Lately I’ve been watching a lot of films that have either underwhelmed or outright disappointed — so much so that I temporarily gave up cataloging even the ones that I did like. So this quick list is my idea of a compromise. Here we go, in reverse chronological order:

  The Town

This movie garnered a lot of buzz when it came out but I skipped its theatrical release. There’s only so many movies I can stomach where Ben Affleck plays a Boston boy. That doesn’t seem like too much of an acting stretch to me, but with this one he also co-wrote the screenplay, directed, and got a bunch of interesting folks together to co-star. Charleston (a part of Boston) is apparently known for bank robberies, and the film chronicles a robbery crew and the FBI folks that hunt them. As usual, the protagonist is a good guy gone bad due to upbringing/bad circumstances/tough luck, his best friend from childhood who was a baddy from the start, the aspirational goody-two-shoes love interest, and other predictable and formulaic characters. All in all, I’m probably giving the movie a beating it didn’t quite deserve: I’m sure it’s a perfectly plausible and even entertaining oeuvre for folks who are not fans of the caper genre, so I’ll tone down the negativity and revert to the old ‘if you don’t have something nice to say, then don’t say anything’ formula (after I’ve already said plenty, of course).

Fair Game 

This is a fantastic spook thriller about a CIA operative whose identity is publicly revealed by a high-ranking member of the administration in retaliation for her husband, a former US Ambassador, openly disputing the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Terrific plot, very solid performances by Emily Watts as Valerie Plame and Sean Penn as her husband Joe Wilson, impeccably scored, directed and executed. The only thing is, this isn’t a fictional film: it’s a true story, and it happened recently: I still vividly remember the story first breaking, the Congressional hearings, the trial and subsequent pardon of Scooter Libby. That’s  when disgust sets in — not with the film, but with the situation it chronicles.

Wild Target

This was a pleasant surprise and a most enjoyable film — so much so, that I saw it twice. Bill Nighy is one of those people who has so much stage presence that he’s a treat to watch no matter what role he plays. In ‘Wild Target’, he’s Victor Maynard, a hitman at the top of his game: methodical, reliable, ruthless, and above all, professional. His life is complicated by Emily Blunt, a thief, con artist, free spirit and target that Victor inexplicably decides to spare. Add Rupert Grint as a loveable stoner side-kick, a hilarious plot involving stolen artwork, an epic Mini chase and the result is a wonderfully witty, pleasant and laugh-out-loud funny film.

State of Play

I remember the brilliant eponymous British series that carried such intensity that it was almost impossible to watch it in installments. The movie version is good, but did not carry the same intensity as I remember the series did – maybe it was the change of scenery, the distractions of the scenes within the newspaper offices, or just that there was too much ground to cover in a film’s length rather than develop them over more time. This one is square in the underwhelming bucket.