Tag Archives: impressive

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.


Audition: Let’s Have a Call for All Killers

I was in a state of shock and awe after this film. I thought I had found my favorite horror films, but Audition really blew those out of the water. This perfect balance of horror and troubling thriller really sets the bar high for any films after 1999. Takashi Miike has made a masterpiece of a mindf@#$k with Audition. And the fact that Rob Zombie, John Landis, and Eli Roth said this film was difficult to watch, it has to be golden.

Shigeharu Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi) is a recently widowed movie producer. He’s been quite distant and lonely lately, and his son, Shigehiko (Tetsu Sawaki) has noticed it. Encouraging his dad to at the very least start dating again, Shigeharu turns to his

The audition begins. This is one of those other shots they held really long so you couldn’t see her face. Chilling.

friend, Yasuhisa Yoshikawa (Jun Kunimura), a fellow movie maker for ideas. This is where he has a stroke of genius. In proposing a new movie idea, these two scoundrels will have an audition (hey, there’s the movie title!) for the leading lady. Shigeharu can choose his top 30 and narrow it down from there, giving the lead to the best actress, but he can claim his favorite choice for his wife.

Ballin’ disturbing images.

Feeling slightly uneasy about this, Shigeharu goes into it half-assed. He dawdles around until he finds a young woman who stops his heart still. Asami Yamazaki (Eihi Shiina) is a former ballerina with a very high guard and a delicate personality. He tragic past and broken dreams intoxicate Shigeharu and he must have her at all costs. After a few dates, Shigeharu starts to notice something different about her. And once she disappears, he digs up a past he never wanted to find.

I have to say it, this is a dope ass film. It’s such a twisted film with a plot that leaves you with no idea what’s going on. What people talk about is the torture scene at the end. Needles, dismemberment, blood, this scene houses the entire NR rating for the

A feeling of unsettling fear…

whole film. People have left disgusted and sickened, but that’s what would have kept me in the film. I’ll admit it, I love torture and horror. Anything that makes people, as an audience, feel unclean is wonderful. For someone to go into a movie like this and realize something about their sensibilities by the time they leave is an experience worth having. It taps into our minds and shows us just how terrible the world can be. But shouldn’t be.

I was impressed with a lot of things about this movie. Eihi Shiina’s performance in this film was chilling and horrific. She seems to be such a nice little girl, but her unemotional, uncaring side is what frightens people. It makes people feel uncomfortable with how relentless and completely honest she is as a character. She hypnotizes the bugs into her web and leaves them there to die by her fangs.

You’ll never wanna guess what happens…

A lot of the film has these extremely long held camera shots in it. The action will stay on one angle and deliver a whole piece of dialogue without moving. You’re anticipating some movement (like you would with most films) but it doesn’t come yet. It waits, and waits, and waits until you feel uncomfortable. The whole movie is made to feel unsettling. It’s a tortuous waiting game of when will the knife fall, until it does (and only in the last 15 minutes).

The surreal quality at the end of the film also really spoke to me. You fade in and out of the torture scene, you see past events as Shigeharu couldn’t have seen them. The past is rewritten. You lose all sense of control and awareness as the drugs settle into Shigeharu. You completely give your control over to Asami, something that is unsettling for people to do, even in real life. You lose yourself to this poisonous flower and have no feeling of waking up. There is a bit of a jarring from this final scene that didn’t need to happen. No happy ending was necessary, and yet Takashi Miike allowed it to happen. It would’ve had such a sweetly unsatisfying ending if it had the villain succeeds ending…

But, all in all, this movie delivers on a horror lovers level and a thriller/psychological level. You feel off either way after you’ve watched this. And that’s what horror movies like this set out to do from the start. No wonder this has a cult

WHAT’S IN THE BAG?!?!?

following. It should have. Asian filmmakers know how to do the horror genre right, and this is no exception. This is the movie that made the rule. 9.4 out of 10.

 


District 13: Ultimatum

Dope.

In this sequel to the French action film, Banlieue 13, also known as District 13, there’s more parkour and straight up ass kicking to the extreme in this film. Taking place 3 years after the events of the first, Ultimatum is a movie that really makes me wanna go back and watch the first. That’s how good this movie was, it makes me wanna watch the first one (although I understood what was going on) just so I can connect the two and rewatch the second one. That’s what’s good with this film. Word.

In this film, David Belle and Cyril Raffaelli reprise their roles as Leito and Damien, the hard hitting cop and parkour specialist. In this movie (and I’m assuming it’s a continued story from the first) there’s still a District 13 in France,

Dave and Cyril, Damien and Leito, back again.

comprised of thugs and gangsters from every major European nation. There’s the Jews, the Blacks (Africans, I’m pretty sure), the Asians, and so on and so forth. In a symbolic representation of the tensions felt between races, this movie really speaks to race relations in a modern society, if left unchecked. With these problems plaguing the French government, the DISS (also known as the Department of Internal State Security) has some big plans for this district.

After busting some dumb thugs who see a man in heels and a wig and assume he’s a woman, Leito (Belle) takes them out one by one with a medicinal gun. He drops them down this¬†conveniently¬†placed sewer grate and looks good all the while doing it. I don’t think it means I’m gay that I found him to be attractive as a woman, I had no idea at first that he was a man, which I think is a bit of a bravo for the makeup crew on this movie set. The movie industry does wonders. Afer a job well done, Leito goes back to his flat and bangs his black girlfriend. Then he’s kidnapped for a drug framing. And this is where the conspiracy starts.

Just a taste of the parkour in the film.

While in jail, Leito calls on his best friend Damien to help get him out, which he thankfully agrees to. With some great parkour moves and some investigating of his own, Damien and Leito discover a plan that will rock all of District 13. Will they be able to stop the dastardly plan? It’s all up to Damien and Leito and their French stunt skills.

What I really liked about this film was the realistic stunts. And the way those realistic stunts flow in between a well delivered plot with some good rapport and dialogue. Leito goes from shoving his foot down some punks’ throats to Damien jumping effortlessly from building to building in order to save the day. And who knew that parkour could save someone’s life? The last scene is quite mind blowing and full of adrenaline pumping destruction from every gangster in the film. Any scene between Damien and Leito is a natural conversation between friends, although I know nothing of the French dialect and its intonations. Just two friends destroying and having a good time doing it.

The classic batch of gangsters.

The idea behind the movie is pretty cool, and I’ve not seen that many French films before. Luc Besson has written some badass films in the past (Transporter Series, The Fifth Element, etc.) and this movie is no exception. You know that old stereotype about French being sissies? Watch this movie and tell me that to my face with a straight look. I was impressed with the wide ranging cast of ethnicities and the

‘Bout to kick some ass, all while savin’ a Van Gogh.

deliverance in lines. There’s a bit of that cheesily delivered lines, and some lines you wouldn’t believe people in government wouldn’t ever say, but this action movie doesn’t go overboard. And that impressed me. With a movie like this that can keep you entertained at every turn with its fast paced filming and action, you can’t do anything but want more of it. And that’s exactly what I’m gonna do. Impress me some more France. I’m listening. A solid 7.3 out of 10.