Stephen reviews: Ghost in the Shell (2017)

Starring Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbæk, Takeshi Kitano, Juliette Binoche, Michael Pitt, Chin Han, Peter Ferdinando

Directed by Rupert Sanders


I was looking forward to this movie with a mixture of hope and dread. My expectations were set low, but at the same time I had a hunch that Ghost in the Shell was possibly the only anime franchise that might work well as a Hollywood production. The serious tone, cyberpunk setting, and evil corporations mesh well with the kind of FX-heavy, sci-fi action films that Hollywood likes to churn out. So does it work? Well, if by working you mean that it is a functional mass market formulaic Hollywood film, then yes I suppose it does. It checks off all the boxes that modern Hollywood films are supposed to have at any rate.

The film is basically a hodgepodge of scenes from the various anime titles, mostly the first movie, so it was pretty much all stuff I’ve already seen. I can’t really call this a bad thing since this is an adaptation of the story. This live-action film was honestly in a tough spot. It had to stay true enough to the original to avoid pissing off the fanboys, but it still had to have enough mainstream appeal to make a profit. On top of that, there has never been a truly successful Hollywood anime adaptation (sure, I liked Fist of the North Star, but that was hardly a commercial hit), so they were understandably playing this pretty cautiously and avoiding risky artistic decisions. This leaves the film kinda drab, neither good nor bad.

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Bully (2001)

bully_1Starring Brad Renfro, Bijou Phillips, Rachel Miner, Nick Stahl, Michael Pitt, Leo Fitzpatrick, Kelli Garner, Daniel Franzese, Nathalie Paulding, Ed Amatrudo, Jessica Sutta

Directed by Larry Clark

Expectations: Low.

twohalfstar


I can neither say that I liked or disliked Larry Clark’s Bully. It definitely has moments of pure honesty and tension that sear themselves into your psyche like a bullet to the brain, but it’s more often than not boring and meandering. In this way, it reflects its character well, a bunch of kids who are just along for the ride. They don’t particularly care who they’re with or where they’re going, just as long as they’re going somewhere, and experiencing something. But this is no way to live a life, and Bully fully explores this as the film moves closer to its finale.

Bully tells the story of Marty (Brad Renfro) and his friend Bobby (Nick Stahl). They’ve been friends since they were little kids, but that friendship isn’t built on trust and loyalty, it’s built on fear. Bobby bullies Marty incessantly, treating him like a slave and hitting him for messing up, even when others are around. Marty, of course, just takes it and tries to contain his anger. Clark never explores where Marty releases this anger, but based on his love of surfing, I think it’s safe to assume that riding the waves is more about a sense of freedom and cleansing than simply soaking up some rays.

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