Ok, here it is!!
Note: This list is compiled of movies watched during the year, but some may actually be older than 2008.
- THE ORPHANAGE
- HELLBOY 2: THE GOLDEN ARMY
- THE DARK KNIGHT
- AMERICAN GANGSTER
- EASTERN PROMISES
Ironic really, that (one of) the first movies I watched in 2008 ended up being my favourite of the year.
This summer we saw two big summer blockbusters hit our screens, and both were commercial and critical hits – but now, having sat through both twice, what is my final opinion on both films failing and successes? Are they worthy of a high placing in my end of year top ten, or has a second viewing changed all that?
The Dark Knight
This is probably the most celebrated movie of the year, and Oscar rumours are rife both for tragic star Heath Ledger as the Joker and the film itself. Yet I haven’t changed my mind about this movie – the opening hour is just not very enjoyable- its very talky, slow and to put it bluntly – boring. Thankfully the rest of the movie is much more satisfying, but I can see the first hour loosing 50% of the audience there and then. This is a movie that should have been a solid 2 hours, with some elements removed entirely (do we really care about Harvey Dent?). When the Joker is on screen the film is a joy – when he’s not, a lacklustre Batman with dodgy gravelly voice just feels silly and out of place. Yet at the end of the day what comes in the last 90 minutes is pure class, edge of your seat, superbly executed thrills – so thats Ok then. It’s still a 4 in my book though.
Hellboy 2: The Golden Army
Here’s a movie with no such lofty ambitions other than to entertain and make you gasp. The general joy to behold is the sheer imagination on display that still makes this a solid 5 in my opinion. It gets going immediately, has bags of personality, and central characters you really do like and feel something for. So what if Luke Goss’ Prince Nuada seems to be making it up as he goes along, and his motives not entirely clear. Oh and the climactic Golden Army stand off is anti-climactic. Maybe some of the slapstick is a touch heavy handed, and its not as funny as when I first watched it, so the gags aren’t keepers. But this is the polar opposite to The Dark Knight, that although steeped in fantasy and comic book style, is just a helluva lot more fun!
Both films are presented very well on DVD and have excellent picture and sound quality, both eye-catching in very different ways. The extras on Hellboy 2 consist of 2 commentaries for the film, exhaustive behind the scenes footage with in-depth reports on the fantastic creature designs and interviews with Guillermo Del Toro and key cast members & effects guys. Packed.
The Dark Knight fairs a little worse but has several behind the scenes documentaries and interviews, but is missing a very much wanted commentary. Saying that we do get 6 episodes of a spoof news show that sheds a lot of light on the films many plot strands. I just feel an even more special edition may be on its way.
Viewed – 5 August 2008 Cinema
After the minor disappointment that was Indy 4, the big white hope for summer blockbuster supremacy falls to that much maligned comic-book icon, Batman with director Christopher Nolan’s follow up to his highly regarded Batman Begins. I now realise I need to sit down and watch ‘Begins again as I have forgotten much of it, so kind of come to this sequel afresh and with confident expectations – after all, this is probably the best reviewed summer movie in years. Now I really liked the older Batman films, especially those directed by Tim Burton who’s gothic sensibilities were a perfect fit for the franchise. Of course we all know Joel Schumacher F***** it all up with Batman Forever and Batman & Robin…but lets forget those two for now, shall we?
What I do recall Christopher Nolan doing with ‘Begins is reverting back to the franchises’ dark and sinister style, more akin to the comics on which they were based, and I was happy once again to see no ‘Robin’ or ‘Bat Girl’ or stupid villains. The Dark Knight progresses from such sturdy foundations and this time offers up a much more incredible villain in the shape of the late Heath Ledger’s remarkable Joker, who starting with a bank robbery, proceeds to play various crime organisations off one other in Gotham city and generally cause total chaos. Step in Christian Bale’s caped crusader to save the day. Now in amongst such goings-on, we have the love triangle between District Attorney Harvey Dent (a scene stealing Aaron Eckhart), Rachel Dawes (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal this time rather than Katie Holmes) and of course Bruce Wayne. This gives every character a deeper place in the story, but they are still all out shined by The Joker; a fabulously menacing, creepy, funny and psychotic creation that definitely deserves a nod come Oscar time – sad that Heath Ledger wont be there to enjoy the glory. If he had not died though, this is the kind of performance that only comes along once in an actor’s career - so rest in peace, Heath – you did it.
OK, the film takes a bit of time getting off the ground, seems a little ‘all over the place’ and struggled to really pull me in - but after the first hour such thoughts are quickly replaced by The Joker’s trail of death & destruction. This is violent, mature stuff indeed. One other problem I have is one levelled at the new direction the franchise has taken since Christopher Nolan came on board – and that’s the ultra-realistic style that seems an awkwardly fit with the whole Batman-mythos. Also in the older movies – Gotham City was as much a character in itself – now it’s just Chicago lit gloomily at night with no shred of its own personality. Christian Balle is an excellent Batman / Bruce Wayne - and he is well supported by screen legends like Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman even if the roles they are given seem a little beneath such heavy weight talent. But despite such short comings that more come down to my own thoughts on how Batman should be done – Nolan has delivered an intelligent blockbuster that has a whole lot more going for it than simple pop-corn entertainment.
Verdict: 4 /5