Archive for the Anime Category

Pacific Rim Review

Posted in 4 Stars, Action, Anime, New Movie, Review, Sci-Fi with tags , , , , , , , , on July 16, 2013 by russellsreviews

There are a lot of genre’s in film. Spy, romantic comedy, adventure, horror, super hero, drama, science fiction, and martial arts just to name a few. Genre’s sometimes slowly fade, but never fully go away and sometimes make huge comebacks like what we have seen with westerns and the musicals lately. That cannot be said about the monster genre. No, I’m not counting those really awful movies on the Sci-Fi channel like Sharknado. I’m not even talking about Frankenstein or wolfman. I”m talking about the giant city stomping monster movies like King Kong and Godzilla. The last one ever made was in Gamera the Brave in Japan in 2006 and the last anyone in the west would remember is the remake of King Kong by Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings fame just the year before. Pacific Rim is director Guillermo Del Toro and Legendary Pictures attempt to bring back this beloved idea to a newer generation. If Guillermo Del Toro stopped there he would have already been my hero. Del Toro then tries to infuse some elements of mecha anime that have never been attempted in live action before. The very thought of this mix is enough to make my head explode of excitement.  Does Pacific Rim deliver on my high expectations and more importantly is it accessible for the mainstream to sell without loosing it’s purpose?

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Pacific Rim twists the formula for giant monster movie. The world has been thrown into terror being constantly attacked by giant monsters called Kaiju. Instead of scientists scrambling to make some ray gun or bomb to stop them, or having the planet’s own kaiju take it down which we have seen over and over, humanity fights back by building towering robots to defend themselves. This theme has been used over and over in anime, but has never been attempted in live action for whatever reason. I imagine the cost of making a story like this believable and digestible for the American public would be a master undertaking and a huge gamble. I can not give anymore props to Del Toro and Legendary pictures for taking on this project. The world is fully realized and the giant almost human looking robots called Jaegers are sight to behold. You will scream with joy in your head every time one launches or lands. Each evil Kaiju has a unique look to them and fighting abilities making every battle different and a surprise. Sparks, metal, buildings, and even pilots will get tossed around in the warfare. This is the reason why you see this film.

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The human characters are just as varied and over the top. The characters of the film will be where most people will start to distance themselves from the film however. All of the side characters are played to their part times 10. This was done on purpose and each character is a common trope in the mecha genre. The scientist who is a little more interesting in the enemy than he should be, the mysterious cool general,  overly bully co-worker that gives no respect, and a girl with a troubled past. If you are unfamiliar with these archetypes these characters might come off a little ridiculous and off putting. They all still fair better than the lead character Raleigh Becket. I don’t know if they were trying to have a normal center in all the madness, but instead he comes off too safe and quite frankly very boring. I cared more about the funny scientist dying in the middle of the film than I did about Becket in final fight scene which isn’t a good thing. I don’t really blame the actor fully because I just think there wasn’t much room for him to perform. Then again neither did Idris Elba as Stacker Pentecost the leader of the Jaeger team and he still was fierce and more memorable so maybe I can. Idris Elba is a beast of an actor and needs to be in more movies. Charlie Day as the quirky Dr. Newton Geiszler was my favorite character for how he reacted to everything was probably the same way I see myself reacting to a world where their are freaking giant robots and world destroying monsters duking it out.

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The main gripes of Pacific Rim is that dialogue of the characters let down the film for achieving true greatness and might keep more people from seeing how ground breaking this film is. The concept was high, the world was brilliant, art design was perfect, and the ideas were smart, but somewhere some of the lines just failed to elevate it. The dialogue was not stupid like in transformers it’s just sometimes wooden. I give it credit for adding in anime elements, but I wish Del Toro took it a little farther with the weapons and really show of how dark and creative anime can get. Speed Racer did a much better job translating anime into the big screen and wished it used that movies techniques of story telling between the fight scenes. This review sounds like I’m bashing the film, but I”m not. Pacific Rim is awesome for what it is and I strongly recommend it, but I’m afraid some people might only see the flaws and not notice the nuances of what’s going on. I just wanted them to take it to that next level so bad.

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I loved Pacific Rim. I loved the action and the chances it takes. I”m so happy it was made and Guillermo Del Toro deserves big praise and more fans. He just made me a fan. I just wish they took a little more chances on the story and main character. It’s a fun ride. Just sadly don’t expect anything more than beautifully choreographed Kaiju vs Jaeger action. It’s a summer film not based on a old TV series, video game, a remake, or comic book. Pacific Rim is original and deserves to be applauded. If you have any itch to see it please do. This might be your one and last chance to experience this genre.

4 STARS

Ponyo Review

Posted in 4.5 Stars, Animation, Anime, Foreign, New Movie, Review on August 16, 2009 by russellsreviews

In the U.S. 2-D animation is all but dead. If it wasn’t for Pixar, not even Disney would be making them and when they do its about one every three years. Television now is even moving away from it. The only place really to get 2-D anymore is from Japan. Hayao Miyazaki is consider the master of this craft in Japan, and there is no reason why he shouldn’t that recognized in the states as well. Ponyo, Miyazaki’s newest, is finally given its chance in American theaters. His movies are normally critically acclaimed, although always overlooked by the Academy, but never a commercial success. Can Ponyo change all of this?

Ponyo is a fairy tale of a young boy named Sasuke who finds a mysterious fish, Ponyo, and decides to take care of it. Only this goldfish is actually the daughter of a mad wizard who is in charge of keeping the balance of human and magical worlds separate. If Ponyo stays with Sasuke too long it will shift everything out of balance and cause the moon to get closer to earth and put all of Japan underwater. Only Ponyo has fallen in love with Sasuke and is willing to risk everything to become a real girl and be with Sasuke forever.

Ponyo is more light hearted than his previous films and little more innocent, but that’s what Miyazaki was going for. All of his movies deal with love, but Ponyo’s whole theme is love. The love story takes place with two very young kids to show how love is innocent and pure and shouldn’t be corrupted, much like a child. Much like his other films as well he as a environmental message. Human ways are hurting the magical creatures, yet they coexist with the humans for their ability to love and work together.

It was very refreshing to see the hand drawn character movements and the painted environments. In my opinion, movement, motion, and emotion in a 2-D will never be matched by CGI. Ponyo is just another in a long line examples of this. Ponyo might not rank up there with some Miyazaki fans, but deserves praise for trying to tell a tale in a more simple fashion, dare we say more assessable to the west. Miyazaki is a master of animation, because he creates movies with fascinating worlds seen no where else, while reminding adults of important messages, and most importantly while never loosing the imagination or the fun to reach all ages. I hope Ponyo will be the one to finally to make a good buck in America and would only be called predujice against Asian culture if it doesn’t get at least gets nominated this year.

4.5 STARS

The Sky Crawlers Review

Posted in 3 Stars, Anime, Foreign, New Movie, Review on August 7, 2009 by russellsreviews

The Sky Crawlers is director’s Mamoru Oshii newest film, the man behind one of the most famous animes of all time Ghost in the Shell. Oshii doesn’t really make a lot of movies partly because his movies are so jam packed with ideologies and normally have a deeper meaning on what he thinks is going on with society. The Sky Crawlers attempts to do the same the film,but gets too bog down with slow pacing for you even to care.

The film takes place in an alternate history where young pilots have to defend Japan everyday from bandits and attacks other countries. The film opens in a intense realistic dogfight and it quickly gets you in mood for anther great work from Oshii. However, that’s mostly all the action you are going to get. Which normally in movies like this wouldn’t be a big deal, but the movie takes so long to develop and progress only the fully commended won’t have trouble keeping their eyes open. The characters all of too much subtle movement and the characters design are all bland. None of them stand out or stay with you. The director said he went with this approach to show how mundane and boring their lives have become, which I get, but the problem is that this goes on for too long. There are too many scenes with really no purpose.  There is a crazy unique twist more than half way through, but most will already have checked out. Outside the few dogfights and the bowling ally scene the camera mostly stays stationary. Which, again, normally would OK in a movie like this, however when you are doing a deep intellectual and there is very little dialogue movement or creative camera angles its hard to keep your attention until the reveals.

For people who can make it through there is a unique story. The young pilots turn out to be Kildren, a race of people for some reason who can’t die. The government and companies stages  a war between them in a endless loop to keep them busy, money, to give people something to route for, or simply for entertainment for the masses. All ideas are touched upon but each one so little, it was almost like Oshii was more interested in the world he created rather than the story itself.

The Sky Crawlers has to get some points for trying something ambitious, but it’s plagued with bad overall execution. It has a story worth seeing, I hate to say it,but with better direction could have been just as ground breaking as Ghost in the Shell or Patlabor.

3 STARS

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time Review

Posted in 4 Stars, Anime, Drama, Foreign, New Movie, Review, Romantic on July 1, 2009 by russellsreviews

Anime is very misunderstood art. It often gets labeled as cartoons or for kids and gets overlooked by many people. Anime also gets pigeon holed as just fast, cool, weird mindless entertainment. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Japanese animation is every which way and can be anything only limited to the imagination of the artists. Anime is also free from the restrains of American thinking of what can or cannot be in animation. The art pushes the boundaries of thoughts and explore worlds or emotions that can never be achieved in live action in any country. It can be action, fantasy, family, or even romantic. The Girl who leapt through time is the latter.

Don’t be fooled by the sci-fi name this is very much a love story. Makoto is a regular clumsy girl high school girl who just likes hanging out with her friends. One day after school she some how gains the ability to literally leap backwards in time. The farther she leaps, the farther she can travel back. She uses her new power to help friends, but also to make sure she never makes a stupid mistake again with very funny results. Things get complicated for her however when she discovers that both of her life long friends actually have a crush on her. She doesn’t want to ruin their great friendship so she keeps on leaping back to just simply avoid the questions and changes, but she finds that no matter how many times she goes back she just can’t change fate or love.

How and why she gets to time travel does require some disbelief, but it really adds an extra dynamic to the love story and gives everything unique emotions and a interesting plot twist. The only flaw really is how the movie ends. Its good and emotional, but without giving to much away its also a little heartbreaking and confusing.

Even though the movie is new it looks more out dated compared to most anime standards of today but the hand drawn approach works and gives the characters more realistic emotions than if it was done the other way.

The ending does keep The Girl Who Leapt Through Time to be a true breakout hit, but the movie is still a rewarding experience. Even with the ending, like Studio Chibli films, this a good movie to show your girlfriend who might not be that into Anime as a starting point, but also a good one to show people who have a boxed mind when it comes to Anime.

4 STARS