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.

January short movie reviews

Below are last month’s reviews. The book reviews are here.

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All My Friends Are Leaving Brisbane

Jess and I saw this tonight, everyone else having fallen by the wayside. At the end of the movie, I fell down the stairs while walking and reading the credits, wrenching my shoulder, banging my knee and jarring my foot (this in addition to the pinched nerve in my other leg). Jess survived unscathed. We collected the third member of our household and came home to find the fourth unpacking, listening to depressing music at high volume and just finished drying the dog with a hair-dryer.

So real life in Brisbane is somewhat quirkier than the movie, which was patchy but (not unlike the vicar’s egg) very good in those patches. The soundtrack was brilliant, and there were the laughs of recognition (the RE – still corpse-purple – and the Botanic Gardens) and of genuine amusement (the Sesame Street theory of urban development). As is so often the case in romantic comedy-dramas the secondary characters (Tyson and Katherine) were more unique and appealing than the more neurotic, tortured main characters (Anthea and Michael), but it is a good sign that I remembered the names of most characters, and there were scenes where I thought – hey, I was really getting pulled in there. And although at the start I thought, “not gritty – it’s so overdone”, that grittiness was pretty low-key, and there were moments of colour and beauty that were a relief for a small film. The film also caught, subtly, the fact (especially at the wedding) that in Brisbane everyone knows or is connected to everyone else.*

However, if your friends ever ask you to be extras in their friend’s cousin’s movie, do. The most striking feature of the film’s Brisbane was the emptiness of it – as if all the friends and half the city had gone to London.

Off to have chai now.


*E.g. my housemates are each others’ sisters’ friends and boyfriend’s sisters, and I am not as was thought the random person who answered an internet add, rather I am the family friend of the sisters’ father’s business partner, and one of my coworkers who was to have joined us at the movie has a boyfriend who shops at the same store we do and is my godfather’s son, and one of my client’s cousins, to whom my boss tried to marry me off, is already married to my third cousin, whose parents live in Taringa.

Five things that were wrong with Elizabeth: The Golden Age

  1. It was the second movie in a trilogy. I wonder how many of the negative reviews were by people unfamiliar with trilogies. Frankly, it was better than The Two Towers.
  2. The first movie in the trilogy was Elizabeth. I think this is why the Red Curtain Trilogy was only called a trilogy later: Strictly Ballroom blew the other two out of the water. Some things shouldn’t be compared. Of course, in this case I think The Golden Age was easily better than Elizabeth.
  3. Clive Owen. He really did seem (and I quote) out of “another place, another time”. The wrong one. Clive Owen and period drama just don’t click for me. He’s too… forward from the scene. I wonder how Viggo Mortensen would have been? Or any Raleigh less wracked by emotion.
  4. Random Horses. This seems to be a failing of second installments. See the mention of Two Towers above.
  5. The End. See point 1. Will the Infanta come back to haunt us?

Summation: I liked it. It was vivid. I liked the pageantry and the feeling of falling through paintings. I liked the dignity, in spite of the emotional torment. I liked the themes (especially the rule of law), though I hope they are followed through in the next movie. I liked the pirates and the intrigues and the warrior queens and the silent, threatening children. I liked that it wasn’t caricatured evil versus idealised good, but caricatured and well-governed nebulousness on one side and many-shaded, hypocritical, conscience-ridden, cruel, superstitious, near-sighted main characters on the other. I liked the hair and the hallways and Mary Queen of Scots, and the talent for drama which Elizabeth and Mary both displayed. It was a flawed, fabulous, fantastic pageant,a dark tale of the Faery Queen, relentlessly human, almost a pantomime,  beginning to rot a little with decadence, still fresh with innocence and promise, always with something of the stage about it.

And although it didn’t make me walk out feeling ten foot tall,  I did come out of the theatre with excellent posture.

Meep: Good Things

Some exciting events: 

Wacom Cintiq 12WX (I can’t buy this until my Graphire pays for itself)

Previews on youtube for the movie of one of the best books I’ve read this year, Marjane Satrapi’s graphic autobiography Persepolis (they’re in French, but you’ll get the idea):

Finally! The 18th Carnival of Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy is up (in three parts) at http://troubleinchina.livejournal.com/. I look forward to this carnival – lots of thought provoking discussions. This month is heavier on the gaming side of things, which I am not at all involved in, but I also enjoyed this post on 7 more things heroines can do, because it covers some ground I was exploring in last month’s NaNoWriMo project.

Also, the 5th People of Colour in Science Fiction and Fantasy blog carnival is up at Of Shoes – And Ships – And Sealing Wax, but I only just found out and haven’t read it yet.