Pandragon Dan

Pandragon Dan


Top Five Films That P*** Me Off

WARNING: This Blog contains spoilers, some adult content – and a LOT of ranting! All rage expressed in this blog must be taken with a pinch of salt.



There are good films and there are bad films. There are films that make you cry, films that make you laugh, films that make you warm inside, films that cheer you up, films that are incredibly badass and even films that are so bad they are good.


But then there is a rare type of film, for me anyway. A type of film that, for some reason or other – just REALLY pisses you off! Whether because everything about it is wrong, the overall message the film tries to convey is just infuriating, or just because the main characters are hateable in every way possible, there are movies that just make us want to rage.


And because I’ve been feeling a little bit peeved lately, I decided to put together my own list of films that, for any number of reasons, just really pissed me off! It wasn’t easy narrowing it down to 5 as there are a LOT of films I’ve seen that really got my hackles up. But I decided to go with films that made rage me the angriest. And today I bring to you, the Top Five Films That Pissed Me Off The Most!


Get your rage on folks – because like just like Goku, my rage is gonna be over 9000 by the end of this one!




First, some honourable mentions of films I couldn’t include in this list, but piss me off just the same.


Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (because the main character is just so unlikeable and bratty), Napoleon Dynamite (again, because he’s unlikeable), The Wicker Man Remake (the reason why I despise remakes as a general rule), Lesbian Vampire Killers (what were Horne and Corden thinking?), Spider-Man 3 (the problems with this film could fill a whole blog on its own!) and Battlefield Earth (‘nuff said).





1. Fist of the North Star (Live Action)


Recently it was revealed that Ghost In the Shell was going to get a live action remake, with Scarlett Johansson in the title role. This has been met with mixed reactions from the Ghost of the Shell fanbase – and Anime fan base in general. Personally, I always am very suspicious when they do a live action remake of ANY Anime. The reason – this piece of garbage!


Fist of the North Star was one of the first Anime’s I saw – and to this day I still think it is one of the most badass stories out there! An ultra-violent cross between Mad Max and Return of the Dragon, it has enough blood and gore to fill an entire season of The Walking Dead. Sure, Kenshiro is stupidly overpowered – but he’s just so incredibly awesome! The guy can make you explode just by touching you – that’s pretty serious.


So I knew they could match up the same level of intensity that the Anime could. But they didn’t even TRY with this film! The special effects are cheap in every possible way, the acting is just so painful to watch that even Chris Penn and Malcolm McDowell (what were they thinking?) look uncomfortable – and they make serious errors with the narrative. Remember Shin? Kenshiro’s mortal enemy and master of Nanto Saiken, the most powerful martial artist next to Kenshiro? He kills Kenshiro’s master with a gun. A gun! *facepalm*.


But that’s only for starters. Remember Kenshiro’s attack Hokuto Hyakurestu Ken? The Hundred Crack Fist of the North Star? (or North Dipper Hundred Crack Fist if you want to get technical). They even manage to **** that up! They take one of the coolest moves from the Anime and... well, just see these comparisons for yourself and YOU decide which is cooler!






Oh and FYI, this bit is the ONLY instance where Kenshiro makes anyone explode when hitting them (not including a flashback scene). See? No consistency!


Overall this film is just bad and I think the fact that I know the original source material fairly well just heightens my anger. But in fairness this isn’t the ONLY instance of a franchise I really love being screwed over. Which leads me to...




2. Transformers


I just want to start off my mini “review” by saying this – go to hell Michael Bay!


I remember I got my brother this film on DVD for Christmas one year – and to this day he maintains it is the worst present I’ve ever got him. But I can’t say I blame him. This film, and even this particular franchise, is just putrid! I’ve only seen the first two films of this series and I have absolutely no desire to see the others!


Like a lot of kids from the 80's, Transformers were one of my favourite cartoons growing up – I mean robots that could transform into vehicles? What’s not to love about this film? But watching this film was like seeing Michael Bay sodomise my childhood! It took everything that was cool about Transformers and drained it until it became a shell of its former self. The Transformers themselves just had no personality, not like in the cartoon – and to be honest, they were hardly in the movie! Most of it was just aimed at the human characters – and they sucked!


Not only that, but the film was just so... very... slow... the plot moved at a snail’s pace and, when stuff finally happened, it was just too fast paced to keep up! And this actually brings me onto another reason why I hate this film – the way the Transformers just went around fighting Decepticons and destroying everything in the path, putting humans in danger. However, in the original cartoons, the Transformers had respect for the humans, and I even remember one instance where they even broke away from a fight to save some humans that had been put in danger. But here, they just blast the crap out of everything without any care for human safety. Our heroes ladies and gentlemen!


Strangely enough, the only real argument that people have when trying to defend this movie is, to my knowledge, “The special effects are cool”. Well, yeah, I’ll admit that, the special effects are pretty awesome. But that’s not a good thing if that’s the only thing you can say about this film. Special effects alone do NOT make a good film – of course they can help, but story and characters is what make a film enjoyable. And this film has none of the latter. The story is slow, boring and, in the second film, rife with plot holes and the characters have about as much personality as dry paint.


One more thing I want to mention that annoys me about this film. Despite getting Peter Cullen (who voiced Optimus Prime in the original cartoon) back in, when Frank Welker came into reprise his role as Megatron, Bay said his voice was too soft – which is utter crap as Frank Welker’s Megatron is creepy as hell. Yet, when they did the video game tie-in of Transformers, who did they get to voice Megatron? Frank Welker! If his voice was too weak for the films WHY did they get him to voice Megatron in the video game? I dunno, maybe Hugo Weaving wasn’t available.


I said it before and I’ll say it again – go to hell Michael Bay!





3. The Human Centipede 2


Ok, so the last two on my list were probably more a case of “fan boy rage” than anything else. But this film I have a legitimate hatred for. This film makes me hate the human race. It is without question one of the most depraved films I’ve ever seen. And worst still, it has absolutely NO point whatsoever!


The Human Centipede was a film that caused a stir on release, but I thought was actually an interesting concept. Plus, at least it had a storyline and characters that you could root for – and the Doctor villain was just scary as hell! The Human Centipede 2 has none of that. All it is is some freak that captures people, tortures them and then tries to create his own Human Centipede, inspired by the film. Interesting idea and follows on the Film-Within-A-Film concept – but the execution of it is just horrible.


I actually don’t want to talk about this too long as just thinking about this film makes me sick. But I’ll just say this... there is no point to this movie. All this film represents is someone’s sick fantasy where characters are tortured whilst the main character... you know what, I’m not even gonna say. In fact, there’s a lot about this film I can’t say, because I really don’t want to gross anyone out. Look, I’m all for freedom of speech and all that – but if you honestly think that this is entertainment, you need to seek professional help.


I remember when this movie first came to UK they tried to ban it and in the end made several cuts to make it acceptable. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but this film SHOULD have been banned. It’s a film made purely for controversy and that’s not a good thing. If it had a statement or message to convey I wouldn’t mind it so much, but to me, this film is a waste of space that should have stayed in the confines of Tom Six’s mind.


**** this film!!!





4. Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith


Oh boy am I about to ruffle some feathers! Look, I love Star Wars and, like most fans, I’m excited about the new Star Wars film. I even love the new light saber design. But I have to be honest with myself – the prequel Star Wars films just did nothing for me. People try to convince me that they are good films – I disagree.


Don’t me wrong, there are some good things about them. I love the way it sets up the back story of the Empire and how the Clones came into production and that lot. But there are also a LOT of bad things about them. And for me personally, the main problem – is Anakin Skywalker.


Some of you may remember that I listed Padme in my Top Five Worst Heroes/Heroines blog and also gave an honourable mention to Anakin. The reason being is that I felt that a lot had already been said about him already – but as this blog is about films that pissed me off, I feel I should now give MY feelings about why Anakin ruined it for me.


For one, like most people – he was just too whinny and immature. You pretty much could have replaced his dialogue with a screaming baby and it would have been better dialogue. But also, his actions were villainous in places. His murder of the Tusken Raider village felt completely unjustified to me, even given that they tortured her (for the record, this scene would have been a lot better if Anakin had at least tried to get her out the village, a Raider could have fired on them and killed his mother – then Anakin would have gone bat-crap crazy. That at least would have been a bet justification for his actions). What’s makes it even harder to swallow is the fact that Padme completely glosses over it and it is never mentioned again!


Yes, I know he’s supposed to be reckless – that’s something that was mentioned in the original Star Wars films. But the whole point of these prequel series was that we were supposed to root for Anakin as the hero and watch his gradual descent into the Dark Side. But this guy was pretty much already in the Dark Side before the film barely started. Nothing about this character made me want to support him in any way, shape or form. If he had some likeable traits, I wouldn’t have minded so much, but because of this, I really just couldn’t care less about him.


But wait, I still haven’t given you a reason why Revenge of the Sith pisses me off yet, have I? Here’s why. The Darth Vader scene. Yeah, you know the one. That scene alone enraged me beyond belief. It could have been a moment when the series redeemed itself, as the moment where he becomes Darth Vader should have been one of the most awesome moments in the prequel series. But when he shouted “NOOOOOO!” everyone in the cinema laughed and I just hung my head in despair.


Ok, so I can forgive George Lucas for introducing that stupid Midi-chlorian idea. I can forgive him for the annoying robots of the Separatists. I can just about overlook the hidden racism of some characters. I can overlook the fact that Natalie Portman and Hayden Christiansen made a terrible on-screen couple. I can even JUST ABOUT forgive him for Jar-Jar Binks as he hardly appeared on the later films. But what I will NOT forgive is turning Darth Vader, one of my favourite villains, into a laughing stock. This scene came close to destroying my love of Star Wars. In fact, before you call me out on being an angry fan boy, I can actually tell you a BETTER way that this scene should have ended.


Ok, so Anakin becomes Vader. He asks where Padme is, Palpatine says “You killed him”. He goes silent for a few moments – then says “I see...” BOOM! Move to the Dark Side complete, this would symbolise the death of Anakin AND preserve his integrity.


Let’s hope that J.J. Abrahams can do a better job in the next Star Wars films. And considering that I never really liked Star Trek, but thought the recent films were awesome, I have no reason to doubt these films will be equally as good. But for these prequel films (in particular Revenge of the Sith), they can just do one!





5.  Frozen


Hahaha, just kidding! I may have my issues with this film, but it didn’t really make me angry as such...





The real number 5. Batman and Robin


But I am not joking around when I talk about THIS film! This film was one of those few rare films that not only pissed me off in every way possible. It made me so angry that I HAD to see another film that day just to watch the taste away. So after leaving the cinema, I ran straight to a video rental story (remember those) to get another film. I can’t remember what film it was (I think it might have been Speed) but even that couldn’t wash the horrid taste from my mouth!


So everything about Batman and Robin is just terrible - that much we all know. It can’t decide whether it wants to be cheesy or dark, the puns just really dig under your skin on you (you think a film where Arnie was giving the puns would be enjoyable, but no!), Batman has a bat credit card – and bat nipples? Really? How did THAT get approved?


But despite all this, there is ANOTHER reason why I hate this film so much. It completely messes up one of my favourite characters from the Batman comics. Bane. In this film he is a sidekick to Poison Ivy, a mindless thug that just grunts and acts stupidly.


*Entering Rage Mode in 3... 2... 1...*


DID JOEL SCHUMACHER EVER READ THE COMICS? Bane was one of the few villains that could match Batman for brawn AND brains and he did what no other villain had done to Batman up until then. He broke his back! But he didn’t do it by just charging in willy nilly. No! He wore Batman down, put him through an endurance test and, only when he was at his weakest did he attack him. This guy is a legend among Batman villains in my eyes. AND THEY DID THIS TO HIM?!?







*Deep breath*


Ok... so you guys may have noticed a theme with a lot of these Top Fives – they are all angry at the ways characters are shown. Yes, I’ll admit a lot of this blog has been mostly fan boy rage – but let me explain. Like anyone, I have my own list of favourite characters from comics, books, video games, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I never expect them to be 100% accurate when they are portrayed on the big screen – but what I expect is for them to at least show respect to the character and keep as close to them as possible. When they don’t, yeah I get a little mad – because to me it feels like they are disrespecting them. Come you, you guys have felt the same at some point, right?


Thank god Tom Hardy portrayed Bane the correct way in The Dark Knight Rises, despite his voice being totally wrong and they left out the whole Venom thing. But at least he FELT threatening and could overpower Batman...



*sigh* I think I need to stop before I burst a blood vessel. Thank you guys for letting me rant. What films enraged you beyond belief. Please let me know in the comments below.


And now, just so I can calm down... here is a picture of a cute kitten.






Have a great weekend.





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Top Five Indie Novels That Should Be Made Into Films/TV Shows

A lot of people like to say how they want their favourite book to be turned into a film and/or a TV series. Which I think is pretty cool – I mean, what can be better than your favourite story being shown on the big screen? However, you don’t see a lot of people talking about how they want their favourite indie book being put onto the big screen. So that’s the subject of today’s Top Five blog.


Now, for myself, I would LOVE it if my books were turned into an Anime series or film, done by either Bones animation studio (who did Full Metal Alchemist) or Production I.G – but this isn’t about me. This is about five indie novels that I’ve read that I think would benefit from having a film or TV show made of their story. For any indie authors reading this, if I didn’t name your book I’m sorry in advance. That doesn’t mean I think your book sucks, I just am only limited to just five!


Also bear in mind this is based on books I’ve read only. So here we go, in no particular order.




1. A Ranger’s Tale by Mysti Parker


(Note: This book has had a different cover since this blog, but I don't have the new front cover, so I'm posting the old one)


The book series that helped me appreciate Romance novels a lot more and made Mysti Parker one of my favourite authors. A Ranger’s Tale is the first book in the Tallenmere series and a brilliant Fantasy Romance. It tells the story of Caliphany (a great character), stuck between her own desires and the wills of her abusive father. She’s also stuck between a romance between Galadin and Jayden and has to make some tough choices along the way.


A Ranger’s Tale has such wonderfully crafted characters and a great story (that actually wouldn’t feel out of place if set in modern times) that I think it deserves to be made into a film so that others can be introduced to this great series. Also, given the rise in popularity of Game of Thrones, I think now would be a great time to introduce a Fantasy story that isn’t necessarily about epic quests and slaying monsters, but personal struggles as well.


Who could we get to direct this film? How about Sofia Coppola of Lost in Translation fame? I think she would do a great job with this film, given that there is a lot of great room for character development in this story. She could direct the film from the point of view of the characters (just like the book) so that we get the individual thoughts and feelings of the main heroes – leading it to an open ended story whereby we can let the viewer decide which of the characters they’d like to support. I think it would also be great for Sofia to show off her skills, taking on a high budget idea like this one.


Naturally, I think all of the Tallenmere series could make great films. But why not start with this one and see how it goes from there?




2. A Stiff Kiss by Avery Olive


This novel I think would make a VERY powerful drama. Seeing as it deals with the feeling of loss and regret (and in some ways, forbidden love), A Stiff Kiss is almost begging for a film adaptation of it. It’s a great teen drama that also has a lot of mature elements to it, making it a great coming of age story. If that doesn’t make for a great film then I don’t know what does.


Now, the obvious choice for a director, giving A Stiff Kiss is a supernatural teen drama, this would probably be Catherine Hardwicke, director of Twilight and Red Riding Hood, amongst others. However (and at the risk of upsetting some people) I have to say that I do NOT consider her a great director and her films (at least the ones I’ve seen) are just terrible! Red Riding Hood in particular I just couldn’t finish because it was so bland and uninspired. But, of course, that’s just my opinion.


No, I think a better choice would be Joss Whedon. I know he’s mainly known for doing comic book movies (and of course Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Firefly), but Joss Whedon is able to direct the characters in his movies with humanity and wit, so that even if they are super powered heroes, we never forget that they had emotions at heart. Also, he did direct a movie adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing in 2012, so he CAN do other things than superhero stuff. Also, he’s a great writer and director and I think he will have a lot of fun adapting this story.


Sorry if I upset any fans of Catherine Hardwicke with my earlier rant. I’m sure she’s a nice person, I just don’t personally rate her as a director. I also feel that A Stiff Kiss is such an emotional story that it deserves a director that will be able to bring out the emotional content in a way that it deserves.



3. The Plaza by Guillermo Paxton


Never have I been so moved by a novel than this one. The Plaza is a gritty, no holds barred story telling of how the city of Juarez, Mexico has been destroyed by the drug barons. It is a city where the drug lords rule and crime is rampant. Even the police, the ones dedicated to protecting the public interest are just as corrupt as the criminals they are supposed to capture. I even said at the time when I reviewed it that this show deserves to be made into a film or TV show if only to bring awareness to the problem.


I can think of no other writer/director that would have the job of bringing this story to life then David Simon, creator of The Wire and co-creator of Treme. Giving that The Wire alone shows have been praised for their gritty realism and honest portrayal of a city in peril, who better than to bring the harsh reality of Juarez onto the screen. It would be a very bleak series and not one that everyone could stomach – but you can’t really tip-toe around this subject and, personally, I think this would be one of those situations where the more violent and disturbing it is, the more people will come to appreciate the dangers that the people have to suffer.


Normally Simon does tend to film a lot of his stuff in real urban areas to get that realistic feel – but I don’t think he’d be able to do this in Juarez for real. The drug barons would probably not let that happen. But I do think that The Plaza does need to be made into a TV show to show everyone what a crisis the city is in. It may actually go some way to solving the problem. I hope.




4. Vaalbara: Visions and Shadows by Michelle Horst


I kinda gave this book a bit of a hard time in my review of it, considering that I was torn between the concepts and thought it was maybe a little too dark for a YA novel, given that it dealt with the destruction of humanity as we know it. But at the same time I also thought that it was a really good story, chronicling the rise of Alchera from a simple nobody, to the one responsible for saving some of the human race so that they can make way for a new perfect world. It kinda had mixed messages, but at its core it was a really great story and, again, another “coming of age” tale.


Needless to say, it would definitely make for an exciting, high budget action film that, as long as they keep the pathos and human spirit aspect, could end up being a great summer blockbuster. As such, my choices for bringing this film to life would either be Peter Jackson or Steven Spielberg. After all, when it comes to creating blockbusters that have heart, who better than those to? You only have to Google their names to see the list of classic films that they have done to know that they would be perfect for this choice. Admittedly, they would probably try to go for a less darker ending and maybe change the emphasis a little for the purpose of making it more of a “happy ending”, but for the most part I think they could do a good job.


I just really hope that Roland Emmerich doesn’t get his hands on this, as he’d just turn it into a high budget disaster movie for the sake of it with little storyline or anything. An adaptation of this deserves time and effort to make it into an enjoyable film that is both dramatic, yet poignant. But if done right, I think it will make an amazing film.




5. One Hundred Years of Vicissitude by Andrez Bergen


Being a huge fan of Studio Ghibli, I think this is one book that would make an amazing Anime film – especially if Hayao Miyazaki got his hands on it.


Why do I think that? Because One Hundred Years of Vicissitude is full of a lot of themes that Miyazaki is fond of. The story is full to the brim of Japanese mythology and history (which he often mixes in), but also intermixes it with the World War and Hiroshima bombings, and Miyazaki is strongly anti-war (so much so that, when Spirited Away won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, he refused to attend the ceremony because he "didn’t want to visit a country that was bombing Iraq") so I think he could do a lot with this.


Not only that, One Hundred Years of Vicissitude has a very strong and interesting female lead in the form of Kohana – and a lot of Miyazaki’s film’s have a strong female protagonist. But not only that, I think the dynamics between her and the character of Wolram would make for a lot of comedic effects.


But the main reason that I think this would work so well as a Miyazaki film is that One Hundred Years of Vicissitude is, for me, a story about personal growth – looking back over your life and learning from the mistakes. Even reading this book, the ending I imagined having music by Mamoru Fujisawa (who has worked on a LOT of Miyazaki films) play over the end to capture the raw emotion of the final scene. I always felt that Miyazaki's films have a lot of heart to them, so this would be perfect for him to direct.


Reading this, it’s almost like One Hundred Years of Vicissitude could have been specially written for Hayao Miyazaki. Therefore it makes sense that he could do a great job with this film.



Those are my choices for the Top Five indie books that could become films. What are your fav indie books that you would like to see as films? Please let me know by leaving a comment below.


Thanks for reading guys. Have a great day!






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Top Five Anime Films - In My Opinion

Reading through some of my past blogs, I realised (much to my horror) that whilst I have done LOADS of blogs related to Fantasy, and even a few dedicated to writing tips, I’ve yet to really do any blogs that are Anime/Manga related. Considering that my writing is heavily inspired by this, it seems a little strange that I wouldn’t do that. So to appease the Otaku’s that follow my blog, today I’m looking at my Top Five Anime Style Films.


Anime has grown in strength over the last few years – as has its films. I’m not talking about films based on famous franchises, like Pokemon, Naruto, Dragonball Z and all that, but films done in an Anime style. Whereas these films were fairly underground to begin with, thanks to such studios as Studio Ghibli, Anime films have been thrust into the mainstream and given the attention they deserve.


So today, I’m going to be looking at my top five Anime style films. These are the films that for me, have a certain magic to them and give me a sense of magic when I watch them. Or, I just find them damn entertaining to watch! Again, like with all my lists, this is just based on films I have watched and I list them in no particular order. Some are well known – others not so well known to give a balance.


But before I start the list, I want to give an honorary mention to one film:



Howl’s Moving Castle


Because I know this film has a strong fan base, I wanted to at least talk about it so that people felt I wasn’t ignoring it. And don’t get me wrong, this is an amazing film to watch. It’s a tale of a young girl that becomes cursed by a witch and turns old. In her quest to become young again, she becomes involved with a young sorcerer that takes her on an amazing adventure.


It’s full of colour, magic and amazing visuals. The world it is set in is beautifully crafted and some of the shots are just breathtaking. But, if I’m being honest, I found the English dub to be – well, a little bland if I’m being honest. The voice actors all seem to speak their lines without any real emotion to them. And considering it’s made up of some top quality actors (like Emily Mortimer, Jean Simmons, Lauren Bacall and even Christian Bale) that’s a surprise. Only Billy Crystal (who voices Calcifer) seems to have any real character to his voice. That, and the ending is just a cluster of things happening at once – it tries to throw too much at you at one time and get’s confusing.


But overall, it is an amazing film visually, so worth checking out.



Ok, onto my list.




1. Spirited Away


My god, this film is just BEAUTIFUL to watch. So much so that it moves me to tears occasionally. Whereas Howl’s Moving Castle lacked emotion for me, the same could not be said for Spirited Away.


Our main protagonist is Chihiro, a ten-year old girl that gets trapped in a world inhabited by spirits (all inspired from characters in Japanese mythology) along with her parents – who get turned into pigs. Now stuck, she has to try and find a way out of this world, save her parents and avoid the wrath of Yubaba, a witch that is overly bossy and commanding. Getting a job at a bathhouse, Chihiro makes friends with Haku, the spirit of the river, and many other characters along the way.


Much like I had to give praise to the world in Howl’s Moving Castle, the world in Spirited Away is also beautifully detailed. It feels so much like our own world – and yet different. The characters that inhabit it range from the strange, to the downright creepy and disturbing. I think the creepiest character is No-Face, a large blob like creature with a white mask that becomes obsessed with Chihiro when she shows him kindness – then goes on a rampage when she rejects him (this character actually inspired the character Arakune from the Blazblue series). The film also has a slight environmental message to it, as some spirits convey the state of the human world. One example (without giving spoilers) who is a Stink Spirit, covered in muck and waste – representing how the rivers are being spoiled and corrupted by humans dumping their crap in it. It’s not thrown in your face like some environmental messages – but it does get the point across.


Chihiro is an interesting and believable protagonist as well. She’s not a wisecracking heroine that knows how to fight – she’s a scared child, lost in a world she doesn’t understand. Whilst she does start off a little whinny and bratty at first, the journey forces her to grow up pretty quickly and in the end, she becomes a much better person because of it, learning to care about others more than herself. The relationship she forms with the other characters helps to eventually overcome Yubaba and reunites with... oh, sorry I’m giving spoilers here!


As well as amazing visuals, the music is just stunning. Composed by legendary Japanese composer Joe Hisaishi, the music just sooths your soul and helps you get lost in the moment. It perfectly captures the emotion of the scene – whether it be horror, funny, dramatic, or even heart warming or sad. I guarantee you that at one point, this music will bring tears to your eyes. Music in films can be a very powerful tool if used correctly and the music in this film does its job very well.


This is one of those “close to perfect films” that ticks all the right boxes – and one of the few films I can find no fault in. Whether you’re a fan of Anime or not, you have to check this film out and get lost in the magic of it.




2. Princess Mononoke


I was actually lent this by a friend at my old job a couple of years ago, hearing that I liked Anime films. I borrowed it and watched it, not really sure what to expect – but I ended up loving it just as much as Spirited Away.


Princess Mononoke is a blend of Period Drama and Fantasy, set during the Muromachi period (yes, I had to look that up) of Japan. After saving his village from an attacking demon, Ashitaka becomes wounded by the demon, his arm becoming cursed. This gives him superhuman strength, but will eventually kill him. On his quest to find a cure, he stumbles across a human encampment, fighting for their survival against an oppressive Imperial reign and the spirits of the forest, who seek to take revenge against the humans for plundering their resources. Along this, Ashitaka meets San – a girl raised by wolves and has a hatred for mankind.


Throughout the film, there are two main conflicts. The old ways of magic and nature – and the coming of humanity and technology. Both are in constant conflict with each other throughout the film as the spirits struggle for survival against humans that may no longer need them. However, what is really clever about the film is that there ARE not real heroes or villains. Though they are plundering the forest, the humans are by no means evil – they are just trying to survive. Their leader, Lady Eboshi (voiced by Minnie Driver) is a kind hearted and selfless woman who will do anything to protect her people. The forest spirits, angry that their homes are being invaded, are fighting for their survival. It’s an ambiguous conflict that lets you make your own choices.


Much like Spirited Away, it has a strong environmental message and is a good metaphor for modern day Earth as much as it is for the time. With the increase in numbers of humans on the planet, more and more forests are being torn down so that they can make more housings (or other things) for the humans. In the process, the forests are slowly dying.


The main character Ashitaka is an interesting one (voiced by Billy Crudup – the guy that did Doctor Manhattan in the Watchman film). He’s not your standard hero in the sense that he doesn’t really have a major quest to accomplish – he just is trying to save his own life. By becoming involved in this, he gradually becomes more heroic and tries to find a peaceful way to resolve the battle between the forest and the humans. San (voiced by Claire Danes) becomes his almost unwilling helper, but still mistrusts the humans for what they have done.


Finally, the film has strong feminist themes. Lady Eboshi protects her people from the oppressive Emperor and will do anything to look after them. She even teaches the women of the settlement to handle weapons so that they can protect their men – something which would have been unheard of at the time. For those that like strong female characters, you will find plenty in this film.


A great mix of magic and modernisation, Princess Mononoke is a highly entertaining film. Whilst it may not be as emotional as Spirited Away, it certainly is a well put together film, with an ambiguous conflict that lets you decide who the heroes and villains are.




3. Fist of the North Star


If any film perfectly captures the over the top nature of Anime, it would be this one. This was one of the first Anime films I ever saw – and boy did I think it was demented! This film is little more than over the top violence, gore and completely overpowered characters. And I love it!


Based on the Manga of the same name, the film is set in a post-apocalyptic Earth, devastated by nuclear war. The world has now become a sort of Mad Max type wasteland – with gangs, mutants and other monstrosities roaming the planet trying to find food and other things to stay alive. It’s a violent world and only the strong survive.


Enter Kenshiro (or Ken as he’s known in the English dub), an expert in the martial art Hokuto Shinken (aka Fist of the North Star), the most deadly form of martial arts known to man. This can cause people to explode from the inside out and allows Ken to do some really over the top martial arts moves. Ken’s girlfriend Julia has been taken by Shin (Fist of the South Star), who is the leader of an oppressive regime that pretty much holds the world in his hands. Add to this that Ken’s brothers Jagi and Raoh are also fighting for control, Ken finds himself in a battle for humanity – and a fight to protect Bat and Lynn, two kids that come under his control.


In many ways, there is very little plot to Fist of the North Star, and what there is has more than one hole. But Fist of the North Star is known for its over the top violence and utterly ridiculous levels of violence rather than its story. Ken is seriously overpowered and effortlessly pwns anyone he comes across. Yeah, I guess you could say that he is a bit of a mary-sue. But the bad guys he fights are just so unlikeable and horrible, it’s probably a good thing that he can kick their ass. Heck, there’s even one bit where he punches a building and it falls down. It even lands on him and he walks through it like nothing happened! You KNOW your character is badass when stuff like that can’t hurt him!


The fights are bloody as hell, but awesome to watch. Heads explode, gore flies and even buildings get smashed up. It’s completely style over substance – but then again that works in the films favour. For me, the BEST bit of the film is when Ken fights Zender, the huge leader of a vicious gang, who is holding Lynn hostage. He tells him to put Lynn down, Zender refuses. Ken then bursts from his top (yet amazingly in the next scene, he has it back on. Logic... who needs it?), his muscles bulge, then he whacks Zender hundreds of times with punches (called “The Hundred Crack Fist of the North Star” in the Anime). Zender gets up, threatens Ken – who just replies “You’re already dead,” and then Zender explodes in a burst of blood.


It’s completely over the top and completely lacking in characterisation and plot – but like the recent Spartacus series, you have to take it with a pinch of salt and not take it too seriously. If you just want a no-frills action movie with lots of violence and amazingly cool fighting moves, this is for you!




4. Barefoot Gen


I’ve said before, in past blogs, that Anime and Manga doesn’t always have to be about Fantasy – it can deal with real life issues as well. This is a perfect example of it.


Again, this is based on a Manga of the same name – and semi autobiographical. Barefoot Gen is based on the writer’s (Keiji Nakazawa) experiences during the Hiroshima bombings. Already hearing that gives you a cold feeling if you know that moment in history.


Personally, I think the Hiroshima bombings is one of the greatest human atrocities ever perpetrated - so any film that can prove to people how horrible it really was, I'm in favour if it can educate them - and hopefully make sure it never happens again.


Anyway, the story follows Gen, a young boy who lives with his family. It starts off as a slice of life kind of story, with Gen and his family trying to make a living throughout this difficult moment in Japans history. About 30 minutes into the film, the Americans drop the nuclear weapon – and the horror starts.


This film holds NOTHING back in terms of showing the effects of the nuclear weapon. You see people burned alive and melted by the effects of the weapon. There is even a disturbing moment where a mother shields herself to protect her baby from the blast and the two get fused together. Gen survives, as does his mother, but his family are killed when their house collapses. That scene along will be enough to make the tears come forth. After that, Gen and his mother have to try and find a way to survive in Hiroshima – now devastated by the effects of the bomb.


I personally think Barefoor Gen is highly underrated amongst Anime films. It’s not an easy film to watch – and is extremely bleak in places. But it is a true story, set around the ever poignant theme of human survival, and the spirit of humanity. If you get a chance to see it, I recommend it. But have a box of tissues nearby – believe me, you’re gonna need it.




5. Akira


Hands down, this is my favourite Anime film of all time. Even though I love all the films mentioned above, they cannot come CLOSE to the power and awe that Akira leave me in. Even though I’ve seen it a million times, and in several different dubs, I still feel a sense of wonderment in seeing it.


Akira is a cyberpunk adventure, set in Neo Tokyo, years after a massive explosion that decimated most of Tokyo – caused by someone known only as Akira. Little is known about Akira – other than he had intense psychic powers (almost godlike). It follows Kaneda, a young biker, and his friend Tetsuo, who come across children with these same psychic abilities. Tetsuo discovers that he himself has these same psychic abilities – and goes on a rampage across Neo Tokyo, hoping to find who this Akira really is.


The overall theme of Akira is the abuse of power and the way it can corrupt people. The idea of psychic powers is very similar to that of the atomic bomb and the destruction it causes. Tetsuo is for all intents and purposes, a walking atom bomb – capable of destroying anything he comes across. However, his powers do have limits – as is discovered in the final act of the film, which is one of the most disturbing moments in Anime. Those who have seen the film will know what I’m talking about! Let’s just say that it gave me nightmares after seeing it.


Akira has a fantastic story – with many brilliantly crafted characters – all with their own motivations and reasons for their actions. Within the destruction caused by Tetsuo, there is a heavy political struggle and a resistance wanting to overthrow the oppressive government. Kaneda gets caught up in this as he struggles to stop his friend Tetsuo. Their rivalry is one of the best on screen dynamics I’ve seen in a film. Both are best friends and yet their conflicting ideals force them against each other. It raises a great point – what would you do if you’re best friend became your worst enemy?


One of the reasons Akira is one of my favourite movies is the animation. It is by FAR the most realistic animation I’ve seen in an Anime film. Every single movement of the characters is painstainkingly drawn out frame by frame, to add a sense of realism to the characters. The body moments and facial expressions are realistically portrayed and almost feel like you’re watching a live-action film at some points. The whole film is like a comic book come to life and the result is just awesome. The only other Anime film that comes close to replicating this type of realistic Anime style is Ghost in the Shell, but even that doesn’t match up in my opinion.


You know how I said that Fist of the North Star was violent? Well Akira is equally as gory and sick in places. But actually, some of the more disturbing moments of the film (other than the ending) is when the city is being destroyed and you hear the screams of people being killed. The violence is obviously not the main selling point of the film by any means, but be warned – you NEED a strong stomach to watch this!


Put simply, Akira is a landmark in Japanese animation and arguably the film that catapulted Anime into the mainstream. It isn’t just my favourite Anime film of all time, but one of my favourite films of all time. I heard a while ago that they were planning a live action version of Akira – which I am DREADING with a passion. If you look at past live action films based on Animes (Speed Racer and Dragonball Z live action to name a few), you know it never goes right.


As a side note, when my brother first went away to Newcastle to study at University, he actually brought me a boxed set of Akira before he went away. It remains the best present he’s ever given me!



So that’s my list. What’s YOUR favourite Anime films? I’m sure I’ve missed out a ton I could mention, so please leave a comment below and let us know what you think.


Thanks guys!






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Top Five Underrated Superhero Movies


It seems that this summer is the summer of superhero movies! We’ve already had The Avengers (awesome film) and The Amazing Spider-Man (haven’t seen yet) – and with Batman: The Dark Knight Rises out in a matter of days (which I HOPE will be awesome), it seems the movie studios are feeding us the cream of the crop in superhero films!


Superhero movies had a bit of a bad reputation in the old days. If you look at the previous list of films based on superheroes (The Fantastic Four, Ghost Rider, Elecktra, Superman Returns, Wolverine and even that DREADFUL Catwoman film to name a few), they just didn’t come out the way the filmmakers intended. Whether it be that the casting was wrong, the story was dull, or the filmmakers just butchered the source material to make it something completely unlike the comic it was based on, superhero films rarely seemed to get it right.


Fortunately, since the release of Iron Man and The Dark Knight, it does seem that superhero films are making a bit of a comeback and film makers are learning to show respect for the source material it was based on. But even before this, not ALL superhero movies were terrible. In fact, today I look at the top five underrated superhero movies that are actually enjoyable to watch. These are the superhero movies that I actually had some fun watching and would easily watch them again (for the most part).


Ok, so let’s set the ground rules for this one. Firstly, I am NOT including any of the latest Marvel films that make up the Avengers storyline – nor am I including any of the Chris Nolan Batman films. Simply because all those movies already kick ass. Also, this is purely based on films I’ve seen – so I may miss a few out. And finally, this is all just my own personal opinion.


So here they are – in no particular order.




1. Hellboy


This is one of those films that everyone raved about when it first came out, but no one seems to talk about it anymore. It’s a shame because this film, and its sequel The Golden Army, are actually decent films.


I never actually read a lot of Hellboy comics before this film, but after seeing it I actually did read it a little more. And you know what, they’re pretty good. The storyline is very basic – a demon child raised to fight mythological creatures, but it actually works.


I love the character of Hellboy in the film – he has a great sense of humour that makes for some very funny scenes. And that is one of the reasons that I like about this movie – unlike other superhero films at the time (that tried to fill their plots with drama and angst), Hellboy wasn’t afraid to have a little fun and didn’t always take itself seriously. It knew how silly it’s plot was and didn’t try to overdo the drama.


Also, the monster design and costumes are just awesome! Guillermo Del Toro did a fantastic job bringing the world of Hellboy to life and his monster designs actually feel original and lavish. Ron Pearlman is excellent as Hellboy, capturing both the human and monster aspects of the character. And his one liners are just brilliantly delivered!


All in all, as long as you don’t take the plot TOO seriously and just sit back and enjoy the ride – this is a great film and one worth seeing.




2. Spawn


Seeing as this film is kinda reviled amongst Spawn fans, I might get some raised eyebrows for this one. But in truth, I do actually like this movie. It takes some liberties with the source material and adds in a little bit more humour than the comic does – but I think that actually works in the films favour.


Spawn is the best selling independent comic character (at least back then), created by ex-Marvel artist Todd Macfarlane. It told the story of an soldier that was betrayed by his own people and killed. Sent to hell, he made a deal with the Malebolgia and became a hellspawn for his dark army so that he could see his wife and child. But when he returns, his wife has remarried. Angry, Spawn decides to take revenge and uses his power to protect the innocent. Since his beginnings, he has fought everything from scantily clad angels to cyborg mafia types – even killing god and becoming the new King of Heaven at one point!


The film Spawn pretty much follows Spawn from his humble beginnings, becoming a hellspawn and then trying to avenge his death. During this, he is hassled by a monster called the Violator (appearing as the Clown), played brilliant by John Leguizamo. Spawn is also guided by a former hellspawn named Cogliostro, played by veteran Scottish actor Nicol Williamson in his last film role. For those who don’t know, Nicol Williamson was an immensely talented actor that was once described by playwright John Osborne as “the greatest living actor since Marlon Brando”, but he didn’t seem to do anything after the Spawn movie. I recently discovered that he died in December 2011 of throat cancer – which is sad.


Anyway, one of the things that fans of the comic don’t like is that this film has a much lighter tone and tends to take some liberties with the source material. But if I’m being honest, I always found the comic a little TOO dark sometimes, so I actually don’t have a problem with the film being a little lighter. The Clown does bring in a lot of cheesy humour to the role that I kinda like. Also, in fairness to the filmmakers, they do actually keep close to the original costume designs of the characters. Spawn’s costume looks awesome and even the Clown looks pretty good. Some of the special effects are a little questionable (this was 1996 remember), but for the most part they’re decent enough.


Ok, so maybe it isn’t one of the best adaptations of a comic, but in actual fact it’s really not the worse film ever made. It has more than a few issues and problems – but if you don’t know the comics or just want a movie that you can turn your brain off and enjoy, you might want to check this one out.




3. Kick-Ass


Kick-Ass asks the question that everyone else has wondered. Why don’t we all try to be superheroes? Answer – because we’d get the living crapped beaten out of us! The story follows a young boy who decides that he wants to be a costumed fighter (who wouldn’t?) But after getting the living crap kicked out of him and ending up in hospital, he has many nerve endings destroyed and replaced by metal limbs – meaning that his pain receptors are dulled. Continuing on his (rather pointless) quest to be a hero, he quickly becomes famous through Youtube and Myspace (seriously does anyone actually use Myspace anymore?). The other heroes in this story are Big Daddy and Hit Girl, a Father-Daughter combination out to take out a big mafia boss in a revenge story.


The movie garnered some controversy for Hit Girl (only 10 or 11 years old, but an expert martial artist) saying the C word at one point in the film. What I found kinda funny is that THIS would be the one that upsets people – yet no one batted an eyelid when she went around shooting people up. Many thought that this was gonna be like a teen movie when it first came out – but actually it is one of the bloodiest superhero films I’ve seen in a while! It doesn’t hold back on the violence and, in many ways, is actually one of the more realistic superhero movies – although it gets ridiculous near the end.


However I DO have some problems with this film. Firstly, a lot of the characters lack any kind of humanity (even the heroes) and seem to go around killing people without any care or remorse for their actions. I also though the Big Daddy revenge plot had a major plot hole in it that didn’t really justify his actions for revenge – nor his reasons for including his daughter in his revenge scheme, although I did like the dynamics between Big Daddy and Hit Girl.


For those thinking about becoming a superhero after seeing your idols on the big screen, you might wanna check this out first. Kick-Ass raises a lot of moral questions and could be debated about for years to come, but it is a film that you should check out at least once.




4. Watchmen


If you had to ask me which is my favourite superhero film of all time, I’d say Watchmen. Purely because it is one of the most faithful adaptations of any comic – pretty much following the story word by word!


Watchmen, written by the legendary Alan Moore (one of my favourite and most influential writer for me) is considered by many to be the greatest comic book of all time. At a time when superheroes were portrayed as clean cut heroes, Watchmen portrayed superheroes as realistic characters with incredibly complex personalities and amoral values. Set in an alternative timeline where Richard Nixon is still president, the comic (and the film) chronicles humanities struggles with an upcoming nuclear war with Russia. Over the course of the 12 issue comic, the threat of nuclear war is constantly foreshadowed, with images representing a ticking clock (the Doomsday Clock) being a recurring theme of the plot. Meanwhile, a former superhero (Rorschach) investigates the death of a former hero – which leads him to a much bigger conspiracy that could affect the world. All these add up to a very dark story that is mysterious in nature, yet highly entertaining to read. It also has one of the bleakest and ambiguous endings of any comic.


Many said that Watchmen, as a comic, was unfilmable. Even Alan Moore himself said he didn’t think his comic could be filmed. But Zach Snyder did a fantastic job in my opinion. He captured the look and feel of the comic almost perfectly and followed the story as much as possible. Watching this film made you absolutely believe that you were watching the comic come to life. Sure, they cut out and change bits here and there, but that was to be expected. Some complained that the film has a much more upbeat feel than the comic, and many were upset by the slight change in the films ending. Myself, I don’t have a problem with the changes made – it still feels faithful to the comic.


Acting wise, these were kind hit or miss. Jackie Earle Haley was amazing as Rorschach and I actually believed him to be the character in seconds. Jeffery Dean Morgan was equally as good as the Comedian, Patrick Wilson as Nite Owl and Billy Crudup as the emotionally detached Doctor Manhattan were also great. But I gotta be honest, the roles of Silk Spectre and Ozymandias (played by Malin Akerman and Matthew Goode respectably) were a disappointment. Silk Spectre was just too plastic and dull and Matthew Goode just lacked the psychotic feel that Ozymandias had in the comic.


But overall, this film stays VERY true to the comic and for that I’m thankful. This was one of those films that HAD to be done right, due to Watchmen being so iconic. And I think that they did it justice. To this day, I still feel that this is one of the most faithful adaptation of the original source material.




5. Batman: The 60’s Movie


“Wait!” I hear you cry. “You weren’t going to mention Batman.” Well, actually, I said I wasn’t going to include Chris Nolan’s Batman. I never said anything about the OTHER Batman movies!


There have been so many adaptations of Batman over the years that for some, it’s hard to pick a favourite. And don’t get me wrong, I love Chris Nolan’s Batman films as much as I love Tim Burton’s Batman films. But, if you were to ask me what my FAVOURITE Batman film of all time was – hands down, it will be the 60’s Batman!


I don’t care that this series completely butchered the dark feel of Batman – I LOVED this series as a kid and still do today. I love the campy, over the top feel, the cheesy acting, the fact that Batman and Robin always have the right gadget to help them out (and they all seemed to be labelled as well) and that they can solve anything in just a matter of seconds with just the smallest of clues (seriously, even McGuyver would blush at the way they solve some things). I even love Caesar Romero’s portrayal of the Joker and the fact that they had to put makeup over his moustache as he refused to shave it! All in all, I just love this series and it makes me laugh every time I see it today.


This film for me was a real treat when I first saw it. It was one of the first time where Batman had to go up against not one, but FOUR of his villains! For a fan of the series, this was a big thing for me! Sure the plot is utterly ridiculous and over the top, but I still love it. It also has one of my favourite scenes of all time. Batman finds a bomb about to explode and, not wanting to endanger any innocents, sets out to dispose of it. But finding nowhere to get rid of the bomb without hurting civilians (and ducks), Batman turns to the camera, frustrated and says.


“Somedays you just can’t get rid of a bomb!”


I LOVE the way that he says that line like it’s an everyday problem. And yet he says it with such verve that it makes it sound both ridiculous and badass at the same time! It’s kinda like that line in Snakes on a Plane where Samuel L Jackson says “I’ve had it with this mother***ing snakes on this mother****ing plane.” It’s such a terrible line, but Samuel L Jackson still somehow makes it sound badass.


So yeah, many hardcore fans of Batman will probably hate me for saying this is my favourite over the other Batman films – but I can’t deny how much I love this movie. It’s a part of my childhood, and most importantly it’s FUN to watch!



So those are my picks. Agree or disagree? Please feel free to comment below with your views/feedback.


Until next time!





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