Anime

Serial Experiments Lain

Championing anime, especially something as wondrously bizarre as Serial Experiments Lain, is a worthy cause, but I still can’t make heads or tails of The Daily Beast’s accusation that Hollywood sci-fi films are ripping off anime. Vague and accusatory headline in tow, author David Levesley points out cosmetic similarities between recent science fiction studio fare and well-regarded anime gems with the added (hand-drawn) cherry on top of claiming filmmakers won’t own up to the work they’re stealing from. It’s a bombastic statement (that probably feels gut-level correct for anyone who thinks “Hollywood is out of ideas” is both true and a response for everything), but the gruel here is so clear that it’s see-through. It’s an impotent, misplaced rant with an uncomfortable cultural angle. The quick and dirty comparisons from the piece include: Transcendence = Serial Experiments Lain (and unnamed multitudes) because they both include a person being uploaded to a computer upon death. The Hunger Games = Battle Royale (an old favorite) Inception = Paprika because they both involve a dream machine Pacific Rim = Neon Genesis Evangelion because of the mechs Her = Chobits because they both have a love story between man and compu-lady These similarities would be damning evidence of rip offs…if anime were the only storytelling well of the past two thousand years.

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The Starship Troopers franchise is a bizarre animal. Paul Verhoeven’s 1997 original was overlooked by many as a bloody sci-fi blockbuster; little more than dull buggery. Point of fact, Starship Troopers is, true to Verhoeven form, a biting satire that takes skillful aim at the military industrial complex, fascism, and the price of patriotism. It is a film that is actually far smarter than a cursory glance would reveal. It is also far too good a film to suffer the indignities of two middling to poor direct-to-video sequels. However, the third film in the series did have the distinction of being directed by effects icon Phil Tippett, to date his only feature film. Starship Troopers 3: Marauder also brought back Johnny Rico himself, Casper Van Dien. For this fourth film, Van Dien is now a producer and the series has ventured into animated territory. Japanese director Shinji Aramaki brings us the story of a requisitioned spacecraft, a treacherous, but familiar member of the Federation, and more of the beloved insect carnage we’ve come to expect. It’s hard not to lower one’s expectations for a fourth film within a franchise, particularly when dealing with an entirely new medium. However, Starship Troopers: Invasion manages to maintain one of the progenitor film’s principle strengths: action. The action sequences here are intense, well-edited, and impressive. The computer-generated animation style proves to be of major benefit to these sequences as the bugs have full range of motion and their speed is perfectly frightening. Aramaki obviously […]

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Casting continues to come together for Jaume Collet-Serra’s live-action adaptation of the dystopian anime Akira. Or, at least, casting rumors continue to come together. I’m not certain that any of this has been officially announced by the production. For a while now it’s been thought that Tron: Legacy’s Garrett Hedlund is signed to play the character Shotaro Kaneda, the motorcycle gang-leading protagonist of the story. That one seems to be a pretty sure lock. Recently, word came out that roles had been offered to veteran actors Gary Oldman and Helena Bonham Carter as well. That announcement seems a little less certain than Hedlund’s involvement, but it hasn’t been refuted by any official sources. And now Twitch is adding to the casting rumor pile by saying that Kaneda’s sometime adversary, sometime love interest Kei has been cast as well. Apparently, an offer is on the table for Kristen Stewart to play the psychic medium with terrorist ties. If this is the case, then it would put Stewart in yet another high profile role in yet another high profile genre picture. Factor in that next year she is starring in Snow White and the Huntsman, and that’s a lot of mystical lasses for one young actress to take on. When you’re cast in something that’s as big of a phenomenon as Twilight, the threat of being typecast is always there. Is Stewart having trouble finding non-genre roles after being ingrained in most of the world’s head as Bella Swan, or are these […]

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For a second, let’s pretend that a remake of the ultra-violence-infused, sex-brimming anime Kite is actually going to happen. It’s been a long road with Javier and Jorge Aguilera, then Rob Cohen trying to get the project off the ground, but now Variety is reporting that Snakes on a Plane and Shark Night 3D director David R. Ellis is going to take over. Let’s assume that everything goes smoothly and that a movie comes out the other end. What is that going to look like exactly? The original is rightfully notorious for trying its hardest to be pornography featuring an underaged female character, and a live-action remake seems like it would come up against a lot of challenges that might leave core elements decorating the cutting room floor. That won’t make it the first Remake-In-Name-Only, but it will still be fascinating to see whether Distant Horizon and Ellis will produce something deviant and challenging, whether it will be a lukewarm version of Hanna by way of Lolita, or whether it will get made at all.

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The premise of Ben-To is a simple one: being a student is hard, money is tight, and if you want cheap food, you’re going to have to fight for it. The tone seems far less Battle Royale and more Lucky Star, but that’s because a situation where poor students turn to fisticuffs in order to get at discounted food demands to be a broad comedy. Thanks to Twitch, we can share the teaser for the forthcoming Anime series, so check it out for yourself:

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Four years ago I saw an animated picture that hit me the only way that, up until then, had been achieved by some of the best work out of Studio Ghibli and Pixar. It was a story of deep friendships and lost love told with the science-fiction plot device of time travel. That film was The Girl Who Leapt Through Time by director Mamoru Hosoda who, up until then, had only worked on the Digimon and One Piece franchises. Now, with his latest picture Summer Wars about a terrorist computer virus threatening an incredibly elaborate online world that’s been so ingrained and relied upon for businesses, social lifestyles, and even government and state controlled occupations all across the globe, Hosoda is establishing himself as one of the premiere storytellers working in the arena of animation.

Like The Girl Who Leapt Through Time the device of a social network/world revolving multi-functional business operations takeover by an unrelenting intruder works as a means to tell a more intimate story about a family with a very proud and tight-knit history struggling to hold it together in the twilight years of the family’s 90 year old matriarch. Kenji, a very timid young outsider, is brought to the family’s celebration of the 90 year old Grandmother’s birthday by her granddaughter Natuski, who needed someone to act as her boyfriend in order to impress her family. A few slight (and by slight I mean considerably large) fabrications about Kenji’s accomplishments and age notwithstanding he doesn’t find out about her real intentions until he’d already won the role away from his friend – both of whom were already hired to work for the summer maintaining the Oz system (said online worldwide computer program being attacked) – and was already settled in for lodging.

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Did you ever play Rock N’ Roll racing on the Super Nintendo? The outer space road-racing game with an awesome soundtrack. Did you ever play it while on paoti? Me neither, but I imagine director/animator Takeshi Koike has. Either that, or he’s just made of paoti and Redline is what Nascar looks like through his eyes.

I wish I had Takeshi Koike’s eyes.

In terms of things that are almost purely visceral I don’t recall the last time I’ve seen so much imagination and energy in a picture. It’s an onslaught of craziness and colors chunked at your face. What may be most impressive about it is that it isn’t craziness for the sake of necessarily being crazy. Much in the same way Lucas or Cameron used the endless possibilities of creating new species and planets Koike has done the same; only on paoti, or something else that uninhibits creation.

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Akira2011

For a while we’ve thought that Akira was dead, but now his friends are resurrecting him and taking him in blob form into production starting in 2010.

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cowboy-bebop-header1

We can all breathe a small sigh of relief that studio Sunrise and Shinichiro Watanabe are going to be solidly involved in the production of Cowboy Bebop. Is it enough to make us forget temporarily that Keanu Reeves isn’t involved?

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AkiraDicaprioRemake

For reasons unknown, the project to revive Otomo’s anime classic as a live-action feature is dead. I personally plan on mourning by watching the real Akira.

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gigantor-header

What’s not quite as Big as Big and not nearly as Tall as Tall? Gigantor on DVD. But size and height issues aside, this is a cool set.

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Fox to Ruin Cowboy Bebop

Celebrate! Cowboy Bebop will finally be on the big screen! Oh, wait, Fox is doing it. Brace yourselves for the awful. And they’ve decided to cast who?

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IFC is bringing the Japanese hit “Hell Girl” to the American small screen and we’re there with an early look at first three episodes and a hand-dandy guide for your viewing pleasure!

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Speed Racer Movie Review

Speed Racer is a movie to experience, not just a movie to watch. It’s a complete package with campy humor, thrilling action sequences, and emotional dramatics – all delivered through the unparalleled visual style of The Wachowski Brothers.

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Ghost in the Shell

Masamune Shirow’s well-traveled series Ghost in the Shell has just been optioned by Dreamworks to create a 3-D live-action film. Variety reports that uber-busy Steven Speilberg snatched the project from Universal and Sony Pictures and made it a priority of his to get the film at Dreamworks.

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