Originally posted on Facebook - January 18, 2011
"Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit" delves on so many levels. It slowly and methodically blossoms over 8 volumes in 26 episodes. Like a steady and heavy drum beat, it doesn't rush to deliver it's message or unique perspective. Author Nahoko Uehashi's first book in this series establishes several strong and believable characters.
With exquisitely drawn animation and well scripted direction by Kenji Kamiyama (Director of and writer for "Ghost in the Shell" series), "Morbito" takes on a life of its own.
I was so excited and surprised by this wonderful, fresh story with twists and turns that made me glued to the TV screen, yearning to watch the next episode.
It made me start asking questions about each character, wanting to know how they became who they are, like Balsa, Tanda and especially Torogai. All of these main characters had a unique and profound impact on how the story evolved and changed.
"Morbito" is a top 10 anime series for my list. It draws upon so many great elements of folklore. I don't want to get into details of this story because I truly believe it's best experienced by viewing it yourself.
It lets the viewer experience the changes with the characters and brings the viewer in as part of the wonderful and gorgeous world Uehashi has created.
No spoilers – so read on!
“Star Wars: Episode 8 - The Last Jedi,” reaches deep into the last 30 years of Luke and Leia’s life showcasing superb performances by Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher. It provides many answers from Episode 7, but “The Last Jedi” supplies Star Wars fan’s more tantalizing questions. Perhaps the Light and Dark side of the Force are more intertwined. A relationship that is symbiotic in nature rather then adversarial. That pain, forgiveness and letting go is all a matter of perspective. How each person sees the same event so differently can affect choices in incredibly dramatic ways.
“Star Wars: Episode 8 - The Last Jedi.” resumes where Episode 7 left off. The Resistance is evacuating before the First Order decimates their base. Kylo Ren’s (Adam Driver) ferocious yet shaky embrace of the Dark side again provides more doubt about his true role with the First Order. Meanwhile, Rey (Daisy Ridley) is seeking Luke’s guidance, yet finding the path to understanding her role to be precarious and in some ways mirrors Ren’s path.
With all the action, the twists, turns and hair raising moments; Episode 8 provides this viewer deeper insight about the Force’s potential and legacy. There were key moments with each Force user that broaden the impact and possibilities for the Light and Dark side.
The first was during the initial evacuation of the base. In Fisher’s last, grand performance, Leia shows the audience an incredibly focused mind and control of the Force. A reminder from Episode 4; even her father, Darth Vadar, was unable to break Leia’s will. The second moment is with Rey learning about the Force with Luke. Her raw abilities not only shakes the foundation where she stands but also terrifies and reminds Luke the choices he made in the past. Choices that are still affecting his last Padawan with same raw power, Kylo Ren. Ren admits he is a monster, but the audience still sees potential for change. It is those choices with his Master, Supreme Leader Snook, that Ren shows his abilities are gaining refinement and strength. The last pivotal moment is with Luke confronting Ren. Although Luke has no want or need to continue the Jedi, this key scene only shows the true power of his abilities as Jedi Master.
“The Last Jedi” is a vital part of the Star Wars Saga. It provides uncomfortable and harsh answers. The film draws the audience into a galaxy far, far away that is not so pretty as they remembered 30 years ago. Perhaps the bad guy and good guy, like the Force, is not something that can be easily explained.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Episode 8) review by benMUSA
Starring Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong'o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern and Benicio del Toro
"The Good Doctor," Dr. Shaun Murphy, played by the brilliantly talented Freddie Highmore showcases a young doctors introduction to his first residency at San Jose’a St. Bonaventure Hospital. The hospital’s board is hesitant to hire an autistic savant with incredible visual, spatial and memory diagnosing skills due to his lack of interpersonal skills and bedside manner.
The pilot episode bravely confronts the hiring decision of the prestigious hospital. The president of the hospital, played by the great Richard Schiff, argues with his fellow board members that preserving the hospital’s reputation is not the right choice. As his mentor, Richard’s character passionately fights for Shaun’s right to work. The only other person that sees Shaun’s capabilities is Antonia Thomas’ role as resident Claire Browne. Her earthy empathic character shows how some people are born to be caring and forgiving doctors.
Throughout the episode, glimpses into Shaun’s life as a child and his close relationship with his brother develops a better understanding of Shaun’s mental and emotional hardships. The scenes into his past are not to justify why Shaun should be hired, but to explain who he is as an adult. Throughout each scene Highmore beautifully shows how each day someone with autism can live a normal life. This is not a young man who needs help organizing his daily activities or living in his own apartment.
“The Good Doctor” is about society’s lack of effort to understand what each individual can offer to society. Just as the civil rights or gay rights movement, The Good Doctor, shows autism is not a hindrance or a failing. It just simply asks the viewer what’s wrong with a capable brilliant autistic man wanting to be a doctor?
"The Good Doctor" review by benMUSA
(ABC Series - just ordered a full season 10/3/17) - Based a 2013 South Korean show with the same name.
Starring Freddie Highmore, Nicholas Gonzalez, Antonia Thomas, Richard Schiff, Chuku Modu, Beau Garrett, Irene Keng, Hill Harper, and Tamlyn Tomita
#video #autism #savantsyndrome #blog #thegooddoctor #abc #review #benmusajournal #medical #drama
No spoilers – so read on!
Netflix's original series, "Million Yen Women" unfolds with 5 mysterious women living with an under appreciated writer named Shin. Through the course of the series, the viewer glimpses the past lives of each character. At times, each mysterious woman provides shocking insight to the extreme and sometimes curious choices they made to survive.
The story begins when Shin (played by Yojiro Noda) walks into his disheveled home to be surprised by one of the mysterious women. She was invited to live with him and was instructed to pay him 1 million yen each month for rent. The same invitation is sent to all the women who show up the same day. The series goes back and forth from the moment they move into Shin's home and 6 months later when they are required to eat dinner together as part of the invitation rules. The other major rule is that Shin cannot ask any personal questions about any of his tenants. This adds even more suspense and mystery. All the female actors (Rila Fukushima, Rena Matsui, Miwako Wagatsuma, Rena Takeda and Yuko Araki) perform superbly. The actors enjoy the ability to limit what the viewer wants to know — who are they, why were they invited, and why these 5 women?!
As the show progresses, the story has many abrupt and emotional turns that deepen the mystery. Shin becomes the central figure. A young man that has dealt with so many tragedies. It draws each of the mysterious women closer into Shin’s daily struggles as a writer. Noda deftly portrays Shin's dark depression. How Shin is emotionally cold with little regard to his appearance and unable to really draw out the prose laying deep within him. Rila Fukushima (known for her part in "The Wolverine" and as Katana on the CW series “Arrow”) brings a very strong performance as the hyper-sexually expressive Minami, who rarely wears clothing while staying at Shin's home. What is so surprising is that no one seems bothered by her nudity other then the youngest of the women, Midori, played by Rena Takeda. Her fine performance shows a timid high school student growing to become the most tenacious woman out of all the tenants. Rena Matsui, Miwako Wagatsuma and Yuko Araki round out the other actors and each provide surprising nuances to characters that often would be considered very stereotypical.
"Million Yen Women" is a thrilling story with wonderful performances by an ensemble cast. With 12 episodes, the show is a perfect Sunday afternoon binge and I recommend this series highly for anyone who enjoys suspenseful mysteries.
Million Yen Women review by benMUSA (a Netflix Original Series)
Based on the manga series "100 man yen no Onna tachi" by Shunju Aono
Starring Yojiro Noda, Rila Fukushima, Rena Matsui, Miwako Wagatsuma, Rena Takeda, Yuko Araki, Yuya Endo, Kaito Yoshimura, Moeka Hoshi, Juri Ihata, Mariko Tsutsui, Kanji Furutachi, Tetsuhiro Ikeda, Takashi Yamanaka, Tomoya Nakamura, Lily Franky
No spoilers – so read on!
For Marvel fans, Doctor Strange brings a distinctive new chapter to the Marvel Universe. And for this fan, it brings life to a favorite comic book hero. Perhaps one of the most powerful Marvel characters, Doctor Strange merges science, mystical magic and spirituality.
Born Stephen Vincent Strange, the doctor in his earlier career was considered one of the top neurosurgeons in the world. Played brilliantly by Benedict Cumberbatch, Strange’s success was partly due to his over inflated ego and keen intellect. As with many Marvel heroes, Doctor Strange undergoes a metamorphosis after a career ending accident that left his hands unable to perform surgery.
In his desperation to heal his hands, the doctor forgoes the usual paths of science and medicine to seek the help of mystics. The location of where Strange finds his powers is a bit vague. Comic book lore indicates a hidden land high in the Himalayas. The filmmakers decided to keep the location more centered in urban area of Nepal. This fit well with the other urban locations where the story delved.
Cumberbatch proves himself worthy of this role. Providing a nice balance of playfulness and intensity that often was shown throughout Doctor Strange comic book history. What was a great surprise and treat was the casting of Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One. Often shown as an older man of some Asian background, this casting was a refreshing take on the character. The only actress that could pull it off with such bravado is Swinton. As always her measured and ethereal charisma brought the Ancient Ones character a feeling of great depth. Swinton always leaves the audience wanting more.
Without Cumberbatch and Swinton’s pivotal performances, the film would have felt uneven and flat. The addition of incredible technical and innovative CGI is what gives Doctor Strange that distinctive appeal all fans have been hoping to experience. Lastly, Chiwetel Ejiofo with his stoic, unbending performance as Baron Mordo casts a vision of what is to come with Doctor Strange.
Overall, Doctor Strange begins a wondrous chapter in the Marvel Universe. Delving into the notion what many perceive as mysticism and magic is actually how the universe exists.
Doctor Strange review in IMAX 3D by benMUSA
Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Mads Mikkelsen and Benedict Wong
#DOCTOR STRANGE #BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH #TILDA SWINTON #CHIWETEL #CHIWETEL EJIOFO #ANCIENT ONE #MARVEL #MORDO #MAGIC #MYSTICISM #EYE OF AGAMOTTO #DARMANU #REVIEW
No spoilers – so read on!
Nostalgic exuberance best describes the latest chapter in the Star Wars saga. From the beginning director JJ Abrams throws the audience back to their childhood. When Star Wars presented hope and wonder that influenced numerous generations.
The opening scene harks to the original film – creating an eerie foreboding. SW fans sense the dark side still has a strong presence in the galaxy. Even though the Emperor and Vader have perished, the First Order has risen to take hold of the power vacuum. The legendary actor, Max von Sydow, reminds us the Force is out of balance and warns Resistance pilot, Poe Dameron. A new character introduced by Abrams while interspersing old favorites. There is no heavy handiness to his method of reintroducing favorite characters – organic and inorganic. Viewers will appreciate the comedic comradery of stormtrooper Fin (John Boyega) and the fiercely independent Rae(Daisy Ridley). Both have somber pasts that offer only vague insights to the last 30 years. It tantalizes the audience and reminds fans what has happened to Luke, Leia, Han and Chewbacca?
With all the action and nostalgia, Episode 7′s story focuses clearly on this fan’s primary question, the influential role of the Force throughout the galaxy. “The Force Awakens” begins seeding this question in the minds of the audience. Essentially, how can a dying “faith” as stated in Episode 4 (the original Star Wars) come back from the brink of extinction? What role does it play 30 years after Episode 6, “Return of the Jedi.”
Masterfully, Abrams shows us the wonder and terror of the Force throughout Episode 7. Like First Order warrior and leader, Kylo Ren (played by Adam Driver), the audience is unsure of the present situation. Although Kylo Ren is a menacing master of the dark force, his lightsaber unsheathed shows the shakiness of his path. Looking closely the audience can see the serrated edges of his lightsaber. Nothing like the clean perfect lines of his predecessors and their light sabers. Episode 7 is introducing fans to a whole new aspect of the Force.
With the latest CGI technology balanced with amazing real life-size sets, the technical crew of this film is truly the shining stars. In some ways they steal many scenes. “The Force Awakens” sends the audience to spectacular terrains and harsh landscapes without the need of supercomputers crunching vast data. The landscapes, like John William’s virtuoso score, set the emotional pitch throughout the film.
The Force is everywhere; it surrounds us and binds us. Episode 7 shows us again how it can be a sense of hope and wonder.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Episode 7) review in IMAX 3D by benMUSA
Starring Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill,Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong'o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, and Max von Sydow
#HARRISON FORD #MARK HAMILL #CARRIE FISHER #ADAM DRIVER #DAISY RIDLEY #JOHN BOYEGA #OSCAR ISAAC #LUPITA NYONG'O #J.J. ABRAMS #GEORGE LUCAS #STAR WARS #THE FORCE AWAKENS
The hard-hitting comedic punch of Melissa McCarthy and Paul Feig is brilliantly show-cased in their latest film, “Spy.” Once again director and writer Paul Feig creates a masterful backdrop to display McCarthy’s delightful improvisational talents. A top-billing she deserves and should have earned after her Oscar-nominated role in “Bridesmaids.”
The fun doesn’t end with McCarthy. The supporting cast of Jude Law, Rose Byrne, Jason Statham, Allison Janney and Miranda Hart make “Spy” a well-rounded farce.
Feig’s setting for “Spy” is a tongue in cheek acknowledgement to 007. McCarthy plays CIA desk-jockey, Susan Cooper. A bright, cyber tactician who graduated at the top of her class; unfortunately, her docile demeanor has sabotaged her ability to get any “real-world” assignments. Even though on the field Cooper happens to be lethal, just ask her last instructor. The video clip of her graduating obstacle test is stomach wrenchingly funny and disturbing. With the cautionary blessing of her boss, played by Allison Janney, Cooper ventures onto her first mission to thwart the sale of a nuclear bomb.
In her way is Statham’s character who tries to sabotage her attempts to get intel and stop the sale. Statham plays a disheartened CIA spy who doesn’t believe Cooper is capable of completing her mission. Many times Statham steals the scene with his rantings and ravings as the toughest spy while he follows McCarthy throughout Europe.
Rose Byrne as the arms dealer and femme fatale, Raina Boyanov becomes the bunt of many hilarious improvisational jokes when she meets and befriends McCarthy. Byrne’s eccentric hairstyles and McCarthy’s grim wigs almost take on their own persona in many scenes. Yet it doesn’t stop Bryne or McCarthy from delivering delicious zingers at each other.
“Spy” has a great cast and script that allows the masterful improv, McCarthy, to shine throughout the film. She gracefully plays the straight man to let her supporting cast sparkle. This role shows her evolving as an actress and developing as a multi-faceted comedian. “Spy” is definitely another notch in McCarthy’s comedic black belt.
Spy (2015) film review by benMUSA
Starring Melissa McCarthy, Jude Law, Rose Byrne, Jason Statham, Allison Janney and Miranda Hart.
#MELISSA MCCARTHY #JUDE LAW #ROSE BYRNE #JASON STATHAM #ALLISON JANNEY #MIRANDA HART #SPY #SPOOFS #PAUL FEIG #COMEDY #SLAPSTICK #FOUL HUMOUR
The classic story of Sleeping Beauty has been told for decades. The tale was never about Princess Aurora. This retelling shows a different perspective. How the faerie sorcerous, Maleficent, rose to power. That she wasn’t all we perceive, but someone who made regrettable decisions. Instead of hiding and embracing all the darkness that enveloped her, Maleficent rose to embrace a path of compassion.
The viewer sees the wonder of Maleficent’s world - the Moors. Where pixies, tree soldiers, and other faerie folk live together protecting the Moors from the intrusion of man’s kingdom beyond their home. The film sets a serious, elegantly rendered tone from the beginning. Showing how Maleficent has grown alone in her world. Both parents died at a young age. She has grown independent and strong in her abilities. Becoming the natural leader of the Moors, but that suddenly changes when she meets a young human, Stefan. Their growing relationship and failings creates the story of Sleeping Beauty. The anguish of Maleficent’s relationship is the center, the focal point of this film.
No one else could possibly create empathy in such a dark character then Angelina Jolie. She embodies Maleficent, balancing that fine line of cruelty and compassion. Her smile freezes the whole theatre screen with a delicate, sultry pain. You understand how the betrayal of her first love invokes a deep anger. Jolie shows us even in the pain of such betrayal, everyone has the ability to see the goodness of others. To remind ourselves hope never fades completely.
Reviewed by benMUSA
#ANGELINA JOLIE #MALEFICENT #DISNEY #FILM #REVIEW #SLEEPING BEAUTY #PIXIES #FAERIE #FANTASY
Attack on Titan draws on the darkest parts of humanity. In this hopelessness, the viewer is compelled to look even deeper with each character as they are beautifully revealed. Attack on Titan is not a simple story or an answer to humanity’s failings. It is a destructive and horrific tale that harshly reveals society’s perverse gluttonous consumption of all that it holds so dearly.
Set in an alternate universe in the year 845, humanity is on the brink of extinction. Giants, some 15 meters tall, suddenly appear everywhere and began to devour all humans. There is no reason for these Titans’ unending hunger, nor an understanding of their ability to continuously regenerate. Only a spot on the nape of the neck seems to be the weak point of these marauding, sexless killers. With a hardened skin that is difficult to penetrate, the Titans seem unstoppable. So humanity retreats to a mega city comprised of 3 circular 50 meter walls that protect different social classes: Wall Maria, Wall Rose and the innermost Wall Sina.
After 100 years of peace within the confines of the mega city, the series introduces young Eren Yeager who lives behind the outer most wall – Maria. With his adopted sister, Eren witnesses a colossal Titan that towers over Wall Maria. With one kick the Titan punches a hole through the wall that protects his village. Waves of Titans move through his village consuming any human in their path. Just barely escaping and witnessing close ones devoured, Eren swears to kill every Titan. He joins the military who have developed a means to combat the Titans - the Vertical Maneuvering Equipment (VME). Weaponry using a strap-on high velocity pull system that is attached to titanium blades. A trigger on the handles activates the pulley system. Using the VME greatly taxes the muscles and ligaments and only an elite group can truly master fighting from a three – dimensional perspective.
From the first episode, you empathize with Eren’s frustrations. He feels the limitations the walls placed on humanity. He yearns to travel and join the Military’s Scout division. To find answers to why the Titans exist and why they left humanity alone for so long. After the destruction of his village, Eren’s questions take root in the series’ central plot. With each decision and revelation, the plot thickens and dips into murder, mystery, thriller and political intrigue.
Attack on Titan leaves you frustrated and disillusioned with the weight of Eren’s duty to protect humanity. You feel his anxiousness and fear of the unknown. At times you are terrified that any moment humanity could be wiped out. With the passionate soundtrack by Hiroyuki Sawano, the intense action scenes are greatly amplified and truly showcase the wonderful animation by Wit Studio and Production I.G. “Attack of Titan” is a superb and stimulating anime series. Like the VME – it reveals multi-dimensions of humanity’s darkest sins and enlightened hopes.
Reviewed by benMUSA
#DARK #FANTASY #TRAGEDY #ADULT THEMES #VIOLENT #DYSTOPIAN #STEAMPUNK #VICTORIAN #ANIME #SERIES #ATTACK ON TITAN #SHINGEKI NO KYOJIN #HAJIME ISAYAMA #SHŌNEN #TETSURŌ ARAKI #YASUKO KOBAYASHI #HIROYUKI SAWANO #WIT STUDIO #PRODUCTION I.G #REVIEW
The second part to “The Hobbit - The Desolation of Smaug" is a riveting film. This film is a definite must see in 3D at high film rate (48 per second compared to 24).
Tolkien’s book is a lightweight compared to the Lord of the Ring series he created. Director Peter Jackson is able to delve into Tolkien’s Middle Earth using the extensive appendices Tolkien wrote for “Return of the King.”
Hobit 2 has a heaviness about it - like a brooding, tensive animal. Your eye is only momentarily drawn to the vast CGI detail that expands the universe we were introduced in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. At the moment when you feel that fantastical wonder of Middle Earth, you are whipped back into the action that almost makes you feel you are part of the story.
Peter Jackson does take liberties introducing a female character into a story that only had male leads. But this is not a heavy handed approach. The female character, Tauriel, is the moral compass. Although purists would argue it's unnecessary, I would disagree. Tauriel draws out the Elvish culture in finer detail. Although they are a powerful and enlightened race, they are not immune to the petty problems every society deals with such as selfishness, a sense of entitlement and even a caste system.
"The Desolation of Smaug" answers many questions for this fan. It helps embellish and enhance the story of the One Ring and what became of the Necromancer - the Dark Lord Sauron.
Reviewed by benMUSA
#the hobbit#lord of the rings#tolkien#peter jackson#review