Picofarad #9 Movie reviews

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Paprika (2006)

Directed by Satoshi Kon
Running time: 90 minutes

Paprika was nominated for the top award at the Venice Film Festival, and no wonder. It has everything necessary to impress a panel of film judges: foreignness, occasional ambiguity, a subplot about a character who finds himself thanks to films. It also happens to be a darned good movie.

The title character is the alter ego of Dr. Atsuko Chiba (Megumi Hayashibara), a therapist who assumes the identity of Paprika when entering the dreams of her patients using a device called the DC Mini. The DC Mini is, however, stolen in short order. To make things worse, it looks like an inside job, and any hope of keeping it quiet goes right out the window along with Dr. Chiba's colleague, Dr. Torataro Shima (Katsunosuke Hori), who defenestrates himself in the grip of someone else's dream. It turns out the device had a fatal flaw-no access controls, leaving it open wider than Internet Explorer.

With a disapproving chairman piling on the pressure, Dr. Chiba is aided by the inventor of the DC Mini, genius otaku Dr. Tokita (Tôru Furuya), and Dectective Kogawa (Akio Ôtsuka), who just happens to also be one of Dr. Chiba's-- or is it Paprika's?-- clients. As they work toward the center of the mystery, it seems time and again to be well in hand, and then something even more bizarre and disturbing happens.

The dream sequences are the anime form at its best, making the weird visuals look effortless, without the bombast of a blockbuster. If you've never tried any anime, this is a great place to start.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007)

Directed by Gore Verbinski
Running time: 168 minutes

So, to recap: Having finally allowed Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) to fall into the clutches of Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) near the end of the last movie, adventurous couple Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) decided that oops, wait, they need him to defeat the East India Company. They appealed for help to mystic Tia Dalma (Naomie Harris), who obligingly resurrected Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) to guide them to Davy Jones's Locker.

But first, as the movie opens, they need to stop by Singapore to pick up a few things and visit a Pirate Lord by the name of Sao Feng (Chow Yun-Fat) in his picturesque bathhouse (someone on this production must have seen Spirited Away) so that the East India Company can come charging in and get the movie off to a rousing start with an all-out gunbattle.

As this movie was about to be released, Disney begged critics to not reveal spoilers further into the plot, so as not to impair the moviegoing experience. It would be redundant to give explicit spoilers. All you have to do is look at the assembled crew as they sail off to the Locker and ask yourself who does not have a clear narrative reason for being there.

But one of the nice things about a good movie is that you can see what's coming and enjoy it anyway. There's something for everyone in here, from massed battles at sea to the motley and comical assortment of pirates from around the world (including a cameo by Keith Richards as Pa Sparrow) gathered for a council to the neat and seamless visual effects, including a crowd of helpful animated rocks (Spirited Away again?), to tons of character development. As our young hero and heroine sink into angst and resentment, who should emerge as the sympathetic everyman who's confident he's doing what is right, but Captain Barbossa? Apparently, being dead for a while really improves your outlook on life.

Ironically for a franchise built on humor, the one persistent problem here is that this movie doesn't take itself seriously enough. It has aspirations to being a real epic, but can't resist the urge to shoot itself in the foot for a laugh. The series is definitely coming to a close just in time.

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