One of the last shots of Genghis Khan: To the Ends of the Earth and Sea is a very bad CGI shot of an arrow flying up through the clouds. It’s emblematic of all that’s wrong with this movie: obvious, flat, thunderingly dull, and just plain fake at heart. It’s no small feat to make a boring movie about Genghis Khan, but lo and behold they’ve gone and done it.
Or maybe I have it backwards. Maybe it is all too easy to make a boring movie, no matter what the scope or the subject: it requires far less effort to reuse the imagery, the beats, the sentiments from the other movies you’ve seen than to come up with something personal. The end result is, literally, nothing we haven’t seen before. It’s all concept and ambition and pretty pictures, realized by people without a shred of real imagination or curiosity about its subject. Read more
I fully expected the live-action version of Mushi-shi to be beautiful and spellbinding. I did not expect it to also be a deeply moving experience. Then again, the same held true for the original story, which surprised me to no end with both its loveliness and its reservoirs of human emotion.
Yuki Urushibara’s manga has already been adapted to the screen as an animated series, one which I’d recommend unhesitatingly to anyone not new to anime or manga at all. (My mother is awesomely uninterested in these sorts of things and she loved it, which is really saying something.) The live-action adaptation approaches the original material with much the same spirit as the show: there isn’t a great deal of plot, but instead a boundless curiosity about these strange creatures called mushi and the few people who can deal with them directly. It is about experiences and images, and about the sense of wonder that goes hand-in-hand with being a mushi master.Read more
Strictly speaking, this isn’t the end of Darker Than Black. It’s just the end of the beginning, with another season of the show gearing up in Japan and perhaps headed our way sometime next year. But it brings some degree of closure to another of important things within the story — the tension between the Organization and the world powers, Li/Hei’s ongoing quest to find his lost sister, the quest to control the Gates, and the ultimate fate of every Contractor across the face of the earth.
I’m against spoilers as a rule, so I’ll be forced to tread lightly while talking about all this. The short version is simple enough: the scientists studying the Gate are determined to destroy it, which may well liberate mankind from its planetary prison — but will also kill every Contractor in a millisecond. The Contractors, as you can imagine, do not plan to take this lying down, and will instead trigger off a plan that may cause even greater devastation — by turning Hell’s Gate into the same sort of dead zone that enveloped the first Gate and several thousand miles around it.Read more
I think, therefore I scam.
I think back to when someone was buttonholing Miles Davis about what Bitches Brew was supposed to be (jazz? rock? experimental?) and he replied, simply, “Music.” Chameleon Street is a movie. It isn’t merely a “black movie” or an “independent movie” or a “comedy”, all of which are easy pigeonholes into which you could stick a movie like this. Yes, it was made by and primarily stars black actors; yes, it was independently-financed and -released; yes, it is riotously funny. But there’s another element to it all — the “stinging salt of recklessness”, to use someone else’s words, that makes it a category-breaker.
The “chameleon” of the title is William Douglas Street, based loosely on a real-life conman of the same name whose exploits played like Frank Abnegale, Jr. filtered through Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. Street’s a smart guy — entirely too smart for the ennui of his dad’s burglar-alarm business, but also too arrogant to look for a “straight” replacement. Everyone around him, from his bar buddies to his wife, muse about big money and big payoffs, and before long he starts hatching a couple of ways to fleece the unsuspecting. What he doesn’t expect to discover is how unsuspecting most everyone is, as a rule. Man wishes to be deceived; therefore, deceive him, and laugh all the way to the bank.Read more