Tropic Thunder with Ben Stiller, Jack Black, and Robert Downey Jr.

Tropic Thunder has got to be one of the stranger movies that I’ve seen this year, but it also has a plot that is a lot simpler than it sounds. In a nutshell, you have an action movie being produced within the movie, but the actors are displaced to a Vietnam jungle so that the director can really “see the fear in their eyes.” It’s a great parody of the movie business — Tom Cruise has a cameo as an executive — and the action is completely over-the-top.

Ben Stiller really bulked up for the part, and I was surprisingly impressed by Jack Black. Perhaps the most controversial role went to “Iron Man” Robert Downey, Jr., as he plays an actor who is playing an African American. The one thing that you’ll definitely need to keep in mind as you watch Tropic Thunder is to cast your morality aside, because the content does get pretty close to crossing the line at several points. Flailing limbs, holding the heads of corpses, and Robert Downey Jr.’s “black man” references may offend some audiences, but I was still laughing the whole time.

The Dark Knight with Christian Bale and Heath Ledger

The Dark Knight has earned well over $500 million in box office receipts and it is widely applauded as a cinematic masterpiece. This is a little out of the ordinary for a so-called “comic book” movie, because these are usually special effects-laden films with next to no real critical acclaim. The Dark Knight changed all that.

We were introduced to the re-invention of the Batman universe with Batman Begins, but the dark, brooding atmosphere is much more apparent in The Dark Knight. Interestingly, it didn’t really feel like a Batman movie, with the caped crusader playing second fiddle to Heath Ledger as the Joker. Seriously, Heath Ledger is absolutely amazing in this film.

The Dark Knight is definitely on the longer side of things and there are sections where it feels like it is dragging on for no reason (like the inexplicable jaunt to Hong Kong), but they also pull you back in with some good action and some even better acting. I’m just disappointed that Two-Face doesn’t get much face time and his story is cut quite short. All in all, The Dark Knight could be the best film of the year, comic book movie or not.

Vantage Point with Dennis Quaid, Matthew Fox, and Forest Whitaker

Vantage Point comes from a rather interesting concept. There is no single reality out there, because it is all a matter of perspective. The same few minutes are played back to you several times, each time from the perspective of a different character. The story surrounds the attempted assassination of the US President and with each re-telling of the tale, you gain a little more knowledge and you re-interpret previous scenes is a slightly different way. If you enjoyed the unique storytelling of a film like Memento, then you’ll find some value here in Vantage Point. It’s not the best thriller and the acting wasn’t terribly impressive, but I appreciate the concept.

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If you happen to rent a particularly good (or bad) movie, let me know through the comment form below (or Twitter) and I’ll check it out, possibly putting it in a future movie review roundup.