1. Watchmen: a wondrous film. Take me to the watchtower, so I can listen to the sound of silence, saying Halleluiah. It’s a visual delight for sure, but the moral and philosophical reach of this major work is quite astounding as well – simply consider the haunting question, “Who’s watching the watchmen?” There are heavy themes like one’s calling and the price of a life without compromise, and every character is fascinating – with a special mention for the unforgettable Rorschach, as played by Jackie Earle Haley.
2. Brothers: a tremendously powerful movie about the cost of war and the toll on those fighting it, and how it affects their loved ones. It’s heart-wrenching stuff, imbued with an air of mourning by a fantastic score by Thomas Newman. Natalie Portman deserves an Oscar, while Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey Maguire also give some of their very best performances ever.
3. District 9: what a hypnotizing, thrilling discovery. A deeply layered story makes great use of the faux documentary approach, touching on the man-machine, the man-alien, the fugitive and the beast with a soul, as well as the deceit and cover-up by those in power. It coalesces into a highly resonant, quietly shattering film, worth many viewings.
4. Terminator Salvation: by far the most interesting film in the franchise since the excellent first one, this is science fiction of a high order: it has ideas and it has soul, thanks to a clear story with many evocative touches. Christian Bale is suitably intense, but this is really Sam Worthington’s film. He’s fabulous as Marcus, whose plight is a distant but unmistakable echo of Frankenstein. His character arc with Blair (a superb Moon Bloodgood) is full of tenderness, creating a very poignant relationship.
5. I Love You, Man: there’s a ton of great laughs in this level-headed, intelligent and super-sweet film. Paul Rudd and Jason Segel are just brilliant, while the beautiful Rashida Jones is absolutely delightful.
6. Paranormal Activity: if it wasn’t for that awfully disappointing ending, which takes the movie into weak J-horror territory, this would be higher on the list. The slowly rising level of dread and fear is at times unbearable, and some of the stuff we see is profoundly scary and chilling.
7. Love Happens: a lovely, underappreciated film. This quietly romantic movie reminded me of the first few films by Ed Burns, notably She’s the One. The flow and feel resemble those of the best indie films, and there’s excellent work by Aaron Eckhart and Jennifer Aniston.
8. Public Enemies: very sharp, very tough and exceptionally well constructed.
9. The Ugly Truth: it’s sexy, spicy, and above all, very, very funny.
10. G.I. Joe – The Rise of Cobra: completely crazy, but that’s why it’s such a blast. 🙂 The action scenes are super exciting, Rachel Nichols is really hot and Sienna Miller is just stunning as well.
The movie coming closest to being on the above list is Adventureland, which has a fabulous soundtrack, great characters and a keen eye for detail. Also: Mes stars et moi, Dragonball: Evolution, Up and Year One.
Revolutionary Road, Obsessed, Martyrs, Pandorum, The Uninvited