Now here we go with my list of the Top 10 Comic Book Series of 2009!
First, let’s start with some Honorable Mentions: RASL, Ex Machina, Young Liars, Astonishing X-Men, Batman: Streets of Gotham, Superman: Secret Origins, Supergod, Aliens, The Dark Tower, and X-Factor. All of those are series that I absolutely love — and if you’re not reading them, you should be! (I also have great affection for Powers, but since only one new issue saw the light of day in 2009, it was hard for me to justify including it on this list.)
OK, now here we go with the Top Ten:
10. Witchfinder: In The Service of Angels (issues #1-5 published in 2009) — I am an enormous fan of the Hellboy universe, and I’ve picked up every single Hellboy-related limited series or one-shot ever since Seed of Destruction way back when. But somehow I almost missed this series about occult investigator Edward Grey, set in London in 1879. Boy oh boy I’m glad I remedied my error and picked up all five issues. Not only is it a terrific, creepy adventure tale, but issue #3 connects some ENORMOUS dots and basically gives us the secret history of the Hellboy universe. This is a critical piece of the unfolding Hellboy saga, and not to be missed.
9. Stephen King’s The Stand (issues #2-5 of Captain Trips, issues #1-5 of American Nightmares, and issues #1-2 of Soul Survivors published in 2009) — I’ve never read Stephen King’s epic novel The Stand, but I have been absolutely devouring the series of mini-series based on that work. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa deftly handles the enormous canvas, weaving multiple story-lines in and out of one another with ease, and Mike Perkins’ beautifully rendered artwork brings a devastated America to glorious, haunting life. I am chomping at the bit to know what happens next — so much so that I went out and purchased Mr. King’s novel last month! Now I just need to decide if I want to experience the story through the comic adaptations first, and THEN go read the novel… or dive into the novel right now.
8. Astro City: The Dark Age Book 3 (issues #1-4 published in 2009) — This four-book Astro City saga has been taking its sweet time to reach a conclusion, but boy is each installment worth the wait. The Dark Age is the story of two brothers, Charles … [continued]
5. Inglourious Basterds — Quentin Tarantino demonstrates, once again, that no one can wring more nail-biting tension out of simple conversation than he can. What I thought would be a simple men-on-a-mission story wound up being a much more complex, intriguing tale. Filled with astounding, unforgettable performances (Brad Pitt as the tough-talking Aldo Raine, Melanie Laurent as the fiercely intelligent Shosanna Dreyfus, and of course Christopher Waltz as Col. Hans Landa, one of the most unforgettable film villains of the past decade) and some great Tarantino touches (yep, that is a Samuel L. Jackson voice-over at one point), the film is ridiculously compelling. And that ending. Ho boy. Read my full review here.
4. District 9 — With a budget reportedly in the ballpark of 30 million dollars (which, if my information is correct, is about a third of what was spent on the Alec Baldwin/Meryl Streep comedy It’s Complicated), first-time director Neill Blomkamp fashioned one of the most gripping sci-fi tales I have ever seen. The film is set in Johannesburg, almost thirty years after an enormous alien spacecraft appeared over the city. The aliens, nicknamed “prawns,” have been settled in slum-like conditions in a refugee camp called District 9. When the corporation MNU bows to public pressure to remove the aliens from the vicinity of Johannesburg, the hapless Wikus Van De Merwe (who participates in the forced evictions) finds his life turned upside-down. As a sci-fi fan I am always looking for smart, original new works of sci-fi, and this film has both qualities in spades. With jaw-dropping special effects (I am amazed at how well the alien “prawns” are brought to life), a career making performance by Sharlto Copley (who plays Wikus), some terrific action, and edge-of-your seat intensity from start to finish, District 9 is a magnificent and haunting creation. Read my full review here.
3. Fantastic Mr. Fox — A deliriously fantastic combination of Roald Dahl’s story (about a family of foxes menaced by three vicious farmers) and director Wes Anderson’s unique sensibilities, Fantastic Mr. Fox feels to me like the film Mr. Anderson has always wanted to make. He has filled the movie with his specific style — detail-filled sets and precise, stage-like staging — and the foxes are a classic addition to Mr. Anderson’s repertoire of wonderfully idiosyncratic, somewhat disfunctional families. The script is complex and sophisticated (with characters who all possess strengths as well as character flaws, and no easy answers to their dilemmas in sight), and the voice-actors (including George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Michael Gambon, Willem Dafoe, … [continued]
Despite the horrendous batch of summer “blockbusters” that we had to suffer through, 2009 was actually a pretty darned good year for movies! I’d been feeling otherwise, but when I looked back through my notes about all the great films that I saw this past year, I had a hard time narrowing down my Top Ten list!
As I did before beginning last year’s list, I should mention that, despite the rather large number of new movies that I saw in 2009, there were plenty of heard-they-were-great films (or films that otherwise seemed interesting to me) that I wanted to see but just didn’t get to. These include The Hurt Locker, Moon, Pirate Radio, Broken Embraces, A Single Man, An Education, Me and Orson Welles, Invictus, The Road, and The Lovely Bones. Might one or more of those films have wound up on this list, had I seen them? Who can say!
So, without further ado, let’s dive into my List of my Ten Favorite Movies from 2009!
Honorable Mention: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus — I was just tickled by every moment of this wonderfully weird trip into the mind of Terry Gilliam. Heath Ledger’s final performance is delightful and enigmatic, and the trio of actors who stepped in to complete his role after his tragic death (Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell) are all absolutely wonderful, as is the great Christopher Plummer in the title role. Read my full review here.
10. Coraline — I’ve got three animated films on this list, but they could not possibly be more different from one another. Each is a magnificently unique creation. In Coraline, Neil Gaiman’s fantasy story is brought to breathtaking life by gorgeous stop-motion animation. Coraline is an intelligent but lonely little girl whose world is uprooted when her parents move into a strange new house. When she discovers a small, secret door that leads into an alternate world where she meets far happier and more doting alternate versions of her parents, Coraline is delighted and entranced. But all is not as it seems, and the young girl will need all of her wits to escape from the web into which she has fallen. Dangerous and dark, this haunting tale is sweet and scary in equal parts. I can’t wait to see it again. Read my full review here.
9. Watchmen — I’ve seen this film so many times already (in a variety of different cuts) that it’s hard to believe it came out this year! Zach Snyder’s gloriously ambitious attempt at adapting Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ magnum opus Watchmen has its flaws, but even after many repeated viewings I remain dazzled … [continued]
Let the Best of 2009 lists continue! I hope you all enjoyed my list of the Top 10 TV Episodes of 2009.
Now let’s dive into my list of the Top 10 DVDs (or Blu-Rays) released in 2009!
First, I’d like to give Honorable Mentions to the complete series sets of three amazing TV shows that I had just about given up all hope of ever seeing on DVD: It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, Andy Richter Controls the Universe, and Andy Barker, P.I. So why aren’t these shows on my list? Because I can’t put anything on this list that I haven’t actually watched, and I’ve been way, way too busy to get through any of these sets. Of the three, the only one I own is Andy Richter Controls the Universe. (That one came out first, and I’m not going to purchase the other two sets until I actually have time to watch them.) But I take great delight in knowing that these three DVD sets exist here on planet Earth, and I know that I’ll get to them all in good time.
10. Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut (Blu-ray) — I’ve seen Watchmen quite a few times since it was released early in 2009, and while the film certainly has some weaknesses, I remain overwhelmed by the enormity of its successes. It’s hard to believe that Zach Snyder brought this seminal graphic novel by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons, which long had been considered unadaptable, to life. It thrills me to see such a faithful take on the material and that the filmmakers had the confidence to craft a super-hero film that was aimed squarely at adults. The Ultimate Cut of the film is Zach Snyder’s longest version, stitching together his Director’s Cut with the animated Tales of the Black Freighter sequences. It’s pretty astounding. This Blu-Ray set would be much higher on this list were it not for the paltry special features. Not only are the special features lame (this is a movie that cries out for a full-fledged making-of documentary), but this set just reproduces the special features that were already released on the Director’s Cut set. (I guess I’ve been spoiled by the amazing extended editions of the Lord of the Rings films, which came not just with phenomenal extended versions of the films but with extraordinarily elaborate making-of documentaries that didn’t duplicate the special features on the theatrical version DVDs.) (Read my review of the theatrical version of Watchmen here, and of the Director’s Cut here.)
9. Contact (Blu-Ray) — A beautiful film that manages to combine a serious, cerebral sci-fi tale with an effecting story of the personal journey … [continued]
Yesterday I began my list of the Top 10 Episodes of TV from 2009. Click here for numbers 10-6. Now here is the rest of the list!
5. Lost: “The Incident” (season 5, episodes 16/17, aired on 5/13/09). Everything comes together, questions are answered, and (of course) new questions are raised. We finally get to meet the oft-discussed Jacob, and we see how this apparently ageless man has interacted with the lives of many of the castaways long before they ever crashed on the island. In the ’70s, Jack seeks to change the future by detonating a hydrogen bomb, thus destroying the island. This once again puts him in conflict with Sawyer, who believes that “what’s done is done.” In 2007, Locke, Ben, and the mysterious other survivors of Ajira flight 316 converge in the shadow of the statue, we learn the true final fate of Jeremy Bentham, and a shocking murder is committed. The cliffhanger ending leaves us in the dark as to whether Jack’s audacious plan has succeeded, or whether he has just caused “the incident” that we’ve been hearing about since “Orientation” in season two (that necessitated the construction of the Swan Station and the button). Either way, this was a magnificent two hours of television. It’s been a great delight watching the makers of Lost weave together the show’s many characters and story-lines as we prepare for the show’s final year. I have high hopes for what’s ahead!
4. Parks and Recreation: “The Hunting Trip” (season 2, episode 10, aired on 11/19/09). I thought that Parks and Recreation was extraordinarily mediocre in its first season, but just as NBC’s The Office only found its footing during its second year, Parks & Rec has really turned things around this season. Many weeks I consider it — are you sitting down? — the strongest of NBC’s Thursday night comedies. “The Hunting Trip” is a prime example as to why. Ron prepares to take the men in the office out on their annual hunting trip, but Leslie (Amy Poehler) wants the girls (and Tom Haverford) to be included too. Since Ron is legally forbidden from excluding them from what is tenuously a work-related outing, the whole gang heads out to the woods, rifles in hand. What follows is an escalating series of madness that culminates in poor Ron getting shot (not fatally, of course!!). The whole episode is a riot, in which every member of the ensemble gets a lot to do. But Leslie steals the show when she realizes that she cannot reveal the identity of the person who shot Ron to the ranger who comes to investigate, so she tries to take the fall … [continued]
Hi everyone! It’s that time of year again — welcome to the first of my four Best of 2009 lists! We’re kicking things off today with part one of my list of the 10 Best TV Episodes I saw in 2009!
Let’s dive in, shall we?
10. Lost: “Jughead” (season 5, episode 3, aired on 1/28/09). The craziness of Lost‘s superb time-hopping fifth season kicked into high gear with this episode, and all sorts of fascinating connections were made. Trapped in the past, Locke meets a young Charles Widmore and Richard Alpert and we finally get an explanation for Alpert’s weird childhood visit to Locke (that we saw in “Cabin Fever” ). Meanwhile, Daniel Faraday discovers that the American army came to the island in the 1950’s to test hydrogen bombs, explaining a lot of tiny references that have been layered into the show since back in the second season (such as Ana Lucia pointing out to Goodwin that the Other they killed carried an army knife from decades ago). But this episode gets the nod because of its focus on one of my very favorite Lost characters: Desmond, who spends the hour attempting to unravel the secrets of Daniel Faraday. Mind-bending Lost at its best.
9. Dollhouse: “Belonging” (season 2, episode 4, aired on 10/23/09). Oh Dollhouse, we hardly knew ye. Though Joss Whedon’s short-lived series was frustratingly hit-or-miss, episodes like this make we wish fervently that the show was continuing. This episode spotlights Sierra, one of the “dolls” (men and women regularly programmed with completely new personalities in order to meet the whims of the Dollhouse’s wealthy clients), and we learn how the young woman once named Priya came to be a doll. It is a twisted, heartbreaking story, and an absolutely riveting hour of TV.
8. The Office: “Broke” (season 5, episode 23, aired on 4/23/09). I’ve been a bit let-down by The Office this year, but the mid-fourth season run of episodes centering around the Michael Scott Paper Company were classic, and this episode provided a note-perfect culmination of that storyline. Michael & co. have finally succeeded in cutting into Dunder Mifflin’s business by undercutting their prices, but that action has also left Michael’s company penniless (and unable to afford even a delivery van for the paper they’re selling, as we see in the episode’s opening). Luckily, David Wallace decides to try to buy Michael out. The negotiations that follow are hysterical — and also a stunning moment as Michael rises to the occasion by serving as a surprisingly sly negotiator. Also, Charles Miner (The Wire‘s idris Elba), who has been running the Scranton branch in Michael’s absence, is finally undone … [continued]