Citizen Rules...Cinemaesque Chat-n-Review

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Kiki's Delivery Service (1989)

Majo no takkyŻbin (original title)
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Writers: Eiko Kadono (novel), Hayao Miyazaki (screenplay)
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Drama


"A young witch, on her mandatory year of independent life, finds fitting into a new community difficult while she supports herself by running an air courier service."

My third Miyazaki and I liked it! I found the style of story telling refreshingly un-adversarial when compared to a typical Disney animation story. I appreciated that the film focuses more on the personal tale of a 13 year old girl as she tries to make her way in a new city, as a young witch. Had this been a Disney film her journey would've been fraught with dangerous perils as she overcame huge obstacles, fighting for her life, to finally triumph in the end. But what I loved about this was that Kiki's obstacles were of a smaller nature and the type she might have actually encountered in her delivery business.

I liked the way the story handles the cat being left with a dullard boy and a big dog, in lieu of the stuff cat toy which was lost in the woods. I really expected to see the poor cat tormented mercilessly by the boy and the big dog, an American film would've done just that..and that would've made me cringe. But here that scene reinforces the gentle, nurturing message of the film...The boy might be a brat but he doesn't hurt the cat and the old dog is so sweet that once he discovers the cat toy is real, he curls up next to it and protects it. Loved that scene and I loved how the people Kiki meets cares enough to help her.

I watched this in English dub and I'm glad I did (let's face it ALL animation is dubbed). I knew the cat's voice was very familiar and I had thought it sounded like Phil Hartman but I was surprised to see during the end credits, that I was right. Though I had no clue that Kiki was voiced by Kirsten Dunst and one of the old ladies was by Debbie Reynolds.





Kwaidan (1964)

Director: Masaki Kobayashi
Writers: YŰko Mizuki (screenplay), Lafcadio Hearn (novel)
Cast: RentarŰ Mikuni, Michiyo Aratama, Misako Watanabe
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Horror
Language: Japanese


"A collection of four Japanese folk tales with supernatural themes."

I don't know why but I always expect to see old Japanese films in b&w. So when Kwaidan first starts with those blue and red blobs of artistry, I kinda thought I had the wrong film. Nope, I had the right film...I ended up liking the use of color along with the stylized backdrops for the studio sets. At times I swear I eyed eyeballs in those backdrops...or were they just color globules and the sheer terror of the film made me image them? OK, the film wasn't really terrifying at all. Actually it felt very relaxing and meditative...and had an unhurried pacing where we get to spend time reflecting on what we're seeing. That seems appropriate to me for a Japanese cultural film that brings to 'life' the spirit stories of their ancestors. I enjoyed it for those reasons.

The Black Hair
This one was effective as the sheer guilt that a human can feel is enormous, and when that guilt doesn't subside but grows and festers over the years, that guilt can be utterly devastating. The most effective scene was when the beleaguered man returns to his first wife and they talk of grief and forgiveness. That love bond between them was strong and we see that the man has made a horrible mistake by leaving her. A mistake that will haunt him forever.

The Woman of the Snow
This segment goes very surrealistic in the set's backdrops and lighting, which adds to the other worldliness of it. While not emotionally charged like The Black Hair was, it's story is more fleshed with more set pieces. I don't why but snow covered scenes are always cool.

Hoichi the Earless

This by far was the most elaborate of the stories, it functions as a show piece for the entire movie. We're treated to a retelling of a famous sea battle between two clans, where the defeated end up committing suicide by jumping overboard into the blood filled sea. Their spirits haunt the land, with their faces appearing on the backs of crabs. I loved the music that was played on the string instrument and singing the tale was creative. But what I really liked was the monastery setting. Were the priest sure that the spirits would really rip Hoichi apart? The spirits didn't seem to be a threat. But I guess they were as witnessed by Hoichi's poor ears! When the spirit Samurai approached him and seen his ears, I thought for sure he'd slice them off with his sword...but yikes he pulled them right off. How horrible for the poor guy!

In a Cup of Tea
My least favorite, though the premise of a narrator telling us about old, unfinished manuscripts with no endings was interesting...and if In a Cup of Tea was truly a real, unfinished manuscript than that was a great way to end the movie.





Dragonslayer (1981)

Director: Matthew Robbins
Writers: Hal Barwood, Matthew Robbins
Cast: Peter MacNicol, Caitlin Clarke, Ralph Richardson
Genre: Fantasy


'A young wizard's apprentice is sent to kill a dragon which has been devouring girls from a nearby kingdom.'

I liked it and I'm not saying that out of fond memories either as I've never seen it before. I know I liked it because the film hooked me from the get-go and I was interested in seeing what was coming next.

I instantly liked the sorcerer played by Ralph Richardson. He reminded me of one of the great actors John Gielgud. I thought his sorcerer's layer was pretty nifty looking too. In fact I liked all the cast. The girl who first masqueraded as a boy was good in that she had a certain gutsyness to her. The young sorcerer Galen was OK, not my favorite, but he worked well enough in the role.

What I really loved was some of the script surprises. When the princess' name was put into the lottery, to be sacrificed to the dragon and she was picked...and then her father the king stepped in and drew another name, I was surprised that the film didn't build hatred for the inequity of the rich over the poor by having a poor girl chosen instead. It was pretty interesting that the film had the princess going to her death out of fairness. Though I though it was ironic that the girl Valerian who had escaped the lottery by masquerading as a boy was in the forefront chanting for the princess to be sacrificed. Maybe Valerian should keep a low profile least the village people demand she be sacrificed instead...or maybe she should just lose her virginity

I liked the way the dragon looked and it's lair. It was pretty darn cool seeing it's dragon babies eating the princess's foot, ha! That was unexpected so cool. For 1981 I thought this film delivered...and the practical effects were well done. The on location shooting in the Scottish isles was awesome too.





The Lord of the Rings:
The Fellowship of the Ring
(2001)
Director: Peter Jackson
Writers: J.R.R. Tolkien (novel), Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson (screenplay)
Cast: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom
Genre: Fantasy

That big guy in the photo was my favorite creature and my favorite scene too. I almost hated to see him get killed He reminded me of a Ray Harryhausen stop-motion creation. Harryhausen knew how to take his stop-motion creatures and give them a personality of their own...I didn't feel a lot of personality coming from the creatures here though.

The movie is made perfect for those who are already familiar with the story. It functions like a beautiful illustration to the Lord of the Rings novel...effectively providing a visual & auditory journey to the beloved story by J. R. R. Tolkien.

But I've never read Lord of the Rings...and after spending 3 hours with the movie I still didn't feel any magic. I wanted more of the personal tale, more about their hopes & fears and more character interactions. The movie functions as an abridged version of the novel where all the scenes are pared down to the briefest moments and relies on visuals to do the storytelling. I get that it's necessary for a director to do that when bringing a long and popular novel to the screen. The same thing happened with David Lynch's Dune (1984). The Dune novel is long and intricately involved, so that when made as a movie it had to quickly tell each scene with visuals, without spending much time on exposition or side stories. To Peter Jackson's credit he was apparently true to LotR novel, where as Lynch altered the Dune novel for film and thus pissed off the fans.

Objectively: The Fellowship of the Rings is near perfect as it delivers what it intended to do and fans of the novel seem to love it.

Subjectively: I was bored with the lack of exposition and felt I never was invested enough to care about what was happening on the screen. It didn't help that I couldn't make out 1/3rd of the dialogue, thanks to the sound mix being extremely heavy on the score. The endless creepy creatures and sword fighting did little for me either. While I was amazed at the sheer spectacularness of it all, I struggled to have any connection to the actual story.

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The Dark Crystal (1982)

Directors: Jim Henson, Frank Oz
Writers: David Odell (screenplay by), Jim Henson (story by)
Cast: Jim Henson, Kathryn Mullen, Frank Oz
Genre: Fantasy

I believe it helps to have grown up with The Dark Crystal. For myself, I'd never seen it until now and wasn't a fan.

While I was amazed at the sheer amount of intricate detail and artistry that went into the production, I just couldn't buy into the story. It was clear to me that a lot of the film was based on the puppetry creative skills of Jim Henson, whilst the storytelling itself was threadbare.

The first scene where the narrator explains the world of the dark crystal, went on and on. I found myself thinking, yes we get it, please start the damn movie...I had to laugh at the bad guys, the Skesis, when the two would-be emperors battled for the control of their evil clan. They had these nasty looking swords but what did they do with them? They fought a large rock! But then the defeated Skesis had to pay the price. Surly I thought he was to be killed but no, they merely undressed him and sent him outside...BUT I then reminded myself that this was made for children and so judging it by adult movie standards wasn't fair. And in that vein I could see how children and teens could've loved this film back in the day.

I did enjoy the film once the Gelfing Jen went on his adventure. I dug the house with the one eyed goat lady and the big planetarium device, very cool set. And I flat out loved the forest sets and the swamp too! My eyes darted around trying to capture all the uniqueness of the fauna and life that was there. That scene did environmental world building so well, what a joy to see...and that's where Jim Henson's talent truly shined.

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Platoon (Oliver Stone 1986)

Wow! This was powerful...and such an emotional watch for me. I felt like I was forgetting to breathe, it was that intense. I'd seen this before too, in fact I reviewed it here at MoFo and only gave it a 3.5. I don't remember why I wasn't as enthused last time.

Since I last watched Platoon I watched an excellent documentary by Ken Burns, The Vietnam War It's 17 hours long in 10 episodes and riveting! It was a real eye opener about the causes and effects of the Vietnam War including interviews with North & South Vietnamese and U.S soldiers...all who lived through that time. I can say that Platoon is pretty well factual and those types of atrocities did actually happen. Not often, but sadly they did happen.

My favorite part of the film is the first act where we get to know the young grunt Chris, (Charlie Sheen) who drops out of college to do his part in the war effort and finds out it's nothing like he had imaged. I like the set up where his voice-over reads his letters to his grandma. Those letters tell us a lot about Chris and Vietnam too. Then we get the attack scene during the jungle patrol, followed by the atrocities at the village. That was so hard for me to watch knowing those events did occur.

This is a near perfect film and I'm picky about what I call a perfect film. The only thing I can nitpick is the second time Oliver Stone appears on screen. The first time was during a lull in the action so it wasn't a big deal and he didn't speak. But the second time is during the final attack (the Tet Offensive by the North) and seeing Stone on screen for me broke the intensity and realism of that final attack.





The Mission
(1986)

Director: Roland Joffť
Writer: Robert Bolt (original story & screenplay)
Cast: Robert De Niro, Jeremy Irons, Ray McAnally, Liam Neeson
Genre: Historical Drama


'Eighteenth-century Spanish Jesuits try to protect a remote South American tribe in danger of falling under the rule of pro-slavery Portugal'

I have mixed feelings about this movie. First the positive: I loved the South American jungle settings! I've only seen a few movies set in the tropical rain forest of South America so it was cool to see this. The magic of the rain forest is hard to explain. I luckily got to visit the Costa Rica rain forest and spent some time in Panama too, where believe it or not we took a river journey just like in the movie in long motorized canoes up a slow moving jungle river and visited the indigenous Embera. This was like 10 years ago and they lived along a forest river in elevated thatched roof huts, like we see in this movie. So to me seeing the native people and the tropics in the film was magical.



I wish I could say I liked the overall movie, but I didn't. Robert De Niro was badly miscast and I couldn't buy that this slave trader character who had killed his own brother was looking for redemption by joining a group of Jesuit priest. I wish Jeremy Irons had played his role instead, that would've elevated the movie. I don't think Robert De Niro works at all here. The script itself was pretty weak and not deeply introspective like I would've hoped for..But the on location scenery was amazing...so I'm glad to have watched it.






Bambi (1942)
Studio: Walt Disney
Genre: Family Animation


I was surprised by how dark the themes in Bambi were. I assumed this was a G rated family movie, but in someways it had one of the most disturbing scenes I've ever watched. That would be the hunting scene with little Bambi and his mom

Though that hunting scene really shouldn't surprise me, as Bambi was made during World War II...and with the carnage of war came a much darker tone to movies, especially film noir. But now, I know those more dismal themes of loss of life were also represented in Disney's animated feature.



I really appreciated the artistry of the hand created animated cells that make up the film. There's such a deeply rich and beautiful look to the woodland home of the forest animals. What I liked most was how the community of animals were shown to be in harmony with nature and it was man's intrusion into the animal's woods that brought chaos and death, which is sadly so true.

I'm glad to have finally watched this classic Disney animation classic.
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Oldboy (2003)
Director: Chan-wook Park
Writers: Garon Tsuchiya (story), Nobuaki Minegishi (comic)
Cast: Choi Min-sik, Yoo Ji-Tae, Kang Hye-jeong
Genre: Crime Action
Language: Korean

'After being kidnapped and imprisoned for fifteen years, Oh Dae-Su is released, only to find that he must find his captor in five days.'

Did Quentin Tarantino dirty up the rest of the world's cinema with pulpy, cheesy torture fluff? OMG I hope not!!! Oldboy is like Pulp Fiction meets Disney mass entertainment...

It starts off promising enough with Dae-Su (Min-Sik Choi) doing a damn funny drunk...then it gets even cooler when it goes psych-surrealistic with Dae-Su mysteriously imprisoned in a curiously decorated room. That all too brief first act reminded me of The Truman Show. I'd give that first 45 minutes a 4/5.



But once he's out of his personal prison the reveal of what was going on bored me. I had hoped we'd find out that his prison room was all in his own head, or perhaps he was in a mental ward and had hallucinated the other life....But the usual revenge, action, torture stuff is crap to me and reminded me of Pulp Fiction a film I don't care for. I'm not generally a fan of Korean movies, the ones I seen seem like Korea's version of the Hollywood blockbuster, big on action and cheap thrills. I like movies that feed the soul and the mind. I don't care for movies that are the equivalent of deep fried pork rinds.





The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)

Director: Albert Lewin
Writers: Albert Lewin (screen play), Oscar Wilde (novel)
Cast: George Sanders, Hurd Hatfield, Donna Reed, Angela Lansbury, Peter Lawford Peter Lawford
Genre: Fantasy, Drama


'A corrupt young man somehow keeps his youthful beauty, but a special painting gradually reveals his inner ugliness to all.'

I've been wanting to see The Picture of Dorian Gray for the longest time, so I'm glad I finally got around to it. I wish I could say I loved it, but I mostly found it blasť. Maybe that's because of preconceived build-up...you know that's where a film is touted as being one of those must see movies, and when you finally get around to watching it your expectations are much higher than the film can ever deliver. So maybe this movie was better than I experienced.



It was an interesting premise and I loved the look of the period piece sets with their rich exuberance, but the lead actor had zero personality and I couldn't discern why he became so evil? I mean I know he made a bargain to keep forever young while his portrait would age, but it was never clear to me why he became such a scallywag? I think it might have been better if George Sanders was cast as Dorian Gray and allowed to be more flamboyant like he usually is in his other movies. But here even Sanders was bland and that's a rarity as Sanders is almost always the high spot of any movie he's in.

Maybe the movie went over my head? Though I'm pretty sure I seen the same story on the old TV show The Twilight Zone...the episode with the people who wear hideous mask that represent their true inner selves and once they take off their mask their faces have become grotesquely distorted.

I wish I knew what Oscar Wilde was trying to say in his novel? Maybe the book made it more clear but the movie was more of let down for me.


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Before Sunrise (1995)
Director: Richard Linklater
Writers: Richard Linklater, Kim Krizan
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy
Genre: Drama, Romance

'A young man and woman meet on a train in Europe, and wind up spending one evening together in Vienna. Unfortunately, both know that this will probably be their only night together. '
All you do to me is talk, talk
Talk, talk, talk, talk
All you do to me is talk, talk
Talk, talk, talk, talk
All you do to me is talk, talk


Damn, now I got that 1980s pop song stuck in my head...Which is kind of apt, because talk, talk, talk, talk is all this insipid couple did during the movie. And there's nothing wrong with a dialogue heavy movie. I love movies where nothing much happens...but the dialogue is rich and full of life and the characters seem to be all so real...Sadly that wasn't the case here.

Before Sunrise
looked to be like my type of movie, I should have loved it. But I didn't...I didn't believe these people were real. I didn't believe they were a couple and I sure didn't sense any chemistry between them.

But what I did sense was that the director gave them a few 'deep' topics to talk about, but also allowed them to improvise their discussions. Especially in the first scenes, like on the train when they meet, neither of the actors were in tune with the other. Just one example: Ethan Hawke tells this strange story how as a boy he was spraying the hose nozzle so that the sunlight made a rainbow and then he saw his dead grandmother standing there. As soon as he was done telling his story Julie Delpy launches into her pre planned speech. She had zero reaction to his story. She wasn't in the moment. It was like she didn't even listen to him. And that not listening to each other continued throughout the entire movie. I know both actors can do better work than they did here. I blame the director's format for shooting the scenes, I'm sure most dialogue was improvised and it showed. The only time I felt anything was when they parted ways, that was done decently.




I'm a fan of the trilogy. Pity you didn't connect with it. The second one is my favorite, so maybe that one would fare better with you.
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Check out my podcast: Thief's Monthly Movie Loot!



I'm a fan of the trilogy. Pity you didn't connect with it. The second one is my favorite, so maybe that one would fare better with you.
Thanks for the tip, I haven't seen the other two in the trilogy. One of these days I'll catch the second one. I did like the actors and the concept.



The trick is not minding
I'm a fan of the trilogy. Pity you didn't connect with it. The second one is my favorite, so maybe that one would fare better with you.
Much like CR, I wasnít a fan of Before Sunrise either. I didnít care for Hawke in it. Delpy was great of course.
Need to see the other two yet.



Much like CR, I wasnít a fan of Before Sunrise either. I didnít care for Hawke in it. Delpy was great of course.
Need to see the other two yet.
That was a past PR movie, I don't remember who picked it for me? I should go take a look and see. I like Julie Delphy in the the films, I've seen her in.



The trick is not minding
That was a past PR movie, I don't remember who picked it for me? I should go take a look and see. I like Julie Delphy in the the films, I've seen her in.
I think we both had it picked for us in the same PR haha.



Much like CR, I wasnít a fan of Before Sunrise either. I didnít care for Hawke in it. Delpy was great of course.
Need to see the other two yet.
That was a past PR movie, I don't remember who picked it for me? I should go take a look and see. I like Julie Delphy in the the films, I've seen her in.
I came to see all three films within a short timespan (2018, 2019, 2020 respectively), and I don't know how valid or accurate this is, but I've read arguments on how the films work better if you watch them when you're in the corresponding frame of age/frame of mind (i.e. seeing Sunrise in your early 20s, Sunset in your late 30s, Midnight in your late 40s?). So even though I really liked Sunrise despite being 40-41 at the time, I don't know if that's why Sunset resonated a bit more with me, considering that I was more or less in the same "mid-life crisis" headspace that the characters were. Who knows...



The trick is not minding
I came to see all three films within a short timespan (2018, 2019, 2020 respectively), and I don't know how valid or accurate this is, but I've read arguments on how the films work better if you watch them when you're in the corresponding frame of age/frame of mind (i.e. seeing Sunrise in your early 20s, Sunset in your late 30s, Midnight in your late 40s?). So even though I really liked Sunrise despite being 40-41 at the time, I don't know if that's why Sunset resonated a bit more with me, considering that I was more or less in the same "mid-life crisis" headspace that the characters were. Who knows...
Im not so sure if one needs to be at the right age to appreciate it, to be honest.
For me, just to clarify my misgivings about it, I wasnít a fan of how Hawkes character was written. Add in that I didnít feel it was a good performance either, especially when compared to Delpy, who was splendid in it, it fell a little flat as a whole for me.



I came to see all three films within a short timespan (2018, 2019, 2020 respectively), and I don't know how valid or accurate this is, but I've read arguments on how the films work better if you watch them when you're in the corresponding frame of age/frame of mind (i.e. seeing Sunrise in your early 20s, Sunset in your late 30s, Midnight in your late 40s?). So even though I really liked Sunrise despite being 40-41 at the time, I don't know if that's why Sunset resonated a bit more with me, considering that I was more or less in the same "mid-life crisis" headspace that the characters were. Who knows...
Interesting concept, I'd never heard of that before. I don't think it applies to me because I can be moved by couples falling in love of any age. For me the problem was the same as some of Altman's scenes in The Long Goodbye...improvisation. Sometimes improv works amazingly well, but other times it tends to miss the mark. You know if the second installment of this ever appears in an HoF, I'd be a happy camper




Paprika (Satoshi Kon 2006)

Director: Satoshi Kon
Writers: Yasutaka Tsutsui (novel), Seishi Minakami (screenplay)
Cast: Megumi Hayashibara, TŰru Emori, Katsunosuke Hori
Genre: Animation, Fantasy
Language: Japanese


"When a machine that allows therapists to enter their patients' dreams is stolen, all hell breaks loose. Only a young female therapist, Paprika, can stop it."

I won't claim that I understood all of the dream trippin' stuff, but I enjoyed the film anyway In fact, not fully 'getting' every scene would seem to be intentional on the part of the director...or maybe I'm just clueless!

The look of the richly inhabited dream world was visually cool...I love films often just for their creative visuals....and Paprika was very creative visually! So much cool stuff to see that I had a hard time choosing a photo, so I went with a simply image.

Besides the dream stuff I liked that the lead was a female. I often like movies with female leads as to me they have more heart. The alter ego of the carefree Paprika & her real self the cloistered Chiba also made the film a fun and worthwhile watch.