Posted by: David Stewart | January 1, 2009

Movie Picks of 2008

Ten is such an arbitrary number. But here are the ones I liked the most. Definite additions to your DVD library. They will be in ours at some point, I’m sure.

  • Slumdog Millionaire – Orphan street rat from the slums of India makes good. Really a story of love lost, and what ends people will go to find lost loves. I liked the way flashbacks were used to tell the story.
  • Bottle Shock – California shocks the world’s wine snobs in 1976 and wins double-blind taste tests. The best father-son story of the year, and tweaks my inner wine geek. A great paring some day with the DVD for “Sideways.”
  • Dark Knight – Highly anticipated for Heath Ledger’s last performance, I like the post-modern deconstruction of the myth. Very dark, noir treatment. A bit long, it could have used some editing to tighten it up, but otherwise a sweet flick.
  • Iron Man – The other super-hero-without-super-powers story. Jeff Bridges was the fantastic performance here, though the “bad boy learns to grow up” story was good too. Unfortunate though that we have come to view Islamists as the global, faceless villain.
  • Rambo – OK, what? Yes, I liked this one because it takes on a true global villain. You could learn from Stallone, friends. Unfortunate that the body count needs to be so high to teach us all a good lesson. Why not a popcorn movie with a good heart?
  • Spirit of the Marathon – This is the most inspiring movie I have ever seen about the king of running events. Watch this movie and you will be compelled to move your bod, if only in your heart. Wins best documentary for 2008 for me.
  • Run Fatboy Run – and just to show I’m not a total elitist movie snob, a Simon Pegg movie. Laughs at the inane ends to which runners will go while telling a good story of how running can change people for the better.
  • WALL-E – I was prepared to view this as totally overblown, but the first half of the movie stands up to repeated viewing as the plucky little robot tries to clean up our mess and gets entranced by our culture. Like the first half of 2007’s I Am Legend without the sadness.
  • Hellboy II: The Golden Army – I didn’t see Hellboy the First. Misfit devil adopted as a child by humans isn’t just a candy-snarfing TV-loving cat owner. No, he sings Barry Manilow love songs and struggles with his identity. The visuals of the bestiary that Hellboy lives in are fantastic.
  • Kung Fu Panda – does the son of a noodle man have what it takes to be a martial arts master and save China? The Ugly Duckling story told in a very entertaining way.

Watchable, good movies, not on the top list:

  • Get Smart – I was prepared to dislike this movie, as most remakes of my childhood television favorites get messed up. And Steve Carell is about the most annoying actor I know. But this was a fun and watchable popcorn outing. I liked it.
  • Prince Caspian – I really wanted this to be on my top 10 list, because I loved the book series. The development of Edmund’s character is good, as well as the sense of loss in growing up. There is a challenge though in creating yet another epic battle scene, et al, to top the first.
  • In Bruges – a pair of hit men on holiday tour around the ancient Brussels city, encountering odd characters (like a movie actor dwarf), but eventually their day jobs intrude. I wish the f-bomb were not hurled so frequently or this would have been on my top list.
  • The X Files: I Want to Believe – and I wanted to really like this movie. I loved the series when it was on TV. There is good development of the characters, but this version is too talky and doesn’t move very smoothly.
  • The Other Boleyn Girl – Henry the 8th, King of England in his younger, fitter days. The women he woos and the price they pay for loving the monarch.
  • Juno – Low-key, under-achieving teen discovers she is pregnant, decides to keep the baby and adopt it out. Too cringe-inducing for me to like it, still interesting for a strong supporting cast.

Bad movie list. Very disappointing / bad movies of 2008:

  • Quantum of Solace – I really wanted to like this James Bond installment, but too many of the things which make 007 fun were boiled out of this deconstructed revenge fantasy.
  • Australia – Baz Luhrmann directs his most conventional movie to date in the Northern Territory during the beginning of World War II. Too long, too many themes and stories crammed in.
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still – Aliens decide that Earth would be better without humans. I wanted to like this one, but unless you are a fan of the original Sci Fi flick or of special effects or of Jennifer Connelly or Keneau Reeves, then skip it.
  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – Anticipation ran high for this long-awaited sequel of this series. All of the required elements were there. Maybe it was the mystery aliens story line. Or maybe it was that the misogynist dinosaur with emotional constipation doesn’t cut it as a convincing leading man any more.
  • Mamma Mia! – Woman has three sex partners in rapid succession in her youth, so she is not sure who is the baby papa for her 20-year-old daughter. Not enough real fun, Abba songs are grating, and Pierce Brosnan’s singing should have been dubbed. And, oh by the way, I hated the story line.
  • Speed Racer – Young race car driver competes with over-the-top special effects to avenge his dead brother. It’s hard to totally dis this movie, since I couldn’t stay awake through it, but what I did see was pretty horrible.
  • The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor – and I wanted to like it too. The first two Mummy movies were fun, a kind of alternate Indiana Jones adventure, and this one had some good stories about China. But the whole thing seemed tired and reheated rather than exciting.

That’s it. I’m sure I must have seen other, forgettable rom-com’s and the like this year. Which were your favorites?

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