Cinema-Maniac: The Visit (2015) Review

Pre-viewing discussion:

(interrupting a quiet day as a cashier)

Izanagi: “So will you see The Visit with me?”

Cesar: “Do Pigs sweat?”

Izanagi: “No”

Cesar: “There you go”

Izanagi: “You got to stop your bias thinking on M. Night Shyamalan”

Cesar: “Really? Okay, starting from 2002 all the way to 2010 M. Night Shyamalan was only ever attached to one good movie.”

Izanagi: “The Sixth Sense?”

Cesar gives Izanagi a grim look, and a head shake of disapproval.

Izanagi: “You didn’t even like The Sixth Sense!”

Cesar: “I did like Unbreakable, but that’s about it. In my book Shyamalan is a mystery. Kinda like Neill Blomkamp, minus starting off with a great movie, and then declining. Shyamalan was bad for me out of the gate.”

Izanagi: “Come on! See it with me!”

Cesar: “You have two things working against you. One I already mentioned, and to reiterate M. Night Shyamalan is a terrible writer. Second is the found footage format, and I’ll stand by my claim by saying 98% of found footage movies are garbage. Also, if it is like his other movies it’s going to have a plot twist.”

Izanagi: “Even if it does you won’t guess the twist.”

Cesar: “Give me the setup”

Izanagi: “It’s about two kids visiting their grandparents…”

Cesar interrupts Izanagi to say what he believes is the twist.

Izanagi: “If that’s so, only one way to find out.”

Cesar: “Fine, but if I win you buy me a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey.”

Izanagi: “Jigoku no!”

Cesar: “There you go I win.”

Izanagi: “Fine I agree, but if I win you have to…see Jack and Jill”

Cesar: “No way. I could barely tolerate one Adam Sandler. I don’t even want to picture two of him in one movie”

Izanagi: “Afraid now are we?”

Cesar: “Fine, but if anything happens to me….”

Izanagi: “Like the time Ooga Booga made your soul leave your body, or the time you had a bomb inserted in your balls, and timed to explode when you reviewed Diana. I’m sure you’ll survive this”

When I heard about “The Visit” I immediately lost interest even before knowing who was involved in it. The title alone kept me away, but when I discover the two other factors; M Night. Shyamalan, and the found footage format it was “No Zone” film for me. One thing I hate about the found footage format is that it’s the most insulting sub-genre in film. Allot of found footage movies claim they’re real which immediately discredits them. Not only that, but virtually everyone in a found footage movie has an HD camera to record whatever incident they are in. Cameras have gotten better from their conception, but I’m expected to believe every single person has an HD camera to record what they’re seeing. To further explain my distaste for found footage films are the force justification for a character to film everything they’re doing, and not let go of the camera. If some of these movies incorporated traditional scenes along with the “found footage” scenes I would believe what I’m seeing a lot easier. Except I’m not, and the first found footage film, Cannibal Holocaust, has hard to watch content (actual animals are killed on-screen) is still a high point in this sub-genre. Combine a movie with one of my most hated writer of all film, and my most hated sub-genre you have “The Visit”.

The Visit I will not provide a synopsis for. I want to reiterate this is an M. Night Shyamalan film so by nature if you know his writing any description of the premise can spoil the movie. Therefore, any review that has a synopsis for the “The Visit” fan or no fan of the director should consider them spoilers. Now, the first thing that raised a red flag about the poor writing skill of Shyamalan was a mistake in the first five minutes. We’re told the mother of the main characters was contacted by her parents through the internet, and the grandparents want to see their grand kids. So this would have not caused any suspicions if the mother did not established she had a rocky relationship with her parents, and has not seen them for 15 years in the first two minutes of the movie. First of all, by simply saying she got a phone call would have been believable, but nope the mother simply says the internet is how her parents found her. You know, that thing is basically a digital ocean of information. Two, the protagonist’s mother found out about her grandparents being counselor through the internet also.

(Cesar drinks an entire beer bottle.)

You gotta be kidding. I was hoping I would never have to say this because there is bad filmmakers, and then Jorge Ameer who is worse. M. Night Shyamalan writing has crossed over into Jorge Ameer territory. In 2013, Jorge Ameer wrote a movie called D’Agostino where the main character found an entire backstory for a pet human slave by simply typing his name, D’Agostino, on the internet. Shyamalan writing is similar to that of Jorge Ameer in this instance. Third, is the mother keeping tabs on her parents at all times? It would explain how she quickly  manage to found out about her parents started counseling. Four, the main character, Becca, is an aspiring filmmaker whose filming the events for a documentary. One important thing about documentaries would be research. So how come Becca didn’t tell her mother to show her a picture of her grandparents? I found this suspicious which is extremely good for those like me who just love to prove the overly hated, overly criticized M. Night Shyamalan “talent” has been overlooked.

Izanagi: “Dude, get on with it!”

Cesar: “I would, but I still got to complain about the first five minutes.”

Izanagi: “Man you suck!”

Five, the protagonist’s mother went to her parents counseling website, and finds no picture of them? Now, because this is a Shyamalan film within the first two-minute I figured out the twist. At least in Signs (2002), the twist wasn’t easy to spot. Sure it turned to be plot breaking, and rendered the premise broken, but I wasn’t able to predict the twist. Here, everything that has been established in the first five minutes of the film, and the lack of logic in it only serves to giveaway the twist. Six, if Becca actually saw a picture of her grandparents the film itself wouldn’t exist. This leap of logic is needed in order for there to be a film. If there’s no sound foundation for the story to begins then it’ll serve hurt it more in the long run with more mistakes.

Seven, the mother despite telling her kids not to go still lets her kids go visit their grandparents. If this was written competently than the mother would accompany the kids instead of leaving them on their own despite what her kids wanted. You know, like a reasonably concerned parent. Shyamalan could have used the mother memory against her. A simple “It’s been so long. I don’t recognize you mom, and dad” would have been enough to buy into this setup. It’s established that the mother hasn’t see her grandparents in fifteen years, and some of these simple changes would have removed these plot holes. I was willing to look past this immediate failed setup by Shyamalan until, Tyler (one of our main characters) attempted to make Vanilla Ice rapping seem like Tupac Shakur in comparison with the following rap.

Tyler: “Girl. I’m chilling again. I feelin again. I am like Iron-Man and Batman. I’m a hero again. Ugh. You think I’m little, but last month I grew an inch, and a quarter again. You think you’re 2 good for me. But that’s really a joke, cause you c. That doesn’t bother me. Cause I’m not a sensitive blough. Ugh. Now in the end, you’ll be in my bed. We won’t be just friends. You’ll write inappropriate text, and hit send. We share a Starbucks frappuccino blend dog. And see this isn’t just philosophy. It’s based on science you see. My Mista Pediatrician disconfront for me. You tall skanks! I’m going through puberty. Hoe!”

Izanagi: “Oh, man. That was just painful.”

Cesar: “Pass me the mic.”

Izanagi: “Dude, just forget it please. That rap was awful. Let’s just move on.”

Cesar: “No, no. I need to illustrate how incompetent M. Night Shyamalan is at writing.”

Izanagi: “You eventually will with the rest of the review! It’s already bloated enough.”

(Cesar grabs a mic out of thin air, and begins rapping)

Cesar: “The same old boring day just keeps rewinding. Everybody’s fear just keeps on binding. Still they act tough, like they’re hot stuff, but it all doesn’t matter cause it’s all a big bluff. The same routine everyday is boring. Need to get outside and start exploring. Thoughts in my mind are overlapping. I’m running out of lines to keep on rapping. What did you think?”

Izanagi: “…That was good.”

(Cesar, drops the mic.)

Cesar: “M. Night got nothing on me. I wasn’t raised the streets foo!”

Izanagi: “Well, he was nominated once for an Oscar for his screenplay for The Sixth Sense”

Cesar: “Stanley Kubrick received a Razzie nomination for Worst Director for The Shining, and Brian De Palma received one for Scarface (1983). Awards, and nominations does not make talent factual.”

With the first five minutes of the film alone I already have enough material to post a satisfying review. Not only did I bring up issues with the premise itself that it never fixes, but also presented solutions to some of those problems that could have led to a better film. However, if I stopped at just the first five-minutes that would leave many to discredit my position on the film, even though I just proved, and provided reasons as to why the writing is broken.

The Visit is meant to be a comedy, and horror film preferring the former genre for its overall tone. However, Shyamalan does not know when to implement comedy. There’s a scene where Tyler goes into a tool shed of sorts that is setting up a horror scene. Tyler enters this dark shed, and says throughout the scene how much it smells. This destroys the atmosphere the scene was going for, and misleads the viewer into thinking they’re meant to be afraid of what’s in this shed. When the scene is solely comedy it doesn’t hit well. Besides timing, the cast is filled with only two major characters to follow, and aren’t written to balance the horror, and comedy of the movie. Becca is mostly serious in the film so she is not reliable for humor. She hardly breaks out of her serious mold, and when she does it simply to set up a horror scene with no payoff. Then there’s Tyler who has the role of being comedy relief. He has to rap terribly in the movie for comedy relief, and also be taken seriously. He’s a character whose poorly written because little about him is developed beyond the fact he wants to be a rapper. As for his backstory revolving around dealing with his father leaving from his life at a young age affects Becca more than it does Tyler. With Tyler constantly shown without concern for serious issues until the last act rolls in. Tyler is never an engaging character.

There’s a moment in the film when Tyler says, and I want to emphasize M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN WROTE THIS! Tyler says, “No one gives a crap about cinematic standard. It’s not the 1800s. Have you seen reality TV? Housekeepers of Houston has like a billion viewers!”.

Cesar cynically clapping.

Thank you M. Night Shyamalan for reaffirming your negative attributes from your ego, not listening to criticism, and sheer ignorance for proper filmmaking with this dialogue. You dare insult the audience telling them they don’t have cinematic standards? Not only that, but you’re only defense is reality TV is popular? Have you missed Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Oz, The Twilight Zone (1959 – 1964), and other great series so you could cherry pick only reality television? M. Night, you just can’t assume you’re critical stance is correct with a narrowed mindset like yours. Maybe if you know, you were anything like Steven F$%@ing Spielberg you might be taken seriously with this claim. You do have Becca counterarguing Tyler claims, but the fact is M. Night Shyamalan is solely credited as the writer, and told everyone (including his fans, who might even hate reality TV) they do not care about cinematic standards. If professional film critics, and audiences didn’t have cinematic standards Shyamalan people would be eating up “The Last Airbender” just on name value alone.

There’s also the introduction of two characters in the movie that go absolutely nowhere. On this trip, what were the chances that Becca would filmed two completely random adults who used to be actors. One during the train ride in the beginning of the film, and another twenty minutes in when someone came up to check up on the grandparents. These two characters don’t do much from the single scene they are in besides being more evidence to assure viewers who made predictions on the twist. Another person is brought up in the film is a stranger who just appears in an empty neighborhood to just get beat up by the grandpa.

Why this stands out so much is before grandpa, and the our main kids characters arrive at the high school their grandparents met each other. We’re shown the drive to that destination, and there’s hardly any people walking on the streets. Sure it’s winter, but another trick to good horror movies is removing the suspicion of there being any scares in a scene which can’t be done when the one time we’re shown the outside of this house is an empty neighborhood. Becca encourages her grandpa, and brother to play a game where they make up a story for a person in a building. I spotted the house where M. Night Shyamalan good ideas never existed.

Another aspect about this scene that also gave away the twist was the grandpa feeling like he was being followed. Now, we’re told these old people are counselor so when the grandfather acts funny by believing someone is following him it doesn’t add up. I mean, it’s part of his job to talk to people so this scene was also reaffirming my prediction on the twist, as well as breaking what’s established. If the grandpa simply stated one of his patients has it out of him problem solved, and nothing seems out of character. Except grandpa, and grandma never talk about their jobs, nor mention the people they help in detail.

The last secondary character that is worth mentioning is a young woman who brings food to the house. Seeing the lack of attention for establishing any form of normality this character also goes nowhere. If the lack of secondary characters didn’t giveaway there’s something clearly wrong with the situation then the interaction will. Shyamalan problem was immediately making the grandparents awkward for the kids to talk too. He does not show a gradual change from a welcome home environment with the grandparents to unsettling visit. This decision cost Shyamalan to write himself into a corner. Without establishing a sense of normality, or a nice family moment viewers will expect something bad to happen at the end. Also, there’s not a single shot of Becca, Tyler, and the grandparents all together in the same frame. Hmm, nothing suspicion is there. You think Becca, an aspiring filmmaker would at least want one shot of the entire family together for documentary, except the thought never pops in her mind. Hm, completely makes sense to me. Unfortunately, something bad did end up happening in the last act.

Izanagi: “No! Why?!”

Cesar: “I was right! I told you M. Night Shyamalan is a terrible writer!”

Izanagi: “I don’t know who I hate more right now. You for acting obnoxious for being correct, or the fact M. Night is still writing twists into his movies!”

Now the twist wasn’t hard to see to coming. Before the twist is revealed there is not a single scene in the film with the entire cast all together. The two kids, are never shown sharing a scene with both grandparents together besides when they meet for the first time. They either hang out with the grandpa, or the grandma. On top of that, every scene where the kids interact with the grandparents is written awkwardly. One way to counteract this would have been writing a single scene of the entire family having fun together. Except that never happens. Something has to go aray whenever the kids are with their grandparents. Then there’s the plain problem that the kids are mostly together implying they hardly hang out with the grandparents. Also, let’s not forget the counseling job is mentioned once in the beginning, and is briefly brought up again in the middle of the film. So connecting the dots wasn’t a difficult task for me. It wasn’t being used in the film to drive the plot so I made a note of it. The broken premise, combine with awkward interaction between kids and grandparents, the lack of secondary characters written in the film, the lack of the grandparents talking about their jobs or seen doing it, no nights at the grandparents house without some odd occurrence, and that it is written by M. Night Shyamalan made me confidence about my prediction. Also, the fact I dread being correct goes to show I take no pleasure in being correct about a bad piece of writing, and the whole film in general.

There’s still other elements to write about though. Those the are the characters which don’t have depths to them. Becca is an aspiring filmmaker, but talks about film in a snobish way. There is no enthusiasm towards her approach in filming. There’s also a subplot brought out of nowhere of how she doesn’t like looking at herself, even though there was a moment fifteen minutes into the film of Becca looking into a mirror when talking to Tyler. This would be better foreshadow if she turned around in that scene, and talked to Tyler. Also, she’s an aspiring filmmaker, and does not like looking at herself? There’s also this plot point of the kids father leaving them at a young age which also get brought out of nowhere at times. This eventually connects with why Becca is filming the documentary…but it’s very silly. A simple phone call would fix everything if all the mother was looking for was forgiveness. Then the plot twist opens up more plot holes, and brings up the serious lack of police world in this small town.

Now, the acting is surprisingly good. The dialogue is written awkwardly, and the kids don’t talk like kids, but they are convincing in their roles. Olivia Dejonge who plays Becca deliver convincingly her role of a troubled young teen. She sounds like she has built up resentment, sounds like she’s into filmmaking, and shows uncertainty on to how to feel in situations. Dejonge does not come across wooden in her performance. Dejonge comes across convincingly as her character. Ed Oxenbould best trait was his chemistry with Olivia Dejonge. I believed him, and Olivia Dejonge were siblings. Their chemistry felt natural in every sense of the word. However, Ed Oxenbould was the most annoying out of the cast. I blame Shyamalan for giving him his awful rapping scenes, but Oxenbould takes the blame for confusing shouting for comedy. Ed Oxenbould does not have the acting chops to sell good jokes because he has no charisma behind his setup, and punchline, let alone selling a film filled entirely of bad jokes. Making matter worse is he ends the film with another one of his terrible rapping scenes.

Deanna Dunagan plays the grandmother in the film. Aesthetically she fits the role by simply having to look old, but her appearances is her greatest attribute in this film. Managing to come across as some nice old lady, and flipping the switch into insane crazy old woman. She shows fear whenever she does anything odd which adds to the character uneasiness towards the kids. Dunagan comes across convincingly as a senile person. Lastly, Peter Mcrobbie gets a less showing performance compare to his co-star Dunagan. Mcrobbie comes as sincere in portrayal which is to his credit. He’s makes a character that little to explore, and acts naturally in it. There ain’t much to his performance besides being the more normal acting grandparent. The supporting don’t have screen time to make an impression making most of their inclusion in the film mostly pointless in one scene.

Night Shyamalan’s The Visit is just plain bad. It’s not a good movie by Shyamalan’s standards, nor ties for the worst films he’s made in his careers. By found footage standard, the acting is better than the genre generally provides, but the writing matches those of the worst in the genre. Then finally, the same mistakes 98% of found footage movies do The Visit also falls victim from audio being able to be heard despite long distances, the characters filming everything, and acting against reason. For instance, there’s a scene where the grandmother picks up a camera, and film herself attempting to enter her grandkids room with a knife with the intention to kill them. So despite losing her marbles this old woman has the sense to pick up a camera, but not destroy the footage? Shyamalan is not successful enough in creating a fictional illusion barely comprehending makes work of fiction engaging. Whatever made him think he could sell something else as reality to viewers is about as nonsensical as his writing.


Izanagi insisted I include this epilogue.

After-viewing discussion:

Izanagi (furiously looking at Cesar): “You’re such a buzz kill!”

Cesar: “I told you so Izanagi. This is M. Night Shyamalan we’re talking about.”

Izanagi: “You’re so obtuse on the guy! Other people enjoy his works. If you don’t, then don’t be a dick about it! There is no one out there who shares your same viewpoints on movies”

Cesar: “Fair point, but think about this. From my perspective, the hack that is M. Night Shyamalan gets more attention, articles, and discussions for his films over talented filmmakers like Charles Burnett who made a great biopic called Selma, Lord, Selma in 1998 for Walt Disney Pictures.”

Izanagi: “There is no way Disney made a film on Dr. King. I mean, hello. They’re Disney!”

(Izanagi takes out his phone to check if it’s true. Much to his dislike CM is correct.)

Izanagi looks at a smiling CM: “I hate you so much.”

Cinema-Maniac: Time Lapse (2014) Review

Time traveling movies have the largest amount of room for error in their writings. Creating paradox, plot holes, and inconsistency. This all applies to all forms of stories, but the ones where time traveling is involved are at greater risk coming across these issues than any other type of stories. However, the less amount of errors you have in a time traveling story the better the overall result can be. Time Lapse is one of those instances where a simple approach to a complex concept makes a good film.

Time Lapse follows three friends discovering a mysterious machine that takes pictures 24 hours into the future and conspire to use it for personal gain, until disturbing and dangerous images begin to develop. One aspect about Time Lapse that most films about time manipulation do incorrectly is over complicate the mechanics behind time travel. In this film, upon the main character’s discovery of this camera the rules are laid out, and are easy to understand. Our characters attempt to understand how this camera, and test it out to confirm it functions.

Characters in the present are given a picture of themselves 24 hours into future doing various things, and the characters in the present timeline have to match the photo in 24 hours so their past self can receive the same photo. The characters never travel between timelines meaning there’s less chances to create a paradox. If something goes wrong the characters, at no point, can they travel back in time, and undo an event. At most, they can simply warn their present self in a photo from the future. Another nice bonus to the camera is how it’s used to foreshadow events in the future visually. With this simple element the writers are allowed to focus more on the characters than spending several scenes discussing the mechanics of the camera. This also gives the writers opportunities to set up seemingly unimportant elements of the film, and bring them up later to be used later on.

Characters are few in number, and written in a way they can carry the film on their own. Throughout the run time the film never loses focus on the main characters. Finn (Matt O’Leary) is an aspiring painter who can’t seem to get the final product from his mind onto a canvas. Jasper (George Finn) is a slacker who attempts to make money through illegal gambling like betting on races. Finally, Callie (Danielle Panabaker) the supportive girlfriend of Finn. These three characters are always together creating an intimate tone within the story. Not only that, but their interactions with each others conveys these are long time friends. Instead of telling us about these characters relationship with each other it shows it to the viewers. Through the course of the movie greed will take over each of the character taking a toll on them in different form. These three characters are dynamic making the events that prevent the story from heading into a linear path.

These character gradual changes add twists to the story while never over complicating the overall storyline. Character relationship are explored in the film. From Finn and Callie relationship that seems rocky to Finn and Jasper that argue over how this camera should be used. It’s all driven by the characters. Best aspect about the small cast is how clear everything is about them. They aren’t complex characters, but their simplicity work extremely well in the confined in the story presented. The film does sprinkle discussions about the consequences of playing against time, but the concept isn’t fully explored compare to the character relationship that becomes rocky over time.

As much as I am praising the film there’s evidence of the low-budget indicating how events fold out in the film. Despite giving the film my highest rating possible these issues prevent Time Lapse from feeling like a great experience. For starter, one of the film’s central conflict revolves around illegal gambling, and a bookie who doesn’t like the idea Jasper (one of our three main characters) is winning so much money. This conflict could have easily been remedied if Jasper simply went into legal gambling like buying lottery tickets. This huge over sight is done to provide conflict to the story in the form of Ivan giving a life threatening presence, and actual consequences of their usage of this camera besides their friendship. A more organic conflict arising from Jasper large winnings was possible, but wasn’t taken for the sake of the story.

Another is the lack of location within the film. Everything basically takes small in one small area. In order to compensate for the lack of location the filmmakers opted for a more personal story involving its characters. Unfortunately, the camera never leaves the gates of this one area so visually you’ll be seeing the same rooms, and the same set without it ever changing. It’s all shot well thanks to cinematographer Jonathan Wenstrup polish, tightly confined, and clear look for the film. One aspect that wasn’t a hindrance, but could use an explanation is one moment in the film. Jasper takes a picture from his phone of the photograph from the camera which manages to show the same thing. What this says is basically a photo taken by any other devices other than this huge, futuristic camera can also capture a photo that show events that will transpire 24 hours into the future. The film never goes into the creation of this camera, but even if it did it likely would have sounded preposterous given the huge size of the actual camera.

The one aspect that makes this whole film come together is the acting. Matt O’Leary takes charge as Finn. He’s charismatic, and a capable leading man. His acting shops proves his immense likability being funny, dramatic, and struggling internally sometime all within one scene. Matt O’Leary has a good grip of his character that he becomes Finn without questioning it. George Finn plays Jasper with a good portrayal of his slacker turned into psycho. What best about this performance is George Finn doesn’t go over the top when showing the darker aspect of his character. He simply hints at it throughout with simple gesture making for a calm psycho. Danielle Panabaker plays Callie making her likable. Unlike George Finn character, Panabaker isn’t given enough scenes to gradually show her transform into a different character. However, Danielle Panabaker is able to hide her character ulterior motive without viewers catching on. Together all three actor keep viewers engaged during a slow build of the story. Their chemistry with each other is natural in every scene they take part in. Selling quickly the idea these are long time friends.

The supporting casts are a nice addition from Jason Spisak as the bookie, and David Figlioli as his bodyguard. None of them look intimidating, but are their performances work. The remaining cast member to mentioned have brief appearances in the film. They won’t make much of an impression since their screen time is very brief. Time Lapse soundtrack doesn’t contain much music making the noteworthy track, “Spider” by the band The Autumn Owls easy to spot. All the music will go unnoticed since it’s not a strong presence in the film. The music isn’t huge on a tracklist, but it’s effective nonetheless.

If you’re still pondering over the rating (even you read the previous paragraphs) here’s a bit more insight. The choices made by the filmmakers are equal to those done by veteran filmmakers. You have a great premise, and plenty of ideas with it to tell engaging story. However, there’s a giant plot hole that should prevent the story from being told the way it is. Do you compromise an original vision, or rework to way in a new way? In this film, nothing feels like it was compromised because it was engaging to forgive it giant plot hole, and become immersed in the story. Every choice from the casting, the look, and even the execution was expertly handled by director Bradley King in his first feature-length film. Not only that, but also compliments to both Bradley King, and BP Cooper for their written film. They do not have experience on under their belt, and do display potential talent in crafting a film. Whether or not these two will continue to make films remains unanswered, but they with their showcase with film is any indication they might be capable of creating a classic film.

Time Lapse is an enjoyable, simple film that’s better written than you might expect. The choices made are similar to veteran filmmakers in crafting a good film. It won’t have the wow factor of any time travel classic due to some sacrifices in the writing, nor the technical prowess to stand out, but it’s nice a little gem in the low-budget sci-fi department.   


Random Rambling: Update and Short Q & A

I wanted to let readers know on what to expect in the upcoming from November to December. Currently, I’m working on another Random List entry. This time researching haunted roads which I’m hoping to post on Halloween. At this moment I’m still doing research since some of these road since some do not have many stories for me to share with my readers. I’m also planning to post movie reviews for the Mission Impossible film franchise, an entirely new review for Cannibal Holocaust towards the end of October, and a review for the anime movie Expelled From Paradise very soon. Anime series reviews will take a bit longer than desired since series like Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei have so many issues to address my draft can go over 5000 words. Then, there’s also a review for the original 1979 Mobile Suit Gundam series I’m planning on getting finish before the end of the year. That’s not everything I’m planning, but the ones I know I will get started on, and eventually try to post here on Personafcation. Now onto to some random questions!

Q: Are you still transferring all your old content?

A: Yes I am. I still have like over 300 old movie reviews to transfer over. I also got some other blogs I want to post here too.

Q: Why are you reposting your old content instead of redoing them?

A: I want there to be a clear outline of where I started, and to where I am now. I think, in general, my old content is weak compared to what I write now. However, I’m still proud I created them. Most of my old content I believe hasn’t held up to the standards I wanted. Though, they’re are my writing, and want to share them with whoever wants to read them.

Q: Why don’t you have an “About Me” section currently?

A: I’m transferring over old content, and once I finished I want to make an easy to navigate page where you can find all the stuff that interests you. If you only read my anime reviews I want to make a page where you can easily find what specific review you want to read. I do have a menu right, but in the future I’m on it making it more precise.

Q: Will you share more about yourself?

A: I’m planning too for sure. I want to do blogs on like my favorite bands, favorite video games, and all sorts of other topics.

Q: Are you planning on writing about serious issues?

A: Depends on what I’m discussing. At the moment, I am planning on writing a list entry discussing unsolved missing, or dead babies cases. Depressing I know, but if possible, I want to spread awareness for a good cause. I’m also thinking about doing a “Digging For Truth” blog entry where I research a crime, and be as accurate as possible in presenting it since many sites, and bloggers fabricate the facts to their own liking. I’m doing it since I recently saw the film An American Crime, and do a piece detailing the crime for readers who want to find out more.

Q: Are you planning on promoting other wordpress sites, or content creator you enjoy?

A: I’ll be glad too, even if the other site administrator, content creator doesn’t do the same. I remember in my early days when I started reviewing on Rotten Tomatoes how a reader picked me up, and help me become more active in the community. I did the same for others, even encouraging or inspiring some to write blogs on different topics. If I could do the same here I don’t see why not.

Q: Why do you run the website yourself when you’re planning on creating various number of different content? Did you not ask anyone you know for help?

A: I did ask a friend of mine if he would be interested in writing on my site since he doesn’t post his various reviews on any site to my knowledge. He hasn’t responded to my offer. I have friends on MyAnimeList that I would like write with, but they’re either too busy with their personal life, or want to promote their own content.

Q: Final question, where did you come up with your site name, and tagline?

A: I came up with my site name from the game Persona, and also like the culture behind it. I simply spelled Personification with Persona which wasn’t taken. As for my tagline, I came up with it on the spot.

I plan on doing another Q & A to answer more random questions. Until next time fellow readers, insert catchphrase here.

Cinema-Maniac: Fantastic Four (2015) Review

My views towards superheroes films is similar to that of Disney movies; very complicated, convoluted, and getting tired of their formulas. A main contributor to this is most superheroes films feel the need to tell an origin story, and all feeling the same in outline form. Usually you have a young main character getting into an accident, is a good-doer, and after learning about his new-found abilities becomes a hero for the greater good. Our main character could suffer from blindness, being bullied, or simply being beautiful which limits the type of characters that are created. Superheroes films, at the moment, don’t experiment much to the point that female-led superhero films can be counted on a single hand.

Fantastic Four was different for me as director, and writer of the film Chronicle, Josh Trank, brought in new ideas to a genre that refuses to experiment. It was a good film that while limited to the found footage format actually managed to be one of the rare times a found footage film worked. So for the first time since Man of Steel in 2013 I had expectations to experience a different kind of superhero film. Allot of what I learned about the film seem promising, and the teaser trailer got my interest. Now the point I started getting worried about the project wasn’t the reshoots since one of my favorite movies, Jaws, and one of the best superheroes film ever made, Superman (1978), also endured reshoots. It was with the first official trailer for Fantastic Four that made me lose interest as the trailer was generic.

You think reviews would have kept me away, except for the fact superheroes films are the least trustworthy for me when it comes to critical, and audience reviews. If “The Dark Knight” is held to the highest standards for many of these reviewers so I had little reliable sources to turn to whenever one of these films get release. So out of the hundreds of reviews for this film the two reviewers I actually trusted with this genre both wrote negative reviews for the film. This caused me to be cautious. Then came in the talk of cut content which is where my interest raised again.

Fantastic Four follows four young outsiders teleported to an alternate and dangerous universe which alters their physical form in shocking ways. The four must learn to harness their new abilities and work together to save Earth from a former friend turned enemy. The first ten minute of the films seem promising showing a young Reed Richard, and Ben Grimm attempting to send a toy car into another dimension. Unlike the rest of the film, the character are enthusiastic towards this goal, and dedicated to achieving it. What’s wrong with these first ten minutes are simple. For starter, Ben Grimm “It’s Clobberin Time” catch phrase originates from the times his older brother beat him up. Now I, expected this eventually pointless discovering would lead to some sort of repressed memory for Ben Grimm. This film clearly wanted to go in a dark direction so why not repress murder? It wouldn’t be pleasant, nor worked well, but would have been different, and explain Ben Grimm lack of social skills or friends in the film.

In the first ten minutes, Reed Richard succeeds in building a teleportation device in his parents garage. Before that though, Reed Richards tells the entire class he wants to be the first person to teleport himself. His teacher, naturally tells him to pick a real career seemingly wanting to crush a young kid dream. I would argue against the realism of this scene, but school is where dreams go to die. My college professor told me that once when I, and several others, talked about our desired career on the first day in class (no joke). So after succeeding in teleporting a toy car what happens to Reed Richard? Fast forward seven years later. Neglecting what could have been interesting events to follow-up on. Why this timeskip is so damaging is plain simple; it glosses over the possible introduction of Reed Richard to the Baxter Foundation at an early age, and meeting the other major characters. If the film chose to show Reed Richard working within the Baxter Foundation at a such young age, and communicating with the other major characters developing the cast could have been easier. Also, I’m expected to buy within the first ten minutes a young kid developed a teleportation device in his parents garage, but a research institute aiming for the same thing completely missed this story in every possible way. This is the moment I gave up hope for good, sensical writing in the film.

In a science competition Reed Richards shows his teacher who told him to pick a real career. Demonstrate in front of his teacher eyes, and hands covering his ears a teleportation device. This same teacher who failed to crush Reed Richard dreams disqualified Reed Richard under the basis he believe Reed Richard perform magic. Yes, because Reed Richard who had his hands covering his ears build a machine in order to make an elaborate light show in order to perform magic. I would argue how this teacher got his job, but the US education system is terrible so it’s not far fetch when depicting this teacher.

All of this was meant to develop characters within the first hour. However, that soon evaporate with one major mistake. So in the film Reed Richard, along with other young bright scientists that make up the core cast have to work together to make a teleportation device for the Baxter Corporation within the building. Instead of showing the trial, and error process of making such a machine would be a good excuse to develop characters, and their bond. The film decides to speed up the process by only showing the group talk to each other every now, and then. Not showing any hardship that has to be overcome when building a machine straight out of science fiction. Therefore, the completion of this teleportation device doesn’t feel like a group achievement. Feeling more like the writers went through another plot point keep the story rolling.

It might read like I skipped over a lot of material, but the sad truth is hardly anything in the first hour contributes much to the overall picture. The only thing that needs to be brought up is the group decides to go to Planet Zero because they got drunk, and want to stick it to the man by going to this other dimension first. Something goes awry when the group goes to Planet Zero, and eventually return home with one less member. Now, Sue Storm, not going to Planet Zero would have been fine if she didn’t get her powers by getting blasted by a computer. At most, a computer will catch on fire, and burn you. There are other side effects, but none of which include the powers to be invisible. To be clear, I’m not referring to Kate Mara (the actress who plays Sue Storm) career after this movie either.

Another issue is, like every live action Fantastic 4 film, is it desire to follow trends for of the time for unexplained reasons. For instance, as unsubtle as a villain like Red Skull in Captain America is, that film doesn’t undermined the audience intelligent, and actually plays up on that aspect. Here, there’s a character named Victor Von Doom. Hm, there’s clearly nothing wrong here. I am one-hundred percent positive someone named Doom will not, in any way, be the villain of the film or turn out to be evil. Noticing this I am dealing with yet, another instance of “Obviously Evil Bad Guy”. Unlike in say something like Mad Max: Fury Road where the “Obviously Evil Bad Guy” worked because the aesthetics of the film complemented it. In Fantastic 4 it is attempting to be more realistic (for some reason) where it goes against such a cartoonish name. The film attempts to humanize Dr. Doom by making him difficult to work with, rude to his peers, getting jealous when Reed Richard is talking to his possible crush Sue Storm, and doing stupid things when he is drunk. Wait, some of that is still evil behavior. Well, the writing really sucks for this film.

By the time the second act finally ends you’re given enough reasons to dislike the film. The rush pacing, glossing over obstacles, missed opportunity for character development, and failing in setting up a grand story. One aspect that could have been engaging simply goes away due to a time skip. Ben Grimm returns to Earth as a pile of CGI, walking, talking rocks, and when the film shows Ben Grimm in this form for the first time he is scare. However, this turmoil for Ben doesn’t last long as soon as he talks to Dr. Allen minutes later he accepts his new body. Well, that was pointless. There’s also another scene where Franklin Storm sees his son, Johnny Storm, confuse in pain burning endlessly. Instead of making a somewhat emotional moment of Franklin Storm talking to his son, and calming him long enough for Johnny to be in human form. Viewers are instead greeted with a scene of Reed Richard escaping from a military base that has little security despite the fact they are holding people with abnormal abilities. Though, the film is not entirely to blame for this lengthy review. I got admit I missed an opportunity to make a racist joke as to why Johnny Storm is black in this movie unlike every other incarnation of Fantastic Four.

One line of dialogue in the film pissed me off way more than it will the average movie viewer. It was during a scene where supervisor Dr. Allen is showing footage of The Thing working in military combat fields. At the moment the camera shows The Thing ripping off the upper half of a tank Dr. Allen says “He’s been involved in covert operations”. Really? A walking, pile of rock has been involved in several covert operations? Not only that, but apparently none of this footage, nor the enemies footage of The Thing has been seen by any form of media? I’m expected to believe , The Thing, existence is unknown to the world when he is shown ripping apart the upper half of a tank, and throwing it at enemy soldiers? Now the reason this line pissed me off was because in my time off I played a video game called Binary Domain. The entire game was meant to be a covert mission, yet in one level I fought against a Spider Robot the size of tall building. This occurred in one level so try to imagine an entire video game spanning around ten hours with events like that. The game events unfold in the span of a couple of days, and of course it eventually get public attention. Yet, I’m expected to believe for an entire year The Thing has been a part of military operations, and none of the enemy soldier that saw him told anyone? Dr. Allen says The Thing saves people while The Thing is hurting people on footage. So if this claim is true, HOW COME THERE ISN’T A SINGLE NEWS REPORT OF SEVERAL SOLDIERS REPORTING THEY SAW A GIANT PILE OF ROCK IN COMBAT! I’m willing to accept any leap of logic, but not, when it is very clear, that the film itself is attempting to be realistic, and wants to be taken seriously to the degree of Fantastic Four.

The final act is entirely ripped from another movie. A generic superhero movie without giving its main villain a motive for destruction, or has heroes that care that a military facility is filled with dead people. Seriously, there’s no emotional reaction from the Fantastic Four when ordinary people die. When the Fantastic Four have no chemistry with each other, than showing them be concerned with the fate of planet Earth in the climax there’s no sense of weariness from them. At this point in the film, the team isn’t even referred to as the Fantastic Four, nor is the name ever uttered in the film. It’s ashame of it for some inexplicable reason. What this final act also contains is a force “Save the World” climax, and a weak final fight for some action. When the film actually ends, it becomes evidently clear the film amounted to nothing. From the first hour that set everything to the last act that goes in an entirely different direction. Losing faith along the way before becoming a film that satisfies no one.

The cast of Fantastic Four includes the talented cast of Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, and Jamie Bell. Performances they aren’t bad when showing the inner struggle of their characters alone, but together the cast don’t have any chemistry together. Jamie Bell, and Kate Mara for instance, never make eye contact with each other in the entire movie. When the Fantastic Four are all together on-screen they don’t come across as good friends or a family. One issue being Jamie Bell is absent for a good portion of the film while the other cast member play characters who built a teleportation device. Toby Kebbell who plays Doctor Doom provides a stale performance. As soon as he appears on-screen there’s no question he’s a villain. He’s gets the worst part to play since his costume for Doctor Doom is expressionless, and his mask seems like a crash test dummy head painted black with neon green lights implanted on it. It’s look terrible on-screen.

Miles Teller gets a few scenes where his acting chops adds to a scene. For example, there’s a scene that requires Miles Teller to crawl to a pile of rubber after an incidents. His display of concern is convincing, but when he turns around to see his body stretched out his mortification sells this moment. It’s a good moment in the movie, but this is only of one of about three scene where the characters come across as people. The other two scenes being Jamie Bell voicing his distraught in being The Thing for the first time, and the other being Michael B. Jordan screaming as he is engulfed by flames. These snippets make the character seem real since they are afraid of they new-found abilities they don’t understand to use. However, there’s where their most human moments end. Unlike other films in the genre, we don’t see the Fantastic Four gradually accepting their abilities.

The supporting casts are entirely one note for the film. Reg E. Cathey who plays Franklin Storm maintains a similar facial expression of disapproval for every scene he’s in. He’s can’t do anything in the role. Tim Blake Nelson who plays Dr. Allen has to look smug, and pretend to be chewing gum for every scene he’s in. He makes little no lasting impression. That’s about it for the supporting cast. Most of the actors in the film appear briefly in a scene or two then never appear again. One of them being Ben Grimm mother, and his brother who disappear after a single scene.

This film contains a few practical effects, and they are convincing looking. Like the mentioned moment when Reed Richard is crawling, and legs stretches out for a couple of meters. CGI on the other hand never blends into with the live action portion. It’s rubbery whenever Reed Richards stretches his body in the few moments near the end when powers are used. However, the CGI isn’t used for action scenes, nor in moments of showing off the heroes good sides. At most, you’ll see briefly clips of The Thing military operations, one brief fight with Reed Richards attempting to fight off military gunman, and towards the end when the Fantastic Four team up to fight Doctor Doom. So very powers usage throughout the world. The Thing looks convincing depending on the lighting, but when he’s fully visible isn’t convincing. Kate Mara wig changes throughout the film, and so does her style. It’s distracting, but the least of the film problems. Planet Zero itself is simply an empty planet with nothing living on it. The music is just forgettable.

Fantastic 4 is a bad film that had potential, but was squandered. It’s a shame to be what it originally wanted to be opting to be a film that pleases everyone, and in the end becoming a film no one wants. Some ideas it had could have led to a good movie, and certain moments in the film are inspired, but the whole thing is a big mess. Good talent is wasted, special effects quality are uneven, and the script is weak on all front. In the end, the biggest let down of seeing this film is the only thing that makes it stand out in the genre is how bad it turned out.


A Silly Afterthought:

I had no idea where to include this piece of thought in my review so I just place it here in the end. One thing I noticed about all the Fantastic Four films, and some of the comic books is The Thing always wears pants, but in this film he’s always walking naked. So, I find it funny the MPAA considers this PG-13 material, yet something like Steve Jobs has probably like small uses of the F word is rated R. If I understand this correctly, I could display nudity in a movie so long the character is entirely CG, yet simple foul language will get me an R rating. Every movie watcher probably knows this by now, but the MPAA really needs to update their regulations for movie ratings. Oh yeah, there’s also the costumes which I didn’t comment on. To be honest, I prefer the costumes in this film over the comic books which basically are blue tight suits with a number four on it.

Anime-Breakdown: Natsu e no Tobira (1981) Movie Review

Natsu e no Tobira/The Door Into Summer in English is an animated film from 1981 based on the manga of the same name by Keiko Takemiya. A pioneer of shonen-ni/yaoi manga in the early 1970s whose short story, Sunroom ni te, contains the earliest known male-male kiss in a shojo manga. She’s an accomplished mangaka whose contribution to her field is far more interesting, and engaging than this Madhouse and Toei produced animated hour-long film. It’s a relic of the past that is better left collecting dust.  

Natsu e no Tobira attempts to be a coming of age story tackling the idea of raw love in youth. Unfortunately there isn’t enough material for it to delve into its own chosen subject. Right off the bat the film opens with intrigued starting ​at a future point with two friends in a twenty paces pistol duel with main character Marion in his attempt to stop them. This opening is stylishly presented with field of red roses contrasting against a dark sky along with black and white human characters figure in the pouring rain. This opening scene is a good hook in making the viewer wonder what led up to this moment. Everything after this opening is an immediate failure.  

For starter,​ the biggest issue for this coming of age film is there’s virtually no characterization. Without establishing how the central characters were before experiencing their life changing events it doesn’t feel like they learned anything from their conflicts. A character in the film reveals he has feeling for his male best friend which isn’t hinted at any point in the film. It’s a spontaneous revelation that only brings to mind crucial questions. What made him fall in love with his friend, and how long has he felt this way aren’t answered. Presenting itself more in the way of an over the top soap opera exaggerating every major scene. Similar dramatic scenes are presented in ridiculous way, but are not enjoyable because they’re meant to be taken seriously.

Another issue is Marion is a boring main character. He, like the rest of the film, is simply going through the motions of events without setting up a proper groundwork. Marion point of view on love is of that of a fairy tale, but he’s too shallow to be sucked into the emotions he’s going through. There are only few lines of dialogue that attempt to characterize Marion, and give a bit of backstory, but they’re delivered in a  throwaway manner not allowing time for those plot points to sink in before another event happens that progresses the story. The dialogue in general revolves around love which gets repetitive when characters have no other things to talk about.

There’s a scene where our characters see the dead body of a friend that committed suicide. One of them acts appropriately being sadden at the lost of a friend only then to utter out loud he wants to be hold by the woman (who’s in her 40s) he loves. In the background of the same scene two other characters talk about dueling to get a girl hand in marriage. A friend of these characters killed himself, learn about it recently going to the site, and they are so self-absorbed in their own problems to pay to their dead friend any proper respect. Other characters don’t fare any better. Marion is one-dimensional while everyone else are more in the cookie cutter variety. Nearly all the characters have a conflict revolving around love, aren’t developed to make any said change meaningful, and are treated as plot devices.

Madhouse and Toei Animation who are responsible for putting this anime movie together were faithful to the manga which is a negative. The manga is a single volume, less than 80 pages manga telling the same exact story which would take an average reader less amount of time to read in its entirety than watching this film. There’s not enough material to extent into an hour-long film. Unfortunately the added scenes don’t improve an already short story with rush pacing and shallow writing. It’s bloated with scenes dragging out in order to be extended to an hour length. Instead of expanding on the basic story it inflates itself with material that doesn’t do much in the long run to improve the source material. One of these decision is giving supporting characters more screen time, but that doesn’t amount too much since supporting characters are simply tools to advance to the next scene.

All the characters look feminine, especially the males. Emphasizing beauty of character over anything else. Containing sparkling eyes, smooth skins, and gorgeous similar looking hair cut. None of the character designs standout being exactly what you would expect from a Shojo that doesn’t attempt to standout. The background is generally blurry in line with a wispy like style. With the exception of the flower field where the duel is held backgrounds are dull to look at with minimal detail paid to them.  

The music is composed by Kentaroh Handeda whose score is a mixture of violins, saxophone, piano, and low-key singing of lalala lyrics. If you allowed a giant pile of cheese to produce music for this anime you would get the same result. Not a single memorable track helps the anime in any positive way. There’s a terrible sex scene in the film which is made worse by jazz like music combine with animation that attempt to make it look poetic. The result is one of the worst sex scenes you could see that’s animated. In general the music is forgettable and has the power to put anyone to sleep when listening to it.

Voice acting from the entire cast is weak. Granted the material wasn’t good in the first place, but the voice work doesn’t fare out better with the vocal performances. The gender roles are basically reverse in their performances; the females are reserve, and the males are more emotional. Like with everything else in the film the voice acting leaves allot to be desired. In general being trite, unconvincing in relaying across any proper emotion in their line delivery to make them believable.

Natsu e no Tobira has a lot of problems, but the one thing the anime movie does better over the manga is the pacing so everything in the film flows more naturally. While there isn’t enough substance to justify its own length at least it unfolds in a more proper manner than the manga. However, even with that small praise it clearly went to waste. Madhouse and Toei studio both failed to add anything to something that was already rushed, and shallow from the source material managing to make it worse in animated form.


Anime-Breakdown: Death Parade (2015) Series Review

Spoiler Warning: My review will spoil the entire series of Death Parade in order to explore its story, and go into detail as to why its writing fails even at obtaining the bare minimum for a working story. Ending up as a collection of ideas that failed to work in a cohesive manner because not enough thought was given to either the story nor its characters. Obviously with that being said if you still want to continue reading (regardless if you’ve seen the series or not) you have been warned on these spoilers.

“We are all just dummies Nona, and that includes me” Oculus from Episode 12 of Death Parade

No better quote from the anime Death Parade better sums up the series than this sentence. Everything Death Parade presents to the viewer serves to further question why the story is bothered to be told in the first place. A good simile would be reading, or watching a courtroom drama with the story being told establishing nothing about the court system or how it runs. Such fine details would be needed in order to discuss a number of ideas especially if attempting to tell a “change the system” story. When Death Parade has these issues the lack of characterization, and unbalanced narrative structure become far more noticeable due to it.

A simple abstract idea like a realm whose inhabitants determine if a deceased person gets resurrected or send to the void (a bottomless pit basically) would have worked just fine as is. The afterlife itself, and the question if such a thing exists would lead to a never-ending discussion, but when attempting to give functionality similar to the real world to an abstract idea it attempting to cover far more than it is capable off in the short amount of time it has.

Broken: Story with no thought put into it

Death Parade first episode is the best in the series. If only for the sole reason none of the major issues are made apparent from the onslaught. However, it does suffer from an Spanish soap opera style of storytelling in its first episode. Making every twist unintentionally hysterical. It’s also the only other episode (the other being episode 7) whose tone, and execution is carried over from the anime’s intro. Though, you’ll have a hard time trying to consider an anime dumb fun when the first episode has a man indirectly killing a fetus inside his fiancée womb. With this being how the anime starts you know you are in for a fun ride when a dead fetus is in the first episode.

In episode 2, it is explained the whole purpose of the death games is to exhibit human reaction by creating tensions by making the participants think they’re in a worse position than death. Before getting to the games let’s focus on why this judgment system is broken. Immediately after the anime explains the purpose of the games it doesn’t addressed what precautions Quindecim has in place to those people who know they are dead. In the first episode, Decim says that the game will have the player stake their lives on a game without both knowing that they are dead. If both participant know their dead, or simply refuse to play the game what other methods do the arbiters have to providing judgment to souls? Luckily the anime avoids bringing such a scenario to the center opting to ignore the essential details. It’s not like this omission is plot breaking, but the lone fact that I have to accept arbiters never come across this issue, or mention an event where it has happen causes further suspension of disbelief that every person who arrives at Quindecim is oblivious to the fact they die when they arrive. So, Death Parade is telling me there’s possibly millions of people who went through these judgments, every single one was willing to participate, and didn’t know they were dead virtually every single time.

Another thing about the world is those being judge come in pair. Except for the special case of Onna (a main character/plot device) who arrives alone in Quindecim in episode 5. This episode explains why Onna is a special case; she appeared alone in Quindecim, and could remember that she died. Raising some interesting questions like why did Onna appear alone in Quindecim? What happen to the other person who was meant to arrive with Onna? What could have caused the problem in the first place? All of which, and more Death Parade is happy to ignore providing an explanation for.

When an explanation is provided it hurts the series more by bringing to mind other things that need to be address. In episode 7, all that is shown about training is Decim and Ginti (just one of many unimportant supporting characters) is pressing a button to complete their training to be Arbiters. Nothing is mentioned if the two have read books on human psychology, or if they studied video recordings of previous judgments. If Quindecim has the technology to include elevators, and a machine that can track the deaths of people on Earth how come none of it was shown in the training process. For that matter, if the Arbiters jobs is to judge people how come they are forbidden to have emotions. It complicates matter when they aren’t allow to understand emotions the one element most crucial to their judgments. If the judgments are meant to be held from an objective point of view than how come the games themselves are rigged to favor one of the participant at a given moment. Fabricating the scenario along with the original emotions of those participating in these games of judgments.

Now the games themselves are not designed to do what they are meant to do. For starter, in episode 3 a pair of teenager play bowling. In Death Bowling, you can feel the other person’s heart when you grab the bowling ball. That is all there is to Death Bowling. When the bowling ball hit the pins nothing happens. There’s no consequences in getting points, or getting a gutter ball in bowling. Now compare Death Bowling to the first episode where a couple plays Death Dart to amplify the huge contrast. In episode 1, every point that was made hurt the other person in a specific body part depending on where their dart landed on a board. There are consequences playing against your opponent in Darts unlike in Bowling. It would be like hovering your hand over a hot stove versus placing your hand on the hot stove; clearly one scenario will cause more harm than the other. Death Dart will cause a greater emotional reaction because its participants are being harmed while Bowling due to no consequences to players the participants are simply relaxed enjoying a good time.

As a collective whole all the games require hands eye coordination over the usage of mind. In order to compensate for this issue the Arbiters can also mess around with the contestants while they’re playing the games. Creating an unfair advantage for both sides at any given moment defeating the purpose of the games. If the point of the games is to draw out the dark side of a person then if the game favors a player whose good at that game of course only one person will be frustrated. Demonstrated in episode 5 elegantly. You have a single mother who never played a video game going up against a loser who locked himself in his room all day playing video games. From the onset the loser has the advantage. Add onto that Arbiters ability to interfere at any given moment you’ll get a single mother smashing her opponent head on an arcade cabinet.

In episode 2, rule three is established, and it says Arbiters cannot feel any emotions. Now this rule isn’t always in use, but there is an exception to it only for every episode in the series. The opening intro for example shows the Arbiters showing a wide range of emotions when they’re dancing happily. In other episodes our main Arbiter of interest, Decim, is shocked in the second episode when he failed to take the action of lying into account in the first judgment of the anime series. When giving some thought you have Arbiters who are created not to feel emotions trying to judge souls that have emotions? So if the Arbiters can’t feel emotions it misguides the judgment. Usually how it’s done in the world of the living is the more you know about a subject the better you understand it (hopefully). Not the less is more approach in a scenario that requires you to decide the fate of people’s souls!

Death Parade biggest pitfall is the terrible world building. The more it reveals about Quindecim the more questions that are left unanswered. Including those needed to simply understand character motivations. Its establish that the arbiters are immortal, and provides no reason as to why they continue to judge souls. Nor does the anime care to explain what kind of payments would want to make immortal beings want to keep on judging souls for all eternity. Among other things that the writing fails to address is the creation of this “Middle World” when it is casually revealed in episode 12 that the Arbiters/Dummies, and the world itself are made up of souls that got send to the void. So exactly how did this “Middle World” come into existence if there was no humans at the beginning of time? Did these the Arbiters/Dummies judge Dinosaurs souls, but that would also bring to question about its creation? How exactly did it come into existence if it needs souls that get send to the void to be formed in the first place? The answer is simply a paradox. Also, awful world building, and horrible writing would have also been another acceptable answer to the question.

Bad: Weak main cast and interesting supporting characters that leave after one episode

Due to the narrative format attempting to be both episodic, and tell a continuing story it in turn hurts the characters. More so than just being poorly developed, but being unable to be seen as anything other than tools. Onna, whose one of our main character, is mostly use to guide the viewer into the world to explain certain aspects of it. She can’t remember her name, but spoiler her name is Plot Device. Okay not really, but it might as well be since if she wasn’t in the series than Death Parade would be a series of just episodic judgments. As explained in the previous paragraphs the writing simply refuses to have a functioning story. However, despite being a tool to progress the story she is also the best written character in the entire series.

For starter, Onna is the only character whose goals are clear. She’s trying to remember who she is, and what happened to her. All the other characters in the series don’t have goals, and if they do because of terrible world building those motives become muddle in the process. Another reason why Onna character works is because she is expressive throughout the series. How she views life is narrowed, but brings a personal attachment to judgments. She explains in some episodes to Decim how she came to her conclusions on certain people, and why Decim methods were wrong (which they are) or what he overlooked. Providing a showcase of her thought process. However, she is a plot device which means once her story comes to an end the anime has no time to improve after she’s gone. Also, Decim interaction with Onna reveals whatever characteristic was written in him to Onna. If you read the subtitles or listen to the English dub then you’ll know the entire finale solely dedicated to Onna judgment is entirely pointless, and contradictory to Decim character. At least Onna has a completed arc which is more of a miracle than anything else. Minus the resolution in the finale where she was given a large amount of time to reflect on her action unlike the other participants in the series.

Sadly our main character is Decim who is the worse of the bunch since he’s intentionally written to be terrible at everything he does. Now let’s forget about every issue I brought up to this point. This character is also the main reason why the series fails to accomplish anything meaningful. Decim is given the position of emotionless character gaining emotion by the end of the story. Problem is with no background on Decim acceptance on rule three which states Arbiters cannot feel emotions, for they are mere dummies, how he benefited from gaining emotion goes unseen. One of the final shot in the finale is Decim smiling, and that’s it. No episode dedicated to showing how this change improve or monologue from Decim to express how this new change in him changes his approach to judgments. As a character his journey is meaningless because the cause of his conflict isn’t explored nor is the aftermath of his change shown.

It’s established in the anime that Decim likes people who live fulfilling lives. A characteristic that instead of being used to developed an emotionless character serves the opposite in making him look bad at performing his job. For starter in episode 4, one of the people Decim has to judge is a single mother who had her life taken away from her. A single mother who made mistakes, but has given her all to improve herself as well as provide for her family. Next to her is a loser who simply wasted his time playing video games, being a shut in, being rude to his parents, and committing suicide. If the writing was competent there wouldn’t be an episode 4 written the way it is. Decim likes people who lived fulfilling lives so when a person who commits suicide is sent for him to be judged the outcome should have been obvious. However, according Decim the single mother who had her life taken from her would get sent to the void, and not the loser who committed suicide. Instead of making a good character with this established trait it is instead implemented for shock factor. It throws viewer off, while at the same time breaking whatever semblance of character consistency in Decim.

The participants of the games have aspects of their life reveal to the viewer through flashbacks. Usually displaying specific aspects of their life before hitting the bucket. Sadly one episode isn’t enough to get viewer to care for these characters, but they do provide an idea of how these participants were in the world of the living. A miss opportunity to these participants is a failure to touch on delicate subjects, and having characters present the grey area in life. Most of the participants either died naturally or because of an accident which were out of their control. Placing participants in good or evil category without much grey being presented. One example of a difficult judgement could have a doctor who performs dozen of Euthanasia on patients consent. Where would such a person go if Decim was judging this doctor since not only does it go against Decim personal claim of his likes for people who live fulling life, but it’s a case where taking life wasn’t without cause. A grey zone in some of the participants would have provided different perspective of people’s lives showing the world is filled with both complex and simple individuals not just one category.

The closest the anime gets into the grey area is in episode 8 and 9 when two killers are being judged. One character is a young adult searching for certain people to kill while another is a detective gone mad. Now what’s the problem with this before the episode begins? It’s not justifiable murder since Decim likes people who live fulfilling lives, so therefore the young adult will clearly be sent to the void. Given this series track record it’ll fall into good or evil category. Regardless of what category the person falls in they’ll immediately be sent to the void. Now, the detective gone psycho is revealed by the end of episode 8 to also be a killer. So, yes, you’re going to sit through two pointless episodes, and a pointless judgement when it is obvious at this point. Okay, if we took out these issues these two episodes don’t delve much into subject of justifiable killing (assuming it tried to go for that), or even questions if there is such a thing. The psycho detective shows no regret for killing, and the other despite having second thoughts commits to killing because of a personal trigger in his life. If this character learned his lesson than that would have been a dynamic moment. Except, this is Death Parade where it is more than happy to remain static.

I would bother going into details about the other arbiters, but due to terrible world building the importance of the other arbiters is up in the air. Nona for instance is given the position of boss, and then told in exposition that she’s been boss for 82 years. She’s slow, it took her 82 years to finally determine there’s something wrong with the way that judgments are done. Seriously, there was no other person qualified for the job. Not only that, but apparently according to the bad writing she change the system somehow. Without establishing certain rules how exactly her ideas for changing the ways judgments are done are as just puzzlingly as the fact these people talk about things they should already know. Then there’s Oculus who’s second in line to become God. This guy is so important that all we see him do is play pool, and talk to Nona. Clearly a person burden with so much responsibility. If all the trait you need to become God in this series is being easy, cheerful, and having an unexplained flower beard to become God this world high has some high standard for their judgement business. Nothing, but the worse, I meant “absolute best” can be expected for these individuals.

Good: Madhouse Spares No Expense

Madhouse studio is behind the production of Death Parade, and it’s done well to no one surprise. Death Parade sports a semi-realistic direction. Movement are hardly exaggerated with the cast consisting virtually of adult characters. In episode 11, Madhouse expertise in movements shows during an ice-skating sequence where 3D wasn’t used on a character while she was skating around the ice rink. It’s an impressive feat that three-dimensional movements was done by a drawn, two-dimensional character in the foreground. Backgrounds are given plenty of detail with a muted color palatte where colors aren’t usually bright. Favorably shoving plenty of purples, and blues on-screen. Aesthetically the only time it becomes flashy are during the games or when presenting the platform where the game will be played with speed lines, extreme close-ups, and exciting music to name a few techniques. Other than that, it simply looks nice without any visually interesting thing happening without a game being played. There is a pointless fight scene between two arbiters, but it only serves to fuel the fact that Decim is terrible at his job because he fails a test!

The opening animation is nice to look at, but completely misrepresentative of the series. A baby dies in the first episode, and the intro is happy-go-lucky for twelve episodes. This kills the mood from episode one, and onward when that is one of the first events it wants to show the viewers. Making the intro that much worse for misrepresenting itself. The fact Death Parade wants me to be happy after seeing a fetus die in the first episode is as twisted as creepy stalker idea of love.

Presentation wise the only issue I have, besides the opening, is the execution of episode 10 card game. Madhouse animated a series called “Gyakkyou Burai Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor” whose first arc is a card game of rock, paper, and scissors. The presentation in that first arc is glorious making card games awesome, over the top, exciting, and very intense. Here in a relaxing atmosphere seeing a card game is a snooze inducing experience. I could have done without this boring card game, but that’s a personal issue versus the appropriate direction, and animation choices it went for. Doesn’t excuse the rest of the series issues though.

If you had to choose between the Japanese or English dub voice cast go with the Japanese voice cast. The performances of the core characters are more in line with the series mixed up tone in Japanese. This English dub by Funimation goes for a more straightforward approach where some voice actors downplay certain aspects of their characters. For example, Yoshimasa Hosoya who is Ginti Japanese voice actor gives his character snarkiness which is lost with Robert McCollum who portrays the same character in the English dub. In both languages the voice actors portraying the Arbiters are “emotionless” versus the voice actors who portray human characters. However, the English dub does contain a fantastic performance from Monica Rial in episode 5. Monica Rial does not deliver her usual high pitch, gleeful performance in her only episode in Death Parade. It’s a performance where Monica Rial shows off serious talent to the point she could make you care about a badly written character. She’s absolutely perfect in the role selling every line, while subtly changing into a more emotional state as she goes through a wide range of emotions. For me, it made the English all the more worth checking out, and also why I like it a bit more.

In both languages both Tomoaki Maeno and Alex Organ play the emotionless character Decim. Neither performance is impressive since the material limited. The only time both voice actors get to break out of their emotionless state is by the finale of the series. Tomoaki Maeno revealing Decim more emotional state is more powerful, while Alex Organ feels more natural. I would comment on the other cast members, but I mentioned in the previous paragraph how each voice role determines what they do. In terms of content the usual changes in the English script are expected from explaining certain Japanese culture to non-Japanese, and changing dialogue to sound natural in English. Aside from that there’s no major changes so nothing became lost in translation.

The soundtrack is composed by Yuuki Hayashi who did a good job. Plain and simple. His music for Death Parade creates a cool atmosphere like it would at any bar. Hayashi’s melancholy tracks are poignant with the nature of games distinct in their uses jazz. Composer Yuuki Hayashi has a better idea of creating emotions through his music than the writing does with characters. For example, “Death Parade”, accentuates its mournful atmosphere through with a bass. As the piece progresses, a sense of doom creeps in and the music grows more ponderous. A momentary halt lets the tension build up, which is released through a tragic air played by saxophones. The weight of emotions continues to build, amplified by the fitting use of backing vocals and chants to pave the way for some heart-rending violin and saxophone solos near the end. That’s some excellent music composition. Death Parade opening theme is “Flyers” by the band Bradio. It’s a jazzy, and cheerful track. It maintains it fiery energy through the very with a catchy chorus. Lead vocalist Takaaki Shingyoji high-spirited singing makes up for the unimaginative lyrics. It’s ending theme “Last Theater” is by artist NoisyCell is a soft rock ballad. It didn’t leave an impression on me because despite it lyrics being about conflicting morals it feels phoned in. The instrumental drown out the vocalist in this ending theme.

Personal Enjoyment: Almost transcended to a different plain of existence where I stopped caring

Death Parade from the get go failed to grab my attention. If it wasn’t for the lone fact that it was an original creation done by Madhouse studio I would have never given Death Parade the light of day let alone a second of a thought. For starter, death is a complex subject and something that couldn’t be done properly by Death Parade narrative style in twelve episodes. It wanted to tell a continuous story, but in that format attempted to combine it with episodic stories that did more to essentially hurt the story and question its existence in the first place. Another reason I failed to get into it was Decim who is a tool. From the first episode I felt he was incompetent at his job. His backstory certainly didn’t help improving my thoughts on him as a character even more so when the story intention was to get across a “change the system” story with an emotionless lead. You know the writer did something wrong when the main character is given a profession, and several elements that serves to be a hindrance to doing his job properly.

Furthermore, while watching the series I kept wondering what the point of it all? If it’s trying to be a series that wanted to discuss the value of a life it fails because there’s no consistency in the judgments done by our leading character. No explanation as to why Decim thinks it’s okay for a man to hurt a woman, but not the other way around which gets women send to the Void. If was trying to tell a story about changing the system it doesn’t work either because the world building is terrible. Adding real world functionality to several abstract ideas wasn’t implemented properly. Especially when wasting time on stand alone stories instead of establishing its setting to its advantage like it wanted. If it was trying to be a fun series it immediately failed because it’s a series where death is always in discussion, and in the first episode there’s a dead fetus. Lastly, just because an idea sounds interesting on paper doesn’t mean it is automatically suited for a series. Death Parade is a clear example of good ideas, but no proper thought put into them to create anything meaningful.

Story: O/3

Characters: 1/3

Technical: 3/3

Personal Enjoyment: 0/1

Final Thoughts:

Death Parade is a series that’s best left in limbo. Not enough thought was given to the anime for a functional beginning, middle, or end when the more it revealed about its own world the more questions it refuses to answer or overlook. It had such high ambitions only to crumble spectacularly for its own inability to carry itself. From a technical standpoint there’s nothing wrong with Death Parade as Madhouse illustrates great care for it. That alone does it not excuse it for wasting my time for what was essentially failed ideas. If I do choose between reincarnation, or the void, I would choose the latter because at least then I know nothing associated Death Parade would ever bother me again.

Cinema-Maniac: Chappie (2015) Review

Neill Blomkamp debut film, District 9, I would vouch for being a sci-fi classic. While there was nothing subtle about it central theme it had a refreshing approach to storytelling. District 9 brought, and put Neill Blomkamp on my radar eagerly anticipating his next film. Elysium was a bad film aside from being unsubtle again, it was heavy handed in its message delivery, had weak writing, advance technology used in illogical ways, and badly edited action scenes. It was a disappointment regardless, in particular the writing as Blomkamp simply rewrote District 9 storyline into Elysium with minor changes. This same formula didn’t work the second time around. Now comes in Chappie, a film I anticipated since I see potential in Neill Blomkamp to make many great movies, and tell more engaging stories. When reading a synopsis for the film Chappie I had no interest in it, but with Neill Blomkamp named attached to it I was sold. What I didn’t expect after finishing viewing Chappie for it to have become one of the worst films I’ve ever seen.

Chappie is set in the near future, crime is patrolled by a mechanized police force. When one police droid, Chappie, is stolen and given new programming, he becomes the first robot with the ability to think and feel for himself. If you think the premise sounds high concept enough to carry an entire movie you are absolutely correct, but this is Chappie. Where words like sense, reason, or depth are absent from the writing before the first act even finishes. Nope, all it took for me to predict most of the story was the second time Hugh Jackman character, Vincent Moore (the villain), appears on screen in a such unsubtle way about its own execution was then made into a dreadful experience. Here’s the main problem, regardless of how many films, and formulas you’ve been exposed too Chappie is all over the place with its own ideas wanting to be shared. That it does not even obtain enough working pieces to be a bad functional story. An immediate issue with the film are its characters.

First, we have Deon Wilson (Dev Patel) who we’re told on the news is a genius for creating police robots, and within the first twenty minutes of the movie creates a brand new A.I. that thinks like a human. Yet, this same genius can phantom the simple idea of calling the police when a group of gangsters kidnap him, and steal a defunct robot he helped bring back to functioning order with his newly created A.I.. It would be understandable if Deon didn’t contact the authority if any of the following were used in the film.

A.) Didn’t make Deon such a highly profile figure that the company he works for puts a picture of him on their website when listing the police robots inventor. Therefore, Deon world suddenly turning upside down wouldn’t be telegraphed to viewers.

B.) Human police officers opposing full robotic police forces if it put them out of jobs creating a disdain for Deon. This isn’t the case as humans police officers still work in this dangerous line of work. Also, there’s no mention of human police officers opposing these robots so there’s clearly no hatred for Deon from officers.

C.) If the gang that captured Deon consisted of more than three people. Not only is that a small number, but take into account none of the gang members that captures Deon are presented as smart individuals. If one of the gang member was a computer expert who can keep Deon in line by a number of means like blocking his signal if he attempts to call the police, threaten to bankrupt Deon and his entire family, or even incriminate Deon.

D.) If Vincent Moore (the villain) hired the gangsters, and pretended in aiding Deon in securing Deon life. Deon is given no reason to distrust Vincent Moore before his kidnapping so this would have given Vincent Moore an opportunity to incriminate Deon by taking pictures of him interacting with the gangsters, and a stolen police robot. Fabricating a lie to his boss that Deon deliberately stole a police robot, and is now working with them in unknown criminal acts under their noses. Therefore getting his project funded, and it becoming fully operational.

E.) If one of the gangster made a bluff that they have someone surveilling Deon every minute of the day. Deon is clearly in no position to hold his own against the gangsters, and him knowing his invention puts an end to their criminal acts would make him more likely to believe the bluff.

F.) The police was corrupt. Any level of mention alluding to corrupt police forces would have solved the issue as to why Deon does not call the police.

To add insult to Deon “genius” mind is the fact the gangsters don’t even hold him hostage nor is one gangster place on him to keep an eye out for his activity. He manages to escape successfully with his life, and instead of calling the authority, or telling anyone his busted police robot got stolen, and he was forced to install his new A.I. in said robot. Deon instead gets items in order to teach Chappie. This whole negligence of Deon refusing to call the police ruins the film, and leads to stating the obvious. If Deon contacted the police after escaping his kidnappers than the film story would have never happened. Who knows how many thousands of lives, and possibly millions dollars of damage would have been prevented if Deon simply, called the police. In case you’re wondering about the shortage of human police officer it is revealed at the end of the movie there were exactly 150,000 reserved human forces!

Secondly, Vincent Moore is nullified as a character. He brings up a valid point of giving robots the ability to think for themselves. In a much better film Vincent Moore character would have been challenged intellectually on his issues instead of being painted as a villain. Unlike Neill Blomkamp previous films there’s no politics involved in Chappie which is the first red flag of the film. Moving along though, with no politics Vincent Moore is written to do devious things in order to make the audience hate him, except he still has a point. His solution to create a giant killing machine, and control it himself is rejected by several other in the film, but never once is Deon questioned for his creation. What this does is undermined a reasonable concerned by turning it into a game of good vs evil instead. Can’t forget, Vincent Moore unfortunately suffers from the “Obviously Evil Bad Guy” syndrome. These kind of villains are good, but when place in a serious a film they all fail the same way. Immediately upon being introduced they have “Obviously Evil Bad Guy” written on them wanting you to take them seriously even though they belong better in a B movie due to how they act, and talk.

Third, the gangsters characters are all terrible people. We have Ninja from Die Antwoord played by Watkin Tudor Jones, but better known as Ninja. So Ninja in the film takes Chappie to a meeting at a sketchy place with a group of gangsters, and leaves Chappie alone with some gangsters that actually hurt a police robot. Once Chappie comes home from his lovely time with those gangsters, and a detour Ninja sees Chappie beaten with a missing arm and Ninja says “I didn’t know this would happen”. REALLY! LEAVING A POLICE ROBOT WITH THE A.I. OF A CHILD IN THE STREETS WITH A GROUP OF GANGSTERS, AND YOU DID NOT, AT ANY POINT, EXPECT THIS TO HAPPEN! YOU’RE IN THIS PROFESSION!

Ninja is sadly the leader of the gang that this film focuses on. The other members are Yo-Landi (played by Yolandi Visser), and Yankie (played by Jose Pablo Cantillo). That’s the entire gang consisting of three people don’t exactly spell intimidation especially when none of them specializes in anything. Seriously, one could have been the hacker, one could have been a veteran, one could have been a loose canon, one could have been righteous, and so many other traits. In this film it lumps all three gangsters together. They are also unlikable. Ninja for instance, wants to use Chappie for his heist so he lies to Chappie to steal cars, and teaches him the thug life. Best part, the film expects you to care feel for Ninja despite all he has done to Chappie.

Then there’s Yo-Landi who is meant to be a mother figure who just does nothing. She’s written to be motherly, but not act like it. Despite her insistence Chappie not be put in danger she doesn’t stand up to Ninja when she disagrees with him. Even after Chappie experiences the loss of an arm showing concern for him even though he’s a robot. This does not make Yo-Landi a good person as she later goes on to take part in a heist, and shooting without a concern for human life. She doesn’t change in any way as she is still willing to take part of a crime, and doesn’t look on her criminal lifestyle any differently. Then, there’s Yankie who is just in the movie. He’s not developed like the entire cast. His main purpose is to be the middle guy. Someone who sees both sides, but the film does nothing with this characters simply going through the motion of events. He doesn’t take an initiative in voicing his thoughts be content sitting in the background.

Finally, Chappie is an unsympathetic character. Virtually every single person he comes across in the film that isn’t Deon mistreats him. For some reason, the film decided to give him the mind of a child, yet this is not enough to counteract the fact he helps steal cars, and willfully hurts people in the film. Instead of seeing Chappie act as like this was some sort of game, Chappie views his ordeals in a inconsistent mindset. For starter, when told his battery is unable to get change instead of throwing a child tantrum Chappie insteads react violently as an adult choking Ninja. Another miscalculation in the script. There’s a scene where Chappie clearly understands killing, but through a lesson from Ninja thinks he’s making people fall asleep instead of killing. So this robot understands the meaning of pain, yet that does not influence him in his decision to take part of a heist. Nor it is use this as a plot point to at least see Chappie think out about actions.

Tips and Steps to write a Neill Blomkamp Film:

1.) Make the film villain a white, psychopathic mercenary from South Africa.

2.) Set it in South Africa. More favorably if it is in the slums.

3.) Make sure you’re leading character changes into something different by the end of the film.

4.) Former Regime Personnel are inhumane and nigh-unstoppable major foes.

5.) Write in someone getting blown up at some point, and highlight it

6.) Cast Sharlto Copley

7.) Cinemtraphopher must be Trent Opaloch

One last thing, the film has incredible leap of logic regarding supercomputers. Now this is set in the future, so how come Sony Computer Entertainment game console Playstation 4 is used to make a super computer. It’s a video game console specifically created to play video games. I should know I played every single Sony video game console at some point, and even owned the home consoles. So, I can’t make fun of this aspect of the film. I kid you not, I hate looking at specs of any hardware because it reads like Binary coding to me, but yes, several Playstation 4 hooked up together to make a supercomputer is actually possible. The Playstation 4 processing power is delivered in a System-on-Chip design with eight AMD CPU cores and 18 AMD Radeon Graphics Core Next (GCN) compute units, typically used to process all the software, games, videos, and motion sensor capabilities that enable players to interact with others through online services. Even more impressive, the same compute architectures found in the PlayStation 4 really are powering some of today’s supercomputer clusters. (This paragraph not brought to you by Sony™.)

However, it is still blatant product placement, and without an explanation to explain this is not a work fiction. Viewers will simply laugh at this aspect in the film, even though it is technically possible. It was possible with exactly 1,760 less powerful Playstation 3 to make a supercomputer which actually happened. Then, there’s the capturing of human consciousness into data. Chappie didn’t bother explaining how it’s actually possible to make Playstation 4 into supercomputers so why would it bother explaining how one can capture human consciousness, and fit it all on a flashdrive.

Dev Patel plays Deon, our “smart intelligent genius” protagonist of the film. Dev Patel doesn’t have a meaty role in Chappie. Lacking genuine concern in his vocal delivery thinking shouting is the same as emoting. He shouts frequently in the film in nearly every scene, but a bigger issue is his lack of chemistry towards the entire cast. None of it feels believable. Mostly in part due to the fact his interaction with the human cast lacking the range compare to when Dev Patel interacts with a CG/Practical effect suit weary Sharlto Copley. Patel is unable to make any scene feel genuine of any emotion.

Unlike Patel, Sharlto Copely was able to make some scenes work despite his limitation not just with the material, but a serious lack of any facial feature. Copely body movements is never robotic in the film moving like a human. However, scenes when Copely has to display a beaten up or scare Chappie work because of his body movements. Sadly, whenever Copely isn’t allowed to express the more vulnerable side of his characters the restraint are shown. It seems phoned in as most of his line delivery as done in the same manner of a child. Instead of feeling bad for Chappie when he’s lie too you end up wanting to punch Chappie full aware of the damage to your own hands to make him shut up.

Two of the most talented actors in the cast, Hugh Jackman, and Sigourney Weaver are given thankless roles. Sigourney Weaver has little screen time, and no bearing on the plot that her role could have been filled by any other actor, and not have turned out differently. Whenever Sigourney Weaver is onscreen she spout concern or greedy CEO dialogue that leaves little to the imagination. It’s a disappointing performance to see given the talent involved. Next, Hugh Jackman whose only meant to fit his antagonistic role aesthetically. Hugh Jackman simply looks evil in the film compare to the rest of the film cast. He’s bulky, foreign, and has an accent which has the making of lazy writers. Jackman doesn’t have much to do either besides appearing suspicious, and angry in his scenes. If Hugh Jackman went over the top it would have been fun seeing his simple character on screen, but with a realistic direction he is not allowed to make the character his own. The script undermines the performances of both Hugh Jackman, and Sigourney Weaver can bring to a film.

The remainder of the film cast is less encouraging. Instead finding great talent in the likes of Watkin Tudor Jones, Yolandi Visser, and Jose Pablo Cantillo it gives three perfectly good reasons why Hugh Jackman, and Sigourney Weaver deserved bigger roles. Jose Pablo Cantillo is the least harmful from the three since his character isn’t meant to be sympathetic. So when Jose plays his character he does not have any complexity to display. His co-stars do have too, which makes them their lack of acting experience that much more noticeable. Watkin Tudor sticks to acting gangsta, with only knowledge of the rough side to be filmed. Tudor lacks range to make his character likable. Whenever Tudor says anything remotely mean, and mean spirited he sells it like a person you want to punch. However, his character is meant to be sympathetic so his lack of charisma hurts his character. Whenever appearing nice it simply hurts the intention of his character. Yolandi Visser doesn’t fare any better suffering from similar issues. Opting for a bubbly portrayal of her character. She has neither the psyche (like the previous two actors) to be intimidating, or even sell the idea she’s living the gang life.

Finally, the music by Hans Zimmer is awful. Just awful. Every single time dubstep was misused, and sounds like a collection of noise than actual music. It was annoying throughout the film. Special effects we’re well done, but went to waste under a bad script. Fueling realistic special effects to a very, dislikable lead. The action scenes in the beginning of the film is well done, and nicely shot. Sadly, the film lacks action afterwards for over an hour until it reaches the climax which by then has failed to provide engaging characters, or rising action. There’s nothing to care for on screen despite a seeing a robot shooting dozen of gangsters in a single area, and blowing up parts of it.

Chappie is the first film where I had to pause the film halfway through, and take pain reliever. That has never happened before in any film I’ve seen. This, is the first time, I ever had to take any sort of medicine because of how bad a movie was. It was so bad, it caused a migraine. Everything I saw on screen was so unpleasant to my body it physically hurt it. Thankfully, the worst it got for me while viewing Chappie was a severe headache.

Chappie is a total mess of filmmaking. Nothing about the film works, has a clear point, or a purpose. It’s confused in every single aspect of the word film. It’s the only film I have review, as of now, that has given me a migraine. It’s the first film I needed to take medicine for in order to complete. It does not entertain. It does provoke a thoughtful discussion. It does not offer anything unique. It does take away allot from the viewer, and rewards them with nothing. Except in my case it gave me a severe headache.


Random List: 9 Stories Involving Bears

Welcome to the first edition of Random List. A (hopefully) ongoing blog series here on Personafication where I attempt to find interesting stories on whatever subject comes to mind. Today entry, which is the first of these blogs, will be on Bears. Why exactly? Well the animal kingdom is filled with interesting facts, and creatures that naturally humans are curious about discovering. So upon choosing which creature to focus on I chose the Bear. I found several stories involving Bears worth sharing for different reasons, and many of them peaked my interest. So here are 9 Random Stories Involving Bears.

# 9 – Famous English Poet Bring Pet Bear To College

bryon bear

George Gordon Byron, commonly known as Lord Byron, is regarded as one of the greatest English Poet known for many things besides his own literary writing. Byron behavior was scandalous know to have numerous sexual affairs with both sexes, and one them rumored is his half-sister, Augusta Leigh, who married him then divorce him with his continue sex escapades. His fame was similar to that of a rockstar in London with his personal drawing as much attention as his writing.

When Byron went to college, he tried to take his pet dog to go with him. Cambridge Trinity College was having none of it, and stuck to their strict “no dogs allowed” policy, seemingly unaware that they talking to mischievous Lord Byron. After being told no, Byron pleaded with the college to make an exception, but they wouldn’t budge. He of course just bought a bear like any wealthy British poet would. Legally the college authorities had no right to complain. Byron kept the bear lodged in a small hexagonal tower above his rooms. He wrote in one of his letter the following words to his friend Elizabeth Bridget Pigot. “I have got a new friend, the finest in the world, a tame bear. When I brought him here, they asked me what I meant to do with him, and my reply was, ‘he should sit for a fellowship”.

More strangely is the fact that Byron was allowed to keep the bear on campus simply because the clause banned dogs and not bears. The bear stayed on campus until graduation, and Byron took the bear with him to Newstead Abbey where Byron played with the bear for regular amusements.

Story Sources:

Google Books – The New Oxford Book of Literary Anecdotes

# 8 – Gus Waldorf Vs. Bear Boxing Match

At one point, this was meant to be a Rocky sequel.
At one point, this was meant to be a Rocky sequel.

In 1949 boxer Gus Waldorf, fought against a Bear in a Boxing match. The Bear was handicapped in this match restricted to muzzle, and boxing gloves. If the Bear wasn’t handicapped he surely would have won, and even with his handicap the Bear still won.

It was a match that no doubt is the only legacy Gus Waldorf left behind. No seriously. The odd thing about this story is in spite of how popular this story is I’ve been unable to find any information on Gus Waldorf himself. Every time I looked Gus Waldorf up the only thing that comes up about him is his boxing match with a bear. That alone should probably (or not) speak for his professional boxing career.

Story Sources:

# 7 – Man Fights Bear Over A Sandwich

I can tell you one thing for sure when going into the wilderness be is prepared for you food to stolen by an uninvited guest. In 2009, New Jersey, 52 year old Henry Rouwendal was packing his car up one night for a business trip the following morning. When suddenly something struck Rouwendal from behind. He crumpled forward to the ground, and rolled over to see a black bear grabbed his sandwich.

Thinking quickly, in Rouwendal own words, “I kicked him three times in the snout and one time in the throat. I think the one in the throat got him,” he said. The bear ran off and Henry was left aching on the ground with a head injury, dislocated shoulder, large cut on his left temple and some deep body bruises. It took him an hour before he could get up and get back inside his home.

His wife, a nurse, tended to the extensive bruising and dislocated shoulder he had suffered. When Henry reported the crime he was told by authority it was the first kind of it’s attack in the town in more than 25 years. In a on camera interview Henry says he’s more upset about losing his sandwich than getting mauled by a Bear.

Story Sources:


# 6 – 73-Year-Old Man Punches Bear To Save His Dogs

man fights bear

Earlier in 2015, in Sacramento California, there’s another individual who also stood up against a Bear. More impressive than most action stars is Carl Moore, a 73 year old man, fended off against a Bear despite his old age. According to reports, or news story I came across. A bear was trying to get pass a low gate on Carl’s Moore when he heard the screaming of his dogs. Instinctively Moore didn’t punch the Bear first. Moore raised both hands in the air, and started cussing at him.

When the Bear showed no concern by Moore profane language. Carl Moore ran towards the Bear landing what he calls the “Whirling Haymaker” punch on the Bear face. Not wanting to fight the old man, the Bear reasonably ran off into the wild again. One odd thing about this story is some sources says Carl Moore is 75, while other say  he’s 73. Another thing that’s sketchy is different sources has Carl Moore profession as something different like being an ex-marine, a contractor, or a former boxer. Whatever the case is, it’s pretty bad ass that an old man made a 5 1/2 feet tall and 300 pounds Bear run away from a single punch.

Story Sources:

# 5 – Mud Creek Grizzly Bear Outwits Scientists


At this point, it’s about time to introduce the scary aspect that is Bear can be intelligent. It stating the obvious the animal kingdom is filled with smart animals, but how often do many of them outwit scientists. In the late 90s, a group of biologist in working near Glacier National Park were troubled with the antics of the Mud Creek Grizzly. According to the interviewee, “He was a very handsome-looking dark-colored grizzly”.

The Mud Creek Grizzly probably felt uncomfortable that his capturers thought this way. So the Mud Creek Bear declare war on the scientists. The researchers set up their bear research station, complete with traps, bait, and cameras. Waiting until the researchers had completed their work and left the fully equipped, MCG quietly slipped out of his hiding place and began his work. This, is directly from one the interviewee from an old article.

“First, he would take down the plastic strips that marked the trail to the site. Then, he would set off all the traps using sticks and rocks, then steal and eat the bait. Afterwards, he would trash the site with that thoroughness for which pissed-off grizzlies are known for. He would go to great lengths to obtain the camera that the biologists had set up to record the capture. After getting it, he would gnaw on it until the back sprung open, then remove the film cartridge and smash it. How he knew that the film in the camera was important is beyond me. Despite this, the biologists were often still able to develop a few pictures in the damaged cartridge and thus obtain a good look at their opponent whom they never saw in the flesh. Various traps were set to catch the Mud Creek Griz, but they were disabled with contemptuous ease. Eventually, the biologists realised that on at least some occasions, the bear followed them out into the field and watched them from hiding as they set up their equipment, ready to trash it as soon as they left. The grizzly was never trapped, but moved on to another territory after losing a fight to a really big old male.”

As terrifying as Bears might be, this certainly doesn’t help matter for those fearful of Bears. How this particular Mud Creek Grizzly Bear knew to destroy film within the camera is unclear. This does, however, demonstrate they are very adaptive creatures, or these scientists aren’t as smart as a Bear.

Story Source:

# 4 – Bear Drives Toyota Prius Into A Tree

Continuing from our last story, loosely, we’ll focus on the event that is as baffling to me as it might be to you. In 2011, the McCarthy family was spending a quiet weekend at their vacation home in Lake Tahoe, California, when in the middle of the night, they were awakened by the sound of a car horn honking — a car horn that sounded suspiciously like that of their own car, a Toyota Prius. When they looked outside, they noticed that the car was rocking, and also that there was a distinct grunting sound coming from inside.

The family was sympathetic towards the stuck Bear, and probably confuse too. Brian McCarthy said in a interview the car was close which makes that much more of a mystery on how the Bear entered the car. Frustrated he’s stuck in a Toyota Prius the Bear began to tear the inside apart. Before eventually its behind-the-wheel rampage, the bear ripped open the seats, bit a chunk out of the steering wheel and damaged the Prius’ gear box, shifting the car into neutral.

The bear successfully shift the Prius into reverse, he also backed the car down the steep 25-foot driveway and across the street before crashing into some boulders in front of a neighbor’s house. Apparently the crash jostled him loose, and the bear was able to squeeze out of the Prius and escape before the authorities arrived. According to rumors, parent Bears are apparently outraged of the crime, and decided to attempt to ban the video game series Grand Theft Auto. Because video games can teach you how to steal cars, unlike every other form of media which has been around far longer than video games.

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# 3 – US  President Thomas Jefferson Had Pet Bear Cubs


Thomas Jefferson received a pair of grizzly Bear cubs as a gift from Captain Zebulon Pike in 1807. The bears arrived at about the same time as Pike’s letter (October 1807) explaining that he had acquired the male and female cubs in the southern region of the great Continental Divide. It wasn’t like Thomas Jefferson was unaware of Bear behavior as this passage from a journal entry from Lewis, and Clark journal entry.

“In the evening we saw a Brown or Grisley beare on a sand beech, I went out with one man Geo Drewyer & Killed the bear, which was verry large and a turrible looking animal, which we found verry hard to kill… This animal is the largest of the carnivorous kind I ever saw…”

Despite having read this first hand account from the two explorers, Jefferson still decided to keep them. Apparently describing them as gentle with quite good humor. As all good bear cubs do, they grew too big and Jefferson decided to have them shipped to a museum in Philadelphia to be on display for two weeks, storing them in cages on the White House lawn for several months until all the arrangements could be made.

During the cubs two month journey to the museum in Philadelphia they outgrew their cages. The Bears, reported to be around two years old at the time broke free. One broke free and managed to corner the museum owner in the kitchen, upon which the animal was promptly shot dead. They shot the other one dead too. They then stuffed both corpses and threw them up for display.

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# 2 – Bears and Seals Are Related

When looking up on Bear related stories for this blog I came across an article that revealed something interesting. Turns out the bears’ closest living relatives have all the cute, but got severely shafted on the badass. The pinniped’s location in the evolutionary tree has always been a little tricky, but genetic evidence revealed that pinnipeds are closely related to bears and seals. It’s also unclear as to when the pinniped first adapted to semi-aquatic life.

According to scientists, seal’s flipper is flatter, and the bear’s claws are longer (seals have claws despite their small size). Similarity between are the two that they both have non-retractable claws, both have five claws on each foot, both have the same basic bone structure and both are plantigrade (meaning that both the heel and toe touch the ground).

In fact, fossil record indicates that the pinnipeds probably arose from a bear like ancestor called Puijila, which was a powerful predator that could run on all fours like a bear but also had webbed toes, allowing it to hunt in the water. Another thing this discovery has led to is I’m never going to be able to see Seals the same way again.

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# 1 – Discovering of the Grolar Bear

grolar bear

Originally when writing this I had the intention of making the correlation between Bears and Seals number one on this list, but that was then until I discover a story on the discover of the Grolar Bear.

The earliest source of this specie I could discover came in 2006, when 65 year old hunter Jim Martell shot a Grolar Bear in Canada. Wildlife officials seized the bear after noticing its white fur was interspersed with brown patches. It also had long claws, a concave facial profile, and a humped back, which are characteristic of a grizzly. DNA testing confirmed it was a hybrid between a Grizzly Bear, and a Polar Bear. An exact reason for the hybrid has been theorized to be mostly caused from the melting of the ice-caps causing the Polar Bears to move Southward.

On April 8, 2010, Inuvialuit hunter David Kuptana in a nearby community of Ulukhaktok on Victoria Island shot what he thought was a Polar Bear. DNA testing discover it was part of a Second generation of Grolar Bears. Some interesting facts on the Grolar Bear is their behavior is more inline of a Polar Bear than a Grizzly Bear. Appearances wise it exhibits the look of both species. Another report in 2010, Biologists affiliated with the American Museum of Natural History and City College of the City University of New York offered the first documented of Grizzly Bears migrating into Polar Bears territory. So expects Grolars Bears to be more common.

Story Sources:

National Geographic

Science Daily

This has been the first ever edition of Random List which I hope you enjoyed reading. The goal of this blog isn’t to rank, but explore a number of subjects out of my own realm of media entertainment.
If you have any suggestion for a list regardless of subject matter be sure to leave a comment, and I’ll do my best to do that subject justice. Until next time, insert catchphrase here.

Cinema-Maniac: The Girl Next Door (2007) Review

I contemplated on how to open this review. Understand this film is inspired by true events, which sadly revolve around the tragic death of teenager Sylvia Likens. A touchy subject that I’m walking on a thin line due to the strong emotions surrounding it. However, this film does not respect its fictional characters or its fictional story as anything more than showing abusers and victims. A shameful depiction indeed as a victim is far more than a victim; they are a person. This film instead of attempting to create a person goes on to make a matr for torture for easy sympathy. Resulting in a cartoony depiction of an actual crime. Even if it wasn’t inspired by true events this film would still remain a bad movie.

The Girl Next Door follows the torture, and abuses committed on a teenage girl in the care of her aunt, and the boy who witness and fail to report the crime. Addressing the Elephant in the room first this film is simply a work of fiction. The most correlation it has to the actual events of Sylvia Likens murder are superficial. The premise itself is barely connectable to the actual crime. The most accurate this film gets is a teenage girl is in the care of a woman she doesn’t know well, said teenage girl has a sister who has polio, said girl is tortured by her caretakers and her children for a lengthy amount of time, and a girl dies. That’s all. Including our main character, David, whose perspective unfolds a series of events is a work of fiction. So simply because you’re inspired by true events does not excuse bad writing.

The main problem with the film is there’s only three characteristics; victims, bystanders, and abusers. These aren’t people nor allow much room for character development. David, our main character and bystander, is a creation of fiction which makes you ponder why he doesn’t report the crime to any authority or tell any other adults. He has no reason too since he doesn’t have neglectful parents both of whom even ask David if anything is wrong. David mother even questions him as he asks if he could sleep over again at Ruth Chandler (the abuser) house. David mother wonders why he would want to sleep over, and David remains quiet. David never shows any deviant desire to torture Meg (the victim), nor sees her as a object to claim as his property as during their first meeting David treats Meg nicely. During a simple scene when David is buying a hamburger, when Meg asks David if he could buy some food for her to eat because of her aunt cruel treatment David buys Meg a hamburger. This scene is important as David mentally doesn’t show signs of wanting something more nor physically provides hints he deserves something for his kindness. Making it out of character for David to remain silent on the crime considering how kind he is, and his treatment towards Meg. Painting a clear picture of what’s good and what’s bad showing remorse towards Meg, and her sister he witness them being abuse. Even as Meg is being torture, David asks his father if it’s ever right to hit a girl in a different scene, and in a location far away from the crime. This scene, along with other moments, contradicts David character when remaining silent on the crime. The “he’s just a kid” excuse becomes irrelevant here as he asks this difficult question to his father. Moving pass the “cooties” viewing of girls his age so David is able to comprehend difficult dilemmas to some extent. These moments, and characteristics go against the notion that David would simply sit around, and do nothing about the crime.

Now the abusers are simple characters. Most of whom consist of young boys who drink beer, and sexually desire women. Illustrating the later trait as they look at porno magazines, talk about specific women body parts, and asking their mother if they could have sex with their cousin Meg. These young boys are cousins of Meg, and the leader who approves this torture is Meg aunt. With these being family members it should paint a darker picture of a dysfunctional family, but it does not. These abusers are not given any form of depth as they simply have no issue torturing Meg. The young boys don’t simply get into it, but rather just accept it without providing much for dig into. Aunt Ruth Chandler does not provide the presence of someone who is in control of their children. Ruth Chandler gives off no aura she mentally controls her kids or has powers over them. She’s not manipulative in any way which makes the psycho mother as cartoony as the other characters. However, the tiny bit that Ruth Chandler position as caretaker could have been better done. In the film, Chandler punishing Meg is simply Chandler thinking as a psycho mother. Believing her punishing Meg would straighten her out, except this is where all assumptions end. Context is not provided as no outside or inner forces in Chandler life is brought to explain her mentality. At most, Chandler simply makes an exaggerated claim that Meg doesn’t think she’s a lady after Meg refuses to get rid off some pest in the backyard. Seeing Chandler offering kids beer is not enough to convince this woman is messed up in the head.

Finally, we have the victims who are Meg, and Susan Loughlin who has polio. As with the bystanders, and abusers there is not much to the victims. The victims of the crime are simply presented as nice people, and they are young. Simply because a child has polio doesn’t automatically grant sympathy. However, Susan Loughlin is the closest to representing a person. Showing actual guilt about the events, uncertain on how to feel on the matter like a young child would. Unfortunately, there is not much to both Meg, and Susan characters. What little is shared about them is simply use in order to sympathize with them easier. When combining the lack of any human trait in this story you have a film that fails to accomplish whatever it wanted. It didn’t want to understand these characters as people so it simplified them. There’s no intention to exploit the crime since it based on an actual incident, but there’s nothing to reflect upon for the audience as no characters has any depth to them. In the end, the writing fails to make a connection on any level on its own. If it wasn’t for the fact it was inspired by a true story this film would leave its viewers impressionless at the events that unfolded.

The Girl Next Door is directed by Gregory Wilson. Balancing tone accordingly so there’s no sudden shift when it goes from the innocence interaction for an inviting atmosphere into abuse when it takes a dark turn. There’s no effort to give the film an artistic look which is for the better considering how it took inspiration from an actual incident, and this film is already walking on a delicate subject as is. However, Gregory Wilson shows too much restraint when it times to show the ugliness of Meg torture. Whenever there’s torture on screen the impact of the scenes fall through showing Wilson weakness in being unable to create a menacing atmosphere of hopelessness or give off sense of cruel nature in these torture scenes when pain is inflicted.

Acting in the film is stale with roles that offer little to build off from. With the roles being characterized in three characteristics the performances are bad. Most of the cast are young children and their inexperience show. However, our main star is Daniel Manche who’s make a good effort in carrying the film mostly on his own shoulders. His character ain’t memorable, but Manche gives his character humanity. Displaying a clear torture in his character in a scene without having to speak sometime. Manche is young, but turns in a good performance. His co star, Blythe Auffarth, doesn’t get a role that demands much. Blythe Auffarth is simply meant to react to the abuse, and appear as a sweet person as much as possible. Her performance will leave plenty to be desire dramatically as she’s unable to make much of the character.

Then there’s Blanche Baker who play Ruth Chandler who has no grounds for a performance. Baker is given a character makes no sense in how she acts. Due to the cartoony writing her portrayal also suffered being unable to provide much for the character to do. Blanche Baker does not come across as motherly or particularly scary when attempting to appear satanic. Finally we have the remainder of the cast that appear in the film are Graham Patrick Martin, Benjamin Ross Kaplan, Dean Faulkenberry, and Madeline Taylor playing young characters. These actor performances also suffer from the same problem being offered little range in their roles. The soundtrack is forgettable. It plays in the background fading from the quickly as it stop playing.

I unfortunately feel the need to address something regarding this film. Okay, according to some sources that have seen The Girl Next Door (2007 Film) make the bold claim that it’s “graphic” and “disturbing”. If you take pride in watching difficult films in not just the sums, but the entirety of a film you’ve been lied too about this film. If you saw this film on any “Most Disturbing Films Ever” list you’ve been lied too. If you read a review from “film enthusiasts” claiming this was disturbing you’ve been lied too. Already having gone over how the cartoonish portrayal that simplified the characters into abusers, victims, or bystander failing to make an impression now I sadly have to discuss the depiction of the torture. Yes, I’ve sadly had to take up my time, but most importantly yours in order to get across the clear difference “graphic” content and graphic content. To further express my displeasure SHAME ON YOU if you have done any of this. Don’t ever make such bold claims unless you have good grounds to support your claims.

The depiction of torture in this film greatly suffers for the weak context, and how scared it is to actually show true torture or dare enter in its cruelty for a brief moment. If you’ve only provide a tame version of an atrocity the sugarcoating of the crime is more damaging. It’ll fail to leave a lasting impression, and will make the crime appear as if it wasn’t all that bad, which is pretty bad. Context is important if you, or whoever wants to make film to understand if you create a character that audience will care about than seeing them suffer will be hard to watch. If you don’t have characters worth caring about like this film specifically you have to resort to going to the dark side, and showing a despicable act of human cruelty in full. There’s a scene in this film that is entirely tasteless not because of the explicitness of what is shown, or the awful context, but because it’s afraid to show it. We’re told through dialogue that Meg (the victim) is about to get her vagina burn with a blowtorch.

Now why would I, or anyone want to see a woman vagina burn with a blowtorch? Exactly if it’s done in way this film did it. The way this scene is shown is not explicit as it does not show contact between the body part, and torture device. Special effects in 1979, manage to make a castration in Cannibal Holocaust look convincing so what’s this 2007 film excuse? Another is context because none of the characters feel real so neither will the crime feel real when the pain is inflicted. The whole film is like this. Acting is another issue as the cast have limited range of emotion to display. Bereft of any human emotion or a point in their portrayal being simplified into bystanders, abusers, and victims. It is not harsh enough in displaying a person getting tortured. Due to the weak writing, and restraint on the tortures scenes the film leaves no emotional impact even though it should given what occurs in the film.

The Girl Next Door fails for several reasons, but the most important one being that despite the film being based around true events the only emotion it evokes is anger. Anger in the way that the writing failed to provide character worth caring about nor makes you contemplate the crime you just witness in any meaningful way. All that’s on screen are martyrs for specific emotions to create not people. It’s a simple exploitation film that instead challenging a difficult notion or trying say something significant it simply uses it source in order to a get a reaction from viewers from it source.


Cinema-Maniac: Watership Down Review

(This review was originally posted on Rotten Tomatoes on June 26, 2013. I chose to posted here since it’s been in the Criterion Collection for a long time. I remember sending one of the folks who works for the company about this film. I doubt my email alone persuaded them, but its good to know I was one who was pushing for this film when it was under the radar in the mainstream.)

The animation genre is the most enduring genre for lighthearted family entertainment. With their colorful visuals, and freely imaginative world this sort of escapism is the main reason Watership Down is not recognized as a classic. It’s not a lighthearted, or cheery family film of any sort one simply just sits back and view. It’s more of a reflection on yourself, and the nature of the living world. Not only it is a significant piece of animation tackling real world issues, but also carries an uncommonly powerful emotional weight for such an unlikely group of character.

Watership Down is about a group of rabbits fleeing their doomed warren and facing many dangers to find and protect their new home. The premise despite sounding like it’s aimed at children does not succumb to downplaying its own premise. It even goes as far as tackling sadism, fascism, and creationism into the mix. Telling a mature story with an adult delivery. The plot is very dark more so than you might expect. It explores the subject of death and survival as we experience the dangerous and tragic journey with our rabbits. The rabbits are constantly fighting against their environment for a better home. What would have simply been a plot point in another film can be linked to how society breaks down, debate between those who want freedom from the old ways, and those who still cling on to it with power. On the surface it’s an effective film about survival with relatable characters regardless of the species difference. Underneath it is level of depth that gives the film a far more rewarding intellectual experience.

Martin’s Rosen direction for the film is flawless. The animation employs richly detailed hazy watercolor backdrops with naturalistic colors to the characters that inhabit it. This creates a sense of a realism into the world fitting into the mood it presents. One of the biggest highlights is the divine music combined with the Aztec style animations as Fiver tries to find Hazel, a simultaneous mixture of uplifting and depressing feel. This one scene will leave you lost for words. The voice talent on offer ranging from Denholm Elliot to Richard Briers is nothing short of perfect. The voice actor portray their roles with such dedication that the fact they’re talking animals won’t bother you and in the case of Harry Andrews he comes off as menacing as General Woundwort despite voicing a rabbit.
Going off topic I already feel I made my point by now on what makes Watership Down an under-appreciated masterpiece. Bold statement I know to call such an unknown film a masterpiece, but here’s another reason why I personally see it that way. Often the first thing that goes to anyone mind when it comes to animation is Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks, Studio Ghibli, and so many other studios. It’s mostly the cheering and family friendly feature that are most fondly remembered by their audiences. As with the case with many of these films the message delivery contains a simple execution, bright colors, and a single moral around it. That’s where Watership Down stands out from the pack. It’s more gritty, not afraid to frighten to kids, and show kids the more complicated dilemma of the world the way they are. I hold a belief that kids can handle anything you throw at them so long you provide a happy ending with your story. The ending here is bittersweet, but the last images that play out is one of an enlighten mood of outcome.

Watership Down is a masterpiece that best represent animation, and goes beyond what is expected of such a genre. From a dramatic standpoint it is tragic, uplifting, inspirational, and bittersweet. Even if you don’t read into the depths of it plot it holds moving story about survival. Containing themes and character relatable present in everyday life. Making Watership Down one of the significant film animated films in all of film making.