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Linus Tee
10 Watchmen
9 Overheard (HK)
8 District 9
7 Inglorious Basterds
6 Star Trek
5 Fantastic Mr Fox
4 Funny People
3 Up
2 Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
1 Avatar

2009 overall has not been terribly exciting at the movies though it’s still quite a feat to pick the year’s top ten movies of my choice.

Despite the fact that I didn’t get to read the original material, Zack Snyder’s version of Alan Moore’s unfilmable Watchmen is a mind-blogging experience. It certainly brought the comic genre into a whole new level even if it doesn’t suit the tastes of the masses. This year is a quiet one for Chinese productions. And the sole entry is Overheard, a low-key thriller from the creators of Infernal Affairs starring one of my fave HK leading man, Lau Ching Wan. From Peter Jackson and a director by the name of Neil Blomkamp making his feature film debut come District 9, an amazing blend of sci-fi and engaging story-telling filled with eye-popping visual effects. Made on a measly $30 million budget but has the capacity to stand alongside any classic Sci-fi movies ever made for the past decades. Motor-mouthed Quentin Tarantino finally turned in his version of a war movie, the weirdly spelled Inglorious Basterds. The talky movie definitely fired out more words than bullets and it sure made Christoph Waltz the next star to look out for. Sorry about that, Mr. Pitt.

I swear I was never a Trekkie, I was more of a Star Wars-Luke Skywalker kinda of guy since age seven. But J.J. Abrams’ reboot of the flagging franchise converted me. With a fresh cast consisting of Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, John Cho and Simon Pegg, I can’t wait for the sequel to Star Trek. When you think of stop-motion, A Nightmare Before Christmas comes to mind, Wes Anderson adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox uses the same old technology but instill it with his usual quirky storytelling and there you have it, this comes highly recommended for wholesome family entertainment. Most people love to be surrounded with Funny People perhaps not the movie. The third Judd Apatow’s feature and Adam Sandler starrer received a lukewarm response when it was released but it never deter me from embracing it for Apatow’s personal views, jokes and gags about the world of standup comedy.

Finally here comes the top three. Disney/Pixar’s Up scores with it’s unbelievable adventure of an old man and a chubby kid. The one and only animation this year that excites, charms and warms your senses all at once. Well, it’s Pixar, just like what Jimmy Choo does to heels and what Louis Vuitton does to leather goods. The magical touch. I’m sure there will be bunch of haters waiting to stab me for the next announced entry, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Do give credit to Michael Bay and his team for the massive carnage ever concocted onscreen despite the flaws. You can’t deny the movie earned millions if not billions and Transformers 2 is one movie that almost everyone around your cubicle has watched this year. And drumroll please… Finishing the top spot is James Cameron’s Avatar. While Robert Zemeckis took an average of two years to come up with a motion-captured CG movie, Cameron took more than a decade to bring his vision to the screen. The plotline is nothing exceptional seriously but the King of the World compensates by creating an entire splendor world of creatures, flora and fauna (all created in CG) and important messages of environmental conservation that we should walk out feeling ashamed of ourselves.

And with that, here’s a toast to a better 2010!

Stefan Shih
10 The Blue Mansion (Singapore)
9 Up
8 3 Idiots (India)
7 Talentime (Malaysia)
6 City of Life And Death (China)
5 The Hurt Locker
4 District 9
3 Departures (Japan)
2 Sell-Out (Malaysia)
1 (500) Days of Summer

It's time for that annual ritual of putting out the best-of lists, and a pattern can be spotted each year with the films that make it to mine. This year though it's the rather unfortunate predominance of Death as a theme or a backdrop, and it's no wonder though that it had somewhat lent its invisible hand in the shortlist and eventual whittling down a list of at least 50 to the top 10. Here goes...

Glen Goei's return to the cinema, The Blue Mansion is probably the most expensive local film ever made to date, only to be shot predominantly up north in Penang's UNESCO heritage site, the Cheong Fatt Sze Mansion. But that doesn't delineate the film from its Singapore roots, given its parallels that can be seen from characters, moods and the issues brought up. It's a Singapore film at its best, with veteran thespians from both sides of the Causeway showcasing their acting talents boosted by top class production values. More from Glen Goei, please.

If the first 10 minutes doesn't move you to tears, then you have a certified heart of stone. I cannot recall a film that sucker punches you at an emotional level, like how Up managed to. A reminder that we should live life to its fullest and to continuously create our own adventures. It takes a lot of guts to have a senior citizen anchor a children's film, but Up has proven that it has appeal for all ages.

To learn and acquire knowledge, not just for the sake of passing exams. This Bollywood film, 3 Idiots starring one of the Khans, Aamir Khan, tells the story of a group of varsity friends who get influenced by the live-wire of the trio, with all the ingredients that make that perfect masala movie. Containing deep themes of friendship and learning balanced with crowd pleasing entertainment that only a Bollywood film can offer, Aal Izz Well for this film.

Yasmin Ahmad's final feature film, it has all the hallmarks of the sentimental director in tackling race and religious issues without shoveling them down your throat. With a mixture of fresh faces and the usual suspects in its casting, Talentime will make you laugh and cry at the same time, where the multi-racial school serves as an analogy for the society that we live in, that tolerance and appreciation of our differences were always meant to be celebrated, never scorned at or looked down upon.

City of Life And Death - There are a number of Nanking themed films out there, but Lu Chuan's version provides that comprehensive look at the atrocities that were reportedly committed, and provided a stark unflinching portrayal of those horrors, having in place an iconic scene involving a baby that will definitely shock you to the core. The excellent capturing of Fear through mood and countless of facial close-ups make this compelling viewing.

The Hurt Locker - A war film like none other, Kathryn Bigelow dispenses with the usual routine red-blue wire bomb nonsense, and crafts a film that deals with the addiction of war amongst its combatants. It's edge-of-your-seat stuff gripping from the get go, with ace performances and chemistry shared between leads Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty. joined by a host of notable cameos.

District 9 - Science fiction has a new classic, and it took a rookie feature filmmaker to breathe freshness into the genre with a tale that entertains and puts you deep in thought about the negativity in humanity's flaws, tackling larger issues such as discrimination. But that doesn't mean that it lacked some eye-popping action sequences when the narrative called for it, with some of the most inventive battles ever seen in a life-action film involving humans, aliens, and mechas too!

The Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film, Departures is achingly beautiful, about a man finally finding his calling in life, only to be shunned by his wife for being in a taboo profession. Wonderful characterization, and a fantastic insight into a rarely seen ritual that honours the dearly departed.

Sell-Out - Multi-talented Malaysian filmmaker Yeo Joon Han wore plenty of hats here in order to make his debut feature film, a musical comedy that has one of the most rip-roaring opening sequences I've experienced in a long time. Its brand of humour is broad, from slapstick "mo-lei-tau" to witty dialogue, and there's never a dull moment in this film that has so much going for it that it begs for multiple viewings to catch all the visual gags and easter eggs contained within. A definite delight

(500) Days of Summer - It's still quite a painful film to sit through, for me at least, not that it was badly made, but because it cut extremely close to the heart. A love story that wasn't, and one that had its chance whittle away long before it even began. One simple line was all it took about the inability to feel for someone the same way every morning, to hit the nail squarely on the head with its brutal, honest take on relationships that don't work out.

Justin Deimen
10 Up
9 Gran Torino
8 Departures (Japan)
7 Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea (Japan)
6 Star Trek
5 Drag Me To Hell
4 Let The Right One In (Sweden)
3 (500) Days of Summer
2 The Hurt Locker
1 Rachel Getting Married

Pixar continues to amaze in its ambition to represent the most trenchant notions of humanity shown through the eyes of its animated characters – there's a montage in Up that is at once so grand, so uplifting and so yearning that it carries its entire film through with the grace of compassion that Pixar seems to understand the best, if not the most consistently. From the story of one septuagenarian connecting to the world around him to another; Gran Torino is one of Clint Eastwood's most personal and transgressive film of his hallowed career that carried him through as a true man of his generation. Preparing the transition into the great unknown ether of death is a ceremony that's not typically detailed in films but in Yojiro Takita's Oscar-winning Departures, it is a sacred and tender ritual that inspires the reassuring insight that evokes the sadness inherent in life and the contemplative peace found in death.

There's nothing traditional about Hayao Miyazaki's resplendently hand-drawn Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea, a watercolour celebration of childhood's gaiety that's as buoyant as it is breathtaking. But in an increasingly digital world, there has to be room for J.J. Abrams' reboot of the iconic Star Trek universe – an endearing and genuinely cinematic space adventure. But a comeback is on the cards for more than just a sci-fi franchise as Sam Raimi returned to his horror roots in spectacular style with Drag Me To Hell, a film so full of invention and verve that it deftly weaved together powerful scares and rib-tickling humour. In another adroitly realised adulteration of horror that resulted in a welcome transcendence of the genre, Tomas Alfredson creates an entrancing netherworld from the isolation of suburban 1980s Sweden in Let the Right One In, where a young boy falls for the undead pubescent girl next door.

Love is a harsh thing to comprehend as anyone will tell you, but in Marc Webb's stupendous (500) Days of Summer, it sears in its observations about the affairs of the heart and mind that it actually devastates – listen to the protagonist when he tells you that 'this is not a love story'. In Katheryn Bigelow's fabulously kinetic and visceral The Hurt Locker, we have one of the greatest films about war ever made – it's an existential look at the headspaces of a bomb squad grunt in the Iraq War and his fellow technicians as they courageously nullify the explosives in their sights but plainly avoid the perilous circumstances they create in their lives.

Early on in the year, Jonathan Demme's Rachel Getting Married stupefied with its stark honesty of human contradictions and pulsating depiction of the vibrancy of life. It was a razor-sharp antidote to the overly-emotional and twee multitudes of family dramedies of the past couple of years. It is the human urge to light up the dark corners for answers on other people and Demme brings that illumination to a marvellously indelible performance by Anne Hathaway playing the bruised and barely rehabbed daughter returning home for a sister's deliriously multicultural wedding and the ensuing Pandora's box of emotions that it opens. Sensitively written and directed, the things that go unsaid resonates the most in this masterful film.

Honorary Mentions: Mother, Avatar, District 9, Milk, Man on Wire, Coraline, Paranormal Activity, Inglourious Basterds, Halloween II, Pandorum

Mohamad Shaifulbahri
10 The Hangover
9 Thirst (Korea)
8 The Cove
7 (500) Days of Summer
6 Fantastic Mr Fox
5 Star Trek
4 Up
3 Inglorious Basterds
2 The Hurt Locker
1 District 9

2009 was quite an exciting year for movies and coming up with my final Top 10 was not an easy one, especially in determining the number 1 movie of the year. Alas, when the dust had settled, the likes of Avatar and The Informant! just barely missed out on being in. In the case of Avatar, I'd like to bestow it with a special mention considering that it is a movie-going experience not to be missed. Sure, the 3D was awe-inspiring and the action sequences out of this world but not much could be said about the rest of the story. There were however, ten other movies that I liked better in 2009.
I think my list is a fair one considering at least one foreign movie, a documentary and two animations made it in. From the morning after shenanigans that tickled my funny bone, to the best bloodthirsty affair of 2009 and disturbing dilemma faced by dolphins in Japan started the ball rolling in my list in the form of The Hangover, Thirst and The Cove respectively.

Coming in at #7 was the rom-com that could have been. the heart-breaking (500) Days of Summer, for its ingenuity and for its superior wit and painstaking stop motion animation about a particularly Fantastic Mr Fox made it to #6. Not a fan of the sci-fi genre in general, it has now started to grow on me even further. The Star Trek reboot was such a fantastic experience that it had to make it into my list and has found itself at #5. This was followed by the best movie Pixar has ever made, Up, coming in at #4. The movie pulled at our heartstrings so forcefully that it was hard not to be touched by it.

Quentin Tarantino's version of Inglorious Basterds makes its way to #3 guns ablazing and madcap mayhem to go along with it. It was Tarantino at his A-game yet again. At #2 is the most intense movie of the year, The Hurt Locker, which should also be garnering awards galore once the awards season kicks in. And topping off my list is District 9. The effects felt so seamless, the one-man show by Sharlto Copley was probably one of the best of the year and Neill Blomkamp had a fantastic first feature outing that everything just fell into place so nicely.

Gabriel Chong
10 Aliens In The Attic
9 Murderer (HK)
8 L.O.V.E (Taiwan)
7 Street Fighter: The Legend Of Chun-Li
6 Where Got Ghost? (Singapore)
5 Halloween 2
4 Fame
3 The Storm Warriors (HK)
2 Beyond A Reasonable Doubt
1 The Treasure Hunter (Taiwan)

How timely that The Treasure Hunter has decided to open on the very last day of 2009, just in time to qualify for a top ten list of 2009- though I’m hardly sure that is the intention of the filmmakers or the distributor. I can think of so many other ways one can spend US$15 mil than on this terrible misfire, an East-meets-West Indiana Jones so awful it made the earlier Jay Chou-Kevin Chu collaboration Kung Fu Dunk look like an Oscar winner.

Not far behind is the long-awaited sequel to The Storm Riders that is literally all sound and no fury. Apparently, the Pang brothers were so caught up with their CGI that they forgot a movie still needs to have a story to tell. That’s not the only laughably bad Aaron Kwok movie this year. Coming off a high from his two Golden Horse Best Actor wins, Kwok defied logic by starring in the unintentional comedy hit of the year Murderer. Yes, its last third must be seen to be believed.

There were also other high-profile movies that were utterly disappointing. Hollywood’s remake of the classic musical Fame turned out to be a slick feature-length MTV video with little style and no substance, more likely to be remembered for its infamy than its fame. Another reboot that also took the cake was Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li. Packed with cheesy dialogue, stilted acting and tedious fighting, it left one wondering whether the filmmakers were just updating the 1994 Van Damme dud for contemporary audiences.

Not forgetting of course Rob Zombie’s sequel to his own 2007 reboot, Halloween 2 - a movie that was just as disgusting as its lead character, Michael Myers, with nary a scare to be had throughout its interminable length. Another equally bland movie was Aliens in the Attic, that seemed like it was made in the '80s and dusted off the shelves to be released only this year.

Two anthologies also made it to this year’s list. The Taiwanese pop idol movie L.O.V.E. had a cast of young-bies and new-bies but with material so flimsy, there was little the pretty young things could flaunt onscreen. Singapore’s most prolific filmmaker, Jack Neo, also proved that he was fast exhausting his creative juices as his 'hor-medy' Where Got Ghost? turned out so incoherent it made a mockery out of Singapore audiences who actually support local productions.

Oh, there was of course a spot for a movie whose poster wins hands down the tackiest of the year. Well, at least the poster was an accurate reflection of the movie- let’s just say it was Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, one of the worst movies of the year. In fact, it would have been the worst- if not for the last-minute addition (yes, Treasure Hunter, you know who you are).

Richard Lim Jr
10 Dragonball Evolution
9 Ninja Assassin
8 Friday The 13th
7 Claustrophobia (HK)
6 Halloween 2
5 Kung Fu Chefs (HK/China)
4 Plastic City (HK)
3 Street Fighter: The Legend Of Chun-Li
2 Rachel Getting Married
1 Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Ninja Assassin –If you are slightly pickier on how Ninja should be, then this movie will be filled with insults to the world of Ninjas. Ninjas behaving like schoolboys taunting their victim by whispering how he had done wrong by betraying the sect, Grand Ninja Master getting sneak attack by a 'Librarian' and the who Ninja fraternity getting a surprised frag by the gun throttling SWAT team are just some things that hard to swallow as a Ninja fan.

Rachel Getting Married - Just imagine getting stuck in a god damn awful family outing with a problematic child that seeking attention to herself and you get this movie. The unpleasant fly on the wall handheld camera works definitely made this movie so much harder to tolerate.

The recent classic supernatural slasher reboots (Friday the 13th and Halloween 2) were a dismay bunch too. They are basically deprived of any scary scenes (not even a scare a moment scene as the you can see the slasher coming from a mile) and generally filled with characters making silly cliché mistakes (that are already been pointed out in the Scream trilogy). The characters are so disposable that it’s hard to care who dies or who doesn’t. Friday the 13th at least gave us a 'stupendous boobs cum sex scene', Halloween 2 pushed our patience to the limits when Rob Zombie went overboard with musing on the gothic music video vision that’s haunting Michael Myer and his sister.

Over at Asia, these are the few movies that make one want to bolt out of the theatre as soon as they are done with what they are set out to do. Claustrophobia was so vague on the affair between the leads that it made viewing this movie an unsatisfying and unpleasant wait. Kung Fu Chefs excel with it’s bland presentation on the blend mixture of culinary and kungfu in a badly patch up story. Plastic City, a Pan Asian arty farty film that suffered from uncomfortable dialogue delivery by the lead actors and meandering plot tried to be too smart for it’s own good.

The last 3 movies were products of a childhood long gone. They were in many ways unfaithful and unworthy representation of what made them so memorable back in the past. DragonBall Evolution wasn’t that bad as a standalone story but when the original manga creator gave support and approval to this horrible rendition to the manga series, it definitely deserved a mention here. Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li was just plain horrible, even as a standalone story. It’s a testament to how filmmakers have 1) no respect to the source material or 2) didn’t know how to bring out the essence of the popular arcade game.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen – Simply put it this way, what was wrongly with the first movie was magnified in this installment. Most critics who were swept away by the first wham bam finally wise up to see the hallow shell of a sorry excuse to make money out of a beloved toy franchise. It’s loud, it’s pointless, it’s numbing experience and it made a lot of money and for that, I feared for the future of mankind.

And don’t knock this movie off because of it originated as a child’s plaything. Just look at what the Batman franchise was like when filmmakers didn’t take the characters seriously and take note how amazing it became when the characters were given loving care and treatment. If you call yourself a fan of Transformers, do as least have the foresight to recognize that the potential of this franchise had been brutally truncated by this current team of filmmakers.

And the other duds of 2009 are: Look for a Star (HK), The Pink Panther 2, Inkheart, My Bloody Valentine 3D, Hotel for Dogs, Obsessed, Fighting, Aliens in the Attic, Blood Ties (Singapore), Poker King (HK), Jennifer's Body, Amelia, Raging Phoenix (Thailand), 2012

John Li
10 Beyond A Reasonable Doubt
9 The Twilight Saga: New Moon
8 April Bride (Japan)
7 Where Got Ghost? (Singapore)
6 The Conspiracy
5 Fireball Muay Thai Dunk (Thailand)
4 Coming Soon (Thailand)
3 Street Fighter: The Legend Of Chun-Li
2 Dragonball Evolution
1 The Pink Panther 2

How disgruntled can a reviewer get at this time of the year when he is required to wrap up the bad things he has seen and heard throughout the year? Very, apparently.

Former Miss World Aishwarya Rai may be eye candy, but that didn’t salvage the unfunny The Pink Panther 2 from being one of the most uncalled-for sequels in movie history.

And don’t you singger, teenage fans of The Twilight Saga: New Moon, the snooze-fest which had young girls screaming in delight every second a pale Robert Pattison appeared on screen was so mind-numbing, this reviewer wished there was a remote control in the cinema which allowed him to fast-forward to the scene where Dakota Fanning and her astonishing eye shadow appeared.

Two very B-grade Hollywood productions (disguised as intelligent thrillers – what audacity!) The Conspiracy and Beyond A Reasonable Doubt got this reviewer quite upset this year too. You know, these are the types of movies which you walk out remembering absolutely nothing but the dinner you had before being conned into the cinema.

Talking about dreariness, Dragonball Evolution and Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li were two unnecessary adaptations which did nothing but disappointed the loyal fan in this reviewer.
And you thought things would be better in Asia? No, Thailand gave us two bombs: the really un-horrifying horror flick Coming Soon and the un-gratifying action flick Fireball Muay Thai Dunk. Japan gave us the been-there-done-that April Bride, which had this reviewer yawning every ten minutes or so. Really, it was that bad.

Right here in Singapore, what was popular director Jack Neo thinking when he made Where Got Ghost? The self-invented genre 'hor-medy' is nothing more than a lame marketing stunt, and the movie deserves nothing more than a place in the dumps.

So there, this reviewer’s irritation and dissatisfaction is justified. 17 hours and 7 minutes. That’s how much time he could spend talking to friends at a café about the deeper meanings of life if he hadn’t watched these 10 bad movies.

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