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Thursday, December 31, 2009

My favourite films of 2009

This hasn't been a vintage year for me in terms of seeing new films. A combination of extreme busyness and Cath not being well has conspired to prevent me from going to the cinema as often as I'd like. But still I've see a few good films and as it's New Year's Eve, I thought I'd select my favourites, and disappointments, for 2009.

First up, my absolute favourite:

Up
From the opening few minutes where an entire life of love and loss is told with very few words, but tremendous emotional impact, I knew this was going to be a slightly different 'kid's film'. True, it got a bit silly at times after that, but there were enough subplots and funny moments to laugh at, and above all, it did emotion without lapsing into sentimentality too much. Of course, there was some, because it's a movie. But overall the film was positive and life-affirming. (And I loved Doug the Dog.)

What next? Well, there have been some strong animations out this year. I really enjoyed Monsters versus Aliens, which was very funny and a bit more than your average cartoon. I also thought Coraline was very well made: a genuinely creepy storyline for kids that made me feel slightly scared at times (I don't do horror films as a rule). Surrogates was an interesting science fiction film that posed some good questions and ended at the right point in the story rather than tacking on another half an hour of meaningless explosions and stunts that some films have (The Island, anyone?). And Slumdog Millionaire lived up to the hype for me and was worthy of its Oscar successes.

But my Runner Up Film of the Year would be a tie between the franchise reboot of Star Trek and one I saw just a couple of days ago: Sherlock Holmes, starring Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law.

I admit, after Johnny Depp, Robert Downey Jr is my male eye candy of choice. Combined with Jude Law as bickering buddies, in a silly, but excellently well put together adventure yarn, what's not to like? I felt the film captured the spirit of the Sherlock Holmes stories that I've read, if not the letter. And as my Mum said, it was so nice to see an adaptation that turned Watson into a character, rather than a dullard to enable Holmes to explain the plot to the audience.

As for Star Trek, well, I was just bowled over by it really. I raved about it earlier in the year, and will probably get it on DVD at some point. All the points I made about it in the earlier review still stand - I liked the humour, the nods to the classic series, the acting. Just about everything worked.

So, I was surprised by how much I liked Sherlock Holmes and Star Trek, but for me the title of Most Surprising Film of the Year would have to be 17 Again, featuring teen heart throb Zac Efron. I watched this DVD with no expectations and enjoyed it a lot. There are plenty of funny jokes, Efron can act, the actors around him were very good too, and the plot was corny but the right kind of corny. Definitely better than I expected and I've even been tempted to watch it again.

On to the disappointments. Well, a few sequels fell flat for me. Fast and Furious was, bizarrely, quite slow-paced, and I don't see the point of a stunt film that uses CGI to make the stunts happen. Also to bill it as a reunion of the original cast and then kill off Michelle Rodriguez five minutes in was a bit crap. Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen simply couldn't live up to the brilliance of the original, and didn't. Ironically too many robots and not enough humans did for it.

But my worst film of the year promised much and delivered nothing. Tropic Thunder was a sprawling mess of a movie. The concept could have worked, but it just seemed the director wanted to make too many in-jokes about people in Hollywood. And the problem with in-jokes is that if you're not in on them then they just aren't funny. After about ten minutes I was done, but the movie dragged on far longer, and considering who was in it (Jack Black, Ben Stiller and Robert Downey Jr) has got to be a contender for worst utilisation of filmic talent ever.

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