Hundreds of films hit theaters in 2009, but the chances of you seeing all of them before hundreds more premiere is highly unlikely (and ill-advised). So here are a few don't-miss-out suggestions to add to your Netflix queue:
[Modern Romantic Comedy]
Normally, romantic comedies regurgitate familiar storylines and protagonists. John Krasinski ("The Office") and Maya Rudolph ("SNL"), however, brought to life two characters who embody our wayward generation. Presented with the pros and cons of both traditional and untraditional families, they are faced with the task of determining how they'd like to build their own. Whereas most rom-coms show the evolution of a couple's love, this film explores the depth of it.
We all know that Vegas is the place to go for a night of debauchery and an unforgettable experience that you ironically won't remember. But never has there been a film that has highlighted all the trouble you can get into within Sin City, with a little extra—that extra being either the tiger in the bathroom or the random baby in the closet, because that whole naked-Asian-in-your-trunk thing could totally happen. It almost makes you want to go to Vegas. Almost.
On the surface, it would seem that director/writer James Cameron created an entirely new world, complete with an alien species, mysterious creatures, and a foreign language. Many have refuted that fact on Twitter and in the blogosphere, claiming that it's just a rip-off of the barely-seen Delgo, and the 90s childhood favorite FernGully. The truth is, not only is Avatar far more superior in visuals, plot, and dialogue, but what it copies isn't previously released tales, but history itself. Cameron tactfully delivers the message that humans are a destructive and opportunistic species that need to respect the Earth, a message that practically defines this generation's main agenda.
[Supernatural Family Film]
It's Harry Potter. Every one of the saga's films is a sight to be seen, an incredible illustration of an even more incredible novel. This one depicted the acquisition of Voldemort's horcruxes and the death of Professor Dumbledore. It also began the imminent unveiling of who Voldemort used to be, providing a parallel between our hero and his enemy. It's the best tale of good vs. evil that this generation's had the pleasure of seeing.
I have never seen any version of Star Trek. Not one. However, this film can make a Trekkie out of any viewer. It's the combination of great characters, mindblowing action, snippy dialogue, and nods to the old sagas that make it fun for all. Plus, JJ Abrams had the brilliant idea of slightly whiping the slate clean—not only rebooting the franchise, but using time travel to allow our heroes to set their lives on a course that hasn't been written yet. New course = New saga. Bring it.
I think Joseph Gordon Levitt is like the Johnny Depp of his generation. He can sell anything. In the last decade, he's graduated from goofy dork roles like 10 Things I Hate About You to gritty mysteries like Brick, provocative and unconventional stories of adolescence like Mysterious Skin, and heart-breaking war stories like Stop-Loss. But my favorite has to be this quirky little anti-love story about a guy who falls in love with a girl who doesn't believe in it. One may say that this is an unrealistic (or an idealistic) portrayal of how a man falls in love, because of that wretched rumor about them just being interested in sex, but for 95 minutes he has you strapped in to this rollercoaster of a love affair, rooting him on when he's winning her heart, and holding back your snickers when he's overreacting to her rejections. I'm assuming some people cried in certain parts, but I couldn't help but laugh at how ridiculously devoted he was to a woman he barely knew (and who was barely worth the hassle). It certainly felt like 500 excruciating days of Summer, and I was all too happy to transition into Autumn.
I don't watch scary movies unless there's a substantial amount of action and comedy, and this film had both. Considering that Rhett Reese's biggest writing credit was Cruel Intentions 3, and Paul Wernick had never written a feature film before, all signs were pointing to a hit-or-miss. However, the screenwriters managed to amuse viewers with the random rules of surviving a zombie apocalypse, using a dorky introvert (Jesse Eisenberg) as their mouthpiece, while reigniting the flickering flame of Woody Harrelson's career and showing Hollywood that Abigail Breslin is capable of much more than looking adorable. Fans of the film are eager for a sequel, the next chapter in the makeshift family's adventure across a plague-stricken America, and even more eager to learn the rest of the rules for staying alive. My favorite? Double tap! lol
Drew Barrymore has come a long way in the last decade. She started it off producing and starring in the girl-powered action flick Charlie's Angels, faltered a bit with rom-com duds (Duplex, Fever Pitch, and Music and Lyrics), and even sold her soul voicing a little dog (Beverly Hills Chihuahua). But soon she recovered, executive producing the delightful rom-com He's Just Not That Into You, while representing the self-depracating, technologically-inundated, modern woman. She then spent a year slipping into the peculiar skin of Edith Bouvier Beale in the HBO mini-series "Grey Gardens," scoring her first Emmy nod. Then she topped it all off with her directorial debut Whip It, showcasing some of the baddest chicks in not only rollerderby, but in show business: up and comers Ellen Page, Alia Shawkat, Kristen Wiig, and Ari Graynor. She is most certainly a feminist pioneer of the decade.
I'm a huge fan of ensemble romance comedies (i.e. Love Actually). So eventhough the critics knocked this film for its star-studded cast and so-called idealistic portrayal of love, I was impressed with how well it managed to complete each storyline (despite how many there were), without making all of them end perfectly. My favorite character was Gigi. She was beyond funny as a hopeless romantic who was determined to comprehend love, like it was a school subject, and master it so that she can obtain it. It was like she was on a life's quest. What was even more fantastic is how much she grew under the tutelage of the clueless boy who would eventually be the one. They cured each other of their romantic flaws and that's what love is supposed to be about. Right?
I, like every red-blooded American, get chills when I hear the words, "I'll be back." It's one of the most iconic catchphrases in film history. The original trilogy was a paranoid prediction of what would happen if technology became self-aware, and what it truly means to be human. It dealt with the ominous future, and McG wanted to bring us there and face it head on. While all the timing can get a little confusing, all you really need to know is that John Connor is all grown up and he has a new metallic ally to help him reclaim the Earth. The saga has been rebooted, and if we're lucky we'll get to see how the humans use and treat technology once the new era begins. Will humans and Artificial Intelligence ever live in harmony?
Bromances have been really prominent this decade, from Wedding Crashers to I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry to The Hangover. But this film successfully incorporated the classic romantic comedy formula to truly emphasize the homoerotic connotations of a male friendship without being crass, cheesy, or homophobic. It also relaunched Paul Rudd's career, and only Clueless fans understand how epic that truly is.
Rarely can you watch a film where you fall in love with a gun-toting, homocidal, criminal protagonist. I know what you're thinking. It's Johnny Depp. Of course, you fell in love with him. Oh, no. I fell for John Dillinger, a 1930s bank robber, who never felt more alive than when he was in danger. He wandered around police precincts in broad daylight, swept a feisty dame off her feet, and broke out of jails like they were detention. By far the coolest low-tech bank robber I've ever seen. Jesse James can suck it.
You have to love a film that champions classic geek porn, Star Wars, and does so in the name of granting a terminally ill bff's last wish. It manages to keep you entertained with the insidery references, including the longstanding rivalry with Trekkies, while tugging at the heart-strings.
There are mixed feelings about this quirky mockumentary that explores the idea of not believing in true love or Prince Charmings. That sounds like a downer, but Charlyne Yi doesn't come off as dismissive or condescending. It's simply a different perspective of what defines love, how you know you've found it, and how it changes you. She brings up a few interesting points, like "I want to be his girlfriend, but I don't want to be THE girlfriend. No one ever remembers the girlfriend." Along with her goofy behavior and her awkward dates with Michael Cera, I really liked the stop-motion recreations of love stories told by longtime lovebirds. They were beautifully made.
Okay before you puke at the idea of a woman twice Zac Efron's age tonguing him down, I would like to perpetuate the longstanding belief that it's okay for a woman to take advantage of a young man and not for a man to take advantage of a young woman. Honestly, if the tables were turned and Matthew Perry were the one falling in love with his teenage wife, this movie would've been blacklisted. However, the lovely Leslie Mann skirted the boundary of perversion well enough to make this both humorous and romantic. Zac did a good job of picking up a few of Perry's manerisms and acting like an overprotective dad. Thomas Lennon, who played his bff, did an incredible job of carrying half the film comedically, and stealing every scene he was in. The breakout of the film, however, had to be Sterling Knight, who kept the laughs coming with his deadpan deliveries and dorky behavior.
[Girls Night In]
This is supposed to be vapid and materialistic fodder for women who used to watch "Sex and the City" religiously (and probably still do on DVD). So if you put aside any interest in seeing something deep, you can enjoy the story of a budding journalist, a struggling New Yorker within a downward economy, and, best of all, a girl who values Gucci over guys. Plus, it's a starring vehicle for Isla Fisher to showcase her comedic skills, who, in spite of her marriage to Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat), is effortlessly amusing.
I wasn't sold on the idea of Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock as a couple. But individually, they were extremely funny. I will never get the vision of Sandra Bullock dancing and singing Lil Jon and the Eastside Boys' song "From the Window to the Wall" out of my head. Fellow office drones commiserated with Ryan whenever he mumbled an insult. And of course I'd be lying if I didn't say that their nude scene wasn't permanently burned into my retina either. The added bonus was a seemingly revitalized Betty White, who's been making the rounds like her Social Security was revoked.
If you've seen all of these or are in dire need of more, I'd also recommend John Krasinski's examination of romantic relationships Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, the uplifting Kevin Spacey-Keke Palmer indie drama Shrink, and the inspiring Amy Adams-Emily Blunt family drama Sunshine Cleaning.
My own personal 2009 movie list is still pretty long. I still want to see: Up in the Air, The Hurt Locker, In the Loop, 9, St. Trinian's, Fame, Couples Retreat, New York I Love You, The Men Who Stare at Goats, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Easy Virtue, and Bandslam. If I'm missing any, feel free to suggest some in the comments.
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