Sci-Fi Thinker, Action Stinker

ghost in shell

 

Robbie K here, back with another review. This time we review the latest comic book inspired film ghost in a shell starring leading lady Scarlett Johansson as an “epic” cybernetic cop trying to stop terrorism.  With a large cult following, this movie certainly has a lot to live up to in terms of quality, and if you’re not familiar with the series than you are probably hoping action.  What is the verdict?  Please read on to hear my thoughts on the latest film.

 

LIKES:

  • Decent Sci-Fi Plot
  • Cool visuals
  • Nice character design
  • Okay acting

 

Summary:  I’ll lay it out now, I haven’t read nor seen any ghost in the shell media, so I can’t justify how it matches.  However, from a movie perspective, this film has a decent Sci-Fi plot that fits into the genre where anything can happen.  A dark plot about cybernetics, Ghost in The Shell again diverts from the fantasy train, and takes a more realistic (albeit theatrical) turn into science territory of humans becoming robots.  The more realistic plot is not much of a stretch and provides an ample medium to create awesome visuals to sell that realism.

And that, my friends, is the best part of this movie.  Ghost in the Shell’s visuals are impressive, overlaying futuristic advertising onto a real life setting that doesn’t look cheesy.  In all honesty, it is like taking a look at what Japan can look like in the future and how our desire to “progress” can ruin it.  Outside the city look, the characters themselves look like something out of a comic, each with a flare that scream Japanese animation.  While some looks are certainly worth a chuckle, a few characters like Major (Johansson) and Kuze (Michael Pitt) are well developed, looking sleek, deadly, or horrifying and standing out in terms of the realistic design you are seeking.

But while visuals are impressive, you also hope the actors can bring their characters to life in a way that will meet expectations.  Happy to say, the cast did a decent job in their goal, though again I’m uncertain how the characters are supposed to act having not read the comic.  If Major is supposed to be very monotone and hardly reactive, Johansson nails that approach, hardly diluting from the calm, stoic battle mode of the robotic assassin.  Pitt having to act like a tortured (albeit enlightened) terrorist wins points for gruesome tactics, prolonged speeches, and many other things that a cyberterrorist is expected to have.  The rest of the cast is decent, but we have limited space and more to cover, so let’s wrap and say the rest aren’t bad given their little screen time.

 

DISLIKES:

  • Little involvement with other characters
  • Plot is very predictable and dragged out
  • Action is sub-par most of the time

 

Summary:  My dislikes start with the lack of involvement in other characters.  Johansson carries most of the film as major, taking much of the screen time and stunts this movie requires.  Her team “helps” out at certain points, and her director certainly gets some good jabs in, but overall the other characters are almost pointless.  For being an elite team, Section 9’s agents did little to impress me and that team approach could have amped up the movie. This is especially true given how lackluster the plot was.  While realistic, Ghost In A Shell has little in terms of uniqueness to justify the nearly two hour run time.  Even if you haven’t read the books, the ending can be seen from a mile away and the delivery wasn’t spectacular enough to wait for (at least for me).  The dramatic flare and character development are certainly nice, don’t get me wrong on that, but the “exciting” climax I was waiting for just wasn’t there.

This brings me to the action component.  Ghost In the Shell was promoted as action packed and exciting, but for me it was mediocre at best.  A nice Matrix style opening shows promise for the movie, but it doesn’t take long for the stunts to be diluted to quick, unimpressive bouts that last mere minutes (if not seconds).  There is little challenge to the fights, and little technology used, which is disappointing given the movie is all about technology.  And after all the waiting you would think an epic fight at the end, but no, it’s just Johansson running from CGI bullets until a very dramatic finish occurs. This boring display of technology just made the nearly 2 hour run time seem worthless, given the promise the trailers made.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Ghost In The Shell is a visual display that certainly representative of its comic book origins. Unfortunately, outside of these impressive visual displays, the rest of the movie doesn’t live up to what I expected from the trailers. The story is mediocre and the execution is flawed, to promote a boring mess with only character development as its redeeming grace.  Despite the impressive design of the movie, this reviewer does not recommend this one for the theater, unless you go in with low expectations. Instead hold out for home rental and instead read the comic book it is based on. 

 

My scores are:

 

Action/Crime/Drama: 6.5

Movie Overall: 6.0

Shut In, Shuts Out Some Quality

shut-in

 

Another Friday, another excuse to release a horror movie in the sea of mediocrity. Robbie K here, and today I join two other souls to review Shut In starring Naomi Watts and Jacob Tremblay, a supposed thriller movie that flew under the radar.  But is Shut In going to deliver the thrills, or like many just give you chills from the AC.  Let’s get started shall we?

 

LIKES:

  • Realistic
  • Good psychological portrayal
  • Nice Twist

When it comes to horror movies, there is a fine line between boring and corny scares. Shut In treads this line well dropping the monsters, grandiose serial killers, and aliens for a more realistic source of fear. You, the audience, will be subjected to the worst monster of all, the human psyche forced to figure out what is real and what is an illusion as Mary tries to uncover the mystery at hand.  This film drops all the theatrical gore and maiming of the stereotypical horrors and forces your imagination to paint a scarier reality that gets under your skin. The team also loves the use of darkness to play with your mind, utilizing both sound and video editing to maximize the feeling of isolation in the domestic setting.

Even more impressive is the portrayal of schizophrenia or parasomnia in this case. Hollywood often designs sequences to be trippy, horrifying, or overdramatic.  In this movie though, the hallucinations are accurate to those described by mentally disturbed patients.  You’ll see nightmares illustrating guilt, terror at the inability to distinguish fact from fiction, and the lack of peace associated from hearing noises that go bump in the night.  Shut In is certainly all about getting locked in, but not so much the house as in your mind.  The result of this approach, is some added suspense to get you invested.

But the real surprise is the twist that pops in the end, which is somewhat hinted in a few scenes.  While certainly not the biggest surprise (hello Arrival), Shut In’s revelation takes the tale down a different road and leads to a semi satisfying, albeit dragged out, conclusion.  And unlike some films in this genre, the twist actually fits in well with the realistic tone of this movie instead of dropping it into the dimension of corny, convenient write ins. 

 

DISLIKES:

  • Not that scary
  • Not that suspenseful
  • Could have been a Netflix Movie

 

Despite all the realism and psychological shocks in this movie, Shut In didn’t really frighten me that much.  For one, the team decided to use the usual array of scare tricks (e.g. camera angle of an abandoned hall, music going silent, and dialogue that foreshadowed the coming jump scares) which after the third time grew stale. In addition, there wasn’t an entity that got under my skin or would give me nightmares.

In addition, the supposed suspense was lacking for most of the movie. The underlying mystery was certainly intriguing to say the least, but I didn’t find my heart rushing, my eyes darting, or my butt at the end of the seat.  The suspense did pick up once the twist was revealed, but the sequences drowned out and diluted the threat thereby reducing the adrenaline rush.  Does this mean it was bad?  No, it just wasn’t the spine tingling chill the trailers made it out to be.

Yet the thing that probably took away from the film the most, was how much it felt like it belonged on Netflix.  Outside of acting and good use of speaker sound effects, Shut In really doesn’t have much uniqueness to warrant big theater release.  It’s very simplistic with formulaic scares, that lacks the bite you hope a movie brings.  As I made this realization, I found myself bored. 

 

The VERDICT:

 

Overall Shut In has the realistic horror element most films lack in this genre.  The added psychological element helps keep things intriguing alongside the mystery of the little boy, and Naomi Watts is still a stunning actress to watch.  Unfortunately, Shut In uses stale tricks to scare you and is bland in the grand scheme of things, not counting the twist.  The good news is it runs at a short run time of 90 minutes, so you’ll get out of the theater rather quickly. If you are reading this review, you can guess this movie is best left to Netflix or Redbox. 

 

My scores are:

 

Drama/Thriller: 6.5

Movie Overall: 5.5