Saturday, January 2, 2010

Shane's Favourite Movies of 2009

Just like last year, I figured I would list my most enjoyable and horrible movie experiences of the year, starting with the best. Due to time and financial restrictions there were lots of movies I didn't get to see (and really wanted to) but I still saw plenty to pick from. Let's get to it.

5. Star Trek
As someone who usually hates remakes and re-imaginings, I was pleasantly surprised by this film. The movie wastes no time in its pacing to establish the characters and story. I really like the casting and they all do a great job paying homage to the the original crew of the USS Enterprise while still finding their own identity. I saw Star Trek at the theatre with two other people who had no knowledge or interest in the franchise at all, but they both left completely entertained. That's the greatest strength of the film; it manages to appeal to everyone by being engaging, exciting, and funny.

The film isn't without its flaws though. The villain's motives and method for exacting revenge are fairly ridiculous. Plus the director (JJ Abrams) seems to be in love with blinding lights and lens flares, so you feel like squinting half the time. That aside, it was a fun romp from start to finish and it left me wanting more ... which is exactly what a reboot of a franchise should do.

4. Moon
I think a lot of people may have overlooked this film, but it's really worth checking out. Sam Rockwell plays Sam Bell, a man who has been contracted to work in a lunar station for three years by himself. It's basically a one-man show for Rockwell and we watch as his character deals with being the most isolated person ever, having no human interaction of any kind, and only an intelligent computer to keep him company.

The first portion of the film studies the isolation of Sam, but the film slowly turns into something else. I won't say how it plays out, but it will certainly keep you interested. Moon is great because it pays tribute to sci-fi films from the past 30-40 years and it plays on the viewer's expectations. The atmosphere in Moon is bleak and lonely and I loved it. A must watch for sci-fi fans.

3. Drag Me to Hell
Thank you, Sam Raimi. Thanks for finally getting back to what you're good at: highly entertaining and ridiculous horror. The story is pretty simple - Woman pisses off gypsy. Gypsy places terrible curse on woman. Woman will be tormented by demon for three days and then dragged to hell. What more could you want?

Drag Me to Hell is filled to the brim with scary moments, surprising moments, and moments that will gross you right the frig out. Some parts had me laughing, groaning, and wanting to cover my eyes, but I couldn't look away. There are really no slow parts to this film; it's balls to the wall thrills straight through. Plus, Mrs. Ganush is one of the best villains I've seen in some while. An early scene in a parking garage is quite unforgettable.

I love this movie to pieces. If you're a fan of the Evil Dead series or horror at all you owe it to yourself to watch this. What are you waiting for?

2. Avatar
This movie blew my mind. Seeing it in the theatre was one of the greatest movie experiences of my life. Before seeing Avatar I had trouble believing that the 3D was revolutionary or that the CGI characters were more believable than ever before. But you know what? It's true. Avatar has convinced me that 3D can be handled well and be more than a gimmick with characters constantly throwing or jabbing things out at the audience. And yes, the Na'vi are incredibly realistic. I believed in them and cared what happened to them.

Unfortunately people have found a lot to complain about: Poor writing and dialogue, a predictable or unoriginal story, and underlying messages on American imperialism, the environment, and war. In fact it seems that everyone is forced by law to make references to Dances With Wolves or Smurfs when talking about Avatar. In my opinion, all of these complaints are pretty weak and the film still stands up despite the fact that it reminds us of wars waged for land and oil, or other love stories with unlikely pairings.

I never really had time to dwell on these things, I was too busy enjoying a great film. I was drawn into an amazingly believable world, a love story between characters I care about, and an exciting battle between good and evil (whatever they happen to represent).

1. Inglorious Basterds
Easily the movie I've watched the most times in 2009. Every viewing gave me something new to appreciate, and plenty to discuss afterward. Quentin Tarantino's World War II film is unlike any war film you've probably encountered. Although advertisements for Inglorious Basterds make out the film as a crazy action movie with bullets flying, the violence is really a small portion of the overall film. Seems like a misleading angle to advertise the movie with posters of Brad Pitt's character standing on top of a heap of dead Nazis. I don't think his character killed a single person in the film.

Instead the movie shines with its amazing performances and dialogue. The opening chapter is so suspenseful it's gut-wrenching with the character Hans Landa having a conversation with a milk farmer. Christoph Waltz does such an amazing job playing Landa that you'll be unable to take your eyes off him. His performance is so intense and frightening that your skin will crawl.

I loved each subplot and how they all come together for one hell of spectacular finale. Once again Tarantino shows us that he knows how to write entertaining characters and situations full of the unexpected. Check this movie out, stat.


Sam said...

Good picks Shane.

I liked the ONN video "Trekies Bash New Star Trek Film as 'fun, watchable'".

Moon was a bit of a sleeper in the face of flashier sci-fi, like the aforementioned Trek and District 9, but I enjoyed its moodiness.

I completely agree about Inglorious Basterds. I put it off until DVD because I figured it would just be a bloodbath, but damn Tarantino knows how to craft a scene, fill it with compelling figures, and make you fascinated to see how it plays out.

Cole D'Arc said...

maybe i will do this one after all since it looks like our lists could be quite different. i really really wanted to see Moon but it only played very briefly. i'll have to check it ou on video.

your number one surprised me although i have to agree with your comments. i came into Basterds with low expectations and walked away very impressed and satisfied.

Shane Patenaude said...

Cole pretty much covered my honourable mentions in his list, but there's one more I'd like to throw out there: Paranormal Activity.

I can see how people could react very negatively to this film, and believe me, I see it's weaknesses. But damn, if it didn't have me on the edge of my seat and creeped out terribly.

It was a great film to see in the theater to experience with the rest of the audience. To hear everyone gasp and tense up in unison, then sigh with relief together, only to start freaking out again was awesome. At times the tension and dread was unbearable. I'll admit, I lost some sleep over this one.

RyHo said...

Excellent choices. I want to comment more, but I almost want to make my own list now. I haven't read Cole's yet, but I still think that the three of us would only overlap on two films, maybe three.