Friday, March 6, 2009

Friday's Featured Film - 3/6/09

New movies are usually released to theaters every Friday, but who’s got 10 bucks these days to drop on a movie that may well be a load of crap? Given those odds, each Friday I offer an alternative on DVD that you can rent at your local video store (or in some cases, avoid at all costs). Some will be new releases, others you may have to hunt for, but all of them are available to light up your small screen should it be a lazy Friday night.


The new film The Watchmen is getting a lot of publicity this week. I’d never heard of the graphic novel until the trailers started showing up, and to be honest I’ve not really been hooked by what I’ve seen so far. However, I’m impressed by the stylish look of the clips I’ve seen, no doubt due in large part to director Zach Snyder. Snyder directed another film from a couple years ago with style to spare, the similarly-graphic-novel based action romp 300. For those who aren’t put off by some of the content, the movie is a beautifully crafted action film that’s certainly worth a look.

300 is a stylized retelling of the ancient battle of Thermopylae. Based on a graphic novel by the acclaimed Frank Miller (Sin City, The Spirit), the movie follows Spartan King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and his band of 300 elite warriors as they defend Greece from the onslaught of the Persian army, millions-strong and led by self-styled god Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro). As his wife, Queen Gorgo (Lena Heady, who fans of FOX’s Terminator TV show will instantly recognize), seeks diplomatic support for her husband and his men back home, the brave 300 seek to hold a narrow past against impossible odds.

Careful history, this is not. The movie is ultra-stylized, from the exaggerated and fantastic creatures to the beautiful CG landscapes to the amazing combat cinematography that splatters a generous amount of blood in every direction. On that front, let me point out straight away that this is not a film for the squeamish. The violence is graphic – stylized, but graphic. It’s not the brutal realism of Saving Private Ryan or Braveheart, but the slo-mo hacking of limbs and heads will simply be too much for some viewers. Between that reality and the film’s brief sexual scenes, the content may make this one a non-starter for some viewers. If not, this is a masterfully constructed, tightly-wound, and surprisingly artistic action film. When we first saw it, Heather and I both walked out of the theater buzzing about the film’s breathtaking visual sense. Color is used with purpose and precision, and the movie takes the style and cinematic tone of Sin City (which, for all it’s cinematographic wonder, was ultimately quite shallow) and pairs it with a far more engaging story. Butler is captivating as Leonidas, and he gets good work from a supporting cast that includes Lord of the Rings alum David Wenham and Shakespearean actor Vincent Regan (who fans of the movie Troy will recognize). All-in-all, this recommendation carries a strong warning for content, but if your interest is piqued by The Watchmen’s visual flair but you don’t want to shell out 10 bucks to see if the film delivers, head down to your local video store and check out a copy of 300 instead. - ***1/2 (out of 4)

300 is rated R for graphic battle sequences throughout, some sexuality and nudity.

1 comment:

Darius said...

Great movie... both the story and the cinematography are superb. Sin City is the type of movie that was really cool the first time I watched it, but when I've seen portions of it again, it's lost its pizazz. I have a feeling that 300 would still be enjoyable in a second viewing.