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Ink is a spectacular little low-budget film. At night, as we sleep, two groups of different warriors battle over our souls. There are the Storytellers that give us dreams, and the Incubi that give us nightmares. There are also drifters, that are kind of trapped between worlds. One of these drifters, Ink, kidnaps a young girl and it is up to the storytellers to rescue her. WHat I loved about this film is that you can see the passion and hardwork that has gone into it. It doesn't allow for its budget to become a limitation. The film also uses simple but very effective effects. There is a fight scene early on where things get smashed up but then magically put themselves back together again. It is probably just footage in reverse, but it works a charm. The designs of the characters are also very original, at least for this kind of story. The film is one you have to stick with, as it reveals its intentions and story over time. Some scenes seem completely unrelated which can cause the film to drag in the middle, but stick with it because the emotional ending is very powerful. Lower your expectations in terms of lighting, acting, and fight choreography, and you should find a lot to love in this little film that refuses to be held back.
Bernie is the tale of the nicest man in the world, Bernie Tiede. He's good at his job, as an assistant funeral director, and he gets on well with most of the community that he lives in. One day Bernie Tiede tries to make friends with recently widowed Marjorie Nugent. Bernie takes pity on her as the rest of the community seem to have a distinct dislike of her. However, she soon becomes very possessive of Bernie and there's only so far you can push someone. Bernie is a wonderful dark comedy that looks at social conventions and how sometimes no matter what, peoples perceptions are never changed. The whole point of the film does strongly suggest that we should be nice, but also know when to step away from something that is unhealthy for us. Jack Black gives a fantastic performance, possibly his best, as the sweet natured man that just can't say no. MacLaine also brings a lot to her role. She isn't just cold and heartless, she has just been very lonely for a very long time. This means it is hard for her to maintain relationships. McConaughey is also on form as Danny Buck, the enthusiastic DA of the small town. He really comes into his own in the last act when he is simply confused by everyone's reaction to the case. It has the humour but is also very heartfelt, and also works as a social commentary. The absurdity of the townspeople is quite understandable, but it is also pointed out how they accepted money from Bernie. Linklater does well to frame the film as an almost documentary. Real life townspeople play themselves and talk to the camera about their experiences, and it is amazing that after all this time they are still behind Bernie. This is a wonderful look at human nature, and questions if being nice is all it takes to be excused from unspeakable crimes.
Frisky Dingo (2006)
Frisky Dingo (2006)
Frisky Dingo is a bizarrely titled, and simply bizarre animated comedy that comes in 10 minute episodes. Over the course of two seasons we followed Killface, an evil supervillain, and Awesome-X a superhero. However, this is very different to everything you've seen before. The hero is a complete jackass, and not in the cocky kind of Tony Stark way. He is stupid and arrogant, but somehow his enthusiasm makes him very likable. He acts how he majority of us would probably act with superpowers. He has great powers and no responsibility. Killface is also not the typical villain, especially in season two when he runs for president. Killface is bringing up a son, and also has to deal with paperwork and politics of being a bad guy. It isn't as easy as just being evil. The world is also filled with wonderful side characters that seem to each want their own moment in the sun. The writing is very quick and has some wonderful lines based on absurd premises. The series does become too reliable on a particularly one note character come the second season, and it's a shame the story never really continued. What we do get is a show that's easy to digest in short increments or a lengthy marathon session.
Claymore is a complex and action packed anime. Claymore are a series of warriors that are half human/half yoma (demons) that must protect humanity from yoma, even though humans are very wary and fear the Claymore. Run by a mysterious organisation, the subject of the series is Clare, the lowest ranked Claymore of all. Over the course of the series we find out why she became a Claymore, her troubled past, and look at the relationship she develops with a young boy that wishes to stay with her. Throughout the series we meet a number of different characters and the events lead to a dramatic conclusion.
The animation is gorgeous, focusing on darker and paler colours. The whites, silvers and greys create an unforgiving world where these monsters and warriors could easily exist. Clare is a fascinating character, as are most of the Claymores as they must avoid using too much power lest they turn into the very demons they fight. The world that Claymore is set in becomes very complex, and a lot of the rules seem to be made up just in the nick of time to save our protagonists.
The biggest problem for me is something I find in a lot of animes, and that is constant dialogue that explains everything. We hear about character motivations, characters' interpretations of other people's motivations, why they are doing certain things etc. etc. Even when in the middle of a huge battle, characters will prattle on.
Luckily the characters do keep ones attention, even if it was hard to tell the difference between the Claymore as they all have the same colour hair, costumes, and eyes. The action hits at a blistering pace, with some really painful gore.
I did find it hard to concentrate on the last few episodes, because it just kept flashing back and after everything it just seemed as though people wussed out in order to push forward a second season that never happened. But if you like monsters, big swords, and large mythical tales, Claymore could be for you.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Nolan ends his Batman trilogy successfully, even if it is quite disappointing. When taking into account my absolute love of the first two films, my love of the comics, and my own personal preferences, there is almost too much to say. It's been 8 years since The Dark Knight, and Bruce Wayne has given up his cowl and become a recluse. Meanwhile a terrorist mercenary known as Bane is looking to take over Gotham. Will Batman return? First of all let me put some of my personal gripes out there. Batman giving up for 8 years is ridiculous. I'm sorry, but it really made me dislike the character. Next the film is simply Batman against a terrorist. I've always preferred Batman when he is fighting crime, not international villains hell bent on world domination/destruction. This is why the first two films were great, they focused on him cleaning up the city of crime. The film does well as a final chapter. It rounds off many of the themes of the first two and gives a solid conclusion to the trilogy. Unfortunately it takes many lengthy twists and turns to get there. The film is filled with needless characters which take up time. To balance this, Chris and Jonathan Nolan use painful shortcuts in their screenplay, such as characters just knowing who Batman is. The editing is very sloppy and is unable to create a sense of distance between locations, a sense of time passing, and has multiple flashbacks and even a scene in the wrong place. I never expected this film to live up to The Dark Knight, but it just failed to have the same emotional punch that its predecessor displayed, as it also goes for spectacle. The best part by far is the first fight between Bane and Batman. It has no music, just bone crunching sound effects. This is rare for a Nolan film, but is something he should do more often. I enjoyed it very much so. But like previous Superhero sequels, the flaws just stood out as I was watching it.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 (2012)
The Dark Knight Returns, is for me, the best Batman film of the year. The animation is superb, especially when the action kicks off. It sees Bruce Wayne return to crime fighting after a 10 year absence. Unlike his Nolan counterpart however, he was Batman for a damn sight longer than just a year. His return is depicted as an obsession that finally grabs control and pulls him in. He barely even notices it when he shaves off his mustache as it just becomes a natural part of the process. A new threat, called The Mutants, rises in Gotham, and Batman has to sort them out. His age becomes his weakness as he must go up against the leader of The Mutants. he film is littered with cuts to TV shows and newscasts discussing whether or not Batman is a help or a hindrance. Peter Weller does a great job as the voice of Batman, and it's nice to see a Batman with a dark and dangerous sense of humour. As an adaptation it remains fairly close to the source material, but manages to capture the ferocity of the violence without being too graphic. Gotham looked and felt exactly how I remember it when I was growing up. This is great stuff, and is a huge tease for Part 2, where we will see The Joker once again.
Psycho III (1986)
Psycho III (1986)
Anthony Perkins jumps in the directors seat for this third installment, and he does a mighty fine job. There are still some rough parts around the edges, but for a first time this is great. It's obvious he is finding his own style by incorporating the skills and techniques of others. The cinematography has a very 80s, nostalgic feel, and is certainly taken from Blood Simple. Perkins also uses some tricks he seems to have picked up from Hitchcock. I love the toilet kill scene, as we see the roll of toilet paper roll down in a similar way to the shower curtain being pulled in the first film. The film picks up where number 2 left off, with Norman having reverted to his old ways after his real mother confronted him. This means there is a true lack of mysterious suspense surrounding the film. Having seen the second film, Bates is still a character to root for, as we know he has the capabilities to be good, but it's the insanity around him that causes him to slip. There are many parts that feel forced, and it smells of studio interference. The last shot, for example, completely undoes the ending and what it should have represented. A great addition for a rather surprisingly awesome trilogy.
Psycho II (1983)
Psycho II (1983)
Psycho II is the surprisingly fantastic sequel that flies in the face of what you would expect from a gap of 23 years and a different director (let alone someone trying to match Hitchcock). Psycho II works by being an emotionally charged and thought provoking film first and a horror second. The film sees Norman Bates deemed sane and let out into the public once more, much to the annoyance of Lila Loomis. Bates is returned home to where it all began, and he starts a job at a diner. However, things starts going wrong when Norman begins hearing voices and receiving notes from his long dead mother. It also seems as though someone is in the house with Norman, and it isn't long before people start dying. The film works as a nerve shredding psychological horror. Despite having killed people before, Bates is entirely sympathetic. He really is trying to get on with his life, and battles hard against his demons. There's a wonderfully human scene in which Bates recalls the cheese toasted sandwiches his mother used to make him. He seems so innocent now, that it really hurts to see people react violently and hostile towards him. Bates strikes up a friendship with Mary, a girl from the local diner. She is both a help and a hindrance to Bates, comforting him one moment, and then making him uneasy with her suspicions the next. Franklin does well in underplaying his techniques. After all, they'd always be compared to Hitchcock. He plays some cinematic puns, especially when one character takes a completely innocent and threatless shower, but Franklin uses the same shots as the infamous scene in the original. Perkins' performance is very sympathetic, but he also knows that this vulnerability is what makes him so terrifying. Just a single glance at a knife has our eyes open wide with fear at the possibilities. I also loved the supporting characters as they would often defy convention. Hugh Gillin is excellent as Sheriff Hunt, as he isn't the typical "I got my eye on you boy" police officer. He is very caring, reasonable, and actually looks fondly at Norman. The film is about second chances, and how sometimes society is just as much to blame in their treatment of certain perpetrators,. Is Norman behind these latest killings? If he is is it the behaviour of others that leads him down this path? Is it best to forgive and forget? Great questions in an intense and involving film. This should be looked at when constructing any sequel.
It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
As undeniable classic in every imaginable way. It's A Wonderful Life is the feel good Christmas movie above all others, despite the fact it paints a fairly depressing picture. It tells us not to take life for granted, and that we shouldn't be so selfish as to assume our life is for our own benefit. It clearly highlights how Jimmy Stewart's life has influenced all those around him. As his life takes a nosedive and his dreams go unfulfilled he begins to lose all hope. Other than the necessary schmaltzy ending, the film is well grounded in reality and avoids insincere sentiments. Capra's wonderful handling of the material make this a surprisingly gripping film, one that may climax at Christmas, but can be watched anytime of year.
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009)
Obviously the film has problems, but when taking into consideration the circumstances behind the film, it's pretty darn great. I was completely swept away by the magical imagination sequences. The CGI bringing bizarre and wondrous things to life. The performances were also very strong, with Andrew Garfield given such a layered performance you can't really see where he will end up, especially when he comes into conflict with Ledger. Ledger gives a fine performance, but given his character has lost his memory it's also a fairly flat role. All of the revelations about Tony come in the imaginarium, which gives the interesting meaty parts to Depp, Law and Farrell. Farrell standing out a great deal as he gives a us a marvelous turn around. Each of the three 'replacement' stars plays their part well, they aren't trying to outdo each other or Ledger. Stealing the show is the musical God also known as Tom Waits. Here he plays the devil with all the charisma, charm and seedy sinister motions one would expect. He's simply fantastic, making the devil more than just an evil villain, he's also a guy having fun. It's a fascinating treat that one wishes Ledger could have completed.