As 2008 comes to an end, it is time to close the book on the entertainment experiences that we have had this year. Yes, Transformers blew our minds. Girls, Sex and the City blew your minds. To anyone who watched The Haunting of Molly Hartley, I'm sure you want your money back as well. It is time to put all of that behind us, however, and look forward to a new year, and new movies that none of us should miss.

Defiance (Release Date: 01/16/09)
Director: Edward Zwick
Starring: Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber
Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber star in Defiance, the story of three brothers caught in the midst of World War II. With their lives threatened, they escape into the woods, where they get to work building a society to harbor other refugees, and to organize a resistance against the Nazis. This is not just another war movie, although it's sure to have plenty of action. This is a movie about survival and brotherhood, and an ordinary group of people pushed by extraordinary circumstances.

Bonus reason to watch: Witness firsthand Daniel Craig's ability to avoid being typecast as James Bond, which at this point has become pretty amazing. Case in point: Pierce Brosnan had to stoop as low as Mamma Mia! to try to wrangle a post-007 career.

Notorious (Release Date: 01/16/09)
Director: George Tillman, Jr.
Starring: Jamal Woolard
, Angela Bassett
If 8 Mile or Hustle and Flow taught us anything, it is that hip hop can be a successful backdrop for a good rags-to-riches story. Notorious hopes to carry on that tradition as it recounts the life and times of the Notorious B.I.G., one of the most beloved and controversial rap artists of all-time. His well-publicized feud with Tupac Shakur takes a back seat only to his prowess on stage, and this movie promises to spotlight the highs and the lows of a millionaire raised by the streets.

Bonus reason to watch: See how far the talent runs in the B.I.G. family. 12-year-old Christopher Wallace Jr. (Biggie's real-life son) portrays his dad as a child, and has expressed a desire to pursue both rap and film as careers. Given his gene pool (Faith Evans is his mother), can success be far off?

Taken (Release Date: 01/30/09)
Director: Pierre Morel
Starring: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen
Usually, it is a bad thing when a movie trailer leaves you with more questions than answers. It is very difficult to be mysterious without being vague, but Taken manages to walk that fine line. After only a glimpse, you will be dying to know who the protagonist is, and how he managed to become such a bad-ass. You will want to know who has taken his daughter, and if he will be able to get her back. On the surface, this might seem like a run-of-the-mill thriller, but ask yourself this: If the trailer leaves you begging for more, how amazing must the finished product be?

Bonus reason to watch: There are a few things I know about this type of movie: 1)There will be a confrontation at the end, 2)Someone will die in this confrontation, and 3)The death will be spectacular.

Star Trek (Release Date: 05/08/09)
Director: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Chris Pine, Eric Bana, Winona Ryder
Let me start off by saying that I have never liked Star Trek. I have often led the charge to throw produce at the attendees of its various conventions. I think the little spat between William Shatner and George Takei is one of the most entertaining things to happen this year. Let me now say, however, that J.J. Abrams' remake of the classic space saga does more than just pique my interest - it makes me think that this is a story, and a cast of characters, that I completely missed out on the first time around. Though the updated remake may not satisfy purists, it is exactly what this franchise needs to shed its nerdy persona, attract a new fan base, and recapture the glory that the Star Trek name has enjoyed.

Bonus reason to watch: John Cho's stock is rising fast, and he's sure to steal plenty of scenes in this one. And no matter what you think of the movie, you're sure to see some damn good costumes in line at the theater.

Watchmen (Release Date: 03/06/09)
Director: Zack Snyder
Starring: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Malin Akerman, Patrick Wilson
I have to admit, I have no idea what this movie is about. I have no idea which characters are good or bad, what they are pursuing, or what their motivation is. All I know is that this movie looks absolutely amazing. Think Matrix meets X-Men meets Dark Knight. Think flamethrower meets mushroom cloud meets glowing blue guy who can blow up a tank by pointing his finger. Think heroines with sprayed-on costumes and heroes with icy stares. Think first in line at the box office. I'll see you there.

Bonus reason to watch: To find out what the hell this thing is about. Whatever it is, it looks damn good.

Bruno (Release Date: 05/15/09)
Director: Dan Mazer
Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen
Sacha Baron Cohen, the mind that brought us Ali G and Borat, is back once again to humiliate an unsuspecting public, this time assuming the identity of gay fashionista Bruno. Cohen is a man fearlessly devoted to his craft: In Borat, he released a chicken on a subway car in New York, mangled the words to the Star-Spangled banner at a rodeo, and staged a naked brawl with costar Ken Davitian that spanned the entirety of a hotel. Every generation has certain people that trace the boundary between genius and lunatic; Cohen is such a person, and though it may be impossible to understand what drives him, you can rest assured that you don't want to miss anything that he'll do next.

Bonus reason to watch: Cohen is a master at getting people to admit and elaborate the politically incorrect opinions that are normally kept hidden in polite society. With a gay man as a protagonist, there's sure to be some good stuff coming out of this one.

The Soloist (Release Date: 03/13/09)
Director: Joe Wright
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Robert Downey Jr.
It is a brave soul who would bet against any movie where Jamie Foxx portrays a musician, and I am nowhere near that brave. After Ray, I would pay to watch Jamie Foxx in a biopic about the guy who realized Coke bottles make a decent noise when you blow into them. In The Soloist, Foxx portrays a schizophrenic musical prodigy who is befriended by a down-on-his-luck journalist. Though this plot may seem clichéd and utterly predictable, the story is much deeper than the plot suggests. This movie seems to be as much about the journalist as it is about the musician, and you will be hard-pressed to figure out who's success you're rooting for the most.

Bonus reason to watch: You don't need one. Jamie Foxx simply knows how to channel musicians. Keep this one in mind when Oscar season rolls around.

Angels and Demons (Release Date: 05/15/09)
Director: Ron Howard
Starring: Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor
After The Da Vinci Code, it should be clear that the Catholic church has the exact mix of prestige and secrecy needed to sustain a decent thriller. Add the fact that so much about faith is subject to interpretation, and you have the perfect backdrop for a historical drama that seamlessly melds fact and fiction. In Angels and Demons, Tom Hanks reprises his role as symbologist Robert Langdon, once again on the trail of conspiracies and secret societies threatening the existence of the Catholic Church. Based on Dan Brown's first novel, this movie promises to pick up where The Da Vinci Code left off, and is a definite must-see, regardless of your beliefs.

Bonus reason to watch: They may not be as chummy as DiCaprio and Scorsese, but Ron Howard and Tom Hanks do have a history of putting some decent little films together. Apollo 13, anyone?

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (Release Date: 06/26/09)
Director: Michael Bay
Starring: Shia Labeouf, Megan Fox
When I first saw the trailer for the original Transformers movie, I was in a theater. I forget what movie I was actually there to see, but I do remember that people stood up and cheered after the Transformers trailer played. The sequel is sure to elicit the same reaction, and the finished product is sure to be as amazing as the first. Transformers sets the standard for incredible action, amazing special effects, and stunning CGI, and I can only imagine what the sequel has in store.

Bonus reason to watch: Ummm...Freakin' robots that can transform into things are trying to kill each other!!! And Megan Fox. Don't ever forget Megan Fox.

Knowing (Release Date: 03/20/09)
Director: Alex Proyas
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Rose Byrne
There are few subjects as intriguing as the end of the world. When is it going to happen? How is it going to happen? Is there anything we can do about it? Knowing will surely take on a few of these questions as it sets out to be more than just another disaster movie. The plot centers around a mysterious page found inside a time capsule, a page filled with numbers that seem to coincide with global disasters. Nicolas Cage plays the man who cracks the mysterious code, and races to alert the world as the numbers begin to run out and the final disaster approaches.

Bonus reason to watch: Maybe brainy action star is the niche Nicolas Cage has been waiting for.

Shutter Island (Release Date: 10/02/09)
Director: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo
There is no question that Martin Scorsese knows how to do action-drama (see The Departed). There is no question that Martin Scorsese knows how to do action-period piece-drama (see Gangs of New York). There is no question that Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio know how to do movies together (see the aforementioned, and throw in The Aviator). There is no reason to believe, then, that Shutter Island will be anything but a spectacular film. Scorsese directs, and DiCaprio plays a U.S. Marshal (alongside Mark Ruffalo) hunting an escaped mental patient who has hidden out on the mysterious Shutter Island.

Bonus reason to watch: Another no-brainer. Martin Scorsese. Leonardo DiCaprio. It's like a recipe for an Academy Award.

The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus (Release Date: 09/24/09)
Director: Terry Gilliam
Starring: Heath Ledger, Johnny Depp, Jude Law, Colin Farrell
Imagine having the courage to make a bet with the devil, and having the talent to actually win. Imagine tempting fate a second time by making a deal with the devil, trading your firstborn child for eternal youth. Imagine your child's sixteenth birthday approaching, and the devil at your doorstep ready to collect. Imagine making one last wager: Collect five souls before the devil does, or lose your firstborn child forever.

Bonus reason to watch: You get Heath Ledger, Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell in one movie. That's probably enough to convince the girls, but for the guys, that's like seeing Michael Jordan, Julius Erving, Kobe Bryant, and Larry Bird in one game. Must see.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Release Date: 05/01/09)
Director: Gavin Hood
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Ryan Reynolds, Liev Schreiber
If I were to ask you which superhero movie found success by exploring the trauma and psychological origins of its protagonist, what would you say? What if I told you the superhero in question was more hairy than usual, and could sprout claws from his hands? X-Men Origins: Wolverine borrows a page from Batman Begins and explores how Wolverine went from a troubled mutant to a troubled X-Man. This is a new breed of superhero movie, where we are allowed to see a hero develop, evolve, and transform - that is to say, we aren't just given a hero, we are shown how a hero is made.

Bonus reason to watch: Jackman's been off the radar for awhile, and his most memorable performance in recent memory is as the voice of Mumble's dad on Happy Feet. A re-exploration of how Wolverine came to be may be just what he needs to get things back on track.

Inglorious Bastards (Release Date: June 2009)
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Brad Pitt, Diane Kruger
Quentin Tarantino has never written or directed a war movie, which almost seems like an injustice. He has presided over some of of the most engaging and visually captivating films ever made. He has created some of the most memorable characters ever seen. His knowledge of style and convention is nearly unmatched. Simply put, Quentin Tarantino is the perfect candidate to tell this story about a group of Jewish soldiers, sent to strike fear into the Nazi regime by hunting and killing its members.

Bonus reason to watch: I can sum up Quentin Tarantino with the following sentence: Any movie that he puts his name on is a movie that you want to see. I would not write that about anyone else whose name is on this list.

Sherlock Holmes (Release Date: 11/20/09)
Director: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams
With the popularity that superhero movies are currently enjoying, it was only a matter of time before the tights-and-cape gave way to the pipe-and-brains. The classic detective of Brit-lit fame is coming to the big screen, and although this movie will almost certainly be updated (don't expect period piece), it will be a nice change of pace to root for a hero who doesn't wear a mask, who doesn't have a costume, and who doesn't rely on special powers or high-tech weapons. Sherlock Holmes is intriguing today for the same reason he was in the past: He is an average man with above-average wit and a keen sense of deduction, and that's where it ends. Now set him loose on a crime, and may the best man win.

Bonus reason to watch: Guy Ritchie knows how to do British crime drama, and he knows how to do keep it without being overly serious. He seems to have rediscovered his directorial swagger, and it's the right time to have Robert Downey, Jr. (who's found a bit of cinematic swagger of his own) as a leading man.

Story by Jose Flores

Starpulse contributing writer