In short, fascinating.
SCREAMING FOR VENGEANCE It's true, I'm a Charles Bronson fanatic who has often and loudly praised the wonders of the Death Wish films, including my personal favorite, Death Wish 3. So I anticipated the double-decker revenge sandwich of Death Sentence and The Brave One with a certain gruesome glee. Too bad neither movie really rocked it. Death Sentence directed by Saw's James Wan and starring Kevin Bacon went the distance by offing women and (oh god, no!) children. The Brave One offers a few pleasures, namely that scene on the subway in which Jodie Foster pops a guy for, basically, getting up in her face. Mostly, though, both films spent way too much time showing how their protagonists felt after committing acts of violence: fear, guilt, elation, excitement, or otherwise.
True vengeance films don't bother with that shit they start with a grievous act (in Death Wish 3 it's the senseless killing of Bronson's military buddy, whose biggest crime is living in a crummy neighborhood overrun with cartoonish gang members) and move right into the payback's-a-bitch phase. Cops who secretly support the good work of heavily armed vigilantes are also a traditional staple; I don't think Terrence Howard's sad-eyed, Foster-followin' Brave One detective really qualified. I can see updating the vengeance film for these more sensitive times, but wait, no I can't. Vengeance films with morals bad. Who needs 'em?
OH YEAH, THAT WAR THING You know when you turn on the news, and you see that story that was on yesterday, and last week, and last year too, about that business going on in Iraq? Wait, you don't watch the news? Nah, neither do moviegoers, who didn't give two poops about movies with Iraq war themes (I'm including everything from In the Valley of Elah to The Hills Have Eyes 2 here). I suppose if Blades of Glory can't heal a broken nation, neither can Paul Haggis.
HORROR IS DEAD I almost forgot about The Hills Have Eyes 2 until I typed it above. There was no singular horror sensation this year, or even a really good sleeper, like 2006's The Descent. Other releases that underwhelmed the horrorati: 1408, Resident Evil: Extinction, 30 Days of Night, Halloween, The Reaping, Vacancy, 28 Weeks Later, and Saw IV (already in the works: Saw V). As usual, the best horror films were in limited release (The Last Winter) or foreign spooky Spanish thriller The Orphanage, which pays homage to Poltergeist among others (including The Others), hits theaters Dec. 28.
THE MAGIC NUMBER? This was the year of third sequels, some already mentioned above, of which only The Bourne Ultimatum did anything interesting. The slate for 2008 is pretty much locked in this time next year, Avatar! and it's choked with a fair amount of sequels. Batman, Hellboy, Harry Potter, the Mummy, Indiana Jones, James Bond, Rambo, the Narnia kids, and the Star Trek crew are all poised to lead you back into butter-flavored temptation. Now, I don't think the fact that a film is a sequel automatically means it will suck: I'm willing to sit through just about anything, because no matter how much crap I see, or how many films start off great and veer horribly off course (here's lookin' at you, I Am Legend), I never give up hope for the movies. And if that makes me no better than one of 300's digitally enhanced Spartans facing certain doom, so be it. See you next year! *
CHERYL EDDY'S TOP 10
1. No Country for Old Men (Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, US)
2. Grindhouse (Robert Rodriguez, Eli Roth, Quentin Tarantino, Edgar Wright, and Rob Zombie, US)