Cinema-Maniac: Nerawareta Gakuen (2012) Movie Review

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.

4/10

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Cinema-Maniac: Japanese Hell (Jigoku) (2000) Movie Review

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.

0/10

Cinema-Maniac: Apocalypse Pompeii (2014) Movie Review

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.

1/10

Cinema-Maniac: Lone Survivor (2014) Movie Review

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.

6/10

Cinema-Maniac: Her (2013) Movie Review

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.

10/10

Cinema-Maniac: The Plague Dogs (2013) Movie Review

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.

10/10

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.

 

Cinema-Maniac: Android Cop (2014) Movie Review

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.

3/10

Cinema-Maniac:Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky (Lik wong) (1991)

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.

9/10

Cinema-Maniac: The Lion of Judah (2011) Movie Review

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.

0/10

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.

Cinema-Maniac: Police Story: Lockdown (2015) Movie Review

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.

7/10