THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY
Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Sean Penn
Inspired by the 1939 short story about an ineffectual man who gets lost in heroic daydreams, Ben Stiller, who stars and directs, twists Walter Mitty into an imaginative modern-day fable about a Life Magazine picture guy trying to save his job and win the heart of his co-worker (Wiig). With a massive budget at his disposal, Stiller has scope to write Mitty’s 'zoning out' fantasies large across the screen, setting ravishing set-pieces to catchy pop ditties (including, memorably, David Bowie’s Space Oddity). It’s a tricky blend of pathos, reality and fantasy to pull off, and for the most part Stiller succeeds, chucking in lashings of humour as well. The overall effect is a tad superficial but we’re still giggling at the inspired Benjamin Button piss-take, when Wiig in old-lady make-up tucks Stiller’s tiny, decrepit baby into her arms and whispers, “Nestle into my bosom, old-man baby, and die.” Or words to that effect.
ALL IS LOST
Distressing survival sagas are so in this year. Hot on the heels of Gravity comes All Is Lost, set in the Indian Ocean rather than in space and putting Robert Redford instead of Sandra Bullock and her pixie cut through a deathdefying rinse cycle. When his sailboat collides with a cargo container on a solo ocean voyage, Redford is forced to become septuagenarian action man, battling sun, sharks, storms and his own sinking ship. Gripping, harrowing, will put you off sailing for life.
EXPOSED: BEYOND BURLESQUE
Beth B’s illuminating lo-fi documentary profiles eight performers operating on the transgressive extremes of burlesque. In venues like The Slipper Room and The Box, Mat Fraser, Dirty Martini, Bunny Love, Tigger! and others use nudity and the rest to challenge inhibitions. What makes this scintillating is that, as confrontational as some acts are, by the end what Beth B has principally exposed is the humanity and dignity of these intelligent, charismatic performers.