Half-way there: The best and worst of the year so far

Posted by · 4:49 am · July 1st, 2008

We’ve reached the mid-way point of 2008, a year that truly seems to be speeding along (or is it just me?).  That means it’s time to assess what’s come down the pike over the last six months as our contributors make their picks for the best and worst cinematic offerings of the year so far.

If you want my thoughts on the Oscar potential of these and other releases from the first half of the year, check out this week’s Off the Carpet column.

Note: With Gerard, Guy and me being in the UK at the moment, neither of us has had a chance to see “WALL-E” yet.  Press screenings won’t happen until later in the month and it finally opens out here on July 18.

In Contention’s picks for the best and worst of the year after the jump!

Kristopher Tapley
Best: “Taxi to the Dark Side”
Worst: “The Happening”
Comments: If I had to go with a live action effort, I would truthfully say “Cloverfield,” which got me on such a visceral level that it’s still probably my favorite film of the year.  But Alex Gibney’s “Taxi” is an important, even-handed assessment that will make you equally ashamed of and hopeful for your country.  It’s too bad he’s dealing with a distribution nightmare at ThinkFilm, because the more people who see his film the better.  “The Happening,” meanwhile, is strike three for M. Night Shyamalan and a disgrace of a picture.  He did worse by his actors than any helmer in recent memory, despite his abilitiy to convey a suspensful yarn.  That is the ultimate sin of any director.

Gerard Kennedy
Best: “Iron Man”
Worst: “21”
Comments: While I don’t buy the “best superhero movie ever” hyperbole some people are putting on “Iron Man,” Jon Favreau’s take on the Marvel character was smart, involving, filled with great effects and a performance from Robert Downey Jr. that at least puts forth the best superhero protagonist in a long time. And while I am not afraid to admit that director Robert Luketic’s “Legally Blonde” is a guilty pleasure, the over-serious, overly clever “21” continues to show the recent lack of range of Kevin Spacey and Laurence Fishburne.

Brian Kinsley
Best: “WALL-E”
“Beverly Hills Chihuahua”
For best, I find it practically impossible to pick anything other than “WALL-E“. Even if it wasn’t the most groundbreaking animated film in years, the simple story of a lonely robot packed an emotional wallop that I didn’t see coming.  I haven’t recovered since. As for worst, I’ve skillfully avoided seeing any truly bad movies in theaters this year, but one cannot describe the pain I had sitting through the trailer for “Beverly Hills Chihuahua.” In a duel between that abomination, and my least favorite film from 2007 — “AVP2” — I’m not sure which I’d wish upon my enemies first.

Guy Lodge
Best: “In Bruges”
Worst: “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”
Comments: “In Bruges” is the surprise package of 2008 so far. Irish playwright Martin McDonagh’s debut evades tired hitman-comedy territory via breezy performances (including a never-better Colin Farrell), inventive location work and, above all, the savage intelligence and elegiac wit of McDonagh’s writing. “Crystal Skull” is the sequel that nobody asked for proving to be as bloated and prosaic as its title.  Cate Blanchett alone locates a faint pulse in the DOA material; she deserves some kind of medal.

John Foote
Best: “Iron Man”
Worst: “88 Minutes”
Comments: Finding even five good films released so far this year was a stretch for me. Sadly the worst list is always loaded with pictures, the difficulty there being which is truly the worst? The good news? The year is half over, we are edging closer to the fall when the studios unleash their good films. The bad news…we will still get a glut of bad movies.

Blake Rutherford
Best: “The Visitor”
Worst: “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”
Comments: Richard Jenkins is a captivating and unassuming leading man in “The Visitor,” and in any other year he’d be on a short list for Oscar. “Indy IV” was a monumental letdown. It was overdone by George Lucas and the story wasn’t tended to in the way – after 19 years – it should have been. Too much CGI; too little story development (not to mention the conclusion which felt a lot like “National Treasure: Book of Secrets.”)

What are your picks for the best and worst films of the year so far?  Tell us below!

→ 27 Comments Tags: , , , , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

27 responses so far

  • 1 7-01-2008 at 6:07 am

    Joaquin said...

    I live outside the United States, so if you’d ask me, my best of the year so far would be “There Will Be Blood”, which was released in my country in 2008.

    Out of 2008’s real releases, however, I’d place the best in either “Iron Man” or “Cloverfield.” It’s too close to call for me. In my opinion, the worst of the year has been “10,000 B.C.”

  • 2 7-01-2008 at 6:42 am

    Cinexcellence said...

    Best: Wall-E
    Worst: Superhero Movie

  • 3 7-01-2008 at 7:34 am

    Bill said...

    Best: (tie) Wall-E and El Violin
    Worst: Fool’s Gold

  • 4 7-01-2008 at 7:41 am

    Mr. F said...

    Best: WALL-E
    Worst: Semi-pro

  • 5 7-01-2008 at 8:47 am

    Ivan said...

    Best: Iron Man / Sex and the City
    worst: The Happening

  • 6 7-01-2008 at 9:45 am

    McAllister said...

    Best: In Bruges
    Worst (that I’ve seen): Jumper (but I’m sure there is worse out there that I haven’t seen).

  • 7 7-01-2008 at 10:07 am

    mike said...

    Best: The Fall (Iron Man is 2 and Wall-E is 3)
    Worst: 10,000 BC

  • 8 7-01-2008 at 10:09 am

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    Hmm, I tend to believe that such a roundup is more suited after the summer. Say, start of September, since most of the big tentpoles have been released by then.


    The Best: Tie: El Orfanato (The Orphanage)? Funny Games U.S.

    The Worst: The Happening (or Speed Racer, but it edges out because I like the music more)

  • 9 7-01-2008 at 10:42 am

    Chad said...

    Best – Man on Wire/Paranoid Park
    Worst – Indiana Jones/Be Kind Rewind

  • 10 7-01-2008 at 10:47 am

    Joel said...

    I’ve seen upwards of thirty films so far. It wasn’t hard to choose five I liked and five I didn’t.
    Awaiting my friend, Cypher, to post his list…
    Best five:
    1. WALL-E
    2. Cloverfield
    3. Penelope
    4. Iron Man
    5. Wanted

    Worst Five:
    1. In the Name of the King
    2. Meet the Spartans
    3. You Don’t Mess with the Zohan
    4. Speed Racer
    5. 10,000 B.C.

  • 11 7-01-2008 at 10:50 am

    Cypher said...

    I would have to say, without a doubt, WALL-E was the best movie of the year; I’ve never actually had the experience of my jaw going slack due to how good a movie is (Of course, I’ve only gotten this far into movies recently; I’ve only known Joel for, what, 3 years now? =P) . The worst I’ve seen is… probably Speed Racer, unless I saw something worse that was so bad that I voluntarily wiped it from my memory. That’s… all I can think of actually. Of course, I haven’t seen quite as many movies as I could or should have, but whatever.

  • 12 7-01-2008 at 11:19 am

    Ryan said...

    Best: Forgetting Sarah Marhsall / Wall-E
    Worst: I purposefully avoid films I know I won’t like, but out of the ones I see that just didn’t click, I’d say The Happening.

  • 13 7-01-2008 at 11:46 am

    Christian Marquez said...

    BEST: The Visitor
    runner-up: Wall-E

    Worst: Speed Racer

  • 14 7-01-2008 at 12:11 pm

    Mr. Gittes said...

    Ray: Why didn’t you wave hello to me today when I waved hello to you today?
    Jimmy: I was on a very strong horse tranquilizer today; Wasn’t waving hello to anybody. Except… maybe to a horse.
    Ray: Huh? What are you talking about?
    Jimmy: Just horseshit.

  • 15 7-01-2008 at 2:24 pm

    Josh said...

    Best Movie: Snow Angels
    Worst Movie: Savage Grace
    Movie that Everyone else didn’t like but I liked: My Blueberry Nights
    Movie that Everyone else liked that I didn’t: Young at Heart

  • 16 7-01-2008 at 3:09 pm

    Brian Kinsley said...

    My number one pick aside, I feel quite spoiled for movies so far this year that I absolutely adore: Snow Angels, In Bruges, Cloverfield, The Fall, The Wackness.

  • 17 7-01-2008 at 4:21 pm

    Chad said...

    Hey Josh,

    I’m with you. Young@Heart sucks

  • 18 7-01-2008 at 6:39 pm

    Patrick said...

    Best: Narnia
    Worst: Stop-Loss

  • 19 7-02-2008 at 12:24 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Interesting that you call Savage Grace the worst of the year, Josh. When I saw it last year, I had a feeling it would be pretty polarising. For my part, I thought it was a fascinating film, with Moore giving the performance of the year so far.

  • 20 8-31-2008 at 12:48 am

    Marty said...

    Best: In Bruges – Colin F deserves a Best Actor Nomination for this one
    Worst: Indiana Jones

  • 21 8-31-2008 at 1:33 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Great minds think alike, Marty.