Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Akira (1988)

Links: TVTropes, Wikipedia, IMDB (7.9).

#5. Why change the location of a movie whose central theme is how fucked up it is to be Japanese?
I know that sounds disrespectful, but you have to admit that it is, indeed, a pretty fucked up thing to be Japanese. You're confined to an isolated island for the vast majority of your cultural development - an island regularly beset by massive earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and typhoons - and when you eventually do emerge from your isolation, you become the only society to ever have nuclear weaponry deployed against them. Consider all of those factors, and then watch one of those tsunami videos; it's easy to see why so many of their movies seem to think of cities as "those things that just go away sometimes." Akira's imagery relies heavily on this concept of civilization as an impermanent thing: Cities are fragile beings in the movie. They can, and frequently do, dissolve away into nothing right before the character's eyes.
— Cracked.com, "5 Urgent Questions About the Live Action 'Akira' Remake" by Robert Brockway

I finally watched Akira for the first time and, honestly, it seemed overhyped.  Thanks to its art quality, Akira was widely regarded as the film that put anime on the map and helped pave the way for the Western animation renaissance of the 1990s.  That said, the art in Akira is nothing special to someone raised on 1990s animation, which for me leaves the movie to stand on its own.  You can tell that there's a deeper story that's been abridged to condense the manga into a film, but even so the plot is kinda meh, the setting is kinda meh, the characters are rather flat... not a lot here to commend.  There are clearly some allegories here that are lost in cultural translation — see the Cracked quote above — but mostly it boiled down two hours of characters dramatically shouting each others' names.  In short, I'm glad I finally saw it, but I don't think I'll ever get the urge to watch it again.  Score: 2 stars out of 4.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Hobgoblins (1988)

Links: TVTropes, Wikipedia, IMDB (1.7).

I recently watched the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version of this.  It certainly wasn't a good film by any stretch of the imagination — it's pretty much a blatant me-too of Gremlins, except with a crap plot, shoddy acting, and a very visible small budget.  And yet... at worst it was mediocre or affably bad, not quite bad enough to fall into So Bad It's Good territory.  Most MST3K-treatment movies are so intolerably bad that they can only be enjoyed by wallowing in schadenfreude and watching someone else suffer their awfulness, but watching Mike and the Bots squirm at this seemed contrived.  That said: the film is crap, you wouldn't want to watch it for its own sake.  On the other hand, if you want to watch someone squirm at an actual bad movie, go watch the MST3K of Manos, or Nostalgia Critic's review of The Star Wars Holiday Special.  Score: 1 star out of 4.

Dark City (1998)

Links: TVTropes, Wikipedia, IMDB (7.8).

Dark City was the first in the series of "reality is a lie" mindscrew movies that all came out around the same time in the late '90s.  The premise is a bit silly (in a comic book-ish sort of way), but the visuals are very powerful, and that helps to suspend disbelief and bring the fictional world to life.  I have a hard time pinning down exactly why I like this movie as much as I do, especially since it clearly worships the Film Noir I dislike so much, but it's just a well-told, well-directed story.  The director's cut (2008) improves the film even more, and if you've seen the original but not the director's cut I recommend you check it out.  Score: 4 stars out of 4.