A review of Andrei Tarkovsky’s restored 1979 slow sci-fi film Stalker.
Stalker is unlike any film I’ve ever seen. It’s what I think of as pure cinema. It’s a difficult film, but one worth watching.
The premise is that something fell to Earth and the area of impact became off limits to civilians. This area is known as the Zone. Only Stalkers can navigate the Zone. Inside of the Zone is a place called the Room, which grants a person their true desire. There is, naturally, a downside to this, but I’ll leave that to you to discover.
Bordering on sci-fi and surrealism, Stalker is a nearly 3-hour art film. It is referred to as a classic, but don’t think of it as a classic sci-fi film like Star Wars or 2001. Stalker is in a league of its own. It doesn’t deal with space, robots, or aliens. It deals with abstractions and humans, two things we are much more familiar with than what most sci-fi covers.
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Thoughts on the latest animated feature film by Makoto Shinkai.
Have you ever wanted to swap bodies with a teenage boy in Tokyo or a high school girl who lives in the Japanese countryside? If so, then your name. is the film for you. your name. is an inventive and poignant take on body swapping that plucks the heart strings in the way only the director, Makoto Shinkai, knows how.
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When I was 13, I bought Ninja Scroll on UMD for PSP, and 13-year old me sure thought it was cool. Over 10 years later, it’s not as cool as I remember. The story and animation are just so-so. I like the various enemies the main characters fight—they’re all pretty unique, even if the battles aren’t that impressive.
Everything about Ninja Scroll feels run of the mill. It’s not bad, but it’s not exceptional in any way. It’s worth checking out if you’re in the mood for an action anime flick, but it’s not worth going out of your way for.
Thoughts on the anime film adaptation of Tsutomu Nihei’s manga.
Blame! is a marvel of stylish 3D animation. It hits all of the notes that I want a sci-fi film to hit–an interesting premise, a visual style that feels fitting and unique to the world, and spot-on music.
Blame! follows the story of Killy, a quiet badass with a single mission: find a human with the Net Terminal Gene. Cybernetic and synthetic life forms have taken over the city, which is ever expanding. Those life forms also exterminate all humans. Along Killy’s journey, he comes across a village that is on the verge of running out of food.
There are lots of pronouns (Net Terminal Gene, Safeguards, etc.), and the film doesn’t dive too deep into what they are, which is to its credit. I like that not everything is explained, as it builds this mythology and world that can be interpreted by each individual.
Polygon Pictures, the studio behind the film, has a knack for working within the visual aesthetic they’ve developed for 3D animation, and it works to great effect.
There’s not much that I can say to the fault of Blame! that isn’t nitpicking. It’s a great, concise adaptation of the manga. If you dig the movie, check out the manga by Tsutomu Nihei. Also, Knights of Sidonia is an anime series on Netflix based on a manga by the same author, which is worth watching.
I watched the movie with Japanese voices and English subtitles.
Brief thoughts on the live-action Ghost in the Shell.
Don’t send a rabbit to kill a fox.
Ghost in the Shell is on the cusp of being a good film, but it misses the mark in almost every way. Nothing feels impactful, from the action scenes to Way the Major struggles with her identity. There’s a lot of technically impressive CG, but it lost the visual aesthetic that makes the manga and anime shine. The story just isn’t that interesting, even though the premise is. It lacks the subtly and intrigue the anime film has.
A Ghost in the Shell live action adaptation has so much potential, but this doesn’t live up to it. Go watch the anime film and SAC series instead.
An essay about living in Portland, Oregon and making an effort to experience the world.