Over a Year in the Making

Right when we finished up with Back Beat I sent it in to a plethora of music review websites. One I was excited because I had never used it before like I had with garageband.com. I donated some money to the site so it would move our que up, but it turns out my credit card was not working so I thought they would be pissed at me and not review it. But just tonight I got an email that told me our music had finally been reviewed. Theres some good and some bad.


The Night Time is the Right Time

Franz Ferdinand – Tonight: Franz Ferdinand

It’s been a long four years since we last heard the indie swagger sounds of this Glasgow quartet. Breaking on to the scene in 2004 with their excellent self titled debut and followed by a quite adequate followup, I’m glad to say that Franz Ferdinand is in top firing form on their latest release Tonight: Franz Ferdinand.

Known in the past for their edgy/slight funky riff based indie style, Franz Ferdinand have recently decided to incorporate more of a heavy dub drum and bass sound. As front man Alex Kapranos has stated “It’s more of a dance record than a rock record.” And for a high energy band like Franz Ferdinand that works in their favor.

Starting off with a high energy rhythm on songs like “Turn It On” and the lead single “Ulysses”, Tonight really gets you tapping your toes and bobbing your head to it’s dance floor beats. As the album progresses we hear various dabblings with old school synths and a whole caboodle of bizarre percussion instruments, including what else but a human skeleton.

Tonight starts off strongly and definitely has some exciting moments spread all about, but like the last album I often find the songs kind of blending together. Usually because they sound too similar, but it’s never really boring. All in all this is exactly what I was expecting to get with this band’s latest release and I don’t mind. It’s nice to start 09′ in music on a high note and I hope to continue enjoying this album as the year progresses.

Favorite Tracks: “No You Girls”, “Turn It On”, “Ulysses”

P.S. I got a free vinyl single when I bought my copy at Silver Platters, I just wish I’d get a free t-shirt someday, that will always be the dream.

Retrospecticus: Bruce Springsteen

Well here it is, the most epic retrospective of an artist’s discography yet.  I kept most of reviews of these albums fairly brief, and I didn’t attempt to listen to all of the Boss’s live albums, although him and E Street Band do give fantastic live performances.  I’m sorry I wasn’t able to get this up by monday, but give me a break this this thing is pretty huge, besides I didn’t want to take away from Nancy’s glorious post.  Anyways let’s get on with this look back at a very impressive discography from one of rock n’ roll’s most prolific talents.

Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. (1973) 

New Jersey’s own Bruce Springsteen first made his mark with his debut, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.  The album’s sales were modest, but it established his unique abilities as a songwriter and drew many comparisons by rock critics as the “new Dylan”.  This was probably due to some of the songs have a bit of a more folk-rock sound to them as well as The Boss’s unique lyrical sensibilities that evoke fantastic imagery.  But the album also features plenty of songs with that certain anthemic quality that Bruce would later pursue such as “Growin’ Up” and “For You”, as well as his original version of “Blinded By the Light” which Manfred Mann would turn into a #1 hit.  At this point what would become the E Street Band certainly infused the songs with a great exuberance, even if they weren’t yet made up of what would become the classic E Street line-up.  

Favorite Tracks: “Growin’ Up”, “Spirit in the Night”, “It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City”

The Wild, The Innocent, and The E Street Shuffle (1973)

Recorded and released the same year as his debut, The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle already shows The Boss finding his groove as a songwriter and  an artist.  He builds on the same sound he established with the first album, but the songs are definitely longer (4 of the 7 tracks are over 7 minutes long), but also at the same time much tighter instrumentally.  There’s some great intstrumental interplay between the musician’s and you can really hear the E Street Band start to gel as an outfit.  You can also hear Springsteen starting to grow lyrically as his songs are chocked full of distinct characters and vivid images of the New Jersey boardwalk.  Songs like “Kitty’s Back” and “Rosalita” are among the most thrilling songs of the Boss’s discography, and this albums still remains one of his best.

Favorite Tracks: “The E Street Shuffle”, “Kitty’s Back”, “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)”

Born To Run (1975) 

The Boss’s third album was without a doubt the most ambitious album of his then young career and is quite simply one of the greatest rock n’ roll albums ever recorded.  From the opening piano bars of “Thunder Road”, you know you’re in for a special ride and Born To Run simply never lets up.  However, the road to the completion of Born To Run was not an easy one, it took over 14 months to record and nearly drove Springsteen and his record company to bankruptcy.  The production of the album is definitely a lot more lush than his first to albums, Springsteen has said that he was going for a Phil Spector-like “Wall of Sound” approach, and he definitely achieves it.  

Another big contribution to the sound of the album is the addition of drummer Max Weinberg, who adds a much more precise style of drumming, and pianist Roy Bittan who’s piano work is among the hallmarks of the album.  Also with the addition of guitarist/vocalist and future Sopranos star Steven Van Zandt, the classic E Street line-up was complete.  Also, songs like “She’s The One”, the title track, and especially “Jungleland” feature many of the Clarence Clemens’ best sax solos.  The song “Born to Run” is simply one of my favorite songs of all time, there aren’t many songs that are so epic and so brimming with hope.  The song as well as the album finally brought Springsteen some mainstream success and helped to establish him a national fanbase.

Favorite Tracks: “Thunder Road”, “Born To Run”, “Jungleland”

Darkness On The Edge Of Town (1978) 

Coming three years after The Boss’s breakthrough Born to Run, it seems that he had already distanced himself considerably from that album’s youthful optimism.  The songs still have the same energetic treatment from the E Street band, but there’s a slightly darker tone to Darkness on the Edge of Town.  Also, instead of Springsteen’s lyrics about teenage New Jersey life, many of them are unglamorous odes to the working man.  This album marked a clear turning point from The Boss’s early sound into the next decade, and I don’t really feel any need to write anything more considering I already wrote a CAT for this album.

Favorite Tracks: “Badlands”, “Candy’s Room”, “The Promised Land”

The River (1980) 

The only double album in Bruce Springsteen’s catalog, The River is composed of a number of songs that The Boss had written during earlier parts of his career as well as newer material.  One distinct feature of the The River is the contrast of almost frivolously upbeat songs such as “Cherry Darling” and “Crush On You” as well much more solemn, personal songs like “Independence Day” and “Drive All Night”.  The River was also notable for featuring The Boss’s first top ten single, “Hungry Heart”.  Most of the songs sound like Bruce and the E Street Band are just having a good time banging out these catchy pop numbers, and although most of the songs aren’t quite at the level of the past Springsteen outings up to this point, I think the fact that the album contains so many solid songs is what makes the album work.  And although I’d say the album’s lenghty duration does make it a little less appealing, I don’t think it would be nearly as good as a condensed single album.

Favorite Tracks: “Jackson Cage”, “Hungry Heart”, “I’m A Rocker”

Nebraska (1982) 

Though even at this point, Bruce Springsteen had shown the ability to take his music in a number of different directions, nothing was nearly as huge of a departure as the somber folk sound of Nebraska.  Demos for the album were initially recorded by Springsteen at his home on a 4-track cassette recorder with nothing more than guitar, harmonica, and Springsteen’s voice.  The same songs were then recorded with the E Street Band before being scrapped after it was decided that they didn’t capture the haunting nature of the demos, and the demos where ultimately released as the album.  

The sparse but effective sound to the album makes for one of Springsteen’s most memorable albums, even if the songs have a fairly bleak tone to them.  There are plenty of songs that explore working class themes such as the title track or “Highway Patrolman”, although this time around they seem to evoke images of the Midwest rather than Springsteen’s native New Jersey.  The Boss would pursue a similar bare, acoustic folk sound with The Ghost of Tom Joad and Devils And Dust, but neither of them quite capture The Boss’s more introspective side quite as brilliantly as Nebraska.


Favorite Tracks: “Atlantic City”, “Johnny 99”,  “State Trooper”

Born In The U.S.A. (1984) 

At this point Bruce Springsteen had acheived quite a bit of success with a couple of hit singles, but Born In The U.S.A. was the album that transformed him into a bona fide superstar.  The album is by far the best selling album of Springsteen’s career and contained an unbelievable seven top 10 singles.  The album shows Springsteen continuing to explore songs about “the working man”, although they have a much more optimistic and energetic feel to them than his previous album thanks to the reliable power of the E Street Band.  

A main aspect that can be attributed to the album’s success is the more pop-friendly sound to the album, with many of the songs containing some memorable use of synthesizers, especially on the hit singles “Born in the U.S.A.” and “Dancing in the Dark”.  However, there’s still many guitar driven songs such as “Cover Me” and “I’m Going Down”, even though guitarist Steven Van Zandt would leave the E Street Band after the recording of Born in the U.S.A. to be subsequently replaced by Nils Lofgren.  Born In The U.S.A. was certainly one of The Boss’s breakthrough albums and an album that defined the pop/rock sound of the early ’80s.

Favorite Tracks: “Downbound Train”, “No Surrender”, “Dancing In The Dark”

Tunnel Of Love (1987) 

After the overwhelming success of Born In The U.S.A. and the massive tour that followed it, Tunnel Of Love shows The Boss scaling back a bit.  Most of the songs feature meditations on love in the face of success with a bit of a regretful tone to them.  Synthesizers and acoustic guitars are definitely at the forefront of the album which make for one of Springsteen’s most polished sounding albums.  Some of the album does sound a little bit dated at times due a very ’80s sound, but the quality of introspective songs like “Walk Like A Man” and “Brilliant Disguise” make Tunnel of Love an enjoyable and somewhat underrated entry in Bruce Springsteen’s catalogue.

Favorite Songs: “Tougher Than The Rest”, “Tunnel Of Love”, “Brilliant Disguise”


Human Touch (1992) 

Lucky Town (1992) 

A few years after officially disbanding the E Street Band 1989, Bruce Springsteen released the albums Human Touch and Lucky Town on the same day.  Both of them have a similarly pop-oriented sound and are among The Boss’s most optimistic material.  The Boss would feature songs with less serious subject matter on many of his prior albums, but these two albums seem to be entirely consisting of mostly pretty poppy, upbeat songs.  I’d say this sound works to a certain extent on Lucky Town

because it has a handful of undeniably catchy songs like “Better Days” or “Leap of Faith”, but Human Touch just seems kind of bland in comparison to every album 

Springsteen had released up to this point.  For me, the ’90s seemed kind of like a time in which Springsteen didn’t quite have that same spark that he had in the earlier years with the E Street Band, although he would achieve another impressive accomplishment with his Best Original Song Oscar win for “Streets of Philadelphia” in 1994.

Favorite Tracks: “Better Days”, “Local Hero”, “Human Touch”

The Ghost of Tom Joad (1995) 

With The Ghost of Tom Joad, Bruce returned to somewhat familiar territory that definitely bears a similar sound to 1982’s Nebraska.  Much like Nebraska, The Ghost of Tom Joad features for the most part just Springsteen’s voice and acoustic guitar playing, although there are a few songs that feature some sparse keyboard work and percussion.  The lyrical content is among The Boss’s most politically driven, which make for some occasionally interesting songs, but a lot of them seem a little forgettable.  The Ghost of Tom Joad is definetely one of The Boss’s most personal albums as well as having a somewhat charmingly intimate sound , but for me fails to match the haunting intensity of his earlier acoustic folk effort, Nebraska.

Favorite Tracks: “The Ghost of Tom Joad”, “Highway 25”, “Dry Lightning”

The Rising (2002) 

Coming seven years after his last album, The Rising reunited Bruce Springsteen with the E Street Band while marking a major comeback for The Boss.  Much of the album was inspired by the terrorist attacks of 9/11, and The Rising features many songs that feature messages of hope and healing.  There’s a good mix of more downbeat mournful songs such as “Nothing Man” and “My City of Ruins” as well as  songs that have a more upbeat hopeful nature to them such as “Lonesome Day” and the title track.  One aspect that added another layer to the E Street sound is the inclusion of violinist Soozie Tyrell.  Also, thanks to producer Brendan O’Brien who has also produced each subsequent album by Bruce Springsteen gives a more modern sound to some of Springsteen’s most exciting work as a songwriter in years.  It seems like ever since the release of this album, there’s been a constant flow of creativity from Springsteen seeing as though he’s been incredibly active as far as recording.  Really the only complaint I have about this album is that at a running time of 72 minutes it’s a bit long, and I could do without a couple of tracks but for the most part it shows The Boss and the E Street Band in prime form.

Favorite Tracks: “Lonesome Day”, “Couning On A Miracle”, “Sally’s Place”

Devils & Dust (2005) 

Comprised mainly of older songs Sprinsteen had written that go back as far as ten years, Devils and Dust shows The Boss returning to the more stripped down acoustic folk sound of Nebraska and The Ghost of Tom Joad.  However, this time around the songs are considerably more melodic and not nearly as bleak.  Devils And Dust also has a bit more lush sound than those records because of the contributions from several musicians that Springsteen has worked with over the years.  The lyrical content is definitely pretty diverse, featuring songs such as the title track, a commentary on the Iraq War, “Reno”, about an encounter with a prostitute, and “All I’m Thinking About”, a simple love song featuring a falsetto vocal performance.  Devils and Dust is another charming addition The Boss’s more intimate acoustic material, even if it has a somewhat conventional sound to it. 

Favorite Tracks: “Devils and Dust”, “Long Time Comin'”, “Leah”

We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions (2006) 

Definitely one of the most unique sounding albums in Bruce Springsteen’s catalogue, We Shall Overcome is comprised entirely of songs written or made famous by folk legend Pete Seeger.  Springsteen is backed by The Seeger Sessions Band which comprised mostly of lesser known musicians that Springsteen had met through E Street violinist Soozie Terrell as well former collaboraters such as Max Weinberg 7 members, Mark Pender and Richie “La Bamba” Rosenberg.  The mix of lots of bouncy strings and brass combined with other acoustic instruments and Seeger’s songs give the album a very lighthearted and enjoyable sound, and make for another great addition to the slew of quality work The Boss has been putting out this decade.

Favorite Tracks: “Old Dan Tucker”, “John Henry”, “Pay Me My Money Down”

Magic (2007) 

Releasing an album for the third year in a row, Bruce Springsteen shows him and the E Street Band continuing to explore a similar sound as on 2002’s The Rising while also recalling the vigor of some of his earliest records.  The leadoff track “Radio Nowhere” is among The Boss’s most electrifying rockers in years and for the first time in years, “Livin’ in the Future” provides Clarence Clemons with a chance to really shine.  Producer Brendan O’brian once again gives the album a very lush pop/rock sound that are complemented excellently by some of Springsteen’s catchiest numbers such as “Girls In Their Summer Clothes” and “I’ll Work For Your Love”.  Magic is just another testament to Bruce and the E Street Band’s knack for turning out great records each time they get together to record an album.

Listening to all these albums has definitely gotten me quite a bit more excited than I would have normally been for a new Bruce Springsteen album.  But seeing as though all of Springsteen’s recent albums have been pretty great, I’m more than looking forward to hearing his latest album, Working On A Dream.  The title track has a similar feel to the songs on Magic, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the rest of the album has a similar sound considering some of the songs were recorded around the same time as that album.  Sadly, It’ll be the first E Street outing not to feature the recently deceased keyboard/organ player Danny Federici who’s been with the band ever since Springsteen’s second album.  I’m glad to see that “The Wrestler” made on to the album as a bonus track, and I’m also excited to see Bruce and The E Street Band play the Super Bowl the Sunday.  And of course you’ll be seeing a review of Working On A Dream form me in the near future.

The Most Anticipated Blog Post of 2009

Nancy here with my top 3 things in 3 categories of 2008.

Top Albums
2008 was a pretty weak year for music as far as I’m concerned. It’s not that I did not particularly like most of the albums that my favorite artists released including Chris Walla’s Field Manual(Seriously buddy, stick to the backup vocals), Jenny Lewis’ Acid Tounge, and Louis XIV’s Slick Dogs And Ponies. However there were a few diamonds in the rough and here they are.

3. Connor Oberst – Connor Oberst
Connor Oberst from Bright Eyes fame released his first solo album in 2008. Most people think Bright Eyes is just his alias and that whats the point of releasing a solo album? Well his good friend Mike Mogis plays a slew of instruments as well as producing the Bright Eyes albums and was not involved with this record so Oberst decided not to use the name for the project.

The band involved in this project Oberst put together and named them the Mystic Valley Band. They all went down to Mexico and rented a house and recorded an the album.
The record has a more upbeat tone than what fans are used to with Bright Eyes. A lot of faster paced, happier themed music was on display which was a nice change of pace for Obersts song writing.

Favorite Tracks: Cape Canaveral; Souled Out!!!; Milk Thistle; Maob.

2. Dr. Dog – Fate
Fate was one of my most anticipated after buying their first two albums about a year earlier. I was not disappointed. I love the old reel-to-reel sound that they produce and it really seems as if every sound was thought about very thoroughly before it was recorded. It seemed a lot simpler than the previous We All Belong but was still strong in that vocal harmony that makes me weak in the knees.

Favorite Tracks: The Breeze; The Old Days; The Rabbit, The Bat, And The Reindeer.

1. Heathers – Here, Not There.
These sensational indie teenagers from Ireland were first brought to my attention by the Dunc. After months of trying to track down a way to find the album I finally found the record label’s website where you could buy it. A few weeks later I was the proud owner of one of the most vocally satisfying albums I’ve ever heard.

Armed with one guitar and two incredible voices, these two Irish friends sing all the words together but hardly ever sing the same note. Their understanding of harmony is one thing, but their execution of singing them is a whole other thing. They seem to sing up and down scales never getting lost to where they are or where their counterpart is. Such a conscience awareness of music amazes me everytime I listen. They are THE most talented musicians I’ve come across in a long time and hope they expand beyond just one acoustic guitar.

Favorite Tracks: Remember When; Margie; Fire Ants.

Top Video Games
In order to regain some of the respect from Sean I have lost over the years I reinstated my video game career. Heres some stuff I stumbled on this year.

3. NHL 09
This game rocks. It has a completely different engine from the previous titles that I had played making it even more exciting. Utilizing the two analog sticks for basically everything it makes the game much more realistic, some times to a point where it starts to annoy you. Pro’s for that system is hitting people. Just like in Madden you can lay people out with one flick of the stick. Some cons are things like dekeing (juking) and shootouts. In shootouts its basically impossible to score so if you and a buddy are tied after one overtime you might as well give up. But all in all it is a great experience and the “Be a Pro” mode is oodles of fun.

2. Shaun White Snowboarding
The thing I always hated about games like 1080 and SSX was the racing element. I always wanted a game just like Tony Hawk except for snowboarding. There was one back in the day with the same engine as Tony Hawk but I don’t remember liking it this much. The great thing about Shaun White is they got the engine right utililzing the analog sticks for most of game play and including the GTA element. The four levels are absolutely HUGE and it would take you at least 10 runs to explore each mountain fully. There are tons of different lifts and helicopters to take you where ever you want to go.

1. MLB The Show 2008
Even though this franchise is supposed to be heralded for its “Road to the Show” mode, I’ve never played it. All I’ve been doing is playing the Franchise mode where you get complete control over a franchise. Everything from blockbuster trades and free agent signings to ticket prices and concessions. They have rosters from Double-A up to the Bigs they only real minor league players are Triple-A players that have had a taste of the majors. It would be really cool if they had all the minor leaguers and stadiums but I guess thats a bit much to ask.

Top Movies
As John mentioned I’ve probably seen 10 movies but I’d rather just be consistant post. Whats the point of a top 10 list if you are just gonna include all 10 you’ve seen?

3. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
This movie was f**ked up. I thought it would have been cooler if he was born like big. Cuz its not like he grows up to be a huge baby. He’s just a normal baby. But he’s born a baby-old man. Something to chew on.

Everybody’s seen this poster too many times.

2. The Dark Knight
I’ve still only seen it once. Ben got it for Christmas, maybe I’ll watch it again soon.

1. Clone Wars
Syke. Forgetting Sarah Marshall was definitely my favorite movie of 2008. I’ve seen it about dozen times in the last 4 months just because it is constantly playing on our TV. So many quotable scenes and Aldice Snow is one of the funniest characters. EVER. On a scale of 1 to 1.

As you see the lists get weaker as it goes down, but thats just how blogging works. Heres to hopefully a great 2009.

Take On Me


So why and in what form did I see Taken? Well it goes a little something like this. So my step dad is a customer of a European movie site. So he pays money, downloads the movies onto his laptop, and hooks it up to the TV. Now Taken came out in Europe almost a year ago, therefore it was in the sites inventory. I must warn all readers that if you are interested in seeing the film yourself then don’t read this, because this includes some spoilers regarding the plot.

The trailers for Taken didn’t reveal much. We know that Liam Neeson is some guy with a “particular set of skills” who’s daughter is kidnapped so he goes all Jack Bauer on everybody. I was afraid that the movie would have some really lame excuse as to why these events are set in motion, but actually it’s a compelling set up. Liam Neeson plays divorced, ex-CIA agent, Bryan Mills who now does security work. Sharing a somewhat strained relationship with his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) and bitch ex-wife (Famke Janssen), Bryan is hesitant about letting his 17 year old daughter take a vacation in Paris. Then everyone’s like “Your such an asshole Bryan!” So he goes ahead and signs his daughter’s parent permission pass thing.

Kim arrives in Paris with her friend and quickly meets a handsome European stranger at the airport. Soon enough we discover that this stranger is bad news. He then brings a group of men to the girl’s apartment where they are “taken”. Luckily, Kim calls her dad right before and tells him what she can and that’s when shit gets real. Bryan (who taped the phone call) quickly contacts his CIA buddy and finds out these man are Albanian sex traffickers. I was surprised to see what looked like a dumb action flick tackle a subject that’s actually a relevant issue. I was afraid that the movie would be some complicated political thriller, but it was never complicated and was always thrilling.

After all this set up the rest of the movie is just Liam Neeson committing a lot of murders. It’s kind of ridiculous how many people he kills, sometimes for no reason, he’s just pissed. Cars explode, guys get electrocuted, Liam Neeson gets shot at a million times but doesn’t die, it’s awesome!

Of course you’ll be sitting through this movie saying, “Where are all the cops?” and I’ll admit it is absolutely ridiculous, but that’s just action movies for you. Fortunately, it ends on a good note, no strange or stupid twists. Liam Neeson set out to get shit done and that’s what he does, so I liked it.

Colin’s Top Ten Motion Pictures of 2008

Since the Oscar nominations came out this morning, I thought I’d discuss some of the nominations while goings through my list, I mean most of them are nominated for some sort of Academy Award anyway.  

There weren’t really too many movies I wanted to see but didn’t this year, although it looks like I’m gonna have to see The Reader now that it’s nominated for best picture.  I’m glad I was able to avoid seeing a lot of bad movies this year, I guess I grew overly cautious after seeing The Happening and The Love Guru within a few weeks of each other.
10. Iron Man
In a year filled with lots of superhero movies, Iron Man was one that for me stood above the rest.  Robert Downey, Jr. brings Tony Stark to life perfectly, and showed he could be a great leading man, as well as capable of turning his daring comedic role in Tropic Thunder into an Oscar nominated performance.  Truly one of the best popcorn flicks of the year, and I can’t wait for the sequel.
9. The Visitor
I’d probably say that out of this year’s nominations, the most pleasant surprise for me is Richard Jenkins’ nomination for Best Actor.  Rarely do you get to see a lesser known character actor give such a moving lead performance in a film.  The Visitor very gracefully tackles the subject of illegal immigration, and although it has a bit of a downer ending, I think it represents the reality of living in a post-9/11 America.
8. Frost/Nixon
Ron Howard brings us another solid drama with Frost/Nixon, in which we get to see some of the most engaging uses of interviewing ever put to screen.  Michael Sheen and the oscar-nominated Frank Langhella play off of each other quite nicely.  I can’t imagine this picking up too many Oscar wins, or any really, but I still really enjoyed this fairly sympathetic depiction of one of our most despised Presidents.
7. In Bruges
Part black comedy, part violent crime drama, In Bruges was definetely a unique film that stayed with me after pretty most of the other films released during the first half of the year were pretty forgettable.  Farrell and Gleeson are an oddball team made in comedic heaven, and it  would have been nice to see at least Gleeson get a best supporting actor nom, but oh well.
6. Milk
A very unique political film brimming with humanity.  Sean Penn is brilliant in the title role, as is the rest of it’s ensemble cast, and it’s great see Josh Brolin finally getting some Oscar recognition for his role in Milk.  I’m glad to see that Milk has gotten quite a few Oscar nominations, although I doubt it’ll win any of them except for maybe Best Actor or Best Original Screenplay.
5. Wall-E
Another original and visionary outing from Pixar, Wall-E is without a doubt one of the most heartwarming Science Fiction films ever made.  It’s pretty much a lock for Best Animated Film, as is any Pixar film, and I’m sure there’ll be plenty more memorable films from them to look forward to in the years to come.
4. Gran Torino
A fitting swan-song for Clint Eastwood’s bad-ass screen persona, Gran Torino’s box-office success is definitely a testament to Eastwood’s charismatic power as an actor, despite being one of the best directors around.  
3. The Wrestler
An extremely compelling character study from Darren Aronofsky, The Wrestler left an impact on me like few films did this year.  I think it goes without saying that Mickey Rourke is the favorite to win Best Actor this year, which is pretty amazing to say the least for someone like him to be in competition with for the acting world’s top prize.  However, I’m pretty fuckin’ pissed that The Boss wasn’t nominated for his song, “The Wrestler”, I mean why the hell are there only three songs nominated, and two of them are from Slumdog Millionaire? That’s bullshit.
2. Slumdog Millionaire
A brilliantly told story this not only a incredibly alive visually, but is also at it’s heart a love story.  Slumdog Millionaire accomlishes so much from a storytelling and a technical standpoint that I could not help but be captivated by it.  My pick for a Best Picture win, although I don’t think there’s really any clear winner this year, and I think Danny Boyle more than deserves the Oscar for Best Director.
1. The Dark Knight
A movie like The Dark Knight only comes around once in a great while, it is not only supremely entertaining but also contains plenty of compelling characters as well as a style and tone that brings the superhero genre to a whole other level.  Heath Ledger’s Joker is among the great screen villains of all-time, and there’s no doubt that he’ll be winning a posthumous Oscar for the role.  I can’t say I’m surprised that The Dark Knight didn’t get the Best Picture nomination that it rightfully deserved, but there’s no question in my mind that it had an impact on moviegoers like few films ever do.

John’s Top Ten Movies of 2008

2008 for me was actually somewhat disappointing as a whole, at least when compared to last year. I definitely enjoyed a handful of late fall/early winter release but aside from that slim pickings. I had more ease putting together my list last year and I’m still sketchy about my last two or so.

Out of films I wish I’d seen I’m not sure if there is any. I was mildly interested in Rachel Getting Married to see Anne Hathaway in her acclaimed performance and to see another Jonathan Demme film. I’m not sure in what form or when I’ll ever see Che, I just can’t take 230 something minutes. Though I love Benicio Del Toro so I’ll definitely be looking forward to seeing the split up versions of the film. I assume they’ll probably end up “on demand” sometime in the not too distant future.

10. WALL-E
: Though I wasn’t as swept off my feet as some people, even I found a fondness for WALL-E’s beautiful imagery, light hearted humor and overall sweet nature. Pixar more or less stands alone in the world of animation with their jaw dropping visuals and simplistic yet moving stories. Good for bringing out the inner child in all of us WALL-E is one of the most unique animated films I can recall seeing. One thing is for sure is that Pixar continually sets the bar higher and higher for animated features… Good luck catching up Dreamworks.

9. Zach and Miri Make a Porno
Wow a Kevin Smith movie on my top ten. If you would of told me that at the beginning of 2008 I would of been all like “Say What?” Smith has found an excellent balance between his vulgar pop culture dialogue and more dramatic sensibilities to make in my opinion, the best film of his career. Funny man Seth Rogen and the continually busy Elizabeth Banks are a fantastic pairing and I can’t get enough of Craig (Daryl from The Office) Robinson. It definitely pushes the boundaries of what you normally see in comedies and that’s just part of it’s twisted charm.

8. In Bruges
The feature film debut of Martin McDonagh isn’t your normal hitman movie fare. Set against the the storybook backdrop of Bruges, Belgium, Colin Farrel and Brendan Gleeson are a match made in heaven as two hit men laying low after a hit gone wrong. Very funny but also bittersweet, In Bruges has a sincere feel to it and unusual tone that kind of reminds me of the Coen brothers. Ralph Fiennes is the icing on the cake popping in as the duo’s harsh yet principled boss Harry and don’t worry, it earns that “R” rating.

7. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Probably the most visually impressive film of the year. David Fincher’s sweeping foray into fantasy is loads of fun with it’s colorful cast of characters, offbeat side stories (such as the blind clockmaker or the man who was prone to being hit by lightning.) and a touching sense of whimsy as Benjamin and Daisy try to carry on their relationship under most unusual circumstances. An ideal film to see around the holiday season and Brad Pitt at the best I’ve ever seen him.

6. Slumdog Millionaire
: Another winner from the continually unpredictable Danny Boyle. Slumdog is a striking love story following the uneasy journey of Jamal through a harsh yet stunning setting of India. An engrossing delving into Indian culture, Slumdog Millionaire is as heartwarming as it is daring and definitely the “Feel good movie of the year.” as many critics have been proclaiming it.

5. Ghost Town
Ricky Gervais’ first theatrical undertaking as the lead in a hollywood movie may not have been a huge success, but for those who saw it, it’s a definite comedic treasure. Veteran screenwriter/occasional director David Koepp weaves a romantic comedy with a twist of the supernatural to create a funny, feel good film that’s probably my favorite comedy of the year. Ricky Gervais and Tea Leoni both shine as two very different people falling for each other, not to mention you have a highly comical and suave Greg Kinnear somewhere in between.

4. Frost/Nixon
: An intelligent character piece about two very different men in an all out war of words. On one side we have the well liked bachelor interviewer David Frost (played to a tee by Michael Sheen) striving for more respect and on the other side the “people’s boogeyman” the disgraced former president Richard Nixon trying to fix his battered reputation, played by Frank Langella in his best role to date…. After Junior. Langella’s performance is magnetic as he embodies the former president with such energy and presence. I’ve never seen Nixon portrayed as such a tragic figure and here he’s almost Shakespearian. The final interview between Frost and Nixon is just about the tensest scene I’ve seen on screen this year. Peter Morgan does a top notch job translating his play to screen (my definite pick for best adapted screenplay) and Ron Howard scores another one for the gingers.

3. The Wrestler
Bleak yet beautiful, Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler is not only the “Resurrection of Rourke” but probably the best movie regarding the subject of wrestling in general. A keen insight into the world of underground wrestling matches, we get to see both the glory and the physical strain that plagues it’s mighty competitors. Mickey Rourke’s genuine performance as Randy “The Ram” Robinson is one for the ages not only for his sincerity, but in the strange manner that this character parallels Rourke’s actual controversial career. Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood are strong in supporting roles and the whole feel to the movie is immensely powerful. Top it off with a bittersweet ballad from “The Boss” and you got yourself a fine film.

2. Gran Torino
Something about this “Vintage Eastwood” outing really hit me and it’s genuine mixture of drama and humor sealed the deal for this veteran actor/director’s latest drama. An exhilarating piece of work from Eastwood with a talented cast and the mark of a talented film auteur, Gran Torino is one of the best Eastwood films I’ve ever seen. The climax has especially stuck with me and I can’t wait for the next time I see it.

1. The Dark Knight
: It’s tough to pick a number one with the tough competition near the end of 08, but I decided to utilize Sean’s philosophy to make my number one pick. That being out of all these films, which one would I see myself continually coming back to. So I just had to go with the superhero/crime epic The Dark Knight. Marvelously acted with stunning effects and “balls to walls” action The Dark Knight a superhero movie masterpiece. I could go on and on, but I wont. I have nothing but the highest praise for Christopher Nolan’s brooding action epic.

The Best of the Rest
Cloverfield – Exciting as any roller-coaster, Cloverfield is one those movies you just had to see in theaters. If you didn’t than you’re missing out.
Iron Man – A solid superhero flick and an excellent staging for the return of Robert Downey Jr. as a leading man.
W. – A bizarre yet compelling tragic comedy about a man truly “misunderestimated”