Oculus (Blu-ray release 2014-8-5) tells the story of an antique haunted mirror that kills the parents of two children. When they grow up, the sister leads his brother to kill the ghost in the mirror. They spend a significant amount of time arguing whether the cause of their parents’ death was supernatural or not, making the movie really annoying. However, when the movie gets past that and focus on the horror stuff and the hallucinations, it becomes more interesting. I’m impressed by the way the movie intercuts between the past and the present during the climax, but I dislike the ending. It would have been a much better movie if it drops the time-wasting arguing, shortens the history, and actually explains why the mirror does all these killings.
香港仔 (Aberdeen) (Blu-ray release 2014-7-17) takes a Hong Kong location as its title. It is about three generations of people in a Hong Kong family. Everyone faces a problem – a man is worried about his daughter being too ugly, and he does not approve of his father’s relationship with a girl friend, his model wife’s career is stagnant and she has a secret, his sister is depressed because she thinks her parents do not love her, and the sister’s husband has an affair, etc.
To spice things up the movie adds a sex scene, and shows the cleavage of the model wife by using fake breasts. During the movie there are some fantasy dream sequences, with one of them paying homage to Godzilla movies. I especially like the one in which the sister takes a paper taxi (the kind of paper that is made to burn in honor of the dead ancestors as a Chinese tradition) to meet her dead mother. I think these do make the movie more interesting, but the problems they face are not really dealt with in depth, and are too easily resolved to reach an unexpectedly and unrealistically positive ending.
Although how good the movie is can be debated, it is certainly not as bad as what the really poor box office may imply. This flop can be attributed to one supporting character saying things that angered mainland Chinese.
Bilocation (Blu-ray release 2014-7-18) is a Japanese horror movie, but this one is heavy on plot and only have little scares. The protagonist and several other people have doppelganger, which appear out of thin air and disappear without a trace, look exactly like the originals, affect their daily living and even threaten their lives. Based on a novel, the screenplay is smart and the ending twist may cause viewers to watch parts of the movie again. However, doing that allowed me to find some plot holes, but this is probably not unexpected for ambitious stories like that. Anyway, this movie has to be one of the most interesting horror stories I’ve watched in recent years.
Appleseed Alpha (Blu-ray release 2014-7-22) is the CG animated prequel to Appleseed (2004) and Appleseed Ex Machina (2007), based on a manga. The photo realistic CG quality in this movie is awesome, it is the best I’ve seen from Japanese productions, and much better than Space Pirate Captain Harlock, which was released 10 months before this. Watching this prequel together with the previous two movies back to back we can witness the advancement of CG made in the last 10 years.
In this prequel we see the protagonists fighting bad guys in a post apocalyptic world, and helping good guys to carry out a secret mission. The story is simplistic and cannot compare to the previous two movies, which had far more twists and dealt with issues like whether cloned and genetically modified humans (known as bioroids) have the same rights as normal human. Although the CG is exceptional, the climactic battle is comparatively weaker. Unless I misunderstand the details, I think there are continuity issues between this prequel and the 2004 movie, in terms of whether the two protagonists were together or separated, and whether she knew he had become a cyborg at the start of the 2004 movie. If you think I’m mistaken, please let me know.
I’ll Follow You Down (Blu-ray release 2014-8-5) tells the story of a scientist becomes missing, whose wife struggles with life and his son grows up and tries to find him via the research notes he left behind. I love time travel movies, but this one is a failure. What makes time travel movies interesting is the possibility of going back, changing history, and seeing its implications for the present and future. In this movie, time travel does not happen until the last 20 minutes. Obviously it cannot manage to become interesting. Before that it spends time arguing about whether to go through with it or not. After so much arguing and making a big deal about what happens to people and relationship in the present, the movie ends without answering it.
3AM Part 2 (Blu-ray release 2014-7-10) is the disappointing follow up to the 2012 Thai horror movie. In this movie again there are three stories. The first one is the worst, a man is killed in a traffic accident. His ghost kills his disloyal girl friend and other friends too for no good reason. The second one is more interesting, involving the romance among three schoolgirls, one of which prayed to a ghost nun with disastrous results. The final story is again a comedy about who is a ghost, but this one has far less impact than the one in 2012.
Need for Speed (Blu-ray release 2014-8-5) does not come close to the success of the Fast and Furious franchise. Its plot is unrealistic, and the racing scenes are not the most exciting ones I’ve watched before. However, it does offer something I think is relatively unique. Its heavy involvement of cop cars, likely due to the videogames it based on, makes things a little more interesting. And most importantly, we get to see spectacular crashes of luxurious supercars.
The only reason to watch Sabotage (Blu-ray release 2014-7-22) is, of course, Schwarzenegger. This is a cop thriller in which he led his team of DEA agents to steal from drug cartel, but the money goes missing, and people die. We don’t see any action in the middle part of the movie, although this is not necessarily a bad thing. I think the movie is not bad, but the ending is ridiculous and destroyed whatever goodness it showed before, even though I guessed the identity of the culprit by two thirds of the movie.
I do not watch art house films, so it’s probably a mistake for me to watch Under the Skin (Blu-ray release 2014-7-15). Based on a novel, the female protagonist drives a van, lures lonely men to her place one by one, then bad things happen to them. Reviews of this movie are generally very positive, and strangely practically all of them contain major spoilers. Critics are excited by its art house imagery, and impressed by the secret filming of real non-actors in the street. I am not excited by these aspects, and I cannot stand its slow pacing. It throws away much of the plot form the novel, and I believe whatever little plot that remains can be told in half of the movie duration.
3D豪情 (Naked Ambition) (Blu-ray release 2014-7-11) is a Hong Kong sex comedy. It is a sequel to a 2003 movie with the same title, but the story and characters are unrelated. A Hong Kong guy goes to Japan to become a porn star and work with famous Japanese porn actresses. The comedic aspects of this movie primarily come from reversing the roles of male and female in porn video – the male is submissive and is treated as a sex object. The plot is just an excuse to connect various very funny erotic scenes, but when the movie tries to tell a slightly more serious story, it does not really work.