SING

SING

3 stars (out of 4)

Released 2016

I didn’t actually know anything about SING until I read an article about the voice actors who were working on the Japanese dub for the film. So while on my recent overseas flight, I decided to watch this American film in Japanese, with English subtitles, just because I could.

Overall, it was pretty funny and entertaining; and the animation looked great. I probably empathized most with Ash, the little rocker porcupine. But it was the way that Johnny, the sweet-voiced gangster gorilla, juggled his new career with the family business that really made my jaw drop.

I didn’t care for Mike, the talented but arrogant mouse, much at all. And the main character, enterprising koala Buster Moon, was a good guy; but some of the stuff he did was in fact illegal, which left me feeling a little uneasy.

Bittersweet (Nigakute Amai)

nigakute amai

2.5 stars (out of 4)

Released 2016 in Japan

In this live-action adaptation of a manga by Kobayashi Yumiwo, a young woman begins to put her life together, nutritionally as well as emotionally, after moving in with a vegetarian guy who cooks good. They probably should have included recipes for all the food porn.

Your name.

your-name

3.5 stars (out of 4)

Released 2017 in North America

The hype surrounding this film has been phenomenal. Following its release in Japan and other regions last summer, it has racked up massive box office success and rave reviews. I read as little about it as possible all this time and tried not to expect too much, lest the movie should fail to live up to its reputation. It turns out there was no need to temper my expectations.

The story begins with 2 teenagers randomly waking up in each other’s bodies several times a week. Mitsuha and Taki cope by leaving notes for each other so they will know what happened while they were away. As they explore their counterpart’s life, the audience is treated to wonderful views of big-city Tokyo and a small town in the countryside. Seeing it in the theatre, it is almost like being there, and really makes you want to visit. That’s just the beginning.

Your name. is beautifully animated. It is in turn immensely funny and very sad; and in a departure from previous Makoto Shinkai works, it is also surprisingly hopeful. You don’t have to be an anime fan or a Shinkai fan to enjoy this film.

FUNimation is presenting your name. in subtitled and English-dubbed versions. We watched the sub. Go see it while you can during its limited cinematic run. It’s a fantastic movie and it deserves to be seen on the big screen!

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast 2017

3.5 stars (out of 4)

Released 2017

It’s been a very long time since I’ve seen the classic animated film from 1991, but this new live-action remake seems to be an extremely faithful adaptation. Some parts of it are scene-for-scene, word-for-word the same, if memory serves.

All the familiar songs are included (yes, it’s a musical), along with a few new pieces. Emma Watson and the rest of the cast turn in excellent vocal performances.

One thing this version absolutely does do right is expand on the Beast’s personality and give more insight into the mindset of his staff. I had an issue with his lack of chemistry with Belle in the original. The added content here definitely improves the believability of their relationship.

Lefou, Gaston’s sidekick, is also more developed and nuanced than in the animation, I believe.

I do wish they could have done one more thing, though, and that’s give the Beast an actual name. Oh well, can’t have everything.

LOGAN

Logan2

3 stars (out of 4)

Released 2017

The acting was good, the story was believable, the action was slick, and the violence was suitably graphic. The overall experience, though, was kind of a downer.

I suppose that was to be expected; the promotional material made it clear Logan’s abilities were fading and Charles was losing control over his body and mind. But it’s really depressing to see your heroes stuck in such a miserable existence and being so vulnerable. Logan actually took a bullet for his car in the opening scene, and it was completely without irony since he seriously needed that car to make a living.

It’s definitely a well-made and thoughtful film, but I guess I have a personal bias toward badassery in my superhero movies. LOGAN left me feeling sad.

THE WOLVERINE

The Wolverine 2013

2 stars (out of 4)

Released 2013

It’s Wolverine week in the Jacquie household!

So yes, I had purchased this second Wolverine DVD as well, and despite my good intentions, and the fact that it takes place in Japan, and the positive reviews, I didn’t watch this one either until now.

I’m really surprised that this was the better received film! It didn’t even seem like much of an X-Men story, there were so few mutants in it! Well, if you’re not really into superheroes and would prefer to see swordfights instead, this might be more widely accessible, maybe.

In the earlier Wolverine film, all of the action scenes were very relevant to the plot. Here, they played out more like an excuse to present a travelogue of uniquely (and rather stereotypically) Japanese imagery.

Almost as if the story had to have a reason to be set in Japan, it included scenes of samurai swordfights, black-clad ninja, love hotels, pachinko parlours, and more. I tried to be open-minded, but I couldn’t help thinking it was a bit much. Logan even fights a mobile suit, for Christ’s sake!

At least Godzilla was nowhere to be seen.

I suppose the train fight was impressively ambitious. I’ve seen many train-roof battles before; but granted, never one unfolding at 300km/hr atop a Shinkansen. Only problem was, I couldn’t buy that the bad guys were actually scheming anything in that situation. When you’re clinging to an object moving at that kind of speed, I would imagine your one and only priority would be to just stay alive.

All the attempts at humour fell pretty flat.

In order to care about the heroine, Mariko, I needed to see some development in the relationship with her adopted sister, or her father, or her boyfriend – pretty much anything but what we got. Her relationship with Logan was both unnecessary and uninteresting.

Ultimately, I could have forgiven some of that tropey stuff, especially if it pleased the intended audience, if it were not for the paper-thin, unconvincing plot. That, I could not overlook.

X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE

X-Men Origins Wolverine

3.5 stars (out of 4)

Released 2009

It was probably around the time when this film came out that I started to have less inclination to go to the movies. There might have been some superhero-movie fatigue too. Add to that the tepid reviews and the fact that I had already read various Wolverine origins stories before in comic book form, and the result was I never bothered to go out and see this.

Some years ago, I purchased the DVD because it was on sale; and even then I didn’t actually watch it. Until now. What the heck – it’s really good!

Perhaps it isn’t as metaphorical or philosophical as something on the level of First Class, but as a coherent, plot-driven action film and character study, it gets the job done in a riveting and entertaining way. While the events are mostly serious, there are segments of comic relief, and they work really well.

The only questionable aspect I can think of is a strange driving sequence which looks really fake, almost as if they were trying to emulate the way films used to look during the time period of that scene. Why they would do that, I don’t know. The rest of the film looks pretty great.

Well also, could hydrochlorothiazide do what they suggested? I kind of doubt it, but then again, the “patient” is not exactly a normal human being either.

Anyway, I enjoyed ORIGINS a lot. Hugh Jackman was excellent as Logan/Wolverine, as he always is. I love him in this role!

ROGUE ONE: A Star Wars Story

rogue-one

3 stars (out of 4)

Released 2016

ROGUE ONE details the events immediately leading up to Star Wars: A New Hope. It explains how the Rebel Alliance managed to procure the plans to the Empire’s Death Star weapon and gives faces to the brave operatives who took on the task.

The plot is not extremely complicated, and there’s no deep message or theme. What we do get is a lot of space warfare and fighting and explosions and death. There is a tiny bit of character development, and also some humour, much of it courtesy of former Imperial droid K-2SO. Basically, it’s an action piece with high production values, good acting, good special effects, and a likeable cast. It is completely consistent with what you would expect from a Star Wars film.

As an unrelated aside, one of the previews at our screening was for the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 movie, starring Baby Groot. Groot was already cute before, right? Oh my god, they’re killing me with this Baby Groot!

Batman: Assault on Arkham

batman-assault-on-arkham

3.5 stars (out of 4)

Released 2014

Batman’s name is in the title and he has top billing, but he is not actually the main character in this movie. The Suicide Squad, a group of baddies forced to work together, is the primary focus of the show. Their task is to break into Arkham Asylum to recover stolen information. The Caped Crusader is on a different mission, mostly in the background, but it all intersects neatly eventually.

Assault on Arkham features some really great characterization and clear agency for most of the squad members. I actually loved the frequent in-fighting between them. Generally, when teammates start bickering or throwing fists in the middle of a mission, I find it ridiculous that they would be childish enough to lose focus so easily and at such an inopportune moment. Here though, it happened so naturally as a result of their personalities that it was believable, and also very fun to watch!

Viewing this kind of made me nostalgic for the days when I used to watch Batman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond on the TV back in the 90s. (Kevin Conroy reprises the role of Batman in this film.)

Assault on Arkham showcases excellent narrative direction and its action scenes are beautifully animated. The content is more mature and dark compared to the old TV programs, including some coarse language, implied sex and nudity, and of course plenty of violence and murder, so this one’s definitely not for the kiddies.

PARASYTE (Kiseijuu) Part 2 – Completion

Parasyte-2

3 stars (out of 4)

Released 2015 (in Japan)

When I watched this part of the story in the anime series, I thought it was a little too stretched out and overly preachy about its environmental and humans-are-the-real-monsters themes. Therefore, I rather enjoyed the faster pace of this movie by comparison.

Tamiya Ryoko didn’t get as much development as in the anime. Regardless, her vision and wisdom came through concisely over the course of the film.

For all the action sequences that got cut, I was surprised that they decided to retain the love-making scene. I didn’t really feel that it was necessary to the story in the first place; and by having it take place at a waste management facility… that just was not very romantic, to say the least.