video camera on at night to document the supernatural disturbances that take place while they sleep.  Then the following day they review the video and discuss and try to figure out what to do.  But the disturbances are escalating.

The scenes of the couple sleeping are so scary.  The first couple times get you used to it, but soon those scenes are like the first hill on a roller coaster you've never been on.  As soon as you see that tape counter start to tick away in the corner of the screen, your muscles tense up and every hair on your body stands on end.  

I do want to mention something I think is important.  I'm not sure how well this movie will play on DVD.  It might be scary to sit at home alone at night and watch it, but I went to a midnight show after a day of work in a packed theatre and that experience made it way better.  The crowd was totally into it (Just like what you see in the preview).  The movie has moments of total quiet where the entire audience goes quiet too so they can listen for the bumps and creaks, then everyone shrieks and screams the moment anything happens because by then you're so freaked out.

The actors and the camera work are so natural it really seems like your just watching a couple's home movie.   It's like the scariest YouTube video ever made.  By the way, if you worry that the film will be to "shaky" because it's shot on home video (Like Blair Witch, Cloverfield, Open Water, etc.) don't be.  There are moments of shaky cam, but the guy often mounts the camera on a tripod or on the counter or a table or something so the shot is steady.  You won't get sick watching this movie.

The couple kind of remind me of Jim & Pam from The Office, (but that might be because I watched The Office before I left to see the movie.)

This movie is only playing in limited release right now.  I ran out to see it tonight because I wanted to catch it before it was gone.  I recommend you do the same.  Go see this in the theater, late at night, with a crowd, as soon as possible.  Then see how well you sleep that night.  I'm writing this review right now at 2am because I'm putting off going to sleep as long as I can.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs +

Update:  I know I don't usually review the kid films but this movie is hilarious.  

Just wanted to say, no kidding, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs was the funniest movie I've seen all year.  I might have liked it more than Sasha, and the 3D was the best I've ever seen. 

Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen +

Update:  I like Fighting Robots and Megan Fox, that's just who I am.

I LOVED this movie.  Granted, I liked the first one too.  If you liked the first film, then this is basically the same movie turned up to 11.  The last hour and 10 minutes of the show is basically just a non-stop giant robot battle.  Awesome!  If you were expecting anything more (like a really deep interesting story, or dramatic character development) then you're an idiot.  Just sit down, grab a giant tub of popcorn and watch Megan Fox being crazy-sexy and a bunch of robots sluggin' it out for 2.5 hours.  Now that's summer entertainment

Terminator Salvation +

Update:  Great fun.  Now somebody give Joss Whedon the franchise like he wants.  He will make it awesome!

Honestly, did you even think for a second that I wouldn't Love this movie?  I was so excited I actually dragged myself off my Flu Bed over the weekend and probably infected 500+ people just to see it.  The story was cool and it was super fun to finally see a Terminator film set in the post apocalyptic Skynet future we've only seen glimpses of in the previous films and TV show.  Christian Bale was awesome as John Conner.  I hope he stays in the role.  I was kinda disappointed that they didn't tie in the TV show at all.  Since it may have been cancelled I suppose that makes sense, but it would have been neat to have one of the characters from the TV show walk by or something.  My only other regret is that it was only PG-13.  This could have been much more violent and R rated like the other films and that would have been just fine with me.


Update:  One of the best Death-Wishy Movies ever.  Super High Body Count = Super Awesome Fun!

Oh My God.  I LOVED this movie so much.  When I saw the commercials I knew I had to see it.  I had really high expectations and they were met and exceeded.  This is not a great movie.  It's just a really super fun action movie.  (Plus it helps if you have a daughter.  It makes it more exciting.)  The whole movie is just Liam Neeson killing about 60 or 70 guys on the way to finding his daughter who has been kidnapped.  It was awesome!