Greatest Films of the 2000s
Greatest Films of the 2000s

Greatest Films of the 2000s
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Academy Awards for 2009 Films
Title Screen Film Genre(s), Title, Year, (Country), Length, Director, Description

Avatar (2009), 162 minutes, D: James Cameron
Director James Cameron's revolutionary and major blockbuster film was the highest grossing (domestic) film of 2010 - and of the entire 2001-2010 decade. It was also the highest-grossing (worldwide) film of all-time with $2.92 billion. The lengthy, impressive, futuristic action-adventure, sci-fi fantasy and 3-D live-action film told about a fictional universe with resonating themes of anti-colonialism, corporate greed and environmental protection, with ground-breaking, immersive Oscar-winning special effects and advanced motion-capture. It was set in the 22nd century (specifically in the year 2154), at a time when the dystopian Earth was threatened by a major energy crisis. Humans were experimenting with colonizing a habitable, Earth-like moon known as Pandora, a lush and densely rain-forested area inhabited by an indigenous tribal species (similar to Native-Americans) of blue-skinned Na'vi - 10 foot tall humanoids with blue skin. The creatures were harmonious with nature, worshipped a mother-goddess named Eywa, and resided at Hometree, a giant tree at the center of their neural network. The moon Pandora was orbiting around a gas-giant planet known as Polyphemus located in the Alpha Centauri A star system. It had been colonized to take advantage of its valuable semi-conductor mineral and energy supply known as unobtanium (its largest deposits were under the Hometree) - planned to be mined by the Resources Development Administration (RDA), spearheaded by corrupt bureaucrat Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi). It was a hostile environment for humans due to its poisonous atmosphere, requiring humans to wear breathing gear. In the film's story, an Avatar program had been created to explore Pandora more safely by humans. The scientific Avatar program was directed by Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) and her assistant Norm Spellman (Joel David Moore). To interact with the environment of Pandora, the human brain of each visiting human subject was hooked up with a native Pandoran Na'vi body through an 'avatar' - a genetically-grown, synthetic, remotely-controlled, half-alien/half-human body (hybrid) of a Na'vi individual. Somewhat at odds with the Avatar program was the mega-corporation RDA, with military support provided by tough security chief Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang). The Colonel and Selfridge were both plotting to destroy the Hometree, take over their homeland, and mine the unobtanium. Paraplegic, wheelchair-bound ex-marine combat vet Jake Scully (Sam Worthington) was called upon to replace his identical twin brother who was in the Avatar program (but was unexpectedly murdered), to interact with the native Pandoran Na'vi through his brother's 'avatar'. It soon became very evident that incursions into the Na'vi's biosphere habitat by the expanding mining colony were threatening their existence. On his first use of an Avatar during a 'virtual' outing to Pandora, Jake was attacked but saved by Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), a female Na'vi and Princess, and then taken to her clan. The brutal and insensitive Colonel Miles Quaritch pressured Jake to spy on the Na'vi and report on their ways for a three-month period. As Jake learned the Na'vi's ways, and developed an emotionally loving relationship with Neytiri, he was torn between his sympathy for his adoptive natives, and his obligations to follow orders from the Earth-bound, corrupt government corporation.

Bad Lieutenant Port of Call: New Orleans (2009), 122 minutes, D: Werner Herzog
The protagonist - a corrupt junkie cop, was this moody and offbeat police crime drama's only similarity to Abel Ferrara's previous film Bad Lieutenant (1992) with Harvey Keitel. In the potboiling plot set in post-Katrina New Orleans in the year 2005, sports gambling-addicted detective Lt. Terence McDonagh (Nicolas Cage) was also sidelined by continuous pain-killer drug use for a chronic back injury. The unhinged, out-of-control depraved cop's romantic life consisted of seeing cocaine-using girlfriend/prostitute Frankie Donnenfeld (Eva Mendes). His personal life was also a complex mess - with an estranged alcoholic father Pat McDonagh (Tom Bower), an alcoholic stepmother Genevieve McDonagh (Jennifer Coolidge), gambling losses and increasing debts to his bookie Ned Schoenholtz (Brad Dourif), theft of police property (drugs) from the Evidence Room, and then Frankie's beating by a well-connected client named Justin (Shea Whigham). He was called to investigate the killing of five Senegalese illegal immigrants in the same family who were retaliated against by powerful neighborhood drug-gang leader Big Fate (Alvin 'Xzibit' Joiner) and his two assistant thugs Midget (Lucius Baston) and G (Tim Bellow), for trading drugs and encroaching on their territory. During McDonagh's investigation, a 15 year-old delivery boy who was an auditory witness to the crime fled to England to avoid testifying. McDonagh resorted to bullying the boy's elderly, hairdresser grandmother Binnie Rogers (Irma P. Hall). To resolve his desperate financial debt troubles and addictions, the frantic rogue cop McDonagh chose to become allied with Big Fate to illegally obtain drugs, and to recover from his debt problems. However, he then cleverly betrayed Big Fate by planting evidence, leading to the drug lord's arrest for the Senegalese murders. There was a chance for the "bad lieutenant's" redemption in the ambiguous conclusion.

The Blind Side (2009), 129 minutes, D: John Lee Hancock
This biographical sports drama, told in flashback, was based on Michael Lewis' 2006 non-fiction book, The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game. The inspiring but sappy film told the true story of the remarkable life and career of African-American Michael "Mike" Oher (Quinton Aaron), who rose from his poor upbringing in a housing project ("Hurt Village") to become an NFL pro player. The young disadvantaged 17 year-old teen was from a broken home and living an impoverished, homeless life in a suburb of Memphis, TN. He was fortunate enough to attend the private Wingate Christian school while he was in foster care - due to his mother Denise's (Adriane Lenox) drug-addiction and a deceased father. His large athletic build was promising for a football career, although he had a childlike personality. At school, he became acquainted with precocious younger classmate Sean ("SJ") Tuohy, Jr. (Jae Head) and his teenaged sister Collins Tuohy (Lily Collins). Both were the children of well-to-do Taco Bell fast-food franchise owner Sean J. Tuohy (Tim McGraw) and his wife - strong-willed, outspoken decorator business-woman Leigh Anne (Sandra Bullock). Gradually, Mike was invited into the stable Tuohy suburban household and eventually was fully adopted by the upscale family (with his mother's assent). He struggled as an average student, but was rated high on "protective instincts," and excelled on the football field as a left tackle. His talent opened the door to overtures from many school recruitment coaches to play collegiate football. When Mike decided to attend the University of Mississippi ("Ole Miss") with an athletic scholarship, the alma mater of his adoptive parents, the NCAA's Investigator Granger (Sharon Morris/Conley) questioned if the Tuohys had unduly and unethically influenced him. Momentarily, Mike began to wonder about the Tuohy's motives, especially Leigh Anne's "project" to remake him, and to prepare him to succeed at their own school. However, he soon realized they were his true family, with no other ulterior motives. In the film's epilogue, Michael became the first-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens in the 2009 NFL draft as an offensive lineman (left tackle).

Crazy Heart (2009), 112 minutes, D: Scott Cooper
Thomas Cobb's 1987 novel (inspired by the life of singer Hank Thompson) was the basis for the showbiz drama's screenplay, about a world-weary, fading 57 year-old, down-and-out, embittered country music singer-songwriter named Otis "Bad" Blake (Best Actor-winning Jeff Bridges). His best days were behind him, due to his ongoing serious drinking problem and at least four failed marriages. He was mostly performing on the road (in Texas and the Southwest) in small town dives, local bar spots, and bowling alleys, while staying in local motels and driving his own 1977 Chevrolet Suburban. Blake had become jealous of the success of a popular superstar singer named Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell) that he had previously mentored in his back-up band. He began to develop a romantic relationship with young, struggling and divorced music journalist Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal) after she interviewed him for a story in Santa Fe, and he was able to establish a friendship with her 4-year-old son, Buddy (Jack Nation). The self-destructive singer had a wake-up call after a drunk-driving accident, and was informed about his impending mortality if he didn't change his drinking habits, lose weight, and stop chain-smoking. Although he began to rehabilitate himself, his affair with Jean ended and they broke-up. One of his composed songs, "The Weary Kind" (inspired by his love for Jean) became a hit record for Tommy, sustaining Blake with royalty checks. The film ended on the possibility of redemption and salvation for Blake, with new-found hope and continuing encounters with Jean.

District 9 (2009,US/NZ/Can./S.Afr.), 112 minutes, D: Neill Blomkamp, Carolynne Cunningham
Director Neill Blomkamp's gritty science-fiction film was part-apartheid allegory, mock documentary and tense action thriller. The intriguing and harrowing film began with the arrival of a large space ship that hovered above Johannesburg, South Africa, and was found to contain sickly prawn-like alien creatures (bi-pedal and taller than humans, with facial tendrils). The extra-terrestrials were segregated in District 9 within the city, a heavily-guarded and militarized slum-internment camp that had existed for 20 years, after which plans by the MNU (Multi-National United) were underway to move the 1.8 million oppressed aliens to a new camp (District 10) over 200 kilometers away, with enforcement provided during the eviction by sadistic mercenary Colonel Koobus Venter (David James). The operation to peaceably evict the prawns was headed up by bumbling, incompetent, bureaucratic field operative Wikus van de Merwe (Sharlto Copley), who accidentally sprayed himself with black liquid from a canister (a fuel cell) found in the shack of intelligent alien Christopher Johnson (Jason Cope). Wikus had infected himself with a virus, and began a harrowing experience of slowly mutating into one of the aliens (his left hand developed a claw). Wikus discovered that the MNU had been performing illegal, secret operations on aliens for years, used the aliens as targets, and wanted to commandeer the other-worldly weaponry-technology for profit. When Wikus resisted, he became a beleaguered fugitive from the nefarious MNU. To escape, he sought refuge in the shack of Christopher Johnson and his young son, and found himself losing his hair, nails, and teeth, and that he liked prawn 'cat food.' Wikus found out that the mysterious liquid in the canister had been gathered over 20 years, and could power a submerged command module shuttle to return to the mother ship hovering dormant over the city, and allow it to be reactivated. In the film's exciting conclusion, Wikus and Christopher retrieved the canister from MNU, fought off a Nigerian warlord and his gang of armed men within District 9 who wanted Wikus' powers (through animalistic cannibalism!), and evaded MNU forces led by Colonel Koobus. Although seriously wounded, Wikus remained behind (encased in a massive mechanical metal battle suit) to sacrificially allow Christopher (and his son) to escape in the downed command module and return to the reactivated mother ship (and then leave Earth). The prawns came to Wikus' rescue and viciously tore off the head of Koobus and ripped him apart as he was about to kill Wikus. However, the twist was that it would take 3 years for Christopher to journey to his home planet and then return to reverse Wikus' genetic transformation and cure him. In the film's epilogue, more interviews with various people revealed that Wikus had disappeared, and his co-worker had exposed MNU's "illegal genetic research programme," and District 9 was demolished after the alien resettlement operation was completed. Wikus' wife Tania (Vanessa Haywood) discovered a small metal flower on her front door step (similar to ones Wikus used to make). She wondered if her husband was still alive. On a trash heap in District 10 (now with 2.5 million aliens), an alien with a bandaged left hand was seen holding up a flower out of metal - was Wikus still alive?!

An Education (2009, UK/US), 100 minutes, D: Lone Scherfig
The 2003 memoirs of British journalist Lynn Barber provided the basis for this coming-of-age period drama written by screenwriter Nick Hornby. Set in 1961, smart and pretty teenaged 16 year-old Jenny Mellor (Carey Mulligan), living in suburban London (Twickenham), had her future all planned out - attendance at Oxford University with a scholarship. Her scholastic objectives were to learn Latin, play the cello, and study hard. Her strict and overbearing father Jack (Alfred Molina) was particularly interested in pushing Jenny to achieve due to her superior intelligence and exceptional talent. After she met urbane and charming Jewish newcomer David Goldman (Peter Sarsgaard), the impressionable teen's life changed when she was seduced into entering a romantic relationship with him, despite tremendous age disparity. She was attracted by his sophistication, free-wheeling spirit and worldliness, and soon (with her studies taking a back-seat) began a series of real-life, fast-track adventures with David and his friend (and crime partner) Danny (Dominic Cooper), and Danny's dumb girlfriend Helen (Rosamund Pike). The stubborn Jenny didn't believe she was making bad choices when she began to experience the day-to-day world with the well-connected con-man - it was much more enticing than her mundane and boring educational pursuits. They visited art auctions, jazz concerts, and fancy restaurants. However, she had suspicions and misgivings when she witnessed evidence of David's unscrupulous behavior - forgery, theft, and a housing scam (known as "blockbusting"), but then dismissed her doubts. After a life-altering 17th birthday trip with the seductive David to Paris, where she lost her virginity, Jenny accepted David's proposal of marriage, and made an impulsive change-of-heart decision to drop out of school and forego her university education. However, she had an epiphany when she uncovered the fact that huckster playboy David was married (with a child). She immediately broke up with him, and after some struggles and delays, she was able to get back on the right path to attend Oxford. In the film's closing voice-over narration, Jenny expressed how she was starting over at school with a fresh perspective and new outlook on dating "boys."

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2009, Swe.) (aka Man Som Hatar Kvinnor, or Men Who Hate Women), 154 minutes, D: Niels Arden Oplev
This was the original, grim Swedish thriller detective-crime drama (with subtitles), based upon the first of author Stieg Larsson's successful, best-selling trilogy of crime novels (the Millennium series), published posthumously from 2005-2007: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest. An English-language remake, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011), starred Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara. In both versions, the main protagonists were Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), a misfit computer hacker, and journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), who worked on a dark case involving a missing girl from almost 40 years earlier. In late 2002 in Stockholm, disgraced and discredited leftist journalist and Millennium magazine author Mikael Blomkvist - after losing a case of libel against him, was hired by wealthy industrialist CEO and elderly patriarch Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube), part of a family clan that were known as Nazi sympathizers. The possible case of murder involved the disappearance of Henrik's then 16 year-old niece Harriet (Julia Sporre as teen) who had vanished during a family gathering on Children's Day in 1966 at his estate's remote island many decades earlier. Blomkvist was assisted in the case by mysterious, socially-estranged, black leather-clad, Goth-like, tattooed freelance computer hacker Lisbeth Salander. Meanwhile, Salander was being victimized by a corrupt, sadistic, and perverted government official named Nils Bjurman (Peter Andersson), and eventually found the opportunity to exact sweet revenge upon him. During their research, the two sleuths began to unravel a gruesome, secretive and dysfunctional Vanger family with clues from old photographs, newspapers, and archival materials. Their lives became endangered as they unearthed damaging evidence of racism, anti-Semitism, sexual assault, degeneracy, and torture. The major suspects were Henrik's reclusive sole-surviving brother Harald (Gosta Bredefeldt), Harriet's mother, and other family members. In the film's conclusion, Harriet's brother Martin Vanger (Peter Haber) was revealed as a serial rapist-killer who had unsuccessfully attempted to eliminate Harriet to enhance his inheritance. Journalist Blomkvist was captured by Martin and threatened with hanging, but Salander arrived, rescued him and pursued Martin on her motorcycle before witnessing his death in a fiery crash. Harriet (Ewa Froling as adult), who had been the victim of repeated rape and cruelty from her own father Gottfried Vanger (Henrik's brother) and Martin, was discovered living in Australia. She had taken the alias name Anita, the name of her now-deceased cousin who had helped her to escape her awful situation (after she had retaliated and drowned her father a year earlier). She returned to Sweden to reunite with her uncle Henrik. The ending also included the vindication of 3-month imprisoned Blomkvist after he wrote an incriminating expose story in Millennium revealing the criminality of billionaire financier Hans-Erik Wennerstrom (Stefan Sauk) - the tycoon who had sued him.

The Hangover (2009), 96 minutes, D: Todd Phillips
This very raunchy, absurdist buddy-comedy farce was the first film in a trilogy of Hangover films, followed by The Hangover Part II (2011) and The Hangover Part III (2013). Three grooms-men (married HS teacher Phil Wenneck (Bradley Cooper), erratic, inept and ADHD-suffering Alan Garner (Zack Galifinakis), and dentist Stu Price (Ed Helms)) traveled to Las Vegas, NV for a wild and boozy, debauched bachelor stag party with the prospective groom Doug Billings (Justin Bartha). The trio plus one dubbed themselves "The Wolfpack." In the aftermath of a wild night, they awoke the next morning from their misadventures with severe hangovers, and no memory of what had happened, due to Alan who later admitted that he had spiked their drinks with a date-rape drug. In their trashed Caesar's Palace hotel suite, they found a Bengal tiger in the bathroom, a chicken in the living room, and a six-month old baby in a closet. Stu was missing a tooth (he had ripped out his own tooth with pliers), and Doug was absent - with only 48 hours before his wedding nuptials in Los Angeles to his bride Tracy (Sasha Barrese), Alan's sister. In the quasi-detective story, the trio set out to find Doug, and to retrace their steps and discover what they had experienced - under strange circumstances, including boxer Mike Tyson (as Himself) and his stolen pet tiger, a stolen police department cruiser, Stu's wedding chapel marriage to a stripper named Jade (Heather Graham), a threatening, naked Chinese gangster in their trunk named Mr. Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong), and an abducted 'Doug' that required a ransom of $80,000, but it was the wrong Doug. In fact, Doug was found on the roof of the casino/hotel where he had slept the night on a mattress. He had thrown the mattress from the roof to signal for help, and it had become impaled on a Caesar statue. In the conclusion, the group arrived late back in LA to gather for the wedding. Stu's digital camera with photos of their mishaps from the previous night ended the film.

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (2009), 153 minutes, D: David Yates
This film was the 6th installment of the eight-film Harry Potter franchise series. It was based upon J.K. Rowling's 6th book of the same name published in 2005. In this fantasy adventure film, Harry Potter (Daniel Ratcliffe) returned for his 6th year at Hogwarts for wizard-training. He soon learned that classmate Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) was a possible Death Eater and had been given a secret mission and assignment to carry out by the evil Dark Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). At school, Headmaster Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) announced that Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) would teach Defence Against the Dark Arts, while his old friend Professor Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) had returned to the school to teach Potions. In his class with Slughorn, Harry acquired a mysterious, annotated school textbook (with notes and spells) and with the inscription: "This is the property of the Half-Blood Prince." He was able to learn much about the past of his major nemesis, Lord Voldemort. Meanwhile, Harry was working with his mentor Headmaster Dumbledore, and using the Pensieve to retrieve and examine memories of people from Voldemort's past, when he was personified as young wizard Tom Riddle. Harry learned from Slughorn that Riddle had split his soul and hidden various parts in Horcruxes to make himself immortal. The only method to destroy the Dark Lord was to destroy the Horcruxes. Meanwhile, Harry's friends Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) were slowly showing their feelings for each other, while Harry was interested in Ron's younger sister Ginny (Bonnie Wright). At the end of the year, Harry and Dumbdore visited a cave to retrieve one of the remaining four Horcruxes, Slytherin's Locket. Back at Hogwarts, the two ascended the school's tower where they were confronted by Draco, whose intention was to kill Dumbledore. When he balked, Snape murdered Dumbledore instead with a killing curse. Snape was revealed to be the Half-Blood Prince. The threesome, Ron, Harry, and Hermione decided to forego their final year at Hogwarts in order to track down the remaining Horcruxes.

The Hurt Locker (2009), 127 minutes, D: Kathryn Bigelow
This low-budget, fact-based, action-oriented war-thriller and drama was a major award-winner, scoring Oscars for Best Picture and a milestone Best Director Oscar win for Kathryn Bigelow. This fictional character study was based upon the actual experiences of freelance journalist and screenwriter/producer Mark Boal who was embedded for two weeks with Army EOD soldiers in 2004 in the Middle East. Also set in the year 2004, the violent film told about an elite group known as the Army Explosives Ordinance Demolition (EOD) team, whose three bomb-squad specialists defused and detonated dangerous IEDs in Bagdad, Iraq. Alongside Sgt. J.T. Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty) was a new team leader (after the previous Staff Sergeant was killed by an IED). The replacement leader was reckless, risk-taking, maverick newcomer Army Staff Sergeant First Class William James (Jeremy Renner), who was often at odds with his squad-mates. During tense bomb defusements, the group also had to be on the lookout for insurgent snipers from every angle. One of the most intense sequences was a failed attempt by James to remove a bomb vest strapped onto the chest of an innocent Iraqi civilian. The effects of the stressful war for James were also felt on the homefront, when he returned home on leave to awkwardly experience routine civilian life with his ex-wife Connie James (Evangeline Lilly) and their infant son.

Inglourious Basterds (2009), 152 minutes, D: Quentin Tarantino
Writer/director Quentin Tarantino's bloody WWII war and adventure film was not a remake of Italian director Enzo G. Castellari's combat film The Inglorious Bastards (1978, It.) even though the two films had basically the same title. The film's alternate history was structured with two main parallel plots that converged - both depicting secret Resistance efforts to assassinate Nazi leaders and attack German troops in Nazi-occupied France. Set in 1944, the first effort was by "The Basterds" - a commando team of eight Jewish-American soldiers led by redneck Lieutenant Aldo "The Apache" Raine (Brad Pitt), who terrorized and demoralized German troops by cold-bloodedly executing them by scalping. The second effort was led by a young French-Jewish theatre owner in Paris named Shosanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent), alias named Emmanuelle Mimieux. The central convergence point was refugee Shosanna's Parisian cinema house, where she had agreed to host the premiere of famed German army sniper-turned-actor Fredrick Zoller's (Daniel Brühl) Nazi propaganda film - Stolz der Nation (The Nation's Pride). As background, in the film's opening tense sequence, the genial and calm but ruthless SS Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), known as "The Jew Hunter," had executed Shosanna's entire Jewish family in 1941 (he discovered that they were hiding under the floorboards in a French dairy farmer's home). Ever since, she had sought revenge on the sadistic Landa and other Nazis, and found her chance with the upcoming film event. Landa was appointed to be in charge of security for the German film's premiere, that would include many members of the German High Command in the audience. Shosanna's own vengeful, self-destructive plan, plotted with her Afro-French lover and projectionist Marcel (Jacky Ido), was to set the cinema on fire during the premiere and kill the top-ranking SS officers and Nazi leaders in attendance, including Adolf Hitler (Martin Wuttke) himself. Another attack on the cinema house was being planned (as Operation Kino) by British paratrooper Lieutenant Archie Hicox (Michael Fassbender) in cooperation with the Basterds. The British efforts would be aided by turncoat German film star Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger), an undercover Allied spy-agent, who was planning on attending the premiere in Paris. In the film's tumultuous, explosive and incendiary climax, all of the opposing forces came together at the cinema house. Zoller and Shosanna fought each other in the projection booth and both died, just before the theatre-house was set on fire by burning highly-flammable nitrate film behind the screen. Two of the Basterds submachine-gunned both Hitler and Joseph Goebbels (Sylvester Groth) and others before the whole structure was blown up with dynamite - killing everyone. Due to a previous underhanded deal to save his life, Landa had been provided safe passage by Raine, although "The Apache's" final act was to brand Landa's forehead with a carved swastika "masterpiece", using his own customized Bowie knife.

Moon (2009, UK), 97 minutes, D: Duncan Jones
Director Duncan Jones' plot-twisting, dramatic thriller and sci-fi film (with obvious filmic references to Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Silent Running (1972), and others) was set on the far side of the Moon. Lone, bearded, long-haired astronaut Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell), a sole employee, was at the end of a three-year contract. He was supervising the strip-mining of lunar rock (with gigantic robotic threshing or harvesting robotic machines) to obtain Helium-3, a major component of fusion technology for green solar fuel energy, that was then periodically sent back to Earth. He was located on the far side of the Moon at a mining base named 'Sarang,' and working for a Japanese consortium titled LUNAR Industries, Ltd. Communications with Earth were reduced to only video-taped recordings, and Sam was beginning to show signs of stress and homesickness, although he was able to speak to his wife Tess (Dominique McElligott) and his young 3-year old daughter Eve through delayed video messages. Sam's only contact and companion was a semi-mobile, multi-tasking AI robotic assist machine named GERTY 3000 (voice of Kevin Spacey) with a robotic arm. He suffered a life-altering accident while he was out in a rover repairing a malfunctioning harvesting mining machine named Matthew. Shortly later in the infirmary, he overheard GERTY having a strange and clandestine conversation with Thompson (Benedict Wong) at HQ: "(The new Sam is in) good working order. But we only have two working harvesters now." Sam evaded GERTY and left the base. He took another rover to the earlier rover crash site, where he made a remarkable discovery. He found an unconscious version of himself (doppelganger) in the damaged rover. He brought his doppelganger back to the base. Sam was ordered to remain at the base by LUNAR's Overmeyers (Matt Berry), who also promised that they would send a "rescue unit" to tend to the stalled harvester. The two Sams each thought the other was an inferior clone: ("We look like each other"). It was theorized that neither of the two Sams was an 'original' - the clone was suspicious that the company had a secret supply room of replacement clones inside the base. The film's plot-twisting revelation was that the fraudulent Japanese consortium (LUNAR Industries) that was running the operation was cloning replacement Sams inside the base station, to avoid paying for new astronauts. The major spoiler was that both of them were clones of the first "Original Sam" who had long ago returned to Earth. The four previous Sams (all physically debilitated as their 3-year contracts expired), had been prepared to take a three-day return journey back to Earth in a cyrogenic protection pod - although they were actually euthanized and incinerated.

Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire (2009), 109 minutes, D: Lee Daniels
This street-smart independent film - a harsh but inspirational teen drama, was a milestone in the history of African-American films and filmmakers. It was the first-ever Best Picture nominee to be directed by an African-American filmmaker, Lee Daniels, who also received his first Best Director nomination. Geoffrey Fletcher (who wrote the best-selling 1996 novel of the same name) also became the first black scriptwriter to win the Oscar for Best Screenplay. Set in NYC's Harlem ghetto in the year 1987, the title character was 16-year-old junior high school student Claireece "Precious" Jones (Gabourey Sidibe in her film debut) - an obese and illiterate girl who was incestuously pregnant a second time (by her biological father Carl's frequent rape since the age of 3). Her first infant daughter, named Mongo, was afflicted with Down Syndrome, and was cared for by her grandmother. Despairing, unloved, and often bullied, "Precious" lived in a tenement apartment with her vicious, game-show TV-addicted, chain-smoking, mentally-ill, unemployed mother Mary Lee Johnston (Oscar-winning Mo'Nique) who verbally, emotionally and physically abused her, and was an expert at welfare fraud. Nonetheless, in delusional fantasy sequences, the overwhelmed "Precious" day-dreamed about a fantasy world where she was safe. She imagined being a photo-shoot cover-girl and video star on BET Magazine. While overseen by supportive welfare caseworker Ms. Weiss (singer Mariah Carey), she was transferred to the Reach One Teach One alternative school due to her pregnancy. There she received promising, empathic encouragement from her school's English teacher Ms. Blu Rain (Paula Patton) (and her live-in female partner), to help improve herself (by becoming literate) and to find self-determination, transformation and liberation. She also received kindness from a hospital nursing assistant John McFadden (Lenny Kravitz) who she met during her delivery. Slowly and gradually through persistence, "Precious" began to improve and break the cycle of abuse, by separating from her damaging home life, and by acquiring a high-school diploma equivalency by completing a GED test.

A Serious Man (2009, US/UK/Fr.), 106 minutes, D: Ethan and Joel Cohen
The dark comedy directed by the Coen Brothers was set in the year 1967 in suburban St. Louis Park, Minnesota in the Midwest, where the main protagonist lived. Beleaguered, mild-mannered, Job-like, middle-class Jewish, university physics professor Lawrence "Larry" Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) was confronted by a series of unexpected batterings, afflictions, trials and tormenting tribulations that disrupted his staid and ordinary life. His matronly, discontented and adulterous wife Judith (Sari Lennick) was seeking a divorce and having an affair with overbearing, erudite, and unctuous widower Sy Ableman (Fred Melamed). At the same time, Larry was receiving high-priced consultation with his own pessimistic, expensive divorce lawyer Don Milgram (Adam Arkin). Meanwhile, a disgruntled South Korean student Clive Park (David Kang) sent him a letter containing bribe money, to change his mid-term grade from an F to passing (and there were additional threats of a lawsuit by the student's father (Steve Park)). In the midst of receiving imminent tenure consideration, he was given unofficial warnings from the chairman of the committee, Arlen Finkle (Ari Hoptman), that anonymous letters had been received referring to his "moral turpitude" - potentially sabotaging his chances. On top of all these major problems, his indebted, marijuana-smoking son Danny (Aaron Wolff) was preparing for an expensive bar-mitzvah, and his rebellious, self-centered eldest daughter Sarah (Jessica McManus) was stealing money from his wallet for a desired nose-job. Larry's wife emptied his bank account, and forced him to move out of the house to a nearby Jolly Roger Motel, taking along his own socially-inept, ailing, unemployed loser brother Arthur (Richard Kind), while a property line dispute was occurring with Larry's redneck, anti-semitic neighbor Mr. Brandt (Peter Breitmayer). In addition, Larry's nude-sunbathing, next door neighbor Mrs. Vivienne Samsky (Amy Landecker) provocatively offered to smoke a joint with him in her home. His uncertain, upturned life caused Larry to meet with rabbis to unsuccessfully question his faith and his treatment by Hashem (aka God), and to plead for them to help. When his wife's adulterous-partner Sy died in a car crash, Larry was forced to finance the funeral. The film ended with a closing call from Larry's doctor to ominously discuss recent X-rays, while a threatening tornado approached.

Star Trek (2009), 126 minutes, D: J.J. Abrams
This sci-fi action film was the first of a trilogy of revived, resurrected and rebooted Star Trek films (set in an alternate-reality Kelvin Timeline), followed by Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) and Star Trek Beyond (2016). It was the 11th film in the entire Star Trek feature-film franchise-series that began in 1979. This reinvented film featured a new cast that portrayed the crew of the original TV show series (first airing in 1966), and it served as a prequel of the original series. The film opened in the year 2233 with an attack upon the USS Kelvin, a Federation starship, by the Narada - a Romulan space mining vessel commanded by villainous Captain Nero (Eric Bana). First Officer George Kirk (Chris Hemsworth) sacrificed himself in order to allow the evacuation and abandonment of his damaged ship (while crashing it into the Narada), thus saving his crew and wife Winona (Jennifer Morrison) who was giving birth to their son James T. Kirk. 17 years later on the planet Vulcan, young Spock (Zachary Quinto) - due to his mixed heritage, joined the research and peace-keeping space-force known as the Starfleet Academy as a Lieutenant. At the same time, grown-up, rebellious James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) also enlisted in the Starfleet Academy. Within a few years, they found themselves onboard Captain Christopher Pike's (Bruce Greenwood) ship, the newly-commissioned USS Enterprise, serving with other novice cadet recruits including communications officer Nyota Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy (Karl Urban), helmsman Hikaru Sulu (John Cho), and navigator Pavel Chekov (Anton Yelchin). The ship received a distress signal and was sent to investigate a seismic "lightning storm" observed near Vulcan - a trap similar to the one that engulfed the USS Kelvin decades earlier. The time-traveling (from the future) Romulun Captain Nero was engaged in a mission of vengeance against the United Federation of Planets, by forming an artificial black hole to destroy the planet Vulcan by implosion. He took Capt. Pike hostage aboard the Narada, with plans to target Earth next - at San Francisco's headquarters of Starfleet. The conflict ended when Kirk and Spock, with the help of transporter expert Montgomery "Scotty" Scott (Simon Pegg), beamed aboard the Narada, rescued Captain Pike, returned to the Enterprise, and saved Earth. On board the disintegrating Narada, Nero was consumed by the gravitational pull of a black hole. In the epilogue back on Earth, Kirk was commended, promoted, and given command of the Enterprise, with Spock as his First Officer.

Terminator Salvation (2009), 114 minutes, D: McG
This violent and dark PG-13 sci-fi action film was the 4th installment of the entire Terminator franchise-series. It was both a sequel to Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) and a prequel to the first film - The Terminator (1984). There was no sequel to this film - it was followed by a planned rebooted trilogy, composed of Terminator Genisys (2015) and Terminator: Dark Fate (2019). In the film's prologue set in the year 2003, condemned prisoner on death-row Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) volunteered his body to scientific medical research conducted by Cyberdyne Systems. One year later, Skynet's machine-intelligent network successfully eradicated humans with a nuclear holocaust on "Judgment Day." The film then jumped ahead to the post-apocalyptic year of 2018, when a war was being waged by grown-up John Connor (Christian Bale), a lead member of the Resistance, against Skynet. After a destructive raid on a Skynet machine base, sole-surviving Connor learned about plans to harvest humans in order to engineer a new Terminator T-800 model - a half-human, half-machine. After leaving, a mysterious and strange naked figure emerged from the wreckage - it was Wright suffering from amnesia, whose last memory was his impending execution. What was his mission, and where was he sent from? He proceeded toward Los Angeles. Within four days, Connor and the Resistance fighters were to target Skynet's headquarters in San Francisco. Connor was second on the list of Resistance leaders on Skynet's kill-list, just behind young freedom fighter Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) - who was destined to time-travel back years earlier to 1984 to become John's father after protecting John's mother Sarah Connor. A few days later in the film, Wright (who was discovered to be a cyborg - a Human-Terminator hybrid experiment) teamed up with Connor on the eve of the planned Resistance attack on Skynet. Wright agreed to help rescue abducted Kyle and other human prisoners from Skynet, including a mute child named Star (Jadagrace Berry). During the assault on Skynet, Wright learned that he had been pre-programmed by Skynet to lure Connor to his death. Wright ripped out his connective hardware, and assisted Connor to battle the new T-800 Terminator. Connor was stabbed in the chest, but Wright came to his defense by beheading the Terminator. The two were still able to destroy the Skynet base, steal stockpiled weapons and other cyborgs, before their airlift-escape. Wright sacrificed his own heart to be transplanted into Connor's body to save his life - to continue the Resistance freedom war.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009), 144 minutes, D: Michael Bay
Director Michael Bay's sci-fi action film was the second installment (and first sequel) of the live-action Transformers series-franchise, beginning with Transformers (2007). It was the top-performing (domestic) film of 2009, while Avatar (also dated 2009) was the highest-grossing (domestic) film of 2010. Bay directed the first five films through Transformers: The Last Knight (2017). The American/Japanese media franchise, originally a line of toys, told of sentient, living, giant autonomous robots (Autobots, Decepticons, etc.), who battled each other. The robots were known as Transformers because they could transmute into vehicles, planes, animals, and other objects. In this sequel two years after the preceding film, college freshman Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) was preparing to attend school, which meant he would leave behind his girlfriend Mikaela Banes (Megan Fox) and robotic guardian Bumblebee. His plans were disrupted by an ongoing war between the noble Autobots (with their home planet of Cybertron), led by Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) and the evil Decepticons, led by Megatron (Hugo Weaving) and his aide Starscream (Charlie Adler). The Autobots were allied with an elite military task force known as NEST (Non-biological Extraterrestrial Species Treaty) to hunt down any remaining Decepticons. Sam realized, because of strange visions of Cybertronian symbols, that he was being pulled into the middle of the conflict. Ancient mysteries had been implanted into his mind by a shard or splinter of the now-destroyed Allspark. Sam realized he was being targeted and hunted by the ancient Decepticons, under the orders of an ancient vengeful Decepticon named "The Fallen" (Tony Todd) who had returned to Earth. "The Fallen" wanted access to Sam's mind, where imprinted glyphs and a riddle would lead to the location of the all-important Matrix of Leadership, that was ultimately found by Sam at Petra. Also hidden for centuries inside one of the Egyptian pyramids was an alien-constructed Sun-Harvesting machine that would provide the Decepticons with a new Energon source. If activated by the Matrix of Leadership, the Harvester was capable of destroying the Sun and all life on Earth. There were violent attempts by the Decepticons to force Sam to give them the Matrix, and although he was killed, he and Optimus Prime were revived and strengthened to destroy the activated Sun Harvester. "The Fallen" was vanquished and Megatron was forced to retreat, vowing future vengeance.

The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009), 130 minutes, D: Chris Weitz
The second film in the five-film Twilight series-franchise was another vampire romantic fantasy, based upon author Stephenie Meyer's second (of four) novels, New Moon published in 2006. It served as the sequel to Twilight (2008). All of the adapted films and books told about the star-crossed, forbidden romance that developed between teenager Isabella "Bella" Swan (Kristen Stewart) from Forks, WA who fell in love with Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), an immortal 104-year-old vampire stuck at the age of 17. During a private birthday party with the Cullens, Edward's blood-lusting foster brother Jasper Hale/Cullen (Jackson Rathbone) threatened to attack Bella when she bled from a paper cut, but she was saved when he was restrained. The heartbroken high-school senior was further dismayed when the Cullens decided to move from Forks, WA for her safety, and her true love Edward broke off their relationship. She went into a deep depression and a period of self-destruction for months. Bella learned that if she acted recklessly, she would see a thrill-induced vision of Edward cautioning her to be careful. On the rebound, she took comfort and solace by renewing her friendship with childhood friend Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) from the Quileute tribe, who helped her through many dark months, but their closeness was hampered by Jacob's jealousy of Bella's past association with the blood-sucking clan. In a forest meadow, she happened to stumble across former vampire adversary Laurent Da Revin (Edi Gathegi), vengeful Victoria Sutherland's (Rachelle Lefevre) partner. When he threatened to attack, a wolf pack appeared and rescued her. It was revealed to her that Jacob and his tribe were shape-shifting werewolves. Through a series of miscommunications, Edward came to believe that Bella had died in a cliff-diving accident, and he sought to end his life by having the Volturi (an ancient and powerful Italian coven of vampire royalty) in Italy kill him. Bella and Edward's sister Alice Cullen (Ashley Greene) hurriedly traveled to Italy to save Edward's life. The Volturi were impressed with Bella's self-sacrificing nature, but realized that Bella (due to all her knowledge of their existence) must either be killed or soon transformed into a vampire, and Edward reluctantly agreed. After returning to Forks, the Cullens took a vote on Bella's transformation, with Edward voting no. Jacob reminded Edward that the years-old treaty and truce between the vampires and the Quileute tribe would be broken if any Cullen bit a human (referring to Bella's 'turning'). In the cliff-hanger ending, Edward promised to change Bella into a vampire under one condition -- if they married.

Up (2009), 89 minutes, D: Pete Docter
One of the best animated films of all-time was this PG-rated, universally-praised computer-animated adventure-comedy film from Pixar/Disney Pictures - it was the 10th Pixar feature-length film and one of the studio's highest-grossing films. The film opened with a tearjerking montage sequence of an entire decades-long marriage, from courtship to the death of the wife. In the story, irascible septuagenarian Carl Fredricksen (voice of Ed Asner), a balloon salesman, was married to his younger tomboyish wife Ellie (voice of Elizabeth Docter) who worked as a zookeeper. Their life's journey of growing old included buying, restoring and fixing up a dilapidated two-story home (soon threatened by encroaching city developers), and dreaming about taking a vacation to exotic South America, to journey to Venezuela's Paradise Falls. It had been described by adventurer-explorer Charles Muntz (voice of Christopher Plummer) as a beautiful place. One day, the retired widower decided to fulfill a vow to his beloved late wife's dream to visit the falls. He tied hundreds and hundreds of helium balloons to his house that caused the structure to soar into the air. He didn't realize a stowaway on his front porch - a chubby, 8 year-old Wildlife Explorer scout named Russell (voice of Jordan Nagai), was accidentally tagging along for the ride. They arrived at Paradise Falls, where they encountered a large, colorful flightless female bird (named "Kevin") (voice of Pete Docter), and Dug (voice of Bob Peterson) - a talking golden retriever. They were also confronted by a pack of three dogs, led by a Doberman Pinscher named Alpha (also voice of Bob Peterson), who took them to their elderly master Charles Muntz, Carl's childhood idol. With his zeppelin-dirigible airship named The Spirit of Adventure, the obsessively-mad Muntz claimed he was still searching for an elusive rare bird (presumably "Kevin") - revealing that he had evil intentions. Carl and Russell (with Dug) were able to evade Muntz, rescue Kevin and reunite her with her three chicks, and fly Muntz' dirigible back home with Muntz' three dogs. Russell was awarded his long-sought after "Assisting the Elderly" Scout merit badge to become a Senior Wilderness Scout, while unbeknownst to Carl, his house landed on the cliff overlooking Paradise Falls.

Up in the Air (2009), 109 minutes, D: Jason Reitman
Director Jason Reitman's workplace-related comedy-drama told about a corporate, "downsizing" hatchet-man and HR consultant with an itinerant, isolated lifestyle and little personal roots, as he criss-crossed the country during a time of economic crisis. The film's opening introduced Ryan Bingham (George Clooney), an aloof, high-flying corporate down-sizer and consultant for an HR company (Career Transition Counseling) who fired people. He spoke in voice-over as he was in the midst of firing another employee - an unfortunate man named Steve (Zach Galifianakis). There were many repetitive scenes of Bingham's swift, highly-organized, systematic, almost-choreographed packing of his carry-on suitcase for his cross-country travels, and his equally-efficient passage through the TSA checkpoint. There were three scenes of Ryan delivering a motivational lecture on his keynote topic: "What's in Your Backpack?", in which he recommended stuffing all one's materialistic items into a backback - an escapist fantasy. In a hotel bar, Bingham instantly bonded with a like-minded 34 year-old soul - Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga), a savvy nomadic traveler (his mirror image) who was also always on the road and mutually claimed with Bingham that there were 'no strings attached'. He also led fast-rising, ambitious, high-strung 23 year-old Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) on a typical road-trip of terminations to teach the inexperienced newbie the art of firing someone, but she proved difficult to train. And then Bingham himself was fired by his boss Bob (J.K. Simmons), as the company transitioned from personal interactions to mechanized firings via remote web-cam (known as GloCal video conferencing) to slash expenditures. When Bingham realized he didn't believe his own lecture's philosophy, he impulsively flew to Chicago to visit Alex's home - and was shocked to see that she was married with a family. He attained the milestone of being the 7th (and youngest) individual to ever accumulate 10 million frequent-flier miles with American Airlines. In the film's ending, the remote lay-off program was put on hold, due to some upsetting suicides, and Bingham was rehired. Before another round of trips, Bingham was sitting alone in his modest Omaha 'hotel room-like' apartment, staring out.

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