Thursday, January 31, 2008

Ginji the Slasher (1995)

Going into it, I expected this movie to be a typical Riki Takeuchi Direct to DVD blood bath: unambitious, but mildly entertaining. I was pleasantly surprised.
To be sure, there is a little bit of ultra violence in the movie, but its emphasis and heart does not lie on or in Takeuchi's exploits as young Ginji, but on and in Isao Natsuyagi's fifty years older, broken Ginji, a walking dead in every but the literal sense.
Most of the time, yakuza vengeance films eschew ambiguity as much as possible, Ginji actually thrives on it, heavily helped by Natsuyagi's impressive portrayal of a survivor, a broken man who's just not broken enough to go through with dying or senseless vengeance. The ambiguity that drives the film also encompasses its use of the fantastic and the uncanny. Some of it externalizes Ginji's inner turmoil and the (not incredibly clear) political metaphors, none of it is explained away (or explained at all, for that matter).
The direction of the film is solid throughout and as competent as one can expect of a film made on a shoestring budget like this. As is to be expected, not every actor here is as nuanced as Natsuyagi or as charismatic as Riki, but I didn't find anyone distractingly bad.
The script is as ambitious and ambiguous as if written directly for me, only some small moments of melodrama late in the movie fall a little flat.

I give the movie 4.5 out 5 depressed moments culminating in violence.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Friday, January 25, 2008

Torchwood & Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles or It's a nightmare, it's a nightmare

I'll keep this short. Why waste time on kicking dead pigs.

Sarah Connor Chronicles s01e01+02

So, let's talk about the worst dialogue one can possibly find, full of bad melodrama and the stupid, let's talk about a script that makes the Terminator 3 movie look like a work of writerly genius, let's talk about the least menacing evil android killers I have ever seen, let's talk about wasting Summer Glau again.
Or better, let's don't.

Torchwood s02e01 aka The Last Straw

After the Doctor Who Christmas Special and this, I've come to the following conclusion: Russel T. Davies and Chib Chibnall are consciously competing for the title of worst TV hack writer ever.
There is really no other explanation for this stupefying piece of crap, and it's really really really impossible to think that someone could read the script for this thing and think it even watchable. What surprised me was Chibnall's ability to do the seemingly impossible and write something that is even worse than the worst thing he wrote for the first season.
I could list all the ways in which the episode fails, but, seeing that it does in every way imaginable, I just don't have the heart. My life is just too short to waste more of it to this series.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Jade Empire

Jade Empire is an archetypical  Bioware RPG, this time in a pseudo-Asian martial arts world, but with the same strengths and the same flaws all Bioware Games share.
The biggest strengths being, as always, a great sense of character to most of the NPCs, even if you have seen some of the types before and really fun (sometimes funny) sidequests, as well as some of the most atmospheric worldbuilding you will find.
Alas, the flaws really are the same as always, too. So much so, in fact, that I am starting to doubt that Bioware actually wants to improve. The flaws are the terribly samey, been-there-done-that-plotting, moving from non-surprise to nice little idea to thing I lived through in every single other game by Bio, the lazy, too-streamlined combat, all culminating in a feeling that Bioware lets by now design parts of their games by automated plotting machines.
I don't mind the moral decision making part of the gameplay that got lots of flak from most reviewers as much. You just have to keep in mind that Bioware is a Canadian company and as such naturally unable to distinguish between rudeness and Evil. No offense.
Though all this may sound very negative, the game still has many moments of great fun, it just too often keeps on the safe side of the line between workmanship and art. I'm just hoping for Bio's designers to take some risks from time to time.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Eye in the Sky (2007)

The film rethinks the well-worn and beloved Hong Kong Cop movie genre for the surveillance age. As the earlier films of the genre were very much about doing things and the consequences of it, Eye in the Sky is about watching and the consequences of not doing.
I found this especially clear in the few action sequences of the film, which are not trying to bring us into the action as a participant, but as an observer.
The usual slickness and good to great acting of current Hong Kong cinema apply here, too.
For the most part, I highly recommend the film, only the excessive use of chance/divine intervention in the last act grates a little. Grates enough, actually, to make an essential film into a very good film.

Friday, January 4, 2008

So, how bad was the Doctor Who Holiday Special?

Ever heard of the Titanic? No? Lucky you. I never wanted to see anything happening on that damn ship ever again, but hey, who wants originality? Russel T. Davies not.
And I'm no longer slightly irritated by, but actively loathing the idea of the Doctor as intergalactic sex-pot whose magnetic rodenty looks let every woman he meets fall in love with him. And who falls deeply in love with every white woman he meets after about five seconds.
What else is there to say about the episode? Oh, yeah, the plot...You know who wrote it, so you know how incredibly sloppy it was. And of course, there has never been any sensible dramatic composition in a Davis-episode. So, until the guy finds himself a writing partner or a story editor, we'll have to live through crap like this.
Although I bet that the new Torchwood season will be even worse.
Where's Paul Cornell when you need him?