Monday, May 30, 2005

Darwin's Nightmare (2004)

"I dreamt that God created Adam and Eve! AAAH!"

Genre: Documentary (Austria, Belgium, France, Canada, Finland, Sweden)

Directed By: Hubert Sauper

Overview: The story of Tanzania's pecking order in the world, Darwin's Nightmare explores the Nile perch, the main export from Lake Victoria and the effect of Europe and globalization upon this African community.

Acting: The characters in this doc spoke poor English, which was fine because they subtitled it, and reinterpreted the words into proper sentences, but they often stuttered and stumbled. I think it would have been better (and would have shaved off a few minutes) if they had just spoken in their native tongues. It seemed often disjointed.
Rating: 6

Cinematography: The images were quite versatile. Huge, man-sized fish being happily carted away to the factories for processing juxtaposed with old widows putting maggot-covered perch carcasses out to cure for village food. Fat Russian drunk pilots gave intervews in bars versus hobbling one-legged starving children. Very powerful drama unfolded in the pictures they showed. The documentary look was a little grainy from time to time, but that's to be expected.
Rating: 8

Script: The dialogue was decent. It infuriated, it had Europeans patting themselves on the back for their humanitarianism, it had Russians calling black people lazy and not willing to work, guards spoke of killing in wartime and teaching us how the killing was done. The words were unscripted, but there seemed to be a bit of a stretch in trying to get people to confess that there were guns being shipped in, a little forced from time to time.
Rating: 7

Plot: The worst part would have to be the scene where children fight for handfuls of fish-soaked rice, running away with handfuls of it while their bigger brethren try to knock them down, not caring if they get the food or not, as the beat up children cried from hunger. That scene was a perfect culmination of the point that the director was trying to make: Tanzania needs help. The flow of the film from time to time had issues, and it could definitely have been shortened, but the overall message was loud and clear: A.I.D.S., poverty and capitalism seemed to have chosen this country as it's prime hunting ground.
Rating: 8

Mood: Plain bleak. They did very well conveying the message of hopelessness, of the poverty, of the plague that industrialized nations have been upon this corner of Africa. Yes they set the mood, but ultimately there were continuity issues here and there and overall the blight that they portrayed did nothing to redeem itself. When one watches a documentary of this nature, one expects to be told how to fix this potential hopeless situation. Here, I found that it was just pain and suffering for it's own sake. The mood was well set, but it went overboard.
Rating: 7

"Yes? Would you like a piece of fish? Or maybe an AK-47?"

Overall Rating: 72% (Good But Not Pleasant)

Aftertaste: The film left my foundation shaken, and the company I was with left awkwardly. One of my friends, the next day, said that it was still troubling her. When I think back on this movie, I won't think about how much I should get up and do something about it, I'll think about how much of a Hellhole this planet is and no matter what we do there will always be predators preying on the weak and the hope that exists is winked out in an instant. Not fun, not even enraging, just... Void. I'll never recommend this to anyone, it's just too painful.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Say Anything... (1989)

Right, this big important scene where he's playing music out her window with a ghetto blaster and she doesn't even wonder where the music's coming from... as IF

Genre: Romance Drama

Starring: John Cusack (High Fidelity; Gross Point Blank), Ione Skye (Fever Pitch; Four Rooms)

Directed By: Cameron Crowe (Vanilla Sky; Almost Famous)

Overview: A regular guy begins dating the class valedictorian for the summer before she heads off to England.

Acting: This thing is full of those 80s melodramatic displays combined with some not-so-innovative tear scenes. The direction was terribly weak, yet somehow Cusack held it together, that's something to be proud of. And I don't know what's wrong with the director, but there were three hugs in this movie, and every one of them was a ridiculously awkward display. Except for Cusack, it seems that the acting caliber doesn't stretch far beyond "Frasier" fare (John Mahoney's plays Frasier's dad), which is fine, but only fine.
Rating: 5

Cinematography: The images were standard, absolutely nothing to make the unimaginative say, "What's going on there?". Too plain frankly, nothing panoramic, no interesting scenery, nothing. Bland as all hell. Dated interior decorating doesn't bring back nostalgia, it just makes us laugh.
Rating: 5

Script: This is by far the proudest display of the ABC after-school special, teaching us what being a gentleman is, teaching us what summer love is, teaching us what our first love was like, or should have been like, teaching us how to have a relationship with our parents, including how to tell your father that you lost your virginity last night. Aside from the rhetoric, this unrealistic suburbanite view of the world was unoriginal, except for the occasional witty Cusack moment, though it wasn't a comedy in the slightest.
Rating: 4

Plot: I felt like a clairvoyant, it was so transparent. I actually wanted to know where the twist was. There's nothing here to make you interested in the continuity, except maybe the whole "Daddy in trouble with the law" bit, which ultimately seemed to lack direction since it had very little to do with the main plot, which frankly was ruined by dad's constant presence. Ugh!
Rating: 4

Mood: The overall mood was entirely dated. The lingering "first love romance" thing lacked drama, comedy and a good ending. The only thing that it had going for it was the score, or rather, the one song that was "their song" and a cheesy song it was, bringing the dated 80s back full circle like some horrible bottomless pit. Laughable.
Rating: 4

Ack don't even get me started on the hat.

Overall Rating: 44% (Yuck. No. Ick. Stop Talking.)

Aftertaste: This is a poor 80s piece of trash that had maybe 20 minutes of endearing moments in it. I guess I don't remember the 80s that well, because I remember it sucking a lot more than this rose-coloured veneer they threw over it. Please! I'll tell you though, I didn't turn it off, so it can't be all that bad, right? It also can't be that bad because two people recommended this to me, however I think they're both wrong. I laughed too much, I mocked too much. This was probably good in the 80s. Now it's unbelievable poo.

Steamboy (2004)

Ooo, he's holding a nice steamer!

Genre: Action Adventure Sci-Fi Thriller Animé (Japan)

Starring: Robin Atkin Downes, Patrick Stewart (X-Men; Dune)

Directed By: Katsuhiro Ôtomo (Akira; Memories)

Overview: In 1866 England, we follow a family of inventors ready to unveil (unleash?) their new trinkets upon an unsuspecting London

Acting: The voices weren't subtitled, so we got a much better sense of the voice acting, but with such people as Patrick Stewart leading the fray, it's pretty spectacular regardless. Just enough of the dramatic without going overboard and the bad guys had great subtle, withdrawn, calculating "bad guy" voices.
Rating: 8

Cinematography: This was directed by the same person who did Akira, my favorite animé. I thought Akira's special computer effects were great because they were still heavily focused on the cell style but with a touch of the neat effects that can only come from computer animation. Well 14 years later, the technology is even better and the animation is astounding. Over and over I was blown away by the familiar style that I love in perfect union with computer generated zoom outs, pans and backgrounds. This is absolutely gorgeous to watch, especially if you like big industrial steam-powered machines with complex revolving parts, which is totally my thing.
Rating: 9

Script: The writing was good overall with the three members of the family each having their perspective on science, each explaining it very well, but it was a little preachy from time to time. That little girl, however, was a terrific caricature of American Snobbery, and did a great job adding her unrealistic approach to the fray, whereas the villains were pretty intimidating in their dialogue. Nice touch.
Rating: 7

Plot: The story's a good one. We have this mysterious invention that can worlk miracles, and the son of the inventors slowly uncovers it's secrets while having to contend with differing opinions of what this should all be used for by his father and grand-father. Yes, the ending ran a little long, but animé can do that from time to time, since it doesn't cost any more to blow something up (or several somethings on an epic scale) than it does to have someone talking. It would have been nice having the end shortened a little (really we get the point), but good story.
Rating: 7

Mood: The sci-fi futuristic 1866 world of flying machines and steam-powered weaponry is gorgeous to me and everything hisses and belches smoke, whirrs mechanically and it's all so industrial and intricate. I really got a big kick out of this; really original, I mean all those crazy inventions! Wow!
Rating: 9

"Oopsie, my bad!"

Overall Rating: 80% (Steamin' Hot!)

Aftertaste: I feel bad that I fell asleep there for 10 minutes, I was out shopping all day and I want to see this again with someone who's into this sort of thing, and soon. It was great, and I was certainly not disappointed (still no Akira though :P)

Friday, May 27, 2005

The End of Neon Genesis Evangelion (1996)

"Betty? I left you alone for 10 minutes what did you do to the PLANET?!"

Genre: Sci-Fi Action Fantasy Drama Animé (Japan)

Starring: Megumi Ogata, Megumi Hayashibara (Cowboy Bebop: The Movie; Vampire Hunter D)

Directed By: Hideaki Anno (Neon Genesis Evangelion; Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death & Rebirth), Kazuya Tsurumaki (FLCL)

Overview: The final episodes on the TV Series, The EVA Project comes to a head in a final epic battle.

Acting: As with most animé the voice actors know what their doing. Perhaps something is lost (or gained) in the language, but it seems good to me.
Rating: 7

Cinematography: Violent, graphic detail, not gory so much as realistic. The combat above the treetops and the assault on the base was the best part of the show. As for the end, they imagery was stunning, I'm sure, but overall it was that style of animé that we're all too familiar with. They tended to focus on the story rather than the images.
Rating: 6

Script: The script was beyond me. I grasped the tip of the iceberg about what they were talking about, the earth's rebirth and the epic concepts of reality, but the symbolism definitelytely lost on me (again I blame my late entry). The worst thing though was the terrible grammar and translation, not to mention the timing of the subtitles and the fact that often the words were chopped off the screen, and even something as simple as a spell check wasn't used. Atrocious!
Rating: 3

Plot: I guess I really should have watched the whole show from the beginning. I should have figured that jumping in at the end wouldn't be the wisest choice. Sure, stuff was lost to me when they began to speak jargon that I'm sure was explained 20 episodes ago, but as a grande finale, it seemed fine. I got most of it. Until the end. Then I was entirely lost. Don't see this unless you've seen the rest.
Rating: 4

Mood: The images were grand and panoramic and if I had any idea what was going on, I'm sure the symbolism and metaphors would have been very inspiring and original. Sadly, the mood was too deep to get into.
Rating: 4

Well it's got guns and naked chicks and Cabalistic paradigms of creation... I mean it's got it all right?!

Overall Rating: 48% (Too Epic to see as a Stand-Alone)

Aftertaste: If you know anything about Animé, then you've heard of Evangelion. You may not know too much, but you know that it's for hardcore fans, and you might as well look into it, just a little bit. Well don't do it this way. The first hour was fun to follow, because it was all infiltration and combat, but then we got into these vast metaphors of the Universe, Godhood and Creation... I don't think people may even get it if they follow the series from the beginning... I even debated not rating this at all, since it's not a movie so much as it is two final episodes. Maybe I'll go back and watch the synopsis (as boring as I'm told it was)...

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Dead Leaves (2004)

Yes, one of the characters is a TV head... What about it?

Genre: Experimental Sci-Fi Action Adventure Comedy Animé (Japan)

Starring: Kerry Anderson, Keith Burgess (Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death & Rebirth)

Directed By: Hiroyuki Imaishi (FLCL, The End Of Neon Genesis Evangelion)

Overview: A couple of amnesiacs wake up naked, trying to figure out why they forgot everything. In their attempt to get clothes and wheels they realize they're on the moon's prison facility, where the mysteries begin to reveal themselves.

Acting: The acting is absolute mayhem and melodramatic madness! In this case though, it works. This is not one of those movies that could have handled taking itself seriously. They do a great job.
Rating: 7

Cinematography: The animation style is quite different from most animé. It's all sharp edges and mutant creatures. We don't see the most sophisticated or sharpest of images on the screen, but I found it very original stuff and the combat scenes were terrific.
Rating: 7

Script: The script was weak overall and pretty crass too, but it works. The lascivious innuendo makes up for the lack of purpose and direction of the thin characters.
Rating: 6

Plot: The plot is less than great. I mean sure they go around rescuing each other and learning about the mystery that is their amnesia, and in the end it turns out to be this vast and grand conspiracy with most of the loose ends tied up, but it doesn't really GO anywhere, you know? Also, the ending was rather... abrupt.
Rating: 6

Mood: The mood is definitely the thing. The animation is different than you've seen, well at leasunconventional, the mutants... really mutated, and the guns, absolutely zealous in their overstocked ammunition. It's fun to watch if you're in the mood for out-there animation and a sci-fi setting with lots of combat and freaks with out-there dialogue.
Rating: 7

Don't ask me about the clothes though, that, I just ... wow it's really bad huh?

Overall Rating: 66% (Is It Moving?)

Aftertaste: After all is said and done I got a kick out of it, but it didn't do much else for me. It's a hard one to recommend because it's so genre specific, yet I liked it more than I didn't and it wasn't that long.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

Actually yea, I saw him in Dracula, and I saw him in Sid And Nancy and I saw him True Romance, oh and...

Genre: Family Adventure Fantasy (USA, UK)

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe (The Harry Potter Series), Gary Oldman (True Romance; Immortal Beloved)

Directed By: Alfonso Cuaron (And Your Mother Too)

Overview: The third Harry Potter movie takes us back to Hogwart, though this year Sirius Black has escaped the prison of Azkaban bent on finding and killing the famed Harry Potter.

Acting: The character archetypes were too blatantly defined, again. The director should have toned down Malfoy's smug little portrayal. It was more than "you love to hate" him. I just hate to see a transparent two dimensional performance. I'm sure the kid's a good little actor, but his character is so annoying. Hammy acting from time to time, but overall, professional, especially Thewlis and Oldman.
Rating: 7

Cinematography: The special effects are still pretty cool, I mean those spirit creatures are way out there, and I had heard that the younger kids were scared by them. Hell, I was scared by them! They did a great job making the land and the scenes and the settings grandiose and impressive.
Rating: 8

Script: The writing had its weak spots. It's as though they decided not to concentrate so much on this production, as though they could already guarantee that everyone's money was already in their pockets, which is really the problem with Hollywood sequels.
Rating: 6

Plot: We hate that smug little Malfoy and for some reason he still holds popularity even though Harry bests him every time. That I find unrealistic. All of Hogwart school at this point knows that Harry Potter is a special sort of wizard, meant to fulfill some grand destiny, yet when he uncovers a dark plot, their teacher says, "Well the word of three 13 year old wizards won't sway this decision." Give me a break, and the whole hippogriff plot was too much of a suspension of disbelief. Though in the end it became a plot device, they could have approached it better. There were too many holes in this for me to be happy.
Rating: 5

Mood: You don't even need to be told that this is as good this time as in the other two films in the series. It's a great and fantastical world and I even might say that the creatures within are better than they've been before. Perhaps the fact that the young sorcerers are growing up means his audience is also capable of handling a touch more of the dread we adults find more impressive.
Rating: 8

You know they were cute a few years ago, now it's all creepy pre-pubescence.

Overall Rating: 68% (Not All That Magical)

Aftertaste: This movie is one of those "gotta get around to seeing" kind of films, and sadly, I felt it wasn't more than that for me. Though I was never all that impressed with Harry Potter in the first place, I really see this going downhill, it's like they aren't making any improvements from the first one, and they aren't trying as hard in the next one.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Skinned Deep (2004) - * WORST 5 *

Passably cool until you see any single one of the sets in the background.

Genre: Comedy Horror

Starring: Karoline Brandt, Jay Dugre

Directed By: Gabriel Bartalos

Overview: A family enters a small town while on a road trip, and is invited to dinner to the nice old lady's house who runs the diner. Once in the house, the scene turns macabre, and Tina, the eldest daughter, is left to fend for herself.

Acting: The acting was atrocious. Not terrible atrocious, but bad. There were some characters whose lines were overdubbed with their own lines, which I really don't understand. As for the hammy acting of every single character, quite obviously this was done on purpose, though I see no reason why...
Rating: 4

Cinematography: The film quality has a second-hand look to it. The cameras were low budget, and the direction was hazy at best. Far too many too-close shots in confined spaces to chalk it up to bad luck. This was amateurish.
Rating: 4

Script: The writing was one of the worst I've seen this year. People say some pretty stupid things in this that not only goes against regular everyday dialogue, but borders on the touched in the head. And not in that cool David Lynch mood setting way, I mean why are you talking? Just to sound retarded? Well it's working!
Rating: 3

Plot: The biggest fattest hole in a plot I've ever seen in my life brings this down a full two points: the kidnapped girl is driven away from the horrible house and its inhabitants and taken to a beach by her enamoured captor (who by the way has a three foot tall brain for a head), where she tries to sway him to let her go, or at least leave with her. In the background, about 200 feet away, we see a busload of people enjoying a BBQ picnic. Someone who's family was just murdered, her shirt covered in blood wouldn't dare dream of running, screaming "kidnap" at a mob of people, in a wide open field, in broad daylight, from an obvious freak of nature would they? No, no, they would go back to the hellish house where they butchered her family, of course, of course. I could go on and on and on! Explosive earring sized hunks of plastic please! Other than that, terrible ending!
*NOOOO! Noooo! NOOOOO!!!!!!*
Rating: 2

Mood: The mood, thank God, didn't take itself seriously, though it wasn't cliché enough (it was rip off enough from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre without paying homage like House of 1000 Corpses did) for us to get the point that this was supposed to be ridiculously abominable. The freaks and geeks were a nice touch, but they could have brainstormed a little more before coming up with a big brainless oaf with a brain for a head, a plate tossing midget and a metal jawed psychopath. And those bikers. Ugh, this whole production was just plain dumb, and Oh My God the ending credits!
Rating: 4

Yes, that IS a plate throwing midget. I know a real menace, I know.

Overall Rating: 34% (Skinned Or Fleeced?)

Aftertaste: I'd like to know what makes the horror fan the one who gets such crap dumped on them all the time and asked to keep coming back for more. It's the only genre, it seems, that has low-budget as one of its endearing trait. Well chalk it up to another bad production with a stupid plot, perhaps a stepping stone on this director's resumé, but no thank you, I will NOT watch your next piece of tripe! This movie is Ass, and I will remember your name Bartalos, I swear it!

The Ghouls (2003) - * WORST 5 *

...Or at least pray to turn on the lights to find the 'stop' button...

Genre: Horror

Starring: Timothy Muskatell, Tina Birchfield

Directed By: Chad Ferrin

Overview: A bit of a ghoul himself, our hero earns his living filming the misery of the seedy parts of the city. He soon finds himself facing flesh-eating denizens in the dark underbelly of the streets.

Acting: Please God, you've got to be kidding. Quite obviously, these are amateurs of the lowest caliber. The female lead was decent, but only in comparison to the poor talentless schlubs she was working with, and sadly she had all of 10 lines. These people need real jobs.
Rating: 3

Cinematography: The digital video approach wasn't interesting or artsy, it was low-budge, and the best scenes were the vomit inducing hand-cam running down the street shots. Maybe not, perhaps it was the ever-present shaky hand-held too-tight angles that did this movie the most justice.
Rating: 3

Script: The writing was filled with cocky characters and childish insults splayed with the word "fuck" for lack of any imagination. It was just one big cock-swinging attempt after another at vying interpersonal dominance. The person who wrote this must be a pathetic sad-sack who thinks the world is filled with people who attack one another for no reason except being better than the other, without any hint of wisdom, burning their bridges along the way. I mean to call your boss and his business shit, and point a gun in your girlfriend's face to win her back all in the same night? This was ridiculous and so unrealistic as to make me wonder what psychoses this writer has. If "write what you know" is this guy's motto, he must be some self-imposed societal pariah living in some dumpster somewhere.
Rating: 2

Plot: The plot carried us through to the end without making us want to turn it off, I'll give it that. Original in it's portrayal of a guy who is definitely worse off than the everyman being the only guy who gives a damn about eradicating freakish murdering zombie-like monsters in the worst part of town, but unfortunately the sub plot was nowhere near developed enough to make it worthwhile to even introduce.
Rating: 5

Mood: The horror flashbacks (which of course were choppy and annoying) did a wonderful job of illustrating the character's haunted fears, granted, however, to think that chain smokers smoke half their cigarette then light up again is definitely a realism killer. As for the underground where the evil hungry ghouls live, it was a stupid short little tunnel that did nothing to frighten. As for the other journalist who gets skinned alive and hung from a hook (yet survives long enough to talk about it) , don't tell us, "They took my skin" because your special effects guy can't make it look like you got skinned. If you can't pull off an effect, don't DO IT. It was so STUPID!!!
Rating: 4

They took your skin? Yeah? They fleeced my wallet!

Overall Rating: 34% (Get This Bad Memory Out of My Head!)

Aftertaste: The best part of this movie was the kid with Downs syndrome doing DeNiro's famous "you talkin' to me" Taxi Driver scene. If you want to see any part of this movie, make it this one. It's offensive and laughable, and does the whole film justice. This sucked and I'm glad I saw it as a "horror double bill" with friends, otherwise it would have been a complete waste of time. Now we can tell other people how great a time we had hating this together.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Pom Poko (1994)

This should be put in the Grave of the Fireflies, ick.

Genre: Comedy Drama Fantasy Animé (Japan)

Starring: Kokondei Shinchou, Makoto Nonomura

Directed By: Isao Takahata (Grave Of The Fireflies)

Overview: A community of shape-shifting raccoons try to save their forest by sabotaging the human construction project encroaching upon their habitat.

Acting: The delivery of the lines in this movie was well done. Nothing terribly melodramatic, but when the melodrama did come, it's wasn't way out there. Decent.
Rating: 7

Cinematography: The style of animation used in this is my least favorite of those used in Animé. It's that too cartooney, not rich enough detail kind of thing that gives Animé a bad name for me. Yes, amazing movies like Metropolis and Princess Mononoké have been made in this style, but Akira and Ghost in the Shell show us what can really be done with this sort of talent, and it takes us further, in my opinion. There were definitely some impressive moments here and there, like the parades of shapeshifting that took place from time to time, those were certainly interesting to watch.
Rating: 6

Script: The script did nothing to keep me. Something was lacking and the script could have salvaged this film, immersing us into a fantastical culture of shapeshifters with old Gods of Nature. Instead these animals seemed shallow, caring only for food, party, sex and war. This category had tremendous promise, but completely dropped the ball.
Rating: 4

Plot: The ending was appropriate and though not what I would have hoped, it takes a very realistic approach. There were also a few holes in the morality of this Tanuki tribe. One scene shows us that shapeshifting leaves into money is wrong because counterfeiting is wrong by human standards, whereas another scene shows us that after a successful sabotage killed two humans and injured another, they take pause to mourn them, tittering throughout the moment of silence, until finally all begin laughing hysterically and immediately going into celebration for the rest of the night. Downright weird.
Rating: 6

Mood: What's with the Tanuki showing their balls all over the place?! Ugh, disturbing. As for culture, they was little, as for deforestation themes and survival of the fittest, hardly any. The mood was best near the end, rife with the devastation by man, but too little too late.
Rating: 5

Want the definition of truly disturbing Animé? Seeing BALLS ALL THE TIME!

Overall Rating: 56% (It'll Pop Your Poko Too)

Aftertaste: This movie is one that you'll have a hell of a time finding. Ultimately though, I think the reason you'll have a rough time finding this is that it's not a very good film. It's a great concept and the underlying social commentary is loud and clear, but as I watched it, I found myself uninterested in the delivery of that plot, in those shallow, base characters and their wanton desires.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Ray (2004)

I wonder how often Ray Charles smashed his teeth into those mics...

Genre: Music Drama

Starring: Jamie Foxx (Collateral; Ali), Kerry Washington (The Last King Of Scotland; Mr. & Mrs. Smith)

Directed By: Taylor Hackford (The Devil's Advocate; An Officer And A Gentleman)

Overview: The epic biography of Ray Charles, his life and times.

Acting: This is the thing of Ray. It's amazing how great a job Jamie Foxx does as Ray Charles, everyone touted how perfect his portrayal was, but his supporting cast were all on the ball as well. Great job.
Rating: 9

Cinematography: The cinematography was not something I expected to be innovative. It's good, professional and effective, just don't expect high art. The scenes are straightforward and do their best not to distract from the story.
Rating: 7

Script: The writing was often standard fare, with fairly regular reactions and dialogue. This is no poetry, but it's well done enough not to make you wonder what's going on with these people. Biographies tend to be realistic that way, don't they?
Rating: 7

Plot: A great plot, a good story to tell, and as we watch Ray grow up and become a star we really sense his endeavours, but once the fame sets in, the story lulls, because the way it's told, until that final challenge that he has to face, it doesn't seem as though there were all that many things that needed to be said, though the movie went on saying them...The ending fell completely apart for me in a horrible cheesy "we shall overcome" internal self-realization filled with symbolic representations of his past. Too bad about that, but still, overall an entertaining story.
Rating: 7

Mood: There was a nice theme thrown in from time to time of water and of Ray's haunting demons, which added a nice element to the plotline. Great music, of course, but overall I found that this lacked any artistic vision. Nothing inspired great reactions, and the pure R&B, Jazz club feel of the love of his music seemed too replaced by sterile studio settings and business chatter.
Rating: 6

"I can't see. Who is is? Is that me?"

Overall Rating: 72% (Barely A Touch Of Sunshine)

Aftertaste: This was one of those movies that everyone ends up seeing. Hollywood produces these not-so-hidden gems regularly and this sort of film is what draws audiences to theaters over and over again. Sadly, I didn't think this movie was all that great. Sure a great story and a safe flow from beginning to end, but there was just something missing and I can't quite put my finger on it... Oh yes I can: The lowest common denominator factor. When you play it safe, you make more money. I don't think anyone will ever say "This is my favorite movie", unless I run into Ray Charles' children...

Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Animation Show 2005! (2005)

Popcorn wins King of Celluloid!

Genre: Animation Shorts

Starring: Don Hertzfeldt's and Mike Judge's work and many others

Directed By: Don Hertzfeldt, Mike Judge (Office Space; Beavis And Butt Head Do America)

Overview: The second animation shorts film by these guys, it showcases animators from around the world.

Acting: The acting in most of the shorts was minimalist. I know there were really only two of the shorts that actually had real dialogue in it (F.E.D.S., Ryan), while the rest had the speaking parts as, "Blah Blah Blah" or squeaking or somesuch. This approach left it up to the animators to make sure that we got the message, and they all did well.
Rating: 7

Cinematography: The mixing of cinematographic styles in these shorts was all very unique. From low budget stop-motion to my favorite incredibly sophistically animated Fallen Art there's something here for everyone. From Plymptoons' Guard Dog to the Ward 13 hospital nightmare, the styles will amaze and impress you, including the Oscar winning Ryan.
Rating: 8

Script: The minimalist scripts were great. The sounds and grunts of the speechless films spoke volumes, whereas the documentary style of F.E.D.S. and Ryan were more about realism than fantasy. Good stuff.
Rating: 7

Plot: The plots range from a Robert Frost poetry narration to The Meaning of Life, so I'm fairly certain something in there will interest you. All the shorts were entertaining and ranged from light humour to heavy political commentary. You'll come for the look but stay for the stories.
Rating: 8

Mood: The overall mood was "look at this crazy range of great animators", and they pulled it off splendidly. The other thing about short film is you don't really have to immerse your audience into a common mood, besides the obvious intended theme. Shorts instead put the onus of mood-setting on the contributors. In this case, the animations were almost all perfect, always immersive in their particular style.
Rating: 8

The less popular Soylent Fuscia was made of cartoon characters

Overall Rating: 76% (Fun Times!)

Aftertaste: This was a great little show and a great reason to go out. I'm not sure if this'll be available on DVD rental, though my favorite of all spoke volumes with it's dark anti-war sentiment. tells more, but sadly doesn't have the actual short available to watch, though there is a trailer. I know that this is these director's second showcase and I will certainly attend the next one. Hopefully it won't take another 2 years.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

FLCL (2000)

Alien chicks with super magic bad can it be?

Comedy Fantasy Sci-Fi Animé (Japan)

Starring: Mayumi Shintani, Jun Mizuki

Directed By: Kazuya Tsurumaki (Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End of Evangelion)

Overview: A Vespa-riding, guitar slinging alien pulls interdimensional enemies from her new friend's head in hopes to find a creature with titanic powers.

Acting: The acting was comedicaly, overzealously melodramatic mostly. This works here. If you like cutting loose with your Animé from time to time, this is one of the shows that'll take you on that wild trip. Shrieking and weird voices abound.
Rating: 7

This is one of the weirdest Animés I've seen when it comes to the look. There's these awesome angles sometimes, like a shot looking down the alien girl's guitar neck just before she smashes something with it, then right away after we see it laid out like a Japanese Manga comic strip, then a scene tribute to "Southpark" in the round headed animation style. It's really innovative, that mix, yet it can get a little much if you don't get used to the whacked out style from time to time. The explosions and the combat is really well laid out. This is one of those Animés that uses the ultra dramatic facial expressions rather that going the subtle route, so that should give you a good idea too.
Rating: 8

I think I'm losing my mind. The last few Animé I've watched have had plots that have lost me here and there along the way, and this does the same from time to time. The script is perhaps poorly translated, or they intentionally left us in the dark until the last of the 6 episodes. Sadly the ending was not as clear as I had hoped. The worse thing in the version I watched was the subtitles. They were often up for less than half a second, making me rewind and pause frequently, which slowed the mood a little.
Rating: 6

The plot is crazy. This girl introduces herself by slamming her electric guitar in this 12 year old kid's head, who consequently begins sprouting alien creatures from another dimension. Some friendly, some malignant, the girl runs and flies around smashing things while the kid learns to fight, baseball style, with his own guitar. The flow is jilted from too much of a "we'll surprise them with the why later" approach, and frankly I felt it missed the mark a little and I was very disappointed by the end. Overall it could have been more wild without being so crazy...
Rating: 6

The mood however is great. Such a disturbing premise with a backdrop of baseball and classic guitars as bats. They do keep the mood constant and the cinematography really helps set it up. The erratic nature of the film is what made it so interesting.
Rating: 7

Then there's the dude with more aliens growning out of his head...

Overall Rating: 68% (Fuh-Luh-Kuh-Luh Indeed!)

Aftertaste: I'm glad I watched this, it's a neat little show. I wouldn't really recommend it to anyone unless they're into Animé for Animé's sake, but if you are, you'll get a kick out of the depth of the Animé culture in his.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade (1998)

Er... I don't think they're on our side...

Genre: Fantasy Thriller Animé (Japan)

Starring (English Version): Michael Dobson ("X-Men: Evolution"; Broken Saints), Michael Kopsa

Directed By: Hiroyuki Okiura (Cowboy Bebop: The Movie)

Overview: An officer of an elite police unit suffers a traumatic event at the hands of a suicide bomber, and becomes involved with the bomber's sister while political machinations work behind the both of them.

Acting: The acting is appropriate, if not a little withdrawn. Animé has a way of being melodramatic, as I've said before. This is ultra-realistic and fairly subdued. The acting suits the mood, and it's very well done.
Rating: 7

The images are of a different sort than you would tend to expect. The people are drawn as close to human as possible, and they live in a world just a few years off. No lasers, no floating spaceships, in fact the weapons and vehicles are mostly of a 1940s German nature (Volkswagen Beetles and Walther PPK pistols). All this to say they made a real film, and skipped all the fantastical. Except for the explosions and the ammo, and the detail on the gore (which were all very dramatic), this plays out like a regular movie. It was perfect for this type of plot. Quite obviously, this movie had a strong influence from Akira, you can see if everywhere.
Rating: 8

The main characters are a fairly pensive, quiet bunch. The political machinations are well explained until the end (I seemed to have missed a little something there along the way, as to reasons why) but overall a fairly believable script.
Rating: 7

As I began to explain in the cinematography, this was a very realistic movie, and though I would have preferred something a little more large-scale, the plot that unfolds has twists within twists, and is entertaining while not being too predictable.
Rating: 7

The mood is the thing in this. The animation pushes the stark reality of this world set in the near future (in fact it's technically set in the past, as it's shortly after WWII, maybe early 60s - all this to say they did a great job on setting details throughout). The wolf references are dusted throughout, and the theme of Little Red Riding Hood overlayed atop it really set up the mood perfectly. Films with a scene or two of symbolism are nice, but when people make a movie AROUND the mood they wish to convey, tremendous. This film presents to us the way to do it well.
Rating: 9

Say what you will but those outfits are effin cool.

Overall Rating: 76% (Well Done)

Aftertaste: The mood was great but unfortunately, for me the rest of the movie was a little slow for my liking. The opening with the riots and dark plots set me up for something more than I got in the end. I'm glad I saw it, but not much more than that.