Showing posts with label Film Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Film Reviews. Show all posts

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Review - Porco Rosso

Porco Rosso is a Japanese animated film, written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki from Studio Ghibli. Miyazaki is a famous animator, known as the Japanese Walt Disney due to the height of his popularity in Japan. While he was more renowned in his home country, he finally made his name in Hollywood when he won an Oscar for his animated film Spirited Away, in 2002.

I have been a fan of the Studio Ghibli films after watching Princess Mononoke and long held a desire to watch some of the studio's earlier works from the 80s and 90s, but unfortunately these films were not released outside of Japan. However, the success of Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away soon led to the Studio Ghibli back catalogue being slowly released on DVD in America, and eventually to the UK.

Porco Rosso was one of the films I had read about long before getting a chance to see it and the description and photos I had seen online definitely piqued my interest in this film. Porco Rosso is the story of a former Italian fighter pilot who has retired to the Adriatic Sea after World War One. He makes his living as a freelance bounty hunter and frequently clashes with the local air pirates. Oh, and I should point out, he's a pig. Literally, a pig!

At some point prior to the film's beginning, Porco was cursed and his once human features disappeared, and he became a talking pig. This embitters him somewhat, and his personality becomes that of a recluse, shunning company and depriving himself of a potential relationship with the local bar-owner, Gina. The story develops when a dashing American pilot arrives at the island and not only works with the pirates to rid themselves of this troublesome pig, but gradually becomes involved in a love triangle between him, Gina and Porco. The tension between the two pilots threatens to break out as their rivalry increases.

I loved this film, mainly due to the unique setting. There aren't many animated films set during the two World Wars in the Adriatic Sea, and there's a definite romantic mood to the story, which I really enjoyed. It's reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast in some ways, mixed in with a dash of Casablanca. The beauty of the film is that it works on two levels, it's entertaining enough for children to watch on a purely aesthetic level with the flying pig and air battles, but there's also a really strong and adult story behind it. Like the best animated films, it is made for both children and parents to enjoy together.

The film has a slow, gentle pace and there's no gore, violence or unsuitable scenes. It's actually quite laid-back, like its setting and spends the majority of the screen time, developing both the characters and the mood of the film, rather than fumble from action scene to action scene. That's not to say there's no action in the movie, the climatic scenes are particularly thrilling and you'll be hoping that this pig can least, better than a dashing American can.

I would recommend this to families who enjoy Disney films and want to try something similar, but with a different approach. There's no sing-along theme songs in this or goofy sidekick characters – it's a good film with a strong plot that just happens to be about an animated flying pig. To that end, people without young children can still enjoy this film and take something from it. It's a great introduction to the world of Studio Ghibli, which has nearly thirty years of back catalogue of strong, narrative-driven animated movies to discover.

This DVD includes the American voice-over edition, with Michael Keaton as Porco Rosso and Cary Elwes as Curtis. It also contains the original Japanese soundtrack with English subtitles if you prefer to view the movie, as intended. The American dub is pretty good, unlike some anime voice-overs and the characters both sound as you'd expect and the script hasn't been changed drastically. In terms of special features, there are some storyboards to view through the disc menus, an interview with the producer, Toshio Suzuki, and the Original Japanese trailer, which is interesting to watch after seeing the film, just to see how different their trailers are to ours.

The film is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from retailers, such as

Score - 9.1 out of 10

"Now I believe in Flying Pigs"

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Review - Dredd 3D

Judge Dredd is a comic series that has been running in the British anthology comic, 2000AD, since 1977 and more-or-less appeared in every one of its weekly issues (or Progs, as they are known). The series was originally conceived by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra as a Dirty Harry in the future, and many of the early strips were rather action-heavy featuring the borderline fascist Judge Dredd as he dispensed instant justice to the citizens of Mega City One. Unlike most US comic creations, Judge Dredd aged in real time and his characterisation has vastly changed over the years, to the point where he has grown more disillusioned with the Judges and their role in society, particularly in terms of the mutant segregation.

Most popular in the UK where he was created, Judge Dredd did manage to spawn one big-screen outing where he was portrayed by Sylvester Stallone and memorably bawled out the words, "I am the Law" in a Rocky-style bellow. It wasn't well-received by critics, yet some people (including myself) have a minor soft spot for it, thinking it was probably the only time we'd see Mega City One realised on-screen...until now, that is. Released in September 2012, Dredd was an attempt to reboot the franchise with a story and a tone appropriate to the source material. The script, written by Alex Garland, featured heavy input from the series creator, John Wagner, ensuring this attempt had the blessing of those who had worked on it from its beginnings as a comic strip. The film utilised 3D effects, as well as "slo-mo" - a side effect of an illegal narcotic manufactured by the film's villain, Ma-Ma.

Having seen both film versions of Judge Dredd, I can easily say that Dredd is the better of the two. Not only does Karl Urban play the tough-as-nails Judge perfectly, but he also doesn't feel the need to remove the helmet in order to showcase his own face. Stallone, on the other hand, whipped off his helmet as soon as he could and paraded through the film acting rather emotional in a non-Dredd manner.

The storyline focuses on Dredd taking a new recruit, the psychic Judge Anderson, on a routine assessment and they manage to pick a homicide at Peach Trees block as their assignment. Quickly, events escalate and the two Judges find themselves trapped in the tower block with a blood-thirsty gang of criminals after them, whilst attempting to escort their prisoner out of the building. 

Rather smartly, in my opinion  the plot skirts from some of the more absurd elements of the Judge Dredd mythos such as: Droid Revolutions, Clones, Judge Death and the other supernatural villains. I would recommend any sequels stick to this more realistic tone for the world in which Dredd lives. It doesn't look as hi-tech as the stories in 2000AD, nor does it have to. The post-apocalyptic Mega City One in this film feels somewhat similar to Mad Max and I think that mood suits the franchise better. Perhaps future sequels could focus on the Cursed Earth and possibly the Angel gang?

Olivia Thirlby acts as the emotional centre of the film, portraying the fresh-faced Anderson, who spends the entirely of the film without her helmet, as a nice contrast to Dredd. In fact, later on in the film there are multiple Judge's on-screen and it does become difficult to work out which is which, so perhaps Stallone did have a point in removing the helmet all those years ago! I liked how the whole movie was effectively her probation test and how she was constantly quizzed by Dredd throughout it. I'm sure the rookie on trial storyline has been done several times in the comics, but it was nice to see it represented on-screen.

The film has a fair amount of gore and some inventive deaths, featuring the varied range of Judge Dredd's multiple ammunition. Also, surprising was the level of swear-words used in the film. The 2000AD stories obviously don't feature as many F-bombs as the film does and relies on its own in-story bad language such as "Drokk". While the film didn't stick to that language, there were plenty of nice references to the comic book in terms of graffiti in the Block. Keen eyes would be able to spot 'Chopper' (a sky-surfer character from the comics) and Sternhammer Block (a reference to Strontium Dog, another series by John Wagner)

Overall, this was a very stylish film that bucked the trend of the big-budget blockbuster and took an independent route. The design and mood was heavily influenced by the location (it was shot in South Africa) and felt like a nice combination of Mad Max and Die Hard, yet it still managed to carve out its own identity. I would recommend this to anyone who has ever read a Judge Dredd story and wanted to see it realised in live-action, as well as anyone who saw Stallone's portrayal of Dredd, in order to show them how it should be done. My only real concern is whether or not a sequel could be as successful, considering that they will need to introduce more elements from Dredd's world which may change the 'back to basics' tone of this iteration of the franchise.

Score - 9.2 out of 10

"Go see it, punk!"

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