f8

January 22, 2006

Movie Review By: SFAM

Year: 2001

Directed by: Jason Wen

Written by: Howard & Jason Wen

IMDB Reference

Length: 13 minutes

Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: High

Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: High

Rating: 7 out of 10


screen capture

Overview: f8 is a truly wonderful 13 minute film short that captures almost all the key elements of cyberpunk without using any dialogue! f8 was well received in many of the 2001 best animated film short awards (including the Hollywood Film Festival, the Jury Award, and others). The 3D graphics, while not as high quality as might be found in a large budget movie, are more than adequate. Wen’s selection of viewpoints, lighting decisions, movement and shadows are able to emphasize the best qualities of the 3D animation.

 

screen capture

 

f8 centers on a nameless lead character in a strange futuristic society who wants to gain individuality. He lives in an oppressive, metropolis-like controlling society, where your fate and role is predetermined. But an underground has developed where individuality appears to be the key for admission. The plot follows the plight of our protagonist who attempts to steal a “face,” and thus, will have the ability to express an individual personality.

 

screen capture

 

Unfortunately I cannot divulge too much more of the plot for fear of spoiling it. You can get this movie at Best Buy for about 10 bucks – even though its only 13 minutes, I think its worth it. You get 5 commentaries, and truly, the story is interesting enough that you’ll watch it more than a few times. But instead of a plot, here’s some more screen captures of it – these should give you an idea of f8’s visual splendor. Like many cyberpunk films, one color tends to dominate f8 – in this case, yellow is the predominate color.

 

screen capture

The faces are quite striking in f8 – more so even when you finally get to see their bodies!

 

screen capture

Talk about a  Noirish looking building! This has all sorts of high tech, ominous vibes…

 

screen capture

f8 has some fantastic visuals for a 13 minute film short.

 

screen capture

For some reason, this scene really reminds my of the scene in Nausicaä where she is walking through the field of gold tentacles.

 

~See movies similar to this one~

<span class=”iTitle”>Overview: </span>f8 is a truly wonderful 13 minute film short that captures almost all the key elements of cyberpunk without using any dialogue! f8 was well received in many of the 2001 best animated film short awards (including the Hollywood Film Festival, the Jury Award, and others). The 3D graphics, while not as high quality as might be found in a large budget movie, are more than adequate. Wen’s selection of viewpoints, lighting decisions, movement and shadows are able to emphasize the best qualities of the 3D animation.
<p>&nbsp; </p>
<p align=”center”><img src=”/images/f811.jpg” alt=”screen capture” /> </p>
<p>&nbsp; </p>
f8 centers on a nameless lead character in a strange futuristic society who wants to gain individuality. He lives in an oppressive, metropolis-like controlling society, where your fate and role is predetermined. But an underground has developed where individuality appears to be the key for admission. The plot follows the plight of our protagonist who attempts to steal a “face,” and thus, will have the ability to express an individual personality.
<p>&nbsp; </p>
<p align=”center”><img src=”/images/f807.jpg” alt=”screen capture” /> </p>
<p>&nbsp; </p>
Unfortunately I cannot divulge too much more of the plot for fear of spoiling it. You can get this movie at Best Buy for about 10 bucks – even though its only 13 minutes, I think its worth it. You get 5 commentaries, and truly, the story is interesting enough that you’ll watch it more than a few times. But instead of a plot, here’s some more screen captures of it – these should give you an idea of f8’s visual splendor. Like many cyberpunk films, one color tends to dominate f8 – in this case, yellow is the predominate color.
<p>&nbsp; </p>
<p align=”center”><img src=”/images/f810.jpg” alt=”screen capture” /> </p>
<div class=”quote”>The faces are quite striking in f8 – more so even when you finally get to see their bodies!</div>
<p>&nbsp; </p>
<p align=”center”><img src=”/images/f804.jpg” alt=”screen capture” /> </p>
<div class=”quote”>Talk about a&nbsp; <i>Noir</i>ish looking building! This has all sorts of high tech, ominous vibes…</div>
<p>&nbsp; </p>
<p align=”center”><img src=”/images/f809.jpg” alt=”screen capture” /> </p>
<div class=”quote”>f8 has some fantastic visuals for a 13 minute film short.</div>
<p>&nbsp; </p>
<p align=”center”><img src=”/images/f806.jpg” alt=”screen capture” /> </p>
<div class=”quote”>For some reason, this scene really reminds my of the scene in <a href=”http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0087544/”>Nausicaä</a> where she is walking through the field of gold tentacles.</div>
<p>&nbsp; </p>

This post has been filed under Man-machine Interface, Security-Surveillance State, Short Film, 7 Star Movies, Animes, Alien Movies, Awesome Cyberpunk Visuals, Good low-budget movies, Cyberpunk movies from 2000 – 2009 by SFAM.

Akira

January 16, 2006

Year: 1988

Directed by: Katsuhiro Ôtomo

Written by: Katsuhiro Ôtomo (comic), Izô Hashimoto

IMDB Reference

Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: High

Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: High

Key Cast Members:

  • Tetsuo Shima: Nozomu Sasaki (voice)
  • Shôtarô Kaneda: Mitsuo Iwata (voice)
  • Kei: Mami Koyama (voice)
  • Rating: 8 out of 10


    screen capture

     

    Overview: Many consider Akira to be the start of modern Japanese anime. In comparing Akira with Appleseed (also from 1988), I tend to agree. Appleseed represents high quality earlier anime, whereas Akira is truly something different both in tone and style. Akira definitely strays to the “punk” side of cyberpunk, but has full clashes with the corporate control element and technology run amok.

    screen capturescreen capture

     

    Akira’s story centers around Tetsuo, a member of a biker gang in the year 2019. Along come a group of military scientist types who look to stretch the boundaries of human capability by engaging tetsuo in experiments. Unfortunately for them, the experiments prove far too successful to the point that the develop an all-powerful monster that rages out of control.

    screen capture

     

    The Bottom Line: Akira has terrific adult visuals and a great sound track. As a personal preference though, I wasn’t as thrilled with the later half of the movie. Some love it, I didn’t nearly as much. There seems to be a debate where people either love this or Ghost in the Shell (guess which one I love?). It almost seemed DragonballZ-like, but again, this is also personal preference. Regardless, Akira is a true giant of anime and should be considered required watching for anyone who wants to learn more about cyberpunk or anime.

    ~See movies similar to this one~

    Tags: cyberpunk movie review anime

    <img src=”/images/akira41.jpg” alt=”screen capture” /><img src=”/images/akira36.jpg” alt=”screen capture” />
    <p>&nbsp; </p>
    Akira’s story centers around Tetsuo, a member of a biker gang in the year 2019. Along come a group of military scientist types who look to stretch the boundaries of human capability by engaging tetsuo in experiments. Unfortunately for them, the experiments prove far too successful to the point that the develop an all-powerful monster that rages out of control.

    <img src=”/images/akira0122.jpg” alt=”screen capture” />
    <p>&nbsp; </p>

    <span class=”iTitle”>The Bottom Line:</span> Akira has terrific adult visuals and a great sound track. As a personal preference though, I wasn’t as thrilled with the later half of the movie. Some love it, I didn’t nearly as much. There seems to be a debate where people either love this or Ghost in the Shell (guess which one I love?). It almost seemed DragonballZ-like, but again, this is also personal preference. Regardless, Akira is a true giant of anime and should be considered required watching for anyone who wants to learn more about cyberpunk or anime.cyberpunk movie review anime

    This post has been filed under Man-machine Interface, Dystopic Future Movies, 8 Star Movies, Animes, Awesome Cyberpunk Visuals, Cyberpunk movies from 1980-1989 by SFAM.

    Natural City

    January 16, 2006

    Year: 2003

    Directed by: Byung-chun Min

    Written by: Byung-chun Min

    IMDB Reference

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Very High

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Very High

    Key Cast Members:

  • R: Ji-tae Yu
  • Ria: Rin Seo
  • Cyon: Jae-un Lee
  • Rating: 9 out of 10


    Natural City screen capture

     

    Overview: Natural City is a high priced attempt by the Korean movie industry to break into the Scifi Genre. The quality of the effects in Natural City clearly shine, both in the absolutely terrific set pieces, the painted backgrounds and the very realistic future setting. This is a cyberpunk movie to its core, with every possible aspect of cyberpunkness oozing from every pore of this movie. We get cyborgs, genetically engineered and cybernetically enhanced people, dominating corporations, theft and greed, seedy underground people and scenes, information access issues, and MASSIVE cyberpunk style. But truly, the reason Natural City rates this high is the absolutely wonderful cyborg character study in exploring issues of humanity.

     

    Natural City screen capture

     

    The Setting: Natural City as a title is 180 degrees from what you get in a setting – nothing is real here. In this dystopian setting, genetic engineering and cyborg development have become an accepted way of life. Pretty much everyone in this city lives a miserable existence, in fact, its expected that life is pain. Vacations are taken in the equivalent of a Star Trek Holodeck type machine. The ultimate dream of everyone in this city is to become rich enough to retire to a floating hotel called Muyoga (see the picture immediately below), which advertises that it can erase your current memory and place you in a “virtual” life of your own choosing. This is extremely interesting, especially when compared to Oshii’s Avalon, in which one view of the the “ultimate” life is one where you are in a simulated reality of your own mind even though your body is a slobbering mess in the “real” world.

     

    Natural City screen capture

     

    In Natural City, Cyborgs perform a myriad of societal functions – everything from entertainment and dancing, to restaurant helpers to working on the police force. To perform all these functions effectively, Cyborgs have a degree of self-awareness. This causes significant complications when their expiration date nears, as they know what it means to “expire.” While some of the characteristics seem vaguely familiar to another far more famous cyberpunk movie (cyborgs with expiration dates, for instance), the story itself is radically different.

     

    Natural City screen capture

     

    The Story: Natural City centers on the internal struggles of a highly talented cop named “R.” He is tasked with finding and capturing renegade cyborgs, but ends up falling in love with a cyborg dancer named Ria who’s expiration date is only 3 days off. The movie centers on R’s compromising his principles and dealing with the cyborg underworld in a vain attempt to find a way to save his Ria. He finds a shady cyborg doctor who promises that if he finds a person with the right genetic match, he can inject part of their brain cells into Ria, which will save her. The doctor finds such a match in a street girl named Cyon.

     

    Natural City screen capture

     

    Complicating matters, R’s best friend Croy, who is also his boss and fellow police detective, has discovered his duplicity. During a raid to capture some renegade warrior cyborgs, Croy notices that R is not shooting them in the head (which kills them be wiping out their AI chip), but is instead going back later and collecting the AI chips to sell for money. Croy tracks R back to the shady doctor. Worse, one of the warrior cyborgs who escaped is also after Cyon for reasons that become all too apparent as the movie unwinds.

    Natural City screen capture

     

    The Look: Natural City’s atmosphere is a grimy, lived-in futuristic environment. In some of the police scenes, Natural City comes across like a live-action Jin Roh movie (Jin Roh is definitely an influence for the action visuals). The high-quality and very original Scifi set pieces and occasional CG fits wonderfully, and along with the artistic backgrounds add up to a very immersive experience. The surround sound is not stunning, but is certainly decent and doesn’t detract from the experience. On top of this we get some wonderfully symbolic visuals, such as when Cyon sits atop a stone eagle statue, dreaming of life on the virtual hotel.

     

    Natural City screen capture

     

    The Colors: Like most cyberpunk movies, Natural City uses one dominating color palette for the majority of the scenes. Blue is the color of choice, but varies from ultra-light to dark and dense blues. The lighter scenes usually depict high-tech human aspirations, whereas the darker scenes are left for massive action shots and for shots depicting the destruction of humanity, such as the gritty cyborg replacement lab. Every so often, we also get some really nice oranges and browns, but these colors are usually used more as chapter transitions.

     

    Natural City screen capture

     

    The Action: Natural City is a character exploration first, but the action and effects are on display, and in high quality. The action involves both slo-mo and high speed camera shots, along with LOTS and LOTS of blood and gore. The ending especially is somewhat of a gorefest, which is weird to see in a movie that is mostly a drama in nature. Also, near the end of the movie, we get treated to an evil, but ultra-hot cyborg warrior chick in skin tight lycra who engages in some major ass-kicking (see above for a pic of HER ass while kicking someone!). Talk about a plus! While we’re on the subject, we also get treated to some cute asian cyborg boobies at the beginning of Natural City – definitely a nice way to start the pic! (although, when you understand what the beginning boobie scene signifies it sorta takes away the fun).

     

    Natural City screen capture

     

    The Pacing: As I mentioned earlier, this IS a Korean movie. My wife is Korean, so I’m somewhat used to the pacing we see here. From reading a few reviews, Natural City has been panned for being way too slow and plodding in the middle. All I can say is, “Welcome to Korean Cinema.” This is really a case where story telling is just different there. For a Korean, this movie is not at all slow, but has rather standard pacing, which means we get REAL in-depth and repeated scenes with the purpose of mood and detailed character study. Most important for Koreans is to be able to identify with the emotion and mood the characters are experiencing. Natural City takes the time to do this with all the main characters.

     

    Natural City screen capture

     

    The characters really build in believability and engagement as the story progresses. At the beginning, R appears quite shallow, as does his friend and the street girl Cyon. By the end, all three, and especially Ria, his cyborg lover grow to be characters you really empathize with. The motivations for all become clear, including their virtues and flaws. The ending is also a rather “normal” Korean dramatic love story ending, which is to say, one very different from how an American film might end. Its not a feel-good movie, but then again, few Korean dramas are.

     

    Natural City screen capture

     

    For me, the highlight of Natural City centered on Ria, the cyborg. To me, Ria captures the cyborg struggle for humanity better than any character in all cyberpunk movies save one scene (the Blade Runner’ sRoy Batty “I’ve seen things you wouldn’t believe” soliloquy, of course). While I didn’t catch this the first time through, the very beginning of the movie is told from Ria’s perspective, and then really, the last third of the movie centers on Ria (minus the action sub-plots). There are a few scenes that make it clear she “knows” what’s happening to her. She is programmed to be a dancer, but as she reaches her expiration date, she no longer can do this well. In one scene, Cyon shows her the “1 day” notice that arrives in the “Fifth Element” style mail slot. As her “time” approaches, you really do get the feeling of the Rutger Hauer speech at the end of Blade Runner, although Ria conveys this sentiment more broadly over a number of scenes and images. I want to go into this further, but this starts coming off as a spoiler, so I’ve added a more elaborative discussion of Ria’s motivations (spoilers) after the screencaps on Page 2.

     

    Natural City screen capture

     

    The Bottom Line: If you like cyberpunk films, the visuals alone make this a MUST SEE. If you like character studies in science fiction settings, you probably also want to see this. I truly LOVE Natural City, but be warned, the pacing is different from what you might expect. This is a Korean movie, and certainly plays like one. Also, be warned – like Wonderful Days, the ending has standard Korean Melodrama type stuff. While some might argue this doesn’t belong in the top 10, for me there’s no doubt that it does. The action and visuals are great, but Ria’s story clearly forces it there if nothing else.

     

    Page 2: More Screen Caps and Ria’s Motivations Discussion (Spoiler)–>>

    ~See movies similar to this one~

    Tags: cyberpunk movie review

    This post has been filed under Man-machine Interface, Awesome Cyberpunk Themes, 9 Star Movies, Awesome Cyberpunk Visuals, Android Movies, VR Movies, Cyberpunk movies from 2000 – 2009 by SFAM.

    Tetsuo (The Iron Man)

    January 14, 2006

    Year: 1988

    Directed by: Shinya Tsukamoto

    Written by: Shinya Tsukamoto

    IMDB Reference

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Very High

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Very High

    Rating: 10 out of 10

     


    Tetsuo The Iron Man screen capture

     

    Overview: For another movie that taps out the weird shitometer scale, and the pinnacle of Japanese cyberpunk flicks, Tetsuo is simply terrific! I must warn you that this movie is NOT for everyone. We get a bevy of disturbing images, including extreme body manipulation, anal rape of a guy by a mechanically “enhanced” female, rape in the reverse by a man with a literal “power tool,” and truly the most bizarre set of images one can imagine. But in all this, there are some truly interesting messages that emerge. Unlike other Japanese Cyberpunk films such as Rubber’s Lover, which is more of a one track film (extreme situations to prompt greater than human abilities), Testsuo provides a wonderful commentary on the direction of mankind.

     

    Tetsuo The Iron Man screen capture

    This is one of the best opening symbols for any movie I can remember. It sums up Tsukamoto’s message perfectly!

     

    Tetsuo’s Message: While Tetsuo is a really bizarre, low budget, surrealist underground Japanese cyberpunk movie, it has a number of interesting themes running through it. On a societal level, Tetsuo explores how man’s technological dash to the future has resulted in an acute fear of technology, and that its ever encroaching progress is destroying our humanity.  This is symbolically represented by a runner surrounded by scrap metal, and then later, a man in running gear who’s slowly being taken over by machinery when competing with another machine man.

    Tetsuo The Iron Man screen capture

     

    The clear message at the end is that by constantly competing with one another in our strive for perfection in an orderly society, we are destroying humanity at its core. Technology is our tool of choice for this destructive competition. The shot of the augmented foot above really captures this well, as does the race scene below.

    Tetsuo The Iron Man screen capture

    I can’t convey how truly disgusting this scene comes across

     

    On a personal level, Tetsuo explores how guilt and repression can turn people into virtual “monsters.” In this, we see an instance where an accidental car crash makes someone completely lose all sense of humanity and boundaries. This seems to fit with Asian cultures in that they are usually very reserved, but when they “cross” that line, the level of anger and craziness almost doesn’t have a limiter.
    Tetsuo The Iron Man screen capture

     

    In combining this with the societal thought, Tetsuo posits that we are using technology as a crutch to cover up our own frailties, but that in doing so, we only serve to subvert our humanity. When this subversion is released, it becomes a perversion of immense proportions. In this sense, Tetsuo truly stretches the cyberpunk notion of “no boundaries” to its fullest.

    Tetsuo The Iron Man screen capture

    Yes, she’s about to do what you “think” she’s planning to do with that thing!”

     

    The Bottom Line: Tetsuo is a great example of what a low-budget scifi film can accomplish. I thought the cinematography is absolutely brilliant. We get cool stop-motion animation, incredibly interesting shadows and film angles, and wonderful use of different shot textures. The industrial sound track furthers the truly bizarre mood. Truly, I can’t say enough of how impressed I am by this film. Again, Tetsuo is DEFINITELY not for everyone, but it certainly belongs in the top 10 best cyberpunk films ever made!

    Tetsuo The Iron Man screen capture

     

    Screen Captures – ADULTS ONLY: I do have a second page of screen captures, but I MUST warn you – these are VERY graphic. They show one of the most intense sex and violence scenes every put on film. If you want to get a sense of he the extent that Japanese cyberpunk fullfills its “no boundaries” approach, take a look. But this page is intended for adults – and truly, only a few select few of those. Don’t look if you’re not comfortable with watching these things.

    Tetsuo Page 2: Screen Caps – ADULTS ONLY–>>

     

    This post has been filed under Man-machine Interface, Awesome Cyberpunk Themes, Horror, 10 Star Movies, Japanese Cyberpunk, Surreal Cyberpunk Movies, Awesome Cyberpunk Visuals, Cyberpunk movies from 1980-1989 by SFAM.