Monday, August 31, 2009

Death Deserves A Raise For All This Overtime

The Final Destination
Rated R for strong violent/gruesome accidents, language and a scene of sexuality.
82 minutes
New Line Pictures
**** out of 5 (rating based as part of the series)

When the original “Final Destination” was released back in 2000 it had a few scenes that literally made me forget to breathe. From the opening plane crash to a character getting squashed like a bug by a bus I could sense that I had found my new favorite horror series outside of the “Scream” trilogy. The Rube Goldbergesque setups ending with a character going splat was truly horrifying yet so utterly silly that it was always hilarious.

When “Final Destination 2” followed in 2003 it seemed like it had been forever since Death last checked in for work but his return was completely welcome. Director David R. Ellis completely upped the ante and gave us even more over-the-top, crazy, zany, completely outrageous kill sequences as everything from elevators to barbed wire fencing was used to obliterate the cast members. The acting was and still is the worst of the whole series but it is more than made up for as it's totally obvious that the films budget was spent on blood and viscera.

Director James Wong and his writing partner Glen Morgan returned for “Final Destination 3” turning the films title itself into one of the biggest jokes in horror history. However, they also delivered in spades what made both of the first two work so spectacularly, if not separately: elaborate Mousetrap gross-out kill sequences from the second along with the slightly darker tone of the original. Bodies are burned in tanning beds, truck engine fans scalp like a Nat-see and noggins are popped like whiteheads but it all seems like another day at the office for my favorite screen killer, Death, as he checks in for work once again in what is hopefully not “The Final Destination.”

David R. Ellis returns for this outing with one of the writers (Eric Bress) of their “Final Destination 2” to bring us the fastest paced, goriest and most in-your-face entry yet. Thanks to the addition of the new and improved 3-D technology the kills are bigger, grosser and obviously even funnier. When your pacifist girlfriend laughs as hard as you do when the next victim is splattered across the screen and the blood splashes towards your face you know the teams involved have gotten the combinations right. Ellis has always made it clear that what audiences come to these for are the kills and along with the screenwriter, deliver in spades.

It was supposed to be just another day at the races for Nick (Bobby Campo) and his friends. But after a screwdriver is left in a car’s exhaust pipe and it falls out during the race causing another car's tire to blow, everyone must die... or at least eventually. Nick realizes that his over active imagination was no coincidence as his vision comes true and sure enough the crash happens and almost everyone in Section 180 is supposed to die. The always inevitable fight scene erupts and several people leave the scene before the crash but Death has a list and if you’re on it there’s no escape as we’ve learned from the previous entries. Before the first survivor is killed Nick realizes he’s having random images flash before him which are clues as to how the next person is going to die and now he feels they all have a responsibility to try to save each other from their last date with destiny.

The dialogue and acting are not in any way better but all of the kills are set up so elaborately and carried out so ingeniously that it’s ultimately clear that absolutely no one involved for a second was under the impression they were making fine art. Roger Ebert calls these “Dead Teenager Movies” for a reason. Everyone wants to see annoying teenage characters eaten by an escalator, waxed to death in a car wash or drowned in their local swimming pool. This is the funniest of the series as even the characters finally realize that it’s one big joke as they all get drenched in each others innards at some point before the final frame. If you’re a fan of the series you won’t be disappointed and after this weekend’s $27 million opening (the biggest opening for the series yet) it’s thankfully clear that audiences are still willing to pay for them even with the higher cost of the 3-D.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Buongiorno Tarantino, It's Been Too Long

INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS
Rated R for strong graphic violence, language and brief sexuality.
153 minutes
The Weinstein Company
***** out of 5

My first experience with Quentin Tarantino will be always remembered. I had read tons of reviews of “Pulp Fiction” when it was released theatrically way back in 1994 but was not allowed to see it by my parents. Being 14 at the time I was completely perplexed by this as I had been raised on everything from “Jaws” and “Poltergeist” to the “Nightmare on Elm Street,” “Friday the 13th” and “Halloween” series from the day I was born. How in the world could a movie about gangsters, applauded around the world possibly be worse than any of those films? A cousin of mine decided that once it was released on VHS that I was destined to see this film. She rented the film from a local Blockbuster, we waited till my aunt left to run errands and then we pushed play and sat back to see what would be the most mind blowing extravaganza I had ever witnessed at that point in my life.

After that I rushed out to Media Play to find a copy of the film. It was very high priced as it was a new release and not worth breaking the bank of a fifteen-year-old. Instead I sought out another film by the name of “Reservoir Dogs.” Luckily I new the best way to watch films even way back then, widescreen (then known as letterbox), and found a $10 widescreen copy of that film instead. Even by VHS standards I could tell that the film had then received no amount of remastering and looked quite atrocious. It did not stop me from loving QT’s sophomore outing one bit. Here was a movie that did so much with such a simple premise that between having watched “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction” I knew at the tender age of fifteen, and surprisingly raised in an LDS family, that I had stumbled upon a man of unimaginable genius. Lucky for everyone, this has held true for every feature film released since. With the films to follow: “Jackie Brown,” the “Kill Bill” saga, “Death Proof” and now “Inglourious Basterds” I am officially right. The man is a cinematic force to be reckoned with and the unofficial universe he has been creating is finally beginning to meld together.

To read a QT screenplay is one of the best reading experiences as far as screenplay’s go. To watch behind the scenes footage of the man in action is always hilarious and listening to him in interviews is more educational than just informative. The real win when it comes to QT is to witness first hand his completed films up on the big screen in a dark theater with the sound cranked up to 11. I first wanted to see "Inglourious Basterds" in a theater with digital projection and was under the assumption that I was, however, it was a print that was shown to its audience this weekend and it was a pristine print that renewed my faith in the presentation. But it was the film that completely blew my mind. This is a director that has shown what a master he can be when it comes to taking everything old and making it more new than you could ever have imagined. Even when he uses musical cues or credit fonts from his previous films, most directors would be seen as getting lazy. With QT it just goes to show that this man can take everything you thought you new and show you how to see it again in a brand new light regardless of whether it was last seen or heard only five years ago. QT did not set out to make a film based on fact about WWII. He set out to make his very own WWII epic and take it in his blissfully twisted direction and show you what could have happened which is very obviously based completely in fiction. Use some facts, show the fiction. This is what QT does with “Inglourious Basterds.” Whether you buy it or not, you are in for one wild, crazy, hilarious, blood-soaked extravaganza of violence and espionage as seen through the eyes of Hollywood’s most brilliant wild card, Mr. Quentin Tarantino.

The simplest of explanation is the absolute best way to breeze through the basis of plot in order to keep all the fun for one to experience on their own. Most will assume that it is the story of Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) leading the Basterds deep into Nazi-occupied France in 1944 to collect some scalps. The real story, and surprising heart of the film, revolves around Shoshanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent). In 1941 she single handedly witnesses the demise of her entire family at the hands of Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) who were in hiding beneath the floor boards of a farm house owned by a French dairy farmer, Perrier LaPadite (Denis Menochet). Presumably as a way of concreting himself and his actions into her mind, Landa allows Shoshanna to escape only to meet up with her again under her new name Emmanuelle Mimeux. Shoshanna now owns a French Cinema and is asked to host the premiere of the new German film “Nation’s Pride” starring the Nazi war hero Fredrick Zoller (Daniel Bruhl). A double agent, actress Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) meets up with the Basterds to inform them that the premiere has been moved to Shoshanna’s theater and that all of the highest ranks of the Third Reich are to attend, including Hitler (Martin Wuttke) himself. Soon enough, everything comes together and the story unfolds and QT’s WWII pastiche completes itself.

Will Shoshanna exact her revenge against the Nazi parties that slaughtered her family? Will the Basterds collect their scalps, attend the premiere, get all four and end the war? Is David Bowie relevant to WWII? The truth lies in the fiction of "Inglourious Basterds" and the fun lies in whether you can accept the fiction and bear in mind that this is simply a fantasy of ridiculousness brought to us by a director who continues to top each preceding film and needs to stop being looked at so seriously yet looked at as seriously as he should be. As one character says to another, “I think this just might be by masterpiece.” No QT that is every film you make until the next one comes along. Arrivederci!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Performances, Writing and Direction Save "Adam" From Itself

ADAM
Rated PG-13 for thematic material, sexual content and language.
99 minutes
Fox Searchlight
*** ½ out of 5

Sundance is definitely known for bringing the cinematic world an independent voice. Fox Searchlight has also been largely known for buying up Sundance hits and managing to bring them to the public’s wider attention. I used to attend Sundance every year for a good number of years until prices became higher and higher that it just seemed unreasonable to pay as much as $15/ticket when a lot of the films will see a distribution at some point. Whether it be at a local multiplex or on home video most of the films made for Sundance will be seen soon enough.

Over the years Fox Searchlight has given us a mostly positive with its Sundance releases as well as some original productions along the way. Just in the last ten years they have released “The Wrestler,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” “Choke,” “The Darjeeling Limited,” “Juno,” “Sunshine,” “Waitress,” “The Savages,” “The Last King of Scotland,” “Once,” “Little Miss Sunshine,” “Thanks You For Smoking,” “Millons,” “Sideways,” “Club Dread,” “Garden State,” “Napoleon Dynamite,” “Thirteen,” “28 Days Later,” “Bend It Like Beckham,” “The Good Girl,” “Waking Life,” “Super Troopers,” and “Boys Don’t Cry.” Not a shabby track record at all, especially when you also factor in the release of one of this years absolute best offerings from any studio, “(500) Days of Summer.”

But they haven’t been completely kind to us either, same as most studios. Along with the films mentioned before they have also “treated” us to the following that were either only so-so or just not that great: “One Hour Photo,” “The Good Thief,” “The Banger Sisters,” “Garage Days,” “The Dreamers,” “Johnson Family Vacation,” “Melinda and Melinda,” “Trust the Man,” “Roll Bounce,” “Behind Enemy Lines II: Axis of Evil,” “The Hills Have Eyes,” “The History Boys,” “Joshua,” “I Think I Love My Wife,” “The Secret Life of Bees,” "Miss March," and “My Life in Ruins.” Their track record is pretty much the same as every other major studio but at least their good far outweigh the bad.

Adam (Hugh Dancy) has Asperger’s Syndrome and now lives alone in an apartment after the death of his father. Not soon after this a new tenant, Beth (Rose Byrne), moves into the building and strikes up quite an interest in her new neighbor after asking him for help with access to the building’s laundry room and Adam’s inexplicable ignorance in helping her with some obviously burdening groceries. The two begin to sort of see each other meaning just literally that. They bump into each other or drop by for visits. After Adam gives Beth a whirlwind guide to the galaxy in his front room she’s quite exasperated but seems to enjoy the company. She sets up a meeting unbeknownst to Adam between them and her parents and her father, Marty (Peter Gallagher) instantly decides that Adam is not meant for Beth. Beth, having just found out about her father’s exoneration in a legal case, goes against his wishes and continues to see Adam despite his mental situation. The two have their ups and downs as Beth assists Adam in finding a new job in order to pay his rent and not have to move, but when Adam is offered a job in California and her father is sentenced to prison she must come to terms with what is best for her and not everyone else for a change.

“Adam” definitely falls into the better Fox Searchlight films than the bad. It teeters so far along an edge of being brilliant and could easily have fallen prey of being far too mushy that the fact that the balancing act manages to almost reach the finish line is quite impressive. Writer/director Max Mayer has given us a brilliant script right up until the very last scene. Until that point not much else seems out of place (aside from the character of Beth being referenced as both Elizabeth and Bethany). If the final scene had given the audience more closure it could have succeeded brilliantly. Now all we’re left with is the cast's outstanding performances and some marvelous soundtrack choices to string together one of the years most oddball “romantic comedies.”

A Director Used To Wearing Bigger "Shorts" Needs To Stick To His Guns

SHORTS
Rated PG for mild action and some rude humor.
89 minutes
Warner Bros.
** out of 5

Director Robert Rodriguez definitely keeps himself busy. Everyone knows he is really good friends with another director Quentin Tarantino. Mr. Tarantino is a very busy man as well. The key difference between the two is completely obvious when their newest features are released on the same day and are so utterly different and one is a million times better than the other. Rodriguez has now officially released twelve feature films in the span of seventeen years and the quality of each movie has been pretty inconclusive. Mr. Tarantino has only completed seven full length features and each one has been a continuing triumph over the last. What do these two fantastic directors have least in common? Storytelling.

Both burst onto the independent scene back in 1992; Rodriguez with “El Mariachi” as part of the Toronto Film Festival and Tarantino with his “Reservoir Dogs” at the Sundance Film Festival here in my backyard, Park City, UT. Since then Rodriguez and Tarantino have worked very closely together. Tarantino has written and made cameos in a few of Rodriguez’s films and none more memorably than their team up for “From Dusk till Dawn” in 1996 (yes, their pairing there was much better than their most recent trip to the “Grindhouse”). If only Rodriguez would spend as much time with his story ideas as he is apparently worried about falling off the radar with lack of features maybe his career wouldn’t hit the wall so many times.

When it comes to his adult fare he seems to be working much more comfortably in the zone. “El Mariachi,” “Desperado,” “From Dusk Till Dawn,” “The Faculty,” “Once Upon a Time in Mexico,” “Sin City” and “Planet Terror” are far more superior to his kid flicks with the exception of the first two “Spy Kids” films. They were light and entertaining but nothing that would bore the adults or even the 20-something crowd (I was 21 and 22 when both of the first two “Spy Kids” films were released and still thoroughly enjoy them). However, only 2 of his kids movies have been watchable as his ideas seem to screech to a halt as each new film is released. Now we’ve been stuck sitting through the likes of “Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over,” “The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3-D” (starring a then unknown Taylor Lautner of “Twilight” fame) and the movie being unleashed upon families this weekend, “Shorts.”

In his new film, “Shorts,” Robert Rodriguez as usual directs from his own script. It’s broken down into so-called “shorts” and is haphazardly thrown together with freeze frames, rewinds, fast forwards and pauses allowing for the ridiculous sounding narration from the main character “Toe” Thompson (Jimmy Bennett). The script readings from little Bennett sound so forced and unnatural it’s as if different takes were edited together to form complete sentences and are very unintentionally funny. The rest of the cast seem completely uninspired as they’re continuously given absolutely nothing to do with such a lackluster script pandering to the lowest common denominator or after-school-special life lessons. The film has a total of five shorts contributing to the “whole” and its just a huge jumbled mess from the moment the opening short (the only one in 89 minutes worth of screen time that actually interested me and coincidentally has pretty much nothing to do with any of the rest of the movie. It seems like had the movie been completely broken down into a set of actual short films it would have made for a much better experience). As far as the plot goes it all comes down to Toe finding a wishing rock and all hell breaking loose amidst the community Black Falls where all the parents are employees of BLACK BOX Unlimited Worldwide and all the children attend the same school.

Its fairly obvious Rodriguez loves his children dearly. However, just because they have a few ideas that may be humorous coming out of their mouths doesn’t mean that an audience needs to see these jumbled thoughts on screen. Casting them is never as noticeable as they usually aren’t used as main leads. But as mentioned, when your children tell you a story about a booger coming to life and their excitement manages to make you laugh out loud it doesn’t mean that your audience will agree. I know that these films are not necessarily made for me but as a huge fan of the director it would be nice if he would make these more suitable for his fanbase regardless of their age. Life lessons are nice and all but that doesn’t mean that it takes treating the older folks like idiots. With the upcoming releases of “Machete” (based on his own faux trailer that played at the beginning of “Grindhouse” and should be a ton of fun) and his talks for making more “Sin City” adaptations the future looks bright for Mr. Rodriguez but we shouldn’t hold our breath because nobody likes a funeral as I'm sure there will still be more lame kids movies added to his cannon eventually.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Movie Review: ‘District 9’

**** 1/2 out of 5
112 minutes
Rated R for bloody violence and pervasive language.
TriStar Pictures

Who can use $30 million better than anyone else in Hollywood? Peter Jackson.

Alien invasion movies are few and far between when it comes to great ones. The best appropriately rely most on story (1951's “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” “2001: A Space Odyssey”), others fall back on delicious atmosphere (“Alien”), some are more concerned with spectacle (“Independence Day”) while the rest are so ridiculous they should never be mentioned in the same breath (2008's “The Day the Earth Stood Still”). I’m sure it’s hard working in sci-fi these days. Yet there’s still some filmmakers who are managing to make everything old new again with complete success.

Peter Jackson Presents and indeed he lives up to this moniker. After bringing us such spectacle as the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and his “King Kong” remake he finally goes back to his roots by bringing us this low-budget, bloody, hilarious and intense “District 9” that owes more to his days of “Bad Taste” and “Dead Alive” than “Heavenly Creatures” or his upcoming adaptation of “The Lovely Bones.” This may be Neill Blomkamp’s first feature film but if this is what he is able to splash onto the screen with a measly $30 million budget and a believing producer then I can only imagine what he’ll be able to bring us with future projects. Being from Johannesburg himself also managed Blomkamp to bring a level of authenticity to the project that Hollywood usually manages to forget about when scripts just happen to take place somewhere.

What started out as a short film (check out "Alive in Joburg" on youtube or JoBlo right now!) has officially blown up to be one of the single best alien creature features in years. Originally this was planned as a film version of the hit video game “Halo” but after production was shut down the team took their original production designs and some of the original production costs and set out to make their own film and boy did they succeed with style. Yes, there are some scenes that heavily recall the video game as there were some instances of the first-person-shooter-POV but that seems like it was used as more of an inside joke than anything. And yes, the main character manages to pull as many useful weapons as possible out of thin air as happens in video games, however, the biggest asset the film has going for it is its huge surprise in the story department.

Twenty-eight years ago an alien ship showed up above Johannesburg, South Africa. There was no immediate contact with Earth made and the human race waited for an attack. It never came. What does happen is the military forces their way onto the mother ship, finds a malnourished gathering of aliens aboard and forces them into the aforementioned District 9. This is basically a concentration camp put in place to restore order after the residents of Johannesburg begin to get tired of dealing with the aliens in their day-to-day biddings. The allusions to homelessness and the Third Reich are pleasantly rib tickling and never really go out of their way at making a jarring point.

Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley) has just been given a promotion and leads MNU (Multi-National United) into District 9 to begin handing out eviction notices to the alien residents within. Inside one of the “homes” Wikus is exposed to an alien fluid that is originally intended to fuel a missing space craft and help it get back up to the mother ship. It’s after Wikus is sprayed in the face that all expectations for the film were thrown out the window and my avoidance of spoilers went full speed ahead and the film began to truly entertain and surprise me.

To say anymore would completely ruin the film's full potential. Most of what you see in the trailers, television commercials and online ads are all set up footage or it's not even used within the context of the film. This is brilliant marketing and I’m sure may have been mostly Peter Jackson’s idea. Huge kudos have to be given to Blomkamp and Jackson for making the most original alien film all their own even if it happened to begin life as just another video game adaptation. So if you’re looking for a great entertainment this weekend, have a strong stomach and can laugh at a blood-stained sight gag then be sure to not miss “District 9.”

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Will Ferrell and Adam McKay Present? 'Nuff Said!

THE GOODS: LIVE HARD, SELL HARD
Rated R for sexual content, nudity, pervasive language and some drug material.
90 minutes
Paramount Vantage
*** out of 5

Some movies have the trademarks of their producers all over them. Normally, whenever you saw “Steven Spielberg Presents” before a film you knew it was going to be something special. However, that moniker has officially changed forever with the abysmal “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.” Now we get Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro’s names presenting us some pretty good stuff after “The Orphanage” and the upcoming “District 9.” Then there’s Adam McKay and Will Ferrell. These two have brought us their fair share of laugh riots with “Anchorman,” “Talladega Nights,” the online skit “The Landlord” seen on www.laughordie.com, and most recently the movie I loved and most loathed, “Step Brothers.”

When it comes to “The Goods,” the law of diminishing returns are starting to stake their claim as every consecutive movie has become such carbon copies of the film before that whether or not you find this particular brand of humor still hilarious or at least amusing will completely make up your mind on whether you’re even considering seeing this movie. The first 45 minutes are so in your face hilarious and random that most of what the film makers have thrown up on screen moves by so fast that if you aren’t laughing at one joke another one will rear its head literally seconds later.

Sophomore screenwriters Andy Stock and Rick Stempson are credited with having “written” the script and freshman feature director Neal Brennan is best known for having directed a handful of episodes of “Chappelle’s Show” and co-writing the stoner comedy “Half Baked.” The direction isn’t necessarily that bad when he’s just letting the cast have their fun and ad lib as much as possible, which means that most of the films problems arise whenever you can tell that it starts to stick to a script. The whole third act has half as many laughs as the entire first hour which is a huge downslide when it comes to your entertainment value. When a special celebrity cameo shows up to save your show, you know something isn’t working.

Don Ready (Jeremy Piven) is a man of many words. So many words he’s able to, in a fictional film of course, to talk his way into smoking a cigarette on an airplane. He is on his way from Arizona to Temecula, CA after being called for his assistance in moving some cars for small lot owner Ben Selleck (James Brolin, father of “Brand” himself, Josh Brolin). They need to move 211 cars in three days or Ben will lose the lot to his daughter Ivy’s (Jordana Spiro) soon-to-be father-in-law, Stu Harding (Alan Thicke). After a great day of sells the first big day hits a hiccup and things start sliding downhill. Add in the fact that Don thinks that Blake (Jonathan Sadowski) is his illegitimate son from a one night stand 23 years ago and he seems to be having a mid-life crisis as he believe he’s falling love with Ivy all the meanwhile trying to get over an incident in “Querque” where he may have killed his best friend in a sky diving accident involving a mixed-up backpack, backseat sex and a reoccurring purple dildo, it takes a visit from said dead friend McDermott to realize that he needs to buck up and get his act together and finish the sell and start his life anew.

As mentioned before, by now you’ve either seen a trailer or at least a TV commercial and have already made up your mind on whether or not you’re interested in seeing this. The movie definitely works best when it puts its mind in the gutter and coasts along on the power of its hilarious cast. Whether or not you want to see if Don finds redemption, Ivy stays with her fiancĂ© Paxton (Ed Helms), if Blake really is Don’s son, whether or not DeeJay (Craig Robinson) finds respect, if Babs (Kathryn Hahn) sleeps with 10-year-old man-child Peter Selleck (Rob Riggle), if Jibby Newsome (Ving Rhames) finally makes love to a woman, or if any of those situations made you laugh then this movie is definitely for you and you my friend, have been sold.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Cali gave us Pixar, we can thank Japan for Miyazaki

PONYO
Rated G
101 minutes
Walt Disney Pictures / Studio Ghibli
*** ½ out of 5

When John Lasseter managed to snag the rights to the forthcoming Hayao Miyazaki films he was placing a very nice wager for public consumption. Miyazaki’s films may not be what one could ever call mainstream but they are definitely head and shoulders above most other animation studio films, even most of Dreamworks. This is in no way a slam but there is so much care taken to story telling no matter how whimsical it may be and so much thought towards pure invention that they always feel fresh and exciting even if it can be barely sustained for the entire runtime.

I am definitely a fan of Miyazaki even if “Ponyo” is the first of his films that I have ever managed to sit thru entirely. Maybe this could be from being able to take in the experience in a darkened theater where all the pain-staking details of every frame can pour forth and not be disserviced by DVD and a picture tube. None of his films are available domestically on Blu-ray but with a full 1080p 40” screen to bear witness I will be surely adding any of his titles to my library where they will be greeted with open arms next to the available Disney and Pixar Blu-ray titles.

The wonders splashing forth across the screen are quite breathtaking and indeed some are even awe inspiring but what made them stand out even more so in my mind is the obviousness of every frame being hand drawn along with the backgrounds being hand painted. This is one of those films where it is truly like watching a painting come to life. A big scene where Ponyo (voiced by Noah Cyrus) is running alongside a winding ocean road atop giant watery fish is particularly outstanding and never once do you have a sense of fear for her as her character began life as a “goldfish” found by five-year-old Sosuke (voiced by Frankie Jonas) so you know that water is her first home and she is using this to her advantage to get from point A to B.

Ponyo, as mentioned before, began life as a fish of sorts. Her father Fujimoto tries to stop her from venturing forth onto the land topside but her curiosity gets the better of her and Sosuke rescues her from a glass bottle. Upon rescue, she licks the blood from a cut Sosuke sustained rescuing her from the glass bottle and this enables her to begin evolving into human form. First, she leans to speak then soon enough she figures out a way to grow herself some hands and feet as well. Ponyo’s transformation from “fish” to human causes Nature to become off balance and the moon begins to grow increasingly closer to the Earth wreaking havoc of the ocean. Ancient sea creatures being swimming the now flooded streets of the village and said flooding has made Sosuke’s mother, Lisa (voiced by Tina Fey) to go missing when she takes off to make sure the elderly folk at the senior center she works at are taken care of during the ever growing storm.

Can Sosuke find his mother or will the ocean take her and the senior center out? Will Sosuke prove his love for Ponyo in order to make her transformation to human complete and set the storms aside? Does any of it really matter? In the end, the story elements begin to deplete themselves and it becomes rather muddled what all of it really means. The plus side to this is that the “humans are ruining the Earth” tones are not really in your face. It takes second fiddle to whatever visuals Miyazaki can come up with next before the 101 minutes are over. As a kids flick it is extremely good. As family entertainment, it is kind of a head scratcher. Some of the images are pretty phallic and downright sexual but it will most definitely go over the youngsters heads. However, just in case they may be getting old enough to recognize some of them you should consider yourself warned on this aspect. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for something new and exciting or just wanting to expand your children’s horizons then yes, there is definitely something new under the sea and at your local multiplex.