A stylish modern take on the classic American horror story, Wrong Turn remains an impressive example of horror cinema done right seven years after its initial release at the peak of the slasher genre revival in 2003. Due to the film’s superior production quality and commercial success, it’s hardly surprising several sequels have since been released, yet none of them manage to come anywhere close to rivaling director Rob Schmidt’s original vision. Although admittedly formulaic in terms of story, Wrong Turn handily excels in most other areas, particularly in high production values, refined cinematography, top-notch cast and pure entertainment value.
Finally, a master work from a true auteur! From Britain comes Sean Ellis’ excellent film Cashback, a near-perfect blend of romantic comedy and drama complemented with a touch of uniquely English sense of humor. Like life itself, Cashback is a fleeting, vibrant and bittersweet experience, with its ups and downs masterfully acted out and captured on celluloid thanks to stellar performances from everyone involved. Expertly written and executed, the film benefits from top-notch visual composition and cinematography as well as a great soundtrack – elements that are effectively combined to take the audience on a highly personal, original and profoundly beautiful journey.
Following on the heels of vampire love story Let the Right One In (2008), is another runaway hit from Sweden, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. A faithful cinematic adaptation of the bestselling novel by far-left writer Stieg Larsson, the picture offers a foray into the world of ultra-capitalist crime and greed. Although Larsson’s obviously skewed world view and its influence on his work remain the subjects of popular controversy, the massive posthumous success of his novels is remarkable indeed. Having taken Europe by storm, the film – well on its way to becoming a new cult classic – is now set to premiere in the US.
In the recent flurry of doomsday thrillers featuring surreal, decimated landscapes and hordes of malnourished mutants, The Book of Eli, co-directed by Albert and Allen Hughes stands out as a classic example of what should properly be termed deception by marketing campaign. Unlike such contenders for genre top prize as adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel The Road (2009) or even Will Smith’s star vehicle I Am Legend (2007), the film desperately attempts to sell itself via martial arts sequences and Matrix-lite characters popping up throughout its trailer, but not even Denzel Washington in the lead role can save this work from feeling like an old record, a recycled cliche.
Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar-nominated The Hurt Locker is perhaps one of the best war films ever made – and quite certainly the definitive cinematic work dealing with the current war in Iraq. While its realism may be questioned, the film undeniably offers a rare, eye-opening look at the nature of modern warfare and roots of insurgency in the Middle East. The absence of large scale confrontations and a highly memorable twist at the end of the film make The Hurt Locker a far more potent and personally moving experience than its somewhat distant cousins Black Hawk Down (2001) and Tears of the Sun (2003). Kudos to Bigelow for crafting this gem.
Despite James Cameron’s new space epic relying heavily on the plot devices of mainstream Hollywood, Avatar manages to impress with its scope, truly sci-fi storyline and eye-popping CGI. As a result, the film completely makes up for its minor shortcomings, which include selectively English-speaking aliens, psychopathic bad guys and rather unlikely plot twists, through the intensity and memorability of the cinematic experience it delivers as a whole. In any case, Avatar certainly gets lots of credit for being absolutely original as far as movies about aliens go and for having a message the complexity of which can at least rival The Lion King (1994).
Jason Reitman’s Oscar-nominated new film Up in the Air with master charmer George Clooney in the lead role is a multilayered and unusually complex work that clearly intends to make its audience think after viewing and perhaps even ponder their own beliefs. In the works since Reitman penned the initial scenario based in Walter Kirn’s autobiographical novel back in 2004, the project took shape gradually with the crowd-pleasing bits on the plight of the unemployed, filmed with real life St. Louis residents who had recently lost their jobs, thrown in as Oscar qualifiers more recently when job losses mounted due to the global recession in late 2008 and early 2009.