Ghost in the Shell

Viewed – 05 April 2017  Cinema

Although I enjoyed the original 1991 anime of the same name by Mamoru Oshii, I always felt like something was missing from it, that it wasn’t the complete package.  So the prospect of a live action remake was for once, intriguing.  Scarlett Johansson plays a cybernetic agent who’s only human part is her brain and fragmented memories of who she used to be.  Other than that she’s a highly skilled killing machine, who’s agency ‘Section 9’ is killed in when a cyber terrorist begins killing various members of a robotics organization by using innocent people and hacking into their minds.

Ghost in the Shell

This took a little getting into.  Translating a cyber-punk future Tokyo-like aesthetic to live action takes no end of CGI and visual flair, and initially it’s overwhelming, all weird holograms in the streets and bizarre costumes and gadgets.  Yet once the story kicks in I really began to get absorbed in this world.  Johansson is aided well by several recognisable faces, especially Juliette Binoche (The English Patient) as a scientist and veteran Japanese actor ‘Beat’ Takeshi Kitano (Battle Royal).  Johansson herself is good as a character trying to figure out what it’s like to be human and adjust to her robotic body, and she conveys the not-quite-human personality eerily well.  The movie is also filled with several action sequences, although these are a little hit and miss – full of cool looking imagery for the trailer or poster, but fail to flow as well as say, The Matrix – there’s a little too much style and choppy editing to fully make them ‘zing’.  Also the suit that Johansson’s character wears to go invisible … I’m still undecided if it looked sexy or silly (the original movie’s was much more skin-like and could easily be seen as naked).  Such a look was probably avoided however to maintain that 12A/PG-13 rating (another issue that impacts the action).

Thankfully where it all leads is much more fleshed out and satisfying than the original movie and has more closure for the lead character.  So for the always difficult task of translating anime to a mainstream audience, director Rupert Sanders has done a commendable if somewhat rough around the edges job, that’s still worth your time if you like your sci-fi with style cranked up to 11.

Verdict:  3 /5

Snow White and the Huntsman

Viewed – 29 September 2012  Blu-ray

Extended edition

I missed this during its theatrical run as there were other movies I was wanting to see.  Yet I have since heard very good things about it, so was eager to discover what all the fuss was about.  The casting of Kristen Stewart didn’t entirely excite me due to her involvement in the tiresome Twilight series, but with Thor’s charismatic Chris Hemsworth as the Huntsman and a classic fairy tale back drop, I still had a feeling this was going to be good.

Snow White has been held in a tower for many years by evil Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) following the fall of her kingdom, and with the Queen beginning to run out of youthful peasants to drain the life force from, turns to Snow White who holds the key to her immortality.  Yet Snow White manages to escape, and befriends a world-weary Huntsman who has been hired to kill her.

A clever twist on a very old fairy tale, inspired by the Brothers Grimm short story and directed with no end of visual flair by relative newcomer Rupert Sanders.  Sort of a cross between Lord Of The Rings and Ridley Scott classic Legend, I was swept up in the good vs evil story with some quality acting, especially from Theron in a creepy, disturbing take on a classic character, and for an attractive but usually bland actress, Stewart suited her role well, and proved a lot fiestier than I thought possible.  Chris Hemsworth of course almost steals the show in a lovable rogue performance that is also different enough from Thor to make him one of the more enjoyable actors around.

As far as the formula goes, this doesn’t really do much we haven’t seen before, and the ending left me wanting – but I suppose that’s what sequels are for.  However, this offers up an intelligent and slick 2hrs with thrills a plenty, gorgeous imagery and impressive effects (check out the black glass soldiers – wow) – making this very much a must-see.

Verdict:  5 /5