Page 22 THE VILLADOM TIMES I & III • January 14, 2009 Reviewer selects the best films of 2008 by Dennis Seuling Until December rolled around, 2008 was looking to be a humdrum year for movies. Studios, as usual, were holding their strongest releases for the end of the year. While it was frustrating to rush to see so many worthy films in such a short period of time, it was also quite rewarding. Following, in reverse order, are this critic’s picks for the 10 best films of 2008. “Tell No One.” Made in 2006, but released in the United States in 2008, “Tell No One” is a French psychological thriller about pediatrician Alexandre Beck (Francois Cluzet), who was knocked unconscious the night his wife, Margot, was killed. Eight years later, two bodies are discovered near the site where Margot’s body was found, and new evidence casts suspicion on Alexandre. Using Alfred Hitchcock’s famous plot device of the innocent man trying to extricate himself from suspicion, this film is reminiscent of Hitch’s best. The film is so skillfully crafted by writer/ director Guillaume Canet that assorted subplots fall neatly into place at the end. In a nod to American thrillers, there is an exciting car chase, but the greatest strength of the movie is the way it keeps everyone guessing and rooting for Alexandre. “The Bank Job.” Terry Leather (Jason Statham) is approached by former model Martine (Saffron Burrows) with a robbery plan: while a bank’s alarm system is off Frank Langella stars as the 37th President of the United States in ‘Frost/Nixon,’ one of the best movies of 2008. LEGENDS STEAKHOUSE Including Fish, Pastas, Steaks & Daily Specials Join us for all the NFL Playoff Games! Food & Beer Specials for a couple of weeks, tunnel into the vault and loot the safe deposit boxes. The real goal, however, is not cash or jewels, but compromising photographs of a member of the royal family. A Trinidadian thug, a bordello owner, and a pornographer also have sensitive items stored in the looted boxes. As these various parties attempt to recover their incriminating materials, the thieves realize the police are the least of their worries. Director Roger Donaldson has fashioned a great caper film. Statham, known for his action pictures, is letter-perfect as a man who has to think quickly to stay one step of those who will not hesitate to kill him. “Slumdog Millionaire.” Sometimes great films seem to come out of nowhere with no fanfare, no promotion, and little advertising. “Slumdog Millionaire,” released in early December, is such a movie. Jamal Malik (Dev Patel) is an 18-year-old orphan from the slums of Mumbai who becomes a contestant on India’s version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” and correctly answers question after question. Because those in charge of the show cannot believe this Sunset Special 4:30-6PM, Mon-Thurs – includes soup or salad, choice of entrée w/ accompaniment, coffee or tea $12.00 12:00 - 2:30 PM includes soup, choice of entrée, coffee, tea or soda OPEN 7 DAYS for LUNCH, DINNER & COCKTAILS CATERING for all occasions, up to 70 BUSINESS LUNCH $12.00 201-445-2881 118 GODWIN AVE, MIDLAND PARK boy can know so much, they have him arrested on suspicion of cheating. As he tells the story of his life, viewers see the squalid conditions of the Mumbai slums and the circumstances that have enabled him to answer seemingly tough questions. The film’s parallel storytelling switches from the present to events in Jamal’s past. Director Danny Boyle has selected a wonderful cast, including particularly good child actors. This is an unusual film with heart. “Stop-Loss.” This film did poorly at the box office, mostly, I believe, because the public perceived it as “another Iraq movie.” It is far from that. Sgt. Brandon King (Ryan Phillippe), a veteran of the Iraq War, returns to the United States eager to go back to his Texas hometown and move on with his life. But Sgt. King has been “stop-lossed,” a policy by which the government assigns him to a tour of duty beyond what he signed on for. The audience follows his fruitless efforts to fight this unjust policy, meeting his buddies and friends along the way. Unlike such preachy films as “Rendition,” “Redacted,” and “Lions for Lambs,” “Stop-Loss” avoids taking political sides and instead concentrates on the plight of the soldier who has served his country honorably and then feels undermined when his country breaks its contract. Phillippe is very good in the lead role, with effective performances turned in by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Channing Tatum, and Victor Rasuk as his army buddies. “Burn After Reading.” The Coen Brothers once again produced the quirkiest movie of the year. When a couple of employees (Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand) of a Washington D.C. health club find a CD that was left in a locker, they believe it contains classified CIA information and attempt to blackmail its owner (John Malkovich). The film is reminiscent of “Fargo” in that not-too-bright individuals attempt a crime, underestimate the dangers, and get in way over their heads. It moves swiftly and is very funny, though it does take some detours into unexpected, dark territory. George Clooney and Tilda Swinton costar, making this one of the most star-packed movies of the Coen Brothers’ career. Pitt is hilarious as dimwitted Chad Feldheimer, the “mastermind” behind the scheme, and easily steals every one of his scenes. “The Dark Knight.” Christian Bale reprises his role of the caped crusader from “Batman Begins” (2005) in a picture that even non-fans of superhero movies would love. The film benefits from performances by Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, and Morgan Freeman, but this is Heath Ledger’s picture all the way. Ledger gives The Joker a maniacal, lethal interpretation that is as far from Jack Nicholson’s burlesque version in “Batman” (1989) as arsenic is from an ice cream soda. Ledger commands the screen as a twisted criminal whose disturbed childhood makes him eager to destroy lives and bring Gotham City to its knees. Director Christopher Nolan recognizes that a key ingredient to making a superhero movie come alive is to make the villain larger than life and a worthy match for the hero. “The Dark Knight” shows us what happens when a top director, a solid script, and a unique performance join forces. “Doubt.” If you thrive on great acting, this movie is heaven. Based on the stage play by John Patrick Shanley, “Doubt” takes place in a Bronx Catholic school in the early 1960s. Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep) suspects that a parish priest, Father Brendan Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman), is guilty of inappropriate behavior with a child in the school. She has no solid proof, but feels instinctively from bits of information she has gathered that the priest is a danger to the child and must be removed. Once again, Streep etches a memorable performance, this time as a strict, old-school principal. She is depicted as a non-emotional disciplinarian, a bully, and a terror to the children under her care. Amy Adams plays Sister James, a teacher at the school. Viola Davis, in a brief supporting role, is just amazing. Davis is a sadly underused acting treasure on the big screen who, in “Doubt,” showcases her fantastic talent. “Gran Torino.” Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood) is a Korean War veteran and former auto industry employee who is unhappy with the influx of Asian families to his (continued on Crossword page)