2009 Year in Review: Part IV — The Year in Film and Stage

Prelude: 2009 was such a great year for me in many ways. Crap economy not withstanding, 2009 was a year of great development, great triumph and great fun. I’ll be recapping my year in a few posts. Here in Part IV I discuss the awesome movies and plays I took in throughout the year.

Being a borderline Digital Native it is completely natural that I’m a major movie/TV addict (as can be told by the majority of entries on this Blog). One of the crappy things about the economy is the fact that movies cost a crazy $10 on average ($8.00 matinee) to see first run in the theatre. I remember only 14 short years ago paying about $6.00 to catch a movie. As such my theatre going habits have dwindled as it takes a special movie for me to plunk down full price (or matinee rather) admission.

The very short list of movies I paid full price to see at the cineplex this year included:

  • X-men Origins: Wolverine
  • Star Trek
  • Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  • G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
  • 2012
  • The Twilight Saga: New Moon
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks

As you can see, the films were either throwbacks to my childhood (Wolvie, Star Trek, Transformers, G.I. Joe and Alvin) or odes to great modern literature (Harry Potter and Twilight). 2012 is the lone blockbuster I choose to see NOT affiliated with licensed properties. Overall I loved all of the films and found them worth the price of admission. For my money, my favorite picks of the bunch were Wolverine and 2012. Wolvie, Transformers and G.I. Joe were high in spades in FX and action and were every bit the definition of blockbuster but of the three I liked Wolvie the best. Star Trek was also a great flick. I’m not much on films that tinker with canon but on its own merits Abrams did a kick ass job of resetting Star Trek canon and bringing Kirk and Spock into the 21st century.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Promotional Display

Harry Potter was an ok port of the book to the Big Screen. On its own merits it was a good flick but I was a bit underwhelmed with the film compared to the book’s telling of the story. My biggest disappointment was the neutered “Battle of Hogwarts” which sounded EPIC in the book but came across rather more as the “Assassination of Albus Dumbledore.”

As for New Moon, having never read the books I had no expectations of the film and enjoyed it for what it was, a great eye candy film with a good mix of drama and action. All in all, it was a great year at the theatre!

HIFF Barbarian Princess line

In line at the Hawaii International Film Festival

Moving to the art house side of things, this was my first year partaking in the awesomeness of the Hawaii International Film Festival. Being the nerdy nerd I am I spent most of my time taking in documentaries and geek films. Among the things I saw were:

  • Earth Days
  • The Real Shaolin
  • No Impact Man
  • Barbarian Princess
  • 20th Century Boys Part I
  • 20th Century Boys Part II
  • 20th Century Boys Part III

Being a green proponent I had to see “Earth Days” and “No Impact Man.” “Earth Days” was a nice look at the evolution of the green movement over the past 40 years or so. “No Impact Man” was an awesome documentary looking at how the Beaven family of NYC spent a year living a green lifestyle eating organic and not using fossil fuel powered transportation and electricity. It was a very inspiring film which I plan to take better example from.

“Real Shaolin” was an awesome documentary looking at the lives of four different students studying at various kwoon near China’s famous Shaolin Temple. Being a kung fu student myself and a martial artist it was a film I HAD to see. The Shaolin lifestyle in the 21st century is something else very much akin to living in the military. I doubt I’d make the cut but who knows.

“Barbarian Princess” is a film with great meaning to me as a Hawaiian. While the film was heavily dramatized with some historical inaccuracy taken for dramatic license, the overall message it sent about the circumstances surrounding the Overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom is something that resounds in me personally and for that I hope the producers are successful in getting the film distributed in wide release.

The “20th Century Boys” trilogy was an awesome experience. I spent the better part of 10 hours watching these movies at the theatre on a Sunday (each film was about 3 hours). Based on a Japanese manga series the films were a ton of fun and told the story of a bunch of friends in Japan who as kids wrote fantasy stories of the end of the world while playing. Fast forward 30 years or so and one of them is secretly bringing about the events they fantasized about as kids to life. The drama was quite gripping!

With money for the movie house being tight one can only be thankful for the power of Netflix which allows an X number of movies to be sent to the house and an unlimited number of movies or tv shows to be streamed online for a set fee a month. With the power of Netflix I had a chance to catch many of the films I had hoped to see this year at the theatre via rental (thanks to quick distribution) as well as many classic films and documentaries. Here’s a full list of all the shows I saw either through the mail or online.

Netflix Rental

  • You Got Served
  • The Bucket List
  • Get Smart
  • Tropic Thunder
  • Bring It On Again
  • Pineapple Express
  • Transporter 3
  • Punisher: War Zone
  • Bangkok Dangerous
  • Wanted
  • Bedtime Stories
  • Star Trek: Insurrection
  • Star Trek: Nemesis
  • Disaster Movie
  • Bolt
  • How to Lose Friends & Alienate People
  • Hancock
  • Meet the Spartans
  • Marley & Me
  • Eagle Eye
  • 300
  • Gladiator
  • Tuesdays with Morrie
  • He’s Just Not That Into You
  • Twilight
  • The International
  • Mitch Albom’s For One More Day
  • Push
  • The Brave One
  • Hotel for Dogs
  • 12 Rounds
  • The Condemned
  • Knowing
  • Hellboy
  • Hellboy II: The Golden Army
  • Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li
  • 17 Again
  • Nights in Rodanthe
  • Underworld: Rise of the Lycans
  • Angels and Demons
  • Fighting
  • The Legend
  • Step Brothers
  • Night at the Museum
  • Night at the Museum 2
  • Superbad

Netflix Instant (Movies)

  • End of Days
  • The Fugitive
  • U.S. Marshals
  • Unbreakable
  • Hard Target
  • Nowhere to Run
  • The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps
  • The Dukes of Hazzard: The Beginning
  • Sting: Moment of Truth
  • Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children
  • Vantage Point
  • Untraceable
  • Perfect Stranger

Of all the films I saw through the mail or online my personal favorites were “The Bucket List,” “Marley and Me,” “17 Again,” “Bolt,” “Tuesdays with Morrie,” “Angels and Demons” and “Vantage Point.” I’m a sucker for feel good dramas (Bucket List, Morrie, and Marley and Me) as well as cerebral thrillers (Angels and Demons, Vantage Point). 17 Again was just hilarious and Bolt was a cute family movie. All worth the watch!

In addition to the great movies Netflix also allowed me to enjoy a lot of great shows and documentaries I otherwise would not have enjoyed. The one show I got to follow off of Netflix I didn’t see before was “Fight Quest” which is the Discovery Channel’s awesome comeback to the History Channels “Human Weapon” series I loved a few years back. Both shows follow the adventures of two guys who travel the globe to learn about various martial arts styles after which they face off against a local champion of the style. The show kicked major butt!

Netflix Instant (Shows)

  • Fight Quest

Among the various documentaries I saw on Netflix this year were the following which I enjoyed learning from immensely.

Netflix Instant (Documentaries)

  • Confucius: Words of Wisdom
  • Modern Marvels: The Great Wall of China
  • Modern Marvels: The Empire State Building
  • Abraham: One Man, One God
  • Biography: Adam and Eve
  • Ancient Mysteries: Astrology
  • Video Games: Behind the Fun
  • Modern Marvels: Television
  • Modern Marvels: The Telephone
  • Reclaiming the Blade
  • Ancient Mysteries: Dragons
  • Big Rig
  • The Marines

Finally, as most of you long-time readers know, I’m a big fan of the stage and 2K9 was a great year for theatre here in Hawai’i. Among some of the great productions I got to check out were:

As an Improv artist I have a lot of friends in the local theatre community and many of my friends performed in several of these productions. By and large I enjoyed all of these shows.

“The Complete Works of William Shakespeare” was a great production finely acted with some Improv and video production thrown in. Of course, I’d expect nothing less from something involving R. Kevin Doyle and Jordan Savusa.

I have been most impressed by the offerings at TAG the past few seasons. This year I had a chance to catch three productions at TAG: Miso, Night of January 16th and Dancing Between Heaven and Hell.

Night of January 16th:  Jury Duty!!!

I caught “Miso” and “Night of January 16th” with a friend from work. “Miso” spoke to me since it was a play about the Japanese experience (I enjoy Shakespeare as much as the next guy, but I prefer works that speak to the Hawaii or Asian experience) and it didn’t disappoint. “Night of January 16th” was an awesome play (featuring Elizabeth Wolfe, one of my favorite local talents) featuring a murder trial which provided the extra interactive feature of having jurors from the audience. As luck would have it I got to do jury duty!  “Dancing Between Heaven and Hell” was a great production ran as part of TAG’s Dark Night series and part of Eric Nemoto’s Soul Saviour series.  Featuring awesome dance performances, the awesome mythology of angels vs. demons and a few musical pieces thrown in it was a great mixed bag of a performance.  I dug it.

Okinawan Ensemble:  Closing Day of Voices from Okinawa

The year for me wrapped up at Kumu Kahua’s “Voices from Okinawa” featuring my improv buddy Stu Hirayama. Added bonus to this screening was that I caught it closing afternoon which featured a nice Okinawan post-show dinner and entertainment.

All in all, it was a great year at the cineplex and on the stage.

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