Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My Top 10 Movies of 2009

So I'm a little behind on my blog projects I had mentioned before. I've been caught up with a few things, most notably the completion of the first draft of my latest novel. I printed up a copy and showed it to Rob, and sure enough he was floored. I can't wait to go back a few weeks from now and get his reactions on the book. But anyways, that's the stuff I've been up to, but now it's time for me to sit down and get caught up on those aforementioned blog ideas. So I have a series of "best of" blogs planned. I know, original, right? Well, maybe, as I doubt very much that many people share a lot of my opinions on the matters I have in mind.

So, first off, I present my Top 10 Movies of 2009. 2009 was an exceptionally good year for movies I felt. I saw many movies that I enjoyed very much, and there were many more still that looked intriguing enough to actually manage to drag me out to the theaters. A lot of movies that I thought would disappoint ended up flooring me, some of which make it onto this very list. So, I now present my personal best in movies for the previous year.

10. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Now I'm not exactly a Harry Potter fan, and for years I've actually expressed my dislike of the series. That was mainly due to the fact that I only gave the series a single chance, and it just so happened that I didn't enjoy the first installment too much. And so, until now, the series has gone mostly ignored by me. But this year, I decided to give it one more chance, and I couldn't be happier for that decision. I see now that the series actually does have quite a bit to offer, much more than I initially figured, and after watching all of the movies in the past year, I have to say that the latest installment, The Half-Blood Prince, is by far my favorite.

When I watched it in theaters, I merely felt it was, well, okay. A decent movie. After it released on DVD, I watched it again, and it felt like a whole new experience. I loved everything about it, and I've gone back to re-watch it multiple times since. It has so much charm to it, and I love the emphasis more on some of the minor plot points in the story, which really go on to flesh out a lot of the characters, something that I felt went largely ignored in some of the previous films. And Harry is a much more likable character in this film as opposed to the others. I especially like the scene after Harry takes the "liquid luck". His out of context reactions were a pure delight to witness.

I felt this was a fine installment to an established series, and one of the few in that series that truly has legs of it's own on which to stand upon. Even if you're not a fan of the series, like I used to be, I would still recommend The Half-Blood Prince on it's own merits. And if you really need more incentive to see it, then I just have two words for you: Emma Watson.

9. The Hangover

Ho-ly shit! This movie was just flat out funny. Hilarious. By far the biggest surprise of the year. When I first heard about this movie, I just blew it off as yet another dumb "comedy." Good thing I listened to the countless reviews which went on to rave about the movie, because for once, they were right.

This is one of the funniest movies I've seen in years, at least since Bad Santa a few years ago. The situations these characters find them in are just so absurd, yet never feel so over the top as to take you out of the film. And the movie remains just as funny even upon multiple viewings, a true testament of it's comedic genious. If you're looking for a good laugh, even if you've seen it before, just watch The Hangover.

8. X-Men Origins: Wolverine

This was bound to happen, I'm a total geek for comic book movies. And they just seem to be getting better and better. Wolverine is no exception. While not the best comic movie to come out, I will say that it blows away the rest of the series that it originates from. From the awesome opening scene showing Logan and Victor fighting through all of America's wars from the Civil War to Vietnam, all the way to the final, awesome battle with Deadpool, this movie delivers.

The introduction of some classic characters that fans have been clamoring to see in the X-Men films, such as Gambit and Deadpool, were very well handled I felt. Ryan Rhynolds played his role to perfection, and I look forward to seeing him in the spin-off series that's said to be in the works. Gambit I was a little hesitant about, as I feared they might not pull off the character so well. Gladly, they did just that, and I was very pleased with the outcome. The other character I worried about was Victor. After seeing how they portrayed the character Sabretooth in the first one, I was skeptical about how they were going to pull him off here. They completely re-imagined his character thankfully, and he proved to be a great villain for our hero, with a lot more depth to him that his former incarnation.

And speaking of our hero, Hugh Jackman's never had a problem playing Wolverine, and he continues to do an exceptional job here. They did a great job in handling the potential plot holes of some of the X-Men recognizing him in the later movies and whatnot. And the point in which he loses his memory was very well done as well. It was almost heartbreaking seeing him wake up and not remember who he was, or the people he loved.

This was an exciting, action packed blockbuster, which exceeded it's predecessors effortlessly. I look forward to future installments both of the Wolverine series, as well as the other planned "Origins" movies. (I'm looking at you, Magneto!)

7. Sherlock Holmes

Robert Downy Jr. is on a roll. I thoroughly enjoyed this film, and as I told a friend of mine, it mainly has to do with how much I enjoy the show House. For those who don't know, House is actually based off of Holmes, and the similarities show themselves in full force here. In many ways, watching this movie was like watching an awesome episode of House, except with ass-kicking action as opposed to furiously trying to find a cure to some illness.

The dialogue in this movie is very entertaining to listen to, in particular the banter between Holmes and Wilson throughout the movie, which will put a smile on anyone's face. One of the biggest stand-outs here, though, is the way in which Holmes will, step by step, analyze the various fights he finds himself in, playing them out blow for blow in his head, and then performing them to perfection in that exact manner. Very awesome stuff from an expectantly satisfying movie.

6. Zombieland

There's so many zombie-themed properties releasing these days that it's almost sickening. Of all of the Resident Evils, Left 4 Deads, and 28 Days Laters, one of them manages to stand out among the pack. And that would be Zombieland.

Like The Hangover, this film is absolutely hilarious. It's essentially a survival guide for the zombie apocalypse as explained to us by a very socially-awkward young man, who meets a crazy cast of characters in his journeys. Most notable among them is the Woody Allen played character, Tallahassee, whose appearance received a particular show of applause from my theater. The cameo appearance of Bill Murray is also quite possibly the greatest cameo in a movie ever. His scenes provide some of the most gut wrenchingly funny moments in the film.

The various rules of survival we learn come into play many times throughout the film, and they never grow old as they constantly evolve and become revised with the increasingly crazy situations we find our heroes in. Overall, this film breaths a whole new life into an otherwise overdone genre about the undead. Killing zombies has never been more fun.

5. Brothers

When I saw the trailer which featured Tobey Maguire and Jack Gyllenhaal as brothers, two actors who I've been saying look almost exactly alike for years (and seeing as they're officially rebooting Spider-Man without Tobey Maguire, who better to fill in for him than his Hollywood lookalike?), I just had to see this movie, if only for that premise alone. Thankfully, the movie itself is actually very good. It's extremely gripping, and will take you on an emotional roller coaster. Many scenes are just extremely hard to watch, but in a good way.

It's the story of a Marine, Sam, who gets captured overseas, but is reported as dead to his family back home. Dealing with his death, the Marine's brother, Tommy, who's a complete screw up, pulls himself together and comes around to become a real part of the family for once. As his relationship with Sam's widow grows, they learn that Sam is still alive, and is on his way home. Cue the awkwardness.

Sam, played by Tobey Maguire, has to come home and try to deal with the horrible thing he had to do in order to keep his life. This in turn kills him inside, and he takes it out on his family. The relationship between his brother and wife, played by Gyllenhaal and Natalie Portman respectively, don't exactly help matters, but they certainly serve as a nice scape goat for him to hopelessly try and escape from his demons. It's a drama that'll suck you in and keep you on the edge of your seat throughout, a nice change of pace from the few other dramas I've watched this year which only served to bore me.

So this is what you get when you take a jarhead, Spider-Man, and Darth Vader's wife, and put them all in a movie together. Greatness!

4. Star Trek

Like I mentioned with Harry Potter, I have never been a Star Trek fan. I'm still not, in fact. The series has always only ever managed to bore me. That is, until now. I was surprised by how well this movie looked from the trailers, and so I eventually gave in to temptation and went against my prior judgment of the series, giving this film a chance. This latest theatrical release was just awesome, to say the least.

Watching the story of Kirk grow into the role of Captain of the Enterprise was surprisingly entertaining. It managed to show us a satisfying amount of science-fictiony mumbo-jumbo without ever going too overblown with it, and thus rather than losing it's audience, it manages to stick with us and keep our interest instead. It's got just enough camp to it without looking like a joke, which provides nice, humorous changes of pace throughout the film. It doesn't take itself too seriously, and yet it's a serious revival of an otherwise boring series. Star Trek was a pleasant surprise, and I actually anticipate seeing where they take this series from here.

3. Inglourious Basterds

This seems to be a theme here. Properties in which I'm not a fan of turning out great movies. And here's another one, Quentin Tarantino's latest film, Inglourious Basterds. Now, I'm no fan of Tarantino's. I find his work to be largely overrated overall. Kill Bill was unimpressive, Reservior Dogs was nothing special at all, and Death Proof is one of the worst films (if you can even call it that) that I've ever seen in my life. The bits and pieces I've seen of Pulp Fiction over the years haven't been bad, but Tarantino's track record with me has always prevented me from actually bothering to go out and see it in it's entirety.

And then there was the Basterds. He calls this film his masterpiece, and I agree whole heartedly. This movie was absolutely phenomenal. Tarantino's films are known for their long conversational dialogue scenes, many of which go on to really just talk about nothing of real importance. That's not the case here, as every single thing mentioned has a purpose. And the scenes are so tense they pull you right in and keep you on edge with every single word. Almost every scene feels like at any moment, someone might slip up and all Hell will break loose. In particular, I loved the scene where Shosanna and Col. Landa have their meeting. The music that cued just as he walked up behind her sent chills down my spine.

I really have to give huge praise to the actors in this film, who all did a fantastic job in their various roles. None more, however, than Christoph Waltz as "The Jew Hunter", Colonel Hans Landa. His performance is, bar none, the best of the year. He does a terrific job, and it's almost certain that his character will go down as one of the classic villains in film.

This film is always tense, and it's a whole lotta fun. Over the years, I look forward to people bringing up this film the next time they want to talk about Tarantino classics.

2. Watchmen

Going into 2009, this was my most anticipated movie of the year. And it didn't disappoint. Watchmen is up there with the best of the comic book films, and yet it's a major departure from the norm in the genre. Playing out more as a mystery than an action movie, you'll get sucked right in as we learn the various backstories of the wide variety of characters.

The movie stays very true to it's source material. The scenery and the dialogue are lifted right out of the pages of the comic, and really bring the graphic novel to life. All of the characters are played to perfection, and really come alive here. This film feels human, and that's part of the appeal. As we learn of the tragic lives that lead these regular people to a life of crime fighting, dressing up as super heroes even though none of them possess any actual super powers (other than Dr. Manhattan, of course), I just can't help but relate. Characters who you'll initially despise, such as The Comedian, you'll grow to really understand and appreciate as the movie goes on. The music throughout the films also plays a really important role. The soundtrack is really awesome, and all of the tracks are well placed and set the mood nicely.

The way this story plays out has also played a huge factor in inspiring my latest novel that I've written. I love the story, I love the characters, just all around I love this movie. And I'll even say this, I think the film is better than the graphic novel that it's based off of. The new ending certainly is, as it wraps things up much more tightly, and feels a lot more natural than the original from the comic. This is one of the best movies I've ever seen, and as such, it's really disheartening to see that this film has landed on so many "disappointing" lists in the past year. I was all set to name this as my 2009 movie of the year, all the way to the end, until I saw my #1 film...

1. Avatar

Since I took down my previous blog, most of you missed my review I posted on this film, so I'll just go ahead and re-post that, as it sums up my feelings on this film quite nicely:

So I decided to go ahead and see Avatar, and I couldn't possibly be happier that I made that decision. This movie is without a doubt a perfect 10/10, and the best movie to come along all year. It is flawless, absolutely flawless. I went in expecting something good, and I came out completely amazed by what I saw. And I was watching it in one of the worst movie-going experiences in recent memory, including crying babies in the theater, talking children, cell phones ringing, and problems with the sound and video at times. And yet none of these distractions were able to take anything away from this sheer masterpiece of a movie.

There are few movies that make me feel as happy to be watching them as this one did. Hell, I've still got chills just thinking about it. Most of the time after watching a great movie, I actually have to think about it for a while before it really hits me just how good the film was. With this one, though, it was instant. I knew I was watching something special as it was taking place before my eyes. It is a breathtaking experience, with a world so alive that I was actually left wondering just how in the Hell they pulled it off, and I can't even remember the last time I had such a thought about another movie. This movie just brings a whole new level of epic to film. I can truly say that it was honestly a privilege to witness this movie.

And next, as an added bonus, I'll present to you my Top 10 Movies of the Decade. And seeing as I've already said all that needs to be said about these films over the years, instead, I'll merely add a one word review to each entry. So then, lets start off with...

10. V for Vendetta

9. Wall-E

8. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

7. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

6. Spider-Man

5. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

4. Watchmen

3. Avatar

2. The Dark Knight

1. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

So there it is, folks! I'm a little more caught up now, so join me next time, as I run-down my list of the 20 greatest WWE matches of the decade, and then we'll take a look at the great year for gaming that 2010 looks to be. Later!

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