It’s been a while since I’ve seen any really new films so naturally when I do get around to it two come along at once. Like with the games when I went on a mini-binge, with all the saving I did for the best part of a year I hardly went to the cinema or bought any DVDs so I’m making up for lost time, having ordered three new DVDs from Play and bought one at work yesterday.
The DVD that I bought was Ong-Bak, a recent Thai martial arts flick. The story is typical martial arts fare, which has the young man with no parents raised by a monk at the local temple, who happens to be a master of Muy Thai (Thai Boxing), tasked with rescuing the stolen head of the village’s Ong-Bak (Buddha statue) from some Bangkok gang members and bring good fortune back to the village. What makes this film an absolute blast is probably its main gimmick – that the star, Tony Jaa, is the man and fights almost full contact and does all his own stunts, some of which are spectacular. You can actually see his elbows, fists, and feet connecting with the people and sendig them flying, and at one point he sets his legs on fire and kicks someone in the head with them. It’s not particularly big or clever, but it’s excellent entertainment and really got me interested in what other cinema Thailand might have to offer.
The other new film that I saw was particularly exciting for me because it was my first chance to see a Ghibli film on the big screen. I went up to Southampton to a little independent cinema (voted best independent cinema in the country by the readers of Empire, apparently) to see Howl’s Moving Castle on its very limited UK theatrical release. I felt that it was the weakest of Miyazaki’s films that I’ve seen but was still a nice spectacle and great fun to see with an appreciative audience. As with Spirited Away the translation was done very decently with a good cast (I assume that John Lasseter was involved again, and there aren’t many with such an appreciation for animation) and I was surprised at how daring it was in what was essentially a kids’ film to have a war subplot complete with bombing raids on civilian cities – very much an undercurrent of anti-war sentiment in there. Miyazaki really gives his young audience more credit than any western animators that I can think of.
Anyway, both of those are worth checking out. If you want Ong-Bak on DVD the UK release is excellent – it’s the uncut international version (the subplot about Muay’s sister and a couple of limb-breaking shots are restored), it doesn’t have the subtitling issues of the R1 version, and it has the Thai track in both DD5.1 and DTS.