Roy Tang

Programmer, engineer, scientist, critic, gamer, dreamer, and kid-at-heart.

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I used to do these “Watching Lately” posts to talk about movies/tv/books I’d recently consumed, but for a while I folded up the reviews into the weeknotes and sometimes via short notes but the reviews have been getting longer so I guess I’m bring the “Watching Lately” tag and series of posts back.

Die Another Day (2002)

Bond film no. 20 and Brosnan’s final appearance. The main question for me going in was: have I actually watched this before in the theatre? My memory says no, but this movie does have the ice palace scene I originally thought was in World is Not Enough. I can’t remember any of the other plot details though. I think I would have if I had seen it before, because I actually really liked the film and think it’s the best of the Brosnan run. I mean, I didn’t even remember the betrayal towards the end, and that took me by surprise this time. The likely explanation seems to be that I had caught the later parts of the film on cable tv which is why I remember the ice palace thing, so I will consider this NOT a rewatch.

When I read up on it after watching, apparently this film had a mixed reception, but I liked it. It has the campiness of the earlier films, and some good throwbacks and references, as it’s the 40th anniversary of the film. I mean, I agree the invisible car was a bit silly, but maybe about as much as everyday use of a jetpack (Thunderball) or going into space (Moonraker). There’s also an actual honest-to-goodness sword fight here that goes on quite a bit, first with fencing swords and later with actual swords. Maybe it’s just that I really enjoy swordfights lol. I also liked the car vs car battle later on in the movie; Bond has not had to face anyone with the same level of fancy car gadgets before, so it was fun. Also, the villain plot was to use something akin to C&C’s ion cannon! A space laser! I really would have remembered that!

I liked the opening theme performed by Madonna, but didn’t actually recognize her in the cameo. This is the first film without Desmond Llewelyn as Q, as he had passed away the year before release. John Cleese is an adequate replacement, but this is also his final appearance in the role. This movie was also apparently Rosamund Pike’s first film. Hally Berry is ok as a Bond girl, nothing too exceptional. Her character was quite competent at first but then got captured (twice) in the second half. I believe this film is also the first time Bond has faced a North Korean villain.

Overall I think a fitting end to the Brosnan run and as a 40th anniversary celebration of the series. The campiness is fine, especially since the upcoming Daniel Craig era would be much more serious and gritty.

Army of the Dead (2021)

Watched this yesterday, mostly as background while I did other things, so not paying 100% attention I guess. I remembered reading that Tig Notaro (who plays the helicopter pilot) was never on set with the other actors (due to covid or something I guess) so every time she would be in a scene I’d mentally note how she’s not shown together with the others or was possible just edited into the shot. I really led with that lol, it’s what was foremost on my mind while watching.

It was a reasonable action movie and zombie/heist flick, if not a bit predictable. I liked that safecracker guy, he really had a passion for his work, too bad he died. I actually thought more of their team would survive, but maybe I just haven’t seen enough zombie flicks. There’s an obvious setup at the end for a possible sequel, but Batista won’t be coming back.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)

Ended up watching a second movie later in the day. I had been meaning to watch this for a while as it looked good. It’s an ok sci-fi movie to watch, but not a must-see as the plot is kind of predictable / cookie clutter, and there’s this one sequence in the middle which felt unnecessary and was just an excuse to get Cara Delevingne in a dress. Visuals are super pretty though, all the space stuff and the special effects and the City of a Thousand Planets all look great. The main guy Valerian fights waaaay too well, so that needs a bit of suspension of disbelief.

I only learned after watching that this movie was actually a French production directed by Luc Besson (of Fifth Element fame), and was based on a French comic called Valerian and Laureline. That’s right, the comic actually had Laureline on equal billing with Valerian but noooo, the movie had to be titled for Valerian only. Actually, the comic seems more interesting from the wikipedia description as it seems to be more time-travel focused (Laureline is actually supposed to be from 11th-century France), but the movie doesn’t really give us much background on either of them.

Unfortunately, this movie got mixed reviews and was a flop, so a follow-up in the same universe seems unlikely.

Superstore season 5

I binged the first four seasons of Superstore on Prime Video back in 2020, and over the weekend I saw the fifth season was already up, so I had it as my background watching for most of the weekend and actually finished it already by Monday. Season 5 is pretty much more of the same flavor, though there are a bit more Filipino references (which I always enjoy) since there’s a stronger focus on the character Matteo, who in the last season was arrested by ICE because he was an illegal immigrant from the Philippines.

The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin

Someone gave me a copy of this because I mentioned I’d never read any Le Guin before. It’s super short but quite thought-provoking, making you think about what costs any possible utopia could have. But I also think the ending is projecting a bit of optimism, in that no matter what darkness you discover, there’s always the option of just walking away.

I wasn’t sure whether to log this in my “books read list” category, given that it’s not really a book and the length is actually barely a short story, but hey it’s my list, I’ll do what I want. It did make me want to seek out other Le Guin works, I’ll see what I can find.

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