Genre: Science-fiction, animation
Director/s: Shinji Aramaki
Running Time: 88 mins
Released: 21 July 2012 (Japan)
Okay, first thing’s first. I feel that I need to clear up the first bit of bullshit about Starship Troopers: Invasion. Claiming that this film is – “A fast-paced thrill ride that tops the original”, as it says on the cover is a ridiculously stupid statement, clearly designed to manipulate people into buying the film, as it is simply not so. The original Starship Troopers (1997) was (and still is) an amazing film, filled with space marines, giant bugs and gratuitous violence, placing it among my all-time favourite sci-fi flicks. Filmmakers attempted to replicate the awesomeness of the original with two sequels – Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation (2004) and Starship Troopers 3: Marauder (2008), but they turned out to be such a load of crap that needless to say, when Invasion came along, I completely overlooked it until I realized it was animated. While Starship Troopers: Invasion has all the aforementioned ingredients that made the first film so great, it definitely lacks the energy and originality that gives a film everlasting re-playability. The animation is great, seemingly photo-realistic at times, in a similar style to Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, and everything from the bugs to the space-cruisers have been faithfully recreated in CGI. A notable difference is the mechanized power-armour that the troopers wear (resembling Master Chief somewhat) as opposed to the regular uniforms of the infantrymen as seen in the first film. The characters in Invasion are relatively one-dimensional, expendable and utterly forgettable, lacking any modicum of soul that made their predecessors so interesting. Even though some of the characters return in this sequel, including – Carmen Ibanez, Carl Jenkins and Johnny Rico (resembling Big Boss), they are a far cry from their former, charismatic selves. My only other gripe with this film is the ‘Invasion’ title. The bugs only get to Earth in the last twenty minutes, and there’s no actual invasion as the troopers manage to contain the bugs within the confines of the ship that brought them to the planet, so not exactly the all out mankind vs. giant alien bug brawl it should’ve been.
Starship Troopers: Invasion isn’t without its good points – there is plenty of action and gore present in the film and the animation is pretty damn good. A few new bugs keep things interesting and though Invasion pales in comparison to the original film, it proves to be vastly superior to the last couple of sequels.
Genre: Crime, drama
Director/s: Sion Sono
Running Time: 129 mins
Released: 5 September 2011
Himizu (Japanese Shrew Mole) has earned a certain amount of acclaim in the Japanese film industry as well as in certain Western circles for being a ‘masterpiece’ or ‘extraordinary’ however I cannot fathom as to why that is as this film is utterly pointless. Himizu focuses on two teenagers who live a dystopian existence after the tsunami disaster in May 2011. Even though the disaster is used as the backdrop of the film to exemplify the hopeless dreariness of the situation, it pales in comparison to the dreary protagonists. Sumida lives with his mother in a boat house, in no time she abandons him and soon after he kills his father – a worthless man who frequents the home in search of cash and alcohol. In the beginning Sumida still goes to school and is stalked by Keiko who spends her time coating her bedroom wall with pages of random quotes that Sumida makes throughout the day. Soon enough Keiko begins to speak to Sumida and when he stops going to school, she starts spending her days at Sumida’s home, even though he has absolutely no interest in her. Himizu won the Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best New Young Actor and Actress, which is quite confusing as both protagonists display the usual amount of over-acting, and nonsensical garbage lines synonymous with many Japanese dramas, such as Sumida himself shouting “Sumida! Don’t give up!” Himizu is basically two hours of exaggerated teenage angst, screaming, pointless crying, abuse (as Sumida and Keiko slap one another around repeatedly) and stupidity as Sumida ‘descends into madness’ after slaying his father, deciding to “punish bad guys” in the last hour of the film which equates to him walking around town covered in paint (some of which he consumes), carrying a knife around in a bag which he never actually uses. Adding to the melancholy of Himizu is the use of Mozart’s Requiem repeatedly throughout the film’s duration, two hours of the same musical composition, really? What makes everything worse is the fact that Sumida’s misery is self-inflicted, as he never acknowledges or accepts the help of the people (squatters on his property) who actually care for him or try to help him, as he occupies his time with pointless screaming, loitering and for the most part – rolling in mud.
You’d be hard-pressed to take anything from this film as I certainly didn’t. Himizu is a 129 minute waste of your life. Circular, pointless and dreary, filled with forgettable performances and a senseless ending. However, if there’s one film I would like to see Sumida and Keiko in, it’d be Battle Royale.
Genre: Superhero, action
Director/s: Marc Webb
Running Time: 136 mins
Budget: $230 million
Released: 13 July 2012 (South Africa)
After a decade of Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man (three films to be precise), Marvel Entertainment have rebooted the franchise with fresh faces, a new Spidey costume and an ‘alternate’ storyline, labeling this film as ‘The Untold Story of Spider-Man’. Untold eh? Well, I find that rather confusing since The Amazing Spider-Man is essentially identical for all intents and purposes to 2002’s Spider-Man, which was a superior origin story. And that’s just it, The Amazing Spider-Man is yet another origin story, that does not add anything new or creative enough to justify its existence. Seriously, how many damn times do we need to see uncle Ben get killed, or Peter Parker being bitten by the spider that gave him his powers? It’s ridiculous, and to exacerbate matters further, The Lizard is the lamest villain out of all the bad guys put to screen, I think Peter Chao said it best – if you were a super-powered lizard man, with super lizard powers why on earth would you want to make every other human being a lizard person? It would render your powers useless as you’d effectively be putting everyone on the same level as you. There’s also been a lot of debate over who the better Spider-Man is, Tobey Maguire or Andrew Garfield, with Spider-Man 3 being referenced continuously as the reason for Garfield being superior. Then again, it is a given that fan-boys would attack the weakest link of the series as opposed to its greatest strength, or has everyone forgotten just how good Spider-Man 2 really is? That’s not to say that The Amazing Spider-Man isn’t worth watching, it has its moments, one scene involving a battle in the school’s library was quite entertaining and the addition of web-shooters is a nice touch, it’s just not enough to make this film truly great…or good for that matter, despite imdb’s ridiculous 7.6 rating.
We really, really did not need another origin story, as a continuation of the series would have enabled film-makers to focus on a completely new story as opposed to yet another retelling. The Lizard is a shitty, uninteresting villain, that epitomizes the tired plot device of – Good-scientist-has-accident-and-turns-into-mutated-villain, and Andrew Garfield doesn’t seem to fit the Peter Parker mold all that well. Overall, The Amazing Spider-Man serves as a 136 minute distraction at best, lacking any originality that may have warranted a second viewing. Disappointing.
Genre: Horror-comedy, fantasy
Director/s: Tim Burton
Running Time: 113 mins
Budget: $150 million
Released: 11 May 2012
Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows is an adaptation of the gothic-horror soap opera (1966 – 1971) of the same name. Burton’s rendition is in fact the second adaptation of the classic series as there was a remake series back in 1991 – Dark Shadows a.k.a The New Dark Shadows and Dark Shadows: The Revival Series, which ran for 12 episodes. I’m a huge Tim Burton fan, so needless to say I was immediately interested in Dark Shadows the moment I heard about it. As expected, Burton collaborates with the usual players – Johnny Depp, who plays the protagonist Barnabas Collins – an imprisoned vampire from the 1700’s who is awakened 200 years later in 1972 America to return to the dysfunctional Collin’s family in an effort to revitalize the once prominent Collin’s Fishery. Helena Bonham Carter – plays Julia Hoffman, a psychiatrist to the ten-year old Collin’s boy David, and Danny Elfman returns once more with a wonderfully gothic film score that compliments the subject matter wonderfully. I found the premise of the film to be quite fun and interesting, and enjoyed the usual amount of weirdness that comes with a Burton film. It’s also worth noting that Dark Shadows is a visually stunning film, with plenty of marvelous set pieces (such as the Collins Manor) and equally stunning are the characters and the acting, specifically Depp, who belts out clever quips and all manner of wordplay made funnier due to the character’s culture shock. What has confused me though, is the negative criticism that Dark Shadows has received, stating that the film was inconsistent or that it lacked focus, I find this to be untrue, as it uses the perfect Burton formula of spookiness and humour in what proves to be a highly entertaining film. However, perhaps it’s Burton’s formula that people tire of as opposed to the subject matter itself, but as always, it’s a given that his films won’t appeal to everyone given the creepy/comedy mash-up inherent with Burton’s style.
Tim Burton succeeds once more with Dark Shadows as the film is highly entertaining and filled with enough oddness to keep Burton fans happy. Though this re-imaging of a classic series doesn’t offer too many twists and turns or much in the way of mystery, the linear approach of the film is overlooked by the visuals and the brilliant performances of Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and all those involved. As in most cases with Burton films, this is one for the fans.
Genre: Science-fiction, action
Director/s: James Mather, Stephen St. Leger
Running Time: 95 mins
Budget: $20 million (US)
Released: 13 April 2012
Lockout is a French science-fiction film set in the year 2079, about a man who’s been wrongly convicted of a crime he did not commit and is offered freedom if he is able to rescue the U.S. president’s daughter from an outer space prison which has been taken over by the inmates. Well the premise is certainly interesting enough, that is of course until you realize that Lockout is Escape from New York (1981). So instead of Snake Plissken we have Snow (Guy Pearce), a CIA agent tasked with infiltrating the super max prison known as MS One. In Escape from New York, the film is set in the (then) future of 1997, and Plissken needs to infiltrate Manhattan Island (which has been converted into a super max prison) in order to rescue the U.S. president, so yeah…Lockout pretty much identical, but that’s not to say that Lockout is bad, quite the opposite as it is an entertaining (though predictable) film, filled with the usual sci-fi fare – space ships, space battles, and bad ass soldier-types, but the real entertainment value comes from Guy Pearce’s performance as his one-liners, quips and general devil-may-care attitude is genuinely funny. I say funny, because Lockout never tries to take itself too seriously, even though the film is moderately violent. One thing about Lockout that impressed me was what the filmmakers were able to do with the considerably meager budget of twenty million, and while the film only really jumps between three or four locations for the most part (earth, space, orbital police station and MS One), everything manages to look pretty good, CGI space battles and all.
Lockout doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel, as I previously said, it is essentially Escape from New York…but in space. And while it is a predictably derivative film, it somehow manages to be entertaining and in my opinion, Guy Pearce’s performance prevents Lockout from falling flat on its face.