Sunday, November 6, 2011

Brendan and the Secret of Kells

Brendan and the Secret of Kells is otherwise known as just The Secret of Kells in some areas.   I have to admit, I'm a bit biased on this one.  I saw it when it came out in 2009 at the Waterloo Festival for Animated Cinema, and fell in love with its storytelling and art style.   Plus, I'm always intriguied by animation from areas outside my expertise, and this is a beautiful example.

The Secret of Kells is an animated film about the fictitious origins of the Book of Kells, a rather important piece of Irish history and heritage.  There are many theories on the origins of the Book of Kells, and the movie plays around with some of these in order to build a gorgeous original spin of a story.

The premise of the film is somewhat simple: Brendan, a young boy at the Abbey of Kells, ventures outside the safety of the walls in order to complete the Book, befriending the fairy Aisling and facing the dangers of Viking invaders.  However, the story and characters are well-made and solid, developing in a subtle and meaningful way.  They address serious issues and their own fears relative to their time period and relateable to the audience as they move through a rich celebration of Irish art and history as it unfolds on the screen.

It is a complete delight to watch.  I highly recommend it for families and everyone who loves to watch well made animated films.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Ah, who doesn't love a movie that starts with a city blowing up? Akira is one of those movies that starts with a bang, and keeps at it for the entire film, starting with its plot and including it's themes and animation. In many anime circles, Akira is considered to be a classic and one of the defining moments in anime history. If you're interested in anime, it's usually required watching, not because a person may like it, but for educational purposes. It's kinda like Neon Genesis Evangelion; you watch it because everyone else has and makes reference to it, even in university lectures*. Except I think more people argue about Evangelion and like Akira more**.

Let me make something clear though: Akira is not a kids movie. Subject matter includes sex, drugs and teenage biker gangs beating the crap out of each other. Which then becomes exploding peoples heads and exploding cities. And that's the simple stuff.

Akira also boasts some interesting theories about where human knowledge and creativity comes from, theories which are dwarfed by the topics that occur in the seven huge volumes of graphic novel that the movie just skims over. The movie takes the basics of the original manga and condenses it into a compact but coherent and spunky whole.

Yes, subject matter can be a tad heavy, but Akira is in no way boring. Rather, it is packed with action, with a lively script and animation that has held up over time. Also, the voice acting for both the English and Japanese cast is really superb. I highly recommend it to viewers, anime lovers or no, new or old, who want something that will take them seriously, is fast-paced and full of action, and who aren't afraid of blood and gritty parts of reality.

I also recommend that you pick the language settings that are the easiest for you to follow along, because you really don't want to miss out for a second when watching Akira. 

*at least, they do in mine. But then, I went to a pretty progressive university with courses on cyborg fiction in English that included a lot of movies, and a course on comics in culture studies where we studied speed lines in manga and had Ty Templeton as a guest speaker.

** However, that's just my opinion.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sucker Punch

I have to review this one.  I'm not entirely sure how, but I have to.  It's one of those movies that, for better or for worse, you can never fully forget.  It is incredibly unforgettable.

Sucker Punch is purely a fantasy action movie, and doesn't even pretend to be rooted firmly in reality.  For that, I am glad, because if it were taking itself seriously with its loose historical inspirations for its depictions of mental hospitals and by extension, mental illness, then I'd have a problem with it. 

It takes the images and plot points that it needs from stark reality, and weaves them into a somewhat complex narrative and highly detailed graphics.  At least, I think it's suppose to be complex, but I'm pretty sure it's just the visuals that makes it seem that way.

The overall result, however, is an explosive string of action that really wants to be a video game.  Like, it really really really wants to be a video game, so much that it's not sure which setting and genre to place its cast of scantily dressed girls.  But given how brutal the "reality" scenes are, I don't think I can blame it.

And honestly, I'm not entirely sure how I really felt about Sucker Punch when I walked out of the theatre.  There were parts that were just sheer action and eye candy, and parts where it seemed to hint at a deeper meaning behind all the un-sugar-coated reality.

So you can watch it for the action, and you can puzzle over the subtleties, but I know one thing for sure: this movie is not for children or the faint of heart.  

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Tron: Legacy

Okay. I love this movie. I saw it twice in theatres in 3D, forgot to take pain medicine, got a headache both times, and it was worth it.   Of course, I was mainly going for the special effects, but hey, the rest of it was worth it too.

Tron: Legacy is one of those sequels that you don't really need to see the original to enjoy, but you have a better understanding of what's going on and the importance of names and events if you do.  Also, you can chuckle at the inside jokes and references that they work in.

But then, I'm one of those that insist in watching things in order, so I'm a bit biased.  Honestly though, this is a good action-based movie with a fairly solid script.  I want to say a good, solid script, but I'm also mindful that I am biased about this.   I like the acting, I like the music, I like the dialogue, and of course, I love the special effects.   Like the original Tron movie (for its time), the computer graphics and special effects in Legacy is just awesome, and suits the 3D medium perfectly.  Not that it's not enjoyable in 2D, but in my opinion, this is how 3D ought to be used. 

What I also is like is how the romance in it is kept to a minimum, if it could be called a romance at all.  Which is kinda refreshing, especially coming from Disney.   I won't argue/discuss feminist points, or potential meanings of free/share-ware vs commercial software here; so let me just say that for the thinking types, there's some brain food for you in Legacy as well. 

So, for wrap up: good plot with a lot of action, good acting, and awesome effects.  To me, this is a good movie for the family, for action fans and even for the thinking people in the audience. Have fun!