Re: Sky Crawlers
I'm actually going to disagree with the review rather than the style (hope you don't mind!).
I'm pretty amazed that you considered the slow burn aspect of the first, let's say, forty minutes as less important than the tactical warfare that developed later on. I'd be very careful about comparing a film to a series (like Lain) because a series has to have more "action points" as I like to call them to keep people watching from episode to episode, generally ending on some kind of cliffhanger etc. Films, however, you view in one sitting.
Slow burn doesn't necessarily equal worthless either (Look at anything by Makoto Shinkai) - and I'd suggest that the first half of the movie is essential to the story. The lack of setting isn't an issue either because it's purposefully done that way. The whole point is that it could be anywhere or, for that matter, any time period.
Let's face it: if you took out the slower sections of this film, you'd make it worse. The first section introduces the whole philosophy behind the film so that the ending can be as powerful as it is. Without it, the ending would be weak and unheralded. To dismiss it because it's "slow" or, as the case seems to be, "not action-packed," would be a horrible error in judgment - and would merrily swipe at pretty much every other film/series in the philosophical canon.
I'm not saying the film doesn't have its flaws. The concept of the Kildren is only really half-explained and the art style doesn't really differentiate between those who are meant to be Kildren and those who aren't. There are also a number of flips in character motivation (especially in Kusanagi) that don't quite follow all the time, though it admittedly makes her a more interesting character because of it. There's also a lot of throwaway characters, though again, I think that's kinda the point :)
So yeah, in short, you're being way too hard on the story. Or at least, you're not, but for potentially all the wrong reasons. You can't punish an anime series/film for what it is, but instead you highlight what it fails to do. It is intentionally slow burn - it doesn't set itself out as an action flick - so to punish it over that seems a tad absurd.
EDIT: having a quick reread of your Lain remark, I'd actually suggest that what hasn't convinced me about your disappointment of the plot speed is that you don't really give any details. I feel like you've missed the whole point of that section, rather than understanding its necessity but instead thinking it could have been done better.