Archive for August, 2009

Nana Review

Posted in 4.5 Stars, Drama, Foreign, Review, Romantic on August 26, 2009 by russellsreviews

Nana is a live action adaptation of a popular manga, anime series of the same name. I have never seen or read any of it, and the little knowledge I have of Nana was really only what I remembered from when my fiance talked about it. Its a foreign romantic story, yes, so if you have low tolerance on character drama or “love stories” this could mean to some people will automatically write Nana off, but to these people I say grow up, and try to expand your horizons a little. Now thats out of the way on to the movie.

Nana is ironic story of two girls from very different worlds, but with the same name and some deeper things very much in common, meet by chance on a train. Some time later when one Nana decides to look for an apartment in Tokyo to be closer to her boyfriend she once again bumps into the other Nana looking at the very same apartment. Recalling how well they got along at that chance meeting on the train and how they both are need of a room mate they decide to move in together. Although the two girls couldn’t look or act more opposite, they find similarities in their lives, grow closer, and become a much needed support in crisis. They help improve each other and make them see that their love life needs a second look.

All of this might sound too girly, but the movie never crosses that line so even the average guy should like this film. The problems of both girls look very real and well done that you care and feel their ups and downs. All of the emotions have real weight to them. Not only this, but the outcome you can never be sure about. It’s been a long time since I have seen a romantic movie were you don’t have a check list of what happens next and how they all end up.

On top of the great love stories, you have a great message about humanity in general. Both Nana’s are totally different, yet the same. They both have insecurities, passions, and desires. Through the bridge of music they find something to build a friendship on. If people could be nice to each other and try to find things to relate to life would be much easier. You can’t judge a person by looks or how they act alone. Look deeper at that person that you might have thought was weird or different to you could end up being a better friend to you than the ones you have now.

I can’t say how well Nana adapted the source material to film, but as movie it accomplishes a lot. The acting, the direction, and emotions are top grade. Nana is another movie in a long line that mainstream Hollywood should check out on how to make simply good drama. So should you.

4.5 STARS

District 9 Review

Posted in 3 Stars, Action, New Movie, Review, Sci-Fi on August 17, 2009 by russellsreviews

District 9 is a very hyped and stylish marketed Sci-Fi thriller. Much like the movie Cloverfield, the movie had a crazy good viral marketing and with a low budget hopes word of mouth will carry it to huge success. After seeing the film, District 9 will no doubt be a big hit and receive many fans, but does the movie itself really earn any of it?

The movie starts much different than you expect. The history of District 9 is told in the style of a documentary with many interviews filling you in some big secret. This technique was a very good choice as it brought realism to the film, and makes you feel these events are really happening in our world today. Then the film goes back and forth from like you are watching a news show to an episode of COPS. Wikus Van DE Merwe is the smarmy agent who is assigned the difficult task of relocating the aliens, or illegal immigrants, away to a new district farther away and out of sight for mass public. The aliens have become a nuisance to the people and must be evicted. Wikus and his men mock and ridicule the aliens, who are racially called Prawns, almost enjoy torturing the Aliens out of house and home.

During one home eviction Wikus stumbles on some strange fluid and accidentally sprays himself which painfully and slowly starts turning him into the hated Prawn. Being one of them, he finally sees the injustices and crimes the aliens have been victim of. With the help of alien oddly named Christopher Johnson and his son try find this strange liquid that will not only turn him human again, but it also works as fuel to the alien’s spaceship.

The enjoyment of District 9 are based on two things, action and the supposedly deep political message. It try’s to be different and original, but under the interesting premise, its all been done before. The government is really behind everything bad is nothing new. A war crazy solider check. Corrupted political leader check. When critics and the buzz around it was great because of twist and turns, those turns better not be predictable. The twists would only seem surprising to people whose main exposure to Sci-Fi is Halo. Not to mention that the message it tries to send is complete victimization. In one interview in the first part of the film they complain that the prawns commit crimes and just run to humans and steal their cell phones for just no good reason. Later, when Wikus is running from the cops he runs up to a person and steals their cell phone. In a nut shell the movie was trying to say that all crime, acts of theft, or violence are just a product of the environment and the government or the man is the real reason for crimes. I’m sure this might be the case for very few , but for someone who has been around that crowd and being with someone who rose above all that crap find that to be just a simple denial of truth and lack of responsibility for their actions. If you happen to be a person who believes in this you will likely eat this film up. The action does live up to the hype. The weapons are somewhat creative and all pack a punch. The giant robot suit at the end of the film is realistically done and beat any action in Transformers 2. District 9 should get credit for creating the most humanity in the aliens Chris Johnson and his son since E.T.

District 9 will no doubt gain tons of followers from the action alone, but its not enough to elevate it to the masterpiece others have been calling it. For a movie that is trying to be deep and mature it sure does have immature and shallow way to look at poverty and crime. The movie is well done and has great special effects, but its benefiting a lot from its marketing tactics and the idea of what the movie is going to be when you go in the theater to what the movie really is.

3 STARS

Ponyo Review

Posted in 4.5 Stars, Animation, Anime, Foreign, New Movie, Review on August 16, 2009 by russellsreviews

In the U.S. 2-D animation is all but dead. If it wasn’t for Pixar, not even Disney would be making them and when they do its about one every three years. Television now is even moving away from it. The only place really to get 2-D anymore is from Japan. Hayao Miyazaki is consider the master of this craft in Japan, and there is no reason why he shouldn’t that recognized in the states as well. Ponyo, Miyazaki’s newest, is finally given its chance in American theaters. His movies are normally critically acclaimed, although always overlooked by the Academy, but never a commercial success. Can Ponyo change all of this?

Ponyo is a fairy tale of a young boy named Sasuke who finds a mysterious fish, Ponyo, and decides to take care of it. Only this goldfish is actually the daughter of a mad wizard who is in charge of keeping the balance of human and magical worlds separate. If Ponyo stays with Sasuke too long it will shift everything out of balance and cause the moon to get closer to earth and put all of Japan underwater. Only Ponyo has fallen in love with Sasuke and is willing to risk everything to become a real girl and be with Sasuke forever.

Ponyo is more light hearted than his previous films and little more innocent, but that’s what Miyazaki was going for. All of his movies deal with love, but Ponyo’s whole theme is love. The love story takes place with two very young kids to show how love is innocent and pure and shouldn’t be corrupted, much like a child. Much like his other films as well he as a environmental message. Human ways are hurting the magical creatures, yet they coexist with the humans for their ability to love and work together.

It was very refreshing to see the hand drawn character movements and the painted environments. In my opinion, movement, motion, and emotion in a 2-D will never be matched by CGI. Ponyo is just another in a long line examples of this. Ponyo might not rank up there with some Miyazaki fans, but deserves praise for trying to tell a tale in a more simple fashion, dare we say more assessable to the west. Miyazaki is a master of animation, because he creates movies with fascinating worlds seen no where else, while reminding adults of important messages, and most importantly while never loosing the imagination or the fun to reach all ages. I hope Ponyo will be the one to finally to make a good buck in America and would only be called predujice against Asian culture if it doesn’t get at least gets nominated this year.

4.5 STARS

Now showing!

Posted in movie trailer, Uncategorized on August 14, 2009 by russellsreviews

I think I’m going to start posting about movies that come out that might be under most people’s radar that I think deserve special attention. I can’t think of any better two movies to start with. One a intelligent independent sci-fi. The other a rare, sure to be a classic, 2-D animation. So please give these films a shot, otherwise don’t complain that Hollywood never makes original movies anymore.

From the acclaimed animation master Miyazaki, Ponyo is a stylish story of a young fish princess who falls in love with a young boy. Think little mermaid, but in the master hands of the man of Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle. With America only making cg movies now, Japan is the only place now for classic 2-D animation. In most ways this makes it easier to tell more creative and more mature stories. Even if you don’t even now what anime means this is a must see. Be prepared for it to blow anything the states have done over a decade out of the water.

District 9 is from first time director Neill Blomkamp. Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson was so impressed by his short films that he decided to produce one of them into a feature length film. This movie is filled with great cinematography and just oozes style. District 9 was screened at comic con with huge positive reaction. Not only does it have out of this world special effects with a tight budget, but it has a deep thought provoking undertone. This movie is more Blade Runner than Transformers.

The Sky Crawlers Review

Posted in 3 Stars, Anime, Foreign, New Movie, Review on August 7, 2009 by russellsreviews

The Sky Crawlers is director’s Mamoru Oshii newest film, the man behind one of the most famous animes of all time Ghost in the Shell. Oshii doesn’t really make a lot of movies partly because his movies are so jam packed with ideologies and normally have a deeper meaning on what he thinks is going on with society. The Sky Crawlers attempts to do the same the film,but gets too bog down with slow pacing for you even to care.

The film takes place in an alternate history where young pilots have to defend Japan everyday from bandits and attacks other countries. The film opens in a intense realistic dogfight and it quickly gets you in mood for anther great work from Oshii. However, that’s mostly all the action you are going to get. Which normally in movies like this wouldn’t be a big deal, but the movie takes so long to develop and progress only the fully commended won’t have trouble keeping their eyes open. The characters all of too much subtle movement and the characters design are all bland. None of them stand out or stay with you. The director said he went with this approach to show how mundane and boring their lives have become, which I get, but the problem is that this goes on for too long. There are too many scenes with really no purpose.  There is a crazy unique twist more than half way through, but most will already have checked out. Outside the few dogfights and the bowling ally scene the camera mostly stays stationary. Which, again, normally would OK in a movie like this, however when you are doing a deep intellectual and there is very little dialogue movement or creative camera angles its hard to keep your attention until the reveals.

For people who can make it through there is a unique story. The young pilots turn out to be Kildren, a race of people for some reason who can’t die. The government and companies stages  a war between them in a endless loop to keep them busy, money, to give people something to route for, or simply for entertainment for the masses. All ideas are touched upon but each one so little, it was almost like Oshii was more interested in the world he created rather than the story itself.

The Sky Crawlers has to get some points for trying something ambitious, but it’s plagued with bad overall execution. It has a story worth seeing, I hate to say it,but with better direction could have been just as ground breaking as Ghost in the Shell or Patlabor.

3 STARS