Media Months in Review – September 2014 – February 2015 – Film and Television

The intention is to post these monthly. Since I haven’t posted these in a while though, I’m going to split the last half year’s media consumption post into several parts. This one will focus on films (anime and otherwise), and western television series. I’ll give a paragraph or so for every show I have what to say of.

Movies:

The-Hobbit-Battle-5-Armies

Many armies. Much battles. Wow.

The Hobbit 3: The Battle of the Five Armies – I’ve had issues with the pacing and scope of The Hobbit from the first movie, where much of what made Lord of the Ring adaptation a good one (cutting material to tighten things up) was actually handled in the opposite manner, and additional material was added. Furthermore, The Hobbit, as a novel, was about a single character’s journey, whereas the movie adaptation made him to be but a small part of a larger tale. Nowhere was this more apparent than this film.

The film had a non-stop 40-50 minute fighting scene, and I was bored out of my mind during it. Fight sequences often need moments where the tension is let go, so it could rise again, so we could see more things to care for. But here, we just had people hacking at one another, without much weight to the conflict, or the characters, and the direction itself was distracting with the way in which the camera kept shifting. And it’s not like there was much more to the film… I’ve gone and seen it without any real expectations, and was still disappointed.

Oh yes, the film also showed elsewhere that it felt as if it had stuff that didn’t truly belong. The movie began in the middle of Smaug’s attack, and rather quickly he was killed. This belonged in the 2nd film, but was shoe-horned here just so people would remember where the last film ended. Meh.

Interstellar – This entry suffers somewhat from how much time has passed since I’ve watched the film, but if I don’t write now, I’ll remember even less. This film was somewhat of a mess in terms of pacing, of atmosphere. It had quite a few atmospheres, several distinct parts, which didn’t always feel as if they meshed all too well with one another. And yet, it was a sort of slow and deliberate film, somewhat archaic even, in its pacing. If I could liken it to another of Nolan’s works, it’d be The Prestige, without a doubt. I could also see the similarities to Odyssey 2001, in this sense.

It was on the planet they were going for, that it hit me. It is a story about humanity. It’s about what so many of the stories I like in anime are about, or perhaps I merely ascribe this theme to them all, it’s about being pushed to the boundaries, and beyond, and what it means to be human then? What will you sacrifice? What will you sacrifice for? Yourself for others, others for yourself? Those you do not know, or your family? Who will you sacrifice, and who will you sacrifice for? And then we had the concept of human communication. It was a bit sappy in the end, and the film had a couple tension drops too many, during which I watched the film with polite interest, rather than in the grip of excitement, but it was a solid performance, overall.

Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog – I haven’t watched this since it’s come out in 2008, though I listen to the songs every so often. Neil Patrick Harris is still great here, Nathan Fillion still feels like a fish out of water. It’s a small and enjoyable watch, and there’s not really all that much to say about it.

How to Train Your Dragon (Rewatch) + How to Train Your Dragon 2 – Started watching the 2nd film, realized I don’t recall the first well enough and that it was enjoyable enough to merit a rewatch, so did that before returning to the 2nd film. The 2nd film is, well, considerably more “plot-oriented”, with missing people returning, an outside interference, “evil”, large-scale clashes, etc. In other words, it gave away the people story it had, and the charm of exploration, for a pretty standard adventure film.

Meeting the new dragons was neat, but it, for plot-purposes, wasn’t something we could dwell on. The parent side-story also fell flat for me, as I found Cate Blanchett’s performance as Valka to be very weak, and unconvincing.

X-Men First Class – What made me finally watch this film? Probably because I kept hearing Days of Future Past was quite good, and I heard I should watch this first, or decided I’d like to do so. It was interesting. I’ve watched the cartoon in the 90s, I’ve read some of the X-Men comics from the 70s and 80s. So I knew a bit about “The Old X-Men”, at least in one of their classic takes. I wasn’t bothered by the different take the movie presented, as “a different take” is basically what comic-book reboots are all about.

It was a nice film overall. The action was solid, the younger characters appearing like frat boys and girls sort of fit the mood of last decade’s films, and there were some nods I recognized (say, Moira). I even liked Raven (Mystique)’s interactions with others, but it was Magneto, Charles, and especially their interaction, which seemed to be the crescendo the film built toward, that felt relatively flat. I also didn’t buy “Magneto, the Holocaust Survivor turned into Self-Appointed Secret Agent”. It just didn’t gel, and that this was what the movie built towards, more than just presenting the characters as they were, and grew up, ended up undermining this film. Still enjoyable, and did more work than most recent superhero flicks, but it feels the focus wasn’t tight enough, or rather, the delivery not convincing enough.

Chocolate (some) – (Speaking of the Thai martial arts film) I was in the mood for a random film. I started playing it, wasn’t enjoying what I was watching much, skipped ahead to some action/plot scenes, and just couldn’t get into it. The action was nice, but not impressive, and the acting left me entirely cold. Made me think of The Expendables, which I didn’t care for either, in terms of my response to it. A fine 90s early 90s film, so to speak.

Anime Films:

5 Centimeters Per Second / Byousoku 5 Centimeter

This film is often called “Five wallpapers per second”, and with good cause.

5 Centimeters per Second (Byousoku 5 Centimeter) – I like Makoto Shinkai. His works are, if nothing else, quite beautiful. But I didn’t much care for this film of his. Take another of his works, The Garden of Words, which I quite liked, remove every semblance of warmth and human connection from it, anything to make you care, and you have this show. The Garden of Words is a summer rain sort of movie, of warm tears, but 5 CM/Second is a frozen winter montage, of people trying to reach one another and always falling short, of being left in the cold. Yes, this is what the film is about, but the cold and sterile presentation left me, well, cold. The visuals are magnificent, as always, in Shinkai’s works.

A Letter to Momo (Momo e no Tegami) – Do you have loved ones? Do you have a family? Have you ever lost someone? If the answer to any of those is “yes”, then you could do worse than watch this film. Though the “ending” after the ending stretched things a bit, it also rewarded us with a highly emotional moment, and there were quite a few such moments preceding it. A story of dealing with loss, and the living, and a good dollop of supernatural adventure keeps things moving briskly. Enjoyable, recommended.

Death Billiards – An Anime Mirai 2012 short. This is essentially a “Tiger and Princess” sort of tale, where we get to see humanity, and then we try to puzzle out who ended where, and why, and the more we think of it, the less sure we are. This is the precursor to the currently airing Death Parade, and for a roughly 30 minute feature, quite good, and very interesting. I’d say more, but I don’t want to spoil this one.

Hotarubi no Mori e / Into the Forest of Fireflies' Light

Hotarubi no Mori e (Into the Forest of Fireflies’ Light) – Take Makoto Shinkai’s film, mix with Hosoda Mamoru (Wolf Children, Summer Wars, and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time), end with a 45 minute bittersweet film about growing up, growing in love, and longing. This is a beautiful film. It’s beautiful in presentation, it’s warm in terms of characters, and comforting even in its sadness. I loved it.

End of Evangelion – As part of the Neon Genesis Evangelion rewatch mentioned in the anime post. Unlike the series, which I’ve watched multiple times, this was only my 2nd time watching End of Evangelion. I’ll mention this too in the upcoming post dedicated to rewatching Evangelion. I do know that it’s much harder for me to express a coherent opinion on the film, than the series. It’s much messier, to me.

Little Witch Academia (Rewatch) – I just felt like rewatching it while working on this year’s “12 days of anime“, and as it’s 26 minutes long, just did. It’s great every time I watch it. This is magical, and if you have young kids, you should watch it with them. You should watch it on your own, if you don’t.

Magical Sisters Yoyo and Nene / Majokko Shimai no Yoyo to Nene

Magical Sisters Yoyo and Nene (Majokko Shimai no Yoyo to Nene) – An adventure film, replete with visuals that look as if Summer Wars had a child with Kyousougiga. That’s good, that’s really good. Sawashiro Miyuki in a lead role never hurt anyone either. Very fairy tale-esque, a bit messy in terms of the third act, and a bit sudden in how it starts without much introduction, which actually makes it feel more energetic and frenetic. Another fun film that I’d recommend, though there are quite a few other films in the same sub-genre that do things just as well. An extraordinary visual treat, though, both in terms of execution and of design.

Me!Me!Me! – I tweeted my reactions to this extremely NSFW short (under 7 minutes), which you can watch here. It seemed fitting, for its content, so here are my impressions.

First part felt like the stuff nightmares are made of, especially the oppressive audio-visual mixture. Heavy disturbing stuff. As someone who used to have nightmares he’d wake from with like 150-200 BPM, and who recalls them, I can tell.
Second part tried to call forth an emotional and emotive resonance, but utterly failed. Music wasn’t “chill” but “bland”. But the third part was just trash. It didn’t even try at that point. Beautiful trash, like Redline, but still trash. And although the NGE callbacks were everywhere, it was a lot more like Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.

What was weirdest was how I actually had some callbacks to Eternal Sunshine in the 2nd bit, but what I felt was the biggest inspiration? Catherine, the Atlus game. It felt like someone wanted to do a Catherine-inspired anime short, and just stuffed everything in there. So, Me!Me!Me! Had one part that was disturbing in a good way, one part that failed but tried, and one that was pure nonsense-trash. Also, much twerking was had, oh yes siree.

I’ve seen people say how it’s truly about the otaku and their fantasies and losing touch with reality. Yeah.. that seems like meaning added retroactively, and even if it were, it’s not sophisticated commentary hiding behind fan-service, it’s fan-service, first and foremost.

Television:

Avatar: The Legend of Korra Season 4 – The first few episodes were amazing, and made me think of Million Dollar Baby not just in terms of plot, but also in terms of intensity. Meeting Tuff? Also great. As is often the case with Korra, the early material is great, and the last few segments of the show feel rushed, or choppy, as if they suddenly realize they need to wrap the story up and don’t have enough time. Or rather, as season 3 showed, they realized once more the true magic of the series has always been about exploring the world, rather than following one plot-line too closely, which worked great with Aang’s tale and journey. But even on a bad day, Korra was worth the price of entry.

Pushing Daisies (Season 1 episodes 7-9, Season 2 episode 1) – I watch an episode when I need an emotional boost. Episode 8 was so perfect. I’m still terribly sad about how the writers’ strike brought the first season to a premature ending. I wonder if season 2’s storyline was always intended to fit into the original first season, but I do suspect viewership would’ve been better without that unfortunate cut. A great show, clever, imaginative, colourful, and cheerful. Anything to watch on a rainy day, or a summer day. Just watch it.

Any films, anime or otherwise, or western television shows you’ve watched recently and would like to discuss?

2 comments on “Media Months in Review – September 2014 – February 2015 – Film and Television

  1. exof954 says:

    Uhhh… Big Hero 6?

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