Tag Archives: Best of 2008

Top 10 Movies of 2008

Here comes my final Top 10 list of 2008.  In no particular order, these are the ten best movies that I saw in the theater during 2008 (a handful of them came out at the end of 2007, but were still playing well into 2008, so I think that counts).  I feel like I’ve seen less movies in the theaters this year, although it’s possible that I just saw less-than-stellar movies in the theaters. 

Disclaimer: The Dark Knight is not on this list.  Why?  Well, to be honest, I didn’t think it was all that good.  Yes, Ledger was awesome–his Joker is the only non-animated version of Mr. J that captured the character’s chaotic nihilism.  But, other than the Joker, I found the movie horribly dull.

 

1. Juno

 

There is absolutely no reason why I should have liked this movie.  It is nothing like the kind of movie I like.  There wasn’t a single giant robot, car chase, or zombie.  But, in spite of myself, I loved this movie.  I’m well aware that it has all to do with Michael Cera, J.K. Simmons and Ellen Page (mostly her, I think, since she pretty much looks like every girl I ever asked out in college).

2. Sweeney Todd

 

There are certain things that just work well together: Peanut butter and jelly, Jack and Coke, Riggs and Murtaugh.  Add to that list Johnny Depp and Tim Burton.  It really doesn’t take much to get Depp to throw on a silly costume and prance his pasty-faced ass around, talking in a funny accent.  Apparently, it does take some doing to get the guy to sing, though.  He does a pretty good job in this flick that blends another pair of things that go well together: revenge and cannibalism.

3. Iron Man

 

Yeah, I’m gonna say it: Iron Man was the best movie I saw last year.  It finally showed that making a good superhero movie is not rocket science, even when it happens to be about a guy who is (more or less) a rocket scientist.  Would it have been as good without Robert Downey, Jr. (in a role he was born to play)?  I’m not sure.  Thankfully, I won’t have to find out just yet.

4. Hellboy II: The Golden Army

 

Hellboy is probably my favorite comic book character.  Ever.  So, imagine how stoked I was when the first Hellboy came out and it starred Ron Perlman and was directed by Guillermo del Toro (the only guy who play HB and the only guy who could direct HB)?  Then, it kicked so much ass that it warranted a sequel.  Granted, the sequel is a little more del Toro-esque and less Mignola-y, but it’s still pretty sweet.

5. No Country for Old Men

 

I can’t imagine many people would fight me on putting No Country for Old Menon this list.  Movies rarely have a physical effect on me, but watching this actually made me tense, which is probably what the Coens were going for.  I would have preferred a little more of Tommy Lee Jones and his mildly retarded sidekick, Garret Dillahunt, but Josh Brolin’s mustache and Javier Bardem’s Michael Meyers-like Anton Chigurh more than make up for it.

6. Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead

 

Okay, so there’s this Indian burial ground, right?  And someone decides to build a fast food chicken restaurant on it, you with me?  Naturally the spirits of the dead Indians are going to raise up, infest the food, and turn everyone who eats it into chicken-zombies (not zombie-chickens…trust me, there’s a difference).  If you’ve never seen a Troma movie than this might not be for you.  But, if you like blood, violence, sex, harmless nudity, and lines like “I’ll believe in the supernatural when I see it, talking sandwich” and “The ninja is right”, Poultrygeist is probably right up your alley.

7. Tropic Thunder

 

I must have been a very, very good boy in 2007, because the gods saw fit to give me two movies starring RoDoJu.  And, to be honest, the only thing powerful enough to counteract my burning hatred of Ben Stiller and Tom Cruise is my love of how awesome Robert Downey, Jr. is. 

8. Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

 

Most end-of-year talk about Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog refer to it in terms of television.  Personally, I think this little internet phenomenon has got “feature” written all over it.  Besides, Horrible is head and shoulders above most of the crap that the studios cranked out this past year.

9. The Incredible Hulk

Sure, Incredible Hulk is nowhere near as good as Iron Man.  But, it is way better than the first Hulk movie, and it’s even better than this year’s comic movie darling, The Dark Knight.  Norton made a pretty convincing Bruce Banner and the writers borrowed liberally from both the comic and the classic Bixby/Ferrigno TV series.  It almost makes me feel bad that Robert Downey, Jr. walks away with the movie with his ten second cameo (wait, that means this year had three RoDoJu movies!).

10. Cassandra’s Dream

 

Normally, I’m not a fan of Woody Allen movies.  They just never really did anything for me…most likely because the New York in Allen movies is not the New York I grew up in.  Mad Max is more like the New York I grew up in.  Anyway…I find that I enjoy Allen’s recent UK movies much more, and this one actually made me like Colin Farrell.

Top 10 Shows of 2008

Following on the heels of my Top 10 Books of 2008 comes this list of what I consider the ten best shows of 2008 (most of these did, in fact, debut in the 2008 calendar year…however, one or two have been on the air for a while).  So, in no particular order, here we go:

1. Leverage

 

Leverage premiered in early December, barely making the cut as a 2008 show, but I’ll be damned if it might not be the best show of the year (or, at the very least, my favorite show of the year).  Why?  A few reasons.  First, it stars Timothy Hutton who is, in no uncertain terms, 10 pounds of awesome in a 5 pound bag.  Second, the basic premise is totally up my alley: after getting screwed by the company he works for, a former investigator for an insurance company gathers a team of thieves and grifters to rob from the rich and powerful to help the helpless.  Bonus points for the limber, vaguely sociopathic blonde cat burglar.

2. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

 

The first two Terminator movies might very well be the greatest pair of films ever made (and, yes, I’ll admit that I didn’t even hate the third one), but does that mean they’d translate well to the small screen?  Some people might say “no.”  However, I think Sarah Connor Chronicles is pretty good.  You can’t help but respect a show that (a) casts Summer Glau as a killer robot from the future, (b) casts Garret Dillahunt as anything, and (c) goes out of its way in the first episode to erase the third movie from existence (hint: it involves time travel, naturally).

3. The Office

 

Okay, I admit that for the last few years I’ve avoided the American version of The Office like a plague-invested village.  I really love the BBC version and the first few episodes of the American series were shot-for-shot copies that, in my opinion, just did not work.  But, after catching a few episodes on TBS, I decided to give it another shot…and, if you read this blog with any regularity, you know that I’m pretty much in love with this show now. 

4. Fringe

 

Fringe was probably the most hyped new show of the year for two reasons: J.J. Abrams is more or less a TV god these days and Fox was hoping this would recapture some of that old X-Files magic.  But, to tell you the truth, I had no desire to watch it.  So, with absolutely no expectations, I watched the pilot and was immediately won over by Joshua “Please don’t call me Pacey” Jackson, John “Boromir is dead?” Noble, and a cow.  Yes, I said “a cow.”

5. Ben 10: Alien Force

 

Alien Force is a sequel to Cartoon Network’s Ben 10, which was about Ben Tennyson, a ten year old who finds an alien device that allowed him to turn into ten different alien heroes.  This sequel series is set five years later, and Ben has to use a different set of aliens to find his missing grandfather and fight off an alien invasion of Earth.  Ben is aided by his cousin Gwen and former adversary Kevin Levin.  As much as I liked the original series, I think Alien Force is a vast improvement: the animation is cleaner and the writing is more mature (both in terms of basic plots and humor).

6. Crusoe

 

Crusoe fills a gap in network programming that has existed since the ’80s ended: the rippin’ yarn.  This is an adventure series, plain and simple.  If you want pirates, savages, muskets, swords, and gadgets made out of vines and bamboo, this is the show for you.

7. In Plain Sight

 

I’ve decided that there is a single reason that God invented cable television, and that reason is to have a place to produce and air shows like In Plain Sight.  Remember when there used to be shows about old ladies who solved murders, priests who solved crimes, and guys who hung out on boats with robots?  Those kinds of shows used to be all over TV.  Now, they can only exist on cable stations like USA or TNT.  In Plain Sight is a show like that.  It mixes action, suspense, and humor in careful balance.  Plus, it co-stars Paul Ben-Victor and Peter Weller’s cousin.

8. Flashpoint

 

It’s a scientifically proven fact that I love cop shows.  I can take or leave your basic doctor or lawyer show, but give me a cop show and I’ll follow you anywhere.  Flashpoint is a little different from your average cop show, though.  For starters, it’s made in Canada.  But, more importantly, it doesn’t follow your basic “let’s solve this crime that’s been committed” storyline.  The main characters on Flashpoint deal mainly with hostage situations, so you pretty much know “whodunnit” already.  Also, most episodes begin in medias res, with a member of the Strategic Response Unit trying to negotiate with the perp, and then flashback to see how we got there.

9. Eleventh Hour

 

Eleventh Hour is far from unique among the new shows for 2008.  First of all, like Life on Mars, it’s an American remake of a British series.  Second, it deals with similar pseudo-scientific situations like those found on Fringe.  Now, I’ve never seen the original BBC series, so I can’t really talk about the former statement; however, as to the latter, although Fringe and Eleventh Hour both deal with pseudo-science, the similarities more or less end there.  The science crimes presented on Eleventh Hour are played a little bit straighter than those on Fringe (no hot sauce-chugging bald guys or old ladies with robot hands on Eleventh Hour). 

10. Bones and NCIS

 

Neither of these shows premiered in 2008, but they each did something of note in this season.  Last season, Bones ended with the reveal that Brennan’s assistant, Zack Addy, was in league with the Gormogon serial killer.  This season, Zack is behind bars at an asylum and occasionally helps the team out Hannibal Lecter-style.  To find Zack’s replacement, a string of applicants have paraded through the Jeffersonian, including Brennan’s estranged father.  The writers could have pulled a House and turned this season into “The Quest for Zack’s Replacement”, but giving each potential replacement two or three episodes on their own to grow as characters was a great move–plus, it allowed the writers to examine the dynamics of the team through fresh eyes.

A few seasons back, the team on CSI was broken up into two different teams.  That lasted for most of the season.  This season, NCIS did something similar.  It lasted two episodes, and I’m not complaining.  I knew coming in that Gibbs wouldn’t rest until his team was reassembled.  What I never suspected was the real reason why his team was disbanded and that it would have repercussions throughout the entire season.  Oh, and we got to meet Gibbs’ dad this season.

Top 10 Books of 2008

As the year ends, people start rolling out their lists of the best whatevers of the year.  Why should I be any different?  So, like I did last year, I’ve compiled a list of the ten best books that I read in 2008 (even if they weren’t published in 2008).

1. The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril, by Paul Malmont

chinatown

 

 

 

The reason I like reading historical fiction is the chance of seeing actual historical figures popping up in the story.  Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t.  It works in Malmont’s novel, which tells the story of some of the greatest pulp authors of the ’20s and ’30s coming together to solve a mystery worthy of the Golden Age of Pulps.

2. City of Bones, by Cassandra Clare

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I’d never have read City of Bones if it hadn’t been recommended to me.  I’m glad it was.  Clare’s novel–about a girl who finds herself thrust into a world of magic, demons, and demon hunters–appealed to the Buffy, Harry Potter, and Harry Dresden fan in me.  City of Bones is the first book of a trilogy, and I’ll be coming back for books two and three.

3. Vagabond, by Bernard Cornwell

vagabond

The sequel to Cornwell’s The Archer’s Tale (which made last year’s list), continues the story of Thomas of Hookton, archer and unwilling seeker of the Holy Grail.  Again, Cornwell doesn’t skimp on the brutalities of war (and life) during the Hundred Years’ War. 

4. The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, by Robert E. Howard

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As a child of the ’80s, Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer have a certain place in my heart.  But, as much as I love these movies, they can’t compare to the original source material.  Howard’s Conan is the shit, pure and simple.  If Lord of the Rings is a classical symphony, than Howard’s Conan stories are thrash metal–Conan punches, strangles, stabs, or slices anyone (or anything) that gets in his way.  He’s also not above thieving or dallying with the occasional maiden.

5. The Wordy Shipmates, by Sarah Vowell

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There’s a reason that Vowell’s book is the only piece of non-fiction on this list.  That reason is this: Sarah Vowell is awesome.  No, I’m serious.  As a history dork how could I not love Vowell’s historical dorkiness?  Plus, she’s not afraid to make liberal references to popular culture.  It also doesn’t hurt that she was the voice of Violet in The Incredibles.  This time around, Vowell turns her particular brand of historical analysis upon the founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

6. DC: The New Frontier, by Darwyn Cooke

newfrontier

I’m not really sure where to start with Cooke’s New Frontier.  It’s the story of DC’s Silver Age heroes, with none of the “gee-whiz” nostalgia often ascribed to the era.  No, Cooke’s story is a Cold War story, with all of the paranoia one would expect from the McCarthy Era.  Also of note is Cooke’s art, which balances detail and economy of line.

7. White Night & Small Favor, by Jim Butcher

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Butcher’s Dresden Files series is, hands down, my favorite book series currently in print (possibly of all time, I’ll get back to you on that).  These two titles, the most current of the series, continues the tale of Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only practicing professional wizard, as he deals with the escalating war between the wizards and the vampires, demons, faeries, as well as a possible traitor within the White Council, the governing body of the wizard community.  How much do I love these books?  Well, I broke my rule about not mixing paperback and hardcover books within a series and actually bought Small Favor in hardcover.

8. The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman

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Gaiman’s newest book tells the story of Nobody Owens, a boy raised by the ghosts of the eponymous graveyard.  Early reviews of the book described it as being a retelling of Kipling’s The Jungle Book.  Now, the only exposure I’ve had to Kipling’s stories is from the old Disney movie, but I think it’s a valid comparison–from Nobody’s stern guardian (clearly a revised Bagheera) to the menacing figure stalking the Owens boy (can you say “Shere Khan”?  I knew that you could).

9. The Shadow: Crime, Insured, by Walter Gibson & Doc Savage: Dust of Death, by Lester Dent

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I’d heard about the re-issued Shadow and Doc Savage stories for a while, and I’d wanted to check them out.  Then I read Malmont’s Chinatown Death Cloud Peril, and I had to read them.  Both of these are just good, old-fashioned fun.  If you like a darker, noir-inspired crime story, check out The Shadow.  If two-fisted, globe-trotting do-goodery is more your speed, then you’ll love Doc Savage.  Hey, would I steer you wrong?

10. X-Men: Messiah CompleX, by Ed Brubaker, Mike Carey, Peter David, Craig Kyle, and Christopher Yost

messiahcomplex

I’d given up on the X-Men around the time that Grant Morrison was writing them.  I’d tried to keep up with the basic premise of what was happening, until I had enough of Marvel all together.  Then something funny happened: DC pissed me off and I gave Marvel a second chance.  I really liked what Brubaker was doing in Uncanny X-Men, so I thought I’d give Messiah CompleX a shot.  I wasn’t disappointed.  After the events of House of M, mutants are a species rapidly approaching extinction, until a mutant child is finally born.  That sets off a race to find the baby and, depending on who succeeds, either protect or destroy it.