Pomp Culture Presents: 2008 Film Review

11:52 AM | Comments (0) | by Chaim Witz

The only thing more pompous than our 2008 Movie Lists is the fact that we are just getting around to posting them three weeks into January of 2009 under the assumption that you've been waiting with bated (garlic) breath. I mean, for the love of God, the Oscar nominations have already been released (The Reader over The Dark Knight?) and the Golden Globes are a thing of the past. These are about as timely as releasing "Milk" two weeks after the Prop 8 vote.

So disregard the films that the Academy would lead you to believe are good and just go see whatever is on The Hundley's list. Here they are, 23 days late, 23 dollars short and just as offensive as the
popcorn trick.

Daft Funk

These movies were all viewed on black market, Hong Kong-imported DVDS whose grainy quality is rivaled only by The Zapruder Footage.

1. Frost/Nixon: This one was much better than I thought. It wastes no time getting into the story, starting out with Nixon's resignation and going from there. Frank Langella's Nixon was pitch perfect and the last 20 minutes of this movie are so tense, you should go buy a chair so you can sit on the edge of it. Not an expensive chair, just something nice.

2. The Wrestler: As a straight male in the 18-30 age group, I don't use the word "heartbreaking" much. The Wrestler is a heartbreaking film, and Mickey Rourke is perfectly cast. This seems like a movie that would get better seeing it a second or even a third time.

3. The Dark Knight/Iron Man: The comic book nerd in me needed a change of pants for these ones. I loved them both equally and both were about as much fun as I've ever had at the movies. I feel a bit bad for Iron man though. Any other year, and it would have been recognized as the best comic book movie ever. But it's never a bad thing coming in second place to a movie that made $530 million.

4. Burn After Reading: A lot of people were down on the Cohen Brothers' follow up to No Country For Old Men. I loved it. It wasn't as laugh-out-loud funny as The Big Lebowski, and not nearly as dark as Fargo, but kind of met both halfway. Brad Pitt's dancing alone makes it a top 10 movie, although George Clooney's performance steals the movie. Just don't go down into his basement.

5. Gran Torino: If you ever thought to yourself, "Man, I wish there was a movie where Clint Eastwood was an old Korean War vet that just goes around being a badass for 2 hours while getting away with being a complete racist, but also really likable at the same time" then I've got the movie for you.

6. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: The special effects in this movie were so good (especially in the first half) that it wasn't until hours after I finished the movie that I realized that I didn't have any emotional investment in any of the characters. I didn't care when people died or had their hearts broken or whatever. All that and I still enjoyed it? That's good direction.

7. The Foot Fist Way: Danny McBride tried his damnedest to cameo in every funny movie this year. He stole Pineapple Express. He was great in Tropic Thunder. But his best performance of the year was his lone starring role as a small town karate instructor trying to deal with an unfaithful wife and meeting his idol. Look, I can't explain it in any way that would convince you to see it, so just watch this clip, laugh your ass off, and rent it.

8. Milk: I never knew Harvey Milk and I was born after he died. But watching Sean Penn in this movie, I can just tell that he got every single nuance of his life just right. It would have been easy to make this movie solely about "the first openly gay man elected to public office" but Gus Van Sant made it more than that. It was about being a human being and giving other human beings the same right to live and be happy regardless of what life they live.

9. In Bruges: I've always thought that Colin Farrell could act, but just had bad decisions in the movies he decided to do. Hell, I thought he was fantastic in Phone Booth. Finally he gives a great performance in a really funny movie. Midgets? Check. Drugs and alcohol? Check. I hope Brandon Gleason and Farrell have another chance to work together int he future, because their chemistry was what made this movie so much fun.

10. Shotgun Stories: When Roger Ebert put out his Top 20 Movies of 2008 list, Shotgun Stories was on it. it sounded pretty cool, so I rented it and it really blew me away. It's the story about three brothers that get tangled up in a feud that erupts with their four half brothers after the death of their mutual father. Set in the cotton fields of Southeast Arkansas, the smaller the town you grew up in, the more you'll love this movie.

Honorable Mention- Revolutionary Road: This one doesn't make the top 10 because it wasn't that great a movie per say. The story was a bit rushed and jumbled, but the performances by Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio (and supporting actor Michael Shannon) will stick with you for days after seeing this movie.

Worst Movie of the Year - Semi-Pro: I didn't laugh once during this movie. Terrible on every level. Also, I don't want to see Woody from Cheers have sex with anyone. Ever. Sick.

One You Might Have Missed - Let The Right One In: It's a Swedish movie about a 12 year old boy who gets bullied on a daily basis. He finds comfort and confidence to fight back in his new friend, the girl next door. Did I mention that she's a vampire? Art-house vampire flick? And it delivers? Sign me up!

Overrated - Man On Wire: Critics fell over themselves trying to prise this movie (It has a 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes). People all around the country raved about how suspenseful it was. I stopped watching it halfway through the movie. There was no suspense. Don't tell me about how you were scared of getting caught or falling off the top floor of the Twin Towers. I know you didn't fall to your death. You know how I know that? Because you're being interviewed in the first 5 minutes of this movie! The tightrope walk between the Twin Towers already happened, so why would anything about this movie be suspenseful?


Chaim Witz

This list erroneously thinks its better than you.

1. The Wrestler - A heart wrenching, bittersweet character study of one man's fall from grace. A tour de force by Mickey Rourke and a chance for him to dust off both his career and those sunglasses that he swiped at the 84' People's Choice Awards.

2. The Dark Knight - More than just a comic book movie, this was an epic crime tale where the hero just happens to wear tights. Nearly everything from the musical score to the use of the Chicago backdrop to the haunting performance by Heath Ledger was pitch perfect.

3. Slumdog Millionaire - Director Danny Boyle creates a rich, accessible fairy tale that leaps off the screen and tugs at the heartstrings. Undeserving of it's 'R' rating, this is the rare indie film that should appeal to nearly everyone.

4. Rachel Getting Married - Great performances and plenty of drama, minus the usual wedding movie cheese. Long, extended camera takes help suck you in and make you feel a part of the happening, ethnic and sometimes pretentious wedding reception. Top shelf liquor, top shelf film.

5. Pineapple Express - Hilarious stoner movie with mass appeal for the non-stoner set. Danny McBride is priceless as 'Red', in what is sure to be a career launching role.

6. In Bruges - Darkly comic, sometimes surreal hitman movie hits the mark. Midgets, drinking, bursts of random violence and Colin Farrell cursing. Sounds like most of my dates in college.

7. Role Models - Role Models doesn't reinvent the wheel, but certainly makes the wheel seem much, much funnier. Cursing little kids, Paul Rudd and a KISS-inspired finale all make for one of the funnier comedies of 2008.

8. Che - Certainly not a film for everyone, unless 4.5 hours (divided into two parts) of subtitles and the minuta that goes into jungle guerrilla warfare are your thing. Not knowing anything about Che besides the fact that many hipsters don his t-shirt, I found it pretty fascinating from start to finish, particularly Part I.

9. Wanted - Taken as a serious action film (see: Bourne), Wanted is fairly laughable. Taken as a live-action cartoon, devoid of any intelligence but full of testosterone, I suppose it's still laughable, but damn entertaining.

10. Wall E - Pixar does it again. The first 45 minutes, devoid of any dialogue, are pretty ballsy and pretty great.

Honorable Mention:
Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist - A 'Say Anything' for the MySpace Generation.
Doubt - Meryl Steep and Phillip Seymour Hoffman in an acting smackdown.
Ironman - RDJ drinks scotch and flies around.
The Incredible Hulk - Better than it should have been.

Worth Seeing: Frost/Nixon (not as dry as you'd think), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (curiously flawed), The Bank Job, Definitely Maybe, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, American Teen, Burn After Reading (minor Cohens), Young @ Heart, Cloverfield, The Visitor

Worst Of:
1. Sleepwalking
2. 27 Dresses
3. Happy Go Lucky
4. The Secret Life of Bees
5. The Happening

Overrated: Tropic Thunder, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Four Christmases, Hancock: Proof positive that box office success does not always = quality.

Disappointments: Step Brothers, Quantum of Solace: Both of them have their moments for sure, but the bar was set high (Anchorman, Casino Royale) and neither could live up to their older siblings.

Best Performances:
Mickey Rourke: The Wrestler
Heath Ledger: The Dark Knight
Meryl Streep: Doubt
Danny McBride: Pineapple Express
Ann Hathaway: Rachel Getting Married
Russell Brand: Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Frank Langella: Frost/Nixon


Governor X

This list escaped from Guantanamo Bay.

1. Slumdog Millionaire – Director Danny Boyle is finally getting the accolades I've always thought he deserved and rightfully so. Slumdog Millionaire is a masterpiece taking two hours to go from one of the most depressing movies you'll ever see to one of the most uplifting. The Bollywood dance number at the end doesn't hurt either.

2. Gran Torino – If Clint Eastwood chooses to retire from acting after Gran Torino, at least he'll be going out on top. His portrayal of the bitter, racist Korean War vet who ultimately takes his young Asian neighbor under his wing is simultaneously infuriating, sad, and hilarious. In other words, he nails it. Easily his best movie since Unforgiven.

3. Religulous – No one shreds religion as well as Bill Maher. Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins make the same case (and so would I if I felt like arguing), but Maher does it in a way that comes off as funny and less abrasive. Quote of the century: Religion must die for man to live.

4. Che – If you didn't think it would be possible to make a movie about Che Guevara that wasn't incredibly slanted one way or another, I submit Steven Soderbergh's Che to you. Leaving the editorializing for historians, Soderbergh simply tells the story of Che during the Cuban Revolution and his ultimate downfall in Bolivia. Benicio Del Torro will almost certainly be getting an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of the Argentine revolutionary.

5. Valkyrie – Tom Cruise ist ein Deutschlander? Ja. Valkyrie is an all around solid historical drama. While it struck me as odd at first, the decisions to have the actors not fake German accents proved to be the correct decision. It left the focus on the story rather than Tom Cruise or Bill Nighy trying to talk like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

6. Wall-E – Charming children's movie? Check. Scathing critique of sloth and consumerism in modern society? Check.

7. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – Any Indy fan who didn't like this needs to re-watch the original three. They were just as over the top. Its entertainment people! Speaking of entertainment…

8. Wanted is truly one of the most ridiculous films I've ever seen, but I can't tell you I didn't enjoy every minute of it.

9. In Bruges – Belgium sucks, and someone finally made a movie about it. Bravo. Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson are brilliant as squabbling hitmen.

10. The Dark Knight – I really didn't want to include this because of all the hype, but it was too good to leave off. I don't think it's possible for a movie with Morgan Freeman in it to be bad. Wait. I take that back. Deep Impact sucked.

Honorable mention (in no order): Young @ Heart, Hellboy 2, Quantum of Solace, Hancock, Tropic Thunder, Pineapple Express


E-Claire

These movies will pay for your dinner, but expect sex in return.

1. Milk – Being from the Bay Area, I really wanted to see this movie. And I wasn't disappointed. Sean Penn was excellent as Harvey Milk. And James Franco, Josh Brolin, and Emile Hirsch give great supporting performances. I don't want to get too political, but I will say that the same types of issues they were fighting over about 30 years ago are still being fought about today...Which makes this more than just a biopic…The movie is as relevant today as it would've been back then.

2. Gran Torino – The first part of this movie could be called "Clint Eastwood is a racist and hates everyone." The second part could be called "Don't fuck with Clint Eastwood," and the last part, well, you'll have to watch. But I love Clint Eastwood, and I'm bummed that I hear this will supposedly be the last movie he'll act in. But at least he went out as a badass who growls a lot and tells people to get off his lawn.

3. Frost/Nixon – Frank Langella was very good as Nixon. I think he did a good job of humanizing the former president. The guy did a lot of bad things, but you still felt a little something for him in this movie…At least I did.

4. The Wrestler – I can't really comment too much on this movie without giving anything away, so I'm just going to say that Mickey Rourke was fantastic. There were some moments in the movie where he wasn't saying anything, but you could almost feel what he was thinking, and that really impressed me. I also hope Springsteen wins the Oscar for Best Original Song. His song "The Wrestler" really captures the essence of the movie – and not just because it has the same title as the movie.

5. The Dark Knight – I really liked this movie. The story was interesting, the acting was great (Maggie Gyllenhaal was kinda blah, though), and the IMAX shots were rad.

6. In Bruges – Hit men + midgets = comedic gold.

7. Iron Man – Robert Downey Jr. was great as Tony Stark/Ironman. And it's nice to see Gwyneth Paltrow do a movie where she's not moping around for 2 hours.

8. Role Models – I was a little skeptical about this movie because Stiffler from "American Pie" was in it, but it ended up being pretty damn funny. Just make sure you can handle an hour-and-a-half of that McLovin kid…He basically plays McLovin again, but this time he wears a cape.

9. Revolutionary Road – This movie basically seemed like a vehicle for Kate Winslet and Leo DiCaprio to flex their acting chops, but they both did a good job. I hope Kate Winslet finally wins an Oscar this year. I like her as an actress, and it seems like every year she turns in a great performance, there's someone else who's got the Oscar locked up. Maybe this will be her year.

10. Mamma Mia! – This movie was a lot more entertaining than I thought it would be – mostly because Pierce Brosnan can't carry a tune in a bucket. I also got a kick out of the guy in front of us who cried during one of the sappy scenes. I had to muffle my laughter. I'm such a jackass.

Movies that probably would've made my list if I had seen them: Rachel Getting Married, Slumdog Millionaire

Worst movie of the year: Seven Pounds. I'll agree with the critics who say the plot of this movie was way too pretentious. Will Smith, when you were handed the script to this movie, your response should've been "Awwww HELL Naw!"


Dave Thomas

This list would like to think that it speaks for itself.

1. WallE
2. Iron Man
3. The Dark Knight
4. The Wrestler
5. Milk
6. Slumdog Millionaire
7. Role Models
8. Pineapple Express
9. Appaloosa
10. Burn After Reading


Jordi

This list was diagnosed with full blown AIDS.

1. Wall-E: Explosions, social message, robots, kick-ass animation, and a feel-good story. Real actors are overrated.

2. The Dark Knight:Explosions, anarchy, subtle comment about order in chaos (i.e. Bush against Iraqi anarchists or Einstein vs. quantum physics), kick-ass terrorist techniques; for more, check this out.

3. Tropic Thunder: Explosions, humor, satire on warhawks, reliance on pop culture references hurts timelessness of movie.

4. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: Explosions, interesting story based on string/wave theory and alien conspiracies, could have been higher, but the Soviets were the most ridiculous and incompetent enemy Indy has ever faced.

5. The Incredible Hulk: Explosions, stuff, Liv Tyler, big green guy, etc.

6. Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Explosions, Jedis, Natalie Portman (animated), would have been higher if it was more of a Star Wars movie and not a silly 2-hour commercial for the Cartoon Network show. Also, the young girl jedi is the most annoying character in the Star Wars galaxy behind Jar Jar Binks.

7. Four Christmases: No explosions, but it did have Reese Witherspoon.


The Hundley

If movies were orgasms, you'd have to fake it with these.

Haven't seen that many movies this year. I'd rather read a book. That being said, I would have liked to have seen the new Bond, Pineapple Express, Hancock, Ben Button, Zohan, and Valkyrie. Alas, I didn't see any of those, so here is my best of 2008, and what a disappointing year for movies it was

1.Shine a Light - Martin Scorsese's documentary/concert of the Rolling Stones. I am by no means a big Stones guy, but this film was KILLER. The only one on my list that I wanted to (and did) see twice. It really helped that Shine a Light was only released in I-Max Theatres. The picture and especially the sound really made it seem like you were actually sitting front row.

2. The Dark Knight - I waited for more than 8 weeks past the original release date to see this because that's how long my little farm town took to get it at our I-Max. Great experience. I have to imagine it loses a lot of luster outside of a theatre. Visually this movie was cool, but I thought the story was a bit weak. Didn't quite understand the hype. Like I said, weak year for movies.

3. The Express - I'm a sucker for true stories, doubly so if it involves sports. Rob Brown does a solid job portraying Ernie Davis, a black running back for Syracuse in the 60's. That reminds me, send Chaim Witz an email and ask him to explain what "Rob Brown Drunk" is.

4. Hellboy II - A good action flick, cool effects, dry humor. Hellboy is a cool hero. I guess.

5. Tropic Thunder - Apparently it's chic to make fun of this movie, but I enjoyed it for what it's worth. I wasn't expecting to see anyone turn in a Larry Olivier performance, I was expecting to laugh. And I thought it had plenty of those. Bob Downey II was great.

6. Indiana Jones and Castle Grayskull - I flirted with the idea of going to a Halloween costume party as Indiana Jones. Chaim Witz told me I should have someone constantly following me around with a big green screen. And that's really funny...and sad. Sad but true.

7. Iron Man - Kind of a dud. Sometimes RDJ was good, mostly he was annoying. I also hate Gwenyth Paltrow-Coldplay. Sorry, didn't see many movies.

Honorable Mention - U23D. Wicked-cool experience, just wished it could have featured a band that I really dig.

Worst Movie - The Happening: Seriously, the storyline, acting, and dialog were akin to something you'd see on an After School Special. Just a horrible, horrible movie. And I'm normally a fan of M. Noche Shyamalan.


Arcturus

It was like pulling teeth to get him to make a Top 5 'non porno' movie list.

1. The Dark Knight-With all apologies to Daft Funk, the Dark Knight was freaking amazing. The points he made in his earlier post were valid, but I still believe this was the best movie of '08, regardless of it being a comic book film. Not just an action movie, the film deals with the dark side of humanity and the consequences of the choices we make.

2. Wall-E-More than just a kids film, Wall-E is at once a love story and a warning of the dangers of over-consumption gone wrong. The animation is amazing, the music is perfectly chosen/composed, and the story never seems forced or shrill.

3. Appaloosa-The Western returns with a bang in Ed Harris's solidly directed adaptation of the novel by Robert B. Parker. Harris and Viggo Mortensen make for believable purveyors of justice hired to clean up the town of Appaloosa. Moral dilemmas and sharp dialogue crackle around superb gun play in this character driven piece.

4. Quantum of Solace-Daniel Craig returns for his second go-round as James Bond in the follow up to the incredible Casino Royale. Craig's Bond is still badass, but the plot of the sequel doesn't quite live up to the standard set by Casino Royale. Despite the weaker storyline, QoS still delivers plenty of action and most of the film's appeal is watching Craig make the role of 007 his own. I can only hope that the next film features a tighter script, but as long as Craig is playing the title role, I'll keep coming back for more.

5. Doubt-Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep create sparks in this story of a priest accused of child abuse by a nun. The dialogue is well-written and the acting is simply amazing. An excellent fim that explores the nature of gossip and speculation, as well as the role of the church and its relationship with its parishioners. Outstanding.

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