THE BESTCloverfield THE well-worn monster movie hit new territory, overcoming it’s Godzilla home video gimmick to produce some real thrills and truly terrifying moments.There Will Be BloodANOTHER stunning turn from Oscar-winner Daniel Day Lewis as a heartless oil baron, but he’s matched by young Paul Dano as a fire-and-brimstone preacher in this battle between greed and religion where no one wins.JunoTHE quirky indie-hit of the year, which struck a chord like a smarter, more pregnant Napoleon Dynamite. Ellen Page’s up-the-duff teen of the title was one of the most cleverly drawn and lovable characters of 2008.No Country For Old MenTHE Coen brothers outdid themselves with this dark opus about an everyman (James Brolin) who finds a huge stash of cash but ends up with the devil (personified by Javier Bardem’s oddly coiffured hitman) on his tail as a result.SuperbadTHE makers of Knocked Up notched up another winner in this contemporary and clever update of the old coming-of-age quest to lose your virginity. Michael Cera (also good in Juno) and Jonah Hill make a great duo.Grindhouse: Death Proof/Planet TerrorQUENTIN Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez run wild with their love of ’70s B-movies in this old-school double-feature. Kurt Russell adds a new iconic role to his list with Death Proof’s Stuntman Mike, while Rodriguez’s Planet Terror is riotous zombie fun.ControlTHE brief life of tormented Joy Division lead singer Ian Curtis is painted in suitably sombre black and white by former rock photographer Anton Corbjin in his first film as director. Sam Riley is a revelation as Curtis. Death At A FuneralFORMER Yoda and Fozzie Bear puppeteer Frank Oz delivers his best film in years with this charmingly dark comedy about funerals, family secrets, gay dwarfs, and bad acid trips.Iron ManTHE second-best superhero movie of the year, with Robert Downey jnr taking to the high-tech suit like a duck to water. Action-packed, well-scripted and aided by a healthy sense of humour that many comic book adaptations lack.The Darjeeling LimitedWES Anderson takes the family dysfunction of his Royal Tenenbaums and sends it on a trans-Indian rail trip. Brothers Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwarzman take the quirkiness and turmoil in their stride.I’m Not ThereBOB Dylan, the man, the messiah, the myth, is brought to life with a pitch-perfect collection of cryptic vignettes. Cate Blanchett, Heath Ledger, Christian Bale, Richard Gere, Ben Wishaw and Marcus Carl Franklin are all great as the man who isn’t there. Kung Fu PandaJACK Black gives his all as the computer-generated Po, the clumsy panda pre-destined to save his village from evil. A colourful CG barrage of kiddie-friendly comedy and kung fu.Across The UniverseLIKE Mamma Mia! but with better songs and a more inventive alternative approach. Or maybe I’m just letting my Beatles bias show.The Dark KnightTHE best superhero movie of the year. Possibly ever. Christian Bale’s Batman is overshadowed by Heath Ledger’s Joker but who cares when there’s so much going on and The Joker is so good. Ledger for Best Supporting Oscar.Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox StoryHILARIOUSLY skewering musical biopics, John C Reilly sinks his teeth into Cox as he invents rock’n’roll, takes LSD with The Beatles, and goes through a Brian Wilson phase, all the while haunted by a machete accident that killed his brother.Gone Baby GoneBEN Affleck’s directorial debut gives his little brother Casey his best role to date as the young Boston detective in search of a missing girl. A gritty story with a thought-provoking twist.Wall-E IT seemed impossible for Pixar to top The Incredibles but then there’s Wall-E, a mostly word-free animated family film that was one of the most beautiful, thoughtful and enjoyable movies in recent years. Lars And The Real GirlIT’S about a man in love with a sex doll, yet somehow this is one of the most touching love stories of the year. Never rude, crude or lewd, this unique film has a subtle and endearing script but hinges on Ryan Gosling’s incredible performance.Burn After ReadingTHE Coen brothers are on a hot streak, following up No Country For Old Men with this tale of stupid people over their heads in blackmail, espionage and murder. One of the best ensemble casts of the year too – Pitt, Clooney, Malkovich, Swinton and McDormand, all in top form.The King Of KongA BATTLE between good and evil that will have you standing up and cheering by the end, despite the fact it’s a documentary about a man trying to set a world record on a Donkey Kong arcade video game.HONOURABLE MENTIONSGonzo: The Life And Work Of Dr Hunter S Thompson – a great example of how to sum up an icon. Be Kind Rewind – Michel Gondry’s warmly funny ode to the magic and power of film. Horton Hears A Who – a wonderfully Seussical adventure for all ages. Rescue Dawn – Christian Bale stepped out of the Batsuit and slimmed down for Wim Wenders’ gripping POW saga. Mongol – a powerful portrayal of the rise of Genghis Khan. In Bruges – a black-comedy assassin thriller and sleeper-hit of the year. Shine A Light – proof The Rolling Stones (and Martin Scorsese) still rock. Atonement – James McEvoy and Keira Knightley shine as star-crossed lovers torn apart by accusations and war. The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button – a late addition that confirms director David Fincher and Brad Pitt are a winning combination….AND THE WORST10,000 BC – in which mammoths built the pyramids and that’s not even the dumbest thing in this movie. Southland Tales – Donnie Darko director Richard Kelly disappears up his own apocalypse. Rogue Assassin – action movies don’t get much lamer than this blight on Jet Li and Jason Statham’s CVs. Prom Night – every bad horror movie cliche of the ’80s in one place (and not in a good way). The Mummy: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor – even Indiana Jones IV was better.
This article first appeared in Hangzhou Night Net.