Tag Archives: fantasy

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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Shaun of the Dead

Okay, so here we go with the Simon Pegg/Edgar Wright film that started off the whole shebang. Shaun of the Dead, that classic film that everyone and their mother owns (well my mom likes it in any case) truly is a spectacular romantic spoof about zombies. Let’s see if I can remember back to the first time I watched it…

Back when I first laid eyes on this film, I’m pretty sure I had no idea who Simon Pegg was. I hadn’t seen Spaced (not until much later) and I was woefully unaware of what hilarious

A wonderful cast doing it on the night.

antics lay before me in this film. Leave it to the British to be so damn clever that they turn a zombie movie into one of the funniest films of the last 10 years (soon to be followed by Hot Fuzz). The first in what hopes to be a trilogy entitled “The Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy” (every film so far has featured a Cornetto), I laughed hysterically (or at least I think I did back in 2004) to Shaun of the Dead.

A lot of the zombies in the film are shown in other scenes, and are fans of Spaced or just happened to be around the time of shooting.

Fantastic plot ensuing. Shaun (Simon Pegg) has an average life with a girlfriend, Liz (Kate Ashfield) who expects a bit more from their relationship. Ed (Nick Frost) lives in a shared flat with Shaun and their dickish roommate Pete (Peter Serafinowicz), and every night ends at the Winchester pub. After Shaun was supposed to finally arrange a nice night out, he messes up after a scrambled day at work, and Liz breaks it off with him. Planning on doing anything to get her back, Shaun and Ed wake up the next day to a zombie apocalypse. Guess things’ll be a bit more complicated than planned.

Let’s start with the filming. This movie, which, in my adolescence I thought was directed by Simon Pegg, was creatively done by Edgar Wright. With the combined writing and direction powers of

See, it’s gotta be good, she’s smiling.

Wright/Pegg, there’s nothing they couldn’t do. This movie uses interesting and dramatic quick cuts, ominously toned music at ironic parts, and comedic timing within the camera angles and cuts. It does mean a lot for a camera’s direction and cinematography to dictate the pacing and comedy of a film. This one has that. You’ll see the same thing in Hot Fuzz (a more action-y edge) and Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs The World (a review I did a while ago).

That’s some classic Nighy right there.

The cast is also full of a bunch of wonderful British actors. Of course there’s the Simon Pegg/ Nick Frost bromance/friendship duo. It’s the only couple in Hollywood that I would consciously ship together despite just being two men who are friends. You have Dylan Moran, star of Black Books and the recently reviewed A Film With Me in It. This Irish actor plays the dick and four eyes, David. But he’s a lot more than that and shows up in other Simon Pegg vehicles. I give this guy his props, he’s damn funny. There’s Lucy Davis who plays the slightly slow failed actress, Dianne. Most British comedy fans will know of her from the UK’s Office as Dawn, one of my favorites (I currently worship Ricky Gervais).  There’s Bill Nighy, POTC’s Davy Jones and Underworld’s head vamp and one of my mom’s favorite British actors. A cameo is made by Rafe Spall, son of Timothy Spall as Noel, one of Shaun’s co-workers at the tech shop. He’s slimmed down a bit for other roles and most recently

The Wright stuff.

appeared in Prometheus (you gotta check him out, he’s going places).

This movie’s just a great watch and gets better every time you watch it with inside jokes and new groups of friends tuning in. (At least in my experience.) There’s nothing wrong with it, and it delivers on the horror fan and comedy fan that both dwell within me. If you’re any sort of a geek and love sci-fi/video games/movies/fantasy, this movie is for you. It’s a cricket bat to the head and worth all the injuries. 9.3 out of 10.


Tokyo Gore Gore and More Gore Police

I think I just appropriately changed the title. Because I was expecting gore, but not the magnitude I was given. I was relentlessly pounded with blood and carnage to such an excessive degree that I was in awe and stitches from all the laughing, at the same

Ah yes, the ever popular school girl…

time. This movie is satirically poking fun at the horror/gore genre, even putting gore in the title. It never takes itself too seriously (although some of the actors onscreen may have to deliver some of their lines with a straight face) and it has all the fun you’d ever want from a fantasy/anime/comedy/horror film (look at all those genres in a line…). I was fascinated and swept away by this Japanese wonder.

For as much of a plot as there is here goes nothing. Ruka (Eihi Shiina) is a member of he futuristic Japanese police force. In a similar situation to RoboCop, the police have been revamped with privatization. This is all in order to defeat

You love to see the woman from Audition in some hand rain… (That’s what it was tagged as…)

anime-like creature villains known as Engineers. Created by an evil mad scientist (Itsuji Itao), these Engineers have key-like tumors placed into their bodies (like a macabre Kingdom Hearts) that allow them to regrow injuries into gory and grotesque weapons. Ruka is a special member of the task force that is sent out to handle these demons with her always trusty katana. What a relief that swords are more effective against evil in the future than guns are…

After discovering an evil plot and a hidden past, Ruka must embrace who she is and destroy everyone in her path. This leads to a whole lotta ridiculous gore (basically things you can’t do to or with the

Slugma woman!

human body) and some of the funniest dismemberment scenes I’ve ever witnessed in a film. I was loving it and never wanting the blood spurts and cut in half bodies to stop (that’s a classic M for Mature anime scene for ya). This movie makes no real attempts to take itself seriously, and I was happy to see that. When you watch the scene in the Engineer bordello, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Just all that gore…

This film is also interspersed with dark infomercials that pop up on the T.V.’s throughout the film. There’s proper swords for Hara-kiri (Japanese ritualistic suicide), mini-kawaii boxcutters for wristcutting (Kawaii meaning cute), and a whole lot of anti-suicide ads. I’m not sure what some of them were for, but maybe it just meant that suicide or mutilation leads to the creation of more Engineers? Strange…

This movie literally has some of the most messed up gore I’ve ever seen. Entering into a reality of warped body image, this movie can do what it wants. Anybody who is an Engineer can recreate themselves into a warped version of themselves with weapons of personality attached to themselves. A venus flytrap for legs, a

There’s no end to the weird.

katana arm, chainsaw on a chain… and my favorite I can’t mention that you’ll have to see to believe. I said before that A Serbian Film left me in awe and despair. This film had the same amount of disturbing scenes, but it was all done with a smile on its face. I like this one far better.

Yay!

Everything is over the top and there’s far more blood than you’d actually think can be in one human body. It’s all tongue in cheek with unrealistic corpses and bottles that can take your whole face off. This movie can’t even go a whole 5 minutes without another dismemberment. I loved every minute of it. It is truly one of those cult classics that ranks up there with Evil Dead in the way it’s presented. So if you like horror/gore movies like that, you have to see this. A big word up for Tokyo Gore Police. 9.1 out of 10.


My Name Is Bruce… Campbell.

I am not afraid to admit without guilt and shame that I am a Bruce Campbell fan. I watch the Evil Dead trilogy with religious zeal and enjoy Sam Raimi immensely as one of my favorite directors because of the work he and Campbell did together. (This extends into Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, and the new Spider-Man can go and suck on that. Screw the new movie, without even seeing it.) The fact that Bruce Campbell has made a life for himself, shamelessly making B-rated movies in his cheesy and infallible way makes

Bruce Campbell. Here to save the day, in a cheesy way.

anyone who sees his movies realize the lovable goofball that is inside him.

And My Name is Bruce is no exception. In this ode to Bruce Campbell, the small town of Gold Lick has unleashed a demon back from its days when it had Chinese men building the railroads. The got locked down in a mineshaft and a demon known as Guan-Di looks over them. And bean curd. When two unsuspecting teens looking for a romp with two quite strange and unattractive goth girls, all Hell breaks loose.

The cheap Chinese demon emerges!

After the comical slaying of these two bimbos and the friend who accompanied him, Jeff (Taylor Sharpe) seeks out his personal hero, Bruce Campbell. Being a big fan of all his films and knowing that he’ll know what to do, Jeff kidnaps Bruce. Thinking it’s all part of the birthday surprise that his manager Toddner Mills (Ted Raimi) set up, Bruce goes along with it, expecting the cameras and stardom. He’ll do anything at this point, living in a trailer with his drunken dog and no one that loves him. He falls for Jeff’s mom, Kelly (Grace Thorsen) and saves the day. What could be better for Bruce Campbell?

This movie hits all the major points of Bruce Campbell’s B-rated career. He fights

A little bit of that lovable cartoon comedy.

sci-fi/fantasy killer bugs and demons, he swoons the ladies with his famous lines like, “Give me some sugar, baby” and “Hail to the king.” His cheesiness in this film is outweighed by the arrogant figure they create for him that he has to overcome throughout the movie. He has a big head that no actor like himself should have, and rightly so. But everyone can’t get enough of the Bruce at the end of the day.

I have to say it, but that Grace Thorsen has mighty big boobs in this movie. Give me some of that sugar, baby…

It was a reminiscing sort of a film that just takes you back through the heyday of Bruce. A cheesy little podunk town and goofy comic lines that no one but a 6 year old would laugh at. There’s slapstick and a bit of swearing that sets this above a PG-13 rating, but it’s all in fun. Even Sam Raimi’s brother Ted makes some character appearances

The unstoppable Bruce Campbell.

throughout the film. Overall, I was impressed with a film that takes a childhood hero and makes a joke about him. All in fun, this movie is good for any Bruce Campbell/ Evil Dead/ Bubba Ho-tep/Anything he does is gold fans out there. For what it was, it was a 7.1 out of 10.


Marvel’s The Avengers

In this culmination of the Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and Hulk series of movies comes The Avenger’s movie, produced by Marvel and Disney Studios. Okay, let’s be realistic about how much I know or care about the Marvel series and any of its connected works. There’s very little. I never really read  comic books when I was younger, other than Ghost Rider and Spawn. I always had a thing for the darker characters and (other than Ghost Rider) not a lot of Marvel characters caught my interest that much. So I was apathetic as to the plight of the superheroes in this movie. Didn’t mean I wasn’t converted into a huge fan in less than 2 hours. This movie alone makes me wanna go back and watch all the others, just to know what went down.

Now it’s not that I’m completely ignorant of the superhero world. I love Batman (not so much these latest installments that showcase Christopher Nolan as the be all end all of Batman with his same cast from every movie that he loves so much)

Lookin’ good there, Evans.

and Spiderman (again, why are they making another one in less than 5 years of the last one? Yes, it may be “more true” to a comic, but Sam Raimi doesn’t need to be spit in the face. My favorite director doesn’t need to be shown up for no damn reason.) and Ghost Rider (we don’t need to get into the whole Nicholas Cage issue, just read my blog on the second movie). I followed the Blade films and even checked out a Hulk or two. I was a kid once, and cartoons are all about superheroes.

The Hulk. Become a fan.

Which, I find, comes at a fault. To realistically shape and morph comic superheroes into people and set them in a different medium is a bit weird to me. You got these groups of superheroes coming together and nobody finds it odd or strange in a modern society that all of this is coming up out of sci-fi fantasy make believe. To depict these dark characters for what is considered to be something that children collect and watch and slap a PG-13 rating on it so the younger kids who like this stuff can’t see it? It seems strange to me. If my little 5 year old cousin can’t see The Avengers and he loves Iron Man, what kind of a situation is that? Yes, there are those comics geared towards an older audience, but you’re still appealing to something meant for those who are younger. Just something to think about.

Enough of my rant about the paradox that is comics and comic book movies. The Avengers is a particular story that has been in the making for a while now. All of these movies were put out in anticipation of one film that would unite all these superheroes in a huge clash of good versus evil. I can tell you though, I have

Some egos clash right here.

no idea who the bad guys were or what their purpose was in coming to Earth other than to destroy it. Nothing gained, a planet destroyed I guess. But you bring together all these clashing egos and you have yourself a more dynamic and interesting squad than the Justice League or any other huge star superhero teams out there.

Go on and use those “superpowers” guys…

Meanwhile, at some underground base that S.H.I.E.L.D. runs…

Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) has heard some terrible news about this source of power/reactor thing that is going to change the world, known as the Tesseract. Talk about throwbacks to Madeline L’Engle and A Wrinkle in Time. Loki (Tom Hiddelston) transports from this sinister looking purple planet and steals away Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and this scientist, Erik Selvig (Stellen Skarsgard). They plan to use the Tesseract for some nefarious deeds, and take down Thor and all the other superheroes who have done them wrong. Loki has a score to settle with his brother and he is seeking revenge through some freaky deaky alien people.

So Nick Fury decides its time to assemble the team. He gets Captain America (Chris Evans) who was frozen in some ice in the ocean from way back when. There’s Tony Stark, AKA Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) who has been working on some new energy sources and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) who has been helping sick Indian children before he’s picked up by Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). Rounding out the team is Thor (Chris Hemsworth), come to find his brother and stop him. With these ultimate superheroes (and those like Black Widow and Hawkeye who really aren’t anything special thrown in) comes ego clashing, fights on an epic scale, and one of the coolest final battles shot in Cleveland and made to look like NYC that you’ll ever see.

Looks like Cleveland to me…

I didn’t have a lot of problems with this film. Overall, it set out what it wanted to do, entertain and tell the story of the Avengers, and make as much money as possible off of the series. I mean, a BILLION DOLLARS?!?! That’s pretty redonkulous. The dialogue wasn’t too bad and cheesy like a stuffed Ritz or anything, although Samuel L. Jackson got the short end of the stick in this movie. He was really bad in comparison to everyone else. He came off as incompetent and not a hardass at all. For shame Samuel L., for shame. I really enjoyed Mark Ruffalo’s acting in this movie as The Hulk. He was witty and laid back enough to believe that he was truly holding back a beast. And when he finally let out all that anger, I instantly became a Hulk fan. On the spot when he punched that alien dirigible thing in the face.

Thanks for this one Joss Whedon. Not so much Nick Fury over there…

There were some stunning visual effects in the film and some free flowing action. Unlike other movies that have a lot of cheesy comedy for the fans, this movie was far different than those. This movie has some good humor for a bit of an older audience. And every character has their own comedic scene. This movie is a pretty good balance of comedy, violence, and full throttle action. At no point in the film was I bored, and that’s a good achievement for a 2+ hour film. And a setup for a sequel? I wouldn’t mind that at all. If it’s still in theaters (and at the time of posting, it is) go check this out. It’s got a good range for a film that a lot people will find fun and exciting. So suit up and join The Avengers, it’s a cinematic ride you don’t wanna miss. A solid 8.5 out of 10, perfectly good action/superhero movie.


Trollhunter

I’m coming at this movie from a very strange angle, being a horror film fan and confused at the audience this film was for. Set in Norway and filmed by Norwegians, a barrier of lore is put up between what I think a troll looks like and what the Norwegian depiction of a troll is like. Besides the fact that I have rarely heard a Norwegian speak their native language, I would consider this movie a culture clash of mythology and a rendition of The Blair Witch Project.

This film, also known as a mockumentary, takes place in the foothills around Norway. In the western woods of Norway, a group of college filmmakers come upon a story of a hunter who is killing bears out of season. After establishing this mysterious man as an actual person, the group comes upon his truck and trailer at an outpost. Wanting to speak with him, a bit of secretive filming is underway. It is not until the group goes too far that they discover that the bear hunter they want to out for his criminal behavior, is actually a troll hunter.

Not understanding the repercussions of their actions, and a huge dose of incredulity, these college kid fools partake in the hunting and rangling of trolls. This is where the movie gets interesting. Throughout their whole fantastical endeavor, the filmers keep asking questions of Hans the trollhunter (Otto Jespersen). With his vast knowledge of lore turned into fact through the act of interacting with the trolls, these college kids learn that what Hans says, goes. In a final confrontation you’ll have to “see” to “believe”, this movie pushes the boundaries of the fantastical and mythical.

The trollhunting crew.

I think what threw me off the most in this film was the way the trolls looked in the movie. I had my knowledge of trolls from Bilbo Baggins and the dwarves from The Hobbit. I had the various depictions I’ve seen in fairytales and what a bridge troll acts/looks like. I was caught off guard to see a shambling, bumbling, big nosed troll come strolling through those trees. With the look came no threat of danger or horror for me. But, after looking at paintings of Norwegian trolls, and some more plot from the movie, I have come to a better understanding of the Norwegian’s connection to trolls. At the time it was hard to see how these CG trolls could be of any threat, but the element of scientific belief that went into making this movie seem real was excessive and believable, to say the least. I give it to them for that.

A cryptic image...

Other than the disbelief that went into watching this movie, I enjoyed the overall feel and dialogue behind the characters and plot. This movie, like an academic paper, set out to prove a point, and the point was delivered home. The only part I question is what Christian blood and believing in God had to do with anything in the end. As a device of horror, yes. As a strange prerequisite to interact with trolls, it was odd. But the movie did just enough showing without having to beat into your head that you’re looking at trolls in the film, but leaving them as these evil beasts that can come upon you in the night. And I think the scientific explanation of why trolls turn to stone was quite good. So, despite my skepticism, I enjoyed the film in the end. Especially the last scene with the Norwegian president. Throw him that curve ball. A solid 6.1 out of 10.

What could've done this?


Fright Night (2011 Remix)

I gotta say I was not a big fan of this movie. I really didn’t know where this movie was coming from not having seen the original 1985 version and I didn’t know at all where it was going. With a cast of reputable kiddish actors lead by Anton Yelchin, I expected a bit more from this film. Souring the mood with a debilitating approach to lighting, this movie came at me from all the wrong places.

This is the story of a young man, Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin). No longer the bullied in his high school, he has become the passive bully. He ignores his former friend Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and finds solace only in his airhead toolish friends and girlfriend, Amy (Imogen Poots. What a horrid name.) With Ed and their friend Adam (Will Denton, not all that important.) these three crusaders would L.A.R.P. and Dungeon Master themselves to death. They loved the

Colin Farrell was pretty dope.

occult and all these fantasy. And then one day, a vampire moves into town and starts killing.

I have to say I enjoyed the first scene of the film. Straight from a thriller horror movie, a boy is chased and killed along with his family by what appears to be a home invader. That was pretty intense and old schoolish. Always the suggestion and hinting at the supernatural. Then you find out it’s Adam. Feel a bit bad, move on. Ed ropes in Charley and is abandoned by the middle of the film. That’s the one part of the movie I felt they should have stayed on. Straying from the course and focusing more on the damsel in distress made the movie unoriginal. (or… followed the original 1985 version…) I loved Chris Mintz-Plasse in this movie. I hated him and everything else about Superbad. Go

Here's where the acting came from. And there's where the lighting went.

figure. But it was the friendship between these two and the fact that one needed the other just as much was what really struck a chord for me in this movie. And that only mattered for about 20 minutes. Screw that.

Then let’s get into how (okay it does relate to the original, but…) this movie resonates with Mom’s Got a Date with a Vampire. That was some good Disney joint back in the day. That dad from The Nanny, he was killin that shizz. And now, beef up and hottify the vampire to the point of ridiculousness. Enter Colin Farrell as Jerry, the next door vampire. His sexual appeal (not to me necessarily…) and his sarcastic charm made him a perfect fit for this film. Seducing Charley’s mom (Toni Collette) was a different story.Trying to convince the world of a vampire that will kill you if you don’t play by its weaknesses was a great aspect to this film. (Just like in Orphan. Watch it and you’ll understand.)

...On pushing it that he did well in this movie...

…But going to see your childhood hero and finding him to be a fraud is not. This leads me to say that the second half (and only part of the first half) of this movie was disappointing. I need to talk about this because this chews at me. David Tennant may be a fantastic Doctor on Dr. Who. But I really hope anyone who saw this film for him realizes that he was terrible in this movie. He is typecast forever as a quirky, know-it-all character… like Dr. Who. I don’t watch Dr. Who. And, taking David Tennant’s acting in this film, it was lackluster. Below par. I’m sad to say that when I had heard rumors he was going to play The Riddler in the new Batman movie that I can’t wait to miss. Too bad, so sad. Truly.

I don't think you can defend yourself, little Miss Poots.

So Anton Yelchin goes to find Peter Vincent (Dr. Who) in order to get an expert’s help with his vampire problem. He’s a sham and swears and drinks all the time. He can’t help save the damsel and needs some convincing in order for the final showdown. And I won’t ruin the ending, but movie writers or whoever decides this has to stop assuming that you can call something a vampire and then say its not and call it some succubus subhuman ground creature. Not true. It’s not a vampire is it? And yet it follows all the same laws of defeating a vampire? Make up your minds…

Bring it on, Anton.

All-in-all, the only bright lights in this dark vampire world were Anton Yelchin(sort of) and Chris Mintz-Plasse. If they had focused on their friendship and not unnecessarily focused on Imogen Pootz, the dud. (this girl has been in 28 Weeks Later, the failed sequel, and Jane Eyre. Bet she wasn’t good in either…) I don’t understand the high school mood they were going for, and a lot of the lines and cinematography fell flat for me. A little more of a dynamic, over the top approach to this horror comedy may have brough out that comedy, because it was lost on me. 4 out of 10.