2008 Movies Wrap-Up

Hey, I’m blogging again! Last year I had a best movies of the year list done by now, but I haven’t seen enough of the end of year films yet to put out  a definitive list. However, I decided I should at least start thinking about my favorites for the year. So I decided to start with a post in the fun style that Kaitlin Lee wrote her list in a few weeks ago.

My Favorite Movie of the Year (So Far): The Dark Knight
Not very original I know, but this is a film that surpassed everyone’s high expectations for it. Where other superhero movies have been comic books focusing on the build up to a final battle, The Dark Knight is a graphic novel brimming with stories and skirmishes that build to a thrilling climax. I’ve watched it a half a dozen times and I’m still not tired of it.
Buy It: DVD | Blu-ray

My Other Favorite Movie of the Year (So Far): WALL-E
Yes Pixar is the most successful film studio around, but WALL-E raised the bar even higher once again. WALL-E is a visual spectacular with a surprisingly deep story. It’s the characters though that make this film so special – it’s hard to awww at the sight of WALL-E and Eve together.

Worst (or Most Disappointing) Movie of the Year: The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
Ok I know that most people didn’t expect this movie to be good, but I thought the first two Mummy films were some of the best popcorn flicks in a while. I hoped the country shift would breathe new life into the film, but instead it was just a way to get away with making the SAME EXACT MOVIE AGAIN! Except it was much, much worse than that. Not satisfied with mining Indiana Jones movies for inspiration, this one literally lifts whole storylines and action sequences from it. Add to the fact that you have Jet Li in the film and your final battle is a repeat is him merely standing behind thousands of undead soldiers. Really? What’s most disappointing was China really was a great creative opportunity for this franchise and some of the visuals were spectacular. Unfortunately the story, script, acting, and directing were asinine.
Honorable Mention: The Spirit. Actually probably a lot worse than The Mummy 3, but I expected this one to be bad.

Fun Sleeper: Let the Right One In
Hard to say its a sleeper because the geek movie sites are all raving about it, but to the general public this Sweedish preteen vampire movie is an unknown. Don’t confuse this with Twilight, the pop culture phenomenon which is apparently about “vegetarian” vampires. Fear not, in this movie the vampire feeds on human blood – a lot. Besides its horror appeal though, there is a very twisted but sweet story about young friendship.

Overhyped: Burn After Reading
I love the Coen Brothers, but this one just seemed weak. Brad Pitt was funny but kind of over the top. Clooney was creapy. John Malkovich – I just couldn’t buy a guy that goofy being a spy. Really, aren’t spies supposed to keep a low profile? And while all the Coens’ films are about stupid criminals, I just couldn’t really find anything likable in any of these characters. I do plan on giving it a second chance some day, but I came out of the theater dissapointed with this one.
Honorable Mention: Frost/Nixon. I liked this but anyone who thinks this is Ron Howard’s best is crazy.

Biggest Surprise: Kung Fu Panda
While Pixar has been going out and creating amazing movies, Dreamworks has been content to cater more to the lower end of the kid crowd with movies built on fart jokes and pop culture references. Even the Shrek franchise has lost a lot of its steam. So I wasn’t expecting much more than a few laughs at Kung Fu Panda. To my surprise, Kung Fu Panda actually had a sweet story and endering characters. And the animation was fantastic. Unlike The Mummy, Kung Fu Panda capitalized on the richness of China’s landscape and culture. If you haven’t had a chance to see this film, you should (and find an HD version if you can).

Movie I loved that nobody else I know liked: Cloverfield
A lot of people did like this movie, but the people I went with were kind of underwhelmed. I have a soft spot for disaster movies though and I think this was a refreshing take on an old concept. For the YouTube generation, carrying around a video camera in the midst of a monster attack seems as rational as running for safety. And keeping the creature’s orgins a relative mystery seems like a smart move (no need for Matthew Broderick trying to explain some nuclear Godzilla). All in all this movie is just a lot of great, geeky fun.

Worst Timur Bekmambetov Movie: Wanted
I was a big fan of Night Watch and enjoyed Day Watch, so when I heard the director was making an American action movie I was excited (though important to note, not excited to hear the 3rd Night Watch movie will be made in America and in English – that’s stupid). I fell asleep the first time I watched Wanted and thought that’s why I didn’t like it. Then I watched it awake and stopped halfway through. What really did me in though was reading about how cool the comic it was based on was and how far from it they strayed.

Disturbing Trend: Fewer Good Indie Movies
I felt like I saw fewer indie movies this year and there were fewer good ones getting released. I was especially disappointed with the year end movies, not even one of which compares with last year’s slate. The upside is that the more commercial, blockbuster films are getting better. Still, I’m hoping that some more cool, obscure films find their way to the cineplexes in 2009.

Honorable Mentions: Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Iron Man, and Rachel Getting Married
Forgetting Sarah Marshall seemed a little more genuine than some of the more recent Apatow inspired flicks. I’m looking forward to Jason Segel reviving the Muppet franchise.  Yes Iron Man was Robert Downey, Jr’s film, but I was equally impressed with the smart direction by Jon Favreau. Between this and Elf, he’s one of the more surprising filmmakers out there. And Rachel Getting Married was the queen of the indie films for me this year.

Elligable Films (all the movies I’ve seen from 2008 so far)
21, American Teen, Be Kind Rewind, Bolt, Burn After Reading, City of Men, Cloverfield, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Frost/Nixon, Funny Games, Get Smart, Ghost Town, Gran Torino, Hancock, Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay , Hellboy II, In Burges, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Iron Man, Kung Fu Panda, Let the Right One In, Pineapple Express, Quantum of Solace, Rachel Getting Married, Role Models, Slumdog Millionaire, Snow Angels, Speed Racer, The Bank Job, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, The Duchess, The Happening, The Incredible Hulk, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, The Rocker, The Ruins, The Spirit, The Strangers, The Tale of Despereaux, The Wrestler, Traitor, Tropic Thunder, Vantage Point, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, WALL-E, Wanted

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