WWW: Weekend Wrental Wreviews 4

My Weekend Wrental Wreviews are back, although my wrental, er, rental activity was a little low in a week that included two trips to the movie theater and three band gigs! No week will ever go by in which I don’t get to a minimum of three movies, so let's see what DVDs I've watched this past week for the fourth edition of WWW:

1) Howl’s Moving Castle:
I’m definitely a fan of Hayo Miyazaki. His films harken back to the darker edged fairy tales of the likes of the Brothers Grimm. The palette is bright, but the world is just a bit twisted and off from our own, with shadows and distortion around every corner. Howl’s Moving Castle is definitely a tale of light versus shadow, of a young girl turned into an old woman by a curse, and the possibly less-than-human love interest who might be her only salvation. There’s awesome animation as always and some truly unique spins on magic and teleportation. The title structure possesses a particularly interesting door that leads to different places depending on how a dial is set. My one regret is watching the English dub of the film, because some celebrity voices are just too recognizable. I didn’t realize Christian Bale was in the film until the credits and subsequent special features, but Billy Crystal was just so Billy Crystal that all I heard was him, and not the character he was portraying. It took me out of the film at times. It’s a minor complaint for sure, in a film whose visuals are its greatest strengths in which a silent turnip-headed bouncing scarecrow often steals his scenes.

2) Holy Man:
I’m not really sure what to make of this one. At first, it was slow and put me to sleep, and I didn’t get through it the first night I tried. It had been a long week though, and I may have just been tired. I gave it another chance, and marginally ended up liking it, at least for the message it tries to convey. It’s not really a goofy comedy with Eddie Murphy playing a zany foil to the more sedate Jeff Goldblum. Murphy isn’t all that zany. He’s eccentric, but he’s a calm and spiritual man on a journey that’s never fully explained. Goldblum’s character is in danger of losing his job if he doesn’t boost the ratings on his shopping network, and putting the spiritual guru he has a chance encounter with on the highway into his shows gives him the boost he needs, until he reaches a crisis of conscience. The movie somehow feels unfinished or uneven, as though it’s never really sure whether it wants to be a comedy or a commentary on the evils of marketing and the preciousness of the time we have on this Earth, and how we can miss what’s really important. It’s a loose collection of bits that don’t fully play out, with some occasional shouting from Robert Loggia, and then it’s over. It was neither what I expected, nor what it could have been.

3) Conan the Destroyer:
This one felt more like a comic book movie than the first film , which isn’t necessarily bad, but in doing so it lost the epic edge. This one was just Arnie and his team, because every sequel needs more supporting characters, embarking on a surprisingly short quest to help a virgin retrieve a gem that, unbeknownst to them, will unlock a horn that can resurrect a demon. It’s an enjoyable adventure if you don’t look for too much other than medieval swordplay and Conan punching out a horse as well as the same camel he decked in the first film. And for some reason his thief sidekick is recast with a new annoying thief sidekick. This film also ends with the promise of a King Conan film, which we might have eventually seen had Arnold not given up acting for politics. He wears a crown on a troubled brow, just not as Mako foretold.

More reviews to follow next week after I've spun a few more discs!



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