Arthur and the Minimoys
"Pan's Labyrinth" was so showered with praise by most critics that I possibly expected a bit too much from it as a result. Don't get me wrong. It's an excellent movie but not quite the masterpiece I was hoping for. Set in the fascist Spain of 1944, a pregnant mother and her young daughter Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) are sent to stay with the new man in their lives, a sadistic army captain who is waging a merciless war with communist guerrillas in the surrounding countryside. Ofelia retreats into a world of fairy tales and soon becomes caught up in an apparently real-life fairy tale of her own after meeting a faun called Pan in an old labyrinth. "Pan's Labyrinth" is nothing less than captivating throughout, brilliantly juxtaposing the horrors of the Spanish civil war with the mysteries of Ofelia's fantasy world. In many respects it's far superior to the simplistic and bombastic "Lord of the Rings" films because of the way it exposes the nightmarish brutality feeding the fantasy. It's a bold and at times brilliant way of approaching history. The ending was the only slight disappointment for the way it wrapped up an otherwise flawless story a little too neatly.
( Tim Ochser )
Based on the Frank Miller comic book, "300" is an extremely enjoyable and rather bizarre experience. The movie dramatically recreates the legendary tale of how 300 Spartan warriors led by King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) stood up to the Persian king Xerxes and his vast army of more than 100,000 men. It's all extremely over-the-top but then it's supposed to be. "300" could easily have been a disaster but its deliberately cartoon-like approach to the story ends up being its saving virtue. This is history on steroids along with an entire cocktail of performance-enhancing drugs. The heroism of the Spartan warriors is so ridiculously heroic that it enables you to sit back in your seat and enjoy the bloodbath. At times it's hard to know whether director Zack Snyder really believes in the speech-bubble dialogue of the characters or if he's secretly mocking George Bush's speechwriters. Either way, it's extremely entertaining and a pleasure to look at. The Iranian government claimed the movie was an insult to Iran, which clearly demonstrates they don't read many comic books. There's no doubt that "300" is totally absurd but in this case it's all the more amusing for it. History has never been so much fun.
( Tim Ochser )
"Epic Movie" is an over-the-top comedy which borrows storylines from recent films, spoofs them and strings them loosely together. Here's the basic plotline: Four orphans (one of whom, for example, is a black woman on her way to Namibia to meet her adoptive parents, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, when she is saved from snakes on the plane by Samuel Jackson) each come into possession of a golden ticket to a chocolate factory. Once inside, they realize that Willy is a nutcase and wants to use their body parts in his candies. They all stumble into a magical wardrobe and end up in Gnarnia (for legal purposes) where one of them meets a friendly faun who admits that his daddy had a thing for goats. The faun shows off his chill crib (queue ghetto music, bikini-clad bitches and the faun rapping about flat-screens in his toilet). With the assistance of Harry Potter, Captain Jack Swallows and the faun's partner, Harry Beaver, the kids prepare to battle the evil and voluptuous White Bitch for the kingdom. "Epic Movie" is one big in-joke which alternates between bathroom humor and slapstick violence. It's harmless fun though. And it's short (85 minutes), allowing me just enough of a concentrated dose of buffoonery.
1/2 ( Sherwin Das )