ASD is an interesting movie. The first thing to catch the eye is the look. I would like to say it makes the movie somehow better, but in the end it still just looks like a painted over movie. It’s a distinct look, but that’s all. Then there’s the story. I haven’t read the original book by P.K. Dick, mostly because he’s one of the SF authors I tried in the past and bounced. He stories mostly don’t work for me (albeit I do like Total Recall and Blade Runner). Maybe that’s why this movie equally didn’t worked for me, it adhered so much to the original stuff that it triggered the same reaction like P.K. Dick’s fiction.
That said, while I don’t like the plot, I do like the ideas, the setting of a near future where nearly everyone is drugged and Big Brother is watching you full time. It’s just that the movie seems to end when the real story is starting. Everything until then is just a group of drug addicts hanging out with each other and squandering their lives, and one man slowly going insane. I’m also missing the bigger context. We know that this is a fucked up future, but the movie doesn’t get it across how this future came to be.
And what of the rest of world? For such a setting you need to show the complexities of the whole world in contrast to the simplicities of everyday life and the future history that made this possible. John Brunner did that par excellence. But here we only get one piece without the bigger picture, which weakens the impact considerably.
DtBW has a really neat concept, which was what sold me on reading the book in the first place, but I must admit I bounced pretty heftily from the first part of the book. This is partly because one of the main characters, the first one at the start, is a pathetic fuck-up of a person who isn’t really interesting to read about in any way. Combine this with a plot that does only get interesting halfway into the book and you see the problem I had. The book is about a dimensional pathway connecting countless alternate versions of Earth. Along this pathway a group of travelers, the Wanderers, come in search of those who created the pathway (often called the Bright). From their own Earth they started in two directions, and one group has reached our Earth. Now, for half of the book we see a pathetic fuck-up masquerading as a Wanderer. When he and a girl get to meet the leader of the Wanderers, someone hijacks the whole group and things heat up.
While I never got what I wished for, that the creators of the Bright were found and the reasons for creating the Bright were explained, the second half of the book has some excellent ideas (concerning the group of Wanderers that went the other way on the Bright). I won’t divulge them, because, as always, discovering those is part of the fun. While I thought the motivations of the hijackers for doing what they did were rather outlandish, it didn’t bother me too much. At the end of the novel I felt a bit mollified by some of the cool things from the second half, but it’s not a novel I would recommend. It’s okay and I don’t regret reading it in the end, but the plot structure could have been handled better to utilize the neat concepts and ideas.
Real Monsters is a real delight, aside Duckman one of the best shows produced by Klasky Csupo. It’s clearly a show for kids, three young monsters learning at a monster school the difficult art of scaring humans.
Every episode, more or less, has a moral, but unlike other shows aimed at kids it’s better hidden and not as egregious annoying. Due to the nature of the show, monsters like waste and garbage, scaring the shit out of humans is a need and healthy things are deadly for them, there is much room for twisting many things, morals and preconceptions about what is good or not among them.
But all these things aside, what makes Real Monsters such fun is the incredible imaginativeness with which every detail, the monsters and their world, has been created. Overall, extremely fun and rewatchable.
Yokohama Kaidashi Kiko has no real plot and yet it’s completely engrossing. The series takes place in an undefined future, where the human race is slowly fading out. Something big must have happened, because the sea levels have risen significantly and most places seem slightly depopulated. The main difference to other post-apocalyptic stories is that neither have humans lost all technology and reverted back to some tribal societies, nor is there any evidence for widespread war and mayhem. It seems, people have just gone back to simpler ways of living (without giving up their technological knowledge) and accepted that humanity is at an end.
The main character is actually a robot, mentally and physically a young girl, who is slowly growing up and exploring the world around her. That’s actually the whole plot and while that may seem very simple (which it is), it’s actually very well done. There are no big twists, nothing more than Alpha, the robot girl, going around, meeting people and watching the world. And yet, very much helped by the excellent art, it’s this simplicity that allows the manga to concentrate on evoking a solemn mood, celebrating the simple life, the beauty of nature and the beauty of living throughoutly in peace with your environment.
There are also very small touches of sadness, the people around Alpha growing up and becoming older, while she remains the same. I must admit that I don’t like the idea of humanity slowly and peacefully fading out, but this time it worked so well and was done with so much care, that it didn’t bother me too much. And it’s neat to see a post-apocalyptic future where humanity seems to have matured and not gone wholly Mad Max.
Above all, what we see is just one viewpoint, and the behavior of humans displayed in Yokohama Kaidashi Kiko seems a much better fit to recover from whatever disaster has struck Earth and the human civilization, than the more commonly displayed behavior of humans in other post-apocalyptic outings.
Samurai Executioner is about Yamada Asaemon, a ronin, who works as sword-tester for the shogun and also has to execute criminals. It’s a series of shorter and longer vignettes that mostly tell the last tales of those that get chopped down. At times it can be a little repetitive, but overall it makes you come back again.
It takes place in the Edo period of feudal Japan and is above all, a very interesting view at the life of common people in that time in Japan. Since one of the main duties of Asaemon, and the one the series of ten volumes mostly concentrates on, is the beheading of criminals, it’s also a very contemplative series about death and the many reasons why people do things that earns them their fate (and whether fate exist and is avoidable or not).
Yamada Asaemon, despite his occupation, isn’t a bloodthirsty man. While he’s completely devoted to fulfilling his job, there are hints throughout the series that imply that he hopes that in the future, society will abolish the death penalty (not much luck there). Since common people also avoid any social contact with him, out of fear, he mostly lives in isolation, apart from those people he gets into contact while doing his job.
This may sound like a series full of tragedy, and while there are many moments that are indeed tragic, it never feels too downbeat. Life goes on. If the series is about anything at all, it’s about those things that make life worthy living. Moments of love, of friendship, of closely connecting to other people and being alive at all.
I remember growing up with the Simpsons, watching it nearly every time it was on TV. It was funny, brilliant at times and most of all, extremely entertaining. It was one of my daily drugs, at least until I grew weary of it. Some people say it jumped the shark, but with a series that is still going since 1989 I don’t think you can say it jumped the shark only once, it probably has many times, and came back again. What I know is that I stopped watching some years ago. Never felt the need to revisit it.
And then came the movie, which I expected to be competent, but not really good. Well, I was wrong. The Simpsons movie is all how the series was like, when I still liked and watched it. It has an excellent plot, it’s funny and every character feels like he’s alive, in some other parallel universe where people are yellow. The movie made me care again for this bunch of fallibly but oh so human characters.
It’s not the longest movie, but it doesn’t feel like just another TV-episode stretched for the big screen. It’s a story that actually feels big, important enough to be told on the big screen. And the movie made me itch to search out the rest of the seasons I missed. Sure, there might be awful stuff and low points, but there must be good stuff too.
There haven’t been many movie versions of Marvel comics in recent years I enjoyed much. The second Spider-Man movie and the first two X-Men movies, that’s it. The first Fantastic Four movie was watchable and enjoyable in a stupid kind of way, the second one is more of the same. One problem is that they are trying to combine something that is family friendly with action.
What you get is partly tedious, partly pathetic and for some few moments actually quite neat. Those few moments were the action sequences near the beginning, when the Torch is following the Silver Surfer, and near the end, when the Fantastic Four battle their old enemy Doctor Doom (who’s back without any explanation to why he’s back, but hey, you can’t expect much logic or reason in such a movie).
When the movie tries to be funny, it fails completely, when it tries to be serious, it’s unintentional funny. The characters are thinner than cardboard, the plot rather stupid (I know it’s mostly taken from old Kirby comics, but those were stupid as well (the one time I tried to read some old Kirby Fantastic Four comics I bounced hard, as well as most of Kirby’s stuff I’ve ever tried)). It’s not completely unredeemable, since I’ve seen much worse and at times it can be entertaining, but I wouldn’t want to watch it a second time.
Bloody awful. These are the only words that come to my mind. Marketed as an adult version of Doctor Who, Torchwood feels like the juvenile little brother whose only way to ascertain his grown-up status is by repeatedly screaming fuck fuck fuck. How mature.
Worse than that is the acting of the main characters. What am I saying? What acting? There’s none. Torchwood feels like watching a cheap soap opera (I mean really, really cheap, like porn level cheap). It’s really awful, just watching those people stagger around, trying to fill their roles with a minimum of depth and failing miserably. And the talking. It makes you want to rip your own ears out. It’s truly sad. Mind you, with the right actors and directors this could have been a fun series, a kind of Poltergeist: The Legacy tilted toward the science fiction side of the equation. Alas, it wasn’t to be.
It’s not often that I feel a sequel is better than the original, but it happens from time to time. Maybe because this time the core idea was much more original than that of the first movie. While trying to repopulate parts of London after the outbreak of a zombification virus in the first part (as far as known most zombies have died from starvation), a second outbreak occurs. Putting aside questions of why anyone would try to repopulate a city that has once been infected with a virus that could spell the end of the world and not nuke the place, this idea felt rather fresh.
While most of the time in the movie is occupied with running away, like in the first part, the pacing is much better. In the first part, after the survivors left the city, it became much slower and less interesting, here the action never slackens. Noticeable is also the lack of cardboard bad guys, like the army guys from the first part. Sure, the army guys here shoot everyone after the outbreak, infected and non-infected alike. But those actions make sense. In comparison the bad guys from the first movie were cast as the bad guys because the plot had run out of steam and needed something to fill the gap until the good guys were saved. So, if you weren’t impressed by the first part, take a look at the second.
The strongest part of the movie is the first part, with one of the main characters walking through a deserted London. These few minutes really made a chill run down my spine. Not that this is something completely original, many post-apocalyptic movies that deal with deadly viruses or something similar (depopulating, but not destroying the cityscapes) evoke those pictures (think of the recent trailer for the “I Am Legend” remake”).
Watching 28 Days Later just for those few moments is worth it. Sadly, the rest of the movie is less interesting. The zombies are a neat update to the slow walking zombies of past movies, but overall the movie becomes more generic with every second. Find other survivors. Find other survivors who set up their own demented kingdom. Escape. Let the cardboard bad guys get zombified. Find salvation at the end. Nothing new here, go along please.