Movies Released in 2008 (in alphabetical order)

Bigger, Stronger, Faster*

Bigger, Stronger, Faster*

I've seen a lot of documentaries lately - mostly through Netflix - and many have the same problem in that they pick an intriguing subject, but rarely get deep with it. So you get a portrait of something or someone, but you aren't shown the larger context surrounding the subject. Bigger, Stronger, Faster* is that rare documentary that actually succeeds… read more!

Blindness

Blindness

It's a rare treat to like a movie that most critics hate. Usually I see eye to eye with a few of them, but in the case of Blindness, I ignored the mostly negative reviews the film was getting, and was excited to see it anyway. Why? Because I am fascinated with blindness, I think losing one's sight is second… read more!

Bottle Shock

Bottle Shock

In 1976, a struggling British wine seller in Paris named Steven Spurrier decided to publicize his business by hosting a blind taste test competition where the great wines of France would be up against wines produced in California's then-obscure Napa Valley. The small Napa wineries surprisingly won both the red and the white categories, and thus was born the classic… read more!

Burn After Reading

Burn After Reading

This good but not great Coen Brothers outing has been underrated by many in the wake of their Oscar-winning No County for Old Men, but diehard fans of the Coens will probably enjoy this non-flashy dramedy, as the brothers serve up yet another tale of lunk-headed ordinary joes who turn to petty crime in order to score a little bit… read more!

Cloverfield

Cloverfield

First, a bit of disclosure: I was hired to do some creative writing for the Blu-ray release of Cloverfield. Working on the disc and thus having to study Cloverfield's filmmaking process intensely, I wound up liking the film a lot - much more, perhaps, than I might have if I'd seen it in a theater, where I wouldn't have had… read more!

The Counterfeiters

The Counterfeiters

This most recent Best Foreign Film Oscar winner is, yes, yet another Holocaust movie, but it stands out for uncovering a strange bit of Nazi history little-known to the outside world: as Germany was losing the war, the country actually began counterfeiting English and American money in order to stay afloat financially, and they employed Jewish concentration camp prisoners who… read more!

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

It sounds like an oxymoron, but this is a modest epic, an intimate character drama that unfolds across decades and continents with top-notch movie stars and top-notch special effects. Benjamin Button is the tale of a man born elderly, who then goes through his life aging in reverse. With a screenplay based mostly on just the central gimmick of F.… read more!

The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight

I don't like writing reviews for movies like The Dark Knight, because what can I add to the conversation? What can I do other than agree with all the other raves? Yes, Christopher Nolan and his cowriter brother Jonathan have matched the excellence of their earlier Batman Begins. Yes, it's good that they got rid of Katie Holmes, the only… read more!

Dear Zachary

Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father

A genuine emotional roller coaster, this documentary was made entirely by one person, Kurt Kuenne, and was intended as a home movie to be given to the infant son of Kuenne's lifelong friend Andrew Bagby, who was murdered in cold blood by his monstrous ex-girlfriend when he was only 28. After a stunning series of twists and turns, Kuenne's "letter"… read more!

Doubt

Doubt

Writer-director Shanley's adaptation of his own Broadway play is a brisk, witty, and perhaps too short account of a Catholic school in 1964, whose newish priest (Philip Seymour Hoffman) has some ideas about being friendlier with the parish than the brittle old nun principal (Meryl Streep) would like. When younger nun Amy Adams sees something to make her suspicious of… read more!

The Fall

The Fall

I have one regret about seeing The Fall: I waited too long, and so I caught it late in its run at the miserable Beverly Center, and the morons who staff the place started the movie about ten minutes early - whereas I showed up on time. So I missed the first few minutes of this thing, which is a… read more!

Frost/Nixon

Frost/Nixon

Tense retelling of the historic televised interviews between British talk show host David Frost and recently resigned US president Richard Nixon is not at all the talkfest you might suspect, but is actually structured like a boxing movie, with each contender training, honing his strategy, entering the ring, taking his blows, then retreating to the corner to confer with his… read more!

The Happening

The Happening

My friend Bill, who I went to college with and who designed the credits for my two features, has also designed the credits for most of M. Night Shyamalan's films. He not only returns to the fold with a dramatic opening title sequence, he was also hired by Shyamalan as The Happening's second unit director. This means that Bill got… read more!

Happy-Go-Lucky

Happy-Go-Lucky

Another of Leigh's trademark slice-of-life British comedy-dramas, using generally unknown (to Americans) actors who work with their director for months in improv workshops in order to develop fully lived-in, realistic characters, Happy-Go-Lucky's heroine is a 30-year-old Londoner named Poppy (Sally Hawkins) who is thoroughly unflappable in her optimism no matter the situation Leigh gauges our tolerance for such an exuberantly… read more!

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

For 1981's Raiders of the Lost Ark, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas were famously inspired by the cheesy action serials from the 1930s. Had the Indiana Jones films followed the format of those serials, and come out with a new installment once or twice a year, Crystal Skull might have been a fairly decent entry in the series. But after… read more!

Iron Man

Iron Man

I remember when Die Hard first came out in 1988. The reaction my friends and I had to the ads was, "Bruce Willis, the smarmy guy from Moonlighting, starring in the sort of action picture that usually features Arnold Schwarzenegger? What a joke!" We went to see it for a laugh at Willis's expense, and were shocked at how much… read more!

Jimmy Carter Man from Plains

Jimmy Carter Man from Plains

Soft-pedaled but still engaging documentary about the former US president's confrontation-plagued book tour in late 2006, when his latest work, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, was vilified by conservative Jews for what they deemed one-sidedness and inaccuracies in Carter's assertions that the recent four-story-high walls built in Palestinian territory - ostensibly to curb suicide bombers' entrance into Israel - was nothing… read more!

Kung Fu Panda

Kung Fu Panda

Those of you reading this review along with my reviews for the concurrently-released The Happening and Bigger, Stronger, Faster* may think I'm either a pathetic name-dropper or Mr. Connected. Because in a rare instance, I saw all three of these films in the same week, and all three had friends of mine working on them. In this case, I was… read more!

Let the Right One In

Let the Right One In

Completely original horror-drama, set in a snowbound Stockholm suburb in early 1982, about a shy 12-year-old boy who is mercilessly bullied at school until he strikes up an odd friendship with the new girl next door... who happens to be a vampire. Sure to attain cult status, especially among goth teens, Let the Right One In is a canny blend… read more!

Milk

Milk

Gus Van Sant's long-in-development biopic of Harvey Milk, the slain San Francisco supervisor and gay civil rights activist, finally comes to the big screen as a somewhat buttoned-down, mainstream Hollywood movie, showing little of the experimental character of the director's last four features (possibly the most interesting second act in an American filmmaker's career). Sean Penn is perfectly cast as… read more!