The Man Who Knew Too Much ’34: The runt of the litter

I have nothing against pre-Hollywood Hitchcock. I quite enjoyed The Thirty-Nine Steps and The Lady Vanishes. But somehow this one came out as limp and thin to me. There’s a lot unexplained around the edges and no satisfactory plot to follow, and, quite frankly, the cinematography is pretty terrible: the camerawork is uninspired and the cuts awkward. But it’s his early work, so allowances must be made, particularly as this one was apparently remade as a much superior film, which I look forward to seeing.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.

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Lilo and Stitch: Island people and island non-people

She’s an open-source bootloader, he’s a fiber-artist. No, not really, but the actual film’s only marginally less weird. It’s rather surprising as far as Disney offerings are concerned: the animation style is a lot less angular than a fair amount of what they’d done this century, and there is mercifully little original music, preferring to lift the entire soundtrack from Elvis. It’s more edgy and less insulting to the intelligence than the average Disney animated feature, so all in all, it’s pretty good if not something I’d go out of my way to re-experience.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia

紅の豚 (Porco Rosso): Color-by-numbers Miyazaki

One can count on Miyazaki films for a lot of things. They’re very good. They’re voice-acted well in whatever language (ignoring, for the moment, the unfortunate 1986 stateside release of Warriors of the Wind). They have spunky teenage girls who fly and are an inspiration to all (er, except Tonari no Totoro, where the children were pre-teen). One can count on them to be warm and fuzzy without being saccharine, and for the most part it seems like Hayao Miyazaki just has a big bag of awesome that he keeps pulling things out of.

I’m thus reluctant to criticize Porco Rosso. It has all those inimitably wonderful Miyazaki touches, with the beautiful art and the good acting and the delightful characters. But somehow it all seems a bit shallow here: it’s extremely weak in plot and character-development. There are great characters, but they don’t really develop at all. There’s a great opportunity for a fall-and-redemption narrative involving Marco which is done as limply as possible — we’re barely told of his failure, and his redemption just seems sort of irrelevant. Nobody and nothing really changes, which would be OK if this were a film playing on that sort of staticity, but it’s not.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia, Anime News Network, AniDB.

Taxi Driver: Make me wanna kill people

The only real connection I had to this film, having never seen it and being a child of the 80’s, was that it induced John W. Hinckley, Jr. to shoot Ronald Reagan. I can sort of see why. This film is very bad medicide for the mentally ill. Masterful work, dark, disturbing, disturbed, and superlatively twisted. I’m medium-sane and have better ways to work out my antipathy towards elected officials and/or impress actresses. Robert De Niro is a surprisingly effective lunatic, but that’s not surprising. He’s a freaky scary guy no matter what role he’s in.

Side note: it’s unfortunate, but my eyes kept reading every appearance of the candidate’s name, on signs and whatnot, as “Palpatine”. Which would make Travis Bickle Anakin Skywalker. I’d better shut up now, because I’d imagine George Lucas is already planning the scene where Bickle cuts the pimp’s hand off with a light saber. Is nothing sacred?

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.

Gods and Monsters: Hollywood pleasuring itself

No, really, I’m not gay. And this isn’t a film about homosexuality anyways. It’s a film about the movie industry, to some extent, which means we have that whole self-referential thing going on that directors adore and the movie-watching public tolerates. The two central characters are well-cast in familiar roles: Ian McKellen gets to be dryly British, clever, and a bit raunchy; Brendan Fraser gets to be a dimwittedly honest jock. All in all, it’s not too bad — the highs and lows sort of even out. I don’t like films-about-films, but there are worse things to be fixated on than “Bride of Frankenstein”.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.

Trois couleurs, Blanc: I see Poland, I see France

This is the second in a three-film cycle, but apparently they’re sufficiently independent that it can be watched alone. It’s cold and sterile, but perhaps intentionally. Nobody in this story was all that sympathetic, although I guess Karol was sort of supposed to be. Deftly symmetric — nice way to end the story, and moderately humorous, although in a bleak sort of way. But I can dig bleak humor.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.

The Powerpuff Girls Movie: Tag!

It’s a movie based on an American animated series. This reasonably lowers expectations, but it’s OK in its way. As I’ve mentioned earlier, the question when basing a movie on a series (especially one without any particular episode-to-episode continuity) is what to use as a plot. Just a thicker slice of the same pie you serve every week, or some divergence from the norm? This one’s at least original, inasmuch as it chooses to go with the origin story. Not much else to say, though — it’s got decent voice actors and animation which is acceptable in the minimal sort of way in which “The Powerpuff Girls” is animated (aside: was this the first American cartoon to be done in a minimal, abstract style? I don’t follow the aesthetics too closely).

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.