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“Up in the Air”; “Sherlock Holmes”; “It’s Complicated”; “The Blind Side” (Review) December 30, 2009

Posted by ronannarbor in Entertainment, Movies.
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I’ve previously reviewed “Nine”, “The Princess and the Frog”, “Avatar”, and “2010” from this holiday season. Here are four more.

First — the far-and-away best movie of the holiday season is UP IN THE AIR. Directed by Jason Reitman, it’s a timely and highly entertaining look at the life of a social-tie disconnected man whose job it is to travel across the country as serve as a job termination consultant. But more than that, it’s about the love of motion, the freedom from emotional connection, and the sense of complete egotistical freedom to do what you want, when, where, and with whom one chooses — until choices need to be made that may (or may not) change that lifestyle forever. It’s brilliant film-making. For local interest, much of it was filmed here in Detroit.

To be sure, this is not a film for under 20’s — and I’m not sure it’s a film for under 40’s…it takes a certain amount of life experience, skepticism, and humor to fully appreciate the amazing script and performances at play here. Have no doubt, keep your under-16’s at home – it’s an adult film with adult themes, sexual situations, and language. Kids will also be bored stiff, since they won’t be able to relate to the story nor the central dilemma. This is a film that takes at its core that it is OK not to be in a relationship, something that is foreign to most kids. It’s a film that will stay with you long after you see it. This is my personal choice for this year’s Best Picture.

Much more enjoyable than it should be, SHERLOCK HOLMES is Guy Ritchie’s take on the tried and true Watson/Holmes formula — but throw what you know about this out the window — here, the duo is re-imagined as an action/adventure duo, and it generally works well. The CGI work and the recreation of London is terrific cinematography, and the film is quirky enough to keep you on your toes. Good guys win, bad guys lose, and the ending points to a sequel. Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr. are both terrific, and I completely found myself entertained by this quirky take on the genre. It’s a popcorn movie that is fun. It’s not for tiny tots, but it is generally family friendly. There is some Guy-Ritchie type violence here, but it’s done with a great sense of humor and relatively tastefully compared to his previous movies. Holmes purists will hate the film, it’s not meant for them — it’s a popcorn adventure movie with a bit of Die Hard, Van Helsing, and Indiana Jones thrown into the mix.

Finally, I have to admit that I laughed more at IT’S COMPLICATED than I have at any movie this year. It’s formulaic, and very funny. Don’t get me wrong, this is not nuanced subtle humor — this is more in the vein of recent crude comedies like The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up. It has great performances, and its plain old funny. This is another picture that is inappropriate for your kids (not that they wouldn’t find it funny). It’s adult fun, and it has more laughs per scene than any other out there right now. Streep and Baldwin are terrific together, and there are also great performances from Steve Martin and John Krasinski.

The Blind Side is the surprise box-office hit film about Michael Oher’s rags to riches rise from the slums of Memphis to pro football. Sandra Bullock turns in a nicely performed role as his no-nonsense adaptive mother (and she’s channeling Kathy Lee Gifford all the way), and Tim McGraw is eye-candy as her husband. He gets lines like “I know that look” and “I think I know who is going to win this argument”.  The film is a tear-jerker that is appropriate for the entire family, and I really liked it. It’s Lifetime Movie Channel fare done one better with a big budget and a big star. But you care about these people, and this year, there haven’t been that many movies where you do. I even liked the Tim McGraw song over the final credits. This makes for a great date movie or a family evening out. Go see it, you’ll feel good about what nice people can still do in the world.

Sadly, my most anticipated movie of the year, A SINGLE MAN, has yet to open in Michigan, and it looks like it’s not on the books anywhere locally for the time being, Will report back on that once it is released here.

All in all, I would have to rank the current crop of pictures in the following order as far as my favorite of 2009:

1. Up in the Air

2. Avatar

3. The Hurt Locker

4. Precious

5. Up

6. District 9

7. Star Trek

8. Invictus

9. The Blind Side

10. (500) Days of Summer

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