Saturday, 22 January 2011

Brave Story

It's obvious a lot of time and effort has been invested in Brave Story to make a new Sprited Away. In terms of the visuals, it's not a bad effort - slickly animated, impeccably well-drawn with some nice 3D modelling. In terms of the story though, it's a million miles away. Despite drawing liberally on a Miyazakian pallette of temporal loopholes and funny wee beasties, the magic ingredient just isn't there.

What starts out as a (massively implausible and sketchy) story about a boy whose parents have separated and who is looking for a fantasy world in which to take refuge, quickly morphs into a typical dumb quest anime.

Dir. Koichi Chigira, 2006

Sunday, 16 January 2011


A relentless stream of bollocks.

Really, I'd like to leave it there, but since I've set a precedent on this blog of more verbose reviews, I will, reluctantly, elaborate.

The DVD copy I have has a quote on the cover which claims the movie is "better than both sequels to The Matrix put together", or in other words, it's better than shit squared - which it really isn't.

Allegedly set in 21st Century 'Eurasia', under the rule of The Great Eastern Empire, Casshern opens with Professor Azuma addressing a room full of the great and good to announce that he has 'discovered' 'neo-cells'. We're then treated to some vaguely scientific bollocks where he explains how these miraculous self-replicating cells are the answer to death (still a problem for mankind even in the late 21st Century).

Azuma and his crew of weird scientists set up shop in army HQ under the auspices of a preening knob called Naito and proceed to fill several enormous pools with red dye and prosthetic body parts. He also makes sure to turn on every available smoke machine and ensures the lighting is set to maximum pretentiousness. After a year of peering through microscopes and farting about with charts, it looks like the professor's experiment has failed. But suddenly the alarm is sounded as the body parts begin to cohere into men! Men whom the army gun down but who escape unharmed through the sewer system, trek across the Arctic Circle and miraculously chance upon an unoccupied super fortress. The leader of this bunch of hacks, who looks like a kind of Japanese Eddie Izzard in battle gear, proclaims them to be Neoroids and declares war on his creators, the humans. As is if on queue, Third Reich-style Neoroid banners are unfurled from nowhere and an evil robot production factory is discovered. Off screen, Rammstein decide this would be the ideal time to start bashing out a few power chords. A few minutes later, the Neoroids' army of several million robots is ready to go. Go get the humans! Go!! Fortunately, Prof Azuma's son, who was killed in a pointless war, has been reborn in one of the re-birthing pools and naturally sets to work against the Neoroid army in his new capacity as ass-kicker in chief, lining them up and knocking them down like so many dominoes. All scored by a ludicrous pop-metal soundtrack.

Unlike some other sci-fis with plots written by 12 year olds, Casshern is not even a visual feast - yes it clearly has a sizeable budget behind it; it's vast in scale, but appears to be going for the Terry Gilliam look, falling well short, and ending up instead with an upmarket, oversized version of Knightmare. There's no-one as charismatic as Tregard in Casshern though, and the CG is ridiculously intrusive, dovetailing with the live action like a fifty foot top hat dovetails with a child's head. Given that this film was clearly not made on a shoestring, in contrast to, say, Big Tits Zombie, I would have to rate it as the worst thing I've reviewed on here to date.

Temporal disruption ends...

Dir. Kazuaki Kiriya, 2004

Thursday, 13 January 2011


Kokkuri is essentially the Japanese equivalent of Ouija; a hand-drawn board, consisting of a circle of hirigana characters, over which participants move a coin at the behest of an unseen spirit - Kokkuri-san - to spell out the answers to their questions.

Not that you need to know this in order to watch the film Kokkuri because it has virtually nothing to do with it. The closest we come to the spirit world is a lace curtain rustling in the breeze. As it transpires, the game of Kokkuri is merely the clunkiest of pretexts for a mind-numbingly dull psychodrama. Despite being slower paced than a dead tortoise and having approximately nothing happen in its 90 minutes or so run time Kokkuri still manages to be convoluted, confusing and illogical. Quite a feat I'd say.

I won't even bore you with the details of the shit plot, suffice it to say that it's a blatant rip off of Dark Water. The camera-work is amateurish, the acting ponderous, the script derisory. Zeze doesn't even have the good grace to bring the simmering lesbian undercurrents to the boil. Note to director: when making a horror movie, at least one scare is a good rule of thumb. Sudden cut shots to small moody-looking Japanese girls are not always the answer, however dim the lighting and however many rusty wind chimes are clanking in the background.

Dir. Takahisa Zeze, 1997