There were some really good movies in 2008; a great deal of mediocre ones and a slew of terrible ones. The following lists are based on movies that I have seen. Movies I have not yet seen- either because they are still sitting in my Netflix queue, they haven't been released in Rottenchester yet or because I've just been too darn lazy to move my butt on over to the moviehouse-are not on this list.
The Best (in no particular order):
Appaloosa: Based on Robert B. Parker's novel, this film tells the story of two riders (Viggo Mortensen and director Ed Harris) who are longtime friends. They soon become hired to rid the town of big baddie Randall Bragg played by Jeremy Irons (even his name sounds bad). Throw in 'lil lady Allison French (Renee Zellweger) and you've got yourself the makings of a threesome or at least some romantic entanglements. Harris did his homework and took more than a few notes from Clint Eastwood to fashion this nicely paced and suspenseful western.
Pineapple Express: This outrageous and shocking movie stars Seth Rogen as a process server who smokes some good stuff man and then witnesses a murder. He gets away but too bad he leaves the joint behind. These people are not even close to being the smartest tools in the shed (too many tokes?) but the film is funny and entertaining (not as funny as Superbad-another Rogen film) and there's never a dull moment.
When Did You Last See Your Father?:Boy is raised by a gruff, imperfect father; Boy grows up into man who resents his father; Father is diagnosed with terminal cancer; Man must come to grips with his feelings for his father. The cast is wonderful-Juliet Stevenson, Colin Firth and Jim Broadbent. Great acting and nicely directed.
American Teen: The focus is on four seniors in a small Indiana town. The trials and tribulations of being a high-schooler are brought into sharp focus through Hannah, Colin, Mitch & Megan. There's geeks, superbitches and everything in between in this eye-opening documentary. Plus, we get to see where they are now.
Wall-E: This animated film set in the way distant future tells of the love between a waste collecting robot (or Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-class) and an Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator and their trip to space together.
Son Of Rambow: This coming-of-age friendship tale is both heartening and depressing. Will is not allowed to watch tv or see movies but is great at expressing himself through his drawings. Once he meets school bully, Lee Carter, who shows Will the original Rambo film, the two embark on the making of their own Rambo movie which could be their undoing.
The Dark Knight: Damn! This had to be Heath Ledger's last film. Yes, his performance is over the top but it's also quite good. He's friggin' nuts! Christopher Nolan directs his second batman film (the 6th overall) and it's a rollicking good time. Starring Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart and Maggie Gyllenhaal this is a blockbuster.
Man On Wire: The engrossing documentary tells the daring feat of Philippe Petit and his attempt and, ultimate accomplishment, of crossing between the two towers of the World Trade Center on a high wire. The film is completely mesmerizing and entertaining with some breathtaking footage.
Burn After Reading: Two gym employees get their hands on what they believe to be secrets from the CIA and then proceed to extort money from the owner of the disc. The film's plot hinges on breast enhancement and features Pitt in one of his most entertaining roles to date. Shocks, blood and violence abound as this is a Coen brothers film. Be warned!
Gran Torino: Bigoted Korean War vet Walt Kowalski finds himself living next door to some people of the Hmong community and he becomes enmeshed within their lives after one of the family members attempts to steal his precious 1972 Gran Torino. Great story, wonderful character development and frickin' Clint Eastwood badder than ever!
Hancock: Yes, I'm dissing a Will Smith movie. A superhero falls into disrepute and a publicist tries to get him back on track so he can save the city. Not a bad premise but a terrible execution and a waste of a good cast. In addition to Smith, there's Jason Bateman and Charlize Theron.
88 Minutes: False advertising aside (the movie is actually 108 mins), this Al Pacino stinker has more holes than a piece of swiss cheese. Not to mention the ending can be seen before the opening credits are through rolling.
The Happening: Something in the air is killing people! Maybe it's bird droppings. M. Night Shyamalan has certainly fallen from the top of the ladder and now he's stuck in the mud. He needs a complete reinvention. What could have been a wonderful environmental lesson turned into a mishmash of a movie. It's not even scary or suspenseful. By the end, I was hoping that everyone would just die.
The Strangers: Another unsatisfying horror movie. This one is supposedly based on real events; although the veracity of said events is uncertain. The main inspiration is Helter Skelter, which is based on the Manson family murders. Two pretty people Kristen McKay and James Hoyt (Scott Speedman & Liv Tyler) are attacked in the Hoyt vacation home. The people wear funny Halloween masks and there's never any reason why they are hell-bent on torturing these two people. Why, man, why?????
The Ruins: Another horror film (this one based on a book that I thought was terrible). The premise is interesting, albeit far-fetched. Four friends head to Cancun and ultimately end up at the site of an archaeological dig in search of someone. What they don't realize is they won't be able to leave. Ever! No surprise ending on this one.
Wanted: Based on the comic book miniseries of the same name and starring Angelina "Lips" Jolie, Wanted is the story of assassins going all badass on each other. Another wasted cast; Besides Jolie, there's James McAvoy and Morgan Freeman. The ending was ridiculous but I will say this there are some kick-ass special effects.
The Boy In The Striped Pajamas: Another film based on a book, which I should have read before going into this depressing WWII set movie. It tells the story of two eight-year-old boys (one who's father is a high-ranking Nazi official; the other who's living in a concentration camp) who strike up a friendship and even play a little ball together. However, soon their friendship becomes dangerous. The film is directed nicely and the lead character, Bruno (Asa Butterfield) is very expressive.
The Secret Life Of Bees: A young white girl goes to live with three African-American women while searching for the truth about her mother in South Carolina in 1964. Based on the wildly popular Sue Monk Kidd book, the film doesn't translate very well and I'm not sure Dakota Fanning was the best choice for the lead character. Produced by Will Smith and his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, with a talented cast (Queen Latifah, Sophie Okonedo, Paul Bettany and Jennifer Hudson) you'd think with all that "power" the film would be a knockout. It wasn't.
You Don't Mess With The Zohan: Terrible, terrible and terrible. This movie was all over the place and wasn't even funny; just shockingly disturbing. Tired of fighting for the Israeli Special Forces, Zohan Dvir (Adam Sandler) fakes his own death and goes to America where he ends up as, what else?, a hairstylist who gives his customers a little extra sumptin' sumptin'. This includes Charlotte "Mrs. Garrett" Rae. Yecch! Ugh! My eyes will never be the same.
Cloverfield: What was billed as the first big and exciting movie of 2008 ended up being a dud. There were a few scary (not jumpy) parts but the monster in this thing was a huge (literally) disappointment. A creature attacks NYC and the only thing left behind is the video footage. Yes, it is reminiscent of 9/11 and, unlike other more talented social commentators, producer JJ Abrams doesn't say anything worthwhile in this film. Just for the record-the whole film is seen from the point of view of a handheld video camera. Shaky and unclear footage dominates the film and the stories of people feeling nauseous aren't just stories.
Looking forward to seeing what 2009 will have to offer....