Movies Of 2008
(STILL IN PROGRESS)
National Treasure: The Book of Secrets (3.5) -- this sequel does Indiana Jones better (and providing more education) than Indiana Jones does. I still can't buy Nicolas Cage as an action hero, but at least he has to stop once in a while to "play history teacher" once in a while so I don't have to think about it during every scene. In this movie, there's a book in a secret room at the Library of Congress (for the eyes of the president only) that contains every conspiracy theorist's dream since America began in 1776. Of course, we don't get to see anything about anything we already wonder about, but personally, I find myself wondering if this administration is trying to resurrect the Knights Templar.
I Am Legend (3.5) -- Based on the Richard Matheson book (and shown on the screen before as The Omega Man), this film is about one man trying to save the human race from extinction due to a virus that he himself accidentally created. The look and feel of this movie was very good, but using somewhat cheesy CGI to show the "affected ones" (instead of just some very good makeup) causes this movie to lose some points. Also, the affinity of Will Smith's character for 70s reggae and movies from his past (our present) reminded me too much of his character in I, Robot and didn't have anything to do with advancing the story.
Michael Clayton (4) -- I thought George Clooney (actor and director here) should've received an Oscar for this one (instead of Tilda Swinton), but this movie was perfect from start to finish. Clooney is very cool here as a "cleaner" trying to sweep another government-employee foul-up under the rug and finding himself to be the target of another cleaner. To use a baseball analogy here (after all, this is also a baseball website), Clooney is turning into the "Babe Ruth" of Hollywood. He can do it all -- and very well, too.
Spiderwick Chronicles (3.5) -- Maybe I would've liked this one more if I hadn't just seen Bridge To Terabithia just last year. In this one, Freddie Highmore (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) plays a young man who is unhappy with his family's situation and discovers -- through a long-gone relative and an old eyepiece -- that his new house is right next to (and occasionally surrounded) a magical land populated by creatures trying to take control of something valuable in the house. This one might be a bit too scary for the youngsters and, once again, it's amazing what CGI can do these days, but the story didn't seem to stick with me that long after I saw the film.
Horton Hears a Who (4) -- Unlike the latest Indiana Jones movie, this movie was worth waiting for. The animation looked just like the original artwork in the books. The celebrity voice casting wasn't nearly as interesting, but the positive message makes up for that. Not much else to say besides go see it if/when you get the chance.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (3) -- I waited 19 years to see THIS movie? I'm a huge Spielberg fan, but I wish he had more influence on the way this film was laid out. It's not very often I roll my eyes at prairie dogs and boxes in warehouses and it's not very often I believe the lighting could've been more natural in almost every scene. I seriously doubt there's any place in the Amazon laid out just so two amphibious vehicles could run side-by-side without running into a single tree. The scene with the ants was unnecessary and stopped the story completely. Bringing Karen Allen's character back was ultimately pointless. The natives protecting the crystal skull were only shown to be slaughtered. Also, I noticed that this story had something in common with Stargate, American Graffiti, Toy Story, E.T., Dark Crystal, and Highlander. Overall, this film just seemed happier with itself than I was with it.
Iron Man (4) -- If only Marvel Studios had been in charge 10 years ago, maybe a lot of these movies would've been made when Scott Tolson was still alive. The casting of Robert Downey, Jr. was brilliant. Gwyneth Paltrow playing his secretary wasn't a bad choice, either, and I'm glad to see that she's put some weight on. This particular story was also topically relevant (good guy going against U.S. government involvement in Afghanistan) and because of that, I found myself rooting for him on more than one level. Obviously, there's going to be another movie (and if you're going to see this one, stay through all of the credits for one more scene at the end) and it should be good, too.
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (4) -- First off, I have to admit that I have not read this story -- and that I had just seen the first story on DVD right before I went to the theatre to see this movie. Like the first movie, there isn't much character development. The children are unhappy with their lives and getting older. Their first experience in Narnia just made them more curious to return. When they finally find a doorway, 1300 years have passed since their last visit and time hasn't been kind to Narnia. Prince Caspian goes against his heritage (initially, to try to save his own life) and attempts to restore the land to those who had owned it 1300 years ago. The scenery is stunning and the effects are, as usual these days, very well done. I'm an agnostic and yet, I look forward to the third movie -- if it ever makes it to the big screen.
Wall-E (4) -- One of the best animated movies I've ever seen. Pixar makes it nine-for-nine with the story of a robot (apparently, the last of its kind) that has spent the past 700-plus years cleaning up after an overconsuming (and now-vacationing) human race. Wall-E appears more aware of its surroundings than the humans (while they were earthbound AND while they're on vacation) and seems to care more about Earth. The animation is stunning. The story is topically relevant. I just hope Disney/Pixar doesn't add to a growing pile of garbage by creating tons of useless movie-related merchandise. It would be a novel change of pace for them AND it would keep this movie being so unfortunately ironic.
Hancock (3) -- When I first saw the poster for this movie, I thought Will Smith (bespectaled, wearing and showing off a couple days of beard stubble) was playing a mountain climber. Man, was I off. Hancock is a virtually indestructible superhero with an attitude, so he's the only superhero I've ever seen with a PR problem and I really liked this way of looking at what happens after the runaway train is stopped (saving one guy, but inconveniencing dozens of others) and the car chase is abruptly halted (preventing possible car accidents, but causing some structural damage to road signs and buildings). However, I wasn't prepared for the twist involving the family he befriends after the train incident. The movie goes in a completely different direction and becomes a completely different movie -- and maybe the second half should've been its own movie -- and what worked for me in the beginning goes away and doesn't return until the very end.
The Dark Knight (4) -- We'll never know if Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker would've been the apex of his career if he had lived twice as long as he actually did, but what a way to go out. I may never watch any of the Burton or Schumacher Batman movies ever again (not that I was ever looking forward to doing so anyway). Ledger's Joker made Nicholson's Joker look like a music-video or cartoon performance. The best bad guy is one that's a photo-negative or dark-universe version of the good guy and this Joker never lets Batman forget how close the two of them are to being the same person. The action was virtually non-stop and aside from Bale's constant overstressing while wearing the batsuit, this movie was flawless.
Journey To The Center Of The Earth (3.5) -- This film would've looked really silly if I hadn't seen it in 3D and I still prefer the original in terms of story adaptation and acting performances, but I just can't resist a 3D action movie. Not much else to say about this one, though, because the story has been done so many other times.
Kung Fu Panda (4)
-- This animated feature from DreamWorks looked fantastic (scenery and action)
and for once, unlike like other DreamWorks movies, it's not loaded from start to
finish with pop-culture references. The voice casting was also very well-done.
Of course, this film has the classic rags-to-riches, journey of the soul angle,
but as far as I can recall, I don't think it's ever been attempted with a panda
Eagle Eye (3.5) -- This film looked and felt like a combination of Enemy of the State, 1984 and Minority Report. This was Shia LeBeouf's movie from start to finish and after his performances in Transformers and Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, he looks more and more like Harrison Ford for the younger generation. This movie should also serve as a cautionary tale for those of us who believes that cameras everywhere and GPS trackers in our cellphones are entirely good ideas.
The Mummy: Curse of the Dragon Emperor (2) -- I really should've skipped this one -- or at least waited for the video -- once I heard that Rachel Weisz wouldn't be returning, but her character would be. And just like Lethal Weapon 4, Jet Li plays a guy who dies when nothing should be able to beat him. To this day, I still watch the first two movies whenever they appear on cable, but that's not going to happen with this one.
City Of Ember (3)
Body Of Lies (4)
Quantum Of Solace (3.5)