Thursday, October 27, 2011

Secretariat -- 2010

Rated: PG

Diane Lane
John Malkovich
Amanda Michalka
Graham McTavish
Kevin Connolly
Drew Roy
James Cromwell
Nelsan Ellis 
Fred Dalton Thomson
Dylan Walsh

When Lydia told me this was a good film my first thought was, "Another horse racing movie?" I have watched a few of those: Black Beauty, The Black Stallion, both My Friend Flicka's, National Velvet, The Man From Snowy River, The Horse Whisperer, Hildalgo, Danny, All the Pretty Horses, quite a few Roy Rogers and other old westerns. The main horse in the movie always wins in some way. I thought I'd seen enough.

But I was wrong. Today, I decided to bite the bullet so I could write home and tell my sisters that I'd watched Secretariat. From the first minute of the movie, I was into the story. Have I ever mentioned how much I love movies set in the 1960's? :-) This is indeed a horse movie but you cannot help but admire the characters in this story. The strength. The sheer will to do what was right, even if those closest to you don't agree with it.

When Penny Chenery received the phone call of her mother's death, she had no idea how much her life was about to change. When she and her family (husband and four children) arrived at the farm for the funeral, she finds the house crowded with well wishers. She tearfully reunites with her brother, friends and neighbors and with Mrs. Ham. The latter is her father's old secretary who is now taking care of her employer as his mind deteriorates from Dementia. Mrs. Ham sends her back to her father's office, where he now sits alone. As Penny talks to him, memories begin presenting themselves to her. Happy memories of better days when she was a child and her father's mind was sound. Reveling in her love for horses and a desire to know everything, he had taught her what he knew about horses and the horse breeding business.

At the funeral, a few people who were very influential in her father's life spoke to her and she was heartened that there were still some friends on whom she could count on. The next day, she came face to face with the trainer. She had heard some rumors and had done some searching. She discovered that the man had tried to pull off a fast one on her dad. She told him what she knew and fired him. When her brother found out, he was incensed. He wanted to sell the farm and he knew they wouldn't get a good price unless they had a good training program. To his dismay, Penny told him that she didn't want to sell, insisting that she would see to the farm. So began the years of many airplane flights back and forth from "home" to "back home" to the farm in Virginia.

Her father had made two smart choices when it came to horses. One: he had known that there is just as much value in a good mare as in the stallion, therefore had invested in mares. Secondly, he had made a deal with Ogden Phipps. Mr. Phipps' best stallion stallion Bold Ruler was bred to two of the Chenery's best mares Something Royal and Hasty Matilda. When it came time for the mares to foal, the two owners would flip a coin to see who got which colt. Bold Ruler was a fast horse but he did not hold up over long distances. Because of Hasty Matilda's young age, she seemed like the better choice. But Penny had done her homework once again and had discovered that Something Royal's bloodlines bore the heritage of stamina and endurance. So when it came time to flip the coin, she was pleased when Ogden Phipps chose the foal of Hasty Matilda.

So was born to Meadow Farms the horse Secretariat, Big Red to those who loved him, who would one day... well, I don't want to give it away! But this movie is about Penny Chenery and her horse as much as it is about Secretariat's rise to fame. Because without Penny stubbornness, willingness to endure hardship and her gentle but "hard as nails" personality, the world would have never been inspired by this story of greatness.

What I Liked:
1: The story was well told and ran smoothly. It was very believable.
2: The acting was great. I really felt like I knew the characters.
3: They didn't change the story too much for the original. I appreciate a film mostly based on fact.
4: Penny's strength was amazing but even more amazing, she never lost her femininity. People would mistake her femininity for weakness and she would set them right.
5: You appreciate the hardships she goes through to follow the dream she had for her family, the farm and Big Red. You sympathize with her tears and hurt. You laugh with her. You get angry with her. You feel despair with her.
6: Lucien was so, so adorable. I laughed so hard. John Malkovich is always so strange and brilliant.
7: The humor was quite well done.  

Things to Know:
1: Brief mild language.
2: Watch out for the very strong lady. She is inspiring and ladies might find themselves emulating her.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Mary Poppins -- 1964

Mary Poppins 
Rated G

I was talking to a student the other day about some music and Mary Poppins came up in our conversation. My student beamed at the mention of  the name, then admitted that she had never seen the movie. Why is Mary Poppins so magical? Why do people automatically smile when they hear of her? I was very young when I first saw Mary Poppins. Imagine a little girl at her Grandma's house (my family didn't own a t.v.), sitting on the floor, looking up at the screen, mesmerized by the magic of the story, lovely Mary Poppins, handsome jolly Bert, stern Mr Banks, flustered Mrs. Banks and the two rascals Jane and Michael. That was me. Now imagine many years, and miles, later: a young woman is curled up on the couch in her new home watching Mary Poppins. The music still makes me want to dance with the chimney sweeps, Mr. Banks is annoying, Julie Andrews is gorgeous, the jokes are corny, Dick van Dyke is a handsome devil and the children are little rascals. Oh yes! No matter where we are, who we are, what we are: The magic lives on in our hearts.

Jane and Michael Banks have gone through no less than six nannies in four months. When their parents and their hired help discover the departure of the latest -- Katie Nanna, everyone is irate. Poor Jane and Michael are sent upstairs to be dressed for bed while their father decides that his wife simply does not possess wisdom when it comes to assessing character. He dictates an advertisement to the Times requesting someone who is strict, stern and who will mold his children into obedience. He is the head of his home and his home will be punctual, wife dutifully submissive and children models of good behavior.

But the children have also decided their parents might not know what they need either so they write a list and, trembling, give it to their father. The list requests the services of a fun, caring nanny who will be their friend. Mr. Banks sees it as nonsense, tears it up and throws it in the fire place. What he doesn't see are the pieces of paper swirling up the chimney until the last one has disappeared from view.

Not many hours later, they are just finishing their breakfast when Ellen the maid announces there are two dozen stern and strict looking nannies waiting outside. Mr. Banks replies that he said interviews would begin at 8 o' clock and he will begin at 8 o' clock, not a minute sooner. As the children dolefully watch from their nursery window upstairs, they notice the wind seems to have come up. In fact, it comes up so quickly that the poor black clad, stern and strict nannies seem to be getting blown off their feet, umbrellas catching in the wind... until there is not a single one left.

Then, they see her. She is also dressed in black, also with an umbrella, also carrying a bag. But there is one difference, she floats in from the sky and lands neatly on their doorstep. When she raps on the door, it is exactly 8 o' clock. She says her name is Mary Poppins and she can fill the specifications dictated in the advertisement. She holds up a paper which looks like it has been ripped up and put back together again. and begins reading the children's advertisement, word for word. 

Mr. Banks, for once, is at a loss for words.

What I Liked

1: The story in this movie is dramatic and exaggerated but in doing so, the script writers cover a lot of ground. We all know people like Mr. Banks and Mrs. Banks. Perhaps we are Jane or Michael... or Ellen. Maybe we're even Mary Poppins. I appreciate how much I could relate to this story.

2: It is very clear why Mrs. Banks chooses to be a suffragette. It is because of what happens at home. Mr. Banks does not treat her or any woman as an equal. She is his wife, not his friend. She is to be there for him, submissively telling him that he is right in all things. In the end, we see the difference in their relationship. She is his beloved and someone he confides in. The change in her is beautiful.

3: Mary Poppins fights dirty. Lol! But she really does! I appreciate how she and Bert worke together to help Mr. Banks realize what he is doing to his life and family.

4: Bert and Mary Poppins have a big of unrequited romance going on here. I know P. L. Travers (author of Mary Poppins books) didn't want it but, hey, on screen chemistry between Dick van Dyke and Mary Poppins totally happened. Flirtation, meaningful looks and tenderness just oozes off of them while they're on their date in the chalk drawing. :-) I really appreciated that they didn't even hold hands (except in the most decorous way).

5: The music and dancing in this film is amazing. Hands down, one of the best musicals ever created. All of the songs catch your attention. Usually there is at least one dud song in a musical (Oklahoma has about 10 of them) and I was listening for it closely. There were none. And I mean, not a single one. All of them had my heart and feet pitter-pattering.

6: The acting was very good. Facial expressions, tone, lines... it was all excellent. 

7: Even after 47 years, Mary Poppins is still a very popular film. I had to search long and hard for the copy of the movie I now own. Like The Sound of Music or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, it never comes down in price. All ages appreciate the story, the music, the acting and the filmography. All see the treasure of the films made in the Golden Era.

My Thoughts

I discovered that the Mary Poppins had her beginnings in the book world. The world first heard of her existence when P. L. Travers (1899 - 1996) published Mary Poppins in 1934. In the book, she is "stern, vain and usually cross but has a magical touch..." The reminder of the series spanned 7 books and years 1935 - 1988.

The books became widely popular. So popular in fact, that in 1938 Walt Disney tried to purchase the film rights from P. L. Travers. She told him to go away. She did not think a film would do justice to her story and definitely didn't want it to be animated. But Walt Disney was a patient and persistent man. Finally, in 1961 he succeeded and began the process of making the magical film that was we all know. Guess what? There is a the tiniest bit of animation threaded into it... and guess what again? The world of Bert's art has always been my favorite part of the movie. :-) Rest assured, P. L. Travers demanded and got script approval rights. (Fortunately for us some things, such as flirtatious looks between Mary Poppins and Bert, didn't require a script...)

Imagine a world without the talents and creativity expressed in the film (1964), the books (1938 - 1988) and the Broadway production (2004). I am thankful for people like P. L. Travers, Walt Disney, Julie Andrews and Dick van Dyke who allowed their creativity and talents to make the world a better place for everyone who knows of them.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Hanna -- 2011


Directed  by: Joe Wright

There weren’t many brilliant films produced this year. All season, Jesse and I have waited for the story that would capture our attention. There were only a couple that made us step back and say, “That was amazing.” Hanna was one of them.

It is Finland in the late Fall. The snow is thick on the ground and filtering down through the trees. We see a lone reindeer foraging for moss or whatever he can find. Then we see Hanna. Her pale face is wrapped against the cold. All we see are her eyes, wary, watchful, calm. For an instant, she is there, another instant, gone. The deer raises its head and smells the air. Suddenly, Hanna steps from behind her cover and her arrow flies true. The animal leaps into the air and runs, trying to escape its fate and the agony ripping at him from his insides.
Hannah follows swiftly, silently; her lithe body just a shadow through the snow as she keeps on his trail. Her aim had been good so it is not long before she has caught him. She circles his body, now lying helplessly in an open meadow, his eyes dully following her movements. She pulls out a gun, aims and remarks quietly, “I just missed your heart.”

Her hands and arms are soon bloody as she guts the carcass and makes ready for bringing the meat back home. The daylight will soon be waning and in the bitter cold of the year’s lateness, she does not want to be caught away from home in the dusk.
“You’re dead.” 
The male voice comes calmly from behind her, no hint of rebuke, just fact. Hanna leaps to her feet and spins around, knife slashing at the figure. He easily overcomes her and lands  her on her back. He turns and leaves her, lying spread eagle beside the reindeer carcass.
Hanna has been trained for one purpose alone: assassin. Since the age of two years, she has been stretched beyond her endurance, taught fighting and self preservation skills. Being an assassin is like breathing for Hanna. But it isn't enough. She wants the outside world. She longs for the sights, people and music. Not only that. Now, at the age of 16 she deems herself ready for her first assignment. 
So, let the games begin. It is a fight to the death. 
What I liked:
1: The story was told well. There is mystery, action and well developed characters.
2: The filming was very stylized. The uniqueness was a tribute to Hanna’s character and her life.
3: There was an interesting reference to God and spirituality that leaves the viewer asking questions about their own beliefs.
4: There was realism to the tale. Erik tried to prepare Hanna for the outside world. He was partly victorious. But he could not fully know or predict what was going to happen, therefore could not prepare her enough. Hanna’s secluded upbringing and inexperienced youth are portrayed very well on screen.
5: This film draws the viewer into it. You feel Hanna’s pain and joy… her exploration and unknowing selfishness. You feel the horror and fear or resigned realizations of the victims. You feel Marissa’s triumph and frustration and puzzlement. You feel the love Erik has for Hanna.

6: The purpose of Hanna is on several levels, I believe. Sometimes, we take forgranted the comforts of our lifestyles. We become trapped in boxes of our own making. We forget there is a bigger world. 

7: I loved the humor. It popped up in the most unexpected places. 

Things To Be Aware Of: 
1: Some language. 
2: One scene of sensuality and implied nudity.
3: Disturbing scenes of violence and worse, scenes of implied violence. 

Sunday, January 30, 2011

You Tube Features -- Stjepan Hauser & Luka Sulic

Thanks to a friend, I recently discovered this music. I hope you can appreciate the talent and beauty that has been expressed in these videos.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Twelfth Night: Or What You Will -- 1996

Twelfth Night: Or What You Will

Rated: PG for mild thematic elements
My Rating: 4 Stars

Imogen Stubbs
Toby Stephens
Helena Bonham Carter
Steven Mackintosh
Imelda Staunton
Mel Smith
Richard E. Grant
Ben Kingsley

My introduction to Shakespeare was this film. I do not know enough about Shakespeare to recommend this film on any other grounds than the fact that I found it enjoyable. Other than Shakespeare, this movie is wonderful.

It is a tale of two love stories and how they came about. It would seem that Shakespeare loved the unconventional. ;-)

Once upon a time in the land of Shakespeare's mind there were identical twins.Viola and Sebastian were their names and their hearts and minds were entwined deeply. When their ship sinks during a storm, they become separated and each think the other is lost. When Viola and some of her fellow shipmates wash ashore in Illyria, her heart is so burdened and heavy with grief that she feels she cannot live.

What saved her was coming upon a funeral. The sight of the beautiful Countess Olivia weeping over the grave of a dearly departed brother wrung the heart of our poor Viola, who's own grief and loss mirrored the Lady's. Her only thought was of how she could ease the suffering of this other sister who stood so broken and helpless with agony.

Then, she heard the rumors: Duke Orsino. He adored Countess Olivia with his heart, mind and soul. Had it been his heart alone in question, the two would have been married that very day. But the Countess Olivia was quite determined in her refusal of him. When Viola heard this, her mind was set in it's course. She would dress as her brother and serve the Duke. She would become his trusted friend and confident. She would be the go-between in the courtship of the Duke and Countess Olivia. She would bring her lady much joy and comfort. Viola had wonderful intentions.

What I Liked:
1: The story, of course. :-) It's beautiful and hilarious and so Shakespeare. 
2: The actors. They are all wonderful and true to their characters. So alive.
3: The humor is very laughable. 
4: The music. Ben Kingsley was amazing. 
5: The psychology of the film was well done and left the viewer scrambling to keep up.
6: The spirit of the film is dark and troubled... and it remains this way through the entire film, with little splashes of light. Well done! 

Things to Know:
1: When Viola is making her transformation, she dresses partly on screen. 
2: Some sensuality. It never goes beyond kissing but there are a couple implications.
3: Beware of statues in the garden... and someone reads Amour in the evening.
4: Cruelties done towards Malvolio just for the sake of cruelty. (Alternately horrifying and hilarious.)
5: This film is intense; full of twists and surprises. Watch with your mind open. 
6: There is drinking and quite a lot of drunkenness. 
7: As with all media, view with discretion. :-)

I had such a difficult time researching... so, when I found these reviews, I felt I needed to include them. They give interesting insight.

Do I recommend this film? :-) It is intense from the first moments. It grasps you and throws you into a world. It's dark and whimsical; realistic and magical; humorous and sad; hopeless and hope filled. Yes, I recommend it.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Stéphanie Labbé -- Vert Green -- 2008

Vert Green

Stéphanie Labbé

1. Fisher Hornpipe - Quadrille Montcalm
2. L’acadienne
3. Valse 2
4. Naphtalie Billette - Reel des poilus
5. Danse Écossaise
6. Pot-pourri papa
    Big John McNeil
    Angus Campbell
    Joyeuse Québécoise
7. Reel révolutionnaire
8. Westmoreland Hornpipe
9. Reel du pendu
10. Valse Westphalia
11. Clog du sac recyclé
12. 4 coins de St-Malo
13. Vert - Green

I met Stéphanie Labbé for the first time at Kenosee Lake Kitchen Party, where she was hired as an instructor. 

You know what? I wrote that sentence, then sat here, staring blankly at my screen. I'm trying to find words that describe Stéphanie and her music. Lol. She is an amazing person. There just isn't a way I can tell you who she is... you have to meet her. 

I'll never forget the night of her concert at camp. It was fiddle like I've never heard it before. It was out of this world; it was electrifying; it was pulsing; it was definitely French. She got three standing ovations in fifteen minutes. 

But it wasn't just the music that caught the crowd. It was Stéphanie. 

She's from Quebec. For those of you who aren't familiar with the Maple Leaf Country , that's French Canada. Do they speak a lot of English over there? From those I've met, I'd say negative. In her concert, Stéphanie was up on stage, trying to speak to a very Saskatchewan crowd (which means we may speak Hungarian, Ukrainian or Polish but mostly, we're illiterate when it comes to French) in English. Her command of the language wasn't that great at the time but she tried. :-) She had everyone shrieking with laughter more times than once and you felt that she laughed the hardest. 

But again, I bring you attention to her music! It is so alive. It brings a person onto their feet without thought or reason. We all know that recordings are rarely as good as live. However, there are a few artists I really enjoy and I listen to their CD's over and over. One of them is Stéphanie Labbé. Her music is a gift. 

Visit her website:

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Prince of Persia -- The Sands of Time -- 2010

Prince of Persia
The Sands of Time

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action
My Rating: 4 Stars

Mike Newell
Jerry Bruckheimer

Jake Gyllenhaal
Gemma Arterton
Ben Kingsley
Alfred Molina
Ronald Pickup
Richard Coyle
Toby Kebbell

From the first moment I heard that Jerry Bruckheimer had produced a movie from the concept of the game "Prince of Persia", I wanted to see it. A few days later, I was walking out of a store with it in my hand.

I really enjoyed it. In fact, I could watch it again! Yes, I do see the faults. It is only a mirrored surface of what could have been epic. It gives you just a little taste of the truth and some mixed up ideas about the rest. None the less, I must admit to loving it; I had delightful shivers all the way through it. I love Pirates of the Caribbean and Indiana Jones and Star Wars, too. What can I say? ;-)

Nizam: What a glorious mess we are.

Legend had slowly weakened over the centuries until it was only a whisper in the wind; secret from the world and the evils that dwelt in it. The truth lay in the bosom of a sacred city and would have stayed, safely sheltered... But there was evil. There was greed and selfishness and corrupt hearts. There was death trapped in a mind and the embers of it glowed and smoldered until the captive was ready to give up his soul.

Persia was the most powerful empire in the world. In fact, the world had become Persian. All bowed, all paid homage. All acknowledged it's power.... Or should we say almost all?

King Sharaman was a ruler for such a Kingdom. He was wise and dispassionate. His heart was for Persia, his sons and his family. His wisdom had shown itself in many forms but the strangest of these had been in regards to the little beggar he had taken off the streets. 

"A great man would have stopped what he knew what was wrong, no matter who was ordering it."

Dastan was not a typical Prince. Probably because he wasn't of loyal blood. Oh yes, he was cocky and irritating and knew everything. But he knew how to fight and he knew how to pick his friends. He knew about the bonds of brotherhood. And he was about to learn about being a real man. 

The story begins as the three sons of Sharaman are debating whether to attack the sacred city of Alamut. A spy had intercepted weapons being transported from Alamut to Persia's enemies. Prince Tus was the oldest and Crown Prince, therefore, in command. Orders from his father had been to not attack Alamut and he did not wish to disregard them. Garsiv, the second son who was brave and fierce, declared that such orders would surely change with turn of events. Dastan was not sure.

The matter was decided when Nizam, the trusted brother of the King, quietly told them this was for the good of Persia. Their hearts turned to his bidding. Because of their trust in him, their minds firmly closed to the murmur of their hearts.

It didn't hurt that rumor had it that Princess Tamina, the ruler of Alamut, was drop dead gorgeous.

Tamina: Must feel wonderful winning such claim for destroying such an innocent city.
Dastan: Oh, a pleasure to meet you too, Princess.

What I Liked:
1: The bond of family and brotherhood is expressed very beautifully in this story.
2: Some very excellent truths were taught.
3: I think this is the first time I've actually seen on screen a decent portrayal of falling in love. They chose to love each other.
4: Pretty awesome acting.
5: Love, love, love the score. It was amazing.
6: The humor was well placed.
Sheir Amar: Tch, secret government killing activity! That's why I don't pay taxes! 
7: The princess is rarely ill-dressed. I could show this film to my brothers. Yay!!
8: I have always loved watching people escape using their own feet, hands and general athleticism. ;-) (One of the reason I enjoyed Mall Cop)
9: Although there are many faults to this film, I believe it's worth watching. I learned from it and I was inspired.
10: The film was fairly clean. Only a couple things I thought could have been thrown out.

What I Didn't Like:
1: I do get caught up in these things, I admit. But they bother me, so: the snakes rattled before biting and there were no rattles on the ends of said snakes' tails. And Jake Gyllenhaal decided that he liked Harrison Ford so much he needed to smile like him. So annoying. :-P
2: Many details were missing regarding culture and some bloopers about language, etc. This was definitely a Hollywood film  that expects you to be carried away with the action.
3: The fact that this film had the potential of being an epic, a masterpiece... and it isn't. I have a little understanding of how much work and effort and time that goes into a movie, so I can't criticize too much. I just wish they had been able to make this film into what it could have been.
4: Some sensuality that was so not needed. It didn't help the story at all. For the record, it was basically a glance and a question that aren't particularly harmful but it ruined the moment that I had been enjoying.

Things to Know:
1: Some magic.
2: Some Eastern religious views were referred to and promoted.
3: The entire story was based on a Noah's ark legend. Interesting.

As with all films, watch with discernment. If you enjoy desert, sheiks, princes, poison, lots of action, snakes, really bad bad guys, good guys who aren't perfect, beautiful princesses, clean romance and ostriches, this is for you. :-)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Bourne Identity -- 2002

The Bourne Identity

Rated PG-13 for violence and some language
My Rating: 4 Stars

Doug Liman

Matt Damon
Franka Potente
Brian Cox

Before you read the summary, let me admit something: I am not a big fan of Matt Damon. I've seen him in "Geronimo" (in which, he was pretty good but still... not my favorite actor), "The Good Old Boys", "Saving Private Ryan" (I love that movie but Tom Hanks definitely ranked higher than Matt Damon ;-)), "All the Pretty Horses" and "Jersey Girl". However, when I saw this film, I finally understood why people really like his movies. It was like he finally found his genre or character. Amazing acting. If you like espionage/action/thriller, this is the movie for you. 

There was a storm raging the evening they found him floating in the ocean. It was amazing he was still breathing. He had been shot twice in the back before being dumped overboard and left for dead. The crew of the small fishing boat pulled him out of the Mediterranean and laid him out on the table. The captain was skilled in small surgery and began his work. First, he removed the bullets. Then, something attracted his attention. What was this? Figuring the man wouldn't survive anyway, he made a small slit in the fellow's hip and found something he didn't expect: a tiny laser projector. Mystified, he turns it on and finds it displays the numbers of a safety deposit box in Zurich. It isn't everyone who has a laser projector in his hip. The Captain begins to wonder who exactly is laying on his table?

When the man regains consciousness, he finds out that he is... just that. The man on the table. He cannot remember who he is. Whatever had happened to him before they found him in the sea now locks part of his memory in psychogenic amnesia. But over the course of the next weeks, he does find some interesting things about himself. He can speak several languages, fluently. And he knows things... like how fast and far he could run at all elevations before his hands begin shaking; who in the room is most likely to cause trouble; where a gun might be hidden; where all the cars in a parking lot came from and what their make is; where the best, safest exits are in the building. But he cannot remember where he came from, his name, or why someone would shoot him and toss him overboard into the ocean.

Regardless of his handicap, he is strong and young and a willing worker. The Captain grows fond of him and when they dock at Imperia (Italy) he tucks some money into the young man's hand. Neither have any idea of what awaits him. The question is only of the will to resist. Can he refuse what has been his mind, heart and soul?

What I Liked:
1: Matt Damon was brilliant in this film.
2: The entire plot. I found it very unique and well told. The psychology of it is rich and made me think.
3: Realistic quality of the story was 100%.
4: The romance. Franke Potente was the perfect choice for the Marie character. To quote a friend, the love scene was ' was the most tastefully done love scene I have ever watched'. And I agree. :-)
5: The language was really toned down for a PG-13 movie. I appreciated that.
6: It kept me on the edge of my seat but didn't tire me out. There were rest points amongst the action. :-)
7: Lots of action!! ;-)
8: I actually got chills from this movie. It's frightening the first time you watch it.
9: The best car chases I've ever seen on a film. Seriously.

Things to Know:
1: Brief strong language and lots of abuses of Deity. I actually hadn't even noticed while watching it but while doing my back work (I try to make sure I'm being accurate ;-)), I discover this is a common complaint about the film... And rightfully so. However, it isn't unrealistic for them to use language like this. So... give and take.
2: A love scene that involves kissing and her removing his shirt (camera swings away)... also, (this could be listed in my dislikes) they cut her hair and she's only wearing her underclothing. You can easily cover the screen, however.
3: People get hurt, killed, murdered, etc, etc. with Bourne doing lots of killing. He's not a typical hero.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Howl's Moving Castle -- 2004


Howl's Moving Castle

Rated: PG
My Rating: 4 Stars

Hayao Miyazaki

Jean Simmons
Emily Mortimer
Christian Bale
Lauren Bacall
Billy Crystal
Josh Hutcherson

As I continue watching Hayao Miyazaki's creations, I enjoy each one better than the last. Howl's Moving Castle was an amazing journey for me. It made me laugh and almost cry and captured my attention until the end. There is something so tangible about this film. Something so tender, sweet and plucky. Sure, it could be a kid's film. Sure, it's funny (it's got Billy Crystal in it, for crying out loud! Of course it's funny!). But it's more than a kid's film.  There is a depth and a sweetness that some of his other films did not attain. You sense a different essence... more vivid colors...

Sofie: Alright, Calcifer, let's get cookin'.
Calcifer: I don't cook! I'm a scary, powerful fire demon!
Sofie: :puts frying pan on fire:
Calcifer: Here's another curse for you -- may all your bacon burn.

It seems that all my recent film reviews have begun with a young girl who is more often than not in dire straits. I hold true to the pattern... once again. ;-) Hehe.

Quiet, responsible Sofie Hatter is trying to keep her late father's hat shop alive. The work load is heavy and the responsibility is still heavier. Her vain and fluttering mother is always off to other parts of the world while her well meaning sister gave up on hats and began pursuing her own dreams at a bakery. So it is only Sofie who keeps the shop alive. And because her entire life is wrapped up in it, friends are few and far between... she is often left alone, but she doesn't mind this. Her heart is content with the solitude.

There is a legend in this city: A dreadful young wizard named Howl who lives in an enormous moving castle and eats the hearts of beautiful, innocent young girls. Sometimes, if you're very lucky, you catch a glimpse of the castle in the distance. But only for a moment. Sofie ponders what it would be like to meet the mysterious Howl. What does he look like? Is he as wicked as they say he is? She knows she would never be in danger with him because she is not beautiful. Everyone knows that Sophie is the plain one of the family!

One day, the entire city is in an uproar with festivities before the soldiers go off to the war. It had been brewing like an evil pot for some time and finally come to a reality with the abduction of the Prince. Sophie had intended to keep working until dusk but she suddenly feels a desire to go visit her sister at the bakery. With her hat firmly in place, she locks the door to the shop and sets out through the alleys, trying avoid the crowds. Unfortunately, there were a few other people in the alleys, as well. Two soldiers accost her and would not let her pass. Her fear makes them laugh and they begin to crowd her, insisting they must take her out for tea. Suddenly, a young stranger is standing beside her with his arms around her. Let's just say the soldiers were no longer an issue. ;-)

The adventure was far from over, however. Further dangers present themselves when black beings appear from around the cobblestones and out of the walls and begin following them. With his arms still around her, the young man walks Sophie rapidly down one alleyway, then another. The followers grow in number and more aggressive. But the hero of this story has more than one trick up his sleeve. Just as all seems to be lost, they are flying up into the sky, far above the cobblestones and roofs... leaving their attackers behind. They land on the balcony of the bakery and, with an apology for her trouble, he vanishes. Sophie can't help but think she has seen him for the last time.

After visiting with her sister, she makes her way back home through the dusk. After slipping through the door of the shop, she locks it behind her and prepares to go to bed for the night. But even before she has her hat on the stand, the door opens and in sails a very large lady. She looks at Sophie and remarks how tacky the shop is. Sophie tells her firmly that they are closed for the night. The woman laughs and says the girl has pluck to stand up to the witch of the waste. She does leave but she leaves an old woman behind her. An old woman who cannot speak of the curse cast upon her.

What I Liked:
1: The score was so beautiful. I could listen to it all day long... it's on my list of soundtracks to buy.
2: The story took me on an incredible journey of growth. I learned so much from this story. I felt I was Sophie. There was so much about her that is me.
3: There were so many great voice actors on this film. They did a really good job.
4: Even though there are witches and wizards and magic every 'turn of the page', it's not portrayed in a positive light. It seems very realistic. I guess the theme could be: with great gifts comes great burdens.
5: The love story. It was so beautiful. Actually, that was what almost made me shed some tears. :-)
6: The fact that there is a little rascal of a boy. Hayao loves children. You can sense it in all his films.
7: I appreciate how there were very few 'bad guys'. More often than not, those we consider bad are actually the hurt children inside us..
8: Watching Howl turn into a man.
9: The humor was laughable. ;-)

Sofie: Why is the Witch of the Waste trying to hunt you down?
Howl: She was once quite beautiful, so I decided to pursue her, then I realized she wasn't, so then, as usual, I ran away.

What I Didn't Like:
1: The entire base of the story is around witches and wizards. I understand that without the base, there is no story. But there it is and I am sticking to my opinion. :-)

Do I recommend it? Yes. I hope you learn as much from it as I did. :-)