Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Host (2006) - Joon-ho Bong

The Host (2006)
Director: Joon-ho Bong
Writers: Chul-hyun Baek, Joon-ho Bong, Won-jun Ha
Starring: Kang-ho Song, Hie-bong Byeon, Hae-il Park, Du-na Bae, Ah-sung Ko

The Host (2006) is how a monster movie should be made. It may not be as good as the original Gojira (1954) or the orginal King Kong (1933) but it was pretty damn good. The basic story is simple and has been seen before; a giant monster is created due to the carelessness of humans and then runs amok in the city eating people. In this instance the carelessness is pouring dangerous chemicals down a drain instead of disposing of them properly. The drain then leads to the Han River and this is where are monster is created.

The rest of the story begins to go much deeper than that though. If this story had just been about the monster destroying the city it would have been pretty average and I wouldn't have thought anything of it. The main story is actually that of a family trying to pull together in a crisis in order to rescue a member of the family that has been taken by the monster. You see, the monster doesn't eat all his victims right away, he takes some of them back to his lair and saves them for later.

When the youngest member of the family, 13 year old Hyun-seo is taken by the monster the rest of the family must put aside there differences in order to rescue her. They must also deal with the government that does not want to help them and does not believe that Hyun-seo could still be alive. It is obvious from the start that much of the family does not get along. Hyun-seo's father, Gang-Du, is seen as a slacker by his brother and sister, each of which have problems of their own as well. Gang-Du's father tries his best to keep the family together in this crisis so that they may rescue Hyun-seo.

The family dynamics of the film are probably one of the things that make it so great for me. I really enjoyed watching this family put aside all their differences and do what ever they could to rescue Hyun-seo. The family in many ways seems like real family to me, they aren't perfect and they don't always get along. Now you may say that this has been done before, and I would agree. I have seen plenty of films where the family in the movie would have to put aside all their problems with each other in order to help one member of the family, but some how this film manages to make it interesting. It doesn't seems at all clich' or overdone.

Another interesting part of the story is that of Hyun-seo. For parts of the movie the audience in down in the monster's lair with her and we get to see her trying to survive and find a way out. When a boy younger than her ends up in the lair with her, she takes it upon herself to protect him and get him out safely. It actually turns out that she may very well be the smartest member of the entire family and she also seems to be more calm and collected in a crisis situation. Because of all these things, she was quite an enjoyable character to watch.

This film also manages to have a sense of humour about itself that actually works. Quite often films like this will try to have a sense of humor and it will either not be funny or completely ruin the tone of the film. Not only is the humor in this film quite funny it is also spaced out just right so that it enhances the film instead of taking away from it.

One of the other things I really liked about the movie was that it doesn't make the audience wait 30 or 45 minutes into the movie before it shows the monster. This is a technique that many monster movies use, build up the story first then unleash the monster. The monster in this film is shown very early on in the movie and the story and character are developed in the aftermath of the monster attack. I thought this was a great approach to the film.

My only really complaint about the movie was the CGI used for the monster itself. It really wasn't done all that well, for quite a bit of the film I could tell I was looking at a CGI monster. The CGI was definitely passable and it worked for this film, but it could have been a lot better. However, because of how wonderful the story and characters are in the film I was able to over look the obvious CGI of the monster and really get into the film.

Overall I really liked the film. I was really able to enjoy the story and the characters were all interesting. Quite a bit of the film was intense and suspenseful. Even though the CGI wasn't all the impressive the monster was still pretty cool and definitely had a unique look. I would definitely recommend this to anyone that loves a good movie with a giant monster running amok in a city and gobbling up people.

Rating: 7/10

He Loves Me... He Loves Me Not (2002) - Laetitia Colombani

He Loves Me... He Loves Me Not (2002)
À la folie... pas du tout
Director: Laetitia Colombani
Writers: Laetitia Colombani, Caroline Thivel
Starring: Audrey Tautou, Samuel Le Bihan, Isabelle Carré, Clément Sibony

He Loves Me... He Loves Me Not
(2002) had been sitting in my Netflix Queue for some time. I hadn't heard much about it but my love for Audrey Tautou made me curious to see it. I kept putting it off though, something about the cover and the tagline 'Is she crazy in love, or just crazy?' made it seem kind of like a cutsie romantic comedy that wasn't going to interest me. However my sister who had been putting off seeing it for the same reason finally watched it and told me how great it was. I must thank her because if not for her I might have taken an even longer time to watch this wonderful film.

The film is far from a silly romantic comedy in any way. It falls closer to a thriller than anything else and at some points in the film it even gets rather disturbing. That being said the tagline that I mentioned before should not be taken as a light hearted jest. The tagline should be taken rather seriously because the sanity of the Angelique (Audrey Tautou) is in question for quite a bit of the film.

Audrey Tautou plays Angelique marvelously as is expected since she has yet to disappoint me in any film I have seen her in. It also doesn't hurt that she is pretty damn cute as well. However in this film that cute and innocent looking exterior may be hiding something much more sinister and disturbing. Audrey Tautou does a good job of making us wonder if Angelique is really all there for most of the movie. Sometimes she seems to be on the verge of a breakdown and sometimes she lets her anger do some dastardly things.

The whole movie is put together in a way that the audience really doesn't know what to expect from Angelique. At first she seems like a sweet and innocent girl that wouldn't hurt a fly. However when Loic, the married man that she is dating, begins to leads her on and breaks promises she begins to lose it. Has Loic led her down this path of self destruction or is there something even more troubling going on for Angelique?

One of the best parts of the film is that the audience gets to see the relationship between Loic and Angelique from both sides. Only after the audience has seen both sides can they really see how this relationship came into existence and how Angelique's problems began to manifest themselves. I definitely loved this film; it was a well written and well acted thriller that kept me on my toes quite a bit. I highly recommend this to anyone especially if you are a fan of Audrey Tautou.

Rating: 8/10

The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (1974) - Werner Herzog

The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (1974)
Jeder für sich und Gott gegen alle
Director: Werner Herzog
Writer: Werner Herzog
Starring: Bruno S., Walter Ladengast

The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (1974) was my first experience with a film by Werner Herzog and I must say that I was greatly impressed. I am quite fond of movies that use a simple story to say something bigger and this movie certainly does a wonderful job in that area. Since this is my first Werner Herzog film I'm not sure if that is something he does often or not but it is something I will look for as I delve deeper into his films.

The story of the film is simple however keep in mind that it is based on a true story. Kasper Hauser is found wondering the streets Nuremberg in 1828. He can barely speak and is unable to communicate with anyone in the town. Not knowing where he came from the townsfolk try to help him and give him a place to sleep and food to eat. As the story progress he begins to get an education and is able to tell about how he spent his entire life. Up to the point where he was found wandering the streets he had spent his life locked in a cellar with very little human contact.

On the surface the story is very simple however as the movie progresses we begin to see that Kasper's experience gives him a unique perspective on life. His views on the world are not tainted by societal belief systems. He is able to look at the world through a fresh perspective that only someone in his unique position could see. While this means that he doesn't always understand things, it also means that he often sees things a little more simply and clearly than most people would.

My favorite part of this film comes when someone gives Kasper a logic problem that he must figure out. The problem goes like this; there are 2 villages, in one of them everyone always lies and in the other everyone always tells the truth. You meet someone on a road between these two villages and by using only one question you must decipher which village he comes from.

The Professor asking the question then gives Kasper a few minutes to answer and when he can not answer the Professor provides and extremely convoluted question that must be asked in order to decipher which village the person comes from. Kasper's response is that he knows another, much simpler question to ask. He would simple ask the person if they were a tree frog. If the person says yes than they are from the village where everyone lies and if they say no than they are from the village where everyone tells the truth. The Professor scoffs at this because Kasper is not using logical reasoning to get the answer. However, in reality Kasper's answer to the riddle is no less logical than the riddle itself.

At the end of the film Kasper tells a story about a blind man leading a caravan through the desert. Everyone in the caravan wants to stop because they are heading directly toward mountains but the blind man knows that the mountains are just mirages and that their destination lies in the direction that they are moving. This story that Kasper tells pretty much sums up the view of the film; only someone that is blind to societal conventions can really see the world as it is. You will never truly be able to think for yourself as long as you look at the world through the eyes of society and not through your own eyes.

Rating: 9/10

Sunday, March 11, 2007

300 (2006) - Zack Snyder

300 (2006)
Director: Zack Snyder
Writer: Zack Snyder (Screenplay), Kurt Johnstad (Screenplay), Michael Gordon (Screenplay), Frank Miller (Graphic Novel), Lynn Varley (Graphic Novel)
Starring: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, Amélie Sorel, David Wenham, Dominic West, Gary A. Hecker, James Bradford, Kwasi Songui, Maurizio Terrazzano, Neil Napier, Peter Mensah, Rodrigo Santoro, Stephen McHattie, Vincent Regan

I am in the minority with this opinion but I definitely did not think that 300 (2006) delivered. I wasn't expecting historical accuracy or anything like that, what I was expecting was entertaining action and awesome visuals. Neither of those aspects of the film greatly impressed me. Overall I just didn't see anything about this film that made it stand out as above average film. I won't say I was bored, but I wasn't greatly entertained either.

Nothing about the action in the film really stood out to me. It didn't seem any different than anything I have seen a hundred times before. Well there was one thing that made it different than other movies in the same vein, the overuse of slow motion. I can understand why it was used most of the time, the battle scenes moved quickly so they needed to be slowed down so the audience could see what was going on. However, it was done way too much and several times it wasn't even during fast moving action sequences. In some places it just seemed as if the slow motion was used for no other reason than it looked cool, but after being used so much it stops looking cool.

I also was not overly impressed by the visuals of the film. This definitely did not have the great visuals that I would have expected from something based on a Frank Miller work. Overall I was just unimpressed with the visual look of the film. Washing out the color to make everything have that grainy, reddish tint does not automatically make it look good. Now I haven't read the graphic novel so I don't know how closely Zack Snyder followed Frank Miller's visuals but it is quite possible that it looked a lot better on paper than it did on the screen.

One other kind of nitpicky thing that I didn't like was Xerxes. I had no problem with the character himself, but that ridiculous overdubbed voice they used for him was horrible. I know he saw himself as a God and that the deep voice used for him was part of that but it really just seemed silly to me. And while I am on the subject of voices, I thought for the most part that the voice over narration was unnecessary. I understand that it was done because the one character is actually telling the story of what happened but I think they could have cut it back a lot or removed it entirely. It wasn't at all necessary.

I'm not exactly sure how Zack Snyder did it but he actually managed to take one of the greatest battles in the history of man-kind and make it kind of dull. Then again he also made zombies dull, but that is another review. Overall I thought this was a fairly average film with a lot of potential to be very much more than that. I wouldn't say that I am sorry I saw it but I probably won't be seeing it again.

Rating: 4/10

Friday, March 2, 2007

Fuck (2005) - Steve Anderson

Fuck (2005)
Director: Steve Anderson
Featuring: Steven Bochco, Pat Boone, Drew Carey, Billy Connolly, Sam Donaldson, Janeane Garofalo, Ice-T, Ron Jeremy, Bill Maher, Hunter S. Thompson, Kevin Smith, Lenny Bruce (Archive Footage), George Carlin (Archive Footage)

I'll start off by saying that I liked this film; it was pretty amusing and gave me quite a few good laughs. That being said, it wasn't nearly as good as it good have been. I thought the movie was going to be a humorous analysis of the word in our cultural and the film did that for awhile but a lot of the film became a conservative versus liberal debate on free speech. Granted it is hard to discus the word without touching on a free speech debate, but there is no need to spend the entire film on it.

You especially should not spend the entire film on a free speech debate if you are not going to present your arguments well. One of the arguments they make is that the number of indecency complaints filed with the FCC have increased by an extreme degree since Bush has taken office, 99.9% of these complaints made by the Parents Television Council. I understand what they are saying here and I don't really disagree, but they never make any effort to explain exactly how Bush being in office is related in anyway to the Parents Television Council. They basically just say that Bush took office and the number of complaints greatly increased, they never give any reason for it except that Bush took office. Now, I'm just not trying to defend Bush but the filmmakers just don't do a very good job of connecting him to their argument.

There were some really good parts of the film though. I quite enjoyed the segment on Lenny Bruce, I had heard of him before but I didn't really understand much of who he was until this film. I probably would have liked this movie a lot more had it just been a documentary on him; he seems like quite an interesting character. I might have to look into reading more about him or seeing if there are any documentaries out there that are just about his life.

The other really interesting part of the film for me was when they started showing difference instances of politicians using the word. That was actually quite humorous, Nixon and L.B.J both seemed to be very fond of the word. Some of the quotes from presidents and senators were quite amusing. However the best part of this came when they started talking about Dick Cheney using the word on the floor of the Senate and suddenly all the people in the film that had been talking about how detestable the word is were now saying how it is ok in this case because he just slipped up. I'm not trying to take sides there but if you are going to say that using a certain word makes a person appear to be ignorant and uneducated don't defend its use just because you agree politically with the person using it.

Overall this was not a great documentary but it was a humorous and enjoyable film for the most part. It wasn't nearly as informative as it could have been, most of the subjects covered would have been better off with documentaries of there own because this film seemed to really just breeze through things in order to show the audience as many difference uses of the word as it could. I've seen many people compare this to The Aristocrats (2005) but personally I thought that film was much better; it at least knew not to try and take itself so seriously.

Rating: 6/10