Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Crow (1994)

The Crow (1994)

Director: Alex Proyas

Cast: Brandon Lee, Michael Wincott, Ernie Hudson, Rochelle Davis, 
Bai Ling

When I saw The Crow on its original release back in 1994; it had the same effect on me as when I saw Heath Ledger in Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus (2009); I felt I was seeing a ghost. There’s something eerie about seeing an actor’s last film; you feel as if the actor still lives on even though they’ve just recently passed away, somehow immortalized by film. These types of films are more of a shock when they have scenes dealing with the death of the character the dead actor played. For example, in The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, Heath Ledger has a scene in which he hangs himself from a bridge. This was a chilling scene to watch, but the full effect of this scene isn't felt until minutes after, when Ledger pops out of a treasure chest, alive and kicking, like some twisted magic trick being played on all of us. The end result, when watched in the darkness of a theater, is truly eerie. Brandon Lee pulled of a similar magic trick in The Crow because as most of you undoubtedly know, he died while making that film; which makes the scene in which he literally crawls out of his grave so  macabre, emotional and undoubtedly powerful. The irony can be cut with a knife. There’s a scene in which Officer Albrecht recognizes The Crow as being Eric Draven, the young man who had been brutally murdered a year ago. Officer Albrecht tells Eric Draven, “Don’t move Snow White! You move, you’re dead!”  and Brandon Lee slowly looks up to him, with white make up on his face and says:  “And I say I’m dead, and I move!” How brutally ironic and in a way fittingly poetic when we take in consideration the source material; James O’Barr’s poetic graphic novel, The Crow.

From inception, the idea behind The Crow was fueled by death and tragedy. James O’Barr, the creator behind The Crow started working on his graphic novel as a way to exorcise his own demons. You see, O’Barr’s girlfriend was run down by a drunk driver and as a way to get rid of all the pain that her death caused him; he started working on The Crow. The result was a romantic and poetic bullet opera fueled by despair. O’Barr told The Boston Phoenix that “there is pure anger in every page”, he even went on to mention that instead of being cathartic; he was even more messed up by the time he finished working on the book. The untimely death of Brandon Lee amplified his sadness and anger, making him wish he’d never done the book, blaming god for his luck in life. “God is a bastard” said O’Barr in an interview he did for the Boston Phoenix, “If there is one.” Tragedy it seems, was meant to follow James O’Barr throughout his life because while the comic and the film brought him success, his life was still mired by tragedy. The Crow was a bitter sweet victory. 

The production of this film was muddled by a bunch of weird accidents like a carpenter accidentally drilling a screwdriver through his hand, another carpenter getting burned by power lines, a disgruntled sculptor crashing his car on to the set, a truck catching fire on the set and Brandon Lee getting cut by break away glass! This collection of accidents, plus the death of Brandon Lee leads some to believe that The Crow was one of those cursed films, like the Poltergeist franchise. Of course that’s all a lot of bull crap, these are all things that could and have happened on any film set, which are usually a maelstrom of craziness, more so on films with smaller budgets. Best part of the whole ordeal is that an amazing film shined through the troubled production. In my book, The Crow remains a masterpiece of Gothic cinema. So much so that I try and pinpoint a film that is like it, but nothing pops up. I mean, sure, it’s a revenge film of which there are many, but none of them have the combination of elements that brought The Crow together with such panache. It is in my book a rather unique film.  

James O’Barr’s graphic novel is a mixture of romance, violence, poetry and rock and roll and this is one of the things I love most about the film, it’s just so damn rock and roll! This movie is so rock and roll that Eric Draven walks around with a freaking guitar on his back! No amplifier or anything, just the freaking guitar on his back, because you know, it makes him look that much cooler. Even though James O’Barr is constantly quoting Joy Division and The Cure songs (two bands that inspired O’Barr as he drew and wrote) it was actually the filmmakers who made Eric Draven the lead singer of a rock band named ‘Hang Man’s Joke’, probably as a way to reference the death of Ian Curtis, the lead singer of Joy Division, who hung himself. How rock and roll is this film? Well, there’s this awesome scene in which Draven is sitting on a roof top, playing his electric guitar as the sun sets. That scene is in my book the epitome of rock and roll coolness. So yeah, while the book displays an obvious affection for rock and roll as a means to channel the whole melancholic sadness that Eric Draven is going through, it was the filmmakers who amplified this angle to the max. And it was Alex Proyas, the films director who opted to make the film dark and noir-ish, originally, Proyas wanted to film the whole thing in black and white, but the studio opposed so he went with a color palette infused with a lot of black and white, a lot of grays. The result is one of the darkest films you will ever see. Almost the entire film takes place during the nighttime which gives it a very unique feel. 

Of course, there are some differences between graphic novel and film, characters are switched around and eliminated as is common place with book to film adaptations. One noticeable change was that in the book, they don’t attack Shelly and Eric while they are in their apartment. In the comic, the reason for their murder is a lot more random. Funboy and his goons are out on a drug infused joy ride when they come upon Eric and Shelly, whose car broke down on a lonely road. In the book, the one who suffers “thirty hours of pain” in a hospital is actually Eric Draven himself, not Shelly. The comic has way more poetic passages of Eric Draven remembering Shelly and their times together, also, there’s the mysterious ghost/zombie cowboy that lurks ominously in the background of the comic, guiding Eric Draven through his mission here on earth. They actually shot some scenes with this ghost cowboy character; he was played by Michael Berryman. Unfortunately those scenes were deleted for pacing reasons. Still, even with all these alterations and deletions, I’d say that the film is an excellent translation of the graphic novel. Not only does the film capture the spirit and essence of James O’Barr’s comic books, it also adds a more rock and rollish vibe to the proceedings.

At the same time, there are scenes which are perfect translations of the comic, for example, the scene in which Eric Drave visits Gideon’s Pawn Shop is an almost panel for panel translation of what we get in the comic…another faithfully translated sequence is the one in which Eric Draven visits Top Dollar’s hide out, stands on the table and starts shooting everybody.  The only difference is that the comic is actually a hell of a lot more violent with that shoot out. The Crow isn’t a story about a hero, in fact, James O’Barr himself says that he doesn’t see Eric Draven as a hero, rather, he feels that “He can be absolutely cold-hearted and ruthless at times. When he goes into a room to get one person, everyone else in the room is probably going to die as well. I think what he is doing is terribly romantic, but I wouldn’t call him a hero” I agree. I’d say that there’s no mercy for the wicked when it comes to Eric Draven. He figures if you’re in a room with Top Dollar and Fun Boy, then you must be a bad guy, and bad guys gotta pay, they gotta be stopped. Both the book and the film are infused with a burning hatred for scumbags.

And speaking of that shoot out, I recently re-watched the film to write this review and damn, I was blow away by how good it is, it has to be one of the all time best shoot outs ever, right up there with the shoot out from Michael Mann’s Heat (1995). This shoot out has to be one of the coolest, most extended shoot outs in film history! It goes on forever! Bottom line is The Crow is perfectly Gothic, dark and extremely violent film. The black leather, the rock and roll, the gothic churches, the stormy lighting filled nights…it all adds up to the perfect gothic masterpiece. I still to this day love it and considering the rest of his body of work, I still consider it Alex Proya’s best film. It’s also Brandon Lees best film, the one that made him a star, it’s the one he is most remembered by. He pulled off such a sensible performance, you feel his pain and his love for Shelly. True, Brandon Lee went out before his time, his death was as untimely as it could get, but what an amazingly beautiful swan song this film is. My hats down to you Mr. Lee. It’s true, you are dead, but you still walk my friend, you still walk.

Rating: 5 out of 5   


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Behind the Scenes Awesomeness: The Crow (1994)

Michael Berryman filmed some scenes as a zombie cowboy; a character that would be a spirit  guide to Eric Draven throughout the film. Unfortunately this character was completely deleted from the film. I've included some behind the scenes pics and deleted scenes of this character on this post for your viewing pleasure, thank me later. 

The director of the film Alex Proyas and Brandon Lee

Friday, August 14, 2015

It Follows (2014)

It Follows (2014)

Director: David Robert Mitchell

Cast: Maika Monroe, Olivia Luccardi, Keir Gilchrist, Lili Sepe, Daniel Zovatto

It Follows is a little miracle in the world of American horror films because normally today’s American horror films are nausea inducing and not because they are horrifying or morbid, or god forbid gory; no, no, no, today’s American horror films are nausea inducing because they are not what they should be, which is horrifying, scary, or dare I say, frightening. Of course, there are rare exceptions when an American horror film is actually scary and good, but what passes today for the modern American horror film is so bland and fluffy, that I hesitate to call it horror. But of course I speak of theatrically released horror films, which by the way are less and less every day. In today’s horror world if you want to find a truly good horror film, like say The Babadook (2014) or V/H/S/2 (2013), you’ll have better luck finding it on video because the really good ones don’t make it to theaters. Sadly, when horror films do make it to theaters they comply with two norms: either they are ‘soft horror’ depending solely on those damnable jump scares or they are religious horror films, aimed at propagating religious fear and amplifying the faith of the masses. The problem with horror films of that ilk is that they tend to be repetitive and dull, and therefore, not scary. The same situations and themes get played out ad nauseam, and it’s not that you couldn’t do something new with these themes, it’s that Hollywood just won’t go there. They don’t want to make a truly scary film. They want to scare you just enough so you’ll go to church, but not enough to truly disturb you. The result is a series of disappointing horror films that aren’t worth our time. Thankfully, daring filmmakers aren’t dead yet and every once in a while a film is made that revives my hopes for the American horror film, a film like It Follows. Not a perfect film, not the end all be all of horror, but at the very least It Follows is a film that lets us know that better horror films can be produced.

It Follows tells the story of a young girl who goes out on a date with this guy who seems like your typical nice guy, the only thing is that he believes someone is following him all the time, always on the edge. One thing leads to another and he ends up seducing her. After having intercourse with the guy, he warns her that she is now cursed and that a supernatural entity will now follow her until it kills her. It is slow, but it is not dumb and she cannot let it touch her. That’s all you need to know.

So that’s the premise, it’s simple, but damn is it effective. The first thing a true horror connoisseur like myself realizes while watching It Follows is that it’s a throwback to horror films of the 70’s and 80’s, the whole vibe of the film is very old school. The wardrobe, the cars, the houses, they all seem to come out of the 70’s and 80’s. Another thing that’s retro is the soundtrack, which is an obvious homage to John Carpenter’s score for Halloween (1978), which is an obvious influence here. The whole thing with the supernatural force following you around is reminiscent of Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers, you know, those slow moving types that still get to you in the end. It Follows also has a bit of A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise in it because it’s all about teenagers and their preoccupations, the kind that glaze over adults consciousness. It’s the kind of film in which adults are completely oblivious to the life and dangers that teenagers are living. In fact, I only saw one parent appear in the film and for only a couple of seconds; basically, the entirety of the film is centered on teens and their world. Teens are dying and its teens helping each other discover the who and the why of the events that are transpiring, forget the grownups and the police!  So it’s a very old school type of film, which is a good thing because the horror films from the 70’s and 80’s are vastly superior than a lot of the horror films being made today.

So is it a slasher or is it a supernatural thriller? Well, it’s true that at times it feels like a Halloween or a Friday the 13th  film with the relentless killer after you, but then again, there are no gory deaths save for one, so I can’t really categorize this as a slasher. I’d say it’s more of a supernatural horror film that comments on the horrors of sexually transmitted diseases, which if you’re not careful can follow you around like a curse all your life. I say this because the whole film is centered around people who want to have sex, amplified by the fact that the film main characters are all in the prime of their youths, having their first sexual experiences. For example, in the film, in order to get rid of the curse you have to have sex with someone in order to “pass it on”. The person who has the curse has this whole mental struggle, should they or shouldn’t they have sex with someone just to get rid of the curse? In this sense, It Follows is a bold film thematically speaking; it plays with themes that are hardly touched upon by Hollywood. In fact, the only other film that I can remember that is an allegory for sexually transmitted diseases is David Cronenberg’s Rabid (1977), the latter being a real influence on It Follows. Both of these films play with the struggle a person has when they don’t want to pass a sexually transmitted disease to someone, but their sexual libido and basic need for human intimacy is so strong that they end up transmitting the disease anyways. Though in It Follows, the person with “the curse” is seen under a sympathetic light, not like in Cronenberg’s Rabid where society deems these individuals as garbage to be thrown out in a dumpster!  Point It Follows has something to say, it’s not here just for the scares.

Allegories and symbolisms aside, the film is quite creepy with some genuinely horrifying moments and visuals. I loved how the film uses very little jump scares. Instead, it attempts and succeeds in building up those scares in a genuine way. That whole idea of an ominous looking thing coming for you, slowly, yet relentlessly is so effective. I loved the suspense created by this concept which isn’t new of course, but it was well played here, the whole film is built upon that concept and they really went with it. It Follows is not a perfect film but it has more good things going for it than bad. For example, while characters might do stupid things at times that make you scream at the screen, it does manage to get you all worked up and that’s a good thing in a horror film. It Follows works so well, I mean this movie even went as far as making daylight scenes scary, not an easy feat for a horror film to achieve, most just go with night scenes to augment their scares, but in It Follows, even scenes that take place on a beach, in the middle of a sunny day can be scary! Kudos to the director David Robert Mitchell for that and also, for shooting such a good looking horror film, some of the compositions are just beautiful to look at. It Follows proves that low budget horror doesn’t have to be crap and that you don’t need gazillions of dollars to make an effective horror film, definitely looking forward to this directors future work.    

Rating: 4 out of 5

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Fantastic Four (2015)

Fantastic Four (2015)

Director: Josh Trank

Cast: Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara, Jamie Bell, Toby Kebbell

To hate or not to hate the new Fantastic Four, that is the question. Fantastic Four, I knew them well Horatio, or as well as I was going to know them, cause this is another franchise that Hollywood just can’t seem to get right. What the hell? How hard can it be? What keeps getting in the way of making a good Fantastic Four movie over at 20th Century Fox? Well, for one, they have a habit of rushing a project so they won’t lose the rights to it. This nasty habit is really getting on my nerves because the results are half assed movies that are made in a rush to compete with the contracts dead line. They did it with The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) and they’ve done it again with The Fantastic Four (2015). But let’s put things in perspective, this project was doomed from the very beginning, first up, nowadays, people only want their Marvel movies to come from Disney/Marvel; they don’t want Marvel from 20th Century Fox. If it isn’t purely Marvel, it’s a twisted, mutant half breed that no one wants. So the guys making this Fantastic Four movie had that to work against. They also had behind the scenes drama, and once the public gets a whiff that a production is muddled by production woes, well, it becomes tainted. Audiences lose their confidence in the project and usually it tanks. Look at what happened with Terminator: Salvation (2009), people heard about the behind the scenes squabbles between Christian Bale and the film’s director and boom, the film tanks at the box office. There was certainly an air of doom over this new Fantastic Four film, what was going to be the ultimate fate for this reboot?

Well, the film gods have spoken and they have deemed this reboot unworthy. Not me, I actually enjoyed it and kept telling myself throughout the films running time “this isn’t that bad!” It’s an origin story and it flows like one. Like so few movies today, this new Fantastic Four film starts out by taking its time to tell its story, to flesh out its characters; it gives us time to get to know them. Unfortunately, the film becomes a rushed job somewhere around its second half; suddenly the film is in this rush to tell everything. So anyhow, following the formula of an origin tale, we don’t get the full blown version of the Fantastic Four until the very end, when they finally learn that they can use their powers collectively to beat the villain. And I’m fine with that; this is the film where they discover who they’ve become. It handled that well I think. People are bitching and moaning because supposedly it doesn’t have action, yet I thought the film has the same beats and amounts of action that any super hero film has. This movie was no different than any other origin tale, and maybe that’s where the film falters. It’s formulaic. It goes through all those beats that an origin story must go through. Characters get powers, they don’t know how to use them well, they learn, then they beat the villain; in that order.  So I’d say that you shouldn’t expect anything ground breaking in terms of story development, you might find yourself predicting events.

It seems to me Josh Trank wanted a serious, dark version of the super hero movie, whereas 20th Century Fox wanted something that was accessible to the whole family. So the film is uneven in tone in that sense, so we get dark visuals accompanied by simplistic dialog, which is really where the film fails for me. It wasn’t the fact that Ben Grimm wasn’t wearing spandex undies and boots, it wasn’t changing the characters ethnicities that rattled my bones and it wasn’t this films version of Dr. Doom that grated me, it was that god awful simplistic dialog that makes the characters sound like 12 year olds. But I let it go because I guess they were marketing the film primarily with that target audience in mind. Which is yet another problem because if the film has simplistic dialog put in there so kids won’t get “lost” with the film, then why do we have a Dr. Doom exploding various bodies and heads with telekinetic powers? Why is it that when the characters discover their powers the film feels like a horror movie? Not that I mind that stuff, that bloody violence was a cool touch in my book, it made things a bit more menacing, but in a film that’s clearly made with a younger audience in mind, it just felt a bit out of place. But I will say this, I saw the movie accompanied by a 5 year old and to my surprise he was glued to the screen, didn’t fall asleep for a second. So for those who say this movie is boring…I beg to differ. Shoot me, I liked all the dimension traveling stuff, the machines, the sound effects. It was cool sci-fi territory in my book.

It’s true, you do feel, especially on the films second half, that things aren’t flowing properly and I’m willing to bet that this is where the studio interfered the most. And it’s not that it was slow, it’s more like there are bits and pieces of the story that weren’t filmed, or were excised all together. Hell, one look at the trailers and you’ll see a fare share of scenes that were completely eliminated from the film. You’ll feel like things are happening way to fast, suddenly its see you later Dr. Doom and while it was all a tasty cgi spectacle, superior to the fight the Fantastic Four had with Dr. Doom in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007), it does feel like a rushed job, like a last minute attempt to wow us and send us home happy. But today’s audiences are savvy, and they know when they are being cheated out of a proper comic book film. Still, through the mess, there are glimmers of a good film that shine through. For example, while a lot of people are complaining about Dr. Doom not looking like their beloved man in the Iron Mask, I still enjoyed this version of Doom with green eyes and telekinetic abilities. There’s this moment where Doom goes all Akira and starts blowing up people’s heads with the power of his mind and to me that was just, well, really cool, what can I say. It proves that Josh Trank still has a hard on for making an Akira movie. Sadly, after this fiasco, I doubt he’ll get to make another big budget summer flick, if he does it will be some sort of Hollywood miracle, that or Trank has connections.

Sure Fantastic Four is not a great comic book film, especially when we take in consideration that it was a troubled production because of the animosity between the studio and director. The director of this film is Josh Trank, the guy who made Chronicle (2012) which in my book was a damn fine movie, so underrated, which makes me wonder what the hell happened here, something wasn’t working properly that’s for sure. There was definitely a disturbance in the force. If anything, what this new Fantastic Four film demonstrates is how a director works best when given complete artistic reign over a project. Trank had that when he made Chronicle, which was a smaller production, with less studio pressure and the result was a great science fiction film. It’s a different story when you play with the big boys.  If you can’t take the heat, get out of that kitchen kid! Apparently, Josh Trank just couldn’t take the heat; he even went as far as disowning the film on Tweeter stating that he had a good film planned out a year ago, and that the one we’re getting in theaters just isn’t it. Dude, that’s like shooting down your film! If the film had any chances of recovering its budget due to audience curiosity, that comment you posted just shot those chances to hell.

Trank says that the studio interfered, that they messed with his vision, followed by a “that’s the truth though” Meaning, he’s trying to be honest, sadly, Trank’s probably burned a couple of bridges down in Hollywood. It looks to me that after posting comments like those on social media, we won’t be seeing any more films directed by Mr. Trank any time soon, and that’s some truth right there as well. New filmmakers must remember that when you make this type of big budget studio film, you have to play ball.  You have to know that commercial filmmaking is a fine juggling act between making a marketable film the studio can sell (and make hefty profits from) and satisfying yourself as an artist. If you go full blown “I am an artist, this is MY film and fuck you studio guys!”  Well, you’re not going to get very far in this business, and yes it is a business. When making this type of Geronimo picture, the filmmaker must remember they are making a film for the studio, you are hired by them, they are the boss of you during the whole production.  Remember kids, commercial filmmaking is 50 percent art and 50 percent business; one can’t go without the other.  And you have to be a professional, not a 12 year old kid with a hissy fit. Still, it seems to me people are on a hive like mentality with this one, they are not even giving it a chance, which is sad because at the very least, this film is a million times better then Fantastic Four (2005) and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) combined, which is an achievement in my book. My hatred for those Tim Story Fantastic Four films knew no boundaries! I certainly hate them more than this one. Bottom line, this isn’t a perfect film but I’ve seen far worse. Twentieth Century Fox has just stated that they are not giving up on this franchise, even though this film has flopped hard at the box office. Of course they are not going to let go of it, it’s a cash cow just like the Spider Man or X-Men franchises, unfortunately, Fantastic Four is a cash cow that 20th Century Fox hasn’t figured out how to milk properly. 

Rating: 2 out of 5

Friday, August 7, 2015

Short Peace (2013)

Short Peace (2013)

Directors: Katsuhiro Otomo, Shuhei Morita, Hiroaki Ando, Hajime Katoki

The more I dig into the world of anime films the more I find, sometimes I find treasures, and sometimes I find pieces of coal that need to be refined. You know how that goes, one film leads to another! Case in point, while exploring Japanese animated anthology films like Robot Carnival (1987) and Memories (1995) I learned that Katsuhiro Otomo the creator behind Akira (1988) was involved in directing one of the shorts in yet another animated anthology film called Short Peace (2013), so of course I was salivating at the prospect of seeing this film, the talent involved is composed of masters in animation.  I went into this one knowing next to nothing about it save for Otomo’s involvement, so this one could go either way. It could be a treasure or a piece of coal. So which was it?

Short Peace is composed of four stories that are connected by one theme and one theme alone: Japan. It was kind of tricky for me to grasp what held these four tales together, but the fact that they all take place in Japan and that that they all seem to focus on Mount Fuji when they end kind of led me to this conclusion, also because nothing else joins these stories together, they are quite disparate in nature. Reading up a bit about the film, they focused in Japan during different eras, so one takes place during feudal times, one is in the future, one is in the present, but the one that takes place in the present is actually a video game, because part of the marketing scheme for this anthology was to also release a video game along with the film.

Sadly I didn’t really fall in love with this anthology like I did with Memories (1995), Neo Tokyo (1987) and Robot Carnival (1987). My main problem with it was that the stories are not very engaging. Short stories should get to the point quickly; they should give us a lot of information in a very short time but with a quick jolt to the system. Now when you simplify the story to the point where there’s not enough meat to the short, well, you’re left with a short that you don’t connect with because it’s too simple, it feels like padding, like you are stretching it for running time. On Short Peace the stories are either too simple and end abruptly without proper closure. Short films aren’t meant to leave you hanging, they should start and end and tell their story all within their 20 to 30 minutes of running time; sadly that doesn’t always happen with the short films in Short Peace. To me they were very uneventful in a way.

Now this is not to say that the animation isn’t astounding, quite the contrary, on a visual level the film is solid. It’s the content that needed a bit more beefing up; it needed more weight to it. As it is, with some of the shorts here you’ll feel like you walked into a movie already in progress and by the time they end you’ll feel like you left the theater without seeing the ending. Take for example Katsuhiro Otomo’s ‘Combustible’ a short film about a young man who always wanted to be a fire extinguisher in ancient Japan. Technically speaking the short is impressive because it’s animated in a way that it looks like ancient Japanese scrolls, which is extremely interesting from a  visual angle. It’s a tragic love story that builds up to something, yet ends up never delivering, leaving you without closure. Suddenly, boom, it’s over. What happened to everybody and everything? Combustible had potential, but failed to deliver in my book. And this was the segment directed by Otomo! It was the one I was most looking forward to! And while innovative from a visual stance, story wise it was missing a lot. 

The film isn’t a total loss because there were two stories on it that I enjoyed a lot. The one called ‘Possessions’ was actually nominated for ‘best animated short film’ and it’s about this traveler who is walking around the forest when a storm breaks out and he has to shelter himself in this little hut, which just so happens to be haunted. This one was visually stunning, with a very unique look. They used computer generated images which were made to look like traditional animation. The whole idea behind this short is that old, used things are requesting their validity in this world. Suddenly a bunch of old umbrellas come to life, piles of garbage become steam spewing dragons and a piece of silk cloth becomes possessed by the spirit of a woman. Here’s a simple story that gives us everything we need, a beginning, a middle and an end and we’re left happy because the short says something and it entertains. Also, the colors on this one are beautiful. This short was awesome all around.  

The other one I loved was the one called ‘Gambo’ which is, again, a simple story about this small village that’s being attacked by a giant red demon that starts killing villagers and the soldiers who are trying to stop him. Thankfully, there’s a giant white bear who serves as a protector to this village and so at one point it’s all about Gambo the white bear vs. The Red Demon. I liked the concept of this huge white bear serving as a protector to this small village, he seems like a pure, gentle soul that at the same time won’t hesitate to rip your throat out if need be. This short is awesome looking because it has this sketchy vibe going for it and also because it has this one really gory, gory scene which just went on forever. Gambo proved one thing again, this film is composed of pretty visuals with not a whole lot of meat to them.

The last story in the anthology is the one called ‘A Farewell to Weapons’ and it’s about these Japanese soldiers who go around deactivating old weapons from an ancient bygone war. Their job is to go in, deactivate and collect old war robots. Technically speaking it’s an awesome short, the animation has a unique look and the designs are awesome, especially those suits the soldiers wore? With all their technical gadgetry, they reminded me of the suits in Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers. On this short there are a lot of explosions, a lot of lasers and gun shots, but sadly it doesn’t feel like an important story. It just feels like a day in the life of these soldiers. It has a pacifist message which didn’t go unnoticed by this viewer; it’s just that I didn’t care much for anything that was happening in it. It felt like I was seeing a scene from Call of Duty or something, only I wasn’t playing it. Personally, there’s nothing more boring to me then following soldiers around, I don’t know, I expected something more exciting. This one was sort of boring in a way, worst part is they end the movie with this one, so the film ends on this boring short. 

So yeah, I guess you could say I was half way disappointed with this one. I mean, Katsuhiro Otomo equals excellence to me, so I expect nothing but the best in terms of production value, which is what I got here, a good production. But I do think that producers should request excellence in the writing as well the visuals or else we get an anthology that’s half cooked, missing in one department. Stories should have some weight to them, if they don’t simply entertain us, then they should move us and entice us, and not just in a visual level. On the other hand, this is a very Japanese film, perhaps there are certain aspects of their culture I’m not connecting because of that? Yet, if that was the case, why haven’t I had a problem with any other number of Anime films I’ve seen recently? Films tend to play with universal themes that we can all connect with, no matter what part of the world they are from. Sadly, as evidenced by some of the stories on this short film, blandness is also universal. This is not the worst anime anthology I’ve seen, it’s a quality production with beautiful visuals and animation, there’s no denying that. It just needed to be more engaging. So it’s the classic case of style over substance.  

Rating: 3 out of 5     


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