OK, so here's the list of the movies that I saw this year (well, the ones that I watched all the way through. I'm not counting films that I didn't get through). It's in ranked order. Here are the top five and the bottom 1.
1. Watchmen - I know that this is a love-hate movie but it touched upon a lot of things that I've always wanted to write about in terms of superhero mythology. I loved it but I will readily admit that it is flawed and I wouldn't be at all surprised if some people ranked it as one of the worst movies of the year.
2. Taken - Again, I wouldn't argue that this is a great movie but I was completely enthralled by it. Yes, "it" is basically little more than Liam Neeson running around karate chopping people in the throat but it worked for me. A throwback to the no nonsense action flicks of the 80's.
3. The Hangover - I checked it out on opening weekend, headed in with low expectations, and was very surprised at how funny it was. I'm not sure if I would have been as thrilled with it if I had seen it after the hype blew up but I still think it would rank as one of the better comedies of the decade.
4. Avatar - This is the first 3D movie I think I've ever seen so I was blown away by the technology. Some people have told me that the movie was five years too late and some of the 3D is movies like "My Bloody Valentine" actually trumped this film but I thought the story was cohesive enough to keep me interested. However, the characters are laughably thin, their relationships are afterthoughts, and I'm not buying Sam Worthington as the Next Big Thing (and no, it's not just because his accent went in and out throughout the movie). While it's #4 on my list, I would probably say that if you don't see Avatar in the theaters and in 3D then there's not a ton of reason to see it at all. The theme is nice but not enough IMO.
5. Thirst - I didn't love the pacing but it was surprisingly funny and was an interesting look at vampires.
As for the worst movie of the year, Bride Wars is such a miserable movie that I really have no idea how it was made. Even the premise doesn't sound appealing. It's two unlikable girls fighting over a wedding venue. (And I'm pretty sure that the film was shot in Boston and the venue in question isn't even that amazing.) I'm sure it got greenlit because of the bridezilla craze but those shows work because you can sit back at how ridiculous some of these people REALLY are. Once the situations are fake and the audience is supposed to somehow feel for these characters, everything falls apart. And in an ironic twist, the film itself, like the bridezillas it hopes to mock, fails to recognize the real meaning of marriage.
Here's the rest of the list, from 5 to 35.
6. Up in the Air - Another movie that was surprisingly funny. I laughed out loud quite a bit at this movie. Unfortunately, the more I think about it, the more problems I have with it. Then again, maybe that's one of its strengths - you can sit back analyze and debate it for hours on end and still have new ideas about it in the morning.
7. Drag Me To Hell - Funny and scary with the right amount of camp. I don't think I'll ever look at a Hang In There kitty poster without laughing because of this film.
8. Sugar - I think I have to see this again because I was really thrown by one of the key twists early in the movie. This is NOT a sports movie. It's the story about an immigrant's journey and it involves sports but if you're looking for a movie about someone really committed to making it, you're going to be scratching your head.
9. (500) Days of Summer - I was a big fan of this movie but it was just missing something. Maybe it was the fact that the end didn't really live up to the brutal honesty of the rest of the film but there was just something that didn't click.
10. Sherlock Holmes - A late addition to the list (and I screwed up saving the Film Rank list to the left and didn't feel like retyping out the full 36 list) and it's this high based solely on the performances, dialogue, and my love of Sherlock Holmes. It could just as easily drop down to in between District 9 and Duplicity but for now I'll put it here.
11. Julie & Julia - If this was just about Julia Childs, it might have been my favorite movie of the year. Unfortunately, the Julie section took up half of the movie and that character just isn't that likable. The fact that Julia Childs didn't like the blog and considered it a "stunt" (which is what it was) kind of made the entire dual storylines a failed experiment.
12. Tyson - Mike Tyson in his own words. This film just lets Iron Mike present himself and lets the audience make up their own minds about him and his journey.
13. The Hurt Locker - Kathryn Bigelow should definitely win Best Director because she turned an unreal script that featured the same kind of simple set piece (defusing a bomb) over and over again into a nail biter. Unfortunately, the film was a lot of the same set piece over and over again and there were just too many unrealistic moments in the film. It featured one of my favorite shots of the year (Jeremy Renner's character staring at the cereal aisle at the supermarket) but I just wanted more from this.
14. The Brothers Bloom - A cute heist caper that I see is kind of a more light-hearted companion to last year's underrated "In Bruges".
15. State of Play - A competent political thriller that didn't live up to the standard set by the BBC mini-series on which it was based.
16. Zombieland - Just a fun movie. A great rainy day flick.
17. Extract - I really liked pieces of this movie but it didn't come together. Not quite sure why. Maybe I just wasn't able to connect with the main character enough. It's a fun movie but not one that I'd necessary recommend. It's a check-it-out-on-cable type flick.
18. District 9 - The hype overshadowed the movie and set up some really misplaced expectations. This is an action movie, plain and simple. Yes, the premise could be a parable but the final act is basically just an out-and-out actioner. I might like it better if I see it again but it was not what I was expecting and I was disappointed by what it was.
19. Duplicity - There was just nothing about this film to separate it from the countless other heist films we've seen in the past. I wouldn't say that there's anything wrong with the movie but there's also nothing really right about it either.
20. Star Trek - I have to admit that I'm not a huge fan of JJ Abrams and a lot of his gimmicks annoy me. I felt like this film had a number of "Wait, what?!" moments and the villain was basically a big baby. I think Abrams does a lot of great things but I feel like he asks for a lot of small suspensions of disbelief and those usually add up to me being annoyed by a film.
21. Inglourious Basterds - The titular characters were the worst part of the movie. Take them out and build up the Shoshanna/Landa story and this could be my favorite film of the year. Waltz should win best supporting actor and the opening of the scene of this film is one of the best scenes of the year. But I felt like the film was bogged down by the Basterds and you could really feel Tarantino's b-movie fetish weighing down a grade A film.
22. Public Enemies - If Inglourious Basterds might be ranked too low, this movie might be ranked too high. This film lived and died by Johnny Depp's charisma. Sadly, even Depp wasn't able to make this movie all that interesting.
23. He Just Not That Into You - Kind of the schmaltzy, mainstream ensemble version of (500) Days of Summer in that it spent the first half of the film giving some nice insight into love in the 21st century but then everything just got tied up too neatly. It looked like the film was going to take the rom-com genre in a new direction but it ended up being just another generic romantic comedy.
24. Fired Up! - Honestly, this movie should probably be ranked higher but it's the kind of film that you watch, love, recommend to others, and then when you watch it with them, it's just not as funny as you remembered. It's a b-level comedy but it's very funny and it a throwback to the "Hinjinks Ensue" silly comedies of the 80's.
25. Whip It! - Like Duplicity, there's nothing really wrong with this film but there's nothing all that great about it either. I think my biggest issue was that the characters weren't that strong and we've seen this exact kind of film a million times before, but usually with a few more laugh out loud moments.
26. Fast and Furious - This film is all about the pacing. There's nothing really great about it but it understands what kind of movie it is, never bogs down or takes itself too seriously. It's entertaining but immediately forgettable.
27. Knowing - This film had two or three amazing scenes but I just never got into this film. I didn't care to know what was going on. A lot of it seemed to be about Nic Cage trying to figure out how the world is going to end even though he will be pretty helpless to stop it when and if he does figure it out.
28. The International - A fairly by the number conspiracy thriller.
29. GI Joe - The afterschool cartoon made more sense than this. Also, it rewrote the history of the Joes and made half of them related to one another. I also didn't think the action scenes looked very good and, in fact, they often looked like cartoons. No reason to see this film and I have zero intention of seeing any sequel.
30. The Ugly Truth - An unlikable rom-com with a couple of laughs but no heart.
31. Adventureland - I know people love this movie but I felt like it was a lot of pompous people whining about Woe is Me when they could have done a lot more to get themselves out of their situations. The main character especially just pissed me off to no end.
32. Gomorrah - I really don't get the hype around this one. I thought it was tedious, had too many stories with not enough characters, and it seemed like the moral of the story was The Mafia is bad. Hardly a revelation.
33. Terminator: Salvation - Bar none, the dumbest plan ever. The Machines master plan was one that Wily Coyote would have summarily dismissed as retarded. They pass up chances to kill their main targets multiple times so that they can get him into their lair and... send one Terminator after him? It didn't help that the rest of the movie was terrible as well. This film was a franchise killer.
34. I Love You, Man - I felt like this could have been a half hour long and it still might not have had enough jokes to really keep me entertained.
35. Push - Makes the lousy Pusher look like a competent superhero movie.
36. Spring Breakdown - Just annoying.