dir. Hayao Miyazaki
Porco Rosso is a great film. My only criticism is that the violence is very "cartoonish." The characters shoot at each other, but no one ever gets hurt. I guess that's forgivable considering it IS a cartoon and it was originally conceived as a short film for Japan Airlines. And if sterilized violence is something that even needs forgiveness, Miyazaki redeemed himself with his next film, Princess Mononoke, which is by far his most bloody work to date.
(watched with Sam)
I've downloaded and watched several different versions of Battle Royale since it's release. The first was a horrible copy shot by someone in a theater with a camcorder, followed by a couple different divx dvd-rips. I even downloaded and then translated the subtitles for a "Making of Battle Royale" featurette.
Now that I finally have a DVD burner (thanks Shahab ), I downloaded the entire Korean "Special Edition" DVD.
I've never felt even the slightest bit "guilty" about downloading pirated versions of this movie because I know, thanks to the psycho kids that shot up their classmates at Columbine High, Battle Royale will never be released on DVD in the US, and if it ever does get released, I'll throw away my poorly-subbed pirated copy and buy the legit DVD (unless it's censored or editted).
What pisses me off is that so many people seem to hate (or even love) the film simply because it grapically depicts kids killing each other in a fight to the death. I love the movie because it explores the grade school experience in an extreme yet brutally honest way. The politics of cliques and the pressures put on kids by adults create an environment where school often feels like a life-or-death game (the "Trenchcoat Mafia" certainly felt that way).
Despite all the murder and mayhem, Battle Royale is ultimately an optimistic film. Love, cooperation, and pragmatism triumph over evil, although there is only one "evil" character. All the other characters, including Takeshi Kitano's "teacher" character, kill out of perceived necessity. The film does not condone violence, but it does seem to suggest that even a pacifist must decide to "kill or be killed" when there is no other alternative. Clearly in the typical school setting, the situation is never that dire and there are almost always alternatives to violence. In fact, even in the ultimate deathmatch setting of Battle Royale, Noriko manages to survive without killing a single person (of course that's cuz other people are doing the killing in order to protect her).
Battle Royale examines the pacifist's dilemma without attempting to solve it (maybe because there is no clear answer) and it paints a picture of a world where human life is devalued, and it may be a little to close to reality than we're ready to admit.
God that was a rambling load of BS, but I really can't think of any other way to describe how I feel about this kickass movie.
Battle Royale (Novel)
by Koushun Takami
dir. Katsuhiro Otomo
I had such huge expectations for Steamboy considering Katsuhiro Otomo, the genius behind Akira and Memories, has been working on the film for a decade. Unfortunately the disappointing result wasn't quite worth the wait.
The film is non-stop action, or more accurately, non-stop motion, but that motion transports us to a place that's empty of e-motion. Granted, Otomo tries desperately to cram sentimentality between beautiful yet endless shots of mechanical parts whirring and pounding and blowing off steam, but the emotions are as cold as the steam which is inexplicably so hot that it freezes everything in its path.
The visuals are entertaining, to a point (do we really need to see every moving part of the steam tower?!) and the action is fun, but the attempts to present morality just fall flat ("family is important," "war is bad," "science is kewl"... OK OK I get it already)
I rarely find myself complaining that a film is "overlong" (if it's compelling, a film of any length will command my attention for its entire duration), but Steamboy could've used some serious editting (especially all the superfluous shots of machinery). Sadly, if it didn't happen in the storyboarding phase, "editting" in animation usually means throwing away weeks and weeks of work. Apparently there is a 106-minute English-dubbed version that will be released in certain markets, but I have a feeling the "purist" in me will prefer the 126 min Japanese version that we saw at the NuArt, even if it was indeed "overlong."
All the trash talking aside, Steamboy was NOT a waste of 2 hours. I was definitely entertained (I even laughed at times), but it hardly met my expectations.
The first 10 minutes of Elfen Lied features a naked chick killing people with her telekinetic powers. It's 10 minutes of boobies and blood.
As it turns out that the rest of the series is a balance of naked violence and romantic comedy. It's silly at times, but for the most part I was thoroughly entertained and I found myself watching all 13 episodes in two viewing sessions (I was so fascinated that it was difficult to take a break).
Shaun of the Dead
dir. Edgar Wright
I've never really been a fan of the zombie genre. 28 Days Later was pretty cool because it was much smarter than the brainless zombies it depicted. Shaun of the Dead, however, improved upon Danny Boyle's work by adding humor to the mix while still keeping the film smart (even if the characters aren't). Shaun truly is a perfect blend of comedy, drama, and horror: the funny stuff is hilarious, the dramatic stuff is legitimately tear-jerking, and the violent stuff is gory as hell.
Visitor Q is seriously one of the most twisted, yet thought-provoking, films I have ever seen, but then again, I wouldn't expect anything else from sicko mastermind Takashi Miike.
"Dysfunctional" doesn't even come close to describing the family in this film, and yet no matter how absurd or extreme they are, they still come across as real people with real problems.
(watched with Roger while we fixed his computer)
After watching Away with Words, I decide to watch another film shot by cinematographer Christopher Doyle. First Love: The Litter on the Breeze seemed a natural choice since it was produced by long time Doyle collaborator, Wong Kar Wai. First Love is the directing debut feature of comic actor Eric Kot, which explains the uneven silliness of the film. I liked the clever way Kot introduces the series of vignettes and how he actually gives a running commentary of the stories and how they evolved throughout the writing process.
Of the two main stories, I really enjoyed the sketch about the sleepwalker. Takeshi Kaneshiro, who is great in Wong Kar Wai's Chungking Express and Fallen Angels (and to a lesser extent in Yimou Zhang's House of Flying Daggers), is hilarious as a simpleminded garbageman who falls in love with a beautiful sleepwalker.
The second story, starring Kot, is a bit too silly for me, but it has some really funny moments and the end is surprisingly touching.
As always, Chris Doyle's cinematography is unparalleled.