So: I'm a film geek. Not a FAN so much as just a GEEK. I've been criticized in the past for not seeing enough quote "grown-up" unquote movies. But I think you guys, my loyal and humble readers, all know i prefer science fiction / fantasy / superhero crap / horror films / stupid comedies / spy movies / cartoons to, y'know, films about relationships and costume period dramas and that kind of thing. You also know that, every year, that my list is mostly gonna contain those types of films. I haven't seen "Milk" or "Gran Torino" yet, and I'm sure I will at some point, and I'm sure when I do I'm gonna love 'em or at the very least appreciate them. I have, however, seen Iron Man twice.
So -- you know me, you know what I like. My name is Jonny. I'm a geek. Here's my list.
(*note* -- I notice I didn't see any comedies this year, or barely any, and certainly none that make the list. I didn't see Tropic Thunder. I didn't see Zach and Miri. I will at some point, and then we can talk again.)
Iron Man. Sorry folks, for my money, the best superhero film of all time -- okay, mayyyyybe barring the original Superman from '79, or at least the first half of that film before Luthor enters the picture -- is Iron Man. Mah friends, it is pitch perfect. It FEELS like the original comic book in every way. It isn't overwhelmingly dark like a certain other superhero film this year, and it isn't overblown or occasionally stupid like, I dunno, Daredevil or Spider-Man 3. And best of all, it exists in a larger universe where there are actually other superheroes, and they interact and connect, which is like frickin' geek catnip, y'know? Robert Downey, Jr. is amazing casting, I'll watch Jeff Bridges act the fucking phonebook, and I even liked Gwyneth "Fishstick" Paltrow. FUN. It was great, great fun, the most fun I've had in the movies in a long, long time.
Wall-E. Just -- wow. A feast for the senses, a gloriously funny and heartwarming film that never descends into maudlinity. I'm glad the film critics across the country are acknowledging how amazing this film is, too -- usually animated flicks get shoved into the "kids' films" bucket and ignored come awards time (except, of course, in the technical arena -- whee!) The main character doesn't even SPEAK except a few noises and to say his own name, and yet you fall madly in love with him, and that's an accomplishment. Possibly the best Pixar film thus far (but then, I have weird tastes -- my second favorite is Cars, with its love of Route 66-ania).
Cloverfield. Somewhere between the knocked-out audience we sat with for this film and eight months later, public opinion shifted on this film. Don't know why, don't know how. Totally undeserved, too -- for my money, the best pure scares I had in the movies this year BAR NONE. This was what I wanted all the "giant monster ravages the countryside" movies of the 50s to be like -- all assault and terror and never-ending twists and turns and peril (if they'd had budgets that allowed for more than MAN IN SUIT! maybe they would have been!) J. J. Abrams took an old cinema staple, turned it on its ass and whooped it up for the cynical digital age, and managed to scare the fucking beejezus out of me while only BARELY EVEN SHOWING THE MONSTER IN QUESTION. Y'know? Amazing. Creepy-crawly and scary and amazing.
Burn After Reading. Okay, fair's fair -- I love Los Bros. Coen. I think, although "No Country" was one of the best films I've seen in the last 10 years, that I like them best when they write little unassuming stories like this one full of extremely stupid people that fuck each others' lives up. Their "big" movies are great, but when they shoot low they end up hitting high anyway. Those who saw it: tell me you didn't jump TWENTY FEET IN THE AIR when, smack in the middle of the movie, it suddenly takes a huge left fucking turn that leaves you completely stunned. And Brad Pitt's performance is best-supporting-actor Oscar-worthy, methinks.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I stand by my original opinion -- in fact, if anything, this film was better upon second viewing. Apart from a couple wobbly moments at the very beginning -- it takes Harrison a minute or two to find the heart of the character again, and can someone please keep George Lucas away from cute CGI creatures for the rest of eternity? -- it hits the mark, over and over. And again: the original films were the serial adventures of the 30s, THIS film was all about 50s sci-fi, and that is why there's aliens in it. Okay? Are we settled on that point?? The script coulda been a little punchier in places, but I still think this film will age well. Talk to me in ten years.
Quantum of Solace. I just wrote the review for this one, so you know how I feel. Bond has never been about the gadgets and broads, and winky-winky double entendres do not "sexy" make. A taut, fascinating, slightly mystifying, visually-fascinating thriller, and an intriguing addition to the series. Next time: Moneypenny. Please.
The Incredible Hulk. Wondering: how come nobody was talking about this film? Again, saw it twice, better even the second time, part of the same "larger universe" thing that Iron Man is, and perfectly nails the comic book in question. Great casting, great acting, great CGI (WAY better than the last Hulk film, like way way better), and some terrific action. One slight misstep: Tim Roth, whom I normally adore, seems mismatched. Not quite as fun as Iron Man, but I still had a total blast.
The Dark Knight. FINALLY I get to the Dark Knight, and honestly, I wasn't sure if it was gonna make my list, because I have some serious misgivings about this one. Yes -- Heath Ledger's performance was career-defining, and it is a tragedy beyond tragedy that he won't be able to reprise the role, nor be recognized for it in his lifetime. But in the rush to congratulate this film, there are some serious problems with the film that have been overlooked. #1: doesn't anybody mind Bale's "gritty Batman" voice? #2: the tone is unrelentingly dark, almost to the point where it becomes funny. #3: it's overlong by about half an hour. #4: I'm not sure the two-face arc works, and did we really need to kill off Rachel? What was the point of that, exactly? ISSUES. I have issues. I recognize the achievements of this film, but I think the first one was far better, visually and plotwise and acting. It's GOOD but I think there are two other superhero movies this year that far surpass it.
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. I know, I know -- its so unhip to like The Big Jesus Lion Story with its anvilicious allegories and bright-sunny-happy mood, anymore. But I get so sucked into this world in a way I don't with, like, Lord of the Rings or (sorry!) Phillip Pullman's. I remember reading these books as a kid and maybe they didn't make me think like LOTR or hate God like the Amber Spyglass but man, did Lewis get where kids wanna be when the real world gets 'em down. And I think the films do a damn fine job of capturing that -- visually enrapturing, faithful to the source material, beautiful and airy-light and fun.
The X-Files: I Want To Believe. We just saw this last night, and I have a question: Do you all, like, not like the X-Files anymore or something?? Why did nobody go see this? I fully anticipated, from the numbers it did and the reviews it got, to suck, or at least be totally mediocre, but it, like, DIDN'T. It felt like a great, well-developed X-Files episode, and maybe that doesn't make it a great movie but it sure makes it a good something or other. It's creepy and scary and has great character arcs for Mulder and Scully and at no point did I go "man, this is stupid" or "man, I'm so sick of the "mytharc" crap" or whatever that I did at the low points of the series. As Harry Knowles points out: these characters are our friends. I missed them, and this was FAR, FAR, ***FAR*** better than it got credit for. Give it a rent, without fear.
MOVIES THAT DISAPPOINTED ME:
Speed Racer -- LOOKED astonishing, like visually one of the coolest films ever. Feather-light plot-wise. Fun, but not ENOUGH fun.
Hellboy II -- I just blogged about this and still, GAHHHHHH.
Get Smart -- not actually disappointing -- can any movie with Anne Hathaway be TRULY disappointing?? -- and I *did* laugh, but it didn't go NEARLY far enough into screwball territory. Buck Henry, come home, all is forgiven.
The Ruins -- the book gave me the SERIOUS CREEPING HEEBIE-JEEBIES for weeks. The movie wasn't scary at all. FAIL.