Ocean Waves (1993, Directed by Tomomi Mochizuki) Japanese 8

Voices of Nobuo Tobita, Toshihiko Seki, Kae Araki, Yuri Amano, Takeshi Watabe, Hikaru Midorikawa

(8-Exceptional Film)

Wistful. Lovely. Skilled.

Taku: The whole thing was starting to feel like a bad soap opera.

Though produced by the famed Studio Ghibli, Ocean Waves doesn’t compare to most of the company’s typically grand, epic output such as Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Grave of the Fireflies, or Castle in the Sky. Ocean Waves works on a much smaller scale so that I don’t believe it would be condescending to describe it as modest, or you might prefer “a gem.” Told in flashback, set in the small city of Kōchi, a high school boy, Taku, develops feelings for Rikako, the aloof new girl in school, which causes a rift between him and his best friend, Yutaka, who saw her first. Working with fewer resources (apparently, the film was originally meant for T.V), Studio Ghibli managed to fashion one of their best works. It’s an endearing story, beautifully animated, and told sweetly.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(952)

The Barefoot Contessa (1954, Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz) English 8

Starring Humphrey Bogart, Ava Gardner, Edmond O’Brien, Rossano Brazzi, Warren Stevens, Marius Goring, Valentina Cortese

Ava Gardner in The Barefoot Contessa 1954 (photo taken by Annoth ...

(8-Exceptional Film)

Sumptuous. Cynical. Unique.

Jerry: What she’s got you couldn’t spell – and what you’ve got, you used to have.

I admire the way Joseph L Mankiewicz, both director and writer, plays with structure. He showcased this originality earlier with the films, A Letter to Three Wives and All About Eve. In The Barefoot Contessa, we begin at dancer-turned-movie star, Maria Vargas’ funeral, and then flashback to her life episodically through different characters’ recollections of the great diva. Harry Dawes (Bogart) is a jaded Hollywood director and played a significant role in luring Vargas to movie acting. Oscar Muldoon (O’Brien) is a lap dog but a consummate publicist and makes Maria a star. Alberto Bravano (Goring) is a spoiled multimillionaire who always gets his way until he meets Maria, and Count Vincenzo (Brazzi) loves Maria too much for any good to come of it. It’s maudlin, soap opera material but the great directors of the time (and I certainly include Mankiewicz) infused the melodrama with great style, wit, and biting commentary. The Barefoot Contessa is one of the most glorious exemplars of color ever produced. The stars are well-suited to their characters- Gardner, in particular, is given her most substantial role- and the dialogue is magnificent.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(951)

Penelope (2006, Directed by Mark Palansky) English 6

Starring Christina Ricci, James McAvoy, Nick Frost, Catherine O’Hara, Richard E. Grant, Peter Dinklage, Simon Woods, Reese Witherspoon, Burn Gorman, Russell Brand

Penelope - Movies on Google Play

(6-Good Film)

Agreeable. Light. Undercooked.

Penelope: They always run. Why can’t you accept that? For seven years I’ve been watching them run. Do you have any idea how that makes me feel?

Fairy Tales are an ancient form of storytelling at this point and the idea of a romantic lead being cursed with animal features along with it. Disney reimagined and popularized fairy tales as wish-fulfillment, and now most modern fairy tales, including Penelope, owe more to Disney than they do to the Brothers Grimm or to Beaumont or to whomever else. Penelope is wish-fulfillment. A smart, wonderful girl, the titular Penelope (Ricci), wonders if any man could truly love her as she is, with a nose cursed to resemble a pig’s. The Beast in Disney’s classic not only looked like a beast but acted like one too, and he, of course, found love. I find it amusing that Penelope is virtually flawless aside from her nose and it’s a serious question as to whether or not she’ll find someone. Alas, this is a fantasy. The characters are broad, the reactions extreme. I like Penelope a good deal as entertainment, but find it wanting as a fairy tale. There’s not much depth to the story, whereas the great ones speak volumes.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(950)

My Sassy Girl (2001, Directed by Kwak Jae-yong) Korean 7

Starring Jun Ji-hyun, Cha Tae-hyun, Kim In-moon, Song Ok-sook, Han Jin-hee, Yang Geum-seok

My Sassy Girl' (2001): An Inexplicable Non-Romance | Express ...

(7-Very Good Film)

Quirky. Cute. Appealing.

The Girl: Wanna die?

It’s rare and largely unnecessary for a romantic comedy to feature any measure of originality. Most people look to the genre for easy laughs, cute faces, and a reassuring story. My Sassy Girl is now nearly twenty years old, but I’m struck by how fresh it feels. The setup is familiar enough. On the subway one evening, a young man, Gyeon-woo (Cha), meets a very drunk girl, simply referred to as The Girl in credits, played by Jun Ji-hyun. She throws up, he’s burdened with seeing her home, and later, through a serious misunderstanding, Gyeon-woo is tossed in prison. So begins their relationship and it’s a strange one, chiefly because she’s a bizarre girl; demanding, moody, reckless. Gyeon-woo can’t help himself from falling for her, and it’s a credit to the actress that we fully understand. Mean girlfriends aren’t anybody’s idea of a romantic lead but Jun and the quirky writing make The Girl a slow charmer. My Sassy Girl relies heavily on misunderstandings; for its humor and its story. That’s generally considered a weakness in movie storytelling but it works here and the final misunderstanding leads to a surprising and satisfying finale.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(949)

Dragonball: Evolution (2009, Directed by James Wong) English 3

Starring Justin Chatwin, Jamie Chung, Emmy Rossum, Chow Yun-fat, James Marsters, Joon Park, Randall Duk Kim, Ernie Hudson, Megumi Seki

15 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Dragonball Evolution – IFC

(3-Horrible Film)

Inept. Lame. Childish.

Goku: Teach me, how to talk to a girl. I mean, I’m different, and everyone at school can see that, teach me how to get a girl, how to be smooth… how to be normal!

Evil Lord Piccolo returns to Earth after millenniums emprisoned. He seeks the seven magic Dragonballs that grant the owner one wish. The young, powerful hero, Goku (Chatwin), teams up with Bulma (Rossum), Chi-Chi (Chung), Yamcha (Park), and Master Roshi (Yun-fat) to unite the Dragonballs before Lord Piccolo can get to them and unleash his minion, Ōzaru. This is not a good film. The immediate comparison is The Last Airbender because the two movies vie for worst adaptation of something great in film history. Like The Last Airbender, Dragonball: Evolution feels like it was made by people who didn’t even like the source material. They hack it to bits. Here, at least, the characters’ names are the same (this much is not true of The Last Airbender). It’s not a painful watch, unlike a number of terrible films, but it’s consistently poor, juvenile, and unexciting.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(948)

Dil Chahta Hai (2001, Directed by Farhan Akhtar) Hindi 8

Starring Aamir Khan, Akshaye Khanna, Dimple Kapadia, Preity Zinta, Saif Ali Khan, Sonali Kulkarni

Flashback Friday: Dil Chahta Hai

(8-Exceptional Film)

Compelling. Attractive. Intimate.

Akash Malhotra: Dad, there is more to life than just signing checks.

Akash’s father: Really… What is that?

I don’t know of many films (or novels, for that matter) that focus on typical males in their twenties. Dil Chahta Hai stars Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan, and Akshaye Khanna as best friends Akash, Sameer, and Sid; three adult university students trying to find their direction in life as they fall into complicated relationships. Carefree Akash falls in love with a girl, Shalini (Zinta), engaged to a rich jerk, Sameer discovers he has feelings for the woman, Pooja (Kulkarni), his parents tried to set him up with, and Sid, worst of all, becomes infatuated with a troubled older woman, Tara (Kapadia). Great music, a fresh look at modern India (despite this being nearly 20 years old), and engaging romance make this a classic. I’d rank it with Barry Levinson’s Diner (1982) as the best film about twenty-somethings.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(947)

Highlander II: The Quickening (1991, Directed by Russell Mulcahy) English 3

Starring Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery, Virginia Madsen, Michael Ironside, John C. McGinley, Allan Rich

7 Ways Highlander 2 is the Most Ultimately Awful Action Movie of ...

(3-Horrible Film)

Incomprehensible. Hack. Laughable.

MacLeod: There can be only one.

I’m not a fan of the original Highlander, though the cult classic has a cool concept. MacLeod (Lambert), a 16th-century Scottish warrior, is immortal, fighting his arch-nemesis, The Kurgan, and romancing women through the centuries. Highlander II brings back its stars, even Sean Connery inexplicably (he died in the first one), and shoves them into a science fiction plot involving Ozones, immortal aliens, and a dystopian future. These things may sound cool and maybe that was the problem. I imagine that in the brainstorming stage for whoever wrote this, every idea seemed like a good idea, and no one ever cared to do any editing. Highlander 2 makes no sense. I’m confident about this. It’s not that I didn’t pay attention or that I didn’t get it, it’s that this film makes no sense. I couldn’t tell you with any certainty the motivation behind why anything happens. I don’t know how MacLeod and Virginia Madsen’s characters fall in love after knowing each other for two minutes. There are a couple of sequences that I can enjoy individually apart from the movie and without any context-because, again, I don’t know what is going on. I mainly didn’t like the first one because of Christopher Lambert’s performance. He’s even worse here. He’s a charisma vacuum-at least in English. I’m sure he’s better in his native language, but his nonexistent Scottish accent never gets mentioned when people discuss all-time bad movie accents and it should.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(946)