I think I’m going to call 2009 “The Year the Movies Didn’t Suck.” I mean, sure, we had a few misses here and there (get back in the corner, McG!), but even the crap this year was *fun* crap. Dragonball: Evolution? Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li? Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen? G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra? Pretty much anything with a colon in the title was guaranteed to suck in the best kind of way.
But good movies, too, were plentiful. I have more to say about some than others, but for your consideration:
Al’s Favorite $100 of 2009
Since 2005, Star Trek has been a dead franchise. The body was maybe a little too fresh for fanboys to smell the corpsification, but with no TV show on the air and the last bankable cast long in retirement, Trek was set to boldly go the way of Bat Durston. And then JJ Abrams happened and suddenly Star Trek is fun and funny and sexy again. There’s a shiny new ship and cutting-edge special effects and a new cast with great chemistry. It’s also got people to watch it: new Trek fans, old Trek fans, people who’ve never seen Trek before in their life. It’s got real live girls watching it. It got my mom to watch it. In other words, Trek is back and that’s a very good thing.
Sam Raimi’s triumphant return to the world of horror is everything you hoped it would be: funny, gross, even occasionally scary. And don’t let the PG-13 label stop you from thinking it’s a lesser movie than his R-rated stuff; I think Drag Me to Hell ranks right with the Evil Dead trilogy as one of the most entertaining horror movies ever.
I was almost done with zombies. I liked them as much as the next guy on the internet, but they seem to have taken root in the national consciousness during the last few years and become so prevalent that they stopped being cool and started getting boring. Zombieland changed that. It was really funny, moderately creepy, and teamed up Bill Murray with Woody Harrelson. What more can you ask for?
It’s no great shakes on plot, but I can’t think of a more stunning movie in 2009. Avatar is 3-D like they’ve been promising for thirty years. It’s the 3-D you always imagined you were going to see when you were a kid. This is the kind of experience that you go to the movies for.
Tarantino’s most directorially mature movie, featuring the best scene he’s ever written and one of the all-time great roles Brad Pitt will ever play. Plus they kill Nazis good, too.
A fantastically smart film that manages to be part documentary, part melt movie, and part buddy comedy. District 9 really puts it’s money up on the screen yet it all feels natural enough that I actually referred to it a “low budget film” before realizing what a mistake I’d made. I shouldn’t expect less from Peter Jackson, but this caught me by surprise anyway.
Like The Blair Witch Project before it, Paranormal Activity was a pretty divisive movie among horror fans. There were those who thought it’s slamming doors and it’s standing-and-staring were the perfect way to get under your skin and make it crawl and then there were those whose opinions are wrong. This is creepy as hell and the scariest movie I saw all year.
Sad and sweet and funny and ridiculous? It must be Pixar. Up may not reach the same brilliant heights as Wall*E, but this is still easily one of the best movies of 2009.
If Paranormal Activity was the scariest movie of the year, then Orphan was definitely the weirdest (thanks, Drew!). It’s got a neat premise and an ending you won’t see coming, thanks to a creepy, intelligent performance from 12 year-old Isabella Fuhrman. Perhaps a better director could have toned down the ‘It’s-Only-A-Cat’ jump scares, but Orphan is still one you don’t want to miss.
Completely absurd and tremendously clever, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs was my biggest surprise of 2009. It’s funny from start to finish, infinitely rewatchable, and it manages to dig a little deeper than you’d expect from the average kids’ movie. Plus it stars Mr. T and Bruce Campbell!
I call that a hundred bucks well-spent. So, with new stuff on the horizon from Christopher Nolan, Paul Greengrass, M Night Shyamalan, and Ridley Scott, it’s time to turn and face 2010 head on! My resolution (for those of you who keep emailing me): I’m finishing Babylon 5!