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There seemed to be a slight lull coming from Studio Ghibli as of late.  Arriety, for instance, seemed to lack a sense of peril or danger, while Tales from Earthsea was a bit of a mess in general.  I’m glad to see that From Up on Poppy Hill is a return to form for Studio Ghibli, and, at the very least, makes Goro Miyazaki a pretty good director.

There’s a lot going on in this multi-layered film, from the slice of life romance between Umi and Shun, to Umi’s Topsy-turvy home life.  I was most intrigued by the historical aspect of the film and the plot concerning the Latin Quarter, an old building facing demolition, and the students at Umi’s school that are fighting to save it.

The film is set in 1960s Japan, as the country prepares for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics*.  There was a mad rush to update the infrastructure to accommodate the influx of athletes and tourists from around the world.  And they were successful, both in the improvements they made, but also showing the world how much they’ve changed in 20 years since the end of the second World War.

While looking up info about this period, I couldn’t find any dissent, or anything that would suggest what was seen in the film.  The Latin Quarter, with its dusty floors, cluttered rooms, and paint peeled decor, represented, I suppose, the old way that Japan looked.  The school council, probably in line with the ideas of the time, wanted to tear it down and replace it with a more modern building.  The students, fearing the loss of history, made a huge effort to restore it, and even then that wasn’t enough.  So Umi, Shun, and Shiro head out to Tokyo to directly appeal the school board’s chairman.

Again, without other research, I’m just speculating on what the film suggests.

The characters themselves are rich and fabulous.  Umi is another strong creation from Miyazaki: headstrong and confident, fearless at times too, though troubled a bit when it comes to Shun.  Shun himself is smart, though occasionally reckless, throwing himself twice into dangerous situations.  A lot of the other characters have fleshed out, vital roles as well, such as Shiro, Sora, and Sachiko.  The translation worked well too, and the voice actors used in the dub were pretty good.  It’s probably a coincidence, but Audrey Plaza looked a lot like Sachiko, the character she voiced, or at least her character from Scott Pilgrim.  Though, I was kinda iffy on Anton Yelchin as Shun, but that might be my ear.

All in all, a solid return to form for Studio Ghibli.  I liked this one a lot.

*For more history during this period, refer to this essay: http://aboutjapan.japansociety.org/content.cfm/japans_rebirth_at_the_1964_tokyo_summer

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And then this blog disappeared for nearly two and a half years…

Of course, that’s what happens when 1) you only see half of the movies in 2011 and 2012 compared to 2010, and 2) head off to grad school and lose all grasp of time.

Of course, 1) I might start seeing movies a bit more often again, because 2) grad school is done!  Or just about, since I have a final to take.  Hopefully this will find me a job somewhere within the HSE field, or something similar that’ll make me good money with consistent hours.  In the mean time, with my college writing done, I need to do something to keep my writing (somewhat) sharp.

Hence, this blog is making a comeback.

For the time being, it’ll probably maintain the same format as before, with writing about the movie briefly before describing what works/what doesn’t/how it makes me feel/etc.  One major change is the lack of grading: I’ll let the review speak for itself, without any arbitrary letter or star grade to act as a final determinant.  I’ve done a lot of reading over the past two years regarding film, much of which has also affected me in terms of personal growth and how to embrace certain things.  The most important thing I hope to pass on to others is to just see movies, whether or not they’re good or not (case in point, the latter with the following review), and to inspire discussion regarding movies.  Why was this movie amazing?  Why was this movie crap?  Why do you feel differently than I do?  Stuff like that.  It’s all about having a dialogue, if I can at least generate one.

Besides theatrical stuff, I’ll be getting through some of my DVDs as well, which is what I had originally intended to do with this blog in the first place.  I may or may not discuss bonus DVD content, though I’ll make up my mind whenever I get to that (note: a lot of DVDs don’t have crap nowadays anyway, beyond trailers and previews. I really should consider a Blu-ray upgrade at some point).

I’ll do some TV discussions as well, starting with Game of Thrones, since that’s the one show I watch consistently.

I’ll probably clean up the tags a bit at some point, but for the time being, they’ll be the cluttered mess that they are.  I never got a good handle on how to tag this stuff, but I’ll stick with what I’ve been doing: title, director, principle leads, and year of release.  That should help, in case anyone wants to look for previous stuff (though, three quarters of the reviews here are 2010 movies).

So I think that’s everything I need to address.  The review for Oblivion starts below the dotted line.


Over the weekend I saw Oblivion.

Unfortunately, it’s much like Kosinski’s last film, Tron: Legacy.  The special effects were really good, and the score (done by Anthony Gonzalez of M83) was booming (though a bit lacking in the group’s traditional synth work).  Everything else with the movie, not so much.  It was tedious and boring, with a story that riffs off of better sci-fi films and does nothing imaginative with them.  The final third of the film is wacky too, when a lot of the derivative stuff just flies in your face, plus other random things just start happening with no real explanation until really late.

The story itself goes like this: Tom Cruise plays Jack Harper, part of a mop up crew that repairs drones and makes sure that the giant hydro pumps that are collecting the planet’s water are operational.  Earth itself was attacked by aliens called Scavs in 2017, and sixty years later the remnants of humanity has fallen back to Saturn’s moon, Titan.  The Scavs are generally out to sabotage the drones and to prevent humanity from being successful in its water pulling mission.  Jack is assisted by Victoria, played by Andrea Riseborough, who directs Jack around to various fallen drones.

During a routine mission, Jack encounters a rocket falls to earth, with all but one pod in it destroyed by a drone.  That pod has Julia (Olga Kurylenko), and eventually the plot moves forward with who she is, plus the remnants of humanity on earth, and who Jack Harper really is.

That’s about as much as I can say without giving it away completely, though the trailer does a good amount regarding that.  The storytelling is rather thin, with most of the major characters barely fleshed out.  Cruise and Riseborough get the most work, shown as capable coworkers and lovers (“are you an effective team?” is an oft repeated question).  Everyone else is thin: Kurylenko shows up and messes things up a bit, but doesn’t do too much.  Morgan Freeman is the leader of a small group of humans living on earth, and offers nothing more than the occasional sagely advice.  Nikolaj Coster-Waldau randomly shows up in the movie (random in the “holy crap he’s in this movie?”) as a tough guy general who works with Freeman’s character.  The humans in this movie are hard to root for in general, since none of them have any real personality.

It’s just… meh, really.  It’s not terrible, really, just generic, unobjectionable stuff.  It does make me wonder though, between this and Tron: Legacy, why anyone thinks Kosinski is good at all.

I’m curious if this has anything to do with it:

Which, after rewatching, isn’t that great.  It’s effective in setting a mood (Clu chasing down the random program and Kevin Flynn powerless to do anything about it) but the chase doesn’t make sense at all.

In the end, it does make me wonder if Kosinski is just capable of making beautiful, bland stuff, like Oblivion.