Movies Released in 2009 (in alphabetical order)

(500) Days of Summer

(500) Days of Summer

Cute if sometimes overly precious romantic comedy about Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a young writer at a greeting card company, who falls madly in love with his new coworker Summer (Zooey Deschanel), an inscrutable loner who doesn't want to get serious. The 500 days of the title indicates the length of their turbulent relationship, and the script (by Scott Neustadter and… read more!

Adventureland

Adventureland

I went to see this middling, though not unlikable, seriocomic coming of age story for two reasons: First, it got surprisingly strong reviews from critics across the board, announcing it as something special. Second, I've been a fan of costar Martin Starr ever since seeing him as Bill Haverchuck in the lamented Freaks & Geeks TV series. He hasn't found… read more!

Anvil! The Story of Anvil

Anvil! The Story of Anvil

Crowd-pleasing documentary about the obscure Canadian heavy metal band Anvil, who neared the brink of stardom in 1984 and then, due to bad management and a few wrongheaded decisions, never made it. Yet a quarter century later, the two dudes who started the band, Steve "Lips" Kudlow and Robb Reiner, are still at it, playing small clubs and hoping for… read more!

The Art of the Steal

The Art of the Steal

Dr. Albert Barnes was a misanthropic millionaire who lived in Merion, Pennsylvania, a tony suburb of Philadelphia. With his wealth, Barnes amassed a priceless collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and early Modern art during the first two decades of the twentieth century. But journalists representing the Philadelphia art establishment dismissed his self-funded exhibition in 1922, and Barnes bore a deep grudge… read more!

Avatar

Avatar

Apparently, just three weeks after its release, I was already among the last people on Earth to see Avatar, James Cameron's long-awaited special effects epic. I was lucky to be invited to a free screening in Hollywood after which Cameron himself spoke about the movie. That's one of the perks of living in Los Angeles. Anyway, now that I've rubbed… read more!

The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans

The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans

This is one of those movies that, on the surface, sounds like one of those straight-to-video sequels of hit movies that feature none of its original stars. Except that this in-name-only sequel/remake of Abel Ferrara's infamous 1992 release Bad Lieutenant, which starred Harvey Keitel as a dirty cop and fallen Catholic, stars an A-list cast headlined by Nicolas Cage, high… read more!

Broken Embraces

Broken Embraces

This entertaining Almodóvar melodrama is more in the mold of his High Heels and Volver than in the kinky cross-dressing or S&M movies that made him famous. Broken Embraces begins in 2008, when a blind screenwriter (Lluís Homar) hears the news of the death of a wealthy Spanish financier and reflects back on 1994, when he still had his sight… read more!

Bronson

Bronson

Highly stylized biopic of criminal Michael Peterson, who later rechristened himself Charles Bronson and quickly earned a reputation as Britain's most violent prisoner. A belligerent, eccentric testosterone (and publicity) generator, Bronson's life outside of prison was brief and unmemorable: in the film, this unrepentant thug - portrayed brilliantly by English actor Tom Hardy - will have you believe that he… read more!

The Brothers Bloom

The Brothers Bloom

One of several 2008 releases pushed back to 2009 for financial reasons, including Star Trek, The Soloist, The Road, and Harry Potter 6, The Brothers Bloom sneaks into theaters at perhaps the wrong time: the start of the summer blockbuster season. Well, perhaps the distributors were hoping for a counter-programming audience to show up. Rian Johnson's fanciful follow-up to his… read more!

Brüno

Brüno

After becoming a household name in the United States thanks to his 2006 feature Borat, British prankster Sacha Baron Cohen revives the third of his staple characters from his old Da Ali G Show - a flamingly gay idiot from Austria named Brüno - and sets him loose across the American landscape. The results are similar to Borat - Larry… read more!

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

I admit that I'm sort of a "Pixar snob", in that the only computer animated movies I really trust are those cranked out by the story-obsessed team at Pixar. Most everything else is crap. However, I will get out once in a while to see the competition if a friend is involved. I saw Kung Fu Panda because an old… read more!

Coraline

Coraline

Wonderfully weird stop-motion animated film from the director of The Nightmare Before Christmas, who adapted the "young readers" book by cult writer Neil Gaiman, immediately ranks among the creepiest movies ever made for kids. That's a compliment. Moving Gaiman's story from a London flat to a Victorian house on the outskirts of Ashland, Oregon (a nice touch; I like Ashland,… read more!

The Cove

The Cove

This excellent documentary about the secret killing of thousands of dolphins in Taiji, Japan, and the brave activists (led by the onetime dolphin trainer for the 1960s TV show Flipper) who strive to put a stop to the slaughter, hits all the right notes. On the one hand it is a gripping thriller, following the team of do-gooders as they… read more!

District 9

District 9

Thoroughly original science fiction/action picture which purports that sometime in the 1980s - perhaps not coincidentally during the final days of Apartheid - a gigantic alien mothership appeared in the skies above Johannesburg, South Africa, and hasn't budged ever since. Investigators discovered over a million starving alien drones on board, then promptly evacuated them to filthy shanty towns on the… read more!

Drag Me to Hell

Drag Me to Hell

When I first heard about Drag Me to Hell, Sam Raimi's long-awaited return to his horror roots after years of adequate studio pictures and of course Spider-Man, it was from my friend William Lebeda, who directed the movie's (very fine) title sequence. Bill had sort of sighed back then, claiming that Drag Me to Hell was - because of its… read more!

Duplicity

Duplicity

Clever comic thriller takes the old concept of spies in love and gives it a novel twist by having its characters - ex-MI6 agent Clive Owen and ex-CIA agent Julia Roberts - dealing not with international intrigue but with corporate espionage, the new frontier. This setup isn't a big surprise coming from writer-director Tony Gilroy, since his last film, the… read more!

An Education

An Education

The 1960s are definitely "in" these days, thanks to the cult TV series Mad Men and a spate of high-profile independent features, including A Single Man, A Serious Man, and now An Education, written by celebrated novelist Nick Hornby, author of About a Boy and High Fidelity, among others. Hornby adapts British journalist Lynn Barber's memoir of her strange year… read more!

Extract

Extract

This average comedy stars Jason Bateman as the young owner of a thriving extract company (meaning a small factory that churns out bottles of almond, cherry, root beer, and vanilla extracts) who feels that his wife (Kristen Wiig) has lost interest in sex, and so he starts to fixate on his company's hot new temp (Mila Kunis), who is in… read more!

The Fantastic Mr. Fox

The Fantastic Mr. Fox

I've never been a huge fan of Wes Anderson's films: the more formalistic and stylized they got, the less they interested me. But I do enjoy stop-motion animation, and it seems to be a fine fit for Anderson's obsessively detailed visual sense, where he can finally have his characters do exactly as he pleases - because they are literally puppets.… read more!

Food, Inc.

Food, Inc.

Intentionally troubling documentary about the American food industry, and why we're eating what we shouldn't be eating, will be eye-opening for many - at least for those who, unlike me, haven't already seen other recent documentaries about food, such as King Corn, The Future of Food, The Real Dirt on Farmer John, and so on. (What can I say? I'm… read more!