Weingrad Rates the Movies of 2009

Well, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen just about every movie worth seeing that came out in 2009. So I figure it’s time that I throw in my two cents. I was going to do a top 10, but decided to make it 12 because I couldn’t decide where to draw the line. Oh and there are zero spoilers in these reviews, so needn’t worry. So here we go:

12. Paranormal Activity: I know I might receive some flak for this… from whoever reads this… but here’s my take on this film. Whether you like this movie or not is dependent on the circumstances in which you watch it. If you watch it in the middle of the day with a bunch of people… then yeah, it’s gonna be stupid. But if you watch it late at night with all the lights off, and you’re alone… then it could terrify the shit out of you. Obviously I did the latter, and it freaked me out. I kept my hand on the pause button on my remote throughout 75% of the movie, thinking I might get too scared to continue. Watch this film with an open mind. There’s been a lot of really bad “scary movies” that have come out recently… this is not one of them.

11. Zombieland: This movie is just fun. It gets straight to the point, and there is never a dull moment. And holy crap, Emma Stone is HOT. She certainly has aged well… It’s almost worth watching for her alone. Jesse Eisenberg is basically a poor man’s version of Michael Cera; this is the second movie he’s starred in recently that I have enjoyed (the other being Adventureland). Woody Harrelson is also awesome and perfectly casted for this movie. Definitely catch this one when you get a chance; it’s funny, action-packed, and features some good actors. What more do you want?


10: Up: Pixar strikes again. They really seem to outdo themselves every year. I absolutely loved WALL-E, and though Up may not be quite as good in my mind, it’s at least really, really close. Animated movies, when done right, can really affect you emotionally in a way that other movies simply cannot; there’s just some type of innocence there that cannot be captured by real actors. This movie features a wonderful story, and you just can’t help but feel good when the movie ends. This one is certainly a shoe-in for animated film of the year at the Oscars this year.

9: Star Trek: Now this one really surprised me. I am not a Star Trek fan by any means, in fact, I always thought it was kind of stupid. However, after hearing the praise this film was getting I decided to give it a shot. And I’m glad I did. The story was good, and you do not need to know anything about Star Trek to enjoy it. I mean I’m sure it’ll mean more to Trekkies, but on its own it certainly holds up as a solid film, especially if you are into science-fiction. It’s a solid story and featured great acting by a young cast headed by Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and breakthrough star Zoe Saldana.


8: Where The Wild Things Are:  I was really looking forward to seeing this movie, especially after watching the trailer. I was 100% confident that as soon as the movie ended there would be no doubt in my mind that I loved it. Plus Spike Jonze is good at directing “weird” movies (see Being John Malkovich and Adaptation). However, that was not the case. Initially, I was actually slightly disappointed. But then I thought about the movie, and changed my mind. The problem was that I was expecting a different kind of film. This is NOT a plot-driven movie in any way. Nor is it a children’s movie. It is a movie ABOUT childhood. When Max goes off to the island to meet the Wild Things, everything from that point on is an allegory about childhood. It’s also an emotionally-charged movie. There are a lot of beautiful shots in this movie, and I thought the people that voiced the Wild Things did a terrific job; you could really sense the emotion in their voices. Also, the kid that played Max (Max Records) was great. Usually child actors are quite annoying, but this kid was a real find. I’d recommend this film to people of all ages

7: Inglourious Basterds: I was very wary of the “Tarantino Factor” when viewing this movie. I knew it was getting good reviews, but I was afraid people were just overrating it because it’s a Tarantino flick, and thus they thought they HAD to like it. But I was pleasantly surprised. In fact, I think I like it more than most of his other films. When you watch one of his movies, you know what to expect: Very interesting characters, funny dialogue, and excessive violence. You get all that in spades. Tarantino is not only a great director, but a great writer. The scenes that he creates are just so funny not only because of the dialogue, but because of the situations that he creates. Plus, who doesn’t love seeing a bunch of Jews kicking the absolute shit out of Nazis?! I know Brad Pitt was highlighted in the promotion of the film, but the rest of the cast was phenomenal, despite the fact that they are mostly unknown actors; particularly Christopher Waltz, who deserves to win Best Supporting Actor. Also Melanie Laurent, who is not only great but gorgeous. Oh and bear in mind that at least half the movie is either in German or French… so you’re gonna have to do some reading, as upsetting as they may be to some people.

6: The Hangover: I’m pretty sure most of you saw this by now. But this movie is just flat-out hilarious from start to finish. There really isn’t any portion of this film that isn’t funny. Plus, it provides great inspiration for everyone to go to Vegas and get as fucked up as they possibly can, hoping that you’ll be lucky enough to wake up with a tiger in your bathroom. The cast is perfect; it was great to see a new comedy that didn’t feature Judd Apatow, Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, Will Ferrell or all those actors that we see way too often. Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms are absolutely hilarious together, each contributing in their own way. And trust me, the movie only gets better with each viewing.


5: (500) Days of Summer: Every year, a romantic comedy comes along and captures my heart. But seriously, this movie is great. The thing that pisses me off about 90% of romantic comedies are that they are not real; they are sappy and fictional representations of love that are created strictly to appeal to hopeless romantics. They condition us to think that we will all find true love someday and live happily ever after. When in reality, the truth is that we all come into this world alone, and we all die alone. Okay, that’s a little harsh. But everything about this movie is real. And not only that, but it’s funny! After watching this movie, I have no doubt in saying that Joseph-Gordon Levitt is one of the best actors in Hollywood, today. You don’t even really feel like he’s acting, and that he is actually is going through in real life what his character is going through in the movie (does that make sense?) When he’s happy, you feed off his happiness, and when he’s sad… man, you feel his pain. Zooey Deschanel is good too, and the two of them had good chemistry together. The movie has that indie-feel through and through, but it’s one of the best romantic comedies to come out in a looooooong time. Also a good soundtrack.


4: The Hurt Locker: it’s hard to put my finger on exactly what makes this movie so great. First of all, I’m not a huge war-movie guy. When a great one comes along, yeah I watch and enjoy it… but I rarely love them. This movie, however, is not your typical war movie. It’s more like an action-suspense drama that happens to take place during war. And yet, it’s a true representation of war (not that I would know), and why people choose to go to war. It’s about a small of small team of soldiers whose job is to disarm bombs. It’s a bit of character study, as the film delves into the three men and how they all handle the physical and emotional perils of war. Also, there are some scenes in this movie that are so suspenseful that my eyes were actually glued to the screen for several minutes at a time, as you wonder exactly what is going to happen. The directing is done so well that you feel like you are actually there with the soldiers, and not simply a spectator. Tremendous acting by a relatively unknown cast (seems like the theme this year, doesn’t it?) in Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty. This film has been already been labeled by some as the frontrunner for best picture, best leading actor (Renner) and best director (Katheryn Bigelow). Honestly, I would not be surprised if it won at least one – if not all three of those.


3: Up In The Air: For whatever reason, I just knew that I was going to like this movie. But I didn’t really know why. Maybe I just have that much confidence in Jason Reitman, who has recently made some great movies in Juno and Thank You For Smoking. Or maybe because it was nominated for six golden globes. While the cast is good, this movie is great because of it’s direction and because of its writing. The plot keeps you interested, wondering where exactly it’s going. The ending really hits you too. I never used to be too big on George Clooney until I saw Michael Clayton. I realized that Clooney excels in just playing normal, ordinary people. Other actors are great at playing people that are completely different from the norm, but Clooney is great just playing… himself. He deserves an Oscar nom for this. Also really liked Anna Kendrick in this, who I had never heard of before. Lots of likeable actors in this movie and just an enjoyable film all around.


2: District 9: Man, I loved this movie. Now I’m a little biased since I’m a sucker for sci-fi (when it’s done right), but I basically liked this movie for similar reasons that I liked the #1 film (…wonder what that is?). It starts out as a documentary, with “experts” explaining the details of an alien-visit to Earth, and there subsequent detainment by us. Now this movie has a lot of racial undertones, especially since it takes place in South Africa (Apartheid). The movie takes a drastic turn however when the aliens find an ally in a human. From then on, it becomes a full on action-flick. But it’ll consume you; it’ll have you on the edge of your seat rooting for the aliens. I’ve talked about unknown casts, but this movie really takes the cake. I don’t think any of these actors have ever even been in a movie before. However, the lead actor (Sharlito Copley) does a great job. It falls under the science-fiction category, but is really an original and unique film that can be appreciated by everybody.

And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for.


1: AVATAR: Shocked? … didn’t think so. If you still have yet to see this movie, you have made a horrible mistake. It’s already the 4th highest grossing movie of all time worldwide, and I expect that to rise. When talking about originality, this one takes the cake. James Cameron creates an entire new world and an entire new race. It’s just one of the most innovative movies ever be made. He did it in the 90s with Titanic, the 80s with Terminator, and now he has done it with Avatar. The film is visually stunning and MUST be seen in 3d. This is why in I implore you all to please go see this movie in theaters and in 3d, you’ll seriously regret it if you don’t. The plot may be predictable at times but it doesn’t matter. It’s so engaging that you will develop a personal interest in what happens to the characters in the movie, and whether it’s cliché or not will be an afterthought. I really don’t need to promote this movie, since it’s success speaks on it’s own. For more, read the second blog I ever wrote. It’ll be very interesting to see how this movie fares at this year’s Oscars.

And that’s my top 12. Other notes from this past year’s movies…

Other Decent Movies Worth Seeing If You Have The Time:

Invictus: This movie is good and well-made, but forgettable. No one really cares too much about rugby. Even after watching it, I still don’t get the rules. However, it really is an amazing story (that is all true). Morgan Freeman is phenomenal as Nelson Mandela and deserves an Oscar nomination.

Angels and Demons: Most people I know agreed with me that Angels and Demons was a better book than The Da Vinci Code. The same goes for the movie. I enjoyed the film, and it was very loyal to the book. I highly recommend it if you enjoyed the book.

The Blind Side: This movie made way too much more money than it should, but I see why people liked it. It’s a very uplifting story. It’s nothing different than any other feel-good sports movie, but saying you hate this movie is like saying you hate puppies. Sandra Bullock is great in it and will probably get an Oscar nomination.

Taken: Now this movie is bad-ass. It gets straight into the action, and boy is it entertaining. What separates it from any other action movie is the acting of Liam Neeson. He’s truly one of the best in the biz, and is very convincing as a super bad-ass in this one. Every other actor is forgettable, but Neeson cancels that out. Definitely worth a watch.

Extract: A Mike Judge film (Office Space fame), this movie is quite funny. It’s mostly carried by 2 or 3 scenes that are particularly hilarious, but it’s funny in general. It’s espcially good if you’re a fan of Jason Bateman (whose been everywhere lately… good for him). Ben Affleck does a nice job playing a stoner and Kristen Wiig is both funny and sexy. Quality movie.

Funny People: probably half an hour longer that it needed to be, and not quite as funny as 40 Year Old Virgin, Superbad, or Knocked up… but it wasn’t really trying to be. This was Apatow’s attempt at a dramedy. I’d label it a success. Definitely worth the watch, but don’t have too high of expectations.  The funniest part may actually be the promotional videos… Raaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaandy!

Biggest Disappointments and/or Worst Movies of 2009:

Observe and Report: God, this movie sucked. Yeah, it’s Seth Rogen, but the writing is terrible. I hate it when writers think they could just throw in nudity and a shitload of curses and think that will be a substitute for horrible writing. Just a piece of crap movie all around.

Year One: File this one under biggest disappointment. It stars two hilarious people in Jack Black and Michael Cera, and the trailer was even really funny. However, there is no other funny part in the movie other than what’s seen in the trailer. Also, there is zero plot. I’d recommend just watching the trailer, and skipping the movie.

Land of the Lost: this movie was one of the biggest pieces of crap I have ever seen. Seriously, I’ve thrown up vomit before that had more artistic merit than this. Also, what is the target audience? Obviously it’s not directed towards adults or teens, and yet there is crude sexual humor in the film that is definitely not appropriate for children. Just a disaster. Will Ferrell has got a lot of ‘splaining to do.

Knowing: For this, I blame myself. From the moment I heard about this movie, I knew it would be awful. And yet, I went against my better judgment and gave it a shot. The only emotion I felt at this movie was hatred. Hatred at myself for deciding to watch this. It’s not even worth watching just to see how bad it is. The characters were so freaking annoying that I found myself actually rooting for them all to die. Nicolas Cage has officially hit rock bottom.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand that’s all folks. Though I should point out that there is one movie I have yet to see in 2009 that I think could’ve been worth mentioning, and that is The Road. I loved the book, and have heard great things about the movie. I’ll try to catch it soon.


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