Rotten Tomatoes Summer 2009 Wrap-Up

by | September 6, 2009 | Comments

History may look back upon summer 2009 as one of cinema’s weirdest seasons. Free of any discernible trends or patterns, Hollywood offered a wild smorgasbord, heavy with comedies and original material, light on tentpole flicks (shockingly, there was only one superhero movie). But let’s not forget about the limiteds (which were excluded for contention for this article), movies like The Hurt Locker and Moon that fused philosophy and violence.

And now with the May-August period officially over, Rotten Tomatoes looks back on the passing of another summer season with our Summer Wrap-Up. In this article, you’ll find the 10 best Tomatometers
of the summer, the 10 worst, an analysis of how each studio fared, and our own favorite summer movie choices!


THE TOP 10 TOMATOMETERS OF THE SUMMER



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10.
The
Hangover

The Hangover, featuring a cast of relative unknowns and
opening smack dab in the midst of blockbusters like Up and the
Transformers
and Terminator sequels, performed beyond
expectations. Audiences boosted box office numbers for the bachelor
party-themed comedy, and critics like the San Francisco Chronicle’s Mick
LaSalle were quick to dub it “the funniest movie so far this year.” Some
were put off by the film’s raunchy humor and outrageous scenarios, but
director Todd Phillips and gang had the last laugh, earning a solid 78%
on the Tomatometer on the way to Certified Fresh status.



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9.
Bandslam

On the surface, Bandslam doesn’t look particularly fresh. It’s
a mix of the old teen outcast underdog tale and “Hey gang! Let’s put on
a show!” tropes. However, it’s all in the telling, and Bandslam
proves to be winning, heartwarming, and smart — in other words, fine
family entertainment that’s deeper than one might suspect. “Tidy,
heartfelt direction by Todd Graff; astute song references; and a David
Bowie cameo transcend the formula underpinnings and keep Bandslam
buoyant, gratifying and, yes, rocking,” wrote Andy Webster of the New
York Times.



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8.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Cole Smithey of ColeSmithey.com felt “Harry Potter and the
Half-Blood Prince
is the most balanced Harry Potter film to
come along.” Balanced is a fair word, as this, the sixth entry in the
Harry Potter
franchise, let go of the cagey threats and goofy
monsters of the earlier films and focused on more intense battles,
explicit dangers and obvious romances. The stakes are higher in
Half-Blood Prince
, the characters make clear which sides they favor
(dark or light), and a staggering amount of snogging is going on, which
surprisingly adds (not detracts) from all that magic we’ve come to love
in the Potter films. So far, this one’s the moody theme park ride
of the franchise and were over that ugly pubescent phase. It wasn’t as
bad as it could have been, but even wizards suffer a little in junior
high.


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7.

(500) Days of Summer

Both heavy hearted and light as air, the hip romantic comedy (500)
Days of Summer
is carved out of upbeat retro-pop, thrillingly
euphoric highs and crushing disappointments. Making his feature debut,
director Mark Webb clearly poured all his carefully observed, admiring,
wounded fascinations with the ladies into this one, and we should thank
him for focusing on twentysomething professionals instead of sensitive,
irritable teenagers. Rene Rodriguez of the Miami Herald said, “This is a
romantic comedy that makes the concept of romantic comedies appealing
again — that reminds you how resonant and transporting they can be when
they’re done right.” The musical number set to Hall and Oates didnt
hurt.



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6.

Inglourious Basterds

Welcome back, Mr. Tarantino! Your public has missed you. Yes, you
gave us Death Proof just a couple of years ago, but the less said
about that, the better; really, we’ve been waiting for something new
from you since the second installment of Kill Bill finished
slicing and dicing its way across our screens in 2004. So a little
patience has been necessary, but it all paid off with Inglourious
Basterds
, a wickedly entertaining, typically violent cannonball of a
movie that braids the white-hot rage of the revenge fantasy at the
center of its premise with all the humor, gleeful pop culture
references, and sharp dialogue you’d expect from a Tarantino film. Late
August is usually where summer movies go to die; this year, Basterds
gave us one last, glorious jolt. In the words of Antagony & Ecstasy’s
Tim Brayton, “This is filmmaking at its bravest, and whether Tarantino
is a genius or a fool, he does nothing by accident.”



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5.
District 9

With a viral campaign that turned local bus stops into
quasi-political commentary, District 9 made allegory out of
Apartheid three decades later and added a bit more comedy and space
ships. The story of a mild mannered administrator and the journey that
brings him increasingly closer to the aliens he takes pains to
segregate, District 9 was based on a short by director Neil
Blompkamp that producer Peter Jackson got behind in a big (feature
length) way. The result is a mix of action, science fiction, drama and
social satire. According to John Anderson at the Washington Post, “District
9
is A sci-fi-fueled indictment of man’s inhumanity to man — and
the non-human — District 9 is all horribly familiar, and transfixing.
Its an actioner, but one surely offering more than explosions.”



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4.
Ponyo

Ponyo may be the last film in the illustrious career of Hayao
Miyazaki, and a fairy tale about a fish who wants to be human just might
be the perfect capper. Its simple, elegant, straight-forward
storytelling charmed critics and adults, but it’s obviously a movie made
for kids. A gift for the next generation, Ponyo is, as Philippa
Hawker states in The Age, “an imaginative, exhilarating work, but its
vigour and energy are achieved with surprising simplicity.”



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3.
Drag
Me to Hell

Clearly seeking a change of pace after the extravagance of the
Spider-Man
series (and the negative experience of the third one),
Sam Raimi went back to his roots with this low-budget, button-pushing
comedy/horror. The twisted tale of a young banker cursed to go to hell
was given a PG-13 rating, sparking concerns that Raimi had gone soft.
But as reviews started coming in, it was clear that Raimi had given us
one of the most memorable horror movies in years, an effective,
disgusting non-stop carnival ride. Brian Juergens from CampBlood.org
notes that “[t]his fabulously compact little morality tale is the most
fun you’ll ever have analyzing our economic collapse.”



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2.
Star Trek

As with many franchises these days, Star Trek got the reboot
treatment this year when J.J. Abrams, the mind behind television shows
such as Alias and Lost, dared to direct a prequel to the
original Star Trek series. As it turned out, critics and
audiences alike warmly embraced Abrams’ take on the sci-fi adventure,
and Star Trek landed in Certified Fresh territory. While some
die-hard fans were a bit put off by some of the liberties Abrams took
with the overarching mythology of the franchise, an overwhelming
majority found the film to be, in the words of Tom Long of the Detroit
News, “a film that should appeal to longtime Trekkies, sci-fi neophytes,
and pretty much anybody who likes a good action flick.”



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1.
Up

It probably comes as no surprise to you that Up takes the top
spot for the summer (and is a strong contender of taking the prize for
the year). Pixar flicks have been dominating Tomatometer lists for 10
years running now and their latest, a story of a man, his house, a kid,
and their journey to South America, is no exception. Audiences of all
ages were thrilled by the film’s stunning visuals, classical
storytelling, and surprising bursts of emotion and heartbreak. “How much
do I love this movie?” Philadelphia Inquirer’s Carrie Rickey asked her
readers, “If it were mathematically possible, I’d give it five stars out
of four.”



THE BOTTOM 10 TOMATOMETERS OF THE SUMMER



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10. Aliens in the
Attic

There are some funny people in Aliens in the Attic — Kevin
Nealon and Tim Meadows among them — but their talents are wasted in
this boringly mediocre family flick, and anyway, didn’t we just watch
Ashley Tisdale hang out with cuddly CGI aliens in the High School
Musical
trilogy? Elliott Noble of Sky movies described Aliens as “a
giant slurp of cinematic Sunny D, quenching the thirst for instant fun
with CGI sweeteners and a fast-acting concoction of other slapstick
additives.”



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9. Halloween II

After more than three decades of killing sprees, Halloween‘s
Michael Myers has visited more than his share of indignities upon
unsuspecting victims — but few of them have been as brutal as the hack
job Rob Zombie performed on the franchise with the follow-up to his 2007
reboot, wasting his formidable talent on dull, lowest-common-denominator
gore. “Let’s float a notion,” proposed Keith Phipps of the AV Club:
“Zombie is the greatest horror-movie director never to make a great
movie.”



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8. Dance Flick

Zucker/Abrams/Zucker, what hast thou wrought? Not content to beat the
parody film to death (with a notable assist from Jason Friedberg and
Aaron Seltzer, of course), the Wayans brothers dropped the equivalent of
a filmic deuce on the genre’s corpse this summer with Dance Flick,
a movie so bad that Channel 4 Film’s Matt Glasby described it as “the
comedy equivalent of torture porn, albeit with worse sound effects and
notably fewer laughs.”



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7.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Two entries in, the Transformers franchise has proven to be
substantially less than meets the eye. Noisy, mechanical, and
excessively lengthy, Revenge of the Fallen confirmed many of the
critical slights against blockbuster filmmaking in general and Michael
Bay in particular, emphasizing empty spectacle over narrative cohesion
or character development. But hey, it’s just mindless summer
entertainment, not art, right? Well, most critics felt ROTF
failed to make the popcorn grade; rather than immersing the audience in
spectacle, the pundits complained that the film was merely an assault on
the senses. “Bay seems to think that just showing us a bunch of brightly
clashing metallic limbs (accompanied by lots of noise) is enough to make
us faint in our seats with excitement,” wrote Stephanie Zacharek of
Salon.com.



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6. Next Day Air

Next Day Air could have worked, and probably should have,
considering the presence of Mike Epps, Donald Faison, and Mos Def, all
three of whom have come to establish themselves in Hollywood in recent
years. Unfortunately for them, however, critics felt the film was
hampered by derivative writing, an inconsistent tone, and unnecessary
violence. Despite a handful of supporters who connected with Next Day
Air
‘s uneven humor, most reviewers agreed with Giant Magazine’s
Ethan Alter, who labeled the film “a messy and unpleasant genre mashup
that needed at least two or three rewrites before shooting started.”



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5. Year One

How could a Harold Ramis-directed Biblical comedy starring Michael
Cera and Jack Black possibly fail? Start with a witless script, then add
a leaden pace and plenty of lowbrow yucks, and voila! You’ve got Year
One
, which has to qualify as one of the summer’s biggest
disappointments. Year One garnered comparisons to such classic
Biblically-themed comedies as History of the World, Part One and
Life of Brian — none of which did the movie any favors. “Rarely
in the history of cinema have so many genuinely funny people come
together to make a film that is so painfully unfunny to watch,” wrote
Mike McGranaghan of Aisle Seat.



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4. The Ugly Truth

Two sexy, up-and-coming talents in a romantic comedy centered on the
battle between the sexes? Sounds like a pretty surefire idea, doesn’t
it? Sadly, the ugly truth about The Ugly Truth is that it was
probably much more effective on paper than it turned out to be on film,
according to critics. While the film’s stars, Katherine Heigl and Gerard
Butler, turn in respectable performances, most felt the story itself was
plagued by romantic comedy clichés that never amounted to much or quite
fit with the raunchier themes targeted at male audiences. Echoing the
sentiments of the majority, the New York Post’s Lou Lumenick wrote that
“few recent Hollywood products have been anywhere near as crass or
contrived as The Ugly Truth.”



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3. I Love
You, Beth Cooper

You cant fault studio executives completely for thinking this book
adaptation would be a hit: the book was such a big seller! Such a
success, in fact, that they let the author of the autobiography adapt
the script himself. Turns out some things dont survive translation. And
while the film has a title that asks you to love it, the critical
response was staggeringly oppositional. Empire called it “painfully
unfunny,” Channel 4 called it “mean spirited and coarse.” It’s true that
Beth Cooper (Hayden Pannetiere) is a less than perfect girl, and that
Paul Rust’s valedictorian idealizes her to a fault, but the film’s ever
predictable gags do skew a bit too cruel for this supposedly touching
teen romance, and the film leaves you terribly little to walk home with.



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2. My Life in Ruins

The good news first: My Life in Ruins offers breathtaking
views of Greek landmarks. The bad news? It also provides weather-beaten
gags, one-note, stereotypical characters, and endless contrivances. In
My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Nia Vardalos had charm and wit to
spare, but with My Life in Ruins (and the little-seen I Hate
Valentine’s Day
, also released this summer), this once-promising
actress is in a serious rut. “My Life in Ruins is a middle-aged
Hallmark chick flick that makes you wish you were on a Greek vacation
(and not, in fact, watching the movie),” wrote Owen Gleiberman of
Entertainment Weekly.



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1. Post Grad

The Gilmore girl graduates at last. But to what degree? Alexis Bledel
stars in this timely, polite comedy about a college grad who has to move
back home to her wacky family after being unable to procure any job
prospects. But critics balked at its excessive predictability and tepid
resolution, which undermined the movie’s message of the importance of
independence. “I’ve slogged my way through worse films than Post Grad,”
says Ken Hanke of the Mountain Xpress, “But what it lacks in sheer
awfulness it more than makes up for in utter pointlessness.”



STUDIO SUMMER BREAKDOWN



Warner Bros.

Average movie Tomatometer: 48%
Total box office haul:
$923 million
Warner Bros. was a major contributor to this summer being a record-breaker.
While their late season offerings generated modest returns and Terminator
Salvation
made even less than Rise of the Machines, Harry Potter and the
Half-Blood Prince
was the series’ second-highest grosser and The Hangover
was a smash hit, becoming the highest-grossing R-rated comedy ever (not
adjusted for inflation).












Harry
Potter

83%
$295m
The
Hangover

78%
$270m

Orphan

56%
$40m

My
Sister’s Keeper

47%
$48m
Shorts
44%
$13m











The Time
Traveler’s Wife

36%
$48m

Terminator Salvation

32%
$125m



Ghosts of Girlfriends Past

28%
$55m



The Final Destination

27%
$29m



Fox

Average movie Tomatometer: 34%
Total box office haul:
$623 million
Fox recovered from last year’s brutal summer. Three sequels means three
movies that nearly grossed $200 million each, while (500) Days of Summer has
been a solid success, crowning Joesph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel as
the new king and queen of indie cinema.











(500) Days of Summer
87%
$25m

Night at the Museum

44%
$176m


Ice
Age 3

44%
$193m


Wolverine

37%
$179m











Aliens in
the Attic

23%
$23m

I Love You Beth Cooper

13%
$14m


My Life in Ruins

11%
$8m


Post Grad

09%

$5m



Sony

Average movie Tomatometer: 44%
Total box office haul:
$498 million
Summer season was a modest one for Sony. Angels & Demons
underperformed domestically (though the adventures of Robert Langdon
continues to play very well abroad), while counteprogramming efforts like
The Ugly Truth
and Julie & Julia were hits. Sony ended on a high
note with District 9, which had everyone talking before and after
release.








District 9
89%
$91m

Julie & Julia
75%
$71m



The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3

52%

$65m









Angels
& Demons

16%

$133m

Year One
16%
$43m

The Ugly Truth
15%

$85m



Paramount

Average movie Tomatometer: 40%
Total box office haul:
$842 million
The most talked about studio of the summer. Not only did the studio produce one of the
most electrifying reboots ever (Star Trek), their Transformers
sequel became one of the biggest moneymakers in history, in clear defiance
of the critical derision that had led up to its release. Paramount closed
the summer with a nice gob of controversy by refusing to screen G.I. Joe
aside for a handful of critics.








Star
Trek

95%
$256m

G.I. Joe
37%
$132m

Imagine
That

37%

$16m









The
Goods

30%

$14m



Transformers: RotF

19%
$399m

Dance Flick
19%
$25m



Universal

Average movie Tomatometer: 61%
Total box office haul:
$318 million
Universal took an artistic risk this summer by releasing no sequels or
remakes and the results were, at best, humble, and, at worst, utter bombs.
Drag Me to Hell is among the best-reviewed horror movie in years but that
didn’t perform much better than any other PG-13 horror movie that gets
churned out. Land of the Lost notoriously hemorrhaged money (though it
has a strong chance of being re-discovered as a midnight movie), while Funny People,
Public
Enemies
, and Bruno didn’t make as much as they should have, considering the
pedigree of their respective filmmakers.











Drag Me to
Hell

92%

$42m
Bruno
68%
$60m


Public Enemies

67%
$97m

Funny People
67%
$51m








A
Perfect Getaway

58%

$15m

Taking
Woodstock

51%
$4m


Land of the Lost

26%
$49m



Disney

Average movie Tomatometer: 58%
Total box office haul:
$573 million
Tried and true, Disney stuck to their usual gameplan of animated movies,
romantic comedies, and talking animals. Up, The Proposal, and
G-Force were all major hits (the first two especially). Ponyo
was the studio’s first wide-release for a traditionally animated movie in
five years and while it hasn’t made a huge splash, strong word-of-mouth will
make this Hayao Miyazaki’s highest grossing movie in America yet.








Up
97%
$289m

Ponyo
91%
$11m

The
Proposal

44%

$160m







X Games
3D

36%
$1m

G-Force
24%
$112m



The Weinstein Company

Average movie Tomatometer: 55%
Total box office haul:
$91 million
The Weinsteins stayed quiet up until the waning moments of summer. It was
death for Halloween II being put up against Final Destination,
but Inglourious Basterds was a big return for Quentin Tarantino.








Inglourious Basterds

88%
$74m

Halloween II
22%
$17m



Summit

Average movie Tomatometer: 49%
Total box office haul:
$15 million
Success continues to elude Summit outside of the Twilight franchise.
Neo-blaxploitation flick Next Day Air barely hit a double digit gross
(even despite a favorable Armond White review!). But that’s more than can be
said for Bandslam, a rare Certified Fresh movie that found no
audience.







Bandslam
80%

$5m

Next Day Air
18%
$10m



Freestyle

Average movie Tomatometer: 26%
Total box office haul:
$7 million
Freestyle has had a rough time trying to establish themselves as a studio
power, releasing horror and fantasy flicks to little fanfare or attention.
The Collector continued this trend.





The
Collector

26%
$7m



Lionsgate

Average movie Tomatometer: 45%
Total box office haul:
$2 million
Lionsgate’s sole summer entry was this year’s Delgo (outside of
Avatar
, of course): Battle for Terra, an animated movie that
promised interplanetary adventure and baffling character designs and was
unceremoniously drubbed by critics and audiences alike.





Battle for Terra
45%
$2m


EDITORS’ SUMMER FAVORITES


Tim Ryan, Senior Editor – Inglourious Basterds (88% Tomatometer)



Inglourious Basterds

I got a charge out of Inglourious Basterds. At a time when many mainstream entertainments pander to perceived audience taste, there’s something exhilarating about a film so intentionally unsettling. Basterds may not be Quentin Tarantino’s best work (for me, nothing is likely to top Pulp Fiction), but it may be his craziest, which is high praise. There are at least four scenes in the film that are as wild, unpredictable, and brilliantly conceived as anything QT has ever done; from the excruciatingly tense opening to the apocalyptic climax, Basterds is further proof — if any were needed — that Tarantino is one of contemporary film’s boldest figures, as well as someone whose love of cinema — good, bad, highbrow, or trashy — is both endearingly pure and infectious.

Jeff Giles, Editor – World’s Greatest Dad (83% Tomatometer)



World's Greatest Dad

If, at any point during the ’80s, you had pulled me aside and told me I would one day derive any kind of satisfaction from a movie that Bobcat “Grover Voice” Goldthwait wrote and directed, I might have gotten violent on you — and yet here we are in 2009, and darn it if Goldthwait hasn’t gone and put together a surprisingly tender (and utterly profane) meditation on loneliness, aging, and death. Oh, and as if that weren’t enough, he squeezed a great performance out of Robin Williams in the bargain. I’m sure part of my enjoyment of World’s Greatest Dad stemmed from my tremendously lowered expectations, but I’m not going to quibble; besides, how often do you get to see Bruce Hornsby play himself in a movie that includes a subplot about autoerotic asphyxiation? I’m almost inclined to agree with Marshall Fine when he says, “Bobcat Goldthwait may be the most unique filmmaking sensibility since Albert Brooks.”

Gabi Jacobs, Creative Director – District 9 (89% Tomatometer)



District 9

This undeniably inventive film combines science fiction, action-thriller and even romance in the form of a mockumentary while hinting at sociopolitical issues that once plagued South Africa during the apartheid era. Wikus van de Merwe, played by Sharlto Copley, is one of the more memorable characters I have seen in years. Considering that there is not one recognizable actor and considering the measly amount of money that was spent compared with other summer blockbuster disasters, I think the director Neil Blomkamp worked miracles with this movie. It is violent, gross, funny, sweetly sensitive and beautiful to look at all at the same time.

Alex Vo, Editor – Up (97% Tomatometer)



Up

May to August is a repetitive season: $150 million budgets utilized towards explosions, mutants, toys, and mindless commercialism. But there is one summer cycle I look forward to: the Pixar cycle. First, the announcement of a movie with a slightly baffling premise. Then comes the underwhelming trailer. And, next, the bean counters come out, predicting Pixar’s toying with artistry as a sign of imminent commercial doom. Then comes opening day. Shuffle into the theater, head swimming with trepidation and uneasy optimism. The lights dim and the crowd hushes. And it becomes immediately clear that Pixar has done it AGAIN. Up is a masterpiece, unequivocal genius that forsakes demographics and audience pandering in the pursuit of wonderful, high-flying movie magic.

Ryan Fujitani, Community Manager – Star Trek (95% Tomatometer)



Star Trek

Let me begin by saying that, while I was somewhat familiar with the premise of the original Star Trek series, I never watched the show or any of its offspring, and the only film in the franchise I had seen prior to this May was Generations, which I found bland and forgettable. Combine all this with the fact that my expectations for “Summer Blockbusters” have been steadily declining over the past several years, and you might get a sense of why I was so pleasantly surprised by J.J. Abrams’ reboot-prequel of the franchise. The film was gorgeous to look at, all of the major characters had their moments to shine, and by toying with the timeline, Abrams has essentially established an entirely new franchise that neither invalidates the original nor, in my opinion, betrays it. I know some of the hardcore fans are actually a little upset about this last detail, but I happen to think it’s a brilliant move that will allow for a lot of creative freedom in future installments. Overall, I thought Star Trek was loads of fun, and though I will concede it possibly could have done with a weightier plot, I had such a good time watching it that I’m willing to dismiss that minor complaint, and I’m now officially looking forward to the sequel.

Luke Goodsell, AU Editor – Inglourious Basterds (88% Tomatometer)



Inglourious Basterds

Tarantino’s pulled the bait-and-switch before — a heist movie without a heist,
a car-chase movie with barely any — but never better than this. Pitched as two
hours of Brad Pitt mugging and splattering Nat-zi brains, Basterds
instead turned out to be a rich, bizarro-world imagining of modern history, as
much ecstatic fan letter to the power of cinema as it was WWII action movie.
It’s not perfect — Tarantino sometimes indulges his weakness for rambling
dialogue — but there are so many unforgettable scenes and, like the
exploitation he so loves, it’s never the boring bits you remember. Mélanie
Laurent preparing for her cinema siege — with Bowie’s icy “Cat People” recast
as melodramatic torch song — and the cackling, spectral inferno that follows
(part Faust, part Raiders of the Lost Ark) are the two images of 2009
that will stay with me.

Sara Schieron, Editor-
Humpday
(78% Tomatometer)



Star Trek

The dialogue is largely improvised but the characters and the circumstances are
rendered with a quiet realism that feels genuinely observational, like the
camera has only accidentally fallen on the most ridiculous man-joke ever. It
always feels fresh and new and the performances, by a pretty unprofessional
cast, are captivating. But frankly, for as inspired as the dialogue is, and as
tangible as the camera work seems, you have a hard time recognizing details
because you’re laughing so much.

Joe Utichi, UK Editor- Star Trek (95% Tomatometer)



Star Trek

Anyone can reboot a franchise. Throw out the rulebook and start again, invent
your own world and take things in your own direction. It takes real skill to
reboot a franchise in a similarly rulebook-discarding sense without destroying
40 years of intricate — and really only occasionally quirky — chronology. JJ
Abrams managed such a feat with his Star Trek reboot. Wholly entertaining
and brilliantly perceptive of everything Trek needs to be, it just gets so much
right. The crew, as a whole, work, even if Simon Pegg grates occasionally, and
its weakness is Eric Bana’s one-note villain, but it establishes such a
precedent for what’s to come that I’m on tenterhooks for the sequel.