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Top 10 Films of 2008


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Mr. Hakujin's Top 10 Films of 2008:

The year is over, but there are still so many films that came out in 2008 that I need to see: Synecdoche, New York; Doubt; Frost/Nixon; Vicky Cristina Barcelona; The Wackness; Let The Right One In; Revolutionary Road; Milk; Benjamin Button; Valkyrie; Happy-Go-Lucky; Man On Wire; My Winnipeg; Punisher: War Zone ...

 

So w/ that in mind, here's my best of list of the films I actually did get to see in 2008. Mini-reviews of each film are underneath in spoiler tags.

 

10. The Wrestler

 

B

The film does a good job of immersing the audience in the lonely world of a “semi-pro” wrestler—how accurate it is I cannot say, but it certainly feels real. Mickey Rourke plays Randy “The Ram,” an 80s wrestling superstar (a la Hulk Hogan) turned half deaf grocery store clerk that can barley make payments on his rented trailer. The Ram’s days of pay-per-view specials and selling out arenas are long gone yet he refuses to give up the spotlight of the ring and continues to do headliner gigs at small VFW halls and elementary school gymnasiums around New England.

 

The sub-plot ham handedly mirrors Randy’s current place in life to the life of a local stripper (played by Marisa Tomei) that Randy’s become smitten with. Mickey Rourke’s performance as the titular wrestler is the most mentioned aspect of this film, and rightly so as it’s the only thing that really stands out in this surprisingly (considering all the Oscar buzz) by the numbers indie drama.

 

 

9. Forgetting Sarah Marshall

 

B+

I was almost going to put a tie here with Tropic Thunder, but decided 2 ties in one list is just obnoxious. The film is hysterical & the special edition DVD of this film is outstanding and it's got Willow's boyfriend from that Met Your Mother show being fought over by Veronica Mars & Jackie from That 70s Show! ;)

 

 

8. In Bruges

 

B

Overlooked indie gem with big name stars Colin Farell, Brendan Gleeson, & Ralph Fiennes as British gangsters NOT involved in a heist for once! A dark comedic look at morality, guilt, and forgiveness set in Belgium’s “storybook” city. Recommended rental!

 

 

7. The Foot Fist Way

 

A-

This is Danny McBride's (Tropic Thunder, Pineapple Express) hilarious tongue-in-cheek indie comedy about a Tae Kwon Do instructor's struggle to overcome his fractured life in order to become the master of "the demo." the film is shot documentary style, but the characters never act aware of the cameras like they do in similarly filmed shows such as "The Office." McBride's fight with his martial arts idol is a modern comedy classic film moment. Fans of Will Ferrell and Judd Apatow films will not be disappointed in this movie!

 

 

6. Recount

 

A-

This HBO film came out this summer, so I’m late to the party on this one (pun intended), but this docudrama depicting the events after the 2000 US Presidential election is fast paced, funny, and worth watching for anyone (Red or Blue State) who sat through those weeks 8 years ago watching their TVs a bit befuddled as to WTF exactly was going on. Plus Laura Dern as Katherine Harris is worth the rental price alone.

 

 

 

5. Kung-Fu Panda

 

A-

You may think a kiddie-kung-fu film wouldn’t be as interesting as a live action, adult, kung-fu film. You’d be right, but only slightly so. Sure it’s cartoon animals fighting, but they’re still pretty wicked fights. The film has all the other standard trappings of a quality modern day kid-flick (humorous characters, engaging plot, important life lesson learned by film’s end) and, yes, Jack Black does sing “Kung-Fu” fighting. Ska-doosh!

 

 

 

4. Gran Torino

 

A-

Clint Eastwood delivers another memorable screen character as Korean War Vet Walt Kowalski--a man who lets out more politically incorrect humor on his own than Black, Stiller, & Downey combined did in "Tropic Thunder." The plot is actually very similar and touches on many of the themes as the 1980s classic "Karate Kid."

 

GRAN TORINO is much more somber and violent than "Karate Kid," but both films deal with characters from American & Asian cultures (here the Asian culture in question is Mhong) learning important lessons on life from each other that they couldn't or wouldn't learn from their own cultures. Whereas "Karate Kid" shows those life lessons being taught through learning karate, GRAN TORINO does so in a bit more intricate manner. Walt's Detroit neighborhood is changing along with the world and he isn't. A series of circumstances leads Walt to mentor his young neighbor Thao in what it means to "be a man" while coming to grips with what kind of man he has become.

 

GRAN TORINO is directed by Eastwood and shot in a similar style as his other recent hit involving an old man who's lost his faith mentoring a misfit kid--"Million Dollar Baby." And just like "...Baby," GRAN TORINO delivers a somber yet ultimately uplifting tale of friendship.

 

 

3. Iron Man

 

A-

Solid summer, super-hero blockbuster. This film delivers in all the places Spider-Man 3 failed to last year: tight, well paced plot, great characterization, and flawless CGI action!

 

 

2. WALL*E

 

A

Pixar hits another home run. The animation is flawless, the film is poignant without being sappy, socially relevant without being preachy, and hilarious without using (much) dialogue!

 

 

2. Slumdog Millionaire

 

A

Unsettling. Uplifting. Original. The story follows a Muslim boy growing up in the slums of Bombay (now Mumbai) and his journey to freedom. The closest film I can think of that made me feel the way this film did is Shawshank Redemption.

 

 

 

1. The Dark Knight

 

A+

After being denied to a sold out opening day at my local theater, I finally saw The Dark Knight a day later, and I’ve been saturating myself in reviews of the film ever since I returned from the theater. This movie certainly is drawing a lot of comparisons.

 

The Wall Street Journal compares it to No Country For Old Men, Rolling Stone compares Bale’s performance to Pacino in Godfather II and Ledger’s performance to McDowell’s in Clockwork Orange, TIME compares it to Silence of the Lambs, a very astute comparison was made to the film HEAT by one reviewer at aicn.com [http://www.aintitcool.com/node/37515], and everyone else (the aforementioned included) compares it to Jack Nicholson’s Joker in the 1989 Batman directed by Tim Burton.

 

However, if comparisons must be made, I think director Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight would best be compared to Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.

 

Nolan, like Jackson, based his films on previous material and translated it to film in an engaging way that spoke to modern audiences while staying true to the source material. Tolkien’s Middle Earth is an allegory much like Nolan’s Gotham City is an allegory. The Gotham City of The Dark Knight bears much resemblance to a slightly more sinister post 9/11 America.

 

Gotham is a city ensconced in fear (thanks in no small part to the events of Batman Begins, which gets a brief nod in the film’s opening sequence) and while a trio of do-gooders (Lieutenant Gordon, D.A. Harvey Dent, & Batman) are working tirelessly to put away Gotham’s crime bosses and eliminate the fear…along comes the Joker to exploit that fear.

 

Much like Jackson’s LotR films were not just simply “fantasy films,” Nolan’s TDK cannot be accurately labeled as simply a “superhero” movie. TDK, like LotR, not only serves to re-invigorate a genre, but redefine it as well.

 

Nolan has made an Epic/Action/Drama with TDK—a film that not only excites and astounds, but questions and examines. Nolan, like Jackson, examines not only good and evil, but the grey areas in between the two and how sacrifice is key to holding society together.

 

Corruption, violence, terror—is modern America so accustomed to these things that it cannot withstand a full on assault of its founding democratic principles of truth, justice, and liberty?

 

Or is society already lost? Have we all grown so accustomed to the violence and corruption of democracy that we ourselves have been corrupted to the point that we’re all just dancing around each other, merely hiding our savage nature under a thin veneer of normalcy (or “the plan” as the Joker calls it)? The Joker believes the later and feels compelled to point out this veneer to the citizens of Gotham City.

 

Nolan would like to think we’re not so close to the corrupted savages the Joker would make us out to be. Thus Batman. If Joker represents amoral savagery then Batman is conscience. Batman makes the choice that so many Americans have had to make in the face of an assault on our freedoms. Batman sticks to his principles (or “rules” as their referred to in the film) despite the fact his life would be so much easier/happier if he didn’t stick to those principles. That’s sacrifice.

 

This need to sacrifice is underscored in a moving scene at the end of the film where a large group of Gotham’s citizens is basically put in a maniacally malevolent experiment by the Joker where they must become mass murderers or die themselves. Joker is ultimately left disappointed in his experiment, but not without a cost to some of the film’s characters—not without a sacrifice.

 

Despite its many excellent action scenes The Dark Knight isn’t one of those blockbuster movies where audiences leave the theaters feeling exhilarated and “pumped up.” Instead you’re more likely to feel drained as you walk out the door. The Dark Knight doesn’t simply take you on an adrenaline ride, but on an ethical and ultimately introspective ride as well.

 

 

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shit. i saw like 3 of those, and only wanted to catch one more (slumdog).

So what's your top 10 of '08 then? I should've just made this a general "post your top 10" thread cuz I'm just as interested in seeing what everyone else here thought was good on '08. So list away peoples!

Edited by Mr. Hakujin
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8. In Bruges

 

B

Overlooked indie gem with big name stars Colin Farell, Brendan Gleeson, & Ralph Fiennes as British gangsters NOT involved in a heist for once! A dark comedic look at morality, guilt, and forgiveness set in Belgium’s “storybook” city. Recommended rental!

 

correction:

Colin Farell, Brendan Gleeson, & Ralph Fiennes as two Irish and one British gangster NOT involved in a heist for once!

 

 

i don't know if i've seen enough movies from '08 to make a list, i'll try and think of them

Edited by alive she cried
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You don't need to spoiler tag all of that. Spoiler tagging is meant for when you are giving away a plot point that would spoil the movie. Your review of Iron Man for example is:

"Solid summer, super-hero blockbuster. This film delivers in all the places Spider-Man 3 failed to last year: tight, well paced plot, great characterization, and flawless CGI action!"

None of that needs to be spoiler tagged. If you were to say, for example:

"...and Jeff 'the Dude' Bridges delivers a great performance as Obadiah Stane, Tony Stark's second-in-command of Stark Enterprises

who was responsible for the attack on Tony in Afghanistan and is trying to take over the company.

then that would be appropriate. As it stands now, you have reviews of movies I have not yet seen, and I want to read your review, but I won't because you may have actual spoilers mixed in with your review.

Edited by Reverend Jax
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I too would like to make my own list, but also have several movies I have yet to see. My instincts about movie is generally very good, I tend to like movies I choose to see and dislike movie I initially have misgivings about, but had my arm twisted to go see (like with Silent Hill, thanks Nick!). Movies I've seen that are nominees include The Dark Knight, Slumdog Millionaire, WALL-E, Gran Torino, Milk, Frost/Nixon, Doubt, Iron Man, Religulous, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Tropic Thunder, The Incredible Hulk, Hellboy 2 (fuck the haters) and Quantum of Solace. Movies I wanted to see, but didn't, and suspect might be nominees if I saw them include The Wrestler, Benjamin Button, In Bruges, Changeling, Revolutionary Road, Synecdoche New York, JCVD, Rachel Getting Married, Burn After Reading, Pineapple Express, Horton Hears A Who!, The Wackness, Recount and Choke.

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Rev Jax:

The only review w/ any real spoilers is my The Dark Knight review. I know the deal on spoilers, but I just put them on for impatient peopke like me who didn't want to read the reviews so they could just scroll through and read the titles all quick like. ;)

Edited by Mr. Hakujin
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Rev Jax:

The only review w/ any real spoilers is my The Dark Knight review. I know the deal on spoilers, but I just put them on for impatient peopke like me who didn't want to read the reviews so they could just scroll through and read the titles all quick like. ;)

If you make the titles bold, then people who don't want to read the reviews will skip them, spoiler or not. Thanks for the heads up. I'll read them now.

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I still have a couple I haven't seen(Milk, Dark Knight, Slumdog Millionaire) but so far on my list...

 

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Ironman

The Changeling

The reader

Hancock

Wanted

Sex in the City

I couldn't get past the differences from the comic to really love WANTED, I liked it OK though. I want to see THE READER.

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