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Tag Archive: Lorne Balfe


Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s just what fans of DC Comics have been begging for.  Finally, a Batman portrayal worthy of Adam West and Michael Keaton.  The complete membership of the classic Justice League as fun as we all remember them from the comic books.  Homages to famous artists adapted to the big screen from the best of DC Comics, like cover artist Jock, plus throwbacks to the campy series of the 1960s.  And more homages to the musical scores from the best of the DC Comics cinematic adaptations of the past, including callbacks to Danny Elfman’s score to the 1989 Batman movie and John Williams’ Superman theme.

What was your favorite DC Comics adaptation before 2017?  How far back do you go?  Most superhero movie fans seem to agree upon the original Superman starring Christopher Reeve as the modern rebirth of the superhero film, and count Reeve among the best embodiments of a superhero on film.  But after Reeve, fans begin to disagree as movies based on DC Comics are concerned, and usually turn to the CW Network television series for the next best DC iterations of comic book adaptations.

So when all of it finally comes together, it finally comes together in 2017, after the likes of misfires including Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Suicide Squad, we finally have an exciting and worthy DC Comics outing that is fun for the entire family, and best of all, it is all heart.

And as a bonus, it features villains worthy of a movie from the DCU.  Sure, you might expect a pantheon of villains like The Joker, Riddler, Penguin, Catwoman, Harley Quinn, Two-Face, Mr. Freeze, Egghead, Scarecrow, Bane, Clayface, Killer Croc, Poison Ivy, Man-Bat, Captain Boomerang, Crazy Quilt, Eraser, Polka Dot Man, Mime, Tarantula, King Tut, Orca, Dr. Phosphorus, Killer Moth, Magpie, March Hare, Frank Miller’s Mutant Leader, Dr. Hugo Strange, Zodiac Master, Gentleman Ghost, Clock King, Red Hood, The Kabuki Twins, Calendar Man, Kite Man, Catman, Calculator, Zebra-Man, and Condiment King.  But all in one movie?  And battling some of fiction’s other greatest supervillains, like Dracula and the other Universal Monsters, The Daleks, Lord Voldemort, Jaws, King Kong, Gremlins, velociraptors, the Wicked Witch of the West, Agent Smith from The Matrix, and Sauron?  Wait–was Darth Vader tied up in some other project?

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Review by C.J. Bunce

This year’s first cinematic examination of life as a borg came from a beloved international favorite, Ghost in the Shell, starring Scarlett Johansson as “Major,” a truly badass heroine who turns a mission of criminal pursuit into a discovery of the self.  Originally published in Japan as a manga comic written and illustrated by Masimune Shirow in 1989, The Ghost in the Shell went on to become an even more popular anime film series beginning in 1995.  Originally titled Mobile Armored Riot Police, Shirow wanted (and eventually secured) the title Ghost in the Shell to pay tribute to Arthur Koestler’s The Ghost in the Machine, which inspired his story.  This year’s early spring release of the live action Ghost in the Shell is based on the manga, and its available on streaming services, Blu-ray, and DVD this month.

Any fan of cyberpunk, future Earth, replicants and borgs shouldn’t miss this one.  Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman) directed a visual treat, a futureworld that is not on par with the dazzle of either Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner or Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, yet it still works well, and the cinematography choices by Jess Hall (Transcendence, Hot Fuzz, Grindhouse) combined with the music of Lorne Balfe and Clint Mansell (which owes much to the scores for Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and Tron Legacy) sucks viewers into a surreal plane in a sister realm to Tron or Source Code.  Major is probably Johansson’s best lead role, too–a tempered, thoughtful, deliberate performance dotted with the action and violence her fans look for.  She was well-prepped for the role, starring in as the lead in the dark world of director Luc Besson’s stylish action thriller Lucy, and it’s easy to see Johansson getting cast for this role after that performance.

Although the story begins slowly, as more pieces are added to the puzzles and plot threads the film builds to become a thought-provoking examination of the dark side of cybernetics and future technologies.  The source material for Ghost in the Shell is relatively late to the discussion table for cyborgs, following after Philip K. Dick’s replicants in Blade Runner, the similarly themed man-turned-machine in Robocop, and Martin Caidin’s Bionic Man in Cyborg.  More than anything, the story calls back to the Bionic Woman and Jameson Parker and Mare Winningham made-for-TV movie Who is Julia?, a story of a woman struggling to deal with the world’s first brain transplant.  In Ghost in the Shell Johansson’s character wakes up after a near-death, her brain transplanted into a new (better, stronger, etc.) mechanical body as the first brain transplant subject in a world where cybernetics are now commonplace.  Her doctor is played as an elegant and caring protector by Academy Award-winning actress Juliette Binoche.  But the beauty of the film is that just as it has in parts a very predictable story for its place in science fiction (following a long line of visionary medicine stories beginning with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein), Ghost in the Shell offers some satisfying surprises that sets up the story well for a superhero-esque sequel or film series.

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