DVD Review HTF Review: The Host

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Neil Middlemiss, Jul 22, 2007.

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  1. Neil Middlemiss

    Neil Middlemiss Producer
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    The Host




    Studio: Magnolia Home Entertainment
    Year: 2006
    US Rating: R - For Creature Violence and Language
    Film Length: 119 Mins
    Aspect Ratio: 1:85.1
    Audio: English and Korean 5.1, English and Korean Dolby Digital 2.0
    Subtitles: English and Spanish

     


    US Release Date: July 24, 2007

    The Film - out of

    "Se-joo – Just stay right here. Don’t come out…whatever happens!”
    On a calm, breezy day by the side of the Han River in Seoul, Korea, (around the time of the 2002 Olympics held there) a sleepy food stand attendant, Park Gang-du and his grumpy father, Park Hie-bong go about business as usual. Gang-du’s daughter, Hyun-seo, is just home from school and together, the three of them bubble with excitement as Nam-Joo, daughter/sister/aunt to this ordinary family, is on TV at an Archery contest, aiming for the gold. The last member of this family, Gang-du’s brother Nam-il, unemployed and miserly, is off with a bottle of cheap Korean vodka somewhere.

    As the disheveled Gang-du takes a tray of drinks to serve to customers on the bank of the river, he finds the attention of the many who have gathered to enjoy the relaxing setting has been captivated by something strange hanging from the bridge nearby. Curiosity quickly turns to mayhem as the strange creature descends upon the crowds, tearing through the crowd as they scatter in panic. In the commotion of the attack, Hyun-Seo is snapped up by the monster. Gang-du can only watch as his daughter is taken away.

    When the survivors of the attack are gathered, quarantined and fed a story about a virus and infection, the grieving Park family discovers that Hyun-Seo is still alive, trapped somewhere in the sewers, but in terrible danger. Desperate to save her, this dysfunctional nitwit family escapes the confines of the medical facility to hunt down the monster and rescue young Hyun Seo.

    Director Bong Joon-Ho and co-writers Hah Joon-Won and Baek Chul-Hyun, working from an original story of Joon-Ho’s, have crafted something very exciting in The Host, a film that feels authentic and original while also walking a long a familiar cinematic road. The well established quirky characters are extremely well cast, helping the story along nicely.

    Song Kang-ho as Gang-du is delightfully sympathetic. Oafish and slow, he brings a comedic freshness to the film and serves as the primary source of irreverence for this monster movie as well as being the butt of many jokes. Playing his daughter, Ko Ah-sung is also delightful. She delivers a fine performance of pragmatic awareness and, while imploring our empathy, is able to exude an uncharacteristic strength for her girl of her age while still being the “Damsel in distress”. The rest of the family, from the wily tongued Grandfather (Hie-bong Byeon) to the oddly aloof brother and sister (Park Hae-Il and Bae Doo-na), are all perfectly suited and their performances are well calibrated within the story and the events.

    The Host has a wickedly original story for a genre that has long been explored in almost every conceivable way and in almost every tongue spoken on the planet. It pokes fun at the melodramatic accouterments found in just about every Monster movie and in doing so grounds the action and brings a distinctive edge to the events. The humor frequent through the film is also expertly handle; well timed, well placed and well played.

    The story doesn’t always add up or make sense, especially the inclusion of the American military plot element, however, that element may have more relevance for the films country of origin as the US has had a significant military presence in that nation for decades to be a counter-balance to the hostile neighbor, North Korea.

    The Host is a bloody good time. A spirited monster movie in the vein of Jaws and King-King that achieves that elusive balance of first rate humor and first rate creature feature mayhem. The top notch visual effects, a testament to the cost-effective CGI capable these days, are stand out!

     


    The Video - out of
    The Host is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio, 1.85:1. This is one of the very best Standard DVD presentations I have seen. The image is phenomenal. It has a clarity, color balance, tone and crispness that are just exemplary. This is a close to a High Definition looking presentation that I have found from a standard definition DVD. Some of the subtitles are a little out of frame and only when they appear at the top of the screen (when in-movie text occurs) - not so much that I could not read them.
     



    The Sound - out of
    Magnolia Pictures has provided quite the bevy of options. I watched the film with the Korean 5.1 and English subtitles. Wow. This is a very well crafted sound design for your home theater, with great use of directional effects and a thunderous use of the sub-woofer. This film will have your neighbors complaining about the noise even if you live miles from away. This is just my kind of audio. The Surrounds are very active, the bass is well used and deep and the absorbing ambience created puts you right along side the Park family fighting the monster, searching for Hyun-seo.

    This disc comes with Korean 5.1, Korean 2.0, English 5.1, and English 2.0 with English and Spanish subtitles.

    I checked out the English dubbed version and while it isn’t bad, I will always recommend the original language. It never fails to be more natural and you won’t have to suffer the poorly cast voice-over or misaligned dub-job found too many times on too many films.
     


    The Extra's - out of
    Audio Commentary with Director Bong Joon-Ho (and guest Tony Raines) - Director Bong Joon-Ho is joined by his English friend Tony Raines in providing commentary for this marvelous monster movie. Tony was invited to participate by the director so that he could ask questions and prompt thought throughout. They provide a good commentary track. While Joon-Ho’s English is less than perfect, we are treated just to have him provide his thoughts in our native tongue. A little light on depth for behind the scenes and production details, they do provide a good understanding of the casting choices and the design and behavior of the films amphibious center piece.

    Deleted scenes - (23:20) – While listed as deleted scenes, they are more a collection scene snippets; coverage and reaction shots collected during the production shoot. They run anywhere from a few seconds to just north of a minute and, with the exception of a couple of moments, add nothing new to the story.

    Deleted News Clips - (4:39) – A short presentation of the various news segments (anchor, correspondence and stock report footage) as seen throughout the film as the news playing in the background of a few scenes helped move the plot narrative along.

    Director Bong Joon-Ho Reflections - (5:29) – This is an odd little segment where the director, in a semi-tongue-in-cheek way apologizes to some of the actors who labored hard under difficult conditions only to be seen fleetingly or hidden by the heavy rains and face masks. He also apologizes to the crew and production assistants who worked hard in busy shooting locations and even to the traffic he ensnared with the filming on one of Seoul’s many bridges.


     
    Final Thoughts
    Not surprisingly, The Host became quite the phenomenon, smashing box office records in Korea, winning coveted awards and gaining cult status around the world. A well crafter monster adventure with a very satisfying sense of fun and fantastic effects to boot. Every character is well played and the suspense this film crafts, often just moments after some of the funnier goofball family moments is to be commended. It is fair to say that most films in the genre, while laudable for execution and effects, often forget to deliver the right kind of surprises and levels of originality. Here, The Host succeeds in delivering on each of those with finesse.

    In the end, The Host is funny, tragic, suspenseful and filled with pulsating action sequences and exciting creature effects. Truly great stuff that helps to establish a new bar for movies with 'monsters on the loose'.

    Recommended for monster-movie lovers everywhere!

    Note: This review is of the single disc edition. A 2 disc version is also available.
     
    Overall Score - out of



    Neil Middlemiss
    Kernersville, NC
     
  2. EricSchulz

    EricSchulz Producer

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    I'm not one for "blind buys" but this is going to be the exception!
     
  3. Johnny Angell

    Johnny Angell Played With Dinosaurs Member

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    I saw this in the Market Street Cinema in Little Rock, the local art house. Sub-titled movies have little chance of playing in a mainstream house here. Just before I entered the theater, the manger double-checked with me which movie I was going to see. It was a weekday and I was an audience of one. I don't think he was going to run the film if no one was there.

    This is a terrific monster film, with a lot of heart. I've ordered the 2-disc version. This review appears to be the one-disc version, at least for the number of extras mentioned.

    One thing confuses me about the review. The video is as close to HD as can be with SD and its still only 4 out 5 stars for video? I guess it was dinged for nipping off a bit of the sub-titles.
     
  4. Neil Middlemiss

    Neil Middlemiss Producer
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    Oops, should have been 4 1/2 stars - I have corrected..
     
  5. donnie_d

    donnie_d Stunt Coordinator

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    for collector's out there,the 2-disc set comes with really cool embossed slipcover.

    props for Magnolia for doing good releases, i just wish they include english subtitles in their dvds instead of spanish subtitles.
     

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