Welcome to another installment of Movies, Movies, Movies! This past week has been focused more on Netflix series and one Netflix/DVD.com disc. Since the supply of DVDs borrowed from the library has shriveled up it has filled in. Next week may see me watching some of my old DVDs and writing reviews on them. We’ll see.
Altered Carbon (2018-2020) S1-2 and 1 anime movie (“Resleeved”) in between (netflix)
Starring: Joel Kinnaman (S1), Anthony Mackie (S2) James Purefoy (S1), Martha Higareda (S1 and S2), Chris Conner (S1 and S2), Dichen Lachman (S1 and S2), Ato Essandoh, Kristin Lehman, Trieu Tran, Renee Elise Goldsberry (S1 and 2), Leonardo Nam, Hayley Law, Will Yun Lee, Byron Mann, Tamara Taylor, Simone Missick (S2), Dina Shihabi (S2), Torben Liebrecht (S2) and many many more!
Director: 10 writers and 10 directors (look at imdb.com for their names)
Genres: Science Fiction and Action
Synopsis: Massive casts populate the series, but Joel Kinnaman is the main protagonist in S1 and Anthony Mackie is the main protagonist in S2, as well as the voice of Ray Chase in the anime, “Resleeved”: all playing the same character: Takeshi “Tak” Kovacs, the last Envoy, of an elite rebel group defeated 250 years prior to the start of the series. In this universe, humans can change their bodies, a.k.a. “sleeves”, for a price, and their “stacks” which look like metallic badges with glowing cells, holding their personality, memories, etc., get installed in the new bodies. The series takes place on the planet called Harlan’s World. The plot is deep and detailed and involves despotic control of resources backed by a military force, a rebel rebellion, and a romance that lasts hundreds of years. There are shadowy criminal underworld people and well-organized gangs in the mix, as well as holographic AI servants that are, in the words of Rob Zombie, “more human than human.” The plot is intelligent and there’s always lots of action. Sleeves can be upgraded to military weapons, and stacks can be destroyed. I really enjoyed Joel Kinnaman as Tak in S1 and was disappointed he didn’t return for S2, but Anthony Mackie really grew on me in S2 and I liked him as much if not more by the end. The villains are slick and interesting. The acting is outstanding by everyone in the series. “Resleeved,” the anime movie, effectively acts as a connector between S1 and S2, but you could watch “Resleeved” by itself and not get too confused. When you’re investing this many hours into one series, it needs to be excellent, and Altered Carbon fits into that category.
Starring: Tatsuya Nakadai, Rentarô Mikuni, Shima Iwashita, Akira Ishihama, Tetsuro Tamba, Hisashi Igawa, Yoshio Inaba, Kei Sato, Shoji Kobayashi, Ichirô Nakaya, Masao Mishima
Director: Masaki Kobayashi
Genres: Samurai Japan in 1600’s
Synopsis: The plot of Harakiri revolves around displaced Samurai who, for various reasons, lose their posts with their feudal overlords and end up homeless and begging on the streets. Some even become so desperate that they appeal to the overlords still operating and try to wheedle either a position in the household or possibly be given a few coins to stave off starvation for a bit. How they do it here is show up and ask to use the courtyard of the complex to commit harakiri (seppeku/suicide) with honor at a formal ceremony but without any real intention of carrying through with the act; the lord feels sorry for them and either employs them or pays them to go away. The story here is when the head samurai at one lord’s home wants to send a message to those showing up that the days of handouts are over. He does this by forcing one to actually commit harakiri. A domino effect from that act occurs that plays itself out over the rest of the movie.
Etc.: The run time on Harakiri is over 2 hours. I look at the often rushed, fast-paced world of cinema these days and compare it to the worlds of Kobayashi and Kurosawa and it fills me with a certain sorrow that slow-paced, quality storytelling in cinema may one day become extinct. Beware that the forced harakiri scene is quite disturbing; there’s a lot of fight scenes, but most of it isn’t real gory. This is a Japanese film with English subtitles. The sound man on this is the guy I wrote about a few weeks ago that is a true master of his art.
Tiger King (2020) S1 (7 episodes) (netflix)
Starring: Joe Exotic (The Tiger King), Carole Baskin, Bhagavan Antle, and a very large “cast” of real people.
Director: Rebecca Chaiklin, Eric Goode
Genres: documentary, animal exploitation
Synopsis: The series focuses on a longstanding feud between the owner of a large “tiger farm/petting zoo” and a husband-and-wife team and their army of devotees and volunteers of a big cat rescue organization. The hatred between these two camps leads to some pretty shocking, outlandish, and outright vengeful acts. The bigger picture examines the world of holding big cats in captivity and breeding them so people can have their pictures taken with cute, cuddly baby tigers in the 12-week period where that’s possible. What happens to those tigers when they “age out” of cute and cuddly? Also in this very well stitched-together series are the personal dramas of both of those camps as well as some of the other big cat breeders, collectors, and exploiters.
Etc.: I watched the first hour of this series last week after the banner was plastered across the main screen of netflix night after night. An hour in, I thought there is no way I want to keep watching this sordid telling. But morbid curiosity took over and I came back to it and finished it last night. By the end, my assessment of it as a train wreck hasn’t changed; but at the same time I’m glad I finished watching it. Truth is ALWAYS stranger than fiction. The depth of destruction and extremes that humans will go to when exploiting others, be they other humans, other species, or non-living resources knows no bounds. There are some genuinely decent human beings to be found in the sordid realm of exploiting exotic animals — whether under the guise of entertainment or rescue — and the kind people who care for them out of love for free or for peanuts, but the “ringleaders” are not among them.
Update on 4/3/20: I just learned that movie rights are being fought over to put this on the big screen.