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Happiness (1998)
One of the important films.
17 December 2005
I watched this film as an xmas 'treat' in my university Ethics class, and having done so, all the time in a combination of wonder and intrigue - I can tell you that this is one of the important films, one that not only changes, but enlightens and progresses your life after experiencing it. Now, I'll tell you why.

'Happiness' is a (very) black comedy that finds humour in the most desperate of human struggles. I won't go into the detail of what these struggles are but I will say that they are some considered pretty despicable by most. As well as these their are other, more subtle psychological problems, which are shown to great effect in the name of a plot that will move the viewer, but in a very different way from usual.

The beauty of 'Happiness' is its lack of disgust. It's the kind of thing that shallow minds write letters to the government to ban. In the lack of a prejudiced and conservative eye, 'Happiness' gives a very real sense of the people that would otherwise be portrayed as despicable baddies. Another reviewer wrote here that he never thought he could sympathise with a paedophile until he saw 'Happiness', and I feel this sums the film's greatest quality up well. With its interesting wit and deeply probing insights, 'Happiness' causes the viewer to feel the pains and pleasures (and even more particular states) of its quietly desperate characters.

It's impressive how such a film can remain funny, but 'Happiness' does even in areas where one may not believe humour has a place. Not to give too much away, the 'facts of life' type conversations between a father and son I find particularly amusing - although it's worth pointing out that they're not conducted in the over used awkward and stuttered way that most movie makers favour.

If you want to see a truly different, and deeply engaging film that will leave you with a deeper understanding of humanity - 'Happiness' is for you.
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Cinema's rarely this honest.
22 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
If, for one reason or another you only saw the first half of this film (before the bomb), you'd be highly confused as to why people are being so complimentary of it. It's humour is almost embarrassing to watch, the events seem to come in blocks, one after another, and as much as I hate to use the word: corny is the predominant feeling.

However, when the bomb falls, you'll see why the filmmakers opted for this approach. The contrast between the two parts of the film is extreme. The sickeningly happy garden-gnome like sense of the first half is instantly and shockingly shattered by the truly horrific and sobering atmosphere of the second. Tears are to be fully expected as the results of the attack reveal themselves, again, accurately, in the blocky way they had in the first half, and truly excellently directed to its purpose.

The focus of the movie is always on the suffering of the people, the sadness of the results of the 'Pika bomb', the consequence of war. It doesn't blame anyone and doesn't attempt to inspire patriotism, instead it only displays the cost of the decisions taken by the various political big shots on both sides, so ignorant to the true results of their choices. Certainly an important lesson today.

Why people feel they need to state their personal opinions on the war and the bomb in the other reviews is not clear and not appropriate, however it is testament to the effect this film has on the viewer. Even the most right wing of audiences would struggle to resist the peace sentiment after seeing Barefoot Gen.

Just as a note though, to those here who have said they don't feel sorry for the Japanese regarding the atomic bomb, bear in mind that it was the political and military leaders that led the war effort, that made the decisions, and that ordered the atrocities. The people that suffered from the atomic bomb, as is the nature of war, were the civilians, those who had no influence whatsoever over the action of their country - and indeed, as does Gen's father in the film, many of them believed Japan was making a mistake. Regardless of political position, age, sex and physical fitness, the terrible suffering was inflicted on many thousand people. The blame must always be placed carefully and correctly, misdirected blame only leads to discrimination.
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A Success Without A Doubt.
19 September 2005
As Advent Children becomes more well known, expanding out of the fan only sphere into the more public (although it'll never be a mainstream film, it was never meant to be), you will find a growing number of critics bashing it on the grounds of its undeveloped plot and lack of character development (see the first review on here). Let me tell you now, they're dead wrong.

Advent Children is, and always has been intended for Final Fantasy VII fans only. It's not a standalone movie like 'Resident Evil', or 'Tomb Raider', it is in fact the first ever movie sequel to a computer game, the first ever to give a computer game enough respect as to not feel it requires its back story explaining for half of the film. Hence how this project was originally intended only as a 20 minute short, and grew only due to the needs of the fans and of course the development team themselves.

Bearing this in mind, Advent Children is a magnificent success. Aside from the excellent animation and mind-blowingly brilliant action scenes, the storyline is pure Final Fantasy VII. Without saying too much, Square recaptures their characters perfectly, all of them reacting to their new circumstances exactly as they should.

The overwhelming themes of Final Fantasy VII have always been choices and redemption - in the game, Cloud, who wasn't good enough to attain the rank of Shinra's 'SOLDIER' (only managing to become standard infantry), and beginning the game without hope, aim or ideal, eventually finds himself and saves the world, conversely Sephiroth : celebrated as a magnificent SOLDIER collapses into despair when he discovers his origins and eventually tries to destroy the planet in his semi-insanity.

These themes are continued into Advent Children through several different streams, and like most of the film are carried out flawlessly.

A good balance of action, drama and comic relief is achieved throughout - the film never getting dull, superficial or obsessed with battle sequence potential. Indeed, every scene is purposeful and symbolic, nothing is put in purely because the ability to do so was there. Expect the usual brilliance of the Japanese mind when it comes to philosophical contemplation.

The only minor gripe I have with the film is that it never seems to capture the scale of the Final Fantasy VII world. In the game, there were villages, towns and cities (all of them individual, not space and time saving duplicates like in most games). There were times when the characters ventured to space, when they flew through the sky, when they sank to the depths of the sea, and when they entered the planet itself. Conversely, Advent Children focuses pretty solely on the Midgar area. There are a few other areas of the planet on show (I won't say which), but these do not seem too distinct, and the feeling is that all is in the general district of which the film focuses. This truly is a shame, as it would have been a big improvement to the film to give it the sense of awe that the game possessed, however it does not infringe on the greatness of the plot or the character development in any way.

As I said before, there will be complaints about this film, many of them. And no doubt they will be quite biting in areas that one could reasonably have worried would go wrong. Developers have an unfortunate tendency to put action above plot, especially in computer game related movies and reading a critic's claim that Advent Children had neglected its story development may lead some to miss out on this masterpiece. You would be a fool to do so. Advent Children is a success. It's the conclusion to Final Fantasy VII that we needed, the answer to our questions. The film has taken on a challenge that seemed vast, and over a long (long) period of time, has delivered.

Ignore the critics, Advent Children is Final Fantasy VII.
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Oh so awful
26 August 2005
Oh Christ, I had to register just to point out how terrible this is. Anyone that doesn't know what Silent Hill is, PLEASE don't take this as any indication.

Silent Hill is an extremely deep, psychological and artistic work that manages to meld several contrasting elements together to penetrate the mind of the player/watcher, all based around the two base human subjects: Sex, and Death (as mentioned in the DVD extra in Silent Hill 2). This drivel on the other hand, is soulless, void of atmosphere and overall, shallow trash. How it is they mustered the pretension and undeserved courage to label this under the Silent Hill banner is beyond me, but whatever the reason, they're not worthy.

Of the countless words I could (or couldn't as regulations dictate) use to describe this sin against art, I think the most appropriate is:

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