The Sparkle in the Dark (黑道之無悔今生)
Set in Taiwan but largely a Hong Kong production, The Sparkle in the Dark tells the story of an orphan whose tragic and grisly loss and inability to adapt to subsequent home life leave him marooned in a world of hatred and drug abuse. Eventually he gets involved with gang members, among whom he finds support, animosity, romance and — judging by the trailer — no shortage of machete violence. Most of the songsters starring in this effort hail from Hong Kong, which isn’t likely to lend the movie any verisimilitude. That’s possibly the reason why this downbeat flick is being released in only one theater in Taipei (Vieshow Xinyi).
The big-budget release for this week is a chase film in which the pursued (Shia LeBeouf and Michelle Monaghan) are caught up in a plot involving government security forces, terrorism, a renegade supercomputer with a female voice and an FBI interrogator (Billy Bob Thornton). Eagle Eye has Steven Spielberg as executive producer, but that doesn’t necessarily lend it the trenchant worldview that marks his later films, such as Minority Report and A.I. Artificial Intelligence. Expect big explosions, crashing trucks and disposable paranoia instead. Also screening in IMAX format.
Produced by a French animation company, this US coproduction is a film for kids that explores the world of the title character who, like his fellow Igors, works for mad and bad scientists. Our Igor (John Cusack), however, makes the leap to mad scientist himself, creating new creatures for sinister ends — but with results that don’t quite live up to expectations. As usual for bigger budget animated features, Igor has a noteworthy cast of voice talent (Christian Slater, John Cleese, Steve Buscemi, Jay Leno, Arsenio Hall), but this time around the script and animation have resulted in a “mirthless,” “underimagined” and “strenuously unfunny” movie, according to Variety.
Fear Factors (恐懼元素)
Two short thrillers combine for this feature-length outing from Hong Kong — which the Hong Kong Movie DataBase’s review claims was shot on the cheap in unfinished Chinese office blocks. In the first yarn, a dying man and his female abductor are confined in a room as flashbacks paint a more complicated picture. The second has a meat vendor come upon an inheritance in the form of a factory — if he can survive an encounter with a knife-wielding lady wearing the obligatory white sheet. Perhaps released in Taiwan to take a bite out of 4bia’s slice of the box office pie, this undistinguished pairing might even struggle to make money on DVD, let alone in its limited theatrical release.
A real downer awaits audiences with this Turkish entry. A fatal accident prompts a politician to convince his driver to take the rap, but the reward he promises once the latter leaves jail doesn’t save anyone involved from deteriorating relationships with spouses, children and lovers. The title seems to refer to the act of shunning responsibility, and the moral of the tale leaves no way out, while some suggest that the scenario is a metaphor for Turkey as a whole. For this film, Nuri Bilge Caylan won the Best Director award at this year’s Cannes film festival.
Vow of Death
A couple of months ago the Thai film The Coffin taught us that lying in coffins when you’re not dead is an overrated tradition that can shorten one’s lifespan. In Vow of Death, also from Thailand, a bunch of teenagers clearly suffering from excessive parental expectations discover that a supernatural tree, which they hoped would help them with exams, has been ripped from the ground and wants them dead. More than a year-and-a-half since its home release, this one is entering theaters here with virtually no fanfare.