SUBCULTURE MUSIC INTERVIEWS
To celebrate the release of The Walking Dead Season Seven on DVD and Blu-Ray this week our friends at Entertainment One have given us 5 copies of the hit show on Blu-Ray to giveaway.
In this season of The WalkingDead Rick’s group will find out yet again that the world isn’t what they thought it was. It’s much bigger than anything they’ve seen so far. While they have a singular purpose – to defeat Negan – it won’t come easy. More importantly, victory will require more than Alexandria. They need the numbers of the Kingdom and the Hilltop, but, similar to how Rick felt, Ezekiel (Khary Payton) and Gregory (Xander Berkeley) do not want bloodshed. To convince them otherwise will take more than speeches. The lengths Rick and the group will have to go to in order to find weapons, food and new fighters is nothing short of remarkable.
For your chance to win a copy of The Walking Dead Season Seven on Blu-Ray simply to listen to our special zombie episode of our Subculture radio show below and private message to our Facebook page with the answer to the question ‘Which television show does Dave G say he believes that The Walking Dead links to?”
Performer Jason Triggs chats to Harley Woods and Dave Griffiths from Subculture about his brand new show 25: Voices that will be held on Saturday 16th September for two very special performances as part of the 2017 Melbourne Fringe Festival.
Take a listen to the interview and Dave and Harley talk to Jason about how the show was conceived and how he learnt that he could do so many impressions.
You can listen to the interview right here – Listen to “25 Voices Subculture Special” on Spreaker.
Summary: The Rebellion makes a risky move to steal the plans for the Death Star, setting up the epic saga to follow.
Australian Cinema Release Date: 15th December 2016
Australian DVD Release Date: TBA
Country: United States
Director: Gareth Edwards
Screenwriter: Tony Gilroy, Chris Weitz, John Knoll (story), Garry Whitta (story), George Lucas (characters)
Cast: Riz Ahmed (Bodhi Rook), Jonathan Aris (Senator Jebel), Derek Arnold (Pao), Geoff Bell (2nd Lieutenant Frobb), Babou Ceesay (Lieutenant Sefla), Aidan Cook (Two Tubes), Richard Cunningham (General Ramda), Ben Daniels (General Merrick), Warwick Davis (Weeteef Cyubee), Andy de la Tour (General Hurst Romodhi), Ingvild Deila (Princess Leia), Guy Henry (Grand Moff Tarkin), Sharon Duncan-Brewster (Senator Pamlo), Fares Fares (Senator Vaspar), Beau Gadsdon (Young Jyn), Dolly Gadsdon (Young Jyn), Martin Gordon (Vanee), Michael Gould (Admiral Gorin), James Harkness (Private Basteren), Wen Jiang (Baze Malbus), Felicity Jones (Jyn Erso), James Earl Jones (Darth Vader (voice)), Valene Kane (Lyra Erso), Paul Kasey (Admiral Raddus), Nick Kellington (Bistan), Diego Luna (Cassian Andor), Daniel Mays (Tivik), Ian McElhinney (General Dodonna), Ben Mendelsohn (Orson Krennic), Mads Mikkelsen (Galen Orso), Daniel Naprous (Darth Vader), Geneveive O’Reilly (Mon Mothma), Alistair Petrie (General Draven), Tony Pitts (Captain Pterro), Duncan Pow (Sergeant Melshi), Matt Rippy (Corporal Rostock), Jack Roth (Lieutenant Adema), Michael Shaeffer (General Corssin), Jimmy Smits (Bail Organa), Stephen Stanton (Admiral Raddus (voice)), Jordan Stephens (Corporal Tonc), Dee Tails (L-1), Alan Tudyk (K-2SO), Forest Whitaker (Saw Gerrera), Spencer Wilding (Darth Vader), Rufus Wright (Lieutenant Casido), Donnie Yen (Chirrut Imwe)
Runtime: 134 mins
Normally when a film isn’t shown to a majority of critics before its release it’s because it has turned into a disaster and the studio wants to keep it from negative reviews before it is released. Then came the news the film had been subject to a massive amount of re-shoots. With that in mind when I finally sat down to watch the film I was genuinely afraid of what I was about to watch. As it turned out I need not of worried – the lack of media screenings was because a large corporation was being stingy and whatever re-shoots occurred obviously only enhanced the film, because this is one gem of a Star Wars film.
The film takes place before the original three films in the franchise and centres around Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones – The Theory Of Everything) who as a girl watched as her mother was murdered and her scientist father, Galen (Mads Mikkelsen – Hannibal), was kidnapped by the eager Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn – The Dark Knight Rises) who is determined to finish the Death Star for Darth Vader (James Earl Jones – The Lion King).
Now years later Jyn finds herself rescued by young Rebel fighter Cassian Andor (Diego Luna – Milk) and the re-programmed Imperial droid K-2SO (Alan Tudyk – Firefly) who believe she is the key to being able to get the Alliance a meeting with rebel warlord Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker – The Last King Of Scotland) who helped raise Jyn. That meeting soon leads to Jyn being part of a rebel outfit that also includes a blind Jedi named Chirrut (Donnie Yen – Ip Man), the rugged Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang – Devils On The Doorstep) and a former Imperial cargo pilot, Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed – Nightcrawler).
To be honest director Gareth Edwards’ (Monsters) handprint on Rogue One does take a little while to kick in but when it does it does it sensationally well. The opening sequences of Rogue One feel very similar to what we had already seen in The Force Awakens, but Edwards well and truly puts his stamp on the film when he has his characters escaping exploding planets and really comes to the fore when he teams up so well with cinematographer Greig Fraser (Foxcatcher) and delivers some truly memorable shots, mostly in the latter stages of the film where an epic battle takes place in a Pearl Harbour inspired location. With Rogue One Edwards goes back to that grittiness that he created with Monsters, that same grittiness that was sadly missing from Godzilla. What Edwards does here is actually a breath of fresh-air as he brings an alternative style of filmmaking to Star Wars… something I don’t believe that George Lucas would ever have been capable of doing.
That alternative style of filmmaking is also present in the film’s screenplay. While like many of the Star Wars films from the past that characters at hand are very one dimensional, and most have virtually no backstories explored at all, this is one film in the franchise that is not afraid to take risks. While some characters of old mix with the newly developed characters, a move that may turn some Star Wars’ fans offside, the film’s finale is something that turns this film on its head and separates the film from the others in the series in a brilliant way.
Together with his screenwriting team, Edwards knows how to keep an audience in the cusp of his hand throughout the film. There is rarely a let up with the suspense throughout the film, and once it is established that the filmmakers at hand are not afraid to kill any character (with some key characters dying very early on) as that suspense level is ramped right up to 11. It is things like this that make this a film that hardcore Star Wars fans are going to warm to.
The lack of characterisation doesn’t seem to hold back any of the actor’s performances in the film, though. While Felicity Jones just seems to breeze her way through her role in auto-pilot other actors step up to the fore. Diego Luna and Riz Ahmed seize their opportunities and while Mads Mikkelsen and Forest Whitaker are both under-used Ben Mendelsohn does what he does best and becomes one of the most menacing characters to grace the Star Wars universe. Of course though ever Mr Mendelsohn is out-menaced by Darth Vader when he makes his grand appearance. One actor here though does steal the show, and that is Donnie Yen as Chirrut – one of the most interesting characters to have surfaced in the modern day Star Wars films. It’s sad that Yen didn’t have more characterisation to work with because this is one character whose backstory really does deserve a film of its own.
Gareth Edwards really has delivered a worthy Star Wars film. Most people reading this will want me to compare the film to The Force Awakens but aside from their openings the two films are like chalk and cheese. The Force Awakens is a throwback to the Star Wars films of the old while Gareth Edwards brings the franchise into the 21st-century style of filmmaking with epic battle sequences in Rogue One. The film even distances itself from the movies of the past with no rolling credits at the opening and no John Williams score, which I admit I did really miss. Rogue One is one of the better films in the series, though, and we can only hope that Edwards does more in the series soon… and yes the film has an ending you will not forget for a long, long time.
One of the most anticipated films of the year was Rogue One, the latest stand alone spin off in the Star Wars franchise. While it doesn’t quite live up to the hype it is still a solid film that delivers plenty of action that won’t disappoint the die hard fans of the series.
This “stand alone” Star Wars film attempts to further expand on the mythology of the galaxy far, far away created by George Lucas way back in 1977. But it comes across more like Episode 3.5, as it serves as a direct prequel to the events of the original Stars Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. This latest instalment in the Star Wars saga is set before the events of Star Wars, and it deals with a group of rebels stealing the plans of the Empire’s planet killing super weapon the Death Star.
When the film opens, young Jyn Eso watches as her father Galen (Mads Mikkelsen, from the recent Doctor Strange, etc), a theoretician, is captured by Imperial storm troopers under the direction of the villainous Orson Krennic (Australian Ben Mendelsohn, from Animal Kingdom, etc), who is the architect responsible for the creation of the super weapon known as the Death Star. Years later, the adult Jyn (played by Felicity Jones, from The Theory Of Evrything, etc) gathers together a motley crew of mercenaries to mount a raid on the Empire’s headquarters and steal the plans for the Death Star. She is accompanied on the mission by Cassian Andor (Diego Luna, recently seen in Blood Father, etc), a captain with the rebel alliance with an agenda of his own; Chirrut Imwe (Hong Kong martial arts star Donnie Yen), a blind Jedi warrior; a fussy reprogrammed droid robot named K 2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk), who brings some comic relief to the material, but whose presence will remind audiences of C3PO.
There are numerous references and ideas lifted from previous Star Wars films that will come across as familiar to fans, and there are some exciting aerial dogfights. But a lot of the key ideas here will remind fans of both A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back in particular. Even a CGI-recreated Peter Cushing puts in a brief posthumous appearance as Grand Moff Tarkin. Somewhat disappointingly there are no light sabre duels! Also missing is John Williams’ usual iconic score, although composer Michael Giacchino’s score is bombastic and tries to replicate Williams’ theme, but he tends to overwhelm the material.
Jyn is a feisty, independent, confident and strong willed heroine in the mold as Ren, the heroine of the recent The Force Awakens, and Jones acquits herself well in the role. As Andro, Luna comes across as a pale imitation of a roguish Hans Solo-type character. Yen brings a more mystical quality to his role as the blind Jedi warrior. Mendelsohn chews the scenery here and he brings a nicely menacing quality to his role as the main villain, and he gets to go toe to toe with the series’ iconic villain Darth Vader (voiced once again by James Earl Jones) who puts in a brief appearance towards the end, which will excite the fan boys.
But much of the characterisation here is pretty slender and most of the characters are underdeveloped, and we don’t get to identify with them or feel for their fate. Forest Whitaker is wasted in a small role as rebel leader Saw Gerrera, who has practically raised Jyn since her father was taken by the Imperial forces, and Mikkelsen, who normally has a strong screen presence is likewise given little to do.
The director is Gareth Edwards, who previously gave us the low budget Monsters before being tapped to helm the big budget large scale remake/reboot of Godzilla. With this new film in the Star Wars universe he has tackled his biggest and most ambitious film to date, and he gives the material a darker feel and a grittier aesthetic. He gives the film a much darker tone, and this is not as much fun as the previous film and it moves away from the campy tone of The Force Awakens, which easily captured the spirit of the first Star Wars film. There are some superb special effects sequences, particularly with a couple of ripper outer space action scenes, and the production design in impressive.
But apparently this was also something of a troubled shoot, with veteran script writer and director Tony Gilroy (best known for writing the Bourne series of films) being brought in to reshoot some scenes and add a bit of flesh to the characters.
However, Edwards obviously loves his military hardware and he does know how to stage the big action scenes. With its epic fight between rebel forces and Imperial stormtroopers on a palm tree laden beach this has more of a feel of a war movie than other films in the franchise. The central battle sequence is reminiscent of films like Apocalypse Now and other Vietnam era films. The stormtroopers here move much more fluidly than they did in Lucas’ original film and they seem less like automatons. Cinematographer Greig Fraser (Foxcatcher, etc) does a great job of capturing the action, but he also provides some great images of the space bound action.
Overall, Rogue One is a satisfying continuation of the Star Wars universe. Although it didn’t need to be in 3D, as the process adds little.
Rogue One is an example of brilliant cinematography with an alluring dark tone, which grounds it in a more realistic way than other instalments in the Star Wars universe as created by George Lucas.
We’re in a galaxy ruled by the Galactic Empire, as set-up in the beginning of the original Star Wars movie (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope). The original story’s drama was lightened by the sense of hope and adventure, which made it lose a little of the darkness an menace of the evil horde lead by that movie’s antagonist. This element of threat has been reappraised in Rogue One and we are given a darker, sometimes feudal tale which really works for this story.
We are introduced to an array of new and exciting characters that really make this film appealing. Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is our protagonist who we meet as a child in the story’s opening. She escapes when her father is taken to work on completing the Empire’s first Death Star. She is found by Saw Garrera (Forest Whitaker) and told they are about to go on a “long journey”. However, we suddenly jump ahead a decade or more and we don’t get much further development. It seems the journey was ‘long’ but we missed any special moments that may have occurred, leaving one feeling as if there might have been something we really missed out on.
Of all the amazing characters – Cassian Andor (Diego Luna); Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed); Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen), an amazing and very appealing blind Jedi warrior; his companion Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang) and a delightfully snippy droid named K-2SO (Alan Tudyk) – she has the most backstory, which amounts to almost nothing. Part of her journey is reconciling her father’s part in the creation of the massive device of death, but knowing full well that he is creating a deliberate weakness in the design. A hope of reunion with her captive father is something else to drive her on, but the eventual resolution to the situation doesn’t amount to much.
Alan Tudyk as K-2SO was a real stand-out, though. His droid character is almost a deux ex machina at times, but he gives such personality in such subtle ways and small moments that he quickly becomes one of the most successful elements of the film. Chirrut Imwe was also a great character idea and one of the coolest things in the movie. I would love a spin-off tale about him and the story behind how he got to be this way and his connection with Baze Malbus.
Ben Mendelsohn’s portrayal of Orson Krennic makes for a notable Star Wars villain who makes the most of his role. This is a character who could have been utilised elsewhere in the universe to great success. His character’s need to succeed is made interesting by the fact he really just believes in his cause, but may overreach in zeal.
For long-time fans there are lots of shout-outs and cameos of characters from the original Star Wars movie. This has been done far more successfully and sparingly than in the cluttered fan-wank of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. In fact, the saving grace is that we are not using existing characters, for the most part, but have a whole new set of people and places to learn about. Fans of the original trilogy will be excited to see a CGI inclusion of Grand Moff Tarkin, originally played by now-deceased cult legend Peter Cushing. Despite the initial thrill, I found the character had only one stance and limited facial movement which eventually left it jarring.
Despite the big draw-back of having such wonderful characters with little characterisation, the film is still appealing in the basic concept and the way it is cinematically executed. The beauty and majesty of the scenery around the planet where the final battle occurs is an amazing sight.
By the end, the majority of this film’s content seemed to be combat and space battle. The epic fight between the Empire’s star destroyers and the Rebel fleet was filmed so well it is worth a round of applause. But with scene-after-scene of gunfights, explosions and battles I would gladly have sacrificed some of this content for more character-driven content.
The eventual resolution is a dramatic and bold but a satisfying end except for the fact that building the characters further would have made the climax and triumph even more palpable.
Overall, Rogue One is a good production, which somewhat makes up for The Force Awakens, but could have been improved with more character and story elements to make it feel ‘whole’. I would happily watch this movie again.
You can hear Nick’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story review on The Good The Bad The Ugly Film Show
Other Subculture Entertainment Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Reviews: Dave Griffiths also reviewed Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on 2UE on 15th December, 2017. You can also listen to our Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on The Good The Bad The Ugly Film Show Ep #206.
Summary: A piano prodigy who lost his ability to play after suffering a traumatic event in his childhood is forced back into the spotlight by an eccentric girl with a secret of her own.
Australian Cinema Release Date: N/A
Australian DVD Release Date: 6th July 2016
Director: Takehiko Shinjo
Screenwriter: Naoshi Arakawa (manga)
Cast: Ryan Bartley (Megu (voice)), Robbie Daymond (Saito (voice)), Erika Harlacher (Emi Igawa (voice)), Carrie Keranen (Hiroko Seto (voice)), Erik Scott Kimerer (Takeshi Aiza (voice)), Wendee Lee (Saki Arima (voice)), Max Mittelman (Kousei Arima (voice)), Erica Lindbeck (Kaori Miyazono (voice)), Erica Mendez (Tsubaki Sawabe (voice)), Kyle McCarley (Ryota Watari (voice)), Stephanie Sheh (Nagi Aiza (voice)), Julie Ann Taylor (Nao Kashiwagi (voice)), Cristina Valenzuela (Koharu Seto (voice))
Runtime: 12 x 22 mins episodes
Your Lie In April is a Japanese animated series, based around a coming-of-age / first-love story intermingled with competitive musical ambitions. Volume One is released on DVD and BluRay in Australia by Madman Entertainment.
This series hits with immediate impact. The first thing we see is a girl, Kaori, following a cat around. This is both endearing and amusing but also features some interesting animation that already raises expectations on the quality of the series. We cut to the titles and are treated to yet another catchy theme tune – Hikaru Nara by Goose House.
Soon after, we are treated to exceptionally animated sequences done with 3D models and rotoscoping and sharp camera movements. This really livens the scene and makes it present, even as we will see sweat fly off of characters as they perform with all their might. These sequences become something you eagerly await throughout the series as they are so passionate and reflect the power of the music being played. Artistic licence is taken to colour and light the scenes so that you can follow what is happening to the colours emotionally and mentally.
In a word: impeccable.
This is one of the most engaging stories I have been privileged to watch, filled with identifiable characters and relationships. I wept several times – particularly during concert scenes where characters’ emotions come out in their music. That said, this is a complex and emotional story where layers are peeled off piece by piece, with foreshadowing of what is to come reflected in what has already been.
I have not been touched by or connected with a story so instantly as I have with this one.
Plenty of anime humour and dynamics are used throughout the story to even out the emotional intensity and balance out the high quality animated sequences. This is as much to keep the series to a deadline and budget as much as it is to entertain and not overwhelm the audience.
The characters were recognisable instantly and initially laid out simply, but layers of details and dimension show more and more with each episode. Arima Kousei is the voice and heart of the series and I could connect instantly and even see a mirror for myself. This is a highly immersive experience.
The voices are very suitable but also have that typical anime feel, but this is good to heighten things a little and ad the entertaining elements as counter for the highly internal and reflective feel that marks this series.
The production is an interesting blend and this is set-up in the first episode (showing the different elements and styles involved throughout the story). Character movements seem real, which are then raised with CG / rotoscoping for the intense musical performance scenes. Again, this is countered by the heightened moments of manga-style humour and exaggeration to lighten the drama. Beautiful music and imagery throughout the show keep you locked into this world; transfixing.
This DVD set, being only the first half of the series, is not over-endowed with features. The usual textless opening and ending credits are included (which is fine, as I had Goose House’s theme stuck in my head, and now have it on my phone). These sequences are actually quite a joy to watch in themselves, so it is forgivable not have more features included as the real experience is the story itself.
However, this leaves me really eager to see volume two and I, for one, cannot wait to grab it up as soon as I can!
I highly recommend this series, with 4.5 out of 5 stars.
(Mind you, I may only have taken half a star off as I’m dying to see the rest of the show!)
Other Subculture Entertainment Your Lie In April Vol 1 reviews: Nil.
Summary: About Erika who claims that popular boy, Sata is her boyfriend. She has no choice but to make him her fake boyfriend. Unfortunately,he may look like a sweet person, but he is actually an ultra sadist and treat her like a slave.
Australian Cinema Release Date: N/A
Australian DVD Release Date: 6th July 2016
Director: Kenichi Kasai
Screenwriter: Ayuko Hatta, Sawako Hirabayashi
Cast: Yoshimasa Hosoya (Takeru Hibiya (voice)), Kanae Ito (Erika Shinohara (voice)), Matsuoka Yoshitsugu (Nozomi Kamiya (voice)), Takahiro Sakurai (Kyouya Sata (voice))
Runtime: 12 x 24 mins episodes
Wolf Girl & Black Prince is a Japanese animated series, revolving around an off-beat high school romance. It is released on DVD and BluRay in Australia by Madman Entertainment.
I found this series to be an enjoyable watch despite, or perhaps because of, my constantly conflicting feelings about the main pair’s romance. This romance is centred around Erika (the lying ‘wolf-girl’) and her ‘black prince,’ Kyoya.
What, at times, seems like an abusive relationship (or, at least, a pretend relationship) is complicated by sudden glimpses of care and sweetness throughout that keep you building hope in a happy outcome; just as Erika does as she realises the truth of her feelings and confesses her love to Kyoya.
By raising these conflicting feelings within its audience’s minds the story successfully manages to put us in Erika’s place. At times we want her to just end it; it’s a ridiculous situation to be in. And then we suddenly think that there’s more to it, and more to him, and maybe we want to give him another chance…
It’s just like a relationship – especially one that may not be good for us. Still, you do have to wonder why Erika does put up with it and this could be a question that makes you wonder if you want to keep watching once you are past the halfway point and our protagonist is still putting herself through emotional heartache.
However, the truth of the situation is that Erika constantly lands herself in the thick of it with her lies and exaggerations but ends up finding numerous friendships – which is what she set out to do in the first episode of the series as she starts her first day of high school. Find rewards like this is what really makes the show attractive and enticing.
A great array of supporting characters and interrelationships are shown throughout the series. Some characters could have benefited by more screentime, or a longer series, but as the story is Erika and Kyoya’s relationship this would have been extraneous to the main plot and dragged out the painful parts of the relationship to the point where you would probably stop watching.
A lot of time is spent hoping for more details into Kyoya’s past and reasons for his actions which are hinted at but held very close to the chest until the end, unfortunately. It would have been nice to put a bit more of this information in along the way, but it is worth pursuing to the end to get more pieces of the puzzle, despite the harder moments of character ‘sadism’ in the series.
This DVD is only presented in the original Japanese audio with English subtitles (which I prefer, anyway). The characters work with suitable voices that fit the usual archetypes and stereotypes, setting suitable tones for each moment of drama, humour, romance and so on. It is this voice work and the additional characters that keep the entertainment going and lighten the more emotionally draining moments.
This is a well-made series, done in the typical style with the primary focus on exaggerating Erika’s rollercoaster of emotions and highlighting important moments such as the flashbacks to Kyoya’s childhood.
I like that the production team did not resolve every little thing for each and every character, as this is how it is in real life. Despite some heightened drama, you walk away believing in the relationships and characters’ personal / internal dramas; like a window into a single chapter of someone’s life.
Focus is given to the romance and relationships and getting that to a certain point without wholly and conveniently fixing everything in everyone’s lives.
This is a ‘lite’ DVD set, with the only features being the usual textless opening and ending credits. I like this, however, as the theme tunes got stuck firmly in my head. Being a short, complete story I did not feel the set suffered from not having further features, as the real experience is the story itself.
Other Subculture Entertainment Wolf Girl And Black Prince reviews: Nil.
Summary: Clinging to an unfinished letter written by her recently deceased father, young Momo moves with her mother from bustling Tokyo to the remote Japanese island of Shio. Upon their arrival, she begins to explore her new habitat, meeting local children and learning their routines and customs. However, it’s not long before several bizarre occurrences crop up around the previously tranquil island. Orchards are found ransacked, prized trinkets start disappearing and, worst of all, each morning after her mother leaves for work, Momo hears strange mumblings coming from the attic of their home. Annoyed by these creepy goings-on and her mother’s refusal to believe them, Momo embarks on a strange and supernatural adventure to discover the source of the mischief, which leads her to a trio of troublesome imps: the flatulent lizard Kawa, the childlike Mame and their hulking ogre leader Iwa. Momo also learns that her visit to the island is in some way connected to her father’s mysterious letter.
Australian Cinema Release Date: N/A
Australian DVD Release Date: 6th July 2016
Director: Hiroyuki Okiura
Screenwriter: Hiroyuki Okiura
Cast: Daizaburo Arakawa (Kazuo Miyaura (voice)), Frank Ashmore (Great Uncle (voice)), Bob Bergen (Mame (voice)), Kota Fuji (Yota (voice)), Kanoa Goo (Yota (voice)), Katsuki Hashimoto (Umi (voice)), Mia Sinclair Jenness (Umi (voice)), Karen Miyama (Momo Miyaura (voice)), Yuichi Nagashima (Mame (voice)), Toshiyuki Nishida (Iwa (voice)), Takeo Ogawa (Koichi (voice)), Amanda Pace (Momo Miyaura (voice)), Yoshida Sakaguchi (Great Uncle (voice)), Philece Sampler (Great Auntie (voice)), Stephanie Sheh (Ikuko Miyaura (voice)), Dana Snyder (Kawa (voice)), Ikuko Tani (Great Auntie (voice)), Fred Tatasciore (Iwa (voice)), Kirk Thornton (Kazuo Miyaura (voice)), Koichi Yamadera (Kawa (voice)), Yuka (Ikuko Miyaura (voice)), Rick Zieff (Koichi (voice))
Runtime: 120 mins
A Letter To Momo is a Japanese animated feature, produced by Production I.G. and directed by Hiroyuki Okiura. It is released on DVD and BluRay in Australia by Madman Entertainment.
A Letter To Momo is a beautiful story and very true-to-life in it’s character portrayal and relationship aspects. This then melds with the fantastic and supernatural as Momo meets her ‘guardian angels’ who have taken unique forms from an old comic she was reading.
Shocking and hilarious moments ensue as she tries to deal with an unreal situation on top her own emotional ordeals after the death of her father and sudden move to a new home.
As we settle into life at the same time as Momo we experience childhood again and feel her bashfulness as her mother tries to force a friendship with local children (only to embarrass Momo) and relive all of the typical moments of childhood.
The real stirring begins when we learn what has brought Momo and her mother to this new life and how deeply the impacts of recent tragedy still play on this child’s heart and mind. The natural and ‘everyday’ way that the storytelling works is something the director and writers should be commended for.
The characters are brilliant – the humans are believable and ‘true’, while the otherworldly are fantastic and engaging and lovable despite their mischief.
One cannot help but care for Momo and want the best for her in each situation. A few moments I wanted to cry for the emotional jolts and later again for the pure joy and enjoyment I took from this movie.
As usual, I watched the production in the original Japanese which I think is an absolute must for this movie. The portrayals are true for each character and not ‘hightened’ like mass media anime. This is a real character piece with honest emotion and performances which I think would be harmed by dubbing over language and mannerisms of an entirely different culture.
The honesty in which it is played makes for a unique and touching experience.
The production overall was, in a word: beautiful.
The unique style, much different than the usual anime ‘manga style’ adds to the believability and draws the viewer more deeply into the story. The production staff have made every effort to bring the audience into the story.
Beautifully painted backdrops, realistic characters and a realistic sense of movement in the animation show just how great the thought and effort has been in the making of this film. The simpler character style and painting creates a more realistic look than expected, with the more predictable and fantastic stuff left for the supernatural figures.
Great direction and storytelling has paid-off for a highly rewarding and encapsulating viewing experience.
This is a great DVD from Madman, which includes Featurettes on the making of the production (which is really great to watch to see how this splendorous movie came to life from concept to completion).
Also included are an art gallery, test clips and trailers. All of these make for a value-packed DVD and an intensely enjoyable and uplifting experience which has quickly become one of my favourite movies.
Other Subculture Entertainment Black Butler: Book Of Murder reviews: Nil.
Summary: At the behest of the Queen, Earl Ciel Phantomhive hosts a lavish dinner party attended by several of the finest members of polite society—as well as struggling author, Arthur. But as the party reaches its high, a terrible murder takes place and none other than the Earl himself is suspected of the crime.
As a violent storm rages on outside, the death count continues to climb. The Phantomhive household and their eminent guests find they must cooperate in order to solve this mystery before they too fall prey to the mysterious murderer. However, it seems that not even the perfect butler, Sebastian Michaelis, is safe from this horror.
Australian Cinema Release Date: N/A
Australian DVD Release Date: 6th July 2016
Director: Noriyuki Abe
Screenwriter: Yana Taboso
Cast: Shintaro Asanuma (Arthur (voice)), Yuki Kaji (Finnian (voice)), Emri Kato (Mey-Rin (voice)), Ryohei Kimura (Charles Grey (voice)), Jamie Marchi (Irene Diaz (voice)), Mana Miyamoto (Irene Diaz (voice)), Daisuke Ono (Sebastian Michaelis (voice)), Maaya Sakamoto (Ciel Phantomhive (voice)), Shinnosuke Tachibana (Soma), Eiichiro Tokumoto (Grimsby (voice)), Hiroki Yasumoto (Agni (voice)), Koji Yusa (Lau (voice)),
Runtime: 58 mins per ep
Black Butler: Book Of Murder is a 2 part miniseries, originally shown in Japanese cinemas, which acts as the fourth instalment of the ‘Black Butler’ anime franchise. It is released on DVD and BluRay in Australia by MadMan Entertainment.
The story revolves around a dinner party at the Phantomhive manour, as ordered by the Queen. Ciel Phantomhive is the Queen’s ‘watchdog’ and although just a boy he always carries out his orders and protects her majesty with the aid of his demonic butler, Sebastian.
In this instalment his loyalty is under scrutiny so the Queen order Ciel to host a dinner for her cousin, where trouble is expected. The trouble in question takes the form of an old-style murder mystery, of the kind seen in classic British mystery novels of Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle and Agatha Christie. This genre has been recreated particularly well, with the added twist of grand scheming and devilry that one expects from the Black Butler series.
Although this very genre-specific story is a slight departure from the usual style of the series, it is a faithful follow-on to the previous 3 instalments. A few inferences in the plot do incorporate details from the previous chapters, so knowledge of these makes for a more rewarding viewing. I found the story to be highly engaging with plot developments that keep you on the edge of your seat to discover the resolution.
Great characters fill this tale with most development being given to the guest cast, being that this is a finite miniseries. The regular cast have already been well developed so it is more important in this instance to get the bit-players across in a way that rounds their characters enough to understand their reactions and behaviours in the context of the narrative. That said, there does seem to be a little more impetus for Ciel to function on his own without relying on Sebastian.
I think the only loss in this regard is not seeing more of the Phantomhive staff have their unique character moments which usually come out more towards the end of each series as a bit of a surprise twist, but this time is incorporated from the start in more subtle ways. However, this leaves little wastage and things proceed naturally toward the ultimate resolution.
The Japanese voice cast are always impeccable and this is how I choose to view my anime. However, I did take the take to check out the American dub for the sake of this review. I don’t think a lot of the voices fit the characters too well – Sebastian for example sounds a little too old and less smooth as his character is often revealed to be.
However, props should be given to the American cast for taking the time and effort to provide suitable accents for each character and their background (predominantly British, with Chinese and Germanic characters). I appreciate that level of effort as it would be otherwise jarring to the audience who are supposed to be immersed in a drama in old England.
The art and animate was brilliant as usual, and the creators have successfully made reference to past elements and tied loose ends. This allows the series to move forward in a new chapter where they can, perhaps, create a new feel or a new beginning.
The characters are unique and their styles and those of Victorian London have been well presented and recreated, with a little bit of ‘anime flair’ to spice it up.
The settings are interesting and beautiful and help to immerse the audience in the world being presented. Action and animation are top quality and always a joy to watch. It’s always hard to look away, especially when Sebastian and the Phantomhive staff get into action.
The DVD is lite on special features, being more of a ‘special miniseries / movie collection’ rather than a full series in its own right. Included on this DVD release are the US trailer and Feature commentary on the second instalment by members of the US voice cast.
The commentary is good for those who watch the dubbed version and enjoy these performers, but for someone like me who enjoys the original soundtrack and the production as a whole it might have been nice to have a featurette or something.
On the whole, this is a very enjoyable anime, and I give it 4 out of 5.
Other Subculture Entertainment Black Butler: Book Of Murder reviews: Nil.
Summary: As a small-town girl catapults from underground video sensation to global superstar, she and her three sisters begin a journey of discovering that some talents are too special to keep hidden.
Australian Cinema Release Date: N/A
Australian DVD Release Date: 24th March, 2016
Director: Jon M. Chu
Screenwriter: Ryan Landels
Cast: Justin Alastair (Esteban), Ken Baker (Donnie The Reporter), Nicholas Braun (Brad), Barnaby Carpenter (Emmett Benton), Jimmy Fallon (himself), Katie Findlay (Stormer), Eiza Gonzalez (Jetta), Ryan Guzman (Rio), Dwayne Johnson (himself), Djoir Jordan (herself), Jason Kennedy (Jason Kennedy), Kesha (Pizazz), Alicia Keys (herself), Hayley Kiyoko (Aja), Hana Mae Lee (Roxy), Juliette Lewis (Erica Raymond), Christy Marx (Lindsey Pierce), Nathan Moore (Zipper), Aubrey Peeples (Jerrica/Jem), Aurora Perrineau (Shana), Chris Pratt (himself), Isabella Kai Rice (Young Jerrica), Molly Ringwald (Aunt Bailey), Stefanie Scott (Kimber), Jackie Tohn (Rebecca)
Runtime: 118 mins
Jem And The Holograms is a film based on Hasbro’s super popular doll line of the Eighties, which had a cartoon series still loved to this day. The screenplay of this film was written by Ryan Landels and the film was directed by Jon M Chu.
The story revolves around the orphaned Jerrica who grows up with her little sister, Kimber, and 2 adoptive sisters, Shana and Aja, in a house where music is cultivated as a way to bond. She becomes an online sensation overnight when she dons a pink wig and performs a song under the name ‘Jem’.
When I heard that Jem was going to be done as a live action movie I was so excited. I loved the cartoon when I was a child. I t was the essential Eighties cartoon – full of music, colour, crazy style but with real heart at its centre.
Then I saw the trailer for the movie. What was being advertised was absolutely nothing like Jem – it was just using the name. I’m pretty sure this pissed-off a lot of people and the film’s release suffered for it.
However, having just watched the DVD release, I have to say it was not as horrible as I feared. Synergy was there as a character, albeit a little different to the original, as was Jerrica’s backstory, slightly tweaked…
So why was I shown a completely boring ‘I-want-to-be-on-American-Idol’ type trailer to advertise the movie – with almost none of the classic Jem elements and characteristic details?
Despite this, the film does offer good fan-service throughout the film; a lot of characters and elements from the show appear. Some elements are not used enough, such as the classic Jem “truly outrageous” style. This appears briefly at the start and gets our hopes up… only to be watered down when they hit stardom.
The filmmakers have created a story about finding the ‘real you’ and being courageous enough to be yourself and follow your dreams. To sell this, we not only follow Jerrica’s journey to becoming Jem via her online video, but other ‘everyday people’ are shown throughout the film with their video uploads. This is meant to be an inspirational “we are all Jem” idea, showing that everyone can make their dreams come true.
Whilst I applaud the idea and lesson, I have to say that all those videos were annoying and detracted from the narrative. More time spent ‘showing’ Jem’s effect rather than a bunch of low-quality home video scenes of people saying how inspired they are would have been more beneficial.
Overall, the story was good and engaging but suffered from lazy and predictable moments later on. At one point the band falls apart, but all is forgiven without any kind of prompting a few minutes later. Character-wise, the movie starts good and builds each of the main characters, then becomes all about Jem and the others start to become background elements.
Jerrica’s biological little sister, Kimber, is the catalyst for the events and is built up at the start. Jerrica finds clues left by their father and follows them as her personal journey and, apparently, is nothing to do with Kimber. A message from their father at the end is all directed at Jerrica, only acknowledging Kimber at the very end.
Fans of Jem will have been wanting to see the Misfits in the movie. They’re not the main antagonists as you might have hoped, but do appear in a mid-credits bonus scene (with Pizazz played by Kesha) obviously intended to set-up a sequel. Their absence did not bother me, though, as it made sense to set Jem up as a star before introducing rivals.
I hope we actually do get a sequel, but with stronger writing (I’ll do it!) and ‘style’ showing it to be a bit more faithful to the franchise – especially in how it’s advertised. I hope they make the effort to set it straight and actually make Jem ‘truly outrageous’, which she really wasn’t in this film.
A nice touch might have been to update the old theme-tune. The music was good in the movie, but it should have been more striking and utilised more than it actually was for a film about a musician. It was disappointing to see her turned into a Lady-Gaga-clone at one stage – although this could have been a device used to show her becoming unpopular when they tried to change who she fundamentally was; you missed something there, Hasbro Studios!
Performances by the cast were generally strong, given what they had to work with. At times the film did not know if it wanted to be funny or feely and could have been executed better. Our heroine played her part well but we would like to see more opportunity to be the striking character and talent that she is built up to be (more the script’s fault than the actress’).
This film deserves 3.5 out of 5, with plenty of room left to be truly, truly, truly outrageous.
Other Subculture Entertainment Jem And The Holograms Reviews: Nil
Summary: Sun Wukong, (The Monkey King) is a monkey born from a heavenly stone who acquires supernatural powers. After rebelling against heaven and being imprisoned under a mountain for 500 years, he later accompanies the monk Xuanzang on a journey to India. Thus, according to legend, Buddhism is brought to ancient China. This much beloved story, is as much a part of Asian culture as The Iliad and The Odyssey or The Wizard of Oz are to the West.
Australian Cinema Release Date: N/A
Australian DVD Release Date: 18th June, 2014
Country: China, Hong Kong
Director: Pou-Soi Cheang
Screenwriter: Tai-Li Chan, Kam-Yuen Szeto, Edmond Wong
Cast: Joe Chen (Princess Iron Fan), Kelly Chen (Goddess Of Mercy/Guanyin), Calvin Ka-Sing Cheng (Nezha), Siu-Fai Cheung (Heavenly King), Yun-Fat Chow (Jade Emporer), Yitian Hai (Master Puti), Peter Ho (Erlangshen), Aaron Kwok (Bull Demon King), Chung Him Law (Muzha), Cathy Yue-Yan Leung (Caixia Fairy), Gigi Leung (Chang’E), Jing Li (Green Monkey), Hua Liu (Dragon King Of The East Sea), Irene Wang (Caiyun Fairy), Zitong Xia (Ruxue), Hua Yan (Jade Warlord Guard), Donnie Yen (Sun Wukong/Monkey King), Zilin Zhang (Goddes Nu Wa)
Runtime: 90 mins
The Monkey King is a Hong Kong Chinese film based on classic stories most famously collected and retold in the novel “Journey To The West”, published anonymously but most commonly attributed to Wu Cheng’en. The screenplay of this film was written by Szeto Kam-Yuen, Edmond Wong, Lola Huo and Dali Chen.
The story revolves around Sun Wukong, the Monkey King, as he is raised to the Heavens to be taught higher skills and learning, including magic, and his subsequent fall and rise (and fall again). It is but an opening portion to the whole story of “Journey To The West”, but sets up and establishes the main character nicely.
The world created in the film is full of beautiful imagery and quite faithful to the legends and beliefs of the centuries these stories were told, even if being an embellished version of the origin part of Sun Wukong’s story. The CG elements were used quite successfully to realise the world and supply some great imagery. It is, however, let down a few times where modern audiences of Hollywood blockbusters might jeer, but it is not so bad as to ruin the overall aesthetic and charm of the movie. The locations created as well as the dragons we see throughout the film tend to be examples of the best computer effects work. I think the points where it falls a little flat are mostly to do with scene structure and how the elements are put together.
There is sometimes a ‘cartoony’ feel to the movie, but this does not jar with the overall tone, which is that of a grand adventure. Part of this is attributed to some of the slightly underdeveloped CG in scenes – such as the one where Sun links his tail affectionately with the vixen girl, Ruxue (Xia Zitong) – or when further animal spirit characters are introduced and they are all performers in costume rather than CG elements. The costume creations are marvellous in this movie, and for the animal spirits this works very well as you have real actors giving them character through movement and behaviour and making them interesting despite having no real development or stake in the plot.
Donnie Yen’s portrayal of Sun Wukong was exceptional, creating a whole character with well thought-out movement style for a monkey, carried right through to the development of a specific fighting style. The more subtle qualities he uses to portray the mischievous, yet good-hearted, protagonist through all of his furry make-up and costuming deserves much praise.
As something of a change to the tradition, Sun is given a love interest as a means to get him invested in the battle to come, and also as a means for the villainous Buffalo Demon King (Aaron Kwok) to manipulate the character into rash and wilful action.
It is the monkey’s impetuousness and naiveté that get him into trouble, as fundamentally he is a child character. This is essentially a morality tale with examples of our basic behaviours and what we need to learn to be better and enlighten ourselves; just as many old tales of myth, legend and religion have told us for centuries. This is an exciting action tale which subtly educates us on the way; a great and colourful adventure for children to watch but equally rewarding for an adult who can more clearly notice the depth.
For kids of the Seventies and Eighties, you may remember the Japanese TV series adaption of “Journey To The West”, titled “Monkey” (no, it’s not named ‘Monkey Magic’ – that’s just a line in the theme song lyrics!). Whether or not it is deliberate, it seems like the director may have given some nods to this famous and beloved series. Most notably was the execution of one of Sun’s tricks – the conjuring of an army (of clones of himself) created by the shedding of strands of his hair. The way it is shown took me right back to watching it in the old show, only with a bit more skill to the effects work.
On the whole, while some of these effects and the structure of the elements could have used some work, the movie itself is very well done and engaging. The end is set-up to carry on into the next chapter of the story where Sun Wukong begins the journey to the West with the boy monk, Tang Sanzang. This story begins in the sequel, released in February 2016.
Other Subculture Entertainment Reviews of ‘The Monkey King′: Nil