O Movies You May Have Missed column, how I have neglected you.

This column has been MIA for a few weeks, but here’s a passel of recent DVD releases of movies that may have bypassed your local multiplex including those coming this Tuesday.

Coming April 5

I.O.U.S.A. *** 1/2
From the director of Wordplay, this documentary is a sobering bipartisan look at the national debt and how badly screwed the United States is economically. Unfortunately, it came out a bit before the economy really fell off the table and attention turned toward stimulation and away from deficit reduction. Nevertheless, this just means that even if the economy takes off, the problem is just going to be worse than it was before. Rather than point fingers and lay blame, I.O.U.S.A. seeks to illuminate the problem and offer solutions. Intended to be digestible by regular people who are not economics majors, it succeeds at the former but I found it fell a little short of the latter. It’s still worth seeing.

Donkey Punch ***
A gritty, low-budget genre thriller about a group of horny British girls on holiday who hook up with a group of horny British boys who just happen to be crewing a multi-million dollar yacht while the owners are away. What starts out as a sex and drug fueled cruise turns ugly when a tragic accident ignites a boy-vs-girl fight for survival in the middle of the Mediterranean. Up to a point, this is a reasonably entertaining little exploitation thriller with a Dead Calm vibe, but it eventually goes a little goofy trying to deliver the money shot for the gore crowd. It’s not a great movie, but it’s worth seeing for those who go for this kind of thing.

Released March 29

Tell No One *** 1/2
I might like this terrific French mystery thriller even better now than when I first saw it. Taking the familiar Man-suspected-of-murdering-his-wife plot, Guillaume Canet takes a decidedly European approach by focusing on the characters and their emotions. The ending doesn’t quite live up to the strength of the story that comes before it, but it’s still recommended. Check out the LiC review here.

Timecrimes *** 1/2
Spanish filmmaker Nacho Vigalondo’s economical sci-fi thriller is better if you don’t really know anything about it so I’ll spare you the synopsis in the hope you’ll see it anyway. The pleasure comes as twist follows upon twist and a thoroughly ordinary everyman is plunged into an increasingly bizarre sequence of events centering on a mysterious laboratory in the woods. The ending doesn’t completely satisfy keeping this one from being a minor classic, but it’s a lot of fun getting there. Here is the LiC review.

Released March 8

Let the Right One In. *** 1/2
Co-opted by the Internet fanboy crowd as the Swedish vampire flick, cult favorite Let the Right One In is decidedly more than that. Emphasizing character and mood over shocks, Tomas Alfredson’s film is more concerned with the feelings of alienation and love as experienced by the young protagonists central to the story. Unfortunately, again thanks to the fanboy crowd, the DVD release has been controversial. Using several screen shots to illustrate, the folks at Icons of Fright noted some of the stilted translations used for the official DVD release compared to those originally used for the DVD press screener. It’s true, the examples are blunter and altogether less elegant, but not speaking Swedish it’s difficult for me to say which one is more accurate.

The fact is, any subtitle translation is a necessary bastardization of the original language. The eye reads dialogue slower than the ear hears it so information is always truncated in some way. The result is a loss of nuance and in many cases, meaning. It’s important to remember that there’s an art to subtitling that is usually dependent upon the interpretation of a technician several steps removed from the artists responsible for making the film. If you’re reading a movie, you’re simply not seeing the same movie as native speakers no matter how skilled the subtitling.

That’s not to say the Internet outcry regarding Let the Right One In is wrong. I don’t know, I haven’t seen the new release of the film. Either way, the good news is that Magnet has listened and once current stocks run out they’ll be releasing the film using the subtitles from the original theatrical presentation. Packaging for this version will be marked “Subtitles: English (Theatrical).”

My take? If you’ve already seen the movie and want to own it, wait for the reissue. However, if you’ve never seen it and just plan on renting it, don’t worry about the subtitles. The film is so much more than the relatively sparse dialogue anyway. Read the LiC review here then go forth in peace and enjoy.

16 Responses to “Movies You May Have Missed: 4/4/09”

  1. I saw TELL NO ONE innumerable times in the theatre. It’s one of the best thrillers (FRENCH or otherwise) that I’ve ever seen.

    But there are two things I don’t get…

    March 29 was bandied about as the official release date on DVD. But I bought mine from HMV last January. What’s up with that…?

    The other thing is…

    My darling crabcake, please explain this to me when you’ve got a moment.

    “The ending doesn’t quite live up to the strength of the story before it…”

    One of the main reasons I was so swept away – just adored that film unequivocally – WAS the ending. It was so utterly satisfying and perfect.


    Different strokes, n’est pas…?

    I guess it’s just one of those things…

  2. The last three here are all on my list, particularly, of course, Let the Right One In. I may have overreacted at first to the subtitles debacle, but it’s very frustrating to wait and wait and wait to see something and then be told that the dialogue’s translation has been dumbed down from the version everyone else has been going on about. I know that translations are necessarily imperfect reflections of the lyricism of the screenplay in its original language, particularly the idiomatic subtleties. Give a passage to 10 translators, you’ll get 10 slightly different versions. Still, these things can be done with artistry and nuance, and nothing I read led me to believe that the DVD subtitles had improved on the originals. Thus, it’s frustrating. I have not decided whether I’ll go ahead and see this version or not. It’s probably fine. Still irks me, though.

    Very curious about Tell No One. I had no idea you liked it so much, Miranda. I think yours is by far the strongest reaction I’ve heard to it. The ending of the book was my least favorite part.

    And I’m game for Timecrimes just for the twisty bits. Sounds fun.

  3. I am no fan of TELL NO ONE myself, as its convolutions were grating. It did have that wonderful chase sequence though at its center. It’s a derivative piece.

    I have LET THE RIGHT ONE IN already, and I didn’t have an issue with those subtitle translations at all.

  4. Craig, I agree with you re: Tell No One, it felt to me like a fairly mechanical movie with a weak resolution. Still, entertaining. Ditto for Timecrimes, I’m a fan of time travel movies but it didn’t cover any new ground.

    Re: debt, our national debt will be worse in the future but individual personal debt will almost certainly get better as people return to that quaint notion of living within their means.

  5. jb, I adored TELL NO ONE. It was brilliantly conceived, utterly riveting and a complete triumph from start to finish.

    I gave it four stars and it’s #6 on my Top 10 of 2008.

    GUILLAUME CANET wrote the adapted screenplay, directed it and played the most evil character beautifully. He’s definitely one to watch.

  6. Miranda, you are definitely in the majority with TELL NO ONE, as it received generally EXCELLENT reviews across the board. My wife loved it, and our movie companion Broadway Bob did as well. I seem to be the only one with problems, and all the bloggers here have praised it.

    I’ll have to see this again.

  7. Sam, you and I have had this discussion about TNO before, I do believe. Ha ha.

    I’m a strong believer in peoples’ individual and elemental tastes. Whether you think it’s passably good or genuinely appalling, there are some things that just grab you and other things that leave you incredibly cold.

    In most instances, there really is no rhyme or reason to it. Individuals enjoy whatever moves and delights them. Not everything is going to hit you on the same level.

    If you genuinely find TNO derivative as art, I think that’s your personal prerogative and I would definitely be in support of your right to feel that way . Even though I do not share that opinion.

    If you’d like to take another look at it, there is always the possibility that you may feel differently.

    But then again you may dislike it even more.

    Life’s a crap shoot.

    You pays your money, you takes your chances. Like that…

  8. Miranda, everything you say there is more than fair.

    I will definitely watch this DVD again soon. I assure you from my end I have been needled by more than a few on this film. LOL!

    It is also interesting to note that this film had a marathon eight-month run in NYC theatres, longer than any movie last year. That says something.

  9. Well, Taken has grossed $130 million too, which says something even though the movie is mediocre at best.

  10. There’s a difference Jeff.

    TAKEN and a number of other commercial films of dubious quality do well with auidences who are only seeking entertainment. This is common week after week. The worst trash often takes the #1 spot in weekly grosses.

    However, the eight-week run of TELL NO ONE was informed by art-house audiences. This is a subtitled film, that most general audiences wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. The excellent reviews and strong word of mouth allowed this rare phenomenon to play out.

  11. Miranda, I should be more clear, the resolution of the thriller elements I pretty much saw coming a mile away, and I’m not a guy who’s good at predicting endings, but the emotional kick of the last scene sold me on the film.

    As I said, the plot didn’t do much for me, but the emotional core did.

    I think we’re largely on the same page Sam, but I bought into the emotion more than you did and that’s the difference.

    My info shows that March 29 was the US release date. It was released in Region 2 on 10/15/07 and in Canada on 8/21/07. The film was originally released in France in 2006.

    Jeff, I didn’t think Timecrimes broke any new ground, but it was fun and sometimes that’s enough.

    It’s true Jennybee, though subtitling is an imperfect art, there are good subtitles and bad subtitles. I’m not sure if I’m willing to swallow the opinion of a fanboy website armed with a few screencaps, but they could well be right on.

    My guess is that you’ll enjoy the movie either way, but that’s only a guess.

  12. Sam, my point is that Tell No One and Taken have more in common than you think. Taken made $25 million on its opening weekend and will end up making something like 6x that by the time all is said and done. That’s a number that tells us that it had legs and good word-of-mouth as well, which I’m considering as separate from the actual quality of the film.

  13. I think TNO is a decent movie and a good thriller, but I’d agree that it has some convoluted twists and a somewhat weak resolution.

    However, it definitely held my interest and it didn’t fall into most of the usual cliche twists and turns beyond the heroic bad guy that kind of saves the day (my least favorite aspect of the plotting).
    ***END SPOILER***

    I reacted well to it and didn’t feel cheated or disappointed by it. I even got it from Netflix last week to rewatch it with my significant other.

    All that said, I think it and Taken are successes because whether you like subtitles or not, a decent thriller is hard to come by. Audiences like to be thrilled, arthouse or not, and a decent thriller is (sadly) a rare occurrence in a genre typically dominated by cliches, stereotypical characterization, and weak plot devices.

    Timescrimes: Count me in disagreement, Jeff. Timecrimes may not be covering new ground in the realm of time travel (is there new ground to cover at this point?), but it’s a nice twist on the genre in the respect that the plotting and main character are fresh ingredients. I love the fact that it sets up elements so mysteriously and that the main character bumbles through the movie, discovering the truth of his situation as he goes. Combining screwball antics with black humor and time travel…well that worked for me.

  14. Joel, I just felt like I had seen it before (re: plotting).

  15. Gotcha.

  16. Jeff, I see your point and don’t dispute it at all. I was only looking to point out that the moviegoers who embraced TELL NO ONE were of a different nature than those who flocked to see TAKEN.

    But, fair enough.

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