Sunday, February 8, 2009

February 2008-February 2009 Movie Rankings

A. Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation



This thing gets a separate category as it wasn't a movie that was made or made for the last 12 month movie season. And it 1st screened a few years ago. But it probably was the greatest achievement in movies I saw this year. In short, it was made BY KIDS during their Summer Breaks in the 1980's. Anyone who can't recognize how unthinkable and original of a work it was, is clueless. The people who failed to go see this the weekend of the Crystal Skull premiere, including of course those who read my postings but still ignored it, well it's a huge loss on their part.

I sincerely hope that 1 day this thing is either

a) released on DVD for everyone to be able to see it.

b) is made available to stream or download online.

It is NOT your neighborhood kids doing amateur theater. It is of the equivalent, or better to what The Musical Box have done for recreating the early Genesis concerts.



1. Synecdoche, NY

As the review I wrote about a few months stressed, this is 1 of the most original motion pictures to be made ever. Kaufman not surprisingly, makes you think, analyze, and become sucked-in to what exactly happens in the life of the lead character Caden and the people (mostly women) in his life. I honestly require more viewings to further evaluate and understand it all. But that is why it was so effective. Perhaps to the awards shows, it's too sophisticated. Admittedly, going-in (trailers) I was skeptical. But the comparisons to the more-or-less pointless waste of time "Primer" a few years ago do not add up. There is a puzzle to solve here, and if more people just let it sink-in and become swept away, they'll realize how unique and beautiful this movie is. Perhaps 5 or 10 years from now, that recognition will happen. The Jacket, The Science of Sleep among some others it belongs with.

95/100



2.Snow Angels Incredibly moving picture that next to nobody saw or talked about. I guess my original review didn't spoil the plot, but I'll add a bit more to that in there is a death and while it's incredibly sad, again with the thinking..the more you think about it and the characters involved, the more you realize what transpired makes sense, however sad it is. I guess you could say living with guilt is not as healthy as dying to relieve that guilt. Kate Beckinsale I would give an Oscar Nomination for, but like I mentioned, nobody saw or talked about this movie. And of course being released in the late Spring didn't help since it wasn't during "Oscar Season."

88/100



3. The Visitor Very compelling story about a man who finds some people living in his NYC apartment while he's away. The friendship and sad circumstances really make this movie powerful and worth repeated viewings. I'm glad Richard Jenkins got an Oscar Nomination for this. And Haaz Sleiman who played Tarek, received a Spirit Award nomination as well.

87/100



4. Slumdog Millionaire I was not wrong in how appealing this thing would be. After seeing it, I wondered if it could be my favorite picture of the year. I can't entirely say that after another viewing and I suppose a lot of the hype and some criticism about it. The ending is pretty typical Hollywood. But at the same time, I really wish more mention of the kids performance is given. It was nice to see some of the cast do that at the SAG awards.

85/100



5. The Reader Kate I sincerely hope and think will finally get her due. She was quite powerful and moving in this. Seducing the German kid, and then forming the bond with him, albeit secretively. The 2nd half, with the suspense of her trial for being a guard at a Concentration camp really added and put more sympathy towards her character. It was not an easy situation. Her character needed money, she wasn't sure what to do. The fact she was illiterare, I guess it was based real events. By the end of the movie, after seeing her serve her time and want to repent..the obvious difficulty she had, I couldn't help but feel as bad for her as the family's who lost their loved ones in that horrific incident. I hope people don't look at this as movie about Nazi-Germany, because it isn't at all. It's a character study and a love story with some humor, and a narrative and a lot of other things. Mind you, I really want more mentioned about Kate Winslet's career and the fact MANY OTHER ROLES SHE'S PLAYED DESERVED AS MUCH IF NOT MORE RECOGNITION. Namely: ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND and JUDE for example..a picture most people probably have never heard of. Because if she does in fact win the Oscar here, I really think people who liked her performance owe it to themself to seek out a lot of her other work. She's possibly the best Actor of this generation and more people could and should recognize that.

The film itself I can't forget to mention a few holes, and possibly why I don't rank it a bit higher. They never explained why young Michael didn't appear at the Prison after he made the appointment..and the point he made about how Hannah could be proven to not receive the punishment she did. She was illiterate, that piece the judge was using to prove her guilt very likely wasn't all her responsibility given the fact she was illiterate. But maybe the secret of their affair was too risky on his own part to expose. Another was when Hannah fled, and you see young Michael at her flat and it's empty. That and the whole process of her getting promoted by the Street Car co? There certainly were a few holes or unexplained parts of this for my liking for it to contend for Best Picture. But at the same time, I don't have a problem with it receiving a Best Picture nomination.

84/100



6. Transsiberian
Another under-seen gem. Emily Mortimer deserved an Oscar Nomination for this. The situations she faced, and difficult decisions. The plot was interesting. The suspense never left the viewer. Her relationship with that guy Carlos and the drugs, then later with Ben Kingsley's character and keeping track of where they are and where her husband played by Woody Harrelson, is. Sorry, but this should have been seen by more people, and was a lot more compelling and intriguing of a story than dozens of other movies this year.

83/100



7. Sleepwalking Another great performance from Nick Stahl that goes un-noticed. Dennis Hopper effectively plays the asshole redneck father. The plot about a mother who leaves town for $ which forces her younger brother to take care of his young niece. When he loses his job, he finds no option but to flee with her. The twists this story takes is reason enough to like this, even if Hopper's character was not the easiest to handle watching. I guess as a performance, it made it all the more effective. A bit like Sam Rockwell's in "Snow Angels"..you hate him, but eventually you respect the power of his perfomance.

82/100



8.The Bank Job Terrific Heist movie based on true events. The direction the plot takes leaves you glued to the screen. You want to side with the robbers, but you're unsure if they'll pull it off, and what each faction's ultimate motivation is. Black Mailing politicians being a big part of it. Jason Statham and Saffron Burrows definitely stand out among a lot of the rest of the cast. Did it receive much Award Season recognition?..of course not, lol.

81/100



9.The Good Night Some clever ideas are explored here in this fantasy/romance plot. It's not clear whether Martin Freeman's mid-life crisis is due to his struggling relationship with Gweneth Paltrow, or his dreams are effectively pointing him in the path he needs to go. Rather surreal. Danny Devito I think was a big part of what made this thing work. Simon Pegg also added some nice comedic support as his best friend.

80/100


Those are the 9-10 best pictures I've seen over the last 12 months. The rest of these below range from pretty good, to worth the curiosity, to disappointing, to highly overated, to maybe worth seeing for free.

73-79 range

10. The Wackness Interesting coming-of-age story. Kingsley and Olivia Thrilby were both good. Thrilby I liked more in "Snow Angels" however.

11. Forgetting Sarah Marshall On paper this could have been a near-classic. It wasn't. Jason Segel's exposure aside, it still probably was the best Apatow-related picture of the year.

12. The Wrestler The gore hurts this, but the perfomance by Rourke still made it well-worth watching. Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood added a bit, but honestly, Rourke carried this thing and he should win the Oscar (sorry Sean Penn, but he carried this film. Milk's ensemble cast hurts your case).

13. Iron Man Robert Downey makes a big splash in this comeback performance. As far as Superhero movies have gone, there may not be many if any better made to be honest.


14.Pineapple Express Not quite as good as SARAH MARSHALL, but pretty close. I suppose the typical over-indulgence of Apatow, along with some points in the plot seemed incredibly preposterous, kind of hurt this thing. But some of the jokes worked well-enough no matter. The Freaks and Geeks reunion was nice to see as well.

67-73 range

15. Time Crimes Funny, perculiar, mysterious spanish Time-Travel movie. Certainly another foreign film not nearly enough people saw. Eons better than "Primer."

16. Role Models It didn't look that great, but I saw this the same evening I caught "Zack and Miri" and it was clearly the superior movie. Some of the humor, especially the Nerd/Lord-of-the-Rings/Ren-Fest stuff hit home and like Big Bang Theory, proves how comedy using the Geek-element can be very effective. Not technically an Apatow movie, but pretty much on par with his best work.

17. What Just Happened
Why nobody saw this is also puzzling. It's Robert DeNiro..c'mon. And it's funny. The Hollywood exec who tries to please everyone, but isn't necessarily able-to. Some of the dialogue floored me. It reminded me of Sidney Pollack at times.

18. Religulous Bill Maher pulled this off pretty well. I wish he would have had Deepak Chopra somewhere in it, but overall, the sarcastic with religion was quite effective. Certainly one of the best Documentaries of the year.

19. Wall-E Even though it clearly borrowed from Short-Circuit, the charm and story still worked on a lot of levels. The best animated movie of 2008 certainly.

20. Vicky Christina Barcelona A bit of a comeback for Woody Allen. It was good, albeit seemed lazy in tone at times. No, it's not deserving of all the Awards-recognition it is, but was it bad?..no..it just seemed like a fantasy for beautiful women and a guy to hook up?..like a Romance Novel really. The acting wasn't amazing or anything though. And the guy who played Rebecca Hall's fiance was annoying as hell. Hall, however, should have been the one receiving the Oscar nomination, not Cruz. And I like Penelope Cruz, but in this?..her performance didn't stick out nearly as much as Hall's.

21. Tropic Thunder Part Andy Sedaris, part Steve Buscemi-movie-where-he-plays-a-director, part Leslie Nielsen. I could have done without Tom Cruise's werewolf chest, but Robert Downey fooled me big-time here. It wasn't bad, just not something I'll be wanting to see over and over again. Steve Coogan was better in this than "Hamlet 2" certainly.

65-73 range

22. Happy Go-Lucky Sally Hawkins should play Imogen Heap. Sally Hawkins won a globe for her role in this, and should have received an Oscar nomination. The film overall, wasn't breathtaking. Although the guy who played the driving instructor was hard-to-stomach, but a bit like Dennis Hopper in "Sleepwalking"..I can't help but respect his work here. The deep-accents and more or less the plot are what hurts this from being higher. A bit like "The Wrestler" in terms of ranking. Great individual performances, but the movie overall not as much.

23. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 Of course the cast is reason to watch. Blake Lively is pure eye-candy, and more worth seeing here than on "Gossip Girl." About on par with the 1st, but they didn't involve the Pants themselves enough this time.

24. Kung Fu Panda Not as, but close to as good as Wall-E for Pixar. Jack Black can do voice-work like this well..especially with toned-down dialogue. I'm not huge into Animated stuff, but this was one exception.


25. Gonzo: The Life and Work of Hunter S. Thompson A Documentary definitely worth seeing if you are an HST fan like myself. Johnny Depp appropriately narrates.

26. My Name is Bruce A parody of a parody in a way? A auto-biographical mockumentary at least. if you dug "Bubba Ho-Tep" this is certainly in that film's class. I mean many of the lines were good. I suppose my experience might rate this a tad higher, given the hilarious post-movie q&a Bruce gave. But on paper, it's worth seeing if you're a Campbell fan for sure.

27. Hancock Will Smith doing a Super-Hero. Jason Bateman was good, and the plot twist added something. Is it Will Smith's best work, or the greatest Super-Hero movie ever?..of course not. But it's entertaining, and at least slightly different spin on the Superhero genre.


60-65 range

28. Sex Drive Sean Anders is a talented film-maker. And while this wasn't as brilliant as 2005's "Never Been Thawed" it still wasn't bad. People didn't go that much for it; calling it a poor-man's Apatow or a Super Bad ripoff. But actually, I'd rate it higher than Super Bad. Super Bad is 1 of the most over-rated movies over the last few years. And while this wasn't brilliant, at least the gay-jokes and tones were done with some class. Seth Green wasn't bad either, and I had no clue the dude who played his brother was James Marsden.

29. Burn After Reading Silly plot and a bunch of actors playing characters you never fully want to pull for. This a Coen Brother's movie, which I've come to expect mediocrity, so pretty much they pulled that off. Not horrible..a few funny moments, but hardly Awards-worthy. It's sad they get some great people involved, but don't entirely make the most of them. Perhaps people like John Malkovich and George Clooney weren't looking to be highly featured. But it's like an album with a bunch of great guests, that ends up being better on paper than the finished product.

30. Let the Right One In Better than the piece of dung that was "Twilight" but in-truth, I wasn't won-over that much by this. The acting wasn't bad, I just don't fathom the pre-teen vampire-love story to work that well. And they're making an American version, lol.

31. Nobel Son Rickman and the supporting cast sounds great on paper. What you got is an uneven story and plot. You're not sure whether you hate Rickman, or the plot his son and ..well other son I guess end up trying to get away with.

Note: I have yet to see, but have rented, "Bottle Shock" which has some of the same cast and people involved. Perhaps that'll be better, or make this seem better relatively, once I see it.


25-60 range

32. The Rocker They tried to get tons of people to see this as I probably had 4 or 5 different chances to see this before it hit theaters. And they failed pretty miserably. In truth, it wasn't that bad, it just wasn't that great or moreso, unoriginal. Basically Rain Wilson channeling Jack Black. Okay. But it's nothing to tell people they need to see.

33. Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist I just saw this last night. Kat Dennings is very good eye candy. And the plot was kind of fun. The gay overtones got a bit too overemphasized, plus Ari Graynor's sick/drunk persona got milked far too long. Michael Cera, while at times I liked him, he often seems too relaxed. He needs to show some balls. All in all, not wonderful, but not the worst thing I saw this year. Dennings I am looking forward to seeing more of in the future.

34. Hamlet 2 Steve Coogan can be funny, as his work in "Tropic Thunder" showed, but I'm not sure he can carry a movie. This might have worked as sketch or short-film better. Elizabeth Shue was good, and maybe my favorite part of this thing.

35. Smart People Kind of a dull romantic comedy/family drama. Page-channeling her Juno character, SJP being annoying and playing her character from Sex and the City. Thomas Hayden-Church was probably the best part. Quaid can be funny, and he kind of seemed like a poor-man's Harry Ford here.

36. Quid Pro Quos Well not everything Nick Stahl does is perfect. The idea seemed a bit more appealing than the execution. Sure, some chick having a fetish for a disability like being in a wheelchair could have some legs, but I fell asleep sadly. I dunno, maybe a 2nd viewing via IFC could change my mind.

37. Valkyrie Non authentic accents, and maybe worse, the process and direction just seemed way too Hollywood. The plotting wasn't bad, but unless you can see past the fact Tom Cruise was playing Tom Cruise in Nazi-Germany, it's hard to find much appeal for this. See a documentary or read a book about it instead.

38. Bill Aaron Eckhardt: 1 of like 3 or 4 movies he was in 2008. This 1 he was featured. It had a few funny moments..namely the kid who played his mentor and the back-and-forth with Elizabeth Banks (who also appeared in like 6 movies in the last 12 months), but overall I wasn't sure how much I liked his character.

39. Get Smart Carrell was the right actor, visually/physically to play the Don Adams role, but too much of the script was Steve Carrell playing Steven Carrell. I'm not certain if Hathaway was worth seeing more in this or "Rachel Getting Married" as I walked out of that one.

40. The Dark Knight Over-rated, Over-rated, Over-rated, Over-rated, Over-rated, Over-rated, Over-rated, Over-rated. This may go down in history as being the most over-rated movie ever. Maybe even more than "Little Miss Sunshine." Sorry, but I had a horrible headache walking out of this. It was painful watching the back-and-forth explosions and sound-in-your-face..much like "Children of Men"..how could I enjoy this?..seriously, wtf?..it was just a disgustingly dark and torturous experience trying to get through this. Ledger?..sorry, but his job couldn't wash Jack Nicholson's Joker's JOCK. He more or less was Al Franken/Carol Channing becoming a mental patient. Not funny, not entertaining, not even worth remembering. He was gross as all fuck. And maybe even worse..but the Oscar was given to him from the day he was cast. Wonderful, Hollywood. Just wonderful. Every family on the globe will know this picture and never see Synechdoche, NY and they'll know Ledger for his work here and not on ROAR or a number of other things he did previously. Thanks.

41. Zack and Miri Make a Porno Sadly, this didn't turn out as good as it could. Kevin Smith + Seth Rogen. Reminds me a little of "Be Kind Rewind"..even though I don't love everything Smith does, the formula sounded potentially good. I guess it's a bit of Seth Rogen, everything he does ends up being decent but not amazing. Knowing-that going-in probably would be good to keep in mind. We didn't even get Elizabeth Banks in the Princess Leia Bikini, lol. I suppose on the flip-side, Traci Lords did add something, but the Jason Mewes exposure negated some of that.

42. Yes Man Jim Carrey and Zoey Deschanel. Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda..Another romantic-comedy on paper that fell short. I suppose it's not the worst either has done, but the idea that people in Hollywood are consistently brilliant is a myth. They should have at least had the song "Tempus Fugit" or a reference to the band Yes, but did they?..on the DVD perhaps? Dunno if I'd rent it..except perhaps if Zoey and Jim do commentary.


43. Step Brothers Not very funny, but it didn't look that funny. The 2nd half actually was a little better. Jenkins and Steenburgen both did other work this year that was better. Sadly, Ferrell and Reilly I'm not sure if the same can be said.

44. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Nostalgia with a convoluted script. Lucas, Spielberg..both perhaps are shells of their former selves. The Raiders Adaptation made me forget about this one fast. They ought-to include it on the dvd. If only the world worked that way.

"Bottleshock" and some others may be added, but were not available at the original press time.

also note: an Awards Blog I mean to post soon as a follow-up. Who I would give the awards to, etc.

3 comments :

Joe said...

Indiana Jones, Chrystal Skull = ugh.

Jeff said...

I enjoyed this.
I would recommend checking out Frost/Nixon,. quite a good movie

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