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Rogue One (2016)
The very best possible Episode 3.5
I haven't seen the new trilogy yet, and the only other recent Star Wars film I've seen is Solo, which I watched directly before this. Having watched both the original and prequel trilogy, I can confidently say that of those, this is one of the best Star Wars films. Its action, characters, cinematography, it's plot of unlikely heroes facing overwhelming odds and winning in the end, it all comes together to feel like a perfect mix of everything that made the original trilogy so well beloved, even taking time to improve on the original in some places.
This film is action packed in a way only the modern and only the greatest action films are. There's never a dull moment, and many smaller scenes of suspense, danger, and intrigue build and culminate in fascinating ways, leading to some of the biggest and best moments in the series. The build from back alley information trades and low level prison transport breakouts to fleet on fleet combat above ground combat around the infiltration of a heavily guarded Imperial base is just wonderful to behold. This isn't the best Star Wars move; Episode VI will always take that title, in my opinion, but this film has the best action in the entire franchise, barring maybe the 2D animated Genndy Tartakovsky Clone Wars series.
The characters are great, showing a more nuanced side of the rebel alliance than the original trilogy provides, with much gained from it. The main character being raised by a turncoat imperial and later an extremist leads her to be outright hostile towards both the Empire and Rebels on numerous occasions, which is a great place to start for generating believable, character driven drama. The rebel alliance's intelligence officer offers glimpses into a cloak and dagger side of the rebellion that's a wonderful balance of cool and moderately edgy to start with that brings in some very nice moral texture. The side characters are all great all the time. Blind Force monk, backpack lazer cannon powerhouse, turncoat imperial pilot, badass reprogrammed imperial droid, instead of any one of these being a designated comedic support, they all bring their own spectrum of humor, good banter, and character drama to the table in the best sort of way.
This is a candidate for prettiest Star Wars film. Everything looks just the right amount of clean and roughed up to feel in-universe, and the celestial shots here are amazing. This is a film that makes these starships and planets feel big in a way that hasn't really been attempted since Episode VI among the films I mentioned before.
Last but not least in what makes this film great comes the plot, and boy do I not want to spoil it. I came into this film knowing next to nothing, which made the early parts of the film, a good third of it, a tad confusing as the characters hadn't really been given proper time to stretch their legs and truly characterize themselves. At a bit before the halfway point however, things are properly kicked into high gear as everything comes into focus, every character has a properly layed out motivation, and massive stakes have been set up. The odds of success for the heroes couldn't possibly be lower without being impossible. It all builds to a final battle that's long, complex, and beautiful. No set piece is wasted. Big character moments happen with big action moments and big plot beats. Balancing characters with action was something even the original trilogy had trouble with at times. I cannot give Rogue One higher praise in its writing.
Generally, this film is great, and whatever you think of the sequel trilogy, you should watch it. It's just really good, and a good hit of that original trilogy vibe no amount of nostalgia bait can truly capture. I truly do mean to make this a part of any future viewing of the original trilogy. I intend to consider it a part of the original trilogy, from now on, in terms of quality, tone, and action.
Rick and Morty: Mortyplicity (2021)
Good premise, great execution
The typical Rick and Morty cold open involves some member of the Smith family getting killed or abducted, it isn't really a surprise anymore. It's just a strong signal that the episode is going to involve multiple Smith families floating around, and it does that well enough, but isn't entertaining in its own right for me.
This is an episode of cold opens strung together into a plot, and for the first three minutes, that's a drag. After a period of fatigue with the concept of Smith families getting killed by mysterious squids, the gimmick comes into its own, allowing for an episode that really doubles down on the nihilism, brings in a darker tone, and really surrenders itself to whatever creative ideas the creators had kicking around in their heads. This is all while building up to the fantastic climactic sequence of the episode skillfully.
I'd say this episode is a close relative of The Ricklantis Mixup and Total Rickall, two of my favorite episodes of the show. What makes those episodes great, and what makes Mortyplicity great, is having a premise that uses the dysfunction of the characters to its advantage. In Ricklantis Mixup, this comes in the form of Rick being inherently a jerk, even to himself, and to Morty, and expanding this out to a social scale where it can be used as an allegory for the US as we know it. In Total Rickall, it's having brain parasites that can only be defeated by realizing that the people you know and actually love as real people are all flawed and annoying and at times insufferable, given other fake people to interact with who are perfect by comparison. Here, the premise is used to really show what a war of the ricks would look like, with sci-fi gadgets turning the war into a constant and unending chain of hit and run attacks that kill very quickly, leaving the victors to probably be killed quickly themselves.
The show has long made gestures at character growth, always without it actually sticking. Heartfelt moments between characters, arguments that end with a meaningful resolution, arcs that solve problems, all shown and then abandoned so the show can maintain its present tone. This episode is that dynamic firing on all cylinders, where you'll see Smith families that are perfectly happy and Smith families that have become Texas Chainsaw Massacre scenarios. There's a dedication to showing the entire breadth of the spectrum that this episode winds up being intriguingly heartwarming and horrifying while maintaining a realness to the bickering most of the Smith families go through.
The art direction was on point throughout the episode. Locations familiar and new are portrayed beautifully, and I can confidently say this concept would have been impossible to do if not in the medium of animation. The various copy of a copy deformities in some Smith Families look great. I love the wooden marionette versions with their tinny voiceboxes and wooden contraptions, and the cloth puppet Smith family is really cute.
I think this'll remain one of the best loved episodes of the show. It starts from an interesting premise and goes above and beyond expectations to deliver something memorable, and it's good to know the writers haven't stopped trying to deliver that sort of episode.
Warui yatsu hodo yoku nemuru (1960)
For me, Kurosawa is overrated but this film sure isn't.
The Bad Sleep Well is an incredible, impressive, and most importantly engaging film. From start to finish, creative scenes that move the plot forward while being tense all on their own. The characters, each beautifully written and acted, clash and come together in unique and interesting ways. It is by these means that The Bad Sleep Well manages not only to be a good adaptation of Hamlet, but a superior alternate version of Hamlet, taking the themes, the characters, the situations, all while expanding and adding to them in wonderful ways. It's a film with a wonderful density of content that almost begs you to watch and rewatch it for a newfound understanding of the content, all while being Kurosawa's most beautiful black and white film to boot.
Breaking it all down, The Bad Sleep Well is about revenge. Unlike Hamlet which saw this topic as a long and winding road to ruin, an even handed and far more compelling direction is taken. No longer is the plot concerned with a kingdom ruled by a man who came to power through murder and the indecision of the main character. With a stronger focus on the true evil of the villains, the main character is allowed generous room to have a glorious crusade of vengeance on those who killed his father while upholding the law for a legal system which fails to conquer evil. The moral dubiousness of the revenge plot is not played down, but rather discussed within this better, more freeing frame.
The vengeful brings some lovely characters into his plot by the end as well, allowing for classically dramatic sequences including but not limited to characters visiting their own funeral, a wedding ruined by the corporate culture around it, villains framed and turned on by villains, side characters taking fate into their own hands, the list goes on and on. The engagement brought by one scene will often compound and build tension for later scenes. No time is wasted.
The score is catchy and brilliant, fitting the setting perfectly while bringing in much needed atmosphere.
I meant when I said this film is Kurosawa's prettiest black and white film. The monochrome allows Kurosawa the opportunity for very complex scene compositions that aren't overly busy or hard to make out, partially because of the lack of color. At the same time, the props and objects used are so expressive I can't help but remember the film in color. I have never been a fan of black and white, seeing it as either an unfortunate technical limitation or a gimmick to make a film seem deeper than it actually is so take this for the massive praise I mean it to be.
The setting of postwar, corporate Japan is quietly brilliant, allowing for a symphony of scene locations that ensure the film never gets boring. Even locations featured throughout the film, such as Nishi's residence, are filmed distinctly later on to ensure the location feels different from when it was featured earlier on.
In conclusion, I've had issues with many of Kurosawa's films, mostly relating to simple boredom. Most of his films set in feudal japan are just there. Seven Samurai actively bores me to tears. High and Low would also be exceptionally boring if it weren't one of the best police procedurals ever made. Throne of Blood, the first Kurosawa film I ever saw, was above average, marginally. This film tops them all. It does this by an immense density of content, being thought provoking throughout, and never feeling complacent. Watching Seven Samurai, the most memorable scenes for me are those obviously shot to be extremely pretty as a gimmick to compensate for the fact there's nothing else interesting going on, or those where the characters finally start interacting in meaningful ways, like when the bandit tells the samurai that the peasants are hoarding wealth, mostly because samurai have treated them horribly. These sequences are so far spread apart by scenes which have neither good character content or visual content that the film becomes unwatchable for someone like me with admittedly a pretty short attention span. I count this as a failing of the filmmaker. Art does not have to be boring to be meaningful. Art can be meaningful and fun, exciting, tense, and adventurous. This is the film where I feel Kurosawa understood that, and took it to heart.
The Dumpster Baby Bits are (Mostly) The Least Funny Jokes
I really love this episode. It's got three subplots: Dee and Mac in a pseudo-parental relationship trying to raise/exploit a child, Charlie and Frank going out and hoarding garbage while living on the streets because their apartment is too full of junk, and Dennis getting complete and total revenge on a hippy who 'punks him out.'
The pacing here is incredible, showing you just what you want to see when you want to see it. In classic Always Sunny style, the plots start reasonable, with the gang all grouped up talking about global warming in very stupid ways and visiting a garbage dump to do their thing, but quickly start descending into absolute depravity. I love that the stupidity compounds over time.
The dumpster diving plot starts with Charlie finding a sword at the dump, continues escalating into showing off alley dumpster hoarding, then leads into the mounds of garbage in Charlie's apartment being stacked floor to ceiling. Things get clever when the subplot from previous episodes between him being Frank's son, possibly start getting tied in, leading to one of my favorite moments in the series when Charlie realizes he was almost a dumpster baby himself, which of course resonates with his current obsession with trash.
Charlie's dumpster baby revelation comes hot on the heels of another one of my favorite moments in the show full stop late in Dennis' plot. This episode really shows off Dennis as a smooth talking, girlfriend stealing, manipulative sociopath better than The D. E. N. N. I. S. System episode. Watching him with a real goal beyond just having sex using abusive methods is a lot of fun, as is watching the hippy guy get torn down from his leading place in his hippy clique piece by piece. The Riders on the Storm sequence is absolutely incredible, and beautiful in the janky, slightly disgusting but very hilarious way the show's beloved for.
Dee and Mac's whole plot is fairly boilerplate child abuse humor, which is fun but not as outstanding as the rest of the episode. It's just kind of necessary filler, and I'm very glad it wasn't the focus of the episode despite being the titular plot.
Overall, this perfected the sort of carefully plotted comedy the show very much wants to have for all of its characters more than episodes specializing in a single character's bit. It has better Dennis moments than The D. E. N. N. I. S. System, better depraved Frank moments than the more memeworthy later attempts to show him as uniquely depraved, and uh, pretty average Charlie moments. In hindsight, it's amazing how crucial Charlie is for the balance of the show, and how reliably funny he is.
Love, Death & Robots: Ice (2021)
Good Beyond the Beautiful Animation
I'll start by saying I don't understand why this is the lowest rated episode of the show. If you need me to throw some other episode under the bus to get my point across, Automated Customer Service had a stupidly simple plot and ugly animation, so this at least beats that, even if you take for granted that the animation's good like everyone's saying and absolutely nothing else.
I don't think that's the right way to approach this though. Sure, the animation's amazing, but it's amazing in a way where it does unique things on top of just looking good generally. Avatar: The Last Airbender, for instance, had a sequence during the season 1 finale where the moon is stolen from the sky, and the color is drained into black and white for a single scene, while the rest of the episode works in faded, sickly colors that are less interesting than the ink painting aesthetic of that single scene until the moon is restored. Here, there is a similar drastic shift in colors, you see the colors drain away from the frame like liquid, and it lingers longer, allowing the viewer to truly appreciate the beauty of the moment. I'm saying that for a moment, this is better than Avatar in one of the very best scenes from Avatar, so you had best believe it's good.
The setting is cool. The closest living relative to it would be Frostpunk, but this setting is less on the fringes of survival, allowing a subculture of youthful teenagers to emerge and lend the punk to this Frostpunk. Oil rig looking ice miners poised beneath the dance of the aurora is one of those scenes I think I'll be thinking about for a long time, and the giant whales are cool as well. The bazaar is another cool touch, showing that this frigid mining planet does indeed have the necessary infrastructure and economy to support a punk subculture, even if it does seem to be mostly centered around body mods and drugs to waste the paycheck on. For a ten minute episode, there's a lot of extremely solid worldbuilding here.
The plot is nothing special, but I don't think it's weak. The story of an unmodded teenager proving himself by saving his modded brother is cathartic and fun to watch, and it has a nice pacing to it. By virtue of being part of a ten minute episode, there's no time for the plot to dawdle on boring scenes where the characters brood and angst. They just have emotions, yell about emotions, go off while brooding a bit, do the race, and that resolves the emotions. I prefer that to a similar cliche melodrama. It's forward and snappy, and it did get me to feel for the characters, which is all it needed to do, in my opinion.
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
A Nazi Police Procedural and An Allied Heroic Epic
Many films, at least from my perspective, have a problem. They peak in quality just before the climax, leaving explosive and action packed scenes to seem dull by comparison with earlier parts of the film. This is one of the few films I have seen which does not have this problem. The climax is perfect, the absolute peak of quality mounting and building on top of the rest of the film's high quality. This film is a masterpiece, but the final forty-five minutes of the film are simply the best cinema I've ever seen, and that's so much more impactful than if the first forty-five minutes had been the best cinema I've ever seen. I cannot give higher or more detailed general praise than this without going into proper spoilers about the film. Quite simply, I think a truly blind watch is the ideal way to go into it. Every scene has something new and exciting for an uninitiated viewer. It's as though every scene has this wonderful twist that ensures things never happen quite how you think they will.
The characters aren't necessarily unique, except for one, but they all fit together super well. The casting was genius, to the point where Tarantino nearly axed the entire film because he had trouble finding the right actor to fill a critical role. Every single character is believable, and this is the film's biggest strength. From the allied commando leader who's not afraid to commit a few warcrimes, to the SS detective who's not afraid to commit a few warcrimes, to the vengeful French national who's not afraid to commit a few warcrimes, the film makes it easy to get into the head of all of these people, and truly understand why they do the things they do without making the film feel overly dark and brooding.
Inglourious Basterds is just the right amount of contemplative and cavalier about its violence and its subject matter. Make no mistake, Tarantino's trademark violence is here in full force, and cleverly used as ever. This is a film that wants you to enjoy watching it in the way a film like Downfall just wouldn't while trying to tackle the objective of humanizing Nazis to some degree. That's not to say Tarantino or the Jewish pedophile (damn the cunt) behind the financing of this film pulled punches on making it clear that the Nazis have what happens to them coming to them. It just lets you know that the violence isn't perfectly black and white, allowing for much needed moral texture.
The soundtrack is beautiful, taking from the scores of other films and out of period songs as Tarantino is known for doing to great effect. There are some real bangers in here that raise scenes up into the stratosphere as far as memorability is concerned.
This is a film that loves tension. It builds tension all up through scenes, all up through the movie before releasing it all in the climax to truly devastating effect. Tarantino is a master of the trade for tension, and this film has just that very skillset on full display for your viewing pleasure. The result is a film where a smile may hide terror, malice, greed, sadism, or genuine warmth of character in equal likelihood.
This is a film I want you to see. I contemplated making this a spoiler filled review for the sake of ranting about all the things I absolutely love, but chose not to because I wanted people to see this film how I saw it, because the experience was truly that amazing. This is the movie most of all for which I want someone to wipe my brain so I can see it again. I envy you who are just about to see it for the first time.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
A Feast for the Mind and Senses
Much has been said about Silence of the Lambs, mostly about Hannibal Lecter and Anthony Hopkins' performance of him. Truly, that is an immensely important aspect of this film's greatness, but it is but a fraction of what it has to offer. If Hannibal Lecter were replaced with some random mental patient with a fraction of the presence Lecter has, this would still be a great film. They basically made just that very film with Red Dragon. Do not mistake something left out of this review you may have heard is good about Silence of the Lambs to mean that I think it's overrated. Everything everyone says is good in this is likely to be at least interesting to any viewer. My intention in this review is to merely cover the less praised aspects of this film which deserve praise.
The soundtrack does the work of setting mood impressively well. It gives texture to the entire film as a whole, ensuring everything feels bound together. It has a pleasant wallpaper quality where I couldn't list out my favorite parts or tracks from the score per se, but I can attest the film would not be the same without it. It just textures everything in endless atmosphere.
Set design is incredible. Sure, you'd expect the serial killer Buffalo Bill's lair to be well designed, and it sure is, filled with both plot relevant items and completely irrelevant bits of eye candy that make perfect sense for such a killer to possess despite their irrelevancy to the plot. Would you expect the FBI training grounds to be the same, with every background shot having some fascinating insight into how FBI agents train? What about the lush bouquets in the funeral home that invite the viewer as well as the main character herself to leave the room and enter a flashback? How about the dozens of posters and cherished mementos in the room of Bill's first murder victim? Every room in this film is decorated as though it were going to be the focus of the film. No detail was spared, no shortcuts taken. This is a film that gets better every re-watch because of these details, as well as the layered consistency of its plot.
The main character is really likable. She starts off as a bit of an enthusiastic blank slate, but a really complex tapestry of past trauma, wants, and present anxieties really comes to shine as the plot presses on. The most brilliant thing about this film's premise to me is that it's the perfect excuse to have characters teasing out the minute, near imperceptible facets that make the primary characters tick.
In short, this film has a lot more to offer than one great character and a few great scenes. It has several great characters, amazing scenes, and setpieces that make sure the movie is never boring. It's always horrifying, or wonderful, or beautiful, or interesting. It invites you into this world of awful crimes, broken psychologies, and psychological masterminds in their prime. It's just an incredible film I can wholeheartedly recommend.
It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
More than Just the Nostalgia
I'd like to start this review by drawing attention to how truly awful the modern advertising around this film is at painting a mental picture of what to expect and exactly why this film is as much of a classic as it is. The issue is that much of the advertising, and indeed, much of what you'll hear by word of mouth about the film paints it as a perfectly generic film. As is so often the case with 'classics' It's a Wonderful Life has its back of the box premise done as you'd think, and then time after time before and after that where it will surprise you with the directions it goes in.
The back of the box gimmick is of course, the angelic showcase of how the world would be if the main character hadn't been born, and that's a fine premise for a film. It's done perfectly well here but that segment only makes up perhaps an eighth of the runtime and only about a fourth of the film's emotional content.
This is not a film about a man stuck in his ways who is shown a better way by a deus ex machina. This is a film about a man who gets stuck in his ways, from childhood on through his young adult life straight into his life as a family man, a businessman, the wonderful things he does throughout his life, and how it all comes crashing down, leading him to contemplate suicide.
What I especially love is that the film has charm it builds for us rather than expecting us to envision in a haze of nostalgia. Going into the film, I figured the small town setting would be a sappy idyllic place filled with cliches of the era and oversimplified for the sake of the story's plot. That is absolutely not the case. If I'm weary of small towns, the main character hates his small town, his small life, his small job computing small figures to give out small loans. This is the vital connection which makes the movie work, at least for me personally. Some films drag me along with the character's emotional journey, with me merely entertaining or sometimes even fighting the emotions it's trying to get me to feel. Not so here. Every step of George's personal journey resonates because he's as skeptical and as much of a dreamer as I am, as any given person is before they settle down into their life.
The emotional core of the film is very solid, filled with moments of love, drama, wanting and having in all the right places to have me crying nonstop at the ending, but that's not the only reason to watch the film. It's also a serviceable period film about a businessman fighting against the forces trying to buy everyone out of the american dream in the depression era, which brilliantly is tied into the seeing a life where George wasn't born premise. The story is well poised to touch on the life of the characters and the zeitgeist in which they live, which makes the time spent seeing their lives as miserable echos of film's primary reality all the more sad and affecting. It's a brilliant way the movie ties all of its disparate plot threads together.
All in all, yeah, It's A Wonderful Life is a great film. I can absolutely assure you that's not just nostalgia.
Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)
Immensely More Than A Courtroom Drama
I'm very wary of films with a three hour runtime, they often wind up boring and bloated. This film manages to captivate me each time I watch it for the full three hours, and it has a deceptively strong, simple premise to thank for it.
I can make no better recommendation than to simply describe one of many impactful scenes that demonstrate how this film uses its premise to masterfully create scenes which demonstrate its points and arguments with no shred of doubt about what is meant or why.
There is one of four defendants who was a state prosecutor for the Nazis during the war. He and the three other defendants sit around a prison cafeteria table after having been shown video proof of Nazi atrocities taken during the liberation of a concentration camp. One expresses that he believes it was not his fault what his countrymen did, while this defendant states he simply could not believe such atrocities could ever happen, him having been far removed from the camps in his courtroom of employ. He turns to a prisoner at a table behind him, the old commandant of a concentration camp, and asks if it was possible to kill that many people. The man turns and with an emotionless, bored tone, states factually that with two gas chambers housing thousands of people each and each gassing cycle taking only half an hour, it's not the killing that's troublesome, it's disposing of the bodies.
It's incredible how this and so many other scenes take the time and place of the film, and the lived experiences of its characters, to create a tapestry of events recent, extremely recent, present, events which happened near, and far, that paint a portrait of morality grey and troubling.
It is not the Nazis that are troubling, their atrocities are well known, and the film spends its time showing the lesser known evils that allowed the greater evils to happen. It speaks of Churchill lauding Hitler in 1938, of people unwilling to see obvious threat for what it was, of the evils of the Reich existing in broad daylight stateside, behind the very walls of the arsenal of democracy. It speaks of a willingness to ignore justice for practicality during the cold war, and a common hatred of communists that binds the US and fascist Germany on a level deep enough to be used as a viable legal defense. The film speaks of mercy, the honeyed words of forgiving and forgetting so that all may go on to make something of their flawed lives, and it couples this with the fear of being just as bad as the Nazis in sentencing the defeated of war to death for political points. It raises all of these valid arguments, gives them fair due, makes them all compelling, as said from attorneys at law, judges of the tribunal, widows of the executed; It takes all of these arguments and yet proudly and confidently chooses what is right, and makes the proper arguments for why the film believes what is right is right in this case. This is what makes it worthwhile, the depth that makes this film something to be studied while watched.
Kôkaku Kidôtai (1995)
A Beautiful, Unique and Philisophical Masterpiece of Cyberpunk Animation
Ghost in the Shell is brilliant in all the ways that matter and a few that don't.
The animation is top of the line, with gritty backgrounds that make a grungy cyberpunk setting come to life. Every backalley, garbage truck interior, luxurious dwelling, and secretive government office feels distinct from everything else while also being grounded. No place is overly dirty, but rather wears its burden of neglect. Everything has character, and the character everything has is believable. There is a special attention paid to put immense amounts of detail into every bit of technology shown. Car designs look futuristic but plausible for a world quite similar to ours in many ways. Guns are shown very similar to those of our time and reality, which makes the crazier, high tech weaponry used towards the end of the film believable. The cinematography is masterful as well, from a breathtaking opening shot to an imagination capturing end shot. Certain shots have special artifacts to represent digital distortions or the perspective of a character looking through their own augmented zoomed in vision. These are used infrequently enough to make the filters notable and special when used. It is not a technique that wears out its welcome, although it does take some time to grow accustomed to. Every scene wears the impressive effort and artistry of masters of animation. Nothing is lazy. Everywhere are there new things to notice on successive watches of the movie. Personally, after ten or so times watching Ghost in the Shell through, I've noticed multiple unique details within the art that heighten the sense of the world being real and lived in on my most recent viewing.
The pacing ensures the film is never boring. Every scene shuffles your attention neatly onto the next wonderful thing the film wants to show you, or the next philosophical idea it wants to broach, or the next action sequence it wants to pay off on the tension it has built. With a runtime of one hour and thirty minutes, the film is short by modern standards and it wastes not a single moment of the audience's time. This is despite the fact the film takes time to build ambience. At the halfway point of the movie, there is an intermission of sorts. No dialogue, just a journey down a canal as a rainy evening fades into the depths of night. The main character, Mokoto Kusanagi, takes a ferry home and spies an exact copy working in an office nearby. Garbage floats in small islands in the waters. Schoolchildren run along a nearby street beneath yellow umbrellas. Out of use cyborg shells, again identical copies of the main character in appearance, display clothing in storefronts. It's a competent and unorthodox decision to trade time that could have been spent on action or character building, and use it instead for building up the world of the film to a further level of realism than most films ever achieve even with longer runtimes or the benefit of being set in our real world.
The characters are all likeable. The main character is very capable and elite, but internally conflicted. Her two government agent partners both get a pleasingly balanced amount of time spent on them to ensure they don't feel left out of the plot after being introduced. The head of Sector 9, the government office Mokoto works for, has a unique and strange role in the story that is on a completely different trajectory from the main character's arc, and serves to bring international and national intrigue into the film. Then there's the villain, who I won't spoil. Suffice it to say, despite being in only half the film, he has an overwhelming buildup and presence that ties the entire movie together from start to finish.
To keep the audience interested, the film has great action and pleasing nudity. This sounds cheap, like a writer lazily wanted to explore philosophy with his philosophy degree but also wanted a screenplay that wouldn't dive and so threw in the bare minimum of filler. This is far, far from what is on display in Ghost in the Shell. The action is a core part of the narrative. The main character and her colleagues are cyborgs built to do combat specifically to handle dangerous threats like the ones they face in the film, so it makes sense, but more than that, it helps the pacing rather than hindering it or overriding it. As for the nudity, uh, I think the main character's camouflage requires her to be nude or something, or maybe it has some further meaning I'm too dumb to understand. The movie's maybe a little dumb with the nudity but that's fine because it looks pretty and it doesn't actively hinder the movie. It walks the line between boring-smart and dumb-fun to be the sort of film that really fills your head with a few new ideas while you have a great time.
All in all, Ghost in the Shell has no fundamental issues, except for being hard to follow for the first watch. I plead with all my heart for you to watch it once, and if you don't understand it enough to enjoy it while watching it, to watch it again so you can follow it easier. This is a film that truly does reward picking it apart, and its complexity is not all for show. With each viewing, the twists become bigger, and the action scenes gain a new sense of weight as the ending becomes legendary in its implications for the characters involved. There is a line I'm particularly fond of from the film. "All the information we accumulate in a lifetime is just a drop in the bucket." You will only be able to watch so many films in your lifetime, and I assure you, you will be glad this was one of them.
As a final note, watch the subtitled version rather than the English dub. It's a much better experience.
Inside Out but Even Better!
Soul is my favorite recent Pixar film, possibly favorite Pixar film period. It has great characters all around, and a compelling premise and execution of premise that drives interesting scenarios for the characters to find themselves in, and some really funny jokes. I'll hone in on those jokes for a moment because they're really what sold me on the film early. The movie has a whimsical quality all Pixar films have, but the jokes themselves are some of the darkest the studio's made in a long time, suited to a place where life isn't a concern yet. It's all delivered by wonderful characters who have just the right amount of earnestness or coldness in their delivery respective to what character's laying the groundwork for the joke.
The voice acting all around is very good, giving the world a sense of realness that the animation kind of lacked for me. In the world before life all the characters look great, but in the human world, everyone just looks too caricatured for my tastes. You get used to the designs quickly though, which helps.
The characters themselves are amazing. The main characters are a lovable jazz musician who wants nothing more than to make great music for the rest of his life, and his companion, an ancient soul stuck in the lands before life by virtue of not being able to fill out her personality fully. They are joined in the script with beautifully animated gods representing ideas so abstract and large humans could not possibly comprehend them, each characterized in an incredibly understated manner that makes them seem huggable and mysterious and powerful all at once. There are characters so great and so funny merely by their presence I'd consider telling you about them a spoiler. Make no mistake, great characters are the uh, heart of Soul.
Since this review is getting long already, I'll leave out going into detail about the moving unconventional ending and well detailed character arcs that feel truly natural. I can fully recommend Soul to anybody.