Cinema-Maniac's Movie Ratings - Rotten Tomatoes

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About

Member Since
November 2011
 
Current Location
Anyone still reading this I'm going to be offline for awhile. Basically, I'm moving states so no activity for who knows how long. In case I ever returned, go to my letterboxd profile so we can interact. http://letterboxd.com/cinema_maniac/
 
Hometown
Pomona, California
 
Movie Character You Most Identify With
Donnie Darko, Jim Stark from Rebel Without A Cause, Tomoko Kuroki from WataMote, Theodore Twombly from Her, Shinji Ikari from Neon Genesis Evangelion (we're both broken socially and mentally that it's like I'm looking at a reflection)
 
Favorite Line From A Movie
"Channel the anger swelling inside you. Fighting the boundary 'till you break through. Deep in your soul there's no hesitation. So make yourself the one they all fear. There is a wild fire inside you . Burning desire you can't extinguish" Hajime Isayama
 
Favorite Movie
To many to list
 
Favorite Actor
Jackie Chan, Jim Strugess, Michelle Yeoh, Donnie Yen, Jet Li, Jennifer Lawrence, Emma Stone, Clint Eastwood, Leonardo DiCaprio, Zooey Deschannel, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Charlie Chaplin, Jessica Chastain, Troy Baker
 
Favorite Director
Christopher Nolan, Johnnie To, Edgar Wright, John Woo, Neill Blomkamp, Clint Eastwood, Quentin Tarantino, Guillermo del Toro, Akira Kurosawa, Charlie Chaplin
 
Celebrity Crush
Emma Stone
 
Favorite Genre
Action/Adventure
 
Favorite Critic
Anyone that's not me
 
Best Movie Seat
middle
 
When I'm not watching movies, I'm...
playing video games, reading, writing, listening to music, in college
 
Fresh or Rotten
fresh
 

Movie Ratings and Reviews

Sword Art Online Extra Edition
½

For my review of the anime series here's the link below.

http://myanimelist.net/reviews.php?id=167571

If you have never seen Sword Art Online I recommend you stop reading at the second paragraph (discounting this passage) since I go into spoiler territory past that. Using specific examples of important events in the series to prove a point on how badly this recap movie present the material. By the second paragraph I generalize the main issues without spoiling anything specific. I might not think the series is great, but I wouldn't dare ruin the element of surprise for anyone seeing it for the first time if they choose to do so.

The anime Sword Art Online is a fluctuating experience. The story was stupid breaking its own logic, not understanding how video game programming worked and filled with some idiotic characters, yet it was for those exact reasons I kept watching it. Part of the appeal of watching Sword Art Online is that it was always entertaining no matter what happened. Whether it was good or bad there was something to go back to. Something this recap film fails to emulate in the same way and serves to further highlights season one weaknesses while barely displaying of the strengths it had in the series.

So in order to save both fans and newcomers time this film is basically a bad recap of the first season of Sword Art Online that lasts an hour and forty minutes. In the first hour and twenty minutes there is some new footage mostly of characters sitting and talking, but pale in comparison to the usage of clips from the series first season. The remaining twenty minute is spent on a subplot involving Kirito and the gang exploring an underwater dungeon in Alfheim Online. For fans of the series I wouldn't recommend seeing this film for the new material since like a character said in a scene before this movie ended it's unimportant.

The way more than of half of the film is set up is like an interview. A government official, Kikuoka Seijirou, wants some dangling questions regarding the Sword Art Online and Alfheim Online incidents cleared up. Despite Kitiro expressing that he told them (the government) like a million time what happened. Within the first couple of minutes this simple exchange of dialogue expresses how pointless it is for both Kirito and anyone who seen the series to go over what happened. While Kirto talks to Kikuoka Seijirou there's a subplot involving Asuna, Keiko, and Rika teaching Suguha how to swim. This framing device among the girls provides some character moments with them commenting on each other story on how they met Kirito. It's not a bad framing device even if the girls remain in swimsuits for most of the non-recap clips. Compare to Kirito narrative framing which adds nothing. The girls framing device provides the rare interaction between characters in the real world.

One thing that is fixed in the movie are certain plot holes aren't made as noticeable in the film. In the first season of Sword Art Online it was established in episode two that beta testers were passing out guide books so non-experience players can learn how to play the game. Including clearly stating a couple of months has passed and people will in real life die if they die in the game. Apparently death is not a good motivation for some players to learn how to play the game. With that bit of information left out it managed to make the whole scenario come across grimer and make the players look less idiotic in comparison to the anime series. This is later counteracted when the film has Kikuoka Seijirou asking how Kirito he survived in Sword in Art Online despite it going against the video game programing. Kirito ignores giving any sort of logical answer. Simply put, he survived death by sheer willpower.

It does this on another important occasion including the cardinal sin of not showing what happened when Kirito faces Sugou Nobuyuki in the Alfheim Online arc. Before giving a flimsy explanation one of the last thing seen is Sugou about to seemingly rape Asuna in front of Kirito. After Kayaba appears to give Kirito a motivation speech, it cuts back to Kirito talking to Kikuoka. The only explanation that's given regarding what happened to Sogou is he self destructed. Not exactly satisfactory when it's casually resolved like that. I could only imagine how fed up non-viewers of the series might feel when seeing that.

For some reason Shigeru Nishiyama (the film and anime series editor) thought it was a good idea to cut out certain things for no reason. Near the end of episode ten when Kirito goes over to Asuna house there's a misunderstanding. In the scene, Asuna finishes undressing after diner mistaking Kirito intentions, thinking he wanted to have sex with her when actually he just wanted to stay the night at her place. Kirito clears up the misunderstanding which intentional or not was a hilarious moment in the anime. In the movie, once Asuna finishes undressing and tells Kirito to take off his clothes it cuts to black. Fading into the two of them sleeping together in bed. So according to this movie both Kirito and Asuna had sex.

Another mishaps by editor Shigeru Nishiyama is how he presented Yui story in the film. This piece in the movie is terribly edited together with noticeable abrupt cuts that even non viewers of the series would be able tell had content cut out. Instead of showing at least a single scene of Kirito and Asuna bonding with Yui it just immediately goes to Yui telling the viewer what she is and then possibly dying. Not even the anime was as rush in the same way when presenting this storyline. Unless you have seen the anime this moment will leave viewers confused and with so many questions that won't get answered.

There's also a random cut where Yui is around the same size as Kirito in Alfheim when Kirito enters Alfheim Online for the first time. Later in that moment the next cut shows Yui in pixie size. There was no point in cutting out Yui shrinking herself within the same scene which by doing so also cut out the explanation Yui gives for still being alive in the video game. Why this was cut makes no sense.

A shared element of both the film and anime series is Asuna getting the short end of characterization. Like in the anime, Asuna personality is no different than a thin piece of paper with boobs drawn on. However, it's not presented in the same manner. The film doesn't introduce Asuna as a capable player which in turn makes her role in the story less of an issue. Her role does not receive a downgrade in the film, which is a slight improvement to how she's presented in the anime. Unfortunately the movie does not make a good case for Asuna being the center of Kirito affection. In the movie she's just presented as an another girl who fallen in love with Kirito on a whim.

Suguha on the other hand is presented as having an actual relationship with Kirito. Unlike the other girls, Suguha is the only one who is shown having a conflict with Kirito and solving it with him. Suguha side of the story paints her in a better light showing the rough side of her relationship not just the good moments. Just like in the anime, Suguha is the only female character who gets any good characterization in the movie. She's the only character in the movie who has a conflict to overcome from the beginning of the movie all the way to the end. It's not much characterization that gets added to her, but it is far more significant than what the rest of the cast gets. Nothing.

Music while good gets replaced or amped up version from the anime series. The most noticeable is when it splices both of Kirito attempts to conquer the world tree in Alfheim Online it uses "Innocence" by Aoi Eir for those scenes. This specific track is not as effective as the original track use in the series. For the most part, the soundtrack is thankfully untouched. While not good enough to stand on its own without the help of the anime visual it works just fine in the movie as it did the series. There were times I will admit the music did get me to forget the issues I had and got me to enjoy what I was watching. Also, there were times where the editing would use a track to unintentional comedic effect. Simply cutting or fading out at a bad time. The voice work for both the Japanese and English cast is similar to the anime series. If you want more emotional performances watch it with English subtitles or if you want subtlety (and no stuttering) albeit with some underplayed characters go with the English dub. Unfortunately for both cast, it feels like rehash performances.

The last twenty minutes contains all new footage and stills without splicing any footage from the anime. It's a simple subplot of Kirito and the gang exploring an underwater dungeon. If it wasn't included in the film the material would have been just fine released as an OVA. The new material in the last twenty minute is decent as a whole. As usual, despite playing an MMO and how they are actually design Kirito is able to handle any situation virtually by himself. What the new material does get right is capturing the fun experience from the series. The humor is intact and the interaction between the characters prevents thing from being boring. Where it stumbles is the new material is not entirely animated. There's some action oriented stills which would have made up for the disappointing climax at the end of the movie. Setting up what seems like would be a cool action scene, only to have an outside force and one-shot character fix everything. I can't forget how easy it was to figure out the identity of the NPC giving the quest. Surely a better name than Nerakk for an NPC could have been more clever to hide the true identity for English speakers. Just change around a couple of letters and you can solve what the NPC actually is.

This movie is pointless offering only twenty minutes of new material, but even with that new material it is pointless. Aside from Suguha getting a small bit of new characterization nothing significant is added. Failing to condense the material of the first season of Sword Art Online and getting it to work in a movie format. The one to blame for this terrible piece of a film is not the source material since in the anime it does have good scenes that work in favor of the story, but the editing and the way the film presents them is too blame. It was sloppy, rushed, forgetting about the tiniest details like showing what happened to Sugou for a resolution. Instead of at least being a pleasant walk down memory lane it come across as a waste of time. There isn't enough new footage to recommend to fans and it's not a good presentation of the series for newcomers. You're simply better off just watching the anime series or reading the light novels. No matter how they turned out, they at least will offer a complete experience unlike this film.

Nekojiru-so (Cat Soup)

Cat Soup or Nekojiru-sou in its Japanese title is a lot stranger than its own name makes it out to be. It can be best described if you gave a loony philosopher, who just happened to love cats, some drugs this short film would probably be the result of what they see in their high. A series of abstract ideas presented in such a bizarre manner while seemingly nonsensical is alluring in its strange nature. It is very difficult to make any sense of it or confirm it means anything, but that's part of what makes this short film have such a strong impression in such a small amount of time.

The story is basically about two cat siblings with Nyako, the brother, searching for some way to resurrect, Nyatta, his dead sister. The opening minutes of the short film are about as direct it'll get. Beyond that point, it becomes a journey into the abstract. Filled with a visit to the circus involving seeing a magic act of a woman getting completely chopped into pieces, discovering an elephant made out of water in a desert, and the ocean becoming completely frozen to name few odd things you'll see. As odd some of these descriptions are, they do get across simple ideas. For example, when the cat siblings visit the circus Nyako firmly believes he can fully resurrect his dead sister after seeing a circus act performing a seemingly impossible act. It is a simple moment that is straight to the point.

Virtually non-existent dialogue, the story is told in a way that the few lines of dialogue aren't needed to understand the story. It's a risky decision, but pays off to give off the vibe of being in a strange dream. Nothing is given a direct explanation when going from one event to the next. Instead of stopping in one area to explain the significance of a scene, it goes straight to the next odd scene. Its story is quite simple to get behind, but whether or not it has any meaning is never confirmed within the work itself.

It's a single OVA meaning the protagonist motivation is kept at a basic level. Being more than enough to follow Nyako on his journey. His simplicity makes him appealing and immediately thoughtful. Simply seeing his parents' negligence towards him and his sister in the household says allot about the bond he has with his family. With that said the story is essentially what you see is all you get. Allowing the viewer to form their own interpretation on everything that unfolded.

The supporting cast is filled mostly with anthropomorphic animals with some humans. Whenever a human character is on screen, it usually leads to trouble. They're only given one purpose which is entirely fine since it's going for more showing than actually telling. The only true negative to the characters is there is not much to analyze or sink into. All the characters are straightforward without ever diverting from their set path.

On the animation side J.C. Staff succeeds in creating a dreamlike feeling. Anathanpromorbic animals are given simple design that makes them look cute to greatly contrast against the cruel action. Humans are drawn like humans, though they don't appear much in the OVA and often use a blank expression. It has a muted color palette that seems off visually making it seem as if life has been taken out of it. Emphasizing the whole surreal nature of the world where all the oddities belong can belong together. By design, it at times looks hand drawn and at one point even begins to look like a kid's coloring book. Whatever J.C. Staff used to color their images in this OVA it looks as natural as coloring by hands instead of a computer.

There's virtually no voice acting in the OVA. When there is dialogue it's presented through a speech bubble that adds more to the dreamlike feeling than adding to the story. In the sound department stuff like footsteps, water flowing, ticking clocks, squeaky toys, and a dozen other effects make up the sound department. The music is split between sounding light hearted and welcoming which soon become interrupted by eerie static like noises. It fits the OVA perfectly giving an eerie, unsettling atmosphere in the darker scenes. It can also be sweet when in use during scenes where nothing out of the ordinary happens to simply show the cat siblings taking care of one another. The closing credits uses the most editing with a music box to close the OVA. Combining both childlike wonder and an eerie presence by looping the music box in at random moment.

On the DVD there's an audio commentary track that is not exactly helpful to say the least. Director Tatsuo Sato explains that many of the scenes do not have an underlying meaning or if there was one, he forgot what it was. Admitting he had no intention in mind when putting the film together. So pretty much you make of what you see.

It was an oddity about half an hour long so even if I did dislike it the short length would be a saving grace. I like seeing strange stuff no matter how weird it gets. I'm just in shocked J.C. Staff actually made something I would call smart. In general, J.C. Staff doesn't come across as a studio to take risks or stray off from their comfort zone with anime that are heavy on the slice of life elements or attempting to duplicate their previous success with a Shakugan no Shana clone. This short film doesn't change my views on the studio as anything other than being average, but it has earned them more of my respect by creating something out of their comfort zone.

Cat Soup/Nekojiru-sou is like a collection of episodic shorts splice together into a 32 minute OVA with any true meaning to it left with no answer from what the material provides. It's a short film with virtually non-existing dialogue that's reliant on visuals alone by combining cute, simple designed characters in bizarrely dark situations to tell its story. This OVA is very much a visual experience that's intriguing for the creativity it display in a short length. Watch it for the visuals and creativity, leave with your own meaning.

That concludes the review portion of this review. The remainder is simply a paragraph on my interpretation of the OVA. After that, it's five paragraphs of what I learned about Chiyomi Hashiguchi, the mangaka of Nekojiru-sou. MAL has their own biography on the mangaka, but it was rather short so I wrote what I gather. With that written, continue if you like.

Bonus Passage: My Interpretation on the film (SPOILERS, SPOILERS HERE)

Based on my opinion and what I gathered. Nyako is sister is dead. Living alone with his drunkard father and mother who did not care. Nyatta was the only one who he had and he chased a miracle to rescue her. Catching god of death himself, Nyako took half of her soul, returning it back. However, she was not whole. He tried to find the other part half, and there is where the deeper part starts. The main idea of this anime is nobody can decide the lives of the others which can be seen in every person they have met. Old hag who made people from spare parts, being patched up herself. Guy who killed others, getting his again. Merciless, selfish circus which destroyed the whole world in the end and in the end Nyako never saw that his desires were actually selfish and that he opposed the God, who showed him how easily he can manipulate time and that only something like God can bring life back. When Nyako in the end saved his sister, because he was mortal it brought a total disorder to the Universe, literally canceling everything, making it vanish. This anime also brings up a topics like natural order, and that we all are part of the circle which is life and death. And that it's nobody's fault, that's just how it is. In the end, God is just laid back dude who eats watermelons and sometimes turns back the time when he drops it down. Or in plain English, it's likely represent the mangaka husband trying everything he can to save his wife by projecting his feelings onto the characters he and his wife created.

Condense Information I gather about the mangaka:

Chiyomi Hashiguchi, or Nekojiru by her pseudonymous pen name, was the author of a manga called "Nekojiru Udon" published in Garo magazine. "Nekojiru Udon" were based around her own bizarre dream experiences. In Hashiguchi diary (going by reproduced scrawls) reveals a very a fascination with communication breakdown and bodily malfunction, objectively noting every unpleasantry from vomiting dogs to accident victims.

With only the book, "Jusatsu Sarecgatta Boku" (some direct passages from the book), by Yoshiaki Yoshinaga to go on for information my knowledge on Chiyomi Hashiguchi is dense. According to those who knew Chiyomi Hashiguchi personally found her to be somewhat plain and misunderstood, but also unpredictable, mysterious and seemingly fragile if not for shadowy side of her internal personality which she expressed so vividly in her manga. According to the book Chiyomi was diagnosed with manic depressions as well in several occasions being heard saying "I'm not afraid of death".

At the peak of her popularity in 1997-98, her once relaxed working atmosphere was no more as she had to produce large quantities of work which was out of character. Further reading reveals Chiyomi and her husband, Hajime Yamano (the artist of the manga) didn't turn down a single offer for work meeting deadline after deadline. At this point in the book, it says many of the scenes depicted in "Nekojiru" were a blend of Chiyomi dreams and what she saw in real life. It's rather unclear on the details of how to separate what were part of her dream and what she actually saw since she couldn't separate it herself.

Overworked, she began to drink heavily from being overworked. It stopped being fun for Chiyomi to do her work and now was only a matter of making the deadline. Eventually Chiyomi had run out of ideas, but she had deadlines to meet, and did the best she could manage. She had a strong sense of responsibility, and always found a way of come through in the end. More than once, she found herself cornered by several deadlines and had to push herself to the brink of collapse to finish everything. Having was trying to commit suicide in the past, Nekojiru had written wills on a number of occasions. Her last extant will dated from several years prior. She committed suicide on May 10, in 1998 with the cause of her suicide unknown. The accounts of how it affected her friends were also in the book.

After some research on Chiyomi Hashiguchi doing a simple review wasn't satisfactory for me. As depressing as it might have been reading the book knowing her tragic end I couldn't find bring it in me to leave out what I learned about her. The book goes into detail about how she was as a person from accounts from those who her whereas I simply condensed the information I read. In turn, after learning all of this it has made me look at the short OVA in a different way. It's depressing reading about Chiyomi Hashiguchi and what happened to her, but this OVA is proof she has not been forgotten which in a way makes me happy about its creation no matter what feeling the viewer will have after watching it.

Big Hero 6
Big Hero 6 (2014)
½

Disney....Marvel....okay how the heck am I meant to write an introduction when two of my least favorite examples on storytelling are involved. I might have my complaints with both, but when they make great movies, more likely with Marvel, I applaud them. Sure the methods are reused, but if anyone can create a winning formula, not change it for over seventy years, still get positive reviews for essentially making the same film, and get rewarded with large revenue it's Disney. Unlike "Frozen" where it had no idea what it wanted to be "Big Hero 6" suffers from the opposite problem of having no personality. There's nothing in "Big Hero 6" that attempts to differentiate itself from a typical Disney animated movie or Marvel movie. Like it's prominent hero Baymax, the original creation has heart and thought put into, but in the hands of another creator it's just something that can reproduce from an assembly line without the same care or thought put into it.

Big Hero 6 is about a bond that develops between plus-sized inflatable robot Baymax, and prodigy Hiro Hamada. Just like the heroes of the film, "Big Hero 6" is rather aimless. One of the casualties of this film being an animated film by Disney and based around a Marvel comic book combining cliches from both properties. The Disney protagonist parents are dead, the Disney villain is one dimensional with a Marvel revenge scheme that is weak due to poor characterization, Disney supporting cast are wacky given Marvel powers of plot armor, and a Disney ending that removes Marvel character progression. There's nothing here that has not been seen and is a tedious experience when it never does anything out of the box. For example, Hiro Hamada is proclaim by the other characters to be a genius. This is simply never made true as Hiro spends a majority of the film expanding on other's creations rather than making his own, and his genius is boggled down by summaries rather than actual scenes displaying how clever this character is meant to be. However, unlike Hiro expansion on other inventions, the script does not expand on the hero-origin story putting more emphasis on being a by the number product than it's own creation.

Pacing is non existent in the film. Being a showcase of several ideas and that's all. They're just ideas that never get time to developed into proper characteristics or working plot points. Within the first act the protagonist, Hiro, does a complete one eighty on his life with no effort to be convinced to change. This sudden change in Hiro is rushed and so is the catalyst that becomes his motivation. During this rush transformation it introduces the viewer to the rest of the cast. Supporting characters are given a single trait to differentiate from one another. They also have no personality. All the heroes are driven by the same singular goal with the same motivation. Resulting in a cast that have no personality when separated and when together becomes a boring team because the heroes all function the same. There's no team dynamic either despite only knowing Hiro for a couple of minutes they somehow manage to work together flawlessly. Immediately removing an obstacle to the road of recovery.

The villain of the film is very weak. Not only is his motivation all the amount of characterization he gets, but that gets undone by a twist in the climax. Also, it attempt to make the identity of the villain a mystery. It doesn't work when there's only two candidates. By doing so, the film incorporate a twist to throw viewers off, but even with that twist spotting the villain will take no less than the first act. As for the world there's no detail spend discussing how San Francisco and Tokyo merged into San Fransokyo. At least a single sentence would be fine, but if that's not important than having a good ending is, which probably got teleported to another dimension since that's gone as well. Simply put in no spoilers terms, the ending would rather keep a character position static over creating a dynamic character whose significant in the story goes far beyond the basic position from the start.

When it comes to animation Disney balances the mixture of both of Western and Japanese culture in San Fransokyo. Blending the architectural designs of Japan's Pagoda temples with the interior of a Western traditional home. Mixing up building designs with a combination of both or separately while maintaining a unified look. Streets at night are lit up by neon billboards and Japanese lanterns. Small details like the appearances of both Japanese and English writing down to the clothing make the world feel fully realize. It's all bright and colorful with great lighting. You'll get to see plenty of San Fransokyo with two chase sequences, and one flying sequence that'll display the world. These sequences are well animated, but they could have easily been taken out in favor of sequences that could have been beneficial to the story. One area where the animation fails are the action sequences. All the set pieces are a one sided affair resulting in a party unanimously coming out victoriously regardless what the film character will claim. They are simplistic and slow moving not fully utilizing the abilities of the characters until the climax, but even then it's for a brief period before the climactic set piece comes to an end.

Ryan Potter provides the voice of Hiro, the hero of the story. His work was fine, nothing noticeable to criticize since the poor script it at fault. With that said, Ryan Potter surprisingly makes every single one of his line delivery come across naturally. He's able to provide emotion in scenes where the material failed to do so. The stand out voice work goes to Scott Adsit and his portrayal of the robot Baymax. Even through an auto-tune-like filter, Adsit was able to give the character life. While Baymax comedic antics revolve on slapsticks and the rule of three (allot) Adist has good comedic timing. Delivery most of the laughs with what he says over what his character does. The best performance in the film belongs to Daniel Henney for his portrayal of Tadashi. Offering the most ranged in his performance and coming across as a likable individual with good intention.

The rest of cast roles require them to be one-note. Leaving little range for T.J. Miller, James Cromwell, Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans Jr., Genesis Rodriguez, Maya Rudolph, and Alan Tudyk. Their performances are underwhelming, though fitting for their characters. Whatever the character trait is, the voice cast conveys those characteristics strongly. Unfortunately as stated before the roles don't offer them much range. Minimalizing their time during the more dramatic segments of the film.

The soundtrack is something I honestly cannot judge fairly. It has a song called "Immortal" by "Fall Out Boy", a band I grew up with. Of course I'll be enthusiastic if I listen to "Fall Out Boy", even if it's a song from the "PAX AM Days" album (which I dislike). Unlike the film visuals, the soundtrack only contains two tracks that blends Western and Eastern musical influence together. The rest of soundtrack heavily feature technoesque sound that seems more in line for a film about a young-goofball hacker than a superhero film. There's several tracks in the film where it sounds like random computer noise were randomly inserted being out of place in a track. If it's a track emphasizing the more innocent or comedic side of the film it becomes noticeable working in the scene. However, none of the more bombastic sounding tracks manage to create a mood of excitement during the set-pieces. Having steady raising buildup, but downplaying the pay off with a whimper. Outside of the film, only Fall Out Boy "Immortal" comes closest to standing on its own without the company of the movie visuals. Aside from that one track it's instantly forgettable.

Big Hero 6 is the result of Disney handling a property without the effort. It takes the laziest aspects of both Marvel and Disney to create a story where personality and effort is non existent. The technical side of the film are generally above solid. Disney created a wonderful, visual mixture of two different culture that looks unified. While the soundtrack goes more for a Western feel and is instantly forgettable it works for the film. Unfortunately what Big Hero 6 ends up being is missed opportunity to provide a story worth investing in, engaging characters, and memorable world.

SPOILERS: Heartless Ending

The central conflict of the film is Hiro trying to move on from his brother death. How Hiro copes with his depression is his relationship with Baymax. While the other elements of the film were predictable this central conflict appeared to be going in the right direction when everything else was not. Unfortunately by the third act the whole dynamic of getting past death has been toss aside with a twist eliminating the antagonist motivation therefore removing what little character he had. The ending defeated the whole purpose of Baymax as emotional placement for Hiro Hamada too. A physical being that metaphorically represents the soul of Hiro's brother, at least that it seemed like the film was going for. If Baymax remained dead along with Hiro brother research data then the whole conflict would have had significant meaning. Hiro would have finally moved on from his brother death and therefore Baymax as a character has more to him than just being a fluffy comedic sidekick character oblivious how to properly act in the world. Unfortunately the film ends with Hiro rebuilding Baymax. Making Baymax into a mascot with no depth only meant to sell toy. So in the end, Hiro's brother death was unimportant to the story and Baymax was only created to sell toys.

Cool Dog
Cool Dog (2010)

"It's a kids film" is an easy way to avoid putting effort and criticism in films that are not intended for older audiences. Aside from being a poor excuse to not view a bad film it's incredibly insulting that there are some who demand very little effort be made for movies specifically targeted toward kids. The film in question today is "Cool Dog" directed by Danny Lerner. Now as a producer I've seen some of Lerner films like "The Legend of Hercules", "Ninja" (2009), "Today You Die" (2005), "Conan the Barbarian" (2011), "The Mechanic" (2011), "Olympus Has Fallen" (2013), and "The Expendables 2 & 3". His resume is filled with action movies, generally ones that action enthusiasts wouldn't call decent films even in their respective genre standards. However, he can receive praise for also producing "The Grey Zone" (2001), "Sunday" (1997), and "Edges of the Lord" (2001) which are his best produce films. Ironically, they are also his rare outings from action films. So is a man whose entire career is around producing films generally about a single man killing several others capable of directing a film directly targeted towards kids? Well the answer is clear when you saw the rating and no he can't.

Cool Dog is about a devoted German shepherd named Rainy attempting to follow his young master Jimmy across the country in New York City. The film begins in the small town of Eagle Rock, Louisiana where Rainy goes around his presumably daily routine of ringing the town bell, helping a cripple man cross the street, and waking up his owner in time to go to school. People in the street refer to this dog as "Cool Dog"! He's so cool in fact that everyone refers to Rainy as "Cool Dog", even if the person is meeting him for the first time. A film opening minutes shouldn't cast doubt on the audience about its quality which this film does. It introduces a scene where Jimmy and his dad visit their mother grave. It's pointless since Jimmy and his parents relationship is never a focus in the story of any sort. Before that scene though, Jimmy has to face the harsh reality and move to another State which occurs in the first fifteen minutes. In no way do the writers attempt to incorporate a scene showing an average day for Jimmy in the small town of Eagle Rock. Within those same fifteen minutes Rainy saves a little girl from falling from a train track that goes over a river and is given a parade. Not a whole lot must happen in that small town. That's saying something for a guy who lived in the uneventful small town of Pittsburg, Kansas for several years.

After the initial first fifteen minutes most of the film is just Rainy journey to find Jimmy in New York. All the direction Rainy needs to get to New York from Louisiana is a postcard. Before even reaching the end of the first act the film has already failed to provide character or conflict worth investing in. Throughout the film "Cool Dog" is able to perform incredible feats that that no ordinary dog can do in order to get to Jimmy. Rainy is able to play harmonica, banjo, checkers (and win), the piano, understand the English language, knows how to pay for food, has his own I-Pod that he knows how to use which contains the song "Cool Dog", can skateboard (off-screen), knows how to get to New York by only seeing a single post card, can chew a whole through a door, and is able to drive a boat. Whenever Rainy is involved logic does not apply for he is "Cool Dog".

There's a scene that involves Rainy committing grand theft auto, "Not Cool Dog". If this were a cartoon accepting Rainy can drive a car (along with other things) would be no issue, but in a live action movie where a little thing call reality that goes against cartoon like behavior. Not only that, but people on the street cheer on (Not) "Cool Dog" while he's driving a stolen car and somehow manages to do so while putting on sunglasses. This film expects you take the fact that a dog knows driving regulations, knows how to operate a car, knows his way around New York despite never being their, and the audience to be brain dead. Unless the film conveys to the audience in some form it's meant to be intentionally illogical it'll be taken as an insult to the audience intelligence.

By the end of the film Rainy gets a key to the city awarded to him by the mayor of New York who also makes Rainy a citizen of New York. The reason being he captures criminals, stops an illegal pet store, and is resurrected from the dead because there's nothing "Cool Dog" can't do. The human characters in the film lack development and aren't as interesting as Rainy. While the human characters never perform feats that requires suspension of disbelief nothing is ever tackle by them. Jimmy constantly complains about the no pet policy in his apartment leading to multiple conversations leading to Jimmy being scolded that it is against the rules. Again, a scene is dedicated to Jimmy going to his mother grave, but the film never bothers to tackle any related issues to it.

Then the landlords of the apartment lack subtlety making the reveal of them running an illegal underground pet store even more obvious. These landlord villains offer plenty of bad jokes, bad slapstick, and a pointless chase scene. Also, the landlords do attempt to sell Jimmy to an oversea buyer. Child trafficking, now there's some material that's comedy gold for a film aimed directly at kids. Like everything else involving humans it goes nowhere. Finally comes the token bullies of the film that pick on Jimmy. As oppose to treating Jimmy as a victim of bullying as a subplot it is instead just an annoyance. Even the police in this film are incompetent at their jobs bringing a kid while they chase down Jimmy kidnappers. If you think the police are bad for bringing a child during a car chase then Jimmy parents are far worse since they don't notice him missing until the end of the film.

Production values are low in this straight to DVD film. What little special effects there are involves cheap CGI effects and practical dog paw effects whenever the German Shepherd is driving, playing the piano, or performing any illogical feat. The editing of the film is unnoticeable with a couple exception where it needlessly incorporate slow motion. There is also usage of some cartoonish sound effects that come across as juvenile, though aren't used frequently for comedic purposes either. Supporting actors are given little to do performing three actions; performing slapstick, spouting exposition, or telling bad jokes. That's about it for the supporting cast.

Now since the German Shepherd was trained to perform specific actions it did its job adequately. Jackson Pace delivers his dialogue by whining and spends most of the film being depressed about missing his dog. Restricting Pace ability to display many form of emotions. Michael Pare who plays Kimmy father comes across as stiff and unenthusiastic. One scene that should require Pare to come across sincere when breaking the news to Pace they are moving he shows no emotion. Christa Campbell receives less screen time than Pare and her acting is stiff as well. Rarely being able to deliver certain lines of disdain towards something convincingly. David Jensen sounds like he has a bad case of nasal allergy always sounding like he's about to sneeze. Finally all Jen Kober is allowed to do is look cranky speaking at times with a high pitch voice. Unfortunately Kober and Jensen are also comedic reliefs hurt by their bad performances. To recap, the German Shepherd is best the actor in this movie.

"Cool Dog" is a terrible movie especially for kids. It doesn't feature any sort of vile content, but insulting their intelligence is just as harmful. For instance, it refuses to incorporate the death of a parent into the plot in any form despite being one of the first scenes in the movie. Instead of dealing with the issues of death "Cool Dog" believes it's much better to show a dog performing over the top feats no ordinary dog can accomplish. Nothing it tries to do is fully committed leaving an empty feeling for the viewers once it's over. That's not including the one dimensional characters, plot points that go nowhere, and bad production values that have little thought put into them. "Cool Dog" is nothing more than bad example of how to make a terrible film specifically aimed at kids which is not cool.

Newsies
Newsies (1992)
½

On the surface "Newsies" has my attention being based around true events that are usually ignored and starring a young Christian Bale. While the material doesn't sound riveting Bale is more than capable in providing a compelling performance to carry the film. However, upon discovery it was a Disney live action musical it turned into a worst case scenario that instead of subverting expectation it plays into them. Creating one noisy mess of a film that could have worked for both it actors and the story if it knew to be a drama or musical instead of sloppily meshing the two together.

Newsies is a musical based a true story about the New York City newsboy strike of 1899. Immediately the film begins to crack opening with a poorly written and constructed song about working (oh come on, that lazy Disney formula). Now I'll accept back in 1899 New York City "Newsies" sang on a daily basis on just about anything, ten years old were allowed to hang out in pubs and drink the night away, and I'll even buy Joseph Pulitzer plan to make more money will obviously not work if it all leads to something compelling. It never amounts to much because of the Disneyfication of a film that clearly was meant to be a drama is tailored into an indispensable, uninspired mess. Missing is coherency in its narrative structure to support dialogue dramatics and the musical numbers. Pacing is erratic sometime going for long stretches without a musical number to having too many songs pile up on each other. The quiet moments of the film are filled with indispensable cliches. From the cast of heroes there's a newsboy on crutches, the little kid, the rebellious hero going against the establishment, and of course the hero's best pal that warms up to him, who has a pretty sister. Not to forget the one dimensional villains whose only defining traits are to make money or pick on children. There's nothing wrong with simple morality, but when the characters themselves acknowledge how stupid they act it begs to question what is actually consider morally good by this film standard. Our protagonist, Jack Kelly, lies for a living to make money to not starve to death. A trait that is meant to earn the audience sympathy, but Joseph Pulitzer who makes a honest living selling newspaper and gave kids jobs barely scraping by with their wages in the first place is perceived to be bad. Since Pulitzer is the standard villain who hates people and motivated by money his action have a predictable outcome to the conflict. On both sides you have characters whose action are supported with a weak body of characterization to take them seriously.

In middle of the erratic pacing and cliches it calls characters are the plotlines simultaneously having too much with little breathing room and stretched out beyond repair. Token supporting characters drop in and out at a moment notice. For example, Jack Kelly visit his best sister house falling in love with his best pal sister. All that was needed for Jack Kelly heart to be taken away with his significant other wasn't the growth of their relationship, learning about each other, but occasionally gazing at each other in one scene and they know it's meant to be. It doesn't matter that Jack Kelly shares more scenes with a older man another supporting character than he does with his own love interest. Jack Kelly also has his own arc to overcome which is too kinda organize the Newsies to strike. A job later handle to another character temporarily which goes to display the lack of importance of their position. None of the characters feel important to in fighting for their cause. Every one of them feels disposable and interchangeable with one another. Weak characters, scatter plot lines, erratic, and some badly written musical numbers can create a noisy snooze fest of a film. Top it all off, the motivation to start the strike is thrown away at the climax as if to say I give up.

If judged as a Disney musical it's PREDICTABLE! Anyone not familiar with the "Disney" formula here's how Disney lazy efforts usually play out; It opens with a choral arrangement preferably a work song (Carrying the Banner), characters grow up in a montage over the span of a single song, dead or absent parents that occurs quickly or off screen and probably in a montage with no dialogue or brief mention, a "I want" song sung by the protagonist (Santa Fe), and the gilded cage: you're trapped in this place, probably for your own safety. For me the film did no favor playing it safe by the book. Not one element or plot device used made a difference in how it all played out. In particular the dragged out ending which is similar to "We Are the Champions" by Queens if it only bragged for seven minutes repeating "No times for loser cause we are the champions". The ending is similar to that minus the musical talents of Queens being replaced by off key singers by non professional young stars and poor musical composition, and sound arrangement from the adults putting it together. It should be noted that once a musical number ends the character act back to normal like nothing happened every time making even less sense when seeing our protagonist dance in the middle of the street despite wholeheartedly singing about his past struggles to reach his dream. Like the characters, it best to pretend choreographed musical numbers and songs never happened.

Christian Bale delivers a good performance. When not requiring to sing Bale brings some likability to Jack Kelly. Charming one moment and alienating the next swiftly conveying his character personal turmoil. He's the only actor who manages to overcome the annoying New York accent making it a part of his character unlike the rest of the young cast where it's a nuisance to listen too. Singing on the other hand Bale voice cracks going for the high notes. However, his crack voice works for his solo number "Santa Fe" showing off some good dancing skills. Bill Pullman is meh in his role, though among the most tolerable not having that New York accent to handicap him. Robert Duvall plays Joseph Pulitzer not making much of an impression. Duvall has little screen time and even less of a personality given the character he has to portray. At best Duvall is one note, though given how standard the role is written in this film there's no way he would have pulled off anything interesting unless it was meant to be intentionally cheesy. The supporting cast has some interesting names from David Moscow, Luke Edwards, Trey Parker, Josh Keaton, and number of others that get tossed to the sideline. Their performances are average unable to deliver the more heavy side of the material with any emotion. Some of them are better singers than Christian Bale, but unlike Bale,when the supporting cast speak in their New York accent it can get annoying. Despite a good performance by Christian Bale the film is miscast. The characters we follow are meant to be children, but all have the appearances of teenagers going against the concept. As for the music it ranges from where the mute button like "Carrying the Banner", to well that just happen song like "King of New York", and finally to that was surprisingly good like "The World Will Know". Hopefully among the few songs made for the film you'll find one you'll like because it'll reuses some of them twice and about five of those musical numbers are performed on the same set despite having of a number of sets that perfectly captures its era. Dancing choreography while well performed, much in vein of the story is uninspired.

Newsies on the surface for me had the ingredients to hold my interest, but once Disney got involved attempting to mesh drama and musical together poorly it became tedious. Anyone who knows the Disney musical formula will find no surprises in this repetitive film that takes no risk nor executed in the manner to make it enjoyable. Even if the plot does interest you the characters are one dimensional cliche and so are the standard villains. Plotlines aren't developed to support itself without a musical number to liven things up. The music is limited and generally badly sung while the drama side of the story tread familiar waters like it a commitment to the end. All in all, Disney tried something different, but at the same time it was afraid to do anything different ending up with a film with the worst qualities of the studio present for two noisy hours of boredom.

Elysium
Elysium (2013)

Elysium, set in the year 2154, follows Max who agrees to take on daunting mission that if successful can save his life. If you've seen "District 9" you also have seen "Elysium". It's about the gap between the haves and the have-nots. The protagonist nominally works for the overlords, but is discarded when an accident gives him a deadline on his life, and nothing left to lose. He is selfish until a child in a situation gets him thinking about others as well as himself. Taken in by hated second-class citizens, and offered a dangerous, messy form of possible salvation that involves leaving Earth and flying somewhere forbidden. Anyone who's seen "District 9" you sadly seen how "Elysium" plays out even if the order of events are changed. That there alone is the biggest obstacle it never conquers. By copying the framework of another film both by the same director/writer creates a disconnect for the audience when that same framework is dumbed down. It's one thing if another copy a similar framework since it's a different interpretation, but by the same filmmaker it comes of as a more expensive remake that retread discussed themes that was better explored in his previous film. However, the biggest nail in the film coffin is it inability to stand on its own.

Filled with good ideas and a simple to understand metaphor what would have helped it imaginative world become meaningful is if any of it made sense or got developed. The world features a host of neat gadgets like explosive heating seeking discs, rocket launchers that can travel through the Earth atmosphere, organic brain data that can store data, and a medical pods that can heal any sort of disease. These are a couple of the neat gadgets created in this dystopia, but how they are incorporated into the film makes no sense. Those heat seeking explosive disks are only used once in the film despite it being made very clear how useful it is. While it's not a plot hole it does present the world as if high class citizens were all idiots. Also, that rocket launcher that can travel through the Earth atmosphere and into space is "Elysium" defense system. Forget the idea that citizens in the slum can built ships that can travel to space. The real question is this space station for the rich can afford medical pods that heal any disease, but the most their money can buy is a guy on Earth shooting rockets into space. Clearly some corners were cut as despite in one scene four rockets being fired only three are ever shown. Elysium should really get smarter people, a defense system that best fits their needs, better equipment for its officers, and a better citizen identification system. Another neat idea that is superfluous in existence is how an organic brain can carry data similar to a computer. This brain concept is made pointless in the film as it usage of a questionable plot device makes it first action sequence pointless. If extracting data is easy as getting a wifi connection from one's laptop it defeats the purpose for our heroes extracting that same data physically. At least these concepts while nonsensical are nowhere near as bad as some of the other plot points (Max's radiation effect) that get dropped inexplicably.

As a storyteller there are certain and specific techniques that are used to make your audience cheer for the hero. One of the most common and abused to death in this film is giving heroes inferior technology. This is nicknamed the "Underdog Effect" as physiologically superiority can easily be tricked to be associated with pure evil. This film to no extent ever restraints itself in abusing this particular plot device since it's much easier and quicker to make sure your heroes likable if you give them a handicap. It's a useful device if you want to explore complicated themes and expand on your concepts, but seeing how this dystopia came to be, why still Elysium uses an id citizen system that Earth citizen have copied successfully, why those living in the slums don't attempt to steal medical pods, what drove these people to take such drastic measure for class separation, and when did the logic die on Earth all go unanswered. However, there is a counter effect to the "Underdog Effect" if that same character is too incompetent in overcoming his ordeals. Max has a criminal background and at one point referred to as legend in the area he lives in. His skills which other characters brag about are never applied to Max. As a protagonist he's too clumsy in his journey to be get behind surviving numerous possible deaths scenario through sheer luck, plot convenience, and one blatant deus ex machina usage when Max is on the run. When you have a character that can't survive on his own instincts he stops being relatable and becomes a tool when his failure is used to advance the plot. By relying heavily on good luck for survivor Max is never an engaging protagonist which is bad when all of your other characters are one dimensional.

Matt Damon is mixed in the leading role. He's never engaging because his line reading varied in scenes where it matter most. At one point Damon is serious when he wants to save a childhood friend, but completely monotone when telling a little girl to stop telling him a story. It's a role that handicapped him severely as his facial expressions never seems to change no matter the scene. On paper it would be easy to blame the xosuit that Damon character has to wear for giving him limitation physically (especially in his movement), but disregards obtained injuries before wearing his exosuit for the film. Jodie Foster is odd in the role. Her accent is inconsistent with recorded dialogue being dubbed noticeably. She's always emotionless which to a degree serves it purpose to hate her more, but without background neither Foster nor the audience knows who she truly is. Her role is just being someone hate is almost like if her portion of the script only had a drawing of a angry face. William Fletcher in his short screen time suffers from the issue as Jodie Foster. Fletcher is told to be display as little human emotion as possible to be hated. Sharlto Copley is energetic portraying a sociopath. His physical appearance alone tells you how much of a lunatic he is, but it is his commanding acting and wrathful voice that makes him a memorable threat. Copley is the most notable actor that overcomes weak writing. Wagner Moura shows some difficulty in saying his English lines, but is one of the few supporting actors whose efforts overcomes weak material. The few action sequences had special effect that were solid. With varied weaponry how an opponent gets taken out were all unique. However, the editing and cinematography of those action scenes are all over the place. In particular there's a fight in the climax that has the middle of it fight cut every three second. Choreography in the fight itself is basic villain is over power, but hero overcome eventually through will power was hard to enjoy with scattershot editing. None of the set pieces flowed smoothly because of quick cut editing that made it a chore to look at and close ups that clouded what was being shown. There were several occasion where you want the camera to pull back, but generally remains to close. Neil Blomkamp vision of the future looks realistic while it characters aren't. His world feels real and distinct when in the dirty slums on Earth to the clean and glossy looking Elysium.

Elysium has good ideas none of which are ever developed to make it message have substance. It feels more like a superficial product of dumb entertainment rather than an intellectual blockbuster it wanted to be. The plot makes no sense and with no developed characters to gravitate towards its message never gets taken to the heart. Visually Blomkamp created a visually realistic future at the cost of any logic behind it. For anyone who seen "District 9" it'll come off as a sloppy remake and anyone who never seen "District 9" will find it ideas intriguing, but without much substance behind them there's hardly a reason to become engaged in what emotions and thoughts it's trying to get across.

Gayniggers from Outer Space

Gayniggers From Outer Space is about extraterrestrial beings that travel the galaxy to free men "oppressed" by females to make way for an entirely-homosexual society. That's pretty much sums up the whole movie. I kid you not that synopsis leaves no stone unturned. The only thing left to talk about is the humor. Now the humor wears very thin in the first four minutes which are all about dicks jokes. We are introduced to the crew whose names go as follow; ArminAss, Captain B. Dick, D. Illdo, Sgt. Shaved Balls., and Mr. Schwul are all from the planet Anus. I would make a joke about how the crew names are basically different variations on testicles, but I can't come with up any. Literally coming up with a creative dick joke is hard. My mind is coming up dry. Oh well. It's okay since the film is just that. Rinse and repeat the same dick jokes. There is some political incorrectness like a computer database believing Asian people are yellow. Despite the movie title it's actually not racist. It's humanitarian wanting gay to be accepted, unless if you're a woman. Sexist it could be called since the whole point of the...avoid typing to avoid potential offense is to eliminate women to create a Gay universe. There's something about Lord of the Brown rings and the Holy A*****le, but their potential comedic value gets diminished once expose to the same jokes repeatedly.

On the technical sides it is intentionally design to look like a B-movie. You have cheesy dubbing that's off sync, production design that is absolutely cheap with most of the mini-budget spent on lots of rolls of aluminium foil and cardboard, costumes looking like eighties disco outfits, and shot in grainy black and white that makes it look older than it actually is. Any actor who doesn't play an alien will generally say gibberish in other languages. So in that respect it does something right with b movie production values believe it or not. It even pokes fun of the sepia tone transition to color by the end of the film made famous by "The Wizard of Oz". Other than that the music use is actually good from Jazz to classy music like Richard Clayderman soft piano ballad "Ballade Pour Adeline". Kudos for the film for having such an unexpected high classy track in spite of what the goofy short film actually is.

Gayniggers From Outer Space is neither offensive nor an entirely painful thirty minutes. The humor revolve around a specific body part which gets repetitive when relying on those same jokes for thirty minutes. It's intentionally poorly made to parody common logic. For that reason you intentionally don't have to bat an eye at it. Of course I won't say to stay away from the film since it's thirty minutes, not much harm will be done. One last thing I might have to address for some that might have the wrong notions. Anyone thinking I'm being harsh on this film, you should know I'm the same person who a gave positive review to a film about killer condoms.

Sharknado 2: The Second One
½

The first Sharknado was a welcome surprise from The Asylum thanks to it understanding of B-movies turned out to be stupid, and fun entertainment. It knew it was stupid, but took itself seriously in its treatment that if done with meta humor wouldn't have taken off the same way it did. With the sequel it follows tradition of going bigger where the main issue arises from. By going bigger the action is no longer focused and supplied in smaller doses unable to top its own opening sequence or its predecessor as desperately as it tries too.

Sharknado 2: The Second One follows Fin and company attempting to save New York from multiple deadly Sharknados. The opening sequence sets the bar high paying homage to the classic "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" episode of "The Twilight Zone". This time with sharknado colliding with airplane. It's a stellar opening sequence quickly providing a dose of the implausible action to come making good use of the setting. I dare say the opening sequence is a work of genius. However, past that opening sequence the remainder of the film is unable to top it until it reaches the climax. This time instead following a single group allowing the shark action to be focused and supplied at a steady stream. We follow three groups in the sequel often cutting back to them over time which also means shorter screen time for B-movie badass Fin Shepard (who gives Martin Brody a run for his money in shark slaying). The action is more scattered and smaller in scale unable to top the opening sequence in its scope until it final stretches. Despite how goofy the series is and will become the writers know what they're doing. Like the previous film, it's self-aware of how silly the idea is, but the treatment for it is taken seriously adding to the humor. Though this treatment does go overboard with all the needless news broadcast thrown at the viewer face. These news broadcast are silly at first and flesh out a bit of the fictional world, but the seventh time logic is attempted to be apply to the disaster known as Sharknado it's worse than beating a dead horse. World building has some success fleshing out the characters. It's nice knowing that once a movie ends the character lives are still worthwhile beyond the closing credits. One of the characters, April Wexler, wrote a bestselling book called "How To Survive Sharknado" off screen. Surprisingly you don't need to be drunk to get through it. Characters are given some sort of development and conflict, but is too thin to carry the film from beginning to end. Because of thin conflict and characterization it's unable to maintain the same level interest as when sharks (plus one sewer gator, don't question the logic it's Sharknado) on screen which time is less.

Ian Ziering returns to play Fin Shepard and does another decent job in the starring role. He's into his character giving a serious performance in the not so serious scenarios. Never once does he ever indicate he's in on the joke keeping in root with the character experiencing it making him the best actor in the cast. Tara Reid performance in the opening sequence is pretty bad especially in a segment that requires her to scream which gets grating. Thankfully pass that opening sequence she does okay. Vivica A. Fox receives plenty of screen time and her performance is also okay. Any actor who plays a large part are okay which involves them running around allot. Compared to Ian Ziering the supporting cast aren't allow to jump the shark as much. There's more attention put into casting unlikely stars in cameos. From the likes of Billy Ray Cyrus, Will Wheaton, Kurt Angle, Kelly Osborne, Andy Dick, D.C. Douglas, Perez Hilton, Al Roker, Jared Fogle (yes, the Subway guy), Judd Hirsch, and so many more get more attention given to them than the actual sharks. The CG is acceptable, though creatively there isn't as many many moments that make full use of the concept. With the opening sequence and climax providing the only highlights there's everything else in between that is not able to live up to its goofy promise. These sharks favorite method of attack is going for the head. How the sharks are used doesn't take full advantage of the possibilities for a majority of its run time. Not even the sight of a flaming shark is enough to forgive the lack of creativity. Though the soundtrack is surprisingly strong getting across that epic feel. Ironic that the music is used for this film given it's better than the film actually needs, but further add positives to its production values.

Sharknado 2: The Second One understands its audience and gives its concept the proper treatment to be entertaining, but provides less sharks in less creative usage focusing more on cameos and is unable to maintain interest due it jumping between three groups of weak characters. While the opening sequence itself is a classic B-movie scene and homage it's also sadly where it peaks declining afterward. And the saddest truth to this sequel is the filmmakers are in on the joke. They just don't know how to keep it afloat in an ironic good way as the first time they told it.

Mr. Peabody & Sherman

When studying writing one aspect that varies upon discovery is the usage of formulas and learning how different plot devices work in conjunction to each other. One area where the discovery of formulas is the most deadliest and most uncertain is comedy. If the punchline to a joke is foreseen before it delivery in the way expected than the joke fails. However, comedy is a tricky area to fully understand for a non comedian as even the most tire jokes can be made funny again if done right. In the case of the Mr. Peabody & Sherman it's a well made film weighed down heavily by subpar writing.

Mr. Peabody & Sherman is about an advanced canine and his adopted son attempting to fix a time rift they created. One immediate thing is made clear early on is the lack of sufficient material to sustain a ninety minute runtime. Everything in the film from characters, humor, and conflict are rushed. So insecure about its own material that if it were to take a breather it would lose the audience. The main duo of intellectual dog Mr. Peabody and his dumb son Sherman aimed to present a meaningful relationship despite the odd setup. It's intention are well meant, but as the characters stated themselves it's just presented as child causes overblown issue and parent has to fix it. It's not a father son relationship where the conflict actually helps strengthen the relationship or aptly show how this duo interact with each other outside of conflict. Rather it serves to highlight one's very useless and the other is god like. There's no dilemma ever arising in this relationship because Mr. Peabody written to be a perfect character. Instead of putting effort to make Peabody near perfection in everything he does be part of the conflict it becomes a tool for an easy fix. Leading to convoluted filled acts. Without good characterization in general filling up supporting characters with specifics humor functions what it main characters feel never become organic. This same issue pops up when we're being told how much Mr. Peabody and Sherman care for each other when a good scene itself can get that across much better. While the idea behind Mr. Peabody as a parent is worth exploring the execution of it undermines the value of parenthood.

The biggest disappointment with this film is its uninspired take on a good premise. When you have time travel and characters who are interested in history the possibilities should be endless instead of recycled. Filled with humor revolving around the rule of three (writing principle that suggests that things that come in threes are inherently funnier) invents a formulaic immunity through it course. Usage of the rule of three come around frequently enough that jokes revolving around the rule become tiring. Once you get used to the formula it stops being funny. Another area it builds its humor around are puns. These puns are very lazy and not given much thought which goes against the characters the film consider to be smart. It's a lot dumber than it admirably wants to ignore. Historical figure were welcomed in the film, but the setup and delivery of them not as much. When Sherman gives a speech about second chances Bill Clinton appears in the background saying "I've done worse". Out of all the possible jokes it chose to make a safe one. Which best describe the humor in a nutshell. Jokes are predictable, safe, reused periodically, and foreseen making their delivery fall flat. Though the biggest nitpick for me stems from the fact there's not a single female character that's well written. Penny Peterson has the biggest role out of any female character and she's a tool to set the chain of events going. She changes quickly at the whim of the story demand, never redeem despite what she does early on in the film, and her only contribution in the story is negative.

Ty Burrell voices Mr. Peabody and his performance is excellent. Everything about he exquisitely voices judgement, from the way he sprints through Peabody's scientific exposition, but never so quickly that he confuses the viewer, to the way he unveils the dog's wretched puns is spot on. Max Charles who plays Sherm is also good in the role. His performance is filled with energy and sincerity. Ariel Winter voices Penny Peterson who despite being given a poorly written character her performance is one key. She's bratting when the script demands it and caring when the scene demands it. Winter portrayal is more dynamic and much better than the material provided for her. Supporting cast are fine having the kind of voice actors ranging from the loud beefy character, the snooty evil character, the hyperactive inventor, and so forth. Animation is a bright spot even if the style isn't impressive. Characters are allowed to be expressive and movement is smooth especially in the film chase like sequences. It's colorful that's easy on the eye. Another great spot on the animation department are the vastly time era that are provided different looks. The score won't register much, but it is diverse in the sort of music provided depending on the era the film is currently in.

Mr. Peabody & Sherman themes and humor are undone by its predictable formula and lack of working characterization. The cast of the film elevate the material with their performances delivery some good dramatic scenes and laughs even if the material doesn't accomplish that task to the same extent. It's a well made film, but one that's really needed more thought put into it that would match its characters intellect and make good use of its premise.

Naruto movie 3: Gekijyouban Naruto daikoufun! Mikazuki shima no animal panic dattebayo!

When in doubt in what to see I go back to a series I have yet to complete. Naruto is a different case since the film adaptations tend to leave out vital information about the world, the characters, and how it function translating poorly for newcomers. So what's better way to familiarize myself with the series than playing videos-games based around the series which helped me understand the world of Naruto allot more than I originally did. However, even after doing some homework on the series it didn't help that this film is inaccessible for the uninitiated, receives another downgrade in production values, and its story will leave you stupor by the end of the whole ordeal.

Naruto Movie 3: Guardians of the Crescent Moon Kingdom follows Naruto Uzumaki, Kakashi Hatake, Sakura Haruno, and Rock Lee mission to escort the prince of the Land of the Moon, Michiru, during his trip back home. Like the previous film, unless you're familiar with the material the film will make no effort in providing even the basics. The opening of the movie tells the audience who assigned the heroes their mission and its importance through narration that gets dropped early on, but that's where all the explanations end. How our heroes abilities work and the extent of those abilities aren't discuss. In context of the anime series and manga it eventually explains these things, except in this film any new superpower ability shown is a plot convenience. Taking away any possible enjoyment from any fight scenes since it comes across the writers are just making things up as they go along. Past the film opening you're left with a story with no substance. Suffering from having too many underdeveloped characters and one dimensional villains that get sideline. Once again, in the form a film Naruto and his group aren't engaging characters. Naruto is given the center of attention from the entire team and what screen time Naruto does have paints him negatively. He's not the likable goofball, but an annoying weakling. In this film Naruto picks on a little kid making him look bad. He has the abilities to turn his shadow into clones, but the little spoiled kid he picks on can't even fight. Yeah, that's the sort of hero I want to get behind. Sadly his character doesn't improve falling victim to receiving a beating in nearly every fight he's in. It's hard to overlook how amateur Naruto ability are when the opening of the film said these ninja from a specific clan trained for years.

Among this mess of a story that can't mesh family drama, growing up, ninja, possible war torn country, and marriage there's an idea for an engaging story. The characters that receive the most development are Michiru and his son Hikaru who are of rich royal blood. Both of these character arcs play like a coming of age story growing up from their previous ways into maturity. If one were to remove anything ninja related than there's enough ideas to make at least a decent story. As is the case it's not close to average. One plot element that gets toss aside is the trouble marriage that Michiru is facing with his wife leaving. Aside from when it's introduced never again is it brought back. Around the thirty minute mark it felt as if the film would have better fitted being an episode of it rush pacing. Another plot element that is dropped is the whole group dynamic of the team. When it does feature the team dynamic it's the equivalent of sentimentality saying friendship is magic. The character Rock Lee is only in the film for comic relief which is allot more than I could say for the like of Sakura Haruno who once again gets the short end of the stick. Although, it's a slight improvement over the previous film actually beating up a villain henchman with her abilities. These two characters don't have much to do and the team interactions is sparsely spread across. Than the climax overstays its welcome highlighting just how cardboard the characters are and how weak and stupid the villains are. I mean seriously, the villain whole desire is to simply kill a specific person, but simply delays it even receiving that specific person at day time. After a couple of scenes it's night time and cuts back to the villain and he still hasn't killed the one person he wanted to kill the entire time. So mixing incompetent heroes facing against even more incompetent villains.

So far the Naruto films have been consistent in downgrading their production values with every preceding film entry, especially the animation department. Once you get past the first three minutes you finally glance at it undetailed art style. There's no depth of perspective making everything look flat. Backgrounds are blurred to cover up dead space and characters designed are more simplified giving them less expressions. Movements are stiff and whenever there's a fight a scene the action moves slowly. It's movement is so bad the film story makes up an excuse for why in a particular scene since it's worse than usual. Action scenes are a huge disappointment with very little usage of jutsu/superpower abilities in fights. Every one of them is rushed, poorly choreographed, and usually only has one person moving while the defender is static until it's their turn to attack. None is more harmful than the climax in which it cuts between three fight scenes and they all play out the same. That's just lazy on the animators part. The only aspect that can't entirely panned is the voice acting. Both the Japanese and English deliver some good performances from the cast. None of them outstanding due to the poor material, but effort is definitely evident by the cast. A technical area that won't register is the music. There's not a single track that will stick with you, but are all place in the appropriate scene.

Naruto Movie 3: Guardians of the Crescent Moon Kingdom regardless on your exposure to the series will make you see the closing credits knowing its over. Characters are cardboard, the story is unengaging dropping plot points or leaving them underdeveloped, and the animation is very poor. Not even the action scenes make the endeavor worth sitting through having received a serious downgrade in its visuals and delay movements regardless of what occuring on screen. While fans of the series might be more forgivable to it lack of development in certain area it's story and action is the one area where it completely fails to deliver for any sort of viewers.

Ninja Apocalypse

In every rare viewing of a bad film there are things you never expected to see and ponder thoughts you never believe would come to mind. For me it's perhaps the first time I actually wished a film would fully commit to ripping off another film because of how unsalvageable the original material was. "Ninja Apocalypse" takes ninja with superpowers, an apocalypse setting, an underground military bunker, and zombies committing the unimaginable sin combining all of those elements into a boring film.

Ninja Apocalypse follows The Lost Clan gang from...it's never clarified where the movie takes place so lets us pretend New York. So a charismatic leader summons several gangs in a post apocalyptic world in a bid to overtake their rivals. When he is killed, The Warriors are falsely blamed and now must fight their way home while every other gang is hunting them down to kill them. My mistake I meant The Lost Clan not The Warriors. It's hard to believe even though it rips off the basic premise it manages to make whatever material it steals from "The Warriors" come across as the most competent components in its script. Except this time the context and the setting are extremely nonsensical. Then again should one really judge the logic of "Ninja Apocalypse". Yes it should be judged because if there's one thing it lacks is a working brain cell. Now aside from the basic premise and three plot devices (the sacrifice, seduced by women wanting to kill males characters, the ending) calling it a ripoff of "The Warriors" would be praising it instead of criticizing it. Yes, the fact it didn't ripoff "The Warriors" successfully is a negative. Especially in regards when it comes to the film "plot twist" in the end finally revealing who shot Cyrus, I mean Fumitaka. It's a failure of twist because the character doesn't appear for a majority of the film and whatever recurring characters do reappear in the film don't get enough characterization to make audience guess who the culprit is. Part of the fun of a "who done it" is guessing who actually committed the crime which you can't do if you aren't provided anything that'll allow that.

I'll buy the utter nonsense premise like anyone who likes seeing B-movies, but stocked characters, plot exposition upon plot exposition filled dialogue, attempts to add humor only to discard it within ten minutes, and bereft of a story can't be overlooked. Our cast of heroes consist of two brothers, a woman, a deaf mute blackman, and a ninja with questionable loyalty. From that selection of characters their background are simply mentioned. It never elaborates on Cage having a family or ever goes into detail in how he became the leader of "The Lost Clan". The same applies to all of its characters where it simply mentions moments or characteristic than moving on without elaboration. Another area it lacking is logic. Now with a title like "Ninja Apocalypse" of course it shouldn't be taken seriously, but radiation doesn't work the way this film believes it does. In this film ninja have powers so it would safe to assume it's a result of radiation. Except later on in the film it is said by our heroes that radiation basically turned people into zombies. Not just any zombies, the kind that if cut in half can duplicate. So if the radiation turns people hundred of feet in an underground facility into zombies how in the world are people not below the earth not zombies! Radiation does not work like that! If it was just this oversight I would have not given it another thought. Than it claims the lowest level of the underground facility contains radiation. Hmm....so the inside of an underground facility consisting of hundreds of level below the surface of earth contains radiation yet the surface doesn't. These writers can't seriously be this stupid...oh yeah they probably are given they were to lazy to fully commit to ripping off "The Warriors".

On a technical level everything about it will come across as low budget not for the reasons you expect. Yes everything looks cheap from the convenient store bought costumes, the fake weapon props, and the very shoddy CGI effects. It's the tinier details that also display the lack of funds that even with it budget wasn't enough to make such a simple movie. For instance there's a fight scene consisting of several gangs against "The Lost Clan" and in the background it's visible the performers are standing still. Only to be moving when they see some sort of signal off screen. Issues like these are always present in the action scenes despite taking place in the same location bodies will sometime disappear in a cut. Details like blood spatter on a wall will disappear immediately in the next cut in the same fight scenes. Adding to the problem are the slow performance of the action scenes that make these issues noticeable. Fight choreography is below average and these fight scenes instead of diverting your attention from the inconsistencies is build around that to reuse as much as resources as possible. In context the characters power aren't used to diverse the kind of fight scenes you see all usually resulting in a fist fight or sword fight. The most visually annoying about how it shot are the dozen of lens flares and few instances of white flash effects. If the story or acting was any good the lens flares wouldn't have been much of an issue since there's something to divert from that issue. However, like everything else the lens flares are a results of visible light posts in every scene. Intentional or not they get distracting.

Late in the film there's a scene that can causes seizure if seen in the dark because of how much white flash effect are onscreen in less than ten seconds. Set design, much like the performers in costumes, reused the same textures, material, and structures. Actors have to go around in circles to give off the illusion the set is actually a lot bigger than it actually is. The acting is no better. All of the performances are stiffed and wooden. Christian Oliver is incapable of selling himself as the film heroes. Even when he's angry there's no ferocity in his delivery. If anything Isaac C. Singleton Jr. does the best among the hero cast given he can't speak or listen to sound. Not to forget Ernie Reyes Jr. who plays the villain is weak. If "The Rundown" could make Ernie Reyes Jr. beating up Dwayne Johnson look convincing with less screen time what's this film excuse. Even Reyes Jr. fights against Christian Oliver whose physically same size as him never comes across as a threat. Just everything in this film is poorly assemble together.

Ninja Apocalypse fails as a ripoffs not coming close to duplicating anything with success from the source its copying from and fails as a b-movie due to it's failing in every area without entertainment to be found. It could have been a ripoff, it could have been a entertaining b-movie, but in the end is devoid of anything positive from a filmmaking and entertaining perspective.

Santa Sangre
Santa Sangre (1990)

Santa Sangre follows a young man named Fenix from his traumatizing childhood through the present attempting to live a normal life. The film narrative is straightforward while the way it tells it story is surreal. Right from the introduction of Fenix we understand this young man is not well. Once the flashback begins you receive the foundation that structures religion, sexuality, obsession, and identity into it central themes. Each introduce in odd context that triggers an array of emotions. One scene in particular that stood out occurred after the funeral of a circus Elephant. A huge coffin carrying the corpse is hauled by a truck to a ravine and tipped over the edge to get eaten by the locals in a shanty town. Not only does this easily telegraphed how distraught a young Fenix must be feeling, but also illustrate the contrast between the joyous surreal circus life and the cruel reality when it comes into the picture when Fenix is a full grown adult. It's a scene that imprint an odd image as much as it does fuel interpretations on its possible meaning. Every scene is easy to read and the meaning upon receiving development become layered. It's a film that while reliant heavily on metaphors has dialogue that directly gets across the main story. While the metaphors are tackling the subjectivity behind faith indirectly. In the center of attention is the more direct physiological torment of Fenix. Whose unable to free himself from the control of his mother. Fenix and his mother are in hindsight very complicated characters. One lives with a mask of following a faith she herself doesn't live purely by her faith. Another is a man whose unable to form an identity of himself.

Characters arrive in all forms of personality further adding to that surreal nature of the narrative. Fenix and his mother have the most prominent roles in the story being told. Together these two offer a story about redemption and revenge. In hindsight, Fenix childhood sneakily provides clever characterization or a physiological regression. As a young boy, Fenix wears a man's moustache to imitate maturity. During his childhood he shows the least amount of childlike fear or sadness arguably in his mentally assured state. As oppose when Fenix becomes an adult he's unable to detach himself from his mother influence for his own livelihood. Another usage of Fenix characteristics are the usage of birds. When we first meet Fenix, he is locked in a nuthouse, living like a human bird. His obsession with the mime-faced deaf/mute girl centers around her graceful panto of a hawk. Until the birds disappear from visual sight to juxtapose the trap Fenix is in - mentally and physically - with the freedom of being unable to simply 'fly away' from his mother control. The best aspect about these birds narrative usage is even if its missed the same intention gets across. Fenix mother, Concha, is positioned in the story in such a way where nothing ever feels lost when it narrative reaches it conclusion. Concha is a given a backstory that conveys her upcoming downfall and a motivation that is shown in developing in her scenes. Becoming a fleshed out character with her own arc. One key moment in the film that is rather genius is the film twist. I was able to catch the usage of birds as metaphors, but this twist genuinely caught me off guard. Not only does the twist has the potential to catch any viewer off guard, but it's rather fitting for the film surreal nature. Closing the story metaphorically on its themes while directly closing the conflict Fenix faces.

Alejandro Jodorowsky lets his visuals do the speaking more so than his dialogue. The rich color palette adds to the almost otherworldly elements of the visual narrative. Mixing colorful costumes and set designs against the dark context of scene. From the sterility of the hospital gives way to an explosion of vivid colous when we fly to the circus. Before long, this multihued vibrancy is then itself with the bizarre 'elephant funeral procession' is burdened with sobering blacks and charcoal complete with a grey American Flag. Jodorowsky visuals is a story tool giving it more meaning than just simply looking pretty. Laid on top of the visuals is an incredibly convincing musical score. Simon Boswell's soundtrack fluently bonds with the varying moods to become immersed in the Mexican fantasy. Blanca Guerra is excellent in the role of Concha. Her ability to convey far surpasses her co stars who all play characters with their arms in tact. Axel Jodorowsky delivers a more subdue performance which he pulls off. There's hardly a moment of certainty in the way he deliver his lines going hand to hand with his characters. Where these two actors shine are their scenes working in perfect sync. Using Axel Jodorowsky hands to convey the illusion of Blanca Guerra hands movement in several are synce in movement and emotion. It's a convincing sight to behold when the actors have great chemistry and can in sync in such scenes so perfectly.

Santa Sangre (Holy Blood) covers various themes both directly and indirectly that is not accomplished very often in filmmaking. It's a film that has a straightforward story and the viewer understands there's plenty of layers behind the way it's made, but never does it offer a moment of doubt in its execution. Not everything Santa Sangre touches on will immediately come around in full circle for a revelation in how it balanced all of it themes. Neither is it lost on the audience telling a straightforward story that even if not the pieces come together the intention of it is never lost. On a technical level it's an achievement of captivating visuals, the performances are outstanding, and the narrative very fulfilling even without all its meaning being found. Plain and simple it's a masterpiece.

Brick Mansions

There were two reasons that convinced me to see "Brick Mansions" aside from liking the original "District B13". The first was David Belle who for some reason decided to play the same character twice was in front of the camera again. Second reason is I like Paul Walker. When it came to playing stoic heroes he fit the bill understanding these kind of roles. While this was the last film Paul Walker completed, thankfully it's not the last film he appeared in (thank goodness for Fast and Furious Seven). This remake is a lazy carbon copy of the original adding insult to injury are it overabundance of action scenes that makes it feel longer than it actually is.

Brick Mansion follows an undercover Detroit cop navigating a dangerous neighborhood that's surrounded by a containment wall. With the help of an ex-con in order to bring down a crime lord and his plot to devastate the entire city. If you've seen "District B13" you've seen "Brick Mansions". Nothing about the story is given the tiniest thought of effort as it copies every plot point used in "District B13". It's one tedious experience for fans of the original film as it offers no new surprises and the few insignificant changes (like the hostage this time being a former girlfriend instead of a character sister) it does make are pointless. Most astonishing for this viewer is how it manages to contains even less story. The difference here is primarily quantity in action. Whereas the original film knew when to take a breather no matter how small it was and not over saturate itself with action scenes. In "Brick Mansions" in my timing experiment (that's how bored I got) the longest it could last without an action sequence is almost nine minutes and the shortest it could last without an action scene was around fifty seconds. Now does that in any way sounds like good pacing with that little amount of breathing room. In execution it's far worse whenever you expect the story to return at any moment. Characters are either getting chased or fighting repeatedly since there's little substance to sustain viewers attention.

If you've never seen the original "Brick Mansions" feels like an endurance test. This is one of those instances where highlighting characters and story become part of the issue. Since it doesn't have a single engaging character the overabundance of action scenes that come one after another become yawn inducing. With an overabundance of action scenes the story is not given any time to developed naturally. A double edged sword crippling itself in anything it attempts to do. The writers of the remake are so indolent in their position they don't bother to write good original dialogue. "Sometimes you don't gotta be a rocket scientist. You just gotta have a rocket" is said by the film villain while he's cooking after revealing his rocket. All characters are stock action archetypes, filled with cheesy moments poorly contrasting the more gritty side of the material, and every scene not involving our characters fighting to remain alive pulls out action cliches after action cliches. It believes its clever throwing off audience expectations with it twist, but in this remake they don't work as sufficiently as they should. Much like everything else in the story it appears nothing translated well in this remake from the original film.

Camille Delamarre (editor of Taken 2) makes an unengaging action movie even worse with his inability to film or edit an action scene properly. Action scenes ranges from meh to passable in terms of staging and choreography, but with Delamarre direction he downgrades what should have been solid set pieces. They all generally suffer from being over edited having too many quick cuts that makes it look erratic. There's no fluidity to be found in how these action scenes are cut together. What makes this worse is you know there's some good stunt work to enjoy from the setup provided in them, but is framed to close or cuts off an important visual from your sight. Paul Walker is likable in the leading role, but his role doesn't demand much of him. Walker remains stoic throughout the film letting his supporting cast react to what's going on around them. David Belle performance is passable. His lines are dubbed (some bad lips syncing included) so when he has to talk it shows his inexperience, but where Belle shine is in his action scenes. He performs them convincingly whether he's performing parkour or doing a fight scene. Unfortunately Belle and Walker don't have any chemistry with one another. There's always a disconnect with them whenever they have to interact with one another. It doesn't help the actors we follow most has only one that could act and the other could only do action scenes convincingly. RZA plays the film the villain and not a single line said is convincing. Granted his lines are terrible, but he plays a clearly cartoonish villain rather straight. Instead of being loose and over the top he delivers everything at face value. The rest of the supporting cast is also passable without outshining the leads.

Brick Mansions short and simple is the definition of indolent remakes. It copies the story without significant changes and since it wants to highlight its characters it makes it that much more noticeable how weak they are. More than half of the action scenes are copied from "District B13" except this time are poorly framed being unable to enjoy the stunt work and overly edited that it become distorted. If one were to remove the fact that this is Paul Walker last starring film there's nothing much of value to appreciate once it ends. By the end of the film the first thought that came to my mind was "Thank goodness this wasn't Paul Walker last movie". Just for even making me think that is enough for me to consider "Brick Mansions" a failure of a film.

A Serbian Film
½

Pre-viewing Conversation

Izanagi: So the reason you're seeing this movie is because of bragging rights correct?

Caesar Mendez: No I'm not. I just want to get it out of my system.

Izanagi: Why? You already proved your endurance seeing Salo and Cannibal Holocaust arguably considered to be the most disturbing movies ever made.

Caesar Mendez: I know, but "A Serbian Film" is, well, a Serbian film.

Izanagi: Are you sure you don't want me to invite Matoi? At least when she's around you put effort into your jokes.

Caesar Mendez: Oh please no. Last time I made her see a movie she hated, well lets just say it got very elaborate.

Izanagi: Oh yeah. Who knew you could do so much with a pair scissors when it came to....

Caesar Mendez: Don't complete that sentence. Remember my policy.

Izanagi: Really? You know it's not that bad. You don't have to censor it. And since you're not paying any attention to me. Just start the film.


So if a film has a stigma for "disturbing content" I might see it since I'm naturally curious on what my "breaking point" will be. You know, the film that makes me just want to stop seeing it because of how vile the content is. It is a search that while not ideal for the common film fan it is for this maniac. As stated in the past, I'm open to all forms of cinema rather than limiting choices on personal preferences. I absolutely detest rape, but I've seen films exploring the physiological consequences of rape throughout one's life (the masterpiece Mysterious Skin) and seen films that uses it as a cheap tool to gain sympathy (I Spit On Your Grave). In terms of content there's only two films (as of the date this review posting) that I can think of that can top "A Serbian Film"; the documentary "Earthlings" and semi-found footage film "Cannibal Holocaust". Specifically because everything in "Earthlings" is actual footage of animal slaughter is shown in detail and parts of "Cannibal Holocaust" are real that blurs the line for the uninformed between what's real and just fiction. As a work of fiction "A Serbian Film" should check itself into a mental ward. The closest fictional film that comes close to matching it psyche is "Nekromantik" which if you know what's good for you. DON'T look up the ending to "Nekromantik".

A Serbian Film is about an aging porn star who agrees to participate in an "art film" in order to make a clean break from the business, only to discover that he has been drafted into making a pedophilia and necrophilia themed snuff film. The story of the film is handle sloppily disregarding common sense. So try to picture a shady man you never met before offering you lots of money to do a specific job without giving you any details. At first the protagonist makes the rational hesitation on taking up the offer to participate in this specific job. Despite the protagonist gut feeling that there's something wrong about the job he's put in a position where his irrational acceptance makes sense. It's a motivation that's simple to grasp and garner some sympathy towards some of the film characters. Now picture you accepting the job and notice on your first day what you experience further strengthen your hesitation to work for this shady man. Our protagonist is given a reasonable motivation for taking the job, but does not apply equally to his dedication to maintain the shady job knowing the possible hint of danger. His motivation to remain isn't developed to the point it's able to sell the viewer with the protagonist decision. Plus there's these things called phones which the film characters sometime used to communicate to each other except when it crucial in order to move the story.

Logically the protagonist should have been more cautious, but at the same time is sympathetic. He's given a simplistic backstory of being a struggling father who's retire from a perceived less than glamorous profession. It's simple and straight to the point. However, the "bonding" moments between the protagonist and his son are things no words can do justice too. How one exactly goes about casually discussing how to "play with one self" is beyond me, especially if the kid is around ten years of age. These scenes give off a different vibe than what was meant to get across, but does display the protagonist attempting to be a good father even if the topic of discussion is inappropriate. Another good aspect about the film is the physiological breakdown of the film protagonist. Progressively the protagonist is broken down and his faith in humanity is utterly broken when it reaches the climax. Naturally seeing every step of his breakdown and what exactly triggers it to the point where his reaction is difficult to argue against. Especially when witnessing what the poor man goes through in the climax.

Where the story falls apart is also during its climax. During the course of the film it comes across as if the film would touch upon the film medium. As if to make a point on how far should the visionary and the participants take the artform before it's consider to be too much for any rational thinking person to dissect. Of course I'm kidding since characters dialogue is often nationalize basically saying stuff like "make artistic porn to bring back our nation's pride" or anything basically involving sex. In context character talking like this is rather goofy not adding to anything in the long run. How exactly the correlation between "Newborn Porn" ties into government injustices is flimsy at best. If it does connect to political commentary than the message is government likes to [you know the word] with people. In some cases that's a true statement of poor government, but the context of the story and the devices implemented doesn't in any form represents any ideals of politics. Let alone provide any elements where the correlation is feasible even metaphorically.

Now on to the main course of discussing aspects of it content and this is coming from a person who witness necrophilia, castrations, animal cruelty, and prolonged rape in some films he's seen. A Serbian Film does not live up to its stigma of having vile content that makes you want to stop viewing it. For example, in the film there's a scene involving two characters seeing footage of "Newborn Porn". Sounds disgusting regardless how questionable the content in films you've seen have been, but instead of showing the actual "Newborn Porn" we see the back of a specific performer and primarily shown reaction shots of the characters viewing the footage. The way it's presented is not vile nor difficult in taking in the scene as a plot device thanks to good editing conveying the purpose. However, given the title of the footage being "Newborn Porn" there's no arguing the director went about it the best way in not showing it directly towards the audience since it occurs off screen. Rather than simply include this scene for shock value (ok, from my perspective at least) it gets across there is fine line between what should be film and what can be film. Within the context it's the film inciting incident which is basically a fancy way for writers of saying it's an event that is struck upon the protagonist(s) where their life changes from the norm to adapt to the story's plot. The way the scene is film gets across the idea of it rather than explicitly show it. Although I'm not sure if the sadist filmmakers that came up with the scene or the actual viewers that fill in the blank in their minds when viewing said scene that has a more troubling mindset than the person who's defending it.

Where a majority of the film "vile content" comes from is in the film final thirty minutes that contain a number of rape scenes and spontaneous murder. Out of the whole film there is one scene that might trigger a reaction of sickness and one in the climax that will trigger a reaction questioning your decision to view the film entirely. Of course due to personal regulations I won't discuss the specifics despite the previous paragraph touching on the most controversial (off screen) scene in the film. The reason being we're shown in these scenes the whole performance of vile action rather than a fraction of vile action being performed. However, despite what occurs in the climax it will bring new meaning to the term "hard-on". It's very questionable why the director would include a moment where's the protagonist cocka doodle doo can pierce through flesh and a kill a man in a scene that involves rape. Not lying, I laughed when I witness this moment in the scene, and at the same time am very jealous of the power of it. Lets just move on after that questionable series of sentences.

The production values for the film are very good. Director Srdjan Spasojevic maintains a bleak tone throughout the film. By creating such an atmosphere even during the film first hour you never feel like you're adjusting to comfortably seeing it. It's lighting is one of those reasons that while in most scenes everything is visble there's are always a hint of shadiness. Where the dynamic of a scene is made very clear and more effective for it. The score for the film is foreboding slowly building to a more enraging sound when it becomes more transgressive. Acting is also another bright spot especially from it star Srdjan Todorovic. He's fully committed in his performance never once being unconvincing, even when the film goes to the extreme. Becoming enveloped in a wide arrange of emotions when he's angry it's believable and he's a broken man he really come across as someone loss hope in humanity. His costar Sergei Trifunovic is also excellent. Even when he's given simple talking scene his mannerism makes anything no matter how positive sounding very shady. Trifunovic appearance also adds to his role in particular his sinister smile. Supporting cast are also good, though most of their roles aren't as developed as Todorovic. Slobodan Bestic for example mostly stays in the mindset of secretly desiring his brother wife and it isn't until the climax where he gets a change in character. Jelena Gavrilovic is is allowed more ranged and comes across as the most sane in the cast which is saying something. Each of the actor are believable in their role and are committed to it not letting the context bother them.

A Serbian Film doesn't live up to the stigma of "disturbing cinema" the same way "Cannibal Holocaust" does, but as a whole contains great production values, good acting, and an okay story with sympathetic characters. Of course with that said I will acknowledge that not all viewers have viewed the same films I have so from that perspective I understand because exposure to such material varies. However, there's no denying it is one well made film from a technical standpoint and well acted whose good qualities get overlook due to the reaction to its content.


Post viewing conversation

Izanagi: So it's a good thing I didn't invite Matoi to see this. Given her bad habit to lose large amount of blood she would have kicked your...

Caesar Mendez: Uh, I told you to not introduced any gimmicks when it comes to my reviews. If you keep doing this my readers are going to believe I plan to do something with these fictional characters gimmick even though I just simply want to express my position on certain films.

Izanagi: Wait? You're willfully admitted there's nothing meaningful to our usage in this review?

Caesar Mendez: Of course. If I pretended your usage in this review was to metaphor apartheid that would make me pretentious. Clearly pretending to be one thing to justify what I do even though the foundation provided does not support it.

Izanagi: You know could have said that in your review without including both dialogue. So in a way. Yeah, you sorta are pretentious.

Caesar Mendez: In this case, I'll give you that one. So want me to call Ryuk and you know?

Izanagi: Nope. Not even he can help me unsee this movie. It's actually his new all time favorite method when it comes to his job as full time Shinigami (Gods that invite humans toward death).

Caesar Mendez: Well then, I guess it could be worse.

Izanagi: It could be in. Three, two, one.

Matoi: WHAT'S THIS ABOUT YOU CALLING ME MEANINGLESS?

Caesar Mendez: IZANAGI!

Izanagi: Yep, she heard everything you said.

Ryuko Matoi: You thought "A Serbian Film" was rough? After I'm done you "A Serbian Film" will be a cakewalk in comparison.

Caesar Mendez: It was a cakewalk for me, than again I guessed the films I see and personal experience helped in my disconnection with my more human side. Well, that's all folks. So what's it gonna be this time Matoi?

Ryuko Matoi: For starter we'll begin with something by Jorge Ameer than I'll....

Caesar Mendez: No. Noooooooo. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Earthlings
Earthlings (2010)

Earthlings chronicles the day-to-day practices of the largest industries in the world, all of which rely entirely on animals for profit. The documentary is not an easy one to watch especially it footage of animal cruelty. Never once shying away from showing graphic footage which can speak for itself even when taken out of context. Scenes showing factory farms, slaughterhouses, hunting, bullfights, puppy mills, and primates being used in head injury experiments will shock those who value all forms of life equally. These scenes aren't easy to watch and powerful enough get it point across towards viewers without ever needing to complete the film. By letting the sometime graphic footage play out in its entirety it will challenge what the viewer is capable of stomaching. The footage shown in its "Food" segment can make anyone unaware of what goes on inside a slaughterhouse think differently about what they eat. Its most haunting scene is at a fur farm. A skinned animal, perhaps a fox, lies glistening with blood and white fat and muscle. The creature is still alive, lifting her skinless head and blinking at the camera. Those few seconds gets across the horrific emotion that this skinned fox is feeling, and connect a thought to the viewer of seeing its own species brutally murdered for our very own livelihood without ever telling us.

How Earthlings sets up it proposition is by it's opening. By elaborating how over the years there existed racism, sexism, and speciesism. This is the idea of assigning different values or rights to members depending on their species, or in other words favoring one's own species. It acknowledges its purpose, in that it is demonstrating how animals have come to serve humankind. Never does it compare these crimes in being directly connected to one another as much it attempts to draw parallels that drive those action. Instead of making a direct comparison to the Holocaust it decides to make correlations; the most significant relation being both are caused by humans with power abusing those without power. What nonsense right? There's no way the Holocaust is similar to...well now that I think about it there's truth to that. The target isn't a single race or religion beliefs in this case, but instead an entire species which is being murdered for another specific purpose. Tackling different aspects of the subject in five segments; pets, food, clothes, entertainment, and scientific research. Each receive different amount of screen time and each use a similar tactic to get their point across. Drawing parallel to a crime alongside footage of that goes along with said segments.

As much Earthlings is consider the definitive animal rights film by animal rights organizations, much like PETA efforts, their delivery can be heavy handed and some aspects flimsy. One of the major flimsy aspects are it statistics on how many animals are killed by humans. Being blown over proportion to the point that makes you questioned how in the world a particular specie shown in the film hasn't become instinct. These statistics go into the billions which holds true for fish, but with other animals just accepting the facts becomes a mind game of what's true and fabricated. There is truth to be found in what's it saying, but exaggerating on the facts partially fail to inform the audience and instead make them question more if the information given to them is true inspite of the footage being played. Another issue is the film becomes very heavy handed in it delivery towards the end. The film last ten minutes beats the "animals suffered for our livelihood, man is bad" point over the head that is gives off an anti-human vibe. Despite claiming that all lifeforms consider Earthlings and should not contain the mindset of speciesism. The music by Moby sets a somber tone without being intrusive, and the narration by Joaquin Phoenix is very matter of fact. Though the script at times seems a bit heavy-handed, even quoting Shakespeare's King Lear at one point, Phoenix's delivery is calm and measured, in contrast with the visual horrors unfolding on-screen.

Earthlings graphic footage of animal cruelty and the degree it shows it too warrant the content in this film is not for everyone. For that it message delivery becomes cloudy, but never is it point ever loss. It certainly heavy handed towards the final minutes, but even before reaching the end it's capable of persuading.

The Holy Mountain
½

Admittedly "The Holy Mountain" is one of the most difficult film I ever had to interpret. Not because it's story is so complicated it demands your full undivided attention to every detail in a frame, but because it draws its inspiration from Tarot cards (thank you Mr. Edogawa for those long lessons), Christian Iconology, Latin American History, futurism, mysticism, politics, astrology in a combination to strange images that correlate together into a difficult to decipher theme. Never do it characters explicitly tell you the significant of the events, but much like the characters it's a journey of enlightenment. It's also one that'll leave you scratching your head until you realize you hit a nerve in your skull.

The Holy Mountain gives an omniscient view of what social engineering caused by greed has done to the modern world, but shows us how to live and not give in to a material world. That's one way to put it or more honestly a series of strange visuals, odd metaphors, and a main character who isn't even involved in the ending. Breaking all logic of a traditional narrative being a witness of the journey is not at any point off putting. It speaks figuratively rather than expressing itself through a literal sense. If taken at face value the film will leave you wondering what in the world you just saw. Much in comparison to the thief we follow, the film asks its audience to either go on the journey and be open to whatever is let out of the floodgates of the storyteller consciousness, or if to be closed off then to might as well leave. Visually exploring what is the significant of immorality, religion, and beliefs pondering if reaching enlightenment is more important than the journey to achieve it. Over the top humor pokes fun of the lack of awareness of the form of escapism in surreal ways that ranges from manufacturing art with a fully functioning conveyor belt for butt-imprint paintings to conditioning children to hate specific future enemies. Scenes all of which are a natural representation of escapism either be through photographs, paintings, videos, or anything that mentally makes the subject escape reality. Before reaching the end the figurative meaning behind it images will culminate into a narrative that touches on various themes. Each of which make sense (in this film logic that is) in the surreal manner they are presented in. Once it reaches the abstract ending is where there's a glaring misstep. The ending itself spoon feeds everything the viewer witness in a final dialogue that reaffirms what you just saw was nothing more than it just appeared to be. Misguiding half of the meaning it actually was trying to get across. Then again, from a literal standpoint it goes along with the rest of the film.

Alejandro Jodorowsky is the film writer/director/producer/editor/music composer/costume designer/set designer/painter/sculptor/star and his input is on screen all the time. Creating a world that in semblance is no further than our very own, it's just presented in a different form. At times the film looks absolutely gorgeous and it's design are eye popping with surreal designs and bright colors. There is a scene where the thief enters a rainbow room with a single holy man and a camel. A struggle breaks out but the primitive learns that he is not worthy to overcome the much wiser man. Suggesting the brighter the color in the rainbow passage the greater the growth. It's just one of the symbolic nature elements within. This intricate collective designed is sure to challenge the thoughts and translation of the viewer. As well as the set decorations, props, and the costumes and it pays off as the film is gorgeous to look at even if at times it's a little hard to decipher without an innate knowledge of world religions and the occult. The whole film is a literal two hour intellectual LSD trip. In the scene where Axon of Neptune and his healthy young army massacre a town, the montage we see of blood, dust and guts isn't entirely wounds overflowing with deep red or gory close-ups of torn flesh. Instead there are sticky greens and blues bubbling from bodies, obvious red ribbons from the gut and, in a rather touching moment from within the violence, little birds fluttering from the chest of a dead body. This barely scratches the surface of the surreal images you're going to see in the whole film.

The Holy Mountain is surreal, deep, and one of the hardest films to make sense off if there's any to be found if we speaking in a literal sense. If taken at face value the series of events will have little correlation, but never is it boring because of it surreal images. It's a difficult film to recommend anyone to see because while it provides no background on everything it tackles. The abstract interpretation on the series of odd images is more than satisfactory for viewers seeking to challenge their minds. That is until it partially misguide viewers toward the end. No matter how the film is interpreted "The Holy Mountain" is never boring for what it bring to the forefront to the viewers that will confuse as well captivate the imagination.

Video Games: The Movie

When it comes to video games there's various things I love about the industry from Atlus (specifically their Persona and Shin Megami Tensei series), Nintendo, Naughty Dog, and Hideo Kojima. There is also many things I absolutely loathe in the certain direction it's taking from EA, Ubisoft, always online drm, and the pay to play model. It's this general uncertainty about the industry that I rarely ever write about videogames or devote as much attention to them as I once used too. So when something simply called "Video Game: The Movie" is direct to the point of course I would see it since it's history is one aspect I've held an interest towards. Sadly the film is only partially about videogames history which it does rather poorly in explaining certain contributions and when it comes right down to it this film just glorifies its culture.

Video Games: The Movie aims to educate audiences about how video games are made, marketed, and consumed by looking back at gaming history and culture through the eyes of game developers, publishers, and consumers. In the early goings of the documentary the slick plethora of animated infographics and an effective opening-credits sequence that details the evolution of games over time shows promise. Slowly explaining certain aspects like graphic bits and statistics on the average gamer. For the first eight minutes the presentation is slick and focused, but then as it progresses it's made clear there's no directed goal. This documentary biggest issue is in it structure. In the beginning the documentary looks at the history of videogames and makes it first fatal mistake of giving rushed summarization of significant contributions. In some cases overlooking some achievements from certain consoles. For example, it fails to mention the Sega's Dreamcast contribution towards the industry for being the first home console to include a built-in modem, the first home console to support online gaming, and the first home console to support an MMORPG. If a non fully committed gamer like myself knows that fact without ever touching a Dreamcast console what makes you think this documentary will do a proper job of providing insight on videogames history. If removing quotes from Retamas Gandhi, Nicolas Tesla, and John F. Kennedy (who loved JFK: Reloaded) what the documentary aimed to achieve remains muddle. Over sighting important information causally in order to use to lesser effect later on. By not following a nonlinear format in its presentation of videogames history aspects of it will be loss to non-gamers coming across as shallow. How it presents it history will cause confusion in its constant jump from years to years. Poorly getting across what the technological differences from a Nintendo NES to a Sony's Playstation among other things. The insights provided can be sometime insightful, but are too often glib and come at the expense of the film relaying the events at hand to the viewer. For example, you could come away from the section on game violence with no knowledge that the fight made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

If the documentary aimed to be one thing there wouldn't be this full length review criticizing it. Unfortunately since it attempts to highlight certain aspects of videogame culture its aimed is bigger than what it grasped. Once again the usage of it timeline does a disservice to the structure and the viewers. In one moment the documentary is addressing the media blaming video games for violence and the next it's celebrating vudeogames. It's emotion is all over the place without feeling connected to each other. Another issue is it priorities when it comes to who's speaking on the subject. Someone important as Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell whose contribution to videogames is very significant receives less screen time than actor Donald Faison who hasn't contribute to videogames in any shape. All the interviews sadly focus more on big stars than actual known videgame developers. There are several montages of video game trailers and gameplay footage that can on for minutes which also constitute as bad transitions. If you happen to be interested in any of the games in the montages you won't have their name listed anywhere in the film. If the director does anything correctly it is conveying the passion of the fans and game designers he interviewed. For many games are much more than just a hobby, and that love and enthusiasm shows through. However, that segment isn't enough to make up for the rest of documentary that says "All area of gaming is great" in a propaganda manner. For non-gamers it'll come across that way because the documentary is filled with nothing, but good words about video games therefore doing harm in not providing a fair view on the subject matter more negative aspects. Every area it wants to discuss on the subject either misses relaying information to the viewer or is sloppily delivered because of it poor choice of its own structure.

Video Games: The Movie is too glamorize in its poor representation of gaming culture that it's slick production values make it come across as one giant commercial. The whole structure of the documentary is sloppy jumping from certain subjects and specific years that muddles it message. If one thing it does express correctly is conveying gamers passion for video games going beyond simply enjoying playing games and touching on the more social aspect of gaming. It's just a shame that same passion wasn't shared by its filmmakers to make an engaging film on the same subject matter these gamers care so much for.

Hercules Reborn
½

Earlier in 2014 a filmed titled "The Legend of Hercules" was released and it was absolutely terrible. Especially it leading star Kellan Lutz who was incapable of showing any personality and acting talent in the title role. If you were to tell me "The Legend of Hercules" was knockoff by "The Asylum" I would believe you, except "The Asylum" actually managed to make a better Hercules movie with significantly less money. The saddest part being if there was actually more effort put into it's screenplay and production it could have been entertaining.

Hercules Reborn follows Arius seeking help from the mythical hero Hercules to save his wife and his town from it's new maniacal king. Despite his name being in the title Hercules is not the film's protagonist. Instead it's Arius in a conflict that gets resolved in a by the number fashion. Protagonist power hungry mentor betrays protagonist by kidnapping his wife and killing off the current holders of power, protagonist goes to seek help from a famous character in the same job field to help him in his rebellion, but upon first impression in seeing the legendary figure is a pathetic drunk or in a pathetic state he loses some hope. Until a moment arrives to prove his identity in a situation requiring him to save the protagonist and the legendary character takes a chance to redeem their name to his/her former glory. Just giving that rough summarization on the first act is enough for experience film viewers and storytellers to predict how the film will play out. There's no twists of any sort to the story that is dead set on a straightforward delivery. Like every character in the film Arius is unengaging. Characters are one dimensional so there's not much to read into and motivations are strip down to the lowest common denominator. Everything is kept at a basic level simultaneously committing the screenwriting crime of being rush and lingering too much on something established. Whenever there's any possible room for characterization it's rush and whenever you're given a scene where you know the purpose it'll linger on it. Clearly that's some backward thinking in screenwriting. That's not even taking into account the story doesn't take advantage of Hercules as a character. In the film, he's not a demi-god going on fantastical adventure based on any of his famous stories. While the intention was clearly made to make Hercules more grounded as a character it's a decision that horrifically backfires especially when providing no characters of any depth. If given more time to fleshed plot devices and characters the film would have had an okay story. With some developed characters it would made the predictable journey feel less dull and uneventful.

Now on this corner we hear there are stories that claim this man is a God, has the strength of twenty men, and is a nearly unstoppable warrior. The actor that plays Hercules is none other than John Hennigan, or as some wrestling fans might him as WWE Superstar John Morrison. John Hennigan is not a good actor when he has to speak, but the script he's provided requires more of his physical mannerism than actual line delivery. Despite his physical appearance Hennigan understands how to play the pathetic aspect of his character usually stumbling whenever his character is drunk. His inability to maintain his composure when drunk helps with the illusion that maybe Hennigan is not that great of a warrior. He's also convincing in his action scenes, though it would be nice if the director knew how framed or shoot an action scene. Hennigan only falters in his line delivery, but his performance is above average since Hannigan knows how to portray the character on a physical standpoint. The only other actor that might register with viewer is James Duval (Frank the Rabbit from Donnie Darko) who gives a bad performance. He's very off in his comedic timing and shares no chemistry with any other actor on set. Than there's Christina Ulfsparre who's nothing more eye candy on screen. Her scenes don't amount to much aside from showing her in peril as the token damsel in distress. Finally Christian Oliver is the leading man and he's bland. Oliver is given a typical role with little range to do show more emotion. Action scenes on the other hand are all terrible. In every single action scene the camera is way too close to making it difficult to make out what's going on and the choreography behind the action scene is atrocious. Looking as if they were the rehearsal take instead of the actual finalize action scene. Adding to the bad action scenes is a shaky camera that makes it that much harder to enjoy an scene if in the faint chance you can make it something out of it. As for the editing, that's also terrible with too many frequent cuts destroying any sort of flow in the action scene. Another issue is something I never expected to criticize. This film lack of extra hurts the grand scope it wants to pretend to have. The lack of numbers makes everything smaller, in particular to the ancient cities when depicting a crowd at most you'll see on screen close to twenty. Although, knowing the studio history to be cheap it's a surprised the location the film shot at gives off the ancient city vibe it's trying capture.

Hercules Reborn is a knockoff and there's no hiding that fact, but as a film it falls victim to being uninspired dull trite instead of an entertaining B movie "The Asylum" more often gets wrong than it does right. It could have been entertaining if more effort was put into it. There's little for viewers of all kind to gain, especially those into B movies will find the film lacking inspiration in anything it does.

The Raid 2
The Raid 2 (2014)
½

After finishing finishing a film called "Merantau" I saw concept footage for a filmed called "Berandal", in 2010. It was a simple scene; a prisoner is in a graffiti filled prison restroom stalled contemplating some inner thought, there's a crowd of angry prisoners attempting to break the door down, and the camera zooms in on the door lock before it eventually breaks forcing a single a prisoner to defend himself against a mob. That concept footage despite barely being over a minute showed promised it could carry a movie. However, a little known film called "The Raid: Redemption" came out in 2012 (nationwide that is) and due to its popularity "Berandal" was made possible. Sadly it became a victim of a forced tie-in to a film that not only had a completed script (hence concept footage to fund said film), but had no connection to "The Raid: Redemption" in any way. A trait that is made apparent with shallow characters and hollow emotional resonance that prevents it from being the grand sequel it tries so hard to be.

The Raid 2: Berandal follows Rama going undercover with the thugs of Jakarta and plans to bring down the syndicate and uncover the corruption within his police force. As the synopsis hinted the story aimed to cover more ground which it does to various degrees of success. When it succeeds the film does an excellent job displaying the honor among criminals and the dividing factor between ideology of power. In particular the hinted complex father and son dynamic between Uco and Bangun. Both characters are in the same line of work, but the methods to achieve a goal and maintain power keeps them at arms length. It's their ideology and positioned that puts into perspective why both prefer to operate the way they do. The film could have focused on these two characters since they receive the most characterization, but sadly are a fraction of the whole picture. Another positive is the choice of pacing. Early on in the film there is small doses of violence, but as the film progresses how often it occurs is more frequent. Allowing plenty of breathing room to set all the plot devices in place that slowly escalate to more violence occurring. Sure the first thirty minutes of the film are the least captivating because it's slow to set up the pieces, but once it gets closer to reaching the finish line the more engaging it becomes. Giving a sense how vastly small the danger is where we started is no where near life threatening as where we ended up.

Early on in the film it's established how corrupt the police force is and how very few of them are are in the operation to take them down. Aside from that, there's really no other connection between the task force and Rama that ties it with the original. Occasionally it brought back to serve no greater purpose than to reiterate the hero motivation. Though given how by the number the rocky relationship between Rama and his superior officer plays it's no surprise the direction Rama takes in his investigation. It could have easily been about (and originally was) about a former prisoner finding a family in the criminal world. Instead it comes across as tacked on since the only time the task force is brought up is whenever Rama needs information or complicate the plot with a device that won't come into play in the story. Certain elements in the film just didn't click as they should have. For starter, there wasn't a sense that scenes were always serving a purpose in some form. Say what you will about "The Raid: Redemption" screenplay, but it was a competent one because of it premise every scene felt as if the characters were making progress within the story. In the sequel it stalls around with scenes that are only created for the sake of action. Mad Dog, nope wrong movie. Prakoso is a device solely created for action with only a single scene dedicated to display his more human side. Every other time you see him Prakoso he's going all Mad Dog, except this time with criminals.

Two of the most memorable character of the film are Baseball Bat Man and Hammer Girl. They have their signature weapons whenever they fight and every scene they're in never fails to deliver on their awesome characteristics. I especially loved the aspect of the story taking time to explore the back story of these two characters. Being raised by abusive parents is a touchy subjects to discuss and in an action movie no less where violence can be a selling point. Who can also forget the symbolic meaning of the spinning coin once receiving the back story. Adding an extra dimension to the pair relationship...huh...oh you got to be f...[one profanity filled temper tantrum later]. Sad that interesting material and character development didn't make it into the film. Way to go force tie in. Other superficial elements includes Rama wife who might as well been written off from the story. She's just the "token wife" to pretend that Rama life is at risk even though the series of events make him superhuman. Sure the every man hero type is the most captivating, but not when the film pretends he's human when performing superhuman feats. It's fine to give the every man hero some moments of badassery, but not when its constantly out of character. Making Rama more human works against the film since he's not developed much as a character to be engaging and the final thirty minutes guarantees to remove all "every man" trait until it's dead.

The repetitive action scenes is where creativity suffers. Simply put the action scenes lack variety especially when the same setup is used eight out of fourteen times. Meaning fifty-seven percent of the action scenes are nearly identical in setup; one expert fighter slowly overcoming large number of opponents until all the opponents are killed. It wouldn't be an issue if the outcome was changed, but nope the same setup plays out the same eight times. It certainly doesn't help that a majority of these repeated action scenes have larger room for marginal errors. For example, in the film there's an action scene involving Iko and company trying to collect money at a so call "porn den". During that action scene three things are made apparent. The bad placement of the camera, the scene should have been re edited, and the staging of the action scene should have taken into account the amount of actors actually required in it. In this particular action scene in the background there are actor visibly waiting failing their arms around until it's their cue to attack. Before it shows actors Epy Kusnandar (Topan) crawling on the floor to avoid a barrage of bullets (without any noticeable bullet piercing near him or in the environment) it shows Oka Antara (Eka) and a couple of his men shooting all of Topan men who all fall to the floor. Since the cut made it explicitly clear Topan men were dead and Epy Kusnandar just recently began started crawling towards a safe to retrieve a weapon there's a disconnect of tension. Resulting in an eleven second window where the action scene should have ended since there's no known obstacle given the visible context of the scene. Within this same scene there's even greater room when the scene should have ended. When Epy Kusnandar gun runs out of bullets he attempts to make escape by running towards an exsist and Iko Uwais is seen in the background getting up waiting around to be tackle by an actor off screen. Given that there was no one made visibly alive during the short burst of gunfire the actor that tackles Iko to continue the action scene kills any sense of escapism. Although, the scene is slightly salvageable in it technical aspect once Iko catches up to Kusnandar and gives him a creative beating. It's just a shame the action scene as a whole is bad.

I should make it clear this is the third time I've ever seen the martial style of Silat in a film, and it's pretty sad that I recognized a crucial element in the choreography this film applies to it action scenes. In previous films that utilize Silat (Merantau, The Raid: Redemption) there were certain moves that were reused, but never took away because of the varied fighting setup were. Within the context of a fight it's essential for the camera to not to show the audience any blind spot when a fight begins. Even if not all the blind spot can be cover this can be fixed by the combatant quick movements, elaborate choreography, or a good editor. In this film that's not the case since the choreography relies on the viewer missing its actors going back to the starting point whenever there is a cut to the combatant fighting up close. By reusing the same setup the same mistakes won't be easily missed especially since the same outcome applies to eight of them. The best action scenes in the film are the ones that are the most confined and in a small area. Since the size of where the action is occurring is smaller there's less margin for error in the background for the star or fighter to stall in place until it's their cue to strike. For example, there's a scene of actress Julie Estelle (Hammer Girl) taking out a couple guys in a subway cart with a pairs of hammer. Forget the part every time it cuts to Estelle killing someone the rest of the goons are reset to the back of the of the subway cart because the technique to pull off the scene doesn't break the scene illusion. Every time Estelle strikes someone with a hammer it shows when it makes contact to the opponent.

In general the action scenes have blind spots that makes it painfully visible when an actor is stalling until it is his cue to perform an action. So the least amount of actors required the better the action scene will be if removed of the one expert vs. many setup. The film best and most under appreciated action scene is a single car chase. It is surprisingly great given it combines the huge number of actors required and big scale that usually handicaps the action scenes. This car chase is creative in choreography and constantly inventive fight using every inch of the vehicle to keep the fight fresh in such a tight space. On a technical level it's the film best action scene and done so successfully with good editing, fluid camera movement, and staging. The final two fight scenes in the film are easily the best since it puts together the film best fighters against one another. Allowing the choreography to be performed faster and show an array of complicated fighting techniques. However, the best fight scene in the film pits Iko Uwais against Cecep Arif Rahman. Of course, it's well choreographed and easily the best fight scene in the film because the sheer velocity in it actors performance. That alone is worth showering it with praised, but what will make it rank up against some the most memorable fight scenes in Martial Art films is how subverted the staging is. Usually in Martial Art films it's common to slowly have the hero overcome his final opponent, but that is not in this case breaking away from that traditional format. Instead the role is reverse with the hero being shown to have the upper hand getting sloppier against his greatest foe creating doubt among the viewer if the hero will actually come out on top despite early on having the upper hand. That subversive staging serves the same function as a traditional final fight and is what will make it rank among some of the genre greatest fight scenes.

When it comes to acting the less you speak the more memorable the performances are. Very Tru Yulisman and Julie Estelle have very few speaking parts, but embodied the cold nature of their characters persona they immediately sell them. In spite of the lack characterization the chemistry between Yulisman and Estelle gets across the characters more defining characteristics. Another memorable performance is Cecep Arif Rahman whose only job is look awesome which he clearly is. Like the other two mention actors, Cecep Arif Rahman doesn't have much lines. However, his performance is more reliant on his physical appearance expression to display a man of overconfident and seemingly invincible ego. Leading man Iko Uwais is okay in his role. His fight scene are without an issue showing his talent with his fighting abilities. The acting side of Iko suffers from a lack of variation between the scene he's given. Not allowing him the opportunity to show the more human side of his character which desperately the material wants to him to do. Being overshadow by co-star Arifin Putra whose given similar scene, but more opportunity to display more emotion than simply putting up an act. Gareth Evans direction is what saves the film in its presentation bringing an autership to his visuals. Though, the decision to bring back Yayan Ruhian will cause confusion and consistency issues given his role in the original.

The Raid: Berendal is a force tie in to a film that clearly had no correlation to its predecessor. As a sequel it's questionable given how little attention is given for a proper continuation. In its own right it's a decent action movie that doesn't offer engaging characters nor are all of it set pieces equally impressive. However, when the film succeeds in what it does best both in story and action provides glimpses of a great film that unfortunately is lost being a sequel.


Fan's Regard:
Dear Gareth H. Evans, speaking as a fan of the action genre and a fan of your work. You have the potential to be a master of the action genre like John Woo, but not if you're going to treat your characters and story elements as a superficial component to the action scenes. An action movie will not stand and survive on action sequences alone. Remember how stellar the final fight sequence in Flash Point was, how well staged the extensive gunfight in El Gringo was, or how every single fight scene in BKO: Bangkok Knockout contain some of the best action scenes Thailand has ever done? No because they all had terrible stories among other issues that a short burst of violence won't make better. For that, this sequel will be seen as a disappointment for squandering its own potential. You have the privilege of making action films in an age where expectations are drastically low. In particular to set pieces if something like "Thor: The Dark World" is consider to have good set pieces. Therefore it is consider quite sad from this genre fan that action sequences as poor as those are compared to what you've Evans. I'm only saying these things because as a fan I will honestly tell you when you mess up and when you succeed in a certain area. Unlike a majority of your new found fans that pretend to share the same passion for the genre, high standards, and understanding of the genre. I'll leave you with three essential words to keep in mind when continuing on with your career no matter the kind of films you make; think, feel, and connect. Sincerely, the sometime cynical Cinema-Maniac.

The Passion of the Christ
½

Discussing religion is in the same vein as discussing politics for me. It could start off as a friendly discussion, but can quickly turn ugly due to where you stand on the subject. This film success relies on its viewer position on Jesus Christ in order for it to succeed. Never will it attempt to convert non believers to accept it views, but neither will the film reach them the same way as those who follow the word of Christ.

The Passion of the Christ is about the final hours of Jesus Christ life. If you're seeking to learn about Jesus Christ, evaluate his teachings, analyze deep characters, and find meaning in the symbolic man that is Jesus Christ this is the wrong film for you. Characterization, pretext, metaphors, and his teachings are thrown out in favor to get across Christ suffered (quite allot) for our sins. It's biggest drawback is assuming everyone will know about Jesus Christ before viewing the film. Since it tells you nothing about Christ or his teachings interpretation of a man's passion towards love his fellow men comes across differently. Christ is not written as a character or as a man, but rather represented as an object of extreme physical suffering and one with a messiah complex. Without providing context the film exploits the prolonged torture inflicted on Christ with no emotional attachment made for the uninformed or non believers. Limiting more than just its audience it also limits the meaning of the message meant to get across. If you are aware Jesus Christ or a firm believer the film will pull your heart strings. Providing brief flashbacks on some of the famous passages in his life story. Focusing in detail the suffering Christ had to endured before the inevitable death. This setup will make it difficult for followers to endured because unlike most film centered around Jesus Christ showing his suffering is it focus. As a film it fails to reach a larger audience than it could have obtain; however, it's intention wasn't so much in informing viewers about Jesus Christ or his teachings, but rather to get across the love he had for his fellow man. For this reviewer he was left unmoved, distant, and cold due to an absence of characterization, but also acknowledges it completed it set goal. A trait he greatly admires even if the film failed to impact him in the manner it intended to.

Mel Gibson direction is admittedly intelligent and a true work of a master. Not a single a piece of dialogue is said in English or in any modern language. A decision that makes it depiction very authentic to what it's portraying. Gibson takes directorial embellishments not found in his source material: Satan's repeated visits; the snake in the Garden of Gethsemane; the raven and the crucified convict; Judas' delusions of children as demons, and such, but they work in favor of the story. As for the violence Gibson does not shy away from it because of his goal to painstakingly show the extent of Jesus Christ suffering. Resulting in prolonged torture scenes and a second half that mostly consist of a broken, bloodied, and wounded Jesus Christ struggling to carry his cross to his death destination. Casting is also another bright spot by not having actual stars there's no possible distraction in what's occurring on screen. Of course the one actor that gets the most attention and vital role is Jim Caviezel. Jim Caviezel is a more Semitic-looking Jesus and gives a simple-stated, vulnerable performance. It's physically demanding Caviezel to constantly come across as a wounded man changing his mannerism to fit with the condition his character is currently. At the same time his delivery of dialogue has to come across as passionate and well meaning as well as batter and difficult to speak from the punishment he receives. The fantastic score sweeps up and down in majestic ways and it is more impacting that anything else, but as a side effect it is cheap and manipulative depending on the viewer position.

The Passion of Christ does what it was intended to do which was display Jesus Christ suffering in his final hours in great detail. Whether or not that makes it a good film will varied because of beliefs and knowledge of Jesus Christ, but it does make it shallow piece of a film that fails to provide character worth getting emotionally attach towards and getting across the significance behind it's subject life. If you're not a follower of Christ (like myself) you will condemned the film for it weaknesses, but in my position I choose to reward the film with a positive review for what it intended to accomplished rather than criticize it for what I simply wanted it to be.

Bat sin fan dim ji yan yuk cha siu bau (The Eight Immortals Restaurant: The Untold Story)
½

Hong Kong's Category III is the US equivalent of NC-17 and for several reasons always peaked my interests. In particular the way it categorizes the campy, over the top "Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky" in the same vein as "Mad Detective" which doesn't remotely come close to containing the same amount of graphic content. In the end though it doesn't matter if the film content lives up the rating, but rather if it a good piece of filmmaking. For the case of "The Eight Immortals Restaurant: The Untold Story" it is even if noticeably sloppy in execution.

The Eight Immortals Restaurant: The Untold is about cops investigation on a criminal running an unsuspecting restaurant, while trying to trace the steps back to how he ended up running it suddenly. The film jumps between the cops investigation and the criminal mastermind, Wong Chi Hang, to tell its story. Early on in the film it opens immediately with a murder only to then introduce the cops who are portrayed as bumbling idiots for comedic effect. Often the humor plays off the cops inability to gather evidence because of the bad smell or the womanizing inspector who always brings a new lady with him to the station. These early comedic scenes don't mesh well when the film makes a turn for the grisly for a majority of its run. Tonally all it's all over the place as one moment you're possibly laughing at the cops investigation lack of professionalism to then suddenly cut to the next scene of murder. Whether or not it wants the audience the sympathize for the killer is left to the viewer to decide. Once Wong is capture it's not the end of the film, but rather it continues to show at length the cops are willing to lock up Wong Chi Hang behind bars. Utilizing other methods that doesn't require breaking bones. Asking yourself if the means to send Wong Chi Hang behind bars is justified by the officers given the extreme torture applied to Wong Chi Hang while taking into account what he did. Despite how often it jumps tones it position by the end of the film ends amorally. Neither condemning Wong Chi Hang for his killings or rewarding the cops methods to crack the case by any means. While the who in the mystery is always clear the background and motivation are elements that the film works for. Building up gradually the mystery of what exactly happened at this restaurant to a grisly reveal in its most infamous scene. There's no cat and mouse game and the unraveling mystery that is Wong Chi Hang keeps it interesting. Wong Chi Hang is an interesting criminal mind and one with a troubled mindset in twisted way will keep you watching.

Anthony Wong is outstanding as the enigmatic Wong Chi Hang capturing so well the traits of this unbalanced psychotic character that he comes across as truly a demented person. He's best in full on psychotic in the moments of killing a victim displaying joy with his grievous voice. However, Wong movement also tells us he's not an expert struggling to some degree, but his eyes cold stare makes him comes across as demented even in daylight without a weapon. When Wong is captured he comes across as a broken human unable to stand up straight in his mannerism changing to his beaten state. The performance of Anthony Wong is noteworthy alone for a viewing. Supporting cast largely go unnoticed because their interpretation is direct what of the material demand. This is not good for the supporting cast since a majority of them have trouble transitioning to the darker side of the material. Often allowing them a moment to react silly in a serious moment. Danny Lee is the exception in the supporting cast being able to make a successful transition into the material darker side. Lee does come across as a womanizer on the silly side, but also comes across as a devoted inspector. As for the violence it's deserving of the Category III (NC-17 in the US) rating. While generally not showing the impact of a kill there is plenty of gore, foreboding atmosphere, blood, and Anthony Wong successful portrayal that these murders scenes are wholly effective. On the down side despite how well done the special effects are and the way the murder are shot they are unevenly spread across the film. There's three in the first act and one more in the final twenty minute involving children. There might be a light supply of murder on screen, but the execution of them more than makes up for it.

The Eight Immortals Restaurant: The Untold Story tone is unbalanced as the film's criminal mind, yet it's that same unbalanced nature that makes it appealing. While the comedy fails to fit in with the rest of the film never does any of it issues overshadow it bright spot. The way it tells it story works well enough due to it twisted criminal and held together by Anthony Wong spectacular performance.


Based on a true story claim:
I was unable to find any evidence or articles that prove the events in the film did occur. However, after doing a bit of lazy research (yay, reading about murders) and the closest source I could find as a possible inspiration is Fritz Haarmann. A German serial killer who is believed to have been responsible for the murder of 27 boys and young men between 1918 and 1924. Always with a view to his commercial instincts, the body of his victims would then be dismembered and the clothes and meat sold through the usual channels for smuggled goods. The useless portions were thrown into the River Leine. Due to Haarmann victims being runaways and his successful distribution the British police had a hard time finding any concrete evidence to crack the case. As the number of missing boys mounted, police suspicion began to fall on Haarmann. A woman who had purchased one of his black-market "steaks" became convinced it was human flesh and turned it over to the police. In the summer of 1924, several skulls and a sackful of bones were found on the banks of the canal. While searching Haarmann's rooms, detectives found bundles of boys' clothing. The landlady's son was wearing a coat--given to him by Haarmann--that belonged to one of the missing boys. In the end, Haarmann confessed his crimes in minute detail, proclaiming insanity but declaring he was forced to commit the crimes whilst in a trance. He was convicted, found guilty of 24 murders and subsequently sentenced to execution in April, 1925. While awaiting execution, the "Vampire of Hanover" (as he'd been dubbed by the press) produced a written confession in which he described, with undisguised relish, the pleasure he had derived from his atrocities. At his own request, he was beheaded with a sword in the city marketplace, ironically one of the most common and effective ways to dispose of a vampire. Afterward, his brain was removed from his skull and shipped to Goettingen University for study. Unfortunately, nothing came of this effort. Over seventy years later, science is still no closer to comprehending the reasoning behind the crimes committed by people like Fritz Haarmann. Or maybe it could the fact that Fritz Haarmann was just plain insane without a particular motivator.

Locke
Locke (2014)

With over a over century of filmmaking finding many films that only have one actor on screen is a rarity. It's also a daunting task for a single actor to basically shoulder the entire film on their own shoulders no matter the experience they have. There's only a handful of actors that tackle going solo for a film like Robert Redford in "All Is Lost", Philip Baker Hall in "Secret Honor", and Ryan Reynolds in "Buried". All these films are carried by one actor and are minimalist efforts. They are all also terrific movies and now Tom Hardy will join the very small list of actors that carried an entire film by themselves.

Locke follows Ivan Locke, a dedicated family man and successful construction manager, making phone calls that sets in motion a series of events that threaten his careful cultivated existence in one drive to the hospital. Usually if you can literally summarize everything that occurs in a film with a single sentence there's usually not a whole lot to dissect. That isn't the case with Locke taking place in real time and primarily consisting of dialogue to tell its story. Characterization and plot development all occurs through conversations on the phone each of which flow naturally. Each of the conversations plays around several explored ideas like being defined by your actions, the impact of fatherhood, escapism within your job, and many other ideas that serves it as a equally layered character study. The more time you spent with Lock the more you begin to doubt his good nature and begin to see a different meaning behind his words and motives. Locke is a very layered character whose words and action in certain situations will paint him in various shades. Being the only visible character in the film he's very defined with his interactions with supporting characters telling us allot of his relationship with them. On paper the plot is basically going from point A to point B without detours of any kind, yet a lone developed character is enough to carry the film.

On a the cinematography side of things the film is visually repetitive. The camera never stays at one angle for very long. It mixes extreme close-ups with medium shots, looks at Locke from his side mirrors, and then from his rearview mirror. Headlights and the streetlights reflect on his windshield, his windows and the shine of his car itself. Occasionally, the camera switches to a first-person view; we see what Locke sees. Repeating the same exterior shots of traffic or Locke car, not-too-functional shots of reflections of traffic lights in windshields, faded car lights, and interior shots just being different variation on Tom Hardy basically driving. While the cinematography is nothing impressive or engaging Tom Hardy is a true tour de force in his performance. Stuck behind the wheel of the car the entire time, there's very little for Hardy to do, which is both the point and what makes his performance so remarkable. Physically he can do nothing but Hardy manages to play a multitude of roles while chatting on the phone. One minute, he's the all-business deal breaker; the next, an attentive father, assuring his son he'll be home in the morning. After his son goes back to the game, and his colleague does his bidding, and playing the role of insubordinate employee. Playing up various aspects of the character personality through by effortlessly changing his mannerism at a moment notice.

Locke is not an interesting movie to look at with repetitive shot compositions, but it's an intriguing experiment that works for Tom Hardy to display some strong acting in a difficult role and challenges Steven Knight as a storyteller. It's a rare film relying primarily on a single actor to be on screen containing the usual great story and a great performance by it lone star even if visually there's not much to latch on to.

Chinese Zodiac

Chinese Zodiac follows JC search for the twelve bronze heads of the animals from the Chinese Zodiac. Aside from the protagonist name being JC (probably Jackie Chan does this kind of activity in his spare time) the story will not register a pulse. Literally the first action scene written into the film is just for the sake of it. What occurred in that action scene involving JC as a human rollerblade is never mentioned again. Speaking of which, it does attempt to developed it cast of characters albeit clumsily. At random characters will reveal bits of themselve when talking to each other during an operation which gets interrupted by contrivances or convenience. Development feels force as every plot device it uses to move forward makes it difficult to care when nothing is earned and resolved by luck. The dialogue ranges from steal this artifact, I hate your ancestors for stealing from us, we're procrastinating doing anything evil to you for a comedic routine variety. All the while JC reiterates at several points during the movie the "great injustice and disrespect" the Western countries have shown to the Chinese in the past. This message is heavy-handed because of how often it's brought up. One could look past the only Western representation is a stereotypical dumb blonde, but to solely act as if only one nation wronged China people does not help with it message of great injustice. I don't know much about China history, but, um, remember Unit 731 screenwriters? I do and in case you do that's because no one beats it over your head with how wrong it was.

For two acts the film goes for a lighthearted and comedic tone until the final arc which gears the tone to be more serious. Characters we follow that had no problem stealing rare artifacts for money developed a contrive code of honor towards the end. Yeah, because the same guy who has no problem stealing artifacts from the rich should really send the message that stealing is wrong. Chinese Zodiac takes a couple narrative inspiration from "Mission Impossible" globe trotting with some implausible gadgets (like the replica printer), the "Ocean's Trilogy" team dynamics, and inability to balance action and comedy like "Once A Thief". Failing to make the most of it settings to make it feel like a grand scale adventure, a bland team whose planning process before an operation is never seen, and succeeding in being unable to balance a tone. Writing is all over the place attempting to be many things failing to be a single good thing. As for which version you see really doesn't matter. In the first cut I've seen that was fourteen minute shorter had rush pacing putting emphasizes on comedy with very little breathing to naturally develop the story. All the problems in the Chinese cut of the film are made more apparent, though it ends quicker.

Jackie Chan is the center of attention rendering the whole team dynamic a bit redundant. Chan carries the movie on his weight being the enjoyable goofball for two acts and going for serious in the final act. This role doesn't challenge Chan to balance the comedy and drama like he master in previous films, but does a good job none the less. Supporting cast is decent, though mostly forgettable as comic reliefs to prolong one particular comedic action piece on an ancient ship. Action wise two of the film biggest set pieces are underwhelming at best. On paper Chan as a human rollerblade sounds exciting, but not so much in execution as in the way it was shot makes as if it was performed slowly. Another is a long set piece on ancient ship that is in favor to show comedic antics than actual fighting. Lasting allot longer than it needed too with added slapstick. The only worthwhile action sequences appear in the final forty minutes of the film. Allowing Chan use his environment against his opponent and fight against fighters that actually hit him. These fight scenes are reminiscent of Chan golden days since they stripped Chan of all his contraptions and unnecessary embellishment. Improvising with what's ever around him with fast choreography combined with unique ways to take down his opponents. If these were the film final action sequences it would have ended on a high note in the action department. Sadly, there's one in the uneventful climax involving four skydivers, and a volcano. On paper doesn't that sound awesome, but in execution poor CG, slowly performed action, and no decent setup dooms it.

Chinese Zodiac comes across as a knock off of a good Jackie Chan film that just so happen to have the actual star in it. It's story is uninteresting simply tossing an action sequence for the sake of it and sprinkling muddle characterization with little breathing room until the next plot devices rears itself in. On the action side the first half of the film is unimpressive or get interrupted by an overlong slapstick comedy routine. It has three good fight scenes two of which that serves to remind viewers of Chan's skill as a fighter, but the climax leaves plenty to be desired. On a technical level there's nothing much wrong with the film with the exception of few instances of bad CG. When there's only three scene in a two hours movie that highlight it star true talent it's stop being merely a bad movie and more a disappointment for fans.

The Wind Rises
½

The Wind Rises explores the life of Jiro Horikoshi, the man who designed Japanese fighter planes during World War II. A story primarily driven by it metaphors to display it character passion more so than with actual words. Grounded in reality to illustrate Jiro has a career goal set in sight, but rather aimless when it comes to his personal life. This aimless drive translates to the free flowing pacing moving from year to year. It never specifies specifically what year scenes or an act takes place in its insistent to flow like the wind. Much like the usage of it wind plot device, the pacing only ever stops moving forward when an historical event becomes invasive. Intruding on Jiro's passion alluding the negative implications of his creations. Jiro ponders the impact his creation has, but never explicitly told to the audience what those thoughts are. The film has an encouraging complexity that results in occupying this troubling space, with the idea that art has an inherent potency and power that, like anything that contains embedded energy, can be manipulated or misused by the hands of its beholder. Structuring it whole story where opposing views of Jiro's creation and how Jiro sees his own work is understood. Sometimes in order in order to make a plane fly you need to compromise parts before it can soar. A work ethic that Jiro takes to heart even in his personal life.

In my book I have no problem giving this a perfect rating as a visual piece of art representing it subject in great metaphorical detail, but if I were to do so would be at the cost of hiding it weakness of any worthwhile characterization. It's to care for the passion Jiro has for his crafts to create planes regardless the world general views towards him. However, Jiro himself is not an engaging character getting a facet of a man. Never feeling what Jiro feels when he falls in love, heartbroken by a failed test flight, and enthusiasm when viewing the possibilities to improve his plane designs. His romance transition from friends to lover is abrupt when brought into the picture. The film intention is to explore a man's life who is defined by his for his crafts, even if it means undermining the bigger picture of the world he was involved in.

The art style mixes traditional hand drawn animation with impressionist-style backdrops that are gorgeously jaw-dropping. Many shots could be paused, framed, and hung up in an art museum, but the subtle animation only adds to their allure. Miyazaki has never cared much for "realistic" animation of human figures; they are abstracted into giant-eyed doll faces and stiff legs, as if trudging on stilts. The director expresses his true artistry in his landscapes: rural vistas rendered in the most delicate pastels, like the watercolors Naoko paints as Jiro courts her. In a hard land heading to war, Miyazaki makes sure the views are ravishing. The visual style sets a pleasant and whimsical tone that creates the impression that the film is a representation of the fantasy within the head of a dreamer.

The English dub voice acting is pleasant and natural, with Joseph Gordon-Leavitt as a hushed, contemplative lead who we see squirming in his tight spot and Emily Blunt doing admirably as love interest Naoko. Supporting cast includes John Krasinski pleasantly snarky designer Kiro Honjo, Martin Short is fantastic as Jiro's tough-but-fair supervisor Kurokawa, and Stanley Tucci is excellent as Caproni. The most interesting stunt casting job in the English dub is famous German director Werner Herzog as dissident German engineer Castorp; given the themes of Herzog's own films (uniquely talented people seeking impossible dreams) this feels brilliantly salient. In the original Japanese audio, the standout here is the very surprising male lead - Jiro is played by none other than director Hideaki Anno. Yes, the Hideaki Anno creator of "Neon Genesis Evangelion". Talk about perfect casting when it comes to misunderstood artistic expressions. Anno's nuanced, understated performance really works well for the role. Casting is otherwise, uniformly excellent; the only remotely questionable casting choice here would be the still-serviceable Stephen Alpert as Castorp, with a noticeable American rather than German accent.

The Wind Rises doesn't give much attention the background events rather is exclusively focus on a man's passion for his crafts and how the usage of art reflect different views. Gone is Miyazaki child like wonder replaced by a harsh reality no matter how appreciative or hated a piece of art is will never be able to see it in the same way as it creator. Many of Miyazaki fans will question why he would end a career filled with rich fantasy world end with a final most resembling reality, but in doing so would distract from how Miyazaki represented himself through The Wind Rises.


Historical Accuracy: Reality vs. Artistic Expression

It wasn't easy nor necessary, but hey historical research is fun for me (sometimes). Much of the film material is derived from the autobiography "The Story of the Zero Fighter" which is 80% plane design ideas, measurements and stories surrounding Jiro's career. There's so much focus on the construction of the planes there's a measly 20% left for autobiographical material. This is an obvious indicator of his unrivaled passion for the flying machines, something which is brought to the screen perfectly. The majority of the information about the challenges Jiro met while designing his planes; the adventures he pursued as part of his work (traveling the world, mentoring students) and the thrill of watching test flights seem like they're taken straight from the book. Viewers may have only witnessed his travels to Germany, but he also visited England, France and America in the first five years of his career at Mitsubishi.

One crucial element Miyazaki left out when translating these ideas to film was the self-doubt Jiro experienced while he integrated himself into the company. Horikoshi distinctly recalls wondering why his employers would want an inexperienced guy in charge of creating their planes. The first ten minutes are fairly accurate to Jiro life, but rather unlikely he would stand up to a bully and get into a fist fight. Another early departure in accuracy is the 1923 Japanese Earthquake which Jiro never experience or even mentioned in his memoir. Instead of being inspired by Caproni the real life Jiro decided to pursue planes in University after talking to a friend of his brother, whom was a professor at the newly created Department of Aeronautics in Tokyo. Like most teens he had no idea what he wanted to do, and that was the tipping point. Sadly, there is no mention of Jiro's brother besides this.

To sum it up, Hayao Miyazaki took liberty to heart when it came to telling Jiro Horikoshi life story. Unless you do your research (or read his autobiography) you won't really learn much about the actual Jiro Horikoshi from this film, but you get an accurate portrayal of this man undying passions for his crafts. So did this affect my rating of the film? You're joking right? If the worst thing I could say about a film is that it fabricate a piece of reality than what's the point of me experiencing the medium if it's integral to it creations.

Kurôzu zero II (Crows Zero II)
½

The original Crows Zero while loud and nonsensical tried to tell a story. To it credit it didn't entirely fail giving development to why fighting for hierarchy in high school is held with so much importance to its characters, but neither did it succeed in providing engaging characters to hold the viewers attention the same way the many fight scenes did. In many ways Crows Zero 2 feels similar the original in that it's trying to tell a story, but repeats similar problems of the original while toning down the amount of fighting. It matches the original in quality of the original for different reasons.

Crows Zero 2 tells the story of Genji and his victorious G.P.S. alliance who find themselves facing down a new challenge by the students of Hosen Academy, feared by everyone as 'The Army of Killers. It's a direct continuation from the "Crows Zero" with characters condensing events from the first film. It has allot more characters and even less characterization to prevent them from being engaging. A huge chunk of the film is spent seeing Genji attempting to unite all of Suzuran under his leadership. Since the film is focus on showing Genji ineptness as a leader having to earn respect among different internal cliques. Tendency to jump around from character to character to fill it run time is common. Making its intention unclear and the meaning of the story becomes muddle among its many subplots. In particular the one subplot that receives the most attention revolves around a teenager who is desperate to become a gangster which has no bearing to the main story line. If it has nothing to do with the main story chances are what occurs in a subplot will not affect course of the main story. Another narrative departure is it being more grounded compare to the previous entry. Whereas the first entry occasionally had zany scenes like human bowling "Crows Zero 2" has none of that. However, the story has it merits in that it's easier to follow who is in what faction because this time it two schools going against each other instead of many faction within the same building fight each other. The subplots generally don't play much into how the main story plays out, but what occurs in them do have complete character arcs brought together by a central theme. New and old characters are given simple to understand motivation to easily grasp their position in this whole "war" between schools. While it feels similar because of repeating issues it does tell a new story and a central theme that reassures things are moving forward. Whereas the first one was carry by ego the sequel is carry by putting away differences for a singular threat. Character growth, what little there is in this franchise is very much appreciated, even if you do question how in the world these teenagers graduate from high school when never once do they attend classes.

Behind the camera Takashi Miike delivers a solid direction that restraints his usual techniques. Since the film the is more grounded so is his direction so there's no odd camera movement or editing techniques that would tell you Miike directed the film. Given the story direction it's rather fitting Miike delivered the story the way intended without ego. Maintaining the mindset of its character through rock heavy soundtrack that fuels the desire to see a fight unfold. His energy best demonstrated in the fight scenes that are bigger and in particular the last twenty minutes is nothing but fighting. The fight choreography is not complex with fighters mostly punching opponents hardly ever using their legs for kicks. Miike makes up for the simple choreography with exaggerated durability as a single student can successfully defend himself against an army of students. Thanks to exaggerated durability each actor is given something to do in the background. In fight scenes there's always something going on even if the actor the camera is focus on is looking for the next person to beat up. While it lacks the diverse location of the first entry it's compensated with the climax which starts out on the outside of Hosen high school and eventually goes inside until the protagonist reaches the top. It does look like there fighting in a high school with the fight visually appearing as big as they are. Occasionally tight close up will show just how crowded a hall of fighters feels like, but won't sure the whole picture. Although, Miike makes sure to use wide shot to show everything going on in a fight when deemed appropriate. Fighters are also distinguishable due to opposite color in school uniforms so who's fighting who is never lost. Actors from the first film return and their performances are limited to a couple facial expressions. Mostly recycling their mannerism, movement, and line delivery from the first time they played the role. Appearance wise none of them look or act like high schoolers, but given the film theme is slightly forgivable.

Crows Zero 2 feels the same like the first entry in many ways. It's attempts to tell a story and developed characters, but with too much going on at once all emotion becomes lost and coherent meaning gets jumble as it plays out. This in part results in the sequel containing significantly less fight scenes that are bigger mostly suffer from repetitive choreography mostly with forward punches. For every wrong it does it takes two steps forward for creating a better film. It will feel like you're watching the same movie due to both entries sharing similar problems, but delivers a difference experience that matches the entertainment provided in the original. The story side of Crows Zero 2 is sloppy, but Miike delivery of the messy story and technical prowess reassures another solid film is made under his direction.

The LEGO Movie

This film is very difficult for me to write about. Disregard the rating for a moment and try to imagine having my same thoughts on the current state of American animation. It lacks diversity in what is visually possible mostly saturated with bright colors, filled cultural references, and limited scope that rarely goes into any mature territory. There are a couple exception to the rule like "Monster Univeristy" that say it's okay to fail and "Up" on moving forward from the death of your significant other, but those deviation to broaden up the industry scope are far and very few in between. Now comes along "Frozen", a film that reinforces imagination is no longer a thing and the same tire tricks are acceptable. You strongly feel the success of that film will have a negative impact as American animation studios will be less willing to take risks with complex material. What does of any this has to do with "The Lego Movie"? Well "The Lego Movie" pretty much defeated a saying that stuck with me during a writing class I had in college. Basically the saying goes like this. "Let go of yourself. Free your mindset. It's okay to remove to copy and paste. I'll do it my way, you do it your way. Don't follow what's left. Follow the right way". Even though "The LEGO Movie" uses an established framework of colorful visuals, pop culture references, and limited scope it is the same film that is hilarious, intelligent, and a highly inventive deconstruction on cliches.

The LEGO Movie is about an ordinary Lego construction worker, thought to be the prophesied 'Special', is recruited to join a quest to stop an evil tyrant from gluing the Lego universe into eternal stasis. Following a set of instructions "The LEGO Movie" has a framework that is not by the stretch of anyone's imagination new. Starting with a prophecy-filled opening, an ordinary everyday person being the chosen one who rises to the occasion, the generic doomsday villain who wants to destroy the world, the action girlfriend with a jerky romantic false lead, the old mentor archetype who's the only one with any faith in the hero, and the cliche list goes on. Yet they are meant to be overly familiar in order to lampoon every single one its tropes and cliches for it base of humor. Every familiar plot point feels fresh thanks to its self aware referential humor. Doing wonders for tired jokes (such as the "can't get any worse", situation immediately gets worse) that would have otherwise left viewers silent, but works due to timing and the setups for it to tell jokes. The characters are the pretty much the essential basic team assembly line; the leader (Emmet), the chick (Wyldstyle), the lancer (Batman), the big guy (Metal Beard), plucky comedy relief (Beeny), and you could figured out the remaining four on your own cinephiles. As basic as these characters sound on paper the exploration to its central theme goes a step above than what was expected. It acknowledges how painfully difficult it is to actually try to be normal, and the amount of work it takes to follow perceived societal instructions that limit one's personality.

The animation is impressive combining a blend between CGI, claymation, and Lego. The figures all look sleek and polished, yet the movement still has the feel of actual Lego bricks. It's a decision that feels both retro and refreshingly new. Such as the way that fire and explosions are created using tiny red, black and grey Lego bricks. Characters not connected to the floor are suspended using strings. Character motion is restricted, with facial expressions varying wildly. In short, the movie looks almost as if it were hand-animated by Lego enthusiasts themselves. This gives the film an agreeably home-made look that adds real warmth. Chris Pratt leads the pack as Emmett, delivering an energetic, and enthusiastic performance portraying the poor naivety of the Lego piece. Elizabeth Banks makes for a delightful Wyldstyle, brings charisma and good timing when playing off her costars. Morgan Freeman, almost spoofing his numerous wise mentor roles, is enjoyable as Vitruvius, and Will Ferrell makes for a delightfully over-the-top villain. Liam Neeson plays Good Cop Bad Cop, a police officer with a case of multiple personalities allowing him to play both sides of the traditional Good Cop Bad Cop routine from a unique angle. Neeson did a great job creating two unique voices that effectively embody the stereotype in an amusing way. Not to forget the delightful cameos made by Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Cobie Smulders, Dave Franco, Shaquille O'Neal, and Billy Dee Williams.

The LEGO Movie is awesome. Anyone who ever seen movies can easily spot every plot device ever used, but by presenting them with self referential humor anything old feels fresh and fun again. Taking a quote by Walt Disney, "You're dead if you aim only for kids. Adults are only kids grown up, anyways". Those words best apply to this film with a desire to become something great not just a product for a specific group. For that reason The LEGO Movie is made with the audience in mind with varied humor to keep audience laughing and contains a story that's engaging tackling freedom versus control. I dare say it's the best thing to happen to animation since the original Toy Story.

Thoughts on the final act:

I'm pretty sure none of my readers want to know my thoughts on the final act Izanagi. They know I've seen a lot of movies and spotting narrative devices is kinda my thing. Yes reiterating is also my thing I guess, but that's beside the point. So when I got to the final act everything came full circle. That final act cemented it designated theme of freedom versus control like it should have. It deliver everything you exactly expected for two acts in terms of jokes, characters, and story elements. Then in the final act creativity shines through that took a bold risk in its usage archetypes, proving old jokes can still be funny, and having more meaning behind it story. If it had not taken the direction it did in the final act it would gone against its own principles both in themes and in the way the characters live. No Izanagi for the last time I gave you chart on why it didn't work for that other film. Izanagi if you bring that movie up one more time I'll call Raidou Kuzunoha to you put in your place. There's other creations I can bring up to use as a gimmick whenever I'm talking to myself. Okay that's good hear. Because without you Izanagi my delivery paragraphs like these would be straightforward which to be honest a semi creative deviation is good every now and then.

D'Agostino
D'Agostino (2012)

"I HATE people. I think of them like pegs. Part of this neverending boardgame constantly moving around in circles, but going nowhere. Look HOW they talk. I'm sure most of it is about nothing. They're always selling something. Just look at them. Yeah, I know what you're thinking. This guy is a narcissist. You're not the first to open up to me there trust me. I seek self gratification through dominance and ambition.....I am so bored! So SICK and TIRED of the same routine. I'm pathetic! Habitual. It's taken me a while, but I've finally fell into that same abyss. Just like the rest of them. And I hate it. Look around. They're, they're smiling. They all seem so happy, but I know inside they're miserable. Scrolling through life because they know they have too. They don't have a choice. Neither do I. HOW PATHETIC! HOW DO FAT PEOPLE CARRY THEMSELVES?! HOW DO UGLY PEOPLE LOOK IN THE MIRROR?! There's nothing worse than someone who's fat and ugly." Opening narration written by the film's director Jorge Ameer.

Just.....you get the deal. Whenever anyone creates a list of worst film directors one individual who always gets overlook is Jorge Ameer. He is incompetent in every single possible thing he does in filmmaking and repeatedly fails to learn from it. Now think about your least favorite film and Jorge Ameer has likely made something worse than that. Unless of course your least favorite film is by Jorge Ameer than it's nearly impossible to top. I am in no way over exaggerating on his lack of talent. Ameer made film called "The Singing Forest" (it's in RT database as "Singing Forest"). It is a romance film that intersplice actual footage from of the Holocaust made tasteless when the Holocaust has nothing to do with the movie. He manages to make that film even more tasteless by despicable characters and boldly claiming rape babies have no soul. Jorge Ameer is the kind of filmmaker you don't want to punch, but kick in the balls because of how bold he is to deliberately not use common sense.

D'Agostino is about Allan Dawson going to Santorini to discover a human clone in his recently inherent property. Your first impression of the movie is with that monologue in the opening of this review. Our protagonist utter those words and does not at any point become likable or worth of an analysis. The way he talks in his opening monologue is pretentious because he at no point attempt to elaborate on why he hates fat and ugly people. Pretending to be deeper when in actuality he's about as shallow in his perception of people. I would go as far as to say that opening monologue is pointless in a film that is about nothing. Sure the synopsis gives the facet it's a small scale and possibly thought provoking sci-fi thriller. Except for the fact cloning is only mentioned twice in the film. Once in the first act when Allan discovers D'Agostino backstory by typing his name in a internet search. [One enraged therapy lesson later]. The other time it's mention is fifty minute later where Allan Dawson barely makes the connection technology can now make clones which in this movie is about a couple of weeks. Talk about slow in the head. I'm of course referring to Ameer thought process not the fictional character.

Now some background information on Allan Dawson maybe wife (which he refers to her by). Dawson maybe wife wants to have a child. That's all the development Dawson maybe wife gets and is used only use once other time as a purposeful plot device. What astonishes me about Ameer is his ability to one up himself in sheer stupidity. In the film Allan Dawson hasn't propose to his maybe wife even though they live like one. It's unclear how long they've know each other, but if both are comfortable enough to sleep together in bed in their pajamas and later on get fancily dressed for dinner than they have a good relationship in movie logic. In a twist pulled out right out of his, well I'm not sure if Ameer has one since that would actually make some level of sense. Oh yeah, in a spontaneous twist the clone kills Dawson wife, and cooks her to which Dawson has no problem accepting to eat. Proposing to a woman Dawson known for a long time is difficult, but accepting she got killed and eating her is relatively simple. Got to admit, no one has quite the misunderstanding of people like Jorge Ameer.

So Dawson maybe wife is just a character created for a single plot point. Now the reason Dawson goes to Santorini is because his mother is recently deceased and left him her home in her will. Any logical person would explain no matter how poorly or flimsy why the protagonist mother has a naked grown man in her dungeon closet. This in no way is ever addressed neither are numerous questions. I wonder how no one, especially neighbors, discover Dawson has a chained naked man in his closet. Than I remember there is hardly any extras in the film. I know Jorge Ameer is a [removed profane comparison between Donkey and WW2 propaganda], but come on extras...okay I got nothing. If I were to choose between taking the lead role of a Uwe Boll (director of several films consider to be the worst ever made) movie or a one minute background character in a Jorge Ameer movie. Call up Uwe Boll because at least I'll have some dignity putting that on my resume. Sure Boll films are consider trash, but it's not Jorge Ameer trash which is significantly better.

Back on track, nothing is ever given much of an explanation. There is also very little story in the film despite being two hours. If you were to trim the fat of this film you would have thirty minute of story material. The fat has no subplot, void of any meaningful characterization, padding shots of Dawson walking around Santorini for minutes, montage of Dawson looking at the sunset, and scenes devoid of acting and story value. The final character in the film worth talking about is D'Agostino. Through out the film he does not learn to act like a human always being held on a dog leash. He's treated like...um...well...a slave. I would say a mistreated pet, but Dawson has no problem whipping D'Agostino with a belt whenever he misbehaves. No matter how small D'Agostino action are. I could look past the fact that not a single person noticed a naked grown man with a dog leash wondering around in public, and forgive the fact the actor playing the character is very awkward in the role. Where I draw the line is the complete one-eighty in the final act.

D'Agostino has only learned one near the end word and with around ten minute left how do you end a film that presented no conflict to begin with or develop any issues challenging the protagonist beliefs. By making D'Agostino look at purple electricity and suddenly knows how to be human. Apparently purple electricity gives him money, the ability to buy a ticket from Santorini to the United States,the skills to kill a person, knowledge on how to bring a corpse back to Santorini without airport security discovering it, and cook all in a couple of hours. I'll buy the fact D'Agostino could apparently make a trip from Santorini to the United State at night, somehow know where Allan Dawson wife is despite never seeing her, and return before morning, but why did purple electricity give him the knowledge to all of that.

On the technical side it has all of Jorge Ameer staples. One of those staple includes terrible editing. There is a moment where actor Keith Roenke has to walk from one side of a small room to the door. That basic action doesn't require a cut, but in an Ameer film Roenke goes from one end of the room, skips the middle, and is at the door with the same medium shot. That's incompetent editing when you can't make the simple action walking flow properly. Jorge Ameer is also in the film and his acting is terrible. His lines are clearly dubbed which is welcome since at least now you can hear every word of bad dialogue this time around. Though that should be expected of any filmmaker to make sure what the actor are saying be easy to hear. Not be an exception to a man who can't do one thing correctly yet tries his hands at writing, directing, producing, and acting. Ameer role in the movie is superficial. He appears on camera and goes away like a mythical creature contributing nothing to the film. He's also terrible as a visual storyteller. Forty seven minute in Jorge Ameer display an unwelcome sight. Now I have to problem seeing genitalia on screen regardless of gender, but Ameer I don't want a close up of male genitals when the person is urinating. It contribute nothing to your film.

This film made me physically sick. I'll repeat that, D'Agostino made me physically sick. "Nekromantik" which has a scene involving a couple having sex with a corpse did not, at any point make me physically sick. It's the same movie that shows a rabbit being skinned and gutted. It is repeatedly shown and that didn't make me physically sick. "Jungle Holocaust" has a prolonged sequence of an actual Alligator getting skinned and eviscerated while alive did not make me physically sick. D'Agostino which has nothing as vile as the two films I mention made me physically sick. That's quite a new low given the sort of content I've seen in certain films in particular those in the Cannibal genre.

What sickens me about the film is director/writer/actor/cinematic Devil was inspired by his relationship with his cat. There's a special feature dedicated to the lost of Ameer cat (whose final moments are shared in every DVD copy to further add to your depression of regretting your purchase) to which I say I'm sorry for your lost Ameer. However, that lone special feature showed me a more cohesive story, an actual heart, and better editing than the actual film that you were inspired to make from his death. With the source of the inspiration made clear why the fffffffff is there a montage of Allan getting blow jobs from his so called human pet. You have one very, very, very, sick mind Ameer. What exactly was the thought process behind including that montage in the film. If it was inspired by your cat I would rather not know what you did with your cat. Also what statement Ameer were you trying to make? The "twist" in the story is Allan human pet killing his maybe wife, cooking her, and upon discovering this Allan Dawson sits down to eat her. Did something similar happen to you which is why you're dedicating the to your cat? If so, why did you eat your wife and had no problem with it. Ameer, whatever statement you were trying to say comes across negatively. I didn't think you could sink lower after inserting Holocaust footage in a romance film, but the fact that you made a film possibly inspired by bestiality, and not tackle that issue is an insult.

D'Agostino is a Jorge Ameer film plain and simple. Everything you need to know is all their by name value. Jorge Ameer is not known for nonexistent story, questionable content, incompetent editing in the simplest of areas, padding his movies to no shame, and his desire to work in multiple area as a filmmakers unable to successfully pull off any them. Jorge Ameer is the definition of a bad director, but also filmmaking in general failing to do the most basic of tasks successfully. His whole resume is a testament to horrible and clueless filmmaking.

Dude, Where's My Dog?!

I have mentioned before in the past that I babysit sometimes, but my collection is not exactly kid friendly (12 Years A Slave and Waltz With Bashir to name some) so a trip to the video store is an easy solution. Since I let the kids pick out the movie this is a good opportunity for me to do allot less than I usually do. As you can tell by the rating I hated it, but it biggest crime is its target audience felt like they were being punished.

Dude, Where's My Dog?! is about Ray and his friends trying to find their invisible dog. Trying to talk about the plot is like trying to explain to someone the experience of watching paint dry. What can you say about aside from you wait, and nothing visibly happens. The same goes with this movie, except it has a clear target audience who are kids. So it's pretty insulting the film can make its intended audience suffer. That's not an exaggeration, one of the kids I babysit and who chose this asked me "Why am I being punished". Thankfully for them they fell asleep twenty-two minutes in. There's nothing about the writing I could say a positive thing about. For instance there are scientist that created an invisible serum for no reason. A serum that a Latina or Hispanic Mobster wants for no reason. All the while the FBI are involved in getting the invisible serum because they could sneak into women locker rooms if they get it. The dog turns visible again for no reason. No logic does not equal nonsense being funny. Things like motivation, characters, and humor it failed to understand. Ray only looks for his dog because he was told too by his parents to look after the dog. Each kid character is a stereotype from the fat one, the girl, and the backtalker which is about as much personality they have. As for the adults they are all dumb portraying criminals as bumbling idiots that can be defeated by farting in their direction. Aiming to make kids laugh with fart jokes, vomit jokes, and gross out humor in general. It's not in the least bit funny since there's no consequences from the joke for characters nor a good setup for the punchline.

I'm going to mention a few particular scenes because they are that terrible. In one scene the villainess accomplices kidnaps a kid and it played for laugh. Yes, because there nothing more hilarious and innocent than child abduction. It doesn't end there, but the accomplices tortures the kid by inserting a truth serum up his nose. According to this movie telling the truth is apparently a bad thing. After hearing a knock at the door the accomplices goes to check who it is and it's the FBI. Any kid at this point given the opportunity would tell the FBI they got kidnapped. Instead though, the accomplices tells the FBI the kid he kidnapped is his son and the kidnapped kid plays along. What a good lesson to teach kids. Teaching them to play along with their kidnapper and prevent him from being capture by pretending to be his son. Lessons like that don't get taught in kids film enough because it's entirely stupid. Early on in the film a there's a throwaway gag about Ray father fart being on the level of a nuclear meltdown. I'll give Stephen Langford credit for expecting kids to know what nuclear power is, but at the same time are you really going to compare a fart to a nuclear meltdown without stating some clever similarities. That is sadly a missed opportunity for a possible funny joke. Now in the "climax" the kids are captured and the villainess wants to suck out the blood of Ray's dog to duplicate the invisible serum. Ray has the idea to tell his friend to fart to get save the day and it works. The fart is so toxic that the victim says "My eyes are melting" and eventually falling into the pool without moving. Don't worry he's alive, and yes that how's the film major conflict is solved.

The production values are very low. For example, from an exterior shot you see a building of a so call laboratory, but on the inside of that building literally looks like the inside of someone house. That laboratory does in any way shape or form resembles a lab. It's also possible the film crew didn't have enough money to shoot many scenes as the camera holds onto a scene without cutting. Never once is a long take really required since the dialogue and humor are simple. I will say I almost giggle during the opening credits as someone listed with the name Lucky Bear was playing Harry the Dog. Yes it's an animal, but makes you curious who names a dog Lucky Bear. The music is original and too bland. Every song sounds cheery with heavy emphasis on reusing a single guitar string for three songs with the singer hiding bad lyrics behind louder instruments. Ian Tucker, Alexander G. Ekert, and Charlotte Dean are children who carry the film all who cannot act. They can come across as annoying muttering their lines, but compare to the adults who should have more experience are worst. All the adult actors underplay or are over the top in their role. Believing doing the most zany movement or the silliest faces can make a scene funny. The film opening credit list someone named Lucky Bear came closer to making me laugh than any of the actor in the film.

Dude, Where's My Dog?! is punishment for misbehaved kids. It has bad acting especially from the kids actor that can annoy you, terrible humor, and feeling a lot longer than it actually. It's a trite family film that is best used to punish rather than entertain.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2
½

When are comic book films going to learn when a single hero goes up against multiple villains it increases chances for disaster. Why be so dead set to be realistic when the characters act like cartoon. Don't follow the course of blockbusters formula aiming bigger. Instead aim for being better even if it means going small scale. That's why "The Dark Knight", huh, what you do mean wrong movie, Izanagi, figment of my imagination. No I'm pretty sure I just saw "The Dark Knight". A throwaway villain, lackluster romance, bad set pieces, realistic tone defeated by logic it characters live by, and, oh it was "The Amazing Spider Man 2" that I just saw. Oh you can't be serious. Are we still pretending "The Dark Knight" was a good influence on comic book films? Yeah the day I believe that is also the day I believe Thor is a competent character in his own franchise. Preconceived notions aside about unrelated movies. "The Amazing Spider Man 2" is....amazingly bad especially when it comes to screenwriting.

The Amazing Spider Man follows Peter Parker trying to maintain his love life, discover what happened to his parents, while dealing with three villians. It reeks of very noticable rewrites, ideas that are clumsily stitched together, and is just a series of non sense when you step back to think about it. All of these moments are clumsily stitched together. It setup asks allot of the audience to accept before earning their trust. The first seven minutes are a bad indication of things to come. The opening scene has Richard and Mary Parker trying escape from inconsistent Oscorp on a plane. All we know is in the first seven minutes Oscorp doesn't want the Parkers to leak or upload specific information. Before getting more...scribbles of information the method to take out the Parkers is very illogical when viewing how flimsily they conceal information on another employee by the name of Max Dillon. After seeing a bit of how Oscorp maintain secrecy you'll question the logic from them in the opening scene. A plane crash is not very easy to hide especially when there are burned remains of former employees of Oscorp and one that has bullet hole through her body would cause suspicious under investigation. I could assume that Oscorp has that much power to do away with anything unwanted, but that doesn't go well for attempted realistic tone.

Marvel properties in general is mixed when it comes to making their action scenes. Depending on the director, concept, superpower, or secondary filming unit there's too many variables to take into account to know for sure they'll utilize everything as their disposal. Now imagine this; a couple is on a plane, a hired killer just took out the pilot, the hired gunman knocks out the wife, and the husband is now struggling in a prolong fight against the hired gunman. A sound setup, but the why it's occurring is literally something someone would write for a spoof movie. We have a fight scene that is over closing, and opening a laptop. Sure it's too upload information, but it's still two people fighting over closing, and opening a laptop. If that wasn't cartoonish enough there's the classic logic of a single bullet that goes through a plane window opening a big whole. That grows increasingly as it sucks out anything in the plane. This scene is shot to be very dramatic with overly dramatic music in the background as Richard Parker attempts to keep a laptop open. An opening scene like this could have been fun and exciting, but borders down to being heavy handed dramatics with its serious tone. It does not favor either the audience or the film when you don't play by your own established rules which this film is more than happy to disregard.

That's only seven minutes in. When a film opening is as broken as it is in this film you could only down hill if you fail to recognize the problem. In this, just as with "The Dark Knight" which it's heavily influence by, is attempting to be realistic while it characters function like cartoons. So after that over the top and heavy handed opening action scene it's immediately follow up by another action scene. One that tops the opening plane fight in silliness. Here's the setup; Spider Man must stop, Aleksei Sytsevich, Russian mobster (this ain't Captain America to allow a clever ironic joke, so nitpick strike one), who is wildly driving a Oscorp truck full of plutonium. Unlike before where the setup is good minus why it's happening. With this action scene you are left with a series of questions. Does Aleksei Sytsevich know exactly how dangerous the thing he stealing is? If so, was getting chase around New York by dozen of cops part of the plan? If not, what exactly in his thought process prevented him and his goons from quietly stealing plutonium? All these questions are neither importance to me nor the writers that wrote this mess. My biggest complain is how Spider Man does not handle this robbery. Instead of immediately stopping Aleksei Sytsevich whose driving like a mad man destroying everything in his path. Spider Man takes his time to wisecrack. As irresponsible this particular moment might be of Spider Man I would still prefer him to protect New York over Thor. The worst thing that happens while Spider Man is not focus is a couple dozen people likely got killed. Compare to Thor who while focus almost gets the whole universe destroyed. Yeah, they're both terrible heroes in hindsight aren't they? This is also the right time for Spider Man to answer a phone call....just exactly where does one keep a cell phone in a skin tight outfit? On second thought, I would rather not know.

I want to take a moment and acknowledge Denis Leary first ghostly appearance in the film. He disapprovingly looks at Peter Parker while he's attempting to stop a robbery, though I like to believe his disapproving look is aimed directly at the audience. As if to tell us "You're still staying? You disappoint me" with his soulless eyes staring into your soul. I laughed the first time Denis Leary appeared on screen because of how silly it looked. In context, Dennis Leary is likely disapproving of Andrew Garfield dating his character daughter. There is a good excuse for that...it's Emma Stone. Of course Andrew Garfield is going to break his promise and I would too, but that is just me. Thankfully Denis Leary does return in the film a couple more time who disapproves of me (and possibly you) of watching the film. In one scene, he looks directly at me behind his family with his emotionless stare. Telling me telepathically "You have a loving family? Go spend time with them. If not, I'll keep staring at you disapprovingly". Everytime Denis Leary appears it's comedy gold. Wondering what the next thing he's going to disapprove of next is something to look forward to. Until you're given actual context if you haven't seen the previous entry.

I could literally break this whole film down, but why continue to beat on a dead horse with the same old criticisms. Multiple villains that lack proper motivation and development. The first villain that appears on screen, Rhino, is very cheesy and goes unused for virtually the whole film. Peter Parker is terrible at concealing his identity. He uses his powers in public buildings that have cameras and in one instance almost forgets to take off his mask. Aunt May and Norman Osborn are superfluous characters adding nothing the film. Both could have been easily written off and in way no would it have affected the course of the film. Sparing viewers from the pointless laundry argument between Peter Parker and Aunt May. Most of Peter and Gwen Stacy dialogue goes like "it's over", "we're back together", "it's over", and "we're back together". Then there's Peter Parker finding this secret laboratory in a location that convince me these writers are as far as remove from reality as possible. The final act consist of two climaxes and two action scenes right after one another. Several subplots like Peter discovering what happened to his parents, his friendship with Osborn, Aunt May struggle to raise Peter, Peter romance with Gwen Stacy, and so many more get tossed aside without the proper time to develop them. The ending is very stupid and insulting to Rhino fans. Something cool is happening behind the closing credits. These complaints are pretty much common for anyone who hates this film, but for me these common criticisms is not enough for me.

So lets focus on specifically Electro who is play by....um what was his name again? It's that one actor who always gets overshadowed even when he's the star of his own movie. This movie might be bad, but I will say casting, Jamie Foxx, there we go is an inspired move. Because who better to play a forgettable character than an actor who is unable to steal the spotlight from his costars. For the first half Jamie Foxx fits his role just fine pre-electro. The way he speaks and the way he move capitalizes on the nerdy characteristics of Max. While also allowing room for his obsession to Spider Man can be perceived as creepy won't overshadowed an ultimately good intentioned man. However, when Jamie Foxx is cover in blue skin he's forced to play a rejected member of the Blue Man Group. He's unable to recover when he turns into Electro or make the villain remotely memorable. Speaking of which, how exactly does his powers work? Apparently when he walks by cars alarms will go off, but doesn't affect cell phones in time square despite a scene showing earlier his power can affect technology not on the ground. Electro also has the power to fix gap in his front teeth. Well if that's not pointless I don't know what is. I especially love how in New York a glowing blue man doesn't get anyone attention even when he pulls up a grate to get more electricity. Just another day in New York I guess. Since I'm still on Electro I want to discuss just how ridiculous it is how he obtain his powers. There's is no way that...wait what. Huh, uh huh, hmm? You can't be serious Izanagi! That is not a valid flaw!

Okay. Originally I was going to test the film theory myself, but it was rather difficult to find a fish tank big enough to fit around ten electric eels. Turns out after who knows how many hours of explanations and research here's some science for you. Apparently, a person could pick up some of the electrical producing cells of eels called electrolytes. If you want to splice electric eel power cells into your body it would then possible to become Electro. All of our cells operate electrically; they are pumping ions in and out all the time and changing charges, and nerve cells absolutely work on electrochemistry. If you can generate half a volt out of a nerve cell, and you could stack up a bunch of them, in theory, you could get a reasonable voltage. Electric eels generate about 1/6th of a volt per electrocyte, but stack up thousands of them to generate typically 600 volts. But they do not shoot lightning bolts, because their voltage isn't high enough.

So rather than a capacitor Electro is more like a battery. He feeds his cells, and among the things the cells will do with chemical energy is create electricity. So he would be feeding his electrical cells with food, and when he needs to produce a charge, he would generate a charge electro-chemically. It makes a lot more sense than if he were a living capacitor. Depending on how it's designed, you can make nice arcs. But the problem with a conventional capacitor is that you have bunch of conducting plates with an insulator in between them, so that's a problem with a human body. Because it's full of salt water, it'd short itself out all the time. If it did hold a charge, there are all sorts of problems. If he has a million volts moving from one side of the body to another, why wouldn't he electrocute himself? If he's shooting sparks out of his fingers, that means that his fingers are going to a much higher voltage than the rest of the world, so how does he do that? The electric eel does it by doing some chemistry on the fly, and that's the best this theory can describe. But he's really a battery, not a capacitor. By the way, there is some evidence that electric eels do in fact shock themselves, but that they are more resistant to the effect than their prey is.

I'm just speechless. So how Electro gets his powers is actually possible if unlikely to duplicate it exactly in the human body as presented in the film. They did not insult the audience intelligence with that scene. Scientifically speaking it's possible. I was proven wrong by "The Amazing Spider Man 2". Damme you movie. Even when you're correct at something you still find a way to make me angry. Wait a minute, than the way Electro is defeated in the climax makes no sense at all. Since Electro produces electricity it would have been more effective to throw him into salt water to make him release his current of electricity. Well if that's true, then it makes no sense how Electro remains in the film as long as he does since I doubt every single drop of water in New York is purified. Even then, that's still asking a lot for the audience and regardless the quality of the water Electro should still short out. Just wow. I won't even bother how Electro clothes stays on him when he travels through electricity. Electro is scientifically possible, but at the same time how he functions is not accurate. Did I really spent four paragraphs on Electro? See what happens when you have poorly written movie and a maniac.

Actually comes to think of it what was the point of having three villians? For starter Rhino doesn't really make much of an appearance in the film. Write him out and what do you know not that much changed. What about Harry Osborn? Well the way he's brought into the the film is contrive, much like how I brought up the Japanese god Izanagi as a figment of my imagination out of nowhere in this review. If I removed all references to Izanagi you wouldn't have noticed much of a change in what you're reading. The same goes for Harry Osborn who is just there as a plot device whenever it's at a stand still. If you removed Harry Osborn you would have a shorter film, with better character development, and more scenes with Aunt May raising Peter Parker. Unless of course the writers wanted to stretch this out as long as possible. What about if Electro was removed? You would pretty much have another Green Goblin versus Spider Man film.

Now time to analyze one of my pet peeves with comic book films in general and those are the action scenes. Action scenes in this film are very short and go more for visual flair over clever staging, and creativity. All the action scenes in the film try to make spectacles appear bigger than they actually are. One way the film crew go about is huge amount of particle effects whenever Spider Man and Electro fight each other. Whenever these two fight it formulaic; Electro has the upper hand in the beginning with his electrical bolts and Spider Man turns the tide of battle after receiving a certain amount of electrical shot. That's all. Talk about basic that you could literally picture point A to point B in your mind. In glorious slow motion which is always present and for Electro his own dubstep theme. The opening fight in the plane cannot have the camera stay still to make it possible to enjoy. The fight in the plane is basic granted two grown men fight over the screen of a laptop is silly. Than after that are the two throwaway Rhino scenes. Shockingly the action scenes involving Rhino feature more environmental destruction than the two climaxes combine. They look impressive of the sheer amount of destruction, but the execution and design of them are land in specific point, talk, and in quick fashion finish the scene. As for the second climax that involve the Green Goblin it's short, shot in tight spaces with closeups, and favorite the usage of slow motion to keep up with the not that fast fight.

The direction is a mess with unfinished CGI effects. That's also the same reason why Spider Man isn't in the film much since it would actually require the filmmakers to put some actual effort. It's selection of music is off putting distracting the scene it plays in. Dubstep is not exactly fitting for action sequence that is meant to be taken seriously when the lyrics cannot be made out properly. My eardrums might have bled since I personally don't like dubstep, but I'm pretty sure I heard "He Hates-A Me" while Electro was fighting Spider Man at time square. I never knew Mario did film scores.

The cast is generally mixed, though easily the best part of the film. Andrew Garfield brings innocent charm and enough heart as ordinary Peter Parker. While as Spider Man comes across as energetic and cocky, even if a scene does him a disservice. Emma Stone is delightful in the film even when delivery some pretty awful dialogue. Stone chemistry with Garfield is genuine and very strong when the two share a scene. They make the on and off again relationship come across naturally. Jamie Foxx like mentioned earlier pre electro is good in the role. However, pass his scene at time square Foxx goes into a one note role. He's always angry and, yeah that's about it when he becomes Electro. Paul Giamatti is cheesy in his short time, though easily the most enthusiastic in his role. He plays his character like a glorious cartoon that it's a shame he receives less than six minute of screen time. Sally Field gets very little screen time as Aunt May. I could forgive her for not trying in the role since there is not much to her characters. Dane Dehaan is okay in the role. He's gets thrust into scenes with jarring tone differences with little breathing room in between. Leaning too often in one emotion of his character.

The Amazing Spider Man 2 has plenty of ideas and characters that sadly culminated into making its emotion superfluous. There is too many undeveloped ideas that holds it back from evolving into the grand spectacles it wants to be and from a technical standpoint it set pieces are too basic and short to deliver on its promised thrills. With the exception of the acting, every element in the film implodes on itself having the ideas, but not knowing how to use them. It's a mess of a film that has too much for its own good and delivers very little of it.

Side Stories: Superficial stuff that happened before and after viewing the film

So I have a friend, Eric, who knows one of my biggest gripes for movies is terrible writing. Eric knows it to the point he doesn't bother to ask me my thoughts on a movie I hate or love. For this one, after seeing the film himself Eric said to me "This is definitely something you would award a 0%. No doubt about it". That is true, if I only cared that one thing. There is the production side of things which is just as important to me. It's also his comment about Electro gaining his powers as an insult to the audience that inspired me to actually seek out information if it was possible. If you're going call anything an insult to audiences intelligence be sure it's an area you're an expert in. If not, you could have a friend like me who loves bringing it up in debates.

My original review of this film was so long that it exceeded Rotten Tomatoes word limit. So I cut out 60% of that material and then edited everything in the remaining 40% down to what you just read. What I took out was not really all that useful or helpful. Plus, it went against my policy of the no spoiler rule. There are exception to the rules, but unless the film had some sort of promised in a theme or concept I won't go into detail about its story. If I'm going to write anything that contains spoiler I rather put it after the closing paragraph to a review. Therefore anyone who has any interest in seeing the film regardless of they read can rest assure it won't get spoiled entirely. There was also numerous scenes dissection that made it tedious to read. There's only so many times you want to read "that piece of dialogue was horrible" before becoming redundant yourself. Now with a review that long I still would have given it the same rating. The film as a whole is flawed, but has it few merits. As a whole though, it just another film that solidifies my feelings that "The Dark Knight" has been a negative influence on comic book films. Three paragraphs about why that is, but like Rhino, it's rather superfluous to include.

Persona 3
Persona 3 (2013)
½

Operhus! Kikuri-hime! Pyro Jack! Scathach! Leanan Sidhe! Skadi! Mother Harlot! Thor! Thanatos! Lucifer! Jack Frost! Are all the name of demons I used the most in the video game Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 FES. A game that restored my faith in video games and made me hold them to a higher standard. While I'm a fan of Shin Megami Tensei in general. For my money worth Persona 3 is the best game in both SMT and its own franchise. I'm pretty biased when it comes to my love of the video game even with some design decisions that irks others (most common one being unable to control your whole team during battles) I actually appreciate. However, not even my single minded love for one of my favorite video games can make me see "Persona 3 The Movie: Chapter 1, Spring of Birth" as anything more than a disjointed disappointment.

Persona 3 The Movie: Chapter 1, Spring of Birth follows Makoto Yuki, a transfer student at Gekkoukan High School, suddenly awakened with the powers to control a Persona. Episodic pacing serves to highlight the script flaws that tackle allot more than it knows how to handle. A film that has teenagers aiming Evokers (guns basically/deep symbolism) at their heads and shooting to summon their PERSONA picks a dark tone without consistency in characters. Junpei Iori is introduced as comic relief who reverts between being a clown to being envious of Makoto abilities. This change occurs immediately, although the rest of the cast go unscathed. With the exception of Makoto Yuki mostly muted transformation the cast of characters remain wholly the same. Personally I hated how Makoto Yuki was adapted, but in the film he has a subtle progression in letting in emotions. Yet despite Makoto being the only character who has progression not even he can escape one dimensionality. He's the orphan loner who learns the meaning of friendship, but not gaining much of a personality by the end.

The film only adapts the first three full moon incidents which in the game is three months worth of story. To further highlight this, the progression of time is shown through a calendar that says a lot time has pass which also means there's lot that is being left out. There's hardly any progression to be seen both in character growth and in conflict. Thematically the whole driving force is strengthening one's bond which is hardly showcased among Makoto friends. There's Yukari Takeba who's angry at Makoto for leading the group as just a job he's told to do. Next is Junpei like earlier said goes from hating Makoto guts to being envious of his abilities. Mitsuru Kirijo is the oldest among the high school students which seems to all goes into her character in the film. Akihiko Sanada likes to fight...that's all really. Then there's Shuji Ikutsuki who is the only adult character in the film with any influence in the story, but gets sideline leaving to question of how he could be active during the dark hour without a Persona. Finally, Fuuka Yamagishi is the damsel in distress who gets bullied, though compare to the main cast her little screen time has a complete arc.

Still going the film leaves many blanks like the incident that killed Makoto parents, why Gekkoukan High School turns into Tartarus (a giant tower filled with demons), how the Dark Hour came to be, and did I just see a promotional plug in the post credit sequence that said its sequel is coming soon. Granted being a fan I know the answers. However, it ideas while interesting are left underdeveloped that is vague rather than mysterious. The set up with this film is deliberately to be seen with the whole series together, but as a stand alone title doesn't complete everything that it set up. For starter, it explanations are not absolute in giving the audience (specifically newcomers) an exact understanding of how it world or powers functions. Leading to instances of Deus Ex Machina that eliminates the difficulty of a scenario for the characters down to a easy victory. Sadly one of those deus ex machina named is Jack Frost (my favorite persona) who becomes an ace in easy victory. No steady world building to get suck into this odd world. It's thrown in resulting in the story basically being "there's monster, let kill them" and finished. What exactly Tatarus gets under explained; how it came to be and it purpose are not explained. Too many characters that prevent growth leaving many to disappear or sit in the sideline until further needed. Withholding information for easy solutions in difficult conflict eliminating tension. Finally it feels incomplete. Just because the credit rolled doesn't mean the story has entirely been wrapped up.

Shoji Meguro returns in his role to produce the soundtrack and as usual his work is stellar. Crazy techno/hip-hop soundtrack creates a unique tone. The game's soundtrack is largely reused in the movie and fits just as well. As a fan of Shoji Meguro in general, the best part of the film was the opening credits with a remixed version of "Burn My Dread"-complete with an added strings section. The film does not provide many new material worth looking into, but the rearrangement of familiar tracks makes it a nostalgic trip for fans and improve on the tunes found in the game. Art direction captures the game's dark atmosphere perfectly. The usage of lightning is key since most of the film takes place in the dark. It looks stunning thanks to the clever use of moonlight, the action in the film is easy-to-see while the lighting still manages to keep the setting looking ominous. Locations from the game are brought to life and given a vibrant new look, whilst also retaining the same details that any fan of the game will remember fondly. Plenty of foreboding compositions, oppressive shots, and generally solid direction help to keep things interesting. Animations such as the school turning into Tartarus are rendered beautifully, and many elements of movement and action that were previously left to the imagination are now visually stunning and exciting. The original Japanese voice cast returns to reprise their role and are just solid in the film adaptation. In particular Akira Ishida gets allot more to say besides some grunts and demon names. While limited in dialogue, Akira Ishida grim voice fits the broken character of Makoto.

Persona 3 The Movie: Chapter 1, Spring of Birth feels incomplete as a standalone film. Characters are one dimensional, several questions are left unanwered, and ends with a direct promotion for the sequel. Not since Max Payne have I been disappointed in lost potential for a good film adaptation of a video game. As a fanboy all it does is make me want to play the video game because of the film incessant it is to cram everything into a single film without time for it to be fleshed out. As a movie watcher it feels incomplete with it story withholding information, having no clear ending, a disjointed story with underdeveloped characters, and the last image shown promotes a sequel that might be worth skipping if it's more of the same. It's in the middle ground that while it's no insult to both audiences like "Mortal Kombat Annihilation", it's sadly neither an easily accessible live action "Ace Attorney".

Persona 3's Suicide Imagery:

So in order to summon a Persona you need the gun-like Evoker and shoot yourself in the head. In the game and film it's explain it's not an actual gun, though how it works is rather vague. Like even though it's said not to be a gun everytime the trigger is pulled it makes a gun shot sound. However, it's used to simulate fear in order to simulate extreme stress to make it possible to summon a Persona. While they're not killing themselves the image looks like they are blowing their brains out-often complete with spiritual brain and skull fragments. If you can't handle fictional characters or the sight of teen suicide. I'm saying this nicely, if that kind of thing upsets you just quit watching any video media. There's allot teen suicide imagery in the film and also hundreds of years worth films that also go for darker, more unsettling images than what this film goes into.

Yurusarezaru mono (Unforgiven)
½

Hollywood has a history of remaking Japanese films. "Seven Samurai" became "The Magnificent Seven", "Yojimbo became" "A Fistful of Dollars" and "The Warrior and the Sorcerers", and "Rashomon" became "The Outrage". What all these Japanese films have in common besides being helm by Akira Kurosawa. All contained samurai as a major character. I wanted to list specifically samurai films because Japan love Western as much as Hollywood loves (remaking) samurai films. So it is no surprise that Japan would remake Clint Eastwood masterpiece "Unforgiven". Calling the original "Unforgiven" the "Seven Samurai" of the Western genre is no exaggeration by any means. However, the remake, "Yurusarezaru mono" (Unforgiven in English) is not of the same caliber. While it's not quite as insulting as Hollywood take on "47 Ronin". This remake is by definition lazy. Retreading familiar material without much effort to deviate for its own identity and missing all source of passion. Kinda ironic when you think about it since Warner Bros. who are responsible for the original are responsible for the remake.

Yurusarezaru mono (Unforgiven in English) is about Jubei Kamata, a fearsome former samurai of the Tokugawa Shogunate taking one last job. Plot point by plot point this retelling is superficial. Just because the setting is changed and characters named change does not qualify as a proper remake. Scenes for scenes copy dialogue from the original sticking too closely to them. Making it tedious to sit through for anyone who seen the original. Ironically the worst scenes of the film are it rare attempts to deviate from the original. In the opening we see Jubei Kamata fighting for his life against some military soldiers. Immediately this remove the mysterious aura around Jebei being this so call legendary killer. Because we saw Jubei kill we don't once ever question his ability or doubt he is this legendary killer. Therefore never seeing him as this ordinary person he pretends to be when he's introduced. Another change in the story is who convinces the protagonist to get involved for this hit. In the original it was The "Schofield Kid"; a young admirer of William Munny (the original film protagonist) and this came into play very strongly on depicting morality in the old west and the influence of legends. Here it's Kingo Baba (Morgan Freeman character basically) convinces Jubei to get back out on the field. This too is also ruined instead of developing the relationship between these two long time friends during their journey they are downgraded to simple two dimensional characters. Than comes the climax that butchers the preceding. In the original, Munny had a reason a to return to Big Whiskey for more than just payback; in this remake it just comes off as an act of vengeance. Schofield Kid character is also diminished in this remake. Whereas most of the characters stay the same this character gets needlessly changed. Using Schofield character as attempt to bring up race discrimination, but does nothing with it. Discrimination is just brought up as this character defining feature who does discuss his struggles with it once. Once, other times discrimination is just brought up because it a thing that happened to him for small talk. Worst part about it bringing up discrimination is pointless in this. If discrimination was never brought up the film would not change in the slightest.

Does the film work if you haven't seen the original? How can the remake fail for those who haven't seen it if virtually everything remained intact? Simple...okay it's actually not, but I'll explain the best to my amature abilities. What the original did was play on expectations and doing a complete one-eighty in its board depiction on sophisticated themes. This remake falls victim to those expectations; it sets up those expectations of what is associated with Samurai films and following them with a straight face. The humor is more varied and less subtle, but is also more spontaneous and noticeable when it disappears entirely from the film. Pacing issues are apparent with some scenes rushing encounters and introductions while others overstay their welcome. This is a major problem, as the emotional link that could be potentially had with a tale of two old fools, one chasing and one running from a dream, doesn't hit as well as it might. It adapts the story well replacing guns with swords, but is not an seamless exchange. It doesn't bother exploring why some still prefer to carry sword despite the advantages a gun can offer. Another is the setup appears to be wanting to make commentary on a theme, but which one that is becomes clouded by what characters do. Characters motivations aren't clear or properly set up; like why the young Auni wants to been seen as a killer aren't made clear. Our main cast is two dimensional with supporting characters changing through the course of the film more so than the actual protagonist. In the climax, Jubei image being this frail man is removed as he able to endured multiple wounds from bullets and swords. The ending is set up in a way to create an image of Jubei as a passing legend despite trying so desperately earlier on to disprove audience from that notion. In the eyes of a newcomer is might come off as a passable film with no developed, clear ideas with miss potential for greatness.

Ken Wantanabe is our leading man and his performance is below average. He's no Clint Eastwood vocally or physically and that's where the problem lies. Eastwood in the original looks like someone grandfather who you would have trouble believing was this legendary outlaw, but Wantanabe just comes across as someone out shape. Wantanabe young looking appearance makes it difficult to see him as the frail old man he plays. His line delivery is always assured eliminating the unease that his character might not actually changed. Since there's no distinction in the way Wantanabe speaks there is no subtle transformation. Imitating Eastwood performances instead of making it his own. Akira Emoto is an excellent replacement for Morgan Freeman playing virtually the same character. Charismatic and committed in his role being a good supporting actor to help remove Wantanabe never settling into the role. Another stand out is Koichi Sato glowering, witty and assured performance, given a dandyish touch by his curlicued moustache, has a finesse worthy of the role's originator, Gene Hackman. Sadly though, our lead isn't able to the break image of whose first played the role like the rest of the cast. Cinematography is pleasing to the eyes with rich textures that changes environment according to the protagonist mood. It's nice hidden visual theme that sadly is undermined by the majority that retread old material.

Yurusarezaru mono (Unforgiven) is a remake that encourages laziness. It's a carbon copy of the original with none of the same passion or sophistication. Whatever small change the film rarely goes for backfires making characters two dimensional and simplifying such gray themes as discrimination as throwaway material. Characters motivations are lost and it's story plays into your expectations. As a remake it's just retreading virtually everything the original cover making it tedious for anyone who seen the original and for newcomers with unclear ideas that get lost among the mess of what could have been.

Unforgiven
Unforgiven (1992)

Whenever the word "Western" pops up the first person that comes to my mind is Clint Eastwood. As an actor he's center stage in several of my favorite Westerns and as a director understands the genre like no other director. Ever since his first directed western, Eastwood showed an interest in the duality of the hero, taking a special interest in the archetype of hero portrayed in the classic 1953 Western, "Shane". Eastwood has explored this theme in many ways in the past: first as a true antihero ("High Plains Drifter"), then as a man becoming legend ("The Outlaw Josey Wales") and later as a true mythic hero ("Pale Rider"); all this culminates in "Unforgiven" as the ultimate demythologization of the concept, and his final ode to the Western genre.

Unforgiven follows retired old west gunslinger William Munny reluctantly taking on one last job, with the help of his old partner and a young man. It's a film about the manipulating influence of legends as much it is a dissection on the western genre position on violence. Built on a hollow facade of the western genre it removal of any heroes and villains slowly envelops the film. Broadening the depiction of the wild west eliminating the charming hero, the righteous sheriff, the violent outlaws, elaborate shootouts, climatic stands off, and the helpless everyday person caught in the middle in life in the old west. Becoming more thoughtful in showing every step of a character motivation by an outside force to an internal decision. Internalizing the classic Western theme in which violent men are "civilized" by schoolmarms, preachers and judges. It is in the use of violence as the main theme of the story that such varied views are made possible. Munny is escaping from his past's violence while the Kid is eagerly awaiting the next chance to prove his masculinity by the use of violence. The duality between man and myth is explored not only via the relationship between the Kid and Munny, but also in the shape of a character who writes novels about the wild west, and sees the figure of the gunslinger as an idolized modern hero. Reality constantly collides with legend with many characters and their relationships exhaustively explored, resulting in a character driven revisionism of the western.

Clint Eastwood as a director reflects a passing era in its genre even in its visual style. The set design and cinematography provide viewers with visual cues they will be conversant with a genre whose conventions are deeply rooted in American cinema. The dusty, barren streets and ramshackle buildings are necessary to impart a sense of familiarity that the storyline takes pains to deconstruct. Our first views of Big Whiskey establish a set of expectations, reinforced by the way the town has been erected and the way the early scenes are shot, that are necessary for "Unforgiven" approach to have its full impact. Many of the film's exteriors are widescreen compositions showing the vastness of the land. The daytime interiors, on the other hand, are always strongly backlit, the bright sun pouring in through windows so that the figures inside are dark and sometimes hard to see. Living indoors in a civilized style has made these people distinct.

As William Munny, Clint Eastwood is simply perfect in what at first sight looks like an extension of his earlier "Man with no name" persona. William Munny has a name, and a past he wants to escape from, and Eastwood captures the image of guilt and regret to the letter. But his voice lacks conviction, and we sense unfinished business in the air displaying the uncertainty of Eastwood to stick by his guns. Eastwood personifies the weariness of a man of violence who's trying to fight against his nature. A lot of the conflict is internal, but we catch enough glimpses of it to know it's going on. We also see the point at which the surrender of the new man to the old one occurs. In other words Eastwood has visually and through his portrayal created one of the most sophisticated westerns. Morgan Freeman plays the wise old friend role which he perfected. Gene Hackman does an excellent job bringing out the good and the bad in Little Bill, refusing to allow the character to become a one-dimensional antagonist. His standout scene is the one in which he instructs Beauchamp about the real Old West.

Unforgiven is another classic western by one of the master of genre himself Clint Eastwood. Deconstructing the western with shades of grey and thoughtful statement on its genre violence. Bolstered by strong performances from an great assemble cast create individuals that aren't simply black and white. Showing far more depths in the characters in their delivery. It's in the same vein as "Seven Samurai" tackling it's respective genre with a depiction that challenges characters, it's environments, morals, and realistically deconstruct many norms of it genre. It's not just great filmmaking, but an essential work of art.

The Trial of the Incredible Hulk

Extra! Extra! CM lost yet another case against the general public (aka his college classroom). In his effort to prove Marvel monopoly on superheroes films is no excuse for laziness CM back himself with supporting evidence in court showing several Marvel films side by side. Asking the jury to name a director of a specific film to which they couldn't differentiate a single film for having a unique style, a different formula, or a different tone. He came prepared and determine to prove a point, but lost with an opposing evidence against him. The side against CM pointed to a positive review of Sharknado found on his profile which was enough to convince the jury his position on trail was futile and unanimously was found guilty in hating anything popular. This is not the first time CM lost a case against the general public. Similarly the same occurred when he declared "The Dark Knight" the worst influence to comic book films and titled the success of "Frozen" the end of creativity in American animation. Neither of those cases prove any success as he became bombarded by large number of defenders. Yes it seems by some colleagues his pursue for there to be great writing in films is coming at the sacrifice of seeing why a particular film appeal even when those supporters who see those same flaws. I'm simply attempting to this introduction as a news story because CM has no other way to open the review. Much the film he's about to review, this opening is lost potential for something that could have been clever, but ends up falling short of what seemed promising.

The Trail of the Incredible Hulk follows David Banner who is held for questioning about a mob crime, his only chance lies with his blind lawyer. Honestly the title of the film was enough to convince me to see the film. I expected it to be the first Marvel film acknowledge consequences for super powers. In the first act it appears that way with David Banner being sent to prison and meeting his blind lawyer Matt Murdock whose determine to defend him. Sure Banner case will help Murdock in his personal pursuit for justice, but is shown wanting to take the high minded road with the story. Now it should be brought up that the film skims through the background of David Banner and Matt Murdock. What we learn is enough to obtain an understanding for both characters having more in common than one might expect. It's more geared towards the characters driving the story than a story being driven by action. How the characters act make sense and their handling of their respective ordeals is seen as a logical one from their own view. Banner in this film does not turn into Hulk frequently demonstrating a restraint depicted in being difficult to maintain. We see Banner is a good guy, but not so much the world around him provoking him into madness with a desire to SMASH! We see a Banner not desiring to use powers for any good or bad motives. By the end it's a given he will use them for good, but brings the often ignored turmoil in depicting a individual that unlike other super heroes cannot be entirely good or evil by complete control.

Back on topic, the title of the film is misleading. Sadly the only time we're ever in court is in a dream sequence. What makes this dream sequence a tragic lost is if the scenario did happen it would have created a case that made proving Banner innocence allot more difficult. It's also easily the best sequence in the film showing the most of Hulk abilities and the first ever Stan Lee cameo. Also, the techniques used in this dream sequence put us directly in Banner shoes. Disorienting close ups, uncomfortable zooming in to people faces, and loud noises that won't stop that frankly just want to make you see HULK SMASH the court. Sadly post dream sequence the film takes a dive downward. Becoming more of a superhero team up than a high minded court film. Following the same formula of villain takes damsel, hero gets defeated, hero regaining his spirit, hero goes to save damsel, and villains get away on high tech flying speed boat from the top of tall building. Okay maybe not that last part, but that's the general outline. Yet at the same time despite these familiarity there are many moments that makes it feel different from Marvel usual outing. Often seeing Banner and Murdock lives as mundane. Coming from someone who seen a number of Marvel films different is refreshing.

The same notion applies to the technical and cast side of the film. Once again there is some promise among the crew, but along the way falter. Bill Bixby is the director, producer, and star of the film. Bixby dialogue for the first act is simple often saying simple phrases instead of speaking in complete sentences. As the film progresses Bixby has more lines making him able to hold a conversation through his angry voice. However, when Bixby is meant to transform into a green painted Lou Ferrigno his angry face is unintentionally hilarious. This also causes some continuity issues as Bixby beard disappears when he "Hulks-out". Ferrigno has the best moments in the film despite most of his dialogue requiring him to yell in rage. Sadly he doesn't get to show much of his strength aside from the trial scene. It shows the film had a small budget with as Hulk does little destruction and Daredevil fights scenes beside being incredibly lame are slowly performed with simple choreography. Spectacles are the one thing the budget can't contribute. Also, he doesn't make an appearance in the final act that while it breaks from the norm of the title character saving the day means Hulk is often seen running more than helping people. To be fair though, a green Lou Ferrigno still looks more realistic than CG Hulks. Rex Smith committed as Matt Murdock, though is bland. While I do praise Smith for never blinking in his role as a blind man it does severely limits his range of emotions with constant wide eyes. Plus his costume is just black which makes sense for fighting in the dark, but looks uninteresting when compared the sight of a green Lou Ferrigno. Finally John Rhys-Davies plays the villain Wilson Fisk. Everything he says is cheesy comic-book villainy and he's a having a blast with it. Embracing the goofy persona of his characters he's rather fun to see even if he's the villain. The supporting cast are part of the background with no standout. Some are good and some are hammy. As for director Bill Bixby his technique is just point and shoot. Visually the film ever rarely looks interesting with any noteworthy shot.

The Trail of the Incredible Hulk is different from Marvel usual affair. Granted it dated badly in some areas, but which specifically is up for debate. I don't know about you, but when Lou Ferrigno plays Hulk I can tell he is real and actually there unlike the CG Hulks. Unfortunately unlike CG Hulk, Lou Ferrigno is restricted to slow movements and deliver little in the way of destruction. However, this film does allot right. The characters are made human, Hulk and Daredevil team up is fun, and refreshing to see the title character not be the main hero in a Marvel film. It won't deliver the spectacles like todays Marvel films, but deliver on its characters and unlike most of Marvel releases it feels different. It's not as high minded as one would hope given the title, but is a nice distraction sometimes faring better than a higher budget Marvel film.

Airplane vs Volcano

The Asylum is a brand I can trust when it comes to viewing something out of the norm of sensibility and logic. Sure nearly every knock off the studio makes can't compete with the actual film it's ripping off, but even those have their own highlights of mediocrity. Earlier this year I witnessed the uneventful and shallow "Apocalypse Pompeii" which was a volcanic disaster movie based around Mount Vesuvius. It was a typical disaster film without a bone of creativity or interesting idea to overcome technical limitations like horrid acting. I bring up "Apocalypse Pompeii" because it takes place in the same universe as "Airplane vs. Volcano" as made clear in news broadcast in the film. As pointless as that bit of trivia might be what is not pointless is knowing that "Airplane vs. Volcano" is not a good general movie, but it is an entertaining B-movie.

Airplane Vs. Volcano is about a commercial airliner trapped within a ring of erupting volcanoes, the passengers and crew must find a way to survive - without landing. It doesn't take long for the action to get started literally opening with a scientifically goofy explanation on the sudden rises of volcano follow by an instant death of a scientist. What makes it difficult to discuss this film is how much of its own stupidity should I bring up. Part of the fun is in seeing the dumb premise unfold with it even stupider characters we follow. Every single thing these characters do is counter productive losing most of their oil in single a mistake which also almost caused them to blow up in mid air, but also gets passengers and military soldiers killed with every plan hatched. All the characters in the film are one dimensional cliches; the air marshall, the geek, the average joe who lost everything, disaster expert, the unneeded middle eastern attempted hijacker who's absent most of the duration, the single parent with a child, reluctant military general, but all are all idiots. Like a usual disaster movie it has no time to develop of any of its characters. Jumping between the dire situation on the plane and military command post that examine the disaster and attempt to minimize casualty. It has no time focus on the human element of the story which later undermines the characters plead for help in the third act from resonating. While I would love to poke fun the military solution to save the passengers in detail doing so will ruined any fun to be had in its third act. Although I will say it involves bombs, jet fighters, a military general, and tons of fireballs. The script is plagued with cliches and bad science, but makes up for it with a fast pace and host of creative ideas. It's setting might be limited, but always keeps it plot moving. Set pieces are guarantee to deliver a laugh and along the way the enjoyably implausible climax. Melodrama is wonderfully cheesy and the conflict is forced to the point that the most illogical path might be the right way to survive the disaster. All doing so with it tongue firmly implanted in it cheeks being a part of the fun that knows when to push itself into absurdity and come in control with cheesy melodrama.

Dean Cain is the leading man filled with a committed cast of hammy actor. Cain, like the rest of the cast, are in on the joke. While Cain doesn't change his facial impression much looking more like he's having fun than in actual peril has charisma. He's fun to be around with his goofy character allowing him to say stuff no one would utter. Not only that, but his arc is one of the few story threads that is decent enough to pull have a small payoff, even if it's undone seconds later in the climax. Plus I appreciate an in joke on the actor who also played Superman. The only other actor worth a positive mention is Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs who inspite of the material gives a good performance. He's the closest the cast has to a good actor showing range in his abilities swiftly changing from a tough guy to fun loving air marshall. Jacobs commits putting some emotions in his more dramatic scenes. The two worst actors in the film are easily Morgan West and Mike Jerome Putnam. These two have no chemistry with each other uttering their lines without conviction. They hardly show any emotion with their expression and vocally deliver every line with the same tone of voice through out. Finally Robin Givens is bad in her role. She's does not seemed to understand what kind of movie she is delivering all her expository line very seriously. Givens always appears upset about volcanoes. The special effects are the usual cheap looking CG Asylum standard. Here it's they do repeat the same shots of the airplane in peril surrounded by volcanoes for two acts. However, what the filmmakers do with the special effects is varied in its set pieces makes up for the plastic look of it CG.

Airplane Vs. Volcano is an entertaining b-movie. It has hammy acting, a goofy story, and hilarious stupid moments. If you're part of the audience that enjoys a B-movie "Airplane Vs. Volcano" has you cover getting to the action immediately and keeps itself afloat with creativity. It's in on the fun and knows how to deliver entertainment as well as a good laugh. While it won't ever surpass the legendary Sharknado (I recommend if you like b-movies) it's in the same ball park in being one of "The Asylum" better films.

Note:

On the DVD box of "Airplane Vs. Volcano" it says "Based on the true story". Out of curiosity I looked into it and it turns out "The Asylum" has done a film based on a true story before. For instance, "Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies" is based on the biography titled "Emancipate This!" by someone with the initial JWB. If that's not historically accurate I don't know what is.

God's Not Dead

A straightforward title like that leaves little to the imagination for debate. In the same way the same person wrote the Ten Commandments said "Thou Shalt Not Kill" nearly wiped out every single specie with a flood. As my supporting evidence in Exodus 34:1, "The Lord said to Moses, "Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones, and I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke". Further supporting my evidence with Exodus 34:28, Moses writes "the words of the covenant, the ten commandments" onto the second set of tablets. These words were not the same: both God and Moses wrote on the tablets, but only Moses wrote the Ten Commandments. It is sometimes appropriate to describe an agent as doing something even when he delegates the work to someone else. God wrote the Ten Commandments onto the tablets, even if he used Moses to do so. I know for a fact my argument will be defeated by those who actually read the Bible unlike myself which is intentional. This film does inspire to this kind of level of thinking. While I am not a Christian follower nor of any particular religion. I do however favor Buddhism teachings personally because of Buddha himself, and you better believe I would try convince non believers that not every person in a specific faith wants to force their beliefs down your throats like this film claims. Not only are it arguments favoring God existence and depiction of atheists one sided, but also how it represent the Christian community so poorly it has the power to convert Christians into another faith. Ladies and gentlemen of the court. I present to the jury or readers my arguments for why "God's Not Dead" IS THE WORST CHRISTIAN FILM EVER MADE.

Hate Thy Neighbor

In this film if you're an atheist you will suffer. For example, there's a reporter who gets cancer because she's an atheist and took offense when a clear rip off a "Duck Dynasty" actor prays on his show. Instead of choosing to dive into the complicated subject of how a man sticks by a faith even when it's against his personal way of living. Preferring instead to proudly claim atheist hate Christians. Not only that, but according to this film shooting an animal will not cause it any suffering. Seems like the writers fail to acknowledge its audience is not brain dead as they are. So the reporter attempts to get support in her hour of need from her boyfriend who's also an atheist. Once she tells him she has cancer her boyfriend responds with "How could you do this to me?". Going by this movie logic it's because she's an atheist. I'm curious to witness what the resolution to this dilemma will be? Oh it never gets resolved. The atheist couples end up separated never working to fix the relationship and the reporter conforms to Christianity which according to this film makes everything better...except she still has cancer and is not shown accepting it as part of her life.

Another is an over controlling Muslim father whose daughter he physically beats when he discovers his daughter is listening to the bible on tape. Yeah because college students will be jamming to the "Book of Genesis". I'm not even Muslim and even I got offended by this film portrayal of the Muslim community. It's almost like this film is ignorant of the same message it's trying to send. So what happens to the over controlling Muslim father and the daughter who chose a different faith? One screening later. Man, even the Devil would call that needlessly cruel. Okay, so this Muslim family never resolves the differences between religious beliefs and the daughter has been tossed out to the street without us ever being shown a place where she can safely sleep. Call me insane, an atheist, (going by this film) the Devil, but I don't think her going to a Christian concert is something that will fix the hardship that comes with breaking family traditions. I'm just saying...oh I just learned from the film I'm going to Hell for challenging it's broken message. Oh how nice of it.

Finally, the antagonist, who is also atheist is professor Kevin Sorbo. Well to be fair to Sorbo I would also lose faith if Lutz played the same character as me. Professor Sorbo is a terrible teacher who knows nothing about Philosophy. "God Is Dead" is a phrase popularized by Friedrich Nietzsche doesn't mean that the Christian God was alive, but has died, nor does it mean that he never existed (as Kevin Sorbo's philosophy professor character states). Nietzsche was simply saying that god wasn't a consideration for how most people live their lives. You'd think a philosophy professor would know that but, apparently the straw-man professor in this movie hasn't even read "Philosophy for Dummies" or lazy research on Wikipedia.

Atheist Professor Sorbo doesn't have philosophical justification for what he believes, which you'd think would stack the deck in favor of Christians in this movie. Instead, it does the opposite. By misrepresenting the atheist position, the film-makers are telegraphing their insecurity about the arguments. The entire atheist position is reduced to a quote from Stephen Hawking, a distortion of one Richard Dawkins argument, and the problem of evil, and even these arguments are only discussed as a cartoonishly over-the-top grotesque parody. What you don't get is an intellectual debate with a misunderstanding of how science works, but also fails in raising philosophical questions which Sorbo teaches though ignores.

In the film Professor Sorbo loses faith in God because God let his mother died. Yet, was okay with world hunger, wars, political corruption, terrorism, and so much more before his mother died while believing in God. I would call Kevin Sorbo character a overly dramatic mama's boy, but Hercules name has been tainted enough. Not only that, but he also dates a Christian who leaves him because he's an atheist. What happens to him? He gets run over by a car and the driver never bother checking if he's okay because you know the nerve of a hardworking atheist who gives college students an education is irritating. Even in his moment of death two Christian preachers happen to be close by and one asks if he wants to believe in God before he dies. Well the intention was nice, but heavy handed none the less. Doesn't matters when the same preacher gets a text saying "God's Not Dead" and says "This is a time worth celebrating". Despite the fact that an atheist died before their very eyes. Then again this a film bloated with pointless subplots (one then is a preacher attempting to start a car) than a fair depiction.

Conformity Equals Freewill

The protagonist of the film is named Josh Wheaton....nope can't insult someone whose name is similar to someone hardworking like Joss Whedon. I think i'll pick out a nickname based on a historical figures that best represent the film protagonists ideal and I'll pick Little Hitler. Now before anyone says I'm going too far comparing a freshman college student to one of most hated human being here's the basic idea. As written in Mein Kamp by Adolf Hitler, "We tolerate no one in our ranks who attacks the ideas of Christianity...in fact our movement is Christian" is the philosophy followed by film protagonist Little Hitler. So Little Hitler has the opportunity to switch classes if he's so offended by an atheist who tells his class to write "God's Not Dead" on a sheet of paper in the first day of class. Disregard the film depiction that all college professor want to manipulate easily impressionable young minds, but instead focus on Little Hitler who is so outraged by the oppression of the school system which allows him to change classes and a atheist teacher who nicely tells him to change classes if he offended takes upon himself to be the voice of the oppress and manipulated college students who could care less about skipping some lessons ahead in the material. Accepting the challenge of the atheist that god is not dead. HEIL GOD!

Also like Adolf Hitler, Little Hitler is a hypocrite. So he spends the entire film trying convince others that god is not dead. Little Hitler asks Professor Sorbo why he hates God and Sorbo responds that his mother died while praying to God. From this comes the final words to win everyone over is "How could you hate someone who doesn't exist". Umm...Little Hitler you do know that could also serve as a counter argument as why bother following the teaching of a man whose existence which you even claimed is not proven in your supporting arguments favoring God's Not Dead is not conclusive to assured victory. For that matter, what was the point of Little Hitler arguing in the first place? He sets out in a blaze of fury organizing everything he learned from books to prove the existence of God, yet the argument that declares him the winner goes entirely his purpose because of bad writing.

Little Hitler also has the nerves to say he's spreading freewill. Yeah right free will. Little Hitler forces his views down on his peers to the point it clouds the meaning behind Christ teachings. He neither presents other religions when presenting his argument because he's want everyone to be a Christian. He's not allowing the students to choose for themselves he only them to in his lead. Not once does he bring up Buddhism, the Quran, or another religion for that matter. Nor does he ever accept anyone truly wants to be an atheist. After seeing this film I wouldn't blame anyone instantly turn into an atheist over night. Man it's terrifying how much this film protagonist bares similar motive to Adolf Hitler of all people.

Thy Commit Secular Promotionalism

(You can skip this section all the way to the closing paragraph if I convince you of my position already)

A film that claims to take the moral high ground of religious debates it selection of music is one sided too. Rather than have music for "God's Not Dead" that touch on various issues it's too is shallow like the film depiction of Christians. Let's take the theme song for the film which both share the same title that neither understand the meaning behind the saying. I'll admit and say Christian music is not my thing, but I have heard some terrific piece of deep music from "Jesus Christ Superstar" which is my standards for what I consider good Christian music (and fantastic musical as well I highly recommend regardless of faith). The lyrics for the theme song are as follows.

The Newsboys - God's Not Dead

Let love explode and bring the dead to life
A love so bold to bring a revolution somehow
Now I'm lost in Your freedom
In this world I'll overcome
My God's not dead
He's surely alive
He's living on the inside
Roaring like a lion
Roaring, He's roaring, roaring like a lion

Rinse and repeat that same verse through the whole song four times. By these lyrics alone it's getting those who already believe in their faith pumped up. Like I said earlier it's music is as shallow as it depiction of Christians. Every song basically says just keep the faith and spread good will. That's nice and all, however the opening song in "Jesus Christ Superstar" is well.

Jesus Christ Superstar - Heaven's On Their Minds

My mind is clearer now - at last all too well
I can see where we all soon will be
If you strip away the myth from the man
You will see where we all soon will be
Jesus! You've started to believe the things they say of you
You really do believe this talk of God is true
And all the good you've done will soon get swept away
You've begun to matter more than the things you say

Best part about this particular track from "Jesus Christ Superstar" is that does not repeat any verses and goes to tell Christ story while expressing the point of views from one of his followers. Out of sheer laziness I rest my case on "God's Not Dead" music is shallow. The only thing left I haven't raged upon are the cast which sadly play their roles straightforwardly. For a film this cartoonish and horribly executed the cast is clutter with not enough screen time to define their characters. This results in no one in the film having any resemblance of chemistry. Nearly every line is delivered with the same wooden and emotionless way. Even when Kevin Sorbo is dying (even Hercules is not immortal to this power) it's wooden.

Thy Faith Shalt Be Wronged By This Film

God's Not Dead is a poor existence of a product. It's ignorant to the point that is paints those it is defending in a negative manner that make them just as evil and shallow as the people it's attacking. This film is a sin not just to filmmaking, but also to the teachings of its religion. According to this film I would burn for all in eternity in the deepest regions of Hell with the worst torture imaginable. Being expose to this film non-stop making with my head exploding and regenerating in a endless cycle. It's lives in far off distant land where Christianity is only way to salvation and while that might sound nice to some it's followers live in the real. The same real world where there are intellectual and respectful debates base on these same beliefs. The same real world where the followers of these teachings are challenge everyday to maintain their faith in the world around them. The same real world with religion tolerance where both atheists and those who follow a religion can be friends.

It's not just bad filmmaking. It's not just a horrible movie. It's just an ignorant and insulting piece of a film. IT'S BAD CHRISTIANITY.

Duck! The Carbine High Massacre

There's no getting around the fact that this film uses "The Columbine High Massacre" as a backdrop to satirize the media sensitization of the incident. Firstly, a condensed version of the tragedy is in order. On April 20, 1999, in the small, suburban town of Littleton, Colorado, two high-school seniors, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, enacted an all-out assault on Columbine High School during the middle of the school day. The boys' plan was to kill hundreds of their peers. With guns, knives, and a multitude of bombs, the two boys walked the hallways and killed. When the day was done, twelve students, one teacher, and the two murderers were dead; plus 21 more were injured. This film fictionalize take on the "The Columbine High Massacre" is ridiculous, goofy, and at times cartoonish with a proud sense of black humor. Realism and respect for the victims is not the aimed of the film, but neither is intelligence with its black humor satire of news media sensationalism.

Duck! The Carbine Massacre is about a pair of victimized high-school students embarking on a blood-soaked rampage of furious violence...in the climax that is. A good ninety percent is repetitive re threads to reestablish that the characters are indeed horrible people. Every character in the film is an easy to identified stereotype. The dumb bullies, a Bible-thumping Puritan, the goths, the gearhead (who is shown constantly cleaning his car), the cheerleader and her jock boyfriend, a handicapped student, and a black character who hates white people. That's not me being racist; the only black character in the film wears a shirt that says "I hate white people" and says stuff like "The internet is for white folks" very angrily. What the characters do is realistic like bullying anyone outside a clique, teachers that don't prevent bullying, and ignorant parents that just don't care or refuse to acknowledge anything negative. How these events are depicted are cartoonish. When protagonist Derwin goes to a basketball court alone he receives a bloody beating. One reason behind the beating is because a jock shoved a bleeding Derwin on the gearhead car and presumes on to beat him for getting it dirty. Even after the beating Derwin still gets bullied as he lay on the floor beaten as the rest of the students give him a good kick. It's a forceful way to get across his hatred towards the other students. At the same time it undermines characterizing any of the characters. They are intentionally written to be hated which lessens the point it was meant to get across. It's easy to figure out the message because of how narrow minded it characters talk and interact.

As a black comedy the film fails in many areas. Granted it did make me laugh a few time, though those laughs were from random moments. Like when the protagonists go to buy guns, the shady salesman sells them weapons game show host style. Also in the end the mocked media have a theory that it was possibly aliens that committed the act. As a whole there's not much advantage taken by the writing staff to say anything clever. Since each character is a stereotype so is the limited mindset in the humorous situations. For example, the Christian Puritan pukes on someone when she hears hard rock music. The concept of it could have been funny, but because there's nothing more to this character the joke failed. All the humor suffer from the one dimensional characters that once expose to prolong period of time overstay their welcome. Plus it's pretty difficult laugh at a joke where the same gun dealers said earlier to our protagonists "Do you want to F*** a twelve old". Or the one instance where a policemen shoots a goth student he presume is the shooter after the massacre scene. As for the massacre scene it gets across some solid points on the exclusivity of high school cliques with narrow minded pretext to make sure it does not strike a cord of any sort.

Both William Hellfire and Joey Smack are the directors, stars, writers, producers, and cinematographers of the film. It's very evident too sporting a home video production look in all the ways you expect. Sound mixing is mixed in quality. In some scenes you can hear dialogue easily, but in others background noises makes it difficult to determine what the actors are saying. It could be the wind or awful rock music that repeat the word kill. Apparently hearing cartoon punches sound effect is more important than whatever the actors were talking about in a given scene. There's also instances of the boom-mic being visible, though for a $5,000 production it's not much of a shock. The same applies to the home-video look of it. Images are never crisp and clear and colors don't appear properly. Everything looks brown even in broad daylight whenever outside or inside brightly lit interior. The acting is atrocious to say the least. All acting comes across as one big rejected rehearsal tape. Not a single line delivery is credible. Finally comes the massacre scene which looks poor due to the budget limitations, but on a technical level shows the crew knew how to handle particle effects. They might look fake (especially a pointless scene involving a giant rocket), the executions of the cheap looking effect is worthy of some merits.

Duck! The Carbine High Massacre is exploitative yes, but not offensive. Unless you consider bad acting and low productions values insulting than offensive it is. It's a fictional take on a tragic incident taking a bold stance to show the film from the point of view from the shooters not so much the victims. However, that bold move is undermined by the fact that every character is a stereotype that are repetitive in scenes to scenes and narrow minded in it depiction of people. The ideas it has about bullying is realistic and so is being driven to violence by your environments, but gives such ideas a cartoonish depiction . It's too far removed from decent filmmaking and too far of from reality to portray its theme to be anything other than footnote on exploitation filmmaking.

Extra:

Despite his last name being Hellfire, William is a nice guy. A somewhat ironic story post the film production was the arrest of William Hellfire and his friend Joey Smack. In their own words they claim to attack the media and how they cover the incident. According to Hellfire there was a news reporter that wanted to orchestrate an arrest on camera instead of interviewing them. When the FBI rejected the reporter request he went to the local police. For a whole month the local police were out looking for William Hellfire and his friend. They got arrested for bringing actual guns onto school ground and in the car a policemen to not worry because they'll be famous. Famous? Maybe for underground filmmaking scene, but for the general mindset will probably be seen as an anomaly of good taste based on the title alone.

Godzilla
Godzilla (2014)

In 2012 the world saw the release of Skyfall which honored the heritage of James Bond and paid tribute to it past without succumbing to the norm of blockbuster pitfalls. Fast forward onward with 2014's Godzilla and it is that same exact franchise film, but more so needed for a bygone genre. Coming from someone who considers the 1954 original "Gojira" a masterpiece and one of his personal favorite films it inherits a Godzilla film DNA into its modernization. Like the best film in the long running franchise, Godzilla is less interested in a giant monster's destructive progress than in what it might feel like to be a tiny human watching it close up, or far away, or on TV.

Godzilla is about U.S. Navy lieutenant Brody attempting to stop Godzilla from destroying parts of the United States to protect his family. The structure and pacing is equal to the 1954 original. In fact, the affection and respect that the creators have for the film that birthed Gojira is felt throughout. As in the classic, they hold the titular monster back for quite some time, and it unveils at a slow pace. Setting up an atmospheric presence with us humans being marginally inferior when compared to the massive creatures. Making us more aware of the devastation and death that would occur if its scenarios were real. Borrowed from past templates is the American military every man archetype leading character with scientists and generals supporting characters meeting regularly to discuss unfolding developments and devise ineffective solutions. These human characters are token in monster films addresses the template flaws without so much eliminating the problem. All the two dimensional characters have simple goals and strong emotions, and they never feel awkwardly shoehorned in, as humans in monster flicks often do.

Godzilla design oozes classical Godzilla. Gone is the man in the suit, but retain are the likeness to it. The spiky back plates, the gigantic tail, the stomping foot, the massive chest are kept, etc. His body structure towers virtually over every building, his body movements is similar of a human wearing a heavy costume, and his presence never becomes just an effect. It's a character that contains his own arc alluded to the protagonists own arc as both overcome two different species that do all in their power to stop them. When Godzilla is fully reveal it's awe inspiring as it menacing in the way it's done. After rampaging destruction in the airport we are put on ground level. Seeing a foot engulfed by smoke that slowly pans up to reveal the sheer massive size and commanding presence with his thunderous roar. The other monster in the film are the massive unidentified terrestrial organism or MUTO for short. As hinted to by the brilliant opening credits that ties itself with the original gives hint of the kind of monster it is. Mothra is mentioned which ironically is also Godzilla most famous foe, but MUTO are entirely different in biology. Muto can be described as a more mechanical Mothra with bigger claws, big in size, and without wings can still fend its own against Godzilla in some breathtaking action when they share the same screen.

Director Gareth Edwards has taken visual and tonal inspiration from Steven Spielberg. More specifically Steven Spielberg's "Jaws," "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and "War of the Worlds," as well as from earlier popcorn classics that shaped Spielberg. It is obvious from the start of Spielberg's tone and style being a important influence upon Edwards, and it is used to a great effect. From the orchestral score to to the iconic visuals, this Godzilla movie doesn't hesitate to be bold. However, it also takes cues from the slow burn of Jaws, lending more to the anticipation of our first clear look of Godzilla. Going more so being captured in the moment than playing out like a film. The cast provide good performances even if the material doesn't come through for them. Bryan Cranston delivered a brilliant on-screen hammy and over the top performance showing an understanding of the kind of film he's in. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is decent at the protagonist being overshadowed by Bryan Cranston more personal, fully realized character. Johnson has the every man look as oppose to his extraordinary luck to survive the instances he's in danger. Repeating the cycle of exposition and reaction to monster. Elizabeth Olsen is limited in her scenes spending most of her screen time look at the camera and giving a reaction. Ken Watanabe is committed to his role which unless you seen the original the importance of his role will fly over your head.

Godzilla carries the torch of tradition of what makes a Godzilla film and is a terrific modernization of a genre film. Call this closing a cop out on my end for not wholeheartedly supporting a film I gave a perfect score too, but the execution by Gareth Edward is not so much to change as so much reaffirm your position on the genre. For those exact reasons Godzilla 60th anniversary film will be enamoured with praise from those (including myself) who see the appeal of a bygone genre even with it inheritance of shortcomings. It's also because of those same reasons (two dimensional characters, actors limited range due to roles, silliness not blending with serious tone, numerous reaction shots, etc.) those on the opposite spectrum will too be reinforced by their feelings on why similar films do not co-exist equally with other genres. If there were to be only one thing taken by this film on both sides that would be the meaning behind destruction has not disappeared from the blockbuster. Godzilla is just as capable to get your blood pumping in large scale destruction as well as hold that same destruction with various emotions as we watch helplessly unable to change the outcome.

Bloody Sunday
Bloody Sunday (2002)

Paul Greengrass filmography is rooted in history. His films between 1989 to 2002 were based on true events and incidents that occurred in Britain even tackling American History later in his career. Greengrass sticks closely to true stories depicting them with as much respect as possible. Despite being a film made for British television it has the same quality of a Greengrass film.

Bloody Sunday is a dramatization of the Irish civil rights protest march and subsequent massacre by British troops on January 30, 1972. Unfolding in real time we're able to see exactly how the incident went about from the views of both the protesters and British troops. Giving the exact mindset from both sides desire to avoid the worse case scenario. Jumping back between the two allows it to depict events that occurred before the incident, during the incident, and what occurred directly after the event. Seeing history unfold right before us. All the while being more than capable to challenge the action taken by British troops and protesters with some simple acts. For example, it is depicted in the film a small group of protesters reacting with violent backlash against military power going away from the large peaceful marchers. Meanwhile, on other side we hear uproar in the area as soldiers attempt to discuss on how to act to the situation. Showing the fault in the way both sides preceded to do things. It's in the third act where some simple scenes take a turn for the politically corrupt without demonizing the British troops. While the third act does attempt to highlight the wrong of the British army it does so without eliminating from a fair view. However, pretext is never provided such as what were the exact policies of the time that would motivate a government to send in military troops to stop a march. Some area are left as is serving as an introduction to the incident rather than a film that tells the whole story. Lacking in characterization you're familiarity with the event depicted will remain the same without explaining it's aftermath nor the impact it had. Now if the film provided a central character to root for it could have fallen into the trap of being one sided, but that's not the issue that arises from that. The issue with no characterization is no background is provided from those who joined the protest. A politician is just a politician, a British troop is just a troop, and a citizen is just a citizen. Almost in line with reading actual news that skims on detail without the commercialization and agenda involved.

Paul Greengrass's direction does the job even if his signature shaky-cam is not a well like technique. The cinematography of the film is equal to that shot on a grainy, handheld camera. With the visual of the film being documentary-like imitating real footage. It's not an easy film to watch with continual fades to black between brief segments irritate as much as they help differentiate points of view or time passage. Although the device is designed to give the impression that objective "news" footage is used to favor realism over dramatization. Causing seasickness are the dizzying hand-held sequences where the cameraman runs for his life through fast and choppy editing. Using the long takes of the jittery hand-held camera lends credibility as does the working class grainy quality of the film stock. If it had a clean look and if the camera remained still it would have come of as a traditional dramatization as oppose to directly putting viewers in the center of the action. The viewer is always in the middle of the action with it flow of chaos being unpredictable. Editing is spot on with the minimal uses of music as gunshots and the sounds of a screaming crowd populate the films. Among the cast are Gerard McSorley, Kathy Keira Clarke, Edel Frazer, Declan Duddy, Mary Moulds, Gerard Crossan, Tim Pigott-Smith, Simon Mann, and the man who carries it James Nesbitt. The performances are high caliber making it hard press that these actors. With the cast dedicated performances the line between fiction and reality fades as their performances, especially James Nesbitt, help push that real footage quality aimed to capture.

Bloody Sunday simply explores an incident that occurred in a day and nothing before or afterwards in any great detail. It gets across a strong point without the need of characterization for any of the characters it followed. Paul Greengrass brings to the true horror of "Bloody Sunday" to light with shocking realism, but without depth to further understand the true significance of its impact for Britain, politics, and those involved. It'll certainly make you feel, but thinking might varied with results.

Kurôzu Zero (Crows: Episode 0)
½

Takashi Miike adaptation of "Ichi the Killer" stirred a lot of controversy for it depiction of exaggerated violence securing it popularity would be greater than the source material that inspired it. In contrast Takashi Miike's take on the manga simply titled, Crow, is more accessible while maintaining all of Miike's signatures traits. Once again, Miike's adaptation of a manga outdoes it source material.

Crows: Episode Zero takes place in Suzuran High School, an all boys school full of delinquents and gangsters. Focusing on newcomer Genji Takaya plan to take down reigning school gangster Tamao Serizawa. Populated with a large cast of two dimensional characters there is a lot of story threads that it needs to slowly get across before the promised big finale. Some characters especially if their female get delegated to the background until needed. It setup is over the top with numerous factions all fighting for supremacy in high school Suzuran. None of the characters resemble real people rather are testosterone filled and anime-like teenagers. Adults never pay much attention to the violence with some supporting the characters to continue on with their everyday activity. Characterization is thinly sprinkle throughout to show the characters softer side. All the characters might love to fight, but the film is not afraid to show them to take a breather from using their knuckles. Showing both Genji and Tamao recruiting members to grow their numbers in various ways. From a double date to giving or receiving a good beating to prove their worth to faction leaders. There is neither a define "good" or "bad" among the characters. Allowing opportunity for humor ease the mostly serious characters and drama to add more meaning to the conflict. Embracing the silliness of its plot the characters never once make it apparent how goofy it all is. Playing up the angle there is more meaning to becoming top dog where your status is literally an everyday fight for survival. Where it does fail is giving a single character to emotionally invest in. This is a result from episodic pacing that has a tendency to loose sight of who to follow and when to follow them. Given the serious tone and wild nature of its character the episodic pacing is rather fitting too. Ensuring small ounces of chaos before the all out brawl consisting of (according to the film) over one hundred students.

Takashi Miike demonstrates a masterful understanding of the aesthetic required to perfectly adapt it chaotic material. He's straightforward with the delivery of his story while visually amps up the look that perfectly suits it. Miike introduces a leather jacket mentality to the costuming that helps the actors to triumphantly peacock around, showing off their outlandish hairstyles and detailed costuming, generating attitudes and levels of threat without a line of dialogue needed to be uttered. The school building and other sets exemplifies the chaos with its several graffiti paintings around it dirty, clutter, and decaying environments going along with the mood. Switching between brightly lit locations when things are at an ease or comedic and becomes darker whenever a serious fight ensues. Standing in strong contrast is the humor, of course, which is handled by the characters in a dead-pan way. At times the talking can be quite strong and crude, at others we are presented with human bowling pins that Tamao just kicks away with a giant ball in best manga manner when he has nothing else to do. The fight scenes are a technical highlight for Miike who uses slow and fast motion techniques to stylize fights. He then uses bone breaking sound effects to get across the impact while with his camera he connects the throw of the punch. Every fight scene always looks clean with the choreography being nicely performed. Even if the fight scenes aren't intricate beyond some basic back and forth punching and kicking they are large in scale. Editing adds to the episodic feel of the film that sometime goes back and forth between unrelated scenes. The most prominent one being in the climax which cuts between the big brawl, a hospital operation, and a musical performance. The soundtrack switches between fun, easy listening J-Pop to punk-rock soundtrack does its share to make the testosterone getting hammered through the viewer's veins.

The acting in the film is superb all around while the physical appearance of the actors is questionable. They all deliver good performances, but for a film about teenagers most of them look their more in their late twenties high school students. Shun Oguri and Takayuki Yamada get the most screen time as the leaders of opposing factions. Takayuki Yamada is more lay back and cocky with his appearance painting him deceptively different than from what he actually is. Yamada appearance adds to his aura of being the seemingly invincible tough guy when he's beating up several teenagers like it is a mundane activity. Shun Oguri is his exact opposite appropriately coming across as a wannabe tough guy. His spiky hair and punk-rock clothing hide an emotional demeanor with no confident. Oguri gets more opportunity to show more varied emotions for those he care for. Ken Ichi Endo is the last actor who actor gets an equal presence with the leading actors. Spending most of his scenes playing off Shun Oguri. As Oguri legitimately becomes more tough, Endo becomes more human with his transformation. Supporting cast are also good making the characters feel real with their closing plot threads ending satisfactory. Actresses do fine in their role even if they serve nothing more than plot convenience. Meisa Kuroki is the only one of the few actresses that receive a fair amount of screen time, but is not given much to do from token damsel in distress.

Crows: Episode Zero is over the top, loud, contains great fights with a large scope, and benefits from Miike well defined direction. Miike gives artistic value to a loud, over the top, and violent film that otherwise would not have had them. While the story isn't on par with Takashi Miike masterful execution and great acting. It great qualities turns the prosperous story of "Crows: Episode Zero" to an enjoyably loud, straightforward, and violent film succeeding in its goal of delivery pure entertainment.

Tarzan
Tarzan (2014)

Seriously again? Hollywood you already destroyed Japan classic story of "47 Ronin", made Frankenstein's monster into a one dimensional action hero, and you made Greek mythology lame with "The Legend of Hercules". Stop destroying classic stories Hollywood, wait what? Oh, my mistake I've become so accustomed to Hollywood destroying classic work of literature as of lately it became second nature to accuse them. No this time the blame goes to German studios Ambient Entertainment and Constantin Film Production (also responsible for the butchering of 2011's "The Three Musketeers"). This film fails fundamentally capture anything that made such stories survive decades past their publication.

Tarzan is a mixture of bad original ideas and a third act that was so lazy decided to rip off Avatar (2009). So here's the setup; opening narration says "The amazing story I'm about to tell you took place in the deepest and darkest place of Africa" while following an asteroid that sometimes glows red in space. Yup, if the filmmakers couldn't bother using Google or whatever search engine Germany uses to look up where Africa is located then lose all hope of it being geographically accurate. Continuing, we follow the asteroid through the solar system until crashing on Earth obliterating the Dinosaurs. Now this opening is very goofy in its own right as it is, but when it applying context it open plot holes. A consistent problem with the story is it instinct to zip past everything and anything that would otherwise develop the thin plot and thinner characters. Tarzan as a protagonist is not engaging because the most important traits of him in this story are never given a second thought. We never see Tarzan adapt to jungle rather it times skip where he's older, but in a nonspecific age range where he could still be considered young. His backstory is not even worth bringing up. You know, only his parents in a Helicopter crash that exploded and kid Tarzan got out without a single scratch. Not only that, but the female Gorilla that found him loss her husband (who I would have named Mighty Joe Young) by the hands of murderous Gorilla Ishmael and her newborn baby on the same day stumbles upon a sleeping Tarzan. You assume a normal human being would be sad about losing loving parents, but apparently being raised by Gorilla makes him forget about it. Until the writers realize the title character has been a piece a paper the whole time and shove some force characterization down our throats with a side blandness.

Issue number two is not only how the studios behind this clearly never read a novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs, but is too heavy handed on the environmental message. Unlike Tarzan character whose the definition of a tree huger, William Clayton (our villain) immediately upon seeing him has villain written all over his design. His smiles has a clear double meaning, he's the president of a company who wants to make more money even though they are rich, and can get forget since he's from modern era travels to the jungle draining it sources with military force. Wait a minute....that's from Avatar (2009) without anything positive to be discovered. I kid you not when I made the connection of where it stole from I literally did a facepalm because Burrough wrote over twenty books on Tarzan and other authors are still continuing his story to this very day. So out of all the potential books, radio programs, stage plays, and television series the film writers could have taken plot points from they chose Avatar (2009) which is in no conceivable way is works with the character of Tarzan. While on this topic how come William Clayton just doesn't find another alternative to produce energy. From what the film gives us the meteorite can produce life and produce large amount energy and you know what else can do just that? The sun. It's so blatantly obvious that William Clayton is in a position to invest in that technology and for that matter he's given never a reason to be sold as a villain. He's the president of a company even though he's not the heir so why....oh yeah save the planet message by claiming all rich and successful people hate nature.

Okay so I didn't criticize as so much listed things that irritated me, but there is not a single thing that is done right in the story. The romance between Tarzan and Jane is half baked. They spent years apart from their first meeting yet still fall in love with each other in a single day. Also, Jane father never ages despite both Tarzan and Jane clearly showing some signs of aging while Jane's father remains the same. There is also a scene where Tarzan fights against mutated plant life has contributes nothing to the narrative other than being a pointless set piece. On that matter Tarzan isn't shown conquering wildlife. Most of the time he needs a knife to get by in the wilderness whenever he's facing a animal. While yes it is bit a realistic it contradicted when Tarzan can literally run from hot humid jungle to a snowed volcanic mountain without breaking a sweat. Finally the big dramatic moments are heartless. Events that are meant to make it audience feel something come out bitterly cruel against the writers. It's says something when the death of no characters hold any weight unless the writer intentionally wanted to use every cheap writing trick.

Once the movie ended the cast name finally appeared and....no. It can't be...not him again....KELLAN LUTZ! Why must you set out to and try your hardest (or laziest when it comes acting) to destroy iconic characters. Who's next on your hit list to destroy; is it Vash the Stampede, Spike Spiegel, Moby-Dick (yes the whale), Don Diego de la Vega, and don't you dare think about Yorick Brown. Just like Kellan Lutz did for Hercules in "The Legend of Hercules" his interpretation of Tarzan is unredeeming in all area. It doesn't help when he did the motion capture himself for Tarzan. Originally I was giving him a free pass since movement is mostly up to the animators, but seeing how mechanical his character move I can't. His movement is restraint to the point that seeing him run is an achievement. The way Tarzan move is delayed even when he swinging there's no sense of weight to how he move. Every movement is stiffed and basic. His acting on the other hand while limited is emotionless. Lutz has the easy task of not saying sentences that required him to say more than four words and his line delivery as you might guessed is lifeless.

The camera spends a lot of time in the luscious jungles heavy on foliage is the film only good aspect. What Reinhard Kloss failed to achieve is immersing the audience with the beauty of nature. With a soundtrack that won't shut up we're never given a moment to just take the jungle all in. Never seeing it in the way Tarzan sees it rather we see it as a bland environment for a heavy handed the forest message. Also he doesn't pay attention much to the human characters with their faces looking odd with wrong facial placements. Can't forget the editing. Sometime a scene can end to early. For example, when Tarzan and Jane share a seemingly intimate moment at night in the jungle learning about one another it cuts abruptly to the next scene in the middle of a conversation. It's an recurring problem especially when regarding the livelihood of the film's villain when it just fades into another scene during what appears to be the villain vague death from a Helicopter crash. Other voice actors are terrible, though that would go to the script and given none of the actors had to do motion capture to the extent of Kellan Lutz won't applied to them.

Tarzan is yet another example of a failure to adapt any semblance of the source material and even more so capturing it the true heart of the source material. Most fundamentally being in this film (and countless of others) is Tarzan is a lot more intellectual in the novel than compared to the films. Instead of using Tarzan isolation from humanity and a unwillingness to speak to build a character becomes it biggest handicap never getting the audience to feel any emotions. It's a product created by stolen ideas from better filmmakers who made with effort and a false concept on the true essence of the character. It's another classic ruined by filmmakers that look at the exterior instead of truly understanding why characters like these and many others survive as long they do.

Dragonslayer
Dragonslayer (1981)
½

Dragonslayer is an interesting film in Disney ridiculously large catalogue of family films. For starter, it's a more realistic take on a typical fantasy story, contains partial nudity, some blood and gore, and no memorable characters. It says something when the best remember element of the film is a special effect that isn't on screen for much of it duration leaving a bigger impact than anything else with longer exposure. It has some intelligent ideas and semi-subvert dark take on an overuse formula, but it's characters and actors hold it back from greatness.

Dragonslayer is about a young wizard apprentice sent to kill a dragon which has been devouring girls from a nearby kingdom. Now the way the film is set up is also it biggest downfall. It build up is done right in sparingly showing the dragon and creating its image as this big menace that is seemingly invincible. Giving the world a true sense of danger as the dragon unprecedented timing of attack raises fear. Leading to characters to pursue any option possible from a gaining helping from a bumbling sorcerer's apprentice to a so call..."Virgin Lottery" (brought to you by Disney) to sacrifice to the dragon. Seeing the influence the dragon has over the kingdom holds your attention and so does the dragon when he appears on screen. While also doing away with some narrative points in its genre that prevents it from being part of the norm. Maintaining it's overall dark tone with deaths being prevalent throughout even for major characters you expect to survive. It characters bog down some of it more complicated religious and politics subjects. As mention earlier the "Virgin Lottery" (brought to you by Disney) is challenged making a statement against Authoritarian. This plot point correlates some religious ideals. It's not the inherent quality of the belief (or tool, or skill, or invention) that determines whether it's good or bad, it's how it is used.

Then there are the human characters that are a mixture of cheeky comedy, satire, and seriousness minus a balance. Much like the actors that play them, they aren't compelling as if their performances were meant for different films. Peter MacNicol is not a capable, commanding presence. He is barely more masculine than the female lead and probably a few octaves higher. MacNicol looks and acts exactly like his character should even if he is the star of the film he always fits with the cast without standing out. However, he fails to make the hero compelling with his clumsy transition between comedy and drama. Ralph Richardson performance is artificial with his limited screen time. Richardson dies in two scenes in the film coming across as an old man bad role play of a cheesy fantasy board game. Caitlin Clarke is fair playing against gender type with her character. She's able to conceal an important trait of her character physically and verbally, but once that trait is revealed she plays naturally in a routine love interest going through the rocky, a dragon is trying to kill me motion. John Hallam plays the obligatory rival with no redeeming value. Whenever he's on screen he has one mindset; I'm angry. Peter Eyre is both hilarious and pathetic, as a king who can think of nothing more forceful than bleat. Chloe Salaman is okay as the film progresses so does her performance improves with material that gives her character some emotional turmoil to showcase. As a whole the acting is fair, but limited by the material giving the actors a hard time when deciding to switch direction.

Matthew Robbins textures his film with muted brooding colors for the coarse-flavored peasant environment to the more brightly-colored dragon sequences. Effects-wise the film sometimes shows it age in some poor blue-screen rendering, especially in the big climactic action scene. The dragon is a mix of richly detailed animatronics and stop-motion animation, to produced a monster that shown realistically in close-ups, yet could be given motion in a wider shot with little difficulty. And though there are moments when the inevitable choppiness of stop-motion work shows on the whole it still looks menacing. Probably the best marriage of old and new might be to use digital techniques to erase the telltale signs of a stop-motion or other type of puppet, allowing the tiny model to move as fluidly as a "real" creature. A minor but vital character to the film's design is fire, and there are several distinct colour schemes - the blazing amber-redness of the dragon's breath, the swirling green that signals the rebirth of sorcerer Ulrich, and the bluish-amber in the pools of intense heat which pepper the dragon's cavernous lair. As for the confrontation between human is dragon is realistic as the hero has a difficult time even holding his own against the dragon with good weapons.

Dragonslayer is darker than most of Disney live action films, but also missing are some compelling leads that made some of their classics widely remembered. It subvert from the norm of Disney with it dark themes and a more gritty take on fantasy that doesn't pander (much) to what viewer expects. While none of the actors or characters ever share the glory as the special effect driven dragon it has other elements worth getting into.

The Double
The Double (2014)
½

The Double is about a government clerk's life taking a turn for the horrific with the arrival of a new co-worker who is his exact physical double. The best aspect of the film is it ability to provide a simple story that juggles dark humor while at the same time presenting a satirical monotony bureaucracy. Even if the film is not given much thought tells a complete story on it's protagonist personal journey. Presenting an odd, bleak world with odd characters that our protagonist Simon interacts with. On a basic level Simon is simple character whose conflict arises from his double James. A physical form of the person Simon is not with no backbone to take initiative or guts to speak to the woman he loves. Simon himself makes his life pessimistic because of who he is, just like how his polar opposite James succeeds in what he cannot. This where the film's dark humor comes from. His lack of conviction to act lends itself to repercussions for Simon from a security guard not recognizing him despite having work in the company for seven years or elevators not working him. In one way the film speaks about Simon being his own worst enemy as too much of one side does not please him. Psychology it could be seen as a breakdown of a single character in a monotony bureaucratic future where everything looks the same. While the forefront is always keen on Simon personal journey there's small clues given and dialogue given to present the troubled dystopia. Looking at conformity or carbon copy of people being manipulated to take the shape and form of another instead of being themselves. Care was put into it writing as virtually anything it wants to tackle works in the film without eliminating attention from the main story.

Richard Ayoade succeeds in giving his film a dystopic, old fashioned, darkened look. There is very little bright light that ever strikes the frame as a single scene never takes place in daylight. Everything is dark and grey, with no real sense of colour (outside of a hyperactive spacey television show starring Paddy Considine). The film is set in an indiscernible time period which is deliberate to help add to the enigmatic nature of the dystopia Ayoade creates for Simon. He sees things as mundane, and very black and white. It defines his existence really, giving the setting an equal footing alongside the characters. Each frame drowns in an artificial blackness, harsh metals and steampunk/obsolete technological amalgams being used as seemingly high-tech office systems. Sly commentary on the doubling is brought to our attention via Simon's constant trips to Hannah's floor for one copy of his paperwork while the skin and bones facsimile walking around inside his life ends up not as autonomous as a Xerox sheet. They share a connection that Ayoade exposes through violent rage and a very precise outburst of frustration. Ayoade also makes a clever and interesting usage of sound in the film. From the television set to the copy machine. Even footsteps and knocking on a door seem intrusive. Voices and subtly used music to get inside of Simon's head. All of these elements help act alongside the setting to really define Simon as a character keeping the aesthetics in check as much as it carefully woven story.

Jesse Eisenberg gives a very surprising performance as both Simon and James. Eisenberg is pitch perfectly cast in a dual role that requires him to seem put-upon and timid and broken, while also arrogant and assertive and borderline sociopathic. There are other actors in the film, but Jessie Eisenberg, as Simon and James, are basically the only one who actually gets to do something of note, which is somewhat disappointing since the film has a very good cast. Australian actress Mia Wasikowska is Hannah, the girl that Simon pines after. Wasikowska gave a very good playing a believable lost soul, but her American accent was inconsistent. Wallace Shawn plays Simon's boss, a good natured, but stern man fits into the role. Supporting cast are limited in screen time from Sally Hawkins, Chris O'Dowd, and Paddy Considine all have minor roles, and Noah Taylor is indispensable are solid whenever on screen.

The Double is a clever satire supported by it anesthetics and a plot that also succeeds as a character study. It humor won't be everyone liking, but the film tackles an arrange of themes and has a dynamic character to keep it story engaging. Alongside it are the technical aspects that serve the story as an equal to hold meaning as a narrative component not to just make it pretty. It works as a character study and succeeds as a satire offering dark humor in a very smart film that isn't a carbon copy of old tricks for these kind of stories.

Differences between Enemy and The Double:

"Enemy" is the more intellectual of the two demanding viewers to form their own interpretation with the clues given to them. It's a film that can't be compare any other because if complex story and dream like atmosphere. "The Double" on the other hand works out an interpretation with you making it easier for audience to make sense of it all. While "The Double" does cover familiar ground it has the advantage of not relying as much on visuals or dialogue motifs to tell its story. If you removed the satire elements it equally works as a character study whereas "Enemy" ambiguity is required for the atmosphere it wants to achieve. Sure both film protagonists have some common traits, but plot wise are distinct both utilizing different techniques and having vastly different execution. Aside from coming out the same year, both being about doppelganger, and shared traits in protagonists similarity, there is not much to compare.

I, Frankenstein

Last times I bother giving film based on some of my favorite stories were ruined. First, it was "47 Ronin" which insulted the culture where it originated from and made those unaware of the classic story look at it as petty revenge instead of as a story about honor. Second film was "The Legend of Hercules". Just like "47 Ronin", "The Legend of Hercules" had a foundation of a great material to work from and still manages to make it terrible by removing anything that made those stories worth telling centuries later. Now it's Frankenstein which is one of my favorite example of a simple to understand, but in depth metaphor that carry plenty of interpretation. It's just unfortunate that the filmmakers involve with "I, Frankenstein" have never bothered to use the one organ that Frankenstein needed to function, the brain.

I, Frankenstein is about Frankenstein's creature caught in an all-out, centuries old war between Gargoyles and Demons. That's pretty much it. There's no characterization, no subplots, little explanations, dumb characters, a hero who only speaks in one liner, and a rush pace. You know a film is bad when literally the first ten minutes creates unnecessary conflict. So Frankenstein dies in the first three minutes and everyone associated with the war wants his book. His book details exactly how he was able to reanimate a corpse. Once introduced, the Gargoyle Order tells the newly named monster, Adam, that the demon prince, Naberius, wants the book. As the audience we're not told immediately why Naberius wants the book, but a demon prince wanting the book of a scientist who reanimated a corpse it's not difficult to put those two together. Made worse by the fact that the Gargoyles Order leader decides to not destroy the book despite knowing Naberius intentions. Therefore you got force conflict with idiotic characters that A.) Deserve what is coming to them, and B.) Helping out their opponent by not destroying Frankenstein's book. Sure the Demon Order want to keep it safe so Adam could learn about himself, but it's said in a line of dialogue by the leader herself that Adam already knew about himself without needing to read the book. Also moments later it is explained that as so long it has the Gargoyle Order symbol that anything can be sacramental. In plain English it just means holy symbols on weapons to be capable of killing Demons. However, in the same scene it is said anything can be made sacramental which begs to question when around the twenty four minute mark why isn't the Gargoyle Order headquarter sacramental. You think an army of Gargoyles that fought for centuries would at least think of making their headquarter sacramental therefore making it impossible for Demons to enter. Just absolutely speechless.

Going on further in what occurred in the first ten minutes is all the story spent on developing characters. They remain flat, carry no weight, and are one dimensional dullness. Only given the trait of good guy and bad guy. Granted the concept of the monster character is interesting, but does nothing with it. By the time Adam transforms it's spontaneous since nothing significant big or small made a convincing argument for Adam to reaffirm his faith in trusting humanity. The premise while simplistic could have been creative. It science fiction elements are flimsy with the only reason to bring back the dead is lots of electricity. Oh of course movie, people are exactly like portable electronic devices. All people need is electricity to be resurrected when their battery life is depleted. I have no idea why I bother learning about the circulatory system, respiratory system, immune system, lymphatic system, and the nervous system with years of scientific proof to back them up. When clearly a single scientist, that according the film very own scientist characters, say are theories that haven't been looked into since the 18h century is clearly enough evidence to refute how the human body actually functions. Clearly writers Kevin Grevioux and Stuart Beattie don't have functioning brains.

Aaron Eckhart is the best actor in the film, though that's not saying much. He is very committed in the role, but is always pissed off. Nearly every single one of his line is meant to make him sound tough and cool with his deep, angry voice. Making it impossible to portray a character who has a centuries of conflicted thoughts as anything more than a angry man. Also his make up is uninspired looking like an ordinary person with lots of stitches instead of a reanimated corpse with clearly different body parts. Jai Courtney, Miranda Otto, and Yvonne Strahovski are all one note. The problem with them is despite being sold as important characters can't do anything with the material. These three in particular only say expositions throughout with their never changing, expressionless performances making them worse. Bill Nighy comes across as a grumpy old man with a speech impediment who is neither menacing as the villain nor believable as this sinister demon prince. Director and incompetent writer Stuart Beattie goes big on cheap looking CG with his action scenes. Adding fire effects whenever a demon is slain that look cool the first couple of times, but then serves nothing more than to hide the badly choreographed action scenes. Most of Eckhart action scenes suffer from the Seagal formula in which Exkhart defeats his opponents without getting hit once. Granted there's one decent fight scene in the only time Eckhart faces off against an opponent who matches his skill.

I, Frankenstein is a brainless mess that above providing nothing to latch on to insults your intelligence by the sheer stupidity of it logic. Nothing about it represent the metaphor that the monster stood for in the classic story of "Frankenstein", but also entirely misses the point of the source material it's adapting. Even with your brain turned off there's so many questionable decisions along with one note acting that makes it impossible enjoyable even just for spectacles.

Session 9
Session 9 (2001)
½

Session 9 follows a cleaning crew as they work in an abandoned mental hospital with a horrific past that seems to be coming back. The characters we followed are never meant to be viewed as humans, but rather are treated as story elements. Our characters get a fair amount of development that instead of building an emotional bond are use to create anxiety. No one in the film has an ideal life as conversations hint at their life issues. While professionally the cleaning crew are more cooperative with each other they are on bad terms on a personal angle. This direction does away with some trappings of horror movies. For starter the cheater plot point adds to understanding the relationships between the crew not becoming a revelation when nearing the climax. It also makes sense whenever characters react to the situation given their relationship and their job priorities. Another right choice is the inclusion of the backstory given to the setting. Becoming more than just the place where the story takes place. Understanding what activity occurred in the mental hospital, an overview of the kind of patients that were instituted, and how it came to be abandoned. Surrounding it setting in another reality that the characters both accept it existence and refusal to acknowledge anything supernatural.

Incorporating an abundance of paranoia elements that are further reinforced with it setting. A mental hospital that said to have experimented on patients, and hearing dialogue of old therapy sessions. Allowing it to work thematically in two ways; one being the recordings are only heard therefore it's possible that the patient has a split personality or there are many patients in these therapy sessions. Building a vague bridge that connects with the possibility of greater force beyond our comprehension without distancing the story from reality. Second reason for these recording working is the amount of depth given to the backstory. There is a patient that reappears in the story and virtually all the recordings that are played are from her various sessions. We get the full picture of the victim story that adds to the debate of how much of presented to us is grounded in reality. However, the script does have it problems like mention before the characters are story tools and never actual people. The development given to them while breaking some conventions are given little personality. Characters that never show up on screen have more depth than the characters we follow. Another issue is the ending presents a theme, but not character conclusions. It just a means to an end to express an idea not so much as to tell a story that ends on all two traditional note compared to it's non traditional build up.

Filmed on handheld cameras sporting a sort of pseudo-documentary feel, not dissimilar to a found footage horror. Attempting to come across as one of those old therapy sessions that was videotaped. The quality of the video is sharp, although it looks extremely unnatural. Much like one of the characters in this film, the video just seeps into you like it's possessing you. At first, the look is off-putting, but as you get further and further into the movie, you begin to accept its presence as if it's been with you the entire time. As more is slowly revealed the audience is bombarded with seemingly unrelated footage of the area that hints at a darker and more sinister truth behind the ghost stories. Brad Anderson takes his time in telling the story therefore familiarizing the audience with the unsettling hospital. Even with shadow filled room our vision is never obscured. With its twisting hallways and dark basement passages, it clearly personifies the proverbial house of the damned. Anderson does a superb job in dealing with spatial relations in the film making some rooms ominously large, while others are claustrophobic and tiny. The cast are routinely impressive, injecting some life and humour into two-dimensional characters and it's Mullan who is the standout, creating an astonishing level of intensity with little to no substance. Peter Mullan subtly suggests a growing disengagement from reality while David Caruso is a mix of hooky fun and leering creepiness. Josh Lucas handles a variety of different personalities sloppily. He's the most underwhelming of the cast. Brandon Sexton never becomes his character due to his lack of showing much range, but makes it count when it comes to the horror centered scenes being consumed by fear.

Session 9 is an atmospheric horror movie that builds a tension instead of a body count. Brad Anderson slow pacing allows time for themes to materialize and let the viewer become familiar with the not so comfortable mental hospital. While the characters are never sympathetic nor are they memorable in the slightest they do breakaway from conventions. It avoids some horror film trappings in the first two acts it builds up to the climax. Ending on a final act that is more traditional and less thought out than the journey. It doesn't end as strongly as it begins, but it's a horror film that knows how to engross the viewer into its mentality.

Point Break
Point Break (1991)

Point Break in a way is a precursor to "The Fast and the Furious". Both films share nearly identical plot lines; a character whose life philosophy for his life's passion intrigues the protagonist, undercover cop gets into a specific extreme sport, protagonist has a time limit to capture his culprit, and if continue to mention more similarities would ruin the film for newcomers. Yet, "Point Break" ends out being the better film because it understands it story and characters that in the grand scheme of nonsensical material works in sync with how everything structure on a technical level and in story telling.

Point Break is about an FBI agent going undercover to catch a gang of bank robbers who may be surfers. Build around a preposterous assumption by an experienced FBI agent once it gets started logic never enter. It knows this poking fun of itself with flimsy gathering of evidence like examining the tan line of a bank robber behind in surveillance footage. Once it addresses the sillier side of its evidence to catch it criminals it goes back to business. For as silly as the plot gets it characters are more rooted in the world. Specifically our protagonist, Johnny Utah, who despite being the hero is inept in his job. He's the different kind of action hero who screw ups contribute in worsening his current dilemma and avoids using an organ called the brain. Utah doesn't sound so much like a hero as he does a fumbling idiot. However, with the structure of the plot his action goes along with the philosophy the criminal shares. Much in line with the ebb and flow of a wave; tension mounts slowly building to a climax each time, which is slightly resolved in an abrupt crash until the next pique. Formulaic as the script make itself be goes hand in hand with the views presented by its characters. Always searching for the next adrenaline rush before it crashes and burn. Both the hero and antiheroes share their flaws resulting in consequences on both side. Characterization is plentiful giving more meaning to the action, though never sympathetic given the tonal switch it characters can cause. Although, most of Utah development are later turned into plot devices and what occurs to him follows some predictable guidelines for any film that follows an undercover agent. These characters are supported by some great dialogue that manage to get a laugh because of nothing the sort would be things the action genre would expect to produce.

Keanu Reeves persona perfectly matches the protagonist he portrays. Reeves never vocalizes a range of emotions when speaking, but his demeanor to ease from being a care free surfer to full on hard boiled FBI agent is believable. No matter how much Reeves gets beaten in an action scene whenever his character is allowed a finer moment he sells it. Patrick Swayze is eccentric as an antihero. He's loose whenever he speaks philosophical on surfing the waves as his life meaning. Reading such lines and given them as much heart no matter how silly it might sound to non surfers. When needed too Swayze can turn a complete one-eighty that borderline on adrenaline addict whose needs more. Lori Petty plays the token love interest. She's not given much range in the kind of scenes she gets either being loose or life threatening dramatic. Her performance is good inspite of the lack of range she's offer. Gary Busey wisecracks hilariously throughout playing off greatly of from an equally funny John C. McGinley. Kathryn Bigelow with vigorous direction knows how to modulate when it comes to action. While not impressive or big in scale are entirely filled with stunt work and pyrotechnics-driven, as we see skydiving, surfing, crazy stunts, and one good on-foot chases through many location. The action presented remain clear building tension flowing like a wave. Cinematographer Donald Peterman creates camerawork to draw us into its mindset. Shots of the surfing and surfers are close-ups, creating an immediate and intimate bond for the audience are captured with graceful camera movement.

Point Break is preposterous, and that is exactly why it works. On the surface what seen is as a dumb action movie is given more thought by smart filmmakers. The heroes and antiheroes are fleshed out given more meaning to their actions applying more weight to their consequences. Acting wise there's not memorable performance from Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze, but both fit the parts with their onscreen persona being natural for the characters they portray. It understands the philosophy of it characters life passion incorporating it into the structure of how it's made working in perfect zen.

Blue Ruin
Blue Ruin (2014)

"Spirit In the Woods" was a film that was funded through Kickstarter that showcased yes people are willingly to pay for terrible, terrible found footage horror movies. Ironically a week after seeing that film comes "Blue Ruin" which once again also gain some of it funding through Kickstarter that proves there is talent worth helping out. On a technical level there's nothing about "Blue Ruin" that makes any investors question their contributions. However, it's writing on the other hand does make you question if it worth sitting through a slow film that in any review that provides a synopsis is about as developed as the film plot and character ever gets.

Blue Ruin follows a mysterious outsider's whose quiet life is turned upside down when he returns to his childhood home to carry out an act of vengeance. Minimal is the single word that best describe the story of "Blue Ruin". There's a lack of characterization, spoken dialogue, and no subplots to flesh out the simplistic material. It strips down the revenge story down to its very basic which both works in favor and against the film. For starter its protagonist, Dwight, is mostly a silent loner who lacks the appropriate skills to kill anyone silently, yet at the same time whenever he needs to enter a house or gain access to a car or specific items he does so with ease. It wants to portray revenge realistically, but not if it requires the writers to think. Made evident by no news coverage of the first person Dwight kills in a restaurant, the convenient location of the climax, no suspicion made by the hospital staff of Dwight arrow wound which earlier he attempted to heal himself, and characters willingly do whatever Dwight tells them too. Which is where the dialogue handicaps the film. Following Dwight who speaks very little there's no connection made towards him. His motivation is simple, but not fleshed out enough to make it justifiable to sympathize. There's a difference between a reliable blank page and a blank page that's one dimensional. Falling into the latter because what little conversations it has is reverse for exposition to flesh out it simple plot. Other characters fall in the same pit trap with one solely invented to give expositions and plot points that otherwise would have made the climax less meaningful. With a conflict that on both side neither make a convincing argument nor flesh out it "antagonists" finding meaning it story is just as low valued as it characters. Partially realistic, absent characterization, and not building tension within the writing is not presented as an equal, but rather an add-on to the main technical prowess.

Writer/director Jeremy Saulnier has created outstanding atmosphere to go along with his motion picture. Often drenched in different tones of the color blue. Saulnier films with such a sense of urgency, that it aids in keeping its audience captivated. Easing from life and death scenarios to handling each of its gags in an appropriate way. None of it violence feels gratuitous, as it adds to this unforgiving atmosphere on the painful reality of violence. Macon Blair is written shallowly so he can't be blamed for not connecting with the viewers. Faced with the unenviable task of making Dwight at once both childlike and savagely capable, a feat made all the more demanding by a restrictive narrative. Combining wide-eyed deadliness with the disarming lucidity of his conviction to create a antihero worthy of Saulnier's exquisitely crisp cinematography. He doesn't talk very much, delivering a lot of emotion through the use of body language and facial expressions. Blair makes it easier to sympathize with his situation rooting himself in reality not blowing his performance. The supporting cast are solid in their role given their small screen time. However, the whole film rest on Blair shoulder which if given to the wrong actor would have been disastrous.

Blue Ruin might be a subtle a revenge story, but lacking substance in character development. It wants to portray violence in a ugly and realistic picture which is difficult when the protagonist can easily get to his destination with presented consequences that hold no weight aside from the climax. Technical side of things is never an issue understanding the meaning of visual motifs, atmosphere, and pacing that builds tension on a lack of substance. Acting is also terrific especially Macon Blair who who in spite of being given a characters that conflicts with the aimed portrayal never loses the sense of reality in his portrayal. Director Jeremy Saulnier understands the visual side of film as an language, but writer Jeremy Saulneir speaks another language that wasn't content with itself that leaves it damage on a flawed simple story.

The Machinist
The Machinist (2004)
½

Insomnia is an all too common writing device that lends itself in creating a story where the lead character reality conflicts with the actuality of the world. Much like Aspergers, Insomnia is highly favored in its usage to add flair to a story that in a direct narrative wouldn't have worked. "The Machinist" is such a case by removing a linear narrative and eliminating conventional characteristic is an psychological thriller that delivers one stimulating and thought provoking experience.

The Machinist is about an industrial worker who hasn't slept in a year doubting his own sanity. Its protagonist, Trevor Reznik, starts off as a sympathetic blank page. Merely creating an image of man who from the setup is seen doing something bad, but upon viewing him live appears to be an innocent man suffering without a crime committed. Reinforcing a positive image on Reznik personality and questionable one about his lifestyle. Once Reznik is setup as a character the next step is to fill in the blank to how he got to where he ended up. Steadily through the course of the movie more about Reznik is revealed entirely through his dialogue. While visuals do play a factor in understanding Reznik psyche, it's not on the same level as the spoken words. Revealing Reznik entire life story indirectly to the audience with Reznik interactions. Reznik is by definition and description is average, but his action in delicate situations suggest otherwise. Until the revelation near the end Reznik maps other suffering onto himself. Turning exterior conflicts into internal ones when Reznik is uncovering himself through the worst possible action. Aside from Reznik, another plot device is a hangman game on a post-it note. The word only has six letters and the last two letters are filled out. If this plot device was to be removed it would have taken away from the writing. It understands that the journey it more pivotal than it's predictable destination. Because of it, the word can be guessed correctly or make a guess that comes close to it, but doesn't detract from its story. Instead it adds a dimension that's worth examining. Alongside his trouble psyche, poor physical conditions, and now his inability to defeat guilt are all traits that follow him. Weaving an intelligent, psychological thriller that is both hard to read in development and engaging in its complicated protagonist.

Director Brad Anderson creates an uneasy atmosphere at a steady pace. A bleak, nearly colorless look, sadness and dread combined to portray the world through Reznik eyes. The atmosphere is aided by Roque Banos' moody score, but it is especially conveyed by the tasty cinematography, which is extremely desaturated--almost approaching black and white at times. It suggests an appropriate desolation. This is also reflected in the locations and set designs. Everything relating to Trevor current matter in his apartment, the machine shop, or in his car is in muted, blue-gray tones. As if fabricated by some unknown nature that has a score to settle with Reznik. Playing with his head that those around are after him. In contrast to the brightly lit scenes that highlight a real world quality to them. Not removing itself from tragedy, Reznik in brightly lit scenes feels naturalistic. Never does he feel anything in particular is dead set against him in the bad turn of events finding some truth to them.

Christian Bale is skeletal as Trevor and visually captivating in embodying all his flaws. Christian Bale more than visually matches his part, but acts it with the same level of dedication. His physical appearance becomes a part of the character not so much the sole characteristic of the character or Bale performance. Physically we see Bale for the broken and hollow man he is, but also adds a trait of humor when joking about his skinny body. Bale portrays he can fit into society, and shows various traits of an unstable mind with his obsession that turns into rage. Becoming another broken person and not just a walking skeleton. The rest of the cast is overshadowed by Christian Bale terrific performance. They do a solid job even if they don't leave a big impression. John Sharian plays pretty much a "Devil" type character with his sinister smile and deep voice. To say there's nothing subtle about his performance is understatement, but rather fits the role just fine. He's energetic always hinting at something sinister with his line delivery. Jennifer Jason Leigh much like her other co-stars is given a single personality just like Aitana Sanchez Gijon. Aitana Sanchez is more cheering and Jason Leigh is broody. Their characters receive minimal amount of development, but can't do anything beyond the exterior of the characters.

The Machinist is a steadily paced psychological thriller driven by one character and actor. Christian Bale becomes Trevor Reznik disappearing into the role matching it perfectly both physically and in his portrayal. Bale performance alone would warrant "The Machinist" is worth viewing, but add an intelligent story and with a physiologically broken lead you have a film that demands your attention.

Spirit in the Woods

I've been visiting the "Indie Scene" less frequently since it can take seven hours to reach my destination with good traffic. Also, the lack of any film property catching my attention. This year I tended to bat an eye away from them. However, "Spirit in the Wood" is different as John Lepper (a producer of the film) attempted to convince me it was worth my time. Once Lepper mention it was a found footage horror film I started walking off, but told me about it came into production. Apparently it was only possible through the fundings on Kickstarter. Anthony Daniel who's the writer, director, producer, music supervisor, casting manager, first degree idiot, and editor who despite not being able to get the budget he wanted still made the film. I can respect that in an aspiring filmmaker. With that finished I gave it a shot out of kindness knowing full well I might end up not liking it.

Once the film got started it was thankful enough to wait seven in to provide a title card that said, "All this footage is found and real. Viewers discretion is advised". Thank goodness for that warning too since the acting in the first seven minutes is horrific. Not a single a movement, not a single line reading, nothing about the actors made me believe I was seeing real people. It didn't help either the small audience didn't buy it either. All that was presented in the first seven minutes are some college students mysteriously vanished (like the audience attention) when entering "Spiritual Woods" known to be haunted. Also, I should note that within these seven minutes it insults horror movies by claiming their plotlines are basically a fabric of fiction and nothing could compare to the real story of "Spiritual Woods". Once your horror movie has "found footage" labeled to it your horror film lost all rights to trash talk any other horror film.

Spirit in the Woods is about five college students getting lost in the woods. For those wondering that's the whole movie. Ideas are so scarce that every single thing wrong with the film can be generalized without in depth detail. You'll find this hard to believe, but the film actually attempts to build up the sense that something is wrong by oddly positioned tree branches. Well they are in the woods and there are tree branches everywhere in the woods. I'm expected to sympathize for a couple of college students that believe there's a correct way to position tree branches in the woods? Good luck trying to get anyone to a feel any emotions for these "real people". Every scene is repetitive, conversations are repetitive, absolutely zero likable characters all of whom are annoying, lingers it deadweight proudly, and a ending that shoehorned in promotion for a sequel. So here's a rundown of the plot without skimping on any details. Five college students get an assignment, five college students decide to do their assignment on "Spiritual Woods", they go into "Spiritual Woods", get lost, and killed. That is all folks that happens. Dialogue generally goes back and forth between "I heard something. Oh it was nothing", "Wait I think I saw something? Oh never mind it was nothing", and "We're lost". For sixty minutes the repetitive dialogue drive these points across. Around the twenty-eight minute in this lovely screen appears.
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Dream Comet Studios (founded by the film director Anthony Daniel) had time to "fix up" the footage, but couldn't be bothered to do a proper spell check. To get the point across to the filmmakers especially Anthony Daniel. Here's an example so you'll remember to how tell the two words apart. You use "are" as in these filmmakers are clueless about making a tolerable film. And "our" as in you wasted our (the audience) time with this technically unviewable film with no story. The rest of the film beyond that point is the same thing repeated. Five college students talk about hearing or seeing something that turns out to be not there and being lost. It isn't until the final fifteen minutes that it breaks away from a cycle of repetition that hammers that perhaps something evil is in the woods. They get killed in by last minute plot twist by girl that just went insane. This twist is just spontaneous as the character never shows ever collapsing into a mental state of insanity by any signs.
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The acting is atrocious by the non actors. Their performances prevents the film from selling any dreary mood in the haunted woods. They all come across as just bunch of annoying, dumb college students. As you noticed the image above that's a picture I took right from the official Facebook page of the film. This pains me to say it, but it doesn't look like it cost $1,300 dollars to make. At best the filmmakers got three cheap cameras, some gasoline, and some food which consider the talent behind the camera should be around one hundred dollar. Anyone could literally film their friends getting lost in the woods for around eighty minutes which is this biggest problem. Nothing about it presents any good quality from good filmmaking. The editing is a mess and the "fixed up" footage looks worse than the already grainy looking film. There's no reason for every single moment to be filmed as contradicted by the "real people". Whenever they say they should stop filming they immediately turn on the camera seconds later. It's just horrible on every level. Even during the final ten minutes credits roll over a still playing film. Don't these people know the important things in a movie come before the closing credits not during it.

Spirit in the Woods is the absolute holy grail of bad found footage horror movies. Presenting every negative aspects without a care like using its format as a gimmick, lingering in a deadweight plot where nothing happens, and the nerve to sell itself as "real" while insulting horror films for the same reasons itself fails for. This film is a complete failure in every conceivable way and should have remain lost to never punish any unsuspecting human being.

Extra: Personal Side Story

So right before the first of several closing credits sequences it has a badly photoshop missing persons poster that says to visit its Facebook page to learn more on the true story. Naturally I did and imagine my shock when the film official fan page posted updates mourning those who died in 2013. Then I go to director Anthony Daniel Facebook profile to find those same people who were considered dead in photo from this year thanking its cast. Just wow! That deserves a sarcastic round of applause as Anthony Daniel does give a VAN DAMME on the integrity of his own fiction and creation.

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Joe
Joe (2014)

Nicolas Cage resume proves regardless of how a film turns out he tends to be a bright spot in them. Whether it be good or bad a Nicolas Cage performance tends to be worth seeing. Either be it energetically over the top or as in "Joe" Cage restraint helps him disappear into the role like the talented actor can be in the right role.

Joe is about the title character, an ex-con who is the unlikeliest of role models, meeting a 15-year-old boy and is faced with the choice of redemption or ruin. The film flows through Joe and his friendship with Gary rather than jumping from plot point to plot point. Allowing its characters to guide the material through their words holding strongly to their principals that are challenged. Never does it sidetrack into anything other than what it is rooted in. Characterization is slow, but builds up over time learning about Joe and Gary through each other interaction. Both characters show the other flaws as well as compliment one another strong suit. Showing restraint in succumbing to violence as an easy resort, but show their kind hearts to do better. On other hand, the environment around them brings out the worst in them as both attempt to restraint from being violent in situations that makes it desirable. Characters are presented with real issues and their handling on the matter stays true to their nature. Sadly it plays familiar story beats ending with an all too familiar message we've seen before that the past will always catch up with you. Another rather small issue would be the peripheral characters that are only around to stir conflict with only one having having a petty fleshed out motivation. Wade (Gary father) being a peripheral as his characterization is little more than abusing his family and killing for a drink. It's familiarity leaves little surprises, but its engaging central protagonists makes it worth experiencing.

Nicolas Cage stars as Joe and disappears into the role. Joe states several times how important it is for him to restrain himself, that personal restraint is the only thing keeping him alive. Same goes with Cage performance. Nearly every opportunity he might have had to go big with this part, he subdued himself, plays it subtle, keeps it realistic, and exercises the same muscles of restraint in terms of his acting that the character himself must exercise against his violent impulses. Relaying the insecurity and indecision behind Joe's tough exterior while still remaining an imposing presence. Tye Sheridan character is written pure and perfect, but Sheridan emphasizes his boyishness and trepidation, finding rough edges in a character that could have easily descended into martyrdom. Giving his character allot more depth than the writing provides. Both Tye Sheridan and Nicolas Cage excel in their share scenes together playing off each other flawlessly. Gary Poulter characterization is wholly one sided in bearing entirely negative traits, however, he's as pitiful as he is monstrous. Showing an odd tenderness given from his loose appearance to bearing the emotions of man who's fed up with his broken life. David Gordon Green has a gift for balancing the abstract with the mundane. He isn't afraid of subtle visual flourishes: a bulldog's mouth dripping with another dog's blood; a hog, hanged vertically, being stripped of meat; the kitchen of a brothel, its windows boarded up, with everything aglow in red. Showing the ugliness of a rural America that correlate with its characters; the ugly outside that are just as beat up as the people who live their and the small changes in environments that go along with it characters mood.

Joe is a slow film that much like it central relationship is supported by the strong chemistry between Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan. Both the story and performances aren't anything new for anyone involve, but rather serve to compliment each other strengths which in the ends makes a great character driven film.

Xin qi long zhu (Dragon Ball: The Magic Begins)

Before Hollywood got their hands on "Dragon Ball Z" and pissed off nearly every fan imaginable with "Dragon Ball Evolution" there was "Dragon Ball: The Magic Begins". A live action Taiwanese film based on the popular "Dragon Ball" series. Not only that, but it's also an unofficial live action remake of the first "Dragon Ball" animated film "Dragon Ball: Curse of the Blood Rubies". It doesn't take very long for me to find a small error in the film that foreshadows what to come my way. Before even reaching the opening credits, the film own production company couldn't spelled it own name correctly. If the production company can't even get its own name right what makes you think they'll know how to make a live action "Dragon Ball" movie.

Dragon Ball: The Magic Begins follows Goku and his band of misfits in search for seven magical dragon balls before they fall into the wrong hands of King Horn and his evil alien army. Now the film opens by showing alien ships heading towards Earth. Cutting to a peaceful village where an abridged ceremony is being held to signify the importance of the dragon ball (or "dragon pearl" in the English dub.) Then out of nowhere, the aliens come to blow up the village by way of cheap knock off of storm troopers blasting their way with twenty something explosions (I lost count) in the opening three minutes. The whole film is over the top and pulls out cheap writing techniques to make sure you don't care. After the whole village gets filled with explosions, it cuts to Goku and his grandpa talking about how important protecting dragon ball is. This introduction exemplifies every problem with the writing; everything is over the top, everything is said to be importance without much explanation towards to why, and if it's not a discussion about dragon balls it exposition and humor related to how someone in the group is a pervert.

There's nothing connecting the whole plot aside from conveniences. Goku goes fishing and bumps into Bulma, the two join forces to look for the dragon ball and that's how the journey is started. Oh yeah I forgot to mention the part where Bulma shoots Goku with a machine gun upon introduction. Another convenience is the location of the last dragon ball which one of the members of the group had the whole time without knowing it. Not only that, but it has pacing issues as some moments it go way too fast and other moments it go way to slow. It rushes when Goku finds his home destroyed and learns his grandpa has been kidnapped by King Horns aliens, but takes it sweet time when the characters are discussing how to get Bulma to show her breast to Master Roshi to get a dragon ball. There's nothing established in this world for newcomers. We never learn where the aliens came from, why they want the seven dragon balls, why King Horn swallowed six dragon balls, if the characters can fly as made apparent by their fighting styles, and a number of other things. If there is one good thing the film does contribute that would be Master Roshi "Moonwalk Magic" technique.

Now for the technical aspects which fares a bit better. Firstly the over the top fight scenes are entertaining. The overused of wireworks favor the nature of the fight scenes as fighters can take multiple bullet shot and jump around all over the arena. Sadly part of the fighting is done with some tanks, machine guns, alien ships, and blast energy which isn't quite as exciting. Although the digital effects do raise eyebrows. Especially in a scene where Goku fights his grandpa and while guarding himself with a magical pole, grandpa leg goes through the magical pole hitting Goku. Even when Sheron (a dragon that appears when all the dragon balls are collected) looks hideous with bulgy white eyes and undetailed golden colored body. Costumes look cheap while hairdo scream too much hair gel was applied to make it stay up. Acting is bad from the young cast. Charles Chen Zi-Jiang shouts every line he reads while making silly faces, Jeannie Hsieh blankly stares with stiff line delivery, and Cheng Tung-Chen is also shouts all of his lines. The adults in the film fares no better either due to goofy costume that makes it difficult not to laugh or resort to making to two kind of faces, silly and serious to show their limited range of human emotion. Editing is bad especially the sound mixture in which music, effect, and dialogue drown each other out.

Dragon Ball: The Magic Begins is never boring because how over the top and odd technical direction it takes, but at the same time without anything decent to latch onto its goofiness loses it novelty. Once you become accustomed to the odd nature of its existence you'll be desiring more than just a series of goofy scenes and poor production values.

Frankenhood
Frankenhood (2009)

A title like "Frankenhood" leaves little to possibility. Sure the end product will turn out bad, but at least the title suggests an outlandish concept can provide campy fun. Basically the film all it is "We reanimated a corpse. Let's go smoke some pot and shoot some hoops" with no shred or pulse of creativity.

Frankenhood is about two guys who work at a morgue enlisting the services of a reanimated corpse to better their chances at a streetball tournament. Imagine a white guy whose only exposure to black people was through stereotypes in films and you have the film script in a nutshell. Filled with "black" and "gangsta" dialogue that fail at repersenting its brotha. This writer be wack if they b representing them homeboys like this would b fly. That last sentence is pretty much in the same line of dialogue it provides. My personal favorite line of bad dialogue even in context sounds bad is, "Yeah, your farts do smell kinda nutty". This line of dialogue is horrible for three reasons; 1.) a character can recognize the smell of his best friend farts, 2.) its discussed so naturally among the two friends, and 3.) farting is Frank-E first action when he's alive. Failing in providing crass "humor" ensuring every joke fails because it doesn't follow any rules of humor. Since there's no consequences of any sort in a comedic situation there's no punishment the characters receive. Therefore there's nothing funny about it if every situation is passed up as a mundane annoyance. Not even when two grown man take taller grown man Frank-E to the bathroom it does nothing with the setup. The protagonist sister hears what sounds like an attempt to make a sex joke and walks away without much of an reaction. Another example, once the antagonist discover Frank-E is a reanimated corpse he just goes on with his everyday life. Apparently according to this film resurrecting the dead is common thing in the neighborhood. As for a plot you're not going find much underneath all its fat. Subplots are easily resolve/forgotten and characters are underdeveloped. Like the protagonist love interest who appears in two scenes before the "I thought you were different" line comes up. Wasting time with bad jokes, Frank-E learning to dance, streetball montage, throwing popcorn chicken to divert Frank-E attention, peeping through a window, a mad scientist walking around the neighborhood, and are you kidding me I barely scratched the surface of how often it wasted time.

Now the film is directored by someone named Blaxwell Smart. He does live up to his last name by making a comedy film that is entirely humorless. One example being Smart setting up scene where the protagonist (named Motown) attempting to "get it on" with a women by telling her he's an astronaut. The woman tells Motown she didn't know there was black astronaut. Instead of following up on "It's a funny story" Smart cuts away from that scene. This goes for the streetball (basically basketball with a maximum of three players) scenes feeling like a waste of time. You think having Frank-E play streetball would be funny, nope that is was what Smart wants you think. Every streetball game has little humor with the most "creative jokes" being Frank-E licking a basketball and a player getting arrested on the opposing team during a live game. Blaxwell knows how to kill comedy in his own movie, but since this is a comedy Smart is actually dumb for killing jokes. DeRay Davis and Jasper Redd are the unfunny actors that carry the film. DeRay Davis improv is so bad there's a scene in the film that splices six of his take of the same scene in a minute. His timing is off and his acting is bland going along with his stereotyped character. Jasper Redd has a bit more range compare to Davis, but is weighed down by the material. Whenever Redd has to deliver a "joke" he has to hold for a minute no matter how dead it is. Bob Sapp has little dialogue relying allot more on his appearances. His performance is one of the more competent only requiring to do silly faces. Charles Murphy is the best actor in the film which is not saying much. He plays his role straightforward provides some semblance of energy. Music tends to be inappropriate for the tone it sets in scenes. In the opening scene it opens in a morgue and some bodies while playing cheery music. Also, for nearly an all rap score it has a heavy metal track that sticks out badly.

Frankenhood is likely the product of filmmakers who also probably believe resurrecting the dead is a common thing "in tha hood" as Blaxwell Smart would put it. Its characters are stereotyped, story with no understanding of humor, and actors that while not annoying are lazy in providing much from the dead material. Much like Frank-E, the comedy is dead aimlessly wasting time.

Ace Attorney
Ace Attorney (2012)
½

Capcom's "Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney" video game franchise has a small, but devoted fan base. The game themselves are known for being strong adventure games, having great presentation, music, and dialog, while at the same time criticized for being too linear, lacking replayability, and little in the way of innovation with each installments. What makes this adaptation questionable is this being director Takashi Miike second video game film adaption. His first was "Yakuza: Like A Dragon" which as a fan of the Sega franchise nailed the look, but failed in the story department. For Ace Attorney, Miike learns from some of his past mistakes to craft a decent film that can appeal to both fans of the video game franchise and the uninitiated.

Ace Attorney plot follows rookie Defendant Phoenix Wright, as he tackles a series of cases that slowly unfurl to reveal a twisted plot that stretches back several years ago. One thing that translates to the big screen successfully are it court cases and mysteries. As the further it moves along the more plot thickens while keeping you guessing. Throwing you off with twists and short usage of light supernatural elements. In the opening, we see a women being possessed and get introduced to a character be possessed by ghosts for a job profession whose only in used whenever it plot needs a push. Court trials are always high in creativity. Without being set into the real world trials are depicted like large sport events with a highly reactive crowd, CRT monitors that show evidence with holograms, and the varied personality of the witnesses. These trails session bring to center all the evidence gathered for a battle of wits between attorneys that goes back and forth in whose favor the case is in. Having five court cases these kind of scenes supply the film finest moments of writing even if some odd elements are in play. The weakest area is characterization being slim. Some backstory is given on why Phoenix Wright became an attorney and the relation between some of his friends. However, such moments become buried as the film thickens the mystery and court cases it forgets about its characters. They are likable characters, but not won't leave as much of an impression as the court cases and mysteries do.

Takashi Miike is very faithful to the visuals of the game while making necessary changes. This is the very reason for one of the film's most obvious additions, the holographic evidence windows. Ostensibly made to emulate the game's court record, they do far more by creating a way to make even the most mundane piece of evidence exciting and engaging. They also serve to set the time period, with comically large CRT monitors being used in flashbacks. Everything from the game is captured from the clothing, the locations, down to the varied hairstyles. The distinguishing hairdos get embellished right out of the realm of the possible, and are even used for some of the best jokes. But despite the spoofy approach the drama surrounding these characters still gets treated with a lot of respect, and the film retains a lot of heart because of that. Hiroki Narimiya gives a terrific comedic performance underneath the awesomely aerodynamic haircut. He creates a great contrast between a look that's supposed to evoke the slick, confident attorney and the knowledge that he is in way over his head. Akiyoshi Naako is a good foil as Wright's junk-dealer friend Larry Butz, while Takumi Saito plays Phoenix's opposite number as an ideal combination of smugness and dedication. There are a lot of other great little supporting turns, too, from Mirei Kiritani's charming Maya to Mitsuki Tanimura's brash Lotta Hart and Ryo Ishibashi's intimidating Von Karma. Music wasn't one of traits that translated into the adaptation. Granted they adds a lot in making courts trails far more exciting than most films do, but aren't as memorable for most tracks go for being loud over having a building rhythm.

Ace Attorney translates the video game series onto the big screen emulating the appeal of the series. Not only does it closely resemble the game series visuals, but also written in a way that will satisfy fans of the game and is accessible for newcomers. It's a step forward for video adaptations that shows respect to both the material and its fan base without alienating its audience.

Enemy
Enemy (2014)
½

"Enemy" is the kind of film that many detractors would labeled as pretentious. This is the kind of film that relies heavily on subtlety for its character study. Demanding you pay close attention too every clue or else the meaning is loss. By all means it's a film whose values is what you make of it. With that being said "Enemy" is a very in depth character study made more sophisticated the more you think about it.

Enemy is about a man seeking out his exact look-alike after spotting him in a movie. One thing everyone will take away from the film is the abstract ending. It's unexpected and fades to black before giving an answer. The film narrative is on the same level. Rather than progressing in a linear, plot-driven manner, the story slowly fades into the distance to make way for an aimless type of suspense. At first it appears that when the twins meet each other it would make a series of ambiguous ideas become clear. It does the exact opposite woven to be abstract as possible only hinting at the various ideas that this is could be a story about split personality, a story about falling back into bad habits, or could all be a bad dream triggered by arachnophobia. Doing so by reaffirming repetition in dialogue and certain phrases utter by the characters. A line of dialogue tells us bits of the character in one scene to later challenge its meaning. This also results in the same effect working against the film just as much. Repeating itself to hold meaning in falling back into a pattern much like the character and narrative choices taken. As a whole there's not much of a cohesive story jumping between the past and present without a indication on when anything occurred and in what order. Without it metaphors "Enemy" is just a simple story with a lack of conflict and resolution to the events that play out. While it does weave a complicated narrative with many interpretations it won't have the same impact as sometimes it confuses being vague for being mysterious losing some meaning along the way.

Denis Villenueve direction is detail focused. Villeneuve's own stylistic flourishes alternately underline and undercut his efforts. The jagged editing adds to the audience's feeling of unease with a kind of controlled confusion, making us wonder how much we really know about what's going on. Visually oppressive with its pale filtered tones and aerial shots showing the geometrical arrangement of the buildings creates a dreamlike quality to the film visuals. At times it hypnotic and other times makes us become loss between reality and a dream. Occasionally it will beat you over the head the imagery of Spiders and web many times. While it serves a greater purpose of a tricky metaphors it's the most obvious clue that gives to its audience. A minor setback considering how carefully how other clues and details are given without making them the centered of attention. Jake Gyllenhaal inhabits his two characters very well, slipping into Adam's despondent skin as easily as he finds Anthony's brash confidence. Though he plays two characters who were physically identical, even when they were dressed the same, Gyllenhaal put on a great performance, creating two separate people who you could tell apart, but without it looking obvious. Co-stars Mélanie Laurent and Sarah Gadon are appropriately icy; almost Hitchcockian in their blond coldness. The great Isabella Rossellini makes a brief but welcome appearance, yet the film really does rest on Gyllenhaal's shoulders. Carrying the entire film on his shoulder without confusing the viewer by two very similar looking characters.

Enemy is a tricky character study that messes with your head. Held together by a distinct and careful performance by Jake Gyllenhaal. It's not as accessible for those who enjoyed Denis Villenueve's "Prisoners" that similarly dealt with the dark side its protagonists, but is just as well crafted even if a absolute meaning won't be found.

The Legend of Hercules

The Legend of Hercules is an insult to not just Greek Mythology, but common sense. A rush plot that overuses cliches and overlooks the basics of storytelling like context, characterization, and anything resembling human emotion. The action scenes that don't include Scott Adkins are uninspired, insipid, and sucking any shred of entertainment away. These Greek set action scenes are the most over the top ever depicted in the era yet provide nothing to dissect. Avoid this film! Done and finished like that. If you're expecting anything informative you better stop reading now. Now clearly I have allot more to say about the film seeing the length of my rant. What better way to best get across my hatred than express my same exact thoughts while viewing the film. I'll leave no stone unturned because there are some bad movies worth viewing.

Upon seeing the opening of the film which is an unimpressive one track wide shot of Greek civilizations going to war with each other into the ancient land of Argos. This one track shot highlights the plastic looking CG environments, blurred explosions, and humans that look smudgy regardless how far the CG is from the camera. However, despite a poor first impression the film is gracious enough to give us SCOTT ADKINS! He's so awesome that in fact, the extras in the opening scene just started cheering upon seeing Adkins appear despite being told not too. Coming into the film with a action scene that overuses slow motion and cheap props (like all the action scenes), but nonetheless Adkins presence makes it awesome. Full of energy he's able to sell an opening action scene that had no context (no seriously, it's glances over just about every detail you can think off regarding a war) and makes it exciting. At the end there's no question that Scott Adkins wins the fight, his opponent kingdom, and thus has the opposing army and his own army bow down to his greatness. Truly this man is a legend among legend and....what eleven minutes that's it. Adkins is just a supporting actor despite clearly selling a action scene that should not have had worked on any level. BOOOOOOOOOO! Put Scott Adkin back on screen. If you seriously think I'm going to buy "I got pregnant with a God child to put end to your reign because you are just too demanding" plotline without developing character, context, or the conflict you are wrong. I still have a functioning brain cell intact after viewing this. At some point you might expect me to flip the switch and go back to my formula with an attempt to be fair, but then Kellan Lutz appears around the twelve minute mark.

Fast forward the plot twenty years later and Kellan Lutz appears on screen for the first time in the film riding horses with plastic doll Gaia Weiss. I didn't think it was possible, but these two actors manage to make the simple task of horseback riding difficult to buy. Once they reached their destination at some pond they have a "romantic" moment. The scene gets across Hercules love Hebe despite this being the first time we see them together. For those wondering nope the film never develops the romance nor any of the characters to sell the romance. The only thing that happens at the pond is Hercules gets a necklace from the women he loves which on itself could metaphor Hercules commitment by wearing, but he's does not hold it to any importance rendering it meaningless. After Hercules brother, Iphicles, comes into the scene he tells his men to take Hebe back to the kingdom of "Just Make Things Up As We Go Along-dom".

Riding back to their proud kingdom at day time, yet for some reason wait until night time to actually start moving the brothers hear a noise. Getting off their horses the brothers arm themselves to fight a foul beast. A lion appears making his presence known to Hercules with his loud and furious roar that shakes the land. The fact that his opponent is Kellan Lutz further boosts the beast ego so much in fact that when HERCULES THROWS A STEEL SPEAR AT A LION IT DEFLECTS IT WITHOUT A SCRATCH! How is the lion killed you asked? By being choked to death by Hercules. Nope, I'm pretty sure the CG Lion couldn't handle putting this on his resume thus ending his career on screen. CG Lion number 06-27-1997 will truly be missed. Before I move on the lion Hercules fought wasn't ordinary. It was in fact the legendary Nemean Lion who has golden fur that's impervious to attacks. I'm telling you this because the film does not explain this meaning unless you know what the Nemean Lion is this scene is various degrees of silliness.

Upon returning to their kingdom together. Iphicles takes credit for killing the Nemean Lion and tells in front of a crowd that Hercules ran away from the first sign of danger. Remember this is Kellan Lutz's Hercules not Arnold Schwarzenegger so it's not hard for anyone to buy that Hercules ran away from danger. Heck I believed it even though I clearly saw what actually happened. Thus the almighty KING ADKINS (I know his character has a name, but I like the sound of KING ADKINS better) announces to the crowd that his son, Iphicles, will in fact marry Hebe in three moons. Three moons? I could help with that just give a minute to unzip...what you meant days not the other kind? You modernized 90% of the dialogue so why of all things "wed in three moons" is kept as is. By no surprise Hebe is dissatisfied with the announcement of whom she'll be force to wed. I totally could get behind Hebe in this situation because she's not marrying King Adkins. I mean when the only man throwing himself at you is Kellan Lutz could you really blame Hebe for running away. Hercules goes after Hebe and promises her they'll run away together. Out of kindness Hebe says yes in the hopes this will make King Adkins jealous (my made up plot sucks I know, but much better than what the film provides). Thus the two ride off into the night, but wait until daytime to actually start their journey. Are you kidding me Daniel Giat, Giulio Steve, Renny Harlin, and Sean Hood? Four freakin writers? Not one of them thought to themselve "Wouldn't it make sense for Hercules and Hebe to run away right after Hercules makes that proposal. It's night time making it difficult to spot them, none of Adkins guards are chasing after them, and they have a head start".

After a bad chase scene void of any excitement and zero technical prowesses King Adkins sends Hercules to war in Egypt. It was at this point that I realize Hercules character is so poorly written that I was actually cheering for the "villain" of the film. For Adkins character we at least saw he led an army to gain an entire kingdom even if it was just for gold as oppose to Hercules who in the film has only killed a lion thinks he entitled to anything he wants. Out of those two I would cheer on the bloodthirsty tyrant who has a right to constantly be pissed off at Hercules because he worked hard and violently killed to get the things he got. Hercules on the other hand thought process is "You just don't know how difficult it is to be the son of a king with no responsibility having the power of a God. I hate you". You could labeled Kellan Lutz as a hero all you want in the film, but he just comes off as a drama queen who got a sex change into a man. It's also upon this force return Hercules learns from his mother he's the son of Zeus. This shocks Hercules upon hearing the news since Kellan Lutz's Hercules is that slow in head. Really movie? You know just force me to compliment Disney Studio writing which by my standard guarantees you just failed in the written word of storytelling. In Disney's Hercules he knew he has super strength and was conflicted about his true origin. This Hercules does not face emotional conflict, has no desire to learn about himself, nor does he ever goes to speak to Zeus unless he wants something without earning it.

Would you believe me if I told you the previous paragraphs vaguely summed up the first thirty minutes of the movie. I got that much material to complain and rant on in thirty minutes. This is just a fraction of my feelings as you could only imagine how poorly I view this film in its entirety. Pass the thirty minute mark the four writers gave up on writing dialogue. ARRRGGGGGHHHHHHH, EEEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRR, BOOOOOOOOOOOOO, is what makes up the rest of the film dialogue. Just a constant barrage of men shouting from the top of their lungs. Moving on, in the next twenty minutes little happens. Hercules goes to Egypt to fight with his father army and with one other soldier are the only survivor of the battle. Captured, Hercules and General Goodlooking (who's too young to play a veteran war general) are force to fight other prisoners. This plot point is a poor ploy to just have the following eighteen minutes consist of action scenes. All of which rely on wire work that Pinocchio would call dated. The action scenes are unexciting because Kellan Lutz barely gets hurt. Fun fact, in the action scene where Kellan Lutz enters an arena the crowd boos when the announcers introduces Hercules was not scripted. According to the extras on set they said they were lied into believing they would see Dwayne Johnson in the movie. To be fair though the extras are justified for their boos. Hercules strikes a deal with his master to let General Goodlooking go scot-free if he could wins his freedom against six undefeated Greek warriors. Why that actually sounds cool. The film took many liberties with the legend already so maybe in this one scene Hercules will face Achilles, Jason, Perseus, Odysseus, among other worthy opponents. Oh man the possibilities are endless. One over the top, dead of excitement, and predictable fight scene later. Damn you writers I actually expected something decent from that scene!

Meanwhile in Argos news spread across the land that Hercules died in battle. Lets take moment and mourn the loss of Kevin Sorbo's Hercules who will be missed. Or damn it, thinking of the wrong Hercules again. Actually what I meant to say was bring on the champagne because Kellan Lutz's Hercules is pronounced dead. YEAH! Afterwards King Adkins speaks to his angry wife whose hatred for him is far from subtle. Adkins wife tells him that she gave birth to Hercules to end his tyranny. Of course given Kellan Lutz is the person she gave birth to King Adkin takes it as an insult (like anyone would) and kills her on the spot. There is also a scene of Hebe stating continually (it's the only thing she talks about in the movie) how much she loves Hercules (just pretend it's Dwayne Johnson she's talking about to buy it) when speaking with Iphicles. Once Iphicles gets across Hebe has no say in the matter will forever be locked in a loveless marriage she attempts to commit suicide. In the context of the film Hebe feels sad that Hercules got killed, but in my version I actually believe Hebe came to the realization that her failed planned to make King Adkins jealous thinks a world without Adkins is not worth living. Of course Old Man (he's is not that important of a character) stops her and tells her Hercules is still alive and planning to overthrow King Adkins.

Skipping towards Hercules overthrow you'll be hard press to read that nothing else happened in between. Reaching the fifty minute mark you think seeing a God attempting to rally supporters to overthrow King Adkins would on some level be interesting. All that happens is General Goodlooking finds his wife murdered, Iphiles captures General Goodlooking, Hercules is captured, Hercules gets chained up, and whipped for being a very, very bad actor. Despite these events there's no buildup on any kind and the bad attempt to sell the romance with sex. Although, I do thank the director who despite showing his stars (any male actors) togaless for more than half of the movie does not show Kellan Lutz likely bad interpretation of a sex scene. So Hercules, just because he asks, obtains his full strength from Zeus without earning it. Kellan Lutz goes "God of War" (Kratos, the protagonist, fights with weapons connected by chains) on his opponent and is just as lame as everything else in the movie. Witnessing this King Adkins retrieves to his castle because Hercules showing off his strength bored him.

If you read this far we're finally at Hercules overthrow. Music in this film in general is unnoticable because it's only purpose is to be loud. There's no composition nor instrumental arrangements in anything that is heard. So while people were getting killed on screen I was to listening to Aya Hirano "Bouken Desho Desho" to lift up my spirits and worked to put me in a good mood. Who knew listening to cheery and upbeat music for a an action scene would worked so much better than a random arrangements loud noises. Hercules army march towards King Adkin front gate and by sheer luck some of King Adkins arrows men turn to Hercules side. Man is that lazy writing and pure convenience that even though the arrow men could easily kill Hercules just turn to his side. Motivation is simply because he's a great hero, even though throughout the movie everything is a cakewalk for him. So when Hercules enters King Adkins temple he walks straight into King Adkins trap. King Adkins, despite the rain pouring down, is able to create a wall of fire because he's just awesome. So picture this, Hercules and his men surrounded, outnumbered, and ensuring that there is a high possibility Hercules men lives will be lost. Now picture Zeus just giving Hercules a lightning whip to easily killing a dozen or so men by himself. I've been avoiding discussing the idea of Hercules saying in a previous scene he's no God, but a mortal. Why don't you remember the last time you raised your hands up at the sky, physically grabbed lightning, and used it as a whip? I do it all the time because according to this film I am a mortal.

Then finally it comes down to climax which is made exciting because of SCOTT ADKINS! So who'll win this fight; on one corner you have SCOTT ADKINS who in the film is a conqueror of kingdoms, commands respects looking pissed off in every single scene he's in, and most importantly age holds no meaning to him. Despite the main story taking place twenty years after the opening scene the only thing he has to show for his age is a clearly fake beard! And on the other corner you have Kellan Lutz who plays Hercules accomplishing...um no wait let me think. He went to war in Egypt despite only having eighty troops and survives...although it's technically his fault they died since he suggested to rest in a area that guaranteed their enemies to ambushed them and left themself no way to escape. Oh man that's bad. No wait, Hercules has the strength of a God and can wield lighting which he never uses in a majority of the film. Ummm....he has muscles, but no personality of any kind. Ahhh...this guy sucks. I honestly tried to make Kellan Lutz sound good.

The climax is actually decent because of the fight choreography actually allows Kellan Lutz opponent to be on equal ground. You might question Hercules strength as he gets tossed around during the final action scene like a rag doll, but remember his opponent is SCOTT ADKINS! Before Kellan Lutz has a chance to choke King Adkins to death Iphicles comes into the fight threatening to kill Hebe if Hercules kills King Adkins. Knowing the small possibility that Hercules could save her Hebe takes stabs herself in the chest because a life without Scott Adkins is just not worth living and a life with Kellan Lutz is worth ending your misery. This scene, like everything else, leaves as little of an impact as possible. The fight resume and if the film wasn't unrealstic enough Kellan Lutz kills King Adkins. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Unbelievable the filmmakers had the nerve to kill off the only decent thing to be found in the movie. Yes Scott Adkins only screams in the movie, but he has energy, charisma, acting talent, a martial art background, but most importantly is not Kellan Lutz. I kid you not when I say Kellan Lutz starring in this film is the equivalent of a sleeping pill; the longer you are expose to it the more you'll want to go sleep.

Hebe wakes up and lives happily ever after with Hercules. Of course with my hatred towards the film I pretend Hebe became blind thinking Hercules was Scott Adkins. Finally this is the end of the review. Without question if it wasn't for the over top performance and glorious presence of Scott Adkins this film would have earned a zero. Whenever Adkins is on screen he's brings excitement to the film working against some incredibly poor production values. Adkins was in the film long enough to earn a ten percent rating. He's the film biggest appeal even in a traditional sense his performance is bad. Unfortunately the spotlight is given to Kellan Lutz whose performance has the same effect of a sleeping pill, charisma of a corpse, non existent acting talent, and finally just sucks at his job. He doesn't look convincing in the part, he can't act, has no charm, and personality of any sort. So like I said in first paragraph there are some bad movies worth seeing and this film, under no circumstances even if you're held at gunpoint should not be seen.

Killer Klowns from Outer Space

"You can't judge a book by it cover" phrase more often than not doesn't equally apply to films. A film with a ridiculous premise or title tends to fall into the pitfall of just being bad without much of a creative thought process behind it. Sometimes dying before even reaching the credits. As proven with "Killer Klowns From Outer Space" you just never know what to expect to be entertaining.

Killer Klowns From Outer Space is about extraterrestrial klowns terrorizing a small town. Going more towards comedy, horror is far away from it focus as possible. It sets up a scene from a horror perspective playing the scene out as a comedy. One example being the heroes entering the circus tent spaceship where one would expect seeing what horrific things the extraterrestrial are doing to the humans. Instead of revealing anything resembling horror it's reveal the klowns are turning the townspeople to cotton candy. Why that is the film never explains along with the so called "happy" ending it attempts to sell despite what it presents to us. Despite the goofy premise it has a number of creative ideas that work because of how straightforward the film plays up the concept. The characters in the film are genuinely terrified by the killer klowns that can make balloon dogs that can track their scent to having heat seeking popcorn in their weaponry. This level of goofiness also applies to the death scenes all of which are zany in their creation. Unfortunately the film doesn't focus solely on the klowns occasionally dealing with bland characters. Where as the klowns provide campy antics the humans mostly take in the ensuring invasions one sidedly. While it's nice the script attempts to give its central characters development that's quickly forgotten by the halfway mark. Their dialogue most of the times is typical of a current boyfriend teaming up an his girlfriend ex to save a girl they both have feeling for, but have some terrible lines that even in context sound bad ("Is this place great or what? It looks like it was decorated by Klowns R Us."). As a whole the script is vapid; aliens arrive on Earth, terrorize a small town, the small town lacks police force, no one believes the heroes sighting of extraterrestrial life, and the heroes face against the queen or king alien in the climax. While the creatures are replace with a something goofy the plot bears many similarity to a setup for an alien invasion film for better and worse.

The only standout performance has to be John Vernon as Officer Mooney with a delightfully over the top performance as a paranoid cop. Vernon screen time is small compared to the rest of the cast, but easily the one that best gets into his role. Leads Grant Cramer, John Allen Nelson, an Suzanne Snyder are adequate in their roles. They can carry the movie, but don't have much as Cramer always appears whimsical about the extraterrestrial klowns, Nelson constantly looking pissed off at Cramer character, and Snyder going through the motions. Supporting cast are one note delivering some over the top reaction. With the exception of John Vernon none of the supporting cast stand out. Special effects are decent with some glaring mistakes on screen. Klowns costumes reveal several times a visible zipper whenever the camera faces their back. However, the facial animatronics that move their faces fare much better with the silly dark comedy tone. Spaceships are designed to look like a bizarre fun house which technical wise stand out. Varied in color and atmosphere it presents a spaceship unlike any other in the sci-fi genre. Soundtrack is relatively good with the opening "Killer Klowns" by "The Dickies" makes a solid rock ballad out of stock circus music.

Killer Klowns From Outer Space premise loses momentum as it goes on, but not long enough to wear out its welcome. It plays out around with the typical alien invasion film with a sense humor that hits when the klown are on screen, but fails whenever they're not. It's a goofy film that uses a traditional alien invasion story and does something that's not generally done for better and worse.

Dôbutsu no mori (Animal Crossing: The Movie) (Animal Forest: The Movie)
½

In the world of video game movie adaptations the existence of an 'Animal Crossing' movie escaped my knowledge. I never played the video games therefore never followed the franchise, but to those who haven't either here some condense background. 'Animal Crossing' is a video game franchise developed and published by (the almighty) Nintendo. It's a popular series made famous by it's opened ended gameplay in which players have no defined objectives, but are instead encouraged to spend their time in the village performing any number of activities, which include collecting items, planting plants or other items, and socializing with the village's residents. A life simulator that isn't known exactly for its plot, yet work s as a fun and relaxing film even if it doesn't have a cohesive story.

Animal Crossing: The Movie is about Ai, a self-reliant girl that moves to Animal Village. Simplicity is the route taken with a slice of life format to its narrative. It's not so much telling a story as it is stringing together a series of random scenes. This is made evident in the first twenty minutes of the film as Ai unwillingly accepts a job to make delivery in Animal Village literally minutes after arriving. Throughout her delivery run we're introduced to a colorful cast of characters without tying this plot point to anything in the grand scheme of things. All the inhabitants in Animal Village have a kind heart even if at times the hard shells says otherwise. Giving off a sort of utopia vibe as the community provides a sense of welcome and warmth presence to anyone who visits. Inviting the viewer to just lose themselves in Animal Village. Something that's easy to do with likable characters each with a charming quirk to them from the major whose lousy in publicizing himself for an election to a human boy who likes dressing up in different costumes. It's easy to get lost in a film that is so welcoming with humor and drama added into the mixture. Flaws are apparent without requiring much thought to point them out. Like Ai (our protagonist) background is left vague and her motivation to move to Animal Village is not fleshed out. Conflict is non-existent in the film until the climax, but even then to resolve the conflict is voluntary with no consequences for the central characters nor any supporting characters involved. The same applies to introducing several subplots and leaving them hanging for long durations even going as far as forgetting to resolve a couple of them. Misdirecting lessons it was trying get across possibly being interpreted negatively.

The film has a chibi art style to which basically means all characters have over sized heads. Animals are anthropomorphic with human traits. Although it's never made clear in regard to clothing as some animals wear clothes and other don't for reasons left unexplained. Sure the animals don't have genitalia, but they are still walking around naked. Color palette is lush and colorful. There's hardly any usage of dark colors in the environment. Always looking pleasant even if the event in the plot says otherwise. Movement is minimalistic looking chopping at times. Backgrounds offer variety changing along with the according season in the film subtly showing the progression of time. Kazumi Totaka score normally gives the feel of a summer environment, with its use of mellow acoustic guitars, accordions, and bongo drums among others. Voice acting is nothing noteworthy. Yui Horie who voices Ai gets across the character innocence and eager personality. Sounding exactly like a ten year old would. Other voice actors are in the same line of playfulness in their performances. There's a couple of voice actors (one of them oddly being director Takashi Miike) that speak regularly without exaggeration to their voices that work in the film more dramatic scenes. Compare to the other actors the less exaggerated voices don't leave much of impression, but do appropriately add range in a energized cast.

Animal Crossing: The Movie doesn't offer a cohesive story, but is a pleasant slice of life film. It has a cast of likable characters and the atmosphere is calming right down to the pleasant music. A cohesive story won't be found in Animal Crossing: The Movie, but does serves as a nice distraction for anyone looking to lose themself in another world.

Mildred Pierce

Mildred Pierce follows the titled character proving to her cheating husband she can become independent and successful. The story biggest strength lies heavily in the title heroine. She's a complicated individual that's easy to sympathize with, relate to, and made compelling for all the right reasons. She's receives substantial amount of development that does more than help her become three dimensional. Demonstrated numerous times Mildred Pierce is a strong dedicated individual and an intelligent one at that too. Being able to accomplished great things when she puts her mind on something, but when it comes to her home she's not as confident. There's a clear distinction made between business Pierce and at home Pierce. In both environment Pierce demonstrate a skills to understand an issue and quickly make her mind on how to resolve even if it's not the most rational in hindsight. Yet, it's when we see Mildred Pierce troubled home life where it made more evident of her weakness. Making way for a depiction that analyzes ambition and class struggles. Where the intentions is exactly part of the problem and what prevents it problem from being fixed. A depiction between Pierce and her daughter Veda clashing their personality with one inherited wealth vs. earned wealth. Both characters are flawed with opposing feelings with their vastly different lifestyle. It's difficult to the blame either individual for the way the story pans out as both as much in the right as they are in the wrong.

Aside from the title protagonist the film isn't short on great characters. Just about every major player in the plot are fleshed out. Each presenting a sentiment of the period it was made in. Bert Pierce represents men insecurity in a era where it was for a man to support his family with his own two hands. Veta Pierce represents the ever-changing youth and their opposition to previous generations customs. Monte Beragon represents the death of the upper class with his decay in power and money becoming accessible by the common man to gain. Ida Corwin is altogether unconventional with her husband-and-wife relationship with Mildred. These characters and others are supported by strong characterization that fleshes them out as three dimensional characters than just being a sentiment of an era. Never do what the characters represents comes off as an artifact of its era.

Michael Curtiz's direction is truly superb in the way he presents the story as well as delving into the mind of its titular character. Curtiz also plays up to the noir style of the film by creating an opening sequence while never revealing who kills Monte. This would create a tone where it becomes very dark during Mildred's interrogation scenes. By the time the third act arrives, the mixture of melodrama and noir finally blend as the tone of the film darkens. Cinematographer Ernest Haller does a phenomenal job with the film's black-and-white photography from the wondrous, sunny look of the suburbs that Mildred lived in early in the film to the dark, eerie world that comes in later in the film. Max Steiner score is excellent from its sweeping theme that plays to the melodrama of the film to more uplifting pieces that plays to Mildred's rise. Steiner's score is definitely another of the film's highlights as it's truly spectacular.

The cast is definitely wonderful for its array of some very memorable performances from the big actors to some small roles by other actors. Mainly Joan Crawford in one of her finest performances as the title character brings realism to a woman in the 1940s trying to do what is right for her children. Bringing a sense of frustration over her spoiled child, but never once coming off as a mean spirited mother. It's an overall iconic performance from the legendary Crawford. Ann Blyth is superb as Veda, the ungrateful daughter who wants to become rich and ambitious as she is also a selfish, spoiled, and uncaring. With a stylized yet dramatic performance, Blyth succeeds in creating an unsympathetic character that everyone loves to hate. Jack Carson hints of a man with self-esteem issue, and even though he tries to cover it with playful banter, it comes through in his facial expressions. Zachary Scott is another strong additive to this mixture. As Monte, he carried himself very cool and laid back. His words were spoken softly, yet confidently. He very seldom needed to raise his voice, because his choice of words were so dead-on that the point was made with little effort.

Mildred Pierce is a masterpiece having one of the finest and most compelling leading character to have been written. The 1940's sentiment are very true to its era depicting accurately the changes in society without becoming a relic of its own time. Instead it uses these sentiments to giving more meaning to multilayered characters, but also serves as strong story characters adding to what's already a compelling and multilayered film.

Nekromantik
Nekromantik (1987)

Banned films generate an interest in me unlike any other kind of films. By nature it is easy to assume that these banned films have content that goes past the boundary good taste, but what about how it's made and what it has to say. Not every story can be toned down to get its message across applying the same to what it shows. If done correctly such a film can be consider art regardless of the content, but "Nekromantik" says otherwise. Why have substance to tied together a series of ugly scenes to leave a impression with the message it wants to get across.

Nekromantik follows a street sweeper who cleans up grisly accidents bringing home a full corpse for him and his wife to enjoy sexually, but is dismayed to see that his wife prefers the corpse over him. That synopsis gives away a majority of what occurs in the film. No characterization, no motifs, no metaphors, banal dialogue, no subplots, and no plot bring any meaning. Fundamentally with these story techniques broken it's inapprehensible to obtain a reason to care for it has to say. It doesn't matter what absent is a cohesive narrative and characters, but how it chooses to get across it point that should be criticize. How it says it message is stringed together by scenes that have little to no correlation to the preceding events. Literally opening with a women pissing in the field after providing a warning label to not show the film to minors. She gets back into a car with her husband to only to crash on the road because they weren't paying attention. Showing the death of these characters play no importance to the film neither in their living moments or their corpses is redundant without establishing its own key ingredients. Repeating this pattern in its short duration with seemingly random stock footage of a rabbit getting his throat slit, and then see the blood drain out onto the ground as it twitches and breathing his last breath. Later the protagonist flashback again to his rabbit being hung upside down, skinned, eyes are torn out of the remains of his head, and has the rabbit inside pulled out. At first this flashback has no semblance with what occurring in the scene. It isn't until the ending that it's vaguely (in the thinnest possible way) explained it triggered the protagonist desire of the dead. When it chooses to provide background on the protagonist whatever the plot point may be is meaningless when introduce. Since the protagonist is a walking, singular purpose plot device there's no significance to be immediately found on his journey.

It has scenes where there is some meaning to be found. For example, the protagonist goes to a movie theater and he is disgusted by the violence on screen while the rest of the viewers are empathetic. The point this scene makes is clear that exposure to fictional violence desensitizes real violence. I don't have to agree with the film message, but if it claims responsibility to attempt to convince it should at least try to do so. Something it fails since the basic storytelling techniques are broken. Despite clocking around seventy-five minutes the film manages to make a scene where a couple has sex with a corpse boring. That's right a film that makes corpse sex boring. Without substance to support itself it damages its own message delivery. Throughout the film it gives the viewer little to go on and even less in context. All you could do is guess which leaves you filling in the holes of lazy writing. Like the film warning said it shouldn't be shown to minor and I agree because if it can't execute what it's trying to convey then why should anyone see it including minors with morbid curiosity.

Director Jorg Buttergereit spares all expenses when it came to filming. Looking very poorly shot on a bad super 8 camera with the grainy video quality. Acting is poor with actors given very little dialogue to be said. Under poor direction the conversations despite there being very little sound robotic and unnatural. Without dialogue the actors to an extent have body movement convey little. Since the characters receive non substantial development the actors aren't sure are how to react in a given situation. Despite Bernd Daktari Lorenz portraying a character who collects human bodies parts (gore is substituted by animal organs) and a necrophiliac he shows expression of disgust when bathing in the blood of a dead cat (which he killed in a earlier scene). Editing is terrible drowning out the instances the actors do speak. Sound drop and rises in quality at seemingly random or have long stretches where music of notable production problems. The music is minimal and the track it uses is the best thing about the film. John Boy Walton's "Menage A Trios" juxtapose the happy, upbeat music with Rob's violent perversions. This score is the closest the film comes to disgust that is earned by effort and not imagery. Either that or the score expresses director Jorg Buttergereit excitement in seeing a man stabbing himself.

Nekromantik for all it intentions to shock has a point to get across, but getting to it will have you fight a battle against boredom. Non existent characters, no cohesive story, and poor production values leaves very little to gain. Where it fails the most how it executes its story to a get a point across without substance to what it does. Its protagonist might prefer the dead to the living, but filmgoers will prefer better films that touch on the taboo subject matter without sacrificing competent filmmaking.

The Wolf of Wall Street

The financial status of the American class system is an grey area to discuss. Like all major political subjects I tend not have a firm stance steering away from the lesser of two evils kind of thinking. Sometimes its better to be direct with your points making the message clearer. As is the case with "The Wolf of Wall Street" which makes no effort to downplay the excessive lifestyle and amorality of the characters with no shades of grey to justified themselves for who they are.

The Wolf of Wall Street is based on the true story of Jordan Belfort rise to a wealthy stockbroker living the high life to his fall involving crime, corruption and the federal government. Cleverly disguised as a black comedy it also sneakily culminates satire. Structurally unmatched it begins with the so call "low point" of Jordan Belfort life before eventually making it big manipulating the stock market. His obsession is far subtle living in a bubble; committing itself to following the special logic on which this world is drawn into a vortex of success and admiring the brilliant strategy Belfort follows. Belfort lives and breathe to make money no matter the legality of his techniques. It's shown as an easy endeavor rewarding with a fantastic and luxurious lifestyle through Jordan Belfort eyes who lives with no limit to his wealth. Never truly focusing on the consequences that Jordan Belfort scams had on his clients rather focusing on the bigger picture on Belfort personification of American culture legal acceptance and materialism clouding the ideals of the American Dream. Witnessing Belfort strong desires to cling to his excess nature giving a true exposure to how deeply superficial riches has taken over. Not once does it ask nor pops up to Jordan head the question of how much foreclosed houses, starving children, financially corrupt clients, and scams did it take for Belfort to obtain just one object he owns because Belfort has no fun living in the closeness of the real world he was once a part of. Scenes of excess and of criminality are not equally appealing and repulsive - they are almost totally appealing. Hiding nothing with a leading character who has no interest in redeeming himself for his actions. Depicted in a manner that's true the essence of its character that will serve as a wake up call to reality for some where justice isn't always served for every wrong.

Martin Scorsese's forceful, flowing camerawork and electrifying use of music assures the film is never dull. Scorsese plays it bold in this film does not showcase any means of redemption for its lead character. His camera, which by cognitive extension functions less like a camera and more as an external window, reframes, cranes and tracks over Belfort's equally out-of-it staff and his key executives with so much zest that it appears almost as materialistic as the people it is capturing on negative. Perhaps to counterbalance the mischievously ambivalent attitude towards a fanatically amoral protagonist, Rodrigo Prieto's matter-of-fact cinematography eschews glossiness and flourishes and is bright without being blinding. The movie doesn't have a single totemic image that captures the obscene wealth and privilege on display. Rather, the parade of outrageousness continues from the beginning to the end.

Leonardo DiCaprio injects manic intensity and ferociousness to Belfort that at times is simply magnetic, mesmerizing as he thunders like a lion across the screen. As a man whose wild arrogance, immorality and desperate zest for life literally charge him like a battery. In his finest physical performance to date; whether doped to his gourd on Quaaludes, or restraining his body from sexual desire, DiCaprio manipulates his body to silent comedy era levels. Meanwhile his Liotta-like narration has him spitting snake oil with each sentence. Every word is precise, every smile looking to be hiding something. Twice while detailing the intricacies of his schemes, he stops, smiles and distracts us. Jonah Hill's performance as Donnie Azoff is another great allowing Hill to explore some of his comedic ticks and beats. In Wolf, he relies on his own instincts, and his chemistry with DiCaprio colorful chemistry is so natural that every scene they're in together bring the best out of the two.

Margot Robbie a ravishing Australian with a Brooklyn accent, delivers a rich and nuanced special performance. Seductive and sexual yet authoritative Robbie is not just the eye candy in Wolf; and it is quite easy for such a sexually based character to be objectified in films, whereas Robbie triggers real emotion of sympathy from the audience towards the end of the movie in various Jordan related scenes. Kyle Chandler, in subtle and resonant acting as the pursuing cop, has a read-between-the-lines philosophical banter with his nemesis. In cinema-noir fashion, they have a well written, battle of wits confrontation on Jordan's yacht. Rob Reiner as Jordan's accountant dad, delights us with warmth and humor in some very good scenes. Matthew McConnaughey has a rambunctious, hilarious as Jordan's cynical, first Wall Street mentor.

The Wolf of Wall Street delivers powerful commentary on American culture in a such a profound and unconventional format. Realism isn't Scorsese's goal, what he tries to achieve is to convey how it must feel to live inside this bubble making it feel desirable: a trap Scorsese skillfully plays with and avoids. The more the spiral spins, the more grotesque this world becomes, the more that initial fascination is replaced with unease and ultimately disgust.

Scooby-doo! Wrestlemania Mystery
½

Scooby-Doo! despite sticking to its own formula has managed to remain culturally relevant since 1969. That's impressive to be honest, though that should be credited to the appeal of the franchise mixing horror and comedy while also being easily accessible to any kind of audience of any age. Of course if proven by James Bond and Godzilla it's not always going to be smooth sailing for a long running franchise. This is one of the causality with over a dozen or so incarnation of the cartoon it pretty difficult find any film more baffling in the franchise than this one.

Scooby-Doo! Wrestlemania Mystery! is about Scooby, Shaggy, Velma, Daphne and Fred working with WWE Superstars to solve a mystery in WWE City. In short this is simply a promotional tool for the WWE. A coherent plot is about as far fetched as the events that play out in the movie. So, apparently in this film the creature that haunts WWE City is officially called "Ghost Bear". The mystery tied to "Ghost Bear" goes into some absurd territory even by WWE standards. Apparently in the film there was a Bear named Vicious (don't know why the writers didn't go for Grizzly, Polar, Berenstain, or Pooh even) that was an unbeatable Wrestler who went on a rampage when he lost to wrestler Sin Cara (Faceless in English) grandfather in a match. Buying the idea of "Ghost Bear" is fathomable since by the end the film it's a given it's going to be one of the undeveloped characters presented. However, the idea that former Bear wrestler "Vicious" potentially had a son that wants to enact revenge against the WWE is really pushing it. There's only a certain amount of absurdity one can buy before losing the audience. Another negative mark about "Ghost Bear" is that it's a rushed mystery. It isn't until the halfway mark does the mystery gang do any actual investigation. By that point it had completely removed one character who despite causing a rock slide to get rid off of the mystery gang is never mentioned again. Every clue needed to solve the mystery is conveniently found in one location. Rushing out explanations that in the grand scheme of things makes you question the film own logic.

The mystery severely misses it mark in providing any resemblance of an intrigue. Everything not related to the mystery offer little to sink your teeth into. For starter its intentional jokes will make crickets laugh. Anyone who has an understanding of video games even if you just played them once will have issue with how hypnotism is tied with it. So assuming that Shaggy and Scooby-Doo are playing a WWE video game on the Kinect (though that's bit of a stretch seeing the accuracy of the device in the film) require the player to perform a bit of break dancing and acrobatics to get a high score. Considering the explanation the culprit gives it puts into perspective how slim the possibility were for his plan to work. This among introducing some even goofier characters none more highlighted than with John Cena. His appearance in the film is a literal ego boost being able to lift a van, stop giant boulder, and hold his own against a Bear. To be fair the wrestlers do retain their quirks (evens the stupid ones like the you can't, but clearly can see me line), although only Sin Cara and John Cena get any substantial amount of screen time. Sin Cara only speaks in luchadore (physical acrobatics basically) requiring John Cena (ego) to translate it. The rest of the wrestlers only make cameos appearances with their presence leaving something to desired. Aside from serving as references for wrestling fans they don't do anything.

Animation is a mixed bag. Character and landscape have simple designs to them, but no degree of detail is added often looking jagged with disproportional body parts. There's no degree of shading, lighting, or added line detail in movement. Everything looks basic with characters wearing single color clothing. No variation in color either being bright or dark and nothing else in between. It does move smoothly for the most part. It hardly does anything complicated with it scenes, but there's a noticeable dip in quality whenever multiple characters move at the same time resulting in a lag. Requiring at times for characters to remain static while another is talking. Wrestling matches are few in number and short on duration. These wrestling matches are over the top entertainment with no kind of rules being applied to them. I'm sure the wrestling match between Scooby-Doo, Shaggy, Kane, Sin Cara, and a Bear went down in Wrestlemania history as one of the great matches in WWE history. Voice acting is another of mixed quality. The voice talent of Frank Welker, Matthew Lillard, Grey DeLisle, and Mindy Cohn are dependable as the mystery gang. They don't bring anything new to the established personalities, but understand the their characters bringing each of their own characteristic in their line reading. WWE wrestlers on the other hand just sound bored. John Cena at least try to sound enthusiastic when you're fighting a Bear. Come on man you were in....um actually was film credit does John Cena have on his resume; Fred: The Movie, Fred 2: Night of the Living Fred, Camp Fred, The Marine, and 12 Rounds okay so long Cena doesn't require his mouth to move he sell himself as a credible silent action hero. Kane voice acting sounds like it was recorded when he was falling asleep. For someone who is meant to sound intimidating he sound very cranky to have been woken up. Music is forgettable with easily the most generic guitar pumping overload rock rendition of the Scooby-Doo theme song.

Scooby-Doo! Wrestlemania Mystery! is product glorification. Constantly praising the WWE brand and stroking the ego of some its wrestlers take center stage as the film main events. With story and entertainment value in the sideline hardly getting a chance in the spotlight.

Hwayi
Hwayi (2013)

Korean cinema is the go to for the thriller genre. As saturated as it might be no other film industry has quite nail the genre quite perfectly as Korea bringing in new twists on familiar setups and avoiding any unneeded melodrama among other reasons. Hwayi is another one of those stellar action/thriller that succeeds giving high focus on the human side of its story giving the old revenge set up a revitalizing fresh take.

Hwayi is about a boy who is kidnapped as a toddler and subsequently raised by a group of five criminals. Hwayi's relationships with his dads should form the backbone of the story. That isn't the case as their personalities are so hazily drawn even when reaching the hour mark. Rather the backbone is Hwayi discovering a dark truth and his transformation into a world he tries so hard to separate himself despite having been raised in it. There's more to it than just pure revenge often considering the ramifications of such actions on both side. The kidnappers all desire a different life for Hwayi from desiring Hwayi to follow in the criminal lifestyle or making an honest living. Each of the five kidnappers each differ in how they see Hwayi, but underneath the rough shell all share love for the child they raised. As determined as Hwayi is on his goal he's emotionally distress at the situation at hand. Morally correct he feels justifies towards his vengeance, but emotionally pulling the trigger on those who raised him is not a simple concept to convert into. It cares about the characters and their complicated relationship for one another allowing time to make it core character relationship have value to its action scenes.

Where the film loses itself is length saturation. It isn't made evident until the overextended third act that the film could have been tighten better. A subplot that involves a detective searching for the criminals doesn't impact the film in a meaningful way. All the subplot does is reinforce how intelligent the criminals are as a team and reiterate information characters already figured out on their own. After a series of twists and a couple dead bodies later it reaches a climax that overstays its welcome. Clumsily written I wouldn't say as the pivotal point is effectively written bringing to nature the layers of the final confrontation. It's subtext is underlying a nature vs. nurture view as the protagonist feelings are complex and to a degree no better than from those he wishes to avoid. However, due to its climax dragging out and understanding the protagonist the expected inevitable outcome drags. Mid way through the climax it points are clear unsure of itself when to end the scene. Pacing is not an issue and while there are few set pieces moment there's a well written story with plenty to seek into.

Director Jang Jun-Hwan style of the film correlates with the bleakness of his material. Sporting a very gloomy and gray color palette it rarely has any vibrant color to be seen. The same applies to his filming of an action scene most of which in confined location often with occurring at night keeping minimal distances from a fist fight or gunfight. Utilizing frantic editing to intensified the action scenes and clearance when a fatal hit strikes person. This isn't applied to the film chase scenes as it often follow the exterior of the cars from a far never showing the danger up head it drivers. Despite what occurs on screen the car chases don't duplicate the same level of urgency. Cho Jin-Woong, Kim Seong-gyoon, Jang Hyeon-seong, and Park Hae-joon quickly establish their respective characters right from their first appearance; Cho Jin-wong is one of few sympathetic characters in the film, and Kim Seong-gyoon is always on the edge with his possibly psychopathic character. Missing is genuine chemistry between him and Yeo, even when feelings of extreme love and loathing roil in their final confrontation. As an innocent who's sheltered, duped and pushed over the edge, Yeo sometimes overstates his character's pain and bafflement. Lim Ji-eun is pitiful as a woman confined in her hopeless position by her men and then by herself, Nam Ji-hyeon is a plucky high school girl who happens to begin a tentative relationship with Hwayi, and her scenes with Yeo jin-goo are a few precious warm spots in the movie.

Hwayi is a very unique action/thriller with an original and exciting take on the father and son dynamic. It's more than a film about revenge more so than it is the delicacy of parenthood and how damaging it can for both sides. Cold and gloomy as it might be it's also a great action/thriller that offers a unique story and good set pieces.

Scream
Scream (1996)
½

Every genre has a formula none more repetitive than in horror films. Several films has proven if done right can still work, but as a reliance for a genre it grows repetitive and tiresome resorting to the same tricks that audiences are accustomed to spotting them whenever they appear. Scream takes established expectations and turns it around using it strongly to its advantage combining witty humor and tension.

Scream is about a killer known as Ghostface killing off teenagers, and as the body count begins rising, one girl and her friends find themselves contemplating the "Rules" of horror films as they find themselves living in a real-life one. Self aware of its own existence as a film and one in the horror genre it defies expectation with a witty deconstruction of its own formula. Characters are self aware of the rules applied to them in the film often bringing them front and centered to our attention. Whether or not the film chooses to take a route it gives to the audience is up to the writer to decide. Diverging between avoiding a pitfall cliche or embracing it raises greater possibility of shock. With options open to itself it not only follows a simple narrative, but also adds a layer complexity in its story and subtext that analyzes the gears of the working of average horror film. By playing against expectations every chance it has to mislead the audience is taken. Just about every character in the film can be suspected as being the killer each being more off putting in their timing when they appear. Misleading in confirming the identity of the killer maintaining uncertainty in trust to characters and anxiety when moving forward. Although not every dissection is done cleanly with several of the horror rules being used for cartoonish effect. While humor generally doesn't detract from the horror element. What does subtract from the experience are some contrived murders and contrived reasoning for a particular characters survivor.

Dialogue is intentionally artificial with nearly every conversation sounding as unnatural as possible. Tossing references naturally, odd analogy, and rules how a horror film functions. Serving two great purpose in the film; one is the already established playing against expectations and the second is developing cliche characters. Not only are its characters walking and living cliches in an film knowledgeable about it functions, but also written with personality. They go beyond the standard genre trope establishing a clear background on characters, their current relationship with one another, and the part they all play in the film. Even Ghostface is also giving human traits having trouble killing his victims that equally pose the capability to escape. While none of the characters ever earn emotional attachment you will care about them in the dire situation they play a part in.

Was Craven made sure Scream was exciting with a creative deaths and tension. In particular his technique of using the camera to follow the victims and move it around his location, adding excitement and intrigue. He knows how to build suspects and he does keep you guessing framing shot in way not revealing everything in sight. Creating suspense in places where one would assume to be safe. The used of music is accompany the more horror oriented scene to create an bleak mood and not spoil the potential scare. Neve Campbell really finds the true essence of her character. Fragile emotionally to be sure, but she can also muster up great emotional and physical strength when necessary, as well as be very resourceful. Jamie Kennedy is great as a movie geek who revels in the rules of horror and even Courtney Cox does a good job of being an annoying television journalist. Matthew Lillard and David Arquette all get to provide the laughs and the differences makes it work. The rest of the cast are just great playing a different variation on familiar horror tropes.

Scream brutally dissects the conventions of its genre to hilarious success while delivering legitimate suspense by playing with expectations. Using a template and seemingly playing by it rules, but constructing it owns path add needed complexity and intelligence in a genre that wholly remains simplistic.

Blue Exorcist The Movie
½

My previous ventures into a film adaptation based on a anime series were usually first exposures to certain properties. Blue Exorcist is a different story with me actually taking time to see the anime series. Overall I thought the show was decent and anyone wanting to know why I say that there's a link to a blog on my thoughts on the anime series at the end of this review. However, unlike the anime series Blue Exorcist The Movie is strictly for fans with little characterization, explanation on its world, and clumsy plotting will leave newcomer in the dust.

Blue Exorcist The Movie is about Rin coming across a seemingly innocent child demon with no memories and soon realizes what the boy really is and later understands why he was sealed ages ago. Understanding the simplistic story doesn't require any level of knowledge on the source material. By removing itself from the anime series it could be view as its own creation following no continuity. However, what isn't as accessible is basically everything else. It doesn't bother to tell newcomers needed information about the world. You'll wonder why some exorcists carry guns while other don't will seem nonsensical. In the series it's explained there are several advantages and disadvantages to combat a demon something the film sheds no light on. Another issue are the large cast characters that go wasted. Some characters make pointless appearances in the films that chew up screw time. Aside from the protagonist Rin and the demon child he takes care off characterization is left as is. Fans will have an understanding of the familiar cast of characters, but newcomers on the other hand will be given virtually nothing on why they should care for these characters.

When it comes to story Blue Exorcist has never been an expert on that front. It's plot formula is given in the form of a children story in the beginning if done right would have been foreshadowing events and nothing else. Unfortunately the story reiterates the children story several times eliminating any mystery and making itself predictable. This is the first time I've seen a movie literally spoiling the plot itself. Blue Exorcist problematic writing unfortunately is a trait that is retained too. Much like the series, the film excels in building up to a big fight by slowly escalating the stakes. Like the series, the film has a disappointing resolution to its conflict and lazy writing in pivotal moments. For example, Rin Okumura and others attempt to exorcise a phantom train. Whenever it appears on screen it is proven difficult to defeat. That is until lazy writing pops up with Rin Okumura demonic powers serving as an easy getaway when things get rough. What is done properly are the personality of the characters. They're down to Earth and easily relatable. The relationship are earnest and so are how they interact with one another. Most of the highlights come from the cast comedic antics often deliver laughs. Comedy relief is far superior to the film dramatic elements, but gets it across it points without any emotional gain for newcomers. Ending in a way that guarantees to adds nothing for either side as the ending made sure it leaves no impact on the series or the film itself.

This is an often gorgeous looking animated film, one with incredibly detailed backgrounds (some of the urban settings are really and scenes at the festival are spectacular looking in the film), as well as well done characters. Colors are very intense at times, running the gamut from bright, vivid primaries to more subdued pastels. Line detail is very sharp and consistent throughout this presentation. Exceeding in taking you into another world. Action sequences come in short supply, but it does offer satisfy. The few action scenes sports plenty of visuals flare whenever the combatant attacks be it with guns, demonic blue flames, and a simple strike display considerable amount of damage to their surroundings. Hiroyuki Sawano score is cinematically excellent. His score sells the somber moments of the drama and the lighthearted tone of the comedy. Perfectly pacing itself with the events of the story and exceeding the film writing in strengthening the tone of scenes where the writing does no justice. Simply hearing UVERworld track "Reversi" brought greater sense of emotional closure than the film ending. Voice acting is all around solid maintaining the same charisma that could be found in the anime as well. These performances aren't movie level, but work because they stay in line with the anime series representation of the characters.

Blue Exorcist The Movie certainly could have been better if its writing was on the same level as its technical aspects. Animation is smooth and the world design is intricate, voice acting is solid, and the soundtrack is absolutely perfect enveloping you into the mood. It's story is easily accessible for newcomers, but it's clearly a film just for fans of the anime series or manga. Unlike the anime, Blue Exorcist isn't given enough time to fix any of its shortcomings leaving everything introduce as is.

Blue Exorcist Series Review (For Anyone Interested):
http://www.rottentomatoes.com/user/951822/blogs/?id=778408

Snowpiercer
Snowpiercer (2014)

In many ways Snowpiercer possess many traits that could have made it a disaster. It is a South Korean production with director Bong Joon-Ho making a film in a language he's not accustomed too. The language barrier and in some cases studio interference can ruin what could have been a potentially great film with the director vision being tarnished. This often quite often when Hollywood wants international talent helming on their very own production with various degrees of success. However, as is the case with Bong Joon-Ho's Snowpiercer the English language never once is an visable issue creating a film that show's his prowess crafting an intellectual blockbuster.

Snowpiercer is set in a future where a failed global-warming experiment kills off most life on the planet, a class system evolves aboard the Snowpiercer, a train that travels around the globe via a perpetual-motion engine. Bleak from the start "Snowpiercer" holds nothing back in its narrative. Acquiring the barest of plot essentials progression is always made much like the titled train it never linger in one place. Our characters are given, their background are given, our setting is given, the function of the world is given, and the conflict to achieving a single goal drives everything forward. Mindful of its physical limitations (its all takes place in a train), the narrative of the film is linear and straightforward. Following the protagonists' movement through the train as they proceed from one carriage to the next, encountering and defeating various adversaries along the way. It's less a single narrative than a chain of linked connecting set pieces with a intellectual story that respects its audiences intelligent. Nothing about its subjects, themes, characters, morals, nor motivation are simplified.

There's no romance and precious little in the way of character-development; these people don't change, and neither, for the most part, does the world they inhabit. For the filmmaker as for the train, velocity and momentum are everything; nothing is allowed to distract from the immediate objective. In the same way our characters move forward so does the elements that were introduced. Carriages serves more than a location layered with meaning in specially how its people live, the role they serve, and history of "Snowpiercer" creation itself. Nothing about the film story feels like it's pandering to a specific audience. It always has the audience wondering what's going to happen next as it unexpected turn constantly surprises with twists that work. Pacing is another key element and even though it goes fast nothing is left untouched. Merely it's reinforcing the urgency of the character endeavors to reach their goal and the dire situation at hand.

Filming an ambitious sci-fi in confined spaces is no small feat and director of photography Hong Kyung-pyo has done a magnificent job of bringing each of the train's carriages to life with rich and eclectic cinematography. Bong's camera stubbornly refuses to violate the claustrophobic geometry of the narrow train cars, visually reinforcing how defined and unyielding the path is from one end of Snowpiercer to the other. Combined with Ondrej Nekvasil's excellent production design, Steve M. Choe's layered editing and Marco Betrami's evocative and multifaceted score, the film's technical specs are a feast for the senses. Set pieces serve the narrative, but also provides thrill their unique take on familiar action scenes. Despite the confined and limited spacing on a train arguably the most technically accomplished is a large fight between two class faction. It's a bloody fight and also one where the director isn't shy on showing a weapon make impact utilizing lighting, long steady shots, and a person angle to show the brutal battle. Other set pieces far and few in between never match the large faction fight, but are just as equally creative and tense as the director never shies away killing off a character when he sees fit.

Leading man Chris Evans is secretive, noncommittal, yet ultimately a strong and resourceful leader - something the audience never honestly doubts for a second. Evan is compelling bringing to life a very complicated and difficult character. Under her false teeth, wig and pasty makeup, Tilda Swinton is uproarious as the train's unhinged prime minister. Measured and full of delightful ticks, her memorable Yorkshire madam steals every scene she's in. John Hurt's performance as the elderly patriarch of the tail section is marked by raspy gravitas and a mournful gaze. Bong stalwart Song Kang-ho effortlessly keeps up with his English-speaking co-stars, strutting and shuffling about, providing comic relief and a dash of cool as the train's incarcerated former chief of security.

Snowpiercer is a perfect sci-fi film offering everything you could possibly want; an intellectually fast pace story with subtle commentary, a dystopian future only it can offer, set pieces that thrills, an excellent cast that disappears into their roles, and plenty of entertainment. Technically impressive and narratively captivating there's very little flaws to find being more than capable to stand proudly with the sci-fi genre best films.

47 Ronin
47 Ronin (2013)

In films there are usually certain characteristics that help decide what seen regardless how it turns and one of those is the Samurai. In work of fictions or based around true events Samurai films have provided some of my personal favorite characters and stories. Alongside with an interest in Samurai culture in films "47 Ronin" was inevitable to be seen. Unfortunately this interpretation of the classic story butchered everything that made the original story timeless.

47 Ronin tells the story of a band of samurai set out to avenge the death and dishonor of their master at the hands of a ruthless shogun. The first and immediate problem with the film is the departure from the source material which is based on true events. It was emblematic of the loyalty, sacrifice, persistence, and honor that people should preserve in their daily lives especially during a time where the Samurai class was struggling to maintain a sense of itself - warriors with no war, a social class without a function. Important details like that turned an epic story of revenge into an influential story of the importance of self worth and honor. This adaptation is a literal trainwreck in every sense of the word. Taking an established story and giving a Western touch that severely damages it identity. Understanding of the Samurai code is nonexistent as it leaves audiences in the dust. Unless you have minimal understanding of Samurai culture and their code of honor none of what the Samurai expresses come across with any meaning. Down to the basic details such as explaining the significance behind the title of a Ronin (a masterless Samurai/someone who is without a home) aren't touched upon. Without getting across the bare essentials it's doom upon arrival. Since the writers don't know how to implement Eastern culture into the film both sides are left unsatisfied. Those unfamiliar with the story will misinterpret its intention and those familiar with the story will be infuriated by not only the liberties that were taken, but how ignorant it is to what made the "47 Ronin" legendary.

If it were be taken as pure fiction it has all sign of life stripped away. Fantasy elements that were meant to be exuberant are lifeless. Dry dialogue tells us of an Japan that is home to dangerous monsters, witches, and fearless warriors. Main problem being hardly implementing fantasy elements in a story that clearly didn't need any of it. Every time an element of fantasy is introduced they are blatant metaphors that hammered their point across. An important scene in the Tengu (a legendary creature depicted with both human and avian characteristics) Temple where the ronin go to gain swords serves as the creation of the film's black hole. Our non-Japanese protagonist immediately tells the leader how to pass the test given to him defeating the whole purpose of testing his leader loyalty to his men. Not only that, but it's also introduces the non-Japanese protagonist to a supernatural abilities which he uses only once later on in the film. Everything portrayed is meant to hammer a single point further establishing the one dimensionality of every single thing in its writing.

Obviously a two hour film can't developed 47 individual characters into three dimensional characters, but without a single worthwhile character ensures emptiness. Kai, the protagonist (a work of fiction) is simply a tool in the film. He's not a white man who leads Japanese to reclaim their honor. No, Kai is a man who's constantly told to annoying extremes that he's not a Samurai and a half bread. Beating the protagonist down with secondary characters has two effects; the first being it makes Kai unlikable because he's given little reason to stick with his fellow ronin who constantly show no respect and the second being it makes our heroes as equally dislikable as the villain. Speaking of which we're only told through the ronin words he's a terrible man and yet never once do we see any reason to hate him. Given how poorly it establishes how deeply Japan values honor the heroes motivation is just as easily missable. Romance is severely half baked. Since most of the film is spend on the ronin preparation to avenge their master what little time it spends to establish a romance early on in the film is fades away and reappears later carrying no weight to the overall story. Detracting from Kai journey to save her seeing his love interest is simply a flat plot device.

Keanu Reeves performance is wooden. His character is written in a way that he shows little emotion as possible in which Reeves delivers on his front. Always looking broody and down on his feet when interacting with the rest of the cast. Reeves here comes into focus in action mode making him appear cool as his dialogue is among the simplest of the cast. The Japanese actors have trouble saying their lines in English. It's made very evident (five minutes in no less) that the Japanese actors aren't comfortable speaking in English. Their line delivery is awkward and sometimes difficult to comprehend. Only sounding natural when speaking in their native language. Action scenes are a dull affair utilizing the best in random swinging. Sword techniques are fluid requiring careful reading of your opponent movement and speed; something not made evident in the film sword fights. Our ronin simply strike without planning resulting in a stalemate of pointlessly clashing swords. More characters are killed by projectile than a slash of a blade lessening the effect of the main weapon in most of the action scenes. All of this with editing that has a tendency to exist scenes abruptly. I appreciate the editor wanting to make the film end more quickly, but doing so did more harm than good to the way the film plays out. Just about the only compliment that could be given to "47 Ronin" is it cinematography. It's varied in location and has some good looking scenes (especially ones involving fire). Nice visuals can't make for bad acting, unimaginative action, horrid editing, and a plot that has sign of life to be found.

47 Ronin is a misinterpretation of an Eastern story told by Westerners that don't understand it. Combining Japanese folktale, American empty set pieces, Japan Samurai culture, and American lazy writing creates a fusion of a culturally unsatisfying film. It's more than a bad adaptation, it's more than a awful movie, and more than a generic blockbuster, but it's a complete butchering representing the worst in Eastern and Western filmmaking.

Fireproof
Fireproof (2008)
½

I've never been much of a believer in finding faith...in Christians films that is. For every great Christian film like "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "The Ten Commandments" that transcends personal beliefs to provide viewers something to enjoy there are dozens that give the wrong impressions. Films such as "C Me Dance", "To Save A Life", "Sunday School Musical", "Last Ounce of Courage", and "The Lion Judah" (three of which have earned zeroes) make up a majority of Christian films offerings that believe good morals excuses poor filmmaking. Here's a film that yes doesn't always successfully hides it's Christians views and metaphors, but present its beliefs through good protagonist and a story whose message delivery is known without it being forced upon nonbelievers.

Fireproof is about a firefighter using a 40-day experiment known as "The Love Dare" in an attempt to save his marriage. Being a film based around a specific religion it's impossible to ignore the signatures it'll have; positive messages, bible verses, characters with strong religious beliefs, and (often) an unrealistic view of how the real world functions. For starter the positive message and bible verses are as clear as day, but not shoehorned in. Characters with Christian views don't come across as preachy often conversing like regular people. For the most part the characters act realistically even supporting our protagonist who's a nonbeliever. It's for this acceptance that makes it Christian elements with corny dialogue forgivable. The protagonist is not condemned for being a nonbeliever rather is simply a man attempting to fix his marriage. By the will of the protagonist and not outside interference his transformation comes across effectively. This conflict helps supports the film as it contains several solid scenes. Including the few instances when we see the protagonist doing some actual firefighting are surprisingly exciting. Humor is also a plus while it doesn't always click the jokes that do get a laugh prevent the messy potential divorce from becoming tedious to view.

The major pitfall of "Fireproof" is without a doubt it presentation of the world. Words such as realism don't apply to its depiction of women. Just about all the characters who are women tend to be shallow being less like people and more as a tool to for the plot. Even the protagonist wife gets little to no development nor are we given much on her past and what made her fall in love. Every black women in the film is given stereotypical dialogue with the occasional "mmmhhhmmm" for added effect. One major conflict in the film that's not addressed well enough is protagonist Caleb Holt porn addiction (also a metaphor for temptation). According to the film the only form Caleb can get his porn is from his computer. If more developed or presented in a form that made his porn addiction evidently problematic the presented weak resolution would have work to a degree. Since it does little in showing Caleb Holt handling his addiction the resolution doesn't gain leeway since we often don't see him fall victim to his addiction only scarcely viewing his attempted resistance to it. It should also be mention that the final twenty minutes are in fact very preaching, but by that point the film is merely accomplishing the needs for it genre fans with it already offering nonbelievers a satisfying story.

Production values are decent. It clearly looks like it was made on a small budget with it commercial like lighting and few actual professional actors. Kirk Cameron is easily the best of the bunch, though that's not saying much. His performance is decent for a leading actor. There is not a noteworthy that showcases his true acting ability, but neither border beyond what he can't do. Because of this it is easy to accept Cameron as a film character as everything he does fits with his characters. Ken Bevel performance leaves something to be desired. She is not to say bad, but in the most pivotal scenes she clearly comes across as someone reading her lines for the first time. Other actor performances are adequate and sincere. There performances don't hurt the film significantly detract from a given scene. Direction from Alex Kendrick is decent. In the few instances (like the firefighter scenes) when Kendrick has complete understanding of his film language events can be tense, funny, and even touching. While his cinematography won't impress it does it job. As for music it's something that can't be held against the film. It selection of music is fitting for the film becoming a part of it not a negative distraction.

Fireproof is a solid film that gets across its core moral values with a subtle delivery through its somewhat believable characters and a solid story that is not overly preaching. No doubt it'll please genre fans as production values and writing is superior to what is occasionally offered to them. On the other hand it's competent filmmaking that does not force its message down nonbelievers.

Gingerdead Man Vs. Evil Bong

One of the few rules I made for myself when starting to write on Rotten Tomatoes was to view every film in a given franchise no matter the quality. More or less I have committed to that rule and sadly it led to this specific film. To the series credit it has always consistently retain the level of quality for every entry.

The Gingerdead Man vs. Evil Bong is about Larnell and Sarah Leigh teaming up stopped a killer cookie and a evil talking bong. To dissect the film's plot is no a brainer. By the title alone anyone will assume quality storytelling is not one of the things to look for; however, there's nothing worse than a film that completely wasted time and fails to do anything its own ideas. Starting right off with a poor beginning it doesn't take long for the film to completely make me lose all hope. Within the first twenty seconds director/producer Charles Band shows three topless women fanning the gingerdead because he's hot. This opening tells us Charles Band didn't feel his audience attention span would make it pass the film's menu. Within twenty seconds all the film problem are made present; cheap effects, padding, non existent acting, and a whole of time spent doing nothing. It takes the film more than a half hour to basically get across the character Larnell has kept the evil talking bong. What occurred in those thirty minutes was a poor summarization of the three Evil Bong films that makes the initial film a lot harder to buy no matter how much you smoke, drink, or bleed out. You think a person who came across Evil Bong, King Bong, and Alien Bong would reconsider the logical and stop doing drugs. It also strikes a personal nerve to contain a cameo appearance and direct reference to the film "Ooga Booga" (a film that caused my soul to leave my body).

In the film short running time of eighty minutes it only contain one noteworthy scene. It's a conversation between two character discussing how good eating this one cookie feel. The characters don't just like how the cookie taste, but are sexuality excited about eating the cookie. One of the characters part of the scene says it makes his groin feel all tingling. No expression of words could describe the moment this scene came up. Sadly it's the only thing that'll leave an impression (aside from Larnell selling pitch being "It's like farting in a SUV for the first time"). Characters despite how few there are follow cliches from the dumb friend, the adulterer, the slutty friend, evil business man, and lazy worker leaving little for imagination. Now the so call confrontation between the gingerdead man and evil bong is non existent since all it amounts to is bickery at first and than cooperation to kill the central characters. Things like plot, character, themes, and a point are non existent. Nothing ever happens in the film plot wise and perfectly aware this the writers have no problem paying the viewers with a middle finger for their time.

Director Charles Band (who's also responsible for Ooga Booga Wooga) effort screams lazy. Every shot is stilled showing the non expressive actors lack of enthusiasm for the being in the film. Band under no circumstances attempts to crafts any diversity between his shots making poor used of his limited sets. His sets which mainly consist of a empty backlot, a bong store, and a bakery have odd designs choices. The bong store for instance reason has constant flashing lights on the display cases which only serve as an distraction. Star John Patrick Jordan never stops smiling. Patrick Jordan only knows one set of emotions treating every situation the same; co worker found dead, killer pastry attempting to kill him, discovering a wall of boobs, Patrick Jordan for some unexplained reason always smiles. Robin Sydney has learned nothing since the first Gingerdead Man film. Line delivery is causally soulless and unlike John Patrick Jordan has a variety of facial expressions which doesn't help her much in the long run. It's unfortunate that she plays two different characters in these two franchises yet is not offered a scene death for either. Special effects are a joke somehow even worse than the standalone features. Lip syncing of all basic is off for the non human killers and the gingerdead is hardly seen walking mostly seeing the two franchise killers just talk nonsense.

The Gingerdead Man vs. Evil Bong is the worst battle between two horror film killer which each have abysmal franchise to start with. Combing the laziness of the Evil Bong films and the awful writing of the The Gingerdead Dead series escalate to a film that is surprisingly dull. You would think a film where killer pastry going toe to toe with a evil talking bong would be interesting at some level, but sadly it is not.

GYO: Tokyo Fish Attack

Films that have a run time that is below an hour and half are a risky endeavor. Usually the length of a film isn't a solid indication of a film quality, but tell its audience how much of their time is either going to be rewarded or wasted on it. GYO: Tokyo Fish Attack falls in the category that is left for individual viewers to determine for themselves. As someone who enjoys seeing films with wacky premises both it strengths and weaknesses arrive from the writing.

GYO: Tokyo Fish Attack is follows Kaori and her friends vacation to celebrate their upcoming graduation, when suddenly an infestation of mysterious walking fish forces them to reevaluate everything they care about in order to stay alive. It's a premise that demands very little thought and has even less intelligence. For starter it plays against following a single genre rules switching it up as it goes along. Starting as a slasher film, than turning into a siege film, a mad scientist film, and ending with post apocalyptic. As clever as the structuring might be keeping the story interesting with it different paths it corners itself when it comes to telling the story. Characterization is easily the weakest aspect of the film. Characters simply represent a shallow theme hardly building upon it for any meaningful insight. Attempts at genre riffing are made clear without anything clever to say about them simply acknowledging their existence. The lead herself plays against the damsel in distress by being the heroine of the film. This in turn also undermines giving her a compelling journey. The whole got to save my fiancee motivation is easy to get behind, but learning very little about the protagonist just makes her part of the scenery and without knowing much of heroine fiancee it questions if he's worth fighting against a mutated spider-shark. Explanations on the question presented are intentionally left unanswered. Spending more on getting to the next set piece and less on developing it's no surprise the explanation given are bizarre. Hinting at possibilities to an answer, but never confirming leaving it a mystery. Some will scratch their head, others will think nothing of it other than it was fun, but the intention to cause fear with the ending fails because of how it told was story.

Animation is passable at best. There's no complicated sets, movements, or designs that makes it visuals leave much of an impression. Usually empathizing on facial expressions is done well even if the viewer and character feelings are different about the current situation. Leaving a lot to desire it moves smoothly. The 3D animated fish come across with mixed results. They work because they stand out an oddity against the hand drawn backdrop, but at the same time hardly integrated into the film. There are shots where dozens of 3D fish are roaming the streets although the lack of prominent screen time containing very few scene where sea creatures are attacking the city. Voice acting is decent granted the cast had shallow characters to work with. Given the roles the voice talent were given they come across as solid at best putting more emotion in a character that's one dimensional.

GYO: Tokyo Fish Attack has a specific audience in mind alienating many by concealing its weakness. Having very little in terms of characters and not even bothering to build on its idea the intention is clear leaving little to experience in between. With no worthwhile investment to come from the characters, story, genre riffs, or it deluded execution towards it goal results from a film that leaves you empty handed.

Foodfight!
Foodfight! (2012)
½

Product placement in films is actually okay in my book; Minority Report, Cast Away, E.T., Skyfall, Casino Royale, Back To Future, Fritz Lang's M, and several other films have product placement that actually are the last thing anyone remembers from those films. Then there's the "Mac and Me" of product placement that blatantly shove it down the viewer throat or whenever promoting the product is shoved down the viewer throat instead of attempting to conceal it. So can it be called product placement if the whole film takes place in a supermarket with famous product icon...probably not since I doubt the sponsors of the film would want their product to be associated with a film aimed at children that has Nazi undertone.

Foodfight! is about Dex, a dogtective, the law of the land helping the world's most recognized brands take on the forces of evil and the devilish Brand X. This film script is all sorts level of wrong, yet it's such a fascinating train wreck it's hard to look away from. Picture if you will a mixture between "Toy Story", Mr. Clean, Micheal Bay, McGruff the Crimedog, and Nazism than you got Foodfight!. One of the biggest issues about the film is making sense of its world. For example, in the opening of the film we see a store transform into....lets just call it Producity into a living and functioning city. Immediately the opening raises many questions about how the supermarket world function all of which the film is more than gladly to ignore. Everything else in the film is just broken like the introduction to our protagonist; Dex (a knockoff of McGruff the Crimedog wearing Indiana Jones costume) is on top of a hot air balloon fighting hairless Hamsters and the Rat burglar to save kittens in a basket. What an introduction it is with bad puns, wretched dialogue, and ending the epic confrontation with the famous last words "I just wanted to be loved". Beyond that point every major plot point introduced becomes an unintentional joke. One that plot point that carries the film is Sunny Goodness (Dex's girlfriend) going missing. Right after Dex friend says "It's not like it's the last time you'll get to propose to her" it goes to a title card that says "Six Months Later".

Spiraling into a series of repeated problems that consist of more bad puns, constant character introduction, horrid dialogue, and sexual innuendos. Oh yes the innuendos are very sexualize with no effort to tone it down. Somehow a fetish for food product icon worked it way into the film putting the villainess in a schoolgirl outfit attempting to seduce a dog. Sure in context it's a two food icon dancing while flirting, but also comes across as bestiality as a human woman trying to seduce a dog. Humor contain some slapsticks, but in general most of the jokes and references are for adult. The dialogue is not clever enough to sneak in crude jokes. For example, "What the fudge" and "Oh Mamacita! Yo, sweetcakes, nice packaging! How about some chocolate frosting? I'd like to butter your muffin!". Dialogue like this does make the viewer question if the content for children as these elements have straightforward intentions. The dedication to remain friendly provide plenty of awkward dialogue that entertains all for the wrong reasons. Although when it comes to having Nazism is where lines are drawn. Not only is the idea of Nazis undertone in a kids film a potential red flag, but also that it might have a hidden agenda. By that I mean perhaps it's trying to present it's own version of Hitler; the villainess wants to dominate the supermarket, slowly gains political power, starts a war, has a grudge against a specific group, and the only person stopping her is Gex who's a Jew. Okay I'm convince writer/director/producer Lawrence Kasanoff smoked to much pot with Pillsbury Doughboy while watching a documentary on Hitler when he created this film.

For as much criticism the film deservedly gains it is literally a bad movie lover dream to poke fun off. I can comically break this film down without leaving anything out, but doing so would take away from the anti-genius of the story. Animation is very crude and zany. Expressions are always exaggerated with jerky motion. Nothing in movement has any sort of rhythm to it; speed of characters action is always off, objects are weightless, not a single subtle movement in the animation. Textures are ugly especially up close when human faces look deformed more fitting for a horror movie. Aside from having muddle textures it also has a funny color scheme. In the film there's a weasel that literally looks like a piece of shhhhhhhh....should refrain from completing that word. Other than looking cheap the director resorts to reusing stock scenes. Near the end of the film there's a war between food Nazi and food products that is done Michael Bay style. The battle contains explosive pancakes, explosive cakes, explosive ketchup, just about whatever the food product use explodes. This war scene goes on for around half hour being both hysterical and repetitive. Voice acting cast is interesting having the talents of Charlie Sheen, Hilary Duff, Eva Longoria, Wayne Brady, and Christopher Lloyd. Charlie Sheen being the star his voice work is one note. Sheen talks casually as if the dialogue in the film are things he says everyday. Hilary Duff is airheaded, Wayne Brady shouts a lot, Eva Longoria attempts to sound sexy, and Christopher Lloyd is over the top. Given the character that Christopher Lloyd voice his over the top performance makes his appearance in the film a highlight.

Foodfight! is an oddity of film history that should be seen. It's all sorts of wrong, yet entertaining at the same time. A stroke of brilliance and stupidity come together for a script that is nonsensical and an assault on the brain. Unintentionally offensive and unintentionally entertaining Foodfight! highlights all the best things about watching bad movies. If you're the kind of person who enjoy seeing bad movies for entertainment value or wants a see a piece of lost animation history Foodfight! is that film kind of film.

Odd Production History:

In late 2002 around Christmas computer drives containing all the film's files of Foodfight! (rumored around 60% of the film was completed) were reportedly stolen in what writer/director/producer Lawrence Kasanoff called an act of "industrial espionage." With no backup available the film was restarted with a proposed 2005 release date...which was missed. Then in 2007 a distribution deal was struck, but it, too, evaporated. When StoryArk's investors, frustrated by the missed release dates and the fact that Threshold's production company had defaulted on a secured promissory note, invoked a clause ultimately giving the insurance company, Fireman's Fund, the right to step in and complete the film as quickly and cheaply as possible. A trailer of the film before the theft is online and having seen the film I can tell you the pre theft trailer version has better animation, textures, and more food mascots. It remains a mystery if the original copies of the film will ever be found or be lost like Japan's King Kong. Having seen the film from what I saw in the trailers it didn't appear any different plot wise, but one thing I can say for certain is this version of Foodfight! is entertaining if for the wrong reasons. While nowhere the "next Pixar" as originally envisioned this film has for better or worse earned a spot in obscure film history for all the wrong reasons.

The Terror Live

My feelings towards the news outlet is represented by the film "Natural Born Killers" in which it depicts news media commercializing violence. Sure not all news media outlet are out solely seeking profit, but it has become less trustworthy with facts distortion, false story testimony, hypocritical political stance that change on a whim, and hundreds of other issues. "The Terror Live" yes does to a degree support my views on the news media outlet; however, as a film it achieves all the high mark needed for a perfect rating. Excellent writing for the story it's telling, high production values regardless of budget, a magnificent cast, and a key understanding of what genre fans want while also making it accessible for the average viewer.

The Terror Live follows Young-Hwa Yoon, once a top national news anchor attempting to get his title back through an exclusive live broadcast with a terrorist. One thing to note about "The Terror Live" is the amount of creativity put into it taking entirely place in just one broadcast room. Starting things simple and low key for the introduction of protagonist Yoon as an unhappy radio host. It builds beyond that point doing the basics of introducing the premise, the characters, and the conflict setting them immediately in placed. Developing in real time we're able to witness everything fleshed out right before our eyes. Being an immersive experience that's often not capture by written words. For this reason we bare witness the now common practice report it first get it right later mentality of web journalism with the disillusionment and frustration that come from it. It's not far fetched concept nowadays nor is the way how the film tackle this too refrain from reality. Motivations for a live terrorist broadcast make senses from the characters angle going beyond the underline that in the end it's about money. Never does it tell you swallow it owns views rather ask how reliable news reporting is up to the viewer to determine for themselves. For the first two act there's very little to complain about (some of the character development is conventional, but it's better than nothing). Slowly building up to its climax for the two act are flawlessly written keeping the story essentials engaging while building upon what already placed. What will ultimately determine how your reaction on the film as a whole will be with the third act. Revealing the terrorist and his rather disappointing reason behind his actions, though even in context his action could be perceived as overblown. Yet these complaints would automatically be labeled as flaws sneakily tie into how preconceived the media in the film. How much of we what see and hear is reliable from the sources we get this information from and how much do we accept of it as the truth and a work of fiction.

Writer/director Kim Byeong-woo had a taunting task of not only writing a film in just one setting, but also filming it. What instantly catches the eye is the camera being constantly in motion and creating momentum. The camera serves as a tool showing details among the cast anxiety of the situations to creating a feeling of entrapment with little to no influence to change its outcome. Alongside with editing effectively emoting the anxiety felt by its protagonist. Kim Byeong-woo makes great use of all his available resources and intelligently knows how to use them properly. For example, the bridge that has partly collapsed can almost at all times only be seen from a distance and thus the CGI effects look always looks great. Star Ha Jeong-woo does good work in revealing Yoon's motivations through his performance instead of solely through dialogue, and his arc is clearer because of it. Gradually upping the dosages of anxiety and doubt he injected Yoon's smug veneer, the actor has managed to portray a man quickly losing his moorings, but having to at least pretend he's putting up a good fight. Staying on him almost exclusively straying only to offer glimpses through windows or to TV screens, and he carries the responsibility with energy and believability.

The Terror Live fits the term masterful filmmaking in all category. It's an intelligent thriller with a fresh and new concept not widely seen that keeps your attention right to the very end. Doing more so entertaining its audience its asks the bold question of who are the real terrorist in a depiction that purely gray where no simple answer in sight.

Grand Piano
Grand Piano (2014)
½

Grand Piano follows Tom Selznick, a master pianist who retired from playing five years prior due to a meltdown on stage, performing for this first time in five years discovers a note written on his sheet music that claims if he plays a wrong note he will die. Preposterous, over the top, and flimsy are best fitted to describe "Grand Piano" plot. Never being one for common sense it's a thriller that does not rack up suspense because of how far fetched the basics premise is. Immediately once the antagonist plans gets started many questions begin popping up it expects the viewer to ignore. Every clue given to solve its mystery is done unsubtly revealing too much with little to work out for the viewer. With the exception of Tom Selznick and the film antagonist character development is slim. Secondary characters bare little weight in how the plot actually plays out. Some characters are obligatorily created to become victims, though the victims death don't heighten the tension seeing how little the characters were involved in the first place. It plot flaws are visible; however, it's a film that knows how to execute. While the plot is not exactly high minded it is cleverly structure. The cat and mouse game has enough intrigued to sustain its run time. Conversations between Tom and the films antagonist carry strong dialogue for large portion of the film. Tom (our protagonist) reacts reasonably (minus the climax) in his situations albeit it might result in a negative impact. No matter how slim plausibly may be for the film it never overstays its welcome. It has enough set pieces and ideas to support itself to the end even if it asks too much suspension of disbelief. Enjoyment of the story is also equal to how much you can buy the antagonist motivations for his plan.

Director Eugenio Mira's visual work is surely inspired and successful. Once Elijah Wood gets to the concert hall, everything has a grand, classy, and polished look to it. However, Mira's work doesn't truly shine until Elijah begins playing the piano. There are a lot of sweeping shots and wonderfully-captured scenes with Wood's fingers running across the keys that perfectly represent the character's tension. There's a lot of great selection of classical music throughout the running time, which has wonderful clarity as its fluid editing. Director of photography Unax Mendia uses plenty of long, highly choreographed and well blocked single take shots that remind the viewer the film is taking place in real time. The shots are impressive, often involving dozens of actors and extras moving in front of or around the camera as it cranes in or out on its focal point. With everything that's going on around the set, the production is almost like live theater, only with the viewer stuck right in the middle. Elijah Wood handily conveys a nervous, anxious, and jaded musician with limitless talents and plenty of insecurities. Wood makes his character captivating through his easy and relatable presence. No matter how far fetch the plot is Elijah Wood always feels grounded. John Cusack is solid here too, even if his character is a bit on the one-dimensional side of things, as we spend most of the movie only hearing his calculating voice rather than seeing him. One important thing note even though the film runtime says ninety minutes; twelve of those minutes are slow running closing credits with a hit or miss ending.

Grand Piano is preposterous, but a well executed film. The initial premise won't rack up suspense or thrills. It does offer good writing, a great selection of classical music, and solid performances that can keep you engage for its short run time. Production values equal that of a classical concert and on the technical sides takes surprisingly many liberties despite how restraint the material is. A high end thriller Grand Piano is not, but a solid film that makes up for its weakness it is.

Frozen
Frozen (2013)
½

If it ain't broke don't fix it is the mindset I applied to Disney Studio filmmaking. For decades the studio essentially been telling similar stories with similar messages in their animated films. Containing a formula for the most part if done correctly can create an easily accessible film without the sacrifice of what makes a quality film. Frozen is not one of those films suffering from an identity crisis between breaking the norm or following it leaving an entire film that's tacked on.

Frozen follows Anna journey to find her sister Elsa, whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom in eternal winter. "Frozen" simply amounts to being an easily avoidable overblown temper tantrum. Conflict in the story is very forced. Occurring within minutes of the film starting we get adult characters doing something illogical even by Disney standards. Simply put if it wasn't for the trolls (oh my god!) none of the events in the film would have happened. These trolls never explain why Anna memories need to be change, poorly explain crucial life saving information, suffer from memory lost, and the advice these trolls give while good is misinterpreted by the parents. So these trolls advice basically says to embrace Esla power something which the parents can't comprehend thus you got "Frozen" in a nutshell. This one scene, one single scene breaks the whole narrative of the film within minutes of starting making it unable to recover from it. Yes that's alot of vague analyzation into a single scene, but the other essentials of the film are just as tacked on.

Suffering from identity crisis "Frozen" is confused in what to be. One half panders to expectations of the Disney formula (always got to have dead parents and a villain) and another that wants to breakaway from the formula (love at first sight is done twice). With this uneven course set the film never aspires to much in the long run taking its toll on the way the story is told. Scenes at times are conflicted between what to should be spoken dialogue and what should be a musical number. In the few scenes it's confident we get solid working scenes, but they're a rarity within the film. Characters simply go through the motions of events never once taking time to act like real people. There's no sense of progression as every piece of character developments is expository for the antagonist or a superficial songs that doesn't build upon what's already established for the central characters. The quality of the songs depends on the listener. Sure I personally didn't like the music because the songs didn't build upon what was established by spoken dialogue. However, the songs themselve have personality more so than the character even in if in context they don't add much to the story. So in the end tacked on conflict, cardboard characters that go through the motion of events, and superficial song amounts to an superficial film.

Character animation is smooth and fluid, though the visuals leave something to be desire. In the film Elsa character has the power to summon ice, snow, basically anything cold her power can harness at will. Whenever Elsa uses her powers the visuals become interesting because of the large amount of particles effects on screen. Sadly the whole environment despite being covered in snow is only a novelty to look nice with little being done with its setting. Losing it's magic the more we see of the underwhelming setting. Music composition is solid even if the weak lyrics aren't equal in power to its instrumental. The voice acting is superb with a stellar Broadway cast who breath pure heart and soul into this masterpiece. Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel are flawless. The wonderful innocence, naivety of Anna was portrayed so well by Kristen Bell. When she spoke there was a sweet charm about her and her singing felt more angelic, light. This was a great contrast with the powerful, belting vocals of Idina Menzel as Elsa. Her role as the conflicted queen was perfect for her (also her background with roles like this in "Wicked" made her the perfect choice). She brought a certain maturity to conflict Anna's innocence. Supporting cast is good, though for certain it's both Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel film.

Frozen is superficial as a film and a musical. All the elements that form the plot are tacked on artificially assembling a plot with little to no heart. The whole package gives viewer the cold shoulder unable to determine what it wants to be in the end resulting in production values that either do nothing for the film or add little to the overall experience.

Saving Mr. Banks

Saving Mr. Banks is about author P.L. Travers reflection on her childhood after reluctantly meeting with Walt Disney, who seeks to adapt her Mary Poppins books for the big screen. Alternating between the 1960s production of Mary Poppins and P. L. Travers childhood in the early 1900s the story is told in non chronological order. The film would have still worked the same if told in order, but the shift between the different era keep things moving without contemplating its own purpose. Themes click a lot faster and character specific moments serve more than essential piece of development as they better correlate the connection Traverse has with her work. By its own structure it's a design that juggles the correlation between Travers personal life and the work of fiction she holds so dear to her, silver lining the acceptance of change and letting go of the past, and a what it means to be a storyteller. All these ideas are balanced making the journey with earnest emotions. However its characters are a different story. This being a film about P. L. Traverse she is the most define and only three dimensional character. Everyone she interacts gets across a theme which in this story is a positive. Much like the flashback this provides depth in the main theme and sheds a light on how Traverse sees her work and understand the power it has on other.

One of theme that never comes full circle is addiction. While the core relationship of fatherly love works. What doesn't work is the attempted correlation of addiction between Travers and her father. P. L. Traverse is at a point in her life where she stopped her addiction to tell stories and the core of Travers flashbacks is her father addiction to alcohol. The film wants to tell us that Travers has a deep connection towards her father, but unlike Travers where her inspiration for writing is clear of her father root is misguidedly vice versa. With no exploration in what triggered Traverse drinking problem it also negates what made Traverse stop writing in the first place. Things are missing from these two backstory with one having no beginning and the other having no ending. Still, it's for it few flaws the story can connect to the viewer no matter how much of it is accepted as truth or fiction.

In a movie about artists that are addicted to their craft, you need actors that work with the same type of fervor. Emma Thompson despite not getting top billing gets the most screen time, gets the toughest job, and delivers the film best performance. She becomes very dislikable and yet sympathetic at the same time. Tom Hanks gives Walt Disney a humanized performance that separates the flawed man from the myth the Disney Company. The rest of the cast does not disappoint, and we even see Colin Farrell potentially impresses as the loving yet extremely defective father figure. Paul Giamatti chief amongst the supporting actors as Travers' driver, Ralph, a doleful puppy in human form that responds to every brush-off and verbal slap with another smile and encouraging word. There's no lazy leaning towards slapstick or cheap shots, rather director John Lee Hancock steers their scenes gently allowing both the frostiness and the occasional sprinkles of sunlight to sparkle with sincerity. Hancock visually is creative in framing a true story to be grander than it probably was. One particular noticeable sequence is when the creative team performs one of the songs and Travers has a flashback. For a film that is about the writing process, Saving Mr. Banks never really shows about the writing process that Travers goes through, but explores the writing process of adapting a work, from one medium to another.

Saving Mr. Banks is more about fathers and a storyteller emotional connection towards their work than it is about the making of a beloved film. With a focus on the bigger picture it gives a better understanding of the value that storytellers hold to their work which in some form or another is seen as an extension. It's a film that can connects to storytellers as strongly to any kind of audience.

Nerawareta Gakuen

Describing the experience of "Nerawareta gakuen" (translated to the irrelevant, but cooler sounding title "Physic School War") is similar to the same way of a gamer feelings playing Dice video-game Battlefield 4. Allot went into the look, but lacks substance to justify how much went behind a broken product. Bland characters in an overly cliche story, and a sense of awe that something so shallow has so much care put into it.

Nerawareta Gakuen (Physic School War in English) is about Ryouichi Kyougoku, a mysterious time traveling psychic from the future where the world ended in the future and humanity settled on the moon, and transfers into the 8th grade to awaken as much psychics in the present. Effortlessly combining high school romance with time traveling, physic powers, and impending apocalypse into an overly complicated mess. If the story only desired to be a high school romance it would have been a sensible, easy to follow bland story. Spending the first two act developing the romance (to a disappointing climax that avoids resolving conflicts) and a considerable amount of characterization is somewhat defeated. Somewhat since the central characters are all bland anime personalities; Kenji Seki is a dumb teen who has bad luck and oblivious to the fact his childhood friend Natsuki Ryouura loves him, Natsuki Ryouura is the typical girl next door who picks on Kenji to hide her true feelings from him, Kahori Harukawa is created to advance the plot in the form of a love triangle or having her start a conversation relating to their feelings, and finally Ryouichi Kyougoku who's the popular mysterious teen with an hidden agenda. Four characters all of which aren't interesting because what the story does with them is highlight their weaknesses. Sure the characters are given depth, but what the writer do with them gives off the wrong impression. Natsuki Ryouura for example clearly likes Kenji, but upon meeting her characters she in a single minutes teases him, punches him, and calls the police. Like everyone in the story Natsuki matures, though the way she acts towards Kenji is the same. That's just the characters not working on their own imagine the rest of the film.

Being split into a supernatural drama and slice of life romance never does it become good at being one thing it sets out to be. On one hand the romance doesn't work because of the bland characters and the cliche route it takes. This being the real meat of the film story it's disappointing what little is done with it amount to no reward. Then comes the supernatural drama aspect which is completely pointless. It's so far removed from the central story that it's unneeded fluff. Keeping things vague physic powers play by rules the writers make up in order to spice things up. Leading to plot holes and a muddle set of rules that makes it needlessly difficult to understand what actually happen no matter how basic it appears. Now something I left out, just like film, has something to do with it odd hatred towards cellphones. At first it appears it was going to tackle what it means to be social in a society that relied technology for interaction, but nope it reappears to amount to nothing. It's just mention just for the sake of it, but it becomes a plot point. What is done with the cell phones plot point amounts to a character saving his childhood friend from a debate about having cell phones in school in his underwear. I'm not kidding that's exactly what the whole cell phone angle amounts to. It can't do a proper ending either leaving you scratching your head in confusion in what resulted from the climax. Abandoning plot elements and subplots like there's no tomorrow Nerawareta Gakuen (Physic School War) never feels as ease to watch even when it barely works.

The production values of the film are best thing about this movie. Ryosuke Nakamura eye for details rivals of that of director Shinkai Makoto. A lot of attention is paid in the meticulous details of the visuals from the cherry blossom petals being blown in the breeze to the gleaming rays of light shining through classroom windows. Another outstanding feature is the use of color hues and tones to accentuate and render scenic clouds and evening skies. Character animation is smooth, lighting effects work nicely with the watercolor-styled backgrounds, and the film manages to build a lifelike environment and atmosphere much like in Shinkai's films. Furthermore, director Nakamura Ryousuke throws some laid back, carefree spirit and lovable appeal into the mix, which ends up covering a whole lot of the movie's failures in other areas. Voice actors give life to what little personalities their characters have. They have the right of playful and serious nature making its character progression seem natural. Music is downright forgettable. Having checked out the film soundtrack this is perhaps one of the laziest compilation of music for any animated film. Most of the soft piano ballads so sound similar to one another that they all sound like minor variation of one track. Songs mostly are slow, low key wanting to get across a sentimental feelings of youth. However, the more you listen to it the more you began to pick up it's more fitting for a commercial than a film production.

Nerawareta Gakuen is pretty to look at and that's about it. Bland characters fall into the category of being annoying taking part of a story that amounts to a whole of nothing in confusion at its ending. Whatever plot and subplots it build up ends with lackluster resolutions that bring no closure to them. Abandoning and retreating ideas will make it difficult for viewers to maintain focus because it's all over the place. Once you take away the detail visuals all you're left with is disappointment having seen a shallow film more concern about it looks than having its own unique personality.

Japanese Hell (Jigoku)

The 1960 original Jigoku (Japanese word for Hell) is not a film I would consider a classic due to it's unintentional humor to its serious plot, but it's a film I would have no problem recommending because story structure is perfect for it, has amazing visuals (especially the impressive third act), and a meaningful message through relatable human actions. As for the remake I could only say bad things about it to the point that I would be send to Jigoku. It's soulless from the unsalvageable story right down to the half baked force message will encourage viewers to do certain things to the filmmakers than make you think about your way of life as intended.

Japanese Hell is about the goddess of death name Enma ("terrifying") giving a tour of Hell to an innocent young women and showing the consequences of sinners past, present, and future. I'm going to give a scenario to best get across why I hate this story and the meaning it's hoping viewer will find in it soulless message. So picture a sick dog who has a terrible, incurable disease suffering for days. It's constantly coughing up blood, unable to eat anything solid, and crying on a day to day basis from pain. Finally having had enough of seeing the dog suffer you decide to euthanize the dog much to your displeasure. According to this film you earn your ticket to Hell. The fact you ended a living creature life with a good intentions and you had no pleasure in putting it down doesn't matter one bit to this film. Things like morals are a joke in this film. You either have to be 100% perfect good or 100% percent evil with no middle ground to be accept in either Heaven or Hell. If the film wasn't trying to say something towards its audience this simplistic view on humanity would have been fine, but it deliberately set up to send a message you have to follow someone to be "saved" by force not will. Conformity is not the answer for everyone as it could work the other way making people do questionable activities. Oh the film ending....okay one of the deadly sins is Lust and the last thing we see are naked women. Why after taking a tour of Jigoku (Hell) would the last thing we want to see are naked women? Backward thinking like this is one of many, many, many, many, many, many, many reasons this film story is worthless.

Personal hatred aside here are other reasons why it's an unsalvageable story regardless whether or not you seen the original. Narrative structure is messy, sloppy, and nothing connects it together. As a traditional narrative it doesn't work because it has no central protagonist and deviate too much from the central characters preventing any meaningful to be gain from their journey. In the form of an anthology narrative it's a bigger disaster because it only has two different story making it very evident which had more focus. One of the two sinners story is short while the other one overstays its welcome. The first sinner is a person who takes pleasure in killing young girls with no redeeming values. Automatically there's the main problem as this kind of character will relate to a slim number of its viewer if any at all. Never does it bother to look into why the sinner temptation controls him and never bother to explore why this sinner is unable to gain a positive change. This also applies to the second sinners which is a false religious group who scam their believer out of millions of dollars for personal gains. At no point does the film attempt to use these characters wrongdoings as a correlation to how some outsiders might view religion in general. None of the characters are ever developed only being split into good or evil with no reasonable middle ground nor a reason why the character are who they are. Also, for a film with its setting in the title it does a terrible job incorporating Hell into its story. We never spend that much time in Hell never coming across as this unspeakable place of never ending sufferings of the essence of evil. Not to forget the most annoying thing is yes the lord of evil Enma who punishes people comes across as a hero. I'm might be looking to much into this, but this film supports the goddess of death more so than it does any positive religious figures.

Production values are a joke. Upon entering Jigoku and traveling on the Sanzu river we see a gate shape like a demonize women va....better that I keep it vague. It also has rejected costume from I could only assume are for a lost gritty reboot of "The Flintstones". Apparently the minions of Hell are a compilation of cavemen with horns, a horse-man creature, and a very disfigured old man. The attention to detail given to these costumes is impeccable rivaling those you would see at a cheap costume store. That same amount of care also went into creating Hell which is constantly being covered in fog only adds an extra layer of detail to hide the blank canvas of the sets. Gore effects are cheap made more evident when the sinners punishment take a long time to get their point across. Another trait aside from the fog are the constantly spinning backdrops that attempted to give the allusion of an otherworldly place, but just makes the viewer think how the poor use of it budget was this bad. Acting like everything else is of the lowest quality. Ranging from over the top to no effort was even into put into that performance. If anything this film does serve as a blueprint on how not to spend your money in a low budget flick. It's nothing short of amazing how director Terui Ishii manages to not only destroy all essence of good filmmaking, but absolutely have no understanding of the original film execution of its message nor the value behind the existence of Jigoku which is quite sad.

Japanese Hell is about as soulless and phoned in you can get with a horror remake. Nothing that made the original worthwhile is present and this new version of the story does nothing more than encourage its viewer to do things to the filmmakers it wants us to avoid. It's a film that both believers and non believers could agree is unsalvageable, soulless, preachy trash. If you ever have more good things to say about Satan than you do the actual film focusing on Hell you pretty much know just how little hope you have left after it's all over.

Lone Survivor
Lone Survivor (2014)

War films walk a thin line of being another action sub genre to propaganda promoting or discouraging the idea of war. The overall picture is what most of these films tend to get across forgetting the hardship endured by soldiers comrade or not are just as painful. "Lone Survivor" premise alone gives it enough ground to break the mold common to war films making it all the more disappointing that it's just standard action movie.

Lone Survivor follows Marcus Luttrell and his team set out on a mission to capture or kill notorious Taliban leader Ahmad Shah, in late June 2005. Before reaching the fifty-five minute mark the film failure to provide sufficient characterization is it biggest detractor. Simply applying the soldiers were married and had kids doesn't automatically garner sympathy. We get no background on what each soldier specialize in or their ranking before and during their operation. Most of the dialogue in the first half of the film is military exposition (equipment not working, position of environment, examining battle conditions, you name it) with the occasional conversations relating to the soldiers personal lives. These few non work related conversations is the closest the film comes to making the soldiers appear as friends instead of coworkers. A shame as the film heavily plays on the idea that the soldiers have allot more history together than it actually bother to touch upon. The actual tragedy occurs pass the fifty-five minute mark derailing for a second half more interested in action than its soldiers. For the next thirty-five minutes get ready for a long stretch of action that replaces dialogue for constant gunfire. Structurally the film is fundamentally broken unable to balance story, tone, pacing, and characters in three acts. No matter at which point you skip into the film it's story is so deadpan that nothing in between really needs your attention. Simple to the point that it doesn't require much attention even if you sleep to the middle of it you can easily connect the pieces. This film biggest crime is not that it took a true story and turned it into an action film. No, it's biggest crime is taking a true story and giving it a sense of fiction that tells the audience nothing about the soldiers who lost their lives and making it comes across as a product instead of an inspiring true story about soldiers who died and fought what they strongly believed in.

On the technical side there's a hardly a thing wrong with "Lone Survivor". Peter Berg falters when it comes to drama, but when it comes to action he delivers. On his part it was a good decision to make the lengthy battle in the middle of the film. Because of this in real time we get an understanding how dire the situation is for the soldiers fighting and slowly showing the ever growing scars on their bodies. Seeing the battle unfold is unrelenting with seemingly never ending gunfire even if the staging comes off as pure Hollywood given the amount pain the soldiers can take. When it comes to acting the main four which includes Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Taylor Kitsch, and Emile Hirsch are on equal grounds. If not for the poster (but mostly a bad editing decision) you wouldn't be able to pick out the main character which works for the film intentions. Sadly because of the film shows in the beginning it kinda defeats what the actors did. Although that's more to blame on Berg bad decision over the actors. The score is memorable reaching all the right notes to add emotions where the script failed to do so.

Lone Survivor ditches the human core of its story becoming a straightforward action movie. It's structure is a mess with characterization taking a back seat to endless barrages of bullets. The intention to honor the men and their moral code are good, but the delivery of it is not what the story needed. If it weren't for the fact that "Lone Survivor" was based on a true story this would have been labeled as another typical action movie.

Apocalypse Pompeii

Last week I had the pleasure of seeing mockbuster "Android Cop" which for all it flaws was just a cheap action movie. Now imagine me trying to absorb the existence that is "Apocalypse Pompeii" from the same studio "The Asylum". From a business standpoint why out of all the blockbusters to make a knock off from would someone pick Paul W.S. Anderson "Pompeii"? Then again, why question the logic of a studio whose name is "The Asylum".

Apocalypse Pompeii is about a former Special Ops commando visiting Italy when his wife and daughter are trapped in the ruins of Pompeii when Mt. Vesuvius erupts with massive force. Okay a premise like that has to be interesting right? How can't it be when you have a special ops commando fighting the forces of a Volcano to look for his family. Well the film finds a way and much like Mt. Vesuvius it's a disaster of magnitude force. Logic is broken and no I'm talking about the lava which roars in one scene. By sheer luck it just turns out the special ops daughter just so happen to read about Volcanoes all her life. This wouldn't be a problem except for the fact despite two loud, Earth shaking warnings no one on the tour to Pompeii ruins bother to get back a tour bus and head back to Italy. Once the actual disaster starts (the Volcano eruption, not the film) everything becomes a snooze fest. Switching between the daughter leading everyone on the tour to safety while the special ops father finding a way to save his family. Neither of the characters are interesting to follow. The synopsis is about as much development you'll get for the special ops father and a couple of lines for his daughter. He's a boring father always with a one tracked much like his personality only unable to say anything other than exposition. His side of the story is dull unable to get behind him when not only does his team blow up part of a military base, but also steals a Helicopter illegally. Okay I understand it's his family he's trying to safe, but I'm sure not getting court martial nor possibly a life in prison sentence for attacking a military base is more important for your family too. As for the daughter her side of the events are equally just as dull. Everything works out because of plot convenience not by smart thinking. She's a walking deus ex machina fixing problems whenever they occurred. As a whole the film is shallow, dull, questionable, and uneventful in just about every single minute it last.

Acting on the other hand is just as shallow and one dimensional. Adrian Paul (who I named Not Liam Neeson) is more lifeless than a corpse. He shows no emotion like a rock, has about the same amount of charisma as the grim reaper, and acting chops as visible as air. He's not a good leading actor to put it more bluntly. Georgina Beedle (who I named Not Amanda Seyfried) is one dimensional, unconvincing, and like Adrian Paul has the charisma of death. Come to think of it this whole cast is filled with actors you would find in films as extra with no lines. Direction is uninspired as the people desperately try to overcome the disaster that is SHAKY CAMQUAKE. No amount of cheap CG can hide the fact that the actors are looking at giant note cards that tell them "Fall down like an idiot". Just about everything from the production is immensely underwhelming.


Apocalypse Pompeii is the worst kind of knock off that fails as an original creation to entertain and as imitation resembles nothing it's copying. Desperately making the viewer want to reach the finish line as this is one disaster of a film that can take lives...maybe not, but it'll most likely put you in a comma due to sheer magnitude of boredom.

The Plague Dogs

Martin Rosen goes unrecognized in the realm of filmmaking. He might have only directed and written two films, but finding any other animated film to compare "Watership Down" and "The Plague Dogs" to is nearly impossible. Rosen was an important pioneer in animation not only taking bold risks in his imagery, but narratively constructing and discussing subjects its genre is afraid to acknowledge. "The Plague Dogs" (just like "Watership Down") is an important animated film that pushed it genre to show what it can pull off with no boundaries.

The Plague Dogs follows dogs Rowf and Snitter that escape from a laboratory and are hunted as possible carriers of the bubonic plague. Opening with a Dog struggling to stay afloat in a test chamber setups the film tone and past this opening it holds nothing back. The dogs whose journey we experience have the mannerism of actual dogs. Inexperienced and loyal to each other the dogs are unsure of the world, forced to reach deep inside to become survivals in harsh conditions, and discussing opposing views of a "master". Snitter whose ideal of a master is one treated with respects as his companion while Rowf opposing view is one of cruelty serving nothing more than a tool for the "master". There is truth be found in both characters despite being different species have regrets, dreams, tackling the harsh reality as best they can. They don't have all the answers with their journey never guaranteeing they'll be safe. Despite spouting English dialogue the dogs are never removed from reality. Characterizations of the animals are created with human characteristics, but through the viewpoints that makes sense through an animal; Rowf is a realist who thinks the world is cruel and there is no hope for a better life. Snitter is an optimist who, even under the worst conditions, is convinced that a master and a warm home is always just over the hill. The Tod, a fox who helps Snitter and Rowf find food, is an absolute opportunist. These thoughts make sense in nature staying true to survival of the fittest among the common living creature.

It's not so much a film on the cruelty of animal testing, but the cruelty of the world. Doing so without asking us to leave out our personal lives in order for its aesthetic to ring true. Never does it hammer the question if animal testing is inhumane rather focusing on the more important if the cause of the action or action itself is more inhumane. It is worth eliminating another creature livelihood for our own purposes. The human point of view is given through conversations between farmers, townsfolk and researchers, which, along with some media reports, are all presented as voice overs as we watch the dogs do whatever they're doing. For the most part, humans are kept as faceless, omnipresent entities. Having all the pieces connected it comes towards the ending. An ending that embodies the best in characters, emotions, and thought provoking mood that can bring tears to anyone. This tearful ending is earned made all the more powerful by our connections to our protagonists that will remain with the audience long after it ended.

Martin Rosen often depicts the protagonists as little more than tiny blips against the countryside, simultaneously taking in the grandeur of the rocky gorges and grassy hillsides while emphasizing a sense of helplessness, exposure and danger. The attention to detail in the backdrops provides the aura of realism and regional specificity. Integration is accomplished by the way of dynamic characters with static backgrounds. Footprints and impressions left in the snow are particularly notable. Another coup for Rosen's team is the animal movement. They behave accurately like an animal from their rhythmic strides and subtle panting to their curious sniffing and twitchy shifts in attention. Rosen moves over these images with a camera that pans and tilts with relaxed reverence. He reserves canted shots for the laboratory interior to show the way it twists nature and brings life out of balance. On a few occasions his winding camera movements help put us on the meandering paths that trickle down the moors, though such unusual maneuvers must have made it hard to get the perspective and proportions right. Cast of characters is relatively small; for most of the movie, it's just the two dogs and the fox, with additional dogs or humans popping up when they're needed. Christopher Benjamin does an excellent job as Rowf, sounding hardened by years of torture, while as Snitter, John Hurt sounds appropriately frail and delirious. James Bolam is charming as The Tod, and brings a little bit of welcome humor to the grim tone film. Nigel Hawthorne and Patrick Stewart have small roles as a doctor and soldier, respectively. Patrick Gleeson's score is suitably moody, while Alan Parsons provides the song "Time and Tide." Although it sounds melancholy at the beginning, its gospel chorus is surprisingly upbeat, suggesting that there may be a little light at the end of the tunnel after all.

The Plague Dogs is a masterpiece incomparable to any other in its genre. Its grim color palette and harrowing story never once remove the idea of hope. Very few animated films look, feel, and tackle the issues "The Plague Dogs" does and even fewer can compared to it. Not taking the safe route "The Plague Dogs" displays tragedy in mature work of art where by the end have you thinking of the beauty of it all.

Trivia:
I was unable to obtain the specifics of what he input into the film, but director Brad Bird was listed in the credits as an animator. Visually and in tone the two couldn't be further apart, yet when it comes to their stories it's rather difficult to pick who's the better storyteller as both have pushed their narrative beyond what its genre restraint them to.

Her
Her (2013)

Technology never ceases to advance to the point that whatever possibilities come forward filmmakers will give their thoughts on the possible outcome of it. Everything from massive takeover to doomsday to near human extinction to elimination of an over reliance on technology. Whatever the audiences decide to categorize "Her" as can see a future and a relationship that correlate with our present time. Giving an entirely fresh perspective on familiar things that might have been lost to some of us.

Her is about a lonely writer developing an unlikely relationship with his newly purchased operating system that's designed to meet his every need. It's far from conventional both as a romance and sci-fi; we're not beaten over the head that the protagonist is a loser nor does that become trait of his character, the interaction between human and artificial intelligence is not a split between good or evil, and is a genuine representation of the hardships of maintaining a relationship not just getting into one. The story allows time for Samantha to develop mannerism and speaking pattern more in liking of an actual person. That in turn allows Theodore to become more comfortable around her and letting the audiences deeper into Theodore past. Underlying Theodore to see human traits in a new light. All Theodore Twombly and OS Samantha have in their relationship is the capacity to listen to each other. Through their several conversations develop an intimate relationship only with words. This form of communication is all they have and because of that the romance that does not come across being superficial. Samantha might be programmed to follow a specific function, but never once that does it feel the emotions behind Samantha words are artificial. As a romance film it succeeds because the characters are very likable with tackling issues that are down to Earth. Never does it side track from these two relationship, but neither does it limit itself to just it honest depiction of romance. Serving as commentary on society, technology, and the definition of being human. This also leads into understanding the future depicted in the film. Nothing presented in the film depiction of the future seems far off from activities we're doing right now. Instead it's presents them on a broader scope from subtle details like people constantly ignoring each other walking on the street, no one questioning why a person is talking to him or herself, and the business aspect that humans might only want to accept what they like. Some strongly feel that machines can never developed to become human, but this film dares to say maybe it's the other way. Daring to challenge the audiences that we might be living physical beings, but is what we do in our life any different of that of the machines we create.

Joaquin Phoenix in his sensitive and perceptive take on the role aces it. This is a performance that you can identify with. He's not simply awkward for the sake of being, he has baggage and connection issues. There's sincerity in his words and mannerisms. As "Samantha," Johansson has never tapped into the essence of her abilities as an actress the way she does in "Her." As an OS, full of wonder and curiosity, "Samantha" is essentially a child. Scarlett Johansson, whom exists simply as a voice, has the ability to woo and excite, despite her characters' obvious limitations, but the two together and it's a match made partially in reality and coding. Spike Jonze provides a post-modern feel to the film by taking inspirations from the technologies that's available today, betting on where its next evolutionary leap could be & exploring that breakthrough with grounded realism. Production design puts up an advanced vision of a world that feels strangely familiar. Cinematography makes ingenious use of color palettes and lighting to add more vividness to the story that ultimately contrasts with the colorless world its characters are living in. Editing gives this story a much admirable relaxed pace & the score by Arcade Fire is soul-stirring.

Her deconstructs two genres and takes them both in unconventional directions. It's an in depth look on romance in a tech heavy age, but confronts the question of what it means to be human. Correlating that in fact artificial intelligence and humans can become one another finding a greater appreciation with those we interact with. Showing the beauty behind interaction some of us presume technology is has long destroyed through a very thoughtful film.

Android Cop
Android Cop (2014)
½

Last year I reviewed "Atlantic Rim" a low budget (and lower quality) version of blockbuster "Pacific Rim". Needless to say "Atlantic Rim" had no ambition of any kind therefore the absence of fun was prominent upon filmmakers making it to the audiences watching it. This year it's "Android Cop" a lower budget version of 2014's "RoboCop" remake which from a technical and narrative standpoint fails to grab my attention in any form. Unfortunately "Android Cop" also fails in telling a story and from a technical standpoint the word "cheap" never leaves your mind.

Android Cop is set in the year 2045, a Los Angeles Police Department detective and his new Android partner enter the Zone, a forbidden section of the city plagued with an unknown disease to look for the mayor daughter. As far as a plot goes if you could physically put together bad pieces from any bad action movie you would have created this film plot. Two things stand out immediately; one is how it safely sticks to its genre boundaries with no variation on what it does and another being no understanding of humanity. Listen I'm no cop nor expert on human psychology, but who in the right mind thinks talking about organ donation is the way to convince someone not jump off a building. If that wasn't enough "Android Cop" also fails to rip off elements of the film its trying to copy. It's more in the line of a bad buddy cop film than a "RoboCop" rip-off. Usually in good buddy cop films there's a balance between two characters strengths and weaknesses, but in this film we get two protagonists who are incompetent at their jobs. In one situation we have the android cop in a hostage negotiation and the way he solves the problem involves a grenade. This moment goes to prove the android stupidity further since the weapon he carried was a long range rifle. Character development is swallowed in particular an important characteristic of a protagonist is revealed through a laughably bad twist. As dumb as the film characters might be they do say goofy things. My personal favorite that even in context makes no sense is "We got them locked up tighter than a Frog's ass in a tsunami". Recycled bad plot points from bad action movies and laughably bad dialogue together creates a plot more artificial any machine.

The action scenes of the film are weak and the low budget is no excuse for it. Transit (2012) is an example of a low budget film whose few car oriented action scenes can match a Hollywood blockbuster visually and technically. "Android Cop" on the other hand just looks cheap. During gunfights we hear hundred of shots being fired and maybe see four or five bullets make contact with anything solid. Worst being the gunfights mostly consist of cover and shooting without any tactical mix up from our heroes or villain who are trained in armed combat. That's not taking into account the fact no bullets holes remain during or after a gunfight. Action scenes involving any kind of vehicle looks unfinished and in certain moments are hilarious. Fights scenes on the other hand is one sided with the stars never getting hit. Mark Atkins direction is simple and during the action scenes Atkins refuses to make them visually interesting. Michael Jai White is a uncompelling lead. His tough guy performance makes his character forgettable, although when it comes to goofy moments his tough guy performance makes it funny. Randy Wayne is lifeless. I understand he plays an android; however, he has no personality of any kind keeping one blank, soulless expression during the whole film. Wayne costume on the other hand just appears to be heavy armor and nothing about its design gives off the vibe Wayne is an android. Although Randy Wayne lifeless and motionless performance does do the job convincing us he's a machine better than his costume. Music is forgettable and editing is underwhelming.

Android Cop looks and feel cheap. Action scenes are poorly done, acting is one note, story is a collection of bad movies ideas, and direction is uninspired. As poorly made as it is at least its watchable and contains some entertaining moments if unintentional, but even with that it's not really much of a film with a goal to reach.

Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky
½

Riki-Oh is a Japanese manga that obtain minor success being adapted into two OVA (Original Video Animation) and a live action film, though trying to find any information on the manga series itself is rather difficult. This is a strange case in cinema where a live action adaptation of a manga surpasses it source in material in popularity and overall success. Reason for this being "Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky" is an material art film unlike any other; campy, driven with plot holes, poorly dubbed, bloody, gory, over the top nature gives the film its own identity that stands out like no other in its genre.

Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricki follows a young man with superhuman strength who's incarcerated at a prison run by corrupt officials and seeks to use his martial arts to clean up the system. Most difficult part of adapting a 12 act manga onto a film is making its story logical. Undergoing major changes (Riki, the protagonist, motivation is slightly altered with a newly created character) from it source material the film has a disjointed and surreal feel. Things don't come across as clearly as they should through silly explanations, though it does fit the tone of the film. Everything said and done in the story is nonsensical not once taking itself seriously. In a film where the protagonist can literally punch a hole through a criminal stomach (of course it occurs in the showers) a serious tone wouldn't fit the nature of the characters action. It's protagonist just like all the characters are simple minded playing a singular define role. Riki is clearly the hero, the warden clearly the villain, the "Gang of Four" are clearly the henchman, and the prisoners (often used to move the plot) are the onlooker of the events. These characters remain simplistic in order to mix a prison film with an anime story. Our protagonist stands up against the man, the hero faces the warden's equally powerful henchman, the prison dealing in drugs, the torture to break down the hero spirit, and so forth combine elements of two different narratives working wondrously with one another. If anything could be taken as a negative in the writing would be Riki was made too powerful making scenes where Riki could easily overcome an obstacles all the less believable. While the film as a whole lacks any sense of logic at least aspects however goofy were explained as oppose to Riki weakness which is simply passed off in a single sentence.

The English dub of the film is awful in good way adding to the film cheesy nature. It bodes well with the acting as expressions are over the top and there's nothing subtle about the actors performances down to their appearances. Uttering deadpan dialogue blending with the amount excess on screen. Su-Wong Fan performance while average looks like person who punch a hole through someone stomach and a welcoming presence that carries the film with ease. Mei Sheng Fan regardless if viewing the dub or not is wonderfully cartoonish. His over the top expressions and lack of any sense of subtle line delivery perfectly fits into the whole nonsensical world. As for other actors they're simply here to either play a good guy or bad buy; either acting tough or acting weak. Choreography is performed very slowly and the fights themselves are very basic. Fight scenes won't impress with their complex choreography, but they are cleverly designed to contain moments only this film can offer. Lets face it how many other martial art films can you name where a fighter literally uses his own intestines in a attempt to strangle his opponent to death. Perfectly framed like its source material every gory moment is a memorable one that shows the best mixture of low budget particle effects. Every gore filled moment has an excessive amount of blood and body pieces flying or hanging from what's left from the person body. All the blood effects soaked effects admirably provides a sense a fun and intrigue. Especially in the film climax where Riki faces off against a paper mache monster ending in what's to date the bloodiest climax in the martial art genre.

Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky is campy, over the top, nonsensical fun that goes for sheer entertainment value. Its framed violence replicates the manga it's adapting, the practical gory effects are impressive and every one of them offers something memorable, and is the best mixture of what viewers enjoy from bad movies without actually being a bad movie.

The Lion of Judah

I lay here speechless on how to open this review in third person upon realizing this is the first animated movie I've given a zero in two years. The last animated film to have garner that was the ever so infamous "Titanic: The Animated Movie" which had talking rats, a rapping dog, a two minute romance, and ended with "Happily Ever After". My criteria for any animated film to earn a zero I thought was originally unobtainable as a animated movie had to equal or be worse than "Titanic: The Animated Movie". "The Lion of Judah" without question has set a new low standard for all future bad animated movie to scope down to.

The Lion of Judah follows the overly long, uninspired, stereotypical, and drawn out adventures of a bold lamb (Judah) and his friends (The Stable-Mates) as they try to avoid the sacrificial altar the week preceding the crucifixion Jesus Christ. Oh man where to even begin. Just about everything you could think off a film could do wrong this film does. All the characters are annoying stereotypes consisting of the dumb character, an emo, an energetic child, wise old man, unfunny comedic relief, and every shallow character type in existence. Plot points are drawn out to unbearable length consisting of moments that kill brain cells. Pointless conversations involve crows (one with an eye patch) talking about how his dream of sheets, animals debating on kicking a box, a discussion on whether or not to save a friend who's to be killed, and stretching every joke at it disposal. Making all this more painful is moving at the pace of a glacial. Glacially pace you'll slowly begin to discover the film reuses the same formula for three acts. All the acts require one of the main character to be saved only to be captured again two more times. So with no character to latch on to, a glacial pace that where a single joke can be stretched to several minutes, and three acts that reuse the same formula it further deteriorate itself by involving a false understanding of Christianity.

Now the title of the film is "The Lion of Judah" which is very misleading. There is not a single lion or an animal that remotely resemble a lion in the film. The character Judah is a lamb and according to his mother will set animals...no human free. Although I am not a Christian the film false understanding of Christianity and the nerve to deliver a message from its false understanding is a slap to the face having the subtlety of nuclear bomb. It's about as force as you can get in message delivery. The worst part being Jesus Christ teachings takes a back seat to slapstick. There is not a minute that goes without slapstick yet Jesus Christ crucifixion is a throwaway plot point. Telling us nothing about Christ or his teachings serving no significance in the story. Downright insulting it audiences by daring not to go into the grey area of religion. Combining all these flaws into a single script it's incredible how a film that's under ninety minutes could feel like five dull hours of pure nothingness yet be very insulting on the way it handles religion.

Animation has never been so cheap, ugly, stiff, and most importantly lazy. Anything that requires basic movement goes very slowly even during the motion of running and flying there's no distinction in speed movement. Characters models aside from being undetailed scream pure laziness. Certain animals will have fur that remain in place while other animals (some of the same kind) will have no fur at all. Another issue being the basic anatomy is inconsistent. There are several occasion where animals body parts are larger than they normally are. Further criticizing the sheer lack of effort are body parts goes through characters bodies. As for the visuals they are far behind Toy Story which was released in 1995. Textures are ugly becoming fuzzy whenever shown up close. Worse of all there are several scenes where textures on a wall, animal, or fur haven't render correctly and is left as it is. Looking and moving like an early alpha for a video game. Voice acting is not worth discussing. Ironically given the characters stereotypical personalities the voice actor sound exactly how they would. This not a good thing since some of the voices come across racial stereotype (the horse midway in the film gains an cliche Indian accent). Music on the other hand is forgettable. Only being used in montages comes and goes away quickly.

The Lion of Judah is an endurance test in tolerance with the viewer reaping no benefits from what they what see. There is no effort presented in any frame of the film. Animation and visuals are inferior to the first 3D animated film ever made, a plot with nothing redeeming, racial stereotype voice acting, and finally feeling longer than it actually is. Nothing about "The Lion of Judah" is interesting, passionate, or watchable. It's existence is a sin to all things cinema.

The Aftermath of "The Lion of Judah":

So not only was it that I just viewed a film that had completely wasted my time, my breathe, and my eyesight, but on the same day after finishing viewing it my internet service experiences an outage. This being the first time this ever happened I can only conclude that this film was cursed in more ways than one. Ironically my internet was out for two days and it just so happen to have come back on the third day. Talk about irony.

Jing Cha Gu Shi 2013 (Police Story 2013)
½

The "Police Story" franchise hasn't always been consistent with it star playing different protagonists and the tone of the series changing, but each installment has parallel star Jackie Chan goal as an actor. Making it hard to believe a film series that's known for stunt work becomes obsolete with a focus on drama in this installment. It's a departure for the "Police Story" series and Jackie Chan as an actor as he puts forth into going into a new direction. "Police Story 2013" is not the series entry fans would expect, but demonstrates Chan experimentation as an actor isn't afraid to take risks.

Police Story 2013 is about a criminal looking for the release of a long-time prisoner taking a police officer, his daughter, and a group of strangers hostage. The plot is "Die Hard"-esque taking place entirely in one location and just like its last two predecessor this entry follows a different character. Unfortunately what it doesn't borrow from "Die Hard" is intelligence. The main character, Zhong Wen, will usually attempt to imagine what will happen in a given scenario. This plot device comes with mixed results showing Zhong Wen is looking at all the possibilities, but in context it also means if something exciting happens it holds no bearing on the plot. That also applies to Zhong Wen flashbacks when he's figuring out who the villain is and his motivation for holding certain people hostage. Just like Wen's imagination the flashbacks come with mixed results as most of the action scenes are in flashbacks usually with no relevance to the main plot. Although the major gripe towards this film has be the severe lack of henchmen. Now the film setting is a old factory turned nightclub which from what we seen is huge. Our villain of the film appeared to have only brought four henchmen working for him to secured the area, keep an eye on the hostages, look for Zhong Wen, make bombs, and other activity is understaffed. Of course in any action movie we expect the hero will overcome the odds a role that is reverse in this. It doesn't work because the few henchman know only to do one thing leaving the audience to wait for the inevitable to occur.

On a positive note Zhong Wen is well developed as a flawed hero with his actions resulting in some sort of casualty on himself. Going up against a villain who's not only just as calculating, but pushes him morally drawing the line between being a good father and being a good officer. The film villain, Wu Jiang, is an entirely different story. Wu Jiang motivation somewhat parallels Wen as a character as both lost someone important to them effecting them drastically. Both characters are very human, but the villain scheme is out of place. It's requires you to disbelief reality once his plan get started. Only occurring and working as well as it did through sheer luck and coincidence. Supporting characters while not as defined do play a role in the plot once the mystery becomes clearer. Fitting it's main motif of spider webs seeing how seemingly unrelated events are connected. Doing just enough in it limited setting to keep things interesting even if it doesn't reach the emotional height it aimed for.

Jackie Chan plays a more grounded, vulnerable, and flawed hero. The role demands Chan to carry the film solely on his acting. Relying little on humor Chan is serious all the way through. Coming off as man who's out of his own league burdened by his troubled personal life. Getting across his job has taken a serious told on Chan as throughout the film Chan is always suspicious of other people. Keeping his emotions restricted from doing his job even when interacting to others. His trust on characters will determine how he comes across towards other. Anyone going into this solely to see Jackie Chan in action mode will be disappointed. What little fight scenes there are don't last long. This is a role that demands Chan the actor to take center stage over acrobatics and martial artist Chan. For a man whose 59 he's still fast in his fights and while his dangerous stunts are absent Chan himself isn't. Yu Liu who plays Wu Jiang stays one note hardly changing his facial expressions. His line delivery on the other hand are more varied in invoking emotions. Tian Jing whatever screen time she has performs well having solid chemistry with Chan. Director Sheng Ding did a fine job as a director, but as an editor is sloppy when it comes to the action. What little action there is rapidly cut, shaking, and distorted making action scenes a series of jigsaw pieces that don't fit.

Police Story 2013 is a huge departure both for the series and star Jackie Chan focusing heavily on drama and spending little on action. Chan demonstrates strength in his acting abilities widening his range as an actor than just being a man of action. It's a film that will differentiate the true Chan fans that like the actor for his risks over the non fans who just want action film escapism. Anyone expecting the typical "Police Story" or Jackie Chan film will leave disappointed, but anyone interesting in seeing the series and star experiment will find a decent movie.

All Is Lost
All Is Lost (2013)

All Is Lost is about a resourceful sailor who finds himself, despite all efforts to the contrary, staring his mortality in the face of formidable storms at sea. About 150 words (a rough estimation on my part) are ever said in "All Is Lost" and a majority of those words are used wisely in the opening; a narration in which the nameless protagonist writes a letter to someone. Who this person is never is the true question, but rather how to interpret our nameless protagonist letter is. An important question that goes unanswered is a considerable flaw yes given it's a key moment; however, the writing respects not only its sole character and his natural obstacles, but also the viewer. There's no half baked back story, no narration, no force messages because it's a story that does not need it. In the truest form it is a minimalist survival tale that details a man struggle for survival through his actions not words. What we see our protagonist do to survive, how we see him react to his obstacles, and why are convey expertly through actions. Through the protagonist action on his environment we understand his knowledge and through his reactions we understand his attachment to life. Never is a scene simply written, but created as an essential to be able to apply it themes and character's struggle. What this film does perfectly is give us a character whose compelling to see his journey to the end and open enough apply ourself in his position. In all ways it's expertly written developing its characters, exploring it themes, and containing multiple interpretations accomplished nearly in complete silent.

Robert Redford delivers a performance for the history books. A role so demanding physically and psychologically to the point that if done wrong collapses the film. So much depends on the audience being able to get inside the sailor's mind without his needing to vocalize his thoughts. His perpetually weathered skin essaying experience and resourcefulness rather than tiredness and bitterness. Redford, then, needs to use his facial expressions and other means to keep us in the loop. Aside from a few spoken narrative sentences and we see his attitude oscillate between helplessness and determination. Redford is the tent-pole that keeps the film afloat with his battered visage, calm determination, and detachment from existence. From the calm opening shots through to the fragile end, the cinematography is exquisite, painting vistas that excite and threaten life. Shots taken from under the life-raft; schools of fish lyrically darting back and forth among the menacing activity of sharks, moonlight creating the only semblance of light in the inexhaustible darkness actualized the ordeal. The resonance and beauty of the accompanying music and atmospheric sounds of a moaning sound of a craft in distress, falling apart - accompanied by the slapping of the waves which can be both benign and harrowing depending on the weather's temperament.

All Is Lost is the pinnacle of minimalist filmmaking. A film perfectly in tune that it doesn't require the basics necessity of an average film to be multilayered and rich in studying its character. Defying traditional narrative conventions "All Is Lost" is an intelligently crafted film that expresses many things by saying very little.

Warrior King 2 (The Protector 2)

Back in 2003 Tony Jaa (or Panom Yeerum in Thailand) starred in the bone breaking martial film "Ong Bak" becoming an international sensation. Drawing comparisons to many legendary martial artists such as Donnie Yen, Jet Li, and most evidently Jackie Chan. Unlike those he was compared to Tony Jaa success didn't lead him in the right direction. Every new film Tony Jaa starred in he failed to recapture the quality of "Ong Bak". His films gradually kept getting worse and dull with the occasional out of place goofy moment (in "Ong Bak 3" Tony Jaa magically gains the power to reverse time). Now with a resume of mostly forgettable films Jaa only guarantee for success is to turn his only original film into a franchise. Copy and pasting have never been so wrong before in a sequel serving as a "Best of Moments" from Jaa previous films.

The Protector 2 sees Kham's pet elephant has being abducted (again) and he must fight anyone in his way to find him (again). Usually it would take longer for a film plot to not give a damn about the story, but the premise spoils that since it's the same exact premise from its predecessor. Although unlike its predecessor where there was some essence of story if sloppy had a complete narrative. Not here as quickly as Kham elephant is kidnapped it goes in a hurry to get to the action. Attempting to justify having even less plot this time it throws politics between two warring countries in the beginning of the film which has little relevance in the plot. Around reaching the twenty minute mark you'll have to endure one giant set piece that last around twelve minutes. This single action scene has Kham fighting motorcycles hooligans on top of a roof and eventually getting chased across the city surviving one over the top scenario after another. If it sounds like I'm skipping on plot details it's because there is barely any sufficient material for a story. It's basically a series of excuses for action scenes even if the context is not strong enough to support it. As for characters they remain the same not evolving in any noticeable way. There's no story to be found here. Just nonstop action in the worst way possible.

Plot has never been a strong point in most of Tony Jaa films (or Thailand action films in general) and the action fares no better either. The main problem being dodgy CG and green screen that stick out. Doggy effects lessen the impact of fight scenes that would have been cooler to seen done in a practical manner. What could have been a highlight seeing Tony Jaa fight in a burning building ends looking like unfinished test footage for a video game. Fight choreography is so so. None of the fight scenes contain a sense of brutality. As oppose to the original where Tony Jaa impressively performed a four minute fight scene in one take in this film there's no effort to out do that accomplishment. All the fights scenes require the actors to jump around their location like rabbits. Often times resembling a cartoon (there's a fight scene in a subway in which Jaa's opponent gets the power to conduct electricity after dipping his shoes in water).

Tony Jaa performance is so so. Not really having to rely much on his acting chops he serves his main purpose of doing stunts and fighting. While it is unnecessary to see him perform a stunt in first person view Jaa certainly knows how to stage a stunt. As for his fighting it remains simple though he moves quickly as always has showcasing impressive physical abilities. JeeJa Yanin suffers the same fate as Jaa. Although Yanin has proven she can act her role here only requires her to fight, fight, shout, and fight. Actually she spends most of the film getting beaten up by baddies until the finale. Petchtai Wongkamlao (who seriously has appeared in most of Jaa films) serves the same purpose in comedy relief. Once again due to the nature of the script Wongkamlao doesn't get many moments to do comedy, but at least he has plenty of dramatic scenes which are wasted too. Marrese Crump only job is to look mad and fight not requiring to do much. RZA on the other hand attempts to act though he never sells a single line. He never gets into his character nor is the allusion of him being an actor disappears.

The Protector 2 provides more of the same thin plot rushing to get to its many overabundant action scenes. Unlike the original it doesn't contain anything as memorable leaving you with an action film if seen even with no brain cells is difficult to enjoy the absurdity that occurs. Tony Jaa is a talented man who knows how to fight and no doubt his fans will continue to see him regardless what the quality of the film is. However, Tony Jaa should be taking more risk and attempting something new because if not he'll end up in the same place as Steven Seagal who to this day uses his same old tired formula.

Koroshiya 1 (Ichi the Killer)
½

Ichi the Killer is a live adaptation of the seinen manga (a subset of manga that is generally targeted at a 15-24 year old male audience) which I haven't read. This film (like the cannibal genre) came to my attention through extensive reading on controversial films. Capturing my attention for being known to be heavily edited in several countries because of its depiction of violence. The controversy warrant towards "Ichi the Killer" is debatable given the whole film is comically over the top, but is an interesting odd film even if it is a mess.

Ichi the Killer is about sadomasochistic yakuza enforcer Kakihara searching for his missing boss when he comes across Ichi, a repressed and psychotic killer who may be able to inflict levels of pain that Kakihara has only dreamed of. The general idea plot is easy to track, but the pieces in between are told awkwardly. Pacing is not this film best friend simultaneously providing long scenes that move the plot and poorly establishes a large cast of characters and their background. While the main character of Kakihara and Ichi have a bizarrely interesting personality secondary characters leave plenty to be desire when the only two interesting character aren't on screen. With the exception of one secondary characters bridging the plot most of them present something and then disappear leaving viewer interpretation to fill the blank. Given the nature of the film to be comical the acts of the yakuza and the anti-hero might not end up being a laughing matter to some. Instead of playing things for laugh in self awareness it play things over the top. One of those of moments being the anti-hero killing a rapist, leading to a misunderstanding in which he tells the woman he just saved to beat her up instead of her husband, and ending in a bloody result. Dark comedy is tricky to pull off and in this there are situations in which a dark moment can easily be mistaken for crucial drama. Where it suffers most is the climax which overstays its welcome. While narratively interesting it's not strong enough to support itself making the final stretch of the film hard to sit through. Here's a story whose tone, humor, and commentary no less provide a series of good and bad feelings that makes the journey interesting to see unfold.

Takashi Miike direction is comparable to Oliver Stone's "Natural Born Killers". The beginning of "Ichi the Killer" employs a lot of extended cinematographic techniques in rapid succession ala Oliver Stone--different film speeds, stocks, tinting and processing methods, and so on. While these are interesting, Miike forgets about them quickly as he works his way into the story. They pop up occasionally later in the film, as do a couple shots in the vein of Dario Argento, such as a tracking shot through someone's ear. Both also aimed to view violence in a sophisticated way; however, whereas "Natural Born Killers" intentions were clear in its discussion of glamorize and commercialism of violence "Ichi the Killer" is the confused little brother unsure on how make his statement. Miike establishes scenes with stoic emotions. For example, in the beginning of the film Ichi sees a woman getting rape and does nothing about it. Similar scenes are done throughout the film that demand the viewer to input their interpretation of the scene. Interpretations and reaction will differ, but the substance to work on by itself is not evident. Asking the audience to fill in too much giving the film an artificial feel to it. Not everything feels like it belongs for every gory scene there will an out of nowhere comedy that challenges what the last scene was attempting to do. Style and narrative is cohesive, but not so much the director intention. Grabbing you when it attempts to say something, but gives up half way through on saying anything at all. Making the film aim inconsistent in whether or not its wants a position in its own purpose.

Tadanobu Asano is brilliant as Kakihara. His performance is charismatic and terrifying, he does a great job of making the role his own. Nao Omori plays Ichi perfectly. Tormented, childish, and merciless all in one scene is a sight to watch. Balancing comedy and drama transitioning smoothly in between tone despite the script failing to do the same. Alien Sun is is good in the way she speaks more than one language in an almost random fashion adding further mystery to this film. Shinya Tsukamoto is also very good as Jijii. His character is unravelled throughout the film and Tsukamoto is very convincing in his portrayal of what turns out to be a very complex character. Gore hounds will be impressed with the practical effects with the gore. There's a scene early in the film in which Kakihara cuts off his tongue in one shot and another scene when a criminal is hanging on fish hooks while being tortured. Sadly most of the gore appears spontaneously exiting the film quickly, though when there is gore it never fails to deliver a memorable moment.

Ichi the Killer is bizarre, interesting, contains spontaneous gore, and a mess of a film that's hard to look away from. There's so many things wrong about enjoying a dark comedy in which people's death are played for laughs in a stoic direction. Yet there's hardly many films like it taking an wholly unique to its material that makes it standout. One thing is for certain while the director emotions aren't clear yours will be on a film that's rarely like many other.

Ninja: Shadow of a Tear

Two years ago I saw the original film simply titled "Ninja" (2009) which had solid action scenes for a low budget film, but that's where the compliments end. Nearly any film with the titled "Ninja" is guaranteed to be awful. Either being ninjas are difficult to modernized or most of the ninja titled films tend to go in a downward spiral in their writing. "Ninja: Shadow of A Tear" is one of the better ninja movies while its simple plot won't amaze a good pacing prevents the action from becoming tiresome and a better direction elevates the production sides.

Ninja: Shadow of A Tear tells a basic story about Ninjitsu master Casey out for revenge when his pregnant wife is murdered. As action movies goes it's as straightforward as it could be. Wasting little time on character development, building up the villain (an evil drug lord no less), or challenging the character's morals. All of which is done in a hasty matter to advance the familiar plot threads if spend too much time on would have lead to boredom. Benefiting it's clear rehashing of plot points is good pacing. Being simple enough to follow spacing the action enough for it not to become tiresome. Allowing enough room to setup the many action scenes it has in a somewhat justifiable manner the serves the plot some purpose. In terms of characters it's filled with stock characters from the lone wolf hero, Indian accent taxi driver, the former rival, and the classical last minute villain switcheroo. The same rule also applies to the scenarios the hero is put in. You'll know the hero will fight behind a bar, get tortured, escape from a prison, go looking for hidden military base in a forest, eventually kill drug lord soldiers, and the rest action genre veteran or not can predict what'll happen next. Resembling a setup more fitting for a video game the plot won't stick to mind in any form, but if it does anything correctly aside from pacing is working towards the production team strength.

Scott Adkins as an actor has little range, but thanks to the script he's mostly required to be angry, focused, and leave his martial art do the talking. Adkins just like in the previous film is a solid fighter who knows how to perform a good fight. He's agile that his fight scenes are fast performing elaborate moves that shows his skills even while wearing a Ninja suit. This being a Adkins film vehicle he's merely here to show off his fighting abilities. The cast are adequate to not ruin the film. Being aware of what roles they're playing the cast do what is required in them. Director Isaac Florentine knows how to frame an action scene and puts a bigger budget to better use. Unlike it's predecessor this sequel has night scenes that actually look like they take place at night. Also a plus is the non use of shaking cam during action scenes. Everything on the production side is as solid as it could be delivery the goods in satisfying results. Much like the story nothing will inherently stand out, but the commitment from the production team to strive for better is clear.

Ninja: Shadow of A Tear is an enjoyable brainless action film and not as bad as it could have been for a film that went straight to DVD. The plot is typical and simple, but is a complemented by good pacing, solid action scenes on a low budget, and solid production values. For a film with "Ninja" in the title they're certainly worst out there, but few ninja films are as watchable even with your brain turned off.

La casa sperduta nel parco (House on the Edge of the Park)

Ruggero Deodato name will forever live in infamy in the horror genre. Stirring outrage and countless debates with his most influential film "Cannibal Holocaust". Challenging audiences stomachs on it contents becoming a film where someone else thoughts on the film won't tell you if you'll like it or not. "House on the Edge of the Park" comes across as the polar opposite being insultingly boring with a twist ending that attempts to justify the lack of characters, nonexistent narrative pretext or context, and nothing validating it should even exist.

House on the Edge of the Park is about two lowlife punks inviting themselves to a party holding everybody there hostage. Beginning the first two minute of the film with a rape scene is manipulative. For starter the film tells us nothing about the rapist, nothing about his victim, nor even establishes our location in the story. Since we know nothing about the rapist we immediately must hate him because the first thing we see him do in the film is rape an innocent woman. This opening is cheap solely created to make this character despicable. The rest of the film is constructed in similar fashion. Characters are introduced with an intent to be innocent, to be unlikable, and downright questionable. It's plot is so thin I'm having a hard time thinking of an object thinner than the plot to compare it too. Characters do not receive basic development, only have one characteristic, and a singular purpose in the story. We don't receive a single character instead we get artificial beings more intent to fulfill a mundane function. Carrying over with tropes from the horror genre there dumb character choices, opportunity to escape that aren't taken, villains despite causing a ruckus does not cause any suspicion to neighbors, and the final nail a twist that downgrades already bad material. All the while nothing in the plot is ever elevated. Becoming even more underwhelming with each passing minute.

The clear intention of the film is to disturb the viewers, but with abysmal writing that intention is never realized. With nothing to latch on to the actors don't earn any sort of sympathy or hatred. How could David Hess come off as menacing when being force to utter dated phrases like a "It's too late to boogie" is the we most ever learn about him. Also working against him is the fact the film tells very little and what it does tell us is made up on the spot. Leading to David Hess to awkwardly transition from playing a creepy nice guy too clumsily impersonating what acting is. Having nothing work with regardless what the actors do nothing is convey across aside from pure boredom. Music is used to play a theme what the rapist that what he's doing is seen as innocent in his eyes. In a much better movie this is would come across as a disturbing insight, but here it feel tacked on even though it clearly not.

House on the Edge of the Park is more thinly plotted than air itself, contains horrendous acting, and a sense of astonishing loathe from gaining nothing from it. It's neither thought provoking, disturbing, competently made, but it is a piece of filmmaking that's easy to avoid.

SPOILER: The Film's Twist

After enduring around an hour and twenty minute of thin plotting the film finally reveals the twist. Apparently one of the party member made the party as a setup in order to kill his sister rapist to pass it off to the police as self defense. This brings to mind several questions that are never answered. Like if the mastermind knows the identity of his sister rapist how come the rapist doesn't face any sort of consequence? Did the mastermind sister not tell the police she was raped? If so, why not? How in the world did the mastermind discover his sister rapist location? In what way did the mastermind convince his friends to go along with his plan? All of these questions and more are to be left a mystery.

Sunday School Musical

Sunday School Musical is about a soulful African American singer-dancer who brings life to straightlaced, slightly off-key white choir. Containing an abundant amount of cliches you'll know everything that will happen without devoting all your attention to it. Something the film does poorly is understanding the idea of conflict. Every conflict introduced is dealt nonchalantly fixed easily within minutes or within the same scene. Even the major conflict of Zach (the film's protagonist) not being able to sing at his Church is unintentionally resolved eliminating the film reason to have a plot. At the start of the film we learn that Zach's mother lost her job and the entire family has to move with their aunt on the other side of town. Now according to dialogue within the same scene that would be forty five minutes away. Forty five minutes that Zach would spent to get back to the same side of town just to pout on a roof and makes frequent return to this one roof where apparently all the hip Church choir singers go to hang out. Creating a film that has nothing going for it. All that's left is a serie of tire cliches (two opposing team working together in the finals, shoehorned in testaments, and the results of who wins). With no real conflict the characters have nothing to learn from, nothing to conquer, and nothing that to make them rounded characters. Blinded by constructing a series of bad narrative choices the film's has an unintended undertone message that the blacker you are the better you are at singing. It comes across that way as in the beginning of the film a white choir doesn't improve until Zach joins the team making them better and the reigning champions is an all black choir. Intentional or not the film seems to be unable to do anything correctly even doing the most basic of story elements correctly is too difficult for it.

Now like all musicals the songs themselves are just as important as how they are incorporated into the film. Music is prominent in the beginning of the film only to mess up its own pacing going long duration without a musical number. Songs in "Sunday School Musical" have less depth than the most generic pop songs. Lazily written the songs meaning are easy to grasps, but never come across with the intended purpose. One song titled "You're Not the Boss" is literally about two characters singing about who's more annoying. Singing the following hurtful insults "If I play the piano louder than they'll never hear a thing.", "You're the not boss. A high school superstar.", "We need more talent if want to compete", and my favorite one "Zach can crack a egg and make swell pie.". These lyrics alone out of context are goofy, but together in a single song it becomes painful to listen. All the songs in the film suffer from the same rhythms of problems. The lyricist of these songs I'm convinced and you will too after listening to a single track know nothing about music. Easily the worst song titled "In My Shoes" best embodies everything that is musically wrong about the musical aspect. Being a self proclaim "Maniac" I was crazy enough to listen to it multiple times to include a partial outline of the song in my review. So after Zach explains to his friend Savannah situation that led him to moving to the other side of town the followings lines of text are sang. Now tell me if these sound like good people.

Zach: ♫Hold up one minute! Do you think I want it this way? Gotta leave my friends. Dis my plan. Pack and move away. I thought that you would hold me down. I see now it's all about you. OHOHOHO!♫

Savannah: ♫Wait, wait, wait a second boy. You're not going to turn this around on me. When you're the one skipping town. Right before we finally get the chance to go to state. Guess that ain't important to you? Oh boy.♫

Zach: ♫If you really cared than you wouldn't talk that way.♫


Savannah: ♫And if you didn't want to leave than you would to stay.♫

Unable to overcome its low budget restraints everything ends up looking cheap. The school Zach attends are empty that one could have easily mistaken the film to have taken place post apocalypse. Choreography is limited to the location as actors will mostly move around in circles in the same location. Performing dance moves that have been done a million times. Acting leaves plenty to be desire since the actors have no personality they come across as unlikable. Delivery every lines in monotone voice. The line delivery in this film is more lifeless than a cemetery. As for the Christian elements of the film they are all shoehorned in. Christianity is hardly discuss in the film nor are its belief ever touch upon. As an audience we never understand the reason for behind the characters choosing this religion. The most Christian this film gets is with the forced Bible quotes.

Sunday School Musical has nothing for the audience its trying to appeal for. The songs are lazily written quickly forgotten from your thoughts once they end, the actors lack personality with mediocre performances, and there's hardly any kind of Christian content in the film. It's a cheap cash grab that while laughably bad at times only encourages viewer to stop watching. Ending up bad song that loops for ninety mintues.

Osombie
Osombie (2012)

Action movies overuse terrorists and horror movies overuse zombies for various of reasons. Both archetype can not guarantee whether or not the quality of a story will be good, but gives a good indication of what to expect when they come into play. The violent nature, the scale of danger, and the heroes developing methods to defeat their foes. It's high body count of victim also equals the numbers of flaws and yawns the audience might give to the film.

Osombie is about NATO special forces on a secret assignment to...find the plot. Within the first twelve minutes the plot already puts off some immediate red flags. Starting off with the assassination of Osama Bin Laden is acceptable, but the film depiction is historically inaccurate. According to the film apparently Navy Seals are experts on zombie killing, Osama Bin Laden kept pet zombies to kill intruders, and created a serum that would resurrect him back into zombie form. Though the film is fictional the liberty taken with Osama Bin Laden assassination don't amount to much instead of infecting the US Osama Bin Zombie somehow swims back to Pakistan after killing a couple on a beach. That is later followed up with the introduction of our NATO special forces. At first glance the group has personality making the most killing Pakistani zombies only to go downhill quickly. Immediately after being introduce to the NATO special forces the film plays up a character death with overly heavy dramatic music. Unlike the characters, as a viewer this scene should have been saved in the second act to come across more strongly instead of a throwaway plot device. Within these twelve minutes the film has a rocky start only to reach the destination in worse condition than it began.

Each character personality is copy and pasted among the NATO special forces. All are a little comedic, all spout out expositions, all have weak characterization, and everyone of them is idiotic. Forget about serving the country what these NATO special forces needed was better training. It's hilarious that a character who's an ordinary man (whose perk allows him to be explosion resistant) thanks Call of Duty for his proficiency in armed combat has better aiming than the NATO special forces. From combat maneuvers the NATO operatives are unaware of their surrounding that every other battle scenario results in a death no longer shocking them. More questionable is not carrying a melee weapon of any sort. The only woman on the NATO special forces has the right idea bringing a sword to not only carry out quiet kills, but also a back up when ammo run up dry. This decision is made more questionable when the NATO special forces clearly know of the zombies existence (yes the 9/11 attack and government is needlessly involved in this too). Even falling into the zombie plot device trap of splitting up into groups. Leaving you speechless that a character who fight zombies with his shirt off survives longer than someone with proper equipment. I feel sorry for this fictional America in "Osombie". I would never trust these clowns with my own life yet if these clowns are the best we have serving than America is doomed.

Director John Lyde works on a low budget and does impress in some areas. His shot position was that of an expert able make little appear as grander than it actually is. Zombies carnage is in huge supplies as well as some decent practical gore effects. These effects could be taken for granted whenever blood spurts out from a gunshot it's in CG and the shoddy CG is made more evident when in the last minutes with plastic looking air vehicles. Acting leaves plenty to be desired, though that's mostly from a poor script. Most of the performances are monotone and much like the characters personality the performances are copy and pasted. Paul D. Hunt being the exception with his charismatic persona on the stale material. Giving a scene a comedic value even if it's unintentional (one of his jokes is so bad it made zombies appear). Now the biggest strike against film is the editing by Airk Thaughbaer and Kurt Hale. There's several occasion when a gunshot or sword slashing off screen would drown out conversations making it difficult to listen to even the most basic of conversations. Another issue with the editing is the usage of music being bombastic. Some scenes would have left a bigger impression without hard rock music playing. Taking the fun of seeing zombies murder is also by the power of terrible, terrible editing.

Osombie provides a huge body count at the cost of competent editing making a bad movie harder to watch. Like the zombie terrorist themselves whatever life the script could have taken is beaten to the floor with poor characterization, editing that drown out what the actors are saying, and the utter lifeless essence of providing anything resembling joy. Infuriating the viewer instead of providing some dumb fun escapism.

Celluloid
Celluloid (2013)

History and time are bound to lose or completely forget important pieces and people that had a hand in a major contribution. That sad truth being also applies to films; for every classic film enthusiast know about there is bound to dozens of hidden gems just as good or even superior that don't share the same spotlight. In the case of "Celluloid" it's a person by the name of J.C. Daniels who name was almost to history. J.C. Daniel life story is not a story that will fascinate film enthusiasts, but one that shares the passion for films as much the audience does.

Celluloid tells the story of J C Daniel, who made the first ever Malayalam film 'Vigathakumaran' in 1928, resulting in his exile and eventual downfall. Its linear narrative structure spends the first half chronicling the production of "Vigathakumaran" while the second half chronicles the aftermath of the film's production. Tonally the two halves could have created an uneven shift, but is well handled that the tonal shift is not jarring. Its usage of humor in the first half is subtle always being the background while the true heart of the crew behind the film is on the forefront. You'll get a detailed depiction of the film's production and its aftermath alongside knowing the people who made it and their struggles during production. It's as much a film about the making of "Vigathakumaran" as much as it is about life itself. Themes such as chasing difficult dreams, facing class discrimination, losing yourself in your art, your passion destroying you, and many relatable themes that are easy to connect with. The film never paints the film crew as ever being significant themselves, but seen as average people like the common film lover. Liking them for their passion and good spirit. As a standalone film it could be seen as a film about chasing dreams and as a biopic teaches the uninitiated about the "Father of Malayalam Cinema". J.C. Daniel story is one film lovers will easily get behind. You have an youngster burning passion for the art of filmmaking wanting to make a film. His journey is fun, inspiring, and tragic. Much like a great film J.C. Daniel story becomes more than a film to watch and more of a reflection one's similar passion towards their dreams filled with well developed characters and story that's easy to identify with resonating to film lovers on a personal level.

Prithviraj Sukumaran comes up with a stupendous performance as the young and ambitious Daniel as well as the old, ailing and resigned version in later years. Looking and behaving like the actual J.C. Daniel capturing the psychological turmoil that Daniel goes through in the later years of his life with great competence. Mamta Mohandas, who essays the role of Daniel's wife, gives a fine performance as the supportive and later suffering better-half. The innocence that spurts out of the corner of her lips as they stretch into a hesitant smile defines the person that Rosie must have been; unimaginably daring and yet immensely terrified. Sreejith Ravi and Century Jayaraj give commendable support as Daniel's friends who aid him in making his dream come true. Chandni gives a stunning performance filled with naiveté, excitement, anxiety and genuine curiosity for this never-before-seen phenomenon called Cinema. Her innocence and wonder at her new surroundings practically leaps off the screen. Venu's cinematography and art-direction by Suresh Kollam contribute a lot towards recreating the past in the best of manners. Editing by Rajagopal is also good. Anyhow, it's the cinematography and the art-work that require special mention taking back into the audience back to Travancore of the late 1920s and late 1960s, thanks to the able support rendered by all technicians involved. M Jayachandran has come out with music that gives us an old-time feel. There may be some who'd vouch against songs in a bio-pic like this; but there is no point denying the fact that the songs do add to the appeal of the film as a popular and commercial venture that don't hamper the flow in any way.

Celluloid is a passionate film about the art of filmmaking and a reminder how it could be a lost treasure. Touching upon the importance of preserving a film no matter if the majority hate it and giving respect to those who deserve it. It's a film that will make you laugh, that will inspired, make you sad, and give a sense of accomplishment that an important figure wasn't a mere footnote in history. No matter how insignificant his impact is known to the world the same could be apply us. However small our influence is those inspired by us will leave a big impact to strive for better things.

Fruitvale Station

"Based on a true story" is not a reliable label for film in authenticity when it comes to the facts of any true story. Either over dramatizing or fictionalizing events in order to fit the framework of a film and get across whatever goal is set out for it. With this film essentially get what you get. A simple story that doesn't delve too much in the person of interest life for dramatic purposes instead getting to know the person as a common everyday individual. Sure that doesn't sound like allot to care for, but in reality sometimes you don't need allot to go on for a true story to leave an impact.

Fruitvale Station tells the purportedly true story of Oscar Grant III, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident, who crosses paths with friends, enemies, family, and strangers on the last day of 2008. Characterization in any film is essential none more so than in biopics with a heavy empathizes of getting to know the person we're following. Going against the norm of developing protagonist Oscar Grant III beyond what we're given. It spends little time exploring his past focusing on what Grant was like on a daily basis. Traditionally a lack of character development would be a narrative drawback especially from someone who dissects the plot of every film he views, yet here it's not a drawback. The film remembers Oscar Grant III was an actual person receiving most of his development through his action on his final day. His daily routine, his conversations, his life style, are all things shown as small moments in the film with no hint of any of it being a plot point. Because of how the film open we know where the story is headed thus making these moments powerful we know the outcome to Oscar life story. Becoming a tragedy that he'll never be able to experience his routine like the ones we have of our own. Taking culture out of the picture and what you're left with is a common individual. Not more so evident to remove itself from the common train of thought than once again through Oscar action. On the outside a Hollywood film would have immediately made Oscar Grant a hoodlum by way he dressed instead of his personality. By doing so the story aims out to defeat not just a label put on Oscar, but also remove idea that Oscar was extraordinary in any way. What comes across is nothing extraordinary, nothing dramatically heavy, nor even a traditional film narrative in that sense, but a day in the life of a regular person who like of all us can lose it at any time and the tragedy behind that.

Michael B. Jordan plays Oscar Grant III with the true humanity and power necessary to make a character like this work. Jordan switch from sensitive father to hardened thug seamlessly. He is a layered soul in this film, on one hand a convict and a known offender, but on the other, a true human spirit, sometimes immature, sometimes contradictory, but invaluably loving and compassionate to his friends and family. Director Ryan Coogler makes Fruitvale Station more than a film or a basic dramatization, but an event in itself. He doesn't sensationalize any particular aspect. Coogler's maturity accentuates as he doesn't make the accusation that Grant's death was racial in any way. He leaves that up to us to decide. Yes, Oscar and his friends are black, and racial profiling certainly may have played a part in what happened. But the movie doesn't exploit America's racial tension. There are characters that deal drugs, but they aren't depicted as violent, greedy thugs. Some are characters that are single mothers, but they aren't bitter welfare queens whose lives are crumbling around them. Most of the scenes are captured as if the viewer is a voyeur, or a fly-on-the-wall, the scenes at the train station take on a special kind of observant focus. We are almost a passenger on this train, in an unblinking, but often foggy and unfocused view of a situation that gets out of hand and ends with a senseless death of an innocent man.

Fruitvale Station is a masterfully crafted biopic that while not as in depth as some might hope it to be gets across the person of interest as a common person and removing the culture from the equation. It's a film that shows the true essence of enjoying the routine that is our life. In any tragedy sometimes all we get to know about a person is through a couple of sentences sending across a series of emotions. As simple as it might be its understanding on people transcends beyond its small scope.

I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle

Looking through my countless review drafts I notice I've seen too many good movies recently (mostly ones I would award 100% to). In hindsight that doesn't like a problem of any sort, except for as much as I love to write about good movies there's only so many praises I could give out before repeating myself like a heavily cliche film. Thus with a title like "I Bought A Vampire Motorcycle" do you really need any other reason to see it? No and sadly it's goofy nature is what ends up killing itself in the end.

I Bought A Vampire Motorcycle loose narrative is about an evil spirit inhabiting a motorcycle for vengeance on the bikers that killed his fellow vampires. First and foremost the opening of the film gives no context for the bikers murdering vampires. Much like the writers of the script things just happened in the film just because they can. Protagonist dreams about getting killed by his own talking feces is one notable example. Nothing about the narrative feels connected as comedy overtakes the horror elements that the film was so eager to mix together. Emphasis on comedy is done poorly as the script demands you give up three things; 1.) continuity in plot , 2.) your brain to oversee it flaws, and 3.) interesting characters. Shutting off your brain is easy, but difficult while viewing the film. Plot points created on the spot contradict earlier scenes logic (like never explaining if a vampire motorcycle runs on blood, oil, or both). Characters are nothing more than archetypes not committing an single word for a variation on the archetype. An annoying girlfriend who does little in the story, a priest who performs an exorcism on a possessed motorcycle and gets crucified (no doubt a secret metaphor that represent the writers desire to be forgiven for their sins for creating such as travesty), the best friend that's murder (don't worry, his best friend doesn't care either), the incompetent cop, and vampires weaknesses. These are some of the elements that are chosen only for the approach to be straightforward comedy. Problem being that a comedic situation is given a horror treatment. Since the characters goofy nature imbalances the horror tone and without a care for death there's no fun when a killer motorcycles goes on screen. Treating it nothing more than a everyday occurrence.

As for the true horror side of the film it's uninspired. Creativity is lacking for a film titled "I Bought A Vampire Motorcycle" when it comes to its kills. Severely decapitating most of his victims heads is tiresome, although the gore effect are adequate in small numbers. Adding to the tedium are when its victims are given large windows of time to avoid death. Not only are most of the death easily avoidable, but most of his victims aren't important to the plot. One of the best aspect about horror is fearing which character might die. Here it's made abundantly clear which main characters live. Painfully moving at a high velocity for of four miles per hour is a lack of speed. Everything in the film is slow from actors performing physical movements even spoken dialogue is done slowly (especially in delivering its punchline). Don't worry about the bad dialogue as the sound editing is even worse. Music tracks play on way to long, vehicles sound are compress or at times sound like a train, and whenever an actor is talking background noise can drown them out. Everything from the look, the editing, the acting, and the poor writing are scream cheap. Unlike some films were a cheap look can add to the appeal in this case it serves only to further to highlight everything wrong with it. Deciding to do nothing with its premise including having fun with its goofy concept.

I Bought A Vampire Motorcycle bad comedy overshadows uninspired horror elements. Mixing both of the horror genres negative aspects (logic gap, continuity, desire for heroes deaths) and bad comedy (nothing ever becomes of anything, no characters cares anything, a single trait reused as jokes) that you'll be left without a laugh or scare.

How I Live Now

How I Live Now follows an American girl, sent to the English countryside to stay with relatives, finding love and purpose while fighting for her survival as war envelops the world around her. On paper the ideas it presents on love and depiction of war probably sounded a lot better on the book pages than they do on screen. It's clear from the getgo that this film will attempt expand on its premise as our protagonist is a rebellious teen who hasn't grown up despite the war torn world around her. The concept is fine in an arc that makes our protagonist transformation and growth dynamic while showing her live life with that transformation. Beginning with a poor introduction that immediately makes our protagonist hateful, a series of conversations that makes her come to term on the acceptance of her new define home, interaction with an undefine human character helping her find new meaning in life, and becoming that new person as the world around her goes in ruins. What doesn't work is everything else in the middle from hammy to cheesy dialogue, sappy romantic elements, and underdeveloped characters. Everything is emotionally detached in a story that wasn't demanding detachment. Despite learning plenty about the characters we follow there's no level of anxiety for their survival nor a care for an apocalypse that could occur in the real world. Missing is a sense of the world itself giving us too little to go on for what is meant to be its driving metaphor. Other elements like our protagonists thoughts, romance with her cousin, being in charge of a life, or even how little human nature changes go nowhere and become are seen as plot devices instead of an important piece of characterization. For a story that has good ideas and avoiding the formula of both romance and apocalyptic films nothing comes across as it should. Instead of sharing a journey that emotionally breaks our protagonist viewers might instead become detach from everything that occurs and even bored in a film that shows a child getting shot.

Directed by Kevin McDonald the film looks great and has a nice sense of pastoral elegance about it, with the beautiful British countryside being the backdrop to both love and death, joy and pain, beauty and horror. However McDonald is unable to shift tone elegantly as he's able to capture the beauty of the countryside. Becoming a prominent issue when tones jarringly shift from being sad and broody quickly turning into cheesy and dull without without warning. The cast are all good, especially the star of the show Saoirse Ronan, who has been carving a niche for herself as special but tormented teens yearning to reach out and find a common humanity. She charts the inevitable growth of her character well, but alas is poorly served by the script, which requires so little of her given the circumstances. A lot is implied through the photography, imagery, music and strange visions that Ronan herself is required to do little actual "acting" herself. Same goes for the talented George Mackay, who is meant to embody an ideal of love and masculinity but is not asked to do much to prove it apart from bring out the nice side of his own cousin. The younger kids Holland and Bird are also very likable without being annoying, a tough act especially for Bird who is meant to be a typically chirpy happy seven year old in war torn times, but naturally unaware of any of it.

How I Live Now comes across as an adaptation of a book that didn't translate as great as it should have on film. While it certainly avoids formula for a fresh mixture of genres what it fails to do is elevate them beyond mere ideas. The technical sides while faring better is unable to overcome a sloppy direction that makes the film faults more evident. As it stand it's a solid picture slightly overcoming its issues thanks to its strong cast, interesting ideas, and great cinematography that make it worth a one time viewing, though certainly nothing that will leave a big impression for how it does things.

The Iron Giant

Animation filmmaking is one area I don't touch on frequently. The genre does interest me, but very rarely do I personally feel that its even taken advantage to its full potential. What's often categorize as a family friendly genre can visualize a greater connection to reality that wouldn't be captured the same way in a live action film. "The Iron Giant" is one of those films that in live action form special effects regardless of quality would have distracted from the true heart and power within its story and characters.

The Iron Giant is about a boy befriending an innocent giant robot that a paranoid government agent wants to destroy. Structurally "The Iron Giant" plays out similar to another classic "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial"; in both a kid encounters a begin from space, befriends the space begin who is stranded on earth, takes it home and hides it from his mother (yet oddly in both film there's no father present), and the paranoid government come into play. While both films share similar plot threads and aside from sharing the same quality that's where the comparison between these two films end. Characters are sophisticated and their interactions with one another feels natural. Conversations never allude to anything specifically plot related every moment of humor and drama is a genuine occurrence in these characters everyday life. Both the human characters and our giant robot are treated as equal. Instead of seeing the iron giant as a piece of machinery we see the iron giant as a living being. Identifying with the iron giant as much as we do with the human characters. Giving events a greater sense of emotion, a greater sense of importance, and more involving seeing every outcome.

Political commentary is risking especially in this film when the setting is just days after the Russians launched the Sputnik satellite. The atmosphere is tense and paranoid in this time setting. What the iron giant metaphors is easy to grasp with scenes hinting perhaps this other worldly creation has a different function. Later on sending a message about being a weapon through key development scenes. Unlike the humans we never learn about the iron giant past or purpose. Like a weapon we presume the intention is a path of destruction. If the iron giant was never given any human traits this would have been a cautionary tale about humans thrive for creating weapons eventually killing them. In this film we have a giant robot who is programmed to do a specific function. However, his interactions define his decision and questions what he was program to do. It's as much the iron giant story to not follow a set path programmed for him as much as it is a our human character story on the escalation of fearing the unknown.

Animation mixes hand-drawn imagery coupled with a computer-generated iron giant. The title character is a 3D composition done digitally, mixed with the 2D action surrounding him. There are some highly imaginative shots of the robot mixing in with the film's environment with aura of an classic sci-fi feel surrounding him and his design. Detail is evident in the whole: the season subtly changes from fall to winter; the characters are always doing something, even if they aren't directly in focus; in some parts of the movie the little details actually become crucial to the movie's strength and validity. Character designs and voice actors who made them come to life verbally were perfect. Eli Marienthal fitted very well with the animated design of the character. Harry Connick Jr. was just as good at being humorous. Kent Mansley, our main antagonist, was very well designed and acted. Christopher McDonald relatively calm voice made the villain memorable. The Iron Giant himself is voiced by Vin Diesel. While Diesel says very little he sounds exactly like a robot, but hints slightly of perhaps adopting a speaking pattern to that of a human.

The Iron Giant is a masterpiece. Transcending beyond an hand drawn two dimensional plain to provide three dimensional characters whose interaction are so natural you don't feel like you're watching a piece of vividly drawn fiction.

Monsters University
½

Prequels regardless of what series they belong to always run the risk messing up a franchise timeline, creating plot holes, and possibly lessening the film that came before it. In the case of Monster University it wants to fill a gap that wasn't weak in its predecessor. It could have taken the route set out for it to be an easy cash grabbed, but instead rejects that label aiming high as its predecessor creating a world filled with lovable characters.

Monster University is about the relationship between Mike and Sulley during their days at Monsters University. Narratively predictable not because the outcome is already set in stone, but because a story like this has already been told plenty of times. Carrying over a speculatively evil headmaster, oddball underdog heroes going up against the college champions in a competition, flunking classes, threat of expulsions, fitting into the crowd, and several overused situational jokes. At it worst you will know where the story is heading with bad jokes thrown in, however overcoming those issues is strong writing. Both Mike and Sulley arcs have a familiar starting point that stronger resonate the more it develops moving forward. Its success lies in the duo relationship bringing to challenge the same struggles and differential life philosophy they came to challenge. Going left field with its cliches with truthful messages; one of them being failing to reach your dreams and how that's not necessarily a bad thing. A philosophy often ignored in a genre where success is always guaranteed for being positive. Making these messages effective are it cast of characters. Vibrant as they might be each go through their own arcs becoming fleshed out as our protagonists. Wanting to spend time attaching to these characters for who they are instead of by nature. An attachment that becomes more powerful in the final act which is easily the best act of the film. Seeing our characters growth in the final act makes a great film in a strong one that's dramatically powerful. Showing the true strength of the writing and its characters friendship. Just like its characters, expectations are thrown at the plot refusing those expectations to become better than anyone expected it to be.

Animation is top notch. Sporting more than a eye pleasing color palette designs of monsters are varied. These monsters might share anatomy similar to a human offer a range of different appearances being insect like while other being straight up bizarre. Some having fur, some having scales, some not having legs, and whatever pops into the animators mind. It oozes in creativity for it universe inhabitants, though the environments are nothing spectacular. Environments don't have any new spin to them in any form going against the film theme of defeating expectations. Voice acting is all stellar with the standout being the strong chemistry between Billy Crystal and John Goodman. Delivering on the comedy, drama, and enhancing the film with their presence. Helen Mirren is strict and overpowering. Steve Buscemi has his wonderfully evil voice that's memorable even in a film that necessarily has no villains. The film score while not noteworthy does is job adequately whether it be mellow for a touching moment or upbeat for a fun sequence.

Monster University follows a straightforward route taking different directions to reach the same destination with different outcomes. Going into Monster University you know where the journey is headed and you know what the destination is, but what matter most is who you are taking it with. In this case the characters you take the journey with make every minute count.

Diana
Diana (2013)

"After an unexpected hiatus (holiday season, good friend moving to LA) it was about time I got back into writing reviews. An idea one of my friends also had as she (for some reason) checks my profile for my thoughts on films. Noticing I didn't post anything for two weeks she decided to shoot me with her ray gun, take me to her spaceship, insert a bomb into my genitals, and set a timer for three hours. Telling me the only way to survive is to watch "Diana" and write a review in my limited time. Thus I did it and barely made it out alive. However, she refused to remove the bomb!". Excerpt from the biography "Based on a true story".

Diana follows the last two years of Princess Diana life secret love affair with Pakistani heart surgeon Hasnat Khan turning a life story into a very crummy romance film. Calling this film a biopic is the equivalent of saying the film "2012" is base on a true story. Problem number one with this film making the person of interest boring. As someone who knows nothing about the Princess of Wales this film shares no insight about her nor the people around her. Its reluctant to share anything even the most basic of understanding of who Diana is a person becomes lost to its audience. Now because of the structure of the film manipulative narrative Diana comes across as a one dimensional Gollum. Now going by written dialogue in the film Diana "Gets very excited by Hospitals", "I'm a princess and I get what I want", and wonders if "Did they publish the pictures of the kids with all their arms and legs blown off". That's some awful dialogue yes, but the rest of the writing is equally appalling. Not to forget exploitative beginning the film starting on the night of her death hammering the message that there is no return.

Earlier I said this is more of a crummy romance and I stand by that. For example, the film paints Diana was so swept off her feet that she ignored her children and her work. Doing charity work for the sake of good lips service. In any other fictional film if you have bad characters, underdeveloped elements, and sloppy narrative you simply get a bad piece of fiction. Not here as even if the events in the film did happen it feels false. In a movie that has the Dwayne Johnson Quartet (sadly Dwayne Johnson is nowhere in the film) you end up quitting finding any shred of truth that the film might share. Even its main focus on the romance is terribly written. Important events are glossed over, the romance is egotistical (ones a whiner and ones comes across as too clingy), and at no point allows us to see Diana the way the filmmaker intended us to see her. There's a line in the film that goes "You don't perform the operation, the operation performs you. And when it's over, reality is a bit flat. You're very tire.". That statement holds true to the film itself. You don't experience the film, the film attempts destroy you and your perception of Diana in reality. Hoping in the end you're too tired to search for the truth and accepts the false reality the film gives you.

Naomi Watts has little material to work from, the result being overuse of only a few mannerisms and speech characteristics. She delivers some awful, awful lines with a straight face. If anything the acting is best the thing about the film. All the performances are average, but at no point do they attempt to ham it up or go over the top with their performances. As for everything else it's unnoticeable. The direction is on autopilot with no interesting shots being stuck in limbo and the film score is forgettable to the point the closing credits remind there was actually music in the film. Also, playing Beethoven 9th Symphony during heart surgery is not romantic.

Diana is a terrible romance film that I refuse to consider biopic. A biopic should tell us, show us, or give insight on the person of interest gaining some level of understanding that person in a new way something this film does not do. Instead "Diana" chooses to do the opposite capitalizing on someone death exploiting people's feeling for the sake of cash. If that wasn't the intention of the people involved in making this were it's the feeling they get across.

Steins;gate Fuka Ryoiki No Deja Vu

Going blind into a film adaptation of any series is risking. In my case going into Steins:Gate film adaptation without any exposure to the anime series, visual novels, and (to my surprise) a video game based on the series was not a good decision. Many of the film events, characters relationship, and world are build up from its many different medium that offer more time to build everything as oppose to a film which works on a specific time frame. Regardless of a lack of exposure to the series the film itself stood on its own feet. As a piece of romance, sci-fi's, drama, and time traveling philosophy that is intricate, layered as its compelling protagonists.

Steins; Gate the Movie: The Burden of Deja Vu is about Kurisu's internal conflict to save Rintarou Okabe (a time traveler who constantly saved her) is erased from existence. My synopsis of the films plot is about as simple as its ever gets. Once pass the basic first fifteen minutes the film goes heavily into memories linking different worlds with time travel thrown into the mix. At its own pace the film takes it time to explain how memories in different timelines can be retained and how using time travel to create branching path holds consequences. Admittedly half of the film dialogue is reliant on these specifics delicately balancing key focus on its main story. While a complete understanding of how everything works in Stein;Gate universe is difficult what's more accessible is the core of the story. A sci-fi love story that takes risk in its protagonist tempted to accept defeat to prevent further damaging the timelines fate has already sorted out. Internal conflicts created by the protagonist love interest challenging her philosophy whether or not his existence is important because it's right versus her true feelings. Conflict is unavoidable in our protagonist. Much like newcomers to this universe we become involved in our protagonist journey uncertain in her decisions to accept the world created for her. Its major draw and best benefactor are the characters. Filled with interesting personalities and strong interactions (with few moments of humor) can make the film's most complicated moments easy to follow. Never does the film remain simple just like its characters dilemmas creating multiple layers in what otherwise who would been a basic sci-fi love story. Just like its characters, the narrative chooses what it believes is the best possible outcome that when reaching the ending that nicely wraps its story adding more depth and significance to what unfolds on screen.

Animation style while nothing outstanding or visually impressive is all solid in design. There's no stiff animations to be found when characters move, small usage of CG is not a jarring distraction, and characters blend well with their backgrounds instead of sticking out. Sets are common everyday places like an apartment or laundromat while not exciting are detailed. The same attention given to detailing the characters is noticeable in what they wear and what they interact with. Meshing well with everything instead of overlapping. Asami Imai is the definite standout among the cast. Sure it helps that she voices the main protagonist, but at the same time exert an emotional yet restraint performance in her character. Making her difficult to read and just as captivating as the character she voices. Other voice actors Saori Goto, Kana Hanazawa, Yu Kobayashi, Mamoru Miyano, and many others receive little to medium screen time. Some won't of the voice talent won't have an expanded performance, but nonetheless are great in their roles regardless of size. Music on the other hand works is decent with only the ending credit track standing out in the film. Its sounds are ambient setting the tone serving better its narrative more than just exposition from scenes to scenes.

Stein;Gate the Movie: The Burden of Deja Vu is a difficult film to understand, but easy to get behind with strong characters and tight narrative that keeps the focus among its many layers of complex ideas. It's not a film for everyone not because of its complex nature, but depends on the viewer exposure to the source material. While some events won't connect to newcomers as it will for fans one thing it does well enough is work as a stand alone film. Containing strong characters, a deep philosophy, solid animation, and tying everything up for a animated film that narratively aims highs and reaches greatness.

Charlie: A Toy Story

Charlie: A Toy Story is about 10-year-old Caden, along with his golden retriever, Charlie, protecting his dad's toy shop and greatest invention from the bumbling town bullies. Despite the title this is not a "Toy Story" rip off by any means. It's more in the liking of "Home Alone", but even that's being too generous. Whereas "Home Alone" while juvenile was fun through and through understanding it shouldn't attempt to be anything it's not. In "Charlie: A Toy Story" that's not the case. To the film credit it contains elements that could have made a decent movie; young child protagonist dealing with parental issues, childlike dad learning to grow up with his son, neglectful bully father-son relationship, and a message on family values. All these elements in context work to an extent. Firstly you have a child like dad who always presented as the fun one while the mother is always presented as the serious one. Both parents despite lacking depth are both painted in a positive and negative way. Neither is purely good or bad, but that won't excuse how cliche their arc turn out. The married couple mostly are shown on uneven grounds, but neither ever become elaborated on. A basic idea that remains basic with a predictable outcome. While a lesson in growing up and realizing your responsibility is a good one so are showing realistic problems with realistic solution.

The second element are the bullies. Now these bullies follows all the rule of being family friendly bullies (an idiot and the leader) resorting to such horrible name calling like dog boy, moron, loser boy, and two usage of the word frickin. VAN DAMME it squeaky clean dialogue! This movie is too innocent in that department. Bullying has become more of an growing issue in recent years and the film representation is too by the numbers. Bullies in this film have lousy name calling, are incredibly inept (I know their kids, but what bully feels actual pain when getting shot with small marshmallow and confetti), and the only solution presented is too set simple traps around the small town. Sounds cool for a climax right? Well once again the film lacks inspiration in that department. Throughout the film the usage of traps have no real pay off even comedically these traps are rather pathetic. As for some backstory at least one of the bully gets somewhat justification for his action. That reason being a neglectful which the film spends far too little time on. Sure it sends the message of doing bad deeds is not the way to get a neglectful parent attention, but does not bother to show the hardship in fixing a family relationship.

The third element I left out intentionally deal with the more supernatural and hinted religious overtone. Wait....what about Charlie? Isn't he after all the main character? Nope, in the film the name Charlie belongs to a dog who plays no major part in the story. I thought the dog would have come into play as a metaphor for the child protagonist to learn about taking care of another living creature, but it's just a side kick with no significance in the story. So baring with the film the magical elements are never justified to exist. These magical elements are only here because according to this film "all you gotta do is believe". Now in the film the child like father creates the ultimate toy. It's basically a chest (called the "Wondermation") with the power to create any toy with the power of user imagination. This unexplained magical chest logistics gets a free pass from me since I have to face it how would anyone reasonably explain that working in a real world scenario. However, one thing that is not excusable are the usage of Angels. Yes, a film whose Christian undertone remain subtle comes out of left field with angels. Angles are never hinted at or even mentioned in the film. Not to forget the ending of this scene including angels tonally fits a psychological horror.

Director Gary A. Brown execution of the film is too simple. Everything from its lightning, one note visual style, and acting screams low budget limitations. There is not interesting shot as every shot is either a medium shot, medium long shot, or a close up. Occasionally cinematographer Chuck Hatcher will choose different shot sizes and his lack of effort makes for one dull looking film. Most of the dialogue is delivered awkwardly, either in a halting, tentative manner or in an over-enthusiastic rush. I blame bad direction for the uneven dialogue delivery. Rheagan Wallace for example emotes the right emotion for her one note role speeds through her line delivery. Almost of as if someone just wanted to end filming as soon as possible. The adult actors are fine in all respect. They don't add much personality to their roles, but do an adequate enough job that it doesn't feel lazy. Children actors on the other hand are bad. Not on bad direction, but simply because the child actors don't have any ideas they're filming a movie. Performance wise they look like they're having fun filming or bored not doing anything exciting. If you're the kind of person who can't stand bad child actors stay away from Raymond Ochoa in this film as his face never seems to change. Music of the film ranges okay to huh? According to the credits actor Tanner Fontana provided a song for the film. Of course I'm going to point out some bad lyrics. It goes like "It's nap time. To celebrate all the good time. I put it all on the line every day that I'm alive." I'm utterly speechless with those lyrics.

Charlie: A Toy Story has some heart, but all emotion all lost in a generic execution. While the end result just turned to be generic it wasn't as bad originally expected. For a straight to dvd family picture its not entirely insulting, its bearable thanks to some solid ideas, and has enough sustain itself to the end. True you could do a lot worse when it comes to family films, but why settle for less regardless of the audience intended.

Carlito's Way: Rise to Power
½

If it wasn't for the Carlito's Way collection set I would have never known about the existence of the prequel. Now a prequel in this case makes some sense exploring more Carlito Brigante life and diving deeper into how he became to be the man he went on to be is by no means a bad thing. Unfortunately this prequel does very little in terms of developing Carlito Brigante further than what was already established in the original Carlito's Way.

Carlito's Way: Rise To Power is set in the late 1960s, follows Carlito Brigante emerging as the heroin czar of Harlem. Much like the original its heavily driven by dialogue, but the narrative path taken is strictly linear. Following the routine of a standard crime film the script does not bring anything you haven't seen before to the table; you have a young criminal rising to power, the wise and well spoken mentor, to the old and angry Italian wiseguy who doesn't like young punks, romance with a street wise woman, and many more crime film tropes. Going as far as showing the outcome of the climax like it predecessor in the beginning of the film. Unoriginality only begins to scratch the surface of problems. Characters are entirely new without a single one created in attempt to bridging the two films. These new characters are written with good intentions, but the interactions between them is predictable. One new character upon being immediately introduce is utterly unlikable only to become a driving force for the film narrative. At no point is this character downfall ever tragic because by design making the film most unlikable character have emotional weight does not work. This same notion works with the rest of the film. You have a standard setup or plot device with a predictable outcome appearing superficial only to become a major part of the story serving it weakness. Story elements are often half baked, generic in execution, and empty of any risks. The film's ending is easily the biggest drawback of the story. With this being a prequel it fails to show exactly how Carlito Brigante went to jail for a force happy ending. At no point does this prequel help pave the way for events of the original "Carlito's Way". By the time the climax comes you will truly feel just how unspectacular everything turned out to be.

Jay Hernandez who played Carlito does a decent job, but if you are looking for the intensity of Al Pacino, it won't be there. Hernandez's smoothly understated performance and the colorful presence of Mr. Van Peebles performances are better than the film itself. Sean Combs give sa moderate performance looking directly at the camera and delivery over the top lines to the best of his abilities. Luis Guzman (also in the original Carlito's Way) was entertaining as the nutty hit-man. His casting in this film is a huge problem not only does he play a completely different character, but it adds confusion seeing an actor from the original breaking continuity and comes off as goofy that Carlito would meet two people who look and act exactly the same. Mtume Gant comes off as annoying, but that's mostly to blame on the material. If anything Mtume Gant is quite good making his character as unlikable as possible. It's a shame the material didn't offer him any scene to show of his character good sides. Aside from poor writing is director Michael Bregman is too blame for this lifeless prequel. Wait why does that name sound familiar...he was a producer on "Carlito's Way". In that that case his directorial effort is awful. Every scene is just plainly shown without a personality or any kind style behind the camera. Michael Bregman simply films a scene and that's it. No emotion, no eye for details, nothing that conveys the interest from Bregman. Everything is comes across more lifeless than the characters killed in this movie. Bregman might have worked on the original, but chose not to retain anything that worked in Brain De Palma film.

Carlito's Way: Rise To Power fails as a standalone film for staying closely to the genre routine without an attempt to be different and as a prequel fail to connect the dot to its predecessor in any way. It fails in these two areas even more so taking into account that with a failure to expand upon a beloved film in any area. It's just about as superficial as a prequel can get.

Carlito's Way
Carlito's Way (1993)
½

Al Pacino and Brian De Palma collaboration brought one of the most iconic gangster to film with "Scarface". A film that would define both of their careers making "Carlito's Way" a unique enigma. While both are about man wanting to be better then he is both are the polar opposite in terms of tone, atmosphere, and pacing. In the end "Carlito's Way" surpassed "Scarface", but neither is it inferior in any noticeable way.

Carlito's Way is about a Puerto Rican former convict, just released from prison, pledging to stay away from drugs and violence despite the pressure around him and lead on to a better life outside of N.Y.C.. Moving along at a slow pace "Carlito's Way" tells an engrossing story. Allowing enough time to develop every major player that come into play in the story. Getting across every character history with each other, how each one lives, and interweaving each conflict into a single narrative that never becomes lost among many of its characters. Filled with a wide cast they never undermined our main character, but instead build upon Carlito's character who doesn't follow a traditional narrative. What we don't see is the rise of Carlito to power, but instead we do see is the traditional fall. What makes this fall different is fully understanding Carlito's world how he sees it and how he goes against the image given to him. Yes we know the outcome of Carlito's life in the beginning of the film which in no way detracts from it story. It's a quite a feat to make a thrilling climax when the outcome has already been shown. It seems the plot would have gotten everything right if it weren't for stock characters. Sure the stock characters are well developed from the drug addicted best friend, crooked cops, a promising new young criminal, and many more unfortunately play out like a cliche. At its heart "Carlito's Way" story fits B movie territory where's it biggest strength lies using it towards its strength and not so much as a concealing weakness. It might be retreading familiar ground with stock characters helping you connect the dot faster than the plotline, but getting to the already known destination is an engaging character piece.

Director Brian De Palma acknowledges that "Carlito's Way" is one giant slice of cheese with style. He pushes every motion and emotion to operatic proportions, ringing every ounce of drama. With its impeccable compositions, precise camera work, glacial tracking shots, baroque tone, sublime action sequences, and flamboyant acting, this is a film in love with its own form. Al Pacino's performance as Carlito is the heart of the movie. Compelling, tough, and intelligent from years of dope dealing and soaking up the gang-land atmosphere around him. Framed by a jet black beard, Pacino spends the film always dressed in black, navigating his death dream like a fallen angel. Pacino spends the film alternating between a stance of fast-talking macho posturing and one of melancholic regret. He wears the face of a corpse, of defeat and acceptance, his flashes of confidence a hip old mask which doesn't know if its going or staying. Then there's Sean Penn as Kleinfeld, a scheming, vain little man who starts off seemingly as legitimate as a lawyer of criminals, but as we soon learn, he has slipped into a world that he has no place to belong in. Kleinfeld, with his balding, curly hair and nervy, cranked voice. However, when the viewer looks into his eyes, both terrified and ravenous, one can understand the pathway to excess that most conventional crime movies take for granted.

Carlito's Way is a slow and engrossing character driven crime drama that will keep you watching even though you know the fate of the main character in the beginning of the film. Well directed and well acted Carlito's Way will absorb you into its world and characters all the way through the end.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
½

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire follows Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark targets of the Capitol after their victory in the 74th Hunger Games sparks a rebellion in the Districts of Panem. Structurally "Catching Fires" sticks too closely to "The Hunger Games". We go from District 12 to the Capitol and the training period and then into the Games. The "been here, done that" vibe is inevitable, but improved upon its predecessor is in character development. Characterization strengthen the film structure from what's already a tale of love, faith, strength, and humanity against the system into a compelling tight narrative. Spending time building its world to understand why this future is in constant conflict and seeing the effect our characters actions have on the world. Touching on the difficulty of being a living symbol through Katniss; who has greatness thrust upon her uncertain on what exactly to do with that power. It's this conflict that makes Katniss a dynamic protagonist fighting what she believes is right versus what is seen as being right. Not only are major characters given more depths, but minor characters leave an impression including those specifically designated to be plot points. Some scenes are specifically written as comedy relief to ease the drama before the hunger games. While the film ending does only serves as buildup what came before is more than satisfactory for a complete narrative.

As for its political side the film lacked subtlety. Its in your face with moments designated to discussing Katniss position as a symbol in a revolution, a public execution of a revolutionary, what's at stake defying the government, what previous freedom was lost, and many aspect are constantly present throughout the film. It does so without shoving down any sort of message down its viewer throat. Thought provoking it is not barely exploring the government sides of politics beyond wanting more and maintaining that power. A missed opportunity no doubt, but nothing noticeably damaging to the film narrative. The undertone romance between Peeta and Katniss which no longer remains underdeveloped is an undertone political one. Controlling the image of influential figures while in context subtly hides its intention with a double meaning. One might simply past the romance aspect of being nothing more than a romance, but doing so is missing another layer of added humanity. Katniss love interest are more than just guys she likes, they are metaphor; choosing temptation to live in a bubble away from the world problem with lip service versus being part of the world taking position in its conflicts.

Francis Lawrence direction borders on if its isn't broke, don't fix it mentality to the material. Rather than recreate everything Francis Lawrence merely expands on all ideas and makes them clearer and more concise. There is continuity from a change in style, tone, and authentic that doesn't alienate it from it predecessors. A large part of continuity also works is because James Newton Howard music utilizes all of his prior thematic material to bring you back into the world. With Howard's score, and Francis Lawrence's direction, it makes the film feel familiar both aurally, and visually. The action scenes themselves work narratively, but the set pieces are empty of any creativity and ferocity. Once a promising setup is in place for an action scene the film falls victim to a standard execution of them playing like a straight cliche; playing around the idea one of our heroes drowned, the sacrifice after carrying someone destine not to survive for long distances, shooting a lethal projectile (in this case an arrow) pointed at an ally to hit an enemy behind ally, protagonist losing grip against a strong uncontrollable force, sharp object narrowly avoiding hitting someone's head, everything needed for a generic action scene are here visibly clear.

Jennifer Lawrence (the only reason I'm seeing this series) exudes the spirit of Katniss in every breath and pulse of the film. Controlling every single emotional nerve of the audience with vacant stares and dimpled smiles breaking every stereotypical mold attached to her. Josh Hutcherson balances the sensitivity of love and charm with the emotional conflict of a ravaged heart with effortless poise. The interactions between Hutcherson and his merry company form the highlights of the film, filled with the cackling chemistry. Woody Harrelson delivers a matured and restrained performance while Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne blends in simplicity. Donald Sutherland is exceptional as President Snow in his mannerisms lends a third dimension. Supporting cast includes Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee. Malone in particular sets into this role that is so eccentric, so over-the-top, and manages to make Johanna somewhat relatable and real.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire improves on its predecessor even if it sticks too closely to its structure. Strong characterizations raises the stakes as well as expanding what came before it without alienating newcomers nor fans. Supported by a strong, tightly woven script, and a confident direction it improves upon the predecessor foundation refining old tricks that work better the second time around.

The Starving Games

At this point among filmdom (or whatever you choose call it film planet, film world, film committee, etc.) it's common knowledge to avoid anything by the duo of Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg. These two greatest contribution to cinema have always the years they didn't release a film. Unfortunately at this point in these the duo along with the people giving them jobs refuse to use their brains make a competent comedy.

The Starving Game is about Kantmiss Evershot fighting for her life in the 75th annual Starving Games. Like the duo previous films its plagues with the same issues; outdated film references, no comedic consequences, no pacing, non existence plot, absent of characters, to stupid to make fun of, beating a dead horse with every joke, and wasting the audience time. That's the whole film in a nutshell, but where it fails the most is being a basic parody of "The Hunger Games". It does not understand the definition of the word parody. That would have been asking to much from the writers who predict Lady Gaga will become president in the future. Instead of poking fun the film "shaky cam" by simply having a film crew capturing the action why not make a semi-political allegory on the Hollywood system downgrading intellectual properties. Then again, asking for actual minimal effort from the writers that only use "The Expendables" and "The Avengers" as throwaway gags instead of actual participants is a bit too much to expect. Now that I think about it that would have been a whole lot better, but who am I to judge the brilliance of movie where Kantmiss missing Peter as a giant cake next to her in the middle of the woods. Well to the writers credit they did copy the stupidity of that scene from the actual movie...though that's not a good thing either since it had no punch line in its delivery. Much like the film structure it seems my brains cells were not present in this paragraph.

Narratively how does it all play out? If you seen "The Hunger Games" try to imagine the same plot points only brain dead slowly killing your brain cells being filled with unfunny overused jokes. Kantmiss offers herself to participate in the Starving Games (although everyone looks well fed, another miss point to satirize), Kantmiss faking her romance with Peter, underdeveloped little girl who helps Kantmiss gets kicked to death (let that sink in), underdeveloped romance, Kantmiss and Peter in a standoff finale. Talk about being uncreative stealing directly from the source material this duo is "satirizing". I will admit this film did make me laugh one time with a fake commercial for a hamburger (a mixture of pizza, ice cream, buns, vegetables, and other things). However, that joke is soon forgotten when M.I.A. appearce play the earrape known as "Sexy and I Know It" and the I don't understand humanity anymore popularity of Gangnam Style being killed off. Not that these musical references (including Taylor Swift) have no comedic purpose other than being completely superficial to the film just like its creation. Filled with incoherent sight gags, fart jokes, pointless pop culture references, and anything you could imagine from a duo set on destroying any fiber of humor. At least the acting talent despite being given awful material are okay. Diedrich Bader, bless him, who despite the godawful material he's given, still commits to his every line. Likewise, star Maiara Walsh has brief glimpses of talent, but they're usually spoiled a few seconds later by whatever cheap trick the movie has her doing next (like bird poop being thrown at her).

The Starving Game like it title will suggest leaves it does not fill its audience stomach for comedy. Saying this is for the lowest common denominator is an insult to the lowest common denominator. Even at under 83 minutes it fails to have enough material to support itself let alone entertain an audience. In vein of a bad rehashed sequel the duo rinse and repeats every mistakes they committed unable to comprehend the basics of how comedy works.

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters
½

A sequel that delivers more of the same can share several ranges of quality. Depending how it predecessor did it could be either good or bad if we get the same thing twice. In the case of Percy Jackson: Sea of Monster it all depends on your feeling of the original because when it comes to delivering more of the same this sequel stays closely to its predecessor in every imaginable way.

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monster follows Percy Jackson and his friends embarking on a quest to the Sea of Monsters to find the mythical Golden Fleece while trying to stop an ancient evil from rising. Following suit of the original this sequel has good ideas, but rushes through them before they could even develop. Introducing several mythical creatures, new characters, and diving into established characters past without the proper time to explore them. Instead of getting into one thrilling adventure it all feels like a series of side trips. Any obstacles upon being presented is easily defeated by plot conveniences or the villain forgetting basic knowledge of our heroes. These flaws hold back any sense of danger in the heroes journey. The dialogue ranges from cringe worthy recycling of bad lines to entire scenes fill solely with expositions. What it does get right does not contribute in favor of the writing in any significant way. Never is there a dull moment moving from set piece to set piece in its own fast pace. With it's brisk pace making it easy to look past it's unexplained moments. Telling a simple story that's easy to keep a track of and understand the characters even if they are not compelling. It's has a consistent tone that isn't fighting against itself on what to be. Like the original the story had potential that could be seen which unfortunately it never reaches.

Logan Lerman reprises his role as Percy Jackson and does another solid job. Lerman has charisma and charm to carry the film to the finish line, but when it comes to expressing his character emotions he's given little to work with. Only seeing a half of Percy character and half of Lerman potential as an actor. Alexandra Daddario returns as well as Annabeth. Her performance allows her to portray a vulnerable layer to her strong character and a convincing chemistry with Lerman gets across the idea of a potential romance angle better than the film itself. Although she is not given enough scenes to showcase her strength like Lerman both in her character and acting. Brandon T. Jackson screen time is considerably reduced. He's plays the stereotypical best friend comedic role well. It's the only thing that script requires him to do. The rest of cast fare out in the same way. Not enough material work off from and not enough time to evolve their roles. Strictly delivering what the script requires of them. Solid acting from the cast, though nothing inherently deep. Thor Freudenthal like Chris Columbus goes more for modern music because when you think of Greek Mythology you want Fall Out Boy. This results in the music being forgettable with no sense of anything becoming epic. What it's not light on is CGI effects which are passable. Every time CGI is used everything including the actor all look plastic. Sure some of the CG deliver some decent creative set piece and unique monsters designs, but doesn't leave any lasting effect failing to pack any kind of punch.

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters is bigger, but repeats past mistakes with a pace that does not allow its story to take shape preventing it from reaching its true potential once again. Saying it's more of the same is an understatement carrying over the same strength and weaknesses from its predecessor. Depending on your position on the first film should help you make the decision easier as it does little to innovate the franchise in any better or worse direction.

12 Years a Slave

Slavery remains a troubling issue so much in fact that we feel more comfortable viewing dozen Holocaust films than a single film on slavery. It's an certain period in human history no one is proud off and willingly attempt to prevent from ever occurring again. However, simply labeling this film with a single intention is saying very little of its true power. What many hailed as being the greatest film about slavery I dare say is an essential statement on humanity. It's not just a film about slavery, but rather about the common man.

12 Years A Slave is set in antebellum United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Its biggest strength is being able to depict slavery how it is without feeling exploitative. This film always walks on a thin line of being one hanging, one whiplashing, one beating from being deemed tasteless. All the more praiseworthy when its difficult depiction is pulled off successfully. On paper it's easy to sympathize for Solomon Northup just as a slave, but that was not the intention. Solomon is not just a free black man; he's a common man, with common features, common dreams, sharing a common will for the desire to live in his harrowing endeavor. Sympathizing with Solomon for who he is and not what he became. Enduring as much as the human spirit could living and entrapped in a cruel world that coexist with his former one. Much like Solomon, we never forget the freedom we have while attempting not to lose the shred of humanity we have left as the world around become engulfed in seemingly never ending tragedies. We feel what Solomon feels and think what Solomon's thinking. Reflecting upon Solomon with ourselves of how something like freedom no matter the world around you can be taken for granted.

Interpreted directly "12 Years A Slave" is a harrowing and even inspiring story. Beyond that interpretation are many metaphorical meanings both simplistic and in depth. The "N" word for example is not simply use as a profane word. Its first usage in the film is profoundly powerful. Perhaps for some it will be the first time ever truly understanding the strength behind this single word. Being able to reduce a loving father, skilled musician, husband, and highly intelligent human into an animal to be bought and sold. Another subtle use of metaphorical symbolism is a fiddle. What it represents is rather simple and difficult to miss. On the surface the fiddle represents freedom; however, music present another form of hidden expression. What you hear can be calmly and joyous while in context that piece of music being played comes across differently. As a form to remind slaves of their oppressive position, provide a small taste of freedom, or further reminds them of the consequences if attempting to run away. Music expresses many emotions and has the same power to conceal truth; it can be use to hide the ugly nature of the person's intention or in this film as a form to defeat racism.

Steve McQueen direction is relentless and one of sheer brilliance. His decision in not telling the audience the passage of time directly is genius. Only giving audiences subtle visual clues on how long has time has past never eliminating the sameness of Solomon endeavor. Getting across that perhaps there is no end in sight in this dehumanizing time. Utilizing long, steady single shots to emphasize various emotions. When events on screen become their most horrifying and ugly is when his camera becomes the most unflinching. One powerful scene involves an excruciatingly long shot of a punished Solomon. When Solomon is hanging on the tree the other slaves go on with their business, seemingly oblivious to the man literally hanging in their midst, until one slave woman gives him a glass of water and meekly scurries away. Showing the true fear and power the slave owners possessed over them. Agonizing scenes like these can make audiences become increasingly uncomfortable in a situation we desire to be removed, but powerless and unable to realizing the outcome if we do. Capturing the rawest of human emotion feeling, thoughts, and seeing how Solomon views things. Even when it draws to a close were left to ponder the long forgotten thought of what does freedom mean to a free man?

Chiwetel Ejiofor's acting excels with facial expressions you realize when he succumbed to his situation versus how he emotionally fought his sudden twist of fate. A mentally and physically challenging role becoming cold himself and attempting to conceal his own emotions completely understanding and sympathizing him. Spacing out in despair as the camera lingers onto him for solid minutes at times with no spoken words. Ejiofor I'll dare even say provides one of the best performances not just in his career, but in one of the best of the decade. Benedict Cumberbatch portrays a slave owner yet he treats his slaves humanely. He makes you ask yourself if neutral people like him are good or bad for progress. Michael Fassbender is a raving dog one minute, and calmly ordering everyone to dance the next, he knows he can make these slaves do anything, they are toys to him, puppets. It is that controlled rage that makes his performance have an eerily threatening presence even when he's not on screen. Lupita Nyong'o gives one of the most devastating performances. She retains a level of innocence that only heightens the tragedy of her character. The cast is flawless no matter how small or big the role is.

12 Years A Slave is brutally honest and heart wrenching for a that does not chooses to play by traditional rules. It's more than a film about slavery and more so a statement on humanity in its gloomiest state never losing sight of one's self. For some it'll be difficult to watch, but even harder to accept the honest truth that McQueen presented to the world. With all the hype surrounding "12 Years A Slave" it might be easy to forget that it's a humble film. Truly deserving of its praise, but should be seen without the hype for it never presents itself to be bigger than life. Rather it presents itself honestly with good intentions and heartfelt emotions for many who can't share a similar story.

Hunger
Hunger (2009)

Certain places and people are given labels that define them. Those labels are not always accurate of what they represent. In prisons it is commonly associated that the prison guards are providing protection while the prisoners are a deadly force. While not the first nor the last film to challenge that notion it is a film you experience rather than simply seeing it.

Hunger is about Irish republican Bobby Sands leading the inmates of a Northern Irish prison in a hunger strike. Like mentioned earlier Hunger is more of an experience than it is a traditional film. Minimal dialogue, a deliberate slow pace to build up an atmosphere, action speaking for emotion, and a non-traditional narrative. It shows very little of anything that occurs outside of prison working towards it purpose. Attempting to emulate the same isolation, dreary, and violent mood of the very harsh Maze prison its representing. Becoming able to get across characters psychology without much words. Slowly demoralizing the inhabitants both who are entrapped in it and those working there. Yet despite all of its desolate emotions a glimmer of hope is given resulting in a difficult viewing of Bobby Sands decaying body to serve a greater good. The hardest thing to stomach is not what the film does show, but rather what it doesn't show. We're introduced to a prison guard in the beginning of the film who becomes minor character. He's never given an arc of any kind that shows his psychology or what drove him to commit his action. Another character introduced is newly incarcerated inmate Gillen whose vision of the prison never comes full circle. Gillen serves to present how one would first view the dreadful room that traps and consume sanity, but shifts in focus to follow another inmate forgetting his part of the story. Hunger does not say allot words which it makes up for how it chooses to express itself.

Steve McQueen is relentless and cold in his depiction of the Maze prison. His frequents use of one-point perspective and wide shots remain motionless for lengthy periods of time. This technique is wonderfully engrossing allowing to witness harmful treatment and environment detail for great lengths of time. Never do we see the outside of the prison, giving the viewer the impression that our characters have been locked away so long that they don't know how the outside even looks like anymore. Becoming claustrophobic into isolationism where the sight of a cells smeared with feces becomes routine instead of seeming out of the ordinary. Another technique that McQueen uses is showing brief snippets of a scene, then cutting away, to let the viewer imagine how the rest will play out; but the key is that he never cuts too early, so that the viewer is left to imagine as to what is going on. Michael Fassbender gives an extraordinary performance as Bobby Sands: to make his hunger strike credible the actor lost weight to the point of emaciation, and yet this physical portion of his role, appalling though it is, does not compare to the nonverbal language of his face while he ends his life.

Hunger narrative doesn't match its atmospheric strength and focus, but visually captures the harsh reality of its environment. It's as moving as it is depressing to see becoming routine seeing the true ugliness a person's life can be reduced too. More than just film you view as Hunger is a dreary, but absorbing atmospheric experience.

Koto no ha no niwa (Garden of Words)

Animation have brought to life realms far from our own grasps, but never far enough they are unrelatable from our very own. Director Makoto Shinkai vision mirrors reality from the architecture of the city to the foliage of a park with no shortage of details. Garden of Words mirrors a live action film in production in all area capturing the real world in detailed animation with the support of strong writing makes it visually arresting as narratively engaging.

Garden of Words is about Takao meeting a mysterious woman, Yukino, without arranging the times, the two start to see each other again and again, but only on rainy days. At it most basic level Garden of Words tells nothing more than a simple story of two lost souls; however, what is gain is a clear understanding of both characters lives and what they strive for. It's hard to imagine the film going into much territory with a forty-six minute runtime, but succeeds in every area that makes any good narrative have a lasting impact. It doesn't skipped on character development even interweaving a greater meaning giving depth to the rain as a character as well to the changes in the environments. Characters are more complicated than the story being told. Looking beyond the limitations of society sets on them, motivation to fulfill one's dream, and overcoming boundaries set to them by society. Beyond that is another interpretation showing the beauty of everyday life to the smallest interaction around us. Nothing is ever lost in its story maintaining focus and complicated characters action are always concentrated towards benefiting the narrative. Under an hour Garden of Words story has the key elements that makes up a good story regardless of it length leaves a big impression.

Makoto Shinkai lush imagery connects a delicately rendered urban landscape, one in which the daily grind of everyday life and the regular changing of the seasons appear breathtakingly beautiful. Vivid colors, lush and deep dark shades, crystalline highlights bring the sceneries to life. Combining hand-drawn animation, rotoscoping, and seamless CGI effects. Shinkai consistently sustains a dreamlike, otherworldly mood throughout with a direction more in line of that of a live action film. For example, when it comes to editing he compresses time, flashes back to multiple points, and creates montages in a way that just isn't done in the medium very often. The soundtrack top-notch mixing is spacious, with clear dialogue in the central channel and carefully crafted atmospheric sound effects around the edges (especially noticeable during the rain shower sequences). Diasuke Kashiwa's lovely, contemplative musical score is also well-integrated with the rest of the soundtrack. Voice acting is equally as strong with the rest of production.

Garden of Words is a visual poem that hits all the right narrative notes and personal chords to be taken by its artistic majesty. Visually stunning and with a equaling involving story work in harmony for an animated film that accomplishes the same than most films do with double the run time. Proving no great film is too short or too long, but the perfect length to leave a lasting impression.

American Me
American Me (1992)

"You're like two people" we hear a voice say in American Me and that line applies to the film itself. One half prison film on Montoya Santana building an empire and one half fish out of water exploring Santana living outside of his bubble experiencing the real world for the first time. These two vastly different world unfold right before our own eyes are similar to our very own lives. Individuals following rules, helping one another in a community, facing consequences for breaking a path, hierarchy of power, and among other things. Asking one very important question by the end; Should we attempt to fix things we didn't create ourselves?

American Me follows a Mexican-American Mafia kingpin release from prison, falling in love for the first time, and grows introspective about his gangster lifestyle. The story is based around true events, but when the film tells it audience some events were fictionalize it all hits home without losing any shred of impact. It's portrayal of criminal life is not one sided only wanting to portray greed, honor, or a place of belonging. Instead it chooses to explore choices and how influential ones action can affect a generation. How something like violence becomes a common occurrence in someone's daily life. Exploring serious themes without a scapegoat placed on person or race, but specifically culture itself. Santana says at one point in the film "What we'd done in Compton was wrong. It was supposed to be business, but came out racial". This simple line of dialogue gets across Santana personal feelings, but beyond that translates into a greater understanding of the crime world presented. Not all act of gang violence are fueled by racial tensions, not all criminals can get behind an act of violence, and not all criminals are accepting to negative change. There is allot more thought put into it than just obtaining power. Machismo (Spanish word meaning strong or exaggerated sense of manliness) culture is highlighted in the film leading to dehumanization. Can the habits of someone life takeover them to the point the soul that drive those habits destroy them? It has those answers no matter how difficult it is to accept the answers it provides us.

In American Me we have traditional characters alongside traditional issues; however, what separates American Me from other Hispanic crime films is the highlighted theme of two. Our film begins before our main character is even born. Upon seeing this prologue one might be quick to believe that Montoya Santana father unable to view his son in a positive light is because of how Santana came out, but instead is seen differently through his father eyes. It's not what Santana did, but the reason behind it that he represents that disgust Santana's father. All throughout the film we're given one way how a scene plays out, but multiple layers behind the action committed in the film allowing two ways of seeing it. What comes across as a crime film exploring the difficulty with its own lifestyle becomes relatable. Dealing with the subject of one's own trouble identity in face of other individuals, other groups, other cliques. At length, creating or joining a clique or gang that may facilitate or solve the problem of seeking one's own identity, purpose in life, and place in society at large. Focusing on the true core of these issues never specifically applying only to a single group. These characters and their action might be different from our own never are they to far from allowing self reflection.

Edward James Olmos spotlessly portrays the leader the highly sensitive and aware of what leaders. Emphasizing the importance in creating, maintaining a particular image for success in the clique, which is to say in controlling perceptions at large, to command as well the respect of rival group members. William Forsythe has an equally fascinating appearance throughout the movie, as a no-nonsense gangster. Sal Lopes through his exterior embodies a broken man with coldness to everything. He hints of a more trouble man hidden beneath years of scars. The cinematography is impeccable, as is the case with the sound, and musical accompaniment or soundtrack. Direction is spotless with scenes being driven with passion behind the camera. Capturing the authenticity of the story and the raw emotion of it story.

American Me is a masterpiece beyond filmmaking becoming more than a film. It's piece of reality showing its ugliness and beauty with two different views. Bringing to light an issue all too relevant and common problems. Lifestyles or belief systems can be larger than life, larger than what humans sometimes can control themselves.

Special thanks to Alex A. who recommended me this under appreciated masterpiece. If anyone likes a great crime film you won't be disappointed with American Me.

Special ID
Special ID (2014)
½

Much in the same reign as Jackie Chan, Chow Yun-Fat and Jet Li, Donnie Yen action roles are arguably his most popular. Although when compare to the previous three most of Yen earlier starring efforts don't pack the same punch. Yen's latest sadly falls in that category whenever having to endure a muddle story before getting to the goods.

Special ID is about a cop and his team of comrades going undercover in one of China's most ruthless underworld organizations to stop a gang leader. The premise and narrative beats are standard action film affairs without a change in formula; you have the undercover cop who's been on the inside for too long, undercover cop running the risk of criminals discovering his identity, protagonist not getting along with his partners, the superior officers who uses protagonist life for his own means, and by the end protagonist attempting to fulfill a personal vendetta. For a film that hardly strays away from familiar territory making sense of it all is more difficult than needed to be. Its plot is easy to understand, but distorted plot points never connected with one another in a seamless flow. A love interest for example is hardly touched upon even though scenes are entirely dedicated to hinting at it. Nothing ever becomes at the hinted romance providing moments of character development with the interaction contributing little. Another noticeable issue comes in the directionless writing. Tones drastically change on the spot from becoming a gritty action film to feeling like a rom-com at a moments notice. Characters like the plot itself are easy to understand, but the muddle story makes it needlessly difficult decipher. You'll have an understanding of the relationships, the characters, motivations, but even with a clear understanding muddle storytelling prevents any worthwhile investment to be made. This film never manages to find its own identity at the end coming off as a collection of several scripts each being drastically different each in their own muddle way.

Donnie Yen is comical and naughty rascal-like acting in the film is passable, but for the emotional side of his character he doesn't cut it. A weak script is blame as Yen does his best with heartless dramatic scenes. When it comes to Yen fight choreography it appears brutal, but doesn't get across that feel of brutality. Every fight is restricted to being in a close a quarter and even when the action is taken outside of a building it plays strictly by the rules. Yen is the only actor who uses MMA techniques while the rest of his cast are kickboxers. This eliminates the tensity in fight scenes as Yen opponents have no idea how to counter his MMA and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu techniques. Even in the first few minutes of the film even though Donnie Yen literally fights crawling around the floor his opponent does not know how to counter Yen moves. The only time it mixes fighting techniques is during Yen fight with Andy On. Andy On using primarily Muay Thai and variation of several others fighting styles offered more elaborate choreography. Only when On fights against Donnie Yen do the fight scenes deliver on its brutality. Action scenes don't have the wow factor though they are well staged that provide the film the much needed energy. As for Andy On acting it's solid selling the idea he could go toe to toe with Donnie Yen. Jing Tian provides a pretty face and impresses with her agility and flexibility. Tian might be small, but her move set makes her believable and the film climactic action scene sells her in the action role. Her acting is good genuinely the often corny and cheesy dialogue sound as good as it can.

Special ID delivers solid performances and solid action scenes, but in order to get to see those you have to endure the deadweight of a muddle and standard story. It plays by the rules in terms of narrative and action unable to find an identity of its own.

Thor: The Dark World

When it comes to Marvel Thor is among the most difficult character to connect with. The fact he's a god is not major pitfall compare to how he is written and the people he interacts with that play a bigger part when investing into his story. Ironically the film has a character called Bor(e) in the prologue and despite appearing to hold importance much like everything else it all feels hollow rushing to reach the finish line without a proper treatment or care for anything it does.

Thor: The Dark World tells the story of Thor embarking on a journey to save Asgard, Jane Foster, and Earth against Malekith. This