Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Blu-ray release 2016-5-31) may be a fine idea, but there is nothing attractive about this movie. Obviously the most important new thing here is the element of zombies – so I’d focus on the zombies and the action. I like to see heroines kicking ass, but here the fights here are mostly average. The zombies never become a threat as the protagonists always fight them off easily with no difficulty at all. Therefore there is absolutely no tension. [MINOR SPOILER] This is the weakest anti-Christ I’ve ever watched on screen. What’s the deal with the Four Horsemen? They show up and do … nothing?!
美人魚 (Mermaid) (Blu-ray release 2016-5-25) is a Chinese New Year movie. It’s a fairy tale that I can describe as a variation of Disney’s Little Mermaid, but with the prince replaced by a bad guy, who seeks to drive away sea life for property development. The mermaid is sent to kill him but falls in love with him instead.
Since this is a Stephen Chow movie, many of his comedy signatures can be found. This is a good comedy, with a complete plot and some good jokes. Does it approach his own classic movies? No. However, I think I like this movie more than some of his other recent efforts.
Of all the X-Men movies, X-Men: Apocalypse is among the ones I like the least. There’s too little tension for much of the movie, and it’s not helped by its prequel nature guaranteeing the survival of the heroes at the end. The only question is how they survived. Unlike Captain America: Civil War – which is likely to be the best action movie of 2016 – too few exciting fight scene can be found in the long setup here. When something important happened, it looks a lot like a repetition of what occurred in another X-Men movie. I also dislike the new look of Storm, and Jean Grey to a less extent.
Note: there is a post-credits scene at the very end.
踏血尋梅 (Port of Call) (Blu-ray release 2016-4-21) is a Hong Kong crime drama that received many awards, helped by uniformly great acting even from new actors. It is based on a real event in which a girl is murdered brutally, her corpse dismembered and some parts went to be sold as pork. However, the way I look at it this crime drama is not really a crime drama – the murderer confessed early in the movie. The only thing that is unclear is why. Through the investigation of the motive every important character in the movie is revealed to be lonely, living a difficult life, or both. This movie is really a depressing message about life instead of the crime. Although not my kind of entertaining movie, it does deserve all the awards it got.
Note: There are two different versions of the movie – a 98-minute theatrical edition, and a 120-minute director’s cut. According to this article, the theatrical edition is not simply a shortened version – it also added shots and used different takes.
I’d call Flying Colors / Biri Gyaru (Blu-ray release 2015-11-18) a sports movie without sports – it takes the sports movie formula to apply to a true story about a bottom-of-the-class schoolgirl persevering and overcoming obstacles to get into a prestigious university, after being inspired by a cram school teacher.
Even though watching somebody taking an entrance examination is inherently not interesting, especially when compared to watching any kind of sports, this movie more than makes up for it to become an unbelievably inspirational and heart-warming package. Its perfect execution contrasts the protagonist with her little brother, who is forced to pursue their father’s unrealized dream of getting into pro baseball. Family plays a significant role here and enriches the emotional core of the movie. There are suitable comedies in it to give the movie a pleasant tone, although some jokes are wordplay on Japanese vocabulary that cannot be understood by those who don’t read Japanese (me) – but this does not affect the enjoyment of this movie at all.
Even though I’m not a parent, I believe parents can get important insights on how to motivate their children by watching this movie.
Creative Control (Blu-ray release 2016-5-10), unfortunately, is not really about augmented reality. It’s just a bunch of losers cheating on each other. The protagonist fails to get the girlfriend of his best friend into bed, so he masturbates using a computer image of her via augmented reality. I cannot imagine a bigger waste of technology in a movie. Even the badly rated The Lawnmower Man (1992) had more creativity.
Ghost Theater (Blu-ray release 2016-4-2) is a J-Horror movie in which an evil creepy prop doll tries to kill everybody in a theater – not unlike Chucky. For a J-Horror movie it has a relatively more complete plot than others. I don’t find it to be particularly scary but it’s a nice change from seeing a creepy boy hiding in the corner. Its pacing is too slow though.
The Perfect Education (1999) (Blu-ray release 2015-12-2) is the first one in a movie franchise that consists of 8 movies by now. From time to time there is news about pervert men kidnapping little girls to become their sex slaves. Based on a novel, this movie uses the same idea – but with a difference.
After kidnapping a schoolgirl, the man does not rape or abuse her. He only imprisons her and hopes that one day she is “educated” to be his perfect lover. She offers her body to him in the hope of getting released early, but he declines. Love eventually blossoms. Although this sounds ridiculous, perhaps it is what makes this movie more unusual than some other erotic drama, which are often boring. There are sex scenes late in the movie, but not to the level of soft porn. The ending is ordinary, but has a dialogue that is muted and not subtitled. If any reader knows what it says, please let me know.
The acting is great, and the supporting characters are quite interesting as well. The willingness of the girl in the screenplay is not convincing though – she put up far too little resistance. The only reason I can guess about how it can spawn so many sequels is that, perhaps it fulfills a kind of sexual fantasy for some people, as a different kind of soft porn.
Synchronicity (Blu-ray release 2016-5-10) not only has time travel, but another sci-fi concept as well. Jim builds a time machine – one end of a worm hole – the experiment results in a Dahlia flower and the shadow of a man captured in video camera. Then he meets a mysterious woman Abby, who has the exact same Dahlia.
I want to love this movie, but I don’t. I’m fascinated by time travel, but not when the filmmakers deliberately withhold details that prevent a clear understanding of exactly what happened. Time travel is already potentially confusing on screen, so Back To The Future II (1989), or the more recent Predestination (2014), do many things perfectly right to make it clear. Besides the inherently interesting concepts of time travel and [the other sci-fi concept], there’s not much in the movie that is especially attractive. There is no fun or tension to speak of. Pacing is not good. Repetition of some scenes and dialogues get tedious, even though they may actually be slightly different.
[SPOILER – Synchronicity movie explained]
This explanation is inspired by Piotr’s comments in this article.
Abby’s novel is the truth, and the multiple timelines we see are actually parallel universes with minor differences.
Let’s call Jim from the first timeline as Jim-A. He travels through the wormhole to the second timeline, where Jim-B is known as Jim Prime in the movie. Jim-A tries to make an early second jump before Jim-B does first jump, but this jump is not successful, because the left/right label is no longer there for Matty to perform the procedure correctly. If this left/right label is erased by someone, this someone may be Jim-C: in another universe not shown in the movie, Jim-C successfully made the second jump to prevent Jim-A from making the second jump.
After failing to second jump, Jim-A travels to the far away hotel to prepare for death, but discovers the corpse of Jim-C, who successfully made the second jump so his remaining time of life was already used up. He goes back to the Grand Hotel and witnesses Abby having sex with Klaus in order to get the MRD to allow Jim-B to jump, hopefully saving Jim-A. Abby slips the book into Jim-B’s pocket, and goes back to the Grand Hotel but finds that Jim-A is already dead.
Jim-B (or yet another Jim from another timeline) reaches a different universe after jumping. In this universe the parallel of Jim is known as John Bane instead. Jim reads Abby’s book completely, and may have sabotaged the first experiment of John Bane and killed him. Without John, Jim can now survive, and he goes to meet Abby in the bar. Note that Abby has drawn a figure on a coaster that illustrates the multiple universes.
I have always believed that superheroes should team up rather than fighting among each other. Batman v Superman is a disappointing effort that failed to prove me wrong. Captain America: Civil War surprised me by giving far more legitimate reason(s), while delivering a lot of really great action sequences from start to finish, with some humor too. I also love the reference to Star Wars. This is clearly one of the very best superhero movies, with some people declaring this is the best from Marvel.
Note: there are two extra scenes at the end.
- Legitimacy of conflict: While the conflict in both movies originate from civilian casualties, the BvS conflict is not further justified other than a frame up that does not work, and a bad dream. In Civil War, it is influenced by political reasons, shifting of blame, a frame up that works, and faith in friendship. Not only those – at the end there is a really important spoiler-level reason revealed in the climax.
- Frame up: BvS tries to frame Superman to do bad stuff. This is clearly stupid. In Civil War, a known villain is framed with photographic evidence, now that’s far more believable.
- Superhero relationship: Batman really wanted to kill Superman for an illegitimate reason. In Civil War, the superheroes still recognize the opposite side as friends even when doing battles. Now that’s civil.
- Action sequences: Superhero movie is a special type of action movie, so action is of utmost importance. Civil War wins hands down, in quality and sheer quantity.
- Superhero infighting: Everyone agreed that after the long setup, the Batman v Superman battle came down to a disappointing fight that’s not worth the time. It’s just not energetic and not entertaining. Captain American vs Iron Man battles in Civil War are far more energetic and exciting. The aforementioned spoiler-level reason also makes the battle inevitable with an emotional core of a tragic nature.
- Superheroine: BvS let Wonderman shine. Black Widow, however, is present as a strictly supporting character only.