Short Film: Robots of Brixton

Robots of Brixton (UK-2011; short [approx. 5.35 min.]; dir. Kibwe Tavares)

Check out this arty — and rather timely, given what’s been happening in the UK — little robot drama!

Synopsis:

Brixton has degenerated into a disregarded area inhabited by London’s new robot workforce – robots built and designed to carry out all of the tasks which humans are no longer inclined to do. The mechanical population of Brixton has rocketed, resulting in unplanned, cheap and quick additions to the skyline.

The film follows the trials and tribulations of young robots surviving at the sharp end of inner city life, living the predictable existence of a populous hemmed in by poverty, disillusionment and mass unemployment. When the Police invade the one space which the robots can call their own, the fierce and strained relationship between the two sides explodes into an outbreak of violence echoing that of 1981.

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Review: Godaizer

Not long ago I was privileged to be able to see director Hillary Yeo’s full animated short film, Godaizer. Below is my review (follow the link to my main site, Undead Backbrain, to read the full thing).

Godaizer (Singapore-2011; short [18:43 min.]; dir. Hillary Yeo)

Godaizer is not the kind of frenetic anime that is all action and noise, certainly during its opening third. In some ways it is more suggestive of Miyazaki’s cinematic style (not so much visually as in general ambiance). Its opening sequence, showing the start of what is obviously another typical day, is slow and contemplative, as the youthful main character, awoken by a bedside clock, looks out upon the morning and the chooks, pushes open rusting gates and then pulls switches to start up the vast repair shop in which he lives. The roof slides back to let in the sun, service gates grind open and lights come on.

Godaizer embraces the dynamics of daikaiju conflict as thoroughly as it exploits the tropes of the human/machine dynamic lying at the heart of the [mecha] genre.

A mecha/daikaiju classic in miniature, Godaizer may be short, but what it lacks in direct narrative complexity it makes up for in attention to suggestive detail.

Read the review.

Review: Ghost in the Shell 2.0 Redux

Ghost in the Shell 2.0 Redux (orig. Kôkaku kidôtai; Japan-1995; dir. Mamoru Oshii)

Reviewed by Robert Hood

Anyone who knows anything about anime knows Ghost in the Shell. Based on the classic manga of Masamune Shirow, Ghost in the Shell was a stunning work of SF animation in 1995 and, I’m happy to say, remains so now. It visualized and enhanced the cyberpunk aesthetic of writers such as William Gibson in his Sprawl trilogy, and directly influenced such important live-action SF as The Matrix, spawning a franchise that includes two more films (Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence and Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C. Solid State Society) and two television series (Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C. 2nd GIG). All of them are worth seeing.

Set in a futuristic world where the fragile line between the vast external city and cyberspace is gradually disappearing, Ghost in the Shell is an exciting and yet cerebral cyber-tech thriller that creates a convincing futuristic world and peoples it with believable, if often cybernetically enhanced, characters.

Much of Ghost in the Shell’s success comes not only from its action-based “police-thriller” plot (which takes a thoroughly cinematic approach to its aesthetic, with its fair share of “realistic” violence) but also from its intelligent approach to that material. It drew SF anime away from straightforward if often bizarre combat scenarios into a world of moral and ontological investigation, exploring the boundaries of life and intelligence in a post-industrial, supra-technological context beyond the sort of medieval thought that views artificial life as a blasphemy and the domain of soulless machines. In the world of Ghost in the Shell, cybernetic enhancements are the norm, machines can have “souls”, and the story itself explores a scenario in which self-aware intelligence is spontaneously generated within the complex by-ways of the vast digital communication network of cyberspace. What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be alive? These are old questions, but are explored here in a convincing, futuristic context.

Since 1995, of course, digital technology has changed animation considerably. For this Ghost in the Shell 2.0 Redux release, the film has been “upgraded”, not only to HD Blu-ray quality, but in terms of its animation, much of which has been enhanced using contemporary digital imaging techniques. Some sequences are more “3D” (particularly the opening sequence of Major Kusanagi on the rooftops and various vehicle-based scenes), but the traditional cel animation that still makes up most of the movie has been given greater shading and depth. Backgrounds have been re-done digitally and visualizations of cyberspace itself provided with a computer-generated makeover.


The result can seem a little discontinuous here and there, but the enhancements are used well and the whole is arguably an improvement over what was already a superb visual experience. Luckily, traditionalists can still watch the original version if they so desire, though upgraded to HD quality, as it is included as part of the package.

Either way, the film has never looked better than it does here on Blu-ray. Visually stunning and narratively compelling, it remains a classic not only of animation, but of SF cinema, and should be welcomed by those familiar with the film and those who are yet to see it.

Released in Australia by Madman Entertainment.

Upcoming: Godaizer, the Giant Robot

Godaizer — a short film from animator Hillary Yeo  — is clearly intended to reference such TV shows as Tetsujin 28-go and seminal mecha anime such as Mazinger Z. The artwork itself is more painterly, giving the film a unique appearance, different from both the hard-edged cell-animation style of early cartoons and the naturalistic 3D CGI of recent work.

Here is the trailer:

Synopsis:

An independent computer animated short about a robot repair warehouse run by a old man and his grandson where old decommissioned giant robot Godaizer is kept.

When a giant monster is awoken, it is time for Godaizer to rise again and defeat it. But what cost must the monster be taken down?

Clips:

Monster Concept Design:

You’ll find lots more images in the Gallery below — and check out the official website for even more.

Gallery:

Gang Warfare Uses Robots

A music video: ROBOTS by Dan Mangan, directed by Mike Lewis.

Smile

Made by final year film students Phil Paris Zarcilla and Semir Saleh.

Robo-Phone

Here’s a real-world giant robot — used as advertising for Ericsson Telephones. I’m not sure where or when, but it’s quite old and makes for an impressive billboard, even if it’s not very mobile!

Source: me-ru-mo via Dark Roasted Blend