Day Eight: Space Cowboys (MotM 2017)

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Wow, a Clint Eastwood movie involving cowboys? Next you’ll tell me Charlie Chaplin’s a silent movie icon.

In all seriousness, Space Cowboys is more about space than cowboys. The people involved never even refer to themselves as cowboys, if I recall. They just have a strong desire to fly, fly as high as man could possibly go. Or more accurately, two of them do. The other two hang out in the background and make a joke or two that fits their deep and engaging character model. I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s kick up some context.

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First of all, I feel the tags attributed to this film are a little misleading. IMDb lists this film as an Action-Adventure-Thriller. With that in mind, one would expect this film to be more on the cusp of Alien than Grumpy Old Men. Alas, the more the movie progressed, the more it dawned on me that the synopsis covers more than half of the movie. Perhaps being tagged as “Drama” or “Realistic Fiction” would be more accurate as genres, as the only action present is a punch or two, the adventure doesn’t begin until over an hour into the movie, and thrilling is an overstatement all things considered.

Additionally, there seems to be a play at favoritism in this movie, with the two characters previously mentioned as lovers of flying getting far more attention and development than the other two. In a stroke of luck, they’re even the kind of people who value one another, but are always at each other’s throats. Having seen Jersey Boys, I’ve noticed that Clint Eastwood enjoys having dysfunctional groups of friends. Though where Jersey Boys had a better focus of developing each member, Space Cowboys can’t seem to find any opportunity to let the others shine.

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For a while, Donald Sutherland’s character seemed to be the weakest link of the cast. His character is nothing but a ladies’ man and cannot seem to function without burying his face in technology or, more often, ogling any woman that passes. However, by movie’s end, the real weakest link is James Garner’s character. While a little more than a one-joke machine like Sutherland, his usual banter involves religion in some fashion and his screentime progressively lessens, especially during the later portions. Frankly, one would have to ask if he was even in the movie! More likable than Sutherland, just not as involved in the major course of things. The movie adores Clint Eastwood, with Tommy Lee Jones as a close runner-up.

Characters outside of the group have varying degrees of relatability or depth, with a lot of them finding resolve through the efforts of the group of “space cowboys.” There’s a female character played by Marcia Gay Harden that receives some development as a human being, though the cracks begin to show as the movie goes along. Her scenes almost never feature her alone, and she seems to develop relationships with the space cowboys almost randomly. Rather, most minor characters interact with the main group as if they’re completely off the script. Sequences of romance, vulnerability, or hostility feel bloated and without cause, almost as though they were thrown in because the writers felt it was necessary for a story to include them. It doesn’t do much for believability, while creating an aura that builds the main group up to be idol-like unnecessarily. Self-insert-like.

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As transparent as it is, Eastwood and Jones’s characters are developed pretty well. Jones especially has a solid performance and has a fiery wit that makes him charming, despite being a little more childish than he should be. Eastwood seemed a little flat at first, but improved as the scenes went on, putting forth more effort to seem convincing enough of not being completely monotone. Their chemistry is light on originality, but sweet enough to take it seriously regardless.

The worst part of any story is a bad story. Redundant, yes, it speaks volumes for a story to feel more appropriate for made-for-TV movies. Background history is established. Years pass. Conflict arises. A character is brought in as “the only choice.” Silliness ensures when something out of the ordinary becomes reality. Chances are slim—always. So on and so forth. The story is nothing short of the most bland “against all odds” plotline as humanly possible, with events that appear only to support such a fragile outer coat. It remains so unenthusiastic that even its attempts at playing with its recurring trinkets become lost in painful ordinance. Not even the ending, which attempts to be bittersweet, hardly causes a clink of emotion.

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One noteworthy praise is with the special effects, which does enough to make the later scenes in space travel feel entirely out of a different film. The mood changes for the better, the characters no longer rub their shtick until combustion, and the stakes become more tangible. It looks wonderful, like one truly is flying around in space, gazing down at the splendid Earth that we inhabit. A tenseness appears with how splendid everything appears, traveling into a world where, honestly, I expected the movie to impede on far quicker than it did. Everything just takes a turn for the better, giving a nasty realization that the film probably would’ve been better should they not have taken so long getting prepared. Of course, they needed to do all of this for the sake of their grand story.

Interestingly enough, the more I type about this movie, the more I realize I don’t care for it. Initially, I found it fair, nothing special, but not something that makes me angry upon consideration. Writing this review made me understand just how benign and forgettable the film truly is, even with a stronger second half. All that leads up to that point is a tired and beaten plotline that adds a little twist through old men being astronauts. Try as it might to build up the characters, two slightly-intriguing characters aren’t enough to carry an atmosphere of crusty, insufferable mush.

Final Score: 4/10

The rating for all other films can be found on my IMDb account.

For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!

Updated Thoughts on Highschool of the Dead

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Generally, most anime watchers will see this image and think one of two things:

Tits

or

Zombies.

Highschool of the Dead is infamous for being notoriously lenient with its female cast’s anatomy and non-stop zombie-killing horror. These two things stick out far more than the rest of the anime’s core features, due in part to the quantity of time dedicated to employing different things in just about every episode. Some years ago, when I was still a young’n in the world of anime, this series turned out more entertaining than anything else, and even got some attention as an anime I wish I had viewed earlier than I did. It’s almost a strange case study, as despite the ecchi eruption, Highschool of the Dead is different than about every other alternative.

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The best thing about the series is actually the first four episodes. People like to insinuate that the sexual fan service is non-stop and continuous throughout, but there’s a modest amount between episodes two and four. A good amount of attention is put into developing the phenomenon that is the zombie apocalypse, mixing with the unknown the main characters have to face as it begins to grow out of control. Characters are established via hair color personality and their relationship with others within the main group, and acclimate to the situation well enough that the viewer can see them as a capable bunch of fighters. Some might question the characters’ abilities, particularly Hirano, which is justifiable. Balancing out the action, the sexual fan service (though never really necessary), and the character interaction is done well enough within the “Set-up” phase of the anime that it actually becomes fairly immersive and enjoyable.

Unrealistic or not, the main cast has a charm to it that’s lost on a number of other anime with a rag-tag bunch of opposites. While slightly archetypal, the heroes have a good head on most of them, giving a better realism to these particular individuals being so well-equipped to survive. Interactivity between the six is also fairly enjoyable, particularly whenever Takagi is involved, with her fierce determination and tsundere air about her. One member of the group, the airheaded nurse of the school, is a useless, uninteresting, and magnet for sexual fan service character. I’d rather she get cut from the series altogether.

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As the series continues, the flaws within its writing begin to rear themselves and mold the story into an eye-rolling tirade of zaniness. Though the first few episodes aren’t completely devoid of this, when the group sets off for the city, the insanity begins to take over the pacing. The action begins to pop up out of nowhere, throwing off the progression of the group and any sense of rest. A few (useless) new characters are added, and recurring characters that were seemingly left to be fed to the zombies become important for short spurts, only to be shoved off yet again. If not recurring characters, then complete strangers. Yes, there is a sense of urgency in trying to make the world seem as psychotic as the events transpiring. And it is because of this that the biggest flaw of Highschool of the Dead becomes far too frequent.

Not the sexual fan service, not the random and unrealistic action scenes; the biggest flaw of the anime is its focus on self-insert style writing. Early on, there was chaos, so no one was really sure how to handle or cope with the situation. Cut to days later, with everyone getting “used to” what was happening, a majority of the characters focused on outside of the main group become A) retarded, or B) insane. Quite often, a situation is presented where a stranger comes up and says or does outrageously stupid things, as the camera cuts to the main group’s serious faces, their eyes narrow in obvious disagreement. Yes, the main group is the only one capable of surviving without a moment’s hesitation, being the clear level-headed intellectual superiors to grown adults and everyone else involved. A bunch of angsty teenagers who write depressing monologues at the beginning and end of almost every episode. Yep. Uh huh.

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It makes the scenes hilariously cringy and simplistic. God forbid the series challenges the main group’s line of thinking and lack of experience in the real world in a time where an adult’s wisdom would likely help them tremendously. And the nurse doesn’t count because she’s an idiot. Instead, we have adults chastising these kids because they’re kids and they’re adults and they know everything and the kids know nothing because fuck you. Or we have school teachers who hypnotize a bunch of delirious school students into having orgies inside a school bus (?!?!?!?!?!?). Seriously, the hell is up with this series and its relentless attempts at making the main cast as God-like in every regard as possible? It’s boring, boring and incredibly irritating.

One very positive thing about the series is the focus on art and animation. The series, even for early 2010’s, looks like it could’ve been animated months ago. Everything is very sleek and sharp, accustomed to the current trend of how high-standard anime look. The lighting and atmosphere make the more tense scenes all the more tense… assuming the sexual fan service or stupid characters didn’t ruin it beforehand. The characters are all fairly attractive (even Hirano) and the sexual fan service, as much as people harp on it, works efficiently enough at arousing some members. Not mine, personally, as I’ve become immune to such blatant attempts without any payoff, but it looked very nice. Very nice. Even the animation was pretty consistent, without a lot of shortcuts taken.

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As perfect as the story tries to make them out to be, the main cast varies in excellence. Surprisingly enough, there is some effort into developing these characters, most particularly the relationship between the male lead and his childhood girlfriend. Strangely enough, I feel these two are the weakest characters, mostly because of their bland, purer-than-thou personas. Their development (especially the girl) feels somewhat forced, while also a little bit too pseudo-intellectual. That comment about depressing monologues at the beginning and end of each episode wasn’t a joke. The male lead drones on all the time about “the end of the world” and it gets tiring fast. The rest of the cast (excluding the nurse) are a little bit better in this regard. Hirano being the chubby, silly weakling without a gun, and an ace-shooter “badass” with guns, Takagi as a no-nonsense tsundere with a bad mouth (my personal favorite), and Busujima, the mild-mannered and polite swordsman with a desire for power. These characters have a lot more spunk to them that make conversations all the more lively and believable, which is important for a character-driven story. I would almost recommend the anime simply for these three characters, but they don’t match up against the force of mediocrity in the writing.

The rating went down quite a bit, but I had a decent time with this series, at least for a little while. By series’ end, I was ready to be done with it, as the last three episodes are a complete drag, full of the issues I made note of. Should the anime (miraculously) get a second season, I’d be more than willing to watch it with meandering expectations. It has a nice amount of bloodshed and fun that makes for a mindless brainfizzler, along with some above-average characters. If only the series tried to be a little more like The Walking Dead than Zombeavers.

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

Updated Thoughts on Myself; Yourself

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Sooner or later, all of these posts are going to start with a personal story about my past experience with anime! Myself; Yourself was one of the earliest anime I’d seen after my anime renaissance back in mid-2012. At the time, I thought the show had a very dull progression and forgettable cast, but managed to build strength with a dramatic second-half. Four years later, both of these points remain poignant, though there are some good things to the bad, and bad things to the good.

The anime has somewhat of a reputation for being boring, especially in the first few episodes. I recall a number of anime critics and reviewers chastising Myself; Yourself for being so dry and bland with its themes and color palette. While I don’t think the characters themselves are bland (albeit moderately clichéd), I feel the writing is incredibly simple. Think of the most unenergetic, cookie-cutter conversations you could possibly have with someone. “Hello.” “How are you?” “Fine. How about you?” “Pretty good.” “How’s the family?” “Good, good.” “Weather’s been great.” “Yeah, totally.” A lot of the conversations play out similarly to this, and should the conversations evolve into something a little more memorable, the stiffened straight-man responses come in full force to brunt that enthusiasm. Very few characters escape from this monotony of normalcy, and whether or not they become archetypes because of it is no matter to the story at-hand. Either one is boringly normal, or entertainingly one-dimensional.

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At the same time, the anime can brag about having normal characters. The premise is of a normal, quiet small town where people aren’t meant to be upbeat or enthusiastic. Bland as it may be, the series has a very comfortable mood that is rarely perturbed by any unnecessary wackiness or bombast. Suiting the atmosphere, the characters become more believable in their situations and camaraderie, more so than other anime where groups of friends oftentimes butt heads with one another. One could argue that the twins fight all the time, but they’re siblings, so it doesn’t count. I can speak on their behalf. I am a sibling.

The twins in mind, Shuusuke and Shuri are probably my favorite characters of the bunch. While they’re slightly one-dimensional, they provide a spark to the group that makes them more tolerable to watch, and have great chemistry. I also like that they aren’t polar opposites, which siblings in anime tend to be for shits n’ giggles. Both physically and in personality, the twins are pretty similar to one another, which makes their “connection” to one another feel more than just a ploy to use that against them later on. If only Shuusuke didn’t become soberingly serious near the end of the series, almost as if someone flipped on a switch. This in of itself becomes somewhat of a problem later on in the series.

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Even now, the drama present near the end of the series was engrossing enough to keep me entertained through the mind-numbing mediocrity of the robotic writing. However, a lot of it felt somewhat out of nowhere; keyword: somewhat. Myself; Yourself does a decent job of foreshadowing (if not a little too bluntly) things that will become of importance later on, and the severity of the things it foreshadows appeals to those hoping for something remarkably grim. Myself; Yourself does a very good job at maintaining the calm before the storm, with sirens blaring in the distance that the viewer can hear at all times. Only issue is that while the build-up is good, the execution tends to fall flat, and falls further once the climax has passed. Things popping up out of nowhere, characters committing foul acts and then never being mentioned again. It feels all the more robotic—much in tune with the character dialogue.

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What better way to emphasize and realistic premise and town than with a gray overtone? Even the artistic style of Myself; Yourself is boring. If I had to compare it to anything, I’d say it’s most similar to School Days, except a tad less glossy. There’s a darkness present that makes the series feel both gloomy and diluted, with not a lot of emphasis on animation. There are times when animation improves, with characters’ faces becoming more clean-cut and easy to look at, placed between cheap animation tactics and far-away shots to lessen the workload. At least it prioritizes making the characters look different, with a lot of differentiating characters such as… hair color/style, eye color, and breast size. Perhaps not the most creative of distinguishing traits, but I enjoy the detail present in the personalities reflected with their appearances. The twins have light, short hair to emphasize their spunkiness. Nanako has long, dark hair and red eyes to attain a nature of grace and tragedy. Aoi has a super high-pitch voice and giant tits to serve as the moe character. Even more uncharacteristic of anime, the male lead has a reason to be bland and forgettable. Good work, anime.

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Properly paced and optimistically dramatic makes Myself; Yourself worth watching regardless of its benign approach. The blunders it makes along the way definitely wear it down, though not enough to make it hazardous to the touch. There’s a simple effectiveness to the characters and the storyline that make it all in good fun, despite how dark it gets at times. Still, it tends to take some leaps in logic on occasion, or make characters horribly antagonistic to ramp up the popcorn machine. The ending is one that made me want to squeeze the bridge of my nose, though that’s more of a personal conundrum, as it’s not exactly of poor quality. Just a little abrupt. And a tad too “Happily Ever After.” While not entirely sure of my rating for it then, my current rating reflects the effort put forth to make an immersive and interesting tale of a group of friends and the struggles they have to (or had to) deal with. It just could’ve tried harder to make it feel real.

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

I’ve Been Nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award

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Thanks to Yahari Bento for drafting me first overall in the third round of their Sunshine Blogger Award draft. I’ll do everything I can to make coach Bento proud and better the team with my powerful sunshine. Bento has a lot of analyses on their blog as well as a lot of award nominations. If they’ve been nominated that many times, they’re sure to have some quality content, so go check them out.

Rules

  1. Display Award
  2. Thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog on your blog. Try to include a little promotion for the person who nominated you.
  3. Answer the 11 questions they’ve written for you.
  4. Summon Nominate 11 bloggers from the magic circle and write then 11 new questions.

(I just copied the rules from his post. I will go along with said summoning.)

Questions:

1. Your favorite anime series/movie in this year?

Assuming it doesn’t abandon ship by its end, Flip Flappers. If not, Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge.

2. You are aniblogger, but do you play games too or not?

I play plenty of games, and normally post reviews of various games on my blog. My preferences for genre are side-scrolling puzzle/action games (a la WayForward), turn-based RPGs, and platformers.

3. Which main characters from which anime do you want to descend from anime world to the where in front of you?

I wouldn’t mind TK from Angel Beats! to descend into my world. He seems like a cool cat.

4. While you are playing internet, what do you like to eat while do that?

Oooooh, no. I don’t normally like eating while on my laptop. If I do, though, it’s usually snack food. Fruit snacks or nuts or something small.

5. Characters you worship/like/love in the latest, will be the one we call “the best/final girl/boy” or not? And that person is…

I… think I understand the question. We will all bow down to Togame and her wisdom. Cheerio!

6. If this world will not produce any anime anymore, you will…

Praise the high heavens that I no longer have to sink years of my life into an art form that I barely care for!!! Seriously though, move on with my life.

7. Do you ever were caught by your parents when you watch/read anime/manga too much? And how do you FEEL when they/he/she are/is in front of your door?

My mother is aware of my anime-consuming habits, as are my siblings. They tease me for “watching too much,” but it’s more just playful bickering than anything serious. It’s a comfortable environment. Also, I watch anime out in the open (laptop and all), so I don’t technically have a “door” in this situation.

8. When you are reading manga/LN, will you lie down and read them like Gi*nt in Dor*em@n or not?

Once again, laptop (I barely own any physical manga copies). I’m more of a sit-down reader, so I only lay down if I’m on my bed and sitting grows tiresome on my bum.

9. Right now, are you sleepy, aren’t you?

Just woke up an hour ago, dude. Muy bueno.

10. It’s not like I’m worried about you, but you are tired answer my questions, aren’t you? (My instinct tells me to run, now!)

No worries! I enjoy the questions.

11. Congratulations! You reach the last question. So if I want you to wave your hand in front of your computer/phone screen, can you do that? Fub! (…There was a power cut in my house.)

I can, but how will you know I have? Will you trust me, coach? My sunshine and all?

Nominations:

Once again, not going to nominate eleven people, as I barely even follow eleven people. I’ll just choose three different bloggers from last time I want to highlight.

  1. AniMonologues: A fairly new follow of mine, they discuss anime in-depth as well as animated films (or just films) in general. They have a well-written style of writing that keeps me intrigued and have a lot of bite to their critiquing style, which is sure to sway me in. They don’t post often, but it’s a better day for me when they do.
  2. PlainPasta: New to the blogging world, PlainPasta writes her thoughts on anime and certain ongoing series. She also has a tendency to pick up series most wouldn’t care to, such as gdgd Fairies and Sekkou Boys. She has a writing style that’s almost bizarrely entertaining, combining an innocent enthusiasm with unemotional objectivity. Definitely worth checking out. Also a hoot on Twitter.
  3. Nichi-chan: I was drawn to N-chan’s blog after a post about how Welcome to the NHK! served as a grim reminder for his lifestyle at the time. His writing technique is wonderful and horribly captivating, adding a sentimental edge to his formulated technique. His usual mantra is episodic thoughts, but will on occasion post the single thought piece or anime review. A great blog to check out.

And as for the questions, I’ll try to keep them swift and painless.

  1. How are you today?
  2. What is your favorite genre of music?
  3. Do you have any pets? If not, why do you hate animals to the point where you wouldn’t consider adopting one?
  4. Have you ever tried to get to the tootsie roll center of a tootsie pop just by licking?
  5. If anime became more widespread in its popularity, much in the sense that video games have in the last ten years or so, what anime do you think would take the crown as the general public’s favorite?
  6. Animal Crossing or Harvest Moon? Or Stardew Valley? Or anything like them?
  7. Finances aside, would you rather travel by plane, train, or boat?
  8. Do you think the “Eww, gross! Weeaboo!” stigma of anime and manga would translate to that of a standard light novel enthusiast?
  9. Watch any sports?
  10. What is a story you’d like to see adapted into anime form? (Whether it be from a novel, movie, video game, or otherwise.)
  11. Average hours of sleep you get in a night?

Thanks again to coach Bento for believing in my shininess and I hope to make the world proud. Thank you all.