Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Tom's Films of 2008

It's time for my annual round up of movies I've seen over the year.

1. Gone Baby Gone

My number one film of the year should really have been released in the UK in 2007. However, due to the Madeline McCann case its release was delayed by more than 6 months. Directed by Ben Affleck and based on the novel by Dennis Lehane the film follows two private detectives as they join the search for a missing girl.

Casey Affleck was excellent in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, but for my money this is a career best performance. Amy Ryan is also wonderful as the mother.

The film poses many questions along the road and the ending really blew me away. Perhaps Ben should chuck the acting in and stick to directing in future.

2. The Dark Knight

A rollercoaster from start to finish. Heath Ledger deserves every posthumous honour going for his outstanding performance. It played like a real horror movie and even although Ledger was by far the stand out the rest of the heavyweight acting talent Bale, Oldman and Eckhart were all on form too.

3. Man on Wire

The year's best documentary. The film looks at Philippe Petit's 1974 high-wire walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Although there's no actual footage of the event the intensity of the film and the stills on show mean you don't even notice. Like all great documentaries looking at an individual, Petit is a complex character and even although he's likeable for the most part you're left wondering if he wasn't actually a bit of a dick.

4. Lars and the Real Girl

Ryan Gosling turns in a wonderful performance as a shy man in love with a blow up doll. It seems odd but it's a film that has real heart and depth.

5. Step Brothers

The funniest film of the year. Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly are 40 year olds who have been living the life of perrenial 13 year olds in their respective single parent families. Until that is their parents fall in love and they all move in together. The step brothers relationship is one hilarity after another. The bunk bed scene I could see coming from nine miles away, but I still laughed like a drain when it happened.

6. Juno

A smart, witty script and some crackling performances from Ellen Page and Michael Cera as well as great supprt from Jason Bateman, Jennifer Garner, JK Simmons and Allison Janey.

7. No Country For Old Men

Totally gripping throughout. Classic Coen Brothers. Well paced, stunning performances from Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin and a solid supporting cast. I was a little let down by the last 20 minutes or so but I loved it nonetheless.

8. There Will Be Blood

A powerhouse of a performance from Daniel Day Lewis, fantastic direction from Paul Thomas Anderson and a great score from Jonny Greenwood. A lot of people have found fault with the last 20 minutes, but I really didn't see anything wrong with it.

9. Pineapple Express

'Thug Life'. James Franco seemed to steal this one for most people but for me it was Danny McBride who put in the star turn. A great drug buddy comedy from the pens of last year's Superbad scribes Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.

10. Let the Right One In

This Swedish romantic horror film is in turns sweet and sinister. A boy, bullied at school falls for the little girl next door who happens to be a vampire. The performances, cinematography and direction are all first class. There are several really shocking moments and it's a film that stays with you long after it has ended. There is of course an American remake currently in development. Cloverfield director Matt Reeves is directing and also adapting the source novel from scratch.

11. In Bruges

This tale of Irish hitmen laying low in Belgium really hit the mark. Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes all give performances that hold your attention throughout. Here's an article from the BBC on how the film transformed the tourist industry in Bruges.

12. Burn After Reading

The second Coen Brothers film on my list. This one seemed to get dismissed by a lot of people as 'not being about anything'. It's not as heavyweight as No Country.. or as engaging as Fargo, but it's a solid comedy thriller with fantastic turns from Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Frances McDormand. Richard Jenkins also provides a lovely line in pathos in his role as the lovesick fitness centre manager. Nice also to see David 'Sledge Hammer' Rasche in a movie role.

13. Charlie Wilson’s War

Directed by Mike Nichols, written by Aaron Sorkin, and starring Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and the mighty Philip Seymour Hoffman. How could you go wrong?

14. The Savages

Philip Seymour Hoffman again, this time with Laura Linney as brother and sister trying to care for their ailing father. Two of the best actors in the business and a warm and funny script.

15. Iron Man

Robert Downey Jr. is at his best here as Tony Stark/Iron Man. There is a good supporting cast but it's the style and swagger of Downey Jr. that walks away with the movie.

16. Tropic Thunder

"Never go full retard." Robert Downey Jr. once again alongside Ben Stiller, Jack Black and a ridiculous Tom Cruise. This turned out to be controversial, although I couldn't really see what all the fuss was about. A solid comedy with a starry cast.

17. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

Mark Herman serves up an understated gem. Based on the novel by John Boyne it centres around the 8 year old son of a Nazi officer and the boy he befriends in a concentration camp. This is an article from the BBC on the film's suitability for children.

18. Somers Town

Directed by Shane Meadows this tells the story of two teenage boys out of place in London. It's an enjoyable tale, by turns happy and sad.

19. Son of Rambow

An amusing British film as two boys attempt to make their own version of Rambo. The dialogue always seems like it's been written rather than actually coming from the children, but that's a minor complaint for an enjoyable film.

20. Cloverfield

An enjoyable monster-runs-wild-through-New York romp.

As for stinkers, well there were a few of those too, but the two that really stood out for me are below.

88 Minutes was one of the worst things you’re likely to see at the cinema this or any other year with Al Pacino apparently playing a grown up Ralph Wiggum in a Simpsons live action murder mystery. Righteous Kill was arguably worse because it sullied the reputations of both Pacino and Robert De Niro.

Feel free to stick your own films of the year in the comments.

Tom's Films of 2007

Tom's Films of 2006

Tom's Films of 2005

Tom's Films of 2004

1 comment:

ronniebrown said...

Some good films there, Tom. Out of your list, I've managed to see The Dark Knight (9/10), Juno (7), No Country for Old Men (6), Iron Man (9), Son of Rambow (8) and Cloverfield (6).

Those are probably the highlights of the film year for me, not being much of a cinema-goer.