Obviously (especially for the games), I have not had the chance to play/watch everything that 2008 has to offer, so this is based solely on my experiences so far.
So here goes:
It really is a very simple tale which starts out seemingly as a classic ghost story, but then around 1/3rds of the way through it changes and blossoms into something much greater, a film with a very human heart. As a parent, I believe that this film probably has a greater impact, but all the same there is no denying that it is both a moving tale and beautifully told.
I’m not to proud to admit that it was the ending of the film which really got to me, making me shed a tear or two. The ending is just so well constructed and such a brilliant payoff to a great, great film.
Once again a foreign language film has taken the top place as film of the year for me (that’s 4 years on the trot now that this has been the case).
The Dark Knight
Much more than just a steady progression from Batman Begins.
The best description I have come across from reading various reviews is by comparing this to Heat. It really is much more than just another superhero film, it’s an epic crime drama with a message or two about society.
Just like Batman Begins all the principal cast give great performances, but I would be amiss if I didn’t mention Heath Ledger in particular. I had my dounts about his casting, mainly because I love the character of the Joker and had never felt that it had been given proper justice in a live action move (the joker in the animated series, however, was spectacular). Ledger nailed it however. The Joker is an agent of chaos, unpredictable, uncaring yet calculating and devious. A perfect villain. It’s just a great shame that we will never get to see him reprise the role.
I’ve also got to add that I had the blessing of being able to watch this at the IMAX in London, which was simply phenomenal. There was such an atmosphere at the cinema, with so many Joker t-shirts being worn (including my own – I’m equally sad) that lost count. Also watching it on such a massive screen in full IMAX format was something else, and has convinced me that I MUST go and see Watchmen at the IMAX when it is release in 2009 it was trailered before (The Dark Knight).
A memory that has also stuck with me is that so many people (including me) stayed in the cinema to watch the whole of the credits. I don’t know why, but for some reason this is a strange little memory which just won’t budge.
Once again Pixar comes up with the goods.
Although this film has a very strong environmental message (which at times can be a little overbearing), the real story here is a simple love story between a clumsy and awkward robot (Wall-e) and a sleek chic robot (Eve). The fact that Pixal can construct such a touching tale between these two robots is a credit to them, when you consider that they have practically zero dialogue. When it comes to animation, Pixar have never, ever put a foot wrong (yes I like Cars), and I have no reason to doubt that Up will likely be in my top 3 for next year.
If I had any complaint, it would be that the first third of the story is so much stronger than the remaining two-thirds, but then again, almost 2 hours of no more than three words of dialogue would probably be a little too much to ask of modern audiences.
A coming of age horror / drama about a girl with a vagina dentata (razor sharp teeth in her vagina). For this reason alone, it is worth mentioning again. But all the same, it is a very well acted and thoughtful film. It must also have the quota on lopped of penises of any film.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Worth mentioning purely because it didn’t live up to my (and most other peoples) expectations. That’s not to say that it isn’t a good film, it is, just a wide mile away from being great. I really did expect much more from Steven Spielberg.
The X-Files: I want to believe
Again, mentioned because it fell short of expectations. Really, what were they thinking? I can understand that the budget for this needed to be less than the original movie, but still, you don’t need a budget to make the plot even the slightest bit interesting. Even the worst later episodes were better than this film.
I know that this was actually release last year, but I just had the chance to watch it this year, so I’m including it okay! Anyway, an immensely fun and slick B-movie pretender will plenty of blood and guts (and cheesy acting) for 10 movies.
Top Three (not in order)
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
Every bit as good as I had hoped, with the only sour moment being the overly long and overdramatized epilogue. The change in perspective from (relatively) top down to third person is handled very well, with shooting done in an over shoulder perspective, or first person depending on preference. The earlier stages are probably the strongest, but returning to Shadow Moses was also a great addition. This also have some of my favourite boss fights from the entire series in the shape of the Beauty and the Best unit.
Also MGO was great to boot and I also ended up spending quite some time online playing this.
Overall the best game on the PS3 (IMHO) during 2008, which is pretty impressive considering the numer of good titles during 2008.
Final Fantasy Tactics 2
Takes everything that was great about the first game and expands upon it, whilst at the same time correcting some of the minor flaws, just about everything you need from an effective sequel.
About the only complaint that can be levelled against it is that it doesn’t have the strong storyline of the normal final fantasy games, or the Disgaea games (which it more closely resembles), however, this is more than made up by extremely tight strategic gameplay with many aspects which I actually prefer over Disgaea (as a rule Disgagea doesn’t just let you bend the rules, but actually break them in places, FFTA2 is much more structured).
Overall this is my most played game on my DS this year and as such, more than deserving to be in the top 3.
Mario Kart Wii
I simply love pretty much all Mario Kart games and have played all of them (now including the arcade version which I had the chance to play during my last visit to London), so I was obviously looking forward to the Wii version. The addition of the Wii Wheel is an interesting add-on to the game and for those players just joining the series from the “casual” Wii crowd as it allows them to jump into the game probably a little more swiftly. The Wii Wheel also doesn’t work too badly (especially in manual mode), at first I tried playing the game solely with this, but ultimately found that my preference remains with the gamecube pad.
The online racing is also a great addition to the game and the application of this is simple and user friendly, as I should be. Unfortunately battle mode is a big disappointment, as the levels are too big and also the fact that you have to be in a team and also just lose points, not lives is a shame. Then again, battle mode hasn’t been god in the series since the N64 game and I’ve always played for racing, so not loss there.
I’ve also got happy memories of waiting outside HMV on launch day with Elliot and us both rushing home as quickly as possible to play it.
I’ve just notice that my top 3 are shared equally between my 3 systems, namely PS3, DS and Wii. This wasn’t intentional, but there you go!
At long last I finally got the chance to play this… A great and atmospheric first person shooter, even if the ending is a little weak.
Little Big Planet
Your first experience of this is utter joy – unfortunately, occasionally, as you progress through the story levels, this joy changes to frustration. This is my only complaint with the game, as for a game which appears at first glance to be very casual, it is in fact extremely difficuly. Thankfully the nearly endless user generated content more than make up for this.
Also, very recently, I have started to create my own levels and it's here where the game really starts to shine. It's really quite pleasing when you have seen that your level has been played and ranked (and even hearted). The create aspect of the game really brings it to life, so much so that this very nearly made it into my top 3 this year.
The MGS4 DLC is also great with a fantastic addition of the "paintinator".
Help to motivate me to get in better shape and lose over 2 stone… not many games can make claim to that!
I haven’t completed this yet, but have enjoyed it immensely. It has, in my opinion, probably overcomplicated itself a little too much when compared to the prior two games, but it is still a blast.
Super Smash Brothers: Brawl
I have been playing this a lot more recently with Elliot than when I first purchased this. It is in fact, great fun played co-op in the Adventure mode.
The highlight of this year for me has just been watching Elliot grow up another year. It’s amazing how much he changes and how quickly. This year he has really grown into such a sweet, caring, clever, funny and wonderful little boy that both Roz and I are proud to call our son.
This year I have also faced several health issues, be they blood pressure related, gallbladder and also other issues, which at times has had me a little depressed. Hopefully (fingers crossed) most of that is behind me now. My gallbladder operation seems to have gone okay, and I’m probably fitter now than in have been in the last 18 years!
Following on from this, I have also lost a fair amount of weight. I cannot be certain how much, as I didn’t dare weigh myself at the start, but I’d guess that I was probably over 13 ½ stone. I’m not around 11 stone, which means I’ve lost approximately 2 ½ stone during the course of the year, which is a good feat in my book.
During 2008 we also had a short trip to London with Elliot, which was fun. He really enjoyed the likes of London Zoo, the London Eye and also Tower Bridge and as such we are going again next year (as well as hopefully a trip to Canada).
Anyway… onto 2009!
Happy New Year!