What’s that you say? There’s only a few hours left before the new year? Well then WHAT ARE WE WAITING FOR!? ON WITH THE REVIEWS!
Films seem to have been getting less focused on actually having a good plot and more focused on blowing up as many things as possible the past few years. There have been a few gems this year that manage to blow things up and actually make sense… AT THE SAME TIME! This is good news, and I hope it continues well into the new decade and beyond. I’m also super happy to have seen some really awesome Sci Fi movies come out this year (oh yeah, that might give half this list away) and I love me some good Sci Fi.
Alright, LIST GET!
#5 – Zombieland
Zombies have seen an insane popularity hike in the past few years. This is a good thing because zombies are scientifically proven to be awesome. Yet all the popularity can give way to tones of really crappy cash-ins. Yes, there is a lot of terrible zombie cash-ins going on all over the place. Granted it’s not near as bad as the whole Twiglight sparked “vampires and romance” knockoffs that make me want to vomit profusely (NOTE: Twiglight itself makes me want to vomit profusely), but it is getting there. So I understandably went into Zombieland a bit skeptical. Was I ever surprised when it turned out to be awesome!
The cast was great. Each actor pulled their own weight, but I have to say, Woody Harrelson’s character MADE this movie. The no non-sense tough guy killing zombies all in the name of Twinkies thing was hilarious. The story was about as believable as a zombie comedy apocalypse can be. It was really helped along by Jesse Eisenberg’s Character’s “Rules to Zombieland” that included such great advice as “wear seatbelts” and “beware of bathrooms”. The opening sequence alone was worth the ticket price. Watching people being chased down by hilarious and awkward zombies in slow motion to the sound of Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” just doesn’t get old. The film also includes one of the most random and amazing cameo’s of all time (ITS BILL MURRAY BY THE WAY). Oh come on, like someone hasn’t already spoiled that fact for you!
A lot of people are going to compare this movie to “Sean of the Dead”, the “other” zombie apocalypse comedy film out there. While I think I might like Sean just a bit more (British humor is my thing), the world is definitely big enough for 2 such films. Overall a hilarious and enjoyable ride making this film quite deserving of the #5 slot!
#4 – District 9
District 9 kind of came out of nowhere. One day I saw a trailer on TV. All I got from it was alien refugees were stuck in South Africa. Alright, that set off my Sci Fi nerd alarm, so I had to check it out. District 9 doesn’t do anything really new or breathtaking, but it’s the combination of things it does and the fact they are done so well. We’ve seen a million plots before about an uneasy first contact with aliens. We’ve seen a million more using Sci Fi as an analogy to our own earthly problems (like racism in this case). We’ve seen countless heroes working for the bad guys and switching sides mid-film. Yet somehow District 9 manages to combine all these ideas and still seem fresh. I think it really has to do with all the little things. For starters the film takes place in South Africa, not the U.S. or England or some usual place. The aliens are also technologically superior to us but they are dying and essentially become interplanetary refugees. The film maintains a documentary presentation through much of it that suits it well and really adds to the realism.
All of the little things in this film just add up. The special effects are defiantly no exception. After a while you begin to forget that the aliens are even computer generated at all, they don’t feel the slightest bit fake. In fact these are some of the best special effects I have ever seen in a film. The great effects, the slightly atypical (for Hollywood at least) situations, and a hereo who continually seems to screw up and only sometimes do the right thing add up to make this my 4th favorite film of the year!
#3 – The Hangover
This was one of those movies where you weren’t sure if all the funny stuff was in the previews and the rest sucked. Definitely not the case. Comedy films have by the large been going downhill the past little while but this movie stands out as a beacon of hope. Take a zany situation, add some really zany plot twists and completely unanticipatable situations, throw in a hilarious cast and you’ve just made yourself my favorite comedy of the year. It is an absolutely hilarious time watching these guys retrace their steps and the “we did WHAT last night?!?” moments never get old. Again every member of the cast shines but Zack Galifianakis shines the brightest. I am convinced he is completely mental and not really acting at all. Hopefully this will give the man the mainstream success he deserves. Either way, there’s enough golden quotes from this film to last a lifetime!
#2 – Star Trek
If one thing be said about JJ Abrams let it be this: He has got balls. Tackling a project such as a reboot of the original Star Trek is nothing short of daunting. Star Trek has the most rabid fan base of any fictional series the planet has ever seen. Screw it up, and legions of nerds will be swarming your lawn with complaints till long after your death. This didn’t seem to hinder JJ one bit. Somehow he managed to do it, and he did a damn good job too. The decision to travel back in time and rewrite Star Trek history was nothing short of genius. This cleaned the table from the decades of back-story that would have been impossible to incorporate exactly. It also eliminates the predictability of the story, allowing the filmmakers to do anything they please with the universe and not get into trouble. Let the records state that I for one really enjoyed the story in this film. My only complaint with the plot is that we’ve seen Romulans used to death as the bad guys.
Where this movie absolutely shines is the casting. This is one of the best cast movies I have ever seen. Each actor looks, sounds, and feels like a younger version of the original cast… with the exception of Simon Pegg, but this is forgivable because Simon Pegg is amazing and does a great job as Scotty anyways. When Karl Urban yells “Dammit Jim!” it feels perfect. The cast fits like a glove! I’m also happy to note the action in Star Trek has been cranked up to modern standards. Gone are the days of Kirk slapping lizard men in the back. Thank god, that stuff was embarrassing. (What? oh, you mean THAT fight scene: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1eFdUSnaQM)
Some people might be a little putt of by all the “Star Wars” that has found its way into their Star Trek. To those people I say suck it up. Let me remind you the original Star Trek crew was more action oriented and it wasn’t until the Next Gen days that “diplomacy” and all that other “talk first” garbage got in the way. Captain Kirk is supposed to be a man of quick, decisive action. This was an excellent summer blockbuster, well deserving of the number 2 slot on my list. Piccard loving pansies can go home and cry themselves to sleep, so there.
(Man, that got pretty close to Nerd Rage intense there, gotta watch myself!)
#1 – Watchmen
First let it be said Watchmen is my favorite comic book of all time from my favorite comic book writer of all time. It tackles some great themes I didn’t think comic books were capable of. It has the greatest “DID THAT JUST HAPPEN?” ending of all time… I’m not even sure where to go from there. This movie was a revelation to me. It proves that Zack Snyder loves comic books passionately. With this film he has made the single most accurate comic to movie adaptation I have ever seen. Everything is spot on, just as I imagined it would be when I read the book. Rarely a moment from the comic’s narrative is missing and by the sounds of it, it hurt Zack to cut out every second he did. Yet again, the cast is spot on in this film with Jackie Earle Haley playing an even better Rorschach than I could ever dream up. The only exception in my mind is Carla Gugino as the original Silk Spectre. She looks and sounds half the age her character should be.
Even the music fits so well! The opening montage (showing much of the back-story) is set beautifully to Bob Dylan’s “The times They Are a-Changin”. FUN NERD FACT: They actually had to re-edit and extend that song to have it last throughout the whole sequence! Also playing “The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel over the graveyard scene was nothing short of genius.
Some people are definitely not going to agree with me on how great this movie is. I’ve noticed it doesn’t seem to effect people who haven’t read the comic as much. If that is the case I recommend you go out and buy a copy right now. If there is one comic you read in your life it should be this one (If you need further convincing it’s the only comic book to make TIME’s “All Time 100 Novels” list: http://www.time.com/time/2005/100books/0,24459,watchmen,00.html). Then there are the rabid fans who are appalled by the few changes from the book the film makes (and one semi-large one in particular). To them I say… honestly, it’s not that big of a deal. The changes Zach and gang made where well within the scope of the story and only serve to speed things up a little (the movie already clocks in at around 3 hours as it is). While that one semi-large change would have been awesome to see as it was written, the change still makes sense.
The minute attention paid to detail and the source material not only makes this my favorite movie of 2009, but also my favorite comic book movie of all time. The Watchmen has set the bar at what a comic book based film can achieve. Thank you Zack, words cannot describe what you have done.
Those were my fav’s this year, but what else did I enjoy you ask?
Other Good Movies I Saw This Year:
- Inglourious Basterds (Terinteno films are always weird)
- Ninja Assassin (Pop Asian Singing Sensation Rain cuts people up in the goriest film I’ve ever seen!)
- Ong Bak 2: The Beginning (Tony Jaa manages to tip the balance even further in favor of action over plot, but hey, he’s damn good at it)
- Taken (Liam Neeson punching people in the throat with guns? Yes please.)
- Adventureland (Weird but in an enjoyable way)
- Public Enemies (Run johnny Depp-dilinger! RUN!)
- Up (One of the better kids films I’ve seen in a while)
- Avatar (ALMOST made my list. ALMOST.)
The sad part…
Movies That Dissapointed Me This Year:
- Friday the 13th (since when is sex the focus of horror films?)
- Knowing (Nick Cage needs a proper haircut… and a new career, badly)
- Crank: Highvoltage (just…. BARF!)
- Terminator Salvation (Not bad as an action film, but terribly shallow compared to past entries)
and then the ones that could have changed the list, had I bothered to watch them…
Movies I Missed This Year:
- Dragonball: Evolution
- X-Men Origins: Wolverine
- Year One
- Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
- Funny People
- Planet 51
- Capitalism: A Love Story
- The Invention of Lying
- Where the Wild Things Are
- Astro Boy
- Sherlock Holmes
Alright, another day another list!
So how’d I do this time?
-Jordan A. Mann