by Jayson Burns
Once in a while I will come upon a movie by pure chance, either randomly searching through Netflix or looking at the “suggestions” column on IMDB.com. Most of the time, the movie wouldn’t be any good, completely worthy of its obscure status. On those rare occasions I find something I enjoy so much, I do my best to bring it to a wider audience. One case of the latter is “Bunraku,” a straight-to-DVD film from 2008 with so much style I could not help but love it.
In a future where guns have been outlawed, a city has fallen under the control of The Woodcutter (Rob Perlman), a crime lord whose Red Suit gang oppresses the people. One day, two drastically different men arrive, both looking to meet with The Woodcutter.
These two are The Drifter (Josh Hartnett), a cowboy without a gun who keeps his motives close to his chest and Yoshi (Gackt), a samurai without a sword who is looking for his father’s lost medallion. After a brief fight, the two end up working together as the Red Suits begin to hunt them down through the city. Most of the negative reviews I read for Bunraku claimed that this movie placed style over substance. While I can definitely see where they’re coming from, (an outcast defending a town from an evil overlord is one of the more ancient storylines) I don’t believe it’s nearly as bad as they let on. The characters alone are interesting enough to keep the plot from getting dull, and despite being an overused tale it is told in a pretty unique way.
If there is one negative part about the story, it is the subplot with The Woodcutter’s favorite concubine (Demi Moore), which easily could have been cut without really affecting the rest of the movie.
With such a strong and familiar cast, the acting in “Bunraku” is basically what one would expect. Josh Hartnett and Gackt take strong leads as The Drifter and Yoshi, especially considering how subtle their characters are. Ron Perlman makes an intimidating villain, as does Kevin McKidd playing his number one killer, Number 2.
As for the supporting characters, Woody Harrelson pulls off the mentor character of the Bartender with a nice bit of humor, and Mike Patton as the Narrator (who’s so vocal he becomes his own character) is very entertaining. Demi Moore doesn’t do much to make her character stand out, however, and there were some points where I completely forgot she was in the movie.
In Japanese culture, bunraku is a kind of puppet theater, an obvious influence on the film’s style. The sets are colorful and reminded me of something I would see in a live stage performance, and there were many little touches that made the world seem surreal. One scene, for example, had two characters speaking to each other on the phone. Instead of doing the traditional split-screen effect, the wall behind one of the characters becomes transparent like a thin sheet, showing the second character on the other side. The two also make eye-contact.
Regardless of what other critics have said, I think Bunraku is one of those films that is worth at least a rental. A wealth of effort was put into this movie, and I’d hate to see such commitment go without recognition.
“Bunraku” is rated R.
…..and in games, ‘Madden 13′
In the past two decades, Electronic Arts Sports has been delivering Madden NFL games. In 1993, EASports acquired sole rights to use NFL teams and players. Since then, Madden NFL Football has been the No.1 football game in the video game industry. But, as of recently, it seems as though all the football games have been the same since Madden 2005. The only thing that changes is the roster.
I guess EASports heard the gamers’ complaints and released a football game that I know for sure football fans will enjoy. Madden 13 is hands down the best football game to be released.
The overall game play has changed significantly for the best. No longer will you see animated tackles or cornerbacks knowing exactly where the quarterback is going to throw. EASports has raised the bar with realism with the addition of the Infinity Engine. The game uses real-time physics so every tackle in every game is different. Bigger catches, bigger tackles, everything about Madden 13 is on a bigger level.
Even the presentation is top-notch this year. Most of the graphics and replays shown remind me of a CBS Sunday football game. They also improved their commentary as well. Phil Simms and Jim Natz do an incredible job of calling the game. This might be the first Madden game in history that I haven’t heard the commentators repeat lines.
The only downfall about Madden 13 is no franchise mode. They replaced franchise mode with connected careers. Basically this mode combines franchise, online franchise, and superstars modes into one game play option. Quite frankly, I’m not really a fan of this mode. EASports should have left it like it was. Hopefully next year’s Madden will bring back the franchise mode that the football fans know and love.
Some of the differences between Madden 12 and Madden 13 are that the game play flows better than in ‘13 than ’12. In Madden 13, when you mess up, you can’t blame anyone but yourself. Everything that you do in ’13 is controlled by you.
While on Madden 12 everything is animated, which allows only a certain number of moves. With real-time there are no restrictions. From simple things like running the field to avoid a tackle, it seems as though Madden 12 doesn’t want you to have control of your player. Also on Madden 13 the graphics have improved so much that small details, such as a player’s uniform, are noticeable during game play.
Online mode is top-notch again this year. I haven’t had any problems connecting with players. The speed of an online game plays just like you were playing an offline game. There’s no lag in the game play and you only need a simple high-speed Internet connection to play with gamers around the world.
Overall Madden 13 is an excellent football game. It seems as though EASports really took their time to create a one-of-a-kind football experience. If you’re a football fan and like to experience simulation play, I highly recommend this game.