much better films i watched lately

I went to the local video store a week ago. Amazing how decadent it felt. Don’t recall the last time I got a DVD from anywhere other than the library where they feel a social obligation to stock foreign films and a Community Services Card gets you half price off their already cheap rate. For whatever reason they don’t have Mirrormask, which I wanted to see and was annoyed it never got a big screen release here.



Enki Bilal made a movie! Holy shit! Bilal is mostly known as a French comics genius on the Humanoids imprint with Jodorowsky and the other freaks. The movie took three years to make and is a heady mix of CGI and live action. It looks basically incredible – this is the best use I’ve seen of CGI to create and enhance a world.

The setting is New York somewhere in the future where humans and modified humans live together in an uneasy apartheid. A giant pyramid has appeared in the sky and part of Central Park has succumbed to an intrusion which defies the laws of physics and kills anyone who enters. The God Horus is released for seven days before being imprisoned for eternity, and he’s got a plan…

A hell of a lot happens. We follow several storylines and characters. There is no pandering to morons as you piece together the plot. Bilal’s transition from comic to film pacing is at times uneasy but always interesting. This is in no way a standard story, either.

The look and design is incredible. It packs in the weird and wonderful in a way that defies easy description without spoiling far too much – it has cool monsters, cute helpful technology, very mysterious characters, metal legs, levitating corpses, love and Egyptian gods killing time playing Monopoly – and this is well worth tracking down. A lush gem. (Ignore the cover, which, if it was a Hollywood movie, would spell b-grade SF crap.)

Sin City

As an exercise in style and attitude it’s hugely enjoyable. Succeeds because it goes balls out the entire time. Over the top uber noir. Frank Miller must have been pretty damn happy; previously I’d only read the Marv storyline, but this all felt really true to the material. Clive Owen was cool, as was that whole storyline. On the whole felt a little long by the end.

Would be really interesting to be 16 and experience something like that. It would take your head off.


Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean deliver exactly what they deliver. Very kidult, Labyrinth-y vibe, which keeps it from getting too dark. But basically once they hit the dream stuff, it’s like a giant Dave McKean painting come to life, which is all you can really ask for, with Gaiman’s cutesy dream logic in full sway. A range of quietly talented actors give good performances. Solid, but doesn’t break any new ground in content for long term fans, I reckon, just takes it to a different medium.

One thing of interest is that these three films are all incredibly heavily reliant on CGI. Like vast majorities shot on green stages. And they all do it well, and differently, to create worlds impossible without it. As something of a fantasist at heart, this is really heartening. The ability to bring to life a vision previously impossible is really tempting. Maybe there’s something in film worth doing after all. Immortal is most successful in creating a believeable fusion world, despite occasional lapses into Playstation cut scene levels of CGI (their gear improved drastically over the course of the making, however, and bodes really well.)


Clever, no budget sci fi movie that leaves you thinking you only got about 85% of what was happening and that a rewatch is probably in order once time gets itself in a right tangle. Not sure why, but I kept expecting it to get really nasty and it never did. Possibly frustrating, but well worth a look.

Howl’s Moving Castle

Miyazaki makes exactly a Miyazaki movie out of Western source material. Young girl heroines, weird flying machines, magicky stuff, an oddball cast of cute characters, a certain amount of goo. Fine and enjoyable but inessential.

The other one was The Island, about which far too much has already been said below, and which probably suffered greatly in the above company.

6 Responses to “much better films i watched lately”

  1.   Scott C
    July 28th, 2006 | 9:56 am

    Ah ha – I’ve seen all of those except Howls Moving Castle.

    Immortal was cool – a bit confusing to start with but some truley ground break approaches to mixing up the world or high technology, magic and humans.

    I really enjoyed Mirrormask – very much like an updated Labrynth – but with more (looks for appropriate word) “grit?”. Never too dark, but not quite as whimsical as Lab. Thought it was really good and was certainly a feast for the eyes!

    I actually wasn’t so impressed by Sin City… dunno why, felt like a watered down version of the comic… but well done I admit.

    I like primer. A lot. It’s better on the second watch through a week after.

    Yay – there are many cool films out there…

  2.   Joey
    July 28th, 2006 | 12:09 pm

    I thought that Sin City was arse and boring, but that Howl’s Moving Castle was Miyazaki’s second best movie (after Spirited Away) and absolutely essential – heaps better than Princess Mononoke, for example.

  3.   Scott A
    July 28th, 2006 | 2:26 pm

    I often watch a movie two times in a row, but the second time I’ll be listening to the commentary while the movie is still fresh.

    Primer, as you may’ve noted lacked a commentary: I still immediately restarted it, as soon as it finished.

    It’s one of those kinds of movies.

  4.   Andrew
    July 28th, 2006 | 2:39 pm

    I’d include My Neighbour Totoro in the top Miyazaki. Also, I recommend the orginal book of Howl’s Moving Castle – it’s curious how unfaithful the adaptation was, though it shows how sometimes the best way to make a great film of a great book isn’t by trying to film the book

  5.   Joey
    July 28th, 2006 | 3:42 pm

    I’d also include Laputa: Castle in the Sky in top Miyazaki as well as Totoro, but not in the top 2.

    Here’s my complete ranking:

    Spirited Away
    Howl’s Moving Castle
    Laputa: Castle in the Sky
    My Neighbour Totoro
    The Castle of Cagliostro
    Princess Mononoke
    Nausicaä of the Valley of the Winds
    Porco Rosso
    Kiki’s Delivery Service

    One day I’d love to see the Lupin III and Sherlock Hound tv series that he directed large parts of.

  6.   homeperm
    July 28th, 2006 | 11:18 pm

    i have to say i really enjoyed sin city. but hello i’m out of the loop because i had no idea that it was based on a comic until part way through when i’m like “this is really stylised i wonder if it is a comic”. then i mentioned it to the people i was with and they all knew. and howl’s moving castle didn’t do it for me. it was cute in parts but in other parts i felt time actually stood still.