Ponyo

Most fantasy stories fall into one of two groups. The first group places fantasy elements into the ‘real’ world and forces the fantasy to interact with our laws, such as gravity and occasionally evolution (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is a good example of that type). The second group just goes ahead and makes a whole new world and establishes the rules of order in the text (“Lord of the Rings” is a good example for group two).

“Ponyo,” written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, falls firmly in the second group. Miyazaki has taken the backbone of “The Little Mermaid” tale and crafted this world that is absolutely breathtaking.

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Videodrome

That was pretty weird.

I’m something of an off-and-on David Cronenberg fan; I don’t own any of his movies, but good or bad, his films stick with you. “Dead Ringers” is one that haunted me for months after seeing it. I don’t think “Videodrome” is going to haunt me that much, but I’m sad to say it’s one of his lesser films.

Here we have Max (James Woods), head of a seedy television channel that specializes in porn, from soft- to hard-core smut. Always on the lookout for something new and shocking, his assistant Harlan (Peter Dvorsky) shows him a feed for a show called Videodrome. In it, men and women are tortured and murdered, all so we can watch.

Of course, this feed comes with a little something extra; not long after Max sees the film, and shares it with his S&M-loving girlfriend Nicki (Deborah Harry, of Blondie fame), he begins hallucinating that his TV, and all video cassettes (Jim, they were Betamax!), are alive and communicating with him, rather than just at him.  

In his quest for knowledge and a “cure,” he stumbles upon the unlikely origins of Videodrome and its acolytes and opposition. I won’t give away more than that, but it’s a strange ride.

It’s also a bit on a long side, especially considering the runtime is only 88 minutes. I can live with the weird, and a rather unsatisfying end, but the film lost me about an hour in. To vague this up as much as possible, a female character commits to being the stupidest possible creature on Earth by simply losing the ability to add.

Yes, one could speculate that, hey, Max is a nutjob and that might not have happened, but we saw it anyway. In our eyes, it did happen, for no reason. It completely took me and my movie buddy out of the film and pretty much soured anything that came after.

That’s one big strike that can’t be washed away. I’ve heard rumours that a remake is in the works; if that character’s actions are omitted, I would be willing to approach it with an open mind. Fix that error, and I’m all yours.

Want another take on “Videodrome?” See what Jim has to say.

“Videodrome” (1983)

Written and directed by David Cronenberg

Starring: James Woods (Max)

Deborah Harry (Nicki)

Peter Dvorsky (Harlan)

Un Chien Andalou

What can you say about a movie that’s only 16 minutes long?

“Un Chien Andalou” means “An Andalusian Dog”. It’s silent. It’s weird. It has no plot. It’s the original gross-out film.

Directed by Luis Bunuel and conceived by him and Salvador Dali, “Un Chien Andalou” (1929) isn’t so much a film as a series of images that wash over you, more dream than reality. Which is probably for the best, because the images are a little disturbing; about a minute into the picture, a man slashes a woman’s eyeball with a razor. In close up. Don’t worry, it looks totally fake; the ear scene in “Reservoir Dogs” was more convincing.

That’s about as bad as it gets, but really, what’s the point here? I don’t mind a little shock-and-awe in my films, but that shouldn’t be the point of a film (one reason why I refuse to see torture-porn films). For a film geek like me, I think “Un Chien Andalou” is worthwhile checking out, but only as historical viewing. I really can’t imagine anyone loving this film, and I can only bring myself to appreciate it. Barely.

And that about sums it up.

“Un Chien Andalou”

Directed by Luis Bunuel

Scenario by Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali

Simone Mareuil (Young girl)

 Pierre Batcheff (Man)

Eraserhead

Eraserhead’ was easier to follow than this movie.”

         - Crow, “Mystery Science Theater 3000: Overdrawn at the Memory Bank”

The above quote is from my favorite episode of MST3K, a geek’s dream of a show. And after finally viewing “Eraserhead,” David Lynch’s 1977 directorial debut, I have to agree.

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Northfork

What a ****ing letdown.

“Northfork,” directed by Michael Polish, is a slow burn of a movie that took me a long time to get into. But I did get into it, so much so that when the first DVD I was watching died on me (small crack in the disc), I waited a day, rented it again just to watch the last half hour and see where all these characters ended up. I don’t necessarily regret that, but it turned out to not be worth the effort.

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Pee Wee’s Big Adventure

What is it about a rebel (or two) that makes a movie more compelling than it should be? In “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure,” two Tinsel Town rebels, Paul Reubens and Tim Burton, meet up to update the neo-realist Italian classic “The Bicycle Thief.” I saw this once when I was kid, but after a recommendation from a co-worker (thanks Curt!), I decided to give it another chance.

So we begin; Enter Pee Wee (Reubens), a gleeful man-child perfectly content with his life and his greatest joy, his shiny red bike. 


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Paprika

A spunky red-head flies through the sky on a cloud and transforms into the Monkey King; a two-headed man has one head explode into a swarm of blue insects; a procession of dolls marches through a city, swallowing the souls of all it passes.

These are just some of the images that pass through “Paprika,” a Japanese animated film directed by Satoshi Kon. Being that most of the film takes place in dreamland, the images aren’t too out of place.

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