Monday, August 31, 2009

Four More Months of Living Theatrically (and a Review of the Previous Eight)

With releases pushed back, pushed up, pushed left and right, surprising flops and mega-hits, my original movie list doesn't really look like I had any clue whatsoever about the year, cinematically.

I've been lucky enough to see many movies on the list, and quite a few more that have proven to be extremely enjoyable. Thank you to Meaghan, Jenn, Anita, Ben, Josee, Ben's dad and the lovely people at Onyx "We Own The Rights To Your Entertainment" Corporation for making this, two-thirds of the way through, a very enjoyable movie year.

Oh, this is also going to be a little longer than the original, where I, for the most part, stuck to one movie a month. There's a lot more to gush about now.

January

Revolutionary RoadTaken

I have still yet to see Revolutionary Road, so the year did not start off well. Jenn and I tried to see it, but arrived far too late (after extremely slow service at Jack Astor's), so we wound up seeing Yes Man instead1.

When I originally did the list, I had considered putting Taken rather than Revolutionary Road, as I had started to hear good things about the former. I figured, though, that it probably wouldn't see a significant amount of time at the theatres. Instead, it's one of the best movies I've seen this year.

February

The InternationalHe's Just Not That Into You

I had hoped that Clive Owen would be able to carry The International, a film by rookie writer-director combo Eric Singer and Tom Tykwer. He couldn't. This film showed a lot of promise, but it eventually collapsed under its own ambitions. Maybe next time guys.

He's Just Not That Into You actually proved to be the pleasant surprise of the month, though. A very effective ensemble cast turned this movie into one of those rare romantic comedies where one actually cares about the characters. Most importantly, the viewer is not left wanting - the characters you connect with are ultimately victorious, the characters you don't like aren't.

I also caught Confessions of a Shopaholic, and while it wasn't particularly good2, it was with good company.

March

WatchmenI Love You, Man

Watchmen remains the best movie of the year, thus far, plus we saw it in IMAX. Zach Snyder made only the most absolutely necessary changes to the source material, and the result was absolute brilliance.

A very pleasant surprise from the month of March was I Love You, Man. Jason Segel makes a nice transition from Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Paul Rudd plays the doof rather than the witty guy in the corner. One of the best comedies of the year.

Also saw Monsters vs. Aliens, a surprisingly good animated feature that made for a nice little distraction.

April

The SoloistState of Play

I have seen a total of one movie released to theatres in April, and it wasn't The Soloist.3 I did see State of Play, however, a Russell Crowe-Ben Affleck-Helen Mirren piece based on a BBC miniseries from 2003. Both the miniseries and the movie were exciting, twisty investigative journalism pieces.

Beyond those two, I suppose Adventureland is the other kinda big one, even if it is basically Kristen Stewart making vampire eyes at an awkward Michael Cera-esque Jesse Eisenberg. But, I haven't seen it, so I shouldn't really judge.

May

X-Men Origins: WolverineStar TrekAngels & DemonsTerminator: SalvationUp

Essentially, we saw a movie a week this month, even if very few of them were as good as hoped. X-Men Origins: Wolverine was not exactly awful, but it should be made to stand several yards apart from the three preceding films. Plus, a tremendous lack of Ryan Reynolds made it not as enjoyable.

Star Trek was actually fantastic, even if it was viewed from the very front row, as I was unable to find the theatre in time to get decent seats. The film managed to balance elements for the super-fan and the non-fan alike, and ultimately helped to produce a great, entertaining ride.

Angels & Demons left more to be desired than The Da Vinci Code. Whereas the first at least provided plenty of suspense and action, this movie was unable to balance the intellectual and the action - never quite explaining enough to really make the story make sense, but explaining too much to make its 138 minutes fly by.

Terminator: Salvation finally takes the audience into the post-apocalyptic world promised by the first three films and, like Star Trek, gives enough hints to the past for the fan to enjoy them, but stands alone enough for the neophyte to still enjoy it.

Then, there was Up. Plot holes aside, Up was without a doubt one of the most enjoyable animated films I've seen in a long time. We're still quoting it (saying "Kevin" has an entirely new meaning) and it will be purchased as soon as it comes out.

June

Transformers: Revenge of the FallenThe Hangover

What was supposed to the month of the giant alien robot ($830 million in box office revenues versus a budget of $200 million) also became the month of the tiger in the bathroom, mysterious baby, and missing tooth ($418 million in box office revenues versus a budget of $35 million).

Revenge of the Fallen was everything everyone expected - things blowing up, Shia LaBeouf squeaking, Megan Fox bending over, and no one believing they actually care about one another. Oh, and the slut-off between her and the greasy robot chick from the beginning. It was extremely fun, but not a particularly good movie.

The Hangover, however, was by far the funniest movie of the year. It was probably about the biggest surprise of the year, and made everyone love Zach Galifianakis. It was also yet another Bradley Cooper movie.

We also saw Away We Go prior to the Rise Against concert. Information here.

July

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood PrincePublic EnemiesBrünoFunny People

July was a month of disappointment (theatrically speaking). Although Harry Potter is the highest grossing film of the year, thus far, raking in just short of $1 billion, it wasn't great. I still haven't read the books, but I was assured that it doesn't remain particularly faithful. Still, though, people seemed to like it, and it made a lot of dough.

Public Enemies was going to be a toss-up right from the beginning. Michael Mann can be a very hit-and-miss director - although very skilled and innovative, he can often fall in love with those skills and innovations, not to mention his love for two-hour movies. This was the latter. Very long, and lacking in story development, the movie turned into a long, drawn-out series of bullet-riddled corpses. Oh, a long, drawn-out series of bullet-riddled corpses, all shot at night.

Another film that was going to be either really good or really bad was Brüno. Let's just say it wasn't good. The parts that were funny were very funny, but they were few and far between. It's very difficult to get shock laughs when the shocks are revealed ahead of times. Even the gross-out humour wasn't all that gross.

Finally, Funny People. Should have been better, as explained here.

August

Inglourious BasterdsDistrict 9

I'm still yet to drag anyone to Inglourious Basterds, but I've been assured that it's really quite excellent. Not at all steeped in historical fact, but it has apparently proven to be an excellent romp.

Now, District 9 I have seen. Ben and I saw that while Megs and Josee went to see The Time Traveller's Wife, which was apparently good in its own right. District 9, however, deals with tense subject matter, with a splash of science fiction mixed in. The story about racial intolerance takes place, not accidentally, in South Africa4, and details the relationship between humans and aliens that tried to take refuge here over 20 years ago. I see no need to spoil the movie, but suffice to say, save for maybe the last 20 minutes of Transformers-like action, this movie has everything going for it.

I also caught Julie & Julia this month, and, perhaps because I'm not the intended audience, I did not enjoy it. Perhaps the book is better, but the movie had some serious plot holes, and left a lot to be desired.

September

9The Informant!

September's original movie I was looking forward to was Daybreakers, but seeing as it isn't coming out until January 20105, we're going to need something else. Two of those movies are definitely from different sides of the spectrum.

First, there is 9, the Tim Burton-produced, Shane Acker-directed post-apocalyptic Little Big World-cum-Nightmare Before Christmas animated film. Acker won awards for his short-film version of the movie, and, although CGI, the film actually is presented in such a style that it looks like stop-motion.

Secondly, we have Steven Soderbergh apparently channeling the Coen Brothers in a farce about a corporate informant that can't hold himself together under the pressure. Matt Damon wears a ridiculous mustache, yet still manages to look exactly like Matt Damon. Imagine Ocean's Eleven meets Burn After Reading, based on the trailers.

October

The Invention of LyingCouples RetreatWhere the Wild Things Are

And, once more, a release date change (Shutter Island is now set for release in February) has resulted in an entirely new set of must-sees for the month. Thus, two (potentially) very different comedies and something completely different.

The Invention of Lying comes from Ricky Gervais, about a man who tells the first lie on an alternate Earth where people have only ever told the truth. Gervais hits a homerun in nearly every at-bat, and this should be no different. Odds are - critical raves, poor attendance.

I don't know what to expect from Couples Retreat. As there appears to be no clear-cut leading man, the cast is full of second bananas - Jon Favreau, Jason Bateman, Vince Vaughn. While they carry a certain degree of star power, none of them have really lead their own blockbuster. But, regardless, this should be quite funny.

Finally, Where the Wild Things Are, directed by Spike Jonze and based on a book with 10 lines. The pure "How will they pull it off?" curiousity should generate a lot of ticket sales.

November

2012Pirate Radio

Roland Emmerich-directed disaster flick? A Roland Emmerich-directed disaster flick with a black president? That, coupled with a nifty marketing campaign and not a lot of other great releases, should make this movie more than worth a look.

The music alone should be enough to make Pirate Radio worth a watch, but it doesn't hurt to have Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rhys Ifans, Kenneth Branagh, and Bill Nighy starring.

December

AvatarSherlock Holmes

I'm still amped for Avatar, but the real plot remains a carefully guarded secret. James Cameron doesn't make too many turkeys, though, and there's nothing like a good colonization of other planets flick.

Now, there is plenty known about Sherlock Holmes. But, plot points aside, the people involved are reason enough to see it: Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law, Mark Strong, Rachel McAdams, directed by Guy Ritchie. It's a classic story, with apparently a bit of a twist, and it's being released on Christmas.

And, again, I have wasted everyone's time warning them what movies I'm going to drag them to. But, before we go, just a quick little chart, because I like making them:

Top 5 Movies of the Year

WatchmenDistrict 9The HangoverUpTaken

Realistic Potential to Crack the List

Inglourious Basterds2012Sherlock Holmes9

1 - Which was okay, plus it has Zooey Deschanel and Bradley Cooper in it
2 - Although I haven't read the books
3 - Apparently I'm not the only one that skipped The Soloist; it's barely made back half of its budget
4 - Both because of the obvious apartheid parallels and the fact that everyone involved with the movie is South African
5 - January Two-Oh-Ten, if you will

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