The introduction story-arc is curving towards its end now, and next week we’ll start getting into the fun stuff of larking about with the characters, and soon I’ll introduce a few more. I’ve got some really fun tangents lined up for this strip that I think you’re really going to enjoy. As always, comments are appreciated!

I had a great weekend: I drew comics, practised martial arts in my little garden, then in the evening drank a couple of very decent beers and did some weights while watching films. It’s very rare that I actually sit down and watch films; usually I have them playing in a corner window on my desktop while I’m working, but I’ve been saving up a few films that deserve a bit more attention:

First up was Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (UK link US link). This first Ghost in the Shell film ranks among one of my top films, so I was very excited when I saw that a sequel was being made. I picked up a US copy last year, but it’s such a beautiful film that it was a shame to have to read subtitles.

The UK edition has an English language dub (also in superb Dolby 5.1 for audio snobs like me) which allows you to enjoy the pictures without trying to keep up with the piles of dialogue, and there really are piles of it. It’s got more philosophy crammed in there than twenty of your average Hollywood films, and it is relevant to the plot… But does it damage the film? Possibly. The plot isn’t as clear as the first one, and it’s harder to watch as a straight action film due to the investigation taking tangents that sometimes seem defined by art-directors rather than the needs of the plot. Despite this, I definitely enjoyed it, it’s a very interesting piece of cinema, and provides a nice antidote to big dumb action films.

With my head reeling from that, I decided to give it a full work-out with Primer (UK link US link). The plot involves the creation of a time machine with a very limited capacity. The limitations of the machine mean that users have the opportunity to change small things in their recent past so that they can try to shape a better future. The complexity comes in through the heavy use of parallel realities, where one traveller can then prevent his past-self from getting in the machine, leaving two of them stuck in that reality. Sounds complicated? That doesn’t even begin to describe it…

The film is very carefully mapped out, giving you teasing clues about what’s going on, but leaving it entirely up to you to try and work out what has happened. If your brain was fried by The Matrix, and Donnie Darko was utterly beyond you then you’ll probably hate Primer, but if you enjoy trying to pick apart a very complex web of events then this is definitely the kind of film you’ll enjoy. This is not high-values film making, it was made for a budget of US$7000, and the acting style is naturalistic to the point of frustration that they sometimes mumble, or speak in language that is clearly addressed to other engineers, but it creates a sense of reality that would be difficult if there was a high-budget film with whizz-bang special effects. It’s a story about a few inventor guys in a garage, and was filmed with a few guys in a garage.

Give it a try if you want something different, but don’t expect to understand it all on your first watch through! At 73 minutes you can afford to give it a couple of views though, and I think it’s worth taking the time over.

After doing some work on comics and site admin (Russian spammers are really annoying me on my forums, at the moment I usually block several of them per day), I decided that I would take the chance to watch Brotherhood of the Wolf (UK link US link). It’s a very mixed genre film, spanning between period drama, romance, historical reconstruction, monster movie, and kung fu! Period drama and kung fu isn’t such an odd mix really; most Chinese martial arts films are based loosely on the lives of historical figures, but it’s less common to have one set in pre-revolutionary France.

The story takes its seed from a real event of the time, where a beast of some sort (probably a bear or a large wolf, although possibly a psychopath) started attacking humans. Large hunts were organised, and it was a famous event of the time. After a few years the attacks stopped and nothing else happened. The film is really a big case of ‘what if’: what if the beast was part of a conspiracy by the church to put the fear of God into France? What if a heroic kung fu Native American was travelling with one of the people hunting the beast? What if there was… etc.

It’s all a bit silly, but hangs together remarkably well. Partially due to some fantastic camera work, capturing the French landscape and grand sets to provide a common visual language that makes it all flow naturally into a near-coherent whole. It also has the benefit of starring one of my favourite martial artists, Mark Dacascos, who has a superb physical style. He still has the youth that many of the major martial artists in the world now lack, so with luck he will one day make really hit the block-busters. I suspect it’s one of those films that people will either love or hate, but I’m definitely in the former camp.

In other news, I’ve still not managed to stop having The Flaming Lips’ Soft Bulletin running through my head constantly, but it was relieved briefly yesterday by listening to Richard Hell and the Voidoids’ Blank Generation (UK link US link). This album, made in 1977 (a good year for many things), fits in brilliantly with the (pre-)punk feel of The Ramones but also has of style and lyrical themes of The Pixies. I picked it up last year and never really gave it a good listen, and it’s not the kind of thing that I usually put on when I’m walking around, but it really caught my ear. Sadly, it only cast its spell briefly, and The Flaming Lips have now resumed residency in my brain. The only way I’ve found of forcing them out is to mentally recite songs that I know really well; after a few minutes it usually holds them off for another ten… And then they’re back!

Well, enjoy the strip, and drop back on Friday for the next one (assuming I’ve not been driven insane by the music by then)!