Friday, January 1, 2010

Top Ten (Rhoades)

My 10 Best List for 2009
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

One of the occupational hazards of being a film critic is that everybody wants to know your favorite movie. Not as simple as it sounds. I like a lot of different genres. When asked this week, I gave a semi-truthful reply: “Casablanca.” The choice of many moviegoers, in fact.

The other occupational hazard is that people expect a film reviewer to offer up a list of his or her Top Ten Picks at the end of the year. Fair enough.

So here’s mine:
[Movies that screened at the Tropic are in boldface]

“Up in the Air.” My pick for Best Film of the Year. George Clooney as a high-flying corporate hatchet man told with style and simplicity. The director of “Juno” and “Thank You for Smoking” continues his success with this tale of wrong-headed loneliness.

“Up!” Ed Asner lends his voice as an old-timer who attaches balloons to his house and flies away on a long-postponed adventure in this delightful animated romp.

“Avatar.” James Cameron sets the Pocahontas-Captain John Smith storyline on the distant planet of Pandora, telling it with dazzling technological panache. Call it CGI eye candy. Or a sci-fi blockbuster to rival his “Titanic.”

“The Twilight Saga: New Moon.” Okay, not a masterpiece, but a highly enjoyable movie aimed at tweens and their moms. Vampires meet werewolves in this Romeo and Juliet retelling.

“District 9.” Sci-fi with a fresh viewpoint: Aliens interred in a South African concentration camp. Not your average “E.T. Phone Home” flick.

“The Blind Side.” Sandra Bullock pulls off the impossible: a chick flick combined with a sports movie. You can’t help but love this true-life tale about a family who adopts an oversized black kid into their lily-white lives.

“It’s Complicated.” Meryl Streep at her best in this “relationship movie” from Nancy Myers. This story of two middle-aged exes having an affair gives us a warm-hearted look at modern social mores.

“The Great Buck Howard.” Based on the mentalist known as The Great Kreskin, this ode to show-biz loneliness and bravado is a winner. John Malkovich pulls it off like magic.

“The Informant.” Matt Damon impresses us with his ability to go from the buff “Bourne Identity” superspy to this fat ersatz corporate spy. A funny-but-true story about a bipolar white-collar con man.

“Zombieland.” As funny as “Shaun of the Dead,” this I-want-to-eat-your-brains zombie fest offers the best Bill Murray cameo ever.

That’s my Top Ten.

Want more? Here are some honorable mentions worth catching on the movie channels or Netflix:

“Pirate Radio.” A remembrance of rock ’n roll on the high seas. Phillip Seymour Hoffman entertains as a wacked-out DJ in this fact-based story about an offshore radio station.

“Taking Woodstock.” A remembrance of rock ’n roll in the Catskills. This mostly-true story of how the Woodstock Festival came to be is as nostalgic as a relit reefer.

“Invictus.” Morgan Freeman channels Nelson Mandela in this South African rugby story. Matt Damon shows up as the determined-to-win team captain.

“Paranormal Activity.” This scary little movie made on only $11,000 proves you don’t have to have a big budget to do big box office.

“Star Trek.” J.J. Abrams pays homage to this outer-space classic by offering up a double dose of Mr. Spock. A successful reboot of the franchise.

“Precious.” A much-abused ghetto girl finds faith in herself. Director Les Daniels gives Mo’Nique a plum role that makes Joan Crawford look like Mother of the Year.

“Fantastic Mr. Fox.” Wes Anderson uses stop-motion animation to tell this Roald Dahl animal fable. George Cooney and Meryl Streep provide the voices of Mr. and Mrs. Fox.

“Hangover.” A silly road trip movie that’s really funny. Everything that could go wrong in Vegas does. Bradley Cooper emerges as a new Leading Man Lite.

“Taken.” Liam Neeson kicks butt in this thriller about a father saving his kidnapped daughter. Non-stop action that doesn’t allow us to catch our breath.

“Gran Torino.” Clint Eastwood makes our day in this vigilante vignette about an aging vet who takes on dangerous neighborhood punks.

“The Cove.” A documentary that may save the dolphin.

“Food Inc.” The documentary that convinced my wife to become a vegetarian.

“Frost-Nixon.” Michael Sheen and Frank Langella channel the glib talk show host and the former president of the United States. A 2008 film that made it to Key West earlier this year.

“The Wrestler.” Mickey Rourke in his comeback role as “a washed-up piece of meat” shows us that all wrestling isn’t fake. Another last-year’s film.

“Inglorious Basterds.” Quentin Tarantino delivers a World War II yarn that audaciously kills off Hitler. What balls!

What do these movies have in common? “Up in the Air” and “Up!” are pretty different, despite the similarity of titles. “Invictus” and “District 9” are both set in South Africa, but one’s a true story and the other science fiction.

I think the thread that stitches these disparate films together is their ability to seamlessly transport us to another existence. A world of imagination that thrills, inspires, and entertains. And these films do it better than most.
[from Solares Hill]

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