The title characters of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist are pasty-faced geeks who are obsessed by obscure indie bands. But, like the characters in Juno whom they so closely resemble, they're pasty-faced geeks only in Hollywood terms. In reality, Nick (Juno's Michael Cera) and Norah (Kat Dennings) would be hailed as the most quick-witted and self-possessed kids in their respective schools, and Norah would be worshipped as a traffic-stopping beauty. The fact that she sees herself as an ugly duckling is just one of the questionable elements in a film that, for all its grungy trappings, is a regular fairy tale of New York.
When we first meet Nick, a New Jersey high-school senior, he's still hung up on the bimbo ex-girlfriend (Alexis Dziena) who dumped him six months earlier. He keeps burning lovelorn compilation CDs for her, but she immediately bins them, unaware that they're retrieved and treasured by her friend Norah. Finally, Nick's buddies try to cheer him up by dragging him into New York for the night. His favourite band is playing a secret gig somewhere in the city, so their plan is to drive around every dingy bar and club they know until they stumble on the location. It's difficult to conceive of any band called Where's Fluffy? inspiring such devotion, let alone any band that made a point of turning its shows into treasure hunts, but, again, suspension of disbelief is required, especially when Nick and his pals happen to start their search in the very same club as Norah. She joins Nick on his after-hours odyssey, and by dawn the pair of them realise that they're made for each other.
I know that's giving away the ending, but it's hardly a twist: from the first moment, there's almost no friction between Nick and Norah, and the film has to throw in some complications involving a drunken friend of Norah's to keep them apart as long as it does. But I shouldn't be churlish. There's nothing wrong with a spirited, sassy comedy about nice young people being nice to each other, just as long as you're not fooled by the indie soundtrack or by the kind of New York nightspots that Carrie Bradshaw and her chums wouldn't be caught dead in.
Infinite Playlist couldn't be any more sweetly inoffensive if Nick and Norah had Abba on their iPods, instead of Vampire Weekend and the Shout Out Louds.
The Broken is a stultifying British chiller starring Lena Headey as a doctor who spots an identical woman driving past her on a London street, and comes to believe that the people closest to her are being replaced by demonic duplicates. Possible doppelgängers include her French boyfriend (Melvil Poupaud), her American dad (Richard Jenkins) and her Danish psychotherapist (Ulrich Thomsen), but, alas, the mystery of why The Broken has such an international cast is far more compelling than anything that's happening to Headey.
It's essentially an episode of Tales of the Unexpected bulked up to 85 minutes, but instead of filling the running time with little things like characterisation, plotting or memorable dialogue, The Broken is eked out with endlessly repeated slow-motion flashbacks – boy, does the director love his car-crash scene – and shots of the characters walking across rooms, with ominous music pasted on top in a vain effort to make them scary. It's the cinematic equivalent of Chinese water torture. Still, maybe it's not fair to say that all the dialogue is forgettable. For months to come, I'll remember the scene in which Headey describes a certain medical condition thus: "It's not uncommon, but it is pretty rare."
If The Broken doesn't have enough plot to make a film, Tokyo Sonata has several plots too many. The main one concerns a Japanese salaryman who is made redundant when his company outsources his position to China.
Much like the heroes of Laurent Cantet's drama Time Out, and John Lanchester's novel Mr Phillips, he lets his family think he's still employed, whereas he's actually spending his days wandering between the job centre, the library and a free-food line, where he discovers other former executives in the same boat. It's a worryingly relevant, tragicomic fable that gets lost amid several other stories.
Also showing: 01/02/2009
JCVD (96 mins, 15)
Jean-Claude Van Damme in a Fellini-esque art film? Believe it or not, that's what we get with 'JCVD' (above). The ageing action hero plays a version of himself. Battered and bruised by a humiliating custody hearing, he then gets caught up in the robbery of a Brussels post office, where he has time to reflect on what's gone wrong with his life and reputation. Surprisingly, it turns out that Van Damme can act almost as well as he can kick people in the head. But there's not much to 'JCVD' beyond the novelty of its postmodern premise.
Barry Lyndon (187 mins, 12A)
A re-release of Stanley Kubrick's gorgeously scenic, yet sharply satirical adaptation of Thackeray's novel. Ryan O'Neal, with a blank face and an uncertain accent, plays its anti-hero, an 18th-century Irish lad whose luck and opportunism take him into – and out of – the English aristocracy. Nicholas BarberReuse content