Review: Life (2017)

I thought Life (Blu-ray release 2017-6-20) looks just like yet another Alien (1979) rip-off.  It turns out to be slightly better than that.  At least there are a few ideas that do not frequently show up in other monster movies, and fortunately there is probably less stupidity demonstrated in this movie than others in this genre.  However, there are several aspects that I’m not excited about.  Most importantly, the look of the alien seems quite nice and is not horrific enough.  I’m not convinced of the twist either.  If the alien is super intelligent, how could it not open simple doors?

Review: Dangal

Dangal (Blu-ray release 2017-5-24) is currently the highest grossing Indian movie.  It is a biographical sports drama about a father, who has no son, trains his daughters to be wrestlers.  Aside from perfect execution of a sports movie formula, this movie is unique because of the gender inequality the protagonists face in the particular social environment they live in.  Having the girls to do wrestling is an unimaginable crazy thing in the village.  It is remarkable to see the family persevered against all odds.  What makes it even more amazing is that this truly happened.  The depiction of the father-daughters relationship is also exceptionally well done.

This is a long movie.  At one point when the daughters reached a significant achievement, I thought the movie ends.  I was wrong, it was only half the movie.  What follows is a dramatic continuation to reach a much higher achievement.  This keeps the movie interesting.  However, many of the really dramatic events are mostly fiction instead of real history.

Review: A Silent Voice / Koe no Katachi

A Silent Voice / Koe no Katachi (Blu-ray release 2017-5-17) is a serious anime movie.  It sets its tone by beginning with the protagonist trying to commit suicide.  The story does not become more pleasant in the subsequent flashback.  We learn that as a child he bullied a cute transfer student who is deaf.  Unfortunately, the rest of the class is not friendly to the deaf girl either.  When things become so bad, it does not stop but becomes worse in a different direction: the protagonist becomes a victim of bullying.  Friendships break down.

The movie really deserves the really high scores it gets in reviews.  It not only shows us the horrible nature of bullying, it goes much further than that: as a result of bullying, the bullies themselves are not unharmed.  In addition, almost everyone is guilty to different extents.  After the bully becomes a victim, he realizes what he did was wrong and tried to reach out to the girl, and to mend the broken friendships.  We see that this is a long and really difficult process.  However impossible this task seems to be, the movie makes everything believable.

Review: The LEGO Batman Movie

The LEGO Batman Movie (Blu-ray release 2017-6-13) shows a Batman who is very different from the live action counterparts.  He works alone, and pushes people away who are trying to help him.  He also manages to be unlikable, although in a different way than Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.  The Joker is obsessed with getting Batman’s recognition of being his greatest enemy.  Failing that, he almost cries.  Even if individual scenes are funny, I just cannot swallow this premise.  The climax is also a letdown.

Review: The Silenced (2015)

The Silenced (Blu-ray release 2015-12-21) is a Korean mystery thriller.  A sick girl is transferred to a school with a Japanese headmistress.  The Korean students in this school compete for two positions to be sent to Tokyo based on their physical abilities.  After one third of the movie for set up, the protagonist witnesses a girl with a lot of blood, who then disappears.

This is not exactly a traditional horror movie, and is not for those who want a fast paced horror movie.  However, it does have a few scares which are done effectively.  Its strength actually lies in the atmosphere and the solid screenplay, which gradually unravels the mystery.  This type of subject is not usually favored by the West, so the story feels fresh.

Review: Wonder Woman (2017)

Wonder Woman (2017) is the best DC superhero movie since The Dark Knight (2008), period.  It has no major flaw, unlike other recent DC movies.  It is a solid origin story, packed with a sensible story, some interesting twists, and stylish slow motion action sequences.

For a story involving Greek gods, this movie does an admirable job making it reasonably believable.  In this respect, I think it is done much better than the animated Wonder Woman (2009).  In spite of positive reviews of the latter, I think the new live action is an order of magnitude better than the animated predecessor.  In addition to the plot, I also much prefer the role and achievements of Steve Trevor, along with the personality of Wonder Woman, in this new version.  The removal of the Invisible Plane is also the correct choice here – it made very little sense and was not convincing in the 2009 version either.

The way I look at it, this movie is somewhat similar to Captain America: The First Avenger (2011).  Wonder Woman is (possibly) the chronological first episode for the future Justice League, while Captain America (2011) is the first that paves way to the formation of Avengers.  Both movies are set in World War (I and II) era, and both superheroes eventually reach the modern times.  Both superheroes use a shield, too.  In terms of movie franchise, DC has been losing to Marvel.  However, between Wonder Woman (2017) and Captain America (2011), I’d say the former is superior and more entertaining with better action sequences.

Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

The reviews of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales tend to be average.  I did not like the previous movie as it was disconnected from and not as good as the first three, so I do not have high hopes for this one.  However, it is much better than I expected.  It has everything it should have: fun, large-scale action sequences, further development of the previous storyline in the third movie – of Orlando Bloom’s character’s curse and his son.  It even adds a backstory for Jack Sparrow, showing his rise to captain.  Some finds this plot to be convoluted, but I think it’s on par with the second and third movies.

Note: As with previous movies, there is an important extra scene after the credits.  The picture is often dark so it is not ideal for 3D.

Review: The Yuppie Fantasia 3 (小男人週記3之吾家有喜)

小男人週記3之吾家有喜 (The Yuppie Fantasia 3) (Blu-ray release 2017-4-7) is a comedy with social satire and sexual jokes.  It is generally well received in Hong Kong with a relatively good box office.

The 21-year old daughter of the protagonist suddenly shows up, and tells him that his divorced wife has passed away.  The protagonist has a secret romantic relationship with his secretary, and works for a bad boss.  The daughter has a close girlfriend, and is courted by the boss’s son.

The previous movie was released in 1990, but strangely in the movie timeline, only 13 years passed.  Some analysis gives this a political meaning, although this is not impossible I see no evidence for this interpretation.  Regardless of the social satire, at least some of the jokes work.  As a Chinese New Year movie, it is perhaps somewhat better than other movies it competes with.  However, I’m not particularly impressed by the romantic relationships in the movie.

Review: xXx: Return of Xander Cage

xXx: Return of Xander Cage (Blu-ray release 2017-5-16) is quite similar to the recent entries of the Fast and Furious franchise – both feature the same lead actor helping the government along with a team of supporting characters in some nonsense plot.  However, its achievement is not comparable.  There are too many characters here.  The climactic action sequences are comparatively ordinary, although I like the opening sequence.  Anyway, it is still a mindless action movie that is fairly entertaining.

Review: Alien 3: The Assembly Cut

Today is the 25th Anniversary of Alien 3 (1992).  Alien Anthology (Blu-ray release 2010-10-26) contains the extended version of it known as the Assembly Cut.  Most people think that the Assembly Cut is better than the theatrical version, and technically it is.  However, I still do not like it.

After Ripley rescued Newt in Aliens (1986), which is an exceptionally great movie, Alien 3 begins by telling us this adorable 10-year old girl is killed.  So all the great effort done before is wasted.  Even if the rest of Alien 3 were good, this makes it sour.  If the rest is bad, as most people thought, this makes it unforgivable.  This choice is just morally wrong.

Not long after learning Hicks died – who was a good guy, flirted with Ripley, and a survivor from the previous movie, Ripley seduces a doctor in this male-only prison planet and has sex with him.  I think this development is odd and not consistent with her personality established in the previous two movies.

Then Ripley faces dangers from the other prisoners.  A significant part of the movie is devoted to Ripley’s presence imbalancing the harmony of the prison.  In another drama movie this may have worked, but I think this is not the right content for an Alien movie.  The dangers should primarily come from the alien and the company in an Alien movie.

Most people who get killed by the alien is murderer and rapist.  So I have no reason to care about them, regardless of how much character development they are given.

While having no weapon in this movie might be a noble idea, the weaponless fight against the alien involves prisoners running in the tunnels in a really confusing manner.  This is just a dull experience.  It may help portray the bleak atmosphere, but I want an entertaining movie instead.

To summarize, the setting and the plot of the Alien 3 make many wrong choices, thereby preventing it from becoming a successful movie.