While I really enjoyed Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2, Kingsman was a miss (though a close miss) for me. The trailers looked like a low-rent James Bond, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was a satirical subversion of the secret agent genre, featuring a working class yob making good. There were many great elements in the movie, but the “hacking solves all the plot problems” and the shallowness in most of the characters were too much for me. I couldn’t get my head around Samuel L Jackson’s Valentine – he seemed too much like a cartoon character, and not a scary one – though it was interesting to hear how the stutter was Jackson’s own idea, from when he actually had one. Gazelle was very cool though.
I used to be a huge Ninja Turtles fan as a kid, but the Michael Bay movie didn’t do it for me.
Occulus was a horror flick with an interesting premise – it starred Karen Gillan, but too much is allowed by the power to cause delusions.
The original Dumb and Dumber was a long time ago, and I didn’t expect to be as entertained by the extremely late sequel to the gross-out comedy as I was. Don’t get me wrong, it’s extremely dumb and your brain cells will receive a punishing, but I laughed.
Big Eyes is an unusual Tim Burton movie, obviously born from his love of the artist. Waltz’s performance carries the movie, and while some elements were a bit on-the-nose, the movie’s gentle mockery of the art world was pretty funny. It was interesting how Margaret agreed but later changed her mind. The self-cross-examination was the highlight of the movie.
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.
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.
Posted in Reviews
Tagged action, adaptation, animation, cgi, comedy, go, historical, japanese, korean, manga, mystery, sci-fi, singaporean, tokusatsu
Dracula Untold was a weird fictionalisation of Vlad the Impaler that seemed to incorporate vampires at the last minute, and then lead nowhere. Charles Dance plays a Mephistopheles-type character who ends up implying that whatever comes after the movie will be much more interesting – a strange story choice.
Horrible Bosses 2 focused on the characters from the first movie rather than emphasising the theme that people relate to much better – horrible bosses – and suffered for it.
The Maze Runner is another one of the YA adaptations that’s no doubt a movie because of the success of The Hunger Games. The setup is interesting, but so little was divulged before the movie ends and promotes the sequel that I struggle to understand the point of it.
Penguins of Madagascar is a forgettable animated flick aimed at fans of the characters, which I am not. It transposes them into a parodic spy thriller with middling results.
Unfriended is more interesting as a film-making experiment (everything shown is from a computer screen) than as a horror movie – (spoiler) I was waiting for something other than a supernatural monster-can-do-everything explanation, but that was not to be. Arguably the Modern Family episode did this conceit better.
I’m around three dozen movies behind so I’ll give some short reviews of a bunch of them at once.
The Collection is the sequel to the grisly horror flick The Collector, and is a bit more action and less horror than the original, which suited me fine. Aside from the disgusting parts I thought it was decent, and liked the ending.
The Jewel of the Nile is an old adventure romance featuring Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner – apparently it was widely disliked but I didn’t mind it. Though I couldn’t work out how old the leads were supposed to be – Turner was in her 30s and Douglas in his 40s at the time!
Ridicule is an unusual French film about the Court of Versaille and how important “wit” is to social position. While the historical setting and concept is interesting, there is disappointingly few witty remarks over the course of the film.
Oneechanbara The Vortex is based on the Japanese beat-em-up videogame and suffers from being a zombie B-movie, a video game adaptation, and a low-budget Japanese flick. The visual effects are annoying, the story is senseless, and most of the fighting is plain boring.
Maria the Virgin Witch is a one-cour anime based upon a semi-historical manga. Despite the teasing title, this series is actually pretty tame, aside from the succubus Artemis’s activities seducing military commanders for peace.
The story concerns a pacifist young witch using her powers (and familiars) to stave off hostilities between English and French armies during the Hundred Years War. Her efforts are regarded with hostility and consternation from both sides, the Church, her fellow witches, and the powerful archangel Michael.
The animation was decent, and I liked the more “modern” character designs (the witches and the familiars); the visual effects around Michael were suitable impressive.
During the course of the series, Maria interacts with peasants, mercenaries, and the clergy; most of the humans possess little power or influence, and live difficult and constrained lives, which is unusual to see. There is an extreme amount of historical detail, down to the spirits Maria calls upon by name (all creatures or beings from the area’s folklore) and the banners on army units, and the seedy side of humanity is constantly on show.
Many of the characters perform morally ambiguous or reprehensible actions, but the anime seems to avoid telegraphing judgement. I personally found Maria’s actions naive and prone to causing worse problems, and it’s difficult to understand how much the author wanted us to side with her way of thinking. There’s a strange sequence with the priest Bernard that I didn’t know what to make of too.
Maria the Virgin Witch is a very unusual series that’s at minimum an acquired taste.
While I enjoyed the first movie 300, I was actually disappointed by how many of the fights were just scenes in a montage; thus I was not thrilled by Rise of an Empire, which is a weak shadow by comparison, so much so that I was surprised it was also based on Frank Miller material (rather than just being cash-in).
Firstly, the protagonist is a milquetoast by the standards set by Gerard Butler (in the original), and Eva Green’s Artemisia (an actual historical figure), who stole the show. She possessed all the craziness and self-assurance missing in the mini-Butler, and I cheered her character all the way.
Secondly, I don’t like how Xerxes was once a normal person – I preferred to think of him as a weird creature from birth by virtue of his station, raised as the god-king. Rise of an Empire gives him a backstory that ties to the boring protagonist but makes him much less an ethereal all-conquering entity.
Finally, the action was okay, but not terribly visceral, which is what I want from such a movie.
In passing, Lena Heady is an excellent actress, but her role was small and mostly about politics in a movie about head-smashing. Also,