1. Slumdog Millionaire: that rare film that soars into the sublime. One of the most captivating, enthralling and exhilarating film ever. It’s that good, and then some.
2. Il y a longtemps que je t’aime: it takes a while for the main character to earn your sympathies, but when it does the film shatters you to the core. The song playing during the end credits is hauntingly beautiful. It’s not often I’m shaken at the end of a film, but I was really touched by both the sorrow and the ray of light in this powerful movie.
3. Marley & Me: understandably marketed as a zany comedy with one adorable, unruly puppy, this is so much more. It’s a deeply moving, beautiful film about love, family, the things we hold dear and the special place pets can have in people’s lives.
4. Definitely, Maybe: a glistening example of what a romantic film can be, this one is no doubt among the best in recent years. Isla Fisher is delightful, exuding heartfelt emotion at every turn. Ryan Reynolds is superb, while Elizabeth Banks and Abigail Breslin also shine in this thoughtful, hugely charming movie by Adam Brooks.
5. Iron Man: fabulous superhero entertainment, witty and humorous. Robert Downey Jr. is perfectly cast and the relationship with secretary Pepper Potts, played by an especially lovely Gwyneth Paltrow, is just fantastic.
6. The Dark Knight: a standout effort with a lot of arresting moments, many provided by the remarkable, sadly departed Heath Ledger in a story that probes deep into the notion of a hero being tormented by his calling. The triangle between Bruce Wayne, Harvey Dent and Rachel Dawes is very complex – and what a quietly devastating moment it is when Alfred burns that letter from Rachel to Bruce.
7. Nothing like the Holidays: the funny stuff is carefully balanced with serious matters is this warm and observant holiday-themed picture. We feel the strong bonds within the family and there are several excellent performances, notably from Freddy Rodriguez, Melonie Diaz and Debra Messing.
8. In Bruges: there’s something hypnotic about this continually surprising, very dark but very original movie. Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson create memorable characters, and the gorgeous location of the story adds a surreal quality to the atmosphere.
9. Forgetting Sarah Marshall: I couldn’t sum it up any better than the Ottawa Citizen’s Jay Stone: “sweetly rambling”, which is a pretty nice compliment. The lovely Mila Kunis is adorable in this finely crafted romantic comedy.
10. Hancock: this was an exceptional year for superheroes. While a notch below the two above, this film is a funny and thrilling example of the genre. It doesn’t hurt to have the strikingly beautiful Charlize Theron in it. Some people found her back-story and the twist ridiculous – for my part, even though I unwillingly knew about it before going to the theatre, I loved it and I found it well-done and a lot of fun to watch.
One Missed Call, The Eye, Charlie Bartlett, Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, You don’t mess with the Zohan, The Deal and Quarantine
The Strangers (0 stars), My Best Friend’s Girl (0 stars), Nobel Son (0 stars), The Happening (1 star) and Max Payne (1 star) .