Monday, January 25, 2010

'2009: The Year in Movies. How James Cameron Returned As King Of The World!'

'2009: The Year In Movies. How James Cameron Returned As King Of The World!'

James Cameron again proved his naysayers wrong and as I am writing this "Avatar" is poised to take over "Titanic" as the highest grossing film of all time. When I saw "Avatar" at the Navy Pier IMAX theatre I was blown away just like when I was watching "Star Wars" at 9 years old. Avatar's look is breathtaking in 3D and I was transported to another World. It was also was well written with a ton of imagination as Cameron meticulously created a New World with wonderful detail. To those who made fun of characters looking like smurfs and the story being anti government and business are now humbled again by the King of the World. Now with Cameron's genius and groundbreaking film look for more huge 3D blockbusters like it from 2010-2019. Will you see more studios spending trillions of dollars on making these monsters? Time will tell and all I can say is that maybe a little more vision will be coming our way instead of garbage like G.I. Joe. More on "Avatar" later but I must also mention that there were many great, small films that were about small things with great dialogue. They were tiny, independent movies that were outstanding and they shared the screen with "Avatar". This only proves that there is room for both kinds of films. The only thing that still matters and always will is that as long as there are a lot of great movies to see we don't care what kind they are.

I'm Jeff Bridges Dammit!

To start right out here is my favorite six actors of all time: Paul Newman, Clint Eastwood, Michael Keaton, Robert Deniro, James Stewart and Jeff Bridges. Of those top five Jeff Bridges is one of the most under appreciated actors ever! There are many others like him also that most moviegoers don't realize are some of our finest actors. They include Kevin Bacon, Dennis Quaid, Michael Keaton and Kurt Russell and all of them are at least in my top 15 actors of all time. The reason I admire Bridges is the same reason I love James Stewart. They both fly under the radar but they always are dependable and give great performances. They are so deep in their characters you never see them acting. They don't yell, scream or emote like lunatics rarely ever, never over act and make acting seem so effortless and easy. Jeff Bridges and his brother Beau Bridges are the sons of the legendary Lloyd Bridges and I think Jeff is even better than his father. Lloyd Bridges was in the television show "Sea Hunt" in 1958 and he brought along Jeff to partake in small roles on the show. Jeff didn't really want to be an actor but when you get a taste of it, it's addictive and thrilling. Jeff Bridges first came to attention in one of my favorite movies of all time "The Last Picture Show" in 1971. It is my pick as the best coming of age drama of all time and Bridges was nominated for an Oscar. He played Duane Jackson, one of two boys growing up in Anarene, Texas right before the Korean conflict was about to break out. It is a natural and great performance in one of the most beautiful movies ever made. This was just a start to many great things for Bridges. One thing you can always say about Bridges, he always picked interesting material.

Next came a movie which is actually the first time I saw Jeff Bridges and well he was starring with my idol Clint Eastwood. I was all about Clint and well all the supporting actors were just after thoughts. The movie was called "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot" (74) and damn if Jeff Bridges didn't steal the movie away from Clint. I now knew I was about to have a new actor that was someone I wanted to follow. The movie is one of the best heist/con man movies ever made and Jeff Bridges was amazing. Check out this under rated movie and watch Bridges when he gets shot and watch how he masters the after affects of the shooting, it is pure genius! The fate of his character is powerful and touching and it is due to Bridges in what is mostly a comedy. This is why I found Jeff Bridges great because he could make you care about a goofy character in a heist film. There was no surprise that he was again nominated for an Oscar for the movie. Jeff Bridges would then pick some unusual material but they were bold choices. The cult film "Rancho Deluxe" with a young Jimmy Buffett came next in 1975. He followed it up with an offbeat and fun movie that debuted a young Arnold Schwarzenegger called "Stay Hungry" about bodybuilding. He would make a rare mistake in 1976 by starring in the big blockbuster clunker "King Kong". All I remember of that movie was a half naked Jessica Lange (the movie was PG and I was 8 years old, come on!), all of the kids in the Mundelein theatre throwing food at the screen and of course that Bridges was good.
Everyone makes mistakes and Jeff Bridges was about to act in one of the biggest studio disasters of all time. It was 1980 and Michael Cimino's "Heaven's Gate" was rumored to be wildly over budget and the film was booed at a Cannes screening. Actually I have seen worse movies and some parts of it are excellent but the movie is one of the biggest bombs ever. A year later though Jeff Bridges was about to give one of his best performances in a movie that no one will probably ever see.

One of my favorite movies of all time is the dark and amazing drama "Cutter's Way" from 1981. If you like dark, low budget and unusual dramas with great acting I urge you to rent this right away. Hollywood used to make these offbeat films in the 70's that they wouldn't have the balls to make now. Along with one of the best performances by an actress ever on screen by Lisa Eichorn, Jeff Bridges was outstanding. He played the friend of a delusional Vietnam veteran played by John Heard who thinks a prominent businessman is a murderer. The scenes with Bridges and Lisa Eichorn who plays Heard's wife are powerful and should be studied in acting classes. I love this strange, original throwback to 40's detective films with one of the most haunting and best musical scores. Jeff Bridges was one of the first actors who measured his big Hollywood films with small, independent movies that didn't fit the norm. Jeff Bridges would then make a groundbreaking computer game based film that is one of the first of it's kind. I saw "Tron" multiple times as a child because I thought it was so cool. Now it might look dated and cheap in it's special effects but I saw it recently and it is still cool and Jeff Bridges is again very good not letting the effects overwhelm him.

Jeff Bridges would again be nominated for an Oscar in 1985 for the 1984 sci fi film "Starman" directed by John Carpenter. The movie is very good and a lot of fun and Jeff Bridges made what could have been a gimmick performance one of his best ever. He is incredible playing an alien who crash lands to Earth and takes over the dead body of Karen Allen's husband. As he awkwardly tries to inhabit and move around in this new body Bridges is amazing. It is a detailed, flawless and funny performance that in lesser actor's hands could have been laughable. Bridges would then have a long string of good films and good performances in "Jagged Edge"
(85), "The Morning After" (86), "Nadine" (87) and "Tucker" (88). Then Jeff Bridges would give that subtle, non showy performance in one of my all time favorite movies about the music business or in this case non show business in "The Fabulous Baker Boys". Jeff Bridges should have been nominated for this movie because he is amazing but he wasn't nominated because the Academy has a hard time picking a performance where the actor doesn't scream. In one of the sexiest scenes ever on screen, Michelle Pfeiffer writhes around on the top of a piano and sings a sultry tune as Bridges plays the piano. What follows is an intimate, seduction scene that is extremely sexy and the chemistry between the two is amazing. This is such a great movie with wonderful performances and Bridges performance is highly under rated!

Then Bridges would follow that up with another good performance in Terry Gilliam's "The Fisher King" (91) but then later on in the decade he would get some star recognition. The Coen brothers "The Big Lebowski" is an iconic movie that has a rabid following and Jeff Bridges would create his most accessible and most popular roles in "The Dude". I wasn't wild about this movie when I first saw it and thought it over rated. Jeff Bridges turns a okay movie into greatness because he is so funny and good. The movie has grown on me since then and I do like it a lot now and I understand why it has such a following. "The Dude" is one of the best written roles ever and the character is a treasure making the movie over time a comedy and cult classic. I also love the fact that Bridges has made an appearance at the annual "Big Lebowski" fest. Another great thing about Bridges is how down to earth and genuine he comes off in his interviews. Jeff Bridges would again be nominated for an Oscar in a very great political film "The Contender" (00) and he would give more dependably good performances. He would even play a "Dude" like character in the comedy failure "The Men Who Stare At Goats" this year and yes he was the best thing about the movie.

Then 2009 would bring the most under rated actor of our time the praise that he always deserved, his first win at the Oscars for "Crazy Heart". I am pretty happy to report that Jeff Bridges is a lock to win that elusive prize. His performance in "Crazy Heart" is one of the best performances ever by an actor on screen. Bridges plays Bad Blake, a country singer who is a little washed up and on his last legs. He plays mostly small taverns and seedy dives and is always pressured by his agent to write and sing new songs. He strikes up a relationship with a reporter played by Maggie Gyllenhaal and then a surprising and unusual love story builds. Jeff Bridges is flawless in this role, disappears into the role so you actually believe he is Blake. This is another detailed but natural performance that feels lived in and comfortable. He is so good at his singing and mannerisms that he comes off as a real life mix of Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson. There is never a false note and it was such an extreme joy to me to see my favorite actor give the performance of his life. Jeff Bridges is an example of that employee at work who never gets appreciated and toils away giving the best he has and his heart to it all. Then finally he gets his supreme recognition from his peers and now he has proven how valuable he is. Jeff Bridges has won a Golden Globe and a SAG award and got a warm, standing ovation at the SAG awards. It's about time and the proof was there that he is and had been respected by more people then just an avid movie lover. When Bridges wins the Oscar and he will, he will get an even bigger ovation and I guarantee I will cry tears of joy! Some actors and directors just touch my heart and make me blindly follow them anywhere. Jeff Bridges is one of those artists.

So before I go into my year end wrap up I would like to point out other forms of entertainment that were great in 2009. First of all in television there was "Lost", "American Idol", and "24" that had great seasons and I enjoy those shows. The best new shows on television are "Glee" and "Modern Family". If you haven't seen both there is a certain happiness that is missing from your life. "Glee" has future movie stars in it's cast including the wonderful Lea Michelle plus two great comic actresses in Jayma Mays and Jane Lynch. It is extremely fun every week with great songs, dance numbers, comedy and a lot of heart. I have never laughed more in a half hour at a comedy then I do with "Modern Family". Not since "Cheers" has there been such a wonderful cast of great actors. Every episode is hilarious and warm and inviting and the cast as a whole should win one big Emmy award. The best drama on television is "Friday Night Lights". First shown on Direct TV, it is then re aired on NBC and it is a powerful and deeply touching drama especially if you have ever been a parent or coached sports. It has spawn hot sex symbols like Taylor Kitsch and Minka Kelly ready for the big screen. It also has two of the best actors on television in Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton. They are so believable as a couple that I always wish that Connie Britton would be my wife in real life. The show never gets nominations or awards so I will crown it the best show on television. Also the "Twilight" movies wish they were half as great and entertaining as the wonderfully over the top "True Blood" on HBO. This is what a show about vampires should be like, scary, bloody. gloriously silly and very sexy!

In music I am always addicted to WXRT which is the best radio station in Chicago. Whenever I feel that today's music really sucks I listen to WXRT and I am proven wrong. I also think that Snow Patrol's "Chasing Cars" is a beautiful song and should be in almost every movie. Music is an important part of movies and I know a great song can always give me ideals for my screenplays. "The Weary Kind" from the movie "Crazy Heart" is a beautiful and poetic song that gives the movie a little oomph and that's what a great song can always do for a movie. I also saw a few concerts this year and they were all great. "The Killers" put on a great show at Lollapalooza and they are a great blend of Bowie and Queen and I see them doing rock anthems for sports stadiums and movie soundtracks in the future. I have worn out their 2008 CD "Day and Age" and it is one of my favorite rock albums ever. I also saw "The Pretenders" at the Vic theatre and they were incredible and Chrissie Hynde is still sexy and spellbinding and at the top of her form.

Now here are the many wonderful and ghastly moments of the movie year 2009:

Robin Williams makes his best comedy in years with the very clever, dark and funny "World's Greatest Dad" and then does "Old Dogs" and the new and desperate Robin Williams comes back.

JK Simmons: is there a better and more reliable character actor out there? He was again memorable in small roles in "Extract" and "Up In The Air".

Gene Simmons should really act more, he is damn good on the big screen-"Extract"

I had a crush on Candy Clark when I was young and watched "American Graffiti: and "Blue Thunder" for the first time. She makes a good comeback in "The Informant".

Bill Murray's hilarious cameo in "Zombieland"

Many movies can't finish up their stories successfully. "Big Fan" has that rare perfect ending.

"Paranormal Activity" bringing back that old time type of scary movie with old fashioned scares and making lots of money. It was a breath of fresh air after too many Saw movies, It was a good year because Activity wasn't really the best horror movie of 2008.

The soundtrack, costume designs and art direction of "An Education" were outstanding

The soundtracks for "Adventureland" and "Pirate Radio" were fantastic and Adventureland is my pick for the best.

"The Weary Kind" from "Crazy Heart" was the best song in a movie in 2009

I loved the score for "Where The Wild Things Are"

The strong female cast of "Precious" was amazing.

The horror homage "The House Of The Devil" convinced me that I was watching an actual horror movie from the 80's. Flawless!

Welcome back Nicholas Cage! After a bunch of crap he comes back with "Knowing" and his amazing over the top performance in "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call, New Orleans". It's good to have the old psycho Cage back.

The flawless cinematography, art direction, costumes and look of designer Tom Ford's elegant debut "A Single Man"

Jeff Bridges and the wonderful Colin Ferrell singing a great duet in "Crazy Heart" and they do their own singing.

Fergie stealing the show in the very disappointing "Nine" singing the sexy and very hummable "Be Italian". Fergie the rock star meet Fergie the movie star?

The wonderful comic timing on display with it's great comedy cast of "It's Complicated". There are two great sequences in particular involving marijuana at a party and an affair at a hotel.

I loved the experience of watching The Jonas Brothers 3D experience. They are so...
Just joking, I missed that one.

"The Watchmen" on IMAX: Watch out for that big blue penis! I wonder if Billy Crudup got asked on a lot of dates after that one

The vomit scene in "I Love You, Man" ranking up there in my top ten of vomit scenes in movies. "Stand By Me" is still number one!

Lou Ferrigno's cameo in "I Love You, Man"

A new candidate for one of the ten best baseball movies of all time with "Sugar"

The cat fight between Beyonce and Ali Larter in "Obsessed" was pretty damn good and hot!

Michael Keaton's directing debut "The Merry Gentleman" was well made in Chicago and now another of my favorite actors becomes a good director

"Terminator: Salvation" was a huge bore and a major disappointment

The montage in "Up" where the life of Carl and his wife from marriage to death is shown set to a beautiful score by Michael Giacchino. If you don't feel any emotion or tear up during this you have no heart.

The horror movies "Orphan" and "Drag Me To Hell" having the balls to go over the top. They are outrageous and wacky but the energy is impressive as opposed to something ugly and dull like the "Friday The 13Th" remake. "My Bloody Valentine" in 3D was out there also but actually too weird

Mike Tyson's cameo in "The Hangover" was very funny and those who stayed for the end credits saw something special and hilarious. I always knew Carrot Top partied like that.

Sam Rockwell going the Jeff Bridges route giving great performances and not getting noticed. Last year was "Snow Angels", this year it was "Moon" and "Everybody's Fine"

Michelle Pfeiffer still looks breathtaking in her 50's in "Cheri". I remembered when I was young and every time I saw Michelle Pfeiffer I literally couldn't breathe. I had such a huge crush on her and I hope she can find the success that Meryl Streep has found as she got older. Yes women in their 50's and 60's can still be sex symbols

Kathryn Bigelow proving that soon we will no longer have a deep divide between male and female directors. We will no longer point out that that it is so wonderful that a woman directed such a great movie. So to all the young women out there that want to be directors need to never give up and pursue their dream no matter how many obstacles are put in your way. Kathryn Bigelow's direction of "The Hurt Locker" is one of the best jobs at directing a war movie by anybody, man or woman!

The very entertaining and joyful song montage set to Hall and Oates "You Make My Dreams Come True" in "500 Days Of Summer"

Meryl Streep is still on a major roll with two more great performances setting an example for actresses over 40 and 50 that there are still great roles out there

Classic Quentin Tarantino: His first half hour sequence in "Inglorious Basterds" is so suspenseful and terrifying that it alone is better than 99% of full length features that came out this past year.

Tyler Perry's Madea character is starting to grow on me.


"New In Town": Really? Do most female executives in companies have to be depicted as cold bitches in most movies? Until someone shows them that being kind and loving...

Seriously? A "Friday the 13Th" remake that is the same or even worse then the 25 other ones. How about a new slasher franchise and a new creepy killer

Seriously? A fourth "Fast & the Furious" movie? Were there people talking in a room one day and someone asked "What movie franchise have we been missing all these years that was so great". "Oh I know I have been dying for another Vin Diesel movie and a Fast and the Furious movie!" It did make a lot of money so I guess there were many conversations like that. Go figure.

Seriously? Matthew McConaughey, you are killing the romantic comedy. You and Kate Hudson need to pick up Hugh Grant and Sandra Bullock and go to bad romance movie rehab. Seriously? You were going to be an amazing actor! You are being sadly wasted!

Again Eddie Murphy, when is "Beverly Hills Cop 4" coming out? You are killing me with these bad kiddie comedies!

Why do film makers want to butcher classics like "The Bad News Bears" and "The Longest Yard"? Now this year they are joined by the terrible "Taking Of Pelham 1 2 3".

"The Ugly Truth": Seriously? That's how four women writers think professional women in the dating World act? The Katherine Heigl character is so badly written that I couldn't believe a restraining order wasn't put out on her.

Seriously? Sherlock Holmes as an action star? Really?

Your Table Is Ready. Memorable Performances By Future Stars

Mila Kunis-Extract
Amanda Seyfried-Jennifer's Body and next year's Dear John
Emma Stone-Zombieland
Michael Stuhlbarg-A Serious Man
Carey Mulligan-An Education
Michael Jai White-Black Dynamite
Spike Jonze-Where The Wild Things Are
Charlotte Gainsbourg-Antichrist
Paula Patton-Precious
Gabourey Sidibe-Precious
Ben Foster-The Messenger
Anna Kendrick-Up In The Air
Nicholas Hoult-A Single Man
Matthew Goode-A Single man
Saoirse Ronan-The Lovely Bones
John Krasinski-It's Complicated, Away We Go
Kevin James-Paul Blart Mall Cop
Jayma Mays-Paul Blart Mall Cop, Glee
Elizabeth Moss-El Camino, Mad Men
Kristen Stewart-Adventureland
Aishwarya Rai-Pink Panther 2
Jesse Eisenberg-Adventureland, Zombieland
Nicole Beharie-American Violet
Idris Alba-Obsessed
Taylor Kitsch-X Men Origins:Wolverine
Lynn Collins-Wolverine
Kelly McDonald-The Merry Gentleman
Zoe Saldana-Star Trek, Avatar
Sam Worthington-Avatar
Anna Friel-Land of the Lost
Maya Rudolph-Away We Go
Zach Galfinakis-The Hangover
Bradley Cooper-The Hangover
Evan Rachel Wood-Whatever Works
Jeremy Renner-The Hurt Locker
Abigail Breslin-Zombieland
Vera Farmiga-Up In The Air, Orphan
Pell James-Shrink
Keke Palmer-Shrink
Leslie Mann-Funny People
Jane Lynch-Julie & Julia, Glee
Kiele Sanchez-A Perfect Getaway
Timothy Olyphant-A Perfect Getaway
Sharlto Copley-District 9
Christoph Waltz-Inglorious Basterds
Melanie Laurent-Inglorious Basterds
Taraji P. Henson-Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All By Myself

I'm In Love With

Aishwarya Rai-Pink Panther. I was so caught up in her beauty and the way she looked on the screen that I forgot what movie I was watching. I am serious. I then realized oh yes I was watching The Pink Panther with Steve Martin with gray hair and a black mustache. Maybe Roger Ebert is right, she is the most beautiful woman in the World!

Elizabeth Moss-El Camino, Mad Men
Emily Blunt-The Young Victoria, Sunshine Cleaning
Sofia Vergara-Madea Goes To Jail, Modern Family
Paul Rudd-I Love You, Man
Kathryn Bigelow-The Hurt Locker
Zooey Deschanel-500 Days Of Summer
Joseph Gordon Levitt-500 Days Of Summer
Vera Farmiga-Up In The Air, Orphan-Sexiest actress of 2009
Jane Lynch-Julie & Julia, Glee. The Meryl Streep of comedy!
Melanie Laurent-Inglorious Basterds-Very beautiful
Mila Kunis- Extract
Kristen Wiig-Whip It
Carey Mulligan-An Education-The second coming of Audrey Hepburn
Catherine Keener-Where The Wild Things Are-My wife
Sandra Bullock-The Blind Side-Always had a crush on her
Michelle Pfeiffer-Cheri-Been in love with her since I was 12

New Faces of 2009

Jamal Woodard-Notorious
Vinessa Shaw-Two Lovers
Sofia Vergara-Madea Goes To Jail, Modern Family
Keshia Knight Pulliam-Madea Goes To Jail-A long way from The Cosby Show
Alice Eve-Crossing Over. Naked a lot in the movie, very upsetting!
Summer Bishil-Crossing Over
Lizzy Kaplan-Crossing Over, True Blood
Colin Hanks-The Great Buck Howard
Rashida Jones-I Love You, Man
Red West-Goodbye Solo
Souleymane SySavanne-Goodbye Solo
Martin Starr-Adventureland
Algenis Perez Soto-Sugar
Ali Larter-Obsessed
Larry David-Whatever Works
Sofia Vassilieva-My Sister's Keeper
Evan Ellington-My Sister's Keeper
Emma Booth-The Boys Are Back
Nicholas McAulty-The Boys Are Back
Fred Melamed-A Serious Man
Timothy Spall-The Damned United
Michael Sheen-The Damned United
Colm Meaney-The Damned United
Max Records-Where The Wild Things Are
Sherri Shepherd-Precious
Lenny Kravitz-Precious
Mariah Carey-Precious
Greta Gerwig-The House Of The Devil
Jocelin Donahue-The House Of The Devil
Steve Buscemi-The Messenger
Kodi Smit-McPhee-The Road
Adam Rodriguez-Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All By Myself

Fair Movies of 2009 Good For a Rainy Day Rental

The Uninvited: David Straithairn, Elizabeth Banks
The Last House On The Left: Tony Goldwyn, Monica Potter
Tokyo! (Japan)
The Soloist: Robert Downey Jr., Jamie Foxx
The Brothers Bloom: Mark Ruffalo, Adrien Brody
Whatever Works: Larry David, Evan Rachel Wood
Cheri: Michelle Pfeiffer
Public Enemies: Johnny Depp, Christian Bale
Julia: Tilda Swinton
Ice Age 3: Age Of The Dinosaurs
Shrink: Kevin Spacey, Keke Palmer
Taking Woodstock: Demitri Martin
Bright Star: Abbie Cornish
Law Abiding Citizen: Jamie Foxx, Gerard Butler
Antichrist: Willem Dafoe, Charlotte Gainsbourg
Broken Embraces: Penelope Cruz
The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus: Heath Ledger, Christopher Plummer

The Bad Movies of 2009

New In Town: Renee Zelwegger, Harry Connick Jr.
Confessions of a Shopaholic: Isla Fisher
Friday the 13Th
12 Rounds: John Cena
Fighting: Channing Tatum
Terminator: Salvation
Angels & Demons: Tom Hanks
I Love You Beth Cooper: Hayden Panitierre
Surrogates: Bruce Willis

And now the Ten Worst Movies of 2009:

10.) Fast & Furious: Director: Justin Lin. Vin Diesel, Paul Walker

Boring & Dumb would better describe this boneheaded attempt to bring back a franchise that died with the third Tokyo movie. All the same chases and action that were in the first one with pretty much the same plot.

9.) The Proposal: Director: Anne Fletcher. Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds

See, a bad movie can be made by a woman too. Now that is equality for this movie is yet another fake, desperate romantic comedy where the leads have no chemistry. So why would I want them to get together. This is desperate as in the best parts involve a foul mouthed Betty White.

8.) Land Of The Lost: Director: Brad Silberling. Will Ferrell

This was pretty much a bad ideal and the result was a bomb that nobody cared about. Will Ferrell is supposed to be in comedies where he is the main clown and comic force. You don't sorround a gifted comic with special effects unless it is something that is truly funny like "Ghostbusters".

7.) Couples Retreat: Director: Peter Bilingsley. Vince Vaughn

Yes Vince Vaughn is the funniest part of this movie but it isn't because of the screenplay. His rapid fire delivery of dialogue is priceless and good here but the situations this movie dreams up are so badly written and not funny. Watch "The Hangover" and Vaughn's "Wedding Crashers" and those who liked this movie might change their minds. Those are truly funny, classic comedies! This sucks!

6.) He's Just Not That Into You: Director: Ken Kwapis, An all star cast that knows better.

Hey look it's another bad romantic comedy where I cringed every time the characters spoke. These are such phony, pretentious people and all their stories are so uninteresting. There is no way real people in real life act like this. Those who liked this movie must check out "Love, Actually" and then they will change their minds about this one.

5.) G. I. Joe: Rise Of Cobra: Director: Stephen Sommers. Dennis Quaid

Hey it's the director of the awful Mummy movies with another truly deadly and boring action adventure. This is all explosions, chases, bad dialogue and it's confusing as hell. The special effects are actually cheesier and more awful then Land Of The Lost!

4.) The Ugly Truth: Director: Robert Luketic. Katherine Heigl, Gerard Butler

Well what do you know, there is a theme going on here. Why it's another excruciating romantic comedy. The strange thing is how four women writers can write a movie that hates women so much. The Katherine Heigl character is in no way representative of what a real woman is. She is the most annoying and shallow characters that I have ever seen. She also has zero chemistry with Butler so again why should I want to see them hook up at the end?

3.) Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen: Director: Michael Bay. Megan Fox

I admit I did like the first Transformers movie and thought it was surprisingly fun but man did I hate this one. I really don't like Michael Bay and I have only liked one of his movies. This is so long and so loud and so confusing and so hard to sit through. It is just wall to wall noise and explosions and I couldn't even figure out the difference between good Transformers and bad ones. Maybe name tags next time like Bad Transformer, Good Transformer.

2.) Did You Hear About the Morgans?: Director: Marc Lawrence. Hugh Grant, Sarah Jessica Parker.

Guess what kind of movie this is? If you guessed a romantic comedy then you get a gold star. Oh my God this was such a desperate comedy with not one laugh. The laughs are all forced and I am getting tired of the Hugh Grant mannerisms. In a bad movie like this it comes off as super annoying. This is like a bad sitcom pilot though it wouldn't even be half as good as that "Caveman" show.

And drum roll please...

1.) Old Dogs: Director: Walt Becker. John Travolta, Robin Williams

So I heard a lot of families went to see this and had a great time. I hate to say this but if your family found this funny I do not want to hang around your family any time soon. This is an embarrassment for everyone involved from top to bottom. I beg anyone to find this comedy truly funny and if you convince me you found it funny I will give you $100. Since when does causing people physical pain mixed with poop jokes make good comedy? I have to truly mention also that I think John Travolta and Robin Williams give very awful performances, the worst of their career. Watch the trailer instead and that is the whole movie wrapped up in 3 minutes.

The Good Movies of 2009

Timecrimes (Spain)
Notorious: Jamal Woodard, Alfre Woodard
Paul Blart Mall Cop: Kevin James, Jayma Mays
Taken: Liam Neeson
Coraline (3D animated)
Two Lovers: Joaquin Pheonix, Gwyneth Paltrow, Vinessa Shaw
Harvard Beats Yale 29-29 (Documentary) Narrated By Tommy Lee Jones
Watchmen: Billy Crudup, Jackie Earle Haley
Sunshine Cleaning: Amy Adams, Emily Blunt
Duplicity: Julia Roberts, Clive Owen
Knowing: Nicholas Cage
The Great Buck Howard: John Malcovich, Colin Hanks
Sin Nombre (Mexico)
State Of Play: Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck
Informers: Mickey Rourke
Obsessed: Idris Alba, Beyonce, Ali Larter, Bruce McGill
Tyson (Documentary)
The Merry Gentleman: Michael Keaton, Kelly McDonald
Star Trek: Zoe Saldana, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto
The Girlfriend Experience: Director: Steven Soderbergh. Sasha Grey
Drag Me To Hell: Alison Lohman, Justin Long
Moon: Sam Rockwell
Bruno: Sacha Baron Cohen
Il Divo (Italy)
Orphan: Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard
A Perfect Getaway: Steve Zahn, Kiele Sanchez
World's Greatest Dad: Robin Williams
The Informant!: Matt Damon
The Boys Are Back: Clive Owen, Emma Booth
The Invention Of Lying: Ricky Gervais, Jennifer Garner
Paranormal Activity
Black Dynamite: Michael Jai White
A Christmas Carol: Jim Carrey
The Fantastic Mr. Fox: Voices: George Clooney, Meryl Streep
2012: John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet
Pirate Radio: Phillip Seymour Hoffman
The Road: Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee
Everybody's Fine: Robert Deniro, Sam Rockwell, Drew Barrymore, Kate Beckinsale
Invictus: Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon
The Lovely Bones: Saoirse Ronan, Stanley Tucci
The Young Victoria: Emily Blunt, Rupert Friend, Jim Broadbent
It's Complicated: Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin, John Krasinski
Julie & Julia: Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci, Jane Lynch
Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All By Myself

Best Acting of 2009

Best Acting (Male) Supporting Role

Ryan Reynolds-Adventureland
Robert Downey Jr.-The Soloist
Anthony Mackie-The Hurt Locker
Christoph Waltz-Inglorious Basterds
Matt Damon-Invictus
Woody Harrelson-Zombieland
Timothy Spall-The Damned United
Kevin Corrigan-Big Fan
Alfred Molina-An Education
Peter Sarsgaard-An Education
Alec Baldwin-It's Complicated

Best Acting (Female) Supporting Role

Emily Blunt-Sunshine Cleaning
Cameron Diaz-My Sister's Keeper
Diane Kruger-Inglorious Basterds
Kristen Wiig-Whip It
Paula Patton-Precious
Mariah Carey-Precious
Samantha Morton-The Messenger
Vera Farmiga-Up In The Air
Anna Kendrick-Up In The Air
Maggie Gyllenhaal-Crazy Heart
Julianne Moore-A Single man

Best Acting (Male) Leading Role

Red West-Goodbye Solo
Souleymane Sy Savanne-Goodbye Solo
Jesse Eisenberg-Adventureland
Jamie Foxx-The Soloist
Ed Asner-Up
Jeremy Renner-The Hurt Locker
Joseph Gordon Levitt-500 Days Of Summer
Matt Damon-The Informant!
Michael Stuhlbarg-A Serious Man
Patton Oswalt-Big Fan
Woody Harrelson-The Messenger
Ben Foster-The Messenger
Nicholas Cage-Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans
Christian McKay-Me and Orson Welles
Tobey Maguire-Brothers
George Clooney-Up In The Air
Jeff Bridges-Crazy Heart
Colin Firth-A Single Man
Viggo Mortensen-The Road

Best Acting (Female) Leading Role

Emily Blunt-The Young Victoria
Amy Adams-Sunshine Cleaning
Kristen Stewart-Adventureland
Nicole Beharie-American Violet
Maya Rudolph-Away We Go
Tilda Swinton-Julia
Meryl Streep-Julie & Julia, It's Complicated
Melanie Laurent-Inglorious Basterds
Abbie Cornish-Bright Star
Carey Mulligan-An Education
Gabourey Sidibe-Precious
Sandra Bullock-The Blind Side
Saoirse Ronan-The Lovely Bones

Best Of The Best

Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz-Inglorious Basterds
Best Supporting Actress: Monique-Precious
Best Actor: Jeff Bridges-Crazy Heart
Best Actress-Carey Mulligan-An Education and Gabourey Sidibe-Precious (A Tie)

Outstanding Movies Of 2009

1.) Every Little Step (Documentary)

Producer and Director: James D. Stern

This fascinating documentary mixes the current production of "A Chorus Line" with the old one in the early 70's. If you are an actor who always wanted to be on the Broadway stage, this is a must see. It captures the stress and hard work it takes to get a role on a major Broadway musical.

2.) My Sister's Keeper
Writers: Jeremy Leven and Nick Cassavettes
Director: Nick Cassavettes
Starring: Abigail Breslin, Alec Baldwin, Cameron Diaz

This tearjerker was hated by most critics but I am a moviegoer so I fell for this touching and funny disease movie that this year's "Extraordinary Measures" should have studied. Cameron Diaz gives one of her best performances and the love story concerning the dying girl is beautiful.

3.) Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince
Writer: Steve Kloves
Director: David Yates
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson

A great set up for the two movie finale, this is the second best Potter movie next to "Prisoner Of Azkhaban". I like that the films are getting darker and the three major actors have grown up and give more in depth performances. The writer Steve Kloves (Fabulous Baker Boys) is outstanding at adapting these books into dark, powerful and suspenseful movies.

4.) In The Loop

Writers: Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell and Tony Roche
Writer and Director: Armando Ianucci
Starring: James Gandolfini, David Rasche, Anna Chlumsky

This very funny British comedy has rapid fire dialogue, great characters and very funny political humor. This is a movie where it is a joy to listen to everyone talk. It demands a second screening just to get all the funny dialogue you missed the first time. So what you have here is a comedy you can watch again and again.

5.) Funny People
Writer and Director: Judd Apatow
Starring: Adam Sandler, Leslie Mann, Seth Rogen, Eric Bana

This movie is a little overlong but there are so many great actors, characters and heartfelt moments. Judd Apatow gives us a more grown up and deeper comedy than he usually gives. This movie is a seamless blend of drama and comedy. Adam Sandler is very good and Leslie Mann is a treasure again. She is an actress that makes me laugh every time I see her and she can make any movie better.

6.) The Cove (Documentary)

Director: Louie Psihoyos

This sobering and powerful documentary deals with the slaughter of dolphins in Japan. What you have here is a documentary that has an evil villain and great suspense as a group of Americans try to capture the slaughter on camera. This will outrage you, keep you fascinated and maybe on the edge of your seat.

7.) A Serious Man
Writers and Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen
Starring: Michael Stuhlbarg, Fred Melamed

This is a different kind of Coen brothers film that is more personal for them. It is very funny and very Jewish which turned off a lot of movie goers. I found it funny, strange,touching and very off beat and dark. It was like a twisted fable with a lot of funny situations. Stage actor Michael Stuhlbarg is outstanding in his first big screen role.

8.) The Damned United
Writer: Peter Morgan based on book by David Pearce
Starring: Michael Sheen, Colm Meaney, Timothy Spall

The writer of "The Queen" and "Frost/Nixon" strikes again with a very compelling sports movie that is so much more. Michael Sheen is wonderful again as a coach trying to coach his rival team to a championship but failing because of his ego. This has a wonderful cast and this is really about the friendship and it's ups and downs between Sheen and Timothy Spall. The acting is wonderful and the story touching.

9.) This Is It
Director: Kenny Ortega Michael Jackson

I really had no desire to see this movie but it turned out to be the best surprise of the movie year. The film takes a detailed look at what were to be a triumphant return for Michael Jackson. Unfortunately Michael passed away but what is left is a look at a real, vulnerable and human person who also was a musical genius. It is great to hear the music again and to see him perform. What is also left is a very sad feeling because I feel Michael was going to come back in a big way and in a positive way this time.

10.) The Blind Side
Writer: John Lee Hancock
Director: John Lee Hancock
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw

Sandra Bullock gives the best performance of her career in this inspiring sports movie that doesn't make you sick. This could have been a sap fest that would make you roll your eyes but I found the football scenes very effective. What it comes down to is that the movie does a flawless job at getting you to cheer and watching Bullock is a lot of fun.

11.) A Single Man
Writers: Tom Ford and David Scearce based on
novel by Christopher Isherwood
Director: Tom Ford
Starring: Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Matthew Goode

This movie is a joy to look at with it's breathtaking photography (best of the year), set design and costumes. Colin Firth gives his best performance of his career in this 60's set film about a gay man trying to get over his lover's death. This misses the masterpiece mark because the second half withers but it is a lot more fun than I imagined. I was in a hypnotic trance during the first half because it is so beautiful to look at!

My Top 30 Movies Of 2009

30.) Away We Go
Writers: Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida
Director: Sam Mendes
Starring: Maya Rudolph, John Krasinski

This is a very touching story about marriage and finding your way and your own sense of family. Maya Rudolph is amazing in her first lead role and it is Oscar caliber work. This is basically a road trip movie that is fun and moving and these are people we actually like. John Krasinski is also very good and has a good movie career ahead of him.

29.) Brothers
Writer: David Benioff based on 2004 film by Susanne Bier
Director: Jim Sheridan
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Natalie Portman, Jake Gyllenhaal

This is a powerul and intimate drama about a returning soldier from Iraq whose return is full of doubt and paranoia. The scenes in Iraq are tense and powerful and the family drama at the end explodes into huge emotion. Tobey Maguire gives his best performance and Natalie Portman is beautiful and adds layers to the wife character. This is one of the best movies that deal with the effects of war on a soldier and the people who sorround him.

28.) American Violet
Writer and Producer: Bill Haney
Director: Tim Disney
Starring: Nicole Beharie, Alfre Woodard

This is very compelling social drama with a great debut performance by Nicole Beharie. This is also a very good courtroom drama that deals with a very powerful deposition. This is good social drama that reminds me of the social films of the 30's and 40's.

27.) Gomorrah
Writer: Maurizio Braucci
Director: Mateo Garrone
Starring: Salvatore Abruzzese

This Italian gangster film is not your typical "Godfather", "Good Fellas" type story. This is a gritty, violent and terrifying street crime movie. The violence is realistic, the characters authentic and the situations full of real blood and bullets. This feels like we are eavesdropping on a documentary capturing these killers doing evil and unspeakable things.

26.) The Class
Writers: Francois Begaudeau, Robin Campillo and Laurent Cantet
Director: Laurent Cantet
Starring: Francois Begaudeau

This french film is one of the best movies to deal with teachers and the class room. This is a must see for any teacher because of it's careful look at trying to reach students in a difficult enviornment. The movie is mostly set in a class room as teacher Francois deals with difficult students. This has great realistic dialogue and it is refreshing that a movie can stay in one place. Most high school movies try to add phony drama outside the school but this one is focused on just teaching.

25.) Goodbye Solo
Writer and Director: Ramin Bahrani
Starring: Red West, Souleymane Sy Savanne

This very low budget relationship movie is by the talented and always reliable Ramin Bahrani who is becoming a master storyteller. His film is about small things that people deal with in daily life. This movie creates a beautiful and touching story of friendship and the two strangers who find each other. The two lead performances are two of the best of the year equal to a Clooney or a Firth performance.

24.) I Love You, Man
Writer and Director: John Hamburg
Starring: Paul Rudd, Jason Siegel, Rashida Jones, Lou Ferrigno

This is just plainly a very funny and well written movie that Judd Apatow would be proud of. It also has one of the best and funniest vomit scenes of all time. The great Paul Rudd and Jason Siegel are very funny here, the perfect straight man and the comic clown. The movie is just great goofy fun with a lot of laugh out loud moments.

23.) Whip It
Writer: Shauna Cross based on her book Derby Girl
Director: Drew Barrymore
Starring: Ellen Page, Kristen Wiig, Zoe Bell, Juliette Lewis

Girl empowerment rules in this fun and energetic look at the lost art of the Roller Derby. Drew Barrymore makes her directing debut with a big cast of strong actresses including Ellen Page in the lead. Ellen Page has that quality that makes you want to follow her and if you like physically strong women you will be very happy with this movie. This has it's clumsy moments but there are some scenes that are true gems. Some of them involve the Page character and a mother figure played wonderfully by Kristen Wiig. The others are touching scenes between a mother and daughter played so well by Page and Marcia Gay Harden. This turns out to be a strong movie of a teenage girl finding her voice and strength.

22.) District 9
Writers: Neil Blomkamp and Teri Tatchell
Director: Neil Blomkamp
Starring: Sharlto Copley

This is a highly original and entertaining science fiction film that has some great scenes of action and surprisingly sharp humor. Neil Blomkamp is a film maker to keep an eye out for. The final half hour is too cluttered but the beginning is a masterpiece with a well written story with a deep social statement. It also has a lot of good gore and violence.

21.) Extract
Writer and Director: Mike Judge
Starring: Jason Bateman, Mila Kunis, JK Simmons,
Gene Simmons, Kristen Wiig, Clifton Collins Jr.

This movie is a great second half of a double bill with "Office Space" both by the gifted Mike Judge. This is a movie about funny characters more than just broad jokes. Jason Bateman is becoming a very good and dependable actor and he is fantastic here, he knows to handle comedy. There is a great supporting cast and I feel over time this will become a cult classic like "Office Space".

Top 20

20.) Big Fan
Writer and Director: Robert Siegel
Starring: Patton Oswalt, Kevin Corrigan, Michael Rappaport

This is a very distrubing, dark and hilarious comedy by the wonderful writer of "The Wrestler" which was my number one movie of 2008. This movie was so scary to me because I know Cubs fans who are like the main character. Patton Oswalt is wonderful as a fanatic New York Giants fan who follows his favorite football player who winds up beating him up. This movie brilliantly captures the crazy fandom and how they call radio sports stations and rant and rave. This movie is like Martin Scorcese tried to go back to his independent roots. This is very funny, dark and scary with a perfect ending.

19.) Zombieland
Writers: Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone,
Abigail Breslin, Bill Murray

I am so sick of the Zombie movie genre that I had a field day with this very funny and gory parody. What is so great is that on it's own it makes a scary Zombie movie that is a lot of fun. Woody Harrelson is priceless and very good here, Emma Stone is nice to look at and Jesse Eisenberg is nailing this wry, outsider role. Great shocks, gore, a wonderful Bill Murray and a finale at an amusement park that is genius.

18.) Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans

Writer: William Finklestein
Director: Werner Herzog
Starring: Nicholas Cage, Val Kilmer, Eva Mendes

This is fun, over the top and warped but also one of the best times I had at a movie this year. The old and wacky Cage is back and no one can ham it up like Cage because he makes it look sane. This actually has a very solid and entertaining story with scenes that make you feel like you are on drugs. The movie is so out of whack but manages to wrap up in a nice little bow at the end.

17.) Me and Orson Welles
Writers: Holly Gent and Vincent Palmo
based on novel by Robert Kaplow
Director: Richard Linklater
Starring: Christiam McKay, Zak Effron, Claire Danes

This is a loving and touching tribute to Orson Welles, acting and the stage. Christian McKay is amazing and solid as Orson Welles and he captures him brilliantly.
People who love acting and the stage will find this very touching and deep. Richard Linklater is a director who picks something different for every one of his films. Here he masters his subject again and the film's look is flawless capturing it's time and place.

16.) The Messenger
Writers: Alessandro Camon and Oren Moverman
Director: Oren Moverman
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Ben Foster, Samantha Morton

Along with "Brothers" this is a very strong and powerful look at the after effects of war. Two soldiers have the task of informing family members that a loved one has died in combat. Woody Harrelson gives a perfect and moving performance and Ben Foster is his equal. This movie is quietly powerful and the scenes where Harrelson and Foster talk about war, their struggles and pain are priceless and strong. There is also a touching love story in the middle with Samantha Morton.

15.) Anvil: The Story of Anvil

Director: Sacha Gervasi

This is an amazing rock documentary that ranks with some of the best. This real life "This Is Spinal Tap" would be a great double feature with that classic. This is the story of the early 80's heavy metal band Anvil. The documentary crew tries to track down the band in present day. They were going to be a major success but life took over and the band tries to make a comeback. What you have here are two of the most memorable movie subjects you will ever see in band members Steve "Lips" Kudlow and Robb Reiner. This is an amazing story of the rise, fall and then again rise to rock stardom. This movie is very funny, entertaining with good music and is suprisingly deep and touching. The life struggles and rocky road to success depicted here is a lot of fun to watch and very powerful.

14.) Sugar
Writers and Directors: Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden
Starring: Angelis Perez Soto

This movie now ranks as one of the best baseball movies ever made! The writing and directing team to one of the best movies of the past decade (Full Nelson) strike again with this beautiful and compelling story. They do to baseball what they did to teaching and that is present the hard facts and enlighten us. This is the story of Miguel Santos played to perfection by first time actor Angelis Soto. He is a very young Dominican pitcher who tries to get his family out of poverty by becoming a successful closer in the big leagues. He has talent and athletic ability but this movie doesn't provide an easy tidy wrap up. This movie goes in an original direction and the ending surprised me because it seemed real and independent cinema can do that. This to me seems like a real depiction of how hard it is to make it in sports even though you have fierce talent and ability. The movie is moving, inspiring and finally bittersweet. It has no stars or a big budget but it is huge in heart and it knows baseball.

13.) An Education

Writer: Nick Hornby based om memoir by Lynn Barber
Director: Lone Scherfig
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina

Once in a while a new actress makes a debut performance that is so assured, so amazing that once you see her you know you have seen a star. Just like that Carey Mulligan gives one of the two best performances by an actress in 2009. I love Audrey Hepburn for she is my favorite actress of all time. I would not throw around this lightly but Carey Mulligan reminds me more of Audrey than any actress I have seen. She is outstanding in this very beautiful looking and moving story. This is a strong women's picture and I can't tell you how rare that is. There is nothing better than seeing a strong movie about a young woman finding her strength and direction. Mulligan plays a young British girl in high school who gets involved with a man who could be trouble. I reccomend this movie for woman and even younger women who struggle to find their way in life at any age. Peter Saarsgaard and Alfred Molina are also wonderful in this movie. The movie is perfect in it's recreation of the 60's and you will fall in love with the costumes, the look and Mulligan. She is radiant, graceful and has a smile that lights up the screen. She is already in demand in Hollywood so you will see a lot of her soon. It will be a career I will be watching in breathless anticipation.

12.) The next two movies I wanted in my Top Ten list because they are so entertaining and I had so much fun watching them so call this movie 10 B.

The House Of The Devil
Writer and Director: Ti West
Starring: Jocelin Donahue, Greta Gerwig, Tom Noonan,
Mary Woronov

I urge everyone who hasn't seen this movie to rent it right away on DVD for it is a very scary and delightful horror movie. This is my favorite horror movie since "The Silence Of The Lambs" in 1991. That is how sad the horror movie genre has been. This is a flawless recreation of those late 70's, early 80's slasher films that you saw when drive-ins were still with us. This is a movie you watch at home, pop some popcorn, sit with someone you love or want to score with and get scared. This is perfect at creating a time, a place, a mood and unbelievable suspense with a shocking, gruesome and funny ending. I swear watching this that I thought I was seeing a movie actually made in the early 80's. The actors are great, the direction is the best I have seen for a horror movie and the movie is plain fun. Tom Noonan and Mary Woronov, who are great pros at this, are super creepy, Jocelin Donahue and Greta Gerwig are great as the teen girls. Greta Gerwig is even starring with Ben Stiller in his next movie. Ti West has made a remarkable horror homage from the heart, the kind that no one cares to make anymore. With this and "Paranormal Ac
tivity" the horror movie might have hope. By the way, this and Activity would make a great double feature!

10 A) The Hangover
Writers: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore, Jeremy Garelick
Writer and Director: Todd Phillips
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Justin Bartha, Zack Galfinakis,
Ken Leung, Mike Tyson, Ed Helms, Heather Graham

The writer and director of "Old School" has made the flat out funniest movie of 2009! This was a little of a surprise because I didn't expect a classic comedy equal to "Stripes", "Animal House", "Wedding Crashers" or "Caddyshack". This deserved to be a monster hit because it is hilarious from the first frame to the last. This movie has balls and is not afraid to hold anything back in the raunchiness department. I am a little tired of these big Hollywood comedies playing it safe. The best compliment I can give this is that I laughed my ass off! Bradley Cooper is a major star now because of this and Zack Galfinakis is now in major demand. Galfinakis might be the new John Belushi for I have been a fan of his for years and he is very funny. I hope in the coming years there will be more comedies as bold and as hilarious as this one.

10.) Crazy Heart
Writer and Director: Scott Cooper based on novel by Tom Cobb
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gylenhaal, Colin Ferrell,
Robert Duvall

This movie is a very enjoyable and poignant depiction of a fading Country singer made into an even greater film thanks to the performance of Jeff Bridges. He is pitch perfect as a down on his luck, drunk and fading singer named Bad Blake. He is reduced to playing in bowling alleys and seedy bars. He can barely function and won't write new songs but redemption might be coming. That redemption is in the love of a woman tenderly played by Maggie Gyllenhaal who is outstanding again. This is a leisurely movie that creates a classic character played by one of our finest actors in Bridges. The movie has a beautiful song in "The Weary Kind" plus a great turn by Colin Farrell who Blake had mentored and has turned into a major star. Colin Farrell is fast making my list of actors now that I can't wait to see in more movies. The movie has a nice touch by director Scott Cooper letting the story unfold. What it comes down to is one of the most under appreciated actors giving one of the best performances ever by an actor. What a glorious sight it will be when Jeff Bridges stands up and makes his speech after winning an Oscar!

9.) Where The Wild Things Are
Writer: Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers based on book by
Maurice Sendak
Director: Spike Jonze
Starring: Max Records, James Gandolfini, Catherine
Keener, Catherine O'Hara, Forest Whitaker

This is one of the best children's films I have ever seen and I swear it will be a future classic years from now. The fact that it has divided people more than any film where people actually hate it makes me love it even more. This will actually be appreciated by adults more than kids but if they are a little older they will fall in love with this. This movie isn't afraid to be what most childrens films are and that is very dark and scary. "Wizard Of Oz", "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory", see what I mean? I am tired of seeing movies aimed at kids that are fast and cluttered junk. This is a very grown up movie and has what real kids face in life, wonderment, imagination, pain, doubt, fears. The creatures voiced by some wonderful actors are actually very cool for I thought they would distract me. This movie has a beautiful, dark look to it that is hypnotic and the movie turns out to be very beautiful and powerful. Max Records gives one of the most mature and assured performances I have ever seen by a child actor. Let your imagination run away with you and pass this film on to young minds that are full of imagination. This movie captures a child's mind and imagination better than most movies I have seen.

8.) Up
Writers: Bob Peterson and Pete Docter
Director: Pete Docter
Voices: Ed Asner, John Ratzenberger

Pixar can do no wrong with this very funny and delightful movie that kids as well as adults can enjoy. What a wonderful gift Pixar has been to everyone! Every movie that comes from Pixar seems to be an instant classic and "Up" is a lot of fun. The movie is beautiful to look at with it's colorful animation. The movie is very funny and also surprisingly moving. The relationship that grows between old man Carl and Russell is touching. The montage depicting Carl and his wife's life together created deep emotion and was breathtaking, funny and moving all at one time. It is set to some wonderful music and the score by Michael Giacchino, who is one of the best right now, is beautiful and stirring. So besides laughing your ass off and having fun you might also find yourself crying. This is what family entertainment is all about and it is that rare kid's movie that adults will see by themselves. Next up is "Toy Story 3" in 3D, see how wonderful Pixar is?

7.) The Hurt Locker
Writer: Mark Boal
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Starring: Jeremy renner, Anthony Mackie, Guy Pierce

This is simply one of the best movies about war directed by one of our finest and under appreciated directors. This is a tight, suspenseful and flawless little masterpiece of tension and suspense. Jeremy Renner gives a breakout and Oscar caliber performance as a bomb disposal soldier who is very reckless and either brave or brave and stupid. The direction by Bigelow is outstanding and so assured. There is not one false moment and the movie doesn't stop for a moment but somehow we learn a lot about the main character. This has a lot of tension, suspense and a very powerful story with a haunting ending. Kathryn Bigelow has been around a long time and she is so good. From her 1987 horror classic "Near Dark" to her great action movies like "Point Break" she knows how to create thrills and tension as good as any director out there.

6.) Precious
Writer: Geoffrey Fletcher based on novel "Push" by Saphire
Director Lee Daniels
Starring: Gabourey Sidibe, Monique, Paula Patton, Mariah Carey,
Lenny Kravitz, Sherri Shepherd

This is such a powerful and devastating movie that I can't really say that I found it a joy to watch but I think it is extremely important. I also found it it to be a little inspirational and I saw a light at the end of the tunnel. This is a very hard movie to write about so let me tell you I was shaken and very moved. I also will start out with two amazing performances, the best you will ever see. Gabourey Sidibe is a revelation and such a joy to watch as Precious who has grown up with a lot of pain and abuse especially from her mother played by comedianne Monique. Monique is outstanding as the mother and she creates one of the most despicable and hateful woman I have ever seen. The moments between her and Sidible are shattering and extremely powerful. I felt like crying the whole time I watched this but I also found tears of joy as I felt that some closure might come to Precious though it might never happen. This is very hard subject matter to watch but it must be told for all the abused girls and women to give them a voice and hope. This is about finding your self esteem and self worth. This movie has a wonderful supporting cast including Paula Patton as a teacher and social worker. Also Mariah Carey is a revelation here as another social worker. The scene at the end where the mother tries to explain her actions goes from guilt to shame to defiance to selfishness and is one of the most powerful scenes I have ever seen. I loved how there were as many people who cared about Precious as there were people who were mean and vindictive to her which I find realistic because there is love out there to combat the pain. There is a lot of pain here but also a lot of hope and love at the other end. I find it hard to write any kind of review for this movie because words can't really do it justice. It is an emotionally draining movie that is also beautiful and somewhat inspiring. It is a very important movie that must be seen and the performances are powerful.

5.) Avatar
Writer and Director: James Cameron
Starring: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver,
Stephen Lang, Giovanni Ribisi, Michelle Rodriguez

So I was nine years old when I saw "Star Wars" with my father and something happened to me that I never experienced before. I was transported to another World and for the first time in my life I felt a chill go through me watching a movie. In 2009 we have what I hope will do the same thing to young kids that "Star Wars" did to me. That is to create a new and wondrous World outside my own where I felt I was actually there. "Avatar" is another amazing movie from one of our most talented geniuses in James Cameron. This movie must be seen in IMAX 3D for the movie screen will swallow you up and immerse you into another World. The detail, visual effects and depiction of an alien land is simply breathtaking. Most big special effects movies in the past years have well really sucked. There is no joy and imagination anymore. We get "The Mummy", "Transformers", bad "X Men" sequels and other crap full of weak explosions and weak stories. James Cameron for 15 years has worked on the groundbreaking 3D effects and story and it shows with glorious wonder and imagination. Some found the story too preachy and laughable in spots but I found it very well imagined. The feeling you will get watching this in 3D on an IMAX screen can not be described in words. No wonder this is soon to be the highest grossing movie ever because it is soon to be a classic!

4.) 500 Days Of Summer
Writers: Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber
Director: Marc Weber
Starring: Zooey Deschanel, Joseph Gordon-Levitt

After all the insipid and crappy romantic comedies in the last ten years the heavens have finally opened and the best romantic comedy in ages was born! This is the sunniest, happiest and most joyful movie experiences I have had in a long time. This is a wonderful depiction of true love and how hard it is to maintain it. Most of the romantic comedies I have seen for years have depressed me. Is that how wonderful real love and romance is? I feel that those writers have no ideal about romance and that scares me. Where has romance gone and why are we afraid to indulge in our romatic feelings? I actually think watching this movie will make the World a better place. This movie is funny, very romantic and you will leave the theatre with a huge grin on your face. Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are two of our best young actors and they are extremely pleasant to look at. Now the World will know why I am completely in love with Deschanel and why Levitt will take over for Heath Ledger as the best young actor in film today. They are very good and the movie will make you muchy happier than any movie this past year. The montage set to the Hall and Oates song "You Make My Dreams Come True" is an instant classic as is this romantic comedy. Ah yes romance lives again!

3.) Up In The Air
Writers: Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner based on book
Director: Jason Reitman
Starring: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick,
JK Simmons, Jason Bateman, Melanie Lynskey, Amy Morton

George Clooney has had an amazing career so far in the movies and deserves to be called a major movie star. Now with "Up In The Air" he has proven to be one of our best actors also. When I can throw around the name Cary Grant and compare Clooney to him you know we have a larger than life star in our midst. This is his most mature and grounded character even though he flies in planes a lot. This is a movie that is perfect for our times as Clooney plays a man who companies hire to fire their employees. With the way jobs and the economy have been this turns out to be a very powerful movie. Along with it's message is a very compelling character study and romantic drama. I think Vera Farmiga is one of the most confident and sexiest actresses out there and Clooney finally has his match in an actress that equals his sex appeal. She is very good here as a woman who turns out to be as cutthroat as he is. There is also a great debut performance by Anna Kendrick who is very funny here and very charasmatic. This is another great job of writing by Jason Reitman who made the equally entertaining "Juno" which is one of my favorite movies. He is a smart writer and his adaptation of this material is strong. He has created a movie that reminded me a lot of Frank Capra movies. It is very American, will make you feel good and is a lot of fun and very entertaining.

2.) Inglorious Basterds
Writer and Director: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Melanie Laurent,
Diane Kruger, Michael Fassbender, Mike Meyers

Out of most Hollywood film makers that make such great films I think Quentin Tarantino loves movies more than anyone. All his movies are full of love and attention to detail. I love the man because for a person who loves movies more than anything I appreciate his passion. Hey there is a bigger movie geek than me out there! I love all his movies and I think 9o% percent of them have recieved my highest rating and I think he is on five of my top ten lists. "Inglorious Basterds" is another Tarantino masterpiece and a complete joy and blast to watch. He is my favorite director next to Scorcese because he takes his time telling his story. He loves the spoken word and loves long scenes of wonderful dialogue. He takes his time creating suspense with scenes bulit on dialogue and you know an explosion of violence is about to happen. Your palms start to sweat and he creates such a powerful tension that finally explodes. The first half hour of this movie is edge of your seat suspense and is so powerful that when it is over you still realize there is a lot of movie left. This first half hour is better than most full length features made this past year. The actor on display most in that beginning is Christoph Waltz and you haven't seen him before but you will damn well remamber him. He is completely amazing and a joy to watch creating one of the most sadistic bad guys you will ever encounter. His is a shoo in to win best Supporting actor at the Oscars. Also Brad Pitt is hilarious and awesome as the leader of the Basterds and with all the Angelina Jolie hoopla you forget how great an actor he is. When Pitt's character speaks Italian it is one of the most laugh out loud moments in a movie this year. Melanie Laurent is also very good here and she has a timeless beauty that reminds me of Catherine Deneuve. She gives such a great performance that will get her noticed by Hollywood right away. This is a war movie like no other that is one of the best times I have had at a movie this year. This is another Quentin Tarantino classic that I can add to his list of masterpieces. What a great movie marathon weekend I am building with Tarantino movies. He loves movies more than most directors and it shows. He is my movie soulmate and I can't wait to see his next movie!

1.) Adventureland
Writer and Director: Greg Mottola
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Jesse Eisenberg, Ryan Reynolds,
Martin Starr, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig

The director of "Superbad" has made the happiest and biggest surprise of the movie year for me. My favorite thing about movies is to be surprised and to have something come out of left field that changes my movie going experience. I expected a small and funny comedy and what I got was one of the best love stories I have seen and a movie full of great joy and depth. I love this movie more than anything for creating a time and place that brought back memories. Anyone who has had that summer job that you know sucked but introduced you to new friends for life should love this movie. For the title character who wants more out of his life has found what he didn't expect, true love. This movie belongs in the long line of classic coming of age dramas and it is one of the best. Jesse Eisenberg is becoming an unusual but wonderful leading man and he is great here. He plays James, a teenager in the 80's who wants to go to college and has to earn money for college and all he can find is a job at an amusement park and we are not talking Great America here. It is a run down and crummy looking park and his job is to run the games and it is a pretty thankless job. Though things will change when he meets a girl that he will start to get a crush on and that he is immediately drawn to. Her name is Em and she is played by a wonderful new actress in Kristen Stewart. I have been following Stewart's career since "The Panic Room" and "Into The Wild" and I think she is an amazing actress. The Twilight movies are beneath her talents but here she is perfect. If I was a boy near her age I would be completely in love with her. She is a very smart actress and here she creates a very mature, beautiful and sexy woman and I can see why James is captivated by her. She creates a little mystery to those around her but she makes you want to find out more about her and what makes her tick. Ryan Reynolds is also at his best here and this is the first time I really enjoyed him in a movie. The movie is funny, touching and the ending is just right and breathtaking. This creates a time and place flawlessly and the second time I saw it I fell in love with it even more. I know I lot of people have gone through what James has and I think they will identify with it. This movie wasn't a big hit but if enough people seek it out it should become a classic over time. Some people found this movie just okay and a lot of people don't like Stewart. That is fine but what I found here is a movie that touched me more than any movie this year. I have gone through all James has gone through and I know most people have. This movie captures the growing pains, the first true crush and love, the yearning for hapiness that all teenagers strive for and it captures it flawlessly. I am proud and completely certain of my choice that this is my favorite movie that I saw this past year.

Now I like to be different and I think I am the only one who picked "Adventureland" as the best of 2009. That is what is wonderful about the movies. Everyone's opinion is different. It would be impossible to agree on the quality of certain movies because we all have our own preferences. I would love to get feedback from all the people who read my blog to see what you loved in 2009. Also I can change my list over time. Any of the top ten movies I listed here are worthy of the number one movie. I really hate ranking movies like this because these are all great movies that are equal in entertaining us, inspiring us and making us fall in love with the movies all over again. I also have more 2009 movies on Netflix (cheap plug!) so I will edit my list as I see more of these movies. Anyway it has been a great year for movies. So here's to 2010 and let's all fall in love at the movies!

Friday, January 22, 2010

'The Book Of Eli'

'The Book Of Eli' (R) ***

Writer: Gary Whitta
Directors: Allen and Albert Hughes
Starring: Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, Jennifer Beals, Ray Stevenson, Michael Gambon

"The Book Of Eli" is another post apocalyptic "Mad Max" like drama with a religious bent to it and it is better than I expected. Denzel Washington can almost sell me anything because he is always so cool, assured and so great in every role he plays. Actually if he wasn't in this movie it would be more of a close call. This is a very well directed movie that has a decent story, some good action and some good gory kills. The movie also looks beautiful for a movie centered on the World after most of it has been destroyed. The movie concerns a drifter named Eli played by Washington who wanders this desolate World looking like Mad Max. All the bad guys including Gary Oldman, who is at his histrionic best, look like leftovers from the "Mad Max" movies. "The Book Of Eli" though is probably the best movie of it's kind since the last Mad Max film. Yes I mention the groundbreaking and best movie trilogy ever because Eli is another in a long line of movies inspired by Mad Max. The Mad Max movies are three of my favorite movies period of all time. I am usually bored by the countless rip offs but Eli passed my test. It has a solid story, another great Denzel Washington performance and the movie looks damn good. The direction is crisp, the acting good and the action scenes are well done. I also must mention that Mila Kunis is making an impression on me as Washington's sidekick here. She was also very good in last year's under appreciated comedy "Extract".

Now "The Book Of Eli" has a pretty deep religious angle to the story and I actually think religion classes in high school might be showing this to their students. I can picture my old religion teacher Brother Sean showing us this movie at old Carmel High. Now I pretty much roll my eyes when a movie spouts religious stuff like a zealot but here I think the religion angle is done subtly and well. This is actually a cool, exciting and adventurous movie as opposed to the do gooder movie "Extraordinary Measures" which is boring. So what you have in "The Book Of Eli" is a post apocalyptic action movie that has a message but also entertains. This is a big return to form for the Hughes Brothers who are very talented storytellers and directors.

'Extraordinary Measures'

'Extraordinary Measures' (PG) **

Writer: Robert Nelson based on the book "The Cure" by Geeta Anand
Director: Tom Vaughn
Starring: Harrison Ford, Brendan Fraser, Keri Russell, Meredith Droeger, Jared Harris

I have to start out my review by being respectful and stating first that I admire the purpose of "Extraordinary Measures". I admire that it is teaching us about the dangers of Pompe disease which is a rare form of muscular dystrophy. I respect that it is telling me how father John Crowley tried to find a cure for his two children by supporting the work of Doctor Robert Stonehill. I think a movie about this should be made but should have been aired on Lifetime, TNT or the O Network but not on a movie screen. I am sorry but this movie is supremely dull in it's delivery. I felt like someone was narrating to me the history of Pompe disease and about John Crowley's struggle in a monotone voice. It is such a noble and safe movie that it can't even spring to life. I am not saying that it isn't interesting but I think maybe more so at home on television. This is so even with the big screen presence of Harrison Ford who also produced. Maybe a movie about Ryan Dempster's daughter would be more lively and fun because he is very charismatic but Crowley is a bore as presented here. All Harrison Ford does is act grouchy and scream at people. Brendan Fraser is good but more dull than usual when he is not given action or comedy material. I don't want to be mean to this movie but someone should have noticed how dull this was. It doesn't inspire, it doesn't create emotion, it just lays there. I am not against disease movies released on the big screen. I loved last year's "My Sister's Keeper" which was about a girl with cancer. There have been many movies about disease and overcoming it that have been powerful but this isn't one of them.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

'The Lovely Bones' (09)

'The Lovely Bones' (09) (PG-13) ***

Writers: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Peter Jackson
Director: Peter Jackson
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Rose McIver, Reece Ritchie

The last movie I will review for 2009 before I produce my best/worst of 2009 is "The Lovely Bones" based on the great and powerful novel by Alice Sebold. Like earlier this year with Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" I think this is a very difficult book to film and it shows. I felt a slight disconnect watching this movie and when I read the book I felt the opposite. It took me a while to warm up to the movie and feel emotion. The movie is a little messy and unfocused and I think that comes from trying to capture the fantasy sequences and making them mesh with the real life murder drama. The movie like the book is narrated by a 14 year old girl named Susie Salmon. She is telling us that she was 14 when she was murdered and all signs point to a lecherous neighbor played creepily by Stanley Tucci. She then proceeds to watch over her family as they grieve. Susie is in her own perfect World after her death. I was first worried that the fantasy sequences would be weak and garish. I actually found them beautiful visually and kind of touching. The problem I have is with the family drama and murder story because I felt it was weak and too familiar when the book didn't make me feel that way. I have seen this type of story done better and many times before. That story just feels on a different plane then the fantasy stuff. Now Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Stanley Tucci and Susan Sarandon are good and even Sarandon is better than the bad reviews she got. The film though belongs to Saoirse Ronan as Susie and she is the main reason I will recommend this movie for she is Susie Salmon! This Oscar nominated actress for "Atonement" is astonishing and perfect in the role and she steals the movie away from everyone like she did in "Atonement". She is so good that I am surprised she didn't get nominated for this.

The movie has caused controversy surrounding the subject matter and how the fantasy sequences are silly and distract from the scenes on Earth. There are people that are angry because the murder and rape are off screen and not shown. First like I said the fantasy sequences are well handled and the strong point of the movie. Next do we really want to see a 14 year old girl get raped and murdered and tell me how are you going to show this? I was fine with not showing the murder because this is a strong female centered movie and I feel younger women will appreciate the film's strong depiction of a 14 year old girl. This is PG-13 rated for a reason and I think girls Susie's age will get into this movie. If you make it bloody and gruesome you are going to lose the poignancy of this story and a book is a different matter because you can disconnect from the brutality of the murder when you read. I was on the fence with this movie and it is not as good as the book which is one of my favorites. But a funny thing happened at the end where I actually started to tear up. There is a beautiful, touching and subtly powerful few scenes at the end where Susie gets closure in a way you wouldn't expect. Peter Jackson tries his best and he does succeed in a minor way and Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens screenplay captures the pain and wishes of a 14 year old girl very well. I think men might find this movie boring and I think females will embrace it more. It is not a chick flick but it's strength is in the scenes that deal with Susie and her emotions and not the scenes dealing with her family trying to solve her murder.

Monday, January 11, 2010

'Youth In Revolt' (10)

'Youth In Revolt' (10) (R) ***

Writer: Gustin Nash based on the books by C.D. Payne
Director: Miguel Arteta
Starring: Michael Cera, Portia Doubleday, Jean Smart, Zach Galfinakis, Steve Buscemi, Ari Graynor, Fred Willard, Ray Liotta, Adhir Kaylan, Mary Kay Place, M. Emmet Walsh

I see a possible cult classic being born in the highly original "Youth In Revolt". I also see a funny and talented actor who wants to break out of his same nerdy characters and give us a little edge. Michael Cera is a very likable actor who is making some smart choices in comedies. He started out on the television show "Arrested Development" and was wonderful in that show. He has made an impression in two of my favorites of the last decade in "Juno" and "Superbad". He always plays that shy, quirky and geeky kid and in "Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist" he showed a little edge and romantic leading role possibilities. In "Youth In Revolt" he plays that same geeky kid who lives in a trailer with his Mom and annoying boyfriend. He meets an attractive girl named Sheeni Saunders and Nick Twisp (Cera) likes her and he tries to build something good with her. She finds him a little too safe so he creates an alter ego with a little bit of a bad side named Francois Dillinger. Cera now has something to play with that he hasn't had before and that is a little dark, bad boy image. He is very good at playing both alter egos and the movie starts to get very funny.

This is a very offbeat and original movie with dark and offbeat characters, and a wonderful all star cast of great comic actors. They include Steve Buscemi (always makes me smile), Fred Willard, Jean Smart, Mary Kay Place, Ray Liotta and Zach Galfinakis. Also very good and funny are newcomers Ari Graynor, Portia Doubleday and Adhir Kalyan who is very good here. The movie has some very brilliantly funny scenes and a lot of scenes that miss. The movie though grows on me the more I think of it and I admire and embrace it's originality. This is not your typical teenage comedy and it's director, Miguel Arteta is unique and he had made another wonderful offbeat comedy in "Chuck and Buck". Here,with the help of the books this is based on, is a very original black comedy that could have been a small masterpiece. Instead you have a movie that tries something different and succeeds most of the time.

'A Single Man'

'A Single Man' (09) (R) ***

Writers: Tom Ford and David Scearce based on novel by Christopher Isherwood
Director: Tom Ford
Starring: Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Matthew Goode, Nicholas Hoult, Ryan Simpkins, Ginnifer Goodwin

Once in a while a movie director makes such an assured and breathtaking film debut that it makes a major impact. Tom Ford was a famous and successful fashion designer who helped build up Gucci for example with his brilliant designs. He should have an eye for beauty and detail and he has directed one of the most beautiful movies of all time. He knows where to place the camera and he knows how to get great performances and that's what surprised me. He directs this movie like he had been directing for decades. His movie follows a gay man named George Falconer who has just lost his partner Jim in a car accident. The film follows one day of his life in 1962 as he tries to put the death behind him. George Falconer is played by veteran actor Colin Firth. Firth played Mr. Darcy in one of the many adaptations of "Pride and Prejudice". He is considered to be the definitive Mr. Darcy. He was also memorable in the Bridget Jones movies. Here he gives an amazing and lived in performance and it is his best performance of his career and the Academy will come calling. That is because Firth is always good but sometimes plays the same dry and snooty character. This time Firth sheds that image and creates a fully formed character different than he has done before. He actually is unrecognizable and a friend of mine said he looked like Al Gore. He creates a sad, hurting and dryly funny man and his performance never hits a wrong note. He gets great support by an amusing and funny Julianne Moore who also creates a great character different then most of her usual roles. Matthew Goode is a great and hot new actor who plays Jim. Goode has been outstanding in "The Lookout" and Woody Allen's masterpiece "Match Point". He makes a lasting impression in a small but memorable role. Also good is Nicholas Hoult all grown up from "About A Boy" as a student of George's and he might help give George a little closure in his life. This movie is mainly about loneliness and the first half is surprisingly a lot of fun,enchanting and sometimes powerful. The movie is beautiful to look at, the costumes and design are flawless, the characters likable and the dialogue is wonderful. The only problem is I felt the movie needed a stronger finish to match it's flawless beginning. I wanted to feel more closure from the story but the movie is worth seeing. Colin Firth is amazing and Tom Ford has made a competent and thrilling debut and I look forward to his next movie.

'The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus'

'The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus (09) (PG-13) **1/2

Writers: Charles McKeown and Terry Gilliam
Director: Terry Gilliam
Starring: Heath Ledger, Christopher Plummer, Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, Jude Law, Verne Troyer, Lily Cole, Tom Waits

Terry Gilliam has a wild and wonderful imagination that is displayed in all his movies. Some of his movies are somewhat unsuccessful because they are over stuffed and meandering but are never boring. His best constructed film is probably 'Brazil' which I like but am not a huge fan of. My favorite Gilliam movies like 'Fisher King' and 'Time Bandits' are full of flights of fancy and are masterpieces to me. 'The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus' fits into the meandering, over stuffed category though like all Gilliam films it is breathtaking to look at! The visual effects are sumptuous and when the movie lags the cinematography picks it up. A dark shadow is hovering over the movie because of the death half way through filming of Heath Ledger. Ledger was a huge blow to me because he was the best actor of his age range. Though that death doesn't affect the story in any way and Gilliam does a great job of filling in the work Ledger missed with other, great and intense actors like him. The story is a little complicated for my own good but it involves a travelling circus show that is run by Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer)and his daughter and a dwarf played by Verne Troyer (Austin Powers). The Doctor sold his soul to the devil played by Tom Waits and he has to come up with five souls to get back his immortality. They pick up a stranger played by Ledger who was about to kill himself or was that really what happened? The story to me then meanders and I grew a little restless with what seemed to me dialogue that didn't move the story forward. The jumping between the real World and the World within the show gets tiring. The movie needed another go around in editing because it feels messy and unglued. Heath Ledger is very good but I couldn't enjoy his performance because it seemed the story and dialogue was distracting me. Verne Troyer is also excellent as is the rest of the cast and Ferrell, Law and Depp are wonderful finishing up Ledger's role. The visual effects are astonishing and I would recommend the film slightly on those effects and if you want to see Ledger in his final role. I can't recommend the film entirely because I felt a little cold towards the story. At least Gilliam is one of the few storytellers now who has a real wonderful imagination.