Mini-Review: Man of Tai Chi (Netflix movie)

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Keanu Reeves and Tiger Chen star in Man of Tai Chi. Image Source: Rotten Tomatoes https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/man_of_tai_chi/

Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated every 2-3 Days (mostly)

  • Project Ship of Shadows (Graphic Novel) Page Count: 21 (+1)
    Goal = 3 Pages a week. 20/20 Pages (for artist). 21/32 pages (for completion of 1st issue)
    Actual = 1/5 Pages done so far this week.
    Wrote the Page that I’d rough drafted the day before. Moving along slowly. Don’t think I can finish the entire first issue by Saturday, but we’ll see.
  • Whale Song Revision (Fantasy Short Story) (2nd Draft)
    (Researched an article on Whaling, think that I have the two characters–a brother and a sister who are on the opposite sides of the issue.  Still, no Writing so far). Need to find a place to work in revisions–I can draft new material just fine, but I don’t seem to have any time to work on “drafting” revisions.

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading); Updated Weekly (mostly)

  • For Fun:
    Transhuman edited by Mark L. Van Name and T. F. K. Weisskopf
    Just started this anthology – it was given to me at a LibertyCon some years ago, but I’ve just now gotten around to reading it. I may not finish it/read all the stories, but so far, I’ve read the first story and liked it.
  • For School:
    Afrofuturism (by Ytasha Womack): This book describes the academic genre of Afrofuturism (essentially African American Science Fiction that deals with social issues in culture).  I just finished Chapter 5 today and I’m at the beginning of Chapter 6 (this book has 10 chapters).
    Wrote out a fairly extensive list of possible research topics to explore from chapter 5. Really intriguing book.
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)
    Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Exit the 13 Assassins

So, even though I’d taken a Tai Chi class on this previous Saturday and even though I had this movie in my Netflix queue, I wasn’t actually going to watch this movie this past weekend. No, rather I’d intended to watch 13 Assassins, another martial arts movie on Netflix dealing with 13 Assassins who are tasked with killing a poor ruler in Japan’s feudal period.  The movie was slated to go off Netflix at the beginning of the month (today as I write this post) and I’d had it in my queue for ages. However, when I sat down to watch it, it was far more violent of a movie than I really wanted at that time. There was a “hari kari” scene at the beginning of the movie and in the next 15 minutes there were two other fairly violent scenes. In short, it just wasn’t what I was looking for after a Tai Chi class and a fairly grueling drive home.

Enter the Man of Tai Chi

After debating with myself for about 5 minutes and scrolling through some more of Netflix’s martial arts movies, I decided to give Man of Tai Chi a try (I had just taken a Tai Chi class after all).  It actually wasn’t all that bad. Not great, but not a train wreck either. Directed by Keanu Reeves, the movie tells the story of a young man, who is outstanding in the ways of Tai Chi as a martial art, but not so great in understanding Tai Chi’s philosophy. The protagonist (who is not Keanu Reeves, by the way, although Keanu does star as in the movie as the primary villain/antagonist role) of the movie is ‘Tiger’ Chen Lin Hu played by an actor named Tiger Hu Chen who I’ve not seen before but who is expressive in that earnest and determined “Peter Parker” sort of way that many actors are able to bring out in their performances.  The movie follows “Tiger’s” descent into the abandonment of Tai Chi ideals by using Tai Chi to fight in tournaments and later, for money.

A Real World Martial Arts Movie

Set in today’s world (the movie was released in 2013 according to IMDB, although I don’t remember if there are dates in the story–I don’t think so, but I could be wrong). This movie takes place in China/Hong Kong and throws a light bit of police procedural in along with the martial arts with a young female detective who is trying to crack the case of this underground fighting circuit even though her boss is telling her not waste her time. As mentioned, Keanu Reeves’ character tempts and corrupts “Tiger’s” character until he is at the breaking point. I will mention that the final fight scene is vaguely reminiscent of the initial Morpheus and Neo “training” scene where Morpheus shows Neo the Matrix for the 1st time. To be clear, it ISN’T their first fight scene I’m referencing, but the first time they “jack” into the “training” simulation. The fights, while stylishly correographed, lack a bit of polish that would have elevated them from good into the great arena (especially the final, climatic battle). There is a master who sees “Tiger’s” character going over to the “dark side” and tries to use Tai Chi philosophy to stop it and their was a Tai Chi move used in the movie that my friend and I had practiced earlier that day, but mostly the movie was a typical martial arts movie.

Still, I enjoyed it all the more for its earnest main character and the fact that it at least genuflected (or bowed in this case) in the direction of Tai Chi as a healing art, not as a destructive one.

Overall Grade: B-

Yes, I’m being a bit generous here–it is a typical martial arts movie and nothing special. However, I like the way the actor transitioned from earnest to “hard” and I’d had the Tai Chi class earlier in the day, so I feel a bit generous and lenient towards this than I might have otherwise.

Sidney




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I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

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What’s On My Bookshelf? Master and Commander: Far Side of the World

Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated Daily (mostly)

  • Project Independence Word Count: @4000 words (+203 words)
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

Goal = 167 words (5000 words by July 1).
Actual = Rebounded after a day with no words and was able to hit Scrivener’s goal of 167 words, but fell a bit short of my own 250 word (personal) goal.   203 words written last night. 

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading); Updated Daily (mostly)

  • For Fun:
    Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy Novel, Stormlight Archive Book 3) (somewhere in 850s in terms of page count–more than ¾th of the way through.  Will post a non-spoiler mini-review when I finish.
  • For School:
    Ancient Rhetorics, Digital Networks: A book that combines New Media (digital rhetorics) and combines them with ideas and theories of the Ancient Rhetorics.
    Lingua FractalA Rhetoric book that details the convergence of Rhetoric and Technology and how they interact in today’s world.
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)

Reading two or three chapters in Oathbringer every day.  I really shouldn’t be, but it is so good, that I generally read it while eating dinner (and then I go back out to the library to do reading for school).   Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Game Mode On (What I’m Playing); Updated Weekly (Mondays)

  • Moving Game Mode On to its own (Mostly) Weekly Post

Master and Commander: Far Side of the World

One of the rare non-genre works that I own (and like), Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (MCTFSotW) is one of those movies that has the rare combination of detail and action combined with history that make it a compelling movie to watch for me.  I’m a history major, but what I find with most history movies is that they tend not to dramatize the action in a manner that I find compelling, preferring to let the exoticness of the setting and time-period to stand in for action and having the characters respond in a manner that “talks” the film’s central problem to death.  Not so with MCTFSotW.  While there is a fair shade of period specific dialogue, it doesn’t seek to resolve the film’s central question via dialogue, but rather through action, which is probably why I like it.

A Captain for All Seasons

This one is realistic not just for the action and ship to ship battles and games of cat and mouse, but also because of the characters.  The friendship between the captain and the doctor is realistically depicted.  Both are clearly friends, but the captain’s duty and his friends personal interests pull them in different directions and they find themselves at odds when duty and interests conflict.  There is even a compelling subplot involving a junior officer no one likes and his conflict with the hands on the ship.  This is the way that I wish most period pieces were handled.  Sadly, this one is the exception to the rule.  The movie version of Last of the Mohicans is probably the closest analogy to this movie.  If you like that movie, then you’ll probably like this one as well, although, to be clear, that one also had a strong romantic subplot between the women and men in the story that many latched on to and made it a must see for them, but this one is purely action and platonic friendship between the captain and the doctor.

Book to Film to  . . . ?

I haven’t really followed the financial success of this film, but gauging that there hasn’t been any follow-up movies, I would have to assume that it did not do as well as the filmmakers’ hoped.  As a librarian, I know this is based off of a series books by Patrick O’Brien (I shelved them enough times, even though I never got a chance to read them) and I figured that this would be start of a series of movies based on how good I thought it was, but alas, it wasn’t to be, I guess.  To be honest, with all of the interest of turning movies/book series into TV series, I fairly surprised that this hasn’t been found someone wanting to take on this property.  I remember that it has a fair number of books in the series.  While not nearly as enormous as Game of Thrones books, I sure that a strong “show runner” could get a BBC length season (10-12 episodes out of each book).  The special effects budget could be impractical, however, as the sea scenes would probably all have to be done with CGI which could get expensive quickly.  Still, it seems like a fairly good fit for today’s current crop of shows on streaming.

Well, that’s all I have for today–have a good day!  🙂

Sidney




Amazon Associate Disclaimer:
I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

 

 

What’s All the Hoopla About?

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So, I’m a little late today as I got up a bit later than normal.  I would normally do the blog either during breakfast or shortly afterwards, but today (in addition to picking up my car–yay!) I needed to reset my password to Hoopla, a service that my home public library, Chattanooga Public Library subscribes to and that I have access to by being a member.

What is Hoopla?

Hoopla is a streaming service that is more than just a traditional streaming service.  It allows you to borrow (for my institution) 10 items per month.  Notice that I said, items, not movies or TV shows.  It does have movies and television, like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu.  However, it also has comics/graphic novelsebooksaudiobooks, and music (!).  I’ve used it before and really liked it.  What it lacks in terms of terms of hit releases (very few major releases), it makes up with breadth–there are a lot of good genre materials embedded within each of the categories.

Summer Hoopla

So, while I’ve got a ton of work to do over the summer, in terms of getting ready for my summer classes this summer, I’m going to try to catch up on reading some of the comics/graphic novels (& books) that I’ve put off over the school year.  They have quite a few Marvel graphic novels, Star Wars, Star Trek, and other properties (again, books and graphic novels, mostly, not so much with movies/television).  Still, now that I trying to integrate Popular Culture into my scholarship as a Pop. Culture scholar, I actually need some pop. culture to go with my scholarship.

I would encourage you to check out Hoopla if your library has a subscription.  If not, then you might want to see if your library has something similar.  It is a really useful service that I plan to investigate more over this summer.

Sidney




Amazon Associate Disclaimer:
I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

 

The Heart of a Champion: Rocky Balboa vs. Jason Bourne (Characterization)

 

Who Would Win?

Okay, so who would win in a fight between Rocky Balboa (RB) and Jason Bourne (JB)?  JB would win easily–why, because he’s an operative with fighting skills par excellence.  He is a “killer” as the villain in the Bourne Supremacy (#2 in the JB series) says to him.  Rocky Balboa wouldn’t stand a chance.

Or would he?

Training Montage in Rocky

Rocky Balboa isn’t a smart man (school-wise) and he knows it.  However, he does have heart.  Now let’s be realistic for a moment–in the fictional fight between RB and JB that I just set up, JB would take it because the fight is between an “Everyman” vs an “Extraordinary-man.”   They are not in the same league as one another (different weight-classes to continue the fighting metaphor.  However, my point is that we see Rocky as he trains and gets better and better.  When he starts out, we see that Rocky has to eat special food, and that he can’t even complete his first run.  He returns, holding his side in pain.  Slowly, as the training unfolds, we see him getting better and better, becoming a danger to Apollo Creed (Rocky’s opponent) that Creed’s manager recognizes, even if Creed himself is too busy with the “business” of boxing to pay attention.  Finally, we see Rocky’s training pay off and he becomes the best that he can and a worthy opponent to Creed, instead of the also-ran Creed assumed he would be.

No Training Montage in Bourne Identity

Now, let’s look at Jason Bourne for a second.  He is a “killer” with immense physical skills and prowess, but where is his “training montage?”  JB doesn’t get one–he wakes up in the park and suddenly “knows” all of the skills that he has.  JB has never had to “earn” his skills.  We don’t see him getting better, we don’t see him starting at “zero,” hurting, and then pushing past the hurt, the pain, and keep going.  He has all of his skills innately. Sure, in the last movie we learn something of his past and see indications of the “training” that moved “broke” him, but we still (outside of a small scene in Jason Bourne with a punching bag) haven’t seen any indication of JB having to suffer to obtain his abilities (although one could argue that JB suffers psychologically based on the trauma that his abilities and who is brings to his personal/social life, but that’s another blog post for another time).

My point is, while JB would totally win in a fight, the fact that we see RB struggling to train and be the best he can be, we tend to throw our sympathies behind RB more.  He had to earn his abilities–they weren’t just given to him as JB’s essentially were.

Implications for my Writing

Remember to show the character’s/characters’ struggles.  Without struggle, it is really hard for the audience to see the character’s/characters’ progression and arc.  JB struggles, but his struggle is more emotional than physical in nature, while RB’s struggles combine both the physical and the emotional and that’s why the movie Rocky is perennially on best films lists, like AFI Top 100 Films (#78) and the 10th Anniversary edition of the List (#57).  The Bourne movies, while popular, don’t make the list.

It’s all about heart. 🙂

Sidney



What’s On My Bookshelf: Star Wars: The Complete Saga

starwars_the complete saga_zavvio

Star Wars: The Complete Collection (box, slipcase, and discs).  Image Source: Zavvi

This collection is available from Amazon.com, however, it appears to have been rereleased later with the packaging being different than the one I bought.

The Prequels

Star Wars: The Complete Saga is one of those purchases that Lucasfilm marketing and George Lucas counted on fans like myself buying.  Until Lucas sold the SW brand to DisneySW was pretty much my favorite series of all time due to the characters, mythology, and world-building.  Regardless of how you like (or dislike) Disney’s handling of the sequels, SW: TCS represented all 6 of the movies on Bluray up until that point.  The fidelity of the movies (picture quality and sound) are stunning.  While the prequels are of questionable quality based on their story and characterization, they are a masterful technical achievement with the space battle sequence of the 3rd movie integrated computer graphics.

The “Original” Story

It should be noted at the outset that if you are “purist,” you still aren’t getting the “original” release of the original SW movies with this collection–rather the “Special Editions” of those movies that Lucas recut in the late 1990s with the additional CGI material added in.  Just so you’re aware.  I prefer the original cut of the movies, but it isn’t a make or break deal for me.  I’ve gushed over this trilogy before in other blog posts, so I won’t rehash it here, but I think that the audio and the picture fidelity is really good.  Not 4K unfortunately, but still an awesome 1080p master of the movies.

No Sequels (or Digital Editions)

So, that’s right–this came out before Lucas sold the rights to the brand to Disney, so The Force Awakens isn’t included (nor Rogue One, and now, The Last Jedi), so it really is the “Not so Complete Edition,” but at the time it was “complete.”  One thing that really bums me out about this edition is the lack of Digital Editions.  This almost was a deal-breaker for me, and I almost didn’t purchase this edition.  The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy Extended Editions did come with Digital Editions (and the Extended Editions to boot–but I don’t think Amazon is selling that “edition” anymore as it wasn’t there when I looked for this post).  Lucasfilm wanted to “double-dip” and get paid twice for the same content.  As much as I would like the convenience of digital as these are my favorites, I refuse to pay again for these movies and I do not own them in digital format, especially when their competition figured it out.   Still, to have the “complete” (at the time) set, I ultimately decided it was worth it.

Well, that’s it for today, and I hope you enjoyed this brief look at another boxed set that is on my Bookshelf.

Sidney



 

 

Mini-Review: Saban’s Power Rangers (2017)

Over the weekend, I was in the mood for some lighter fare, so I streamed Saban’s The Power Rangers (2017)–which is currently available for streaming on Amazon Prime.  It had a four star rating and didn’t look terrible so I thought I’d give it a try.  While not a great movie, it still wasn’t the absolute abomination that the last Turtles movie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows turned out to be last year when I watched it.

A Typical “Teen” Movie

One of its faults (& strengths, I suppose if you’re a part of that demographic) is that it is like any other “teen” movie you’ve seen a thousand times before.  A group of misfit teens must overcome their differences and band together to become much more than they could be on their own.  While the characters aren’t really new and interesting, the actors portraying them do a fairly good job of showing the characters’ emotions.  The script, however, leaves a lot of things to be desired: chiefly, more time spent on fleshing out the characters, less on silly jokes that are more than a little cringe-worthy.

A Typical “Team” Movie

Also, like any other “team” movie, you’ll find that they don’t fully “gel” as a team until the end of the movie because they’ve got “issues.”  What those issues are, I won’t spoil, but while they are “major” to the characters, I got to say, it didn’t really feel like they were major to the audience.  Similarly, much of the destruction by and against our heroes is largely ignored until the plot calls for it.  Remember the scene in the trailers where Rita attacks one of the Rangers alone in her bedroom?  Well, that was part of a longer five minute scene which the bedroom and surrounding walls were pretty much trashed, yet no parent or sibling ever came to check to see what the heck was going on, let alone cops being called at the sight of a crazy witch-lady assaulting one of your kids in your own home.

Krispy Kreme Much?

Lastly, product placement.  Look, I like Krispy Kreme donuts as much as the next person (we have one in Chattanooga that I frequent at least twice a year), but the “product/brand” placement was over the top in this movie.  So much so, that it took me out of the movie when we found out that’s where the movie’s macguffin is hidden.  It is like the only major product that we see in the movie and it really calls attention to itself in an obnoxiously obvious way.  No donuts for you!

Overall Grade: C (+/- depending on whether you like or dislike these types of movies)

It is a competently made movie that you’ve likely seen a dozen or more times in other genres or places.  It isn’t stellar but it isn’t completely horrible either.  You might like it (or hate it) more than I did depending on your taste for these types of movies (which is why I added the +/-), but for me it is solidly average.  At least, it wasn’t as bad as TMNT: OotS (for me, at least) and I was able to have a fairly good time with Power Rangers once I shut off the analytical part of my brain and enjoyed it for the teen super hero/nostalgia movie that it was trying so hard to be for fans of the original show.

Sidney



What’s on My Bookshelf? Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy Extended Edition (Movie)

Movies and Video Games

I have two main types of Bookshelves–one for books and one for movies and video games.  I have multiple bookcases, but it basically breaks out into these two types.   This week I’m picking from my movie and video game bookshelf and I’ll probably alternate between the two each week.

The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy Extended Edition

The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy Extended Edition is in my Top Ten Movies of all time.  This is very much the fantasy complement to Star Wars and is second only to SW as my favorite movie trilogy of all time.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to see the first two movies in the theaters, but I saw them on Blu-Ray later.  I actually didn’t see the theatrical release–but waited until the individual releases of the Extended Editions.  I’ve always wondered how I would have liked these movies had I saw them in theaters–the scale would have been epic, but I really like all the additional material that the EE brings to the story.  I think that Tolkien would have approved as he was adamant about history providing additional context and believability to his stories.

The Extra Stuff

While the movies are amazing and are a must see if you haven’t already, it is the extras on the disc that are really the reason why I like it.  These are the same extras as on the individual releases of the Blu-Rays, but I really like the extra information about Tolkien, about the construction of Middle Earth, about the construction of the movies, and about the way the movies came together.  The level of detail about the extras is astounding and has come to form the way I view extras in movie releases.  The nascent creator in me definitely approves–I always appreciate a look behind the “curtain” as it were.

Here’s hoping for a good week for all!

Sidney




Amazon Associate Disclaimer:
I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.