Chicago

Last Monday I was not having a good day. I don’t remember having a particularly good day at work, and when I came home the LoveFilm disc of The Class (review coming soon) infected my PlayStation 3, my primary film-watching paraphernalia, with an incurable bout of Yellow Light of Death. Fortunately, after a quick 20-minutes of mucking around with SCART leads and speakers, the back-up DVD player was up and running, but alas The Class had no intentions of playing, and to be honest I was in no mood to read subtitles after that debacle, so instead we settled down for a much more easy to watch and far more enjoyable evening of Chicago.
I’ve seen the story twice before, once on film and once on stage, and I think I preferred the small screen to the grand spectacle, though I think on second viewing it isn’t as good as I remembered. Renee Zellweger is as annoying as ever as the naive, waif-like Roxie Hart, incarcerated after killing the man she was sleeping around with (The Wire’s Dominic West). Whilst inside, she meets Catherine Zeta-Jones’ performer Velma Kelly, herself accused of murdering her sister and husband. The two compete for the favours of Matron Mama (Queen Latifah) and super smooth, silver-tongued lawyer Billy Flynn (Richard Gere).
Gere and Latifah seem to be the only ones enjoying themselves, and why Latifah was nominated for Best Supporting Actress I’ll never know, as her performance doesn’t compare to the award winning Zeta-Jones. There’s far too much of Zellweger simpering around the stage, and she seems to have forgotten to tell her face that she’s acting for much of her performance. Her singing is fine, but she is a thoroughly over-rated actress, who in this film is also far too skinny (but then so are all the girls in this film, Latifah aside). More of Gere’s incredibly entertaining Flynn would have gone a long way, as would more screen time for John C. Reilly as Roxie’s cuckolded husband Amos, who’s solo performance of Mr. Cellophane is my personal favourite, along with the wonderfully choreographed Cell Block Tango and Flynn’s marionette manipulation of a gaggle of reporters.
So, whilst it’s not perfect and a recasting of the lead would have been greatly appreciated (though to be honest, I’m not sure who I’d cast in her place) many of the musical numbers are still great fun. Six Oscars and thirteen nominations though? Seems a little excessive.
Choose film 7/10
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300

300thmovie! Yes! Nailed it! This has been a plan from the outset, that the 300thfilm just had to be 300, and lo it has been done. Finally I can stop checking the count every day of how many films I’ve watched and just get on with watching more and writing posts (I won’t).
Based on the incredibly stylish graphic novel by Frank Miller (Sin City), it could be argued that this two-hour fight scene suffers from a severe case of style over substance, with a small squadron of 300 Spartan warriors heading out to take on the thousands-strong army of Persians out to conquer their land, but whilst there is some accuracy to this, there is quite enough story behind the oceans of cool.
The Spartans, led by Gerard Butler’s King Leonidas in a role that remains his calling card after six years of mostly forgettable romcoms and mindless shooters, have been trained since birth to feel no pain or mercy – or cold, judging by how little they wear – and all live to fight, and die, honourably in battle. One soldier, when questioned as to why he has brought his adult son along to fight, replies that he has others to replace him.
It’s impossible for a man not to watch this and feel inferior. Some may see it as a rabble-rousing celebration of what it truly means to be a man – fighting and killing, safe in the knowledge your son will carry on your name – but personally I see it as a reminder of the garage-worth of spare tyres congregating about my torso, and how I’ve managed to survive almost 25 years without so much as throwing a punch. I can almost feel my ovaries forming.
The combat, and believe me there’s an awful lot of it, is wonderfully choreographed, and director Zack Snyder utilises a deft blend of colour, lighting, slow motion, shadows and speeding up to showcase its full glory. At times it feels more like a videogame, as the quantity and skill level of the foes to be vanquished steadily increases.
The occasionally flits back to Sparta, where Leonidas’ Queen (Lena Headey) tries to convince their council to send reinforcements, do a good job of breaking away from the otherwise incessant violence, but some touches – the giant troll, a bizarre goat-creature – take away from the experience, and overly-pierced big bad guy Xerxes has a voice comically mismatched to his appearance.
Look out too for an early appearance from LifeVsFilm favourite Michael Fassbender as one of 
the 300.
Choose film 8/10