Thursday, August 27, 2009

Looking Back on 2009





How have the most anticipated movies of 2009 fared so far? This is a very interesting topic because it makes one think about how the most anticipated movies usually fare. It is also interesting because one could make the argument that anticipating a film too much can possibly ruin the experience. For example, if a faithful fan of the Watchmen comic doesn't get the film they have been expecting for over twenty years, they just might label it as a failure simply because it doesn't agree with their vision. Does that really mean the film is a disappointment? If a movie isn't everything you have imagined and anticipated, does that have a negative effect on the experience?

With those questions in mind, let's dive right in...


Watchmen:

Despite dividing critics, and being somewhat of a box-office bomb, for me, it is one of the best movies of the year. That being said, you might be surprised to hear that I didn't read the comic before I saw the film. One of the main criticisms of this movie was that the wild narrative would make viewers unfamiliar with the comic uninterested in the film. Although that is the case with some, it wasn't the case for me. Maybe some of that has to do with the beauty of the
IMAX screen, and I admit the film had numerous flaws, but it was a great theater experience. It also features two great performances; a breakout one from Jeffrey Dean Morgan and a comeback one from Jackie Earle Haley.

It's tough to label this film as a failure because it is a movie that has been deemed "unfilmable" since the novel came out. And I would even say that the critical reception, however divided it might've been, was pretty solid considering how bold and dark of an effort this movie is. And as for the box-office numbers, it certainly didn't live up to expectations. But there haven't been many films of its elk that have drawn in mass crowds. I bet there were a lot of people, unfamiliar with the book, who read about the hard R-rating, the epic running time, and the complex story, and simply said "No way." Well, it’s their loss.

Star Trek:

J.J. Abrams created a very strong prequel with this year's
Star Trek, and I would say this one has completely exceeded expectations. Maybe it has lost some steam since its theatrical release back in May, but it still remains one of the critical favorites of the year, and it was a major box-office success.

Even though I haven't watched much previous
Star Trek-related things, I can't imagine anyone (Trekkie or not) seeing this film and being disappointed. It is solid summer entertainment: funny, action-packed, and viscerally thrilling. It also features strong performances, highlighted by a star-making turn (I think) from Chris Pine.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince:

This is a tough one. The reviews are very good, not great, and the box-office numbers are very good, not great. Its current domestic total at the box-office is about $291 million on a production budget of $250 million. Not exactly glowing numbers considering the
midnight record it set. On top of that, it only won one weekend, after losing to the kids' flick, G-Force.

It also seems that audiences are somewhat split on this film. I have heard such things as "too long" and "just plain boring." This film has been labeled as a sort of setup for the final two-parter, so let's hope the payoff works. It’s certainly not a failure, but it’s tough to ignore the underperforming box-office numbers.

Up:

Pixar's 2009 effort was a beautiful film that did certainly live up to its billing, if not exceed it. I think it is one of Pixar's best efforts, certainly better than last year's
Wall-E, and it was no box-office slouch either. Pleasing both critics and audiences, this is a film that is very tough to dislike. The opening sequence is probably the most emotional work ever done in a Pixar film, and even though the rest of the film can't match the first fifteen minutes, it is, nonetheless, a remarkable effort. Considering the Academy's expansion to ten Best Picture nominees, this one is looking like more and more of a shoo-in for nominations in multiple categories.

The Hurt Locker:

Certainly one of the best movies of the summer, this is a film that was anticipated by serious moviegoers and critics, but not so much by mainstream audiences. It hasn't gotten a ton of theaters, but the critical reception has been glowing, and it is well-deserved. Kathryn Bigelow creates the best Iraq War movie yet, and the lead performance of Jeremy Renner will be strongly considered for a Best Actor nomination come Award season time. It also, maybe more importantly, creates buzz for a woman to be honored in the Best Director category.

Inglourious Basterds:

The best movie I have seen all year, this film lived right up to its critical expectations, and it exceeded its commercial ones. Winning its first weekend at a unexpected $38.1 million, this is Tarantino's biggest opening yet, and his best film since 1994's
Pulp Fiction. Tarantino creates some of his most memorable characters yet, highlighted by Brad Pitt’s Lt. Aldo Raine and Christoph Waltz’s Col. Hans Landa.

I'm sure that Waltz is a lock for an Oscar nomination at this point, and I would hope that Tarantino at least gets a screenplay nomination. It has some of his best dialogue ever written, and the story is weaved together beautifully. For the Academy to overlook the screenplay as one of the five best original works of the year would be an absolute crime. Enough said.

Public Enemies:

Pubilc Enemies is a solid film that, simply put, did not live up to expectations. When I first saw the trailer for this movie, I was saying to myself, "Oscar, Oscar, Oscar." When I came out of the theater after seeing the movie, I was saying, "Good, not great."

The only thing that exceeds expectations in this film is Cotillard's performance. She has another Award season contender coming out later this year called
Nine, and perhaps her work in that movie will overshadow her performance in the summer-released Public Enemies. But make no mistake; she is brilliant in this movie. Depp gives a great performance as Dillinger, but I was expecting something great, so I can't necessarily say he exceeded what I expected. Ultimately, this script is what let this film down. In fact, the script of this film is quite poor. But, put into the hands of Mann, Depp, Bale, and Cotillard, it makes for a solid crime drama.



Now...What do you think? Did your most anticipated live up to their billing? In no way have I come close to writing about all the anticipated films of the year, so please weigh in below with your selections and judgments.

8 comments:

Midgard Dragon said...

WALL-E was better than Up, without a doubt. No "certainly" in the statement that Up was better. WALL-E didn't contain talking dogs the flew planes. That right there disqualifies it from being better than the work of *art* that was WALL-E.

Danny King said...

It is simply my opinion. Wall-E just didn't work for me. Your support isn't very just, however, as you slam Up for having a talking dog while the emotional center of Wall-E was a love story between two robots.

Midgard Dragon said...

well what makes you such a movie pro?

Danny King said...

When did I say I was a movie pro? I just pointed out the faults in your argument. You can't criticize a film like Up because it's unrealistic, and then not mention the same characteristics in Wall-E. Do you go into Pixar films expecting a depiction of everyday life?

I'm not saying you have to agree with me, but, rather than criticize me, why don't you try supporting your arguments with some legitimate evidence?

Encore Entertainment said...

Did not like WALL-E and didn't like Up. Actually they're both fine...bit I rather Coraline that all. It's a pity that people can't look past the numbers to judge HP6.

Danny King said...

I was simply judging Harry Potter 6 in terms of its expectations, not necessarily saying it was a bad film. In terms of its gigantic budget, it was a little bit of a letdown at the box-office, but it was still a fine film, and I even think it has some strong chances at Oscar nominations in the technical categories.

Rae Kasey said...

With 10 Best Picture spots, I do think at least one will go to an animated film this year. I've seen Coraline, Up, and Ponyo and at this point I'd give the edge to Up. Pixar never disappoints, in my opinion.

Danny King said...

At this point, I have to believe that if an animated film gets nominated, it has to be Up. Not necessarily because Up was so good, but because Pixar has completely revolutionized the animated genre, and the Academy would certainly want to honor them before any other animated studio.

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