2009 in Movies

Movie reviews I wrote for movies released theatrically in 2009.

 

1. The White Ribbon, directed by Michael Haneke (10/10)

Absolutely incredible. I agree with the hype machine’s claim that this is Haneke’s best. It’s the best one I’ve seen anyway.

This is a magnificent film. It’s period lit (which just drives film nuts like me to orgasm). It’s so subtle. It’s got a neat little As I Lay Dying reveal that helps explain what is going on. I would explain it, but I don’t want to give anything away. See this film. Especially if you like Haneke. I will eventually write an essay on why it is amazing. Stay tuned…

 

2. In the Loop, directed by Armando Iannucci (9/10)

The best political comedy I have seen in some time. If I re-watch it, I will give you a proper review.

 

3. The Secret in their Eyes, directed by Juan Jose Campanella (9/10)

This is a very good movie that manages to balance a number of threads extremely well. It’s a rare movie that manages to balance a crime mystery and some level of romantic drama. It is also quite poetic about memory – though there is a little too much cliche Latin stuff about seeing someone’s soul through their eyes and about Love and stuff.

The one thing keeping it from absolute classic status is a montage that happens right around one of the reveals. It is a little confused and feels like someone was watching The Usual Suspects too much.

Oh, and the film’s final act could be paced a little better.

 

4. The Day God Walked Away, directed by Philippe Van Leeuw (9/10)

Extraordinarily hard to watch. A must see about the human consequences of war.

 

5. Moon, directed by Duncan Jones (8/10)

This is one of those sci-fi films that seems to exist relatively outside of annoying film conventions that would have severely weakened it. The plot goes somewhere we’re not expecting (and it does so slowly and deliberately, which is so foreign to 90% of sci-fi films of recent years). And familiar cliches are overturned. For example, this time the AI isn’t out to get us. Imagine that.

Rockwell is extraordinary (as he must be) and the rest of the film is unique enough and involving enough to make it well worth watching, and thinking about later.

Very good.

 

6. Army of Crime, directed by Robert Guediguian (8/10)

Read the review.

 

7. Adrift, directed by Heitor Dhalia (8/10)

This is a beautiful coming of a age story set in a gorgeous location. Read the full review.

 

8. The Art of the Steal, directed by Don Argott (8/10)

Read the review.

 

9. Ajami, directed by Scandar Copti, Yaron Shani (8/10)

This is an ambitious, compelling, complex portrait of daily life (with a little crime thrown in for good measure) in Israel. Read the rest of the review.

 

10. Tales of the Golden Age, directed by Hanno Hofer, Razvan Marculescu, Cristian Mungiu, Constantin Popescu, Ioana Uricaru (8/10)

Read the review.

 

11. District 9, directed by Neill Blomkamp (8/10)

This feel’s like an attempt at combining an alien invasion movie with a Peter Watkins-style fake documentary. It isn’t entirely true to form, since we see the alien side of things and we can’t really understand how given that there shouldn’t be cameras around them.

And that remains a major problem as the film progresses, and we see more and more stuff that couldn’t possibly fit in to the mockumentary. And that’s too bad, because otherwise we have a really cool idea and a really powerful reworking of the sci-fi genre.

It’s still a pretty great film, but I feel like the filmmakers should either have committed to the mockumentary concept whole-hog or should have abandoned it completely.

As an aside, the lead actor is incredible. It’s hard to play that kind of role.

 

12. Inglorious Basterds, directed by Quentin Tarrantino (8/10)

Far from his best movie but lots of fun and lots to digest, as usual.

 

13. A l’originie, directed by Xavier Gionnoli (8/10)

Read the review.

 

14. An Education, directed by Lone Scherfig (8/10)

One of the things this film does is remind you how it wasn’t that long ago that we weren’t really culturally attuned to the idea that just because a man is older doesn’t mean he knows better.

This film gets under your skin in part because even though we know where it’s going and we know this relationship is pretty much a terrible idea, nobody else seems to. We forget that not that long ago – and still, in many parts of the world – an older man expressing interest in your teenage daughter was a great thing. The unease I felt in spite of everyone’s best intentions is a remarkable accomplishment.

But the film doesn’t quite elevate itself, in part because of its ending.

 

15. Ashes of American Flags, directed by Brendan Canty and Christopher Green (8/10)

I love Wilco therefore I love this movie

 

16. The White Stripes: Under Great White Northern Lights, directed by Emmett Malloy (8/10)

These are some pretty great performances. They are impassioned and often contain elements not in the original songs. All the more impressive is the fact that they don’t have set lists. Though this might hurt some shows, it doesn’t hurt a film that is the highlights of a bunch of shows. It sounds like they were on in every one, but that’s just because they picked some of the better takes. This is more than I expected. I particularly like the version of “Fell in Love with a Girl.” Now I really want to see them in concert. Update: I saw Jack by himself in 2012.

 

17. A Single Man, directed by Tom Ford (8/10)

This is an affecting film about loss that is nice to look at to boot. It’s a significantly different approach than I had it would be, as it had a look of “period” to it. The approach – necessitated by the novel – works much better than I would have guessed, too.

 

17. My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?, directed by Werner Herzog (8/10)

I’m not as familiar with Oedipus as I evidently should be. This is sort of exactly what one would expect from a Herzog-Lynch collaboration. It’s totally out to lunch. In a good way.

 

18. Get Low, directed by Aaron Schneider (8/10)

This is very well-acted, entertaining and even a little affecting. Despite the unnecessary flashbacks and a very contrived card game scene, it succeeds because of the strong sense of time and place and because of the ridiculously good cast. In other hands, it might not work so well. Well worth watching.

19. Cairo Time, directed by Ruba Nada (8/10)

This is beautiful looking film. It makes me want to go to Egypt. On top of that, it tells its story well and surprisingly succinctly. It’s one of those films that, though it hardly changes your opinion of movies or changes your life, does exactly what it seeks out to accomplish. Everything about it is effective. A couple scenes at the end are quite affecting, and deeper than you might have expected.

 

20. The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans, directed by Werner Herzog (8/10)

First off, lets get this out of the way: Herzog has stated repeatedly in interviews that his American distributors forced the title on him and this movie has nothing to do with the Harvey Keitel movie of the same name from about 30 years before, except in a thematic sense. I haven’t seen that film all the way through but I believe it was some kind of supposed morality tale; this is a comedy (albeit a very dark one).
Cage is absolutely bizarre in this film but it’s funny, either he or the writer (or both) have definitely had some experience with using drugs or with drug users as some of the moments in here hit really close to home for anyone who has known a user. (The reviewer on Zip.ca who claims narcotic addicts can’t function like this – and that hence this is a bad movie – evidently doesn’t know any narcotics addicts, as they do function, and people don’t stop them, and sometimes they get rewarded for their behaviour; this is what happens and why we have a major problem in the world with drug use.) This movie clearly isn’t going for realism but I still found some of the scenes (particularly everything hinging around the dog) to be quite realistic. On top of that, it is pretty damn hilarious (especially the longer it goes on) with some classic moments and classic one-liners (the best is escaping me right now). Add to that the mood set by post-Katrina New Orleans and we get quite an effective portrait of an absolutely out of control cop whose superiors can’t or won’t deal with, which is actually pretty realistic.

 

21. The Cove, directed by Louie Psihoyos (8/10)

Painful to watch.

 

22. Beautiful Kate, directed by Rachel Ward (8/10)

Read the review.

 

23. Black Dynamite, directed by Scott Sanders (8/10)

Read the review.

 

24. Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo, directed by Jessica Oreck (8/10)

Read the review.

 

25. The Disappearance of Alice Creed, directed by J Blakeson (8/10)

Great and that’s all I can say as I promised the filmmaker (kidding). Update: I have now seen it twice and somewhat changed my opinion so I moved it down in the rankings.

 

26. The Hangover, directed by Todd Phillips (8/10*)

In retrospect this seems like an extraordinarily high rating for a movie that is just very, very entertaining.

 

27. Best Worst Movie, directed by Michael Stephenson (7/10)

Read the review.

 

28. Alamar, directed by Pedro Gonzalez-Rubio (7/10)

Alamar is a nature film posing as a coming of age “drama” (I used the word loosely). Read the full review.

 

29. Watchmen, directed by Zack Snyder (7/10)

This is an admirable, ambitious attempt to adapt what is, for many people, The Greatest Comic of All Time. Read the full review.

 

30. Budrus, directed by Julia Bacha (7/10)

Well, it’s totally out of date now, but it’s still probably worth your time. Read the review.

 

31. Sonicsgate, directed by Jason Reid (7/10)

Sonicsgate is a very biased movie but that doesn’t make it bad. Read the rest of the review.

 

32. Applaus, directed by Martin Zandvliet (7/10)

Read the review.

 

33. American Radical: The Trials of Norman Finkelstein, directed by David Ridgen, Nicholas Rossier (7/10)

Read the review.

 

34. American: the Bill Hicks Story, directed by Matt Harlock, Paul Thomas (7/0)

Read the review.

 

35. Good Hair, directed by Jeff Stinson (7/10)

Like others, I was a little sceptical about this film. But I actually found it surprisingly informative (and a little shocking / eye-opening). Rock is a little awkward as a interviewer (in certain circumstances) but his humour offsets this. The film is annoyingly structured. But these things are offset by the compelling questions the two craziest modifications raise. The film never really answers these questions (and yes, comes down a little hard on the people who choose to do these things) but that’s not really the point of a documentary. The point is that this issue is “outed” and now there can be a discussion; a serious discussion about why people but dangerous chemicals into their hair; about why people would pay upwards of $1000 for someone else’s hair when they can’t afford the rent.

 

36. The Men Who Stare at Goats, directed by Grant Heslov (7/10)

A little uneven but the point is well taken.

 

37. The Inner Life of Glenn Gould, directed by Michele Hozer, Peter Raymont (7/10)

Read the brief review.

 

38. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, directed by Niels Arden Oplev (7/10)

38. Girl Who Kicked a Hornet’s Nest, directed by Daniel Alfredson (7/10)

I feel like when I saw these I could have told you which was superior. But now I can’t remember.

 

40. The Brothers Bloom, directed by Rian Johnson (7/10)

There’s a lot here to like and I really want to like this movie. And I guess I would say I generally do. But there are some pretty significant issues:

  • the third act feels really pasted on, there two narrators (!) and we don’t ever really learn why
  • and sometimes it’s a little too hard to figure out the motivations of a couple of the main characters.

I feel like the film is a rough draft.

On the other hand, it’s amusing, clever and the score is pretty great.

41. Crab Trap, directed by Oscar Ruiz Navia (7/10)

The director of the Dirty Saints (see below) should have seen this movie instead of making his own.

 

42. Tetro, directed by Francis Ford Coppola (7/10)

The production is interesting, the story not so much.

 

43. The Wild Hunt, directed by Alexandre Franchi (7/10)

Crazy. It would be better if the female protagonist’s behaviour made more sense. I guess I need to locate the review.

 

44. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, directed by David Yates (7/10)

This appears to be the series’ Empire Strikes Back and, as such, is the strongest from a story perspective. Read the full review.

 

45. A Town Called Panic, directed by Stephane Aubier and Vincent Patar (7*/10)

I’m sure this wouldn’t hold up to repeat viewings but its endearing.

 

46. Cropsey, directed by Barbara Brancaccio and Joshua Zeman (7*/10)

Interesting but uneven and a little directionless.

 

47. Adventureland, directed by Greg Mottola (7/10)

I don’t know that I would like this as much on a repeat viewing.

 

48. Boogie Woogie, directed by Duncan Ward (7/10)

Read the review.

 

49. Whip it, directed by Drew Barrymore (7/10)

I can’t say that I wanted to watch this, but I heard lots of good things about it so I did.

For one thing: it’s surprisingly funny. For another, it is surprisingly good despite the paint-by-numbers plot; we know pretty much exactly what will happen (except for perhaps one thing). But despite this, we manage to care anyway. I think part of it comes from the relatively unique situation the formula plot is put in.

 

50. L’affaire Farewell, directed by Christian Carion (7/10)

This is an interesting attempt at making a “real” spy movie, one where the spies behave like real spies, without car chases, without shoot-outs, without super-intense interrogation scenes. Read the full review.

 

51. Burma VJ, directed by Anders Ostergaard (7/10)

Out of date as of 2011 but worth your time if you are interested in human rights or protests or Myanmar. Read the review.

 

52. Baaria, directed by Giuseppe Tornatorre (7/10)

Read the review.

 

53. Amer, directed by Helene Cattet, Bruno Frozani (7/10)

Read the review.

 

54. Bananas!*, directed by Fredrik Gertten (6/10)

Read the review.

 

55. Avatar, directed by James Cameron (6/10)

A technical landmark in film history and little else. He relies on Aliens way too much for the human elements. And Pocahontas, of course.

 

56. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, directed by Phil Lord, Christopher Miller (6/10)

Meh. Read the review.

 

57. Away We Go, directed by Sam Mendes (6/10)

Read the review.

 

58. 9, directed by Shane Acker (6/10)

This is a very well made animated feature that suffers from a lack of a great narrative. The story is an old one – though this time around it is told vaguely enough so that there appears to be more mystery than there actually is – and the resolution is unfortunately bizarrely spiritual and seemingly disconnected with the reality of the film.

Great to look at though.

 

59. Bakjwi aka Thirst, directed by Chan-woo Park (6/10)

Read the review.

 

60. Capitalism Hits the Fan, directed by Stu Jhally (6/10)

Analysis is good, predictions and solutions are bad. Read the review of Capitalism Hits the Fan.

 

61. Bright Star, directed by Jane Campion (6/10)

I am not into this kind of thing. Read the review.

 

62. The Boys are Back directed by Scott Hicks (6/10)

Better than it could have been. Read the review.

 

63. Beeswax, directed by Andrew Bujalski (6/10)

Read the review.

 

64. The Last Station, directed by Michael Hoffman (6/10)

I feel like this could have been more.

 

65. Mao’s Last Dancer, directed by Bruce Beresford (6/10)

Very nice to look at, at least.

 

66. The Girl Who Played with Fire, directed by Daniel Alfredson (6/10)

The weakest in the series.

 

67. Backyard, directed by Carlos Carrera (6/10)

Read the review.

 

68. Sherlock Holmes, directed by Guy Ritchie (6/10)

If you ignore the film around him, Downey’s performance is incredible. I will argue till I’m blue in the face that his is more Sherlock Holmes than any other portrayal I have seen [to date]. I think most people who do not agree haven’t actually read the stories. The classic Hollywood version is not the real Holmes. That being said, the movie around him is ridiculous.

 

69. The Boat that Rocked, directed by Richard Curtis (6/10)

A mess, but an entertaining one.

 

70. Cleanflix, directed by Andrew James and Joshua Ligairi (6/10)

Nowhere near as good as it could have been, because it’s not that well made. And that soundtrack is borderline terrible. Dear Low Budget Filmmakers, If you are going to make a movie and can only hire a really terrible composer, don’t use any music. Please.

 

71. Daybreakers, directed by Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig (6/10)

Has some really interesting bits the but the CGI doesn’t look very good and it is more conventional than it should be.

 

72. Valhalla Rising, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn (6/10)

Well this is quite the artsy attempt at an “action” film (for lack of a better term, though there is little action). Read the rest of the review.

 

73. Big River Man, directed by John Maringouin (6/10)

This should be a great documentary. You have the makings of something special with a character as wacky as this guy, and with a team of supporters some of whom as are crazy.

The biggest problem, beyond the fact that the film is organized poorly, is that the director decides – seemingly at random – to try to enter the minds of the crazies, and we are treated to some wannabe Space Odyssey effects and other things which in no way help the film. Oh well.

 

74. The Hole, directed by Joe Dante (6/10)

Subtle 3-D (until the end) but you shouldn’t ever see inside the hole! That’s the whole (ahahahahahaha) point.

 

75. Coco avant Chanel, directed by Anne Fontaine (6/10)

This is, I think, the slightly better of the two Chanel films that game out around the same time. It covers a different time in her life and is more grounded in reality. I feel like it is the more consistent film, if the other is perhaps more interesting. It is interesting that both films completely avoided the most controversial behaviour of her life, during WWII.

Anyway, as a biopic this is competent and well-done. Like so many biopics, it thinks it can tell us the story of someone by focusing on only one part of that person’s life, which is it’s biggest flaw.

 

76. Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder, directed by Peter Avanzino (6/10)

The last of the Futurama movies, this one too has its moments like the others but, also like the others, just feels like an overly long TV episode. It lags in places and the whole thing feels a little less purposeful (at least until the end, when it is anything but) than Bender’s Game.

It’s not the weakest by any means (I’d say that’s probably the first one) but it’s just too scattershot to really love.

 

77. Carriers, directed by David Pastor and Alex Pastor (6/10)

Better than it has any right to be.

 

78. Antichrist, directed by Lars Von Trier (5/10)

I think he titled this film this way solely to provoke. Read my review.

 

79. Black Sheep, directed by Humberto Hinojosa Ozcariz (5/10)

Read the review.

 

80. Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky, directed by Jan Kounen (5/10)

Doesn’t really know what it wants to be.

 

81. Agora, directed by Alejandro Amenbar (5/10)

Is this film about the development of the heliocentric model of the solar system (well, even the film admits it isn’t really about that) or is it about the rise of Christianity as a mass movement? Read the full review.

 

82. My Bloody Valentine 3-D, directed by Patrick Lussier (5/10)

Fun.

 

83. Fanboys, directed by Kyle Newman (5/10)

This is a sporadically funny comedy that relies on perhaps too much knowledge on the part of the audience for much of its humour. It also makes some pretty ridiculous generalizations about nerds – especially nerds in their 20s – which may or may not be true. I wouldn’t care so much if this was funny.

But it’s not really funny. It’s just kind of like “geeks and nerds are uncool, yuk yuk yuk, but are people too, aw.” And that’s the movie.

 

84. Pandorum, directed by Christian Alvart (4/10)

Read the spoilerific review.

 

85. The Age of Stupid, directed by Franny Armstrong (4/10)

Somewhere in this movie there are the makings of a great “message” documentary about climate change. With some more money and a different “director” – if it was indeed directed by one person – maybe this could be the movie they wanted it to be, the movie some critics apparently thought they saw. Read the full review.

 

86. The Invention of Lying, directed by Ricky Gervais, Matthew Robinson (4/10)

I’m trying to figure out how so many talented people made such an unfunny movie. Read the rest of this review.

 

87. Doghouse, directed by Jake West (4/10)

Don’t really remember it now.

 

88. Capitalism: a Love Story, directed by Michael Moore (4/10)

Full disclosure: I don’t like Michael Moore. I agree with him on many, many things – at least I think I do – but I absolutely can’t stand the way he manipulates his audience. I am a political philosophy major and so a lack of clarity of concepts makes me insane. So…Read the rest of this review.

 

89. Exam, directed by Stuart Hazeldine (4/10)

Surprisingly not as bad as I would have thought. Should have been terrible.

 

90. The Dirty Saints, directed by Luis Ortega (4/10)

The four is only because I might have missed some religious imagery and because the subtitles were badly done (they looked rushed for the festival) so maybe I missed the meaning. But this is possibly a horrible movie. I want to give it the benefit of the doubt, but more than likely it is horrible and I should have given it a 3 or a 2.

 

91. Don’t You Forget About Me, directed by Matt Austin (4/10)

These filmmakers seem to be unaware as to why someone would want to watch a documentary about a subject, in this case John Hughes. I think it’s safe to presume the audience wants to watch this movie to learn about John Hughes, not about the opinions of the nobodies making the film. Read the rest of the review.

 

92. Angels & Demons, directed by Ron Howard (3/10)

Read the review.

 

93. The Box, directed by Richard Kelly (3/10)

Read the review.

 

94. Solomon Kane, directed by Michael J. Bassett (3/10)

This has rather high production values for one of those bad fantasy films made in Eastern Europe. Read the rest of the review.

 

95. Lesbian Vampire Killers, directed by Phil Claydon (3/10)

It was instructive watching Cabin in the Woods – the greatest horror comedy of all-time – the night before I watched this. One movie showed you how to properly make a genre comedy, the other showed you how not to make a genre comedy. Read the full review.

 

96. The Tournament, directed by Scott Mann (3/10)

This is a pretty terrible one. The premise, which is of course not very good or new, and has been done better before. The plot is pretty transparent and full of minor holes that if you start thinking about, it become annoying. The characters are hilarious: they’re cold blooded killers, except when they’re not (like when they pause for the obligatory “dang you got me” moment). I guess the action is passable, but I have seen far better edited films (one poorly lit scene with two white guys with ponytails shooting at each other is particularly confounding). Trash.

 

97. Gamer, directed by Mark Nevdeline, Brian Taylor (2/10)

Gamer has a vaguely interesting and plausible premise – I stress the vaguely – though it is a little too reminiscent of an update of The Running Man. And it has a surprisingly strong cast, almost all of whom do a great job. So why is it a terrible movie? I don’t know where these two directors came from, but it is fairly evident to me that they have never had to make a feature film before. It turns out they have: they made both Cranks. I haven’t seen either, but now I don’t want to. This film is a giant mess. I think it would be an insult to film editors to claim it had been edited. The story is rendered incoherent by the insane amount of cutting, flashbacks and the “Is this real or is it all a game? Whoa dude I just blew your mind!” nonsense that is hammered into the audience. And then, it goes all art-film on us when the movie climaxes with a musical number! I have no words. In other people’s hands this might have been fascinatingly revisionist, but I can’t acclaim crap.

 

98. Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, directed by Patrick Tatopoulos (2/10)

Ostensibly a prequel, this is really an attempt to semi-reboot the series by hopping on the medieval fantasy trend. Needless to say it’s no better than the first sequel.

 

99. G.I. Joe: the Rise of Cobra, directed by Stephen Sommers (2/10)

This is basically a bad James Bond movie with Team GI Joe substituting for Bond, with a much more active MI6.

The filmmakers could have gone completely fantastic or realistic and they decided for some reason to try to do both. The result is beyond ridiculous with numerous attempts at some vaguely realistic sounding gobbledygook with numerous complete disregards of the laws of physics (as well as things like military protocol and the like). Just a little more attention to the script might have helped at least that aspect.

Unfortunately much of the CGI looks like it’s from an animated film and not from a major, big budget blend of live action and CG animation. Whole sections of the film look like a cartoon, which begs the question, why not just make a cartoon?

What actually gets up on screen is definitely one of the weakest Hollywood blockbusters I have seen.

 

100. Knowing, directed by Alex Proyas (2/10)

Read the review.

 

101. Case 39, directed by Christian Alvart (2/10)

Read the review.

 

102. 2012, directed by Roland Emmerich (1/10)

Terrible. Read the review.

 

103. The Blackout, directed by Robert David Sanders (1/10)

Just don’t bother. No budget nor anything else.

 

Shorts:

1. “No corras tanto,” directed by Cesar Diaz Melendez (7/10)

A neat little film made entirely from sand!!! which is kind of weakened by the fact that the Spanish music in the background tells us what to think about it (the lyrics are translated). I feel like this would have been a bit of a classic without the lyrics making it obvious.

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