300 (dir. Snyder) - I was roughly 20 minutes into this "movie" and I got a tad bored so I came up with a haiku:
Pectoral muscles, biceps,
Abs, Abs, Abs, Abs, Abs
You like? On one hand I have to give this movie props for being so hilariously homoerotic and, essentially, a softcore gay porno flick (muscle queens and muscle queen worshippers must be in paradise with this thing), especially considering it's target audience is effectively horny 16-year-olds. But then, this weird sort of "movie" is incredibly dull and it even gets bored with itself and retreats into a very long montage sequence. There's really nothing here, is there? Some fancy CGI (I was most impressed with how white they made Gerard Butler's teeth!) and scant clothing can't, however hard some people may want to believe it can, cover up for about five minutes worth of story, terrible acting (poor David Wenham) and a script that asks everyone to TALK LIKE THIS or talk like this.
And, perhaps I'm the only one on the face of the Earth, but I found Gerard Butler's body quite repulsive actually. His grotesque abs made him look fat, although it was obvious that the CGI enhancement was the issue because on the set they don't look anything like they do in the movie. On a positive note, there is definitely Oscar-worthy (at least a nomination) make-up work in 300. Everyone looks so shiny like golden statues and oily and scarred and there was obviously a bit of shadow-makeup used on all those scantily clad men, was there not? C-
The Host (dir. Bong) - I was disappointed by this Korean film after I had heard such great things. For starters, it was too long. Perhaps I was just drowsy but I found myself getting restless during the middle part of this film. I loved the opening and closing passages, bar the very opening scene which I think was utterly ridiculous.
I think for me the main problem I had with The Host was that it wanted to be a comedy in one scene and then a scary movie in the next, yet never merges the two so the film feels disjointed and out of whack. How are we to take something seriously when just a few minutes ago we were treated to slapstick comedy? It works better as a scary movie than a comedy, that's for sure, but unlike something even as frivilous as Tremors realised that the scares and the laughs can't come as the cost of one another and so when the quirky (don't you just hate that adjective) start falling over one another and looking like idiots I found it hard to really invest into a storyline that is quite dramatic and intense. I loved the visual effects though. C+ / C
Becoming Jane (dir. Jarrold) - This was... pleasant. I prefered it a couple of years ago when it starred Keira Knightley, but I can't dismiss the fact that Anne Hathaway and James McAvoy are incredibly pretty people to watch and the costumes are sumptuous. But... you know. It's all just a tad wishy-washy, non? C+
Remember, they weren't even attempting to hide the similarities between the two movies.
Hairspray (dir. Shankman) - Basically, if you saw the trailer and thought you would like it then you almost certainly will and, well, I did too. It's just so joyous and light on it's feet. Newcomer Nikki Blonsky is a breath of fresh air and if she never makes another movie again in her life (she already has though!) I'd still be happy to have her performance here. The rest of the cast is equally entertaining though. The men come of strongest, with people like James Marsden, Elijah Kelley, Christopher Walken and even Zac Efron impressing. From the women, Michelle Pfeiffer is a hoot as the racist velma, while Brittany Snow and Amanda Bynes play their bubblegum ditz's with charm.
I've come up with my own analogy when it comes to John Travolta and his performance. It's like you're watching a scary motorcycle stuntman. He drives off the ramp and while midair he starts doing tricks and you think he's going to crash and burn and then he lands safely. Throughout Hairspray I was frightened he was just going to turn into a disaster, but thankfully he was right on the very edge, which is where I think he needed to be. And, quite frankly, when he starts singing and dancing (despite the latex and the fact that he's playing a woman) the fears wash away momuntarily until he's back in regular mode and then it's back to being frightened. Technically the film is aces too. B+
Ratatouille (dir. Bird) - There comes a moment in Brad Bird's followup to The Incredibles right towards the end where the food critic Ego, voiced superbly by Peter O'Toole - if there was a voice performance Oscar he'd finally get his Academy Award! - eats the title food and has a brief flashback to his childhood, before writing his critique on the newly modified restaurant. It is a beautiful scene and should win Brad Bird the first Academy Award for the writing of an animated film (although, I guess something better could come along by year's end).
The rest of the film is so perfectly rendered. The animation is amazing, the voice work is precise and not riddled with celebrity voices (Dreamworks, take a hint you idiots), the cooking sequences seem so effortlessly exact and, considering it's Brad Bird, even the couple of action sequences are thrilling and exciting. You can't really ask much more of Ratatouille, yet it just keeps on giving. It'll be one of the year's very best. A