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Perri’s Top 10 Films Of 2009

I’ve always seen a lot of movies, but thanks to my ever-increasing workload at CinemaBlend.com and a few other film-related websites, I’ve spent a significant amount of 2009 in the theater. While it wasn’t always pleasant, the discovery of a handful of gems made every minute worth it.

Rather than go directly to the movies that achieved near-filmmaking perfection, my mind gravitates towards the ones that I walked out of with the biggest grin on my face. I have an easy time seeing why particular films are award-worthy, but that doesn’t mean they’re entertaining. While every film on this list isn’t without flaws, the immense amount of fun I had watching them makes those faults completely irrelevant.

I’ve made great memories with friends and family throughout the year, but a significant part of my life is movies, and these are the ones that made 2009 such a blast.

Having spent much of my childhood at the amusement park Adventureland is based on, I had very high expectations for the film. When it soared above and beyond my hopes, Adventureland became an instant favorite. Greg Mottola puts together a perfect combination of humor, romance and drama to create a film that strikes a chord on many levels. This is also where my infatuation with Jesse Eisenberg begins. He’s nerdy and awkward yet strangely appealing. He’s got an unusual charm that’s sure to make you sympathetic towards his character.

Awesome Quote: “If someone wins a giant assed panda on your watch you should just go home cause you’re fired, OK?”

This is the travesty of the year. How did this film not have a better showing at the box office? It’s novel, fun and features a stellar cast. Similarly to Adventureland, Whip It combines a wide range of emotions that successfully makes it a drama, comedy and action film neatly wrapped up into one. Drew Barrymore does an excellent job her first go-around in the director’s chair while simultaneously providing a chunk of the film’s comic relief. Ellen Paige carries the film with ease and is surrounded by a number of minor yet profound characters.

Awesome Quote: “I like smart girls. That’s why I married your mama. Well, that and I knocked her up.”

And so my Jesse Eisenberg obsession continues. I’ll always remember Zombieland as the film that turned around one of my worst days of the year. I walked into the theater in an intensely sour mood and walked out a different person. When you think about it, the plot (beyond the whole zombie thing) may be a little thin, but that flaw is completely washed over by the sharp dialogue and on point cinematography. Zombieland is Tallahassee’s (Woody Harrelson) zombie stomping ground and I had a blast being a part of it the entire time.

Awesome Quote: “Sno-Balls? Sno-Balls? Where the fuck are the God damn Twinkies?”

Moon is beautiful in its simplicity. With just one primary actor and one primary location, director and co-writer Duncan Jones is able to create an elaborate situation with an eerie undertone guaranteed to make your heart ache. Sam Rockwell’s work is remarkably powerful. The concept may have come from the mind of Jones, but it’s Rockwell’s performance that generates the raw emotion. Moon is completely character driven and Rockwell does exactly what’s necessary to make you frustrated yet enthralled by Sam Bell’s situation.

Awesome Quote: “I hope life on Earth is everything you remember it to be.”

When you can watch an entire movie from the theater floor and still not want it to end, it’s a damn good movie. Once The Hurt Locker began I completely forgot about the consequence I was suffering after arriving at the theater far too late. This movie is explosive in every sense of the word. Even when the film’s pace slows – deactivating a bomb is quite the tedious process – my heart is racing. The suspense is so intense it makes me sweat just as much, if not more, than Staff Sergeant William James (Jeremy Renner) himself.

Awesome Quote: “If I’m gonna die, I want to die comfortable.”

This is the alien invasion movie we’ve all been waiting for. The premise is ingenious, the story extremely well told and, best of all, the film isn’t tarnished after getting a look at the ETs. Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley) and Christopher Johnson are the ultimate tag team. The transformation of the two characters is immense and I am fully engaged every step of the way. The fact that they’ve got some pretty cool toys to play with only enhances the action. The movie leaves the door wide open for a sequel, and in this case, I really hope someone takes advantage of it.

Awesome Quote: “When dealing with aliens, try to be polite, but firm. And always remember that a smile is cheaper than a bullet.”

Paranormal Activity scared the absolute shit out of me. I let myself become fully engrossed in the situation and my openness paid off big time. It breaks my heart to see such a fantastic film tarnished by its own success. Of course if you walk in all macho with the attitude that this little film can’t scare you, you’ll ruin the effect. Well, that’s nobody’s fault but your own and you’re really missing out. Who needs blood and guts when just $11,000, some simple ingenuity and crafty camera work can give an audience nightmares? This really is the little film that could.

Awesome Quote: “How about we just get a Ouija Board, find out what it wants, and just give it what it wants, and then, you know, it’s gone?” “Because what it probably wants is Katie.”

It’s awkward to go from a movie with an ultra-low budget to one of the priciest, but every penny James Cameron spent making Avatar is justified. This is the most unlikely four-quadrant film. Between the stellar animation, the action, the romance and the fascinating characters, there’s something for everyone here, but what makes Avatar truly special is the quality of all of those elements. Between the complexity of the situation on Pandora and the planet’s vast amount of environmental details, you’ll forget Avatar clocks in at over two and a half hours. In fact, you’ll wish it were longer.

Awesome Quote: “Everything is backwards now, like out there is the true world and in here is the dream.”

Up In The Air made me feel funny. It took quite a while after I walked out of the theater to sort through a barrage of thoughts and realize I was emotionally overwhelmed by it. Director/co-writer Jason Reitman takes just what he needs from Walter Kirn’s book and adds wonderfully appropriate details to make the concepts just as effective on screen. As luck would have it (for Reitman at least), Up In The Air landed at the perfect time to hit home for anyone suffering from unemployment. It doesn’t put a fairytale spin on a brutal situation, yet doesn’t leave you hopeless and dejected. It just gives you the sense that things happen for a reason and change will come in due time.

Awesome Quote: “I’m like my mother, I stereotype. It’s faster.”

While putting this list together, nine of the movies were shuffled around until they fell into the appropriate spot, but not for a moment did I rethink awarding Inglourious Basterds the number one position. The more I watch it, the more I’m convinced that it’s absolutely perfect. It’s impossible to pick a favorite scene because there isn’t one second of this film I don’t thoroughly look forward to seeing. Every line of dialogue is quotable, every performance commendable and every moment well thought out by Quentin Tarantino. Inglourious Basterds is a technical, narrative and entertainment masterpiece and I look forward to making it part of my life for many years to come.

Awesome Quote: “That’s a bingo!”

Thanks for reading and have a happy and healthy New Year!

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Bringing The Movie To Life: Derby Dreams – Part 4

My least favorite idiom is, by far, the concept of the double-edged sword. Why can’t someone ever just wholeheartedly enjoy something? There always has to be downside. Well, this whole roller derby thing has officially developed into a double-edged sword. I’m still obsessed and having a blast, but I just found out that the tryouts are capped at 100 girls and no more than 15 will make it. Shit. I think I’m good, but I don’t know about that good.

The second skills night went pretty well. I’ve got the basic skills down – crossovers, stopping, power strides – but now they’re throwing in derby skills, namely blocking. I’m skinny but it’s not the force that overtakes me, it’s this whole skating low thing. Skating low is the key to roller derby. It helps in every facet: speed, stability and, most importantly, blocking. If you stay super low, odds are, another girl will have a much harder time knocking you over. On the other hand, if you’re standing tall, you’re practically a rolling target. When it comes to throwing a block, you’ll be way ahead of the competition in a lower position. You don’t block someone with your arm alone; you’re blocking your opponent with your entire body and that requires the power to forcefully pop up from the low derby stance. The lower you are, the more power you’ll have.

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Fantasy Thanksgiving: Guess What Wolverine’s Bringing To Dinner?

On Thanksgiving, most people find themselves with family, sitting around a table piled high with homemade holiday treats. There’s fresh, seasoned turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, candied sweet potatoes, green beans, apple pie and so much more. Well, that’s if you opt for the Thanksgiving Dinner for 6 from Fairway Market. So is life in a house sans cook.

It’s that time of year again and while I’m looking forward to some family time and a feast a la supermarket, I can’t help but to dream of what my ideal holiday dinner might be like. I’m most thankful for my family, but I’m also grateful that I’m able to make movies such a large part of my life, hence the fresh-out-of-the-oven Film Thanksgiving Dinner is born.

Check out my dream team of movie characters of 2009 who’ll help me trash the pre-made meal and celebrate Thanksgiving the way it should be, with homemade eats, a little entertainment and even some clean-up assistance.

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Bringing The Movie To Life: Derby Dreams – Part 3

RollerDerby3The mere concept of something can be thrilling, but when the day actually comes to take part in that event, all you want to do is run the other way. When I woke up the morning of the first official skills night, I was unenthused to say the least. I didn’t completely dismiss the idea of going, but I was, well, scared. I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t know what the experience was going to be like and I didn’t know if I’d be any good in comparison to the other girls. On top of all that, the practice area was in some obscure location that I was awfully hesitant to park my car in.

As the day progressed, my family and friends were far from encouraging. My friends were still skeptical of the sport all together and, naturally, my parents were freaked by the idea of me waltzing off to a sketchy area to meet people I didn’t know. To be honest, the only thing really driving me to go was the fact that I just dropped a wad of cash on equipment.

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Bringing The Movie To Life: Derby Dreams – Part 2

SkatesNaturally, my new hobby comes at a price. First off, the roller derby league highly recommends participating in their skills nights. Fine, that makes sense. I don’t really know what I’m doing and could definitely use some pre-tryout training. But, of course, these sessions aren’t free. On top of that, I actually have to purchase a pair of skates. I did some thorough research – Googled ‘roller derby skates’ – and checked out the top hit’s bestseller list. Of course, the skate at the top spot was the cheapest. I didn’t want to go for the bottom of the barrel but didn’t want to start spending hundreds of dollars on quads when there’s a possibility I might not even make it past tryout day. After much deliberation, I ended up purchasing the moderately prices Riedell R3 Tuners.

My next derby venture was going to require some cash as well. I didn’t want to walk into the first of four skills nights without any experience. The league’s website suggests training with a local instructor. Fine, but I’m not embarrassing myself in any class. I inquired about arranging a private lesson and after some brief correspondence was all set to meet with the trainer later that week.

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Bringing The Movie To Life: Derby Dreams – Part 1

WhipItPosterOne of the many reasons I love watching movies, is to get out of my own world and experience something new. The great thing is, if you’re not really feeling this new adventure, it’ll be over soon. Sometimes a movie really strikes a chord and inspires you to make the characters’ experience your own. Since I was a kid, I’ve dreamed of visiting Jurassic Park and saving the world Will Smith Independence Day style, but, odds are, neither will happen anytime soon.

Luckily, one of the most recent films I’m itching to bring to life is actually feasible. I read Shauna Cross’ Derby Girl and couldn’t stop thinking about roller derby. My interest didn’t really surprise me. I always strive to be different. When I was little, while most of my friends took gymnastics and dance classes, I was fighting with the boys in a karate dojo. When it came to a musical instrument, just playing the saxophone wasn’t enough; I had to play the bari sax. My attraction to eccentricities continues and I’m onto a new hobby, roller derby.

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It’s Time To Grow Up: Books To Read Before Seeing The Movies

I hated reading in high school. In fact, I don’t think I ever read a book assigned in its entirety. It wasn’t that I was rebelling against being forced to read a particular book; I was a good student and almost always did what I was told. I could have picked up a book in my spare time, but I had better things to do. It wasn’t until I had nothing better to do with my free time, that I gave reading a chance.

My first job after graduating from college was a News Assistant at NY1 News. Being a News Assistant is an extremely physically demand job – I’m a small girl who was carrying 60 lbs. in camera equipment ten hours a day – but there’s also a ton of down time. One day, I waited over four hours for a perpetrator to be escorted from a prison to a waiting car. (Yes, capturing a perp walk is that important in local news.) I was desperate for entertainment and that desperation was sated by the medium I despised most, books.

I didn’t do a complete turnaround and become an avid reader. There’s one rule to my book selection process: the book must be in the process of being adapted to film or optioned for adaption. Clearly my passion is film. Combine the entertainment of reading a book with a passion and you get the ultimate source of pleasure. Even beyond the immediacy of the entertainment derived from reading, having read a book before seeing the film adaption is one of the most exhilarating things I’ve ever experienced.

The whole process is fascinating; to see who’s cast, what they look like in full costume, seeing the story unfold on screen, even assessing what portions of the book are translated and what parts are removed. When you read a book without accompanied imagery, you’re creating a world using your imagination. Yes, a good author will provide a detailed narrative so the reader can properly assemble the environment the writer strives to convey, but every reader’s world differs to a point. Then, when you see that world come to life on film, the wheels in your mind spin nearly out of control. You’re not just a spectator; you’re part of the film. It’s not just the author’s story being brought to life, it’s yours too.

Most of you will get this experience when you check out Where the Wild Things Are on October 16th, but there’s a whole bunch of movies coming out soon that find their origins in fantastic books. Here are a few you might want to read before seeing the movie.

ShutterIslandCoverShutter Island
I currently have a bad taste in my mouth when it comes to Shutter Island. Not that I don’t expect the film to be any good, I’m just bitter that I have to wait so long to see it. The film adaption of Dennis Lehane’s novel was due to hit theaters this month, but recently was pushed back to a February 2010 release. Maybe I’ll just have to read the book again. It’s about two U.S. Deputy Marshals, Teddy Daniels and Chuck Aule, who are sent to Shutter Island to investigate a missing persons case. This isn’t just any missing person; Rachel Solando is a patient at Shutter Island’s Ashecliffe Psychiatric Hospital, home of the criminally insane. This book makes your head spin so much you’ll feel like an Ashecliffe patient yourself.
(In Theaters February 19th, 2010)

DerbyGirlCover
Derby Girl
You’re probably more familiar with the name of the feature film version of this book, Whip It. The book is about a young girl named Bliss Cavendar who’d rather get rowdy on the roller derby track than participate in beauty pageants. Knowing her parents will not approve of her new hobby, Bliss sneaks off to the Doll House to kick some ass as Babe Ruthless of the Hurl Scouts. The character Bliss screams Ellen Page. Think a non-pregnant Juno with athleticism. A fun side note, the author of Derby Girl, Shauna Cross, is a member of the Los Angeles Derby Dolls roller derby league. She also wrote the screenplay for Whip It. The movie already hit theaters, but Derby Girl is a quick read and still worth checking out post-film.
(In Theaters October 2nd, 2009)

UpInTheAirCoverUp In The Air
With all of the Oscar buzz surrounding Up In The Air, reading the Walter Kim novel the film is based on is a must. George Clooney plays the lead character, Ryan Bingham, a guy who travels the country working as a career transition counselor. Simply put, he flies around the country firing people. Ryan’s somber line of work and lack of a social life are of no concern to him. He has something much more important to worry about, earning one million frequent flyer miles. After reading the book it was very hard to imagine it being successfully translated to film. It has a plot, but it doesn’t seem strong enough to drive a feature length film. I guess when you have Jason Reitman behind the lens and George Clooney in front of it, anything is possible.
(Limited Release on December 4th, 2009. Opens Wide on December 25th, 2009)

TheLovelyBonesCoverThe Lovely Bones
Alice Sebold’s novel The Lovely Bones is one of the most moving pieces of literature I’ve ever read. By the time you finish it, you’ll have gone through an incredible range of emotions. It’s about a young girl named Susie Salmon who’s brutally murdered on her way home from school. From there we see her watch over her family from heaven and how her passing changes their lives. While the book may be perfect for film, it’s also a very temperamental piece. Depicting heaven on the big screen can go one of two ways; it can be completely rejected or wholeheartedly embraced. Based on the trailer and early buzz about the film, Peter Jackson will not disappoint. On the other hand, I can’t say the same for Mark Wahlbeg. Thanks to his performance in The Happening and Andy Samberg’s portrayal of him on Saturday Night Live, it’ll be difficult to take his performance seriously.
(Limited Release on December 11th, 2009. Opens Wide on January 15th, 2010)

TwelveCoverTwelve
Now this is a film that deserves much more attention than it’s been getting. Not only does Twelve have a fantastic cast, but the book that it’s based on is phenomenal. It was written by Nick McDonell when he was just 17-years-old. It’s about a bunch of kids, mostly wealthy, living in Manhattan and the impact drugs, sex and violence have on their lives. Chace Crawford will play the main character, White Mike, an extremely bright student known for selling the best marijuana money can buy but never indulging in any alcohol or drugs himself. I certainly wasn’t picturing White Mike to be as pretty as Crawford, but I’ll sacrifice my imagination to be able to look at Crawford for a couple of hours. Another unusual casting choice is Rory Culkin. I think he’s a fantastic actor, but for obvious reasons, I just don’t see him playing a tall basketball player. Anyway, the best part of the book is the climax. You become so absorbed with the characters that when that grand ending comes you’ll be in a serious state of shock. Seriously.
(In Theaters 2010)

YouthInRevoltCoverYouth In Revolt
If you read any of these books before seeing their film counterparts, Youth In Revolt by C.D. Payne should be the one. A movie with a cast including Michael Cera, Justin Long, Zach Galifianakis, Ray Liotta and Steve Buscemi sounds like a guaranteed success, but it can also turn the tale from a humorous yet meaningful coming-of-age story into a comedic absurdity. Cera plays Nick Twisp, a kid who takes teenage rebellion to the extreme. He starts out as a guy who isn’t thrilled with the parents he’s been given and turns into a wrecking crew when his love for a girl he meets on a family trip drives him insane. With the help of his alter ego, Francois Dillinger, Nick is willing to do just about anything to win Sheeni’s heart. Removing portions of a lengthy book to turn it into a movie is necessary but can be detrimental. Taking out particular parts of Youth in Revolt can easily strip the story of its warmth and turn it into any old teen comedy.
(In Theaters January 15th, 2010)

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