Posted by: Dr P | January 4, 2010

Film Review 2009 Part 2

July commenced in decent form, with the Jack Black vehicle “Year One”. Much as I love Jables, I did feel that Michael Cera stole this movie from him – funny in parts, but slightly cringeworthy in others. It did however feature one of the best innuendoes of the year, which I have no shame in saying I fell about laughing at:

“I want you to enter the holy of holies” (Zed’s love interest)
“That’s a coincidence, I want you to sit on the poly of polies” (Zed)

OK, deep breath. Transformers was next up, and my word did this get me ranting! The good part was of course the effects, which were slick and sophisticated, but then we get to the bad. First off, who in their right mind makes a kids movie that’s 3 hours long? OK, OK, most of the Harry Potter films are of similar length, but that’s pretty much necessary and they are beloved by kids and adults alike, but this sort of action movie should have been shortened by at least a third. Then there were the “comedy” robots, which swore gratuitously.

And then there’s Megan Fox. Now it’s pretty fair to say that Ms Fox is the kind of stunning, sexy starlet that producers, directors, co-stars and fans alike swoon over. We all know she’s hot, but for goodness sake, this was a KID’S FILM! For about 20 minutes, all we saw was Megan in a bikini, Megan draped over a bike, Megan washing cars … it might as well have been porn – it was quite funny observing the dads present at the movie with their kids – shock and awe all in one! Of course, the bike scenes did provide the genuine contending moment for “Rear of the Year”, to rival that of Eva Mendes as mentioned in Part 1. Who will win? You’ll have to wait for the awards in Part 3!

If that wasn’t excitement enough, the 6th Harry Potter movie arrived in July – “HP and the Half Blood Prince”. Fans were divided over the ending, but of course the book does much to set up the final installment (though that is to be made into two movies of course, so the next oen might end on even more of a cliffhanging note). For me, the young actors really stepped up in this film, with the emotionally charged scenes providing much big screen drama.

“Hermione’s fury knows no bounds. Her subsequent meltdown after Ron flees like a scalded kitten is probably Emma Watson’s best moment of the series to date.”

As the summer progressed, I was very bored by “Public Enemies” (the highlight being a slight slip of the tongue and asking for a ticket to see “Pubic Enemies”), while the John Travolta/Denzel Washington remake of “The Taking of Pelham 123” was solid enough fare. “GI Joe” was fairly entertaining, with lots of gadgets and a particularly sexy cast, and then came one of the most unusual and accomplished movies of the year …

“Moon” is a movie that’s hard to categorise. It’s essentially science fiction in nature, the theme covering the struggles of a lone inhabitant of a Moon-based mining station to adapt to his surroundings, and yet it covers much more. Sam Rockwell delivered a particularly gripping perormance in the central role – in effect the movie features just him and a robot, and a whole load of nagging paranoia for an hour and a quarter. Well worth a view.

Tarantino returned to form with “Inglorious Basterds”, a movie rich in the usual lengthy dialogue and inventive cinematography that the director is famed for, while Brad Pitt delivered another top notch performance. This alternative history view of an attempt to dispose of Hitler was vastly better than 2008’s Valkyrie in my view. The movie was also big on laughs, somethign it shared with “Funny People”, a very good look at the trials and tribulations of a cynical comic, superbly played by Adam Sandler and of which I wrote:

“I thoroughly recommend this to anyone with a sense of humour, and fans of Sandler, (Seth) Rogen or Jonah Hill will find much to admire from their heroes. They may be starting to get a little typecast as down on their luck nerdy good guys, but Rogen and Hill in particular carry off the role with some aplomb. Sandler is excellent, relying less on the nerdiness which has carried him through several films, and instead exploring a harder edged cynical humour. “

September brought one of the most-Internet-hyped movies since “Blair Witch”. “District 9” was filmed in South Africa on a shoestring budget and arrived with a colossal volume of fan support – for me, it was one of the most gripping and wonderful movies of 2009. In particular the performance of Sharlto Copley in the central role was jaw-dropping, and he should get an Oscar nomination, for my money. Of course much of the movie was a commentary on apartheid, with the black South African population replaced by aliens, but don’t let the science fiction element put you off. This was a masterpiece of filmmaking.

As autumn arrived, a flurry of half-decent movies also appeared on the big screen. I rather enjoyed “Adventureland”, the story of a summer set in an amusement park, and featuring another very good performance from twilight’s Kristen Stewart. The Bruce Willis vehicle “Surrogates” was mildly disappointing after a lot of hype; the premise of allowing surrogate bodies to go out into the world while being operated remotely was of course one which resurfaced later in the year in “Avatar”, of which more shortly.

I had an absolute blast watching “Fame” with my twinster in October, while “Dorian Gray” featured some marvellous moments, and a very authentic recreation of Victorian London (yet again, something we’ll see again later in the year). And then along came “Zombieland”. Released in perfect time for Halloween, this really was one of the funniest movies of the year – set in a post-apocalypic world where very few humans remain, the central performances of Jesse “Adventureland” Eisenberg and the stupendous Woody Harrelson really turned this into a cracking affair. Very very good indeed.

“This is a mightily funny and entertaining movie. Much like Shaun of the Dead, this features some outlandishly gory moments, but very much played for laughs, and some of the ways that the group come up with to mash the zombies are fabulous. These include toilet seats, hedge clippers, falling pianos and all manner of other devices. Lovely!”

November brought with it a big chill, and a number of innovative movies. The most visually stylish film of the year (up to that point, anyway) was Terry Gilliam’s “Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus”; also one of the most perplexing movies I saw, it was gorgeous to look at but ultimately unmemorable. “The Men Who Stare at Goats” was also baffling – a brilliantly novel first half was followed by an utterly disappointing remainder, despite the best efforts of McGregor and Clooney. Back in Megan Fox land and “Jennifer’s Body” provided the next vampire movie of the year … Ms Fox was again running rampant, but this was another poor movie.

The final 6 movies I saw in 2009 were all big budget movies, and all offered something quite different.

First up was the Roland Emmerich ultimate disaster movie “2012”. In a year crammed with stunnign visual effects, this was right up there. We saw towns, cities and indeed entire continents destroyed here, while the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano was pretty brilliant to behold. Alas, like most big budget disaster movies, all the money went on the look and feel, and very little on producing a decent script. Hokey, but fun.

The second Twilight film “New Moon” also arrived, and for me this was superior to the first – although it did end on a ridiculous cliffhanger! The movie was actually better for having less of Robert Pattinson in it than the first. Whilst the generally downbeat and depressing tone of the film was counterbalanced by some joyous moments, the same couldn’t be said for “Harry Brown”, the Michael Caine movie. This was utterly horrifying in its emptiness, its sense of depression and brutality, and was one of the hardest films to watch that I can remember.

“Even Gareth seemed shocked by the film – and let’s face it, he has to put up with my jokes every week, so he’
s used to abject horror. We drove home in near silence afterwards, indeed when the radio went on and Norah Jones was heard wailing miserably, we both reached for the off button and said “Noooooooo”.”

The second St Trinian’s movie appeared in December, and provided much amusemt, mainly from Rupert Everett in drag, and the scantily clad Sarah Harding, but then my cinemagoing year ended with two absolute treats.

“Avatar” may well change the course of cinema forever. Over a decade in the making, this James Cameron epic looks like nothing less than a computer game, but my word is it stunning to behold. If you see it on the big screen (and, dear reader, you must), make sure you see it in 3D. It is one of the most remarkable pieces of filmmaking it’s been my joy to see, and the sheer imagination poured into every last little detail is mind-boggling. Almost entirely created in CGI, the world of Pandora is just a joy from start to finish.

Which brings us round full circle to Boxing Day and “Sherlock Holmes”. The partnership between Robert Downey Jr as Holmes and Jude Law’s Watson was another big screen treat and a delightful way to end my year in movies.

In Part 3 I will hand out some awards, but meantime thanks for reading, and please leave me your thoughts on your best and worst of 2009!

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