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A Week’s Worth of Movies

The Simpsons Movie

I started laughing the moment the feature started and I rarely stopped until the credits had finished rolling. It was manic and hilarious and brilliant, running the gamut from broad slapstick to cheap lowbrow to keen satire and back again in the space of a few seconds. The pace just never let up. Oh, and if I may say so, the Simpsons themselves are looking better than ever with glossy animation against backgrounds that appear to have a definite depth to them.

I’m not a long-time Simpsons fan, honestly . . . I’ve seen just enough to know most of the characters and catch a few in-jokes. It doesn’t even matter. This is just funny, funny stuff for sophomores of all ages.

Akeelah and the Bee

I’ve been waiting to see this movie for quite awhile, and I finally got my hands on a library DVD copy. Great performances from Laurence Fishburn and Keke Palmer strengthen a quality movie that also happens to be family-friendly (for what it’s worth). There are plenty of thoughtful themes and the film has a really nice soundtrack . . . lots to like, in other words.

For my money, though, you’ll get more bang for your buck out of the excellent Spellbound. Not to be confused with Hitchcock’s psychological thriller, Spellbound is a charming, riveting documentary about several kids who competed in the National Spelling Bee in 2002. Ultimately, Akeelah and the Bee is a fictionalized version of the same. It is good in its way, but lacks a certain tension when you’ve already seen the real deal.

Freedom Writers

I expected something a lot more cliche-ridden than this, to tell the truth, so Freedom Writers was already a little ahead of the game in my book. Inspirational-but-gritty teacher stories based on fact aren’t really my genre, but I have to admit that this movie had style and depth backed by some solid acting from all concerned. The only thing I didn’t find compelling was the driving force behind the last act: the students fight to keep the same teacher on into the remaining two years of their high school experience and succeed. The epilogue revealed that she went on to teach many of them in college.

What, so a first-year teacher works a miracle in bringing a group of high school students together and getting them excited about learning, but then they refuse to leave the nest? And she follows them for several years, nursing them along, denying her gifts from all the classes that came after? How is that an accomplishment worthy of its own feature film? Oh, well.

The Host

This Korean monster film made waves among those who like that sort of thing, so I checked it out. I guess I just don’t like that sort of thing. The creature was pretty sweet, I’ll grant that, with awesome visuals and a cool design. And there is some great comedy, as well . . . but not nearly enough. The movie takes itself too seriously, and gets severely bogged down along the way.

Also, I know that a really stupid origin is standard for the genre, but have we run so far out of ideas that an excess of formaldehyde in the river is the best they could come up with for the reason behind this creature’s existence? I suppose that just as monsters created by radiation spoke to a Cold War fear of nuclear annihilation, so this speaks to concerns about foreign (American) presence in Korea and pollution . . . or something. It still seemed a bit weak.

Hairspray

What an outrageously fun bubble-gum piece this is. Shallow as a half-filled kiddie pool, but with several show-stopping musical numbers and a disarmingly tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. The cast is pitch-perfect, with a distinctive blend of recognizable faces and talented newcomers. I saw it twice.

A friend that I saw it with the first time leaned over at the end and whispered, “And that’s the true story of how racial harmony was achieved in America.” Yes, this is a very facile treatment of the civil rights’ struggles of the ’60s, but it doesn’t even pretend to take itself seriously, so that’s okay. I’ve got the soundtrack now, and I might just want to add this to my growing collection of musicals when it hits DVD. Now if they’d just film a big-screen version of Wicked, my life would be complete.

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~ by Jared on August 5, 2007.

One Response to “A Week’s Worth of Movies”

  1. The thing you wrote about the Host, that formaldehyde made the host… yeah that does seem weak. You have to go read about it on your own though, there may be some symbolism there that is not in western films, maybe that formaldehyde is associated with death, so the beasts are living but at the same time they are dead?!?! I don’t know, but you can get the DVD and listen to the commentary.

    Foreign films have specific reasons why things happen in the story that seem incoherent. In Paprika, there was a lot of symbolism, but you would only know that if you listened to the commentary. japanese symbolism works differently than western symbolism, and it is unfortunate that we, as americans, can’t instantly pick up those symbols.

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