Vengeance (To, 2009) – Striking and exciting, besides the lame “Memento” plot twist late in the film. Nobody directs the movement of actors and guns better, and the scene between two factions of hit men in a dimly lit park perfectly captures To’s bullet-time grace and mystery, as smoke, gun powder, blood, and tree bark spray across the frame. The joys of each violent set-piece thankfully overwhelm To’s inability to create a convincing mythology, making the film a vibrantly hued and fractured vision on revenge even during it’s most ridiculously melodramatic moments.
Brothers (Sheridan, 2009) – Had me hooked for a while, especially with Tobey Maguire’s strangely enigmatic performance. His seamless fluctuations between kind Dad and brutal soldier masks the film’s many flaws during the opening act. But ultimately Sheridan can’t help himself with the sentiment, and his film remains too glossy, punctuated, and fleeting to be anything poignantly memorable.
Full Battle Rattle (Gerber, Moss, 2008) – A case of interesting subject matter lacking the proper cinematic execution. The conflict of this doc is spread thin between far too many subjects who never develop beyond the surface. The “simulation” scenes are especially anti-climactic through the lens of the camera, and provide little insight into the psychology of the soldier. However, by the end, as the soldiers are heading back to war, and the Middle Eastern actors return home, the film achieves a deep sense of fractured identity on both sides, asking who we are, and what are we fighting for?
The September Issue (Cutler, 2009) – Ironically, the fashion elements are the most interesting thing about this poorly constructed doc on Anna Wintour, inspiration for Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada. Instead of a calculating piece on the pitfalls and realities of magazine/journalism business, we get meandering fluff, simply conceived to highlight a few moments of bickering between uninterested subjects. No cinematic style to match the fashion world, and no heart to take the story through and through.