Thursday, April 28, 2011

HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE (Japanese) (2004)

Back to the wonderful world of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli! Once again I was carried away into the fantasyland by the wizard of animation. One has to watch his cinema to know how high animation can go without backup of heavy CGI, happening 3D effects, excessive merchandising or marketing gimmicks to sell wonderland to kids. Not even excellence of Disney or Pixar can match the marvelous landscapes and sublime emotions of Miyazaki’s art. Lurking beneath Miyazaki’s movies is the heart and soul of man who spent his entire life dreaming with pen in his mind.

A young girl named Sophie turned into an old granny by a witch spell. She remains so for the most part of the movie but nevertheless she’s spirited away into exciting world of moving castle where she’s enjoying companionship of a moving scarecrow, funny fire demon named Calcifer, a young wizard named Master Howl and his young apprentice Marco. Outside the fantasy world, the war is destroying cities, innocent citizens and nature. Ultimately true love and pure heart of Sophie can free everyone from witch spell and war.

Moving castle is pure delight and treat to watch where anything is possible- watch that four colored dial door that turns to different worlds outside the door. Along with the journey of Sophie, we’re also turned into the strange but captivating world of beautiful visuals and imagination and like any of Studio Ghibli films, it’s purely a treat to your senses. The use of moving western classical background score in almost many of Miyazaki cinema is soothing too. The film is based on English fantasy writer Diana Wynne Jones’ story book, not a well known author as the author of Harry Potter series but her tale is anything less than Potter series. It has eccentric great imagination and characters full of sorcery, witchcraft and magic powers. Sophie is abstained from power but it’s her human and a feminine love that settles the equilibrium back to normal.

Having watched many of Miyazaki films and wrote enough about them, I just want to consent a thought shared by one of his bewitched fan Richard Nilsen- “The world it gives us to live in for a couple of hours, is pure magic. It is one of those places we might wish never to leave.”


Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Most of Edward Zwick films are about unusual heroes and their valor and glory against unfavorable time and conflict. This one dealt with one of Gulf war US hero who sacrificed her life and supposed to be the first woman to get posthumous Medal of Honor for Combat. Zwick filled it more with aftermath or drama where inspired by Kurosawa classic ‘Rashomon’, he used multiple narratives of flashback to dig investigation about what happened at Al Kufan chopper crash during Gulf war where she died. The investigating officer is meddling with contradictory and different versions of truth from witnesses about the incident. Similarly his own guilt consciousness about other unfortunate event in the war impeding his inquiry to meet deadlines of report.

In his common zest for intense character portrayal Zwick dragged and fumbled the intrigue and editing in the middle where the drama becomes so much repetitive in flash-forward rather than flashback! Unlike his best works ‘Legends of Fall’ and ‘Glory’, it didn’t successfully uplift the drama or intensify the characters except Denzel Washington, a kind of actor who never gives you compromising performance; he knows damn well where to act underplay and where to show fire with expressions as honest as possible and his fans can watch his spark here too if not fire! Not much to talk about Meg Ryan and Matt Damon as they shared limited screen time.


Monday, April 25, 2011

THE CROW (1994)

I was not expecting such a below average potboiler from Alex Proyas, the man who made ‘Dark City’. It has a mediocre plot without an iota of spin or twist. A dead man returns from his grave to take revenge of his raped and murdered girlfriend on Halloween night by bunch of baddies. A vigilante crow works as a link for him between dead and living. You have nothing to miss here if you have dieted low budget B genre action thrillers of 80s and 90s. Brandon Lee as the dead man had close resemblance with Joker of ‘The Dark Knight’; maybe inspiration behind Heath Ledger’s get up; however unlike his legendary father Jr. Lee was a quite letdown here. There was one unfortunate similarity between Ledger and Lee; both of them died unusually at very young age soon after their acts playing Joker face. Brandon Lee was died on set of the film where accidentally loaded gun’s bullet while shooting destroyed his spinal chord. Shot on alow budget, it grossed heavy profit at box office due to Lee fans; a big reason why it has imdb ratings of more than 7. The only thing worth to notice is the use of fine cinematography capturing the scan of seedy city at night like those great B&W noirs. It’s world where drugs, sex and bad guys rules the city street.

Quite a letdown.


Sunday, April 24, 2011


How about watching a simple and moving drama about a little dwarf man living on a small old cabin near railway line after the death of his only friend. He prefers to remain alone and isolated in his own queer world about trains. He doesn’t like socializing, taking help or favor from anyone and yet his size makes him centre of curiosity and fun to others. He meets a coffee seller working near his cabin and an accident prone mid age lady and the relations between them grow with personal and emotional tide and ebb.

Written & directed by Thomas McCarthy, beautifully carried the whole film on eyecandy visuals of idle hours shared by the trio on railway tracks as mood enhancing backdrop along with fine background score. The film is warm and beautiful character oriented drama which is interesting, emotional and light heartedly funny without being loud in any of three, ditto about the three different characters who share their company on screen. Kudos to sincere and natural performances by Patricia Clarkson, Peter Dinklage & Bobby Canavale which so effortlessly connect us to them.

A simple, moving and delightful film worth to watch without any second thoughts. I crave to watch something like this…J


Saturday, April 23, 2011

13 ASSASSINS (Japanese) (2010)

Only Takashi Miike can pull it this way! Making a Samurai warrior film that reminds us one of the greatest Kurosawa films of all-time ‘The Seven Samurai’. Comparisons are fair and normal as both of them are Japanese legends; if one was Master, another is cult auteur on his own terms. However keeping his common traits of sadistic torture and grotesque bloodshed so much restraint, he gave us well made Samurai film; quite a rarity these days! Unlike Kurosawa’s epical three hours long classic, it is shorter in length with two hours. It lead us to feudal era where Samurai tradition was waning in godforsaken land. Sadistic and ruthless Lord Naritsugu is evil incarnation and Miike used his common props to portray his demon. To end this intolerable tyranny Shogun’s top official Sir Doi called Shinzaemon, a top Samurai warrior. The first half is gathering of all Samurais and strategic planning and execution with surprising unusual entry of 13th warrior who’s real fun to watch just like Master’s legend Toshiro Mifune.

What’s mind-blowing is the second half where awesome climax action lasts for 45 minutes. Its 13 deadly Samurai’s suicide mission Vs 200 soldiers and Miike made it as brilliant as we expect- brilliant set ups, traps and let the swords speak the language of Total Massacre. It lacks only one thing- the room for character development as in Master’s classic. Well for today’s new generation kids who haven’t watched the spark of Kurosawa’s classic, this would be a big firecracker.


Friday, April 22, 2011

PONYO (Japanese) (2008)

It’s Miyazaki’s world of water where everything is possible; the man still believes in hand drawn cartoon and believe me it’s as wonderful as light hearted animation as his beloved one ‘My Neighbor Totoro’. Like a small girl Mei in ‘Totoro’, here is 5 years old boy named Sosuke accidentally saves a sweet little gold fish. He named it Ponyo. Ponyo’s father is a freaky wizard of ocean who keeps Ponyo in a bubble and balances the sea from inside. He despises humans as they’re contaminating aquatic world and its wonderful ecology for their own selfish purposes; a common Miyazaki film trait about environmental concern juxtaposed between the world of nature and human. Little Ponyo turned rebel and magically turned into a girl kid and meets the boy again. Her magical powers help the boy to find Sosuke’s lost mother in water dipped town and Sosuke’s real love for Ponyo permanently turned tiny fish to real girl.

No need to say much about Miyazaki’s world of animation, rich in detailing and captivating in visuals proving once again why Japanese sensibilities and creativity of animation overshadowed Hollywood’s big studio products. Its days since I’m watching Miyazaki cinema and believe me I don’t want to return to cinema of reality as long as I can get films like these! J

Recommended to all animation lovers.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

5 CENTIMETERS PER SECOND (Japanese) (2007)

What would be the result if the cinematic art of Wong Kar Wai and Hayao Miyazaki reciprocates each other? Here’s an animation that touches you deep with its breathtaking visuals and a poignant shorts about love and distance between innocent teenage lovers that reminds you both of these auteurs. I must say that the Japanese cinema is scaling different heights in animation; the animation here brings the sublime intensity and pangs of unreturned love between lovers which even films with real flesh and blood characters failed to deliver. Whether it’s two souls desperate to meet each other in mundane modern world at railway platform in ‘The chosen cherry Blossoms’ or a girl’s unspoken love to her friend in ‘Cosmonaut’, Director Shinkai Makoto has explored a new vistas of heart and soul in animation.

It has stunning artistic visuals finely abstained from any sort of gimmicks. Just watch how many shades of sky you find within its duration of around an hour. Like many who’ve seen, I would strongly recommend it to watch on BR version to enjoy the clarity. What is really pissed off to manage while watching it is reading those fast changing subtitles with not to miss beautiful images L It would be much better if the film had been dubbed in English for the other non-native audience.


Monday, April 18, 2011

SPIRITED AWAY (Japanese) (2001)

They call him Japanese Walt Disney but Hayao Miyazaki has time and again proved that he is more than it. The unmatchable visual splendor of almost hand drawn animation and artistic imagination of Miyazaki cinema can’t be outdone even by gigabytes of today’s CGI driven 3D animation of Hollywood. This is my third Miyazaki film so far and I must say with his every new film that I’ve watched, he brought new and unchartered vistas of splendid visuals and unimaginable characters and fantasy world; a sheer proof of his creative depth and brilliant imagination.

Many critics called ‘Spirited Away’ as Miyazaki’s version of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and to certain degree I do agree especially in its theme and plot about a girl named Chihiro who along with her parents lost in the world of spirit while searching their way to new home. They land up in a mysterious isolated haunted place where soon her parents turned into pigs and as night casts its spell, she witnessed the world of strange spirits as fantastic as Wonderland. It’s world forbidden for human where she gets help from helping friend Haku. Poor girl has to perform almost unimaginable & multiple tasks to save her parents and helping Haku to find his own identity. But then apart of Lewis Carol’s beloved classic, Miyazaki achieved a great feat of depth and resonance that can woo any audience with its intricately beautiful visuals with his baggage of strange unusual creatures and characters. That multiple hand worker Kamaji or Yubaba and her sorceress sister Zeniba who transforms anything under the spell or that strange masked spirit following Chihiro or paper birds or water train and worth to mention that idiosyncratic bath scene of ugly creature, throughout the film I became a viewer as excited as ten years old child to fathom what will happen next.

So far my favorite Miyazaki film till day. Hail Studio Ghibli J


Sunday, April 17, 2011

PRINCESS MONONOKE (Japanese) (1997)

One of the most popular Japanese animation film that out grossed even ‘Titanic’ when released. It’s completely different Miyazaki compared to his almost ten years earlier light hearted child animation ‘My Neighbor Totoro’. It’s epical adventure where Nature is the character, plot and theme from beginning to end. I won’t exaggerate calling it Miyazaki’s ‘Avatar’.

While fighting with unusual demon monster, the last prince named Ashikata is cursed and infected with evil marks on his arms that soon made him die. The only way to survive for him is witnessing forbidden forest with eyes unclouded by hate. In a way he’s a symbol or Miyazaki’s passing cultural message to new generation. If his one arm is cursed with evil and the other is trying to curb it. Ashikata is facilitator and the central protagonist of the plot centers on the struggle between the animal spirits inhabiting in the forest Vs the humans exploiting the forest for industrial greed. In the forest he meets Lady Eboshi, who with an iron factory in a forest dreaming about ruling the world guided by her greedy and cunning fellow men and a wild wolf princess who hates humans for what they do to forest and help and repay Ashikata for saving her life once.

Weaving many of Japanese folklores and natural myths into cinematic fantasy, Miyazaki created awesome and sublime images of mother nature with forest spirits that gifts life and takes life away too. It has stunning natural visuals and watching closely some of them gives you glance of 3D effects in many of the scenes. Those good spirits and evil spirits in Ashitaka’s arduous journey to forest must be food of thought for Cameron’s blockbuster hit ‘Avatar’.

Quite unusual for animation film it has bloodshed and killing scenes but than it’s not just film for kids, Miyazaki has woven underlying themes of environment and ecology, the concerning questions of today’s world and that’s a big message for adults as well. What happens when good spirit of the forest who’s balancing the nature is beheaded by Lady Eboshi? It makes you feel pain watching all forest turning dead before getting its head back. But in the end it’s all fun watching those tiny tree spirits (seems like zoo zoos in Vodafone advertisements) making weird sound turning their heads once again.


Saturday, April 16, 2011

MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO (Japanese) (1988)

I’m not going to make movies that tell children, “You should despair and run away." - Hayao Miyazaki

What a beloved and beautiful animation film! Visually as enchanting as canvas full of resplendent water colors and so child centric in its detailing and expressions that invokes the emotions of innocence, curiosity, adventure and joy not only to kids but to elder audience too. The characters are so cute and so lifelike that they compel you love them the moments you see them on screen walking, running and expressing themselves with their big eyes and mouth. There’s no negative character, situation or a scene in the entire film, no villains and no preaching moral and yet every character immaterial of his short or long screen presence seem so lovable.

The film has two cute little sisters- 10 years old Satsuki and her mischievous and sweet 4 years little sister Mei arrived with their dear father to their new home around the forest. They’re exploring their new home which is may be haunted with tiny black creatures or may be a part of kids’ imagination. Exploring the neighborhood forest, both of the sisters witness a surprising giant creature. They named it Totoro who keeps giving them surprise appearances either in rain or in their dreams. Is Totoro real or just a figment of their imaginary fantasy world? Well, visionary writer-director Hayao Miyazaki kept Totoro a mystery and it remained best and dearest this way only.

As I grow watching more and more Japanese cinema, I must say that the country has produced many Masters encompassing many different genres. I’ve seen ‘Grave of Fireflies’, moving and one of the greatest animation film, released the same year with this light hearted film. It’s my first Hayao Miyazaki movie, the man known as ‘Japanese Walt Disney’ and after watching this one, I’m so desperate to watch all other Miyazaki masterpieces. Apart of many of his skills, I just loved the way he portrayed his characters in all its minute shades of childhood innocence, adventure and joy. We know that they’re mere cartoons and still they make us emotionally vulnerable watching them. There’re many scenes which I loved to watch repeatedly like- Mei’s first encounter with Totoro and having a carefree nap on tummy, Totoro’s play with umbrella, that wonderful Cat Bus and girls’ fantasy journey to witness their ill mom in hospital and absolutely fine background score along with those two wonderful songs in the beginning and ending titles.

One of the dearest animation film of all-time J


Thursday, April 14, 2011


Boggis, Bunce and Bean are three the meanest, nastiest, ugliest farmers in the history of some so called Fox valley. There’s children rhyme for them-

‘Boggis, Bunce and Bean

One fat, one short, one lean

These horrible crooks, so different in looks,

were nonetheless equally mean’.

Close to their neighborhood comes Mr. Fox, a professional thief with his last big master plan to steal these three mean guys. Partner in crime is good for nothing Kylie and nephew Kristofferson who’s smarter and talented one than Fox’s own son Ash. There’s rivalry between cousin Kristofferson & wannabe athlete Ash to be a hero in Mr. Fox’d eyes and it’s just fun to watch their attempts to prove it. The master plan went so well in the first two phases but in the third and final plan at Bean, they invited trouble to their own existence and it’s like waging a war of personal vendetta. The only way to survive is digging the earth deeper and deeper.

Director Wes Anderson’s this debut animation flick, based on the book of Ronald Dahl, the writer who gifted us ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ and its not conventional animation high on CGI; its stop motion one and made with fabricated puppet characters that looks so alive and fresh in their expressions. It has cool soundtrack and wonderful lovable characters. I just loved that good for nothing Kylie and wannabe athlete Ash and Karate Rat. The climax is as chilly and exciting as watching cowboy western shootout. In a nutshell the animation which is equal funny for kids as well as grown up kids. ;-)


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

THE THING (1982)

Two films based on alien subject and theme released the same year in 1982. Where Spielberg’s film portrayed alien as one of the friendliest creature that Hollywood had ever seen, the other film directed by John Carpenter became one of absolutely terrible alien film that in a long run proves to be a cult horror. ‘The Thing’ begins with chilly tension in almost isolated Antarctica and we see a strange man in flying helicopter constantly shooting a dog running around US Research station. Within moments we witness an unknown terror of uncontrollable intruder organism that strikes from outer space that assimilate and imitate the life forms of any other live organism and spread its infection. It started with dogs followed by humans.

It’s not like those high on special effects kind of run on the mill alien entertainer, instead it’s more built on tension which is shifted from unknown to known. The doubt and danger of infection turned the team of researchers suspicious and hostile to one another. It could be anybody where trust is the least expected word. The second half is paranoia set free in that claustrophobic setting of frigid and isolated Antarctica where they’re cut off from any sort of contact with outside world. On one hand we see grotesque and bizarre creature like those Cronenbergian degenerative body horrors and on other it has edge on the seat rolling fear of strange happenings and its aftermath out of human control.

Undoubtedly one of that horror which raised the bar of its genre and remains haunting in memory for long time.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

TANGLED (2010)

Walt Disney pictures’ brought us a fine fairy tale on their 50th animation motion picture. It is a fantasy tale of a princess named Rapunzel gifted with magical long hair you’ve ever seen. She was kidnapped from birth by an evil lady and for 18 years held her to stay in a closed high tower telling her that the outside world is too scary. So to help a damsel in distress comes the dead or alive wanted thief of royal crown named Flynn Rider who first time let her out to embrace freedom. Next is the journey full of beautiful eye candy visuals, romance, action, adventure, and drama what you expect from well made animation. Unfortunately the songs that keep popping up into the story like those old classic animation; don’t sound as sweet and memorable and that’s what makes it quite stretching exercise.

Its fine fantasy and Disney tried to make it just like those fine memorable classics like ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and ‘Snow White and Seven dwarfs’. The cute and full of life princess with the golden hair that glows and heals when she sings accompanied by a smart thief and other worth to mention characters like the Chameleon named Pascal, who remained Princess’s silent partner and a sniffing royal Horse named Maximus. Tangled is surely an entertainer that you love to relish if you still want to go back for bedtime story.



Rebecca Romjin-Stamos is a bitch to beware and irresistible femme fatale hard to avoid. She’s woman with inscrutable past and her new bait is paparazzi photographer played by Antonio Banderas. Brian De Palma’s this last made film opens with jigsaw puzzle kind of intriguing plot that unfolds the things at moments when you least expects it. Palma paid his homage to ‘Double Indemnity’ with the very first scene of the film and then continues to play with audience’s psychology like his inspirational Master Hitchcock. He knows damn well what to hide and what to reveal with camera, narration and complex characters. The brilliant high angle shots and fine voyeuristic camera work with erotic thrill remain thumbprint of De Palma thrillers and it’s not exception here. However I love and prefer to watch his earlier B movie thrillers like ‘Sisters’, ‘Body Double’ and ‘Dressed to Kill’.

Recommended to thriller fans.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

DARK CITY (1998)

We all love memory loss, memory theft and memory inception, Christopher Nolan and Hollywood gave us enough puzzling exercises. How about getting it all packaged in one film which didn’t get as much audience, acclaim and popularity as ‘Memento’ or ‘Inception’ and yet it’s as great as both of them and let me tell you very honestly and without exaggeration that while watching it gives me enough clues to say that it must be surely remained a strong inspiration behind Nolan’s idea and execution of ‘Inception’!

John Murdoch wakes up from his sleep to witness a nightmare about his own existence. He completely lost his memory and the world outside is too hostile to survive for him. He’s wanted man for strange group of men who want him dead, he’s wanted man for city police as prime suspect of serial killer who killed several hookers, he’s wanted man for his doctor who knows about the experiment done on him and he’s wanted man for his own estranged beloved wife. Alex Proyas’ ‘Dark City’ starts with intriguing beginning and as it moves further post half hour, it gives you absolutely mind-blowing thrilling experience about human memory till its end.

If Nolan’s ‘Memento’ is a mind bending personal jigsaw puzzle exercise about memory loss of its protagonist that involves active participation of its audience to fathom it fully in single viewing; Proyas’ ‘Dark City’ is straight but highly intriguing one grand exercise on epical scale where not just the man but the whole city’s memory turned to transformation as clock ticks 12 at night. It’s a city where sun never exists and erasing memory of people is daily routine. It is difficult to say what’s fake and what’s true memory where everything is fabrication and it would be considered a great spoiler and insult to the film and writer-director Alex Proyas, if I’ll say anything further about its labyrinthine plot. It is hard to categorize the film into one particular genre and yet it has elemental and atmospheric ingredients of well made mystery, thriller, sci-fi and Noir.

Brilliant production design, setting and special effects are well packaged to correspond to its awesome plot and theme narrated, unfolded and tightly edited the way to get you hooked to your seats. It has stunning and bizarre visual textures with touch of German Expressionism and it reminds me one of my favorite silent masterpiece ‘Metropolis’. While reading it on net, I come to know that the film was unfortunately released the same week of ‘Titanic’ and while remaining neck to neck in first week, it’s ‘Titanic’ magic that ruled that year to audience and awards.

A modern masterpiece and highly recommended to all who yet haven’t seen it and please go for Director’s cut version.


Saturday, April 9, 2011


One of the most controversial and cult revenge films ever made, which was censored and banned in Sweden for its depiction of explicit sexual and violent revenge theme. The original uncut version, which I managed to watch, has shocking and disturbing depiction of graphic sex including many scenes seems like hard core porn. Undoubtedly the film is belonged to low budget B genre cinema but it’s not just another run on the mill film made for selling controversy of tabooed theme of that time. Even the extreme sexual images strike the audience without any sort of titillation; it invokes anything apart of hatred and disgust.

It begins with an eight or nine year old Madeleine raped in the park by an old man. Under the trauma and mental shock she became mute permanently. When she reached her youth, her innocence is kept on tormented by another man who first gave her lift in a car and next making her hooked to heroine to exploit her sexually to forced prostitution. Her refusal to first customer cost slicing of one of her eye. Soon under daily dose of dope addiction she surrendered her body to maniac customers- one who took her nude snaps on Nikon and another who’s a sadist lesbian. But she took all her humiliation damn seriously and started using her saved money and a weekly day off learning, practicing and planning for her revenge and the rest his blast of ticking dynamite.

Director Bo Arne Vibenius brilliantly used techniques of mise en scene, close ups, and POV shots correspondingly with chilly silence of mute victim who can’t show her pain or trauma through sound. The innovative use of electronic radio frequency sound used in graphic sex or violence or stylish use of super slow motion shootout bloodshed are things to feel audio visually. Remember Daryl Hannah’s one eyed killing character with an eye patch in Tarantino’s ‘Kill Bill’ which is a clear lift from this film. If I’m not mistaking its pioneer stepping stone of all those lady revenge flicks that keep popping up time after time whether it’s ‘Kill Bill’ in Hollywood or ‘Zakhmi Aurat’ in Bollywood. Its film which either you hate as disgusting crap or love for its eccentricity!

Thursday, April 7, 2011


‘If you’re somebody who’s nobody, it’s no fun to be around anybody who’s everybody.’

How you see the life? Is it a tragedy that confronts or a comedy that escapes? Well here’s is a group of art aficionados making impromptu discussion about what’s best option to life as the film begins and one of them starts narrating a story while keeping the fingers crossed for the group to decide whether it’s comedy or tragedy! Melinda is a strange woman surprisingly barging as uninvited guest into a dinner party. Before we see further progress of that plot, another man at the table punctures the story and lets us witness the same character and same setting into different direction leading to comedy. The shifting of both these stories continues for the rest of the film and out of that we see some of the routine formulaic mixture of typical Woody Allen cinema bundled with crime, guilt, romance, relations, extra marital affairs, and finest crack jack one-liners; this time from Will Farell trying to get into the skin of the irreplaceable bespectacled genius!

It’s universal truth that one may never regret watching any of Woody films. But what’s so amusing about this film is that on one moment it seems heartbreakingly serious, on another turns into light romantic comedy. It brilliantly blends the contrast between pain of rational and joy of irrational and after watching many of Woody films, I must say that he’s is better and brilliant writer than actor or director and I know that most of Woody admirers do agree with me.