Monday, June 11, 2007

Monday Movie Reviews

We rented Pan's Labyrinth recently, which was a pretty good film, but exceedingly violent. Also, there isn't much to redeem the main villain, which I guess is to be expected in a fairy tale, though the main villain is in the realistic part of the story. In this post, I want to recommend three other live action fantasy films that haven't been as widely seen as Pan's Labyrinth, but which I like better.

I put MirrorMask first, because like Pan's Labyrinth, the protagonist is a young girl thrown into a fantasy world. Also, in this story, there is something redeemable in the main villains, because the main villains are the main heroes as well. There were thematic parts of MirrorMask that reminded me of the animated epics by Hayao Miyazaki, especially My Neighbor Totoro. I love Miyazaki. If you've never seen any Miyazaki, definitely rent one of his films before anything else on this list. Totoro or Princess Mononoke are excellent starting points, though very different from each another.

The next movie is Dark City, which I put on my Netflix list after seeing Pan's Labyrinth to see if I still liked it as much as I did when I first saw it. The answer is yes, I did. Dark City has a theme that is also found in The Matrix, that humans are living in a world that is actually an experiment run by aliens. Dark City came out about a year before The Matrix. It's a very interesting film visually, and it uses Kiefer Sutherland correctly, as a character we are supposed to be creeped out by, though he might have hidden good intentions. In this decade, he inexplicably plays the hero. I don't think it's Sutherland that has changed as an actor, I think it's we that have changed as an audience.

The cast playing humans, Rufus Sewell, Jennifer Connelly and William Hurt, are all very good, but I really like the aliens played by Richard O'Brien (Riff-Raff from Rocky Horror), Ian Richardson (PM Urquhart in the House of Cards trilogy) and Bruce Spence (the Gyro Captain in The Road Warrior). An excellent selection of different bouquets of creepy.

Next is Donnie Darko, which was recommended to me by one of my favorite students, Rachel Wamsley. A lot of young people count Donnie Darko as their favorite film, which is unusual because next to no one saw this film in the theaters. There's even a second version, Donnie Darko: The Director's Cut and together both versions barely sold $1 million in tickets. Unlike Pan's Labyrinth, the ads for Darko actually make it look darker than it is. You might think it's a horror film looking at the ads, but it's more like a hero's journey. Good cast, interesting fantasy premise, six foot tall scary rabbit.

How can you not see it, now that you know?

You can thank me later, on behalf of a grateful nation.


Tara Mobley said...

I havn't seen Donnie Darko yet, but the other two are movies I own. I love Mirrormask's dreamlike storytelling, and I knew I'd like Dark City from the moment I saw the trailer for it.

Good reccomendations.

sfmike said...

Loved "Donnie Darko" and "Dark City," so I'll check out "Mirrormask" and your Richard Linklkater film festival which I've been avoiding for some reason, so thanks for the prodding.

As for "Pan's Labyrinth," I couldn't effing believe it when the movie was about five minutes from being over and I realized that (SPOILER ALERT!) they were going to kill the little girl, who's been the avatar of hope for the whole film. I wish somebody had warned me how dark the thing was going to be, because I wouldn't have gone.

Matty Boy said...

Hi, SFMike! I know how you feel. A few years ago, I rented Grave of the Fireflies, the anime that was a double bill with My Neighbor Totoro back in Japan. I loved Totoro and heard good things about Fireflies, but I wished someone would have warned me. It's very well done, but the ending is devastating.