Ghost in the Shell
‘Who are we?’ It’s the timeless question that every human asks ourselves at one stage in our lives or another. It’s a question that invokes a deep search for meaning within us and the outside world with the hope that in finding the answer, would provide meaning to our existence. In the highly anticipated portrayal of the Japanese Anime ‘Ghost in the Shell’ (played by Scarlett Johansson), this very question is frequently raised and challenged to the point it’s hard to forget after leaving the cinema.
Set in a technologically advance future, Scarlett Johansson’s character ‘Major’, is a heroine that helps the Japanese government police crime. We are introduced to her from the get go as she is brought to life by scientists at Hanka (a company that creates robots and enhances humans with their capabilities). Being a cross bred between human and robot, Major’s brain is fully human, thus making her unique. Her brain which contained her consciousness or ‘ghost’ in the ‘shell’ of her robotic body, made her different. However, she couldn’t see or appreciate this uniqueness. For the next hour and a half, viewers follow her journey in finding herself, her identity and inevitably coming to peace with who and what she was.
Post her introduction, action quickly followed suit as she combats an infected Geisha robot…only to find that the true villain was controlling the Geisha remotely. Being noble and determined to take down the enemy, she embarks on taking a ‘deep dive’, effectively connecting herself and the Geisha to see if she could trace the location of the villain. While in this deep dive state, she not only saw the villain but acquired memories from the villain’s past that instigated her will to begin searching for her own history.
After much search waddling through a sea of enemies, she finds the villain but learns that he is like her too… only several iterations older. Major learns about the genocide acted out by Hanka in producing human-robots like herself. She learnt that she was the product of over 90 iterations, all of which resulted in the loss of human lives. After a period of reflection and search for herself, Major goes on a path of taking down Hanka’s top boss with the help of her civil defence team.
Amidst the search for identity, this film really invokes a relevant question in today’s day and age where some of the technology seen in the film (like implanting computer chips in human brains) is no longer fiction. The futuristic world seen in the film closely reflects a direction in which the world today is heading. This raises the challenges in ethics and question of what right and wrong that will surface on the path towards advancement. Through Major’s journey in finding herself, it made me realise that we must all be prudent when it comes to ethics and the significance in protecting human values. That is because humans are not dispensable machines and the ghost inside our brains is valuable. Our consciousness makes us special and no artificial intelligence will ever replace this.
Amidst the philosophical questions raised in this film, Scarlett’s performance was nothing shy of perfect. The acrobatic fighting scenes to her enactment of a robotic role, whilst bringing together moments of human connection, is a reminder of her versatility as an actress. Combined with the strong philosophical mood of the film, viewers are left with an unforgettable film experience that definitely left me begging for more.
That’s a 4 out 5 for me.
Written by Htut Win for Pink&Sparkles
The Fate of the Furious
It began with street cars, china town gangs and truck heists to steal DVD players. 16 years on, the legend of the Fast and the Furious lives on through Dominic Toretto’s familia in an epic film jam packed with wrecking balls, jet packs and nuclear powered submarines. Though a key character or two may be gone, the essence of family, loyalty and living life a quarter mile at a time remains engrained in the fabric of this multigenerational franchise. Its eighth instalment didn’t disappoint.
The movie opens with a racing scene in Cuba where Dom (played yet again by yours truly, Vin Diesel) takes on a local bad ass who runs his mouth and his place in the racing scene. In true fast and the furious tradition, the two race, car for car. Blitzing through the beautiful streets of Cuba with action packed motorbike scenes, Dominic wins the race while driving his nephew’s crusty car in reverse. All seems to be going well for him and his special intelligence teammate Hobbs, who entertains himself with his daughter at the local soccer game. To the amusement of people watching in a theatre in New Zealand, we could only cheer at the effort of Hobbs and his daughter’s soccer team when they performed the pre-game Haka (war dance) as epitomized by the might All Blacks rugby team. Dom’s honeymoon in Cuba with Letty seemed perfect as their talks about parenthood and blissful romance was cut short. That’s because we all know that wherever Toretto goes, trouble soon follows.
On his daily walk around the block, Dom gets confronted by an unknown blonde beauty who we come to know as Syfer. Played by the lovely Charlize Theron, her charm turns to poison in a flash as she blackmails Dom with the only thing possible; by threatening to hurt his family. She does so by showing a photograph as she lists her desire to recruit him for missions. Viewers are left in utter suspense as we see Dom turn full circles from the fun loving Toretto we know, to helicopter chopping and submarine destroying terminator. The viewers and his team are all confused as to his sudden change in character. This heavy suspense for most parts of the film is largely replaced with, pie eating, candy ass whooping trash talk between Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Decker (Jason Statham). Coupled by Roman Pierce (Tyrese Gibson) and Chris (Ludacris) Rydges’s usual banter, viewers found themselves laughing through the action and confusion in ways that could not have been imagined for a fast and the furious film.
This series in the franchise really sets it apart from the previous ones. There’s more combat and surreal fighting scenes where jetplanes and submarines are used in unimaginable ways. Lengthy and filled with more gunfire and falling cars than one can handle, this eight instalment finds a delicate balance between action, hilarity and solemnness. As we journey through the film through a series of missions, we learn about Syfer’s blackmail and see that Dom will go through anything to protect the people he loves. It is a stark reminder beyond the film why this franchise has lasted 16 years. Its cast and crew remain loyal to one another through this ideal. We also learnt that where there is death, there is life. And life always continues in the presence of family and love. I will let those who haven’t seen the film figure this one out.
All in all, a 4/5 for me.
Written by Htut Win for Pink&Sparkles
Beauty and the Beast
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (2017) is nothing short of magical. It was first published in the mid-18th century as a French romantic fantasy (La Belle et le Bête) and has come a long way from print to stage to screen.
The film is set in Rococo-era France. An old beggar woman arrives at a ball and offers a rose to a prince in return for shelter from a storm, but he refuses. To his misfortune, he doesn’t realise she is an enchantress and for his arrogance she casts a spell that turns him into a beast to complement his character. Here, he now resembles a beefier and better dressed version of the faun from Pan’s Labyrinth. The prince’s servants are then turned into anthropomorphic household objects reminiscent of the puppets in The Motion of Puppets (a novel by Keith Donohue) and the castle is removed from the villager’s memories. The enchantress leaves the beast with the enchanted rose. To break its spell, the prince must learn to love another woman and earn her love in return before the rose’s last petal falls, otherwise the prince will remain a beast forever and his servants will lose their remaining humanity.
It must be said; the music and songs are absolutely riveting in this live action remake. Playful and humorous, they will captivate and hold your attention. Take for example “Be Our Guest”, which was a culinary-cabaret where cutlery and crockery turn into performers in a West Side Story meets Les Miserables style spectacular. The choreography was certainly taken to another level with scenes such as this thanks to the handy work of Oscar winning director Bill Condon. Also, the ensemble cast worked together excellently to bring these musical scenes to life with an impeccably high level of vibrancy and finesse. You will simply not be disappointed with the aesthetics of this particular scene and many others interspersed throughout the movie.
In my view, Emma Watson played the character of Belle very well. She was the perfect heroine: beautiful, compassionate, brave, intelligent and ahead of her time. I believe that her character makes for a perfect role model for young girls, because she is independent and unafraid to be stirred by the influence/coercion of others. She daringly asks for what she wants and the distance she goes for those she loves is truly admirable. More to this, Belle is also an avid reader and teaches other girls to read as well, an act that is chastised by members of the community. It’s hard not to appreciate and get behind the idea of this strong-willed and witty woman who challenges the female stereotype of the age – that women should only concern themselves with domestic chores relating to the household. While feministic elements like this may be portrayed through Belle’s character, it definitely isn’t something we need to be concerned or offended by.
Belle’s interactions with Gaston (Luke Evans) also holds valuable lessons for the viewers. Gaston, a celebrated former soldier, seeks her hand in marriage, but she refuses due to this arrogance and narcissism. It goes to show us that another person’s position and power shouldn’t be the only determinant in choosing our future partner and Belle understands that. As they say, it’s not what’s on the outside but also what’s on the inside. Beauty and the Beast does a good job in convincing us that character, attitude, and personality prevails above what we as people perceive to be beauty, which is the exterior.
I did feel that the character development of the Beast was fairly rushed. It seemed like he transitioned from an angry and bitter being into a lover vying for the attention of another woman all too quickly. I would have liked to see him do a little more to earn Belle’s favour rather than by just enamouring her with an impressive library of classic literature and inviting her to share dinner with him.
In all, this fairy tale’s fantasy was one that encouraged kindness and compassion, and to look beyond superficial beauty. It is a great movie for children, families and even couples. Some critics say that the portrayal of Disney’s first gay character LeFou (Josh Gad) was far too overt in the film and has the ability to send an inappropriate message to people who grew up with the original cartoon and especially the many children who will watch this film. However, I myself never found the homosexual elements of LeFou to be overpowering or blatantly cast in the spotlight. I thought it was subliminal and instead focused on his actions throughout the film which were hilarious and entertaining. As a sidekick, he complemented Gaston perfectly. LeFou and Gaston make you want to turn into a sword wielding hooligan for just one night with their antics. You want to tap dance with them on bar tables and sing horrible rhymes. When a movie has you wanting to do that, it’s very easy to look past all the other menial criticisms that people have about this movie, including its so-called homosexual implications.
Written by Linn Win for Pink&Sparkles
As always, thank you to my fabulous team who has done an amazing job at reviewing the movies. These are the movies they had enjoyed watching, and my apologies that it took me forever to publish this, life! I have yet to see Beauty and the Beast so hopefully, I can make some time to watch it this week. Hope you all had an amazing Easter long weekend and enjoy the rest of the short week.