Category Archives: joseph campbell

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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Popcorn Quickies 4-21-2009

10,000 B.C. ~ Ever since Roland Emerich and Dean Devlin ruined Godzilla I have been wary of any Centropolis film. And when I saw previews of 10,000 B.C. my first thought was it was a way of cashing in on some new state of the art special effects and also the flood of prehistoric programming on the Discovery networks. When it finally came around on the cable I took a peek just to see the effects, and I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a hero’s journey story in the Joseph Campbell vein that follows a primitive man into the world of wannabe gods building pyramids with saber-tooth tigers and wooly mammoths thrown in for good measure – and it’s quite good, or at least tons better than I expected. Worth taking a chance to check out, good adventure fodder.

Live Free or Die Hard ~ When you Google the term ‘popcorn movie’ it should take you right to the movie poster for this flick. If you’ve seen any of the other Die Hard movies, or any Bruce Willis action flick really, there are no real surprises here. Willis knocks a helicopter out of the sky with a car because he’s out of bullets, and it’s got Kevin Smith, really, what more could you ask for? Munch lots of popcorn and call it a night’s entertainment, you’ll be satisfied.

Timecrimes ~ Also known as Los Cronocrimenes is a brilliant but just a tad predictable time travel thriller from independent Oscar-nominated writer/director Nacho Vigalondo. He also acts in this one. It’s slow, and thought-provoking, a different pace from most time travel stories but meticulously planned and not without twists. Stay with it, even when you think you’ve got it figured out – it can be surprising even when you think you’ve got it figured out.

Star Trek: Nemesis ~ The final Trek film before the powers-that-be decided a complete reboot of the franchise is not as bad as I would have thought. The Enterprise crew from the “Next Generation” TV series find themselves caught in the center of a hostile takeover in the Romulan Empire, one masterminded by, as it turns out, a clone of Captain Picard. Hilarity ensues. While there are nice touches and cute nods and nudges throughout, this is really just an action flick in Trek dressings. I can see why hardcore fans were disappointed in what was considered, even then, the final voyage for these characters. Lotsa action and special effects, but it could have so much more, and definitely not as much of a rehash of Wrath of Khan as it seems to be. Recommended if it’s on free TV.

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The Hidden Fortress

“SO WHERE’S THE FORCE?”

A Video Review of The Hidden Fortress (1958)

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

Kakushi toride No San Akunin or The Hidden Fortress, as it is known in the United States, has long been touted as the inspiration for Star Wars. Having recently seen it I gotta say I have my doubts. To paraphrase that annoying old pitch woman for Wendy’s – “Where’s the Force?”

This samurai tale of a war hero trying to save his princess by using two farmers going home after being enslaved as a cover is pretty standard fair for the Japanese cinema at the time and only elevated by the direction of the master Akira Kurosawa and the always superior performance of Toshiro Mifume but Star Wars it ain’t.

There are similarities storywise, two bumblers, a rogue and a rescued princess but it ends there. The Hidden Fortress lacks a Luke Skywalker character who George Lucas freely admits is a product of ‘the hero’s journey’ postulated by Joseph Campbell I still find it hard to believe Lucas outfitted the rest of his cast from this film. While the relationship of the two farmers bears a slight resemblance to the antics of R2-D2 and C3PO so do Laurel and Hardy from most of their work.

The Hidden Fortress is an enjoyable two hours plus of vintage samurai cinema but Star Wars it ain’t.