Category Archives: Movie/Film

Premature Movie Reviews (2017)

Since I so accurately gauged the quality of last year’s set of pop culture blancmange-athons in slightly cryptic and vague ways (I’m still not quite sure what “Will Smith’s rap career / 10” actually means), I thought I’d dust off the old crystal ball, pull the soothsayer out of the fridge, and give it another crack. Maybe this can become an actual thing with a schedule, although it’s basically the end of January by this point so maybe not.

Helpfully, it seems that Hollywood is dumping a million bajillion films on us this year, so to stem the tide a bit I’ve added some vague categories. Notice that not one of them is anything along the lines of ‘new interesting franchise with promise that could be a big deal for the company’, no, they’re all fucking sequels again. Onwards!

 

Superheroes!!

The big obvious thing to start with is your regular overpowered idiots in shiny spandex. They’re still extremely popular for reasons unbeknownst to modern science, so I should probably talk about them.

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First of all, we get to see if DC can dig themselves out of their overly gritty hole with some hopeful course correction, aiming to move away from gleeful Batman murders to something a bit less grim. It doesn’t help, then, that Justice League looks like The Jetsons if it was set in the Holocaust, while Wonder Woman is The First Avenger in a different war and with less sensible clothing options. It’ll also have to do a hell of a lot to convince me that the pose-able mannequin in a tiara that we saw in Batman v Superman: The Broodenating can actually act. They might as well charge people to inhale a gravel driveway.

Rating – A donut filled with wallpaper paste and slugs / 10

 

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Meanwhile, Marvel continue to churn out the same film over and over again in the form of Thor: Ragnarok and Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2, two films that I can’t possibly be excited for when I know they only exist as setup, like a two-hour filler episode of a TV show that’s stalling for time. Thor might have something fun for Hulk to do rather than play emotional pattycake with a forced love interest, and Guardians will have some amazing, new, innovative soundtrack that James Gunn found down the back of his dad’s sofa one rainy Tuesday evening, but it’s impossible to be excited for Marvel films anymore. Hopefully the giant purple thumb in a chair will do something soon.

Rating – A Panini album of Fisher Price workbenches / 10

 

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After last year’s incredibly boring X-Men: Apocalypse, Fox are clawing (heh) one last payday from Mr Huge Jackhammer with the dusty depressing Logan before he sods off to be far too handsome somewhere else. Quite what the fuck they’re doing with the plot is anyone’s guess, given they’ve re-tooled one of the most insanely violent and depressing (or ‘mature’ if you’re a pissant) comic book storylines into a knock-off of The Last of Us but with sand instead of zombies. They’ve also put the post-apocalypse a measly decade away, just so they can introduce a character that will be usable later in the franchise. Inevitably boring and pointless.

Rating – Three perfectly good clocks that have been dropped in a woodchipper and re-sold as a toaster / 10

 

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While Fox are experts at being very boring, Sony appear to be the best in the world at ruining immensely popular things; they’ve had five cracks at Spiderman now, and have managed to get it right a stellar one-and-a-half times. Having somehow failed to understand the appeal of a talkative teenage wanker who jizzes from his wrists, Sony have had their toys ripped off them for Spiderman: Homecoming, with Marvel promptly throwing Robert Downey Jr and a couple of jokes in, as is the way. It’s not hard, Sony.

Rating – Reddit: The Movie / 10

 

Remakes/Reboots/Re-awakenings/Re-inspirationalisings!!

If Hollywood isn’t busy making superheroes for every age, ethnicity, gender, culture, species, blood type, fursona, and flu strain to relate to, they’re busy remaking an old thing we used to like in the hope we recognise it and throw money at them, like a dog distracted by some keys. It seems that executives are imaginatively bankrupt and can’t stomach the idea of having ideas. Presumably they explode when asked for ranch or barbeque.

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Instead of just watching the originals on Netflix we’re now gifted the pleasure of amazing ‘new’ (massive quotations) versions of things, such as Alien: Covenant, whose alternative title should probably be Prometheus -0.2: Maybe You’ll Like This One Instead. Some sort of weird prequel/sequel/reboot/parallel universe, it’s just the first Alien on repeat but filmed in spacey blue spook-o-vision and with your old pal Fassassin’s Creedbender in it again for no particular reason.

Rating – Laminating a VHS tape / 10

 

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Other pointless franchise rumblings come from Kong: Skull Island, a film which will almost certainly have some people looking for a giant monkey for half the film then running away from it for the other half, and Blade Runner 2049, a film which should never exist. It’d be like making A Clockwork Lemon where Alex is suddenly un-brainwashed and sat at home watching TV.

There’s also Baywatch and Jumanji, films linked by their starring roles being taken by a man known more by his genetic link to boulders than his real name; The Mummy, which won’t be nearly as entertaining as it’s botched trailer was; and for some reason XXX: The Return of Vin Diesel and a Motorbike or Something, featuring gnarly bike jumps and off-key edgy one-liners that just sort of make you a bit confused more than anything.

All of these movies would be pretty highly anticipated if it was 2004. Shame it isn’t, then.

Rating – Laminating a VHS tape that everyone wishes you’d thrown out several decades ago / 10

 

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We also have Ghost in the Shell, which promises to be a series of anime set pieces re-shot in live action, strung together by half a plot that’s notionally about AI and technology and whatever but mostly just makes vague coo-ing promises of nearly nude robo-Johansson. This, depressingly, will be enough for some.

Finally, there’s the baffling Power Rangers film, which has taken such an amazing tonal shift from the original franchise that I’m amazed it hasn’t broken in half from the torque. Imagine Fant4stic, but made of Skittles.

Rating – Laminating a VHS tape that nobody remembers you ever having, and now the laminator’s broken so you’ve just shat plastic all over your film, you idiot / 10

 

Standard Sequel Land!!

Yes, pretty much everything in this list is a sequel. However, while the others at least had some flavour, things like Pirates of the Caribbean 5: Dead Franchises Make No Money appear to be happening for presumably some reason, but nothing to do with what any member of the public could possibly want. You can lump Transformers 5: The Last Straw in with this as well, as it’s guaranteed to make infuriating amounts of money despite basically being one of those sleazy American second-hand dealership adverts with the boobs and the cars and the racism, but stretched to 600 minutes with a load of random CGI metal flailing everywhere as a distraction. Despicable Me 3: Yellow Bastards Forever will shove more fucking minions down your throat until you choke to death on the tiny bean-shaped cunts (I’m not a fan), while Cars 3 seems to be attempting to do gritty realism in an animated franchise that has a redneck tow truck screaming and yodelling every five minutes. Fifty Shades Darker is porn for people who don’t understand the internet (or porn), Saw 8 is torture porn for people who don’t understand the internet (or basic common decency), and World War Z 2 is a film with an abomination of a title that’ll have even less to do with the book than the first one. It’ll probably be just as underwhelming to boot, if it even comes out.

Rating – Landfill / 10

 

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In terms of actually slightly interesting sequels, Lego Batman is another shameless cash in but one that stands at least a slight chance of being alright, given the previous shameless cash in was surprisingly decent. War of the People who are Fighting for the Planet that the Apes live on Angrily is probably here more for contractual reasons than anything else, but again the previous ones were good so maybe the film with a monkey on a horse with a machine gun won’t be totally stupid.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle will have as much cocky British charm as the first but will just end up retreading all the same steps as the previous one, so much so that the Wiki for this unreleased film seems to give away an unsurprising plot spoiler (click here if you want to read it, you daring scoundrel). Meanwhile, I have no idea what John Wick 2 is going to be doing in order to top the brilliant original, which covered almost every action set piece and plot point it could without derailing into insane gibberish. Probably some Face-Off level jiggery-pokery involving doves and exploding windmills or something.

Oh there’s also a Star Wars film or something. It’ll be fine.

Rating – Having to attend your distant cousin’s wedding despite only talking to her once at a drunken New Year’s Eve party when you fell in a pond and your pants fell off so now it’s a bit awkward and you’d really rather not be here at all but it is a nice wedding and there’s cake and bonbons but your Aunt Marge has had too much wine again and this analogy’s getting away from me somewhat / 10

 

Shite!!

The Emoji Movie can fuck off forever.

Rating – Fuck off forever / 10

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Join me next year for when I bitch about how movies are all the same and Hollywood should stop making sequels for absolutely everything. It’ll be great.

I’m sensing a pattern here.

Premature Movie Reviews

(Originally published in The Boar at Warwick University in January 2016. Full version published 3rd February 2016 on the Cobalt Magazine blog)

Now that 2015 is in the rear view mirror of the spluttering broken down Ford Fiesta that we call life, we can look forward to the inevitably superb and completely unique 2016, that in no way will be a rehash of everything that’s come before it. We are, after all, a society built around new ideas and the shunning of nostalgia. That’s why nobody can even name a single song from the 80s, let alone recite one!

In that sense, it’s time to accurately predict how good this year’s batch of totally new concepts that get turned into films will end up being.

 

Batman vs Superman

Batman vs Superman vs Wonder Woman vs Lex Luthor vs Doomsday vs Aquaman vs Stan Lee vs Hitler vs Wall-E vs Your Mother’s Toaster looks to be exactly what everyone expected but not necessarily hoped it would be; Diet Justice League with too many players and not enough plot to back it up, while introducing about seven million new ideas and concepts in a desperate flailing bid to catch up to Marvel. Hopefully the spectacle alone will save it, since the plots been entirely spoiled in record time by the trailers.

Rating – Avengers with mud on the lens / 10.

 

Deadpool

The ultimate Marvel troll makes his way to movie screens for the first time since X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but that version was about as faithful as Tiger Woods so nobody counts it. The comedy might end up straying too far over the wackily insufferable line that surface-level Deadpool tends to tread, but if the script even attempts to pretend to try then the fourth wall’s going to need reconstructive surgery. Thank Christ it’s not PG.

Rating – a Quentin Tarantino Lolcat / 10

 

X-Men: Apocalypse

It’s just another X-Men film. There’s really not much else to say on this one. There’ll be minimal time travelly nonsense given it was confusing enough the first time round, Apocalypse clearly doesn’t do very well since this story happens before others in the same franchise and nobody’s dead, and Professor X will get appropriately removed from the plot so he doesn’t instantly solve every problem they have (seriously, it happens all the time). Probably good but largely uninspired, like Jennifer Lawrence’s career.

Rating – Those sexy blue Apoca-lips / 10

 

Suicide Squad

Some weird fusion of Sucker Punch, Grand Theft Auto and Z-list Batman villains, this could go in several thousand different directions, with only a couple being somewhat good. It ought to be deliciously dark and twisted, but Mr Neon Pimp Joker and his horrendous tattoos temper any sort of positivity I had towards the thing.

Rating – Will Smith’s rap career / 10

 

Captain America: Civil War

Winter Soldier 2: The Unfriendening needs to quickly decide if it’s a Captain America film or an Avengers film, and also if it’s happy to be utterly bland and predictable like it’s shaping up to be. The Marvel cinematic universe needs a shift in tone from the intolerable smarmy cockiness of Age of Ultron, so hopefully there’ll be enough of that here so they can make a confident stride towards Infinity War, rather than a vague kneeless shuffle that achieves nothing other than seeming to be on the verge of pissing themselves.

Rating – Honey I Shrunk The Avengers / 10

 

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

After the deluge of unnecessary fan service in Episode VII: A New Hope 2: Now With More Diversity (Electric Boogaloo), what better period to start afresh in the Star Wars universe than… right before A New Hope. For God’s sake.

Rating – an 80’s Star Wars miniature that’s been thrown around the garden by a 7 year old / 10

 

Ghostbusters

Hollywood reboots of cult franchises never work. Replacing old characters with supposedly new ones but having them take up the exact same traits as the originals never works. Changing an all male cast to an all female cast hasn’t been done before, but it most likely won’t work here. No matter how good the movie is, it’s piggybacking off the name of an 80’s favourite rather than striking out on its own. Just, make a new franchise.

Rating – a corpse repurposed as a lampshade / 10

 

The Angry Birds Movie

When I heard this film existed I was annoyed. Then I watched the surprisingly well animated trailer and was slightly less annoyed. No, it won’t have depth, meaning, relevance beyond a couple years, character, purpose, artistic integrity, value, good acting or quality noticeably higher than Shrek the Halls. What it will have, though, is Angry Birds. And for that, we should all be grateful.

Rating – all hail Rovio / 10

 

Warcraft

The Return of the Warchief. The Fellowship of the +11 Armor Leather Belt. One cannot simply make a good videogame movie. There may come a day when orcs and men can stop repeatedly hitting each other with sticks while numbers fly out of them until one or the other fall down, but it is not this day. They’re taking the Pandarens to Isengard. JRR Thrall-kien.

Rating – doyougetitdoyougetit / 10

 

Zoolander 2

It’s a sequel to a joke that only just stretched to a single film with all the best jokes seemingly spoiled in the trailer. But Will Ferrell!!!

Rating – Will Ferrell!!! / 10

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Out of the Shadows

The first one was Transformers if you replaced the clunky unfunny metal shitheads with clunky unfunny squishy shitheads. The sequel? Wacky as shit. It might actually be stupid forgettable fun, but it’s still got Michael Bay involved so don’t hold me to that.

Rating –  Sheamus’ face turn / 10

 

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

A spinoff that means and does nothing to the original franchise, only existing to sell merchandise and blow up on Tumblr. The definition of unnecessary.

Rating – milking a franchise until it’s nipples are sore and dry and begin to bleed and then instead of milk it’s just blood, so much blood, make the blood stop, why won’t it stop, LOOK WHAT YOU’VE DONE / 10

 

Independence Day 2

Oh fuck off.

Akira – A Movie Review

At the end of Akira, a boy turns into a universe. Or maybe a new lifeform, or a higher state of consciousness, or a god. Hell, he could’ve turned into a Jaffa Cake for all I know, and it wouldn’t have changed the ending in the slightest. In fact it might’ve made more sense.

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Witness the birth of… something.

If Akira can be summed up in one word, it’s ‘ambiguous’. Character roles are ambiguous, explanations are ambiguous, the plot is left as ambiguous as the contents of my salad draw. It makes for a thought provoking movie, but a serially frustrating one as well, as you never actually know what’s going on. Even when a character asks a seemingly clear cut question they get a useless apology of an answer; when asked ‘what is Akira?’, someone replies with, and this is word for word,  ‘Maybe there was genetic material in the air and water, even in the particles of dust and space, and if that’s the truth, then what sort of memories are hidden within them?’. Um, no, that wasn’t an answer. Oh never mind we’ll never know, since a plot convenience has just happened because of some similarly vague zombie mummy toddler pensioners and something something psychic evolution. Fair to say, it’s a bit unclear.

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‘WILL SOMEBODY TELL ME WHAT’S GOING OOOOOON!’

That said, Akira is undeniably an extremely good film, bordering on a masterpiece even. A tale of childhood friendship, mental instability, political corruption, war, social unrest and the danger and ethics of scientific experiments in the name of knowledge. It’s two hours long, which is almost unheard of for an animated film, and ramps up deliciously from a small gang of 14 year olds on motorbikes to complete citywide devastation with enough political intrigue, random superpowers and Silent Hill mindfuckery to keep you guessing.

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Pictured: Silent Hill mindfuckery.

It’s also, largely speaking, artistically impeccable. The visuals are astounding at times, with wide shots of the futuristic Neo-Tokyo on the brink of disaster particularly impressive. The sound design is practically perfect, similar to Ghost in the Shell with tribal drums and chimes flying around everywhere as well as the best use of silence I’ve yet come across. Interestingly Akira actually tries a proper attempt at animating dialogue where the whole mouth moves to fit each word rather than flap up and down like a flip book pedal bin. This can mean the dub gets a bit wonky at times where the words don’t fit the mouth movements, and irritatingly the most recent dub has the usual cast of one-voiced Americans that act with the intimacy and subtlety of a cow being hit by a train. Yes I’m looking at you, Johnny Yong Bosch.

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A rare sight of Johnny Yong Bosch desperately searching for his talent.

While I gave it a lot of flak just three paragraphs ago, the plot is still definitely interesting and grabs you by the throat for the majority of the films runtime. There’s so many story threads happening at any one point it’s impressive it never once feels like it’s going to fall apart, and some of the foreshadowing, imagery and open questions are superbly executed. The lack of any and all explanations to the audience means you have a constant drip feed of implications and deductions which would be incredibly satisfying if they’d actually given a bloody payoff at the end. It’s a shame all of that stops when the infamous giant melting blancmange slug baby turns up and nobody cares about what anything is any more.

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Oh this? This is fine. I didn’t need sleep anyway.

Speaking of which, there’s some pretty horrific stuff in Akira; in the first 15 minutes alone there’s a nuclear explosion, a riot, public execution by police, tear gas, dogs getting shot in the head, collapsing buildings and teenagers braining each other with hammers and motorcycles. It’s a violent, horrible world where everyone’s paranoid, incompetent and making the wrong decision at every turn. The police are losing control, the government officials don’t have a clue what a pavement looks like any more and biker gang wars are a daily occurrence.

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As well as the entirety of Lucy, Akira managed to inspire the intro to Kick-Ass.

Interestingly there aren’t really any heroes or villains in Akira, just bystanders, morons and assholes. The villain role ends up switching about 4 times as you realise the other guy was acting logically and sensibly, and the one clearly insane character is given the most development out of anyone, with possible mental health worries even before the government started poking his brain and turning him into season 1 Vegeta. The main character Kaneda doesn’t actually do anything in the plot other than stumble upon things and distract people, a role that could very well be filled by an inquisitive rat with pool cue. He is, however, the one true connection to the audience, as he’s only vaguely involved in things at best and never gets told anything. Whatever Kaneda works out, the audience has just about worked out as well, which is a sign of good pacing and gives us empathy with a character who gets more and more frustrated as the plot goes on.

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What Jimmy really wanted for Christmas was a jacket that didn’t remind everyone of Dr. Mario, but a motorbike would have to do

So once again, the only issue I have with a Japanese story is how it ends. Akira is an outstanding film for 100 minutes, then something turns the bad guy into pudding, some meditating and flashbacks happen, the world explodes for no adequately explained reason and suddenly it’s all over, the doors locked and everyone’s gone home. The build up was bordering on insufferable due to how little information was given out, and the payoff did the opposite of what it should’ve done by adding more questions instead of answers. It doesn’t feel like an ending so much as a cliffhanger for a sequel that will never happen, which isn’t surprising given that the manga continued for another two or three films worth of story after it.

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Somehow a lost episode of Orange is the New Black ended up in here as well.

To finish; watch Akira, then Google what the last twenty minutes mean and watch it again. It’s undoubtedly extremely good, but if a story isn’t going to tell me things it better well show me them instead.

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This film took an awful lot longer to write about than I anticipated

Ghost In The Shell – A Movie Review

Ghost In The Shell has an awful lot more nipple in it than I was expecting. I understand why a cyborg with an invisibility cloak for skin might want to be naked for practical reasons, since you’d get just an unnervingly unhelpful floating clothes effect a la Hawley Griffin. That said, the fact that the only one with this skin is a sexy female future-ninja does raise a few brows. At least she doesn’t seem to care. I guess that’ll do.

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She should probably get some shells to put her ghosts in. That was a bra joke.

It’s also a lot more preachy than I was expecting; there’s a lot of pondering over what life is and how technology affects what it means to be human, which is all well and good apart from when it takes up about half the running time of the film.  Some of the philosophical speeches are so damn long you start to phase out and stare mindlessly at the screen, lost in the usual two frames of animation that makes it impossible to lip read and even harder to understand. It would be easier to know what’s happening if characters had facial muscles, or exposition wasn’t all somebody shouting the entire plot to the one guy in the room who doesn’t know because he was late/not there/stupid.

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Maybe she’d be a better shot if she hadn’t riveted an iron girder to her forehead.

Okay, let’s back up a bit; Ghost In The Shell is a neo-future science fiction film that sits somewhere between Minority Report, Blade Runner and Cowboy Bebop as a hugely influential and slightly prophetic 82 minutes of film. Hackers and programmers are treated as terrorists in the making and human identity is questionable at best in the huge swathes of data available. It is certainly the most adult thing I’ve covered thus far, but not in the gore and swears kind of way that Hellsing Ultimate was; it’s properly mature in its direction, themes, dialogue and almost everything else. The fact nobody ever acknowledges that there’s a naked lady with an SMG running all over the place says as much, and ignoring the random head explosion in the intro the violence never nears excessive. Given that it’s a sci-fi anime with cyborgs and spider tanks, there’s surprisingly little action, especially next to the Matrix trilogy which ripped off almost everything and made it infinitely worse. Apart from the dumper truck exposition, they kept that the same.

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Lt. Surge looked down angrily at his rapidly emptying beer can, a constant reminder that he’d replaced his eyeballs with bottle caps after just one night in Amsterdam. He would never forget that night. Never.

What there is, however, is brilliant presentation. The animation and art style still holds up today if you ignore the incredible 90s mullets, and the soundtrack is one of the absolute best around. It’s toned back and subtle in all the right ways. The track over the opening credits is one of the most brilliantly haunting scene-setters I’ve come across, a mix of Bulgarian harmonies and slow booming drums which becomes a motif throughout the movie, and the sombre theme fits the overall tone. Occasionally it can get a bit too arty and pretentious for its own good, like the five minute interlude of nothing but a camera panning over a rainy impoverished future city overlaid with floaty choral sounds. It does nothing for the pacing and comes off as overindulgent world building at best and padding at worst, but generally the film manages the serious maturity it so desperately strives for.

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Dr. Wily was disappointed that everyone had turned up to his Fancy Dress Picnic in the same outfit.

It’s more of a literary art piece than a film, and asks some infuriatingly general open ended questions about what life is and what we should class artificial intelligence as, which translates to vast amounts of symbolism to go along with the technobabbly philosophy lectures. This can get a bit over the top at times, such as when a man in an overpowered tank destroys a fossil and shoots straight up a carving of the tree of life. I’m not even sure what exactly that has to do with the point of the film, it’s just there as a general metaphor for humans and life and consciousness or whatever. There’s also a hint at one point that there might be multiple versions of the main character, but I’m pretty sure that was unhelpful arty editing rather than unhelpful arty writing.

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Look! A literary device!

The plot itself is super simple, almost to a fault, and the aforementioned 82 minute running time feels incredibly short. The universe is so dense and ripe with potential it’s no wonder they made a full anime series based on it, even if it’s another completely different story. The slightly open ended finale is certainly fitting and artistic, whatever that means, but feels undercooked. I was expecting a third act to kick in where the story really gets going, but instead we have a ten minute discussion between a man dressed as a pink puff pastry and a Victorian toddler before a derpy ending line and credits. It just kind of ends, like far too many episodes in long format shows do. It might be the style, but it’s a rubbish style.

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The cold, dead eyes of a killer. Or a child, you can never tell.

I didn’t know what to expect when I went in to Ghost In The Shell and I don’t really know what to think afterwards. It’s certainly different to a lot of what I’ve seen before, and I liked a lot of it for it’s genuine intrigue and suspense, but it is unfortunately both defined and hamstrung by its dialogue. For better or worse it wouldn’t be the same without the pondering existentialism rattled off by every character, the scattergun of motherboards and drug abuse that is the exposition and the post-it note of an ending. The world is brilliant, the animation is stellar and the soundtrack is out of this world, but there should simply be less talking and more doing. You can’t build a house by engaging it in interesting philosophical discussion, and you can’t have a sci-fi film without far too much stupid mindless action. It’s the law or something.

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Now have fun working out which bits of this review were sarcastic.