Archive for February 3, 2013

Academy City. A city ahead of the rest of the world in terms of technology. A city where 80% of it’s population are students. A city where the students are encouraged and in some cases forced to develop their Esper powers (Psychic powers). These powers are ranked from 0 – 5., with 0 being nothing at all (with pretty much no possibility of ever developing) and 5 being the most powerful (currently there are only 7 level 5’s).

Our heroine of this series is Mikoto Misaka who is currently ranked the third most power esper user in the whole city.Her esper power is the ability to generate and manipulate electricity, her signature move the rapid acceleration of metal objects to supersonic speeds through the use of electromagnetic fields, AKA the infamous “Railgun” from which she takes her nickname. .She is joined in her adventures in the city by 3 friends, one of whom Kuroko Shirai has a severe romantic interest in her.

Right….. I should probably explain that this is a spin-off series of a series named Toaru Majutsu no Index. That series is much darker in tone and focuses more on the conflicts between magic and science. I will say that although not needed to enjoy or even understand this series, it does make for equally amazing viewing. I watched the first half of this series before knowing about ‘Index’ and loved every minute of it. After watching ‘Index’ I rewatched all of ‘Railgun’ from the start and loved it even more.

I don’t really want to give much about the plot away but let me tell you the series covers two arcs, both of which are brilliant and end in amazing fight sequences. The series can go from being action heavy to rather subdued slice of life drama in the matter of a few episodes and it is one of the few series that I’d say pulls it off.

Mikoto Misaka is easily one of my favourite anime characters of all time. She is so well crafted and is such a brilliant character. The supporting characters are strong but never outshine Misaka. The audio and the visuals are among the best I have seen in animation and some of the action sequences need to be seen to be believed.

The only negative I can give the series is that I wanted more when I reached the end. I very rarely think that after a 24 episode series but I can happily watch more. (The series has a great ending, unlike lots of series that feel they should be longer because they don’t end. Railgun does end, it’s just that I want more) They did make an OVA of Railgun and a second series has been commissioned so I can’t really complain.

This, along with Toaru Majutsu no Index ranks as possibly my favourite anime series of all time. I recommend everyone see it as well as Index (as I’ve said this is a more ‘fun’ series that although has some dark themes is ultimately much lighter in tone) 9.9/10

Advertisements

What a brilliant little gem of a horror film starring the great David Hewlett (Stargate Atlantis, The Cube, Rise of the Planet of the Apes) and the equally brilliant Terry O’Quinn (millennium, Lost).

I found this film a few years ago in one of those bargain bin compilation box sets and after seeing the actors in it instantly wanted to see it. Both Hewlett and O’Quinn are highly underrated actors who I really think should get more notice as they are masters of their craft. Most people know Terry O’Quinn as ‘Locke’ from the hit series ‘Lost’ but before that he had been in some amazing films such as the first two ‘Stepfather’ films and the great TV series ‘millennium’ which he co-starred alongside Lance Hendrikson.

This film isn’t easy to describe as it is far more a psychological study on how what is programmed into you as a child can stay with and affect how you develop in later life.

Terry O’Quinn plays a dentist who has an anatomical dummy in his practice which he refers to as ‘Pin’. He teaches his children life lessons through Pin by throwing his voice and creating a character that they can both talk to and confide in. His daughter Ursula doesn’t really fall for it but Leon his son does and starts to confide in Pin even when his father isn’t around. As he grows older (and turns into David Hewlett)  he begins to subconsciously voice Pin and starts too fully believe that Pin is a living, breathing person. Ursula on the other hand starts sleeping around and becomes a rebel in her own sense, leading Leon to become over protective of her, further leading to Leon taking some extreme measures to keep her ‘safe’.

It’s all very odd and the only film that I can semi compare it to would be Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’. But even then it isn’t much like that. It is a film all of its own and a very weird and interesting look at essentially how what we are told as children can lead to mental illness.

It’s a very dark film and I don’t really remember any parts of it that are particularly happy. From the get go you kind of know what you’re getting yourself into.

I couldn’t really praise this film more and it is truly a hidden gem among thousands of rubbish horror films. If you enjoy horror films I really think this is a film that deserves to be seen (and baring in mind it can be found in many of the horror compilation box sets, it’s easy enough to find.) 8/10

It’s quite impressive how far director Leibesman has come in the last 12 years after making his feature debut with this catastrophe of a horror film (he recently directed ‘Wrath of the Titans’ and is currently directing ‘Ninja Turtles’.)

The basic premise for the film is that in a small town in America (the town of the title to be exact) an old lady named Matilda (unfortunately not the Roald Dahl character. Although that would make a pretty awesome film. A horror film where Roald Dahl’s Matilda battles off the evil Tooth Fairy to save a town.) would give children who had lost their teeth money, hence gaining the name the ‘tooth fairy’. After a fire at her house leaves her facially disfigured and extremely sensitive to light, she dons a porcelain mask and only ventures out at night. One day two children go missing from the town and the townspeople, blaming Matilda hang her, remove her mask and let her die, Just before dying she curses the town and says she will take all children on the night they lose their last tooth  Shortly afterwards the kids turn up and the town realises their mistake. they bury the body and with it the realisation of what they’ve done. Years later we follow a Girl trying to save her young brother who has just lost his final tooth.

This is the first major mistake of the film. the town has adults. Matilda doesn’t seem to be doing very well with her curse on the town. she seems to have let an awful lot of children go. The film covers many generations of the town and they way the film suggests, only one child has ever survived Matilda’s wrath and that is one of the main characters Kyle Walsh who hid in the bathroom with the lights on until sunrise. Kyle disappears for years and finally reappears when he is grown up. He then strives to protect the young boy Michael before Matilda can take him. (although I think the only reason he is helping Michael is because he loves Michael’s sister Caitlin).

It’s a kind of interesting idea but it is so badly thought out it’s kind of a failure before it even starts. (Although the opening isn’t too bad.) The direction is pretty awful and the script is of the lowest quality. I want to say that the acting is bad, but to be fair with such poor direction and such a poor script to work from they didn’t even have a chance. The one thing that is not that bad is the design of the tooth fairy which was done by the great late Stan Winston. Other than that it has no real redeeming qualities whatsoever. 2/10 (for the tooth fairy design and the basic idea)

Based on the Capcom video game series of the same name, Sengoku Basara aims to bring the large-scale battles that made the games so popular, to the small screens.

Loosely based on historical facts about Japan during the Sengoku period when political upheaval was at its most heated. During this period Warlords from all of Japan fought for each of the separate regions of the country. Many clans were involved in the conflict and most are featured in the series (especially the last few episodes) although the three biggest clans at the time, the ‘Date’, ‘the ‘Takeda’ and the ‘Oda’ are the main three that are focused upon in the anime.

The anime focuses on Sanada Yukimura and Date Masamune (known in real life as the one-eyed demon due to his lack of an eye), two young warlords who after becoming heated rivals, have to join forces to take down the Devil King, Oda Nobunaga (although to my knowledge no historical texts ever called him the Devil King). Throughout the series we get little historical facts from the narrator and some things, such as Oda’s over reliance on western weaponry are portrayed well (all be them over exaggerated.)

At its heart the series is an action series that uses the historical background to lead the characters from one battle to the next. That is not to say all of the battles are large-scale warfare. most focus on a few characters battling with strength that causes massive coloured auras to emanate from both their weapons and themselves. (it’s the classic anime technique to show power. Made famous by ‘Dragon Ball Z’) Part of me was hoping for more historically accurate battles and battles of a far larger scale but you can’t have everything. what we do have is very well animated one on one battles with lots of shouting about how powerful each person is.

When I started watching the anime I wasn’t entirely sure I liked the tone as it was far more jovial than I expected, but as with most anime, get past the third episode and you can see how the tone will be the rest of the series. (another great example of this is ‘Trigun’ which changes tone dramatically after the third episode.) Although still heavily corny and cheesy the tone settles down making the characters much more likable and making the series all the better for it. Some comedy continues during the series but never really interrupts the quite dark tone the series eventually gets to. (except of one moment in the 11th episode with a handglider.)

The series also never aims to be taken too seriously bearing in mind that Date Masamune’s horse has handle bars and motorcycle exhausted attached to it. There is also a samurai mech with a jet back featured in the early episodes. (a lot of this stupidity is lost with the comedy after the third episode but it is still worth being prepared for.)

This is also one of the few series that I actually prefer the English dub to the original Japanese track, mainly due to the fact that the corny English voices kind of go with the over the top action and kind of harks back to old martial arts films of the past. The music and the visuals are both of the highest quality and you can see that a lot of time and money has gone into the series to make it look and sound as good as it can (I’d even argue the action looks better in this animated form then in the games)

I will say that I kinda wanted more to series in terms of the final battle which I found at only one proper episode a bit rushed. (the 13th episode is actually set during the 11th episode from some of the other clans point of views.) But to be fair for what is essentially a 12 episode series, they cram a lot in and tell a pretty good story.

I’d say for any of those who like semi-historical samurai anime like ‘Kai Doh Maru’ and ‘Rurouni Kenshin’ who can accept some humour in the vein of ‘Naruto’, give it a go. As I’ve said, give it at least up to the end of episode 4 before you truly make up your mind (I will say that the final few episodes are pretty amazing and were kind of what I was hoping for all along) 7.5/10

I was impressed when I finally got round to watching this film. I kept putting it off and finally gave in when they released the 135 minute cut of the feature. I don’t know what the added footage is as I’ve never seen the other cut, but I can happily say that the film feels a pretty good length.

I went into the film expecting the usual British gangster flick that has been popular ever since films like ‘Snatch’ and ‘Lock Stock..’ brought the British gangster scene into cinemas. A lot of these films I really didn’t think much of, ‘football factory’ and ‘the business’ being two examples of how not to make a good film. I also didn’t know anything about the plot of the film when I started watching it so was surprised to see that it was a re-telling of the ‘Rettendon murders’ (The same story that ‘Essex Boys’ covered just in more detail).

The pace is great and I really liked the way in which we see the changes in the protagonists mental state as the film goes on. It plays on the whole, ‘who can I trust’ mentality that courses through every scene of the movie.

The  acting is great on all counts especially Ricci Harnett as the lead Carlton Leach. He gives the character very human emotions and creates a likeable person who does some very bad things. It’s a hard task to pull off but he succeeds in playing the role amazingly.Terry Stone is also great as the thug Tony Tucker. He also creates this likeable villain.

That is the other clever thing about the film. There is no real overarching villain. All of the main characters are nasty pieces of work but as with real people they have their nice sides. Gilbey creates a perfect balance of showing both sides to these people and really helps make them feel 3-dimensional.

Everything about this film feels right, the story, the script, the acting, the production design, the direction. All of it comes together to create a film that surprised me, possibly more so than any other film I’ve watched. 8/10

‘Total Recall’, one of my favourite Schwarzenegger films by one of my favourite directors.

‘We Can Remember It for You Wholesale’, one of my favourite short stories by Philip K. Dick.

‘Total Recall 2012’, a convoluted mess of ideas that feels like a more futuristic ‘Minority report’ clone (although saying that, Philip K.Dick did write the original story for Minority Report). At some times it really does feel like Len Wiseman was converting the wrong story. With so many writers on board ( I think there were 7) It is quite easy to see why the story doesn’t quite mesh into one perfectly paced piece of filmmaking.

But let’s forget for the rest of the review that it is based on any original story or that it is a remake of sorts. Let’s look at it as a new film.

In the near future the world has kind of destroyed itself and there are now only two livable land masses, Britain (the UFB) and Australia (the Colony). A lot of people who live in ‘The Colony’ must travel each day via ‘The fall’ (essentially an elevator that travels through the centre of the earth) to the ‘UFB’ to work in the factories.  Douglas Quaid (played by Colin Farrell) is one of these people.  One day, being bored with his life, Quaid decides he is going to visit the company Rekall (a company that can implant fake memories into your mind, making you believe that you have lived them.) Rekall employee Bob McClane (played by the great yet very random John Cho) convinces Quaid to go with the memories of a secret agent. all is going well until McClane discovers that Quaid already has memories of being a secret agent. All hell then breaks loose and thus starts 2 hours of Quaid running from everything.

I hope i didn’t lose you in that little summary. Even from that I hope you can see why I say it is convoluted. There is no good reason for ‘the fall’. It literally only seems to exist to make everything seem more futuristic and also allows an interesting environment for a shootout towards the end of the film. There is never an explanation (or at least I didn’t hear one) for why people have to travel to the ‘UFB’ (UFB stands for United Federation of Britain) to work. There is no good reason. I like the idea of mankind pretty much destroying the Earth but it could have been handled in a much better way.

It almost feels like the scriptwriters just sat round a table and shouted random ‘futuristic’ ideas at one another:

  • floating buildings
  • flying cars
  • dystopian world
  • holograms
  • robots
  • phone implants (implants in the hand I must say. What is the point or reason. Would it not be more useful to have an implant in the ear so you wouldn’t need you hands to use it? It is kind of cool that they get image if they place their hand on glass but then that relies on you having glass at hand. It would be far more useful an idea if they want image to then combine the implant with some visual implant to the eye. they seem to be able to do everything else so why not? as it stands I’d prefer to have an actual smart phone any day over the hand implanted one as it just seems more convenient and more user friendly.)
  • memory implantation

Combining a few of these ideas would have been fine but by putting all of them and more into the film kinda feels like the old saying ‘less is more’. There is no explanation for things such as the floating buildings. I get that there are so many people that they need to expand upwards but then it doesn’t really explain about how these buildings stay floating in place. They seem to be like they are for the chase sequences because it provides that instant feeling that Quaid may fall to his death. Although there is one point where he kind of falls and ends up in what seems to be modern-day Britain with normal cars and buildings. Again there is no explanation (this sequence does lead to one of the most random cameos of the film from Ethan Hawke).

It really does feel like they are trying to hard to cram everything in. As I’ve stated in the title this sis a review of the extended edition which clocks in at 130 minutes. Even with the extra 20 minutes it feels to cramped while also feeling over long for what is essentially a chase film along the lines of something like ‘Minority Report’. The problem we have here is, where films like ‘Minority Report’ try to explain how their technology works, ‘Total Recall 2012’ doesn’t seem that bothered.

It is really quite frustrating because there is a really fun chase flick hidden within its overlong run time.

The film is technically really well filmed (although there is an overuse of lens glare which now seems to be the ‘done thing’ after J.J Abrams technical powerhouse that was ‘Star Trek’). It is a really nice film to look at and some of the production design is truly brilliant. The acting is pretty good throughout with Colin Farrell being a great lead man. The supporting cast are all pretty good, especially Jessica Biel, whose character is reasonably well crafted. Kate Beckinsale isn’t bad although her accent change from American to British when she makes the change from good to evil was just ridiculous. (I know that American productions seem to love having British people playing the bad guys but still). The wonderful Bryan Cranston plays a great over the top character and seems to be enjoying himself.

This could have been a truly amazing re-imagining of a classic film, instead it feels like a well made cash-in. For a chase flick it’s not to bad but is overlong. It’s got a niceish setting, good acting, iffy script, and iffy story. I wanted to like this far more than I actually did. It’s worth a watch 7/10.

A modern retelling of Beauty and the beast starring Vanessa Hudgens and Alex Pettyfer may not sound like a particularly good idea but to be fair it’s better than it probably should be.

Basic gist of the story is Alex Pettyfer’s character ‘Kyle’ is the pretty boy in school who cares for no one but himself. Along comes Mary-Kate Olsen (yes the one from that show about the twins) who curses him with ‘hideous’ looks unless he can find true love before the all the petals fall off his tattoo of a tree. He falls for Vanessa Hudgens’ character and trys to win her over by any means necessary, including kidnapping (well kinda).

What confused me is the fact that the tattoos and facial scars possible make Pettyfer look far cooler then he previously looked. It made him more of an individual which ultimately he was saying from the start by saying he was more beautiful than everyone else. (I know it’s kind of the point, about looking through the ‘ugly’ outer layers but still.) In fact I think this is a flaw of the original story of Beauty and the Beast. The ‘Beast’ falls for the beautiful girl and ultimately doesn’t change that much. It is the girl who has to fall for and look past the outer layers of the beast, meaning that  although the beast says he has learned about true love, he hasn’t really.

The film is what you’d expect from a teenage romance flick. It’s fun, soppy and mildly cringworthy at times. But to be fair, it’s what I was expecting. There is a great performance from Neil Patrick Harris (the bloke from ‘Starship Troopers’ and ‘How I met your Mother’) as Kyle’s blind tutor. Other than him, no one really stands out as either good or bad. (Mary-Kate’s performance is bordering on bad).

If you want a fairly fun and ‘safe’ romance flick you could do much worse than this. (you could do much better as well. But still…..) Overall 6/10

Wow!

This film took me completely by surprise. I had heard the name kicking about but kind of ignored it (possibly because of Robert Pattinson and his ‘Twilight’ fandom) I so wish I had seen it at the cinema because it is truly a film like no other, a film that really could have only been orchestrated by Cronenberg.

The film is about Pattinson’s billionaire Eric Packer travelling across Manhattan to get a haircut.

Yep that is the plot of the film. It is the perfect example of characters over complex story. (Not that the story isn’t a bit more complex than him simply getting a haircut). Throughout his journey he meets many weird and interesting characters who all seem slightly ‘wrong’. not wrong in the sense that they are sick and depraved but wrong in the fact that there is something not quite right. It feels like each character has an alternative motive to meeting with Eric.

Eric is not your usual ‘nice’ protagonist. He is a manipulative, frankly unlikable individual who has something about him that draws you in. It is the same feeling that one gets from the film and the book ‘American Psycho’. Patrick Bateman is not a nice character. He has horrible thoughts and may or may not carry out horrendous acts but you still ‘like’ him. The same goes for Eric. He really is a nasty piece of work and He literally lives for himself and couldn’t care for anyone else.  The film revolves around him and we never leave him. Unlike most films where the director follows multiple characters, Cosmoplois is fixed firmly on Pattinson. To be fair we very rarely leave the limo that he is occupying. This creates the great illusion of seclusion from the outside world. Eric’s own personal space within the chaos around him. The best example of this is during one of the films riots. Eric sits calmly during one of his many meetings. we can see through the one way glass that people are vandalising the limo but Eric doesn’t care. He knows that when he gets in the limo tomorrow it’ll be all fixed.

The limo, being the main location of the film is also an interesting creature. It is not your usual vehicle in the fact that it has many ‘futuristic’ elements built in. It helps emphasise that the film is set in the world we all know but one that is also different. It’s believable enough to not stand out. This allows for Eric’s whole interaction with the outside world to be performed from within his ‘safe’ environment. There is a great moment when Eric asks the driver where the Limo’s are kept at night as he’s never thought of it before.

The world of the film feels much like that of a novel by ‘Haruki Murakami’ or  even ‘Kafka’. It feels very much like the world we live in now, only with little things that don’t feel quite right. It is semi-futuristic but not all at the same time. This never really takes precendance but is an interesting technique of helping illustrate the oddness and confusion running through the various characters minds. The same can be said for each of the city’s inhabitants that meet Eric in his limo. Each one seems like a certain part of Eric’s psyche. almost as if he is questioning his own actions. (Is he actually meeting anyone at all or is it all in his head?)

The whole film works as a study of how power can corrupt and ultimately distance you from the very world that you live in. Eric doesn’t care about the people he sees and it is only when people start truly questioning his values that he starts to realise he may have been living his life wrong. (although he may in fact be telling people what they want to here to further manipulate them).  This is where the film truly steps into a league of its own. The writing is incredible in its way of manipulating the audience, much in the same way as Eric is manipulating the world around him. Cronenberg uses everything he has learned in the 40 years he has been making films and has truly crafted what i would consider one of the best films I’ve ever seen.

The film truly seems to split critics and audiences alike. some hate the film and say it’s almost 2 hours of Pattinson doing nothing. I’d argue that this is the very point of the film. it is a study of human nature and what it truly means to be human. WE are all flawed and Pattinson’s Eric is just an exaggerated version of this way of thinking. I honestly believe it is like the natural successor to American Psycho (not in story or character but in ideology and feel). Both look at the human condition and how those with power can be the most corrupt of us all.

If you go into the film expecting action, sex and violence, you’ll be disappointed. There is a sex scene as well as some violence but it is never in bad taste or pushed to the front line. there is always a reason for it and generally something else going on as well. If you like slow meditative films that look at the struggles of the human mind and how corruption can take over, this film really is worth watching.

I will say that many may not agree with me, this is simply my take on the film. I loved it and really can’t fault it. As a piece of cinema it is truly up there with the greats and is an experience that I will never forget. 9.5/10