Earth: One Amazing Day (Blu-ray release 2018-1-23) is a nature documentary movie from BBC. The proper one-word summary of it would be: Amazing. There are breathtaking scenes of nature and animals. It works like a combination of many mini-stories of different types of animals captured on camera, framed in reference to the position of the sun during a day. Each segment is very short, so none will become boring. There are criticisms that some of the footage, or something similar were shown in the previous works, and some people prefer another narrator. Since I do not often watch nature documentary, this 95-minute movie is totally new to me and I found it to be truly impressive. I also love the way the music supplements the scenes.
Mukoku (Blu-ray release 2017-12-6) is adapted from a Japanese novel. The movie starts with a kendo master training his son brutally. The son grew up, fatally injuring his father in a training accident. He lives with guilt, becomes an alcoholic, and his love-hate relationship with his father is gradually revealed. Meanwhile, a high school student is found to have talent in kendo, so a monk trains him. His background is that he almost drowned before. The paths of the two men eventually cross and they have to face their inner daemons.
This sounds like a great setup for a drama. However, the revelation about the father, his relationship between the son, the mother and the mistress is kept to an absolute minimum. So I cannot fully appreciate the son’s hatred for the father. Likewise, I cannot grasp what effect the student’s fear of the drowning experience has on his life.
Guardians (Blu-ray release 2017-12-5) is a Russian superhero movie, somewhat similar to Avengers (2012). The movie begins with a demonstration of an AI-controlled hi-tech weaponry that goes wrong, reminding me of Jet Alone in Neon Genesis Evangelion Episode 7 (1995). This is caused by a mad scientist, who becomes the supervillain. The military recruits genetically engineered superhuman subjects to stop him. The four superheroes in this movie seem to be inspired by: Bane, Magneto, The Thing, Ivan Vanko, Wolverine, Hulk, Rocket, Invisible Woman, Nightcrawler, Dragonball, etc. The plot is average and lacks depth. There are opportunities to develop the characters but are not used. The CG, considering the tiny budget, is reasonable. There is a post-credits scene that makes no sense.
Although I’m generally interested in the Godzilla series, I would not call myself a fan. I do not have high hopes for the CG anime incarnation – Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters (Netflix), but it turns out to be better than expected. Unlike the previous Godzilla stories, this one starts in a spaceship carrying the last human beings drifting in space to find a new home, after planet Earth was devastated by Godzilla and other monsters. They gave up and decided to go back to Earth. After a warp jump, they arrive at Earth 19200 years later, not unlike Planet of the Apes (1968). Guess what creatures await them.
The introduction of extra terrestrials helping human beings (with possibly other motives), space ship, high tech gadgets, and different groups with different political agenda make this world more complex than other entries in the series. With this setting it can easily extend to far more than the planned trilogy. I suspect that even when the trilogy completes the political schemes and agenda may not be fleshed out before everybody dies.
Back to this Part 1 movie. Structurally it spends a lot of time setting things up, and there is no exciting action scene, excluding brief flashbacks, until they reach Earth. Given the title, I expect to see different varieties of monsters, but I’m slightly disappointed that other than Godzilla there is only one type in this movie. No doubt we will see more in the next two movies. What I like most about this movie is the elaborate and difficult plan to defeat Godzilla, with lots of sacrifices. It makes the corresponding plan in Godzilla Resurgence (2016) look like a cheap trick.
The Man from Earth (2007) is a unique movie in that it basically only has a bunch of people talking in a house, about the protagonist being an immortal who has lived for 14000 years, and appeared in the Bible. It should be boring, but I found it to be fascinating with its alternative view of religion. The Man from Earth: Holocene (Blu-ray release 2018-1-23) is about a group of students finding out that their professor is the immortal, as described in a book published by someone in the first movie.
Much of the movie is dull and does not offer anything new. When it reaches the climax, however, finally there is one good idea being consistent with the biblical theme that is worthy of a sequel. This single idea should have been the basis of the whole movie, instead of just a short moment. This is a huge waste. That’s not the worst thing, however. It ends with an open ending, which is bad in itself, but the unforgivable thing is that it degrades into a different kind of conventional story, incoherent with its biblical theme.
The Dark Maidens / Ankoku Joshi (Blu-ray release 2017-8-26) starts with members of a high school literature club taking turns telling their stories about their relationship with the president of the club, and their theories of who murdered her. Their stories contradict each other, and eventually most of the members are suggested to be suspects. Based on a novel, this mystery progresses to reveal several twists.
I think the setup is great, and the plot is rich. The ending is unconventional in that it does not simply reveal who the killer is, it has significant implications for the surviving members as well. I think this is an advantage from its novel source. On the other hand, the contrived nature makes it totally unrealistic. One of the twists is also physically impossible to execute without any explanation.
The Korean movie Real (Bu-ray release 2017-12-29) is a real incomprehensible mess. In a way that I do not comprehend, the split personality of the protagonist is somehow transferred to another body and becomes a reporter. It appears that this reporter had investigated a new drug several years ago. They compete with each other for the ownership to a casino, and a nurse who treated both of them. Groups of other gangsters are also involved. Given the stylish scenes and the images, for those people who do not mind the higher than average sexiness and nudity, this movie could be just bad instead of terrible, if the filmmakers provided proper explanations for the people, relationship to each other, and their history in a chronological order.
A Beautiful Star / Utsukushii Hoshi (Blu-ray release 2017-12-6) is unlike every other movie that features alien. Loosely based on a 1962 novel, three members of a family are triggered by some events to consider themselves as aliens from other planets. The father sees a bright light when driving, loses time and memory, and wakes up in an unknown place. He eventually considers himself to be a martian, and uses his job of TV weather reporter to tell the public to stop damaging the environment.
Some reviews consider this to be a comedy, but I think this is a social commentary that promotes the awareness of environment protection, and (my interpretation) human is so bad that they should all die, leaving planet Earth to be a truly beautiful place, and raises the question of what beauty is. Everything is ambiguous in this movie, and I cannot find a definitive explanation other than some saying it is open to interpretation. Perhaps some hints can be found from the 1962 novel? Anyway, I’ll provide my view below.
SPOILER – Explanation
The following is my wild interpretation, and may be wrong.
Father – As a human he commits adultery. When he sees a bright light, he is abducted by UFO, implanted with a martian soul to carry out the mission of raising awareness of environment protection. Before he succeeds to summon the UFO on the rooftop, his body collapses due to cancer. When the body is dying, he is summoned by the UFO in form of a hallucination of his mistress. At the end the martian soul goes back to the UFO, the father becomes his original self and is left to die.
Mother – As the only non-alien in the family, she demonstrates stupidity by participating in a pyramid scam of selling overpriced bottled water.
Son – He is disrespectful of his female partner in the planetarium, but she does not demonstrate any good quality either, and admits to be with him only because of his superficial beauty. He is an alien from mercury, but his role is to establish his manager as another mercury alien, who has superpower that can inject visions to him in the elevator to test whether he has awakened, and to force push him away in the office.
Manager – Actually this is not an accurate description of his job, but anyway, his mercury voice points out that human is stupid and unable to make correct decisions, should just be left to die as part of true nature of universe. This position is symbolized by pressing a red button attached to an empty box.
Daughter – She is an alien from venus, and demonstrates the ability to summon UFO, which causes a strong wind to break the glass of the restaurant.
Singer – He steals a song from his bandmate and lies about writing it, sells it, borrows money from everyone, drug rapes the daughter, impregnates her and disappears. It is hard to say whether he is really an alien, but he really knows when the UFO shows up and teaches her the gesture to summon UFO. [Alternative: the bandmate lies about the singer due to jealousy.]
Mistress – She sleeps with the father only to advance her career and eventually take his job.
Politician – He represents the selfishness of human.
Teacher – He invites the daughter to join him only because she is beautiful.
Female classmates – They gossip behind the daughter.
Male classmate – He is only attracted to beautiful women and is disrespectful to those who are not beautiful.
Manufacturer of bottled water – They lie about where and how their product is manufactured. This represents yet another bad aspect of human society.
I did not like the alien invasion movie Skyline (2010) and felt that it was average and, worst of all, had an incomplete ending. I expected Beyond Skyline (Blu-ray release 2018-1-16) to be as bad but it’s slightly better than I expected. Most importantly, 7 years later this sequel finally addresses the previously incomplete ending. On the other hand, this sequel is very self contained so it can be watched without knowing what happened in the 2010 movie.
The plot is not completely satisfactory – such as the odd martial arts fight between two good guys, and the exact mechanism through which the war is won globally when only a local battle is shown (is this a spoiler to say human defeat the alien invaders?), let alone most of the characters who just appear so they can die later. Therefore I cannot call it a good movie, but it has one or two nice ideas, and it is fairly entertaining in that it makes things happen frequently enough.
Someone recommended me to watch a Russian movie like Gravity (2013) known as Salyut-7 (Blu-ray release 2018-1-3). This comparison is wrong, however. It is based on a real mission involving the real space station Salyut-7, like Apollo 13 (1995) did for an American mission.
I do not doubt that Russia is fully capable of making a great space movie. It actually starts fine and I’m excited about it. With two decades of advances of movie CG it offers some scenes that look more beautiful than Apollo 13 (1995), but the latter has a more realistic feeling. Then it goes wrong. It turns out that all the significant parts of this movie are mostly fiction, whereas significant parts of Apollo 13 are based on real events.
If the movie is a good fiction I can still enjoy and recommend it, but no. Whereas Apollo 13 demonstrated team work and the importance of the hard work and contribution by mission control, here in this movie the ground control does absolutely nothing, other than perhaps trying to get the astronauts killed instead of saving them. Ed Harris did a perfect portrayal of a flight director in Apollo 13, the corresponding role in this movie is just weak. He also recognizes his own powerlessness and therefore throws a chair to break a glass in the ground control center. Lastly, the American wives are comparatively more supportive, their counterparts in this movie are not.