Is it me or has this year flown by? Seems like a month ago Obama was being sworn in while I had yet another liquid lunch at JJ Foley’s. Actually, that liquid lunch may have been a month ago.
Thankfully, you all have my half assed, ill informed, off the cuff year in review entries to occupy 20 minutes of your day. Hopefully I can spur you to watch movies you wouldn’t have otherwise or introduce you to bands nobody but Trib has heard of (or would even dare listen to) or get you to tune into some television show simply out of curiosity.
Let’s kick things off with the year in movies. To be frank, this year hasn’t been the best for Hollywood. Most of the films I’ve watched this year have been good, but not great. You’ll notice that Best of the Best section is rather sparse. Still, I haven’t seen a lot of the movies that were released into theaters (like ‘The Hangover’). I’m more of a DVD at home kind of guy mainly because the general population annoys the living crap out of me.
Off we go.
BEST OF THE BEST
Gran Torino: One of the very few movies this past year that stays with you. Funny, complex, disturbing, touching and memorable. Supposedly this is Clint Eastwood’s final acting appearance and it’s a perfect way for him to retire his ‘rough around the edges’ persona. Plays out like a retired, corrupted and soiled Dirty Harry discovering his long anticipated redemption.
Role Models: With apologies to ‘Step Brothers’ this was simply the funniest goddamn movie all year. If there is any woman out there that wants to understand men in general, study this movie like it’s the Dead Sea Scrolls. A lot of what makes us tick is included. Including gorgeous, naked women, which, quite frankly, is a majority of what we’re about.
Slumdog Millionaire: Don’t be fooled by the feel good previews; this is dark and violent and can be extremely depressing. Slums in India aren’t the best place for a film to be based. Yet, there is an intelligent cynicism and undercurrent of hope and love that elevates this above standard films of our age. Nearly every character we grow to root for has at least one moment of abuse heaped upon them, but it merely makes them stronger and more determined. This film gets my best compliment: It far exceeded my already very high expectations. That almost never happens.
Up: Yet another Pixar movie that is more heartfelt, hilarious and human than 90% of the live action movies that are released by the boat load every year. I don’t know how they keep doing this but let’s hope Disney doesn’t dilute the recipe.
Sugar: A fantastic, realistic, eye opening movie about the Dominican dream of becoming a professional baseball player. While realizing that most of them won’t fulfill the dream of making it to the majors, never have I considered what becomes of the young men of fail to reach their potential nor the many obstacles they need to overcome simply to make get a shot.
Star Trek: Agreed; the plot is way more complicated than it needed to be (couldn’t they have just started the story from scratch?). But this is the most entertaining movie of the year. The new Kirk is actually charming, funny, unsure of himself and self depreciating. Bones is hilarious and JJ Abrams stays true to the vibe and philosophy of the original series while poking fun at it at the same time (check out the bravado of the red shirted crew member just before a ‘space jump’). Check your brains at the door and enjoy the ride.
Man on Wire: Fascinating documentary that includes home filmed practice footage of Philippe Petite; the insane man who decided his life’s mission was to tightrope walk between the tops of the two World Trade Center buildings. The narration is done by Petite himself with interviews of all his team members peppered in to clarify what was going on. It’s funny and strange and engrossing and unforgettable. The topper being news footage of one of the policemen who arrested Petite after he attempted his stunt. I’ll bet we never get a more honest interview with a policeman again.
The Wrestler: A bit depressing and slow for me, but still well worth a watch. Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei are both incredible in this.
Ghost Town: A movie I enjoyed originally but has somehow grown and stayed with me. I just rewatched it on HBO and found I enjoyed it even more the second time around.
Quantum of Solace: Stupid title, but very good movie made even more distinguished by a psychological twist that makes James Bond even more complex and disturbed than we ever thought. I hope Daniel Craig and this team make many more Bond movies because they’ve been two of the best of the series. Just think of a better title next time.
Step Brothers: Will Farrell + John C Reilly = funny shit.
The Reader: Strange and sexual and depressing. I had heard a lot about this movie, but it wasn’t all what I was expecting. All the praise Kate Winslet gets is deserved.
Wanted: Stupid, WAY over the top and thoroughly entertaining. Had way more fun watching this that I probably should have.
Rambo: Probably the most surprising movie of the entire year. No, it’s not great, but it’s much more intelligent, cynical and thought provoking than I ever thought would be possible. It’s also the most violent movie I’ve seen all year.
Speaking of which…
The number of very good horror movies went up astronomically this year. Check out any of the flicks below if you’re in the mood for some good gore or want to be creeped out.
Splinter: A couple gets taken hostage and discover that’s the least of their problems. This is how horror films should be made: lean (less than 90 minutes long), smart(ish), and extremely gory.
Feast: Blood soaked, unpredictable, darkly hilarious and paced like a machine gun. Sounds like a winner to me!
Quarantine: Claustrophobic movie that played it perfectly by never explaining what was going on and having the viewers experience everything through the people trapped inside.
The Signal: Suspenseful and highly unnerving. A strange signal is broadcast over all phones, television sets and radios that make a majority of residents in a city go gruesomely insane. Be warned, this is extremely gory but also has moments of comedy that relieves the tension. Make sure you watch the interrogation of a decapitated head and the perfectly rational explanation on how to get it to talk. Hint: It involves jumper cables.
Halloween: The Rob Zombie remake that makes Michael Myers more human, a lot scarier, and strangely super human (didn’t care for that part). By the way, I couldn’t figure out how the actress playing Mrs Myers was cast. She was just awful. Turns out it’s Zombie’s wife.
Milk: Yes, Sean Penn is good in this. Yes, this is a true story. Still this sure struck me as a ‘by the numbers’ biopic that I had little interest in. The climactic scene was horribly done, as well.
I Love You, Man: To be clear, I didn’t hate any of the movies in this section, I had just heard such good things about them I was expecting more. This one is ok and has some funny scenes, but when the funniest character is Jon Favreau’s brother in law and he’s only in about 20 minutes of the movie, there is a problem. Good, but ‘Role Models’ and ‘Step Brothers’ are both twice as funny as this one. Bonus points for bringing one of my favorite bands – Rush – back into public consciousness.
Drag Me To Hell: Sam Raimi, director of the ‘Evil Dead’ series, going back to his horror roots after the ‘Spider-Man’ movies? Score for us. Or so I thought. To be fair, this was entertaining enough, but there were several flaws I just couldn’t get past. First, we’re told in the opening minutes that it takes three days for the curse to fully kick in. This robs all suspense from any of the ‘scary’ scenes because we know nothing harmful can happen to the main character until day 3. I would still recommend it, but keep in mind this is more a comedy (several Looney Tune references throughout this movie, including a conveniently hanging anvil) than a true horror movie. Also, while the ending could be the most memorable part of the entire film, I felt it cheated. Didn’t the boyfriend, technically own the object in question? Speaking of the boyfriend, how does he ever have another relationship after that? Talk about traumatized.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: I’m still pissed I had to pay for me and the boys to go see this in a theater. This is supposed to be a movie about robots in disguise but we get to spend time with Sam and his parents adjusting to his college life, Sam and Makala’s inability to express their feelings and the most confusing and intricate plot this side of ‘Momento’. And I would have forgiven all of it if there were some action scenes with the fucking robots thrown in to entertain. Sadly, in this movie, even some of the robots are annoying and overtly racist. To top it all off Optimus Prime is in the movie for about 20 minutes. Once again, Michael Bay has cemented his reputation as the worst successful director in history.
The Go-Getter: This was so bad I didn’t even finish watching it. Some whiny, little, bitch of a teenage boy steals a car, answers the cell phone left in it and strikes up an odd, sympathetic relationship with the girl that owns the car. If you want evidence of a director ruining a decent script, watch this.
Untraceable: Diane Lane and her supposed cracker jack crew of tech savvy crime fighters can’t catch a serial killer who somehow eludes capture while hooking up elaborate killing contraptions that murder victims quicker the more people watch. Did I mention he’s running his entire operation from three over the counter laptops? I stopped watching this when one of the crew members manages to give morse code clues by blinking as he’s being boiled to death in a vat of acid. It actually is more ridiculous than it sounds.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: A sequel so bad it manages to ruin the memory of the first three. Even the chase scenes, which includes – I shit you not – Shia LaBeouf swinging through the jungle on vines like Tarzan in order to catch up to two speeding cars are ridiculous. And I haven't even mentioned the involvement of aliens. Interesting that LaBeouf is in two of my least favorite movies this year. Come to think of it, I could easily add ‘Eagle Eye’ to this section.
SINGLE WORST MOVIE I’VE SEEN THIS YEAR
Changeling: Eastwood redeemed himself with ‘Gran Torino’, but this one I just can’t get over. Angelina Jolie is annoying, the movie’s theme is dark, gruesome, and uncomfortably brutal for parents to watch, yet it insists on a tacky, unbelievable, illogical and falsely uplifting final twenty minutes. If there is an alternate ending to this movie that Eastwood intended, I would love to know what it was. Instead, I’m left wondering what the fuck everyone involved in this movie was thinking.
That’s it for this year, my friends. Coming tomorrow is the year in television.
Today’s distraction: Some of the more bizarre Santa pictures to get you in the Christmas mood. I would hang with the Pimp Santa.