Thursday, August 28, 2014
While I recall hearing of Miyazaki's love of aircraft and flight, it had never occurred to me that he'd make not just a film about it, but also a fairly historical film about it - and specifically about the creation of the Japanese Zero, a plane that destroyed Pearl Harbor and plunged the United States into World War II with only the skeleton of a functional navy. As an American whose father served in the Pacific theater in WWII, I found it both hard and frightening to sit still during this movie, beautifully animated, and wonderfully presented - or not.
While slow in places, it is a compelling tale of love, passion, dedication, and dreams, all wrapped up in a love of aviation and engineering. It's really quite brilliant and well done. I cannot decry the quality and achievement of this piece, but I am still left of two minds on it. This is a wonderfully realized film, definitely worth seeing.
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
The Black Cauldron is based on the "Chronicles of Prydain" by Lloyd Alexander, loosely based, if you will, specifically on the first two books but pulling in details from the entire series. There's this fantasy weapon of mass destruction called the Black Cauldron that the big bad, the Horned King, wants. With it he can raise an army of the undead to conquer the world. And there's a pig, an oracular pig, who can find it for him. Guarding the pig is Taran, a little bit like Wart from Sword in the Stone, he's a kid and wannabe hero. King seeks pig, hilarity ensues, quests abound, companions gathered, eventually good guys win - you know the drill.
The voice cast is impressive and satisfactory. Notables include John Huston as narrator, Nigel Hawthorne, John Byner, a post-Caligula John Hurt as the Horned King himself, and if you listen close, you'll hear Witchipoo (from "H.R. Pufnstuf"), Billie Hayes, as one of the witches. She was fun.
I watched this with The Bride in anticipation of podcasting about it. I gotta say when you start riffing on a flick MST3k style just a few minutes in, it's not a good sign. The Black Cauldron is an interesting if dated time capsule of what Disney did wrong, before they did it right, worth seeing at least once. And if you want hear more of my thoughts, and The Bride's, please check out the special Black Cauldron episode of The Make Mine Magic Podcast.
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
"BoJack Horseman" is an animated Netflix original from some of the same folks who do the Adult Swim programming on the Cartoon Network. It's about a washed up actor, who happens to be a horse, in a world full of both humans and anthropomorphic animals. The title character used to be in a wildly successful 1990s sitcom and is trying to make a comeback while having his memoirs ghost written by a rival's girlfriend.
I know the critics haven't been kind to it so far, but I love it. It's clever and fun, and hates Hollywood. And it does something that most network sitcoms don't do, it makes me laugh out loud. Give "BoJack Horseman" a shot, you might dig it too.
Monday, August 25, 2014
Most people may know him from his acting roles, as in Jurassic Park, The Great Escape, Doctor Doolittle, the most recent version of Miracle on 34th Street, The Sand Pebbles, and one of my personal favorites, the original Flight of the Phoenix. But the truth, and his real talent was as the man behind such great films as Gandhi, A Chorus Line, Chaplin, and Cry Freedom.
We have lost one of the shining lights of both the British cinema and Hollywood. Lord Richard Attenborough will be missed.
Friday, August 22, 2014
Then I moved on to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. This was dense and not written in the light manner of "The Hobbit." I got through "Fellowship" and started "Two Towers," then gave up on it. I put Tolkien in the same category as H.P. Lovecraft and George Lucas, great conceptualists, but lousy on the follow through. Over the next quarter century I did finish the trilogy and even re-read it, but Tolkien's style was not for me.
I did enjoy the LotR movies by Peter Jackson however, but I wasn't gaga over it. My brother-in-law was. He convinced me to watch the ten-hour DVD set of it, and it was all right, once. He also got me to watch The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which I was a bit more excited for. Until the middle of the film, it seemed to go on forever. However once it got rolling it was pretty good, the bits with Gollum, and the Orcs on their trail had my interest.
I recently got a chance to finally see the second installment of The Hobbit, The Desolation of Smaug. First, three parts? Really? This couldn't be one, or two at most? This one had the same problem as the first, it dragged, was even boring in parts. I know Peter Jackson, and a majority of his fan base are in love with Middle-Earth, but it's gotta end some time, and you can't make other people love by making these movies longer.
Lord of the Rings is a major problem here too, even though those events happen almost a century after The Hobbit. So much is put into setting up LotR that this is more like parts 1-3 of Star Wars rather than The Hobbit. All the bits with Legolas and Sauron, were they really needed, or was this continuity minutiae like what Roy Thomas did with World War II in the All-Star Squadron comic book series?
I liked the movie okay, and it had slow spots as well, giving me a few quick cat naps. I look forward to the third and hopefully final Hobbit film, but I'm not sure I'll see it in the theater, after all, I waited nine months for this one. Your mileage may vary.