We have reached the end of another moviemaking year, and it’s time to look back at the must-see cinematic events of 2008, at least in my humble opinion. If you are the type of cinemagoer who revels in period piece dramas and art house flicks, then best search for another list. My tastes run more to the action, horror, and blow up everything at all costs movie experience. With that being said, here is my 12 best of ‘98.
Traditionally a slow time at the theater, one movie stood out like a beacon. Imagine a cross between “Godzilla,” and “The Blair Witch Project,” and you have “Cloverfield.” The brainchild of current Midas man, JJ Abrams, Cloverfield is the story of a giant creature attack on New York City as seen through the eyes, and camera lens, of a group of partygoers. It is loud, dizzying, and instantly unforgettable.
Another slow month with very little to choose from, so much so that I almost went with Will Ferrell’s “Semi- Pro,” but instead opted for, the little seen gem, “In Bruges,” starring Colin Farrell (SWAT), and Brendan Gleeson (Braveheart) as a couple of hit men sent to scenic Belgium by their boss, Ralph Fiennes. Chock full of snappy dialogue and some hilarious, albeit politically incorrect (Farrell karate chopping a little person in the neck), scenes, you’ll be glad you made this European trip.
My first love, when it comes to movies, is horror. March saw the release of a slate of terrible gore flicks, but among the dreck, a low, low budget independent flick by indie filmmaker Stephen C. Miller stood head and shoulders above the rest. “Automaton Transfusion” is a blood-soaked zombie gore fest that, at fewer than 80 minutes, races by at breakneck speed. Can’t wait to see what Miller can do with a budget.
If it’s laughs you are after, then look no further than, “Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay.” The sequel to the cult classic, “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle,” Guantanamo picks up where the original left off, and sees the two loveable losers fall into one wild scene after another. Full of low brow, potty humor, the film is lacking a little of the originals brilliance, but still has enough belly laughs to keep fans happy.
Summer blockbusters seem to be released earlier and earlier each year as the studios try to get one-up each other with big-budget, high grossing flicks that will ultimately determine how their yearend figures look. May saw the release of “Iron Man,” and the stakes were raised to a level that was impossible to top. Robert Downey Jr turned in a spectacular performance as weapons guru, and superhero Tony Stark, one that, thankfully, we will see him reprise very soon.
A couple of really cool kids’ movies came out this month; “Wall-E”, and “Kung Fu Panda,” but, for me at least, the best film of June was, “Wanted.” A comic book adaptation, starring Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman, that featured some mind-blowing special effects and killer, pun intended, action.
If there was a better movie released in 2008 than “The Dark Knight,” then I have yet to see it. The latest installment in the updated Batman series was highlighted by a great script, and even better acting. The late Heath Ledger’s turn as The Joker is one that will be difficult to forget. His take on the green haired crime freak made Jack Nicholson’s look like a Care Bear.
What do you get of you drop a punch of pampered actors in the middle of Vietnam, and shoot a blockbuster movie guerilla style without them knowing it? The answer is “Tropic Thunder,” a hilariously offensive comedy that, once again, showcases the brilliance of Robert Downey Jr as an Aussie actor whose character performs risky skin pigmentation surgery to play the part of an African American soldier.
Another critically acclaimed, but little seen, movie was the highlight of September. “Blindness,” stars Julianne Moore as the lone inhabitant of a town not to be struck down by an outbreak of blindness. She takes the role of caretaker of her husband and the other townsfolk who are quarantined in squalid conditions. The movie is visually stunning and, if the Academy knows anything, should garner some Oscar nominations.
No “best of” movie list worth its salt would be complete without a documentary. Ok, it might, but I am still adding one to mine. Bill Maher’s, “Religilous” is a scathing commentary on religion and its followers that, more often than not, hits the mark. Atheists will have their beliefs, or lack thereof, confirmed, and people of faith, who are brave enough to watch, may end up asking some serious questions.
The James Bond franchise, just like Batman, recently underwent a much needed facelift, the result of which was the magnificent, “Casino Royale.” November saw the release of the newest installment of the 007 franchise, “Quantum of Solace.” Daniel Craig is back as Bond, and he is not a happy camper following the death of his wife. It’s a non-stop brew of fistfights, and chases in everything from cars, to boats, to planes.
I haven’t had much chance to see a lot of movies this month, but I’d be hard pressed to find a better one than, “The Wrestler.” Mickey Rourke (9 1/2 Weeks) is brilliant as an over the hill pro wrestler clinging to a career that has long since passed him by.
So there you have it, my list of the best of 2008. I’m sure that most of you will disagree with some or all of these, but hopefully you’ll find a couple that you may have missed that you just might end up enjoying as much as I did.