Mongol (2007) – The early life (and love) of Genghis Khan is brought to life in this beautiful, though sometimes meandering, Russian film from director Sergei Bodrov. The film stars the great Tadanobu Asano (Ichi The Killer) as Temudjin, and the early scenes demonstrate what was a very difficult and violent upbringing, later to shape him into a fierce warrior on the battlefield. Everything about the film is epic, from the amazing scenery to the expansive storyline which only covers a fraction of the fascinating leaders life. The battle scenes are huge and vicious, though sometimes rely a little too heavily on CGI blood, and the performances are uniformally strong. The ending feels a little sudden, though this was designed as the first of a trilogy of films and it simply makes the viewer hungry to see what comes next.
Step Brothers (2008) – Ridiculous, though entertaining, film from the team behind Anchorman and Talladega Nights. Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly star as 40 year olds suffering from arrested development who find themselves unwilling roomates after their parents meet and get married. Most of the time is spent watching middle aged men act like 12 year olds, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Ferrell and Reilly are strong as usual, but it’s Richard Jenkins and Mary Steenburgen as the parents that hold things together. It’s a surprisingly profane film, particulary compared to the previous Adam McKay/Will Ferrell films, and it runs out of steam around the 3/4 mark, but it has enough silliness to make it worth viewing.
WALL-E (2008) – The strongest Pixar film yet, and one of the best films of the year so far. It borrows liberally from 70s Sci-fi and E.T., but the result is some astounding animation and what are some truly ballsy creative decisions. Children might squirm during the first half hour (which contains nearly no dialogue), but the film rapidly picks up speed when the main characters leave earth. Some might read it as a slick environmentalist meditation, but it really just carries on the best science fiction tradition of showing us a vision of the future that works as a commentary on the present.