2008 / Kwak Kyung-taek & Ayn Kwon-tae > What starts off as a captivating cops & robbers chase suddenly breaks down into a predictable Hollywood action mash-up with a tinge of melodrama thrown in. That’s plenty sad because not only did we have the return of the great Han Suk-kyu (with shiny, silver hair, at that) but also another attempt by Kwak to replicate the magic from Friend. Whereas Typhoon was a bloated, bland epic, Eye for an Eye had the scale, intensity and setting to make something of itself, but it just never could build on its premise. Every year now, I wait for Korea to release an action flick that takes the genre to the next level, but they continue to regress. Was 2005’s A Bittersweet Life the death of the slick, intelligent actioner?
2008 / Jeffrey Nachmanoff > I wanted to like this a lot more than I did. It held my interest for quite a bit until the steam started running out. And then the preaching began. I don’t need Hollywood to patronize me on what’s good and bad. The fact that there’s two sides to every story is nothing new, and the plot twist that occur two-thirds through could be seen fifteen minutes into the show. But Don Cheadle is so watchable that he sometimes carries films, and such is the case here. He’s got a kind of silent charisma that makes you pay attention, hoping for something poignant. Well, it didn’t really happen here, but let’s hope he can make it rain in War Machine. Oh, and Steve Martin wrote this? How Intriguing.
2008 / The Pang Brothers > The Pang Brothers created a mystic atmosphere before throwing in the Molotov. First, there’s an assassination that doesn’t make any sense. Then, the “bad guys” make a move that makes no sense. Then, another uncharacteristic assassination sequence. I’m not technically an expert on assassins, but I think it’s safe to say that if you do this for a living, there’s a certain code you abide by, and when that code is shattered in some silly fashion, there’s no turning back. So, the basic premise that Nicolas Cage’s lead suddenly finds love isn’t what’s far-fetched, but rather how the script takes him down that path. The final thirty minutes is a shame because the locale itself gave the film enough potential to succeed. I don’t know if it’s the Pang Brothers’ fault (as I haven’t seen the original) or if the studio bigwigs have forced them into this silly circus. Good music, though.
2008 / Neil Marshall > You have to give Marshall credit for trying to create an intelligent mixture of The Road Warrior and 28 Days Later, but somewhere along the way, the focus shifted away from the storyline into chases, beheadings and twists seen from a mile away. Rhona Mitra, the original Tomb Raider, fitfully shows that she had the right to star in the films of her former alter ego, and Craig Conway is superb as a chilling vision of humanity gone awry. Though generally exciting, Doomsday’s premise of de-evolution in modern society never really develops into anything fresh to deserve the kind of cult status it could have achieved.
2008 / Mark Waters > On a small scale, The Spiderwick Chronicles works just fine, but considering the onslaught of fantasy genre blockbusters, it’s a bit harder to swallow the film’s lack of scope. One of the key reasons the genre works so well is the mythos that backs every fantasy world, but in this case, it gets reduced to a miniature description that we’re forced to swallow as if it meant something. Not a terrible effort, but not something that you’ll want to stand in line for the sequel to.
2008 / Jon Poll > While there’s no doubt that Anton Yelchin is a youngster to watch, not much can be said of the manner in which Gustin Nash’s screenplay takes the interesting and turns it into a play by the numbers coming-of-age story that fails to find what it started out looking for. Charlie Bartlett does get some refreshment from Hollywood’s current darling Robert Downey, Jr., in a rather pitying role of an alcoholic principal-cum-father. If there’s one way to sum up why the film doesn’t work in the end, it’s that everything happens too easily, with disregard to reality, and that, for a film that’s trying to find the uniqueness within a cultural subtext, is a small tragedy.
2007 / The Brothers Strause > There are only a couple of reasons to see this: First, the more obvious of the two, is the fact that you finally get to see some alien on predator action. Unfortuantely it’s just one predator vs. tons of aliens. Why? Well, how else would they get to set up the next sequel? Second, and less obvious, is the finale. I can’t say I’m shocked by much anymore in film, but I have to say that I give The Brothers Strause immense amount of credit for holding onto their bollocks and giving the audience what they want. For once.
2007 / Fumihiko Sori > Filled with pedigree from animation legends, Vexille is one of the most astonishingly beautiful films to come out in its medium in recent memory. But as was the case with 2001’s Final Fantasy debacle, the story just can’t keep up with the visual feast. Fans of quality anime have become accustomed to plots that challenge the intellect while fusing in hardcore action. While we see loads of the latter here, only shades of the former appear in disappointment.
2008 / Brian Hecker > Bart Got a Room is a lighthearted, silly but fairly portrayed life of a teenager preparing for the high school prom. It’s an obvious comedy, but its underpinnings are exaggerations based on life experiences, which tends to give it the credibility it needs to stay afloat. Steven Kaplan shows promise as the protagonist, but William H. Macy steals the show as the divorced father whose curly afro and need for womanly love take a backseat to the love for his son.
2008 / Joshua Seftel > Those who are looking for John Cusack to be John Cusack, or those who want to see Hilary Duff put on an Eastern European accent and mimic Britney as popstar Yonica Babyyeah, War, Inc. is a good watch. But if it’s biting political satire that is being sought, it’s probably better to go back to Bulworth or Wag the Dog because this script doesn’t know what it wants to be or who it wants to offend. It’s heavy-handed and a total waste of a good setup considering how relevant the film could be in current society.