Recent blog posts in the category Movies:

Movie Reviews: Sunshine

Sunshine takes a movie premise that has been done to death and does it so well that it almost feels like this idea has never been tried before. There’s a whole subgenre of movies where an intrepid crack team...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2008/01/19 21:00

Sunshine takes a movie premise that has been done to death and does it so well that it almost feels like this idea has never been tried before. There’s a whole subgenre of movies where an intrepid crack team of scientists / adventurers / total lunatics embark on a mission to save the world by going all the way the heck out into the unknown, and most of them are pretty terrible: Armageddon and The Core come most recently to mind. Sunshine stands out by being a) not terrible by a long shot, b) grounded in as much physical reality as most Hollywood pictures can stand to get away with, and c) using the adventure premise of the story as a lead-in to something bigger and deeper.

The premise: The sun is dying (why? Eh, don’t ask), and a space mission has been sent out to reignite it with a special bomb. A previous mission was lost without a trace several years ago, which makes this attempt—codenamed “Icarus II”—all the more urgent. So far everything has been going according to schedule, but not long after Icarus II passes the point where it can no longer communicate with Earth, the crew picks up a strange signal—Icarus I’s distress beacon. They’re tempted to investigate, but Captain Kaneda (none other than Hiroyuki Sanada) says no: “Nothing, literally nothing, is more important than this mission.” Shotgun foreshadowing, to be sure, but only in retrospect.

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Tags: movies  review 


External Movie Reviews: Hell Girl Vol. #3: Cherry

The first clues about Hell Girl's origin, after some repetition.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2008/01/01 23:33

Now we’re really getting somewhere. The third volume of Hell Girl does what I enjoy most in a show—it takes its own conceits, turns them inside out, and sees what emerges. Instead of just running through the basic idea over and over again as it did in the earlier volumes, Hell Girl is now scrupulously questioning its own premises. What if, for instance, you send someone to hell as revenge, and that turns out to be what they want? Is it revenge if you give someone the punishment they secretly long for? I’m glad the show is finally becoming what it needs to be; I’m just a little frustrated it took this long.

Most of the episodes before Volume 3 featured a pretty cut-and-dried case of vengeance. Here, the stories now center around reporter Hajime, his daughter—who seems supernaturally connected to Hell Girl’s victims—and his dogged pursuit of the truth of the whole situation. The more he finds, the more disturbing a picture he pieces together—and the more his own nascent sense of morality starts shoving (inconveniently) to the surface. It’s no fun to realize you have a conscience after a lifetime of pretending you don’t, and the idea that someone would throw themselves away on revenge begins to mortally terrify him.

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Tags: review 


External Movie Reviews: Glass Fleet -La Legende du Vent de L'Universe- Vol. #3

I’ve written elsewhere that I would rather watch someone shoot high and go flat on their face than just play it safe and not take risks. The manga and anime I savor the most are the ones that stick their...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2008/01/01 23:32

I’ve written elsewhere that I would rather watch someone shoot high and go flat on their face than just play it safe and not take risks. The manga and anime I savor the most are the ones that stick their necks out, that dream big and have ambition to burn. Glass Fleet has 55-gallon drums full of ambition to burn—but burn that much of anything and you’re going to be blowing a lot of smoke, too.

So it goes with the third volume of Glass Fleet, full of adventure and intrigue and action and romance and politics—it’s practically the Christmas fruitcake of anime. And maybe 120% of everything is indeed too much: there are times when I wished they would, you know, tone things down just a tot. But then again, if they did, the show would lose the very over-the-top-ness that I’ve actually started to savor. Maybe the answer here is not to grouse about what needs to be changed but just to rack back the dosage: one or two episodes of this a week is about right.

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Tags: review 


External Movie Reviews: Mushi-shi Vol. #5

O Hell! what doe mine eyes with grief behold,Into our room of bliss thus high advanc'tCreatures of other mould, earth-born perhaps,Not Spirits, yet to heav'nly Spirits bright Little inferior … —Milton, Paradise Lost Thus spoke Satan on beholding Adam and...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2008/01/01 23:31

O Hell! what doe mine eyes with grief behold,
Into our room of bliss thus high advanc't
Creatures of other mould, earth-born perhaps,
Not Spirits, yet to heav'nly Spirits bright
Little inferior …

—Milton, Paradise Lost

Thus spoke Satan on beholding Adam and Eve in the Garden ofEden. The same sort of envy, or lust, seems to radiate from many of thecharacters in Mushi-shi whenever they encounter the mushi,the strange organisms that have been the focus of the show. They seethem not as forms of life unto themselves, not as things to co-existwith, but as something to be controlled and tamed, put to use,engineered into a solution for a problem that might not even reallyexist except in your head. And then comes Ginko, the mushi master who’sthe closest thing the show has to a hero—if only because he knowsbetter than to assume that life is something you can just shape at willto fix your problems, like putty filling a crack in a wall.

Over the course of the series we have learned that Ginkois hardly the only mushi-master out there—in fact, there’s a network ofthem with whole libraries and vast tracts of information at theirdisposal. What sets Ginko apart is his relatively enlightened attitude.He would rather deal with the mushi as things to be coaxed out and senton their way, not things that have to be exterminated ruthlessly. Healso understands, sometimes painfully well, that there will beoccasions when a mushi manifests and there will be no easy solution tothe problem it presents. There will be days when we are theproblem, not them, and when that comes about—well, I quote Miltonagain: “Hell shall unfould, / To entertain you two, her widest Gates, /And send forth all her Kings.”

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Tags: review 


External Movie Reviews: Witchblade Vol. #3

Three volumes in, and Witchblade is shaping up to be one of the better shows that’s come our way recently. At least some of that is due to the surprise factor, I think: I wasn’t expecting anythingfrom this Gonzo-produced adaptation...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2008/01/01 18:03

Three volumes in, and Witchblade is shaping up to be one of the better shows that’s come our way recently. At least some of that is due to the surprise factor, I think: I wasn’t expecting anythingfrom this Gonzo-produced adaptation of the American comic series, and what we’re getting is not just watchable but downright absorbing. This could have ended up being a throwaway product, but they took the time to make it a cut above, and I’m pleased they did.

Volume 3 pushes the story forward through several different realms at once, all stuff that’s been set up in the first two discs but now getting aggressively expanded on. Most central is the mystery of the X-Cons, the bizarre hybrid man-machine-monster things that Masane, wielder of the Witchblade, has been recruited to terminate with extreme prejudice. When one of them (an ex-cop, no less) comes a little too close to her daughter Rihoko, she goes to weapons-maker Doji Group leader Takayama—the man holding her leash—and demands answers. She gets them, all right, and doesn’t like at all what she hears. The X-Cons are an army of leftovers, defective experiments conducted with the dead bodies of humans. Masane now finds herself in the unenviable position of being a janitor of death, and when she registers her disgust about the whole thing, she gets back a chilling answer: “Isn’t it an army’s duty to protect the living?

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Tags: review 


External Movie Reviews: Kanon Volume 1

A moé masterwork (by other accounts) gets its U.S. release.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2008/01/01 13:07

I’ll start with a confession: I’m no moe fan. Nossir. Not one bit.

And yet here I am, reviewing a moe story adapted from a bestselling visual novel, chock full of coincidence and long-standing promises and deep connections to the past. Sometimes you can elevate this sort of thing into the realm of art, as Makoto Shinkai did with 5cm/sec (also being released by ADV in 2008). But most of the time what we get is simply content to be a celebration of nostalgia and wistfulness for its own sake.

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Tags: review 


External Movie Reviews: Glass Fleet -La Legende du Vent de L'Universe- Vol. #2

The more I see of Glass Fleet, the more I slot it into what could be called the “good-bad-but-not-evil” category. Flawed or addled or fundamentally goofy as it might be, it is definitely not boring. It’s got plot contrivances you...

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2008/01/01 13:06

The more I see of Glass Fleet, the more I slot it into what could be called the “good-bad-but-not-evil” category. Flawed or addled or fundamentally goofy as it might be, it is definitely not boring. It’s got plot contrivances you could drive the show’s trademark glass spaceship through, and it crosses Captain Herlock-style space opera withLe Chevalier d’Eon-style political intrigue to middling effect—but heck, it at least tries to stand apart from your typical middle-of-the-roadkill production. Give them gold stars for effort if nothing else.

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Tags: review 


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