2 stars (out of 4)

Released 1979

It is a classic, so I feel bad about giving it a low rating, but this is how I honestly feel about this Leiji Matsumoto film, watching it now in 2013, for the first time. I saw it as a Toronto Animation Arts Festival International screening at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, and I have to say, that was the best way to see the film: for free, and on the big screen. I doubt I would have ever watched it otherwise.

In the future setting of GALAXY EXPRESS “three-nine”, many humans have turned themselves into cyborgs. Ophan Tetsuro sets out on a journey to get mechanical parts for his own body and to exact revenge on the man who killed his mother. He is accompanied on the journey by Maetel, a woman who bears a noted resemblance to the mother.

Along the way, he meets new people who widen his perspective. There is some resolution to his goals, and yet, the film still ends with some arthouse ambiguity and an indulgent train scene.

Considering its age, the animation looked pretty good. Character designs were limited, which is typical for Leiji-verse works. For instance, most of the women looked the same except for different hair colour; one also had a scar on her face, another held a guitar.

During an early flashback, I wondered how someone as purportedly beautiful as Tetsuro’s mom could have possibly given birth to such an ugly child. It did seem, however, that all the children in the film were equally ugly. Maybe in this future, all kids are born neck-less with their eyes closely-spaced in the middle of their foreheads, and as they grow up, the eyes gradually separate and migrate down their faces until they look relatively human by adulthood. Am I over-thinking this?


3 stars (out of 4)

Released 2013

It’s the future and Earth has been under attack by mysterious giant monsters for years. Humanity builds walls to keep the monsters out, but walls can be breached. Our main character and his Asian female sidekick are soldiers who have lost their families. They continue to fight even though there is little hope for survival and their colleagues are falling in battle. Could be Attack on Titan, but it’s not; it’s PACIFIC RIM!

The creatures in this film, called Kaiju, emerge from a dimensional rift in the ocean. To counter the threat, humans built giant robots, called Jaegers, which must be operated by 2 pilots synchronized in a neural bridge. However, the program is failing, and the few remaining Jaegers have a chance to mount one last stand. Raleigh, the hero, is one of the pilots.

As someone who is admittedly rather mecha-challenged, that is, I’m not usually good at telling one machine from another and at following mecha fights, I didn’t have too much trouble with the action scenes in this movie. Generally, they were clearly presented; it was perhaps actually easier to distinguish the robots than the generically good-looking young actors in the cast. There were the occasional scenes, however, that were dark enough that it took me a moment to determine if I was looking at a Jaeger or a Kaiju.

Raleigh’s eventual partner, Mako, didn’t come off quite as tough as I’d hoped she would have. It seemed like Raleigh was always protecting her instead of the other way around. At the same time, I’m grateful she was no damsel in distress either. And some of her “weakness” may have made her a more sympathetic character for the audience to relate to. Also, how cute was the younger version of Mako?

I liked that there was plenty of human action and character development too, away from the robots. The movie was fun and frequently thrilling to watch. And there’s even a mild environmental message to boot.


HAREM SCAREM & HEAVENS FIRE, with WARMACHINE & West Memphis Suicide, July 12th at THE ROCKPILE

Ma~ I might come back and add a few more words later, but for now, here’s HAREM SCAREM’s set list:

01. Saviors Never Cry
02. Dagger
03. Hard to Love
04. If There Was A Time
05. Sentimental Blvd.
06. Honestly
07. Slowly Slipping Away
08. Karma Cleansing
09. Stranger Than Love
10. Mandy
11. Had Enough

12. No Justice
13. Change Comes Around

This is the End

2 stars (out of 4)

Released 2013

After being unimpressed with the trailer, I wasn’t planning on seeing this film, but rave reviews from critics and a stellar rating on imdb changed my mind.

The concept is that a group of comedic actors, playing themselves (or parodying themselves), are gathered for a party when some kind of apocalypse strikes the world.  Sounds funny, right?  Unfortunately, a lot of the script feels like uninspired improv, with each joke going on a little too long and just not being funny enough to make you laugh.

I kept waiting for this film to get funnier or more clever, based on the reviews I had read, but, no, this film is what its trailer promised and nothing more.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy Poster.jpg

2 stars (out of 4)

Released 2011

Based on the John LeCarre novel about British spies during the Cold War, this film adaptation is virtually impossible to follow unless you are familiar with the world of Cold War era espionage.

I watched this with sub-titles on, so at least I had some help learning the names of the numerous characters (eg. “Control” is the name of one of the spies).  Despite the fact that the casting director wisely chose actors with very distinctive faces, I still couldn’t keep track of which name belonged to which face, and, since off-screen characters are frequently referred to only by their names, this is a problem.

The story is told in a non-linear fashion, and there were several scenes in which I was so lost as to what was going on that, when the film finally reveals the significance of the earlier mysterious scene, I had completely forgotten it.

Add the above problems to the fact that there is very little movement in the film (I mean, literally, people move around slowly, if at all, and, being British, emote very little) and you have a strangely inert movie.  If the viewer could understand all the calculating that is presumably going on inside the characters’ implacable exteriors, I guess it could have been suspenseful.

I only know that there was a coherent story under this mess because I watched it with someone who had read one of LeCarre’s novels as well as other spy novels that deal with similar themes and he was able to explain many of the plot points that I had missed.

Still, a movie that cannot stand alone and requires extensive background knowledge for basic comprehension of its plot, is a failure.

“Attack on Titan” Original Soundtrack


I can’t remember the last time I liked a soundtrack the way I enjoy this one, from beginning to end, all 77 minutes of it!

Musically, it’s very diverse. There are swelling orchestral parts, including strings and horns. There’s sparing use of acoustic guitar and piano and electronica/dubstep on some tunes, as well as a generous but judicious presence of electric guitar work. Some tracks feature Middle Eastern or Asian ethnic sounds; one even has an American bluesy feel. Underlying it all is a rock foundation, and that’s probably at least part of the reason why this record appeals to me so much personally.

One male singer and 3 female singers provide vocals to several of the songs. Of those tracks, three (“The Reluctant Heroes”, “DOA”, “Call your name”) are mainly rock numbers, while the others (“Vogel im Kafig”, “Bauklotze”) sound more atmospheric and melancholy.

Additionally, tracks 2, 4, and 5 are related. Well, they sound like completely different songs, but they all eventually reprise the main melody which begins in “The Reluctant Heroes.”  Likewise, “eye-water” and “Call your name” are somewhat alternate takes on a same song.

Although many of the tracks clock in at over 5 minutes in length, they don’t seem long at all because the music often takes a radical turn mid-song, with vastly different instrumentation, melody, and mood.

All in all, a great listen!

I originally checked out this soundtrack because I was interested in the “Attack on Titan” anime, but now it’s come to the point where I’m enjoying the anime more, in fact it can practically do no wrong by me, because it has this music in it!