The Best Films of the Year:


The Dark Knight

10. The Dark Knight

— Described by many as the best comic book movie of all time (which I don’t necessarily disagree with but it’s not like there are too many quality competitors), “The Dark Knight” does see one of the year’s most fearless performances by Heath Ledger as the Joker. Director Chris Nolan created an appropriately dark world in which to frame the film’s story and while I still think the film was far more about the Joker than Batman, the competence of every department made this film excel in nearly every way.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

9. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

— Like “Big Fish” or “Forrest Gump”, this is one of those sprawling epics that span decades and encompass a story full of rich characters and outlandish events. Director David Fincher has masterfully assembled a film bursting with longing and wonder and a special note of consideration must go to the make-up department for making it possible to age the actors over the course of the film so seamlessly and beautifully.

The Visitor

8. The Visitor

Richard Jenkins showed off some very impressive acting muscles here with “The Visitor”. His carefully meted out character is one of the more interesting roles of the year and the film’s story and message make this a film that everyone should see.

Rachel Getting Married

7. Rachel Getting Married

— As a fan of indie films far more so than the big budget spectacles, “Rachel Getting Married” is exactly the type of fare I enjoy to spend an afternoon watching. Anne Hathaway delivers her finest performance, shedding her princess-like persona for this hard-hitting look at a family in turmoil.

Seven Pounds

6. Seven Pounds

— I seem to be in the minority when it comes to heaping praise on this film but that’s okay with me … in fact, it gives me some solace not to have picked the same 10 movies as every other critic. I immediately stipulate that this film is not for everyone. I like mopey, melancholy films that envelop the audience in a cold blanket of despair. While the filmmakers could have done more with the project, and did too much to lighten up elements of the story, Will Smith and Rosario Dawson give outstanding performances and I appreciate that a film this dark is being given a push by the studios (though I know it’s all because of box office golden boy Smith’s involvement).

WALL·E

5. WALL·E

— Pixar has done it again with “WALL·E” … and done it better. Not only have they included engaging characters and a heartwarming tale, the film impressively presents its story more through actions than words. Because of the main characters’ lack of vocal prowess, their body language and tones become the engine that drives the film. While the filmmakers said that the environmental and human sloth related issues were not a key factor in the making of the film, those issues elevate the project from being a great kids film to being a great film period.

My Blueberry Nights

4. My Blueberry Nights

— Easily my most controversial inclusion in this year’s Top 10, the film just struck the right chord with me. It’s a mood driven piece, more like a song or dream that sits just out of your mind’s reach and continues to linger there long after the film ends. I could see some people finding it too slow or wanting more plot development because it is much more of a character study … but it’s my list … get your own.

Let the Right One In

3. Let the Right One In

— While my cohort, Elizabeth Edgemont, gave this a 4 out of 5, I would have given it an extra point for being such a breath of fresh air both into its genre, and into this year’s films. Director Tomas Alfredson managed to get the most out of his actors, the landscape and his budget that when paired with a smart script, the overall result was perhaps my favorite vampire movie of all time and one of the top films of the year.

The Wrestler

2. The Wrestler

— A powerful film about redemption and regret, Mickey Rourke delivers a sensational, touching and genuine performance. While the wrestling action or Marisa Tomei’s stripper lifestyle may not be everyone’s cup of tea, their characters’ parallel lives create a fascinating examination of human nature and and the choices we make in life that could end up haunting us for the rest of our lives.

Slumdog Millionaire

1. Slumdog Millionaire

— What makes “Slumdog Millionaire” the best film of the year is that each element of filmmaking was top notch and all of it came together to create a fantastically rich, profound and touching story. While the majority of the film is spent watching the main characters struggle to survive on the streets, there is always a huge heart underneath all of the grit and grime. By the end of the film, you feel as if you’re coming up for air and that it’s never tasted so sweet.



The Worst Films of the Year:


You Don’t Mess with the Zohan

5. You Don’t Mess with the Zohan

Adam Sandler used to make funny movies. Lately, it’s been gay jokes and having sex with old people. While John Turturro did his best to inject humor into the film, the themes and lack of other jokes just made watching this an exercise in patience … while waiting for it to end.

Eagle Eye

4. Eagle Eye

— In this age of remakes and sequels, it’s doubly sad when a film that isn’t either of those doesn’t carry a single original thought. “Borrowing” from too many other films and TV shows to count, this film manages to elicit little more than resentment from me and also suffers from decidedly terrible editing, an over thought script and poor direction.

Transporter 3

3. Transporter 3

— It’s very sad to see a franchise devolve, especially when all audiences ask of it is to deliver quality action using its very capable lead actor (Jason Statham). It would be one thing if the supremely annoying Natalya Rudakova had been removed from the film. It’s another thing that the director didn’t know well enough to forgo quick cuts and playing around with film speed so he could just show us the action.

The Love Guru

2. The Love Guru

— Oh, how I hate thee. Let me count the ways … or maybe not, because that would take too long. The acting is insipid, the jokes shouldn’t be called jokes and aside from possible bowel issues, the biggest desire you’ll have watching the film is to stop.

The Spirit

1. The Spirit

— This makes “Sin City” look like “The Godfather” and it made me want to look the other way. It takes about five heartbeats to be turned off by the films’ inability to be anything but awful. The acting is so bad it isn’t laughable, the CGI work looks unpolished in such a way that maybe it was intentional but it just ends up dulling your eyes and nearly every plot element seems like a worse idea than the one before it. I’d rather be punched in the nether regions by a middleweight boxer than step foot into a theater playing this again.



The Most Horrible Films That Are Fun To Watch:


Death Race

5. Death Race

— I actually don’t think this is too terrible of a film, for what it’s trying to be. It made the list because so much of it comes off as overly macho which just kept me laughing in bits I probably was meant to be flexing my biceps (if I had any). As long as you like watching cars go smash and guys talk tough, tossed in with a little swearing by three time Oscar nominee Joan Allen, then feel free to sit back, turn off your brain and enjoy.

10,000 B.C.

4. 10,000 B.C.

Roland Emmerich is the master of big budget sci-fi over the last few decades. Here, instead of crafting a new, ridiculous plot revolving around an alien race conquering the Earth – he’s cobbled together bits of “Stargate” with “The Day After Tomorrow” and “Independence Day” … fabulous.

Jumper

3. Jumper

— Oh boy, “Jumper”. The premise is actually very cool and the actors playing the younger version of the leads did a nice job … once the film gets going though, it’s all downhill from there and no amount of Samuel L. Jackson one-liners can dig this one out of the hole. I feel like the only way to enjoy this is if you’re over 21 … if you catch my drift.

Doomsday

2. Doomsday

— When you mash up “The Road Warrior”, “Escape from New York” and “Tank Girl”, you’ve got my attention. Watching a hot, one-eyed chick play the role of Snake Pliskin … you’ve got my vote.

Zombie Strippers

1. Zombie Strippers

— Meant to play like a B movie, the filmmakers definitely met their goals with “Zombie Strippers”. Enlisting the awesome Robert Englund to portray the strip club owner and real life porn star Jenna Jameson as one of the strippers that join the ranks of the undead, this film delivers on all the aspects one would hope for: gore, nudity, groan inducing humor, cheesy and predictable set ups. Expect a terrible film but revel in its gloriousness … a drink or two might not hurt either.



The Most Underrated/Overlooked
Films of the Year:


American Teen

American Teen

— The best documentary of the year (assuming it wasn’t manufactured), this film delivered on its premise and delivered what it’s like to be a teen. The angst, social politics and uncontrollable emotions are all here, packaged in a very accessible manner that kept the film from succumbing to the slowness and pacing issues many documentaries can develop.

Happy-Go-Lucky

Happy-Go-Lucky

— A very well put together character study of what is at first an overly perky and optimistic young woman. As the layers to her are peeled away, the result is a surprisingly powerful and moving story about someone finally finding the track they want to take in life.

City of Men

City of Men

— While the film doesn’t cover the same amount of ground “City of God” did (and this is not a sequel), the look and feel of the film is quite similar. Here, though, we are embedded in the the friendship between two boys as they fight to survive in the crime-ridden favelas of Rio de Janeiro. Fans of gritty foreign cinema should make sure to catch this, as it is one of the very best films to be imported stateside this year.


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