Ghost in the Shell by Andrew Osmond (2017)

  • 91BSdFVo4jL120 pages
  • Release date: 11th September 2017
  • Price: £19.99
  • Published by: Arrow Books

The cult classic Ghost in the Shell, has often found itself the centre of discussion among fans. Its impact and themes. The films significance in the modern landscape. However, it’s hard to find a single work that highlights its importance, as Andrew Osmond’s Ghost in the Shell. An incredibly engaging, and well researched look at not only the cult classic film, but the franchise, and impact it has had through the culture.

Osmond approaches this book with a passion and the intention of allowing even the most novice of Ghost in the Shell viewers the opportunity to enjoy and engage with the books subject. Opening with essentially a first-time viewers perspective of the opening few minutes of the film. Noting the praise and acclaim the film achieved, even early in its life. Osmond expounds on the films infancy, by describing the culture and time to which it is born into. Citing the state of otaku culture and the Aum Shinrikyo terror attacks in Japan, and how the West viewed Anime at the time. Referring to them as ‘Manga movies’, or ‘Japanimation’. This provides a much-needed context for the reader as to why and how Ghost in the Shell gained such significance.

The film is broken down in a digestible manor, so that no reader will feel lost along the way. Osmond comments on the characters and plot points with an attention to detail, significantly towards the film’s central protagonist, Major Motoko Kusanagi.

“For example, after the ‘assassination’ prologue, Ghost’s titles show the creation of Kusanagi’s cyber-body. We see it as an anatomist’s dummy of fake skin and bone, flushed through vats of liquid, clothed in fast-setting flesh. All this suggests a Frankenstein creature, a horror film Other. But as the sequence ends, and Kusanagi is lifted up fully formed, we don’t see some lab-coated Pygmalion admiring his sculpture – ‘She lives!’. Instead, we cut to a close-up of Kusanagi awakening in darkness. We were in her head all along, as she dreamed her body’s creation. She moves the fingers of one hand slightly, as if asking, is this my hand? Is this my body?”

Osmond explores how her femininity and sexuality are put aside. Blurring gender lines, in moments of intense strengths and sacrifice. These discussions extend to comparisons of her counterparts. Such as Trinity in The Matrix franchise, and Black Widow in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This also encompasses the franchises lore, such as the impact and importance or cyber-bodies in the cyberpunk genre.

The book does not limit itself to just the films themes, characters, and impact. But extends to the creative minds that birthed the film and franchise. Discussion of the film’s director, Mamoru Oshii, ranges beyond simply his filmography. Extending to popular consensus, his frequently used themes through his work, and the man himself. His diversity in mediums, interests and personal history. The chapter dedicated to Oshii, reads like a love letter to the forgotten works of a master. Overshadowed by the books subject. With a wonderful look at Oshii’s work on the Patlabor series. The only major subject that feels skipped over, is Oshii’s 1999 film, Jin Roh: The Wolf Brigade. A subject that is likely to merit its own book in a similar vain to this one.

Given how private Masanori Ota presents himself, going as far as to use the pseudonym Masamune Shirow. It’s surprising how well Osmond dives into the franchises original author. Discussing his secluded nature, themes and works. Drawing particular attention to Shirow’s playful and wacky sense of humour, something largely ignored in adaptations. Focus and time is payed to Shirow’s other praised franchise, Appleseed. Highlighting, especially, the difference in publication. Osmond breaks down Shirow’s 350-page manga, in a similar manner to his discussion of the films plot. This is a necessity, given how well and thoroughly he examines the adaptation process. Taking the world and characters Shirow crafted, but injecting Oshii’s own brand of philosophy and themes, and examining how this effects the original material.

Time and attention is given to many important, but largely unsung figures in the films creation. Figures such as character designer, Hiroyuki Okiura. Animation director, Toshihiko Nishibubo, and art director, Hiromasa Ogura. Osmond takes great care in communication the amount of work that went into the films construction. Outlining fine details from Mechanical design, scripting and music. To even the process of dubbing and localisation. Something we rarely see approached and discussed when it comes to Ghost in the Shell.

With absolutely stunning cover art by Chris Malbon, and the loving research of Andrew Osmond. Ghost in the Shell from Arrow Books, is a fantastic look at the cult classic film, and a must read for avid fans, and the curious mind willing to traverse the vast net that is Ghost in the Shell.

Available from Arrow Films here.
Also Available from Amazon: Ghost In The Shell by Andrew Osmond

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The Dark Tower (2017)

Adaptations walk a hard line. On one side, they have the long-time fans of the source material, anxious to see what characters and plot points are cased aside and changed. While simultaneously creating something appealing to the public. Appeasing both the ravenous fans, and blockbuster devoted public, in an attempt to make back their money, and win the summer box office.

Adapting Stephen King’s work to the big screen, is nothing new. Starting with Brian De Palma’s Carrie in 1976, up to The Dark Tower, Gerald’s Game and the remake of It in 2017. Many have been exposed to the work of King, without ever picking up a single brick sized novel. King’s storytelling, and worlds have become well known and treasured to many, through multiple mediums. While many of his stories, such as The Shining, Christine, and The Green Mile are all celebrated works, none are more praised than the world and legacy of The Dark Tower series.The-dark-tower-movie-

Born of seven original books in the series, followed by an eighth in 2012, and a series of prequel comics, written by Robin Furth and Peter David, with stunning art by Jae Lee. The Dark Tower is a celebrated series, mixing the genres of dark fantasy, science fantasy, horror and westerns. King has described the series as his magnum opus.  With legions of devoted fans to the series, the thought of a big screen adaptation is both exciting, and nerve racking.

When adapting such an expansive and well-loved work, it may well be best to take a more lenient approach to adaptation. Carrying the tone and spirit. Conveying what captured the original fans attention. An example of this can be seen with the two adaptations of The Shining. The Stanley Kubrick adaptation is highly praised, and adored the world over. However, it breaks away heavily from the source material, only carrying the soul and characters through to the end. Years later, an adaptation was created as a two-part series, that stayed as faithful to the source material as it could. This version is universally panned for its extended and unnecessarily excessive dialogue, and poor attempts at horror. The Dark Tower is in no way a completely faithful adaptation. Instead, it takes its cues from the Kubrick version of The Shining, and takes the characters and spirit in a somewhat different direction.The_Dark_Tower.0

The film takes place in two worlds. In modern day New York, and the post-apocalyptic wasteland that is home to the Gunslinger. In our world, the film follows the young Jake Chambers, as night after night, he experiences dreams of another world. A world where children are strapped into a machine, their screams combine, energy bursting out of a machine. A dark tower suffering damage. Faceless men. A Man in Black, and a Gunslinger roaming the desert. The more the dreams happen, the stronger the earthquakes that hit New York. As his mother and stepfather attempt to send him away to get help, he finds himself pursued by the faceless men of his dreams. Finding an old house he sees in his dreams, he is transported to the world he has been dreaming of, and the Gunslinger. Roland Deschain of Gilead.

Ultimately, The Dark Tower is a thoroughly enjoyable film in its own right. From it’s opening moments, it sucks you in, and keeps your attention throughout. Something that’s rarely seen lately. Acted well throughout, with the obvious stand outs of Idris Elba as Roland, and Matthew McConaughey as the Man in Black. Though the young Tom Taylor does a fine job of emoting in the role of Jake, a demanding role, that he carries well. Idris Elba plays Roland as a warn and scarred man. One who has clearly been burdened by his past, carrying the weight of being the last of the Gunslingers. McConaughey’s Man in Black comes off at times as a 12a version of Jessica Jones’s Killgrave. Especially when giving commands to random strangers in the street. However, the character is still engaging, and makes for a compelling and truly threatening villain. Together, with a memorable, and strong supporting cast. They greatly anchor the film.

Enjoyable throughout, and highly engaging, with numerous Easter intertextual references. The Dark Tower takes the dense and expansive world King created, and provides a thrilling and satisfying film.

 

(Above is the opinion of the writer solely. Everyone is entitle to their own opinion, this is just mine.)

Wish Upon (2017) – Review

 

MV5BMTgwOTY5NDMwM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTg5NDE4MTI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,674,1000_AL_The word’s ‘Be careful what you wish for’, pops up often in life. As kids, we usually hear it at Christmas when we loudly shout, “I wish it was Christmas every day!’. When we grow up, we realise just how expensive that would be, and how little would get done in the world. The moral is hammered into us in movies, cartoons, and comics, to the point that we are almost sick to death of hearing the phrase. So, if someone wants to approach the subject, they must consider the angle of approach. How do they make the story relevant? How do you make the audience care about the consequences? Do you include a magic gene voiced by a beloved comedian or not? With John R. Leonetti’s Wish Upon, these are all very real concerns. Unfortunately, they are ignored, rather than listened too.

The story centres around a teenage girl, Clare Shannon, played by the surprisingly talented Joey King (Independence Day: Resurgence), as she tries to navigate her everyday life. Raised by her clichéd embarrassing father, after the suicide of her mother, and attending a high school where she is bullied daily by the popular crowd. Clare comes home one day to find a Chinese puzzle box her father has found, waiting for her on her bed. Due to the convenient fact that she takes Chinese language classes, she is able to make out the words ‘7 wishes’ inscribed on the front. On a whim, while crying over the day’s events, she makes a wish for revenge upon on of her tormentors. The next morning, she learns of her bully’s sudden illness, and while basking with her friends in a day of peace, she begins to wonder if the two events are related. The events that build up afterwards, follow Clare as she moulds her life to her will, leaving a trail of bodies in her wake. Followed along by her two ‘friends’, her uninteresting ‘love interest’, and her unrealistic crush, turned stalker. With predictable deaths and wishes, left, right and centred, and an easy to guess ending, Wish Upon begs for your attention, and for you to care about what happens to the characters. The ending itself gives far more than a wink and a nod to possible sequels, attempting to join the pantheon of modern horror franchises. Finally beating you around the brain with an annoying, and unsuited pop song. Somehow on the same level as following up a brutal James Bond action sequence, with a dry, drab Madonna piece.

While primarily a horror flick, the actual deaths are laughable in their delivery. With one, very tasteful exception. The characters, while occasionally shining through in moments, are largely generic and one note. It feels like the films real horror, comes from the characters themselves. There utter lack of caring when they learn the truth, and how selfish they can be. While possibly a commentary on the millennial generation and their supposedly selfish whims, it’s a point against morality more than anything. The films tone is all over the place, and unfocused. While it feels as though this is done to make the deaths more shocking, it’s handled poorly. Creating instants of sudden whiplash, or fits of laughter at what is supposed to be a serious or emotional moment.

For those curious enough, it’s a film that serves as a teaching point for how not to use mood and atmosphere, and an example of stereotyped characters. However, there are plenty of other films worth your time. This film should not be encouraged to start a franchise anytime soon.

 

Wish Upon, released by Orion Pictures, is in cinemas on July 14th in the USA, and July 28th in the UK.

Return to: Rebuild of Evangelion 1.11

I fall in and out of love with anime. Now, it’s more like that friend you see every now and then. You enjoy their visits, and you love spending time with them, but too much of them drives you insane. On a whim, I decided to revisit the first film in the Rebuild of Evangelion series. A planned set of four films, that reimagined the plot of the 1995 series and follow up films. Telling the story, the director claims he originally intended.

The series has become a cult classic, along with titles such as Akira, Cowboy Bebop, Ghost in the Shell, and Serial Experiments Lain. Prompting discussion of the films themes of depression, the religious allegories, and the overall meaning of the series ending. While there is a lot of debate as to whether the show deserves the praise, it’s more than fascinating to go through first hand and join the debate. The show provides countless topics of discussion, as well as examples of storytelling, as well as the story of the shows production.

Fans of the series, upon hearing of the Rebirth films, were delighted to get both another piece of the puzzle, and a fresh look at the overall story. Currently, three of the proposed four films have been released, with the fourth delayed while the director finishes other projects. The new films provided the director, Hideaki Anno, with a fresh palette to start over. Reintroduce the main characters, and define them from the start, before moving to the existential nightmares that await them in later films. The first film, Evangelion 1.11: You Are (Not) Alone, essentially retells the events of the first 5 episodes. Going from Shinji first arriving in Tokyo-3, reuniting with his estranged and cold father, meeting the other members of the organisation Nerve, piloting the EVA Unit 01, and defending the world and the city of Tokyo-3 from the 3rd, 4th and 5th Angels.

While the opening five episodes work well as a self-contained arc, and an opening to the new films. When re-watching Evangelion 1.11, I couldn’t help but feel that the lack of time the film has compared to five 20-minute episodes, gives less weight to the films events. While some scenes, such as Shinji walking in on Rei are still handled strongly, with the appropriate amount of pacing given to allow the full impact of the scene. As well as the film’s climax, and the beautiful final conversation between Rei and Shinji. I can’t deny that I tear up with the line “Why don’t you just try smiling?”. However, it’s the small scenes in the original show that made the characters, and gave weight to their choices. The relationship between Shinji, Toji and Kensuke, seems generic and rushed in the film compared to series. The iconic scene of Shinji being taken away, and running back and screaming at Toji that he doesn’t blame him for hating him. That he deserved to be hit, that he feels like a coward, a wimp, sneaky, and dishonest. That moment of weakness is a defining point in their relationship, as well as the moment between Misato and Shinji at the station, when Shinji makes the active choice to stay. Aside from Shinji’s night walking the street, none of these moments are included in the film. Their lack of inclusion leads the audience to question why Shinji just doesn’t leave if he hates the situation so much. That scene of his declaration, and decision to not get on the train is his defining moment in what mater to him, and what he is willing to lay his life down for.

While the first Rebuild film is fine overall, with stunning visuals, and the return of many of the original voice actors, both Japanese and American. As a starting point for the new films, it does what it needs to, as well as introduce a few new elements early, such as Lilith’s location. But compared to those original five episodes, it lacks heart.

Colossal (2017)

colossal-poster03It’s undoubtable that this film will fly under the radar, especially being out at the cinema at the same time as the likes of Alien: Covenant (2017) and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017), and with Wonder Woman (2017) and The Mummy (2017) just around the corner. It’s safe to say that a lot of people will either overlook it, or not even know it was a thing. While certainly not the greatest film of its kind, it is definitely worth a look. Focusing mainly on and overcoming abuse, first alcohol, then moving to physical and emotional abuse.

Directed by Nacho Vigalondo (Open Windows (2014)), and starring Anne Hathaway (Interstellar (2014)), Jason Sudeikis (Horrible Bosses (2011)), Austin Stowell (Whiplash (2014)), Time Blake Nelson (O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000), and Dan Stevens (Beauty and the Beast (2017). Colossal follows Gloria (Hathaway), an alcoholic, recently fired from her writing job, and kicked out by her boyfriend Tim (Stevens), as she moves back home in an attempt to get her life together. While living alone in her families old home, in a small town, she runs into Oscar (Sudeikis), a bar owner and childhood friend of Gloria’s. He offers to show her round town, and ends up drinking late into the night with her and his two long-time friends, Joel (Stowell) and Garth (Nelson). In the morning, after drunkenly stumbling home, she awakens to discover a colossal, indescribably creature, had suddenly appeared above the city of Seoul, South Korea, caused monumental damage, and then suddenly disappeared moments later. Shocked by the news, the incident repeats itself the next day. Discovering there is a pattern with the creatures appearance, always appearing at the exact same time, Gloria begins to notice similar habits and tendencies between herself and the creature. After a few more days of experimentation, Gloria discovers that herself, and the creature, are indeed one and the same.

From here, there is little that can be said, plot wise, without giving away massive spoilers. The film carries with it, through out, and exceedingly dark comedy tone, breaking every now and then for moments of intense emotional anguish. The uses the more obvious allegories of giant monsters as stand ins for our inner demons, to an outstanding degree. The films uses its creatures well, clearly as part of its lower indie budget, never showing them for too long, but the weight of their impact is still felt, either through the films sound design, or the actor’s phenomenal reactions. One particularly impactful scene takes place entirely in a children’s play area, involving just two characters, but the weight of the monsters actions off screen is entirely felt and almost heart breaking.

Anne Hathaway gives a wonderfully believable performance, comfortable when even needing to embarrass herself while acting drunk, or crying profusely. However, the standout actor of the film, is Jason Sudeikis, giving a phenomenal performance, regardless of the tone needed, and playing a deeply torn and complex character. Together, they bring a lot of credibility to the films, admittedly, absurd premise. At no point do you feel the film takes it too far, it remains engaging throughout, and tries its hardest to remain engaging.

While it’s tempting to skip this release, especially given the major Hollywood blockbusters currently exploding at the box office. Colossal is more than worth your time, providing a fun, engaging and emotional experience, even with a selling point as odd as ‘Anne Hathaway starring in an indie, Kaiju movie’.

Child’s Play (1988)

childs-play-movie-poster-1988-1020203155I remember my mother telling me this story once, about her franticly searching all over town, and the next town over one year, just to get me the brand new Buzz Lightyear, and Woody the Cowboy dolls, released to coincide with the now seminal classic Toy Story (1995). Honestly, I do not remember asking for the dolls, but hell if I wasn’t one happy kid that year. Watching the opening 20 minutes of Child’s Play, I couldn’t help but drudge up that memory, and feeling very glad that my mother’s quest turned out very different to that of Catherine Hicks.

Directed by Tom Holland, just 3 years after the phenomenal cult vampire film Fright Night (1985), Child’s Play introduced the world to the now iconic possessed serial killer doll Charles Lee Ray, more commonly known as Chucky. Given the somewhat absurd plot of the film, and the era in which in came out, it’s not hard to go into this expecting laughable effects, and an over the top, campy story. Safe to say, that assumption was completely off. On the run from the police, Charles Lee Ray (played and later voiced by Brad Dourif (One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975))), a wanted serial killer, hides in a toy store. As he bleeds out, he transfers his soul using voodoo, into the body of a nearby doll, known as a “Good Guy”. The next day, a young boy, Andy (played by Alex Vincent (House Guest (2013)), making his acting debut here), and obsessive fan of the Good Guy television series, wants nothing more than to own a Good Guy doll for his birthday. A talking, and head turning doll, each with its own individual name, says three pre-programmed lines from the show, and costing $100 apiece. Unable to afford the doll, and desperately trying to keep her son happy, after the death of his father, Karen (Catherine Hicks (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986))) stumbles across a homeless man, selling the doll for the phenomenal price of $30. Without thinking, and astonishingly happy to have found Andy the perfect gift, she brings the mysterious doll home, and it’s not long before all the trouble starts.

While child actors can be fairly hit or miss, the young Alex Vincent plays his role incredibly well for his age. Always believably, and actively connecting with each member of the cast, especially the Chucky prop, young Alex was certainly quiet the find here, with a lesser child lead, this film could easily have become a laughable mess. But young Alex plays his role well, both sweet and innocent, but able to deliver a truly bad ass closing line, reminiscent of the likes of Stallone or Schwartzenegger. Catherine Hicks is heavily sympathetic throughout, and even when you are screaming for her to listen to Andy, hear what he has to say, you understand her reasoning, and cheer her on as she tries to get the police on her side. Brad Dourif brings a heavily animated quality to his acting, which works astonishingly well for something like the maniacal Chucky, almost as though a Looney Tune character had been pushed to the edge, after one too many benders, and found himself in an R rated horror flick. Chris Sarandon, previously the devilishly charming Jerry Dandridge in Holland’s Fright Night, acts as the film’s straight man, the detective who initially chases Chucky down at the beginning of the film, now determined to see the job through to the end once he learns of Chucky’s reappearance. The entire cast of the film is well rounded, and it brings the film this wonderful sense of realism, even in the face of the absurd.

Going in to this, effects wise, I was expecting a few scenes that would be close to something like Dick Jones’ death in Robocop (1987), the suit in Green Lantern (2011), or every single effect in Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2010). Taking eccentric care through every effect. Implementing several, multi-operator puppets, elaborate sets and costumes, and incredible makeup work, the film does it’s best to bring Chucky to life, both in the film, and on the set. It’s no wonder why Chucky has become such a staple of pop culture. Though the fact that such a film, one that ended on a particularly high note, has a string of sequels ready and waiting to be seen, does indeed fill me with more dread than the damn doll was supposed to.

A classic and horror staple, you may not find the film especially scary, but it sure is a treat to behold.

 

One in universe question though? Who names their product “Good Guy”!? How is it that successful!? That’s the real voodoo magic of the film, right there..

Deadpool (2016)

Deadpool_posterAfter countless attempts to bring fan favourite character Deadpool to the big screen, including a supposed appearance in the laughably atrocious X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), 2016 finally gave us the much anticipated Deadpool. Boasting ‘Deadpoolian’ advertising, and a Valentine’s day release, the public was foaming at the mouth for the fourth wall breaking, foul mouthed antics of Wade Wilson. And what did we get? A fairly basic, bare bones story, with sexual humour ripped from bad late 90s comedies, and fourth wall breaks so blatant and in your face, that I’m surprised the television screen doesn’t crack.

With fan out cry, and test footage ‘accidentally’ leaked to the internet, the final product fell to the hands of Tim Miller as director, making his feature length debut, and starring Ryan Reynolds (Green Lantern (2011)), as the loud mouth, womanising, hit man for hire Wade Wilson, turned anti-hero vigilante, Deadpool, Morena Baccarin (Homeland (2011-2013)), Wade’s stripper girlfriend, Vanessa, and T.J. Miller (Big Hero 6 (2014)), Wade’s closest friend, and barkeep, Weasel. Deadpool, based on the Marvel Comics character, follows Wade Wilson, after meeting Vanessa, and starting a long, very sexually charged relationship, Wade discovers he has inoperable cancer, and in an effort to cure himself, becomes willingly part of a mad man’s experiments in order to save himself. Now armed with an unlimited healing factor, but a face heavily scared and nowhere near the good looks he prides himself upon, Wade sets out on a quest to make himself ‘Hot Again’, and win back the heart of Vanessa, who already thinks he is dead. Wade’s quest, while entirely vain and self-centred, is presented as his only on going purpose, putting into question exactly what it is he intends to do post film, happily lending itself open to the inevitable array of sequels Fox will inevitably produce just to milk its new cash cow. Most likely presenting the same, soon to be tired, sexual innuendos and fourth wall breaks, that will become the soon to be franchises entire identity.

While I’m not saying sexual humour and fourth wall breaks are a bad thing, far from it, when used correctly and in the right situation, they can be downright hilarious, even after multiple viewings. Take, for example, American Pie (1999), a film I still can’t bring myself to like even 11 years after my initial viewing, the films constant use of sexual humour works, because that is what the film is about. It works, because the situations and characters are obsessed with sex, and the goal of the film is them losing their virginities, they help to further the story. The horrible, downright atrocious story. However, with the likes of Deadpool, I find myself groaning more than laughing, wishing he would just shut up already about how much he wants to sleep with his girlfriend. I get that Wade is a shallow guy, but please just shut the hell up and give me some actual god damn humour. Granted, the film does have its genuinely funny moments and one liners, I can’t count the number of times I’ve used the line “All the Dinosaurs feared the mighty T-Rex!”, but on a second viewing, they significantly lose their impact, making the film more of a bore to sit through then genuinely entertaining. The use of fourth wall breaks, while a staple of Deadpool as a character, becomes easily annoying by the films end, and while they can be effective, downright hilarious if used at the right time, see Spaceballs (1987) or Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975). Here, it comes off as someone beating you in the head repeating the phrase, “Hey! I’m in a movie! I know you’re watching me. Isn’t that funny!?”, by the end, I feel like Alex DeLarge, being strapped into a chair and repeatedly beaten over the head with the remains of several 4th walls.

Tiring by the end of initial viewing, and downright boring on multiple viewings, Deadpool is surely a divisive film. If crude humour and excessive in film jokes are your thing, then go ahead and enjoy it. If not, you’re honestly not missing much.