300 (U.S., 2007) * 1/2
D: Zack Snyder
To quote Roger Ebert, whose latest Overlooked Film Festival I will not, alas, be able to attend this month: "I hated, hated, hated, hated this movie." The second in what might be an extended series of ultra-faithful Frank Miller graphic novel adaptations, this follows Sin City, which I enjoyed very much. But Sin City told a quartet of stories in a running time that approximates 300's, with plenty of entertainment sandwiched within. 300 is basically two hours of a video game cut-scene that just never seems to end. The acting is pretty mediocre, the action scenes seem to consist of nothing but slow motion shots while rock music pounds on the soundtrack, all the Spartans are dressed in these ridiculous little leather panties, and the palette is given a digital overhaul so that everything looks like it's been soaked in urine. It's been compared to Robert E. Howard (the pulp writer who created Conan) and Edgar Rice Burroughs, but please...go revisit John Milius' superb Conan the Barbarian--which is inspired by Kurosawa samurai epics instead of the God of War video game--and you won't feel half as insulted.
The Animation Show Volume 3 (U.S., 2007) * * *
Don Hertzfeldt (of the Oscar-nominated animated short "Rejected") and Mike Judge (of Office Space, King of the Hill, and Beavis and Butthead) joined forces a few years back to set up a cycling repertoire of animation shorts to tour the country each year, representing the best of international animation. (A recent DVD box set features the first two volumes, albeit with a slightly altered lineup.) I saw volume three almost a week ago in Milwaukee, but all that's stuck with me is Hertzfeldt's contribution, a breathtaking short film called "Everything Will Be OK." I'm still not all that sure whether Hertzfeldt can actually draw or not--the film features his characteristic stick figures--but he sure can animate. He also uses astonishing in-camera visual techniques which are almost impossible to describe, although the dominant one here is a peepshow camera which reveals randomly selected moments from the life of a man whose detachment from life begins to segue into a nervous breakdown. It begins with the hysterical absurdist humor for which Hertzfeldt is best known, but reaches an ending that is moving and haunting--and I mean those adjectives.
Okay, I could only fit two reviews into 15 minutes. Check back late next week for reportage from the Wisconsin Film Festival.