The Movie Buffer

Friday, August 17, 2007



Das Ich, das Uber-Ich, das Es...das spoiler


Imagine a world where you could experience someone else’s dream world as vividly as they can, where doctors could dive into your subconscious to treat your neuroses – this is the world that Paprika explores.

Dr. Atsuko, the primary researcher, and her partner, the genius engineer Dr. Tokita, have created the DC mini, a machines that act as a gateway into the dream world. They quickly realize that their creation has great potential for both good and evil. Unfortunately evil is afoot, so Atsuko, Tokita, and their coworkers become unwitting pawns in a plot to hijack the dream world. In order to restore the balance of power, Paprika must separate the malevolent dreams, which are poisoning the dreamscape, from the normal dreams.

The film is plentiful with references to psychodynamics and dream analysis. The three main characters can be seen as the three divisions of the Freudian psyche: Atsuko as the super ego - the conscience, the moral center; the villain as the id – the instinct, the impulse center; Paprika as the ego - the mediator. (If you think Freud is bunk, then Maclean’s Triune Brain model also works.) The secondary characters can be parsed along these lines as well, in both real and dream worlds. Through the extensive use of the DC mini, a collective unconscious is created between the users and, as time passes, everyone. This development allows Atsuko to dive into the unconscious to figure out what may be causing the problems.

Throughout this film’s run it has garnered high praise from pretty much every critic and anime fan. The juxtaposition of two distinct playing fields, the structured hustle and bustle of Tokyo and the freedom of the dream world, allows the director, Satoshi Kon, to use contrasting tempos, styles, animation techniques to create visually captivating film. Another facet of the film that is outstanding is the soundtrack, which is a mash-up of an orchestral score with electronica.

The problem with eye-popping visuals is that they can distract from a lack of story depth. Though this particular film is rather good, there were some loose ends at the end of this film that I would have liked to seen tied up.

Paprika pushes the boundaries of traditional animation to new heights and shows how intricate, imaginative and intellectual the medium can be. The animation, the music and the imagination of the director all mesh perfectly and the result is nothing less than awesome. This film is a 7.5/10 or three and a half stars out of five.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007



Here's the Spoiler!


Stephen King fans rejoice because yet another title from the master of horror has been moved from the pages to the screen. Cut from the same cloth as The Shining though not as menacing or foreboding, 1408 tells the story of a paranormal investigator/author Mike Enslin (played by John Cusack), who is writing a book on America’s famous haunted houses. When Mike receives a postcard about room 1408 at the Dolphin hotel, he decides that this would make an excellent final chapter. Gerald Olin (Samuel L. Jackson) is the manager of the Dolphin specifically in charge of handling all inquiries about room 1408. Mike remains steadfast in his skepticism, but as the movie progresses, he experiences events that defy all rational explanation.

This film certain earns a place among the good Stephen King films. The director, Mikael Hafstrom, does an excellent job crafting a cohesive film that harkens back to a more classic style of suspense. It balances exposition, tension and horror to hook and hold the audience. Hafstrom paid close attention not to include anything that wasn’t important to the tone or the suspense. It could have benefited from a little longer run time for more in depth, psychological look at the protagonist but in this shorter form it keeps attentions on alert.

Though it is a PG-13 film, this should not deter even the most seasoned of King fans from seeing it. There is a fair amount of horror but not the bloody mess that passes as horror these days.

Cusack plays his character well, but it’s pretty much the same kind of character he has played in many of his other films. He shows that he has mastered the brooding, cynical outcast. Jackson, who shows glimpses of his performance in Unbreakable, tones down his usual style and excels with this character. Cusack and Jackson have a great chemistry in this movie. When they first face off, you know there’s going to be trouble.

This film was surprising – with recent King films being lukewarm at best - it really delivered. I really enjoyed the film though the dialog was clichéd, not so much to take away from it, and a few of the visual effects and cuts were disjointed. It wasn’t nearly as sophisticated as The Shining or as creepy as It or Misery, but it was a great piece of film. It rates a 7/10 or a three and a half stars out of five.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Review - The Simpson's Movie

After 18 years of televised success, the Simpson’s has made the jump to the big screen. I wasn’t all together excited to see this movie because the formula for a twenty two minute show doesn’t translate well to feature length (see the Family Guy movie, Inspector Gadget, Scooby-Doo, etc), but I saw it on the big screen to see what all the fuss was about.

The movie is made up of three plots: Homer/Marge’s accident prone marriage, Homer/Bart’s father son relationship, Lisa’s newest cause (Global Warming). Throw in some bit character cameos (knowing that the writers had hundreds of them to work with, many would only get one-liners), special guests voices (like Greenday), lots of jokes that they couldn’t possibly get away with on television and let the fun begin.

The film is about the length of four episodes and was crammed with more jokes than you could shake a stick at. There were a few references to the older episodes, they dropped a few of the more annoying developments of some of the secondary characters (Moe wasn’t the “head in the oven” depressed Moe, he was the more gruff and sleazier Moe of yore.) and they added much more physical comedy. We are treated to an extended theme song, though there wasn’t a couch joke at the end of the theme. With the Simpson’s I wasn’t hoping for high art, I was hoping for a few decent laughs and the film succeeded.

There were a few changes to the characters that seemed unnecessary, such as Homer’s shift from ignorant boob to arrogance prick and Bart’s change from rebellious to a little more conformist. Furthermore, there were a frightful number of terribly stale jokes rekindled with violence that rang hollow.

The majority of the film used what looked like Hypnovision from “Futurama” to provide the long sweeping shots of the town and other establishing shots. The animation looked great and the detail that they added with some intricate backgrounds was excellent.

From my point of view, a long time Simpson’s fan who had stopped watching the series several years ago, this film does bring back some of the hilarity from the show I loved. I’m not a fan of the new tactic of using quick cutaways and extensive flashbacks to deliver a joke. So, overall this film gets a 6/10 or two stars out of five. Watch the film and prepare to crack a smile, at least.

p.s.- If the internet buzz is any indication, the old school Simpson’s fans are hating the movie but the newer fans seem to love it.