Zeman’s followup to Invention for Destruction is another absolute wonder. Actors filmed b/w and composited somehow with variously tinted objects and backgrounds. Still don’t know how this was done – saving the making-of doc for after I watch the dinosaur feature.

The story opens with astronaut Tony landing on the moon and discovering the Baron (Munchhausen), who calls him a moonman and takes over the narrative (I don’t think Tony speaks in the first half). Baron returns them to Earth, but a fantasy version, the jet planes in the opening scene replaced by flying monsters.

They rescue a kidnapped princess from a sultan, she falls for Tony, and the Baron spends the rest of the movie trying to convince her that he’s more impressive that boring old Tony (true). Along the way they jump their horses off a cliff, create a tobacco smokescreen to confound the sultan’s fleet, get swallowed by a whale and scooped up by a giant bird, ride a cannonball, escape from prison and return to the moon via rocket-propelled castle tower, all in about half the runtime of the Gilliam version.

Insane movie full of Michel Gondryish handcrafted whimsy plus whatever great combination of acting and makeup went into Daniel Radcliffe’s multi-purpose corpse.

Much of the wonderous fire-farting, boner-compass, kung-fu-chop, grappling-hook-vomiting details had already been given away by the trailer (but if they hadn’t been, I would’ve written off the movie as a Sundancey quirk-fest and skipped it). So my happiest surprises came from the plot twists as Paul Dano becomes best friends with the dead body and as Radcliffe becomes more alive we start to take Dano’s view of reality, which crashes when he finds his way back to normal civilization (the yard of his crush, Mary Elizabeth Winstead of Scott Pilgrim).

Fart recordist Steve Nelson:

One I remember was Paul Dano, who cut one loose right before a take. He just grabbed the boom mic right out of the air and delivered it … We needed farts that were not cartoonish, that were realistic but at the same time expressive. I know — my career. Mom’s really happy I went to art school.

Hosoda’s latest, which we watched after catching up with his previous three, was disappointing. There’s lots of incident, but we didn’t always buy the characters or situations, and the idea of a beast world that exists parallel to ours is only sorta-developed. It was maybe hurt by my recent love for Ernest and Celestine, which is also about parallel animal worlds where a grumpy bear takes on a sidekick, but Katy skipped Ernest and didn’t seem to be having this one either.

Boy and Beasts:

Very moody Boy gains a fluffy pet who hides in his clothes and isn’t important, then finds his way to beastville where chimp and pig monks introduce him to a filthy slacker Beast, who is challenging the beloved local Boar for grandmaster title after the disappearing Grandmaster Bunny (my favorite character, by far) retires. The boy is fed raw eggs and Karate Kids his way towards being a warrior by imitating Beast’s every move, then inevitably he returns to humanville where he meets his real dad and a girl tries to get him into school. And I guess the boar has also been fostering a human son (wearing an unconvincing genki hat), who crosses over to threaten the human world, turning himself into a whale after glimpsing a copy of Moby Dick (shades of Ghostbusters). Guess I don’t remember the very end since it was getting late, but one assumes the good guys are rewarded.

Also this happened, whatever it was:

Showdown in humantown:

Great to see this again, although maybe I should’ve sprung for the high-def version to see if it looks much better than my old letterboxed DVD. Katy agreed that the movie seems long, and opted not to teach it in her dystopian fiction course.

I’ve seen people call Brazil the centerpiece of Gilliam’s dream trilogy – Time Bandits being the dreams of youth, Brazil of adulthood, and Baron Munchhausen an old man telling dream-stories to children. It’s a lovely thought, but then what is the rest of Gilliam’s career full of dreams and visions?

Don’t think I knew who Jim Broadbent was the last time I watched this. He plays Sam’s mom’s plastic surgeon: “Snip snip, slice slice, can you believe it?” Jack Purvis of Time Bandits is rival doctor “the acid man”. Sam’s mom’s friend getting acid treatments (“my complication had a little complication”) is Barbara Hicks of Britannia Hospital, and her daughter is Kathryn Pogson, recently of The Arbor. Mrs. Buttle (I’d forgotten how good she is) was Sheila Reid (Felicia’s Journey, Lady Rawlinson in Sir Henry at Rawlinson End). I haven’t recognized Kim Griest in anything else but I see she was in Manhunter and CHUD. Mr. Helpmann (‘ere I am, JH) was in some Ken Russell films and Mountains of the Moon. Sam’s useless first boss was Ian Holm and his decisive, always-walking boss in Information Retrieval was Ian Richardson (later Mr. Book in Dark City).

A fairy tale for today’s mob of Twilight-raised, grimly serious gothic youth who prefer the Christian Bale Batman to the Michael Keaton Batman. Pretty obvious movie, and no part is more obvious than James “Newt” Howard’s big, big score. Alternates between patient carefully-composed images and too-close, too-frantic action scenes. Overall pretty good, especially when Evil Queen Charlize Theron is around.

After Charlize takes over the kingdom and kills all flowers and happiness, the imprisoned princess grows up to be Twilight Stewart and realizes there might be trouble in the kingdom when her cellmate Lily Cole leaves to see the queen and returns as an old hag, so Twilight escapes by slashing Theron’s albino brother Sam Spruell in the face. She meets her reluctant protector Thor Hemsworth and they go adventuring, collecting the exiled Duke’s army and the all-important dwarfs to help.

Pity doomed Lily Cole:

First it’s into the dark forest, which is extremely menacing to Twilight until she passes out, then it leaves her alone. It doesn’t bug Thor at all, making me wonder if he’s the actual Chosen One who will defeat the Queen with his beauty, but that was a false lead, because soon they meet a bridge troll, whom the princess charms with her sleepy Twilight stare. Then they visit the city of scar-faced women, and get it burned down, oops. Now the dwarfs, who were played by digitally-shrunken full-size actors – and this is why movies should bring back opening credits. I’d have surely recognized Dwarf Bob Hoskins and Dwarf Toby Jones (and maybe Dwarf Ray Winstone) if I’d been looking for them, but unaccustomed to seeing them so short and beardy, we only figured out Dwarf Nick Frost (in about one second) and Dwarf Ian McShane. Then all nine venture into the Fairy Garden, where CG animals go to relax between Tim Burton and Brendan Fraser movies, and they meet a white moose made out of butterflies. Finally to the Duke’s palace, where Twilight meets her boyfriend from when she was seven, now grown into a dreamy archer.

Thor w/hammer:

Evil Queen Charlize tires of all this, makes herself into a Dreamy Archer Terminator and delivers the poison apple (via doomed CG crows, in the third scene of bird death in this movie. Snow White of the Huntsmen hates birds!). Real Dreamy Archer cannot wake Twilight with his kiss, and when all hope seems lost, Thor makes a successful attempt. Queen’s palace by the seaside, dwarves in the sewer, arrows and boiling oil, too-close/too-frantic sword fighting, and Charlize is done in by Twilight’s Pure Love & Light (actually a model rocket dagger).

Screamy Queen Charlize:

Sanders has made Nike and X-Box commercials. One writer was behind Drive, and the other writes/directs Dennis Quaid movies. Newt Howard scores every laughably over-serious movie of recent years (The Last Airbender, Water for Elephants, The Dark Knight, Breast Cancer: The Path of Wellness & Healing) and the Australian D.P. shot Spider and Bright Star.

“All is illusion. Set us free of this world.”

A badger on the road is run down by a small orange car driven by Lily, hiding her identity beneath a hat and bulky coat, driving through the midst of a literal battle of the sexes (with tanks and machine guns). She runs from her car after being discovered, chills for a while with snakes, millipedes and mantises before spying a unicorn then following a woman on horseback and a group of naked children running with a pig towards an old house in which she finds a bottomless glass of milk, a semi-talking piglet and rat, and an old woman with a C.B. and an alarm clock collection. So it kind of sounds like a kids’ movie, if not for all the nudity and brutal warfare, and were there some dialogue or a condescending narrator to help the viewer along.

Enter two more characters named Lily, a brother and sister played by Joe Dallesandro (the year after Dracula) and Alexandra Stewart (Mickey One, The Fire Within), both of whom I liked very much. Maybe it’s because they’re so silent, while the main Lily (Cathryn Harrison, who was 15 and had already appeared in Altman’s Images and Demy’s Pied Piper) and the old woman (Therese Giehse, in Malle’s Lacombe Lucien the year before) were hampered by the dubbing in their dialogue scenes.

nearly the full cast:

The old woman dies amidst an alarm clock catastrophe, but is alive again when the siblings come up to feed her (she sucks one Lily’s breast while Joe Lily tickles her ear). Main Lily remains in the old woman’s room for a while. A bird flutters around the room (prefiguring a later scene), and the woman talks with her rat friend (named Humphrey) and her radio, watches and mocks the girl, who eats the ant-infested christmas cheese and braves bureau snakes to flip through a photo album. Meanwhile the war outside makes itself known from time to time, and Lily finally escapes to seek the unicorn. She gets no help from the siblings, finally manages to hold an unsatisfying chat with the unicorn after ripping up some flowers as they scream in pain.

Lily plays piano while the children, some of them clothed now, sing along operatically, then is frightened by a painting of a male swordsman chopping a hawk in half while a woman weeps. Enter a hawk through the window, and Joe Lily with a sword. I hope that beautiful hawk (and the badger, and the lamb, and the snake) wasn’t actually hurt or killed by the film crew. This leads to a painful-looking sibling battle. Finally, Lily, alone in the woman’s room except for the unicorn, baring her breasts to feed it.

If there’s meaning to all this, it’s not readily apparent. The old woman outright tells Lily that she imagined the unicorn and the war, but the woman herself disappears at times. If Lily herself, or anything at all, is supposed to be “real” and imagining these events, perhaps while playing outside, or playing piano, the movie presents no evidence of this. Lily, or Louis anyway, has your mid-1970’s fascination with nature and nudity (see also: Wicker Man, Holy Mountain, Deliverance). The internet figures it’s somehow related to Alice In Wonderland, as must be every fantasy story with a young girl lead.

Luis Buñuel’s daughter-in-law helped with the dialogue, shot by Bergman buddy Sven Nykvist. “Old Lady” Therese Giehse died before this came out. I thought it was a funny misprint when the IMDB said “Director Paul Verhoeven died during the eulogy he delivered for her,” but it’s true – and this was a different Paul Verhoeven.

Movies I’ve seen by Louis Malle include noirish jazzy thriller Elevator to the Gallows, zany comic Zazie dans le metro, suicide drama The Fire Within, epic travel doc Phantom India, and now this 70’s fantasy with little story or dialogue. None of these things is like the other. I guess Malle was one of those filmmakers who liked to constantly try new things, not one who always made variations of the same movie.

This shouldn’t have worked… a typically overstuffed Gilliam fantasy, riddled with CGI, with a lead actor who died in the middle of filming. But if there’s anything Gilliam seems to be great at, it’s dealing creatively with catastrophe, so this came out miles better than the relatively smooth Brothers Grimm (oops, nevermind, research indicates that Grimm was ruined by fights with studios).

No surprise that the cowriter of Baron Munchausen and Brazil is along for the ride, since this is crammed with dreams and costumes, little stories and bizarre images. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer, having a good year with this, Up and The Last Station) is immortal thanks to a deal with devil Tom Waits (his own sinister self plus a little mustache), who will claim Doctor P’s daughter Lily Cole (Rage) when she turns sixteen in a few days. Dr. P and his gang of circus misfits (including a shockingly good Verne Troyer and young Andrew Garfield, star of Boy A and the Red Riding trilogy) kidnap citizens within a magic dream-mirror, and try to make them pursue their ideal selves instead of succumbing to the devil’s lazy temptations. A bet is made, and they race to save enough souls to win back P’s daughter.

Enter Tony (Heath Ledger) as a charismatic con-artist who attracts Tom’s interest as he begins helping the carnies win the bet, modernizing their look and sucking people into the show. He’s a mysterious dude, which makes his shapeshifting into three other immensely likeable actors inside the dreamworld work, both narratively and visually. I didn’t even notice for a while when Johnny Depp replaced him. Way to save the movie there, Terry and gang. The movie tells us and tells us that Tony is a bad guy, a liar who steals from children, but it still came as a shock when he’s killed at the end. Charisma counts for a lot.

With all the negative-nellying I’ve heard about Parnassus, I’m glad to see it’s got a high IMDB rating and a couple oscar nominations. I was especially suspicious of the computer graphics, but they are bright and cartoonish, fake without trying to seem real, and work great in context, shaming Tim Burton’s Willy Wonka flick and Terry’s own Brothers Grimm. I’d already like to see it again… maybe rent the DVD and listen to Gilliam’s commentary when it comes out.

Starts with the end. All movies start with the end now.

Kind of a disappointment. Not just that expectations were high, just that they were so high for so long and movie kept playing and finally I saw it in closing week and by then I knew it’d be a depressing fascist struggle film with metaphorical special effects and had already seen the monster with eyes in its hands a million times in promo photos. Had few delightful surprises to offer, just a good movie.

Let’s see… fascist Spain 1944, little Ofelia’s dad is dead and mom is marrying a psycho captain who moves them into the country to fight rebel forces who camp in the woods. Housekeeper Mercedes is in love with lead rebel and smuggles out food, supplies and information. A showdown ensues, rebels win the battle but not the war.

Oh also Ofelia finds an underground fantasyland where she tries to escape the pain of reality and eventually succeeds by getting shot to death by the captain and reuniting with her dead parents, now king and queen of Pan’s realm. A happy ending, not really.

Katy liked it I think.

Would Katy have liked it? One day I hope to find out.

Kid has divorced parents, is picked Kirin Rider at an annual festival. Meets a red-faced guy, a cute gerbil muppet, and a hot naked girl:

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Kid must wield the legendary goblin sword and defeat the big evil guy (actor from Loft) and his hot girl assistant:

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Once we have our two opposing hot girls in place, the movie just cuts loose with nutty imagery:

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Awesomely disturbing children’s movie on the level of Neverending Story. Want to some day show this movie to actual children to warp them forever. Will have to narrate the japanese subtitles live, I guess, but it will be worth it. Me, I enjoyed every minute of this cruelly twisted flick.