mayoraasei: (Gintama)
I had to look up what kawaraban (瓦版) meant, which is the Japanese equivalent of a Roman bulletin that's published when a major announcement needs to be made or a major event has occurred.

A couple of weeks ago, Gintama anime stopped updating and went back to re-reuns to allow the manga to progress. Since then, every week at the end of the episode, one actor from the Gintama live action movie is invited to a brief interview. These clips have been pretty hard to find, so I'll post them here, and I'm going to set this post on top until the movie's release date.

Also, if this was the picture they posted of Okada Masaki playing Katsura, I would have been much happier (he looks girly, but Katsura looks girly, so it's all good LOL)




Week 1 - Oguri Shun / Gintoki: YouTube or here | BiliBiliTV
"The atmosphere during the shoot is very nice, you can feel everyone's enjoying themselves. The two of them [Shinpachi and Kagura] are always so high, I get a lot of energy from them."
[While watching themselves do the New Year's dance clip] "What the heck did I just do...I think I must have become an actor all for the sake of this..."
Suda/Shinpachi: "No you didn't."
"It's a work with quite strong contrasts. Sometimes you feel like you're going to finish on a cool note, but it suddenly turns into a joke again. I think that's the most interesting attraction."
小栗桑,現在才開始擔心你的節操已經太晚了……

Week 2 - Hashimoto Kanna / Kagura: BiliBiliTV
"I'm looking forward to the results. I told myself to give it my all and not do anything halfway. The most memorable part about being Kagura? After I shot the nose-picking scene, everyone started applauding. After the director called 'Cut!' everyone just clapped....I think I tried my best."

Week 3 - Nagasawa Masami / Otae: BiliBiliTV
"Tae is a girl with two facets to her personality. I don't know if anyone in real life is as extreme, but she displays a feminine charisma, with both her gentleness and her strength. I've never really done a role that needs making weird faces, but I'm glad I get to do that in Gintama."

Week 4 - Okada Masaki / Katsura: BiliBiliTV
“I’ve always been a big fan of Gintama, and it’s unbelievable that I’m actually in it, so I really must do my best.”
On acting with Oguri Shun, with whom he’s friends (they’ve appeared in HanaKimi and Space Brothers together), “This time the cast and staff are revolving around Oguri-san, and I want to become one of them to support him. At the same time I want to do my best portraying Katsura and enjoy acting together with him.”
(First person to publicly admit they like the original work, good job Masaki! Kid is such a dork on variety programs it's amazing he hasn't been eaten alive yet. Still, he's not quite the same sort of dork as Katsura, so we'll see how that pans out.)

Week 5 - Muro Tsuyoshi / Gengai: Twitter | BiliBiliTV
"When I read the script I was wondering what to do. Should I adjust my acting to reflect the real age of the character? Director Fukuda said just act as my own age. Even though we might get into strife with the fans of the original work. But this is completely not my fault. It's Director Fukuda's fault."
"The one rule that Director Fukuda and I have at heart is that we will seriously be funny. Please be assured everyone, that I will as Gengai be committed to being ridiculous."

Next week - Nakamura Kanzaburo / Gorilla Kondou Isao
mayoraasei: There is no such thing as coincidence (Default)
After a long deliberation, I watched Bakuman and now I wish I didn't.

I do like Satou Takeru and Kamiki Ryuunosuke, who are reasonable actors of their age cohort, and have made some iconic roles very memorable. Kamiki started off a child star but in the last few years he's really challenged himself to break the cast, and despite (or because of) his pretty good-boy image, he plays some interesting villains.

But I digress. Bakuman was probably the last manga series I read from beginning to end, and part of its cleverness was the story-within-a-story. To me, the logistics and competition at Shounen Jump was a curiosity, but the really fascinating bits in the manga came from some very clever story drafts thrown around by the various characters within it.

As you may know, Ohba Tsugumi as a writer and Obata Takeshi as an illustrator have as a combination not only penned this manga, they were also behind the riveting Death Note. There's a lot of speculation as to who Ohba Tsugumi is, but it's not hard to see some parallels between them and "Ashirogi Muto". Even Ashirogi Muto's breakout stories have that streak of cerebral darkness that characterised Death Note.

I don't know where to go with the movie. For a start, Bakuman would have better suited a series than a movie, and the problem is quickly clear as the film had no idea how to judge its pace. At times it's excruciating slow, like a music video with an angsty ballad, as Komatsu swans around in soft focus. At other times it skips ahead in a snap, like it realised it needed to get to the end of an arc by 2 hours.

It focused too much on the drawing as "drawings" rather than the creative process, which is where the real gem lies. The decision to nerf Takagi and make him someone "who isn't good at studying" is bewildering. While it might be a bit unrealistic for someone to be both getting good grades while running a manga circus on the side, the stories that Takagi came up with needed someone who was interested in intellect and psychology, not to mention the strategies he had with improving readership. Mashiro's story is important but also ridiculously fairytale-like, but Takagi's is a much more realistic arc of working hard, failing, improving and succeeding.

I'm not sure why the choice was made to make Mashiro's uncle's story feature so prominently. Yes, Mashiro had two motivations for succeeding - being in the same world as the girl he liked, and also to resolve the regrets his uncle left behind. The movie tried to turn it into some half-hearted unresolved grief and misplaced anger, which nevertheless didn't really play out.

Unsurprisingly it couldn't decide what to do with Eiji's character, who hung menacingly in a darkened room and appeared intermittently to sneer at the main pair. I've never seen Sometani Shota so aggravating.

The movie did no justice to anyone, not to the wit of the series, the energy of the actors, or to the onus of the profession itself. Fitting a good story arc from a 20 volume manga in 2 hours is a hard ask to start with but not necessarily impossible - this was done with reasonable success with Rurouni Kenshin and GANTZ. Unlike the battle-heavy stories of those two, the storyline of Bakuman probably leant itself better to a TV adaptation where there's time and space to build the plot and characters. As last year's Jimi ni Sugoi and Juhan Shuttai have proven, stories based around print media don't necessarily have to be slow and boring. To really bring out the merit of Bakuman though, which was the storytelling within the story, it will need a less literal hand and a cleverer touch.

mayoraasei: (Kaoru)
Probably nothing speaks louder (at least to the studios) than money, so you can see how the movies have ranked in terms of grosses at Box Office Mojo.

Initially this was a MCU only ranking, but as the DCEU franchise grows, I've also added that in. Rottentomatoes and Metacritic are both critic-based scores. IMDB and Cinemascore are indicative of general audience response, which tend to be less-discerning and skewed towards the positive as - well, most people come back to a franchise because they already like it.

Marvel Cinematic Universe

Rotten Tomatos Tomatometer

Metacritic Metascore
94% Iron Man
92% The Avengers
91% Guardians of the Galaxy
90% Captain America: Civil War
90% Doctor Strange
89% Captain America: The Winter Soldier
81% Guardians of the Galaxy 2
81% Ant-Man
80% Captain America: The First Avenger
79% Iron Man 3
77% Thor
75% Avengers: Age of Ultron
72% Iron Man 2
67% The Incredible Hulk
66% Thor: The Dark World
79 Iron Man
76 Guardians of the Galaxy
75 Captain America: Civil War
72 Doctor Strange
70 Captain America: The Winter Soldier
69 The Avengers
67 Guardians of the Galaxy 2
66 Captain America: The First Avenger
66 Avengers: Age of Ultron
64 Ant-Man
62 Iron Man 3
61 The Incredible Hulk
57 Iron Man 2
57 Thor
54 Thor: The Dark World

IMDB User Ratings

Cinemascore
8.1 The Avengers
8.1 Guardians of the Galaxy
8.1 Guardians of the Galaxy 2
7.9 Captain America: Civil War
7.9 Iron Man
7.8 Avengers: Age of Ultron
7.8 Captain America: The Winter Soldier
7.6 Doctor Strange
7.4 Ant-Man
7.2 Iron Man 3
7.1 Thor: The Dark World
7.0 Thor
7.0 Iron Man 2
6.9 Captain America: The First Avenger
6.8 The Incredible Hulk
A+ The Avengers
A Ant-Man
A Avengers: Age of Ultron
A Captain America: Civil War
A Captain America: Winter Soldier
A Doctor Strange
A Guardians of the Galaxy
A Guardians of the Galaxy 2
A Iron Man
A Iron Man 2
A Iron Man 3
A- Captain America: The First Avenger
A- Thor: The Dark World
A- The Incredible Hulk
B+ Thor


DC Extended Universe

Rotten Tomatos Tomatometer

Metacritic Metascore
93% Wonder Woman
55% Man of Steel
27% Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
26% Suicide Squad
76 Wonder Woman
55 Man of Steel
44 Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
40 Suicide Squad

IMDB User Ratings

Cinemascore
8.2 Wonder Woman
7.1 Man of Steel
6.8 Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
6.6 Suicide Squad
A Wonder Woman
A- Man of Steel
B+ Suicide Squad
B Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice


Last updated June 2017: Wonder Woman is newly released and scores may shift.
Last updated May 2017: Guardians of the Galaxy is new in theatres, so scores (particularly IMDB) may shift.
Last updated Nov 2016: note Doctor Strange has only just been released so these are very preliminary scores.
Last Update Aug 2016: Hulk removed as it does not appear to count in the MCU. Cinemascore added.
mayoraasei: (Gintama)
To finish off the casting round, we have the Murata siblings and the Shinsengumi.

Gintama live action 2017 - Murata Tetsuya and Murata Testuko
Click for original size


The Murata siblings )

Gintama live action 2017 - Hijikata, Kondou, Okita
Click for original size


Cut for the long-awaited Shinsengumi trio )

And that's a wrap!

I think it's a good mix of people who are reliable at acting, and a few unknowns cast in roles that won't require a huge amount of acting. Will that make it a success? Who knows. Japan has gone full steam with live adaptations of manga works in the past few years, and there's been a very small handful that's really struck gold with audiences (Rurouni Kenshin being the only one I can think of).

Just in the next few months, from the ones I've heard of, there's going to be Sangatsu no Lion, Blade of the Immortal, Full Metal Alchemist - not to mention at least another half a dozen romances coming to either the big or small screen. Generally Japan has better results with small screen adaptations of shoujo manga, but has traditionally struggled with shounen due to the scope, often the much darker themes, and the occasional leaps in suspension of belief required of the audience.

Possibly a good comparison will be the Oguri Shun-led Nobunaga Concerto, another historical fiction that has its comical and serious moments. It managed a respectable result at the box office and became the first film to squeeze Star Wars out of its top spot.

It will depend very much on the script and even at the best of times Gintama is not an easy material to convert into live action. Even just converting from manga to anime, given some of the crazy premises and the dependence on comedy, is no mean feat and speaks volumes about the professionalism of the writers and actors, and the maturity of the animation industry in Japan.

I have some carefully measured hopes, but given some recent failures in translation of popular manga onto the silver screen, I'm also carefully preparing myself for a disappointment.
mayoraasei: (Gintama)
Moving onto the rest of the team today, starting with the antagonists in Kiheitai.

Gintama live action 2017 - Takasugi, Okada, Takechi, Kijima
Click for original size


Read about the Kiheitai cast )
mayoraasei: There is no such thing as coincidence (Default)
Late last month, the Gintama twitter team had finally finished releasing photos of the whole cast, starting with Yorozuya in December and unsurprisingly ending with the ridiculously popular Shinsengumi team. The rumour mill is fairly quiet, unlike *cough* Marvel movies. Judging by the presence of the Murata siblings though, this is going to rehash the Benizakura arc once again, which is a real shame given how far Gintama has come and the other wonderful stories ripe for retelling - but, I suppose, it's the first big serious arc of the series and a good way to introduce the characters.

Fans of the series will recall that the Shinsengumi actually play a negligible role in the Benizakura arc, which was the first proper hint at the complex love-hate/respect-disdain relationships between Gintoki, Takasugi and Katsura. One of the recently released set photos shows what looks like the Yorozuya trio hunting for crickets, which I suppose would be the quickest way to involve the Shinsengumi.

Glaring omissions from the photos so far include Sadaharu (not surprised, and the amount of money they can save by not doing CG for the mascot they can spend on other effects), Otose (it would be nice even if she had a cameo) and Yamazaki (how can you have the Shinsengumi without jimi Yamazaki?)

Before I start discussing the live action cast, I just wanted to say briefly that Gintama anime has been blessed with some amazing casting and after so long in their roles, their voices have become so much of the experience - the joys and sadness and reflective scenes the viewers live through with them every week, so the live action cast will always have that tremendous hurdle to climb over.

Gintama live action 2017 - Shinpachi, Gintoki, Kagura, Katsura, Otae, Gengai
Click for full size


Read about the main round of actors and actresses )
mayoraasei: There is no such thing as coincidence (Squeak?)
Maybe it's my stuffed nose or my week of sleep deprivation, but it was quite possibly the most unexciting 2 hours of entertainment I've sat through in the last year.

I've been fond of Eddie Redmayne since Les Miserables and the rather stunning (?mouth-gaping) The Danish Girl, but he managed to hit the awkward and anti-social Newt on the nail...because he's just as forgettable and charmless.

The two women are equally forgettable yet also manage to be grating in addition. The main girl (whose name I swiftly banished out of my short term memory as soon as I finished watching, might have been Louise or Tina or something) must be one of the most annoyingly useless female inspectors in a major role to grace the big screen.

The only one who had any real charm was the Muggle. The fantastic beasts and the fantastical world in question took too long to appear. Newt's suitcase reveal should have happened at least 30 minutes earlier, and not after a 1 hour trawl through an exposition-heavy introduction.

Because of how long the movie was, it hadn't been clear from the outset that the orphans were going to be a major plot point, I failed to develop any sympathy for the kids, who managed more creepiness than innocence.

Without wishing to waste any more words on this movie, it was a decent optical spectacle but the fantasy came too late and the emotional core was curiously absent. And there's Johnny Depp being Johnny Depp...
mayoraasei: (Gundam 00)
Firstly, congratulations on surviving 2016 and welcome to 2017.

2016 was certainly an interesting year, not just because of the number of shock celebrity deaths (RIP). It showed us there are flaws to every form of government, including democracy, and it gave us a world that proudly preys on our fear of "them" and "those people".

“There is a curse.
They say:
May you live in interesting times.”
---Sir Terry Pratchett


But my subject is actually much more mundane. I recently watched The Martian and following that, because it's still touted as a masterpiece, Interstellar.

I'm beginning to think I'm not really a sci-fi fan.

They were both nice movies, though Interstellar felt about 1 hour too long. The pace was slow, perhaps to give the audience time to absorb the beauty of space and the gravity (hah) of the situation. I liked that Murph (and Brand) was a strong female who was pivotal to the plot (and to solving humanity's plight) without serving a romantic role. The trouble was, as clever as the conceit was, there was too much gobbledygook going on towards the end that, given how realism had grounded much of the movie, came to its undoing as it gravitated (hah) too close to fantasy. The snippet where Cooper enters the black hole and transmits the secret quantum message to his daughter was particularly gobbledygook. Nolan has authored some clever stuff, and you're much better off appreciating his genius in something like The Prestige or Inception, both of which were also better served by their pacing and atmosphere. The music was starting to really grate after 2 hours and 50 minutes of ominous swell of strings chorus, and again (?) you have Hans Zimmer to thank. As usual with Nolan's movies, the quality of the cast was superb, especially in the actresses for Murph.

To its credit, Interstellar's slow pace gives the audience pause to think about what humans are doing to Earth, about the moral dilemma of a world crises - do we choose to turn a blind eye and hide in a shell of ignorance, or do we take the higher intellectual ground of saving the species, or do we bank on our empathy and fight for those we care for? The movie seems to support the last option, and we like to believe that it's empathy that makes us human - but as it questions even in the movie, so often an individual's empathy is short-sighted, given only to those we have contact with. Is saving the species, rather than the individual, the real moral high ground?

Space, the final frontier, said Star Trek, but Interstellar suggests that there is another frontier out there, beyond the three dimensions, that the humans will conquer. Time, the one thing that has always been constant in our existence, the one thing we cannot escape nor alter. But Cooper suggests that humans conquered time to deliver him the message for him to save mankind.

The Martian is a much lighter film in terms of its mood but also philosophy. Quite a few of the same cast appears, supported by a bunch of MCU veterans (especially the two who've recently appeared in Doctor Strange). Like Interstellar, it's a story of survival but on a one man scale. It's a movie of optimism, not only in the old Chinese adage that "the heavens will not give you a road that ends you", but one that also believes in a world where people will come together to save one man. It's a story that empowers nerds and scientists, if that needed to be done, although it is a bit incredible the amount of knowledge Matt Damon's character possessed to survive on his own. Reacting hydrogen with oxygen? I don't think I learned that in biology.

And at the birth of another year, let's commemorate the passing of the last with the poem endlessly referenced in Interstellar.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
--- Dylan Thomas
mayoraasei: (Reflective)
In a movie that draws heavily from Oriental philosophy/ideology, and in fact has multiple parallels to the Dreamworks panda story, it's only appropriate to use Master Oogway's icon to represent it.

I actually ended up watching this movie twice, more out of circumstance than because I felt particularly compelled to, the first time in 2D and the second time in 3D. I don't know if it's because 3D glasses never fit me very well but although the visuals were indeed a tad more impressive in 3D (it would be much better on IMAX, I'd imagine), you miss out on the nuances of the actors' expressions, in particular Tilda Swinton.

I think people have already said all that's needed to be said about this movie. It's a par performance by Marvel, upping the bar for imagination and visual representation, and barely clearing it from a plot and character point of view.

Unlike his incredibly popular turn as Mr Holmes in Sherlock and (for me at least) a riveting presence as Khan in Star Trek: Into Darkness, Benedict Cumberbatch's Stephen Strange is just...par. I mean, from where I stand, there's definitely humour in the familiar caricature of awkwardly narcissist surgeons, but whether it's the slightly distracting almost-American accent (he sounds much better than RDJ sprouting British, so there's that) or the failings of the story, Strange is unfortunately not as charismatic as Tony Stark or Thor, not as funny as Peter Quill, not as morally straight as Steve Rogers, and not as personable as Scott Lang. Marvel's leading men had always led the story, the plot there only as an embellishment to display their best qualities. It's not as though Benedict hadn't pulled his weight, and it certainly isn't that he is incapable of doing great or lovable, but unfortunately Strange is neither, and that is this movie's greatest misstep.

There were some great acting from everyone involved, which unfortunately only further highlighted the thinness of the plot. Rachel McAdams did what she could with 15 minutes of screen time for a warm and compassionate ED doctor (where do you find one of those these days? LOL), and was a lot less grating than the last token girlfriend *cough*Nat Portman*cough*. Mads Mikkelsen also did what he could with a largely 2-dimensional villain in Kaecilius.

I think my greatest frustration is that the stems of the plot are there, but the story wasn't allowed to develop into a rich canopy. To draw on the Kungfu Panda analogy - if a cartoon could make you shed a tear at a doddery turtle's ascent to the stars, there's no reason it couldn't have done the same here. Similarly Kaecilius and Mordo were both short-changed in terms of their character (well, in terms of character even Stephen Strange was short-changed, so I suppose all that's not surprising). The betrayal these 2 students felt, and in particular in the case of Mordo, if the movie had given a little back story to explain why he was so fiercely adherent to the idea of "rules", then Marvel would have created one of their best antiheroes next to Loki, but alas.

There was a lot of controversy about the casting of Tilda Swinton. It's ironic to call it "not whitewashing when the character was white to start with" when the original character was Asian and much of the movie's imagery and even some of its philosophy draws on Asian culture. To her credit, Tilda Swinton makes the Ancient One great, but I have no doubt there are equally capable actors of Asian descent that could have done this. That said, her portrayal of the Ancient One with a mischievous twinkle and fleeting moments of vulnerability certainly made her the most interesting character in this movie.

She also has the best quote - "We never lose our demons, we only learn to live above them." - neatly foreshadowing perhaps not only her students' downfall but also her own.

I am very fond of Benedict (and also of Rachel and Chiwetel), so I do want to see more of them, but while this has been a stunning visual experience, I really hope the story gets much better by the second time round.
=====================================================================================

As an aside, I've seen a few sites talk about when Doctor Strange was set, and one of the makers came out and said that the movie started in 2016. Without arguing over how long Strange would take to master sorcery - just from a medical point of view, the guy was in a car accident (it's amazing how he managed to get out of it without brain injury when his face is all smashed, but hey, creative license). Then we see him wake up with external fixators, then he flips through 3 hand X-rays, representing a progression in time - the first one when the ex-fix's were in, the second when they were out, and the 3rd when more pins were removed. Following that, at least one major surgery was depicted, followed by a period of rehab. The impression you get from the movie is that he had more surgeries (likely with rehab in between) before everyone had given him up and he had to search out Pangborn.

In the "leanest" case scenario, we're talking about: accident - ex-fix - ex-fix out - pins out - rehab - surgery - rehab. This is a process that would have taken at very minimum 3-4 months, though if I were to factor in other surgeries and in real life terms, I'd be estimating a year or even two. This does still give enough time for Strange to arrive at the same chronology as Thor: Ragnarok by 2017. To be honest I think it doesn't really affect the Marvel continuity if he had been around earlier because he would have been immersed in training, and may not even have heard about Sokovia or whatever.
mayoraasei: (Geek)
A few months ago I went to New York, and as often happens on these 20+ hour flights, I caught up on a few movies. As often happens when you are sleep-deprived, cramped into a tight space and struggling to hear the dialogue over the drone of engines, these are usually not the best circumstances to meet a movie (or anything/anyone) for the first time. Sometimes I wonder if airlines should change the name from "entertainment" to "procrastinator" or perhaps more aptly, "sleep replacement therapy" - for those moments in life when you're too uncomfortable to sleep, too tired to read, and...well, there really isn't any option apart from trying to raid the galley for the 5th time for biscuits.

By the way, JAL has some really amazing snacks. Definitely worth the raid...ahem.

Strayer's Chronicle
This one I actually watched last year on our way via Japan. It's the sort of dystopian science fiction that Japan seems to love churning out - ala Gantz, SPEC and Shin Sekai Yori. Perhaps a little too similar to X-men than it intended to be, but much smaller in scale. In the near future, scientists have worked out a way to create "superhumans" via one of two methods. The first group "Team Subaru", to which the main characters belong, were born from mothers who had been placed under prolonged extreme stress during gestation. This group has heightened senses and perception, at the price that when they reach "adulthood", they undergo an abrupt breakdown and die - that process occurring at any point after they reach teenage years.

The second group "Team Ageha", are Magneto's team the antagonists, having been created from recombinant technology that spliced animal DNA with humans. Their DNA had been coded so that they were unable to live past the age of 20 (I can't remember if it was this movie or another that talked about telomeres, but the concept is similar).

The result is painfully akin to a watered down version of X-men, where the two groups of children meet as enemies and eventually unite in the common cause of preserving their line. Unfortunately, a recurrent flaw of these dystopian science fiction stories is that the final reveal, the big boss's motivation, the cruel hand that drove their fate...is incredibly uninspired and underwhelming. Think Death Note and its nihilistic "after death there is nothing" message, or SPEC and its ludicrous retconning.

What it does differently to the much glossier X-men, and in no small part due to the young age of its cast, is the sense of family between its characters. Japan seems to be able to do the tenderness of a family a lot better than Hollywood, but it may be more due to the cultural structure than scripting. The adoration the younger kids have for their big brother Subaru, and the responsibility he feels towards his charges, the bickering between the Ageha members while always watching out for each other...in the end you feel bad for them, because these are vulnerable kids who should be coming into their prime, and are yet faced with the imminence (and certainty) of death.

I wouldn't have placed Okada Masaki as an action hero, but he did a fair job here, having enough presence to pull off the thoughtful big brother and a keen fighter who can predict other people's moves before they make them. The kids all turn in on par performances, though this was probably an item that should have stayed a book where morals and social values could be explored without undermining an action-packed climax.

Kung Fu Panda 3
These days, everything must have a sequel, and when things have a sequel, they must be a trilogy. Hollywood logic *eye roll* Franchises that have so far been undone by the need for trilogies include and are not limited to The Hobbit, Iron Man, Pirates of the Caribbean and....Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon.

In this perfunctory and forgettable final entry, we meet Po's (real) dad and a village of similarly fat and silly pandas. I don't really understand the logic of "we almost got killed because we knew kungfu so let's hide in a place where no one can find us...and purposely not learn kungfu". I'm pretty sure they'd kill you even faster....

Anyhow, I've seen talks on the net complimenting the climax on the way it portrays the importance of attaining inner peace, of looking within, of letting go of the attachment of life and death...but that's giving the movie way more credit than it deserves.

Funny and colourful, but unfortunately no longer as impressive as when the first movie was released, though to its credit, it's still much less hamfisted with the "be yourself" message as most other Hollywood animations out there...

Spotlight
This was the movie that won the Oscar. I feel watching it on the plane really didn't do it justice. Set in 2000-2001, a group of columnists expose the long-standing child abuse perpetrated by church priests(?) and protected by a society that did not want to know it.

It's really a sad movie that passes such keen criticism on the damaging inertia of society. People, involuntarily or not, protect the perpetrators and cast out the victims, because to do otherwise - especially in this case but also in other circumstances - would be to defy some part of their own beliefs.

In the end there was no powerful corporation, no scheming villain, no unscrupulous thugs...just lots of embittered and angry people who tried to make things right, and on their way discovering that the barriers that had prevented them were so insidious and institutionalised that they almost could not pinpoint it.

I think the most poignant scene was when Rachel McAdams' character tried to calm Mark Ruffalo's character down, and as they sat outside in the dark fuming, McAdam's character says in a sad, wistful tone, "You know...I used to go the church, then life got busy...but I've always thought I'd go back one day, you know, when I get older. But now that I've read all these...I don't know. I don't know if I can sit there, knowing what they've done."

For a lot of people who still have a belief, it's a very sacred, pure thing, whatever the religion. That moment after the newspaper was in wide release and McAdams' grandmother reads it, then puts a trembling hand down...it was terrible, not just what the perpetrators did to the victims, but to do so from a position of trust, and what it meant for the masses who had turned to them for purity and purpose.

Jurassic Park
I hadn't been meaning to watch this, given how reviews had been, and how scathing dear Joss Whedon had been about its use of regressive gender tropes.

What can I say? I think my brain had been pretty numb by this stage of the trip, which meant this was the perfect combination of running-screaming-shooting-and-rinse-and-repeat to engage your time without needing a functioning brain to actually process any of it. The CGI was nice, the main characters were gorgeous, there were predictable but not altogether too stupefying ebbs and flows of tension. Did someone die? I think someone did, but frankly I can't remember, so can't have been important.

I liked Chris Pratt from GotG, and if I had time I'd watch Parks and Recreation, but somehow Jurassic Park took an all-round fun and charming guy and turned him into a sour bore.

So it was fortunate I watched this in a state of stupor that I would forget it before GotG 2 rolls around, I suppose.

That was not a review.
mayoraasei: (Gundam 00)
Starring the amazing Spiderman...as opposed to The Amazing Spiderman.

It's only just opened so I'll start with the non-spoilerific version:

It's not hard to see why it's scoring above 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. It has its flaws - I'm not a fan of the shakycam, and if you had time to think about it, parts of the plot do seem forced and crowded, and it certainly counts somewhat on the audience to already be invested in the characters.

My biggest trepidation going into the movie was how it would handle the conflict. Would it lean too much towards Cap because he's the main character, or too sympathetic towards Iron Man because of RDJ's star power? Would the justifications be forced? Fortunately, the movie does an impressive job of giving each key character a consistent, logical and sympathisable reasons for choosing the side that they do, and while the events leading up to the two big showdowns are a bit contrived, the complexity of emotions and loyalties (as well as some highlight quirky moments) certainly make those flaws easier to overlook.

Unfortunately, I feel you have to already be invested in this universe, not necessarily as a diehard fan, but having at least watched and appreciated the character arcs throughout the Iron Man, Captain America, Ant-man and Avengers franchises. Then, does it make sense that Tony would take an accusation so personally, that Steve would question the judgement of those governed by ulterior agendas, that Natasha would choose the most utilitarian route.

Without those movies, it's hard to grasp how much Tony's parents and their sudden deaths had shaped his behaviour prior to him maturing into Iron Man, and how desperately he needed closure. Without those movies, it would also be hard to grasp why Captain America is drifting further and further away from the role of a "model" soldier, and why he would put so much on the line to protect a criminal. I've said before that while Steve is a soldier and understands the misfortunes of war, Tony fights for very personal and sometimes very egocentric reasons, and it's never been more painfully obvious than here. He fights because he wants to be a hero, he wants to do good things, he wants to save people, and he doesn't have Steve's capacity to take it in his stride when his mistakes have a name and a face and an erased future. The story gives them time to explore what they believe in and what their bottom line is, but they bring into the argument a respect for each other...so that by the time Tony says that iconic line, "But so was I [your friend]", you believe him, and by the time you see that iconic 3-way fight, it hurts to watch them.

The characters new to the roster include Black Panther, Spiderman and Ant-man (where do the hyphens and capitals go, anyway?) and they are a delight in an otherwise heavy, unrelenting chase. This is practically an origins story for Black Panther, and despite being only on the sideline he manages to have a complete character arc in one movie. The bug bros (as opposed to the science bros? XDDD) similarly had an amazing introduction into the greater MCU, both with their wide-eyed fanboyism, and Spiderman finding time between his excessive chatterboxing to fight cool.

I don't think I spoil anything by saying that the villain is Baron Zemo. I think reviews are quite divided on him: not "the Mandarin" divided, but there's a camp that say he's the usual boring Marvel villain, while another says he's the next best thing after Loki. Personally I think I agree with the latter - he has one of the better motivations in the stream of drab villains after money (Obediah Stane, Darren Cross), power (Ronan, Red Skull), petty revenge (Whiplash, Aldrich Killian) and whatever the heck was Ultron. His role was relatively light, but (without any spoilers) his story bears strong parallels to what several other characters in this movie experience, no one could fault him for doing what he did or the way he's decided to execute it (even though from a plot perspective, his plan was a bit too contrived). I mean, couldn't he have just emailed the video to Tony?

It's a movie I think that will have people take away different things. Is it complex and profound? Not really, it's certainly less about politics this time around and more about character-centric things like personal beliefs and family and modus operandi. But it is a beautifully constructed ensemble piece, where each character gets a moment to shine, and several of the major ones get a fully fleshed character arc.

And for me, I think it will stay one of my favourite MCU movies to date, even if it ends on an oddly disheartening note.

zootopia

28 Mar 2016 04:13 pm
mayoraasei: There is no such thing as coincidence (Default)
This little dark horse turned out a lot better than I thought.

I have to reiterate that I'm not a huge fan of Disney or Pixar movies. I can't remember the last Disney movie I adored...maybe it was Up!.

Zootopia is one of those rare Disney movies that's full of subtext - that's not about family. I've seen complaints about its simple plot, but really I think the movie has two layers - the plot is for the kids (and to be frank, is probably better than some of the detective crap I've seen coming out of J-dramas), but the underlying message, well that's for the kids too, but it's far easier for the adults to pick up and ruminate on.

You haven't watched the movie if you've only watched it for the plot. I think you would be an extremely fortunate person not to have some experience - first hand or otherwise - of the prejudice that Zootopia unearths. Interspecies tension as an allegory for race, but I think it's more than race - I think it's prejudice of all kinds, against race, gender, ethnicity, culture, skin colour, caste, geography, class, bloodline. You name it - humans have had thousands of years to perfect the ways in which "we" judge "them".

I think there is a danger of reading too much into it (there is a conspiracy to undermine those who are genetically gifted), so it's best to take the movie as a social reflection rather than a commentary.

What I really like about the story is that it's a twist on the traditional "follow your dreams" Hollywood message. Does Judy and Nick attain their dreams in their end? Of course they do. But the difference is getting to the dream is only half the work - Judy is disadvantaged by her physique, so she has to work 50 times as hard as the next hippo to get there, and stay there. Getting to your dream is not hard, but living it is. She has to put up with the contempt and distrust of her superiors. She has to live with the constant nagging from her parents to quit her job. She has to be 50 times stronger psychologically to stick her head down and keep going.

And it's nice how it showed even a well-meaning "truth" can hide deep-seated prejudices. Judy's truthful comment about predators and their DNA is deeply hurtful for Nick. I'm not saying this is a story advocating for political correctness. Rather, it's a story reflecting just how subtle yet deeply ingrained prejudices can be, and just how easily society drives certain people down a path that they didn't necessarily want to take.

A funny and imaginative movie for the kids, and hopefully a thought-provoking reflection for adults.

ant man

27 Jul 2015 01:16 am
mayoraasei: (Gundam 00)
Of course I've watched Age of Ultron a while ago (twice, in fact, cos Dad wanted to watch it too haha) but the movie was a bit like a bowl of ice-cream in summer - felt delicious while eating, but afterwards felt like you had a lot of nothing.

Antman is a bit like Guardians of the Galaxy. I think canonically he's actually a fairly big presence, but the basis and name seemed ridiculous, which is probably why he took so long to get to the big screen.

Let's start with the broad strokes - the movie is quite well-done, within the limitations. It's a heist movie as promised. It's much smaller in scale than the other heroes, which I think is a good thing. Like most superhero movies, the story is rather simple and linear, though what makes it stand out is probably the multiple central and side characters.

Antman decided to take the second iteration of the character, Scott Lang - a man recently released from jail for corporate theft. Unable to get a job because of the record and desperate to negotiate visits to his young daughter, he gets drawn into a heist to secure enough money to do so. This causes him to cross paths with Hank Pym, the original Antman, who values Scott's unorthodox resume in his own plans to topple a wayward corporation.

That both Scott and Hank were in this film together was a stroke of genius. Apart from being absolutely unique in the last dozen Marvel films to have two superheroes sharing the same mantle, there is an unforced parallel between Hank and Hope, and Scott and Cassie. Family relationships are a sadly neglected subject in the superhero world. The best of it had been in the Thor movies, which was unfortunately bogged down by all the other terrible stuff that was going on. There were some nice parent-child moments in Guardians, but more about the absence of it. The nice part about Antman was the uneasy relationship between Hank and Hope, which brings out my next point.

Hank is the most grumpy old fart next to Yondu LOL

He actually turned out to be my favourite character. I like how flawed he is, despite being in the mentor role. I like that he's arrogant, obstinate, bad-tempered, unforgiving, hamfisted...he's highly intelligent but you would not necessarily call him wise. I like that he keeps a grudge for decades to the point he'd rather employ a thief than enlist the help of anyone involved with Stark. I like that he's awkward with his daughter, that he wants the best for her but didn't know how to tell her that, that he wants to mend the relationship but just makes things worse each time. I like that he's a proud man who's used to achieving great things but the events in the film forces him, bit by tiny bit, to concede that age is catching up and he's no longer quite the capable man he used to be. I also like how even the climax highlighted how single-minded Hank is - that in a way he would destroy something to protect it. Michael Douglas brings a presence to the movie that Anthony Hopkins did to Thor and Robert de Niro did to Winter Soldier, but he seems to - or perhaps the script allows him to - put more heart into it than the former two.

Scott is a likeable character, though unfortunately debuts after Peter Quill and probably overlaps too much with him. They're both criminals who still have a sense of justice, enacted by two people known more or less for comedy or "boy next door" type roles. The difference though is Scott has more justice than scoundrel compared with Quill, and I don't know if it's intentional, seems a much cooler and reserved sort of guy than a lot of the other superheroes. He's someone who lingers and watches on the side before taking a dive, but he's also someone who dives in with relish and works hard at something when he's accepted the task. He's an engineer sort of guy - not the hot-headed type who tries to wing it by ear, but the type that has the minutiae worked out and has multiple backup plans that he can draw from and improvise with on the spot. That said, I'm not sure he can hold a franchise together, and I feel the movie would not have been quite as good if Hank had not been there.

A lot of people have waxed lyrical about Hope and the step forward for representation of women in superhero movies. I'm not too sure Evangeline Lilly was quite on spot for all of her scenes, but Hope managed to distinguish herself from the Black Widow, despite both being excellent fighters and capable sharp-tongued women. I think, after revisiting Winter Soldier, the difference is that Hope doesn't have Black Widow's past - and so she's less aware of herself (e.g. she would never use her sexuality like Black Widow could as a weapon), less cold-blooded but also less vulnerable.

The three of them are probably far more relatable and "normal" characters than others of their ilk.

The movie's strength was its humour, with excellent timing, especially of juxtapositions, and it was a shame this never came through in the promos. The pacing never made you feel like it dragged, despite its small scale, and it prodded the 4th wall at some good places. The villain was again Marvel's weakness, and to be honest there could have been something better from the Darren Cross's (I don't think I'm spoiling anything - it's revealed pretty quickly that he's the villain) interaction with Hank Pym. The imperfect mentor and the frustrated student trying to prove something to his Master - it had been done reasonably well in Kungfu Panda. There were hints of it, and the two actors certainly tried to make something of it, but there wasn't enough to make you care for Cross, which was a real shame.

In all, a decent standalone movie that introduces you to a surprisingly pleasant group - but I'm not too sure about how they would go about making this a franchise. That said, I'm certainly looking forward to Scott's appearance in Civil War, and I'd love to see cameos from Hank and Hope somewhere down the line too.

Certainly was nice to hear the Winter Soldier jig whirring away in the background during that post-cred scene. Speaking of post-creds, they're probably the two most fulfilling post-creds in a while, and worth staying for.
mayoraasei: (Reflective)
When one is confronted with a movie that intends to test the bladder, one should not drink a big cup of coffee beforehand...

I realised I never wrote anything about the second Hobbit movie, which was only memorable in that I managed to get from Albury and catch the 8:30am session at George St cinemas (an approximately 600km trip XDDD)

I remember remarking afterwards, to my consultant, that it was a very long movie...in which not much happened.

Before the movie, my friend and I joked that we didn't bother reading any reviews because we were going to watch it anyway, regardless. Since it is (hopefully) the end of all things to do with Middle Earth.

It was probably a bad attitude to take into a movie, seeing something that's meant to be entertaining as a job needed to be done and over with.

I've never read the original story. The themes in the story are certainly not childish and feeds well into the next chapter (the Lord of the Rings), but it's probably not a story that was intended to be epic. Injecting gravitas into a light tale took away most of its magic, and added a lot of things that don't feel necessary.

Firstly, there's no real good reason why the arc with Smaug couldn't have completed the second movie. Even these days in the era of the neverending franchises, it's pretty hard to end convincingly on a cliffhanger, and especially not if the arc completes within 15 minutes of the next movie opening.

Secondly, Thorin's fall and climb up the figurative moral mountain hasn't been a particularly convincing one. He's too noble in the noble scenes, and too obsessed in the obsessive scenes. I don't think it's Richard Armitage's fault, because I think he's dealt with the script in what ways he can, and he manages enough threat and presence to be both a respectable king and a frightening miser. The two transformations were never going to be easy to write, and I doubt it was convincing even in the original book - saved, probably, by its more light-hearted tone and brevity, sort of like Narnia.

The movies tried to justify their length by adding side plots in a bid to make us care about the characters, some with better success than others. The ill-fated story between Tauriel and Kili and Legolas didn't seem to serve much purpose besides making it more emotionally heavy in the end, although I must say I did appreciate Thranduil saying to her, "It hurts because it was real," which is probably the most emotion he could show and the clearest admission to how much he still loved Legolas' mother after all these years. I certainly liked it better than his awkward, "Legolas, your mother loved you," because until then I hadn't realised our elf prince had gigantic mummy issues.

This brings me to the fourth point - the dialogue is distractingly uneven, some so antiquated that it's bordering on pompous, and others jarringly colloquilised, and in a lot of the more emotional scenes painfully trite. While this has certainly featured in previous movies (especially during comical scenes), when the overall tone of the movie is so dark colloquial interjections just...disrupt the mood it's trying to build.

Finally, on the subject of mood - I don't know if this overwhelmingly dark mood is what The Hobbit is meant to be about, yet in a way I don't know if there was enough darkness. It doesn't have the luxury of LOTR's strong moral message or its obvious division of good and evil. The evil in The Hobbit is a lot subtler and a lot more hidden, and perhaps required a much subtler touch. The beauty about the Ring was that it spoke to the evil in all of us, including the noblest and the wisest of us - the great elves, dwarves, men and even wizards were not immune to its corrupting power. It took folks who had simple pleasures and simple desires to resist its lure.

This message appeared in The Hobbit but in a different form. It was greed that caused the fall of Erebor, and it was greed that brought war once more to its gates. The cause for war was far less lofty, Bilbo far less noble than Frodo, Thorin far less heroic than Aragon...

It's a far less feel-good movie than LOTR. It's far easier to watch a world go bravely to war against an external force like Sauron than a war fought because of that ugly something within us all - that greed for power, or domination, or gold. Yet, there wasn't a strong link that ties this to why the world was falling to ruins a few decades down the track.

In the end, it feels like it had too much and too little of everything - the moral storyline, the emotional wranging, the fighting, the politics, the broken promises, and amongst it all there was no justification why this had to be spread over 8 hours.
mayoraasei: (Gintama)
不得不說之一:
福山大神好帥!您可以繼續拖劇沒關係!

不得不說之二:
師父您虐待兒童這種事公開出來真的大丈夫嗎

不得不說之三:
齊籐桑您其實是土方桑假扮的吧

不得不說之四:
因爲齊籐桑被土方魂附體了所以在這兩部才開始抽煙嗎?齊籐桑在第一部裏可沒有叼煙的習慣哎~ 雖然土方也是個煙鬼,但抽煙真的對身體不好啊煙癮上來人容易暴躁啊禁煙令下一菸難求不得不游走星際啊好孩子不要學啊(嗯?好像劇情歪了?)

不得不說之五:
因爲太注意齊籐桑所以突然發現!!某stylish的齊籐桑竟然在打仗正熱鬧的時候跑去換了衣服!!和服不好嘛!俺要看和服牙突啦~~ 話説比起不顯眼的銀灰色制服,還是第一部的黑底黃邊的制服貼身好看!!(屏外聲:只是因爲那套制服長得像真選組的制服吧)

不得不說之六:
相比之下,號稱靈感來自于土方的蒼紫桑,明顯弱氣了哦。追了拔刀齋十年之多竟然十分鐘就被擱倒了,驅使自己不計代價、對同僚狠心下殺手也要追殺此人的執念也被劍心的兩句話就瓦解了。您…………太不堪一擊了 *掩面*

不得不說之七:
有人說神木弟弟崩潰的那一幕很震撼,我怎麽只覺得很惋惜呢……其實神木弟弟演得很傳神,他那張秀氣的娃娃臉很適合宗次郎的角色,雖然他可以笑得再無害點(宗次郎的特點就是他能用笑容把殺氣完美地隱藏起來……神木弟弟是演一十一演慣了呵~)。只是因爲時間的關係,宗次郎的悲劇用了簡簡單單的一句“小時候被家人虐待、後來一邊笑著一邊親手把全家人都殺掉”給帶過。原作中,志志雄不僅是他的劍術師父,他的“強者生、弱者亡”的理念也是志志雄灌輸的。只是這孩子心裏還是那個躲在房子底下沒人要的棄子,雖然用笑容用劍術把自己武裝起來了,他還是那個很害怕很孤獨很迷茫的孩子。在原著中劍心完全是贏在心理上。電影裏的劍心vs宗次郎兩戰固然養眼,但少了這層心理戰朮,才會讓人覺得最後那場崩潰來的很唐突。

不得不說之八:
志志雄的十本刀弱爆了有沒有完全路人了有沒有,便當領得還真痛快。還以爲志志雄大張旗鼓地召集十本刀是準備給他們多點鏡頭呢,結果除了早早被打發去坐牢的龐克頭,其他九個也太沒存在感了吧。十本刀的諸位,你們再弱也不要一看到劍心握刀(還沒拔刀咧)就一個個腿軟吧!!志志雄會哭的!!



Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno and Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends form two parts of the Shishio arc. The scope is considerably larger, and it relies people having either read the original manga or seen the first movie, as it wastes no time on re-introducing the original cast.

Before I start, I'm going to make an aside to say that the two fansub versions and the Madman official English translations for the Kenshin franchise have been fairly unreliable, ranging from outright incorrect ("Put up your sword" translated to "I'm not going to draw my sword", and "Unforgivable" translated to "I'll kill him"), to interpretation differences (e.g. use of "kill" instead of "assassinate" - there are some contexts where the difference is important), to omitting things that is deemed too difficult to understand when taken out of the Japanese historical context (e.g. all honorifics and the Shinsengumi).

My Japanese isn't good enough to understand some of the longer prose, which was why I kept being confused as to why Shishio was Kenshin's successor when - supposedly, according to the translations, Shishio succeeded Kenshin after Kenshin hung up his sword at the battle at Toba Fushimi, but Shishio was also "killed" straight after the battle.

It turns out there's a piece of Kenshin history left out here, which probably ties in with the omitted Tomoe story and a lot of the omitted Shinsengumi backstory. During his years, Kenshin's frequent clashes with the Shinsengumi (of which Saitou is a part) blew his cover, so to speak, and he was no longer able to function as a underworld assassin. That was when Shishio took over his job as the assassin.

Once again, the casting has been amazing. Tsuchiya Tao was adorable as the tomboyish Misao, Iseya Yuusuke suitably brooding as Aoshi, Kamiki Ryuunosuke deceptively innocuous as Soujirou, Fujiwara Tatsuya convincingly psychopathic as Shishio, and Fukuyama Masaharu has amazing presence as one would expect from an actor of his stature and calibre.

The action scenes continue to be a highlight, although having previously seen behind the scenes clips, I both admire and feel for poor Takeru having to do a lot of the stunts himself and without wires.



The choreography for the fight sequences has been surprisingly faithful to the original work. The otaku in me squees a little every time the characters do a recognisable stance. Impressively, they've also incorporated details like Aoshi using his swords defensively like a shield, and distinctive differences in the way that Kenshin, Saitou, Aoshi and Soujirou fights.

rkmovies-hitensoryusen
Kenshin getting ready for Souryuusen (雙龍閃)



Now for the complaints (although some of them are sort of repetitions of what I said in Chinese).

Firstly, Saitou. Don't get me wrong, I love Eguchi Yousuke in the role, but he's not any incarnation of Saitou Hajime that I can think of. Apart from the highly recognisable left-handed Gatotsu and the simmering cynicism, he's not quite as single-mindedly fierce as the original, but not quite as reserved and cool-headed as other versions.

rkmovies-saitougatotsu
Saitou's Gatotsu (牙突)

If anything, the situation has gotten more obvious by the 2nd and 3rd movies, where Saitou moves and acts like he's been taken over by Gintama's Hijikata. The fact he decided to take up smoking between the first and the next two movies aside, there's his reluctant respect for the main characters, the dedication to his own men, and the resigned way he approaches his own loyalty with his government.

Which brings me onto the next point. Given that the director did Ryoumaden, I was a little disappointed in the story circling around some of the thoughtful issues only to fizzle away at the end without saying much. 兔死狗烹 - when the hare dies, the hounds are slaughtered. That's a story we know too well and see repeated in every political jurisdiction. When the new government wants to bury the past, they bury everything along with it, including those people who had given up their humanity in order to "usher in the New Age" (it bugs me that they translate Meiji as New Age, but let's not start on that). Hounds like Kenshin and Shishio and Saitou represented what little choice these men had - Kenshin chose to fade out of history, Shishio was brutally murdered, and Saitou had to change his identity and become the new government's pet.

When Kenshin et co risked their lives to board Shishio's ship to confront him, the onshore forces continued to bomb Shishio's ship at the Prime Minister's orders. They wanted to bury Shishio for sure, but who's to say that they didn't also want to bury Kenshin, whose loyalty they could not be sure they had and whose past was so intimately tied with the ugly truths of how that government came into power. When Kenshin returned, the Prime Minister in a move of leniency shifted all of Kenshin's crimes under Shishio's name, but how is that any less hypocritical than everything they had done before? It's an ugly picture and in a way I'm glad they've painted it as thus, but also a little disappointed they didn't do any more with that material.

What really caught my eye in the first movie was how much people struggled to live in "the New Age". It was a step that the country had to take, but the war has done horrors to people, creating lost souls like Saitou and Kenshin and Soujirou. As the country moves on and in a rather typical Oriental way, tries to wipe the slate clean, it commits even more atrocities, and Shishio is only the extreme example. Those who had been pawns in the war had been bred to fight, and as peace came and the sword-ban came down, the bushi (samurais) and the onmitsu (ninja spies) are left without a job and a way of living.

Moving onto Aoshi and Soujirou, two of my favourite characters from the manga, Iseya and Kamiki both did admirable jobs with them. Unfortunately, these two are fan-favourites for a reason - and that is because they had such rich histories and such a tragic background, and just putting them in the movie because they're fan-favourites didn't really quite do justice to their respective stories.

Given that Shishio was Soujirou's mentor, he really had to appear. As I said in the Chinese above, the disappointment about movie Soujirou was that none of his tragedy was mentioned, and so when his smile finally cracked and when his emotions finally surfaced as Kenshin drove him towards defeat, you don't get the impact that you did in the original. The kid was based on Okita, and he was a prodigious athlete just as Kenshin was. He was as fast (if not faster) as Kenshin, and his main weapon was actually his smile, which meant that his opponent was completely unable to read him. Kenshin won - not necessarily because of better sword skills, but because he broke down Soujirou's conviction and cracked that mask - making Soujirou's moves readable and predictable. Kenshin was probably kinder on Soujirou than he was on some of his other enemies because I think he saw himself in Soujirou - the young ideal kid who hadn't had the chance to think for himself, ushered into being a killer because of misplaced morals and loyalty. In the end, Kenshin was able to guide Soujirou onto a path that mirrored his own as Soujirou resolved to embark on a 10 year journey to find his answer. In the movie, for Soujirou to lose first and then drop his mask and then to break down...didn't make sense. The break-down scene is a pivotal part of his character arc, but unfortunately didn't fit into this story.

RK-setasoujirou
Soujirou's deceptive smile

Aoshi's story had some major changes, and not exactly for the better. Remember how I said I was glad in the last movie that they took Aoshi out of the story? Well...I regret it. Aoshi was actually an important presence in the Tokyo/Opium arc, and it was there that he lost his comrades. Moving the sequence to having his comrades being killed by the Meiji government (or whatever it was...I confess my brain froze when all this happened) was consistent with the theme of the movies, but really threw the chronology and Aoshi's motivations into a mess. In the manga Aoshi also worked briefly for Shishio, during which he attacked his old teammates, which might have made him less likeable but would have at least made a lot more sense and certainly would have involved him a lot more in the whole Shishio story. His drive to fight against Kenshin didn't make sense in the movie, and I'm not too sure at this stage if I've missed something or the translation missed something or the plot is missing something.

Back to the original cast - Aoi Yuu finally shows off her range as she completely dominates a scene when she lets rip at the hypocrisy of the police. I like Takeru, I really do, but he still struggles in some scenes where he really should be emoting a little bit more than just looking confident. The only scene where I can happily say he emoted well was when they read out the names of all those people he assassinated, and he actually looked like he was struggling with his guilt and the belief that he needs to stay alive. I've never liked Takei Emi or her character Kaoru, and I'm happy to say that the 2nd movie reinforced my views on both of them... Sano is getting really annoying with his antics. He was funny the first few times, but maybe my patience was running low at the end of a 5 hour marathon. He's the muscle man, sure, but can we please give him a bit more IQ than a giant dog?

They've really saved on the music. Most of the BGM is recognisable from the first OST, sometimes used in quite jarring effect. I was surprised to discover that the OST was written by the composer who wrote for X/1999 anime, which had some amazing tunes. RK's music is atmospheric, certainly, but it doesn't want me to put them on replay.

To finish off this extremely long post, here's the beautiful ending song to the 3rd movie, "Heartache". I actually had "Mighty Long Fall" (2nd movie song) on my iPod for months before realising last week that it was the Rurouni Kenshin ending song...I was also nonplussed to discover that "ONE OK ROCK" is actually pronounced "one o'clock". OH JAPAN.

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mayoraasei

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