I love the movies.
Of course, while I don’t get out to see them in the theater like I once did, I do find enough moments to spare in a year to do it up proper. You know. A darkened theater, surrounded by strangers, enjoying the flickering light and shadow projected on the big screen.
That said, there are many elements that conspire to make my entertainment excursions much fewer and far between than they once were. Where I once saw a movie a week, these days I can count my annual theater trips on my two hands – and some years I only need one.
Therefore, I tend to reserve the big blockbuster flicks for the theatrical exhibition and savor the meaty dramas at home. While my tastes have matured and I tend to gravitate towards the headier stuff (I currently have No Country for Old Men and There Will be Blood on my Must See List when they inevitably drop On Demand) – if I’m at the theater I want to nosh on a big bag of eye candy.
With that said, I’ve looked ahead at the year’s impending releases and have compiled a list of the films that I absolutely must see on the Big Screen. I placed these in order of desire so if I have to cherry pick from this list, you’ll know which titles I jettisoned for home viewing.
Without further adieu, I present My Top 11 Movies I’ve Just Got To See on the Big Screen in 2008.
11. Wanted – June 27, 2008
This one is based on a graphic novel of which I know nothing about. That may not be a bad thing as I’ve heard the film keeps characters and themes but drastically changes some elements of the source material’s universe. Specifically, this first film abandons any semblance of superheroes and super villains. Instead, we’ve got super assassins dueling it out – with Morgan Freeman and Angelina Jolie teaching fledgling spook, James McAvoy, his way around the wet works. The trailers for this one are slick – with some nouveau Matrixy effects (love the curveball bullet-time featured in this year’s Super Bowl teaser). This looks like a stylish kick of an action flick.
10. The Happening – June 13, 2008
This is what happens when M. Night Shyamalan gets mad. After the box office drubbing his last flick, the fable Lady in the Water, received, Shyamalan went from the toast to the ghost. There were scathing articles (including a full book detailing Lady’s faint) and it looked like the wunderkind had fallen under his self-imposed pressure to become the new Spielberg. That said, I’ve enjoyed all of the films that I’ve seen. I missed Lady but caught the much maligned The Village and enjoyed that quite a bit, even if I did see his trademark twist coming through the trees. All water under the bridge. With this flick, Shyamalan looks to get back to his formula for marrying the supernatural with the hyper-realistic. This is an end-of-the-world story, with Mark Wahlberg playing a man who starts witnessing the beginning of the end, as some mysterious force starts turning people into homicidal/suicidal beings. Rumors are it’s the planet shaking us off like fleas – with some dormant force causing man to off himself. How do you stop that? This has a creepy, cool trailer and a potent teaser poster that hints at an apocalyptic good time. I’m a sucker for these End of Days tales so this is high on my Must See list.
9. The Incredible Hulk – June 13, 2008
I’m one of the few people who actually enjoyed Ang Lee’s 2003 take on the Hulk. I liked his poetic gloss on the material and the comic book aesthetic he applied to the film – with the screen splitting into ‘moving panels’ on many instances. I could have done without Nick Nolte’s Method Acting (it was hard to tell if Nolte knew he was in a big-budget flick or if he was simply starring in a YouTube re-enactment of his booking). Regardless, I’m in the minority, so Marvel has decided to try a reboot to reestablish this as a powerhouse series on par with the X-Men and Spider-Man flicks. Gone is Eric Bana. In his place, Edward Norton essays Bruce Banner. The cast also includes Liv Tyler, William Hurt and Tim Roth as the villain, The Abomination. Also, Ang Lee has been drop-kicked and replaced by Transporter director Louis Leterrier. Obviously, Marvel is looking to up the action quotient in the reboot. I am a bit curious as to why we haven’t seen much from this flick thus far (for a big summer flick you’d think a teaser would have dropped by now). Oh well, I’m a sucker for the comic flicks so I’ll see this one too.
8. Hellboy II: The Golden Army – June 11, 2008
I missed the first film in theaters but caught it when my cousin ordered up a copy from Amazon and had it shipped to my house. I think he was aiming to add some troops to his army supporting Hellboy, and well, he made me a convert. The first film was a lot of fun. While the property may be derivative of other entertainments (a delectable stew of Indiana Jones, X-Files, H.P. Lovecraft and World War II movies), it all comes together to forge a flavor all its own. Plus, the casting was on the money with Ron Perlman bringing the Big Red Guy to vibrant life. Director Guillermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) returns to helm the sequel. Like Tim Burton, Del Toro is an auteur you trust to tease your eyeballs with his visionary approach to pop myth making. This one should be a blast.
7. Wall-E – June 27, 2008
So what if the lead character looks like Johnny 5. It’s PIXAR. ‘Nuff said, right. So far, the trailers on this have served to sell the character with no hint of plot. We see Wall-E, a robot whose sole job appears to be tending a massive trash heap (Easter Egg hunters will have a field day looking for all the in-jokes PIXAR will undoubtedly deposit in this land fill). From what I’ve read, the film takes place hundreds of years in the future and follows Wall-E’s journey through the universe. Apparently, the dialogue is slight (Wall-E doesn’t talk – he communicates through expressive Beeps and Boops – think R2D2 after Hooked on Phonics.) I just know that Colin is going to love this flick so I am absolutely primed to see this with him on the big screen. A movie about a lovable robot who journeys through space hitting just a month after he hits 5. That’s right in his wheel house. While I’m looking forward to the flick (and the amazing visuals these artists crank out in film after film), it’s the actual movie going experience with my son that I crave the most.
6. Iron Man – May 2, 2008
I just caught the new trailer that premiered in front of Lost the other night. Iron Man looks like it’s bringing a welcome dose of levity to all the superhero histrionics. First off, Robert Downey Jr. is expertly cast as playboy weapon’s inventor Tony Stark. Downey brings the snark that boozy Stark has in spades. While the trailer features all manner of rock ‘em, sock ‘em action, it’s the non-sequitors that really tie it all together. I especially like the line (delivered to Gwyneth Paltrow who catches Stark entangled in his invention – “C’Mon this is not the WORST thing you’ve caught me doing.” Funny stuff. Rounding out the cast are Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury and Jeff Bridges as Stark’s mentor. I’ve also read that Downey puts in a cameo appearance in The Incredible Hulk meaning Marvel is finally achieving some synergies in their various products with characters crossing over the collective universe. I predict this to be a monster hit.
5. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince – November 19, 2008
While I’ve only read two of the books, I am a huge fan of these films. I just finished reading the second book – The Chamber of Secrets and can attest that the filmmakers have done a masterful job of bring the pages to life. In fact, those first two films are almost word for word translations. I know that as the series has grown more dense, some liberties have been taken, but at the end of the day, J.K. Rowling has to be happy with how her children have been treated. Half Blood Prince is the 6th film in the 7-part series – although if the rumors are true, we may see the final book The Deathly Hallows split into two movies. That said, this series has continued to impress me with the production values and attention to detail – where even the most minor roles have been played by the same actors all the way through. They’ve really created a persistent universe and these films will play well into to the future. With that said, as I know I won’t catch up on all my reading before this next film drops, I’m looking forward to this film to advance the tale. The last film, The Order of the Phoenix, grew impressively dark and I’m curious to see how much worse things can get for our intrepid Harry. Don’t spoil it for me.
4. The X-Files 2 – July 15, 2008
Thus far, not much is known about this film, which began filming late last year following the resolution of Chris Carter’s lawsuit against 20th Century Fox. It’s got an eclectic cast (David Duchovny & Gillian Anderson are joined by Amanda Peet, Xzibit and Billy Connolly). Chris Carter penned the screenplay and is directing the feature with his trusty executive producer Frank Spotnitz overseeing the operation. While initial reports pegged this as a ‘Monster of the Week’ tale, I’ve hard recent rumors that there is an alien vibe to the film. The whole crew recently appeared before Wondercon where they unveiled a trailer that showed a wide-eyed Billy Connolly leading FBI investigators to a massive frozen lake and a mysterious object buried within. All I know is, The X-Files was my favorite television show for close to nine years and although it weakened as it went on, it still produced more hours of quality entertainment than most series I’ve watched. Carter and Spotnitz were responsible for some of the most memorable episodes so I have high hopes for this one. This is going to be like a long lost reunion. It’s good to have these guys back.
3. Quantum of Solace – November 7, 2008
You wouldn’t know if by the title but this is the next James Bond flick. Breaking from series tradition, this will be the first one that continues directly from the last film, Casino Royale, with rumors that the film literally picks up where Royale left off – with Bond tracking down the mysterious organization that made off with his winnings. Royale was a winning reinvention of the Bond formula – gone went the wacky invisible cars and in came more stylish action like that breathtaking parkour chase that opened the film. And Daniel Craig’s James Bond was the best James Bond of all time. Spare me your Brosnans and Connerys. Craig kicked ass in the role. Hell, I even liked the Chris Cornell crooned theme song – You Know My Name – which is a first as usually these title tunes grate. I can’t wait for this one although hopefully I’ll decipher the title or they’ll change it before November.
2. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – May 23, 2008
Yes, that title is unwieldy. Let’s hope that’s all the damage George Lucas inflicted on this return of the man in the hat. With Spielberg calling the shots, and a trailer that seems very evocative of the prior films, I fell confident that this will rock. Growing up, many of my friends called Star Wars as their touchstone film – the one that defined their childhood. For me, it was Raiders of the Lost Ark. I always wanted to be an archeologist and when I saw how much ass they kicked on a regular basis, the career track was set in stone. And that’s how I came to work at a financial services company. Ahem. Anyway, while it would appear that this was a boat that had sailed (it’s gotta’ be tough making an action movie when your lead actor keeps sneaking away to Denny’s for the Early Bird Special), that trailer has erased all doubts. The story is set in the 50’s (with the Red Scare and Commies taking over for the Nazis as our Big Bad). Indy’s age is accounted for – although truth be told, Ford looks younger than he has in years. Also, Marion (Karen Allen) is back. I’ll be there opening night for this one.
1. The Dark Knight – July 8, 2008
2005’s Batman Begins is my favorite comic book movie of all time so its follow-up is a lock for my Number 1. I loved how Christopher Nolan approached the film as depicting a real world Batman – the perfect tonic to the cartoon caricature that Joel Schumacher brought to the Batman mythos. While Tim Burton’s take was visionary, Nolan was the one who got closest to the heart of darkness that beats in the Batman tale. The sequel looks to continue that with a truly creepy performance turned in by Heath Ledger as The Joker. Yes, it’s going to be a bit strange watching the film with knowledge of Ledger’s real life departure but at least we can let this final role stand as testament to the actor’s greatness.
So that’s my list. What are you guys looking forward to?