Before the end of the month I wanted to run down my top 10 films of 2008. Now remember this only covers films that I watched this year and not films that I missed out on that could have made the list, as is the Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Now normally I count DVD releases on my top 10 (as was the case with 2007's Shoot'em Up) but this year none made my list. I don't get the chance to watch everything in the theatre, and while normally I do not do a review of something that has hit DVD, I still count them hear. I may or may not add DVD reviews to the blog in the future if it is early enough in the release window of the DVD and if I haven't already reviewed it theatrically. We will have to see.
Now this list mostly reflects genre films and may not necessarily reflect what the Academy Awards or professional critics pick. Doubt (the new movie with Meryl Streep and Phillip Seymour Hoffman) may be a great movie, it just doesn't interest the average film goer, nor myself. These are the top 10 films for the populous, and if an award winning film makes the list, then it does. These are the movies that made me love going to the theatre.
Onto the reviews!
10- Zack and Miri Make a Porno
It was wonderful to see perennial fan favorite writer/director Kevin Smith break from the mold a bit. This film is the first step into creating pictures that don't rely on the same formula. One part Judd Apatow, one part nerd fanboy, Kevin, along with Seth Rogan and Elizabeth Banks, make a really funny gross out comedy that really does have a heart of gold.
9- Get Smart
Here is a film that I was surprised to find on the list. Going into this I had really low expectations but Steve Carrell and Anne Hathaway really delivers on a clever blend of action and comedy. It didn't try to recreate the old Get Smart, it just attempted to modernize it. It was fun and funny and I really came to find that Anne Hathaway is pretty hot! It was good to see Steve Carrell back in a vehicle that really allowed him to play on his strengths, and Hathaway showed a comedic range and sexiness that I previously hadn't noticed.
8- The Incredible Hulk
This was the Hulk movie that fans of the character had been clamoring for. you don't need fancy poetic imagery or to delve deep into the flaws of this character. You only need two words. HULK SMASH! Ed Norton, who helped develop the film along with director Joe Letrierri, really boiled the character down to a nice blend of the modern with a healthy dash of the 1970's TV show. Bruce Banner, a man tormented by his abilities and in love with a woman he endangers by being around, is on the run from the US military. What we as a movie goer want to see is the Hulk smashing building and effects heavy fighting. Through in the angst and internal torment that Norton brings and you have the ingredients for a successful remake.
7- Hellboy 2: The Golden Army
Director Guillermo Del Toro make my top 10 for the second year in a row with his smash followup to the original Hellboy. Returning actors Ron Perlman and Selma Blair were great in the first film and are even better in the second. Perlman may be the best actor ever to work in prosthetics. He had really convey emotion and feeling through all of the latex and Del Toro is a visionary genius in giving life to creator Mike Mignola's world. The character designs and effects are great, made even more so by the amount of practical effect work they did instead of CGI.
A great old style western directed by Ed Harris, starring himself and Viggo Mortenson as two lawmen for hire brought to a small town to bring order to it. Along the way the formerly cold Harris falls in love with piano teacher Renee Zellweger, who has her own agenda. Its a wonderful pot boiler of a film, bringing each element to its own before hitting the watcher. Even the climatic gun fight, which is slowly drawn out, explodes in a flash before ending. It was a film reminiscent of the great westerns of the 1940's and 50's, like High Noon or The Searchers. It isn't about gunfights or action, its about the characters and their motivations. Besides, its a well known fact I love westerns.
I will probably be the only guy reviewing movies who has this on his list. For some reason, this film got ravaged by critics and audiences (a lot about its long run time) but I loved it. Once again, it appealed to the classic film watcher in me, reminding me of the grand sweeping epics like Gone With the Wind or Lawrence of Arabia. Huge epic landscapes, with a deft use of color and scope. It had romance, adventure, and comedy, 2 parts western, 1 part war film, 1 part romantic epic. yet this eclectic style didn't drag the film down, it made it all that much more fun. It was little bit of everything I like made in a style of film making that you just don't see anymore. Director Baz Lurhman has a unique style all his own and he always gets the best of of Nicole Kidman.
4- Iron Man
Easily one of the best comic to film adaptations ever, ranking up there with the first Spiderman film and X-Men 2. Director Jon Favreau hits the jackpot in casting Robert Downey, Jr as Tony Stark/Iron Man and surrounds the actor with great support from Gwynth Paltrow, Terance Howard, and Jeff Bridges. Downey is dead on as the booze swilling narcissist Stark who comes to relaize truely the cost of war. The effects are perfect and the storyline is tight, really setting up the key elements of who Stark is and why he does what he does. It's Downey that really makes the film though. He is the best casting choice ever for a super hero film and he brings Iron Man from a second tier character right into the big leagues.
3- The Wrestler
This is the first time in a long while that I have actively rooted for someone to win an Oscar. Mickey Rourke is a tour de force as Randy "The Ram", once the biggest professional wrestler in the 1980's who has now fallen on hard times. No friends and no money, and a daughter who hates him, his only confidant is an aging stripper played by Marisa Tomei. This is a movie that is wonderfully sad, and Rourke steals the show. He perfectly captures this man who has seen his best days behind him, but he just can't leave the thrill of it all behind. Watching him cope with the problems of his life, you start to wonder where "The Ram" stops and Rourke's own problems arrive, as Rourke's own career path took a very similar turn. This movie makes number three simply on the fact that it is some of the best acting I have seen in a while, director Darron Aronofsky really gets the most out of all of his talent here.
2- The Dark Knight
Okay, this may be an upset for many people (namely not ranking it number 1) but The Dark Knight is still the best super hero film ever made. Downey may be the best single casting choice, but Christian Bale is hands down the best to ever don the cowl and there really hasn't been enough said about Heath Ledger's turn as the Joker. Director Christoper Nolan really locks down the script and creates a movie that is not only visually unique, but compelling and entertaining. There are great performances (and casting choices) from top to bottom and its nearly $1 billion take at the box office assures it of its lasting impact and superiority. Simply put, The Dark Knight is great.
A personal surprise, this film ranked number 10 on my films to look forward to in 2008, and here in 2009 it stands as the single film I enjoyed the most. It is the greatest animated film I have ever seen, technically superior to anything before. It continues Pixar's perfect box office record by creating a character, a small robot, who while barely speaking, may be the most human character on film this year. You feel for Wall-E through every trial and tribulation and root for his success, and are genuinely sad for his failures. This movie appeals to all ages, young or old, adult or child, there is nothing to dislike about this charming film. It was pure fun and I loved it in a way that I had not expected.
I am sure that many will disagree with my picks this year but that's okay. The important thing is that you enjoy going to the movies and seeing everything that there is to offer. I'll keep reviewing them as long as you keep enjoying them! Thanks for another great year in cinema.