More unreviewed films from 2009 (just be grateful I don’t include the 160 odd DVD’s I saw this year too), and this batch is from late summer, and all of these films I didn’t review were slippery. One I wanted to write about at length but it escaped me. One was fading as I thought about it. And the other one? Well the other one I couldn’t write about without wanting to punch the smug faces of its smug cast with a copy of its smug script. Which would distract anyone.

Broken Embraces was great while I was watching it. While on screen I was thinking that this was probably one of Almodovar’s best, tricksy, clever, self reflexive but with a command of his audience that I think is probably without parallel in modern European (world?) cinema. When it finished, I was less impressed. Because when it is boiled down, there really isn’t much story in Broken Embraces, and certainly no story that would be more than a basic melodrama if it had been shown chronologically. Almodovar clearly knew this and thus plays it in flashbacks, with the time out of joint necessarily creating the suspense that the film would not otherwise have. It looks great, Penelope Cruz is terrific and while you are in the cinema it is a great ride. It just lacks the thematic strength of his best films.

Gamer: Why did I not review Gamer? I spent a lot of time thinking of ways to review Surrogates and Gamer together, as they both have similar flaws. Both of them imagine a world in which one form of technology has increased massively without any other ones keeping up. Both use this to make some sort of point about modern day life. And both of them have the point of “this is what modern people would do if they have this technology”. But without really thinking through the sociological changes in society that a new piece of technology causes, the whole finger wagging exercise falls down. Also both are clearly dumb action movies bolted on to a philosophical chassis. At which point Nevedine/Taylor’s movie should win out because, as the directors of the Crank films, they know how to do batshit action. Oddly though Gamer is too serious for their type of action to work, and so they lurch between bloody and frenetic without really nailing it. Couple that with a humourless Gerard Butler as a – yawn – man sent down for a crime he didn’t commit and you have Death Race where the cars are people. More of the musical number at the end, a lot earlier in the film, would have made a lot of difference.

Away We Go: There is something rather adorable about the cluelessness of the lead couple played by John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph in Away We Go which mitigates slightly your desire to punch them in the face repeatedly. Away We Go is basically a poor but financially stable couple travelling the country trying to decide where they want to bring up their kids, and discovering, shock of shocks that home is where the heart is. And your hearts are in your body so its wherever you are. And of course other people sure are strange. So we get all the stereotypes of bad parenting, and some good. In its attempt to be balanced and fair, the film lops out as many gags as possible. But then it is a film which is basically a straight, smug, no-laffs version of the awesome Flirting With Disaster. Perhaps I should have just said that when it came out. FLIRTING WITH DISASTER WITHOUT THE DISASTER, FLIRTING OR JOKES.