Pulp Fiction by Various Artists (7/10)


By 1994, having become bored with most of indie rock I had been listening to as a college student, I had immersed myself into surf rock. I remember sitting in the theater watching Pulp Fiction on opening weekend and being thrilled by all the surf instros I recognized. Really there are only about 4 surf tracks here but it sure felt like more.

A LEGO Brickumentary (7/10)

I've written before on this Web site how there is a standard documentary being produced these days that shows the "community" that has grown around various niche topics. Find a bunch of nerds who like the same thing and then they talk about how awesome it is to get together with other like-minded nerds. Brickumentary does a little bit of that, but there is more of the actual story behind LEGO's history and development.

Dragon Gate Inn (8/10)

Looking back over the string of martial arts films that I have viewed over the past few months, I'd have to say my favorite has been Come Drink With Me. Much of my appreciation is due to the artful direction of King Hu. Dragon Gate Inn is not a Shaw Brothers production and it has a somewhat different feel. There is a purposefulness to the direction and every frame is exquisitely composed. What's missing here are interesting or memorable characters.

The One-Armed Swordsman (8/10)

When I started my immersion into Shaw Brothers kung-fu, I knew I would eventually see this film. It apparently was a mega hit and marked another transition toward slightly more realistic action (the fights are still crazy, just less magic). The thing that appealed to me the most about this movie was the obvious use of indoor sets rather than actual locations. Despite Jimmy Wang Yu seeming to have one facial expression and a general lack of fighting skill, but he does a decent job as the title character and the story builds to a nice conclusion.

Defense Grid 2 on PC (7/10)

Defense Grid 2

The Defense Grid sequel seems more like an expansion than a new game. There are new powers and customizations, but core game remains the same; build towers and watch them mow down a seemingly endless stream of baddies. In fact, with the new upgrades, I think this may be easier than the original. I suppose the challenge really is in the alternate game modes where you a limited to certain spots or specific towers. Given the choice, I think I prefer the first game and its simple character-study story. This one tries to up the narrative ante by adding several voiced characters, but it just gets confusing and incoherent. The game still works as a casual strategy game that can be played in small doses.

Painted Faces (7/10)

I recognized most of the story here from having read Jackie Chan's memoir, I Am Jackie Chan. It's the story of Jackie and Sammo Hung's life as Peking opera students in training. The real Sammo plays the abusive master and gets to whip a younger version of himself. The movie never really gels as a whole but there are many memorable scenes showing the grueling training. I also liked the relationship between master and Cheng Pei Pei. Near the end there is a great sequence, which totally doesn't fit the movie, in which we see behind the scenes of a kung-fu produciton

Return to the 36th Chamber (7/10)

The first follow-up to The 36th Chamber still features Gordon Liu in the lead role, but it's mostly a parody of the original film. The more films I see with Gordon Liu, the more I realize just how great a screen presence he was. He carries this one with both his fighting skill and ability to play for laughs. In fact, outside of the final showdown, there is very little kung-fu fighting.

Patema Inverted (7/10)

I decided to watch this anime on a whim after revisiting The Girl Who Leapt Through Time the other night. The concept is something that probably every kid thought of at one time or another: what would it be like if gravity reversed itself? With it's twisting perspective and constant threat of "falling" into the sky, this film was disorienting and made my stomach turn. As someone with acrophobia, even standing at the base of a skyscraper gives me vertigo so your results may vary.

Tiger and Crane Fists (7/10)

I assume most of the people who seek this movie out come to it the same way I did. This is the film that Steve Oedekerk used as the basis for his 2002 spoof Kung Pow: Enter the Fist. I love Kung Pow. I realize that around half of that movie is groan inducing gags (okay, maybe more than half), but buried in it are moments of sheer comedic genius. Most of those moments come from the redubbing and CGI manipulation of Tiger and Crane Fists. Surprisingly, the original is a fun film with a bit of blood, a great villain, and some solid fights.

Time Traveller: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (8/10)

This live action adaptation of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time bears little resemblance to the original anime version. The cartoon was a wild, Groundhog's Day-like series of time twists while this one just uses time travel to establish the setting and characters of a simple, but effective love story. The sci-fi elements eventually creep back in, but by that time you don't really care. They just serve to remind us of all the glaring plot holes. Yet the characters are fun to watch and the acting is good.

Tales from the Borderlands on PC (10/10)

Tale from the Borderlands

Like previous Telltale series, this is not so much a game as it is an interactive cartoon. Yes, to a degree, player choices don't matter, and all paths seem to lead to the same destination (as far as I can tell). However, there is far more variation and consequence than most point and click adventures offer. In hindsight, adventure puzzles, as fun as they sometimes are, only hinder storytelling and don't help you live inside a character's head the way the Telltale dialogue system does.

Disciples of the 36th Chamber (7/10)

The third film in the 36th Chambers series changes the tone to comedy (apparently the second sequel is also a parody, but I haven't seen that one yet). The new hero, Fang Shiyu, is supposed to be a know-it-all wit (ala Bill Murray inStripes) but ends up just being unlikable and annoying. It's the sort of inane comedic performance you would expect from a Disney Channel kids' sitcom.

House of Flying Daggers (8/10)

This movie made it to America in the wake of Crouching Tiger and has much of the same stylishness. Doesn't quite pack the same wallop though. But it has its fair share of dramatic art direction and is awash in solid colors and exciting slow-mo fight sequences. The final fight in the snow is memorable and the story in generally is pretty chick-flickish for a Kung Fu film.

The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (8/10)

This is a classic Kung-Fu film from the Shaw Brothers that doesn't quite have the artistic flair that I look for in these films. It does, however, establish the blueprint for the story of the young fighter training in order to enact revenge. Most of the film is said training, each test chamber more ridiculous than the last.

The Force Awakens (9/10)

An excellent and worthy sequel to the original series of films. It's probably better than Return of the Jedi or at least it doesn't have as many cringe-worthy moments. I was able to overlook some of the hammy acting from old actors and the few CGI moments of yuckiness, but, overall, a decent apology letter to fans for the prequels. Apology accepted Captain Needa.