Ghost in the Shell

April 27, 2017 at 8:56 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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I saw this the other day: being a Wellingtonian, I was curious to see if any of my city was recognisable; I wondered about the story; and having heard about whitewashing complaints, I wanted to see for myself whether if it was justified.

Warning: plot elements discussed.

Firstly, parts of Wellington were still recognisable, under the post-production CGI. Parts of the Central Police Station and nearby carpark were recognisable, despite a whole lot of ‘matt-ed in’ Japanese architecture.

Based loosely on the manga comics, of the same name, we see Scarlett Johansson in the lead role – Major Motoko Kusanagi. I say loosely, because the plot doesn’t really follow the comics. The film explores the origins of the Major, and how she came to be a cyborg – the first. Or is she?

The Major and her squad work for Section 9 – a paramilitary force reporting to the Prime Minister. Such a concept may work in Japan, but it does not really work outside of Asia. In the end, the company who made her body, turns out to be the villain. It was good to see Juliette Binoche, of The English Patient fame, again. She plays the cyborg scientist, Dr. Ouelet, who’s concern for her patient leads the Major to a final showdown.

The film breaks the manga esthetic: the cast is not Japanese, nor are their faces in a manga way. It made the use of Japanese, and references to Japanese companies (not zaibatsu),  a bit strange.The mixture of spoken English and spoken Japanese was quite disconcerting. There are English subtitles for the Japanese, but no Japanese subtitles for the English.  I thought that Scarlett Johansson fitted the manga esthetic quite well; much better than most  of the cast. Perhaps some things are better left as comics or full animations.

There is some blatant product placement. It would not be manga without a motorcycle, and I wonder how much Honda paid for the privilege of supplying the motorcycles :-).



Suicide Squad v Ghostbusters(2016)

August 15, 2016 at 9:32 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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I m comparing these two movies – a comic cast made real and a remake of a classic because I realised the only thing I want to talk about is  Dr Harleen Quinzel  and Dr. Erin Gilbert.

Dr Harleen Quinzel is better known as Harley Quinn – the Joker’s crazier girlfriend. Dr Quinzel appears for less than a minute, but she is the Joker’s psychiatrist, who after some serious mis-treatment, casts aside her lab coat, dons skimpy tight bright clothes, develops a fondness for blunt instruments, and joins ‘the darkside’. Margo Robbie’s portrayal of Harley Quinn absolutely steals the film (Suicide Squad); in an ensemble movie that is quite a job. But Harley Quinn is the most interesting character; and Robbie, assisted by a rumoured rigorous pre-filming workout regime, and fishnet tights and skimpy sequin shorts, is a nerd fantasy come to life. Harley Quinn is crazy and zany and sexy and … and … and; the audience is hangs onto her every move and word –  wondering what she will do next. The romance between Harley Quinn and the Joker provides the bedrock of the film – Sid-and-Nancy meet Bonnie-and-Clyde.

There is something deeply disturbing when the glammed up abused white girl with violent tendencies character makes such an impact.

Dr Gilbert is Dr. Raymond Stantz from the original Ghostbusters re-written as a women. Kristen Wiig plays a dedicated women physicist struggling in a man’s world to make tenure. Erin, to her friends, eventually breaks out, when passed over, casting aside her tweeds for overalls, develops a reluctant fondness for proton packs, forms the Ghostbusters with her friend Abby Yates, and wrangles ghosts. Kristen Wiig has to compete for mind-share and screen time with Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and Chris Hemsworth; its tough going. McKinnon’s character – Jillian Holtzmann –  is the more interesting gadget genius on steroids – looking like Scarlett Johansson meets Tank Girl.

Erin is much closer to the reality for many professional women. It is good to see her have some fun, and turn the tables a little on the men. She is much more PC.

Go see both films: if you don’t like chicks with attitude, Suicide Squad, has lots of bullets, violence and a killer sound track; unless you can’t stand the idea that a woman can do as good a job as a man, the Ghostbusters re-make provides a modern perspective on an old story, plus many of the original cast make cameo appearances. [I thought that they overdid this, and it made it hard for the older members of the audience to let go.]


Captain America: Civil War

May 23, 2016 at 7:56 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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The third film in the Marvel Film-verse. This film picks up from the second film – The Winter Soldier.

This film is definitely worth seeing: its well put together; it does overdo the action (restraint in an action movie; and it raises a basket-load of ethical and moral questions.

The cast consists of most the those from the second film with some additions: Paul Rudd (Ant-Man), Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther), Tom Holland (Spider-Man), and Marisa Tomei (Aunt May). Of course Chris Evans (in the title role), Robert Downey Jr (Iron Man), and Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow) return; as does Sebastian Stan (Winter Soldier), who’s character Bucky cause the big split-up.

Spider-Man  gets the shortest reboot on record – 10 minutes in his bedroom. Marisa Tomei was a surprise choice for Aunt May. Good luck to her and newcomer Holland in their upcoming Spider-Man movie.

I am not going to talk about the film, because the plot is available on IMDB. For a large ensemble film, it managed to hold it together – staying to a story that threw moral dilemmas everywhere. The film was over two hours long, but things moved quickly.

So the dilemmas:

  • Must one act within a recognised legal framework?
    • After all, such a framework grants a mandate for actions, and a form of oversight.
    • In a self-referential way, a legal Framework grants legitimacy.
    • All actions and collateral damage within the Framework is sanctioned.
  • Can a legal framework ever work against the interests of the wronged? Therefore, staying out of  Frameworks preserves the freedom to act for those wronged (or in peril).
  • Should one stand by one’s friends? in all situations? And by extension, are there times when the unity is preferred over all other considerations?

Steve Rogers (Captain America), Paul Stark (Iron-Man), and Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow) all fall on different sides of these dilemmas; and so there is tension, and ultimately fisticuffs! Honourable friends become honourable unfriends. How are they going to put things back together?

Worth a go at the cinema for the big screen and surround sound.


August 25, 2014 at 11:59 pm | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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Another Scarlett Johansson film, it must be a science fiction film. I went to see Lucy the other day.

Warning: plot elements discussed.

It is very much a Luc Besson film: slick fight choreography (Matrix/martial arts); crazy car sequences (Lucy drives the wrong way through Paris -at speed); rough unshaven cops; slick bad guys; and tight shots.

Johansson’s performance holds the film together and in many ways up. She plays Lucy – the ‘heroine’. The film starts in Taiwan and Lucy through a dodgy boyfriend ends up being offered a ‘can’t refuse deal’ from the Korean Mafia. Why Lucy is studying in Taiwan is never explained, and therefore that part of the back story unbelievable.

Lucy becomes a reluctant drug mule – this film can’t do good things for tourism in Asia. Her new business associates inexplicably detain her and beat her so badly the drug sachet inside her body ruptures and releases a massive does of some new tailored recreational drug into her system, and as it shows in the trailers, she starts accessing all of her brain – not just the 10% attributed to folklore. Lucy moves from party girl with interesting past issues to driven superior being.

Morgan Freeman plays the role of a neurologist – who is used to introduce some nice natural photography shots and explain brain pseudo-science to the films audience. Its quite a clever way to explain what purportedly happens if we used all of our brains.

Thats all really, there are some nice CGI of cell division, some kick-ass gun battles and there is a not too surprising end.

Under the Skin

August 1, 2014 at 6:52 pm | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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It is New Zealand International Film Festival time again in Wellington, and after some confusion I saw my first film: Under the Skin.

Warning: Plot Elements disclosed.

Scarlett Johansson plays the part of a nameless women who picks up young men, with no family and friends, and disappears them. She makes it look easy; then she gets a lot of practice. Why is never answered.

There is nudity – but not really in a sexual way; more of a clinical approach. It is almost as if the mysterious young woman does not understand her own body – that she is following a script. What lies behind this is eventually revealed; and it is a bit of a shock – but it does explain the film’s title.

Johansson does a great job.

The film is set in Scotland, possible Glasgow, using a mix of rundown suburbs and stark countryside.

It reminded me of Liquid Sky and Repo Man.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

April 24, 2014 at 11:37 pm | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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I saw this the other day and was quite surprised by its depth and political commentary.

Warning: Plot details discussed.

Steve Rogers, Captain America (Chris Evans), is back; and he is having second thoughts. SHIELD is about to deploy a surveillance and anti-terrorist system with global reach – any terrorist can be located (by their DNA!) and killed (with a precise collateral free hyper round). Steve has the old “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes” question running through is head, and he isn’t comfortable.

Of course Steve’s concerns are borne out and he has to save the world – again! An old enemy re-emerges for a second attempt at world domination. Natasha Romanoff, The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), is there to co-save – not even Captain America can be in two places at once.

Robert Redford makes a surprise appearance; and Samuel L. Jackson provides some continuity from the first film.

The action sequences are really good, the graphics great, the plot is rich and the deeper questions are there if you want. What do you do if the ‘wrong’ people take control of your overwatch system? Not very much! Better not to set up one in the first place. Transparency, not secrecy, is the watchword.

Evans and Johansson do a really good job of being action heros (true to their characters’ comic book origins), yet portraying lots of inner personal and moral dilemmas. Johansson gets to show off her physical and acting versatility. She really owns the Black Widow role – Finn/Hiller/John were spot on when they cast her for the role.

Worth ago.

The Avengers

April 29, 2012 at 9:27 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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I saw Joss Whedon’s The Avengers this afternoon.

I enjoyed the movie – particularly the scene setting and the introduction all the main characters, at the beginning. There a lots of characters, including: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson), The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), Captain America (Chris Evans), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and Thor (Chris Helmsworth). Loki and The Black Widow got the most introduction; I presume that the rest, got less time, because they had already appeared in previous Marvel Comics inspired movies.

Scarlett Johansson makes for a believable spy/assassin; it is a role well outside of her normal roles. Tom Hiddleston does the villain very well.

The film picks up from where Captain America: The First Avenger ended. (Captain America, Nick Fury, and the Tesseract were introduced in this film.)

Once more the Tesseract is has fallen into the wrong hands – Loki. And a team of heros is needed to get it back. There is lots of action: the heros battle the many minions of evil. There are some great actions sequences and some great special effects.

The one drawback of the film is that there are so many heros, and I found the scenes with only one hero the most absorbing.

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