2008 was nowhere near as stellar a year for movies as 2007, but any year without There Will Be Blood, No Country, Michael Clayton, The Mist and a new Ghost in the Shell movie will suffer.
BUT. 2008 was one helluva year for genre film. Probably the best since 1999 or 1982. Those years gave us The Matrix, Iron Giant, Blade Runner, Wrath of Khan… y’know. Classics. 2008 has some serious future classics as well.
First let’s go backwards. The worst of the lot:
Rambo – In my review I wondered if I would ever warm up to this big stupid, bloody gore-stravaganza. I’ve liked dumber movies. And well, I kinda did warm up to it. Not a whole lot, mind you! It’s no great piece of art by any means but it’s worth seeing for… for… for the carnage. Yes. That’s it. It’s almost… cathartic? Is that cliche? Well, then, it fits. For a movie so full of cliche – bad guys kill good people, good guys kill bad guys – it executes every single one of them visceral aplomb. Recently, in the comments section I defend Stallone as someone who knows exactly how to pander to a sick, depraved audience. Genius or not, he knows what he’s doing. Just look at who he’s casting in his next movie, The Expendables. Mickey Rourke, Dolph Lundgren, Forest Whitaker, Jason Statham, Jet Li, ARNOLD … Bastard’s got my money again.
Quantum of Solace – I warmed up to Rambo’s idiocy, but I grew even colder towards James Bond’s latest escapade. I actively hate Quantum of Solace more and more with each passing day, my thoughts coalescing into a ball of climactic hotel-destroying fury. A misfire in every possible way. Dull villain, wafer-thin plot, pointless Bond girls – a boring Bond. Way to squander that reboot, fellas. Can’t believe ya did, but ya did. At least there’s still Bourne.
Pineapple Express – Hey, we got a weekend, some weed and woods in the backyard. Let’s make a movie!
Harold and Kumar 2 – Poop poop poop poop poop poop outdated George Bush jokes poop poop poop poop poop celebrity cameo poop poop poop poop poop. $10.75 please.
Transporter 3 – Armond White, controversial New York Press critic, called this a better movie than The Dark Knight. While I appreciate his willingness to raise action movies to “kinetic art” that sentiment’s sailed about a million years ago. Ever hear of The Matrix, Armond? Hard-boiled? Damn, the first or second Transpoter? Transporter 3 is cold leftovers. An action movie made up of ideas cut out of other lesser action movies. The action itself is bland, the camerawork is all over the place and the main characters are so annoying you’re rooting for their demise. Oh, a good story always helps. I’ll sum it up: The bad guy wants Jason Statham to deliver a girl somewhere. Where? Back to the bad guy. Thanks, I just lost $11 and an hour and a half.
Eagle Eye – Holy fuck. Where to begin? Shia LeBeouf, I guess. The bane of my existence. There are thousands of young, struggling actors out there and this is who we get to see jump from explosions every summer from now on. Grrrrrreeeeaaat. But y’know, even without Shia this movie’s a terrible wreck. With nary a clever trick or twist to be found, the story’s dumb as hell. It’s another conspiracy/surveillance yarn about how dangerous technology is with Hal’s stupid orange cousin for a villain. It’s Enemy of the State by way of Disturbia, and it’s more retarded than either. Like, things – important things to the plot – are flat-out impossible, and anybody with a 4th grade education can tell you that. I mean, for god’s sake, that whole thing with the children’s band and the State of the Union address? I had to uninstall all the gas from my house just to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating that. And it took FOUR writers to put this bullshit to screen. Unfuckingbelievable. And now I’m freezing. Brrrr.
Hancock – Holy DOUBLE fuck. Where to BEGIN? Will Smith, Peter Berg … you crafted one of the shittiest things I’ve ever laid eyes on. Congratulations. Hancock doesn’t quite reach Ultraviolet levels of Pure Unfathomable Bullfuck but nevertheless, it is a contemptible, mean-spirited, monumentally fucking stupid waste of film. Based on an idea that’s been floating around – apparently since Superman 3 came out – about a drunken superhero nobody likes, Hancock manages to wring out absolutely nothing funny about the premise. Will Smith flies around with the camera going crazy around him, picking up SUVs with racist stereotypes in them with “MOVE BITCH” blaring in the soundtrack. That’s the first five minutes of the movie. Right away I knew I was done with it, but no. It kept going. Then he meets Jason Bateman, he goes to jail, meets Charlize Theron and — and who CARES? I can’t believe this movie went beyond the pitch stage.
Indiana Jones 4 – Holy TRIPLE fuck. Where the FUCK. To BEGIN? … Y’know what, forget it. I said all I had to say about and everyone (except Armond White) knows it sucks. Let’s leave it to rot.
8. Funny Games – An English-language copy of the original but still timely and excellent.
7. Wanted – An odd selection after Funny Games. It’s stupid, ridiculous, incredibly over-the-top cartoon action, and loads of wanton violence. And it’s tons of fun. It shares a lot of similarities with The Matrix. A wimpy protagonist goes through an eye-opening training regimen with a bodacious babe and an old, wise black guy. He learns to be an assassin just like his dearly departed dad, while getting tangled up in some hokey embroidery cult thing with rats that love peanut butter and cars that can leap off of lopsided buses… it’s nuts, and goofy and great. Like a live-action FLCL.
6. Cloverfield – Though I whale on it a bit in my original review, Cloverfield really holds up on repeated viewings. On DVD. In the home. So I sweeted up on it a lot. The theater experience – the sound, the crowd, the dark – is the optimum way to see it of course, but the horror genre did well by Cloverfield this past year. It’s smart, fun, sad, stylish, cool. Here come the copycats.
5. The Wrestler – Mickey Rourke carries this movie on his ugly, scarred shoulders. He’s a sad, lonely guy stuck in 80s nostalgia – a guy I can really get behind. He may be the perfect representation of an average joe I’ve seen on screen in a while. When was the last time you saw a movie that argued the worth of the guy behind the cold cuts counter at the supermarket? And the fight scenes … man. It’s bloody, violent stuff and it looks reeeeaaaal. It’s tough to watch. Marisa Tomei is adorable as expected, the writing’s solid and only pockmark on the movie (besides the ones covering Rourke’s frame) that I can think of is Evan Rachel Wood as his daughter. They’re important scenes for sure, but I dunno… something about Wood crying over and over. Made me long for a fast-forward button or at least mute. Can’t wait for Aranofsky’s Robocop reboot.
4. Iron Man – The sunniest superhero of the year, and second best sci-fi movie of the year. Mecha suit, gooooo~
3. Wall-E – Adorable, sweet, modern, sleek… Best sci-fi movie of the year. Best romance movie of the year. When Wall-E takes EVE back to his little hovel to impress her with his collection? The Hello Dolly bits? How he protects her from the elements?! Too good! All the little touches… the little history art in the credits was inspired.
2. Speed Racer – Best movie of the year that wasn’t Dark Knight. Mora nails everything I love about the movie in his review. Michael Giacchino’s music, the earnest (perfect!) acting, the reverence (and one-upping!) of the original material … I didn’t think much of it when I first saw it. Then I thought about it. “Whoa, did I love that movie?” Then saw it again in IMAX. Now it won’t leave the DVD player. This movie… is destined for cult status. In some circles it has already achieved it somewhat. Spread the word. You’ve got to be a ghoul to dislike it.
1. The Dark Knight – Ended up seeing it four times in theaters. I don’t think I will (or need to) see it again for a while. It’s everything you’ve read about. It’s popular because, would you believe it, it is that good. hard to believe a movie about Batman already made its mark in cultural history. Ten years ago he was flashing his Bat credit card in a neon-painted Turkish bath. I’d be satisfied if we never get another Batman movie again. Dark Knight is that good.
Best Video Games:
10. Chrono Trigger DS – Best game ever portable? Yes, please.
9. Metal Gear Solid 4 – Cripes, what’s left to say. The game’s a nutjob. A fun, frustrating, conniving freak. Is it a game? Is it a movie? Is it just nanomachines? Yeah, yeah, and … yeah. Snake’s final adventure is worth it, but only if you’ve Multiplayer is fun if you like getting capped a second into joining a game.
8. Grand Theft Auto 4 – At times one of the more frustrating games of the year (. Fun multiplayer – turns Liberty City is more fun with friends. Turns into playground.
7. Mirror’s Edge – Based on Mora’s review I didn’t expect to like this very much… then I ended up blasting through it in two sittings. I found it quite nice! A breath of fresh air. Portal-esque in its design philosophy (navigate the environment… many, many times because of death) though not nearly as smart in the narrative department. That department is pretty bare actually. Everything else is aces. Refreshing style, cool setpieces, lovely soundtrack. Too bad it’s about $20 too expensive.
6. Super Smash Bros. Brawl – As much a Nintendo museum as it is a fun-as-hell party game. Favorite characters, tons of content, endless replay value provided as you got pals not soured on the admittedly random nature of the experience. Nintendo fucked up the online features but that’s what Nintendo does.
5. Persona 3: FES – BABY BABY BABY BABY. Now THIS is a breath of fresh air! It spins everything about Japanese RPGs on its head. Instead of traveling through the globe, you stay in the same location the whole game and go through all the social trials of a Japanese school year. You make friends, navigate the social strata as well as the mysterious monster-infested labyrinth your school turns into at night. The colors pop, combat is fast and fun, the characters charm, and the game’s eating hours and hours of my time. I love it.
4. The World Ends With You – All signs pointed to my despising this game. A Square game spearheaded by Tetsuya Nomura, developed by the Kingdom hearts/Crisis Core team, an emo jerk main character with amnesia, an overcomplicated fashion (?!) equipment system – it had all the signs of a piece of junk. Instead, it’s the best thing to ever happen to the DS since, WELL, Phoenix Wright I guess! Finding new pins and trying out their abilities is a blast. You scratch the touch screen, poke, prod, sweep, blow into the mic … you can even set your DS on “mingle” mode to pick up outside Wi-Fi signals that will give you experience points. There’s tons more to the game too, including a New Game + mode that breaks the game up into easy-to-digest individual chapters. Square’s best effort since FF12.
3. Mega Man 9 – Pixel perfect nostalgia. The best Mega Man in yeeeaaars, a game I’ll revisit even more than the earlier titles. Take note, developers (cough, Sonic Team). This is how it’s done.
2. Gears of War 2 – Mm-mm-mmm. Everything great about the first game gets retooled and improved. Horde mode is brilliant. It’s like a contemporary Space Invaders, with four other buddies. Waves and waves of alien locust bombard you with everything they’ve got. It’s tense, sweaty, bromantic fun. Story makes little to no sense (why do they go to that secret lab and what exactly was the point of it?) and some game-breaking glitches show up online (fucking lag, man) but this is the best console game of the generation so far. It’s only competitor is…
1. Left 4 Dead – Wow. Wooowww. Wasn’t too hot on the demo, but the full version of Left4Dead is… infectious! It strips everything down – 4 players with only a couple of weapons, a few campaign maps… yet every playthrough, depending on who you play with, on what difficulty, how well you manage teamwork and resources – it’s done so, so, so well.