TV Binge: Love Death + Robots (Season 3, 2022)

Love Death + Robots (Season 3, 2022)

Creator: Tim Miller

A collection of animated short stories that span various genres including science fiction, fantasy, horror and comedy. – IMDB

Season 3 of Love Death + Robots has finally landed. For those who don’t know what it is, its basically an anthology series full of short stories revolving around the themes of love, death and robots sometimes touching only one of those domains and sometimes multiple ones. The big draw of the show does have to go to its production by David Fincher and Tim Miller who also does helm at least one of these episodes each. As a recap, Season 1 was a fantastic selection of shorts that created an incredibly memorable season. Season 2, while a step down from the first, changed its tone a little bit but not so much the variety and also delivered some pretty good shorts. Some had very good discussion points and some were simply meant for entertainment value. Season 3 comes up right in the middle of the two: Its not quite as good as the first but is a step up from Season 2. The stories are more equal in their execution and context and most of them are fairly entertaining

While I won’t go through each of the episodes one by one, here’s a quick rundown of how I’d rank this year’s episodes from most to least favorite. I don’t usually do it and honestly, not exactly why I chose this rather balanced season to do the ranking but here we go. It probably would change if I thought about it a little more depending on my mood as well.

  1. Bad Travelling
  2. Swarm
  3. Night of the Mini Dead
  4. Three Robots: Exit Strategies
  5. Jibaro
  6. Mason’s Rats
  7. In Vaulted Halls Entombed
  8. Kill Team Kill
  9. The Very Pulse of the Machine

Going quickly through what stands out in this group despite its rankings, Bad Travelling is David Fincher’s contribution and not so surprising it made the top of my list mostly because the story was like a creature feature and was on a boat. While not exactly unpredictable, it also included some good voice acting especially with Troy Baker part of it.

The second one is Tim Miller’s contribution Swarm which has to be one of the more detailed and vivid world building about a future where the arrogant humans have destroyed their world and are trying to find a way to rebuild using alien technology from the organic creatures around them.

Night of the Mini Dead is basically a small little world, almost like watching toy figures enacting the whole zombie apocalypse. This one is pure entertainment, packed with laughs and explosions in the most cartoon way possible and yet that is what makes it unique.

Another worthy mention does have to go to the middle of the group and the last episode of the series, Jibaro. This one is very odd and yet, the story it delivers is one that is very gripping even with its lack of dialogue and mostly visual value as it revolves around a lot of dancing to express the story of these two characters. The myth that it delivers along with the mystical creature at hand does bring in just enough lore to make it intriguing. Its definitely one that would be potentially a fantastic full length film.

As I try to stay fairly spoiler free with the stories themselves, since it would be horrible to spoil a short as is, the different stories here bring in a ratpocalypse, a space discovery, a lot of different creatures and a decent amount of action. There’s a lot to discover in the stories and probably some that might even bring in some discussion points.

Love Death + Robots, regardless of the season, is usually fun time. It stands out because of the shorts compilation which are all very creative in one element or another. It reflects on humanity, post-apocalypse and usually is in a world much different from our current reality whether its set on Earth or in space.

Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer

Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2)
By Marissa Meyer

Genre: YA/Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Fairy Tale Retelling

Cinder returns in the second thrilling installment of the New York Times-bestselling Lunar Chronicles.

She’s trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive. Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother and the grave danger she has lived in her whole life.

When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she has no choice but to trust him, though he clearly has a few dark secrets of his own. As Scarlet and Wolf work to unravel one mystery, they find another when they cross paths with Cinder. Together, they must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen who will do anything to make Prince Kai her husband, her king, her prisoner.  – Goodreads

The sequel of Cinder (review) and the second book of The Lunar Chronicles picks up right the events of the first. As Cinder is imprisoned and she tries to make her escape, the story shifts simultaneously to Scarlet, a fairytelling retelling of Little Red Riding Hood in this world when her grandmother, an ex-military pilot, goes missing and she ends up meeting a fighter called Wolf who joins her in her search as they trace down the leads. Much like an escaped Cinder who finds companion with Thorne in search of Scarlet’s grandmother as well. More characters and an expanded storyline fills up Scarlet as these two join paths with some help.

Cinder built up a wonderful foundation and world building in the first book, setting up the politics of the story, the feud between Lunar and Eastern Commonwealth, Queen Levana’s plot against Emperor Kaito and Cinder’s basic character and backstory. The strong foundation sets up a great platform for Scarlet to jump off from as its main story is adding more depth to Cinder as she is the key focus of the entire plot that’s being constructed but still having room to discover more with Scarlet’s side especially since her story doesn’t unfold until they do find her grandmother and know what secrets she hides that links to Princess Selene. The whole progression of events is well-paced and pretty adventurous as the dangers pick up one after the next for both Cinder and Scarlet. Scarlet’s story is pretty good since it uses this world to give a decent twist to Wolf who plays into a genetically modified soldier giving them wolf instincts.

To be fair, these stories are fairly straight forward. On one hand, its good because the world takes precedence and its a very easy read to pick up and get into the story quickly. Even if this is the sequel, its not hard to follow where it picks up from the first book and catch up a little on the context fairly easily. If there was something to criticize, Scarlet’s story does have its moments which feels a little bit like the typical love dramas especially in dialogue when things start to take a more romantic take on her and Wolf. The whole thing gets a little soapy and cringe-y at times. However, the story never does forget that the end game is to set up Scarlet and Cinder’s meeting as they join forces to set up their next step to fight against Queen Levana.

Despite its slight shortcomings, Scarlet is overall a fun read. It sets up a decent platform for the next book as well. As an ending thought, I’m definitely enjoying the world the most as they take these fairy tale retellings and puts them into a sci-fi future. Hopefully, I will be taking a look at Book 3 sooner rather than later.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid’s Tale (The Handmaid’s Tale #1)
By: Margaret Atwood

Genre: Dystopia, Fantasy

This is the story of Offred, one of the”Handmaids” whose purpose is to breed. In the new social order in which women are told they are being controlled for their own good, Offred lives in the home of the Commander and his wife. She is sent out once a day to the food market, chaperoned; she is is not permitted to read; and she is hoping the commander makes her pregnant, because if not she’ll be sent to a toxic work camp, or end up as a sex slave in Jezebel’s. Offred can remember the years before, when she was an independent woman, had a job of her own, and a husband and a child. But all of that is gone now… everything has changed. – Goodreads

There’s no doubt that I once bought this novel at the TV series height and wanted to read what it was about in anticipation for when I would get the chance to watch it. Until this very day, I haven’t watched the series yet but here we are, the first book of this series done as well as the first Margaret Atwood book done and dusted. While I want to say that I had in incredibly great time with it, it definitely was not the case. The Handmaid’s Tale is one of Atwood’s most known and popular titles (according to the blurb in Goodreads) and its no surprise that it was adapted into a TV series considering its premise and characters. It is quite suitable content to make for some engaging and compelling TV series. However, as the book itself, there are certain things that aren’t quite to my own preference.

Before we start with the cons, let’s start with some of the good stuff. The Handmaid’s Tale creates a wonderful dystopia future. This future is harsh and takes away the basic rights of women decreasing fertile women to simply being emotionless and obedient birthing machines as their life from what they eat to their lifestyle to their purpose being derived solely from being impregnated by the Commander of their household. What does make it more messed up is that they are doing all this in the presence of the Commander’s wife just like a substitute body. The dystopia world has its underground guilty pleasures and as Offred, the main character starts to be asked to do things against the norm from the Commander and his wife separately, she starts seeing these hidden elements of this dystopian world. That part of the story is where most of the fun is as Offred’s experiences from past and present do shed light on how the situation came to be, how she got to where she is and her observations from the things happening around her.

The issue with the writing itself is that it is very descriptive, at times a little bit overly descriptive that makes the pacing feel a little dragged out in parts. At the same time, the writing also tends to jump around between the past and present a lot. While the story itself doesn’t have an issue, there are times that it takes a while to know exactly which is in the past without warning. Especially in the beginning when learning about all these characters around Offred and their connection and purpose, etc. Perhaps its that I prefer a little more obvious structure in the writing structure and style which makes this element something that doesn’t appeal to myself as much. Its also that as I get older, the amount of structure and description also makes for a great deal of the read experience itself. Over the course of the novel, it does slowly become easier to catch on the past and present since the characters are more familiar. Just for a simple example, there was one part that bothered me was this whole meeting that was supposed to happen and then it goes on this whole detour of a few chapters before it actually happens.

With all that said, The Handmaid’s Tale is an okay reading experience. Overall, it has a really good world building and the dystopia concept is pretty well-executed especially since it is the first book of two and does build a good foundation, seeing as the story does end on a cliffhanger of sorts. The writing structure and style isn’t exactly something that I’m a big fan of but if you don’t mind those elements I mentioned above, then this might be up your alley!

Goodreads score: 3/5

Ultimate Decades Blogathon 2022 Finale: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) by Drew’s Movie Reviews

Welcome back to Ultimate Decades Blogathon 2022. After almost 2 weeks, we are winding down with our finale posts over today and tomorrow. The first of the two posts is from my awesome co-host Drew with his pick of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982). Drew is diving into Steven Spielberg’s films over the course of 2022 so you should definitely make sure to keep checking his blog out to make sure you don’t miss any of those reviews (and all his other reviews and weekly trailer round-ups).

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Synopsis 
When E.T., an alien visiting Earth, gets left behind when his ship quickly leaves, Elliott (Henry Thomas) helps him contact his home world.

Review 
When E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial released 40 years ago in 1982, no one, not even Steven Spielberg, predicted that it would be the phenomenon that it has become. After finally viewing it myself, I can see why this film has become a beloved classic. The movie tells a story about a boy befriending an alien while also examining the affect of divorce on children. It’s a very unique story combination that few filmmakers without Spielberg’s expertise could pull off. All of the relationships, Elliot’s relationship with E.T., Elliott’s relationship with his siblings, and Elliott’s and his siblings’ relationship with their mother, are all thoroughly developed and fleshed out. The score, created by Spielberg’s regular composer John Williams, excels at elevating the emotional undertones of every scene. One particular moment that stands out is the iconic moment when Elliott, with assistance from E.T., flies his bike in the air with the moon behind them. It’s already a fantastic scene but Williams’ score makes it even better. Even without the score, the script does a wonderful job of building emotion. By the end, you’ll no doubt have become attached to the characters, particularly the lovable E.T. himself, culminating in an emotional ending.

I thought E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial was GOOD 🙂 Filled with heart and relatable characters, Steven Spielberg crafts an epic tale that everyone can enjoy and hold dear.

Trivia
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial holds the record for the longest ever theatrical run, staying in theaters for over one year after it’s release on June 11, 1982. (via IMDb)

Trailer 

Cast & Crew 
Steven Spielberg – Director
Melissa Mathison – Writer
John Williams – Composer

Henry Thomas – Elliott
Robert MacNaughton – Michael
Drew Barrymore – Gertie
Dee Wallace – Mary
Peter Coyote – Keys
KC Martel – Greg
Sean Frye – Steve
Tom Howell – Tyler
Pat Welsh – E.T. (voice)

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Check out the full list of blogathon entries for this year’s Ultimate Decades Blogathon HERE!

Remember to head over to Drew’s Movie Reviews tomorrow to check out my blogathon final pick!

Want (Want #1) by Cindy Pon

Want
By: Cindy Pon

Jason Zhou survives in a divided society where the elite use their wealth to buy longer lives. The rich wear special suits that protect them from the pollution and viruses that plague the city, while those without suffer illness and early deaths. Frustrated by his city’s corruption and still grieving the loss of his mother, who died as a result of it, Zhou is determined to change things, no matter the cost.

With the help of his friends, Zhou infiltrates the lives of the wealthy in hopes of destroying the international Jin Corporation from within. Jin Corp not only manufactures the special suits the rich rely on, but they may also be manufacturing the pollution that makes them necessary.

Yet the deeper Zhou delves into this new world of excess and wealth, the more muddled his plans become. And against his better judgment, Zhou finds himself falling for Daiyu, the daughter of Jin Corp’s CEO. Can Zhou save his city without compromising who he is or destroying his own heart?  – Goodreads

Want is a dystopian sci-fi novel set in a future where the oxygen is no longer good to breath. Viruses and pollution allow only for the most wealthy to be able to travel in suits that circulate good air for them to breathe while the majority who are poor need to live short lives and deal with the horrible environment that surrounds them. The story itself isn’t just a dystopian setting but there is a secondary plot involving the romance between the main characters of the story as they sit on different sides of the situation, a little Romeo and Juliet but a little less dramatic and a lot less tragic. The main plot being the one that does have much more resonance than the romantic angle which seems much more basic.

The story takes place in futuristic Taipei setting. The setting itself is the center of where the “evil” big corporation is located despite its international stance with the wonderful technology that its created for the rich and as it starts to expand to the normal everybody in order to achieve better living. However, the ploy does run a little deeper as the main character Jason Zhou and his friends starts to infiltrate into their operations as he dives into a growing friendship with Daiyu. The whole technology layout and the big Jin Corp building as well as the layout of the city between the rich and the poor area is well-described as well as the world/city setting is rather immersive to read. Its one of the bigger elements of the story especially in the big showdown when the big plan unfurls as it dives into the whole structure of this prominent building in the city.

Another element of this is the friendships between Jason Zhou and his friends. These characters are built really well. There are certain friendship connections and romances and a lot of them are fairly subtle until the big situations happen. All of the characters also have very distinguishing traits where gives them their own set of skills worthy of being a part of this group. The whole infiltration plans one by one also reveals a lot about each of the characters that Jason works with which makes them not dispensable. Of course, the focus is on Jason since he gets to be a character torn between knowing about the struggles of the poor and trying to go through this whole revolution/payback against the big evil corporation while at the same time, he has an undercover identity and gets closer to Daiyu who may be the daughter of the CEO of the corporation but also is a fairly upstanding character overall.

Overall, Want is a pretty decent dystopian sci-fi novel. While the romance sometimes seems to drag out a little, the most exciting part is the world building as it focuses on the Taipei setting but also the economic and social issues of the world. The focus on the technology is also pretty cool plus this future doesn’t feel completely a leap in imagination as the world we live in together struggle with potential causes of what could happen in the future.

Halloween Marathon 2021: The Superdeep (2020)

Welcome to this year’s Halloween Horror Marathon! This is the kick-off post for this year. While I had initially wanted it to be a double feature, I figured that this is a great way to show what this month is going to be about: diving in to the Shudder catalogue especially on the Shudder Originals as much as possible along with some Netflix horror films that I’ve missed this past year or so, plus a few other little fun bits. There will be other stuff as well like TV binges and hopefully books. I have a lot of horror catch-up to do in every department. Also, this year’s highlight, thanks to Shudder’s release of V/H/S 94 will be the V/H/S franchise. As its only 4 films, it’ll be released one film per week. The first V/H/S review will go up in a few days. With that said, the goal is to have a total of 31 reviews at the end whether its in the form of single reviews, double features or TV binges, so maybe not a post everyday but I will definitely try.

With that said, nothing like a Shudder Original to kick things off as we dive into an English dubbed Russian horror thriller called The Superdeep. Let’s go!

The Superdeep (Kolskaya Sverhglubokaya, 2020)

Director (and co-writer): Arseny Syuhin

Cast: Milena Radulovic, Nikita Dyuvbanov, Kirill Kovbas, Sergey Ivanyuk, Vadim Demchog, Nikolay Kovbas, Albina Chaykina

A small research team went down below the surface to find out what secret the world’s deepest borehole was hiding. What they have found turned out to be the greatest threat in history. And the future of humanity is in their hands. – IMDB

The Superdeep is a 2020 Russian sci-fi horror thriller with elements of creature feature and body horror. Running at almost 2 hours, this film has a decent pacing. Aside from some below average effects and some debatable slow motion cinematography choices in various parts, this film is fairly well-executed in premise. If anything, its dubbed in English which for some characters feels a little more obvious which is a peculiar choice as the version to be on Shudder as there’s one part of news broadcast which is in Russian so not exactly sure why this is the case. However, it does a decent job in the dubbing for the most part so its easy to get used to it quickly.

The Superdeep is mostly winning for its premise and setting. The setting takes a lot of credit here as the underground element being a deepest borehole in the world makes for a lot of other dangers mostly from elevation, air pressure and oxygen. The setting itself also has various floors in their underground facility which gradually falls apart. As the characters move through these spaces, the use of space gives the setting a character of its own especially in a relatively unknown area. Plus, from other horror movies, the depths always have something sinister going on and in this case, it feels a lot like an experiment gone wrong bringing in some sense that it drew inspiration from video game Resident Evil 7. I mean in appearance and nature but not exactly what the whole premise is. There are also other inspirations here that draw from perhaps The Thing and Alien which might be the most recognizable. While there are bits that feel familiar, the threat itself is still rather intriguing and has its creepy elements.

If there was anything to criticize about the film, it is the unnecessary frustrating bits where there’s a critical moment set in slow motion which probably was meant to either add drama or anxiety but didn’t seem to achieve it. The already runs at 2 hours so some of these bits seem to be pointless however, thinking more about it, it could be trying to play on the danger element and the pain of it all. In reality, the whole film is fairly decent even if some of the characters are fairly predictable in their place in the film but the setting itself and the danger element is designed well but it all comes crashing to a rather disappointing sort of ending. The ending itself is acceptable if it wasn’t executed the way that it was. However, from the limited Russian films that I’ve seen (I’ve only seen 4 or so at this point), I’m not sure that I’ve seen a film that has given me a very good ending yet even if the whole film itself was a great time overall. It all dials down to whether the sum of its parts is worth your time at the end of the day. For this one, it does on some levels.

While Shudder has a slew of bad and average reviews for The Superdeep (when I saw it), I actually think the opposite. Its a pretty fun premise which did appeal to myself. It had some decent body horror moments and the virus or creature that it creates is decently designed as well. For sure, there are issues with this like the lack of character development and some predictable moments and a very lackluster ending (which I do hope isn’t an attempt to create another film for this world). That isn’t say that I didn’t like the film but the reason that I see this film working is because of the underground facility setting which brings in a lot of other unknown factors that makes this intriguing to watch. Strip that element away and this film probably might not have had the same effect. With all that said, its a decent enough way to kick start this marathon.

Fantasia Film Festival 2021: Seobok (2021)

Seobok (2021)

Director (and writer): Lee Yong-ju

Cast: Gong Yoo, Park Bo-Gum, Jo Woo-Jin, Park Byung-eun, Jang Young-nam

Ex intelligence agent Ki Heon is tasked with safely transporting Seo Bok, the first ever human clone, who holds the secret of eternal life. Several forces try to take control of Seo Bok to serve their own agendas. – IMDB

Seobok is a 2021 South Korean sci-fi action thriller which tells the story of an ex-intelligence agent Ki-hun who is asked to take on the task of safely transporting the first ever human clone Seobok who has been genetically engineered to not only have eternal life but also carries the possibility of eternal life and cures for all kinds of diseases. As Ki-hun tackles with his own illness that tortures him and isn’t expected to live long, he is offered the chance to be a part of the clinical trial in return for successfully completing the task. As the plan incurs different changes due to other parties trying to take Seobok for their own plans and goals whether out of fear or greed, Ki-hun and Seobok start to bond as they escape from one situation to the next.

Seobok is a fairly straight-forward science fiction action thriller. In terms of the science fiction and the human clone, the story itself along with its supporting characters have a fairly predictable trajectory. Immortality and eternal life is something that feels almost too good to be true and that brings on its own plans from different organizations and people involved and that is expected in a plot like this. However, Seobok stands out because it spends a lot of time building up the relationship and chemistry between the two main characters, Ki-hun and Seobok played respectively by Gong Yoo and Park Bo-gum.

Gong Yoo is probably most known for his role in Train to Busan where he takes on a rather different role. This role takes on a more rough and angry sort of character which is frustrated with a lot of things happening to him and around him and in turn, this tense character is faced with Seobok, a human clone who has never seen the outside world and is fascinated with everything that he sees. As the plot unfolds, the two grow through Seobok’s fascination but also the constant straight-forward conversations about his human clone, his abilities and immortality down to human nature giving it some fun fish out of water moments that help break through the intense action scenes. The conversations build up these two characters a lot giving them both sufficient back story to make them both truly connect to its audience. The two carry on almost like a father-son and mentor-student sort of relationship which becomes rather endearing as Ki-hun starts changing his mind about Seobok and understanding his pain. While also struggling with Seobok’s telekinesis powers which increasingly grow out of control as he starts facing more dangerous situations and making some questionable judgments.

What makes Seobok stand out other than the chemistry is absolutely the role of the concept of immortality and the character of Seobok, fittingly so as the movie is titled after him. Seobok is played incredibly well by Park Bo-Gum who carries the blank expressions and calmness as he faces all the crazy situations happening around him to the point of disregard when everyone seems to be threatening but also asking all the right questions and giving off the image of how clear-minded he is right down to the powerful ending when the revelation that he understands the entire situation and actually just wants something very human and simple but the fact that he was created to fulfill a purpose and the discussion of whether a human clone is considered a person. The human elements of Seobok grounds this film and that is the charm of South Korean films when they are executed well to be able to carry out these moments. The moral and ethics of human clones and how they should be treated is what essentially what makes this film really hit hard making the ending pack such a huge punch and makes the audience think about this whole immortality, eternal life, playing God and the right and wrong of the situation and whether the whole thing could have been resolved in another way.

Overall, Seobok is an incredibly well-executed film. The two main characters have such a powerful presence in the film. The story is a lot more profound than the basic science fiction film but actually focuses itself on the morals and ethics of the whole situation which packs a bigger punch because Seobok is portrayed so well. A big part of the film is also in how well-written and focusing on the conversation dialogues more than the action. That’s not to say that the film doesn’t have its own share of action-packed sequences which all increases in intensity as Seobok’s power comes into play. Seobok is an absolute gem: well-crafted, well-executed and poses some excellent questions that will linger far after the film is finished.

*Seobok is playing on demand on Fantasia Film Festival virtual platform from August 5th to 25th. You can find more info HERE.*

Fantasia Film Festival 2021: Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes (2021)

Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes (Droste no hate de bokura, 2021)

Director: Junta Yamaguchi

Cast: Kazunori Tosa, Aki Asakura, Riko Fujitani, Gota Ishida, Yoshifumi Sakai

A cafe owner discovers that the TV in his cafe suddenly shows images from the future, but only two minutes into the future. – IMDB

Beyond The Infinite Two Minutes is a Japanese indie low-budget one-take time travel sci-fi comedy Japanese. Look at those hyphens. A few of those things might even sound like gimmicks but let us not forget the success the surprises that One Cut of the Dead (review) brought using a similar low-budget one-take concept. While its hard to say that this one is as clever as that one but comparing a zombie movie to a sci-fi comedy is a bit like comparing apples to oranges. While time travel and time loop films usually are rather complicated deal with a lot of loopholes most of the time, but this plot execution flips it around to feel like a much more simple sci-fi element and focuses it more on the events and people involved.

Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes is another type of beast in itself. Its fun and extremely enjoyable in all its absurdness and time loopy elements that at some point, it almost feels like it might lose itself and not exactly know how to get out of that loop to wrap up the plot and somehow, it does using something as simple as TV and PC monitors and a delayed surveillance camera link creating a 2 minute void. The concept feels so simple and other than wondering who actually has monitors with such long cables that you can run up and down the stairs with a screen within one setting, there’s a lot of credit to give for a movie filmed entirely on iPhone in one-take.

There’s something so great about simplicity in films. Beyond The Infinite Two Minutes dials it down. All it takes is 2 screens facing each other and a constant growth in the cast from one person to two and slowly the group forms with friends and employees each offering up their thoughts on how to use this 2 minute advantage. As each person in the group pitches in their thoughts on how to profit from the future, they soon realize that its unreasonable to go too far ahead as they have to keep the loop consistent. 2 minutes might not feel like a lot of time and yet, it creates a lot of busy work as they use it to pull minutes ahead in time to utilize the future to teach the past selves that help their present situation. Its a pretty clever execution overall. Perhaps, it might not work if you dissected the film in depth but I do have to admit that at a certain point, the loop just got a little hard to track but the plot itself was so engaging that it sold the time loop element convincingly.

While the films general time loop concept seems like a much simpler affair, the cast here is what brings in a lot of the charm. The cast itself consists mainly of members of a theatrical troupe and this is their debut as film actor in collaboration with the voice talent Aki Asakura for The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. While film might be new to the cast, they all deliver really well. The main character Kato (Kazunori Tosa) is a fairly quiet character that constantly brings in his reluctance to know about the future to the other people while he’s contrasted by the other much louder and colorful characters that are both friends, customers and employees who push the whole thing forward as they start off testing out the time loop in ridiculous outfits and little tasks to eventually bigger plans of how to expand the time loop and the many ideas to help them make money in whatever small way. This eventually to leads to a much more “dangerous” situation as they pull in others. While no one ever feels like they are any sort of the threat and the film never feels like it has the ultimate peak and turning point like other films, somehow the film does wrap up in both an absurd and heartwarming way.

Overall, Beyond The Infinite Two Minutes might almost sound like a gimmick playing with the one-take as the jump-off point but its so much more than that. A simple time loop concept with a fun plot that pushes itself further and further in plot set in one location, albeit an entire building, and a charming cast of basic characters keeps both the sci-fi and comedy elements fresh and entertaining. Its a fun little ride from start to finish, no matter how absurd it might seem. Don’t forget to stick around to see some of the filming process inserted in the credits with a hilarious looking moment as they scrabble up the stairs with cables, cast and crew, really showing how one takes really take the entire team to make it all happen.

*Beyond The Infinite Two Minutes is on demand on Fantasia Film Festival’s virtual platform from August 5th to 25th. You can find more info HERE.*

TV Binge: Love Death & Robots (Volume 2, 2021)

Love Death & Robots (Volume 2, 2021)

Creator: Tim Miller

A collection of animated short stories that span various genres including science fiction, fantasy, horror and comedy. – IMDB

The first season of Love Death and Robots (podcast discussion) was an absolute treat with its 18 episodes or so and having a variety of different short films that explores the three themes: Love, Death and Robots. Thinking back to it now, there are still many segments that are memorable. In comparison, the second season is much shorter running at a swift 8 episodes with some stories feeling more familiar however, the animation style has shifted to some refined visuals that for some almost look real and also, some unique animation art style. The stories itself also has overlapping themes in some in some interesting settings.

Anthology volumes are always going to have hit and miss. The good news is that the second volume of Love Death & Robots is overall pretty good with some segments landing better than others but nothing that is lackluster. Looking at more specific segments, the art style and story of a few do stand out like the horror creature feature of The Tall Grass which had painting-like illustrations or Ice with its world building and comic book/graphic novel illustration style that brings in creative designs and a outer space setting with normal humans being in a world of modded humans. There’s also a Christmas short All Through The House which has its characters almost like dolls while playing with who Santa is and leaving it with a rather troubling question.

In terms of overall stories that seem to be a great basis for a bigger scale movie to some kind of full-length feature, some of these definitely have the basis and foundation for it. Coincidentally, these also have some good voice cast behind it and some more renowned names. The first, of course is for Pop Squad which sets up a future where humans have traded the rights to have children for living forever and being young forever also where having children is now a crime and when found, said children will be killed in order to maintain the population balance. Its a well-structured story with a lot more to explore especially when its voice cast includes Nolan North and Elodie Young. Much like Snow in the Desert which also has a barren wasteland setting and manages to blend all three themes of this volume together.

Two other ones well worth mentioning is the starting episode and the final one which both contrast from the rest of the series in tone. The first called Automated Customer Service carries in a different setting of a futuristic senior residence where a cleaning robot goes rogue and packed with a comedic element mocking the future of automated customer service. Its one that sets an upbeat yet sinister tone but is rather entertaining overall and pretty fun. The final episode, The Drowned Giant is a slow-paced one that leaves room for reflection on humanity in general as it circles around the discovery and gradual deterioration of a drowned giant washed ashore with a monologue from the scientist that observes it over time. Its one that might not fit the general one of the entire volume but does end with a more meaningful and thought-provoking point.

Overall, the second volume/season of Love Death and Robots is a pretty good one. Most of them are well worth a watch and each have their own value whether from visuals and art style to storytelling and world building. It is a short season but one that is still bingeworthy.

Double Feature: An Affair To Die For (2019) & Tears of Steel (2012)

Next double feature is here with two movies that were relatively spontaneous choices. The first being a thriller called An Affair to Die For and the second is a short film called Tears of Steel. Let’s check it out!

An Affair To Die For (2019)

Director: Victor Garcia

Cast: Claire Forlani, Jake Abel, Titus Welliver, Nathan Cooper, Melina Matthews

A secret rendezvous. A man cheats on his wife. A woman cheats on her husband. And then everything goes bad, quickly. – IMDB

It seems like January is the peak time when I successfully hunt down some really lackluster movies in the Netflix list. Honestly, I don’t even rememeber putting this movie on the list as this genre of film generally hasn’t bode well. With that said, An Affair to Die For was a fairly below average experience.

The deal with An Affair to Die For isn’t so much the plot. In fact, after some thought, it does land on that twist element to a certain extent but the execution and timing left the pacing feeling a little unbalanced to the ending. At a certain point, the body count really dies narrow down who else is left for the big “mastermind” at the end who pulls a Saw-like ending. The other part is the dialogue and the characters themselves. In this case, I do have to say that while I do think there’s some overacting, its how the main female actress Claire Forlani delivers her dialogue that bothers me. It feels almost like the combination of a flawed script and oddly constructed characters pulls this film down as well.

An Affair To Die For is really quite a lackluster experience overall. The movie starts off feeling like an erotic thriller and takes a turn into a much more focused thriller element is not a bad idea, its just that anything like that also takes some careful pacing and this one lacked in that department.

Tears of Steel (short 2012)

Director (and writer): Ian Hubert

Cast: Derek de Lint, Sergio Hasselbaink, Rogier Schippers, Vanja Rukavina, Denise Rebergen

He just wanted to be awesome in space. – IMDB

Running as a swift 12 minutes short, Tears of Steel is rather interesting in concept. It plays a little with time travel or time manipulation. The world is a future where its being dominated by robots because of what leads back to one interaction in the past between a boy and girl. The whole concept is done rather well especially with the world building. Even in the little bit of the time, the destruction and the state of the world is shown really well. The effects in particular definitely look polished.

For a short film, this one does stand out a lot and really has a great concept and world building and it would be interesting to see perhaps a full story on this world. Whether its the technology or the ability to change the past that is used or even how the world came to be seems like such a good angle to dive further into the content.

What does make me wonder a little more is that this short film on Netflix is set as a season where there’s the original movie and then a 2 hour loop and an 8 hour loop of the movie. I’m just thinking about who is sitting around looping this short film and where this desire to do this came from. Its just something I wouldn’t do so I find it rather curious.