Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea
The pick of this week’s other releases is an award-winning film from legendary Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away). Sort-of-mermaid Ponyo longs to know more about the world out of the ocean and soon becomes the pet of a boy who lives in a seaside home. Her disappearance triggers a hunt that results in wonderful sequences that will captivate adults and children alike. Miyazaki’s box office hit is glorious proof that possibilities still exist for traditional animation techniques. It’s being screened in Taiwan in both Mandarin and Japanese-language versions.
In this comedy outing, Jim Carrey transforms from a soulless loan officer who will only say “no” into an increasingly havoc-stricken man who can only say “yes.” TV director Peyton Reed manages to wring some physical humor and smutty gags out of Carrey, but for most who saw Liar Liar it will be same old, same old — though co-star Zooey Deschanel (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) got the big “yes” from male critics. Maybe the film should have been called “Yes Woman.”
Ah, the latest wedding-themed movie. Budding brides Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson end up at each other’s throats after their receptions are double-booked. The rest is marzipan-tinged color-by-numbers with standard American comedy-turned-hand-wringing in the final reel. Marketed at the undiscriminating teenager and her girlfriends or luckless boyfriend in tow, Bride Wars should be packed off to a galaxy far, far away.
Life for Sale
This Switzerland-Luxembourg co-production revisits the legend of Faust as three losers come up with the idea of respectively selling their past, future and soul online. At first swimming in cash — by itinerant standards — the three friends discover that money isn’t everything (they must have dropped out of school before that lesson was taught). Purportedly inspired by a true story. Original title: Luftbusiness.
Rabbit Without Ears
A German reporter gets busted for excessive paparazzi-like behavior and is sentenced to 300 hours of community service. Schwarzeneggeresque fish-out-of-water romantic comedy hijinks ensue when the reporter is forced to play Kindergarten Hack and answer to a woman whom he once dissed as a child. The rest writes itself. This Rabbit is a German box office smash and deserves a local audience. The Taiwanese poster, by the way, adds cutout rabbit ears to our reluctant hero’s slumbering head — presumably to make the literally translated title more comprehensible.
The groundbreaking painter and compulsive troublemaker is the subject of this European made-for-TV production from 2007. His painting, brawling, lust and political machinations are all here. Appropriately shot by master cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, this version of the artist’s life and times is gorgeous to watch. Originally three hours long in two episodes, this theatrical version has been cut down to two hours.
Flashbacks of a Fool
Daniel Craig makes a sensational new James Bond, but if he keeps making non-007 films like this, he may need to stay with the franchise a little longer than expected. In Flashbacks, Craig portrays a dissolute celebrity on the verge of stateside self-destruction. His flashbacks in England as a teenager tell us why — sort of. Directed by music video ace Baillie Walsh (Massive Attack’s Unfinished Sympathy, for example), the film is big on melancholy and period atmosphere but not so on psychological credibility. Starts next Friday.