Tag Archives: quirky

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.


Sympathy for Lady Vengeance: Death Be a Lady…

In a turn of events of Park Chan-wook’s series, it’s the lady’s turn to be the one seeking vengeance. In this straightforward, lunge at the throat revenge story, Park Chan-wook ends his series. This one is a bit more delicate and see-through than the other movies, but it leaves the series with a bit of a twist and bang.

Lee Geum-ja (Lee Young Ae) is a recently released child murderer who smothered a kidnap victim with a pillow to stifle his cries. After confessing, she went to jail for 13 years, performing good deeds and being seen as a saint in jail. She helped out her

Stone. Cold. Fox.

fellow cellmate and seems to have done a complete 180 on being released from jail. She’s cold. She’s calculated. And she’s going after the real killer who framed her. Classic revenge story? You got it.

I was a bit surprised this one was a bit more straightforward with who was seeking revenge against who. Lee Geum-ja is going after Mr. Baek (Choi Min-sik), that classical actor and wonderful dramatic presence.

I loved this tatoo.

He has less of a role in this movie, but Lee Young Ae makes up for that with a femme fatale performance that would make any man shiver his timbers. What I really liked in this movie is the way that Park Chan-wook wanted the revenge scene (as Lee Geum-ja wanted it) was to be poetic and beautiful at the same time it would be cathartic and an aggressional release.

The cinematography and locations are once again stunning. Snow scenes, an abandoned school and the ironical revenge point, and a few strangely surreal daydreams and flashbacks that occur that I quite liked. I liked the initial setup on Lee Geum-ja in jail. She’s meeting all

Really stunning color scheme right there.

these hardened women criminals and they always label them by name and years served. Then somehow there’s someone who Lee Geum-ja saves them and uses that later on in the film. I enjoyed the whole “Ocean’s 11 feel” for the small part of the film.

The end scene is why you watch this film. You feel for the whole situation and you know that it’s very real human response that is dished out there (no spoilers!). It’s harsh and brutal and it comes from a place most of us dream about but are never given the chance to. You’ll just have to see for yourself…

This is that weird thing I was talking about…

What more is there to say about this? Lee Young Ae is a cold beauty and really sells the part. The movie has this whole quirky, otherwordly feel to it where street justice is dealt out in a modern day world. I just think those South Koreans really know how to make a spectacular set of films. And a cameo by Song Kang-ho and Yu Ji-tae! Get some of this Lady Vengeance. 8.3 out of 10.


Eve no Jikan: Time of Eve

Wow, it’s been a long time in the making, but this is my 201st post, just passing my 200th. I am now, after this, completely caught up and ready to go on to new up to the minute update sort of things. What I mean is my posts will be more raw and fresh in my mind because I just watched it. My list of updates/posts is done and it’s time to revitalize this old beast. So strap in for this last amazing little anime review and then get ready for Misfits Season 3 afterwards. You’re gonna have no idea what hit you with that one.

In Eve no Jikan/ Time of Eve, the world has been revitalized by robots. And, most recently, it has upgraded to androids who can act and look like humans. It’s your basic I, Robot issue right here. Right down to the 3 laws that govern robots. This might have taken some cues from the novel I, Robot was based on. Anyways, Rikuo Sakisaka is a

There’s only one rule here in this saloon.

teenage high school boy who has an android at home, Sammy. She cooks and cleans and makes one mean coffee. Upon updating her one day, Rikuo comes across some odd place that Sammy went in his phone. Inviting his friend Masakazu Masaki to come along, they both stumble on something that it taboo for both of them.

All the wonderful characters and images!

Time of Eve, this hip little cafe is made for robots and humans. And the only rule is that you are not allowed to discriminate between them or call the other out. The only real difference between the two of them is that androids have halos above their heads. But in the Time of Eve cafe, it goes away and both become human (in a way).

At first, Rikuo and Masaki are horrified at what they find. They know that treating a robot like a human is a stigma among humans, known as dori-kei or adnroid-philia. To treat or love a robot like a human is wrong to these boys, and that’s what makes this cafe so frightening. Over time Rikuo finds he likes coming to the cafe and a gap is bridged between robots and humans. Analyzing the loopholes of the laws that govern robots and what it means to “protect humans”, Rikuo and Masaki’s lives are changed by the Time of Eve.

Can there be love? Or constant separation?

This anime is very character driven and very touching. It has its funny moments when the music stops and the camera zooms in on an awkward moment or something, but overall heartwarming. The regulars of the cafe are humans and robots, and there’s no need to try to tell the difference. Every episode focuses on a different regular, eventually coming full circle. There’s a wonderful little girl named Chie who thinks she’s a cat. Some wonderfully old school robots who just want to be treated like humans, and Sammy, a robot who just loves her master.

I’m glad to see a movie was created after this anime came out. Found only on the internet as an ONA, this anime has been lucky enough to become popular enough to be made into a full length feature. (I have yet to watch it, but I would probably say the same things about this that I would about the movie.) It’s one of those quick anime that

A touching scene, one right after the other.

passes you by, but leaves a warm spot in your heart that stays with you, long after you may forget the character’s names. This anime sends a message about the future of our world and whether or not it is okay to discriminate now and in the future as well. And I would say that’s an emphatic no.

It’s quirky at the same time that every episode ends on a small tear streak down your cheek. The animation style is fluid and breathtaking, combining 3-D animation with 2-D humans and characters. This technique makes the characters stand out being flat in this futuristic world. The camera rotates around the cafe as if it is a real life scene, speaking to the movie lovers in all of us. Coming from a sci-fi background that has only seen flat and unemotional characters, this future set sci-fi genre anime breaks the rules and makes you feel. There may be hunks of cold metal onscreen, but they have warm hearts. That’s what I found cute and appealing about this 6 episode anime. It sucks you in with these short episodes with a trilling and romantically inclined music score, and leaves you feeling good at the end. Any anime like that deserves an 8.8 out of 10.

And here’s a cool AMV to prove my point.

 

 


What Women Want: A Chinese Take

I can’t explain what it is, but the original Mel Gibson version of this film has just stuck with me for years. I loved it and loved the idea behind it. Almost like a comedians joke, it is true that men can’t think behind what women are thinking. Combine that with Mel Gibson’s attitude and apparent macho sex appeal, and you got yourself a movie with comedy, wit, and a combining of the sexes.

And the same thing goes for the Chinese version of this film. Starring Andy Lau and

Some real chemistry between two beautiful Asians.

Gong Li, these two had a chemistry on film that wasn’t present as much between Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt. The humor is all there in both films, it just comes off as more of a real feeling when watching this 2011 remake. Maybe the Chinese know something about gender relations than we do…

Basic plot. Sun Zigang (Andy Lau) is a successful and macho advertising agent. He knows sex sells to a male audience and does it in a very male oriented way. After all his success and the expectation of a promotion, along comes Li Yilong (Gong Li). She’s young, sassy and successful, and her headstrong attitude scares Sun. He must learn to work under her when she takes his sought after promotion, only to struggle against her managerial style. After taking some female products home, Sun is struck by electrocuted by a fish lamp in his bathtub.

Andy Lau as a secure male. In red heels.

That’s where everything changes. Suddenly, Sun Zigang can hear the thoughts of women. Not all people, like a useful power would, just women. And he finds out that all the women at his work hate him, even his own daughter from his newly divorced wife. With this massive hit to his ego, he must save face and do well in his job all at the same time.

I keep coming back to it, but the idea of a plot like this fascinates me. Most men in this situation would use this power to manipulate women. Andy Lau does this to an extent. But to learn that women can be just as mean to men (just not saying it) is a scary and

Gong Li really is a beautiful woman.

depressing thing. I hope this idea/ script was written by a women, or it wouldn’t be as true and enlightening and this film becomes.

I’m sure there are those people who write this off as just a romantic comedy. Why look into it any more than that? But why not? The idea that maybe being able to be honest and truthful with one another (even if we don’t know that we are) can make things better. It can improve relationships, maybe break them. Maybe that’s not a bad thing. But honesty is at the heart of this movie, and that’s what I connected so much with. Listen, I’ve not had a bunch of good luck with female friends in the past. They back stabbed me, left me, didn’t understand me, and I tried to communicate with them on a real level. Maybe that’s something a lot of people can’t handle. Unrelenting trust. That’s the kind of difficulty this movie idea tries to handle.

Ya got beat, Mel.

The acting is great, just like the original, but the chemistry and relationships seem a bit more realistic in this Chinese version. I liked the awkward Asian stereotype at play in the way that it was an ebb and flow between the characters. Nobody ever really said what they wanted to say, and that proves how hard it is to be trusting and honest, completely, with other human beings. I saw a side of China that you don’t often get to see, and it reassures me that not everywhere other than America is so unrelated to us. The music was upbeat and modern, and the comedy was nicely paced and quirky. I gotta say, Mel Gibson, you got beat by Andy Lau. 7.1 out of 10.


Bunny and the Bull

This movie came to me as a change of pace from jolly ole London. Straight from the director of The Mighty Boosh and Come Fly With Me (two BBC series I love, can’t go wrong with Noel Fielding or Matt Lucas) Paul King, this little movie, Bunny and the Bull is the story of agoraphobia. Stephen (Edward Hogg) travels through his past and towards his front door to face the past that created his fear of leaving his house. Hurt feelings are uncovered and adventures in the weirdest ways are had, and I loved every minute of it.

So let’s see… Stephen goes on a cross-Europe adventure with his friend and gambler Bunny (Simon

Bunny & Stephen on their outrageous adventure.

Farnaby). For all you Boosh fans, Farnaby played pie face and Howard Moon’s twin in The Mighty Boosh. His outlandish acting is required again as Bunny, an unlikeable character needed to drive Stephen from his rut and his home. There are some great parts to this movie. Like, first of all, Stephen’s England flat doubles as a OCD’er’s paradise. Every item used in his home, every routine, is boxed and categorized for later sentimental value. Its quite a sight to see. And what comes in contrast to this to bring Stephen’s life to a screeching halt?

What's going on here, Julian Barratt?

The most amazing animated backgrounds and interactive panels. Stephen and Bunny slip into couches, ride around in crabs, and cross maps in search of what Stephen has been missing. This quirky comedy comes with a dark side that is finally faced at the end of the film. And, although you may not like the way it ends, it brings a conclusion that Stephen, and hopefully the audience can live with. Liberation.

There are some great cameos in this film! Richard Ayoade (former Boosh shaman and now IT Crowd

The Amazing Noel Fielding!

star) plays a Museum Curator in Germany, specializing in cobbling and shoes. There’s Julian Barratt as Atilla, the Russian madman obsessed with dog’s tit milk, and Noel Fielding, as Javier the failed Spanish matador. With all these Boosh actors, what could be wrong with this quirkily dark film? Yes, you end up hating Bunny. Yes, you feel frustrated with Stephen’s insecurities. But it all comes together in the end. This movie deals with standing up for yourself. With taking a chance. With getting up after love and loss, sadness and fear strike you down. Because, as this movie would suggest, it’s always important to bet again on the long-shot.


Death Note: Simply Amazing

So this is one of the best anime I’ve watched. Ever. I mean hands down ever. I think this should be a mandatory requirement for all anime fans to watch. In one sitting. I had to load episodes from the internet, but I loaded them 1o at a time and would site for 3 hours watching al 10. This show blew my mind. It has the most intricate plot with twists and turns. It’s one of those pieces of art that you watch and you have to choose a side. (Clearly there’s only one side to choose in this anime.) But it’s harder than that. It’s about morality.

Light vs. L. Who will win?

Ethics. The worth/cost of a life. And whether or not it is just to take a life in the pursuit of justice and goodness. And if humankind can itself be gods.

So this anime is about Light Yagami (Brad Swaile). One day this 17 year old student, top of his class, suave, genius prodigy finds this notebook. And in it are instructions. If a name is written in this book with the persons face in mind, that person will die of a heart attack in 40 seconds. If a cause of death is established in those 40 seconds and the

Light Yagami. God of the New World.

details written in 6 minutes and 40 seconds, then the person will die that way if the means of that death can be accomplished. This is basically disregarded by Light as some ridiculous joke. Until he tries it. Then Light is thrust into a world of possibilities no one before could possibly imagine. And, using this Death Note, Light will become the God of the New World.

There is some baggage that comes with the Death Note. A Death Note can only be found by a human on Earth if it is dropped by a Shinigami. These quite strange, queer, funny creatures come from “limbo” as best I can figure. Their world is dissolving and Ryuuke

Ryuuke. He likes apples.

(Brian Drummond) has grown tired of the days of gambling bones and sleeping. He hungers for intrigue and excitement, and nobody better than Light can give that to him. Light’s attitude towards the power to kill brings surprising results. Light only kills criminals. Ryuuke follows him around, unseen by humans other than Light, for only humans who have touched the notebook can see Shinigamis. And it is Ryuuke’s duty to remain on earth with Light until it is his time to leave Light upon his death.

And from there the show picks up. Light soon becomes Kira (the Japanese pronunciation of Killer. Stereotypical right?) and creates a following. But the justice system won’t stand for that shit. They’re gonna put a stop to him right? So L(Alessandro Juliani), the greatest investigator/crime solver in the world, better than the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew combined, will do just that. And the chase begins. From here, the twists and mind games that’re played throughout the show display the amazing mind behind Tsugumi Ohba, creator of the manga.

I love Light Yagami. Thank you Brad Swaile.

Let me just say that my explanation/review of this anime comes nowhere near doing it justice. Although this anime was picked up by a Canadian company for dubbing, this doesn’t detract from the quality. Canadian voice actors are just as good as American voice actors. Case in point: Light Yagami’s voice actor, Brad Swaile. This guy must rock the mike when he’s recording. His manical laughs, his brilliantly intelligent air about him, it all fits the character. To a tee. Forget watching the subbed version, this guy brings this show home himself. Also of notable mention is Alessandro Juliani, the voice of L. Although his noises when interacting with food may seem off-putting, it enhances the strangeness that is L. L’s character is quirky and cold, intelligent and funny, but, to me, altogether annoying. And that’s why I chose the side of Light. Okay, not just because of the voice acting. To put my own opinion out there, Light’s sense of justice and genius mind are completely superior to L. In every way. Besides that, yes, L is respectable. But altogether inferior. But that’s where the dichotomy of the show comes from. And that’s why I enjoy the battle of the minds so much.

Also of notable mention in the voice acting department is Brian Drummond, ┬áthe voice of Ryuuke. All these Shinigami have sort of a grating, holier than thou, tone of voice to them and Ryuuke is no exception. Although he may play the part of jester, Brian Drummond brings an almost threatening aura to Ryuuke that makes him seem capable of anything being a God of Death. Chris Britton also gives a great performance as Soichiro Yagami, Light’s father. (I’m not gonna go into details about him, you must watch!) The grave, business air of Soichiro is what gives a respectable dignity to himself. Chris Britton’s caring and

Soichiro Yagami. Badass Dad.

intelligent voice lends itself to the character and really helps to envision a father worried for his family. Vincent Tong gets my honorable mention as Touta Matsuda, the goofy, caring, blundering police investigator of the Kira case. (This is inevitably what develops from Light’s mass killings of criminals.) He cares about the case, but he’s young at heart and this comes through strong and clear from Vincent Tong’s performance, making him an endearing character.

Teru Mikami. You'll see...

Another boss character from Death Note with a great voice actor is Kirby Morrow as Teru Mikami. (Now I can’t go into detail about this character, but look out for him!) Kirby does a great job of a devotional character willing to do whatever it takes for justice. Take that explanation as you like it. This show’s also great because there’s a culture crossover with Americans involved as well. And this shows itself in Raye Penber, voiced by Michael Adamhwaite. Adamthwaite (although a minor character) gives a great performance being an English speaking actor doing a English speaking character (not having watched the subbed, I don’t know exactly how this crossover works) and is quite the interesting character with a humble background.

But enough about voice actors. I could go on for far too long. The art is great too. It’s subtle dark colors mixed with flickering lights and dark corners gives it that seedy underbelly, nobody is who they say they are, investigation feel. This show is dark. I mean, come on, it’s about death. Characters are messed up in this show. But it’s all about the intelligence, it’s about the wording, and, most importantly, it’s all

Oh, did I mention there are live action movies?

about the deductions. The Shinigami, although otherworldly, become believable in this setting that seems it could never happen. I was never surprised or in disbelief by this anime, because it makes the impossible, possible. And that’s where the magic comes from.

So watch this show. Please check it out. It’s well worth its weight in gold. This show sets the bar unbelievably high for anime, and I think could make the jump into pop culture. Or, I wish it would. Love it, love it, love it. 11 out of 10. (Because I can.)

Oh, and this anime has one amazing intro. Check it (if you’re a metal fan).