The Descent (2005): I Haven’t Seen the Sequel But I Still Like To Pretend It Doesn’t Exist

I watched this film for one of my classes. Before this class, I only had the vague notion of remembering it on the walls of Blockbuster.

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I definitely remember seeing this on the walls of Blockbuster back when Blockbuster wasn’t a relic of the past.

My title makes it sound like I didn’t like the film, but that’s really not the case. I just thought the original, British ending was very good, complete, and a sequel completely unnecessary and, frankly, missing the entire point. (Similarly, if you ask me about the Maximum Ride series, but I will insist that only three books exist in the series.)

The Descent (Neil Marshall) follows six women who go exploring in a previously undiscovered cave and become trapped within it, where they are preyed on upon by carnivorous humanoid creatures.

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What could possibly go wrong?

Even without the later flesh-eating things that inhabit the cave, it’s still rather horrifying. The first half of the film, you are reminded constantly of the dangers of spelunking and their constant risk of just dying in that cave. Dark, cramped, and completely unknown, that in itself is enough to bother people. Plus, caves are objectively creepy, like mirrors or dolls or clowns.

These women experience all sorts of horrors and the film is filled with all kinds of suspense. The dark, claustrophobic focus of the frame was enough to keep me at the edge of my seat.

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Caves are just kind of scary, even without flesh-eating monsters.

The thing was, it wasn’t so scary. It was rather intense, very suspenseful, and it was thrilling. Flesh-eating humanoid things don’t even come in until nearly an hour into the film, but it still remains intense as the women attempt to find their way out of the cave.

I will put a disclaimer: I tend to be less scared when it comes to corporeal horrors (exception is perhaps clowns). Ghostly things, spirits, possession, etc., those tend to creep me out more. I also find it less terrifying when the creature/monster/whatever is confined to a certain geographical location, like the Appalachians in this case. I don’t live anywhere near the Appalachians, so it makes it easier to put behind me. Stuff like ghosts though? Geography is not one of their limitations and that kind of freaks me out.

The Descent was exciting though. The darkness of the cave and the ferociousness of the crawlers (as I believe they are called in the credits) make it an intense film that did keep me on the edge of my seat.

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Don’t get me wrong, the crawlers were very creepy.

Sorry, spoiler, people die. What was interesting about it were the alternate theories that float around the strange realm of Reddit. Mild spoilers ahead (although nothing that can’t be guessed) though.

Just in case you want to skip ahead to the conclusion.

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There was this theory that suggested that Sarah was the one that killed them all and that the cave was a representation of her broken psyche and that the crawlers never existed. It was not the first thing I thought when I watched it, but the Reddit thread made some pretty convincing arguments if anyone cares to search for it.

I usually roll my eyes at the overused “it’s all in your head” trope, but this thread brought up some evidence that I couldn’t quite counter. I think I may need a little more convincing, but it’s certainly got a start.

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Conclusion: The Descent is exciting and thrilling and suspenseful, but, while having all the classic horror tropes (group lost somewhere without any help coming, people dying one by one, wandering off alone for no discernible reason other than the fact they were in a horror movie), doesn’t quite play off as horrifying as the cover makes it seem; however, it still does not put off the audience as it incorporates interesting turns on some horror tropes and utilizes all the suspense effectively. Bonus points for the all-women cast. 6/10.

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The Atlantis Gene (2013): I Really Tried to Like It But In the End I Was Just Glad I Didn’t Spend Money On It

I thought I was in luck. This book had appeared on one of my obscure to-read lists, scrawled on the back of some homework assignment I was surprised I hadn’t thrown away, or maybe the back of a receipt, or a crumpled post-it note. I had forgotten about it until I saw it again on Amazon Prime Reading, where I could read it. For free.

In the end it wasn’t important because I was disappointed.

 

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I should have known when “THE BATTLE TO SAVE HUMANITY HAS BEGUN” was part of the description.

The Atlantis Gene, written by A.G. Riddle, begins as a vessel in Antartica unearths some strange structure in the iceberg. You have Dr. Kate Warner, a researcher in Indonesia trying to cure autism and some kind of special agent David Vale doing something. And then there’s something about a conspiracy that involves pretty much the entire Earth.

I will be frank about my own bias. I’m not usually huge on the whole “saving the world” ideas, especially “saving humanity” ideas. I’ve always found myself to be more interested in plots that focused on smaller battles, like crimes in the city of Los Angeles, or maybe trying to find out who you really are. On the subject of bias, I also want to mention the disclaimer that I am really not quite a published author and I’m really just a college student who doesn’t really know what she’s doing so maybe I have no place to criticize anything.

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Sorry. Probably not going to read the other two that exist.

I will give The Atlantis Gene the benefit of doubt on its plot. Perhaps other people will find it much more enjoyable than I did. In the same way I can accept that some people may really enjoy parts of The Martian that I did not, I can accept that perhaps some people will like the plot of The Atlantis Gene.

What I couldn’t really stand was how everything was revealed through dialogue. It seemed just about every single plot point, emotion, small unneeded detail was boxed in with quotation marks. Not only was it unrealistic, these giant exposition dialogues that seemed to take up pages on end, I also found it unnecessary. Two scientists don’t have to explain the purpose of their experiment and discoveries only to have the other guy tell him, “You don’t need to tell me that, I worked on it too, now get to the point.” Sure, this is important information the reader needs, but it doesn’t need to be in quotation marks. It also doesn’t have to be so point blank directed at your face.

By having everything pointed out to the reader, including glaringly obvious points, makes the writing a lot less compelling. Perhaps the apparently upcoming movie will make it better. But, in writing, I was really impatient to just get through to the end.

There was also so much background information. I understood the practicality of it–you needed to establish certain points to have the plot make sense, but it really took away from the action of the present plot and I felt weighed down having to push my way through all of this background.

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Okay. This cover is nice. I’ll give it that.

I just wasn’t interested. The plot felt slow and the characters felt very much two-dimensional, like action movie leads. Kate and David went through the right motions, discovering new evidence, saving each other’s lives, and eventually what I think was supposed to be a romance. Could I tell you what made Kate and David stand out?

No. Not really.

 

Mostly, I just didn’t like this book.

Conclusion: With expository dialogue almost the entire way through, the flat Kate and David fails to move the reader, despite their struggle to apparently save humanity, very much a large-scale event, but one that was still rather difficult to care about as it seemed to be pushed away from the center of attention due to all the background knowledge, also revealed through dialogue between two people who did not need to say it to each other. 2/10.

 

Night Sky With Exit Wounds (2016): Look Even the Title Is Amazing

It’s been a very long since I’ve written a review. Thankfully I’ve had the chance to read a lot more these days.

It was really kind of a coincidence that led me to reading this book. When discussing Asian American authors with my professor, Ocean Vuong was one of the names that popped up. It just so happened that my friend had told me about this collection of poetry at around the same time, so I borrowed her copy and began to read it.

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I ended up loving it so much I bought my own copy.

I loved it. I thought it was incredible, brilliant. I had always loved poetry–the lilting rhythm, the vague sense of there was something beyond what I could comprehend, the visually appealing aesthetic of language.

But I swear Ocean Vuong took it up another level.

I really loved how simple his words were. In the end, mostly really amazing poetry is comprised of simple words, words that I know and can use. But they just seem to demonstrate more mastery over it because whenever I try, it just ends up as ink on a page, whereas Ocean Vuong can somehow conjure up a sense of beauty and sublimity. In his poem, “Immigrant Haibun,” he describes sailing on an ocean and when he comes to the topic of the conversations he’s had on a sailboat, he adds, “Salt in our sentences.”

I know the word “salt” and “sentences” and I know how to use prepositions and pronouns. But any of the poetry I write never seems to come across as powerful as that line, “Salt in our sentences,” which turns out to be one of my favorite lines in the entire collection.

I don’t know how he does it.

And it’s so personal too. With what seems to be a semi-autobiographical poetry collection, Vuong describes things in a way I had never considered could be possible, but it works, it absolutely works, and it works wonderfully.

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And he’s so young. What the heck. 

Night Sky With Exit Wounds is beautiful. You may not believe me right now, but it is. It’s rare that I find a piece where I really consider to be beautiful. There are books that excite me, thrill me, make me think. Night Sky With Exit Wounds just makes me want to reread the lines, to sink back into the tug of the poem. I want to read them out loud, but my roommate is doing her computer science homework so I settle with mouthing the words under my breath.

Conclusion: Deeply personal and mysteriously abstract sometimes, Night Sky With Exit Wounds is absolutely stunning, in content, but most of all in the poetry style of simple words, synesthesia, and I swear a little bit of magic. Bonus points for being part of the very underrepresented Asian (American) authors in English literature. Here’s a link to the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Night-Exit-Wounds-Ocean-Vuong/dp/155659495X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1487997026&sr=8-1&keywords=night+sky+with+exit+wounds 10/10.

The Hunger Games, Mockingjay, Part 1: Definitely Not Revolutionary

I finally got around to watching this movie. I’d been meaning to ever since it came out, but it just didn’t really happen until winter break.

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Like I get the whole keeping a theme idea, but I swear the covers all look exactly the same.

Directed by Francis Lawrence, we continue the story of Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), who had been tragically subjected to the Hunger Games twice, and is now being recruited to be the Mockingjay, a symbol for the growing riots against the Capitol.

It was so slow.

The pace was unbearably slow. All throughout the movie, all I could wonder was how long this was going to last. Around half an hour into the movie, I was already pretty much done. If nothing in particular has happened in thirty minutes, I lose interest very quickly.

I guess the development was good. There were many specific details and gradual showing as opposed to everything being thrust into your face at once, but it was still too slow.

I haven’t seen the second part, but I think I would live if they didn’t split it into two parts.

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Let me deceive you into thinking there are tons of explosions.

The movie, although probably pretty well executed on many other parts, was just grey and bland and flat. The acting was on par with the other movies in the franchise, the setting, special effects, all of that felt pretty on par with the other movies. But the slow pace was blinding.

While watching it, all I could notice was how slow the movie was. It’s two hours seemed to drag on forever. About every ten minutes, I was tempted to just stand up and walk away (i.e., close the browser window). But I stuck through it just so that I could complain about it later.

To me, the slow pace could have been avoided. First of all, everyone probably would have lived if both Mockingjay movies had been combined (I haven’t seen the second part, but at this moment, I’m convinced this would have also worked). Second, there could have been more action, more explosions, more exciting sequences.

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The movie was basically this color the entire way through.

Tons of movies substitute exciting special effects and action scenes for plot. While perhaps useless for a literary analysis of the movie and its themes, it’s usually very successful for entertaining the audience, particularly if the movie has a high budget, which I assume is the case for Mockingjay, Part 1.

Overall, I just felt very dissatisfied, especially since I had been pretty pleased with the previous movies. The music was on point, but it was hard to notice past the sluggish pace of the film. While not an awful film that’s worth detesting, I was still disappointed and I really didn’t enjoy this movie experience.

Conclusion: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 reveals the tale of Katniss and the Mockingjay, but much too slowly, creating a stagnant and sepia-filtered two hours with hardly any action to substitute the lack of plot, resulting in a very bland film that really doesn’t live up to its prequels in the franchise. 3.5/10.

Kingsman, The Secret Service (2015): Bringing Back the Fancy Spy Equipment That All Spy Movies Need

I finally got the chance to watch this movie. I wasn’t sure what it was about, but I had heard good things about it.

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Promising cast, promising poster, I was pretty interested.

Kingsman: The Secret Service (directed by Matthew Vaughn) follows Eggsy Unwin (Taron Egerton) as he is recruited into a secret spy organization that calls themselves the Kingsmen. Samuel L. Jackson is Richmond Valentine, the strange villain, and Colin Firth plays as Harry Hart, the secret agent that takes Eggsy under his wing.

It gave off a Wanted (2008, directed by Timur Bekmambetov) feel, almost. Although very different movies, the execution of its plot, characters, and violence felt very similar.

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I remember this being an excellent movie, I would highly recommend it.

The plot was decent; it was interesting and not unoriginal, but it certainly didn’t make any mind-blowing or groundbreaking revelations. I have no complaints about it, but there wasn’t really anything in there that I would particularly praise. The idea did not break any creative boundaries, but it was something I hadn’t seen in a while and I felt the movie executed it well.

The characters could be said to be interesting, but it was more of their certain, personal characteristics that made them interesting, and not their development. Colin Firth played Galahad extremely well, the experienced and classy gentleman who had taken a liking to Eggsy. However, it felt very two-dimensional. Galahad, or Harry Hart, only had that one facet to him. I felt as if the guilt and backstory could have been more of an important aspect to the movie; it would have provided more insight to how Harry was, as a character. Right now, it felt like Harry was more of an idea of a man, rather than an actual three-dimensional character.

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Very cool, very classy, very badass; all in all, a very good character combination.

Richmond Valentine was very interesting, but again, like Galahad, only because of his certain quirks, like his fashion sense and the lisp. Valentine’s character seemed to only be there for the role of the strange villain, much like those bland villains who are supposed to be smart in spy movies, but a little bit better, because Valentine is certainly more interesting, and also because it’s Samuel L. Jackson. But without those, there would be nothing left of Richmond Valentine.

Eggsy is just not that interesting, let’s be honest. Yeah, the parkour was cool, the street smarts and quick fingers were cool, but other than that, Eggsy did not stand out.

The two-dimensionality of the characters didn’t really bother me throughout the movie though; the cinematography and violence was enough to entertain me.

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The beginning of a wonderful bar fight.

The violence, while more so than some other movies, was not such a big deal, at least to me. Not that it isn’t gory, it just wasn’t as gory. There was a lot of blood, but nothing that really piqued as disturbing. I also really appreciated the music during the violent scenes; although they were certainly morbid, it was a relief the movie did not try to play that angle because it really wouldn’t have worked.

What I really enjoyed was actually somewhat childish–all of the cool, seemingly mundane gadgets the Kingsmen could play with. The gun disguised as an umbrella, the hand grenade lighter, classy shoes with a hidden blade–all of those cool spy cartoons I used to watch when I was younger had manifested into a real movie with intense choreography and bloody violence. I am a huge sucker for many tropes, and mundane objects that turn out to be deadly weapons is one of them.

Conclusion: Kingsman captivates the audience with the perfect spy, a gentleman exterior with a trained fighter hidden, and the entire idea of this is backed with plot and characters decent enough to keep the audience interested, but is not as developed as three-dimensionally as it could have been. Bonus points for the suits. 7/10.

The Martian (2011): You’d Think That Living on Mars Would Change a Person But Not Mark Watney Apparently

I was hopeful. Beyond hopeful. So many people were raving about it, it was accurate science fiction, Matt Damon was going to be in the movie, etc., etc.

And it was about Mars and space. Space!

The Martian (by Andy Weir) tells a survival tale of botanist Mark Watney who is stranded on Mars after his crew leaves him behind, thinking him to be dead. An astronaut stranded on Mars, where there is no life, no water, no air, just rocks and sand and a couple of things NASA left behind. It’s hard to get more intense than that.

Unfortunately, only the premise proved to be intense.

It was cool how Watney survived on Mars. It was cool how he knew all the science and did the math (and I swear Weir wrote this with a calculator next to him), and sarcastic first-person narration is usually not a bad way to go, but in the end, I was far from impressed.

I was excited to see the movie before, but now…not so much.

The only thing The Martian has going for it is scientific accuracy.

Don’t get me wrong, I am pretty into science. I like science, I’m considering going into science as a career. But The Martian didn’t appeal to me.

While we’re on the topic of scientific accuracy, I have to say that I am impressed and I did enjoy it, at least for the first hundred pages. However, as accurate as his chemistry was, a hundred fifty pages later, it’s still chemistry. Simply speaking, it got old.

I was expecting a tough, gritty survivalist story with maybe a pinch of the theme of humanity and fate thrown in as last minute seasonings, but it just didn’t turn out that way. All Watney did was ramble to his log about how he managed to not die that day and maybe part with some not-so-witty sarcastic comment that I feel like I was supposed to laugh at.

It also seemed highly implausible that someone could live on Mars for a year and a half and not change at all, being surrounded by red sand in every direction, and faced with the constant fear of dying. On Mars. Where there is not a single living thing. And not to mention, lack of communication with humans for the first couple of weeks. Watney didn’t change a single bit.

We don’t even have to go as far as deep character development. I just find it hard to believe that even after a year and a half on MARS, Watney can still spit out sarcastic comments like it’s not an issue at all. I never believed for a second that Mark Watney felt like he was actually going to die.

But Jamie, not every book has to be deep and philosophical with meaningful character development.

Yes, but every book should have at least some developed characters. The Martian has close to zero character development. The entire thing is almost always from Watney’s perspective, and also a log perspective where he is literally supposed to be telling his last words to, and yet, I know almost nothing about Mark Watney.

That’s not entirely true. I know he has parents and I know he’s a botanist.

And the other characters who are all working to bring Watney home alive? They’re hardly more than names that were printed on the paper in black ink. They seemed to only exist for the purpose of trying to bring Watney back home.

I was dissatisfied with The Martian. And I didn’t find it funny at all, despite Weir’s attempt at a sarcastic, smart-ass narrator. I suppose I do have to give The Martian credit where it’s due though–the science really was interesting and it was interesting to see Watney save himself through creative methods.

Conclusion: The Martian grabs the reader with a gritty premise of a lone astronaut stranded on Mars, but Watney fails to capture the reader as he monotonously tells the audience how he didn’t die with too many attempts at humor that really weren’t funny; it was potentially a gritty survivalist story, but ended up being flat and stale, even though it was flavored by accurate science, which in the end, failed to add to the “fiction” portion of science fiction. 3/10.

The Suicide Theory (2014): I Am Contemplating About Fate Again

My dad recommended this movie to me, so naturally, I didn’t much of it and just assumed this to be some kind of typical thriller, because that’s usually what my dad likes.

I was wrong though. Sort of.

I wasn’t all that drawn towards it. But it was on Netflix and I didn’t have anything else to do.

Steven Ray (Steve Mouzakis) is very experienced in killing people. Percival Wells (Leon Cain) is a suicidal man that is seemingly invincible; after numerous attempts at suicide, he miraculously survives each one. Wishing to die, Percival hires Steven to kill him.

I had read the small blurb on Netflix before I watched this movie, and I was intrigued by the originality of this idea.

Although a relatively short movie and somewhat slow-paced, The Suicide Theory (directed by Dru Brown) managed to keep me interested throughout. There were some moments that felt a little dragged down to me, but overall, the development felt natural.

But mostly, I really enjoyed how the entire movie is linked through the motif of fate. If you have read my other reviews, you may have noticed that I am a sucker for the themes of humanity and fate in fiction.

Here we have the two unlikely friends bonding through video games.

Steven is a firm unbeliever in things like fate, while Percival is convinced there is a reason why they met. Oftentimes, the attempt at incorporating the concept of fate into a movie or a book falls flat with cliched lines or a very typical and boring hero (although that’s more of a destiny angle). The Suicide Theory thankfully does not fall into that category.

However, as much as I like fate, or at least the discussion of fate, The Suicide Theory didn’t really impress me much on other aspects. The entire movie seemed to be based on a bland, brownish color scheme. Most scenes took place at night or in dark places and it just felt like there was no contrast in the entire visual aspect of the movie.

It felt like the majority of the movie was like this.

I will admit that these scenes held a certain charm to them though, even if it was slightly on the trying-to-be-edgy-and-dark feel. Not that this film isn’t edgy and dark. Sort of.

Steven Ray was definitely dark and edgy though. A somewhat demented killer who lost his wife in a hit-and-run in front of his eyes with his share of deep, personal issues, Steven is very interesting. Everything revealed about him is subtle, but clear; I felt like I clearly understood what was being shown to me without it being shoved into my nose.

Percival is less interesting in this aspect, even if he is the one that can’t die, but his contribution to the movie was also crucial. Aside from the fact that he is one of the main characters.

Percival’s scarred face from his numerous suicide attempts.

The Suicide Theory deserves a lot of credit for its ending, because it actually took me by surprise (sort of), and, if I say so myself, I am not that easily surprised. The first “twist” ending, not so much. I saw that coming about halfway through the movie–one of those twist endings that have become so common that it becomes predictable.

I did not see the second “twist” ending coming. It wasn’t so much of a “twist” that took me by surprise, but it certainly made me blink twice.

Also, it was one of those endings that bring everything full circle, which is something I am also a sucker for. And it fit in really nicely with the whole idea of fate they were stringing throughout the movie.

Conclusion: The Suicide Theory draws in the audience with an interesting premise and manages to keep the audience interested even though the pace was slightly slow and the visual aspect a little bit bland as this atypical thriller presents the idea of fate and the stories of the people that become entangled in it. 6/10.

Darker Than Black, Gemini of the Meteor: I Swore At My Computer At The End

I had high hopes for this second season, and they were kind of met. But not really. They were between halfway and completely met.

We also have the introduction of a new character.

The second season of Darker Than Black (directed by Tensai Okamura) takes place a couple of years after the events of the first season. I believe there are OVAs describing what happened in between, but I haven’t seen them. Hei (voiced by Hidenobu Kiuchi) is now on the run after betraying the Syndicate in the first season and, for a time, works for the CIA. Suou Pavlichenko (voiced by Kana Hanazawa) is the main focus now, and tells her story after her life changed after an incident with a meteor shower.

I know I shouldn’t compare them, but the first season was better.

However, although this second season didn’t quite explain what I was looking for, it was still enjoyable. Plot-wise, it was still very intense, complex, and interesting. Character-wise, there were still interesting and developed characters that I enjoyed watching. Development-wise, it was all very good until the end.

Okay, Hei got a little bit less cool with the long hair, but whatever.

The thing about Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor is that it gives no closure. There was an ending and there are no more episodes after that, but I felt no sense of closure, no sense of satisfaction that I finished this show.

So I swore very loudly to my computer, which obviously didn’t change anything.

The second season is very similar to the first in that they reveal everything through very vague and subtle ways. The humanity of the dolls is also addressed in a similar manner like Yin in the first season, but with July in this second season. I just wished they had given me more concrete facts to deal with, because while I liked this theme of humanity, I wanted to know more about it, but I felt like I didn’t get any answers at all.

I really liked July. I’m glad he was a main part of this second season. Even if he didn’t really talk much.

While the subtlety of Darker Than Black, both the first and second seasons, played well into the entire charm and feel of the show, I just really wished they could present the information in a way that felt like I could fully understand it. I just wanted my questions to be answered in a very straightforward way.

But at the same time, I really liked the subtlety of it. I liked being shown information that I can infer my conclusions from.

What I really want is the same sense of subtlety with a sense of closure, but that seems hard to achieve.

In the end, I still enjoyed watching this, but I felt like I got no satisfaction out of it, even though I did, because I really did like it. It just also made me slightly angry at the same time.

I also would have liked to have known more about this society and Hell’s Gate and just the many other aspects that were only lightly touched on. There’s just so much to this world that I want to know about, but unfortunately, the show just doesn’t answer all of my questions.

Conclusion: Filled with an interesting and complex plot, intense action scenes, and the very cool main character Hei, Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor is fascinating and seat-gripping all the way until the end, which unfortunately drops off at a steep angle, leaving the audience with unanswered questions that go way beyond ambiguity. Bonus points for July though. 7/10.

Mad Max, Fury Road (2015): It Was Madly Awesome That’s What It Was

I had heard lots of good things about this movie and I was very excited to watch it. I understood it had three movies before it, with the protagonist played by Mel Gibson, but I have not seen them. Now I want to though.

The poster did not set me up for what the movie was.

Mad Max: Fury Road (directed by George Miller) is the fourth movie in the Mad Max franchise, following the story of Max Rockstanby (Tom Hardy), who joins up with Furiosa (Charlize Theron) to escape from the tyrannical ruler, the Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Burne), along with his five wives that have been selected to breed his child, leading to super badass action scenes and explosions.

Taken place in a post-apocalyptic desert, I really would have liked to know more about this type of society they were all living in, but I assume I would have to watch the previous movies, which I haven’t, so I’m not complaining.

Also, Nicholas Hoult was in this movie, who I did not recognize until about halfway through when it suddenly occurred to me that this character, Nux, looked very familiar.

This is totally Nicholas Hoult but for some reason I didn’t realize until much later in the movie.

Thinking back, the plot was really good, but it wasn’t anything to the extent of phenomenal. It was fast-paced, interesting, and called for tons of action. It moved along well and I didn’t find any flaws with it, but it certainly didn’t make me grip the edge of my seat, dying to know what would come next.

The special effects, on the other hand, were phenomenal. First off, the road battles all involved giant, rusty war trucks that look like they have really bad mileage but I guess don’t because I think gasoline is a scarce resource in this post-apocalyptic world, so I assume they would have found some way to help their mileage.

While that looked cool in itself, especially the shots from above, when they overturn and explode, that was just amazing.

The pole guys were really neat too.

The action scenes were wonderful. It impressed me in a different way than other action movies or superhero movies, where I am pleased just by the large number of explosions. In Mad Max: Fury Road, the action scenes felt more balanced–in a way. It wasn’t just explosions and it wasn’t just hand-to-hand combat; it was a good balance of both, with a little extra as many of our main characters have superb aim and can create awesome scenes.

And, of course, the flame-thrower guitar can’t be left out. That guy was just plain awesome. What is not awesome about a flame-thrower guitar?

It’s a flame-thrower guitar. Absolutely fantastic.

Although there wasn’t much dialogue throughout, Mad Max: Fury Road managed to impress me with all its characters. I can’t say they were extremely three-dimensional, because I think I may need more back story on that, but they were solid characters.

I wish I had been able to see this movie in theaters, because the special effects, and the sound effects (especially the subwoofer) would have been absolutely mind-blowing, especially amplified on a giant screen.

What I really liked though was how it really just wasn’t what I was expecting. I mean, I wasn’t exactly sure what I was expecting, but it was not the end result. But, this is also coming from someone who hasn’t seen any other of the movies in the Mad Max franchise. So maybe this unexpected result is just me.

Conclusion: Mad Max: Fury Road captures the audience through an engaging plot and interesting characters, accompanied largely by many superb action scenes with badass and rugged war trucks in the yellow desert, maintaining both impressive special effects and a certain aesthetic to it that leaves the movie memorable. Bonus points for the flame-thrower guitar. 8/10.

Darker Than Black (2007): I Almost Broke My Record Of How Fast I Finished a Series

A total of 26 episodes, Darker Than Black took me three days to finish. (If you’re wondering, my record is currently Mirai Nikki, also 26 episodes, which took me less than 24 hours.)

His hair was actually black, which made his code name and the title much more relevant, but whatever.

Darker Than Black (directed by Tensai Okamura) takes place in a world where this mysterious phenomenon dubbed as “Hell’s Gate” takes place in Tokyo, replacing all the stars in the sky with false ones. At the same time, people with supernatural powers began to appear, and whenever they use their power, the star that corresponds with that person shows activity. However, as powerful as these supernatural people, called “contractors,” are, after any usage of their power, they are forced to undergo “remuneration,” which ranges from eating a certain food, repeating a meaningless action, or even self-harming.

Our main character is a Chinese contractor, Li Shun Sheng (Hidenobu Kiuchi) with the code name of “Hei,” or “black” in Chinese, who works for a secret organization.

He’s super cool. He’s one of the reasons I like this show so much.

Not only is the premise extremely interesting and original, there is also a pretty intense plot that I followed along for the most part and plenty of badass action scenes. There were some moments where I felt as the clarity was a little bit iffy and I had some unanswered questions, but at this moment, I am hoping the second season will still clarify some details.

I enjoyed seeing the types of abilities each of these contractors had, because most of them were very creative, so creative that I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. In short, it was super cool.

I also particularly liked the character development. Contractors are supposed to suppress their emotions with rational decisions, making them more like killing machines that intelligence agencies exploit to their advantage. This gave room for each of the characters, although it was mainly Hei, who expresses compassion and remorse, to really explore who they are as a person and what their identity is, but it also draws on one of my favorite questions: “What is it that makes humans human?”

Here we have Huang, Yin, Hei, and Mao, all working for the Syndicate.

The motif of humanity is not as obvious as Parasyte, but it still plays a major role in characterization. Hei seemed a little typical at first, seemingly friendly but quiet person, but ruthless when it comes to killing others and carrying out his assignments. However, as the series continued, even though this fact didn’t change, I couldn’t quite pinpoint what it was different about Hei, but he just felt different from the other obligatory cool character from other series. As a character, he was one of my favorites. He also had really cool action scenes.

Not quite an action scene.

There are still so many characters that I feel like I have neglected to mention, but they are all interesting, and with the exception of one, I didn’t find any of them annoying; they were all interesting, enough back story was revealed to satisfy me, and they were all very different.

However, especially towards the end, there were just a few too many details that I wished were covered more thoroughly. I understood most of the plot, but many elements of Hei’s back story still felt unexplained, and then there was the whole situation with Amber that I just didn’t quite get. But, as I mentioned above, I have high hopes for the second season to answer some of these questions.

Conclusion: Darker Than Black shows that intense action doesn’t need to take away from interesting and complex plot or well-developed characters, entertaining the audience from beginning to end with creative supernatural powers, character development, and just a hint of philosophy, all balanced equally well to meld into one marvelous series. Bonus points for Hei, because he’s super cool. 8.5/10.