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Stalker's Top Ten 2009: Trevor Morris: 2009 review

10FSReel.jpgNow this happens every year, and I don't mind it one bit, the Stalker's Top Ten is called that for a catchy title and you don't have to stick to ten films, and Trevor Morris has done that, in fact he's gone way off ten and even one list. He's gone wild with the idea and I love it.

So without further ado, let's look at Trevor's ratings for 2009, Best of the Rest, Classics, and What's to come in 2010.

Oh, before we head into that list, just a quick word on submitting your own Top Ten list. It's easy to do, create a list, add at least a sentence explanation about each entry, how you'd like to be known on the published article along with a site link, and email it to me at competition@filmstalker.co.uk, simple as anything.

Now let's hand over to Trevor.

In 2009 I watched 289 movies, a total of 108 of them at the cinema, and running at over 21 days! I rate each movie after I've watched them and below are my best of last year. You can see all my ratings at my own site.

Although some of the movies below where 'released' in 2008, they didn't make it over to the UK until 2009. These are the movies, twenty-four in total, that I watched in 2009 and I rated 8 or above.

The 9's:
The Hurt Locker (Filmstalker review)
Avatar (Filmstalker review)
Waltz with Bashir
(500) Days of Summer
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire (Filmstalker review)
District 9 (Filmstalker review)
Away We Go
Inglourious Basterds (Filmstalker review)
Star Trek (Filmstalker review)

The 8's:
The Wrestler
Let The Right One In (Filmstalker review)
Moon (Filmstalker review)
Antichrist (Filmstalker review)
Zombieland (Filmstalker review)
Milk (Filmstalker review)
Revolutionary Road
Rachel Getting Married
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Che: Part One
Frost/Nixon (Filmstalker review)
Is Anybody There?

It has been a while since I watched The Hurt Locker (Filmstalker review) but I can still remember some of the key scenes clearly and thinking about the movie as a whole reminds me of intense the experience was. The movie had an interesting and direct storyline and took a very personal approach to the subject of war. It was beautifully shot with some great characters, emotions and performances. I can't wait to watch this movie again, definitely one for the collection and my favourite movie of the year.

Restricting the list above to those movies which were released in 2009 itself, Pixar tops the chart [with Up - Richard], just like last year. The introductory sequences following Carl Fredricksen meeting and growing old with his childhood sweetheart was beautiful and heartbreaking. The adventure, with Carl teaming up with Russell and Dug, through the Venezuelan-esque jungle, was full of comedic set pieces. The story was well told, the characters were endearing and the movie was full of colours. But, I thought there were a few over the top gags and overall, I felt it lacked something which needed to make it extremely special. Up was a very good movie, but I don't think it compares to their entrant from the previous year; Wall-E (Filmstalker review).

James Cameron's Avatar (Filmstalker review) was a spectacular movie, definitely the best cinema experience of the year and probably of the decade. The entire movie was totally engaging, the world of Pandora was breathtakingly beautiful and full of subtleties which no doubt reward multiple viewings. The action was fast-paced and intense. The technology, as well as the movie, was hyped to enormous proportions, which many thought would not meet expectations - but it did. I was blown away by the Na'vi faces and movement, very realistic and the avatars themselves resemble their human counterparts beautifully. Finally, the 3D was by far the best I've seen in any movie to date, it made the experience more immersive and definitely added a new dimensions (pun intended) to the experience. Seriously, this is from someone who doesn't really like 3D because of the gimmicky use thus far.

Waltz with Bashir is a harrowing animated retelling of a soldiers experiences in the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. Some of the best traditional animation I've ever seen, combined with the disturbing portrayal of war and it's horrors make for a very moving film. Read my full review.

Two of my other highest rated movies which were actually released in 2009 were indie flicks. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was mesmerising in his relationship with Zooey Deschanel in (500) Days of Summer and in Away We Go, we follow a couple trying to define what home means.

Best of the Rest
These movies are my 'best of the rest' which were released in 2009. They are selection of movies, some of which you may have already watched (and hopefully enjoyed) and others which I thought were interesting and may have been under your radar.

The Hangover
Harry Brown
Duplicity (Filmstalker review)

The Hangover was extremely well received and rightfully so. I don't tend to watch much comedy, and this had some flaws, but it was fully enjoyable. Triangle was an interesting, well thought-through thriller/horror. With a small cast, an interesting story and (what I thought was) a good twist / ending, I feel Triangle is worth a mention, especially if you like the genre.

Harry Brown is a British revenge movie. Unlike the revenge movie Law Abiding Citizen, Harry Brown is a violently dark but subtle commentary on youthful disrespect of the elderly found in many cities and depraved areas throughout Britain.

I really enjoyed the chemistry between Clive Owen and Julia Roberts in this twisting and turning corporate crime thriller con job [Duplicity - Richard]! It's the kind of movie which needs multiple viewings to fully appreciate what you know at the end so you can apply it to every scene. I will be looking forward to watching this again in 2010.

I think this could be the most controversial part of my end-of-year movie review. My biggest disappointment has to be Where the Wild Things Are. There was so much hype around this movie, which is based on a highly-acclaimed 1963 children's ten-sentence story picture book. This hype revolved around the director Spike Jonze, who it seems had very differing opinions to the studio on the direction of the movie, causing out-cry from fans. I thought the Wild Things were very well done, the mix between suits and CGI worked very well. The cinematography was absolutely breathtaking, especially the use of colour and sunlight. However, I didn't think the movie worked as a movie – it could have been brilliant as a short story, keeping true to the brevity of the original material. I was unsure at the movie's target audience, I felt it was too frightening for a children's movie but it was too sparse (in my opinion) for a good adults movie – I felt the storyline severely harmed my experience of this artwork.

Other disappointments include Vicky Cristina Barcelona (Filmstalker review) which I simply did not like. It was nicely show and the acting wasn't bad but I absolutely detested the narration and the story was too self-indulgent for my tastes. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was a complete mess of a movie. The first movie had a relatively decent story for an action movie, it introduced our hero, the transformers themselves and the villains as well as moving at a breakneck pace with intense action and stunning sets, but the sequel just seemed to be a terrible mass of mashed metal, not to mention some of the new transformers which are probably best left unvoiced. A few other let-downs include Knowing, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, Gamer and Taking Woodstock.

This year I've finally got round to watching a few classics. I watched 2001: A Space Odyssey (10) on DVD to commemorate a decade since Stanley Kubrick's death, and I also got the chance to see the movie in a theatre. I took some friends to experience it, and I'm glad I've able to see it on a large screen.

New classics I hadn't seen until this year include; Paths of Glory, Spartacus, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly and Twelve Angry Men.

The same theatre in which I watched 2001 had a Kubrick season so I was able to also see Paths of Glory (9) which I was extremely impressed with – the war depiction at the start was really brutal and puts the audience right in the action and the juxtaposition with the court-martial in the second-half was striking.

Continuing with Kubrick's catalogue (Trovster's reviews of Kubrick films) I finally watched Spartacus, and although I felt it was slow in places the storyline was brilliant and the action scenes were very good. The Good, The Bad and the Ugly also felt a little slow – this is indicative of many pre ‘80s movies – but this was easily over-shadowed by the story, cinematography, acting and action sequences.

Finally, Twelve Angry Men showed what you can achieve with a great script, great dialogue and good acting. Set entirely in a single room (yes, with a little exception) this post-courtroom drama oozes tension and style, a must watch.

What to Come?
Last year I listed my "what to come" movies and seven of them appear in my top list from this year, notably Oscar winner Slumdog Millionaire, The Wrestler and the alternate look on the vampire mythology in the Swedish movie Let the Right One In. However, I am still waiting to see Charlie Kaufman's mind-bending directorial debut Synecdoche, New York as well as The Brøken and Fernando Meirelles' Blindness.

I am most looking forward to Christopher Nolan's Inception. Nolan made one of my favourite ever movies, The Prestige, in-between his two successful Batman movies. I sincerely hope he can recreate the magic before he no doubt starts on his sequel to The Dark Knight. Inception, featuring Leonardo DiCaprio, Josepth Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Cillian Murphy and Michael Caine sounds like another mind melting movie which I hope I can be on par with The Prestige or Memento.

Secondly would probably have to be Black Swan. Darren Aronofsky's next movie after his much acclaimed The Wrester. A thriller involving rivalling ballet dancers staring Natalie Portman and teaming up with Clint Mansell for the score again. I have complete faith that Aronofsky can delight us again, something on the same level as The Fountain or Requiem for a Dream.

Robert Downey Jr. in the Iron Man sequel looks to be high on everyone's list for the new year, especially since the first trailer looked very good indeed. I am very interested in seeing more of Michael Haneke's work, since admiring Funny Games and especially after this years praise for his latest work; The White Ribbon.

Other movies which I am looking forward to see in 2010 are:

Up in the Air
The Lovely Bones
Crazy Heart
The Green Hornet
The Book of Eli
Shutter Island
Toy Story 3
A Prophet
Cold Souls

... these should be fun:
Cop Out
Alice in Wonderland

... and these could be bad:
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Robin Hood
The A-Team
The Karate Kid

Well that's Trevor's extensive review of 2009, although not quite as extensive as my own, I think I beat you by a few pages! It's an excellent review, I'm sure you'll agree, and remember you can get your own list up here by submitting it as per the instructions at the beginning of each of the Stalker's Top Tens.

Watch for the rest of the series coming in the next few weeks as we lay 2009 to rest.



Great list, Trevor.

However, I think you're a bit hard on Pixar's 'Up'. I think it's their best ever. Although maybe that says more about me, empathising with a grumpy old git.

I'd personally add Gran Torino to your list too.


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