Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Year in Review: 2008

I've already made my top 10 list, which should be up soon. However, a simple list doesn't do an entire year of films justice, especially a year like this one. So here are my top picks of the year that didn't make my top ten, in a bunch of meaningless categories I pulled out of my ass. Starting with my number one fav (Well, technically number eleven, but still):


Yeah, didn't see that one coming, did ya, DID YA!? I admit, watching and reading my reviews you probably figured out I don't like gory horror movies, and in general I don't. Here's the one major exception. Just when I thought Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog was the best musical I'd seen in years, POW!!! Y'know, when I saw the first Spy Kids movie at the ripe old age of twelve, I developed a massive crush on Alexa Vega. Of course, as I grew older, my feelings for her began to fade, especially after Spy Kids 3D (seriously H-Wood, enough with the 3D threequel gag, it was never funny!) Besides after that she kinda faded from the spotlight. But man, oh man, has this film reignited our love!! Come away with me, Alexa! There is a world out there, and a throne! A woman's throne here in my heart!! (a special no-prize to the reader who can name the movie I was just paraphrasing)

This thing just plain kicked ass. There is not a single song in the score that I don't want on my IPod (or would if I had an IPod. "Please sir, can I have some more?") It had an eye-popping sense of style, and yes, I'll admit it, even the gore was cool. Not to mention that it was a brilliant satire of our beauty-obsessed plastic surgery culture, which is what made Paris Hilton's casting so brilliant (and no, I can't believe I'm saying that either). And what really seals the deal is the fact that this is a true anarchist's movie. Many of the professional critics hated this movie, while audiences loved it. Power to the people! They can take our lives, but they'll never take our MOVIES!!


Haha, yeah, that one you probably saw coming. I'm one of probably 4.5 movie goers on the planet who liked this movie. Which is why I'm now the target of a bloodthirsty witch hunt (like I need another one of those. But they'll never find me! Bwa ha ha ha!!) I'm pretty darn sure people went into this film cynical. They wanted to hate it, that's the only explanation. Was it a good movie? Hell, no. Not even close. Did it respect the original? Kinda, but not really. Was it fun? Frack, yeah!! A wise-cracking hero in sneakers, trench coat, fedora, domino mask, and most Armies of hot chicks, ridiculously over sized guns, Neo Noir setting with the coolest elements of every decade rolled into one...and Sam Jackson!? How can you not have fun with this?!

THE BEST MOVIE EVERYONE HATED: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Now I know the category looks awfully similar to the previous one, so just to clarify: The Spirit was a guilty pleasure; Indy 4 was unfairly panned. Sure it wasn't the greatest Indy film ever made, but neither was Temple of Doom. At least Crystal Skull had an original plot, Temple of Doom just ripped off Gunga Din. I mean, so what it had a few character inconsistencies and missed opportunities? Considering what we've come to expect from George Lucas lately, this is pretty awesome (though I suspect Steven Spielberg is responsible for the lack of suckage). Was the infamous "Nukin' the Fridge" scene any more ridiculous than the life raft parachuting scene from Temple of Doom? Was the "Swingin' with the Chimps" scene (I'm official campaigning for that one to replace "Jumpin' the Shark" instead, it was way worse) any worse than the miners cart roller coaster in, again, Temple of Doom? In fact, the "Nukin' the Fridge" scene was one of my favorites. Believe it or not, that was the moment it really started feeling like Indiana Jones. Any other action hero would have grabbed some nearby vehicle and outran the explosion, racing toward the screen with the mushroom cloud in the background. But not Indy, Indy improvises. Personally, I thought that Indy 4 was just as worthy as the other two sequels, although obviously nothing will ever match the original.


You wanna know how few people saw this? I didn't even see it. That's right, this pick is pure speculation. Believe me, I tried to see it. It was nowhere to be found. But it looked unbelievable. Had I been able to see this chances are it would have ended up on my top 10 list. The plot was fascinating, like Valkyrie if it was a serious drama and not an action flick. It stars Viggo Mortensen and Jason Isaacs, two of my favorite actors, which is more than enough reason to see the film right there. Revolving around a principled german professor struggling with questions of morality due to the rise of the Third Reich, the film asks the question in it's tagline "Anything that makes people happy can't be bad, can it?" That is awesome. I hate to get political here, but that is an issue that is talked about far too little today with any seriousness. People see fascism as the stereotypical black clad stormtroopers policing the streets and herding helpless civilians like they were cattle, like we've seen in the movies. Fascism is an attractive thing. It promises us peace, and for some it delivers. That's why it's so dangerous. If it looked like Darth Vader, who would go for it? I personally believe that we live in a country inching closer and closer toward fascism, and that if this film is what I think it is, it's one we all need to see. (EDIT: I have finally seen this film and reviewed it. Check it out here.)

OTHER RUNNERS-UP (in no particular order):

The Good, the Bad, the Weird

Tired of the same ole' westerns? How about if they were set in Asia (Manchuria to be exact)? This film is yet to be released in the U.S. (Stop hogging all the good movies, Korea!) but it better be. Not only is is set in Asia, but it takes place in the 1930's so you can mix cars and machine guns in with horses and revolvers. Combined, it makes a very unique look and one damn cool action film!!

Kung Fu Panda

Man, who ever thought DreamWorks had it in 'em? I was never a fan of the Shrek series but even it's fans thought Shrek the Third was awful. And Madagascar...well who gives a damn about Madagascar? But this movie was awesome (like you didn't already know that). Just as The Incredibles made the perfect animated superhero adventure, Kung Fu Panda has made the perfect animated Hong Kong kung fu epic. The fights are beautifully choreographed, and every fighting animal is incredibly kick-ass without every being anthropomorphized, or moving unnaturally for their species.

Sure it wasn't near as good as the first one. It took a number of liberties from to book, some I liked, some I didn't (though admittedly I haven't read the book in years). But still, these films mean a lot to me, because the books mean a lot to me. My mom read the whole series to me when I was little (OK, flashback over). To me, The Chronicles of Narnia series are some the the greatest works of fiction ever written, right along with Lord of the Rings, even if the movies don't quite match up.

Why is Jason Statham going back to Crank? WHY?! He proved with this film that he can make solid action films, why go back? I mean I love stupid action movies as much as anyone (long live Tango & Cash!), but why go back to beef jerky after you've had steak? The Bank Job has all the feel of a classic 70's crime film, capturing the feel of the era flawlessly. I half expected Dirt Harry Callahan to show up (which would be the only thing that could've made it better).

Ben Stiller was never funny. Ben Stiller is still not funny. EXCEPT when he's directing apparently. I rarely, if ever, like R-rated comedies. What I do like is films about the movie industry itself. Especially when the are making fun of it. Hollywood has had self-satires in the past, but they always come off as insincere. But whatever the motivation behind this film, it works. Plus, if you're going to make a bold move by having a white character undergo race change, who better to pull it off than Robert Downey Jr.?

I never did understand how this film went so unnoticed. This is every kung fu geeks dream come true, their version of Freddie vs. Jason. Except, y'know, good. Sure, the undisputed kung fu king of the year was Kung Fu Panda, but The Forbidden Kingdom was still pretty cool. I mean, it's Jackie Chan fighting Jet Li! This would've have been the equivalent for me (a die hard western fan), of a film with a duel between John Wayne and Clint Eastwood.

A part of me really wanted to put this on my top ten, but there were already too many sappy films on it as is. A lot of incredibly heartwarming films came out this year, Slumdog Millionaire not the least of them. This is just one of them, but it's a good one. Despite what you may think, this is not a Christian film. It is more about the concept of faith. It portrays the people who see things like the virgin Mary in half-eaten sandwichs not as religious fanatics, but as good people who need something to believe in.

Why did people hate this one so much? I know I covered all this in my review of this film, but I found Quantum of Solace to be just as good as Casino Royale. Sure it had more action than the first, but that doesn't mean it was more action-oriented. It was every bit as character driven and well-written, even if they did crank the stunts a few more notches toward ludicrous.


It took me a while to decided whether to put this on my runners up, or my most-anticipated list. The most confusing thing about the end of the movie year is that is can be really unclear which year the film officially belongs in: the year is debuted or the year it went wide. But it's too awesome a movie not to mention, so ultimately I'm calling it a 2008 movie (don't worry America, you'll see it in theatres this month). Not many people think of Liam Neeson as a supreme badass, but he is. This film is basically a Bourne movie without a convoluted plot. And a much more menacing main character at that. Seriously, don't mess with this guy.

What about you? What where your favorite movies of 2008?

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