15 Movies To Watch (Or Avoid) This Year

Some movies radiate their awesomeness backwards in time as well as forwards. You practically have memories of enjoying films that haven't come out yet, the anticipation is so great. Other movies are so horrible, the pain travels back in time and becomes your childhood trauma. Here are the 2008 movies that are already thrilling and horrifying us:


Movies we're looking forward to:

The Signal (Feb. 22). A weird signal takes over TVs, radios and cell phones, and makes everybody lose their shit. The tagline is "Do you have the crazy?" and it's become our new standard greeting. The buzz about this horror/SF hybrid from Sundance was pretty exciting. Divided into three segments, with three different directors, the stories of people driven berzerk by mass communications include killing sprees and demented sex. In the neopolis of Terminus City.

Outlander (early 2008). Okay. Alien versus Vikings. If that doesn't thrill you, your heart is made of dung. In a nutshell, Jim Caviezel (Passion of the Christ) is an alien whose spaceship crashes in ancient Norway. He soon realizes the crash had another survivor, a rampaging monster called the Moorwen. So Caviezel has to convince the feuding Viking clans to work together to destroy the best. It's like Beowulf, with space guns.

The Incredible Hulk (June 13). Ang Lee has lowered our expectations to the point where any Hulk movie that doesn't feature mutant poodles will thrill us. But it also sounds as though this version will stick to monster-movie basics. The Hulk's daddy issues will be in the background where they belong. And Edward Norton gives good man-with-monster-inside, judging from American History X.

The Dark Knight (July 18). Batman Begins wasn't perfect (Ra's Al Ghul was a boring villain) but it did have the right pulpy feel. And Knight could be the rare sequel that improves on the original, thanks to Heath Ledger's angry-nerd Joker. The viral Gotham Times site, with details on the crime war, overcrowded mental institutions and families fleeing Gotham, makes us feel director Christopher Nolan's Gotham is a real place, not just a fantasy backdrop.

CJ7 (Jan. 31). Stephen Chow is veering into science fiction after a string of kung-fu hits. This story of a semi-homeless guy who scavenges a toy for his son (played by a girl) will probably drip with sentimentality, but it also looks inventive and crazy as hell. The junkyard toy turns out to be an alien dog, which could kick Wall-E's ass in a cuteness contest. And then the boy/girl gets transported into space, and (judging from the trailer) things get kind of trippy.

Movies we're cautiously optimistic about:

Iron Man (May 2). The suit looks cool. We're glad they're keeping the storyline of Tony Stark being a weapon-mongering asshole who learns a lesson. But it also looks seriously cartoony, and it's from the director of Elf and Zathura.

Franklyn (unknown). The sequences of Ryan Philippe in his spooky mask in the city of crazy religions sound awesome. The other stuff, about people in the here and now having emotional crises, sounds less awesome and more IFC-ish. But we trust director Gerald Morrow when he says all three storylines finally come together somehow.

Death Race (Sept. 26). A super-champion racer (Jason Statham) is convicted of a crime he didn't commit. His only hope is to race cross-country in a tricked out car with rocket launchers and shit, for the amusement of the multitudes. Another remake, plus another movie by Paul W.S. Anderson (Mortal Kombat). It'll probably be a guilty pleasure.

Cloverfield (Jan. 18) Better to think of this as a cheesy monster movie with an artsy twist (the handheld video cameras) than to build it up as a masterpiece in the making. The script from Drew (Buffy, Alias) Goddard will probably have some clever bits. And if Cloverfield rolls in enough clover, it could usher in a whole crazy new era of low-fi monster movies.

Speed Racer (May 9). It'll be a fun ride, judging from the trailer. But the Wachowskis are sticking too close to the source material's kiddie cartoon roots. And we're scared we'll have weird dreams about John Goodman's mustache after seeing this film.

Movies we're dreading in depths of our marrow:

Star Trek (Dec. 25) We've already explained our reasons why Star Trek should stay dead in general. But this movie, in particular, sounds horrendous. We lost all hope when they announced Leonard Nimoy is coming back as Spock. That means instead of a pure reboot, it has to be some sort of continuity-heavy restart. They'll have to use either time travel or flashbacks to justify Nimoy. But also, didn't we already go back to the beginning with the TV show Enterprise? We're predicting a very expensive flop that will make back its money overseas.

The Day The Earth Stood Still (Dec. 12) The words "Keanu Reeves as Klaatu" froze our blood. Keanu's biggest problem is his flat, stoner delivery, so having him play a super-bland alien might not be the best idea. But also, the original Earth Stood Still was such a product of Cold War anxieties that a remake will just feel like a nostalgia trip.

Babylon A.D. (Aug. 29). We love Vin Diesel and Michelle Yeoh, but this is just sounding more and more like a trainwreck. It had a troubled shooting, with delays, budget overruns and epic battles between Diesel and director Matthieu Kassovitz. Add in the fact that Kassovitz's previous film, Gothika, was universally panned. And the U.S. cut of Babylon will be 30 minutes shorter than the European release, so there's speculation our version may not even make sense.

Starship Dave (May 30). Pluto Nash wasn't enough. Eddie Murphy has to star in another kiddie SF comedy. And this one has a premise designed to lead to more slapstick than three Norbits put together. A group of tiny aliens led by Murphy travel to Earth in a spaceship disguised as a human (Murphy again), and they control him remotely. It sounds like an acid-induced remake of Steve Martin's All Of Me.

Hancock (July 2). The trailer confirmed our worst fears. After a string of serious roles, Will Smith is going to dust off his comedy chops to play a lame drunken superhero who falls for his image consultant's wife. There are two main problems right off the bat: Will Smith has done well in comedies where he's the straight man (Men In Black), but he's not so great at playing the fool. And superhero comedies like My Super Ex-Girlfriend usually don't have enough respect for the material to be funny.