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Review: 300, The Namesake, Stomp the Yard, Vitus, TMNT and Meet the Robinsons

By April 10, 2007December 31st, 2013No Comments

300 posterOne of the bene­fits of a marginally-classical edu­ca­tion is that when someone makes a film about King Leonidas and The Battle of Thermopylae I have a vague idea what they’re on about before I go in but noth­ing could pre­pare me for the sheer vis­cer­al “total” film-making on dis­play in Zack Snyder’s extraordin­ary 300. Involving and repel­lent by turns, it’s a thrill­ing test­a­ment to full-on mas­cu­line male man­li­ness; unspeak­ably viol­ent of course but extreme in almost every oth­er way ima­gin­able too.

Based on Frank Miller’s $80-a-copy graph­ic nov­el (recre­ated frame for beau­ti­ful frame in many cases), 300 fol­lows Leonidas and his hand-picked Spartan army as they try to defend a dis­in­ter­ested Greece from a mil­lion Persians, their slaves, ele­phants and transexuals.

Leonidas is played with con­sid­er­able star-making cha­risma by Gerard Butler (Dear Frankie); Aussie David Wenham nar­rates as if he got punch in the throat as well los­ing an eye in the battle and the beau­ti­ful Lena Headey as Queen proves that Spartan women were made of the same per­fectly formed but psy­cho­lo­gic­ally incom­plete mater­i­al as the men.

The Namesake posterFresh from the Showcase, The Namesake is a lov­ingly rendered (if over­long) adapt­a­tion of the nov­el of the same name by Jhumpa Lahiri fea­tur­ing Kal Penn (giv­en name: Kalpen Modi), vet­er­an star of juven­ile rub­bish like Epic Movie and Van Wilder. Penn proves he really can act as Gogol Ganguly, New York-born Indian search­ing for an iden­tity that does­n’t involve his embar­rass­ing first name.

Stomp The Yard posterIn the ini­tially bewil­der­ing Stomp The Yard, Columbus Short plays DJ, a young hood­lum and gif­ted dan­cer who is giv­en one more chance after the death of his young­er broth­er in a dance-related brawl. That chance involves enrolling in Truth University, the legendary African-American centre of learn­ing and cul­ture where the likes of Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Michael Jordan set the highest alumni standards.

At Truth he finds his dan­cing skills are tested in the National Steppin’ Contest (a kind of team dan­cing unique to Black America) and his romantic skills are giv­en a tweak by the beau­ti­ful April (Meagan Good). I’m about as far away from the tar­get mar­ket for this film as can be ima­gined but, once I’d worked out that this dan­cing stuff was actu­ally ser­i­ous, I quite enjoyed it.

Vitus posterMeanwhile, Vitus is a little sweetie from Switzerland about a gif­ted child who des­per­ately wants to be nor­mal. A lovely per­form­ance from twinkly Bruno Ganz is worth the price of admis­sion and Teo Georghiu as 12-year-old Vitus really has the chops to make that old joanna sing. Remarkable.

TMNT posterFinally a couple of dis­pos­able items for the school hol­i­days: TMNT is actu­ally the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and it boasts video-game qual­ity anim­a­tion and a slum­ming Patrick Stewart on villain-voice-duty. I found the turtles really annoy­ing but, then again, they are teen­agers. It’s sort of the point.

Meet the Robinsons posterMuch more enter­tain­ing is Disney’s Meet the Robinsons, an anarch­ic affair that unlike oth­er anim­ated films has a kind of impro­vised qual­ity, boun­cing along chuck­ing jokes in ran­dom dir­ec­tions and a few of them stick. 12 year old orphan Lewis is a gif­ted invent­or des­per­ate for a fam­ily. When his latest inven­tion is stolen by mys­ter­i­ous Bowler Hat Guy, young hot-head Wilbur Robinson arrives from the future to help set things straight (and help Lewis find his mother).

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on 11 April, 2007.