Thursday, September 20, 2018

BLEACHing hair with my son... NAH, Bleach Live Action Movie review....

BLEACH (Live action Movie)
Let’s go back in the time machine to when G4 was still a channel, I could get regularly updated news on some new anime without leaping through hurdles, and my body didn’t have quite the same aches and pains as it does on this day. Bleach was the new “thing” from Japan, a strong fanbase and a regular series on its’ way from Toonami, but we also still had a Suncoast video where I regularly bought into a regular anime collection on a semi monthly basis. Ahh, yes… disposable income… those were the days.
I started to pick up Bleach.
I thought it was a fun series, but the member of my household who really bought in was my young son who had gotten into the habit of expressing fandom through regular cosplay at the ripe age of five (maybe 4, really.) And I came home some days to find him dressed in a kimono his mother had fashioned for him, hair sprayed orange, and a decent facsimile of an oversized sword somewhere on his person. I am, perhaps, understating the absolute OBSESSION my son had with the sword swinging warrior who fought against and on behalf of ghosts. My son had a young hero that was his before it ever had a chance to become mine.
Netflix unveiled the film directly on the heels of it’s Japanese theatrical release in July. The story revolves around Ichigo Kurosawa, a teen with the ability to see and communicate with ghosts. A recent altercation brings him into contact with a “Reaper” named Rukio Kuchiki and she is stuck on Earth in a semi-human state while he is tasked with replacing her as a substitute. Neither are happy with the arrangement, both are resentful, and the Soul Society for which Rukia works is extremely displeased. They send two Reapers to bring back Rukia so she can face punishment for her actions, and Ichigo is forced to train hard in order to use his new powers effectively.
The film mostly condenses the first several chapters (or episodes) of the Manga/Anime in to an hour and forty five minutes. And this is a deep series with many threads to explore, but the film has to work in a different medium and can’t afford to spread itself as wide to satisfy some fan service to series loyalists. Suffice to say, a few elements from the series will be missing in this film so you should prepare yourself for that. But the characters are all true to their origins, with Ichigo himself as the central thread tying everything together. He’s brash, judgmental, a little arrogant, tortured, and… most of all… he risks it all to protect the ones he cares for. The ending is pitch perfect to the character of Ichigo, drawing at my now well-developed heartstrings and leaving my son with glitter in his eyes for the hero he discovered nearly a decade ago.
And make no mistake- this was a film for my son, who hates reading subtitles but sat through this rip roaring adventure because of the love he held for the series as a little tyke. His not-so-little heart was pounding, he was smiling from ear to ear, and that father/son bond we had as he sat on my lap in those days was beaming bright the night we sat and watched the live-action film. It was part nostalgia, but it was also the iron will of a young teen who refused to give up- regardless of how much the odds were stacked, regardless of what it cost him, and my son saw his hero brought to life.
8.5 and I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

THE Predator.... not to be confused with Predator or Dateline NBC's series "To Catch a Predator"

Director Shane Black has a bizarre history in film that starts with the production of his script, Lethal Weapon. During production of that film, he appeared in another Joel Silver film in production at the time… Predator. He played doomed soldier Rick Hawkins, the first member of Dutch’s platoon to encounter the alien menace and have his spine and skull ripped from his body. He’s had many hit films along the way, but only made his directorial debut with the modern noir “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang”. He had a hit with “Iron Man 3” and completely blew audiences away with the sleeper hit and modern cult phenomena “The Nice Guys”. So with the announcement of his work on the Predator franchise it was hard to see how the film could go wrong.
With amazing visual effects and a stellar cast, The Predator starts with a bang and brings the audience along on a thrilling ride with a group of rag tag soldiers teaming up with an xeno-biologist to face off against both the alien creatures and a covert Government Agency that wants them dead for reasons. More on that later. We love these characters- irreverent and sometimes tragic, they are a group of mentally unstable soldiers on their way for treatment with a number of disorders ranging from PTSD to Tourette’s. Thomas Jane and Keegan-Michal Key display a brotherly relationship that is at times antagonistic and loving, Trevayne Woods is the father figure of the team, and the bland Boyd Hollbrook is the lead whose earlier encounter with a crashed Predator ship starts the ball rolling. Blood, guts, action, and great dialogue pepper the film and is very satisfying to watch.
There is the twelve-year old kid inside of myself who was high on blood, guts, irreverent humor and kick ass awesomeness. BUT…
The Predator franchise, for all its ups and downs, has always been a pretty simple concept- The Predator is here to trophy hunt. They are hunters, they are tracking and killing prey, and they are not going to waste their time with unarmed chaff. The first film makes a strong point of this. The subsequent films, no matter how much of a failure some have been, have never tried to delve much deeper into the premise. But the latest film attempts to answer a question that no one was asking- Why do the Predators collect trophies? And what we get is an answer that then leaves the rest of the film under a blanket of “So, wait, why is this happening?” And, regardless of the answers, we are still left wondering “So, wait, why did all of this happen?”.
And, make no mistake, it’s a bit of a convoluted mess. I turned to my wife this morning and asked, and she had answers that she interpreted and I was still left a little confused. Shane Black even goes back to his trope of “kidnapping” characters in several moments (watch any Black film), only to leave us scratching our heads as to why? The Government agency wants to kill the loons, who have proven themselves effective in fighting and tracking the Predator because the Government Agency is written to be antagonistic and we don’t need a logical reason, goddamnit! Olivia Munn’s xenobiologist seems less like a character and more like a tagged on diversity hire (And no, I’m not touching the controversy surrounding the film with a  ten foot pole). Her whole purpose seems to be answering a question that nobody was asking. Not even the film’s lead, who takes her “revelation” with a dismissive shrug because it really DOESN’T MATTER!!! Oh, well, we also get to shoe-horn some environmentalist messages about pollution and the self-destructive nature of humanity and yadda yadda blah blah. Holy shit, there’s a whole lot of preachy bullshit scattered throughout this kick-ass film about an alien that hunts humans. The end builds to an almost satisfying finale only to dash it with an epilogue that may have seemed totally “cool” in conception but still leaves us wondering “Wait… WHY?!?!?!!!”
7 out of 10, though I’m probably being overly generous for the camaraderie displayed between the “Loons”.  

Friday, September 14, 2018

MANDY!!! Maaaaannnnn-dy! (Movie REview)

Haunting, tragic, and twisted: MANDY is an experience that won’t appeal to everyone. It’s a film that will divide horror fans when the year in review comes around. Director Panos Cosmatos (Beyond the Black Rainbow) and composer Johan Johannsson (Sicarrio) have crafted a surreal nightmare landscape of exquisitely shot visuals and haunting sounds. This is at once a beautiful and terrifying vision and it is totally insane. Red Miller (Nicolas Cage) is a logger living in the unspecified wilderness in the early 1980’s. He’s in love with Mandy (Andrea Riseborough), a haunting and self-assured woman who catches the eye of a cult-leader, Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache). The idyllic life the couple share is shattered when Sand sends his cult to find the girl, and the couple are subjected to a drug-addled torture.
Divided into three acts with title cards, the film is a slow burn to that final act. Roache delivers a manic performance as Sand, a spiritual new-age “Hippy” playing with a messianic complex that serves to blind him to his own narcissism. His rag tag assemblage of followers are lunatics devoted to the man-boys shallow definition of “enlightenment”. They serve to inflate his ego, though the film quickly reveals him to be a charlatan and fraud who long ago started to believe in his own lies. When he sees  Mandy, he wants her. He feels he should always get what he wants, that the world exists to serve him. His effort is met with a turn from Riseborough that is at once heroic and tragic.
The film becomes a nightmare swirl of pain and heartache. The bombastic score grates the nerves, a synthesizer blend of uncomfortable minor keys that rip hard into the conscious mind. Reminiscent of past films like Blade Runner and Risky Business, the music and color palette of the film are characters in and of themselves. We’re in a reality that seems familiar but also carries an epic fantasy level of dark energy, something bordering on the supernatural. There are no dragons here, but there are monsters that may have once been men. And the Reaper is coming.
It’s that third act where Nicolas Cage takes control of the reins and takes off all the gloves. He’s on a rip roaring rampage kill spree that will see him dive into the darkest depths of hell itself to do the things that must be done. It’s a truly awe-inspiring performance from Cage, a swing for the fences that rewards and pays back all dividends in full. Washed in blood and horror, Mandy delivers the goods.
9.5 out of 10.