The Core Dump

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

[By Nic Lindh on Monday, 17 August 2009]

Movie roundup, part 12

Includes Kung Fu Panda, The Wrestler, Righteous Kill, The King of Kong, Gangs of New York, Forgetting Sarah Marshall and 30 Days of Night. A bit of a good, bad and ugly.

Kung Fu Panda: Funny animated movie about Po, a panda who spends his days dreaming about being a kung fu master but is actually a bit of a fat slob. Of course, Po ends up selected to be the Dragon Warrior who must defend his home from a scary sociopathic tiger.

Very well-made with lots of sight gags and an uplifting story about believing in yourself, but Kung Fu Panda is definitely too scary for small children.

For older kids and silly adults, it’s a lot of fun.

The Wrestler: And now I’m depressed. Don’t get me wrong, The Wrestler is a very good movie, with stellar performances by everybody involved, especially Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei, but it’s a lot like watching the back story of how somebody ended up getting tased on an episode of COPS.

Rourke completely immerses himself in the role of an over-the-hill professional wrestler—it’s hard to imagine any other actor being able to give that character so much humanity and gravitas while remaining as sad and empty.

Tomei breaks your heart as a middle-aged stripper.

The cinematography feels like a documentary, complete with rough cuts and harsh lighting. The camera often follows right behind people, creating a creepy, voyeuristic feel.

The Wrestler is a tough, emotional film that’s worth watching.

Righteous Kill: I turned it off after 30 minutes.

There must be a fascinating story out there about how you can get Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino together in a cop drama and somehow manage to turn it into complete dreck.

Both Pacino and DeNiro—you know, two of the most intense actors ever—are phoning it in so bad it’s a wonder they’re not yawning in half the scenes, and the quote-unquote grit is like Siegfried and Roy doing West Side Story.

Abominable.

The King of Kong: Documentary about competitive arcade gaming, which turns out to be a touching portrait of flawed people.

It’s always fascinating to get glimpses into sub-cultures.

Gangs of New York: Daniel Day-Lewis is incredible as Bill the Butcher, chewing up the scenery as one of the most frightening sociopaths ever put on film.

Starts out tight and engrossing with scenes from New York’s Five Points in 1846—horrid, brutal squalor that unfortunately for the poor souls who had to live through it seems to be historically accurate.

But then Scorsese loses his grip a bit and the movie starts to meander. It seems Scorsese decided to create an Epic Allegory™ instead of a good story.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall: Decent romantic comedy with plenty of awkwardness and psychological pain. A man tries to get over his girlfriend who just dumped him by going to Hawaii, and of course she’s staying at the same hotel with her new boyfriend.

There’s some good writing, and despite the extended awkwardness the movie succeeds in making the characters come alive as people, not just stereotypes.

30 Days of Night: Fairly effective horror movie with little internal logic.

Apparently in Alaska daylight doesn’t disappear gradually like it does in the rest of the world. One day you get daylight, the next, whammo, no daylight for you.

And of course not having any daylight for 30 days is pretty useful if you’re a vampire.

Josh Hartnett does a good job as the affable town sheriff who has to deal with the vampire invasion.

Kind of frustrating in that the vampires never become anything but horrific killing machines—it would be interesting to get their back story. Nevertheless, a decent popcorn flick.

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