Malice in Wonderland

Malice in Wonderland (2009) – [rate 3.5]

Having recently seen the new Alice in Wonderland, it was interesting to watch this adaptation of the classic to fit the current day London underworld. Amusing translations, like the Mad Hatter getting angry at Alice for eating all his cakes – in Malice, the Mad Hairdresser (who happens to be a madam as well) gets angry at Alice for “losing her tarts”, because she drive a truck full of prostitutes down the road without closing the doors and some inevitably fall off.

It’s that kind of gags that make Malice enjoyable, as well as the inventive adaptation of the story to the plight of a 21th century well-to-do teenager. The acting is a bit flaky and the production isn’t top-notch either, but it doesn’t get in the way of the movie and overall it’s worth seeing.

Oblivion Island

Hottarake no shima – Haruka to maho no kagami (Oblivion Island) (2009) – [rate 3.5]

Oblivion Island has a very original style, mixing a strange brand of hand drawn backdrops with perspective added in with computing, with characters that are fully rendered CGI. It’s a family movie and the plot is strongly reminiscent of Spirited Away. A bit too much, in my opinion, it becomes “one of those movies”.

The basic premise is clever: somewhere there’s an island where all the objects that mankind neglects are brought to, after being stolen bij fox-like serfs of some Shinto-deity. The creatures on this island have no technology of their own, but using whatever they can get their hands on and some moderate magic, they have shaped the entire island out of second hand goods.

The visuals are wonderful, but the movie is too long for its content and tends to drag on a bit around the middle. The plot is predictable, though that might be expected for a family movie, but there are hardly any surprises at all.

Recommended if you’ve already watched Spirited Away ten times and your kids are still clamoring for more.

Tears for Sale

Carlston za Ognjenku (Tears for Sale) (2008) – [rate 3.5]

Eastern European movies are in league of their own. Whenever I watch a movie from Chec(sp?), Polish, Russian or in this case Serbian movie, I get reminded that I should really plan a holiday to visit countries that have a culture so clearly separate (but no less interesting) from our own.

Tears for Sale has an exuberant, merry style – even though it is a movie about funeral wailers in a town where all men have been killed by war. It’s both serious and not at all serious and the crowded musical scenes and the whimsical characters reminded me of Hipsters. Most of the characters are stereotypical, but many scenes contain so many characters that it doesn’t matter and the plot certainly doesn’t suffer.

Recommended if you like the Eastern European style.

European Shorts #1

Always a lot of fun, the shorts. Watching the shorts adds to the flavour of the festival, although it can be hard to remember all of them, considering you’re watching a small dozen shorts back to back. The best was clearly saved for last with the excellent Logorama. But the ultra-short Barbie Butcher got a very good laugh as well.

Fantastic Mr. Fox

(2009) – [rate 4]

A star-studded cast in this latest Wes Anderson movie. And not just a movie, stop-motion animated movie about animals fighting humans in a Watership Down meets Wallace and Gromit if Roald Dahl had written it sort of way. Roald Dahl did write this story and his specific brand of humour, combined with some scenes that are no less Wes Anderson than his non-animation features make this one a worthwhile watch – though it is said that mr. Anderson’s actual involvement with the movie wasn’t as extensive as the billing might lead you to believe.

The voice acting is very good, the jokes are well-paced and sharp and there are many visual gags that got a healthy laugh out of me. This movie is very funny, looks great and will appeal to all ages, or at least the ages that Roald Dahl generally appeals to.

The plot could perhaps have done with a little more interest and depth, even as a movie for all ages. Apart from a subtext about the nature of creatures, both psychological and biologicalm the story is pretty straightforward, but lacking the whimsical twists and turns a good Wallace and Gromit will offer.

Do watch the title roll at the end – you might be amazed at the amount of fame in there, especially considering the brevity of some of the roles.

Summer Wars

Summer Wars (2009) – [rate 4.5]

The festival kicks off (for me at least) with a wonderful animated feature about a boy lucking his way into spend a week of the summer with the most popular girl in school, who happens to be a young daughter of former Japanese nobility. Sound to sappy for your tastes?

Just wait until the fate of the world ends up in the hands of a gamer fighting off a rampant A.I. bent on destroying the world because of a penchant for games and no moral inhibitions. Did I mention the boy is a math genius, skillful enough to break serious encryption overnight? Wargames anyone?

The strange mix of approaches actually works very well and the attention to detail of everyday Japanese life, as well as the family situation lend a great deal of character to a movie that feels very ‘now’. There’s some serious fiction in here, but it’s set in today’s world and addresses our place in it with very lighthearted drama and even though there’s some impressive action sequences, I’d expected this movie to be rated all ages.

Recommended and very humorous, I’d say you can’t go wrong watching this.


Hellboy (2004) – [rate 2.0]

After watching Hellboy II on the big screen, I felt the need to rewatch Hellboy, since I’d missed the middle part the first time I watched it and never gave it a good look. One thing I immediately noticed is how much Hellboy and Hellboy II are the same. The story, the characters and even some of the visual jokes and action scenes are so much the same that, in retrospect, I should really lower the score (3.5) I gave Hellboy II. Continue reading Hellboy

Hellboy II: the Golden Army

Hellboy II: the Golden Army (2008) – [rate 3.5]

The signature style of Guillermo del Toro and Mike Mignola’s comic universe of Hellboy and the BPRD mix surprisingy well in this fantasy action thriller. Although the story is fairly straightforward and bears little hidden meaning, it’s entertaining and it looks great on the big screen. With a fantastic universe that’s likely to remind you strongly of del Toro’s recent Pan’s Labyrinth, the movie has its own feel, but lacks real originality, both in story and in setting. What originality it has, it lends from the comic book intellectual property of Mignola. Continue reading Hellboy II: the Golden Army

The Golden Compass

The Golden Compass (2007) [rate 2]

A bit of a disappointment for me. Although I like the story – in the book – far better than the overly hyped Harry Potter, this movie doesn’t deliver as the Harry Potter movies did for the Potter fans. Apart from the usual gripes like not everything from the book being in the movie, I feel this movie goes wrong in some other ways that are far more detrimental. Continue reading The Golden Compass

I am Legend

I am Legend (2007) [rate 2.5]

I like how movies are picking up more and more on the wealth of visual storytelling that comics have to offer. With recent successes like Sin City (2005) and 300 (2006) and perhaps slightly less successful offerings like V for Vendetta (2005) (which was not all bad in my opinion), the genre is building a nice position for itself. I am Legend adds a nice piece to that line, though I think it could have been a lot better. Continue reading I am Legend