Top Ten Movies of 2009

10.  Zombieland:  I’ve always felt that Zombies are funnier than they are scary.  This proves to be true in Zombieland, the comedy about an unlikely pair of survivors following a zombie outbreak in America.  One who is an angry man who takes plenty of enjoyment in crushing Zombies brains in, and the other who is much more mild tempered who is just doing what he needs to do to survive.  On their way across country in search of Twinkies and family, respectfully, they encounter a couple of con-woman sisters… and Bill Murray. Large Popcorn.

9. Avatar:  There was a ton of talk about how bad the story was for this movie when it was first released. Granted, James Cameron obviously spent more time working on the groundbreaking special effects for this futuristic sci-fi than he did the story, but I still found it to be interesting and entertaining. What I will always remember more than anything about this movie is that I watched it on the largest IMAX screen in Minnesota that towers over you at almost 7 stories tall. I felt like I was right in the land of the Avitars with them flying on birds and escaping all of the attacking humans! A true spectacle of a film. Large Popcorn.

8.  Moon:  This is the type of movie that I would expect from the offspring of David Bowie.   Duncan Bowie (I mean Duncan Jones) delivers a “Space Oddity” but doesn’t show “Life on Mars” in his mind bending Sci-fi Drama.  Rather, he sets his film on a “Station (to Station)” on the Moon.   A story about a lonely “Starman” serving a three year contract in space whose life “Changes” once he has everything he knows turned upside down.  This was a fairly minimally released film that did not get the attention it deserved so I won’t say anything about the story as I believe it is best to go in totally fresh for this one. But check it out, it is well worth the watch, and one of the best movies of a year with a long list of hits.  Go…now, you’re “Under Pressure”…is anyone even getting these Bowie song title puns?? “Ashes to Ashes!”  Large Popcorn.

7.  The Hurt Locker:  Jeremy Renner explodes onto the A list in this intense – suspense filled war drama about a team of cocky, young wartime bomb diffusers.  This movie takes cutting the red or the yellow wire to the next level! James Cameron’s ex-wife stole the Oscar from him for best director of the year even though he developed so much that is new to the cinema for his movie in the #9 spot.  She uses some tricks from the documentary genre with a style of shooting that really drives home the intensity and makes us feel like we are in the action cutting the wires with the guys.  It is the 2nd best war movie in years and may be the best one in the coming years.  It should absolutely find its place on the list of best all-time war movies.  Large Popcorn.

6.  Fantastic Mr. Fox:  When the all-star cast went out to spend some secluded time together lodging  and recording the voices for this film, I heard a story about George Clooney that says even when camping, he still manages to wake up before everyone, take a shower, comb his hair, put on some nice cloths and cologne, and make coffee to just because he is that perfect… and to rub it in everyone’s faces explained co-star and Wes Anderson regular, Jason Schwartzman.  Clooney was perfect for the confident but wily Mr. Fox in a stop motion animation immediate classic made more for adults than children.  Large Popcorn. 

5.  Mary and Max:  I couldn’t recommend more highly a touching little “clayography” film from Australian Academy award winning writer/director Adam Elloit (Harvie Krumpet) titled “Mary and Max”.  The film that opened the 2009 Sundance Film Festival features the voices of Toni Collette as Mary, Philip Seymour Hoffman as Max, Barry Humphries and Eric Bana.  It captures you minutes into the film with its interesting Gumby-2.0 visuals and it’s truly engaging story that touches on everything from autism, alcoholism, sex, suicide, procreation, obesity, to many of life’s other problems.  I was skeptical of the movie originally because I thought it was a Pixar type children’s movie that crosses genre’s and appeals to all audiences, those movies are cute, but I fortunately don’t have children so can enjoy them as sparingly as I wish.  I am very glad that my wonderful girlfriend grabbed it from the shelf or I never would have even noticed it.  The PG rating that it is given is surprising due to many of the subjects it breaches.  This is definitely a film for adults.  It is more moving than it is funny but there are laugh out loud moments.  It ends sad yet you finish with a satisfied feeling.  Large Popcorn.

4.  Crazy Heart:  This Academy acclaimed film is deserving of all of it honor.  Jeff Bridges in a winning performance transforms into the lonely, drunken, has-been country singer who begins an unlikely romance story with Jean Craddock, a single mother played by Maggie Gyllenhaal in an academy award nominated performance.  The movie is so strong in story, in song, and in dialogue which is further broken down by one of the best of his craft Roger Ebert in this selection from his review:

“There’s a line of dialogue in the movie that I jotted down… Bad Blake is being interviewed in his shabby motel room by Jean Craddoc… she’s taking him, gently, to places he doesn’t want to go. He’s been interviewed about the subject too many times. He doesn’t say that. He says, “I want to talk about how bad you make this room look.”

It’s such a good line I can hardly believe I’ve never heard it before. Bad Blake perhaps knows it sounds like something out of an old movie. It’s also the kind of line written by a singer-songwriter, the masking of emotion by ironic displacement, the indirect apology for seedy circumstances. She blushes. I can’t think of a better way for the movie to get to where it has to go next. No shy apologies. No cynicism. Just that he wrote a great line of a country song, and it was for her.”

A very good breakdown about  a very good line from the 4th best movie of 2009.  Large Popcorn with Butter.

3.  500 Days of Summer:  The movie opens with a voice over that says “This is a story of boy meets girl.  But you should know up front, this is not a love story.”  What 500 Days of Summer is, is a love at first site story that breaks the mold of standard Rom-coms with sharp directing, fun characters, a sporadic timeline and…Hall and Oats.   Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Tom who is a young and likeable card writer for a hallmark type company. His life changes when Summer, the new intern walks through the doors of his office.  Played with a corky likability like only Zooey Deshchanel can do, the two start a rocky relationship that is shown through snippets of different days that they lived together while a couple.  It is shocking to see a couple so happy and in love one minute and then 300 days later in their relationship but only the next minute of the movie fighting and being completely out of love with one another.  The issues that the two characters deal with are real and insightful, definitely not what we are used to seeing in a young story about love.  All the while, we are extremely entertained with how the story is told by Marc Webb who takes this fun story on for his first feature length film, one that was nominated by the Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical and for Best Performance by and Actor but unfortunately neglected by the Academy Awards.  Large Popcorn with Butter.

2.  Up in the Air:  Up in the air is where George Clooney’s character Ryan Bingham feels most comfortable.  He spends a majority of his time flying from one office to the next in city to city all across the country.  He is not selling or training, or consulting or hiring, in fact he is doing just the opposite.  He is firing.  He is the person that so many men and women in the corporate world have unfortunately met with across a conference room table in offices around this country throughout the past 5 years.   Bingham has justified his position as a professional hit man by telling himself he is performing a service, performing a task that someone else doesn’t want to do.  I suppose in the eyes of the business just like it would hire a janitor to clean the toilets, they can hire someone to do this undesirable task.

The movie grounded by a character that despite of his easily hate-able profession, is actually well liked.  It excels into the great movie that it is with the story twits that involve a pair of women.  Both who are equally important and impactful on his life however in different ways.  One is a young but very bright new hire to for his company who is overflowing with energy and ideas to make everything better.  Perfectly played by Anna Kendrick in an Academy Award nominated role.  The other woman in the film is played by Vera Farmiga (The Departed) who was also nominated for her role.  Her character Alex Goran impacts the life of our leading man in a much more personal than professional way.

Up in the Air is the 3rd feature from Director Jason Reitman after the two intelligent and unconventional mainstream hits; Thank you for Smoking and Juno.  The fact that he makes movies a cut above the rest or directors in the business is easier to believe when you find out who his father is; Ivan Reitman – the director of Ghostbusters.  He is a one of the best directors in this decade and delivers an absolute memorable gem with Popcorn Movie Review’s 2nd best movie of 2009.  Large Popcorn with Butter.

1.  Inglourious Basterds:  Quentin Tarantino has done it again. Writing and directing his best film in my mind and giving everyone on the wrong side of WWII the payback that they deserve. The story is broken into 3 pieces with 3 different amazing characters and motives. I can say now that they all conclude with an alternative ending to WWII that will make you shiver with joy and amazement! The three characters are a Nazi, an American who feels his sole purpose in life is to kill Nazi’s, and a girl, carrying her own but similar motives to the American, who is in the middle of it all.
Tarantino’s film is a best of the war genre but delivers so much more than ever expected for a movie ultimately about war. The drama and intensity in the story and between the characters is as obvious as the violence is brutal and at times gruesome. All of the parts are played brilliantly one of which was awarded an Academy Award for best supporting Role to Christoph Waltz in a truly memorable and groundbreaking role. He speaks 4 different languages fluently throughout the film. I remember the 152 minutes flying by when I saw it in a pack movie theater its opening weekend. I was in love with it throughout and in the multiple viewings I have enjoyed since, it has only become more of a favorite in my mind. The film that makes it towards the top of my all-time movie list, without a doubt is my favorite movie of 2009. Large Popcorn with Butter.

Honorable Mentions: As always a Top Ten list is a challenge to put together so I just couldn’t finish this up with out mentiing the movies that were on my innitial list but didn’t quite cut the top 10. The following movies are 2010′s honorable mentions: A serious Man, An Education, Funny People, Up, The Informant, Bruno.

For the Record: The movies that were nominated for the Acadamy Awards Best Picture in 2010 were: The Hurt Locker (Winner) A Serious Man, An Education, Avatar, District 9, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, The Blind Side,  Up, Up in the Air.

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