It’s that time of the year again! Yes, there’s a new list for 2008! Enjoy!
Opened on July 25, 2008
Directed by Nanette Burstein
A documentary on seniors at a high school in a small Indiana town and their various cliques.
Why it’s on here: At Sundance this year, American Teen
became the festival’s sleeper hit, fueled by immensely positive buzz
coming from everyone who saw it. Despite what you may have heard, it’s
nothing like "The Hills" and is a fantastic inside look at the life of
four American high school teens. If only just to see it once, American Teen
is worth your time and money, as Nanette Burstein takes dry documentary
storytelling and turns it into something exciting and entertaining.
Opened on November 26, 2008
Directed by Baz Luhrmann
Set in northern
Australia before World War II, an English aristocrat who inherits a
sprawling ranch reluctantly pacts with a stock-man in order to protect
her new property from a takeover plot. As the pair drive 2,000 head of
cattle over unforgiving landscape, they experience the bombing of
Darwin, Australia, by Japanese forces firsthand.
Why it’s on here:
Despite all the talk about how it’s not a movie that audiences want to
see anymore, it’s actually a wonderfully thrilling epic that only the
likes of Baz Luhrmann could bring us. Yes, it’s really two movies and
that’s initially hard to get past, but once you do, you’ll find
yourself being sucked into a sprawling Australian fairy tale lead by a
handful of great actors. Even if you’re annoyed by the dual stories in
the end, I’m certain you’ll at least admire the beauty of this great
Opened on June 13, 2008
Directed by Jay and Mark Duplass
Four struggling actors retreat to a cabin in California in order to
write a screenplay that will make them all stars. What happens when
their story idea — a horror flick about a group of friends tormented by
a villain with a bag over his head — starts to come true?
Why it’s on here: Sony
Picture Classics, who bought this film after its premiere at Sundance,
screwed it over badly by dumping it during a crowded summer movie
season and not giving it the support it needed. It’s a very hard film
to sell at first, but all they needed to do was get the right people in
the theater. The Duplass Brothers are some of the best up-and-coming
flmmakers around that use a refreshingly unique shooting style that
plays into Baghead very well. It’s a blend of horror and comedy like you’ve never seen before. You guaranteed to walk out of it with a smile.
Opened on February 22, 2008
Directed by Jon Poll
A rich kid becomes the self-appointed psychiatrist to the student body of his new high school.
Why it’s on here: Wait, you didn’t know that Robert Downey Jr. was in more movies this year than just Iron Man and Tropic Thunder? Yep, he was in another one called Charlie Bartlett,
and it was a great movie and he did a great job in it. But he’s not the
only highlight — Anton Yelchin, who also plays Chekov in the upcoming Star Trek,
was what made this movie so damn good. It’s fun and rebellious and a
great coming-of-age movie. And in more than one case, Downey Jr. steals
the show, especially in a couple scenes at the end involving the pool
in his backyard.
Opened on September 26, 2008
Directed by Clark Gregg
A sex-addicted con-man pays for his mother’s hospital bills by
playing on the sympathies of those who rescue him from choking to death.
Why it’s on here: A devious and fun exercise in adapting the dark musings of the great Chuck Palahniuk, Choke
explores the life of a sex addict trying to deal with a mother who is
slipping away. With great performances from Sam Rockwell and Brad
William Henke combined with twisted humor that can only come from the
mind behind Fight Club, Choke is easily one of the
most unique and authentically dark comedies of the year. If you dig
deviance, this is one you shouldn’t let pass by. (Written by Neil of FSR)
City of Ember
Opened on October 10, 2008
Directed by Gil Kenan
For generations, the
people of the City of Ember have flourished in an amazing world of
glittering lights. But Ember’s once powerful generator is failing and
the great lamps that illuminate the city are starting to flicker.
Why it’s on here: City of Ember was one of the biggest flops this year next to Speed Racer
(which is on this list, too). Before it first hit theaters, I really
didn’t care that much about it. But I eventually saw it and was
completely surprised. It reminded me of the kind of movies that I used
to love as a kid, just full of wonderment and excitement. As long as
you recognize that it is a kid’s movie and not much more, it should be
easy to sit back and enjoy this adventure just as much as I did.
Not Released in Theaters Yet
Directed by Rupert Wyatt
Frank Perry is an institutionalized convict twelve years into a
life sentence without parole. When his estranged daughter falls ill, he
is determined he make peace with her before it’s too late. He develops
an ingenious escape plan, and recruits a dysfunctional band of
escapists — misfits with a mutual dislike for one other but united by
their desire to escape their hell hole of an existence.
Why it’s on here: It was my favorite film
from Sundance this year and could’ve been my favorite film of the
entire year if it had ever actually been released in theaters.
THINKFilm picked it up at Sundance but that company went under part of
the way through the year, so it never hit theaters. It was in theaters
in June in the UK and will be out on DVD over there in January. This is
one of the best films that no one has ever heard of. It’s one of the
most intense and thrilling modern escape movies ever made, and that’s a
Opened on May 9, 2008
Directed by Tarsem Singh
In a hospital on the
outskirts of 1920s Los Angeles, an injured stuntman begins to tell a
fellow patient, a little girl with a broken arm, a fantastical story
about 5 mythical heroes. Thanks to his fractured state of mind and her
vivid imagination, the line between fiction and reality starts to blur
as the tale advances.
Why it’s on here: This
beautiful film took two years to finally hit theaters after premiering
at a film fest in 2006. Although a couple of people caught it during
its theatrical run, The Fall never turned into a hit despite
glowing reviews. I was even surprised to find myself enjoying it,
especially because the trailers didn’t seem all that interesting. What
you’ll discover is a gorgeous historic epic built around an ensemble of
great performances. The Fall was worth the two year wait to see in theaters and shouldn’t be quickly forgotten.
Opened on August 22, 2008
Directed by Andrew Fleming
In this irreverent comedy, a failed
actor-turned-worse-high-school-drama-teacher rallies his Tucson,
Arizona students as he conceives and stages politically incorrect
musical sequel to Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
Why it’s on here: Whereas Choke was the quintessential dark comedy of the year, Hamlet 2
is the quintessential absurd comedy of the year. Steve Coogan shines
like a young Gene Wilder as the whacky drama teacher that just about
everyone had in high school. The story benefits from the smart and
biting comedic mind of Pam Brady, who co-wrote the South Park
movie. You’ll get heavy doses of silliness, big scoops of absurdity and
one giant musical interlude set to "Rock Me Sexy Jesus." What could
possibly be better than that? (Written by Neil of FSR)
Let the Right One In
Opened on October 24, 2008
Directed by Tomas Alfredson
Oscar, an overlooked
and bullied boy, finds love and revenge through Eli, a beautiful but
peculiar girl who turns out to be a vampire.
Why it’s on here: We’ve already talked extensively about why Let the Right One In
is such a phenomenal film. But for those that don’t know about it just
yet, it’s one of the best horror movies in the last few years and is
the very best vampire movie since Interview with the Vampire
in 1994. Although it’s already getting a lot of exposure from fellow
critics, most of whom are calling it their favorite movie of the year,
it still didn’t spread wide enough to be called a hit, so I’m putting
it on here to give it even more of the exposure that it deserves.
Man on Wire
Opened on July 25, 2008
Directed by James Marsh
A look at tightrope walker Philippe Petit’s daring, but illegal,
high-wire routine performed between New York City’s World Trade
Center’s twin towers in 1974, what some consider, "the artistic crime
of the century."
Why it’s on here: Every
year there seems to be a documentary that transcends educational value
and historical relevance and becomes something more, something deeply
entertaining and alive with intensity. Last year it was the underdog
story of The King of Kong. This year it is the daring tale of
Philippe Petit. And while his accomplishment is the crown jewel of the
film, it is Petit’s engaging nature as a subject that makes Man on Wire one of the most exciting and riveting films of the year. It packs as much drama as you might see in a movie like The Dark Knight or Iron Man — and it is based on something that really happened. It doesn’t get more impressive than that. (Written by Neil of FSR)
Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist
Opened on October 3, 2008
Directed by Peter Sollett
High school student
Nick O’Leary, member of the Queercore band The Jerk Offs, meets
college-bound Norah Silverberg and she asks him to be her boyfriend for
Why it’s on here: Before I even saw this, I was expecting it to be the next Superbad or Garden State.
Then I saw it and thought it could actually achieve that level of
success. Not only was it fun (and funny), but it had a sweet side to it
that made it more than just the typical teenage comedy. It may have not
been the best comedy of the year or even as good as Superbad or Garden State,
but considering it is at least better than most other stupid teenage
comedies, it deserves a bigger audience than it got in October. The
charming Kat Dennings is at her best in it, as is Michael Cera.
Ping Pong Playa
Opened on September 5, 2008
Directed by Jessica Yu
A kid dreams of playing professional basketball in order to escape
his dead-end job, living in the suburbs, his bossy older brother and
running his Mom’s ping pong classes.
Why it’s on here: Easily
the funniest movie of the last two years. I first saw it at the Toronto
Film Festival last year and in turn called it the Best of the Fest.
It eventually hit theaters earlier this year, but barely anyone knew it
even existed. It was sad to see it go unnoticed because not only does
its lead actor, Jimmy Tsai, and its director, Jessica Yu, deserve
plenty of praise for their skills, but it is literally one of the
funniest movies I’ve ever seen. As I said in my review, screw Balls of Fury, "Ping Pong Playa is the ping pong movie that should be in the spotlight!"
Opened on June 6, 2008
Directed by Steve Conrad
Two assistant managers of a corporate grocery store vie for a coveted promotion.
Why it’s on here: Yet another hilarious comedy that I discovered at a film festival (SXSW
in March). I’m not normally a fan of John C. Reilly or Seann William
Scott, but both of them gave extraordinary comedic performances to make
this an all-around gem of a comedy. It’s unfortunate that this didn’t
catch on because it has so many hilarious moments that really stand
out. It’s one of those refreshingly different kind of independent
comedies that no one knows about; but you’ll be grinning when your
friends come gawking to you about it years later because by then you’ll
have already memorized it all by heart.
Son of Rambow
Opened on May 2, 2008
Directed by Garth Jennings
During a long English summer in the early 1980s, two schoolboys
from differing backgrounds set out to make a film inspired by Rambo:
Why it’s on here: From the writer/director that brought us The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
comes one of the most heartwarming, unique little indie films of the
year. The story of two friends from different sides of town (and
religions) and their desire to make their own Rambo movie in
the 1980s might sound simple, but it is loaded with layers that have an
undeniable heartwarming effect. A story of friendship, acceptance and
religious persecution, Son of Rambow is one of the most clever stories released in theaters this year. (Written by Neil of FSR)
adventures of Speed Racer, a young race car driver who sits behind the
wheel of the lightning-fast Mach 5 racecar. Aided by his family and his
devoted girlfriend, Speed racks up victory after victory, but still
lives in the shadow of his late older brother, Rex. When Speed garners
the wrath of Royalton Industries, he must team up with the enigmatic
Racer X to defeat the ruthless corporation.
Why it’s on here: I
don’t care what all the critics said about it — I loved this movie! And
as more and more people are starting to finally watch this of their own
volition, they’re finding it to be way more entertaining than they were
expecting. It’s a kids movie at its heart but it’s also infused with
the Wachowski’s one-of-a-kind stunning visuals and energy. It was
killed by some early bad buzz but deserved much better. If you can get
that bad buzz out of your head, a few of you might actually enjoy this
in the end. At least give it a chance!
Not Released in Theaters Yet
Directed by Pierre Morel
A former spy relies on his old skills to save his estranged daughter, who has been forced into the slave trade.
Why it’s on here: I already recently wrote about my feelings on Fox screwing over Taken,
so I’m adding it here to emphasize to everyone (and Fox) again that
they really did make a big mistake in delaying it. We should’ve all
seen Taken already, as it was originally scheduled to be in
theaters in September, but for reasons that still baffle me, Fox pushed
it all the way to January. It couldn’t be more fitting to include Taken on this list, considering it really is one of the best movies of the year that no one saw thanks to idiotic studio decisions.
Opened on July 3, 2008
Directed by Jonathan Levine
Set against this
backdrop of New York City in 1994, a lonely teenager named Luke Shapiro
spends his last summer before university selling marijuana throughout
the city, trading it with his unorthodox psychotherapist for treatment,
and falling in love with his stepdaughter.
Why it’s on here: In addition to American Teen,
this is one film that came out of Sundance this year with a whole lot
of buzz. But yet again, Sony Pictures Classics buried it with a
terrible release date and a series of poorly made trailers. Even if it
had trouble finding the right audience, I’m assuring everyone that this
still is one of the best movies of the year. While I’ve
thrown around that phrase a lot, I really mean it this time, especially
because its been on my mind constantly as I’ve starting to thinking
back over this year. Do yourself a huge favor and catch this as soon as
Young People Fucking
Opened on August 29, 2008
Directed by Martin Gero
A smart and fast-paced comedy that intertwines the stories of 5
couples over the course of one sexual encounter. As the couples attempt
to have some seemingly straight forward sex, they run into all sorts of
Why it’s on here: I first encountered this gem at the Toronto Film Festival last year, but it didn’t hit theaters until this year. Maybe it was its uncensored title that fucked it over (pun intended), but let me tell you, Young People Fucking
is one of the funniest no-holds-barred sex comedies ever made. It has a
very independent and personal feel to it, but that’s what makes it so
damn good. Even if it’s just to find out what he said, Young People Fucking is definitely worth watching, especially with a significant other.
Well, I hope you seek these out and enjoy them, I’m definitely looking forward to seeing them!