Movie News & Reviews

December 30, 2009

The best and worst movies of 2009

Another film year has come to an end, leaving in its wake both memorable movies and those that should be forgotten. Here's a look at the best and worst.

Another film year has come to an end, leaving in its wake both memorable movies and those that should be forgotten.

The surprising part about this year's batch of good movies was how many filmmakers pushed past the expected. A movie like "(500)" Days of Summer" stood out against all of the other romantic efforts because director Marc Webb dared to use animated fantasy and captivating film techniques.

"Hurt Locker" proved that good war movies can still be made and "Where the Wild Things Are" took familiar children's material and brought it magically to life on film. Maybe the most shocking was how J.J. Abrams gave new life to the much beloved "Star Trek" franchise.

A lack of originality was the key to picking the worst movies. Just casting familiar names is not enough to justify asking moviegoers to pay hard-earned money. These movies lacked originality, energy and style.

Here's a final look at the best and worst of 2009.

10 Best

1. "Where the Wild Things Are": Director Spike Jonze took the frugal writing in Maurice Sendak's book about a young boy's escape to a magical island and expanded it to feature length without damaging the source material. This fanciful and engaging offering spoke to the child in everyone.

2. "The Road": Although it wraps itself in a cloak of despair, the adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's novel about a father and son's quest to find a better place does what every great film should do: It stays with you long after the final credits. An Oscar-worthy performance by Viggo Mortensen helps.

'The Road' is powerful, has much to say

3. "Hurt Locker": Kathryn Bigelow's unblinking direction and stomach-churning storytelling works with a taut, fierce screenplay by Mark Boal. She focuses on three U.S. Army team members in Iraq who defuse roadside bombs that have become such a part of life in Baghdad.

Provocative 'Hurt Locker' carries a heavy punch

4. "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire": Director Lee Daniels pulls no emotional punches as he turns Sapphire's novel about an abused teenager into a gut-wrenching experience. It's fueled by the powerful story and award-worthy performances by Gabourey "Gabby" Sidibe and Mo'Nique.

5. "Star Trek": It took a brilliant effort by J.J. Abrams to create something so original out of a franchise that has become so familiar. He found the exact balance of paying tribute to the original series and putting his own stamp on the work.

6. "Fantastic Mr. Fox": In a great year for animation, this adaptation by Wes Anderson of the work by Roald Dahl about a fox who won't retire is as sly as a fox and more fun than a barn full of chickens. It works because it basks in absurdity.

'Fantastic Mr. Fox' is a sheer joy to watch

7. "(500) Days of Summer": Marc Webb takes a traditional boy-meets-girl story and gives it life through some of the most creative filming of the year. And he does it while not allowing the film's style to overpower the sweet and painful story.

'(500) Days of Summer' a lovely dose of reality

8. "Up in the Air": A steady directing hand by Jason Reitman and a first-rate cast — paced by George Clooney — made the film compelling despite its story line about a man who makes his living firing others, which should have made it too painful to watch.

'Up in the Air' finds humanity in heartbreak

9. "Watchmen": Superhero movies will never be the same. Director Zack Snyder's stunning adaptation of Alan Moore's graphic comic creates a world where those who fight injustice suffer with the same emotional problems as mere mortals.

10. "Up": This tale of a senior citizen's emotional and spiritual trip soars because of beautiful animation and a smart script. It's as touching as it's funny.

Animators go extra mile to make 'Up'

10 Worst

1. "Year One": Two caveman stumble into a few Biblical moments. Not only does the movie break six of the 10 Commandments, it features the worst performances ever by Jack Black and Michael Cera. That's saying a lot.

'Year One' a wreck of biblical proportions

2. "Imagine That": Imagine how nice it would be if this Eddie Murphy movie about a dad who turns to his young daughter for business tips had never been made.

'Imagine That' - another Eddie Murphy bomb

3. "Law Abiding Citizen": The script about a man who spends 10 years plotting revenge is so criminally bad that it would be cruel and unusual punishment for anyone to watch it.

'Law Abiding Citizen' should be locked up

4. "Pink Panther 2": Steve Martin learned nothing from his first miserable efforts in the classic role of Inspector Clouseaucq. The movie is wrong on so many levels.

'Pink Panther 2' could use a fresh litter box

5. "Old Dogs": Robin Williams and John Travolta as business partners trying to tend to a couple of kids. Being a groin test dummy on "America's Funniest Home Videos" would be better than watching this train wreck.

'Old Dogs' should be put to sleep for old jokes

6. "I Love You Beth Cooper": There's nothing to love about this story of a nerd who manages to get close to the girl of his dreams. When it comes to high school movies this effort should have been held back a year.

It's hard to love 'Beth Cooper'

7. "Observe and Report": Seth Rogan's turn as a bipolar mall cop is as entertaining as setting fire to your eyelashes. Mental illness is rarely a good basis for comedy.

'Observe' the seamier side of the mall

8. "Land of the Lost": Will Ferrell continues his string of flops. This one -- a big screen version of the campy TV series -- would have been better off being lost.

9. "Battle for Terra": There's so much wrong with this story of Earthlings invading a planet it's hard to decide where to start. Bad voice casting, lame visual effects and a host of other problems leave it lifeless.

10. "New In Town": The jokes are suppose to come from a woman from the big city moves to a small town. The characters are so bland and the story so recycled, this isn't a laughing matter.

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