Archive for the Fantasy Category

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Posted in Comedy, Drama, Fantasy on February 10, 2015 by Mark Walker

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Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu.
Screenplay: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Alexander Dinelaris, Nicolás Giacobone, Armando Bo.
Starring: Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Amy Ryan, Andrea Riseborough, Lindsay Duncan, Craig Mums Grant, Frank Ridley, Bill Camp.

“Popularity is the slutty little cousin of prestige”

Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu is not normally known for his jeu d’esprit and has seemed more comfortable while dealing with heavily pessimistic and sombre themes. His previous films Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Babel and Biutiful are all excellent works but they require serious commitment to get yourself through their excruciatingly downbeat material. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that his latest effort in Birdman is ultimately about the fractured and fragile psyche of a man on a seemingly downward spiral. However, Birdman shows another side to Iñárritu’s talents; black it may be but he now surprisingly displays a great talent for comedy.

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The Grand Budapest Hotel

Posted in Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Fantasy on January 23, 2015 by Mark Walker

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Director: Wes Anderson.
Screenplay: Wes Anderson.
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, Edward Norton, Adrian Brody, F. Murray Abraham, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Saoirse Ronan, Jude Law, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel, Mathieu Amalric, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson, Tom Wilkinson, Léa Seydoux, Larry Pine, Florian Lukas, Karl Markovics, Waris Ahluwalia, Wally Wolodarsky, Bob Balaban, Fisher Stevens.

“You see, there are still faint glimmers of civilization left in this barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity. Indeed that’s what we provide in our own modest, humble, insignificant… Oh, fuck it”

Those familiar with Wes Anderson will now know that his style needs no introduction. So much has been written or said about his idiosyncrasy that there are few adjectives left in which to describe his very unique approach to filmmaking and storytelling. Those that find him ostentatious or grandiose will likely want to avoid this (his eight film) while those that rejoice in his work will no doubt find this a boisterous festivity and celebration of his artistry.

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Maleficent

Posted in Adventure, Family, Fantasy with tags on June 5, 2014 by Mark Walker

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Director: Robert Stromberg.
Screenplay: Linda Woolverton.
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Sharlto Copley, Elle Fanning, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville, Juno Temple, Isobelle Molloy, Michael Higgins, Kenneth Carnham, Vivienne Jolie-Pitt.

I had wings once, and they were strong. But they were stolen from me

Better known for his visual effects supervision on such films as “Life of Pi“, or more significantly, as production designer on “Oz: The Great And Powerful” and winning consecutive Oscars for “Avatar” and “Alice In Wonderland“, Robert Stromberg now delves into his first directorial outing with a reimagining of the classic fairy tale, “Sleeping Beauty“. Much like the aforementioned “Oz“, the characters from this well known children’s story are playfully recreated in a lush and involving fantasy and with Stromberg’s expertise who better to take us on that journey?!…

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The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug

Posted in Action, Adventure, Fantasy with tags on January 9, 2014 by Mark Walker

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Director: Peter Jackson.
Screenplay: Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens.
Starring: Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ian McKellan, Evangeline Lilly, Orlando Bloom, Luke Evans, Lee Pace, Ken Stott, Graham McTavish, Aidan Turner, James Nesbitt, William Kircher, Stephen Hunter, Dean O’Gorman, John Callen, Peter Hambleton, Jed Brophy, Mark Hadlow, Adam Brown, Sylvester McCoy, Mikael Persbrandt, Stephen Fry, Ryan Gage, Cate Blanchett.

Truly songs and tales fall utterly short of your enormity, O Smaug the Stupendous…

Now a year down the line, the residing question of whether Peter Jackson’s decision to adapt “The Hobbit” into a trilogy was a wise choice or not, has become a little easier to answer. I’d have to say, that he can probably feel somewhat vindicated as his vision seems to be working. That being said, there’s still an abundance of padding and repetition going on in this second instalment – just as there was in the first – but Jackson has definitely improved here by ironing out the creases a little more.

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Big Trouble In Little China * * * *

Posted in Action, Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy, Horror with tags on September 13, 2013 by Mark Walker

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Director: John Carpenter.
Screenplay: Gary Goldman, David Z. Weinstein, W.D. Richter.
Starring: Kurt Russell, Kim Cattrall, Dennis Dun, James Hong, Victor Wong, Kate Burton, Suzee Pai, Donald Li, Carter Wong, Peter Kwong, James Pax, Al Leong, Jerry Hardin.

Director John Carpenter made some excellent films during the 70’s & 80’s – “Halloween“, “Assault on Precinct 13“, “The Thing“, “Escape from New York” and “Prince of Darkness“. Some of these are considered classics bit all take on a serious and/or horrific tone. However, Carpenter has also dabbled in comedy with his debut “Dark Star” in 1974 and “Memoirs of An Invisible Man” in 1992. Here, he combines his talents of horror and comedy and delivers, arguably, the most accessible and enjoyable film in his canon.

Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) is a loud-mouth, wise-cracking truck driver, who, while helping his friend Wang Chi (Dennis Dun) find his kidnapped girlfriend, is drawn into a world of centuries old Chinese mythology. Not before long, he’s battling evil spirits and two thousand year old sorcerer David Lo Pan (James Hong) intent on lifting an ancient curse and ruling the universe.

When released in 1986, Big Trouble In Little China received a very poor reception amongst cinema goers. It was a box-office bomb which greatly harmed the reputation of Carpenter (he went back to making independent films after this) and, to some extent, it’s star Russell. The fault of this doesn’t lie at their feet, though, but actually at the feet of the studio who simply didn’t know how to market it. In some ways, this is understandable as the film refuses to be pigeonholed. In the same breath, it can classed as a Kung Fu movie, a Western, a Fantasy, a Horror and a Romance. In essence, it’s all of these things and it’s also not without moments of Comedy. Carpenter delivers an unashamed homage to B-movie filmmaking and incorporates everything he possibly can. This may not work for some but over the years, this has gained a strong cult following, of which, I’m proud to say I’m a member. It has it’s tongue stuck firmly in it’s cheek and it’s aided immeasurably by Kurt Russell’s riotously entertaining surrogate of John Wayne. His performances have rarely been pitched better or his lines as endlessly quotable. Russell’s embodiment of Jack Burton has to be one of the most enjoyable and buffoonish characters that cinema has to offer and had the studio had their way, it would have been Clint Eastwood or Jack Nicholson in the role. Thankfully though, it wasn’t, as Russell absolutely nails it – in a style not unlike both of the aforementioned actors – and he and Carpenter skilfully orchestrate their gags on the cultural differences between the East and the West. Burton is very much like Indiana Jones (minus the intellect), as he battles his way through an underworld of the fantastical and the magical where he crosses paths with demonic and monstrous adversaries. If the film sounds over-the-top, that’s because it is, but it’s also a highly imaginative and energetic crowd pleaser.

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Wonderfully witty and adventurous, and one that sees Carpenter at his most gleefully entertaining. He crafts just the right balance of humour and action and his abilities to turn on the horror aren’t amiss either.

Mark Walker

Spirited Away * * * * 1/2

Posted in Adventure, Animation, Family, Fantasy with tags on September 3, 2013 by Mark Walker

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Director: Hayao Miyazaki.
Screenplay: Hayao Miyazaki.
Voices of: Daveigh Chase, Jason Marsden, Suzanne Pleshette, Michael Chiklis, Lauren Holly, John Ratzenberger, Tara Strong.

Having co-founded Studio Ghibli in 1985 and directed 11 films himself, the highly unique animator Hayao Miyazaki has unfortunately announced his retirement. The forthcoming “The Wind Rises” will be his last venture, so it now seems like a good time to look back at arguably his best film.

Chihiro is a 10 year old girl who is moving to a new neighbourhood when her father decides to take a short cut and gets the family lost in an abandoned theme park. Helping themselves to food that’s on display, Chihiro’s parents are transformed into pigs and it soon becomes clear that they have stumbled into an alternate reality. Chihiro is then forced to find a way to free herself and her parents and find a way back to the human world.

Quite simply, Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away” is a triumphant, fantastical, masterclass. Not only is his hand drawn animation as gorgeously refined and refreshing as ever, but his storytelling incorporates everything from the mythical to the magical, taking us on a truly breathtaking visual and intelligent journey. As his later film “Ponyo” would channel the likes of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid“, here, Miyazaki has undoubtedly crafted his version of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice In Wonderland” and it’s in this similar realm of imagination that he is able to flourish. We are introduced to a myriad of fantastical figures from Gods, Spirits and Witches to a Sea Dragon, an enormous baby and strange little coal miners, known as “Sootballs”. Despite the rich hand drawn animation, though, it’s not all played for fun. It’s a rights-of-passage tale about the progression of a child to adulthood while finding the time to comment on the economic downturn of Japan and the increasing loss of it’s culture to the western world. It’s this very complexity that makes this Miyazaki’s near masterpiece. The only issue with the film is that it’s overlong, resulting in periodic disengagement – especially for younger viewers. It’s runs just over the two hour mark and this is with several parts of the story cut out- the original version of Miyazaki’s story would have run over the three hour mark. That being said, this is still one of animation’s true classics and thoroughly deserving of it’s Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2002.

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A breathtaking tour de force from one of the finest and most imaginative storytellers that animation has ever seen. Sadly, there will only be one more outing from Miyazaki but thankfully we’ve had to the pleasure to enter into his creative genius at all. Such accomplished cinematic experiences will be sadly missed.

Mark Walker

Waking Life * * * * 1/2

Posted in Drama, Fantasy on July 3, 2013 by Mark Walker

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Director: Richard Linklater.
Screenplay: Richard Linklater.
Starring: Wiley Wiggins, Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Adam Goldberg, Nicky Katt, David Sosa, Alex Jones, Otto Hofmann, Lorelei Linklater, Richard Linklater.

Richard Linklater has always been an interesting director; he’s ranged from his debut independant hit “Slacker” to refreshing 70’s nostalgia in “Dazed and Confused”, through anti-corporate polemic “Fast Food Nation” and cult sci-fi “A Scanner Darkly”. He’s effortless in his range and always involving, but none more so than this unsung gem.

A young man (Wiley Wiggins) walks through life as if in a dream. He talks to a variety of people about the meaning of life and the purpose of the universe, striving for answers as to his direction and his place in the cosmos.

Waking Life is the type of film that’s hard to put into words. The striking visuals are most certainly noteworthy and Linklater’s exploration of the bigger questions in life will only appeal to those who invest and bring something to the film themselves. It has many insightful philosophical ramblings and monologues on the nature of our existence; the purpose of our being; the difference between our dream state and waking life; whether dreams can be controlled and how much they have to tell us.
Using an animation technique called ‘rotoscoping’ – which he later used to equally excellent effect in “A Scanner Darkly” – Linklater works with a medium that allows him to fully explore his ideas and theories in capturing a perfect representation of the dream world and has crafted a highly innovative and wonderfully surreal piece of work. Throughout the journey he discusses essays by paranoid science-fiction writer and philospher Philip K. Dick to lucid dreaming and poses deeply involving existential questions. These questions are never answered fully, teasing us to get involved in the process, question ourselves and become part of the protagonists hallucinogenic, dreamlike trip.

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A very intriguing and visually inventive film that isn’t afraid to wear it’s philosophical heart on it’s sleeve. Rarely are such movies delivered where they appeal to both the eye and the head. An existential treat.

Mark Walker

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