January capsule reviews

– obviously a “serious” movie right from the first frame, Babel is more of the same from Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. Made up of 4 stories that initially seem independent of each other but eventually shows connection, Babel explores human relationships, the mis-trust between different races and mis-communication within family units. Like most contemporary films, I found Babel over long and abit too serious for its own good. Inarritu’s breakthrough film Amores Perros, by comparison, goes over the same themes but is much more vibrant and captivating.

Flags of Our Fathers – Clint Eastwood’s World War II film Flags of Our Father features earnest acting, solid and restrained directing, yet somehow comes across as abit flat. It does not dazzle with the visceral action of Saving Private Ryan or the surreal atmosphere of The Thin Red Line. The movie is nowhere near bad, but neither is it exceptional. It does not draw the viewer in – that is, we know where this is all going and the plot becomes very very predictable. I am hoping that Eastwood’s take of the battle from the Japanese point of view in Letters From Iwo Jima will be more interesting.

Marie Antoinette – panned across the board by critics in Hong Kong, I found Marie Antoinette quite watchable. It is not a “mainstream” period drama – in fact, I would say it is not really concerned with history at all. Sofia Coppola’s film shows how an aristocratic girl with nothing to do spends her time in decadence – the emphasis is on the loneliness of the girl. Much has been said about Coppola’s use of post-punk music (New Order, The Cure, Gang of Four) for the soundtrack and this makes it feel like a very personal film for the director. Maybe when she was young, when she was the privileged daughter of Francis Ford Coppola, she acted and felt like this take of Marie Antoinette.

Blood Diamond – although the film overtly criticizes the savagery present in modern day Africa and seems to be pointing the fingers at businesses in the west, what we are watching is really an action blockbuster masquerading as a message movie. As an action movie, I found Blood Diamond entertaining with a solid turn by Leonardo DiCaprio (better than is overwrought performance in The Departed).