Monday, August 17, 2009

As Promised, Two Reviews

I saw both District 9 and Ponyo this weekend, and both were stellar films. Here's why.

District 9 has such a wonderful new take on how sci-fi/action films are made that injects a breath of fresh air into very cliched territory. Neil Blomkamp's documentary-esque mixings into the film give it an air of credibility and realistic approach that is quite different from other films of this type. Instead of trying to create and make his audience believe in another world, Blomkamp constantly reminds us that this is as similar to our world as it possibly can be. And he does this by not making a big deal of all of the special effects. While very integral, and it is chock full of them, the effects are integrated into the film in a much more natural way. The best way I can put this is rather than having a film with special effects, District 9 is a film that just happens to have special effects in it. Does that make any sense? Well, too bad.

Really, this film's biggest downfalls are rather nit-picky--and when you start to nit-pick, it means the overall film is a good time. These nit-picks included: the score, some sterotypes in the characters, and an often-used plot arc. All of these are forgivable, because of Blomkamp's style. Even when we know what's going to happen--either from the trailers or from the fact that this film follows a familiar story line to things we've seen many times before--we'll still be entertained, if not outright amazed at what we just witnessed.

Lastly, what I appreciated most about the film is that Blomkamp didn't forget about humor. Dark as some of it may be, Blomkamp doesn't forget that the idea is somewhat absurd. The humor not only lightens the mood, but it too adds credibility to the film because it isn't out to be a "serious" film. It often makes the more brutal sequences feel that much more horrific and intense, because we aren't laughing at this point--and have no reason to.

So, yes, see this film if you have even the slightest interest in it. It is an interesting take on stale ideas. And quite entertaining to boot.

Ponyo is equally worth your time, but for very different reasons. Really, if you're into Miyazaki's other films, you'll like this one too. If you don't know or like Miyazaki, then I'm not sure this one will win your fandom. It's as whimsical as his other films and equally bizarre, however, it doesn't quite have the "intensity" of films like Princess Mononoke, Castle in the Sky, or Spirited Away. Ponyo shares its similarities with Miyazaki's other films like Porco Rosso and My Neighbor Totoro.

If you're an animation buff, this is a gorgeous film with a wonderful look/feel, and has some of the most intricate hand-drawn animation I've ever seen (some of those shots have SO MUCH going on--I can't even imagine all the time and effort that went into those underwater shots). Also, this is just a fun, light-hearted film. You feel good after having watched it. You had a good time--however silly and bizarre it might have been.

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