Author Topic: Jon's Random Reviews  (Read 58030 times)

Offline Achim

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Re: Jon's Random Reviews
« Reply #105 on: January 07, 2010, 09:50:53 AM »
The Corman library get the special treatment this year (for those who don't know it starts in april with Piranah :yu:) so maybe there an hope to see a real remastered theatrical print of it...
I know and I agree. For that reason I had actually considered the $15 dollar version (colorized :yucky: and original) which allegedly used a new cleaned up print.

Offline Jimmy

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Re: Jon's Random Reviews
« Reply #106 on: January 07, 2010, 06:23:38 PM »
It's the version from Legend Films no? I own Plan Nine from Outer Space and Night of the Living Dead from them and the quality of their release is usually good (even subtitled and I'm always happy when a label do that. I can understand without but it's more easier with.)

Najemikon

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Akira *****
« Reply #107 on: January 07, 2010, 11:22:01 PM »
Akira
5 out of 5




In 1988, the landmark Anime film AKIRA, by director Katsuhiro Otomo, defined the cutting edge of Anime around the world. By today's standards, AKIRA remains a landmark achievement in cell animation and retains the explosive impact of its highly detailed animation and its intensely violent saga of power and corruption. Pioneer Entertainment proudly presents this classic film, completely restored and digitally re-mastered. Childhood friends Tetsuo and Kaneda's motorcycle gang encounters a military operation to retrieve an escaped experimental subject. The military captures Tetsuo and conducts experiments on him that unleash his latent psychic ability, but when these new powers rage out of control, Tetsuo lashes out at the world that has oppressed him!

Akira is the film that introduced me, along with thousands of other naive Westerners, to Anime. It's been the favoured poster boy of Manga ever since and still stands today as one of the finest examples of animation, Japanese or otherwise. The opening scene of warring motorcycle gangs colliding with a revolutionary plot and wrinkly psychic kids is still a top favourite movie moment for me. I remember when I first saw it; after being brought up on nice, safe Disney, I think it blew my mind and I've never quite recovered! Thank goodness.  ;)

That scene sets the balance for the rest of the film which is a dizzying clash of plots. You have the cool, irreverent, often violent action provided by Kaneda's bike gang as they look for their friend Tetsuo, who has been taken by the military after an accident. The military in turn are dealing with politicians and revolutionaries alike in a powerful sub-plot, while a girl from the revolution is tolerating Kaneda, as they have a mutual interest in finding Tetsuo. He is the heart of the story, struggling to come to terms with strange powers that are quickly getting out of hand. The wrinkly kids are also very powerful and are trying to keep him in check for his own sake, especially as he is learning about Akira. Who or what Akira was is left ambiguous throughout, but whatever is left of "him" is buried deep under the city and Tetsuo is determined to get at it. The last act of the film is all the various factions converging on one point for an epic, breathtaking finale.

The various plots are wound together with an assured attention to detail, never at the cost of pace and all the elements balance each other perfectly. For instance, the kids attacking Tetsuo disguised as huge toys that bleed milk would be unbearably disturbing but for the next scene of cathartic, wanton destruction or a wisecrack from Kaneda. The sci-fi plot is deep and philosophical, concerning human evolution. If there is a complaint, it's possible only the surface of potential was scratched. Certainly the original manga, also by director Katsuhiro Otomo, is much larger. This is really picky though and newbies won't notice because they will be too busy trying not to fall off the edge of their seat!

The quality of animation is astonishingly detailed, fluid and cinematic (some Anime has a tendency to be stilted), and the sound design and bonkers score match it throughout. This DVD release is getting on for 10 years old, but it's a fantastic transfer. Also the 5.1 is only available in English dubbed, but it's unusually good. I did have the dubbed VHS first, then VideoCD and remember the latter subtitled version being a big improvement, but this dubbing is excellent.

It is a very modern and dynamic piece of film-making and a benchmark for the sci-fi genre, a benchmark Hollywood has consistently failed to match. It treats the viewer with intelligence and doesn't compromise the story at all. If you enjoy the genre, but are wary of watching "kids cartoons", I urge you to try this. You owe it to yourself. There's healthy support on these forums for Anime, so why not dive in and find out why.

« Last Edit: January 08, 2010, 12:48:11 AM by Jon »

Najemikon

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Ghost In The Shell *****
« Reply #108 on: January 08, 2010, 12:33:41 AM »
Ghost In The Shell
5 out of 5




The year is 2029, the world is made borderless by the net; augmented humans who live in virtual environments. Watched over by law enforcement agents that are able to download themselves into super-powered, crime busting mecha. The ultimate secret agent of the future is not human, has no physical body and can travel freely through the information highways of the world. Hacking and manipulating whatever, whomever and whenever required...

In my recent review for Akira, I claimed that it set a sci-fi benchmark that Hollywood has failed to match. It wasn't a one-off though and it is a point anime has continued to prove, especially with Ghost In The Shell to the point of a specific example. Released in 1995, the theme of the story bears some resemblance to 1999's The Matrix. And so this film has always been my favourite stick to beat the overrated Wachowski's with! If you like pure action, there are few films better than The Matrix, but a lot of people held it up as brilliant sci-fi to rival Bladerunner, especially as the producers weren't shy about Ghost being an influence. Actually, in comparison to the challenging and sublime Ghost, The Matrix is nothing more than a clumsy gimmick.

It's a political story, with perhaps very vague echoes of Robocop. The main character, Major Kusanagi is a cyborg and a brilliantly effective agent, but she contemplates the possibility of having a soul, or a "ghost" and worries how much of her is natural or just a result of AI programming. She works for Section Nine who are investigating The Puppet Master. Although they argue about how it's possible, it is likely he is just a ghost with no physical form himself, hacking into various shells and networks as a form of cyber terrorism.

While it isn't as epic as the ambitious Akira, nor animated quite so brilliantly (it does have its moments though), it does share that earlier films skill for balancing gorgeous, wide open cinematic action with an incisive sci-fi plot. In fact, this focused, tightly plotted story is arguably better. It has a nostalgic poignancy that gives the film a soul, smartly mirroring the story of cyborgs wrestling with a conscience. The haunting theme adds another layer. And I was being picky about the animation only to demonstrate the difference with Akira, but actually the attention to detail is incredible, something only recently matched by people like Pixar. On the DVD there is a feature about how they made sure even the bullets sparked correctly!

It can't match Akira's confident pacing. A couple of scenes are a bit talky and suffer from the static anime style Akira avoided, but there are several moments that are achingly beautiful. Especially when the Major goes diving and drifts weightlessly to the surface, embodying the emotional struggle she has with being whatever it is she is. Another example is the frequent nudity, from the Major or even the damaged cyborg "shell" they find. It sounds strange to point it out, but it's done with a tasteful obvious quality that live action could never pull off and it suits the story without being in any way gratuitous (the Major's partner, also almost all cyborg, claims he doesn't understand why she wishes to do things like diving, but then ironically catches himself staring at her body, revealing his own very human qualities).

There is a sequel, but I haven't seen it yet. However even the cover reveals something about this first film I hadn't noticed before: a beagle dog! He pops up several times in an enigmatic sequence. It's just one more subtle detail that obviously means... something. I have no idea what, but this is a story that refuses to obey convention or hold the viewers hand. As such it is a wonderful experience that I doubt will ever date.  

It is very difficult to describe the atmosphere of this brilliant film and give it justice. It amused me when I watched this again that there is a quote from James Cameron on the sleeve, rightly praising Ghost for its "literary excellence" and another from the original Empire review, saying that this is "the kind of film Cameron would make if Disney let him" (indeed he has often mentioned another manga, Battle Angel Alita, on his wishlist). Ironic that now, some years later, Cameron's Avatar is The Matrix of its day with most people agreeing the story is derivative. Sounds exactly like the film Disney would have made! I wonder if Avatar's Japanese poster has got quotes from Mamoru Oshii on it? ;)



« Last Edit: January 08, 2010, 12:47:28 AM by Jon »

Najemikon

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Re: Jon's Random Reviews
« Reply #109 on: January 08, 2010, 12:42:39 AM »
Here's an interesting video that compares The Matrix with Ghost In The Shell. Not with any malice! It's just interesting to see how they were influenced. Warning though, some of the clips may be considered spoilers:



Also spolierific, but this trailer captures the gorgeous theme and style...

« Last Edit: January 08, 2010, 12:47:49 AM by Jon »

snowcat

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Re: Jon's Random Reviews
« Reply #110 on: January 08, 2010, 08:54:56 AM »
When I watched Ghost In The Shell, I remember liking it but now I don't remember why, I think ill have to go back and watch it again. As for Akira, I was confused the first time but understood it more the second time.... have you heard they are making a live action verson? It will be two parts (atleast) and will star Leonardo DeCaprio as Kaneda and Joseph Gordon Levitt as Tetsuo, set for a 2011 release ;P

Najemikon

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Re: Jon's Random Reviews
« Reply #111 on: January 09, 2010, 08:49:14 AM »
When I watched Ghost In The Shell, I remember liking it but now I don't remember why, I think ill have to go back and watch it again. As for Akira, I was confused the first time but understood it more the second time.... have you heard they are making a live action verson? It will be two parts (atleast) and will star Leonardo DeCaprio as Kaneda and Joseph Gordon Levitt as Tetsuo, set for a 2011 release ;P

If you do fancy another look at Ghost, you should seek out the 2.0 version, or "Redux". They redid a lot of the CGi and it looks fantastic (that's where the second trailer comes from that I posted above). Looks like another Blu upgrade for me!  :-[

The Akira live action has been coming and going for years. I hadn't heard DeCaprio was attached though. Interesting choice! Whether you know Akira or not, Leo as a biker gang leader, a la Brando? Not sure, but definitely worth considering...

snowcat

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Re: Jon's Random Reviews
« Reply #112 on: January 09, 2010, 10:45:03 AM »
The version of Ghost in The Shell I now have is not a very good one, I gave my original two disc version to my ex ¬_¬  maybe I should ugrade it.

as for Akira im not sure, but there seems to have been alot of news recently about Leo being in it, Ill check it out but I have no idea what to think about it.

Najemikon

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State Of Play ****
« Reply #113 on: January 24, 2010, 08:21:26 PM »
State Of Play
4 out of 5




Congressman Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck) is the rising star of his political party - until his research assistant/mistress is murdered, and buried secrets come tumbling out. Investigative journalist, Cal McCaffrey (Russell Crowe) has the dubious fortune of both an old friendship with Collins and a ruthless editor, Cameron (Helen Mirren), who assigns him to the story. As Cal and his partner Della (Rachel McAdams) step into a cover-up that threatens to shake the nation’s power structures, they discover one truth - when billions of dollars are at stake, no-one's integrity, love or life is ever safe.

Director Kevin MacDonald follows his well-written, but flawed Last King of Scotland with the well-written, but flawed State Of Play. There’s a detail and intimacy in his direction that gives it an air of authenticity, but despite the witty dialogue and excellent plot, it seems to lose credibility in the final act, which is a real shame.

Still, this is a welcome thriller in more ways than one and provides anti-programming of substance to all the popcorn rubbish. There is the thorny issue of it being a remake of a superb British mini-series, but actually it relocates to Washington very well. It draws comparisons with All The Presidents Men too, with which it pales, but there hasn’t been anything like this for quite some time, apart from Grisham adaptations which have become almost self-parodies. In fact, I said in a recent review of A Time To Kill that it could make for a darker more ironic film if made today, but it probably wouldn’t be as entertaining. Well, State Of Play is that sort of film, but it is very entertaining.

Maybe I’m biased, but I’ve always enjoyed pot-boilers like this. They always follow a similar track; a seemingly innocuous if vulgar crime soon leads to the political high ranks and much intrigue follows, with very little action but for the obligatory black ops assassin. Really the plots rely on who is doing the plotting and this cast are excellent.

Russell Crowe is one of those actors I always think I don’t like until I watch him in something! He inhabits all his roles so well and this is a pretty straight-forward one for him (scruffy journalist) so he is the films reliable anchor and is barely off-screen. Rachel McAdams does well in an under-written, but long overdue dramatic part. It’s surprising how well she fits in, given that her character is so utterly pointless, except for a cliché of a subplot about bringing Crowes caveman of a journalist up-to-date (she does the online gossip column for the paper). It works because ironically, she keeps getting ignored in the story, so that’s mirrored by the plot! I was glad to see Ben Affleck climbing another rung on the comeback ladder. He gets far more flak than he deserves and has several scenes with Crowe in which he more than holds his own so I found him convincing and affecting as the senator getting embroiled in the scandal. Robin Wright-Penn as Affleck’s scorned wife is also very good, though I wasn’t convinced of the relationship between the two. Perhaps that was the point, given his infidelity and her past with Crowe’s character.

If Crowe is the films anchor, then Helen Mirren is its mothership. She never leaves the office and it’s like the film returns to her every time in needs a kick up the arse, which she duly delivers time and time again. She is quietly magnificent.

Well worth getting lost in. It avoids the black and white world of Grisham for the most part and you may feel by the end it sells-out, but MacDonald’s solid direction and equally solid cast make for an engrossing story.

Najemikon

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It's A Wonderful Life
« Reply #114 on: January 24, 2010, 09:20:58 PM »
It’s A Wonderful Life
5 out of 5




Light up your Christmas this year, with this timeless classic starring the unforgettable James Stewart as George Bailey and featuring a superb ensemble cast including Donna Reed and Lionel Barrymore.

Whenever the perennial subject of The Greatest Film Ever Made rears its head, I always turn into a smart-arse and confidently explain that such a thing is not possible to find. How can you possibly begin to compare Citizen Kane with The Godfather, or Jaws? It’s absurd!

So why is it, every time I see It’s A Wonderful Life I am absolutely convinced that it is The Greatest Film Ever Made? :shrug:

Maybe it’s because it is truly a film everyone can love and no-one has to think of it as a guilty pleasure. The modern equivalent seems to be The Shawshank Redemption, but even that has a violence enough to shock your granny. It’s A Wonderful Life should be cloyingly sentimental, but it was always Capra’s skill to offset his films with enough irony and honesty so it was easier to sell and identify with. Indeed, in this case everyone talks about Clarence the befuddled angel, rescuing George from a suicide attempt which does sound twee, but actually, that is the last act. The story is about how he gets to that point, so if you have it in your head that it is a fairy-story for fairies, well it’s not. It’s a good hearted drama. The frequent scenes with Lionel Barrymore are testament to that, especially where Thomas Mitchell as Uncle Billy makes his terrible error. I always thought how brilliant it is that mistake should be left unresolved too and the plot doesn’t contrive some neat resolution, but continues to subscribe to the idea that when pushed into a corner, people will ultimately just deal with it and do the right thing.

It is possibly the perfect Capra film and I do think it is his best work. He and the cast, working from as sharp and witty screenplay as they come, play their roles with such deft subtlety, that the pacing is utterly perfect. There isn’t a note out of place. As an example, I always think of the scene where George returns home on Christmas Eve, at the end of his tether and hiding his shame by lashing out at his family. It is a sublime scene of pacing, acting and... ‘mise en scene’. It isn’t often I use that term, but this is a most apt moment to which it should be applied. (It’s in the clip below, about 40 seconds in). Perhaps the kids will jar with their pleas to "Daddy", but if you think that then you're a cold hearted git... ;)

James Stewart was never better than here as George Bailey. Possibly Vertigo or another Capra, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, but again, in a film so easily dismissed, there are layers to George you may not expect to find. Mitchell and Barrymore are both excellent too, but even the bit-parts like Ward Bond have their moments and all make a mark. Donna Reed may be the most inspired casting though. She is wonderful. Who wouldn’t consider spending their whole lives in the same place if she was there too? :laugh: And finally there is Clarence of course, played by Henry Travers. A relatively small part, but ubiquitous to the story.  

I watched this on the recently released Blu-Ray, which includes a colourised version. Such an idea is sacrilege! How dare they colour this fantastic film? Except... actually, it’s very good. :bag: I know I should hate it, but I don’t. It has a rather waxy effect, but that’s only like original colour film from the time anyway. It is vibrant and watchable (though I predictably did stick with mono!) and the detail can be astonishing, especially on ties, I tended to notice! It’s an incredible piece of work so I hope it doesn’t cause the floodgates to open and they start scribbling with their felt-tips on everything. There is a case here to say Capra would probably have used colour if it were available, so I’ll let them off this once. Hey, it’s one less excuse for newbies to ignore it.

In any form, it isn’t the greatest film, of course. Such a notion is absurd. But it is at least in the top one.

Probably. ;)

« Last Edit: January 24, 2010, 09:25:11 PM by Jon »

Offline Antares

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Re: Jon's Random Reviews
« Reply #115 on: January 24, 2010, 10:14:05 PM »
Love the review  :thumbup:

Hate the colorized clip  :redcard: :giljotiini: :axed: :hang: :tease: :laugh:

Najemikon

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Re: Jon's Random Reviews
« Reply #116 on: January 25, 2010, 12:08:56 AM »
I know, I know... :bag: but you have to admit it's a step up from the usual ham fisted efforts. I'd never choose to watch it though and I do stress I'd hate to see this become the norm.

Offline Antares

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Re: Jon's Random Reviews
« Reply #117 on: January 25, 2010, 12:10:12 AM »
Ted Turner tried in the late 80's & early 90's, it didn't catch on then, it won't catch on EVER!

Offline Kathy

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Re: Jon's Random Reviews
« Reply #118 on: January 25, 2010, 12:37:37 AM »
I have to agree with Antares - there is just something special about this film in black and white. I looked at the clip Jon supplied and it just does not look "right".

Offline Dragonfire

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Re: Jon's Random Reviews
« Reply #119 on: January 25, 2010, 01:55:54 AM »
It does seem weird in color....though that doesn't look that bad.  I saw a colorized version on tv back in the 90s I think it was..that was horrible.  This at least looks more normal.