Toren’s Best of 2020

Best word added to Oxford English Dictionary: IT’S A TIE:
bird colonel, n.: “A full colonel, as distinct from a lieutenant colonel. Also in full bird colonel.”

cakeage, n.: “In a restaurant: the cutting and serving of a cake that has been brought in by a customer from off the premises; (hence) a charge levied for this…”

Best newly discovered non-spider species: THREE species of greater gliders! Petauroides volans, Petauroides minor and Petauroides armillatus

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Best newly discovered spider species: Iran’s velvet spider Loureedia phoenixi 

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Best Darwin Award winner: “Mad” Mike Hughes, 64, what trying to prove the Earth is flat, was killed when he crashed his steam-powered rocket shortly after take-off in the California desert.

Best meme:  Nature is healing. We are the virus.

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Best Film Documentary: My Octopus Teacher

Best Magic: The Gathering card: Skyclave Squid (Zendikar Rising set)

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Best animated series I haven’t watched yet: More episodes of Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal!

Best Star Trek release: Lower Decks “Crisis Point”

Best new animatic presented as a short film: Ruin Nation

Light of My Life (2019) Post Apocalyptic Movie Review

What’s the difference between ethics and morals? Eight years after a virus all but wiped out the female population, An itinerant father has to keep moving to keep his young daughter out of the sights of the dystopian world of men. Luckily they always have an escape plan.

Tropes: bedtime stories; preachy old man; code word; walking away and not answering when called.

Toren’s rating: 7/10

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Scorched Earth (2018) Post-Apocalyptic Movie Review

50 years after the plague-inducing “Cloud Fall,” Gina Carano is a pragmatic bounty hunter who decides to infiltrate a gang led by the criminal with the biggest bounty on his head. She finds herself outmatched and seeks the help of her old mentor. It’s a very Old West style setting including saloons, card games and cowboy hats. And horses of course. The currency in the land is water purification tabs and silver, which is used to make mask filters. Some fun scenes including a raid on a caravan with an armored fighting vehicle.

Better than the imdb rating indicates

Tropes: Flashback to traumatic event that relates to current events, old veteran with leg injury; dragged behind a horse; dragged behind a vehicle;

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The Day (2011) Post Apocalyptic Movie Review

Shawn Ashmore (Ice Man) and Dominic Monaghan (Merry Brandybuck) lead a group of survivors into an abandoned house to dry off and clean up, and maybe find some food. Little do they know they are marked by a gang of cannibals. Their best chance of survival is working together but one survivor’s secret tears the group apart!

Most of the movie takes place in the house, and while there are some interesting ideas and twists, the writing is awkward and trite. Characters’ motivations and allegiances flip-flop and both heroes and villains act in nonsensical ways. The army of cannibals with no ranged weapons come in small waves of 3-5 attackers that the survivors can easily repel from inside the house with their guns, and both groups make terrible tactical decisions. In typical gore-fest fashion the leader of the cannibal gang, in hopes of eating the few survivors in the house, sacrifices five times that amount of his own forces.

The film is shot in muted tones, on the edge of black and white, with rich red blood sometimes gratuitous and other times unrealistically held back. Props to the design team though, everything and everyone looks filthy and worn out. And I enjoyed the hopelessness of dwindling food and bullets. Ashley Bell is a standout as creepy loner asskicker.

Tropes: building traps and defenses montage; clan tattoo; ammunition count

Toren’s rating: 3/10

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Hostile (2017)

A scavenger in the post-apocalyptic wasteland, trapped overnight in her overturned vehicle with a dangerous man-creature roaming around, reflects upon her life choices.

I don’t usually review ‘zombie’ films, but it’s not entirely clear what the creature is, despite the fact that it seems highly resistant to injury, so I choose to believe it’s some kind of viral mutant. Regardless, without the post-apocalyptic monster angle this would be a pretty by-the-numbers tale of a rich man getting involved with a pretty heroine addict.

Tropes: trapped with a nocturnal monster; light stops working; radio stops working; twist ending

Toren’s rating: 6.5/10

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Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (風の谷のナウシカ) 1984

Let me start by saying that the trailer posted here does not do justice to the film. The dialogue is clunky, read without any nuance, and the song is not part of legendary Joe Hisaishi’s wonderful score for the film, which goes from orchestral, to sitar + tabla, to 1980s synth masterfully. So, ignore the trailer.

I first saw this film in its dubbed, Americanized version called “Warriors of the Wind,” with over 20 minutes cut from the original, rented, no doubt, on VHS. The cover art for the box, below, shows gun- and lightsaber-toting characters who have nothing to do with the movie, with the main character relegated to the back corner. It wasn’t until 2006 that Disney released the full film in the west, though I’m sure I got a sneak peak through my habit of tape-trading through the 90s.

Regardless, the movie took hold of my imagination like no other. The design of the world, the creatures, the flying machines, and the characters are fantastical yet immersive. You feel the grandeur of the world, but the highly curious and compassionate princess Nausicaa also makes it intimate, with her connection to it.

In brief, 1000 years ago a global war culminated in the “Seven Days of Fire” which decimated human civilization and created the Sea of Corruption–a toxic jungle full of giant insects and deadly spores which threaten to consume the world. Nausicaa lives in a farming community in the Valley of the Wind which keeps the forest at bay. Regardless, her father, the king, is dying from spore contamination. As she tries to unlock the secrets of the toxic jungle, a flying fortress with a deadly cargo crash-lands in the Valley, involving Nausicaa and her people in a conflict between warring nations.

The movie takes enough time that you can appreciate the visuals, the sound design…you can almost smell it at times. You feel the power of the war machines and the giant god-warriors, and the awe, mystery and alien-ness of the toxic jungle and its denizens. Nausicaa has a profound capacity for empathy that connects her with any creature she finds, and which takes her enemies aback, but that empathy also gives rise to uncontrolled rage when turned by injustice and pain. The viewer identifies with her as someone who is just trying to understand the world while getting caught between cold, thoughtless assholes with their power-grab agendas. But even then this movie, through Nausicaa, brings you close to these characters so that you understand their point of view, if not their actions. And when the shit hits the fan in the last act you are with Nausicaa all the way.

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is based on Hayao Miyazaki’s original manga

The minor quibble I have with the story is the ‘bird man’ prophecy angle, which I feel is unnecessary and tacked-on. Other than that, this movie is, for my money, a perfect piece of art that is filled with heart. 10/10

The Midnight Sky (2020)

This movie goes out of it’s way to not disclose what happened that caused ‘the event’ which leaves terminal cancer victim George Clooney isolated and a space ship full of scientists homeless. It also asks you to accept that there’s a recently discovered Jovian moon suitable for human habitation, which I guess is fine. There’s not a lot new here, and everything is pointless. At least it looks nice? Let me know if the twist ending makes you angry.

Tropes: twist ending; it’s cold and wolves are after me; mute child

Toren’s rating: 6/10

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