Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Film Review: "A Letter to Momo" ("ももへの手紙") (2011).


"An unfinished letter from her father is left behind." This is A Letter to Momo (ももへの手紙). This Japanese anime drama film written and directed by Hiroyuki Okiura, and produced by Production I.G. Momo is recovering from her father's death and her mother's decision to move their family from Tokyo to a remote island, when she discovers a message from her father that causes strange events to occur.

In mid February 2011, distributor Kadokawa Pictures announced this film in its 2011 and 2012 lineup of films. In early July, more details of the film were announced, with Okiura announced as writer and director. Okiura had spent seven years coming up with the script, directing the film and creating the storyboard for this film. In addition, it was revealed that the theme song for the film is the song Uruwashimahoroba ~ Utsukushiki Basho (ウルワシマホロバ~美しき場所~) by Japanese singer Yuko Hara, wrote the song's lyrics and composed the music. This song is an acoustic piece, and it creates an image of the rich natural scenery of the Seto Inland Sea. Hara reportedly spent 5 years working on this piece of music. In mid November, the main voice cast was first announced with Karen Miyama, Yuka, Toshiyuki Nishida, Kōichi Yamadera, Chō, Yoshisada Sakaguchi, and Ikuko Tani.

The film stars an ensemble cast that includes Miyama, Yuka, Nishida, Yamadera, Chō, Sakaguchi, and Tani. The film is is a lovely examination of the difficulties of childhood and the struggles of adulthood thanks to the incredible performances from the talented voice cast. I have little in common with Momo, yet I related to her experiences as if they were my own. This represents the amazing talent of Miyama and the genius of Okiura.

The film is one of Production I.G.'s films aimed primarily at female viewers with an intentional story that is emotionally honest. Much of the emotional content is universal, especially the feelings of disappointment and shame that animation can portray with special force. A warm and playful reminder that while we all must leave childhood, we should do our utmost to ensure our childhood never leaves us. A film of exquisite, deceptive simplicity and painterly beauty, with a story that is entirely ordinary yet heartbreaking in its universality. An absolutely magnificent animated romantic drama that captures the essence of how our past informs our present. Touching, funny, realistic and quite wonderful. The childhood segments are very cute and charming but the adult sections drag a bit and are a little preachy. There are few big moments and very little drama in the film, but as it choogs along it gains power and wisdom. A story with universal themes that simultaneously details one girls experience, the film is inquisitive, meditative work of art. Calm, reflective, gorgeously uneventful, the film is easily among Production I.G.'s very best work. To say this film is anything less than outstanding would be arrogant from my part.

Simon says A Letter to Momo (ももへの手紙) receives:


Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Film Review: "Riddick" (2013).




" Don't know how many times I've been crossed off the list and left for dead. Guess when it first happens the day you were born, you're gonna lose count. So this, this ain't nothing new.” Which is what is happening this time round in Riddick. This science-fiction action thriller is the third installment in the The Chronicles of Riddick film series. Written and directed by David Twohy, who previously wrote and directed the first two installments. Betrayed by his own kind and left for dead on a desolate planet, Riddick fights for survival against alien predators and becomes more powerful and dangerous than ever before. Until activating an emergency beacon alerts two ships: one carrying a new breed of mercenary, the other captained by a man from Riddick's past.

For those who are not familiar with the series, here is a brief overview: The first installment of the franchise, Pitch Black (2000), was a lower budget production. The story involved Riddick being transported to prison on the Hunter Gratzner, a commercial cargo ship. When the spaceship is damaged in the wake of a comet and makes an emergency crash landing on an isolated desert planet, Riddick escapes. However, when flying creatures begin attacking all the survivors, Riddick joins forces with the others to escape the planet. It received mixed reviews. But it is now considered a cult film. The second feature film in the series, The Chronicles of Riddick was a bigger budget production and was more action oriented than its predecessor. It takes place five years after Pitch Black and involved Riddick's meeting with Jack and Imam, his escape from the prison planet Crematoria, and his battle with the Necromonger fleet, which ended with the defeat of the Lord Marshall. Riddick kept the way of the Necromonger (You keep what you kill) as success of him killing the Lord Marshall. It received mostly negative reviews.

The film stars Vin Diesel as the title character, Jordi Mollà, Katee Sackhoff, Dave Bautista and Karl Urban. The performances in this film were 'hard-core' and impressive. There were only a few familiar faces, the rest were unknowns. Diesel was impressive as ever as he reprises his famous role, Riddick. Sackhoff was 'badass' and fantastic as the tough, feisty female soldier, Dahl. Her performance reminded me of the character of Private Jenette Vasquez from Aliens (1986), minus the Latan-American background. Lastly, Urban gave a chilling performance though his role, Vaako, was rather a small role for this film.

As an action movie, Riddick offers some thrills, but as the true sequel to Pitch Black, it's not really a major improvement. However, the movie is so jaunty, so limber, and so visually self-assured that art peeks through where crap has traditionally made its home. Like the first film, It works because it's strong on fundamentals: fear of the dark, fear of helplessness, fear of the unknown, and fear of unpredictable human behavior.

Simon says Riddick receives: