Sunday, October 2, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up (10/2)

Waking Life
Richard Linklater directed A Scanner Darkly (2006) which I consider to be the best film adaptation of a Philip K. Dick story. Don't get me wrong, its not my favorite film based on a Dick story, just the one that captures the feeling, themes, and story of the original novel the closest. Philip K. Dick is my favorite writer and after seeing A Scanner Darkly I wanted to see another film directed by Linklater as he is also a PKD fan. I finally got around to seeing Waking Life and I must admit, I was a little disappointed. Waking Life uses rotoscope style animation similar to the style later used in A Scanner Darkly. While the animation is unique and fun to watch, the biggest problem with this film is that there is way too much dialogue with people just sitting and looking at each other. Occasionally the animation will complement the dialogue. For example, during a monologue somebody says "humans are 70% water" and he appears to fill with water. While this was cool, it didn't happen much which led to many boring scenes. The main character, credited as "Main Character" was interesting as he was trying to wake up from a dream but kept having false awakenings. However, there is more focus on discussing philosophy, lucid dreams, illusion vs. reality, than on an actual plot. But since I am somebody interested in those three topics, I did enjoy those discussions. We even got a monologue about Philip K. Dick from Linklater himself! Overall the movie didn't feel as cinematic as it should have been since much of the time I could have just listened to it on the radio. At first I hated it, but as the movie went on I did get into it. This is probably one of those films that people either love or hate, but I just liked it. Waking Life has great animation, fantastic dialogue, and good ideas but still could have been executed better. Linklater's A Scanner Darkly touches on similar themes so I would recommend that movie instead. Linklater also directed School of Rock starring Jack Black. While I liked that movie, I doubt the intended audience of that film would enjoy Waking Life!
Return to Oz (1985)
Return to Oz is an unofficial sequel to the classic 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. However, its not quite a sequel as it also is an adaptation of the later Oz books and its not a musical. I've never read the Oz books so I don't know how close this movie is to the book sequels, but from what I understand it draws elements and characters from several of the books as well as the 1939 film. The red slippers were silver in the books and an agreement had to be made with MGM so that Disney could use them in this movie. Dorothy is about 10 years old like she was in the books, and unlike Judy Garland who was 17 when she played Dorothy. Fairuza Balk puts in a nice performance as Dorothy Gale. Balk did a good job carrying the movie, especially for a child actor.
Although this movie was a commercial and critical failure (Siskel and Ebert didn't like it), it has gained a small cult following in the years since its release. The special effects hold up surprisingly well for a 26 year old movie which impressed me. Practical effects age better than CGI, but I still gotta give credit to the SFX team. The set design is quite good as well. Oz is essentially given the post-apocalyptic treatment, which is something I had never seen in a straight-up fantasy movie before.
It was quite interesting to see a different take on the Oz story. The movie was directed by Walter Murch, and it is the first and only movie he has directed. Murch is a respected film editor and sound designer who has won three Oscars (along with several nominations) for his work on Apocalypse Now and The English Patient. While I thought he was fine, the movie probably would have been better if they brought in somebody like Tim Burton or Terry Gilliam.
Many people say that this movie is too dark for a "children's film." However, when compared to other PG 80s fantasy films its par for the course since its not much darker than The Neverending Story (1984), Legend (1985), or Labyrinth (1986).


3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain (1998)
This is one bad 90s kids movie. Even Surf Ninjas was better than this garbage! We have terrible acting and zero logic when it comes to the story. I know this was a movie meant for children, but that is never an excuse for a bad movie and an insult to the intelligence of all children. Hulk Hogan "stars" in this crapfest and if you've seen any Hulk Hogan movie you pretty much know what to expect. Jim Varney, most famous for the Earnest movies, plays a ridiculously over the top bad guy. We also have Loni Anderson as the female baddie and she hams it up even more than Varney, if that is possible.
Sadly this was character actor Victor Wong's last film. He should have gone out on a high note with Seven Years in Tibet! I guess Wong was contractually obligated to be in all of the 3 Ninjas movies. That reminds me, this is the fourth movie in this series. Why did they make so many of these movies?! I guess the earlier films are better (or at least the first one) but I have no desire to see any more of them.
Speaking of Wong, he plays the Asian grandfather of the "3 ninjas" but neither the boys nor their parents look Asian. Oh well, he is just a Mr. Miyagi rip-off anyway!
As bad as this movie is, at least its not a boring bad movie. Only watch this to make fun of it with a group of friends!

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