Arrival is a movie that asks the question “What is the first thing we ask an alien race?” It is actually an incredibly simple set-up, spaceships land and a linguist (Amy Adams) must now develop a dialog between them. Simple but also not so much when you think about all that goes into communicating, also with a completely different species.
During the first half an hour of the film the score is terribly obnoxious, every big thing that happens is accompanied with the orchestra going nuts on a single note as loud as they can. There’s musical effect to heighten the mood of a scene and put us in the shoes of our character but this was just blunt un-subtlety.
The ship itself is like a giant floating black pill, cut down the middle. From the bottom a rectangular tunnel opens, within it they provide gravity so the walls can be easily walked on, then that leads to a age rectangular room, where a glass (or whatever the alien equivalent of glass is) separates the two species.
Their exact details are obscured in the smoke but from what we can see they look like obsidian Octopus or hands. When we learn how they function reader of Slaughterhouse 5 will notice a channeling of ideas.
Eventually a back and forth is developed through writings. Louise writes things down in English and the aliens eventually respond with their own form of writings. They look like black coffee rings, always taking a circle form but with spikes, or plashes or thicker lines or gaps within them.
Amy Adams as Dr. Louise Banks gives an incredibly grounded performance as this truly human but also admirable character. She is driven in her believes and is clearly an expert in her field but she is also very shaken with her world being turned upside-down because of an alien arrival. She shakes and is intimidated by the momentous task she has to achieve but proceeds to do her very best.
Throughout this entire movie there are no action scenes, no moments when gunfire accrues on-screen.This is a good thing. So many science fiction movies either are just action movies but with crazy gun designs and flashier colours or don’t trust their audience enough to stick with them through their message. Arrival has something to say and keeps saying it, without having the throw-in some loud noises to make sure your awake.
One tricky element to this movie that might end-up being a detriment. That is the fact that it is in English and language is so key to the form of the movie. Usually I wouldn’t think about this but because the movie is so keenly focused on the words it chooses and how they can be interpreted, how well will this work with other countries? The translating process is more complicated than just writing-up a direct translation and putting it into subtitles that appear on-screen. Different languages come with different sensibilities so how well can this be translated? This may turn-out to be nothing but it was a question the movie raised within me.
Arrival is a movie that will make you truly think about, is nothing else, your choice of words. How you make decisions and the options you give to an outsider. Thinking is what a science fiction movie should do. This accomplishes its mission.
I leave St David’s Hall, feet hurting & makeup failing, holding a paper napkin full of warm quiche and Welsh rarebit. Outside, sitting cross-legged on the floor with his back against a wall is a homeless man with a lap full of BAFTA chocolates, still in their fancy boxes. Would you like something savoury? Ooh, yes please. Here, enjoy.
What is it about us that believes there is a difference between the ordinary folk and the extraordinary, the stars, the celebs? Do we judge what makes us special by our material wealth, our social standing, our academic success, the number of people who recognise us? I am as happy as the next post-80s socialite to be in her glad rags and jewels for a night but I am concerned that with all that money and status and happiness abounding tonight, that homeless person has a lap full of freebie chocolate. Maybe someone will write him a cheque.
Other people will talk about the glitz and the nominees and the winners and the glitterballs of a spectacular night. I want to talk about ordinary people, the social aspects of an awards event and the curious exclusivity of the Welsh Language.
To start again, I am standing in the press pen wishing I had a mallow ice-cream cornet to wave at people like a mike, asking for an interview. I am strangely confused by the lack of enthusiasm of journalists to actually talk to the guests. One old hack prefers to cover news events, another happily interviews in Welsh, armed with his iphone on record. Two reviewers behind me barely talk to each other. Others think that we four from Get the Chance are better turned out than the stars.
Which brings me to another reflection on society today (sic), what happened to Black Tie occasions meaning black tie? This is not about class, this is about respecting the invitation from the organisers, sponsors, guests, nominees and attendees; as well as the public so patiently waiting along the barricades. This is the BAFTA’s after all – a visual feast. The men generally are smart but very few bow ties and a nasty selection of daps on show. So few women sweep the red carpet in elegant attire that the ones I spot, I approach at the party later and tell them how lovely they looked, how professional. Each one crumbles in gratitude and enjoys the compliment. So few walk with confidence, I hesitate to use the word deportment but high heels and tight dresses usually benefit from a fine carriage.. why are all these extraordinary women so lacking in assurance? Perhaps it is their ordinariness revealed.
Everyone is friendly. Perhaps it helps that no one is 100% sure who everyone else is; there is no differentiation between attendees – we are all mucking in together in the audience, in the party, in the bars, taking selfies with the BAFTA masks. This makes for a remarkably easy atmosphere and a great buzz. We are all extraordinary; both inside and outside the building.
But is this exclusive? I am disappointed by the Welshness of it all. I know, it’s the Welsh BAFTA’s, BAFTA Cymru; but this is designed to celebrate the wonderful dramatic work in Wales and share it, not create a club based on linguistics. I was born in Wales, I have some Welsh language and I was educated here in Cardiff. Am I alone in thinking that this thing is not for the likes of me? There are not many people lining those barricades along The Hayes, the lack of press, the scuttling into the Hall, the dressing-down, the determination to celebrate smallness over scale. It feels just a little bit poor, the content just a little bit too fashionable. A fab party but not a BAFTAs, a magnificent glorification of TV and Film, helping to get those important messages out there – it’s OK to have fun, it’s right to tell your story, it’s good to want to change the world.
It feels just a little bit ordinary, whatever that is. We should have more pride and shout it out. It is time for another wafer, monsieur; and I think most of us ordinary folk would also prefer something savoury, something more substantial.
Every evening in Cardiff I see more and more homeless people; last night, when leaving the WMC on a cold, foggy night, sitting in a corner against the main building was a man completing a broad sheet newspaper. We interrupted him to give him what cash we had about us – a paltry handful of change as it turned out – but he would not take it without giving us something in return. He gave us a magic trick. We enjoyed a chat and a laugh together and went on our way. I wished I had some warm quiche for him too.
Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them is based on a fictional textbook about all the different creatures that inhabit the Harry Potter world. If you have seen the movie Adaptation you will know that taking a non-fiction book without a plot is very difficult. There’s not a lot to help shape the narrative.
I must confess that I am not a Harry Potter fan. I don’t hate the world but I have found that there are other, even more richer fantasy worlds to get involved in rather than this one. So this movie has a lot of work to do to appeal to me.
We open with a colourfully dressed character with a frizzy head-of-hair named Newt. He is getting off the boat and entering New York City in the Roaring Twenties. He carries a suitcase with him that (like Doctor Who’s TARDIS) is bigger on the inside. And inside this case is an entire zoo of Beasts, fantastical creatures. While walking the streets one of the Beasts, a money grabbing mole, gets out and enters a bank, while in pursuit his path crosses with Jacob Kowalski, a local New Yorker that’s trying to get a loan for his bakery. And from there-on we have our movies duo.
Eddie Redmayne as Newt (just like he was in The Theory of Everything) is the best part of the movie. He is a shy and awkward around people, but not the typical portrayal of these types of characters we usually see. He is a sensitive soul that is clearly most happy and truly at home interacting with all the beasts.
He and Dan Fogler as Kowalski are the only actors on the side of our protagonists that seem to be invested in the material. The others seem out-of-place and uninterested. But Newt and Kowalski make a good pair, Newt is inexperienced in New York and the non-magical world and is charmed by Kowalski’s simple mentality, while Kowalski knows nothing about the magical world and is fascinated by everything Newt has to offer. Each of them can provide exposition to the other so the audience is also well informed and the actors work together beautifully.
The other obvious really strong element to the movie is the Beasts themselves. We get a whole bunch of different Beasts that range from the the handheld to the size of a house, all are different shapes and need to be handled differently.
There are some clues that an audience member begins to pick-up on through general experience. You learn that one character may be saying one thing but means another etc. But as soon as we see Colin Ferrell as Percival Graves you will instantly think “Villain!” and you’ll be right.
Also included in the movie is a group of orphans that are abused and also know about the wizarding world. Among them is Ezra Miller as Credense Barebone, just as creepy as We Need to talk about Kevin but in different ways. More like a oily, sad creep, lurking in the darkness.
It is these elements, with Ferrel and Miller where the movie makes it’s biggest mistakes. They are so dark and unpleasant, when we just had some good colourful fun with Newt and Kowalski that they really seem like they are part of another movie.
The final climax comes in the form of a threat that is literally just a shapeless blob on-screen that destroys all in its way. It is almost as un-engaging as the final villain fight in Green Lantern.
This could have been a simple tale of a stranger in a strange land with a case full of trouble and they get loose, so now he and his newly acquired friends have to retrieve them. That’s all that was needed, but having a villain included as well as this political stuff is just unnecessary and muddies a simple tale.
The movies biggest fault comes in it’s ending. I wont spoil it but there is a reveal. And it makes absolutely no sense and comes out of nowhere. I had no idea what was going on until I had a brief talk with one of my friends that is a much greater lover of the Harry Potter lore than I am. This relies so heavily on the audience being fluent in the lore to make any sense, maybe for those people it will be a jaw-dropping moment but I was just bewildered.
There is an audience for this movie. Its not me. The people that will like it are obviously the Harry Potter fans that will take more of the world in any form. Others will simply be taken by the special effects that are happening on-screen and be happy with that. Others, like me, will be smiling at the great duo of Newt and Koalski. So I would recommend this to the Potter fans, but if my best friend asked if they should see it and they were not. They can probably live without it.
Growing up, I have been watching The Snowman and its cousin Father Christmas, every Christmas, every year. When The Snowman and The Snow dog came out, I think my tear ducts weren’t expecting the initiation of another short film to encourage them further.
With one of my brother’s being of the orange haired persuasion, growing up we always joked that my brother was the boy in the film. We even had the bedsheets with him and the Snowman on. And while this was all in jest, what kid did not want to be the kid in The Snowman?
So as you would expect, I know the story off by heart, backwards, forwards, up and down! And so the inner child in me felt nothing but excitement and apprehension of seeing magic come alive on stage.
Boy did it! For those living under a rock, The Snowman is about a boy who makes this frosty creature who comes to life. They spend a short night on Christmas Eve having adventures in his house where his parents sleep and then flying across the world to meet Father Christmas and a range of other Snow men and women.
Many of you may be thinking, it’s November and a little early for Christmas – but once you are taken a-hold of all the joy, the pomp and circumstance of The Snowman on stage, you soon forgive it.
Staging is beautiful – seamlessly moveable into new scenes, when the Snowman and the boy are exploring, everything is a little oversized and cartoonlike which makes it comical and child friendly. To fill out the two hour show, the original content has been adapted, adding a love interest for the Snowman, a bad guy who is triumphed over and some dancing fruit. All of these additions are welcomed and give a more modern twist to the 1982 classic.
As this is the Peacock Theatre, of course it is full of dance. Animal characters, our new villain and damsel in distress are all dancing editions, with the use of classical ballet and contemporary, they beautifully grace the stage, moving with little sound and much grace. Music provided by a live orchestra, it’s hard to not feel ‘christmassey’ with the instrumental sounds and live singing which accompany the stage presence well. We even get a little drum and bass and mixes of the music to again make the piece more modern.
The Snowman is a feel good family show that appeals to all generations – from the young who are being introduced to the story, to die-hard fans like myself and the parents and grandparents who also know the story like the back of their hand – it’s hard not to enjoy and not to come away elated, your inner child bursting to get out.
Get the Chance recently organised a morning of creative conversations called Creative Citizens Cymru. The event was funded by the Arts Council Wales Sharing Together. “A strategic initiative to encourage the development of networking opportunities.”
The event took place at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff. Participants shared their views on a variety of issues including, the on-going relationships between arts critics, venues, producers and artists, critical responses to Welsh venues’ work as well as new and existing collaborative working methods. Get the Chance (GTC) is a social enterprise that supports members of the public to access and respond to sport and cultural provision. GTC was specifically interested in generating conversation relating to ways to support the development of Creative Citizens acting as critics, ambassadors, volunteers, advocates, promoters, workshop leaders and more.
Representatives from a range of organisations discussed some of their work in this area including,
Geinor Styles Artistic Director, of Theatr na nÓg and Ani of the Ambassadors discussed their Ambassadors scheme.
“The Theatr na nÓg Ambassadors scheme started in January 2016 in order to support and mentor the new generation of theatre professionals.
Aimed towards 16-25 year olds, the scheme offers full access to the company where you will learn by observation and get hands-on experience at rehearsals, on productions and events. The Ambassadors have already supported na nÓg in our production of ‘TOM’ at the Wales Millennium Centre, performed as cast members on ‘The Amazing Adventure of Wallace and Bates’ at Cardiff Museum and the Eisteddfod as well as supporting the production of ‘The Ghost of Morfa Colliery’ at the Dylan Thomas Theatre in Swansea.
We want to work with as many young people as possible through the medium of both Welsh and English and by offering our support and resources, we hope to contribute to the development of new skills that they will be able to use at na nÓg and elsewhere in the industry.”
Nia works with local community representatives to support marketing opportunities for touring productions. Shanon Newman was local promoter on a recent production supported by Nia.
“My name is Shannon and I am currently an ‘on the ground promoter’ working on Motherlode’s The Good Earth. That means that I am helping to spread the word to as many people as possible about this show which tours Wales in September.
Motherlode’s tagline is Tireless New Theatre, Made in Wales. I saw the last run of rehearsals for ‘The Good Earth’ at Park & Dare Theatre in Treorchy a few weeks ago. I feel extremely lucky to be working to engage people in the Cardiff area and to have got the chance to watch the performance just before it went on tour to New York. I’m delighted to help spread the word about this production; the themes that it touches on evokes awareness on what has affected Wales as a country in the past and its reaction to moments of hardship. It is an important message of strength and unity, especially during a time when we seem to be so divided.
‘The Good Earth’ echoes concerns over the threat to the Welsh identity and community with its close relation to the Aberfan and Tryweryn tragedies. The play made me feel nostalgic about situations I’ve never personally experienced, and empathetic for the characters’ cause to maintain the integrity of their way of life. It reminded me of Wales’s role in modern Britain, and how drastically that has developed over the years. It was the backlash against apathetic and unjust authorities that helped to fuel the surge of Welsh nationalism that we see today.
The singing, though not appearing to be its fundamental feature, significantly intensified the mood of the play. It had a meditative effect. Kudos to the actors for managing to convey the emotions of deeply relevant issues in many Welsh communities. I am so excited to see the show alongside a Welsh audience when it returns from NYC.”
Peter Gregory and Hilary Farr from Arts Council Wales, Night Out Scheme.
Peter and Hilary gave us all a brief overview of The Night Out Scheme
“The Arts Council of Wales’ Night Out scheme works in partnership with the local authorities to help groups of volunteers across Wales bring the arts to the heart of their communities.
Community groups (known as Promoters) can choose from a huge range of great professional performers and put them on in community or village halls and other non traditional venues across the country. If you want information on how the scheme works and promoting events visit the Become a Promoter Section.
Each year close to 600 shows are booked through the scheme by nearly 350 different community groups. Alongside the main scheme we also run the Noson Allan Fach scheme which offers small shows for member led organsiations such as WI or Merched y Wawr.
Working in conjunction with the local authorities of Wales, the Night Out team operates a guarantee against loss for events where we pay the performer fee and the community promoter pays back ticket income made at the door.
We never take more than the performer costs so as a promoter you will never be worse off by using the scheme. The more money promoters make back the more funds we have available to say yes to another request.
Our promoters are free to book a wide range of professional artists. Many come to Night Out for advice on appropriate high quality shows suitable for small community venues.”
Sophie Mckeand and Christine Smith are Night Out Young Promoter Coordinators and talked about their work in this field.
“The award winning Young Promoters Scheme works with groups of children and young people taking them through the process of becoming the promoters for an event in their community. You can download an information leaflet here
“The whole scheme was very straightforward. Everything was clearly explained. The support we had from the Arts Council staff team was superb …The young people were extremely proud of what they had achieved. They have grown in skill and confidence and can’t wait to do it again” Sharon Campbell Colwyn Bay Youth Centre
The Night Out Young Promoters Scheme is an ideal way of giving practical skills to children and young people and improving the relationship between young people and their schools and their local community.
Operating since 2005, the scheme has worked with hundreds of children and young people aged between 7 and 18 throughout Wales, giving them the unique experience of organising and enjoying a performing arts event in their local hall. Projects involve a facilitator, working alongside a teacher or youth leader to enable a group of young people to experience the “behind the scenes” work that goes into organising an event. Though a series of workshop sessions groups are taken through aspects of Box Office, Front of House, Stage Management and Marketing / publicity and Sponsorship. The Young Promoters get to make all the decisions – and do all the work!
Groups are able to have fun as part of a creative learning process and to develop personal, social and work related skills. When run in schools, the scheme can be utilised to deliver specific elements of the national curriculum since it includes aspects of literacy, ICT, mathematics, numeracy, art and design and event management.”
Kai Jones, Gig Buddies Coordinator, Accessible Information Officer, Learning Disability Wales.
Kai discussed the new Gig Buddies initiative.
“Making choices about how you live your life is an important part of being independent. We want to make sure that people with a learning disability can choose to stay up late and go to gigs. A gig is another name for a music concert.
We know that many people with a learning disability love music, but don’t ever get the chance to go to gigs and see their favourite bands live. To help change this we are starting a new project, called Gig Buddies. The project will match people with a learning disability with volunteers who share the same music tastes so they can go to gigs together.”
Anne-Marie Lawrence, Senior Project Manager, Spice Time Credits, South East Wales.
“Time Credits make a sustainable difference to a range of organisations across the community, housing, health, care and school sectors. They are proven to increase the number of people involved in the community and are able to help sustain that involvement over time, bringing about a range of transformative outcomes.
Time Credit systems work on a simple hour-for-hour basis: for every hour you give to your community you earn one Time Credit, which you can then spend on an activity of your choice.
You can give time in ways that match your skills and interests, and spend your Time Credits with our diverse range of fantastic partners across the UK who offer everything from swimming to learning a language.”
Much of the morning was spent working as a large group sharing learning opportunities and informal networking.
During the second half of the morning the group were tasked with further developing some responses to questions which developed from the initial conversations and areas Get the Chance wanted to focus on. Some of the responses can be seen in the images below.
An online survey was also created to continue this conversations. The survey is till live and we invite anyone interested to complete it.
Trolls is like a sugar rush. Giving you loads of candy. There are so many colors, jokes and popular music but even though there are moments to enjoy you will realise that too much sweetness can make you sickly. No matter the intentions or effort.
In a far off land there is a kingdom where creatures called Bergens (that look a lot more like typical portrayals of Trolls), they are unhappy creatures by nature and can only experience happiness by eating Trolls (looking like their toy counterparts). One day they escape and are able to live in happiness and not fear being eaten.
Years later the Trolls have made their home deep in the forest and now enjoy singing and hug-time with Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick). They have a special ability to manipulate their hair as they wish and others have some other abilities that go by without explanation. However there is one Troll that doesn’t join in on the dancing and singing Branch (Justin Timberlake) who dedicates his life to preparing for the day the Bergens come after them. Which surprise surprise one day they do. So now Poppy and Branch must go on a quest to rescue their friends.
Poppy and Branch serve as a good duo. They are opposites that due to inconvenience have to work together. They have the same goal to work to but have different ideals and morals so they debate which leads to character dynamic.
Dreamworks, typically, is known to cater to the larger demographic, it takes on material that is popular in the public mind now and cast celebrities for their voice cast. This is the prime example of Dreamworks trying too hard to connect with the children and be popular. The premise itself is cute but they feel the need to add all these other pop-culture references and sayings for the children to connect to when what they really do is cheapen and distract.
This is one of the most colourful children’s movie, or maybe just any movie you will find. It really looks like a children’s toy-box come to life. With all the different shades of the rainbow moving on the screen. It’s like Cloud Cuckoo Land from The Lego Movie, but throughout the movie.
As a unique visual gag it gives Poppy the characteristic of doing scrap-booking which lends itself to visually engaging to audience with a mix-up of style. It serves to give the children something to connect with as well as serving as an excuse to have exposition with something interesting happening on-screen.
The soundtrack is composed of covers (mostly) they are the hit pop songs that everyone knows. But also some of them have rapping verses inserted within. They are just so clearly forced and in bad taste. Also there are a few times when a song plays and it doesn’t seem like its the right pick. Just a popular song that doesn’t work for the scene.
The movie is at its best when it is cynical and picking apart the cutesy things that the other Trolls hold so dear. Its a case of everything being too adorable that it becomes sickly so some bitterness is welcome.
Trolls will have the children happy, smiling and probably singing along to the music. A few adults may also smile or even get a chuckle out of the moments that make fun of the cutesier moments.
Ethel and Ernest tells the story of a boy meeting a girl, they fall in love, get married and then share their life together. That is the story and through watching it I realized that it was enough. There doesn’t need to be anything more, a life is filled with so many moments and challenges that that’s all you need.
It is based on the graphic novel by Raymond Briggs, who is a household name because of his extremely popular The Snowman (which was also adapted into animation). He based it on his own parents, he himself is introduced into the story but the material seems oddly uninterested in him. More on these two people.
They first met in 1928 in London so that is where our story starts. Ethal is a young woman working as a maid in a wealthy house. Ernest is living his life by riding his bike down the street when they gazes meet, Ernest takes it on himself to ask her for a night in the cinema. Soon after they get married, move into a nice house and from then on they witness history. From the rise of Nazis, surviving World War two and having a son its all about what comes and how they deal with it, but no matter what, their love endures.
Brenda Blethyn plays Ethel, Jim Broadbent plays Ernest. They are able to recreate the quick, higher tones of their youth effectively though if you are looking to find the elderly tones in their voices you’ll find them. But they own their dialog as simple people but filled with personality. Ethel is a woman that was one of eleven children so is very restrained and enjoys things neat, clean and proper. Ernest was an only child and raised in the slum area of London and knows a lot of cockney songs. He is more spirited and more likely to play pranks.
The drawing style is based off and very effectively emulates Briggs. The characters have realistic proportions but their features are stylized, the eyes are where they’re meant to be, but just dots with a line above and below. Other interesting touches like noses and fingers being shades redder than the usual skin color makes the whole thing feel more textures and organic.
The movie is so generous with its film-making. What I mean by that is that there are moments that could have gone by with less effort but they decide to put in the extra effort for the simple reason that they want to film be be good. Take for example a moment where Ernest goes to light a cigarette, he strikes his lighter a few times and no flame, he inspects it, tries again then the flame comes. In live-action you would have gotten that moment for free, with animation, every new pose cost money and requires planning. So they had no other reason to put it in the film other than it serves as a little extra charm.
This movie falls under that same category of The Long Grey Line, Bambi, Tokyo Story and Boyhood, just the tale of life. A simple story with simple people at the center but filled with great moments. By the end I was so moved by the feeling that I had really experienced these peoples lives with them, things had changed and I was nostalgic for the good old times. A sign of a truly great movie.
If history is any clue The Accountant shouldn’t work. This should just be an insultingly bland movie which serves to get the males excited which really dumb’s them down to a perverted sense of masculinity. However, this movie works, because of that simple little extra effort which has infused this stale premise into a gripping action movie.
We see a boy putting a puzzle together, is intensely focused on his task and keeps reciting Solomon Grundy, his parents are at a clinic for different children, this is Christian Wolff, he has autism and the doctor tells them that he needs to be handled with care and avoid intense scenery bombardment. But his father, a decorated war veteran, does not accept this, he knows the world is nothing but intense sensory bombardment, so instead in adapting the environment to Christian he adapted Christian to his environment. So begins his years of training with all the resources to become one of the most deadly men on the planet.
The boy grows into a man and he is (as the title suggests) an accountant. He is very good at what he does, deducing what is needed for his clients and working the rules to accommodate them. He gets hired by a big robotics company to go through everything to make sure their finances are secure before they go public. It’s fifteen years of intense complex finances so they doubt anyone is up to the task. In the company office clerk Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick) offers him help but he is most comfortable in solitude. He gets to work processing all the years of intense data and writing it on his whiteboard and when that runs out uses the glass walls of the office.
Affleck is actually rather understated in terms of other performances. Usually there is an overemphasis on the quirks and behaviors that come with autism (Dustin Hoffman in Rainman for example), to be sure you can tell he is abnormal but not enough to be an obvious red flag. He can move about in society. He is very blunt an minimal with his dialog and clearly is repressing great frustration when people talk more than they need to. He’s also given his typical behavioral quirk of blowing on his fingers before starting any task.
Kendrick has typically been cast in comedy roles as the cute, spirited one in comedies. She could be out-of-place here in this movie about numbers and bullets. But she serves as a contrast to Wolff’s dry attitude and still plays to her strengths though she’s used as the fish-out-of-water.
J.K. Simmons plays Raymond King, one of the heads at an intelligent agency who seeks to know the facts about Wolff. Simmons is solid throughout this movie, but within it he gets a moments which he genuinely moved me, a scene alone which sums up everything about this character in one moment and could earn him an Oscar on that alone.
We also get our villain, played by Jon Bernthal, some kind of hired gun that is wiping out all the witnesses. He is the opposite of Wolff, very expressive and an energetic talker. So you know the two will meat eventually and because they each have their moments it’s a confrontation your actually anticipating it with excitement.
This movie, or these kinds of movies, for example Taken, The Equalizer and The Gunman I have always found very boring. They are the case of some character that is actually very poorly defined and can mow down roomful after roomful of opponents with little hesitation and the same stern expression. Furthermore all those previous movie I just mentioned have middle aged leads so it just seems like we have to sit through these actors working through they’re midlife-crisis. But this movie comes with so much more. Firstly we get into his past so we know why he’s like he is and how he got to be the best at his work, he is most happy when he solves number problems, wear a pocket protector. This isn’t interested in typical portrayals of a macho-man.
Typically with these types of movies there’s a big action scene at the end and what this usually means is that the movie has run out of story, but this one, even though it does indeed have and action scene in the last act, there is still plot. So many movies last an hour and thirty minutes and only have an hour worth of things to say then give up and resort to gunfire, this movie is two hours long and has a whole movies worth of plot. Such a shame that I have to emphasise how good that is.
There are a whole bunch of movies that are similar to these movie as it could have rather easily been anther one to fall by the wayside. But it has a story that requires the run-time to tell it, engaging performances, a character that has a back-story. The fact that it’s a good movie is enough but knowing that it could have been so stupid makes it a marvel.
Doctor Strange is a movie that must stand out. It has Strange as in it’s title and the name of its main character. So there needs to be something about it that is unlike the other MARVEL movies, hell at this point, where we may be near the saturation point it needs to distinguish itself from all the other Superhero movies we now have.
What MARVEL now puts before us is a gamble. Just as big or maybe more so than what they did with Guardians of the Galaxy. The straightforward way of telling the superhero has almost run dry, so now they need to give us something new. Can they deliver a movie that captures the psychedelic imagery and mind-bending rules of this character and still make it accessible to audiences?
Our hero is the aforementioned mentioned Doctor Stephen Strange a shrewd, arrogant surgeon able to perform the most complicated operations with ease, he also comes with an encyclopedic knowledge of music. One day wile racing to a soiree in his sports car, believing he can do that and talk on his phone, crashes but survives, except his precious hands have been crushed. He can no longer perform surgeries, he could be a consultant but he cannot accept this and spends his fortune seeking out different treatments, to no avail. His quest eventually takes him to Kathmandu where he finds a new lease on life not in science but through magic.
Benedict Cumberbatch soured to a lot of peoples favourite actors list when he debut as the star of Sherlock. Since then he has amassed a very wide range of roles under his belt. This role requires him to capture the transformation of an arrogant, ego inflated, controlling man and have him broken and rebuild himself in a whole new way. He also sounds like Hugh Laurie in House (though that may just be me).
For his supporting characters we have Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer, the part of Stephens ordinary life and his grounding force for humility and kindness. When the training begins we are given The Ancient One played by Tilda Swinton, the mentor character, Swinton is an entity like no other, you really do buy her as a character out of this world or at least not of the norm, able to take the most obscene mystical mumbo-jumbo dialog and roll it off the tongue. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Mordo, another but more experienced sorcerer. Ejiofor is an amazing talent and he does indeed have moments to shine in this movie but he really deserves a part where he’s given a fully fleshed-out character that will bring out his amazing talent. Benedict Wong plays… Wong (no really) another sorcerer, head librarian and the classic non-smiling straight-man.
In terms of the layout of the plot this is still what you will have come to expect from most Superhero movies, especially from MARVEL. But what keeps them fresh and able to continue their winning streak is that they perfect the formula, adding the necessary alterations when needed and still giving us something unique. Doctor Strange has been a character that has flourished in its visuals, this movie shows us colours and transitions like we’ve never seen before, there is a scene where Stephen literally has an outer body experience and we get so many visuals that they may have used them all up, but they continue to give us them. This movie is a the psychedelic one of the MARVEL movies. If you enjoy that, then you will find yourself at home in the other worlds this movie takes you to.
Like any fictional world there needs to be rules to establish the way things work and so the audience can understand it. The sorcerers cast spells by abandoning the previously established limitations of time and space, they need to unlock their minds so the normal rules will bend to them. However some acts put too much of a strain on them so they use tools, which allows them to focus their abilities and easily conjure the spells they need to.
Dr Strange doesn’t, and never really has existed in the same realm as The Avengers. His place is a smaller, more neish corner of this universe. He exists within dreams and nightmares, the worlds unseen, but just as important.
The visual inspiration for the movie is very clear. With having a cityscape fold they have obviously taken inspiration from Inception, however that images was taken from a Man With a Movie Camera. But also when we go inside a building it resembles the morphing effect in Dark City.
But what does this matter? Truth is it doesn’t because they use it for their means and make it more complex and intense. But there is also the running theme of the breaking glass, like his hands, his should and his perception of reality, this movie is about the breaking of the this layers we have in life.
In this movie is a chase scene like nothing else I’ve seen in movies (and I’ve seen a lot). It seems straightforward with two people working together to try and get to a portal and they have pursuers. But the pursuers and shift the landscape. They change the angel of the whole city, then bend the buildings and warp the architecture. Eventually the whole things taken on the a shifting rubix cube seen through a kaleidoscope.
Going way back to his first run in the comics Doctor Strange was a character that wasn’t the most powerful but he was smart, strategic and committed to defeating his enemies. Our climax in this movie is not one where two beings hit each-other with lights and sound until the other is knocked out, it is one where what has comes before playing into the end strategy. This is where our hero out-thinks the threat instead of out punches him, a refreshing and important take on to show to the masses in Superheroes.
This movie shows what MARVEL still has. Even with nearly twenty movies under their belt at this point and so many characters used they still have things to show us and different angles and views to take in this genre.
There is a name that is known to every manga and/or anime enthusiast worth their salt and that is Akira. The reason for this is probably (among its many other attributes) that it is a prime example of what Anime has to offer. Vast, elaborate backgrounds, a unique tale of science fiction, inspiring as well as grotesque images and characters that dwell into the depraved as well as the noble. American animation has primarily been for children or for the family, Disney would never attempt anything like this. We will never get anything this complex, this disturbing or well funded and executed.
As a country Japan knows the devastating impact of nuclear warfare. In the fifties it channeled that into the giant monster Godzilla which then birthed the entire Kaiju genre. Then Katsuhiro Otomo began a monster of a manga in 1982 and finished it in 1990, turning in a tale of almost five thousand pages of art. This movie came out in 1988. This is a streamlined telling of the tale that Otomo told but it is more about the visuals and the experiences that it offers than anything else.
The movie opens on a vast city-space that is Tokyo in 1988, then pans up to show an explosion, wiping out all. This triggers World War III. Then we cut to 2019 (so close now) and we are now in the new Neo-Tokyo, a city set to host the Olympics. Within this city are the bright, colorful lights of signs, and vehicle headlights, but they are contrasted by the blacks of the sky and the buildings themselves. And within this location motorcycle gangs race, beat and kill over nothing really. This is the city of Blade Runner, that is populated with the drug taking, violent youth of A Clockwork Orange sprinkled with a little doomsday mentality of the Mad Max movies. Whether these were a part of Otomo’s influence while crafting the story or not does not matter. All those stories hit on essential prophecies and fears that mankind will find itself in.
The leader of one of the gang’s is a boy named Kaneda, who sports a bright red jacket with a powered motorcycle to match. His best friend Tetsuo wants to ride his bike, but Kaneda says he cant handle it, so he gets on his and the other members ride off to beat on another gang. While they are doing this a riot is breaking out and there is a man who has been shot and is leading a boy though the street.
During the time of conception and release Japan was going through a major problem with it youth. They were indeed running wild and the economy was on the verge of collapse. Great pieces of art reflect the problems of the world at the time of their creation, b the themes are eternal, youths running amok, an unsteady economy and the dangerous places science can lead us are problems that will always come-up again and again.
The man who was shot then dies because of the riot and the child wanders off. His path then crosses with Kaneda and Tetsuo. Tetsuo crashes his bike right into him and gets injured, the boy is unaffected and we then see him clearly. Young in body but his skin is wrinkled.Suddenly military helicopters descend taking the wrinkled child and Tetsuo.
The image of seeing children but with old wrinkled skin is a striking one. Like much of the ins and outs of the movie it goes unexplained. We know it’s linked to their abilities but that’s as far as it goes. It could be viewed as the terrible hybrid of the generations. Youth that is burdened by the centuries of traditions and expectations. Or another interpretation is that the children have been given powers and with that comes responsibilities but they are unable to deal with it because of their age. Movies don’t necessarily have to give you all the information. They are the art of show don’t tell after all. Part of the fun and what makes people want to come back to re-watch a movie are the things that go-bye unsaid, if we got the full package on the first viewing then there would be no need to return. But a truly great movie has layers that you are able to peel back after repeated viewings.
Many details of the plot go by us without ever really getting fully explained. But this works because we see it from the position of the teenagers, who are equally bewildered and only marginally grasp the immense scope of their situation. Kaneda is not a truly well defined character, he is headstrong, enjoys simple (though very illegal) things, though if he were truly complete that would be a detriment to the movie. A world this vast, with so many themes and images doesn’t need the inclusion of even more layers. We just need someone who’s defined enough and that reacts to their situation with enough believe-ability that the audience can put themselves in their shoes. For simple stories we require deep characters, for crazy complex stories we need simple characters.
Traditionally in Japanese animation, the feature is animated and then the actors are brought in to put their voices over the animation. This movie was handled differently. It was done like Disney does theirs, wear the actors record first and then the animation is matched to their performance. Something that would probably go over the heads of regular viewers but for those with know this medium a little more they’ll see more shape and form to the lip-syncing.
Before this Otomo had only been an Anime director for two segments in two other feature films. He had done plenty of manga work and it seemed like that would be his medium to stay with. But when the opportunity to adapt his manga work into a fully fleshed-out movie he took it and with that changed the industry forever. He already came with such mastery of sound design, cinematography and movement of camera. True he was not alone in making the movie and was probably given some experts to help realize his vision. But this is technically his first movie and it is such a strong debut.
Probably the most obvious great aspect about the movie is it’s magnificent animation production. This world is alive, from the characters in the foreground to the civilians in the background, the a close-up where you can read a character inner thoughts, to a building crumbling. It is an immense spectacle that has been envisioned and then drawn again, again and again to create the illusion of movement. With animation everything costs money, every piece of movement is a new frame and that means that it cost money. There are ways to get more out of little. Like having a static, but striking image that draws your eye for longer with it’s simple execution. But there are rarely anything on-screen that is still in Akira. Not every single thing in the frame is moving at the same time but there is always something moving and that cannot be faked or done cheap. The money and effort shows with each frame.
But beyond your eyes Akira also stirs your ears. Everything from the sound of motorcycle revving its engine, it’s tires screeching across the road, a pipe whacking someones brains out, a helicopter smashing into a building and every piece of glass shattering on the pavement. And the musical score by Tsutomu Ohashi itself, which mixes the modern techno that the youths would listen to and the ancient mantra reciting melodies that continue to blend the the two generations together. Just like Apocalypse Now this is the most cinematic experience you can find. Everything from the grand image on-screen to the sound that will fill the theater (or your living room).
Tetsuo then awakes in a bedroom. As he lays in bed he sees tiny little toys move across his bed and then onto his pillow. he goes to grab them but nothing is in his hand, then the whole room shakes and every inanimate object converges on one spot forming one giant, demented, Frankenstein’esque teddy bear. Growing larger than the room and tearing it apart.
The rest of the movie consists of Tetsuo getting out of the facility and then coming to grips with his new powers. He begins to get very painful headaches which he subdues with pills. His power grows and the children and he himself keep hearing one name repeated again and again “Akira.” During this time Kaneda teams up with freedom fighters of some kind to free Tetsuo and expose the government. However Tetsuo has never been the leader before and now has the powers of a god and absolute power corrupts absolutely. He has all the power in the world and he puts on a red cape perfectly displaying his juvenile mindset.
Kaneda realizes his friend is beyond all help and reasoning and he must end him. The two meet in the place of unfulfilled ambition, the unfinished Olympic stadium, where so much was promised and so much riding on. Now the drugs have worn off and he has full access to his power but no control, and becomes a giant, monstrous amalgamation of flesh and machine. Like the little toys he saw and now amassed too much power beyond his control and is simple destruction now.
Akira is one of the pinnacles of anime because you would never get this from anywhere else. It’s pot runs on a minimal capacity, only giving you enough to get truly invested in and lets the world and characters envelop you the rest of the way. The rest is brought to life with images and sounds that paint a canvas of a country that both wants to head to a new age but is also restrained by centuries of history and tradition that leaves it’s youths confused and angry.
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