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Anime-Breakdown: Ajin Part 1: Shoudou (2015) Recap Movie Review

Polygon Pictures is the name of the studio behind this film, and the anime series Sidonia no Kishi/Knights of Sidonia. I bring them up because despite only having seen one completed series from Polygon Pictures (at the time of this review being posted) it was enough for me to make them my most hated anime studio. This hatred is derived from Knights of Sidonia, or as I refer to it Sci-Fi: The Anime since it’s biggest piece of sci-fi trite I have ever seen in any form of media. Every single plot point was predictable, it didn’t put a new spin on any established sci-fi formula nor strayed from any common modern anime writing conventions, and it’s also the only piece of science fiction, and animation to ever put me to sleep. So before even starting the film, and Ajin anime series there was already the hurdle of low expectations. The only way Ajin couldn’t meet those low expectation would be if it turned out worse than Knights of Sidonia. Ajin went so below the bar of low expectations I could make a top ten list of the worst Ajin episodes in great detail by how much incompetence there is in each individual episode.

This film is basically a recap splicing together the first six episodes of the anime series Ajin. You might be wondering what’s the purpose of this recap movie if there’s no noticeable alteration between the anime series, and film. Both use the same footage with the same dialogue rendering it rather pointless to seek out the other product depending on what you decide to check out. As negative as I was towards the recap movie, Sword Art Online: Extra Edition, A1 Pictures did the logical in creating new material exclusive to it. Ajin Part 1: Shoudou only major difference with the anime series are scenes not having Izumi Shimomura (Tosaki’s secretary) cheeks turning red when blushing in two episodes of the anime series. I would like to point out this film came out in late November of 2015, and between that time all the way to mid January of 2016 when the anime aired. Someone, or several individuals at Polygon Pictures felt it was important to slightly alter moments of embarrassment by having Izumi cheeks turn red when she’s blushing instead bumping up the framerate to not make the animation look like it is always lagging. Just like the anime series, this recap film purpose is to simply be dead air. The metaphorical coaster of anime so to say.

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Sup! I’m Porcupine.

Ajin takes the classic premise of the “Human Parasite” (as I call it) trope where the focus is on a main character who becomes something he/she, or the world hates. If you read, or seen Invasion of the Body Snatchers (my go to association with this premise) you know for a fact this premise under right hands holds infinite possibilities. Especially horror since it could thrive on creating psychological fear of these creatures that easily blend into our world. However, Ajin doesn’t understand the basics of storytelling so when it tried to reach higher than possible never once does it bother to set up the building blocks for a stable story.

First issue for the film is simple; bad world building combine with bad context for exposition. In Ajin, it’s establish the entire world know the existence of Ajins, yet in a later scene in the movie a police officer is surprise there’s an Non Lethal Drug Gun specifically design to capture Ajins. Before you could be bother to ask what sense does it make that this weapon isn’t mandatory for all policemen to have in case of an emergency it throws another bad plot point at you. One being how high school students managed to find a leaked video of a Ajin being experimented on, and there being no mention of it in any news media outlet. The flimsy excuse of a student saying it could be fake cannot be assumed to apply to everyone else in the world which requires higher suspension of disbelief that does not come with the premise. In the anime series, the news media eventually discover this leaked video, but in the film the news media does not. Creating more plot holes that in sequel films Polygon Pictures will have to cover up instead of focusing on telling a story (not a good one at that).

We also have the Elephant in the room to address in that paranoia, hatred, disgust, or any feelings towards the public views on Ajin goes without setup. Aside from the first discover Ajin being a gun for hire in Africa, and if Ajin are turned in you’ll be rewarded there is nothing much to grasp from the Ajins presence in this world. The film even brings up the fact other Ajins were discovered, but mentions nothing if the other Ajins are commonly violent toward humans. If that was the case, than it would make sense for Kei Nagai (our teenage protagonist) not to trust anyone in his surroundings. However, if the story didn’t establish the public mindset on Ajins existence than the idea of them being turned in for a reward could still be a reasonable source of distrust for Kei Nagai. A simple, and not hard to shoe in solution for this issue is someone mentioning an Ajin who got betrayed by his friends for money. If this was done than you could have a less inferior reason for Kei Nagai not to trust his friends in the beginning of the film. It’s even brought up the reward could be just a rumor, but even if the reward is just a rumor than Kei Nagai fearing being betrayed by his friends from a story he heard would make a bit more sense. My solution sucks, but it could hold itself together much better compared to betrayal for rumored reward Kei Nagai just recently discovered imply by the film.

Reason number two this film is bad is because of main character Kei Nagai. I personally refer to him as Sam Blanderton since he has no personality, the writing pretends he’s a smart character, and has the plot armor of immortality. His younger sister describes Kei Nagai as a cold person so Vanilla Ice is also a suitable nickname for the protagonist. Jokes aside, you would also find Kei Nagai in that piles of jokes. Despite being told he’s a smart character, and studying to be a doctor he’s no smarter than the rest of the cast in Ajin that can’t phantom the idea of multiple people wearing hats. Having never gone to medical school I can tell you it is possible to knock someone out unconsciously with your fists. I bring this up since Kei Nagai can summon a Black Ghost which are basically an invisible humanlike manifestation Ajins can use. For some reason, when Kei is being tortured about an hour into the film, Kei seems to have forgotten everything he learned. This is a character who the audience is told wants to be a doctor. In a scene where Kei is being tortured he is also pressured into killing scientists, which you would expect someone who has been studying to be a doctor to do the logical, and knock out whoever is torturing him in order to intimidate anyone who wants to torture him in the future. Not wanting to kill is one thing, but if you have the power to knock someone out unconsciously like Kei Nagai has with his Black Ghost where’s the conflict in the situation. Kei doesn’t have to kill anyone when he’s being tortured, yet he seems content that he could only kill despite the fact he’s been studying to become a doctor. Good to know that knowledge goes to waste.

Kei Nagai acts however the plot demands him to without a consistent personality trait. In the film, Kei meets face to face with an old man who kidnapped his sister, but is okay with it since she wasn’t harm. (Tear out hair in anger). Yet, he is more concern with the idea of this same old man wanting to kill scientists who have been torturing him (Kei) for days none of whom he knows. Showing concern for their very livelihood despite torturing him. Just, huh? What makes this infuriating for me is Kei Nagai brings up the idea to handicapped those scientists while begging for them not to be murdered. So the series (along with this film) is telling me Kei Nagai gives a rat ass his sister got kidnapped who he known for basically his entire life, and shows more concern for saving people who tortured him for several days  to the point he’ll bargain to handicapped them to make sure they live. However, this completely goes against the established trait of Kei Nagai being a cold, but intelligent character which does not go well when you see this same intelligent character wear nothing to hide his face when out in public. This is never an issue since Polygon Pictures is too lazy to have background characters which is why there is hardly ever crowds of people in the film. What this means is that Kei Nagai is not a cold character since he bother saving random strangers who tortured him several days, and is not intelligent since he doesn’t use his medical knowledge in his situations to protect himself. There’s no moment of competency from this character since Kei Nagai either gets lucky by discovering a new ability to save himself when convenient, or needs to be save by another person.

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Glasses guy takes his groping seriously.

Finally, the reason the film is terrible, and the anime series itself is also terrible is pretty much everything else. Characters are one dimensional in the film with the only character using his head is Satou who is presented as the villain. Satou is refer by others as The Man in the Hat (even in the English dub for who knows why) because he wears a hat. Apparently, in Ajin, Satou is the only person in the entire world who wears a hat. This is proven whenever Satou is brought up simply mentioning someone is wearing a hat. Characters will immediately bring up Satou. Details like this makes it impossible to take Ajin seriously. What it tells me is a race of immortal beings is easily accepted in this world, but multiple people wearing hats is an entirely alien to concept those same people. Satou character also suffers the same issue, in this film, of having little character development, but compare to every other character he’s written the best. Satou is the only character who has a goal, and a motivation for what he does to a certain character. As you can assume, one character who’s passable doesn’t excuse an entire cast that’s disposable. Kei Nagai does virtually nothing to advance the plot, Kaito/Porcupine (Kei’s best friend) disappears after the second act without explanation, Eriko Nagai (Kei’s sister) is practically pointless contributing nothing to the narrative, and a slew of other unimportant characters amount to either explaining things characters in the world should already know, or just disappear after a while.

Pacing is a mess rushing through everything. This issue applies to the anime series too, but in movie format it’s boils down to throwing set pieces at the audience face without substance. There’s nothing of value to gain from constantly seeing the main characters in danger if there is no reason to care for them. No tension, no stakes, and no investment in the characters will have you constantly looking at the time wondering how long this train wreck is going to last.

On a technical level Polygon Pictures 3D animation is dated, even by 1990s 3D television standards. It’s embarrassing that the Donkey Kong Country 3D animated series from the late 90s has more expressive facial animation, and a better framerate. Donkey Kong Country can make the simple action of Gorillas walking, and dancing for that matter move smoothly. In Ajin Part 1: Shoudou, in the beginning of the film, Polygon Picture can not make the simple action of walking move smoothly. Through the film (and the anime series) it seems like characters are moving in slow motion. Polygon Pictures is capable of fixing of this, but are too lazy to do anything about it. There are two sequences in the film where two Black Ghosts are fighting against each other using the technique of slowing things down briefly then speeding things up. This simple demonstration of being able to change the speed of motion freely should also apply to the frame rate. It’s done deliberately so Polygon Picture have the technology not make to their anime series, and films look like they’re lagging at all times. Polygon Picture is so lazy the film closing credits is the opening sequence to the anime series with just longer credits. Bravo Polygon Picture.

Ajin Part 1: Shoudou needed to be story boarded, and drafted at least once before ever entering production. If this was done than Polygon Pictures would have realize they have no motivation for people to hate Ajins which would have save them from a number of issues if it was addressed. However, even if Ajin did give a good reason for why Ajins are hated it wouldn’t do away with the idiotic plot filled with shallow characters, and a very lazy production. You could find better looking 3D animation from the late 90s than this film which came out in 2015 which is embarrassing. Whatever way you view Ajin in either film, or tv format it is an embarrassment display of Japanese animation, an embarrassment to 3D animation, and an embarrassment to storytelling.

1/10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1/10

Cinema-Maniac: Cool Dog (2010) Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1/10

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

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

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

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

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

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

1/10

Cinema-Maniac: Tarzan (2014) Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1/10

Cinema-Maniac: I, Frankenstein (2014) Review

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

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

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

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

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

1/10

Cinema-Maniac: The Legend of Hercules (2014) Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1/10

Cinema-Maniac: 47 Ronin (2013) Movie Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

1/10

Cinema-Maniac: Apocalypse Pompeii (2014) Movie Review

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

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

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

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

1/10

Cinema-Maniac: The Protector 2 (Tom yum goong 2) (2013) Movie Review

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

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

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

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

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

1/10