The Core Dump

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

[By Nic Lindh on Friday, 23 October 2009]

Movie roundup, part 13

Nerdcore Rising, Rescue Dawn, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Watchmen, Waltz With Bashir, Defiance and Grand Torino.

Nerdcore Rising: “Nerdcore” is a style of music that’s essentially hip-hop with white nerds rapping about upgrading their computers, playing World of Warcraft, and other things near and dear to the nerd heart.

Nerdcore Rising chronicles the first national tour of M.C. Frontalot, considered by many to be the godfather of nerdcore. Frontalot and his band of fellow nerds travel across the U.S. in a crappy van, hustle for publicity, and play for small crowds in dive bars. And it’s a lot of fun to watch, partly because Frontalot and his band are a great bunch of high-energy guys, but mostly because they so obviously love doing what they’re doing.

Nerdcore Rising is the kind of documentary that puts a smile on your face.

Rescue Dawn: Werner Herzog directs this raw, powerful story of a pilot shot down over Laos during the Vietnam War. It’s very much a Herzog movie, filled with naked anguish, insanity, and unbearable cruelty.

Christian Bale, while no Klaus Kinski, puts in an strong performance, including a scary amount of weight loss and eating of repulsive things.

This is the kind of movie where the marketing department either didn’t see a single frame or employed some top-level drugs to exorcise reality from their work—a Herzog movie about People Tormented to the Brink of Insanity shouldn’t be marketed the same way as a Rambo movie. It just doesn’t do anybody any good.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine: Wolverine is the most interesting character in the X-Men universe, so starting out the Origins series with him makes all kind of sense, even though the movie is a bit of a clanking dud.

If you are expecting “feelm” things like character development or an interesting script, Wolverine will disappoint you. It is what it is: a tentpole summer blockbuster with the emotional depth of an ADD four-year-old. Lots of stuff blows up in visually striking ways, but the characters are just props to move the viewer to the next explosion.

Nevertheless, if you can put your brain on pause and not expect anything but a plethora of explosions, it’s competently made in a sad, soul-less way.

Watchmen: Blue schlong.

Just so that’s out of the way.

Watchmen is an incredible technical feat: bringing the comic book graphic novel to the screen as faithfully as this must have taken an incredible amount of labor.

But I don’t understand why Watchmen needed to be made into a movie. It really didn’t bring anything new to the experience. So, shrug. (Obviously it got made because somebody thought they could turn a profit, but there just doesn’t seem to be any artistic reason apart from the director showing off his Mad Skillz.)

There was a lot of Internet furor about the changed ending, and while I was a bit confused about why they changed the ending, the new ending isn’t bad, I guess, but it does seem arbitrary to change just that bit. Oh, well. Blue schlong.

Waltz With Bashir: This is one of the most powerful movies I’ve ever seen. A middle-aged Israeli filmmaker tries to sort out why he can’t remember his involvement in the Lebanon War of the early ’80s, and talks to his friends from the time and other people who were there in order to fill the gaps in his memory.

An animated movie, Waltz With Bashir uses its format profoundly effectively, focusing like a laser on the visual pieces that enhance the story.

And it is such a breathtakingly sad story. This is the kind of movie that stays with you for a long, long time.

Highly, highly recommended.

Defiance: Based on the powerful story of jews in Belorussia during WWII who, after seeing their families murdered by the Nazis, flee into a forest to hide and do their best to live with some human dignity in defiance of Nazi brutality.

And somehow, and I really wish I knew how, Hollywood manages to make it trite.

Which is pretty close to a crime in and of itself.

Defiance isn’t a horrible movie, but when you have the cojones to take on a story like that, you better bring your A-game, and the people involved in this movie most certainly did not. Even my new favorite Bond, Daniel Craig, pretty much phones it in. It’s almost like you can hear him think, “Hey, so I don’t have to take my shirt off in this one, right? Mmmmm … hamburger.”

I mean, really, you have Nazi crimes against the jews and humanity in general, add the uncaring misanthropy of the Soviet state, then add the cruelties of winter and starvation, and most of the movie still feels like it’s made for TV.

In a way it’s mindblowing. How do you manage to work with that kind of material and make it humdrum? And shouldn’t you find another line of work?

The filmmakers also decided to have the dialogue switch in and out of Russian every once in a while without any rhyme or reason I could discern. Thanks. If you hadn’t done that I probably wouldn’t remember the movie was set in Belorussia. Thanks also for having the actors deliver their lines with Russian accents that drift in and out. This also adds to the verisimilitude.

Man, now I’m pissed off. This story shouldn’t have been treated this way.

Gran Torino: This is what happens when you take a great screenplay, great actors, and a director with a keen interest in the human condition: You get a gem of a movie.

Eastwood is, of course, fantastic and intimidating as Walt Kowalski, curmudgeon of the year, who has managed to alienate his entire family and actually growls his misanthropy in a scene.

For some perverted reason, it feels refreshing to have Eastwood deliver every known racial epithet about asians, but do it in such an over-the-top curmudgeonly way it takes all the stings out of the words, rendering them nothing more than armor for a scared old man.

This is the kind of movie that stays with you. Highly recommended.

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