For this midyear report card, I had a hard time making a list of the best films thus far, because we've only had a few great ones. As for stinkers, the problem I had was figuring out what to cut from an ever-growing list of garbage.
Hollywood is going to need the little WALL-E robot trash compactor to tidy everything up when it's all through. Mike Myers and M. Night Shyamalan will end up forever fused in one of those little WALL-E trash cubes.
Here's a list of the best movies so far. I would only categorize the first two as "excellent," with the rest being "very good." Expect this list to change in a major way for the year-end wrap-up. I hope.
1. In Bruges: My favorite of the year so far, containing a killer performance courtesy of Colin Farrell. Until this film, I wasn't the biggest Farrell fan. With this quirky movie from writer-director Martin McDonagh (a playwright making an impressive movie-directing debut), Farrell shows he's far more than a pretty boy. He plays an emotionally conflicted hitman sent to Bruges by his crazy boss (Ralph Fiennes), and the dialogue is easily the year's best so far. A masterpiece.
2. WALL-E: This is one warped cartoon. Pixar delivers another delight, this time about a little robot left to clean up the Earth after we've left, because it's too stinky. In the future, we've become obese and dependent on hover chairs. Pretty standard for a G-rated movie, don't you think?
3. Iron Man: Robert Downey Jr. steps into the role of Tony Stark, billionaire weapons developer with a penchant for iron suits. Downey is great, as is Jeff Bridges as his eventual nemesis. This should be the first in a long line of great Iron Man films. Let's hope that the hubbub about the producers cutting budgetary corners and rushing the next installment into production was just Internet geeks causing trouble.
4. The Visitor: Richard Jenkins is excellent as a widower who takes up the drums. A terrific supporting actor in the past, Jenkins finally gets a chance to shine.
5. Forgetting Sarah Marshall: Jason Segel gets this year's Seth Rogen Award for breakout comedy star. There are more laughs in this film than the rest of the year's true comedies combined.
6. Son of Rambow: Two English kids in the early '80s pass the time by making their own Rambo film. Hey, the Rambo film they made was better than the latest one Sylvester Stallone put out.
7. The Spiderwick Chronicles: Nobody went to see this, and that's too bad. Freddie Highmore played twin brothers in a house getting attacked by goblins. The CGI is incredible and should get some notice during the year-end awards. If this film doesn't get some notice for its fine effects work, I will file a formal complaint at the local motor-vehicles office. Then I will get my ass kicked by the employees, for they have nothing to do with movie production.
8. Cloverfield: Sure, this film made some people barf from motion sickness. That makes me like it all the more. As for scares, this one (and the less consistent but still creepy The Strangers) had me going good. The monster was cool-looking, and I loved those breathing-sack things.
9. U2 3D: Hell yeah, this is the best rock-concert film in ages. Various parts of Bono wind up in your lap thanks to the magnificent 3-D effects.
10. Wanted: One of the year's biggest surprises. James McAvoy stars as an average guy who finds out he has the ability to curve bullets and assassinate people in crazy situations. Angelina Jolie is the badass who helps him hone those skills. The advertisements for this made it look like a cheap Matrix rip-off, but it is much more than that, offering nonstop, intelligent action that surprises at every turn.
As for the worst movie of the year so far, there's stiff competition. Crap like The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian and You Don't Mess With the Zohan sucked for sure, but they didn't even place in the Top 10.
Here's the list so far in what promises to be a record-breaking year when it comes to cinematic shit piles.
1. 88 Minutes: Holy hell, this is one of the worst movies I've ever seen. Al Pacino shows he's way past his glory days in this bizarre murder caper. Scary news for Pacino and Robert De Niro: There's another movie coming out soon pairing the two with this film's awful director, Jon Avnet.
2. 10,000 B.C. : Holy hell, this is one of the worst movies I've ever seen. (Didn't I just say that?) A prehistoric man hunts wooly mammoths, and you definitely root for the mammoths. Roland Emmerich has a lot of explaining to do.
3. The Happening: M. Night Shyamalan continues his violent spiral into the film abyss with this, his worst movie yet (and this is the guy who made Lady in the Water and The Village). Plants rebel against humans, and Mark Wahlberg looks lost in this colossal embarrassment. The opening sequence is good, and then it all goes to blazes.
4. The Love Guru: Mike Myers returns to live-action comedy and makes us wish he had stayed far, far away in Shrek Land.
5. Speed Racer: Some people are calling this a cinematic breakthrough. Some people also sniff glue.
6. Made of Honor: When I was in college, Patrick Dempsey was considered to be a major dick, thanks to Can't Buy Me Love. Now that film is considered some sort of genre classic, and Dempsey is McDreamy on Grey's Anatomy. I feel like I got in a time machine, went back to look at the dinosaurs, wandered off the path and stepped on a moth.
7. Superhero Movie: From one of the fellas behind the Scary Movie series comes this atrocious spoof that further proves Leslie Nielsen needs to retire.
8. Strange Wilderness: We all thought this one was going to be funny, didn't we? The previews looked great; Steve Zahn is certainly capable of laughs; and Jonah Hill of Superbad co-stars. As it turns out, this movie hurt me. It hurt me in ways that can only be addressed with deep therapy and hooch.
9. Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins: Martin Lawrence made me long for another Big Momma movie while watching this one, and I hate Big Momma.
10. One Missed Call: Oh, I was there for the call, all right. I didn't screen the bastard. I picked up and got caught in one long, dreary cinematic conversation.