J-bot6

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Reviews

Kidô butôden G Gundam
(1994)

"Did everyone's IQ drop sharply while I was away?"
What happens when you remove the brains from Gundam and wrap it in Dragonball packaging? This.

If you're looking for plot, intrigue, political commentary, a thought-provoking story, or complex character relationships, you're much better off checking out the original Gundam movies that started it all (or perhaps Gundam : Stardust Memories).

You won't find anything in Mobile Fighter G Gundam that even approaches the territory of Legend of Galactic Heroes or even it's spiritual predecessor, Space Battleship Yamato in this video-game arcade fighter-esque installment with the name Gundam somehow attached to it. However, if you just want some excitement without the content that defines Gundam, then I suppose this might entertain you.

The animation quality is so-so; the English dub is pretty awful. However, the voicing seems to maintain the attitude of the show. The first antagonist is almost like listening to Starscream beak off long enough to have you reaching for the down button on the volume control.

Clearly, this is just marketed towards selling toys. No longer is real thought put into the process of entertaining (except perhaps coming up with a variety of mech designs). Again though -- that serves the purpose of selling product.

It would have been better if the people who thought up this series had just made an entirely new series instead of appropriating the name "Gundam" for it. Yes, you can have your amped-up Street Fighter battles. Just leave Gundam out of it.

Ôdîn - Kôshi hobune stâraito
(1985)

If you like big-concept pulp sci-fi, then don't miss this movie.
I'm a huge fan of the bold and wild imaginative worlds presented by pulp sci-fi. And I'm also a big fan of anime, having watched shows like Yamato/Star Blazers, Galaxy Express 1999, Macross, and a ton of other notable animated epics.

I'd seen the 90-minute U.S. cut of this film a long time ago and thought it was good, but not great. Recently though, I watched the 135-minute Japanese-language version twice in one week (yep, over four hours of viewing). My opinion on this movie has just jumped up a few notches. The more I watch this, the more I appreciate it. The design work is phenomenal and the soundtrack is excellent. In fact, I'm noticing a resurgence in interest in the band Loudness and the album that features songs from this film.

For me, I want a sci-fi film to take me places and this one certainly does. For a movie that has over a 2-hour running time, this one speeds along from location to location. In fact, it could use another hour. Regardless, the quick pace is fine with me, since that's a hallmark of the earlier days of science fiction (with 2001: A Space Odyssey being the exception).

This feature has many many influences, and pretty much every title I've mentioned in this review are among them. I noticed in the FAQ that people criticized this film for treading a similar path to Space Battleship Yamato. However, I don't see people saying the same about Legend of the Galactic Heroes or a few other features that also owe a great deal to Yamato. I'd go as far as to say that Odin actually improves on Yamato in a number of ways while adding in welcome elements like concepts from Fred Saberhagen's Berserker novels.

This movie stays on course and maintains a consistent tone. I can't say enough about the latter, since so very many sci-fi features go off the rails or insert silly characters or scenes for seemingly no reason. Odin, however, keeps things consistent and even manages to end the film on a very emotional and epic note.

I salute the people who made this film possible and all the thought and hard work that they put into it. Bravo!

Thanks also to neo1024. You've done a man's job sir!

Misfits of Science: Grand Theft Bunny
(1985)
Episode 10, Season 1

A show that was cancelled too soon
Not the best episode of the series, but still a good one. Well shot and edited.

This entire series was really ambitious, and -- clearly -- the studio didn't really understand it. That seems strange to me since this is the same studio that brought us hits like "The Six Million Dollar Man", "The Bionic Woman", "Battlestar Galactica", and "V".

I think the only real fault I can give this episode is the rough treatment of the brown rabbit. Either the wrangler or the director for the sequence near the end (at approximately the 39 minute mark) are at fault here and this should be used as an example of how not to treat an animal on set (yes, I do hold a union card).

Detoneita ogan
(1991)

Excellent
I've seen a ton of anime over the last 40 years and this is one of the best.

What really surprises me is that I didn't see this before now.

The art direction is great (borrowing from Blade Runner, Aliens, and Return of the Jedi). Mech designs are excellent. I suspect that the designer of these is likely the same person who later designed the mechs for Evangelion. Of course, this pre-dates Neon Genesis by many years.

The story is a simple one with an important message. It's a theme that appears in a lot of anime. Today's viewers should put this into context and realize that many famous anime have borrowed from this series. And for the message that it conveys, Detonator Orgun succeeds where Harmageddon failed.

Top all of this cool presentation off with a soundtrack that features a vocalist that sounds like a Japanese version of Ultravox. Awesomeness abounds.

TRON: Uprising
(2012)

Phenomenal
Excellent art direction is one of the hallmarks of this series. Combine that with great writing, exceptional voice acting, compelling score, and a ton of interesting characters and plot twists, and you have a winner.

Plenty of call-backs to both TRON films show that the writers and designers are unafraid to apply their formidable attention to detail. This is a project to be proud of.

Once-again though, Disney has shot themselves in the foot by canceling this series. Yet another critical mistake by Disney management in the last few years.

Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker
(2019)

I thought I quit Star Wars...
After The Last Jedi and Solo, I actually quit Star Wars. I'd had it.

Then my friends went to see The Rise of Skywalker and they were saying quite a few positive things about it. So I decided to finally go and see it.

It seems that Abrams and his writing crew managed to salvage what seemed unsalvageable. Certainly, this film threw a few too many things into the mix (everything but the kitchen sink, as the saying goes). I could do with a little less 'cute creature' stuff and less line re-use. Aside from that -- and some over-the-top scenes featuring a charge on 'horseback' -- this film actually works.

Those who have been following Star Wars since the beginning will notice references to the original concept art as well as scenes (like the end sequence) framed much like a Kurosawa film. Couple this with scenes that repair the damage done by Ruin and his crew and we have what represents a real effort to make up for lost time. Tight editing and a real effort by all the actors and this film actually takes on an epic feel.

There are some familiar faces in this installment. When I saw the trailers, I figured they were just there as a last ditch effort to save the franchise. After seeing the film though, I see that they're more than just cameos and play a pivotal part in the plot. I really enjoyed seeing them in this series again (you know who I'm talking about).

So a big thanks to everyone who worked on this and for finally giving the original fans something much more akin to episodes IV, V, and VI.

Batman Ninja
(2018)

Much better in Japanese
This is a different (and much superior) movie in Japanese. The English audio version feels like it was written by a 5-year-old and is filled with re-used juvenile catch-phrases. After watching it in English, I was about to review this and give it a 6. But I decided to watch it again in Japanese and upped it a point to a 7 out of 10.

Seriously, it's like watching another film entirely. Even the pacing seems different (giving the viewer time to absorb what's going on). I feel sorry for the original creators that the intended tone of this production was literally lost in the audio translation.

As for the style, it's pretty cool. I kept thinking of how it put me in mind of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure (to have my suspicions confirmed when I saw the interview with the Japanese staff).

One tip when watching this is to not over analyze it. There's some crazy stuff that happens at the end that is off the scale. All in good entertainment though.

Dark Matter
(2015)

Worth watching -- especially in today's doldrums
The first time I tried watching this show, I gave up after the first episode. My impression was that it was yet another Sci-Fi series featuring cookie-cutter 'chip-on-their-shoulder' characters trying to be cool. Sometime later, I was looking around for an alternative to the abysmal Discovery, and figured I'd give this series another chance. I'm glad I did.

Dark Matter turned out to be a pleasant surprise as events and characters developed. The situations are interesting, putting me in mind of the RPG Traveller, wrapped up in the excellent visual sensibility of EVE Online. And although many people have compared this series to Firefly, it actually reminds me of another legendary series from the past: Blake's 7. Counting the android, it even has seven crew members. Additionally, the situations they find themselves in are reminiscent of Blake and his team (although in this series, there's less of a leader figure). One could argue that Blake had a tenuous grip on leadership of his own crew as well.

Also of note are the solid visual effects and the effort to present plenty of noteworthy locations to the audience (including space stations and derelict starships). And worthy of mention is the very cool soundtrack which includes some of the best basslines I've ever heard in sci-fi since Michael Boddicker's score for the mining colony bar in Outland.

Clearly, those who created and carried out this series know a thing or two about science fiction. A sincere thanks to everyone involved.

Solo: A Star Wars Story
(2018)

After school special
While watching this film, I couldn't help but feel that it was more like a television show than a motion picture. It doesn't really strike me as a Star Wars movie. Instead, it's something different.

Although the cast members did a really good job with what they had to work with, this came off as yet another prequel that lifts idea after idea from the movies that preceded it. For example:
  • 'Got to get off of this planet'.
  • 'I've got your money'.
  • Thermal detonator.
  • 'Watch this' followed by turning the ship sideways.
  • The 'Fed to the beast in the pit' scene.
  • 'I don't have it here, now'.
  • Homing beacon attached to the Falcon.
  • Interrupted kiss.
  • The 'envoy with slaves' routine.


As for the elements of the story that actually were somewhat original... those too were problematic. In particular, the liberties that were taken with the character of Lando. Despite this, Donald Glover did a great job of duplicating Billy Dee Williams' line delivery and mannerisms. Too bad the script and its interpretation of his character didn't rise to the same level.

There are a number of twists in the story that are a bit too pat. And relationships that clearly took a long time to develop only took mere hours or a few days to develop in this film's interpretation of Han. Chewie, and Lando's earlier years. Too many things just seemed a bit off -- enough so that I can't accept this as canon.

Finally, there's the score. Pretty much everything that wasn't composed by John Williams just didn't fit. It put me in mind of Back to the Future. Don't get me wrong.... I like Back to the Future. But if that's what I wanted to see, I would have just played that film instead.

I don't envy Ron Howard for the task of trying to patch this movie up and complete the project. Clearly, he and the actors did the best they could with what they were provided. However, it just does what so many of the recent films have done to this saga. And that is, they've made it a smaller and less awe-inspiring universe with changes to characters that go a long way to demystify something that should never be demystified.

Westworld
(2016)

Season 1 = Solid.
I'm happy to report that the writing improves as you progress through season 1. In particular, episode 3 is where it really takes gets its footing. And the finale for the first season is pretty phenomenal. Excellent performances by Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, and pretty much the entire cast. I was concerned at first when I saw Abrams' name attached to this that it might end up being a bit 'fluffy'. However, it stayed on an even keel and the maintained a thoughtful tone throughout. And when dealing with existential material in the same vein as The Creation of the Humanoids (1962) and Blade Runner (1982), it's imperative to present material in such a way that the viewer can remain thoughtful and make connections.

When watching these episodes, many ideas come to mind, including simulation theory, consciousness, the evolution of (and potential replacement of humanity by) A.I., free will vs. control, perception as it relates to memories, personality as a function of traumatic life events, sentience, morality, the value of compassion, reincarnation, the human condition, and much more.

From a technical standpoint, the series is scored, shot, lit, and edited well. Nice use of set design and lighting. Special (practical) and visual effects are very nicely done. Most surprising to me is that it actually retains a bit of the feel of the Westworld (1973) and Future World (1976) movies. Usually, modern takes on 1970s material end up being almost indistinguishable from their source material. However, some of the 'feel' of the original is here. In particular, the intrigue and mystery of the originals is retained.

I've seen most of the first season of Altered Carbon. And, in my humble opinion, I think Westworld does a better job of tackling similar themes.

As a final comment, I'll say that I certainly appreciated the little details -- like the various modern-era songs on the player piano (e.g. "Black Hole Sun" by Soundgarden and "A Forest" by The Cure.

This is a show worth watching.

Westworld: The Original
(2016)
Episode 1, Season 1

Pretty good although slightly pretentious.
I finally managed to find time to start watching this series. The first two things that struck me were the score and the cinematography. Both are very well done. The acting is also really quite good. Of course, having seasoned actors like Anthony Hopkins does tend to help give the lines added weight.

Unfortunately, the teleplay seems to try a bit too hard in a few areas: first, with over-use of swearing as an attempt to make the technical characters seem more 'cool' or authoritative? And second, a scene in which one character corrects a supposed grammatical 'error' that isn't an error at all. Then the version of the line that they 'correct' them on is actually incomplete. A note to the writers (there are two listed for this teleplay): "No one respects him more than me." is correct. And the version that it was replaced with should -- technically -- have the work "do" added to the end of the sentence. I only bring this up because some people out there in the audience might actually acquire bad habits if they actually believe what's said in this particular scene.

Writing issues aside, I enjoyed this episode and felt that it was a welcome take on the Westworld/Future World 'universes'. The visual effects are nicely done, the lighting is superb, and the production quality actually exceeds some cinematic features.

Alita: Battle Angel
(2019)

Disregard the negative reviews and see it for yourself
Wow, am I glad I decided to get a group together and go out to see this. My original plan was to stay home and not go out into the cold. But then I did a quick web search and checked to see what the audience opinion of Alita was (as opposed to the terrible things written by the 'professional' critics). I had read the first couple of volumes of the 1990s manga back in 1994. Hence I was going in with some knowledge. Regardless, my expectations were average (neither high nor low).

Like many manga, Alita's universe is richly-developed and massive. Thankfully, this movie goes out of its way to clearly present a big and detailed futuristic world. The sheer amount of work put into the live-action/CGI composites is stunning. People familiar with VFX can see the money on the screen. But for me, visual effects are not enough to make for a good film. And in part due to the brilliant and emotive portrayal of Alita on the big screen, this movie really gets its grips on you. Alita is a joy to watch and listen to. She's splendid, and every scene with her is a welcome one. It's nice to see a movie with a non-pretentious and earnest character finding her way in the world and standing by what she believes in. The actor chosen to play Ito was a wise choice too. In fact, he looks almost exactly like his counterpart in the anime and manga.

Of course, this movie also includes all the action you'd expect to see. And the action is both furious and easy to decode. Clearly the blocking for the action had a lot of thought put into it. It's also apparent that a number of sequences were lifted from the pages of the manga. And good on the filmmakers for being faithful to the source material.

If action and drama are still not enough for you, there are flashbacks and discovery scenes in this movie that work well to add a sense of mystery and intrigue. These were welcome and something that manga and anime usually drop in during the latter parts of their stories. In this case, there's only about two hours to get the information across, so they're very quickly integrated into the story line. Personally, I don't mind the accelerated speed that the scenes were presented. Unfortunately, a number of viewers nit-picked this and were hoping for a lot more time to be spent on each theme or revelation in the film. I think this 'need' for extended scenes may be the result of story arcs being expanded for an entire season when in the 1980s, the same amount of material was presented in only two episodes. Audiences seem to have become used to the slower pace. Ironically, modern audiences seem to also want more action. I can see the task of providing both as being a real challenge for modern film-makers.

Ultimately, I think the right decisions were made for this live-action interpretation of Alita. Sure, there are a few scenes that I would have liked to have been shot a bit differently (like the scene with Ito's daughter). And yes there are a few bits of dialogue that are a bit weak or awkward. Then-again, most of that can be forgiven since -- at the end of the day -- this is a movie that is based on a comic.

The cinematography is good. The editing is excellent. And the soundtrack matches the material nicely. There's a musical sequence near the beginning that was truly emotive and refreshingly different than what I've heard in film scores in recent years.

Ultimately, I recommend this film. It's worth seeing on the big screen. Although I'm not a huge fan of 3D, I have to admit that it makes good use of it. There was even a scene in which it appeared as if Ito walked from the aisle in the theater and onto the stage in front of the movie screen. A cool effect for a cool movie.

Scion
(1984)

Xevious-esque
Great game.

If you like Xevious, you'll probably like this game.

It uses a similar shoot and bomb system, but with a catch. your bombs are intended for destroying the interlocks that hold a layer of a station together. Once you've destroyed all of the interlocks, that layer of the station falls away to reveal a layer below it. As you descend, you make your way to the core. All of this makes for interesting viewing as the layers slide past each other using parallax scrolling.

Although this is available for a variety of home systems (lke the MSX), I'd recommend starting with the arcade version first.

This game was pretty much unknown in North America and is only now gaining some level of familiarity with retro video game enthusiasts.

Uchû kôkyôshi Mater: Ginga tetsudô Three-Nine gaiden
(2004)

Pretty good; not as powerful as the original 1979 feature
Despite having similar plot points, this turns out to be a prequel to the 1979 movie "Galaxy Express 999". Surprisingly, although computer animation was used to assist, this series actually displays a lower level of detail. The CGI works okay for the ships, however.

Something that this series does offer that is sparse in the original 999 film is the interaction between Emeraldas and Maetel. These scenes are great to watch and really help fill in the details that aren't shown in the feature film. Animation for the classic characters is also nicely done, and helps add to the back-story.

Pacing is pretty good, action scenes are nicely done, and characters are handled well (although Nazca is a bit abrasive up until near the end of the series). Again though, this series doesn't have the weight or sadness of the 1979 film. For those wishing to get into this series, it's recommended that viewers first watch some of the Captain Harlock episodes, then see the 1979 Galaxy Express 999 film, followed by this series. That way things will make more sense.

Alien: Covenant
(2017)

Recycling and rail-jumping
** Spoilers follow **

What can I say that's good about this film? Well, the aspect ratio was good. And if you look at some of the shots as still-frames, they look well-composed. The lighting's good in most instances. And the ending is pretty neat. By that I mean the last ten minutes of the film.

Now for the problems in this film. First and most obvious (to me anyway) is the camera that the DOP opted to use. I'm not sure if more than one spec of camera captured the material for this movie but there are quite a few shots that look like high-resolution home video. It appears to be a frame-rate issue (and no I wasn't watching it on one of those horrid high-frame-rate televisions). Note to future film-makers, please do tests to determine if you're getting a 'home video look' to your shots. And if so, find a way to avoid it (whether through a different camera selection or using some kind of film-look filter... or better yet, shooting on actual film).

The next issue is the music. There are sections of score that call back to the score for the 1979 film. However, they're placed in scenes in which they just don't match up. Then there are new pieces of score that sound like excerpts from Star Trek Voyager. Either way, it doesn't suit the material here.

Characters are the next item to address. Similar to Prometheus, there are miscellaneous crew characters that are both flat and borderline silly. In this motion picture, many of them conduct themselves in an unbelievably unprofessional manner. It puts me in mind of the conduct you'd expect from a bunch of campers in a budget slasher horror flick.

Then there's the plot and the timeline -- neither of which make any sense in the context of the original 1979 feature. We know that the events of Prometheus take place around thirty years before the events of Alien. And we know that the events in Covenant take place from that time through to about twenty years prior to the events depicted in the 1979 film. However, it was clearly established that the Space Jockey in Alien had been in the chair long enough that it had fossilized. Its ribs were burst outwards and the familiar leathery large eggs were already in the ship. So we can already conclude that the eggs on the ship in Alien and the death of the Space Jockey had taken place thousands of years ago -- if not millions of years prior to the discovery of the ship by the crew of the Nostromo. The idea of David being the one who completed the development of the genetic engineering of the bio-weapon into the form of the Alien that we see in the 1979 motion picture is simply not possible considering the time-frame.

Further complicating this is the concept of the facial structure and bulk of the Space Jockey being a suit worn by a large humanoid (as proposed in Prometheus). Again, this doesn't match up with the position of the ribs of the Space Jockey in Alien. I'm surprised that the writers didn't instead go with the concepts laid out in the Dark Horse graphic novels that followed the film Aliens.

Even if we were to go with the idea that it is a large humanoid in a suit then we have to deal with some other questions raised by Covenant: If in fact they are such an advanced race, then how is it that they wouldn't include some form of authentication for vessels of their own that approach their home-world? How is it possible that their planetary defense system consists solely of a single shield? Where are the rest of their ships? For a space-faring race, how is it that ships from other worlds that they have very likely explored are not returning to investigate the crisis on their home-world? Are we to believe that no distress signal was ever sent from their home planet in response to being bombarded by their own bio-weapons? It just seems like the details weren't thoroughly thought out. And this seems to be a recurring problem in modern film-making -- especially when dealing with prequels and sequels.

Next on the list is the use of recycled lines from other films (including Alien and Blade Runner). Now I'm not sure what secret screenplay writing manual instructs writers to recycle lines as some supposedly clever way to tie a new script into an existing one but I have news for whomever believes that. It doesn't work. Recycling lines is a sure-fire way to cheapen both the original film that's being referenced and the new film -- all in one go. It isn't clever and it comes across as juvenile.

Creature design is another issue. Although I suspect that the idea of making monkey-aliens is supposed to suggest to the audience that there's a primitive stage right before the official Alien stage in the creature design, it unfortunately ends up looking ridiculous. The crazed little monkey-aliens running and jumping around are more comical than creepy and turn the scenes into something akin to slapstick.

Finally, I have to mention the scenes that just don't seem to fit the tone of Alien. These include the flute-playing lessons and the aforementioned mini-alien antics in the wheat field. And if we go back to the previous film (Prometheus), there are the scenes that include the crew-member talking to a snake alien like it's a cute pet, the two guys howling in the hallways in an attempt to anthropomorphise their mapping spheres, and the very silly head exploding scene in the laboratory.

Keeping consistency of tone is what's really hurt this series of films. It was very apparent starting with Alien Resurrection and carried right through to Covenant. It's unfortunate because a sophisticated and well-designed film like Alien really deserves better.

Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse
(2012)

Surprisingly good
Having worked in the computer animation industry, I sometimes check out shows to see how good (or bad) their CGI is. And that's how I stumbled upon this show on Netflix. A lot of shows targeting younger audiences really cut corners, so it was a complete surprise when I checked this out and discovered that the computer animation is very well done, the editing is tight, audio mix is clear and clean, and the writing is brilliant.

Rounding this is off is an excellent set of pop-culture references, including Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Star Trek.

The characters are all unique from one-another and the writer clearly put a lot of effort in distributing lines to as many characters as possible (not an easy task). The comedic timing is spot on, with plenty of little details to the character's actions and facial expressions.

Now I'm curious to know more about the team that worked on this show.

Nicely done and hopefully something that will set the standard for other programming of this type to live up to.

Archer
(2009)

Fun show, albiet a bit racy
Lots of neat things happening in this show. It has a bit of 007 in it, combined with truly enjoyable zaniness. The characters are great fun and the voice acting is phenomenal.

As the show progressed, I liked the art style more and more -- culminating in season eight's fantastic use of art deco.

While watching the eight seasons, I was convinced that the writer would run out of material. Somehow he managed to keep coming up with interesting stuff. A note to people who want to check this out.... It's targeted at adults and some of the jokes get a bit graphic and maybe a little too over-the-top in the toilet humor department. However, it makes up for it with cool story ideas, strong characters, and great gags. It even throws in super-keen Aliens, Terminator, Six Million Dollar Man, and Blade Runner references. Oh and there's even an animated doppelganger of Lauren Bacall to boot.

I'm definitely looking forward to the next two seasons.

Tau
(2018)

Pretty good for a TV movie
Less of a 'motion picture' and more of a TV movie, Tau puts me in mind of "984: Prisoner of the Future" but without as much mystery.

Tau is essentially the story of a girl who is introduced to the audience as a person who thinks only of herself (partly out of necessity) and eventually learns to care for others. Events of the film prompt her to question the purpose of learning and improving as a result of discussions with an artificial intelligence. That combined with a great deal of strife in a short amount of time push her to think about herself and her role in the world.

The first thing that caught my attention was the remarkable lighting work. It's superbly done with great use of color. The restrained and disciplined use of the camera was also a welcome sight. Those who worked on production design, lighting, and camera work are to be commended -- as is the group that handled the robot design and presentation. .

The acting was acceptable for this type of story. And as for the story itself. Well, it isn't something sprawling or epic by any means. This is more like an episode of The Outer Limits or Twilight Zone -- just with glossier presentation. And if accepted as that, it's really quite good.

Where it falls a bit short is in its ability to really make the viewer feel for the girl in the story. I actually found that I felt more sorry for the A.I. than I did for her. There are a number of moments in this film that come close to really gripping the audience but fall just a bit short. Surprisingly, in the running time available, it still felt as if some things could have used a bit more time to develop.

If you don't mind the short-story feel of this production and the sense of watching something akin to a play with great lighting, then this will probably work for you. If on the other hand you were expecting a rollicking epic, then you might be a bit disappointed.

Ready Player One
(2018)

Still worth seeing, despite the changes
Yes, there are a lot of changes from the book. Filmmakers have no choice in that regard, so this shouldn't be a surprise to savvy film-goers.

Over all, I felt that most of the changes were pretty good. Some even handled scenes a bit better than the book did. I felt that the book made too big a deal about Aech being a black girl. Why would that be such a shock to Wade anyway? Thankfully, the film handled that better and just had him acknowledge right away that Helen is Aech, is his friend, they're in danger, and they'd better run -- quick!

Certainly I was sad to see quite a few references disappear, including: Dungeons of Daggorath, all of the music by Rush, the Joust challenge, War Games references, etc.... At the same time, I completely understand the reasons for changing those references since -- lets face it -- how many people in the general public today even know what Dungeons of Daggorath is?

Thankfully, most of the references that were 'removed' still appear here and there in the background for observant people to spot. It was nice to see a functioning ColecoVision in the scene near the end of the film. And there's a Rush poster on the wall in that same scene.

There are people on IMDB whining about how the movie is packed full of pop culture. Well, here's news to those who haven't figured it out yet: The book and the film ARE pop culture. They're cans of pop culture that happen to have a label that reads, "Ready Player One." If you're expecting something other than that, then you're too confused to write a review that's relevant to the film.

On a more technical note, this film is shot well, effects are quite good, and the pacing is pretty quick. The tasks that characters take on have changed a bit from the book. When Art3mis was captured, I was afraid that it was going to turn into a 'damsel in distress' cliche. However, her escape was more of an assist, with Samantha having the guts to take the risks required to shut down the shield (although that kind of 'borrows' from Star Wars part IV).

The acting was good, with Simon Pegg and Mark Rylance both doing an exemplary job. And although he doesn't appear in the book, T.J. Miller's I-R0k turned out to be my favorite character. He helps make up for the omission of the Lich.

Another fun addition is the segment from the Shining. I dare say their representation of The Shining is actually better than Kubrick's. They even went as far as to add a scene that Kubrick's film sadly left out. It was nice to see it included here, and was a subtle and clever way to reveal an aspect of Helen's character.

For those who so wanted more of the build-up that the book had, consider that such a long arc would have been plodding and slow cinematically. That's just the way it works in film. I'm sure that would feed the flame of those reviewers that somehow found this film to be boring. How that's possible is beyond me. Perhaps there's a subset of the population that needs to stare at strobe lights 24/7 while listening to three soundtracks at the same time in order to be entertained. If that's the case, perhaps they should consider themselves to be outside the bell curve and keep their comments to their own clique..

Sorrento was a bit of a departure from the character in the book -- to the point where he looked like he actually sympathized with Wade at the end of the film. This is something that I don't buy at all and feel that he should only have hesitated because the police were there and not out of any sense of morality or nostalgia. I also didn't really like the use of his first name so often in the film (since his first name is the same as Nolan Bushnell's and almost sounds like it's trying to frame Nolan as a video game villain whereas the real Nolan of video game pop culture was quite the opposite and someone that we can thank for helping build and shape the video game industry that gamers enjoy so much). So I suppose there's the good Nolan of the real world and the bad Nolan of the film.

In contrast, the use of Ogden Morrow as the Curator was a clever touch and one that worked quite nicely. It still gets the quarter into the main character's possession and -- at the end of the day -- has the same effect as in the book.

In conclusion, this is different from the book but still entertaining. It mixes 80s references with those of the 90s and today. In the process, it still caters to geek culture (which is what it's supposed to do). It's well-presented and keeps a decent pace. There are a few depictions of characters (like the head of IOI) that seem a bit off. However, it's close enough.

Blame!
(2017)

Blame! explained in context
First there was "The Creation of the Humanoids", then "Blade Runner", and "Terminator". These helped to spawn "Ghost in the Shell" and "Appleseed". If we built a timeline and placed Masamune Shirow's GITS first and Appleseed second, then Tsutomu Nisei's NOiSE would be #3 with Blame! being the latest entry on the timeline -- taking us to Earth's the far future.

The film starts with the Electro-Fishers. They are descendants of what were known as The Planters. This is likely a name that they received when they used to work for Toha Heavy industries, managing the 'growth' of humanoid exterminator cyborgs that were used as a security force by the city. Hence the armor and the spears that are capable of killing an errant exterminator. In the film, the Electro-Fishers have long since forgotten their role in the city and are concerned because they are both running out of armor and no longer know how to make more armor and weapons. They're also running out of food and are on the brink of extinction. They live on the outer shell of Toha Heavy Industries. However, if they were to enter the core of Toha (as in the manga), they would find new suits of armor in storage.

At the beginning of the film, a group of young Electro-Fishers are looking for food and they're concerned about being spotted by watch towers and being killed by exterminators/safeguards. This is because the city is autonomous and its programming went haywire some time in the past. Originally, all humans had a special gene that allowed them to connect to the net and (if they had sufficient privileges) control the city. Hence pretty much all humans were registered citizens. In the NOiSE graphic novel, there were police detectives that would investigate cases in which there were people who were not registered. Somewhere along the line, a net-controlled security force was created called The Safeguards. These cyborgs were eventually given complete autonomy and instead of simply investigating cases of non-registered humans, their instructions were warped to instead kill all humans that were not registered citizens. Originally this would have been a very small number of people. However, a virus wiped out almost every instance of the gene that allowed people to connect to the city (destroying their registration status/citizenship in the process). From that point on, the city and the safeguards began mass-killings of humans. The Planters/Electro-Fishers were some of the few humans with sufficient armor and weaponry to survive. They live in a protected zone; once they step out of that zone, they're a target as well.

The young group of Electro-Fishers get in over their heads and it looks like it's the end for them when a mysterious figure clad in black shows up. He raises a gun and fires -- annihilating the exterminators and cutting a swath of destruction that extends for kilometers. In the film, he introduces himself as Killy (his actual name is Kirii : Pronunciation, "keedy"). He is a cyborg that is using an unregistered prototype high-level safeguard body and is on a quest to find a human with the net terminal gene and connect to the city to set things right again. Along the way, the administration/authority try to help him out as best they can. Similar to network administrators today, there is an administration in the world of Blame! that would like to help; ever since the decision to make the safeguards autonomous, the administrators have had limited powers and are essentially locked out. The remnants of the administrators exist mainly in the NetSphere (the web or internet of the future). The NetSphere has become so expansive that it is possible to have one's consciousness uploaded into the NetSphere and then downloaded into a cyborg or android body. There is also the option to simply exist in the NetSphere without a body in our (base) reality.

The Electro-Fishers take Kirii to their settlement where he gives them a unit of compressed food. They expand the food and marvel at the technology behind it. He identifies himself as human, although he isn't strictly human. Kirii's memories are foggy and fragmented since he's been revived a number of times over thousands of years. One thing he knows with certainty is his mission and he will stop at nothing to complete it.

Kirii tells the Electro-Fishers his mission objective. In turn they tell him about a place near their settlement where a strange voice emanates from a 'ghost'. Kirii goes with a small group of Electro-Fishers to investigate and finds the remains of an android named Cibo. She is a high-level scientists who has been waiting for someone to come along who could help her. Kirii picks up what is left of her body and sets off on a mission to a factory (with a group of Electro-Fishers in tow). Cibo grants access to the factory and executes commands to both manufacture more units of food as well as generate a new android body for herself. Unfortunately, her use of the console alerts the safeguard exterminators. Kirii, Cibo, and the Electro-Fishers barely make it out of the factory and they board a train back to the settlement.

Back at the settlement, things seem normal. However, one of the Electro-Fishers turns out to be an impostor. Back at the factory, a female high-level safeguard had killed and then copied the form of one of the Electro-Fishers. She is seen dragging a large gun to the edge of a cliff and firing at the perimeter generator that Cibo had created many years ago. The generator is destroyed and the settlement is now accessible to the exterminators. Meanwhile, Cibo was already on her way to try to log in through a terminal that she's brought back from the factory. Kirii was originally slated to protect Cibo's body while she jacked into the terminal. But the distance to the safeguard was too far and he had to move in for a closer shot. Kirii and the female high-level safeguard (Sanakan) duke it out with Sanakan pinning Kirii to the ground. She is confused by Kirii since he appears to be a high-level safeguard as well. In an attempt to salvage him, Sanakan asks him if he will agree to re-join the high-level safeguards. Kirii refuses and their battle continues.

Ultimately, Kirii and the Electro-Fishers end up having to evacuate the settlement and are led by Cibo and Kirii to an elevator that leads to a new location within the city. Kirii waits for them to enter the elevator and then stays behind to fend off the safeguards. The film ends with Kirii raising his gun to fight a massive exterminator as the elevator descends to a lower level of the massive city.

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My take on this film is a positive one. It's expertly put together and I was happy to see that the original writer/artist was very involved with the production of this movie. The level of care shows in every frame and sound. The Japanese voice-acting is phenomenal with the voices of Kirii, the Electro-Fisher elder, and Cibo stealing the show. Use of camera angles and lighting is excellent. And the sense of scale of the graphic novel is well-represented. The movie successfully takes a slice of the manga series and presents it in a relatively-understandable format. The challenge with a story like Blame! is to take elements that will work in a film and not clutter it too much. Hence it makes sense that they would leave out potentially confusing elements like the silicon life of the manga. having yet another faction added to the film's story line would have been too much for most audiences.

The pacing of the film is good (and actually reminds me of the pacing of the first Terminator movie). It has a nice balance of action and slower periods in which the viewer can relax and take in the extraordinary surroundings offered by the future-city. For those who enjoy sci-fi and cyberpunk, I highly recommend this film (and the manga of the same name). This represents a significant contribution to the genre embedded with an important warning for the future development of artificial intelligence and computer-controlled autonomous systems. Let's not make this the future.

I Am Thor
(2015)

Even if you don't know the band, this is worth a watch
I thought I knew a lot about music (and I even spent time in a band myself). So I feel kind of embarrassed that I didn't know about this band until watching this documentary.

It was super late at night and I was thinking of stopping and getting some shut-eye. However, I'm glad I stayed up and watched this through until the end. It turned out to be quite the story of highs, lows, and sheer determination. No matter how bad things got, how questionable the situation, how tattered the band became, or how ridiculous a scenario was that was playing out in front of your eyes -- rest assured somehow and some way Jon Mikl Thor would face things with a positive attitude.

The unabashed honesty in this documentary is fearless. Here's a person who wears his heart on his sleeve and is truly likable. And he's willing to put the good and the bad times out on display for everyone to see. No publicist filter here at all. It's actually really refreshing to see in this age of carefully scripted and curated presentation. It makes you laugh, cry, worry, and cheer. And that folks is entertainment.

Bravo to Thor and all the musicians and loved ones that helped him on his journey here in midgard.

White Girl
(2016)

You want acting? You got it!
As the review title suggests, I was impressed by the acting in this film. In fact, the performances are phenomenal -- especially from Morgan Saylor. Absolutely fearless.

It's nice to see a movie that depicts people as real people in real places instead of as hyper-real, campy, or contrived. I personally know people who made the move from small towns/small cities to the big city and this story rings true on a number of levels.

Watching the characters descend into what seems to be an unrecoverable downward spiral is fascinating both by the tragedy of it and the accelerated pace that this film presents. As such, the tight editing in this movie should also be mentioned. The narrative flows smoothly throughout.

Leah's encounters with the various 'pitfalls' of the big city proceed to take a notch off of her over-confident view that she is an invincible thrill-seeker -- free of consequence.

So it is then that the final scene of her sitting down to the first day of the second year of college is all that more jarring. It makes you really wonder what kind of history your classmates have. Behind each face is a story, and hers is so extreme that it threatens to rip her right out of functional society. One change that I think might have resulted in even more impact would have been to make it the first day of her first year at college. She could still have been the same age (perhaps taking some time off after graduating high school). That way she'd truly be moving into new territory with a nearly-destroyed frame-of-reference. As it is though, it's still an effective ending that leaves the audience to ponder what is either her new beginning or the start of a new crash.

What is most haunting is that Blue will probably always hate her and will never know the sacrifices that she made to try to help him (however misguided her methods were).

Kommissar X - Jagd auf Unbekannt
(1966)

A fun Spaghetti Bond film
I started out thinking that this was going to be yet another poorly- executed Bond clone. But once the movie got rolling, it turned out to be a lot of fun.

The two lead characters are both cool and charismatic in their own ways. There's a neat 'buddy-cop' vibe happening here; for the most part -- they're opposites. Tony Kendall's character Jo Walker resembles George Clooney (or maybe George Clooney resembles him) and Brad Harris' Tom Randall almost looks like a classic Bond villain's henchman. Of course, in these movies, he's one of the good guys.

There were moments during this film that I couldn't help but think of Cowboy Bebop for some reason.

Things progress at a good pace. There are plenty of the usual Bond tropes, including scorchingly hot girls, great locations, fast cars, witty dialog, close calls, a classic bad guy (complete with henchman, uber-lair, and nifty hardware), a catchy tune, descent cinematography, and surprisingly good fight scenes.

In short, it was better than expected and features a great dynamic between characters.

Certainly worth a look.

Blade Runner 2049
(2017)

A big movie
Finally, a major motion picture for a change.

There are very few films that get higher than a 7 out of 10 from me. Hence a rating of 8 indicates films that I highly recommend.

The big challenge for film makers these days is that the production levels of TV have gone up so much that a lot of movies seem like just one big episode of a television show. There aren't many films that are able to impress the viewer with the feeling that they're watching a classic big motion picture.

Thankfully, Blade Runner 2049 succeeds in putting itself into the Motion Picture category.

This is a film that takes you places and makes you think. The acting's nicely done and all homages to the original are subtle enough to come across as sophisticated instead of cheap. There are plenty of nice glory shots in here and the scenes take their time. They even allow the ends of scenes to linger for a while in order to immerse the viewer in the material. This is something that the director of The Empire Strikes Back highlights as an important technique and one that less experienced directors often forget to do. He should know, since he used to teach cinematography. You see this technique also used extensively by Tarkovsky (1972's Solaris).

The editing is good and you get a lot for your money with a running time of almost three hours. The pacing is surprisingly well executed, considering the long duration of the movie. It uses a very interesting sequence of scenes ranging from medium to slow to fast to slow again. Seriously, there are meetings that film makers have just to figure out how to properly pace a film and what sequence to put the various intensities of scenes in.

Topping this off is a sound track that is true to the original material and also calls back to the 1982 film's score. Nicely done.

Something that certainly helps this movie feel enough like the original is the involvement of the director of the original (now in a producer role), one of the producers from the original movie, plus one of the two main writers from the 1982 feature. All of this pays off and is coupled nicely with the style of the new director (kudos to him for handling the material properly).

In conclusion if you enjoyed the 1982 Blade Runner movie, then there's a very good chance that you'll like this one as well.

The Black Dahlia
(2006)

Unbalanced
This film's a bit unusual in that the peripheral actors outperform the lead actors.

Scarlett Johansson, Hilary Swank, Josh Harnett, and Aaron Eckhart turn in over-the-top performances that tend to repeatedly rip the viewer out of the movie.

In contrast, Mia Kirshner, Mike Starr, James Otis, and Fiona Shaw did a great job. To be fair, the more subdued scenes with Aaron Eckhart were quite good.

The style of filming is pretty cool. I'm certainly a fan of noir films. However, there's something about the exterior period sets that don't seem quite right. Maybe it's that they're so squeaky clean. As hard as this film tried to be genuine, it still felt contrived -- both in performance and appearance.

Then there's the character development side of it. It would have been nice if some time was cut from the boxing match and a bit more time spent on the characters and their interactions. Things happen between characters in this film as if almost instantaneously. Some kind of method of showing that time has passed before major shifts in attitude take place between characters would help a lot. The current cut makes it seem like the characters change their minds suddenly and almost without explanation. It's pretty confusing to watch -- and that's not even factoring in the convoluted plot.

Black Dahlia is a movie that wants to generate atmosphere, but it can't.

If a person wants a modern take on noir with a bit of camp, they're probably better off playing through Bioshock 2. For Black Dahlia to really work, any and all camp (and any hyper-real portrayals) need to be eliminated. This is a film that would have worked if it had instead been a bit understated.

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