5 years after the underwhelming Godzilla, can the sequel make amends and set up the upcoming Godzilla v King King monster showdown? This time around, Godzilla is joined by more of his monster friends……….
Directed by Michael Dougherty
Starring: Millie Bobby Brown, Vera Farmiga, Charles Dance, Zhang Ziyi
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Following the underwhelming remake of Ghost in a Shell earlier in the year, the news that Netflix will be giving the popular manga & anime series Deathnote the western treatment was met with concern from many fans. But given Netflix, and their track record for strong TV shows, fans were willing to give it a chance.
Deathnote on Netflix takes the story from Tokyo, to Seattle. A change of setting makes sense, to adapt it to a another market. But more crucially, it also borrows the same characters from the original show, rather than making its own spin-off. This is biggest mistake Netflix made here, and essentially destroyed what could have been a fascinating entry to the Deathnote franchise.
The Deathnote series is built upon the battle of wits between our two rivals, Light & L. Each with their own view upon what Justice really is. This duel of intelligence and deduction was the foundation of Deathnote, and what made it such a enthralling show to all of its fans. Netflix was never going to condense all of the shows drama into a single feature length film, but instead of focusing of the cerebral nature of the show, what we end up with is a one dimensional, dim, cheap FinalDestination rip off. With more emphasis on how gory the film can be, rather than building amazing characters the source material provided.
So here, we follow Light Turner, a student who stumbles across the Deathnote, a mystical notepad, in which whoever’s name is written within it, leads to their death. He teams up with fellow student Mia Sutton, in order to rid the world of evil, taking up the name Kira. It’s not long before his actions get him on the radar of the law, and on his trial, is the legendary detective, L, a mysterious figure, who vows to catch Ligth, no matter what.
If Netflix made their own film, using the concept of the Deathnote, taking place in the US, it could have done a decent job. Instead, it takes all the characters, and removes everything that made them so charming. It’s just easier to list the flaws, so here goes!
Light (Nat Wolff)- In the anime, he is depicted as an intellectual, top of his class, popular, yet sick of life, and how crime still continues to live in this so called just society. He is also very calculating, always in control, rarely losing him composure. He does not use the Deathnote for his own personal gain, but his god-complex makes him believe that he is genuinely doing this to create a better world for everyone . In the show, Light is initially uncomfortable with the idea of using the Deathnote, but ends up using it to stop a sexual assault, Turner, uses it because a bully punched him. Light Turner screams, panics, gets pushed around at school, and most importantly, is not smart. He is never in control at any point, and is manipulated by everyone. Also, the Deathnote is simply used as a way for him to get a girlfriend. Great plot. Then there’s his now infamous screaming scene, which pretty much encapsulates the entire movie in 20 seconds. Wolff simply was miscast, and had next to zero charisma or personality for the role of Light. (Then again, it was the role he was given, so blame does also lie elsewhere!)
Mia (Margaret Qualley) – Although in the anime, she is madly infatuated with Light, it’s explained that his actions as Kira, had a consequence of her own life, hence her blind loyalty. Here, she is just the crush of Light, and frankly, is far more interesting as a protagonist! She easily manipulates Light to do whatever she wants, and she is sinply put, a sociopath. She just wants power, and will do anything to get it. It never is explained why shes so deranged, or what lead her to become like this, but hey, she smokes at school, edgy!
Ryuk (Willem Dafoe) – Ryuk is a vital figure, although he is the guardian of the Deathnote, most importantly, he never gets involved with Light, or whatever else is happening. He is simply bored and here to see how everything unfolds. Here, Netflix, seem to be afraid of making Light a true villain, and use Ryuk as the puppet master, who forces Light into all these situations. He is unnecessarily cast as the villain, for no reason. As great as Willem Defoe is in this role, (his motion capture work here is on point!) the character of Ryuk is totally shattered. But at least he eats apples. So that’s something they got right.
L (Lakeith Stanfield) – Probably the character that got the best treatment, but still no means, perfect. Yes L here still possess his eccentric mannerisms and deductive skills, but he is wildly ruled by his emotions here, following a sequence of events in the film, he totally loses it, and goes on a foot chase waving a gun on the streets. L, the master sleuth that he is, should have all possibilities covered, and have a back up for it. Not lose his mind and go crazy. He also reveals his face to the public, which seems a very unwise move, even if he keeps the bottom of it covered, in the show, L only revealed himself as a final gambit.
The characters aside, the film is a mess with its pacing. The cat and mouse nature of the chase between Ligth and L was one of the most capturing parts of the show, here, there is hardly any build up, suspense, anticipation. Instead, L just finds him, reveals his identity almost immediately, chase over. Now we can focus on all the over the top gore and overblown finale!
The relationship between Light and Mia is centre screen here, which is what many feared. We have countless scenes at school, we even have the oh so cliched prom scene. Yes Light went to high school, but that never was the main feature, rather his exploits outside of it. We’re forced into watching a pointless love story in a film that really isn’t made for it.
Deathnote was never really about the deaths of the criminals. In the show, it was a simple heart attack, quick, decisive. Unless Light’s plan suggested otherwise, that was his MO. Here, every death is gratuitously bloody. The deaths occur is wildly hilarious methods, which involve a chain of events, that eventually lead to the demise of the victim. In FinalDestination, it worked, here, nope! Director Adam Wingard is much more well known for his work in the Horror genre, which made it a curious choice, for a series that isn’t exactly a horror, more supernatural thriller. This give the entire movie a far more cheesier feel to it, than the perilous, tone of the show.
There’s the 80s Synth-pop soundtrack, even though there’s no sign it’s set in that time, the shows original Gothic tone was perfect for its theme, but here, I guess Stranger Things is a huge thing right now? We see them use the Internet to find the identity of people (very lazy story writing!), so clearly it’s set in modern times! It also focuses on Neon an awful lot, making it look more like Atomic Blonde at times! (Actually maybe AtomicBlonde used less neon….)
All that being said, is there anything to redeem this? Well if you go into this without any prior knowledge of the source, then you’ll enjoy a somewhat cheesy, straight to DVD, horror with cheap thrills. If your a fan, then there is frankly very little to say in regards to positivity. Ryuk (from an aesthetic point) and L are decent. But Light is so eviscerated as a character, it reaches a point where Mia would have been more interesting to follow. Maybe in hindsight it would have been better to create this as a 10 episode show, then again, it may have just been 10 episodes of this!
The Red Turtle comes with the pressure of having the name Studio Ghibli attached to its production, even if it’s only as a co-producer (Wild Bunch, being the other half). Director, Michaël Dudok de Wit, had the daunting task of working on a film that would validate the faith put on him to lead this motion picture.
Luckily I had the opportunity to watch a screening of The Red Turtle at the glamorous May Fair Hotel in London, a comfortable setting for a very charming movie.
The most striking aspect of The Red Turtle is that the entire film has virtually no dialogue, barring some shouting or crying. The story is beautifully told simply via the animation and the musical score. So if that doesn’t sound appealing, than this film is not for you! The animation is also very European, so do not expect the usual Studio Ghibli presentation, even though their name is tagged on. This doesn’t mean that the animation is any less stunning. Considering the lack of any speech, it is critical that the visual aspect of the movie is on point, something that excels here. The island produces some gorgeous visuals, such as the bamboo groves frequently visited here! De Wit does a fantastic job in storytelling, in such a minimalistic method.
So the story revolves around a nameless man, who is left stranded on a island following a shipwreck. After discovering that he is the solitary human on this tropical island, he survives on fresh fruit and water from the lake. But the constant loneliness drives our man to plan an escape, using the endless supply of bamboo at his disposal. His efforts are in vain, as his escapes are always wrecked by a wild red turtle. Without disclosing the entire plot, the movie follows the interaction between the man, and the turtle, and their interactions.
What we have a is wonderfully simplistic movie, which manages to go into some surprising meaningful topics, the fact it is all done in visuals makes the movie even more enjoyable. The Oscar nomination it received for Best Animation was most certainly deserved. The movie even manages to fit in some humour, using the crabs living on the island, which form a bond with the man, to great comic use!
Some may not enjoy the movie though, as the story line does drift off into a more fairy-tale like territory, after a more realistic opening third act. Also, the films locations do get repeated, a lot! It’s clear to see their production value was not huge, as we frequently go back to the bamboo grove, lake and beach a lot. This does not diminish the story, though it may fatigue some viewers in that regards.
If you’re a fan of prior Ghibli movies, and the themes they follow, than the The Red Turtle is another stellar addition to their portfolio. If you simply enjoy animation, and storytelling, The Red Turtle also delivers on that front. Although it’s on a very limited release, if you do happen to stumble across it somewhere, do take the time out to see it!
Here’s the podcast for the latest episode, you can listen to it on the player below. We hope to have this all up on iTunes soon as well! On the agenda this show, Fast 8 storms to the top, the controversial Ghost in the Shell, and another Disney behemoth, Beauty & The Beast.
It’s a box office bonanza this episode! We look at two of the biggest grossing films of the year so far, Disney’s Beauty & The Beast has already broken the magical $1 billion mark, and Fast 8 is well on course to follow it. We also cross examine one of the most controversial movies of the year, Ghost In The Shell.
Following the resounding success of Your Name, British viewers have been treated with again with another cinematic release of a Japanese animation. The film has got a limited run and a select few cinemas, so may be under the radar to some folk. A Silent Voice is the story of a boy, who as a kid, bullied a fellow student, who now looks to make amends for his actions.
Based on the manga of the same name, the plot focuses on Shoya Ishida, a young boy in elementary school, who along with his friends doesn’t take too kindly to the new transfer student, Shoko Nishimiya. Shoko happens to be deaf, which makes her a target of practical jokes and bullying from Shoya and several others. It all gets too much for Shoko, and her parents take her out the school, leaving Shoya to feel the brunt of his schoolmates as they ostracize him from their group and the entire school.
Fast forward a couple of years and Shoya is on the on edge with suicidal tendencies, and it’s not until a chance meeting with Shoko, that he realises that they are both alone due to their circumstances, and he needs to atone for his part in what happened in the past.
On the face of things, this is another high school teen love story, but there are several other aspects that the movie manages to deal with, such as depression, bullying, disabilities, social anxiety and suicide. The film deals with these very well, especially with the addition of crosses across the faces of everyone Shoya does not feel comfortable talking it. As he gets more confident, and more mature, the crosses gradually drop off, a fine way to display such an issue.
It’s the relationship between our two that keeps the movie together, as both our protagonist struggle to explain their feelings for one another, and the lengths that Shoya goes to, in order to apologise for what he had done, felt right. Though Shoko has to live with a disability, her progress to accepting her hearing aids rather than hiding them is something that is captured well, as is her struggle to get across her true feelings which are hampered by her speech impediment and their obvious difficulties in communicating.
The supporting cast are a mixed bag, Nagatsuka, the first real friend Shoya makes in a long time is great comic relief, and is someone the audience can really warm towards. Whereas the others, don’t really have much to add. Yuzuru, Shoko’s overprotective little sister is good fun, and has her own personal trials, but the rest, of the clan, are pretty one dimensional. A run time of 2 hours is massively bloated, and the pacing is rather slow at times. Which does make the film feel like it is dragging along to a conclusion most can pretty much assume.
As always, with these high budget animations, the film is simply wonderful to watch, any scene involving trees, water and cherry blossoms are done so well, and credit must be given to the animation team for putting out such wonderful work.
For some people, the film may feel it’s going on for a while. But the various aspects of life that the movie deals with combined with a compelling relationship. Makes A Silent Voice an impressive feat. The film may be difficult to find at a local cinema, but if you can, it’s most certainly worth a viewing!
The sour taste of Dragonball Evolution still lingers in the mouth of Anime fans, a frankly, horrible live action adaptation of the much loved show. Ghost in the Shell is the latest Hollywood attempt to bring anime to the big screen.
Based off the 1995 cyberpunk masterpiece, GITS is the story of Major (Scarlett Johansson), one of the first successful attempts at fusing the human brain with an entirely artificial body. Major works for Section 9, a public security firm, who work for the government. Our team is drawn into an investigation is which a hacker is targeting & murdering several member of Hanka Robotics. It’s a case that unveils the Major’s past and follows her internal struggles in identifying who she is.
The film was never going to match the ’95 original in terms of complex themes and storyline, and it would have been foolish to try and even attempt that. In this version, things are tweaked here and there. We have a new villain, Kuze, our hacker, though he follows a similar arc to The Puppet Master from the original, his motivations are different. Hanka Robotics, the company Kuze is targeting, are responsible for the creation of Major, also do not feature in the first film.
The movie is gorgeous to look at; the movie does a stellar job in capturing the neo-Tokyo (even though it’s never stated to be Tokyo!) feels. Every scene where we follow our heroes through the city is filled with vivid colour of neon lights, and the hustle of activity all over the streets. It’s also shot in a very stylish way, especially the opening scene with the geisha robots, overall, visually; it’s a very polished film.
But the looks can only get a movie so far, where the film stumbles is in the sheer simplicity of the movie, whereas the original left it to the audience to fill in the details, with subtle hints, here, the movie is very much dumbed-down to a straightforward narrative. It’s made clear from the opening few scenes the movie will be easy to follow, “your mind, or ghost, in now in a new body, a shell” explains Dr Ouelet (Juliette Binoche) to our hero. Just in case no one could figure out what the title meant, it’s all explained in the first scene! No need for the audience to put things together! The key scene regarding the Majors past is pretty obvious where it was all going, but the movie kept trying to remind us about the twist, as if the audience wouldn’t be able to figure it out.
The movie has two antagonists, Kuze as mentioned already, and another, who simply turns out to be the typical ‘evil boss of a corporation’ villain. The film was never going to go into the intricate monologue at the end of the original, but it’s a shame that they replaced it with a carbon copy villain instead.
What fans can be pleased about, are the big screen representation of all the cast. As controversial as it was, Scarlett Johansson does perfectly fine in both looking like the Major, and being able to perform the various action set pieces. Batou, the wisecracking, burly partner of the Major played by Pilou Asbæk, is also another credible interpretation. His story may have gone abit off track, but physically he looks the part. One of the main criticisms of failures like Dragonball was the fact the actors looked very little like the characters they were playing. You have to give GITS some credit for sticking honourably to their source material. ‘Beat’ Takeshi Kitano also brings his unique charisma as Section 9 leader, Aramaki. It’s a shame Togusa, one of the other prominent characters from the series doesn’t get as much screen time, as his presence is quite an important factor to the identity crisis Major has, hopefully we may see more of him in the future.
The movie drops enough fan service to keep the hard core fans onside. You have to original shelling sequence at the start (it was a pity that the original haunting score from Kenji Kawai wasn’t used here, but it does feature at the end!), the Major building jumps with camouflage, the chase scene through the city backstreets, and the infamous spider tank scene. Its things like these that long term fans will appreciate.
Regarding the controversy to cast Scarlett Johansson as the Major, amongst the entire whitewashing furore. The decision was made purely down to financial reasons; the studio most likely wanted a huge name attached to the project, especially as its being marketed to the West. The Major here is never addressed as Motoko, her name in the anime/manga, and the movie at least gives an explanation to why she is Caucasian. There are talented Japanese actresses over in Hollywood, such as Rinko Kikuchi, but lack the star power of Johansson. Even people back in Japan were none to fussed, the film is being promoted over here, and the actress does bare resemblance to the role she’s playing.
Overall, the movie is pretty forgettable, although the film does have some very complex themes; it never delves deep enough to make it engaging. The plot develops into a run of the mill evil corporate CEO cliché, a trap it could have avoided, if it chose to stay with the original villain throughout. If you’re a fan, you will enjoy the fan service, and the simple fact they didn’t butcher the movie, as previous films have suffered. If you follow GITS, you’ll be more likely to remember it than someone who isn’t a fan.
If you truly want to see GITS as it should, I would highly recommend you watch the 1995 classic, but the 2017 cut does at least make a respectable effort, and introduces these characters over to a new audience.
With the release of the live action remake of Ghost in the Shell this year, I had the opportunity to watch the original 1995 anime at one of the few limited screenings at the cinema. Even though a fan of anime & manga, I’ve never got round to watching this film, so it was time to see what the hype was about!
Following on from 1988’s Akira, GITS follows on with the cyber-punk genre, with a captivating foresight into the future, with a movie that still holds up today. The film was such an inspiration, that the Wachowski’s showed the film to producers when pitching their idea for The Matrix!
GITS revolves around Major Motoko Kusunagi, an android who works for Sector 9, a branch of law enforcement; she is joined by Batou, her partner, and Togusa, the only human in the force, as they attempt to track down the manipulative ‘Puppet Master’ , but things are not as they seem, as they uncover a hidden government conspiracy!
Although I watched it last week, I decided to wait a couple of days before writing about it, as it’s a movie that requires some level of thought, and you may not grasp everything immediately afterwards! Similar to Your Name, it’s a movie that requires some time to go over the finer points!
The film takes place in the not so future 2029! But considering this film was released over 20 years ago, it does manage to predict what society would be like, and frankly, what it’s like now! The central plot to the movie is that the entire world is interconnected by a computer network, which controls most things, and enabling the authorities to go as far as using wonders such as satellite tracking. Sound familiar? This was all before the internet was really a thing, where a concept of satellite tracking was pure fantasy! How people access this network is via their cybernetic bodies, their ‘shells’, via the ports in the back of their neck. A concept The Matrix franchise used as inspiration for its own lore! The film even inspired the ‘code rain’ that The Matrix films used to great effect, the falling screen of green numbers.
The very concept of androids and life is the vocal point of our protagonist’s internal conflict, though the Major is an all-powerful robot, who very much looks and thinks like a human, she comes to realise, that at the end of the day, she isn’t. Her ‘ghost’, who is the term used to describe someone soul, is just something that has been programmed into her, and it’s this that eats away at her every night. The search for being human is so concerning for her, the she goes diving underwater in her free time, in order to feel human, knowing if there was any equipment failure, it would doom her in her metallic shell.
It’s important to understand that this is not an action film, though it may be emblazoned with guns on the cover! It’s very much a thriller, with its action set pieces. There are the standard police chase scenes, and stand offs, but don’t expect it to be all guns blazing for the entire run time. It’s also a slow paced movie, and depending on your personal taste, this may be something you may not be a fan off. The film has a tendency to cut to scenes of the city, showing everyday life, this may not bother you, but others may find it abit too much.
Let’s for a moment, discuss the sheer beauty of the movie. The animation is gorgeous, for a film made in ’95, it still looks lush now. The detail in the scenery is immaculate; the backstreets of the city are bought to life, simply due to all the signs and colours! The accompanying score is majestic; Kenji Kawai does a magnificent job in telling the story through music. The opening credits to the film are haunting and chilling, in which they depict the creation of the Major, without the music, the scene would be nowhere near as memorable. Showing the Major being created in a factory, gives the character a lot more depth, when it comes to her existential crisis. It’s great to see that the Hollywood remake will use the same piece of music in its film, a tribute to how iconic the music is.
The final act is very melancholic and dialogue heavy. As our hero and villain engage in conversation, regarding their purpose of existing. It does delve into some very engaging points such as requiring genetic variation, in order to survive. It does require intense focus; otherwise it may just end up as one big mess to the viewer. The ending of the film does film rather abrupt, as it sets up subsequent chapters to the saga. It feels like the movie could have run on for an extra half hour, just to make things a bit easier to grasp, just as you feel like the heroine is set up to make one final charge, it ends!
Ghost in The Shell is not the perfect movie, nor will it appeal to everyone. But the theme and motives of the film were far ahead of its time, and it’s gone on to influence several films since its release. If you’re a fan of science fiction, even if you don’t have an interest in anime, this film will certainly give you a lot to think over!
Whenever there’s a western release of a Japanese feature length animation, they tend to be big news. Unless it’s certain to be a huge hit, not many are seen over on these shores on the big screen. Your Name is the latest blockbuster from the East to arrive here. The film has been a monumental success in Japan, where it’s already 4th in the list of all time highest grossing movies. Only Spirited Away, Titanic & Frozen has taken in more, and out of those, only Spirited Away was made in Japan. I missed the original release here in the UK as I was away on holiday, but luckily Odeon were still showing limited screenings of the movie. So I managed to get an opportunity to watch it as it should be!
The central plot to this movie is a body swapping concept revolving around two teenagers. One, a girl called Mitsuha, living out in rural Japan, bored of her life in the sticks and craving the life in the bright lights of Tokyo. The other, Taki, is a boy living the city life in the capital. A strange turn of events sees them switch with each other, living the life of one another. We follow their journey to find out who they are, and their search for each other.
One trap the film could have easily fallen into would have been the very idea of body swapping. This is usually seen as more of a comedic gimmick, rather than one of love & drama. What director Makoto Shinkai manages to do, is carefully balance the story between comedy and drama. The first half of the movie is very down to earth and humorous. As we see their initial reactions to the swapping, and how it effects each of their social lives. Taki managing to win the affections of a colleague with the help of Mitsuha, whereas Mitsuha has a surge in popularity at her school, with the assistance of Taki! The movie then effectively shifts into a vastly more dramatic & emotional film during the latter half, where the characters and story are very enticing, and the final few acts are filled with palpable tension. Whereas the first act helps us get to know our two protagonists, it’s the second half that makes us truly care for them.
This is where the magic happens; it’s a difficult move to transition between two genres during a movie. The movie could have stayed with its comedic tones of the opening half, but it does incredible well to actually shift away from that without ruining the flow of the story. The plot may become tangled as everything comes together, but if you consider all the points afterwards, it’s all the more rewarding once you do put it all together.
With the advances in CGI, we have been spoilt with incredibly detailed CGI animation. But gone are the days of hand drawn animation, it’s something we rarely ever see nowadays, especially in Western cinema. The visuals in this film are drop dead gorgeous, be it the lush, vibrant forests tucked away in the countryside or the bustling, vivid metropolitan of Tokyo. From a production point of view, the work here is absolutely spot on. Some of the scenery is near photo realistic, to show the level of commitment which went into everything.
The film does have moments of humour which may throw off some westerners, but anyone familiar with anime will understand how their humour can differ us what we would show here, there are obvious cultural difference to consider! But aside from that, they aren’t much to say against ‘Your Name’. The story is magical, the characters enticing, the animation stunning.