A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 506 – Rango

Rango – July 19th, 2011

I will straight up admit to wanting to see this movie largely because of its marketing. If it had just been advertised as a CG kids film Western parody then eh, I might have seen it eventually or I might have given it a pass. Sure, it has Johnny Depp and he’s always good for a laugh, but I don’t go out of my way for Westerns and it just might not have seemed like it was anything super special. Except for the marketing, which played up how the recording for the voice acting was done, which looked like a blast. Unlike the recording booths I assume much voice acting is done in, this movie was recorded with the cast on a rudimentary set, interacting and wearing costume pieces and using props. Acting out the physical actions for the scenes they were recording for. And that just sucked me right in.

Now, we watched this on our regular DVD player and the regular DVD copy we have has nothing in the way of special features. And that is a crying shame because what I have seen of the filming done during the voice recording sessions is fascinating and I would love to have the option for a split screen (or something similar) between the animated movie and the recording sessions. It just seems like so much fun, with all the actors cavorting and playing around and acting out these things that aren’t meant to be physical. Seeing Bill Nighy act out the part of Rattlesnake Jake is just fantastic. But alas, that option doesn’t exist. We’ll have to pull out the PS3 and check the Bluray version at some point. Fortunately, even without such gimmicks the movie stands up.

It’s a Western. Let’s just put that out there and I will admit that I enjoyed it. In fact, in light of this and a few other things I’ve noted in some past reviews, I think I might have to revisit my position on Westerns. I still don’t think I’m much of a John Wayne gal, but I’ll give Eastwood a go. I’ve absorbed enough of the tropes at this point that it really would be a shame not to put them in their proper context. And I shouldn’t let an enforced viewing of The Searchers while I had a 100 degree fever color my attitude towards an entire genre, I’m sure. Some day I’ll tell that story, but it won’t be in a review for The Searchers. I’ll give Westerns a go. I’ll spend the rest of this review effusing about this particular Western. But The Searchers will always remind me of fever chills and misery and resentment. That being said, this movie is about as far from that as possible.

Sure, some of it seems like a fever dream! But that’s intentional and a heck of a lot more fun than an actual fever. It’s the story of a chameleon who finds himself bounced out of his terrarium and stranded in a desert environment he is utterly unfamiliar with. In his quest for water he finds a town, the town of Dirt, and thanks to his penchant for acting (and he is a chameleon, after all) he spins enough wild tales to impress the locals. When he lucks into winning a match against a hawk he’s made sheriff. And that’s when the real trouble starts, because now he has to live up to all the tales he’s told and stories he’s spun because Dirt has more problems than a hawk hanging around and some rough and tumble critters in the saloon.

Dirt is drying up. Less and less water in the bank. Less and less water out of the giant spigot. Things are getting dire and now Rango is the one the people of Dirt are looking to for help. And he has no damn clue what to do. He knows how to act like he knows what to do, but faced with actual problems and the need for true action, he manages to muck it up every which way. Of course. And of course you know eventually he’ll have an epiphany and figure out what to do and somehow save the day with something clever and unexpected. I mean, this movie is unique in many ways but the basic plot arc isn’t one of them.

There are two things that really set this movie apart from others of its ilk: The animation, which is gorgeous, and the script, which is funny and tight and performed brilliantly. I suspect that the latter is a combination of good writing and the aforementioned recording sessions. Every clip I’ve seen from them shows people collaborating in a way that feels almost like an acting workshop, but since it’s the sound they need, they can edit around bits they don’t want or need. The animation would follow from that too, as I believe it was done after a lot of the recording, with the actions of the cast used as reference points. The visual standards for the animation are high anyhow, with some lovely detailing done in the textures and backgrounds. I found Rattlesnake Jake, in particular, to look fantastic. And this is coming from an ophidiophobe.

Still, I do credit the writing even without the different take on voice recording. It’s a fun script that doesn’t break any new ground plot-wise but does take advantage of all of the tropes before it. There’s narration for the movie performed by a troupe of birds in mariachi outfits, playing music and telling the story but also being inside the story, coughing as dust is kicked up by the animals riding by, which they’re singing about at the time. Every little nuance of the movie, all the jokes based on the setting, they’re all clearly homage and parody both. When Rango announces that he and his posse are going to ride out! Well, that’s a moment of homage to dozens of movies. When he realizes he has no idea where he’s riding to? That’s parody. And it’s all nicely done and well-matched with the animals-as-characters concept, mixing jokes on the setting with the inevitable issues of scale.

I’m also quite pleased to say that while there is a bit of a message to the movie, which is inevitable in a movie about a town in the middle of a drought, it’s not shaped like an anvil or a sledgehammer. The movie is about what the movie is about: An unlikely hero growing into his heroism. And along the way there are messages about the environment and greed and growth at the expense of people’s lives and livelihoods. And it’s all really nicely done. It’s a fun movie and a funny movie and it’s incredibly gorgeous visually and really, my only complaint is the lack of special features on the DVD, which isn’t a complaint about the movie itself so please pay it no mind.

July 19, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , , | Leave a comment


July 19, 2011


This was a wonderful treat. I had pre-ordered this from Amazon a while back during a small spate of movie buying one week when I had some money to spare (things have been tight lately and we haven’t been able to buy as many movies as once we did.) Then this week it abruptly showed up in our mailbox. I remember when this was in theaters earlier this year and how I really wanted to go see it then, and it’s great fun to finally be able to see it.

Amanda and I were intrigued by the way this movie was made. For ages animators have used reference material of the actors in the sound booths “performing” their parts. Pixar started to break down the walls between voice actors when they made Monsters, Inc, which I believe is the first animated feature film to allow two actors (John Goodman and Billy Crystal) to riff off of each other while recording their dialog. Prior to that each actor would record their lines alone in an isolated sound booth. What Gore Verbinski has done here is take the performance capture techniques pioneered by Robert Zemeckis for his creepily not quite human films like Beowulf and The Arctic Express, and make something looser, cooler and hipper from it. Gone are the mo-cap balls and skintight outfits. In the making of footage for this movie some of the cast are in full costume, and some are just in sweats – whatever they need to get into character. Instead Gore chose to record the movie with cameras and boom mikes as though it was an actual movie, then turn that source material over to the animators as inspiration and direction for their work. So he’s creating a kind of live-action animatic that works almost like storyboards. It’s a fantastic idea, and clearly it worked very well for this movie because it’s simply fantastic to watch and has a very natural and real feel to it in spite of its being entirely computer animated.

It also appears that the movie was animated not by traditional animators (though I don’t doubt that there were many of those employed) but by special effects artists. Of course in today’s film world there’s probably little distinction to be made there, but I think that the fact that this is the first full film produced by ILM is clearly to be seen in the amazing visual detail they cram into every frame. The art design of this movie is a kind of twisted parody of real life. All the characters (except for a couple grotesque caricature humans here and there) are based on real life animals, and all the backgrounds and props are intricately built as well. Every surface is covered in grit, hair and feathers. The whole film has a very organic but also fantastical look to it, which gives it a sense of heightened reality that goes hand in hand with the very natural performances.

But all that’s just the technology behind the movie – what’s the actual film like? It’s a fun sort of western with an unlikely hero. Johnny Depp plays a bug-eyed chameleon with a square face and a crooked neck who, at the start of the film, is a little lonely and stir-crazy in his isolated terrarium. He acts out strange fantasies with the various knick-nacks in the tank with him until he is abruptly cast out of the back of a car though, and finds himself out in the real world. On the advice of a road kill armadillo he heads out into the desert where he comes upon the parched little town of Dirt. Here in Dirt the people are dusty and downtrodden, there’s a mysterious drought, and a sinister mayor who has been buying all the dessicated farms around the town for some reason. They need a hero, and the chameleon needs to figure out how to deal with being surrounded by people. He chooses to blend in by taking on a completely new persona – Rango.

Rango is a tough-as-nails fearless pistolero with a swagger and a drawl. He comes out of the mysterious west to deal with outlaws and n’er do wells. He’s the ultimate western movie badass – except that he’s completely fictitious and a fraud. Even so, he’s exactly what the people of Dirt need, and he soon finds himself appointed sheriff and pitted against a family of water stealing groundhogs.

This is a simple and familiar story but wonderfully fun to watch nonetheless. I particularly enjoyed all the little references throughout the film. This is not a movie for children, even if it is produced by Nickelodeon The chameleon in his tank does the routine with the manequin from “Make ‘Em Laugh” that Donald O’Connor does in Singin’ in the Rain. When he’s thrown into the road at the start of the movie he careens off of the windshield of a car driven by a Hunter S. Thompson. (What kid, watching this movie, will get a Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas reference?) The plot has many references to Chinatown.

This movie was just fun to watch from start to finish. It looks as though it was fun to make too. You get the impression from the making-of material that it was a congenial kind of Pirates of the Caribbean reunion. Johnny Depp brings Rango completely to life with his swagger and his insecurity and his high pitched Kermit the Frog like wails when he’s being chased. Another Pirates alum, Bill Nighy, is fantastic as the sinister Rattlesnake Jake. This is just one of those movies that, once I was done watching it, made me want to start it right over and watch it again. It’s that kind of joy.

July 19, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

Movie 494 – Toy Story 3

Toy Story 3 – July 7th, 2011

After the drama of last night, plus a long day for me, we decided it would be best to watch something sweet and fun and ultimately tear-jerky. Which really could be any Pixar film. It’s what they specialize in, after all. So Andy gave me two choices: Toy Story 3 or Up. You mean I have to choose? Yes. Because there wasn’t enough time to watch both and we only have one box of tissues in the apartment. So in went the latest (last?) installment of the Toy Story saga to get a theatrical release. And we braced ourselves for the tears that we knew would hit by the end.

By now in the series we’ve met the toys, seen them deal with issues of jealousy and abandonment and learned that most of all they just want to be played with by their child. They want to be loved and treasured and always be there to have fun. Sure, being a collector’s item is okay – better than being tossed aside – but playtime is the best time. Coming into this movie we’re supposed to be familiar not only with the characters of the toys themselves, but with the world they exist in. Because being familiar with the world will make this movie that much more wrenching.

The first movie introduced the characters and pulled them all into a team. The second movie presented them with a sinister threat and an unpleasant reality. The third one? The third one tackles growing up. We zip forward through the opening credit montage, through the childhood of Andy, the owner of Woody, Buzz and the rest of the gang. He gleefully plays with his toys over and over and over until the montage and credits end and we find that he’s 17 years old and headed off to college and the toys are patiently (or not so patiently in some cases) waiting for him in their toy box. They try a last-ditch effort to get his attention by stealing his cell phone, but it’s all for naught. As Andy packs for college his mother tells him to toss what he doesn’t want in the trash or box up things he wants to keep either for the attic or for college. And through a series of understandable but unfortunate events, all the toys but Woody end up in a garbage bag on the curb instead of in the attic where Andy meant them to go.

Even without the eventual horrors of daycare, the scenario of the toys being left out for the garbage truck is a horrific one for the world that’s been presented to us. The toys all panic, certain that this is the end for them. Jessie’s already been cast aside by one kid, and now another! They escape in the nick of time, but clearly it’s time for them to go elsewhere. Andy doesn’t need them anymore. So off they go to the magical land of daycare where every day is a day full of playtime and the kids never cast you aside because there are always new kids! Things don’t go as well as they want, however.

Now, this is what I really love about this movie. I love the tearjerker ending too, but what I really love is the horrific world of Sunnyside daycare. The older kids are a dream come true for toys. But as Buzz and the others find out, the toddlers are another story entirely. The scene with the toddlers rampaging through their playroom is at the same time one of the most hilarious and one of the most horrific things I have ever seen committed to film. And the movie does it deliberately. This is supposed to be a terrifying and threatening ordeal for the toys. They’re bent, licked, painted, stomped, thrown, bashed and broken and left reeling after the fact. As the toys themselves say, they are not age-appropriate for these kids. It creates this brightly colored and incredibly cheerful toy dystopia, ruled by the fuzzy fist of Lotso, a sinister fuchsia bear who smells like strawberries. He and his cronies have decreed that only they and their favorites get to live in the “Butterfly Room” with the older children. The new toys? They have to earn their places by spending time in the “Caterpillar Room”. Any toys that protest spend the night in the sandbox.

It’s a fantastically clever way to create peril for the characters of this world. I love how every aspect is playing upon this community of toys, with Lotso riding around in a toy dump truck and the toys playing cards for Monopoly money and AA batteries. The spa at the daycare is a repair spa, where toys can get cleaned and restitched. Ken, who shows up as one of Lotso’s cronies, has “his” Dream House, full of clothes he loves to wear and is just itching to try on, leading to a fashion show for Barbie. It’s all a wonderful and inventive environment for the toys to explore and cope with and it’s handled wonderfully. So too are the new additions to the cast, both good guys and bad. They’ve all got wonderful personalities and exhibit what I’ve always loved about these movies: toy-specific movement. The Army Men skip from side to side instead of walking because their legs are molded to their bases. Woody flails when he runs because he’s a soft-jointed toy. Barbie and Ken’s movements are stiff and posed, which anyone who’s ever owned one or the other or both knows is pretty spot on. It’s a great world and I love that the third movie takes everything to an entirely new location – one that makes perfect sense – and it all fits just right.

Of course, there’s going to be more danger, with he toys ending up at the town dump and almost getting incinerated, but they survive. That’s not the tearjerker moment, though it does have some pretty strong friendship and loyalty vibes going on. But really the whole breakout from Sunnyside that comes before the dump? Is wonderful. The toys all work together to get out, having Potato Head stick all his pieces into a tortilla so he could sneak around, and Barbie taking charge with Ken and forcing him to help them out. By the way? I love Barbie in this. She’s cute and fun and perky and she will kick your butt. There are lots of little nods and winks in this movie, but the whole thing about Ken’s horribly dated clothes just cracks me up and makes me really question the intended audience here.

I know kids like these movies. I know that because I work with kids. Lots of kids. And these movies, the third one included, are very popular. They don’t stay on the shelf for long and it’s usually kids who pick them out. But I honestly think that while kids clearly enjoy them, these movies were made to prod adults right in the cockles of their hearts. I’m sure parents experience a special twinge with this one and its whole theme of growing up and moving on, but it hits me too. The movie ends with such an uncliched poignancy that I don’t think it would do it justice to describe it. So on top of all of the jokes that only adults will truly get, the movie is speaking to us as former kids and in many cases as the caretakers of kids. This isn’t tossed in as a bonus to keep the grownups entertained when taking their kids to the movies. This is meant for us too. And I will freely admit that while watching it both Andy and I pulled over stuffed animals we keep nearby. He had my old teddy bear, Rufus, and I had my stuffed Triceratops and I went and said hi to my stuffed dog, Minna, and Uni the Unicorn (wasn’t I an inventive child?), saved from the donation pile when I moved out of my parents’ house. It’s a kicker of a movie, that’s for sure. In all the best ways.

July 7, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment

Toy Story 3

July 7, 2011

Toy Story 3

I know I’m going to cry tonight. I have the tissues out (and, yes, when I went to see this in the theater with Amanda and our friend A we stopped in at CVS on the way to buy tissues then as well, because I know how Pixar movies touch me.) Just remembering the final scene in the movie makes me choke up.

This movie takes the most tear-jerkery moment from the first movie – the bit where Jessie remembers being abandoned by her original owner – and expands it into a full movie. As the movie starts Andy, the owner of all the toys from the movies, is heading off to college. He hasn’t actually played with his toys in a long time and they’re beginning to wonder what is in store for them. Still, through all the years he has held on to a core group of toys he doesn’t want to give up. There’s Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Bullseye, Slinky, Hamm, Rex, Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head and their three Pizza Planet children. Before Andy can leave he is tasked by his mother with the chore of choosing what he will keep in the attic, what he will bring to college with him, and what he will throw away.

He decides to bring Woody with him and packs all the other toys up in a garbage bag to go in the attic, but through a disastrous mix-up they end up on the kerb with the rest of the garbage. Woody rushes to rescue them, but the other toys decide after being thrown out (they think) they should just leave Andy, so they all climb into a box being taken to Sunnyside Daycare to be donated.

This movie goes to some dark and disturbing places. Especially for a movie about living toys. Sunnyside is one of the darkest and most disturbing. At first it appears to be an idyllic utopia for toys where they will always be played with for all time, run by a friendly cuddly bear named Lotso. But of course things are not as they seem. Sunnyside is a police state with Lotso and his thugs ruling through fear and intimidation. New toys are relegated to the “catterpillar room” where the youngest children maul, maim and misshandle them. I don’t really expect to see sinister dystopias in my animated childrens’ movies, but that’s the wonder of Pixar, isn’t it?

The brilliance of this movie for me lies in the extremes that it is able to portray. It’s not just the bleak world of Sunnyside with its exploited toys and Lotso’s megalomaniacal rule. It’s nit just when Buzz is co-opted to become a jailer for his friends (Lotso re-sets him to his factory setting so he becomes delusional and thinks he’s a space man again.) It’s that even if the toys escape from Sunnyside they have an uncertain fate. Andy has grown up and what is the purpose of a toy that doesn’t get played with? Things get darker and more bleak, an there’s a climactic scene which is so intense and hopeless that the MPAA have actually declared that they made a mistake giving this a G rating instead of a PG.

Then there’s the perfect, gorgeous, bittersweet ending which brings tears to my eyes just to recall, much less to watch. This movie proves once and for all that the folks at Pixar know better than just about anyone else in the world of cinema how to reach right into your chest and grab you by the heart. They are the masters of eliciting a powerful emotional response. This movie is so wonderful, touching and intense that it transcends its genre and takes its place as one of the greatest movies ever made. It’s too bad that I don’t think I have the constitution to watch it more than a couple times a year though – it’s far too powerful.

July 7, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Movie 492 – Blood Reign: Curse of the Yoma

Blood Reign: Curse of the Yoma – July 5th, 2011

I have to say, our years working at video stores have definitely affected our movie purchases in a big way. Working at a smaller store with lots of lesser known titles certainly exposed us to things we’d never have seen otherwise, and might not have bothered renting had we not had employee accounts to use. And now we get to go searching for some of those lesser known titles to find them for this project. Because the thing about this project is that we owned a lot of things we’d never seen before, but when looking at our list we realized how many things we had seen and loved but didn’t own. And this was one of the latter.

A little over a year ago I asked some friends online if they could help me figure out what this anime was. I’d seen it in college while working at the video store, and I remembered that it had an eerie counting song run over the trailer. We’d originally rented it because of the trailer and that song and been thoroughly baffled by it once we’d seen it. I remembered it having lots of monsters and a woman who turned into a moth (or vice versa, I wasn’t sure) and one of the main characters had a scar on his face. The protagonist and antagonist were childhood friends and now one of them had gone evil. And that was pretty much all I could give anyone to go on. Because I sincerely doubt that saying “I’m pretty sure we saw the trailer on some other thing that also had a trailer for Gappa: The Triphibian Monster,” would help. And really, take a look at that list of characteristics. Monsters and shape-shifters, creepy music, childhood friends turned rivals because one is evil? Yeah, that’s totally unique.

None of my friends were able to put a name to my mystery movie and so we moved on, hoping that some day we’d remember it or stumble across it. Then, after watching The Ninja Scroll, Andy decided to actively look. And how did he look, might you ask? He searched youtube for anime trailers with creepy music. And lo and behold, there it was. Over ten years later and I could still hum the tune. It’s a weird sort of movie that’s stuck with us despite being confusing and flawed. Because make no mistake, this movie is not a great anime classic full of lush visuals and impeccable storytelling. It’s an animated movie that actually has still sketches as part of its action scenes and one of the main characters is a total cipher.

The story is a little patchy. We start out with Hikage, a ninja warrior who’s been assigned to track down his former best friend, Marou, so Marou won’t spread knowledge of their clan leader’s death too early. But of course it’s not that simple. Marou has been claimed by the Yoma – demons who want to take over the world – and is growing in power. Hikage sees him in a strange village full of oddly happy people who don’t seem to have any cares at all. The village has no apparent resources, yet everyone in it is partying and laughing and super happy. But then he doesn’t see Marou again and instead becomes enamoured of a young woman, Aya, who has a bad scar on her cheek. And then he finds out that the village is full of suicidal folks who are being kept happy so they can be fed to Marou and he and his demons can take over. He fights the demon who was responsible, then some more demons, then everyone dies and Marou gets away and that’s the end of the episode.

Oh yeah, this is actually episodic. We hadn’t realized that before. And actually, I think it’s better this way. I’m fairly certain that the version we originally watched wasn’t divided, and it does play well enough as a whole. The thing is, I’m fairly sure there are some bits missing out of the version we originally saw, and I like that the second half introduces itself as a second half, divided from the first by three years. Because while the overarching plot of Hikage and Marou and the Yoma is still going on, the specifics of what Hikage encounters are different. And by smushing them together without much acknowledgement that there is a gap? Ironically, I think it would make the movie less cohesive.

The second half of the movie picks up three years later with the introduction of another character named Aya, this time a young woman who’s a ninja. She joins Hikage as they encounter a village full of ghosts and a bunch of other demons, most of whom shapeshift from human form to some sort of animal. And of course the whole thing ends with a climactic fight between Marou and Hikage, with Marou going full on demon and there’s lots of swordplay and yelling and blood. Aya gets attacked by a horse demon and eventually it all ends with Marou’s death. Not exactly a shocking ending. Of course, it also introduces the idea that Marou will be back, and that he will make the same choices he made before. Which brings up the question of Aya. In the first half she’s got a scar that a younger version of her (we assume) gets from the events of the second half.

The Aya thing is what gets me here. I can sort of see what the movie was going for with it, suggesting that there’s a cyclical nature of the events that are playing out. Marou’s rebirth, his strange origins, his choices and his words all hint at there being an inevitability to it all. But then there’s Aya, who dies in the first half only to sort of reappear in the second. Maybe it’s not the same Aya. Maybe the first half showed the potential future of the second half Aya had she not met Hikage? Maybe they’re not the same person but share the same soul? The movie does include the concepts of possession and reincarnation, allowing for the possibility that Aya wasn’t the same person but gained aspects of the other Aya. I don’t know. It’s all very vague, much like the battle scenes of the movie, which are shown by panning over some still sketches.

I find it frustrating because it hints at such a bigger picture. A lot of the movie does. But that bigger picture just doesn’t exist. This wasn’t a longer series condensed into an OVA and it doesn’t seem to have started as a manga series. It’s just a two part movie with some really big concepts that don’t quite fit. I love the still visuals and the demons are nicely drawn. The idea is pretty solid at its core and the characters are as well drawn as I’d expect them to be (aside from Aya) but it leaves me feeling like I missed something. This version left me feeling less that way than I remember feeling after the first time I saw it, but it’s still there. I enjoyed it, but I really wish there was even more of it to enjoy.

July 5, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blood Reign: Curse of the Yoma

July 5, 2011

Blood Reign: Curse of the Yoma

Way back on the third day of our movie-a-day project we reviewed Hellboy: Storm of Swords. It was a direct to video animated Hellboy story inspired by Japanese folk tales and it reminded me of an anime I had seen years ago, but I couldn’t think of the name of it. Then again, when we reviewed Ninja Scroll a little while ago I was reminded of this mysterious and bloody anime from bygone days. It was so irritating – like an itch – to have this movie I only vaguely remembered and couldn’t therefore find. So I spent about an hour searching the internet until a title leaped out at me. “Curse of the Undead Yoma.”

This was it! This was that mystery movie I couldn’t remember! Amanda and I first sought this out when we saw this trailer and were instantly captivated. Just haunting, wistful song in the trailer made us curious. What was this strange looking movie filled with ghosts and demons? Luckily at the time we were working for TLA video and they had this in their vast collection of anime, so we were able to watch it soon after seeing the preview.

I think that version we watched way back in the nineties was different than this, which we picked up on DVD last week. For one thing, I don’t remember the other version being two separate episodes as this one is. For another I remember being utterly confused and befuddled by the goings on the last time I saw this, whereas tonight it seemed relatively simple and clear. Either I was very tired the last time I saw this or the version we were watching was compressed and edited. Maybe it was also dubbed, which could add to the confusion (this being in the days before DVD when everything was properly available in multiple languages.) Anyhow, back then this movie was just a series of interesting pictures strung together by only the vaguest of plots.

Tonight I was able to understand the plot pretty well. Young Ninja Hikage is sent to kill his childhood friend Marou after their master is killed by a mysterious demon. He tracks Marou to a lost village where nobody has any memory of their past. It’s an unsettling place where people with no direction seem to wash up, including the beautiful young Aya, who sings the haunting song from the preview and who has a distinctive scar or birthmark over half her face. As Hikage searches for Marou he discovers that something is brutally killing the villagers, although everybody he confronts about it denies that anything is happening. Soon he finds out that the villagers are sacrifices to a resurrected demon god of some sort. he kills the demon’s spider henchmen, releasing the villagers from their ensorcelled peace, and confronts the god himself, who of course turns out to be his childhood companion Marou.

Marou gets away and the villagers, released from their dreamlike state, all die. (They had been drawn to the village by their suicidal tendencies apparently.) Thus ends the first of the two episodes. The second episode catches up with Hikage two years later. He has been travelling all over Japan slaying Yoma, the demons being raised by Marou to overthrow the human race. He encounters a young ninja girl on a beach who is also coincidentally named Aya. The two of them strike out killing Yoma, encountering ghosts and whatnot until Hikage finally catches up with Marou and has his climactic confrontation.

Amanda is somewhat upset by the recursive nature of the coda to the film, what with the two Ayas, but I kind of enjoy that aspect of the movie as well. The entire thing has an otherworldly and mystical feel to it, so the strange sense of inevitability and rebirth works for me. It’s a ghost story, really. All the people in the first village are lost, perhaps lost in time even – so the Aya we meet there could perhaps be an echo of the Aya in the second half. Or perhaps Hikage is just fated to love a girl named Aya with a scar – who knows? The movie doesn’t present answers, and that’s just fine by me. It’s a movie about second chances and love and betrayal, and all of those themes fill it from start to end.

This was made in 1989 – around the time of Akira. As such I can’t help being impressed with the detailed animation throughout. It’s full of cool demons, ninjitsu and acrobatic fight scenes, and lots of gore and corpses. There’s a lot of imagery that is frankly disturbing and unsettling, which is exactly the mood that the film makers were going for I’m sure. The whole “childhood friends who have to fight to the death” might be a tired kind of trope in the anime world, but this is one of my favorite examples of it. My other favorite is a spoof in the short lived Here is Greenwood series.

July 5, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Movie 487 – Immortal (2004)

Immortal (2004) – June 30th, 2011

Last night when looking through our list I asked Andy about this movie and he gave me a brief description and I thought to myself “Well, that sounds really bizarre.” And then I said we should watch it tonight because it was under two hours and tonight was going to be one of my later nights at work and we’re running low on those. We really need to make an effort to watch our longer movies on nights when I don’t work late so we don’t end up with a list full of things over two hours long. But hey, that meant we had tonight’s movie all picked out. Easy, right? If only it had actually been enjoyable for me.

I didn’t hate this movie. But I also didn’t really like it. I like the concept and I like a lot of the worldbuilding and I like the main character and I like the visuals but I didn’t really like the movie as a whole. It has one very significant flaw to it that bothered me immensely, and I’ll elaborate on that in a moment. But it also just never quite delivered on a lot of the potential it had. Part of the problem there is that I think this movie bit of way more than it could chew. The end credits mention that it is “loosely based on” a series of comics. And I’ve got to wonder if the comics it’s based on are any more lucid than the movie is, because the movie has a hell of a lot going on and not a whole lot of explanation for it all.

Granted, I’m glad that there isn’t a boatload of voiceover, which there could have been. There’s some, and it introduces some concepts, but then it’s done. But at the same time, when you decide to make a movie set in a world as outlandish as this one is? With Egyptian gods running around and non-humans and mutants and sewer hammerheads who can come up through drains like the slime in Ghostbusters II? You need to make sure that the important pieces of your world and plot can be understood through dialogue and action. I could blame some of this issue on the fact that it’s a French film in English and it’s entirely possible that some terminology just doesn’t translate well enough to get the meanings across. But at least some of the blame lies in the writing itself, because whole important bits and pieces seem to have been mentioned maybe once or twice and then tossed aside.

I’m running on a long day at work and a bad night’s sleep so I’m going to try and piece together some semblance of a plot here and hope it makes sense. I can’t guarantee it. It wasn’t entirely coherent in the movie and that’s not helpful. It’s the year 2095 and clearly it is The Future because there are flying cars all over New York City and people are walking around with some seriously modded looks. There are a lot of CGI Igors here, is what I’m saying, with skin patched together from what are clearly a number of sources and people have all sorts of funky stuff going on with their faces and hair and heads. Half the cast of the movie doesn’t actually exist. At least four fairly important characters are pretty much completely CG. So, you know, there’s that.

Enter two of our leads: Jill and Horus. Jill is a young woman who’s been picked up for some reason or another. Suspected genetic meddling, which is apparently an issue in The Future, but that’s one of the things that’s touched on and then tossed aside. We get a hint that genetic engineering is frowned upon and that there are mutants and non-human beings that aren’t accepted, but then the movie gets bored with that idea and moves on to something else. And that something else is a giant hovering pyramid that’s been floating over the city for a while. We get snippets of newscasters theorizing about it but we know for certain that it contains three Egyptian gods: Anubis, Bast and Horus. And Horus has been sentenced to death by the other two. They give him a week to go poke around on Earth before they execute him. And he’s intent on finding two things: A host body and Jill.

The host body is taken care of when he finds Nikopol, a convict whose cryogenic prison pod fell off of its storage blimp. Since he’s got little to no genetic modification, Horus can possess him just fine. So he does! Fab. And here’s one of my major issues with the movie. We never really get to know Nikopol. We know he comes to hate Horus and the things Horus has him do, but when Horus makes his offer, Nikopol says sure. We’re told, through signs and some talk, that Nikopol was imprisoned for starting some sort of revolution against the government and it has to do with the treatment of genetically modified people, I think? But since the genetic modification plot is given so little time and importance, so too is Nikopol’s part in it. And thus his character gets very little in the way of development. Is he a bad guy? A good guy willing to go to bad lengths for his goals? Who knows! Certainly not the movie.

We spend a lot more time finding out about Jill, a mysterious young woman who seems to not be entirely human but who knows little to nothing about herself. She has pale white skin and blue hair and lips. Her blue tears stain skin and her organs aren’t in the right places. The trouble with Jill as a character is that since she knows so little about herself, we know little about her too. Even when we get some information about her background the character who tells her who and what she is says that he doesn’t really know where she came from. And who is he? A traveler or something. He gets a monologue but it’s rambly and not terribly easy to follow. Suffice it to say that he brought her here and is giving her medication to turn her human and make her forget her past. You know, because she can’t possibly have any say over what she experiences or remembers.

Which brings me to my major criticism of the movie. Jill could have been a fascinating character but instead she is an object. Many of the other characters have things happen that are out of their control, and Nikopol certainly doesn’t get to exercise a lot of agency, but Jill is little more than a doll to most of the rest of the characters. To Dr. Turner, who becomes fascinated by her, she’s a curiosity to be tested and studied. She’s given tasks to perform and record the results of and she’s told what to do. To John, the mysterious man who brought her to New York, she’s a package to be delivered and set up. He gives her pills and tells her to take them and she does, never once questioning him even though the pills are changing her and making her forget everything. And to Nikopol and Horus? Yeah. Ick. Because Horus wants to have a child and Jill’s capable of carrying a divine baby, but Horus can’t knock her up himself. So he takes over Nikopol’s body and makes him rape her. And that on its own? Distinctly unpleasant, but as a plot point I can see where it’s going. Horus here is meant to be a nasty piece of work who sees humans as disposable. But again I have to wonder about Nikopol’s character. At times he berates Horus for making him do this but then he’ll lean in close to Jill and suggest that they have sex again because she owes him for defending mutant rights or whatever (to her credit, she points out she’s not what he thinks she is). And the worst part of it all is that the movie depends upon Jill becoming enamoured of Nikopol and wanting to care for him knowing that he’s raped her but not knowing the nature of the force that made him do it. I mean, if a man says “Sorry I raped you. I couldn’t help it. There’s another part of me that made me do it,” I don’t see that as mysterious and romantic and alluring. But the Nikopol and Jill romance is clearly supposed to be a thing here. Dark and unsettling, yes, but a thing nonetheless. And I find that to be so thoroughly off-putting that I just can’t run with the rest of the movie.

There’s a whole subplot with a CG senator and his secretary and he’s using this shark thing to track down Nikopol since Nikopol knows things and started a revolution. You know, the revolution the movie spends almost no time on. But I find it hard to get invested in that bit. There are no actual human actors involved and the plot it’s dependant on is all but non-existent, so it’s just plain easier to focus on the Jill and Nikopol and Horus bit. And I haven’t even gotten around to talking about “The Intrusion”, which is some sort of dimensional rift in Central Park that no one’s allowed near but which John can use to leave Earth and by the time we got to it I just couldn’t care. I was too irritated with the senator plot that went precisely nowhere and the rape-as-romantic-interlude/female-lead-as-walking-incubator plot that made me retch. This movie gave me so little to actually latch onto, which was such a disappointment. It looks so interesting and has such an odd mesh of ideas and concepts, but I just can’t seem to care.

June 30, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Movie 484 – Aladdin (1992)

Aladdin (1992) – June 27th, 2011

The first time I saw this movie was in the theater. Amazingly, one year my mother allowed my brother and I to pick a movie each to go to for our birthdays. Normally, movies in theaters were a forbidden world for us, to be attended only when visiting friends whose parents didn’t mind going to theaters. So the opportunity to go to a theater twice? Holy crap. I don’t know what I picked. No recollection at all. Whatever it was, it wasn’t as memorable as this was, but my birthday came after my brother’s so he got first pick. Oh well. I still got to go.

Now, this is a Disney movie, which means it’s a severely altered version of a classic folktale. It’s not a folktale I’m as familiar with as I am with some of the other things they’ve done (and yes, I still refuse to watch Disney’s Hercules), but it’s pretty obvious that this is not traditional. No classic folktale stars anyone remotely like Robin Williams, after all. The closest I can think of to his particular brand of manic energy would be how I normally think of Loki. But we’re not in Scandinavia in this story. We’re in the Middle East, telling a story about a street thief who gets his hands on a lamp containing a genie.

Visually, this is a gorgeous movie. It uses a combination of 2D hand drawn characters and 3D rendered backgrounds and for the most part that works very nicely. There are a few bits during a daring escape from a collapsing cave where it’s obvious the folks at Disney wanted audiences to know how fancy their 3D rendering tools were, but it’s not obtrusive otherwise. I admit, I do like the old 2D animation with something a little deeper behind it. Ironically, it makes the 2D animation pop more, which is pretty neat in my opinion. But on top of that the movie has a lovely color scheme, full of rich jewel tones. Sure, the red = bad, blue = good thing has been done to death, but it’s played well here. It’s just flat out a pretty movie. I especially love all the transparency effects that are done with veils and smoke and the like. I could put this movie on mute and just watch it for the visuals and be pleased by it. But then I’d miss out on Robin Williams.

Let’s be honest here: I watch this movie for Williams. The visuals are amazing and I do like Jasmine’s independent attitude, but Robin Williams is at the heart of this movie and without him it just wouldn’t shine the way it does. Now, I’m not talking RV or Patch Adams Robin Williams. I’m talking early Robin Williams. Live standup Robin Williams. Radio broadcast Good Morning Vietnam Robin Williams. There’s a great early Williams show that I haven’t seen in years and which is apparently not available on DVD at this time and I found a laserdisc version for sale on eBay but alas, we lack a laserdisc player. And he is wild in it. And that is what I think of when I watch this movie. You can tell he improvised a ton and you can also tell that there was no way some of this stuff couldn’t be used. But much as I love his performance, let’s face it, it was not intended for kids to get. Groucho Marx, Peter Lorre, Arsenio Hall, Ed Sullivan, Jack Nicholson and more I can’t even name or remember to name, and they’re good impressions made better by the animation. But what seven year old knows who Peter Lorre was? Still, I’m not complaining. Because I do indeed love Robin Williams.

By far the musical highlight for me is the introduction of Aladdin as Prince Ali, which is sung mostly by Robin Williams. It’s a hugely fun number featuring tons of ridiculous lyrics and visuals and Williams delivers the whole thing perfectly. There are a couple of other fun numbers, but for the most part the ones that stick with me are the Prince Ali song and A Whole New World. The former because it’s awesome and the latter because it is precisely the sort of song that sticks in my head and makes me renew my vow to avoid Disney movies. It’s a wistful power ballad that melds with Part of Your World in my head to form a sort of ur-earworm. And that is what South Part: Bigger, Longer and Uncut was parodying with Up There. Which gets immediately added to the mix so that in my mind I see Satan riding on a magic carpet and combing his hair with a fork. Yeah. Like I said, this is why I avoid Disney movies.

So Aladdin meets Princess Jasmine when she’s snuck out of the palace to experience life outside the confines of being a princess. He saves her when she breaks the law without realizing it and for his trouble the evil Grand Vizier, Jafar, grabs him to help with a scheme to gain access to the magical lamp. Aladdin ends up with the lamp and a magic carpet, wishes to become a prince and then there’s a parade! Of course Jafar manages to ruin Aladdin’s plans to woo the princess (well, Jafar and Aladdin’s inept attempts at being suave). He nabs the lamp, wishes for lots of power and wealth, and you can guess that they manage to turn the tables on him and all live happily ever after. As plots go it’s not the most complicated of stories. And the lessons it’s imparting aren’t complicated either. Be true to yourself, be honest with those you care about, give people the freedom to live their own lives. I can get behind all three of those.

What I can’t get behind are the plot holes. Leaving aside the fact that I have never seen a non-evil Grand Vizier in any movie ever (as a friend of mine mentioned, it seems to be a perk of the position), there are some issues with the plot. Much as I admire Jasmine’s insistence that she be allowed to marry who she wants, when she wants, if she wants, the whole movie revolves around Aladdin trying to convince her to marry him. And the whole plot point that the law says she must marry a prince? The movie hinges on it. Apparently she’s been tossing princes out on their rears for quite some time and her father is now frantic about getting her married off by her birthday or… um… it’s never made clear, I don’t think. The law says she has to marry a prince by her upcoming birthday “or else”. And then at the end the Sultan is all “Whatever, I make the law! Marry whoever you want!” If you loved your daughter so much, genius, why didn’t you fix that law in the beginning when it was so clearly an issue? And even disregarding that whole deus ex machina sort of ending, there’s the bit with the genie and Aladdin’s last wish. Why does he have to use his last wish for the genie? Sure, he promised, but why not wish himself a prince to satisfy the law (or wish for the law to change) then hand off the lamp to Jasmine and have her wish the genie free? All fixed! It’s the sort of set of plot points that sets my teeth on edge.

All in all, though, I do enjoy the movie. Plot issues and earworms aside, it’s beautiful to watch and it’s got Robin Williams. Apparently they had a ton of extra material from Williams’ recording sessions, not all of which was appropriate for a Disney movie. Oh, how I wish for some of that stuff to leak, because I would love to hear it. Unlikely, I suppose, so I’ll have to be content with what’s actually in the movie. And what’s in the movie is really a lot of fun. Added to the great animation and visuals, it makes for fun viewing. Just beware the earworm and don’t step in any plot holes.

June 27, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | 1 Comment

Movie 482 – Ninja Scroll

Ninja Scroll – June 25th, 2011

I know I’ve mentioned my video store experience in the past. It’s one of those things that figures into this whole project since it figures into our love of movies of a wide variety of genres and quality levels. After all, when you have access to a huge number of movies for free, you become willing to pick up a lot of things you otherwise would have passed over. And believe me, I was thrilled to have the run of the anime section at the store I worked at in college. The store I’d worked at in high school had a total of maybe thirty cassettes of anime, and over half of those were Ranma ½ episodes. And this was not in among the non-Ranma tapes. So I ended up not seeing this until college, when Andy brought it back from work one day so I could see a classic.

He did warn me at the time that there was a moment in the movie where a snake slid out of a woman’s crotch. And that right there is the thing I think of when I think of this movie. And I do think of it. It’s still strange to think back to a time before I was at all familiar with anime, when this was brand new to me. But strangely enough I didn’t see this until college. I’d seen some of what I’m fairly sure was the original Macross series when I was a kid, up early enough in the morning on Saturdays to get away with watching something not on PBS. And I’d seen Vampire Hunter D (which we don’t have yet!) during my high school years when I didn’t sleep more than an hour or two every night. There was a smattering of other stuff I’d seen with friends or caught on television, but this had escaped me. And it was a title everyone seemed to know. I wasn’t sure what I was going to see on the screen, because by the time I sat down to watch it I’d seen a variety of other things. Enough to know that anime isn’t so much a genre as a medium with a number of common themes that show up but certainly not limited to them.

This movie falls solidly into the supernatural feudal Japan theme. It follows swordsman for hire, Jubei, as he is drawn into a plot to use stolen gold to start a civil war. A mysterious old man poisons him in order to force him to help in return for the antidote. Turns out Jubei has history with the man responsible for the whole plot, Gemma, and I’ve got thoughts on the poison plot and all that but I’ll get there in a moment. As far as the main plot goes, Jubei ends up having to fight off a number of warriors with supernatural powers who are working for Gemma in hopes of stopping Gemma from getting the gold and using it to start a super army. Their history together is a little complicated but suffice it to say that they’re rivals and Jubei killed Gemma but Gemma found a way to reincarnate himself and make himself immortal. Immortal enemies are always a pain in the ass, aren’t they? Yeah, Jubei agrees and gets kind of pissed that all his earlier hard work is more than undone.

Alongside him in his mission to stop Gemma is a young woman named Kagero who is usually employed as a poison taster for the head of the Mochizuki clan. She’s also a ninja, and since her poison tasting skills aren’t needed at the moment she goes with a team of ninja to investigate a town that’s been wiped out by a plague. Her team is wiped out by the supernatural warriors sent by Gemma, since the town wasn’t killed by a plague but by poison so Gemma’s men could retrieve the gold. And you know, the specifics of where the gold is and getting it and sneaking it through the area and all? Yeah, it’s important to the overall scheme of things, since without that impetus there wouldn’t be all that much reason for the movie to happen, but I glaze over when I try to explain it. There’s an evil dude who wants power and in the course of his attempt to get it he kills people and the hero and heroine try to stop him. There. Done.

Because what I take away from this movie isn’t the political maneuverings of Gemma or the clan he’s latched onto to get his dirty work done. I don’t really care about the clan leader Kagero works for. What I care about are the fights between Jubei and the warriors Gemma sends after him. Known as the Devils of Kimon, we’ve got the aforementioned snake woman, a woman who can make things explode, a man who has a wasp nest in his back, a man who can turn his skin rock hard, a man who can slip in and out of shadows, a blind swordsman and then Gemma himself and his immediate second who can control everyone else with invisible threads (which he can also kill them with). It’s implied that the last one there has a thing for Gemma and that the explosive woman wants the thread dude and they’re all jockeying for position and don’t trust each other or much like each other and I’m kind of fascinated by them. I do wonder if their powers are based on anything in particular or if they’re just a random collection of potentially useful powers. I like that they don’t all work on a theme, like all be animal related or something. It makes them more interesting.

It also makes for a wider variety of fights for Jubei. He has to deal with the snake woman more than once and the wasp man is a far different sort of fight than the swordsman is. And he doesn’t even kill all of them himself! Which I also like. The snake woman is killed by her superior for failing and Jubei wouldn’t have been able to take down the stone man without Kagero having weakened him. Which brings us to Kagero being awesome in a way I’m not entirely comfortable with. Because she’s a poison taster she’s immune to all sorts of poisons herself, but she’s also taken in so many over the years that she secretes poison. She’s saturated with it. Which means she kills anyone who touches her too much. Which is how the stone guy got weak enough that Jubei could take him out, since he’d tried to rape Kagero earlier. Which is what started to make me uncomfortable. Later on we find out that the cure for the poison the old man gave Jubei is, surprise surprise, to sleep with Kagero. Which is when I start glaring.

I like Kagero. She’s strong and smart and she’s clearly good both at what she does most of the time and at her side job of kickass ninja. She’s able to use her poison powers to hold off an attack from the wasps at one point and she’s clearly an excellent fighter. But her major contribution to the plot is her deadly sexin’. There’s something distinctly unpleasant about that to me and it makes me unhappy because she is so strong otherwise and I do like her and I do like the rest of the movie. To reduce her importance to sex just irks me and due to Jubei’s history with Gemma the poison wasn’t even really necessary and given how much the old man knew and planned you’d think he could have figured that out. Which means he was trying to hook Jubei and Kagero up for kicks. Fortunately for Jubei, he declines to actually use her like that, giving her a friendly hug instead, which makes me like him a lot more as a character. Unfortunately for Kagero, she’s doomed to die so Jubei can walk off alone like he walked in.

But other than that, this movie is really pretty impressive. The animation is lovely and the villains are interesting. It’s a wonderful example of a fairly dark animated film and I really do like the vast majority of it. I think the political plot is a little ambitious and not given enough time for the details it’s supposed to have and there’s the Kagero issue, but I like Jubei and I like the overall mood of the film and I think it’s a great accomplishment. Certainly worthy of its status as a classic.

June 25, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ninja Scroll

June 25, 2011

Ninja Scroll

This review is going to make me feel old. I can sense it. It’s a “you kids today” review. You kids today with your handheld video games and your internets and your smart phones – you don’t know how lucky you are. When I was growing up in the days before VHS and cable television there was almost no anime available to sate my desire for strange, non-American animation that was not necessarily intended for children. Of course I obsessed over the few tantalising glimpses I was able to find on UHF TV hidden between the mind-numbing Saturday morning fare. Like the intriguing Battle of the Planets (severely edited for American audiences from Gatchaman) or Force Five (which was actually five different shows, a different one for each day of the week) or Robotech, which made no sense to me because I kept missing episodes – and because it was adapted from four different anime shows and re-dubbed into a single non-sensicle time line – or the awesome space soap opera that was Star Blazers. I remember how disappointed I’d be when I tuned in to Force Five and it wasn’t a Grandiser episode, for example.

Anyhow, my point is that I spent my youth intrigued and fascinated by these awesome cartoons which were so completely unlike anything else on TV. Only when I was in college in the early nineties did I start to find original anime in Japanese so I could enjoy it in its unadulterated form. At that time the big sensation of course was Akira, which had only come out a couple years prior and was far from as ubiquitous as it is today. Naturally I saw other classics like Vampire Hunter D and Dirty Pair. This movie, however, had not even come out yet. Years later when I was working at TLA and Amanda was in college in Pennsylvania anime was beginning to gain a more significant foothold in America. People who didn’t live entirely in dark rooms lit by computer screens had heard of it. It was at this time that Ninja Scroll became required viewing for anybody new to the genre. The reason why is clear as we watch this again tonight: this movie exemplifies everything awesome about Japanese animation that isn’t present in the pap created for American audiences.

What this movie is is a classic Japanese samurai movie but more magical and extreme. It takes place in feudal Japan, but includes unearthly magical powers. Three unlikely companions, each for reasons of their own, do battle with an upstart clan that is trying to oust the Tokugawa warlord that currently rules the country. Opposing them are the shadow clan, who have retained the help of eight legendary ninjas – the Devils of Kimon. Each of the eight Devils has his or her own deadly power. One can turn his skin to impervious stone and hurl a devastating spinning boomerang sword, one can fill corpses with explosives and re-animate them under her own control, one commands hordes of snakes, another hordes of wasps and so on. Leading the devils is the immortal warrior Gemma whom our hero Jubei had thought dead after they fought years ago while in the service of a different master.

The basic plot, of Jubei the wandering ronin teaming up with the last survivor of a ninja strike team sent by a local leader to investigate the doings of the Devils and a wise old manipulative government spy, doesn’t hold many surprises. It’s pretty much the story of the three of them reluctantly uniting and one by one defeating the unimaginably powerful foes they face, leading up to a climactic confrontation between Gemma and Jubei in a burning boat full of stolen gold bars. Kagero, the ninja woman whose kiss brings death because of her years as a poison taster for her clan, is bitter and cold. Jubei is your classic lone wolf, who has no interest in political conflicts like this but is manipulated by the government spy Dakuan. Even together they have no hope of defeating their supernatural foes, but they do battle with them nonetheless.

That’s not really the point of the movie though, at least not to my eyes. The point of the movie is to have a never-ending series of brutal action scenes that are the absolute pinnacle of extreme Japanese animation. This movie is absolutely packed with nudity, sex, severed limbs and geysers of blood. Right from the beginning when Kagero’s ninja team are destroyed by the giant stone-skinned Tessai, raining blood and body parts from the trees to the ground below you know exactly what this movie is all about. It’s a thrilling action adventure with a pulsing soundtrack and awesome fight scene after awesome fight scene. It also manages to encompass many of the tropes of the entire anime genre.

In the late nineties if you wanted to introduce somebody to anime as a genre there were three films they were required to watch: Akira, Ghost in the Shell, and Ninja Scroll. All three, for an American audience raised on Disney films, were shocking, awesome and left an indelible impression. Animation as a whole is not limited to childrens’ films about talking animals – it can be dark, violent, bloody, and sexy. It can be a whole lot more as well (as evidenced by the works of Hayao Miyazaki) but this movie is part of an important revelation for American audiences. I love it for that. And for being unbelievably cool too.

June 25, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment