Saturday, 7 May 2011

DVD Reviews

Death Notice: Ikigami
Starring: Shota Matsuda, Riko Narumi, Koji Tsukamoto
Director: Tomoyuki Takimoto

Available Now - £15.99 (DVD)
Review by Blake Harmer

Set in a Japanese Dystopian society, the Japanese government has introduced the National Prosperity Law, which injects a death capsule into every one in a thousand school children when they are inoculated at the age of six and kills them at an appointed time between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four. Those chosen to die are served an "Ikigami", or 'death notice', twenty-four hours before their reckoning.

The film captures the emotion held by each of its characters brilliantly, from the three characters that receive the death notice to their friends and family to Matsuda, who is tasked with handing out the Ikigami for the government. The acting is fantastic and the story does show how people in different circumstances react if they are told they are going to die in twenty-four hours. I also like the use of a dystopian society to uphold the law, with "Big Brother” style cameras watching everyone, and “thought crimes” leading to people being brainwashed should they be outspoken against the system. So, it pays a big homage to George Orwell’s 1984.

There are only a few gripes to be had with Death Notice: Ikigami. I felt that more time could have been spent explaining the thought crimes and what happened to those that committed them. I also thought that the melodrama was overplayed a little too much at times during the two and a half-hour running time, especially as they could have out more time into fleshing out the original concept. Aside from these and the absurd setting of the film, there isn’t much else you can criticise Death Notice: Ikigami for. Afterall, if you accepted the BR Reform Act, you can probably accept the National Prosperity Law.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
A couple of violent scenes but nothing really much happens on the violence side of things
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: Some swear words, but used in a lifelike way (such as “Holy F**k I’m going to die in twenty-four hours!”).
Summary: Whilst oweing a lot to George Orwell’s 1984, Death Notice: Ikigami is an excellent and emotional experience that tells a great story whilst conveying a strong message on how we should appreciate life, but also showing the horrors of a dystopian society. Definitely worth watching if you love your Asian cinema. 8/10
Laputa: Castle in the Sky
Starring: James Van Der Beek, Mark Hamill, Anna Paquin
Director: Hiyao Miyazaki
Studio Ghibli

Available from Monday 9th May - £24.99 (Blu-ray/DVD Combi Pack)
Review by Brad Harmer

Laputa: Castle in the Sky begins when Pazu, an engineer's apprentice, finds a young girl, Sheeta, floating down from the sky, wearing a glowing pendant. Together, they discover both are searching for the legendary floating castle, Laputa, and vow to unravel the mystery of the luminous crystal around her neck. Their quest won't be easy, however. There are sky pirates, secret agents and monumental obstacles stopping them from discovering the truth - and each other. However, Laputa is more than it appears, and some seek to use it for evil.

If you want action, then Laputa: Castle in the Sky delivers in spades. There’s steampunk inspired airship pirate battles in the very first scene, and it there’s always plenty happening to keep you interested, often with robots, too. The steampunk motifs are really nicely integrated, and the Blu-ray remastering is absolutely excellent.

It’s a shame, then, that for a Studio Ghibli piece, the animation really isn’t very good. It’s jerky, spasmodic and looks more like a Saturday Morning Cartoon than a high end anime release. Most of the time you get used to it, but there are some parts which are bad to the point of distraction.

Furthermore, with the exception of Mark Hamill, the voice acting feels rather phoned in. James Van Der Beek makes an excitable stab at a hero, but Anna Paquin’s performance is nothing short of lazy. Mark Hamill is, of course, one of the finest voice actors working today, so it’s unsurprising that his baddie is so good that it made my balls drop. Again.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Explosions, gunfire, piracy, assorted fantasy combat.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None.
Summary: Fans of Miyazaki’s work will probably enjoy it, but even so, this one feels lacking. Mark Hamill is the highlight – but isn’t he always? 8/10

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