Death Note/デスノート

[Screenshot]I’ve seen much of the anime, and haven’t read the manga, which may color my perception of this a bit. This is, first and foremost, an incomplete story: it ends at a convenient dividing point, but doesn’t take too much time to clean up loose threads. The choices made for the film adaptation were largely appropriate: it didn’t feel like anything necessary was left out, and even the new material (e.g. everything having to do with Shiori) fit in fairly organically. The only kludge is that we see more scenes than we need of Misa before she becomes a significant character, which from a pacing and plot viewpoint is a bit dubious. But in terms of plot adaptation, it was a good job.

Now, what of the actual performances? I didn’t even consider the dub, since dubbing of live action makes my brain explode, but I got an excellent feel from most of the principal characters: Light and Ryuk both fit their personalities well, and L’s unsettling oddities are well-reproduced and conveyed in his flat line delivery. The only major character who came across as unmemorable was Ray, but his deficiencies are more than made up for by a stellar role in Naomi.

I guess the only real disappointment I have with this is that it stops midway through the story. The end of this movie is a break in the narrative, but it’s not a tidy package. We have plot-threads all over the place, but, then, since the final scene is essentially a plea to watch the sequel, I might well say that’s intentional if a bit annoying.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.

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Iron Man

[Screenshot]This is one comic franchise I was neve much into, so one thing you’ll be spared is comparisons to the original property. I know that Iron Man is Tony Stark, heard of Stark Industries, had a major character-development arc involving alcoholism, and that his suit is actually an outgrowth of his pacemaker. All of that except the alcoholism is conspicuously present here, so as far as my ignorant viewpoint is concerned, we’ve checked off the “faithfulness” tag and never have to return to it.

A more useful question at this point is: how good is Iron Man, either as a satisfying film or as a representation of superheroes on the big screen? This film makes a pretty good argument that the two are mutually incompatible, because this is actually a pretty good film except for the faily incidental bits involving Iron Man doing actual superheroic things. I don’t know what it is about action movies these days, or maybe it’s just me these days, but I find the actual action scenes muddled rather than exciting, for the most part. The film as a whole stands up. Robert Downey, Jr. does an awfully good job in his role, managing to be simultaneously believably charismatic, unbelievably crass, and conscientious enough to be sympathetic. The person-to-person interactions work, and largely redeem the fairly silly and thin betrayal plot. The parts of the betrayal that fit into the whole business-and-morality theme (e.g. the continued arms supplies to known terrorists, and Stane’s resistence to shutting down large parts of the company) work well, and it’s perhaps because they work well that the whole Evil Iron Man Suit bit doesn’t actually work. There’s an unhappy non-connection between the concept of a corrupt executive obsessed with maintaning and growing the company, and a dude who actually builds and uses a supersuit (this has been a problem in many depictions of Lex Luthor, too). Unfortunately, that killed the character, and most of what was left of the movie, from my point of view.

But, still, it’s very good, and the superheroic framing works, even if the scenes of actual superheroicness don’t.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.

Unsuk Chin’s Alice in Wonderland

[Screenshot]Unsuk Chin’s Alice in Wonderland, which I saw on DVD, is one big kettle of weird. The idea of an opera based on Alice in Wonderland intrigued me, so I got it throguh Netflix despite trepidations abotu modern opera. My trepidations were, it seems, well-founded, since it didn’t do much for me. I admit this may be as much a problem with me as with the opera: I dislike both soprano-heavy performances and (and this one is completely irrational) operas in English. I also rather disliked the liberties taken with the source material: I expect some, but it seemed to fundamentally miss the sense of whimsy in the original work, substituting instead a histrionic fervor full of odd, anachronistic references to Aldous Huxley and ovarian cancer. Most of the odd stage effects and the focus on masks seemed unnecessary and offputting to me, but I’ll give credit for effective representation of Alice’s size chages.

There were parts that definitely worked: I was impressed that they included both versions of the Mouse’s Tale, even if I didn’t much like the music they were set to, and I found the bassoon solo for the caterpillar pretty fitting. But by and large they were offset by adventurous choices which just didn’t work in my opinion.

See also: Wikipedia.

Niñas Mal

[Screenshot]Niñas Mal is proof of something I should probably already know. Being foreign, or even being labeled with a complimentarily quirky adjective in the Netflix summary, does not guarantee that a movie is actually particularly original. We have a collection of girls, one from each cliche type, and a headmistress whom the lead will of course discover is not so very much unlike her. They all learn to love and respect each other. There are laughs, but few amusements which persist beyond the moment. The best parts are reformatory-camp humor reminiscent of “But I’m a Cheerleader!”, which is a much better movie, largely for being less timid and more willing to offend.

See also: IMDB.