Monday, February 29, 2016

Film Review: Spectre

There's a pattern I've noticed with the James Bond series.  For any given set of entries starring a particular actor, the fourth entry is the one where things go bad.  For Pierce Brosnan, it was Die Another Day, which sucked.  For Roger Moore, it was Moonraker, which sucked.  For Sean Connery, it was Thunderball, which... didn't exactly suck, but still wasn't as good as the last movies.  And now we come to the fourth Bond film to star Daniel Craig.  Will it manage to break the "fourth-film curse" or not?  Find out in an encore presentation of the 007 Golden Jubilee!
Spectre
  • Publisher: MGM / Columbia
  • Studio: Danjaq / EON Productions
  • Genre: Action
  • Release: 26 October 2015 (UK), 6 November 2015 (US)
  • Director: Sam Mendes
  • Producers: Michael G. Wilson, Barbara Broccoli
  • Writers: John Logan, Neil Purvis, Robert Wade, Jez Butterworth

The Girls: The primary Bond Girl is Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), a psychologist and the daughter of Mr. White from Casino Royale and Quantum of SolaceFor most of her role, she keeps complaining about the way Bond protects her from the bad guys, so her chemistry with Bond starts out rockier, and she doesn't exactly leave the best first impression.  I will say that unlike most of his flings these days, Bond does seem to earn his night of sex with her, coming after they fight off Mr. Hinx.  Rides off into the sunset... er, cloudy London morning with Bond.  3 out of 5.

Earlier on, Bond has a fling with Lucia Sciarra (Monica Belucci), the widow of a Spectre assassin.  Being 50 years old during filming, signora Belucci is the oldest actress to play a Bond Girl.  This decision caused some controversy among netizens, to which Craig (himself 47 years old) said, he's just dating women his own age.  Well said.  Still, wrinkles aside, Lucia Sciarra is basically an older version of Severine from the last movie.  She's basically there for Bond to protect, get information from, screw, and forget about.  And feminism marches on!  ...Without them.  Left under CIA protection.  3 out of 5.

The Villain: Franz Oberhauser, a.k.a. Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), the leader of Spectre.  He has a backstory with Bond: after Bond's parents died in a mountain-climbing accident, Franz and his father adopted him, only to allegedly die later on.  I could probably best describe his portrayal as a cross between Donald Pleasance as Blofeld (from You Only Live Twice) and Javier Bardem as Silva (from Skyfall).  In other words, he goes for the subdued menace of the former but cannot quite achieve it, ending up a bit quirky and too casual, which stands out especially considering the work he's done with Quentin Tarantino.  Herr Waltz seems like he would be more at home portraying someone like Steve Jobs (although to be fair, you could say Apple is basically a real-world evil organisation anyway, lol)  Arrested by M. 4 out of 5.

Other Henchmen: Mr. Hinx (Dave Bautista), a hitman working for Spectre.  Just as Silva from Skyfall proved to be the first iconic villain of the post-reboot era, Mr. Hinx could very well be its first iconic henchman character.  In many ways, Hinx is reminiscent of Oddjob from Goldfinger.  They both have similar physiques, hardly ever speak, can hold their own against Bond, and even their actors are both Asian-ethnic Americans with backgrounds in pro wrestling.  Although, his introductory scene, where he kills a fellow Spectre member by jamming his thumbs in the guy's eyes, is a little hard to watch.  Thrown off a train by Bond.  5 out of 5.

Max Denbigh, a.k.a. C (Andrew Scott), the head of the private Joint Intelligence ServiceAs it turns out, he is in fact working for Spectre, who intends to use the countries' intelligence against them.  C, as he is nicknamed by Bond, is just a touch snarky and not exactly apologetic about stealing M's job.  I could imagine him working out as 007's new boss, if not for the fact that he already got a new one in the last movie.  And besides, Ralph Fiennes's M is just badass.  Accidentally falls to his death in a fight with M.  4 out of 5.

The Gadgets: Q (Ben Whishaw) introduces to 007 the Aston Martin DB10, which exists only a concept car in the real world, and here comes equipped with guns, a flamethrower, and an ejection seat... only to give it to agent 009 instead and leave Bond with a watch.  To be fair, the watch has a time bomb inside.  That doesn't stop Bond from stealing the car anyway and using it in a chase with Hinx's Jaguar C-X75, another prototype car you will never be able to buy.

The Locations: Mexico City, Rome, Austria, Morocco, and London.  The Mexico City scene was filmed during the Day of the Dead festival, as the opening one-take shot brilliantly shows off.

The Theme Song: "Writing's On the Wall" by Sam Smith.  Sam Smith has always struck me as being a technically talented vocalist, who wastes his range on the most boring songs, and "Writing's On the Wall" is the most egregious example of this paradigm.  In fact, this very song won my wildcard slot for Most Boring Song at this year's SDP Music Awards, if you recall.  The song itself is about standing up to impending doom, but coming from Sam Smith, I don't feel it.  He sounds too weak-willed, especially when you compare it to stuff like Tom Jones in "Thunderball", and even Adele's theme from Skyfall.  I don't want to be too hard on this song, because it is melodically beautiful and has a few good themes in the lyrics.  But I don't know, it's just not something I'd want to listen to outside of this movie.  2 out of 5.

The alternative-rock band Radiohead also submitted their own title song, simply named "Spectre".  Obviously it was passed over, for some reason, but the band released it themselves online, at https://soundcloud.com/radiohead/spectre.  It has the same kind of orchestral ambience of the Sam Smith song, but with an actual drum track... which I'm honestly not a fan of.  Its irregular pattern tends to throw me off.  And honestly, it's not too much of an improvement on the not-boring front, even if it does build up to something musically.  I for one won't lose sleep over its exclusion in the film, but I guess you have to be a fan of the band in order to appreciate it fully.

The Opening Credits: Features ink and octopus motifs.  The octopus has long been a symbol of the Spectre group, with the animal's tentacles symbolising the insidious reach their activities have all over the world -- AND NOTHING ELSE.  There also flashbacks to characters from earlier in the Daniel Craig series (like what they did for On Her Majesty's Secret Service), re-creations of locations seen later in the film, and some shirtless shots of Bond in between all the silhouette girls, presumably in the interest of equal-opportunity fanservice4 out of 5.

The Source Material: The SPECTRE organization has largely been avoided in the official James Bond film canon, due to its ownership dispute between Ian Fleming and Kevin McClory.  But you already knew that.  Well, it turns out that in 2013, MGM, Danjaq, and the McClory estate finally settled the issue, returning the film rights of the Spectre name to MGM.  However, I've noticed that in this movie, no one refers to Spectre by its old acronym (Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion), so either that wasn't accounted for in their deal, or they just nixed it for the retcon.

The Plot: Our story starts in Mexico City, where James Bond foils a terrorist attack during the Day of the Dead festival, and steals a ring belonging to one of the perpetrators.  Cue opening credits.  Back in London, the new M is displeased over the collateral damage from that operation, and has 007 suspended.  But what he doesn't know is that Bond was following instructions from his predecessor (the one played by Judi Dench), who sent him on the trail of a secretive criminal organisation.  Bond uses the ring he found, along with the widow of one of the attackers, to infiltrate a meeting of this organisation, named Spectre.  Meanwhile, M and the 00 section are being dogged by a man unofficially code-named C, who is the head of a new private intelligence company.  In addition to shutting down M's department, C also campaigns for the formation of "Nine Eyes", an intelligence-sharing network of member nations, including Britain.

Meanwhile (again), based on intel taken from the Spectre meeting, Bond heads to the Austrian alps to meet Mr. White, who left his Quantum organisation (but not before being mortally poisoned).  He tells Bond to find and protect his daughter, Madeline Swann, before committing suicide.  From there, Bond travels to the clinic where Swann works, and rescues her from Hinx and his Spectre goons.  Q also tags along, using the ring from before to discover that the villains from the last three films were, in fact, being controlled by Spectre.  From there (again), the two head to a hotel in Tangier, Morocco, where Mr. White hid a secret room with information on a secret Spectre base in the desert.  They get there by train, fighting off Hinx along the way.

At the desert base, Bond and Swann are greeted by the leader of Spectre, now named Ernst Stavro Blofeld.  Blofeld announces to Bond that he was the mastermind behind the events in the previous movies.  He captures and attempts to torture Bond, but Bond escapes and torches the place.  Back in London, Bond returns to join forces with M and their other ex-MI6 friends, in order to stop the Nine Eyes program from going online.  M and Q succeed in doing so, with C accidentally dying, to boot.  Meanwhile, Bond and Swann are captured and taken to the old MI6 building (the one from Goldeneye on), which is about to be demolished.  Bond rescues Swann, escapes the building in time, and shoots down Blofeld's helicopter.  As Blofeld crawls out of the wreckage, he is arrested by M, leaving Bond to ride off with Swann.

The one word I would use to describe Spectre is "redundant".  It tackles a bunch of themes already addressed by previous movies.  Most notably, there's the question of whether or not the 00 agents are necessary in today's intelligence climate, which was already answered by the very last movie before this.  Although, the NSA leaks from 2013 arguably make this discussion more relevant this time around.  Apart from all that, there are many plot points from, and other references the rest of the series, almost to the degree of Die Another Day.  And Spectre doesn't even have the excuse of being a milestone celebration!  I mean, who commemorates a 53rd anniversary as a special occasion?  And it's not just within the Bond franchise -- at a basic level, the plot is virtually identical to that of the recent Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation.  It even has scenes in Austria, Morocco, and London, to boot!  Intentional or not, it sure was savvy of Paramount to move their movie's release up to the summer, instead of trying to compete with Spectre in November.

Also, I can't help noticing how many funny moments there are in this movie.  The highlight of humour has to be the early car chase between Bond and Hinx, where the former tries and fails to use his car's gadgets, and later on gets blocked by an old man in a Fiat.  They stand out because of the more serious portrayal of James Bond during Daniel Craig's tenure, and this very movie is no exception.  Arguably, this just makes the humour funnier, as the jokes' juxtaposition against the rest of the movie's hard-edged tone offers effective contrast.  I don't know about you, but I'd take that over a hundred Roger Moore one-liners.  Quality over quantity, people.

Speaking as a longtime James Bond fan, Spectre left me more confused than anything.  The film attempts to retcon into existence a backstory which links all of the Daniel Craig entries together, when they worked well enough without it.  (Although I will say, the involvement of the Spectre group would make Silva's escape and assassination plot from Skyfall quite a bit more plausible.)  Writers, just because you can use the Spectre name to replace whatever you were building beforehand doesn't mean you should!  But all the same, it doesn't exactly bring those other movies down; it just gives the impression that the writers were making up stuff as they went along.  So, is Spectre still a worthwhile film?  Yes, actually.  The action setpieces are brilliant, the big reveal is built up well, and its musings on the role of intelligence in today's world are still relevant.  So yeah, the fourth-film curse probably does apply here: it may be the worst Daniel Craig film, but by no means is it truly bad.

The Call: 75% (B-)

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Game Review: Crisis Zone

So... that last article left me a little down-hearted.  I certainly didn't expect to praise something else above a Studio Ghibli movie, that's for sure.  But knowing that When Marnie Was There was, potentially, the last movie they'll ever produce makes it even more bittersweet.  Come to think of it, what's so "sweet" about "bittersweet" anyway?  Because I'm feeling pretty dang bitter right now!  Anyway in these trying times, I manage to find solace in the following words: "And now for something completely different".  Let's see, where did I leave off before I got sidetracked with Indie-Cember 2 and the SDP Music Awards?  That's right, I was going through the Time Crisis games!  Yeah, let's get back to that.
Crisis Zone
  • Publisher: Namco
  • Developer: Namco
  • Release:
    • Arcade, March 1999
    • PlayStation 2, 19 October 2004 (as Time Crisis: Crisis Zone)
  • Genre: 3D Action (Rail Shooter)
  • Players: 1
  • Save: Memory Card (80KB)
You know your media franchise has hit the big time when you can afford to make a few spin-off entries.  For Time Crisis, this would be Crisis Zone.  In many ways, it follows the example of Time Crisis 2, the last arcade entry to have been released before.  It's got the same cover-pedal mechanics, and the same health and time rules.  That's not what sets Crisis Zone apart, of course.  What does so, however, is the equipment that your player-character brings with him on his job: a sub-machine gun and a riot shield. And wouldn't you know, they figure into the gameplay itself.

To differentiate itself from the other Time Crisis games, Crisis Zone's arcade cabinet supports one player only, and uses a light-gun controller shaped like a sub-machine gun. Not having to pull the trigger for every shot you wish to fire is no doubt a good thing, especially given how relatively heavy the new controller is.  In addition, each scene in each level is packed with destructible objects which build up score bonuses as you knock them down in quick succession.  However, the game's difficulty is also balanced to account for the inclusion of rapid fire. Whereas most enemies in other Time Crisis games will happily go down with just one bullet, that is generally not the case in Crisis Zone. In fact, just about every enemy, right down to common foot soldiers, have their own lifebars to display how much of their vitals you have to whittle down. I don't mind this per-bullet weakness so much, except there doesn't seem to be any location-specific damage (i.e. more damage for a head shot) as in most shooters.
Destructible scenery is more prevalent here than in other Time Crisis games. (PS2 version.)
You and your team members are also equipped with riot shields. In most Time Crisis games, player-characters generally stick behind one point of cover until they're allowed to move on to the next one. But having a portable shield on hand allows your avatar (and thus, the camera) to move about more freely. It's not player-controlled movement, don't get me wrong; you're still stuck on a fixed path.  Honestly it doesn't affect much as far as gameplay goes, but it's a cool development choice when you think about it, as it leads to an experience that couldn't exactly be emulated by other Time Crisis games.

As for the story, it's pretty much just an excuse plot.  Crisis Zone takes place in a shopping/office park in suburban London, as it gets overrun by a generic pre-9/11 terrorist unit. They get answered by an international defence force which is not VSSE from the other Time Crisis games. You, the player, play as one of their number, a mister Claude McGarren ("Croid McGalain" in the -- likely mistranslated -- arcade version).  The three levels you have to liberate are a shopping mall, a park, and an office building, followed by one final boss level. Each of them lasts about six to eight minutes, so as with the rest of its arcade-based peers, it's not much for first-play length. Unlike the other Time Crisis games, you can play them in any order.  I suppose this is great for those who aren't as good at the game and can't clear any particular level with just one credit, but once you're comfortable with your skills, there's not much reason to do so.

Special weapons return in
the PlayStation 2 edition.
The home version of Crisis Zone came about in 2004, as Time Crisis: Crisis Zone for the PlayStation 2. In addition to the arcade mode and the prerequisite graphics upgrades, this port offers a second story, a "Crisis Mode" with stand-alone challenges, and the option to use two GunCons for dual-wielding action. Come to think of it, this came out at about the same time as Halo 2, which made dual-wielding cool again, so I wouldn't be surprised if Namco had taken cues from whatever preview material was available at the time. Another unlockable feature is the option to use alternate weapons, as in Time Crisis 3. Unlike in TC3, where alternate ammo is limited and must be replenished by shooting special enemies, the handgun and shotgun just need to be reloaded as with usual machine-gun. And remember what I said about the machine-gun being weaker to balance for its rate of fire? Handgun and shotgun rounds are strong enough to drop most enemies in one or two shots, to compensate for their lesser rate of fire. Furthermore, when you have them enabled, there are certain points where you can try out special weapons like rocket launchers, flamethrowers, and even a laser rifle. These segments are brief, but deadly fun. As home rail-shooters go, Time Crisis: Crisis Zone is another great package, and a suitable follow-up to TC3.

As for the arcade game it's based on?  Meh, it's okay.  The machine-gun controller gives it a different feel from its cousins in the Time Crisis series, and the levels are designed around that experience.  These changes don't amount to much in the end, but then again, the formula which Time Crisis II arguably perfected didn't need to be changed any more than it was.  The best way I could describe Crisis Zone is, then, "TCII with a machine gun".  You should be able to form your own opinion on the game based on that statement.

Positives:
+ Plenty of destructible targets.
+ The home edition is loaded with extras.
Negatives:
- No location-specific damage.
- The story is generic.

Control: 4 SMGs out of 5
Design: 4 SMGs out of 5

Value: 3 SMGs out of 5 (Arcade) / 4 SMGs out of 5 (PS2)
Audiovisual: 3 SMGs out of 5 (Arcade) / 4 SMGs out of 5 (PS2)
The Call: 80% (B)

Monday, February 8, 2016

Film Review: When Marnie Was There vs. Inside Out

When Marnie Was There
  • Publisher: Toho (JP), GKIDS / Universal (NA)
  • Studio: Studio Ghibli
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release: 19 July 2014 (JP), 22 May 2015 (NA)
  • Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
  • Producers: Yoshiaki Nishimura, Toshio Suzuki
  • Writers: Masashi Andō, Keiko Niwa, Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Inside Out
  • Publisher: Disney
  • Studio: Walt Disney Pictures / Pixar Animation Studios
  • Genre: Comedy / Drama
  • Release: 19 June 2015
  • Directors: Pete Docter, Ronnie del Carmen
  • Producer: Jonas Rivera
  • Writers: Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley



Welp, another year, another Academy Awards ceremony.  And you know what that means: they're gonna give the Best Animated Feature award to the Disney/Pixar behemoth.  It happened to Frozen over The Wind Rises, it happened to Big Hero 6 over The Tale of The Princess Kaguya, and odds are it'll happen again.  I've been preparing for the worst, especially since the "big one" of 2015, Pixar's Inside Out, is going up against When Marnie Was There, the last feature film Studio Ghibli may ever make.  In a past article, I told you how I saw Marnie in theatres, despite its limited release, and enjoyed it.  Well, in the interest of voting with my wallet, I refused to do the same for Inside Out, even when they gave it an encore run for Labor Day. Eventually I rented the movie and, I'm ashamed to say it... it was awesome.  But then I realised something: both Marnie and Inside Out tackle the same basic story in different ways.  Marnie focuses on the characters themselves, whereas Inside Out focuses on what's going on inside the main character's mind, with her personified emotions.  So, I thought, now would be the best time to do another joint review on the two movies.  That way, I can pre-empt the Academy more substantially than just a joke at the end of my last article.

In When Marnie Was There, our central character is Anna "no, not that one" Sasaki (EN: Hayley Steinfeld, JP: Sara Takatsuki), a twelve-year-old girl living in Hokkaido, who is shy but loves drawing.  When she suffers an athsma attack, her foster parents send her to live out to a seaside village with her aunt and uncle.  While exploring her new surroundings, she comes across a dilapidated mansion, and in the window, a blonde girl of her age named Marnie (EN: Kiernan Shipka, JP: Kasumi Arimura).  Over the next few nights, she starts spending time with Marnie, building their freindship and uncovering the mysteries behind Marnie's life, as well as her own.

So yeah, Marnie sticks rather closely to the Ghibli playbook.  But, as it turns out, this movie was based on a novel of the same name, written by the British author Joan G. Robinson in 1967.  Studio Ghibli has adopted Western literature before; Howl's Moving Castle and The Secret World of Arietty (a.k.a. The Borrowers) spring to mind.  The central plot device of Marnie, if there is one, is figuring out what the deal is with its titular character.  Is she a real girl?  Is she a ghost?  Is she a figment of Anna's imagination?  Is this the real life?  Is this just fantasy?  Without wishing to spoil, the way they explain all of this in the final act is kind of rushed.  I mean, Anna doesn't even start her investigation into Marnie's past until halfway through the movie!
The feels that Marnie generates are weapons-grade.
But what the film lacks in a good overarcing plot, it makes up for in the individual moments that comprise the plot.  When I was watching, I found myself lost in the emotions of the main characters: joy when they're playing together, sadness when they're sharing their darkest secrets, and bittersweet resignation when it's time for Anna to leave.  (Sort of like Ghibli themselves.)  To put it another way, this is what I wished Frozen was like when reviewed it: it focuses solely on its two main characters and how they develop together.  And I have to give a shout-out to the foley artist, because the sound effects in this movie are amazing.  For some reason, I don't normally notice this sort of thing, but when certain scenes go on without music and even dialog, you have to notice them.  And from the waves lapping at the creaking wood of a rowboat, the sound effects do even more to build upon the ambience of some scenes.

Having re-watched When Marnie Was There, I seem to have enjoyed it less than I did at first.  If it wanted to have the mystery of Marnie be its driving plot thread, they should have spaced out its developments more evenly across the film, rather than bunch them all up near the end.  And some of Anna's behaviours are downright bizarre, although I suppose they do illustrate the gaping void in her mental state that only Marnie can fill.  In conclusion, is it Studio Ghibli's best effort?  Probably not, although they have set the bar so phenomenally high for themselves in the past, mind you.  If you don't mind not having a strong plot to hook you from one scene to the next, and can get by on the scenes themselves, I would still recommend When Marnie Was There.

Meanwhile, in Inside Out, our central character is Riley Andersen (Kaitlyn Dias), an eleven-year-old girl living in Minnesota, who is goofy but honest, and loves hockey.  The difference here is that much of the movie is, in fact, portrayed from the point of view of personified emotions living in her head.  In order of introduction, they are Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), and Anger (Lewis Black).  These emotions control Riley's actions at the appropriate moments, generating memories tied to those emotions.  But then, everything changes when when her family moves to San Francisco.  Due to a series of unfortunate events, Joy and Sadness get stranded together outside their headquarters and must venture back somehow.

The world of Riley's psyche is nothing short of a joy to behold.  Functions of the brain are illustrated in inventive ways, such as the formation of memories, ideas, personality traits, and dreams.  A highlight is when Joy and Sadness wander into a section of Riley's mind where new general ideas abstracted from specific ones.  In the movie, this means that Joy and Sadness are devolved into low-polygon and eventually 2D forms as they try to escape.  Sure, nothing comes about from it in practice and it is never brought up again (making it the movie's "Big Lipped Alligator Moment"), but the process they go through shows great research of psychology on the part of the writers.  I mean, as far as I know about psychology.  We also get to see glimpses of similar mental setups of different characters here and there, each tailored to their own personality.
Inside Out's settings look like they came
straight from the mind of Willy Wonka -- almost literally.
What Inside Out has over Marnie is how it manages to create suspence to hook the viewer in.  For example, in Riley's head there exist five "personality islands", depicting her interests and personality traits.  Over the course of her mental breakdown, the island crumble into the bottomless pit below.  We are told that whatever falls down there, i.e. memories that are no longer needed, can never return.  But later on in the story, Joy falls down there herself, where said pit is decidedly non-bottomless, and of course she comes back out of it.  And of course she does it with the help of someone who sacrifices himself to let her escape.  So, it would seem that Inside Out isn't above employing the odd sappy cliche here and there, albeit rarely.  Although I will give them credit for actually showing her eventual mode of egress falling into the pit earlier on.  Let that be but one example of Pixar's attention to detail.

While I'm nitpicking, isn't it a bit lopsided for Riley to have one "positive" emotion, namely Joy, and four "negative" ones, especially when the one Joy gets stuck with, Sadness, has a bad habit of converting memories to sad ones by touching them?  To the film's credit, and without wishing to spoil, they do address this.  Speaking of the emotions, one of the most important things to keep in mind when assembling a cast of voice actors is for each actor to sound distinct from one another.  I'm proud to say that this is another of Inside Out's strengths.  Amy Poehler was perfectly cast as Joy, although I did love her on Saturday Night Live to begin with.  The other emotion characters also manage to bring their titular personality traits through by their voice alone.

My prejudices against CG animation being what they are, "pleasantly surprised" doesn't begin to describe my experience with Inside Out.  Mind you, Marnie managed to get those emotions across to the viewer without needing to personify them.  But if you ask me, Inside Out had the better story, and getting to witness such creative sights along the way was a bonus.  There are a few stupid or silly moments to nitpick, but they are rare and don't represent the film as a whole.  All things considered, I would recommend both films for different reasons.  If you want straight-up, weapons-grade feels, try out When Marnie Was There.  If you want a gripping story to go with those feels, go with Inside Out.  It's a big world out there, certainly big enough for both of them.
When Marnie Was There
Positives:
+ Individual scenes are packed with emotion.
+ Deals with a number of complex themes.
+ Brilliant sound-effect work.
Negatives:
- For less patient viewers, it lacks a suspenceful hook.
- Retreads more than a few story tropes covered by past Ghibli films.
- The rushed conclusion.

Acting: 4 out of 5
Writing: 3 out of 5
Design: 4 out of 5
Audiovisual: 5 out of 5
The Call: 80% (B)
Inside Out
Positives:
+ Well-researched and creative interpretations of the brain's functions.
+ Terriffic voice-acting that complements each character's personality.
Negatives:
- It has a few minor plot holes.

Acting: 5 out of 5
Writing: 4 out of 5
Design: 5 out of 5
Audiovisual: 5 out of 5
The Call: 95% (A)


In the end, I may not like to admit it, but not only do I think Inside Out is the better movie, I probably wouldn't lose sleep if it won the Best Animated Feature Oscar.  But that's not the whole story.  There's this thing called the Annie Awards, which has been going on since 1972, and honours animation in movies, television, and even video games.  Ghibli's movies have been nominated for the Annie's Best Animated Feature awards several times over, and just like in the Oscars, failed to actually win.

But this time around, for the 43rd Annie Awards held on 6 February 2016, they added a new category: "Best Animated Feature - Independent", and I'm glad they did.  This means that films with lower profiles but bigger hearts don't have to compete against our mainstream monstrosities.  Not that such "mainstream monstrosities" can't also have heart, as we learned in this article.  But the important thing is that now, for once, the underdogs have a more level playing field.

Oh, and for the record, the winner of the independent award was the Brazilian feature Boy and the World.  It looks great, but given the fate of Studio Ghibli, I can't help but feel a little disappointed...  Studio Ghibli may be dead, or just in a coma depending on whim you talk to, but another door to the wider world of animation is opening to us.  Let's keep opening more doors, shall we?

This is IchigoRyu.

You are the resistance.