The Life of JaWS

A blog by Jason Sansbury

Friday, March 16, 2007

Friday Movie Reviews (Vol. 1)

So rather than spreading out my movie and DVD reviews over several posts, I am going to start trying to consolidate them into one post each week.

So this week, we have a movie with a surprising twist, an overrated gladiator movie, a funny film that I don't think is as funny as everyone else and some dang fine television.
For starters, Billy Bob Thornton has an amazing gift of picking roles. Now, obviously sometimes he does movies that are downright rancid (see: Bad Santa) but sometimes he does incredibly moving, well crafted roles that tell a good story. In the film The Astronaut Farmer, Thornton leads a great cast that tells the amazing story of a former NASA level worker, who left the program to take care of his family and wants to go into space. And out of that framework, there is a great story about dreams, family and small town life. And it isn't Disney-fied. It has some sudden twists that I wasn't expecting and because of that unpredictability, it may be the best movie I have seen so far this year. Thornton deserves some Oscar-buzz for his role but likely won't see it because of the film's early release date. The rest of the cast also does remarkable work, including Virgina Madsen who plays Thornton's wife. I definitely think the film is worth watching and (for you youth ministry folks) it would be a good film for the dreaded long bus rides on trips. I am hoping it will release on DVD before our annual choir tour.

Next up, on the advice of a friend, I went to see the film 300.Now in the interest of full disclosure, there were many things going into this movie that would bias me in favor of it. For example, I find this genre to be home of some great movies (Braveheart) and some good movies (Gladiator). Second, way back in the day, I was a comic book nerd and would be again if I could afford it. And this movie is based on the work of Frank Miller, a well known comic writer and artist. (For my money Miller's work on Daredevil in the 1980s is unparalleled and I can still remember the joy I had when I found the complete run in a bookstore in Panama City, Florida for like $10. The guy had no idea what he had...) That being said, I think the film 300 is good but flawed.

This film does an amazing job of explaining itself in historical contest and then deriving itself down to a story that everyone can relate to. Some of the buzz of the film has been that the film is a current political allegory, which I dismiss. I just think it is a story where you can read more into it if you like but don't have to.

So the flaws of the film? A complaint I have with a lot of modern movies, which I call the "Just because you can doesn't mean you have to" rule. In essence, sometimes technology and the world's skewed sense of decency means that you can get away with far more in the movie-making industry than ever before. And because artists feel like they can, they sometimes needlessly push the boundaries, calling it realism. And, in my opinion, this movie falls into that trap. For example, there are a couple of brutal beheadings that are shown in graphic detail and their inclusion doesn't strengthen the plot. Additionally, there are a couple of odd 90 second runs of nudity that don't seem to answer any plot issues or further the plot along. And, for me, it distracted from the general essence of the film. (Youth Minister's note: Take 300 off the list of films you can watch with kids...)

Next up, via Netflix, I watched the critical darling comedy Little Miss Sunshine. And I have to say: Eh. It isn't the worst comedy I have ever seen, nor is it the smartest comedy I have ever seen. It is definitely a dark comedy and lives and dwells in its darkness. The closing sequence is funny but in a weird way. RANT ALERT: I did find it interesting that the closing sequence is made in such a way that condemns the beauty pageant culture (and deservedly so) but juxtaposes that culture by having a little girl do what is in essence a strip club routine (taught by her grandfather!) to the song Super Freak by Rick James. Talk about confusing and mixed messages. I mean, I realize that we live in Bizarro world, but do we really have to glorify it?

Lastly, I am a couple discs deep into Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 2. Again, I must say that I am deeply impressed with the show. Season 2 seems to be when things kick it up a notch. For starters, Spike, a long running character, gets introduced. Second, the characters seem to really come into their own. My personal favorite is Xander, who is average in every way, except heart. No powers, not smart like Willow or wise like Giles but still seems to be the one who pushes and moves the Scooby Gang on. If you haven't seen the show or thought it "kiddy" I can't recommend it to you enough. (PS- Season 8 of Buffy, as told in comics hit the open market this week and promptly sold out. Joss Whedon is the idol of nerds everywhere...)


At 4:07 PM , Blogger Algernon said...

I cant believe you dis 300. Stylized though it may be, an eye-gasm it remains.


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