(Of film released, that I have seen. Narrows things down quite a bit. For instance, I saw YOUNG@HEART this year, but it came out in 2007 so it’s not here. I hope GRAN TORINO, THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON and SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE will prove worthy, but I haven’t seen them yet.)
1) WALL-E – Visually stunning and great fun. The old saw, “It will make you laugh, it will make you cry” applies here. I loved the nods to the greats of silent comedy and the underappreciated “Hello Dolly!”
2) THE DARK KNIGHT – Yes, Heath Ledger was very good, but so was Freeman, Caine, Oldman, and especially Christian Bale. The problem of evil (in the form of terrorism) is dealt with bluntly. And I agree with those who compared the demonization of Batman in the film with the demonization of President Bush and even the United States itself.
3) IRONMAN – Because Robert Downey Jr. was very funny as usual and that suit was so very cool.
4) TROPIC THUNDER – Yes, it was quite crude (I could have done without Jack Black offering certain favors), but it was very, very funny. Again, Downey was hysterical as an Australian who wanted to fully commit to his role as an African American, but Ben Stiller was even funnier when he in the faux film role of “Simple Jack” went ‘full retard’.
5) GHOST TOWN – Ricky Gervais wouldn’t jump to my mind as a star of a romantic comedy as a dentist who sees dead people. Tea Leoni and Greg Kinnear provide support in this funny and ultimately touching film.
6) MAN ON WIRE – A documentary about Phillipe Petite’s tight rope walk between the World Trade Towers. Interesting study of a man who would let nothing get in the way of his vision, even the well being of friends and family. Can there be art without narcissism? (I think so, but it’s difficult.)
7) CLOVERFIELD – Didn’t work for a lot of people (not enough monster and/or too much shakey cam) but it worked for me. I like the idea of Godzilla seen from ground level and was surprised at its deft touch on the fragility of life.
8) REDBELT – For a long time I thought Tim Allen had only made one good film (GALAXY QUEST), now he has two. This drama, written and directed by David Mamet explores the value and dangers of honor. I do like Chiwetel Ejiofor in this and everything I’ve seen him in, but I do miss the days when the studio heads would have given him a pronounceable name.
9) BURN AFTER READING – It’s the Coen Brothers being funny and cynical and sadistic. How can you not love that in anything not called THE LADYKILLERS?
10) QUANTUM OF SOLACE –Maybe it’s because I went in with lowered expectations from Meh reviews, but I enjoyed this Bond sequel.