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Tenkû no shiro Rapyuta (1986)
The less magical Ghibli feature
Watching this movie as a part of my project to see all the IMDb top 250 movies. Laputa: Castle in the Sky is another widely loved fantasy themed animation feature by the visionary anime creator Hayao Miyazaki. However, compared to the other films of Miyazaki that I have seen (and which are on the IMDb top 250 list) this feels most like a genuine children tale. It's not as subtle and magical as the more successful Spirited Away or My Neighbor Totoro. The characters can be easily classified as "good" or "evil" and the film is stuffed with straightforward action. However, this is not necessary a bad thing - at least for a genuine children movie. Animation and drawing are - as can be expected - as good as usual. Interestingly all Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli animations (that I have seen so far) have several common features: a young girl as the main protagonist, elder female character with authority, castles and air-crafts. Furthermore, some of the animated characters (for example small fox- like animals in the Laputa island) appear again in later or earlier Ghibli features. To summarize, Laputa: Castle in the Sky has its moments but feels generally more like your standard Saturday morning cartoon feature (on the Pokemon- Digimon-axis) than the other Miyazaki movies.
Beautifully implemented fantasy adventure
Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi, or Spirited Away in English, is animated fantasy adventure in the Alice in Wonderland fashion. The plot starts as a young girl, Chihiro, moves to a new town with her parents. Right away, after her father takes a wrong turn when trying to locate their new home, strange things start to happen. The pace of events leaves viewer genuinely wondering what is going on. Additionally, characters and settings are extremely inventive which further enhances the bizarre feeling. Drawing and animation are beautifully done. Music and sound effects are atmospheric.
However, much of the characters are left relatively superimposed. This of course leaves room for imagination but on the other hand, leaves quite a lot of open questions. The director Miyazaki has evidently admitted the hidden connotations of prostitution in the movie. However, it is not obvious.
The movie definitively deserves its place as one of the most loved Japanese animations done.
A Finnish man ends up drinking beer in Norway.
The main character Jon (Kari Väänänen) goes through some kind of young man's angst in Helsinki, Finland and ends up working in a distant Norwegian island at a fish processing plant. There he meets Heikki Öljynen (Vesa-Matti Loiri), or Öljys-Heikki (which would translate as "Oils-Heikh"). Latter parts of the movie are about drinking beer in Norway, fighting and general disorder. Evidently Jon's plan about finding job in Norway is not successful in the end. Have to admit, however, that northern Norway scenery is very atmospheric.
The movie is only occasionally interesting and thus the approx. two hour duration feels too long. Perhaps the biggest drawback is a weak storytelling and many irrelevant feeling scenes. The acting is, however, above average. Especially Loiri's interpretation of Öljynen is a joy to watch. Loiri has actually mentioned this particular role to be one his favorites.
The movie suffers from a typical problem with older Finnish films: the soundtrack including dialog is too low volume or is recorded in too bad quality. It is occasionally difficult to hear what actors say. Fortunately some parts of the movie are with subtitles since the languages include in addition to Finnish also Norwegian, English and German.
One of the more interesting Finnish movies from 1980's I have seen but it would benefit from a shorter cut!
Nice visual elements, unclear storytelling: generally little artsy feeling
When I started watching this film, I had little presuppositions. I knew that it might be a little not-so-straightforward in terms of the plot or the storytelling. Also, I knew that this is generally considered as an "art film" meaning it is not intended for mass appeal. At this point I want to state that I do like many so-called "art films" including for example Three Colors trilogy or Aki Kaurismäki films.
So back to the film: I was astonished by visual beauty and good filming. There are also nice portrayal of the times from the USSR. However, it soon become clear to me that I should have had a notebook to follow the plot with all flashbacks and dream-like sections. Additionally, there are clearly so many metaphors and symbols in the film that it further complicates following of the plot. In consequence the watching experience was mostly to just look at nice visual elements and follow dialog that made no sense for great part. There is no bad word to say about acting per se.
Someone wrote in the message boards that the film started to make sense only after watching 2 to 3 times. I can agree with that. However, as this was my first and probably the only time to watch, I can't give very high rating since two important elements of any film were absolutely too unclear: the plot and the storytelling. I can easily understand that this film is a great subject for film student or art historian and as such can be rated high. For me, as a relatively casual film watcher and as the first time to watch, this was just 5/10.
Another great "old man fighting for justice" type of movie
The movie stars very charismatic Brian Cox as an aged ex-soldier (Avery Ludlow) living with his old dog. In the beginning of the movie he has a conflict with a group of teenagers and soon after things start to escalate. Mr. Ludlow's pain is very tangible as he tries to seek for justice and truth: a superb performance by Brian Cox. Also Noel Fisher and Tom Sizemore give great performances as cold and untouched father and son. Storytelling is very straight-forward in a good way. This is a kind of movies you can't stop watching until the end credits: you have to see what happens as it is not obvious. The movie bears striking resemblance to Gran Torino or Harry Brown in the general set-up of the story. Interestingly all of them were made in 2008 - 2009.
The Toolbox Murders (1978)
Exactly what the title of the movie promises. Loses its attraction towards end.
Movie starts with a very promising rate of about one murder per five minutes. As the title says contents of a toolbox is used for the work and outcome is almost a spoof. Reactions of victims are somewhat wooden. In one scene a drill is used to make a hole to a door much same way as in "Shining" (where an axe is used). "Shining" was released couple years later. Ski mask of the murderer creates interesting face expressions for otherwise silent character in the opening sequence.
However after this rather dynamic start the movie loses much of its "attraction". Acting is thoroughly bland. No actor stands out. Wesley Eure (known for "Days of Our Lives") is maybe the best that this movie has to offer. Towards end the movie goes more and more uninteresting. There is an explanation to the motives of murderer - quite pointless in this kind of movie.
Music creates interesting contrasts especially in the opening sequence.
Not the best of its genre but I would say worth seeing if you like weird horror. 5/10.