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2008 FILM REVIEW

My 5 favourite films seen in cinemas in 2008:

There Will Be Blood
The Dark Knight
Appaloosa
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
Hellboy II

I struggled to pick a list this year as my viewing experiences have been so underwhelming. Only ‘There Will Be Blood’ stands out as being excellent, the others ranging from good to tolerable. I wish there had been more drama of TWBBs calibre for me to sink my teeth into, but alas I have to fall back on the likes of ‘Appaloosa’, which intrigued me with its duplicitous and unusual characters. I had a lot of fun with ‘Iron Man’ and ‘Indiana Jones’, but overall deem them too lightweight and forgettable to warrant entry. ‘Hellboy II’, for my money, had more heart then any of the other summer fare. ‘The Dark Knight’, of course, remains endlessly watchable.

Note – I suspect if I had rewatched ‘No Country for Old Men’ before the years end it would have featured. Wall-E and The Strangers also came close.

My 5 least favourite films seen in cinemas in 2008:

I am Legend
The Day the Earth Stood Still
Wanted
Get Smart
Max Payne

Of these five, only ‘Max Payne’ is truly awful. ‘Wanted’ features a reprehensible protagonist, utterly bereft of a single likeable trait. The same logic can be applied to ‘There Will Be Blood’, but with no hook or complexity to latch me into a character study, I just felt nauseated and disgusted by the experience. It is a wasted effort anchored to mediocrity by the aforementioned concern. ‘I am Legend’, especially in the opening hour, has a lot to offer. Sadly it squanders its promise with unnecessary deviations from the source material, poorly animated vampires and a shocking third act. ‘Get Smart’ and ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ were both a waste of time and talent.

For what it’s worth, I didn’t hate any of these films. They just irritated me.

Note – I will not be seeing ‘Twilight’ or ‘Australia’ until early ’09, I thoroughly expect one or both would have been present on this list. They may feature next year.

My 10 most anticipated films of 2009:

Watchmen
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Wrestler
Synecdoche, New York
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
The Time Traveller’s Wife
Avatar
Green Zone
The Fantastic Mr.Fox
Where the Wild Things Are

Okay, there we go. I’ll be back next year with thoughts on the January crop.

‘Mulholland Drive’ DVD 30/12/2008

This is David Lynch’s most fascinating film. It’s a beautiful and terrifying adventure through Lynchian madness, a surreal dream that touches on more themes and feelings then I have time to elaborate on. I could spend the rest of my life watching and discussing this film. It’s that good.

I’ll never drink another Espresso without a napkin.

5/5

‘Fight Club’ DVD 29/12/2008

The protagonist of ‘Fight Club’ is the ‘Narrator’ (Edward Norton), a nameless representation of the white, middle-class American male who has been robbed of his masculinity by the ‘Generation X’ ideal. A meeting and subsequent friendship with the enigmatic Tyler Durden leads to the abandonment of his previous lifestyle (which largely consisted of accumulating Ikea furniture) and the birth of the ‘Fight Club’. Here, white-collar men are able to discard their consumerist obsession and release their pent-up rage, flaunting their base male instincts through weekly bare-knuckle brawls.

I wrote an essay during my third year of university examining ways that ‘Magnolia’ and ‘Fight Club’ intersect with discourses on reclaiming masculinity, more specifically how Frank T.J. Mackey and Tyler Durden are both illusory personas, manifestations of wish fulfilment adopted by damaged men in a futile effort to make sense of their lives.

Though Chuck Palahniuk’s novel is superb, this film is one of the defining artistic landmarks of the 1990s. The closest comparison point I can make is Stanley Kubrick’s ‘A Clockwork Orange’, which offers a similarly visceral experience. David Fincher is truly amongst the most fascinating and brilliant film directors working today. This is his greatest masterpiece.

5/5

‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest’ 26/12/2008

In spite of visual and casting continuity with the first film, this sequel unfortunately falls into that awful recent trend of bloating itself out to several times the necessary runtime. The story is confused and incohesive, and even some expensive special effects can’t save it from middle-of-the-road mediocrity. There is a whole section based on a Cannibal Island that literally serves no purpose. Trimming it out at the script stage would have sliced tens of millions from the budget and resulted in a leaner, superior product.

Part of the joy of the first ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ is how endearing incompetent the performances of Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom are. Much pleasure is to be extracted from their inability to act, the first ‘Pirates’ working fine as a straight comedy. The main problem, this time around, is that both actors have improved. They’re still only bearable at best, but bearable is no substitute for the hysterics of a ‘Black Pearl’ OB line delivery.

So perhaps, one could argue, the problem with ‘Dead Man’s Chest’ is that it’s too polished. The flaws that the original film spun into virtues have been ironed out, leaving a blockbuster that is slick but strangely soulless.

3/5

‘The Terminator’ DVD 24/12/2008

It’s always interesting to go back and watch the original ‘Terminator’. I forget how simple and effective it is. No detailed mythology, no John Connor, just very straight forward sci-fi action with a kick ass 80s soundtrack.

It’s a brilliant, brilliant film.

5/5

‘Inkheart’ 13/12/2008

Great concept, run of the mill execution.
I don’t know how it plays as an adaptation, but I hear there are two more books in the series. The cast were obviously having fun. I hope for their sake they make enough money to see a sequel. I consider it unlikely.

3/5

‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ 12/12/2008

There’s a short, unexpected scene towards the end of ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ where the film briefly threatens to be more then an achingly pedestrian (and wholly unnecessary) blockbuster remake. Keanu Reeves’ monotone alien and John Cleese (?) find themselves caught in a philosophical battle of wits, debating the future of the planet. It’s thought provoking stuff; until thirty seconds later when the discussion is halted by some exploding helicopters and a CGI cloud.

Here’s hoping the similar dialogue in next years adaptation of Alan Moore’s ‘Watchmen’ is treated with reverence. If it’s filtered down to a measly two minutes and sandwiched between badly choreographed set pieces, I just might kill myself.

2.5/5

‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ 08/05/2008

Tonight was the first time I have been to one of the ‘Monday Classic’ events at my Cineworld. It will not be the last.

This might be the perfect film.

5/5

‘What Just Happened’ 04/12/2008

It was an amusing diversion, and certainly watchable, but the material could have been taken a great deal further. As it is, this plays more like a middling episode of ‘Entourage’ then the next ‘The Player’.

Humorous asides like the Bruce Willis beard play as major plot points instead of background jokes, and apart from Robert De Niro’s performance (which is probably his best this decade), I can only offer a muted recommendation.

3/5

‘Pet Semetary’ DVD 02/12/2008

I endured my annual torture of the 80s adaptation of ‘Pet Semetary’ last night. As always, I’m astonished by how consistently awful it is. To turn such a frightening, pulpy book into something so tame takes some effort. I am still shocked everytime I see Stephen King’s name in the credits as screenwriter. It’s largely inoffensive stuff, and Fred Gwynne as Jud Crandall is quite good fun, but this reeks of low budget and missed opportunity. Maybe someone will do it right next time?

2/5

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