Saturday, December 27, 2014

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

A thousand years ago, the environment of the Earth was destroyed in the "Seven Days of Fire" which was a battle between several Giant Warriors, artificially created beings with great destructive power.  Only one of these beings survived but is dormant.  The war created the Toxic Forests all over the world, which are filled with deadly poison and giant mutated insects.  A few human settlements are able to survive outside the forests.

Nausicaä is the young princess of the Valley of the Wind.  This kingdom is able to survive because a constant sea breeze keeps the poison away from their small kingdom.  Two other small kingdoms, the Tolmekia and the Pejite, are at war with each other and their forces collide at the peaceful Valley of the Wind.  The Tolmekia want to burn down all the Toxic Forests, but the people of the Valley of the Wind know that this will bring the wrath of the giant insects, which apparently are easily enraged.  The Tolmekia are also interested in resurrecting the dormant Giant Warrior so that they can use it to destroy the insects and their enemies.

Nausicaä has learned how to live in peace with the Toxic Forests and she later learns that the forests are an important part of their ecology.   With war threatening to destroy her people and their environment, she must find a way to avert disaster.

For Japanese Anime made in 1984, this  probably seemed beautiful and pretty fantastic at the time.  Like most anime, its vision tends to be overly grand and stylized, while the animation is pretty simple and sometime repetitive.  Something is lost in the translation, because the movie has a lot of dialogue like, "Look over there!", which comes off as simplistic.  The story is pretty good, but the movie gets bogged down in battle scenes. 

The film is barely O.K. and kind of interesting as a cultural experience, but I can't imagine wanting to see it a second time.

Rating:  * * 3/4.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind has an 86% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  The DVD is distributed by Disney.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Interview

A producer of a tabloid TV show and his reporter, Dave Skylark, get an interview with the President of North Korea.  Meanwhile, the CIA involves both of them in a plot to kill the North Korean dictator, but Skylark has second thoughts once he gets to know the guy.  Skylark, who all by himself could be described as Dumb and Dumber, is played by James Franco, and this is a role that will surely boost his career. 
The Interview is the rare type of movie that should be seen just because it caused an international incident.  People are going to want to know what the fuss is about.  What the fuss is about is that this movie is raunchy, politically incorrect, but more importantly, stupid.  However, this is a film that knows that it is stupid and expertly plays that for laughs.  The movie is hilarious if you are in the right kind of mood.  Think Dumb and Dumber meets The Great Dictator.
All this is made even more funny by the fact the North Koreans were so upset over the film.  Prior to this, people might have just dismissed the movie as a dumb and crude comedy.
Rating: * * *

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy

Tell me if you have heard this one before: An orphan gets abducted by a UFO. He grows up to be some sort of space pirate, but because he double crossed one of the gad buys, he has both the good guys and multiple bad guys chasing him. Along the way he gets runs into a couple different people who would like to either kidnap him or kill him, but after a big fight they all get thrown into jail. In jail they team up with each other and some other questionable characters to break out, but they still have bad people who want to kill them over some mysterious all powerful orb in their possession. They can't let the orb fall into the hands of the bad guys, because that would be really, really bad, and these bad guys are really, really evil. So this leads to almost non stop fights and shootouts for the entire movie.

Guardians of the Galaxy is bigger on action and special effects than it is on drama, character development, or a story that seems remotely plausible. Overall, the story feels a little messy, with too many bad guys and characters to keep track of. Since it is based on a comic book, I suppose that I can forgive its excesses and enjoy it for what it is. The movie does present us with some interesting side characters, such as an intelligent genetically engineered Raccoon named Rocket, and a tree person, Groot, with a very limited vocabulary.

If I am being honest, I think that the movie is suppose to be a comedy, and it does have a few comic touches and at least one running joke. I don't think that I fully understood if I was suppose to enjoy this as an action film, sci-fi movie, comedy or drama. It has all these elements, but the entire movie feels like an excuse for non-stop shootouts and battle scenes. However, most of these are at least somewhat interesting, and there is just enough character development to make me care about the characters.

Part of my problem is that I saw this movie on the small screen. Literally. If I had seen it in the movie theater, then it might have come across as a grand spectacle.

Rating: * * * 1/2

Guardians of the Galaxy has a 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.