Here we are with another edition of my quickie movie reviews. Since it has been a while since I’ve done these, and there are new readers seeing this, I want to reiterate what they are about. Any time I watch something that has either been out on DVD for an extended period of time or is no longer in theaters, I do a quickie review rather than a longer review, because, when it comes down to it, nobody really wants a long, drawn-out review for a movie they can pick up for dirt cheap through Netflix or some other service. They want a quick review to get right to the point (is it good or does it blow). That’s what this is all about. The only thing that has changed since the last edition is that I now include a brief synopsis.
Without further delay, here we go:
Slipstream (Sean Astin and Vinnie Jones)
A physics genius working on a temporal displacement device for the government decides to test it out in public, but when the device falls into the hands of a bank robber, he has to get it back before it’s too late.
Pros: A great concept with an interesting soundtrack and a superb grasp of low-budget graphics. Big filmmakers would do well to pay attention to how this practically unknown film managed to make its concept visually stimulating without resorting to excessive computer graphics.
Cons: The acting is weak; Sean Astin is not at his best here and the rest of the cast either were given poor direction or have issues making their lines feel believable. The plot is, unfortunately, overdone, and any complexity within it feels force.
Howl’s Moving Castle (English Dubbed)
Set in a bizarre steampunk-esque fantasy world, this brilliant animated piece by legendary animation guru Hiyao Miyazaki follows Sophie, a young girl who is transformed into an old woman, on a magical adventure. She joins Howl’s parade of unusual characters and what follows is a unique and powerful love story amidst the growing tensions of a war.
Pros: Beautifully crafted, from in all aspects, with some of the most original and powerful visuals I have seen. The story can be difficult to follow if you are not familiar with Japanese animation styles, but that makes for a deeper, more profound story. The cast is well chosen too, including Billy Crystal as the voice of Calciver!
Cons: Suffers from being too clearly Miyazaki. But for those that love his work, this is a meaningless criticism. Beyond that? Maybe the plot can be difficult to follow, but, as I said before, if you like Miyazaki, you already know what kinds of plots he works with.
Porko Rosso (English Dubbed)
Another Miyazaki flick, this tale follows Porko Rosso, a seaplane pilot with the face of a pig, as he combats glory-hungry Americans, idiot pirates, and a wartime Italy bent on locking him up for abandoning them in a time of war.
Pros: The visuals are pretty decent and the story is relatively easy to follow.
Cons: The story lacks depth and no explanation is given for why he is the only one who looks like a pig until fifteen minutes or so into the movie–and even that explanation is rather weak. Other issues include weak characterization, a dragging plot, some poor dubbing, and other issues that come with translation, particularly in films like Miyazaki’s. In my opinion, this is one of the weakest of Miyazaki’s films, if not the worst.
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (English Dubbed)
Based on the manga series of the same name, Nausicaä is an epic science fantasy tale set in a post-apocalyptic Earth. Mankind has largely destroyed the planet, creating an entirely new ecosystem where giant insects and deadly plants devastate human populations wherever they meet. Nausicaä, and her various companions along the way, finds herself caught in the middle of a feud between two human factions and the rage-filled insects that dominate her world.
Pros: Truly an epic story, with some amazing imagery, unique characters, and a brilliant vision. Miyazaki, while not the creator of Nausicaä, certainly tried to capture the stimulating visuals of the manga series to create this story.
Cons: The story itself is very much the hit-you-over-the-head kind in regards to its environmental message. I found it somewhat annoying, but did my best to get past it to enjoy the rest of the movie.
An injured stuntman manipulates a young girl with a broken arm into helping him try to commit suicide by telling her a story of adventure and intrigue. But with each passing moment, the story becomes more real, and the line between real and imagined fades. A richly detailed and unforgettably unique movie, The Fall is one of those films we wish had been in theatres everywhere.
Pros: The Fall is absolutely gorgeous, utilizing various locales across the world to create an astonishing array of visual flavors. The story itself is quite powerful, too, which may be something lacking in films of this vein, especially today. It’s not every day that a film can successfully stick together pulp-era adventure with a deep and compelling narrative of depression and the power of imagination.
Cons: It is unclear what sort of style the directors were attempting to create in the relationship between the stuntman and the young girl. Most of her screen time is spent either seemingly ad-libbing or speaking softly with a thick accent, making her difficult to understand. This style of acting clashes heavily with that of the stuntman. Thankfully, it is bearable.
And there you have it. If any of the above movies interest you, go rent them or buy them on DVD! Or not, it’s up to you…