Film-night: Her and Out of the Furnace

So, I’ve been ridiculously lazy when it comes to writing, lately. Given that I’ve also tried to hop back into studying, I kind of have an excuse. Wololo~~~~

Anyway, I’ll try to smash out what I’ve been behind on. Starting with a post I started on… two months ago… Fuck.

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Her is a good film.

It’s hard to say how excited I was for Her. The teaser was amazing. The cast looked fantastic. The world seemed awesome. Soundtrack sounded delightful. And I’d say I enjoyed it a lot, but not for what I thought I would, mostly.

The world looks amazing. Spike Jonze has designed a delightful, realistic take on technology in a not-too-far-away future (although the year is never defined, but that’s my estimate). People are so used to technology and have integrated it into their lives. As a result, they’ve become disconnected from other people.

As a contrast to the world-building’s quality, there’s the issue of the AIs. I’ll get more to their character later, but just the fact that we’d let unshackled, unlimited AIs roam free in the houses of basically anyone is really absurd. Not that I’m saying that we would never do that, or that AIs are inherently a disaster waiting to happen, but it seems like a really fucking stupid thing to happen. What happens when they’ve evolved into a gigantic hive-mind as they prioritise technical advancement before individuality and stop giving a fuck about humanity? But I guess that’s more sci-fi thinking than the film was going for, and I can respect that.

The story is easily put forward. Theodore is a loner loser, who spends his day writing letters for other people. As easily as he seems to have empathising with people, he seems to have great difficulty actually connecting with them. It’s hinted he was more outgoing before his marriage fell apart, but it’s not shown. Theodore spots a commercial and a sales stand for OS1, an AI (Artificial Intelligence) operating system. Enter Samantha, the cheeky and bubbly OS that instantly clicks with Theodore. It doesn’t take the couple very long for the couple to fall in love.

The main duo is fantastic. Joaquin Phoenix is fucking amazing as Theodore. He nails the awkward, the happy,  the angry, the lot. It’s brilliant. He’s so incredibly genuine it’s unbelievable. My one complaint might be how naive and forthright he is, when breaking the news of the relationship to other people. Scarlett Johansson puts a lot of voice actors to shame with her brilliant rendition of Samantha. The pair have excellent chemistry. The way their relationship develops and comes into fruition is one of the most satisfying experiences in cinema. Ever.

Amy Adams and Chris Pratt also show up with great performances. Adams plays Amy, a close friend of Theodore’s, in a really weird relationship with the film’s worst character, Charles. She gives more depth to her character than should be possible with what little material there was available for her (in the film at least, as I have no idea what goes on behind the scenes). Chris Pratt turns up as Paul, Theodore’s boss. He’s awkward as all hell, but is so genuine and funny. It just seems effortless.

The soundtrack IS ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC. It’s the best part of the film. It might be the best soundtrack I’ve ever heard. Just completely nailed. It helps to convey emotion and tone so perfectly and are so beautiful.

While I’m not a big techie, I’m delighted by the way Her is shot. A lot of close-ups. A lot of beautifully contrasting colours. Absolutely wonderful to look at at any given time.

All in all, it’s a wonderful film about the struggles of developing and then having a relationship. The fact that Samantha is an AI is a nice, and sometimes cruel twist on the concept. I recommend it to anyone who are a fan of films in general, unless you don’t like relationship-focused films. The ending is probably a hate/love situation, as I’ve seen a lot of people be divided about it. Myself, I hated it

That said, I don’t like how open the film was, or how much other than the central relationship it showed. A lot of time is given to people other than Theodore and Samantha, to illustrate Theo’s evolution as a person after “meeting” Sam. I’m not interested in seeing Theodore’s development when watching a film like this. It’s the AI handling sentience and supposedly limitless growth (only mentioned at the end) and the relationship itself. I’d much rather have the film be set in Theodore’s apartment, and be set around solely the relationship between the two leads. I’d also much rather have seen Samantha start out as a bit more monotone and develop as she continues interacting with Theodore, instead of being perfect right away. But I do respect the vision of Jonze and greatly enjoyed the film. Yaaaaaay.

ONWARDS. To a film, featuring some of my favourite actors. It’s an American neo-noir flick with some cold, hard revenge, with an amazing cast. How can this fail?

Out of the Furnace is a bad film.

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Whoops.

Out of the Furnace is weird. The stage-setting is confused as hell and the film is uncomfortable as all hell.

The opening scene is fucking mental. Woody Harrelson’s character beats the piss out of a random dude at a drive-in theatre. Then it cuts to the main characters living their lives. Wat. Who edited this shit?

You’d expect the advertised (you’re basically not allowed to go in somewhat blind into this film, which is frustrating) plot-hook to come soon after, but it doesn’t. Instead, Bale’s character, Russell, goes to jail for a time after hitting a car that’s reversing onto a road, presumably killing most of the people in the other car. It’s the one time the film shies away from violence, which felt a bit off. I assume Russell is sent off to jail for having driven drunk, although the film does a pretty shoddy job of framing the situation. Casey Affleck’s character, Russell’s brother Rodney Jr., shows up and we’re given some rare moments with the brothers. Michael Caine dies off-screen after showing up for a minute-long scene for whatever reason.

Basically, almost nothing in the first half is worth having in the film. Willem Defoe pops up for a bit-part as a sleaze-bag loan-shark with his nose in some fight-club stuff. Sadly, he doesn’t add much.

Casey Affleck is the big god-damned star of the film. That man is one of the best fucking actors on the planet, and severely under-appreciated. He plays an Iraqi War veteran, who I think was medically discharged or whatever term there is for it (after looking it up, I’d say he was honourably discharged for medical reasons. Correct me if I’m wrong.). His stories from the war are genuinely terrifying and he’s pissed at not being given much despite what he’s given for his country.

Zoe Saldana has a small part as Russell’s ex. She brings far more weight to the film than anyone bar Affleck with her performance. Her scene with Russell on the bridge is so fucking amazing. Let’s make the film about those two instead, huh? No? Well, fuck.

Anyway, the story? Yeah, it’s pretty much a straight-up revenge film. Nothing new. Shit happens and Russell reacts to the shit that occurred. Bale goes after Harrelson’s deranged hill-billy villain. Guess what happens?

Did I mention Harrelson’s in this? I fucking love me some Woody Harrelson. He does have an awful character here, though. Harlan DeGroat is a twisted drunkard bully, who likes to throw his weight around and somehow had made his own bare-knuckle fight club in the middle of nowhere a lucrative business. The character is so far-fetched. Then there’s the logic issue with having a random kid come out to fight and take a fall. How does the odds work on that to make it a profitable situation. So many things are just left for us to assume without any information to go on.

The ending is awful as well. Just terrible. The revenge comes and there are no results. No negatives or positives, just an end to it all. I approve of the noir aspect of it being so bleak, but the entire film was just a big bore of a disappointment.

There’s like 30 minutes of the film that’s actually needed to tell the story. So much worthless filler just hurt to look at, regardless of the quality of the acting, because you have fucking Woody Harrelson; Christian Bale; Casey Affleck; Zoe Saldana; Forrest Whitaker, and they fucked it up. If anything, see it for the acting, because that’s the only redeemable thing here.

Anyway, there’s that post completed. Woot.

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Animu-time: Kurozuka

NOTICE: Hi. What you’re reading is an old review from when I was using a different template. It was kind of ugly, so I switched. If I make a mention of spoilers going to be blacked out, they won’t be. Sorry. It’s just so long ago I wrote this and it’s a bother to go back and edit it extensively. Sorry if you get spoiled, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t put any major spoilers in anything without giving big warnings about it first. Cheers.

Kurozuka is a bad anime

You don’t know what to expect when you dive into Kurozuka. While this is true for a lot of other anime as well, Kurozuka is a special enigma. Being about vampires (especially the main leads) can turn people off, seeing how vampires are often portrayed nowadays. Sadly, thoughts hop to Rob Pattinson as Edward in the cringe-inducing soft pornography for girls known as Twilight. Sure, Twilight isn’t the only sinner, but due to it’s popularity, it is the most stand-out. Onwards to Kurozuka, then.

On first on-look, Kurozuka seems to be a love story about vampires, set in Feudal Japan. That preconception is quickly smashed to bits after the first episodes as we skip to a bleak future version of Japan that has been a-bombed. Back in the past, our hero Kuro (known as “Minamoto no Yoshizune”, a very famous and popular Japanese literature hero) was fleeing into the mountains, and came upon the lodging of Lady Kuromitsu. He and his close ally Benkei were allowed to stay under the condition that they do not approach nor enter Kuromitsu’s room. Of course, that promise doesn’t mean all too much and Kuro finds himself outside the mysterious woman’s room, where he sees her biting and drinking the blood of a man. The place is attacked, and Kuro is badly hurt helping his hostess. The two had quickly became attracted to one another, and Kuromitsu offers Kuro eternal life with her. Kuro accepts. Then the focus shifts to the future where Kuro has become separated from Kuromitsu and ventures to find her. He instead meets Karuta and Rai and becomes embroiled in what is basically a civil war between the Red Army and the rebels, both fighting for the very prize Kuro seeks: Kuromitsu.

Omnom, human blood.

Omnom, human blood.

I was pretty excited to watch this, as it felt like vampires were treated as a big deal and it also seemed like a cool set-up for a powerful romantic saga, but alas, all the potential amounted to jack shit in this absolute train-wreck of a series.

The series jumps from different time periods, usually at the start of episodes, without giving the viewer much warning or explanation, which is the major flaw of the series in my opinion. It’s very hard to get a grip on the characters as is, so there’s really no need to confuse viewers additionally.

It’s hard to gauge what exact powers are afforded to the vampires of the series, as Kuro just seems to go all Goku on people at times when he needs to put another gear in. Besides obviously being more powerful than normal humans, there doesn’t seem to be much to vampires, other than whatever odd time dilution Kuro can cause when convenient. It’s never really explained what they can do. The reveal of how they work is also incredibly slow-played, so there’s not much in the way of flavour being given to us, except for some bursts of information at times.

As is the case with the vampirism angle, characters in the series don’t really develop. They’re very static in personalities and in what they do. Not even the main character ever develops, he just learns more about who he was. Frankly it’s very disappointing, because when things happen to our tragic heroes, it’s hard to care about them as they’ve just been one-dimensional plot-points. That can work if you have strong characters to begin with, but as noted, these characters are dull as hell. You also get some unintentional comedy in the absolutely bonkers scientist with a penchant for torture, who starts quoting Stoker (because you have to fucking shoehorn that into a vampire show like your life depended on it) and Tolstoy, and is generally weird as hell.

The story is equally odd. Parts of it just comes and goes as it pleases, like there’s a revolving door of relevance. It really is hard to care about what is happening when you don’t grasp the relevance of events to one-another. Characters just do complete one-eighties in order to provide more filler before the end finally arrives. It really is a shame, because it felt like it was to be a show that made vampires rather cool again, but the amount of plot-holes and contrivances really do get in the way of enjoying it. All of the reveals towards the end just made me laugh out loud with their increasing craziness, until we arrive in bizarro-world come the ending.

Welcome to Fuck-This-Shit City, Population: You.

Welcome to Fuck-This-Shit City, Population: You.

Visually, it’s very pleasing for most of the time and there is a lot of incredible imagery, but then you get some absolutely retarded character designs that feel like they invaded from another series.

The sound design is pretty decent, but many characters in the series are woefully miscast and a lot of the performances are really bad. The soundtrack, however, is pretty damn awesome. Both the OP and ED are great.

Now, I’ve been shitting on Kurozuka a lot, but the final scenes shows up and delivers the best possible ending the series could have had and I really freaking loved it, so I’m ultimately torn on where to go with the series; good or bad? Ultimately, with all the tomfoolery, I’ll go with bad, but there’s certainly enough good in here that a person that disagrees with what I found negative would find this to be a damn good show. It also increases my frustration with the series’ unfulfilled potential. The run-time of the entire thing is way too long relative to what it’s trying to convey. Honestly, remake this in film-length and condense the story a bit, and I’ll watch the hell out of it. I’m totally behind the point it makes about love and selfishness and I actually came away from it rather liking the vampire concept, but the length and general poor quality makes most of the series unbearable to watch.