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[size=4][color=Wheat][b]Review of Wicked City [/b][b]([/b][/color][/size][b][b][b][size=4][color=Wheat]Yôjû toshi, 1987)[/color][/size]
[img]http://www.communibuild.com/rt/wickedcity16.jpg[/img] [color=Wheat] Overview:[/color][/b][/b][/b] Rarely does one encounter a movie where nudity is an integral part of a very in-depth and rich adult horror story. Usually, one associates massive nudity with cheesy porn flicks. Wicked City, brought to us by the director of Ninja Scroll, is not that. This is an adult Gothic horror-thriller movie with a pretty interesting story. But beware: Wicked City involves sex with monsters, rape, oral sodomy and torture. All I can say is this stuff is fully integral to the plot. More importantly, I rather enjoy a very rare anime that's wonderfully made, has terrific visuals and truly is geared for adults.
For this review, I thought the visuals themselves would sell the movie far more than my text, so forgive me if I've gone overboard with the screencaps.
[color=Wheat][b] The Story:[/b][/color] Throughout time, humans have fought with the demon denizens of the dark world who periodically cross the barrier separating the two worlds. Finally, after much conflict, a compromise was reached that was enacted in a peace treaty. This treaty has to be re-ratified every hundred years or so, and is coming up for renewal - This time the treaty is to be signed in Japan. Two special agents, one from each world, are assigned to meet and protect a key 200 year old emissary named Mayart who is critical to the successful treaty signing. A group of radicals from the black world will stop at nothing to kill Mayart and end the treaty between the races. They believe his death will allow the Black World to assume its rightful place as dominion over all of humanity.
Taki, an elite human "Black Guard" from earth, and Makie, a beautiful, ultra fast, talent-laden demon agent from the black world are thrown together in as partners, and find out that Mayart is more than a handful - in fact he's a downright nightmare to protect. As the radicals strike, Mayart gets separated, and eventually Makie has to sacrifice herself to save Taki and Mayart.
Taki, who was moved by Makie's sacrifice, eventually has to decide between guarding an annoying Mayart or throwing away his career in order to attempt to rescue Makie. As his choice is realized an interesting love story unfolds amidst some incredible action sequences with truly horrid monsters.
[color=Wheat][b] The Demons:[/b][/color] The radical demons are just badasses. All of them are different - each with their own completely bizarre and visually astounding powers. For just a sampling, we get a Spiderwoman with teeth on her crotch, a guy who can rip out his ribcage to capture his adversary, massive snake viruses, stone men who suck up the souls of dead people, and this lovely woman below who sucks people into her body. Every one of these damn things are frickin awesome villains, and truly serve to highlight the already impressive gothic cinematography. There are no easy battles here folks - the bad guys are baaaaaad.
[color=Wheat][b] The Visuals and Coloring: [/b][/color] Wicked City, while definitely gothic in tone, is filled with blue and red scenes. The diversity and variances of blues and reds are astounding. In addition, we get a wide diversity of sets, including halfway demolished buildings, bright neon city scapes, dark noir type grays, and scenic cloudscapes of the city itself.
[color=Wheat][b]The Action:[/b] [/color]Wicked City is filled with action of all kinds, including gun fights, laser shooting, monster fights, and some DragonBallZ like sequences. Taki is almost superhuman in an Asian Kung Fu movie sense, and has some of the coolest guns around. Makie has truly fun demon powers, including lasers shooting out of her fingers and hair that can strangle people. Again, usually the action, sex and horror are intermixed in the same scene (see the pic below for details).
[color=Wheat][b] The Sex and Stuff[/b]: [/color]Again, this movie is NOT for the faint of heart. You will see all body parts in various forms of horror. If you are turned off by breast grabbing, rape scenes, or alien invasions like the above shot, you do NOT want to watch Wicked City. This truly is an NC-17 Movie
[color=Wheat][b]The Love Story: [/b][/color]Yes, this has been done before. This is yet another Romeo and Juliet derivative, but its done rather well. You will find yourself caring about both characters enough to get you by the telegraphed "twist" that comes up at the end.
The Bottom Line:[/b][/color] I really dug this flick, but then again, I'm a twisted Sumbitch. But if your interested in delving past the point of generally accepted standards to see a borderline Hentai Gothic Horror movie that has terrific visuals, Wicked City is truly a wicked choice. Enjoy!
Background:[/b][/color] [/color]Mamoru Oshii, the master of philosophical cyberpunk animes ventures into a real world cinema production. The actors, dialogue and sets all take place in a Hungary. Although this isn't anime, the characters, cinematography and philosophy bare a striking resemblance to Oshii's latest anime, Ghost in the Shell: Innocence (GITS:2). There is also many aspects of the arthurian legend intermixed here, including the quest for the holy grail (understanding the nature of reality?), the search for the nine sisters of Avalon, and wizards, warriors and bishops. Don't ask me why RT thinks this was made in 2003 - it was made in 2001 I think.
[color=Wheat][b] Bottom line: [/b][/color]If you?re an Oshii fan, this is a must see. If you love VR films this is a must see. If you like embedded philosophy and symbol laden movies, you will probably enjoy this. But if you?re coming purely for the action, there are probably better movies for you to spend your time on.
[color=LemonChiffon][b][img]http://www.communibuild.com/rt/avalon-3.jpg[/img][/b][/color] [color=LemonChiffon][b] [color=Wheat] Story: [/color][/b][/color]This movie takes place in a cyberpunk future where the world is stark, devoid of real life or color, and where the only real enjoyment for young people exists in an illegal virtual reality game called Avalon. Avalon in mythical terms is the island where souls of the departed heroes come to rest. In the Virtual Reality Game of guns, tank and helicopter battles called ?Avalon,? the players are the heroes, but there is a risk of actually becoming brain-dead while playing this game. In real life, the ?unreturned? victims who never leave the game become human vegetables who sit around drooling in an insane asylum (this explains why the game is illegal).
The main character is a hot warrior chick named Ash. Once, she was a part of the best team in Avalon called Wizard. But something happened which caused one of the team members to panic under fire and call for a ?reset? of the program (This is a traumatic action which causes all sorts of bad things to happen). This caused the team to disband and in Ash?s case, led her to be disconnected from all other players including Murphy, her team leader. Instead she becomes a supra-warrior who attempts to win the game going solo.
During her adventures, she learns that Murphy also went solo, and eventually worked himself up to finding a secret level called ?Special A? that does not have a ?reset? function. If you don?t complete the level, you don?t return. In essence, this level IS Avalon in the mythical sense. In Murphy?s case, he did not win, and ended up becoming one of the ?unreturned? who lives out his ?real? existence drooling in the asylum. Ash becomes obsessed with reaching this secret level so that she might find Murphy and return him. In an interesting parallel to Oshii?s Ghost in the Shell, the way to reach the Special A level is to shoot the game?s ?Ghost.?
[color=Wheat][b]Cinematography: [/b][/color]The cinematography in Avalon is strikingly familiar to Ghost in the Shell? Innocence. The same use of lighting, camera angles, and bright orange/yellow/brown tones are used. Interesting shots involving shadows abound. Throughout, the sets and camera pans are designed to elicit a closed-off, claustrophobic feeling. Everything, from Ash?s apartment to the train to the virtual reality headset rooms to the alleyways are bare and boxed in. Slow moving but sweeping pans add to the clausterphobia. Scenes are rarely sped up, but are instead very slow moving to allow the audience time to take in the essence of the mood.
[color=LemonChiffon][color=Wheat][b]Special Effects:[/b][/color] [/color]The special effects, while not on par with the Matrix, hold up well to most VR type moves. Most impressive are the digitized explosions. In a striking similarity, the hilocopters in Avalon are exactly the same as the ones in Ghost in the Shell: Innocence.
[color=Wheat][b]Score: [/b][/color]The score is both haunting and moving. Its intended to add to the slow build-up of thought and emotions. The mood of the film is clearly expressed through the score. This is most impressively done as the pace dramatically changes for the final confrontational climax between Ash and Murphy.
[color=Wheat][b]Use of a Dog as a metaphor for the ?real? world: [/b][/color]Again, similar to When Ash plays with her dog, she is participating in the ?here and now.? Most of the time, Ash?s consciousness is situated in a timeless world where the actual real life moment is secondary to one?s perceptual reality. At one point early in the movie Ash wonders aloud, ?Real life, is that what this is?? When she starts working at the computer, the dog goes to sleep, indicating that she has left real life and is in the game reality, if not in body, then definitely in spirit.
At one point, after a particularly trying moment in the game where she is pursuing the secret level, Ash comes home wanting to really spend time with her dog, but the dog actually disappears while Ash is preparing him a real meal with steak, rice and vegetables. This in essence indicates that Ash can no longer sense ?reality.? She is trapped in the pursuit of the game?s secret level.
When Ash asks the Game Master if he?s real or not, his response is telling: ?Does it matter if I?m real or not?? Like GITS:2 there is this notion that the line between what is real and what is imaginary almost doesn?t matter. What matters is what is actually occurring inside someone?s head: that is the ?true? reality.
[color=Wheat][b]SPOILERS and Philosophical Analysis Below:[/b][/color]
[color=Wheat][b]Special A Level (referred to as ?Class Real?): [/b][/color]To complete this level, Ash needs to kill an illegal ?unreturned? player. If she does wins, she will be offered a game admin job with Avalon. Unfortunately, Class Real is filled with ?neutrals.? If Ash kills any neutral person she will lose, never to return. However, Ash quickly finds out that Class Real is essentially our own modern day real life, complete with colors, lots of people who are interacting, laughing and just living life. This is in stark contrast to her ?real? world where everything is stark, bare and lonely. Ash?s dog permeates class real ? he is traveling in cars, is on the poster of a musical, etc. In essence, the point is hit home that the Class Real level is the REAL here and now.
In the Climatic scene, Ash eventually finds Murphy, who has decided to stay living in this world. While he might be a vegetable in the ?real? world, Murphy has decided that true reality is what we choose to believe. Again, this is another flash-forward to GITS:2, where the underlying message is our bodies our now obsolete ? it?s our internally constructed perceptual reality that matters. Ash confronts Murphy about his actions that led to the team break-up, she asks, ?For this you abandoned us all? To spend the rest of your life as a hollow shell in a hospital bed staring at nothing?? Murphy replies, ?Reality is only what we tell ourselves, that?s all.? Murphy has convinced himself that Class Real IS reality, and tells Ash to never go back, that ?This world, right here is where you belong.?
[color=LemonChiffon][b]Philosophical Climax:[/b][/color] When combined with the Class Real dog motifs and the notion that Class Real IS Avalon (noble warrior?s heaven), the final question Oshii poses is given the choice between reality and one?s perception, what do we actually choose? Worse yet, do we actually have this choice or is this choice in essence ?made for us? by some omniscient game master? I think Oshii?s answer is that we actually are all posed with this question on an almost daily basis. Sometimes we are ?forced? to deal in reality, but often, whether they realize it or not, people escape to the constructed reality of their perceptions.
[color=Wheat][b]Overview:[/b][/color] Natural City is a high priced attempt by the Korean movie industry to break into the Scifi Genre. The quality of the effects in Natural City clearly shine, both in the set pieces, the painted backgrounds and in the realistic but futuristic setting. This is a cyberpunk movie to its core, although story and character studies take precedent over high-octane action. Natural City really does have the pacing of a Korean movie though, which means there are substantially longer and repetitious character motivation scenes than people in the US are used to.
[color=Wheat][b]The Setting:[/b][/color] Natural City as a title is 180 degrees from what you get in a setting - nothing is real here. In this dystopian setting, genetic engineering and cyborg development have become an accepted way of life. Cyborgs, who for some reason have an expiration date, do all sorts of functions in society - everything from being a dancer, to restaurant helper to a police force. Cyborgs are self aware, which adds major complications as they know what it means to "expire." Pretty much everyone in this city lives a miserable existence, in fact, its expected that life is pain. Vacations are taken in the equivalent of a Star Trek Holodeck type machine. The ultimate dream of everyone in this city is to become rich enough to retire to a floating hotel, which advertises that it can erase your current memory and place you in a "virtual" life of your own choosing. This is especially interesting, especially when compared to Oshii's Avalon, in which the "ultimate" life is one where you are in a simulated reality of your own mind even though your body is a slobbering mess in the "real" world.
[color=Wheat][b]The Story:[/b][/color] Natural City centers on the internal struggles of a highly talented cop named "R." He is tasked with finding and capturing renegade cyborgs, but ends up falling in love with a cyborg dancer named Ria who's expiration date is only 3 days off. The movie centers on R's compromising his principles and dealing with the cyborg underworld in a vain attempt to find a way to save his Ria. He finds a shady cyborg doctor who promises that if he finds a person with the right genetic match, he can inject part of their brain cells into Ria, which will save her. The doctor finds such a match in a street girl named Cyon.
Complicating matters, R's best friend Croy, who is also his boss and fellow police detective, is on to him. During a raid to capture some renegade warrior cyborgs, Croy notices that R is not shooting them in the head (which kills them be wiping out their AI chip), but is instead going back later and collecting the AI chips to sell for money. Croy tracks R back to the shady doctor. Complicating matters further, one of the warrior cyborgs who escaped is also after Cyon for reasons that become all too apparent as the movie unwinds.
[color=Wheat][b]The Action & FX:[/b][/color] Natural City is a a character exploration first, but the action and effects are on display, and in high quality. The atmosphere that comes shining through is a Blade Runner-like grimy and realistic futuristic city. This is NOT a "B" movie in any way. The settings look lived in and real. The Scifi set pieces and CG used fits wonderfully, and the artistic backgrounds add to the mood. The surround sound is not stunning, but is certainly decent and doesn't detract from the experience. The action involves both slo-mo and high speed camera shots, along with LOTS and LOTS of blood and gore. The ending especially is somewhat of a gorefest, which is wierd to see in a movie that is mostly a drama in nature.
Also, near the end of the movie, we get treated to an evil, but ultra-hot cyborg warrior chick in skin tight lycra who engages in some major ass-kicking (see below for a pic of HER ass while kicking someone!). Talk about a plus! While we're on the subject, we also get treated to some cute asian cyborg boobies at the beginning of Natural City - definitely a nice way to start the pic! [color=Wheat] [/color][img]http://www.communibuild.com/rt/naturalcity_10.jpg[/img][img]http://www.communibuild.com/rt/naturalcity_6.jpg[/img] [color=Wheat] [/color][color=Wheat][b]The Pacing:[/b][/color] As I mentioned earlier, this IS a Korean movie. My wife is Korean, so I'm somewhat used to the pacing we see here. From reading a few reviews, Natural City has been panned for being way too slow and plodding in the middle. All I can say is, "Welcome to Korean Cinema." This is really a case where story telling is just different there. For a Korean, this movie is not at all slow, but has rather standard pacing, which means we get REAL in-depth and repeated scenes to get to understand the characters. Most important for Koreans is to be able to identify with the emotion and mood the characters are experiencing. Natural City takes the time to do this with all the main characters.
The characters really build in believability and engagement as the story progresses. At the beginning, R appears quite shallow, as does his friend and the street girl Cyon. By the end, all three, and especially Ria, his cyborg lover grow to be characters you really empathize with. The motivations for all become clear, including their virtues and flaws. The ending is also a rather "normal" Korean dramatic love story ending, which is to say, one very different from how an American film might end. Its not a feel-good movie, but then again, few Korean dramas are.
[color=Wheat][b]The Philosophy: [/b][/color]For me, the interesting part of this movie centered on Ria, the cyborg. There are a few scenes that make it clear she "knows" what's happening to her. She is programmed to be a dancer, but as she reaches her expiration date, she no longer can do this well. In one scene, Cyon shows her the "1 day" notice that arrives in the "Fifth Element" style mail slot. As her "time" approaches, you really do get the feeling of the Rutger Hauer speech at the end of Blade Runner, although Ria is able to convey it through brief looks and images.
[color=Wheat][b]Bottom Line:[/b][/color] If you like cyberpunk films, the visuals alone make this a MUST SEE. If you like character studies in science fiction settings, you probably also want to see this. I loved Natural City, but be warned, the pacing is different from what you might expect. This is a Korean movie, and certainly plays like one.
[color=Wheat][b] Overview: [/b][/color]Breed is a stylish, atmospheric "B" vampire flick that really hits on some cylinders and misses on others. There is a consistent "Goth" feel throughout this detective story, with a few characters providing absolutely stunning performances and others seeming completely out of place. Adrian Paul (of the Highlander series fame) is good in this, as is Bai Ling and relatively unknown Hungarian actor Peter Halasz is outstanding. Bokeem Woodbine, on the other hand, seems completely miscast and out of place. Bokeem's character, more than anything else seems to bring down the atmosphere.
[color=Wheat][b]The Story:[/b][/color] In the very near future, vampires have revealed themselves, and are looking for a place in modern society. Unfortunately, there are those who would prefer to see the two species at war. When a gruesome vampire killing of a human cop takes place, the cop's partner (Bokeem Woodbine) and the top vampire detective (Adrian Paul) must team up to find the killer.
As the Breed proceeds, an interesting detective story emerges, where the antagonists appear to be leading our heroes on a series of red herrings. The detectives eventually uncover a human plot to eradicate all vampires via the use of a high tech virus, but even this is not what it seems. We are also introduced to a number of very interesting characters. Peter Halasz's character tops the list - he plays Cross, an ancient vampire that reminds you of a more cultured Nosferatu. Bai Ling, who plays a very eccentric Lucy Westerna, a mysterious vampire with divided loyalties.
We also get a love story that develops between Bokeem Woodbine and Bai Ling. Say what you will, Bai Ling is flat out gorgeous as a goth vamp chick. While most of the movie, her acting opportunities are rather limited, near the end, she really gets to shine. Bai really is great at expressing a range of emotions, from sassy to painful ongoing.
[img]http://www.communibuild.com/rt/breed04.jpg[/img] [color=Wheat] [b]The Action:[/b][/color] The action in the Breed is well scattered throughout. We get some nice fight sequences, some good shooting scenes, and a few good vampire biting scenes. That being said, the action is understated, and takes a back seat to the atmosphere and detective story.
[color=Wheat][b] The FX:[/b][/color] The effects in the Breed are definitely "B" caliber. We are not looking at top quality CGI here. The problems are especially apparent in some of the vampire sequences. Expect a "Buffy" level of FX, and you should be fine.
[b] [color=Wheat]The Bottom Line:[/color][/b] If you're in to Goth flicks, you will most likely enjoy this film. The Breed takes a different enough view on vampires to be interesting, but keeps enough of the mythos to allow you to get comfortable with the atmosphere and pacing. Unfortunately Woodbine character, especially his dialogue, is just completely out of place. Basically, they take an upper-class New York City style cop and dump him in Hungary. It just doesn't work that well. That being said, I still enjoyed this enough to watch it more than once.
I give it a 7 out of 10 for style, atmosphere, and an absolutely terrific acting performance by Peter Halasz (the guy with the hat in the pictures above). [color=Wheat][b] [img]http://www.communibuild.com/rt/avatar/breed1.jpg[/img][color=Black] ...........[img]http://www.communibuild.com/rt/avatar/breed-av2.jpg[/img]...............[img]http://www.communibuild.com/rt/avatar/breed-av4.jpg[/img][/color]
Avatars:[/b][/color] Here's a few avatars from the Breed. I can't promise I'll do this with every review, but these were fun to do. Please feel free to use these, as I never intend to change Trinity.
[color=Wheat][b]Overview[/b][/color]: It has come to my attention that there are actually some members of RT who have [u]NOT[/u] yet scene this masterpiece of film. I have just one thing to say: Shame on you! Well, not really, but you TRULY are losing out on one of the best pure fantasy films of all time. There's just nothing like it. This film, written by Monty Python's Michael Pallin and Terry Gilliam (who also directs it), boasts an all-star cast including Sean Connery, John Cleese, Ian Hold, Shelly Duvall, Ralph Richardson, Katherine Helmond, and a bunch of well known midget.
Time Bandits is this wonderfully hilarious epic tale about this group bumbling dwarves who have stolen a map from the Supreme Being (their former employer) that shows holes in the space-time continuum that have been in place since the beginning of a rather imperfect creation of the universe (what do you expect - there's [i]bound[/i] to be errors if you have to do a [i]rush job[/i] and get everything done in 7 days!). They have stolen the map with the idea that they can go back in time and steal all the great treasures from everyone and become filthy rich. During their escape from the Supreme Being, they end up in the bedroom of Kevin, a 10 year-old boy who has a great love of all the old heroes from fantasy and history. Kevin joins them while escaping from the Supreme being, and it quickly becomes clear that Kevin is the only one with an ounce of sense.
Time Bandits takes us on this wonderful romp through all these great periods in time, including ancient Greece, the Titanic, Robin Hood, Napoleon, and other more mythic ages. As the adventure continues, every time these dwarves successfully rob something, it ends up getting taken away from them. Worse, all, the dwarves keep taking advantage and deflating all of Kevin's heroes, such as Napoleon, Robin Hood and Agamemnon, keep ending up getting lessened or deflated in some way. Throughout the picture, we also get to see the Time Bandits continually interrupting a rediculous Michael Palin courting Shelly Duvall in various time periods. Pallin always has something "wrong" with him, either a hairpiece, non-working member, a growth on his nose, or some other unflattering issue.
On top of this, the ultimate evil force in the universe, called Evil Genius is plotting to steal the map from the dwarves so that he can escape from the Fortress of Ultimate Darkness. Evil Genius, played wonderfully by David Warner, is an absolute over-the-top riot! His evil plot involves using the map to understand digital watches, video cassette recorders, car telephones, computers , lasers and all other forms of technology so that he can eventually challenge this insane supreme being who wastes his time creating butterflies and daffodils and 43 species of parrots.
[color=Wheat][b]The Crafting of Time Bandits[/b][/color]: Time Bandits is filled with wonderful shots and interesting use of the camera. In his quirky way, Gilliam continually keeps us off-balance as nothing ever goes the way you expect. The visuals only serve to enhance this. We get everything from close-up shots with out of focus backgrounds, interesting use of shadow and lighting, a diversity of color choices, and the most interesting collection of set pieces one could imagine. We also get some wonderfully intelligent crafting - for instance, Kevin's horrid suburban family house has all the furniture covered in plastic, which we see repeated in the Evil Genius' henchman, who are also all covered in plastic. Truly, Gilliam has created a universe which allows him to borrow liberally from any period in time and mesh them together as he sees fit, and he does this with comedic aplomb.
[color=Wheat][b]Get the DiviMax Edition:[/b][/color] Time Bandits has been released in an original version, a Criterion edition and the most recent, a DiviMax version. The Criterion edition is an especially bad deal as it costs a fortune and comes complete with interlacing and sound problems. With the DiviMax version we get a Superbit video transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital EX sound. We also get treated to a wonderful hour-long Terry Gilliam Film Retrospective that goes in detail through the making of each of his films (complete with interviews from the likes of Brad Pitt, Shelley Duvall and others), and a half-hour interview with Gilliam and Pallin on the writing of Time Bandits. Both are superb.
[color=Wheat][b] Bottom Line:[/b][/color] If you want to pass on one of the best pure fantasies ever made, by all means, pass on this. If, on the other hand, you don't want to be the object of RT ridicule, maybe you should give Time Bandits a try. The pacing is superb, the action is fun, the acting is terrific, and the comedy is consistently top notch. Best yet, Time Bandits is one of those movies you'll continue to enjoy more every time you watch it. Its truly one of my favorite movies of all time. If ever there were a MUST SEE in my movie reviews, its this one.