Director: Satoshi Kon; Main Cast (voices): Megumi Hayashibara, Tôru Furuya, Akio Ôtsuka, Katsunosuke Hori, Kôichi Yamadera;
Brilliant psychiatrist Chiba (Hayashibara) helps people with dream therapy using a new device, the D.C. Mini, designed by her genius colleague Tokita (Furuya). This new machine allows not only to enter someone else dreams but also to record them. Chiba is determined, dedicated and a little aloft and, with her boss Shima’s (Hori) blessing, she treats patients using the D.C. Mini outside a sanctioned project of the Foundation for Psychiatric Research. Her fun-loving easy-going dream alter-ego, Paprika, is currently aiding detective Kowaga (Otsuka) working through his issues, visiting a recurrent dream of his about an on-going case. Unfortunately, Chiba, Tokita and Shiba realise that a D.C. Mini has been stolen from the research centre and the thief is using it to enter people’s minds, when awake, and distract them with their own dreams and those of others. Mayhem ensues and the boundary between dream and reality starts to fade. What follow is a desperate search for the culprit: the trio of scientists uses all their knowledge and, aided by detective Kowaga, put together the pieces of the puzzle.
The viewer is treated to incredibly rich and absolutely nuts dream sequences (as all dream are!). They are integral part of the investigation offering both clues and red herrings. They also are more and more intertwined with reality as the film progresses. The result is stunning: it feel like a roller-coaster and a merry-go-around ride at the same time, without detracting from the smooth flow of the plot. I particularly liked Kowaga’s dreams, full of film references and homages, quite a treat for a movie buff! The animation is nothing less than top notch and it appears to be the perfect medium for such a story. I doubt that a live-action version would have been this lavish and outlandish. I know some might say that Inception did that but we are not even close. It is interesting, however, the parallel on useful technology turned into a weapon and the need for exploring and understanding one’s subconscious.
Sadly this is the last gem of Satoshi Kon’s short filmography. I do recommend watching his other films: Perfect Blue, Millennium Actress and Tokio Godfathers.
This is my contribution to the Movie Scientist Blogathon: the Good, the Mad, the Lonely hosted by Christina Wehner and Silver Screenings, go and check all the other entries out!
Main Cast: Kyle Chandler, Ben Mendelsohn, Linda Cardellini, Norbert Leo Butz, Sissy Spacek, Enrique Murciano, Sam Shepard;
“All happy families are alike, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” and it applies very well to this family drama set in beautiful Florida Keys. The Rayburns are well-respected and pillars of the community of Islamorada. The patriach Robert (Shepard) and his wife Sally (Spacek) own and manage a renowned inn. Their grown-up children are quite arrived and leading a nice life: John (Chandler) is a detective for the sheriff department with a lovely wife and two teenager kids, Kevin (Butz) owns a marine services facility and he’s married and Meg (Cardellini) is a gifted lawyer with a charming boyfriend Marco (Murciano), who is also John’s partner. The exception is the eldest: Danny (Mendelsohn), who seems to always find himself in trouble and he’s the only one who’s left their hometown. Danny’s return for the celebration of the 45th anniversary of the inn is both expected and dreaded by the rest of the family, since there’s clearly something in the past that hangs over all of them. After a little back and forth, Danny decides to stay in town, although his father and his siblings are ambivalent about it (to say the least!). The story is intertwined with flash-forwards that give you hints of what’s to come but not to the detriment of the plot. I liked the juxtaposition of the bright sunny weather for the current tale and the dark rainy one for the future tidbits. This is a slow burning tale, that takes its time flashing out the characters and moving along the plot, and it is more a “whydunit” than a whodunit, since it is clear from the beginning that something has gone terribly awry and who is responsible for it. It should be seen as a very long film so stay away if you are impatient and want episodes that make sense as stand-alone. If you, on the other hand, like getting to know the how and what and why for each main character then this is your cup of tea. The cast is incredibly good (Chandler, Spacek and Shepard in particular) but Mendelsohn is spectacular! Worth watching just for him. Riveting —7.5/10
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson; Main Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Katherine Waterston, Benicio Del Toro, Reese Witherspoon;
The lastest film by Paul T. Anderson is somehow a crossover between The Big Lebowski and Chinatown. This slightly surreal and meandering story starts like a classic noir: an ex-flame comes back into Doc Sportello’s (Phoenix) life asking for help. Our hero is a private detective with glorious sideburns and a penchant for smoking pot. His ex, Shasta (Waterston), once a flower child with the same proclivities, has since moved on to greener pasture: her current lover is a real estate magnate. After her cryptic visit, Shasta disappears and Doc begins a strange journey following weird clues, stumbling on the kidnapping of said magnate, searching for a phantom ship and dealing with all sorts of crazies. He’s helped by faithful friend and lawyer Sauncho (Del Toro), deputy district attorney and occasional lover Penny (Whiterspoon) and he ends up making common cause with Dirty-Harry like detective Bigfoot Bjornsen (Brolin). Set in 1970, this strange and rather convoluted tale, based on the eponymous book by Thomas Pynchon, might be slow-burning and very unlike Anderson’s previous film (The Master) but it’s captivating to follow. Doc is an oddball character and, most of the time, he’s stoned but, improbable as it may seem, he’s also pretty good at his job. In addition there’s Bigfoot, he starts out as a “benevolent nemesis” or “evil guardian angel” to Doc, but he reaches an understanding with him after their investigations cross path. In a way, Bigfoot has similar traits to Doc: loner, determined and capable (with a visceral hate for hippies but that’s just a colorful side of his persona). This film with its eerie atmosphere and intricate plot turns out to be more a character study on acid and it really works due to the superb performances of Phoenix and Brolin. Anderson has managed again the difficult task of keeping the viewer engaged with a star-studded, 2.5 hour-long movie based on a pretty wacky premise: chapeau! The cast in general is rather spectacular: curious, unexpected cameos and intriguing portrayals, it is clear that there’s a sure hand at the helm. The soundtrack and the photography complement the story and contribute greatly to the bizarre feeling that pervades the film throughout. Anderson’s style might not be everyone’s cup of tea and this film is even stranger than his usual fare so consider yourself warned. Mesmerizing –9/10
Main Cast: Gillian Anderson, Jamie Dornan, John Lynch, Bronagh Waugh, Niamh McGrady;
I decided to watch this for two reasons: I like detective stories with a leading lady and I heard that Jamie Dornan was cast in Fifty Shades of Grey because of his role in The Fall. Let me clarify the latter: I haven’t read the books nor I saw the movie but, since I don’t live under a rock, I’ve read reviews and commentaries about both (some pretty hilarious!) and I find telling that an actor who received good reviews for his performance as serial killer is considered an apt choice to embody a billionaire with a predilection for BDSM… well, he’s more a controlling sadist but let’s not open that can of worms. So back to the series in question. The story is pretty straightforward: driven and experienced detective Stella Gibson (Anderson) is looking for a serial killer who targets pretty brunettes with good jobs in Belfast. Gibson is from London and on a different task when she reaches Belfast. Being smart and with years of police work under her belt, she makes a connection between two separate murders that eluded all her local colleagues and sets up a task force to deal with this unstoppable criminal. Anderson is very good at bringing out both the tough and the caring side of Gibson, but keeping her past shrouded in mystery. The viewer also meets right away said serial killer: Paul Spector (Dornan), grief counselor with a very particular hobby. Unfortunately for Dornan, those puppy dog eyes of his do him a disservice here and prevent him from truly selling the psychotic murderer persona of Paul Spector. He does manage to give off some creepy vibes but there’s nothing in his demeanor really menacing or chilling, which is a pity since the audience spends so much time in Spector’s company. I wasn’t asking a performance at the level of Hopkins’s Hannibal (or Mikkelsen’s) but something more was needed to make Spector a worthy villain and this hunted/be-hunted story more convincing. What I like a lot is the Northern Ireland settings: the scenery, the light and the accents! The supporting cast is solid and helps improve the quality of each episode: Waugh as Sally Ann Spector, Paul’s wife, John Lynch as Jim Burns, the local chief of police with a personal relationship with Gibson, and Niamh McGrady as Danielle Ferrington, a determined policewoman who joins Gibson’s team. In the end I’m left with mixed feelings about this first season, well, only five episodes. There are a few strong points but nothing really revolutionary about the plot or the characters. Ambivalent —5.5/10
This post is part of The Begorrathon 2015 hosted by Niall at The Fluff Is Raging and Cathy at 746 Books, go to their blogs and check all the other contributions out!
Main Cast: Titus Welliver, Jamie Hector, Amy Aquino, Lance Reddick, Annie Wersching;
I’ve decided to watch Bosch because of Titus Welliver, finally someone had the guts to give him a chance as lead actor after decades of solid work as character actor in many TV-shows and a few films (most viewers will remember him as “the man in black” from Lost but to me he will always be War, the horseman, from Supernatural and Jimmy O from Sons of Anarchy). The show is co-created and co-written by Michael Connelly, based on his successful (apparently) series of books. I’ve never read the books so I cannot judge on the quality of the source material but the on-screen version works well, with a vibe halfway between Southland and a Michael Mann’s movie. Set in Los Angeles, Harry Bosch is a homicide detective in the Hollywood division with a reputation for being tough, not following the rules but always getting the job done (seriously?!?). In addition our hero has a tormented past (war vet and traumatic childhood), a difficult love life, he’s a loner, a workaholic and a distant father. What can I say: all the boxes for the most used cliches about detectives are checked so let’s move on, nothing new here. What really works is Welliver’s performance, he makes the character believable and, as a viewer, you can’t help but root for him. It also doesn’t hurt to have two The Wire alumni among the main cast: Jamie Hector as Jerry Edgar, Bosch’s partner, Lance Reddick as Deputy Chief Irving. Both actors do their best but, unfortunately, their characters have little depth and are mostly one-dimensional. Fans of The Wire might cringe a bit thinking that Lt. Daniels has metamorphosed into Deputy Rawls, all politics and no real police work, but hey that’s life (if you have not seen The Wire, you should definitely do that before even thinking of watching Bosch!). Amy Aquino is Bosch’s direct superior, Lt. Billets, smart, tenacious but also a good friend. Luckily she has a more well-rounded role and it’s a fair depiction of a woman in a tough line of work. Same goes for Wershing’s rookie cop: pushy and go getter, who champs at the bit and can’t wait to be a detective. She also happens to be Bosch’s love interest that, naturally, will complicate his life even more. The two intertwined story lines of a cold case and a serial killer on a rampage keep you interested and mildly invested and I liked the photography and some of the directing choices. So all in all a honest, quality cop show without thrills or innovative approach. Reliable —6/10
Main Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Thomas M. Wright, Peter Mullan, David Wenham, Holly Hunter;
Forget New Zealand as beautiful Middle Earth, in this series you can see a very different aspect: grim, darker and rather misogynistic. It is a detective story written and directed (most of the episodes anyway) by Jane Campion, so we get: a female lead character, complex and multi-layered played brilliantly by Elisabeth Moss, and violence against women (both physical and psychological). It starts like a case of child rape in a small town: 12-year-old Tui is five month pregnant and tries to kill herself, Det. Robin Griffin is called in as expert in child abuse. She is being back in the area, visiting her sick mother, after many years of absence. After her first interview with Robin, Tui disappears and no one knows what happened. We embark with Robin on a mission to find Tui and the truth, and in each episode we find out more about her past and the people of the town. The more interesting aspects are the dynamics among the characters and the different facets of misogyny (from demeaning comments to outright abuse) weaved in the everyday life of girls and women of this small community. The cast is outstanding: from Peter Mullan to David Wenham and Holly Hunter, they all give very convincing and enthralling performances. Very special kudos to Thomas Wright, who reminds me of a young Daniel Day-Lewis, and masterfully balances vulnerability with strength and desire to portrait his Johnno. The scenery is also used quite skillfully to set the mood of the story: alternatively bleak, peaceful, menacing, hopeless or foreboding; it can almost be considered a character in its own right. Being a rather gloomy tale I would not recommend it for a week-end of light entertainment but I do recommend you to watch it. Striking and unconventional —7.5/10