Posted by: Dr P | January 3, 2010

Film Review 2009 Part 1

Greetings film fans, and welcome to my 2009 Year in Movies review. Well, technically, it’s the Year in Movies That I Could Be Bothered to Go to See – mind you, by most people’s standards, that’s still quite a few. Over the course of 2009, my cinema going increased slightly, and the review count comprised no less than 53 entries! Starting with the film adaptation of Danny Wallace’s “Yes Man”, and ending with a Boxing Day trip to see “Sherlock Holmes”, this was a most exciting year on the big screen.

2008 had ended on a pretty shocking note, with a visit to see “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, about which I wrote the following:

“I can’t comment on this film any more otherwise I might start crying and writing in crayon all over the walls. It’s a bit like a disappointing car boot sale really, you turn up full of anticipation, rummage through endless actual boots, and then find that all the best bits are in the trailer”

Disappointing stuff, but the early part of 2009 raised the bar considerably. January’s highlights included two genuine contenders for movie of the year, the marmite-like “Slumdog Millionaire”, which cinemagoers either loved or hated, and the quite astonishing performance of Mickey Rourke in “The Wrestler”, of which more later. A third highlight was Eva Mendes’ backside in “The Spirit”, an otherwise lacklustre comic book adaptation. However, Eva’s quest to be named “Rear of the Year” came under stiff competition later in 2009!

February produced another magical feat of cinematic trickery, as Brad Pitt reversed the ageing process in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, one of the most unusual and original movies I saw last year. After the emotional turmoil of Slumdog, this was another film to put the sensitive viewer through the wringer, with soaring highs and crushing lows – and a pretty great performance from Pitt. It was probably also the most “serious” review I wrote all year, in an attempt to get across some of the raw emotion it produced:

“There are so many tough issues that this film deals with, and I can’t even begin to touch on all the emotions it evoked. Love, laughter, hatred, despair, longing, sorrow, tragedy, utter joy, and pits of despair. For two and a half hours I sat utterly riveted to this movie, alternately laughing out loud and crying unashamedly”

One movie I did miss was the two part biopic of Che Guevara – however after much pleading from one of my group members, I put together a spoof review of “Che – Part One”, which featured the following:

“”Che Part One” is the first in a two part biopic of the legendary round the world yachtsman Che Blyth. The veteran adventurer is famed for his heavy drinking, his solo expeditions, and also for founding Blyth Spartans soccer team (who, incidentally I hate, cos they once knocked Bury out of the FA Cup in embarrassing fashion).

In part 1, we meet the young Che as he discovers a love for water at an early age. We see endless scenes of him playing with tugboats in the bath. In fact in one remarkable scene, all we hear are grunts of concentration as Che tugs away merrily.

At the tender age of 6, Che completes his first larger voyage, a crossing of the Menai Straits which separate the lovely isle of Anglesey from the Welsh mainland. This is a notoriously tough stretch of water which has claimed the lives of many a sea salt over the years. Fortunately Che avoids danger as he is ferried across the Menai Suspension Bridge in the back of his father’s gold Ausin Allegro 1.1 Sport*.”

Back in more serious territory, March brought us the sheer delight of Clint Eastwood pulling out the stops as a grumpy, grizzled war veteran dealing with neighbourhood gang tensions in “Gran Torino”. A marvellous performance, one I look forward to recreating in my post-retirement days. The month also saw the release of the most renowned comic book of all-time – “Watchmen”. What a damn fine adaptation it was too, even if the altered ending didn’t impress some fans. I thought it was visually stunning, and quite gripping throughout.

The 5 movies I reported on in April really did span the highs and lows. There was an utterly awful movie in “Crank 2: High Voltage”, which saw Jason Statham’s hitherto rising star really sink fast, while an early contender for comedy of the year arrived with “In the Loop”. Armando Ianucci’s brilliant “The Thick of It”, satirising the political games at play in our country, has been a runaway TV success, and this film version was even funnier. Peter Capaldi’s foul-mouthed Malcolm Tucker was easily my comic highlight of 2009, in a performance which left me physically hurting from laughter. The “fast and Furious” franchise also came full circle in April, with a passable 4th movie, while Nic Cage blew chunks in “Knowing”, an apocalyptic movie with a decent premise but poor execution.

We also took in “The Boat That Rocked”, of which I wrote:
“If this movie doesn’t put a big smile on your face, nothing will. It’s pure indulgence from the start to the gripping finish, and you will care for the characters in a big way. We loved it!”

May arrived, and as the weather warmed, three huge summer movies also appeared – and boy did they deliver. First up was X-Men: Origins, possibly the most anticipated film ever – well by group founder and professional Hugh Jackman groupie Kate anyway! Jackman did indeed turn in a marvellous performance in the title role, but despite the decent action, I wasn’t massively impressed. However, the first big screen adaptation of the “Twilight” novels certainly got me interested – whilst relatively little happens, the chemistry between Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart (my stand out actress of the year) was brilliant.

However, even Twilight paled (sorry) into the shadows once the latest reimagining of “Star Trek” arrived. Wow, this was a summer blockbuster and a half, and a huge kick up the backside for the franchise. The young cast delivered their roles superbly, with Heroes’ Sylar in particular superb in his role as a young Spock – the presence of Leonard Nimoy did little to detract from this, and the storyline was both fast-paced and well thought out. Can’t wait for the next!

If that wasn’t excitment enough, the week after saw Dan Brown’s best novel “Angels and Demons” make it to the big screen. Despite buggering about with the timeline to pretend this took place after the events of the Da Vinci Code (as opposed to the book, which precedes it), Tom Hanks drove the movie forward, whilst Ewan McGregor also delivered a fine performance in his role. A very enjoyable film, probably enhanced if you haven’t read the book and aren’t aware of the final twists!

The epic Chinese movie “Red Cliff” and the rather lovely and romantic “Last Chance Harvey” ushered in the summer. In the latter movie, Dustin Hoffmann and Emma Thompson showed just how gripping it can be to watch two very fine actors just kind of wandering up and down the banks of the Thames for hours. Or as I wrote at the time:

“These two actors are at the top of their game here, both immensely watchable, and you can instantly believe the attraction that builds between them. Before we know it, the two are wandering the London streets pouring their hearts out, and we are immersed fully into it.”

June was finished off with two of the bigger summer movies. Christian Bale put in a dreadfully bland performance in the otherwise spectacular “Terminator: Salvation”, while a real laugh out loud comedy arrived in the shape of “The Hangover”. There have been any number of decent movies set around bachelor parties and pre-wedding trips, and this was one of the best. Even the atrocious cameo by Mike Tyson didn’t ruin this film – a true delight.

Move onto Part 2 to discover my thoughts on the rest of 2009, and discover just whose backside gave Eva a run for her money …

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