Quick Hit: A familiar science fiction story that features great animation.
Hello! For those of you new to the site, thanks for joining! I’m slowly watching through some anime recommendations (in addition to the other films we cover) from my friend Enoch as I attempt to increase the diversity of our site. Today’s film is Captain Harlock: Space Pirate.
To date, the most recent anime films that I’ve covered have been the more traditional animation style. Here, the animation team chooses to forego this traditional style in the adaptation of this classic manga story in order to give us a hyper realized animation. This 3D generation, which has become much more popular in video games as our computers have the ability to keep up with our eyes, is one of the true standouts of the film. Though there are a few moments where you get the traditional computer stretch (at one point, Yama/Logan’s hand seems to be about three feet long), most of the film is flawless in its execution. This especially comes forward in some of the action scenes, which I’ll touch on in a bit.
The story itself is terribly familiar, and is one of the things I was most disappointed in after watching this movie. We’re talking about a movie where the title character is a freaking space pirate, who wears an eye patch and has a majestic cape, and instead we choose to focus on the internal struggles of someone else (Yama/Logan). While I understand why the framed it that way, it means the story gets split and some of Harlock’s influence is robbed. I also don’t think Yama/Logan is very interesting. Sure he has the guilt that the story puts on him… but I also don’t really understand his reasoning for even making the mistake he did. Because he’s dumb? Not sure if that’s a good enough reason for me.
The one good thing that springs out of this is it holds us off on seeing Harlock be the BA that he is until quite a bit into the movie. When he finally springs into action, it’s exciting to the point of when Neo finally enters the Matrix as The One. All the action in this film is really good, but Harlock’s scenes are by far the best. I’d also like to reference his ship, the Arcadia. IT’S FREAKING AWESOME. Sure, it’s got almost every cliché you could have, but it’s one of the best example of merging SPACE and PIRATE that I could think of. Combine it with the fact that it’s about as immortal as Harlock, and you’ve got one of the best ships out there. The highlight of the movie visually is the ship continually ramming into the other spaceships. There are tons of moving parts to the Arcadia, and none of them let us down.
The characterization of the characters is a bit subpar, especially when it comes to the villains. The crew members, outside of “techy guy who is fat (Yullian/Yattaran)” and “hot anime girl (Kei – who even gets a completely superfluous zero-g shower scene) are practically non-existent. Having a giant board of old men politicians is REALLY overdone, and I think it would have been better to go the route of Serenity and just focus on one and nearly leave them out of it. It also dilutes the power of Ezra, who should be the real bad guy here.
But overall, I thought that this was pretty entertaining. Is it the best movie I’ve seen? Absolutely not – it has its issues. However, it will solidly entertain you if you are a fan of the genre. I’m giving it a “B-“.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
Quick Hit: Mind-blowing in its storytelling.
It had been a long time since I had watched this movie – probably nearly ten years. So it was as close to going into a film that I’ve already seen fresh as I could get. And while some of the aspects in the movie probably hit me just as hard as when I was Donnie’s age (like the portrayal of high school, which I still think is scarily accurate), there are other scenes that seemed a bit out of place. The film, however, still packs a solid punch. By the way, this will be a review with SPOILERS. If you need 17 years to watch a movie, that’s fine, just don’t read any further, or skip to the final paragraph where I give the rating.
The plot boils down to this – we have a typical American family. We have a young man, Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) who has some mental issues. For one, he’s seeing a large demonic bunny at times (named Frank, because of course). He also discovers a book about time travel written by the crazy lady next door (nicknamed Grandma Death, because… of course).
There’s a LOT in this movie to breakdown. It’s one of the reasons where I broke down and said that there would be spoilers in this, because I think something like this is difficult to absorb without looking at it in the full picture. Otherwise, you just get a crazy guy who sees a weird bunny thing. First, I’d like to talk about the adults in this picture. Often times when you see a movie where the teenager is the main character, the adults come off a bit like caricatures – they’re there, but not much substance to them. One of the reasons that I really enjoyed watching this movie as an older adult is that you can instantly see the adults better. The Darkos are just trying to raise their increasingly troubled son in a world that doesn’t understand him. This creates stress on them, particularly when you consider that they don’t understand his issues themselves, and they have other children, like a daughter (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who is about to start at Harvard.
There are also the teachers, which run the gamut from fanatic (Ms. Farmer) to slightly inappropriate but well-meaning (Ms. Pomeroy – played by Drew Barrymore) to the science teacher just working to help one of his talented students understand a mind-blowing concept like time travel. Oh yes, did I mention that this movie takes one of my favorite subjects and freaking RUNS with it? Yeah.
Once you start to put the pieces together (for me, it usually happens in the theater scene), the whole movie turns into a bit of a punch in the gut. It completely puts into perspective Donnie’s entire actions regarding Gretchen (an extremely young Jena Malone – Catching Fire and Nocturnal Animals), and actually turns what has been really disturbing film into a well-written love story. It’s great writing by Richard Kelly, who also directed the film.
The whole thing also has a very particular look, and Kelly isn’t afraid of spoofing other teenage films, like the famous John Hughes films of the 80s. When Donnie first enters the high school, we’re given what is nearly a montage of teenagedom (there’s even dancing cheerleaders – I nearly expect “Smells Like Teen Spirit” to come on at this point every time). But it’s the scenes involving Donnie’s visions that truly make Darko a film worth watching. Everything is dark and ominous, but it often involves switching scenes back and forth rapidly. This gives a gentle confusion of the story while still showing us that there is something obviously wrong with Donnie. I really like the… how do you describe the… energy beams that lead Donnie different places inside his home. It literally moves the story forward. There’s also the gentle progression of the book on time travel that helps to issue the story along.
One more thing – Jake Gyllenhaal is one of those actors that is amazing in everything and somehow doesn’t get recognized enough. His Donnie Darko is a creation that is one of the best acting performances of his career. He is disturbing enough that you want to keep your distance, but not so much that you are truly scared of him. That’s a fine line to walk, but Gyllenhaal does it flawlessly. And don’t get me started on some of his creepy looks in this film.
So after 750 words, I think it’s pretty obvious that I like this movie. I didn’t even cover someone like Patrick Swayze, who comes in and plays exactly the role you would expect in this, but that’s ok – maybe I’ll go back in time and hit it in the tangent universe. In this one and in all others, Donnie Darko is an “A”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
Quick Hit: Our inadvertent Spielberg-athon continues with this masterful science fiction film.
So I didn’t quite realize how many different Spielberg movies we were covering as part of Science Fiction month. To date, we’ve covered two directors the most this month – two for Christopher Nolan (The Prestige, Interstellar) and three for Spielberg - Ready Player One, Close Encounters, and today’s film, Minority Report. If you look at these movies, you can see why – the man is a master at combining story and the latest effects technology into a smooth, lines free film.
Minority Report follows Chief John Anderton (Tom Cruise) as he continues to pilot the fledgling Pre-Crime unit. He does so using the images generated by Pre-Cogs that live life awash in a nutrient formula. They predict when murders will occur, and Anderton conducts these hazy images like a symphony, frequently using the images projected on a holographic screen and zooming to the next one before using futuristic vehicles to apprehend the subject prior to the committal of the crime. The story, written originally by science-fiction Rushmore member Phillip K. Dick (who also wrote what Blade Runner and its sequel were based off of) is fleshed out and expanded, giving Anderton motivation and belief in this system which circumvents free will.
That is a huge part of the story, and I won’t dive much deeper into the plot for fear of ruining it for those that haven’t seen it (in the last 16 years!!). But suffice it to say that it opens really large philosophical questions about each and every one of your actions – do you choose them, or are they indeed predestined to take place? That’s a heady idea to be presented in a big budget blockbuster, so kudos to Spielberg for being unafraid to put it on screen.
And what a world we are plunged into! Outside of the Pre-Crime unit, the world has obviously changed greatly. We have magnetic, self-driving cars that seem to travel in any direction that they please – even directly down the side of buildings. There’re also eye scanners that lead to directed advertising – all the way down to cereal boxes. And in perhaps the most gripping scene in the movie, we have robotic spiders that can search an entire building and identify the inhabitants by forced retinal scans. This, for me, is the best scene in the movie – the way that the people simply continue on with their lives, even pausing fights and intercourse to be scanned is terrifying. The camerawork (and accompanying set work) that made this scene possible is almost unrivaled.
I also want to point out that Tom Cruise is just a great action star. There’s something to say for someone that can rock the emotional side of a story that is set (at the time) fifty years into the future. There’s another thing to say that someone makes stunts believable. But it’s the married quality of Cruise’s performance that continues to make him succeed where others have failed. He is unflinching in the rougher moments of the movie, and unafraid to show vulnerability despite his character’s tough guy persona. He’s an addict for goodness sake!
I actually think others may have made this point before, but I think that this is fascinating when paired with another science fiction virtuoso’s classic – Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. In that film, Malcolm McDowell’s Alex is forced into a program to “cure him” of his ways AFTER the crime, and here people are arrested BEFORE their crime and put into a “halo”. It’s just a fun juxtaposition that I think people should think about.
Anyways, this movie is great and I can’t find fault in much of it. I’m giving it an “A+”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"