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Post-Summer Movies [Jun. 3rd, 2015|05:42 am]
zukeeper
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[Current Mood |contemplativecontemplative]
[Current Music |sleep sounds]

I suppose this batch of films is already on the other side of summer from the blockbusters that herald it, such as Avengers: Age of Ultron and their ilk. Saturday was for Tomorrowland, which I suggested, and Tuesday was Mad Max: Fury Road, which deathberry suggested. Having just gone through it - some foreshadowing - the IMDB trivia page of the latter is more entertaining than that of the former.

Tomorrowland is a flawed movie, crippled by a horribly disappointing third act, that can only be salvaged by the heart of its story, and thus relies entirely on how receptive its audience is to its agenda (though I'm not certain agenda is the right word - it definitely feels like propaganda, but with an in-your-faceness that's basically "look around you"). I imagine that the main set piece is really just the monologue which informs both casting and rationale, and the lead up, though spectacular, really falls flat at the end. I wouldn't recommend it for cinema viewing, but would likely seek it out in bargain-bin DVD sales in a year or so - it's probably something worth keeping in your pocket if you feel removed from reality.

Mad Max: Fury Road is a gloriously luscious dystopia, and does not feel like any other action movie of recent vintage. This is definitely a big-screen movie (confession: I had worried that I would have Blair-Witch-like vertigo from watching - didn't feel nauseous at all), and may be worth a re-watch, though I would likely do that much later, on a smaller screen. Apparently, more can be appreciated from having watched the original trilogy, but this entry stands proudly on its own. I'm glad to say I didn't feel any sort of feminist agenda that seems to be the talk of some fringe voices - it felt like a very solid action film, with a cadence and pacing so unlike more involved flicks. The story may be straightforward, but it doesn't feel shallow, and has its moving moments. This roller-coaster ride makes you wonder why other rides feel boring.

This is probably it for movie watching for a month or so - we're likely going to go back to the cinemas for Ant-Man and Attack on Titan, and maybe Pixels, Minions or Jurassic World.
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Moving On [Mar. 13th, 2015|02:54 am]
zukeeper
I was woken up about an hour ago to the news of the passing of Sir Terry Pratchett. I found myself at a loss for words then, and I feel it will be some time before I can really say that I've processed this information.

This comes at the heels of news of Leonard Nimoy's death, and that months after Robin Williams passed away. There was Harold Ramis in the last year, and there's no surer sign of age than your icons going without the heavy tragedy of untimely loss, as the specter of time hangs on us.

Over the last few years, I've resisted greeting people on their birthdays, especially on social media - conversely, something weird has happened to my social media on my birthday, so I often don't get to reply to well-wishers in a timely way. I've felt that long shadow of time creep in when at the keyboard, and (justness notwithstanding) have not really tried to stand up to the impoliteness of not greeting.

Pratchett's passing seems to hark to the deaths of other sages of our era, with Vonnegut and Carlin passing in proximity to each other. Pratchett felt closer, likely with his presence online, and his passing feels akin to a favorite uncle's. He was as old as my parents, and Neil Gaiman met him when he was as old as I am now.

As I often find myself in times such as these, I sound sad and incoherent. I guess that's that for now.
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Last Month's Entertainment (Redux) [Mar. 4th, 2015|06:54 pm]
zukeeper
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[Current Mood |busybusy]
[Current Music |ps3 warming up]

After the aforementioned Pro Tour Fate Reforged sidelined momentum, a prodigiously entertainment-laden week promised a hefty update - which got procastinated two weeks staler. Nonetheless, the accomplishment of those two weeks is worth note.

During Pro Tour Saturday, Oscar-movie run was kicked off by The Theory of Everything. The Hawking couple biopic penned by Jane Hawking showed itself worthy of its Academy nods (and eventual win by Stephen's proxy, Eddie Redmayne). While his role was the increasingly physically demanding, hers was of emotional demands, and the celebrated physicist is found to be featured in a biopic akin to John Nash's A Beautiful Mind: compelling in the human element, while amenable in the expertise of its subject. The movie of course does not fully adhere to its origin, but it is for a fluid, solid watch.

This was followed up by dovetailed time-travel movie run in Project Almanac, Tuesday after. Easily the most forgettable fare of last month, the MTV film offers a millennial time-travel story: nothing fancy, or ground breaking, but speaks to its intended audience. Not a glitzy affair, it does try its hand at some science, while tied to its found-footage schtick, it doesn't adhere to paradox-eliminating already-altered timelines or multiverses, relying on a feedback issue to be the "don't mess with this" caveat. Not too bad, really, just not notable in its genre.

To wash off the taste, a follow-up time travel flick was watched, which was not seen in the cinemas, having been shown two months prior. Predestination is the feature-film version of Robert Heinlein's mind-bending short "-All You Zombies-", harking from filmed versions of sci-fi classics since Blade Runner. The orinigal short story is a landmark work, and the movie tries (and succeeds) in bringing the conundrums of the tale to celluloid. The additional Fizzle Bomber storyline bookends (extrapolates?) the gist of the story, and performances by Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook carry the rendition well.

That weekend saw us watching Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing in The Imitation Game. Perhaps due to vocation, I sided more with Turing than with Hawking, and though Cumberbatch does well with the content of the role (split by age with the portrayal of a younger Turing, who carried more of the emotional impact) but Redmayne still had the meatier role. Keira Knightley's turn as Turing most trusted ally is slightly overshadowed by the narrative nonlinearity, and World War II seems far from our protagonists until their fateful breakthrough. I invited back-to-back screenings with The Wind Rises, for celebrating the marvels of technology wrought by the great war. It does seems awful that Turing's personality seem Sherlocked, whether intentional (as casting indicates) or not.

The next Tuesday saw us back at an Oscar flick, Whiplash. JK Simmons's performance really is what you remember after, even as the story, from his student's POV is somewhat thin on the memorable. The feature is based on a prior Sundance short, also with Simmons, and proves to be a strong vehicle for his high-intensity performance. I hear say jazz enthusiasts aren't as enamored with the great-individual-performer line, but it serves to counterpoint Fletcher's brand of learning with a nearly-masochistic lead role. The education angle strikes a chord with me.

We almost planned a follow-up on the next Tuesday with Birdman, but life intruded.

The only other entertainment of note was playing through Prototype 2. Its gore and language firmly place it in the mature vein, but it is a single-character, somewhat open-world action-RPG. The real appeal is never being able to die from the environment - even a suicidal leap into the ocean bounces you back onto land. While the characterizations are spare, and the intrigues convoluted, your nigh-immortal avatar never needs a moral compass, and never really strays from it (for example, civilians are never more than knocked flat by your brusqueness - as I never tried indiscriminate firing - but military joes can suffer from any and all of your abilities. Power trips with far horizons I've not played much of, but the entertainment value is undeniable.

Have started on Child of Light, which I suppose has not impelled me forcefully enough, and the Life is Strange demo has flagged me to wait for sale pricing. Saekano has piqued our interest as well. We'll see what comes up in the next few weeks.
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Last Week's Entertainment (25-31 January 2015) [Feb. 4th, 2015|03:45 pm]
zukeeper
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[Current Mood |reflective]

Last week was a smorgasbord of activity that inspires me to do another set of review blogs. Let's try and see what momentum can pick up.

Movie Night (Tuesday): Went to the nearby cinema to start on the Oscar-buzz movies that seem to be in droves this year with The Theory of Everything, the biopic of Stephen Hawking's first wife, Jane, based on her book. This was a pleasant watch, reminiscent of A Beautiful Mind's take on John Nash, the movie does a wonderful job of explaining the important discoveries of the scientists that are humanized in the story, while indeed making them more approachable - in particular, Jane's story in the movie may feel a bit like it is creeping in the background, but the flow serves to balance between the two main roles with respect to their evolving relationship, especially as Stephen's motor-neuron disease leaves him less and less able. The performances of the leads are really noteworthy, with Redmayne's Hawking proving to be a seriously physical role, but Jones's Jane is an incredibly nuanced and sympathetic character. On the downside, I had joked about the number of Harry Potter alums in the cast, but there aren't really many.

Game Night (Friday-Saturday): Finished The Swapper, which the publisher site describes as an atmospheric puzzle platformer, which well sums-up the feel of the game, also well within my wheelhouse. I actually finished it twice to watch both endings (not able to save in a sensibly far enough place to just load from there - same problem now that I searched up the trophies). The game mechanisms are satisfying, even if the normal mobility of the character is somewhat unsatisfying, and the puzzles are truly head-scratching in bits, but once done they are sensible. I just wish some online reviews weren't so harsh on the philosophy / morality of the story - in games, that's usually just there to move the story; quite a bit of it is fictional and unattainable in reality, so the gravity given to the debate seems a little misplaced.

Anime Weekend (Saturday-Sunday): While it's on Aniplus, we haven't been able to catch it regularly, so we went to the tubes to find When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace, studio Trigger's follow-up to Kill la Kill. While coming into this short (twelve-ep) series expecting a slice-of-life high-school-club (and Japanese high school clubs are hotbeds of super-powered activity, from the Haruhi Suzumiya series, to the alien-driven randomness in Kokoro Connect, even to merely-imagined Chuunibyou of, well, Chuunibyou - even stuff like Hyouka and My Teenage Rom-Com SNAFU rely on their protagonists being in a club together) where the powers are heavily relegated to the background or played for laughs (which would how I'd imagine its 4-koma would be done), things heavily escalate (for some measure of heavy) by about episode seven. As with most of the watchings, a second season has some hooks it can start with, so we'll watch that when done.

For this week, we weren't able to start with a movie (preferring Imitation Game, Whiplash or, for a time-travel fix, Project Almanac, since Predestination apparently was shown last year) and this weekend will be Pro Tour Fate Reforged, so our schedules are pretty much set this week.
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Hiatus Drawing to a Close [Nov. 25th, 2014|09:06 pm]
zukeeper
After a "season" of twelve reviews, I waded through a busy season I am about to get through. Been watching somewhat consistently through it, so I may just review those.
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Switch's Return of the Return of the Review #12 [Sep. 14th, 2014|12:47 pm]
zukeeper
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[Current Mood |nostalgicnostalgic]

This weekend's anime viewing was Brynhldr in the Darkness, from the writer of Mirai Nikki. A childhood trauma has focussed Ryota into directing his energies to a career into NASA, but a transfer student into his top-of-prefecture prep school has shaken his worldview.

[Spoilers here]She does not only seem to be the childhood friend he's held a torch for ten years that he's been convinced he's caused the death of, she's also revealed to have some form of supernatural powers - as well as predicted his demise on the night of her transfer. It is lucky that she also has the capability to avert the disaster.

What progresses is the formation of a harem of witches around a nice guy. What he lacks in brawn, he makes up for with intellect and insight supported by eidetic memory. Not all of the witches their group encounters is saved from the gruesome death that awaits them, and each of those that stays has her moment of near death, with a few, including the guy, and occasionally crossing over to death. The premonitions in Mirai Nikki also appear in Brynhldr in the form of the near-catatonic Kana, and some strategy comes into play to avert foreseen disasters.

At some time near the end of the series, I was struck by how much of (an homage?) the series emulates Evangelion: the Seele analogue, the dummy plug of the witches, the "third impact" enacted by the main baddie, even his motivation for doing so harks to the seminal anime.


While the end does seem a bit off, the thirteen episodes were enough of a ride to entertain us for the time. The goofy censorship for the fanservice likely isn't there for the DVD release, as well.
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Switch's Return of the Return of the Review #11 [Sep. 10th, 2014|11:23 am]
zukeeper
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[Current Mood |wheezy]
[Current Music |wheezing]

The second series we had for our weekend double-header was Uchouten Kazoku, The Eccentric Family. In Kyoto, humans live with tanuki, shapeshifting raccoon dogs, and tengu, raven-esque masters of the sky. Both of these races enjoy an almost throwback feudalism, while its members interact with the modernities of the current-day human world. Whereas the tengus of the cast are often shown as aloof and removed, the tanukis, including the Shimogami clan described by the title, freely interact with humanity, being quite visible in the day-to-day lives of normal humans. One bunch of humans in particular, the Friday Fellows, holds a certain amount of notoriety among the tanukis.

The story is small in scale, but the charm resides in the characterizations of its main cast. The woman carry significant weight and influence, and the relationships show nuance and conflict in interesting combinations. Sayonara Zetsubo-sensei's Koji Kumeta provides engaging character designs that work well for the animation, and a go-to phrase satisfies my self-effacement which afflicts the namesake characters: "This is a manifestation of my idiot blood."

Contrasted with the other anime this weekend, this was a refreshing realist fantasy that satisfies with its tone, pace and length.
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Switch's Return of the Return of the Review #10 [Sep. 8th, 2014|11:40 am]
zukeeper
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[Current Mood |sneezy]
[Current Music |sneezing]

Having a cough/cold combo for the rest of the week stymied me enough from writing a review of the Rurouni Kenshin live-action sequel, which was a far cry from the movie a week before, and was thankfully more of what we wanted. This means spending the weekend watching anime - and the double-header was superb.

Today's review is about No Game No Life. The fifteen-second synopsis seems to beg comparison with the phenomenon Sword Art Online and Log Horizon, from the writer of MaouYuu. Unlike these stories of virtual worlds, the protagonists of NGNL, 18-year old Sora and 11-year old Shiro, collectively known as [ ] Blank, are magically brought by Tet to his domain, having the additional problem of being hikkikomoris, always played up for laughs. Sora is the charismatic strategist, who is almost symbiotically attached to the computationally-gifted Shiro. Tet's world has enforced all conflict to be resolved through games, the ten rules followed to the letter (if tested in spirit) by the sixteen races of the Exceed.

Where one is reminded of Liar Game, the machinations are more reminiscent of the mind games between Kira and L in Death Note. The mix of do-or-die psychological jujitsu and character fan service, with timely interspersing of memes and parodies, gives an entertaining setting for the engaging progression Blank takes on their path. A second season seems on the way, and we'll watch that when it comes.
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Switch's Return of the Return of the Review #9 [Sep. 2nd, 2014|01:14 am]
zukeeper
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[Current Mood |sleepysleepy]
[Current Music |snores]

Awkwardly spent the start of this day watching the live-action Rurouni Kenshin movie in anticipation of watching its first sequel tonight. (Rest of morning has been a little touch-and-go as it stands.) Now, normally I would have watched it on DVD, but it seems to have been pulled from the stores I've checked - no doubt, in anticipation of releasing the entire trilogy, just as 20th Century Boys still hasn't. Will pick that up as, upon watching the first film, it will seem to be worth it.

Confession: I didn't watch the anime when it was being shown on local channels. The success of its sequel in the native land is a sign that those who did watch have buying power and appreciate (what I hope to be) the continuing realistic aesthetic of the first film.

The setting is satisfyingly rural, shot on location in Japanese towns where tradition has been well kept. The effects are as low-key as possible, with a hint of wuxia. There is a grittiness to its tones, which helps drive the themes of loss, brutality and, strangely, honor effectively.

Suffice it to say, I'm looking forward to the first sequel tonight.
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Broken Break [Sep. 1st, 2014|12:51 am]
zukeeper
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[Current Mood |quiet]
[Current Music |sound of silence]

Been noticing that I have been listening less and less to music as the years have passed. I would've spent my commute deep in my uncurated-all-music-shuffled playlist maybe three years ago, but just today, I spent it all in silence, even as I tapped away at Angry Birds Epic and Solforge.

Of course, the handheld's been choking on space, so I may put a scant 2GB of mp3s and aacs on it. Could be insentive to declutter, even finish ignored apps, like Ghost Trick. It's not as though I've been skipping on my artists: up to date with Barenaked Ladies, Matchbox Twenty and Switchfoot (no relation). Haven't been following current OPM acts - will need to rectify that, maybe checking up on Radioactive Sago Project, Itchyworms and bands my high school batchmates were on.

Either way, got to put color back into the two-to-three hours of my day I am captive to my distractions.
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