Ghost in the Shell (2017) – Review

So one thing I’ve been interested in doing was watching and both an original and a remake for the first time back to back and with at the controversy surrounding this film and my interest in seeing the original this seemed like a good place to start.

It’s ok I guess but there are a lot of problems. It’s better than it could have been but not enough to be a good movie. There are elements of the film that are good but the things that really stand out are its flaws and if you want to avoid spoilers this probably isn’t the review for you as it’s hard to discuss this film without addressing these flaws.

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Of course the big topic concerning this movie is that of white washing. People are boycotting the movie because of it while others are coming up with elaborate excuses for why they feel the casting makes sense (when really the only one needed is that Hollywood wouldn’t be able to sell the film without a big name actress and most of them are white). But the reason I included that spoiler warning is because it’s actually a plot point and while that could have made for an interesting narrative that highlights the issues of white washing through it literally happening to a person it really feels like they just did it so the Major could still be called Motoko Kusanagi while looking like Scarlett Johansson.

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And that missed opportunity leads me to the plot. It’s lacking in the intellectual discussion that was the entire appeal of the original. Normally a different approach to a franchise is a good thing but the problem is this film doesn’t really have its own story to tell, it’s the story of Robocop. It’s not a bad take on that story, it’s just that the film sets up so many interesting topics that it doesn’t stop to discuss because it’s busy being more of an action movie.

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Something I did like about the movie was the visuals. The city is very well designed and there are some great scenes that are recreations of scenes from the original (and from I’m aware some of scenes from later films and episodes in the series). These are also the elements of the film that feel the most like Ghost in the Shell. The cast were fine but no real stand out performances.

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Overall the film is underwhelming. There are things that work and things that don’t and unfortunately neither really are enough to give me a clear opinion of the movie. The negatives are more interesting to discuss but they don’t make the movie terrible. The positives are neat but honestly you’d get the same enjoyment from them just watching clips on YouTube. I’d say if you have any interest in this movie and don’t own an Odeon Limitless card (or a similar membership to another cinema) just wait for it to air on TV or stream on Netflix.

Ghost in the Shell – Review

I’ve been meaning to watch this film for several years now. It’s one of those “must see anime” that are even popular with people who don’t usually care for anime (it even got brought up in my media course in college). So of course with that controversial live action film out it makes sense to finally get around to watching it.

It’s an interesting film. At first glace you might expect an exciting action film but the best scenes of the film are actually the quiet scenes where the themes are discussed by the characters. It’s also very clear this story was intended as a beginning as this is a manga adaptation and there are sequels that I do plan on watching at some point.

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One of the things that this film is famous for are its visuals and they do look great. There’s that classic 90s anime film look to it along with the really well designed technology. You can see the ways this film influenced The Matrix just by looking at it and as an animation fan the animation itself is fantastic in a way that is unique to its time.

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A big part of the film’s appeal comes from the different ways the main characters look at things. The differences between Kusanagi and Batou’s stance on their own humanity is one comparison that stands out and there’s another near the end that I won’t get into due to spoilers but is a big part of what makes me interested in the sequels.

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I wouldn’t consider this one of the best anime films I’ve seen but it is still a very well made film that I’m glad I finally got around to seeing. There are a few classic anime films I’ve been meaning to watch that I should consider watching this year. But based on the timing of this review you can probably guess what I’m going to be watching next…

Power Rangers – Review

I didn’t watch Power Rangers when I was younger, never saw the appeal. But I was still curious about this film after learning that one of the characters was going to be autistic (for those who aren’t aware I have autism) so as research I watched the first two episodes of Kyouryuu Sentai Zyuranger (it was a two parter) and the first episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers so I had at least a basic understanding of the franchise and the set up.

Oh and this was my second cinema trip this year where people did not listen to the “turn of your phones and no talking” message because while there were no distracting screens there were two people who kept talking during the film, and they were in the same row as me so I could hear exactly what they were saying half the time (usually fanboy “why isn’t that thing from the show here” remarks).

This was better than I was expecting. The film has problems and I’ll get to that later but I did like the characters and the story of them becoming friends which is the part of the film that gets the most attention. Are they the same characters as their original series counterparts? From the episode I’ve seen not really (outside of their names) but they’re likable and work well as a group so that doesn’t really matter to me, plus I’m someone who prefers their reboots to be different from the original anyway.

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Since he was my main motivation for watching the film I should say what I thought about Billy. He’s the best character in the film and the heart of the team. I do like that his autism isn’t just a side note either, he brings it up and the way if effects him is clear throughout the film.

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The weakest points of the film were actually the stuff tied to the Power Rangers franchise. The suits look terrible, Rita Bandora Repulsa looks terrible, the gold monster thing they have to fight looks terrible and the Mega Zord looks terrible (though to be fair I never cared for that thing’s design, I remember as a child trying to convince someone their toy would look better if it kept the T. Rex head). Also you know that iconic theme song? It’s used for a few second and is very quiet.  No remix in the score and no cover in the credits. There was also some really blatant product placement that takes you out of the movie and is part of the narrative for some reason.

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But these problems are only really an issue in the third act while the rest of the film is pretty decent and the T. Rex mech looks pretty cool (I stand by my younger self’s point that the Mega Zord would look better with the T. Rex head). It hasn’t got me interesting in checking out more Power Rangers or Super Sentai content but it was a decent enough film. Now if you’ll excuse me I have a weird craving for donuts for some reason…

Deidra & Laney Rob a Train – Review

Like most of the Netflix Original films I’ve watched I just saw “Netflix Original”, the fact it came out this year and is a film and went in with only the information available at first glance. So far Netflix’s films from this year have been alright at best and this film really doesn’t change that.

That doesn’t make this film bad mind you, it’s closer to iBoy in quality than Take the 10. It has likable characters and some funny lines but overall its just ok. I do think it might be the film this $10 note is from though.

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This film is the first I’ve seen that has a villain who vapes and as someone who can’t stand people vaping while they’re walking through town the fact one of the first scenes we see this character has him vaping really helps make me hate him right away.

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I saw this film a few days ago and I still can’t really think of that much to say about it. It’s a shame that Netflix’s films I’ve seen this year have been so underwhelming because I really did like Tallulah from last year. Maybe they’ve got something really good planned but with all the controversy surrounding their upcoming Death Note film I’m unsure. My next cinema trip should be soon though, I just need to do a bit of research for it first…

Beauty and the Beast (2017) – Review

This screening had a lot more people in it than the others I’ve been to and wow do some people not understand how to go to the cinema. First there was someone whose phone was not only still on and being used when the film started but the screen’s brightness was clearly on full (fortunately they stopped once the introduction ended but I noticed someone else hadn’t) and then during the visual portion of the credits someone stood up and didn’t actually move (I had to move a few seats to the right to actually look at the screen).

It’s good but honestly the weakest of Disney’s live action remakes. Its biggest problem is in fact being too much like the original to the point it’s pretty much impossible to spoil this movie unless you talk to someone who never saw the original.

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Remember how The Jungle Book remake last year only really used two songs from the original (three if you count Trust In Me being in the credits)? This film uses just about all of them (the only one left out is the reprise of Gaston) and while they’re all performed well it does just feel like they’re there just because they’re iconic. Be Our Guest for example had no reason to be in this version other than the fact it’s one of the most famous songs in the original. But like I said they were performed well and the visuals for these scenes are really good.

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The film does have some new content and I do like the things they add. Gay Lefou made perfect sense the moment I heard about it and the scenes that explore the backstories of Belle and Beast (who still doesn’t have a canon real name in this version) do help the narrative of their romance as you get to know them as they get to know each other. There’s even a scene where Mrs. Potts gives an explanation for why the curse effected everyone else in the castle and some new songs that fit in really well with the classic soundtrack (in fact I’d love to hear Paige O’Hara sing How Does A Moment Last Forever and Robby Benson sing Evermore). It’s actually a shame the film doesn’t have more moments like these or explore them for more than a couple of scenes or lines.

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The cast are all very good and the biggest strength of the film. Emma Watson’s experience playing Hermione made her a great Belle and I really like her singing voice. Luke Evans is clearly having a lot of fun as Gaston and gives one of the most entertaining performances in the film. Dan Stevens’ Beast voice is works really well both for the scenes where he’s intimidating and sounds like a monster and when the romance starts and his voice gets softer.

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But while I like Stevens’ performance as Beast I’m not a fan of his design. He looks too human which is a shame because all the other cursed characters have such detailed designs it really feels they could have made a great Beast design but instead went with a design that makes him look like a fawn. The horns look neat though.

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I’ve seen a lot of people express hate towards this film and while I’m disappointed by it I still had a nice time and want to listen to the songs again. It does a great job of recreating the iconic scenes from the original so while that wasn’t the approach I’d have preferred I still have to give it credit for doing said approach well and at least having some new content. It doesn’t deserve the hate it gets but doesn’t live up to the hype either. I just wish it had more of its own identity like the live action versions of The Jungle Book, Cinderella or Alice In Wonderland.

Kong: Skull Island Review

Before I review this film I suppose I should share my thoughts on the Godzilla film it’s a spin-off of. It was ok but the human characters weren’t nearly interesting enough to make it less annoying when the footage would cut away from Godzilla just as an action scene was going to happen, especially since the action scenes they did show looked really good.

Out of the two films this is the better one. For one thing it doesn’t tease Kong after fully revealing him and when the scenes focus on the human characters for the majority of the time I’m not wondering when the next action scene is going to happen. I say the majority because there are scenes where the two groups argue over the direction to go where you know exactly which way they’re going to go that could be a bit shorter.

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A big part of why I decided to see this in the cinema is for the scale of Kong and this is something the film does really well. This version of Kong is huge, if he tried to climb the Empire State Building it’d fall down (though he’s still smaller than Godzilla). This is the main reason to see it on the big screen and why I’m probably not going to rewatch it when it airs on TV. While I’m talking about Kong himself I’m glad they didn’t just make him look like a Gorilla, you can see the influence the old King Kong suits had on the design.

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The human characters are what you expect from a monster movie, not especially interesting but not too boring that you’re asking “where’s Kong?” every time he’s off-screen. I think the main reason this works is thanks to the cast, these are all talented actors. The characters aren’t memorable but they’re not supposed to be.

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An example of a character who only works because of the performance is the army leader played by Samuel L. Jackson. Jackson has the most entertaining performance in this film as his character’s desire for a war with Kong gets stronger. This film has a scene where Samuel L. Jackson and King Kong glare at each other.

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If you want a scene for scene remake of the original King Kong you’re going to be disappointed but if you just want to see giant monsters fight each other this film delivers. It’s not great but it doesn’t need to be, it’s just a fun giant monster movie.

Logan – Review

When I first heard about this film I wasn’t interested. I felt Days of Future Past was a good book end for the original X-Men films and didn’t feel I needed to see any more, the idea of it being inspired by Old Man Logan wasn’t enough to sell me either. But when that first trailer came out it became one of the films I was most interested in seeing this year.

It’s very good. One of the best films to come out of the X-Men franchise. I’m also really glad the fact it’s an R rated film in the US wasn’t shoved in your face, there are brutal scenes but they’re not shot in a “look how brutal this is” way. A lot of the praise I’ve seen for this film brings up how brutal it gets and I agree that it’s great that we get to see the claws do some real damage but what I think works best about the brutality is that it’s shot in a way that comes across like this is how it’s always been.

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The film is being promoted as the last time Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart play Logan and Xavier and what a performance to go out on. A big part of why this movie works is that these are the actors we’ve grown up seeing as these characters, we’re attached to these versions of the characters already before the film even starts.

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But the character who stole the show was Laura. Dafne Keen makes a great X-23 and the heart of the film is the bond that grows between her an Logan. She doesn’t speak for the majority of the film but you still feel the emotion from her expressions and the way she fights. Maybe instead of hiring a new actor to play Logan now that Jackman is finished they should just make Wolverine movies about Laura instead, she is Wolverine in the comics now after all…

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This is a film I’ll be surprised to not see in my top 10 by the end of the year. If you’re an X-Men fan who enjoyed any of the original X-Men films this is a film you should watch. Even if you’ve gotten tired of Fox’s X-Men movies this is still one that is worth checking out. Now if you’ll excuse me I have some Horizon Zero Dawn to start playing.