Category Archives: Film and TV

Monster (2004)

vlcsnap-2016-03-15-21h55m34s757Kenzo Tenma is a skilled Japanese brain surgeon working in Germany. One night, a boy is rushed into hospital after being shot in the head. As he is about to operate, Tenma is called away to operate on the mayor instead. Though his superiors disagree, Tenma makes the decision to operate on the boy as he was brought in first. Meanwhile, the boy’s twin sister lies in a terrified trance in another hospital room, saying “kill him… kill him…” over and over. Tenma is demoted due to his decision costing the mayor’s life. He goes out to drown his sorrows and is woken up by the police at his door. His superiors are dead and he is the prime suspect. During all of this, both the twins disappear from the hospital.

vlcsnap-2016-03-16-21h46m24s102It isn’t until nine years later, after a number of serial killings, that the real suspect makes himself known. One of Tenma’s patients, a lock picker involved with the killings, runs away from the hospital. Tenma gives chase, but the patient is shot in front of him by a young man. The young man thanks Tenma for saving his life nine years ago and explains how he killed Tenma’s superiors. Tenma realises when he chose to operate on the boy over the mayor, he unknowingly saved a “monster”. He embarks on a mission to end Johan’s life and rectify his “mistake” of saving him.

The plot is interesting at first and especially in overall concept, but the episodes soon grow slow and repetitive. The show is drawn out over 74 episodes running at 24 minutes each, making the total runtime almost 30 hours. This could have definitely been cut in half, perhaps even quartered, which would have greatly improved the show.

vlcsnap-2016-03-15-23h15m49s569

Tvlcsnap-2016-03-12-00h02m18s707he psychology aspect behind the plot was interesting, such as the brainwashing that took place at Kinderheim 511. This could have been greatly expanded upon as it was only shown through characters recalling their vague and questionable memories. The treatment of the children and who they were moulded into also wasn’t covered fully, especially with the character of Grimmer. After Tenma, he is the most interesting character yet his past is glossed over in flashbacks.

The character designs are very good with everybody looking distinct and semi-realistic. The colours used are a little desaturated which adds to the realistic feel. All of the writing in files and reports were in German or Czech, rather than Japanese, which was nice as it kept consistency to the setting and showed attention to detail.

Black Jack OVA (1993)

vlcsnap-2016-03-10-00h53m33s409Based off the manga of the same name, Black Jack follows the cases of the titular unlicensed doctor. His skill is unmatched, but his work comes with an extremely high fee. The person who recommended it to me said it was very similar to House, and after having watched Black Jack that is true. Both solve unusual cases that no other doctor has been able to cure. They are even advertised together in Japan.

As a child, Kurō Hazama was involved in an accident with an unexploded bomb, resulting in his limbs being blown off and the loss of his mother. The shock from the incident caused part of his hair to turn white and left him with many scars, giving him his unusual appearance. The surgeon who performed his operation inspired him to become a doctor himself. However, Hazama does this without a medical licence under the moniker of “Black Jack”.

vlcsnap-2016-03-10-01h44m48s788The art style is amazing with incredible attention to detail on background scenery and props. You can see there has been a lot of work put into every cel, even if it only appears for a few seconds. Unfortunately there are only 12 episodes, but each is 50 minutes long. The episodes are self contained with a focus on the symptoms and diagnostics of the patients’ conditions, with heavy usage of medical terms. Many of the conditions seem impossible initially but their cause is usually something more plausible and treatable.

vlcsnap-2016-03-10-01h44m02s091

There are other series which expand upon the background story, but the feel of these are entirely different. They focus more on the interactions of the characters and are more light hearted and comedic. The 2004 series is an animated adaptation of the manga’s stories, with little time focused on the diagnosis of the patient. This is due to the conditions being more obvious with the cause shown (eg: hit by a car, fireworks accident, disability, etc). Unlike the other series, Young Black Jack has more of an ongoing storyline arc which follows Hazama at medical school in the late 1960’s. The storyline is a little more serious and includes events such as the civil rights movement and the Vietnam war.

Both 2004 and Young Black Jack are very different shows to the OVA despite having the same main character. If you go in expecting more of 1993, then you will be severely disappointed. The art styles in the newer series are also very different. The 2004 series looks much more “cartooney” and off model, even unfinished at times. As it follows the storyline of the manga, the art is similar to it. The style in Young Black Jack is much more consistent and polished, but looks completely different to everything prior.

Style comparison:

Dark Places (Film)

Contains spoilers for the film/book.

The film was a good adaptation of the book and remained true to the storyline. There was only one thing omitted – Libby did not steal Diondra’s lipstick. In the film she is still found guilty of Michelle’s murder, but the lipstick is never used as a plot point. In the book the lipstick was used to prove, with DNA, that it was Diondra’s blood on Michelle’s sheets.

The pacing of the film was better than in Gone Girl. It felt like the story was constantly moving along, whereas in Gone Girl it felt like it was dawdling a little.  At times the film attempted to be dramatic but it just came off as being funny.

The casting was poorly done, although Christina Hendricks was a good cast for Patty Day. However, the older Ben (Corey Stoll) was a terrible casting decision which was obvious from the trailer. The book states “His hair had turned a dark rust. He wore it long, sweeping his shoulders, tucked girlishly behind his ears.” (p.117) In the film, Ben is now bald with a dark haired beard.

Like the book, I was more interested in the events that happened in the 80’s rather than the present. The colour casting between the two time periods was interesting – the present day orange/yellow warm tones, and the 80’s a lot darker and grimy. It was also visually interesting how they offset Libby escaping as a child to her escaping as an adult.

The film did not explain the characters very well. With Libby, there was no explanation of why she was so nasty or the full extent of her need to make money. There was little development of the characters, particularly the sisters. Very little mention to Michelle’s diaries were made. The film made it easier to guess what was going to happen, but that said I did of course already know from reading the book. The end of the film didn’t really feel like a solid ending or conclusion, however it was the same ending as in the book.

Wreck-It Ralph!

After waiting very patiently since I saw the trailer back in June 2012, Wreck-It Ralph FINALLY was released in the UK! I liked the idea of the film from the get go, but after actually seeing it I think it only worked because of all the references to existing games.

Probably my favourite part!

I also really liked the very end of the film with the reference to the Pac-man 256 kill screen, really nice touch! And of course Ralph giving his name as Lara Croft 😛 But my favourite part was absolutely the Metal Gear Solid “!” alert part!

The little things like that really made the film. All the references showed they went the extra mile and they made it appeal to more than just children. The original Disney characters alone didn’t really make the film worth seeing if you were older than their primary target audience. Most definitely the references were the best part of the film for me and without them, it would have just been another generic kids’ film I would have never given a second thought to.

vlcsnap-2013-03-04-23h20m03s42

This was also actually the first film I have saw in 3D and I really don’t think my eyes are suited to it! I’m long sighted and it felt like everything was too close to my face. My eyes really hurt the whole night after seeing the film. I noticed the edges of the screen seemed to have overlapping images, similar to how the film looks like with no glasses on. Vanellope’s hair was also prone to overlapping for me, which was strange as it happened even when she was in the centre of the screen.

I felt like my eyes were constantly trying to fight the 3D and being distracted by the edges of the screen. I’ve read 3D isn’t any good for your eyes as it tries to trick you into focusing on many different distances at once. It made my eyes feel the same as using a 3DS, only far worse as it was a bigger screen and I was looking at it for a much longer period of time.

I probably won’t see any other films in 3D!

Red Dwarf X

I have to say I was not expecting much prior to watching the first episode of the new series. I personally think the show started to go downhill from Season 7, with Back to Earth being the lowest point. Series 7 was passable, but the earlier series are definitely my favourites. However, I will always watch anything new from Red Dwarf and I was very shocked that it turned out to be a funny episode which I enjoyed.

There were only 2 things which I disliked, the first being that Rimmer’s brother was telling a pack of lies all these years! The thing which made Rimmer throughout the previous series was his twisted up hate for his three brothers who were more successful than him in every way. So for one of his brothers to be exactly the same position as Rimmer was a let down. The second was the Mac spinning eyes, which I felt was a bit cringeworthy.

Red Dwarf Books

The Man in the Rubber Mask – Robert Llewellyn
Llewellyn’s descriptions are hilarious which makes it very easy to vividly picture all of the situations described. The book made me laugh quite a lot and I definitely recommend it if you are a Red Dwarf fan. I’m looking into getting some of his other (fiction) books.

The Official Red Dwarf Companion
This covers Series 1-5; it would have been nice if it had been published a year later to include Series 6 too.

Red Dwarf Survival Guide
This disappointed me a little bit! I think I was expecting more a guide written by the crew themselves, rather than an “official” guide with their annotations and suggestions.

Breaking Bad

When high school Chemistry teacher Walter White finds out he has inoperable lung cancer, his first concern is how his family will manage financially after he has gone. When his DEA agent brother-in-law unwittingly shows him the money that can be made in the drug industry, Walter teams up with one of his former students and begins to manufacture methamphetamine.

I was first told about Breaking Bad by one of my lecturers in my first year of university, but it wasn’t until now I actually decided to finally watch it. I instantly became obsessed with the show and I have gotten up to date (Season 5, Episode 7). There is now only 1 more episode to air this year; the rest of Season 5 is going to be aired in America in Summer 2013.

I think the first 3 seasons were my favourite. I liked Walt having to balance his home life and his “business” life; trying to cover it up from his family. I preferred the show towards the beginning where Walt and Jesse were driving out in their RV and it was so obvious that they didn’t know what they’d gotten themselves into. I think Season 4 wasn’t as good as the previous ones for some reason, but the finale was brilliant.

Video contains spoilers for all seasons.
Watch up to around 1:52 if you’ve never seen Breaking Bad before.
 

In many ways I can see similarities between Breaking Bad and Death Note (spoilers for both ahead). Both protagonists could easily be viewed as antagonists, and they are both working/living closely alongside their enemy (Light with L, and Walt with Hank). What made me see the similarities even more was at the end of Season 4, when Walt says “I won”, that is just Kira down to a tee! At the start of the series, Walt was doing it for his family, but now he has changed, as proven when he turns down the $5 million. Even Jesse realises that Walt has changed and he doesn’t want anything to do with him anymore.

SEASON 5 UPDATE (Spoilers for both Breaking Bad and Death Note finales):
Even more similarities now. When Walt is in the desert, he goes past his “past self” (his trousers that flew through the air in the opening of the first episode). In Death Note, when Light is escaping the warehouse, he literally runs past his “past self” (hallucination/visual effect).

walt barrel PDVD_225

The final scenes for both shows also mirror each other, a pan out on the character as he lies dying.

walt end PDVD_217

(Death Note screenshots credit)

Death Note (2006)

I had never watched any anime before I watched Death Note, but was convinced to watch it during its original run (2006-2007) when websites and forums I used to visit were constantly discussing it.

What drew me to watching Death Note was hearing about its storyline/concept. Based upon a manga of the same name, Japanese high school student Yagami Light finds a notebook. The front cover of this book claims whoever’s name is written inside will die in 40 seconds of a heart attack, unless another cause and date is specified. To prevent people with the same name dying, the user must visualise the person’s face as they write their name into the notebook.

Light is originally dismissive of the notebook and believes it to be somebody’s practical joke. Later, whilst watching the news and hearing of a criminal keeping a kindergarten and its staff hostage. Remembering the notebook, he tries it out, not expecting anything to happen. Incredibly, the notebook works, and the criminal suffers a heart attack, allowing the hostages to escape. Still in disbelief of the notebook’s power, he later witnesses a young girl being sexually harassed in the street. By writing down the man’s name and watching his death, Light confirms the Death Note is a real phenomena. Light begins to question the morals behind taking the lives of other humans (see video below), but comes to the conclusion there are many people in the world who do not deserve to live. Light’s envisions becoming the “God of a New World” through judging and punishing those who have committed serious crimes.

As the plot develops, many criminals begin die mysteriously of heart attacks. When the police are unable to solve the case, a secretive world famous detective only known as “L” hears of this and becomes part of the investigation. L becomes Light’s biggest enemy, although he cannot kill him as he does not know his real name. This starts a battle of wits between the two, as both are unable to work out the true motives of the other. There are many cliffhangers and situations which seem impossible for Light to get himself out of, which leave you guessing until the next episode.

The storyline is incredibly gripping. I have since watched this show seven times now, and each time certain scenes have affected me more and more, despite already knowing what will happen. The final scenes leave you slightly moved, knowing that you have again finished what I would consider to be one of the best shows ever made. As the credits roll, you are left to reflect on how Light changed, the things he has done to avoid being caught, and what eventually becomes of him.

Overall Rating: 10/10

Tomb Raider Ascension – Fan-made film

Fan-made film, shot over 7 days with a budget of £15,000. Based on the Tomb Raider series of games.

Tomb Raider Ascension is an extremely well made piece of work (particularly for a fan-production), with some excellent shots and locations. Whilst watching the video, I felt myself asking how they had managed to gain access to some of the locations, particularly the manor and the caves.

Some scenes and explanations of feel like they drag on too long and could be significantly shortened, to keep it concise and simple for the audience to understand (particularly if they are not familiar with the Tomb Raider series).

Tomb Raider Ascension does occasionally borrow lines from the official movies (2001, 2003) which is a nice reference, but does suggest they could not come up with their own line. However, the scriptwriting in general is very good, with a couple of laugh-out-loud moments.

The casting was very good, with the exception of Lara’s father; to me he did not fit the role. The actors chosen of the butler, Lara’s uncle, and Lara herself were strong choices, and contributed to the high standard of the production.

Overall, a very enjoyable and absorbing film, which successfully manages to draw in the viewer. I did not know what to expect before I began watching and had low expectations, but I was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed this production.