October and November short movie reviews


Body of Lies – Workmanlike. It was solidly made, I couldn’t immediately fault it, it was acceptable among its kind and yet it never took off for me. I might have liked it better if I could have seen clearer evidence of Leonardo DiCaprio’s growing love for the country, or if it had concentrated more on technology vs rudimenatry resistance, but otherwise – meh. Didn’t hurt to sit through but didn’t leave me with anything when I walked out.

Max Payne – It might have worked if it had been a fantasy rather than a stock-standard cop story with hallucinations (the hallucinations were pretty cool). It might have worked if they had cast Keanu Reeves instead of Mark Wahlberg (this is not a criticism of either actor, but there is a certain role which Reeves if perfect for (it involves lots of brooding) and it was just painful to watch an actor of Wahlberg’s calibre struggling with the script). And it might have worked if the script had been scrapped and rewritten without using cliches. From conversations I overheard in the cinema foyer, the original game is much funnier and more self-aware. I am trying to make sense of the notes I made, but they were written in the dark two months ago, so I can only make out phrases like: “set ur machine guns to miss”, “how poss, that many ppl w that many bullets can miss one man that many times”, “the van helsing of its genre”, “eye of sauron” (I remember that scene) and “me and my eyebrows” (and I wish I could remember that one).

Burn After Reading – Um. It was like the Cohen Bros decided to make a Wes Anderson film. With sex toys. The acting was brilliant, of course – it was a stellar cast (Tilda Swinton as a pediatrician is truly terrifying) and there were some stunning moments of black comedy, but in spite of having a very funny last few lines the impression it left me with was rather bleak and pointless. I wanted to like it more than I did. Brad Pitt was excellent – he stole the show and given the rest of the cast that is a considerable achievement. He is such a gifted comic actor – I never liked him until I saw Snatch, and in that and Ocean’s 11 and Burn After Reading he has this measured, exuberant, boyish, charming, physical style of acting which is endearing and funny and never tips into gratuitous silliness.


Death Race – for what it was… not bad at all, actually.

The Duchess – Why can’t these people just make a Heyer? Seriously. Other than that, the movie was alright. Decently made, not painful, Ralph Fiennes manages to be chillingly sympathetic and Keira Knightly isn’t too bad (I still think that in Pride and Prejudice she was playing Jo March, not Lizzie Bennet).

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time – Seen at the Japanese film festival. Time travel which I suspect might actually work. This is apparently the umpteenth remake of movies of the novel which I wouldn’t mind reading. I’m used to the less stylised Studio Ghibli animation, particularly of faces, so this style took me a while to get used to, but I did enjoy it.

Quantum of Solace – Judi Dench is fabulous. Also, I do not think this was a bad movie, although it wasn’t as good as the first. It had the feel of a second part, and Bond is still not quite Bond yet, but I am thinking of it as the second part of an origin/reboot story and I like origin stories. Also, the choreography of the aerial fight scene. But they do need more gadgets.

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People – I’d heard bad reviews for this, but it wasn’t. My sister and I had a great time. I suspect it is one of those movies that gets reviewed according to a misclassification. It is not a comedy in the American Comedy genre, or even in the British Comedy genre. It is a movie of a memoir which happens to be very funny without always needing to follow the cliches to point that out. It could have been painfully embarassing (social interaction is not the main character’s forte) but instead of bogging down in standard scenes the story and the characters move along. Not perfect but better than I expected and it had Christopher Plummer.

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