Tropic Thunder (2008)
Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr, Jay Baruchel, Brandon T. Jackson & Nick Nolte.
Written by Ben Stiller, Justin Theroux & Etan Cohen.
Directed by Ben Stiller.
Any film that features Robert Downey Jr as a negro is worth the price of admission. In Tropic Thunder, Downey Jr plays a lauded Australian actor who undergoes a radical medical procedure to alter his skin pigment for his latest role. That role is a stereotyped US Marine sergeant on a location shoot for a Vietnam War epic. Joined by other prima donna actors including a Hollywood action hero with fading celebrity (Stiller) and a drug-addled star of ridiculous comedies (Black), they are thrown into the jungles for a taste of ‘real’ warfare by their fed-up director. This hilarious film is bound to offend some people – yet it is bad taste with taste (if that’s possible!). Filled with wonderful cameos, film references and hilarious faux trailers and adverts, this comedy goes where no comedy has gone before – straight into the heart of darkness. Get some!
The Wind That Shakes The Barley (2006)
Cillian Murphy, Padraic Delaney, Orla Fitzgerald & Liam Cunningham.
Written by Paul Laverty.
Directed by Ken Loach.
The films of Ken Loach are sometimes inflammatory, always intelligent and never compromised. With The Wind That Shakes The Barley, Loach takes us back to the early years of the Irish Republican Army, tracing the years of the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War. As a young doctor (Murphy) prepares to leave to work in a London hospital, he witnesses the resistance and beating of a railway official and a conductor by the despicable British soldiers, the Black and Tans. Deciding to stay in Ireland, he joins his brothers’ arm of the IRA and soon becomes a leading figure in the movement. When the Anglo-Irish Treaty is announced, the IRA splits and former friends are soon on opposing sides. Loach tends to let his camera sit at a distance and allow his actors to have the full stage, a method that is used to great effect in this stark, beautifully photographed film. An emotional experience.
The Ruins (2008)
Jonathan Tucker, Jena Malone, Shawn Ashmore, Laura Ramsey.
Written by Scott Smith.
Directed by Carter Smith.
Four friends vacationing in Mexico decide to make a day trip to an archaeological site in the jungle, accompanied by the brother of one of the archaeologists. As with any horror film, this proves to be a big mistake. When they arrive at the ancient Mayan temple and proceed to the top, they find the site curiously empty. Trying to leave, they discover the area has been circled by gun-toting locals who refuse to allow the kids to depart. But that is only the beginning of the nightmare. Nicely shot by Darius Khondji, this taut, often ghastly horror film was written by Scott Smith (A Simple Plan) from his own novel. Well-drawn characters, believable situations and some truly frightening moments combine to make The Ruins a cut-above the typical genre fare – not to mention a potent warning to tourists to stay in the hotel and not go traipsing through an unknown jungle.
(Wadrick Jones is a freelance writer for GritFX and will post weekly thirty second film reviews on this blog.)