Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Akira (1988)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

It’s been said that you can do a lot more with animation than you can do in real life because animation has a leveling effect on the special effects.. This is evident in films such as Akira. Let’s face it; the movie starts out with a nuclear explosion in Tokyo. The result is Neo Tokyo. 30 years have passed since the explosion. (The bulk of the movie takes place in 2019.)

Biker gangs are everywhere. The police go after them, but there are always more. In the beginning of the movie, one gang is chasing after another. As soon as the police show up, they scatter. Still, one gang member wants to chase down another. One thing leads to another, which in turn leads to an accident. Tetsuo (the one doing the chasing) is taken away in a helicopter. None of his fellow gang members can figure out where he’s been taken or what happened to him.

Tetsuo is taken to a secret research facility where experiments are done on him. (These experiments are related to what happened in Tokyo in 1989, but you don’t find out how until much later in the movie.) The experiments have very serious consequences, including hallucinations and the development of incredible powers. Tetsuo doesn’t understand what’s happening to him or what kind of power he has.

It’s really hard to go into the plot from there for two reasons. First, it’s way too complicated to explain. Second, I’d also have to give out a lot of the plot twists. It’s better to just watch the movie. I have to warn you that it’s a very violent movie with disturbing visuals. I should point out that this is not a movie for children unless they like having nightmares. In one scene, you get to see a giant teddy bear with liquid pouring out of it and Tetsuo is terrified of it for good reason. I’d say the movie is more appropriate for those of high-school age or older.

The movie is a good movie for several different reasons. First, the animation is great despite the fact that the movie was made in 1988. (I was going into middle school the summer this movie was released in Japan.) Also, it’s a great story. Yes, you’re thinking that animation is kids’ stuff. Might I remind you of the last paragraph? This is not a kids’ movie. It’s a story about someone who starts out as someone the gang leader protects to someone the gang leader (and everyone else) fears.

From what I understand, there are several translations. Even on the same DVD, sub and dub are different. I’ve usually gone for dub, even though most people go for subtitles. I find that having to read subtitles is too distracting. I’d rather be able to see the animation than have to look down every few seconds. (One of these days, though, I’m going to learn Japanese.)

The movie gets five stars. I would recommend this, but to older audiences. I couldn’t see a small child watching this and coming out ok. Even for an adult, you have to be used to disturbing stuff.

Official Site {Japan]

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

The Gate (1987)

There are some movies that can withstand the test of time.  They have a quality that allows them to be understood and enjoyed equally by any generation.  Such movies can be watched and rewatched and never lose their appeal.  The Gate is not such a movie.

The movie starts with a boy named Glen returning home to find it abandoned.  It looks like his family left mid meal.  He goes to his tree house, which is promptly hit by lightening.  He awakens to find it was just a nightmare.  When he looks out of his window, he sees said tree being cut down, leaving a geode exposed.  Glen and his friend, Terry, manage to dig it back up after the workers burry it.  Glen’s parents are going out of town for the weekend.  In their absence, Glen’s sister, Alexandra, will be in charge.  (This basically means that Alexandra will be inviting her obnoxious friends over.)

If you’ve seen a lot of mid-budget horror movies, you’re probably wondering by now what could possibly go wrong.  Well, the hole that’s been reopened by the boys happens to be a portal to a netherworld.  Inside the geode is a set of instructions meant to let a demon and its minions through to our plane.  It just so happens that Glen and Terry manage to set off a series of bizarre and horrifying events.

When I say horrifying, remember that this is a 1987 movie.  It’s not for small children, but it’s not particularly nightmare inducing, either.  (Teens on up should be fine.)  Those that grew up on more modern movies will probably find the effects and the scary parts laughable.  The scariest thing is a large demon coming out of the floor.

There are also some things that would be either cliché or lost on today’s audiences, such as playing a vinyl record backwards for a satanic/subliminal message.  You don’t really hear about that much any more.  (I guess it wouldn’t be hard to play an MP3 backwards, but still…)  I also find it odd that there’s always exactly one character that knows exactly what do to.  It just so happens that Terry knows all about the portal.  This is because he has a record made by a band that had previous dealings with the portal.  This one and only album has liner notes with very helpful instructions.

Also, despite the characters’ best efforts, various requisite acts, such as offering blood, occur either accidentally or without the main characters’ knowledge.  I don’t want to give away too much, in case you want to experience the movie for yourself, but when you have instructions on how to open a portal to hell, you have to know that every step will eventually be followed.  (How is it that Glen is even able to read the instructions, anyway?)

I vaguely remember seeing this movie when I was in middle school.  I also remember a friend referencing the movie’s sequel, which I may look in to.  I don’t remember if I overlooked the movie’s shortcomings at the time because it was on par with other stuff of the era or if it was because I was 11 when the movie came out.  I’m not saying that it’s a total waste of 85 minutes. I suppose if you have just over an hour to kill, there are worse things you could watch.  I’m just saying that there are probably better horror movies if that’s what you’re looking for.