In the 10 Ring: Gunslinger45's Reviews

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I am waiting very patiently for Apocalypse Now to finally come to the Alamo Drafthouse.
I'll see what I can do. I can make things like that happen.

Hello and welcome MoFo’s to another review with The Gunslinger45. Anime. For many people it is their favorite form of storytelling and art. They keep up with the latest series, can talk in detail about artists and directors, what makes their art styles or literary tropes unique to them, insist on watching the subtitled versions, and are active in cons and cosplaying. For others it was something they were into when they were young but they grew out of it. For others still, there those still obsessed with anime, but have stopped seeking out new titles because of perceived drop in quality. I myself have for the longest time been somewhere in the middle of these points of view. Can’t call myself an Otaku, can’t call myself an Old-taku (credit Bennett the Sage for that term), and I can’t say I don’t like anime. I liked anime a lot as a teenager and as a young adult in college. I grew up on the likes of Dragonball Z, Cowboy Bebop, and my personal favorite anime series The Slayers. I still have all my series on DVD that I had when I was in college, still rewatch them, and even updated a few series to Blu Ray. Hell I regularly follow the fan made DBZ parody Team Four Star with their Dragon Ball Z: Abridged series (which is hilarious, watch it sometime). But anime was never my scene. Scorsese is putting out a new movie? I am there. A gun show comes to town? Shut up and take my money! But I never connected with Anime the same way as these other interests. Furthermore, I am not a convention guy, I usually will watch the dub over subtitles, I am not a Manga reader, and ever since I saw the animated abomination that was High School of the Dead; my enthusiasm for seeking out of new titles has been next to zero for damn near a decade. And that is primarily for anime series. Anime movies were even rarer picks even when I was younger. I love Ninja Scroll, Vampire Hunter D and its sequel, but they were not something I sought out unless it tied into a TV show. Exceptions do apply though. I have seen a few Miyazaki movies and have a few more in the “to watch” DVD and Blu Ray pile. And I liked them all, but I thought they were just very good movies with excellent animation. My brother got me into Attack on Titan by getting me the Blu Rays for Christmas and I blind bought a few series after that. And I certainly don’t thumb my nose at anime artistically or think of it as childish. I watch too many Disney movies to do that. Hell I even count Lina Inverse as one of my favorite fictional characters. But even then anime just never did for me what Scorsese, Kurosawa, or Disney did. Or at least that was the case. Ladies and gentleman I think I found my anime spirit animal. And that man is Satoshi Kon. Just finished watching this movie AND IT WAS FANTASTIC! How good was it? Well prepare to step into the surreal world of Kon in Perfect Blue.

The movie opens with a popular Japanese idol group Cham perform at a venue. During the performance one of the members (Mima Kirigoe) tells the audience she is leaving the group to pursue an acting career. She lands a part in a crime drama series. The part is very different from her old life and former public persona. While she was a huge part of the idol group, her role initially is rather small and in a minor supporting role. And even when the part grows the role becomes more adult, sexually charged, and very much outside of her comfort zone. All the while under the stress of her new career, she begins to suffer a full blown mental breakdown and identity crisis. As if her life is not complicated enough, certain people in the production team begin to wind up dead. Add in the additional pressures with memorizing lines, her new image, and the media; and it becomes harder for Mima to tell what is reality and what is fantasy. This results in the creation of an incredibly enthralling and captivating psychological thriller.

I LOVED this movie! This is what happens when Alfred Hitchcock and David Lynch get together to write a script and get a guy from Japan to draw it. It is like Mulholland Drive meets Vertigo. I know that is giving the flick pretty high praise but I think it is more than warranted! This movie has a lot of what I like in it. It has plenty of surreal imagery, an excellent murder mystery, suspense, and just the right amount of sleaze. It covers themes of obsession, identity, reality vs fantasy, the often dark side of show business, and finds a way to perfectly balance them in a very engaging story. What is even more impressive is that I felt this way despite the fact that I actually knew a major twist in the movie! Now anyone who saw my Top 12 Film Disappointment’s list knows that ruining a good twist can derail a movie. But this movie was so well done, so well edited, so well written that I was engaged and on the edge of my seat even though I knew what was coming! I can only imagine how I would react to this film going in totally blind. Top it off I opted to judge the film on how it was intended to be seen, and watched with the Japanese audio and English subtitles, which is something I just generally do not do. I have watched the dubs since the earliest days of checking out anime on the Sci-Fi Channel and DBZ.

So yeah I now have a new director I am very eager to explore. Regrettably Satoshi Kon died of cancer in 2010. He was only 46 and his body of work as a director is 4 feature films and an animated series called Paranoia Agent. I do have his other three features on DVD and Blu Ray and I really look forward to watching them when I get the chance. And I need to get a hold of either a copy of Paranoia Agent or see if it is in the Anime section of Hulu or Netflix. So far I am floored by Perfect Blue. In all honesty this film has not only given me a greater respect for Anime as a whole and what it can do, but I now count Perfect Blue as among my top 50 favorite films. I admit I am riding high on the flick right now seeing as I am typing this review after I just watched it, but it might be my favorite animated movie. I want to see Millennium Actress, Paprika and Tokyo Godfathers first before I make that statement though. I know a bit about Tokyo Godfathers, but I am going in 100% blind on Millennium Actress and Paprika. Hopefully I enjoy them as much as Perfect Blue. I will let you all know how those viewings turned out.

Great review. Kon is the only anime director that really made a favorable impression on me. I haven't seen any of Paranoia Agent, though I want to, but I've really enjoyed his features. I'm interested to see what you think of the rest.

Great review. Kon is the only anime director that really made a favorable impression on me. I haven't seen any of Paranoia Agent, though I want to, but I've really enjoyed his features. I'm interested to see what you think of the rest.
That will happen soon enough. I look forward to Millennium Actress. And I really regret not checking these out before I sent my Animation List, otherwise this would have been my number 1.

Expect one more in the next day or so.

Women will be your undoing, Pépé
a fellow Cowboy Bebop fan -- VERY cool!

A very solid review Gun and looking forward to what you have to say on the other films by this director
What I actually said to win MovieGal's heart:
- I might not be a real King of Kinkiness, but I make good pancakes
~Mr Minio

Hello again MoFo’s! Once again it is time for At the Theater with The Gunslinger 45. Well we have a movie in theaters that is mired in controversy. The Promise is a romance film set during the days of World War I in the Ottoman Empire. And history being what it is, and the Young Turks being in charge, the flick is set in the back drop of the systematic genocide of the Armenian population. So where is the controversy? Well the issue arises in that the Turkish Government (and many Turks) do not recognize that the Armenian Genocide ever happened, and it has been a sore spot for them for decades. So naturally Turkey is kinda pissed. And the battle over this film has been taken to IMDB. There has been a mass influx of 1 star ratings for the film by deniers of the Armenian Genocide. Having read some of these 1 star postings, they are screaming about lies against the Turkish people, the film being biased in favor of the Armenians, “racist” towards the Turks, and the like. One of these negative reviews was from a poster in “Orlando” and could barely type English. I think it is safe to say very few of these posters actually saw the movie. The response by Armenians then was then to up the film’s rating with their 10/10 ratings. As I am typing this review the rating for The Promise is at 5.8 out of 10 on IMDB. And to muddy the waters further, it has an “A-“ on Cinema Score, a 47% rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes as scored by critics and a 95% positive as scored by the general audience. But unlike IMDB, the professional critics seem more focused on the love triangle being lackluster and unneeded. So I was curious. Was this a bad movie? I’m not going to lie; I was not enthused by the trailer. It looked like a crappy romance movie trying to rip of Titanic. So my biggest fear was this was going to be another Pearl Harbor. That being said, I am more willing to see a movie I would probably pass on if there is a bit of controversy surrounding it. So with a day off and a fresh paycheck in my bank account, I figured now would be a great time to check out The Promise. Besides, the theater I went to has Vanilla Coke. And to my surprise, I thought it was pretty damn good. Want to know more? Hop on board the Delorean kiddies! We are going back in time to 1914 as we look at The Promise.

I think we all know the plot so I will try to keep it short. In the small Armenian village of Surin the local apothecary Mikael (played by Oscar Isaac) lives a life of potions and simples cures with his mother Marta and his father Vartan (played by Kevork Malikyan aka Kazim from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade). Mikael wants to be a proper doctor though. So, in order to pay for medical school, he gets engaged to a woman whose father gives him 400 gold coins for a dowry. Mikael uses the money to travel to Constantinople to meet up with his wealthy uncle. While there he meets the dance teacher to his cousins, Ana. Ana is Armenian as well but speaks with a French accent from her travels abroad (also to hide that the actress Charlotte Le Bon is French Canadian). She is also the girlfriend to Associated Press reporter Chris Myers (Christian Bale). Mikael become smitten with Ana and she starts to fall for him as well. Naturally things are difficult seeing how Mikael is betrothed and Ana is already taken. And then further trouble arises in 1915 when the Young Turks begin to round up Armenians for “relocation.” Mikael must fight to stay alive and flee Turkey as he watches his people be slaughtered by the Turkish forces.

Okay so we know the plot and you know I though the movie was good overall. So how about that burning question; was the film’s romance element really necessary? In all honesty no. And truth be told it is the weakest part of the film. Thankfully however the romance and love triangle was not bad. It wasn’t great. It was just… serviceable. This was by no means on the level of bad romance of say the truly awful Pearl Harbor or as bland as Attack of the Clones. In fact the movie it did remind me of was another movie I really like, Enemy at the Gates. That movie had a romance subplot set alongside the German invasion of Stalingrad in WWII. Only The Promise has less sniping by Vasily Zaytsev. Oscar Isaac was great as a shy and kind of awkward villager and Charlotte Le Bon was equally good as a worldly but sweet girl. Both were great in their roles, but it was when they were put together trying to show deep passion where the movie fell short. There was no real connection between them other then they were both Armenian. Now I could definitely see friendship and even some attraction. They got along fine there. But this is a movie based on that they were so in love that one would rush to the other in the midst of mass murder. The writing of the characters was as good as you were going to get, but ultimately the chemistry failed to sizzle. When compared to the likes of Bogie and Bacall, these two actors were just lukewarm.

That being said despite the flaws I did like this movie. Even with the romance being a bit ho-hum, it did not distract me from the rest of the flick. And even when we focus on these characters there are big chunks of the movie where the two main lovers are apart. And I think that is a big part of what helped minimize the mediocre love triangle; the film’s structure. In Titanic and Pearl Harbor, both were three hour movies where the first two acts focused on the bland romance being forced down our throats. Then in the last act sh*t would finally gets real and we see the boat sink or the Japanese attack. In The Promise they improve on this structure. The first act focuses on the love triangle, then act two starts with sh*t getting real and the Armenians getting round up, and act three is the escape of Turkey at Musa Dagh. And while the love triangle does reappear and conclude in the third act, thankfully it does take a noticeable 2nd place seat to the escape. And this film did it in 2 hours and 12 minutes. So the flick flows much better and is a much easier film to sit through. Plus the cast is really good. The acting is very good, the production design is great, the set locations were beautiful, the final act of the film was very engaging, and the scenes of the genocide were heart wrenching.

So if the rest of the film is so good, why was the whole romance element even needed? Why not just do a movie based on the Armenian Genocide to begin with? I initially thought it was some lazy producer wanting to go with a crappy love story with a historical event’s backdrop. You know; a cheap sort of Hollywood movie studio rip off with a “Titanic in Turkey” pitch. Turns out that is not the case. It is actually more complicated than that. Especially since this isn’t a major studio movie. And for a very important reason.

Hollywood has actually tried to make a movie about the Armenian Genocide for decades and failed. Going back as far as 1934 Hollywood has tried to make a movie about the Armenian escape at Musa Dagh. Franz Werfel published a novel in 1933 called The Forty Days of Musa Dagh which details the escape of the Armenians thanks to the efforts of the French Navy. And the film rights were bought by MGM. MGM began pre-production on the film but eventually the studio caved and halted the film when the Turkish Ambassador Mehmet Munir Ertegun got the US State Department involved and threatened a worldwide campaign against the film. Future productions of a movie about Musa Dagh and the Armenian genocide have gotten similar responses. Even when big names like Sylvester Stallone and Mel Gibson were interested in making movies about it the studios caved. The Turks got together and pressured the studios to not make the movie.

So who made this one? Well I did a bit of digging. The studio that made the movie was Survival Pictures; and it was founded by Kirk Kerkorian: a very wealthy business man with past business dealings in Las Vegas, the auto Industry, and even formally owning MGM Studios (plus the MGM casino). Kirk Kerkorian was a very wealthy man, philanthropist, and an Armenian American. According to the studio’s website, the studio “was born out of Kirk Kerkorian’s unwavering dedication to telling inspiring human stories for audiences around the world.” And Kerkorian wanted to finally tell a movie about the Armenian Genocide. So now I can only really speculate. So the romance element was more of an artistic choice than anything else and they wanted to go for a Dr Zhivago type movie; or they figured the romance angle would make it an easier sell to movie chains. I may not agree with the choice, but I’ll be damned if I can’t say kudos for financing your own movie studio to tell a story you want.

So that was The Promise. Overall I say it was a good movie. Granted I would have preferred a more focused film on Musa Dagh, but when the film focused on the history and genocide it is in top form. And even though the romance was not needed it never took me out of the film. Hell even if you just focus on the characters in the historical context and just ignore the love triangle the flick still holds up on its own. And it is leagues better than the 5.8 on IMDB and 47% on Rotten Tomatoes. Further fueling my distaste for these ratings systems. I say give the film a watch. If you have a few extra bucks to spend and you have nothing else at the cinema to watch, give it a shot. If not it is definitely something to check out on Netflix or Red Box.

Black Panther

Hello MoFo’s! I have been away from this site for far too long. Truth be told a combination of my crappy work schedule, real life duties, and trying desperately to have a social life outside of work; I have neglected this community. So I need to try and stay active on the site more, lest this be a instance of something I “used to” do. And what better time to try and get my presence on the site rolling again then with a review of the latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Black Panther! Like every Marvel movie I am excited about the release. But this one has some interesting back story to it. Long ago in the 90’s Wesley Snipes was trying like hell to get a Black Panther movie made. The film was in production hell and it never got off the ground. This made him shift focus and regroup, and that led to the creation of the Blade movie in 1998. Which in turn was the trail blazer for the Comic Book Movie Boom, which led the MCU. So this movie has been a long time coming. And with the promises of seeing Wakanda along with a story revolving around Black Panther himself; led to what I felt would be a story that mixed the high tech super science gadgetry of Iron Man with the possibility for a scenery and world setting more akin to Thor’s Asgard. So yeah, I was pumped! But like anything in life, the Internet has a way of trying to ruin things for me. Unfortunately, this film was released in 2018, in the midst of a movement of professional victimhood where EVERYTHING has to tie in to some kind of social political issue. And the web and the Media decided this film just has to be a part of it. Given that the Black Panther has a predominantly Black cast and a Black director, the much-anticipated film is being looked at in two lights. One end is on the right side of the spectrum, specifically the anti-PC side of things (of which I generally see eye to eye). The primary concern is that this film would be so latched on to identity politics that they feel that they will forgo making a good film in preference to making a ham-fisted political statement in the name of diversity quotas. And if the film turns out to be mediocre, the film would pull a Ghostbusters (2016) and scream foul and claim some kind of “ism” at anyone who says it sucks. While the more liberal side of things announces the film as an unquestionable MASTERPIECE! A revolutionary film that will win Oscar gold! And given that of all places Rotten Tomatoes has become ground zeros for this next batch of insanity, it is not exactly a farfetched concern. Black Panther gets an early 100% Certified Fresh Rotten Tomatoes score, then one guy gives it a rotten score, the internet FREAKED. Leading to quite possibly the stupidest click bait headline of the year when Bleeding Cool News prints a story saying “Donald Trump’s America Ruins Black Panther’s 100% Rotten Tomato Score.” Which blows my mind since the first negative review of the flick was given by an Irish film critic. When the hell did “Trump’s America” annex Ireland? In between the internet hysteria (and because this is Disney and I was already disappointed by the Last Jedi), I admit I was a tad concerned. Would this be a ham fisted political dud? These were questions I asked before going into the theater. And you know what? F**K THIS E-DRAMA BULL$HIT! Black Panther was awesome! Want to know more? Well grab you vibranium as we check out Black Panther!

We begin the film with a quick history lesson of Wakanda for non-Marvel fanboys. A vibranium meteorite crashes into a mountain in Africa. Vibranium being the strongest metal know to man because Adamantium does no exist in the MCU. Tribes gather around and discover the vibranium. The Wakandans use this new material to create new and ground breaking technology. However do to concerns about outsides trying to exploit or conquer Wakanda and their new natural resource, they isolated themselves from the outside world.

And after a brief stop in 90’s Oakland (more on that in a moment), we see in the present day T’Challa (aka Black Panther and Chadwick Bosman) and General of the Wakandan Dora Milaje Okoye (Danai Gurira) on a mission to get one of their operatives Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) from her current assignment. An assignment where Nakia is set to take out some Boko Haram style kidnappers in Nigeria. They eliminate the bad guys and whisk her back to Wakanda for T’Challa’s coronation. Leading to another action scene where T’Challa assumes the throne in ritualistic combat from the gorilla themed Jabari. Which actually made me giggle a bit. Not because of the movie itself mind you. The combat scene is really cool. For those not from Dallas, Jabari was the name of a gorilla at the Dallas Zoo. Jabari got out of his enclosure one day, ran amok, and was Harambe before Harambe was a meme. That amusing piece of trivia aside, T’Challa assumes the throne and spares the Jabari tribal leader M’Baku. Because I guess his comic book name of Man-Ape was problematic. But all is not well in Wakanda as the man who murdered his father Klaue (aka Klaw the not quite Master of Sound in this picture) is alive and is trying to sell vibranium that was stolen from a London Museum. This leads to a showdown in South Korea. Because why not. Marvel shoots a lot in these countries. During this time we introduce the main villain of the film Erik Killmonger. A highly trained and very educated mercenary. As it turns out later in the movie, Erik Killmonger has his own ties to and plans for Wakanda. This leads to T’Challa not only having to stop Killmonger from killing him, but he must stop Wakanda from being torn apart from within. Which leads to a very large final fight in the isolated African nation.

Again, I loved this movie! Another great notch in the belt of the Marvel Cinematic Universe! So what is great about the flick? First off, the casting choices were great. Again Marvel selected another great actor to helm their film. Chadwick Bosman brings the necessary regal and kingly aspects of T’Challa. But he is not big headed and arrogant. T’Challa is not Thor. He is much more tutored in the way of being a good King thanks to the teachings of his father T’Chaka. And he has enough of a vulnerable side thanks to an attraction to Nakia and a few spirit visions with his father. And last but not least he is able to pull off quite a few bad as fight scenes to establish Black Panther as one of the best hand to hand fighters in the MCU (and Marvel period). His supporting cast is equally good. Okoye is the stern and proud defender of her beloved Wakanda, but can on a few occasions act as a second mother figure to T’Challa. T’Challa’s kid sister Shuri is the technical wizard and gear smith. And Nakia is more of the Ying to T’Challa’s yang. T’Challa while king seeks to be a good ruler to Wakanda with his only concern being the Wakandan people, Nakia loves her country seeks to help the outside world as well. Hence why she goes outside Wakanda to right wrongs on her own, and also wants to export Vibranium to help other nations. Points of views which buck the isolationist politics of Wakanda.

But by far the supporting cast member I was most happy to see be good, was Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger. Marvel has this problem of getting GREAT actors to be their villains, only to give DULL or GENERIC performances. The best MCU villains are the standouts like Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, James Spader’s Ultron, and Michael Keaton’s Vulture. Other performances are good like Robert Redford’ Alexander Pierce, Cate Blanchett’s Hela, and Kurt Russell’s Ego. Others are just plan lame (looking at you Maleketh). Thankfully Killmonger is one of the stronger Marvel villains. While I would not put him in the Loki and Vulture tier of enjoyability, he does stand with those two villains as being a much more developed villain. A villain with (dare I say it) some sympathy and depth?

Erik Killmonger is the son of N’Jobu, a Wakandan prince, T’Chaka’s brother, and uncle to T’Challa. On an undercover assignment in Oakland (why Oakland I have no idea). T’Chaka discovers that N’Jobu has become radicalized and wants to share Wakanda’s technology with the Black Power movement to over throw the governments. N’Jobu used Klaue to steal vibranium from Wakanda violating the trust between him and T’Challa. This revelation is due to the fact that N’Jobu was spied on by Zuri (who grows up to be Forest Whitaker). And after this confrontation leads to T’Chaka having to kill his own brother. Killmonger finds his father dead in his Oakland apartment and swears revenge. This leads to Killmonger wanting to assume Wakanda’s throne by ritualistic combat and carry on where his father left off with arming Black people to over throw the world’s governments.

And while this easily makes him a villain, they give Michael B Jordan a few scenes where they portray him as something other then what you expect from a comic book villain. Love for a father, and even a kind of sort of bonding moment with T’Challa at the very end of the movie.

Aside from the characters, the scenery is FANTASTIC! I got exactly what I wanted. A high tech advanced society which let the creators imagine new and exciting sets and back drops for the movie. From the lush “remote” border scenery, to the almost space age urban metropolis, to the rich and detailed mountain mine complete with subway system. And the costumes! If this film does not get the Oscar for costume design I officially call BS!

So yeah this film was great! But unfortunately for some, it is not perfect. While the setting and characters are new and exciting, the plot is pretty predictable. Maybe it is because that I know enough about the mythos of Black Panther I knew enough of which story lines they would pull from. Or maybe it is because I have seen T’Challa in the Avenger’s Infinity War trailer with millions of other people on the planet. Given the fact I know the ultimate outcome I was able to guess where the movie would go after key moments that are supposed to be suspenseful. Also while Killmonger is a great villain, Klaue on the other hand (pun not intended) while cool to see him with his sonic gun appendage, is ultimately a footnote in the movie where he essentially gets killed allowing Killmonger to take his corpse to Wakanda to gain entry and an audience with the High Court.

As for the E-Drama political concerns? Outside of one moment where Shuri calls CIA agent Ross (Martin Freeman) a “colonizer” there really is not a whole lot of political content. Because this is film is made by Marvel Studios and not Marvel Comics. We get a line or two about boarder security, refugees, and a final line about “one tribe” but that is about it. Now it is Hollywood and I am sure it is not an accident these buzzwards where slipped into the flick. If you do not like these references however, they can easily be ignored since there is SO much more else in this film to enjoy. I guess if someone REALLY wanted to find a heavy political narrative some one could find one, but it would ultimately lead to Killmonger wanting an ethno-state. Think Malcom X meets Richard Spencer. OR and this is me talking crazy maybe… you can look at the film as it is supposed to be. A comic book movie. And a really good one at that.

In the end: Black Panther is a very good Marvel movie. It is not a masterpiece, and probably won’t be the next Dark Knight or Avengers. But it will be seen as one of the better Marvel movies alongside Captain America: Winter Soldier and Civil War, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Iron Man. Don’t let e-drama get you down, this movie is badass! See it!