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2009 movie round-up

With my very limited movie-watching programme of the second half of the year, I was surprised to learn that I managed to see more films for the first time this year than I did last year (50 vs 47). What follows is my by now traditional year-end round-up.

First, a couple of words on the last few movies I’ve seen, of which there were but a handful in the couple of months since I last provided a brief round-up of my watching activities. Hopefully, if you were curious enough to look beyond the first paragraph, you also read my review of Avatar, which was unquestionably one of the best cinematic experiences I ever had.

Of the few DVR-enabled viewings, I unexpectedly quite enjoyed The Time Machine, given that I heard mostly negatives about it in the years since it came out. The second half of the movie and ultimately the plot resolution felt unconvincing, but the premise and the delivery weren’t bad.

Mamma Mia! was a bit of a disappointment, with less than stellar singing from everyone except Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried, and occasionally bordering on grotesque choreography that, for me, did not translate well from the stage to the screen. And maybe I am awfully stereotyping her, but I was not convinced by Meryl Streep’s free-spirited forty-something single mother; I suppose not having seen her in many – any? – light-hearted roles, I felt that she was miscast. The music itself did provide a bit of saving grace.

I managed not to be aware that Burn After Reading was a Coen brothers’ movie until the credits started to roll, or I might have been prejudiced to it on account of my recent disappointment with No Country for Old Men. It was funny enough and paced enough so that I formed a mostly positive opinion of it. Low body count may have contributed to that, coupled with excellent performances of all members of the main cast.

And now, the list.

2009 releases
Avatar2009Nothing like this has ever been done in cinema.
Coraline2009Not really for children, but an excellently-made animated movie.
Star Trek2009Too many “how does that make sense?” moments, but a very enjoyable reboot nonetheless.
Taken2009Rooting for Liam Neeson as a superdad on a mission is a no-brainer.
The International2009Gorgeous European locales, but boring.
Watchmen2009Good story, great execution, provokes arguments.
Last year releases
10,000 B.C.2008Uninspiring plot, hodgepodge of ancient civilizations.
212008Sharp plot, characters that I can identify with, good acting.
Burn After Reading2008The cast is great and there are just a couple of characters getting offed.
Deception2008Ewan McGregor and Hugh Jackman are both good, but it goes downhill as the plot starts to unwind.
Fool’s Gold2008Lightweight and enjoyable adventure in gorgeous locales.
Get Smart2008A few good super-agent jokes don’t make up for overall silliness.
Gran Torino2008Poignant and moving, and Eastwood’s acting is brilliant.
Hancock2008Interesting superhero story at first, disintegrating into melodramatic and illogical.
In Bruges2008Points for Colin Farrell’s acting and for scenery.
Mamma Mia!2008Less than stellar singing makes for a unfavorable comparison with stage musical. Can’t help but enjoy ABBA‘s music, though.
Slumdog Millionaire2008Good glimpse into the culture of India, but hardly an Oscar material.
The Counterfeiters2008A very powerful depiction of several facets of the Holocaust.
The Incredible Hulk2008Dull story, some good special effects.
Valkyrie2008Despite some sketchiness, a good rendering of an interesting historical event.
Vicky Christina Barcelona2008Good performances, great backdrop.
Wanted2008Some mind-blowing action, but a mostly inane plot.
Also this decade
Across the Universe2007Nicely executed collection of Beatles’ covers.
Charlie Wilson’s War2007A bit cavalier with time lines, but otherwise brilliant “hidden” story of a history-turning military conflict.
Eastern Promises2007Brutal and dark, but gets points for Russian authenticity.
Good Luck Chuck2007Easily the worst movie I’ve seen all year, Jessica Alba notwithstanding.
Hitman2007Nice actions sequences and beautiful locales, but the worst in terms of Russian authenticity I’ve seen in years.
I Am Legend2007A well-executed post-apocalyptic story.
Juno2007An instant family favorite, despite sticky subject matter.
La Vie en Rose2007Disorienting in execution, but the music and the period theme are very enjoyable.
Lions for Lambs2007A study of how our ideals get warped around the policies of our leaders; brilliantly acted.
Little Miss Sunshine2006An engaging portrayal of a mildly dysfunctional family.
Lucky You2007Cards-related movies seem to attract me, but there is little of note here.
National Treasure: Book of Secrets2007Entertaining and briskly-paced adventure. Forget the plot.
No Country For Old Men2007Boring and largely incomprehensible.
The Bucket List2007Excellent acting from two grand masters; good story with a number of poignant moments.
The Darjeeling Limited2007The scenery is resplendent, but the procession from one remotely comical situation to another left me cold.
The Time Machine2002Interesting re-imagining of the old story, a bit unconvincing in the end.
Transformers2007Dumb plot, little acting. You have to have an attachment to the old toys to like it.
War2007A dark and violent mob revenge story; points for an unexpected twist.
We Own the Night2007Good period piece, very authentic in depicting Russian immigrants, but not a great plot.
20th century
An Officer and a Gentleman1982Good acting, well-developed plot; a rare comparative “oldie” that I rate high.
Desperado1995Grotesque but also balletic gun violence. And Salma Hayek!
Fargo1996Uneven, with good acting but also weird plot turns that come up short of a “Britcaper”.
Ghostbusters1984Bill Murray’s acting is a positive.
sex, lies and videotape1989Bored the hell out of me.
The 13th Warrior1999Somewhat simplistic, but an overall rousing heroic story.
The Untouchables1987A bit sketchy, but several excellent acting performances and a historically interesting story.
The War of the Worlds1953Rudimentary special effects skew the comparison towards the recent remake, but a solid movie for its time.
Wise Guys1986Amusing in places.
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