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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Judy Thorburn's Top Ten Films of 2009

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Judy Thorburn

Las Vegas Round The Clock -
The Women's Film Critic Circle -
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.




Top Ten Films of 2009

It is this film critic’s opinion that 2009 wasn’t filled with innumerable outstanding films. Yet, from those I managed to see last year, I was able to come up with the following that struck a chord, stood out from the rest, and still lingers in my mind as the crème of the crop. 2009 was an especially good year for sci fi and three of my top ten are from that genre while the rest of my eclectic list include documentaries, action packed thrillers, a poignant movie about dealing with loss of a loved one, and an impeccably crafted war movie, that for me was the absolute best movie of year.

1. The Hurt Locker – Powerful, exciting, and gripping are a few words to describe director Kathryn Bigelow’s nail biter that takes you up close and personal and right into the action of a bomb disposal unit centering on three young soldiers in wartime Iraq. Bigelow deserves the Oscar for Best Director (which would make her the first woman ever to receive it) for skillfully crafting one of the best war films ever made and Jeremy Renner gives an outstanding, Oscar worthy performance as the cocky, risk taking, adrenaline addict, Sergeant Williams who is assigned to lead his unit.

2. Avatar – Twelve years after his award winning blockbuster Titanic, master filmmaker James Cameron returns to the sci fi genre with a film that took him four years to make. Cameron takes movie making to a new level by raising the bar with seamless 3D technology featuring some of the most incredible visual effects ever seen on screen blended into a magnificient sci fi epic adventure that is rich in spirituality and with an ecological, timely message. I was so swept into the rewarding story and its eye popping visuals that the two hours and forty minutes flew by and I found myself wanting more. This is one spectacular film you will want to see more than once.

3. Inglorious Basterds – Writer/ director Quentin Tarentino rewrites history with a story set during World War II that has Jews seeking revenge against the Nazis. Inglorious Basterds is filled with characteristic Tarantino trademarks such as exquisitely crafted scenes, elaborate dialogue, an eclectic score and graphic violence. Most of all, once again Tarantino proves that he is an amazing storyteller who can interweave intricate plotlines and scenarios together with a clever mix of comedy and drama. The entire cast, led by Brad Pitt, is terrific but veteran Austrian actor Christoph Waltz, who is not familiar to American audiences, blew me away as the smart, cunning, lethal Jew hunter who puts on a charming masquerade that masks his deadly intentions. Waltz is nothing short of mesmerizing, commands every scene, and rightfully deserves an Academy Award for his unforgettable performance.

4. District 9 - First time director Neil Blomkamp, with the support of Peter Jackson, makes an auspicious big screen directorial debut working from an absorbing, intelligent script he co-wrote with Terri Tachell. Crafted as a political/social allegory, the compelling, action packed sci fi story about the treatment of extraterrestrials stranded on earth, has strong comparisons to true life issues such as apartheid in South Africa, the horrific practice of ethnic cleansing in third world countries, and treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany.

Created on a scant 30 million dollar budget without any stars and a remarkable performance by a lead actor who had never acted in a film before, the unrecognized faces actually work in its favor to make the story more believable.

5. Star Trek – Director J.J. Abrams injects new life, plus lots of action and wit, into the franchise making it the best installment ever based on the iconic TV series created by the late Gene Rodenberry. The script by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman acts as a prequel, weaving an exciting new adventure into the storyline that takes us back to the beginning of the Starship Enterprise and explores the early days that led up to the formation of its now famous crew. The cast who inhabit the younger counterpart roles of their TV predecessors do a bang up job in capturing the spirit and essence of their character as well as delivering entertaining, strong performances.

6. The International - Clive Owens and Naomi Watts star in this slick, gripping, and smart thriller from director Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) as an Interpol Agent and Manhattan Assistant District Attorney, respectively, who teem up, risking their lives in, a high-stakes chase across the world, determined to bring to justice one of the world’s most powerful banks after they uncover corruption involving the finance of terror and war.

7. A Single Man – In this poignant story, Colin Firth is magnificent as a gay literature professor in 1962 who struggles with grief, suicidal impulses, and his attraction to a young student after his partner of 16 years dies in a car accident.

8. Michael Jackson’s This is it – The King of Pop is gone, but Michael has left us a filmed remembrance that takes us behind the scenes of the creative process for his series of 2009 London concerts that never came to be, with clips of interviews, preparations and rehearsals. The film paints a portrait of Jackson as a brilliant and focused artist at work, on stage in an atmosphere where he was the most comfortable and in control, unlike the outside world where he felt he didn’t fit in. The footage was originally shot primarily for Jackson’s personal use, and though I thought it would be an exploitive use of bits and pieces of behind the scenes rehearsals quickly compiled to make a ton of money, I was surprised on how extraordinary this documentary is and that it would wind up being an amazing concert experience.

9. Tyson – Former heavyweight boxing champ Mike Tyson reveals his inner most thoughts in this raw and uncensored documentary that is nothing short of insightful and offers a better understanding of what makes the man tick. While the portrait painted isn‘t pretty, it is riveting. Tyson is no longer a fighter in the ring, but Tyson, the documentary, delivers a knockout.

10. Taken- Liam Neeson stars as a recently retired CIA operative who uses his special skills to find and save his daughter who was kidnapped while on vacation in Paris and drugged and forced into sex slavery by a group of Albanian thugs. Director Pierre Morel, working from a script by Luc Besson (The Transporter series) and Robert Mark Kamen, keeps things moving at a brisk pace, building up tension and suspense as Bryan gets right down to business. Plot holes and contrivances aside, Taken is a satisfying, top notch action thriller that drew me in, “captured” my attention and kept me at the edge of my seat from the very beginning up to the closing credits.

Others worth seeing and deserve honorable mention are Precious, An Education, The Boys are Back, Drag Me to Hell, Ninja Assassin and Knowing.

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