TOP 10 FILMS 2008


On thinking what my top ten films of 2008 are I had to cast my mind way back to January in order to remember the marvels that had long past (well 12 months ago!) for in naming a top 10 of the year it is all too easy to forget better older efforts over the end of year crop of Oscar hopefuls.

So to my top 10, and the top 2 are very close but Ben Affleck’s revelatory directorial debut 1.) Gone Baby Gone, beating most critic’s number top choice The Dark Knight by only a hairs breath, it is the most affecting and thought provoking thriller to have been made in a very long time, if you haven’t seen it I urge you to seek it out NOW!

It must be 2.)  The Dark Knight, next. Yes every critic under the sun would name this as one of the best of the year, lest us forget the ‘best superhero movie ever’ moniker, thing is it’s not really a superhero film,simply the best crime epic this side of  Heat. High praise indeed and in many ways it deserves it, though in it’s third, slightly plodding act it begins to lose its way a tad, just a tad, but it makes it lose the top spot too the perfection of Gone, Baby Gone.

Another one from the early months of the year is 3.) In The Valley of Elah, not an easy watch by any means but it has so much to say about the situation of the world today while being thoroughly gripping keeping you on tenderhooks throughout, Tommy Lee Jones has never been better.

4.) Iron Man, is here representing not only the marvellous achievement in making everything a Summer blockbuster should be, but also raising Robert Downey Jr. to the superstardom he deserves AND presenting Marvel as a production studio to be respected for sticking to the comic book roots while making all the right choices in both this and the only slightly lesser The Incredible Hulk. Lets just hope they can keep on a roll with the upcoming Thor and Captain America…oh and Iron Man 2!

The years latest, greatest comes in the form of Clint Eastwood and his 5.) Changeling. Eastwood has become something of a master storyteller in recent years getting it all right and taking a simple story on the surface and taking it in a different direction in this taking us to some very dark places with the L. A. Confidential meets Silence of the Lambs type story.

The first truly great comedy of the year came in the form of 6.)In Bruges, very very dark but very very funny, it faltered only in its closing act as many of the years films seemed too. We also saw Colin Farrell rejuvenate his reputation in a career best turn, an ultimately flawed character become one of the most loveable of the year.

Another late-comer is Ridley Scott’s 7.) Body of Lies, largely panned by critics I felt it represented for me something of a return to form for Scott after the good, but far from amazing, American Gangster. A thriller needs to thrill and with it came a trio of great performances and something to say about the state of the world, much like Elah.

In 8.) Tropic Thunder, Ben Stiller found his ‘funny’ again, the stand-out here though was obviously Downey Jr. cementing his star after Iron Man his Kirk Lazarous would be Oscar nominated in a fairer Hollywood. Riffing Apocalypse Now most of the jokes hit and for a comedy this scatter-shot that is true genius.

The surprise of the year came in Dreamworks 9.) Kung Fu Panda, which I think on re-evaluation is a much better film than Pixars Wall-E for the animation is second to none in its scenery and the characterisation is above par with Dreamworks edging away from the pop culture references of Shrek etc. Oh and Ian McShane voiced the villain with rather magnificent relish.

Lastly, but certainly not least is 10.) Taken, getting by on pure enjoyment, this Luc Besson produced action thriller gem took Liam Neeson, the whole of Paris filled with French stereotypes and threw him through windows, you won’t find a better post pub film all year. Proving that not all films need strive for awards glory and simply exist to entertain.

…and Some Very Bad or Down Right Disappointing Ones



While 2008 was a rather fantastic year for cinema goer’s there were inevitably casualties, some real disappointments, some films that never really had a chance and some that were down-right awful. The most awful was M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening, boasting a carreer worst turn by Mark Wahlberg (which incidentally is one hell of a feat) and a turgid attempt at suspense using, of all things, plants. There, now you never need watch it, unless you would LIKE to see Wahlberg talk to a plant! Yes Man also teetered dangerously close to The Happening levels of absurdity making once the funniest man in Hollywood, well, unfunny lumping him in a dire attempt at a rom-com, it came late enough in the year to remain fresh in my mind (for all the wrong reasons) let’s hope Carrey can recussitate his carreer in next years A Christmas Carol.

Alongside the excuses for film making above came the latest installment in the Saw franchise, Saw V. I should have known better than to expect something more than a churned out by the numbers sequel but in reality it wasn’t even that. Merely a stop gap between Saw IV and the inevitable Saw VI, nothing happens, and quite frankly I have never felt quite so ripped off going to the cinema.

The big disappointments of the year came in two forms, one a comedy-actioner and the other a spy-actioner. Both films were severe let-downs for very different reasons, Casino Royale follow-up Quantum of Solace wasn’t a bad film by any means but this is what makes it all the more frustrating. Edited within an inch of its life QOS had nothing to rival even Casino Royale’s poker game, enjoyable enough and passed the time but by god we deserve more from a Bond film starring Daniel Craig and directed by Marc Forster (apparently though, action is not his forte).

 Pineapple Express on the other hand was simply an out and out mess, failing to be either funny or action-y, Seth Rogen is a watchable guy but he needs to at least try to be more than the loveable stoner. All the elements were there but somehow it just doesn’t fit and even a potentially funny turn by James Franco can’t save it.

Other notable shockers (and I mean that in a bad way) were Quarantine which showed that Hollywood should just stop remaking horror films. It was a very bad year for Brendan Fraser with 3 of the poorest fantasy films for quite some time, Journey To The Centre Of The Earth at least had the 3D gimmick, Inkheart was passable but poor and the nail in the coffin had to be The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emporer which gave a whole new meaning to the term stinking turd of a film!

And last but not least were a trio of comedies, the first of which Burn After Reading should have been a comedic masterpiece but was a vanity project, and criminally unfunny. And the less said about Disaster Movie and My Best Friend’s Girl (or anything with Dane Cook) the better!