I sat through a lot of films that lived up to or exceeded my expectations this year. These are the films that made an impression on me, changed my way of thinking, or were just fun, enjoyable films to watch.
10. District 9
Aliens meets 28 Days Later meets The Office, with a little bit of the video game Gears of War thrown in for good measure, is the best way to describe District 9. Half of it is over-the-top violent while the other half is an imaginative look at a race divide in Johannesburg. There’s a lot to like and, as far as science-fiction horror is concerned, it’s one of the best. **** out of 5 stars.
9. Star Trek
Star Trek is a near-perfect movie. It has the right amount of humour and action along with amazing effects and a great cast. To use a line right from Paramount’s marketing, “this is not your father’s Star Trek“. Which is a good thing. **** out of 5 stars.
What can I say about Avatar that I didn’t say in my original 1,100 word review? James Cameron has delivered a visually stunning masterpiece with solid performances, effects, and a decent story. I’m sure we will see this mentioned a few times at the Oscars in February. **** out of 5 stars.
7. Food, Inc.
Educational and scary, Food, Inc. pulls the curtain off the food industry and exposes the corporations and policies behind it. It’s a haunting documentary that will open your eyes to where and how the food we eat comes from and will live in the back of your head with every bite you take. **** out of 5 stars.
6. The Hangover
Three buddies take their friend to Vegas for his bachelor party. The night starts with shots of Jager and then…it’s the next morning, the groom is missing, and there’s a tiger and a baby in their hotel room. Great cast and just the right comedic timing makes The Hangover the funniest film of the year. **** out of 5 stars.
Based on the true events that occurred at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique on December 6, 1989 (known as the “Montreal Massacre”) where a male student shot and killed 14 women before turning the gun on himself. This is not a Hollywood film glorifying violence. It’s very evident that the filmmakers did not take this on for profit, but rather to educate. The film sticks to the facts of what we know from the people who were there and the news clips we’ve seen. It’s an important film and I recommend every Canadian see it to get a better understanding of what happened on that gruesome day. **** out of 5 stars.
4. Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire
Claireece ‘Precious’ Jones (Gabourey Sidibe) is a 16-year-old girl growing up in Harlem in 1987. She is raped by her father and physically and psychologically abused by her mother (Mo’Nique) on a regular basis. She’s also morbidly obese and doesn’t have any friends. This is far from a sugar-coated fairy tale with a happy ending. This is a sad, depressing and shocking film but, like Polytechnique, it’s an important film to see. **** out of 5 stars.
3. Inglourious Basterds
Quentin Tarantino is one of those filmmakers that can do no wrong in my eyes. I get his vision and I like what he presents on screen (even his worst is tolerable). Like his masterpiece Pulp Fiction, Inglourious Basterds grabbed me and sucked me in after one screening and I can’t seem to get enough of it (thankfully it’s now available on Blu-ray and DVD so I can watch it whenever I please). Set during World War II in Nazi-occupied France, a group of American-Jewish soldiers (known as the “Basterds”) and led by Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) are sent in undercover to hunt and kill the Nazis. SS member Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) is assigned by Hitler to track them down and stop them. **** out of 5 stars.
2. Fantastic Mr. Fox / Where the Wild Things Are
Fantastic Mr. Fox is by far the best animated film of the year, and Where the Wild Things Are is one of the greatest family films ever made. Both of them are based on books I remember fondly from my childhood and both have something magical about them (hence the tie). Directed by Wes Anderson, Fantastic Mr. Fox tells the story of a fox (voiced by George Clooney) and his family (wife voiced by Meryl Streep, son voiced by Jason Schwartzman) who are uprooted from their home and hunted by local farmers after Mr. Fox steals from them. Where the Wild Things Are, directed by Spike Jonze, tells the story of an imaginative young boy who runs away from home and ends up on an island with giant creatures. **** out of 5 stars for both films.
1. Up in the Air
When a company needs to fire someone in this fictional tale of gloomy economic times fitting for this day and age, they bring in Ryan Bingham (George Clooney). He’s a professional at giving people the pink slip while making them believe there is hope for what comes next. Up in the Air is a smart comedy-drama from Canadian writer-director Jason Reitman. Sure, it’s funny and mature but it’s also the most relevant film of the year. I gave the film five out of five and stand by it. ***** out of 5 stars.
Agree or disagree? Did I miss a title you would include? Leave a comment below or email email@example.com.