Review: See You Tomorrow (擺渡人)

擺渡人 (See You Tomorrow) (Blu-ray release 2017-3-22) is a romantic comedy adapted from a novel, directed by the author of the novel, and produced by Wong Kar Wai.  It consists of several distinct subplots based on different stories in the novel, joined together via a bar – the bar owner’s job is to help people get over difficulties and reach the next stage in their lives.

In many ways this is very different from typical Wong Kar Wai movies.  It is colorful, mostly happy, comedic, and exaggerated.  Yet it is obvious the dialogue has been given much thought, in line with other Wong Kar Wai movies.  However, this combination was not well received.  People in mainland China was unable to appreciate it – near half of the viewers rated it 1 star and considered it to be trash.  It got so bad that Wong Kar Wai defended it.

My view is that it has good stories, has unique characters, is entertaining and comedic.  This is one of the most interesting romantic comedy featuring Hong Kong actors in recent years.

Review: Underworld: Blood Wars

Underworld: Blood Wars (Blu-ray release 2017-4-25) is the fifth movie in the franchise.  An evil vampire leader invites the protagonist to go back into the vampire community.  Meanwhile, a new evil lycan leader appears.  He hopes to seek the purebred hybrid blood from the daughter of the protagonist.  I never liked any entry in this franchise, so I don’t like this either.  The story is not bad, but I’m just not interested in the action sequences.  Being stylish helps a little bit but does not save it.  I find it odd that the primary weapon of a vampire is a machine gun, but that’s just me.

Review: Assassin’s Creed (2016)

Assassin’s Creed (Blu-ray release 2017-3-21) is based on a video game.  It’s not the worst adaptation from video game, but it can be better.  The modern day Knights Templar seeks to find the Apple of Eden, which is said to be able to take the freewill away from humanity.  They captured the protagonist, and use a machine to inject his ancestor’s memory into him so he can reveal where the Apple is.  I think the setup of the movie and the action sequences are ok.  The story is more problematic, and the climax is a letdown.

 

Review: Planetarian -Hoshi no Hito-

Previously there was a 5-episode anime Planetarian, about a man meeting a talkative robot girl who works at a planetarium, waiting for visitors and her prior human coworkers to come back for more than 30 years, not knowing her city is mostly destroyed and there is no human there.  Through this encounter the man finds a new meaning in his life in this lonely world.

Planetarian -Hoshi no Hito- (Blu-ray release 2017-2-24) is a movie that includes all the important parts of the anime and extends it so we learn what happens after the anime.  I do not want to spoil the plot, but it needs to be emphasized that this is fundamentally a positive movie, despite the apocaplytic world, the ending(s) and the tearjerking parts, as compared to Ex Machina (2015), also about men and a robot woman, which is well rated but its ignorance of the laws of robotics and negativity leaves a foul taste for me.

Review: Gantz: O

Gantz: O (Blu-ray release 2017-2-22) is a CG movie that is based on the manga series – When some people die, they are resurrected by a mysterious black ball to fight aliens.  They gain points in this process.  Reaching 100 points, they’ll be given a choice of strong weapon, resurrection of a teammate, or being freed from this game.  This movie works like an extended TV episode with extremely extended fights, and villains that repeatedly refuse to die.  Even though the CG battles are impressive, there is incredibly little plot to be found here, especially for those who watched the previous entries.  To make matters worse, a large part of the screenplay is filled with annoyingly inappropriate dialogue from a female love interest.

Beauty and the Beast – 1946 vs 1991 vs 2014 vs 2017

After writing what I thought about Beauty and the Beast 1991 vs 2017 in the previous article, I watched the 1946 and the 2014 versions.  I read a critic praising the 1946 to be the best version.  The 2014 version got positive reviews in France but not too positive internationally.

It would be unfair to compare production quality and movie making techniques with a 70-year gap.  So I focus on one aspect only – romance plot.  To continue a plot-base analysis, it needs to be said that this article is full of spoilers.  Even if you already know that the beast was a prince, there are creative additions to the other movies if you have not watched them.

Movie adaptations of popular books always bring a question of faithfulness.  Let me summarize my interpretation of what happened in the original story first.  The beauty is disgusted by the beast’s ugly appearance and rejects his marriage proposal every single time.  It does not help that she always dreams of a handsome prince, since she does not realize that the beast is the prince. Gradually she treats him as a friend.  Eventually, when the beast dies of grief, she pronounces her love for him.

The 1946 version is the most faithful, but it removes the dreams.  It is not clear to me what triggers the beauty change from being disgusted by the beast, and angry of him showing up in her bedroom, to treating him as a friend.  Although they spend some time together, she insists they’re only friends.  At the end, she accepts the beast only because he turns handsome and happens to have a face exactly the same as a supporting character whom she loves.  Not a great romance in my book.  I’m also underwhelmed by the creepy designs of the human faces and arms in the castle, but since I said it is unfair to compare production design, so I’ll ignore it.  There is one positive element in the movie that the other three versions lack – the beauty proclaims herself to be the actual beast, since she does not keep her promise.

The 2014 version manages to make both the beauty and the beast, and the prince before getting turned into a beast, to be all unlikeable characters.  This version keeps the dreams, and uses the dreams to tell a completely new background of the prince accidentally killing her wife, who is a daughter of the god of the forest.  The beauty refuses the beast when he is ugly, and accepts him only after learning he is the prince.  If I have not missed anything, at no point in the movie does it tell a message that true beauty lies within.  When he tells her to come back, saying he’ll die if she does not – this part is never explained and seems odd.  In the final act, the brothers are involved in the scheme against the beast, but the sisters are not.  This makes all the time spent in the prior scenes with the sisters worthless.  We didn’t get to see many scenes of the important brothers before, so this is another oddity.  The final act involves some stone giants – although it is interesting as a standalone sequence, it does not make too much sense as a punishment by the god.  Most importantly, consider this: if someone marries your daughter and kills her, you feel angry and curse him.  That’s totally reasonable.  When he finds a new wife, you forgive him!?  What logic is that?

The 1991 Disney cartoon makes drastic changes to the story, and dropped the bad sisters and brothers from the story while adding a handsome villain – these are really smart choices.  Even though it is unfaithful, it gives us a pleasing movie that makes sense, reinforces the important message, and can be enjoyed by kids and adults.  No wonder it is so highly regarded and loved by everyone.

As explained in my previous article, the 2017 screenplay is a further improvement from the 1991 version.  In my not so humble opinion, the 2017 live action movie is the best version of Beauty and the Beast.

 

Review: Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Beauty and the Beast (2017) is the live-action remake of the 1991 classic cartoon, which I loved.  The new version mostly stays true to the 1991 original, and retains the award winning songs.  The production design is gorgeous.  The screenplay is an overall improvement over the original, allowing for more time for the romance to develop, and some dialogue and plot details are more sensible as well.  I like the 2017 Cogsworth (clock) more than the 1991 version too.

However, it also adds some elements which are unnecessary, such as the washing machine, which is probably even more inappropriate for the plot than the controversial gay stuff.  Some may criticize the minor gay comedic relief, the extended running time, or the new songs – but the only major issue I see is the dance scene.  It should be a pivotal moment, but its dark lighting and the lack of color reduces its impact.

Review: Elle (2016)

Elle (Blu-ray release 2016-10-4) begins with the protagonist being raped by a man in a mask.  She then takes a bath, but does not report to the police.  She is the boss of a video game company, and her subordinates do not like her.  In fact many people do not like her.  She is not a nice person at all – not being nice to her mother, son, daughter-in-law, or her ex-husband.  She even betrays her best friend.

The early parts of the movie work somewhat like a detective movie – multiple men are presented as possible candidates of being the criminal.  I guessed right.  What happens after she finds out the identity of rapist is quite extraordinary – I will only say that normal people in a usual movie do not behave like that.  In fact, there are other characters who do not behave in ways people normally expect.  I find this movie to be intriguing, I hoped it to be another Basic Instinct (1992) but it is not, as the movie does not focus on identifying the mysterious rapist only.  It spends a lot of time showing the details of the relationship with her family and other people.  I find some some of them, such as the one with her son and daughter-in-law, to be distracting and unimportant.

Review: The Before Trilogy

The Before Trilogy (Blu-ray release 2017-2-28) is loved by many, but not me.  I care deeply about plot in movies, and don’t care much about characters or personalities.  This trilogy represents exactly the opposite kind of movies for my taste.  Warning: mild spoilers follow.

Before Sunrise (1995) shows us a young man and a young woman who meet on the train, decide to spend a day and night talking.  All three movie are about their conversation.  I think this trilogy defines the term talky movie.  They talk about many things, and we witness the growth of their romantic affection for each other.  People love it because they think it is realistic in that it is something that could really happen.  I do not share this view, but this is not important.  I’m just not interested in watching them talk, regardless of how philosophical or relevant to the experience of normal audience that may be.  One hour into the movie, I wanted to give up and actually stopped the playback for a while before deciding to resume.

Nine years later, Before Sunset (2004) shows them meet in Paris, and we’re told they did not meet during these nine years.  Both have their own romantic partners, and one even has a kid.  Again they talk for the whole movie, but at least seeing their passion reignited, with one of them burst into tears, is more appealing to me.  For me this is the defining moment in the whole trilogy.

Nine years later (again), Before Midnight (2013) starts with them living together and have a pair of twin daughters.  The man already had a son with his ex-wife, and he feels that he’s too far away to do his father’s duties.  In the climax they argue about sacrificing one’s life and job for the other.  In my view, a romance movie is one in which the protagonists’ relationship is stronger at the end than at the beginning.  Using this definition, this movie is not a romance movie at all.  I’d call it a family drama.  Yes, real couples argue in real life.  Yes, conflicts caused by kids, ex-wife, distance, jobs are real.  Hmm, why do people like to watch their own real conflicts portrayed by others in such a realistic movie?

 

Review: Logan

It is well publicized that Logan is the last time Hugh Jackman plays Wolverine.  It is less well known that Logan also marks the end of the original X-Men movie timeline started in year 2000 (assuming we’re not watching a parallel universe).

Previously, X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) felt somewhat shallow despite the CG spectacle, but this movie is a good drama with an emotional core – however, that comes at a huge price.  At the beginning, we’re told most of the mutants are already dead in 2029.  Wolverine takes care of the old and mentally deteriorating Prof. Xavier.  A girl with powers exactly like Wolverine shows up and is hunted by an evil corporation.  What follows is brutal and is unlike any of the previous X-Men movie at all.

I thought The Dark Knight (2008) was really dark, but Logan surpasses it to become tragic.

Note: There should be an extra scene before the movie.  However, in my place, there is no extra scene before and after the movie.