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Shin Gojira (2016)
What would happen if Godzilla appeared in 2016 Japan? This is the answer.
The film takes a somber, serious tone as to what would happen if Japan were attacked -- in this case, by a seemingly unstoppable foe.
At present in Japan, there is an ongoing debate as to whether or not Japan should amend it's constitution to allow for an offensive military and this Godzilla film plays to exactly how powerless Japan would be in making it's own decisions during an attack of any kind. The reality is that the Japanese Prime Minister would have to ask for permission from the United States President before making an offensive move against a foreign threat and this film plays to that hard reality.
This new Godzilla starts out as an homage to its former man in a monster suit so that when you first see Godzilla, you'll disbelieve what you're seeing, but this Godzilla evolves into something majestic and utterly awe inspiring in its power.
What's more, this film makes it clear people die. In the Japanese release there's a lot of word play about how the government officials up high (on the fifth floor) make decisions that get passed down to people on lower floors that eventually hurt the people. I'm not sure how much will be translated, but the film is deliberately showing the disconnect between the political and day to day realities.
Overall, the performances are good. There is one character who they, for whatever reason, decided to make speak English in odd an inappropriate times.
This isn't a film for US audiences. The aesthetics will turn off a lot of non-Japanese young people accustomed to CG reality. But if you're open to learning about another culture, this is an excellent film, one of the best kaiju-films you'll ever see.
The Giver (2014)
Good movie, not a copy of the book so warrants a watch just for that
I read the book when I heard it was going to be made into a movie. As I was reading I wondered how they could film it. The answer is that they can't. Instead they took the concept and worked out a three act story line with hero and villains. I'm sure the dissatisfaction I've read here is partly due to trying to make something that is almost unfilmable a movie. It's well made. If you've read the book, it's worth seeing how they made it into a film.
I've shown this to my high school classes several times and they have loved it. It presents a simple idea that resonates. The characters might behave differently than you'd expect given their upbringing, but if you're going to watch a movie whose premise is that two people can collectively hold the memories of the world in their minds, roll with that discrepancy and enjoy what the movie has to say.
It's weakest point is the ending, not in the outcome but in the physical distances they cover. If you pay attention to the timing the film makers went too far in trying to be cinematic given the time frame they had to work with. Again, given the premise, it's forgivable -- and beautiful.
Rupan sansei (2014)
Excellent live action adaptation of an anime
I really enjoyed this film.
I've seen the anime a few times, but I could never get into it. The film leads someone with no experience carefully into their world while (according to my friends who've seen it) pay a nod in all the right places to the original work.
I can see where a non-Japanese audience is going to have problems with the film:
How do you shoot a film with an international cast which live in a world where Japanese is the lingua franca? You dub it. I came close to leaving the theater to tell the staff the tracking was off but it quickly became obvious what they were doing. Honestly, it could be distracting but if you think about it, every animation works on the same principle.
(One benefit to the dubbing is that they could use actors with animation quality voices to fill the voice roles for many of the actors, or allow the principals to animate their voices in a way that would look unnatural in real life.)
Also, they shot the film in HDR (high dynamic range) which really animated the facial expressions and heighten the the boundary between real and imagined scenery -- a huge plus in this kind of film, and especially beautiful to watch on the big screen.
Oguri Shun's performance was top notch. He nailed the role. The other characters hit their character's tone, too. And when you see the situation the characters will find themselves in, you'll see they are not played as one dimensionally as the typical anime/cartoon to live action film. Their situations are complex and multifaceted.
I recommend this film. It's entertaining, beautiful to watch, presents the genre in a new way, and gives you a dose of Japanese-isms.
This movie is fantastic! It has a strong moral core about friendship, memorable characters, and does what animation should do, which is show the fantastical: Living food. The animation colour and design are extraordinary, fun, vivid. The food and the situations reference older films which adds something more adults can enjoy. Simply put, this film is fun -- and much better than the first one.
About the references, a lot of animation today makes quick cultural jabs that fall flat the next year. This film heavily references situations, for example, Steve Jobs' decision to pay the Chinese a pittance and reap a huge profit, but not in such a way that can date the film in the 20 or 40 years. It's there. It's easy to see, but the allusions blend into the landscape seamlessly. It's very well done.
I gave it a ten, not for the reason I gave ten for Monoke Hime but for showing me a fantastical bright world that I would love to visit and populating it with quirky characters that made me laugh and were just thoughtful enough to not be one dimensional.
Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)
Great visuals; a good haunted house film
Personally, I don't feel they needed to make this film. The law of sequels is that they have to explain, so the parts of the first film that existed in your imagination are going to be put to rest. That's the only real negative.
The acting was solid. They did a good job of taking disparate horror elements to create something new. And they paid homage to film like The Shinning. They also set up the sequel.
If you like haunted house films, you'll enjoy the first half. If you want to know the specifics of what happened in the first film you'll like the second half. If you like a complicated story line that pays off, you'll like the whole film.
Ruthless People (1986)
25+ years later, it still delivers
It's a tight script for Touchstone, a comedy of errors where three plots and serial killer meet in a happy end.
I saw this during its original release and loved it. I still love it. It's nice to see a movie without a lot of toilet humour and f-bombs. The dialog is filled with memorable lines but the humour is in knowing what the characters don't and the on screen charisma of Di Vito and Middler.
Pay attention and you'll see the L.A. cityscape during the 80's along with all that was bad in 80's design along with Santa Monica Pier before the redesign in the 90's.
Great film for a rain day or a bad mood.
Does not hold up well over time
The film follows an author who is in the middle of writing a book about his experiences during the Vietnam war. His son disappears in The House. Through a convenient series of events he decides to live in the house which is populated with 80's latex monsters. Riffle shots, screams, all sorts of loudness and only one neighbor notices. (It's that kind of movie.) Eventually he comes to realize that the mental monsters he's been dealing with in writing his book have become reality -- The Boss Fight is with the zombie/monster/ghost of a soldier he betrayed. He finds courage, gets his son back, his wife comes, happily ever after.
I saw this on its first release when I was boy. I really can't recall how well I liked it, but I definitely do not like it now.
The actors read their lines off each other; the script has a complete arc but there's no craft but formula in this movie; the monsters are ridiculous, even for the 80's; and it takes itself seriously too, too often.
Oddly, House Two, The Second Story is a much better film. It's more a comedy with a few monsters you can laugh with. House wants to be a serious film but the creators didn't have the skill.
Weird Science (1985)
Flashback to eighties movie making
I read in the trivia section that John Hughs wrote Weird Science in two days. This I can believe.
Pluses: As a person in 2014 looking back on a film from the 80's I'm willing to give the film a lot of latitude. The fx, the clothing, the hairstyles, even the plot. This film will eventually be forgotten or used to showcase eighties film clichés. It's not well made for our time. It's retro, and those kinds of films are fun sometimes.
Minuses: The girl is created in the first few minutes of the film and there's no real surprise from anyone. It's just given that she's there. Lisa sets up situations to make the boys accept themselves and there is nothing that she does that would lead to that end, so the ending is frustrating to sit through. The effects they used weren't necessary and the characters they created were one dimensional.
The Colony (2013)
Nothing to see, move along
The premise is interesting. Mankind created machines to combat global warming which backfired and triggered an ice age. And even if you can suspend you disbelief so that even a million of these machines to do that, you're left with one after the other impossibilities that grate on you as you watch.
It's acted well, especially by L. Fishborn, but the directing and cinematography don't fit. The first half plays like an art film, the second like a heavy metal music video.
The event that sets the plot in motion is to its inevitable end is ridiculous.
On the plus, this is an evolution of the zombie film. Watching from that point of view, you might enjoy it.
We're the Millers (2013)
Good for lazy evening on the sofa
If you've seen enough movies you know exactly how this is going to end a few minutes in, so the fun is watching how they work the plot towards that conclusion.
It's an enjoyable movie with humor that sometimes made me cringe and other times laugh out loud. Jason S. is typecast in this role, but he has good screen chemistry with Jennifer A. The two kids play their roles well, the boy maybe too well.
If you like sexually charged humor, or want something to tune out with, I can recommend it. The biggest compliment I can give it is saying I hope they make a sequel.