The Host & Reign Over Me 

The Host: Four stars

Reign Over Me: Four stars

With 11 (!!) films opening locally this Friday, I want to draw your attention to two titles I fear may be dismissed out of hand by some. One is a little movie; the other is a major release. Both deal with rescues.

The little film is The Host, a Korean monster movie, and my concern is that some won’t give it a chance because of the subtitles and the whole monster thing. The major release is Reign Over Me, a drama starring Adam Sandler, and I worry that Sandler fans will reject it because it isn’t a comedy and that others will reject it because they disapprove of Sandler.

Filmmaker Bong Joon-ho (Barking Dogs Never Bite) grew up near the banks of the Han River in Seoul and, during his student days, used to daydream about what it would be like if something nightmarish appeared in such a familiar setting. The Host brings the fantasy to life, as a horrific creature, the mutant result of chemical pollution, crawls out of the water and attacks a crowd on a sunny day.

The mutant, sort of like a huge tadpole with legs, a powerful tail and a gaping maw, is the most strikingly original and well-designed monster I’ve witnessed since Alien. And wait until you see how it uses its legs and tail to propel itself by running and flipping. Too cool. Sure, the integration of the computer graphics with the real life backgrounds isn’t the smoothest, but who cares? Many of my favorite monster movies have less than perfect special effects.

The story involves the efforts of a family to rescue their little girl (Ko A-sung), who gets snatched by the creature and taken into the river. Carried to the monster’s sewer system hidey hole, she calls her dad (Song Gang-ho) on a fading cell phone and the family springs into action, struggling to get past dismissive government officials so they can save the child.

Along with the horror, we get bits of broad social satire and slapstick comedy. The mid-section of the production bogs down a little, but comes roaring back. The Host is wildly uneven, but it’s also wildly entertaining.

In Reign Over Me, written and directed by Mike Binder (The Upside of Anger), dentist Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle) runs into his old college roommate, Charlie Fineman (Adam Sandler, wearing Bob Dylan’s hair), who lost his wife and daughters in the Sept. 11 attacks. Charlie’s grief is so strong that he has blocked out the memories of his loved ones and anyone connected to them. He uses his insurance money to keep himself occupied, listening to music, playing video games and tooling through the streets on a scooter.

Charlie doesn’t recognize his roommate of two years at first, but the men forge a tenuous bond, and Alan, who is having trouble staying emotionally connected with his wife (Jada Pickett Smith, at her best), finds himself increasingly invested in the life of his damaged friend.

The film is thoughtful, beautifully acted, occasionally funny, often moving and realistically hopeful. There are rocky spots, but not enough to affect the overall tone.

The Host and Reign Over Me. Don’t dismiss these unique, rewarding films.

 

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