Posts Tagged ‘the blind side

06
Jan
10

Top Ten Movies of 2009

What a year it has been for movies. From a film for fanboys (“Watchmen”) to a teeny-bopper supernatural romance (“New Moon”), from a Jarhead visiting a world of blue people (“Avatar”) to ugly aliens visiting our own (“District 9”), from man’s continuing struggle to against the machine (“Terminator Salvation”) to the machines having taken over and a scientist’s soul divided into mini-creations trying to survive (“9”), from the return of 80’s cartoons as live action (“G.I. Joe”) to the return of 80’s horror (“The Stepfather”) and everything in between (there were TWO movies about mall security cops), it truly has been a year.

As far as film goes and in my own opinion it’s been a tough year. One can blame the economic recession/depression for monetary aspects, but it’s been an overall success for the Industry for the year. This year was more about the aftermath of the 2007-2008 writers strike than any other single factor.

It was difficult making this year’s list because the overall feeling from watching movies this year was “meh.” I enjoyed quite a few movies, but the indies seemed to have peaked the year that “No Country for Old Men” saw release and the blockbusters haven’t held the caliber of “Iron Man” (although “G.I. Joe” was more fun than “Transformers 2”) Another problem with constructing the list was that three of my favorite films I saw this year (“Frost/Nixon,” ‘The Wrestler,” “Gran Torino”) were limited release 2008 in cities such as NY and LA and therefore had to be struck from the list.

Here, in order of release/when I viewed them, are my Top Ten movies of 2009 and my thoughts:

“Star Trek” – “Alias” and “Lost” creator JJ Abrams was given the keys to Kirk and Company and made a fun and enjoyable movie that was truly a reason to go to the movie theatre. Chris Pine channeled a bit of Shatner while Zach Quinto did a spot-on Spock. Some have called it “Star Trek for Star Wars fans” and that may have a bit of truth to it, but it doesn’t take away from being a solid, enjoyable film.

“Up” – If this year had a theme it would be “films that other people thought shouldn’t work but did.” “Up” was being crucified before it got to the theatres. I saw an article where “Wall Street” experts were predicting it as a failure for Pixar. The result? A heartfelt, beautifully colored solid story about a former balloon salesman uprooting his house for the ultimate adventure of his life taking along a stowaway who needs a father figure. It may not have the technology of “Avatar” but the story was original and solid and Pixar up’d their technology work with the brilliance of their color palette.

“The Hangover” – A movie I probably would not have watched had it not been for the free screening. The initial WB test screening went so well they ordered a sequel, which I had never heard of happening before. My brother and I went to a PACKED screening at the Commerce Crossings theatre two weeks in advance. Walking out of the movie my brother gave it the best endorsement I’ve ever heard for a movie: “I would pay to see that again.” So would I.

“District 9” – Following “Moon,” (which gets Honorable Mention) director Neil Blomkamp took racial prejudice in South Africa and changed it to alienation of aliens. Shot on a limited budget and handheld/doc-style, it was an innovative sci-fi film and one that should raise the bar for doing science fiction films.

“Inglourious Basterds” – Tarantino threw everything but the blender into this one: a hodge-podge of war films, exploitation, film geekness, and World War II. This film ran the risk of being exclusively for those who love films and/or Tarantino and while that concept may seem to be running on fumes, and trust me it has its faults, overall it tied together at the end. It’s not “Kill Bill” or “Pulp Fiction,” but it’s a worthwhile addition to the Tarantino catalog.

“Capitalism: A Love Story” – One of the most personal of Michael Moore’s films and his best since, “Bowling for Columbine.” It got snubbed for next year’s Academy Awards and that just goes to show Californians DO love their money…

“Paranormal Activity” – Most likened to being this decade “Blair Witch,” this really IS the little movie that could. Done for $15,000 and shot in one location this preyed on those times when you sit in a house, alone, and hear the creaking of the floors, strange noises, etc. This is a film that works best on people who have imaginations, as opposed to those who enjoy the “idiotic group of college teenagers going out to an abandoned shack” formula. I caught a late showing on a Tuesday night and couldn’t get the final scene outta my head. On DVD next week!

“The Blind Side” – So I had to put another “heartwarming” movie on the list. It wasn’t groundbreaking and you could tell the smarminess from the get-go, but I enjoyed the film. Not everything I watch has to be earth-shattering or socially conscious; sometimes it’s nice to fit in an “uplifting” movie.

“Me and Orson Welles” – Charming, amusing movie rooted in its when and where. I am not a big fan of Orson Welles as a person or his personality, but Christian McKay did such a spot-on job with playing Orson Welles it’s uncanny. It was great speaking with Ed Hart about this one; it truly deserves to be recognized. I wish it luck.

“Avatar” – I initially thought against putting this in the Top Ten but Cameron’s attention to detail and use of 3-D technology make this one to be seen. It’s not a great story; in fact, you’ve already seen it as “Dune,” “Dances with Wolves,” etc. The attention to detail and world of Pandora that Cameron created are what sets this above the others.

There are others that deserve mention (“Moon,” “Zombieland”) but these were the ten best for the year (that I watched). Feel free to give your comments. Happy holidays and see you at the movies!

Chas Andrews

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18
Dec
09

Movie Review: The Blind Side

A good movie based on a true story.

Starring Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Quinton Aaron, Kim Dickens and Ray McKinnon. Directed by John Lee Hancock. Based on the book “The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game,” by Michael Lewis

Maybe it’s me getting older. The hype that surrounds certain movies often seem to overwhelm how the movies actually are. Sure, there are a few worthy of the hype machine yelling their praises from the rooftops but if this year has taught me anything about movie watching and reviewing it’s that more oft than not the movies you don’t expect to be all that great end up being the ones you enjoy the most. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised with “The Blind Side.” In all fairness if not for the fact that I was able to get into the free screening of it, I probably wouldn’t have seen it at all.

I’m not a huge fan of sports movies, especially football. After “Friday Night Lights,” and “Varsity Blues,” I was pretty sure the field had been played for all it was worth. Here came a football movie that wasn’t so much about the game as it was about a guy who became a player, and for once it didn’t take place in Texas.

“The Blind Side” is based on the story of Michael Oher. Michael , aka “Big Mike,” was born in the Projects of Memphis. He is one of 12 kids who grew up never knowing his father and whose mother spent her existence on crack, among other drugs. Going from foster home to foster home, always running back to take care of his mother he eventually ends up sleeping on his uncle’s couch. His uncle takes him to predominantly white Christian school and tries to get him in. With a GPA around the same as a blood-alcohol level, the cards are stacked against him.

One night while walking home he’s noticed by the Tuohy family. Leigh Anne Tuohy is a socialite who runs errands and buys/sells things. Her husband Stephen (McGraw) runs 85 Taco Bells. They live in a nice house with two kids: Stephen Jr., aka “SJ,” and Collins. The family is sports-oriented: dad played basketball at Ole Miss, mom was a cheerleader, and sister runs track, plays volleyball, and is a cheerleader. Leigh Anne, seeing “Big Mike” as someone needing assistance, decides to lend a helping hand.

Michael’s life is slowly turned around as Leigh Anne provides him with things and experiences he’s never had: owning a bed, having new clothes, studying for classes, etc. Leigh Anne’s own world is changed as she sees Hurt Village, aka The Projects, a side of Memphis her friends would rather take pity on and throw charity money at then volunteer help with. The family recognizes Michael as a “diamond in the rough” and take him in as one of their own.

Not all is smooth sailing as Michael has his share of bad experiences: his mother’s last known residence is locked with an eviction notice on it. Teachers aren’t quite sure what to make of him. He gets into a car accident. He encounters racist idiocy on the football field. His anti-social behavior has him keeping a distance from everyone. Leigh Anne does the best she can to help him out at every turn.

The final product of it all is that Michael Oher becomes the most sought-after offensive lineman in the history of sports. He attends Ole Miss and ends up drafted into the NFL. Currently he’s #4 among rookie players in the nation.

What I liked about this movie is that is was equal parts sports, learning, and the human condition. It’s about taking a chance and believing in something; it’s about making a difference. There’s a note at the end of the film that he could’ve turned out to be someone living in Hurt Village whose life was cut short. Because someone took the time to see him as being something bigger than themselves, he’s turned out just fine.

How about the performances? I’m not a huge fan of Sandra Bullock but she does disappear into this role and it seems to be something she believes in. I’ve never seen country star Tim McGraw act before so I can only say that he does well. Quinton Aaron, who plays Michael Oher, does a great job in conveying a teenage boy who has endured a life of hurt and must learn to trust and believe in himself.

Why should you see this movie? If you’ve been waiting for that movie that has a good story with a small amount of morals and message, this is it. No cussing (that I can recall), no overt drug use (though some are shown in one scene), no incredibly sappy lines or scenes (though some may strike a chord with you). It’s a well crafted and executed true story, which is saying a lot.

Watch for Phillip Fulmer, Lou Holtz, Tom Lemming, Houston Nutt, Ed Orgeron, Franklin ‘Pepper’ Rodgers, Nick Saban, and Tommy Tuberville playing themselves.

Useless but Cool Trivia: Kim Dickens and Ray McKinnon were both in the HBO TV series, “Deadwood.”

My grade: B+

30
Oct
09

November Movie Releases

“The Box” – James Marsden and Cameron Diaz are a couple with a kid living in dire circumstances when a mysterious stranger gives them a box that has a button on it. Pressing the button will reward them with $1 million however, it will also kill someone else in the world they do not know. Based on the Richard Matheson story, “Button, Button.” Decide if you will press it on November 6, 2009

“Disney’s A Christmas Carol” – Jim Carrey voices Ebeneezer Scrooge in this CG take on the Dickens classic. Also stars the voices of Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Tom Hanks, Bob Hoskins, Colin Firth, Gary Oldman, Cary Elwes and Robin Wright Penn. Directed by Robert Zemeckis. Opens November 6, 2009

“The Fourth Kind” – Milla Jovovich in a thriller based on the real-life story of a town in Alaska where people have been disappearing and where they fear there’s a government coverup. Opens November 6, 2009

“The Men Who Stare at Goats” – Ewan McGregor stars as a down-on-his-luck reporter who gets the inside scoop on a secret psychic military unit. Also stars George Clooney and Kevin Spacey. Based on the 2004 book of the same name. Opens November 6, 2009

“Precious” – Based on the “Push” novel about a black girl who grows up being abused by her mother, raped by her father, and ends up poor, angry, illiterate, unloved, and unnoticed. Opens November 6, 2009

“2012” – It’s not the year 2525, but it’s just as disastrous… Roland Emmerich is behind this apocalyptic movie staring John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Danny Glover, and Oliver Platt. Opens November 13, 2009

“Pirate Radio” – Set in the 60’s. A group of DJ’s give a new meaning to “the boat that rocked” by broadcasting rock music from a boat in the North Seas while most of the broadcasters in England are still clinging to jazz. Stars Bill Nighy, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Gemma Arterton, Emma Thompson, and David Frost. Opens November 13, 2009

“Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” – Remake/reboot of Harvey Keitel movie finds Nic Cage in the title role as a no-holds-barred cop as crooked as the crooks he takes down. This time it’s set in New Orleans. Opens November 20, 2009

“The Blind Side” – A young, African-American teenager from a broken home is taken in by a well-to-do white family. He must rise up against new challenges in his life and the family finds out more about themselves as well. Stars Sandra Bullock. Opens November 20, 2009

“New Moon” – Episode Two of the “Twilight Saga” based on the books. Opens November 20, 2009

“Planet 51” – When an astronaut lands on a planet that fears alien invasion, he has to avoid capture and reclaim his ship to return to Earth. With the voices of Dwayne Johnson, Seann William Scott, Jessica Biel, Gary Oldman, and John Cleese. Opens November 20, 2009

“Fantastic Mr. Fox” – Based on the Roald Dahl about a sly fox who lives in idyllic life that slips back into his thieving ways. This agitates the farmers and endangers the animal kingdom which must bond together in order to survive. Featuring the voices of George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, and Jason Schwartzman. Opens November 25, 2009

“Ninja Assassin” – Asian pop star Rain is one of the world’s deadliest assassins, taken from birth and trained in a secret society. When his best friend dies he breaks free, vanishes, and waits to exact his revenge. Opens November 25, 2009

“Old Dogs” – John Travolta and Robin Williams are two business execs on the verge of the Biggest Business Deal of Their Lives and have to take care of 6-year-old twins. Uh, yeah. Opens November 25, 2009

“The Princess and the Frog” – Disney’s re-imagining of “The Princess and the Frog,” taking place this time in Louisiana. Opens November 25, 2009

“The Road” – Based on the Cormac McCarthy novel about a father and son walking the desolate earth of a post-apocalyptic future, armed with a single pistol. Stars Viggo Mortensen, Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce, and Robert Duvall. Opens November 25, 2009