A mid-summer night’s screen

Movie reviewer extraordinaire Bob Grimm picks the best and the worst of 2009—so far

Because we’re halfway through the summer, and because I had nothing better to do, I’ve compiled the following list of best and worst movies—so far—for 2009. October through December usually brings a rush of award contenders, but I think my No.1 pick below is going to be hard to knock off the mantle. Let’s see if it can hang on until year’s end. In fact, if you’re a movie, and you are coming out this year, I dare you to knock that movie off the mantle. No, seriously, I double-dog dare you, you spineless baby!

Best So Far

1. Up Many Pixar movies have found their way into my “best” lists, but this one about an old guy, a bunch of balloons, and some talking dogs stands as my favorite from the masters of computer animation. Every frame of this movie, especially in 3-D, offers wonderment, and it’s touching and funny to boot. So far, this is the movie to beat this year.

2. Moon Let the campaigns for Sam Rockwell getting an Oscar nomination begin now. Yes, it’s summertime and, yes, great performances get lost among the movies boasting transforming robots and shit. I still hope that doesn’t mean Rockwell gets snubbed at year’s end. What he does in this classically good science fiction drama is his best work yet, and that’s saying a lot.

3. Star Trek J.J. Abrams has much fun with iconic characters, time travel and the Beastie Boys in this incredibly entertaining reboot of the beloved Star Trek universe. While some of the Trek movies have been very good, none, not even Wrath of Khan, approaches the glory achieved in this movie. So eager to see the new storyline continue.

4. Two Lovers Joaquin Phoenix went all weird this year, detracting from the fact that his so-called last movie performance is his best. Gwyneth Paltrow and director James Gray should kick his rapping ass for taking all of the attention away from this offbeat and well-constructed love story. It never came to Reno, but you can get it on DVD, and I strongly urge you to do so. No telling whether his quitting as an actor is a hoax, but there is no doubt that his antics hurt the standing of this movie.

5. Watchmen Large portions of this adaptation of Alan Moore’s classic graphic novel qualify as masterpiece. There are a couple of dull stretches—the novel had those, too—and Malin Akerman is a bit flat as Silk Spectre II, but Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup) was perfectly conceived, and Jackie Earle Haley nailed it as Rorschach. The DVD and Blu-ray are out now, and the director’s cut adds another 24 minutes that actually improve the experience.

6. The Hangover At this point, this is the year’s funniest movie, and it’s hard to think anything could be funnier than Mike Tyson warbling Phil Collins before threatening a bunch of hungover dudes about his stolen tiger. Babies get hit in the face with car doors in this movie, and while it’s a little embarrassing and wrong to admit that it’s funny, you know you laughed when you saw it. Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms all became stars with this one.

7. Tyson Iron Mike has had two shining moments this year: Punching Zach in the face in The Hangover, and spilling his guts in director James Toback’s appropriately frightening documentary. It’s no surprise that Mike is so messed up. The surprise comes in how willing he is to talk about it. Tyson should go on The View and be interviewed. His answers would be so brutal that the wretched Elisabeth Hasselbeck would probably set herself on fire with kerosene, and Iron Mike would reign again as world champion. Yes, I worked an Elisabeth Hasselbeck reference into my Tyson capsule review. She’s an idiot.

8. Public Enemies Kids, don’t watch this movie if you are studying up for a quiz on American gangster history, because Michael Mann takes a lot of liberties in telling the story of John Dillinger. Major figures in crime history die out of order and in the wrong places, but they look so good doing it that you won’t sweat the artistic license being taken. Johnny Depp adds yet another landmark performance to his repertoire.

9. Away We Go John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph are sweet and funny as an expectant couple touring the country looking for a place to raise their child. Directed by Sam Mendes, it reminds me a bit of the great Flirting with Disaster and features a stellar supporting cast that includes Allison Janney, Jeff Daniels and Catherine O’Hara.

10. Observe and Report Of all the movies I’ve praised this year, Seth Rogen’s bizarre mall cop comedy has gotten me into the most trouble. I guess this sick-in-the-head picture is an acquired taste. I busted a gut when Rogen went to town on a herd of cops with his flashlight, and Anna Faris has never been funnier.

Worst So Far

1. Jonas Brothers: The 3-D Concert Experience I really do hate these stupid little bastards, and I don’t care how many 12-year-olds lob water balloons and cinder blocks at me for saying so. Watching this crap in 3-D was like opening up a new dimension to an unknown Gate of Hell, where Jonas turds await you with their vocal torture devices. I recently received the Blu-ray in the mail, and I was going to use it as a coaster. I threw it away for fear that the poisonous nature of the product would cause bad things to seep into my drinking utensils and give me dysentery.

2. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Yes, I actually think that there is something worse than this movie this year, but it was a close one. After not stinking as much as he usually did for a couple of movies, Michael Bay reminds us that he is, indeed, a close relative of the Antichrist and probably eats puppies for breakfast. This one sucked up cash like a Fourth Street hooker trying to save up for a flat screen, so it’s a safe bet that Bay will be given future permission to waste a lot of money and time on cinematic abortions.

3. Angels & Demons Tom Hanks and Ron Howard, the guys who made Apollo 13, waste precious time on Dan Brown’s Catholic Torture Porn. At least we got to look at Audrey Tautou during The Da Vinci Code. This time, all we get is Hanks with that worn-out, quizzical look on his face and a styling hairdo.

4. Year One I love me some Jack Black and Michael Cera but hate them bitterly in this tired comedy that combines Biblical times with cavemen. Directed by the man who gave us Caddyshack, it even makes David Cross look clueless.

5. Pink Panther 2 While the first one was tolerable, this one officially drops a rancid load on the grave of Peter Sellers. Steve Martin needs a comeback vehicle pronto. Get him into a raunchy Apatow movie or a Hangover sequel. Just get that stupid pencil moustache off of his face.