September 7th, 2008


Half-Time Report

Why Not?

We've sort of ended up deciding on something like a month of celebrations for my first half century. Really sort of an excuse to schedule a number of things in and around our class schedules. Saturday we went to dinner at Pereddies in Holland MI. Oh my, oh what a lovely dinner.

Calamari simmered, not fried, in garlic and marinara sauce. Lasagna and meatballs, Shrimp "Marie George" sauteed with spinach, mushrooms and garlic. Tiramisu... and the best damn key lime pie I've had in years. Sigh.

Then we wandered over to the Holland 7 theatre to see what was playing. Oh look, Babylon A.D. at 7:40 -- and it's 7:38! Excellent timing.

Babylon A.D. [PG-13]
Holland 7 Theatre #2, 7:40pm

Previously when I reviewed Hancock, I talked about the Will Smith effect in blockbuster movies. Well, I'm also very fond of Vin Diesel movies. Pitch Black, Boiler Room, even that silly Navy SEAL babysitting movie The Pacifier, is interesting because Vin is in it.

Though I've seen some print ads around, I've seen no trailers or TV ads for Babylon A.D.. Huh? Most of the reviews said it was bad. Then I read a review from an online acquaintance who basically said, "what the hell are these people talking about?" The feeling was this movie was what The Children of Men should've been. So that's why we went -- Vin Diesel plus no buzz. It turned out to be a good choice.

Vin is your usual sort of man-for-hire -- Thoorop, an ex-smuggler and some sort of independent mercenary. But he's brought in to smuggle a girl from a convent in Mongolia to New York. Except she's not traveling along -- Michelle Yeoh is her protector in the convent and she's not staying behind. It's obvious we are in for a battle of wills between Vin and Yeoh. Yeoh is a class act and always a joy to watch work.

This is a very stylish film. The opening scenes are set in a gritty Russian dystopia full of thugs and weapons. Later, though, we see signs that not all is fallen apart. Some of the tech works, and some of the cities are gleaming beacons of opulence. You can't have utopias without a good dystopia. (grin) More Bladerunner than Mad Max/The Road Warrior. There's a mix of old military hardware followed by some stunning new tech.

What's wrong with the film isn't the plot, the casting, the special effects, the ultra tech advertising in the culture as in Minority Report or Bladerunner, but the damned length. IMDB lists Babylon A.D. as 90 minutes in the U.S. and 101 minutes in France. Mrs. Dr. Phil and I figured it needed to be twenty minutes longer for the ending to make more sense -- 11 minutes shaved from the French version tells me there is film left on the cutting room floor. What is this aversion to showing a sufficient length to a movie? Which do you think will make more money -- (a) a film which is too short so they can have more shows per day or (b) a more compelling film which might generate some repeat business for its strong visuals?

Look, the ending is somewhat of a mess and I put it square on the editor and the studio. But the tech shown... One of my favorite movies, Wim Wender's Until the End of the World, showed us an HDTV and portable supercomputer world before such was possible. When Vin Diesel pulled out a road map from the trunk of this beat up car in the middle of nowhere, the entire audience gasped and buzzed for a few minutes. Screw AAA, Rand McNally and Google Maps -- I want the one Vin uses in Babylon A.D.. There are a number of take-your-breath-away tech moments in this film. So I say go see this movie. (wry-grin)
Recommended Once

Trailers, etc.: Finally saw the trailer for the Americanized movie version of Blindness. We read the book by the Portuguese author José Saramaga (no "n"?) last summer -- we'll see how far they've changed the story. Also saw a poster for Death Note (Part 2) scheduled for Wednesday-Thursday 15-16 October 2008. I wondered when the first part came in a special run back in May, whether they'd do the second. Ha!

Dr. Phil
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