Clue: The Movie

Following in the vein of the absurd from last week, I’d like to share my favorite movie with you. On the surface, it looks like any other murder mystery, but if you actually sit down to watch it, you discover that it’s much more of a farce, and perhaps a bit of a character study.

clue-03

I’m talking about Clue. Based on the board game by the same name (or Cluedo, for my lovely readers who live outside the United States), it’s set in a mansion in rural northeastern US, in the 1950’s. The first person the audience sees is the butler, Wadsworth, played by Tim Curry. He greets the cook and the maid, and then the dinner guests begin to arrive, eventually followed by Mr Boddy only after they’ve migrated from the library to the dining room. Mr Boddy appears to be the host, and if he does in fact know what’s going on, he’s not sharing that information. It is of course after he presents the six weapons, that things start to get complicated.

Conceptually, this movie has a surprisingly similar feel to the game experience (minus the travel time from room to room). All of the rooms on the ground floor are present with their respective secret passages, and they also added a basement, and upper floors by way of bedrooms and attic, and much of the time is spent trying to figure out who killed Mr Boddy. They took some liberties with the characters in order to round out the number of suspects and victims, but it probably wouldn’t have worked otherwise. For instance, in the game, Mrs White was the maid, but in the movie they were two separate people.

When Clue had its run in theaters, it had three different endings, each assigning blame to a different suspect. Unfortunately that tactic wasn’t very well received, and it ended up getting bad reviews as a result. We’re lucky now, though, because the version released for home viewing includes all three, the DVD actually giving the audience the choice of watching all three, or having the program choose one at random (I’ve never watched it with only one ending). Not only do I emphatically recommend seeing this film, if for no other reason than its comedic value and outstanding cast, I suggest you have as many showings as you have patience for. It’s one of those movies that’s so tightly wound on itself, that it’s easy to miss little things like the sound effect when Mrs White snaps Colonel Mustard’s suspenders. You may even find yourself wanting to try to find the evidence to support each ending!

Rating: 5th Gear

[If you have a topic you’d like me to cover in a future article, please don’t hesitate to email me at Sara at otdt.net.]

Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno

In taking a story from manga to anime, to live action, there are bound to be changes that make it more format- and audience-friendly. As we saw a couple weeks ago, it doesn’t always come out successfully, but in the case of today’s subject, the combination of writing, acting, directing, and the rest of the crew has come together to put out a truly excellent product.

RK Kyoto Inferno

This time I’m looking at volume two of the Rurouni Kenshin film series, “Kyoto Inferno”. With Takeru Sato and Emi Takei reprising their roles as Kenshin and Kaoru, respectively, the story picks up not long after where it left off at the end of the first movie. The audience is introduced to Makoto Shishio in all his insanity, and it becomes obvious to newcomers that he’ll be the primary antagonist going forward. The movie covers the section where Kenshin is egged into going to Kyoto out of a responsibility for resolving the fact that Shishio even exists in the first place, up through the encounter on the ships in the harbor. Fans of the source material will hopefully recognize the new character brought in at the very end.

Rurouni Kenshin fans will also probably pick up on the fact that even though this second movie follows closer to the original story, it is still constrained by the changes made to it in the first one. Sanosuke’s loyalty is established, so that’s not such a big deal, but we don’t see as satisfying an explanation of the level of motivation associated with Aoshi Shinomori’s obsession with Kenshin as we’re familiar with because he wasn’t part of Kanryuu’s crew this time around. That all being said, everything fits well within the existing parameters of this modified version, and it’s a beautiful ride all over again. The only story element I was truly disappointed in was that Kenshin’s departure was so close to the beginning. I felt like we didn’t have enough of a chance to get back into the right emotional head space, to have it hit as hard as it did in the manga and anime.

This movie could exist in a vacuum if it wanted. Viewers don’t necessarily have to be familiar with the first installment or the source material to get something out of it, and that’s definitely a good thing. You will be left wanting for part three, though, and that’s a good thing too. If you have any feelings about the story, actors, setting, or any other relevant element, I highly recommend checking this one out. I know I’m eagerly waiting for the ‘end of the legend’.

Rating: 5th Gear

[If you have a topic you’d like me to cover in a future article, please don’t hesitate to email me at Sara at otdt.net.]

The Lego Movie

[For the record, this article was completed after the recording of the “recommended viewings of 2014” podcast.]

Everything is awesome! Or, at least that’s what Emmet Brickowski would like to believe.

Yes, I’m talking about the Lego Movie. Having gone into my first viewing after only seeing a trailer or two, and not reading any summaries, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect besides nostalgia and hilarity. Well, it served up both of those things, and a good bit more.

The-Lego-Movie

The movie opens mid-battle, between the wizard Vitruvius (voiced by Morgan Freeman), and Lord Business (voiced by Will Ferrell). As Vitruvius is nearly defeated, he recites a prophecy about a “Master” Lego builder who will save the world. Skip forward a few years, and things have calmed down quite a bit, to the point where there’s vibrant utopian city life. Everyone follows “the instructions”, a reference to the classic booklets containing step-by-step illustrations that come with most Lego sets. Along comes Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt) – a rather plain construction worker minifigure who’s sole purpose in life is to fit in with his coworkers and garner their approval. One night he notices someone moving around the work site after hours, and decides to follow them. It turns out the woman is looking for something called the “piece of resistance”, and tries to warn him off her trail. Following his refusal and a tumble through the earth below the construction, a piece of something (very notably not a Lego) gets stuck to his back. She identifies it as the item she seeks, and declares him a “Special” minifigure.

This movie rated unbelievably high on the nostalgia meter. Anyone roughly “Generation Y” or older (and possibly some younger) will remember having bins at home, filled with randomly sized and colored bricks that they could use to their imaginations’ content. We remember the evolution of the minifigures, and the introduction of more and more specialized building sets. As such, it’s very easy to see this story from both the league of specials’ point of view, and that of Lord Business. That all being said, there are several levels the movie runs on, and children will get a very different experience out of it from the adults who watch it with them. Even people who were never really into Legos will likely find something to latch onto, whether it’s the story itself, or the mass of memes it’s riddled with, or the surprise twist at the end. It’s the kind of movie I wish I would have been able to share with my grandfather.

Musically, there isn’t much variation. There’s a lot of repetition of the song “Everything is Awesome”, and most of the rest of it is background music. That’s actually okay, though, because it drives home the drone mentality that the average minifigures are accustomed to. On the other hand, the film is visually stunning… and it can’t afford not to be. The audience has to be able to see every piece of every build, and the animation team really delivered. The first part of the closing credits is even proper stop-motion.

Please go see this movie.

Rating: 6th Gear

[If you have a topic you’d like me to cover in a future article, please don’t hesitate to email me at Sara at otdt.net.]

Kuroshitsuji (2014 Black Butler live-action film)

This is your spoiler alert for the review that follows, as it may be more difficult to discuss without them than usual.

When the production announcement came down for the Kuroshitsuji 2014 live-action movie, it stirred quite a bit of attention. The studio wanted to make the film, but only if they could have Hiro Mizushima (Kamen Rider Kabuto, Hana Kimi 2007 ver.), who had retired from acting, come back as Sebastian. Luckily he said yes to playing the butler to Ayame Gouriki’s (Mirai Nikki, Gatchaman) Kiyoharu.

Having not read the manga, and only watching one episode of the anime (through no fault other than it was a free download, and I was ensconced in other series at the time), I’m not sure whether it was a good or bad thing to come into this movie with fresh eyes. The story opens in a warehouse, where Kiyoharu is being held with a group of girls.

Let me start over. Kiyoharu is a descendant of the Phantomhive family (establishing the link to Ciel), and he is actually a she. The Phantomhive’s family business can only be governed by men, so after Shiori’s parents were killed, she disappeared for a while, returning under an assumed name so that she could use her new status to take revenge for their murder. Going forward, I’ll be using male pronouns, since that’s how the character is primarily presented.

So after Sebastian steps in at the warehouse, takes care of business, and gets Kiyoharu home, they’re faced with a new task brought from the queen by Charles Sato (played by Yu Shirota [Great Teacher Onizuka 2012 ver., Arakawa Under the Bridge]), who also happens to have a personal stake in seeing the mystery solved. Some thorough detective work and carefully worded master-to-butler commands later, they think they have everything figured out… which is mostly true. Kiyoharu didn’t realize his own personal ties to case until it was almost too late.

Generally speaking, it wasn’t a bad film. It wasn’t my favorite, but I’m happy they went for Mizushima, as I’m not sure anyone else could have filled the role of Sebastian like he did. The fight scenes actually made the movie more than the story, especially with Rin’s “hidden badass”, to use the TV Tropes term. The one thing that really broke it for me, though, was at the end when Kiyoharu was dying from the poison. Sebastian held the antidote, put it in his own mouth, and then leaned in to give it to Kiyoharu. I actually found myself asking out loud if that was really necessary. Maybe I don’t know Sebastian well enough, but the act seemed a little over the top, when reading between the lines up until that point had sufficed.

The ending was left wide open, with the small mystery being solved but not actually catching the leader of the operation, so it will be interesting to see if they decide to continue the story in a second volume. I think watching this movie once was enough, but if a second one is produced, I’ll probably sit through it as well.

From what I understand, if you’re a fan of the original Kuroshitsuji story, this may not be the movie for you. But if you like any of the actors, it could be worth at least a passing glance.

 

Rathing: 3rd Gear

[If you have a topic you’d like me to cover in a future article, please don’t hesitate to email me at Sara at otdt.net.]

Gatchaman (2013 live-action film)

In the not-so-distant future of a timeline where the Earth has been taken over by the mysterious “Galactor” organization, five people come together in an effort to defeat them and restore the planet’s freedom.

That’s the premise of the 2013 live-action movie “Gatchaman”. I’d heard some rumors shortly after the release of this movie, that it wasn’t actually all that good. Despite that, I wanted to see for myself and pass my own judgment. Admittedly, I didn’t remember much from the original animated series besides the design of the team’s fighting suits, so the cast ended up being the main draw. Most notably featured was Tori Matsuzaka as Ken, the team’s leader. There had been some concern that he was being type-cast in first position, since he’s probably best known for his role as Takeru Shiba in “Samurai Sentai Shinkenger”. And there were a lot of echoes of Takeru in his portrayal of Ken. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. The rest of the team was rounded out by Ryohei Suzuki as Ryu, Ayame Gouriki as Jun, Tatsuomi Hamada as Jinpei, and Go Ayano as Joe, each of whom also has an impressive resume of his or her own.

The great thing about a story like this, is that since it’s a five-person team, it’s basically a sentai, and is able to pick up on some of the typical tokusatsu tropes. Even though there’s no visual assignment of colors, per se, it’s easy to see where the basic color theory would lie – Ken as red and Jun as pink, and then probably Joe as blue (no associations with Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger intended since these names were chosen in the early 1970’s), and Ryu and Junpei as yellow and green. Plus, the heroes all survive, if a little worse for wear. Also: borrowed from Kamen Rider is the idea that the good guys and bad guys both effectively use the same power source. This allowed me to predict one twist in the plot, unfortunately, although it was followed up by one I very much did not anticipate (but probably should have).

One thing that rubbed me the wrong way a little bit was how much it felt like I was watching a western-style super hero movie, ala something out of Marvel or DC. A Japanese film should feel Japanese, right? Upon doing a little research into the original series, I discovered that this was actually kind of the point. “Gatchaman” was intended to have a more western feel to it. Okay, so where does that leave it, then? There were a lot of explosions, and the animation was pretty, and the fight scenes were pretty. But it didn’t really feel any different than if I was watching “The Avengers” or “Harry Potter”.

The result of all this is that it probably did take itself a little too seriously. It was fun to watch at home on a quiet afternoon, but I’m not upset that I was unable to see it in the theater. As a warning to people looking for the nostalgia factor: I don’t know how it stands up to the original story.

Rating: 4th Gear

[If you have a topic you’d like me to cover in a future article, please don’t hesitate to email me at Sara at otdt.net.]

Oh No! Godzilla!!!!

John, Jeanie, Chris, Jim, and Z take a look at the 2014 movie incarnation of Godzilla.
The overall consensus, you must see this movie.

They also talk a little about Independence Day and its sequels.

References:

Gareth Edwards Draws from Jaws and Jurassic Park – Slate.com
Post-Fukushima, Japan’s favorite monster may never go home again – Reuters

Credits:

You Get What You Pay For
by Lee Rosevere

Diffused
by Hans Atom

Road To Nowhere
Music by D.Byrne
Lyrics by C.Frantz, D.Byrne, J.Harrison, T.Weymouth

Everything Is Awesome
by Tegan and Sara

A Cornucopia of Fandom! Pokemon, Power Rangers, Miku, and Granola?

This time the cast sit down and look at the upcoming releases of Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. From there they give their reactions to the upcoming Mighty Morphin Power Rangers re-envisioning movie from Saban and Lionsgate. We look at Lady Gaga’s current tour with Hatsune Miku and wonder where the fan coverage is.
We talk about Granola and its relationship to anime memes (think Nature Valley)

Real

If you’re looking for a Takeru Sato movie to tide you over until the next installment of “Rurouni Kenshin” is released, take a look at “Real”.

 

In this movie, Sato plays a man named Koichi Fujita, whose significant other (I don’t recall whether they said she was his fiancee or girlfriend), played by Haruka Ayase, has fallen into a coma after a suicide attempt. The hospital that’s been caring for her in the interim has developed technology to allow people to connect and communicate at the subconscious level, as if in a dream state, so he agrees to use it to try to bring her back to the real world. Over the course of the exposition, the audience finds out that she’s a manga artist. She feels like she’s lost her way, and the only way to get her motivation back is for him to find a picture of a plesiosaur she drew in a sketchbook as a child.

 

The psychology of the situation only intensifies as Koichi goes looking for the drawing. He starts to hallucinate in the real world, things that he saw Atsumi drawing in the dream world. And just when he thinks he found it, things get even more complicated.

 

I admit that I was too busy trying to piece together what I was watching, to see the twist coming. In fact, it took me so by surprise, that I stopped knowing what to believe… which I imagine was the point. The cast and staff had me completely consumed by what I was watching, though, which is always a good thing, and the costuming and set design choices were excellent.

 

I really enjoy watching Sato-san work, and while I like psychological thrillers well enough, the ones that introduce undead and things that require liberal amounts of creepy makeup aren’t quite my cup of tea.

 

Rating: 3rd Gear

[If you have a topic you’d like me to cover in a future article, please don’t hesitate to email me at Sara at otdt.net.]

Piece ~Kioku no Kakera~ (TN: Fragments of Memories)

Last year, there was some uproar in the tokusatsu (special effects filming) fan community. The producing company, Toei, had announced that they were starting a new project called “Hero Next” to highlight actors who had been a part of their Kamen Rider and Super Sentai programming. As of right now, there have been three movies released:

 

“Piece ~Kioku no Kakera~” (henceforward referred to as “Piece”), featuring Shu Watanabe and Ryosuke Miura from “Kamen Rider OOO” (Eiji and Ankh, respectively)

 

“In the Future, Where I am Executed”, featuring Sota Fukushi and Ryo Yoshizawa from “Kamen Rider Fourze” (Gentarou and Ryusei, respectively)

 

“Love Gear”, featuring Ryota Ozawa, Kazuki Shimizu, and Junya Ikeda from “Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger” (Captain Marvelous, Don “Hakase” Dogoier, and Gai Ikari, respectively)

 

 

From what I understand, the purpose of the project was to keep the actors on the roster, rather than just saying “thank you for your service, good luck on future endeavors”. It’s a nice sentiment, and seems like it would work well… and if you’re wondering why only certain people have come back so far, some of them have made more advancement in their careers beyond toku (for instance, Yuki Yamada [Gokaiger’s Joe Gibken]), while others may have backed away altogether. I won’t go into the actors’ other projects, that’s a different discussion. And that’s enough preface.

 

“Piece” opens with a dream-like scene in a forest, where a girl asks the man she’s with (Watanabe) what he’ll do if she dies. After he explains to her what he imagines to be living as if he was dead, she abruptly collapses and turns to stone, the scenery changing to a dark room with two other girls looking on. He suddenly wakes up on a bench by a riverbank, and it’s revealed that he’s a freelance reporter named Tomoki Chino. The recurring dream is apparently the fuzzy remnants of an actual occurrence from three years ago, and he’s been trying to figure out what really happened and what his girlfriend’s last words were. When more people start turning to stone, he jumps head-first into the investigation, and consequently comes across a photographer named Rei (Miura) who’s housing multiple symbiotic personalities within himself. As luck would have it, Rei’s van contains the equipment necessary to solve the mystery, and his various personalities are also able to help Tomoki reach back into his own memories.

 

The special effects were handled well, and not overdone like how traditional toku tends to be. It was also nice to see the fight scene, allowing Watanabe and Miura to show off a little. I would offer a trigger warning to anyone who’s squeamish about separated body parts, with respect to those who were turned to stone.

 

The ending leaves the story wide open, although I doubt there will be a continuation… and I strongly encourage viewers to sit through the entirety of the ending credits, as there’s a few seconds of extra video at the end. Not only that, but Miura sang the ending theme (it’s the B side of his “Kimi e no X-mas Song” single).

 

All in all, “Piece” is a dark and heavy movie. It’s on the creepy side, and kinda tragic. That being said, if you like these two actors and the dynamic they portrayed in “Kamen Rider OOO”, I definitely recommend giving this a glance.

 

Rating: 4th gear

[If you have a topic you’d like me to cover in a future article, please don’t hesitate to email me at Sara at otdt.net.]

Driving Headlong into a Cosplay Crisis

In this episode the OTDT cast talks a little about the 50th anniversary Doctor Who 3D theatrical event.  Then they delve into a touchy subject and look at an article dealing with cosplay harassment at conventions.

 

Links:

Dr. Who Event: http://www.fathomevents.com/event/doctor-who-the-day-of-the-doctor/more-info/details

Cosplay Harassment: http://www.buzzfeed.com/ryanhatesthis/whats-the-creepiest-thing-someones-said-to-you-while-cosplay