4 More Life Lessons from 80’s Movies

There is no saving Artax. He has reached his limit, and will not be moved. Atreyu can’t save his horse, because Artax doesn’t want to save himself–and when someone loses the will to live, even after the intervention of their friends and family, there’s little that will drag them back.

Every culture in the world will eventually produce a set of maxims for behavior; from the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, to the doctrines of Thomas Aquinas, to basic Internet Etiquette, there are morals and suggestions for human interaction everywhere–you could trip over them and someone would be there to tell you what you did wrong.

Oddly enough, I noticed a lot of 80’s movies had such maxims, and have been collecting them and posting them as I think of them. The first part of the list can be found here.

4. The Secret of Nimh – ‘Crying doesn’t solve anything.’

Sometimes, your best isn't good enough--whatever it is, it needs to get DONE.

Mrs. Brisby has some serious problems.

Her husband was recently killed in an accident, one of her three children is desperately ill, and she needs to move her family (including her house) to a new location, otherwise they will be crushed by the farmer’s tractor when it is time to harrow the field they live in.

Lady has a lot on her mind.

So when the tractor starts up unexpectedly, she and her friend Auntie Shrew (who I always thought of as one hardass bitch–she either had some messed up stuff happen in her life or did some time in Vermin Jail), who are both about the size of a lemon, take it on.

A mouse and a shrew take on a tractor.

While all the other animals in the field are hauling ass from the path of the tractor, Mrs. Brisby and the shrew are running towards it, screaming warnings. They reach the tractor, clamber up a loose chain, and begin scrambling about its interior in search of a way to shut it down. Brisby, faced with the prospect of falling into the churned earth the harrow blade turns up, shuts down, and can only cling to the tractor and shake. The Shrew winds up tearing out a crucial hose (oil?) and the tractor shuts down.

Later, as the two gather their wits in the high grass, Brisby breaks down crying over the ordeal, but also the recent traumas she’s faced.

Coldly, almost hatefully, the Shrew snarls at her to “Stop it.”

You'd be surprised how many good pictures there aren't of her.

The Shrew is disgusted, not by the display, but because Brisby doesn’t have the luxury of being selfish right now, of thinking about her woes and weeping. She needs to get her shit together and figure out how she’s going to save her children–when Brisby plaintively weeps ‘I wish Jonathan [her husband] was here’ you get a sense that Brisby was overly reliant on him, that he would have figured something out himself, saving her the trouble. She wants to be taken care of again, to have someone else fix her problems, and she doesn’t have that option anymore–it’s up to her.

Brisby is now a single mother. The rest of the movie consists of her learning how strong she truly is, as she faces terrifying creatures and learns to trust herself to do the right thing. I can’t think of another movie in recent years that so elegantly explores the plight of a single parent and all that it entails. Not a children’s movie about talking mice, anyway.

3. Legend – ‘Trust People.’

Who is our Generation's Tim Curry? What actor in recent years could step into these pants? WHO?

With all the fantasy trappings surrounding Legend–unicorns, goblins, fairies, pixies, wild boys in shorts, princesses, giant castles, monsters,  and a certain giant red campy fellow–it’s easy to lose sight of what the film is really about: trusting people.

Jack is a recluse, living in the woods with his animal friends and relaxed dress code. There’s a reason he’s there and not in the city, and it isn’t to save money on production costs–he’s a hermit, he doesn’t trust people. Only Lily, a spoiled Princess, can get close to him.

Which is why, when Jack takes Lily to see the unicorns and she ignores him, breaking a major rule and actually TOUCHING ONE, he loses his trust in her. He doesn’t know that the reason the unicorn freaked out was due to the goblins’ poisoned dart, or anything about the machinations of Darkness and his goblins. He thinks that Lily touching the unicorn is what ruined everyone’s day.

So though he spends the rest of the movie trying to make right what happened, and save her, it is also about him remembering to trust her, no matter what she’s done or how she’s changed. Remember, when he left her, she was all ‘Disney Princess Barbie,’ with the smiles and the charm and the giggling. When he finds her again, she looks like this:

If it doesn't fit, you improvise!

Since he dumped her, she’s been rooming and sharing clothes and makeup tips with Klaus Nomi Darkness, a red-skinned fellow with an infectious laugh and an even more relaxed dress code than Jack. They’re kind of like Mickey and Donald–Mickey (Darkness) wears pants, and Donald (Jack) wears a shirt–together they make a whole outfit.

Anyhoo, when Jack has to make his choice, he’s got a bunch of fairies yelling in his ear that Lily can’t be trusted, that she’s changed. His faith in her is an illustration of the pure goodness alluded to in the rest of the film–after all, being good means being good ALL the time, not getting to pick and choose when you follow the rules–the fairies hearts’ were in the right place but they don’t know everything, as is established earlier by Gump not being aware of Oona’s secret.  Jack trusts Lily–and the day is saved.

2. The Burbs – Idle Hands are the Devil’s Playthings

Dear Tom Hanks: Comedy misses you. Please take its calls again.

I miss the comedy films of Tom Hanks.

I haven’t seen too many of his dramas the last five years or so–no particular reason other than I already see more than enough dramas and have no interest in Dan Brown’s books.

But one upon a time, he made comedies. Fantastic, creative comedies the likes of which aren’t made anymore because of the lack of fart jokes and horrible people in them. Hanks took a middling comedy and elevated it to hilarity.

The Burbs is a comedy about a man who decides to spend his vacation lying around the house, drinking beer with friends and speculating on the new neightbors who have just moved in. He wants to garden, to vegetate, to putter, to wear his pajamas all day and relax.

But his bucolic rest is interrupted when he and his buddies begin inflating the importance of neighborhood events into something sinister–a missing neighbor, an errant toupee, the new neighbors digging in the backyard during a rainstorm in the middle of the night… conclusions are drawn and plans are made.

The lesson here (although it turns out that the neighbors WERE up to something unsavory) is that boredom can lead to invention the same way necessity can, the difference being that being bored usually gets people into trouble–boredom in a relationship can lead to cheating, boredom with a job leads to dissatisfaction and doing it half-assed, boredom with your life breeds a need for escapism.

Not only that, but The Burbs were one of those early movies that had the courage to suggest that maybe the good old days..weren’t so good? Like No Country For Old Men, it dared to present the idea that rose-colored glasses were a pretty poor medium for viewing the past.

1. The Neverending Story – When You’re Going Through Hell, Keep Going.

This is the big one for me.

 i
Just looking at it breaks my heart all over again

There are a lot of lessons to be learned from The Neverending Story–about following your dreams, about courage, about trusting people–but the one that always, always, always jumps out at me when I am watching it is that no matter how shitty things get, you have to keep going.

Depression is a pervasive illness many people don’t realize they have. It’s insidious, it creeps in and ruins your good times, pushes you away from happiness, makes you hurt others (this numbness, where the things you usually enjoy bring no pleasure, is known as ‘anhedonia’) . Many people think of depression as being sad for a time, as a period with a fixed beginning and ending. Depression is not being ‘down in the dumps,’  it’s a chemical imbalance that can become more or less pronounced, but never really goes away. It can be medicated, and combated with therapy, but at best you will learn how to manage it and live with it.

Enter the nefarious scene with Artax the horse–Atreyu tries to drag the horse bodily out of the swamps of sadness, and when the latter won’t move he becomes angry, screaming, insulting the horse, then just pleading and begging as the horse sinks deeper into the black muck. ‘Move, please,’ still brings tears to my eyes, every time I hear that barely-teenaged boy’s voice.

There is no saving Artax. He has reached his limit, and will not be moved. Atreyu can’t save his horse, because Artax doesn’t want to save himself–and when someone loses the will to live, even after the intervention of their friends and family, there’s little that will drag them back.

It’s a scene that doesn’t get the cinematic respect it should–I mean, the movie isn’t Schindler’s List, but it’s no Battlefield: Earth, either. It’s a moving metaphor for depression: after all, it’s easy to stop moving, but sometimes nearly impossible to get going again.

More than anything else, depression is what happens when you forget the feeling of joy, of hope. Remembering it, rediscovering that warmth and happiness, can be one of the most rewarding moments in your life, but my god, getting there can be an uphill battle.

He Kept Going.

Rip-roaring Rakish Entry: Plunkett and Macleane

The whole movie is a hoot–Carlyle is perfectly cast as a highwayman with a heart of gold with his soulful eyes and quick fists, and Miller as a debtor-turned-bandit with aspirations of nobility provides a compelling narrative. Alan Cumming appears as foppiest of the fops Lord Rochester, whose libertine attitude is only matched by the fantabulousness of his giant hats. This WAS the era of the Antoinette wig, after all, and giant wigs are ubiquitous. No little boats in them, though.

Yes. Yes You ARE having fun yet.

I’m a sucker for a good period piece–and when that period piece combines a contemporary music score, action, comedy, and a stellar cast including Robert Carlyle, Liv Tyler, Alan Cumming and Michael Gambon, I’d be sure I was hallucinating if I wasn’t already drunk.

I’ve been a Carlyle fan since ‘The Full Monty,’ and I’ve seen a large body of his work, both mainstream (Goldeneye, Trainspotting) and off the beaten path (Go, Now; that one about the dancing academy whose name I have forgotten–I missed the one about talking dragons though). Carlyle plays Plunkett, a former-apothecary turned highwayman with an opportunistic eye and a pragmatist’s spirit; though he is excellent at robbing the wealthy English of the 1740’s setting, he sees his crime career as a means to an end: he wants to get enough money to leave England and move to America where he can make a new life for himself. His talents for chemistry are a nice flourish for his character, giving an otherwise violent and calculating man some depth.

MacLeane (Jonny Lee Miller) is a dapper former gentleman with a penchant for fancy vests and an absolute curse when it comes to games of chance–we meet him in the famous debtor’s prison and his crappy fortunes at cards and games don’t change much.With his connections, he is able to get into fancy dress parties (marvel at the hats! OH THE HATS!) and find out who is carrying obscene amounts of largesse, and when.

Liv Tyler, who I’d always thought was capable of more than the pretty-girl roles she wound up with, plays the Lady Rebecca, ward of the Chief Justice and a romantic interest for Maclean, although she herself is more interested in the Gentleman Highwayman, as he comes to be known.

The whole movie is a hoot–Carlyle is perfectly cast as a highwayman with a heart of gold with his soulful eyes and quick fists, and Miller as a debtor-turned-bandit with aspirations of nobility provides a compelling narrative. Alan Cumming appears as foppiest of the fops Lord Rochester, whose libertine attitude is only matched by the fantabulousness of his giant hats. This WAS the era of the Antoinette wig, after all, and giant wigs are ubiquitous. No little boats in them, though.

All it needs is a little boat. You know what I'm talking about.

I have to admit, I love costume dramas with modernist spins on them. After all, any reproduction of history will be refracted through the modern filmmakers subjective viewpoint–why fight it? I find techno soundtracks or postmodern sounding quips less anachronistic to the film and more acknowledging of the inherently subjective nature of filmmaking. Within reason, it’s supposed to be entertainment, after all.

Though Plunkett and Maclean might have been intended as a historical drama, I found it to work well as an action film. Carlyle’s presence, and the presence of explosions and character actor Tommy Flanagan, with his renowned ‘Glasgow Smile’ facial scars, ups the butch level quite a bit.

I can't be the only person who wants to see this man in a lead role. Perhaps a romantic comedy involving British gangsters.

I absolutely adore Flanagan, who’s been seen in films like Braveheart, Gladiator, Sin City, and others. Apparently the scars are from a mugging that nearly killed him–yet his friend Carlyle encouraged him to try acting anyway. Although relegated to various tough guy roles, I hold out hope he’ll be randomly cast as a kindergarten teacher or florist some day, assuming he’s cool with that. I just hate to imagine that the only scripts he gets are tough guy roles and he yearns to play the Queen’s gardener or something. You just never know with people.

Those kinds of scars–think of the character Kakihara from Ichi the Killer or The Joker–are known as a ‘Glasgow Smile.’ The victim’s mouth is cut open at the corners, then he’s kicked in the stomach so that the scars tear wide and are difficult to stitch shut, leaving the infamous ‘smile.’ Never underestimate some people’s drive to ruin another person’s life–you will always be disappointed.

Anyhoodle, Plunkett and Maclean is a grand old time. I remember seeing it when it came out in 1999 on home video and for some reason being disappointed–I remember it as ‘everyone dies’ for some reason. Even though it’s kind of spoilery to say so, the good guys do win, and the bad guys are punished in the version I saw last night. I have come up with a rule–if a movie’s over a decade old, spoilers are much less of a concern unless the movie has a major twist or something. I don’t think it makes anyone throw up their hands in disgust to know a film they are watching entirely for fun doesn’t end badly–but there I go underestimating people again.

Another movie where people get really, really dirty. But it's cool. It was the 18th century in Europe.

For an added bonus, keep an eye out for cameos early on by David Walliams and Matt Lucas of Little Britain fame! Actually, I think they were extras as this point, but now that they are famous they made ‘cameos.’ I am hip to the lingo, yes?

Flying Fiery Feets of Fury: Ong Bak & Ong-Bak 2

I was surprised to find that the movie only had a 47% on rotten tomatoes, but on reading some of the comments I realized why: critics complained that the film bore little resemblance to the first movie, which takes place in modern times, and that it didn’t have enough action. But it seems they missed the point entirely–Tien commits some majorly bad crimes as a pirate, and thus his karma (Thailand is a Buddhist nation after all) is stained. Ultimately he is reincarnated as Tien in order to right the wrongs of his ancestor.

When it came time to make another Ong-Bak movie, Tony Jaa and Prachya Pinkeaw had a unique problem: how do you top a martial arts movie whose penultimate stunt has the lead fighting in burning pants.

Tony Jaa FIREPANTS!
Take a moment to savor it

Here’s a link with the aforementioned scene; Fast forward to 1:30, and you might want to mute it too as there’s some kind of annoying music playing. But still–a crazy airborne spin kick with your PANTS ON FIRE is pretty hard to beat.

(Also–Tony Jaa lost his eyebrows during the filming of this scene, and nearly caught his entire head on fire. Also also–Googling ‘Tony Jaa Fire Pants’ did not net the comedy gold I was hoping for.)

In 2003, Thai actor Tony Jaa appeared in Ong-Bak: The Muay Thai Warrior and was touted as the next heir to the Bruce Lee throne. While his actual training background is unclear, what is known is that he taught himself acrobatics by somersaulting off the family elephant (!!!!) into a river, and is credited with bringing awareness of muay thai to a bigger audience than just Asian action movie enthusiasts. And he’s really, really good at what he does.

The story is about Tien, a martial arts-practicing country boy who must retrieve the sacred Buddha head of his middle of nowhere village. The trail leads  him to Bangkok, where he meets up with George, a monk who spurned  rustic village life in favor of drugs, sluts, and betting money he doesn’t have on underground boxing matches. Tien wanders into one of the matches and goes through a giant Aussie competitor as though the latter were made out of fresh creamery butter, and little dollar signs light up in George’s eyes at this walking windfall. Tien doesn’t want to fight though, he just wants to find the missing Buddha head.

Some more stuff happens, Tien’s journey takes him through the seedy Bangkok underworld, which is all filmed to resemble the basement of a Las Vegas bowling alley, he retrieves the Buddha head and finally he finishes his task and attains enlightenment as a monk at the end of the film. Like most Asian action movies, which are much more honest about their purpose,  the story is really just a vehicle for showing off the lead actor’s fighting and stunts prowess.

Which is why the second Ong-Bak was such an unexpected treat: it is actually a prequel which functions as a karmic set up for the first Ong-Bak. OB2 follows the story of Tien, the karmic predecessor to modern day Tien, again played by Tony Jaa and his crazy-ass physical ability, but sets up a plot arc that is one part Thai history lesson and one part sweeping fantasy epic.

Previous Tien is the son of a deposed king, who escapes his father’s murderers only to wind up in a slave camp, fighting a giant crocodile for the entertainment of a crowd with incredibly poor dental hygiene.  He escapes by killing the crocodile, and his prowess as a fighter is admired by Chernang, the pirate king of Garuda Wing Cliff. Chernang takes young Tien under his wing and the latter learns a metric shitton of martial arts and battle tactics from the multicultural crew of pirates and fighters Chernang keeps: everything from Muay Boran (an antiquated form of Muay Thai) to Hung Gar, with weapons training as well. He uses these tactics to become the second-in-command of the pirates, but a memory from his youth of a young girl he became friends with at school makes him realize he has unfinished business in his life. Stuff happens, adventures are had,  but ultimately the story ends unfulfilled–I won’t spoil it, but I found the ending strangely satisfying, if a little abrupt.

People get dirty in this movie. I mean *really* dirty.

I was surprised to find that the movie only had a 47% on rotten tomatoes, but on reading some of the comments I realized why: critics complained that the film bore little resemblance to the first movie, which takes place in modern times, and that it didn’t have enough action. But it seems they missed the point entirely–Tien commits some majorly bad crimes as a pirate, and thus his karma (Thailand is a Buddhist nation after all) is stained. Ultimately he is reincarnated as Tien in order to right the wrongs of his ancestor.

If the first Ong-Bak introduced an unfamiliar Western audience to modern Thailand, the second was a celebration of Thailand’s cultural and historical heritage, even down to the elephants–there’s a scene where showing mastery over elephants proves Tien’s training is complete, and elephants are intertwined with Thai history and culture. The King of Thailand still keeps a herd of ‘war elephants,’ and the great beasts are to be found all over architecture and artwork. Since Thailand was a large nation near the ocean, it has a diverse population, which is reflected by the varied nationalities of the pirates who train Tien–there’s a Japanese guy who trains him in katana and swordfighting, Chinese fighters, and an Indonesian guy. There’s even a scene taking place in the evil usuper’s court showing Thai dancing and pageantry. Which is kind of beyond the scope of the usual action movie–Thailand isn’t just a setting, it’s a costar.

Apparently, the answer to the ‘firepants’ quandary was ‘Elephants.’ This scene was amazing and there was no CG or wires. Just Jaa and his magic powers.

When viewing a foreign film, I tend to take a passive role . Since I’ve never even been out of my home country I assume there is a lot I don’t know about the world and that the film might function as a source of information as well as entertainment. I realize and accept that I am not the intended audience, even if the film has been repackaged and distributed overseas to a foreign audience–sure some stories cross cultural barriers, but ultimately you are viewing the film as a ‘guest.’ Just as you wouldn’t go to a foreign country and bitch that they don’t do things just like at home, why would you hold all films to the same cinematic standard? The Western movie industry might have informed many other nations on filmmaking, but ultimately ours is not the only way to make a film.

The marvelous thing about the Ong-Bak films and part of the reason they’re so popular are the lack of CG and wire stunts. All the stunts are practical, meaning a real dude (usually Jaa since he does almost all his own stunts) is performing. The fight scenes look rough as people really get kicked in the face or chest–sometimes you can see the opponent’s torso folding around Jaa’s foot as the opponent’s body recoils from the impact and you know that poor bastard got hit hard.  Apparently though, there are almost NEVER any serious injuries on the films.

Here’s a completely gratuitous shot of Jaa in the ‘riding the elephant herd’ scene, in which he hops several times from one elephant to another.

This is known as ‘elephant surfing.’ Or it should be.

Note: Tony Jaa’s film career is kind of up in the air, as he became a full-fledged monk in May 2010. I hope he continues making films; he has a real charm and presence on camera. And he’s also just precious–he has a fairly wide acting range, and can either seem like a hardass or a sweet, vulnerable country boy, a necessary part of being an action star; otherwise they’re just a terrifying psycho with superhuman abilities.

He also isn’t a huge guy, so it’s believable when his opponents massively underestimate him–and therefore is so much more satisfying when he effectively ‘bags the trash.’

Photo taken from Cute Overload Martial Arts Demo.

UP!: A Movie for People Who Truly Hate People

If a person can view the first 12 minutes of Up without feeling anything, without feeling at least a smidgen of the pain of Carl and Ellie’s ups and downs and ultimately Carl’s heartbreak over losing her, that person is probably a great candidate for forced sterilization.

I am cheered by this image. Aren't you?

Up! is a movie that is impossible to hate. It’s also a movie that is impossible to be apathetic about.

If  a person can view the first 12 minutes of Up without feeling anything,  without feeling at least  a smidgen of the pain of Carl and Ellie’s ups and downs and ultimately Carl’s heartbreak over losing her,  that person is  probably a great candidate for forced sterilization.

Not that I think reproduction is a privilege rather than an inalienable right, but rather what child would want to grow up in such a joyless and apathetic environment? Even the most misanthropic bastard will be sniffling by the time Ellie and Carl are sitting in the doctor’s office, finding out they can’t have children.

That said, UP! is strange for being ostensibly a children’s movie. The sort of wacky children’s stuff doesn’t begin until almost a half-hour in, and there was talk at the time of its release how Disney was not heavily pushing the merchandise like they did for other Pixar films. Which is sort of understandable, if disappointing. I’m a huge fan of ‘children’s’ movies that entertain on multiple levels (ask anyone who knows me about my ‘Babe’ fixation) and so Up! couldn’t have been more perfect if Thor had descended from on high in his goat-driven chariot and handed the movie to me gift-wrapped. It’s a strange, meandering journey with a little old man as the protagonist, and it was a huge gamble as to whether children would enjoy it or not.

By and large, I think they did. Certainly in the theater I was in the children laughed when appropriate, were quiet during the somber portions, shouted in excitement during the scary parts,  and did ask questions during the introductory vignette but that’s something to be expected in a crowded theater of a children’s movie. To be honest I kind of like that sort of thing in children’s movies, since I have none of my own and I enjoy peoplewatching. I also think that entertainment which causes discussion, no matter what level, only adds to the enjoyment. I don’t want to hear  long discussion in the theater, but I do like to hear a parent explain something rather than just ignore or shush their child. The most popular entertainment of the last decade arguably has been entertainment that evokes discussion–HBO and Showtime series, LOST, or movies where people leave the theater talking about what happened.

Up! and its story of an old man, a young boy, another old man and his army of electronically-enhanced dogs and a giant bird with incredibly festive plumage has something for everyone–is it the perfect movie? Far from it–there are long moments of inaction,  lots of dialogue, and a great deal of character-based conflict. It is after all a character piece about an antisocial old man coming to terms with the loss of his best friend, and attempting to carry out the last wish of the only person he ever really cared about. Then there’s Russell, a small round boy of Asian descent going to heroic lengths for the chance that his absentee father will pay him  little attention–his mildly irritating presence provides one of the big plot complicators for Carl as he goes about fulfilling Ellie’s last wish.

Pixar has yet to make a disappointing film. I hope a day never comes where I leave the theater after a Pixar film feeling unfulfilled.

Ink

INK is the kind of film that gives critics and viewers hope that films have not completley become monetized, that there is still room for creativity, for risk. It’s undoubtedly a strange film, and there are some slow parts, and sometimes the acting (particularly of Storyteller Liev) meanders into extreme melodrama, but it’s also a breath of fresh air for anyone worn out by modern cliches and lackluster filmmaking.

"Pleasant Dreams.'

INK is the sort of fantasy movie that you would think isn’t being made anymore. The only fantasies being made are the ones with with someone famous attached, like Neil Gaiman or Terry Gilliam, and with a watered down story that has usually defanged the source material.  Now that’s certainly changed in the last two years or so, but the vast majority of fantasy films are based on books or graphic novels with an established fan base. If it’s Neil Gaiman or Terry Gilliam, there’s a good chance of it being made.

Ink is a wonderful anomaly to that pattern, since the movie was made on a budget  equal to a four-bedroom house, by a group of no-name filmmakers. The film was never even sold to a major studio–instead, the intrepid Winans went straight to DVD and Blu-Ray distributers, and the film was reportedly downloaded over 400,000 times from BitTorrent. Now the film is selling like gangbusters, and stands as a marvelous example of moving outside the studio system.

The story is resonant of the aforementioned Gilliam’s Brazil, and the entire body of Gaiman’s work. The importance of Dreams, and the high cost of allowing one’s nightmares to become one’s motivation in life are explored here. The action focuses on a young girl and her itinerant father, and on a quest between a group of people who give dreams and their battle with the Incubi, who give nightmares.

Its rare for something in a film to creep me out these days, especially a Hollywood piece. There’s just too much money at stake, think the execs, to take a real risk and show something truly frightening or unsettling, which i’m pretty sure is what led to the popularity of foreign horror and other genre films–the chance of actually seeing something NEW. I still haven’t seen Paranormal Activity, but I attribute its success to the fact that it was an underground, indie-made film. INK, another independent film, delivers on that, while still trodding ground familiar to anyone who’s studied Jungian archetypes or read fiction concerned with dreams. The Incubi, a group of rubber-clad creatures with smiling screens for faces and who serve as the film’s main villains, are suitably disturbing and owe much to Brazil’s steampunk, anachro-tech look, albeit updated with an 80’s flair.

The story centers on a man, John, who has fought and clawed his way to the top of the corporate ladder, WallStreet-style, and in the journey lost much that was precious to him. Part of the charm of the film is in the delicate unfolding of the story, so I won’t ruin it; suffice to say that much of the film is concerned with him learning a lesson, but that trite description doesn’t do the film justice.

Some very realistic fight scenes give the film necessary thrills, and though the characterizations  of the good guys trying to rescue a little girl is heavily influenced by the Matrix, they remain interesting enough to become more than just a pale comparison. Jacob the Pathfinder is particularly memorable, and though his acting is a little uneven and sometimes seems amateurish, it’s a refreshing change from the robotically poised constructs ambling across screens in many of this summer’s blockbusters. I look forward to the day that the Sam Worthington Acting Unit’s servos break down and the whole thing is shipped back to the factory, and when the Megan Fox RealDoll becomes too stained and stretched out to be filmable in anything but Jhorror rebirthing scenes. I’m sure Takashi Miike is counting the days.

INK is the kind of film that gives critics and viewers hope that films have not completely become monetized, that there is still room for creativity, for risk. It’s undoubtedly a strange film, and there are some slow parts, and sometimes the acting (particularly of Storyteller Liev) meanders into extreme melodrama, but it’s also a breath of fresh air for anyone worn out by modern cliches and lackluster filmmaking. Given half a chance, the movie delivers on its promise of reawakening hope and the joy of a pleasant dream. Which is not to say that the film isn’t suitably dark–there’s a reason it has an R rating after all, but its the kind of dark that is earned, instead of just filmed in back alleys and shitty abandoned hospitals.

The film is available for viewing on Hulu and on Netflix’s Instant Watch feature, and I highly recommend it. It washed the bad taste left by Prince of Persia right out of my mouth.