Cinema-Maniac: Kurôzu zero II (Crows Zero II) (2009) Review

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.

7/10

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Cinema-Maniac: The LEGO Movie (2014) Review

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.

10/10

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.

Cinema-Maniac: D’Agostino (2013) Review

“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 inter-splice 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 word near the end of the movie, 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 of 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.

0/10

Anime Breakdown: Shana of the Burning Eyes (Shakugan no Shana) (2005 – 2006) Series Review

Admittedly when I sat down and viewed the first episode of Shana of the Burning Eyes my thoughts on it were mostly negative. Literally within the first minutes what hinted me that I might be in for a bad time were the blue flames in the opening intro. The other anime I saw that had blue flames was Blue Exorcist and inspite of my positive review for it (it was a decent show) it ended on a bad last note for me. Mostly because when it upgraded the material above it usual quality instead of sustaining the higher quality it reverted back to being underwhelming. In hindsight both series don’t have much in common, but my experience of them were similar. For starter both series shower themselves with tropes of their genre, both have a hero who are cover by flames trying to discover themselves, and me slowly embracing them for what they are. However, whereas Blue Exorcist reverted back to it usual self, Shana of the Burning Eyes did improve as it went on. Despite a poor start I ended up liking Shana of the Burning Eyes as every episode left me so much to talk about. Be it good or bad.

Basic Information

Episodes: 24 Main Series, 5 Specials

Available English Dub: Yes

Animation Studio: J.C. Staff

Premise:

Shakugan no shana, also called Shana of the Burning Eyes, tells the story of Yuji Sakai, a normal high school boy who discovers he is dead and that he is in fact a torch after being attacked by a monster and saved by Shana, a young girl of red hair and burning eyes who calls herself as Flame Haze. Due to the confusion and chaotic mess Yuji gotten into, he follows the girl with the flaming red hair and finds out the truth about everything around him. The two begin to develop a bond that will help them battle the impending forces of doom in the city and Shana will eventually require Yuji to help fuel her strength to continue doing battle.

Good: Balance of Action and Romance

It’s easy for a series to favor the romance over the other half of the genre it’s mixing with, but with Shana of the Burning Eyes that never becomes a problem. There’s a good amount of action in the series that never overshadowed the slice of life drama. Following a routine of villain causing trouble in the city and after villain is defeated life returns to normal. The formula is pretty basic and given how little it changes it routine story arcs are easy to follow. For most of the story it focuses on the everyday life of the characters which helps to add some weight to the action scenes. By taking time to build its world we become familiar with the city the show takes place in. Making it that more significant in seeing the importance of why it’s worth protecting so much for its characters.

The action side of the show is nothing impressive honestly. In a rough fight Shana can pull out a new power to turn the tide of battles in her favor. However, often as is the case she has to earn her victory as oppose to other animes where it’s common for a character to overcome his/her opponent quickly with their new powers. This prevents the repetition of the fights from becoming tedious. At times when Shana pulls out a new trick it doesn’t land her a victory within the same episode. Being force to overcome her opponents with the abilities she’s given. Before every fight creating good build up is necessary. The build up to action is reliable for properly setting the mood and stage for the ensuing spectacle to take place. Although, to be fair, the build up is generally allot better than the action itself. Thankfully it has a good supply of action to make up whenever it does not live up to its promise.

The slice of life side of things has a good sense of pacing. Slowly it introduces new characters, new conflicts, and takes some detour that might not serve to advance the main story. It also has a balance between the drama and comedic moments. So stuff does happen outside of saving the city from a new threat. It’s pretty good at depicting these characters, they have lives and purposes that go beyond what we simply see in the show. With varied situations like Yuji seeing the disappearance of a single person does affect not his world in the slightest, at home training so Yuji can fight, comedic relief at a character home or public place, and so forth.

Good: Character Relationships

Shana of the Burning Eyes does not offer a whole lot in memorable characters, but knowns how to make its cast interaction a saving grace. We’ll spend a huge amount of time with the same characters through season one and they keep things interesting. The characters interactions can vary from being comedic, touching, to downright leading to a potentially violent fights physically or verbally. How these scenes are done captures the spirit of its teenage characters who are growing up throughout the series. Like actual friends, the characters don’t always get along with each other, but always find a way to work out the issue with things going to back to normal. Characters are always shown what’s on their mind with monologue and make an effort to speak out their mind. Rather than simply endure an issue that clearly bugs them. Shana and Yuji’s relationship starts out one sidedly with Shana serving as his guard of sort. Progressing slowly in becoming more like friends with Yuji trying to learn to fight to help Shana and Shana slowly embracing Yuji as a person and not a object to protect. It’s done in a manner that allows its relationship to grow in the right time.

All of the characters interactions tend to contribute something to the show. Yuji’s interactions with his best friend Hayato Ike shows a tight bond between two friends. It’s evident by the way they speak to one another they have know each other for a long time. This makes the dynamic between the two interesting to see unfold when Ike contemplates he might have feelings for Yoshida (a girl who likes Yuji) while helping her win Yuji affection. By the end of the season the issue is not resolved which might sound like a complaint, but it’s actually not. By providing no solution to the conflict it goes to show that not every problem will require the same amount of time to resolve. Also, this conflict never tarnished Yuji and Ike friendship by turning it into an easy plot device. It becomes a part of both characters when this revelation is brought up and as good friends acknowledge the problem is not fixed, but not a serious issue that it’ll cause the other any harm.

Mixed: Characters, most notably the villains

This is a surprise for me too even after having seen season one in its entirety. While the interaction between characters is handled well those same characters aren’t interesting on their own. The title heroine of the series, Shana, has a personality disorder that goes back and forth making her grating on screen. When she starts she reasonably doesn’t take a liking to male lead Yuji Sakai whose stubborn to do things her way. Shana’s starts out as the girl with a rough exterior, but than upon meeting a guy learns to feel more emotions unable to control them. Her change is predictable. Unfortunately maintaining some annoying traits. The most common one is going back and forth between her feelings for Yuji Sakai. At first it’s not an issue since dead people in this world are basically floating blue flames, but repeat these struggles for more than ten episodes with no variation on the subject it becomes annoying. Then there’s Kazumi Yoshida who also suffers from the opposite problem of Shana. Virtually all of her dialogue is something like “I love Yuji Sakai. He’ll be mine forever. I won’t let you have him Shana”. Rarely does any of her scenes involve talking about anything other than boys. Sadly all of the young women tend to focus on talking about boys in their conversations and conflict revolving around boys. I get that they’re high schoolers, but make the conflict varied. Not every high school girl’s biggest ordeal is winning over a guy.

The male cast don’t get away from this issue either. Granted the male cast have allot more to talk about other than girls which is a relief. Our main leading man is Yuji Sakai who’s written nonsensically. Yuji is understanding when it comes to other people besides Shana. He could tell whenever something is bothering Yoshida making an attempt to help her. If she was Shana on the other hand Yuji is intolerant constantly fighting with her. This I might add is our male lead and Shana is his love interest so…yeah…not exactly a couple that will make your heart soar with the passion of love. Then comes Hayato Ike who is Yuji’s best friend. He’s more emotionally aware of the girls feelings around him. Ike doesn’t do allot in the show to be honest, but brings forth an interesting conflict of two friends possibly fighting over the same girl. Sadly it’s not utilized to its full potential, though thankfully it’s never taken to the extremes of the love rivalry between Shana and Yoshida or Yuji. Alastor is the wise talking amulet like object whose dialogue has a tendency to be filled with wisdom. Unlike Yuji where his reaction can be inconsistent with his character; Alastor thinks logically of what’s best. When he has a talk with Yuji’s mother he has to be convinced of another person’s view on how look after a child. He’s understanding to the point he can admit he is wrong about something through some convincing arguments if there is any. Than there are best friends Keisaku Satou and Eita Tanaka who are the series comedic reliefs. Surprisingly these two despite being the goofiest characters in the show have a surprising amount of growth. They come to face more complicated emotions than “what should we do today” to becoming people that desire to help others. If these two were the leading characters the show would have benefited because as oppose to the leading characters where the humor comes from the situations. Keisaku and Eita humor comes from who they are.

The adult women on the other hand are better handled. My favorite character in the show (who sadly doesn’t appear soon enough) is Wilhelmina Carmel who rights the wrong of Shana. Unlike Shana where her emotions become a nuisance instead of a trait, taking away from her tough image; Wilhelmina never suffers from those same issues because we’re shown there are more emotions to her than her exterior tend to tell. Wilhelmina always speaks in a monotonous, overly formal and polite manner and has nearly no expression. Because Wilhelmina action are readable there’s a lot more depth added to her without having her say it. We know Wilhelmina cares a lot for Shana and that comes across strongly in her scenes. Acting motherly with Shana and defensive when out in public. Even when she has to break away from her tough exterior to show some form of emotion it never feels out of character. Margery Daw is the other adult woman who while not as awesome is admittedly given a more likable personality. Early in the series Margery Daw starts out as a temporary villain who is still made likable with her easy going mood on duty and her chemistry with her loud mouth talking book that makes snappy comeback at her. Margery receives some development, but it being center on the high school leads she does not grow beyond the drunk and loud mouth woman she constantly portrayed in the series. Yuji’s mother, Chigusa Sakai, is also another terrifically written character. She’s wise, understanding, and goes out of her way to help Shana. She’s the most pleasant character to be around even when those she talking too are not.

Virtually every single villain in season one had it own intrigue since not a single villain is normal. The first villain of the series is Friagne the Hunter who doesn’t get much development. Friagne is the series first in the long line of lame villains. He hardly takes any action to reach his goals. Nearly half of the time he’s shown on screen he plans something than which immediately gets ruined and does not know how to fix the problem. In the show, he gets easily defeated and it doesn’t help that he has a underlying doll fetish. Out of all the traits Friagne has, doll fetish will be the one that sticks with you the most since his dolls (in the English dub) sound like little girls who refer to him as master. Doing whatever it takes to please her master which in wording that way gives it a double meaning. The doll’s intention is nice, but made off putting seeing Friagne often talking to himself and his tone of voice is sensual when speaking to the doll. Next up is minor villain Margery Daw who later becomes a permanent supporting character in the cast. She gives Shana a good beating early on, though her villain arc amounts to little impact in the long run.

Next up are the incestious siblings Tiriel/Aizenta who can be unpleasant. Literally the introduction of these siblings goes like this. After Tiriel and Aizenta eat some people in a alley they admit they’re brother and sister and kiss passionately on mouth in a close up. This kiss is also how a the episode they are introduced in ends, which doesn’t help matter when the ending theme has a choir singing. Then afterwards comes a biker and a Samurai that don’t amount to much. The biker baddie is very lame since none of his combat abilities come close to beating the heroes. The Samurai like villain is build up to this incredible fight only get defeated easily within minutes. Afterwards our group of heroes just faces a team of villains that stick it out for the remainder of season one without getting defeated. They’re not worth discussing since their plan and the final arc they are involved in resolves little in the matter.

Mixed: Storytelling

In the opening I said the series had a rough first episode. It’s so rough the series needs five episodes before it could recover and during the first six episodes it’s an onslaught of cliches and nonstop bad explanation of how its world functions. This become tedious very quickly as not only it makes it difficult to follow the working of this world, but also near impossible to comprehend the rules during combat. Making matters worse is the first major villain of the series is very lame. Remember that villain I said had a doll fetish…yeah he doesn’t appear much for that reason. It’s pretty rocky to have such a lame first advisory when tolerating bad explanations. Past these early six episodes it does eventually recover from its rocky start, though doesn’t go out with a bang like one would expect from gradual improvements.

There is a point in season 1 where out of nowhere there are three flashback episodes without a proper transition. The flashback episodes do their job in developing Shana and finally getting to see Wilhelmina. These episodes serve a point and also highlight the issues with some of its villains being interesting, but easily beaten. Through the first season there is never urgency that our heroes won’t succeed. Even in the season finale the extended climax outstays its welcome with the obvious conclusion. The finale doesn’t solve the current dilemma as so much serve to bridge the current season to season two. As a whole, characters grow up beginning at indifferent or becoming closer through the series of threats that can take away their existence. Seeing its characters face their issues together will have you sticking around, but leaving an impact on you from their journey is unlikely.

Mixed: Production Values

The animation is done by studio J.C. Staff and are also responsible for everything in the series. J.C. Staff is the studio you associate anime with both good and bad. Everything from the characters with big eyes, girls who only seem to favor wearing skirts, shortcuts in action sequences, and the occasional fan service (which is out of place in the final episode I might add). This particular studio is pretty much the middle ground of Japanese animation studios. Their animation is competent and versatile in styles, but don’t have an edge in any particular area. Characters design are simplistic with re usage of similar hairstyles and saving some money with incomplete background characters having no mouth. Line detail is okay, but not excessively sharp, but the entire enterprise just has that slightly soft and blurry look. It works for the flames to look blurry to it give it that effect of a burning wave. Not so much when there’s isn’t anything eventful occurring on screen.

The series does have an English dub which is pretty good. Much better than the material actually deserves. All the actors fit their roles well while their performances depends on the writing. Tabitha St. Germain who voices Shana in the English dub can be grating with her high pitches whenever in a verbal fight. Sounding a lot like a spoiled brat at times, but the writing is to blame since Shana’s personality is all over the place. It’s a miracle St. Germain manages to pull it making the emotionally scattered Shana come across as focus. However, I would recommend anyone who has an interest in seeing this to view it with subtitles. Now the English dub for season 1 is great with the voice cast fitting the characters, but season 2 replaces all the dub voice cast from the first season and having seen just one episode of season 2 with it new voice cast I’m already having second thoughts to continue seeing it in English. Season two’s dub is that bad.

Music is the only area that is left and it’s a give or take thing. Virtually all the opening and closing tracks are pop songs and about the same thing. A couple overcoming the burdens the world throws at them and yeah not varied is it. The first closing theme for season, “Toake Umarekuru Shojo” (The Girl Born At Dawn in English) starts out with a choir slowly raising their pitch. Then comes in the singer, Yoko Takashi, who begins to sing with her voice overshadowing the male choir who repeat some verses. It soons descends once a string is heard accompanied by techno sounds. Instruments are battling one another to be heard and it become a clutter mess of sounds that don’t blend. As for the original music it disappears into background. If it’s not from an famous singer than it won’t register in the slightest with you. The music in general are not tracks that you’re not going to picture listening to when not viewing the show. It’s not bad since the way the song talk about a couple struggle goes along with the series when it progresses, but it neither varied by genre or topics.

Random Thoughts: Nostalgia Crept In (no points taken to account)

My journey in viewing the series was not always welcoming, but I grew a fondness for it through season one. Every episode always left me with alot of thoughts that regardless the emotions left an impression on me. There never was a boring episode even if nothing extraordinary came out of the events. The writing had its fair share of downsides religiously following tropes, but also subverted from them to tell interesting stories. As the show characters grew up during the course of season one so did my feelings for the show. Ending up liking it despite a very poor start. Over time while watching it I grew rather nostalgic of it despite being my first time seeing it. The feeling was like returning to a series you loved, but finding out it hasn’t aged very well. Shana of the Burning Eyes is like that. While it’s not this great show many made it out to be there’s certain qualities about that keeps your feeling positive for them. The series’s first opening theme has stuck with me and helped it be on my good side. While I don’t know the exact way to word it. It’s exactly the song I would picture going with the series. Sure I don’t like the basic structure of the song, but is written that it feels like it was specifically for the series.

Final Thoughts:

I hit many road block during this series first season and many times I wondered if it would ever recover. I was eventually able to settle in and let it do it own thing without worrying too much. Like it characters, the first season was able to overcome an issue. Sure it never fixes any of its flaws to eliminate them, but the show’s heart to face them head on works in its favor. It doesn’t entirely succeed in everything it wanted to do. Where it does succeed it strikes and strikes it hard to pull itself back up whenever stuck in a rut. In the end, it’s broken in some areas, but comes out with a well earned damaged victory.

Genre Blending: 2/2

Character Interaction: 2/2

Characters: 1/2

Story: 1/2

Production Values: 1/2

Final Rating: 7/10 – Shana of the Burning Eyes has a rough start, but gradually improves the further it goes. However, the appeal of the series is limited with just about everything you associate with anime both good and bad being on constant display in every episode. It follows tropes religiously while at other times breaks away from them. Constantly rising and diving in quality it has a lot more high points when it ends than the low points from where it begins.

Cinema-Maniac: Dude, Where’s My Dog?! (2014) Review

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.

1/10

Cinema-Maniac: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) Review

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.

3/10

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.

Cinema-Maniac: Gayniggers From Outer Space (1992) Review

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.

4/10

Cinema-Maniac: Persona 3 The Movie: #1 Spring of Birth (2013) Review

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”.

5/10

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.

Cinema-Maniac: Yurusarezaru mono (Unforgiven) (2014) Review

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.

3/10