20 Funny Games
This is a sick, twisted, bloody, funny, uncomfortable, bizarre, creepy film. In comedies, if a character addresses the audience ("breaks the fourth wall") it always seems corny and forced. In Funny Games, however, it actually involves you... you get to play their sinister games with them. It also sets up the strange event towards the end of the movie when the killers cheat at their own game. Though there are some boring moments, I found Funny Games to be highly entertaining.
19 The Incredible Hulk
After Ang Lee's Hulk in 2004, I had very low expectations for this reboot of the Hulk Franchise. Even Ed Norton's attachment to the project didn't really help. My low expectations were a blessing because I ended up loving this movie. The special effects were well done and the story wasn't unbearably boring like the last version. In fact, they very wisely skip over the origin story, addressing it only with images during the opening credits. While there really is nothing extraordinary about the movie, it really is just a 2 hour fun time.
18 Snow Angels
It’s difficult to suggest that anyone see Snow Angels because of how upsetting it is. Everything else about it, everything, makes it so easy to recommend. The writing, the performances, the chemistry of the actors, the relationships of the characters, the direction, the cinematography... everything.
17 Quantum of Solace
I was never a fan of the 007 films, but since Casino Royale, the films have taken on a new identity thanks to the directors (Martin Campbell and Marc Forster) and to writers and actors. The franchise has transformed from the quirky, stylized suave secret agent fighting Dr. Evilesque villains to a British Bourne without the amnesia.
This isn't a particularly well made documentary. It's poorly edited and a little bit 'all over the place'. There are some obvious liberties taken to shock the audience, but those of you who agree with Maher should see it for the entertainment value. Those that don't see eye to eye with him? You should watch it, too.
15 Kung Fu Panda
This beautifully rendered animated tale has a tired message and a formulaic plot, but it's a colorful, sharp, funny movie without the pop culture references that tainted Dreamworks Animation's previous efforts (Shrek, Shark Tale).
Frost/Nixon is an extremely well made movie. The performances by Michael Sheen and especially Frank Langella were extraordinary and are absolutely deserving of recognition; if not with an Oscar then at least with a nomination. The end of Frost/Nixon was phenomenal. The rest of it, while interesting and well produced, was a little boring.
13 Burn After Reading
The humor is so dry that it's almost non-existent. Eventually you'll get the gag, but if at the end of the movie you don't laugh uncontrollably, watching it was probably a waste of time. Throughout the entire movie you'll wonder what the hell is going on... and at the end, you'll realize that you were right all along. I didn't think Burn After Reading would hold up to multiple viewings, but I’ve watched it several times since it came out on Blu-ray and it just gets funnier and funnier every time.
12 Role Models
The writers did an excellent job mixing obvious "dick and fart" jokes with a much more subtle, dry sense of humor. A lot of the gags get an immediate reaction and some of them make you think for a few seconds before you realize how funny the joke actually was.
Wanted is a ridiculous, well written, acted and stylishly directed actioner. It's a fast-paced, high octane edge of your seat thrill ride that is more than just mindless fun.
10 The Visitor
The Visitor is both sad and uplifting. It is a story about how a complete stranger can change your life forever, for better or for worse. The movie itself is a slowly paced character study depicting a man who's heart and mind are opened by music and friendship.
9 Boy A
All aspects of the film's production are exceptional from the story and the direction to the acting and the cinematography. The more you get to know these characters the more you dread finding out how and why it all started as well as how and why it all ends. Boy A is an absolutely stunning piece of work. It's a shame that it never received a proper release, but everyone should make a point of seeing it now that it's available on DVD.
8 Gran Torino
In what may be his final appearance in front of the camera, Clint Eastwood does an amazing job playing a war veteran who, after his wife dies, gives up all hope for humanity and longs for the peace and quiet of a solitary life. This is made difficult by an overwhelming growth of Asians in his once familiar community. When a local gang threatens his new neighbors, Walt (Eastwood) takes the teenage boy under his wing. Both Walt and the boy learn and grow from each other and Eastwood's transformation from grumpy old man to mentor takes him to the end of his career while he is still in his prime.
7 Tropic Thunder
This is the funniest movie of the year. It pokes fun at the movie industry along with it's primadonna, substance abusing, insecure team of actors, directors, and producers. It also spoofs war films as a genre. The humor may be too much for some; Ben Stiller's characters attempt to prove that a dead body is actually a prop is a little unsettling. Robert Downey Jr. shines in this movie and deserves all of the accolades he has received from SAG and the Hollywood Foreign Press. Now all he needs is an Oscar nod for the role... so that he can lose that one to Heath Ledger as well.
6 Iron Man
I had mediocre expectations for Iron Man. I knew, literally, nothing about the comic book. I have no idea how accurate the movie is in its portrayal of the origins of Iron Man. I viewed it strictly as a movie and I really enjoyed it. This was a great year for RDj. I thought he was great in Iron Man until I saw Tropic Thunder. His talent as an actor is limitless. If he hadn't been a drug addict for the first half of his career, he would probably be a multiple Oscar winner by now.
Milk is an extraordinary film, politically and personally, with powerful performances from THE ENTIRE CAST. Sean Penn, as much as I hate him, is perfect... as always... but James Franco, Josh Brolin, and Emile Hirsch are all deserving of recognition for their work as well. I was surprised how at how much I liked Milk. I've gotten bored with biopics as of late. What sets this one apart is that it doesn't really feel like a biopic. It's funny and entertaining, but it's also intense and heartbreaking.
If Wall-E isn't perfect, it's only because it's a little too long. Other than that, this is the best Pixar movie since The Incredibles. The whole movie looks and sounds beautiful and as far as that is concerned, this is the best Pixar movie... ever. It's more artsy than previous Pixar films in that there is little dialogue and what there is of it doesn't start until halfway through the movie. It's portrayal of the human race in the future is unfortunate, as it maybe spot on if we don't get our acts together. Drinking "lunch in a cup" and floating around on auto piloting "hover recliners" with a computer screen in front of our faces isn't something that seems too far off.
3 Slumdog Millionaire
Slumdog Millionaire is one of the best told stories I've seen in a long time. Stylish and masterful direction, astonishing performances, stunning cinematography, and a bitter sweet tale of love, sacrifice, and destiny make Slumdog Millionaire one of the best films of 2008.
2 The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Words can't express how beautiful this film is. I was absolutely mesmerized from the moment the Paramount logo hit the screen. This movie made me think of films like The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. All simple stories with complex subtexts, written, directed, acted and filmed at a skill level that most filmmakers could only dream of.
1 The Dark Knight
The Dark Knight is almost, if not perfect on every level of it's multitude of levels. Where Batman Begins was about the psychology of becoming Batman, The Dark Knight is about, amongst other things, the duality of being both Batman and Bruce Wayne. Harvey Dent is a DA by the books, Jim Gordon uses the law as a set of guidelines to bring down criminals and corrupt cops, and Batman has only one rule. When the Joker sees that his rule over Gotham's underworld can only be thwarted by these three men, he attempts to bring them down using each man's limitations. Everything about the production of this film is top notch. Christopher Nolan's take on the Batman franchise elevates it from a superhero story to a gritty crime saga and therefore is, without a doubt, the best Superhero franchise ever. Last year I chose Sweeney Todd for my favorite film of the year, knowing full well that it wouldn't even be nominated for best picture. This year, I truly believe that The Dark Knight is the best picture of the year and I hope the Academy recognizes that as well.
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