I guess it's about time I joined everyone and their grandmothers and submitted my own top ten list for 2008. Let's just skip the lengthy introduction and get down to the nitty gritty. First of all, you won't find many oscar contenders listed here. The reason being that I didn't see any. Several films are obviously not included on this list for that reason; Doubt, Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, uh....etc. I actually wanted to see Doubt because of my Amy Adams fetish, but then there is the part of me that's not into pediphilia so I decided to wait for the DVD. The best movie I saw this year will also not be featured on this list. It's a spanish masterpiece called Black Candles. Unfortunately for you it was made in 1982. So, you will just have to wait for my review of a picture that has a scene where a lovely young woman has sex with an evil goat. Anyway, here's the list. I'll have some sort of worst of thing done by the end of the weekend.
It's criminal that this picture did not receive an official theatrical release in this country. It's a terrific oversized crocodile movie featuring moving picture trash favorite Radha Mitchell (Pitch Black) and also some guy that was in "Alias". Basically, a bunch of tourists go on a river tour and get stranded on an little river island that, unfortunately for these poor bastards, happens to be on a tidal river (which means the island is sinking or the river is rising, i guess it's a matter of perspective). Oh, and there is a wonderfully rendered crocodile waiting to pick them off one by one or three at a time or whatever. And a little pooch that may or may not be used for bait at one point. The photography in this thing is amazing, the action is tense, and the performances are fun. It's no wonder since this was directed by Greg McClean who also helmed the underrated Wolf Creek. It's now available on DVD so what are you waiting for?
9. The Ruins
Scott Smith's terrifying bestseller with the incredibly silly premise is turned into a terrifying film (and the premise is still silly). The isolation as well as the performances from the young (mostly unknown) actors enhance this thing beyond the usual standard fare. The scariest moment involves the reveal of the source of the hidden cell phone. There's plenty of gore in this thing as well. The tension created via an impenetrable language barrier is what kept me on edge. I don't know, I had a good time with this one. Just wish those clingy vines had done a better job shredding Amy and Stacy's tee-shirts. Oh well, still good.
Brad Anderson (The Machinist, Session 9) definitely has a masterpiece in him and I'm not sure but this might be it. Woody Harrelson (at his most likeable) and Emily Mortimer star as Roy and Jessie, a couple of Americans who decide to take the Transsiberian railroad on their way from China to Moscow. On board, they meet Abby and Carlos who may or may not be drug smugglers and then after a brief stop one of the four goes missing and then, even later, another one disappears as the first one to go missing is found again. Ben Kingsley shows up and may or may not be a russian narcotics officer partnered with the stoically vile Thomas Kretchsmann. The movie belongs to Mortimer as a young do gooder who just gets in deeper and deeper while the viewer cringes and starts yelling obscenities at the screen. I hate describing things with the word I am about to use but it's the best thing I can think of. It's positively hitchcockian.
7. The Dark Knight
I want to call this one a flawed masterpiece but I just realized how absurd that term is. Can a masterpiece really be flawed? I love so much about this film (and I won't even get into Heath Ledger's over described performance) that I can, for the most part, overlook its flaws. Surely, the film deserves an oscar nomination. Everything about it feels so god damned epic. The fight scenes are a mixed bag for sure (Nolan hasn't improved much in that department) but the flaws aren't that noticeable. I just wasn't crazy about certain elements of the picture (the joker's party crashing, gordon "deceiving" the joker, the run time, etc). Still, the picture floored me. All of the performances are terrific, especially the not mentioned enough Aaron Eckhert. It may not be the masterpiece everyone claims it to be but it's still pretty great. Nothing wrong with that.
I had a blast seeing this one in the theatre. You know what, it's pretty great on the small screen too. Let's see, I love Godzilla. I was a fan of The Blair Witch. Why not merge the two and even have the arachnids from the greatest picture of all time (Starship Troopers) cameo as some sort of weird spider lice or whatever. This picture worked for me. Shaky cam rarely makes me nauseous so that element didn't bother me. I cared about the characters even though they weren't really developed (and for christ sakes, how do you develop characters in a found footage movie anyway??). The monster effects were spectacular. The ending was jarring. I loved it.
5. The Foot Fist Way
Comedies usually aren't my bag. I like to laugh, I just don't like to laugh when I'm supposed to laugh if that makes sense. This year produced a few good comedies (Hamlet 2, Tropic Thunder, and The Pineapple Express) and this was the best one. It's all of the uncomfortable oh my god he just knocked out that old lady variety and I guess that's the reason it made my list. I guess I find pain funny. If you're a fan of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's work ("The Office" or "Extras") then you will dig this one. Danny McBride (who incidentally stole his scenes in Tropic Thunder and Pineapple Express) stars as the Tae Kwon Doe instructor from hell named Fred Simmons. He delivers so many off the cusp remarks that ones jaw pretty much doesn't leave the floor (example "I'm so hungry I could eat a grown man's ass"). What if Mr. Miyagi told Daniel "if you were in prison, you'd be raped because of your feminine qualities." Would that be funny to you? Not everyone's cup of tea but it's definitely mine.
4. Punisher: War Zone
What the fuck is this piece of shit doing here? Oh wait, it's was all kinds of mother fucking amazing. Yeah, this was a better comic book picture than The Dark Knight and fuck off if you disagree. While Nolan is taking comic movies into new levels of seriousness (read pretentiousness) and some shit leave it to some hot kickboxing broad from the UK (Lexi Alexander) to bring them back into the blood and shit soaked gutter where they belong. Hyper violent and hyper fun. Ray Stevenson is Frank Castle. Dominic West gives a rioutous performance as jigsaw, the joker-like villain without the sense of humor. Doug Hutchinson (Tooms from "X-files") steals the show as Loony Bin Jim, jigsaw's violently insane brother, who, in a not so subtle nod to his X-files character, rips out a man's liver with his bare hands and eats it. You shit birds will eat this up as well.
I had a hard time deciding between this or Punisher as my favorite film going experience this year. I went with Doomsday because we're coming up on a year since I've seen it and I still love the fucker. Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, The Descent) crafts a brilliant mishmash of all my favorite pictures...Aliens, Escape From New York, Excalibur, Lord of the Rings, The Road Warrior, etc...into the most original rip off I've seen yet. Critics cried for Marshall to up the ante after The Descent. I guess they want him to shoot for an oscar or something. I'm happy if he keeps making "crap" like this. What the fuck do we go to the movies for anyway?? I don't know about you but I go to see Rhona Mitra's leather clad ass on the big screen. Word of advice Marshall. Next time, lose the leather.
2. Hellboy 2: The Golden Army
Guillermo Del Toro can do no wrong as far as I'm concerned. Hellboy 2 is superior, by far, to Hellboy 1. Del Toro's visual style is currently unrivaled. Ron Perlman is perfect as the titular character. Doug Jones, Selma Blair, Jeffrey Tambor and even that fucking "Family Guy" guy give wonderful performances. The troll market, that weird giant elemental creature that blossoms into a stunningly beautiful garden after hellboy kills it, the golden army themselves (an army of orb like indestructable robots that Prince Nuada (long story) seeks to gain control of so he can take back the earth from humankind). Is Nuada evil? Not really, just a bit misguided. This movie isn't about good and evil. It's much more interested in things like love. Also, spectacular visuals and some amazing fights don't hurt. This is the best comic book picture of 2008. It would have been the best picture period if not for...
1. Let the Right One In
Stop comparing this movie to Twilight. That's a huge fucking disservice to Let the Right One In. LTROI is a painfully honest picture about adolescence and, in particular, the blossoming relationship between a young boy and a young girl (who happens to be a vampire). The picture is beautifully spare in its portrayal of a destitute Stockholm suburb. The performances from the two leads are wonderful and no ending has simultaneously moved and horrified me like this one. When Eli pulls Oskar out of that pool and smiles at him I think I may have shed a tear ( can't really remember, it was a while ago). It's a shame that this picture has already been eliminated from the Foreign Language category since only one submission is allowed per country and Sweden already submitted something that no one will see. Fuck it, if there's any justice in the world this would take home "Best Picture". Yeah, it's that good.
Here are a few honorable mentions that I can recommend:
Teeth, Rambo, Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day (yep, Amy Adams), Iron Man, Redbelt, The Strangers, Stuck, The Midnight Meat Train, The Pineapple Express, Tropic Thunder, Death Race, Hamlet 2, Burn After Reading, Valkyrie.
Back later with a few pieces of shit.