By Le Chupacabra
Living in a post-apocalyptic agrarian idyll (hard to believe, eh?), the inhabitants of the Valley of the Wind are blessed. With an ancient copse of trees protecting them from the outside word and a brave princess willing to risk it all in finding a cure, they can rest easy. For beyond their borders is a world ravaged by war a fought a millennia ago; one that has transformed an entire area into a forest of death where the insect kingdom is virulent and the plants emit a miasma that is fatal to these last, scattered communities of humans.
Environmentalist themes are a strong part of the DNA that informs the works of anime auteur Hayao Miyazaki. One of his earlier works, Nausicaä, paints a world that has witnessed enough damage by humans and we now find ourselves vying for survival against the planet itself, represented by the insect kingdom. And despite this being the overarching conflict, there's simply more to it. The titular princess Nausicaä, disregarding the warnings from the elders, spends much of her time in the poisonous forest, discovering, nurturing, loving. It almost makes you think that isn't so bad until you realise that anyone living outside the bounds is required to wear a filtration mask, should they wish to live.
The story starts in an unambitious manner, setting a gentle flow, drawing us into the world. Little by little, we piece together a history, a culture and the myriad characters that populate said world. And what lovely characters these are. Intrinsically believable and aesthetically congruent, they enrapture you with the simplest of things from their facial expressions to the incidental dialogue they spout from time to time. The relationships are multi-faceted and their convictions - from the tiniest child to the wizened, blind woman - are starkly humanistic. Drawing empathy from the viewers is a hallmark of Miyazaki's work but with a larger community than seen compared to his other works, it's an astonishing feat. There is no semblance of purest black and white here, and you'll be hard-pressed to completely dislike the antagonists of the tiny Valley of the Wind. Despite showing humanity being inexorably pushed towards extinction, there's an abundance of life yet in them (pun intended).
This is a piece of work from the '80s and I'm happy to announce is indeed hand-drawn. The animation is fluid and while some scenes often break the mould with some poor detail and proportions, it's still quite pleasing to the eye. In particular, the aerial scenes are breathtaking, with gliders and flying contraptions soaring through the clouds, sometimes in combat, sometimes in harmony with the wind. These are definitely some of my favourite moments.
Nausicaä, for all its wondrous strengths, stumbles when it comes to the music. While it is subdued most of the time, relying on softer, melodious instruments and some charming vocalisations, it drops all too often into synthesized electronica that feels somewhat cheesy.
What with Earth Day gone long by and an increasing focus on all things green, Nausicaä has the qualities to remain relevant to us until the end of time. Despite the strong undertones of ecology and preservation, at its core, it's a warm and humanistic film driven by a fantastic cast of characters. The slow pacing adds to its charm for it builds up beautifully, without skipping a beat, and before long, you know you've watched something moreish, something deliciously epic.
Grit. Gritty. Gritty Action. Nothing could ever say gritty like Punisher does.
Punisher is the epitomization of that genre known as gritty action. Except it's got alot of bloodthirsty mindless violence thrown into the mix. Welcome Back, Frank by Garth Ennis is no different. Heck, even the art by Steve Dillon is nothing but gritty.
It was published as a trade paperback collection under the Marvel Knights (known for it's non-children friendly comics) imprint of Marvel Comics from April 2000 to March 2001. For those keeping score in the comic movies world, this is actually the series that the movie borrows from. The game released in 2005 is also heavily based on this series up to a point with some variations and alterations.
Welcome Back, Frank is the story of anti-hero vigilante Frank Castle as he re-enters the world of fighting crime. His welcome message? Eliminate and obliterate the entire Gnucci family. As far as sending a message goes, that's a pretty solid one, no?
So, while the Punisher is back to basics operating from a low-profile apartment (remember the one in the movie?) with nothing on his back except a truckload of weapons, Detective Soap is assigned to catch the Punisher. The police force is of course riddled with corruption and politics, mostly in the payroll of the crime families - in this case the Gnuccies. Soap isn't alone, though. He's paired up with Lieutenant Molly, and it's up to them to catch the Punisher, and Ma Gnucci.
Ma Gnucci on the other hand (or the lack of them) wants the Punisher dead, for more than just his attempt at killing off the family. Meanwhile, on the other side of town, three citizens have taken up the task to keep the peace. By making sure that who's not keeping it isn't keeping anything at all. Obviously inspired by the Punisher's brutal method, the three overzealous vigilantes team up to seek out Punisher and ask him to lead them through their vigilante life.
The whole series is filled with brutal murders, violent deaths and more than enough gallows humour to please the One-Eyed God himself. For those keeping further check, Garth Ennis is also the creator of Preacher, which was a pretty good comics by it self. The Punisher doesn't have the same amount of depth that Preacher had, but then the whole point of Punisher is for him to put lead bullets into the scum of the earth.
The sub-characters are relied upon to bring life into the series, into the otherwise cold, dark and bloody world of Frank Castle. There's the three neighbours from the film (and game), shy Joan who's afraid of even crossing the street, Spacker Dave who's a skinny youngster that likes to make a statement, and Mr Bumpo, an obese man who often gets stuck on his doorway.
The Punisher taketh, and the Punisher giveth. Takes lives and gives a world of hurt, that is to say. Welcome Back, Frank like all other Pushiner titles is violent, filled with dark sarcasm never taught in school and funny in a black sort of way. The amount of body count the Punisher has stacked up over his lifetime probably makes Rambo look like a fluffy bunny rabbit angry about his missing carrots.
Welcome Back, Frank won't leave you speechless in thought, but it's an entertaining read with a well-written story- a good recommendation for the mature comic readers, and more so for Punisher fans.
By The Anarchist Kitten
Watching Marley & Me can be a bit of a disappointment to viewers, what with all the recent epics churned out by Hollywood changing the expectations of people from film into larger than life, over the top characters and complex plotlines; Marley & Me is a simple, heart-warming family comedy. It's not mindless, idealistic comedy- the kind that's usually stuffed down our throats. The trailer for the movie came off as another grasping attempt by Jennifer Aniston to revive her dying career, or Owen Wilson to attain the success of his older brother. But the movie proved this reviewer wrong.
What would appear to be a generic family comedy, turned out to be much more than just a movie about man and his best friend- a dog. The film is a very realistic portrayal of the development of a family and their pet, from the couple's wedding day until the film's end years into their new life. For frequent movie watchers the premises seem very common, of course. A new, fledgling family and a troublesome pet. But the movie isn't just about the dog, but how the dog is a bit of a nuisance at first and matures along with the family. The film gives a very healthy family image, and is positive for people of all ages to watch. There is no swearing, or nudity. The sad parts of the film is done well and not made overly melodramatic. It's realistic and not over the top, which makes for a perfect family film.
Owen Wilson isn't his usual self; he's more subdued, but he pulls off well the character of a more down-to-earth husband that chooses his life as a husband over the dream life he had pictured. Aniston delivers an undeniably good performance as an adoring wife. Both Wilson and Aniston deliver underrated performances that convey the ups-and-downs of any marriage. While it is the bond between John and Marley that the film explores most deeply, Jenny provides the link between dog, family, and children. The film's overall tone, light, humorous, real, builds up to an ending that is surprisingly moving.
The film is tender-hearted and easy-going. It isn't Old Yeller or Lassie or My Dog Skip. It isn't a dog movie focused on the relationship of the canine and a kid. This is a true depiction of what it is like for most people to get a puppy early in their relationship and how it can develop into the pet becoming a member of the family. This movie will definitely attract dog-owners and lovers, but it's a nice, mellow film to watch for anyone. A possible negative side of the film is that children might suddenly turn hell-bent on getting a dog after watching it.