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Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Casshern Comes to America!

I've been waiting a loooong time for this day! "Casshern," the 2004, Japanese sci-fi epic is finally coming to DVD!
The film shows the heart of the 21st century and the birth of the neo-cell-- A new scientific find that can reanimate humans. But the government uses it to create its own mutant soldiers for war. Ready to enslave mankind itself, the super soldiers are confronted by a new warrior, Casshern. The battle against mankind's self-destruction ensues from there.
I can't wait! This should be a great treat. I'm told not to expect a big sci-fi action sha-bang, but rather a very thought provoking sci-fi epic that challenges it audiences to look deeper at its metaphores. In any case, "Casshern" arrives on DVD shelves October 16, a week from today!

Monday, October 8, 2007

REVIEW - "Across the Universe" (2007)

The musical: A dieing genre of film. Its golden age died out many decades ago and it only remained alive to the mainstream through Disney’s animated features in the 1990s. Since then even Disney has debunked them and very few are made every couple of years. The ones that are made often divulge in deep expressionism that has become both a blessing and a curse to the genre. In some way, the art-house look of these films has enhanced the creativity of the film. On the other hand it has burdened the genre in to worrying more about visuals than performance talent and the result is often the hideous, and highly overrated, “Moulin Rouge.”

So does “Across the Universe” dare to be different? Sort of. While it doesn’t sacrifice visuals for sound, it does feel disjointed when the expressionistic scenes take over. And while the concept of a musical based on The Beatles music is intriguing, there are moments in the movie where I wonder if they could have spent less time on the weird, “artistic” expressions and more time on the storyline. Despite the lack of balance the film has, it remains culturally significant and is still pretty well made for being a giant cliché.

“Across the Universe” stars our character Jude (Guess which song is in the movie?) and his trip to America. A journey to find his father turns in to an adventure when he meets a college dropout, Max, his sister Lucy, whom he falls in love with, and a plethora of other characters, some in which are conveniently named so a certain song can be sung. Taking place in the 1960s, (When else are you suppose to set a movie based on Beatles music?) the movie highlights the war, the drama among our fellow “hippies” and of course the ambiguous praise of drug-use.

I’m probably being too cynical. Frankly, the music fits right in with the storyline and events. My problem lies in the fact that there are already a lot of movies that highlight the 1960s like this, and to take it a step further, they have Beatles music too—The characters just aren’t singing the songs. The film feels a little forced when its characters begin singing. The expressionism and metaphoric visuals only take place when a song is being sung. In some ways this makes sense, but the execution is kind of rough. The film is grounded in reality, but when characters begin singing there is suddenly a new world on screen. This new reality is a visual representation of the characters’ thoughts or the current events surrounding them. Despite the attempt to be artsy, this makes the transition to song rather uneasy. Other mishaps include Bono’s ever so typical cameo; it’s pretty bad—And for some reason there’s a scene of Jack drawing Rose from “Titanic.” I mean…Jude and Lucy…

Other than that, it is a good-looking movie—And it sounds great too! The characters are strong, the acting compliments the superb singing and the songs are cleverly integrated in to the storyline. “Let It Be” was especially breathtaking. As it highlighted black oppression, violence and the innocent lives lost during these atrocities, several characters sing the song in a very well executed montage. “Come Together” follows up with an equally impressive, albeit, more uplifting mosaic. Even as the film borderlines a typical “chick-flick,” “Hey Jude” is played to make the audience forget about it and, rather, take control of the audience’s affection for the music. This is coming from a person who isn’t a big fan of The Beatles: The music was, without a doubt, the best part of the movie.

Another aspect that was handled well was the Vietnam War. It was predictable that the film would cater to an anti-war theme, but, surprisingly, it also highlighted the madness involved with those extremists who were against the war. “I thought it was the other side that dropped bombs.” Murmurs Lucy, as she shuts a door on a revolution as hypocritical as the government they’re fighting. It was a surprise, and it was truth.

Perhaps if I were in to The Beatles more, it would have meant more to me. Many of my friends said there were a lot of in-jokes that Beatles fans would catch. Aside of that, the 1960s is not a favorite era of mine. The style, the cloths, the events, the mindset—They all seem really obnoxious to me, and I constantly grit my teeth at those who attempt to bring any of that nonsense back. Putting that aside though, “Across the Universe” is a good movie, but I felt it could have been so much more. It managed to be different than most musicals, but only at the expense of being another 60s-era film highlighting aspects and thoughts we’ve seen hundreds of times before. Perhaps when a musical based on Nirvana’s music gets made, they’ll get it perfect.

**½ out of ****