Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Year in Movies - 2008

Why wait until the end of the month to start this off? No reason whatsoever.

That's right, another year down the tubes and one step closer to senility. Putting these together are more difficult than I thought due to my impaired memory. I forget what I've seen this year. Alcohol abuse is a terrible, yet wonderful, thing.

Anyway, here are the best and worst movies I've seen this year.

In no order, just like the rest of my life.


Eastern Promises: Depressing and hopeful; menacing and charismatic; violent and tender, this is a movie that has stayed with me since January. Viggo Mortenson is captivating and director David Cronenberg isn't afraid to show the masochistic side of all of the characters, just as he isn't afraid to show their compassionate side. Complex, involving and memorable.

The Queen: A behind the scenes examination of how the Queen and the Royal Family mishandled the death of Princess Diana. Helen Mirren is perfect as Queen Elizabeth, trapped between tradition and reacting to the will of 'her people'.

Gone Baby Gone: Thought provoking, gritty, and the most accurate depiction of Boston ever filmed. Considering he's been involved in two of the best Boston based movies of all time (this and 'Good Will Hunting'), Ben Affleck appears to be serving cinema better behind the scenes rather than acting.

Tropic Thunder: Just caught this one over Thanksgiving weekend and have never been so subversively delighted in all my life. While it may not be for everyone, I found this to be the funniest goddamn movie of the year. Could be the best work for Ben Stiller (the dumb action star), Robert Downey Jr (as an Australian perennial Oscar winner playing 'the dude that plays the dude that's playing the other dude'), Jack Black (I was laughing so hard when he was tied to the tree I was crying), and nearly every member of the cast. It says a lot about Stiller as director that he allowed more laughs from other actors than he allowed himself. Although his 'Stupid Jack' is going to be remembered forever, as well as the funniest conversation in movie history (I won't even argue) where Downey Jr expains why it's a bad idea to go 'full retard' as an actor. I don't want to give away too many surprises, but if Tom Cruise doesn't get nominated for Best Supporting Actor it will be a travesty.

Once: Simple, low budget, and utterly charming. I've seen this twice more and finally bought the DVD last weekend. A movie that improves with repeated viewings. Helps that the music is brilliant.

SuperBad: Raunchy, crude and offensive in the most hilarious way possible. A plot that's barely there and plays out like most of my high school Saturday nights. Yes, that sometimes involved incompetent cops, lots of illegally obtained alcohol and trying too desperately to get laid. Like most teenage boys, the main characters hide enormous heart and insecurity beneath a thick layer of obnoxiousness and cursing.

The Dark Knight: I know, I know, there were a lot of plot holes in this. Where did the Joker get all his explosives? How did he get anyone to work with him? How did he survive a truck flipping over? Still, this movie sticks in my mind for how it finally got me to view Batman as a tragic figure and not some mentally disturbed rich guy in a bat suit.

Ironman/The Incredible Hulk: I've seen these both multiple times due to my boys fascination with everything superhero (no, they won't be seeing Dark Knight) and must confess they maintain their watchability and entertainment value. Both take their time setting up the characters and plot, then take off like freight trains. Hulk has more action, Ironman has more humor. Your pick.

No Country for Old Men: I debated for a long while whether to include this on the Best list, but in the end that the first 80% of this movie is some of the greatest film making of all time made my mind up. Even the end (which I hated) still contained some haunting moments. While things fall apart drastically, it still worth watching and is one of the best movies I've seen this year.


Hancock: For the first 30 minutes, this is one of the funniest, most original movies of the year. Alas, it quickly degenerates into a standard superhero movie (and a subpar one at that).

I Am Legend: Yeah, another Will Smith movie that showed so much promise only to cop out at the end and ruin an other wise very good movie. Unlike 'No Country For Old Men' this ending does ruin what came before it.

Get Smart: Some very funny bits in this movie, but it makes a tactical error by making Maxwell Smart a competent, intelligent agent. The fun of the original show was that Smart was effective despite his incompetence and idiocy. They messed up the Zeigfried character, too, making him verbally abusive instead of somewhat innocent and absent minded while trying to take over the world. All the components are there for a very good recreation, they just put them together in the wrong order.


You Don't Mess With The Zohan: Laughed exactly twice. I think the problem with this movie is the opening 20 minutes should have been the main focus with him finally becoming a hair dresser being the 10 minute happy ending.


Seriously? What the fuck?

I'm going to rant on this movie for a bit, so be prepared. This is the movie with Marky Mark and his very badly acting wife try to outrun some killer virus that's infecting people and making them kill themselves. The opening moments of this film are terrific; the crown jewel being a construction foreman watching as his men continue to hurl themselves off the building they're working on.

But then things start trying to be explained. In this case the trees, grass and plants have decided that mankind is a threat and they're all releasing neurotoxins into the air to make people kill themselves. Ummmm....okaaaaayyyy. I can buy into this, I guess. It is a stupid horror movie after all.

As survivors start figuring out (or hypothesizing, at least) about what's going on, groups start forming. Marky Mark, his wife, and their freind's little girl (yet another kid in peril for M Night only horribly acted in this case) wind up trying to outrun the wind for the last half of the movie. By the way, I mean that literally. 'Here comes some wind! Run!' Oh, I wish I were kidding.

It's really too bad because there are some haunting images around the stupid parts Marky Mark and his wife try to sort out their differences: the tracking of a gun that several people use to shoot themselves, a jeep accident in which a survivor calmly picks up a piece of shattered glass and begins slicing his own wrist, the previously mentioned construction site. But it never adds up to anything worthwhile.

And you know why? Because this is so obviously an environmental 'message' film. We're killing the earth so it's going to start killing us back. Only that makes no sense. First trees and grass and plants would never consider us a threat since we plant them and take care of them. In the very last scene we see another event unfolding in Italy (or France, I can't remember) but it's happening in a city park where trees are lined up perfectly. It's obvious they have been planted there for effect which means these stupid trees are trying to kill the same people that created them. Brilliant! Who's going to treat your bark disease now, motherfuckers?! If anything wouldn't they try to kill off all the cars and industrial plants in the world?

But wait, it gets better. During the last hour there is the implication that this toxin goes after groups of people who are arguing or angry. This includes some crazy lady who inexplicably lets the Marky Mark trio stay over night at her place and decides to kill herself by bashing her face against her own house (Marky Mark avoids being infected by...closing the door). This is near the end of the movie and Marky Mark and his wife have been separated. Since they believe they are going to die, anyway, they meet in a field so they can be together when they start slaughtering themselves (although how they would kill themselves in the middle of an open field was going to be a tough one to figure out).

But they don't kill themselves. Nothing happens. Is it because their main emotion was love? PUKE! Give me a break. This is now two movies in a row (Lady in the Water) where M Night has shit the bed. Maybe he needs to just direct and not write his own movies. Even 'Signs' had WTF moments scattered throughout.

At the very least, M Night, hire a script doctor to let you know when you're getting in over your head and making no sense. We're a long way from 'Unbreakable', I'm afraid.

Today's distraction: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 30 seconds. Oh, and it stars bunnies.


Hammen said...

I too watched Tropic Thunder over Thanksgiving weekend, but I was really disappointed by it. It was watchable, but not much better than that.

Anonymous said...

You beat me to the punch on this one, although my idea is slightly different. I am going to be handing out my year-end awards soon, and best movie is definitely a category I will be tackling. Good stuff here, I agree with the Zohan thing. I saw it in theaters on a rainy day, and I really wanted my money back after.