What was the best “Summer movie” of 2009?  And by “summer,” I mean a popcorn flick–not a biography of a chef or a heavy, serious war film.   And by “movie,” I’m not considering stuff like Up or Night at the Museum 2.  Or even Hairy Pooter.  This blog is for adults, y’all.  One final caveat: I did not see The Hangover or Year One.  I’ve rated every “summer movie” (i.e., action/horror type flick) that I saw this summer, using categories that I think make for a great popcorn flick.  By “Direction” I’m including fight direction and editing, since both of these are equally as important as the overall director for an action film.  FX includes costumes, set design, etc.  The technical visual “mood” of the film.  By “Sexy” I don’t necessarily mean nudity or sex scenes–I just mean some sort of sex appeal.  And body count isn’t just quantity, it’s quality and propriety, and whether any of the deaths stand out.

Let’s do this.

14.  The Orphan

Story/Script?  The tag line: “Can you keep a secret?”  My answer: When it’s this stupid, yes.  0/10

Acting?  Serviceable.  5/10

Direction?  The film lacks any suspense whatsoever.  It uses depth shots that don’t make sense, and tries to build up “false alarms” (you know, like when a cat jumps out at you) that have no payoff at all.  3/10

Special Effects?  A few, but they’re nothing exciting.  3/10

Sexy?  The sex scenes aren’t bad.  But they’re not great, either.  4/10

Body count!  Minimal.  I think it’s about 2.  2/10

Total Score: 17

13.  Taking of Pelham 1-2-3

Story/Script?  Godawful.  The original was subtle and witty.  This was a sledghammer.  3/10

Acting?  Denzel should be ashamed of himself.  But not as ashamed as he should be of Travolta.  Yeech.  Still, all Denzel has to do is show up the film gets at least a 5.  6/10

Direction?  Plodding, confusing and boring.  4/10

Special Effects?  None.  0/10

Sexy?  No.  0/10

Body count!  Some folks get shot.  4/10

Total Score: 17


Story/Script?  Not really.  2/10

Acting?  Not really.  2/10

Direction?  Not really.  2/10

Special Effects?  Some racing and explosions.  4/10

Sexy?  If a few flashbacks of Michelle Rodriguez rolling around Vin Diesel’s abs count.  6/10

Body count!  Not nearly enough casualties, but at least they had the decency to kill Michelle early.  2/10

Total Score: 18.

11.  Public Enemies

Story/Script?  Great story, but the script left out all the details of the fascinating of these men.  Instead of getting to know them, we just saw stylized images and frowns.  4/10.

Acting?  Neither Depp nor Bale seemed to be trying very hard.  4/10

Direction?  Nor was Michael Mann.  4/10

Special Effects?  The period-piece makeup, guns, etc., were decent, but actually they looked a little to slick.  Too modern.  4/10

Sexy?  A few love scenes, and I do like the chick who was the fourth wife on Big Love.  6/10

Body count!  Other than the opening sequence, not very interesting.  3/10

Total Score: 25.

10.  G.I. JOE

Story/Script?  “When everyone else fails . . . We don’t.”  This is the best line in a film that doesn’t make a lot of sense.  They’re an international strike force, but every government seems to want to arrest them.  Zartan hides in a bunker installed in the White House, but how long has he been in there?  Is the Secret Service that stupid?  And the most elite team in the world tried to recruit Duke, but didn’t bother to have a record of his fiance’s face?  But who cared?  The FX weren’t great, but the movie was balls-out fun and just the right length.  Critics complain that it was cartoonish.  Uh, guys?  It’s based on a toy and a cartoon.  It’s supposed to be cartoonish.  Lighten up!  6/10

Acting? I’d love to be able to joke and say that Snake Eyes (a mute with a full-body mask) was the best actor, but in actuality the acting wasn’t bad. Channing Tatum, Sienna Miller, and Marlon Wayans do solid work, while Dennis Quaid chews the scenery.  Perfect for a B-picture.  7/10.

Direction?  By Stephen Sommers, and pretty much everything else he’s done is crap.  For this film, though, it was perfectly reasonable, with some very good work on the opening sequence and the Paris fight/chase.  6/10.

Special Effects? Mostly computerized.  5/10.

Sexy?  Not even a little.  0/10

Body count!  Significant, and pretty graphic at times.  Lots of stabbings.  And tourists get smushed under an international monument.  But, it’s pretty bloodless.  7/10

Total Score: 25 + a bonus half pont because I really did enjoy it a lot more than I should have.

9.  Terminator: Salvation

Story/Script?  Not only did it not make sense, the parts that did make sense were stupid.  If these robots are so smart, why can’t they find the humans?  They’ve infested the water outside their base with snakes and sent a spy into their lair, but still can’t find Christian’s band of merry men?  Don’t get me started.  The ad campaign was far better than the film.  Overall, though, I liked it more while I was watching it.  The farther away from it I get, the more annoyed with it I become.  2/10

Acting?  How the mighty have fallen.  Christian Bale, brilliant in Batman and Rescue Dawn, was upstaged by his co-star.  And by just about everything else here.  For a messiah figure, he was about as inspiring as a half-ripe peach.  5/10

Direction?  When Arnold finally shows up, the theater should have screamed for joy.  Instead, we yawned.  Zero tension, no suspense, just relentless noise and a few moderatley good action sequences.  5/10

Special Effects?  Okay, these were pretty damn cool.  9/10

Sexy?  Not unless you have a metal fetish.  2/10

Body count!  High, but who gave a shit?  One good death (when the robots snatch through the roof of the gas station) does not a good body count make.  5/10

Total Score: 27.


Story/Script?  Excellent.  A little dark, and far more sad than Borat, I think this movie caught audiences off-guard.  Confronting people with their inner anti-semite is a lot more comfortable than revealing the devastating effects of the far more pervasive, and even culturally acceptable, homophobia.  This movie wasn’t really a summer flick, though.  So don’t take it’s rank on this list as a condemnation of the film–it was a powerful comedy, and the ‘Wood doesn’t make many of these.  9/10

Acting?  Sascha Baron Cohen is fearless and brilliant.  10/10

Direction?  Each scene is designed to make you feel like you’re watching a 1970s snuff film.  9/10

Special Effects?  None.  But when the boy pops out of the box at the airport . . . That was a hilarious visual.  2/10

Sexy?  Uh . . . Does Borat doing penis gymnastics count?  How about a trashy housewife/dominatrix in leather?  Well, the whole thing is about sex, so I’m giving it high marks anyway.  8/10

Body count!  0/10

Total Score:29

7.  Green Lantern: First Light (DVD)

Story/Script?  A well-handled retelling of the origins of Hal Jordan and Sinestro.  8/10

Acting?  It’s a cartoon, but the voices were good.  6/10

Direction?  Excellent.  8/10

Special Effects?  Again, cartoon.  But the animation was excellent.  8/10

Sexy?  No.  0/10

Body count!  Not much, but what there was were deaths essential to the story.  5/10

Total Score:  35

6.  Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Story/Script?  Not much of one, really.  5/10

Acting?  I’m a sucker for that cute little wannabe Indy.  And Optimus Prime was very convincing in his love scene with Starscream.  Who knew they went for that sort of thing?  7/10

Direction?  It’s all about direction and FX.  Well done, but it could have been paced better/edited a little more tightly.  7/10

Special Effects?  Of course.  10/10

Sexy?  Meghan Fox and some eye-candy coeds.  6/10

Body count!  Completely bloodless, but there’s lots of mayhem.  7/10

Total Score:  42

5.  X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Story/Script?  Points for trying to incorporate 20 years of source material.  Points off for trying to do too much, resulting in a series of vignettes, but not much of a “movie” per se.  Still, other than the complete lousing up of Deadpool (the Merc with a Mouth had no mouth!), this was a top-flight tights flim.  7/10

Acting?  Perfectly good for this type of vehicle.  8/10

Direction?  Action sequences were tight and the rare dialog scenes were fine, but not great.  The Wolvie-fights-a-helicopter scene was worth the entire ticket price.  8/10

Special Effects?  Excellent.  10/10

Sexy?  No.  3/10

Body count!  Perfect, bloodless mayhem.  8/10

Total Score: 43

4.  Inglorious Basterds

Story/Script?  There’s a little too much predictability in the story, and scene-wise it’s got a rhythm that pretty much telegraphs every moment of violence. But no one can write dialogue like Tarantino.  Still, this is far from his best work. I’m giving it an 8/10, for a dude who should be hitting 10s every time.

Acting?  Pitt is comical doing his best Marlon Brando, and Mike Meyers adds much-needed self-conscious camp.  Christoph Walz is a breakthrough star–phenomenally good at being simultaneously scary and funny.  The weak link here is BJ Novak, who is so wide-eyed and awestruck that you just can’t believe in him.  7/10

Direction?  Perfect pacing, interesting choices of movement and angles.  Tarantino is truly a master.  9/10

Special Effects?  Good gore.  7/10

Sexy?  Melanie Laurent is the hottest thing since Uma.  8/10

Body count!  Plenty of death.  I particularly enjoyed the stabbing-through-a-pillow.  8/10

Total Score: 47

3.  Star Trek

Story/Script?  I have to admit, I liked this movie a lot but not as much as the critics did.  Still, it was undeniably better than it should have been, with a well-formed script and good character grown from young Spock and Kirk.  8/10

Acting?  Mostly excellent, although Bones’ character didn’t seem fleshed out (ouch!).  8/10

Direction?  Also very good.  Some sequences that stuck in my mind were the Kirk motorcycle ride and the computer similulation test.  8/10

Special Effects?  Perfection.  10/10

Sexy?  Kinda, yeah.  Even the green lady was kinda hot.  8/10

Body count!  Perfectly fine, but no death scenes really stand out.  7/10

Total Score: 49

2.  District 9

Story/Script?  Innovative and wholly unprecedented; allegorical; deep and moving; profound; amazing.  I even cared about the baby prawns.  10/10.

Acting?  I don’t know who this Sharlto Copley dude is, but anyone who can perform like this opposite puppets and green screens deserves an Oscar.  10/10

Direction?  Flawless.  The film moves at a constantly accellerating pace without sacrificing content or character development.  And it works well with the FX by keeping the rubber aliens in half-light.  10/10

Special Effects?  If a film can succeed on this budget to be convicing, scary, and even have a good “wow” factor (like when the spacecraft rises from the rubble, or the suit of armor scene), then the big studios have no excuse for crying about budgets.  10/10

Sexy?  No, but who gives a shit?  2/10

Body count!  High and handled well–a perfectly appropriate body count.  10/10

Total Score: 52

1.  Drag Me To Hell

Story/Script?  This is actually a remake of an old foreign horror flick, but you won’t find that info on any website I can find.  A buddy of mine saw the movie, though, and it was virtually the same story, right down to the train at the end.  No matter.  Genre-master Sam Raimi updates it and turns a concept (the gypsy curse) that’s usually flat and predictable (and stupid) into one that is surprising and terrifying.  It loses one point for using too many mouth “gags” (pun intended), but that’s nowhere near enough to stop it from being the greatest movie of the summer by far.  9/10

Acting? Alison Lohman may be the best scream queen since Jamie Lee Curtis.  And that old crone is no slouch, either.  10/10

Direction?  Expert.  10/10

Special Effects?  Seamless.  10/10

Sexy?  Surpringly, yes, even though there’s not any real sex in it.  Alison Lohman is simply stunning, and expresses a subtle sexy vulnerability.  Plus, she’s even hot when she’s covered in graveyard mud.  8/10

Body count!  Not too much, but in this case, that’s a plus.  Rather than making it a splatterfest, each death matters.  And is terrifying.  10/10

Total Score:  57

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