Reviews written by registered user

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19 reviews in total 
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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Intelligent meditation on fear and justice, 4 July 2005

Batman Begins surpasses the original Superman as my favorite superhero film. While I expected it to be good, seeing the pedigree of the director and acting, this one separates itself from the pack in that it directly takes on two fundamental human concerns, fear and justice. Entertainment should be enlightening as well as well as fun, and while its not Shakespeare, Batman Begins makes a good stab at bringing fear and justice out into the open so the audience can reflect on them.

The acting was really top notch in this one, from Morgan Freeman's sly gadgeteer to Michael Caine's pitch perfect Alfred. I thought Katie Holmes was excellent as the DA as well, and I cannot quite understand why others are dissatisfied with her. I have not seen her in anything else. Perhaps others are having trouble with past images? Gary Oldman is perfect as usual. Cillian Murphy is a chilling villain with absolutely ice cold blue eyes. Then there is Liam Neeson, who is just marvelous. Very few actors can portray mature strength and intelligence with the authority he can. Such a shame he could not play Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings films. He would have made an enormous difference to their stature.

Then there is Christian Bale, becoming Batman and Bruce Wayne so surely you are greatly troubled to even remember any acting is going on. Much credit must go to the excellent script as well, but overall the wonderful acting in this film is just a joy to watch.

As good as almost every element is, I have a few complaints that force me to knock off a star.

1) For some reason the abominable POV shaky action camera is used. Modern directors like to say this is more "realistic". I like to think it just saves them the trouble of choreography. Fortunately there are few melee's in this film so its not a huge detraction, but if a stable distant camera was used during the fight scenes, intelligible fighting would have been yet another notch in the belt of this great film. Instead, we have the usual modern action film foggy mush during battle.

2) Soundtrack quite mediocre and uninspired, though its not intrusive.

3)Overdone action mayhem just gets tedious in my eyes, but then this is a so called "summer blockbuster" so no doubt Chris Nolan is trying to dispel any ideas that he is some art-house outsider. Again, not too much of this, but the endless train crash comes to mind as something just in there for summer 150mill budget sake.

Overall however, a stellar effort. If you like intelligent films, your action with a hefty dose of realism, movies that explore philosophical principles, chilling noirish city scapes, great acting, tight direction, or just a good won't be disappointed in Batman Begins.

9 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
A unique, gorgeous work of art, 18 May 2003

The fire gives all...

This is one of film's most masterful meditations on artistry. Set in 19th century Korea it tells the story of the famous painter Ohwon, but rather than stick to saucy anecdote, melodrama, or psychological egg hunting, it portrays a series of episodes throughout his life, all of which are beautiful works of art in themselves. It gives no interpretation of these episodes, but leaves them for the viewer to ponder along with the paintings of Ohwon himself. In this way, the viewer enters into the same sort of contemplation as Ohwon, and minus his talent can "feel" their way into the inspiration of his paintings.

Part of why this is so effective is the utterly masterful evocation of 19th century Korea and the musical/artistic world that Ohwon moved in. There are so many gorgeous shots of the world outside the paintings that we get a mirror effect where we see the beautiful world inspiring Ohwon, Ohwon living and looking in that world, and the works of art he creates, all mirroring off one another.

The story is told with extreme economy. A feeling evoked is hardly ever lingered with or explained, it just appears quickly then is gone for the next one to appear. As an analogy it is a sort of Mozartian work of art (endless and quick succession of great ideas) rather than Beethovinian (Obsessive lingering on one great idea). It has a classical restraint, much like Ohwon's paintings. There is really no music hinting how to feel except a few classical Korean pieces used with great effectiveness in several scenes (and mostly played by characters in the movie). One haunting image, if I remember correctly, is of a flock of birds soaring away over the blue mountains while a female singer croons

"This life is like a dream, and only death will awaken us"

One telling line of advice in the film, from one of Ohwon's teachers, is that "the painting lies between the strokes." The film follows that attitude as there is so much matter *between* what is spoken and described in the film. I have seen it twice and it was very rewarding on the second viewing. A very terse film, with little in the way of obvert explanation, one could see how it is Im's 96th film. It is an artistic masterwork. Like Ohwon's great friend and mentor tells him in describing one of his paintings, "Not a single stroke is wasted."

I compare it to Andrei Rubylev in quality, though in style it is very different. It is much easier and more directly entertaining to watch, but classical in form where Andrei is gothic.

All in all highly recommended to almost anyone except appetite junkies. Both times I left the film I felt a wonderful spiritual renewal.

One point of Ohwon's life that intruiged me was that his mad drinking and raving began suddenly after visiting the noble who told him that "Good art can come only from great knowledge and learning." The next brief scene Ohwon was very angry, and the next blasted drunk as he often remained for the remainder of the film. I am curious why the nobles words effected him so much and drove him to the drinking that dominated the rest of his life. Or was it just a coincidence?

6 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Holmes and Watson, Kyoto style..., 16 May 2003

This film could have been fabulous, but rather weak direction and a mediocre budget drops it to the "Good" category in my book.

Its chief attraction is the wonderful world of Buddhist sorcery that it conjures up, sorcerers chanting macabre spells in contest with each other in chants of increasing tension and beauty. Central to the plot is the relationship of the enigmatic magician Abe no Seimei (Holmes) and his young "ii otoko" apprentice Minamoto no Hiromaki, strolling around Heian Kyoto solving mysterious magical crimes.

Abe no Seimei and all his graceful rituals is a joy to watch and hear. Mansai Nomura really get top acting chops here for creating a wonderfully wierd and brilliant magician with an unforgettable grin like a sly fox. His contests with the equally well acted Doson (Hiroyuki Sanada) are the heights of the film in my opinion.

There is so much wonderful magic in this film, it is hard to say why it is not totally satisfying. The costumes are brilliant, but many of the sets look a bit shoddy. The story starts out complex and mysterious but then sort of falls into one dimensional "end of the world" boredom. Nomura and Sanada are brilliant, but many of the other actors can be amateurish. Overall it was hard to put my finger on, but I blamed the direction and cinematography most. There just was so much here that could have made a masterpiece, but one left with mixed feelings.

Highly recommended though despite its flaws. If the idea of seeing 11th century Kyoto YinYang master magicians duel it out in all their occult glory fascinates you, don't miss this.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Like an endless string of Miller light commercials.., 23 April 2003

Which you may or may not like. I hated it. I found it embarrasingly unfunny, trying to make up for its lack of wit with strained sexual outrageousness. If you can't charm em, brutalize em. An extremely nasty film, its target audience I suppose is adults who never matured beyond 14. Anyway, if your life is in your loins, you'll probably enjoy this piece of ignoble garbage.

7 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Like an endless string of Miller light commercials.., 23 April 2003

Which you may or may not like. I hated it. I found it embarrasingly unfunny, trying to make up for its lack of wit with strained sexual outrageousness. If you can't charm em, brutalize em. An extremely nasty film, its target audience I suppose is adults who never matured beyond 14. Anyway, if your life is in your loins, you'll probably enjoy this piece of ignoble garbage.

Solaris (1972)
5 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Ahhh, philosophical filmmaking at last..., 9 December 2002

I love this film because it takes science fiction to its most fundamental questions without any gratuitous thrills. The enjoyment is in the seeing and thinking. It is, therefore, quite austere, so the impatient should avoid. It is akin to three hours of passive meditation, choicelessly watching how mind works.

What will the human race find at the furthest reaches of space? It will find...itself. Or perhaps the Russian will find Dostoevsky!!

Tarkovsky certainly has a passion for humanity. Sometimes you can almost feel the camera shouting

"What are we!?!"

Great stuff. I hope you watch it with your upmost patience and attention.

A film desperately looking for a soul..., 24 November 2002

A strange experience this film. There are so many imaginative elements and such obvious hard work, yet the whole thing is so lacking in proportion it cannot touch the heart. Its an inhuman film. O do not get me wrong, it is full of humane feelings, but they are artificial because its core is cut off from humaneness.

Just as humans need a certain space in which to live and work, art demands a proper space to be seen and heard, a space proportionate to the human spirit. The great artists always have this instinctively.

This film has no such space. Its crammed with all kinds of lovingly attended detail, but the detail is just "there". It has no center, and does not enhance the narrative as good detail does.

And this film wants to be wonderful so badly! But wonder needs proportion and naturalness. For whatever reason, George Lucas seems to lose that sense more and more each film he makes.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Dizzying architecture of the sky..., 16 November 2002

(Review of DVD in Japanese with English Subtitles)

This is probably the most over-the-top Ghibli film in terms of heavy handed symbolism and hard-to-believe (but thrilling) action sequences.

Still, it is an easy 10, since like all of Ghibli's films, if you listen and watch carefully, it stamps an imprint of beauty on your soul which haunts you for days after.

In this case the gorgeous and dizzying architecture of the sky, the clouds, and humans teetering on the brink of the abyss is unforgettable. There also is an enchanting faux-European world of pirates, dirigables, explorers, and miners set against the backdrop of the ancient Atlantis-like Laputa. Except Laputa is in the sky, not the ocean.

Like most of Ghibli films its hard to imagine anyone who would not like it except the terminally unimaginative. Ghibli's art is for the ages, not just our narrow little frame of time. So if you miss Laputa in this lifetime, don't worry, you can catch it in the next.

54 out of 67 people found the following review useful:
A shockingly perfect work of art, 29 April 2002

Miyazaki is an inspiration for artists everywhere. His total mastery of all aspects of storytelling craft makes the amazing seem easy.

Kurenai no Buta manages to be over-the-top fun and exceedingly subtle at the same moment. The dialogue is at once straightforward yet with layer upon layer of dramatic meaning. The animated wizardry is stunning as usual, yet never over the top. It always comes across as so natural.

This film is a homage to so many different genres, places, people and attitudes one could go on ages pulling them all out. Amazing amount of detail packed into every scene.

Well I am running out of superlatives. Like all master works of art, this leaves you with something special. In this case I find it hard to describe perhaps since the Pig himself is such a mysterious character.

See it.

3 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Yet another timeless Masterpiece, 2 September 2001

Yet another timeless masterpiece from Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. Though it shares certain similarities with his other work, it is still a very much unique and new vision. The substance, as usual, is quite profound, having to do with finding one's freedom through pure-heartedness. Of course there is no preaching, things just happen like they do in life.

Except the world is fantastical with all manner of strange creatures. But the world never feels artificial or silly. It has a marvelous technological consistency like the Castle Cagliostro in Miyazaki's Lupan film. The creatures, though oftimes crazy or hilarious also have an uncanny realism to them. Alltogether this creates a sort of spellbinding effect, as one is witnessing something very new and bizzare, yet so real at the same time.

Unlike the epic/tragic tone of Mononoke Hime, this movie's tone is basically comic, though I might add it is comic in the Shakespearean sense e.g. intensely serious at the same time. But it is not full of war and death like Mononoke Hime.

I won't spoil anything by talking about the plot and I cannot think of anything else to compare it to. It is unique. Someone above mentioned Alice in Wonderland, and I suppose there are a few similarities, though overall I find it a superior work of art to Lewis Carroll's story.

My only dissapointment was with the music. I thought Joe Hisaishi's music for Mononoke Hime was really tremendous. It haunted you long after the film ended. Indeed, I thought it one of the greatest film scores of all time. The music for Sen To Chiro is not bad at all and does not detract from the film in any way, but except for a few inspired moments (like the closing credit folk tune--wonderfully simple yet effective) it might as well not been there. I noticed one of the main themes was a variation on the main Mononoke Hime theme. I wonder if there is a central musical motif he variates for all the Miyazaki films?

The audience at my showing had little children aged 4 to 5 years all the way to grandparents of the 80+ variety. One and all they sat rapt and spellbound the entire 2hours and 20 minutes. Rarely have I seen such focused wonder from a movie audience. I think it is a testament to Miyazaki's master artistic status. He delivers word, story and image so powerfully and directly that one just gapes in wonder. To my mind, that exemplifies what cinema should be. How lucky Japan is to have such a great master and to so embrace him! Sen to Chiro will likely break all the attendance records in Japanese Cinema, currently held by Mononoke Hime and Titanic.

I really hope this film gets a good release in the US in Japanese with accurate English subtitles. His films do not work well in English!! Especially the dumbed down and cliched translation Mononoke Hime got. But even translation aside, Miyazaki's films have a Japanese soul that is all out of kilter with English. Crouching Tiger was a huge hit in Mandarin. Let Sen To Chiro be heard in Japanese!

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