08
Mar
10

And the Winner Is . . .

Nicolas Cage made a splash last year with a gritty performance in Bad Lieutanant: Port of Call New Orleans. Did he make the Best of 2009 list?

So last night the Academy awarded its Oscars for the “Best of’s” for last year. I figured if they could wait two months to come out with their ‘Best of 2009’ list, then why couldn’t I? What follows is a list of movies that I enjoyed the most last year, movies that I missed and still want to see, as well as what I’m looking forward to for the rest of 2010. So here we go . . .


I want you to listen to me very carefully, if they gave Academy awards for ‘Best Popcorn Movie,’ you’d have to think that Taken would take home the statue. While I expected Liam Neeson to kick some major butt and not take any names, what you get is a solid performance of a man trying to get his daughter back. Neeson IS that worst nightmare that every bad guy dreams of. What sells you on the movie is that phone call between him and his daughter right before she gets Taken when he tries to calm her down and tells her what to do. After that, all you need to know is that nothing will stop this guy from getting her back . . . not even the French.


After long last we finally got to see what kind of magic JJ Abrams would yield over the Star Trek franchise with the much anticipated reboot that sprang into theaters last May. As I mentioned in a previous post, I wasn’t totally into the reboot on first viewing. However, after viewing it a few more times, I think Abrams hit a homerun. I think he did a good job of acknowledging the previous incarnation of Trek while also carving out a new niche with this version. What’s to like? Well for starters the essence of all the characters are there, and updated for the new millenium. Another thing that was bold was to totally hit the reset button by destroying Vulcan–a move that sent fanboys spinning I’m sure. Throw in a dose of action and you’ve got Star Trek 2.0. Thrusters ahead full, I’m ready for 2.1!


I’m not really a Tarantino kinda guy, but you have to admit that he did put together a pretty solid movie and rewrote history in the process. I know the movie geeks geeked out to all the film references that Tarantino put into the flick, but as a non movie geek I thought the storytelling was masterful. I mean, the opening sequence when you have Hans Landa talking with a simple farmer trying to hunt down Jews, you can literally smell the tension going on in the scene. While it had a killer hook, the Basterds were not the stars of the movie (which was fine by me). In Basterds, everyone contributes to the film and Tarantino challenges us to join him in the journey, whether we believe it or not.


I feel that anytime you have George Clooney in a movie, you’re going to get a decent movie just on the sheer fact that he is starring in it. While that is usually the case, what makes this movie stand out is that not only do you get Clooney’s great showmanship, but you also get two great performances from his two costars as well. Combine that with a great story and great story telling from young, up and coming director, Jason Reitman and you have yourselves a pretty darn good flick. The chemistry between everyone really draws you into the story. It’s no wonder this movie was up for multiple Oscar noms.


Call it being awe-inspired all over again, but seeing ‘This Is It’ definitely reiterated why Michael Jackson was the King of Pop. His attention to the detail of his performances, everything from his moves, to his dancers’ moves, to how musical notes and chords were heard—everything needed to be perfect. It’s this determination and attention to detail that I think really struck me in this film. There were no crazy antics, no media swarming him, no hype at all. It was just Michael and the performance, something that sadly, I think we all could have seen more of . . . the man behind the music.


What else can you possibly say about a production company that has put out solid films for the past, I don’t know, how many years? With UP, Pixar hits another homerun out of the park. It’s got everything you could possibly want in a film: drama (if the first 15-20 minutes don’t get you, then the end will), comedy (talking dogs, how can that NOT be funny?), and action (being chased by said talking dogs). Oh yeah, and by the way, this is an animated film we’re talking about here. Up is quite literally one of those movies that will make you laugh and cry. To do it authentically, now that’s skill.


I have to admit, the first trailer for this movie had me chomping at the bit to find out what the hell was going on in Johannesburg, South Africa. The premise was simple, what would happen if aliens crashed landed on Earth . . . and were just, well, here? How would we react? What would we do? What would the people of Johannesburg do? Rookie director Neill Blomkamp mixes docu-style cinematography to make it feel like these were actual events. It’s this novel approach and somewhat different story that draws you in. And the aliens . . . they looked and interacted pretty darn good. The alien effects were definitely realistic.


You know the part in Avatar where the guys see the floating mountains for the first time? Well, it wasn’t quite like seeing flying mountains, but their expression in that scene echoed the sentiment I felt as I watched this movie the first and second time I saw it. I have to admit, after seeing the footage from Comic Con I was somewhat excited, but still didn’t quite know what to expect. And then December came,  and we all put on those 3D glasses. The rest as they say, is history. What can you say about James Cameron’s Avatar that hasn’t already been said? The visuals are simply ‘outstanding’ and have ushered in a boom in 3D movie viewing. Oh yeah, and the storytelling and acting aren’t half bad either. I definitely got taken to Pandora viewing this movie.


What I really liked about this movie is that I think every guy at some point can identify with something that Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) goes through. Believe me when I say that this is doesn’t have to be ‘chick flick.’ This movie is for any time a guy has had that “stupid girl” experience and thought, ‘what the hell just happened?’ Well, now you know you’re not alone. Not only is the story great, but the two leads have great chemistry together (acting wise, not relationship wise) and really make you feel for this guy. Besides, how could you possibly not a like a movie where there’s a fantasy musical number set to Hall & Oats’s You Make My Dreams Come True?

and that leads us to . . .


Now I know what you might be thinking, “duh, of course this is the number one movie of the year, it won Best Picture.” Let me just tell you that when I first heard about this movie back in April of last year, I knew it was going to be good. Now granted, I am a sucker for war movies, but after having seen it in theaters last July, I would have been shocked if it wasn’t nominated for best picture (luckily though it did). In any case, believe what you will. The director Kathryn Bigelow masterfully tells the story of an army bomb disposal unit in Iraq. The experience you get is if you were actually embedded with this team. Their stress is your stress and the film oozes suspense in the scenes where they have to go in to diffuse the bombs. There’s no political agenda here, just a straight up experience of what these guys have to go through. It’s up to the audience to decide how you want to feel.

So yes, it is the best flick of last year, in my own personal opinion.

Still to See


Believe it or not, viewing 50 plus movies last year, you don’t get to see everything you would like to.  Here’s a couple of movies that I’m looking to Netflix or purchase once they come out:

  • An Education – There was a reason why Carey Mulligan was nominated for Best Actress, and I still need to find out
  • Precious – A heart wrenching and powerful story, with not one, but two Oscar nominated performances
  • Crazy Heart – Did anyone else think this was just going to be another Ray or Walk the Line? If Jeff Bridges is that good and Colin Farrell sings then I guess I have to see it.
  • Ponyo – Anytime Hayao Miyazaki comes out with a film, do yourself a favor and see it.
  • Red Cliff – Wanted to see John Woo’s epic at HIFF but just didn’t have the time. Thankfully both parts come out on DVD this month!
  • Bad Lieutanant: Port of Call New Orleans – Yeah so I don’t even think this film made it to Hawaiian shores. Like I mentioned earlier, I heard that Nick Cage gives a gritty and startling performance not seen since Leaving Las Vegas.


And here are the top five movies I’m looking forward to in 2010:

  • Iron Man 2 – Robert Downey Jr returning as Tony Stark/Iron Man and fighting with War Machine? Need I say more? // May 7
  • Toy Story 3 – The Pixar guys are going to try go for the trifecta of giving us a damn good triology. I hope it works out. // June 18
  • Inception –  Take the guy who single handedly made comic book movies relevant (Christopher Nolan, director of the Dark Knight) and throw in the self proclaimed ‘King of the World’ (Leonardo DiCaprio) and you’ve got the most eagerly anticpated non-Batman movie of the year. // July 16
  • The Social Network – Take director David Fincher (Fight Club, Panic Room, and Benjamin Button), throw in screen writer Alan Sorkin (The West Wing, A Few Good Men), the guy that brought sexy back all by himself (Justin Timberlake), and throw in a plot about social media giant Facebook; and you have the perfect storm for a pretty interesting movie. // October 1
  • Tron Legacy – The cult classic gets the new millenium treatment and a visual upgrade. Should be interesting. // December 17

That about wrap things up for 2009. How’d you like my picks?

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