Greatest Films of the 2000s
Greatest Films of the 2000s

Greatest Films of the 2000s
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Academy Awards for 2008 Films
Title Screen Film Genre(s), Title, Year, (Country), Length, Director, Description

Anvil! The Story of Anvil (2008)
This biographical musical documentary film was subtitled: "The Story of Anvil" - referring to a little-known, influential Canadian heavy metal (or "thrash metal") rock group that toured the world in the early 1980s, but never became commercially successful. Documentary filmmaker Sacha Gervasi (Anvil's ex-roadie and loyal fan) followed two members of the Anvil band to provide the film's content - sometimes described as a real-life version of This is Spinal Tap (1984). Their first album, titled Hard 'n' Heavy, was released in 1981, and the group later came to be regarded as a substantial influence by some of the most successful rock groups at the time (Bon Jovi, Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, Motorhead, Megadeth, etc.). The four-member group had a solid following of fans in Canada (and Toronto, their base), but they slumped creatively, only recorded on small independent labels, didn't have a manager and never found mainstream stardom or commercial success in the big-time. Anvil's two aging lead metal-heads: vocalist/guitarist Steve "Lips" Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner, (both with menial, dead-end day jobs), were blindly determined and persistently optimistic to not let Anvil's R&R dream die. They continued to record songs, play small clubs and sports bars in strip-malls, plan a major tour (a disastrous five-week European tour in 2006), and cut their comeback 13th album - with their own funding, over two decades after their initial appearance in the 1980s.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008), 144 minutes, D: Andrew Adamson, David Strangmuller
This was the sequel to the very popular first film, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005), in the three-part epic adventure-fantasy The Chronicles of Narnia franchise series (from 2005-2010), based upon seven novels written by C.S. Lewis. All of the film's were set in the fanciful world of Narnia, entered into through a wardrobe. The film's opening was set one year after the previous film. Although 12 months had passed in England (it was the year 1942), it was 1,300 years later in the alternate-world of Narnia, when the four Pevensie siblings had last visited. The four children were (in descending order of age): Peter (William Moseley), Susan (Anna Popplewell), Edmund (Skandar Keynes), and Lucy (Georgie Henley). In Narnia, after the birth of Prince Caspian's (Ben Barnes) nephew - a son born to his malicious, corrupt and power-hungry Uncle King Miraz (Sergio Castellitto) and Aunt Queen Prunaprismia (Alicia Borrachero), the Prince, the rightful heir to the Telmarine throne, was forced to flee for his life. Now with a male heir, Miraz wanted to attain power. He sent his military soldiers on horseback, led by General Glozelle (Pierfrancesco Favino), after the exiled Prince who had headed for the enchanted Shuddering Woods. The Prince blew on Susan's ancient, ornate magical ivory horn to seek help, and to summon the Pevensie children (at a London subway station) and all the old Narnians to assist him. He was helped by a black-haired Narnian dwarf Nikabrik (Warwick Davis), a red dwarf named Trumpkin (Peter Dinklage), a badger Trufflehunter (voice of Ken Stott), and later by a swashbuckling mouse named Reepicheep (voice of Eddie Izzard). Impatient to wait for Narnia's God-king Aslan (voice of Liam Neeson) - a wise, noble and powerful lion, to help in their struggle, the Narnians attacked Miraz's Telmarine castle, but were brutally battered and defeated. Black sorcery was used to summon a seductive White Witch (Tilda Swinton) (aka Queen Jadis), an ancient power - that turned out to be unwise. The opposing forces met at Aslan's How (a huge underground hall built atop the ancient Stone Table site), while Lucy and Susan sought to locate Aslan. After a one-on-one duel between Miraz and Peter, Miraz was defeated. Caspian spared Miraz' life, but then Miraz's scheming general Lord Sopespian (Damián Alcázar) suddenly betrayed Miraz - killing him with a bow and arrow. He then blamed the Narnians in order to incite a major battle between the opposing groups. The summoned Aslan was able to quell the violent fighting with an army of animated trees and an animated river, to vanquish the Telmarine army (and Sopespian) and to compel their surrender. Prince Caspian was installed as the rightful King of Narnia, to create a lasting peace between Telmarines and Narnians.

The Class (2008, Fr.) (aka Entre les Murs, or Between the Walls)
This realistic slice-of-life docu-drama was the first French film to win the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 21 years. It was based on the real-life memoirs of François Bégaudeau, a junior-high classroom teacher of the French language and literature, who was the film's scripter and main actor. He played a semi-autobiographical (or semi-fictional) version of himself as François Marin, a bright young, caring teacher in one of Paris' toughest, multi-cultural, inner-city public schools - an urban microcosm populated mostly by the working-class. During a year of teaching, although the embattled teacher struggled with his many foreign-born, racially-mixed, disruptive, unruly 'problem' students, Marin was intent on inspiring and challenging them to think and grow. A crisis developed when one of the rebellious, insolent and strong-headed pupils - the difficult, problematic and tempestuous Souleymane (Franck Keita) from Mali, caused a heated exchange in the class that led to teachers' evaluation meeting (attended also by student representatives), to decide placements, and discuss various issues with the multi-cultural students. The meeting brought out some of the teacher's own flaws (i.e., slang name-calling in a moment of anger), putting him to the test.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), 167 minutes, D: David Fincher
David Fincher's sweeping, lengthy, big-budget romantic-fantasy and dramatic epic, based on F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1922 jazz age short story, followed the life of 'curious' everyman Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt). Told in flashback, the title character was born in his elderly 80s and then began aging in reverse, growing younger rather than older. The inventive film deservedly won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects, for its miraculous age transformations of Button, who was born in 1918 (on Armistice Day) and was first seen as a short, ailing, frail, 80 year-old bald and wrinkled-skin elderly man with glasses. The old-man's-baby's biological mother Caroline Button (Joeanna Sayler) died during childbirth and the child was abandoned by his father Thomas Button (Jason Flemyng). He was brought up by African-American Queenie (Taraji P. Henson), an African-American servant who found him abandoned on the steps of her New Orleans nursing-retirement home. When Benjamin was 12 years old in 1930, he met his future lover/girlfriend, a young 7 year-old Daisy Fuller (Cate Blanchett as adult, Elle Fanning as 7 year old), who was the grand-daughter of one of the retirement-home tenants. As he grew younger, Benjamin joined kindly but crusty old Captain Mike Clark (Jared Harris) to work on his tugboat. In the early 1940s, he briefly fell in love with unhappily-married British expatriate Elizabeth Abbott (Tilda Swinton), just before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in late 1941. Benjamin was part of the war effort when Capt. Clark's tugboat was employed by the US Navy in salvage operations. Eventually, in New Orleans, he developed a romantic relationship with Daisy (an accomplished ballet dancer) when they met at mid-age in the early-to-mid 1960s when he was chronologically in his late 40s. Daisy's pregnancy resulted in the birth of daughter Caroline (Shiloh Jolie-Pitt) in 1968 (named after Benjamin's mother), although she later married another man named Robert Williams (Rus Blackwell). [Note: The film's twist was Daisy's revelation on her New Orleans deathbed (during Hurricane Katrina in August of 2005) where she was reading from Benjamin's diary. She told her 40-ish daughter Caroline (Julia Ormond) that she was born out of wedlock, and had been fathered by Benjamin.] By the 1990s, Benjamin was now a pre-teen in poor physical health and suffering from early dementia. Daisy cared for Benjamin until his death in the year 2003, when he perished as an infant (at the age of 84 years) in her arms.

The Dark Knight (2008), 152 minutes, D: Christopher Nolan
This darker and more violent film was the second entry in Christopher Nolan's trilogy of Batman superhero epics (preceded by Batman Begins (2005), and followed by The Dark Knight Rises (2012)) - part of the lengthy Batman franchise-series. The popular sequel film topped the box-office charts as the highest-grossing (domestic) film of 2008 and the highest-grossing (domestic) Batman movie ever. The action-packed, blockbuster superhero crime-drama was based on the decades-old comic-book Caped Crusader figure of Gotham City. Billionaire socialite playboy Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale) (in a sleeker bat-suit for his nightly "Dark Knight" vigilante duties), allied with Police Lieutenant James Gordon (Gary Oldman) and idealistic DA Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) to fight organized crime in Gotham City, found themselves with a new nemesis - a villainous, ghoulish, facially-scarred, terrorizing bank robber named the Joker (Heath Ledger). [Note: Ledger's indelible, diabolical performance was posthumously honored with an Oscar after he tragically died shortly before the film's release.] The Joker planned and strategically executed a series of attacks against the city and its people to produce anarchy and chaos, and to confront Dent and Batman. Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine) served as Bruce's butler and confidante, while Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), the twinkle-eyed, trustworthy Wayne Enterprises inventor and head of the Applied Sciences Dept., provided Wayne with the gadgets and equipment (i.e., the Batsuit, the Tumbler, the Batpod) required for his exploits, Batman's version of James Bond's Q. Also, he counseled him as a calm parental surrogate, took over CEO responsibilities, and served as the film's moral or ethical center when he expressed concern over Batman's invasive use of surveillance technology. During a confrontation with the Joker, Dent lost half his face (and acquired a new nickname Two-Face - turning him into a schizophrenic and vengeful murderer), and Bruce's ex-girlfriend Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal) was killed. In a final face-off, the Joker was apprehended, and a threatening Dent fell to his death from a building. In the ending, Batman took the blame for the current killing spree, to preserve Dent's reputation and heroic image, while the police began to hunt down Batman. The final words were Gordon's tribute to Batman: "He's a silent Guardian. A watchful protector. A Dark Knight."

Doubt (2008), 104 minutes, D: John Patrick Shanley
The major source for this provocative, faith-based period-drama was writer/director John Patrick Shanley's 2004 Broadway play Doubt: A Parable that ran on stage from 2004-2006. The play received two major awards: the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play, before becoming an Academy Awards-nominated film. The film's setting was the year 1964 at St. Nicholas - a Bronx (NY) Catholic church parish middle school whose strict, strong-willed conservative principal, Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Meryl Streep), ruled with rigid threats of punishment, discipline and fear. She was clearly at odds with the progressive, thoughtful, charming and charismatic priest of the church Father Brendan Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman). In an attempt to adapt to changing times within its Irish/Italian Catholic neighborhood (although realizing there would be some turbulence), the school had admitted its first African-American student Donald Miller (Joseph Foster). A feud between the self-righteous, old-school Sister and popular Father developed after well-meaning, naively-innocent history teacher, Sister James (Amy Adams) reluctantly reported to Sister Aloysius that Father Flynn and altar boy Donald were suspiciously seen meeting in the church rectory (with the smell of alcohol on Donald's breath). As time passed and without substantial evidence regarding their ambiguous meeting, the very suspicious and morally-certain Sister Aloysius began to believe that the allegedly-transgressing clergyman was a child-molesting pedophile. Flynn explained that he and the boy had met after Donald was caught drinking sacramental wine, and that he had kept it a secret to protect the boy. He then agreed the student should be dropped as an altar boy. However, the unconvinced Sister continued to resort to a crusade to persuade others of his inappropriate advances and have him expelled from the school. The situation became extremely complex when Donald's mother (Viola Davis) explained that her troubled son was gay, and had a violently-abusive homophobic father (Joseph Foster). The Sister began to threaten Flynn, claiming she had spoken to a nun at his last parish, and was planning further visits to his past places of employment to dig up more corroboration of her suspicions. She successfully forced Flynn to resign and face a transfer. Later, Sister Aloysius broke down and confessed to Sister James that she had lied to Flynn about his past infringements in order to rid the school of him.

Frost/Nixon (2008), 122 minutes, D: Ron Howard
Director Ron Howard's political docu-drama was based on the adaptation of Peter Morgan's own 2006 play. The title referred to the 12 Frost/Nixon interviews conducted from March-April 1977, ultimately consisting of four 90-minute programs recorded and broadcast on TV and radio in May of 1977. The initial episode drew 45 million viewers - an historically record-large TV audience for a political interview. British talk-show host David Frost (Michael Sheen) met with the disgraced former president Richard Nixon (Frank Langella), following three years of silence after Nixon had resigned in 1974 due to the 1972 Watergate scandal (break-in and cover-up) and his impeachment. It would be an opportunity for Nixon to air his grievances and exonerate himself, since he had never admitted any guilt or offered any apology or explanation in the interim. Nixon would be paid a guaranteed $600,000 while also resurrecting his career. In preparation for the interviews, there were many behind-the-scenes power struggles. Two investigators were hired to dig up details of the Watergate incident - ABC News producer Bob Zelnick (Oliver Platt) and author James Reston Jr. (Sam Rockwell). Charismatic TV show host Frost intended to subvert his 'soft' interview approach and reputation with hard-hitting questions, to hopefully encourage Nixon to confess to his crimes. The most dramatic scene was a late-night, deeply-personal phone call from a drunken Nixon to Frost about his past weaknesses and upbringing, and claims that he could hold his own and beat Frost in the final interview. At the end of the long series of questioning between the two men, their talks revealed an honest and truthful account. Nixon came to admit to his unethical wrong-doings (with the contradictory statement: "I'm saying that when the President does it, that means it's not illegal!"), and that he had let the American people down by the cover-up.

Gomorrah (2008, It.) (aka Gomorra), 137 minutes, D: Matteo Garrone
Not to be confused with the 2014 HBO TV series. Matteo Garrone's Biblically-titled, grim crime docudrama, an ensemble film based on the 2006 non-fiction bestseller by journalist Roberto Saviano, was about the corruptive influence of figures in the warring, gangster-underworld of the Italian 'Mafia' (known as the Camorra) and its powerful Casalesi clan. The controversial ensemble film, shot with a Steadi-cam, inter-twined five main stories about people's lives as they were drawn into violent criminal syndicate activities in Naples, Italy. It included two Hollywood-enamored, play-acting wanna-be gangster-thugs, teens Ciro (Ciro Petrone) and Marco (Marco Macor) who re-enacted the film Scarface (1983) and over-reached by stealing a stash of weapons and crossing the local boss Zio Vittorio (Vittorio Russo), leading to their murders; haute couture tailor Pasquale (Salvatore Cantalupo) who counterfeited products and supervised the training of Chinese sweatshop garment workers that competed with the factory-produced work of rival mobsters; toxic-waste manager Franco (Toni Servillo) who irresponsibly and illegally disposed of cancerous garbage for profit in over-populated areas; innocent 13 year-old grocery delivery boy Totò (Salvatore Abruzzese) who became a gang-initiate complicit in drug-dealing and the murder of Maria (Maria Nazionale) whose son had joined a rival clan; and middle-aged middleman Don Ciro (Gianfelice Imparato) who was involved in the deadly job of money-running for imprisoned mob/clan members.

Gran Torino (2008), 116 minutes, D: Clint Eastwood
Director/actor/producer Clint Eastwood's urban drama portrayed a prejudiced (or racist), recently-widowed Korean War vet named Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood), a retired assembly-line auto worker. Living in the once-peaceful white, working-class neighborhood of Highland Park, Michigan, a crime-ridden suburb of Detroit, the angry, quick-tempered and hard-drinking smoker was emotionally alienated from his family, and despised his poor Asian-immigrant neighbors. The embittered man's prized, dark-green metallic 1972 Ford Gran Torino became the flash-point for a major clash between Walt and his young fatherless neighbor Thao Vang Lor (Bee Vang). The shy teenaged Hmong immigrant boy had been coerced by his cousin Fong "Spider" (Doua Moua), the local gang leader, into stealing the vehicle in order to be initiated into the local gang. After Walt hindered the theft, he also faced off against the gang's further retaliation and attack with his M1 Garand rifle - earning the respect of the entire local Hmong community for standing up against the threat. Subsequently, the boy's family forced the boy to repay Walt (and seek atonement) by doing work for him, and he reluctantly agreed to cooperate. Slowly, a mentoring, father-figure relationship developed with the boy and his family, and Thao's older sister Sue (Ahney Her). He helped them to reform, but they were still plagued by the gang's violent activities. By the film's conclusion, the retaliatory gang had shot and injured Thao, and kidnapped, beat and raped Sue. One-on-one at the gang's house, Walt confronted the gang and provoked them into lethally shooting him, even though he was unarmed. Many of the gang members were arrested and charged with murder. After his funeral attended by many Hmong community members, Walt's will bequeathed his beloved Gran Torino and Labrador Retriever Daisy to Thao.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), 122 minutes, D: Steven Spielberg
Director Steven Spielberg's action-adventure film was the 4th installment of the long-running Indiana Jones franchise-series (from 1981 to 2008). Set in the year 1957 during the Cold War, the opening introduced the film's villains - the Russians - led by agent-operative Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) and her evil henchman Antonin Dovchenko (Igor Jijikine), who had infiltrated into a Nevada desert's secret military base and warehouse. Famed Marshall College archaeologist-adventurer Dr. Henry "Indiana" Jones, Jr. (Harrison Ford) escaped an atomic blast by hiding in a refrigerator localed in a nuclear test home. He then learned from motorcycle-riding greaser Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf) that Mutt's surrogate father (and Indiana's previous colleague) Professor Harold "Ox" Oxley (John Hurt) had become demented 6 months earlier after discovering a rare, pre-Colombian artifact composed of a single piece of quartz. It was a mysterious, powerful crystal skull found hidden in the South American jungle, in the Temple of Akator (aka The Lost City of Gold or legendary city of El Dorado). Once they had arrived in Peru on a frantic search and race against the Soviets to locate the ancient pyramidal structure at Akator that held the crystal skulls, the two were taken captive by Indy's turncoat British partner George "Mac" Michale (Ray Winstone) and the Soviets. They were joined up with two other prisoners, the insane Oxley and Indy's feisty ex-love interest Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) - who admitted that Mutt (Henry Jones III) was Indy's offspring. In the film's climactic and other-worldly finale set inside the ancient temple, obsessed Soviet agent Irina admitted her objective - to dominate the world telepathically by obtaining the great psychic powers of the Crystal Skulls. The temple housed 13 crystal skeletons (one with a missing skull). Once Oxley's stolen skull was returned to the 10th skeleton, an extra-terrestrial life-form appeared who explained that the aliens long ago, seen as gods, had passed on their advanced technology and knowledge to the ancient civilizations. As Irina absorbed the knowledge, it killed her and the temple was sucked into an activated giant portal from another dimension, from which a flying saucer emerged before flying off. Indiana, Mutt, Marion and Oxley were the only ones to escape from the devastation.

Iron Man (2008), 126 minutes, D: Jon Favreau
This comic book-based, action-adventure superhero film was the first installment of Marvel's Cinematic Universe (MCU), and the first of a franchise-series of Iron Man films. Sequels followed: Iron Man 2 (2010) and Iron Man 3 (2013). The film told the 'origin story' of superhero Iron Man. It opened with billionaire industrialist/engineer, flamboyant playboy, and philanthropist Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) in Afghanistan, to demonstrate his company's latest project: the Jericho - an advanced super-missile system. The CEO heir to defense weapons-manufacturer Stark Industries, was seriously injured, kidnapped and taken captive by a terrorist group (the Ten Rings led by Raza (Faran Tahir)) and held in an Afghan cave. In exchange for his life, Stark agreed to build a Jericho missile for his captors. Instead, he built a mechanized (or robotic), invulnerable suit of armor that he used to facilitate his escape. After destroying the cave and launching himself away, Stark crashed in the desert, left his prototype suit behind, and was picked up by US helicopters. Upon his return home, Stark vowed to cease manufacturing weapons, and was determined to discover who was behind the conspiracy to acquire weapons. He conferred with his personal assistant Virginia "Pepper" Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), and his second-in-command manager, Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges), his father's ex-partner, who opposed the financially-destructive change of direction for the company. Meanwhile, Stark secretly began to work on and test an advanced and streamlined version of his exo-skeleton armored suit, with a more powerful mini arc reactor (both a second-generation Mark II chestpiece, and then a Mark III). He flew to Afghanistan to defeat Raza and destroy any of the group's weapons. By the film's conclusion, it was revealed that Stane was double-crossing Stark by trafficking arms to the Ten Rings terrorist group in Afghanistan, and instigating a murderous coup to replace Stark as Stark Industries' CEO. When Stane found it impossible to reverse-engineer pieces of Stark's prototype Mark I suit from fragments in the desert, he confronted Stark and stole his newest, Mark II miniaturized arc reactor from his chest. Stark was able to acquire his own original Mark I arc reactor, and engaged in a fight-to-the-death against iron-clad Stane (in his own robotic suit code-named the Iron Monger) atop the Stark Industries building. Potts was able to create a power overload in the building's arc reactor that produced a shock-wave to kill Stane. In the final scene, Stark publically admitted during a press conference that he was indeed the superhero Iron Man ("I am Iron Man").

Let the Right One In (Låt den Rätte Komma In) (2008, Sweden)
This Swedish import - a coming-of-age romantic horror film by director Tomas Alfredson, was a vampirish tale set in the early 1980s, although the word "vampire" was mentioned only once. Its title referred to vampire lore - that one had to specifically invite a vampire to cross the threshold to enter one's home. The dramatic film told about two 12 year-old neighbors in the year 1982: blonde, albinoid, remotely-passive and outcast schoolboy Oskar (Kare Hedebrant), and enigmatic, androgynous, dark-haired female Eli (Lina Leandersson), a nocturnal vampire. The two alienated, societal misfits developed a close friendship. Oskar lived with his divorced mother Yvonne (Karin Bergquist) near Stockholm (in Blackeberg) in an apartment known as the Centrum, and was badly tormented by a trio of bullies at school. Next door was Eli, living with her unsociable, older "father" figure or guardian named Hakan (Per Ragnar), an ancient vampire who provided her with blood (from his neck) from recent kills. Both threatened pre-teens gave each other comfort and friendship after connecting and "going steady" and then forming a "blood bond." Eli counseled Oskar to find strength and take revenge on the bullies, while Oskar provided Eli with acceptance of her fated plight (she confessed "I'm not a girl!" and eventually admitted she was a vampire that needed to kill to survive). From the start, a series of bloody murders were being committed by an alleged serial killer, and the police were zeroing in on the killer. In the film's shocking conclusion, Eli came to Oskar's rescue in an attemped drowning by three main bullies at the local swimming pool, and killed (and dismembered) the assailants.

Mamma Mia! (2008, US/UK), 108 minutes, D: Phyllida Lloyd
This escapist, feature-film musical romance-comedy was inspired by two sources: the music of the Swedish 1970s hit-group ABBA, and screenplay-writer and author Catherine Johnson's book of the 1999 Broadway musical of the same name. The exuberant story, set on the fictional Greek island of Kalokairi, centered on 20 year-old bride-to-be Sophie Sheridan (Amanda Seyfried) who was about to be married to Sky Ramand (Dominic Cooper). Her real goal for the wedding was to identify her true father, with assistance from her bridesmaids Lisa (Rachel McDowell) and Ali (Ashley Lilley). She invited three strangers (located in the diary of her single mother Donna Sheridan (Meryl Streep)) to attend her upcoming wedding: divorced, Irish-American architect Sam Carmichael (Pierce Brosnan), British banker Harry Bright (Colin Firth), and Swedish traveler/writer Bill Anderson (Stellan Skarsgård), hoping that one of them would potentially be her father from her mother's free-spirited, carefree and rebellious sexual past, and would walk her down the aisle. Donna was the proprietor/owner of a small, rustic hotel on the island known as the "Villa Donna." She also invited two of her past, long-time singing friends to attend: unmarried author Rosie Mulligan (Julie Walters) and wealthy divorcee Tanya Chesham-Leigh (Christine Baranski), to recreate and perform as members of their former band known as Donna and the Dynamos. Donna was shocked, unhappy and confused to find her three past male lovers in attendance (that she had not seen for 20 years), and revealed that she did not know which one of them fathered Sophie. Complications ensued when all three of the men publically proclaimed that each of them was Sophie's father. In a last-minute switcheroo, Sophie's wedding to Sky was postponed temporarily so they could travel the world, and Sam proposed to Donna - to take their place in the wedding party. In the aftermath, Harry revealed he was gay, and Rosie hooked up with Bill.

Milk (2008), 127 minutes, D: Gus Van Sant
Director Gus Van Sant's biographical drama, with flashbacks, explored the last eight years of the life of courageous civil and gay-rights activist Harvey Milk (Sean Penn) whose life ended tragically in November of 1978. Various sources for the film included Randy Shilts' 1982 biography The Mayor of Castro Street, and the documentary film The Times of Harvey Milk (1984). The film opened in New York City on the eve of closeted homosexual Harvey Milk's 40th birthday in 1970, when he became involved with Scott Smith (James Franco), his male lover. In 1972, the couple moved to San Francisco and opened a camera shop (Castro Camera) in the working-class, Castro Street area known for liberal attitudes toward gays. Milk became a devoted political activist-advocate for equal rights for all - and an outspoken proponent/leader of the gay-rights movement (dubbing himself "The Mayor of Castro Street"), although he faced continuing discrimination. On his third attempt, he was elected in 1977 to San Francisco's Board of Supervisors (representing newly-zoned District 5), and became the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California. During his duties, Milk met fellow Supervisor Dan White (Josh Brolin), a conservative-leaning politician, who had served in Vietnam and previously worked as a police officer and firefighter. They clashed over their opposing views and styles of politicking. In particular, White opposed a city-wide gay rights ordinance, and supported Proposition 6, a state-wide initiative that banned gays and lesbians from working in California's public schools. At the same time, singer Anita Bryant was campaigning in Florida, with her national anti-gay organization Save Our Children, to defeat gay rights laws there. After Proposition 6 was defeated, White unleashed his frustrations and fury (about his job on the board) on both Milk and SF Mayor George Moscone (Victor Garber), by entering City Hall with a gun and assassinating them. 30,000 people came out to honor Milk that night with a candlelight vigil. With a "Twinkie Defense," White served only about 5 years for manslaughter, and two years after his release committed suicide.

Quantum of Solace (2008, UK), 105 minutes, D: Marc Forster
This was the 22nd installment of the long-running action-thriller James Bond franchise-series, and a direct sequel to Casino Royale (2006). Daniel Craig starred in his second spy film as the famed 007 MI6 agent. In this grim, dark and violent film, Bond sought revenge after the death of his former lover/girlfriend Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) from the previous film. With MI6 head M (Judi Dench), he interrogated captured Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) about a corrupt and powerful criminal organization known as Quantum, before White orchestrated his escape with help from M's turncoat bodyguard. Bond traveled to Haiti where he met beautiful Camille Montes (Olga Kurylenko), a Bolivian secret service agent who was also seeking to avenge the murder of her own family. Shortly later, with the help of CIA agent Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) and fellow agent Strawberry Fields (Gemma Arterton), Bond learned about wealthy environmentalist businessman Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), the head of an organization known as Greene Planet. He had been Camille's ex-lover, and was the mastermind behind an international crime syndicate known as Quantum. Now a rogue agent, Bond realized that Greene's plan was to cause a regime change by deposing the current Bolivian leader and instigating a coup d'etat against the regime to take over the government. Greene was allied with exiled Bolivian General Medrano (Joaquin Cosio), the one responsible for the murder of Camille's family, and a strongman who would assume the leadership of Brazil. Their political upheavals were designed to acquire a seemingly-barren piece of worthless Bolivian Atacama desert land to seize control of its hidden, underground fresh water supply (not its oil supply), so that they would make a profit by selling the highly-inflated and valuable land back to the government. During the film's climactic confrontation in the desert at an eco-hotel, the Perla des las Dunas, Camille vengefully shot and killed Medrano, and Bond left Greene stranded in the desert (with only a can of motor oil) after blowing up the complex. In the epilogue, M informed Bond that Greene was found dead in the middle of the desert, shot twice in the neck with some engine oil found in his stomach. She also invited Bond to return to MI6.

The Reader (2008), 123 minutes, D: Stephen Daldry
This highly acclaimed dramatic film was a Holocaust love story, adapted by David Hare from Bernhard Schlink's 1995 neo-classic novel. Through a flashback to the summer of 1958, it told of an erotic, passionate and secret summer-time affair in post-WWII Berlin between uneducated, beautiful, hard-working and repressed 36 year-old tram conductor Hanna Schmitz (Best Actress Oscar-winning Kate Winslet), and 15 year-old virginal German schoolboy Michael Berg (David Kross). They first met after a chance meeting when she helped him as he was suffering from the onset of scarlet fever. A few months later, she bathed him and dried him off, while nude herself, after he had dirtied himself with coal dust in her apartment's basement. Seducing him, they had intercourse and continued having sex on a regular basis, after which she demanded that he read literature outloud to her: (The Odyssey, Huckleberry Finn, and The Lady with the Little Dog, among others). Later in 1966 when Michael (Ralph Fiennes as an adult) was a law student in Heidelberg, he learned the truth about Hanna's past. He witnessed her Nazi war-crimes trial for being an SS guard at a satellite of Auschwitz near Cracow during the war, and her harsh sentencing to life imprisonment. She had accepted the more severe charges against her for ordering the murder of hundreds of innocent Jews in a burning church, instead of admitting that she couldn't read or write a report about the incident. She hid the embarrassing personal fact that she was illiterate. In 1988 after almost twenty years in prison, Hanna was to be paroled in one week (an early release due to good behavior), and Michael saw her during a poignant, painful prison visit for the first time in decades. He had been sending her audio cassette tape recordings of his readings of her favorite books (and she had painstakingly taught herself how to read and write), fulfilling his role as "The Reader." When he returned a week later to pick her up, he sadly learned that she had committed suicide in her room, by standing on a stack of books and hanging herself. In the film's final scene in a steady rain, the heartbroken Michael took his grown-up daughter Julia (Hannah Herzsprung) to visit Hanna's grave in a church graveyard.

Revolutionary Road (2008, US/UK), 119 minutes, D: Sam Mendes
This adult-oriented marital drama, adapted from Richard Yates' 1961 debut novel, captured the life-draining, conformist zeitgeist of the mid-1950s in its story of a troubled and disintegrating marriage. [Note: The film reunited the two star-crossed lovers from Titanic (1998).] Husband Frank Wheeler (Leonardo DiCaprio) found him trapped in an unrewarding, tedious, humdrum NYC business machine position (at Knox Machines). The discontented Frank took the long train trip each workday to the city where he passed through a sea of gray-flannel-clad workers in Grand Central Station. He was also involved in an unhappy, bleak and miserable marriage with April (Kate Winslet) and their family of two children, their son Michael (Ty Simpkins) and their daughter Jennifer (Ryan Simpkins). Likewise, she felt destined to a life of domestic servitude who had forsaken all of her youthful aspirations and dreams to be an actress. The two lived in a picture-perfect western Connecticut house (on Revolutionary Road), a suburb, fulfilling the American middle-class dream. Turning 30, however, Frank engaged in a short sexual affair with co-worker secretary Maureen Grube (Zoe Kazan). Meanwhile, in a wild fantasy, the couple hoped to leave behind their hopeless, conformist and empty suburban life by selling their home and moving to Paris at the end of summer, and excitedly told their neighbors. But then their hopes for a change were sidetracked when reality set in. Frank was tempted to accept an unexpected promotion (with a larger sustainable salary) and April became pregnant again - at the 10-week mark. Frustrated and depressed about her monotonous and boring life, and the cancellation-loss of their Paris dream, April turned to a fling with married neighbor Shep Campbell (David Harbour). Subsequently, the desperate April, who no longer felt love for Frank, made an attempt to perform a vacuum aspiration abortion on herself, with deadly consequences.

Slumdog Millionaire (2008, UK), 116 minutes, D: Danny Boyle
Best Picture and Best Director-winning Danny Boyle's dark horse, low-budget crowd-pleasing Bollywood-Hollywood hybrid had no American superstars, lots of foreign-language dialogue, and exhibited the extreme poverty of Bombay (Mumbai) India. The inspirational 'feel-good' theme, romantic sub-plot, and Oscar-winning song/dance "Jai Ho" finale made it extremely popular. The urban drama told in flashback about events in the life of impoverished, slum-dwelling 18 year-old orphaned and illiterate "slumdog" thief Jamal Malik (Dev Patel). The honest, good-hearted teen was working as a tea service worker (Chaiwala) for a telecommunications company's call center, when he appeared in the year 2000 as a contestant on a TV game-show titled Kaun Banega Crorepati (the Indian version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?"), with 60 million viewers. When only one question away from winning the top prize of 20 million rupees, he was arrested for cheating (presumably due to his unsavory, lower-class background). As he explained how he knew the answers to the previous questions, the flashback began. He was an orphaned young boy (Ayush Mahesh Khedekar as child) with his older brother Salim (Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail as child, Madhur Mittal as grown-up), growing up in poverty after their mother was killed during Bombay riots (and attacks on Muslims) in early 1993. Adopting a life of petty crime, they joined up with another young girl on the streets named Latika (Rubina Ali as child, Freida Pinto as grown-up). During a varied series of misadventures as they became teenagers, including Latika being taken in to be trained as a prostitute, Jamal fell in love with Latika, but had become separated from her. By being on the game show, he knew she would be watching him. He was able to answer the increasingly-tough questions due to his past circumstances, as explained in the flashbacks. When he answered the last question correctly - the name of the Third Musketeer (Aramis) in Alexandre Dumas' 1844 novel The Three Musketeers, Jamal was happily reuinted with Latika on the platform of the VT (Victoria Terminus) train station in Mumbai, where they danced to "Jai Ho."

Twilight (2008), 121 minutes, D: Catherine Hardwicke
This romantic fantasy vampire film was the first of five films in a long-running Twilight Saga franchise-series (from 2008-2012). It was an adaptation based upon the first of four novels published from 2005-2008 by author Stephenie Meyer. The best-selling books followed teenaged 17 year-old Isabella "Bella" Swan (Kristen Stewart) who had recently moved to the small town of Forks, WA from Phoenix, AZ with her single parent father Charlie (Billy Burke), Forks' new Chief of Police. There, she entered into a problematic romance with 108-year-old, telepathic Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), immortally-stabilized in age as a teenager and a member of a dangerous coven of vampires. She also established a relationship with her childhood friend, Native-American (Quileute) teenager Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) who lived with his father Billy Black (Gil Birmingham) on a reservation. The Quileutes, descended from wolves, were enemy-rivals of the Cullens. Unlike most thirsty, blood-sucking vampires, the Cullens were "vegetarians" (who consumed non-human, animal blood) in order to co-exist with humans. However, Bella became endangered by the arrival in Forks of three rival, rogue and nomadic vampires: gifted tracker and sadistic hunter James Witherdale (Cam Gigandet), his partner Victoria Sutherland (Rachelle Lefevre), and Laurent Da Revin (Edi Gathegi), who were responsible for a series of 'animal attacks' in town. Once the menacing trio became obsessed with Bella's intoxicating scent and began to hunt her down, Edward and the Cullens, including Alice (Ashley Greene) and her mate Jasper (Jackson Rathbone), unsuccessfully tried to protect her. She fled to Phoenix, where the insanely-predatory James tracked her, bit her arm, and infected her with vampire venom. Four of the Cullens retaliated, broke James' neck and burned his body, while Edward removed the venom from Bella's wrist to prevent her from becoming an immortal vampire. In the conclusion set back in Forks, soul-mates Bella and Edward attended the Forks HS prom, where Edward refused Bella's fervent desire to become like him. She wished he hadn't saved her, and instead had let the venom spread. Eavesdropping on them, Victoria was plotting to seek revenge for James' death.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008), 96 minutes, D: Woody Allen
Writer/director Woody Allen's romantic comedy told about the complicated and intimate relationships and entanglements experienced by two American women on a summer holiday in Barcelona, Spain. The two polar opposites were blonde Cristina (Scarlett Johanssen) - a liberated, sexually-adventurous female (romantically dreaming and looking for "counter-intuitive love") who was also an aspiring, spontaneous photographer/filmmaker, and brunette Vicky (Rebecca Hall) - a practical and realistic traditionalist, and master's degree student. She was conducting research on the local Catalan culture, and was meanwhile engaged to marry predictable and dull New York businessman Doug (Chris Messina). Both Vicky and Cristina became emotionally and sexually involved - in a competitive love triangle - with charming lothario painter-artist Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem). Uncharacteristically, engaged fiancee Vicky was the first to make love with Juan Antonio after attending a Spanish guitar concert. Shortly afterwards, Cristina moved in with Juan Antonio and was regularly sleeping with him. Inserted into the mix was Juan Antonio's hot-tempered, exotic ex-wife Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz), suicidal and unstable, who arrived in a stupor and also moved in with Juan Antonio. Juan, Cristina, and Maria Elena were able to establish a menage-a-trois relationship for a short while, with Cristina providing their relationship's missing ingredient. Their time together also culminated in a one-time 'bi-sexual' kiss (and sexual encounter, off-screen) between Maria Elena and Cristina in a reddish-lighted darkroom. Meanwhile, Vicky was joined in Spain by Doug and the two were married. However, Vicky still retained feelings for Juan Antonio, while at the same time, the threesome of Maria Elena, Cristina, and Juan Antonio had fallen apart. In the film's conclusion, the romantically-restless Vicky was being seduced by Juan Antonio when the volatile and tempermental Maria Elena burst in with a gun and shot Vicky in the hand. The film ended with the clueless Doug (with newly-wed wife Vicky) and still-unfulfilled and dissatisfied Cristina returning to the US.

WALLE (2008), 97 minutes, D: Andrew Stanton
The eco-friendly, almost dialogue-free, Oscar-winning adventure and science-fiction story was the 9th Pixar/Disney computer-animated film. The environmentally-conscious, comedy-animation was set in the year 2700. WALL•E (short for Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-class) (voice of Ben Burtt) was the last lone garbage-compacting, sanitation robot on a post-apocalyptic, uninhabitable Earth, who surprisingly had a liking for showtunes seen on VHS tape from the musical Hello Dolly ! His single friend was a pet cockroach. For seven centuries, the industrious, ecological robot had been cleaning up Earth's harmful trash (and collecting treasures) after everyone had been evacuated on giant starliners to a giant orbiting mothership known as AXIOM, operated by a mega-corporation known as Buy N Large (BnL). Then one day, an unmanned probe-mission (known as Operation Recolonize) from AXIOM arrived, with a sleek, initially-cold, white-shelled (and egg-shaped), highly-advanced droid-robot on board - named EVE (short for Extra-terrestrial Vegetation Evaluator) (voice of Elissa Knight). EVE had been sent to Earth to check on the progress of the clean-up and to locate plant life. In the odd-couple love story, WALL•E instantly fell in love with EVE, who after being shown WALL•E's latest discovery, a living seedling, went into an unresponsive, deactivated stand-by mode to signal and obey her directive to notify AXIOM. EVE was retrieved - reclaimed and returned back to AXIOM several light years away, with WALL•E hitching a ride on the outside of the probe. Inside the giant spaceship known as AXIOM, humans had turned into sedentary, corpulent, lazy, non-ambulatory figures who floated on personal hovercrafts, were fed liquid food through straws, and impersonally communicated with each other via video screens. Both WALL•E and EVE were confronted by AXIOM's figurehead Captain McCrea (voice of Jeff Garlin), and his automated pilot known as AUTO (voice of Apple Computer's early robotic text-to-speech program MacInTalk). The two robots were able to cooperate together to counteract a secret "no-return" directive issued centuries earlier by BnL that prohibited a return to Earth to recolonize the planet. They were able to use a Holo-Detector to trigger a hyperjump back to Earth for themselves and AXIOM's other inhabitants, so that humanity could begin recolonization. In the tear-jerking conclusion, EVE was able to bring the crushed WALL•E back to life with an electric kiss, after his memory had been reset and he appeared emotionless and seemingly-'dead.' Soon, the planet (with growing plant life) would be reinhabited by humans, and transformed by the efforts of the robots.

The Wrestler (2008), 109 minutes, D: Darren Aronofsky
The title character of Darren Aronofsky's sports drama was a broken-down, has-been, formerly-famous 1980s headliner pro wrestler named Randy "The Ram" Robinson (56 year-old Mickey Rourke in a comeback role). His heyday in the ring was in the 1980s when he was so popular that he was sold as a popular action-figure and appeared in Nintendo video games, showing off his signature move -- a diving head-butt known as the "Ram Jam." Now 20 years later with a healthy dose of pain-killers and steroids, he had returned to wrestling in an underground circuit on the weekends in small low-paying arenas, such as HS gyms or community sports arenas in New Jersey, to gain respect and integrity. During his possible comeback when he suffered a massive heart attack (and bypass operation), he was told to end his wrestling career and was forced to reluctantly retire. He began working full-time at his demeaning job at the counter of the local grocery-store deli. He was able to form a close bond with 43 year-old Pam/Cassidy (Marisa Tomei), a middle-aged, over-the-hill, tattooed exotic stripper and single mother, and persisted in asking her to settle down with him. She refused because of the circumstances under which they met, and because she had a 9 year-old son. He also struggled to emotionally and personally reconcile and reconnect with his estranged (and previously-abandoned) teenaged daughter Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood) - with limited success. Exasperated about his life going nowhere, Randy angrily quit his job, and agreed to engage in a redemptive, high-profile rematch - sure-to-be his last and fatal fight in the ring against arch-rival "The Ayatollah" (Ernest Miller). He had faced the formidable opponent in a monumental match 20 years earlier. Before the match, Randy delivered an inspiring closing speech ("I'm still standing here and I'm The Ram") to inspire his beloved fans, and then entered the deadly, self-destructive fight. The film concluded at the end of the match on a freeze-frame, as Randy lept from the top rope to deliver his signature "Ram Jam" move.

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