2009 YEAR IN REVIEW

page 3
john cribbs

 

OVERRATED:
movies people treated like the Second Coming when they were more like a monkey coming.

The Hurt Locker and Avatar.

I have to question just how starved the world is for a good old fashioned action-thriller and a good old fashioned effects-driven event that these two films have become so beloved. Take The Hurt Locker: it's fine, it's got some genuinely tense moments, the danger in the world of the film is palpable, but no more so than in your standard bomb squad flick like Blown Away or Arlington Road (why wasn't Jeff Bridges in this movie, anyway?) All the elements are easily transplanted to the Middle East, where the most formulaic plot devices apparently take on a whole new significance based on time and location alone - they've even got the basic "cop who has two weeks left 'till retirement" angle attached to their main character! I guess that doesn't rob the film of its intensity or suspense, it's just funny that its reputation is based on setting the film apart from the genre leanings. Maybe it's worth the unearned hype just to see the director of Near Dark, Blue Steel and Point Break have a chance to become the first female to win a directing Oscar. For the blow to Sofia Coppola alone, Bigelow's got my vote.

As for her ex-producer/husband, his half billion dollar extravaganza comes with some of the dodgiest politics of recent cinema (ironic, since the allegedly relevant Hurt Locker is almost completely stripped of any politic agenda.) I was shocked to be sitting in a packed movie theater listening to folks who drove there in cars with Support the Troops bumper stickers cheering at the sight of invading soldiers being slaughtered by giant blue natives and their monster pets. But whether Cameron intended Avatar to mask his liberal views is beside the point: did I experience the same kind of roller coaster ride I did the first time I saw Terminator 2, Jurassic Park, or even The Matrix? Not with this overly-familiar story about the open-minded hero who goes native and turns against what he previously believed was important in order to do the right thing. Even if the CG effects were as groundbreaking as we'd been told (and it didn't seem to me like anything I hadn't seen before) the Ferngully-style environmentalism was dishonest, the mild attempts at humor were grating and the love story recycled from Titanic was about as romantic as one between Jar Jar Binks and Gollum.

 

WHY BOTHER?
movies i didn't think would be worth the time to see and hate.

Rock'n'rolla Sherlock Holma.

It's like a joke in a movie about a bunch of Hollywood idiots. Ok we got Sherlock Holmes, right? But we figure, we juice him up a little. Our Sherlock Holmes doesn't sit around Baker Street fiddling with his violin and deducing shit. The only thing this Sherlock deduces is just how much ass he's gonna be kickin' and how much pussy he's gonna be poundin' on any given day, you got me? He's gonna be like Iron Man, except in Victorian London! Yeah, best of both worlds bro! As Holmes (the real one) said in The Valley of Fear, "Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself," and nothing I've seen has convinced me that Guy Ritchie brought anything beyond his usual limp, unrewarding forced-fun aesthetic to this studio laboratory experiment. I know I complain a lot about casting outside of nationality, but I'm still surprised that seemingly no one had a problem with Robert Downey Jr. in this role after his terrible Charlie Chaplin accent. He's got to be one of the only Americans to ever play the part, and if this incarnation were in any way anything like the original I suspect Basil Rathbone, Peter Cushing and Jeremy Brent would be rolling around in their respective graves. But I doubt any their corpses will bother: just title this movie Alan Quatermain or James Bond or The Pick-Up Artist Part 2 and it would have as much in common with any of them as it did to the iconic detective.

 

Watchmen.

The short side of it is simply this: the 12-issue miniseries Watchmen by Alan Moore and David Gibbons is the closest comic books have come to the composition and impact of a motion picture. Why would I want to see somebody else's interpretation of that already perfectly realized story, especially when said person made such a big deal about not changing anything (except making a significant alteration to the end that makes absolutely no sense?) The previews would have convinced me even if I had any doubts: I don't want to see the flawed heroes of Watchmen jumping around the city in slow motion like they're inside The Matrix. Who watches The Watchmen? Not me, bub.

 

Up in the Air.

Directed by Jason Reitman, this film is about a man who lives a comfortable, jetsetter life and really believes that his views on just about everything are correct, and that everybody else in the world agrees with him and finds him irresistibly charming. He is resolved to fulfill a personal goal for himself that he thinks is very important, and is having an affair with a woman he thinks may love him but he's wrong. By the end of the movie, his interactions with other people and experiences around the nation cause him to take a good hard look at himself and maybe question some of his former convictions. He's had a journey, this guy. The movie is Thank You for Smoking, and I did not care for it. Just remove the flipping-flopping over a Big Moral Question (you can always borrow them from Juno's thoughts on pregnancy/responsibility, twinkie stain) and you've got Up in the Air except George Clooney is literally up in the air because he flies everywhere so the title has this, like, double meaning?

 

Paranormal Activity.

Somebody at Paramount is a fucking genius. He (or she) looked back at 1998 and thought to themselves Why don't we create our own Blair Witch Project? The gambit paid off: after releasing previews that showed members of the audience getting all spookified and rigging a phony vote to "have Paranormal Activity widely released to a theater near you!" poll, the studio suckered the world yet again. They got everybody in America to pay money to see yet another mockumentary video with doors opening BY THEMSELVES!, footprints appearing BY THEMSELVES! and two ugly actors screaming BY THEMSELVES! and then tell their friends how scary it is. A con job like this sure makes me feel more sympathetic to movies like Sorority Row and Jennifers' Body, where scripts are written (albeit badly) and efforts are made to provide the thrills of an actual horror movie. The one hiccup in my stance against this movie is that Maitland McDonagh insisted it's worthwhile (in the same breath she boldly described Frank Henenlotter's Bad Biology as revolutionary.)

 

Year One/Paper Heart/Youth in Revolt.

Looking back at 2008, there were so many quality comedies (Step Brothers, Tropic Thunder, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Role Models, the Harold & Kumar sequel) that the lack of good ones this year is all the more noticeable. Bruno was ok but it was no Borat, Mike Judge's Extract was perfectly harmless but nearly joke-free, Observe and Report wasn't really a comedy in the traditional sense and World's Greatest Dad was as dark as they get. The Hangover was hugely overrated and I Love You, Man was a big disappointment, especially considering its stars were involved in two of last years previously mentioned comedies. There just weren't many opportunities to laugh in 2009. But apparently this didn't matter to anyone, as long as that comedic genius Michael Cera was on the loose! Man, he's such a weakling! Is there any limit to the comedic possibilities of that hilarious quality? He's extraordinarily fey, and oh so frail! Ow, my side! Can you think of an uglier 20 year old Canadian, or one with such a gratingly meek voice? If so, greenlight his movie, asap!

 

 

Also had very -little-to-no interest in:
(500) Days of Summer

Significantly have not seen:
Black Dynamite    Bright Star    Collapse    Touching the Void    Everyone Else
The House of the Devil
   In the Loop    Invictus    Lorna's Silence
The Lovely Bones
   The Road    A Serious Man    The Time That Remains

Wild Grass

The "Local Hero Award" for most Overrated Underrated Movie: Funny People.

The "Jeremy Irons in Dungeons and Dragons Award" for giving it your best shot even though you probably shouldnt have: Christopher Eccleston in GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra.

Future film that time forgot: Whiteout.

Acceptable sequels: Fast and Furious, The Final Destination, Ong Bak II, Crank 2: High Voltage, District 9.

Unacceptable sequels (and squeakquels): Transformers 2, Halloween II Part 2, Saw VI, Angels and Demons, Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day, Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Medea Goes to Jail, The Pink Panther 2 (really?), Alvin and the Chipmunks 2, Terminator Salvation, Twilight: New Moon, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, 17 Again, Year One, Planet 51, The Taking of Pelham 123, 9, Nine, 12, Ten9Eight (that's it: I'm retiring these sequel jokes as of this year).

Sequels to dread: Monsters vs Aliens: Requiem, On The Road Again, Old Dogs Go to Heaven, Two Lovers 2, 2 Brothers, 3 Brothers, 4 Brothers 4 Furious.

Most unfortunate title: Knowing.

Most (deceptively) generic title: A Perfect Getaway.

Most forgettable title: (Untitled).

Most misleading title: Bronson.

Title that set up a hilariously dumb title: Chris Evans' Push, Not Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire.

A title that knows what its audience wants: Hotel for Dogs.

 

(continues on next page with some AWARDS, the BIGGEST SURPRISES and the WORST TRENDS of 2009)

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