Saturday, July 30, 2011

Three Films Make A Post: From Embryo To Woman in 4 1/2 Weeks

One Million Yen Girl aka One Million Yen And The Nigamushi Woman (2008): Yuki Tanada's indie drama/comedy (you know the type) with the fantastic Yu Aoi is at its best when it's just calmly and with inconspicuous elegance watching its characters and letting the audience sort out for themselves what to think about what they see. That method kept me pretty happy for about ninety minutes of the two hour running time. Then, the director suddenly seems to remember that she actually wants to make a specific, moral point and calmly and inelegantly begins to just tell the audience what that point is and what they are supposed to think and feel about it in the most mawkish way imaginable.

It's not enough to ruin the film for me (especially since there's a well-meant attempt at breaking up the mood of moral pedantry again at the movie's end), but it drags a film that up to that point was silently brilliant into the realm of the merely good.

Gantz (2011): Somehow, director Shinsuke Sato takes a manga and anime that's so testosterone-driven, sexist and gory that I'm pretty sure it's not written by a human being but by a penis, surgically removes about half the sexism, all the nudity, a lot of the gore and two thirds of the dumbness, and turns it into a pretty entertaining, even clever(!) bit of big budget mainstream action/science fiction.

Sato keeps the story's ruthlessness, as well as the elements that can be read as critical of the juvenile power fantasies that are the basis of Gantz's violence, so that one might at times get the impression that he's just about to really mess with the genre he's working in.

It's still a very mainstream affair though, and so the more deconstructive side of the film has too make room for some J-drama inspired melodrama and rather unconvincing character development for much of the film's last act. I didn't mind, though, because the action's pretty awesome and Gantz still is much cleverer than it needs to be, which is more than you can expect from this sort of affair.

The Task (2010): A bunch of clichés takes part in a reality show where they have to do stupid tasks in a haunted prison. As you'd expect, there's more going on in the prison than the TV crew (who, by the way, are so hard up financially they're making a reality show without having security personnel or a paramedic in place) expected, and the ghost of the prison's warden (trademark: does not like to wear shirts though he really, really should) gets stabby. It all ends in the usual dumb double twist ending. Of course.

If you're burning to see a movie where a total absence of originality and interesting ideas meet overly broad acting and vague technical competence, this will be just the thing for you. Not bad enough to deserve at actual derision, The Task is horror cinema so mediocre it's not even exciting enough to bore properly. Watch this, watch nothing, watch anything - it's pretty much all the same.



Doug Bolden said...

I've not made it past The Task's cover. I'm sure the movie is better than its cover, for what it's worth, but...I'm saving that until one night I feel like burning through a movie backlog of lowrent horror.

As for Gantz, I have not seen the movie (though I want to) but I have seen the anime and read a fair bit of the manga and I have to say that the manga is one of the most unusual and strange things out there (the anime kept only a few core concepts and tied the storyline off while the manga's storyline goes in much different directions). Which is why I kept reading it. The story line and monster design gets weirder and weirder as time goes on, and much bigger and larger scaled. If you get a chance and haven't already, I'd recommend picking up a volume somewhere on down the line to see the insanity of its progression (I'm not sure what they are up to now...somewhere the 30s).

houseinrlyeh aka Denis said...

I'm not so sure you haven't already experienced the best The Task has to offer once you've seen it's cover.

I haven't read much of the Gantz manga at all, only seen the anime to completion. Following what you say, I suspect the film is closer to the anime than what the manga develops into (well, minus the nudity and with slightly older characters). I really need to give the manga a look, it seems.

Doug Bolden said...

Well, the weird nudity (and how at on point) and bouts of sexism and juvenile overflow keep showing up, me it at least feels more natural to the storyline. Maybe I just got desensitized after page after page of skin tight black suits and large breasted females.

While the anime and the manga are pretty much the exact same up to a point, around the third or fourth hunt, the anime starts tying stuff off while the manga is all "What if went...crazier?" And then the anime ends but the manga introduces new layers of weird and the monsters get so ridiculously powerful you can't understand them...and then it introduces it's actual metaplot and why it all has been happening...and it's a bit of a surprise unless you get it spoiled.

And you get vampires and clones and other groups playing the same games (but usually better, because the poor Tokyo group has been playing wrong) and some weird drug references and commentary on school violence.

Like I said...I'm in it now just to see where it ends up. The current story arcs are definitely taking too long so I'll probably give it about 2 years and then read the finish all in one go (hopefully it will be done by then).

houseinrlyeh aka Denis said...

Sounds like I really should have persevered with the manga, because (obviously) the weird stuff would be right up my alley.

The movie plays as if they're planning to actually finish the plot with the sequel.