Folding Paper Into Shape (In This Corner of the World review)

Paper is such a beautiful substance. Capable of so much expression, but entirely dependant upon communication and engagement support from whoever it interacts with. This film is like paper in all of it’s glory.

 

In This Corner of the World (2016)

Cast: Yoshimasa Hosoya, Laura Post, Jason Palmer, Todd Haberkorn, Rena Nounen
Director: Sunao Katabuchi
released on blu-ray November 14, 2017
********* 9/10

IMDB: 7.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, Audience Score 95%
The Guardian: ***/*****

Sunao Katabuchi is a Japanese director, writer and voice actor of anime film, with over 30 years of experience in both film and television production. Having been active since the mid 1980s, Katabuchi is best known for his work on Kiki’s Delivery Service, Black Lagoon, Mai Mai Miracle, and most recently In This Corner of the World. He is married to fellow director of anime Chie Uratani, and keeps a fairly modest life outside of the lime light.

In This Corner of the World was co-written by Katabuchi and his wife, but he did take upon full directorial duties for this film. It is set in between 1930s-1940s Japan, focusing on areas of Kure and Hiroshima. It is a brilliantly executed film that depicts how war changes the traditional culture of Japan through the eyes of house-wife Suzu. While it might seem quite mundane in it’s depiction of life in a generational home, the emotional weight of what takes place during those years demands a complete cross-section.

Courtesy of Wikipedia

A young woman named Suzu, who is innocent and loves drawing, lives in a seaside town called Eba in Hiroshima City. In 1944, 18-year-old Suzu, working for her grandmother’s small family business of cultivating Nori (edible sea weed), is told by her parents that an unknown young man has come to propose marriage to her. The man, whose name is Shūsaku, lives in Kure City, a large naval port city 15 miles away from Hiroshima City, as a navy civilian. Suzu decides to marry him and moves to join Shūsaku’s family in Kure. As Suzu adjusts to her new life in Kure, the threat of the Pacific War slowly begins to encroach on the daily lives of the townspeople.

Suzu, as a young housewife in a Tonarigumi,[c] takes turns overseeing food distribution and attends training against air raids. Like other Japanese housewives, she makes women’s trousers fit for emergency evacuation by cutting traditionally designed clothing, such as kimonos, into parts. As officially allocated food becomes scarce, Suzu looks for any way to feed her family, picking edible plants and trying recommended recipes. The family build the air-raid shelter in the garden. Her daily lives are full of humorous and lovely episodes.

The family house of Suzu & Shūsaku is located on a hillside in the suburbs of Kure, with a view of the Japanese Naval Fleet in the harbor, including the largest battleships, Yamato and Musashi. One day, as Suzu draws pictures of floating warships, the military police accost her and come close to accusing her of espionage. In December 1944, a navy sailor named Tetsu comes to visit Suzu: he was a childhood friend of hers, and he has been assigned to the Japanese cruiser Aoba, which is stationed in Kure. Understanding it might be Suzu’s last chance to see Tetsu alive, Shūsaku leaves them alone to talk without a chaperone. The next spring, Shūsaku is drafted by the Navy and temporarily quartered with troops in Otake City, 40 miles away from Kure.

In July, urban areas of Kure are firebombed, and most of the city burns. Suzu is nearly killed by a U.S. low-level strafing run, but saved by Shūsaku. Like many other Japanese, Suzu is unable to avoid tragedy; in addition to the death of her brother Yōichi, Suzu loses her niece, Harumi, and her right hand, which she describes as an “irreplaceable” part of her body due to its dominance. As she suffers from depression, Suzu debates returning to the relative safety of her hometown (Eba) in Hiroshima City in time for the local summer festival on August 6; when she is unable to see a doctor, however, she decides to stay an extra week in Kure.

Soon, Suzu learns what has occurred in Hiroshima City; a new, devastating bomb has fallen on the town, destroying countless citizens and buildings in Hiroshima City. For a while, Suzu is unable to enter or get information about her hometown.

A few days later, in a radio address, the Emperor of Japan announces the end of the War. Soon, the times begin to change rapidly: US occupation forces, no longer the enemy, come to Kure and provide food for its citizens. Suzu visits her grandmother Ito’s family house in Kusatsu,[d] a rural town to the west of Hiroshima and out of the affected area, to see her sister Sumi, who took refuge from deserted Hiroshima and is the only survivor of Suzu’s family. Sumi informs Suzu of the fate of their parents; Sumi herself has fallen seriously ill from the radiation left behind by the atomic‐bomb radiation. Shūsaku, who returns from his naval service, meets with Suzu by chance in a deserted area of Hiroshima and tells her that he has found a new job. They come across a little girl, a war (atomic bomb) orphan struggling to survive in the ruins after losing her mother, and adopt her into their home in Kure. Suzu regains her passion for life slowly, with the courage and affection of her friends and family. As the credits roll, their adopted daughter is shown growing up in Suzu & Shūsaku’s family home, sewing clothes with her own hands, aided by Suzu in peaceful post-war Japan.

It is an affecting and carefully constructed story which does an excellent job of showcasing Suzu’s life before and during the second World War. I’ll admit that it is challenging to watch the story and not immediately predict how it will impact Suzu, knowing she is from Hiroshima, but that doesn’t make the events any less significant, or emotional.

Pros: Beautifully animated, with deliberate detail drawn upon from historical photographs and documentation, including those families that live on the hills above the city. The daily routines of the family are entertaining and painful to observe with the change.

Cons: As much as I hate to say this, the film does seem to drag on, it might be because the plot is so plain in construction without much detail of goings on a national or international scale. But it intriguing to see how the surrender of Japan feels through Suzu’s eyes – one of anger rather then relief.

Runtime: 2 hours 10 minutes

Points of Interest: The movie was inspired by a graphic novel, and there is an extended cut of the film in the works which hopes to expand upon the details of supporting characters and Suzu’s own feelings about her unique circumstances in time.

What I also enjoyed about this film so much was the relationship established between realistic animation and more expressive surreal moments. This is intentional as Suzu is herself an artist and a daydreamer. It might seem trivial, but when a film can capture the essence of a character through other tools then dialogue, it’s a huge win in my books.

theories Summarized

Movies don’t always have to be full of astounding visual effects, violence or ambient sound to produce a result. For a film to be gentle and unfocused like it’s protagonist Suzu is as much of a conscious decision with consequence as giving an unfeeling assassin or a zany pirate the microphone. I didn’t know I wanted to hear this story, but I’m glad I gave it a chance. Otherwise I would have missed a historical drama that happens to be animated.

That said and speaking of paper, we need to do an about-face and get back into the realm of comedy ASAP because Andre and I have an amazing review to make on the cult classic Office Space. Seriously such a funny movie. It’s so funny that both of us cracked up at several moments as we fumbled our way through it. Watch it!

Tim!

The Movies You Absolutely HAVE To Go Into Spoiler-free (Cross Talk Ep. 28)

There are so many ways in which movies can be spoiled for us in this day in age – Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr, Reddit, and on, and on, and on… Not to mention humans. Humans still are incredibly good at ruining the best of cinema within a matter of sentences. It doesn’t matter if you are watching The Walking Dead or just saw Thor: Ragnarok, it’s a minefield out there creative cuties.

Some people think that etiquette for spoilers lasts within the first hours of a release, others think it is primarily subject to the timeline of digital download and home release, while others come up with deadlines of years and even more arbitrary considerations like when a franchise final closes up.

The truth is, there is no right or wrong here, but Shirley you cannot think that spoiling a movie for someone is going to work out and not expect some hurt feelings and consequences?

And dammit I will call you Shirley if you spoil The Last Jedi for me!

Threads and forums usually make it easy, the subject line will usually exclaim – SPOILERS AHEAD. And still others have rules about what can be said within hallowed digital halls. The challenge really comes from social media, because we can’t draw a policy down for an individual.

People are going to post and share whatever they feel like, as long as it isn’t immoral and illegal, that is.

But with any luck, your humble hosts on Cross Talk are going to give some examples of films that should never be spoiled, films that often are spoiled to this day, and the major repercussions of doing that to your brethren. Hint: it’s nothing good. Because the thing is, dear readers, there are schedules out there, and you can rest assured in the knowledge that you are beholden to the same social etiquette as others are.

If you spoil something, be prepared to have the same happen to you in kind. And I do not write this with malice in my heart, in fact, I wouldn’t wish a spoiler upon my worst enemy. Some movies deserve to be spoiler-free. And yes, I know I’ve mentioned that twice now…

You should just watch the video and see what I mean for yourself. Caution though, there aren’t any spoilers ahead!

All said-and-done, that was episode twenty-eight of Cross Talk! I can now admit that we will probably never be rid of spoilers on the internet. But thankfully, with some consideration, and an evolution of social intelligence, there will become a proper statue of limitations on information sharing – when it comes to pop culture, that is.

And the fact remains, while I haven’t explicitly pointed it out above, film criticism really is a dish best served as a dessert after a meal. You can’t expect to eat your dessert first, now can you? A teenager might defy the odds and have pumpkin pie for dinner, but we all know that they either come around or face dietary issues as they age. And that’s just dark.

Now we want to know what you think! And if you liked this video, please share, comment, and subscribe! I’m out of theories for the day, but this has been Cross Talk and timotheories will be back tomorrow with something melodic.

Tim!

Dear Diary, Jackpot (Logan Lucky review)

Sometimes greatness is thrust upon us, whether we are willing to accept it or not. I often think of this adage when I watch an exceptionally brilliant piece of cinema, one that takes its time to prove itself. This weeks movie review is an excellent example of a great movie hidden within the context of its time.

When everyone is complaining about entrenched politics, Steven Soderbergh has proven that judging a book by its cover can be fatal.

 

Logan Lucky (2017)

Cast: Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig, Riley Keough, Farrah Mackenzie, Katie Holmes, Seth MacFarlane
Director: Steven Soderbergh
re-released on blu-ray November 28, 2017
********* 9/10

IMDB: 7.1
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, Audience Score 76%
The Guardian: ****/*****

Steven Soderbergh is an American director, producer, and screenwriter. His debut film, Sex, Lies, and Videotape garnered huge attention for him in 1989, and ever since then, he has gone to great success with titles like Erin Brockovich, Traffic, the Ocean’s Eleven remakes, Side Effects, and Magic Mike. Soderbergh has also produced and been  involved in a host of other commercial and critically successful movies.

Logan Lucky marks a return to directing for him after a four year hiatus, and I think with this gem, he has proven that he still has a good handle on filmmaking. It’s actually quite a brilliant story.

Courtesy of Wikipedia

Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum), a blue collar laborer whose once promising football career was ruined by an injury, is laid off from his construction job at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. While visiting his ex-wife Bobbie Jo (Katie Holmes) to pick up their daughter Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie) for a beauty pageant, he learns that Bobbie and her new husband intend to move to Lynchburg, making it even harder for him to visit.

Angry, Jimmy goes to a bar run by his brother Clyde (Adam Driver), an Iraq War veteran who, on account of losing part of his left arm, wears a prosthetic hand. Max Chilblain (Seth MacFarlane), a pretentious British businessman & NASCAR team owner, and his friends arrive and insult Clyde before getting in a fight with Jimmy. Meanwhile, Clyde sets fire to their car with a molotov cocktail. On his way out, Jimmy yells “cauliflower”, which Clyde recognizes as an old code word from when they used to commit crimes as young boys. Next day, Jimmy explains his plan to rob the Speedway, exploiting his knowledge of their pneumatic tube system for moving money.

Clyde agrees to the plan, and he and Jimmy recruit Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), a convicted safecracker, as well as Joe’s dimwitted brothers Sam and Fish (Brian Gleeson and Jack Quaid), and their own sister Mellie (Riley Keough). They plan to break Joe out of prison and return him as soon as the heist is complete before anyone notices. Clyde gets sent to prison on a minor charge. Mellie, Sam, and Fish infest the Speedway’s main vault with cockroaches, forcing it to be cleaned and allowing them to measure it. While gathering supplies, Jimmy meets former schoolmate Sylvia (Katherine Waterston), who runs a mobile clinic in desperate need of donations; Sylvia provides Jimmy with a tetanus shot and the two strike up a conversation. Later, Jimmy learns that construction at the speedway is being finished ahead of schedule, forcing them to commit the heist earlier, during the much busier Coca-Cola 600 race on Memorial Day weekend.

Joe and Clyde arrange for the prison’s inmates to stage a riot, the lockdown hiding their absence. They escape through the infirmary and exit the prison by hiding under a delivery truck. Mellie meets them with Bobbie’s husband’s stolen sports car, and drives them to the Speedway. Meanwhile, Sam and Fish destroy the main generator with an explosive, forcing all vendors to switch to cash. Joe improvises an explosive from bleach, gummy bears, and a dietary salt substitute to detonate the main pneumatic pipe, and the crew begins vacuuming the money. The staff notice smoke coming out of the tubes, and security guards are dispatched to investigate, but a diversion set up by Jimmy and one of Clyde’s bar patrons prevents them from discovering the heist. Complications arise when Clyde loses his prosthetic hand during the vacuuming, and he and Joe are spotted by Chilblain and his sponsored NASCAR driver Dayton White (Sebastian Stan) while making their way back to prison. Nevertheless, the job is a success, and Jimmy makes it to his daughter’s pageant just as she performs a rendition of his favorite song, “Take Me Home, Country Roads”. Jimmy abandons the money and anonymously alerts the police so they can retrieve it.

FBI agent Sarah Grayson (Hilary Swank) investigates the heist but – due to the unwillingness of the prison authorities to disclose the extent of the riot, the refuting of Chilblain’s eyewitness account by White (disgruntled as he crashed during the Coca-Cola 600 due to his drinking some of Chilblain’s energy drink as part of the sponsorship deal), and the Speedway administration’s satisfaction with their insurance settlement – the case is closed after six months. Joe is released and returns to his old home where, prompted by a red shovel, he finds part of the money buried by a tree in his yard. During the heist, Jimmy purposely separated several bags from the rest of the loot and sent them to the local dump with the regular trash. The rest he returned to throw off any potential investigations. Jimmy also retrieved Clyde’s prosthetic hand from the vacuum machine. Now working as a Lowe’s salesman and with a house he bought next to his daughter’s, Jimmy happily reunites with his family at Clyde’s bar, where they and the rest of the gang share drinks. Sylvia also arrives and shares a kiss with Jimmy. Clyde doesn’t recognize one of the patrons, who turns out to be Grayson.

What is absolutely brilliant about this movie was revealed to me upon my second viewing of this film with my parents.

They are avid movie watchers, and my dad has probably seen more movies in his lifetime then I have albeit spread out over years of casual watching. So when they both told me that this movie surprised them because they weren’t expecting it to be entertaining, it confirmed a theory I have about a bias many people have – Just because a movie has a slow start, with seemingly boring and simplistic characters, does not mean that it will be a “bad movie.” In fact, the cast of this film demonstrated perfectly how a caper flick should work. If you are watching the flick with the expectation you know what is happening, but are inevitably surprised at how the protagonists pulled off the job, and then movie explains it smartly, you as an audience get to share in the accomplishment. In that case it’s been executed properly. Period.

Pros: It’s a stylish movie, but not for obvious associations of style – these are salt of the earth southern Americans, who have dry humour, and a subtle confidence in their own identities. And consequently the stakes are never raised to distract, because it’s not how these people carry themselves. We get to identify with the principal leads because they act like how we might act at any given moment.

Cons: When the dust clears and all of the mad-cap moments have been revealed, I have to wonder if there were too many one shot characters helping orchestrate the heist behind the scenes. That reminded me too much of Oceans 11 and took me out of it.

Runtime: 1 hour 58 minutes

Points of Interest: This is the first film Soderbergh has directed since his announcement to retire from film. The movie ends on a seemingly ambiguous note, but stops on Clyde’s prosthetic hand, indicating the Logan Curse might not have been lifted, after all.

theories Summarized

There is a newscast scene towards the film which dubs the robbers as Ocean’s 7-Eleven. I thought this was a fitting description of the film for people who haven’t seen it yet, and clever bit of self-depreciation on Soderbergh’s part. But that doesn’t mean this movie should be dismissed as just a riff on what has come before. It stands all on it’s own, and has heart, much like the anthemic Take Me Home, Country Roads, which dovetails the story nicely.

Ultimately, I think that what really matters about this film is that it does what it promises intelligently, without putting on airs. And maybe I’m seeing more there then the average filmgoer, but you can tell me if my theory pans out.

Oh and that reminds me! Speaking of tolerance, heart, and disarming movies… Chris and I totally have a recommendation for a great movie to watch with the whole family, one that’ll put a hop in your step. Pun intended.

Tim!

Peek A Boo, I See You (Ghost In The Shell (1995) review)

Deus ex machina are supposed to reveal truths of the world, not leave it covered in darkness. Which is why this film is rather prophetic, and should probably be in the queue for monthly consumption, at a minimum.

 

Ghost In The Shell (1995)

Cast: Atsuko Tanaka, Akio Otsuka, Koichi Yamadera, Yutaka Nakano, Tamio Oki, Tessho Genda
Director: Mamoru Oshii
re-released on blu-ray Sep 23, 2014
********* 9/10

IMDB: 8.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, Audience Score 89%
The Guardian: ****/*****

Mamoru Oshii is a Japanese director and screenwriter. He has directed a ton of anime films and television shows, including Urusei Yatsura, Red Spectacles, Ghost in the Shell, Avalon, and Patlabor 2: The Movie. His directorial style has often been detailed in how different it is to most films made in the United States, with visuals being the most important element to him, followed by story, and then characterizations.

The Wachowskis and James Cameron have been in awe of his work for decades, especially with Ghost in the Shell, so I thought it fitting to time my review of the original film with the release of the live-action remake. Because, well, it’s even more relevant today than it was 20+ years ago.

Courtesy of Wikipedia

In 2029, with the advance of cybernetic technology, the human body can be “augmented” or even completely replaced with cybernetic parts. Another significant achievement is the cyberbrain, a mechanical casing for the human brain that allows access to the Internet and other networks. An often-mentioned term is “ghost”, referring to the consciousness inhabiting the body (the “shell”).

Major Motoko Kusanagi (Atsuko Tanaka) is an assault-team leader for the Public Security Section 9 of “New Port City” in Japan. Following a request from Nakamura (Tessho Genda), chief of Section 6, she successfully assassinates a diplomat of a foreign country to prevent a programmer named Daita (Mitsuru Miyamoto) from defecting.

The Foreign Minister’s interpreter is ghost-hacked, presumably to assassinate VIPs in an upcoming meeting. Believing the perpetrator is the mysterious Puppet Master (Iemasa Kayumi), Kusanagi’s team follows the traced telephone calls that sent the virus. After a chase, they capture a garbage man and a thug. However, both are only ghost-hacked individuals with no clue about the Puppet Master. The investigation again comes to a dead end.

Megatech Body, a “shell” manufacturer with suspected close ties to the government, is hacked and assembles a cybernetic body. The body escapes but is hit by a truck. As Section 9 examines the body, they find a human “ghost” inside its computer brain. Unexpectedly, Nakamura arrives to reclaim the body. He claims that the “ghost” inside the brain is the Puppet Master himself, lured into the body by Section 6. The body reactivates itself, claims to be a sentient being and requests political asylum. After the Puppet Master initiates a brief argument about what constitutes a human, a camouflaged agent accompanying Nakamura starts a diversion and gets away with the body.

Having suspected foul play, Kusanagi’s team is prepared and immediately pursues the agent. Meanwhile, Section 9 researches “Project 2501,” mentioned earlier by the Puppet Master, and finds a connection with Daita, whom Section 6 tries to keep from defecting the country. Facing the discovered information, Daisuke Aramaki (Tamio Oki), chief of Section 9, concludes that Section 6 created the Puppet Master itself for various political purposes. This is why Section 6 is desperately trying to reclaim the body.

Kusanagi follows the car carrying the body to an abandoned building. It is protected by a large walking tank. Anxious to face the Puppet Master’s ghost, Kusanagi engages the tank without backup and is nearly killed. Her partner Batou (Akio Otsuka) arrives in time to save her, and helps connect her brain to the Puppet Master’s.

The Puppet Master explains to Kusanagi that he was created by Section 6. While wandering various networks, he became sentient and began to contemplate his existence. Deciding the essence of humanity is reproduction and mortality, he wants to exist within a physical brain that will eventually die. As he could not escape section 6’s network, he had to download himself into a cybernetic body. Having interacted with Kusanagi (without her knowledge), he believes she is also questioning her humanity, and they have a lot in common. He proposed merging their ghosts, in return, Kusanagi would gain all of his capabilities. Kusanagi agrees to the merge.

Snipers from Section 6 approach the building, intending to destroy the Puppet Master’s and Kusanagi’s brains to cover up Project 2501. The Puppet Master’s shell is destroyed, but Batou shields Kusanagi’s head in time to save her brain. As Section 9 closes in on the site, the snipers retreat.

“Kusanagi” wakes up in a new cyborg child body in Batou’s safehouse. She tells Batou that the entity within her body is neither Kusanagi nor the Puppet Master, but a combination of both. She promises Batou they will meet again, leaves the house and wonders where to go next.

For me, it’s tough not to watch this movie and be reminded of The Matrix. I had the unfortunate experience of watching that movie a great many years before this classic, and the repeated viewings of The Matrix trilogy over the years haven’t helped either. And so, the story is a familiar one, exploring self-identity as we relate to machines in a time when humans and machines have become interchangeable. God praise the internet, amirite? And the timeline is not that far away either, in both the film and reality.

Consciousness, humanity, autonomy, empathy, and mortality are all explored in a relatively short hour and twenty-some minutes. In a time when international corporations have basically done away with national identity too.The ghost in the shell is literally a play on the wandering consciousness that inhabits the meaty husk, and it wants to know if we hear it’s voice.

Pros: Visually compelling and with a message which has allowed it to age far better then films like Blade Runner or Total Recall, Ghost in the Shell is violent, emotional, and poetic to experience.

Cons: The individual characters are difficult to warm up to, but it might just be all of the robot parts they have imbedded.

Runtime: 1 hour 23 minutes

Points of Interest: Motoko’s eye are intentionally animated to not blink very often, giving her a feel of a doll, rather then a human. The title of the manga which inspired the film is written as an homage to the Arthur Koestler work, The Ghost in the Machine.

theories Summarized

So is the 2017 film better than the 1995 one? I’d like to think not, and not for the obvious whitewashing allusions that have been to popular on the internet over the past year or so. In fact, Mamoru Oshii has gone on record to state that the Major may or may not be Japanese, but regardless of her current appearance, her name and body have changed numerous times, and so it is in fact acceptable to have Scarlett Johansson in that role.

But I think the problem is that the anime far better depicts the story at hand, and that the visuals are far more compelling with their mix of traditional drawing and CGI. The Matrix will never be the same for me. And that’s no theory.

And speaking of things that The Matrix tried to wreak… Andre and I have a new Watch Culture video up for your viewing pleasure. Please tell us if you agree that Equilibrium is worth a watch, and if not, your comments are appreciated.

Tim!

Double Agent (Teen Titans: The Judas Contract review)

Animated comic book movies have been around for decades at this point, but I think it’s high time we recognize the efforts of one studio in particular who has consistently show up to play ball.

 

Teen Titans: The Judas Contract (2017)

Cast: Stuart Allan, Jake T. Austin, Taissa Farmiga, Sean Maher, Christina Ricci, Brandon Soo Hoo, Kari Wahlgren, Miguel Ferrer
Director: Sam Liu
re-released on blu-ray April 18, 2017
******** 8/10

IMDB: 7.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 80%, Audience Score 71%
The Guardian: n/a

I’ve written about Sam Liu before. He also directed the Batman: The Killing Joke movie which I reviewed last summer, so in order to save some time, I’m going to dive right into the plot summary and then tell you what I think about this most recent DC original animated film.

Courtesy of Wikipedia

Five years ago, the original Teen Titans (consisting of Dick Grayson as Robin, Speedy, Kid Flash, Beast Boyand Bumblebee) rescue Princess Starfire of planet Tamaran from her captors sent by her evil older sister Blackfire who had staged a coup and forcibly took the throne. As she is no longer able to return to her world, the Titans offer her a home on Earth as one of them.

In the present, Dick Grayson (now called Nightwing) rejoins the Teen Titans to track down a terrorist cult led by Brother Blood who plans on capturing the team to absorb each of their unique abilities with a machine that he has tested on Jericho (whom his assistant and lover Mother Mayhem quickly shoots afterwards). Brother Blood hires the mercenary Deathstroke to deliver the Titans to him, which he obliges to do for both the money and get revenge on Damian Wayne for foiling his evil plans a few years ago and replacing him as Ra’s al Ghul’s heir before Damian turned against the League of Assassins. Deathstroke monitors the Titans through his double agent Terra, who joined the team a year prior and whom he rescued after her parents turned their whole village against her and tortured her. When Damian grows suspicious of Terra’s behavior and starts tracking her, he is captured by her and Deathstroke, thus revealing her as a spy to Damian.

Terra acts cold and distant towards the otheTitans despite their welcoming attitude, but eventually warms up to them. During the night celebrating her one-year anniversary with the Titans, she shares a tender moment with Beast Boy and kisses him. The next day, Deathstroke kidnaps Blue Beetle at the soup kitchen he works at, Beast Boy at a convention where he thought he would do a podcast with filmmaker Kevin Smith, and Starfire at the apartment shared by her and Nightwing. Dick discovers what happened to the otheTitans and is attacked by Deathstroke. He manages to escape by faking his own death, while Terra captures Raven in Titans‘ Tower.

Deathstroke and Terra bring the Titans to Brother Blood, but since the machine cannot operate properly without a fifth Titan (as Slade had failed to capture Nightwing), Slade hesitantly offers him Terra instead. Brother Blood starts draining the Titans of their powers and ascends to godlike status, but they are rescued by Nightwing. Nightwing and Robin fight Deathstroke, while the rest take on Brother Blood, who has absorbed all of their powers. The two villains are stopped by the intervention of Terra, who is thoroughly hurt and enraged at Slade for his betrayal. Brother Blood is depowered by Raven unleashing her inner fury as a demon and killed by Mother Mayhem, while Deathstroke is buried underneath multiple rocks thrown by Terra. Too ashamed to face her former allies after betraying their trust, Terra decides to bring down the entire area. Beast Boy attempts to assist Terra in escaping the crumbling fortress, but Terra pushes him back and is buried underneath multiple layers of rubble. Beast Boy digs her up, and she dies in his arms.

In the epilogue, Beast Boy goes on Kevin Smith’s podcast and talks about the Titans with the host. He mentions that the team has a “wonderful new member” and that he will always miss Terra.

In a post-credits scene, Jericho is shown to have survived the bullet Mother Mayhem shot at him earlier.

I’ll just come right out and say that this movie is refreshing to watch. There are complex adult relationships portrayed on the screen, some well placed profanity, and while the violence doesn’t overwhelm, it is decidedly more graphic then your average PG-13 fare. Featuring an ensemble cast, and then spending time with each character was a wise movie on the part of DC, because each of characters is developed in such a way that they become more compelling then any live-action counterparts we’ve seen thus far.

Starfire, Beast Boy, Blue Beetle, and Deathstroke all have great arcs, and it’s very satisfying to watch Terra meet her end as the revealed Judas of the team.

Pros: The animation, pacing, and storytelling are all top-notch, but as already mentioned, the relationships between characters, especially the romantic ones, are fascinating to watch. The Teens are all so dramatic and appealing to watch.

Cons: There is a decent amount of filler at the beginning of the film, with previous Titans on a mission and the meeting of Starfire. This flashback and the one of Terra’s home life seem out of place and very uncomfortable to watch, especially with the Deathstroke seduction scene. Also, Terra turns too quickly.

Runtime: 1 hour 24 minutes

Points of Interest: Adapted from a Teen Titans series from the 1980s, this story has also been adapted for the Teen Titans animated series of the early 2000s. Beast Boy appears on a podcast with Kevin Smith in the movie, in real life Kevin Smith is a huge comics fan, and has a particular affinity for Batman.

I think that overall the plot with Brother Blood, the contract with Deathstroke, and the hidden mole of Terra gave the movie the steam it needed to make it around the block. It should be celebrated for it’s adventurous and adult themes, even if Deathstroke and Terra have be really weird personal relationship in the background. The leadership tactics of Star Fire, versus old hat exercises from Nightwing.

theories Summarized

With over twenty movies in their catalogue at this point, DC has done an excellent job of adapting some of their best stories for home release, and this Teen Titans story is one of the better ones. Yes you can see a lot of the plot twists from a mile away, but it does such a good job of getting you there, that I think the journey really is the most important part in this case.

Speaking of twists, this week on Watch Culture, Andre and I give a recommendation on 2011’s Source Code, and I bet you’ll enjoy it. That said, I’m out of theories for now.

Tim!