2009.5: a disappointing year-in-film.

Halfway through the 2009 film year, Dennis is about all that’s gone right.

Is it harsh to judge a year halfway through July?  Probably.  But even when I’ve been enticed to drop eight bucks on a movie – and that’s a rarity this year – I’ve been largely disappointed.

To be fair, I did earlier in the year proclaim 2009 to be a promising year for comedies.  And with I Love You, Man, Observe and Report and The Hangover, it certainly has been.

But let’s take a look at some of the other featured titles, by month, and shake our collective heads in disappointment.

JanuaryNotorious is just a so-so biopic, with one tremendous lead performance and lots of uninspired surrounding performances, all stuck in a by-the-numbers script.  Taken is a pretty kick-ass popcorn flick, but can you really see Liam Neeson doing the Jason Statham (or maybe Jason Bourne) thing?  I have a hard time taking it seriously.  Horror flicks The Uninvited and The Unborn do little to move a stale horror scene.

FebruaryCoraline pushes the limits of stop-motion animation but goes largely unnoticed.  Instead we’re treated to the latest in the line of incredibly shitty horror re-makes with Friday the 13th and, just to insult our society’s intelligence, are subjected to the stupidity of Confessions of a Shopaholic, a film whose entire body of “jokes” are contained in the way-past-lame trailer.  I don’t mean to be an ass, but if you like that movie, you should probably just swallow a shotgun shell right now.

MarchWatchmen has a decent showing from a critical perspective, but fails to break even on its outrageous budget and features a little too much blue penis for anyone’s preferences (‘too much penis’ is a theme in 2009.)  The Last House on the Left is 2009’s shitty horror re-make number two, this time of a film that had no business being re-made.  Nicolas Cage offers us his latest horrible performance in Knowing, The Rock goes Disney in the been-there-done-that Race to Witch Mountain and the only truly redeeming flick is I Love You, Man, which (thankfully) scores Paul Rudd more fans.

AprilFast and Furious is an unnecessary entry into a series that’s only gone downhill.  The Soloist, while featuring impressive performances by stars Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey, Jr., fails to trascend brokedown musician movie cliches.  17 Again contributes to prolonging Zac Efron’s career and thus is, by default, bad.  But this month did feature two gems: Observe and Report and Adventureland.  The former as Jody Hill’s riotous middle finger to all things conventional in the comedy genre (as further evidenced by his work on HBO’s “Eastbound and Down”) and the latter as the first realistic post-grad romance flick to come along in quite some time, with absolutely great performances by Jesse Eisenberg and Twilight star Kristen Stewart.

May:  Hugh Jackman for some reason signs off on X-Men Origins: Wolverine which garners an “epic fail” in the financial column.  Angels and Demons gives us more of the same from predecessor The Da Vinci Code, and there wasn’t really any audience begging for that.  Terminator Salvation is a bitter disappointment for fans looking forward to a promising re-boot to the series (but you all should have known better when a dude named McG signed on to direct.)  The Wayans brothers are allowed to release another movie (Dance Flick) which by default makes this month a bad one for film.  There were a few winners though:  Star Trek managed to appease fanboys and casual viewers alike, much to the disappointment of J.J. Abrams haters.  Up is, go figure, another successful, intelligent release from Pixar, and Sam Raimi goes back to his origins in the ridiculously entertaining Drag Me to Hell.

June:  Will Ferrell really needs to expand or evolve his act, and Land of the Lost is proof positive.  Year One, despite a stellar comic cast, falls flat on its face.  Transformers 2 has a lot of Megan Fox, but little else to offer that you don’t already have on Blu-Ray in the form of the original, sequel-inspiring film.  Obligatory mediocre summer rom-com debuts in form of The Proposal, which re-hashes ever other rom-com you’ve ever seen.  Winners here are The Hangover, which wasn’t quite as funny as I thought it would be (I over-hyped the hell out of it to everyone) but was a huge draw at the box office, and The Hurt Locker, which no one will see but gives studios all the more reason to get Jeremy Renner involved in their future projects.  Special shout-out to a “you know it’s a bad year when…” moment: comedy legends Woody Allen and Larry David combine for Whatever Works, which despite the presence of two comic geniuses, is barely funny.

JulyPublic Enemies premiers and is not nearly as good as it should be, though I am in the camp that enjoyed Depp’s performance as John Dillinger.  Bruno just feels cheap and rushed.  We’ll hold out hope for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which opens Wednesday, and (500) Days of Summer, which might be the rare rom-com worth seeing.  But I don’t know how much.

So while there have been a few good films, they’ve been largely overshadowed by the staggering number of movies that have turned out to be complete duds.  I guess that’s not completely atypical for movies, but still, 2009 seems like one of the years where I was genuinely excited for a lot of movies and walked out disappointed in the results.

My short list, so far, for the following categories.  If they were my Oscars and I didn’t have to adhere to bullshit genre restrictions or whatever.:

Best Picture:
1.  The Hurt Locker
2.  Up
3.  Observe and Report
4.  I Love You, Man
5.  The Brothers Bloom

Best Performance:
1.  John Malkovich, The Great Buck Howard
2.  Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker
3.  Sam Rockwell, Moon
4.  Jamal Woolard, Notorious
5.  Kristen Stewart, Adventureland

And last, not a category, but for the next half of the year…

10 Films I’m Most Looking Forward To:
1.  Where the Wild Things Are
2.  Zombieland
3.  Inglourious Basterds
4.  9
5.  Shutter Island
6.  The Road
7.  The Goods
8.  Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
9.  Avatar
10 . Sherlock Holmes


1 Comment

Filed under movies

One response to “2009.5: a disappointing year-in-film.

  1. John G.

    I have to disagree with your assessment that the year-so-far has been disappointing. February-May is almost always a turd-filled wasteland, with the previous year’s Oscar pictures dying out and the summer blockbuster-fest gearing up. I’d say the amount of good/great films for this time period (Up, Drag Me to Hell, Observe and Report, The Brothers Bloom) is fairly impressive. And while the summer was a bit of a dud as far as the mega hits go, we’ve gotten several fantastic movies like Moon and Away We Go. And of course, with an already-promising Fall and Oscar season, I think ’09 could in the end shape up as an impressive year with a lot to offer.

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