Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ponyo - on a cliff by the sea

Do you remember when you were a kid and the adventures you'd go on? Do you remember how wild your imagination would go and the wacky situations you'd put yourself through? Ponyo, the newest from legendary Japanese director/writer Hayao Miyazaki (spirited away, princess mononoke) let's you relive some of these adventures only through the eyes of 5 year old Sosuke. Sosuke joins the pantheon of strong, young, independent lead characters in Miyazaki films, a trend Miyazaki has been doing for years.

The story begins when a young fish escapes from her father and is washed up onto the shore of a beach where Sosuke is playing, he saves the fish and decides he wants to keep it. He names her Ponyo and soon discovers that she has magical properties.This is one of those movies that makes you feel what the main character feels. You understand where he's coming from and even for a 5 year old, Sosuke is a wonderfully well rounded character. you fall in love with him from the moment he opens his mouth. Same thing goes for ponyo, with the added bonus of when she first opens her mouth she's a fish.

the marketing for this film is very much geared towards children. Even though i feel this is the closest thing to a kids film studio ghibli has ever made, some of the themes in the movie are very adult in nature. the characters are not "kids movie" characters and some of the animation looks like it was designed for adults tripping on acid, but then again most studio ghibli films are designed like that.

My opinion may be a little biased, seeing as i'm in love with the work of miyazaki. I have also never given any film of his less than 5 stars and it will not differ for ponyo. Though it may not be his strongest work, in my opinion that title belongs to the cat returns, i still absolutely loved this film and would recommend it to anyone who loves adventure and would like to be enveloped in the whimsy of childhood. the movie is perfect for everyone in the family, from 5 to 95, so long as they bring their imagination and their sense of adventure. five out of five stars

P.S. if you'rte not into animated films or japanimation, maybe this isn't the film for you OR maybe it's a great place to start

Inglourious Basterds - Spelling aside

There is no way for me to tell you just about anything about inglorious basterds without throwing two dozen spoilers in the review, there just isn't. So i propose this, I will tell you something small and forgivable and you can use this to decide if you still want to see this movie. You ready? here it comes....Inglorious basterds is not the movie that the trailers make it out to be. Sorry to all you folk out there thinking that this is a movie filled with action and snappy one liners designed to put as much gore on screen as thought possible (a la kill bill's crazy 88 scene). Yeah, this movie actually has a storyline and good dialog between characters you grow to care about as the movie progresses. Oh and the acting, oh the acting,the titular basterds (a group of jewish american soldiers) are Brad Pitt as Lt Aldo "the apache" Raine he is a breathe of fresh air and even director Eli Roth gets in on the action as "the bear jew" a character so menacing to the germans that they spread rumors that he's actually a golem. Til Schweiger as Sgt Hugo Stiglitz, who's character probably has the best introduction in the film as well as the best back story. B.J Novak of the office fame plays Pfc. Smithson Utivich, known as the little man to the germans, it's quipped by Christophe Waltz playing the scene stealing Col. Hans Landa "you're actually much taller than i expected you, the soldiers made you out to be a circus midget". Speaking of Christophe Waltz, he alone is worth the price of admission, He is in every important scene in the movie from the very first scene hunting down jews who are hiding to the final scene in the film where he has a memorable scene with Aldo Raine.

So like i said, this movie is not at all what one would be expecting from the trailers. I will admit i was amped for an action movie going into the theater, but was pleasantly surprised by what was laid out in front of me over the following two and a half hours. Tarentino weaves a story in chapters like a book, never leaving any one section too far in the dark before returning. The trailer also makes you think this movie is all about a bloodthirsty team of nazi killers behind enemy lines, when in actuality the trailer is almost entirely cut from scenes from the second chapter in the movie, which is entirely about them. They do play a major part throughout the film, but the movie is mainly split between three main story arcs. The Basterds, which obviously focuses on the exploits of the titular group. The Nazis, or more specifically one nazi Hans Landa and his ever present investigations into the basterds and lastly Frederick and Shosanna. Frederick is a nazi soldier and bit of a big time war hero and he's infatuated with a girl named Emmanuel, who is actually a jew in hiding named shosanna whom we meet at the beginning of the film escaping the nazis. the three storylines do eventually converge onto a single playing field at the end of the movie and it is quite and interesting climax for a movie already chock full of interesting tid bits. I won't give anything away, but I will say that Tarentino did rewrite history on this one.

One of the major drawbacks to this movie and really the only thing i didn't particularly like about it was it's length, but 99% of the movie was needed so i don't really see too many places where he could have trimmed down the 2 1/2 hour run time. The movie isn't by any means boring, but by the end you will be looking at your clock wondering how much longer have you got to go. Also i would say this is a movie for people who like Tarentino and hold similar tastes in films that he has because this was obviously designed for people who are into that style of warsploitation film and anyone who isn't will probably be turned off by the gore or the verbose dialog that QT is known for. My one other complaint is this and it's not even about this particular movie. Hey, Quentin can we maybe take a step back to the old you. The one who used to make edgy movies with edgy dialog and action and stop with these tongue in cheek homages to your childhood? We get that you have a lot of money now and you can make whatever you want, but I think it's either time to move on to your next phase or take a step back and return to your early style of filmmaking. I mean inglorious basterds was great, but maybe it's time for something new? 5 out of 5

(As a side note: I did return to see this movie a second time and it actually managed to get better uopn a second viewing. I truly believe this is Tarentino's masterpiece and if Chrsitoph Waltz doesn't wind up with at least a nod for best supporting actor i will be disappointed)