First Impressions On: Winter Anime, and other things

So I notice it’s been a long time since I posted anything anime related, but I haven’t started a draft review on anything I planned so this should further delay them as I think about what anime series (Kaiji animes, and live action movies are currently the frontrunners), and anime movies (Unico and its sequel are being draft) to review this year. It’s also winter seasons, and from what I gathered the series that were too premiered this season have already started. I don’t consider posting first impressions much since I don’t feel they require much effort from me no matter how I think about them. Unlike a review, my immediate impressions on a single episode won’t be as detailed as when I complete something, and my thoughts on what I’m initially experiencing can change the longer I stick to it. I’m also not organized in expressing my initial thoughts on anything often finding my thoughts going somewhere else on a regular basis. For this instance, I’ve been lacking in the creating content aspect so it’s the least I could do.

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Assassination Classroom Season 2

Studio: Lerche

Length: 25

How many have I seen: 1 out of 3 that currently aired as of this moment

I didn’t like the first season of Assassination Classroom much for the same reason I found One Punch Man average; the comedy in both barely made me laugh. However, at least One Punch Man had the decency to be short, while it did relish in shounen tropes it at least cut out the filler portion when One Punch Man joined the battle, and had a cleared a direction. The first season of Assassination Classroom had nothing One Punch Man did right to even be average. For instance, the tone is all over the place with it wanting to be a light hearted comedy, but also provide serious commentary on the flawed education system in Japan. The first problem with this is it’s being done in the shounen genre where characters, and conflicts are usually kept simple. Instead of fighting their opponents with fists the cast in Assassination Classroom fight against their opponents with Test Scores which yes, is as lame as it sounds.

It also couldn’t shift between tones successfully going all out in being serious, or being light hearted for its whole run. Never finding a perfect mixture of the two tones. Creating a disjointed series of events when it came to delivering its material. Then there’s the story which was predictable. Given the tone it aimed it was made clear the students would fail to kill Kuro Sensei until maybe the last episode, but that quickly got spoiled with the existence of a second season. So the premise itself ruins the experience in season one since the existence of a second season confirms threat Kuro Sensei doesn’t get kill. When allot of the humor relies on that lone aspect it’s a one joke series that get tiresome to witness.

The story also follows a classroom filled with 25 characters in the first episodes. Obviously it can’t introduce everyone in the first episode unless it wanted a pilot episode to be two hours long, but why Lerche studio didn’t bother changing anything when adapting the manga into anime is a bigger issue. For instance, why bother having a classroom with 25 students only to introduce two more students later on in the series that receive more screen time than those that who appear in the first episode. Simply make them part of the initial cast from the first episode to avoid this issue, or remove the fluff characters that don’t do much. By removing the fluff characters it give more time to the ones who actually contribute to the story be better utilize, and allow them more chances to grow as characters. Also, why have a main character when the classroom goal are the same. It would have allowed viewers to get to know other characters, and what they were struggling through. Instead, it has it leading character with feminine looking guy Nagisa.

Now when the first episode aired I had to read subtitles to know what was going on. I had to, get this, pay attention to the anime English subtitles along with everything else on screen. You could imagine the cringe-worthy comments I sometime bother reading on my goto legal, and illegal anime streaming site when viewers were surprised Nagisa was a dude. If you saw the English dub I understand it’s not as easy to catch, but for those who had to read subtitles what were they doing while watching the anime? In the middle of the first episode when Nagisa has a flashback there’s a subtitle that says “Ooh. Well, that’s it for him” followed up with “I better delete him from my address book”. In this scene, Nagisa is being shunned by his classmates, and within the scene is given a literal spotlight pointed at him. Nagisa is also in a dark room with him being the only visible character, and barely visible outline of others students in the background. So the characters obviously couldn’t be talking about anyone else in this moment with how it was being presented either. Which begs the question, what were the viewers doing watching an anime with English subtitles if they’re not going to bother to pay attention!

Another irksome aspect of the whole series, for me, is Assassination Classroom oozes in its double standards, and wearing it on it sleeve like a badge of honor. I mean, it is wrong when the fictional school does not treat all students equally, but it’s not wrong when the anime itself places more focus on certain characters inequal. By this logic, the series itself is about as villainous represented as the school system it criticizes with no irony, or self awareness to use it in comedy. There other aspects of the series I didn’t like, but the biggest one is Kuro Sensei weakness. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen, but for anyone who seen M. Night Shyamalan movie Signs you know it already since it’s the same as in that movie. It makes this particular twist a bigger gap in logic since Kuro Sensei gets slower the more he gets exposed to this substance, except for the fact it breaks logic establish within the anime when it doesn’t effect Kuro Sensei speed in previous episodes before it’s reveal.
So what about the actual first episode of season 2 for Assassination Classroom? It was tolerable, and a bit amusing. Kuro Sensei, and eventually the student were playing hook up in the pilot episode which as expected of shounen goes nowhere in the episode. Like last season, the first episode didn’t make me laugh much, but unlike the first season pilot episode. Season 2 shows to be leaning more on the lighthearted side of its tone which is welcome for now. As far as first impressions goes it didn’t get me hooked as someone who disliked the first season, nor did it change my perspective in any way. To be honest, it was probably a good move for season 2 to standout like it did to ease viewers back into its story. However, having rolled my eyes at the discover it’s listed for 25 episodes is not a comforting idea for someone who dislikes the series. My prediction for the series, if it falls trap to the same issues of season one, it’ll end up being a bad anime. I would give the first season for Assassination Classroom a 3/10, which is the same rating I gave to Aldnoah.Zero (both seasons) which is one of my most hated anime series.

Assassination Classroom Season 2 First Impression Score: 4/10

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Bubbuki Buranki

Studio: Sanizgen

Length: Unknown

How many have I seen: 1 out of 3 that currently aired as of this moment

I wasn’t excited for this series when I looked into it. The one reason I knew about it was the studio behind this, Sanizgen, animated the anime Arslan Senki last year. While I did like Arslan Senki simply for the plain fact it was at least competent compare to what anime came out in 2015 the story was typical, and average for the genre. You have young royalty naive in the understanding of the world getting his whole kingdom taken away from him from either a forgotten bloodline/someone loyal to the king, and the young royalty having to roundup warriors to create an army to take back his kingdom. You seriously can’t get any more typical than that for a fantasy/war drama story as the major narrative points are telegraphed before they occurred. Saying this kind of story has been done to death would still be underplaying how frequently the template use in this specific genre format. The same applies to the animation; when it stayed in 2D animation it was okay, but when 3D was involved it was jarringly bad at times. While the story did evolve by having its protagonist get involve in the politics of running a kingdom, and had good pacing to progress naturally it had too many characters most of whom didn’t receive development. If I didn’t enjoy it I would rate it a 5, which on my scale I consider to be average. Me simply liking Arslan Senki doesn’t make the anime better than average. I could confidently say both anime of Kaiji, regardless of me liking them, are excellent anime series. Arslan Senki is simply average, but it’s the kind of average that did specific things right for me to like it.

Bubuki Buranko on the other hand gave me more to worry about when I saw the trailer. I’m not against 3D animated series, unless they are from Japan since generally they don’t spend the time, nor money on 3D animation compare to what the US provides. It’s seriously pathetic that Donkey Kong Country, a 3D animated series from 1996 has consistent frame rate, but both seasons of Sidnoia no Kishi/Knights of Sidonia that came out in 2014, and 2015 don’t even have that. My hatred for the sci-fi trite that is Knights of Sidonia is further exemples when considering Donkey Kong Country also has more expressive characters. What’s further maddening is Donkey Kong Country had some terrible musical numbers, yet those sometime hilariously awful pieces of music provided me more entertainment than anything I’ve seen in both seasons of Knights of Sidonia.

So the 3D was off putting, and the synopsis did nothing for me. It was promoted as an original creation from the studio, but given how typical the story was in Arslan Senki it didn’t boast any positive reactions from me. When I finally got around to seeing the first episode it was a mess of a pilot. Now, while seeing it I found the anime surprisingly tolerable, but once I thought about it I realize what an absolute trainwreck it was. For starter, the world building does not answer anything. Half of the episode is spent on this planet, or crater inhabited by machines called Buranki. Where they came from isn’t explained. Why the main character family lives on this crater isn’t explained. The main character has a heart that everyone wants, but there’s no explanation for what it does. Since I was bored, I just traded the word Heart for Penis in my head to laugh at laugh at the story. It’s also all action in the first episode as the characters it introduces have little defining features to them, and half of the episode is spent on the main character being in constant danger. Four times, within the first episode the main character could have died, but doesn’t.

Everything else in the series was so badly established I stop caring before reaching the end of the first episode. When it does end there’s even more questions that pile on. Since it isn’t established what a Buranki is imagine my confusion when the main characters is shocked when one is simply a pile of bones now. So, the Buranki are organic machines? If so, how come one of the weapons, called Bubuki, is a hand from one of these Buranki? Can they feel emotion? Because if they can, it’s twisted to think children with this knowledge would actively take limbs from this organism, and use the limbs for combat. Also, one of these Bubuki simply looks like a more upgraded of Glover.

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Yeah, remember this guy? Though, a dark anime adaptation of Glover would be better.

One positive thing I will say about it is the 3D animation had consistent framerate for the first episode is already better animation than both seasons of Knights of Sidonia which never had consistent frame rate in a single episode. Just like in that series, the characters all move robotically, and unlike Knights of Sidonia, the voice acting in Bubuki Buranki is bad. My prediction for the series is that it’ll be a story of children fighting against evil adults to save the world. I’ll still finish the anime since, at this moment, it didn’t feel like a chore to get through. While the story was a trainwreck it didn’t do anything to personally frustrate like the other 3D anime, Knights of Sidonia, constantly did in every episode. I doubt the story will evolve into anything decent, but it ends up being tolerable it’s a step up for Japanese 3D animation.

Bubuki Buranki First Impression Score: 2/10

I don’t give a VAN DAMME: 10/10

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Dagashi Kashi

Studio: Feel (No, seriously that’s the name)

Length: 12 Epsiodes

How many have I seen: 2 out of 3 that currently aired as of this moment

Now I didn’t intend to see this anime series because the synopsis sounded boring. It’s a slice of life about a candy store. Nothing about that description interests me? So why did I see two episodes of the anime? My little brother dropped the anime 10 minutes in, and said he didn’t want to see it. So I told him I’ll also see it since yes, as horrible as it can be at times, seeing bad anime is necessary to develop standards for the medium, and different genres.

The first episode was surprisingly entertaining for me so I saw another. Unfortunately, the anime reminds a bit of D-Frag where the humor relied on characters acting over the top over minor things. The humor does appeal to me, but just like with D-Frag, there likely won’t be character development, nor much of a story to tell. Granted the two episodes of Dagashi Kashi I saw did make me laugh, but the jokes don’t have any structure to them. It’s random for random sake. It’s not something like Monty Python, and the Holy Grail (a favorite of mine) that while random has a structure to delivering it jokes that makes them funny even on repeated viewing. I also seen it over a dozen time because the story wasn’t an afterthought making the sight of people reacting angrily to the ending hilarious for me.

Episode 2 had one of those WTF am I watching moment, but even stranger was it duplicated part of the opening to the original Mobile Suit Gundam replacing the robots with candy products. It was a surreal sight to  behold which had me laughing. Narratively it was a stupid to get exposition, but at the same it was so nonsensical I was laughing. If you like slice of life you might enjoy this, but the main reasons I don’t like many slice of life anime also hold true here. There won’t be much of a story, virtually no conflict, little continuity in anything, and the characters will be probably learn something from a life changing experience without showing the result of it. The animation is okay I guess, but the one issue I do have is Saya Endou, and Kokonotsu Shikada eyes are very off putting for me. It seems like they never stop taking cocaine with their wide eyes never blinking. Which is why I theories by the end of the anime it’ll be reveal they were Vampires the whole time, and the candy are made out of people. It’s simply genius.

I do have expectations, but when looking up studio Feel, and seeing they created titles like Bikini Warriors (original creation from what I could gather), Kiss X Sis, and Makura no Danshi (an original creation) quality isn’t really a priority for Feel. At this point, I think they’ll settle for making an anime that at least is popular on some level. I pretty sure it’ll be popular to some degree because of Hotaru Shidae is hyper, weird, has purple hair, and has the fun personality. She also is shown eating candy suggestively too.

Dagashi Kashi First Impression Rating: 4/10

Amusement Rating: 7/10

 

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Dimension W

Studio: Studio 3Hz

Episodes: 12

How many have I seen: 1 out of 3 that currently aired as of this moment

Now finally on to the first anime that premiered this year that had me facepalm in how lame it was. The studio behind this doesn’t have much of a resume so to know if they could pull off something decent, but the first episode looks cheap. In certain shots, there are backgrounds that are a single color wall. Whether or not it’s stylistic is hard to tell since the anime can’t afford to have good CGI in its opening animation for a car chase. Along with having little substance, and lame action in the first episode it comes across as trying to be cool, but failing. Try to imagine a an old man in his 80s trying to be gangsta and that’s this anime in a nutshell.

My biggest issue with this anime besides being lame, badly explaining the story, and a main character is who doesn’t do much at the moment are the ass shots of the loli. In the world of Dimension W there are these things called coils which to the best of my ability are basically robots that harness energy. One of them just happens to look like a little green hair girl. Who begs the question, how perverted will the people behind this anime be? They had various ass shots in one episode that would you mistake this for an A-1 Pictures animes. I have don’t much to add to this one since the studio is relatively new, and they aren’t impressing me in any category of the anime.

I do expect this anime to be bad since the last anime that used a song from the band Stereo Dive Foundation I seen was Kyokai no Katana/Beyond the Boundary which was an absolute mess of an anime. So with that reasoning, I expect this anime to end up being bad too. Sure the logic makes no sense, but when the first thing that comes to mind after a single episode is lame than I pretty much put on my conspiracy theorist cap on to make correlations between things I hate. It also has dancing into the opening animation, and so far out of the three anime I saw that include dancing in its opening only Princess Tutu I like which has allot of elements I don’t care for, but man, the anime is very great regardless of my lack interest in those things (young kids romance, fairy tales, balet). The other two anime being Death Parade which was a mess of writing, and finally Overman King Gainer which, yes, has an awesome goofy opening song.

Dimension W First Impression Score: 3/10

Lameness Rating: 9/10, or Steven Seagal

 

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Hai to Gensou no Grimgar

Studio: A-1 Pictures (dun, dun, duuuunnnnnn)

Length: 12 Episodes

How many have I seen: 1 out of 3 that currently aired as of this moment

For me, Madhouse, JC Staff, and A-1 Pictures are a trio that no matter the quality of whatever anime they make I always given so much material to work with. No matter what anime I see from them I always have so much to say about whatever they made. Madhouse I love no matter whatever trash they put their name on (Death Parade, Mahouka Kouku no Rettousei), and I think positively of them for bringing to life Death Note, two seasons of Kaiji, Trigun, and several other great works into animation. Even JC Staff for how uninspired they come across have made things I liked. A-1 Pictures on the other hand has made some of most infuriating anime I’ve seen from any studios.

First off, there’s Sword Art Online which has some terrible, terrible writing. However, I enjoyed the first season for the bad writing, sadly that wasn’t carried over into season 2 as it was simply bad. Season 2 of Sword Art Online was very boring, tedious, and not much happened in it. Then there’s Aldnoah.Zero which is the anime I think about first when it comes to broken writing. Sure I said Death Parade has broken writing, but at least it did a few things right with the characters. However, Aldnoah.Zero offers nothing in the story department. Things simply happen just because, and there’s no logic to it. It expects you to sympathize with a character who was part of a group that assassinated the princess of the universe which sparked a war. It wants you to feel sad for the fact her father died by the hands of the people she helped, pretty difficult when she shows no sympathy for causing the death of million of innocent people, and even still tries to kill the real Princess even after being betrayed by the people she was suppose to help.

Oh man, and there’s the piece of garbage that is Gunslinger Stratos. If it wasn’t for Ninjaslayer From Animation I would have given the award for worse animation to Gunslinger Stratos. No one should ever had to expose to those awful action scenes, and the brief moments it shows characters flying towards the camera. Everything about the anime is terrible, but when you apply the story, and characters it’s even worse. It becomes so convoluted it’s hard to follow. Exposition, upon exposition, delivered by characters who are one dimension without anything interesting about them culminated into an anime that went out of it way to take life away from my soul. Well, A-1 Pictures did animate Shinsekai Your/From The New World which is easily the best anime with A-1 Pictures name attached to it. I recommend seeing that anime from the studio, but everything else from A-1 Pictures I’ll say be cautious with.

Now with A-1 Pictures latest offering they have recycle ideas, and nothing much else. Expected this from the studio who for some reason, decided to be faithful to the manga of Fairy Tail even though every battle is won by the power of friendship. I have other issues with the writing of Fairy Tail, but seriously, the fact A-1 Picture didn’t bother changing the material into anything good demonstrates a lack confidence from them in understanding good writing, and good storytelling. The backgrounds seems like concept for an anime not the finalize version of them. While characters design are bland like the vanilla conversations revolving around a group of teenagers that have amnesia. Seriously, I would want to have amnesia so I could rewatch Death Note for the first time again, and be addicted to it to remind myself how immensely enjoyable anime can be.

Hai to Gensou no Grimgar First Impression: 3/10

 

As far as anime goes that’s about it from what I saw. I’m planning on seeing Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, but likely won’t write about it. So what’s the other things in this blog entry? Well more impressions, and not anime related.

 

 

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The Man In the High Castle

Length: 12 Episode

Duration: 60 Min.

Distributor: Amazon.com

Episodes Seen: 1 out of the 12 that aired

One thing about me that isn’t noticable online is my lack of viewing live action television series. The last live action tv series I followed was Breaking Bad. It was a tv series that had everything I wanted from a tv series that couldn’t be done in movie format. I was hooked from the first episode, and never once ever considered dropping it. For me, both Breaking Bad, and The Twilight Zone (1959 – 1964) provide some of the best pieces of writing on television that I don’t have feel an urge to see anything else on tv. They appeal to me on every level offering engaging characters, and contemplative storylines. No matter how acclaim any live action tv series I won’t see it unless I get recommend to see from a friend. And even then I probably won’t finish it for good reasons, or something arbitrary. For instance, despite friends, and families telling me to see Game of Thrones I don’t bother with it since I’m not really into the Fantasy genre.

Another example is me completely dropping The Walking Dead despite, yes, friends, and family insisting I continue to see it. I like season 1, but completely dropped it midway into season 2 because it was going to turn into every single zombie movie ever made. The reason I liked season 1, and the first season was because there was room for expansion for this tired story. Zombies stories are one of the least interesting type of stories for me. If anything has zombie it already loses my interest because of how disinterested I’m into these creatures. However, in the first season characters go to a place they think is safe, it get overrun by zombies, then have to look for a to place to live. It did this three times during season 1, and I was okay since zombies stories in general are secluded so I would welcome a change in scenery. Then came season 2 where literally nothing happened for like what, 6 VAN DAMME episodes. It was boring, slowly becoming more trite by its usage of zombie movies cliches, and then finally the violence is not enough for me to see anything zombie related anymore. I saw a movie called Dead Alive directed by Peter Jackson which is the bloodiest, and goriest movie ever made. It’s because of that movie blood, and gore is something zombie media can longer capture me with. They need a story, but with The Walking Dead it’s repetitive with season 2 showing characters will live temporarily in a safe area, then it’ll get overrun by zombies, and the characters have to look for a new place to live. I barely see zombie movies so what makes my offline friends, and family think I’ll dedicate my time to an entire tv series on zombie is beyond me.

Now, as for The Man In the High Castle I was very interested in seeing it. World war 2 is a subject, and a part of history I’m sucker for. Just the insane amount of events that occurred, and the larger than life figures during that time never made me bored relearning the same things in every history class in high school. So when I saw a tv series that depicted an alternate version of WW2 where Germany won I had to see it. I will give the pilot episode the credit that’s very cinematic, and the set design is fantastic. The world building is also excellent. My favorite moment being the main character wonders what’s falling from the sky, and the police that’s helping him tells him it’s the hospitals burning the unwanted. I’m not sure on the exact wording since I it back in November, but that was a good moment for me.

Everything else from the characters, and story was very underwhelming. It depicted the Naiz as simply being evil, and the people rising against as good guys. For something of this premise I was hoping for more grey in presentation of the characters. Hitler for instance is a grey area to talk about. Sure he killed dozen of Jews, but at the same time got Germany out of an economic pitfall. There’s other stuff too, but basically Hitler is difficult individual to put in one category if you take into account both the good, and bad he contributed to the world. So that one negative mark towards it.

Another thing I didn’t like was how much nothing the pilot episode was. It ends simply being two people thrown into this rebellion against the Nazis meeting up at a specific location. That’s some dull creativity right there. Everything in between was also disappointing. I did like the fact there was a Jewish character who had to hide his religion because of the world he lived in, but there was no hint of more complex feelings on the matter. Nothing like why he remained in the Jewish faith despite the world around him, or if he consider Hitler is possibly correct about the Jews. Now our main character is a simple guy who wants to fight against the Nazis since it’s the right thing to do I guess. There’s nothing wrong with that, but when I picture an alternate take if Germany won WW2 this isn’t what I expected.

The Man In the High Castle First Impression: 5/10

 

 

Gakistal (The Bridal Mask In English)

Length: 1 H.

Episodes: 28

How many have I seen: 1 out of 28 episodes

I went into Gakistal after receiving recommendation from a friend who’s a fan boy of this series. Now I should get across this isn’t my first time seeing a Korean television. I did see the 2011 Korean series named City Hunter back in 2012 on Netflix. I liked it. It had a great soundtrack, good action scenes, and a solid writing. One thing I didn’t like was the romance was the will they, or won’t they date variety which became tedious. That’s saying something when I tell you the series was only 20 episodes long. However, that’s about it for my experience in Korean television. I always considered seeing more Asian television series. One thing I don’t like much about Western television is there’s always a clear distinction between television action, and movie action produce material. It’s the budget, but Asia film industry aren’t as crazy as spending hundred of millions into a single film. So when they produce an action series for television you can’t really there’s much of a difference because the way Asian production manage money differently than US productions.

With that said, I was disappointed with the first episode. Not because it didn’t have any action, but because I was entirely bored seeing it. If we cut out the average fight scenes I’m left with a story that has boring characters, mixed up politics, and no clear direction in what it wants to be. Gakistal is set in an era where Korean is being oppress by the Japanese and forcing them to speak Japanese, yet all the characters speak the Korean language. The masked Gakistal vigilante isn’t our main character, but instead someone who has to capture him. So the series could be a cat, and mouse came with the main focus being the cat constantly failing to capture the mouse. I don’t know about you, but unless it’s Tom & Jerry I’ll probably get bored with this formula. Especially when taking into account there could possibly be 28 episodes of this. The acting, and set design was fine, but like with The Man In the High Castle it offered nothing for me to gravitate towards.

Gakistal First Impressions: 4/10

 

Japanese Spider Man

Length: 24 Min.

Episodes: 41

How many have I seen: 6 out of 41

The only television series in this blog post I would recommend you see. If you like power rangers, and cheesy storylines this is the series for you. It deviate heavily from the original source material probably all Westerner are accustomed too. In this version there’s no Peter Parker, but there is Planet Spider, and some nonsense about the main character father waiting on for around several centuries to give his son the power of Spider Man. Yeah it’s goofy, but at the same time that’s was charming about it. It has a retro feel to it that is undeniable from its presentation. I would say more on this series, but if you like Power Ranger you should enjoy this since they both have the same formula. Also, that theme song. Classic 70s cheese.

Japanese Spider Man First Impression Rating: 7/10

 

Phew! I think that’s about everything I wanted to give an impression on. I would rate my impression of recently becoming an uncle, but there’s scale to express how happy I am for my family. Plus, at 21, I’m already receiving old people jokes, and handed canes. Well, if you made it through, I’m impression of you is a 10/10. Until next time, something, something, something.

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Cinema-Maniac: The Revenant (2015) Movie Review

Under good hands the ordinary can seem extraordinary. In film, it has the power to make a story that is entirely set in one car surprisingly engaging (Locke). At the same time, it has the power to take something like a giant serpent, and its army wrecking Los Angeles boring (Dragon Wars). Thanks to medium like films, they have the power to share those kinds of experience that otherwise probably never would have experienced by viewers in their life. In some cases, making you feel like as if you’re right in the story. The Revenant is such a film achieving an immersive experience that makes up for it shortcomings that come up from the writing.

The Revenant follows frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) on a fur trading expedition in the 1820’s fighting for his survival. There is a narrative thread woven from Hugh Glass desire to seek revenge, but a cat, and mouse game the film is not. Choosing to focus instead on Glass struggle with nature the film is written in a way to emphasize visceral, visual experience. Dialogue heavy scenes are few in between, and the focus is hardly removed from a wounded Hugh Glass ongoing battle against nature, and to a certain extent his fellow men. Spending around a third of the film with Hugh Glass alone without monologuing on anything associated with himself. Opting to show Hugh Glass as much possible with his wounded body to carry on forward. Only hearing the sounds of the environment (the cold wind blowing, waterfalls) to create a sense of desolate. Expressing his pain in a series of grunts, and screams. Hugh Glass is a man of very few words throughout the film. Whenever he does speak Glass dialogue is written to get across the broadest idea in the least amount of words. This same notion also applies to the era where the film takes place in. It never explicitly states where, nor when the story takes place in, but just gives the minimal amount of information. As a whole the film takes itself seriously, though does offer a couple sparsely spread out brief comedic moments. These bits of humor are a rarity serving their purpose to lighten things up. However, the tone is not trying to balance itself making it serious business at all time.

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Leonardo DiCaprio: How many more Buffalo you want me to eat to get an Oscar!

In the writing department developed characters are not in full focus. Hugh Glass is not developed beyond his standard traits introduce in the beginning of the film. He’s a loving father who cares for his son, and a tough individual who can withstand what nature throws at him. There are trinkets of dialogue where characters do talk about Glass past, but never a full scene dedicated to showing it. You will get brief glimpses into the past of Hugh Glass, though the significance of them underwhelms since it never leads to anything. These glimpses of Glass past attempt to make him more of a definable character, though the only aspect of them that feels organic is Glass dedication. A common theme in the movie is his dedication to persevere through his injuries no matter how painful it is. Glass lives by the words “As long as you can still grab a breath, you fight”. Demonstrating this belief in his dedication to stay alive as well as becoming a motif for narrative purposes.

One important trait of the writing that fails at is creating morally grey characters. Within the film own context, John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) action are attempted to be painted as an act of necessity for survival. Showing his hesitation in Hugh Glass leadership, and lack of confidence in the group chances of survival when chased by Indians. Attempting to make his action justifiable to an extent. What’s disappointing about this element is whenever the film shows more, and more of Fitzgerald he is clearly meant to come across as the film villain. Throwing out the morally grey characters it wanted to create in the film becoming a more streamline revenge story. Two moments backing up this claim is Fitzgerald dialogue in the climax is most evident of his wholly villainous turn taunting Hugh Glass. Another is Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) who in spite of his position of Captain does not order his men to search for Fitzgerald because the film wants its protagonist to learn something from his journey.

Then, there’s a moment in the climax where Fitzgerald performs an action reminiscences of an event that scarred him. What makes little sense is that it’s established in a scene that any type of reminder of that event puts Fitzgerald on edge never wanting to think about it. However, when he performs the specific action it eliminates consistency in his character, and remove what little characterization he had. Slowly transforming the morally ambiguous action of characters into good, and evil. If there were more to Fitzgerald had more to his character than the film still would have worked with the revenge story intact as well as having the intended morally ambiguous characters, but the small moments, and important details get toss aside derailing it.

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu direction while unsubtle in the tackling of the film main theme did a magnificent job in creating a visceral experience. Using breathing as a motif in his storytelling (and part of the soundtrack), and the loose visual representation of being reborn/resurrected. In the film, every time Leonardo DiCaprio character struggle through an overwhelming ordeal Alejandro Gonzalez focuses the lens on showing him getting stronger in his ordeal. Giving the proper direction to DiCaprio on movement to illustrate his growing strength. His usage of CGI is small, but made every usage is for great effect. In a noteworthy scene with heavy CG Leonardo DiCaprio is mauled, and tossed around by a Bear. Paying close attention since the Bear is CG Alejandro was smart in using practical effects hidden within the CG Bear make whatever the CG Bear makes contact with move. It’s especially noteworthy when considering most of the Bear attack scene was done in one take leaving little room for error. Under his determined direction the film always feel like it’s in good hands.

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This particular sequence early in the film is amazing. Nothing else to add.

The opening sequence of the film is a technical accomplishment that should be noted. Opening up with an Indians attacking a group of hunters doesn’t sound complicated on paper, but when you make it on a big scale it does. However, the scope of the Indian attack on the hunters isn’t the reason it’s an accomplishment for the film. Rather it’s the fact that both cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, and editor Stephen Mirrione created a set piece comprised mostly of a series of one shot takes. Right when the first hunter is shown falling to the floor from arrows shot on his back Lubezki continues aiming the camera at where the viewer should be focus for a seamless shot. In this one shot, a hunter is shot in the neck with an arrow showing the arrow make contact, while another hunter is struck in the back with a wooden spear, and the sound of death scares a hunter causing him to shoot a hunter in front of him without a cut. Another compliment to Emmanuel Lubezki would be the lighting. Yes it’s an entirely random aspect of filmmaking to praise when it goes largely unnoticed. The Revenant was virtually shot entirely with natural lighting which is impressive since there are filmmakers who can’t even do fabricated lighting correctly. Only one scene in the movie uses a dash of creative artificial lighting. It was for a campfire shot in which the wind was causing the fire to behave in an unpredictable and distracting way, Lubezki used some light bulbs around the fire to make what he calls a cushion of light. Making an already beautiful looking film more technically impressive.

If there’s a possible complaint to be had with the cinematography that would be the repetitive usage of wide angle shots. It becomes noticeable before reaching the hour mark that the film love to use wide angle shots by itself, or have the shot pan in either the left, or right direction. In addition, it also has a couple of wide angle shots that spin around too. While harmless for the film intentions the visual is very noticeable when viewing it.

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Come on boys! Let look for a new angle!

Now if you’re going into the film with the idea to see a thrilling spectacle you’ll be disappointed. While the film few set pieces are excellent, and fantastically filmed with a visually large scope in mind. They will take a back seat to everything else that is shown in the film. Shots of DiCaprio crawling stay up longer than a set piece that requires DiCaprio escaping from a group of attacking Indians. The film focus is more on showing the punishment nature dishes out at Hugh Glass where he spends allot of time crawling, limping, and walking out of whatever get thrown his way. It shown with a series of wide angle shots of the cold wilderness, and the distance Glass has to travel. Whenever Glass is walking the camera pans out from a distance to illustrate how resilience Glass is in his environment. In total, it’s debatable there’s a total of actually four set pieces; the opening sequence, the Bear attack, DiCaprio running away from a band of Indians, and the climax. Of course, the quality of the set piece is far more important than the actual amount. Thankfully, all the ones the film offer are executed to their fullest effect. Another aspect are the set pieces emphasizes urgency than it does violence. Hugh Glass is in danger, and by not being in good shape he has to get away from danger as quickly as possible. Becoming more immersive than exciting upon viewing.

To date, this is Leonardo DiCaprio best physical performance to date. In terms of line delivery DiCaprio barely talks in the film. His co star, Tom Hardy, has more spoken dialogue than DiCaprio does. Back on point, DiCaprio vocal performance is a series of grunts, and screams of pains. What holds the performance together is DiCaprio performing difficult tasks, and hurting his body throughout the film. He expresses so much emotion in his facial expressions, and body movement. Tom Hardy also puts in a great a performance. Despite the script treatment of John Fitzgerald Tom Hardy performance humanizes the character. Making emotions surrounding him conflicting, even after taunting Leonardo DiCaprio character in the climax. The only criticism would be his accent in the beginning of the film makes some of his dialogue discernible. It’s an issue that doesn’t remain with Hardy performance. In one scene in particular he shares with Will Poulter regarding if the means were justified to survive Hardy is cold, yet understanding in the scene. Proving he’s a difficult person to read, especially when taking into account a prior scene where he shows desperation.

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In his time off, Max is know as the Counsel Warrior.

Supporting actors Will Poulter, Domhnall Gleeson, and Forrest Goodluck are noteworthy since they have good amount of screen time to make an impression. Will Poulter plays Jim Bridger in the film. With the scenes Poulter is given he does an excellent job in expressing deep fear, conflict, and sorrow in his character. Sharing scenes convincingly with Tom Hardy display layer relationship on the journey. Domhnall Gleeson plays Captain Andrew Henry who presence on screen varies depending depending on what act the film is in. Gleeson puts in a strong performance commanding authority that is required to pull off his character convincingly. Forrest Goodluck speaks in a different language for most of his screen time. He’s simply fine in the role since he’s not given difficult material to portray like his other costars. While fine in portraying DiCpario son it’s not much of a showcase of talent in the actor. The score creates a atmosphere that is certainly elevated by the rousing and gloomy score by Ryuichi Sakamoto, Alva Noto, and The National’s Bryce Dessner. In some moments, it is Eno-esque while in others the sounds become erratic. Altogether, it’s a haunting collection of tearful strings, glazed synths, and engulfing bass that mirrors the scenery and action at hand with compelling results.

The Revenant is lacking in deep characters, but makes up for it good performances, an interesting story that emphasizes the visual experience of filmmaking, and is beautifully shot throughout. On a technical level it’s quite a marvel of a film. While the story does get streamlined in the final act preventing itself from being as complex as it could been it doesn’t deteriorate it from reaching it goals. Its simple characters work fine in a film where’s its protagonist is attempting to survive harsh condition succeeding in immersing the viewer to the very end.

8/10

 

Inspired By True Events

The Revenant sports the “Inspired By True Events” tagline attached to it. So how much does it stray from the actual story? Well, the filmmakers had the courtesy to use “Inspire” instead of “Based On A True Story” since the actual Hugh Glass never had a son in any sense in anything written about him. However, the confrontation with an enraged grizzly bear, the part of Glass being dumped in a shallow grave 200 miles from friendly territory and leave with all his equipment, Glass hauling his broken mess of a body out of his own grave, scraped the infection out of his wounds, set his broken leg and started crawling toward the nearest outpost, a French trapper outpost called Fort Kiowa are confirmed to be true.

All whole ordeal lasted six weeks for Hugh Glass. After successfully avoiding vengeful Arikara war parties, wolves and bears, while surviving on berries, roots, rotting carcasses, and rattlesnakes, Glass made it to the river. A Sioux hunting party came upon the living man-corpse and helped him fashion some branches into a crude raft, which he sailed to Fort Kiowa and safety. As soon as he recovered, Glass set out to hunt down Bridger and Fitzgerald. When he finally found them, he … forgave them. But only after he got his rifle back. In the case for the film while the revenge story did feel tacked on it is a good way to reward patient viewers in a film that’s over 2 hours. If the film was fateful it would ended things on a anticlimactic note, though there is more to the story.

If your interested, or just really like reading check this article by Historynet that goes into great detail on the story if you like.

Cinema-Maniac: Unfriended (2014) Movie Review

The following is an actual text chat between friends up on social media websites called “Facebook”, and “Skype”. This horrific event has been approved to be shared to the public by the authorities. Which ones specifically? Just, the authorities.

[The following is taken from Facebook]

Cesar: “Let’s watch Unfriended. Who knows you might enjoy it you said!”

Matoi: “The premise hasn’t been done to death in the horror genre.”

Cesar: “It’s no different than text chatting on literally any website with someone. Worse of all, I had to pay actual money for what was basically “Reaction: The Feature Length Film”. What a waste of day off. Thanks allot.”

Izanagi: “Hello suckas! That movie was eh.”

Cesar: “Eh? You’re telling me a whole film of people simply looking at their laptop camera classifies as an “eh” film for you?”

Izanagi: “It was realistic…”

Cesar: “Realistic? You’re telling me a teenager who grew up with the internet, and social media doesn’t know what a troll is? Not only that, but you expect me to me to believe this whole thing was recorded, and every one of the victims parents was apparently okay with this being shown to the public. Something like this isn’t public domain, you need people consent or they could sue you. You’re telling me the parents wouldn’t sue the film distributors for releasing this! There wasn’t even a text box that stated “We were granted the parents consent to show this”. That alone guarantees failure before starting the film since the number one thing 98% of found footage movies get wrong is simple logic!”

Matoi: “You’re thinking too much on that. What really bothers me is the fact despite YouTube strict regulations they apparently allowed a video where someone is being bullied to be up. Even though their policy strictly claims they do not approve of harrassments. The first sentence on their harassment, and cyberbullying policy says “We want you to use YouTube without fear of being subjected to malicious harassment”. If this was posted on a website like 4chan where any kind of content can be posted, or even the Deep Web I would have bought it. Nope, that didn’t happen so it invalidated the entire movie. That’s not even taking into account the title tells someone to kill themself.”

Izanagi: “Strict? YouTube is the website where you can find videos of people dying. So that’s far from its biggest issue. For the sake of this discussion that ruined the illusion for you. You don’t need to bring up the gap in logic by applying real world knowledge, streaming site policies, or even the law into it, but who stands around in a chat room quietly waiting for their one friend to finish writing to someone. I know what I would do, talk to one of the possibly 4 other people in that chat room!”

Cesar: “Seriously, the standards for horror films have fallen. I mean seriously, if the film was found footage why was the sound edited whenever Blaire played music. Or that one time the sound in the background was edited out so we could hear typing.”

Izanagi: “What did you expect? Need I remind you the awfulness that was M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Visit” even without my bet being made. People consider that a good movie by Shyamalan’s standard. If that’s a phrase that will get thrown around it’s no better than saying this movie was good by bad movie standards.”

Matoi: “Can we talk about the part where Cesar wouldn’t stop complaining through the entire thing. You were starting to get more annoying than the characters in the movie.”

Cesar: “Well when a fat guy takes the time to show us his blender of course I’m going to complain. Like I’m really going to question this guy has a blender in his house. It was unnecessary to deliberately show us he has a blender. That would like me showing you my dick to establish I have one, and then get killed by later on.”

Matoi: “No microscope would be able to see that tiny thing.”

Izanagi: “OHHHHHHHHH! You got burned!”

Cesar: “Walked right into that one.”

Matoi: “So you’re going to write about this garbage thing.”

Cesar: “You kidding me. It’s another awful found footage movie. They’re a dime a dozen. What am I going to say about this one that I can’t say for the majority of them. Bad acting, too polish on the production side to actually believe regular people recorded this, abusing jump scares, having no idea of proper cinematography in this genre, having credit sequences crediting actors playing these “real” people, and so much more.”

Izanagi: “Oh? Someone called the Phantom wants to join our chat?”

Matoi: “Well, clearly deny them access, and block them.”

Izanagi: “I’ll get on that.”

Cesar: “Even this basic action the film got incorrectly. Oh, also they could simply ignore the fake account, and go on with their chat. If not, simply tell everyone else to meet somewhere in person. Shut off the internet box in your house. You know, leave the laptop unattended if you believe it’s possessed. They could have done anything to survive, and the ghost didn’t have any power to force them to stay either in that one location. Don’t you find it funny the chick who committed suicide profile wasn’t already a memorial before the movie started?”

Matoi: “Says the guy who wrote a slightly positive review for Sharknado. Eh, still it’s a good point. At least in Sharknado, the titled tells you straight out the kind of logic it’ll have. In this, if I’m expected to believe this could happen to us it needed more researched to be done.”

Izanagi: “They won’t leave me alone, and the Phantom user might have multiple accounts. So why don’t we just text, or video chat on another site.”

During this time it’s unknown to account what happened to the three, but it is confirmed that a minute after that message the three went on Skype.

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Like what you here? Because this is how the entire movie is like.

[The following is taken from Skype]

Cesar: “So…”

Sex heard could heard in the background.

Matoi: “Cesar, are you watching porn?”

Cesar: “Uh no. I don’t watch anime when you’re around so what makes you think I’ll put on porn?”

Izanagi: “It’s me. I was watching an episode of Impractical Jokers.”

Cesar: “Sure you were.”

Izanagi: “No seriously I was!”

Horses could heard in the background.

Matoi: “The more you know. Ewww!”

Cesar: “Turned that off.”

Izanagi: “Fine. There you happy.”

Cesar: “Why yes I am.”

Izanagi: “Another unrealistic thing about the movie is Skype doesn’t record video chats. So how did the filmmakers get the footage? It can’t be found footage, if, you know, IT WAS NEVER RECORDED IN THE FIRST! Oh gosh. You infected with your cynical disease. Now how am I going to enjoy anything ever again?”

Matoi: “Stop exaggerating Izanagi. We all know you would have to be decontaminated if you’re infected with whatever Cesar was diagnose with. Any thoughts on the acting.”

Cesar: “The acting was nonexistent. They were given badly written characters to portray, and some awful dialogue to say. Oh, my favorite part of the film was the unrealistic moment when the power goes out in the of teens house, yet his internet is fine.”

Matoi: “Ghost Internet, a SyFy channel original movie.”

Cesar: “lol. I would so see that. Would be a much better movie than this.”

Izanagi: “What about everything else?”

Cesar: “I mean what else is there to talk about.”

Matoi: “Well there was Blaire who went crazy when her boyfriend didn’t reply to her immediately. Seriously, wait a bit for a reply.”

Izanagi: “Oh man that was boring. It’s one thing to actually do it, but seeing someone type a Facebook message in complete silence is not what I would call a good movie”

Matoi: “I seriously hate jump scares. I hate it more when it’s the only thing a horror movie tries to scare you with.”

Izanagi: “You know what my favorite part was? The fact the Ghost actually repositioned the webcams to show whenever she kills someone. How considerate of a vengeful spirit.”

Cesar: “So it unanimous among us this movie sucked. The writing is all over the place, the acting is nonexistent, relies only on jump scares to, and virtually nothing about it is redeemable.”

Izanagi: “I would say it’s unredeemable. It didn’t drag out, and the premise makes it reasonable for it to be called a “Found Footage” movie even if the writing is weak. It did something different in a tired genre. That was enough for me.”

Matoi: “Horny teenagers getting killed in a horror movie isn’t new.”

It’s at this very moment the power went out, and this is where it is presumed the three of these individuals made contact with aliens.

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Wasn’t joking. Ever chatted on Skype for 90 minutes? Basically like seeing this movie minus entertainment.

[The following is taken from a Facebook text chat]

Izanagi: “I still can’t feel my face! Seriously, they asked so many questions in 12 hours.”

Cesar: “You are lucky your rich okay. My boss, the first thing he does when I tell him I spend my day being questioned by the police is yell at me for not going to work. I seriously got no idea how I put up with him.”

Matoi: “12 hours? I was out in half an hour. Afterwards I went on a date.”

Izanagi: “With a cop?”

Matoi: “Nah! Some guy from my dorms. He wouldn’t let me talk so it ended quickly.”

Cesar: “Well, I’m just happy all three of us turned out fine. ”

Izanagi: “Later guys!”

Matoi: “You’re leaving already? Then what was the point of you joining this text chat.”

Izanagi has left the chat room

Cesar: “It’s just us now. Oh man. I do not look forward to tomorrow.”

Matoi: “How come?”

Cesar: “I’m suppose to meet some filmmakers I’ve never heard off. They want to turn our story into a found footage horror film.”

Matoi: “Really? Who’s playing me?”

Cesar: “Um, I think I overheard Dakota Johnson. I think she was in Fifty Shades of Grey, and Selena Gomez when walking out. I got some paper they gave me with potential casting.”

Matoi: “I guess I would be okay with Dakota Johnson, but not Selena Gomez.”

Cesar: “The part of Izanagi has been offered to Simon Yam, and Jacky Wu Jing!”

Matoi: “Who are they?”

Cesar: “Simon Yam is only one of the most acclaimed actor from Hong Kong, and Jacky Wu Jing is, well, a martial artist with some famous fight scenes under his belt!”

Matoi: “Well that’s lame. Why do I get the lame actors.”

Cesar: “You? What about me? The producers are contacting Justin Bieber, Kellen Lutz, and Lucas Cruikshank. The guy who played Fred on YouTube to play me. That is just terrible. No way am I’m giving them the rights to tell this story.”

Matoi: “Yeah, don’t give them permission.”

Cesar: “So, before I end the chat.”

Matoi: “No.”

Cesar: “Shot down again. This will be another chapter in the Biography of Heartbreak.”

Matoi: “Haha. You’re so lame.”

Cesar: “Oh well. Remember, stay awesome!”

Matoi: “You…you’re okay I guess. Bye!”

Matoi has left the chat room. Cesar has logged out of Facebook. The next day Cesar went back to talk to the film producers, but no one has seen since that day. Scary.

Public Disclosure: As a spokesperson for the authority, I, writer Nelson Greaves, and my colleague, writer/director Levan Gabriadze of Unfriended encourage all readers to not seek out the actual story of what transpire today. It was very disturbing, and very true what happened. No matter what, with caution, the internet can be a wonderful place. So please be careful, and do not ask Cesar, or his friends what happened as they’ll only feed you lies. Now, in the future please look forward to our next feature film titled Followed. It deals with the harassment of being followed on Twitter, and from our extensive research is the number one public stalking site on the internet. Very terrifying indeed when the whole world is given the power to stalk you. Also, currently in production there’s “Lying Faces”. A gut wrenching documentary about false friendships. You won’t believe profiles with insane lies in the film. We met a person who had around 500 friends on Facebook, but actually only knew around 30 of them. The truth of Facebook will be reveal to all. Finally, we’re proud to announce “PornHub: The Movie” which is our most accurate film to date. We had our entire production do research on this site to discover that all videoes on the site are actually recorded sex tape from real couples, even the animated ones! We were disturbed to see hundred of videos of mothers having sex with their children, people being held prisoners in sadistic dungeons, Angels having sex with humans, and so many others things. The world is a sick place, and we must inform the people.

 

0/10

Cinema-Manaic: Beasts of No Nation (2015) Movie Review

Cesar: “Can you put the Bat down?”

Matoi: “Why should I? You laughed at the sight of dead kids watching this movie.”

Cesar: “So? No matter what subject matter a film tackle a bad movie is a bad movie.”

Matoi: “I still think you’re insane.”

Cesar: “Fine, but I rather not have my laptop be destroyed.”

Matoi: “Sure, so long you tell me why you think this is a bad movie without comparing it to other films that tackle the same issues.”

Cesar: “Seriously? Than how will I get across how uninspired the film is.”

Matoi: “You figure that out.”

Beasts of No Nation falls into a difficult category of films to dislike. It revolves around a relevant issue that affect the lives of young children, and going against it can give the misconception you don’t care about human life. I often find myself quoting the song “Do You Feel” by one man band Bryce Avary aka The Rocket Summer when in discussion on these matters. Beside lacking expert knowledge on such matters, I ask myself if the cause wants me to see those involved as people, or simply victims of a crime. The portrayal of such tragic events, and crimes is just as important as understanding the reasons that caused them in the first place. Without that, ignorance further grows….

Matoi: “Stay on topic Cesar”

Beasts of No Nation tells the “story” of Agu, a child soldier fighting in the civil war of an unnamed African country. Within the first act of the film the writing shows some immediate cracks in its crafting, and execution of a delicate story. For example, instead of establishing an average day, or week for Agu steadily throwing in politics removing more, and more aspects of the average life it establishes war torn nation is the norm in his life. The film immediately jumps into its politically unstable setting before bringing up any history to this unnamed country has. It gets explained briefly in two scenes, but the broad generalization of the details can be apply to anywhere. Being incapable to express the value the people place on the country, or the people living in it. Then there’s also the writing failing to make the unnamed country significant to Agu in a meaningful way. There’s more to someone home than being a place to live in, but the film says otherwise made evident by its execution on the story. By not setting up the foundation for the drama to stem from the film ultimately feels aimless.

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Commandant: “Graham knows we’re onto him, all right? And he’ll try, and kill as many as he can before we catch him, and if I terrify his wife to stop that happening. I can live with that”

Another aspect that crumbles because of the writing are the characters. Agu, despite being our main character, is not a defined person. He’s simply a ploy to do whatever the story commands of him. For example, in the first act Agu is shown to have a brother whom it’s easy to assume they have a good connection with one another. Agu brother is not treated as a person in the story which makes the weight of his character less significant. This wouldn’t be an issue if Agu displayed some sorrow over losing family members in his life, but does not which is apparent with his brother never coming to mind after the first act. The only time Agu is shown, or hinted at caring for his family is when he has to bid farewell to family members due to circumstances that prevented him from leaving the country. Then, there’s the other kids Agu interact with in the beginning of the film which if under good hands one of those kids would have also been with Agu in his journey. Sadly, this isn’t the case as Agu never seems to ponder much for his family, even if he loses a person close to him in front of his eyes the film does not allow Agu to display his emotions. Nor does Agu seem to care about the livelihood of his friends either at it is never brought up.

In its two hours, and 17 minutes run time it feels longer than it actually is. This is contributed to the uninspired formula the film chooses to tell its story. You have a kid whose innocence get taken away from him because of a war, they see families and friends dying as the war worsen, they befriend someone in the militia/rebel fighters that force them to fight, get noticed by the commander demanding more of the child besides fighting, the eventual downfall of the rebel fighter group, and finally the ending which either has the child dying for the cause, or struggling to settle back into society because of his experience. It’s a typical telling of the story minus engaging material that explores the psychology of it lead character. Another aspect that does not help is the cinematography gives away plot point when it lingers too long on something. However, the formula for kids drag into war stories start at a point where it shows the good life of the kids. This film avoids this aspect immediately throwing viewers into the politically violent nation. Afterwards, the child would be captured by a rebel leader, and this is where the kid would be forced to either choose to make a stand to hold true to what he/she believes, or do something that can damage them through adulthood. It also glances over this plot point as Agu simply becomes a fighter without protest which hinders the impact the story should have had.

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Commandant: “Chop em up boys! We got us dinner tonight!”

Then at some point in this story the child protagonist eventually has to come across a point where he is forced to kill somebody in front of a commanding officer. Agu does not show, nor expresses any hesitation when this pivotal moment happens. Giving the false impressions Agu didn’t apply any values to human life before the war which yes means despite saying he loves his friends, and family it’s simply for show instead of an ideal for the character. Now, not all films of this subject matters has the child killing someone to show how much the character changed from their normal life before being taken to war. In some cases, the kids would even protest doing such a thing resulting in either severe punishment, or deaths at the hands of the rebel leader. However, earlier in the film there was a shot that lingered on an unimportant event of a kid going into a shack with the commander. Since I know the plot beats of these kind of stories (particularly the uninspired ones) I expected the child to lose their innocence. This same shot also spelled out the outcome of the “the turning point” (as I refer to these of plot beats) before it happened. This particular moment between Agu, and the commander could have painted a harrowing image of Agu lost childhood, but cuts from it before showing anything remotely hinting at the action. If the viewer got to see Agu reaction it would have been more harrowing than simply implying it. Like mentioned in the past, if you only provide a tame version of an atrocity the sugarcoating of the crime is more damaging.

Also in these kind of films the importance of family is empathize either be it with the protagonist actual family, or the rebel fighters they fight with. In Beasts of No Nation it gets both aspects of this plot point wrong. Agu actual family is used in a manipulative way in the scenes they’re written. At the beginning, it hints that Agu, and his brother don’t always see eye to eye, but after one brief moment of anger they get along easily. Now imagine this sort of portrayal for the rest of Agu family only showing them in a good light. However, without Agu expressing his sadness of losing his family it creates a detachment. This would have been remedied if the rebel were treated as Agu new family, except it’s not. The rebel fighters only has two character one of whom Strika, a mute who get no development pass that trait so you can pretty much guess what his contribution is. Most insulting about Strika character is he was unneeded in the way he was used since the film does not glorified child soldiers even in their eyes so using Strika to deliver the “War is bad” message only serves to hammer in its point.

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I’m guessing this is how Netflix got a good performance from a child actor. Wonder if this technique will be common.

Matoi: “You still haven’t explained why you laughed during this film?”

Cesar: “Fine, but that was the fault of the editing.”

The editing in Beasts of No Nation is competent, though nothing outstanding about it. In general, there is nothing really to complain about the editing. There’s a moment in the film where the rebels, and Agu are cheering together as they take over a town. Up-roaring music also plays during the march as it shows the rebels relishing their victory before abruptly cutting to bodies of dead kids. This abrupt cut made me laugh because the music does not fade out, nor does the scene fade into showing the dead bodies of kids. It simply just cuts to the scene. Going from Agu celebrating on the streets with other gun wielding rebel fighters with up-roaring music to like a snap of a finger showing dead bodies is not good editing. Granted my suggestion of fading the music, and fading the scene out is plain, but is allot more appropriate in transitioning between the two tonally different scene. One is meant to be a dark celebration due to the context while the next moment is a cut back to reality. What it did was make me laugh when the movie is about a kid being forced to fight in a war.

Matoi: “Oh. I didn’t notice that while watching it.”

Cesar: “That’s okay. This is the reason Izanagi considers me the Devil when watching movies. I notice stuff that tend to go over his head.”

Matoi: “Keep going.”

Cesar: “Come on. I told you how a film about kids going to war made me laugh.”

Matoi: “You know you still have to explain why you think the movie is bad.”

Cesar: “Did you not listen to me? Whatever.”

By the end of the film it comes across empty. I wondered what was the point of it? Was it trying to say using children in warfare is bad? Well, of course it is Sergeant Obvious. That’s basically the equivalent of watching a film like Schindler’s List with the only thing it tells you is the Holocaust was bad. It is trying to be an exploration for the kids who participate in the war? To be blunt, it is not character study even in the minimal sense. It feels more exploitative using the images of little kids killing, or dead kids to make viewers care what from they’re suffering from and not because they’re people who lost their ways. Agu, our main character, simply accepts the new life as a combatant without protest making him appear as if family has no value to him.

The movie reveals more about Commandant (Idris Elba) leader of this rebellion than it does any of the children whom are the center of its focus. It demonstrates why so many rally behind Commandant, why the battles feel aimless under Commandant leadership, and why the Commandant lost his original purpose for fighting for Africa. Commandant has a motivation, has conflict, and reacts to it in a dynamic way expressing his distraught he can’t do anything for his country, or its people. However, Commandant is neither not the main character, nor the main focus despite the fact his subplot is written far better than the main story. Commandant feels like a struggling person because he expresses himself through he believes is right. This unknown nation, and its people mean something to him. Those strong emotions for his country, the people, and soldiers are not attributes found with Agu. For even when the violence seem aimless, and ordinary when itching close to the end how Agu dealt with the situation feels robotic in conveying emotions, and emotionless commenting about violence through the eyes of a child.

Matoi: “Well if the writing is as bad as you claim taking away the part you praised Idris Elba character. How come so many who’ve seen it are challenged by it?”

Cesar: “Images.”

Matoi: “I should break your laptop now.”

Cesar: “Wait! Some people are so close minded to real issues, and the dark nature of humanity they can’t phantom stuff like this as part of life. It’s part of human nature to be self centered. If possible we do it to ourself without thinking about it.”

Matoi: “So, you’re saying because we’re not expose to this sort of events people like it. That’s shallow of you.”

Cesar: “Well, it’s true for some people. Like it says in The Rocket Summer song “Do You Feel”. Why should I have to try to fix things I didn’t create or contrive? Do you feel the weight of the world singing sorrow, or to you is it just not real cause you got your own things? In the instance of Beasts of No Nation, it failed to make me care. Now can you move away from my laptop.”

Matoi: “Next time I’ll watch a movie with someone who isn’t as insensitive as you are.”

Cesar: “Well excuse me for hating a work of fiction.”

Matoi: “Wait, it’s not based on a true story?

Cesar: “Nope, just a novel.”

Matoi: “Oh, well, this is embarrassing. I’m going to leave.” [Matoi has exited the review]

Beasts of No Nation strengths are in its production aspects. Leading actor of the film is child actor Abraham Attah who was flawless in his portrayal. He gave his character more depth than the writing did. In his eyes, he gets across being a tortured soul with body motions that shows nervousness in the heat of danger. Subdue in his portrayal despite whatever context is given Abraham Attah balances the harrow nature of the film. Avoiding the pitfall of being too showy (at least for a child actor) opting for performing a character not simply being seen as a child actor.

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Idris Elba: I see, my Oscar is the distance.

Lastly from the cast is the fantastic Idris Elba. While he does get overshadowed by his younger co-star Attah. Elba performance is nothing that be taken away from. Through his mannerism he slowly transform into a lost soul when reaching the end of the film. Idris Elba managed to sneakily create a performance that gets across his subtle manipulation of his character. Much like with Attah, Elba performance is mostly subdue with the only time he riles up is when he is inspiring soldiers to fight. The supporting cast do well in their roles, but aren’t given big roles like with Attah, and Elba to make much of an impression. They unfortunately fall into thankless roles, but aren’t wooden as the actors put allot of effort into their performances.

Cary Fukunaga’s cinematography is quite good ambitious, and atmospheric in its goals. Optimizing various wide shots of locations to set up the vast landscape, using close ups to get personal in dramatic scenes, and keeping the camera on a single actor for a period of time to follow the chaos. A huge compliment also goes in Cary Fukunaga decision in using filters for a majority of the film to make the scenes appear more realistic. When it comes to violence he doesn’t compromise showing dead kids, or showing a kid kill people. He does not stylized his violence. Rather, makes it as grounded, and dirty as possible to display the rough nature of combat. Dan Romer (the film composers) creates a score that favors ambiance for a foreboding atmosphere. Mixing various ambiguous instruments, like a drum kit made out of stringed instruments, to create musical that oscillates between themes of innocence, confusion, and terror. Progressing naturally as it changes tone in the film. Given the film doesn’t incorporate montages of fighting it was the right direction to take the music in. While unnoticeable it serves it purpose well by not drawing attention itself, nor taking away from its usage.

In the end, Beasts of No Nation is a hollow film whose images evoke more emotion than the people it is about. Despite the fact it’s based on a sensitive subject matter it provided no reason for me to care. Commandt was the most developed, and engaging character even though I’m clearly meant to hate him for basically making who know how many young children, and teenagers fight in a cause resulting in large amount of deaths under his command. It’s a shame he (Commandant) shows a greater importance for everything that is occurring around him than the filmmaker do. Agu who is the main character didn’t need to understand politics to express how the war changed him, and the effect it had on everything he held important. Sadly, that does not become a focus since Agu expresses little value to everything that gets taken away from him. While well made the images are the only aspect that will trigger a reaction since they involve kids committing war acts. It’s a shame things like this happen, but when done in this manner it comes across as lip service rather than showing concern for those in the same position.

4/10

Cinema-Maniac: Close Range (2015) Movie Review

Straight to video films generally lack in quality so imagining an ocean of action films that are possibly worse than the higher budgeted action films is not far fetched. Action films in general offer a wide range of approach in execution, but unfortunately they also have negative stigmas to overcome. In particular to the ever famous claim that no one watches action movies for the stories which is far from the truth. A great story can make an action movie unforgettable which is proven with Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark. However, plotless, and brainless action movies aren’t off the table for enjoyment either as Mad Max: Fury Road is currently the most critically acclaimed of these plotless action films. Sure it has a story, but the spoonfed dialogue, loosely written story, and simple characters results in underwhelming writing. Close Range offers pretty much the same thing; simple characters, a loosely written story, but loads of good action scenes for your entertainment in 81 minutes.

Close Range is about a rogue soldier turned outlaw who is thrust into a fight with a corrupt sheriff, and a dangerous drug cartel in order to protect his sister and her young daughter. That synopsis is about as much as the story evolves, or develop in the course of yes 81 minutes. It’s bare bone storytelling relying on basic character archetypes that can be defined as the good guy, and the bad guy. With its length there’s little room for character development. That includes lead character Colton MacReady (whose last name is what I usually order at McDonald’s) whose characterization is simply to make Scott Adkins (who plays Colton MacReady) look cool. Colton characterization paints him in a good light usually by his family whom only say positive things about him. What is strange about the simplistic storytelling are its intention are clearly too just string together a series of action scenes. This is evident by some leap in logic in the story from the corrupt sheriff who doesn’t call for backup when a dispatcher tells him she heard heavy gunfire from a phone call, to a drug kingpin who only takes a handful of henchman despite the hero killing dozen of his men including his son very early in the film, and if Colton MacReady is on the run why isn’t the military shown to be chasing after him. It’s brought up that Colton put a superior officer in the hospitals, and was meant to be jailed so one would expect the military actually be bother to pursue Colton. This plot point goes nowhere as there isn’t a single character dedicated to represent the military in any way. It’s usage is to make Scott Adkins appear more dangerous, and cool, even though he’s already both of those things.

One aspect of the writing that goes against the simplistic story, and characters is Sheriff Jasper Calloway (Nick Chinlund). Unlike the other characters whom fall under the good, or bad category the film attempted to make Jasper Calloway fall in the middle category. However, the treatment of his character is out place with the rest of the film writing. Jasper Calloway doesn’t have allot of screen time to paint him in a grey zone. He’s given the position of evil, but loving family man without bothering to mention if what he did was due to desperation. It simply comes across that Jasper despite his personal life status did what he did only for money. There’s Colton sister, Angela Reynolds (Caitlin Keats) who is a better representation of the grey zone resorting to shady activities to pay for a home. Unlike Jasper Calloway, Angela Reynolds is given the role of damsel in distress until the latter part of the film. She works in the confined of what the film aims for whereas Jasper Calloway clearly shows signs of wanting to uphold the law, but his character isn’t explored so it ends up going nowhere. Calloway is also purposeless since his second biggest contribution in the story is sending officers to chase Colton for a car chase. By the standard definition the film leaves many things to be desired none more important than tension for a rush of excitement seeing our hero struggle to stay alive. However, the film applies the rule of cool approach to its writing preferring to stylize for entertainment. It doesn’t pretend to be more than more what it wants to be, which is a brainless action movie, and the writing complements it with a length that makes sure it doesn’t drag out it welcome.

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In Adkins case fighting a Truck is easier than fighting Jason Bourne.

Scott Adkins takes charge in a leading role that require little in the acting department from him. Adkins only requirement is to look tough, sound angry in most of his line delivery, and perform the action scenes convincingly. He fits the bill of good action star looking right in the role while putting in a solid performance as a tough guy. It’s not showcasing Adkins skill much in the acting department as he is constantly in action hero mode. For the role, Scott Adkins only goal is to convince you he’s awesome, and pulls it off. Having both the look, and skills to perform what required of him in elaborate action scenes he makes enduring through the film lesser moments of excitement worth it.

Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the rest of the cast. Nick Chinlund, Caitlin Keats, Jake La Botz, Tony Perez, and Madison Lawlor deliver one note performances from pure evil (Tony Perez), unlikable douche bag (Jake La Botz), scared child (Madison Lawlor), and so forth. The supporting cast roles are pretty much an afterthought by having little material where they change emotions. Most facial expressions from actors don’t change when they are introduced to when it finally ends. At most, Nick Chinlund is the most dynamic of the supporting cast, but always comes across agitated. Chinlund doesn’t have the skill to make his character come across as sympathetic. Other cast members like Jake La Botz, and Caitlin Keats deliver exposition most of the time. Resulting in tedium when they don’t speak like people. Caitlin Keats at least gets to perform in the action in the last of act of the film, though not for long, and not performing anything that nearly as elaborate as what Scott Adkins has to pull off. She still deserves of praise for making her moment in the action seem convincing.

Fight choreography is credited to Jeremy Marinas who should applauded for his work on Close Range. The film opens quite ambitiously by having Scott Adkins beat up a bunch of goons single handily in a Mexican compound in one take. Despite the limitation that comes with the one take shot the opening action sequence is well filmed, and performed. One aspect in this fight that works in its favor is its in a enclosed area with not many people in the background. Keeping focus on Scott Adkin fighting whoever is in front of him. Another standout sequence is a one sided fight between Scott Adkins, and Jeremy Marinas. There’s no suspension of who will win the fight, but both actors make it entertaining by allowing each to offer blows before the eventual end of it. Switching battle tactics frequently in the fight turn the tide of the fight in their favor. While the action sequences favors a combination of gunfights inter splice with constant bullet dodging in the third act it does contain a good car chase, fight scenes including a climax that combines it with gunplay, and other set pieces to satisfy the checklist of variety in violence. It’s final act is where it begins to stop caring about logic as characters seamlessly fire endless rounds of bullets from a single clip. All of this is made more impressive when a majority of these set pieces take place in a two story house. This house gets filled with bullet holes, broken glass, and eventually having  a few dead bodies. Due to the story, the film doesn’t offer a high body count, but more than makes up for it in quality. It’s an understatement when saying the production team made great use of everything at their disposal.

Close Range is a satisfactory film for action junkies. The story while simple is clear in its intention to string together a series of action scenes which is why it only bothers to make our hero awesome, and our bad guys villainous. With a length of 81 minutes the film never outstays its welcome being capable of filling the quota of viewers looking for popcorn entertainment. Its low budget action filmmaking from the duo of Scott Adkins, and director Isaac Florentine whom keep on pushing the boundaries of what’s capable with a low budget action filmmaking for the better. While the writing won’t leave an impression it will at least entertain while it last.

6/10

Cinema-Maniac: Rurouni Kenshin (2012) Movie Review

Adaptations of any sort of property can be tricky. Besides appealing to the original source material fanbase (if there is any) comes with the decision of how exactly to adapt the source material into a new medium. If it’s made specifically for fans like the 2005 Joss Whedon’s film Serenity than newcomers probably won’t get much out of it like fans would. Especially when the best counter-argument against it not standing as its own creation is checking out supplementary material (which happened in my case). Regardless if the film adaptation was preceded by a TV Series, comic-book, or other sources the adaptation in a different medium should be able to stand on its own. Coming from someone who has never read a single chapter of the manga, or seen a single episode of the anime series related to Rurouni Kenshin this live action film adaptation can be enjoyed as its own creation. It’s a great film adaptation, and an equally engaging samurai film.

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I can relate. This is typical reaction when I talk to a woman.

 

Rurouni Kenshin follows former legendary assassin Kenshin Himura (played by Takeru Satoh) who has now become a wandering pacifist samurai with his new beliefs being challenged in Tokyo. From the opening action sequence right to the end Rurouni Kenshin always feels confident in where it’s heading. Expertly knowing how to setup the social climate of Tokyo where the story takes place. Distinguishing through some characters their struggles to find a new purpose in an era that seemingly in no need of Samurai’s. One moment in the beginning of the film shows villain Kanryu Takeda (Teruyuki Kagawa) ringing a bell singling former Samurai warriors it’s time for dinner. Small details like these help get across the idea of how difficult it could be for a Samurai to adapt to an new era of living. When the story jumps from it subplots including one of an assassin killing using Battosai name it does not feel overwhelming to keep track off. This theme of finding a purpose is explored heavily keeping its main story focus as it introduces more characters in the story while continuing other story threads.

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You will come to the dark side Kenshin.

Kenshin leads the overall narrative with his main conflict attempting to live a new life away from his former assassin ways. One aspect on writing characters that generally isn’t understood is every action you have your main character perform can develop them. In this film, writers Kiyomi Fuji, and Keishi Ohtomo understood this using Kenshin playful attitude to highlight his struggling ordeal. In some scenes Kenshin has a good time talking to other characters, but in others scenes he get thrown back into his Samurai fighting instincts. As the film progresses the line between famed assassin Hitokiri Battosai, and Kenshin Himura grow closer together. His backblade katana named the Sakbato Kageuchi, for instance, demonstrates Kenshin practicing his beliefs. The way Kenshin fights with careful calculation with a Sakbato Kaeuchi is different from the brief moments when Kenshin is shown fighting with a regular blade instinctively with ease. This builds upon Kenshin as a protagonist as it’s a trait that is treated as part of his character instead of a plot device.

Characters in the film will challenge Kenshin as he attempt to maintain his pacifism. The film takes it time exploring Kenshin motivation for his new ways becoming an engaging lead character as well as an entertaining one. By the end of the film, there’s still room left over for Kenshin to grow as a character while not downplaying his battles to maintain his ideals. This is accomplished by having Kanryu Takeda (Teruyuki Kagawa) be a unsubtle villain. Upon the first time Kanryu Takeda appears on screen there’s no misleading the viewer that he’s clearly evil, and seek to only make money. Kenshin constant refusal to become battosai no matter who asks him attributes to Kenshin growth as well display the need of capable fighters. Supporting characters don’t receive the same degree of exploration, but are given specific roles such as comedy relief with Sanosuke Sagara (Munetaka Aoki), eventual damsel in distress Megumi Takani (Yu Aoi), adversary with Jine Udo (Koji Kikkawa), and even just plain badass bad guy with Gein (Gou Ayano). The ones that do recieved development are Kaoru Kamiya (Emi Takei), and Saito Hajime (Yosuke Eguchi) both of whom are moving on from a turning point event of their past. While both pursue different goals they can relate to Kenshin the most either offering playful banter, or some dialogue on adapting to change.

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Come on kid. Give us your lunch money.

Contributing to the film’s biggest problem is obviously having too many characters. It’s villain, Kanryu Takeda, appears infrequently in the film, and when he does appear it’s usually accompanied by music. When Takeda executes his evil plan it comes out of nowhere without proper build up aside from one scene that establish he sells drug, and one brief scene where he explicitly says to poison the water. That’s not good buildup since this eventually leads to the film largest set piece. However, this issue isn’t as harmful as it could have been. Every character serves a purpose at some point in the story with varying degree of significance. Be it to help Kenshin fight off a dozen of Kanryu goons, or to arrest one of the main villains. Each character at some point in the film contribute to a larger story by being given simple character arcs, but treated as characters instead of plot devices that only serve to progress the story. One aspects of the film that can’t be overlooked is Jine Udo supernatural ability in the film. Jine has the ability to cast a spell that can paralyze his opponent lungs. This ability is out of place with the film world which makes itself grounded for a majority of the film. At most, you get human performing superhuman feats like outrunning bullets that could come across as far fetched as Jine’s ability. Those moments aren’t out of place since they’re being performed by people whereas Jine Udo paralyzation ability comes across as plain magic.

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The film has an awesome cast, and cool to look separating it from other Samurai films.

Taking charge as Kenshin Himura is leading star Takeru Satoh. Performance in the film is very good portraying different sides of Kenshin. Satoh perfectly fits his character as he neither looks like an assassin, nor like a man with a tormented past. His looks are deceiving, but when it comes to displaying Kenshin true nature he balances the torments, and playfulness of Kenshin. Takeru Satoh shows restraint in his delivery which contributes to his character change. Koji Kikkawa delivers the second best performance in the film. Much like his character, Koji delivers a menacing performance as Jine Udo. He’s goes more for power in his line delivery while subduing his physical expressions. Giving the impression that he could you at any moment, even if in plain sight. Emi Takei plays Kaoru Kamiya who does a good job in the film. While limited in depth, Emi Takei gets a couple of scenes to show off range. What best about her performance is despite being the love interest she shows her affection in subtle ways. Munetaka Aoki plays the strong goofball Sanosuke Sagara in the film. For the whole the film he neither the actor, nor the character linger into a serious subject for long. Whenever on screen they are light hearted. Munetaka despite lacking range in the film does deliver on his comedy delivering especially in a action scene that incorporates humor in the middle of it.

Yu Aoi plays  Megumi Tanaki to her effect. She’s dramatic, provide some playful banter, and eases when displaying her characters different emotions. It’s a good performance, though unlike her male co-stars isn’t given a memorable scene. Teruyuki Kagawa plays Kanryuu who’s given little screen time. Whenever Teruyuki Kagawa is on screen he’s simply meant to come across as rude. He’s cynical, but not over the top in his portrayal with the exception of a single scene. Kagawa is subdue in his portrayal of a clear villain making him as grounded as possible. While the character is not memorable due to how one dimensional the character is written Teruyuki Kagawa performance at least makes it enjoyable to see. Other actors whom are also lacking in screen time are Taketo Tanaka who plays Yahiko Myojin, and Gou Ayano who plays Gein. Gou Ayano doesn’t get to display his acting chops, but does to be involved in an excellent action in the film. While not much, it does allow Ayano to shin as a performer. Taketo Tanaka receives more scenes than Ayano does, but does get a scene to highlight his talent. Tanaka does a good job in his role regardless having good chemistry with his older co-stars, especially with Emi Takei.

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Also, the film contains great cinematography, and cool shots.

One aspect of the live action adaptation of Rurouni Kenshin that’ll distinguished it among Samurai films is the action choreography by Kenhi Tanigaki who worked on famous martial art films Saat Po Long (Killzone in English), and Flash Point. In this film, Kenhi Tanigaki goes from rapid fist fights to elaborate sword fights. There’s two action scenes in the film where Kenshin goes up against large number of fighters that the choreography sells the fights convincingly. The first of these fights is in a dojo where Kenshin fights against a group of thugs. What the choreography in this scene focuses on is Kenshin speed. Another aspect in this fight that is used are the actors in the background are given something to do. In the beginning of this particular action scene Kenshin first knocks his opponents down with defensive maneuvers with rapid punches. This causes the thugs slowly fearing Kenshin as he keeps on dodging thugs sword strikes whom begin to swing wildly at Kenshin. A tiny detail like Kenshin using maneuvers that hits an opponent behind him makes the implausible scenario reliable as well as being a action scene. Of course, the cinematography is also worth complimenting since in this action scene it’s close enough to see the hits, but not to far to show inactive actors in the background waiting for their cue to perform their specific move in the sequence. It’s filmed, and edited in a way where it’s easy to decipher what is going on in the scene.

Then the second of these action scenes is the in the third act that once again has Kenshin along with Sanosuke fight against a large number of Samurai. Like the previous large scale action scene, the quick performances in the choreography, the way it shot, and edited makes it convincing. Sanosuke uses a different fighting style swinging around his giant sword to hand to hand combat. A majority of the action sequences in the film are one on one bouts all which are well done. All the action sequences make use of the characters abilities, and the environment around them. A standout in the movie is Kenshin fight with Gein which starts out with Kenshin taking the evasive approach dodging bullets inching his way closer to Gein as he keeps taking Gein ability to fight. It’s an exciting fight scene that also shows while limited, the execellent work in the film.

Aesthetically the film simply looks like high budget Japanese Samurai film which is to it credit. Everything from the costumes, the sets, the actors, and everything else looks cinematic. Nothing about it gives off the impression it’s an adaptation as even some of the more outlandish elements (characters dodging bullets for from a minigun) seemed grounded. Another aspect to the live action film is the music composed by Naoki Sato which is excellent. Ranging from fairly modern techno beats with tribal vocals to standard orchestral with the usage of the Shamisen. Sato score is easily of high quality succeeding in strengthening a scene. It’s best usage are definitely in the action sequences as it creates more excitement when viewing them. One overused of Naoki Sato music definitely when Teruyuki Kagawa is on screen having the track Kanryuu Teikoku – Gashuu No Take play in the background. Aside from that track, the music is well utilized in the film. Some listeners of Japanese rock music will be surprised by the unexpected song “The Beginning” by band One Ok Rock to be heard.

Rurouni Kenshin is an excellent adaptation that can stand on its own as a film. Anyone who has no familiarity with the series can easily view the film without feeling like they missed anything. As far faithfulness to the source material I can’t comment on it since I’ve yet to read a single page of the manga, or see a single episode of the anime series. However, I would say for anyone who enjoy Samurai films will find the familiar, but well executed story has enough to distinguishes itself to make it worth viewing.

9/10

2015 Scatterthoughts

So 2015 has fly by, and it went by nothing like I expected. Besides losing some motivation during this year to post due to a terrible job, and a negative state of mind concerning film criticism. I didn’t emphasize creating content as much as I would have liked this year. At some point in the year I placed more focus in reviewing anime than I did attempting to balance it with movie reviews. In all honesty a good chunk of it had to do with burning myself out. I found it more engaging to go more in depth in a anime review than a plain old movie review. Granted I could apply the same amount of desired depth in a movie review, but when efforts are ignored it’s kinda of hard to convince myself to keep going. Letterboxd is a good indication of this as not only do some of my other friends have greater success than I do, but the fact some have gotten worse in reviewing, yet gaining a larger readership in a single review than I would in an entire month is demotivational.

There was a bright spot in my general negative viewpoint of film criticism this year. Some of the people that felt passionate on attacking me for calling Gravity a decent film simply seemed like they grew out of their passions of films. No longer do I feel the same drive from them to continue viewing movies like once before. I would hypothesis that is from the lack of openness those viewers have, and they aren’t willing to take any risk for any film. This kind of mentality is something I never wanted to be a part off. While there movies that I say to friends offline I would never see in my life I always keep an open mind. Seriously, it would be stupid of me not to write about the rich material from The Asylum films, and the slew of B movies available from around the world. Why limit myself to a specific quality of film. It would be like me saying I’m a sports fan, but only following around three of them. It’s a misleading label that generally plagues all kinds of fandom from films, video-games, and anime.

I’m hoping next year I get back into the mood of posting more frequently. New readers might not be able to tell it, but there was once a time where I used to post five movie reviews on weekdays. Now it feels like weeks before I actually post anything. That’s fine with me since I like improve myself, and never attempt to think that I peaked at some point. However, I’ll (and you) will have to wait to see how I perform as a writer next year. So far I don’t like my chances given my goal is to post at least 200 pieces of content (not counting updates, or rewriting old movie reviews of mine) in 2016. Most of it I’m hoping will be on movie reviews since compare to writing review on anime series since not a whole lot of films go pass three hours, or even match the length of a single, 12 episode season series.

Anime reviews will also be another aspect I’ll tackle, though the success rate of them depends to be honest. On myanimelist, the most successful review I posted was a negative review for Aldnoah.Zero first season which is currently the only review I posted that has triple digits in total votes. I’m proud of that review to be honest since I went above, and beyond to express my hatred for the series. It wasn’t all just an opinion as I provided evidence with what the anime gave me, and used that to negatively write about it. I’ll go over some things that impacted me this year. I would say it’s a collection of highlights, but I was inactive for a very long time so there’s not much to it.

Video-games

This year was the first time in years I went back into gaming. There wasn’t enough games on the PS4 that I wanted that justified me to buy an expensive console. So I did the next logical thing, and decided to seek out games on my backlog, and complete them. I finished more video-games this year than any other year I’ve been playing video-games. For starter, I finished the entire Kingdom Hearts 1.5, and most of 2.5 HD collection this year. I went through the playable entries on the HD collection which was allot of fun. In terms of writing the original Kingdom Heart was the best. It was simplistic sure, but the themes were explored, and the story was written in a self-contained way. Most importantly it made sense since it wouldn’t be until the sequels the lore got convoluted, and complicated. Unfortunately for me, while in the process of playing Kingdom Hearts 2 HD I went months without playing it since I went to Kansas to help my family out. I got a job at a bacon factory which was terrible, but my family needed my help, and at that moment I didn’t care how long I would be offline. When I did return to beat the rest of the Kingdom Hearts Collection I got confused by the storyline. It became more convoluted, and complicated to follow as the series developed.

This year also holds the record of me completing the most games I disliked in a single year. I played Watch Dogs since I wanted a third person shooter at the time. Unlike allot of gamers I wasn’t hype for the game when it was first announced. I liked the concept of being able to play as a hacker, but this was Ubisoft, and when it comes to their writing they generally suck at telling stories. Upon starting up Watch Dogs I knew I was in for a rough ride. For starter, there was no possible way to blind fire, even behind cover. This made the game design to be harder than it actually needed to be. This problem was amplified when in certain missions you have to chase a target in a car, but can’t shoot your guns while driving. I found this particularly laughable since the game allows me to slow down time, and the character I use is hacker, but apparently can’t shoot while driving. One defense against my criticism was it was trying to be realistic. Yeah, that why there is an ability where you can slow down time, and boss fights that care multiple shots to kill. That also why my character can multiple gunshots so long he stays behind cover to recover his health bar. Realism…sure.

Another thing I hated about Watch Dogs besides the gameplay was the writing. The protagonist had a story that was simply about revenge that was predictable. There were hacker terms like “Script Kiddie” that the average person wouldn’t know that aren’t explained in the story. The game was also badly design as I bought all costumes, and weapons before even completing five missions in the game, and before even getting close to finishing the third act. Characters were boring as well. I couldn’t even bother to remember their names. One was a hipster hacker, while another was a emo-punk girl hacker for the protagonist to creep on. It sucked pretty much.

Star Ocean 4: The Last Hope was another game I finished this year, and it was also much to my dislike. Unlike Watch Dogs, I actually enjoyed the gameplay of Star Ocean 4. However, allot of the game mechanics I didn’t bother using like a crafting system since I didn’t need it. It didn’t encourage me to use it either so I found no use to create weapons. Another thing I didn’t like were the characters. Besides the awful voice acting from some of the voice actors the cast was annoying. I ended up creating a team of characters I found most tolerable. That’s no joke unfortunately as the cast comprised of the childhood best friend, the young naive adventurer who seeks justice, a loli cat, an Angel who was ditzy, a Robot with a design of a action figure, an emo elf looking character who called himself the grim reaper, a widow who dresses for the way she does for the sake of fanservice, an annoying kid who repeats a catchphrase, and other “engaging” characters. The story….oh don’t even get me started. It became so convoluted to the point that a planet transformed into a dragon, a spaceship commander sacrifice himself to create a black hole to destroy the dragon, go to the center of that still standing planet, travel to the core, and destroy it by defeating a last minute villain who for inexplicable reasons was like the motherboard of the species despite the species operating competently without him.

There were also other games like Fuse that me, and my little brother suffer through together. It was a soulless third person shooter that really was a chore to get through. Our biggest issues being a cheap plane boss fight that could kill the player in a single hit. It doesn’t help matter when the plane also has a shield so if you get hit with the one-shot-kill attack you’re dead. Spec Ops: The Line I like for the story, but the gameplay was generic third person shooter action. I did like it in the end, but it wasn’t anything special in the genre. Other games I liked that played, and completed this year were The Evil Within, Tales of Xillia 2, and Rune Factory 3. There was also Lost Dimension that I ended up liking, but consider it average at best since allot of the ideas it has aren’t fully realized.

Out of all the games that came out this year that I played there was only Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker that I beat. Granted I do have my copy of Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree Woe and the Blight Below, and Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom for Christmas that I’ve yet to open, or play since I got no PS4 at the moment. As usual, I love me some SMT goodness, and Devil Survivor 2 delivered. The gameplay went mostly untouched, but what made it worth the purchase was there was around 100 hours of content in a single game playthrough of two story modes. Yes, I got that much content from beating the game two separate story mode once, and given the fact the game has multiple endings, and different events depending on your choices I haven’t stopped playing this game. My only issue with the game would be that it doesn’t do anything to take advantage of the poorly named New 3DS hardware to its advantage, but that’s more of a nitpick.

This was also a year where I just kept on piling to my backlog. So I have a dozen DS games I haven’t completed with virtually all being RPGS. So I have myself possibly over 300 hours of gaming I need to get to completing at some point. I still have one more game in the Metal Gear HD collection to get to, Final Fantasy 10-2 to beat, around 4 PS3 games I haven’t beat, and finally around six digital games on my PS3 I’ve yet to beat. So yeah, I went a bit overboard with my purchases during my enjoyment of gaming, though to be fair the most expensive game I bought cost me 50 dollars, and that was for the handheld port of Xenoblade Chronicles for the New 3DS. Aside from that, and three other 40 dollars most of the games I got were rather cheap. Still, given with what was announce for the PS4 PSN Store from Rogue Galaxy, and Dark Cloud that I’ve been wanting to try. As well as the dozens of games I want next year I got my work cut out for me in balancing between work, my reviewing commitment, social life, and personal enjoyment time.

Astoria, and Sukima Switch

Music is the most subjective out of any medium, including art. With Art there’s a clear distinction of which drawings are better drawn, or better express an idea. Art is still subjective, but not to the same extent as music. Like any medium there’s also a distinction between good, and bad music, but it’s not quite as easy to see as with other mediums. If a song catchy, I’ll listen to it. If I’m not in the mood to listen to Arcade Fire discussing problems with modern society you bet I’ll blast some Jesse Mccartney any day. Certain genre of music you can simply listen too at any given moment over others. For me, there’s only a couple of artists, songs, or albums that I feel like I can listen to in any situation whether it be something to listen too, or something that’ll make me think.

Another thing I should mention is I don’t listen to the radio. Whenever I do I don’t find anything I like playing on the radio. The only time I do listen to the radio is whenever who’s driving has it whatever station is on playing. So most of what I end up listening too I end up finding by accident. One of these accident was with the band Marianas Trench. My first exposure to the Canadian band Marianas Trench was when red head indie artist Annie Rose Robinson did a cover of Marianas Trench song Fallout. Now how I knew about an obscure artist like Annie Rose Robinson is a whole other tangent that involves the website ReverbNation which also leads to the time I got a lyric video removed from YouTube because the artist stole it. However, since YouTube updated whenever it did my private messages with that artist were deleted, and at the time didn’t know how to screen capture anything.

Either way, after listening to Annie Rose Robinson cover of Marianas Trench Fallout I looked up the original. At first, I wasn’t really into it. A couple weeks later when back to listen to Marianas Trench Fallout, and liked it more than I did the first time. I listened to it again, and decided to listen to Marianas Trench other music, and fell in love with them. I listen to Masterpiece Theater, and Ever After religiously, and I still do years later I’ve grown older. For me, the album’s Masterpiece Theaters, and Ever After are a great mix of easy listening, and thoughtful music. A Marianas Trench song can be catchy as well as very thoughtful on how it speaks about its subject. This year also marked the release of the band’s fourth album titled Astoria. Since it’s release I have yet to stop listening to it. I do listen to other music, but Astoria whenever I do I could do so for an hour on a single track. All the songs are rather good, but I have clear personal favorites on the album. The opening song, Astoria, always gets me pumped up whenever I listen to it.

Then there’s the self titled album from the Japanese band Sukima Switch which unexpectedly ended up being the second album I listened to the most. If you haven’t listened to it I highly recommended since it has the ability to put you in a good mood with its upbeat tracks, and joyful vocals. If you seen Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood than you probably heard the third opening track titled Golden Time Lover performed by the band. They mostly make jazz music so if you’re into that kind of genre check out their stuff.

Most Annoying Movie, and Anime I Haven’t Seen Yet

This year marked the release of Star Wars Episode 7, and One Punch Man. In all honesty I could care less about One Punch Man, but since it’s made by Madhouse I would have given it a shot eventually. Same thing with Star Wars Episode 7 which I wasn’t anticipating at all. When I saw the first teaser trailer I seriously wondered for a long time what was my favorite Sci-Fi anything in any form of media. I couldn’t think of anything from the top of my head immediately. At least with superheroes I could immediately name Spider Man 2 (my favorite superhero, and Marvel film), Iron Man, and Kick-Ass on the top of my head. For Sci-Fi I do like Star Wars, and Star Trek, but neither I would consider to be my favorite. I then thought about the first two Terminator movies, but I always them more in line with the action genre since it plays more on those traits than what I would associate with Sci-Fi. Like this passage, I went on a tangent about this until I landed on James Cameron’s Aliens being my favorite Sci-Fi film of all time.

The closer the day got to the release of One Punch Man, and Star Wars Episode 7 the more irritating it became. This also followed me offline since virtually even I know has seen Star Wars. No matter how many times I would talk to them the topic went back to Star Wars. I was fortunate enough not to have many friends who see anime, but men these issues were amplified online. Star Wars Episode 7, and One Punch Man were heavily discussed on the sites I went to. I go onto Facebook to see a feed of my friends voicing their excitement for it. I go onto Rotten Tomatoes to see if anything changed, and see something about Star Wars on there. I go onto YouTube to see if anyone I subscribed to posted anything, and once again I see Star Wars related content on there. So no matter where I went I couldn’t escape Star Wars. Now if it was only the fans being hype for the film I wouldn’t have gotten irritated by it. I have my moment of fanboyism whenever a new Shin Megami Tensei game is announced. Sadly I can’t voice my excitement much for that series since I’ve yet to meet anyone else who also tries the Shin Megami Tensei game series.

What eventually got to me was the backlash of those people who got irritated by the fanbase, but took it a step further by spoiling the movie. Now seeing Star Wars isn’t top on my list, and I too got annoyed by it, but calm down. It’ll blow over. However, the people who don’t understand this won’t let it go so they spread the word wherever it’s possible. It got bad enough a man threaten to shoot his friend if he spoiled Star Wars.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3370806/Man-jailed-student-threatened-Star-Wars-spoiler.html

So you could imagine me not wanting to go on Letterboxd even just to post my reviews because of spoilers being everywhere. On myanimelist it’s another story entirely. When I go to the forum there will usually be one forum dedicated to discussing One Punch Man. Unlike most users on the site I actually bother checking the review feed on MAL to check out the great reviewer. If I consider it really good I usually a comment complementing the reviewer, even if the viewpoint on said anime is different. One Punch Man is currently a flood of reviews that don’t seem to stop coming in days after it ends. I see it becoming like Sword Art Online where regardless of how many wrote about it there will be one user who reviews it every day, if not everyday than a week. One Punch Man is currently like that, though what’s bother me is the general of lack of good reviews it inspires. There’s only a handful of positive, and negative review for the series, but plentiful of badly written ones regardless of position. Some users I see taking advantage of the climate, and using the opportunity to make a name for themselves in the MAL reviewer community. So far I’ve seen it failed for the ones trying establish themselves.

As for now, I got no label, nor am I actually known that well known in the reviewing community on MAL. I would be sad, but at the same time I don’t want to be known for a single label like “The guy who wrote that long, negative Aldnoah.Zero review”. If that’s the most I could amount to when writing about anime than I failed. Don’t even get me started on the possible discussions I’ll have with friends if I actually do see it. It will drive me insane. I already have a YouTube feed of anime channels that talk about it, even making multiple discussion videoes on it. Hell, it even managed to get into TheGamingPilgrimage Podcast (great Youtube gaming channel, and podcast you should check out)  that I follow. What makes matter worse is I have a little brother who reads One Punch Man. Before the anime came out I had fun making fun of One Punch Man by replacing the lyrics to the Dead Wonderland opening theme, and making it about One Punch Man. I did it on the spot which me, and my little brother found funny. However, when it comes to the quality of anime we differentiate greatly. For example, from the moment the first episode ended I knew Steins;Gate would end up being average, and living up to its acclaim. My little brother on the other hand thought otherwise leading to many arguments. The closer we got to the end more he started to agree with me. So as you could tell, he’s not quite as experience in analyzation as I am.

What we like also differs at time. For instance, I did not like the anime Oreimo because the arguments, and the positions it presented them in were really weak. My little brother like the series because he could relate to it since he had a friend like the heroine of the story. Then there was also the One Punch Man incident where I saw the first episode, and the impression it left on me was a 5. It was an average first episode, and if it was meant to be a satire of the superhero genre than IT PLAYED THE ENTIRE DREAM SEQUENCE WITH A STRAIGHT FACE! WHAT COMMENTARY f@#KEN WAS THERE IN IT! What resulted from that dream sequence pretty much was a good action sequence never happened. For some reason my little brother got mad when I called it average. Seriously, the only time I absolutely hated anything that was popular that I reviewed was the movie Frozen because it was a bad movie. All the other times I either write that said movie is decent, or average someone gets angry at me, and leading to a long discussion where the oppose just assumes they win because they got the last say in the argument.

Wrap It Up:

So as you notice some of those segments end abruptly. I’ll leave you with a quick list of things I liked from this year, and probably expand on it once I see more from this year. For now, these are my favorites for the year.

Favorite Anime: 1. Mobile Suit Gundam: Origin   2. Parasyte: The Maxim

Favorite Movie: Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation    Best Movie: Creed (as of now)

Favorite Album: Astoria (by Marianas Trench), and Sukima Switch (by Sukima Switch)

Favorite Game: Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker

My final message will be happy New Year, and happy holidays. See yalls next year!