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Conan the Barbarian (1982)




You know that feeling when you wanna call something ''the best X of all time'', even though you know it isn't? That's how I feel about Conan. When I reflected upon it for the sake of this review, I noticed many blunders it makes, but I don't love it any less.

Let's address the negatives first: its supporting cast is forgettable. I know Conan had two sidekicks, but I don't even remember their names. One of them is a woman, and while there was no romantic subplot (thank Crom for that), the scenes that focus on her feel pointless. His male sidekick fares even worse; I don't even remember what he looks like. There's a handful of scenes with the same problem, like the one where he has sex with a witch. They just leave you wondering what the point was.
That, and that giant snake special effect was bad.


So, what did Conan the Barbarian do right? Three things:

1) The story. It's more than a typical revenge story, where a character is wronged and ventures off to get his revenge. That's a big part of Conan, sure, but it doesn't feel like an anecdote. It feels like Conan had a genuinely interesting life. We got to see him live as a regular boy, a slave, a celebrated gladiator, and much more. He worked, he traveled, he stole, he indulged in drink and whores, and so on. It's a full-fledged epic, no corners cut.

2) The tone. It's stoic, morose and unapologetically masculine. While I love energetic, kid-oriented fantasy movies (i.e. how to train your dragon), Conan provides a perfect counterweight. There are many long segments with no dialogue, letting the amazing score or the narration by Aku from Samurai Jack do the work. The dialogue that is there is equally serious, often even philosophical. The Riddle of Steel will always stick with me. It's a far cry from the corniness you'd expect when you see Arnie in leather briefs.

3) The core conflict. Both Conan are Thulsa Doom have interesting personalities. Conan wants revenge at all costs. He will stop at nothing and sacrifice everything. This anger and drive hits even harder when you find out that Tulsa Doom is completely unfazed by it. To him, maiming Conan's village was just another work day. It's not that he's unaware of how Conan feels, he just sees it through his warped world view, going on to point out how his drive for revenge is what gave him strength, in the same way an angry father would point out how much he gave his son.

As I've already stated, Conan the Barbarian isn't the best adventure movie out there, but it accomplishes things that'd make it worth seeing in a sea of superior adventure movies.



No comments again? I thought people were more interested in Conan.
Up next is another croatian movie: Ciguli Miguli
__________________
I'm the Yugoslav cinema guy. I dig through garbage. I look for gems.



Tsee-goo-lee Mee-goo-lee




It's Ciguli Miguli, not Tsee-goo-lee Mee-goo-lee. You can't translate this title because it's a personal name. Get it right.

If you've already seen Dr. Strangelove and One Flew over a Cuckoo's Nest, you have a pretty good idea of what Ciguli Miguli is like. Like the former, it's a satire that doesn't take its subject matter very seriously. And like the latter, it's about a disorganized crowd locking horns with an authority figure that symbolizes communism, though there's a twist to it that I'll get to later.

First off, you need to remember that this is from the early days of Croatian cinema, back when our actors were inexperienced. Barring Ljubomir Didić, who plays the main antagonist Ivan Ivanović, and 2-3 of the townsmen, the acting is kind of wooden and cringy. For that reason, I recommend you see it after H-8.

Once you do, you'll see Ciguli Miguli as a hilarious, gloriously campy movie. It's full of exaggerated acting, physical comedy, fourth wall breaks (e.g. people talking to the narrator), and general Charlie Chaplin influences. Most of the comedy comes from Ivanović trying, and failing, to impose the ''government-mandated'' cultural mold onto the town, both because of his own incompetence and the town's stupidity. If laughs are what you're looking for, Ciguli Miguli has you covered.

That's not what made me want to review it, though. There's another dimension to this movie that sets it apart from other satires, and that's the themes it discusses. Its thematic content doesn't begin and end with ''communism bad''; it gives more attention to the idea of cultural pseudomorphism. If you yon't know what that is, it's when a developing culture is forced into a mold of an established one. It's a topic I've found fascinating ever since I discovered Oswald Spengler. Here, the town is the ''developing culture'', and Ivanović is the bringer of ''the mold''. The humble people are struck with inferiority complex after meeting the confident and imposing government official, going so far to betray each other to fit into his mold. This runs the town into a free-for-all, after which they grow to resent Ivanović as an oppressor. Basically, what Spengler said about Russia and the West, this movie said about Croatia and Russia.
There's also an extremely boring subplot about two teenagers in love that tries and fails to set up a similar anti-establishment theme. Just skip ahead whenever they show up.
I also think the name ''Ciguli Miguli'', derived from an insult for gypsies, is meant to represent our culture. If that's the case (and I'm not saying it is), than that's the worst metaphor I've ever heard.

To wrap it up: Ciguli Miguli is a great comedy. Not perfect, but it's funny, and its characters being stand-ins for ideas is justified by it having something really interesting to say. I don't know if there even is a version with subtitles (I might make one myself if I have to), but I can easily recommend it to anyone.



Why hasn't Ciguli Miguli been approved yet

Edit: I just found out that it isn't registered as "Ciguli Miguli" in the database. Someone tried to spell it out phonetically.



Here's the plan: first I'm gonna review Birdman, then the How To Train Your Dragon trilogy, and then I'm gonna change my mononoke review completely. It's poorly written and misses a few vital points.
I might do Pain and Gain after that.



Birdman





Well, this is awkward. There was a time when I was in love with this movie, and here I am now, calling it crap. And it is, but it's not without its merits. There was a reason I used to like it, and it can best be summed up as such: the people who made Birdman are visibly talented.

For one thing, the directing is just great. No qualifiers attached. Every scene is well-staged, well-shot, never drags on for too long, but most importantly, has a sense of energy to it. the movie's at its best during Riggan's, let's call them, ''delusion sequences'', when he's imagining himself flying or using telekinesis while Birdman makes fun of him. Of course, you can't not mention Michael Keaton and his ''comedy sleazeball'' shtick, back from Beetlejuice and stronger than ever.

All those things could've made a good movie great, but as it stands, they make a bad movie disappointing. What makes it so bad, I can't sum up in one word.
The main problem is in the dialogue. There's too much of it, for one thing; this movie never shuts up. From beginning to end, with barely a few breaks, you'll be drowned in constant babble. It wouldn't matter so much if it was any good, but it's not. It's oscar bait, no other way around it. I counted 5 forced and melodramatic monologues, all of which ruin the pace of the movie, or are out of character, or have nothing to do with the story or characters, or all of the above. The only good performance is Keaton's, by the way.
I also don't care for Birdman's overall additude. It's the princess mononoke problem again, when it's so self-congratulatory to the point that it's hostile. And what it's congratulating itself for is something everyone already knows. Marvel movies are bad, but generic oscar dramas aren't perfect either?


Again, I have nothing against the people who made Birdman. Innaritu is clearly very talented, and I don't mean to call him a ''self-congratulatory'' or ''hostile'' person. It's just that Birdman is kinda crap.



How to Train Your Dragon



The How to Train Your Dragon trilogy is about protagonist Hiccup earning, enjoying and letting go of his heyday. In this first part, we see him embark on a journey which transforms him from zero to hero.

It may sound cliche, and while it's definitely not edgy, it's also far from uninspired. The difference is that How to Train Your Dragon was clearly made by someone who wanted to tell its story. It shows in every aspect of the movie: The characters are written realistically: Hiccup's teenage angst feels real, as do Stoick's struggles with raising his weird son, and the day-to-day dynamics between the characters. They're clearly inspired by real people, not by other films.
The texturing and sound design makes the world feel so real, you could almost smell it. When a character jumps into the ocean, you feel wet and salty. When he gets hit by a branch, you feel it. This, along with the more ''grounded'' style of cinematography, make the movie truly immersive. It's what gives the scenes with Toothless that sense of wonder - the feeling that you're discovering a whole new world of possibilities. Dangerous, but irresistable. It's things like these that seperate good fantasy movies from great ones.
What I'm trying to say is, How to Train Your Dragon has soul.

Finally, the movie paces itself perfectly. There's no big, loud, explosive scenes up until the very end, and by then, they feel earned. Every scene, with no exception, has its own emotional punch. That's also owed by how concise the movie is about exposition. For example, how do we learn that Stoick and Hiccup have no family but each other? In a quick throwaway line.
It's half of your mother's breastplate. Keeps her close.
You're never thinking ''oh, this is the exposition dump''. You're never bored for any reason.

How to Train Your Dragon is often considered the best Dreamworks movie, and while I'd still argue Megamind is better, this one is a close second. It's just an unpretentious kids' movie, but it's the best kind of unpretentious kids' movie. One that's so ''into it'' you can't help but tag along for the ride.



I'm with you on Megamind. Easy number one from Dreamworks for me.



How to Train Your Dragon 2




The How to Train Your Dragon trilogy is about protagonist Hiccup earning, enjoying, and letting go of his heyday. In this middle part, we get to see him in his absolute prime: one full of adventure, excitement, drama and triumph.

It's not just Hiccup that got all EPIC!, the whole movie is like that now. The first movie started quiet, but this one's big and bombastic from start to finish. Berk is no longer that quaint little village, now it's a fully-fledged town, complete with busy streets, a sports ring, and a dragon hangar. We've moved on from the first movie's nature setting into a world of shipwrecks, dented steel and fire. It's got the imagery of Alestorm, the additude of Battle Beast and the energy of Judas Priest. It's my pick for the best looking CG animated film of all time, with the only possible competitor being Spider-verse.

The story had similar ambitions, but sadly, they were a bit too much. It's 100 minutes long, but the story it was going for required at least 15 more. Animation of this quality is expensive, so they had to cut corners. What came out as a result is less of a typical 7/10 movie and more of an unfinished 10/10 movie. It shows flashes of that 10/10 quality in scenes like Stoick and Valka's reunion, or Hiccup's aforementioned Battle Beast additude. At its best, it can make you smile, sweat, cry, and most of all, cheer. It's crowd-pleasing at its finest.

The cut corners begin to show with Valka, and the villain Drago. Neither of them is properly established as a character. Valka doesn't contribute much to the drama, and Drago has no intimidating presence. They're just kind of there. For what it's worth, both Cate Blanchett and Djimon Hounsou's voice acting is great.
I also think think the story doesn't flow nearly as well as it did in the previous movie. It has a bit of that ''they go there, then they go there'' problem. One thing everyone can agree on is that the comedy really went down the gutter. Snotlout and his clique have become the Jar Jar Binks of Httyd.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a little tragic. It had the capacity to be better than the first one. It had the capacity to surpass The Lion King, or maybe even Megamind, but for whatever reason, it fell short. And it's still good, it's just hard not to fantasize about what could've been. Release the Snyder cut, Dreamworks!



I swear I'm trying to write this httyd 3 review, but it's really hard to put into words why I like it. I'll keep trying until I get it right, I don't want to have two poorly written reviews.



How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World



The How to train your dragon trilogy is about the protagonist Hiccup earning, enjoying, and letting go of his heyday. In this final part, we see him come to terms with the fact that the ''good old days'' are over.

His ''good old days'' were in the second movie. Despite some superficial similarities, this movie is much calmer than the last one. The bombastic action and metal imagery are significantly reduced, this time focusing more on the community of Berk. Everything feels just as tangible as in the first movie: the heat and murmur of crowded halls, the weariness of long flights, and the irresistible sense of wonder brought about by the Light Fury. That aspect is back from the first movie with a vengeance, but is put in a wholly different context. It used to be a sign of change, and it still is, but this time, Hiccup doesn't want things to change. Yet he knows he can't avoid it forever. That's where the bittersweet mood of the movie sets in.

I have to point out, the scenes where Toothless flirts with the Light Fury are an absolute bliss. The amount of personality and charm they managed to inject into these quadrapedal beasts, relying on nothing but growls and body language, all while keeping in line with its semi-realistic art style, is unbelievable. Buster Keaton would be proud.
It also helps that it has John Powell's score to rely on. It does the talking for both the humans and the dragons, portraying panic, infatuation, nostalgia, and in the case of the Hidden World scene, something more complex. All three movies have great scores, but this one is just flawless. It's everything that fantasy music should sound like, and then some.

As for Hiccup and Grimmel's story... I'm a little split. It's definitely entertaining, and Grimmel is way more intimidating than Drago, but it lacks the personal touch of Toothless' story. It, a part of the second film, and all of the first one, feel like they were inspired by something from DeBlois' own life, but this feels more inspired by other Dreamworks and Disney movies.
One final complaint: the story flow problem from the second movie hasn't been fixed completely. There's definitely times where you can tell the writers took the easy way out, and the two stories of Hiccup vs Grimmel and Toothless & Light Fury feel too separate.
That'd definitely hurt it more as a standalone movie, but as a part of s trilogy, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden world is great. It gives you a satisfying conclusion to its character arcs, no sequel-baiting, no chickening out.



I deleted my mononoke and megamind reviews. I stand by what I said in them, but they were both very poorly written. I didn't know how to formulate my thoughts. I'll have to re-review them some day, but right now, I'm stuck between Come and See and Fantastic Mr. Fox



Fantastic Mr. Fox

You know what I noticed? Almost all of the greatest animated shows and movies are neihter strictly for kids, or strictly for adults, but somewhere inbetween. Classic Simpsons, Batman, The Prince of Egypt, The Incredibles, anything by Chuck Jones... you get the picture. It's likely because that's when the artist can focus on doing what he loves, and not have to worry about who he has to appeal to. Wes Anderson is a director known for following this philosophy, so it's no wonder that his first animated film would be a great example of what I'm talking about, but it ended up even better. Fantastic Mr. Fox is his masterpiece: the movie where all his idiosyncracies just clicked together and made an absolute gem.

Most of my points about this movie can be summed up in one screencap.


First, let's mention the most important thing in an animated film: how it uses the art of animation. As shown in the screencap, Fantastic Mr. Fox has an earthy colour scheme which is not only drop-dead gorgeous, but gives the movie a rustic, down-to-earth mood which helps to immerse us in the similarly down-to-earth family drama. Like Wes Anderson's live-action movies, Fox has a geometric and rigid style of motion, but it works even better here, where you have complete control over each frame. Overall, the animation has a sense of pinpoint precision in its speed, how it blends with the background, and in its deadpan style of visual comedy. It's like Chuck Jones on a higher budget, and it makes for an immensely visually satisfying experience.

Calling back to the ''rustic mood'', another thing the animation accomplishes is giving the animals a real sense of community. Notice all the little details in the screencap: the beaver bully is the only one with his elbows on the table, there's a rabbit woman bringing food, with her kids sitting next to where she's supposed to be... this kind of attention to detail is present throughout the whole movie. The background characters are given personalities through these visual nods, but they're also given relationships to each other. They don't feel like atomized individuals, or even atomized families, but like a cohesive, realistic community.

Foxy, and by extension his family, fit into this realistic community as realistic individuals. It shows in the main story of Foxy, the former town chad who puts the community in danger by refusing to let go of his heyday, but is way more pronounced in his autistic son Ash's substory. He's sort of like Lilo or Hiccup, in the sense that his story is about dealing with being a loser, but while those two are shown as ''quirky'', Ash is genuinely pissy and unlikeable. His arc doesn't even end on him being fully redeemed, just with him admitting to himself he has a problem. What I'm trying to say is, the movie may be a ''charmer'', but it's not a ''crowd pleaser''.

This ''charm'' doesn't just lie in what I already mentioned, but also in Foxy and his conflict with Boggis, Bunce and Bean. They have serious consequences, as I already said, but the heists and revenge attempts have such a sense of giddiness to them. There's always some inventive quirk that keeps them interesting. For example, one heist is seen through security camera feed, in one continuous shot. It's all backed by the twangy score and Bean's hysterically funny angry outbursts. George Clooney, who voices Foxy, is cool as a cucumber, and delivers his lines with precision that does the animation justice.
While we're on the topic of voice acting, Foxy's ''straight man'' wife is voiced by Meryl Streep, and she killed it. I've seen the movie 4 times and every time, her line in the waterfall scene (you know which one) hits me like a dump truck.

All this praise can be boiled down to one theory. Chuck Jones, the greatest animator of all time, believed that a good filmmaker should have interests outside of film, otherwise your work will feel uninspired. Well, Fantastic Mr. Fox is the poster boy for this philosophy. Wes Anderson could've never created this tangible community if not inspired by a real one. He could've never made Ash a realistic loser if he hadn't known one in real life. It's a labour of pure love: love for one's friends and family, love for the art of animation, for the Texan countryside, for the book it's based on. It oozes that love from every pore, and if that's not a mark of a great movie, I don't know what is.



This was my hardest revew so far, but I'm happy with how it turned out. Foxy deserves to be done justice. I'm not sure what to do next, I know I don't wanna do too much animation before I redo the two reviews I deleted