The 5 Best (and Worst) Films of the Year

Best

1. “Up”

Remember the first time you saw “Toy Story” and your eyes welled up when Woody and Buzz finally became friends? Anyone who has seen “Up” knows Pixar hasn’t let up with the warm fuzzies since. When an old man’s wife dies, he’s determined to fulfill their dream of moving to South America. In an effort to dodge retirement home confinement, he attaches balloons to his house and makes a fabulous exit. Unbeknownst to him, Russell — a lost boy scout — is along for the ride and the unlikely pair are in for quite the adventure filled with talking dogs, a giant mama bird named Kevin, and a washed up hero interfere. Now, I know what you’re thinking — it’s a Disney movie. But before you deny yourself childlike wonder, consider this, it takes one talented team of animators to make grumpy geezers like us laugh and cry, ooh and aww. Wes Anderson gets points for challenging Pixar’s monopoly with innovative art direction in “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” for now, the crown stays with Disney for it’s imaginative concepts and ability to bring elderly folk back in style.

2. “The Hangover”

Move over Apatow, there’s another funnyman in town. That’s right, Todd Phillips, the mastermind behind “Old School,” is back with a vengeance and it’s spelled V-E-G-A-S. When a bachelor party in Sin City ends with a missing groom, a lost tooth and a trashed hotel room, it’s up to the three groomsmen to puzzle together the previous night of which they have no recollection. Though it sounds like another regrettable I-hope-they-serve-beer-in-hell bro romp, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find out what happens when the host of Funny or Die’s “Between Two Ferns,” Sack from “Wedding Crashers” and Andy Bernard are put in the same hotel room. All I can say is: it involves Mike Tyson’ tiger. Expect drunken stupors, random chickens to appear out of nowhere, and the same Mary J humor that made “Adventureland” so pee-your-pants funny. And if that’s not enough to tickle your fancy, try this on for size: an unidentified baby and a nimble Chinese gangster get thrown in the mix.

3. “Inglorious Basterds”

If it’s at all possible to silence any Tarantino prejudices you might have, this year’s Nazi blockbuster is definitely worth the effort. Sure, one too many of Hitler’s minions get scalped on screen, but if you know anything about the director, it’s no surprise. If you can stomach the bloodbath, the five-chapter story detailing a young Jewish refugee who seeks revenge for her family’s murder is pretty thrilling. Characters include the Colonel who killed them, the German war hero turned movie star Frederick Zoller, and a fictitious rag-tag team of Jewish-American guerilla soldiers known as the “Basterds.” A word of the wise: you’re seeking realism, watch “The Hurt Locker.” Brad Pitt’s role as Lieutenant Aldo Raine of the Basterds is far less annoying than his bumbling “Burn After Reading” performance, watching a bomb squad tiptoe through one Iraqi death trap after another is terrifyingly sobering.

4. “Up in the Air”

It was quite a year for George — what, with his role as the bushy-tailed instigator in Anderson’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and stint as a psychic soldier who killed hoofed creatures with his mind in “The Men Who Stare at Goats” — but of course, he had to go out with a bang. In Jason Reitman’s latest, our knight in shining pinstripes stars as Ryan Bingham, a downsizing specialist who loves nothing more than travelling through airports 322 days of the year on business. But when his mid-air lifestyle is threatened by a recent college grad who develops swifter layoff methods, he is forced to reassess his means of existence. The plot might not scream Academy Award, but the acting certainly does. With flawless performances from Anna “Say goodbye to ‘Twilight’” Kendrick, the gorgeous Vera Farmiga and Clooney, this stylistic glance into the life of a man who has everything and nothing will have you eating out of the palm of Reitman’s hand.

5. “Precious”

While it’s typically a safe bet to steer clear of any film starring Mariah Carey, “Precious” is the exception to the rule. It may be the most depressing two hours of your life, but it may also be the most uplifting. 16-year-old Claireece Jones (Gabourey Sidibe) has problems, but not your typical suburban “I want an iPhone woes”: She’s an obese teenager living on welfare in Harlem. Her mother beats her and her father has impregnated her twice. Her first child has Down Syndrome, she was suspended from school and she can’t read or write. Still complaining that you’ve run out of weed to smoke? Didn’t think so. It’s not often you seek out films where bad things happen to already unfortunate people. But here are three reasons why you should: Director Lee Daniels has an eye for capturing raw emotion and real human drama, everyone loves a good underdog story and with Oprah as an executive producer, how could you say no?

Worst

1. “New Moon”

Let’s be real for a second. Whether you were dragged to AMC by your girlfriend, walked into the wrong theater by accident or proudly sport a Team Jacob T-shirt, you have to agree — “New Moon” was a sad excuse for a film. Sorry guys, but watching Kristen Stewart bite her lip while Robert Pattinson runs his fingers through his greasy mop of hair, isn’t quality cinema. Pull the “innocent teenage love story” card all you want, but at the end of the day, the latest “Twilight” installment is about as innocent as the giant posters of naked men that greet you in Abercrombie & Fitch. If you can get past the fact that the rock solid abs you’re ogling belong to a 17-year-old who starred in “Cheaper by the Dozen 2” a mere four years ago, you’ll realize that most of the film is filled with awkward silences and some rain. Like its paranormal-book-turned-film rival “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” the audience is left with one resonating question: Is that it?

2. “Hannah Montana”/”The Jonas Brothers”

Remember back in 1998 when that cute freckled-nose red head tricked her parents into getting remarried in “The Parent Trap”? Life was much simpler then. Fast-forward a couple Maxim spreads, some “heat exhaustion” hospitalizations, and a romance with DJ Samantha Ronson, and you’ve got the archetypal Disney Frankenstein — Lindsay Lohan. Following in her stumbling footsteps are this year’s pre-teen idols turned Perez Hilton regulars, Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers. While both acts entered the scene with signature symbols of virtue, it didn’t take long to trade in their purity rings for a chance at the cover of “Rolling Stone” or a pair of sexy hot pants. If you feel like reminiscing about the idols pre-corruption, rent one of these flops, otherwise stick to Us Weekly for up-to-date juice on these singers-turned-actors you love to hate.

3. “Transformers”

When you think Michael Bay, you think explosions. And that’s exactly what you’ll get in this year’s “Transformers” installment that grossed an obscene $402 million. That’s all you’ll get. Well, that’s not entirely true. You’ll also get to see Megan Fox lick her juicy lips via webcam. Honestly, how on earth does she keep them so moist all the time? Anyway, this time around our unlikely hero Sam (Shia LaBeouf) is headed off to the university without his trusty Camaro Bumblebee, in the hopes of having a real college experience. That of course, doesn’t last long. Before he can say keg stand, he’s face to face with Optimus Prime and the fate of the world is thrown in his hands — again. Insert a confusing 15-minute explanation about Decepticons, aliens and Egyptian glyphs, then let the madness commence. On a serious note, if watching giant pieces of scrap metal duke it out does it for you, check out “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,” another 2009 film that burned up a couple other B-list actors this year.

4. “All About Steve”

Anyone who’s seen “Speed” knows why Sandra Bullock is still considered a Hollywood starlet, despite the fact that her last decent role was as a supporting actress in “Crash.” But “All About Steve” will certainly make you question her title. When an eccentric crossword constructor falls head over red boots for her blind date (Bradley Cooper), she stalks him around the country to prove they’re meant to be. If the plot alone isn’t enough to make you run the opposite direction, Bullock’s hair certainly will. I don’t know what happened to her stylist, but whoever decided it was a good idea to ditch the long flowing locks we admired in “Miss Congeniality” for the cropped hay bale she sports in this film, should be thrown to the pigs. And no offense, but watching the 46-year-old actress waltz around in a mini skirt only makes her look old — like Dame Judi Dench old.

5. “Love Happens”

While diehard “Friends” fans will continue to keep their fingers crossed for the resurrection of Jennifer Aniston’s career, this year’s token chick flop proves that Forrest Gump had it right all along — shit, not love, happens. In this “Sleepless in Seattle”-wannabe, Aaron Eckart trades in his Two-Face persona for the role of a weepy self-help author who can’t take his own advice and face the reality of his wife’s death. During one of his seminars he meets a woman who will give him a run for his money, and well, something happens. Too bad it’s something unoriginal and boring. In place of depth, we get product placement, unintelligent advice about the grieving process, and some uncomfortable parallels between Jen’s unsuccessful love life and her character’s. While the film does, for the most part, lack in the detestable rom-com humor that made “He’s Just Not That Into You” so unbearable, with so much emotional baggage weighing down on the audience, the occasional breather would have been nice.

Best & Worst Film of the Year

“Avatar”

It’s been twelve years since “Titanic” blew Hollywood out of the water, and it looks like James Cameron has still got it. Sure, “Avatar” isn’t nearly as quotable, has a less attractive cast and doesn’t end with an epic iceberg battle, but it’s by far the most visually stimulating films that has come out of the last decade. Using every last cent of his rumored $300 million budget in developing the most technologically advanced special effects in the industry, Cameron delivers a spellbinding cinematic experience that raises the bar for science fiction. But enough ass-kissing. Strip its aesthetics and the film is little more than a three-hour live action “Fern Gully.” And while most people are too awestruck to care, the one-dimensional characters, weak script and obvious political undertones make for an underwhelming story that — in any other instance — would’ve been tossed into the $5 bin at Best Buy.

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