On the Aisle (2008)

Badly flawed

Content written by Tony Macklin. Originally published on March 6, 2008 in Fayetteville Free Weekly.

Vantage Point and U2-3D

The first two months of the movies of 2008 are over, and it was a dismal run. When National Treasure was the best 2008-release I could recommend, I know how feeble it was.

Vantage Point is a patented representative of this year's early mediocrity. Like Cloverfield, Rambo and Jumper, it opened at the top of the box office in its first week's release.

Vantage Point at No.1 is like Dennis Kucinich is No. 1. Actually I think DK makes more sense than VP.

If Vantage Point had been released last year, as it was scheduled to be released, it would have sunk like a stone amidst the other better movies. The fact that Vantage Point was on the shelf and only 88 minutes long are signs that speak to its mediocrity.

But wait. The studio held Vantage Point for release during the movie wasteland of early 2008. Advertising could sell this piece of junk. So TV was inundated with ads for Vantage Point.

Vantage Point is the story of how the American president (William Hurt) is shot at a rally where he is to sign a multi-national agreement in Spain. Actually, Vantage Point was photographed in Mexico City, but this movie cares not a whit for authenticity, so it doesn't matter.

We are dragged through repeated sequences of different people seeing the shooting. It's basically a gimmick -- the same story repeatedly told and retold, rewound and repeated ad nauseum. Some audiences counted the retellings as they came on the screen; others just groaned.

Twenty minutes into the movie I knew who the bad guy was. It was Bill Murray. A thriller should not be tiresome or silly. Vantage Point is both tiresome and silly. It tests one's tolerance for being jerked around.

A good cast is hamstrung by a director (Pete Travis) who has not made many movies; actually he's made one too many. The writer (Barry L. Levy) is trite. The cast is baffled. Forest Whitaker keeps looking into his camera -- as though looking for another movie -- and muttering, "Where is Idi Amin?"

Dennis Quaid runs around as though he's anxiously trying to find a bathroom. Sigourney Weaver disappears. She left early to catch a flight home. William Hurt smiles benignly as though thinking of where he's going to dinner that night.

Vantage Point can't decide whether it has constipation or diarrhea. But you get the metaphor. It had to happen sooner or later, ads rule, so splice together a string of trailers and make a movie out of them. That's what Vantage Point did. Vantage Point is trailer trash.

U2-3D

In my ignominious search for quality at the movies in 2008, I was nearly at witlessness's end. In desperation I donned dark glasses and looked beyond my usual dimensions. Then out of the tomb of a theater, I found a movie I can heartily recommend. What a concept. Have no fear. Bono is here.

U2-3D is not a regular film, but I can't be choosy. It's a concert film that is an enjoyable, stirring experience. U2-3D is an isle of style and sense in a sea of mediocrity. I cling to it, like I cling to my sanity.

Although it may seem like one concert, U2-3D was culled from more than 100 hours of footage from several U2 concerts from Latin America during the Vertigo World Tour in 2006. It has footage from concerts in Mexico City, Brazil, Chile and Argentina.

U2-3D is like witnessing a concert but at some distance. You're not in the crush of humanity, although you are aware of them. You get some of the feeling of being there because of the 3D, waving hands, an ocean of bobbing bodies, girls atop the shoulders of men. But the aroma is more popcorn than other pungent delights.

Also U2-3D has about a dozen songs, half the number of songs at an average U2 concert. Therefore it's not as exhausting or exhilarating as the usual U2 concert experience. But the strength of U2-3D is the presence of the phenomenal Irish band. You get to see close-up Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen and their dramatic moves and kinship. Even if you don't know their songs, I imagine the music will still entice you. The beat and lyrics are engaging.

The stature and impact of U2 is remarkable in this film. There's a strong sense of being an international experience. The fans are mesmerized. I could do with a few less of those shots and at times the film almost wanders into the land of cult. Bono and his brethren have broken down international walls.

Knowing Bono's propensity to be political, one might be a little leery, but only one scene is politically jarring. A young woman reads The Bill of

Human Rights. But this is followed by the rousing song, Pride (In the Name of Love) -- the anthem to Martin Luther King. Then music again makes the crowd and us soar.

U2-3D is the first digital, multi-camera production of a live-action event. Although the 3D is unnecessary, it does have its place. One of the benefits is seeing the distance and scope between band members on separate ministages or runways.

During his renditon of "Sunday Bloody Sunday," Bono reaches out into the theater. It's a great moment. We also get evocative close-ups of the quartet.

There are intimate moments when Bono touches The Edge's neck and when he kisses Adam Clayton. They seem natural not forced.

Perhaps Bono's most moving statement is when he tells his audience how Ireland and Argentina have come through similar experiences, and can share a future.

U2-3D was directed by Catherine Owens and Mark Pellington (Arlington Road). Pellington has the most graphic section of the film with a 3D waterfall of letters to illustrate the song, "The Fly."

If you hate Bono, you'll obviously hate this movie. If you love Bono, you'll like this movie. If you don't know much about Bono, I imagine you'll like it a lot. U2 seems to be a movie for a wide audience. The band reportedly has said this film will not be released on DVD or broadcast. That's an added reason for seeing it now, in a theater. I'm going back.


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