Sunday, 20 August 2017

Your Name. (2016)

Original Title

君の名は。Kimi no na wa.

Genres

Animation, Drama, Fantasy, Romance

Director

Makoto Shinkai

Country

Japan

Voice Cast

Ryunosuke Kamiki, Mone Kamishiraishi, Masami Nagasawa, Etsuko Ichihara, Ryo Narita, Aoi Yūki, Nobunaga Shimazaki, Kaito Ishikawa, Kanon Tani, Masaki Terasome, Sayaka Ohara, Kana Hanazawa

Storyline

Mitsuha (Mone Kamishiraishi), a girl living in a small mountain town, and Taki (Ryunosuke Kamiki), a boy living in Tokyo, are complete strangers until they suddenly switch places, with Mitusha waking up in Taki's body and Taki waking up in Mitsuha's body. A connection forms between the two, but distance won't be the only thing to keep them apart.

Opinion

Anime isn't really my thing so it was no surprise that when Your Name. was suggested to me on Twitter I had never heard of it. But since I was looking for an animated film to watch and this happened to be released on DVD pretty recently I decided to watch it. And I'm glad I did because it is one of the most emotionally draining animated films I've ever seen. Yes, I consider that a good thing.

Easily one of the most striking aspects of the film is the story. It is complicated right from the beginning so it requires you to pay a lot of attention - and I think that's when the subtitles come handy. It is very well built and interesting. It could have done with a little more complexity but it is devastatingly beautiful. It's a dramatic story that manages to keep a lighthearted tone most of the time. 

It's also the kind of story entirely driven by its main characters and their relationship and it's great since Your Name. has some pretty good, well-developed and interesting leading characters that really make you root for them. You know I don't like romances, but this one, I loved it. And it made me cry. 

There also are some nicely done and equally interesting supporting characters. There are some clichées, both in story and characters, but it isn't that bothering.

Less of a surprise was the animation. If there's something I've learned watching those few anime flicks is that the animation is always spot on and Your Name.'s is no different. The drawings are very beautiful; the details of the Japan sceneries and architecture are unbelievable; the colours are very vibrant. And to complete the very atmospheric visuals there is a stunning musical score that fits each scene to perfection. 

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Okja (2017)

Genres

Action, Adventure, Drama

Director

Bong Joon-ho

Country

South Korea, USA

Cast

Ahn Seo-hyun, Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Jake Gyllenhaal, Byun Hee-bong, Steven Yeun, Lily Collins, Yoon Je-moon, Shirley Henderson, Daniel Henshall, Devon Bostick, Choi Woo-shik, Giancarlo Esposito

Storyline

It follows Mija (Ahn Seo-hyun), a young girl from South Korea who risks everything to prevent a powerful multinational company to take away from her Okja, a gigantic pig as well as her best friend.

Opinion

I spend way too much time on Netflix and their original series and movies are my favourite things to watch. So I was pretty excited when Okja finally came online - also because it's from the same director of Snowpiercer which I loved - but didn't watch it because it seemed like a pretty heavy film and you have to be in the mood for it. But I was wrong. It isn't that heavy. Actually, it has the perfect balance between comedy and drama. It's plenty of happy and funny moments but it also has a lot of deeper and emotional ones and chances are you'll laugh one minute and cry the next one only to laugh again the next one.

One of Okja's greatest strengths is Bong Joon-ho's original story. It is very simple and yet very interesting and exciting, but most of all it's really effective in engaging you in the wonderful journey of the young girl and her wonderful relationship with an animal. It is a pretty familiar story and yet it will surprise you with some very unexpected turns.

Other than being engaging, exciting and entertaining, the story also carries an important message. While (successfully) attempting at making us sympathise with animal-rights advocates and environmentalists, it shows how the meat industry works, and the things we, humans, are willing to do in order to keep feeding ourselves with animals. It is pretty accurate and sad picture of what the world has become. Some may say it's too preachy to be entertaining, or that it tries to make people go vegetarian/vegan, what I think is that it raises awareness towards this problem, from animals rights to GMO foods. 

But enough with the heavy stuff. Let's talk about the visual aspect of the film. Simply amazing. It isn't the photography nor the colours nor the costumes - although they all are pretty amazing. No, I'm talking about Okja, the GMO pig. She is so beautifully done, she looks real. It's the proper use of CGI that makes the film so emotional and gives to it so much soul.

Still, the pig wouldn't be anything without the young Ahn Seo-hyun who gives a strong performance as Mija and whose chemistry with the fake animal is truly astonishing. The rest of the cast is also very strong, with a special mention for Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Friday, 18 August 2017

East of Eden (1955)

Genre

Drama

Director

Elia Kazan

Country

USA

Cast

James Dean, Julie Harris, Raymond Massey, Richard Davalos, Burl Ives, Jo Van Fleet, Albert Dekker, Lois Smith, Timothy Carey, Harold Gordon, Nick Dennis, Barbara Baxley, Richard Garrick, Lonny Chapman

Storyline

In and around WWI, Cal Trask (James Dean) compete against his brother (Richard Davalos) for the love of their father (Raymond Massey). In the meantime, he tries to reconnect with his estranged mother (Jo Van Fleet) and falls in love with his brother's girlfriend (Julie Harris).

Opinion

When I think about James Dean, my mind immediately goes to Rebel Without a Cause for two reasons: first, it is one of my favourite movies of all times; second, it was the only film with James Dean I saw until watching East of Eden days ago. And this is definitely the film that's going to come to my mind now because both Dean's debut and Elia Kazan's film are impressive.

As everybody knows this film is based on John Steinbeck's novel. I haven't read it so I won't be able to tell whether it is an accurate transposition or not, I sure can say that it's one of the most beautiful, emotional coming of age story I've seen and one of the greatest sibling rivalry stories ever. I know that it's basically a modern-day version of the Bible's Cain and Abel, but I've read the Bible (I'd like to point out that I'm not a religious person, I just read it to see how much nonsense there was in it. And FIY it's a lot) so believe me when I tell you Cal and Aaron's rivalry is way more interesting.

However, the best feature of East of Eden is easily the characters. Although they could have done with a little bit more development and their motivations could have been explored a little better given the two hours running time, the characters are very complex and intricate and you will easily find yourself reflecting about them long after you see the film.

The characters wouldn't be as great as they are if it wasn't for the cast. Most of the actors are so natural it doesn't even feel like they are actors, but the most impressive is James Dean. His performance is so intense and dramatic and at times it almost feels like he was aware of his upcoming tragic death. There's something in his eyes, a veil of sadness and bitterness, that captures the drama of Cal beautifully.

At last but not least there's the masterful job Elia Kazan did. The use he makes of subtle camera movements and Dutch angles enhance the drama to perfection.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Thursday Movie Picks: Rescues


Welcome to another Thursday Movie Picks, the weekly series hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves that consists of picking three films to fit the week's theme. 

This week's theme is movies about rescues aka a lot of movies to choose from so I don't really know why I'm going with two of the most obvious. Oh, I know, because they are great.

Argo (2012)

In order to rescue six American in Tehran in 1980, a CIA agent acts under the cover of a Hollywood producer looking for a location to shot a science fiction film. I still can't believe this is a true story. Anyway, I loved it. I haven't seen it in a while but I remember it being pretty suspenseful, and I was really impressed with Ben Affleck. 

Finding Nemo (2003)

When his son Nemo is taken away by a diver, Marlin sets off on a journey to rescue him. Although it isn't the best from Disney Pixar, it is a pretty fun flick both for kids and adults (I'm the living proof. I loved it as a kid, I still love it now). It also has a nice message and Ellen DeGeneres is hilarious as Dory.

The Monuments Men (2014)

It's WWII and an American professor recruits 6 men who rescue art masterpieces from Nazi thieves. There's nothing I can say about this film that could convince you to watch it. It's a pretty empty film, insulting even. So why did I pick it? Because it's based on a compelling true story.

Dogtooth (2009)

Original Title

Κυνόδοντας Kynodontas

Genre

Drama

Director

Yorgos Lanthimos

Country

Greece

Cast

Christos Sterfiouglou, Michelle Valley, Angeliki Papoulia, Mary Tsoni, Christos Passalis, Anna Kalaitzidou

Storyline

The father (Christos Sterfiouglou), the mother (Michelle Valley) and their three kids (Angeliki Papulia, Mary Tsoni and Christos Passalis) live isolated in a country estate. And they are happy. But then the father decides to pay his colleague Christina (Anna Kalaitzidou) to appease the sexual urges of his son and the happiness and tranquillity of the family are put at stake. 

Opinion

Being one of those who absolutely loved The Lobster (it's one of my favourite movies ever to be honest, and I find myself thinking about it very often), and waiting for Lanthimos's new film once again starring Colin Farrell, I decided to give his debut a try. And, although I didn't love it as much as I loved The Lobster, Dogtooth is another quite brilliant film from the Greek filmmaker.

But it's also another film you either love or hate and it's all because of Lanthimos' writing. There isn't more to the plot than the simple storyline you can read above. Also, it manages to be both incredibly absurd and believable at the same time. And it doesn't really kick in until about halfway through the movie. And it's pretty uncomfortable and unpleasant as well.

But that's not all. The dialogue is pretty mundane, very random and incredibly slow. And then there are the characters. They are some of the most wooden and underdeveloped characters I've seen on screen. They are quite dull and unrelatable. They are extremely bizarre and even disgusting at times and yet they are incredibly interesting to watch because of their emotional blandness and weird actions. And for the first time in my life, I'm praising wooden acting because it's just what the film needs to be more effective.

So it's definitely not a film for everybody, but I'd still recommend to watch it because after all is a great but still disturbing political satire that tackled dictatorship while making a social commentary on the extremes of isolation, on manipulation and corruption. It's basically another twisted dystopian film that I'm sadly not very sure it's far from reality.