Friday, February 25, 2005

Mr Miyazaki.. what happened?


Was i expecting alittle too much? After the raging success of Spirited Away, i was expecting to see Howl's Moving Castle to, well.. soar. It is an enjoyable movie nonetheless, but.. being a fan of Hayao Miyazaki's works, i was alittle disheartened to find it lacking in aspects which made all his previous works hits *tears alittle*.

Sniffs, anyway, Howl's Moving Castle was originally a story written by Diana Wynne Jones. It was adapted into an animation film by Studio Ghibli and was severly Miyazaki-nized (as noted by others who have both read and watched the movie). I have yet to read the book so my observations will be based on the movie alone.

Howl's Moving Castle tells the story of Sophie, a young adult who works as a hat maker. Her mundane and routined life was interrupted when she offended the Witch of the Waste, who cursed her with a body of a 90 year old woman in spite. Unable to continue with her life, Sophie finds herself leaving town, in order to prevent others from recognizing her. With the help of a scarecrow (aptly named Mr Turnip), she stumbles upon Howl's moving castle. Desperate for shelter, she lets herself in, not knowing what fate awaits her inside.


The handsome wizard, Howl, is voiced by Takuya Kimura.

Although i wouldn't want my judgement to be tainted by comparing works which should be seen as individuals and unique to their story, it is evident that Howl's Moving Castle has borrowed many similar character designs from Spirited Away. From the design of Howl himself to the servants of Madam Suliman (Howl's teacher), it is inevitable that one would be reminded of Haku from Spirited Away. In addition, the image of Sophie as a 90 year old resembles that of the wicked witch, Yubaba. Having seen the creation of colourful characters manifest on screens, i was a tad disappointed with the use of borrowed designs.


The amazing, intricate design of Howl's castle

However, one must applaud the designs of Howl's castle. With openings which resembles the eyes and a jagged mouth, who would've expected that the castle moves on mechanics looking like chicken legs? Watching the castle clumsily edge by towns and hills, i can only tell myself, this is what i call, refreshing.

Apart from visual designs, the background music.. fail to leave much of a impression on me when compared to Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. There seem to be a missing theme which can effectively grip your attention. For me, i'd like to call it the "Ah.. That is so it" moment when you hear it. An example would be the moments such as in Princess Mononoke when Ashitaka starts off on his journey and in Spirited Away, when Chihiro starts to panic in the foreign surroundings. You hear it and you'd go, gosh, that is so perfect.

The last thing that is lacking in Howl's Moving Castle would be a concrete main theme and plot. There are distractive sideplots in the movie which are either not carefully explained or simply.. do not seem to play any role in contributing to the plot. The flow of the story starts off slow and picks up very quickly towards the end, as if there was a rush to cram in as much last minute info as possible. The many elements that are found in the story weakens the overall idea and clouds the theme which Miyazaki wants to express to the audience.

Despite all these, for those who are uncritical of his works, or are simply, looking for an entertaining movie, this is a show to look out for. But however, for others who are avid fans of Miyazaki's works such as i am, don't get too excitied.

Mr Miyazaki, i'd be looking forward to your next work. Till then.. don't limit yourself to adaptations. I like your original stories better.

Ratings: 3.5 / 5 Stars

Come 'closer' and you'd know..

*waves hand in a non-chalant manner*

I admit, i kinda underestimated the movie Closer. But heck, it's always better to underestimate something than get disappointed 'cos you overestimated it. For movie-wise.

Ahem, Closer boosts some big names in its production, such as Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman and Clive Owen (who previously acted in the movie-flop, King Arthur). Easily summerized, it's about the trials and tribulations of.. what else? Love. In two sense: one, being a compromise and two, the domination of the flesh.

It starts off innocently enough, with two strangers (Dan and Alice, Jude Law and Natalie Portman) who caught each others' eyes on the street. Love at first sight, perhaps (or maybe because we're all simply attracted to people who stand out)? A chance accident brought them together. But not long after, Dan (like all sterotypical men whose raging hormones have the need to spread their seeds) finds himself falling in love with the photographer Anna (Julia Roberts), just after their first encounter. This starts off a chain reaction of rejection, instant desires, casual betrayals and ultimately, 'fourplay' with Dan, Alice, Anna and Larry all embroiled into one whole big lumpy mess called Lurve.
But then again, who would really watch such a movie for its story? The main highlight of this movie would be Natalie Portman. All grown up to embrace her sexuality. The once young child star is all set to strip (literally) away her innocence and take on adult roles.

"You don't know the first thing about love because you don't understand compromise."


A plus for this movie would be its crude humour. A chance meeting on the 'Sex Anon' chatroom brings Larry into the picture (his conversation with _____ was hilarious, but really, you'd never know). In addition, it is thought-provoking if you choose to think deeper. Heck, one thing's right, Love is all about compromise. But the whole 'sex' thang simply overshadows this theme. What can i say? It's very very subtle.

What i dislike plainly about the movie would be the transitions. The story spans 4 years and although i can only imagine the director's intention of preventing viewers from rolling their eyes after another '1 year later..', the time shifts depicting relationships to relationships are quite a turn-off.

What can i say? This show is for those who are looking for a enjoyable movie. And those who are there for Natalie Portman's butt.

Rating: 3.5 / 5 Stars