The first five minutes of K-20 feature, get this, the theft of Nikola Tesla’s wireless-power transmission device by the masked-and-cloaked Fiend of Twenty Faces. If that description makes you grin, then you are most likely the right audience for this film. If you didn’t grin, then you, sir, are no fun.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen something this unpretentiously fun that wasn’t weighted down with irony and too-hip-for-the-screen injokes. K-20 bears most direct comparison to something between the recent redux of Sherlock Holmes crossed with Casshern. It even shares a few cast members with the latter, but it’s far more lighthearted than that film, with swashbuckling and good-humored adventure instead of global destruction and general gloom. I still adore Casshern for what it is but if you’re new to this sort of material, grab K-20 first, then graduate to the other film as your 200-level course. Read more
If it weren’t for Michael Arias’s name on Heaven’s Door I might never have bothered to say anything about Heaven’s Door. When I heard the director of Tekkonkinkreet was directing his first live-action feature, I was intrigued. Then I actually started watching the movie, and intrigue gave way to disappointment and finally annoyance. All the imagination that fueled the former movie has been siphoned out and replaced with clichés.
Door’s premise is simple enough to fit on a gum wrapper. Two young people, garage mechanic Masato (Tomoya Nagase) and hospital aid Harumi (Mayuko Fukuda), are both dying of cancer. They walk out of the hospital where he’s currently staying (after a very funny scene where they both get drunk on tequila left by a former patient who died of alcoholism), steal a car, and decide to live a little before they’re dead. Unfortunately the car belongs to a corporate mogul, and it contains his stash of dirty graft money — which the two of them spend on hotels and boutique clothing. They then end up with both the cops and the businessman’s henchmen after them, and their whole life boils down to not getting shot or arrested long enough to sit together at the seaside for the first time. Read more
Hayao Miyazaki’s Ponyo isn’t just a movie for children; it’s a little like one made by them as well. It doesn’t have the epic emotional scope of Nausicaä or even Spirited Away, but I’m not sure it’s supposed to. At heart it’s a loose retelling of Hans Christian Anderson’s Little Mermaid, but its spirit is entirely Miyazaki’s, and its way of seeing the most absurd of happenings through the eyes of a child has infectious charm.
Ponyo opens with the daughter of a deity of the ocean sneaking away from her father, Fujimoto (voiced by Liam Neeson in English). After a mishap with a glass bottle and a trawler’s net, the fish-girl ends up in the hands of five-year-old Sosuke. He’s your typical boy of that age, wildly curious and only too happy to adopt as a pet what to him appears to be a goldfish. But it’s not, and one of the old folks in the neighborhood can see the all-too-human face on “Ponyo” (as Sosuke) calls her: “Fish with faces cause tsunamis!” (There’s a clever bit of filmmaking sleight-of-hand here: we see the face on the fish, but it’s clear Ponyo and his mother don’t. Give them time.)Read more
Long Dream isn’t a great movie, but it takes an intriguing idea and plays it out in a way that makes me curious for a more ambitious adaptation of the same source material. The movie was inspired by a manga by Junji Ito, he of Uzumaki and Gyo, and was directed by the same man who gave us a filmed version of Uzumaki, Higuchinski. The director’s affinity for the original author/artist’s ideas inspired him to do good work on a tiny budget — the whole thing’s a direct-to-video product and it shows — but this feels like a test run for something far larger.
Tucked away inside one of the wards of a private medical clinic is a patient with a most unusual illness: he’s having dreams which feel progressively longer. One night’s dream might feel to him like several days in real life, or even a week. Eventually the dreams grow to months, years, decades, and even more — and the patient begins to undergo ghastly changes, a by-product of spending centuries in a kind of alternate time. Then one of the other doctors in the clinic hits on the idea of artificially inducing the same state in someone else … for instance, himself, as a way to reunite himself with his dead girlfriend, whom he imagines is waiting just behind the wall of sleep. Read more