Tag Archives: sci-fi

Spring 2016 Anime Impressions

Since I’m around a year behind in my movie reviews, I’ll post a quick summary of my thoughts on what I’ve seen of this season’s anime and try to keep up to date there!

  • Kuromukuro (2 eps) – a sci-fi mecha show that seems just slightly more realistic in its depictions of characters lives than normal. Just slightly though, and now that I’ve said that, there will probably be a talking alien penguin in the next ep.
  • Macross Delta (1 ep) – I can’t resist Macross! Mecha plus singing and dancing, this time featuring an idol group (whose music quells some kind of berserker syndrome) and the pilots who protect them.
  • Gyakuten Saiban (4 eps) – I’ve played the first game and watched the live action movie, so this series is probably just a retread. The animation isn’t very good, and the translation I’m watching idiotically uses the localized names. However, this series has been fun so far.
  • Hundred (1 ep) – This looks like some kind of standard action-sci-fi harem show, with a very girly boy best friend.
  • Koutetsujou no Kabaneri (2 eps)  – Set in a steampunk zombie apocalypse, the production values are high and there’s some interesting ideas here – though the main character is a bit annoying and the walled cities are reminiscent of Shingeki no Kyojin. The heroine (?) seems cool though.
  • Kiznaiver (3 eps) – I’m watching this one because it’s by Trigger, and after 3 episodes I still don’t know what’s going on.
  • Netoge no Yome wa Onnanoko Janai to Omotta (3 eps) – This MMO-related comedy is probably my guilty pleasure of the season, with the MMO-addicted heroine ranting about how リア充 (normal, non-otaku people with girl/boyfriends) should all just die. There’s enough cringe-humour to keep me coming back so far.
  • Re Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu (3 eps) – The production quality on this light novel adaptation is high (I particularly like how the lighting changes over time, and how Nouto Mamiko’s character moves), and the setup is strange but intriguing; though the Japanese preference for low fantasy here makes you wonder about the significance of the beginning. The light-novel talkiness of the characters does get a bit annoying, especially when they talk themselves into trouble, but that’s what you get from the genre I suppose.
  • Sailor Moon Crystal third season (3 eps) – The animation has improved massively from the last two seasons, and transformations are no longer CGI. Maybe the studio realised the demand for Sailor Moon and decided to pony up cash? The storyline is a little bit more complex this time too.
  • Terraformars Revenge (4 eps) – This was my brainless action series in the last season, but it seems the plot stepped up a little now, so it’s taking more of my attention.

 

 

My favourites so far are Koutetsujou no Kabaneri, Re Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu, and (almost certainly) Macross Delta.

Ninja Kingsman Occulus and Dumber Eyes

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.

A Deluge of Sci-Fi Flicks

I was pretty wary of Divergent, being another one of those adaptations of dystopian YA novels (parodied expertly by Twitter account @DystopianYA), but it turned out to be pretty good.

Chappie was a disappointment, despite Hugh Jackman and Sharlto Copley (both fantastic actors), and I’m wondering if Neil Blomkamp was just a one-hit-wonder with District 9 (aside from the sci-fi worldbuilding he does). There were lots of wasted characters and the ending was kind of silly.

I actually enjoyed Jupiter Ascending, it was imaginative and very good-looking, and I enjoyed Mila Kunis’s character, though almost everyone else (in particular the hero) were very shallow.

Automata was a decent sci-fi flick that covers a lot of similar ground that other movies cover. The pacing is a bit slow, and the protagonist somewhat difficult to like though.

Ex Machina was very strong, with a few nice twists despite its very restricted focus, and Oscar Isaac was amazing – especially the dance scene! You can see him and Domhnall Gleeson in the new Star Wars too, though in very different roles. The movie covers a more advanced kind of Turing test, about proving whether an artificial intelligence is human-like, and I liked how it explicitly dismisses the technical questions in favour of the philosophical.

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.

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.

Horrible Unfriended Maze Penguins Untold

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.

Interstellar

Interstellar is one of those great movies I find too heavy to rewatch – it’s a Chris Nolan flick that shares a lot of similarities to Contact, such as the producer, Matthew McConaughey.

It’s a lengthy film with lots of developments, and takes time to set up quite a detailed setting on Earth – and that setting has an interesting pro-scientific-discovery message. The physics and astrophysical visualisations were supposedly realistic or plausible (that producer is also a physicist), and the harshness of relativity (where time passes at different speeds, and isolates travellers) is solemnly portrayed. There are lots of twists and little adventures, but some of the dialogue (in particularly a speech about “love”) is really weak.

It took a while to get used to the robots joking around, and I’m not sure if there was a problem with the sound but I found them hard to hear and understand at times.

(Vague-semi-spoiler)

In addition, Interstellar follows in the tradition of Contact and 2001 by having a trippy beyond-known-physics ending, which I’m ambivalent about. On the one hand it’s kind of happy, and connects with other events, but it’s also a bit Deus Ex Machina.