After the war

I saw that Force Awakens movie a while ago.  I don’t know if anyone has made this observation yet, but I thought Kylo Ren was basically the personification of the whole movie: he’s a reiteration of an original product that’s neurotically obsessed with whether he’s as good as the example he’s copied from.

He’s good enough, which is kind of my feeling on the movie as a whole. I thought it was decently entertaining, though it’s kind of interesting to see the Marvel blockbuster formula being used for something other than superheroes.

Red Mars

It seems that Takashi Miike is directing a live action film adaptation of the manga-cum-anime series Terraformars. This might be surprising for people familiar only with his art house work such as Audition or 13 Assassins, which feature extreme violence and sexual deviance, but the man has actually made quite a lot of commercial schlock: some kids’ movies, a few comedies, a video game adaptation. This news is of a piece with his earlier work. Plus Terraformars itself is pretty damn violent all on its own. I’d say this property is right in his wheelhouse.

But hey, Miike is apparently also making a Blade of the Immortal movie with a 2017 release date! I’m definitely looking forward to that one.

War in the Pacific

So it appears that they’re really serious about promoting the new Star Wars films on a global level. There’s a licensed Korean webcomic adapting the original trilogy and putting in extra stuff. It starts from when Luke was just a towheaded moppet on Tattoine learning to shoot a laser rifle from Uncle Owen.

Young Luke Skywalker lying on his back on a Tattoine night and fantasizing about the distant stars

This adaptation is pretty smart, because I hadn’t thought about it but there have been like two generations of moviegoers born since the theatrical release of Return of the Jedi. I do like how the artist doesn’t try to slavishly reproduce the actors in 2D. The linework reminds me of art from some French sci-fi bandes dessinees. But who the hell’s Windy, is he from the Expanded Universe?

Anyway, if you want to check the webcomic out (for free by the way) go to LINE Webtoon and sign in with Twitter. You’ll get to read the official English translation. I’m not sure myself if I’ll stick with this comic, though if you want to check out other webcomics in this library I would say Hive is a safe choice – basically Walking Dead with giant bugs, and prone to the comic and TV show’s trick of always pulling the rug out from under the protagonists to keep the status quo.

Or for actual good stuff, Chiller‘s a horror anthology that goes multimedia with sound effects and mild animation – for maximum effect I recommend reading it alone in a room with the lights off – and Witch Hunt, which is about demons hunting witches in modern South Korea.

Judgement Day

I saw Terminator Genisys. It was the best of the Terminator movies not directed by James Cameron.

I realize that’s not saying much since Terminator in the 21st century struggles to be decent, but at the very least it’s leagues beyond Terminator 3 (the one with the Terminatrix) in terms of quality. In fact, here are my rankings of Terminator movies:

  1. Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
  2. The Terminator (1984)
  3. Terminator Genisys (2015)
  4. Terminator Salvation (2009)
  5. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

Genisys is the kind of C-level movie one can waste time on during a Saturday afternoon looking for something to watch on TV. The movie has two main issues: its action and its nostalgia. The action movies of the 80’s aren’t a genre that Hollywood makes anymore (apparently they’re mostly made in Eastern Europe now). This unfamiliarity with raw and wordless violence is evident in the movie, as I’m not that engaged in the action. It’s not enough to show two robots punching each other, as the Transformers movies showed us; we need to care why those two robots are punching each other in the first place. Certainly the movie makes us care more about the fate of the principals than Terminator 3, but that’s not a high bar to hurdle.

Of course, a hallmark of the 21st century revival of old franchises is the strangling miasma of nostalgia that surrounds such works. Scenes copied from the first two Terminator movies (i.e., the good ones) are peppered liberally through the present iteration. The nostalgia and the movie itself works best in the scenes set during the 80’s. Things get more meh when the action moves to 2017.

On the actors themselves, let me observe that the Terminators of our century have had an ongoing problem with casting bland white guys as the lead – chronologically listed, they are Nick Stahl, Sam Worthington, and now Jai Courtney. Regarding Sarah Connor, Emilia Clarke (a.k.a. Daenerys Stormborn, the Mother of Dragons) mostly does an impression of T2-era Linda Hamilton. It’s an okay impression but not an impressive acting job on the whole.

This isn’t the worst nostalgia-driven movie I’ve seen – that distinction would go to the 2012 Total Recall – and I can honestly say it was an okay bit of fluff. However, and speaking as a fan of the franchise, I wish that they’d stop rehashing the same story and make something new again. They kind of tried with Salvation, which was entirely set in the apocalyptic future, but that movie never examined the world it was set in and was just about some guy stumbling through the wasteland. I’m not asking for high art here, Terminators. Be like Predators and give us something different.

Danger Zone

I’ve been sick with either a cold or a flu, so yesterday I stayed in bed and watched Point Break. It’s really a perfect Saturday afternoon movie. I’d never seen it before, but it had been on my list for a while and the other movies I had on hand seemed too deep to watch while fever-tripping (Atonement, The Sound of My Voice, and Never Let Me Go).

I’d forgotten how shitty the early 90s looked. The clothes and the boxy cars gave me a feeling of constriction and heat stroke, like I was wearing too-tight clothes in a noisy office with no air conditioning. And it’s got that L.A. River again from Terminator 2, probably one of the crappiest rivers in the world.

I do wonder how the surfing scenes were shot. It would have been hilarious if the director had used the same trick as Elvis in Blue Hawaii, but the actors and their doubles were actually out there on the waves. And kudos to all for the sky diving scenes. They make no sense and are barely justifiable in plot terms, but they do tie in thematically to the whole “freedom” thing the surfers are into. I must mention that my only exposure to surfer talk is from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, so it was kind of weird hearing people say “radical” with no trace of irony.

I also have to give props for how the action unfolds. The movie zips along from scene to scene with nary a slow part. The biggest negative to the movie is, once again, Keanu Reeves’ acting. I forget every time how wooden he is and am reminded whenever I see a new movie with him in it.

Overall, though, I found this movie diverting.

War of the Worlds Part II

What’s this? An unofficial animated sequel to The War of the Worlds set during the First World War?

And it’s from Malaysia, too. Hmm . . .

Well, the CGI war machines look good but the animation of the human characters looks kind of like it’s from a late 90s or early 2000s cheapo cartoon show, like that Saturday morning Stargate one. I suppose it’s nice to see animation from countries besides Japan or the US. We’ll see if the animation industry in Malaysia is a going concern from here on.

Nova Prime

Nova Corpsman eating bread

I’m not a racist, but objectively speaking, Xandarians look weird when they’re eating.

Old is new again

Somehow I’ve managed to get through life without ever seeing Groundhog Day. I never felt this lack until recently watching Edge of Tomorrow, the plot of which is similarly based on the protagonist reliving the same day over and over again.

I don’t believe Edge of Tomorrow is based at all on Groundhog Day, and in fact in reading the original book adapted for the film called All You Need is Kill (great title by the way), it’s clear that the repetitive nature of the story is based on the experience of dying over and over in a video game and not on any movie starring Bill Murray.

Still, comparisons were made, so out of curiosity I watched a movie that I’d avoided watching every time it was shown on TV – and I remember it was shown quite a lot.

Groundhog Day was okay. It’s pretty funny and enjoyable enough. Had I seen it when I was younger I might have enshrined it with nostalgia beside Home Alone, Ghostbusters, and Big. But that’s pretty much it. I think part of the reason for the regards it’s held in today is the fact that most people will have seen it multiple times over their lives. Nostalgia is built and rebuilt with each viewing.

But there are worse things to be nostalgic for. At least this thing is decent, unlike, say, Thundercats or He-Man or the like. Anyway, I can cross off another movie from my list.