The month of June has just ended, marking the completion of the first half of the year. With six months down, it seems like a good time to take a look back at the year so far. Like every year, it has had its ups and downs. Looking back at the films that have already come and gone, it looks like the year has had more ups than downs, and with Oscar season still to come, not to mention a few big summer movies yet to come, things have nowhere to go but up! I hope…. Read on for my best, and worst of the year so far.
Top 5 Movies
Knocked Up. Judd Apatow really knocked this one out of the park, delivering a raunchy comedy with genuine heart, much like he did with 40 Year Old Virgin, but this one takes a big step forward in delivering a very real environment. There is something that really hits home–the situation, the dialogue, everything hits just the right notes.
Ratatouille. Brad Bird and Pixar’s latest outing is a triumph in animation and in storytelling. It works on many levels, delivering laughs and characters with plenty for children and adults to enjoy.
300. Zack Snyder hits it big with this surprise hit. The movie is the basis of legend, showing how legend begins. It is also very stylish, hyper-violent, and just all around one of the best action films to truly deliver in awhile.
Hot Fuzz. Pure brilliance. Edgar Wright, with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost deliver a film that parodies action, at the same time it pays tribute to the genre. It is smart, clever, and doesn’t skimp on the bullets.
Black Snake Moan. Here is a film that offers a lot of depth beneath its exploitive surface. It features strong direction, and fearless performances from its two leads that carries its tale of redemption further than one would expect.
Bottom 5 Movies
This is an easy pick, but it points to all the problems that lie in spoofs these days. It is rare that we get one that works, more likely they are like this with a string of unfunny replicas from other films. (See Hot Fuzz for one done right)
Norbit. Another easy pick, this was flat out not funny. The performances are flat, the jokes are borderline offensive. It was not a happy day at the theater.
Happily N’Ever After. Another fractured fairy tale, but one that doesn’t work. The idea was there, but the execution faltered at every turn. The animation was poor, the voice acting dull. This is a good cure for insomnia.
Blood & Chocolate. Didn’t we already see this story as An American Werewolf in Paris? That wasn’t a great movie, but it is world’s better than this thing.
Perfect Stranger. Ugh. Poor acting, poor story, and an ending that treats the audience like their idiots. Not a good outing for Halle.
Top 5 Disappointments
Spider-Man 3. Yes, I enjoyed the spectacle, the effects were good, and I walked out with something resembling a smile, but it had such a poor story, and characterizations that betray what came in the first two films. So much promise, such a disappointment.
Shrek the Third. Yes, it had a couple of laugh out loud moments, but it was slow, the story was dumb, and it lost track of its fractured fairy tale roots.
Next. A great concept, a basis from a Philip K. Dick story, yet so poor in execution. The story did not amount to anything, not to mention the poor performances and the jagged story telling.
The Number 23. I wanted to like this. I think Carrey can do drama, I think the thriller had potential, but it just did not entertain.
Pathfinder. The wait for a good Viking movie continues. Sure, some of the action was good, but it could have been so much better.
Top 5 Actors
Samuel L. Jackson (Black Snake Moan). As the bluesman looking to redeem himself, Jackson put himself out there, selling the role and showing just how good an actor he can be.
Michael Shannon (Bug). I did not care for Shannon’s role in last year’s World Trade Center, but here he takes his portrayal to the edge as the uber-creepy Peter, the man with the conspiracy tales. He is very good in this role.
Adam Sandler (Reign Over Me). Sandler put me through an emotinal ringer as a man who lost his family in 9/11 and is attempting to regain his life with the help of Don Cheadle.
Joseph Gordon Levitt (The Lookout). Levitt is fast becoming one of the best up and coming actors of this generation. Following Mysterious Skin and Brick, this is another great performance. He is definitely an actor to keep an eye on.
Gerard Butler (300). Butler steps up his game and anchors the big, in your face style that this movie delivers.
Top 5 Actresses
Ashley Judd (Bug). Judd disappears into her character, slowly going insane and going right to the edge of the precipice and then diving in. Brave performance, she dives in without fear.
Angelina Jolie (A Mighty Heart). There has been much controversy surrounding her playing Mariane Pearl, but there is no denying that her performance was first rate, she convinced me, losing the star image and playing the role.
Tabu (The Namesake). As the matriarch of the Ganguli family, Tabu really owned the role, and anchored the movie with her sensitive portrayal.
Keri Russell (Waitress). This movie was as sweet as the pies that it features, and Russell added to the sweetness while also grounded the picture with her matter of factness.
Christina Ricci (Black Snake Moan). Much like Ashley Judd, Ricci took her performance to the brink, and then dove in with no sign of fear. As the troubled youth, Ricci was captivating.
Top 5 Directors
Judd Apatow (Knocked Up). Apatow is establishing himself as the premiere comedy director. He recognizes that you need to have more than big laughs to make a movie, and his direction here of his cast is perfectly timed. Strong work.
Zack Snyder (300). Snyder flexed his stylish and creative muscle, making the most of the opportunity, thereby establishing himself as a director on the rise.
Brad Bird (Ratatouille). Can he do no wrong? His first film since The Incredibles is a brilliant blend of story, comedy, and character.
Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz). The follow up to Shawn of the Dead is a masterful tribute/parody of the action genre. It offers great laughs and big action
David Fincher (Zodiac). Fincher is a masterful director, completely immersing us in the sixties and seventies as the search for a killer progresses.
Top 5 Writers
Judd Apatow (Knocked Up). A wonderful script that has that perfect blend of raunchy comedy and heartfelt moments that work together. It hits on a lot of real issues and deals with them in a nice manner.
Craig Brewer (Black Snake Moan). A risky project that Brewer deals with wonderfully. Blending great music, an exploitation veneer, and a story of hope. The screenplay doesn’t pull its punches, and delivers the goods.
Brad Bird (Ratatouille). A delightful script that tells a nice story, offers laughs and nicely defined characters. It is much better than I had expected.
Tracy Letts (Bug). Letts adapts his own stageplay to the big screen, which is a strong piece of paranoia building that works. It is creepy and edgy, and different from what usually arrives on the big screen.
Jeff Stockwell and David Paterson (Bridge to Terabithia). So much more than the Narnia 2 it was marketed as, this was a beautifully written coming of age story that tugs at the heart strings.
Of course, these lists can change at any time, for any reason, or no reason at all. Writing a list is always a tricky proposition, and are always apt to be fluid based on any number of factors. hopefully, this gives an idea of where I was while watching these first half movies.
This year has been good, more often than not. It has offered up many good films, some of which are not represented above, but could be in contention come the end of the year. In particular, this year has been particularly good on the horror front, in my opinion, delivering films such as The Abandoned, 28 Weeks Later, Vacancy, Bug, 1408, Dead Silence, Hostel Part II, Grindhouse, and even The Hills Have Eyes II. It feels like years since there has been as good a selection of horror on the big screen. We have also gotten a couple of the best family films of recent memory in Bridge to Terabithia and Ratatouille.
While the year has had a lot of good and surprisingly good films, it has not been all roses. Spider-man and Shrek sequels failed to deliver he goods, Evan Almighty failed to give up the laughs, and we have also gotten lackluster films featuring Demi Moore, Jim Carrey, Lindsay Lohan, Nicolas Cage, Halle Berry, Hillary Swank, and Eddie Murphy.
Looking forward, the summer still has a lot left to offer. Looking into the near future we have Transformers, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, The Simpsons Movie, and The Bourne Ultimatum to look forward to. To a lesser degree, I am looking forward to Sunshine, Talk to Me, Captivity, Rush Hour 3, The Invasion, Superbad, and Halloween. That is just for the summer.
Moving into thee Fall, the potential quality doesn’t disappear with a whole slew of films to look forward to. Among them are The Brave One, Shoot ‘Em Up, Eastern Promises, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, 3:10 to Yuma, Across the Universe, Hitman, 30 Days of Night, Bee Movie, Saw IV, Fred Klaus, and the list goes on.
I am very happy so far with what we have gotten Hopefully that will continue as we continue our march towards Oscar season.