Category Archives: 2009

Movies released in 2009.

Guest Review: Up

Director: Pete Docter
Year: 2009
Score: 9.9/10
Reviewer: Drew Pontikis

Meth – not even once.

Meth – not even once.

My two boys are now at an age where they remain enthralled throughout a film, which has given me an excuse to work my way through the Pixar back catalogue again. First name on the list, without a moment’s hesitation, was Up, as it’s one of the best films I’ve ever seen.

Following the death of his wife, elderly widower Carl decides to live their unfulfilled dream and move to Paradise Falls. Along the way we are treated to an odyssey of emotion, one which at various points has the potential to render you a blubbering wreck. This is the beauty of Up; it offers some of the most emotive performances ever committed to film, and all through the medium of animation.

The first few minutes of the film show the life of Carl and Ellie; from childhood, to joyful love-filled marriage, to the tragedy of not having children of their own, through to rising above this and living loving and happy lives. From there we feel the heart-wrenching sadness as Ellie passes away, and we see Carl become moulded into an angry and embittered old man.

The film thunders on with the irrepressible enthusiasm of Russell, who’s still filled with joy despite the tragedy of his home life. We see the parental warmth blossom within Carl as he tries to maintain his vision of getting his house to the falls. We see the single minded exuberance of Dug the dog, and in Charles Muntz the neuroticism of a life spent unrelentingly chasing a dream.

With one of the most touching endings of all of Pixar’s many many success stories, Up is a spectacular triumph. The depth of the characters is almost endless, and with bitter sadness entangled around the child-like dream unfurling in front of the viewer offers something quite profound.

My two year old son, however, was unconcerned by this. He wanted a balloon (a blue one), and then decided that he wanted a dog.

Drew Pontikis is an avid gamer and film fanatic. A fan of racing sims, first person shooters and horror films, Drew is notable for talking almost exclusively using Futurama quotes. Follow him on Twitter as @drew060609 or read his game reviews at http://obscenegaming.wordpress.com.

Review: Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans

Director: Werner Herzog
Year: 2009
Score: 5/10

I’d seen the original Bad Lieutenant (a 1992 Abel Ferrara film anchored by a gutsy lead performance from Harvey Keitel) and heard good things about this Werner Herzog remake. Unfortunately it didn’t really work for me. Nicolas Cage dominates in the title role, but I couldn’t stop thinking that these days, rather than genuinely acting, he’s basically just doing a passable and slightly exaggerated Nicolas Cage impression. Like his performance, much of this movie is over the top to the point of silliness.

Review: Lebanon

Director: Samuel Maoz
Year: 2009
Score: 7.5/10

Gripping, claustrophobic and quite moving portrayal of life in an Israeli tank at the start of the 1982 Lebanon War. There’s a bit of Murphy’s Law in terms of what these particular soldiers experience, and their reactions and infighting sometimes seem a little bit over the top, but it’s still a very powerful film.

Review: Where the Wild Things Are

Director: Spike Jonze
Year: 2009
Score: 9.5/10

Utterly beautiful meditation on loneliness, sadness, family, connection, friendship, ostracisation, childhood, and perhaps even mental illness. Deeply moving, frequently hilarious, and unlike anything I’ve seen before. At first it feels like someone decided to make a children’s movie with the style, skill, sensibility and soundtrack of an indie comedy, but it ends up being much more than that. Max Records, the child actor in the lead role, is superb; the actors voicing the Wild Things – led by the late, great James Gandolfini – are also excellent. It gave me so much to think about and had such pathos throughout. The tone is perfect. I can’t recommend this highly enough – but only for adults. Despite the furry creatures, this is not a children’s movie.

Review: Black Dynamite

Director: Scott Sanders
Year: 2009
Score: 6/10

This blaxploitation spoof hits its satirical target quite well, and has some funny parts, but it seems as though it would have worked better as a short film or sketch rather than having the joke play out over 84 minutes. Two highlights: the sequence in which Black Dynamite and his crew figure out what the evil plan is, and everything involving Richard and Pat Nixon.

Review: Taking Woodstock

Director: Ang Lee
Year: 2009
Score: 4.5/10

Demetri Martin is a funny comedian with a fairly unique low-key style, and I enjoyed his TV series Important Things with Demetri Martin. However, I think we can all agree that he can’t act. All of us, that is, except Ang Lee, who for some bizarre reason thought it would be a good idea to cast him in the lead role in this odd movie about how Woodstock ended up happening. One critic called Martin’s work here a “nonperformance”, and I have to agree; he seems to be giving it his all, but his all is pretty woeful. Putting that to one side, there are other problems: the movie doesn’t seem to know whether it’s about his character or about Woodstock itself, and by oscillating between the two it loses focus and any dramatic potency it might have had. There’s also apparently some comedy in here, but I couldn’t find it. The bright spots are few and far between but they mostly either involve Liev Schreiber’s cross-dressing security guard character (Schreiber is genuinely appealing in this and steals numerous scenes), drug trips, or the broader spectacle of Woodstock itself, which is restaged impressively. It’s not hard to see why this flopped at the box office.

Review: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Directors: Phil Lord & Chris Miller
Year: 2009
Score: 9/10

Hilarious animated movie that’s just as entertaining for adults as kids. There’s so much going on – constant visual humour (both foreground and background), incredibly witty writing, great performances (particularly Bill Hader in the lead role), a vibrant visual palette, and fast-paced action. Its use of running gags actually reminded me of Arrested Development (a huge compliment). There’s also a good dose of heart, with things paying off nicely at the end (I’ll even admit to shedding a tear at one point). Go watch this movie!