Stalker Review

A review of Andrei Tarkovsky’s restored 1979 slow sci-fi film Stalker.

Stalker is unlike any film I’ve ever seen. It’s what I think of as pure cinema. It’s a difficult film, but one worth watching.

The premise is that something fell to Earth and the area of impact became off limits to civilians. This area is known as the Zone. Only Stalkers can navigate the Zone. Inside of the Zone is a place called the Room, which grants a person their true desire. There is, naturally, a downside to this, but I’ll leave that to you to discover.

Bordering on sci-fi and surrealism, Stalker is a nearly 3-hour art film. It is referred to as a classic, but don’t think of it as a classic sci-fi film like Star Wars or 2001. Stalker is in a league of its own. It doesn’t deal with space, robots, or aliens. It deals with abstractions and humans, two things we are much more familiar with than what most sci-fi covers.

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your name. Review

Thoughts on the latest animated feature film by Makoto Shinkai.

Have you ever wanted to swap bodies with a teenage boy in Tokyo or a high school girl who lives in the Japanese countryside? If so, then your name. is the film for you. your name. is an inventive and poignant take on body swapping that plucks the heart strings in the way only the director, Makoto Shinkai, knows how.

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Rewatching Ninja Scroll 10 Years Later

When I was 13, I bought Ninja Scroll on UMD for PSP, and 13-year old me sure thought it was cool. Over 10 years later, it’s not as cool as I remember. The story and animation are just so-so. I like the various enemies the main characters fight—they’re all pretty unique, even if the battles aren’t that impressive.

Everything about Ninja Scroll feels run of the mill. It’s not bad, but it’s not exceptional in any way​. It’s worth checking out if you’re in the mood for an action anime flick, but it’s not worth going out of your way for.

3/5 Stars

Blame! (2017 Anime Film) Review

Thoughts on the anime film adaptation of Tsutomu Nihei’s manga.

Blame! is a marvel of stylish 3D animation. It hits all of the notes that I want a sci-fi film to hit–an interesting premise, a visual style that feels fitting and unique to the world, and spot-on music.

Blame! follows the story of Killy, a quiet badass with a single mission: find a human with the Net Terminal Gene. Cybernetic and synthetic life forms have taken over the city, which is ever expanding. Those life forms also exterminate all humans. Along Killy’s journey, he comes across a village that is on the verge of running out of food.

There are lots of pronouns (Net Terminal Gene, Safeguards, etc.), and the film doesn’t dive too deep into what they are, which is to its credit. I like that not everything is explained, as it builds this mythology and world that can be interpreted by each individual.

Polygon Pictures, the studio behind the film, has a knack for working within the visual aesthetic they’ve developed for 3D animation, and it works to great effect.

There’s not much that I can say to the fault of Blame! that isn’t nitpicking. It’s a great, concise adaptation of the manga. If you dig the movie, check out the manga by Tsutomu Nihei. Also, Knights of Sidonia is an anime series on Netflix based on a manga by the same author, which is worth watching.

I watched the movie with Japanese voices and English subtitles.

Ghost in the Shell (2017) Review

Brief thoughts on the live-action Ghost in the Shell.

Don’t send a rabbit to kill a fox.

Ghost in the Shell is on the cusp of being a good film, but it misses the mark in almost every way. Nothing feels impactful, from the action scenes to Way the Major struggles with her identity. There’s a lot of technically impressive CG, but it lost the visual aesthetic that makes the manga and anime shine. The story just isn’t that interesting, even though the premise is. It lacks the subtly and intrigue the anime film has.

A Ghost in the Shell live action adaptation has so much potential, but this doesn’t live up to it. Go watch the anime film and SAC series instead.

Woman in the Dunes Short Review

Brief thoughts on the 1964 film by Hiroshi Teshigahara.

Are you shoveling sand to live, or living to shovel sand?

Haunting and incredible. So much sand. Fitting sound design. Visually striking.

It’s slow to start, but worth it in the end. The second half picks up the pace a bit and goes places I didn’t expect it too.

I don’t think I’ll be going to the beach anytime soon.

A Beginner’s Guide to Twin Peaks

An exploration into what makes Twin Peaks so great, and what folks new to the show need to know—entirely spoiler-free.

I unabashedly love Twin Peaks. It’s my favorite television series, and it occupies a good chunk of my mental energy. I’ve been thinking a lot about why it’s so special. While doing so, I thought it would be a fun idea to create this: a spoiler-free beginner’s guide to Twin Peaks.

If you’ve never watched the show and are interested in what all of the hubbub is about, this is for you. Heck, if you’re already a fan, then you may enjoy this too.

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I Finally Watched Blade Runner

Thoughts on the film Blade Runner after truly seeing it for the first time.

When I was a freshman in college I had a professor that was very into Phillip K. Dick. We read a collection of his short stories and then watched Blade Runner. Strangely enough we didn’t read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? We watched the film over the course of three class periods on a small CRT monitor with crappy speakers. I could barely make out the dialog. I had no clue what was going on. My most vivid memory is of Pris acrobatically putting Deckard’s head into a scissor lock. At the time and in the proceeding years until now, I didn’t get what all of the hubbub was about. People hailed it as the classic science fiction film. It’s historic. But to me, it was just that film I watched in class and didn’t really understand.

With the release of the visually impressive first teaser for Blade Runner 2049, a sequel set 30 years later, I felt like the film deserved a second chance. Wow, am I glad I gave it one.

Note: there are a few light spoilers below.

The settings throughout the film feel so real. They’re gritty and industrial, not sterile and modern like so many futuristic depictions. In a lot of ways, the city of L.A. in the film feels like its own character. It’s the kind of world that I want to spend more time in.

The predicted technologies, while off in some ways, still feel futuristic today. Little touches like the apartment lights automatically turning on in Deckard’s apartment when he walked into a room had me wondering, Why don’t the lights in my apartment work like that? Speaking of lighting, it is done so well in Blade Runner. It sets the mood and completely fits with the visual design throughout the movie.

The contained story works really well. I think the scope of it leaves enough to the imagination and doesn’t squander itself. I loved the ambiguous ending. It’s abstract and mysterious enough to make one wonder what it all means. Those kinds of endings keep the mystery alive, which I think keeps something churning in one’s mind after it ends.

The “Tears in Rain” speech at the end is very well known, and I found it to be very impactful. It gave me goosebumps. It’s a great performance. I think all of the actors did a great job.

The only think I didn’t really care for was Deckard’s romance with Rachael. It was forced, literally and figuratively. It seemed there was a checkbox for “add romance scene.” Everything else with Rachael, the Voight-Kampff test and Deckard conversation with her about how she’s a replicant, made sense to me. But the way the romance progressed felt like a stretch.

One of, if not the, most lasting parts of the movie for me has been the music. It’s incredible. I bought the soundtrack and haven’t stopped listening. I really enjoy writing while listening to it. It really puts me in a certain place. A dark and dreamy futuristic place.

Since finishing the film, I wanted to enjoy some stories with a similar atmosphere, so I started reading the manga BLAME! It seemingly draws some inspiration from Blade Runner and other sci-fi, and I am enjoying it. The art style is pretty unique. Blade Runner also has me excited to watch Akira again. They both nail the atmosphere of the futuristic cities. The world needs some more grit and neon in it.

I would say, with little doubt in my mind, that Blade Runner is now one of my favorite films. I’m very much looking forward to watching it again soon.


Additional Notes

  • I watched The Final Cut version.
  • I bought the Blade Runner Trilogy soundtrack by Vangelis, which has two discs of music from the film and one of original music inspired by the film. I highly recommend it.
  • I watched Blade Runner on an iPad, although it seems like the kind of film that would be even better on the big screen in a theater. Fingers crossed I get the chance one day.