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While movies recognized by the Oscars are generally released at the end of the year, that’s not to say movies released earlier in the year can’t be great as well.  None of us have seen as many first half 2008 movies as we might like, so our lists are certain to change.  But here are our top five movies (so far) released in the first six months of 2008.


1. Forgetting Sarah Marshall
2. In Bruges
3. The Bank Job
4. Kung Fu Panda
5. Recount


2. Forgetting Sarah Marshall
3. Rambo
4. In Bruges
5. Get Smart


1. Iron Man
2. Wanted
3. In Bruges
4. Get Smart


1. Iron Man
2. Forgetting Sarah Marshall
4. Glass: Portrait in Twelve Parts
5. The Bank Job

Since Signs, M. Night Shyamalan has come out with The Village, Lady in the Water, and The Happening, leading some to suggest that he’s lost his touch.  He certainly has fallen out of favor with critics (The Happening is 19% on Rotten Tomatoes) and audiences (the movie grossed just over $60 million domestically and has a 5.4 on imdb).  So naturally, here’s where I’m going to defend him.

To me, The Happening masterfully created a constant sense of unease.  The characters never knew why things were unfolding as they were any more than the audience did.  There was just something wrong.  If there was genius in the plot of the movie, it was that there was no bad guy.  No one controlling things, no one to defeat.  Just varying degrees of panic.  And I think that’s what worked for the movie.  Every decision made by the characters could be a fatal one.  Each new character met is a desperate, yet ultimately unsuccessful, chance for any sort of information.  So this unease runs throughout nearly the entire movie.  The little bit of thrill of not knowing, where everything could be important, yet nothing is.  Where the answer to that ultimate question of “Why?” is constantly just beyond our grasp.

The Happening had plenty of flaws.  The dialogue got a bit hokey.  The plot structure was a bit odd and the ending was unsatisfying.  And I’m not sure the message or the way it was delivered was a big hit.  Just wanted to be clear on all that.  So, I’d like to suggest Shyamalan find himself a good writing partner.  Because I do think he has great ideas for stories, and a consistently excellent way of generating tension, he just needs some help ensuring his stories are told in an engaging manner.

July 2008