November 28, 2015
Writer/director Hitoshi Matsumoto is a stand-up comedian turned film-maker. He has directed four feature films to date. About a year ago I watched his second film, Symbol, and found it to be one of the most delightfully strange films I had seen in years. R100 is his fourth film, and while it's pretty much as odd and bizarre a movie as Symbol was I think it shows a major development in tone and range for Matsumoto. This film is not quite what it represents itself to be.
November 27, 2015
I'm not sure anybody was initially expecting a sequel to take 11 years, but in 2009 a second Fung Wan film did hit the cinemas. It was the work of a different production company, had new directors Danny and Oxide Pang, but did manage to reunite Aaron Kwok and Ekin Cheng as the overly dramatic super-warriors Cloud and Wind.
A synopsis of the film feels a bit superfluous: it's a story about the evil Japanese general Lord Godless invading China, and Wind and Cloud teaming up with other sword-wielding warriors Ghostly Tiger, Nameless and Second Dream to defeat him. Wind turns evil, forcing Cloud to fight against him for the future of the nation.
We pick up the story two years on from where we left it. Alana and Marko are nowhere to be seen. Hazel is now four years old, and living inside a prison with her incarcerated grandmother and a bunch of other children of various species. It's a striking change of pace, and signifies what might be a rather different story arc for the book. Don't get me wrong - the tone is the same, and Fiona Staples' artwork is stunning and distinctive as always. It just feels like we're getting a slightly different story for a while.
Two things leaped out immediately. Firstly it's great to have Izabel back. The bright-red ghost was one of my favourite elements in the series' earlier issues, and it feels like she's been gone for ages. Secondly, this feels like the point where Hazel is going to take centre stage as the protagonist of her own story. She's narrated it since issue #1, but until now has been too young to really affect or drive the plot in any great way. It feels like that has started to change.
This is a great series, and will it's had its ups and down like most long-running books, it feels as if it's in a very strong, enjoyable space for now. It's great to have it back. (5/5)
Image. Written by Brian K. Vaughn. Art by Fiona Staples.
Under the cut: reviews of Batman & Robin Eternal, Darth Vader, Robin: Son of Batman, and Silver Surfer.
November 26, 2015
The Enterprise unexpectedly collides with a previously-unknown colony of two-dimensional beings, which trap the ship and drag it along in their wake. While the crew work to free the ship from the colony Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) discovers that the collision has robbed her of her empathic abilities.
"The Loss" is an episode that attempts to do something quite admirable, but suffers the limitations of its running time and the general need to keep episodes relatively self-contained. As a result it's only a partial success. On the other hand it does manage to keep its two storylines fairly well connected throughout; a common pitfall that it manages to avoid. Add in some solid performances by Marina Sirtis and Jonathan Frakes, and some wonderfully bonkers science, and it all pulls together into something that's pretty entertaining.
A Scene at the Sea, by writer director Takeshi Kitano, is one of those maddening films that makes a mockery of film genres. We always want to pigeon-hole films: is it a drama, or a comedy, or an arthouse movie? In this case it's all three, jumping from slapstick comedy to thoughtful drama to bizarrely detached scenes where nothing much seems to happen at all. It is a 100 minute movie with the sort of narrative that would usually struggle to fill half an hour. It has hardly any dialogue. It spends minutes at a time just watching its characters walk to and from the beach. It's not easily categorised into any genre at all. It's simply a film to climb into and experience. It's a wonderful place to visit.
November 25, 2015
The Ninja Turtles originated in a 1984 comic book: its creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird heavily parodying Marvel's X-Men and Daredevil in the process. Readers soon got hooked on the ridiculous set-up - masked anthropomorphic turtles named after Renaissance artists and instructed by a talking rat - and the comic went from strength to strength. Once a television cartoon and toy line were created in 1987, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles exploded into a genuine phenomenon.
With such huge success one would assume a feature film adaptation was a no-brainer. Instead it was a real struggle to convince any studio to produce it. Hollywood had strong memories of Cannon's Masters of the Universe, another cartoon-to-film adaptation that came to cinemas far too late to catch the craze at its height. In the end the Ninja Turtles movie was produced by Hong Kong studio Golden Harvest, shot in North Carolina, and distributed by New Line Cinema. Hollywood may have scoffed at Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but upon its release it grossed more than $200 million dollars worldwide and became the ninth-highest grossing film of 1990.
Their initial teething troubles behind them, the temporary crew of the Bentenmaru pirate shop begins preparations to storm the pleasure cruiser Princess Apricot. Yacht club president Lynn appears to have something on her mind, and when she's spied secretly communicating to somebody off-shop it sets off Grunhilde's suspicions.
Something that's been bugging me about Bodacious Space Pirates for the whole series has finally slipped into clarity: there's no conflict. Conflict is the basis for drama: it's either a person against another person or a person against their environment. It's arguable that the conflict in Bodacious Space Pirates is between the characters and their own self-doubt, but assuming that to be the case it's a pretty thin foundation upon which to build a story.
November 24, 2015
Those bounty hunters are Spike Spiegel, Faye Valentine, Jet Black and Edward Wong - known to anime fans around the world from their popular television series Cowboy Bebop. Bebop was a sensational science fiction anime that combined bounty hunter action with a stunning and eclectic musical score. Each episode felt like a small 25-minute feature, combining its various inspirations and creating a highly dynamic and tremendously entertaining series in the process. The cinematic qualities of the series made it a pretty easy fit for a spin-off feature film. While anime series receive film spin-offs and follow-ups all the time, they're rarely as satisfying or as well produced as this one.