The Core Dump

A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures

[By Nic Lindh on Saturday, 06 June 2009]

Movie roundup, part 11

Included in this movie round-up are: Tell No One, Harakiri, Babylon A.D., Death Race, Wall-E, Let the Right One In, Hellboy II, Good Night, and Good Luck and Kingdom of Heaven.

Ne le dis à personne (Tell No One): Something as unusual as a French thriller based on an American novel about New Jersey, and it really works.

Tell No One is a taut thriller about a pediatrist whose wife is murdered. Eight years after the murder he gets an email from somebody claiming to be his dead wife, kicking off a series of nightmarish events. The movie is fast-paced and full of twists and turns, requiring you to pay attention.

Can you figure out what’s going on before the denouement?

Being a French movie, there’s some downright casual nudity. Apparently the French operate under some kind of delusion that seeing a naked human being will not turn people into monsters.

Harakiri: Japanese movie from 1962 about an era in the early 1600s when a lot of samurai were downsized.

I’m not ashamed to say that the Japanse often frighten me—the culture is so alien and strange. Harakiri, though—despite being stark almost to the point of nihilism—brings out the humanity of the fierce samurai, both for better and for worse. It’s a harsh juxtaposition between human beings trying their best to get through hard times and the hypocrisy of people who cling to dying ideals even though they no longer believe in them themselves.

As a movie, it’s relentlessly sparse—filmed in black and white, the soundtrack not much more than the crashing of beaten sticks, and full of the kinds of disturbing close-ups Sergio Leone would use to such great effect in his spaghetti westerns.

Watching it, I kept feeling there was some criticism of contemporary Japan that I couldn’t understand, but be that as it may, it’s a worthwhile movie, and if nothing else the strictness of both plot and cinematography makes it a part of our shared human heritage.

Babylon A.D.: I’m a huge sucker for sci-fi and an even bigger sucker for cyberpunk, so this movie was quite frustrating—it could have been good, but instead of reaching its potential, it peters out into an amorphous blob of silly plot and silly acting.

Vin Diesel is an actor in the mold of Stallone or Schwarzenegger—if you’re going to use him, you need to have something huge going on, with an endless cornucopia of action sequences. Unfortunately, Babylon A.D. didn’t get that memo, and instead puts Diesel in a movie that kind of, sort of, wants to be a big action vehicle but mostly wants to be … well, I don’t really know what it wants. The movie is based on the novel Babylon Babies which I have not read, but from watching the movie it seems like a good novel with a bunch of interesting things going on, things that don’t directly translate to a screen play.

Apparently nobody noticed this, took the plot, schlepped it into a screenplay and called it a day.

I don’t want to commit a spoiler here, but once the objective of the movie is revealed at the end, it turns out that there was no reason to even make the movie—the interesting things happen after it ends.

I’m no film maker, but that just can’t be good.

So all in all, a huge disappointment.

Death Race: Trenchant tale that warns of the moral dangers inherent in a privatized prison system seeking profits, or mindless mayhem?

I’m just kidding. It’s mindless mayhem.

Apparently one never gets too old enough to enjoy cars bristling with guns and armor crash in spectacular ways. So if that’s your bag at all, this is a movie you will enjoy.

Bonus points to Jason Statham for getting himself frighteningly ripped for this movie.

Wall•E: Absolutely delightful. Wall•E himself never stops being engaging to watch. Being able to coax that much charm out of an animated trash compactor robot is mind boggling.

So even if you don’t have kids, Wall•E is definitely worth watching, even though since it is for children, the themes get a bit heavy-handed.

Let the Right One In: EDIT: Moved the movie to its own review together with the novel.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army: I actually liked the first Hellboy outing, but this, this … what the hell is this?

The Golden Army received critical accolades. I have no idea why. Sure, it’s visually stunning, but there’s no there there, just a bunch of freaks fighting in order to drive a mentally-challenged plot that makes very little sense.

At the end of The Golden Army I was tired, confused, and wondering what the hell I just saw, but not in a good way.

To add insult to injury, not having David Hyde Pierce voice Abe was a gargantuan mistake.

Good Night, and Good Luck: Ostensibly about journalist Ed Murrow’s battle with Joe McCarthy during the Red Scare, it’s really a thinly veiled allegory about the assault on civil liberties taken by the Bush administration.

It’s a nice little movie. A bit bloodless, but moves along at a nice clip and has clean cinematography.

Kingdom of Heaven: Director’s Cut: The link takes you to the IMDB entry for the theatrical cut of the film. Which I haven’t seen, so I have no idea of how it differs from the Director’s Cut. Which is the one I saw. And which was two different movies, one where our hero With a Difficult Past™ is rescued from his miserable existence by the Father He Didn’t Know He Had™ and another where our hero Defends Jerusalem.

The first movie is way too long. Well made, but stretches out a bit.

The second movie has a brutal beginning where way too many things Have to be Revealed and it Will Take a While so Stay in Your Seat Bitch. After that, though, it turns into a fantastic medieval war movie.

Ridley Scott reuses the ideas, music, and visuals from Gladiator and Black Hawk Down and then throws in some fantastically intense battle sequences with knights.

It’s frustrating, because Ridley Scott really shouldn’t be putting out a movie with the kind of pacing problems Kingdom of Heaven has, but at the same time, it’s Ridley Scott, and the man sure knows how to work an action sequence.

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