Cinema-Maniac: Unforgiven (1992) Review

Whenever the word “Western” pops up the first person that comes to my mind is Clint Eastwood. As an actor he’s center stage in several of my favorite Westerns and as a director understands the genre like no other director. Ever since his first directed western, Eastwood showed an interest in the duality of the hero, taking a special interest in the archetype of hero portrayed in the classic 1953 Western, “Shane”. Eastwood has explored this theme in many ways in the past: first as a true antihero (“High Plains Drifter”), then as a man becoming legend (“The Outlaw Josey Wales”) and later as a true mythic hero (“Pale Rider”); all this culminates in “Unforgiven” as the ultimate demythologization of the concept, and his final ode to the Western genre.

Unforgiven follows retired old west gunslinger William Munny reluctantly taking on one last job, with the help of his old partner and a young man. It’s a film about the manipulating influence of legends as much it is a dissection on the western genre position on violence. Built on a hollow facade of the western genre it removal of any heroes and villains slowly envelops the film. Broadening the depiction of the wild west eliminating the charming hero, the righteous sheriff, the violent outlaws, elaborate shootouts, climatic stands off, and the helpless everyday person caught in the middle in life in the old west. Becoming more thoughtful in showing every step of a character motivation by an outside force to an internal decision. Internalizing the classic Western theme in which violent men are “civilized” by schoolmarms, preachers and judges. It is in the use of violence as the main theme of the story that such varied views are made possible. Munny is escaping from his past’s violence while the Kid is eagerly awaiting the next chance to prove his masculinity by the use of violence. The duality between man and myth is explored not only via the relationship between the Kid and Munny, but also in the shape of a character who writes novels about the wild west, and sees the figure of the gunslinger as an idolized modern hero. Reality constantly collides with legend with many characters and their relationships exhaustively explored, resulting in a character driven revisionism of the western.

Clint Eastwood as a director reflects a passing era in its genre even in its visual style. The set design and cinematography provide viewers with visual cues they will be conversant with a genre whose conventions are deeply rooted in American cinema. The dusty, barren streets and ramshackle buildings are necessary to impart a sense of familiarity that the storyline takes pains to deconstruct. Our first views of Big Whiskey establish a set of expectations, reinforced by the way the town has been erected and the way the early scenes are shot, that are necessary for “Unforgiven” approach to have its full impact. Many of the film’s exteriors are widescreen compositions showing the vastness of the land. The daytime interiors, on the other hand, are always strongly backlit, the bright sun pouring in through windows so that the figures inside are dark and sometimes hard to see. Living indoors in a civilized style has made these people distinct.

As William Munny, Clint Eastwood is simply perfect in what at first sight looks like an extension of his earlier “Man with no name” persona. William Munny has a name, and a past he wants to escape from, and Eastwood captures the image of guilt and regret to the letter. But his voice lacks conviction, and we sense unfinished business in the air displaying the uncertainty of Eastwood to stick by his guns. Eastwood personifies the weariness of a man of violence who’s trying to fight against his nature. A lot of the conflict is internal, but we catch enough glimpses of it to know it’s going on. We also see the point at which the surrender of the new man to the old one occurs. In other words Eastwood has visually and through his portrayal created one of the most sophisticated westerns. Morgan Freeman plays the wise old friend role which he perfected. Gene Hackman does an excellent job bringing out the good and the bad in Little Bill, refusing to allow the character to become a one-dimensional antagonist. His standout scene is the one in which he instructs Beauchamp about the real Old West.

Unforgiven is another classic western by one of the master of genre himself Clint Eastwood. Deconstructing the western with shades of grey and thoughtful statement on its genre violence. Bolstered by strong performances from an great assemble cast create individuals that aren’t simply black and white. Showing far more depths in the characters in their delivery. It’s in the same vein as “Seven Samurai” tackling it’s respective genre with a depiction that challenges characters, it’s environments, morals, and realistically deconstruct many norms of it genre. It’s not just great filmmaking, but an essential work of art.

10/10

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Cinema-Maniac: Duck! The Carbine High Massacre (1998) Review

There’s no getting around the fact that this film uses “The Columbine High Massacre” as a backdrop to satirize the media sensitization of the incident. Firstly, a condensed version of the tragedy is in order. On April 20, 1999, in the small, suburban town of Littleton, Colorado, two high-school seniors, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, enacted an all-out assault on Columbine High School during the middle of the school day. The boys’ plan was to kill hundreds of their peers. With guns, knives, and a multitude of bombs, the two boys walked the hallways and killed. When the day was done, twelve students, one teacher, and the two murderers were dead; plus 21 more were injured. This film fictionalize take on the “The Columbine High Massacre” is ridiculous, goofy, and at times cartoonish with a proud sense of black humor. Realism and respect for the victims is not the aimed of the film, but neither is intelligence with its black humor satire of news media sensationalism.

Duck! The Carbine Massacre is about a pair of victimized high-school students embarking on a blood-soaked rampage of furious violence…in the climax that is. A good ninety percent is repetitive re threads to reestablish that the characters are indeed horrible people. Every character in the film is an easy to identified stereotype. The dumb bullies, a Bible-thumping Puritan, the goths, the gearhead (who is shown constantly cleaning his car), the cheerleader and her jock boyfriend, a handicapped student, and a black character who hates white people. That’s not me being racist; the only black character in the film wears a shirt that says “I hate white people” and says stuff like “The internet is for white folks” very angrily. What the characters do is realistic like bullying anyone outside a clique, teachers that don’t prevent bullying, and ignorant parents that just don’t care or refuse to acknowledge anything negative. How these events are depicted are cartoonish. When protagonist Derwin goes to a basketball court alone he receives a bloody beating. One reason behind the beating is because a jock shoved a bleeding Derwin on the gearhead car and presumes on to beat him for getting it dirty. Even after the beating Derwin still gets bullied as he lay on the floor beaten as the rest of the students give him a good kick. It’s a forceful way to get across his hatred towards the other students. At the same time it undermines characterizing any of the characters. They are intentionally written to be hated which lessens the point it was meant to get across. It’s easy to figure out the message because of how narrow minded it characters talk and interact.

As a black comedy the film fails in many areas. Granted it did make me laugh a few time, though those laughs were from random moments. Like when the protagonists go to buy guns, the shady salesman sells them weapons game show host style. Also in the end the mocked media have a theory that it was possibly aliens that committed the act. As a whole there’s not much advantage taken by the writing staff to say anything clever. Since each character is a stereotype so is the limited mindset in the humorous situations. For example, the Christian Puritan pukes on someone when she hears hard rock music. The concept of it could have been funny, but because there’s nothing more to this character the joke failed. All the humor suffer from the one dimensional characters that once expose to prolong period of time overstay their welcome. Plus it’s pretty difficult laugh at a joke where the same gun dealers said earlier to our protagonists “Do you want to F*** a twelve old”. Or the one instance where a policemen shoots a goth student he presume is the shooter after the massacre scene. As for the massacre scene it gets across some solid points on the exclusivity of high school cliques with narrow minded pretext to make sure it does not strike a cord of any sort.

Both William Hellfire and Joey Smack are the directors, stars, writers, producers, and cinematographers of the film. It’s very evident too sporting a home video production look in all the ways you expect. Sound mixing is mixed in quality. In some scenes you can hear dialogue easily, but in others background noises makes it difficult to determine what the actors are saying. It could be the wind or awful rock music that repeat the word kill. Apparently hearing cartoon punches sound effect is more important than whatever the actors were talking about in a given scene. There’s also instances of the boom-mic being visible, though for a $5,000 production it’s not much of a shock. The same applies to the home-video look of it. Images are never crisp and clear and colors don’t appear properly. Everything looks brown even in broad daylight whenever outside or inside brightly lit interior. The acting is atrocious to say the least. All acting comes across as one big rejected rehearsal tape. Not a single line delivery is credible. Finally comes the massacre scene which looks poor due to the budget limitations, but on a technical level shows the crew knew how to handle particle effects. They might look fake (especially a pointless scene involving a giant rocket), the executions of the cheap looking effect is worthy of some merits.

Duck! The Carbine High Massacre is exploitative yes, but not offensive. Unless you consider bad acting and low productions values insulting than offensive it is. It’s a fictional take on a tragic incident taking a bold stance to show the film from the point of view from the shooters not so much the victims. However, that bold move is undermined by the fact that every character is a stereotype that are repetitive in scenes to scenes and narrow minded in it depiction of people. The ideas it has about bullying is realistic and so is being driven to violence by your environments, but gives such ideas a cartoonish depiction . It’s too far removed from decent filmmaking and too far of from reality to portray its theme to be anything other than footnote on exploitation filmmaking.

2/10
Extra:

Despite his last name being Hellfire, William is a nice guy. A somewhat ironic story post the film production was the arrest of William Hellfire and his friend Joey Smack. In their own words they claim to attack the media and how they cover the incident. According to Hellfire there was a news reporter that wanted to orchestrate an arrest on camera instead of interviewing them. When the FBI rejected the reporter request he went to the local police. For a whole month the local police were out looking for William Hellfire and his friend. They got arrested for bringing actual guns onto school ground and in the car a policemen to not worry because they’ll be famous. Famous? Maybe for underground filmmaking scene, but for the general mindset will probably be seen as an anomaly of good taste based on the title alone.

Cinema-Maniac: The Trial of the Incredible Hulk (1989) Review

Extra! Extra! CM lost yet another case against the general public (aka his college classroom). In his effort to prove Marvel monopoly on superheroes films is no excuse for laziness CM back himself with supporting evidence in court showing several Marvel films side by side. Asking the jury to name a director of a specific film to which they couldn’t differentiate a single film for having a unique style, a different formula, or a different tone. He came prepared and determine to prove a point, but lost with an opposing evidence against him. The side against CM pointed to a positive review of Sharknado found on his profile which was enough to convince the jury his position on trail was futile and unanimously was found guilty in hating anything popular. This is not the first time CM lost a case against the general public. Similarly the same occurred when he declared “The Dark Knight” the worst influence to comic book films and titled the success of “Frozen” the end of creativity in American animation. Neither of those cases prove any success as he became bombarded by large number of defenders. Yes it seems by some colleagues his pursue for there to be great writing in films is coming at the sacrifice of seeing why a particular film appeal even when those supporters who see those same flaws. I’m simply attempting to this introduction as a news story because CM has no other way to open the review. Much the film he’s about to review, this opening is lost potential for something that could have been clever, but ends up falling short of what seemed promising.

The Trail of the Incredible Hulk follows David Banner who is held for questioning about a mob crime, his only chance lies with his blind lawyer. Honestly the title of the film was enough to convince me to see the film. I expected it to be the first Marvel film acknowledge consequences for super powers. In the first act it appears that way with David Banner being sent to prison and meeting his blind lawyer Matt Murdock whose determine to defend him. Sure Banner case will help Murdock in his personal pursuit for justice, but is shown wanting to take the high minded road with the story. Now it should be brought up that the film skims through the background of David Banner and Matt Murdock. What we learn is enough to obtain an understanding for both characters having more in common than one might expect. It’s more geared towards the characters driving the story than a story being driven by action. How the characters act make sense and their handling of their respective ordeals is seen as a logical one from their own view. Banner in this film does not turn into Hulk frequently demonstrating a restraint depicted in being difficult to maintain. We see Banner is a good guy, but not so much the world around him provoking him into madness with a desire to SMASH! We see a Banner not desiring to use powers for any good or bad motives. By the end it’s a given he will use them for good, but brings the often ignored turmoil in depicting a individual that unlike other super heroes cannot be entirely good or evil by complete control.

Back on topic, the title of the film is misleading. Sadly the only time we’re ever in court is in a dream sequence. What makes this dream sequence a tragic lost is if the scenario did happen it would have created a case that made proving Banner innocence allot more difficult. It’s also easily the best sequence in the film showing the most of Hulk abilities and the first ever Stan Lee cameo. Also, the techniques used in this dream sequence put us directly in Banner shoes. Disorienting close ups, uncomfortable zooming in to people faces, and loud noises that won’t stop that frankly just want to make you see HULK SMASH the court. Sadly post dream sequence the film takes a dive downward. Becoming more of a superhero team up than a high minded court film. Following the same formula of villain takes damsel, hero gets defeated, hero regaining his spirit, hero goes to save damsel, and villains get away on high tech flying speed boat from the top of tall building. Okay maybe not that last part, but that’s the general outline. Yet at the same time despite these familiarity there are many moments that makes it feel different from Marvel usual outing. Often seeing Banner and Murdock lives as mundane. Coming from someone who seen a number of Marvel films different is refreshing.

The same notion applies to the technical and cast side of the film. Once again there is some promise among the crew, but along the way falter. Bill Bixby is the director, producer, and star of the film. Bixby dialogue for the first act is simple often saying simple phrases instead of speaking in complete sentences. As the film progresses Bixby has more lines making him able to hold a conversation through his angry voice. However, when Bixby is meant to transform into a green painted Lou Ferrigno his angry face is unintentionally hilarious. This also causes some continuity issues as Bixby beard disappears when he “Hulks-out”. Ferrigno has the best moments in the film despite most of his dialogue requiring him to yell in rage. Sadly he doesn’t get to show much of his strength aside from the trial scene. It shows the film had a small budget with as Hulk does little destruction and Daredevil fights scenes beside being incredibly lame are slowly performed with simple choreography. Spectacles are the one thing the budget can’t contribute. Also, he doesn’t make an appearance in the final act that while it breaks from the norm of the title character saving the day means Hulk is often seen running more than helping people. To be fair though, a green Lou Ferrigno still looks more realistic than CG Hulks. Rex Smith committed as Matt Murdock, though is bland. While I do praise Smith for never blinking in his role as a blind man it does severely limits his range of emotions with constant wide eyes. Plus his costume is just black which makes sense for fighting in the dark, but looks uninteresting when compared the sight of a green Lou Ferrigno. Finally John Rhys-Davies plays the villain Wilson Fisk. Everything he says is cheesy comic-book villainy and he’s a having a blast with it. Embracing the goofy persona of his characters he’s rather fun to see even if he’s the villain. The supporting cast are part of the background with no standout. Some are good and some are hammy. As for director Bill Bixby his technique is just point and shoot. Visually the film ever rarely looks interesting with any noteworthy shot.

The Trail of the Incredible Hulk is different from Marvel usual affair. Granted it dated badly in some areas, but which specifically is up for debate. I don’t know about you, but when Lou Ferrigno plays Hulk I can tell he is real and actually there unlike the CG Hulks. Unfortunately unlike CG Hulk, Lou Ferrigno is restricted to slow movements and deliver little in the way of destruction. However, this film does allot right. The characters are made human, Hulk and Daredevil team up is fun, and refreshing to see the title character not be the main hero in a Marvel film. It won’t deliver the spectacles like todays Marvel films, but deliver on its characters and unlike most of Marvel releases it feels different. It’s not as high minded as one would hope given the title, but is a nice distraction sometimes faring better than a higher budget Marvel film.

6/10

Cinema-Maniac: Airplane vs. Volcano (2014) Review

The Asylum is a brand I can trust when it comes to viewing something out of the norm of sensibility and logic. Sure nearly every knock off the studio makes can’t compete with the actual film it’s ripping off, but even those have their own highlights of mediocrity. Earlier this year I witnessed the uneventful and shallow “Apocalypse Pompeii” which was a volcanic disaster movie based around Mount Vesuvius. It was a typical disaster film without a bone of creativity or interesting idea to overcome technical limitations like horrid acting. I bring up “Apocalypse Pompeii” because it takes place in the same universe as “Airplane vs. Volcano” as made clear in news broadcast in the film. As pointless as that bit of trivia might be what is not pointless is knowing that “Airplane vs. Volcano” is not a good general movie, but it is an entertaining B-movie.

Airplane Vs. Volcano is about a commercial airliner trapped within a ring of erupting volcanoes, the passengers and crew must find a way to survive – without landing. It doesn’t take long for the action to get started literally opening with a scientifically goofy explanation on the sudden rises of volcano follow by an instant death of a scientist. What makes it difficult to discuss this film is how much of its own stupidity should I bring up. Part of the fun is in seeing the dumb premise unfold with it even stupider characters we follow. Every single thing these characters do is counter productive losing most of their oil in single a mistake which also almost caused them to blow up in mid air, but also gets passengers and military soldiers killed with every plan hatched. All the characters in the film are one dimensional cliches; the air marshall, the geek, the average joe who lost everything, disaster expert, the unneeded middle eastern attempted hijacker who’s absent most of the duration, the single parent with a child, reluctant military general, but all are all idiots. Like a usual disaster movie it has no time to develop of any of its characters. Jumping between the dire situation on the plane and military command post that examine the disaster and attempt to minimize casualty. It has no time focus on the human element of the story which later undermines the characters plead for help in the third act from resonating. While I would love to poke fun the military solution to save the passengers in detail doing so will ruined any fun to be had in its third act. Although I will say it involves bombs, jet fighters, a military general, and tons of fireballs. The script is plagued with cliches and bad science, but makes up for it with a fast pace and host of creative ideas. It’s setting might be limited, but always keeps it plot moving. Set pieces are guarantee to deliver a laugh and along the way the enjoyably implausible climax. Melodrama is wonderfully cheesy and the conflict is forced to the point that the most illogical path might be the right way to survive the disaster. All doing so with it tongue firmly implanted in it cheeks being a part of the fun that knows when to push itself into absurdity and come in control with cheesy melodrama.

Dean Cain is the leading man filled with a committed cast of hammy actor. Cain, like the rest of the cast, are in on the joke. While Cain doesn’t change his facial impression much looking more like he’s having fun than in actual peril has charisma. He’s fun to be around with his goofy character allowing him to say stuff no one would utter. Not only that, but his arc is one of the few story threads that is decent enough to pull have a small payoff, even if it’s undone seconds later in the climax. Plus I appreciate an in joke on the actor who also played Superman. The only other actor worth a positive mention is Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs who inspite of the material gives a good performance. He’s the closest the cast has to a good actor showing range in his abilities swiftly changing from a tough guy to fun loving air marshall. Jacobs commits putting some emotions in his more dramatic scenes. The two worst actors in the film are easily Morgan West and Mike Jerome Putnam. These two have no chemistry with each other uttering their lines without conviction. They hardly show any emotion with their expression and vocally deliver every line with the same tone of voice through out. Finally Robin Givens is bad in her role. She’s does not seemed to understand what kind of movie she is delivering all her expository line very seriously. Givens always appears upset about volcanoes. The special effects are the usual cheap looking CG Asylum standard. Here it’s they do repeat the same shots of the airplane in peril surrounded by volcanoes for two acts. However, what the filmmakers do with the special effects is varied in its set pieces makes up for the plastic look of it CG.

Airplane Vs. Volcano is an entertaining b-movie. It has hammy acting, a goofy story, and hilarious stupid moments. If you’re part of the audience that enjoys a B-movie “Airplane Vs. Volcano” has you cover getting to the action immediately and keeps itself afloat with creativity. It’s in on the fun and knows how to deliver entertainment as well as a good laugh. While it won’t ever surpass the legendary Sharknado (I recommend if you like b-movies) it’s in the same ball park in being one of “The Asylum” better films.

6/10

Note:

On the DVD box of “Airplane Vs. Volcano” it says “Based on the true story”. Out of curiosity I looked into it and it turns out “The Asylum” has done a film based on a true story before. For instance, “Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies” is based on the biography titled “Emancipate This!” by someone with the initial JWB. If that’s not historically accurate I don’t know what is.

Cinema-Maniac: Godzilla (2014) Review

In 2012 the world saw the release of Skyfall which honored the heritage of James Bond and paid tribute to it past without succumbing to the norm of blockbuster pitfalls. Fast forward onward with 2014’s Godzilla and it is that same exact franchise film, but more so needed for a bygone genre. Coming from someone who considers the 1954 original “Gojira” a masterpiece and one of his personal favorite films it inherits a Godzilla film DNA into its modernization. Like the best film in the long running franchise, Godzilla is less interested in a giant monster’s destructive progress than in what it might feel like to be a tiny human watching it close up, or far away, or on TV.

Godzilla is about U.S. Navy lieutenant Brody attempting to stop Godzilla from destroying parts of the United States to protect his family. The structure and pacing is equal to the 1954 original. In fact, the affection and respect that the creators have for the film that birthed Gojira is felt throughout. As in the classic, they hold the titular monster back for quite some time, and it unveils at a slow pace. Setting up an atmospheric presence with us humans being marginally inferior when compared to the massive creatures. Making us more aware of the devastation and death that would occur if its scenarios were real. Borrowed from past templates is the American military every man archetype leading character with scientists and generals supporting characters meeting regularly to discuss unfolding developments and devise ineffective solutions. These human characters are token in monster films addresses the template flaws without so much eliminating the problem. All the two dimensional characters have simple goals and strong emotions, and they never feel awkwardly shoehorned in, as humans in monster flicks often do.

Godzilla design oozes classical Godzilla. Gone is the man in the suit, but retain are the likeness to it. The spiky back plates, the gigantic tail, the stomping foot, the massive chest are kept, etc. His body structure towers virtually over every building, his body movements is similar of a human wearing a heavy costume, and his presence never becomes just an effect. It’s a character that contains his own arc alluded to the protagonists own arc as both overcome two different species that do all in their power to stop them. When Godzilla is fully reveal it’s awe inspiring as it menacing in the way it’s done. After rampaging destruction in the airport we are put on ground level. Seeing a foot engulfed by smoke that slowly pans up to reveal the sheer massive size and commanding presence with his thunderous roar. The other monster in the film are the massive unidentified terrestrial organism or MUTO for short. As hinted to by the brilliant opening credits that ties itself with the original gives hint of the kind of monster it is. Mothra is mentioned which ironically is also Godzilla most famous foe, but MUTO are entirely different in biology. Muto can be described as a more mechanical Mothra with bigger claws, big in size, and without wings can still fend its own against Godzilla in some breathtaking action when they share the same screen.

Director Gareth Edwards has taken visual and tonal inspiration from Steven Spielberg. More specifically Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “War of the Worlds,” as well as from earlier popcorn classics that shaped Spielberg. It is obvious from the start of Spielberg’s tone and style being a important influence upon Edwards, and it is used to a great effect. From the orchestral score to to the iconic visuals, this Godzilla movie doesn’t hesitate to be bold. However, it also takes cues from the slow burn of Jaws, lending more to the anticipation of our first clear look of Godzilla. Going more so being captured in the moment than playing out like a film. The cast provide good performances even if the material doesn’t come through for them. Bryan Cranston delivered a brilliant on-screen hammy and over the top performance showing an understanding of the kind of film he’s in. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is decent at the protagonist being overshadowed by Bryan Cranston more personal, fully realized character. Johnson has the every man look as oppose to his extraordinary luck to survive the instances he’s in danger. Repeating the cycle of exposition and reaction to monster. Elizabeth Olsen is limited in her scenes spending most of her screen time look at the camera and giving a reaction. Ken Watanabe is committed to his role which unless you seen the original the importance of his role will fly over your head.

Godzilla carries the torch of tradition of what makes a Godzilla film and is a terrific modernization of a genre film. Call this closing a cop out on my end for not wholeheartedly supporting a film I gave a perfect score too, but the execution by Gareth Edward is not so much to change as so much reaffirm your position on the genre. For those exact reasons Godzilla 60th anniversary film will be enamoured with praise from those (including myself) who see the appeal of a bygone genre even with it inheritance of shortcomings. It’s also because of those same reasons (two dimensional characters, actors limited range due to roles, silliness not blending with serious tone, numerous reaction shots, etc.) those on the opposite spectrum will too be reinforced by their feelings on why similar films do not co-exist equally with other genres. If there were to be only one thing taken by this film on both sides that would be the meaning behind destruction has not disappeared from the blockbuster. Godzilla is just as capable to get your blood pumping in large scale destruction as well as hold that same destruction with various emotions as we watch helplessly unable to change the outcome.

10/10

Cinema-Maniac: Bloody Sunday (2002) Review

Paul Greengrass filmography is rooted in history. His films between 1989 to 2002 were based on true events and incidents that occurred in Britain even tackling American History later in his career. Greengrass sticks closely to true stories depicting them with as much respect as possible. Despite being a film made for British television it has the same quality of a Greengrass film.

Bloody Sunday is a dramatization of the Irish civil rights protest march and subsequent massacre by British troops on January 30, 1972. Unfolding in real time we’re able to see exactly how the incident went about from the views of both the protesters and British troops. Giving the exact mindset from both sides desire to avoid the worse case scenario. Jumping back between the two allows it to depict events that occurred before the incident, during the incident, and what occurred directly after the event. Seeing history unfold right before us. All the while being more than capable to challenge the action taken by British troops and protesters with some simple acts. For example, it is depicted in the film a small group of protesters reacting with violent backlash against military power going away from the large peaceful marchers. Meanwhile, on other side we hear uproar in the area as soldiers attempt to discuss on how to act to the situation. Showing the fault in the way both sides preceded to do things. It’s in the third act where some simple scenes take a turn for the politically corrupt without demonizing the British troops. While the third act does attempt to highlight the wrong of the British army it does so without eliminating from a fair view. However, pretext is never provided such as what were the exact policies of the time that would motivate a government to send in military troops to stop a march. Some area are left as is serving as an introduction to the incident rather than a film that tells the whole story. Lacking in characterization you’re familiarity with the event depicted will remain the same without explaining it’s aftermath nor the impact it had. Now if the film provided a central character to root for it could have fallen into the trap of being one sided, but that’s not the issue that arises from that. The issue with no characterization is no background is provided from those who joined the protest. A politician is just a politician, a British troop is just a troop, and a citizen is just a citizen. Almost in line with reading actual news that skims on detail without the commercialization and agenda involved.

Paul Greengrass’s direction does the job even if his signature shaky-cam is not a well like technique. The cinematography of the film is equal to that shot on a grainy, handheld camera. With the visual of the film being documentary-like imitating real footage. It’s not an easy film to watch with continual fades to black between brief segments irritate as much as they help differentiate points of view or time passage. Although the device is designed to give the impression that objective “news” footage is used to favor realism over dramatization. Causing seasickness are the dizzying hand-held sequences where the cameraman runs for his life through fast and choppy editing. Using the long takes of the jittery hand-held camera lends credibility as does the working class grainy quality of the film stock. If it had a clean look and if the camera remained still it would have come of as a traditional dramatization as oppose to directly putting viewers in the center of the action. The viewer is always in the middle of the action with it flow of chaos being unpredictable. Editing is spot on with the minimal uses of music as gunshots and the sounds of a screaming crowd populate the films. Among the cast are Gerard McSorley, Kathy Keira Clarke, Edel Frazer, Declan Duddy, Mary Moulds, Gerard Crossan, Tim Pigott-Smith, Simon Mann, and the man who carries it James Nesbitt. The performances are high caliber making it hard press that these actors. With the cast dedicated performances the line between fiction and reality fades as their performances, especially James Nesbitt, help push that real footage quality aimed to capture.

Bloody Sunday simply explores an incident that occurred in a day and nothing before or afterwards in any great detail. It gets across a strong point without the need of characterization for any of the characters it followed. Paul Greengrass brings to the true horror of “Bloody Sunday” to light with shocking realism, but without depth to further understand the true significance of its impact for Britain, politics, and those involved. It’ll certainly make you feel, but thinking might varied with results.

8/10

Cinema-Maniac: Crows Zero (2007) Review

Takashi Miike adaptation of “Ichi the Killer” stirred a lot of controversy for it depiction of exaggerated violence securing it popularity would be greater than the source material that inspired it. In contrast Takashi Miike’s take on the manga simply titled, Crow, is more accessible while maintaining all of Miike’s signatures traits. Once again, Miike’s adaptation of a manga outdoes it source material.

Crows: Episode Zero takes place in Suzuran High School, an all boys school full of delinquents and gangsters. Focusing on newcomer Genji Takaya plan to take down reigning school gangster Tamao Serizawa. Populated with a large cast of two dimensional characters there is a lot of story threads that it needs to slowly get across before the promised big finale. Some characters especially if their female get delegated to the background until needed. It setup is over the top with numerous factions all fighting for supremacy in high school Suzuran. None of the characters resemble real people rather are testosterone filled and anime-like teenagers. Adults never pay much attention to the violence with some supporting the characters to continue on with their everyday activity. Characterization is thinly sprinkle throughout to show the characters softer side. All the characters might love to fight, but the film is not afraid to show them to take a breather from using their knuckles. Showing both Genji and Tamao recruiting members to grow their numbers in various ways. From a double date to giving or receiving a good beating to prove their worth to faction leaders. There is neither a define “good” or “bad” among the characters. Allowing opportunity for humor ease the mostly serious characters and drama to add more meaning to the conflict. Embracing the silliness of its plot the characters never once make it apparent how goofy it all is. Playing up the angle there is more meaning to becoming top dog where your status is literally an everyday fight for survival. Where it does fail is giving a single character to emotionally invest in. This is a result from episodic pacing that has a tendency to loose sight of who to follow and when to follow them. Given the serious tone and wild nature of its character the episodic pacing is rather fitting too. Ensuring small ounces of chaos before the all out brawl consisting of (according to the film) over one hundred students.

Takashi Miike demonstrates a masterful understanding of the aesthetic required to perfectly adapt it chaotic material. He’s straightforward with the delivery of his story while visually amps up the look that perfectly suits it. Miike introduces a leather jacket mentality to the costuming that helps the actors to triumphantly peacock around, showing off their outlandish hairstyles and detailed costuming, generating attitudes and levels of threat without a line of dialogue needed to be uttered. The school building and other sets exemplifies the chaos with its several graffiti paintings around it dirty, clutter, and decaying environments going along with the mood. Switching between brightly lit locations when things are at an ease or comedic and becomes darker whenever a serious fight ensues. Standing in strong contrast is the humor, of course, which is handled by the characters in a dead-pan way. At times the talking can be quite strong and crude, at others we are presented with human bowling pins that Tamao just kicks away with a giant ball in best manga manner when he has nothing else to do. The fight scenes are a technical highlight for Miike who uses slow and fast motion techniques to stylize fights. He then uses bone breaking sound effects to get across the impact while with his camera he connects the throw of the punch. Every fight scene always looks clean with the choreography being nicely performed. Even if the fight scenes aren’t intricate beyond some basic back and forth punching and kicking they are large in scale. Editing adds to the episodic feel of the film that sometime goes back and forth between unrelated scenes. The most prominent one being in the climax which cuts between the big brawl, a hospital operation, and a musical performance. The soundtrack switches between fun, easy listening J-Pop to punk-rock soundtrack does its share to make the testosterone getting hammered through the viewer’s veins.

The acting in the film is superb all around while the physical appearance of the actors is questionable. They all deliver good performances, but for a film about teenagers most of them look their more in their late twenties high school students. Shun Oguri and Takayuki Yamada get the most screen time as the leaders of opposing factions. Takayuki Yamada is more lay back and cocky with his appearance painting him deceptively different than from what he actually is. Yamada appearance adds to his aura of being the seemingly invincible tough guy when he’s beating up several teenagers like it is a mundane activity. Shun Oguri is his exact opposite appropriately coming across as a wannabe tough guy. His spiky hair and punk-rock clothing hide an emotional demeanor with no confident. Oguri gets more opportunity to show more varied emotions for those he care for. Ken Ichi Endo is the last actor who actor gets an equal presence with the leading actors. Spending most of his scenes playing off Shun Oguri. As Oguri legitimately becomes more tough, Endo becomes more human with his transformation. Supporting cast are also good making the characters feel real with their closing plot threads ending satisfactory. Actresses do fine in their role even if they serve nothing more than plot convenience. Meisa Kuroki is the only one of the few actresses that receive a fair amount of screen time, but is not given much to do from token damsel in distress.

Crows: Episode Zero is over the top, loud, contains great fights with a large scope, and benefits from Miike well defined direction. Miike gives artistic value to a loud, over the top, and violent film that otherwise would not have had them. While the story isn’t on par with Takashi Miike masterful execution and great acting. It great qualities turns the prosperous story of “Crows: Episode Zero” to an enjoyably loud, straightforward, and violent film succeeding in its goal of delivery pure entertainment.

7/10

Cinema-Maniac: Tarzan (2014) Review

Seriously again? Hollywood you already destroyed Japan classic story of “47 Ronin”, made Frankenstein’s monster into a one dimensional action hero, and you made Greek mythology lame with “The Legend of Hercules”. Stop destroying classic stories Hollywood, wait what? Oh, my mistake I’ve become so accustomed to Hollywood destroying classic work of literature as of lately it became second nature to accuse them. No this time the blame goes to German studios Ambient Entertainment and Constantin Film Production (also responsible for the butchering of 2011’s “The Three Musketeers”). This film fails fundamentally capture anything that made such stories survive decades past their publication.

Tarzan is a mixture of bad original ideas and a third act that was so lazy decided to rip off Avatar (2009). So here’s the setup; opening narration says “The amazing story I’m about to tell you took place in the deepest and darkest place of Africa” while following an asteroid that sometimes glows red in space. Yup, if the filmmakers couldn’t bother using Google or whatever search engine Germany uses to look up where Africa is located then lose all hope of it being geographically accurate. Continuing, we follow the asteroid through the solar system until crashing on Earth obliterating the Dinosaurs. Now this opening is very goofy in its own right as it is, but when it applying context it open plot holes. A consistent problem with the story is it instinct to zip past everything and anything that would otherwise develop the thin plot and thinner characters. Tarzan as a protagonist is not engaging because the most important traits of him in this story are never given a second thought. We never see Tarzan adapt to jungle rather it times skip where he’s older, but in a nonspecific age range where he could still be considered young. His backstory is not even worth bringing up. You know, only his parents in a Helicopter crash that exploded and kid Tarzan got out without a single scratch. Not only that, but the female Gorilla that found him loss her husband (who I would have named Mighty Joe Young) by the hands of murderous Gorilla Ishmael and her newborn baby on the same day stumbles upon a sleeping Tarzan. You assume a normal human being would be sad about losing loving parents, but apparently being raised by Gorilla makes him forget about it. Until the writers realize the title character has been a piece a paper the whole time and shove some force characterization down our throats with a side blandness.

Issue number two is not only how the studios behind this clearly never read a novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs, but is too heavy handed on the environmental message. Unlike Tarzan character whose the definition of a tree huger, William Clayton (our villain) immediately upon seeing him has villain written all over his design. His smiles has a clear double meaning, he’s the president of a company who wants to make more money even though they are rich, and can get forget since he’s from modern era travels to the jungle draining it sources with military force. Wait a minute….that’s from Avatar (2009) without anything positive to be discovered. I kid you not when I made the connection of where it stole from I literally did a facepalm because Burrough wrote over twenty books on Tarzan and other authors are still continuing his story to this very day. So out of all the potential books, radio programs, stage plays, and television series the film writers could have taken plot points from they chose Avatar (2009) which is in no conceivable way is works with the character of Tarzan. While on this topic how come William Clayton just doesn’t find another alternative to produce energy. From what the film gives us the meteorite can produce life and produce large amount energy and you know what else can do just that? The sun. It’s so blatantly obvious that William Clayton is in a position to invest in that technology and for that matter he’s given never a reason to be sold as a villain. He’s the president of a company even though he’s not the heir so why….oh yeah save the planet message by claiming all rich and successful people hate nature.

Okay so I didn’t criticize as so much listed things that irritated me, but there is not a single thing that is done right in the story. The romance between Tarzan and Jane is half baked. They spent years apart from their first meeting yet still fall in love with each other in a single day. Also, Jane father never ages despite both Tarzan and Jane clearly showing some signs of aging while Jane’s father remains the same. There is also a scene where Tarzan fights against mutated plant life has contributes nothing to the narrative other than being a pointless set piece. On that matter Tarzan isn’t shown conquering wildlife. Most of the time he needs a knife to get by in the wilderness whenever he’s facing a animal. While yes it is bit a realistic it contradicted when Tarzan can literally run from hot humid jungle to a snowed volcanic mountain without breaking a sweat. Finally the big dramatic moments are heartless. Events that are meant to make it audience feel something come out bitterly cruel against the writers. It’s says something when the death of no characters hold any weight unless the writer intentionally wanted to use every cheap writing trick.

Once the movie ended the cast name finally appeared and….no. It can’t be…not him again….KELLAN LUTZ! Why must you set out to and try your hardest (or laziest when it comes acting) to destroy iconic characters. Who’s next on your hit list to destroy; is it Vash the Stampede, Spike Spiegel, Moby-Dick (yes the whale), Don Diego de la Vega, and don’t you dare think about Yorick Brown. Just like Kellan Lutz did for Hercules in “The Legend of Hercules” his interpretation of Tarzan is unredeeming in all area. It doesn’t help when he did the motion capture himself for Tarzan. Originally I was giving him a free pass since movement is mostly up to the animators, but seeing how mechanical his character move I can’t. His movement is restraint to the point that seeing him run is an achievement. The way Tarzan move is delayed even when he swinging there’s no sense of weight to how he move. Every movement is stiffed and basic. His acting on the other hand while limited is emotionless. Lutz has the easy task of not saying sentences that required him to say more than four words and his line delivery as you might guessed is lifeless.

The camera spends a lot of time in the luscious jungles heavy on foliage is the film only good aspect. What Reinhard Kloss failed to achieve is immersing the audience with the beauty of nature. With a soundtrack that won’t shut up we’re never given a moment to just take the jungle all in. Never seeing it in the way Tarzan sees it rather we see it as a bland environment for a heavy handed the forest message. Also he doesn’t pay attention much to the human characters with their faces looking odd with wrong facial placements. Can’t forget the editing. Sometime a scene can end to early. For example, when Tarzan and Jane share a seemingly intimate moment at night in the jungle learning about one another it cuts abruptly to the next scene in the middle of a conversation. It’s an recurring problem especially when regarding the livelihood of the film’s villain when it just fades into another scene during what appears to be the villain vague death from a Helicopter crash. Other voice actors are terrible, though that would go to the script and given none of the actors had to do motion capture to the extent of Kellan Lutz won’t applied to them.

Tarzan is yet another example of a failure to adapt any semblance of the source material and even more so capturing it the true heart of the source material. Most fundamentally being in this film (and countless of others) is Tarzan is a lot more intellectual in the novel than compared to the films. Instead of using Tarzan isolation from humanity and a unwillingness to speak to build a character becomes it biggest handicap never getting the audience to feel any emotions. It’s a product created by stolen ideas from better filmmakers who made with effort and a false concept on the true essence of the character. It’s another classic ruined by filmmakers that look at the exterior instead of truly understanding why characters like these and many others survive as long they do.

1/10

Anime Breakdown: Elfen Lied (2004) Series Review

This show holds a great deal of significance…to my little brother at least. As oppose to myself where my entry point back into anime was Angel Beats! (a show my brother doesn’t hold in the same regard). Elfen Lied was his entry point into anime and one of the few shows he recommended me to check out. I did just that and to be honest it didn’t have the same impact on me, but is still a great show. It’s mature, bloody, and all around is supported by a creative team that manages to discuss many dark themes in the short span of thirteen episodes.

Premise:

University students Kohta and Yuka (Kohta’s cousin) save a Diclonius girl called “Lucy” when they see her naked in a beach. In fact “Lucy” is a serial killer who is being searched by the government but they are not aware of who “Lucy” really is because her personality is split.

Good: Holds Nothing Back

In Elfen Lied no area is too gray to discuss. Just about every episode casually discusses genocide, violence, vengeance, discrimination, inhumanity, and other dark themes. It’s for this acceptance for these dark themes alone that makes its story worth seeing. Providing a depiction of dark subjects without downplaying them. One such prominent and driving characteristic of those themes is Lucy and her violent outburst. Literally the opening minutes has her killing guards in bloody manners and upon this sight we tend to side with the humans. Delusioning the audience into believing that Lucy does in fact deserve to be locked up seeing how many people she killed. As the series advances and develops there’s a clear line drawn between compassionate killing and killing for a selfish reason. There’s a difference between child Lucy killing a child her own age versus young adult Lucy who kills an Assault Soldier. Violence for Lucy’s case is a path that presents maturity in her growth into a different person. Even the way Lucy kills a person has a distinct difference in methods. As a small child Lucy method is sloppy as her early killings there’s plenty of bloodshed despite being successful in her kills. Now compare to young adult Lucy and there’s more precise cutting and less of a bloody mess. She’s learns to become an expert in the art of killing while slowly becoming consume with regrets and hatred for herself committing such activity that encourages discrimination and the people that drove to that state.

The way it depicts violence isn’t for fun showing the pain it causes both on who inflicts it and whose receiving it. Because it chooses to show violence as a form of pain rather than a spectacle it further pushes it highlighted themes. Beginning to question who are the biggest monsters; Diclonii for resorting to violence when discriminated or the humans that discriminate against them viewing the species only as a tool. Both sides are morally wrong, but at the same time morally justified for such actions. We get to experience the conflict on both side. In Lucy’s views she had a small spark of hope in humanity that was lost. Negative feelings that were only reaffirmed through the hardship once she got captured and treated as an animal in experiments. On the other side we have the humans believing Lucy represents the Diclonii short temper and dangerous powers that gives them little leeway if more of them are born. Some see Diclonii as a problem being a superior race that can easily overthrow humans. The conflict isn’t one dimensional as both morally reinforce the other negative feelings towards the other questioning if there is such a thing progress beyond the label of race.

Stopping myself before I spoiled every theme for newcomer I’ll discuss my favorite moments in Elfen Lied weren’t so much the deep meaning it gave to it themes. It was actually the dynamic backstory of Kurama. Episode 10 is the series biggest turning point as not only does it developed Kurama as a much more than a cold, complicated individual, but it brings a whole new meaning behind his actions. Most of which are questionable even before learning about his past. With the revelation in episode 10 it puts into perspective that further reinforced him as a monster or as a weak minded man who’s intentions outweighed his actions. His conflict is no longer one sided, morally seeking revenge, nor it is one outweighed that it’s his duty. Rather it’s a smaller personal journey that through the course of the series we see him changing, but not necessarily for the better. While he does not have a change of heart he neither goes out of his way to redeem to himself for the possible dozen of lives he has taken. Kurama is a man who in his exterior does anything that is for the better of mankind. No matter how much of his humanity he has to sacrifice, but not at the cost when the dilemma becomes personal. This is proven when he refuses to go through with a specific order in Episode 10. Kurama is just one of many cast of characters that not only struggles with the cruel reality, but also struggles with complicated issues themselves that cross a series of gray lines.

Good: A Love Story With Blood and Gore

Underneath all the dark themes lies a story of romance that’s rather odd. One would expect going into any show with a male lead making a prediction of who he’ll likely end up with and be correct. That’s not the case with Elfen Lied as it blend of comedy and harem (protagonist surrounded by multiple love interests) semi-realistically among the chaos. Each episode focuses on the central characters current dilemma with the bigger picture in the background slowly inching it way to centerfold. Kouta, at the center, is shown conflicted with his romantic feelings. He’s neither oblivious to the idea that Yuka (childhood best friend) loves him nor makes attempt to conceal he might have feelings for another girl. Naturally he’s drawn to Nyu/Lucy child mentality state as she sees the world in her own eyes for the first time. Whenever Nyu is around you always feel there’s a warmth of innocence and good intentions behind everything she does. Nyu might not be able to fully comprehend everything about modern society, but neither do we hold it against her. Yuka on the other hand intends well, but comes across too strongly in expressing herself. She isn’t afraid to speak out her mind that for better or worse leads to the predicament she gets into.

Another good trait about the romance is how it works into the dark themes. As oppose to making the whole series entirely broody the romance aspect tends to be more lighthearted. This is a nice departure serving the interactions between characters feel natural. We never feel like they unknowingly get involved into a big disaster. They naturally go about their daily lives as best they can. These romance scenes reveal a lot about the characters naturally setting up some misunderstandings. A misunderstanding could work its way into a joke which nicely transition into a serious subject. Breaking the barrier’s rough exterior with a joke, then going into its topic with a serious talk. This also works for scenes that feature comedy in general. Depending on the situation within a scene determines the type humor. Ranging from dark humor like a character line from learning he’ll have his genitles remove to out of the blues to metaphor humor like a character having a nightmare on Japan currency crucifying her.

Now where does exactly does exactly blood and gore come into the picture? Well nearly every affection or misunderstanding between Kouta and Lucy/Nyu results in some form of violence. In episode 2, after an argument regarding a precious pink shell Kouta becomes upset at Lucy/Nyu causing her to run away. Lucy and Kouta run into trouble resulting in Kouta being knocked out and Lucy mercilessly killing those sent to retrieve her. While technically both characters haven’t connected at this point it empathizes the focus on a love story. This event only strengthens their bond and from an audiences perspective can truly understand the beauty Kouta finds behind such a cruel killing machine. The romance and the characters current dilemma never builds up to the level as the Diclonius Research Institution violent search to retrieve Lucy, but it’s bridges the gap between discussing larger than life issues with the smaller side of human conflict.

Good: Lots of Great Female Characters

Fans of the series are quick to point to Lucy as the best character of the series regardless of genders and that’s not far from the truth. While not my favorite of the cast, Lucy does resemble a “Jekyll and Hyde” trait transforming back and forth between an entirely defenseless girl you want to protect to a psychopath who you hope don’t come to bad terms with under any circumstances. She chops bodies without having to lift a finger. All she has to do is stand next to a person and let her vectors (telekinetics invisible hands) do all the chopping. She isn’t afraid of a fight on several occasions proving she’s not to be messed with. Being capable of holding her own against her own kind. It also helps that she develops allot through the series seeing what drove her to lose faith in humanity and the person that made her believe in them again.

Mayu is the youngest of the cast of characters and admittedly my favorite of the cast. For anyone wondering no it’s not because she’s cute (her voice actress doesn’t help either), but rather her maturity. Despite never understanding the bigger picture of the series conflicts she manages to be a sort of therapist for the characters. Listening to their problems and being able hold a conversation on subjects she might or not entirely understand. Much like the rest of the female cast she gets a tragic backstory. Nana on ther hand is more lightheaded and no understanding of the real world. She doesn’t receive as much screen time as Lucy, but is a welcome addition with her nearly fun loving personality. Her misunderstanding on how the real world works leads to some funny situations. There are two other worth mentioning, but those two are left as it since mentioning them will lessen their impact when they appear.

Good: Less Is More

Colors are nicely saturated, and the series’ kind of minimalistic design aesthetic comes through decently. Everything visually is kept simplistic even during the moments of carnage which despite having characters get ripped limb to limb are shown one at a time generally. It can get gratuitous with the nudity, but it’s generally used in a context where it would not be viewed as (possible) fan service. Granted some will enjoy the amount of nudity more so than other (me not being one of them). Blood can also get a bit excessive, but the level of dismemberment is intensified by the amount of blood that comes on screen. Either all at once or little by little to proven effect. Character designs are generally distinct, and the lighting for a given scene always look proper. The only major complaint against the animation is all the characters have the same face. While they’re all distinguishable due to hair, eye color, clothing, and things of the like, they all have the same exact facial structure. One of the instances of taking shortcuts, though it’s forgivable since characters are being reused. However, using stock animation in Episode 12 literally minutes after one of its characters performs a specific action does not get a free pass.  

Sound mixing is superb even if the cheery outro “Be Your Girl” by Chieko Kawabe doesn’t fit with the tone of the series. Some of the credit goes to a top-rate soundtrack based around the soulful, elegant Latin opening theme “Lilium” (which, as it turns out, is actually a plot device) stirring hymn inspired from the biblical and buttressed by suitably creepy or dramatic musical scoring in other places. It’s in the use of background noise and sound effects, and the way everything is balanced between multiple speakers, where the sound production truly excels.  It is based upon a catholic chant of the same name. Performed entirely in Latin, it was very unusual and fitting. The Lilium theme also features repeatedly through the flashbacks. The rest of the soundtrack is also good. It sets the right mood and invokes the right emotional response. Most of it is made up of simplistic piano and string arrangements. Instrumental variety isn’t an issue for high quality music is never a bad thing.

Mixed: A Forced Story

Elfen Lied is a tragedy and one that makes sure it does everything to reinforce that. Much like Angel Beats!, what saves the series is great writing and closing a rather large story into 13 episodes that provides a sense of closure. For starter in order for its story to be in a position to continue the characters Kouta and Yuka upon finding Nyu/Lucy naked on the beach first response is to take her home. Instead of the doing usual asking people around town if anyone knows her or report her to the police. Setting up the story with unrealistic action gets a free pass since it’s setting up the story. However, it is a force trigger to get it story going.

Unfortunately Elfen Lied falls into the routine of being predictively cruel leaving little room for surprises. It becomes a running formula for one of the central characters to have a tragedy occur to them. For some characters their troubled past comes across effectively. One example being Mayu character who first time we see her is homeless. Through the early goings we learn tiny details about Mayu current condition which makes it tragic when discovering the truth behind her past. This was foreshadowed as well as hinted at makes sympathy towards Mayu earned. When it hints or allude at a character past and follows up on it becomes a rewarding emotional investment.

Of course anyone who seen the series will hate me for criticising one such scene in Lucy flashback as an example of its forced story. Without spoiling it, all I’ll say is that it involves a puppy. Now here’s a problem with this specific scene. The whole dynamic of Lucy losing faith in humanity at a young age is very forced in this pivotal scene. Lucy takes a liking to puppy, but nothing ever becomes of the relationship. Now in the manga (according to my brother, Anime Psychopath) time is spent on showing Lucy relationship with this puppy which gives greater significance to what occurs to the puppy. In the anime series we don’t get that at all making it feel like it just happened the next day. All that is gathered from Lucy connection with the puppy is that she wanted to feed it and that’s it. We’re never shown any depth to Lucy connection for this puppy aside from she likes it. That’s not so hard buy since allot of people like puppies. It comes off as a plot device that forces itself to prove a point not so much to add value to its story.

Now the whole series does falter in major conflicts getting resolved rather quickly. This is also to blamed on the writing anime series which yes is not a problem in the manga. One such example is Kouta finally gaining back his memory of a tragedy that occurred to him at a young age. Once he discovers who it was behind the murdered of his father and younger sister he quickly forgives the person who done it. Apparently Kouta finds family murdered to be a turn on. Another issue with the series is Yuka (basically the childhood best friend, love interest) character is the weakest of an otherwise great cast mostly filled with strong female characters. More than half of Yuka’s dialogue has something to do about Kouta possibly not loving her or someone else taking him away from her. She’s not given much of a personality coming across overly clinging and unsupportive of Kouta’s good will taking in girls with life issues.

The final episode in particular is a mixed bag. For starter it hints there’s a lot more story left to tell, but doesn’t have a second season to tell those stories. To its credit it does end many of its hanging threads to prevent dissatisfaction with how it all played out. However, it’s basically a read the manga ending if you want to discover what happened pass that ending.

Final Thoughts:

Elfen Lied is currently the most mature anime I’ve had finished. Visually its minimalist details emphasises the nature of pain that comes from violence serving as a commentary tool for its dark themes rather than mere spectacles. Suffering some minor issues from a force story that is routinely tragic and a ending that reveals there’s a lot more story left to tell that is not going to make it way onto the small screen or big screen anytime soon. As it stand as a 13 episode anime Elfen Lied gets across many themes without stumbling between the dark nature of the cruel world and the lighthearted moments between its cast. It might not last very long, but like Angel Beats! it’s a short burst of a quality television worth giving it a watch while it last.

Themes: 2/2

Genre Blending: 2/2

Characters: 2/2

Production Values: 2/2

Execution: 1/2

Rating: 9/10 – Elfen Lied falls into a routine of being predictably cruel, but never does predictability detract from what’s otherwise a great show. It has light elements you associate with anime while never lessening its maturity in telling a story with many dark themes.

Cinema-Maniac: Dragonslayer (1981)

Dragonslayer is an interesting film in Disney ridiculously large catalogue of family films. For starter, it’s a more realistic take on a typical fantasy story, contains partial nudity, some blood and gore, and no memorable characters. It says something when the best remember element of the film is a special effect that isn’t on screen for much of it duration leaving a bigger impact than anything else with longer exposure. It has some intelligent ideas and semi-subvert dark take on an overuse formula, but it’s characters and actors hold it back from greatness.

Dragonslayer is about a young wizard apprentice sent to kill a dragon which has been devouring girls from a nearby kingdom. Now the way the film is set up is also it biggest downfall. It build up is done right in sparingly showing the dragon and creating its image as this big menace that is seemingly invincible. Giving the world a true sense of danger as the dragon unprecedented timing of attack raises fear. Leading to characters to pursue any option possible from a gaining helping from a bumbling sorcerer’s apprentice to a so call…”Virgin Lottery” (brought to you by Disney) to sacrifice to the dragon. Seeing the influence the dragon has over the kingdom holds your attention and so does the dragon when he appears on screen. While also doing away with some narrative points in its genre that prevents it from being part of the norm. Maintaining it’s overall dark tone with deaths being prevalent throughout even for major characters you expect to survive. It characters bog down some of it more complicated religious and politics subjects. As mention earlier the “Virgin Lottery” (brought to you by Disney) is challenged making a statement against Authoritarian. This plot point correlates some religious ideals. It’s not the inherent quality of the belief (or tool, or skill, or invention) that determines whether it’s good or bad, it’s how it is used.

Then there are the human characters that are a mixture of cheeky comedy, satire, and seriousness minus a balance. Much like the actors that play them, they aren’t compelling as if their performances were meant for different films. Peter MacNicol is not a capable, commanding presence. He is barely more masculine than the female lead and probably a few octaves higher. MacNicol looks and acts exactly like his character should even if he is the star of the film he always fits with the cast without standing out. However, he fails to make the hero compelling with his clumsy transition between comedy and drama. Ralph Richardson performance is artificial with his limited screen time. Richardson dies in two scenes in the film coming across as an old man bad role play of a cheesy fantasy board game. Caitlin Clarke is fair playing against gender type with her character. She’s able to conceal an important trait of her character physically and verbally, but once that trait is revealed she plays naturally in a routine love interest going through the rocky, a dragon is trying to kill me motion. John Hallam plays the obligatory rival with no redeeming value. Whenever he’s on screen he has one mindset; I’m angry. Peter Eyre is both hilarious and pathetic, as a king who can think of nothing more forceful than bleat. Chloe Salaman is okay as the film progresses so does her performance improves with material that gives her character some emotional turmoil to showcase. As a whole the acting is fair, but limited by the material giving the actors a hard time when deciding to switch direction.

Matthew Robbins textures his film with muted brooding colors for the coarse-flavored peasant environment to the more brightly-colored dragon sequences. Effects-wise the film sometimes shows it age in some poor blue-screen rendering, especially in the big climactic action scene. The dragon is a mix of richly detailed animatronics and stop-motion animation, to produced a monster that shown realistically in close-ups, yet could be given motion in a wider shot with little difficulty. And though there are moments when the inevitable choppiness of stop-motion work shows on the whole it still looks menacing. Probably the best marriage of old and new might be to use digital techniques to erase the telltale signs of a stop-motion or other type of puppet, allowing the tiny model to move as fluidly as a “real” creature. A minor but vital character to the film’s design is fire, and there are several distinct colour schemes – the blazing amber-redness of the dragon’s breath, the swirling green that signals the rebirth of sorcerer Ulrich, and the bluish-amber in the pools of intense heat which pepper the dragon’s cavernous lair. As for the confrontation between human is dragon is realistic as the hero has a difficult time even holding his own against the dragon with good weapons.

Dragonslayer is darker than most of Disney live action films, but also missing are some compelling leads that made some of their classics widely remembered. It subvert from the norm of Disney with it dark themes and a more gritty take on fantasy that doesn’t pander (much) to what viewer expects. While none of the actors or characters ever share the glory as the special effect driven dragon it has other elements worth getting into.

7/10