Man, was I pumped for "Bugmaster", based on
a Japanese manga of the same name and directed by the man who gave
us "Akira" so many moons ago. Sure, "Akira" is a cartoon and "Bugmaster"
is a live-action film, but talent is talent, and I was certain this
would be one of my highlights for the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.
This turn-of-the-era story follows Ginko (Jo
Odagiri), a "bugmaster" who walks the earth like Caine from "Kung
Fu" in search of people who need his assistance in healing
afflictions caused by mushi (bugs), which in this context are not
insects but in fact small supernatural things that can bring life or
death, depending on the situation. Most people can't even see
these mushi, but Ginko has special powers (and, one less eye than us
normal folk) and his abilities make him one of the most cherished
contributors in Japan. While he is trying to determine his
roots, his adventures lead him to Tanyu (Yu Aoi), a
slightly-crippled bugmaster who has captured many of these mushi in
scrolls that she keeps in her home...but when some of these mushi
escape and try to attack Tanyu, Ginko has to take action.
After a strong first 30 minutes, "Bugmaster"
drags to an almost-complete halt and was literally painful for me to
sit through over its remaining 90 minutes as it moved to completion.
As it muddles through a few sideplots and the time period where
Ginko was a child and something called The Darkness and Ginko's real
mother and a guy that Ginko meets on his path to glory, I was
fighting to stay afloat...and, this was the FIRST movie on my
schedule that day. Wow. "Bugmaster" made me openly
wonder, to anyone within shouting distance, about the programming
process at Sundance; could this really have been one of the best
100-or-so films to be submitted out of more than seven or eight
thousand??? Who is responsible for picking these films?
If this is done by committee, how is it possible for a collection of
filmies to pick so badly?
The talent of director Katsuhiro Otomo is
legendary, so my advice is to see his other films, certainly all of
his anime films. But, in the case of "Bugmaster", you are
probably better off skipping it. So much unfulfilled potential
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Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard