13 August 2009

Matt's Movie Review: Top 5 this Year

For those of you who don't know, I go to the movies almost every week with my friend Collin. Collin, who saves his ticket stub from every movie, was kind enough to send me a list of all the flicks we have seen this year so I could do a top five movies of the year thus far. Unfortunately, four of the first five movies we saw this year were releases from last year, and thus I made them ineligible for the list. So Frost/Nixon, Slumdog Millionare, The Wrestler, and Gran Turino are not on the list. It sucks living somewhere where you have to wait until January and February to see all of the Oscar contenders. So the list of movies I am choosing from is actually a bit shorter than I had anticipated:
  • Defiance
  • Coraline
  • Watchmen
  • Friday the 13th
  • I Love You, Man
  • Duplicity
  • Observe and Report
  • The Soloist
  • Wolverine
  • Star Trek
  • Terminator Salvation
  • Drag Me to Hell
  • The Hangover
  • Year One
  • Public Enemies
  • Funny People
  • The Hurt Locker
  • Up

So those are the movies I have seen in the theatre this year. Without further ado, my top five.

5. Star Trek

So I thought a lot about this fifth pick, and one thing finally settled it. I was very close to putting Public Enemies here, but I thought to myself, if these two movies were on cable late one night, which one would I watch? Not even close. Public Enemies features a strong lead performance by Johnny Depp and some interesting direction by Michael Mann, but in the end the story isn't particularly compelling. Star Trek, on the other hand, is a very successful summer popcorn movie, fun from beginning to end. Zachary Quinto as Spock and Chris Pine as Captain Kirk anchor a great cast as they reimagine a series that I had previously had almost no interest in. Props to JJ Abrams for rebooting this franchise.

4. The Hangover

Most of you have probably seen this movie already, and for those who haven't I won't ruin any of the jokes. Great performances from some long undersung comedic actors and plenty of debauchery. Obviously the MVP of this flick is Zach Galifinakis, who will probalby make about a billion dollars in the next two years.

3. Up

Refer to the wife's review of this flick for the full take. Needless to say it got a little dusty in the movie theater. I am beginning to wonder if Pixar will ever make a bad movie.

2. Funny People

Saying that this is Adam Sandler's greatest performance is an understatement on the level of saying that Sarah Palin is not well versed in the issues of the day. This is Judd Apatow's third movie as a director, despite all of the movies to which he has lent his name as producer. The first two: 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up. The guy knows how to make a good movie. This one works on several levels. It is funny as hell, it is a fascinating character study, and it takes the viewer inside the world of stand up comedians in a way few movies do. Adam Sandler plays George Simmons, a comedian who has consistently sold out over his career by making a series of terrible movies that have made a lot of money. I know, what a stretch for him. Simmons is diagnosed with a disease that will most likely be fatal, and he is forced to confront the emptiness of his life. We have seen this sort of thing before. The genius of the film is that it never shys away from the fact the George Simmons is not a good guy. Every time it veers into schmaltz, there is a dick joke to break the tension. While the two main characters are played brilliantly by Sandler and Seth Rogen, the supporting characters are equally fascinating and true. Jonah Hill is hilarious as always and Jason Schwartzman nails a character everyone feels like they kind of know (and hate).

1. The Hurt Locker

By far the best movie to come out this year is Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker. It follows an army bomb squad in Iraq in 2004. The lead performances, by Jeremy Rennar as team leader Seargent William James and Anthony Mackie as Sandborn are brilliant. James is an adrenaline junkie who has defused over 800 bombs and Sandborn is the man tasked with keeping him safe while he goes about his work. It perfectly captures the sense of a war in which any onlooker is a potential enemy and any hunk of rubble could be the bomb that kills you. It also manages to revitalize a tired movie/TV cliche of the disarming of bombs (which wire do I cut?) Bigelow uses a hanheld camera to put the viewer right in the situation with the characters while avoiding the pitfalls of that technique. Unlike other filmakers who have used the kind of grainy, handheld, cinema verite kinds of techniques (Michael Mann in Public Enemies for one) Bigelow never loses track of the characters or the action. In every scene the stakes are both incredibly high and perfectly clear. Even disregarding its trenchant observations on the Iraq war and what it means to fight in it, the film works as an action movie and as a thriller. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. The Hurt Locker is the best movie yet about the Iraq war and the best war movie since Saving Private Ryan.

Any other movie fans who read the blog, post your favorites this year so far in the comments. Or, if you agree or disagree with any of my takes, or if you have suggestions for other movies we should check out, let us know.

Coming soon, the worst movies I've seen this year.


  1. totally disappointed that GI Joe didn't make your list. in fact, i'm crying inside.

    in all seriousness, believe it or not, i think i would put harry potter over star trek. i, however, don't have the eye, nor english major background, to know what i'm talking about.


  2. Grand Turino is spelled Grand Torino



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