Heath Ledger is The Joker in the Christopher Nolan Batman sequel starring Christian Bale

‘The Dark Knight’ vs. The Joker on Hulu

Superhero films became increasingly sophisticated and decidedly darker as they become (for better or worse) a full-fledged genre in the 2000s. With Batman Begins, writer/director Christopher Nolan (drawing inspiration from the revisionist Batman comic books by Frank Miller and Jeph Loeb) rebooted the Batman mythos for the big screen, bringing the often lighthearted hero back […]

George Clooney stars in 'Burn After Reading' from Joel and Ethan Coen

‘Burn After Reading’ – unclassified CIA laughs on Amazon Prime

Burn After Reading (2008) – After the darkness of No Country for Old Men, the Coen Bros. eased up with a deadpan espionage farce played out by small fish convinced that they are in deep waters, a film much lighter and significantly slighter but put together with such perfection that you can’t help but be […]

Lina Leandersson and Kare Hedebrant in Tomas Alfredson’s Swedish vampire film / young love horror piece 'Let the Right One In '

‘Let the Right One In’ – A Swedish vampire tale on Amazon Prime and free on Kanopy

Tomas Alfredson’s Swedish vampire film / young love horror piece Let the Right One In (2008) is grounded in a devoted friendship that bonds two outcasts in a predatory world. Bullied schoolboy Oskar (Kare Hedebrant), a loner so blond he looks albino, meets twelve-year-old Eli (Lina Leandersson), a fellow loner hanging around the snow-covered playground of […]

Jean-Claude Van Damme plays himself in Mabrouk El Mechri self-aware thriller

‘JCVD’ – Jean-Claude at 47 on Amazon Prime

In the opening scene of JCVD (Belgium, 2008), Jean-Claude Van Damme takes out one heavily-armed, vaguely military bad guy after another with his bare hands (and whatever blunt instruments and discarded weapons he grabs along the way) in an elaborately choreographed long take. He comes out the other end huffing and winded as the set […]

Peter Segel writes and stars in the comedy of heartbreak, humiliation, and recovery for producer Judd Apatow

‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall’ – the humor of heartbreak on Amazon Prime

Peter Segel joined the ranks of Freaks and Geeks alumni who went on to successful writing and/or directing careers (the list includes James Franco, Seth Rogan, and John Francis Daley) with Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008), which he wrote and starred in for producer Judd Apatow. It’s a plot you can recount in a sentence—a guy […]

Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker on Netflix

Oscar winner ‘The Hurt Locker’

“Tell me something. What’s the best way to disarm one of these things?”“The way you don’t die, sir.” Set in the Iraq war after the proclamation of “Mission Accomplished” and the transformation of a battlefield army into an occupation force, The Hurt Locker (2008) follows the finals days in the rotation of a bomb disposal unit […]

Bruce Willis and Reece Thompson in the film by Brett Simon

‘Assassination of a High School President’ on Amazon Prime Video

The name’s Bobby Funke. I write for the paper.” At least that’s how this picked-on sophomore imagines himself in Assassination of a High School President (2008): the loner who walks a straight line through the crooked halls of his corrupt Catholic high school. Funke (who is inevitably called “Funky” by his schoolmates) narrates his tale […]

James Franco and Seth Rogen ride the ‘Pineapple Express’

The Judd Apatow factory refreshed the coming-of-age comedy (for all ages of adolescent men) in comedies like Knocked Up, Superbad, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall before stretching itself thin (that’s my best explanation for Drillbit Taylor and Step Brothers). One of the smartest things he did was to seek out directors not normally associated with his […]

The giant monster invasion begins on ‘Cloverfield’

A 21st century Godzilla movie for the (pre-video phone) camcorder generation, Cloverfield (2008) is a high-concept reworking of an old-fashioned creature feature with a DIY aesthetic. The conceit of the film is essentially the home video record of an alien invasion as shot by a wise-cracking default cameraman recording every movement of a group of […]

Donnie Yen is legendary martial artist ‘Ip Man’ on Netflix

Hong Kong martial arts star Donnie Yen plays the legendary Ip Man (Hong Kong, 2008), teacher and grandmaster of Wing Chun, in this biographical drama (one in a long line of such tributes) based on the master’s life during the Japanese occupation of China. Yen is a superb screen fighter with an often bland presence. […]