Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Monday, March 12, 2007

300 (Zack Snyder, 2007)

By now, you've probably heard your share of 300 news: the fanboy excitement beforehand, the generally positive reviews, and Monday morning, the way that it dominated the box office to unexpectedly become the biggest March opener of all-time. I could have predicated that last one; the Friday night showing I went to, at a typically art-house theater, was in the theater's biggest auditorium, packed 95% full with hundreds of people. Although that's not normally the way I like to watch movies, it couldn't have been a more perfect way to see this movie, a blend of cerebral meditation on war and honor and pure popcorn violence.

Gerard Butler (I'd never really even heard of this guy before) plays Spartan king Leonidis, who decides to defend his kingdom against Persian aggression with 300 of the best warriors, because he can't legally take his whole army to war. The battle sequences are really amazing, especially the first one against the Persians, where the Spartans just slaughter hundreds, thousands of Persians without one Spartan casualty. The rest of the war does not go quite as well, but is no less interesting visually - a friend alerted me that the blood in the battle scenes gets thicker and darker as the movie goes on. While the scenes at the front are really amazing, especially the wall made of dead Persians, the subplot at home, with Leonidis' wife trying to get the empire behind her king and fending off a tribunal, are also interesting. There was one scene where many in the theater clapped and cheered so loudly that we missed several lines of dialogue (if you've seen the movie, you probably know which one I'm referring to), but it didn't matter; this is a movie all about image, not always instead of substance, however.

The acting is solid all around, as is the script, but the real glory in the movie belongs to director Zack Snyder (who also directed 2004's criminally misunderstood Dawn of the Dead remake). Every single shot in the film is perfectly designed and executed, so that any given second, any millisecond, could be taken as a piece of art. The metaphorical becomes literal (fighting in the shade comes to mind) in awesome, violent beauty. This is the most aesthetically pleasing movie I've seen in a long time, and might even trump Robert Rodriguez's Sin City (a movie I also loved) as the best Frank Miller adaptation. Hopefully, the monumental success of 300, a terrifically violent movie with no movie stars, paves the way for not only Snyder's Watchmen adaptation, but for more brave, beautiful R-rated movies in the future. I can't recommend it enough, and will almost definitely be seeing it again soon.


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