Fewer movies were released in 2009 than usual.
The writer’s strike that ran from November 2007 to February of 2008 can account for some of that.
Shrinking production dollars is the most likely culprit. Studios also screened fewer movies for critics in 2009 than in the past. That led to the lowest number of movies seen in a year in my career. I saw barely 200 and reviewed 150.
Three thoughts dominate. Three dimensions ruled in 2009. Unlike the few released in 2008, the producers spent at least some of the production dollars on a decent plot and a couple of them were quite good. Most of the 3-D was done for animated features.
Thought No. 2. Families and kids were the top focus of 2009. Depending on how you define the category, there were somewhere between 25 and 50 flicks aimed at families and children. Around a dozen were animated features and half of them were outstanding. All but one of the best films — The Fantastic Mr. Fox — were done in three-dimensions. Those released in normal flat-screen delivery ranged from pretty good to tolerable.
But it’s the thought that counts, right?
Thought No. 3. In 2009 there were three movies with the No. 3 in the title. The number 9, the musical Nine and the sci-fi flick District 9. All three were awful. Most disappointing is director Rob Marshall’s (Chicago) dreadful musical.
The top two thoughts on your mind in 2009 were my feelings about The Twilight Saga: New Moon and Avatar. I didn’t like either but was mega impressed with Avatar’s CGI and 3-D effects. Mind-boggling stuff.
I gave favorable reviews to the top-three grossing films of the year: the year’s top-grossing flick, Harry Potter & the Half Blood Prince, Up and The Hangover. Talk about nice surprises, the funniest film of the year The Hangover has grossed $459,700,000 worldwide.
One last movie thought. I do want to publicly thank Regal Cinemas for the yearly pass. Their generosity allows me to see films that studios don’t screen and keeps me up to speed on all movies including fringe films and art films that eventually make it to one of the Tri-Cities’ three theater chain screens or at a Battelle Film Club showing.
"The best of 2009" and "the worst of 2009" are based on films that have shown on Tri-Cities screens or that will soon be here. I was not able to screen three that likely would end up on this list: Crazy Heart, The Lovely Bones, The Last Station and one that has appeared on the top-10 lists of other critics, The White Ribbon.
1. Star Trek: This is a hard choice, but Star Trek is the most fun I had in a theater all year. The franchise boldly went where it has never gone before.
2. Up in the Air: George Clooney anchors Jason Reitman’s intelligent and scathing indictment of corporate insanity and materialism.
3. Inglourious Basterds: Quentin Tarantino’s best film since Pulp Fiction is outrageous, violent and brilliantly written. Brad Pitt has never been better and Christoph Waltz will win an Oscar.
4. The Hangover: The second best time I had in a theater in 2009. I’m still laughing.
5. The Messenger: Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson play soldiers that deliver news of the death a soldier dying in combat to families. Two great performances will tear your heart out. This one is opening in Tri-Cities in January. Don’t miss it.
6. Coraline: The best 3-D flick of 2009 and a great horror movie for kids.
7. Moon: The best sci-fi piece of the year is from Duncan Jones (David Bowie’s kid). It features a terrific performance from Sam Rockwell.
8. (500) Days of Summer: Outstanding writing, superb acting and a great bit of narration anchor this 20-something angst flick about a fickle and fragile relationship on its way down.
9. An Education: Set in 1961’s pre-Fab-Four London, it studies the relationship of a 17-year old girl to an older man and his friends. Great writing. Great acting.
10. The Hurt Locker: One of the three outstanding films dealing with the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and the impact of that conflict on individuals. It deals with the stresses of a bomb squad and features a gutty performance from Jeremy Renner.
Guilty pleasure and just missing the top-10: Brothers, Precious, The Blindside, Young Victoria, My Sweet Misery, Skills like This.
The Worst — films that should have been better than they turned out. The top three are among the top-three highest grossing films of the year.
1. The Twilight Saga: New Moon: Pathetic, gooey, romantic twaddle. Making mega-millions does not make it a good movie. A slow, stupid premise insults your intelligence.
2. 2012: A mind-muddling mess mixing an iffy end-of-the-world prophecy with high tech effects. The effects are cool but so what.
3. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: Effects so bad that once transformers start battling decepticons, its interminable battles are a big, ugly blur until someone wins or loses.
4. Taking Woodstock: Never did get to Woodstock and that’s its problem.
5. Wolverine: Hugh Jackson’s Wolverine spends most of the movie extending, then retracting his razor-sharp claws and grimacing. Do we really care about X-Men origins?
Dishonorable mentions: Public Enemies, Couples Retreat, Did You Hear about the Morgans?, Amelia, Angels and Demons.
The best — and most important movie that didn’t make it to Tri-Cities screens, Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story. Normally not the most accurate or honest documentarian, Moore is dead on with this one. See it when it’s released on DVD.
Agree or disagree with Mr. Movie’s picks? Write him and let him know what you think.