‘Wolf’s Calling’ Review: The past is a weapon in Toshiaki Toyoda’s new short film


By Michael B. Murphy

Featuring an impressive lineup of actors, traditional Japanese musical instruments, and elements of chanbara cinema, Wolf’s Calling is a captivating short film/music video hybrid about a gun, a girl and the radical act of remembering. 

In April of last year, director Toshiaki Toyoda (whose previous films include Blue Spring and 9 Souls) was arrested at his home on suspicion of possessing a firearm. Fortunately, the 51-year-old filmmaker was cleared of any wrongdoing and released from jail days later when investigators discovered his gun was actually a World War II-era family heirloom that no longer worked.

Promoted as Toyoda’s response to his arrest, the 17-minute short Wolf’s Calling is a contemplative and political tale about a girl reconnecting to her nation’s past after discovering a long-forgotten gun. It’s also a badass music video scored by the Japanese anti-modernist punk band Seppuku Pistols.

Warning: Spoilers Below

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‘Snotgirl, Vol. 1: Green Hair Don’t Care’ Review

Bizarrely humorous and gorgeously illustrated, Snotgirl is a poppy and fluorescent-colored commentary on the difficulty of living up to the social media identities we create for ourselves.

Co-created by Scott Pilgrim creator Brian Lee O’Malley and artist Leslie Hung, Snotgirl follows trend-setting fashion blogger Lottie Person. Tall, gorgeous, green-haired and on the cutting-edge of cosmetics and clothing, Lottie wants you and all her fans to know she’s living the most fabulous life ever. 

Except she’s not.

Underneath the shimmering and bubbly facade of her carefully curated digital existence, Lottie’s real life is rife with disappointments. She hasn’t gotten over her ex, who is now dating a younger but totally plain jane girl. Her social circle are of little help as they are as equally vacuous as she is. Worst of all, Lottie’s allergies have gone from bad to worse, leaving her a runny-eyed and mucousy mess.

Struggling to maintain her glamorous social media persona while her personal life begins to crumble, things become more complicated when Lottie reacts badly to a new antihistamine which may have caused her to murder a new – and just as chic – acquaintance.

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‘Huck’ Vol. 1 Review: A superhero we can finally look up to

The tale of an unassuming hero from a podunk town, Huck serves as a much needed reminder that the greatest power one can possess is empathy.

The modern depiction of superheroes is one of non-stop violence and galaxy-wide conflicts. Far too often, the superhero stories of today traffic in the theme of moral ambiguity where the threats its villains bring to the world are so great that the do-gooders often concede their moral superiority in order to win.

Whether it’s the revelation that Captain America is a Hydra Agent or Superman snapping the neck of General Zod in Zack Snyder’s 2013 film Man of Steel, it has become increasingly difficult to differentiate the heroes from their villains.

It makes you nostalgic for the days when a comic book hero saved cats from trees, walked old ladies across the street and returned stolen purses.

Whatever happened to truth, justice and the American way?

Enter Huck.

Created by writer Mark Millar and artist Rafael Albuquerue’s, Huck is a much needed reminder of what truly makes a superhero “super.”

(Warning: Some spoilers below)

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‘Thor: Ragnarok’ Trailer: The God of Thunder visits Planet Hulk

First day of the work week got you down? Do not fret, true believer, as a trailer for Thor: Ragnarok has just made its way online.

Who said Mondays had to suck?

At a brief 1 minute and 53 seconds, the trailer for the third Thor film wisely chooses not get bogged down in exposition. Instead, we are treated to a flurry of images which provides you a sense of the size and scope this film will have. It also gives us a peek at what kind of tone director Taika Waititi is aiming for.

While the dialogue is sparse, what little is given tells us things aren’t going too well for the Mighty Avenger.

Click below to see the trailer and see the return of Thor, Loki and the Incredible Hulk.

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‘Iron Fist’ Review: Netflix’s latest Marvel offering packs a laughably weak punch

Excruciatingly long, vapid and ultimately pointless, Netflix’s latest Marvel series is a failure in almost every conceivable way.

Iron Fist, the latest superhero series to be birthed by the Netflix/Marvel partnership, had two simple objectives – deliver a compelling character who audiences would want to see stand alongside Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage when the upcoming ‘Defenders’ miniseries premieres and not to rock the boat and undo all the goodwill the preceding series built.

To say Iron Fist failed in its objectives would be a colossal understatement.

Comprised of 13 dry, humorless and at times incomprehensible episodes, Iron Fist tells the story of Danny Rand, a young man who was presumed dead for 15 years after the plane he and his parents were in crashed in the Himalayas, as he remerges in New York City to rightfully reclaim his family’s billion dollar company – Rand Industries. Navigating his way through the treacherous world of corporate America, Danny attempts to prove his identity to childhood friends Joy and Ward Meachum, both of whom have run Rand Industries alongside their father Harold since the Rand family went missing. Interfering with Danny’s attempt to reclaim his family’s legacy are his duties as the Iron Fist, the the martial arts protector of K’un Lun – a mystical city that our hero discovered as a child.

Along for the ride in this hero’s journey is Colleen Wing, a dojo-owning martial artist with a secret which may undo the blossoming romance between her and Danny, and former nurse Claire Temple, who is well-versed in the New York City superhero game as she has rubbed elbows with Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage.

Iron Fist will need all the help he can get as his sworn enemy The Hand, a sinister organization of lethal ninja assassins, continues to become a dominant force in New York City’s underground crime community.

(Warning: the below review contains some spoilers)

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Music Review: Japanese Breakfast finds beauty in bereavement with ‘Psychopomp’

A lo-fi pop chronicling of love, loss and longing. 

No one who knew of singer/guitarist Michelle Zauner faulted her when she put her Philadelphia-based indie-rock band Little Big League on hiatus and returned home to Oregon after discovering her mother had been diagnosed with cancer.

Nor would anyone have been surprised had Zauner put down her guitar for the foreseeable future as she coped with the emotions of losing a mother and having to care for her widowed father.

However, Zauner discovered inspiration in sorrow. After gestating her grief over the course of a year, Zauner has now birthed one of the most beautiful and life-affirming albums in recent memory – Psychopomp.

Working in collaboration with musician Ned Eisenberg, Japanese Breakfast may not be as hard-hitting sonically as Little Big League, but lyrically and thematically, it’s more vulnerable and intense than anything Zauner has created before.

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This year’s Independent Film Festival Boston lineup announced

Spring time has arrived and for many film fans that means we’re mere weeks away from the start of the summer blockbuster season.

There will be animated movies! Superheroes! Remakes! Superhero remakes!

However, if you’re a cinephile who prefers their movies to be wrought with drama, grounded in realism and worthy of Oscar gold, the slate of upcoming summer movies may leave you feeling a bit dead inside.

Well thanks to the fine folks at The Independent Film Festival Boston (IFFBoston) – who are celebrating their 15th anniversary – those of us who prefer their films to be on the more highbrow and artistic side will have a plethora of healthy options to binge upon before being faced with nothing but months of popcorn flicks.

IFFBoston has just announced this year’s lineup and yet again it’s an eclectic mix of narrative and documentary features and narrative and documentary shorts. Several of these films have screened at Sundance and other festivals but, being that it’s IFFBoston, many of the the movies debuting were made by New England filmmakers.

Past films to have appeared at IFFBoston include Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea, Jackie and The VVitch.

The 2017 edition of IFFBoston will take place between April 26 through May 3 at four different venues in Boston – the Coolidge Corner Theatre, the Somerville Theatre, the Brattle theatre and University of Massachusetts, Boston. 

The festival’s opening night film will be the documentary Stumped. Directed by Robin Berhaus, Stumped follows William Lautzenheiser, a Boston-area teacher who had all four of his limbs removed after contracting a vicious bacterial infection. Berhaus’ camera captured Lautzheiser’s entry into the stand-up comedy world as a form of therapy as well as undergoing a rare transplantation surgery at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Stumped will screen at the Somerville on April 26. 

Closing IFFBoston will be Band Aid which is the directorial-debut of Zoe Lister-Jones. The indie comedy stars Lister-Jones and actor Adam Pally as a married couple who create a band to work through their issues with one another. Band Aid will screen at the Coolidge Corner Theatre on May 3.

For the complete list of films, showtimes and locations, check out the IFFBoston website.



‘Ghost in the Shell’ Review: Controversy and mediocrity haunt this hollow anime adapation

All style and no substance, Hollywood’s superfluous remake of a cerebral anime classic fails to quell valid concerns of whitewashing.

Created in 1989 by writer/artist Masamune Shirow, Ghost in the Shell was a popular cyberpunk manga which has spawned countless media adaptations, ranging from video games, animated television series and feature-length films. Though the different incarnations of the Ghost in the Shell property have varied in tone and story, one constant has always remained – protagonist Major Motoko Kusanagi. Deadly as she is beautiful, this Japanese cyborg law enforcement agent who commands a counter cyberterrorism task force was ripe with big-budgeted Hollywood potential.

Well, in theory at least.

A live-action adaptation of Ghost in the Shell certainly had all the makings of being a critical and commercial success – myriad action sequences, timely philosophical themes, a visually arresting setting and a compelling ass-kicking female leading character. Instead, the 2017 Rupert Sander’s directed Ghost in the Shell serves as a sad – albeit pretty to look at – reminder of Hollywood’s disgraceful tradition of marginalizing Asians and Asian-Americans.

(Warning: Spoilers below)

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‘Power Rangers’ Review: A surprisingly mighty morphing reboot that finds its power in diversity

The 90’s reboot no one wanted is an unexpected near triumph where diverse characters with heart overshadow big robots and bland action. 

At about an hour into viewing Power Rangersthe Dean Israelite-directed reboot of the 90’s children’s show of the same name, the realization that the film is not the heartless cash grab you braced yourself for begins to sink in. 

It’s true. At the halfway mark of Power Rangers, only one of the film’s five superheroes has even donned a cool, colorful costume and it’s only for the briefest of moments. Instead, the five teenagers with attitude sit around a campfire, unsure how to reconcile their differences while being thrust into a team together. Battered and bruised from failing in their warrior training, the rangers put aside their frustrations and begin to open up to one another emotionally, discovering about each other what we the audience have known all along – they are hurt and lonely.

They need friendship.

They also really need their mighty morphing powers, as an evil blast from the past named Rita Repulsa (played by Elizabeth Banks) has awoken with Earth-destroying intentions.

(Warning: Spoilers below)

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‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ Trailer: It’s complicated being a high school hero

There are very few givens in life – though death, taxes and superhero movies come to mind. 

To be honest, I’d rather feel the cold, dark embrace of the Grim Reaper himself or be audited by the IRS than subject myself to director Zack Snyder’s upcoming Justice League movie.

However, I take comfort in the fact Marvel Studios and Disney are, as per tradition, gearing up to dominate domestic and international box offices when when they release three – count ‘em, three – films this year. While never Oscar worthy, Marvel Studios’ movies are consistently high quality and always provide a good time at the theater.

First up, and right around the corner, will be the highly-anticipated Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 which opens in the U.S. on May 5. And on Nov. 3, the God of Thunder himself will be returning to the big screen in Thor: Ragnarok.

Sandwiched in between both films, and landing smack dab in the middle of the summer blockbuster season, is everyone’s favorite friendly neighborhood wall-crawler who will star in his first feature-length Marvel Studios’ film – Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Check out the trailer and find out what Spidey, Iron Man and Michael Keaton’s sinister Vulture are up to after the break.

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