Apropos nothing, brief reviews of the last three movies I've seen. The viewing times range from a couple of days ago to about a month ago, so bear with me.
Battle Royale: violent satire from Japan in which a law is passed wherein school classes are picked at random, taken to an island, and forced to kill each other. Quite excellent.
Rather than voyueristic thrill-killing (although there is a fair chunk of the red stuff), it takes a psychological standpoint. Examining the effect of the situation on the students, from those that team up and attempt to escape the island, to those that actively enjoy the killing, it's a great example of a "what would you do?" film. Especially effective is a scene where a closeknit group of girls, having taken in the injured protagonist Nanahara to their lighthouse hideaway, turn from unbreakable trust to killing each other in about three minutes.
The performances are universally excellent, with Beat Takeshi a particular high point as the world-weary ex-teacher with a vein of extremely black humour who oversees the whole thing.
About the only real criticism is that with 42 kids to look at (the film's based on a novel, which in turn had a lengthy manga adaptation), it's understandably rushed in places.
Sin City: comic-book adaptation starring lots of Very Serious People doing horrible things to each other.
Possibly the most po-faced film ever (aside from a couple of comic-relief goons and a gleefully silly section involving Clive Owen's Dwight having a hallucinatory conversation with a dead body), its unrelenting steely-eyed pomposity had me in fits of laughter at the most inappropriate moments. Of particular note was the bit where Mickey Rourke's bruiser Marv got repeatedly run over - it just looked so daft. Mind, the aforementioned Dwight, a man with the personality of a grey Tupperware lid, lighting up a cigarette whilst covered in dried tar came a close second.
Oh, and the dialogue is the worst of any film. Ever. Ever. You can smell the Stilton from the next country as all the men try to out-glare each other whilst the women have a competition to see who can wear the least amount of clothing (Carla Gugino, who spends most of her time on-screen naked for no reason at all, wins). The only people who come out of it without sounding like complete imbeciles at least once are Jessica Alba (stripper Nancy), Brittany Murphy (waitress Shelley) and Elijah Wood (who plays a mute, so he doesn't count).
But it's actually pretty good! It looks gorgeous, with all sorts of fancy effects to make it look more like the comic and an excellent washed-out noir style. Despite being forced to portray a group of walking clichés, the cast manage to inject proper character into their roles (except Owen, bless him. He probably had his hands full trying to maintain the American accent). Wood's especially memorable as psychotic cannibal Kevin, who appears to have injected his veins with flea DNA. The seperate stories, whilst being very similar, keep the film from becoming boring, even if the three main threads have the same basic lead (Dwight, Marv and Bruce Willis' Hartigan are the same guy with a few personality tweaks). Overall, worth watching. But why some people have proclaimed it Teh Best Fing Everz is beyond me.
Princess Mononoke: eco-obsessed fantasy Japanimation from Studio Ghibli, the finest production team in the world (as proved in over twenty seperate scientific investigations). Frequently declared director Hayao Miyazaki's masterpiece, but to be perfectly honest nearly all other films of his I've seen (Howl's Moving Castle, My Neighbour Totoro and Best Film Ever™ Spirited Away) get a higher rating in my book. I'd say this is of a similar quality to the slightly over-whimsical Kiki's Delivery Service. It's still damn good though. If massively confusing. Plot: everyone fights everyone else in and around a magic forest for increasingly complicated reasons. Then there's a lot of hoo-hah about a Deer God as hero Ashitaka gradually loses control of his cursed arm, Evil Dead 2-style, and the titular princess (although her name is actually San; complicated wordplay I can't be bothered to go into here) battles with her hatred of humans. Since it's a Ghibli film, it looks so beautiful it's like bathing your eyes in heaven-juice, although the music isn't quite up to Joe Hisashi's usual standards. To be honest, I need to watch this more before I can form a proper opinion, but I've got a feeling it'll prove a grower.
Random aside: whatever happened to Cool Spot?