Tag Archives: attention to detail

Howl’s Moving Castle: My First Miyazaki

Oh, woe is me for not having seen a Miyazaki film sooner. I’m back again for a few reviews (after vacation back home) and I thought I’d start with a film that, for me, was a revelation and fan-creating film. If only Disney hadn’t have put its grimy paws all over this film and let Studio Ghibli find English voice actors, this movie could’ve surpassed even my expectations. (But Disney is all about them big bones.) But it had Christian Bale, so it’s all good. This wonderful film about growing up

A house with a view.

and finding what you believe in is a more mature answer to the childish wonder we all find in cartoons and fantasy.

In this steampunk-like adventure story, we come across Sophie (Emily Mortimer), a young woman and local hatter in a town ruled by an aristocracy and the army. Magic is an agreed upon phenomenon and witches and wizards roam the countryside. After an encounter with a young, dashing, magical man named Howl (Christian Bale), Sophie finds herself swept away by the man’s charm. After encountering another witch later that night, The Witch of the Waste (Lauren Bacall), Sophie is turned into an old woman (voiced by Jean Simmons) and is not allowed to speak of her curse.

After this terrible twist of “Big”-like events, Sophie travels off into the countryside to escape her mother and what people would think of her. She encounters a wonderfully fun and lovable scarecrow on a stick, and, eventually, Howl and his Moving Castle. Accompanying Howl are his associated fire demon, Calcifer (Billy Crystal), and his apprentice in waiting, Markl (Josh Hutcherson). Acting as a makeshift nanny/homekeep, Sophie attempts to gain everyone’s trust, all the while searching for some way to reverse her curse. It ends up being one wild ride, indeed.

Look at that redonk detail.

I was overall impressed with this film. Like I said, I’ve never seen a Miyazaki film before and my girlfriend owned this one and wanted me to watch it. She was totally right and I wasn’t disappointed. It was a great film. Miyazaki’s style for me is completely original, unusual and quirky. His plot may have been taken from a book of the same name, but it was such a unique and off kilter movie/story/plotline that I loved what was going to happen next. It wasn’t action packed, it wasn’t magic performance filled or anything like that. It was what it was. And I appreciated that immensely.

For the most part, the voices in the film were accurately matched to each of the characters. Christian

Cosplays waiting to happen.

Bale, for the kind of frail character Howl was, was a bit of a stretch. And he wasn’t even allowed to use his British accent! What kind of crap is that when a decent percentage of the rest of the cast was British? Oh Christian Bale, will you ever be able to use your own voice? I enjoyed Billy Crystal and his comedic portrayal of Calcifer. And I was spot on again at recognizing voices when I heard both Josh Hutcherson and Crispin Freeman’s guest voicing of Turnip Head towards the end. Some of the supporting cast and background voices were a bit iffy, but overall I wasn’t disappointed.

Masterful Miyazaki.

I loved the overall feel and message of this film. The style it was going for was just right for the way this movie presented itself. The music was whimsical and the animation is above and beyond a lot of cartoon films that are done here. Why? That’s because of the attention to detail and colorful style that Miyazaki and his animation crew have created with all their projects. The film is beautiful to look at and is a visual journey in itself. Hell, this movie didn’t even need much dialogue did it? I would’ve watched it just as a silent film and enjoyed it just as much. The creative ways in which Miyazaki created a world with unique aspects and inventions left me awestruck. I’m definitely in for some treats with the rest of Miyazaki’s films. I’ll give Howl’s Moving Castle a 8.7 out of 10.

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The Adventures of Tintin: The Best

Awwww yeahhhh...

Just to let everyone know, I’m about to rave about how good this movie is. I’m already gonna give this a 10 out of 10, no worries. I’m gonna give this best animated film of 2011. As if there was any competition. I’ve been reading Tintin graphic novels since I was a wee lad. This stuff, pardon my French, is my shizz. I love Tintin and his trusty wire fox terrier, Snowy. Captain Haddock is hilarious with his alliterative swear words. The mysteries are fun and engaging for all ages. And this movie EPITOMIZES everything that was good about the comics. I can’t think of a single book/comic/graphic novel that completely translates a movie from the work that you loved. (If you can refute this statement, post one. You can’t, but you can try.)

From the amazing minds of Steven Spielburg and Peter Jackson, the story of the ace journalist/detective Tintin comes

Tintin and Haddock, on the adventure.

straight from the first comic. The meeting of Haddock. Flawless. I felt I was re-reading the first graphic novel. Page for page. In 107 minutes, I was taken into a world I could completely believe in. A world I wished I existed in since I was 9. Now this has been a ridiculously good year for Spielburg. He directed The Adventures of Tintin and War Horse. One is a heartwarming story about a horse getting Oscar buzz, the other is an amazing story about the greatest hero of all time, and it was judge by its earnings in America. Come on, are you serious? Let’s see… Oh my, it made a measly $10 million domestically. It floundered here in the U.S. Hmmmm… $270 in foreign box offices? It just looks to me as if people abroad (where Tintin originated) appreciate it far more than those here who lack a bit of ecclesiastical appreciation. I’m not blaming anyone, it just goes to show we need to publish and distribute more Tintin comics here.

How great does that look? Bell and Serkis, experiencing innovation.

Back to Spielburg. (Sorry Peter.) Along with these great directing jobs, Spielburg executively produced 4 T.V. shows (one of those being Terra Nova, getting some buzz there, the other big one, Falling Skies) and a series of big blockbuster movies. Those being Cowboys and Aliens (need to see), Transformers 3 (eh… no), Real Steel (big no), and Super 8 (HELL YES). Toss in War Horse and Tintin and you got a sextuple threat right there. I’d call that a year of bank. But I guess that’s not to try to detract from Peter Jackson’s contribution. Jackson has The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey two parter to look forward to releasing. That’s gonna do just as well as the LOTR series for shizzle.

What other names can I boast about related to this movie? Well, there’s John Williams on the orchestra chops. Check out about every single Spielburg/Lucas movie and you’ll find J. Williams name tagged on there. Anybody who can cinematically sweep me off my feet with a recognizable build, that’s gold right there. AND THE VOICE ACTORS. That’s just think about that for a second. Voice actors. I know they’re acclaimed actors, but they use their voices to bring this movie together. And a bunch of great names to talk about in relation to their characters.

There are no words for how incredible this is.

Jamie Bell as Tintin. Right there. That’s a big name with some great roles attached to it. The boy of Billy Elliot among other great English roles this guy has taken? Fantastic. I used to do my own English accent in my mind to pretend I was Tintin, but now Jamie Bell’s voice will forever signify and epitomize who Tintin is. Andy Serkis and Captain Haddock. PHENOMENAL. I’ve never known an actor who can throw out a cacophony of voices and make them all sound legitimate. His drunken Scottich drawl is just exactly what Haddock ordered. His buffoonery and hijinks really carry the story along, as Tintin and his levelheadedness truly get them out of some sticky situations. Here, get this. Daniel Craig AS THE BAD GUY. Who saw that coming? Playing the nefarious Sakharine/Red Rackham, Craig really steps it up by expanding his acting chops inside a recording booth. Nick Frost and Simon Pegg as the Thompson twins? I’ll take some of that. They were funny in the comics and in the movie as well. Spot on. Toby Jones as Silk the pickpocket? I thought at first that he would be Professor Calculus when I first saw him, but that wasn’t the case. (Professor Calculus was supposed to be in Red Rackham’s Treasure, but only introduced.) Even Mackenzie Crook, side star of the Pirates series as the wooden eyed lackey and star of The Office (U.K.), offered his voice as Tom, one of the lackeys of Haddock’s former crew. And, get this as well, even Cary Elwes, star of Saw 1 and The Princess Bride, lends his voice as a minor character! (Look for him as a pilot on the biplane!) Everyone English wanted to get in on the action of Tintin!

Let’s talk about the animation! This new age of 3-D digital animation is just phenomenal. Anything can be done with today’s technology. I would give this movie and the recently made L.A. Noire game the tops for this category of innovation. When you can make iconic cartoon characters seem real and RESEMBLE the voice actors who play them? Kudos. I will give a standing ovation to that. The amazing attention to details with shadows and minor costume effects and the tiniest of details is just mental. You have to really care about the work you’re doing to be that good. And I’m sure all the people that worked on this movie were.

There are so many great comedic/fast paced action sequences in this movie as well! The scenes on the Karaboudjan ship and the flashbacks to the Haddock/Rackham fight were epic (and I don’t use epic lightly). And the final chase scene at the end are the epitome of badass. Even the final battle between Haddock and his ancient rival are just too amazing. Bravo on all accounts of action.

Just. Fantastic.

I gotta tell ya, there is just no end to my love of this movie and Tintin and all his adventures. I hope they make a movie for every single graphic novel. The start up of every story is great. Tintin stumbles on some piece of history and it ties him into a dangerous adventure that will test his mind and body. He should be every young man’s hero and role model. And speaking of young children, I was happy to see how many parents took their children to see this movie. It’s age appropriate and wonderful for the entire family, young and old alike. It has everything and leaves you wanting more. The entire time. I can’t get over it. A

Tintin 4 Life.

perfect, flawless 10 out of 10. Best film of 2011? Maybe… Tintin will tell.


The Conspirator: 19th Century Courtroom Drama

I didn’t know much about this movie as me and my family sat down to watch this Robert Redford film of drama. I thought, “Hmmm, James McAvoy? Courtroom drama? Civil War Era? I’m in.” Always having had an interest in the courtroom (I love The Rainmaker.) and becoming a lawyer, fighting for equal representation, this movie piqued my interest once again. And the injustice of another trial was the perfect setting for this film of one of the biggest conspiracies in American history.

Frederick Aiken (James McAvoy) is a hardened Civil War

Never stop acting, you lovely man you, James McAvoy.

Northerner that has found his place in the martial court of the newly reunited United States of America. Prejudiced like so many against the South, Frederick hesitantly walks through a newly formed Union, as if on eggshells. And then one night it happened.

President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. John Wilkes Booth (Toby Kebbell) the man who pulled the trigger, escaped on the only bridge opened that night in D.C., and

Some wonderful images from The Conspirator.

was subsequently shot by his pursuers. It was not this man alone though who crafted one of the worst killings of all time. Also implicated were a dozen other men, including one Mrs. Mary Surratt (Robin Wright). It was at her boarding house that those men, with or without her knowledge, plotted a beloved President’s assassination.

In conjunction with Mary Surratt’s case, Aiken must defend a woman who he finds detestable, a Southerner, and do it with all the equality he can muster. With inner turmoil, a D.C. village who outcasts Aiken for his ability to abide by justice for all citizens, and a government attempting to hang a woman out to dry for her boarding house/son’s doing, this film full to the brim with injustice. And like it or not, the ending with frustrate the shizz out of you. And, despite this harrowing fact, I thoroughly enjoyed this film.

Just some of the great cast from the movie. Chillin'.

Why, you may ask? The actors. And surprisingly, a bunch of English actors parading about as Northerners and Southerners of America. It appears as if Robert Redford found their caliber of acting to be far better than that of an equally good American counterpart. But that’s besides the point. Let’s talk about James McAvoy. This wonderful actor really took a role that spoke to me and my own beliefs. He attention and hold to justice was admirable and honorable all in one. Despite the persecution he felt from his contemporaries, he fought fairly for Mary Surratt and her unfair incarceration and foreboding hang date. And Robin Wright herself was a beauty to watch on film. Her prim and proper character fought for her son and daughter and the injustice that was done to her was denied until the end.

Other notable people? Of course there are lots. Kevin Kline played a key, behind the scenes role as

Wonderful scenes happened here.

Edwin Stanton, Secretary of War and initiator of the Mary Surratt trial. He knew his Northern counterparts demanded a scapegoat, some form of justice, and he gave it to them. Tom Wilkinson played the helpless Southern Marlyand lawyer in charge of Mary’s case who had to decline taking it on the grounds of his bias. His noble stature as Reverdy Johnson stood out to me, despite his cowardice. Evan Rachel Wood played a solidly respectable Anna Surratt, the daughter and poorly mistreated girl that Aiken came to respect despite her ability to turn in her brother. And Danny Huston played a fantastic antagonist as Joseph Holt, the prosecuting attorney and lowlife scoundrel.

A film to be remembered.

The list goes on as is expected from a Redford backed film, and I appreciated the attention to detail in costume, characters, and time period. For the love of God, we must talk about the lighting! It was superb. If any detail in a time period without electricity needed paying attention to, it was this. The lighting in this film blew me out of the water. It literally blew my mind how a film could still function with minimal lighting and dust floating through the air, and make it seem so so so so so authentic. It was superb and caught all of my attention, as if the trial was taking place just right in front of me. The town felt like a suburb of D.C., and all actors carried resemblances of their Civil War characters. If any period piece film about the Civil War need be watched other than Glory (that most important #1), it should be this one. 9.5 out of 10.