– The Delgados, lyrics from The Light Before We Land (opening theme of Gunslinger Girl)
– The Delgados, lyrics from The Light Before We Land (opening theme of Gunslinger Girl)
I finally subscribed to Netflix last week, after having resisted the urge for so long. Mainly because I am a traditional, old-school viewer who prefers to purchase physical releases of his favourite movies and TV series. I want to own a physical collection, display them on my shelves, and then maybe pass them down and lend them to my children and future generations one day.
The idea of paying an online subscription in order to watch shows turns me off slightly: This means that each month, you need to watch enough hours in order to make your subscription worthwhile. Also, you need a good Internet connection to view Netflix on your devices. Not a problem here in urban Singapore where we have a strong, high-speed Internet infrastructure. But what if you live in an area without access to a reliable Internet connection? What if you’re traveling and on the move? Netflix does not allow you to download a digital, VOD copy to your device due to DRM and security reasons.
I still subscribed anyway for my first free month, purely because I wanted to listen to the English dub of Violet Evergarden, one of the best anime titles released so far this year. I subscribed for an English anime dub, and I’m staying for the rest of Netflix’s catalogue.
One of the problems that so many online app stores or services face is discoverability. Apple has been struggling with this issue for their App Store for years, and a few years ago Microsoft was facing the same dilemma for their Xbox online store. How do you curate, organise, and customise your catalogue so that the user is able to discover new and interesting titles? Within my first few minutes of using Netflix, there were already many other titles that caught my eye for the Singapore catalogue of shows available: Gunslinger Girl, Rurouni Kenshin, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, and The Flash to name a few.
My excitement at seeing Gunslinger Girl turned to immediate horror when I clicked “play” for Episode 1. The opening theme song for the series is missing. I’m assuming that Netflix were unable to acquire the song licence for this territory (Singapore) from the original artiste. This was unacceptable to me. The opening theme for Gunslinger Girl is an absolutely vital component of the show, it was what gave the series its unique flavour and spirit. I can’t imagine other viewers discovering Gunslinger Girl for the first time on Netflix Singapore, unable to experience the stirring and memorable opening theme.
And there lies Netflix’s biggest weakness as an online entertainment hub. All because of the way online DRM, territorial restrictions, and digital licences work. Some shows and movies are going to be removed from the catalogue once their licences expire. Some shows have to be presented in an altered form like Gunslinger Girl.
I’m grateful to finally be able to experience the convenience, navigability, and discoverability of Netflix. But at the end of the day, I will still purchase the physical releases of shows that I really enjoyed.
Because Gunslinger Girl’s opening theme is very important.
This pseudo-review contains some light spoilers for the Tomb Raider movie. Stop reading now if you want to enjoy the movie experience blind.
Videogame movie adaptations don’t often translate well to the movie screen, not because of the lack of interactivity, but because most mainstream games last way longer than the duration of a normal film. How do you take a videogame like Tomb Raider (2013), which requires about 8 to 20+ hours of playtime to complete, and condense it into a two to three-hour film, while keeping most of the story and characterisation intact?
For Tomb Raider (2018) director Roar Uthaug, the solution was quite simple: Remove 90% of the game’s original cast, and place the focus squarely on protagonist Lara Croft and her father.
Based on the rebooted 2013 Tomb Raider videogame developed by Crystal Dynamics, Lara is depicted this time as a hardy, gritty warrior-woman who has to find a way to survive on a harsh island inhabited by a group of mercenary thugs. Prior to the reboot, Lara’s character was more of a femme fatale — she was a pistol-wielding badass, but also a voluptuous one with her tight, busty tank-top and low shorts. It was also probably the reason why Angelina Jolie was cast as Lara in the original 2001 and 2003 movies.
I remember watching both movies but I honestly can’t remember anything noteworthy. It was so forgettable that not even Jolie’s charisma and star power could save the films. Alicia Vikander replaces Jolie for this reboot, and the difference is like night and day. She’s leaner, more athletic, and portrays the rebooted Lara with believable credibility. She’s a rich heiress to a family fortune, but refuses to inherit her father’s wealth. She’s figuring out what to do with her life while struggling to make ends meet. She’s mortified after being forced to kill another human being in order to survive.
By getting rid of all of the other unnecessary characters in Lara’s crew from the original game, we can easily emphatise more with Vikander’s Lara. She isn’t exactly a superhero like Wonder Woman, but she’s a British girl that we can identify with and relate with. I really applaud Square Enix for giving Uthaug and his crew the freedom to try something different that veers away slightly from the original story. Even Princess Himiko, the main antagonist, has been drastically altered from her videogame form.
Despite the changes, there are many subtle references in the film that pay homage to the original source material for fans to spot. From the parkour sequences, to the puzzle solving, to Lara sneaking around with her bow, and the notorious ice axe, it’s clear that Uthaug’s team have done their homework. This is a film adaptation created by people who respect and understand the original game, and it shows.
What makes a good videogame movie? I’ve asked myself this question repeatedly over the years after subjecting myself to a neverending highlight reel of some of the worst movies I’ve ever watched based on videogames (King of Fighters, Warcraft: The Beginning, and
the fucking Resident Evil films that have absolutely nothing to do with the games to name a few). And I still don’t know the answer.
All I know is that, I enjoyed the Tomb Raider movie reboot because it perfectly captures the game’s spirit. It also has its own identity and soul, something that the Warcraft film seriously lacked. Go watch it if you liked the rebooted games.
This post contains some light spoilers for Coco. I suggest you stop reading if you haven’t watched it, so that you don’t spoil the movie experience for yourself.
I watched Coco on my birthday yesterday, and what a fantastic present it was to myself: Easily one of the best animated films I’ve seen, and an undisputed choice for Best Animated Film of 2017. There are lots of great themes in the movie: The importance of family; the concept of death and memories; and of course, music. If you’ve been reading some of my blog posts for the past few months, I started learning the violin last year and I’m aspiring to reach a competent, solo-playing level. Coco is a very inspiring film for all beginner musicians and performers everywhere.
There’s a very important scene early in the movie, where the protagonist Miguel is having a conversation with another street musician. The musician encourages Miguel to have the courage to play his music openly, instead of just doing it in secret. Miguel returns to his “hideout” later on, and makes a declaration to himself: I cannot continue to play in secret for the rest of my life. What good is the point of playing and practicing music for yourself only?
Later on, in the Land of the Dead, Miguel takes part in a music competition. His partner Hector, is stunned that Miguel has never played in public before, and volunteers to take his place. Miguel refuses, saying that he has to overcome his fear eventually.
Watching Coco reminded me of a great support conversation in Fire Emblem Fates between two characters, Azura (a singer) and Laslow (a dancer):
Azura: Music and dance never lie. I don’t mean to offend you, but sometimes, I don’t think you’re entirely truthful.
Laslow: What?! You’re calling me a liar?
Azura: Yes, but let me explain! I’ve seen you dance in front of the others before… You have great technique, but your dancing lacked the passion I saw the other night. Now that I’ve seen you dance in private, I know you’ve been holding back.
Laslow: I thought you would understand. I get nervous dancing in front of other people.
Azura: This may sound harsh, but dancing like that is unfair to your audience! Practice in secret all you want, but when you step on stage, you’re there for them! You must dance with confidence so they can carry your strength into battle.
Azura: I didn’t tell you this, but I used to get stage fright. My mother was so talented… I knew I’d never measure up! I always worried people would make fun of me.
Laslow: Really? I had no idea.
Azura: One day, Queen Mikoto pulled me aside. She told me my voice was beautiful. I could either learn to sing with confidence, or I could waste my talent being afraid. That was a turning point for me. I decided to be brave every time I stepped on stage.
Even I get nervous when practicisng in front of my violin teacher, out of fear for making mistakes. I once performed in a mini-concert organised by my teacher featuring all of her beginner students. Of course I was a nervous wreck and I actually played a couple of wrong notes. But again, to quote Azura: You could either learn to perform with confidence, or waste your talent being afraid.
Practice as much as you can, practice with passion. Then go out and perform it for the world to see. Be brave.
Was eating dinner with a friend last night and he just suddenly casually remarked to me: “Are you a cinephile?” (someone who watches a lot of movies)
Me: “Hmmm… I don’t really consider myself one.”
Friend: “How many movies have you watched in the last month?”
Me: “In the last two weeks I’ve already watched five movies in the cinema.”
Friend: “Ok you’re a cinephile.”
Again, I don’t really classify myself as one because there are LOTS of movies, especially classic titles from the past, that I haven’t watched. Always wanted to watch Casablanca but I haven’t. I’ve never even watched Citizen Kane, hailed as one of the greatest movies of all time. Back when The Last of Us was released, the videogaming press were calling it “The Citizen Kane of videogames”, a bombastic, nonsensical description that I have been lambasting ever since. But that’s an argument for another day.
I’m just someone who loves to be entertained. It can be from any form of media or recreation: videogames, music, movies, books, sports, board games and card games, etc. All of them have their own advantages over each other: Games are an interactive escapism that allows the player to have some influence and input into the outcome of the story; Books are linear but can stoke the viewer’s imagination with far greater depth than any moving picture; TV and movies are all about enjoying a performance — watching how several actors come together to bring a director and writer’s story to life.
It’s just a happy coincidence that soooooo many good movies are coming out one after another. Also, I live very near a shopping mall, Serangoon Nex, that has a decent cinema. It’s very convenient for me to walk out of my house to the theatre, buy a ticket for whatever timing I want (usually in the late morning or early afternoons where I can avoid big crowds), and just spend 2-3 hours watching a movie whenever I feel like it.
Just remember to keep your mouth shut and turn off your phones. Don’t be that dumbass patron sitting next to me and ruining my experience with your distractions.
My RWBY Volume 1-3 Original Soundtrack Vocal Albums just arrived, and I’m hopelessly addicted to Red Like Roses Part I and II, the signature theme of Ruby Rose. I still don’t like This Will Be the Day, all because of Casey Lee Williams’s voice. She recorded Volume 1’s songs when she was 13(?) and the rawness in her singing is very evident — the song sounds quite grating and irritating.
However, Red Like Roses is a totally different matter, purely because of Jeff Williams’s music. His composition totally carries Casey’s performance. I love how both songs are constructed: The beautiful string solo in Part I that follows after the final lyrics have been sung, to the perfect ebb and flow of Part II as both Casey (representing Ruby) and Sandy Casey (I’m going to assume she’s Casey’s mother — here her voice is representing Ruby’s mother Summer Rose) take turns singing their lyrics.
Yes, I’m going to set myself a personal goal of learning how to play a violin solo of both Part I and Part II. The beat is insanely fast, especially for Part II. But I’m going to challenge myself to give it a shot. Give me one year to improve my violin skills and let’s see where it goes.
This post contains some swearing. You have been warned.
I watched It (2017) a few days ago. It’s a psychological horror movie that’s somewhat similar in theme to The Exorcist. This film adaptation is based on the original 1986 Stephen King novel, although my memory of the book is quite fuzzy because it’s been so long since I read it — the only thing I remember was that the antagonist, Pennywise, is some weird, interdimensional being who preys on people’s fears. He is able to manifest negative emotions and mental images of our worst fears into reality, preying on his victims while they succumb to their inner terror.
My worst fear when watching a movie in the cinema is to be disturbed by other patrons — to the point where I am unable to focus and enjoy the show. I am the type of viewer who demands absolute attention when watching any form of entertainment. If you can’t even give it your full 100 percent attention, then why did you pay for the $8.50 ticket to enter?
That was exactly what was going through my mind as I was constantly disturbed by the group of teenagers seated to my left. One of them could not stop checking his mobile phone, and kept making dumbass comments to his friends like: “I don’t get it, why is it a clown with piranha teeth? I don’t get why blah blah blah…”
Listen up you fucking ch** b** piece of shit. If the movie director was going to handhold you and explain to you the Who What When Where and Why of everything about It, then it wouldn’t be a good horror movie any more. Part of the suspense of watching any good psychological thriller, is to try and figure out for yourself what’s going on. And if you still don’t fully understand what’s happening, then just sit back and enjoy the ride. Dumbass Teenagers also kept going to the toilet (?) non-stop throughout the show. I lost count at the four to five mark.
But it gets worse. There was this old auntie seated to my right who just simply could not stop muttering to herself “Aiyoh!!”. Every time something scary happened, “Aiyoh!”
This went on for almost the full 2.5 hour duration of the movie. Dumbass Teen takes out his phone + “Aiyoh!”. Repeat. For a fucking two-and-a-half HOURS. At one point I seriously considered switching seats to one of the empty front rows, but I endured and stayed in my hellhole spot.
It was when the end credits had started to roll after the finale, that I finally understood what had happened. Pennywise had broken the fourth wall. My greatest fear in the cinema, manifested to its most absolute, terrifying form, by a movie about facing your fears and overcoming them. Well done.
Ryuu ga waga teki AIYOH go fuck yourselves.
TL; DR summary: For those of you trying to get into the RWBY series, I highly recommend watching the DVD or Blu-ray releases. Find a way to rent it or buy it, just don’t watch it on YouTube (it’s not the best way to view the series). I cannot comment on Steam’s online streaming because I don’t buy video titles from Steam.
I tried watching RWBY Volume 1 long ago on Rooster Teeth’s YouTube channel when it was first released and didn’t go very far. I liked the action and the character designs (a scythe that transforms into a sniper rifle? Sure!), but didn’t like the pacing. Maybe it was because of the YouTube format — I really disliked the original opening theme (This Will Be The Day), and having to listen to it for every single episode was very grating. I stopped quite early into Volume 1, the part where Ren goes Max Payne on the giant Grimm snake, and that was it.
So 10,000 years later
after the return of the Burning Legion, I finally decided to rewatch the series on my sister’s BD collection of Volumes 1-3. I went in with zero expectations (like always), and came out impressed but feeling angry at the same time.
I was exceptionally impressed by the action sequences in RWBY. I’m an action junkie who enjoys a good action show and I rate RWBY on the very high-end of the action scale. I briefly googled Monty Oum, the creator of RWBY, and according to his Wikipedia page he’s a martial artist and fan of videogames. He’s also a big cinephile, which is not surprising. To produce the high quality of action in RWBY, you need to be a fan of action and understand the principles of making good action scenes. I’ve blogged about it before a few times, so I won’t retread too much on this same topic again. Good action fight scenes need to be succinct and easy to follow — the viewer must know who is winning and why they are winning. It also needs to be paced properly to keep the viewer engaged. Having a good soundtrack can help immensely — the original “Red” and “Yellow” pre-series trailers nailed this perfectly.
And all this was done in RWBY without resorting to any cheap bullet-time tricks, which has been overused ever since The Matrix made it popular at the turn of the century. There is one fight scene in Volume 2 involving Ruby Rose where the screen is partitioned into comic-book panels. I’m not sure if this was an intentional homage to Samurai Jack, which popularised this method of animation.
Sadly, Oum died in early 2015 while Volume 3 was still in production, and I’m not sure if this affected the ending of Volume 3. Because I was a bit angry after finishing Volume 3.
The ending of RWBY Volume 3 contains what many people call the Deus ex machina (DEM) plot device, a sudden and abrupt resolution from nowhere that is not explained, not expected, and we the viewers are just simply forced to accept it. I hate DEMs, dammit. But before I get to that, let me just summarise the rest of my thoughts about Volumes 1-3 as a whole. It is very important.
Warning: Spoiler break starts here. Stop reading if you haven’t watched RWBY Volumes 1-3.
Was randomly browsing YouTube and suddenly ended up on this video, a great compilation of Daffy Duck’s best moments from several decades of Looney Tunes cartoons.
I grew up watching lots of Warner Bros. cartoons, and I really mean LOTS. They are an important, defining period of my childhood. Somehow, Daffy Duck always has the most wackiest moments that will stay forever etched in your mind. From hunting season, to the magic lamp (“HASSAAAAAAAN CHOP!”), to the disintegrating laser pistol, and the immortal Robin Hood parody — they’re all included here.
I just don’t quite understand why Warner Bros. can’t make such cartoons anymore in the 21st century. We should treasure these retro classics and pass them on to future generations.
A couple of weeks ago one of my friends, Mustapusta, suddenly messaged me on Twitter: “I got bored so I decided to watch Kill la Kill for fun. Now I know why you are so obsessed with it.”
Wonder Woman (2017) has just been released in theatres, and after watching it, I feel kind of vindicated with my obsession for KLK. It’s a very simple formula: Just create a powerful female character, and allow them to kick ass. Let them unleash their superpowers, and let them fight alongside (or against) the men. But you must also make them human and relatable. Let them experience the ups and downs of human emotions, let them experience love, anger, and hate, and just let them be who they are: A hero(ine) who rises up and takes action, and who finds a way to triumph against evil.
To be very clear, I am not a feminist. I don’t consider myself one. I am more of a strong believer of equalism: The idea that everyone, regardless of their age, sex, language, race, or religion, should be treated equally and given equal opportunities. If men like Superman, Batman, Jack Sparrow, Nathan Drake, and Terry Bogard can vanquish evil by beating people up, why can’t the girls do the same?
I admit that I entered the theatre with very low expectations, especially after Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad. It’s so refreshing to finally see a DC movie that gets it totally right. Moral of the story: Don’t let Zack Snyder direct any superhero movies. He was involved as a producer and writer for Wonder Woman, but the director was Patty Jenkins.
This is why I hated Sucker Punch (another film directed by Snyder), which I have blogged about before. It executed the “warrior women” genre in the completely wrong manner, and tried to sexualise the female characters, another big mistake. Yes, most of Kill la Kill’s female cast were fighting half naked in revealing outfits, but so were the men. See what happens when the stakes are equal for everyone? That’s the amazing power of equalism in entertainment.
I’m eagerly awaiting Marvel’s Captain Marvel movie, which will feature another female superhero protagonist. It’s a wondrously good time (no pun intended) to be a fan of comics, videogames, and just pop culture entertainment in general. I wonder (I’m sorry) how long this Golden Age will last.