Friday, October 31, 2014

Reinoryokusha Odagiri Kyoko no Uso (JDrama) * * * *

Reinoryokusha Odagiri Kyoko no Uso (Spiritual Teacher, Kyoko Odagiri) wasn't the drama I first thought it was going to be. I thought it would have a lot of fake psychic stuff, pretending to do magic, and would be kind of annoying. Why I really started to watch was Ishihara Satomi, who I've seen in a few things, and that dress. Oh my, that is so gorgeous, I kind of want it.
What I got was a detective series, actually. The cases seem to be supernatural at first glance, but of course they're not. I was happy that it was a detective series, because I'm growing to really love Japanese detective stories. Unlike most Western ones, the difference is that most "culprits" aren't really evil, and not doing things out of malicious intentions. Their motivation is often to help someone, or to save people. Therefore when the resolution comes, it's usually done in a kind way.
The mysteries themselves are interesting, but not impossible to solve. I did figure some of them out, but not all of them.

Ishihara Satomi plays the title character, Odagiri Kyoko. She is a fake psychic, but like the cases she investigates, her motivations for doing it aren't evil, or just to make a lot of money. In fact, she kind of hates it, but has to. I loved how Satomi could switch between the two personalities that she had to display. That of the young woman, and the self-assured psychic.
Tanihara Shosuke plays Taniguchi Ichirou, a detective trying to find an actual psychic to recruit. She ends up helping Kyoko with her detective work, and I could also feel a spark between them, but sadly this isn't a romance drama.
Oshima Yuko is Ibushi Kaoru, Kyoko's manager and cousin. I liked the character, she was kind of cute and ruthless.

Overall, an interesting variation on the detective drama. It is also touching at places, and the ending was great. Well worth watching.

Dracula Untold (2014) * * *

The ratings on this one are pretty bad, but I thought it looked good, so I wanted to see for myself what this movie was like. I'm kind of on the fence about it, because it wasn't that bad, not even boring.

The story was very predictable, though the precise way of how Vlad became Dracula was something that I haven't seen before. Even though I knew what was going to happen, I wanted to see it.
What actually did impress me about the movie was precisely that, the imagery. The colours, or rather the lack of them was great. In the beginning you still have some warm tones, the grass is green, the candle gives a warm yellow light. By the end, everything is grey and muted, just the red of the armour stands out. Among all the darkness the one bright spot is Mirena, the wife. Her beauty is so great, I often just stared at her on the screen, not being able to take my eyes off. Her white dress towards the end with the red lining displays her innocence, and how she is the one pure thing in all the darkness. Her purity comes out of the love of her two men. What I would really like to do is get the movie and make screenshots.

Luke Evans made a pretty good Dracula. They probably had him sunbathing, because his skin was as dark as usually the people in the region are. His eyes were intense and telling.
Sarah Gadon made an achingly beautiful Mirena. Frankly, I was quite mesmerised by her. She did feel familiar and I have seen her in a few things, but here they managed to make her very memorable.


I also enjoyed Dominic Cooper as Mehmed. He actually looked Turkish.

Overall, I don't think it was a very bad movie. It wasn't so horrible that I'm going to have nightmares. In a way I found it intriguing in the artistic way it was handled. It's not a big movie, but the story was quite enjoyable, and the action, while at times a bit ridiculous, fun. It had a definite dark feel. Watchable.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Indigo Spell (Bloodlines, #3) by Richelle Mead * * * *

I actually found this addition to the series more interesting than the previous one. That was because of several things. On the one hand there is a lot more magic than before, which was interesting and exciting. I also love little Hopper. How cute is that? I also loved how much Adrian was in this book. He had been my favourite character since he was introduced, and I'm still hoping for a second movie just to have someone cast as him. I also loved how we got to know more about the inner workings of the Alchemists. BTW, Sydney's father is still awful. Worse than my own.

Sydney changed a lot since the first book. Part of it is because she had to do things in order to survive and to save the people she cares about. She also learned to care for people, and to just see them as people. I felt like she's becoming a new person, but someone whom she had in her all this time, but was forced to the sidelines by indoctrination. The process is basically breaking out of a cult. She no longer worships the leaders, thinks they can do no wrong, believes in the doctrines without question, and thinks everyone outside the cult is evil or weak. Once she's completely out, she will be a force to be reckoned with.

Overall, I enjoyed this book a lot in the series. However, I do feel that I may put off the next book a bit, or stop on the way, because I've been reading in this world for many months, and I feel an urge to look at other things. The last book isn't out yet, so it's not like I'm going to finish this series until then. I'll see.

The Golden Lily (Bloodlines, #2) by Richelle Mead * * * *

I find it somehow hard to write a review for this book. Though generally it is a lot easier to write for books that I either loved a lot, or hated. This edition of the series goes along the lines it has been for a while, since if we look at the whole universe, this is the 8th book. By now, the writing has become an old friend, though quite predictable. I've noticed the formula a few books back. Still, I find myself reading on, wanting to know what else is in this universe. The good thing about this book is that while we do have some things we know about the surroundings, we discover new things as well, new groups, new ways of magic, and new things about old groups.

Like I have previously mentioned, Sydney is a lot like me. It was funny to see her dating, because it reminded me of some of my troubles with dating. The guy was even like some of the people I've dated, though none so smart. How Sydney is not like me is that she has some serious hang-ups about certain things, all understandable. It's interesting to see how she slowly gets over them. Also, how her world slowly crumbles and falls.

Overall, a good edition. Towards the end there was the usual excitement, which always spices things up a bit. Onto the next book!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Good People (2014) *

My Saturday night movies are starting to develop a bad pattern. I seem to pick boring movies. This was supposed to be an action, crime, thriller. Well, the action was mostly at the end, there was a crime, and it didn't thrill me very much.

It starts out as one of those gritty dramas. Or at least tries to. The colours are muted, mostly greys, and we quickly establish that the "good people" are a couple down on their luck. They have money troubles, fertility problems, so you can really feel that these people are just in a hole. Now this is where the predictability starts to happen. Generally bad things don't seem to happen to the good people who are well-off and happy. From then on, it feels like a generic thriller. It has the drugs, the single mum, the ageing cop with a personal beef against the evil guys. It was almost like watching one of those genre comedies, like it should be titled "Thriller Movie". 

It's not the cast, really. They were fine. It's the story. 
Kate Hudson was a good female lead. I don't remember seeing her in any action before, but there was a line; "Guns are for pussies" that she looked really bad-ass saying. She had a good mix of regular woman caught in a bad situation, but kicking butt. 
James Franco blended in well with the look of the movie. He had the dirty, grey visage that was perfect. I felt he was a bit overshadowed by Kate, but he was a good, supporting husband. 
Tom Wilkinson was a fine British cop. He was so generic though, it could have been anyone of the many actors who generally play British cops on TV. 

Overall, a lacklustre movie, and there really isn't all that much to say about it. You can watch it, if you have low expectations. Or if you really have some time to kill. Or you're doing something, and want some background noise and gunfire doesn't bother you. Otherwise, give this one a miss.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Lucy (2014) *

I'm pretty late watching this movie, but that's because I didn't want to pay for it. Reason #1, the science is bogus. The whole 10% thing had been refuted a while ago. I remember when it was all the rage, I think it was the late 80s, or early 90s, at least where I am from. I was a kid, and we were talking about it during a break at school with my friends. Not really a topic for 10-year-olds, but I was weird like that. What I can't remember is when I knew it was stupid. We now do know, there is no part of the brain going unused, or not up to its potential. I'm not going to go into details here, let's just say that when I saw the trailer of this movie, I found it weird how they could use something so archaic.

The reason why I did watch it was the reviews. They were pretty good, and promised excitement, good acting. I didn't really get either. The story is quite simplistic. Much of it is taken up by Morgan Freeman narrating. Now I like his voice as much as anyone, but the substance was sometimes face-palm worthy. Also, ooookay, I was waiting for something interesting to happen, and it just never did. Maybe if I had actually believed that whole premise of the movie, but since I know it's bogus, I was mostly rolling my eyes. It's not that I haven't seen fantasy or sci-fi that had unrealistic elements to it. However, this time, it felt more like listening to some Christian apologist speak in one of the debates I so love. Totally baseless, junk science. I just couldn't let myself get lost in a fantasy.
Maybe if the story actually had a story. It was so cliché, simplistic and predictable, the credits rolled, and the first thing that came to my mind was: "that was it?" I want to go up to Luc Besson, shake him, and ask him how he could have made something so boring. It reminded my of those sci-fi shorts that were really just introducing a concept, or an idea. However, those are not fit to be made into movies. They're dry. Maybe he was trying to do that? This from the same guy who made one of my favourite sci-fi movies of all time The Fifth Element. I must have seen that one a dozen times. I'll work very hard at forgetting that this mundane thing was also done by him.

I saw praise for Scarlett Johansson. She plays the lead character, Lucy. I guess if you can get points for spending the majority of the film with a completely blank expression, then it's okay. Though for that they could have just used Kristen Stewart. She has that down to an artform. Yeah, I'm being sarcastic, just in case you haven't read any of my reviews for her movies.
Morgan Freeman is also on the poster. He narrates. He asks questions. He stands around a lot. He sometimes sits. I don't think he was used to his full potential either. Not that people wouldn't enjoy him reading the telephone book, but really...

So the story is simple, acting is not really required from the actors, so perhaps it has great fight scenes or special effects? No. Okay, there are brief moments when Lucy does something that looks cool. Like make guns fly into air. Would have been a wow moment in the 60s maybe. However, other than some people shooting up a bunch of places without much opposition is about as exciting or visual as this thing gets. I hope they didn't pay someone to come up with those fight scenes.

Overall, I couldn't find any redeeming factor to this movie that would make me actually want to watch it again, or recommend it to anyone. I didn't hate it. Really. Twilight I hated for various reasons. This I was more like shrugging and marking it off the "to be watched" pile. Crap science, lacklustre action, no real characters, ... I just don't see a point to what I watched for 90 minutes. I can't give it more than one star. I tried to give two, but really, there is just nothing good about this, I didn't enjoy anything about it. One star it is.