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Movies I Have Recently Seen, Because, enh, There’s Nothing Else To Write About

Tuesday, April 8, 2008
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I’ve been renting a lot of movies lately because there are many I’ve missed over the last year or so and I need to get caught up. Plus, well, it’s just a fun and easy way to spend an evening. Nothing here’s new, and the only connection between them is that I’ve seen them in the last couple of months, but I thought I’d babble about them nonetheless in case you’re feeling indecisive the next time you’re at Blockbuster and in need of some tips.

Howl’s Moving Castle

The latest of Hayao Miyazaki’s movies I had yet to see, this one’s been near the top of the rental list for a while, and it was well worth the wait. I didn’t realize until right now, though, that it’s based on a 1986 young-adult fantasy novel by British author Dianna Wynne Jones; I was going to comment on how I thought it was novel that Miyazaki had decided to set the movie in a 19th century, European-style world, but, given that it was written by a European author, I guess that wasn’t really a groundbreaking decision.

The movie has everything you would expect from a Studio Ghibli film — gorgeous animation (which only gets more gorgeous with each new outing); a young protagonist who gets swept into a fantastical world to which he/she must learn to adapt and eventually save; another protagonist, already of that world, who is desperately trying to save the world as well, and almost killing him/herself in the process; a supporting cast of kooky creatures and wayward souls who all eventually find whatever they were looking for throughout the film.

While the formula is tried, it’s the basic fantasy formula, and so you can never really go wrong with it; the main reason is that there’s always so much to discover in the new world that it never gets dull or repetitive. Recommended.

Tales From Earthsea

Oh, the sins of the father . . . well, not really — I just really wanted to say that. You see, it’s more like the sins of the son . . . but again not really. I’ll explain.

Tales From Earthsea is also a Studio Ghibli film, but it was — and is the first film at the studio to be — directed by Hayao Miyazaki’s son, Goro Miyazaki. Hayao and Goro actually had a huge dispute over the film, Hayao believing that Goro was not yet ready to direct, and he wanting to do it himself since he is a huge fan of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea series. But, Hayao was busy with other projects at the time, so the studio awarded the directorship to Goro. I believe this dispute helped to set the stage for the film’s mixed critical reaction.

Many critics in Japan dumped on the somewhat incoherent plot of the film, some agreeing that Goro was not yet ready to direct, but others staunchly defended it; in Britain, the Daily Mirror called it ‘ploddy, excruciatingly slow,’ while the Guardian said it was ‘an engaging piece of work.’ It’s just really one of those movies that you either love or hate, it seems — it provokes a strong reaction either way; however, for it to be awarded ‘Worst Movie,’ and Goro ‘Worst Director’ at Japan’s 2007 Bunshun Raspberry Awards is a ridiculous travesty, and seems more to do with some stupid Japanese notion of familial honour than of actual film-making.

I quite liked it, and while it is slightly slow, it’s slow in that great, atmospheric sort of way, where you’re really quite content to gaze at a lovely rendering of a sunset over a field for seven or eight seconds. Unfortunately, all you in North America are not going to be able to decide for yourselves until 2009; turns out the Sci-Fi Channel own the rights to anything ‘Earthsea’ until then, which is currently preventing the film’s release. Although you could probably find a burned copy in Chinatown for $5 if you really wanted to.

Fantastic Four 1 & 2

When the first Fantastic Four movie came out, I was just like ‘enh.’ The FF had never really interested me, and even Jessica Alba prancing around in a skin-tight bodysuit wasn’t enough to get me to see it.

But then . . . I saw the trailer for FF 2: Rise of the Silver Surfer . . .

. . . and I was like ‘holy fuck, that looks awesome.’ But I didn’t really know anything about the Silver Surfer; I had always thought he was a good guy, so I asked Jamie about him, and he said this: “He is the herald of Galactus.”

The Herald of Galactus. Even if you don’t know who Galactus is, that sentence just sounds fucking awesome, doesn’t it? And . . . Galactus? In a movie? How the hell were they going to do that? It just sounded amazing.

But, of course, I had to see the first one first and . . . nothing special.

But the second one really does kick a lot of ass, and they did everything properly to make it believable and not cheesy (you know, as much as this type of story could be).

Plus, well, Ms. Alba does look pretty good in that bodysuit.

Dodgeball, Balls of Fury & Reno 911!: Miami

I’m gonna group these all together because they’re basically the same thing: mindless, stupid comedies that are only good for renting and getting some cheap laughs off of. If only that was possible with all of them . . .

Dodgeball, I think, was the funniest of the three (but it may have only seemed that way because I think it was the only one I watched with a drink or two in me). And Alan Tudyk as a pirate, even though it made absolutely no sense whatsoever, was fun to watch.

Balls of Fury was disappointing; it was actually trying too hard to be ‘smart,’ and not overuse the common types of jokes usually used in this type of movie. Only problem was that the jokes they had were almost too smart, if you can believe it — the kind where instead of laughing, you simply say to yourself ‘ah, I get it — good one.’ It was a mixture of those and guys getting kicked in the nuts. So, can’t really recommend this one, despite the presence of the lovely Maggie Q (unless you really like ping-pong and you’re drunk, or something).

Reno 911!: Miami was funny, but is also better viewed while either high or drunk. It’s just scene after scene of ridiculous, gross-out situations that are really funny, but you need the inebriation to avoid the slight disgust you feel. It would be great for parties.

Okay, that’s it. Get on down there to yer local DVD rental hut and get crackin’.
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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Tuesday, April 8, 2008 9:26 am

    Have to heartily disagree with you on the Fantastic Four front. I thought both films were miserable. The Silver Surfer was set up well, had potential, but kind of fizzled. The writing was pretty goofy, and the action stuff I thought wasn’t very exciting. The very opposite of Fantastic.

    I enjoyed Howl’s Moving Castle though.

  2. tgjkennedy permalink
    Tuesday, April 8, 2008 12:02 pm

    I’ve got to agree with Graeme and disagree with you James. Silver Surfer was terrible.

    Also Reno 911! I thought was far, far better than I ever dreamed. I didn’t expect much to start off with, and was very surprised to be laughing at almost every scene.

    Howl’s Moving Castle stole my heart and has yet to give it back.

  3. James17930 permalink
    Wednesday, April 9, 2008 12:50 pm

    But . . . but . . . Galactus!

  4. Thursday, April 10, 2008 11:39 am

    Not a fan of either FF.

    Dodgeball was funny.

    I have to agree with you on Balls of Fury. It is what it is, I watch films like this with lower expectations so I think overall, I ended up being pleasantly surprised. I think the funniest part of the film is when Diedrich Bader (who is in every silly/spoof movie) runs to rescue an already dead/obviously fake panda.

    Howl’s is way up on my list of things to watch, but I’m pretty sure I will love it. Right now I’m getting my Anime fix from the series Samurai Champloo. It’s done by the same creative team who did Cowboy Bebop.

  5. James17930 permalink
    Thursday, April 10, 2008 12:01 pm

    I tried to watch Cowboy Bebop on the web but it never really panned out. I guess I’ll have to rent that too.

  6. tgjkennedy permalink
    Friday, April 11, 2008 4:52 pm

    Cowboy Bebop is a must see.

  7. Robert permalink
    Sunday, October 26, 2008 7:22 am

    Hi James, sorry for the late reply, but it was just recently that I came across your blog site. After watching “Tales from Earthsea,” I somehow got the distinct impression of a sequel looming somewhere in the horizon. The story is somewhat disjointed in parts; I understood that the Earthsea universe, upon which this animation was based, is too large to contain in one offing. I hope they make a follow-up. I enjoyed this one just like I did all the works of Miyazaki Sr..

    You wrote, “I was going to comment on how I thought it was novel that Miyazaki had decided to set the movie in a 19th century, European-style world…”

    Actually, there’s nothing novel about this at all. More than 50% of Miyazaki’s anime movies are all set in some sort of a 19th century, pre-war, European-style, part fantasy-part reality world. Here are the most prominent examples:

    1.) Laputa, Castle in the Sky (personal favorite)
    2.) Porco Rosso
    3.) Kiki’s Delivery Service
    4.) Whispers of the Heart
    5.) Nausicaa of the Valley of the Winds (post apocalyptic setting)

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