This past week will go down as the most mixed of the year for me, filmwise. I saw two of the best movies I've seen all year, but the duds nearly drowned them out. The main problem was star-led comedies, all of which had the stale stench of vanity project about them. Here's the hall of shame, in the order I saw them: Mike Myers' The Love Guru mined a bottomless pit of bottom jokes; Adam Sandler's You Don't Mess With the Zohan missed the central joke of his premise; Emma Roberts' Wild Child actually managed to wring a few decent laughs out of a seriously tired premise; Will Ferrell's Step Brothers was a one-gag movie stretched beyond the breaking point; Ben Stiller's Tropic Thunder was far too much of a clever thing; and Simon Pegg's How to Lose Friends & Alienate People couldn't decide if it was goofy slapstick or a silly rom-com (and should have been neither).
Much better were the arthouse offerings: Steve McQueen's astonishing Hunger is one of the most original films of the year, with a killer kick of emotion to go with its provocative central theme; Ari Folman's Waltz With Bashir is a remarkably inventive animated documentary that emotionally probes the whole idea of war; Mark Herman's The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas cleverly looks at Nazi inhumanity from a naive 8-year-old's point of view; and the outrageous Sarah Silverman's Jesus Is Magic shows no fear as it tackles one taboo after another, proving how conditioned our moralistic responses actually are.
Anyway, this coming week is my last full week of movies before I head to Beijing to work at the Olympics for a fortnight. And these are the films that are sending me off: Liv Tyler's horror thriller The Strangers, Brendan Fraser back for third helpings in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, Star Wars goes animated in The Clone Wars, Guy Ritchie returns to London crimeland with RocknRolla, and Walter Salles returns to Brazil in Linha de Passe. I'll let you know the verdict next week.