Sunday, December 20, 2015

Unbranded


tags: adventure, documentary, wild horses

Star emoticonStar emoticonStar emoticonStar emoticonStar emoticon

IMDB
Sixteen mustangs, four men, one dream: to ride border to border, Mexico to Canada, up the spine of the American West. The documentary tracks four fresh-out-of-college buddies as they take on wild mustangs to be their trusted mounts, and set out on the adventure of a lifetime. Their wildness of spirit, in both man and horse, is quickly dwarfed by the wilderness they must navigate: a 3000-mile gauntlet that is equally indescribable and unforgiving.
I read about this documentary way back in September when one of my favorite American actors, Jensen Ackles, mentioned on Facebook that he liked it. I agree with him. It is entertaining and a tad educational. The movie was financed through Kickstarter pledges of over $170,000 and the producers hired a first-time director who did an exceptional job.

It's admirable that the four young men chose to ride adopted wild horses instead of cars for their after-college American Wild West adventure. It's a beautiful film showcasing not just breathtaking scenery and friendship, but also promoting awareness of wild horses adoption program and wilderness preservation. There are lots of laughs and a few sad moments. I was charmed by the stubborn but lovable donkey, Donquita.

Highly recommended. Currently streaming on Netflix and Amazon.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Detectorists And Atelier On Netflix Streaming

Netflix is currently streaming 2 multi-episode drama-comedy series that are both witty, smart, and funny. Highly recommended.

Detectorists

Detectorists
tags: British, comedy, drama, metal detecting, relationships

Season 1 - Six 30-minute episodes

Star emoticonStar emoticonStar emoticonStar emoticonStar emoticon
Two quirky friends share a passion for metal detecting and a dream of unearthing Saxon treasure that they're certain is buried in a local farm field.
The smart and often hilarious dialogue, beautiful cinematography, and superb acting by all the actors (leading and supporting) make this series a true gem, one of the best I've seen this year on Netflix. It's a light comedy with a touch of drama and a little romance. The script is 95% "clean" with just a handful of foul words uttered and no nudity or sexual situations. The second season unfortunately is not yet available on Netflix. I'll have to find the episodes on YouTube or other streaming service.

Update: 12/22/2015

I watched the second season. There's a little bit more drama, just enough; it's as brilliant and funny as the first season, and most important, it has a very happy metal detecting ending worthy of "the dance". Search for streaming services available online. It'll be worthy of your time. I'm also looking forward to the Christmas Special which is scheduled to be shown in The U. K. on December 23.

Atelier

Atelier
tags: comedy, drama, Japanese dorama, luxury lingerie manufacturing

Star emoticonStar emoticonStar emoticonStar emoticonStar emoticon

Thirteen 45-minute episodes in Japanese language with English subtitles
Mayuko finds a job with a high-class lingerie manufacturer in Ginza. It is the story of a woman experiencing confusion, struggle and growth in a world with a new set of values different from any she has ever known, and seizing the Japanese dream. Atelier is a workplace-based coming-of-age novel drama, written to present the story of a working woman, with the setting of a glamorous world of lingerie manufacturer.
One word: amazing! Although the idea of manufacturing custom-made luxury underwear doesn't seem to be an interesting premise for a dramedy, the script and acting make this such a wonderful series. It's light comedy and not overly dramatic. The series also shows the Japanese culture, most notably their attention to the tiniest of detail, from the actual product to the packaging. I love the materials they use for the underwear but most specially I dig their Juki sewing machines.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Yakuza Apocalypse: The Great War Of The Underworld


Star emoticonStar emoticonStar emoticonStar emoticon

IMDB
In the ruthless underground world of the Yakuza, no one is more legendary than boss Kamiura. Rumored to be invincible, the truth is he is a vampire - a bloodsucking Yakuza vampire boss! Among Kamiura's gang is Kageyama, his most loyal underling. However, the others in the gang view Kageyama with disdain and ridicule him for his inability to get tattooed due to sensitive skin. One day, assassins aware of boss Kamiura's secret arrive from abroad and deliver him an ultimatum: Return to the international syndicate he left years ago, or die. Kamiura refuses and, during a fierce battle with anime-otaku martial-arts expert Kyoken, is torn limb from limb. With his dying breath, Kamiura bites Kageyama, passing on his vampire powers to the unsuspecting yakuza. As he begins to awaken to his newfound abilities, Kageyama's desire to avenge the murder of boss Kamiura sets him on a course for a violent confrontation with Kaeru-kun, the foreign syndicate's mysterious and seemingly unstoppable leader!
Takashi Miike's latest gorefest comedy, Yakuza Apocalypse, is as insane and entertaining as Gozu. It's a mashup of violent bloody gang fights, eye popping martial arts, vampires, and fantasy with several shout-out to other movies from Yojimbo and the original Django with the coffin, to Revenge Of The Nerds, to ET or maybe Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, to The Island Of Dr. Moreau with a half-man half-turtle character, to Eddie Romero's bat-man character in Twilight People (the hero vampire's costume and the ending remind me of TP's ending). The weirdest but fun part is the giant Kero Kero Keroppi frog lookalike and its bulging eyes death stare. I enjoyed the movie in all its craziness. Only Takashi Miike can pull off this kind of extremely weird movie.

Streaming on Amazon, DVD only from Netflix

Recommended for Takashi Miike fans.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Dark Places



tags: murder mystery, thriller

Star emoticonStar emoticonStar emoticon

From Wiki
Set in a farming town in Kansas, Dark Places follows Libby Day, the only surviving witness of a horrific massacre that took the lives of her mother and sisters. Believing the slaughter to be the work of a Satanic cult, Libby testifies in court against her own brother. Almost thirty years after the murder, she remains haunted by the gruesome violence of her past when she meets a group of amateur investigators who call themselves "The Kill Club." Looking to satisfy their morbid curiosity, the group begins its own inquiry about the case, believing that Libby's brother is innocent. To help them, Libby must unearth painful memories of the event and learn that her past may not be what it seems.
Dark Places is based on Gillian Flynn's novel with the same title. I read the book and rated it 4 stars in August 2012. Gillian Flynn, author of Gone Girl, is a very skilled storyteller and I like her books regardless of the main characters having a potty mouth.

I appreciate that the movie didn't stray much from the book's story line. I had to give it just 3 stars though because large portions of the movie are very very dark visually. A little bit more lighting would have been better. In one scene, Charlize Theron was reading some old records/papers. The lights were turned off and she was reading using a torch. She does have electricity in her house and she is not doing it stealthily or something. The director has taken "dark places" quite literally.

I also didn't like Charlize Theron as Libby Day. The Libby I had in my mind is shorter than Charlize, more delicate looking, and with long hair, not the short masculine hair style that Charlize has. *But it's just me, I've never liked very short hair on women.* The younger actors are very good, specially Chloe Moretz as the wicked girlfriend of Libby's brother, Ben, played by Tye Sheridan.

Recommended for Gillian Flynn, murder mystery, and thriller fans.
Currently streaming on Amazon, Blu-Ray DVD from Netflix.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Assassination Classroom Live Action 2015


tags: comedy, fantasy, Japanese, live action anime

Star emoticonStar emoticonStar emoticonStar emoticon

“Class E” of Kunugigaoka Junior High School consists of students determined to have no future. They’re separated from their classmates and assigned to a bizarre tentacled alien homeroom teacher. The alien, whom the students refer to as “Kurosensei” (literally “unkillable teacher”), had previously destroyed most of the moon and threatened to destroy Earth. However, he decided to delay his plan for one year if he was given a class of junior high school students to teach on the terms that he wouldn’t harm them.
Kurosensei teachers his class various assassination techniques and the government promises a 10 billion yen reward to the student who finally manages to kill him. Unfortunately, Kurosensei is able to avoid all of their attacks due to his vastly superior alien reflexes. In spite of this, student Nagisa Shiota keeps track of any perceived weaknesses as he and his classmates try to come up with new ways to kill him.
I love this latest live action anime from Japan. It's so silly but lots of fun to watch. The English subs are probably not 100% accurate but I find they make sense and am able to understand the movie. I'll watch it again just to see if the subtitles have improved.

Recommended for Japanese anime fans. Full English subtitled movie is no longer available on YouTube. Have fun watching Kurosensei's antics if you can find the movie elsewhere by searching.

The lead actor, Yamada Ryosuke as Nagisa Shiota, is a member of the Japanese idol group Hey! Say! JUMP. Here's a video of one of their songs from the movie

 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Ridiculous 6 Trailer



Wiki
The Ridiculous 6 is an upcoming American comedy film directed by Frank Coraci and written by Tim Herlihy and Adam Sandler. The film is a satire of westerns in general, and the classic 1960 western, The Magnificent Seven in particular. It stars Sandler, Will ForteTaylor LautnerSteve BuscemiDanny TrejoTerry CrewsLuke WilsonNick NolteRob Schneider and Jorge Garcia. The film will be released worldwide on Netflix on December 11, 2015.
Taylor Lautner acts like a half wit in this satirical Netflix movie. The Mark Twain look-alike at the end of the trailer is also funny. I hope the whole movie is hilarious and can't wait to see it.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Collector Of Secrets

 conspiracies, historical fiction, Japanese

Star emoticon

from Amazon.com
A riveting debut thriller with the twists and turns of “North by Northwest” and The Firm about an American in Japan who comes upon a mysterious decades-old diary, and ends up caught in a web of global espionage he cannot possibly fathom.
Max Travers is an English teacher in Japan. When his manipulative boss begins swindling the unsuspecting parents of his students, Max must retrieve his passport to return home. Max sneaks into her office only to stumble upon a burglary-in-progress. Max barely escapes, but accidentally takes a strange diary bound in leather and embossed with a strange seal. Little does Max know that this diary has been hidden for over half a century, and its secrets could topple some of Japan’s most powerful people and rewrite the history of the royal family.
Max soon finds himself on the run from everyone from tattooed Yakuza to the Japanese police and a mysterious American who has ties in the highest places, all willing to kill for the diary’s secrets. With his and girlfriend's lives in the balance, Max must decipher the diary's secrets in a richly detailed and ambitious thriller that covers everything from World War II to Watergate.
A lot of new authors think they could write a good story and they get encouragement from and get published by Amazon. Unfortunately, IMHO, only a few were good and worth reading. I have nothing against wannabe authors. In fact three of my top 10 favorite novels were debut novels: The Name Of The Rose by Umberto Eco, The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt published in 2000, and The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker published in 2013.

Collector Of Secrets, however, just like the others I rated very low or no stars, suffers from the syndrome called "allergy to professional editor". This book is one of the worst I have read this year. 

I should have stopped reading right at the first page because I had a gut feeling it might be about that darn Yamashita's treasure yet again! And it is. &*@^!!! Still, I wanted to know what it's all about and hoped it will be better than the awful The Dragon's Triangle. The author lifted the conspiracy theory nonsense from the same book the author of The Dragon's Triangle lifted her characters and story from. What the heck is wrong with these so-called "authors"? *sigh*

Spoilers

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

X

25052867 Kinsey Millhone, mystery, private detective

Star emoticonStar emoticonStar emoticonStar emoticon
X:  The number ten. An unknown quantity. A mistake. A cross. A kiss.
X:
 The shortest entry in Webster’s Unabridged. Derived from Greek and Latin and commonly found in science, medicine, and religion. The most graphically dramatic letter. Notoriously tricky to pronounce: think xylophone.
X: 
The twenty-fourth letter in the English alphabet.

Sue Grafton’s X: Perhaps her darkest and most chilling novel, it features a remorseless serial killer who leaves no trace of his crimes. Once again breaking the rules and establishing new paths, Grafton wastes little time identifying this sociopath. The test is whether Kinsey can prove her case against him before she becomes his next victim.
Kinsey seems a little bit different in this 24th installment of her alphabet series. She says sh*t more frequently and she's grumpier than ever before which is IMHO a good thing because eventually it worked well for her and her landlord Henry. She also is funnier, showing a lot of her sense of humor. I'll miss Kinsey when the series comes to an end. Yes, only 2 more to go, Y and Z.

Spoilers ahead

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Mentor

The Mentor mystery, police procedural, revenge

 Star emoticon

GoodReads
As Scotland Yard chief forensics detective Eric Shaw works a case with some resemblance to a crime he investigated twenty years earlier, he is convinced it is just a coincidence. But when more deaths occur in a style similar to those killings from the past, Shaw suspects that he has a serial killer on his hands—one who is pursuing a personal, cold-blooded vendetta.

Working closely with his protégée, Detective Miriam Leroux, Shaw analyzes the crimes down to the finest detail. He finds himself increasingly drawn to the lab, where criminologist Adele Pennington, a beautiful, enigmatic woman more than two decades his junior, proves distracting. Determined to maintain his professionalism despite the attraction, Shaw struggles to keep her at arm’s length. Yet Pennington’s unique insight proves critical, and as the investigation develops, so does their personal connection. With a killer on the loose, Shaw must follow a winding, blood-soaked trail that will take him in an unexpected and terrifying direction.
  
The short mystery novel is one of six Amazon Kindle First choices for October 2015. The book will be officially issued on November 2015. It is originally written in Italian and may have lost something in translation into English. It has a very high average rating (mostly by Italians and the author herself???) on GoodReads and once again, I'm in the minority.

The reasons for my 1-star rating
>main character is not believable as a Scotland Yard chief forensics detective; he's too emotional and weak; he acts more like a new recruit instead of a seasoned tough detective who has seen many crime scenes
  • Eric couldn't stop staring at the corpse. He found it magnetic...He realized he was hyperventilating.
  • He (Eric) forced himself to breathe, in and out, in and out. He struggled to calm himself down. Losing control now wouldn't help him.
>serial killer is obvious: "hey, I'm the one you're looking for" is tattooed on forehead
>amateurish writing - meanders and reads like a movie script...oh no, not again...*SMH*
>murder-mystery and romance never go together well...ever...specially between a 49 year-old super and his 27 year-old subordinate. It's just icky.

I do not recommend the book.


Friday, October 2, 2015

Make Me

23968559 mystery, thriller

Star emoticonStar emoticon

Goodreads
“Why is this town called Mother’s Rest?” That’s all Reacher wants to know. But no one will tell him. It’s a tiny place hidden in a thousand square miles of wheat fields, with a railroad stop, and sullen and watchful people, and a worried woman named Michelle Chang, who mistakes him for someone else: her missing partner in a private investigation she thinks must have started small and then turned lethal.
Reacher has no particular place to go, and all the time in the world to get there, and there’s something about Chang . . . so he teams up with her and starts to ask around. He thinks: How bad can this thing be? But before long he’s plunged into a desperate race through LA, Chicago, Phoenix, and San Francisco, and through the hidden parts of the internet, up against thugs and assassins every step of the way—right back to where he started, in Mother’s Rest, where he must confront the worst nightmare he could imagine. Walking away would have been easier.
But as always, Reacher’s rule is: If you want me to stop, you’re going to have to make me.
This is the 20th Jack Reacher book in the series. I didn't like it as much for several reasons. For one, it reads like a movie script. What is going on with these novelists, wrting a book with a movie in their mind? Although it is a tad better than The Revenge of Adam Defoe, it's almost as tedious to read, too wordy, describing each character's build, clothing, hair, head/footwear, etc., and repetitious too. It reads as though it was written by another author. I have enjoyed several of the earlier books in the series but the last 2 books are not as thrilling and IMHO, this latest is the worst yet.

Another reason I didn't like is Jack sort of becomes a softie and acquires a girlfriend, the character Michelle Chang. Lee Child did not make this character an interesting person. She's too bland, dry, and obscure, almost like a cardboard cutout. I can't explain why I read her that way.

In past books, Reacher eliminates the bad guys without having to "converse" with them as he does in this one. But why? It is so out of character, I was waiting and waiting for the real Jack Reacher to emerge.

Ultimately, I didn't like the dark storyline itself. Jack Reacher does not deserve to fight brutal, subhuman, and degenerate antagonists.

Not recommended.


Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Capital Of Latecomers

26135624

Star emoticonStar emoticonStar emoticonStar emoticonStar emoticon

from GoodReads
Local folklore tells the story of an ancient people wandering through the desert, discovering an oasis-like paradise. But they stayed for too long, and when they returned home all their loved ones were dead. These people are forever known as the “latecomers.”
Now an exclusive compound providing residents with complete and utter privacy stands on the site where their village once was. Rhein, a thirty-year-old former darling of the art world, has lost his confidence and chosen the life of a recluse. When a body turns up in Rhein’s studio, he has no choice but to come out of his yearlong seclusion to prove his innocence. More deaths occur, and the evidence incriminating Rhein is so convincing he honestly doesn’t know what to believe. Working with his eccentric neighbors, all of whom are also hiding from their pasts, he finds that the path to the truth careens through tribal folklore and quantum physics, and nothing is as it seems.
This September Kindle First free for Amazon Prime Members book defies categorization. It's a mash-up of folklore, murder mystery, quantum physics, science fiction, a little romance, schizophrenia, and so on and so forth. One thing is for sure, I love it. It is a novel that has its lovers and haters. I belong to the former. Just look at the ratings on Amazon and Goodreads.

Recommended only for readers who like the strange tales of Haruki Murakami and David Mitchell.

Amazon ratings
Pureview
GoodReads ratings

The book I rated 1-star, The Revenge Of Adam Defoe, has a very high average rating on Goodreads. They love it for the same reasons I didn't like it. O.o

Pureview