Lightning Review: Ghost in the Shell (2017)

Ghost in the Shell movie posterSynopsis
Major (Scarlett Johansson) is the first of her kind: A perfect human / machine hybrid. However, she has no recollection of her past before becoming the weapon she is today. When she confronts a mysterious terrorist known as Kuze (Michael Carmen Pitt), she soon begins looking for answers about the truth of who she really is.

Review
Ghost in the Shell had the difficult task of luring in fans of both the original 1995 animated film and proceeding anime of the same name, as well as a new audience. Because I have yet to see the original film, I fall into the latter, but found myself right away getting drawn into the movie’s world. What hooked me in the beginning was its fantastic science-fiction neo-noir version of Tokyo. The bright colors from the advertisements, signs, cars, and lights create a stark contrast against the more muted-colored buildings. When it comes to sci-fi films, I like to be sold on the world it is looking to create. Almost every character has some sort of cybernetic enhancement and this movie shows how integral these enhancements have become in this world. Say what you will about Scarlett Johansson being cast as Major, she did a great job in the role. She made her movements rigid and less fluid than what you are used to seeing. This motion sold that she had a robotic body despite her appearance as flesh and blood.

As philosophical as this movie wanted to be, it never fully examined the themes it was trying to bring across. They were touched on and hinted at several times through the film but it still felt like the message or commentary it was trying to provide was not delved into as deeply as this movie thought it was. I think it is funny that this is the case because a lot of time was spent on exposition. However, it never seemed to move past a superficial level or into any deep exploration of its themes. This also made the movie feel like it was often not going anywhere because there wasn’t enough action to make up for the lack of depth. It’s a shame these ideas never found much ground because the concepts of artificial intelligence and identity are very interesting to me.

I thought Ghost in the Shell was OK 😐 Its futuristic neo-noir world is extremely well realized and Scarlett Johansson was great casting as Major but despite much of its run time is spent on exposition, the themes and commentary it was trying to bring across aren’t explored past high-level concepts. This movie isn’t bad by any means, but there are flickers of good ideas that never came to fruition to make it something special.

Trivia
Several original voice actors from the 1995 animated Ghost in the Shell reprise their roles for the Japanese dubbed version of this film. Atsuko Tanaka, Akio Otsuka, and Koichi Yamadera voice their parts as Major, Batou, and Togusa respectively.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Rupert Sanders – Director
Jamie Moss – Screenplay
William Wheeler – Screenplay
Ehren Kruger – Screenplay
Lorne Balfe – Composer
Clint Mansell – Composer

Scarlett Johansson – Major
Pilou Asbaek – Batou
Takeshi Kitano – Aramaki
Juliette Binoche – Dr. Ouelet
Michael Carmen Pitt – Kuze
Chin Han – Togusa
Danusia Samal – Ladriya
Lasarus Ratuere – Ishikawa
Yutaka Izumihara – Saito
Tawanda Manyimo – Borma
Peter Ferdinando – Cutter
Anamaria Marinca – Dr. Dahlin

Assassin’s Creed Review

Assassin's Creed movie posterSynopsis
In 2016, Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) is on death row. When he wakes up after lethal injection, he finds himself at an Abstergo Foundation facility, a modern day front for the Templar Order. Sofia (Marion Cotillard), an Abstergo scientist, informs Cal his death was faked because they need his help to find a mysterious artifact known as the Apple of Eden. In order to locate the artifact, Cal must enter the animus, a device used to explore genetic memories, to relive the memories of his ancestor, Aguilar, during the Spanish Inquisition in 1492.

Review
I am a big fan of the Assassin’s Creed series. I have all of the games (although I have yet to play them all) and have read several of the comic books. At the Toronto Comic-con last year, I picked up an art piece depicting several of the series’ the main characters. Since it is one of my favorite game series, I was really excited to hear that a movie for the series would be made. Better yet, it wasn’t going to be a film adaptation of one game but instead tell a new story that takes place within the already established universe. I think my excitement got the better of me.

I’ll start with some good. In the game, navigating the environment by running through the streets and up and on top of buildings is a signature aspect of the game play. Things like parkouring up walls and running across rooftops was brought over exactly like you see in the games. Even things as simple as stances and body posture when assassins jump onto unsuspecting targets is spot on from the game. And the type of action sequences in general is what you would expect to see in the games. That is exciting to see when a video game film has the look and feel of the source material.

In the group of people I saw this with, I was the only one who had played the games. Actually, I was the only one who knew anything more beyond the fact the film was adapted from a video game. Talking with them after leaving the theater, they seemed to have a good grasp about the Assassin’s Creed universe. Assassin’s Creed did a good job of explaining the larger universe in which the film is set, from the conflict between Assassins and Templars, to the purpose of the animus, even the bleeding effect of prolonged animus use. I’d say the only thing not well explained is exactly what the Apple of Eden is and what it can actually do.

Now this leads into my first gripe with the film. Although it did a great job establishing the movie’s universe, it had to take the time to set it up. There was so much exposition in the first half of the movie, it didn’t feel like it went anywhere. Several action scenes were sprinkled throughout to add a bit of flare but it didn’t help too much. By the time the film got to the meat of the story, it had to play catch-up. As a result, the second half felt rushed. I never got the opportunity to get sucked into the story because it was all over the place.

A problem I often have with movies is sometimes they try to set up future sequels without properly closing its own story first. I understand laying threads to be picked up in the next film but that shouldn’t come at the cost of the current story. When this film ended, I found myself thinking, “Oh, that’s the end?” Saying the story was left open-ended feels like the wrong term but it does feel incomplete. I think the rushed pacing during the second half that I mentioned before forced the script into a quick ending, resulting in an anticlimactic finish to the film.

I thought Assassin’s Creed was OK :-|. Hollywood hasn’t had a great track record with video game adaptations. This had the chance to break that trend since it wasn’t trying to adapt any one game but instead tell its own story within the game’s universe. Even with a star-studded cast, poor pacing and an unengaging story keeps this film reaching the heights I was hoping for from a film based on one of my favorite gaming franchises.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Justin Kurzel – Director
Michael Lesslie – Screenplay
Adam Cooper – Screenplay
Bill Collage – Screenplay
Jed Kurzel – Composer

Michael Fassbender – Callum Lynch / Aguilar
Marion Cotillard – Sofia Rikkin
Jeremy Irons – Alan Rikkin
Denis Menochet – McGowen
Ariane Labed – Maria
Brendan Gleeson – Joseph Lynch
Essie Davis – Mary Lynch
Charlotte Rampling – Ellen Kaye
Michael Kenneth Williams – Moussa
Matias Varela – Emir
Callum Turner – Nathan
Crystal Clarke – Samia
Michelle H. Lin – Lin
Brian Gleeson – Young Joseph Lynch

Lightning Review: Sin City

Review #105

This review was originally posted for MovieRob‘s Latin Directors-themed Genre Grandeur.

Sin City movie posterSynopsis
In Sin City, corruption runs rampant and thugs rule the street. Four stories explore the darkest corners of this unforgiving city.

Review
Sin City isn’t just a comic book adaption, it’s a living, breathing comic book. I haven’t read any of Frank Miller’s Sin City books, but from what I’ve read and seen, it is almost (if not) frame perfect. Which is not too surprising given that Miller worked with Robert Rodriguez in the directors chair. Rodriguez’s cinematography combined with the book’s noir style is unparalleled. The voice over narration from the main characters of the five individual stories is reminiscent of the big noir films from the 1940s and 1950s. With specific items, like a red dress, lipstick, the Yellow Bastard’s skin, etc, it adds a unique feel the the film and its characters. The contrast between the shadows and white highlights to make items stand out, like Hartigan’s scars or Marv’s bandages, create a truly visceral visual experience. Much like 300, another of Miller’s comic-to-movie adaptations which was released the following year, the violence is brutal and graphically over-the-top. In other words: tremendous. If you haven’t seen Sin City, I have two things to say: 1) What is wrong with you? And 2) go watch it immediately!

Rating
4.5/5

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Robert Rodriguez – Director / Composer
Frank Miller – Director / Writer
Quentin Tarantino – Guest Director
John Debney – Composer
Graeme Revell – Composer

Jessica Alba – Nancy Callahan
Devon Aoki – Miho
Alexis Bledel – Becky
Powers Booth – Senator Roark
Jude Ciccolella – Liebowitz
Michael Clark Duncan – Manute
Rasario Dawson – Gail
Benicio del Toro – Det. Lt. Jack “Jackie Boy” Rafferty
Jason Douglas – Hitman
Tommy Flanagan – Brian
Rick Gomez – Klump
Carla Gugino – Lucille
Josh Hartnett – Salesman
Rutger Hauer – Cardinal Patrick Henry Roark
Nicky Katt – Stuka
Clark Middleton – Schutz
Jaime King – Goldie and Wendy
Michael Madsen – Bob
Frank Miller – Priest
Brittany Murphy – Shellie
Lisa Marie Newmyer – Tammy
Nick Offerman – Schlubb
Clive Owen – Dwight McCarthy
Mickey Rourke – Marv
Marley Shelton – The Customer
Nick Stahl – Roark Junior / Yellow Bastard
Patricia Vonne – Dallas
Bruce Willis – John Hartigan
Elijah Wood – Kevin

Genre Grandeur – Sin City (2005) – Drew’s Movie Reviews

For this month’s Genre Grandeur over at MovieRob, I reviewed this comic adaptation gem directed by Robert Rodriguez.

For this month’s next review for Genre Grandeur – Latin Directors, here’s a review of Sin City (2005) by Drew of Drew’s Movie Reviews

Thanks again to Anna of Film Grimoire for choosing this month’s genre.

Next month’s Genre has been chosen by James of Back to the Viewer.  We will be reviewing our favorite movies featuring a dystopian world (past or future). Please get me your submissions by 25th April by sending them to dystopia@movierob.net  Try to think out of the box! Great choice James!

Let’s see what Drew thought of this movie

SinCity01

Sin City Review

Watched: 3/8/2015

Released: 2005

Synopsis

In Sin City, corruption runs rampant and thugs rule the street. Four stories explore the darkest corners of this unforgiving city.

Review

Sin City isn’t just a comic book adaption, it’s a living, breathing comic book. I haven’t read any of Frank Miller’s Sin City books…

View original post 334 more words

Big Hero 6 Trailer #1

Official Synopsis: With all the heart and humor audiences expect from Walt Disney Animation Studios, “Big Hero 6” is an action-packed comedy-adventure about robotics prodigy Hiro Hamada, who learns to harness his genius—thanks to his brilliant brother Tadashi and their like-minded friends: adrenaline junkie Go Go Tamago, neatnik Wasabi, chemistry whiz Honey Lemon and fanboy Fred. When a devastating turn of events catapults them into the midst of a dangerous plot unfolding in the streets of San Fransokyo, Hiro turns to his closest companion—a robot named Baymax—and transforms the group into a band of high-tech heroes determined to solve the mystery. Inspired by the Marvel comics of the same name, and featuring comic-book style action, “Big Hero 6” is directed by Don Hall (“Winnie the Pooh”) and Chris Williams (“Bolt”), and produced by Roy Conli (“Tangled”).

Big Hero 6 is a Japanese super hero team from the Marvel comics.  I’m not that familiar with the characters but from this trailer, I’m a fan of Big Hero 6.  The majority of this trailer focuses on Hiro (Ryan Potter) and his robot Baymax (Scot Adsit) with some of the other main characters seen towards the end.  Hopefully the next trailer will showcase the entire team.  The computer animation looks great, although it doesn’t seem to be much different from Disney’s last few films, Frozen and Wreck-It-Ralph.  I mentioned when the teaser was released that it would be cool to find some way to incorporate this movie into the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe (I don’t think it will happen but is cool to think about nonetheless).  If nothing else, it seems like it will be humorous.

Big Hero 6 hits theaters November 7, 2014 and is directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams, and stars the voices of Jamie Chung, TJ Miller, Alan Tadyk, Genesis Rodriguez, Maya Rudolph, James Cromwell, Damon Wayans Jr., Daniel Henney, Scott Adsit, and Ryan Potter.

Big Hero 6 movie poster

Transformers: Age of Extinction Review

Transformers: Age of Extinction movie posterSynopsis
After the devastation of Chicago several years ago, Transformers are being hunted and have gone into hiding. Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) stumbles upon the dormant Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen), causing Cade, Optimus, Cade’s daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz), and Tessa’s boyfriend Shane (Jack Reynor) meet up with the remaining Autobots and go on the run from the CIA.

Review
I went into Transformers: Age of Extinction with what I wouldn’t call high hopes but some hope. It had a new cast and a fresh start. Unfortunately, it also had too long of a run time and no apparent sense of direction. Not only that, but the Dinobots, a large part of the marketing for the movie, only appeared at the tail end. I’m not going to be one of those fans that go on an angry rant, but I will say that it could have, and should have, been much better.

One of the positives about Transformers: Age of Extinction is that is does have some pretty funny lines and moments. Most of these are supplied by either TJ Miller or Stanley Tucci. Tucci is easily one of the best things about this film. His role is different than his other films like Easy A or The Hunger Games. It goes to show how versatile he can be. At times the humor felt a little forced, but overall it was pretty good.

Having Frank Welker voice Galvatron, the reincarnated Megatron, was a great nod towards fans, just like Peter Cullen supplying his voice for Optimus Prime. Cullen and Welker were the voices of Optimus Prime and Megatron/Galvatron respectively in the original 1980s The Transformers cartoon. Welker did a few voices in Dark of the Moon but I was happy to see him return to one of his original roles from the cartoon. Hugo Weaving was perfect for Megatron in the first three movies, but Welker needed to come in eventually and this was the perfect time to do it.

I was blown away by the special effects and computer generated images (CGI) of Transformers, and Age of Extinction takes that up a notch. All the character designs and models looked spectacular. Despite the chaotic nature of the fight sequences, it was much easier to follow than the first film. The final fight scene was especially impressive. My friend described it as much more fluid than before; It actually felt like a real fight rather than “Power Ranger Megazords fighting each other” (I think those were his words). I would have to say that is a pretty good analogy and I am inclined to agree with him.

Once the action really picked up, about 30-45 minutes into the movie, it literally never stopped. I don’t think there was more than a ten minute span where something wasn’t blowing up. Had this come out when I was younger, this would have been my favorite of the series for that reason alone. Action in action movies is great (it’s pretty much implied), but when that takes away from the characters, it becomes a little too much, especially when there is over two and a half hours of it.

Because of the huge focus on action and explosions, there was virtually no characterization. Any time it seemed like there was going to be some character development, like when Cade (Mark Wahlberg) and Optimus start discussing parenting, it cuts away and the action revs  back up. We learn about the human characters a little (a lot about how Cade was going to protect his daughter), but hardly anything about the Transformers themselves. Since the only returning Autobots were Optimus and Bumblebee, I would have liked to learn about the new robots. I know it wasn’t a matter of time, because with 165 minutes, it could have happened.

For a movie whose advertising strongly showed the Dinobots, they hardly had any screen time. They only appeared for the final 20-ish minutes of the action (maybe more, I started to lose track of time) and acted more like a deus ex machina than anything else. And I was expecting a more epic showdown between Optimus and Grimlock, which was very anticlimactic. I would have almost preferred that their presence in the film was not teased at all and instead have it be a surprise when they showed up on screen. My attitude would have been more “Whaa? Dinobots? Awesome!” rather than “Where are the Dinobots? That’s it?” Big difference.

Transformers: Age of Extinction suffers from too-man-villains syndrome. There is the main human villain, his head henchman, another human villain who is kind of but isn’t really a bad guy, the Transformers’ villain Lockdown, and Galvatron. The main focus was on Lockdown and Attinger (Kelsey Grammer), but unfortunately that meant Glavatron was pushed to the side and was hardly present. Attinger felt like your stereotypical comic villain, bordering on the corny side. I will say this though: Lockdown is a badass. He was a great adversary for the Autobots and different from the Decepticons from the previous films. As for Galvatron, I do like how they brought him into the series, it was the best way to introduce him without Unicron (a world-devouring being who transformed Megatron into Galvatron in the 1986 film The Transformers: The Movie).

I don’t know why, but I was expecting so much more from Transformers: Age of Extinction. The Dinobots, a huge part of the trailers and marketing in general, hardly have a presence in the film. Too many bad guys caused several villains to get only a few minutes of screen time. The human villain Harold Attinger, played by Kelsey Grammer, was pretty flat, but Lockdown, the big Transformers villain, was a badass. With a run time almost that of The Godfather, and non-stop action from the beginning, it was overwhelming. And even with that much time, there was virtually no character development. I understand the something like Transformers is supposed to be corny, but Transformers: Age of Extinction saw the line, flew over it and never looked back.

Rating
2/5

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Michael Bay – Director
Ehren Kruger – Writer
Steve Jablonsky – Composer

Mark Wahlberg – Cade Yeager
Nicola Peltz – Tessa Yeager
Jack Reynor – Shane Dyson
Stanley Tucci – Joshua Joyce
Kelsey Grammer – Harold Attinger
Titus Welliver – James Savoy
Sophia Myles – Darcy Tirrel
Bingbing Li – Su Yueming
TJ Miller – Lucas Flannery
James Bachman – Gill Wembley
Peter Cullen – Optimus Prime (voice)
John Goodman – Hound (voice)
Ken Watanabe – Drift (voice)
John DiMaggio – Crosshairs (voice)
Mark Ryan – Lockdown (voice)
Frank Welker – Galvatron (voice)
Reno Wilson – Brains (voice)