Movies I Have Seen, 2009

  1. Pineapple Express (BluRay; 1/16/2009) – RT: 68% ; Me: Seth Rogen and James Franco do a good buddy thing, the production is top-notch, and the writing is spot on about sounding/acting like a stoner, but the story seems like it was written by someone who was stoned.
  2. Harry Potter Series Just like last year, we celebrated Becky’s birthday with an all day HD surround sound Harry Potter marathon. On top of getting to see the kids grow up right before our eyes, it is unique to see a serialized movie that almost gets better as the series increases. This will sadly be our last year since trying to squeeze in six movies is more than we want to deal with. Next year Becky’s threatening a Bring It On marathon.
  3. Welcome To Dongmakgol (BluRay; 1/17/2009) – RT: 100% ; Me: Like many Asian films, the RT rating is a little deceiving since there are so few reviews for them. WtG is a beautiful Korean film about stragglers from opposing sides of the Korean war who find themselves in an idyllic village, high in the mountains, that is cut off from the rest of Korea. This has the stereotype pacing of an Asian film, the expected occasional silliness, but is so well done that any flaws are almost unnoticeable.
  4. Coraline (Galaxy Highland Theater; 1/25/2009) – RT: 88% ; Me: From the same director and the same technique as Nightmare Before Christmas, this gorgeous film is excellent. Be sure to see it in 3D, if at all possible.
  5. Taken (DVD; 1/27/2009) – RT: 55% ; Me: From the same producer/director team as the incredible B13, this is one of the best revenge movies I’ve seen in awhile. There are a few scenes where Liam Neeson’s character does some awesome outrageous things in the pursuit of saving his daughter.
  6. Juno (BluRay; 2/9/2009) – RT: 93% ; Me: This is my eighth time to see it, and every time I get a deeper understanding of what makes it such a excellent film. Every one gives a great performance — Ellen Page meets my high expectations, and Jennifer Garner who surprises me — but it is the music and the writing that make it perfect. In the same way that John Hughes matched the stride of the mid-80’s, Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman hit the late aughts. If I list Juno here every time I watch it…well, it’ll just be embarrassing so just accept the fact that I watch it a lot.
  7. “Rebirth of a Nation with DJ Sooky”: (Alamo Ritz; 2/15/2009) –
  8. VISUAL MUSIC with the Octopus Project Live! – RT: N/A ; Me: Ok, this isn’t technically a movie but it’s my list so I will take license. The Octopus Project are an amazing group to see live at any time, and seeing them perform songs they composed for nine short films is even better. The talent is thick for TOP at every level. Here’s hoping we get to see them try this again since it was a huge success.
  9. Fighter (UK DVD; 3/4/2009) – RT: N/A – wtf? ; Me: This is my third time to see it, and I’ll admit my rating dropped from 5 to 4.5. It is a great movie with great actors and a great soundtrack under a great director, but I think the story may not weather well. We all loved Footloose, and it still holds some quaint appeal, but it isn’t the masterpiece we thought it was. This is one of the three best Danish films from 2008 (all of which made my 2008 top 5, and several of my friends’ 2008 top 5 or top 10 international best film lists), and it was certainly the best subtitled Danish film about Turkish immigrants taking kung fu lessons from a Chinese sifu who insisted his students speak English. (Yep, at least 4 languages are spoken in this film.) Oh, and Go Girl Power!
  10. Watchmen (Drafthouse Village; 3/7/2009) – RT: 65% ; Me: I wrote this to a friend in Malaysia and I’m too lazy to write it again (redacted to prevent spoilers): … thought the first act was slow, but the second and third act were good…my interpretation of the comic was that [the bad guy] did something really bad and it was unjustifiable. i think this matches with alan moore’s (who wrote the comic) politics. he also wrote V for Vendetta (the comic) after the watchmen so it probably closer matches what he is trying to “say” with these books, that people in power do bad things (without letting society know) and it isn’t right…my interpretation of the movie is “the end justifies the means” — it is ok to do bad things to society if it makes things better. i think this matches zach snyder’s (the director of the movie) politics. he also directed 300, so this is a common theme for him…
  11. The Room (DVD; 3/7/2009) – RT: N/A ; Me: I can’t say anything that hasn’t already been said about this travesty. Is it a hoax? Maybe, but the lead actress has great…tracks of land.
  12. Barabarella (DVD; 3/7/2009) – RT: 73% ; Me: I have never seen Barbarella from beginning to end, and even the parts I have seen were edited to 4:3 on VHS. Seeing it in full widescreen really shows off the depth of the sets and costume design. Sure it’s a stag film without any real sex, and everything is dated, but that’s the point. It is a lot of fun.
  13. Sons of Lwala (DVD; 3/10/2009) – RT: “N/A” ; Me Two brothers from Kenya make their way from a high school exchange program in the U.S.A. then on through Medical School at Vanderbilt as they plan to build a clinic back in their home village. A film that touches on the nature of deep communities, family and doing great things.
  14. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Drafthouse Ritz; 3/11/2009) – RT: 94% ; Me One of the funniest movies of all time, shared with a theater full of people quoting and singing along. One of the top surreal moments of my life was the audience playing along to the closing song with coconut shells.
  15. Music Video Collection @SXSW (Drafthouse South; 3/13/2009) – RT: N/A ; Me The music video format is not dead by a long shot, and seeing this collection projected in a real theater, on a real screen, with surround sound. I hope the Drafthouse takes a cue from SXSW and makes a regular affair of showing music videos en masse.
  16. The Snake (Drafthouse South; 3/13/2009) – RT: N/A ; Me The fidelity of the video and sound on this film is not even the best you can do with consumer equipment, but the writing and acting were better than most professionals. Patton Oswalt loves this movie so much that he brought it to SXSW along with the writers/directors/actor. It is about as wrong as you would expect from a movie about a loser who wants to be a player that decides to hit on (and enable) a bulimic girl, and much funnier than you can imagine.
  17. Sorry, Thanks (Drafthouse Ritz; 3/14/2009) – RT: N/A ; Me There is nothing to complain about with this film, but nothing is great either…except maybe Wiley Wiggins who continues his reign as the consummate slacker actor. The somewhat depressing story of a young man who cheats on his girlfriend, and continues to chance upon his paramour, meanders to its abrupt conclusion.
  18. Bomber (Drafthouse Ritz; 3/14/2009) – RT: N/A ; Me Three excellent actors carry this story of a adult son who is forced to take his parents on a trip to Germany so that his dad can apologize to the village he bombed in WWII. Occasionally funny the lead story of family learning to communicate is a bit trite, and the back story seems not to be fully flushed.
  19. Happy Go Lucky (DVD; 3/14/2009) – RT: 93% ; Me Sally Hawkins is amazing as a woman who has a few ups and downs and always has a cheery disposition — reminds me of my Aunt Kay…maybe even my friend Tetine. (Do you know a Tetine? It’s probably her.) Hawkins pulls off a role over which many actress would struggle, and she never misses a beat. My only big beef with the film is that it is billed as “a joyous, feel-good film” which, other than the main character’s attitude, isn’t always true. Do not go into this movie expecting something eternally “joyous” or “feel-good”. (After our depressing SXSW day we wanted “joyous, feel-good” and HGL did not deliver.)
  20. ExTerminators (Drafthouse Ritz; 3/15/2009) – RT: N/A ; Me A bevy of beautiful well-know women (Joey Lauren Adams, Heather Graham, Amber Heard, Jennifer Coolidge) are generally entertaining as they leverage their divorcee support group into a hit(wo)man business against misogyny. Set in Austin (so I spent a lot of time going “Oh! I know that place!”) the film is passable, but it won’t be a classic.
  21. Animated Shorts SXSW 2009 (Drafthouse South; 3/15/2009) – RT: N/A ; Me I enjoy a good shorts program (maybe not as much as the next guy…depending on who that is) and there were quite a few really good ones in this batch:
    • “Birth” – the story of a girl who is pregnant, getting (often hilariously erroneous) advice from the women around her.
    • “Luca Brasi Sleeps with the Fishes” – a humorous musical based on the death of Luca Brasi in The Godfather.
    • “Sweet Dreams” – a stranded cupcake finds acceptance in a foreign land.
    • “Photograph of Jesus” – maybe my favorite clip of the evening, a pesudo-documentary about odd requests at the Getty image archives.
    • “Tourist” – a tourist can’t seem to get the perfect souvenir photo without someone blocking his view.
    • “Here’s the Stapler if You Need It” – whatever you do on your first day on the job at a copy place, don’t let the customers use the big paper cutter behind the counter.
  22. Passing Strange (Paramount; 3/17/2009) – RT: N/A ; Me Stew, the core creative force behind The Negro Problem, created the hit stage show (that won a Tony for best book), and the producers asked Spike Lee to capture the last performance to try and preserve it. This is a powerful emotional show and SL does an excellent job of not interfering. When PBS shows this later in the year, do everything you can to see it.
  23. The Birthday (DVD; 3/21/2009) – RT: N/A ; Me Corey Feldman affects a bizarre nasally Jewish accent in this trip of a low budget movie. The sets are cheap, the acting (other than Feldman) is poor grade, but you can sense it was all created with someone’s dedication. Feldman’s fee must have been carved from the special effects budget of the climax which makes it even more absurd than it would have been otherwise.
  24. 4bia (DVD; 3/21/2009) – RT: N/A ; A collection of four almost wholly unrelated Thai horror stories that make up in suspense what they lack in special effects or complete story lines…of course, I may have missed some of the script meaning due to atrocious subtitles.
  25. Role Models (Blu-Ray; 3/28/2009) – RT: 76% ; Me: My review from last September hasn’t changed.
  26. Monsters vs Aliens (Alamo Drafthouse Village; 3/27/2009) – RT: 73% ; Me: Despite the fact that this movie is hilarious and beautiful, I feel sorry for Dreamworks. They make good movies, but they aren’t making classics. When we saw clips from this and Pixar’s Up last December it was clear even then that Dreamworks is second chair. Still, the Drafthouse’s new 3D gear is stunning and MvA is definitely worth seeing.
  27. To Catch a Thief (DVD; 4/3/2009) – RT: N/A ; Me: Alfred Hitchcock was a genius, and his cinematographer, Robert Burks, had an eye for color and composition that takes my breath away. Add Cary Grant and Grace Kelly, two of the most beautiful talented people ever, and you have one of the most perfect movies ever crafted.
  28. Fast & Furious (Regal Westgate; 4/4/2009) – RT 22% ; Me: None of these people can act, but they all look fabulous and the stunts are great. The script is laughably ludicrous, but we weren’t really expecting anything more.
  29. Adventureland (Alamo Drafthouse Ritz; 4/5/2009) – RT 88% ; Me: Greg Mottola totally nails a time that seems timeless to me. James Eisenberg’s character is more self-aware than I have ever been, and Kristen Stewart’s character is nicer than any girl I’ve fallen for, but she is so achingly beautiful that she perfectly personifies the pull of self-destruction and a desire to be good.
  30. Star Trek (Alamo Drafthouse South; 4/6/2009) – RT N/A, yet ; Me: Read my review here.
  31. I’m a Cyborg, but That’s OK (DVD; 4/10/2009) – RT 80% ; Me: This is not your father’s Park Chan-Wook film. After his ultra-violent Vengeance Triptych, Park attempts a Gondry-esque fairytale about a girl who thinks she’s a cyborg and gets committed to an institution. There she catches the eye of a klepto played by world famous Korean star, Rain. This is a very sweet movie…for a Park film, with gorgeous cinematography. Stylistically this is very similar to Welcome To Dongmakgol…maybe that’s a Korean thing?
  32. Crank: High Voltage (Westgate 11; 4/18/2009) – RT 70% ; Me: Really absurd…as if it was written by a 12 year old boy. Violence with boobs.
  33. 13 Going On 30 (Blu-Ray; 5/23/2009) – RT 64% ; Me: – Jennifer Garner is precious, Mark Ruffalo is his usual perfect nonchalance, and Andy Serkis is a funny, skinny Rick Gervais. 13 is a really good popcorn romance/comedy even though the “child wakes up in their adult body” thing has been done.
  34. Bolt (Blu-Ray; 5/24/2009) – RT 88% ; Me: – Disney’s story about a television serial dog/actor who thinks he’s a real super-powered dog is good enough that it might as well be part of the Pixar stable.
  35. Up (Pacific Beach Cities Stadium 16 Movie Theater – El Segundo, CA; 5/29/2009) – RT 98% ; Me: – At first I struggled with it, and I blame the marketing, but I have come to recognize that Up is a great film that happens to be the most heartrending of all the Pixar stories. An old man who misses his late wife so much that he flies his house to South America tied to helium party balloons is bound to have a LOT of poignancy.
  36. Bottle Shock (NetFlix Streaming; 6/2/2009) – RT 48% ; Me: – I really want to like this fictionalized account of the true story about how Napa Valley wines showed the world that good wine doesn’t have to be from France. The actors are good, the characters are good…I think the script (and/or maybe the editing) is too uneven to make the movie work well.
  37. I Love You Beth Cooper
  38. “Drag Me To Hell”:
  39. The Hangover
  40. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Drafthouse South; 7/15/2009 Midnight show)
  41. “Away We Go”: (Alamo South Lamar; 7/17/2009)
  42. “500 Days of Summer”: (Alamo South Lamar; 7/25/2009)
  43. “World’s Best Commercials”: (Alamo Ritz; 8/2/2009)
  44. “Thirst”:
  45. Sixteen Candles
  46. G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (Alamo Village; 8/7/2009) – RT 38% – Me: – Even though I was fully rested, I think I nodded off a little during the climax, so I probably shouldn’t try to write a review.
  47. Some Kind of Wonderful
  48. Planes, Trains & Automobiles
  49. Julie & Julia (Alamo South Lamar) – RT 74% – Me: – (Disclaimer: I probably can’t be trusted to objectively review a Nora Epron Movie.) The human actors in this film are amazing, and Streep should get a nomination. The non-human characters, the food and the blog, are subtly yet passionately woven into the story such that the film is truly more than the sum of its parts.
  50. Uncle Buck – RT 53% – Me – This is not John Hughes’s best film, but it is my favorite. The genuine humanity in the characters portrayed by John Candy, Amy Madigan and Jean Louisa Kelly are key to the magic that made Hughes an auteur.
  51. Youssou Ndour: I Bring What I Love – RT 84% – Me: – Fans of Youssou Ndour’s Grammy winning album, Egypt, will absolutely love this documentary about the reception of his music in his homeland. The rest of us will be touched by the education about Islam as practiced by the Senegalese Sufis.
  52. District 9 (Galaxy Highland; 8/16/2009) – RT 88% – Me: – I don’t love this movie the way some people do. It is being sold as a landmark film, but it’s just a really good film. It’s good enough that I’ll buy the disc upon release, but I won’t be buying the special edition box set with spaceship case.
  53. Paper Heart (Alamo South Lamar; 8/21/2009) – RT 61% – Me – I’m really not sure why there are bad reviews for this. I can only guess that film critics have trouble accepting a contemporary comedian who seems absent of snark. In the vein of Uncle Milty, Yi displays a vintage style of comedy that is refreshing. The film itself walks the line of documentary and improv that blends subtly and encourages me to a second viewing.
  54. Ponyo (Alamo Village; 8/22/2009) – RT 92% – Me – More than any other Miyazaki story this film plays to a really young crowd. The nature of even the adult characters to accept the idea that a fish has a face and then becomes a little girl is the primary reason you know this is for preschool kids. Also, the joyous ebullience for every minor event is very Nick, Jr. Given the age target, it is a beautiful and enchanting film, as you would expect from Miyazaki.
  55. The Good, the Bad, the Weird – (The Cartoon House; 8/26/2009) – RT 88% – Me – Possibly the best movie out of Korea, and certainly the best one not made by Park Chan Wook, this movie is based on the classic Spaghetti Western The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and it is just as good. The three leads are some of the best actors internationally and I can only imagine that teenage girls in South Korea have posters of each of them and argue who is the best.
  56. Inglorious Basterds (Galaxy Highland; 8/25/2009) – RT 88% – Me – I have never been a Tarantino fan, and there were moments in this film that I could see Tarantino more than I could see the narrative. In the end, though, I loved it. It’s the first time I’ve seen Tarantino wield violence appropriately.
  57. Eugenie: Story of Her Journey Into Perversion (Alamo Ritz; 9/23/2009) – RT N/A – Me – Certainly a product of its time, but the story is so bizarre and beguiling that I was compelled to watch.
  58. First Squad (Alamo South Lamar; 9/30/2009) – RT N/A – Me – A historical fiction tale of WWII-era militaries recruiting young teams of psychics to fight secret battles. Half the film is top notch anime, the other half is live “action” interviews with veterans and historians discussing the psychic soldiers. Both halves serve to describe the story instead of showing it, leaving a “History Channel” feel to the whole thing.
  59. Merantau (Alamo South Lamar; 9/30/2009) – RT N/A – Me – This is the central Asia martial arts movie that slightly trumps the amazing Ong Bak. Sure, Tony Jaa has some fancier tricks, but Iko Uwais is a better fighter and this story is more comprehensible.