Brendan Campbell's Best of 2009

Creating a list of the ten best movies of 2009 is a tricky thing to do, considering that it was such a strong year all over the board. Depending on your taste in film ‘the best of 2009′ will likely vary greatly (outside of one or two films) from critic to critic – or at least I believe that will be the case at Inside Pulse. I don’t believe this is a bad thing, however, as it allows various voices to be heard, and different films to be given the spotlight that may not be given such light if everyone went by the book and shied away from their own individual tastes.

Personally, this is one of my favourite times of the year, as it gives us a chance to reflect on the year that was in film, and see some of the best from various genres rise to the podium to claim their prize as one of the must-see movies of 2009. It’s different than the Academy Awards, or any other type of awards list, outside of the first one or two choices by most, as it’s a personal taste that shines through and we all get to see how people felt about the year that was summed up into ten films.

For me, 2009 ranged all over the board, and when it finally came time to put my choices in an order, unlike other years, I had an incredibly hard time doing so. Maybe it’s because I came back a little late in the game and hadn’t been keeping track of everything to the fullest extent like you do if you’re constantly a part of the world; or maybe some of these films were really just that good that it’s hard to separate some from others. So aside from my first handful of choices the rest were just given numbers for the sake of numbers being given, and should all be checked out (or likely have been given their box office tallies.)

Unfortunately I missed out on a few recent films that may have made an impact on this list, though such is the nature of the beast when so many top tier contenders come out in such a short period of time. At least there’s always the comments section below that can be updated should that change in the coming weeks when those films are all finally viewed. Regardless, working with what I do have, let’s get right down to it and I present to you my Top Ten Films of 2009:

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10. The Hangover – I actually missed this film in theatres due to it being sold out the few times I had available to check it out. This movie was one of the biggest movies of the year, and one of, if not the highest grossing film due to its low budget and huge intake at the box office. The hype was big going in, and having witnessed movies falling to the hype in the past, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I finally did get to see it. What I ended up getting was a whole lot of laughs. The Hangover is a unique take on a genre that’s been hit from all angles in recent years. The actors are not A-list, which makes everything work all the better, and the script is tight as well as funny. It was without a doubt one of the funniest movies of the year.

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9. Star Trek – Ah, the remake…or as of late, the reboot. Rebooting the Star Trek franchise was just about as risky as saying that due to the success of the Star Wars prequels they’re recasting the originals and freshening them up. Fans were nervous, skeptical and all but boycotting the film – especially after William Shatner was told there was no place for him in the script.

In the end though, the movie turned out to be brilliant, if for no other reason than they figured out how to reboot the franchise while not stepping on the toes of the originals. Creating a parallel universe that changes everything due to unforeseen circumstances was perfect, and the brilliance just continued as the movie went on. There’s a huge chance to continue this franchise on and keep it going strong, as long as the scripts stay as spot-on as this one was.

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8. Taken – All movies stem from basic ideas that have been recycled over and over throughout the course of movie history, and Taken is no different. Taking the basic story element of a father out for revenge against those that did harm to his family (in this case kidnapping his daughter) Taken‘s script and direction take this movie to the next level. Well, that’s not entirely true: Liam Neeson takes this film to the next level, and then up another floor. Neeson’s work in this movie gives him a chance to be seen as a leading action star outside of his Jedi robes, and it works on all levels. If you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favour, bookmark this page, go pick it up and watch it now, then come back and finish reading. It’s that good.

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7. Watchmen – Having just entered the comic book world this past summer, I have still yet to read the classic Watchmen story written by Alan Moore – I did, however, see the movie. Having no preconceived notions walking into the film, I walked out thinking it was a fantastic story, and from how it was told, quite true to its source material. I’ve yet to fully see if that was true, as there are still plenty who say the comic is still that much better, but even if that’s the case, finding Watchmen to be one of the top stories told at the movies just says wonders about how well it came off to someone who has nothing to go off of. Zack Snyder continues his rampage through Hollywood, creating beautiful images, and showing he’ll be a force to be reckoned with for years to come…and if making these types of movies is how he’ll continue to prove that; then we – the audience – are the true winners.

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6. BrothersBrothers was a movie that took me by surprise by just how powerful the acting, script and direction all ended up being. I’m not sure what I expected going in, as I try to enter with a clear mind, but I definitely wasn’t prepared for some of the places this movie went and that made the entire film all the stronger in the end. Tobey Maguire is being recognized for his role in this film by the Golden Globes, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the Oscar nominations as well. Definitely one to check out when it hits your video store shelves in 2010.

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5. Inglourious Basterds – Quentin Tarantino tends to hit or miss with the regular movie-going audience, and almost always hit a bulls eye with his fan base. While I’ve enjoyed some of his works, his most recent Kill Bill flicks (which should’ve been just one…but that’s a story for a later date) left a bad taste in my mouth. Needless to say, I wasn’t sure which side of the fence I’d land on after watching his take on World War II starring Brad Pitt as the leader of a rag-tag group of soldiers who go into Nazi Germany with the sole mission of killing every Nazi they can on the road to Hitler himself. It was clear after the first scene where I’d land, as Tarantino’s dialogue and craftsmanship worked wonders coming out of the mouths of some great actors and actresses. It’s a mesmerizing feature, and one that warrants viewing after viewing, and that in itself is a high accolade that many movies miss the mark on.

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4. District 9 – The things you can do with a bit of money and an opportunity, as director Neill Blomkamp enters the big world of Hollywood blockbusters on his modest budget of $30 million. District 9 told the ‘alien invaders’ story from a unique perspective, in an almost documentary type setting (think, The Office) with drama, comedy, action and various moral lessons laid out across the way. It became one of the biggest films of the year, and stirs of a District 10 are already in the works.

It’s times like these when you understand and respect actors and directors who hold out on an easy payday/second blockbuster when it comes to sequels to big hits, and I hope the same holds true for a sequel to this film as it works well enough on its own and doesn’t need a follow-up. At the same time, this is Blomkamp’s baby, and he’d likely be quite involved in the sequel, so if one does pop up, at least it’ll be in good hands.

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3. (500) Days of Summer – It’s been quite the year for blockbusters, though high quality acting, great direction, and a relatable story can usually find a way to win out in the viewers heart over heaps of effects. Though with all the hits that’ve been coming from the independent market in recent years, it seems that there may be hope for the big bad Hollywood machine as it seems to have been learning that the public yearns for quality over quantity (though as my top two films can attest, you can have both and do it right!)

Speaking about the movie in question though, (500) Days of Summer is a story about love, and how one can be affected by it, react to it, and learn because of it. It’s a story about emotions, and how we deal with them, and from my perspective at least, it’s a love story tailor made for guys, though without the need to add any sophomoric humour to try to fit in or be accepted. It’s a movie that can hit you in all the right places, and leave you impacted in a good way, with lots of memories, and a well told story that you’ll definitely want to hear again.

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2. 2012 – Why did this movie land so high on my list? I honestly have no idea. I kept balancing things around, and if I could call it a tie for second with (500) I would, but alas, numbers need to be placed, and this one just stuck with me in some odd way that I didn’t mind. Huge, crazy, effects-driven blockbusters aren’t suppose to make your top ten, let alone be in the top five, but I like to ignore the rules, especially when they deserve to be broken.

As I was watching 2012 I knew it was something special, and maybe that’s just me, but I enjoyed being taken to the edge of my seat and allowing the goose bumps to raise on my arms as John Cusack and company averted near disaster time and time again in impossible circumstances. When I left the theatre I was high on adrenaline (from the movie!) and couldn’t get it out of my head. Even now, just watching the trailer I’m ready to jump in the car and go watch it again.

This wasn’t just a disaster movie, to me, it was the disaster movie. We’re talking end of the world type movies that have been pushed out year after year, and this one just hit all the right notes. It came in at almost three hours, and it never felt as though it was too long. The acting was great, and even the token kids that need to be saved in these types of films weren’t annoying. The emotions ran high, and if you let yourself succumb to them you knew how director Roland Emmerich hit all the right marks when he needed to hit them. If you missed out on 2012 in the theatres, check your listings for showtimes and if it’s still playing somewhere, do your best to see it on the big screen where it’s meant to be seen. Now I can only hope the transition to Blu-ray does it justice.

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1. Avatar – James Cameron’s Avatar was said to be one of the most anticipated movies of the decade. Honestly, I hadn’t heard much rumblings of it until it was pretty much set for release this year. I tend to stay away from hype, and build-up, though this one somehow eluded me entirely, at least to the point of the rumours or stories having a lasting impression on me. Luckily, however, the final product has done the exact opposite.

Avatar does what Cameron does best, and takes a basic, tried and true premise to the creative workshop inside his head, and comes out a brilliant piece of work. Having not seen the trailers, or knowing anything outside of it taking place on an alien planet where humans took on the roles of the local alien species, I was amazed by what Cameron has done over the past decade with his work on making this the movie experience of the year.

I saw Avatar in 3-D, and it being my first trek into that type of film, it took about 15 minutes or so to get my vision adjusted, as I initially thought it was going to ruin the movie for me. After my eyes adjusted to the movements, and eye-popping visuals, I forgot I had the glasses on, and allowed myself to be transported to Cameron’s world of Pandora. And what a beautiful planet it was. Cameron spent a great deal of money in order to get this 3-D technology to take it to the next level, and he did not disappoint. Never were there heads flying into your lap, or things flying in your direction for no reason; everything meshed together perfectly, and the 3-D addition just brought you inside his vision all the more.

Having not seen it in regular format, I cannot say how the impact truly affects the film. I can take a guess, however; and say that from how I felt after Avatar the way you see it doesn’t take away from the way Cameron told the story, and the way the effects help the story along instead of hinder it in any way. Cameron was king of the world before, and now he’s king of another world as well.

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