Lu Over the Wall (Cinema Review)

Lu Over the Wall

MUSIC, MERMAIDS AND MELANCHOLIA

Thanks to my new working relationship with the guys and gal over at podcast/website 60 Minutes With, I was hugely excited to accept an invitation to the Screening Rooms in London’s Soho at the tail-end of October to see an exclusive critics-only preview screening of this fantastical musical Japanese Anime feature. With its limited UK cinema release beginning yesterday, the embargo has been lifted and I can now post a link to my review of Masaaki Yuasa’s Lu Over the Wall.

Click HERE for a direct link to my musings.

HERE is the film’s official English-language website, with listings of all UK cinemas who are screening it.

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CASTLEVANIA – Season One (Netflix Review)

All 4 episodes streaming from: Friday 7th July 2017

Written by: Warren Ellis

Based on the videogame franchise produced by: Konami

Directed by: Sam Deats


 

SYMPHONY OF THE NIGHT

In 15th century Wallachia, an aggrieved Vlad Dracula Tepes (Graham The Hobbit McTavish) sets his night hordes loose on the provinces of Romania after the Church burns his scientist wife, Lisa (Emily Swallow), at the stake for witchcraft. Giving the civilians one year to leave, Dracula unleashes his demonic creatures on a defiant and sceptical people. The hell-beasts tear through the land city-by-city, night-by-night, and the Wallachian’s only chance of redemption comes in the form of a disgraced drunkard.

… Keep Scuttling!

When Marnie Was There (DVD Review)

Image result for when marnie was there film

U – 103mins – 2014


 

FINE ON THE OUTSIDE

Transposing the setting of Joan G. Robinson’s 1967 children’s book from North Norfolk to Sapporo, Japan, Arrietty director Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s second feature film is otherwise respectfully dutiful to its classic source material – a book which Studio Ghibli founder Hayau Miyazaki proclaimed one of his top fifty children’s stories of all time.

… Keep Scuttling!

Porco Rosso (DVD Review)

PG – 94mins – 1992


 

THE CRIMSON PIG

“I don’t fight for honour – I fight for a pay check!”

Italian WWI ex-fighter pilot Marco Rossolini (Michael Keaton) is an anti-fascist now living as a hostage-rescuing freelance bounty hunter, spending his days chasing “air pirates” in his Savoia S.21 above the Adriatic Sea. Written and directed by Studio Ghibli head Hayao Miyazaki, Porco Rosso is based on his own 3-part Manga, Hikōtei Jidai, and could easily pass as an ode to history and aviation, were it not for the fact that the lead character is cursed by “divine punishment” into the form of an anthropomorphised pig!

“God was telling you it wasn’t your time yet…”

Despite this single concession to fantasy, Porco Rosso is otherwise fairly geographically and historically accurate, with a surplus of politically-charged dialogue giving it the air of a satire. It’s a pity that a succession of “outsider” quips and tiresome “pig-headed” wordplay diminishes any deeper and more complex subtext by overstating the ‘pigs might fly’ comedy. In my opinion, that’s a single joke stretched waaaay too far.

Elsewhere there are flashes of sensitivity and sympathy (“Maybe I’ve just run out of tears,”), even if Keaton dubs Rocco with suave indifference. Irritatingly, there are also further glimpses of some outmoded sexism (“Don’t you have any males relatives?”; “We’re not baking a cake here,”) – but at least, unlike Ocean Waves, this was set in a less open-minded time period.

As is to be expected from the Japanese anime giants, the film is animated gorgeously, however some overly cartoonified injury detail does diminish the honour of Porco’s climatic dual-cum-bareknuckle-fistfight with love rival Curtis (Cary Saw Elwes). Nevertheless, Porco Rosso’s charm carries it through; this is still more swell than swill – and I’m not bacon that up! Ahem.

CR@B’s Claw Score: 3 stars

Ocean Waves (DVD Review)

PG – 72mins – 1993


 

LESSONS IN LOVE

One of the more obscure and less renowned films in the peerless Studio Ghibli collection, up-and-coming director Tomomi Mochizuki’s anime adap. of a popular Japanese novel is also known as I Can Hear the Sea (or Umi Ga Kikoeru, if you’re feeling brave with your pronunciation), but was released as Ocean Waves on its belated region 2 DVD debut release in 2009. Originally made for television by a young crew, it ended up going over budget and schedule.

This extras-lite disc (a trailer is the sole bonus content) is also lacking an English dub, so Japanese with subtitles is the sole audio option. Some may argue that this is how it should always be, but I welcome the option. News that the studio giants are sadly winding down production on new films post-When Marnie was There (released this week on these shores) means revisiting and re-releasing these unsung rarities is surely inevitable going forward.

Despite retaining Ghibli’s distinctive calm and graceful tonal atmosphere, Ocean Waves is unfortunately a slave to its age, with a number of cringingly outmoded sexist comments lending an awkward and naïve air to this story of blossoming young love. Pretty transfer student Rikako (Yoko Sakamoto) moves from Tokyo to the sleepy coastal town of Shikoku and makes waves between competitive best friends Yutaka (Toshihiko Seki) and Taku (Nobuo Tobita) in their last year of high school.

“You’re only acting up because your teacher’s a woman!”

With these two “innocent country lads” lost in wide-eyed, gaping admiration over Rikako’s beauty, they are seemingly blind to her deceptive ways, which often verges on flat-out manipulation and makes “a girl like that” hard to endear to. Nevertheless, this doesn’t excuse the hefty slap an exasperated Taku (the relatable lead character, I should clarify) executes to knock Rikako to the floor. It’s hard to watch and makes Ocean Waves uneasy viewing.

With nearly an hour of the film consumed by Taku’s memories of this fawning and formative time, Mochizuki executes a technique of opening each new reverie with thick white borders of varying sizes accompanied by scene-setting illustrations which are instantly repeated when the story begins. It’s an interesting visual choice (perhaps enforced by budget?), but certainly makes the film stand out – and leaves a better taste in the mouth than the archaic gender politics which are more narrow-minded than charmingly innocent.

With the stunted 72 minute feature fading on the promise of a happy ending, I can’t help thinking Taku and Rikako’s blossoming relationship is in for a rude awakening. After all, “women are only into how guys look, anyway” (!!). For a young director (Mochizuki was just 34 at the time) stretching his creative wings, Ocean Waves is not without promise or value, but its darker, pubescent attitude jars and mars any of the timeless adolescent splendour we usually associate with the Asian anime giants.

CR@B Verdict: 2 stars