‘Your Name’ is an Anime where Teenagers swap bodies

A few months ago, I heard about this movie called Your Name about two teenagers, a boy and a girl, who swap bodies. This “body-swap” premise is nothing new. I have seen a number of movies where this is the inciting incident and they usually play out in a similar fashion. Your Name is different because it has thus far been a huge commercial success both in Japan and worldwide. I imagine this is why I was able to see the film at a large theater in Portland. It was the last showing of the night and my theater probably had about 20 people in it.

Don’t read this paragraph if you want to avoid spoiling Your Name. The film begins as you would expect it to. We watch each main character’s experience of waking up inside the other’s body and living each other’s life. The body-swap happens enough times that the characters can actually plan for when it will happen. When the swap stops occurring, the boy named Taki visits the home village of the girl, named Mitsuha and ends up reversing the course of events that ultimately leads up to a catastrophic meteor strike on Mitsuha’s hometown.

I don’t normally watch anime but I have seen a few that I enjoyed. This one is definitely closer to the enjoyable end of the spectrum. I liked Your Name because it really capitalizes on its solid premise for great effect. It begins with a comedic tone that persists throughout the movie even when the stakes are much higher later on. When a film can balance several different tones throughout its run time and not seem befuddled, that is usually a good sign for said film.

Another fantastic element of this film is its unique visual style. It’s clear that Your Name features hand drawn animation and a lot of effort went into editing and framing the various shots that comprise the film. Even if Your Name were a bad movie, you would still find it compelling due to its beautiful animation style. It was a treat to see this film on a large screen.

If you are a fan of anime, you should make seeing Your Name a high priority. The characters and story are fully realized, the animation style is beautiful and you will find yourself laughing and crying. Your Name satisfies every requirement you would look for in an anime film.

If you have any exposure at all to anime, then you will most likely see this film because it has been such a huge commercial success. I was surprised to discover that Your Name is the worldwide highest grossing anime film of all time. In truth, this does not really surprise me because I can’t think of many other anime films that have been released to a worldwide audience. If you know of any such films, let me know in a comment.

Your Name is making Anime history because it doesn’t have a lot of competition, but that doesn’t mean the film is any less entertaining. Your Name is a gift of a film that should be seen by people everywhere.

Colossal (2017) Analysis: Anne Hathaway is an Alcoholic Monster

When I heard the basic idea for Colossal, it was enough to get me excited for the film. The idea is this: Anne Hathaway plays an alcoholic whose actions are copied by a giant monster in South Korea. When she gets drunk and loses control of her body movements, it leads to hundreds of people dying. Going into Colossal I was intrigued to see how the movie would such a unique premise.

Anne Hathaway stars in Colossal as Gloria, an alcoholic who is forced to move from New York City back to her hometown after her boyfriend kicks her out of his apartment. Gloria bumps into her old school friend Oscar, played by Jason Sudeikis, who gives her a job working at his bar. Big news hits that a giant monster keeps appearing randomly in Seoul, South Korea and Gloria discovers that the monster’s only appears whenever she sets foot in a playground. Gloria realizes that her actions have lead to many people dying. It turns out that Oscar also manifests as a giant robot when he goes into the playground. When Gloria sleeps with one of Oscar’s friends, he starts to abuse his power to control the giant robot to manipulate Gloria. This culminates in Oscar beating Gloria up and stomping around the playground while she watches. To stop Oscar, Gloria flies to South Korea while allows her to manifest as the monster at the playground in her hometown. She coops up Oscar and throws him into the distance, ending the giant robot’s reign of terror.

This movie succeeds on the strength of Anne Hathaway’s performance. While it’s hard to feel too sympathetic for Gloria, it’s undeniable that Hathaway is doing some superb acting. The same can be said for Jason Sudeikis who is doing his usual straight man routine. Colossal doesn’t completely suck because both Sudeikis and Hathaway are good at their jobs.

Watching Colossal, I felt that the movie was acceptable but not as entertaining as I was expecting. Usually I am good about tempering my expectations but this time was different. I was expecting to be blown away by this film based on some reviews I had read but I felt that the film was simply decent. I feel that Colossal could have used its premise to make for a a more entertaining film. I found myself bored watching Colossal because the stakes were not clear enough. I think the problem is that the film’s central conceit is so obviously unnatural that it becomes hard to take the movie seriously. Perhaps Colossal would have turned out better as a dark comedy instead of a drama.

I am inclined to recommend Colossal because it is an original film. It’s a film that goes against the grain of Hollywood and that is something worth championing by itself. Beyond originality, it’s hard to recommend anything about Colossal other than the performances. It’s a shame that Colossal is not a more well constructed film. We need movies like Colossal to be superb instead of just watchable. At least watching Colossal will give you some insight into what its like to be an alcoholic. The problem is not that Colossal is a bad movie. It’s that Colossal is not as good as it should be.

Life (2017) Film Analysis: Cool Space Stuff with a Predictable Story

Life is an R-rated movie set in space starring Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal. For me this film is a perfect example of mindless entertainment. It’s a film with a clear goal: to gross you out and keep you on the edge of your seat. If you bought a ticket for this movie, you most likely knew what you were going to get. While this film does not offer much in the way of life-changing insight, it is still worthy of analysis.

The story of Life is one that has been recreated countless times in film and television. A crew of astronauts aboard the International Space Station discovers evidence of extraterrestrial life on the planet Mars. As the crew begins to research the alien, they discover that the alien is a lot more dangerous than they initially thought. The alien life form, named “Calvin” by school children on Earth, grows rapidly and focuses on killing the astronauts using its strength and ingenuity. We watch as the astronauts’ structured routine devolves into complete chaos as the alien tracks down and kills the crew members one by one.

It’s clear that Life is a low-budget script delivered in a high-budget fashion. Life makes up for its lack of narrative substance with gorgeous visuals and special effects. My favorite thing about Life is how realistically it depicts astronauts aboard the ISS. The entire film takes place in zero gravity and camera sometimes appears to be floating itself. If you watch films as visual art, then you will not be disappointed by Life. At times you can simply marvel at the images you are seeing on the screen in front of you.

Life is unabashed about its story from beginning to end. It is almost as if the creators of this film decided early on to abandon any hope of developing a complex narrative. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this approach to film making. The murderous alien formula is tried and true at this point but it says something that most of our movies about alien contact devolve into gore-filled chaos. This is fun to watch but I would like to see more experimentation with this kind of story

It’s strange to me that Life employs such expensive actors given its B-movie narrative structure. In an age where companies like Blumhouse specialize in producing successful movies for as little money as possible, you would think that other companies would catch on to this strategy. Don’t get me wrong, it is fun to see Reynolds cracking jokes and Gyllenhaal commit to a haunted war veteran persona but I can’t help but think that other actors could portray these characters just as well for much less money.

Life is not a film that provides profound insight insight into the human condition. While many movies challenge you to look at things from a new perspective or to change your beliefs about something, Life delights in doing exactly the opposite. I can watch a movie like Life and enjoy it for what it is but I can’t help but think that a similar and more effective movie could have been made for less money.

Get Out (2017) Analysis: This Film will change your Perspective on Life

Get Out is an incredibly surprising film. It combines aspects of comedy, horror and science fiction into one powerful statement on race in the 21st century. If you have not yet seen Get Out I strongly encourage you to watch the film as soon as possible because it is one of those rare films that changes your perspective for life.

Get Out stars Daniel Kaluuya as an African American man named Chris Washington who visits the family of his girlfriend Rose Armitage. Chris is concerned that his girlfriend has not yet told her parents that he is black. Once they arrive at Rose’s family home, strange things start happening. The family employs two african americans as caretakers and Rose’s mom hypnotizes Chris to make him quit smoking. Each member of the family is awkwardly focused on Chris’s skin color to the point that he feels uncomfortable but he stays because he is committed to his relationship with Rose. Eventually we discover that the Armitage family has a secret plan to sell Chris’s body to the highest bidder and surgically transfer another person’s brain into Chris’s body. It’s a stunning twist that leaves you utterly breathless because it completely changes how you view the rest of the movie. The remainder of the movie involves Chris as he attempts to escape the family’s clutches and avoid the unfortunate fate of so many other African Americans.

This film is written and directed by Jordan Peele who is well known as a member of the comedy duo Key and Peele. I am not familiar with his comedic work but judging by the quality of Get Out I can say that this man is enormously talented. My favorite thing about Get Out is how the film balances elements of so many different genres. This has the effect of making you unsure whether you should laugh, cry or cringe at the events taking place on screen. Where most movies struggle to utilize one tone, Get Out triumphs at integrating multiple tones into one film.

I will say that this film is fairly slow through the first act. While mysterious events kept me intrigued, there was simply not enough in terms of character work to keep me engaged in the story. It appears that Jordan Peele’s strength lies in comedy and plotting because his characters are not exactly the most interesting. The main thing that keeps you engaged in Get Out is the mystery of what will happen next. A slow start is pretty much the only complaint I have against Get Out. For the most part, this is a very compelling film, especially once it hits its stride in the third act.

The ending of this film is one for the ages, the plot of the story is well crafted and the subject matter is very much relevant to what’s going on today. It’s hard to find anything bad to say about this movie. It’s amazing that this movie exists and that it was released in February. It’s a huge move for Jordan Peele who seems to be branching out from comedy to filmmaking and it’s a movie that will reward multiple viewings. Can you tell that I liked this movie?

Go watch it. You will not be disappointed.

Silence is a brutal examination of Faith and Humanity

Martin Scorsese’s Silence is beautiful to behold yet difficult to digest. Rather than look for meaning in the assurances of faith, Silence examines the absurdity and failure of priests to bring Catholicism to shogun-era Japan. At times the film is difficult to watch but it is undeniably a masterpiece from one of the most talented filmmakers of our time.

The plot centers on two Jesuit priest who journey from Portugal to Japan in the 17th century to locate another priest and spread Christianity. The priests travel to several small villages to facilitate the conversion of the locals to Christianity. Their task is complicated by government soldiers who terrorize the village and its residents for practicing Christianity yet the priests never back down from their mission because they truly believe that converting the inhabitants of rural Japanese fishing villages to Christianity is a worthy endeavor. The priest named Rodrigues (played by Andrew Garfield) is captured when a fisherman named Kichijiro betrays him by luring him into the hands of the soldiers. Rodrigues is then brought to Nagasaki where he “the Inquisitor” explains to him why Catholicism does not have a place in Japan. Rodrigues also meets with his old mentor Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson) who encourages Rodrigues to give up his mission because he believes that it is a lost cause. Ferreira has assimilated into Japanes culture since he believes that continuing to convert the Japanese people to Catholicism will only result in more suffering for the Japanese and the Catholic priests. Eventually Rodriuges gives in to Ferreira’s request and commits apostasy by stepping on an image of Jesus.

In Silence nothing is automatically right or wrong. There are many characters with ideas of what is right and what is wrong, but the film itself never seems to formally recognize any ideas as being better than others. The only true thing about this film is that the world is complex and often there are no easy answers to questions about humanity. People believe that everyone should be Catholic but actually trying to convert people in a foreign culture to Catholicism when another religion already exists is a task fraught with difficulty. The priests in Silence are flawed by their belief that Christianity should exist in every part of the world.

In addition to its intellectual strength, Silence is also breathtaking at times and features fantastic cinematography. Its great that Scorsese’s latest films are so long yet entertaining. It’s as if Scorsese was so used to making films the old way that making films nowadays is like going from safety scissors to actual scissors. Scorsese continues to hit home runs every time he steps up to the plate.