My cinematic journey through 2009 (Part four)

(New entries will appear in red text.)

10. In the Loop (Lannucci) – Tom Hollander, Peter Capaldi

Ratings: 8/10; RT: 95%; IMDB: 7.7

  • I’m not generally one for p0litical movies, but with it’s quirky humor and subtle but excellent performances, In the Loop won me over. After doing some research, I found that it’s actually based on a BBC sitcom, which may explain the faux documentary style of shooting. (Think The Office.. sort of.) I don’t know that this movie is for everyone, but I thought it pulled off being an obvious comedy while still carrying a serious storyline, which is a rare thing. Oh, and James Gandolfini (Tony Soprano) is in it. Nice!

9. Paranormal Activity (Peli) – Katie Featherstone, Micah Sloat

Ratings: 8/10; RT: 82%; IMDB: 6.9

  • This was pretty much a love it or hate it movie. Obviously, I was on the love it side. It seems like the haters found Paranormal Activity more funny than scary. WTF? Although the acting was laughably weak in a few spots, it was strong when it counted. This is the first movie since The Ring that truly gave me goosebumps. It’s no masterpiece, but given the budget and an amateur cast and crew, I was impressed (and creeped out) with the outcome.

8. Zombieland (Fleischer) – Woody Harrleson, Jesse Eisenberg

Ratings: 8/10; RT: 89%; IMDB: 8.0

  • When I saw Zombieland, I loved it right off the bat. It was everything I hoped it would be. However, if you would’ve told me it was gonna be in my top 10 for the year, I would’ve never believed you. The fact that it’s here in the number 8 spot is proof of how weak a movie year 2009 was. No disrespect to Zombieland intended, but it wouldn’t normally be a top 10 movie to me. But alas, here we are. Zombieland is another movie that worked because it knew exactly what it was and embraced it. It was a campy, ridiculous and just plan fun zombie flick.. with Woody Harrelson. With the exception of the young-uns, I’d recommend this movie to horror and non-horror fans alike.

7. District 9 (Blomkamp) – Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope

Ratings: 9/10; RT: 90%; IMDB: 8.4

  • My family and I completely disagreed on this one. They thought it was one of the worst movies they’d ever seen. Their reasoning: “It’s obviously about apartheid.” So? What does that have to do with if the movie was good or not? My response: “So, you’re pro-racism?”
    Their other complaint was that the story “has been done so many times before.” Huh. I’m no sci-fi expert (my brother definitely is), but I’d never watched anything with that perspective on aliens before. I thought the concept was a refreshing change. Go figure. Either way, everyone has to admit that for the allotted budget, the special effects are excellent. Also, I personally am looking forward to seeing more Sharlto Copley. The guy’s got talent.

**Up in the Air (Reitman) – George Clooney, Vera Farminga
Ratings: 9/10; RT: 89%; IMDB: 8.3

  • If I’m going to enjoy a “romantic comedy,” it has to be one like this. Some parts were funny, some were mundane, some were heartwarming, some were tragic – it all felt real. I don’t generally like movies that wrap up with a happily-ever-after ending, hence why I avoid romantic comedies. Up in the Air had the guts to go a different direction and I appreciated that about it. On top of that, I thought the performances were great as well. Now, if it was released in a different year, I would say that the Oscar buzz surrounding this movie was a bit much, but given the films they’ve had to pick through this year, I’d say Up in the Air has earned it’s spot among the best.

6. The Damned United (Hooper) – Michael Sheen, Timothy Spall

Ratings: 9/10; RT: 94%; IMDB: 7.6

  • Most of you probably haven’t heard of The Damned United.. that’s a shame. It’s the story of Brian Clough (Sheen) and his rise to become manager of  England’s football (soccer for you Americans) league, Leeds United. Don’t let it’s description as a sports movie fool you though. The Damned United is much more about the man Brian Clough than it is about football, which is what separates it from the millions of other generic inspirational sports films. If you can keep up with British accents and don’t mind a slower paced movie that allows time for character development, you’ll like it. Just don’t be disappointed if you don’t see the contrived game winning goal as the finale.. there are far more interesting things going on than the game.

5. Tetro (Coppola) – Vincent Gallo, Alden Ehrenreich

Ratings: 9/10; RT: 68%; IMDB: 7.5

  • Ah, a movie that maybe fewer people have heard of than The Damned United. I’m such a movie elitist.
    Tetro (written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola) is the story of two estranged brothers reunited to find there are some secrets about the past that may be better left undiscovered.
    Brandon and I saw Tetro in a little indie theatre about 2 hours away after attending a private Skype chat with Mr. Coppola. I’m sure that hearing how personal this movie was to him influenced my opinion on the film a bit, but I really thought the whole thing was pretty brilliant. The story is full of family relationships, violence, secrets, love and melodrama. Filmed in monochrome, the film is just visually beautiful and the performance from Vincent Gallo is outstanding. In a industry with a dying dramatic landscape, Tetro stands out.

4. Moon (Jones) – Sam Rockwell

Ratings: 9/10; RT: 89%; IMDB: 8.0

  • You have no idea how upset I am about loving a sci-fi movie.. It goes against everything I stand for. However, that should be some indication to you of how good this movie truly is. Although it’s almost literally a one man show, it never lulls. It manages to be intense, interesting and heart breaking. Moon plays out more like a drama with a well thought out narrative and an impressively strong performance from Sam Rockwell. If more sci-fi movies were this original, I’d be a much bigger fan of the genre.

** (500) Days of Summer (Webb) – Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel
Ratings: 9/10; RT: 87%; IMDB: 8.1

  • Yes, another romantic comedy in my top 10. What’s becoming of me? If you’ve seen both (500) Days of Summer and Up in the Air, you’ll notice that they have one thing in common – for love stories, there sure is a lot of heartache.. and genuine heartache, not that “I’m in love with two guys but I can’t decide which one to be with” bull. As it turns out, I am a fan of romantic comedies, but they have to be smart and real. (500) DOS is not only that, but is also a little quirky and offbeat while still managing to be completely charming.
    One of my little movie rules of thumb: If Joseph Gordon-Levitt is in it, see it. The man has excellent taste in roles and is highly underrated.

3. The Boat that Rocked (Curtis) – Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Knightly

Ratings: 9/10; RT: 60%; IMDB: 7.6

  • ..aka Pirate Radio. I admit that working in the radio industry, I have a personal bias toward this movie which is only exasperated by the fact that it stars Philip Seymour Hoffman and Rhys Darby. Unless this movie ended up being a complete and utter disaster, I was going to love it. Although it was met with mediocre reviews, I thought it was charming, inspiring and an disturbingly accurate depiction of how strange radio people really are. It wasn’t a perfect film by any means, and I can see how people would find it average, but I’d still recommend it to a general audience if only for the performances and soundtrack.

2. Michael Jackson’s This is It (Ortega)

Ratings: 10/10; RT: 80%; IMDB: 7.4

  • Clearly, I’m a fangirl. I did have a hard time trying to figure out where to place This is It on a film list though. Were there better “films” this year? Obviously. But there weren’t many things released in theaters that I enjoyed more than This is It.
    Yep, I was one of those people who purchased my tickets in advance and was on the edge of my seat for the full 111 minutes. While clearly incomplete, This is It showed us that Michael was still the king. He had a talent and imagination that will never be matched. He is sincerely missed.
    “As breathtaking as it is heartbreaking.” – Bruce Bennett

1. Inglourious Basterds (Tarantino) – Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz

Ratings: 10/10; RT: 88%; IMDB: 8.5

  • No surprise here.. It seems everyone loved the basterds. I’ve always been a big Tarantino fan and Inglourious Basterds is the exact reason I love him. The soundtrack, the dialogue, the look, the absurdity of rewriting history to fit his own twisted concept.. it’s genius. IB is entertaining, intense, violent, smart, hilarious and dark with an unbelievably brilliant performance from Christoph Waltz and strong showings from Brad Pitt and the supporting cast. Chapters one and four are some of the most intense moments I’ve seen on film in the last decade. If Tarantino can continue to make films of this caliber, he will truly be one of the most innovative filmmakers of our time.
    That’s a bingo!

Still in my queue:
A Serious Man
American Violet
Sin Nombre
The Baader Meinhof Complex
An Education
Anvil! The Story of Anvil
Amreeka
Bright Star
Broken Embrases
Precious
Invictus
Big Fan
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Where the Wild Things Are

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3 thoughts on “My cinematic journey through 2009 (Part four)

  1. Ahh, IB is your no. 1. Of course.
    I actually didn’t dig District 9 as much as others because I thought it shifted tonally halfway through the movie, and that irked me. The first half touched on all these allegories of racism and poverty and cultural clashes and things like that, but none of that was further explored in the second half; instead, it just became an action flick, which I have no problem with, but the whole “we’ll show you these interesting ideas and then blow some stuff up” didn’t quite sit well with me. I mean, the transition was great (not weird and wtf-ey like in Hancock) but the fact that there was a transition at all irked me.

    I agree about Gordon-Levitt, though. And Zombieland. Except I think it’d be in my top 10 regardless, because it’s really fun and rewatchable.

  2. Alrighty. First, I must say that Zombieland was okay, but I don’t really understand what people loved so much about it.

    Also, i need to make a comment about your parents saying that District 9 was obviously about apartheid, because they have a point, and it was one of my criticisms of the film myself. Allegory is one thing, but the first part of this movie was pretty much hitting us over the head with it time after time after time, and that gets tiresome and is less impressive as an allegory.

    I just finished watching IB like 30 minutes ago, and yeah, it was pretty kick ass. Anyways, good list, thanks for sharing!

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