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2008 Best and Worst

2008 was a mixed cinematic bag.  Filled with remakes, sequels and a smidgeon of original works the year marked the further blurring of art-house style story-telling with escapist commercialism.
So in the fine tradition of someone who has sat through films of varying quality discover which ones will enjoy the ecstasy of victory and the agony of defeat….
THE BEST
10.   The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
9.    The Black Balloon
8.    The Dark Knight
7.    Mamma Mia!
6.    In The Valley of Elah
5.    There Will Be Blood
4.    Not Quite Hollywood
3.   Gone Baby Gone
2.    Lars and the Real Girl
1.    Sweeney Todd
What I said then:
It’s heartening that Tim Burton still has the courage to take chances than play safe.  Enriching Sondheim’s expert song-writing, the film’s tale of obsessive revenge excites with its memorable visual flair.  Not for the faint hearted, Sweeney Todd expertly blends theatre and cinema making for a very sinister penny dreadful. 

What I say now:
Tim Burton - aided by a fantastic Johnny Depp - showed what a clever all rounder he is in this engaging adaptation very suited to his quirky worldview. 
Honourable Mentions
In Brudges, Charlie Wilson’s War,The Other Boleyn Girl, The Painted Veil, Shine A Light, The Incredible Hulk, Juno, The Square, The Bank Job, Stop-Loss, Hellboy 2: The Golden Army, Son of Rambow, Wall-E, Rocknrolla, Quantum of Solace, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
THE WORST
10.   Star Wars: The Clone Wars
9.    Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day
8.    Hey Hey It’s Esther Blueburger
7.    10,000 B.C.
6.    The Invasion
5.    Jumper
4.    The Love Guru
3.    Max Payne
2.    Nights in Rodanthe
1.    Fool’s Gold
What I said then:
Fool’s Gold is lazy film-making at its worst.  It knows what audience to aim at delivering no surprises.  Despite embracing the gold plated veneer of entertainment, the film can’t avoid being an eighteen carat disaster. 
What I say now:
Matthew McConaughey’s latest disaster proved that chiselled pecks and a cheeky smile wasn’t enough from preventing this cinematic ship-wreck meet a watery grave in Davey Jones’ Locker!
Dishonourable Mentions
The Happening, The Mist,  Closing the Ring,  Vantage Point,  Nim’s Island,  Deception,  Hancock,  Meet Dave, Pineapple Express, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor,  Eagle Eye,  Babylon A.D., Twilight
So as another year passes then another one arrives……………..enjoy the holidays and see you next time!!!!

Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire draws from the oft quoted phrase of one learning from experience.  Although a simple message, the ability to currently translate the echo of past actions is a forte some have previously ignored.  Directed with unfettered truthfulness by Danny Boyle, he explores how the gaining of the most miniscule of knowledge can prove the mightiest of benefits in any situation.
Appearing on the Hindi version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, former Mumbai street beggar Jamal (Dev Patel) is on a mission.  Eager to hook up with childhood girlfriend Latika (Freida Pinto), he attempts to reach out to her through the bells and whistles of game show fare.  Suspicious of his winning streak the producers set out to torture Jamal to find the truth behind his answers.  What he reveals is a life borne of appalling poverty and circumstance with his intuitive mind giving him the courage to appear on national television to claim more than the rupees on offer.
Shot with a colourful flair, Slumdog Millionaire is very much a feel-good movie devoid of artificial schmaltz.  Most of the credit goes to an engaging screenplay which examines the choices one makes from difficult beginnings.  Jamal, along with his brother Salim, initially use any dodgy methods necessary to survive.  This leads them to form certain viewpoints ultimately pushing them in different directions.  Although Jamal’s life story is certainly interesting what makes the message shine through is the inspirational hope a person’s background can have on a nation of various social standings.  His capability in overcoming his past and of the current ignorance and prejudices towards his status grounds the rather implausible plot in genuine reality.
A genre chameleon Boyle’s potent finesse becomes apparent during the game-show scenes.  Despite the film being quite predictable, he ensures the requisite empathy and tension is copiously applied as Jamal climbs further to the jackpot.  A lot of this works due to Dev Patel’s charming performance which shows a man haunted by his past but also hopeful of the future.  Careful not to wallow too much in the inherent sadness of the slums, Boyle shows in the generally optimistic story the bonds that form between its inhabitants. Of the many moments that stand out it’s perhaps the sight of the young brothers touring the Taj Mahal, where magnificent opulence masks the poverty usually ignored by commercial cinema.
Thankfully not replicating the mind-numbing banality of most game-shows, Slumdog Millionaire entertains in an insightful manner.  Filled with characters determined to make something of their lives, the film becomes a thoughtful journey of people doggedly grabbing the chances life offers.
Rating out of 10:  7