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11/25/2015 TV

The new TV season has been going on for a couple months now, so here's a rundown of what I've been watching (specifically currently running TV shows, not reruns or the stuff I watch on Netflix and Blu-ray).

New Seasons of Returning Shows

Adventure Time
Still weird, but entertaining and moderately funny. Some episodes, such as the recent multi-part story arc focused on Marceline, have been better than others, but so far the season has been solid.

The Amazing Race
For the first time in awhile, this season doesn't have any teams I actually hate, which is a definite plus. I'd still love to compete sometime, but for now I'll have fun watching it instead.

Bizarre Foods
This is one of those shows that never really changes but, being both a world traveler and a bit of a foodie, it's fun to see where Andrew goes and what he eats, whether those things look delicious or disgusting.

While I can't say I'm especially invested in the new "big mystery" they're slowly unraveling over the course of the season, the fun characters and solid mysteries keep this one of the more entertaining mystery series currently on TV. Though the whole "he's a mystery writer" angle seems to be all but forgotten, which is shame since, being a writer myself, I really enjoy that aspect.

Doctor Who
If you're a big fan of the darker scarier episodes of the series, this has been a good season for that. For me personally... I think the latest season is ok. I'm liking it better than last season, and it's given me a much more positive view of Capaldi as the Doctor. That said, he's still not one of my favorites and the series' penchant for plot holes and inconsistent writing continues. So yeah, it's a mixed bag. Though I should note that my opinion on the season as a whole could go up or down a bit depending on how they resolve the current story arc over the next couple of episodes.

The Flash
I really enjoyed the first season of The Flash, and season 2 hasn't disappointed. The new main plot line brings in a lot of classic DC elements and some cool new enemies and allies. It's an all around fun super hero adventure.

Elementary had a really late start this season, so it's hard to say much. Honestly, I don't find the characters nearly as engaging as the ones in Castle or many of the other mystery series I've watched over the years, the mysteries themselves tend to be clever though, which keeps me watching.

Gotham's second season starts to introduce more Batman villains, along with some solid original characters. This season is subtitled Rise of the Villains, which is fitting as it seems to be going even darker than season 1. Gotham is still a bit strange in that it tells the story of Gotham's biggest heroes and villains long before Bruce Wayne puts on his hood and cape, but it's got a lot going for it.

Hawaii 5-0
While the episodes remain moderately fun, and I'm a fan of some of the actors, one of the main reasons I watch Hawaii 5-0 is still for the local scenery. The story lines and characters are decent, but but not big standouts. If it weren't for the Hawaii angle, I'm not sure if I would have stuck with it this long.

Marvel's Agents of SHIELD
Season 3 of SHIELD revolves around the fallout of the events of season 2, specifically the rise of Hydra's new leader and the war with the inhumans. So far, this season hasn't grabbed me quite as much as the previous ones, but it's nice to see Colson back in charge and the show is still entertaining. I'm looking forward to seeing where the big new plot twist from last week goes once the show resumes after winter break.

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic
Honestly, I don't think this season of MLP is one of the better ones, but it still features solid writing and a good sense of humor. Enough to keep plenty of people besides little girls watching a show about cute magical ponies.

Once Upon a Time
The latest season of ABC's twisted fairy-tale series introduces new lands and characters (most notably from the King Arthur mythos and Brave), with the usual mix of big plot twists and the blurred lines between heroes and villains. I still enjoy it, but I have that nagging feeling from last season that they're dragging it out longer than they should. I mean, is there really any good plot reason for everyone to still be in Storybrooke? Plus, the whole amnesia element has been used way too many times, the writers really need to come up with a new approach.

Person of Interest
After the amazing fourth season, and its big cliff-hanger ending, I've been really looking forward to Person of Interest's return. And waiting and waiting... While the fifth season is confirmed (though with only 13 episodes), they still haven't announced the starting date. Guess I'll just have to anticipate it for a while longer.

The Simpsons
Everyone has their opinion of when the show was at its best, but I still find it funny and often quite clever as well. Nothing much has changed, but that's fine.

Star Wars Rebels
I never quite fell in love with Rebels like some Star Wars fans have, but it's a fun adventure in the Star Wars universe and a bit more even in plot and execution than Clone Wars was. The question is if they'll properly address the potential plot holes it introduces in regards to the films.

Whew, that's a long list... Anyway, that's all the returning shows (aside from a couple that won't be back until 2016 (Agent Carter and Galavant). Next time, I'm go over the new shows I'm watching.


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11/23/2015 Movies

Well, the film festival is over, so here's the rundown.

November 15th - 22nd (Sunday - Sunday): HIFF 2015
The Hawaii International Film Festival is in it's 35th year, though this is only my second year attending. Connie and I went to four different movies (all Japanese) over the course of the festival. Here's the quick reviews.

Our Huff and Puff Journey
Four Japanese high school girls run away from home with little money and even less of a plan to see their favorite band in concert in Tokyo. It's basically a teen road trip comedy that's about half regular film and half videos taken by the girls. All in all it was...ok. It was kinda amusing but not especially funny, so it's didn't really grab me with the comedy, and the whole road trip story was fairly generic. That really just left the characters. Unfortunately, they seemed to give up on character development about halfway through the movie, dropping the handful of threads that had been started. So, in the end, you have a movie that's ok, but doesn't really stand out in any way.

Kakekomi is a word referring to woman who ran away from their owners or husbands. See, in ancient Japan, only men could file for a divorce, with one exception. If the woman ran away and made it to Tokeiji Temple in Kamakura (a city a short distance south of Tokyo), she'd be protected and allowed to live there for two years as a nun, after which, her husband would be forced to divorce her. Kakekomi (the movie) is about several such women, each running away from very different circumstances, who meet on their journey to Tokeiji. It mostly focuses on their time in the temple and their relationship with the family running one of the nearby inns. It's a period piece and, as far as I can tell, fairy historically accurate. The movie description listed it as a comedy action movie, but a handful of jokes and a couple fight scenes isn't enough to quality it for either. It's really a drama with a little bit of romance mixed in (though that isn't really the focus either). While I found the incorrect description annoying, it's still an interesting movie and grants a rare glimpse into the role Tokeiji played in Japanese society. That said, there are just too many plot threads to cover in a movie. The main three fair decently, but the rest feel rushed and underdeveloped. Seeing as the movie is based on a book, this is probably due to trying to cram too much of the source material into the film's limited time frame. While it doesn't ruin the film as a whole, I get the feeling that it could have been a lot better had they dropped most of the subplots and just focused on the main characters.

Hana's Miso Soup
This seems to be one of those movies that primarily exists to make its audience cry. It starts out as a romantic comedy, but takes on a much more serious tone when the main character is diagnosed with breast cancer. From then on, the film tracer her life as she and her husband struggle with their situation and, eventually, the challenge of raising their young daughter, Hana. There's no grand lesson (other than, perhaps, make the most of the your life) or larger plot. It's pure bittersweet emotion from start to finish. Very well done, but not the type of thing I'd normally watch. How much you enjoy it will really depend on how you like that type of movie.

The Boy and the Beast
The latest anime film from Mamoru Hosoda (Summer Wars, Wolf Children, etc.), The Boy and the Beast follows Ren, a young runaway Japanese boy who stumbles into a world of magical beasts (creatures about halfway between animals and humans). He's taken in by Kumatetsu, a bear man skilled in the martial arts but unable to keep a pupil due to his belligerent attitude. Over time, the two begin to bond but, as Ren grows older, he finds himself torn between the beast world and the human world, giving the film a bit of a Jungle Book vibe. Add in the competition between Kumatetsu and his rival Iozen to become their city's new lord, and some drama related to the darkness within human hearts, and you have a fun and moderately touching shonen adventure. The story is the type that will appeal to just about all ages and the animation is great (not Ghibli level, but still good).
I enjoyed it quite a bit (more than any of the above movies), though it doesn't quite surpass the barrier between very good and excellent. I know some people are calling Hosoda the next Miyazaki, but I don't see it. Hosoda does great movies, but they just don't reach the impressive bar set by Studio Ghibli in either art or story. Honestly, I think Anthem of the Heart (which I saw a couple weeks back, though not as part of the festival) came far closer than any of Hosoda's films. With all that said, I definitely recommend The Boy and the Beast. It's not at Miyazaki's level, but not much is. Enjoy it for what it is and you've got a fine movie.


11/20/2015 Busy week ahead

The new bonus comic is up so click the TWC button and vote to see it!

The past couple of weeks, while they didn't leave me with quite as much free time as I hoped, have been nice. Next week though, things will likely get pretty busy again. Some of that's a good busy, with Thanksgiving prep. On the other hand, work is going to be ramping up soon, with finals only a few weeks away. Though, that also means the semester is almost done, which means winter break. Though I'll have some class prep to do over that so it's not a total break from work. The main thing coming up though is that, on Monday, I start on my second Master's degree. It could be a kinda interesting program, though I'm not thrilled about the time and money involved. Unfortunately, there are reasons I have to do it so that's that. Hopefully it won't eat up all my non-work time, since I've got plenty of other things I need and/or want to devote some time to as well. But there's nothing to do except wait and see.


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