Movie Reviews (such as they are)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Pan’s Labyrinth (aka El Laberinto del Fauno)

It took me a long time to get around to Pan's Labyrinth. It was on my Lovefilm list forever, but I guess everyone else wanted to see it too. Not to worry...

Despite the good word of mouth and the awards and nominations Pan's had received, I had lowered my expectations by watching del Toro's debut Cronos a few weeks before. And you know what? I'm almost glad I did.

In case you don't know what this film is about, it tells the story of a young girl who goes with her mother to live with Mum's new husband, who happens to be a Fascist. Yep, it's World War II time. The little girl is a fantasist who believes she is seeing a fairy in the woods; furthermore, we the viewers are led to believe that she may or may not be a princess from another realm, a realm into which she is led by the fairy.

A series of tasks are set for the girl in order to allow her safe return to the king and queen of this other realm. She is sorely missed.

The counterpoints between the "fantasy" world and the horror of Franco's Spain could hardly be greater, and I spent the entire time hoping for her safe return to her regal family.

This is one of those films where everyone has their own take on exactly what is happening and how it ends. Your viewpoint will depend on your belief system, your movie literacy, your love or otherwise of fairy tales and fantasy. And, as is my way, I will not spoil it any more than I already have.

This was one of the highlights of my viewing this year. It was a beautiful film, one that in trailers almost looked designed for children, and yet it also has moments of sickening violence. These two extremes just add to the complexity of the piece. And the acting and direction were almost faultless. Highly recommended.

Acting: 17
Story: 16
Direction: 17
Enjoyment: 17
Involvement: 17
Total: 84

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Monday, September 17, 2007


I bought Cronos without having seen it because it had some great reviews and because I'd enjoyed director Guillermo del Toro's film The Devil's Backbone, I thought Hellboy was okay, and I was in preparation for Pan's Labyrinth. It also had a pretty cool DVD cover.

In short, this film tells the story of an age-old device that is designed to give eternal life to whoever owns it. The device is shaped like an ornate scarab, which "bites" into its owner. When rediscovered some 400 years later, this mechanism -- moreover, its power -- is sought by a handful of people.

I expected big things for this debut feature from one of fantasy film-making's hottest directors, but I must say I was disappointed. Sure there were some good bits; and it was squirm-inducing once or twice along the way. It also had a good amount of "atmosphere". But overall the film left me cold: it just never really went anywhere very interesting. It wasn't terrible or a complete waste of time, but it just didn't move me in any way.

By the way, the cool cover, with a hot chick bleeding after being bitten by the scarab, is not a scene from the film! Guess they call that "artistic licence"!

Acting: 13
Story: 12
Direction: 14
Enjoyment: 12
Involvement: 12
Total: 63

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