November 24, 2014
Each issue of Multiversity has focused on a different parallel DC Universe. This issue focuses on the Charlton Comics characters that DC purchased in 1983: the Question, the Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, and others. When DC originally picked up these characters, they hired Alan Moore to re-introduce them in a 12-issue comic series. As he developed it, however, DC elected to remove the Charlton identities and allow Moore to develop his own pastiche of them (Rorschach instead of the Question, Nite Owl instead of Blue Beetle, and so on). The result was Watchmen, pretty much the most widely acclaimed superhero comic of all time.
Multiversity is in itself a pastiche, and if Morrison is going to use the Charlton characters what better source text to reference and riff upon than Watchmen? It's a stunning post-modern piece of comics writing, and Frank Quitely illustrates it in his typically awesome style. At the same time I spent the whole book thinking "Moore's going to be so pissed". Like a lot of Morrison's work, each issue of Multiversity is leaving a lot of the narrative hanging. I'm assuming it's all going to tie together in the end - it usually does with Morrison. Even on its own, however, Pax Americana is a stunning and bold re-invention of past writers and characters. (5/5)
Under the cut: reviews of Annihilator, Batman and Robin, Batman Eternal, Batwoman, Daredevil, The Last Broadcast, Lumberjanes and Predator: Fire and Stone.
Tadanobu Asano plays a man who keeps murdering his wife (Reika Hashimoto), and burying her in the woods nearby, only to come home and find her still alive and angrily waiting for him. A suburban father (Ittoku Kishibe) is hypnotised into thinking he is a bird, with frustrating consequences for his family. A trio of bored teenagers pass their time breaking into houses. An advertising executive (Kyoko Koizumi) struggles to think up the perfect advertising campaign.
So far, so good. What tips the movie over from generally weird to outright surreality is the addition of English footballer-turned-actor Vinnie Jones as a furiously angry professional killer, accompanied at all times by an incongruously polite Japanese translator (Yoshiyoshi Arakawa). ‘What is your function in life?’ screams Jones, in pretty much the only aspect of the film that actually unites these disparate storylines.
November 23, 2014
It is usually really difficult to track down childrens-oriented anime outside of Japan, unless it is either produced by Studio Ghibli or is based on a successful toy or videogame. Even the latter is no guarantee – I am still waiting for an English subtitled edition of Animal Crossing to become available. I picked up Stormy Night in Hong Kong because it had English subtitles, without having heard of the film before or knowing anything beyond what was on the cover. I’m extremely glad I did. Stormy Night is a really distinctive and pleasant film.
I reviewed the first episode of The Omega Factor about 18 months ago, but the recent announcement by Big Finish Productions of a sequel audio drama starring Louise Jameson led me to finally jump back and continue rewatching the series. This is one of my favourite BBC science fiction series: cleverly written, well acted and quite far ahead of its time. It follows journalist Tom Crane (James Hazeldine), a powerful latent psychic who is drawn into the affairs of Department 7, a government agency assigned to investigate the paranormal. He assists Dr Anne Reynolds (Louise Jameson), under the watch of her boss: psychiatrist Roy Martindale (John Carlyle). The series ran for 10 episodes before controversy and public complaints saw it summarily cancelled before a second season could be produced.
"Visitations" sees Crane continue to come to terms with his wife's death, and re-connecting with his brother - both of whom already seemed to have some contact, both personal and professional, with Department 7. He and Anne are dispatched to an old manor house when it shows signs of being haunted by spirits - or something even worse.
November 22, 2014
The Tale of Zatoichi definitely falls into the latter category. This is a historically significant film, as it is the first in a long-running series of movie featuring Zatoichi, a master samurai turned blind masseuse. Played by Shintaro Katsu, the character featured in a run of twenty-six feature films and 100 television episodes between 1962 and 1989. He has subsequently been re-cast and re-made, notably by actor/director Takeshi Kitano in his internationally successful remake Zatoichi (2003). That was a great film; as is often the case, however, the original is better.
After the dramatic events of "The Search", it's actually a well-timed relief to see Deep Space Nine have some fun with a comedic episode. "The House of Quark" is a brilliant episode, combined well-timed humour with some genuinely strong character work. The Ferengi were previously treated as villains, and one-note comic stereotypes. With episodes like this they get fleshed out and redeemed as a species and a culture: they're still the same profit-oriented Ferengi, but they're written and performed in a much more realistic and more importantly sympathetic fashion.
November 21, 2014
Accident is a short, sharp, and immensely stylish thriller. It is directed by Soi Cheang (Motorway) and produced by Johnnie To via the latter’s Milkyway Image production company. There is a particular aesthetic to Milkyway films. They have a certain stylistic sheen and slow, methodical pace. Accident is no different, and slots in seamlessly among To’s own directorial works.
The events that led to this documentary being produced - the violent death of a Seaworld trainer - could easily inspire something quite sensationalistic and tacky. It is testament to Cowperthwaite's skills as a filmmaker that it never takes this route. It is oftentimes confronting, and in some scenes quite violent and brutal, but it never loses sight of what it is aimed to do, and it succeeds admirably in its goals. This is not simply a worthwhile and informative documentary - it is a necessary one.