Now You See Me 2 (Blu-ray release 2016-9-6) received mixed to negative reviews. The sequel provides more illusions and twists, involving some nonsense about stealing a computer chip that can decrypt data from any device in the world. Although I agree this movie is inferior to the original, it is still somewhat entertaining. Some twists and revelations are not very reasonable though.
信長協奏曲 (Nobunaga Concerto) – the 2014 live action TV drama series based on a manga, told the story of a high school student who time travelled to the past and ran into the historical figure Nobunaga. Intending to run away from pressures of his responsibilities, Nobunaga offered the protagonist to take his place, which is possible because they look exactly the same. The protagonist, thinking he is in a theme park entertainment show, gladly accepted.
I like the argumentative relationship between the protagonist and his wife, and it’s rather pleasant to watch the protagonist resolving every crisis by luck and/or (prior) kindness – in typical manga style. The narrative that explains why certain historical events occur are sometimes not clear, perhaps that would be too boring for the focus of this TV drama. My major problem with this show is that there are too many things that are logistically impossible, such as finding a disappeared person out of nowhere, or travelling a long distance to attempt to save somebody whose life is going to end in just a few seconds. The second problem is the history textbook that the protagonist brought with him is not even underutilized – it is not used at all.
Nobunaga Concerto The Movie (Blu-ray release 2016-7-20) continues from the end of the TV series. Right from the start the protagonist is told his life will end very soon, according to the history textbook. We finally see the ultimate villain carrying out his revenge. Even the real Nobunaga is convinced to murder the protagonist and take back his rightful place.
With more budget the battles in the movie are clearly better. It also properly wraps up the story without surprise. Although I find it interesting in the series about meeting other time travellers trying to make a living in this period, e.g. the wife’s father, in the movie this is used as a plot device to achieve something that is again logistically impossible. While I respect the movie for sticking to its own rule about the impact of time travel on history, it is somewhat unsatisfying and anticlimactic.
I’m wary of live action movies with talking animals since Disney’s Dinosaur (2000). I’m pleased that The Jungle Book (Blu-ray release 2016-8-30) is very different, in a good way. The protagonist here is a human boy, raised by talking animals. He is pursued by an evil tiger. The CG scenery and animals look excellent. More importantly, this family movie is reasonably exciting, progresses at a good pace, and not too preachy. I don’t like the songs though, even though they are here for a reason.
Cats Don’t Come When You Call (Blu-ray release 2016-7-13) is adapted from an autobiographical manga, about a guy who had to abandon his boxing career due to an eye injury. His elder brother moved away, leaving him alone with two cats. Naturally, the cats become his most important companion, and eventually inspired him in facing the difficulties of life.
This movie is really focused on the cats and the human-cat relationship, more so than I expected. There is also less human melodrama than I thought. Perhaps it does not deviate too much from the true story. Cat lovers will love this movie. For others, if we (unfairly) ignore the cats part of the movie and only consider the human side, it is pretty ordinary by movie standards.
When I was a child I found the Dune (1984) story to be fairly interesting due to its creative ideas. Only after gaining access to the Internet did I realize it was a commercial and critical flop, and that the 1965 novel it based on is an important sci-fi literature with major impact on sci-fi movies today, especially Star Wars. I also learned that Frank Herbert’s Dune (2000) TV miniseries was supposed to be true to the novel, and should therefore be a better adaption. Now that I’ve finally watched the miniseries, I have to say it is a huge disappointment for me.
- Comprehensibility – Dune (1984) was widely criticized as incomprehensible and confusing. This problem is mostly addressed in the 177-minute Extended Edition (hereafter “the movie”) by adding a lot of narration. While this is not ideal and not approved by the director, it is better than an incomprehensible movie. In fact there are some explanations that I can find from the movie but not the miniseries, even though the latter is “true to the novel”.
- Ugliness – the villain in the movie is indeed unnecessarily gross and is uncomfortable to watch in a few scenes. I do not find the spacing guild navigator alien to be ugly – in fact I think this monster design is brilliant, while the miniseries version looks generic and is not noteworthy. While the miniseries does not have gross scenes, the picture is presented with a high contrast and reddish cast that I find to be quite uncomfortable to watch for a long time, compared to the few uncomfortable scenes in the movie.
- Lead actor – I do not like the portrayal of the protagonist in the miniseries at all, especially during the first episode. The protagonist in the movie is far more charismatic.
- Faithfulness – The unfaithful aspects of the movie are well-known. The sonic weapon known as weirding module is weird. The rain is simply wrong. However, the weriding way from the novel that is presented in the miniseries is not any better – it is just very dull hand to hand combat. To make things worse, the weirding way is used inconsistently, especially during the climactic battle. The addition of princess Irulan subplot in the miniseries is a nice touch though.
- Production values – Naturally the movie had a big budget. The movie still looks reasonably fine today. The miniseries could not compensate for its low budget even with 16 years of filming technology advancement, and showed really fake matte painting backgrounds. While the battles in the movie are not particularly good, the miniseries battles are simply really dull.
- Pacing – if the theatrical edition had too little time to tell the story, the miniseries had too much. The latter spent too much time moving from one plot point to another. There is no fun in watching two people walking through the dessert with nothing happening.
These are the reasons why I much prefer the movie to the miniseries, even if the movie is flawed.
Frank Herbert’s Children of Dune (2003) is the sequel to the miniseries. Surprisingly it corrected several issues I had with the original miniseries so I could actually enjoy it. The drama unfolds at a better pace, and have great music to accompany it.
High-Rise (Blu-ray release 2016-7-18) is adapted from a 1975 novel. In this movie, power outages cause social conflicts between residents of upper floors and lower floors to escalate into an orgy of violence. As a cult movie it does have memorable violent scenes that I cannot describe with simple words. Many critics love it, but I cannot appreciate it due to its lack of explanation or logic of people choosing not to go out for help, resorting to eating dog food and selling their wives, even when a police officer comes from outside to inspect.
The Angry Birds Movie (Blu-ray release 2016-8-16) is obviously adapted from the videogame series that used to be really popular. In this movie we have the heroes saving the eggs from the pigs. It’s reasonably funny, and significantly better than several disastrous adaptations from other videogames. However, as an animated bird movie it cannot compare to Rio (2011).
The Wave (Bølgen) (Blu-ray release 2016-6-21) is a Norwegian disaster movie. A rock slide in a Norwegian mountain caused a tsunami, which threatens the people in a tourist location. The hero gave an early warning but his boss and coworkers dismissed it. When he is proven to be correct, it’s already too late, and he goes to save his family.
The very first thing that is obvious about this movie is that it has extremely beautiful scenery. This alone would be worth the time. Better yet, this is a successful disaster movie that critics loved, despite the comparatively little budget. Choosing to focus on a small family only, it has time for character development, unlike other disaster movies which are filled with characters whom the audience does not care much about. I would prefer it spends less time on the setup, and be less reliant on cliche.
The Huntsman: Winter’s War (Blu-ray release 2016-8-23) is both a prequel and sequel to Snow White and The Huntsman (2012). We see the origin of the huntsman, his wife, and the queen of snow. The magic mirror from the previous movie has been stolen, the huntsman is ordered to recover it and deliver it to the sanctuary. Snow white is nearly completely absent from the movie, which is not a bad thing.
This movie received generally bad reviews. Other than a lack of chemistry, romance that does not work, action that is mostly average, and comedy that does not work, I do not consider the movie to be very bad, because as an impossible sequel to Snow White, the story is actually not that bad. Its quality is nowhere near Frozen (2013), but its dark alternative of the queen of snow still has some value.
Note: Unlike the theatrical edition, this extended edition does have an additional scene after the credits.
Star Trek Beyond does not disappoint. In fact, many seem to really like it, since its emphasis is more close to the classic series rather than the reboot. However, I’m not a fan of the Star Trek classics. I’m more interested in entertaining action blockbusters. On this basis, I think Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) had a more frenetic pace and was more exciting. In the new movie, I’m most impressed by the destruction of a certain vehicle.