Thursday, April 28, 2011

From the archives: July 2008

Fantasy came in all sorts of flavors this month, but the summer's undisputed hit — and deservedly so — was director Christopher Nolan's accomplished second outing with Bruce Wayne's constantly stressed alter-ego, Batman. The Dark Knight is a superhero film for the ages, right up there with Spider-Man 2. Everything works in Nolan's film, and of course we'll also treasure it for Heath Ledger's memorably scary performance as the villain of the piece: the frightful Joker.

At the family-friendly end of the scale, the fresh adaptation of Journey to the Center of the Earth is a larkish delight, and perfect for all ages. Star Brendan Fraser once again demonstrates his deft talent for bringing credibility to even the silliest plot contrivance, and a good time is had by all.

ABBA fans were thrilled to find their favorite stage musical making its way to the big screen, and while Mamma Mia is fun in all sorts of ways, it would have been leagues better with a cast that could sing. I mean, Pierce Brosnan? Puh-leaze! Granted, ol' Pierce gives it the college try — as does Colin Firth — but these are actors, not singers and dancers, and the film suffers for the distinction.

As for the rest, Will Smith stumbled badly with his own superhero entry, a film that simply can't decide what it wants to be; and director Guillermo del Toro quite unwisely decide to make a sequel to his misfit superhero entry of a few years back. Both films fail because of inconsistent tone and a sniggering, jokey atmosphere that overwhelms any involvement we might have with these characters.

The month's pleasant surprise, however, was the overlooked and under-appreciated Swing Vote: an up-to-the-minute political comedy/drama that remains relevant to this day. Too many people have given up on Kevin Costner, and that's a shame; he's still able to uncork a winner every so often, and this one fits the bill. It's also a whimsical indictment of politicians behaving badly, and God knows we need to be reminded of that as often as possible.

Step into the Wayback Machine, and check 'em out:

Animation Show 4

Brick Lane

The Dark Knight


Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Journey to the Center of the Earth

Mamma Mia


Swing Vote

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