Tuesday, April 03, 2007

recent movie reviews

I've seen several movies lately: the 300, Last King of Scotland, a Korean horror movie The Host, Blades of Glory, & The Lookout. The 300 was quite awful despite good fight scenes & wonderfully muscled men. Every line is delivered in a portentous manner that makes me want to fast forward, the pause before each one is so long. Xerxes is the prettiest drag queen there ever was, while the rest of the Persian army is apparently made up of ogres & masochistic minions. I did like the Queen, Lena Headey, & King Leonidas, Gerard Butler, mainly because they're gorgeous & a little more convincing than the rest of the cast. Maybe it was unintentional, but the whole movie felt like a heavy-handed attempt to moralize about how much better being Spartan & disciplined is than decadent & gay (apparently) like Persia. It felt reactionary as well as inaccurate - the Puritans trying to keep out the Romans, so to speak. & they really should have kept calling the battle place Thermopylae. The Hot Gates just sounds stupid & makes it even more of a farce.

Last King of Scotland was disturbing & thought-provoking. I quite liked the young Scottish doctor, & it was fascinating to watch him start working for Idi Amin without meaning to. I liked how the film showed Amin slowly spiraling into paranoia & madness. There are some brutal torture scenes towards the end, which I didn't enjoy as much as one would expect. I'm not sure about the historical accuracy - the end feels a little pat, but overall it was a really good movie & made me think about how easy it is to lose touch with reality when you are on top.

The Host has to be the saddest horror movie I've ever seen. I lost track of how many times everything looked like it would work out but then didn't, usually in a really upsetting, heart-wrenching way. It's also frightening, mainly because I was always being startled by the monster or unexpected things. Basically the monster is the product of mutation due to chemicals being dumped in the Han River (I think that's in Seoul). It kind of looks like a dinosaur - very big & powerful on land as well as in the water. One day it comes out of the river & starts snacking on people. Soon we see that it's taking some of them back to a concrete hole somewhere in the sewer system. The government tries to contain all the people who've come into contact with the monster, thinking it's spreading a virus. This is a problem for one family, because their little girl is in the secret lair & no one believes them, so they need to go rescue her. That was a very upsetting part of the movie - the way the bureaucracy was absolutely pig-headed & wouldn't listen to anything, & there was a lot of unnecessary pain as a result. There's a lot of action - sometimes the movie's a bit silly, but it seems intentional, like they were poking fun at themselves & the horror genre. I really liked it.

Blades of Glory was probably the funniest movie I've seen this year. It's very silly, but the plot is actually kind of clever, especially the way they justify having Jon Heder & Will Ferrell skate together. Will Arnett & Amy Poehler are great as the villains in the piece, & Pam from The Office is their sister & Jon Heder's love interest. There are so many lines that were roll-on-the-floor funny - I think my favorite was when Heder says nighttime is dark for everyone, & Ferrell retorts, "Not for people who live in Alaska. Or people with night-vision goggles." Maybe it's the crazy way he says it. He's fantastic at every permutation of his character - arrogant bad boy, disillusioned drunk, annoying fat asshole, & finally older wiser bad boy. The two of them play off each other really well - the movie just effortlessly brings you into its world because everything works so seamlessly. Definitely go see this one.

The Lookout was also thought-provoking, partly because of the issues it raises & also all the loose ends it doesn't tie up. Usually every little detail that a movie focuses on comes to be important in the end, but not here. It seemed more like life that way, so I liked it. The lookout is a young guy who crashed his car after the high school prom, sustaining severe head injuries & killing 2 friends in the process. Because of the head injuries he has difficulty remembering things & frequently can't control his impulses. He falls in with a bad crowd, partly because of a girl (Isla Fischer, the crazy sister from Wedding Crashers) who seems to have been instructed to seduce him, & is swept up in their plans to rob the bank he works at. It was a little scary watching him keep making the wrong choice & get sucked into evil - it seemed so ordinary, like something that could happen to anyone. I recommend this one too.

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