Star Wars Episodes I-IX Marathon

About 10 years ago I decided to watch episodes I-VI in one day. I wrote about it here. It was an interesting experience and nice to finally see all 6 movies back to back. But in less than a year I would learn that Disney bought Star Wars and planned to make episodes VII to IX. Well, I thought, I guess I’m due another Star Wars marathon in a few years when it’s all done. And here we are. Not only do we have 3 more movies in the now named “Skywalker Saga” but we also have spin off movies, TV shows and animations. All of these things put a different spin on what’s come before. I can’t watch Vader and Obi Wan’s fight without thinking about their other encounter in the Obi Wan show. I can’t think of the Death Star without thinking of ‘Rogue One’ and ‘Andor’. I can’t view Boba Fett as just a bounty hunter now that we’ve had the ‘Book of Boba Fett’ series. It’s mad to think of how much Star Wars content has been made in these past few years. Most of it has enriched and fleshed out the universe. Some has detracted from it.

So how to prepare for a 9 movie marathon in one sitting? It’s a lot tougher than last time. 6 movies was a breeze compared to 9. The running time of episodes I-IX is 20 hours and 39 minutes. That leaves little room for much else. Taking breaks or having a meal in between movies is not really recommended because it’s pretty much a race to the end. A 20 minute meal here, a 10 minute walk there and you could end up with another hour or two added to the already long viewing time. Your best chance is to skip the end credits of each movie, eat while watching the films and generally don’t dawdle. You’re also going to need to do this on a day when you have zero obligations that day or the next because you’ll be tired as hell. I did it on New Years day. I didn’t have to go out anywhere or meet anyone, didn’t have to work. My time was totally dedicated to watching the films.

I’ve already reviewed each of the films so I’ll just go with my impressions of the trilogies here. Episodes IV-VI are obviously the most satisfying. I think episodes I-III aren’t bad either. Whatever faults you have with the first 6 movies can be pushed aside when you take the trilogies into account. They both tell complete stories from start to end. There are no unanswered questions, characters have complete arcs from start to finish, they deliver on the story they started to tell. But watching the sequel trilogy against the prequel and original trilogy and you really start to see the flaws in the sequels. The inconsistency in the storytelling, the rushed quality of the films, the lack of direction and sense of where all this is going to end. Those nagging questions such as, where did Luke’s blue light saber come from? Where did all those Star Destroyers come from? The missed opportunities to see Luke, Han and Leia on screen together “How much trouble are we in?” “Same as usual”. “That bad huh?”. It seemed impossible to mess up, yet Disney dropped the ball and honestly, it all hinges on ‘The Last Jedi‘. ‘The Force Awakens’ has it’s faults on further rewatches but it built momentum which ‘The Last Jedi’ drove into a wall. ‘The Rise of Skywalker‘ was left picking up the pieces but wasn’t successful at continuing on from ‘The Last Jedi’. ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ also creates problems for itself by creating new questions and introducing/reintroducing more characters. There just wasn’t time to be doing new stuff when we got to this point.

Some random thoughts while watching each trilogy.

The prequels in high def 4K look gorgeous and the green/blue screen feel is remarkedly reduced. You also have to take your hat off to the worlds created by George Lucas and the world building he did. The sequel trilogies don’t come close to the gigantic imaginative level that George brought with episodes I-VI.

Obi Wan is perhaps the most skilled fighter in all of Star Wars, taking the movies and various television series into account. He’s a fighter that grows in skill and can be quite cunning. For example, in episode III when he has “the high ground” against Anakin and he knows what Anakin is going to do and cuts him into pieces for doing so. How did he know? because he pulled the exact same move on Darth Maul to defeat him in episode I. In his rematch with Maul in the animated series ‘Star Wars Rebels’ he defeats Maul again when Maul tries to use the same move against him that he had used against Qui Gon.

Vader in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ is a massive badass. Unworried about flying into asteroid fields, killing his own men left right and center. This film really cemented the character for generations to come.

Since Palpatine was responsible for creating Snoke and being the voices inside Kylo Ren’s head then couldn’t it also be possible he had somehow clouded Luke’s mind also and drove him to the point of almost taking out his Nephew?

Boba Fett’s voice in the original trilogy still feels off to me. Temuera Morrison should redub it one more time now that he has a firm grip on the character.

The sequel trilogy that I always imagined would have had Luke, Leia and Han still together after ‘Return of the Jedi’. Not torn apart by time and circumstance (or by lets face it, Ben Solo). They’d still be on the Millennium Falcon. Peace would still exist after all they had done to achieve it. At least give them that time. They deserved it. Then the next story of the next generation of characters would start. The sequel trilogy comes across as almost depressing with the way things have turned out and the way things are going over the three films.

Who really was the chosen one?

So do I recommend watching episodes I-IX back to back? Not really. If you are going to do it I’d still stick to an episode I-VI marathon or even go smaller, do I-III one day IV-Vi another day. I think ‘Rogue One’ and ‘A New Hope’ is a fun and satisfying back to back watch. But 20+ hours is hard. You might as well get some sleep in between trilogies and at least be more awake at the end.

Favorite Quote: “RAWRGWAWGGR” – Chewie

Posted in 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, Science fiction, star wars | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Rings Of Power

I really don’t know what to say about this show. I don’t recommend it to a casual viewer. I probably wouldn’t recommend it to a fan either but if you’ve watched all the movies, read all the books, are curious by nature and a completionist then I suppose it’s a watch that might be of some interest. But not much.

The first 3 episodes were released at the same time and after those 3 I hoped the pace would pick up on this show. It didn’t. And that’s basically my review. It’s a very slow moving show. Things happen, yes, it’s eventful, yes, but does it really need to take so long to get to the point at the end of of season 1 where they’ve only made 3 rings? And they are planning for 4 more seasons. I just thought, oh my gods…4 more seasons of this?!

Seriously. Who can I recomend this too? A lot of people already had problem watching a 3 hour ‘Lord of the Rings’ movie. There’s no way they are going to watch this.

The positives are that it’s a very nice looking show. Being one of the most expensive TV shows of all time will get you that I suppose. The music is great. Bear McCreary was made for scoring a show like this. Visually, you could imagine it tying in with the movies but the writing and pacing feel so off and there is nothing compelling about it.

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Obi-Wan Kenobi

Anticipation is a funny thing. It often gets the best of us even if we try to keep it low. After watching ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ it was the next Star Wars project I was most looking forward to. But how could anyone keep their expectations low with this series? Billed as “The rematch of the century” by Disney. Obi Wan Vs. Darth Vader. Originally, it was supposed to be a movie with Obi Wan facing off against Maul. Then it was changed to an 8 episode series with a similar story and then rewritten down to 6 episodes with Vader replacing Maul as the big bad. Rumors suggested that the plot was too similar to ‘the Mandalorian with Obi Wan going off to rescue a young Luke. I was glad they decided to drop that story-line. I didn’t want Obi Wan to have his hands tied with a little kid by his side…..

I know opinion is divided on this series. I have seen high praise for this show but also there are negative opinions about it. As I write this the show has a 60% audience score on rotten tomatoes and 7.2 out of 10 on IMDB (which was in the high 8s when it premiered). Reading some of the positive comments for the show I was truly confused and wondered if those comments were being sarcastic. Alas, I think that the joke is on me and the positive reaction is very large and real while the negative reaction is growing louder.

It’s would be pretty difficult to get this show wrong. The pieces were already in place. You have that 20 years gap between the prequels and original trilogy to explore. You have that line in ‘A New Hope’ where Vader says “A presence I have not felt since….” and doesn’t complete the sentence leaving the line open for interpretation and allowing further meetings to happen between these two characters. You have an excellent actor in Ewan Mcgregor as Obi Wan and I think Hayden Christensen is a fine actor (check out ‘Shattered Glass’). I remember before I watched ‘Revenge of the Sith’ that I had hoped Obi Wan would have two battles with Vader. The first over the Volcano and the second would be Vader in his new form which would lead to a stand off and the Jedi having to go into hiding. That was one of my small gripes with Episode III. It had so much lead up to Vader but only gave us a glimpse of him in the end.

In an interview with Debra Chow before the show was released she said she was advised to make the show “bigger” by Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni.
Unfortunately, this show is anything but “big”.

So to start with, we had the first two episodes released back to back and not all that much happened. Yes, Leia was kidnapped, but as for big action set pieces that would hook the audience in to bring them back for the next episode there were none. Even if there were none what did we really get here in the first two episodes? A couple of very poorly shot chase scenes in which grown adults could not catch a little girl, and an Inquisitor jumping from building to building shouting “Obi Wan!”. There was nothing impressive or epic about this, characters felt miscast, Leia was annoying (as all young Skywalkers seem to be), the sets looked like sets, more specifically, obvious indoor virtual sets. The pacing was slow which made the episodes boring. By the end of episode 2 it’s revealed to Obi Wan that Vader is alive. How does Obi Wan react? Well it’s kinda hard to tell since his face is in shadow and the scene is poorly lit. Missed opportunity number one for Ewan Mcgregor to shine.

Then we move onto part 3 of Obi Wan Kenobi, which still felt slow. Now remember, this series was originally supposed to be 8 episodes and was re-written to 6, yet this still feels very much like “filler”, we don’t know what to do here so lets make Obi Wan look like an idiot.
We have the introduction of Vader and Obi Wan’s reaction to seeing Vader for the first time. Unfortunately, this intro is a damp squib. We can barely see Obi Wan’s reaction for most of his face is in shadow, even more so than it was at the end of episode 2. Missed opportunity for Ewan Mcgregor to shine number two. Vader enters with no fanfair or pomp. Vader and Obi Wan have a fight in a mining area, which looks again like a small indoor set that cannot even match the weakest effort of a Star Trek mining set.

Part 4 and it feels like a rehash of episode 1 and 2. Leia gets kidnapped AGAIN and we spend a large amount of time with Kenobi walking around AGAIN inside an imperial base, slowly demonstrating that he is getting his powers back even though at the beginning of the episode he had difficulty moving a small bolt. While it’s perhaps the best episode at this point it still feels like something they could have covered back in episode 2. I just wonder why it needs 4 episodes to get to this point, and he’s still not fully himself and there’s no real trigger to him regaining his powers, he’s just “getting used to it again”

You get the gist. This series is small and not epic. It’s Obi Wan for Christ’s sake. ‘The Mandalorian’ looks frickin amazing but the most anticipated return of a Star Wars character is given this kind of a send off? Is this really the best they can do? Even for those of you who had issue with ‘The Book of Boba Fett’ there was never a time where you felt “this is poorly made” or “that is just an indoor set”. ‘The Book of Boba Fett’ was well made, it felt epic and far superior to ‘Obi Wan Kenobi’. Let me point out also that both of these series were made under Covid restrictions.

Part 5, and while I can say it’s getting better it’s still slow. We are again on another planet that we have to get off. Again Reva shows up shouting for Obi Wan. Why does the episode feel so stretched out? If you watch the scene where the Storm Trooper transport ships are flying to the planet and landing to musical fanfare and then we go through the whole scene again with the Inquisitor Reva’s ship arriving and landing to musical fanfare. This feels like someone near the end of work, watching the clock as it gets closer to going home time and pissing around instead of really doing anything until they can burn the last 5 or 10 minutes. I mean, this show/movie has been in development for years. YEARS! What the hell were they doing all this time? “Ah, let’s wing it, it’s Obi Wan, people will watch it no matter what”. Yeah. They might be right.
So Reva is revealed to be a former youngling from the Jedi temple who was stabbed by Darth Vader as a child and again stabbed by Vader at the end of episode 5. Yet she survives being stabbed by a lightsaber twice! Once is lucky, but twice? Really?
There are some things I like about the episode of course. Vader not fighting with a lightsaber and simply using the force shows how powerful and skillful he is. Seeing a flashback of Obi Wan and Anakin training was nice. These Star Wars series could do with a few more of those.

Part 6. The final part of the series. This episode felt like it was ticking the boxes of what everyone wanted to see. We get…
“Hello there!”
We discover how Vader got that cut on his head between the end of episode III and episode VI.
Obi Wan and Vader fight.
Obi Wan finally meets Qui Gon again who will train him.
Leia will keep her past with Obi Wan a secret. (this is not what we wanted to see but something people were wanting to know since the first part of this series).
Vader says he killed Anakin which somehow is supposed to explain why Obi Wan told Luke the same thing in ‘A New Hope’.

I mean, why not at least spread these things out instead of making us wait over 6 episodes? Little felt natural about this episode. The least natural thing of course were the sets. So.Obviously.Indoor. They have really spoiled a large part of the series for me.

While ‘The Book of Boba Fett’ and ‘Obi Wan Kenobi’ weren’t exactly what I was hoping for I can say that Boba Fett was well written, well made, still felt like Star Wars and had the quality to match the movies too. I may not have liked the direction they took the character or the areas of his past they chose to explore but I can’t fault them for how they did it. Obi Wan however feels poorly crafted, makes nonsensical choices for the characters and stretches a thin plot out over 6 episodes.

With all those criticisms out of the way, would I recommend it? No. Would I watch a second series? Yes. Why? Hope.

And I’m a sucker.

Favorite Quote: “Hello there!” – Obi-Wan

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Top Gun: Maverick

Can we just change Tom Cruise’s name to “hold my beer and watch this”? Because what he does is absolutely amazing. I remember watching the most recent Mission Impossible at the cinema a few years back and I came out thinking “wow, what a great action movie, how’s he ever going to top that?”. Well, he did with this movie and again I’m thinking “how the hell do you top that” because ‘Top Gun Maverick’ is not only a great action movie, it might be the best, most thrilling and most realistic action movie I’ve ever seen in my life. My mouth was literally wide open at what I was watching onscreen. I mean, holy heck, they actually did all that stuff for real and it looks it too. To say I felt like a kid again is an understatement.

For a movie sequel to the original that was made 36 years later they don’t miss a beat. It’s like a direct continuation, 36 years later, of Top Gun. Maverick is still Maverick. He’s not broken, doesn’t need to go on a journey to “find himself”. He looks the same and is the same man we all fondly remember. Importantly, the movie is about him, it’s not a soft reboot. The movie itself has the same charm and flavor as the original from the visuals to the music, to the stern admirals and wild boys. It’s actually has well placed humor in places too.

Walking out of the theater I was left with the same opinion going in. Tom Cruise will go down as one of cinema’s greatest for the work he has done. The work he has done with this film and others show how much he cares about cinema and movie theaters, the experience and the value of seeing these classics on the big screen.

I highly recommend seeing the movie in IMAX or the largest cinema screen possible to truly appreciate the spectacle on display.

Favorite quote:Don’t think. Just do.” – Maverick

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Keiji Monogatari

1982, Japan. Also known as ‘(Police) Detective Story’, ‘Karate Cop’.

Now, before I get into the plot I think it’s better to point out why I am reviewing this movie and how I discovered it. About 6 years ago I was at a park and I noticed a young university student practicing martial arts with a clothes hanger. The way he moved the clothes hanger was like someone practicing with nunchakus. It looked pretty cool. I also saw him practicing with a golf club using it as a weapon rather than a normal golf club. I got speaking to him and he explained that he loved the movie series called ‘Keiji Monogatari’ where the main character was a police detective who knew kung fu and in some scenes used a clothes hanger as a weapon. I was intrigued to say the least since I had never heard of the movies until he told me about them. I searched for more about the movies but they weren’t that easy to find and are impossible to find with English subtitles. I was finally able to see the movie (sans subtitles) on Amazon Prime. Why I want to talk about the film is mainly because it held my fascination for the past few years and it seems a bit of a shame that it isn’t that well known outside of Japan.

The basic premise of the movie is about Detective Gen Katayama, who at the beginning of the movie saves a young deaf woman named Hisako from a brothel. Shortly after, he is informed that he is being transferred from his current city in Fukuoka to Shizuoka, supposedly because he was heavy handed with some thugs he arrested. Discovering that Hisako has no family he decides to take her with him to his new post. Katayama not only takes pity on Hisako because of her situation but also because he too was abandoned by his mother as a child and deeply relates to her feeling of loneliness in the world. Upon reaching Shizuoka he is trust into an investigation to discover why young prostitutes in the city are being murdered.

It’s a pretty good film and it kept my attention throughout. Gen Katayama is an interesting character, emotionally complex, especially when related to Hisako, he is at first appearance a kind, warm hearted and gentle man. But when push comes to shove and he is forced to take violent action against criminals he is like a wild animal. I had heard that the martial arts he uses in this film is like Mantis Boxing and it does look like Mantis boxing in some places but not Chinese Mantis Boxing. This is more like Karate infused with Mantis boxing and the way Katayama shouts and moves in his fight scenes feels very reminiscent of Bruce Lee in his movies. For those still curious, he does use the clothes hanger briefly near the end to fight off gangsters, and though brief, it is cool. The clothes hanger in particular is of it’s time and not just any old clothes hanger you can find today. In fact, the student I saw practicing at the park bought it from a special store online.

So that’s my basic review of the movie. It feels satisfying to have finally seen it after hearing Japanese martial arts fans mention it to me. It’s not the most memorable Japanese movie or martial arts movie I have seen but it does feel like a piece of pop culture that should be a little more known about. I mean, people praise Matt Damon for beating up people with a rolled up magazine in the Bourne movies, surely kicking ass with a clothes hanger needs to be seen by more people.

Posted in 1980s, Asian Cinema, martial arts | Leave a comment

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Before I go on, this review will have spoilers.

My non-spoiler review: It’s a mixed bag. The plot is all over the place which is probably in part to the covid 19 pandemic and because this film was supposed to be released before ‘Spiderman No Way Home’. There might have been large changes to the script at short notice and there were talks of large reshoots too, possibly to make everything gel together. Sam Rami is let loose and given quite a bit of free reign. For Rami fans I’m sure they’ll appreciate it. For younger fans this is going to be scary. The way super hero characters get killed in this is pretty brutal. For a second I was getting ‘The Boys’ vibes. I recommend not taking younger kids to this. It’s definitely not a marvel film to keep them quiet for a few hours.

On to my spoiler review…

SPOILERS

This film is going to be something of a let down to anyone going in with high expectations like I was. The firs reason for this is that if you have seen any of the promotional material over the past 2 months to two weeks then much of the surprise of certain cameos in the movie is gone. The problem with that is that most people thought “If this is what they are showing us then what they’re hiding must be amazing”. Unfortunately, this is not a ‘Spiderman No Way Home’. If you watched the trailers and TV spots then that’s it. Don’t wait to be surprised. The only thing that surprised me was how much the trailers and TV spots gave away… There are no other X-Men, there are no Spidermen, there’s no Deadpool, no Loki, there’s no Tom Cruise as Iron Man. There’s no moment in the movie where Wanda says “Mutants” and suddenly there are mutants in the world.

I guess what did surprise me was the plot. The villain of the movie is Wanda. The trailers seemed to hint that it was an alternate version of Strange that was the problem and had caused so much of a mess. But it’s actually Wanda. The reveal isn’t so shocking because it’s not done as a plot twist. Fairly early on in the film Wanda reveals that she is the villain. But it didn’t feel like a clear reveal to me. Wanda is the person trying to capture a character called America Chavez, a young girl who can travel between the multiverses when she gets really scared. Yep. Apparently, she’s the only person in the multiverse who doesn’t have a double. That’s also the reason she doesn’t have dreams. Because dreams are actually us seeing the multiverse version of ourselves according to this movie. Umm, OK.

While Wanda makes a great villain I’m not sure how comfortable I am with it. The reason why is because she just wipes out anyone in her way. There is no remorse or regret to her actions, she murders people brutally. You thought Thanos was a problem? You’re basically screwed if you have to go up against Wanda. The other thing is that we did kinda see her go through this phase of grief in ‘WandaVision’ and she is somewhat redeemed at the end of that series. For the record, I thought ‘ WandaVision’ was absolutely fantastic and one of the best things marvel studios have put out there. That was such a satisfying story arc for the character, a character I previously wasn’t all that interested in. But here there’s no glimpses of light in her. She’s fully gone to the dark side. There is a brief scene where we see an innocent Wanda trapped in her mind but after all the brutality and bloodshed she causes in this movie it’s hard to see the character ever redeemed to a point where she’ll be the Wanda we used to know.

As for the multiverse concept, it’s really not played up as much as I thought it would be. That’s on me of course, but the majority of stuff marvel studios puts out rarely disappoints and when you come off a movie like ‘Spiderman No Way Home’ then you expect there is no way they’re not going to let us have our cake and eat it. Even putting that disappointment aside the film does feel muddled. Rami’s direction is refreshing but it’s going beyond the superhero film idea. With his Spiderman movies he always played to the best of his potential within the limits of that world. Here I felt he is breaking those limits to the detriment of the film. I wanted to like it more but having lived in this marvel world of 28 movies and 6 TV shows this seems out of place and not a comfortable fit to what has come before. I guess I have to answer that question myself. Do I want the marvel universe to get this dark?

The cast of the film are fantastic of course and the production value leaves you wanting nothing. It’s still worth your money and I doubt anything I say would stop someone from going to see this with the amount of hype surrounding it. I don’t know how you’re going to see this but I bought tickets to this in IMAX. For the past two years I have been fortunate that all IMAX showings here AREN’T in 3D. I never liked 3D and having to wear a mask with 3D glasses is terrible as it would just steam them up. So I buy my tickets to the IMAX showing but as I’m walking into the theater they’re handing out 3D glasses and I’m like WTF is this?!? Here in Japan people are still expected to wear masks in public spaces, which of course included movie theaters so why the hell pass out 3D glasses? As soon as I put the 3D glasses on they began to steam up and I, like many others around me, slipped their mask down a little, some below their noses. I kept wondering why after 2 years they’d start showing 3D movies again and then the answer appeared to me on the theater’s screen as I watched a bunch of blue CGI creatures running through a forest. Avatar 2. Gods damn you Avatar. Are you going to force people to use 3D glasses again to watch the sequel to a movie everyone has forgotten about? Not only was I pissed at the trailer but it was boring as hell. You think I’m going to see it in theaters? Not even if you brought back the Titanic and turned it into a spaceship captained by Terminators would I want to watch a sequel to Avatar. It was boring 14 years ago, it’s looks just as boring and CGIy as it did back in 2008.

Anyway….

What this film, ‘Doctor Strange 2’ feels like is a tonal shift. Marvel hearing the whispers of fans saying that their movies are predictable and generic. This shift is going to divide people more than something like ‘Moon Knight’ would. I was personally surprised how full on violent it was and while marvel fans have grown up with their films there are still kids watching these. The images can be fairly frightening to a young mind.

Notes: What actually caused the multiverse? Was it the events in ‘Loki’? But those were branch timelines right?

The X-Men theme from the animated series plays in the movie. The coolest moment of the film.

Favorite Quote: “Just because someone stumbles and loses their path, doesn’t mean they’re lost forever”. – Professor X.

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Born Invincible

When a martial arts school gives refuge to a master swordsman and his daughter they become embroiled in a life or death battle against two seemingly unbeatable opponents. One who has a golden baton that can cut swords and stab opponents. The other a white haired Tai Chi master with seemingly no vulnerabilities.

This is not a Pai Mei movie but it is a worthy “not Pai Mei” movie in that it looks like Pai Mei, is as invulnerable as him and is as deadly as him. If you are any sort of fan of the real Pai Mei movies which I have previously reviewed here then you’d be doing yourself a disservice not to check out this film. It’s Pai Mei, only not in name.

While ‘Born Invincible’ doesn’t have the polish or fun as some of the better Pai Mei movies there is a certain satisfaction to it that it does give us more of what we want; a bunch of kung fu students trying to figure out how to defeat a near invincible opponent and the training they put themselves through in order to do it. To give the movie even more credit it has Lo Lieh in it. Unfortunately he is not playing the role of the white haired master, I guess that would be too close to his very memorable role as the real Pei Mei in the Shaw Brothers films. Instead Carter Wong takes on the role and does a very good job of being the villain.

As previously mentioned, there are many white haired kung fu villains out there. A lot of them don’t live up to their menacing looks but on some occasions like here, they do shine.

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Zatoichi Season 2

As with season 1 and the movies, the second season of Zatoichi follows the similar pattern of story of the week. If you’re not familiar by now, then here’s a brief rundown. Zatoichi is a wandering blind swordsman who has at times worked for the Yakuza and is even considered a Yakuza by many, doing the dirty jobs and taking out rival gangs. His bloody past and present is a constant companion with him, his crimes and skill attracts the attention of gangs, clans, constables, ronins and vagabonds who either want to capture him, get him to work for them, kill him or test their sword skills against his. Yet, Zatoichi is an antihero, there is a goodness to him, he doesn’t kill the good or the innocent, he tries to help others whenever he can at no cost. Think of him as ‘The Littlest Hobo’, except he is not a dog and when he moves onto his next town or city at the end of an episode there is usually a bloody trail of destruction left behind him.

There are quite a few episodes in season 2 with a similar theme, mainly men who put their girlfriends, lover, wife, daughter into the prostitution business or brothels for money and then there are the ex lovers who are trying to get their loved ones out of the prostitution business. These episodes were less interesting to me and the same type of plot leads to some dispiriting episodes. If you are mentally not in the right place at the moment or feel you might be triggered by such scenes or if you’re just tired of seeing women as the victim then you might want to think about if you really want to watch these episodes or not.
But there are a few interesting stories that, like season 1, are quite heart wrenching.

Take for example episode 6. Now, a ton of stuff happens in this episode so bear with me. Zatoichi encounters his old master who invites him to stay at his home with him and his sister. During training practice his master betters him which leaves a swollen mark on Zatoichi’s wrist, this will play into the episode later. Meanwhile, his master has been recommended to be a teacher of a clan in another city. This high recommendation comes with a price though, dues that need to be paid, amounting up to a lot of money. The master asks a gang for a lone, but unknown to him the gang kidnaps one of his students to ransom the student’s father. As this is going on, the sister of Zatoichi’s master wants to marry Zatoichi and live with him. As if that wasn’t enough, another man is seeking Zatoichi out in revenge for killing his brother! When Zatoichi’s master returns home that night his sister tells him that she wants to marry Zatoichi. Her brother refuses and Zatoichi leaves the next morning in shame.
That same morning, the gang meet Zatoichi’s master in a forest where they are waiting to collect the ransom on his behalf, still unbeknownst to the master. Once the ransom has been paid the gang kill the student and his father to the horror of Zatoichi’s master who proceeds to kill the boss and any gang members that will fight him. As the survivors run off he bends down to slowly pick up the money. Zatoichi enters and finds the dead bodies of father and son tied up. He assumes the person picking up the money is in some way responsible and duels with him shortly before striking a killing blow. Zatoichi then continues on his journey, as he does he notices his wrist is bleeding in the same place his master had attacked him in practice. With agony on his face, he realizes he has killed his master.

Sorry, that was a long synopsis, but it was a brilliant episode with so much stuff going on. The series seems to play fast and loose with the continuity though because this is not the first time Zatoichi has killed his master and we also see him visit his mother’s grave which seems to contradict the implications of a season 1 episode. I guess we could say that Zatoichi had more than one master (since this season 2 master looks almost younger than him) and perhaps we could say the grave he visited was not his actual mother but the woman who raised him (A point he does clarify in a later season 2 episode).

Each episode of Zatoichi is rich in storytelling like the movies were. My only criticism might be that we know how things will play out. People will die. Friends he makes will die at his hand. Zatoichi is a character immersed in tragedy.

Compared to season 1 I think season 2 is stronger. While it’s still an episodic show with stories of the week, this season has far stronger stand alone episodes with tons of complexity going on in each one. I was often left reeling after each episode and thinking at the same time how great it was.

Continuity Notes: things are pretty much all over the place but here’s a few things.

In one episode, Zatoichi is caught and his cane sword is taken from him. He escapes and ends up fashioning a much cruder cane sword with a blunt blade. At the end of the episode Zatoichi is stuck on a small boat that floats away. Yet in the next episode we see him with his regular cane sword again. He may have gone back to search for it but considering that he was last see floating away on a boat, with no idea where he was going and considering that he is afraid of the water it seems less likely he could have made his way back.

There is mention that Zatoichi travels mainly in the areas of Awa, Kazusa, Shimosa and Hitachi. For anyone unfamiliar, these are outside areas surrounding Tokyo. Zatoichi’s hometown itself is said to be Kasama. That’s about 100km from Tokyo.

Zatoichi is described as Yakuza by his former master and those that fight Zatoichi describe his fighting as Yakuza sword style.

Favorite quote: “After all the suffering you’ve caused people… you need to learn how to shed real tears.” – Zatoichi

Posted in 1970s, Asian Cinema, martial arts, TV, TV/DVD/Video/BluRay | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Batman

You know, I remember back in 2008 or 2009, after ‘The Dark Knight’ came out there was a fake poster of the third sequel in the trilogy. Clearly inspired by ‘Zodiac’ and clearly dealt with the Riddler. I wonder if all those years ago Matt Reeves saw that fake fan made poster too and wondered about what could be…

Fan made poster for the third sequel in the Nolan Batman trilogy

Hard to believe it’s 10 years since the last solo Batman movie outing (unless you count Lego Batman. Awesome Batman movie BTW). We’ve had Batfleck of course but nothing with him on his own. ‘The Batman’ was originally going to be a Batfleck solo movie. Vastly different of course and was hinted at by those close to the project that it would have been a Batman Arkham Asylum movie.

Things changed and along comes this iteration of the character. My first thoughts were that this movie feels the closest to the comics than any other Batman movie, in the framing of shots, to the voice-over, to having Batman play detective finally. My view might have been colored by having recently read ‘The Long Halloween’. But of the Batman comics I have read I did think that yeah, this is the Batman of the comics.

As the movie progressed, my continued thoughts were, this is definitely not for kids. I don’t mean the ‘Seven’ inspired tone, violence and visuals but rather the adult drama and nature of the movie. Christopher Nolan did give us a grittier and more realistic Batman but it still felt like a popcorn flick. As film critic Mark Kermode put it “the most expensive art house film ever made“. ‘The Batman’ doesn’t disguise itself as anything other than what it is. It’s not a popcorn flick. It’s an almost 3 hour movie that had people shifting in their seats. You can’t take kids to that. There’s not enough action and the pace is too slow for kids. It’s not like it was with ‘Batman’ 89 or ‘The Dark Knight’ where you had action set pieces to amaze, memorable one liners and sprinkles of humor. I will go even further by saying that the 3 hour run time doesn’t work and is a detriment to the film. This is coming from a person who watched the 3 hour ‘Avengers Endgame’ 4 times at the theater and loved it. ‘The Batman’ dwells too much in it’s visuals and moodiness. Which is a shame because I like those things but what we see here doesn’t grab my attention the way Nolan did. I think ‘The Batman’ is a good movie but not at it’s current running time. I would say that I felt more satisfied with the 4 hour Snyder cut than this. It’s a shame I feel that way. I was excited for the movie even though I kept my expectations low. It’s funny that on the day that I watched ‘The Batman’ I also watched ‘Uncharted’. I wasn’t expecting to like ‘Uncharted’ since it’s based on a video game after all, but I had a hell of time. That was a film well worth the money.

Thinking back to my first impressions of the teaser trailer for ‘The Batman’, I was very intrigued and impressed with what they were going to do with the character. I got the impression that this would be a full on Batman is a nut job, murdering criminals and completely let loose. The film however doesn’t have him killing criminals. It has him beating people up pretty badly but it’s no Michael Keaton Batman. Even at the end of the film this new Batman decides that maybe he should be a symbol of hope instead. Now if they were taking the character into a more colorful world of Denny O’Neil then great but making Batman a symbol of hope in the world they have created here doesn’t feel like it’s going to work. How is it going to change the character in what will likely be the second act of a trilogy? The second act where things are supposed to fall apart. We even see Batman use something like venom in the movie which sets up an addiction story line for the future. All in all, I don’t see “hope” being the selling theme of future sequels.

Overall ‘The Batman’ is a good movie but the running time is my major issue and a secondary minor nit pick is the depiction of a certain character near the very end of the movie which sets up future possibilities.

How I rank Batman solo movies of the 21st Century.

Batman Begins
The Dark Knight
The Lego Batman Movie
The Dark Knight Rises
The Batman

Favorite quotes:What the hell is this? Good cop, bat-shit cop?” – Oswald Cobblepot

Posted in 2020s, Batman, Cinema, Comic Book Movies & TV | Leave a comment

Ghostbusters Afterlife

This review will contain spoilers and will have spoilers from ‘Spider-man No Way Home’ and the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy.

I don’t have a strong opinion on ‘Ghostbusters Afterlife’ now that I’ve finally seen it. After waiting 30 years for a third sequel to Ghostbusters, this ain’t it. I wasn’t expecting it to be. That would have had to have happened in the 90s. A sequel would be one prominently featuring the original characters that we love. ‘Ghostbusters Afterlife’ is at best a nod to the original movies. I was still hyped to see this movie though because I am a massive Ghostbusters fan. That hype only increased with the rave reviews and positivity surrounding it from people who watched the movie and asking each other “Did you cry?”.

To answer that question. No. No, I didn’t. The film didn’t grip me emotionally in the way ‘Spider-man No Way Home‘ did and didn’t devastate me the way ‘James Bond No Time To Die‘ did. I almost wondered if something was wrong with me as I watch this new Ghostbusters movie. Shouldn’t I be crying now? I should be feeling something more here, right? Why am I not liking this movie more? While I did like this movie the answer to why I didn’t like it more is that it’s a soft reboot. It reintroduces aspects from the original movie with new characters that are fun but not entirely gripping. I like the setting, I like the idea of a grandchild trying to connect with a grandparent she never knew, but the nostalgia aspects of the movie didn’t stir me. The plot and ending of the film are fairly similar to the first Ghostbusters movie, only with less going on in between the nostalgia driven parts. Even at the end when the movie gives you everything you could have hoped for it still feels very much to be fan service rather than service to the story.

So where does this fail in my eyes where other movies driven by nostalgia succeed? Take for example ‘Star Wars The Force Awakens’. While it hits the same story beats as ‘A New Hope‘ and contains a lot of nods to the visual look of the original trilogy, it still feels fresh and new. It includes Han Solo and has him deeply involved with the overall plot of the film. Some people weren’t overly happy though, mainly because it doesn’t give us Luke, Han and Leia on screen together at the same time. Mark Hamill notes that he expected Luke to show up near the end to save the day. On the one hand you have this as an example of a soft reboot driven by nostalgia. JJ Abrams had the unenviable position of making the choice to not have the core original trilogy characters sharing a scene together because he felt it distracted too much from the rest of the movie.
On the other hand you have ‘Ghostbusters Afterlife’ which gives us the imagery we as fans have been waiting so long for. Yet, it feels like a moment in a film rather than a bigger piece of the film. How does it serve the rest of the film’s story other than to distract from the growth of newer characters? Yes, it’s great to see but it feels out of place.
The film that handled our nostalgic expectations best was of course ‘Spiderman No Way Home‘. Here they had their cake ate it too. Instead of giving us just a moment with heroes suddenly showing up to save the day at the last moment you have them as an integral part of the third act. This then lays the groundwork for a far more satisfying “save the day!” ending that doesn’t feel shoved in or out of place and actually serves the story and the journey of the main character.

My main problem with the overall story of ‘Ghostbusters Afterlife’ is that it’s based on the idea that Egon ran away from his family and the other Ghostbusters to spend years living as a hermit in order to save the world. I just don’t buy it for that character. Instead of spending years raising his daughter he spends years alone. Instead of asking the other Ghostbusters for help or even explaining what he was up to he’d rather just leave and ditch everyone like that? I don’t buy it. And then to make it worse the other Ghostbusters didn’t believe him? A work colleague for years and they don’t even try to give him the benefit of the doubt to go see this underground temple? Also, since when did Egon have a family? Going by the age of his daughter that would mean that Egon had her before the first movie. So in the first two movies we saw him in he was married with kids but living at the firehouse with Ray and Peter? Yes, I know this is the same Egon who tried to drill a hole through his head but that was a line, a bit, a piece of comedy in the film. The character we saw in the first two movies doesn’t resemble the picture that is painted of him in this movie. I’m almost getting Luke Skywalker The Last Jedi vibes here with Egon isolating himself like Luke did and those that knew him not having a kind word to say.

Speaking of problems, why is Gozer now catchable? In the first movie they couldn’t even get Gozer with the proton packs, but here isn’t no problem to hold onto her. They also just go ahead and start crossing the streams without a second though; the thing that caused a massive explosion years ago that could have potentially killed them. Add to the fact that the purpose of crossing the streams was to close the doorway to Gozer’s temple. But here there is no temple which means it’s potentially even more dangerous to do that because the energy isn’t going into a temple to reverse it’s appearance.
And why Gozer again? With the plethora of villains they could have taken from the animated series why do a de-powered Gozer? I guess I should know the answer. Nostalgia. Look at the trivia page on IMDB and 90% of the trivia there is pointing out what in Afterlife relates to or is connected to or is an easter egg of the original movie. Yes, the twinky and candy bar. I got it. I got it guys.

The consensus seems to be if you didn’t like the 2016 movie then you’ll like this one and if you did like the 2016 movie then you won’t like this one. I fall into the category of not really liking either. I like it more than the 2016 movie and overall, it’s fine, well made, gives fans what they want, I would definitely watch a sequel, but it’s ultimately unmemorable for a film that really should be memorable.

Here’s how I rank the movies:

Ghostbusters
Ghostbusters II
Ghostbusters Afterlife
Ghostbusters 2016

Favorite quote: “On a personal note, I thought that we had busted up for good. I mean, it wasn’t working for me. My friends didn’t think so, and I know yours didn’t.”

Posted in 2020s, Cinema, ghostbusters | Tagged | Leave a comment