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Pop Rocks: The Year In Houston Movies

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Like most years, 2009 wasn't hugely eventful for Houston as a movie town. There wasn't a big, locally filmed tentpole release like Armageddon, and most news revolved around the death of one of the city's biggest celebrities or, to a much lesser extent, the inaugural Cinema Arts Festival.

Some movies this year -- whether big studio releases, indie horror, or as-yet-unreleased -- did have at least a tenuous Houston connection. Here are a few.

Powder Blue

AKA That Movie Where Jessica Biel Gets Naked. This was also the last feature film role for Patrick Swayze, who plays Velvet, the strip-club owner. Surprisingly, neither this fact nor the presence of Biel's nekkididity were able to keep Powder Blue from pretty much going straight to DVD.

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Directed by Houstonian Wes Anderson, this stop-motion feature is less noteworthy for the presence of George Clooney as the title character than for Anderson's unique directing style, which involved him spending most of the film's shoot in Paris and giving instructions via email. Then there was that whole thing about not knowing much at all about how stop-motion works.

Crude

H-Town doesn't come off in the best light in this doc about the "Amazon Chernobyl" lawsuit brought by 30,000 Ecuadorans against Chevron-Texaco. Hey, give 'em a break, they were just doing their part to keep Houston rich, is all.

Spirit Camp

Houston's history with low-budget suspense/horror fare isn't the greatest (email me if you want examples), but that could change with Kerry Beyer's Spirit Camp, billed as Friday the 13th meets Bring It On, only -- one assumes -- minus the latter's explosive racial politics. It's been receiving positive notices following its debut here in September. You can argue that our city needs better traffic management or less pollution; I say we need more cheerleader-themed slasher flicks.

The Tree of Life

Terence Malick's recent history has been spotty. Whether you loved or hated The Thin Red Line or The New World, chances are you either loved or hated them. Malick doesn't leave a lot of room for middle ground, and the upcoming Tree of Life, shot partially here and delayed from an announced 2009 release, looks to continue this trend. Described as a "cosmic epic" and starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, it sounds suspiciously similar in style to Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain, which also polarized audiences. Whether Malick can return to Days of Heaven/Badlands form remains to be seen.

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