The gauntlet has been firmly thrown into the ground. Korean cinema is not only making better monster movies right now, but they're also making better police thrillers (in the form of Bong Joo-Ho's "Memories of Murder"), better psychological horror films (any K-Horror, but especially Park Ki Hyung's "Whispering Corridors), and even better romantic comedies (witness the dynamic films of Hong Sang-Soo). But, to the film at hand, Bong Joon-Ho's "The Host" is a monster movie with heart, brains and imbued with the sheer ecstasy of movie-making. Everything about "The Host" is near perfect- from the first image of the monster rising from the lake in full daylight followed in one long steadicam take as it wrecks havoc on the population, to the finale that continually surprises and shocks the viewer, ultimately bending the monster genre into something new and heartfelt. And even though this is a monster movie, Joon-Ho finds time to laugh and care about the 3 generations of family who come together to fight the mutated Han River thing. There's even room for some heady political commentary. I can see "The Host" being a favorite for a long time to come, enjoying a critical success at midnight movie festivals and finding a much appreciated audience on home video. But, if this thing is playing anywhere near you on the big screen, go see it now. It's one of the year's very best.
The other film event over the weekend included seeing Zach Snyder's "300", a film with neither brains, nor heart, nor any respect for filmmaking in general since the film's actors are required to act against blue screens and CGI monsters rather than flesh and blood ACTORS. I guess that loss of reality is why every character SHOUTS HIS LINES INCESSANTLY and the film plods along violently without ever mustering an iota of care towards anyone. I admit, the graphic novel adaptation to film has yet to win me over (I enjoyed parts of "Sin City") and Frank Miller and Zach Snyder have probably alienated me even further from any future enjoyment of this phenomenom. It just goes to show that since both films use CGI to startling effect, the most basic ingredient (for me) lies in the humanity of a film's characters. "The Host" exemplifies the creation of people we care for while "300" serves up hollow mouthpieces that exist only as fodder for on-screen mayhem and video game stylistics. It's like the difference between night and day.