The Halftime Top 10

July 02, 2008
A thought by James Berardinelli

A number of years ago, I asked myself the question of why Top 10 list are made only at the end of the year. Why not make one at the mid-point? The idea behind this is not to create yet another list (anyone who reads enough of the stuff I write knows how I feel about lists), but to accentuate the positives - something I arguably don't do enough of. So, instead of griping about the lack of quality in theaters, here's an opportunity to celebrate what has been good thus far in 2008. And, truth be told, no matter how bad an overall period or year is, there's always good material out there. Here are ten films worth taking the time to see. (A few are already available on DVD; a few are still in theaters; and a few are in that "between" twilight.)

As is my standard, these are presented in reverse order, with the best being last.

#10 Cloverfield : The obvious drawback to Cloverfield is the potentially nausea-inducing camerawork. But, once you get beyond that, this is a genuinely unsettling movie about a no-holds barred monster attack on New York. I can't help but wonder if the film would have been resounded as forcefully in a pre-9/11 world.

#9 The Bank Job : I have a soft spot for caper movies, and this is one of the most accomplished in recent years. 2008 has had its share of movies in this genre; The Bank Job tops them. It has fun with the situation and keeps the level of tension high.

#8 Wanted : The best pure action film of the first half of 2008. It won't get the synapses firing, but it's good for what it is. This is a traditional big summer film: action, explosions, impossible stunts, and a half-naked hot woman. Thankfully, Angelina Jolie's commitment to political causes hasn't stopped her from making these kinds of movies.

#7 The Ruins : More of a traditional horror tale than Funny Games but almost as grim. Faithful in tone if not in all the specifics to Scott Smith's novel of the same name.

#6 Definitely, Maybe : A conventional romantic comedy wrapped in an unconventional structure. There's a strong element of mystery to this one. There are three candidates for the lead character's soul-mate and part of the fun is guessing which candidate wins.

#5 Funny Games : This film split critics when it was first released. I'll admit up front that it's not a pleasant movie, but it's uncompromising when it comes to showing the dark side of making torture fun. It's the kind of movie to provoke thought and discussion, but not the kind of thing one is likely to see more than once.

#4 Forgetting Sarah Marshall : The funniest movie thus far in 2008. The Judd Apatow romantic comedy formula continues to work. Combine genuine emotion with raunchy comedy and get something that appeals to both men and women.

#3 Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day : A magical movie full of good performances and goodwill. With Enchanted, a wonderful one-two fairytale punch for Amy Adams.

#2 Iron Man : A superhero movie for viewers who don't like superhero movies. An example of the genre growing up. Best superhero movie of the first half of 2008.

#1 Wall-E : The most sublime animated film not only of the year but of the decade (at least so far). A wonderful experience for children and adults. I can't wait to get a copy of this on Blu-Ray.