Tag Archives: great film

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 Killer Inside Me (2010)

IFC films has brought to my attention another great film I would have otherwise missed. The Killer Inside Me is a gruesomely depicted film, void of emotion, that really showed off how well Casey Affleck could act. Better than his brother, but that’s not hard to imagine. A lot of things struck me in the slowly paced film noir (reminded me of the South’s version of L.A. Noire) about a man spiraling out of control that I wasn’t expecting. You think he was made a killer out of happenstance. You learn something frighteningly different.

Lou Ford (Casey Affleck) is a well to do sheriff in a small podunk town. He’s called out one day to a run down house outside of town in order to force a well known prostitute to abandon her position there. What

A ridiculously twisted performance.

happens is something you wouldn’t expect. This nice boy is smacked across the face and forced to leave. But he finds love, and pain, in the prostitute he brutally beats back. In a sadomasochistic love affair, Lou and Joyce (Jessica Alba) hatch a plan with unexpected drawbacks.

A twisted love affair.

What blew me away in this film was in fact Casey Affleck’s performance. Whenever you are introduced to a character in a film, especially the main character, you want that person to wow you. They’re the person you’ll most likely be following the entire film. And when a character like this who is seen as so traditionally brutal and evil, without an emotion on his face, somewhere inside you wants to root for them. You become so wrapped up in a good actor’s performance that you don’t wanna see it end with them getting caught.

There were some other great appearances in this film as well. The classic Ned Beatty makes an appearance as the rich

Podunk Noir.

villain, Chester Conway. From the outset of the movie, you think he’s the bad guy. But how little you know… Tom Bower from my favorite horror movie, The Hills Have Eyes, makes a great minor role player as the head Sheriff Bob Maples. His southern drawl and terrible drinking problem made him a great comedic relief at times. Elias Koteas, one of those standard character actors makes an appearance as the union leader, Joe Rothman. Ever since I first laid eyes on his acting, I realized Koteas can slip into anyone’s skin and make it seem natural. And Bill Pullman makes a great cameo towards the end as a lawyer. I had a little chuckle with that.

Always gotta look… sharp.

I think what upset a lot of people about this movie (confirmed by Wiki, as usual), is the violence towards women. All of Lou Ford’s sexual interests is beaten to death or near death throughout the film by him. It is in fact hard to watch, but it wouldn’t be a movie about a killer if he never did anyone in… What disturbed me more, personally, is the belt strangling Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson, more than the punches and bruises. The perverse and weird that is meant for behind closed doors, flaunted on camera, and no one mentioned that as a point of discomfort? Oh wait, sex is art and violence in movies is inexcusable… I get the double standard… So where does violent sex acts stand?

This movie, at its core, for me, was about a man losing control of his life. He was a normal person, with some major

Whatcha doing there, Alba?

developmental bumps along the way. He thought becoming a police officer would set him on the right track, but he grew bored. He needed the excitement of the extraordinary and the ability to get away with it as a cop gave him his high. Up until the very end, he felt he could get

Watch the world burn.

away with it. When all was said and done, he still kept his cool and let the world burn around him. It was an eerie film to witness, but made all the more interesting by its brutality and poetic separation from humanity.

If you’ve played L.A. Noire, or love noir films, you have to check this movie out. It breaks away from the genre and sets itself apart as a twisted version of what it sets out to do. It may have upset people who didn’t want to see it, but it may just be right for you to see. Let me know what you think. 9.1 out of 10.