Leonard Maltin Lists The Five Best Movies of 2008 You Didn’t See
by Leonard Maltin
Please forgive the presumptuousness of my headline. If youâ€™re a dedicated filmgoer you may already know some of these titles. Yet in our media-driven, blockbuster-oriented society most people donâ€™t hear about smaller, offbeat movies and if they do they donâ€™t go out to see them. Some people are actually wary of movies they havenâ€™t seen advertised on TV, billboards and bus ads.
Sometimes a good movie manages to build word of mouth, fueled by positive reviews and an award or two; this yearâ€™s success story may well be Slumdog Millionaire, which deserves all the praise itâ€™s receiving. That said, here are five good movies I think you ought to try. Theyâ€™re as good as any of the box-office hits of 2008â€”if not better. All of them except Let the Right One In is available on DVD.
Then She Found Me â€“ Helen Hunt directed, co-wrote and stars in this entertaining comedy-drama about a schoolteacher whoâ€™s contacted by her birth mother at a particularly vulnerable moment in her life. Colin Firth, Bette Midler and Matthew Broderick costar. If this had been released by a Hollywood studio it could have been a mainstream hit.
Chop Shop â€“ A 12-year-old Hispanic boy fends for himself on the mean streets of New York City while living in the auto-body shop where he works during the day. This vivid slice of life is reminiscent of Italian neorealist films of the 1940s like Open City. As in Rahmin Bahraniâ€™s previous film, Man Push Cart, the actors here donâ€™t seem to be acting at all, let alone following a script.
Ghost Town â€“ British comedian Ricky Gervais stars in this engaging comedy-fantasy as an acerbic Manhattan dentist dogged by recently-deceased Greg Kinnear, a ghostly figure who needs to clear up unfinished business with his ex-wife, nicely played by TÃ©a Leoni. Filmmaker David Koepp wisely allowed Gervais to ad-lib freely and retain his uniquely snarky sense of humor…yet in spite of that he emerges as a very likable romantic leading man.
Let the Right One In â€“ I canâ€™t stomach horror-torture films like Saw but this Swedish import has style and smarts to go along with its shocks (and they are substantial). Itâ€™s 2008â€™s â€œotherâ€ vampire movie, about a lonely boy who comes to realize that the strange girl next door is in fact a bloodsucker. This one is still playing in a number of theaters around the country, and is well worth seeking out.
The Wackness â€“ The setting is New York City in 1994, and our hero (Josh Peck) is an alienated high-school senior who finds independence by selling pot. His best customer is a hippie-ish psychiatrist who trades advice for grass, and expects young Peck to steer clear of his young, attractive daughter. The shrink is played by Ben Kingsley with great gusto and humor, and he alone makes the movie worth seeing. Writer-director Jonathan Levine captures the time and place quite well.
Leonard Maltin is writing a book for HarperStudio about the 100 best movies you probably haven’t seen.