Secret Final Hours into the Woods

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was very pretty movie, and one in which Ben Stiller had to act rather than mug for the camera. I enjoyed the excursions to different parts of the globe, and the themes of going out and living life.

These Final Hours is an Australian end-of-the-world flick following a man who just wants to party away the apocalypse but stumbles upon a girl being attacked. I really enjoyed the movie and the questions it posed about how you act under certain doom. Apparently they’re remaking it as an American flick.

Into the Woods is a movie adaptation of a musical, and unfortunately it shows, with an overcomplicated storyline, profusion of characters, confused tone, limited visual effects, and weak ending. Oh, and all the singing too. I was disappointed.

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Expendable Unfriended Hero of Life

More from the backlog…

Expendables 3 suffered from the tedium and extinct 80s macho-action aesthetic of the previous installments. Cramming a flick with action stars doesn’t mean a lot when there’s no drama, tension, or art to the action.

Unfriended was interesting as a movie-making exercise, but took the easy way out where nothing needed to be explained, and frankly that episode of Modern Family did it better in terms of variety and creativity.

Big Hero 6 was pretty good, with drama, an interesting villain, visual inventiveness, and a unique setting that mashed up San Francisco with Tokyo – not sure if it was for the aesthetic or to combine cities known for technology and robotics. Some of the side characters were a bit thin, but there’s only so much you can fit into a movie.

Book of Life was a solid movie, definitely very interesting due to its cultural influences, though I’m divided on the aesthetic and I generally dislike movies about the afterlife.

Mockingjay 1+2

The trend about cutting the final book in a series into two movies is pretty annoying, but I enjoyed Mockingjay enough not to mind too much. While the Hunger Games and much Young Adult fiction is teen angst projected onto a world-scale canvass (notice all these dystopias with circumscribed societal roles), the emphasis on image and celebrity is a modern twist.

(Spoilers follow)

The reluctant Katniss helps make “propo” (propaganda) videos with the help of the wonderful Natalie Dormer, and eventually helps storm the Capitol.

It’s not made clear why Plutarch supports the rebellion (jeopardsing his own lofty position), which is a shame. I was surprised that Katniss picked Peeta over Gale, since according to movie logic Liam Hemsworth is substantially more attractive than Josh Hutcherson – but Katniss and Peeta went through a lot more together.

American Sniper

So I don’t actually like war films per se, but somehow I’ve really enjoyed Zero Dark Thirty and now American Sniper.

Clint Eastwood directs Bradley Cooper playing a fictionalised version of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, who goes on multiple tours in Iraq. Despite the things changed for the movie (Kyle is more patriotic, and has an Olympic sniper nemesis), it’s eyeopening to see the kind of things that soldiers (and civilians) go through.

Night in the Museum 123

It’s good not to go into a Ben Stiller movie with lofty expectations; Night in the Museum delivers entertainment without straining your brain, though the franchise runs down as it progresses.

I enjoyed the first movie, which laid out the premise and had a minor twist. The second movie had a more serious story (with a villainous pharoah) – Amy Adams as Amelia Earhart was by far the standout. The third movie lost its way despite Rebel Wilson, Hugh Jackman, and Ben Kingsley; the storyline is weak, and it undoes some happy endings from previous movies.

Asian Flicks

The Divine Move is a Korean action film with numerous references and allusion to the ancient (and excellent) boardgame Go, or in Korean “Baduk”. Like most Korean action films I’ve seen, it’s pretty violent, but worth watching.

Miss Granny is another Korean film, a comedy about an old woman made young again; I didn’t find it that funny, but there were a couple of interesting cultural/gerontological points.

Kiasu is a film from Singapore about an adult son shaking of his mother complex. Lol. Enough said.

Kikaider was some kind of movie version of a tokusatsu franchise; unfortunately it didn’t make a lot of sense, and wasn’t particularly interesting.

Snow White Murder Incident is another Japanese movie, about a murder that turns out to be more complicated than it looks (don’t they all though). I enjoyed how the point of view turned around, but the ending seemed arbitrarily forced.

Appleseed Alpha is a 2014 CGI film that seems to reboot Masamune Shirow’s (author of Ghost in the Shell and others) franchise. While there were some weak points (I didn’t like Two-Horns), I enjoyed the setting and the animation. Apparently it’s written by the writer of the God of War series, Marianne Krawczyk.

I really enjoyed the Ruroni Kenshin live action movie, and had waited to be able to see the second and third films, which cover the Kyoto arc. In the old anime, this arc was the best of the series, which afterward dissolved into unending filler. The storyline is modified a bit, cleaning it up, and situating the final showdown more appropriately on the battleship. While the final fight is a bit silly, I enjoyed how the movies portray the different styles of martial arts used by the different characters.

TV Roundup Fall 2015

My favourite shows this season:

Scream Queens – I love this self-aware over-the-top caricature of the teen slasher genre. It’s satirical and parodies familiar tropes and motifs but obviously loves them too, keeping you guessing as to what’s going on, and alluding to classics of the genre. Jamie Lee Curtis is very clearly enjoying and relishing her role as the calculating, ambitious, sexually voracious Dean, and Emma Thompson captures the dichotomy of a needy girl badly treated by her moronic Preppie boyfriend, and a monstrous, Machiavellian bully with an unending stream of hilarious put-downs. There are fantastic side characters too, Denise the wacky security guard is amazing, and I love Abigail Breslin’s put-upon weak-link of the clique “Chanel Number Five”.

Supergirl – It’s probably aimed at a tween audience and has some cringey chunks of pop-feminism, but Melissa Benoist carries the show with her charm, playing an awkward character finding her way in life, professionally, personally, and in the shadow of her more famous cousin.

iZombie Season 2 – I really loved the first season, which adapted a supernatural comic book into a police procedural (which seems a completely random thing to do, other than the fact that police procedurals keep audiences), with some charming characters, a weird side of gore, some unexpectedly dark turns, and a great underlying storyline. Rose Ivers mugs a little bit for the personalities her character Live Moore (and that’s not the most on-the-nose name) takes on, but the fun she has with the role is infectious.

Gotham Season 2 – I don’t usually watch crime shows, but this mixes with police procedural and pulls in lots of colorful comic-book-like characters. The storyline is interesting – especially this season with an overarching villain, and Gordon’s character is easy to cheer for (even when he bends the rules or goes too far). The Penguin gets less screen time, though he’s still a great character.