15 Movies* You Should Watch In 2009

*Besides The Blockbusters

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For some, film is religion, and no temple is more sacred than the art house cinema around the corner. Serving as a calm voice of reason in a sea of neon megaplexes, the art house is the perfect refuge for discovering that gem of a specialty film. However, in a world this connected – via Bluetooth transfers, Tweets, and so forth – how can any movie claim to be truly independent? After all, Slumdog Millionaire was released by Fox Searchlight to be a cash cow chick flick disguised as an art house drama crowd and popcorn ready. Before I rant about the grindhouse glory days being long gone, here are fifteen upcoming flicks worth your recession-era Hamilton ($10), and frankly, who cares if they’re indie or not?

Inglorious Basterds

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The so-called master of visceral cinema, Quentin Tarantino crafts another delirious “splatter opera,” only this time it’s about WWII characters nicknamed “Bear Jew” and “Jew Hunter.” Set in Nazi-occupied France and narrated by Samuel L. Jackson – this five-chapter, Pulp Fiction-length film promises to be both bloody satisfying and structured by that trademark “double helix” of a plotline we’ve come to expect and enjoy.

Release Date: August 21st, 2009

Shutter Island

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Out of the 64 Oscar nominations generated by Martin Scorcese’s movies, 89% come from those edited by a lil old lady named Thelma Schoonmaker. With her return on yet another Dennis Lehane-derived narrative, expect a substance enriched execution perhaps equal to that of 2007 Best Picture The Departed. And as much as we should never forgive Leonardo DiCaprio for his role in making a chick flick the biggest box-office movie of all time (over The Dark Knight no less), his performances only get better with each Marty set.

Release Date: October 2nd, 2009

Extract

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Mike Judge, director of Office Space, comes out with another workplace comedy – this time exploring what it’s like to be the boss when everything seems to be shifting around you (Film School Rejects). Jason Bateman stars as Joel, the owner of an extract factory, alongside Ben Affleck, Mila Kunis, and other various funny people like J.K. Simmons.

Release Date: September 4th, 2009

Bruno

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I have two questions for Sacha Baron Cohen on his latest sociopolitical satire: can Bruno successfully out-Borat Borat? And will he eat chocolately things, like, all the time? Bruno, the self-proclaimed “Voice of Austrian Youth,” leaves home this July to have “Delicious Journeys Through America.” Arnold Schwartzenegger, a past vetoer of same-sex marriage bills, is one of Bruno’s many on/off screen targets. Expect plenty of laughs and another phase of overused catchphrases. Very Nice!

Release Date: July 10th, 2009

The Invention of Lying

From the co-writer and co-director of The Office (UK version), comes The Invention of Lying, a comedy starring Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey, Jonah Hill, Louis C.K. (a past writer for Letterman, Conan O’Brien, Chris Rock), George Bluth Sr. er I mean Jeffrey Michael Tambor, as well as Jennifer Garner, and Rob Lowe. Set in an alternate world where no one has ever lied, Gervais plays a performer who “invents” lying for personal gain and power; he describes his character as “a loser who’s about to lose his job, and who’s lumbering through the 1300s. All he’s got to work with is the Black Death. But once he lies and pretends he’s found lost stories, he becomes the greatest storyteller in the world.”

Release Date: September 25th, 2009

The Road

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A silenced pump action shot gun, staccato dialogue, and a rod shooter used to punch out door knobs and skulls … these are the elements that emerge when recalling 2008 Best Picture No Country for Old Men. From the same literary mind comes The Road, a searing, post-apocalyptic tale that is best described by the LA Times as “a book that wrenches our nightmares into a gray light where they don’t vanish but become more vivid.” Hopefully British playwright Joe Penhall can recreate the raw emotional pull of Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize winner without “milking the tits of a giant” (his own phrase).

Release Date: October 2009

Sugar

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When’s the last time you saw a real sports movie, one without that trite Disney bull shit transforming into a single, fateful season? My answer has to be Hoop Dreams and from the looks of it, indie upstart Sugar comes from the same vein of authenticity. A film about a Dominican pitching prodigy pursuing the American Dream (Major League ball), Sugar intends to portray what is raw and true for hundreds of Latino farm-system boys everyday.

Release Date: Now Playing (April 3rd, 2009) (Limited)

Whatever Works

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Woody Allen directing Larry David in a film dealing with the complications between an older man and a younger woman? Few premises for a comedy sound more promising, especially when you pair a cynical imagination with an all too willing (read: humorously neurotic) mouthpiece. Larry David plays a recently divorced and retired physics teacher whose repeated life failures lead him to teach chess and become romantically entangled with a naïve, Southern belle (Evan Rachel Wood – The Wrestler) to the disapproval of her parents.

Release Date: June 19th, 2009 (NY, LA)

Public Enemies

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Johnny Depp plays John Dillinger in Michael Mann’s Public Enemies, a film based on Brian Burrough’s nonfiction book “Public Enemies: America’s Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34.” As legend reality had it, Dillinger’s repeated escapes from jail, fast get-away cars, and superior firepower made him a gangster tour de force. J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI had no choice but to brand him as Public Enemy No. 1. With the director-writer-producer of Heat and The Last of the Mohicans behind the wheel, expect nothing short of a frenetic masculine endeavor.

Release Date: July 1st, 2009

Sherlock Holmes

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Joel Silver, one of Sherlock Holmes’ producers, stated that this film will be “like James Bond in 1891.” Sure, what do producers know? But Silver is totally right. Holmes, played by Robert Downey Jr., is not just a giant brain inside a tweed suit but a re-invented action hero, one with swagger and a fighting skills repertoire that includes bare-knuckle boxing and baritsu – a martial arts form derived directly from Sir Conan Doyle’s books. With Guy Ritchie as director, expect a film that is fast paced, but also faithful to the period (recall his obsession for British accents in Snatch & Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels). Lets hope the calabash pipe serves Downey Jr. well.

Release Date: December 25th, 2009

Nailed

When you are a screenwriter for SNL and your father is Al Gore, you bet your ass you have what it takes (and the material) to win Emmy Awards for making people laugh. Kristin Gore teams up with David O’Russell, the director of I Heart Huckabees, to write the script for Nailed, a politically-charged comedy about a small-town waitress (Jessica Biel) who lobbies for better healthcare for the bizarrely injured after a nail was accidentally lodged in her brain. Under the shrewdly screwball direction of O’Russell, expect offbeat (read: f-ed up) humor that will not appeal to the masses but serve as welcome relief from all the teenage flicks re-hashing the same hipster and stoner jokes. Oh and did I forget to mention that Tracy Morgan will be in this film?

Release Date: TBA 2009

The Limits of Control

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When Indie Kingpin Jim Jarmusch collaborates with Christopher Doyle, an acclaimed cinematographer who has done everything from DJ Shadow music videos to Gus Van Sant flicks, you get cult favorites like Ghost Dog and Coffee and Cigarettes. Expect no different with The Limits of Control, a film starring Isaach De Bankole as the French ice cream man, a lone wolf criminal undertaking a job in Spain. Other cast members include Bill Murray and Gael Garcia Bernal (Amores Perros, Y Tu Mama Tambien). Note: considering this is a Jarmusch film, there is a 10% chance members of Wu-Tang Clan will spit out some cameo rhymes.

Release Date: May 1st, 2009 (Limited)

Tyson

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After a screening for the documentary Tyson, I had two questions for the fat, balding director who sat on his high stool quoting Walt Whitman: 1) How did you get close to Tyson, considering his distrust for “leeches” as he calls ‘em onscreen and 2) what kinda asshole asks a two part question at a screening, especially quoting a derogatory groupie remark? Wisely, I kept my mouth shut – for perhaps 30 min – as James Toback ranted about the orgy parties at Jim Brown’s house (to the silent and horrified imaginings of the audience) and the times he spent tripping on LSD in the surrounding areas of this Boston-area cinema. Afterwards, it all made sense. This director, of a riveting account on a prize fighter you most likely hate, was brutally honest in front of complete strangers. His film is no different and that is why it succeeds.

Release Date: Now Playing (April 24th, 2009) (NY, LA)

Biutiful

In director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu’s latest Spanish-language film Biutful, Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men) stars as “a man embroiled in shady dealings who is confronted by a childhood friend, now a policeman.” Before you are discouraged by the shallow plot logline and the fact that there will be subtitles (I know, I know, it has to be City of God good), know this: before Iñárritu created 2000 Best Foreign Film Amore Perros, he was a full-time DJ mixing and matching beats. With that kinda life skill, he holds a comprehension for pacing as well as an uncanny ability to weave a compelling, non-linear tale as seen in English-language films Babel and 21 Grams.

Release Date: December 11th, 2009

Brooklyn’s Finest

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If you were left wanting more after seeing Training Day, fear not as director Antoine Fuqua is set to release his latest cop thriller Brooklyn’s Finest. Made outside of the studio system, Brooklyn’s Finest stars Ethan Hawke, Richard Gere, and Don Cheadle as fractured souls of the badge caught in an underworld of violence and moral ambiguity.

Release Date: November 27th, 2009 (Limited)

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