Let’s get the elephant out of the room straight away. This is Makoto Shinkai’s first film after the huge hit Your Name, and it’s not as good. But that’s a bit like saying gold is not as good as platinum. I mean, they’re both quite nice, aren’t they. Following Your Name with something even remotely comparable was a near-impossible task, but why compare? If Shinkai can be faulted it would be for not doing something different enough, although it’s far from being just more of the same. Studio Ghibli sidestepped the problem of following Spirited Away by doing something completely different, but then again Studio Ghibli nearly always does something completely different. Shinkai has favourite themes he likes to explore and a trademark visual style, and that’s a perfectly valid approach. In particular he has often made use of the weather to help tell his stories. Continue reading
Never Back Losers is an unusual entry into the Edgar Wallace Mysteries series of films. There is no detective, and for much of the film I didn’t think there was going to be a murder either. Despite that, I found this one just as entertaining as the murder mysteries, if not more so.
Instead of a detective we have Jim Matthews, an insurance claims investigator. This is his first assignment away from a desk in an office, a life he wasn’t well-suited for. Perhaps due to his military background, he’s keen to get out and about and do a job out in the real world, rather than shuffling papers around a desk. The case he is sent on concerns a jockey who has thrown a race, had a car accident in suspicious circumstances, and is now trying to claim on an insurance policy that was taken out just three days before his accident. By poking his nose into the world of race fixing, betting and criminal violence, it’s pretty obvious Jim is walking into danger, and yet his boss seems shocked when he gets on the phone to him after having just been beaten up himself. I’m not quite sure what he was expecting to happen to his employee, sending him straight into the lion’s den. Continue reading
“A Sudden Reunion“
The view from Igirisu:
The story is moving along rapidly now. With the threat of the Valkyria hanging over the witches, a new ally is introduced to help them in their fight: Hatsuna. Her power is another impressive one, the ability to regenerate her body and recover from fatal injuries. It’s a very defensive capability, which poses the question as to why she was chosen to guard the Valkyria. This is a change in her origins from the manga, which is why it doesn’t make quite so much sense, although she is an AA witch so presumably has some other trick up her sleeve as well.
Hatsuna’s addition to Murakami’s harem is deftly handled, with her test of his bravery and loyalty to the witches. His response to the dangerous situation she creates is a surprising moment for her and for the viewer, until you realise his decision not to let go is informed not just by the risk that she is lying to him, but also by his childhood tragedy of losing Kuroneko. Predictably, Hatsuna falls for Murakami immediately, but refreshingly she does something about that immediately, going straight in for a kiss. This kind of thing is so unusual for anime, where girls are almost always reluctant to confess their feelings and suffer in silence. It also makes for a fun contrast to the other girls in Brynhildr, none of whom have been direct in pursuing Hatsuna apart from Kazumi, and she has only gone after Murakami in a sexual way rather than actually speaking about her feelings for him. Neko’s violent outlet for her jealousy is always funny. Also, I did enjoy Kotori doing her teleport swap thing to save the day again. Amongst all the witches, her power has been the most effective and fun, and it helps that it has been used sparingly throughout the series, so it always comes as a surprise and you never expect it to happen. Continue reading
Sleeping in Light. The words appear on the screen in the opening but there are no opening credits. 20 years have gone by since the last episode and Michael Garibaldi says that this is the day they all dreaded. John Sheridan is dying.
One of the reasons I love Babylon 5 is that it introduced me to the finale. Not the ending, you understand, but the finale. Many shows end, and they often have what they call a finale, but they really just end. Take one of the greats: Star Trek: The Next Generation. Picard plays poker with his crew and realizes he should have done it long ago, and off they go to their next adventure. Lost has an ending but no one is really sure what the hell it means, but that was the whole show. Game of Thrones ends a chapter, but their world keeps going. For the last 3 episodes of Babylon 5, we’ve been watching JMS clean up plot points. Sleeping in Light finishes the tale. There are things we don’t learn about that took place in that 20 year interval, but this really puts the finishing touches on the story. It gives us a boxed set, ties a ribbon on top and says, “here is a series to be proud of. Share it.” Continue reading
There’s been a lot of hype around Baldur’s Gate which returned in a playable, Early Access form in October of 2020. I was surprised to see an Early Access game released for full price, but Larian Studio’s knows the power that name has with gamers. Baldur’s Gate is a Dungeon’s and Dragons Role Playing game. It has a reputation. Now, I typically will pick up an Early Access game because the price is usually right and this is one I want to play, but not until it’s actually ready to be played. With this one being full price, I decided to go for a similar style game at a fraction of the cost, just to scratch that itch. In Baldur’s Gate, you meet allies along the way and you travel with them, do battle and typically unfold their stories as you play. I really like RPGs where you get a team. Which brings me to Pathfinder: Kingmaker. Continue reading
Does it bother me that I feel like I already covered this with the Babylon 5 episode Exogenesis? Obviously, I feel this is a weak episode. Now that I think of it, I even made the comment back when we reviewed that B5 episode. Of course, this should have been a great episode where the aliens show us that they are here to do something unexpected: help mankind. The very least they could have done was help those poor unfortunates that have no other recourse in life. Little did we know, we’d instead get a retelling of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Invasion is a great idea but it was 10 years ahead of The Invisibles and for my money, far scarier. Sadly, this is not the Outer Limits at its finest.
The problem is partly with the creatures themselves. Exogenesis’s Vindrizi of B5 look like centipedes or some other horrible arachnid. Now, these creatures look more like a fatter version of those pesky flying pancakes of Star Trek’s Operation: Annihilate. They have to look fatter to accommodate a motor so the legs can move, but they never move fast enough to seem threatening and … their little feet never touch ground because their bellies are too big. Oh well, such is the effects of the 60s! My issue with this is that when Spain is trying to outrun one, it never feels like a threat. Even with a broken foot, I think I can outrun the average turtle. (Then again, even on a motorcycle, I’m not convinced I’ll outrun some arachnids!) However, barring the physical limitation of the time, the idea is no different than the 50’s classic. Invisibles are creatures that are going to take over all levels of government. So very “been there, done that.” I mean 2020 has been proof that this has already happened… So if nothing else, it was ahead of the time in that regard! Again, I leave that to the readers to decide. Continue reading
Rose’s departure looms large over the new season and Donna did not exactly warm the heart with her first outing. Could a new companion keep the flame of new Who alive for a 3rd season? Let’s see…
Smith and Jones
RP: 8 – A brilliant companion introduction, and Martha is great although she is being defined as Not-Rose right from the start. Love the Judoon, and the moon setting, and overall this is a much more solid season opener than New Earth. I just think it goes a bit too far for a family audience by showing blood being sucked through a straw.
ML: 7 – Maybe it’s the way I view the grading but while this does deserve an above average score, I put it at the lower end of that range. The Doctor’s treatment of Martha is problematic for me especially considering the hype around her at the time. It felt like RTD missed an important mark. But the episode makes up for a lot of that by being “completely mad.”
The premise of this series requires some suspension of disbelief. The idea is that humans originally lived below the sea, until some decided to live on the surface instead. This has created a divided human race. The ones below the surface have a substance on their skin that allows them to breathe under water. If they remain out of water for too long it starts to crack and peel. A person from the sea and a person from the land can have a child, but that child will not generally possess the ability to breathe under water. So there are a few aspects of this we just have to allow to wash over us, if you’ll pardon the pun. The humans on land seem to be aware of the underwater humans and don’t think this is anything unusual, although there is a distrust between them, so it’s used very effectively as a way to explore themes of xenophobia. You have to accept the sight of people not only breathing underwater, but walking along the surface at the bottom, and even talking to each other in the normal way (how does that work?). However, once you’ve got past the incongruity of seeing normal life going on, with the only thing to indicate anything being different the sight of some fish swimming around, it will be worth making that leap of faith to give this series a try. For one thing, the visuals are as stunning as the concept would suggest, with a whole town built under water. I’m not sure I ever quite got past the silliness of the idea entirely, but it didn’t really matter as I was so swept away (sorry) by the story. That took a while, though. Continue reading
We start once again with a burglary at a business premises and a safe being cracked. This time the thief in question, Frank Murray, really hits the jackpot, finding £10,000 in cash. How much is that in today’s money? Answer: a lot. It’s all in new notes, so something dodgy was going on, and the owner of the photography shop doesn’t want the police to know that he had that money in the safe. He says he was keeping it for a client. Yeah, right.
The element of mystery here, which gets answered pretty quickly, is where the money came from. Other than that, we can’t really call this a murder mystery because the identity of the murderer is never in doubt. The “client” who wanted the money kept in Thomas Maple’s safe is worried that his secret is not entirely safe. I struggled to get my head around any of this. I’m not sure why Helder would want to use somebody else’s safe when he has a perfectly serviceable one of his own (which seems to also contain some ill-gotten gains). I’m not even sure what that photography place actually was. It appeared to consist of an office space with some big pictures on the wall, and no sign of any customers. What do they even do there? It probably all made sense. Maybe I was distracted by the obligatory jazz music playing in the background of any scene that was supposed to be exciting, constantly undermining the tension. When Kay finds the break-in, we get jaunty jazz music. When the safe is being dusted for fingerprints we get jaunty jazz music. We even get a car chase to the sound of jaunty jazz music. These seem to me to be moments that are not very jaunty. Continue reading
“Proof She’s Alive“
The view from Igirisu:
What’s the point of changing the opening title sequence at this stage in the series? Having more than one opening or closing sequence per season is a phenomenon peculiar to anime, but starting on a new one with only four episodes to go is especially odd. My only guess is that there might have been some kind of a financial deal that made this happen. I don’t know why else the studio would want to use this particular song. It’s not so much that it’s a bad piece of music. Well, yes, OK, it is, but I do appreciate there are people who like that kind of thing. The problem is that so little attempt is made to make the visuals fit with the music. It’s more of a mess visually than it is audibly, and the fact that it replaces a sequence that had such clever integration of the two makes it all the more annoying. There was a flow to the original sequence, whereas this is a load of random shots thrown together, with frantic cutting between them. The one clever thing about it is the inclusion of Nanami, who is dead within a few minutes of the start of the episode. Buffy the Vampire Slayer once pulled a similar trick, and it’s a nifty bit of misdirection. We probably weren’t expecting Nanami to survive much longer, after the end of the last episode, but as soon as we see her in the opening it makes us think we might be wrong about that… but we’re not. Continue reading
“This place kinda grows on ya!”
Well, leave it to the great JMS to surprise me. Last week we saw some friends leave the station and I thought it would be a bleak affair without them but G’Kar and Garibaldi do make an appearance in this story. Garibaldi is hiring the new board of directors at Edgars Industries, bringing on the complainers to help keep the company on track. It’s so quintessentially Michael that we have to laugh. Mostly it serves as a coda; he has started the next chapter of his life on Mars. G’Kar is there to hand over the reins to Ta’Lon. This is another piece of great storytelling in that we saw G’Kar leaving a message in the last episode but we did not know for whom it was intended. Cinematically, this is beautifully shot as G’Kar appears in the room next to Ta’Lon. This is also the episode that Franklin chooses his successor: Dr. Hobbs. She is a “generalist” and to take Franklin’s position, he believe the chief of staff has to be a generalist. Vir has already been appointed the new Centauri representative and Tessa is the new Michael Garibaldi. Now it’s time for Sheridan and Delenn to leave the station to complete the departures. Continue reading
As long time visitors to the Junkyard know, I really loved Subnautica. It had the right balance of exploration with survival and there was no actual “enemy” per se. I’ve grabbed a few other games that claimed to be like it, but haven’t found that sweet spot yet. While I still haven’t found the exact match, I have found a good one in Breathedge. As titles go, it’s a bit weak, but when I watched a trailer for it, I jumped on it.
From the outset, I was laughing. That’s a blessing and a curse for the game. Unlike Subnautica, this isn’t treated seriously which, at first, was brilliant. When you find baby photos of yourself where you were called “little man”, one has to laugh at the full grown beard on the baby boy! The story opens where your spaceship explodes casting you adrift in space. You have to piece together what happened and save yourself. Your spacesuit is controlled by a computer which speaks to you to give you advice and as the game progresses, you start getting messages from “Babe” who may or may not be real. Her English is a bit broken and her advice to you is always of a very questionable nature. You carry around a chicken too; there’s a story there. And you seem to live in the shadow of life with your grandfather. It’s a quirky, funny story! Speaking of funny, there was one scene that had me laughing so hard, that I had to pause the game. You arrive at a steering wheel to launch your ship and wait for the countdown. When it launches… well, I won’t spoil it but my side ached from laughing so hard! Continue reading
Well, if nothing more, I have to credit the writers of the Outer Limits for creativity; maybe not in their titles, but in their ideas. It’s not that ZZZZZ is that great an episode, but the idea is certainly unique. Plus, if nothing more, we didn’t get a preview of what was coming with the opening this time; we got a prologue. That was novel. I’d like to see this trend continue.
Right, well the opening shows a bee that transforms into a woman, fully dressed and, as we learn right after the opening credits, fully aware of the English language. These are some bees; do I get to call them spelling bees? Sorry. At least Regina’s understanding of English gets explained by the local entomologist, Ben; he has been working on translating English to Bee. Continue reading
After that first year, I was desperate to find every scrap of Doctor Who footage I could find. A 2 minute interview was gold! The series came back with all the wonder and excitement of my youth. But that didn’t mean we wouldn’t be objective about the episodes that were broadcast. How did Roger and I think Series 2 fared by comparison to the first? How did we like this new Doctor? Find out below…
The Christmas Invasion
RP: 7 – Post-regenerative trauma always makes for a weak debut, but when the Doctor eventually shows up he is of course instantly magnificent, and Rose carries the show well in the meantime. The Sycorax aren’t all that great, but I love the killer Santas.
ML: 9 – The first half of the episode is slow but when Tennant arrives on scene is makes up for any lull that had happened until that point. His official start is… fantastic! Rose keeps the viewer connected and her personal heartache is palpable. Continue reading
Kai is a grumpy teenager. If you’re an anime fan, you’ll recognise the character trope, a boy who doesn’t seem interested in life and can’t get enthusiastic about anything. He is virtually railroaded by a couple of friends into putting a band together. The two friends are Kunio and Yuho. You’ll recognise their character tropes too. Kunio is the funny and not very clever male friend. Yuho is the enthusiastic girl who is full of life and can’t stay angry with anyone for very long. But tropes are not necessarily bad things, and they serve their purpose in the film. The key decision that sets the chain of events in motion in this film is the location the trio choose to play their music: Merfolk Island. This is Ningyojima in Japanese, and ningyo is the Japanese version of the mermaid myth. It’s similar to legends of mermaids you will find elsewhere, but an important characteristic to ningyo is the danger they present. They were very much creatures to be feared, capable of bringing bad luck and terrible weather. This is very cleverly used in Lu Over the Wall as a way to make a story about the dangers of xenophobia and the exploitation of minorities. Continue reading
This is a curiously structured murder mystery because the running time is about the usual 55 minutes for this film series, but it takes 30 minutes for the first murder to happen. That actually works surprisingly well, because we know there is going to be one and the suspense builds up to that moment. When it happens, it’s not the murder we were probably expecting. Clever stuff.
The story is established in a way that would lead us to presume that Frank Weyman is going to be the victim. He’s a walking cliché of a man who normally gets murdered in these kinds of mysteries; he’s filthy rich through not entirely honest means, separated from his angry wife, in a relationship with a woman who is much younger than him, and she’s also involved with somebody else. He has made enemies. In any other murder mystery he would be bumped off in the first ten minutes. Instead, this subverts the usual pattern and the man who would normally be the prime suspect is the first to die. Fraser is such a slimy, nasty piece of work that the police could be forgiven for putting that down as a community service from somebody and leaving it at that, but instead Detective Inspector Minter does some detective inspecting.
“Fraser was killed because he was going to give me some information.”
The Junkyard presents a review by Daz of the anime series The Legend of Black Heaven:
With only one of the seasonal shows being watched, I’ve had plenty of space to give my attention to other anime. There’s no better feeling for me than to find something random and investing some time into it, so I scoured my phone for screen shots of things I’ve saved and found a show called The Legend Of Black Heaven. As always I don’t read the synopsis as discovery in these situations is paramount. It has been hard enough finding the time and motivation to watch something new without the possibility of me ruining it for myself by trying to choose what I’m after.
One episode in and I’m completely drawn by the premise of this show. Oji Tanaka is a middle aged guy, bored with living his “normal” 9 to 5 office existence, supporting a wife and child, who daydreams constantly about the band he was in when he was younger and all the possibilities that lay ahead for him. This sounds like your typical mid-life crisis and being a middle aged myself I can tell you that I relate massively to this situation. Continue reading
The view from Igirisu:
“The outside world really is wonderful.”
Nanami might look innocent, but it’s pretty clear that we have met the most powerful witch so far. Her telepathic powers give her the ability to control anyone she can make eye contact with, implanting new memories into their brains in an instant. She can also wipe their memories of her, or regress them to childhood. That last one is quite shocking to watch. I felt no sympathy for the creepy guy who tried to hassle her and got turned back into a five-year-old, but it does seem like a nastier thing to do than killing somebody, and in fact if you think of a person in terms of anything other than a physical body then it is actually a form of murder. Continue reading
In 1985, there was a movie called St. Elmo’s Fire. My cousin loved the soundtrack and back then, we were together a lot, so I heard it often. One song had a line in it that disturbed me; a simple lyric: “Time goes on, People touch and they’re gone, And you and I will never love again, Like we did then.” As a young lad of 13, the idea of people coming and going in our lives made me sad – I still have a hard time listening to this haunting lyric! I didn’t want to have to say goodbye to anyone. But time and life happen and invariably even the best of friends sometimes become part of the fading tapestry of memory. The main point here is that I really do not like goodbyes. Yet I love the gentle ending to this series and I think that’s because stories make that a little easier. We can part with our “friends” knowing that we can relive that sweet sorrow as often as we like, because we can always pick up that book or watch that show again. It never has to be a permanent goodbye, where real life is rarely as certain. Continue reading
Recently, I’ve been discussing Violence in Video Games, and Assassin’s Creed is a prime example of where a game can go over the top with violence, but it’s not without merit because there’s also an educational element to the game, and it has a diverse background. That’s not for now, though… I’ll come back to the overall topic soon and will use some of this game to illustrate points, but for now, let’s just talk about the game itself.
Assassin’s Creed games run the range from weak to incredible and it’s not as simple as the first to the most recent. The 3rd game was almost unplayable and halfway though, you change the character you’re playing which derailed my enjoyment. So much so, I didn’t bother getting game 4 until my friend (and sometimes blog writer) Paul told me I needed to play it. (Despite all the teasing I do of Paul, he’s actually got decent taste!) The fourth game, Black Flag, reinvigorated my desire to play the Assassin’s Creed games. By the time of Assassin’s Creed: Origins, I felt the game company, Ubisoft, really mastered their product but then Odyssey came out and went even bigger – possibly too big – losing me a little yet again! (You may recall my write up, here.) Not so much that I didn’t immediately buy the latest chapter! How did this one fare? Continue reading