The film Z for Zachariah takes place after the end of the world, where the three known survivors end up in a love triangle. It was nominated for the Grand Jury Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and author Robert C. O’Brien had another of his books turned into a movie, The Secret of NIMH. But I am just not sure that a movie with only 3 actors in it can hold my attention all the way through. The other option this week looks more interesting to me, but may be on far fewer screens: Memories of the Sword is a Korean historical fantasy taking place during the Goryo Dynasty.
Movies have no genre this week, but they do have the latest in Jackie Chan’s breakout drama series Police Story: Lockdown. Police Captain Zhong Wen is seeing his daughter for the first time in many years, and meeting her fiance in his nightclub. But the fiance has plans to take her, him, and the entire club hostage; plans which the Police Captain has to defeat if he wants to save his family. The original 1985 film Police Story was the movie that went beyond anything his comedy’s had done, making him a major star once and for all. The Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Films Collection has some excellent animated short features, including Frozen Fever and Tangled Ever After. They have been previously released as extras on various Disney feature film blue rays, but this is the first time that a number of them have been compiled together.
TV brings us Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, based on Susanna Clarke’s award-winning novel of the same name. The battle between these two magicians over who was the more powerful was fought while the Napoleonic Wars raged around them.
In Anime, Captain Earth: Collection 2 has things looking grim for Earth’s defenders. The Planetary Gear’s direct attacks have been beaten off so far, but the numbers against them slowly get worse as the enemy strips off various layers of their defenses and allies. Kawai Complex Guide to Manors & Hostel Behavior may be a slice-of-life type Anime rather than Sci-Fi or Fantasy, but it has a ton of humor built in and is quite entertaining in its own way.
Then there are a few re-releases; the Kite Collection tells you the whole story about this pint-sized assassin, and just how bleak her situation is, while Basilisk: The Complete Series give detailed information about the rivalry between the Ninja clans who saw to the end of the Samurai era.
Only Lovers Left Alive was a British/German romantic vampire drama that came out in 2013, but not anywhere near where I lived. It has been nominated for a number of awards, and received a lot of critical attention, including getting an 87% at Rotten Tomatoes. One of the vampires writes music and does scientific research, using Tesla’s inventions to power his house and vehicles. Another wrote about half of Shakespeare’s plays. It will finally be released in the US on August 19th, and I am looking forward to finally being able to see it.
A bizarre blend of Edo era Samurai action, and wild west Cowboy violence, the Japanese remake of Unforgiven is just a little surreal. Taking place in Hokkaido in 1880 with Tombstone right next door, it looks like they did an excellent job blending the two cultures to tell a story that is equally heart-wrenching in either one. I particularly liked the scene of the cowboys riding off across the western terrain against the backdrop of Mt. Fuji.
The Studio Ghibli film nominated for an Academy Award, The Wind Rises, is finally on the big screen for American audiences to enjoy. This is a bit different as Anime goes, because it is a look at the real life of a man who designed fighter planes for Japan during WWII. While Anime does not shy away from hard story lines, it does not often tell you about actual people, other than historical figures long dead in completely different eras. It has some stiff competition in the Awards, it is up against both Despicable Me 2 and Frozen; I am looking forward to seeing it in the theater. After I do, I will have finally seen everything nominated and can make my decision as to which one I would vote for. Also out this week, Pompeii is about a gladiator making a mad dash to save his true love from being married to a corrupt Roman Senator (is there any other kind?) while the Volcano trashes the town. That one sounds like it should be a lot of fun. There is a chance that Angels in Stardust might be an interesting fantasy as well, or at least an indie quirky kind of film.
I was watching the epic fantasy The Gu Family Book, about a nine tailed fox guardian spirit who falls in love with a human and fathers a demi-god with her before tragedy strikes. That tragedy kills her, turns him into a thousand-year demon, and leaves the child to be raised by a human family who have no concept of what he is. I was watching it off of my local independent outlet which included programming from the Korean language channel MBC by having my DVR set to record a two hour block of time Monday through Friday on that channel number. It had to be set that way because the program guide information submitted to TV Guide by the local re-broadcaster bore no resemblance to reality, so timed recording was the only option.
I managed to record and watch the first 22 episodes, then my cable company changed the programming of my set top box to “improve” it’s ability to locate shows by title or actors when running a search. In the process they broke the DVR function so it could no longer do recording by time blocks but only by program names as listed in the TV Guide service or in one of their online streaming affiliates. Not only have I never seen how that show ended, having lost the final two episodes of the series, but I have also lost all the shows they ran after that, as well as shows off of another 7 channels that also are rather slipshod in updating their TV Guide listings. It looks like I am finally getting some relief from this issue from two separate quarters. First off, as you can see from the embedded trailer, NBC/Universal will be releasing the series to DVD in 3 months or so, allowing me to add it to my permanent collection. Of course, since I can not speak or read Korean I am a bit unclear on whether it will be released in the US or only in Asia, but one can hope. I consider this show to be the best epic fantasy out of Korea for 2013 that I have found so far, so I will certainly be picking it up. More immediately, this series and a whole lot of other Korean TV Dramas are available for streaming on the MBC Hulu Plus channel, so I can finally see how the story ended.
Now if only my cable company would fix its broken set top boxes to give me back the ability to record program blocks by time and channel. If they don’t solve it soon, I guess I will have to buy a TIVO box, which does have that ability, and give my cable company back their broken DVR.