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Films of January 2008

A few films I’ve seen in the first week of 2008:

Gwoemul (The Host) 3 / 5
Think Jaws mixed with Godzilla… in South Korea. I had heard great things about this film, some said it was genre redefining, others that it was to be the “thinking person’s monster movie” (Entertainment Weekly). I beg to differ. There’s no doubt that the special effects are impressive, but it’s the veiled attempts at anti-American political satire that fall far short of the mark for me – it’s just a bit too obvious. Still, it left me satisfied.

Wristcutters: A Love Story 4.5 / 5
“Soon after I killed myself I found a job here at Kamikaze Pizza. It’s not a great job but it’ll do for a while.”
This offbeat, dark comedy is what I imagine Eternal Sunshine would be like if it was directed by the Coen brothers. Given its grizzly subject – an exploration of life and love after suicide – it’s eerily uplifting and optimistic. And don’t forget bizarre… after all, this film follows the ‘life’ of its protagonist, Zia, after committing suicide over his ex-girlfriend and it’s set in a place where others who have committed suicide also live. I found myself smiling from the very beginning. Well, not the very beginning, but shortly after the impressive opening scene.
“Who could think of a better punishment, really? Everything’s the same here, it’s just… a little worse.”

King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters 3 / 5
King of Kong is a documentary following the story of Steve Wiebe as he attempts the world record for the highest score in Donkey Kong. Yes, that’s Donkey Kong as in the arcade game.
Portraying Twin Galaxies (the organisation that tracks video game world records) as an elitist group who try dirty tricks to keep people outside their clique from obtaining high scores on classic games, King of Kong feels like true ‘car crash TV’: especially when – at the one hour mark – Mark Alpiger describes his glove choice: “This is actually, technically, a weight-lifting glove… I discovered in the 80s that you could buy a weight-lifting glove which was fingerless… See the double padding? Occasionally I use this to avoid callouses from certain joystick games.”
So why did this film get such high ratings on so many Internet movie databases? Because – let’s face it – 80’s arcade geeks love the Internet and this film is one of their own. If you’re also one of them, then you’ll love this film too.

Bottle Rocket 2 / 5
I’m a big fan of Wes Anderson so decided to check out his directorial debut from 1996. As it’s also the debut of Luke and Owen Wilson I was expecting good things, but now realise that I should have checked out IMDB’s listing for the film first. There – nestled away in the trivia section – it states that “The film scored the worst test screening points in the history of Columbia Pictures at the time.” Suffice to say, I can see why.
After a quirky, promising, and typically Wes Anderson beginning, it turned into a pretty lacklustre performance for all concerned.

Interview 4 / 5
Let’s look at the premise of this film: a remake of a Dutch classic – directed by Steve Buscemi – wherein a fading political journalist is forced to interview a US soap star “better known for who she’s sleeping with and her fluctuating breast size.” Two people. 90 minutes. Sounds intriguing: this could turn out to be pretentious as hell or a pretty good drama. When Steve Buscemi casts himself as the journalist, things start to look up, but then you notice that Sienna Miller is cast as the actress/interviewee. Hmmm…
However, she’s now dispelled any myths that she’s just a pretty face and can’t act: for what could easily be a painful hour and a half, this sometimes jaded script is brought to life and made not just watchable, but thoroughly enjoyable by some great acting.

I’m all ears if you’ve got any recommendations for week 2!