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Maybe I just don't "get" Mononoke.
I would never say that I hate anime, but I am usually bored and confused by it. So much anime acts thoughtful and deep, but ends up being fairly shallow and simple (see: Neon Genesis and Death Note). Miyazaki has always been a person I could turn to for anime that is both fun AND thought-provoking. Please understand that I am as surprised as you are when I say that I really didn't like this movie.
Now, I don't hate Mononoke. I enjoyed the spectacle, and I recognize that it is very well-made. The story is competently told and the setting is interesting.
My problem is with the characters. No one in Mononoke acts like a human being. The prince is a perfect angel who isn't affected by human emotions like fear and greed. He is utterly flawless and boring. I mean sure, he's been cursed, but it doesn't really seem to do much to him. In fact, it only appears to make him stronger. What's he complaining about?
The women of Irontown are the most hateful people I could possibly imagine. After the attack, one of them joked, "If you hadn't been there, we'd all have to find ourselves new husbands." That's really funny, except to all of the women whose husbands are actually DEAD. What sort of callous, spiteful monster would say something like that? And worse, who would laugh at such an inappropriate joke? That same lady's husband was pushed off a cliff, almost died, and struggled for days to return home to his wife. When he finally makes it back home, what does she do? He calls him a dumbass and berates him in front of everyone. "I wish the wolves had eaten you! Then maybe I could've found a real husband." What a heartless bitch! There is no sense of love or camaraderie from anyone. I don't believe that these two have ever actually loved each other.
I could understand this if the animals were portrayed sympathetically. They are not. All of the animals are rather dickish about eating and destroying everything in their path. The people of Irontown are only trying to defend themselves and they are made out to be the villains. Sure, they're destroying the forest, but it doesn't appear like the rest of the world is all that bad; just this place.
In fact, the only person in the movie who I actually liked was Lady Obashi, the evil gun-toting power-hungry psychopath. Sure, she wanted to rule the world, but she felt like a human being. She was kind to the lepers, took pity on the whores and gave them all new and rewarding jobs. She loved her people and wanted to protect them. But she's supposed to be the villain? I don't buy it.
And what about the pig? I understand that the first pig turned into a demon because he was filled with rage, but what about the old pig? The last thing he felt was hope that all of his warriors were still alive. Why did he become a demon when he wasn't full of hate? For that matter, all of the other animals WERE full of hate. All of the wolves, the monkeys, and most of the pigs were hateful, vengeful bastards. Why didn't they turn into demons? It doesn't make any sense.
Perhaps the depth of this movie has been lost on me. Perhaps Miyazaki is trying to say that war can make a monster out of anyone, no matter how noble his cause. I suppose that would make for an interesting film, but I don't feel like that's what Miyazaki was trying to say. As it currently stands, I think that this is Miyazaki's weakest film.
The Hunger Games (2012)
Good, but it was no masterpiece
Warning, this review contains frequent references to Battle Royale. If you are tired of hearing this comparison, please move along. I have not read the books, so I saw this movie from a blank slate.
My biggest problem with the movie is that it failed to portray the real horror of what exactly is going on. This government is forcing 12-18 year-old kids to fight and die for others' amusement. That's a truly horrifying prospect, but Hunger Games treats it as if it's an everyday occurrence. And in the context of this movie, it might very well be an everyday occurrence, but the audience can't possibly adopt that mindset. Battle Royale shows the Games for what they are: cutthroat, violent and incredibly emotionally taxing. It showed me what goes through a person's mind when he is forced to kill his best friend.
The big problem with a contest-style movie being portrayed from a first-person perspective is that you automatically know who is going to win. Battle Royale averted this problem by portraying the story from a variety of viewpoints. It switched between first and third-person perspectives and focused the battle on several different characters. The winner of the contest was never a clear choice, as no one character could be identified as a "main" focus. In Hunger Games, there is no tension or suspense in the storytelling. In fact, the most tense moment in the film lasted for five seconds near the end of the movie when the couple contemplated eating the poisonous berries, thus letting the Games end with no victor.
If you're going to make a movie about children cutting each other to pieces with various pointy things, stop shaking the damn camera! I know this sounds terrible, but I paid money to see teenagers killing each other and dammit, I want to see what's happening.
There is a big problem with your violent, child-assassination movie if I find the culture of this world and the side-characters more interesting than the actual fighting and maiming. Seriously, my favorite character was not the main girl whose name I can't remember. I liked the blue-haired douchebag who hosted the contest. What was his story? I want a movie made about him instead! Also, when I saw the former champion mentor guy, my world exploded when I thought that Owen Wilson was actually doing a good job portraying an interesting character. Imagine that! Owen Wilson is actually ACTING! But then I realized that it was Woody Harrelson and the world promptly un-exploded.
I don't understand what point the movie is trying to get across. It leaves me with so many unanswered questions. Are the Games bad? Do people want to abolish them? What is it about Districts 1 and 2 that they train children to fight from infancy? Why do they train gladiators, but no other district does? If people hate the Games so much, why are they content to surrender their children to die for such a vile practice? If people don't hate the Games, then why don't they all train fighters to bring fame and respect to their district? What was so special about the little black girl that prompted the districts to rebellion? She was a cute little girl, sure, but why should I care about her? Surely she wasn't the first innocent girl to die in the previous 70 Games? What was the deal with the large-chinned guy who stayed behind in District 12? Why was he in the movie? Does he even care that his best friend is kissing another man? I think so, but all he ever does is stare blankly off-screen, so I can't be sure. Why did the other kids trust the blonde guy after he joined their alliance? Shouldn't they know that he is untrustworthy after clearly saying on national television that he is in love with the girl they are trying to kill? Why did they trust his judgment from the very beginning?
All in all, The Hunger Games was an average movie. I liked it, but Battle Royale is by far the better film. I know it may not be fair to compare the two films since they were intended for different audiences, but I can't help it. They are just too similar for me to separate them.
Reservoir Dogs (1992)
A truly magnificent work of art.
What can I say about Reservoir Dogs? It is the most entertaining movie I have ever seen. The story is gritty, suspenseful, and downright disturbing. The acting is not only believable, it's spooky how lifelike the characters feel. And the dialogue. Oh, the dialog! There are so many memorable quotes in this movie, I lose count.
Now I'm not going to pretend that it's a perfect movie, because it's not. The movie is essentially an hour and a half of listening to people talk. There is not much action to be seen. Most of it is only talked about and never shown on screen. As well written as this movie is, I wish it were longer. Many of the most interesting characters are left without much of a backstory. I know the stories of Mr. Blonde and Mr. Orange, but what about White and Pink? Those are two very interesting characters that I would love to know more about.
Fortunately, these complaints are small and don't make a great impact on my feelings for this movie. The lack of action is a very unique feature in a heist film. The fact that the heist is never shown to the audience means that the viewers must decide for themselves what went on that day.
Anyway, words cannot describe my love of this film. It's a dark, edgy look at the dregs of society and it fully deserves its spot at the top of my list
D.N. Angel (2003)
Lots of stuff, but no real content.
It's been a while since I've seen this anime, so most of the finer details are a bit fuzzy. Please keep this in mind as I rip this series apart.
Am I the only person who thinks that this anime was spinning its wheels from the very beginning? I watched about half of season one before I gave up hope. Let me start with the positive aspects.
First, I will say that the setup is very well done. The world is well-drawn and full of detail and the characters are interesting. The actions scenes are also very well made and easy to follow.
The main problem I have with the series is that the characters never do anything worthwhile. And I do mean never. In most classic anime/manga/cartoon series (FullMetal Alchemist, Avatar, Death Note), the story gradually unfolds as you watch each consecutive episode. Not so in DNAngel. In this anime, the plot continued to evade me no matter how hard I looked for one.
I'm serious, there appears to be no overarching plot whatsoever. Your anime has serious problems when you can put all of the episodes on your computer, queue them all up in your video player and push Shuffle without losing any plot coherency.
Each episode consists of the same basic format. Daisuke struggles with girlfriend issues. His mother struggles with regret over not becoming a Dark Thief. Dark struggles to come up with new ways to steal some item that appears to have no importance to the plot whatsoever. Daisuke's pet rabbit occasionally does something cute. Rinse and repeat.
I hate to compare this to such a mindless and pointless anime, but DNAngel is a bit like the Pokemon series. It is similar in that each episode is pretty much irrelevant to the ones before and after it save for a few superficial plot ties. You follow Ash and his friends as they slowly progress toward a goal that they will never reach. The main difference between the two is that Pokemon at least gave you a main goal that had to be reached for the series to reach an end (Ash wanted to be a Pokemon Master). In DNAngel, you don't even get the courtesy of a MacGuffin. There is no goal, there is no story, and there is no progression.
If you view each episode as a self-contained story, DNAngel is not a bad anime. In fact, it's pretty good. But if you are expecting a well-told story that you can watch unfold and progress, you will be sorely disappointed.
Æon Flux (2005)
A good action movie, but a dismal representation of Aeon Flux
First off, I will say that this is not a bad movie. But ONLY if you have never seen the MTV cartoon series. If you were a fan of the animated series, then you are in for disappointment. I wanted so badly to like this movie, but I just couldn't do it.
The Cast: Charlize Theron is a beautiful woman. No questions there. The problem is that Aeon Flux is NOT a beautiful woman. She's not ugly, but she would never win in a beauty pageant. As for Trevor, I understand why they chose Marton Csokas. I really do. But he doesn't look the part. He's way too young. Trevor Goodchild is an older man in his 50's. He's not a young man by any stretch.
Acting: Theron's acting is actually pretty good. But like I said before, it just doesn't do the cartoon justice. Aeon Flux is amoral, selfish, unpredictable, and somewhat demented. Theron plays Aeon like a moralistic, predictable, naive and selfless individual. It's not a bad performance; it's just the opposite of what was intended.
Visuals: No complaints here. The environment is unpredictable and very strange, particularly during the action scenes. Many elements looks like they were pulled straight out of the cartoon.
If you want to watch this movie, just be sure that you are watching for the right reason. If you want to watch a cool action movie with a surreal environment, then this is the movie for you. You'll probably love it. If you loved Aeon Flux from MTV and you want more, I would avoid this film. You will be disappointed.