Sunday, October 25, 2015

Mini-releases: Extraordinary Tales and Attack on Titan: End of the World

Weird cross-town double feature on Friday: It didn't start until 9:30pm, the first part was distributed by "GKids" despite probably getting an R rating if they had bothered submitting it to the MPAA, and the second was distributed by Funimation despite being live-action. On top of that, Extraordinary Tales was also subtitled in French throughout, and I kind of wonder what was up with that - is it because the film is a co-production with Luxembourg and the subtitles were "burned-in" on the DCP, were there Francophones in the audience who requested them, or did someone screw up in the projection booth? Not horribly distracting, but strange.

Also: It's starting to get cold late, especially when the Coolidge has scheduled a quick 10-minute turnaround between features so you've got to wait outside for the doors to open for the midnight. At least taking the 66/Red Line home doesn't seem impossible after a midnight feature there, as I've been worried it might be after the move.

Not a bad way to get in the Halloween spirit, though. I'm just kind of surprised that I didn't run into either my Poe-loving or Titan-loving friends!

Those folks should see these movies soon if they want to catch them in theaters; Extraordinary Tales is only playing two shows a day at Boston Common, neither during the 7 o'clock prime time position, while Attack on Titan Part 2 had its last show at the Coolidge tonight and has just a couple more scheduled at Kendall Square and Revere over the week. The former is available streaming on Amazon, sure, but it's big-screen-worthy, and I'm not sure what Funimation's plans for the Attack on Titan duology is.

Extraordinary Tales

* * * (out of four)
Seen 23 October 2015 in AMC Boston Common #3 (first-run, DCP)

Raul Garcia has been making the various pieces of Extraordinary Tales for a while; three of its five segments, all based upon Edgar Allan Poe stories, are listed on the IMDB as shorts released as far back as 2005, and likely in the works before that. That works to the film's advantage; attacking these five stories individually gives the production some surprising variety for a project where one director tackles the work of one author. It's got a distinctive voice used in many interesting ways.

Admittedly, it's a little wobbly early on, as the opening credits and framing material represent Poe as a raven (voice of Stephen Hughes) flying around a graveyard, speaking to statues and/or the embodiment of death. The style can best be described as "CGI approximating papercraft", which highlights something that does seem to unite every segments: Most do feel like a specific style or technique being recreated digitally, and the gap between what the animators can handle on a modest budget and what the presumed real thing looks like is noticeable. Also, this sort of segment is always tricky, trying to tell a story of their own while leading in and out of the short films, and Garcia's story about Poe is not as intriguing as the ones Poe wrote.

Things start off with "The Fall of the House of Usher", and while the "CGI approximating woodcarving" looks a bit rough at times, it lends itself to some nifty effects - the house of the title is riddled with gigantic cracks at the start, and aside from a great ghost and an interesting flattening effect as the segment goes on. Plus, the narration is by Christopher Lee, and basically perfect - aside from having the perfect voice for the material, he's one of the few who can drop into an alternate character without it sounding odd.

Full review on EFC.

Shingeki no kyojin endo obu za wârudo (Attack on Titan: End of the World)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 23 October 2015 in Coolidge Corner Theatre #1 (After Midnite/Fresh Meat, DCP)

The two Attack on Titan live-action films, released just months apart in Japan and weeks apart in the United States, total just under three hours between them, which makes me suspect that they really should have been a single epic-length feature. On the other hand, this weaker second installment may argue against that - after all, would you rather have two short movies, one pretty good and the other so-so, or one that starts out well but doesn't quite stick the landing? This second part isn't bad, but it's not the crazy fun that the first one was.

Of course, the first left a mess - the mission to recover the last of humanity's explosives and collapse the hole in the wall meant to keep man-eating Titans out of the citadel ended in disaster, with Armin (Kanata Hongo), Misaka (Kiko Mizuhara), Sasha (Nanami Sakuraba), Hange Zoe (Satomi Ishihara) and the rest only alive because being swallowed by a Titan didn't kill Eren (Haruma Miura) but instead created a new Titan that killed the rest before Eren could be cut out of its neck. Now, Director Kubal (Jun Kunimura) figures they should kill Eren to prevent this from happening again, but Eren is snatched up by another mutant Titan before it can be done. The survivors of that attack think there might be one last way to complete their mission, while Eren learns the secret history of the Titans.

They say to be careful what you wish for because you just might get it, and that is somewhat true here - while watching and writing about the first, I mused that the concentric circles of the city may denote a hierarchy, and screenwriters Tomohiro Machiyama & Yusuke Watanabe wind up spending a lot of time running with that idea. Unfortunately, the fallout from the first episode means that there are a heck of a lot more exciting things going on - who cares about a caste system when there are giant zombies to kill? That's stuff you use to create tension early on before the characters learn to come together! Relatedly, a prologue suggests hints at why Eren survived being swallowed whole while most would just be digested, but it still leaves a lot of what happens later unexplained and feels like a short-cut to making sure the audience hates the ruling class (they burn books, after all).

Full review on EFC.

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