Category Archives: cate blanchett

Ponyo

Ponyo ~ The first thing that strikes me about Ponyo (also known as Gake no ue no Ponyo) is how terrific it is now that in America, not only are Hiyao Miyazaki’s films distributed mainstream by Disney, but that Hiyao Miyazaki films are now an event. This is just how it should be. He’s a genius, and it’s about time he’s treated this way.

I think a lot of that may be due to TCM. A year or so back they did an entire week of Miyazaki films that brought his work into the mainstream consciousness. I knew about him but then again I have a comics and anime background. I know this was when my wife’s eyes were opened to his brilliance, a probably many others as well.

Ponyo is a simple yet bizarre tale of a goldfish who falls in love with a little boy and then wants to become human. From there it gets complicated. And the complications are what I love about Miyazaki. He always follows the game plan of the Hero’s Journey, yet he takes the roundabout way, the twisted mountain road, so that he is never predictable – and that’s refreshing. When was the last time you could not guess the ending or even the next scene of a film?

This is an enjoyable flick for both adults and children, and highly recommended. I really enjoyed it. And if you like what you see, check out the rest of Miyazaki’s films. You’ll be glad you did.

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Indy 4: The Ride


Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, besides having three too many words in the title (“the Kingdom of” should be removed in my opinion), is more of a ride than a film. In fact, I suspect that someone, probably Disney or Universal, have one in the works already, but there’s really no need. The film is the ride. And trust me, it’s a better ride than a film.

We pick up with Indy in 1957, and we know it’s 1957 because we are hammered over the head with this fact several times. The rock ‘n’ roll, the atomic bomb tests, the Cold War and the McCarthyism of the time are beaten into us enough to make it a distraction more than a background. It seems to me that if George Lucas wanted to make a film about America in the 1950s he should have just done it and left Indiana Jones out of it. Of course, however, with our principal character, and the actor Harrison Ford, feeling and looking his age, the time really had to be some time in the 1950s.

The rest of the cast is really outshown by brunette Soviet psychic spy Cate Blanchett. She is more than suitably evil and engaging. The screen lights up when Cate’s on it – an excellent foil opposite Ford, who for the first time in years (maybe since the last Indy flick) isn’t playing wooden and unlikable on the screen. Oh, Karen Allen is back again too, John Hurt does his best catatonia and schizophrenia, and then there’s Shia LaBeouf, the homeless man’s Marlon Brando imitation. Sorry, for me he justs gets more annoying in every movie I see him in.

Storywise, what story there is, seems to indicate that George Lucas has been listening to far too much Coast to Coast AM. This shift in the Indiana Jones series from Christian mythology to crypto-mythology is especially jarring. For me, the mix of Indy with aliens is akin to mixing fudge and mayo. It ain’t pretty. This flick is a mix and match nightmare of the paranormal culture, throwing in such aspects as Roswell, Nasca, Eldorado, among others to tell Lucas’ tale of the crystal skulls.

That’s not to say that it’s all bad. There are interesting nods and winks to “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles” and Star Wars, and we even catch a peek at the Ark of the Covenant in a loose end that could, if pressured by box office success, lead to a sequel. There are a few memorable lines, and a sweet ending, but in my opinion, this is the weakest of the series. Still, see the flick, and ride the ride – it’s still worth it.

Quickies 5-31-2007

“Afro Samurai” – Almost anything with Samuel L. Jackson is a good time as far as I’m concerned, and this English translation of this oddball anime is no exception. Jackson voices the hero as only he can, backed up by Ron Perlman as the villain and Kelly Hu in the small role of the girl. What at first seems like any mindless nonsensical manga actually has an edge and some classy M. Night surprises, so keep sharp while you watch. Blaxploitation meets Ralph Bakshi meets Toshiro Mifune. This is definitely worth a look.

WarGames – I just recently caught this one after not having seen it since its theatrical release. What seemed brilliant to a teenager now comes off as amateurish and just a bit preachy. It’s still fun however to see the young Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy.

Casualties of Love: The Long Island Lolita Story – Long title, I sure hope the review is longer than that at least. This rushed-onto-the-small-screen telemovie was written and directed by John Herzfeld who has also done stuff like “The Ryan White Story” and “The Preppie Murder” as well as a couple Afterschool Specials. It’s not all good and true though, he also directed 15 Minutes and 2 days in the Valley. This story seems to take Joey Buttafucco’s side in the infamous Amy Fischer story. Fischer is played with hysterical histrionics by Alyssa Milano, late of “Who’s the Boss.” This is not one of her better moments.

The Good German – This was advertised as a good old-fashioned film noir, it was even filmed in black and white. The flick, set in post-war Nazi Germany, does all the right noir tricks but it’s scarred by current day language and violence. Tobey MacGuire does a sinister turn worthy of an Oscar as a complete bastard. Cate Blanchett eats up scenery like an early Bette Davis and George Clooney (of whom there is far too little) mugs for the camera when he’s not getting beaten up. The plot is complex but compelling, must see.

Everything Is Illuminated – This touching story of an obsessive accountant, played by Elijah Wood, who tries to find the woman who helped his grandfather escape from the Nazis sometimes feels like the love child of Pedro Almodovar and Borat. Although it’s funny and bizarre where Borat was simply insulting and hateful. It’s also a must see though.