[edit] # 12:45 (2) comments
Howl's Moving Castle

Those who are familiar with the subtitled version of the Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli movies, such as My Friend Totoro, Princess Mononoke, or Spirited Away will be disappointed by this dubbed, Disney-presented version of Howl's Moving Castle. The story taken from one written by Diana Wynne Jones, focuses on Sophie - a milliner who chances upon Howl while walking to a bakery to meet her sister.

Because of this chance meeting she is visited by a witch who casts a spell on her, making her an elderly woman. Not knowing what to do, she heads out to the land of the wastes in search of her sister (which they mention, but don't elaborate on in the film). On her way out there she meets a friendly scarecrow who helps her and leads her to Howl's Moving Castle.

She is cold and not knowing what else to do, sits by the fire. The fire (Calicifer, voiced by Billy Crystal) asks her to help release him from the spell he is under (as virtual slave of Howl), and in return he will help release her from the spell she is under. They make the pact and she falls asleep.

In the morning she meets the castle's inhabitants, Howl and Morkel (his apprentice), and suddenly she becomes the cleaning lady and an indispensable part of the household.

The problems with the story are immense, I couldn't help thinking that there was perhaps a director's cut, that is just waiting for release on dvd. There were a few storylines that weren't pursued, that seemed like they should have. The biggest being the lack of a situational transformation for Sophie. Her character doesn't really experience an arc in the story, so how can she have changed? And how about Sophie's family, what were the dynamics there? They seemed to introduce the relationships, but didn't explain motivations. Also, why was the scarecrow so attached to Sophie, we aren't given much poignant moments and how did the Prince's disappearance lead to the War?

The visuals by Studio Ghibli are wonderful, the contrast of the castle with the 2-D of the inhabitants was beautifully illustrated. The cartoon, aesthetically, is spot-on in typical Ghibli-style. I'm not sure they are worth sitting through the holey story, the bad voicing by Christian Bale, or the trite lines.

I think that Disney wanted a way to release a cartoon that was solely for the 3-9 year-old set, because that is the only demographic that I can think of that would be able to ignore those factors in a film. Especially if the film is visually stunning.

Howl's Moving Castle is playing in theatres everywhere.

 [edit] # 11:25 (0) comments
Shape of the Moon

In Shape of the Moon, Leonard Retel Helmrich brings us a very slow paced documentary about the travails of a Christian family in predominantly Muslim Indonesia. Due to the ease that the family allowed, Retel Helmrich was able to film key moments in the family's life. And Retel Helmrich was able to film some absurdist moments, such as when a neighbor comes to look for an apple that has disappeared.

A refreshing documentary, it's been awhile since I've questioned if what I was watching was staged or not. The feature is at times frustrating and funny at turns and the last scene is heartbreaking in its inevitability.

Look for this Sundance award winner at art house theatres and maybe on the Sundance Channel on Doc Day.

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It's for Flicknuts, see.

Previously on Flicknut...
The Aristocrats
Howl's Moving Castle
Shape of the Moon
The Last Mitterrand: Last Socialist Standing
Turtles Can Fly
Palindromes: Backwards and Forwards
3 Iron: Houseguest
Oldboy: Revenge!


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