Capsule reviews for Aug. 31

The Ambassador

This bizarre comic documentary is strangely provocative yet frustratingly muddled, tracing the efforts of Danish journalist Mads Brugger to expose corrupt bureaucrats in the Central African Republic by going undercover as a European consul. Along the way, he encounters everything from jewel smuggling to cover-ups for murder. The subject matter is compelling enough, and Brugger gives it a subversive twist by cracking jokes the whole time (think of him as a milder version of Borat, for the sake of comparison). Give Brugger points for audacity and for a caustic wit that produces some solid laughs, yet the result isn’t quite as eye-opening as perhaps he intended. (Not rated, 93 minutes).


Flying Swords of Dragon Gate

Jet Li stars in this cartoonish wuxia action epic from veteran Hong Kong director Tsui Hark, which combines chop-socky fight sequences with acrobatic 3D stunts and special effects. Li plays a rebel general who leads a small group of assassins to the titular desert oasis to battle with a powerful and corrupt eunuch and his henchmen as a massive sandstorm approaches. The story is derived from a Chinese legend that has been told on screen multiple times in the past, but this treatment boasts plenty of swashbuckling action and visual flair without a compelling story or characters to fill in the narrative gaps. (Rated R, 122 minutes).


Sleepwalk with Me

What could have been a vanity project turns into a charming and self-deprecating comedy from writer-director Mike Birbiglia, who stars as a fledgling stand-up comedian who becomes successful after he incorporates jokes about his own life into his act, such as his fear of commitment to his loyal girlfriend (Lauren Ambrose) that leads to dangerous sleepwalking episodes. While the film contains some big laughs, both from its characters and observations, it also has a sweetness that doesn’t feel forced. Technically it’s rough around the edges, but real-life comedian Birbiglia has an affable screen presence, and there’s an appealing authenticity to the characters and their relationships. (Not rated, 80 minutes).


The Tall Man

Jessica Biel can’t elevate this mundane psychological thriller in which she plays a nurse who tries to uncover the truth after her child is abducted from a small town haunted by the legend of a serial kidnapper. She gradually becomes more desperate as she tries to find her son and clear her own name The film establishes a sense of dread within its isolated setting, but the low-key script is formulaic and obvious. Eventually, French director Pascal Laugier resorts to an array of red herrings and cheap thrills to support a premise that has no logical basis. The result is tedious instead of suspenseful. (Rated R, 106 minutes).


  • Gulunga

    Regarding your “review” of The Ambassador: And by comparison I’d give you the status of a milder version of a critic.

    • So would I, but hey… reviews don’t write themselves. *zing* – ed.