Monday, April 30, 2007

Episode 31

The Host - Park Hie-bong (Hie-bong Byeon) runs a food stand overlooking the Han River in Korea with his eldest son Gang-Du (Kang-ho Song). On a seemingly average day, some of the patrons of the food stand who were picnicking along the river have gathered and are staring at something hanging from beneath a bridge. Before long the large misshapen mass drops from beneath the bridge into the water and swims toward them. It isn't until the creature emerges onto the river bank that they realize what it is. It is, of course, a giant mutated fish with legs and a mouth full of teeth. As the creature rampages through a parking lot and the grassy area around the river, trampling and terrorizing people, Gang-Du tries desperately to get his daughter Hyun-seo (Ah-sung Ko) to safety. Unfortunately, when Gang-Du grabs the wrong young girl's hand in the crowd, the creature snags Hyun-seo with it's long, prehensile tail, dives back into the water, and disappears. After the horrific events of that day, the government rounds up anyone who was in the vicinity of the Han River during the occurrence and places them in quarantine, fearing infection from a supposed virus. Gang-du, his brother Nam-il (Hae-il Park), his archery medal-winning sister Nam-Joo (Du-na Bae), and his father grieve as they are ushered around by the radiation suit-clad officials. Then, out of the blue, Gang-du receives a horrified phone call from Hyun-seo stating that she is somewhere deep in the sewer before the call is cut off. When the government refuses to believe them, much less help the Park family find their youngest member, they escape from quarantine and proceed to use all of their available assets to try to locate and rescue Hyun-seo. Unfortunately, making this task more difficult is the fact that they are now being chased by government teams afraid of further contamination. Will the Parks be able to locate Hyun-seo before either the government unleashes it's new biological weapon, Agent Yellow, or she becomes something's lunch? The Host is a Korean film. In fact, it is currently the highest grossing Korean film in history, both locally and internationally. It's hard to believe that the all-time best-selling movie to come out of Korea is a monster movie. However, while there is indeed a monster in The Host, I'd be hard-pressed to pigeon-hole it as a monster movie. Unlike most creature features, The Host introduces it's monster to the audience within the first ten minutes of the movie. There's no real suspense as to what it looks like, and thus it isn't really a "horror" film. It's truly more of an emotional drama about a family in trouble. It is also a film with anti-establishment tones that mocks the government in a way that isn't all that far-removed from Dr. Strangelove Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb. Every person of rank in the film, be they government or military, is portrayed as either an individual of bad judgement, poor values, or simply a fool. There's no question that the military is indirectly responsible for the creation of the mutant fish, and throughout the film they do very little to actually help in stopping it's reign of terror. In this way, The Host is also very similar to the Godzilla franchise. Toward the end, the threat of a new biological weapon that the government plans to use to kill the creature becomes more frightening to the public than the creature itself. Speaking of the monster...what a great monster! The mutant fish was designed and sculpted by WETA Workshop Ltd., which is Peter Jackson's visual effects company. Needless to say,they did a bang-up job with the design. The look of the beast is great and it's movements are incredible. It's such a wild thing to see on screen, but for the most part it is very believable. The monster isn't the only great member of the cast, though. All five members of the Park family were incredibly good in their roles. Especially Kang-ho Song. The more you discover about his character as the movie progresses, the more you feel for him, and when he is fighting for the life of his daughter near the climax of the film, it honestly feels like he fears for her well-being. The writer and director are just as responsible for the incredible characters as the actors are, though. At the beginning of the film none of them are particularly likable characters, but as each of them is pushed to the limit by the incredible circumstances they find themselves in, each and every one of them progresses emotionally and earns the audience's sympathy. The film is (for the most part) sub-titled, it's foreign, it's about a giant mutated fish, and there's no chance in hell it's going to get a wide release. It's a shame, really. The Host is so much more than what it seems, but so many people will pass up or miss the chance to experience it because it isn't the norm. I went to the theater excited to see a new monster movie and came out having gotten so much more. Let's just hope that they don't royally fuck up the American re-make that's been planned so that it may convince a few more people to go back and watch the original. The Host is a must-see for anyone. If you don't like monster movies, go see it anyway for it's dramatic elements. If you don't like dramas, go see it anyway for it's comedic elements. If you don't like comedies, go out and buy yourself a sense of humor.

David Cross: Let America Laugh - This'll be a short one. Let America Laugh is a documentary about stand-up comedian David Cross as he tours the United States with a band called Ultrababyfat. Ever since expecting to laugh while watching Jerry Seinfeld's Comedian and not doing so, I've been opposed to documentaries about comedians. The Aristocrats didn't really garner my appreciation either. I've had such a desire to see more of Cross's stand-up, however, that I figured I'd give Let America Laugh a go. It doesn't have the non-stop laughs of one of his albums, but it's certainly entertaining. Instead of trying to make a sappy, sympathetic documentary about how hard it is being on the road, David Cross set out to simply make a video chock full of the fun and funny stuff that goes on behind the scenes of a comedy tour. The documentary covers everything from drunken hecklers to hilarious run-ins with uncooperative venue managers. It makes you feel like you're right along for the ride on the tour as opposed to witnessing a tortured soul's flickering flame of hope. The only real problem I had with the film were the bumpers. The flick begins, ends, and is injected occasionally throughout with a few poorly acted scenes that are supposed to be funny in which David is working at an office and getting reamed out by his boss for being a comedian on the side. If these were just at the beginning and end I wouldn't have minded so much, but every time the tour footage broke for one of these scenes I found myself wanting to be back on the road with David. Fans of David Cross should definitely give this documentary a watch. Possibly the best documentary I've seen (though I haven't seen many).

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