Media Months in Review – May – October 2015 – Television and Film

Still catching up. November and December will be together. Still have games and anime to catch up on, aside from anime films, which are here. Quite a few films, more than I thought I watched, and I didn’t care too much for most, but I did for a few, so let’s go through it.

Movies:

When Marnie Was There / Omoide no Marnie - Meeting Marnie

When Marnie Was There + Rewatch – Yes, I actually watched it twice during this time period, once in May, and again in November. This is my 2nd favourite Studio Ghibli film from the last two decades (accounting for the fact I haven’t watched a couple of the Takahata films), with the favourite one being Princess Mononoke. This is a perfect capstone for Studio Ghibli, or at least to the Miyazaki style of movie-making. It’s small and heart-felt and magical. I wrote a bigger editorial about it that is heavily spoilerific, but I strongly recommend this film to anyone and everyone, of every age. I do recommend the sub strongly here – the dub acting is fine, but it completely changes the nature of the thing. 9/10.

Avengers 2: Age of Ultron – This movie really made the 3D not fun. And it wasn’t even the fault of the 3D itself, but that the glasses the cinema uses for 3D makes everything appear darker, and then when there was the fight in the belly of the ship, I just couldn’t tell what was going on, because it was dark shapes across dark backdrop. As to the movie itself, it was sort of alright? James Spader is always fun, but being robbed of his facial expressions hurt. The twins and their sacrifice was a good moment, leaning heavily on moments we didn’t care for. Likewise, The Hulk rampaging in the city and being calmed by Black Widow? Another solid moment, but which wasn’t properly built up, and that was essentially the issue with the film as a whole, where it felt terribly stitched-together, rather than a coherent piece. Too many storylines, and none of them really given the room needed to breathe. Eh.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (Rewatch) – After rewatching Summer Wars for the umpteenth time in April, it was time to return to this film and see what I think of it. The structure and plot are fine, but I feel like we haven’t been given enough time with the characters, and the film spends so much time playing around with the premise and sheer joy of jumping around time that when it comes back to tying up all of the plot-lines, and even the characters’ emotional lines, they’re sort of either left dangling or picked up haphazardly. It’s a grudging 8, because some aspects and technical aspects still pull through. This shot made me think of the very long shot in Summer Wars, when I rewatched, and is a good way of showing how one is running out of time, if you’ll excuse the pun. Grudging 8/10.

Japan Animator Expo shorts 1-3 – Shorts, giving a chance to various upcoming or prominent animators to create shorts and get better known, and to display anime’s talent. Got through 3 shorts, planned to watch one a day, but you know how plans are. The first, Dragon Dentist, was pretty good, and I could’ve seen myself wanting it to be 30 minutes instead. It was also very good looking.  Hill Climb Girl was just alright, and Me! Me! Me!, well, that was something alright. I shared my thoughts about it here.

Kung Fury – “So bad it’s good” never worked for me, and if something is intentionally bad it doesn’t magically stop being bad. Yes, I sometimes laughed at it, even where they intended, but I was facepalming in a non-ironic manner most of the way through. 3/10, will not watch again. The David Hasselhoff song was nice though. The link leads to the official video on YouTube, it’s 30 minutes. Have fun going back to the 80s as they never were.

The Wind Rises / Kaze Tichnu - Caproni Giovanni tells Horikoshi Jirou that planes are cursed and beautiful dreams

The Wind Rises – Beautiful film, great music, can definitely see the touches of the Ponyo art-style. It’s unlike any of Miyazaki’s other films, and in terms of a Studio Ghibli film it most reminds me of Whisper of the Heart. Also reminds me somewhat of A Beautiful Mind. It’s not concise, and there’s not as much of an organized message. It’s much wider in scope, and it has a lot more going on there that it gives time to, and true to Miyazaki fashion lets those moments breathe, and take as long as they need to – which again, detracts from a specific and “sharp” focus, but creates a wider scope drama, a reflection of someone’s life. I liked it. 8/10.

Mad Max: Fury Road – When I watched this film, all amazed and overjoyed, I had to think back to my experience with The Hobbit 3: The Battle of the Five Armies, where I commented a 45 minute non-stop fight was way too long, and lost all sense of excitement and tension, and that a film needs to give us downtime before we can get amped again. And yet, Mad Max has somehow done the impossible, making Redline, Dead Leaves, and other “non-stop action fests” seem like children flailing at toys. I don’t even know to explain why it was so good, or how such a thing is allowed to be. But non-stop action that kept me glued and tense and wanting to see more. The would-be romance sub-plot between the boy and one of the girls was meh, but thankfully it wasn’t given much time. I’ll probably get the Blu-Ray for this. I need to watch this every several months. If you want to see action well-done beyond how well-done pure action should be allowed to exist, then watch this film. In anime, the closest thing I can think of is the last two episodes of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.

Little Witch Academia 2: The Enchanted Parade – 2013’s Little Witch Academia was magical, and joyful, and brings tears to my eyes every time I rewatch it. So how did I feel about the sequel? I thought it wasn’t as good. It had its own themes of appearances and old versus new, it had its nice set-pieces that called out to Fantasia’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and it had new characters that weren’t fully fleshed out but had nice moments. It’s its own thing, and even if it’s not as “special” or just plain good as the first, I’m still glad I watched it. 7.5/10.

Antman – This was a pretty “by the book” film, that is more in line with Guardians of the Galaxy than some of Marvel’s more recent films, but also reminds me of the early Spidermans. An irreverent silly movie, with some action. I enjoyed it a lot more than a lot of Marvel’s other films. It’s not as meaty, and a lot of the humor goes for simple gags and obvious crass jokes, but it was still more enjoyable than explosion and fight-fiestas with overdark characters.

The Secret World of Arrietty – This film is by the director of When Marnie Was There, which impressed me a lot, so I decided to give it a whirl. It’s pretty, and Arrietty was so cute and precious. It looked good, and it sounded good, and it had a couple of characters and some adventure there, but aside from the set-pieces, it just felt a bit shallow. I didn’t feel either Arrietty nor Shou were fleshed out enough, and their interactions felt lacking as a result as well. The house-helper? She was straight out of Disney, a two-dimensional caricature, which could be fine for a background character, but she was given too much time for that. I would’ve liked this film with 20 more minutes spent not on Arrietty walking around and showing us our world from her perspective (which was very impressive, I’ll admit), but interacting, or expressing herself. She didn’t feel like a fully realized character. And this small and would be intimate story relied on characters, and without characters to carry it, I was left disappointed. 6/10.

Children Who Chase Lost Voices – I’m basically always split on Makoto Shinkai’s films, either really loving them, or feeling left cold by them. This film still deals with his most common (only?) of themes, of distance between people, and while the film still has his amazing backgrounds, it seems to take much more after Studio Ghibli films, with elements, shots, and sometimes entire scenes that were lifted from Nausicaa, Princess Mononoke, or Castle in the Sky. The film is very pretty, but once more, the focus is almost entirely on the experience and adventure, rather than the characters and their stakes. I feel this is one movie where 30 more minutes of nothing but letting the characters be themselves would’ve done a lot for the film. 6/10.

Aura: Maryuuinkouga Saigo no Tatakai / Aura: Koga Maryuin’s Last War – I honestly don’t have a lot to say about it. Great sound, good voice acting, next to no animation, underwhelming direction (Kishi Seiji), and a serviceable story. Another story about chuunis, bullying, and finding your place in the world, your place with others. A couple of good moments, but most of it was telegraphed, rote, and flat. 6.5/10.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Play) – Went and watched it in a theatre. Plenty of good actors on stage, but things felt pushed too far. Too far into histrionics, or too far into cold and uncaring exteriors. Yes, that is some of the point, but the whole thing ended up feeling very indulgent, and it dragged on and on, and wasn’t all that enjoyable. There were a couple of good moments, and I know that Maggie is supposed to talk endlessly to fill in the silence, but… I didn’t think too highly of it.

Tsukimi no Ie (La Maison en Petits Cubes / House of Small Cubes) – In my quest to get through MyAnimeList (Anime’s most popular IMDB-equivalent)’s top 30 stand-alone films (no sequels/adaptations), I watched this artistic short, which feels exactly like one of the many cartoon shorts I’d watch yearly at the comic and caricature festival. Pretty nice as they go, with some neat “messages” about how we can try to find replacements, but we’ll always be aware they’re not the original, reflections on how our life expands and shrinks based on the people in it, and how the present is built on the foundations of the past. It was also nice in an audio-visual experience. Top 30 stand-alone MAL movie-list material? Maybe not, but a worthy 12 minute watch, certainly. 7/10.

Colorful – Colorful’s writer understands emotions, and people, and there were a couple of moments in the film without any words where I found myself smiling at the screen, and smiling at the characters. I could see how the movie had emotionally resonant content. The problem is the movie is saddled with lacklaster direction, bad voice acting, and animation that is worse than “no budget” anime series, which stood out even more in a film. There’s good content in this film, but just very little of it came through due to botched execution. 5.5/10.

Television:

Mr. Robot Episode 1 - Elliot Alderson needs confirmation

Mr. Robot – I want to say Mr. Robot is the modern Fight Club, but Fight Club is still pretty darn modern. Well, more technologically bent Fight Club, and less focused on the underlying rage and anger. The drama in this show is pretty good, the characters well done, and the stakes feel real. The twists and reveals kept me hooked, even if the “villains”, those who only wish for personal gain over the suffering masses were too caricaturized. Yeah, this show went far, and then went farther in its hyper-ridiculous depictions of lack of morals and restraint, and did so in order to impugn the ruling elite, but at some point it didn’t feel real. You can only push so far, you don’t have to make them metaphorical killers, literal killers, and sexual deviants. That aspect felt quite Shakespearian. Recommended? Yes, just as Fight Club was.

The Blacklist Season 2 episodes 20-22, Season 3 episodes 1-8 – Fun trash continues. Though I’ve been having less fun with the latest season, and also think it’s not as good, not only just not as enjoyable. The specific premise of “running away and on the loose” gives less time for James Spader, and I actually enjoyed the episodic structure of the show. Could be “Not worse, just different,” with me having been perfectly fine with the previous format. And now we’re on a major cliffhanger, until after the season of holidays is past. And I want to see what’s happening!

Pushing Daisies Season 2 episode 3 – Still only one episode. And finally the whole gang is going to be back. This episode was deliciously funny and touching as this show ever was, which is why I save these episodes for when I need them.

Any television series, films, or plays you’ve watched recently and would like to discuss? Jessica Jones will have to wait for my write-up, but what did you think of it?

6 comments on “Media Months in Review – May – October 2015 – Television and Film

  1. fgfdfh says:

    Let’s see what I’ve gone through this month:

    Watched Macbeth(2015) in theater. Great visual, except the 1st battle scene, which looked like a shitty 300 rip off. The acting is excellent all around. This is definitely the best Macbeth adaptation since Throne of Blood.

    Watched and completed BBC’s Wolf Hall. Fantastic mini series. Mark Rylance is an amazing actor. I’m a bit confused during some political machination, but still managed to follow the story. The ending is a punch to the gut. Best TV series I’ve seen this year. There’s The Last Kingdom, which is good, but very rushed. Not sure if it will get season 2, but the first season worked as a stand alone mini series.

    Finished all Blackadder series. Funniest comedy ever. This is how you do sitcom. You create absurd situation with good dialogue while not forgetting to see characters as human being. On a less happy note, I checked out some new South Park episodes, and I realized that I still hate this show a lot. The jokes are 4chan level of offensiveness and stupidity, the characters are a bunch of 1 dimensional assholes, and the attempt at social commentary is horribly shallow. And people tell me that Gatchaman Crowd is heavy handed.

    Also rewatching Star Trek TOS. The only Star Trek series I enjoyed. Silly but fun. People told me that TNG will get better, but by middle of S2, I lost my will to continue. Btw, Doctor Who’s lastest episode Heaven Sent is among the greatest single episode I’ve seen for a decade. Doctor Who’s quality is always inconsistent, but this ep reminded me why I stick with this show.

    Book wise, I’ve read the Russian novel Quiet Flows the Don. The book is very well written, but damn it’s depressing. There’re lots of suffering, but thankfully it never feels contrived, unlike 95% anime. I’m surprised that the depiction of Soviet force isn’t very positves. In fact, the novel depicts every side in the war as downright cruel. I didn’t know that the Russians are that racist. Also finished Ursula Le Guin’s The Telling and Wizard of Earthsea. I’m debating whether I should go with Earthsea 2 or The Dispossessed.

    On the Anime side, I finished Aria the Origination and Simoun. Both are among the best anime of all time. Great characters, great World building and a cast of well written characters.Rewatching Rahxephon, which I still enjoyed alot. This series has good music and interesting aesthetic. After having watched many old mecha series, I find the criticism that it rip off Evangelion very unfair. This anime has a life on its own, and it’s not like Eva is that original either.

    • Guy says:

      The last play I watched that was actually good was Richard the 3rd, also Shakespeare, but over the past few years, most of the plays I watched in person were disappointing.

      I’m not a fan of Earthsea 2, but I really loved 1, and 3 was also good. Don’t think I’ve read The Dispossessed, and haven’t heard of that Russian book. Europeans tend to be quite nationalistic-racist, which is intertwined, and goes back many hundreds of years. Can’t really think of a European country that’s free of it.

      I wrote of RahXephon before (can’t link ATM, use search), but I have to say that even as I liked it, I think trying to argue that it didn’t try to ape NGE a losing proposition, it took segments outright, it aped the mystery concept… and going “NGE isn’t all that original itself” doesn’t mean RahXephon is less derivative because of it. RahXephon is incredibly derivative, it just is. Even as it does its own things. I own Simoun and it’s still on the list of shows to watch, but Aria is likely just not for me, so I’m not going to subject myself to it – it can be great, and that still doesn’t mean I’ll enjoy it, so no reason to put me through the show, or the show’s fans through me watching it.

      My favourite Star Trek is Deep Space 9, by far. TNG/ToS are too episodic for me. Haven’t watched South Park since season 2-3, many years ago, and Doctor Who since 10th doctor’s 3rd season or so. I should watch Wolf Hall though, heard good things. But time! I did watch a bunch of live action shows this year, felt good.

      • fgfdfh says:

        Surprised that you suddenly answered my post after a month. Well, Rahxephon is derivative, no denying that. I still think anime fans are often too obsessed with originality and rip-off. Media creators usually copying an old concept and reinterpreting it, some are better than Rahxephon writers at making it feel fresh. I’m just annoyed that most Rahxephon threads basically go: “it’s a Eva rip-off” – “no it’s not”–>shit post and flame war for the rest of the thread.

        No offense, but it’s still amazed me how little Westerners in general actually know about Soviet and Russian arts, especially when Russian make the front page news every other day. Maybe because I came from an ex-communist country. Most people never seemed to even heard about a majority of critical acclaimed and important Russian works, from novels to movies. Their knowledge apparently stopped at Tolstoy. I’m not sure if they know about Tolstoy books that is not War and Peace or Anna Karenina either. For example, Quiet Flows the Don won the Nobel Prize, War and Peace film series won the Oscar, yet no body talk about it these day.

        • Guy says:

          Surprised that you suddenly answered my post after a month.

          I had the tab open. I was just busy, and suffer from chronic procrastination. I sometimes reply to much older comments, and for me 3 weeks isn’t considered that old, though I do try to usually reply within a week >.>

          And I agree with RahXephon. Saying it’s derivative can be an aside before a discussion, or lead into a discussion, but in and of itself, isn’t all that interesting itself. Discussing where RahXephon is similar to NGE, and where it’s leading to failures/successes is interesting. Or you can discuss what it does on its own.

          I haven’t been reading a lot of non-sci-fi/fantasy or philosophy books over the last few years. I have read some Arkady and Boris Strugatsky last year, and have some more books of theirs to read I haven’t gotten to yet, but I think you’re wrong about how no one mentions Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. But, how often do you hear people mention Little Women, or Anne of Green Gables, or…? I’m not surprised. English-speakers, German-speakers, they have their own masterpieces, which they don’t really mention either.

          Have you heard of the critically acclaimed books in Hebrew? Probably not. That’s how it goes. I mean, Roger Zelazny is more well-known in Israel than he’s in America, and he’s an American author.

          I personally found the masterful Russian works a tad too slow for my liking. But I do have some on hand which I should read, at some point.

  2. mal says:

    You know as much as Mr. Robot is like Fight Club, hell the writer said “Yes, this is inspired by Fight Club”, they veer differently. Fight Club is about toxic masculinity in particular and patriarchal expectations. Mr. Robot is much more about class-war, loneliness, and being an outsider. They’re both about being left behind by capitalism and adolescent rebellion but Mr. Robot is less about men I guess.

    Mr. Robot is also much more idealistic. I guess what bothers me about Mr. Robot is that we’re asked to emphasize with a person who pretty much invades everyone’s privacy and uses his power in really troubling ways. It’s a superhero narrative, but the narrative is grounded enough so that the real-world implications gets much more terrifying. And his POV gets misanthropic at times. I only got up to episode 3 though. So maybe it addresses all that.

    • Guy says:

      I think you should be more critical of both, not to take it to mean “negative”, but look at them more closely. They’re a manifestation of the same thing, with a generational gap. Fight Club is all about Class Warfare, about feeling yourself as an outsider and adrift in today’s world, powerless and alone.

      Mr. Robot with its hero who is actually terrible and terrifying, an almost sociopath who is a villain, isn’t that, aside from being like Batman, also exactly what Tyler Durden is? And isn’t that superhero antihero myth also a form of “toxic masculinity”, even if in this case he’s wounded and admits being weak?

      Those elements you use to differentiate them, once you peel the other’s skin, are to be found there as well. Class Warfare in particular is the beating heart of Fight Club.

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