20130730_b: five mini-reviews

A. Beautiful Girls
  1. Released in 1996, 7.1/10.0 for 21,130 users on IMDB, 78% on Rotten Tomatoes.
  2. American theatrical film, rated R, 110 minutes, live action, competent color cinematography.
  3. Stars Timothy Hutton, Annabeth Gish, Matt Dillon, Uma Thurman, Noah Emmerich, Lauren Holly, Martha Plimpton, Natalie Portman, Mira Sorvino.
  4. Yet another ten year reunion picture, with highlights on broken dreams, stunted careers, and failure to launch.  The men are snafu, and women seem not to be getting what they might get in a richer environment.
  5. The sweet chemistry of the scenes between actors Timothy Hutton and Natalie Portman eclipse almost everything else in the film, which is wall-to-wall malaise.  Their age difference (28 for him, 13 for her) is just too great.  However, it did remind me of Parrish (1961), where she (Paige Raike) was 15, he (Parrish McLean) was 18.  He joined the Navy, she finished high school.  Then they got together.  In contrast, I could not figure out any way for the Natalie-Timothy thing to work out.
  6. I liked the actors on the whole.  The script seemed a bit diffuse, and the direction weak.
  7. Three stars of five.

B. Occult Academy.
  1. Japanese anime, released in 2010, 7.0/10.0 on IMDB from 53 users, 24 minute episodes.
  2. The first two episodes were enjoyable; I rated them four of five stars.
  3. Episode three was two stars of five, next to useless, and I am now stalled on finishing the series.
C. Hakkenden: Eight Dogs of the East
  1. Japanese anime, serial episodes, premiered January 5, 2013; first season ended March 30, 2013.  Subtitles; no dubbing.  No IMDB entry.  Wikipedia: hakkenden
  2. Episode 1: Borders
  3. Dysfunctional families.  Dark, magical forests.  Talking birds and toads.  Children who cannot age physically. 
  4. Three stars of five.  I'll try the second episode.
D. Kimikiss: Pure Rouge
  1. Japanese anime, serial episodes, premiered October 2007, ended March 2008.  Subtitles; no dubbing.  Wikipedia: Kimikiss
  2. Pleasant.  Art is OK.  Mostly about high school relationships, not sci-fi, horror, or magic.  That's refreshing.
  3. Might watch the second episode.
  4. Four stars of five.
E. Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children
  1. Japanese anime, feature length.   101 minutes, released 2005.  IMDB gave it 7.2/10.0 from 39,249 users.  Rotten Tomatoes gave it 33%.
  2. It's ugly.  Very.  Enormous, incredibly stupidly designed motorcycles are involved.  This is always a bad sign.  The 3-d modelling was, well, 2005.  That is, about as realistic as a plastic doll.
  3. Another huge bad sign was the extra long introduction where the narrator was a child.
  4. The background music was ridiculously bad.
  5. The base level of graphical detail varies (all too frequently) from photographic realism to third rate animation art that one might see in the seventies.  The ongoing jarring visual discontinuities were dismaying at best.
  6. The primary battle with a giant monster was right out of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers.  The monster's existence made no sense, its ability to function was laughable, and its defeat was even less believable than the other parts.  How could anyone ask for less?
  7. In another similarity with MMPR, motorcycles just be stupid...the way they are portrayed here.  Compare that with expertise with real motorcycles, say Steve McQueen in The Great Escape.
  8. The sword battles were beneath pitiful.
  9. Some of the final music was so inappropriate that I'd have to say this is the worst anime I've ever seen.
  10. One star of five.  It deserved much less.


20130730: Documentary Review--The Occult

The Occult: The truth behind the word (2010)
  1. Released 2010, 75 minutes, poster-style illustrations, plus bad videos, plus voice-over paired with stock footage.
  2. No rating yet on IMDB; on Rotten Tomatoes, 'no reviews yet' and 0% liked it.
  3. So, almost no one has seen it.
  4. The overbearing background music was almost too much by itself.  The blaring narration was no gift either.  Turning down my audio to its next to lowest setting almost fixed it.  Interviews with 'experts' were done in video that was low-lit, low contrast, soft focus, or out of focus.  The sound on the videos is terrible; words and lip movements lag badly.  In other words, the cinematic fundamentals are very weak.
  5. The film certainly has its axes to grind.  Animism and shamans are good, as are pantheism and magicians.  Hallucinogens are illuminating and empowering.  All monotheism is 'selfish', particularly the invasive and dictatorial Roman Catholic Church.  The modern inheritors of RCC rule, namely large governments, corporations, and the advertising industry are just as bad as the RCC.  Modern accomplishments (computers, communications, relative wealth) are just tools for these groups.
  6. The overview of all human history was as dreary as any I've watched.  The parallel visuals were loosely connected at best.
  7. As for progression [animism ==> pantheism] and the rise of magicians and shamans, one might be better served by visits to the library, or to searches on the Internet.  The combat between pantheism/monotheism is better documented in the same places.
  8. The 'parallels' presented between magicians and advertising agencies were amusing.
  9. The music was terrible.
  10. The worst part was that the screenplay for the movie could have been written by any university sophomore who had taken first year religion, first year psychology, and had read news on the Internet for a year or so in their late teen years.
  11. One star of five for the discussion of magicians and modern advertisers, plus the often repeated refrain that the RCC has authored some of the world's worst dark magic tomes.  20130927: four blackholes for cinematography, screenplay, sound, and SFX.
  12. This was a long 75 minutes.
  13. I would not recommend this film to any one for any reason.
  14. The music was terrible.
Cinematography: 2/10 Truly poor, especially the long interviews with the occult experts.

Sound: 0/10 Lots of variation.  The worst for the spoken word was in the interviews.  The use of music was off-putting at best.


20130729: Documentary review--Conquering the World

A. (hulu+) Richard Parks: Conquering the World
  1. Former rugby player Richard Parks takes on the 7-3-7 challenge: climb the tallest peaks on the 7 continents, reach the 3 poles (south, north, highest) of the world, and do it in under 7 months.
  2. This was an amazingly good documentary film.
  3. There was a narrator whose script was not too much, not too little, and always to the point.  Bravo.  I usually do not like narration.
  4. The camera work was exquisite, especially from the mighty peaks.  The footage of ascents and descents was better than I expected.
  5. The sound was quite well done, particularly the interviews.  The incidental music was a plus.  I usually dislike incidental music, since it often distracts from the exposition.
  6. The financing and impetus for taking the challenge was well explained.  All through the detailing of the six months, twelve days of meeting the challenge, the importance of the logistical support teams was made clear.
  7. Taking care of injuries and travel obstacles was handled well.
  8. The scripting of what Richard Parks had to say in studio concerning the different parts of the film was good in terms of exposition and emotional content for the long, hard effort.
  9. I rated this film five stars of five on Hulu+.
Cinematography: 10/10 Beautiful.  Excellent framing, depth of field, sufficient lighting.

Sound: 10/10 Consistently good.

Screenplay: 10/10  Quite well-organized.



A. (hulu+) Lunopolis.
  1. Boring beyond belief.  Bad camera work, incoherent plot, non-actors.  It is billed as a documentary, as in documentary style, but this horrid fiasco had zero basis in facts.
  2. The titles of the 'professors' were laughable as were the lies the unskilled actors told.  The long duration of voice added over hand-scribbled poster art was cheap and uninspiring.  The occasional music was ridiculously inappropriate.
  3. Released in 2009, 98 minutes.  Hulu claimed it was delivering HD, but the wretched camera work checkmated that.  IMDB gave it 6.4/10.0 based on 552 user ratings.  Rotten Tomatoes gave it 72% (audience), or 3.7/5.0.  These are high numbers.  Perhaps almost all viewers were true believers before hand.  This was indeed a very bad film.
  4. I gave it one star of five on Hulu+.
  5. I would recommend this mess to no one.
B. (hulu+)  Primeval: New World
  1. (continuing) Have watched episodes through number 7.
  2. Still like it quite a bit, usually four stars of five.
C.  (hulu+) Trailer for 47 Ronin
  1. Movies can survive bad trailers, I suppose.
  2. Judging from this trailer, I will not watch the movie.  A rag-tag group of 47 taking on a huge army with supernatural elements does not have much of a chance; less than the Greek side in the film 300.  I saw no one to root for.  Without engaging characters, what is left?  The effects were not all that good, and the plot absurd.
  3. For the trailer, one star of five.
D. (hulu+) Naked States.
  1. 74 minutes, released in 2000; IMDB gave it 6.0/10.0 based on input from 408 users.  Rotten Tomatoes gave it 45%, 3.2 of 5.0 from audiences.  There was not enough critical input for the usual percentage; was given 'no score yet.'
  2. The film consistently delivered poor photography in terms of technique, both in video and in stills.  All his work is either blurred or smudged or badly lit.  The star's assertion that only ugly backgrounds should be used was pretentious at best.  The stills and videos seldom have any interesting background.  The film did not seem to document much at all, save for the photographer's whining about his subjects, the press, and anything that went wrong recently.
  3. Hulu+ claimed it was delivering HD, but the small screen size and graininess belied this.  The sometimes jarring background music did not help; neither did the star's high nasal voice and whiny attitude.
  4. The main person interviewed was the photographer, who was shallow and boring.  His attempts to get good press were painfully childish.  Insulting the editor you are talking to in order to get visibility seems beyond stupid.  Some of the subjects of his nude photography were more interesting, but their interviews were much shorter, typically less than one minute.
  5. My favorite moment was when it seemed like the star might get the crap beaten out of him by the bikers in South Dakota.  He was that irritating.  May I never see another still of 'apocalyptic formation' again.  His level of pretense was huge.
  6. One star of five.  Wished I had not seen it, and would recommend it to no one.


20130713: 5 mini reviews

A. (netflix) Crawlspace, 2011, 86 minutes, live action theatrical film
  1. Amber Clayton, Ditch Davey, Peta Sergeant
  2. Mystery, Science Fiction, conspiracy, horror, suspense, psychological tomfoolery.
  3. Set in Australia; dangerous experimentation done at a secret laboratory.  Elite military unit is sent in to sort things out.
  4. IMDB rated it 4.5/10.0; Rotten Tomatoes rated it 23%.
  5. Rated it three stars of five.  Some parts were rather nice, others too murky.
B.  (hulu+) Darker Than Black, anime episodic series, science fiction, crime procedural.
  1. Season 1, 26 episodes; Season 2, 12 episodes available on hulu; 2007, 2008
  2. Rated 7.9/10.0 on IMDB for 2,990 reviews (almost three thousand).
  3. After an unexplained astronomical event, the sky is changed over Japan, and some areas become off-limits for their effects on humans.  That is, some are changed into supernatural creatures, called contractors.  For some group of unexplained reasons, the contractors are all used by criminals for nefarious purposes.  I have yet to see the explanation for this.  Why would the contractors not just exterminate the bosses for high sport?  On the surface, there are the cops and robbers elements (visual themes, habits, speech), then there is also the randomizing effects of the contractors.
  4. I've seen half a dozen episodes.  It's good enough to continue, but I have not decided whether my overall rating would be three or four stars of five.
C. (hulu+)  Hiiro no Kakera, anime episodic series, supernatural, coming of age.
  1. Rated 8.1/10.0 on IMDB for 29 (one less than thirty)
  2. Season 1, 13 episodes; season 2, 13 episodes; all in 2012.
  3. Protagonist is teenaged Tamaki Kusaga.  Her parents went to Africa for some sort of noble purpose, or so they say.  Tamaki is abandoned, well, dispatched to her grandmother's estate in the sticks.  As soon as she sets foot on the property, she's attacked by local spirits.  A stranger helps her fight off the attackers, and escorts her to her new home.  The stranger is a member of a family allied to hers.  She soon meets four additional protectors, and starts the process of getting to know her challenges and how to deal with them.
  4. I've seen two episodes of 26 total, so far.  I'm not yet convinced that it is worth finishing, but it's good enough to try a few more.
D. (hulu+) Primeval: New World
  1. Season 1, episode 5; live action, science fiction, time travel.
  2. Two reptilian predators (wolf-sized and wolfish; lycaenops) come through anomalies.  There seems to be no way to send them back, and the team ends up killing them.  The 'butterfly effect' is discussed but not invoked, making me wonder when it will be.
  3. As usual, four stars out of five. 
E. (hulu+) Dark Metropolis
  1. 86 minutes, live action film released in 2010.
  2. IMDB rated it 2.3/10.0 from 226 users.
  3. Wow.  Terrible describes the script, the acting, the lighting, the direction, and any sense of taste.
  4. I gave this one star of five, since I might want to excoriate this on hulu later.  One star was too many.


20130712: Reviews--Ghost Hunter, ReGenesis

20130712, vendredi

A. (hulu+) Ghost Hunter
  1. Episodic anime, first season 25 episodes, 24 minutes each; released 2007.
  2. Supernatural meets detection.  The protagonist is a 15 year old Japanese girl who joins a spiritualist detective agency.  The agency uses mixed methods: pervasive cctv plus temperature recordings on the scientific side, as well as a Shinto monk, a 'shrine maiden', a Catholic exorcist, a celebrity medium, and a practitioner of wards and shikigami.
  3. The episodes are grouped into 3 and 4-episode story arcs called 'files.'
  4. Except for some annoying instances (two I can think of) where the lead character starts screaming to get her way, I found the storytelling competent and engaging.
  5. Four stars of five.
B. (hulu+)  ReGenesis
  1. Episodic live action Canadian television drama series, largely concerning the tracking down of epidemics, and the unraveling of how to find cures.
  2. Wikipedia 
  3. It's bit overblown; lots of the characters seem to live on the extreme edge of their skin.
  4. The lead character is both engaging and too cliche.  His brilliant reasoning is nice, but the endless presentation of grunge is more than off-putting.
  5. The lead's daughter, played by Ellen Paige, has similar characteristics.  She's bold, and can think on her feet.  Great, the apple does not fall too far from the tree.  On the other hand, she expresses teenage anger, rebellion, and storming off in ways that are all too familiar and not all that interesting.  I usually get the urge to index ahead in the stream's timeline when she comes on.
  6. The rest of the cast consists of characters that advance the plot with snippets of information.  This is fine, if not memorable.
  7. Still watching this, but I know I will end of rating it three stars of five.


20130705: Reviews--Amber Lake, Alien Hunter, .hack

20130707, dimanche

A. (hulu+) Amber Lake
  1. Released 2011, live action, 5.5/10 on IMDB, 45% on Rotten Tomatoes.
  2. Three half-sisters, all named Amber, meet their wayward psychiatrist father at a lake.
  3. Two days later, he's dead (blunt force trauma to the head followed by drowning), and the local police get the sisters' accounts of the activities leading up to the murder. 
  4. Liked the actors who played the father (Carmen Argenziano) and the lead cop (Timothy V Murphy), but did not care for the amateurish, over-the-top performances of the actresses who played the daughters. 
  5. Useless ending.
  6. Gave it one star of five on hulu.
B. (hulu+) Alien Hunter
  1. Released 2003, live action, 4.9/10.0 on IMDB, 22% on Rotten Tomatoes.
  2. James Spader, Keir Dullea, Roy Dotrice, and Carl Lewis.
  3. Spader's character is a womanizer and brilliant code breaker whose career mostly crashed after the shutdown of SETI.
  4. An artifact found under the Antarctic ice near an American research site is recovered after emitting a signal tracked by the US government.  The signal resembled remarkably a signal sent from near Roswell in 1947.  Spader wrangles passage to the site.
  5. The usual perfect storm of instances of Murphy's Law culminates in the alien getting lose, research staff dying from alien disease vectors and from shooting each other.  The Russians bomb the site at the behest of Washington, obliterating evidence.
  6. Similar to The Abyss, the aliens break into the proceedings with their superior technology.  Quite differently than The Abyss, no humans notice this, except the four who were saved.
  7. Slow moving, neither compelling nor funny.  The ending was a bit novel, but not much.
  8. This was probably my least favorite James Spader film.
  9. One star of five.
C. (hulu+) .hack//Quantum
  1. Released 2010, anime, 7.0/10.0 on IMDB.
  2. A bit more lively (so far) than .hack//sign, judging from 2 episodes of the new one.
  3. .hack//sign was produced by Bandai, .hack//quantum by Funimation.
  4. I'm missing context on numerous other .hack efforts, but most of them seem to be sequels of .hack//sign.
  5. (20130730) I subsequently finished this; there were 3 episodes total.  This was actually a good thing; the plot was wound up expeditiously.  I rated it four stars of five.