Everyone loves 'Top 5' lists, don't they?
Oh. Well I do, so I'm doing one. First off though, I have to say that I didn't get 'round to seeing the following films; The Hurt Locker, (500) Days of Summer, Public Enemies, Where the Wild Things Are or Fantastic Mr. Fox. From what I've seen, all of these stand a chance of breaking into the top 5 but I didn't see them so I can't rate them.
Notable mentions have to go to The Hangover, Star Trek and Coraline, all of which were enjoyable films that I'll definitely watch again. Here's the top 5;
I saw this in 3D and, if you're going to go see it, I urge you to see the 3D version as well. In the past (including Coraline and, to a lesser extent, Up) the 3D aspect of a film was a gimmick to make a given object come 'out' of the screen - usually to the surprise of the audience - it was a parlour trick. No more. In Avatar, James Cameron has managed to integrate 3D technology into the very fabric of the film and the results are spectacular. Everything has depth and texture, everything feels real. While this technology is going to be a lot of fun for action/adventure films, what I really want to see is someone do a single-camera Blair Witch/Paranormal Activity style film in this manner. The feeling of 'looking through a window' rather than at a screen really draws you in and, I think, documentary-style horror films are going to reap some major scares out of this stuff.
While the plot has come in for some serious criticism (it's Ferngully!) for its lack of originality, I don't necessarily see this as a fault. James Cameron is taking you on a ride and the visuals are a big part of that - there isn't that much else you can do once the protagonists are set up; the furrows of history are fairly well worn in these situations. So don't expect the story to blow you out of the water, it's merely the vehicle that takes you through the world that Jim built.
I really enjoyed this film. There are little treats scattered all the way through it, from noticing that they've finally got CG eyes 'right' to realizing that it took you an hour to figure this out because they look so damn real!
Yes, the graphic novel is better. Let us get that out of the way right off the bat. Zack Snyder deserves some credit for the best attempt at faithfully rendering a graphic novel into a movie, but the drawback of this is that you really can directly compare the two because the film offers you nothing you haven't read in the book (except, perhaps, a better ending - there, I said it!).
If it hadn't been a comic first, Watchmen would have been hailed - quite rightly - as a groundbreaking work of cinematic genius, but it will never get that recognition because all it really is is a photocopy of the original.
That being said, it's an incredibly well made film and almost all the casting is note-perfect. Jackie Earle Haley as Rorsharch is one of my favourite performances of the year. I'm still not entirely sold on Leanard Cohen's Hallelujah being used during the mid-air Archie sex-scene, but I guess Watchmen is supposed to be idiosyncratic and, well, cheesy. That's why it works as superhero satire, after all!
#3 Inglourious Basterds
You just can't keep Quentin down, can you? Man I love this film!
The most notable thing about IB is how it's not about Brad Pitt's character. The trailer led us all to believe that it was going to be all about Brad and his Jewish buddies cutting a bloody swathe through the ranks of the Nazis in France - almost like the Bride in Kill Bill as she takes down the Crazy 88s (and everyone else in her path). But that's not how it works.
It's actually Christopher Waltz' who owns this film. As Hans Landa, the 'Jew-Hunter', Waltz manages to do what, to my mind, no other Tarantino villain has done. He is frightening. Most of QT's bad-guys are sadistic yes, but they're also normally pretty cool too (think of Bill, Marsellus Wallace, Stuntman Mike). Landa is more like Hannibal Lecter; cold, calculating, supremely intelligent and utterly ruthless.
The rest of the film's pretty bad-ass as well!
Total change of tone here! Up made me cry. For the first time in my adult life, I cried in the cinema (the only other time was when Optimus Prime died in Transformers: The Movie back in the late 80s) and I'm not ashamed to admit it. The emotional kick in the guts that comes in the first 10 minutes rivals any tear-jerker in cinematic history and it grounds the whole film, even when everything else is airborne.
I have no idea how Pixar keep making these gems but I hope they keep it up for many more years to come because they just keep on getting better and better. I may be slightly biased towards this film because it has a Rottweiler in it that reminds me of my dog, but leaving that aside it still has everything a good movie should have; thrills, spills, chase-scenes, comedy, great characters and, at it's heart, a lot of love.
#1 District 9
No contest. This was, not only my favourite, but the best film of the year. Everything about it shows endless ingenuity, creativity, innovation and courage I don't think I blinked more than fifty times during the entire screening.
Sharlto Copley puts in the only performance of the year to rival Christopher Waltz with his portayal of MNU employee Wikus van de Merwe, a performance which was totally improvised. I have never been taken on a journey like I was with Wikus. His casual racism (or xenocism, if you like) and likable demeanor at the start of the film makes for an interesting character and if they'd have left it there, I would have been satisfied. But throughout the film, Wikus transforms (in many ways) and you're never left feeling sold short at any stage - you're always with him, even when you don't like him.
Neill Blomkamp has done something thoroughly remarkable with District 9 that will see this film talked about alongside Alien, Blade Runner, 2001, Terminator and others as one of the seminal works of Science-fiction.
Well, there's my Top 5. I've tried to avoid doing the usual 'review' of the film that inevitably leads to spoilers and, at the very least, plants pre-conceived notions about the film in the readers mind. Instead, I've just tried to tell you how the movie made me feel and, if nothing else, encouraged you to seek out any of these films that you might not have seen yet. Trust me; they're all worth seeing.
Let me know if you agree/disagree!