Palo Alto Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - January 1, 2010

Cinematic saints and sinners

The 10 most memorable heroes and villains of 2009

by Tyler Hanley

The year in film offered moviegoers an array of characters to cheer for and cringe at. This year's list of notable heroes and villains includes a sadistic mutant, a selfless boy scout, a devoted father and a distorted mother. And Charles Dickens' iconic character Ebenezer Scrooge earns both accolades and ridicule.

Heroes

Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson), "Taken" Irish-born actor Liam Neeson brought physicality and confidence to one of the year's best action films. The no-nonsense father wouldn't let distance or armed adversaries deter him from rescuing his abducted daughter.

Ebenezer Scrooge (voice of Jim Carrey), "Disney's A Christmas Carol" A specter-induced epiphany on Christmas Eve turned this miser into a do-gooder. Carrey's unique flair helped bring heart and humor to Dickens' classic protagonist.

Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman), "Invictus" The Nobel Prize-winning president used rugby to help unite a fractured South Africa. Freeman's Mandela exemplified the word "hero" by living and teaching self-sacrifice, perseverance and compassion.

Russell (voice of Jordan Nagai), "Up" Cinema's favorite junior wilderness explorer was all courage, constantly putting himself in harm's way to help rescue his newfound friends. Russell's energy and valor helped revitalize a man who had all but given up.

Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.), "Sherlock Holmes" Downey Jr. infused one of literature's most notable heroes with charm and bare-knuckle tenacity. Holmes used his unparalleled observation and deduction skills to foil a sinister plot that would have dangerously altered civilization.

Villains

Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), "Inglourious Basterds" Soon-to-be Oscar nominee Waltz brought a creepy calm demeanor to his heartless Nazi. The grinning deviant proudly backed a reputation that included abuse, intimidation and murder.

Ebenezer Scrooge (voice of Jim Carrey), "Disney's A Christmas Carol" An overdue transformation doesn't give Ebenezer a pass for years of spite. This sour curmudgeon grumbled and cursed during times of joy and hoarded riches when generosity was needed most.

John Dillinger (Johnny Depp), "Public Enemies" The gun-toting bank robber had the hypnotic allure of a Hollywood celebrity. As portrayed by the always-entertaining Johnny Depp, Dillinger used his charisma to parlay a life of violence and thievery.

Other Mother (voice of Teri Hatcher), "Coraline" The at-first tender, button-eyed mother eventually shed her synthetic skin to reveal a nightmarish inner self. A slender, distorted frame and fingers capped with jagged blades made it clear this was no mommy dearest.

Sabretooth (Liev Schreiber), "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" Schreiber clawed and snarled his way into the skin of Marvel Comics' vicious mutant with aplomb. Schreiber's Sabretooth displayed a sadistic bloodlust that tore innocent lives and lifelong loyalties asunder.

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