Rogue One

Dec. 19th, 2016 03:38 pm
chronovore: (sweater)
Saw it. Loved it. Yeah, it's the least Star-Warsy Star Wars movie, but it worked. There are SW fanthings out there whose favorite post-Original Trilogy works are the Rogue Squadron novels. I bet this movie works just fine for them.

I honestly didn't see the end coming that way. I assumed it would go down differently because it's a Disney movie, but DAMN that was a satisfying, beautiful way to handle things.

The CGI characters were fine. It was surprising, but well handled overall -- but I agree I would have preferred to keep it slightly less front-and-center. Some people think one character was handled better than another, but I thought they were equally well-done, but imperfect.

K2-SO had me laughing aloud repeatedly, and Donnie Yen's character had me cheering.

Complaints: Forrest Whittaker was misused; there is some backstory there we should have seen, but didn't. He was Frank Booth-ing it up big time, and we have no idea why. Exposition was handled clumsily, without exception. Character names were mishandled; I have no idea what Yen's character was named. Captain Andor's name is two opposed conjunctions. Who the FUCK designed the Empire's server farm? That thing is five flavors of bullshit. I mean, cool, but it was apparently the same guy who designed the Death Star's impractical tractor beam control. Oh, forgot that the shot of Mustafar should have been labled "MORDOR" because, Jesus, could they lift any more from the visuals of LOTR?

ANYWAY: Awesome.
chronovore: (sweater)
Watched Justin Lin's and Simon Pegg's 2Trek2Furious this morning. Beyond isn't a great movie, and there are missed opportunities on just about every front. I'm mildly grateful that the action sequences are coherent, though they also suffer from an impracticality level that is difficult to discuss in a movie which features casual teleportation devices and humanoid aliens who either speak English natively, through a translator, or have mysteriously learned it from ships' logs. The new aliens have vaginas for ears, which is in line with Klingons having clitoral foreheads, through one of them has a facehugger on the back of her head.
I am still not tired of watching Quinto-as-Spock (he nails it), Urban-as-Bones, or even Chris Pine playing the Kelvin Timeline's Kirk who is ALWAYS GETTING HIS ASS KICKED.
The final battle was oddly, unnecessarily wrongly long.
spoiler )
Happy I saw it. It's muuuuuuch better than Into Darkness, but still problematic from a fan perspective.
chronovore: (sweater)
In the Scorpion TV show, as encouragement for his team of four geniuses, the lead character at one point trots out a line: "We have a collective IQ of 700!"

So does a preschool classroom full of five-year-olds. What a stupid thing to say. Hardly genius. 
chronovore: (sweater)
I've been on a Guillermo Del Toro kick, so I rewatched Blade II and Hellboy. Blade was just about as good as I'd remembered, with plenty of very comic-book styled action and gorgeous visuals, from the ruined Eastern European industrial and rave settings to the indulgently slick artifact-like technology of the vampire strike team. I was surprised to see how much of Blade II GDT brought with him to his TV series, The Strain. It was also surprising to see Red Dwarf's "Cat" and Defiance's Datak Tarr in the vampire strike team, and Norman Reedus on Blade's support team. I had forgotten or perhaps never noticed how much CG is used during some of the fight scenes -- not the exploding bodies, of course, but the leaping about and vampire-kung-fu scenes have some particularly elegant-for-its-time transitions to-and-from live action actors. This turned out to be true for Hellboy as well.

Everly was a 99¢ special, so I took a chance on it. In general, I don't think Salma Hayek is often hired for her acting skills as much as her figure. She wasn't bad in this, which surprised me. On the other hand, the script was just frustratingly bad. It felt like someone wanted to write a more comic book version of Kill Bill, but include a nearly single stage, theatrical set in which to show it. Plus add a little grit and maybe some torture porn. I can't stand the latter. Just so much stuff didn't make internally consistent sense. I'm fine with suspension of belief to just about any degree, but I can't stand when the Reality Gauge needle is shoved around like a bullied victim in a school yard.

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation was great popcorn fun, and that's about it. M:I 3 and Ghost Protocol are both movies which made an impression. I could tell you about all kinds of scenes in this one, but the overall plot was less satisfying and coherent than JJ's previous outings.
chronovore: (sweater)
Trying to figure out when I should stop playing Batman: Arkham Origins.
There are a heap of 'Cheevos I won't be getting. I never manage to get the "all the special moves and gadgets in a single combo" Achievement, and the Combat/Predator Challenges I usually do well, but not Gold Medals across the board. I'm not going back to Deathstroke or Shiva for a perfect victory. I'd just get frustrated. I also won't be touching the tacked-on multiplayer component. No, thanks.
I finished the main story several days ago, then went and did the assassins which weren't part of the main story, then did all the murder cases (neat, simplified use of either Remember Me "rewind" feature), and am now cleaning up Blackgate escapees and collecting Enigma packages.
I just cannot believe the interminable number of Enigma Packages. Earlier, I beat up all the Enigma Data Handlers, revealing all the Packages, OR SO I THOUGHT. Later more Data Handlers were added, meaning I had to backtrack and get more Packages from areas I thought I'd cleared. Also frustrated when a Package is either higher than can be seen while gliding, or hidden underground in one of those indoor sections. Especially the ones I couldn't get on the first time through the area, during a mission. It feels like I have collected a hundred of them, but I've still got 2~3 dozen Packages on the map.
Apparently if I collect all the Packages, there is a way to finally get into the locked door at Enigma's HQ, and I can arrest him. As the most consistent source of cajoling in the game, I'm tempted to play that one all the way through.

THE GOOD: This is probably the best Batman game out of the lot, and it was made by Splash Damage, not Rocksteady. SD clearly understands not only what works from Rocksteady's formula, but has gone further with the established art direction and added more clear color, lighting, and structural landmark cues which make navigating a more intuitive effort than in Asylum or City.

Moreover, the story has a clear arc which is a joy to play through, definitely capturing the angry and brooding nature of young Batman, even if he has a lot more toys than Miller's Batman: Year One ever enjoyed. Unlike the previous games, I can actually tell you what the story consists of despite taking place in a sprawling open-world game. Very satisfying.

Which is part of the problem, I think: I'm done with the story, save Enigma's capture, and it is difficult to motivate myself to keep playing, like a comic which seems to have wordless panels with random character placement even after the story has completed.
chronovore: (sweater)
Mulan
And why not? Movie is still better paced, and has better music than Frozen. There’s also no opportunistic male betrayal casually thrown in as a lever to pry apart siblings. The message of culture being important but also needing to evolve has never been more important.

Kingsman: The Secret Service
Mark Millar’s casual douchery is more subdued here than in WANTED, and there are no peanut-butter-craving rats in this, so: WIN. The observations on class and entitlement were my favorite bits. The action was epic, and very few plot steps were nonsensical. Nice to see Sam Jackson doing something quirky, to boot.

Taken 3
Should have been taken back and shot. The Brian Mills character has gone from a security consultant to a Special Forces veteran with a top secret record. No longer a clever and resourceful beast of his own history, he now uses his cellphone in a stolen police cruiser to “hack the LAPD” while being chased. Also, after handling stepdads in the best light in the original movie, why fall prey to the lamest of clichés about them now? It was nice seeing Brian’s team step up and risk everything to help him, and the LA setting was well handled; otherwise, though: bleh.`

This is Spinäl Tap
Sorry I can’t get the umlaut on the “n” like a true fan would manage. This movie is still perfect. Watching Tap go through its various eras, mocking each of the music of the time is just so glorious. I enjoyed every minute.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
I fell asleep. In fairness, this was 1:30AM for me, and I was having a rough flight, but for a Guy Ritchie movie, it was somehow a slog. Their take on Moriarty was interesting, but it doesn’t explain why Sherlock doesn’t just wetwork the Professor during their initial meet-up when he states that Watson’s family is also a planned target. I know I’m arguing logic in a movie with Cossacks who parkour but, hey.
chronovore: (sweater)
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark ダークフェアリー : I figured Guy Pearce and Guillermo del Toro with faeries would be an automatic win. Nope. Self-indulgent suspense scenes instead feel like lingering establishing shots. Casting of the daughter was odd; she looked like she /could/ be Katie Holmes’ daughter, but she’s Guy Pearce’s daughter, and Katie’s the stepmom. I guess a daughter that looked like Guy Pearce would be a different kind of horror movie. I quit halfway through this turd.
Justice League: The New Frontier: Lots of fun superhero stuff, cast against the Cold War and McCarthyism. I liked the older costumes, including a costume transition for Batman. I want to pick up the Darwyn Cooke original works now.

oblivion

Oct. 13th, 2014 05:02 pm
chronovore: (sweater)
I watched Oblivion. I really wanted to like this movie, but there are too many “wait, what?” moments peppered throughout it for me to consider it serious SF. There are so many ways they could have made this movie suck less.

What I liked:
It was really pretty. The tech was pretty. Turns out it was almost all meaningless, due to the main plot conceit, but it was neat.
The music was awesome. Like Tangerine Dream produced by Hans Zimmer.
The effects, especially the landscape shots were just gorgeous.
I’m always happy to look at Olga Kurlyenko.
Tom Cruise is fun to watch.
A fairly subversive but insufficiently explored subtext about each of us unthinkingly carrying out our role in society, which is actually being ruled by entities which don’t have our best interests at heart, and are running drone attacks on those who could potentially ally with us.

What I didn’t like:
Vika is made out to be an unlikable person; the idea that the two of them would get along for the duration of the three year contract in isolation is unrealistic but, already, I’m arguing about something realistic in a world of cartoon logic.
The repeated phrasing of “Are you an effective team?” is an unnatural phrase which should have greater impact or some larger reveal, but it’s just a key point on which Vika can be made more dislikable.
The story is basically nonsense.
No, really: utter nonsense. The idea that the aliens are playing some weird memory game with Vika and Jack to keep them docile, when it’s later revealed that the aliens had “thousands” of Jacks cloned as dog soldiers in their invasion, is inexplicable. Or, rather, it’s explicable but in a movie as short on logic and thin on story, why not throw in some exposition?
THOUSANDS of Jacks being used in an invasion, but now dozens or hundreds of cloned Jacks are now being used as drone maintenance men, so let’s go through the trouble of setting up designer houses and rebuilding -- or inventing -- our tech so that it can be used by humans.
Hm... the aliens have managed to make their way to Earth, and have set up factories for harvesting energy, which need to be protected by drones, because the drones are made to largely look like human technology...
WHY NOT JUST USE WHATEVER TECHNOLOGY YOU USED TO GET TO EARTH, AND USE IT ON EARTH, INSTEAD OF MAKING STUFF WHICH CAN BE USED BY YOUR CONFUSED CLONE WORKFORCE?

...Jesus.

Also, everyone else hit by alien/drone weapons is burst into charcoal tidbits. It’s a great effect. Morgan Freeman is not burst into charcoal; he has time to give a last soliloquy -- and a bit more on top of that.


I’m glad I saw it, I won’t see it again, and people who are comparing it favorably to PKD’s oeuvre need to read some more books to understand what separates wheat from chaff.
chronovore: (sweater)
Penn & Teller made a movie about their friend, Tim Jenison, inventor and creator of Video Toaster and LightWave. Tim is obsessed with the work of the Dutch artist Vermeer, and explores various optical devices which may have helped Vermeer achieve the stunningly realistic look in his work. Tim sets about re-creating Vermeer’s The Music Lesson.

Jenison is clearly, very, very smart except for the part where he willingly lives in Texas. The experts brought in to look in on Tim’s process included famed British artist David Hockney, due to his earlier research on Vermeer suggesting that a camera obscura had been used, and Prof. Philip Steadman, who has provided proof that some form of optical device must have been used in Vermeer’s work due to the consistent size ratio shown in the work produced from Vermeer’s studio. There’s also Colin Blakemore, whose credit in the cast took up three full rows of text to display all his honors. Apparently he knows a lot about vision.

This was a fascinating and surprisingly humorous work. Very inspiring.

movies

Sep. 27th, 2014 10:19 am
chronovore: (sweater)
The Karate Kid without Karate; Jackie Chan as Sifu not-Miyagi: I really liked it. I don't like just about anything Jackie's done from a Hollywood studio, I don't like Will Smith's son, and I don't like remakes, but this was pretty fun. I'm still not sure why Chan needed backstory added for his surliness, but he had good chemistry with his student. The bad-guy Sifu looked really cruel and arrogant. I halfway thought they'd add a fight between the teachers, but I'm glad the only fight shown with Chan is him beating up children. (Ha!)

Ghibli's Tales from Earthsea: I was excited about this when it was first announced, but never got around to watching it until recently. It's not really watchable. I got through about half of it, but gave up. It's tepid. Gorgeous scenery design, but everything else is bog-standard anime, no Ghibli flavor except character design. The son is not the father.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters: Yup, that was a movie. The first half is pretty fun; I was prepared to enjoy the movie a lot, and had zero expectations, so when this medieval/mythic/fable Europe setting begins with sketches of missing children pasted on milk bottles, I was immediately ready for a goofy ride. The movie doesn't bother with euro accents, either; even Gemma Arterton adopts an American English accent for her role opposite Jeremy Renner. Stuff explodes, people get shot (yes, medieval shotguns... and tasers... and record players for that matter), and weirdly Deadite-looking "witches" descend and harass the local population. It is, however, oddly unsatisfying.

Actually, come to think of it, just a little more of a push, and this could have been Army of Darkness 2, with all the guns and quips, and explode-y bits. Add just a little more humor, shift the backstory just a hair so that Gretel is just some girl Ash saved, and it could work. Too bad.
chronovore: (sweater)
Amazing. Easily his best work aside from Brazil. If I understood more about christianity, I'd probably have liked it much more... or much less, if devout. It plays a lot of games with the structure of christianity, modern business, corporate takeover of our lives, and privacy, both physical and virtual.

I bought it the day it came out; it went to digital release same day as its limited theatrical release. Apparently the distributor has made a mess of its release, which is really sad. Christopher Waltz and David Thewlin are both amazing -- Matt Damon's rather good as well.
chronovore: (sweater)
Watched The Queen of Versailles, a documentary covering the David Siegel family's fall from prosperity. The documentary was originally planned to show the building of America's largest single-roof family dwelling by the owner of the world's largest timeshare company.
Then the 2008 financial crisis hits, and it is revealed that the Siegel family is living as far outside their means as the rest of America. There is some blame-casting; some areas Siegels fail to take responsibility for their own decisions, and others are legitimate complaints about the systemic abuse by banks.
I keenly felt the uneven hand of fate, where Siegel is just some chump who had one good idea, rode it out into a sizable fortune, and invests his time in making money rather than paying attention to his family -- though it's arguable that his 1950's Dad Syndrome /is/ his way of showing love to his family. Meanwhile, due to his lack of introspection and self-evaluation, he appears to commit on his family many of the same errors his father did.

The movie is named after the "Queen" however, his wife, and I was utterly surprised at how much sympathy I would end up feeling for her. She seems like a legitimately caring and loving person, with a lot of problems, but whose reliance on money is less of a problem than her need for external validation.

It was a surprising and intimate picture of a well-off family experiencing a crisis. There are many moments of universal wisdom espoused, with many of them offered up nearly unconsciously, and crafted into the larger narrative in a very engaging manner.
chronovore: (sweater)
Finally got around to watching HUGO. I'll have to watch it again to appreciate the storytelling techniques and implications of the various scenes' construction. I could tell I was watching something layered and nuanced, but then Chloe Grace Moretz opens her mouth and it's like she's acting in a different movie from everyone else, except for possibly Sasha Baron Cohen, who was also hamming it up. My guess is, along with other directorial choices like having Ben Kingsley speak directly to the audience during the big reveal, that both Chloe's and Sasha's acting techniques are pointers to other eras of cinema, just as Georges Méliès' actors in his films employed exaggerated body language.
chronovore: (sweater)
Fable 2 was a wonderful, engrossing game for me, and Fable 3 is total crap. I'd give the former 4 out of 5 stars, and the latter 2.

I have been desperately trying to figure out what the difference has been between the two experiences. I'd summarize it as:

  1. This Sanctuary "menu" system, where I navigate my character in an aleph, managing my inventory, clothes, spells, etc. is bloated, heavy, counterintuitive crap. My butler, John Cleese, telling me that there's new DLC available EVERY FUCKING TIME I show up is straining our relationship.

  2. Sanctuary "menu" for my Inventory meant I have an armory somewhere, where my character can change his equipped weapon, spell, and firearm. Somewhere. I spent 25 hours in this game before realizing that (a) spells get changed in the armory, and (b) I already owned all the gauntlets which cast spells.

  3. There is no need to actually travel anywhere 99% of the time; Fast Travel will pop me to the Quest location immediately, so I have no sense of journeying anywhere. Oddly, Fast Travel sometimes seems to put me RIGHT where I need to be, and other times it will put me further away than I was before electing to Fast Travel.

  4. They tried to do something interesting with the "Make a promise" (required to advance the storyline), and then introducing conflict/agony over fulfilling the promise. Sadly the game's own economy makes it circumventable fairly easily, and in the most boring manner possible: I can donate my own sizable reserves to Albion's treasury, eliminating actual consequences. If this worked, it would have been really impressive, even heartbreaking. But it doesn't.

The final confrontation in Fable 3 is worse than in 2. It spends a heap of time implying there'll be a huge battle against an even larger foe than the previous, seriously epic battle for the throne, and ends up being a waltz down Main Street Bowerstone. The game squanders its potential for emotional involvement at every opportunity.

I also enjoyed Fable 2's open-world stuff more than 3's. The town jobs actually had some variation in gameplay, there were a few extended non-main storyline missions, and the minutiae were kind of fun to manage. I also enjoyed fighting.

Fable 3 has that Bioshock Infinite problem where it's no longer necessary to work for anything. I never looked into upgrading my weapons because fighting was never a challenge. When I looked into it, I found I'd never used magic effectively; I used Vortex/wind the whole game. I never even knew weapons could be upgraded by performing some challenges -- why not start the Hero with a weapon which sucks, but has easily-met upgrade conditions? This would educate the player naturally. Fast Travel, again, here. There's no reason to actually run anywhere, so there is no perception if distance or place.

Anyway, it's done. I finished the last tolerable Achievement last night, and now it's on to the next thing. In the end F3 was an education in what NOT to do.

maidentrip

Jun. 4th, 2014 02:47 pm
chronovore: (sweater)
A documentary following the journey of 14-year-old, maybe-Dutch, maybe-New Zealander, maybe Neptune's own brood, Laura Dekker. Born on a boat, and spent the first five years of her life sailing, this film follows her attempt to become the world's youngest person to circumnavigate the earth alone in a boat. Gorgeous film, well paced, and inspiring.

Much of the film is shot by Laura on her boat, and on land with assistance by a film crew. Laura's not rushing around; she visits many ports on her journey, meets a number of interesting characters, and sees many overwhelmingly gorgeous sights. On the water, we see a number of unbelievably beautiful vistas, sunrises, sunsets, and an unfortunate set of storms.

It was an interesting set of mental gymnastics for me. I was worried for her throughout, and also cheering her on. I couldn't let my daughter try something like this, even if she was interested in doing it. Laura's father has raised one of the most independent and singular characters I've ever seen.
chronovore: (sweater)
99¢ rental on iTunes. I really wanted to like this movie, it has Dichen Lachman in an electric blue shock wig, so I was inclined to cheer for it in all ways possible. Sadly, the characters are hard to cheer for, making poor decisions and being entirely unreasonable. Well, it's about love -- maybe that's OK since "love" or lust are involved, but the kind of demands these people were making on each other, I would have walked from any relationship or encounter like these.
A group of actors who met during various Joss Whedon efforts (Cabin in the Woods, Dollhouse, Dr. Horrible; Joss and Jed as well as Eliza Dushku get a shout-out in the credits) got together to make a completely predictable and staggeringly unrealistic romantic comedy about mostly alcoholic oddly-named young people in what may be Los Angeles. I barked laughter at a couple points which may have been improvised. I spent most of my time shaking my head and shouting "FUCK OFF" at the screen. The writing fell flat and was was kind of creepy left-and-right. There were some wild stabs in the dark at literary structure, but sadly a wild stab in the dark was more of a gut wound that left it bleeding out slowly.
The typical noughties rom-com camerawork was solid, the musical score was fun, and the twee-as-fuck soundtrack was pretty charming, but the audio was uneven, and the overall length and pace needed tighter editing.

chronovore: (sweater)
Just finished Joe Abercrombie's Red Country. I enjoyed it much, much more than Best Served Cold, which was my first novel by this author. Several characters from the latter appear in it, and they're welcome additions, but they're thankfully largely ancillary. It's like... okay, pardon me for nerding out here, but it's like being in an RPG and having the DM bring back the group's previous characters as adversaries. Or at least opposing forces.

This book had a similarly dark feeling to the Best Served Cold, but the characters were more likable and there were more chances to laugh. It was enjoyable to watch the way various stories intertwined, and how the various coincidences worked out (or didn't) for all the parties involved.

cut fer spoilerage )
chronovore: (sweater)
A remarkable movie, full of stunning performances across the board, believable dialog, and very much like watching a slow motion car crash interspersed with shots of showing the driver earlier, and why the car is going to crash... perhaps deserves to crash.

Louis CK's appearance was understated, as was Alec Baldwin's, but the real surprise was Andrew "Dice" Clay showing up and owning his role. I am hoping it means a return to work for him; I was one of the fans who didn't like his schtick, but realized it was his stand-up character, and not representative of his beliefs.

As much as the other actors really hauled their weight, I am again convinced that Cate Blanchett may be the best actress of our age. She's consistently amazing.

The writing, though. My god, this was just an intricate, balanced house of cards, waiting for the end for the author to sweep it aside of his own volition. I'll be thinking about this movie for some time to come.
chronovore: (sweater)
Ever since seeing the preview trailer for this a couple years ago, I have been waiting to see this movie. It dawns on me that it may have been 2012 when I saw this, back during my one year working return to the USA. My brother-in-law, a similarly minded geek to myself, determined that we'd see this together if it was at all possible. We would see it, and enjoy stellar beer while we did so.

During my January trip to California, I found that it had a one-night engagement at a local theater. I found out about it the day after the showing. That was a little frustrating, but it's not like I had time.

It released last month on video, and I purchased a digital lease for streaming rights (because, let's face it, I don't own a copy of the movie -- I'm just allowed to watch it as long as they're willing to stream it). As it turned out, my BIL managed to come out to Japan last week, and we were able to work in a viewing.

As you can imagine, we had built it up quite a bit in our heads. Equally as unsurprising, the movie doesn't live up to our hopes.

The movie's problem can be boiled down to editing. There are sections which are comedy, others which are drama, and the large remainder of it is a slasher flick without any rhyme or reason.

The comedy notes, the parts centered on geeks LARPing, are the best bits.

Next are all the implied backstory on the various characters; it feels like we've walked in on several competing groups of characters, each with their own history; however, it's apparent that most-or-all of that backstory and any callbacks referencing the humor, have been left on the cutting room floor. It's doubly sad, because these could have been the best bits of the movie. Apparently the hero had previously been a Game Master, and the current Game Master holds a sizable grudge against him for giving his Paladin character "Demonic Herpes." You just know there's a great story behind that, and likely some making amends as part of their character development. There are paintball rednecks who have a long-standing feud going on with the LARPers, and there's some potential for more rivalry and shenanigans, but it's never referenced.

Sadly, the movie spends about half its time focused on "the succubus from hell," following her around, watching her go through a re-creation of the T-800's learning curve as she kills her way through characters we've not seen before, have no reason to empathize with or fear for, until she eventually makes her way to our party of LARPers. It's cheesy, and could have been funny, but mostly it's just a straight up unstoppable killer slasher flick, and disappointing.

Perhaps the most disappointing bit was the end, where the hero uses an ability shown for laughs at the outset of the movie, which marginally makes sense considering the nature of spell casting shown, but was still poorly, ham-fistedly executed.

The True Blood dudes were good, Summer Glau was having fun, and Peter Dinklage was as awesome as ever. I'd love to see a Director's Cut of the movie to see what was hacked away to get to produce this otherwise confused mess. 
chronovore: (sweater)
A few weeks ago, Wolf Children aired on standard broadcast TV. It was a moving, modern fairy tale about a woman who loves a wolf, and bears him two children. The movie mostly follows her efforts to raise them, trapped between two worlds, two very different "cultures." It was surprisingly sensitive and nuanced, and the art was really impressive.

This sparked an interest in Mamoru Hosada, its director and co-writer. Last night we watched Summer Wars, a neat mostly present-day piece where the main difference from our world is a shared virtual space called Oz, where pretty much everyone in the world's 10,000,000,000 people (maybe this is near-future?) has an account. This story mainly follows a couple of high school students: a flighty high school girl who has brought her friend, a bookish underclassman, to work part-time at her family farm.

This film relied more prevalently on CG, with swaths of the movie taking place in this virtual reality which is largely a super flat styled space, with simplified and stylized avatars roaming throughout its multipurpose environs. The bulk of the real-world portion takes place in the countryside, the journey to which is itself worthy of note: As the characters leave the city, they move from bullet-train to standard train, to trolley, to bus... exemplifying the gradually lowering technology and modern convenience until arriving at the farm, itself a turn-of-the-century relic of traditional Japanese architecture.

The girl's family is very well-realized, with a number of interesting characters being portrayed across a number of traditional character types. While the two main characters were fairly realistic in their presentation, the surrounding family relied more heavily on dramatic archetypes; surprisingly this worked well, despite the contrast.

The film is, despite the grand scope it eventually enters, a coming of age tale writ large. It has strong undertones of how we are all interdependent, reliant on each other. Oddly there is another theme about how "the old things are better," showing analog methods to be the most reliable ways -- when the majority of the world is unable to access their bank, work, and school accounts online, the grandmother pulls out old letters and postcards to reach out to her real-world network of people to help. She calls them on a rotary phone. The boy, a math olympics champion, relies on a pencil and paper to reverse-engineer a necessary password at a critical plot point. However, the film itself ignores the fact that the grandma's phone is connected to all her fellows' by a digitally linked network which is only possible through technology, and the boy's efforts on pencil and paper could only have been sped up by a portable calculator. It's possible I missed a plot point where the grandmother's phone use /is/ detected on the digital network, and possibly the math savant's phone has a calculator but he fears not use it because it's networked... but seeing as the pencil-and-paper method is employed before Things Go To Hell, I'm guessing it's just a desired affectation to enforce the theme.

The reason I'm blagging on about this is that it seems so ironic: to realize the full vision of this movie, the modern contrivance of CG is used to amplify the visuals all over; not just the VR world, but many items in the "real" world are rendered into it rather than being hand-drawn. In addition, the movie has relied heavily on Korean studios for the production -- outsourcing, another step away from tightly linked small studios in Japan, to the broader, cost-sensitive world of distributed development. I'm not saying it is wrong, but it is a shade ironic.

It is, without a doubt, one of the best animated films I've seen. It is a fun ride, with a good message at its core, despite some unintentional irony.

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