Neil Marshall’s Doomsday is like something you’d get from a random movie generator, with the Genre Mashup and Stylistic Overkill meters all turned up to 11. I can safely say that no other movie I have seen so freely intermixes post-apocalyptic action, medieval-level survivalism, political intrigue, zombie hordes, dead-zone infiltration squads, swordplay, gunplay, and Malcom McDowell. With a film this unrepentantly, cheerfully bonkers, Malcom McDowell is actually one of the saner things in it, which is saying a lot.
He’s not just confined to his relatively small role as (what else?) a mad scientist; he even narrates the chaotic opening scenes, which depict the United Kingdom crumbling into anarchy when a murderous Ebola-esque virus begins spreading and leaving legions of both dead and walking dead in its path. Scotland is walled off and left as a no-man’s-land, and an uneasy twenty years go by. Life becomes all the grimmer, with the all-seeing Department of Domestic Security enforcing curfews and watching sternly for any sign of another Reaper Virus outbreak. Read more
Pyrokinesis (Cross Fire in Japan) is a frustrating mixture of good and bad elements, a solid premise dragged down by needlessly hammy emotional moments and outright clumsy direction. I’m fairly sure this isn’t a case of things getting lost in translation, just weak filmmaking.
The story’s an adaptation of Miyuki Miyabe’s novel, which I read and enjoyed in its recent paperback edition in English. Miyabe’s book is like a more adult version of Stephen King’s Firestarter — it begins, in some sense, where King’s book left off, and gives us a woman in her twenties who uses her powers of pyrokinesis to exact justice. I liked the way it kept the story firmly anchored in reality, and used its premise as a way to mull over the concept of revenge in a society where many crimes go unpunished. Read more
Some movies come off like actor’s workshop experiments, where the players are given a scenario — no matter how improbable — and are expected to play it straight through without breaking character. Karaoke Terror plays like an anthology of such scenes, with the common denominator not really being the plot but the way everyone has to treat the most absurd goings-on with complete seriousness. They do, much to their credit, but sadly not to ours.
As you can probably guess from the title, Karaoke Terror deals (however peripherally) with one of Japan’s most broadly-exported pastimes apart from the Nintendo Wii. On one side we have a gang of twentysomething guys whose idea of a big thrill is to drive a van out to the shore, set up a PA system, and sing the greatest hits of the Showa era in kooky costumes. On the other side, we have a clutch of women in their forties — all named “Midori”, all divorced and with only the most tentative of connections between them at first. When one of the kids flips out and slashes a Midori’s throat open, the other girls band together to get revenge. Soon each side is arming themselves with progressively more dangerous military hardware, from motorcycle-mounted spears to illegal guns to rocket launchers to … you get the idea. Read more
My test for any live-action adaptation of an anime or manga is simple: Can I walk into this cold and not feel like I came to a stranger’s family reunion, where I have no idea why people are fighting or embracing? That was the problem I had with Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children — it wasn’t made for anyone who wasn’t a fan, and boy did the fans ever know it.
Thankfully, that hasn’t happened with the live-action adaptation of Death Note. I knew just enough about the series to get in the door but nothing beyond that, and in the end it scarcely mattered. By the one-third mark I was intrigued; by the halfway mark I was enthralled; and by the time it was over I was hankering for the follow-up. If you’ve been avoiding the series because it seems like a lot to swallow at once, the movie serves as a nice crash-course introduction to the goings-on.Read more