Here we go, counting down the best and the worst of the 143 movies I saw for the first time in 2009. But first, a couple honorable mentions.
Sleuth (1972 & 2007)
How can a movie that is so interesting have a remake that is so dull? Yet somehow it happened, even with Michael Caine in both films. The original takes place on a visually vibrant set with the whole house crammed with games, mementos, and knickknacks. Even if the actors were boring, it would still be an adventure to look at the set. The highlight is an animatronic man who laughs and claps at the push of a button, and while it is kind of silly, it adds some nice atmosphere to the room. Conversely, the remake takes place in an ultra-modern house with stark, minimalist furnishings and an overabundance of empty space. I was bored of the set in under five minutes. The highlight is a small remote control that controls everything in the house with its solitary “do everything” button. The original kept me wondering, “What’s really going on and what’s going to happen next?” The remake had me wondering, “Why is this happening and why did the screenwriter think it was a good idea?” The original opens in a hedge maze, which is always interesting, but I cannot remember how the remake began, it was so unremarkable. The original has Laurence Olivier, Michael Caine, a virtuoso performance by Alec Cawthorne, and a gripping treasure hunt for a third act. The remake has Michael Caine, Jude Law, copious amounts of profanity, and a homoerotic third act that comes completely out of nowhere and does not fit with the rest of the film.
Bridge to Terabithia (2007)
This is a beautiful yet heart wrenching tale of imagination and friendship in unlooked for places. I could say more, but I would rather you just check out this gem from Walden Media right now.
All the King’s Men (2006)
Sean “Look, I’m ACTING!” Penn stars as Willie Stark, a political idealist who becomes just as corrupt as the politicians he was originally fighting against. Of course I don’t know how he was even able to get himself elected. Whenever I come across someone ranting and raving like a bad Baptist preacher with a bad Louisiana accent, my tendency is to run the other way, not stick around to see what he has to say. And then his message of taking all the money from the rich to give it to the poor smacks of the worst kind of socialism. This movie manages to cover less narrative ground in 18 more minutes than the 1949 original, creating something vastly inferior to the original in almost every respect.
Coming up next: two movies that start out dull, one of which gets much more interesting than the other.