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Thumbnails July 08

by Tony Medley

Tell No One (10/10): French writer-director Guillaume Canet has made Harlen Coben’s bestselling thriller about a doctor accused of murdering his wife eight years previously into the best film I’ve seen this year. For this, his second film, Canet won the César Award (the French Oscar) for Best Director in 2007. With terrific, tension-packed pacing and highlighted by an exceptional performance by François Cluzet, this is one not to miss. In French.

Mongol (10/10): When I read “The Secret History of the Mongols” a few years ago, I developed a picture of Genghis (pronounced Jen-gis) Khan’s upbringing in my mind’s eye. This tells the tale of Temudgin (Genghis Khan’s given name) from the age of 9 until he assumed power. Shot on location where the events occurred, the cinematography is overwhelmingly beautiful and as I imagined. This is as exciting a thriller as any Bourne movie, as just about everyone was out to kill him. It’s helped immeasurably by a tender love story. This is not the bloodthirsty, Hitleresque conqueror painted heretofore, but a thoughtful, brilliant man who could neither read nor write yet conquered the world. In Mongolian.

Hancock (8/10): An offbeat superhero movie with a good story, smashing performances by Will Smith, Charlize Theron, and Jason Bateman, let down by a wrap-up ending involving the moon that is a disgrace to what came before; what a shame.

Roman de Gare (7/10): Bolstered by an exceptional performance by Dominique Pinon, this is a unique and interesting story (written and directed by “A Man and a Woman’s” Claude Lelouch) despite plot holes that left me remembering scenes and lines that seemed to belie the ending. In French.

Wanted (5/10): Inventively directed by Russian Timur Bekmambetov, this is a phantasmagoric, action-packed trip with car chases and tantalizing special effects. James McAvoy is in almost every scene and carries the film. Unfortunately, profuse graphic violence trumps all the good parts.

Reprise (3/10): Told almost entirely in the subjunctive, one doesn’t really know what, when, or if it happened. The story of two friends, both of whom perceive themselves as writers, this is little more than pretentious pseudo-existential European hogwash, although gorgeous newcomer, Viktoria Winge, gives a memorable performance. In Norwegian.

Get Smart (1/10): The success of the TV series was due mostly to the brilliance of Don Adams, Barbara Feldon, and Edward Platt. Their replacements, Steve Carrell, Anne Hathaway, and Alan Arkin, miss the mark by miles in this misguided film that can’t decide whether it’s a thriller or a comedy. It’s neither.

Sex and the City (0/10): What do “Sex and the City,” ABC’s “The View,” and FNC’s “The O’Reilly Factor” have in common? They are full of babbling, occasionally coherent, women. The uniform de rigueur for working women in New York is black pants with different tops and comfortable shoes, not the designer outfits and 4-inch high heel Jimmy Choo shoes in which these four women parade. This unfunny chick flick that defames professional New York women as superficial, self-centered, and lame-brained is as much of a fantasy as “The Chronicles of Narnia.”

You Don’t Mess With the Zohan (0/10): Producer Judd Apatow is on a crusade to kill comedy as we know it, and star-co-writer Adam Sandler is a key member of his coterie. They make films like this, which epitomizes their idea of humor, concentrating on jokes about sex and excrement, things for which the only audience seems to be unsophisticated, inexperienced teenaged boys. The talk is coarse; the moral tone somewhere below the gutter. It is a telling commentary on the taste and judgment of Sandler and Apatow that they would foist such an appallingly idiotic film on an unsuspecting, trusting, public.