Tag Archives: Christian Bale

My Thoughts on: Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

If you’ve never seen any of Hayao Miyazaki’s animated films then let me tell you, you are missing out! They are masterpieces of animation with deep, thought-provoking stories and unforgettable characters. Thanks to a deal Studio Ghibli has with Disney, all of his films are readily available in the U.S.. Today I want to talk about one of my favorite Miyazaki films: Howl’s Moving Castle.

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Based on the novel of the same name by Diana Wynne Jones, Howl’s Moving Castle tells the story of Sophie (Emily Mortimer), a young girl who runs the family hat shop and seeks no adventure in her life. One night however, she’s cursed by the Witch of the Waste (Lauren Bacall) and transformed into a ninety-year old woman (Jean Simmons). Forced into a new life, Sophie eventually finds herself residing in the magical castle of Howl (Christian Bale), a powerful wizard, just as a brutal war is starting to develop.

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There are so many things to love about Howl’s Moving Castle. As with all of Studio Ghibli’s films, the animation is superb; Sophie’s transformation happens so quickly that it takes you a moment to realize it’s happened at all. Calcifer (Billy Crystal), the fire demon that powers the moving castle, is one of my favorite characters with his smart-ass remarks (“May all your bacon burn…”). The castle itself is one of the coolest magical environments you’ll ever see. Inside (once it’s cleaned up) it looks like a perfectly normal house. But if you flip a switch by the door, you can walk out into different towns! The design of the towns is a mix of late-nineteenth, early twentieth century architecture with a bit of steampunk scattered throughout (just look at the cars in this film and you’ll see what I mean). Magic is also considered a fact of life, people go to see wizards the way we go to see a doctor.

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The big message of the film is about how terrible war is. As a powerful wizard, Howl is recruited by both kingdoms to fight, but he doesn’t want to, in fact it’s revealed he spends a lot of time sabotaging the armies to make it harder to fight. The film was strongly influenced by Miyazaki’s feelings regarding the war in Iraq.

Howl’s Moving Castle really is beautiful and I highly recommend it if you haven’t seen it before. If you have seen this film, what did you think about it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day 🙂

See also:

Animated Film Reviews

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Hans Zimmer (and Richard King) talk The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

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Hans Zimmer (and Richard King) talk The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

The finale of The Dark Knight film trilogy saw composer Hans Zimmer return to score the film. Co-composer James Newton Howard declined to return for this film (as he felt Zimmer and Nolan would work better together) but the main theme that he helped create still remains in the film.

Zimmer admits that he kept Selina Kyle’s theme ambiguous and also that he took Bane’s theme in a completely different direction than what had been seen in the previous installments of the series.

This interview clip that I found features not only Zimmer, but Richard King as well, as they talk about the various sounds and musical themes heard in the film.

Like The Dark Knight (2008), I admit that I haven’t actually seen this film, but I’ve heard from so many that it is good, that I’ve placed the entire trilogy on my “to watch” list. Please enjoy this interview for The Dark Knight Rises (2012).

*all images are the property of Warner Bros. Studios

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See also:

Film Composer Interviews A-H

Film Composer Interviews K-Z

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Music as Emotional Expression: Equilibrium (2002)

*the links in this post contain affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.

Not too long ago, I had a slight obsession with dystopian films and literature (to be fair, I still do, just not as much). In my search for films on this topic, I stumbled across Equilibrium (2002) while I was in high school. Imagine every dystopian book you’ve ever read or heard of: 1984, We, The Giver, Fahrenheit 451, etc. Now combine them all into one and that gives you a rough idea of the world in Equilibrium.

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In this world, all emotion is forbidden (because it leads to unbalance, war, famine, etc.) and the world is seemingly a utopia as a result. There is no violence, no crime, no…anything! This is because anything that can cause emotion (books, music, art, pets, even the view from a window) are forbidden as well. All of the clothes are in neutral shades of white, beige or black. And to ensure that no emotions are felt, all people are subjected to a dose of medicine taken at a certain hour, that blocks all emotional responses. Failure to take ones “dose” results in being arrested and sentenced to death by incineration (a fate that has already befallen the protagonist’s wife before the story opened).

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The hero turns out to be John Preston (Christian Bale), a high-ranking Cleric and the father of two children. After busting a cell of “sense offenders” (people who refuse to take the “dose” and thus feel emotions), Preston is forced to execute his partner (Sean Bean) when he sees him saving a book of poems instead of destroying it. And after Preston accidentally misses his “dose,” he begins to feel emotions for the first time and his whole life is turned upside down.

Music plays a huge role in this film (Klaus Badelt assembled the score). When the story begins, the music is kept to the bare minimum (like during an action or fight scene). There is initially no background music (aside from generic diegetic music). But as Preston slowly begins to discover his emotions, the music begins to emerge and change the dynamic of the story. There is a pivotal moment when, in the midst of busting another group of “sense offenders,” Preston notices a record player. Ordering everyone out, he puts on a record that plays Beethoven’s 9th symphony and the music thunders through the room (as it does through Preston’s mind).

Equilibrium – Preston hears the 9th Symphony

Then, in one of my favorite moments, Preston wakes up early one morning around sunrise and hears rain falling against the window (which is covered over with paper). Now curious, he slowly tears the paper away to reveal a beautiful sunrise as a quick summer rain falls. The music begins to swell once again as Preston, perhaps for the first time in his life, appreciates the beauty of a sunrise.

Equilibrium – Sunrise

But the most powerful moment comes when Preston arrives too late to save a “sense-offender” woman that he has come to love. As a Cleric, he has the power to stop the execution, but once she is locked inside the death chamber, it’s too late and Preston can only watch powerless as she dies in front of him. He manages to walk out calmly, but then collapses in agony on the steps as emotions finally spill out of him. The music is so powerful here, swelling, bursting, describing a man dealing with emotions he does not know how to handle or express.

Equilibrium – The Execution

While Equilibrium has gotten less-than-favorable reviews in the past, I love how the film uses music to trace Preston’s journey from unfeeling Cleric to loving father. It’s definitely worth sitting through (and listening to) at least once.

See also: Film Soundtracks A-W

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*All images and clips are the property of the film studio

Marco Beltrami talks 3:10 to Yuma (2007)

*the links in this post contain affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.

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Marco Beltrami talks 3:10 to Yuma (2007)

Copyright Lions Gate Entertainment. 2007

The 2007 film 3:10 to Yuma is a remake of the 1957 film of the same name, and tells the story of impoverished rancher Dan Evans (Christian Bale), who agrees to transport wanted outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) to the train station so he can board the 3:10 train to Yuma Territorial Prison. This mission is far from simple as Wade’s gang is in hot pursuit of their leader and will kill to free him again.

Evans, on the other hand, is seeking the $200 he will earn for safely delivering Evans to the train because it will greatly help his family. It also comes out that he wants to restore some sense of honor to his life so his sons will have something positive to remember about their father when they’re grown.

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By the end of the story, Evans is the only one of Wade’s captors still alive and the outlaw has developed a modicum of respect for the rancher (though an outlaw, Wade does have his own principles and he respects those who also have a firm sense of principles). Evans gets Wade all the way to the train only to be fatally shot by Prince, one of Wade’s men (despite Wade’s order that Prince not shoot).

Disgusted at the loss of a good man, Wade steps off the train and executes his entire gang before cheerfully surrendering to the authorities (thus ensuring that Evan’s contract is fulfilled and Evans’ sons will receive the money). Though he’s on the train to prison, he whistles for his horse, which follows along, implying that he’ll be on the loose again before long.

As a general rule, I am not overly fond of remakes. However, this film is an enjoyable way to pass a few hours, and the score is well done. The interview provides a great insight into how Beltrami put the score together. Enjoy!

See also:

Marco Beltrami talks Blade II (2002)

Marco Beltrami and Marilyn Manson talk Resident Evil (2002)

Marco Beltrami talks Live Free or Die Hard (2007)

Marco Beltrami talks The Wolverine (2013)

Marco Beltrami talks World War Z (2013)

Film Composer Interviews A-H

Film Composer Interviews K-Z

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