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A few reviews

Malthus

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addiesin said:
I quite like many Studio Ghibli films, and have enjoyed Ghost in the Shell and Akira in the past, and have seen some anime tv shows, most of which I didn't or don't like with a few exceptions. I had high hopes for this one. I think my reaction to this movie confirms that when it comes to anime, I'm pretty much only into Studio Ghibli.

Before you write off all anime beyond Studio Ghibli I'd like to make a few suggestions:

Mamoru Hosoda is a wonderful director who's works have a strong similarity to the Ghibli films in tone but are distinctly his own. I would start with either his first film, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time or his second Summer Wars

Similarly you might enjoy Studio Ponoc's film Mary and the Witch's Flower. Made by a staff of ex Ghibli workers the similarities are undeniable but it's a fun film and stronger in my mind to some of Ghibli's more rambling efforts, I'm looking at you Howl's Moving Castle.

Your Name by Makoto Shinkai is well worth a watch as is his back catalogue. The director effectively bootstrapped his career by making an anime short in his bedroom. Your Name is on Netflix at the moment.

For an ultra-stylistic film I recommend Red Line which is like Whacky Race's but if it had been directed by George Miller while on acid. It's a beautiful psychedelic fever dream gut punch and I've watched it more times than I care to say.

Lastly in terms of TV shows I strongly recommend Cowboy Bebop (and it's movie), Escaflowne, Kino's Journey, Kids on the Slope or Fullmetal Alchemist (either the original or its remake Brotherhood). I tried to suggest shows from different genres respectively they are: Sci fi/Noir, Fantasy/Mecha, Fairytale/Fable, Slice of life, Adventure.

Kon's works are akin to those of Werner Herzog, Lynch or Coen Brothers. Very stylistic but not to everyone's taste. It certainly took me a while to engage with his films. 

Hopefully you'll find something on this list that peaks your interest.
 

TM2YC

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Malthus said:
Mamoru Hosoda is a wonderful director who's works have a strong similarity to the Ghibli films in tone but are distinctly his own. I would start with either his first film, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

Your Name by Makoto Shinkai is well worth a watch as is his back catalogue.

Yes, 'The Girl Who Leapt Through Time' is wonderful, so is 'Weathering With You', the follow up to 'Your Name'. I'm watching 'Your Name' next.

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Catching up on a couple of Red Letter Media Re:View recommendations from a while ago...

Blind Fury (1989)
'Blind Fury' is an enjoyably goofy action-comedy, loosely based on the popular Japanese 'Zatoichi' franchise, about a blind wandering swordsman who rights wrongs. In the movie Rutger Hauer's Nick is a blinded Vietnam vet who was trained in martial arts by villagers who rescued him. 20 years later and back in the US, he seeks out an old war buddy but becomes the protector of his young son, against a drug cartel. The comedy really works thanks to Hauer's eccentric, jovial performance and all the henchmen are way more oddball and interesting than they needed to be. There are some weird editing choices at the beginning and the treacly ending feels a bit unearned. 'Blind Fury' is one of those wacky 80s oddities that seemed designed for an audience of kids but also featured levels of extreme violence that would've precluded them from seeing it (unless they happily had a friend with less responsible parents). The title of the movie is enough to put a smile on my face before the gags even start.



In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
I'd seen RollWave's amazing 'In The Mouth Of Event Horizon' fanedit before but I'd never actually got round to seeing the original John Carpenter film. Sam Neill plays a cynical insurance investigator tasked with finding out what has happened to the mysterious pulp horror writer 'Sutter Cane' and to recover the manuscript to his last novel 'In the Mouth of Madness'. Cane's hugely popular books have begun to drive his readers crazy and the world's decent into madness is the background for Neill beginning to doubt his own sanity. Cinematographer Gary B. Kibbe's visuals look stunning, shot with extremely distorted lenses, so people and environments noticeably warp as they move across frame. The cast boasts heavyweight actors like Jürgen Prochnow, David Warner, Charlton Heston and Hayden Christensen. I'd say 'In the Mouth of Madness' is either one of the best of Carpenter's lesser films, or one of the least of his best films. It's arguably the last Carpenter film where it felt like he was in total control of his directorial powers... his career went on a rapid exponential decline after this one.


 

jrWHAG42

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I'm a big fan of Your Name, I really need to get around to watching Weathering with You.
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is also really enjoyable.

Another anime film I'd like to recommend is A Silent Voice, which can be found on Netflix in the US. I really need to watch it again, it was so fantastic. It had me in tears quite a few times, though that's not hard.
One more anime film that comes to mind is I Want to Eat Your Pancreas. Another one that had me in tears, another fantastic movie that I need to watch again.
And always, watch the anime series Clannad.
 

addiesin

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Malthus said:
Mamoru Hosoda is a wonderful director who's works have a strong similarity to the Ghibli films in tone but are distinctly his own. I would start with either his first film, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time or his second Summer Wars

That's a lot of people giving feedback about this director! I guess I have to give him a chance sooner than later.

I might check out some of these others you listed too, thanks Malthus. Got some research to do.

Kinda long explanation of what I have seen out of your suggestions and just in general:
I have watched Mary and the Witches Flower, I thought of it as a spiritual sequel to Kiki's Delivery Service, cool to know I'm not that far off.

As for tv, I had a teenage familiarity with DBZ, Sailor Moon, Speed Racer, and Robotech but am not really a fan of them. In adulthood I also have watched Cowboy Bebop and both Fullmetal Alchemist shows and did enjoy those a lot at the time (haven't rewatched any), but didn't like Attack on Titan season one, Eden of the East, Last Exile, FLCL. I'm aware of Death Note, Bleach, One Piece, Naruto, and the card/video game shows like Pokemon, but these never interested me.

There are a handful of others I'm sure. Most of the ones I've seen have aired on US tv or were on Netflix at some point.

What I've been trying to wrap my head around is what do the ones I like have in common that the ones I dislike don't? I feel like mnkykngfu touched on something there, maybe the ones I like are better localised so the cultural disconnect is thinner? Still working on an answer there.

Sorry @"jrWHAG42" I will probably never watch the Pancreas one. But you also like Mamoru Hosoda it seems.
 

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Malthus said:
Kon's works are akin to those of Werner Herzog, Lynch or Coen Brothers. Very stylistic but not to everyone's taste.

Kon is actually my favorite anime director, but those other directors are more miss than hit for me.  I wouldn't compare him to them at all.  For me, he's much more similar to Nolan.  He doesn't do weirdness/quirkiness just for its own sake, there's a method to his mayhem.  His work uses surrealism to expose underlying issues of human psyche.  I suppose fans of the other directors might say they do the same thing, but I think more often than not Lynch just has a duck floating through the air because he likes the image.
 
addiesin said:
What I've been trying to wrap my head around is what do the ones I like have in common that the ones I dislike don't? I feel like mnkykngfu touched on something there, maybe the ones I like are better localised so the cultural disconnect is thinner? Still working on an answer there.

I don't think it's about localization, I think it's baked in.  I was actually thinking about this as I fell asleep last night, yup, I'm that kind of loser.  I'm super picky about anime, and a harsh critic of films (and especially series) that expect audiences to buy into non-sensical events without explanation just because it allows for wacky character drama.  I want characters to have defined motivations, and worlds to have a rough set of rules built in.  I think Miyazaki's films establish those things in ways that are easily-identifiable, versus the films of Takahata, for example, which are often harder to figure out what the motivation or inner conflict is that's at play (for a non-Japanese audience).

With that in mind, I can recommend a couple other films that I think will have that sort of identifiability (is that a word?) that Miyazaki's work has.  "Royal Space Force: Wings of Honneamise" is a beautifully animated film about the joy of space flight/exploration.  A bit similar to the later "The Wind Rises" but leaning more heavily on the charm and whimsy than the drama.  

"Memories" is an anthology that's a bit quirkier, but I think will fit the bill.  The brainchild of 4 acclaimed directors/writers, the 3 films are each a bit different, and I've never met someone who doesn't like at least 2/3.

Finally, I'd recommend the original trilogy of Mobile Suit Gundam movies, often listed as "Gundam 0079" plus the film's subtitle.  While this might seem to fall firmly in the Giant Robot genre and not be as universal as Miyazaki, the films are actually refreshingly mature and nuanced for all-ages work.  They deal with real loss, the emotional ramifications of your "country" being at war, and much more.  And of course the typical teen boy power fantasy.  But the trilogy keeps adding layers and I think is much more grounded than wackier modern hits that involve body-swapping or weather control, for example.  (Though as a rule avoid any Gundam series made from the '90s on!)
 

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mnkykungfu said:
Kon is actually my favorite anime director, but those other directors are more miss than hit for me.  I wouldn't compare him to them at all.

Ah to clarify, I'm not comparing their styles directly I was merely trying to say that they each have a style and one which might not be to everyone's tastes.

We'll have to agree to disagree on post 90's Gundam though. Both Gundam Seed and Gundam 00 are triumphs in my opinion and Origin and Iron Blooded Orphans both have moments of excellence. I suppose the nice thing about the Gundam meta franchise is that there's something for everyone.

I think it might be worth creating a new thread for anime reviews or an anime 'book club' style thread where people test drive suggestions and give their honest feedback. Anime is like Jazz. Some people love it, others hate it. There are so many people who have a perception about what it is or it isnt or 'what makes a good anime good' when the fact of the matter is it is a hugely diverse genre comprised of dozens of sub genres each with wide ranging themes and styles. I count myself a fan but it's fair to say there are far more anime I dislike than ones I do. Full disclosure my anime collection far outweighs my live action collection (mainly as it was the only way to watch them prior to streaming) and I have dedicated bookcase for my manga collection.
 

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Suffragette (2015)
Sadly this historical drama looks and feels like a TV movie, the direction by Sarah Gavron and the cinematography by Eduard Grau looks murky and uninspired and the script isn't particularly well written either. It was a mistake to make the whole film be about a fictional woman, even though the story builds towards the famous sacrifice of a real Suffragette Emily Davison. It's like the film itself only remembers this fact at the last minute and hastily tries to remind us who Davison is in her final and only significant scenes. Meryl Streep (who is all over the posters) is cast as WSPU founder Emmeline Pankhurst, surely a vital role in any Suffragette film but only turns up for 2-minutes and phones in what should be a rousing political speech (while Alexandre Desplat's score desperately tries to tell you how rousing it should have been). Star Carey Mulligan is miscast, Anne-Marie Duff who plays a supporting role would've been much better and more believable. Ben Whishaw is given the thankless task of playing Mulligan's underwritten and absurdly thoughtless husband. See the melodramatic scene where he gives their son up for adoption (on his birthday!). Annoyingly the only really three dimensional character in a film about women's suffrage is the Policeman tasked with trying to prevent it, played by Brendan Gleeson. A complex character who is clearly intelligent, thoughtful and sympathetic to the women's cause but is mercilessly determined to stop them anyway because it's just the job he's being paid to do. One interesting element was how the film portrayed the Suffragettes operating much like a modern terrorist cell (although their bomb targets were property and infrastructure, not human life) and the authorities surveillance methods felt modern too. I'm not sure how much of that was intentional though? It also effectively illustrated the many reasons for women needing power by showing a rich Suffragette being unable to bail out her comrades because her husband controls the cheque book, or Mulligan's character having no legal right to her own children and property, or another being unable to continue the political struggle because she's been made pregnant again.

 

mnkykungfu

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Malthus said:
Ah to clarify, I'm not comparing their styles directly I was merely trying to say that they each have a style and one which might not be to everyone's tastes.
Ah, I see.  Yeah, I get that.  I would submit the exception that proves the rule is Tokyo Godfathers.  Everyone should be able to enjoy that.
Malthus said:
We'll have to agree to disagree on post 90's Gundam though.
I'll trust your judgement actually, as I haven't watched many of those.  I said "as a rule" because there has just been an onslaught of Gundam cash-ins since probably...Gundam Wing?  And much of it is just very disposable or outright bad.  But I'm happy to hear there are good ones amongst that.  I may give them a shot myself some day.
Malthus said:
I think it might be worth creating a new thread for anime reviews or an anime 'book club' style thread where people test drive suggestions and give their honest feedback. .... I count myself a fan but it's fair to say there are far more anime I dislike than ones I do.
^Totally agree with all this!  There are definitely enough anime fans on here to have a dedicated thread.  Though as you implied, some anime fans can be somewhat...unparticular?  I can remember times when series were regarded as the end-all-be-all must-watch GOAT series...and now many of them don't make any of those GOAT lists and are rarely talked about.  Trigun, anyone?  Inuyasha?  So maybe you'd want to start a thread with a specified goal like you suggested... something like "Anime Recommendations for Discerning Casual Fans"?  Or "Test Drive This Anime!  How Does It Ride?"
Anyway, back to your regularly scheduled programming.
 

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List night I watched Promare (2019) the latest anime from from Studio Trigger.

​​​​​​I have a love hate relationship with Studio Trigger. I applaud their unique style and have enjoyed elements of everything I've seen by them but ultimately I find their works to be style over substance and relatively immature.

Founded by former members of Gainax there is a real depth of experience within Studio trigger. Its founding members have links to both FLCL and Gunbuster 2 which are two of my favourites. I absolutely respect their passion and I love that they have carved out their own niche in the industry but sadly for me every entry in their filmography is missing something. There is a certain je ne sais quoi which they seem to fail to capture for me. So why do I keep going back their works? Well because they look incredible and there's always the hope they will finally give me the depth I've found lacking in their previous efforts.
 
[align=center]

So did Promare succeed?

No. In many ways Promare is a love letter to fans of Studio Trigger with numerous homages to their previous works which is great but I needed more. It's plot is thin and stretched to extremes by the 1:51 runtime. The pacing is all over the place and there are multiple characters that are sidelined early on to the detriment of the narrative. I honestly feel this would have made a fun 13 episode show which would have given them space to explore the world and it's characters more and deepen it's narrative. As is it feels simultaneously rushed and shallow AND weighed down by clunky exposition. I'll admit it's third act is its strongest but by that time I was already over the film.  Technically it's very impressive. It's an undeniable visual feast with a unique and vibrant colour palette and geometric obsession. The voice work is solid but it only serves to remind you of the short comings of the script.

​​​​​​5/10
 

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The Old Guard (2020)
Netflix's 'The Old Guard' is one of several "So what have we got that's like John Wick?" type movies and not the first to star Charlize Theron. The concept is a pretty straightforward one "Hi, we're a band of immortal warriors who fight for good across the centuries... okay now on with the plot" so adding a naive newcomer character as a device to learn about their world just wastes a lot of screen time. It felt like 80% of the movie was the immortal characters sitting in rooms explaining the premise, who they all are and what their relationships were with each other and to the new recruit. When Director Gina Prince-Bythewood feels it's gotten too boring, a random irrelevant action scene happens out of nowhere. Sadly even that action is dry and forgettable. What's the point in doing a film about immortal warriors, if you just show them methodically clearing rooms SWAT team style and don't show them using their powers to do some insane and awesome sh*t. The script is absolutely humourless for such an inherently wacky concept, it's all grey characters, dressed in grey, in grey rooms. On the plus side, there is much more interesting characterization than an action flick would typically explore. Two of the warriors are gay (a Muslim and Christian who met during the Crusades) and they share an intense, undying love across the centuries, which is conveyed in a powerfully written scene. There is also some thoughtful moral conflict involving one member of the group but the least captivating two people are the main focus, plus the villain is rubbish too. 'The Old Guard' is heavily focused on laying the groundwork for future movies (although it does have an arc and conclusion) so maybe with that out of the way and with an increased budget for more dynamic action, a sequel could be more fun?

 

mnkykungfu

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TM2YC said:
It felt like 80% of the movie was the immortal characters sitting in rooms explaining the premise, who they all are and what their relationships were with each other and to the new recruit. 

This could be the result of trying to adapt a too-dense story.  It's a comic series by go-to grim 'n gritty badass heroine writer Greg Rucka.  I haven't read it, but his comics tend to be dense, dry, and unfold slowly over many issues.  By the time they're at the end, they are often very mature, clever, nuanced works, but that doesn't lend itself to 2 hours.  His work has been mangled in many efforts to adapt it, including in The Dark Knight Rises, Wonder Woman, Birds of Prey, Whiteout, and I guess now this.  I think his work is adaptable, but not in the typical way Hollywood would want to do it.  It needs someone like Steven Soderbergh.
 

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Sounds to me like this should be a series, not a movie. The whole notion of endless life probably works better in a longer-running format than a feature. That said, I'm also deeply skeptical that immortals can really make for particularly interesting drama in the first place, even given the stakes the movie establishes.
 

Malthus

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Gaith said:
Sounds to me like this should be a series, not a movie. The whole notion of endless life probably works better in a longer-running format than a feature. That said, I'm also deeply skeptical that immortals can really make for particularly interesting drama in the first place, even given the stakes the movie establishes.

*Cough* Highlander *cough*
 

TM2YC

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Gaith said:
Sounds to me like this should be a series, not a movie. The whole notion of endless life probably works better in a longer-running format than a feature. That said, I'm also deeply skeptical that immortals can really make for particularly interesting drama in the first place, even given the stakes the movie establishes.

I had that thought too, like Doctor Who being set in a different time/place every week, or like Sam in Quantum Leap righting a different wrong every week in a new time/place.

On a more general note... I think the problem of unkillable heroes is overstated. We always know our hero is not really going to die, no matter how much danger they oppose. It's the other elements of the script that should build tension. Like can they uncover the plot, stop the villain, save the world and rescue the ones they love? A destructible hero does add something but it's not essential IMO. I always loved the Captain Scarlet TV show, which is about a literally indestructible character but everyone else in that world is killable and CS is there to save them... or fail to = story tension.
 

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Malthus said:
*Cough* Highlander *cough*

Alas, I've yet to see it... But, thanks to you, I see it's on US Amazon Prime streaming! On the list it goes. :)
 

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The Mask of Zorro (1998)

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Hombres, amigos, caballeros... this is a perfect film. Oh, sure, there are at least half a dozen plot holes one could nitpick, foremost among them just why the legendary badass Don Diego de la Vega let himself rot in a prison for 20 years (to atone for his wife's death?), and how Alejandro learned to dance, but to gripe about such things would be the epitome of churlishness. The Mask of Zorro looks spectacular, with awesome cinematography, lots of subtle focus shifts, some of the most enthusiastic extras ever, truly badass stunts, and it sounds amazing, too, thanks to James Horner's epic score. There's a horseback chase sequence that adds nothing whatsoever to the plot and could absolutely have been cut, but it's so thrilling one instinctively understands why it was made in the first place. (It's tempting to say the movie is so great it leaves nowhere good for a follow-up to go, which explains why the eventual sequel is, er, the way it is, but that's a cop-out; they could indeed have found something better - I myself nominate Zorro vs. a werewolf.) :D

Small detail: most, if not all, streaming versions omit the introductory text screen, so be sure to read it beforehand unless you're watching it on disc.

Grade: A+. It's high time the caped fox returns to the big screen!
 

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A couple of music docs...

ReMastered: Tricky Dick & the Man in Black (2018)
A 59-minute Netflix documentary about the time in 1970 when Johnny Cash played for Richard Nixon at the White House. I thought this was either too long, or too short for the subject. It expands beyond the interesting elements of the concert, where Nixon asked Cash to play a couple of redneck songs and instead he wrote and played a song obliquely criticising Nixon's Vietnam policies. The film then gets into the wider civil rights struggle, the war, protests against it and the Republican "Southern strategy" but I didn't think it had the time to properly develop those themes. Still, it's fascinating stuff and of course features some amazing footage of Johnny Cash.


Rockfield: The Studio on the Farm (2020)
A nice BBC feature-length documentary from Director Hannah Berryman about Rockfield Farm in Wales, which claims to be have been the world's first "residential" recording studio. In the 1960s, brothers Kingsley and Charles Ward began to convert part of their parent's farm into a studio, with the then unique concept that bands could live there while they worked for days, weeks, or months. Queen did 'Bohemian Rhapsody' there in a barn, the "stars" that Coldplay sing about in their hit 'Yellow' were stars in the clear nights sky above Rockfield and Oasis' famous 'Wonderwall' was (partly) recorded on top of a wall near the studio. The artists that do appear (Robert Plant, Liam Gallagher, Ozzy Osbourne etc) offer up some great anecdotes but a greater number are noticeable by their absence. There is little actual footage, so the film has to fall back on animation and lots of to-camera interviews. The storytelling is a little shaky, brushing over some facts, in favour of telling a "Rise, fall and rise again" structure. Rockfield has weathered the electronic music of the late-80s/early-90s and is still going today, despite the rise of home laptop recording but you wonder how long these two aging brothers (and their family) can keep it all going.

 

mnkykungfu

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Malthus said:
Gaith said:
Sounds to me like this should be a series, not a movie. The whole notion of endless life probably works better in a longer-running format than a feature. That said, I'm also deeply skeptical that immortals can really make for particularly interesting drama in the first place, even given the stakes the movie establishes.

*Cough* Highlander *cough*
Hmm...this actually supports the point.  Pretty great TV series.  One pretty great movie followed by many horrible ones.
 

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mnkykungfu said:
Hmm...this actually supports the point.  Pretty great TV series.  One pretty great movie followed by many horrible ones.

I know. That's not why I said it. I mentioned it because Gaith questioned whether immortals made for good drama.
 

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mnkykungfu said:
Hmm...this actually supports the point.  Pretty great TV series.  One pretty great movie followed by many horrible ones.

I know but that's not why I said it. I mentioned it because Gaith questioned whether immortals made for good drama.
 
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