Dec 6, 2016

Random Nerdery: Guardians of the Galaxy, Sword Master, Spectral & Lone Wolf and Cub

Marvel’s next big hit, gorgeous-looking Chinese swordplay, more Netflix original sci-fi, and classic cult samurai action.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2
The gang’s back in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

A collection of random bits of nerdery and pop culture that I’ve been enjoying in recent days.


Showtime a-holes; it’s a new Guardians of the Galaxy trailer!

If you consider yourself any sort of proper nerd, then you’ve already watched the latest trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 at least a dozen times. So why not watch it again, right?

This trailer is my new happy place. It has almost everything you could want: Star-Lord quipping, Rocket Raccoon being surly, Drax getting literal, and Groot being cute — not to mention plenty of action and our first look at Mantis (aka, the Celestial Madonna).

Marvel’s obviously keeping a few things under wraps, most notably Kurt Russell’s Ego the Living Planet (who also happens to be Star-Lord’s father). But that would probably be too much awesome-ness to include in a single trailer.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 arrives in theaters in May 2017, which can’t come soon enough.


Derek Yee’s Sword Master gives wuxia a modern look

I love a good wuxia (Chinese swordplay) movie, with the graceful martial arts and swordsmen flying through the air. Unfortunately, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen a good one that didn’t look like it was retreading Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or Hero material. Based on ScreenAnarchy’s recent glowing review of Sword Master, I think I’ll have to change that assessment and seek this one out:

Personal and reverent, yet pulsating with visual invention, Sword Master is a passionate love letter to Chinese cinema’s most quintessential genre, but also a bold exploration into wuxia’s visual language. Sword Master is pioneering, experiential cinema, simultaneously steeped in decades of tradition and mythology, which must, as its hero learns, be embraced if it is ever to be overcome.

I haven’t been able to find a good quality trailer with English subtitles, but you don’t really need subtitles to appreciate the gorgeous cinematography and highly stylized drama and action.

Related: Director Derek Yee has previously directed a number of acclaimed movies, including Viva Erotica, Lost in Time, and One Night in Mongkok.


Netflix’s Spectral looks like good ol’ fashioned mid-budget sci-fi fun

A little Ghostbusters, a little Black Hawk Down, a little Aliens, a little Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within… Netflix’s upcoming Spectral doesn’t look like anything we haven’t seen before. But it still looks like it could make for some good, solid late night viewing. How can you go wrong with a premise like this?

When an otherworldly force wreaks havoc on a war-torn European city, an engineer teams up with an elite Special Ops unit to stop it.

Much like Arq, another Netflix original sci-fi movie, Spectral seems like another example of Netflix becoming a good destination for mid-budget sci-fi (i.e., sci-fi that doesn’t have a normal Hollywood budget but is still too polished for “B” movie fare). I always envisioned Syfy fulfilling that role, but then they began churning out films like Sharknado, Ice Spiders, and Mongolian Death Worm.


Lone Wolf and Cub get the Criterion treatment

Lone Wolf and Cub

Last month, the Criterion Collection released a six-film “collector’s set” of the Lone Wolf and Cub samurai film series. Based on the long-running and highly influential manga series, the films follow a disgraced samurai as he travels across Japan with his infant son, hoping to get revenge on those who killed his wife and destroyed his family. Along the way, he dispatches an endless parade of ninjas, samurai, and assassins — and in highly stylized and ultra-bloody fashion to boot.

Along with the release, noted critic Patrick Macias penned an excellent essay that explores the roots of the original manga series (it was intended as a response to eroding familial bonds in ’60s Japan), describes the films’ crazy production (the first four films were all released in 1972), and offers some analysis of the films’ themes and style.

If you just look at their over-the-top violence, or even just their names — e.g., Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance, Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in the Land of Demons — it’s tempting to dismiss Lone Wolf and Cub as mere exploitation fare. But as Macias’ essay reveals, there’s more to the films than just stylish bloodletting.


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