Too Busy For Words - the PaulWay Blog

Tue 4th Apr, 2006

Robots!

The problem with the world today is that it's very difficult for the Emptor to have any Caveat any more. In an age where I can buy a DVD and have it delivered to me without me leaving home, knowing what you're getting is a very difficult process. When you get a part that's shrink-wrapped into its box so you can't open it without paying the money, and the only way to know if it works is to assemble it completely and smother it with heat-sink goo, if you haven't already seen that exact model before then you're probably going to have to buy it to find out if it works or not.

The DVD I got of Robots! is a prime example. I'm sure that there are DVDs of this movie out there that have all their menus working perfectly; that don't have bundles of annoying ads for other productions (two of Garfield movies! Aieeee!). But how do you know? How do you try it out (even in a store) to make sure that what you're getting is exactly what you expect, even if you want to waste four hours of your time in a store (even if the staff would let you).

The minor gripes I have with Madagascar also apply here: fast, somewhat jerky motion, and a plot that doesn't seem to really know where it's going. And does everything have to dance? Hip-hop, breakdance style? The director commented that they were still refining the plot, and even the character models, as they went through animating the movie. This may explain it - but all this is really only a fairly minor niggle.

I still do enjoy it. It's a good, simple tale, I love seeing the mechanical world - anyone who's gazed at The Gravitram for as long as I have will enjoy the public transit system, and the characters are fun. I think the fact that 'big' names like Robin Williams, Mel Gibson, Samuel Jackson and Bruce Willis (among, of course, others) are recording voices for animated movies really does add a lot of extra chutzpah to the film. Keep it up, guys!

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Thu 30th Mar, 2006

Apres Vous

It's a French Farce. They're very good at it. It makes me cringe, all to visibly and to Kate's great embarrassment. I want to yell out, "No, don't buy 500€ worth of flowers in the vague hope that it will set up a meeting between a no-hoper and his ex-partner who doesn't really want to see him." In part because I feel like I'm one living the farce, sometimes, constantly saying "yes" to more projects and letting problems fester and get out of hand because I haven't the courage to sit down and solve them. I don't need any more of a reminder that sometimes my life looks like a disaster and I the wilful instigator of it.

But the acting is brilliant, the story clever, the women beautiful and the men masculine and French, and it's all rather neat. It's worth seeing.

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Thu 23rd Mar, 2006

Capslock cannot truly express my fangirly joy!

Another in the long string of movies I've placed on order at EzyDVD arrived today. I tore open the envelope and revealed Howl's Moving Castle, another in Hayao Miyazaki's string of animated classics. I'm still getting into Japanese Anime, and I think this is an excellent way to do it - brilliant animation, brilliant stories, and without the dodgy Fanservice, subtitles and inscrutable oriental plots of other more true Anime.

This is an adaption of a book by Diana Wynne Jones, which I have also read a little while ago. As such, from what I can recall it's not a perfectly accurate rendition of the book - I think the ending is a bit more twisted toward Japanese sensibilities. Given that I can't recall the ending or the subtle nuances of plot in the book, I don't think I'm really one to comment, though. I finished the book really wondering what had happened and why. The movie was a bit more straight forward, while still retaining the ambiguity that made it so interesting.

I won't attempt to summarise the movie. I think it does live up to its PG rating - I think the older of my four nieces (age 10) would probably cope but Megan, at 6, is going to be scared by some bits. But, in my view, this is why PG means Parental Guidance rather than Pleases Girls or Pretty Gruesome - it means that as long as an adult is there to say "It's OK" or to explain why some things happened the way they did, it's alright. Children only learn to be brave by learning that scary things aren't really that bad, and they only learn to be adult by observing adults in the same situation they've been in. And this is definitely a film (and a book) for kids.

The other thing I like about it is that it's a film with a message. In this age of Shark Tales and Treasure Planet, animations which dumb everything down and exaggerate everything up and spend more time painfully zigzagging toward the wonderful happy ending where everything works out, this is a movie which poses some questions and asks the viewer to think about them. An ongoing war which people seem only to be agitating for, not trying to get out of; the question of whose side people are on; looks being deceiving; the idea that some things are problems only to us while we let them be problems. These are things that the viewer has to work out - things that'll never be in a kid's movie done by a major studio because the hoary hags that sit on their thrones in the big studios think that children only like pabulum; they only want funny, silly stuff with more rapper slang than sensible dialogue. Eugh. Give me Miyazaki any day.

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Tue 21st Mar, 2006

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

Went to see this at the ANU Film Group tonight with Kate, Trevor (brother-in-law) and our two nieces Kira and Angela (Trevor's daughters, you see). Unfortunately they're still struggling with technology troubles - they had got an alternate print that had three large reels instead of half a dozen small ones, but because one projector is dead and awaiting its costly technician to wander Canberra-ward, they had to show one reel and then take a five minute break to unthread the old reel and thread the new. This was surprisingly bearable.

It's been a long long time since I read the book, and as far as I can recall the movie is surprisingly faithful to it. It's reasonably paced, doesn't do the 'gripping thrill a minute' thing that they obviously strive for in Harry Potter (which is a mercy), and nicely free from American accents. Interestingly, they start with a bombing raid over London to show both the times and the characters, before you get to the old mansion with its large number of hiding places. It's a nice touch.

The special effects are wonderful - a very few times I (being the picky sod that I am for effects) picked up something not quite right. But the ability to have all these creatures, big and small, hideous and beautiful, hairy and feathered and horned and grimy, appear so convincingly real; so many directors must be wishing they'd had this technology. I remember going to see Tron, and being blown away by those effects - these days they can render that in real time... Tron had its 20th anniversary not too long ago, either.

The only incongrous bit, to me, was the age of the characters versus the storyline. Put simply, I just don't think like a twelve-year-old any more. Even Harry Potter, despite sharing the common theme that any old person could suddenly turn out to be fated by prophecy to bring down the evil empire, has Harry not wanting the fame or fortunes. Maybe I'm being too harsh - certainly the film doesn't have Peter or Sarah saying "Oh, we're the children from the prophecy, let's go off and slay the evil queen, then!" The sight of a fifteen-year-old boy drawing a sword and leading the army just doesn't quite have that ring of believability to me any more. Sad, when these things die in us.

I will probably be corrected here, but I see it as a good sign that there are production companies willing to make books into films and not bugger the story with a forty-tonne pile-driver. I have this hope that someone will go to Terry Pratchett and say, "You know that book 'Thief Of Time' you wrote? We'd like to do it, exactly as you wrote it." Or 'Mort'; the famous 'lose the Death angle' book. Or even 'Good Omens', which would be a lot easier to do and has more talk about it than any other pTerry work. That or The Belgariad by David and Leigh Eddings. I live in hope.

Have fun, Paul

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