Movie of the Day : Netflix’s DEATHNOTE (2017)

DEATH NOTE – less horror than action-fantasy, prolific director Adam Wingard continues to prove himself one of the most innovative and exciting genre directors working; making this adaptation of the lauded manga and anime its own thing, that works beautifully for a feature film.

Great casting, great performances, and a compelling and exciting take on the DEATH NOTE source material, makes for a film that I personally like quite a lot. No it is not the manga, and no it is not the anime, if you want just that… that already exists, rewatch to your hearts content. What this is… is the concept of DEATH NOTE turned into something that works at a feature, rather than episodic, length. Job Done.

Also while I liked the anime, beyond a point I found it a bit long in the tooth, and all the characters while intriguing not exactly.. gripping. With the live action Wingard gets to flesh out the characters with really talented actors.

Nat Wolff’s Light Turner imbuing the relatively cold and calculating character of the anime, with a humanity and likability and relate-ability that makes you care. It is a fitting change to make, and it is a strength of Wingard’s recent films such as THE GUEST, to give us characters who, like most of us, are somewhere between sinner and saint.   Shea Whigham is always compelling, and brings to the role of James Turner, Light’s Dad, a warmth and strength and conviction, and nearly palpable love for his son, that is lacking in the anime.

Lakeith Stanfield, the actor who plays the quirky, candy loving, ‘L’ for my money makes that character even more compelling and interesting than in the anime. It is an inspired bit of casting and his performance largely steals the show.

And speaking of genius casting,  Dafoe’s voice as Ryuk… GENIUS. 

All the pieces of performance,writing, direction ends up with a DEATH NOTE feature film that deserves to be on your keep list. It joins THE GUEST and YOU’RE NEXT as Adam Wingard’s best films so far.

Grade : Strongly Recommended. B+.

 

 

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COWBOY BEBOP:THE MOVIE DvD Review!

COWBOY BEBOP:THE MOVIE
Cowboy Bebop: Tengoku no tobira (2001)

I’m not an Anime or Manga fan. While a fan of SPEED RACER reruns as a kid, and blown away by films like AKIRA and the first GHOST IN THE SHELL, I generally find them to be the exception rather than the rule. That is to say I come across more anime I dislike than like.

The same thing for manga, I’ve tried things like MONSTER only to find myself uninterested quickly.

So it was nice to go into COWBOY BEBOP THE MOVIE, and immediately take a liking to the visuals and tone of the story telling, and the multi-cultural tableau of COWBOY BEBOP was also quite welcome.

A couple things strike you really quickly going into the film, it’s visually very beautiful to look at, fluid and kinetic and even balletic. Great action scenes and the visuals are sumptuous. The 2nd thing that strikes you is just how brilliant a job the English Voice actors and sound design crew do in bringing this to life. The dub is generally a derided part of most imports, we’ve all sat through our share of horrendous English dub jobs. So the general rule of thumb, is viewers should sit through dubbing only for comedies, and subtitles are for dramatic foreign films (the thinking being humor is something that can’t be well conveyed in subtitles, humor is a lot to do with pacing and intonation and much of that requires the spoken voice, not subtitles. Plus any poor English dub voices will only add to the humor/ridiculousness).

So yeah the general rule of thumb is the dub version should be avoided for anything save humor. I’m happy to say that COWBOY BEBOP THE MOVIE is the exception to that rule. I watched it both ways, with the English Dub and with subtitles, and the English dub is clearly the way to go. The Voice actors are awesome, really strong performances, and convey so much information, that you don’t get by just reading the subtitles.

So very rarely do English Voice Actors working on foreign films get their due, but here they really do stellar work, and make this film shine. Highly recommended performances by all the voice actors.

Now moving onto the film itself, I went into it pretty blind having never seen an episode of COWBOY BEBOP, and for the most part that wasn’t a problem. The movie being relatively new viewer friendly. A story about a group of bounty hunters on Mars, and their most dangerous hunt. The movie does suffer from some pacing issues, it feels long. It took a few tries to actually get through this movie, I found myself zoning out consistently at the same spot. Going along with that issue, 3/4th of the way in, after the protagonist Spike has the battle on the train, the plot does get confusing. A murky resurrection, talk of Spike and the Antagonist being the same, and talk of a previous girlfriend, and it’s all a bit off-putting to the new viewer who hasn’t seen any COWBOY BEBOP.

However murky bits and pacing issues aside it ends entertainingly enough, with enough stellar, imaginative visuals and tender story and awesome jazz-tinged soundtrack to get a recommend from this reviewer, But be aware that this is very much a DVD film, it works much better consumed in portions, rather than trying to sit through the whole thing at once. Your mileage may vary. Grade: B.

INTO THE MYSTERY: Remembering DWAYNE MCDUFFIE

“You writers live too much out of the world.”
— Carol Reed’s THIRD MAN.

I just heard about Mr. McDuffie’s passing.

We had exchanged emails, a couple weeks ago, about doing an interview.

I wanted to discuss his work and discuss how DC Editorial had hampered his comic book work on JLA (as well as Marvel on FF), and the success of his animation work, and his future plans.

Life being life and we all being immortal, I had put off following up on the interview until we had more time.

Needless to say, time and tide continues to surprise us all.

A towering individual, not only in terms of height (he was 6’7″) but in terms of talent, and enthusiasm, he will be greatly missed by me and many.

I think in a medium that is ever less inclusive, that is going backwards rather than forwards (how DC and Marvel treated him is part and parcel of people who consider themselves liberal but are not, holding ever more egregious lines of pride and prejudice), he was a rare voice against the inherent prejudice, tokenism, and marginalization of people and more the presentation of people.

He had this outrageous idea that these tales of modern myth, could support more than the single token, and tokenized, character of color and instead provide a multiplicity of characters of color. In a medium that still follows to great degree the Disney model of segregation and marginalization, he wanted the myths and the mythmakers… to be better than that.

And to this end he made fantastic inroads into redefining the myths we feed our kids through shows like STATIC SHOCK and JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED, and with the latter expanding the scope/expectations of American televised animation. JLU is very much a cartoon that appeals to adults who grew up on these characters, as well as kids, and offers a storyline with scope. And remains a watershed work.

It is therefore sad, and inexplicable that with such a pedigree, the editorial department of DC and Marvel, refused to grant his comic work the same license and freedom as his Animation work, and all readers are the poorer for that… sabotage. DC’s actions seemingly more about getting the Milestone characters, completely under thumb, to no doubt like other multi-cultural friendly properties, such as ZUDA, be misused, marginalized and ultimately taken off the table, and buried from the sight of day.

I love all these keepers of a 50s status quo, of the white way, particularly at DC Comics Publishing wing, who come out now in the wake of his passing to praise McDuffie’s work, when they did nothing but their best to butcher his work while alive. Hypocrisy. Be honest now, in your heart of hearts, be honest. You stink just a little of hypocrisy.

Save your pretty lies, and if true sorrow feel, show it in your actions, and not in your primping words.

You did wrong by him in life, do right by him in death, and in so doing, do right by yourself.

Grow.

Learn the contours of your own prejudice and your own culpability, so you can get past it. Be more open to characters and creators of color. use well the Milestone characters, and support diversity in your mainstream books. Stop trying to erase the good creators have done with characters of color, with Marvel it’s them tearing down all the great work Christopher Priest did (instead of making his BLACK PANTHER and CREW work available again, and better yet getting him back on BLACK PANTHER, Marvel seems committed to killing or marginalizing every strong male Black Character they have), with DC it’s them going back to the 50s in terms of all their mainstream characters.

Don’t wait till someone’s demise, to realize you’ve stunted not only their growth, but by doing so your growth, and my growth, and everyone’s. When new visions are sabotaged, the medium suffers. And the medium has suffered with the interference in Duffie’s comic book work.

But in the face of that, one ever to go forward, to shine lights, rather than curse darknesses, Dwayne McDuffie continued to tell stories. His recent CRISIS ON TWO EARTHS, being the best of the DC Animated Adaptations, and his Animated ABSOLUTE SUPERMAN on my list to see.

So Animation and comics has lost a great ambassador, proponent and crafter for these four colored adventures, but more it has lost a fighter against ignorance, and intolerance and stupidity and stereotyping, in a medium filled with too many people, too many editors and writers and decision makers, who live and die only by these inanities.

But for this one fighter lost, McDuffie’s work has served to introduce many to these fields of wonders and whimsy, and hopefully to inspire new mythmakers and new myths.

My best to him and his, as he precedes us into the Mystery.

I’m going to direct you to this recent 2 pt podcast interview with Christopher Priest, coutesy of the guys at Dollcast, as it touches a bit on Milestone, and is just an invaulable insight into a medium, that while little read, becomes ever more influential to other mediums.

Here’s PART I.

and

Here’s PART II

And once you listen to that feel free to go here for a listing of books written by Dwayne McDuffie.