In this adorable film Hayao Miyazaki challenges the very nature of animated films. There is no villain. There are not disapproving parents denying the imagination of their children. The child isn't forced to save the world or even consider it. On the contrary, "Totoro" has a very loving father figure who accepts his children's wild fantasies and there's giant imaginary creature who's not terrifying in the slightest. The only source of tension in this film is their mother's illness, which keeps her away as the children embrace a new home. Mei, who's the younger of the two girls, keeps reassuring herself that she's not scared. She's referencing the new home, which at first glance appears dark and scary. We come to understand that deep down she's reassuring herself that her mother will be alright. Will she be? I wouldn't want to spoil anything for you reader. Do yourself a favor and treat yourself to this experience. It's soaked in gorgeous watercolor backgrounds. The detailed frames that Miyazaki is world famous for will not disappoint. Take in each scene and keep reminding yourself that this was all hand drawn by a small group of people and Miyazaki himself. Enjoying his films are like enjoying delicious and fresh sushi. You'll savor each bite and thank the chef after. You're sure you'll be back.
In preparation for 2022's 'Maverick' I sat down and finally watched this classic about dog fighting aerial pilots. Previously it had evaded me but not because of any specific reason. There wasn't really anybody pushing this in my direction or anyone saying, "Hey, Top Gun is a really great movie. You should watch it." A few of my friends want to go see the new release, so there was finally a solid reason to press play. Overall, I thought this was an enjoyable movie with intense and entertaining aerial choreography. I'm excited for more of that - amplified by modern tech and the sound system at our AMC. I do hope however, that the sequel manages to create better characters and that the scenes on the ground aren't as boring. Outside of the in-air scenes I wasn't very impressed with what Top Gun had to offer. It was a lot more of a romance than I expected, except I didn't feel any attachment to Charlotte (McGillis). The chemistry between her and Lt. Pete "Maverick" (Cruise) was serviceable at best, but I can't help feel like there was too much wasted screen time. Ice man (Kilmer) was simply there to give Maverick competition, but otherwise had no character. Goose was my favorite character because he was likeable, but if you've seen the movie you know how that plays out. There was a half baked plotline about Maverick's father who was also a legendary pilot, but it doesn't really develop into anything special. The ground scenes felt uninspired but when the movie takes off into the sky it becomes daring, exciting, and worthwhile.
As I write this review and look at the film's poster for the first time I'm very curious as to why they'd call it a comedy. I laughed a few times, sure. Though I mostly took this film very seriously. Possibly it's because of how taboo sex was in my household growing up and watching a film almost entirely about sex feels somewhat weighty. Probably though, it's because this intelligent film can't be labeled to one specific genre (unless sex were a genre). It manages to be erotic and thought-provoking with it's unique exploration of sex without needing to be overly physical. Gram (James Spader) tells Anne that he's impotent. Anne is the wife of Gram's old friend John. Anne doesn't have much of a sex life since John is secretly sleeping with her sister Cynthia. Anne tells her therapist that sex isn't of much interest to her. So in this moment with Anne and Gram, we sense a fantasy seeding itself in Anne's mind, where she can help Gram. She wants to fix him. Its in this sexual battleground that our film exists. I personally found the entire experience to be as entertaining as it is provocative. I became transfixed in it's edginess anxiously awaiting each next scene to the point where I forgot I was watching a movie. The actors and unassuming camera-work blending into some distant memory I once had. It's exactly the type of film I can't wait to revisit.
"I'm the ghost with the most, babe."
I have to start this by saying that Michael Keaton as Betelgeuse is spectacularly fun to watch. He's insanely hilarious to a point where his ramblings are now considered modern poetry. I'm very late to this spooky party and I can't help but wonder what a young version of me would think of this film. I'd probably love it even more. What I am fascinated by most is writer Michael McDowell's satirical vision of the afterlife. Where people who committed suicide are social workers and giant worms plague those trying to escape their resting place. Burtons vision is incredibly unique taking advantage of the best make-up and effects available at this time. While succeeding in creating a visual feast, the storyline and characters often lack in place of a gimmicky second act. Personally, having Betelgeuse so involved with the ending kept me entertained. I think I may have enjoyed McDowell's original much darker script much more, which focuses on a malicious Betelgeuse hellbent on murder.
Ran fixates itself on an old warrior, who's nearing the end of this reign. In an ode to King Lear, Hidetora divides his land between his three sons in hope of peace in his elderly days. This decision ultimately results in chaos and war. While those familiar with King Lear may know the end of this story, it's still a fascinating picture with remarkable cinematography and production. It's rightfully a masterpiece of film-making. Directed by the legendary Akira Kurosawa. Tatsuya Nakadai, who plays Hidetora, is also phenomenal. For a lead character to be this broken, old, and mostly out of his mind, while still being dramatically intelligent is not an easy task. Though it's such a natural character. The woeful tale of man facing mortality in his final days will always be relatable. A theme Kurosawa also tackles in Ikiru, though now he is much older and the film therefore personal. Hidetora facing his demons and succumbing to the consequences of his horrific actions is simply a classic story, written by Shakespeare, and translated so wonderfully into the Japanese culture. I can understand why Kurosawa fought so hard for this film to be made (sorta like Mr. Watanabe). Ran finds a great flow and for being almost 3 hours is very entertaining throughout. The costumes, the colors, the scenery, and the badass samurai imagery is all so much fun to digest.
'Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind' is a stunning animation that is both entertaining and emotionally rewarding. Set in a bizarre post-apocalyptic world where gigantic bugs called Ohms are creating what humans call the sea of decay. An environment completely toxic to humans. Spiking a war between the many human tribes and the Ohms. There's so much detail to devour that it's two hour runtime flies by. At times the talented hand drawn animation is all thats needed to keep it's audience captivated. Very talented craftsmanship in every detail. Even the soundtrack and sound design was top notch. It's the first studio Ghibli movie I've seen in over a decade so I think it's an easy watch for those new to this scene.
I'm writing this after watching the 4k remaster, which is gorgeously made. The rise of Tony Montana from bum to drug lord has never looked so stunning. Scarface is exceedingly brutal, explicit, and sexy. Even today a newcomer to this film will easily be swept into it's violent story. In this sense, it's timeless. Al Pacino's legendary performance as Montana will forever structure the definition of 'gangster.' He's honestly so much fun to watch and I'm still quoting him now days after watching it. My only issue would be it's runtime but I can understand that intention. The longer you live in Montana's world the more anxious you become. By the end even sharing in his paranoia.
Werner Herzog has become quite a popular figure in American Culture during the late 2010's . Though I doubt many have seen this masterpiece but I hope that will change. There are few moments in film that present such an accomplishment as "Fitzcarraldo" delivers in a new and challenging way. It's exciting, dark and mysterious. There's a lot to speculate here and I'm not going to dig into mastermind Werner Herzog's intention with this expedition without further inspection. I know there's a lot to see and hear. Kinski's character is debatably both mad and ignorant, a wild genius pursuing passion against the most monstrous odds; he's so thrilling to watch because he's so hard to understand.
The sequel to Mad Max, "Road Warrior," is even greater than it's predecessor. The world has now been through nuclear destruction. The highways are raided by gangs. People are resorting to cannibalism. This is the world where Max now lives. The Road Warrior is a thrilling and dark movie. A cold classic in my book. The vehicle design, costumes, and make-up create a uniquely scary apocalyptic environment and the car chases are ahead of its time.
"Wendy, I'm home. Wendy? ...Darling, I'm not gonna hurt you...
I'm not going to hurt you I just want to smash your brains in."
The Shining is a work of horrific and mind-bending art. From the alluring soundtrack to the patterns on the floor; there is detail bleeding into every shot of this film. Nicholson's performance is demented perfection and is simply terrifying to watch. Director Stanley Kubrick is the definition of a visionary. Kubrick has an idea. his vision, and he works magic to get it on screen. You can see this through all his works, 2001, Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket, all unique and envisioned by the mastermind that is Stanley Kubrick. Shelley Duvall's obvious horror wasn't all talent. Kubrick put that fear in her. When you watch this movie you'll feel the same way she did. What he did wasn't right or humane at all. Though Duvall looks back and says she's glad it happened.