If you try to resist a movie this good-natured it almost feels like heresy. The story's as simple as it gets: a young witch from the country comes to the big city and makes good. But it's so well told and so gorgeously designed, its good cheer feels like a bonus. The movie in question is Kiki's Delivery Service, widely acclaimed as Japanese animation director Hayao Miyazaki's most immediately appealing work. Unlike the grand and sometimes somber Princess Mononoke, this story comes from a more optimistic part of Miyazaki's imagination, where people are basically good at heart and a little girl with cheer in her eyes can win the day.
Kiki is one of the few Miyazaki productions that was not originated by him or his team, but was instead adapted from a bestselling Japanese children's book (since translated, excellently, into English as well). The story has been brought to life with grand humor and charm, and also something else that seems to have gone missing from a great many movies for younger audiences — the movie assumes everyone in the audience is intelligent and curious, and doesn't condescend. Moreover, it brings them a story that is uplifting and inspirational without being sappy or obvious.Read more
There really was a Vidocq, and he really was an ex-petty criminal who reformed the Parisian police force and founded most of modern criminological technique. But Vidocq, a dizzying and sometimes overwhelming fantasy thriller, isn't about the real Vidocq — it uses his legend (he's worshipped as a national hero in France) as the springboard for a story that's like a live-action version of the manga Steam Detectives.
Vidocq is the first feature film directed by Pitof, a special-effects supervisor for many films (including Alien Resurrection), and like other FX men who take the helm, he has infused it with cutting-edge filmmaking technology. The entire film was shot using Sony's 24P digital video system (which, regrettably, makes it a bit murky and difficult to follow at times), but also uses digitally-generated landscapes and backdrops as a way to further the feeling of being in late 19th-century Paris. A patina of grime and sweat seems to've been smeared over everything and everyone, and the streets are clogged with people and trash. In other words, it's probably like the real Paris of the time, and that lends the movie a sense of claustrophobic urgency.Read more
When a director wants to show me a group of people with aimless, directionless lives, I get a little suspicious: How do I know this isn't just a ploy to divert attention from the possibility that there's just plain nothing going on? But a good director can make a good movie about nearly anything, and Rebels of the Neon God is surprisingly haunting, attention-getting and -retaining for a movie where very little actually happens.
Rebels takes place in modern-day Taipei, a cluttered and noisy city much like Hong Kong, where a loose affiliation of teenagers and twentysomethings drift through malls, hotels, restaurants, bars, video arcades and roller rinks. Occasionally they collide, but mostly they just drift. Sometimes they drift into crime, as in the opening scene, where two youths, Ah-tze (Chao-jung Chen, also of Eat Drink Man Woman) and Ah-ming (Chang-bin Jen), break into the coin box of a public phone booth and spend the take at a local game parlor. At the game consoles, their faces are bored and passive; the only time they seem remotely excited is when they're stealing something.Read more