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#10 ? Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince While delivering impressive bits of action and visual wizardry (no pun intended), the sixth Potter film really finds the characters again. With incredible performances all across the board, a solid balance in tone, and a surprising amount of faithfulness to the source material, David Yates and his crew have put together what is my personal favorite entry in the series. And considering that I found myself going back and re-reading the seventh book just hours after seeing the movie, I think it?s safe to say that the film did its job. #9 ? Zombieland After watching Edgar Wright's Shaun of the Dead back in ?04, I didn?t expect it to be usurped by any other horror comedy for quite a while. Much to my surprise, however, Zombieland has done just that. The ? for the lack of a better word ? quotable dialogue, consistently hysterical tone, and endearing characters, all come together to create a film that will undoubtedly become a cult classic. #8 ? (500) Days of Summer Like Zombieland, Marc Webb?s (500) Days of Summer surprised me in terms of just how much emotional depth it carried. So much so that several scenes in particular brought me to tears, which ? for me ? is the most difficult thing that a film can do. Kudos to both Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. #7 ? Star Trek As somebody who wasn?t all that familiar with Star Trek (having watched only a hand full of episodes and Wrath of Khan), I was a bit apprehensive upon walking into this film. However, as the original cast was re-introduced, my fears were quickly put to rest. With performances that manage to nail their respective characters without coming across as campy, an engaging, time-travel based story, sleek visuals, and thrilling action set-pieces, Star Trek is an instant classic. #6 ? The Princess and the Frog Thanks largely to Pixar-founder John Lasseter, Walt Disney Animation ? after nearly ten years of mediocrity ? has finally found itself back on its feet, with Bolt being my favorite film of last year and still all-time champ. The Princess and the Frog - with 2D animation that?s unmatched, extremely memorable characters, infectiously catchy musical numbers, and a message that refutes the notion that ?if you simply wish upon a star, you?ll get what you want? ? succeeds as not only a return to the Disney musical, but as one of the studio?s best efforts. #5 ? District 9 Arguably the biggest surprise of this year, District 9 encapsulates just about every element of a terrific science-fiction experience. All of the aliens (or Prawns) are given so much expressiveness that I almost forgot that I was looking at computer-generated characters. With only $30 million, these are special effects used correctly ? effects that enhance the story rather than act as a substitute for one. The real highlight of this film, though, is Sharlto Copley, who ? in his debut performance - successfully carries this film as the charismatic Wikus Van De Merwe. If there?s one positive thing to have come out of the cancellation of the Halo movie, this is it. #4 ? Avatar I?ll admit that I was skeptical about Avatar from the beginning. The basic story sounded a bit too reminiscent to Dances with Wolves, the trailers didn?t really resonate with me, and many of James Cameron?s claims just made me roll my eyes. As the credits rolled, though, all that I managed to say was ?Wow? I guess Cameron pulled it off.? While, indeed, the story does take several dozen pages out of Kevin Costner?s western, and an argument can be made that this is an ?effects first? movie, the visual splendor of Avatar is as much a part of the film as jokes are to a comedy. Easily one of the most satisfying movie-going experiences (and, in this case, I don?t use that word lightly) I?ve had in my life. #3 ? Up If asked to decide between either Coraline or Up as the best animated film of the year, I don?t think I could. As a friend of mine said, it?s very much like debating over the moodiness of Beethoven and the elegance of Mozart. While, stylistically, they set out to do very different things, both films are ultimately just as engaging and memorable. Regardless of which one I prefer, however, Up reiterates that if Pixar has one weakness as a studio, it?s that it has no idea how to make a bad film. Everything, from the incredibly endearing characters, to the flawlessly expressive animation, to the sheer amount of emotional depth, come together to create what is definitely one of Pixar?s finest films to date. #2 ? Coraline The first in a mind-bogglingly stellar lineup of animated films this year, Coraline is involving, sophisticated tale permeated by its melancholy tone. While Coraline herself is an extremely likable protagonist, The Other Mother is brilliantly frightening in all of her forms, rivaling some of the most vile animated villains before her. #1 - Inglourious Basterds Having given perfect scores to more movies this year than any other, it wasn?t easy choosing a favorite. Ultimately, it came down to which movie had the strongest, longest-lasting effect on me after walking out of the theatre, and Quentin Tarantino?s Inglourious Basterds was that film. While creating an alternate version of history through the power of film, Tarantino also includes all of the elements of his trademark style, from the anxiety-stirring dialogue, to the cringe-worthy deaths, to the brilliant music. The film also happens to include what is easily Tarantino?s most sinister villain to date, and perhaps the best performance of the year in Christoph Waltz as Colonel Hans Landa. This guy manages to be both charming and frightening (in four different languages, no less), a quality that so few villains manage to capture. It?s a close call, but I?m going with Inglourious Basterds as my favorite movie of 2009.
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