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2008

Bronson (2008)

 bronson1DIRECTOR: Nicolas Winding Refn

CAST: Tom Hardy

REVIEW:

Bronson is a prime example of a film that’s longer on style than substance.  As envisioned by Nicolas Winding Refn, Bronson is not a straightforward biopic of Michael Peterson, who in his alter ego of “Charlie Bronson” (not to be confused with the actor) became Britain’s most infamous prisoner and has spent all but 69 days from 1974 until the present day behind bars and often in solitary confinement.  Rather, Refn has crafted a stylized and semi-fictionalized “greatest hits” montage of Bronson’s escapades.  Essentially a string of loosely-connected vignettes, Bronson‘s kinetic, visceral approach leaves little chance of boredom but also little depth, and is less a straight narrative than a fragmented, rambling trip through a deranged mind.  Bronson works best as a vehicle to showcase its star Tom Hardy; take away Hardy, and there’s not much left over, and ultimately, a forceful lead performance in and of itself is not enough to make a strong film. Continue reading

Doubt (2008)

doubtDIRECTOR: John Patrick Shanley

CAST: Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Viola Davis

REVIEW:

Doubt, John Patrick Shanley’s film adaptation of his Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play, deals with various issues—the debate over whether the Catholic Church should stand firm to old-school doctrine or evolve with the times, the ways in which those too wrapped up in their own righteousness lose sight of compassion, more tangential questions of crisis of faith and (perhaps) sexuality—-but primarily it’s a battle between doubt and certainty, both as an external conflict between characters and within individual characters’ hearts.  Its outwardly simple, straightforward premise steeps itself in ambiguity and leads us into a moral quagmire from which it never lets us emerge.  Those who dislike ambiguity and expect a film to offer a clear-cut resolution with clear answers will not be satisfied.  Different viewers will come to different interpretations, and Doubt is the kind of film (or play) that can inspire heated debates after the end credits have rolled or the curtain has fallen. Continue reading

Australia (2008)

DIRECTOR: Baz Luhrmann

CAST: Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Brandon Walters, David Wenham, Jack Thompson, Bryan Brown, David Ngoombujarra, Ben Mendelsohn, David Gulpilil

REVIEW:

Baz Luhrmann is an unabashed romantic and an equally unapologetic fan of big, grandiose, old-fashioned melodramas, and while Australia, Luhrmann’s simply-titled ode to his homeland, is a little more restrained (relatively speaking) than Moulin Rouge, it contains many of his hallmarks.  It’s big, bold, and brash, painted on a sweeping canvas and recalling old 1950s romantic melodramas.  Alas, a meandering overlong narrative and uneven tone leave it not having the sweeping effect it strives so hard for.  Australia looks great and is not without entertainment value, but an inability to settle into a consistent groove leaves it weighed down by its own grandiose melodrama into a rather campy sudsy romance/adventure that’s as likely to induce eye-rolling as swooning. Continue reading

Twilight (2008)

DIRECTOR: Catherine Hardwicke

CAST:

Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Billy Burke, Peter Facinelli, Cam Gigandet, Ashley Greene, Nikki Reed, Jackson Rathbone, Kellan Lutz, Elizabeth Reaser, Taylor Lautner, Gil Birmingham, Edi Gathegi, Rachelle Lefevre

REVIEW:

Stephenie Meyer’s best-selling Twilight book series, like J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter before it, has exploded into an adolescent phenomenon. It’s also a film that’s likely as critic-proof as they come. Continue reading

Eagle Eye (2008)

DIRECTOR: D.J. Caruso

CAST:

Shia LaBeouf, Michelle Monaghan, Billy Bob Thornton, Rosario Dawson, Michael Chiklis, Ethan Embry, William Sadler, Julianne Moore (voice)

REVIEW:

The kind of movie that epitomizes brainless entertainment, Eagle Eye (reteaming director D.J. Caruso and star Shia LaBeouf from last year’s superior Disturbia, and written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, who penned the same year’s Transformers, which also starred LaBeouf and like this was produced by Steven Spielberg) can be a mindlessly entertaining ride as long as you check your brain at the door, but actually expecting anything onscreen to hold up to even perfunctory scrutiny is expecting too much from what’s on display. Continue reading

The Incredible Hulk (2008)

DIRECTOR: Louis Letterier

CAST:

Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, William Hurt, Tim Blake Nelson

REVIEW:

Despite being a popular Marvel Comics property and a potential film franchise in its own right, The Hulk flopped at the box office in Ang Lee’s 2003 Hulk, which was critically-praised but a dud with audiences.  Rather than supply a direct sequel, Marvel decided to reboot the franchise, ignoring the previous film and kicking straight off with The Incredible Hulk, a more conventional superhero film, foregoing the more talky and introspective aspects that some critics appreciated about Ang Lee’s take but bored theater-going crowds expecting more “Hulk Smash” action.  The result may please hoping for more action and “hulking out”, but alas this second attempt at bringing The Hulk to the big screen does not escape being mediocre and forgettable.  Among Marvel’s fledgling crop of interconnected comic book movies, The Incredible Hulk is not up to the level of this same summer’s Iron Man . Continue reading

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008)

DIRECTOR: Andrew Adamson

CAST:

William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, Ben Barnes, Sergio Castellitto, Pierfrancesco Favino, Peter Dinklage, Warwick Davis, Tilda Swinton

voices:

Liam Neeson, Eddie Izzard, Ken Stott

REVIEW:

Following 2005’s The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, the second in C.S. Lewis’ beloved but juvenile seven-book series, makes a conscious effort to inject more action but remains a close relative of its predecessor, with all the flaws and virtues that entails. Continue reading

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