The High Countries

because it’s all paperweight…

Babylong A.D. (2008)

Toorop (Vin Diesel) looks onward in the film's finest moment on screen

Toorop (Vin Diesel) looks ahead as Aurora (right, Mélanie Thierry) follows behind in the film's finest moment.

Disappointing Days

by Bryce VanKooten

Babylon A.D. read exactly like the studio knew it would: short, not-so-sweet and entirely forgettable. It’s incredibly unfortunate that a movie which started out as the daring, futuristic novel Babylon Babies got chopped up into an overtly uninspiring and subsequently shallow PG-13 disaster.

Babylon A.D., the story of Toorop, a veteran-turned-mercenary who takes the job of escorting a woman named Aurora from Central Asia to New York, stays fresh and witty in its first hour. What Toorop (Vin Diesel) thinks is an ordinarily dangerous mission soon becomes much more when he discovers that his guest is carrying twin babies, thought to be the next Messiahs. The movie begins quickly and the first hour is brilliantly average — one can only help but admit there is little chance of a blockbuster after hearing zero publicity. All preconceived notions aside, there are actually quite a few great turns at its opening, including a border-crossing scene equaling intensity with any action film. Needless to say, after the 40 minutes my hopes were high.

The movie could have got one of two ways, really. Either it stayed true to its first hour – gritty, surprising evil marked by mysterious characters or get lazy and forever be lost to theatrical mediocrity. Unfortunately (again), it was the latter. What started out great in this production plunder (over budget, cutting room hell, fist fights, tears, etc) ultimately pandered its way boredom. I had justifiable misconceptions walking in because I have seen too many movies like it. I was hoping to be surprised and hoping that the Studio made the right decision by cutting one MPAA rating and 70 minutes from this potentially epic story, however, the Hollywood equation rings sad but true: one star + below average script + cute girl = guaranteed to at least get your money back. It’s nothing short of box-office fraud I know, but I maintain that this movie had at least a chance to be above average, before coming up far short. And my oh my, did it come up short.

The movie ended in the direct opposite way it began. We were met with intrigue and let out with boredom. We were ushered in with mystery and exited with apathy. Nothing kept me thinking, nothing kept me caring. The movie ended in a lump of lazy, backward thinking – as if we cared what happened to the babies? The last scene of the film (which could have been filmed in my backyard for all I know) was about as entertaining as a Colonoscopy. Standing outside some building (his house?), Toorop held the hands of two very different looking children (the babies?) in an act of true love (Someone was in love? Who was in love?) and a commitment to raise the children on his own (Aurora’s dead? How? We just saw her at the hospital…). All this coming from a man whom we’d grown to love by seeing him throw innocent people from a vessel he was trying to board out of self preservation. Apparently Toorop turned nice in three seconds; who would’ve guessed?

If I could be blunter, I would. There were many, many things wrong with this movie outside of the fact that it was created on the floor of a cutting room. The fight sequences had to be ambiguously edited in order to show the least amount of production error and lack of footage. The characters, although almost brimming with development possibility, were left to hang like a basketball mid-flight, as if we were watching a trilogy without the courtesy of seeing part one and having no hope for part three. It was nearly torturous.

However, it’s hard for me to sit here and comment solely on the end of the movie. As I said before, the opening was quite brilliant. The rigidness of Toorop was a lovably fallen character and Aurora, played by the beautiful (and teeny) Mélanie Thierry, brought a terrific, silent balance to the harsh world around her. The characters were there. The story was in place. The stage had been set, if only for an above average picture, if only for those willing to see the two-plus-hour epic, if only given the chance.

We weren’t.

So Babylon A.D. is lost. At least until the next one.

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September 8, 2008 Posted by | Entertainment | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rudimentary Thinking

Barack Obama speaks 'hope' and 'change' in Lancaster, PA on Sept 9th, 2008

Barack Obama preaches 'hope' and 'change' in Lancaster, PA on Sept 9, 2008.

Hope, Change, Press Firmly on the Chad.

Guest Writer: Christopher Rudy

A couple of days ago, I wrote to a friend, concerning some of the ambiguity that bombarded me when I entered barackobama.com.

“…As I made my way back to the homepage of the site in question, my eyes caught a glimpse of something I had missed: the central quote to his campaign. The central thesis of his quest against tyranny – the proverbial gospel of our modern-day William Wallace:

“I’m asking you to believe. Not just in my ability to bring about real change in Washington … I’m asking you to believe in yours.”

I was taken aback. I read it again. I read it again. What does that even mean?”

This is the response that followed that email…

(Bryce), I have a few thoughts to add, if I may be so bold.

I.
The inherent simplicity and broad-based appeal of Obama’s proclamation of change belie the inherent simplicity of Obama’s proclamation of change. I did not accidentally repeat myself. In proclaiming “change” as if it is some rarely extolled political virtue, Obama has ignited fervor among his cultish following. But is change a rarely extolled political virtue? Is that word; change, as out of the ordinary as Obama would like us to believe? Most Obama supporters are so worked up in their Obama-frenzy that they forget ask this question, or even question what lies beneath this change (crappy movie, great phrase).

II.
The answer is a resounding no. Change is not novel. In fact, every political candidate ever has run on the exact same platform. If you can tell me the last candidate who proclaimed, “I am going to do every single thing my predecessor did. I will support what he supported. I will not change a thing.” I will give you a bag of skittles. For free.
For those of you keeping score at home, that is one bag of skittles for me, and zero for you.

III.
To make matters worse, Obama has never spelled out his proposed changes in any great detail. Obama’s failure to elucidate his changes are exactly why he has  garnered the sort of mass-appeal that I thought could only come on the heels of Paul McCartney and those
handsome devils from the UK. The vacuum created by the generality of his rhetoric is quickly and inexplicably filled with irrational hysteria. When Obama steps out from behind the Parthenon to a crowd of 80,000 I can’t help but wonder if behind the boisterous applause is the poignant thought, “Yay, I’m clapping and I don’t know why.” Must be clapping for change.

IV.
Yet Obama’s change, he would have us believe, is different from the run-of-the mill-change that every political candidate ever has espoused. His change is going to bring everyone together. That sounds cool. Like Gilligan’s Island meets Candyland (I have no idea what that means). But is it realistic? Have you ever seen a McCain supporter and an Obama supporter interact? Invariably, every time Obama promises this change, he alienates the proportion of the population that disagrees with him. And just how does that bring everyone together? It doesn’t.  Res ipsa loquitur. The thing speaks for itself. Now, more than ever, play-at-home pundits are a bumper sticker away from getting their ass kicked by the opposition’s constituency. The ferocity of our partisanship in these tumultuous times is intensifying. And Obama is fanning the flames. The proof is in the pudding.

V.
I have another, slightly longer word for Barack Obama’s vision of change. It is called communism. It tried. It tried again. And again. And millions of people suffer every day as a result of its mechanistic, misleading imposition of the state on its people.  I am not a sensationalist. I am not a Conspiracist. But I don’t have to be either to recognize that the socialistic leanings of Barack Obama are not what this nation needs. Not now. Not ever.

September 8, 2008 Posted by | Entertainment | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment