Tag Archives: 3/10

Cinema-Maniac: Boxing Helena (1993) Review

Boxing Helena (1993) is an extremely divisive film with very little discussion surrounding it. In the realm of controversial films such titles like I Spit On Your Graves (1978), Cannibal Holocaust (1980), Natural Born Killers (1994), A Clockwork Orange (1971), and other such films draw plenty of film lovers (and sometime an uninformed outsider) sharing conflicting viewpoints, and sometime ideology gets thrown into the fold. These are the kind of films that make you ask if a film can go too far. Obviously the answer is yes they can go too far. I draw this conclusion with my experience with the 2012 Ron Morales film’s Graceland which briefly had full frontal nudity of minors. However, such cases are extremely rare as I go years without even thinking a film has gone too far with its material. You might be wondering where exactly Boxing Helena stands in terms of controversy? If we’re purely talking about the content in the film than it’s nothing special. It’s simply an experimental indie film that went to the mainstream public with a traditional Hollywood studio treatment resulting in extreme divided reaction towards the film.

Boxing Helena tells the story of an Atlanta surgeon Nick Cavanaugh (played by Julian Sands) dangerous obsession with Helena (played by Sherilyn Fenn), a woman he had a one night stand with. This is the kind of film where knowing specific parts of the story will spoil the experience on first time viewing. That sounds like a no brainer, but you’ll be amazed how many reviews for Boxing Helena from paid professionals, and amateur reviewers online basically give away 42 minutes worth material. This plot point is usually given away in synopsis (if the review has one) when the film is reviewed. That’s not even including the possible hundreds of film sites that also give away a major plot point that should be have been a surprise instead of just given away in a synopsis. Before hand, I of course went on IMDb to check what the film premise was about, and unintentionally spoiled something that should have been shocking, but instead I didn’t expect for the film to take 1/3 to get to that point. I read about the film Boxing Helena before going on IMDb when checking up a list of controversial films (I occasionally like a challenge in discussing a film) so that’s what sold me on it. However, I advise anyone who has an interest in seeing this film to be cautious when reading reviews on this film. If it sounds like a synopsis, just skip it, and read whatever left in the written review. Best advice I could give to go into this as blindly as possible.

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Hello darkness, my old friend. I’ve come to talk to you again.

On to the actual meat of discussion in Boxing Helena story. The story is slow moving while introducing interesting concepts in the first act. Nick Cavanaugh is shown being neglected by his mother at a party, and not being affected much by his mother death as an adult by leaving his mother funeral early. Raising a question of what kind of relationship Nick had with his mother? To bad the film almost immediately stopped poking around with the idea. Last time Nick mother has anything to do with the story is a hallucination where Nick sees his naked mother in an attempt to imply they had an unhealthy relationship, but how far it went is uncertain. It’s a “connect the loose dot” form of writing done badly when there’s little foundation to connect concrete information given to the viewer. What’s concrete is Nick had a trouble relationship with his mother, but everything else in association to that is kept vague. There isn’t enough to make the connection between Nick relationship with his mother, and the type of woman he’s attracted to come off as viable. At best, it’s imaginative speculation, but at worse making something significant out of something that ain’t there to be found.

In terms of characters they’re just plot devices. To an extent all characters can be considered plot devices, but there are capable writers who are able to masked this. Jennifer Lynch was not able too. I wouldn’t need to count on my hand the amount of characters that were fleshed in this movie because they don’t exist. All supporting characters are basically one trait exacerbated too inconvenient Nick. In the film, Nick has a girlfriend, Anne Garett (played by Betsy Clark) whom he just has a relationship with. If the film dabble a bit on Nick obsession perhaps being greater than his love for Anne there would have been a point to Anne in the film. Anne, much like the implications of Nick troublesome relationship with his mother, provides little in the way of something concrete to confirm themes, and ideas. In one of the very few scene Anne is in she treats Nick in a motherly way. As mentioned before, there’s speculation to be had that Nick might have a thing for women that remind him of his mother, but there’s not enough established about the characters to make it more than mere speculation.

The loose dots could have been remedied halfway with Dr. Lawrence Augustine who is played by Art Garfunkel…I don’t know why he just is in the movie. It’s mentioned briefly that Lawrence helped with Nick on his obsession with Helena, the woman Nick had a one stand with, but to what extent is kept vague. All the viewer is told about Nick mother is that she’s neglectful, and in one instance of the film Nick see’s an image of his mother when Helena is choking him. Does that mean that Nick had an abusive, or perhaps had sexual relation with his mother? The viewer will never know since there is nothing much to Nick’s mother, nor does Dr. Lawrence provide much insight as a friend of Nick. You think Art Garfunkel, of all people to have been cast, would have imparted on Nick some wisdom about relationship, but that’s the sound of silence.

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Julian Sands: “Got breast milk?”

 

Another plot device comes in the form of Ray O’Malley played by Bill Paxton. Ray O’Malley is more of a possessive friend with benefits who loves having sex with Helena. Ray contribute slightly to the film’s story, but then there’s the ending which undoes virtually all his contribution in the film. For Helena who is the other main character on the other hand, throughout the film she does speak about how almost every man she comes across only love her for her looks. Helena is played by Sherilyn Fenn who is stunning in the film which makes such an idea easy to swallow. Her personality on the other hand has little to dig into as for most of the film she’s verbally, and physically fighting against Nick possessive nature over her. This mostly due to the fact that the film’s ending once again undoing what development, and characterization the viewer thought there was in the film. So Helena fears to commit to a relationship through her arc means nothing in the end. In particular, if Helena arc did mean something than it would require an incredible amount of disbelief that two people experience the same exact thing while unconscious.

The ending to Boxing Helena is single handedly the most polarizing aspect about it. It’s so fundamental to how viewers perceive their overall view on the film it’ll change your perspective into an extreme. On one hand it could simply be viewed as a cautionary tale of an obsessed doctor psyche. However, since the ending rewrites the rules it makes it come off as clueless writing when scenes not involving Nick Cavanaugh are shown to the viewers. The twist ending, despite how much it undoes still retains Nick Cavanaugh characterization, and can still be viewed as cautionary tale of being incapable to overcome his obsession. A character in the film, due to this ending, basically stroke Nick Cavanaugh ego as being a superior man holds some weight. However, because of the ending many of the implied themes, and ideas have even less of a foundation to be more than mere speculation. As you can probably tell by this review the film’s ending makes a non-spoiler review challenging to write around.

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Not the first time both of these get wet in this film.

Julian Sands stars in the film to good, and bad degree of acting. The good being Julian Sands is able to make his character come off as a truly pathetic person, and the bad being the material doesn’t make his character sympathetic. Another good in Julian Sands performance are some of the heavier dramatic scene that requires a burst of anger, or subdue emotion he pulls off. There’s a scene of Julian Sands with Sherilyn Fenn out on the porch in heavy rain. Sands yells at Fenn character to scream out for help, but also in the same scene he’s still comes across as vulnerable despite having power over Fenn character. A bad side to some of Sands dialogue delivery is he’s unintentionally hilarious. One moment that stands out in goofy delivery is when Sands says Helena as desperately as he can before Helena experience an accident. On the whole, Sands performance could be considered positive with occasional mishaps along the way.

Sherilyn Fenn also stars opposite of Julian Sands for a majority of the film. While the film does rely heavily on her looks, and pulls of creating a sorta seductive aura around her. Fenn comes off convincingly in later scenes too that rely less on her looks. Unlike the rest of the cast, Fenn is slowly given limitation to her performance preventing her from being as expressive as the other cast. Yet, she’s still able to be convincing in her role coming off as vulnerable, and strong. A downside to this is most of the time she’s constantly screaming her lines, and doesn’t have as many vulnerable scenes compared to Sands. It doesn’t help either that there isn’t much to Fenn character either so Fenn gradually changing into a different person sadly go to waste due to context of the film.

The only other noteworthy performance comes from Bill Paxton who dress up like a dated, 90s greaser in the film. Aside from his silly appearances, Bill Paxton only appears in four scenes, and is silly in all of them. He hams it up in his short screen time, and makes an impression. The other supporting actors in the film are fully onenote. Art Garfunkel doesn’t do much in terms of range, Betsy Clark doesn’t do much either with her time, and Kurtwood Smith despite playing his small part well won’t stay with you because once again, very limited screen time. Also, since it’s wholly a serious movie the whole supporting cast performances eventually mesh with each other being indistinguishable from one another.

 

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Game over man. Game over.

Jennifer Lynch direction is fine for a first a time director. There are certain shots that are questionable in the way they’re frame. For example, there’s a scene of Julian Sands looking out at the front of his Mansion garden, and is unable to see a clearly visible crouching Bill Paxton behind some branches. It makes you wonder how Sands wasn’t able to see Bill Paxton when he’s as visible as he is. Another bad shot is when Helena is hit by a car, and lingering on it for too long exposes the bad effects used in the moment. Jennifer Lynch was both subtle, and heavy handed with some of her imagery. Heavy handed when cutting to a bird in cage whenever Fenn is failing to escape the grasp of Julian Sands. The subtle imagery comes in how very selective shots are framed to make it appear it’s actor are stuck in boxes. As for anything else I would say the selection of music is fitting, but none of the original music stands out. A lot of the music choices are orchestrated pieces with rare inclusion of insert tracks. The only piece of music that stands out is a cover of Bonnie Raitt “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Venice. To Lynch credit, it fits perfectly into what she was trying to get across in her film.

This would usually be the end of the review with me posting my closing thoughts, but there’s still one other thing left to talk about, and that’s the ludicrous statement that this film is sexist towards women. The criticism came from the 90s when it was release, but as of the moment of this review being posted it’s as relevant as ever. Labeling this a male power fantasy is silly since Helena is constantly fighting back against her captor for the entire film. Helena wants nothing to do with Nick, even when holds her captive, and Nick is doing anything to prevent her from escaping. If anything, it’s actually against power fantasies since Helena fight every chance she gets. Nick isn’t rewarded for his action which is proven by the film’s ending.  Another thing that disproves the film so call “sexism” is Nick does not enjoy obsessing over a woman he had a night stand with. In his own words regarding his obsession, “I’m still haunted for my love for her”. Even if I take into account the way the film is shot it’s still part of Nick character whose otherworldly attraction to Helena is presented by those images, and having seen the film entirely Nick does not enjoy seeing Helena the way he does. It’s negative for his mindset, and negative in his life. Just imagine if the film were to be release in 2016, and it would have caused a far greater riot. I clearly don’t think highly of Boxing Helena, but there’s one thing that Jennifer Lynch didn’t come across when directing her film, and that was sexist.

Boxing Helena I see as a lost opportunity. Beneath the many faults I do feel if handled by a more experience director could have been great. By a first time director, Jennifer Lynch lacked the experience she needed to pull off such an experimental project, and couldn’t reach the high mark she set for herself. None of this is further evident with the ending, and scenes that go against the notion of the ending. Much like its title character, the film itself is trapped in a metaphorical box, but instead of going outside of the box, and sticking to it guns with an ending that would have garner it some respect, even among some detractors. It’s ending plays it safe which goes along with abstract theme of society putting people in boxes, but at the cost of giving the impression Boxing Helena is not worth taking out of its box, even among the more “artsy” film lovers.

3/10

Side Stuff: Casting Controversy

There’s also the controversy of casting when it comes to this film. I read one review that made a joke out of it for a closing statement. Granted I wanted to do the same, but someone else beat me to the punch. Originally Madonna was meant to play the part of Helena, but dropped out due to unexplained reasons. Afterwards, Kim Basinger was set to star, but once again stepped down from the role. Unlike Madonna, Kim Basinger exit from the film caused her to go to court, and file for bankruptcy. Her exit from the film cost to pay around, allegedly, $9 million dollars to the film’s producer. Given that Kim Basinger would win best supporting actress four years in 1997 L.A. Confidential I doubt Kim Basinger regret passing up on Boxing Helena.

Sources (this side content):

LA Times: http://articles.latimes.com/1993-08-29/entertainment/ca-29280_1_david-lynch

EW.com: http://www.ew.com/article/1993/04/09/boxing-helenas-controversies

Backup Link for source: https://web.archive.org/web/20160906193722/http://www.ew.com/article/1993/04/09/boxing-helenas-controversies

Cinema-Maniac: 1: Nenokkadine (2014) Review

Psychological stories are among my favorite forms of storytelling along with the Western genre, Samurai films, and martial art films. This is mostly contributed to personal preferences as these four type of films, if everything is done correctly, hit all my sweet spots of what I’m looking for in a film. Western films in particular I consider the genre to find the best examples of writing in films for in depth narrative, and character exploration while martial art films can get me emotionally invested in events than a traditional action movie. Psychological stories what they tend to offer, besides the occasional intelligent writing, is endless possibilities in writing, and countless pondering thoughts once the film ends. When psychological films are done correctly you’ll have example likes Inception where debates over an ending among other elements are still written about. Clues that could have been missed the first time further can make you appreciate a film. Whereas other examples can fall into M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense category of thinking it’s smarter than actually is. Despite it being well received, I still hold on my beliefs that it’s a film that is poorly written, and badly directed since it build around a single gimmick. That brings me to write about today’s film that falls into the later category of psychological films I dislike that are unable to use their key element in the story in any meaningful way. While not uncommon, it’s never a welcoming sight to see the exact moment where a film fall apart.

1: Nenokkadine is about a rock star who must overcome his psychological inhibitions to seek revenge for his parents’ death. The film waste no time drawing in viewers into the story starting with a kid running away from adults shooting at him. You immediately wonder why, and the opening sequence does it job in setting up the psychological elements without faltering. However, after the flashback is over it’s immediately followed by a musical number. Now the first song does have context since Gautham (Mahesh Babu) is performing at a rock concert. So the transition into a musical number isn’t jarring. Unlike the rest of the film where musical numbers just happen out of nowhere. While it is par for the course for Indian movies to insert musical numbers into a number of their films it is also common for some of the films to insert them accordingly. This film feel no need to fit them in so it’s spontaneous when it occurs. At least the first song while it contribute little narratively was an enjoyable, energetic track about finding yourself. Whereas the other 4 musical numbers are simply about love with corny lyrics. Except the last song in the film which could have been cut out since it contributes nothing.

Now before the film reaches the 41 minute mark it’s story is actually intriguing. It strikes a nice balance playing with Gautham psyche without over complicating matters. The streamlined story is constantly making the viewer wonder if its leading character is imagining events, or if they actually happened. Every major event within the first 41 minutes serve to play a mind game with the viewers. Presenting events in careful manner to not reveal the truth of Gautham memories. It’s also everything pass those first 41 minutes that the film entirely falls apart. Due to a simple scene the psychological angle the film started with is absolutely gone. No longer will you question if Gautham can’t tell the difference between imagination, and reality. This is one moment with Samira (Kriti Sanon) explaining her method to coworkers on how to get an interview with Gautham destroys any doubts you might have had of Gautham psychology being unstable. It’s so plot breaking that further events in the film that attempt to play with the idea of Gautham imagination with their only being one reasonable outcome from that one that scene in the film. Ultimately you end up seeing a film that thinks it’s more intelligent than it actually is. Throwing plot twist as every major turning point. If the film wasn’t trying to be a psychological thriller first than the issue wouldn’t as glaring. However, it would still be an overblown love story.

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It’s not you, or me, but the musical numbers I can’t handle.

A major chunk of the film is focus on romance that is overblown. The script doesn’t give the protagonist, and love interest enough time before they fall in love. In context, these two character share a single musical number, and a single action scene which is enough for the protagonist to basically die for his love. This is despite the fact after he learns his love interest has been deceiving him simply forgetting the fact that he been lie by this woman a majority of the time they spend together. After a scene where the damsel in distress get rescue consciously for the first time the romance becomes lovey-dovey. It’s further embarrassing seeing adult characters written like teenagers saying romantic to each other like they were little kids.

Then there’s a subplot revolving around Hydrogen Cyanide getting mixed into seeds causing infertile land causing inedible food in the background that only appears if neede to make progress. That’s a mouthful for sure, but it doesn’t end there as the flimsy attempt to tie in this subplot into its main storyline becomes over the top. Before it eventually evolves to a possible ego stroking film that’s only made to make it star look good. If main character Gautham who is constantly refer to as Rockstar in the film can find the Golden Rice than he can stop world hunger. You might be wondering how a film about a rockstar trying to find his parents killer ended up becoming a green environmentalist action film. The answer is simple as I went to the film IMDb page, and see nine people were given credits. Nine people writing a single film that almost three hours explains allot. It explains why the film never bother explaining how a rockstar just has the skill of a secret agent. This also explains why the film uses of flashbacks several time in the film, withholding certain information, and explains why a film that is wholly serious gives up attempting to balance a serious tone with comedy. Also, explains why despite Gautham popularity he doesn’t have any fanatic fan that would stalk him despite apparently being describe as Indian biggest rockstar.

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Characterization for leading character Gautham is surprisingly dynamic. He has an conflict that is both external, and internal that he is desperate to find the resolution for. Despite the story placing importance on overblown romance Gautham turmoil is a driving force for the film. While the film doesn’t spend much on telling us about Gautham himself his conflict in the film is enough to make him an interesting character. Changing his minded goal of revenge into something more personal like remembering their faces. Touches like this make Gautham far more interesting than hardened person who already has his mind set on killing only to possibly change his mind in the end. That’s another aspect to his character that is great. Gautham deciding whether or not to take revenge isn’t the climax of his character. The storytelling isn’t coherent consistently, but Gautham as a character is easy to understand. It’s just a shame Jeremy Zimmermann, Arjun Y.K., Suneel Madhav, Thota Srinivas, Palnati Surya Pratap, Venkateswararao Potluri, Hari Prasad Jakka, Jakka Hariprasad, and Sukamar (who also the film’s director) nine credited writers couldn’t think among themselves how to create a good story to along with him. The other characters, are not even worth mentioning since they’re treated as plot devices, and nothing more.

The rest of the cast isn’t worth discussing in depth since they play pretty straightforward roles. Kriti Sanon who plays Samira is given a role where she plays an woman infatuated with her love interest. As some point in the film it seemed she would be required to do more than smile, look pretty, and bubbly when around the Mahesh Babu, but it doesn’t last long. So she overshadow in every possible way when she shares scenes with Mahesh Babu. Her biggest praise would be she could sing, and dance well, but so can her co star Mahesh Babu. Nasser who plays the film antagonist doesn’t appear in the film until the climax. While screen time is a contributing factor to his lack of an impression is his bland portrayal of a villain makes an easy part of the film to forget. Kelly Dorji is more of the same playing a villain, though his final scene allows him to mix change his dialogue delivery. Supporting actors in general from Anu Hasan, Pradeep Singh Rawat, Sayaji Shinde, Krishna Murali Posani, Gautham Ghattamaneni, Anand, Ravi Verma, and Srinivasa Reddy give the impression they’ll be given roles before disappearing from the film with pure ease.

Sukumar as an director at least nailed down making good music videos in the film. They look stylish as well having good dance choreography to showcase. Playing up a particular aspect in different musical numbers, including the corny love song where he films like a cheesy romance movie. Devi Sri Prasad did an excellent job creating the music. The action scenes in the film all good stunt work, but an issue in all of them is editing. In virtually all the action speed, and quick cuts are played around with. For example, there’s a fight scene where Mahesh Babu has to defend his love interest from a group thugs. Within the same fight scene there’s good practical effects that make the lack of psychics look convincing. This particular fight scene is unable to hide the fact actors in the background simply standing around waiting for their que to be in the scene. Also, this particular fight scene repeats the same shot of its own fight within the same sequence. What is not fun to see is seeing an entire action scene not being allowed to play out by itself without being tampered in some way. As oppose to the film first action sequence where playing with the motion of speed wasn’t abused while it played out.

Another issue is some of the bigger set pieces lack creativity. There’s a set piece in a parking lot having our hero fight off a gang motorcyclist trying to kill. Despite showing some of the motorcyclist carrying guns they never fun them while riding the motorcycles. That sequence in particular plays to traditional to the run, shoot, and cover style of action choreography without changing much in how it plays. Finally, the final action set piece requires you to disbelief the fact that our hero is couple of feet away from armed guards shooting at him, in a wide open space, and somehow not getting shot. The choreography in the final action sequence is sloppy unable to hide the fact that Mahesh Babu should have gotten in despite not hiding behind cover. If the sequence showed Babu dodging bullets by showing some bullet pierce on the ground, or destroy some light to distort vision it would have been easier to swallow the nonsense. There’s also some bad CGI in a sequence with a ship is burning then exploding, and some set pieces being filmed way too close to tell what’s going on. They’re done in a way where it’s easy to lose coherence while viewing them. It’s a shame too since they have some good stunt work in them, though in a nearly three hour film a couple action sequences won’t do much to salvage a bad even if they edited, and filmed correctly. Especially when a long chase sequence is only showing Babu running after someone without spicing it up in any way.

1: Nenokkadine is an overlong film with a psychological angle that shoots itself in the foot 41 minutes in the film. It’s think it smarter than actually is resulting in a film where it length is noticeable. The overblown romance, the bad psychological aspect, and the lackluster subplot of finding Golden Rice to stop world hunger aren’t an exciting mixed elements like they should have been. Mahesh Babu performance alone cannot out do the damage done by jarring transition into musical numbers, and badly edited action sequences. While star Mahesh Babu demonstrated he has talent. It’s unfortunate that none of the filmmakers, and especially it credited don’t have any of it to produce something worthwhile in a nearly three hour film.

3/10

Cinema-Maniac: Fantastic Four (2015) Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3/10

A Silly Afterthought:

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

Cinema-Maniac: St. Elmo’s Fire Review

Burning up, don’t know just how far that I can go
Soon be home, only just a few miles down the road
I can make it, I know, I can
You broke the boy in me but you won’t break the man
John Parr – St. Elmo’s Fire (Man In Motion)

If you think the film would aspire to be as inspirational as these lyrics (from the film own main theme) you are out of luck. The film own theme by John Parr tells a far more compelling story about a man in a wheelchair going the distance in four minutes than the film ever does in one hour and fifty minute. Not only that, but the theme song by John Parr has virtually no connection to the actual film content. In the film itself St. Elmo is the name of a bar so does it catch on fire? Nope it doesn’t nor does it have any metaphorical meaning. Towards the end of the film a character by the name of Billy (played by Rob Lowe), telling Jules (played by Demi Moore) a story about the origin of St. Elmo’s Fire and it’s a story about sailors. In plain terms, it’s a weather phenomenon usually triggered by a corona discharge (an electrical discharge) from a sharp or pointed object creating an electrical atmosphere around said object. A fact that is more fascinating than the film actual content.

St. Elmo’s Fire is about a group of friends, just out of college, struggling with adulthood. I can’t say all young adults face this same issue, but I am one of them who’s able to connect to with the film on this level. Minus the financial cost since nowhere in the film do any of the characters ever struggle financially until a contrivance in the last act of the film. In general, the problem is no matter how much or lack of connection you can make to any of the characters is the entire film is uneven. The opening scene for instance starts by showing our characters walking happily together on campus after their graduation to then suddenly fast forward a unknown length of time into a hospital. This is a complete one-eighty in the first minutes of the film. There’s nothing before this besides a opening credit which doesn’t show the gang during their classes or having a fun time. Something simple as pictures of the gang bonding together would have quickly gotten across the idea these now young adults have to face the real world together. So what happens after the transition to the hospital? Well the non-stop expository dialogue that occupied the first fifth-teen minutes of the film paints a poor impression of the characters. We’re introduced to Billy by learning he was drinking and driving Wendy’s car, totaling the car and injuring Wendy (played by Mare Winningham) in the process. This incident has no repercussion on the plot, and Billy is allowed to go out to St. Elmo Bar for a drink with his friends after immediately driving drunk in a accident.

After that absent of reality the rest of the film never is able to follow up on interesting traits for it cast of characters. For example, Kevin Dolenz (played by Andrew McCarthy) is inspiring writer who is presented with an issue on his sexuality. In particular whether or not Kevin has feeling for his friend Alec (played by Jed Nelson) because all of Kevin friends assume he’s gay. Early on in the film it presented as if the film might tackle the subject of sexuality with Kevin which would have made up for his awful dialogue. Whenever characters speak there are some cringe-worthy lines of dialogue, but in particular whenever Kevin Dolenz speaks it’s a more frequent occurrence. He speaks like an artist who thinks just too highly of himself. Hm, oddly enough this was also the most relatable character for me. Yet, when he talks you just want to punch him. How exactly does he speak? Here’s a couple of his lines.

Kirby: It’s true love, my friend.
Kevin: Love, love, you know what love is? Love is an illusion created by lawyer types like yourself to perpetuate another illusion called marriage to create the reality of divorce and then the illusionary need for divorce lawyers.

Kevin: You know there are more people in law school right now than there are lawyers on the entire planet? Think about that.

Jules: Don’t you enjoy anything anymore… like girls?
Kevmin: I enjoy being afraid of Russia. It’s a harmless fear, but it makes America feel better, Russia gets an inflated sense of national worth from our paranoia. How’s that?

Kevin: Marriage is a concept invented by people who were lucky to make it to 20 without being eaten by dinosaurs. Marriage is obsolete.
Alec: Dinosaurs are obsolete. Marriage is still around.

This sort of dialogue is common throughout the film, but back to discussing Kevin Dolenz. His struggle for writing, and getting recognition in that field is something I can easily relate too. However, the film fails to use his hobby to get across anything about writing. It only amounts to Kevin gaining inspiration from the girl he loves, Leslie (Ally Sheedy), when she returns mutual feelings towards him. Nowhere throughout the film when Leslie isn’t in Kevin life as a lover does Kevin do much writing nor does he use it as an outlet for the audience to see Kevin express himself.

Alongside having a pointless hobby that the audience rarely see Kevin perform he’s also part of a love triangle that does not resolve in any form. This love triangle is brought up in the second act of the film since in the first act it misleads audience that Kevin is possibly gay. Introducing first in this love triangle is young Republican hotshot scumbag lawyer Alec. Next up is Leslie who’s been in a longterm relationship with Alec whose reluctance to get married is never given any convincing reason as to why she’s so opposed to getting married. Finally, their mutual friend is Kevin, who everyone thinks is gay. What no one knows is that he’s not actually gay; he’s in love with Leslie! So the subplot of Kevin being gay goes nowhere as his hobby on writing, but here’s a subplot that could have worked. Unfortunately, Alec, who is an adulterer perilously close to being a pure sociopath. Not only that, but after Kevin confesses his feelings towards Leslie they have sex and within that same sex scene are committing love on top of a coffin. Why does a college graduate have a coffin and why does Kevin think it’ll work as a babe magnet is about as questionable as the film claims that these people graduated from college.

Towards the end of the film when the three confront each other Leslie simply says she’ll get off dating for a while and for all of them to remain friends. The issue with this resolution is that these three are never shown acting like friends. So the strength of their friendship doesn’t come across as clearly intended. This isn’t the only shortcoming in the film. The entire writing is clueless as to exactly where to take the story. It’s main cast consist of seven characters all of whom don’t get equal attention. It’s very noticeable when characters who don’t appear for half an hour suddenly making an appearance in the background. The writers took up more than they could handle with this large cast. Each of which have traits that could be fully explored like Billy who’s a deadbeat dad, Kirby (played by Emilio Estevez) who has an unhealthy obsession to a woman he barely talks too, or Jules turning taking the easy route in life. These traits if fully developed could have created compelling characters. However, due to the story jumping from character to character every single one of them end up leaving a negative impression.

Billy, the mention deadbeat father has a confusing story arc with no resolution. He’s given no redeemable traits in the long scheme of things as not only does he virtually learns nothing about being an adult, but retains his floundering attitude on life. His only acceptance to reality is accepting the fact he won’t see his child, and his estrange wife again because it’s not what they deserved according to him. If Billy is going to support his child in some form or attempt to apologize to his estrange wife due to his behaviors are unclear. Despite the film attempt to paint Billy in a positive light there’s one scene that solidified what a scumbag he is. In one scene after a party, Billy tries to get his other friend Jules to go down on him by putting her car keys down his pants (“Come and get ‘em.” Billy says). She kicks him out of her car and tells him she really needed a friend. His response? “Get back in the jeep, and assume the missionary position.”

With that bad taste in your mouth the other characters won’t wash them out. Kirby’s arc has a disturbing optimism on stalking. Kirby is infatuated with a woman who he dated once years ago and barely seen talking to her. Whatever form of intended charm he was meant to have turns into creepiness as he has a great detailed memory if it involved the woman he’s obsessed, smells her pillow, and in one scene follows her. At no point does the film challenge Kirby disillusion between what he believes is love versus being a stalker. Yet, the person Kirby stalks has no issue with this claiming it’s might be her loss at some point in her life.

Now you’re notice another issue with this review, where are the discussion on women characters? Well I can’t go much detail into them since the women characters have little to do in the film besides being the affections of males. Including the best female character Wendy Beamish who’s the most responsible out of the cast is relegated to an arc of losing her virginity to her lover. Yes, in a cast filled with seven characters the best female character among them is simply one who’s responsible, but her arc revolve around losing her virginity. Equality, ain’t I right?

The technical aspects aren’t worth bringing up. Cinematography is simply well shot with the exception of the first person stalker in one scene. I inserted in John Carpenter Halloween (Michael Myers) theme during the first person shot, and it strangely fit. Actually, whenever Emilio Estevez is in a scene that revolving around his crush it fits him perfectly. Another aspect I do want bring up is the climax. So, in the “climax” that’s convoluted the character Jules is in a empty room with windows open. Her friends want to help her, but won’t open the door. When an interior shot is shown of this room; it’s an image of an empty room with open windows, and it’s cold so the characters naturally come to conclusion Jules is trying freeze herself to death simply because some windows are open. There’s no question mark to that last sentence that’s literally what director Joel Schumacher chose to do in order create tension in the climax. He is also listed as a writer of the script along with another screenwriter in the credits so he holds half of the responsibility for this extremely goofy “climax”.

In the acting department you got a main cast consisting of Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, and Mare Winningham. Our main cast performances is average bringing more attention to the awful dialogue. None of the cast member deliver a good performance due to their narrow characters. Emilio Estevez plays Kirby Keger and is the least interactive with the other cast members putting in a performance appropriate for a horror movie. Instead of making his crush seem innocent Estevez instead pushes his role into creeper territory with his menacing stares usually delivery dialogue in a loud voice. Estevez takes his portrayal seriously so speaking in a serious manner, except when involving his crush where he has to display some joy. Like, the instance he smiles when talking to costar Andrew McCarthy about stealing his crush work schedule. If Estevez was playing a stalker in horror movie his portrayal would have fit just fine, but in this film where it clearly wants his character to be seen as a hopeless romantic it gives off an unpleasantness thinking stalking is equal to true love.

Rob Lowe plays Billy Hicks who is easily the worst character in the film. Lowe performance is bad in the sense he never disappears into the character. He is convincing in some scenes where he has to display the acceptance of his struggling life, but is unable to overcome bad writing. For instance, he’s meant to play a dead father, and unfortunately for Rob Lowe he didn’t have the range to bring to life a complicated character or the fullest of conviction to sell his personality. From the very beginning to the very end his performance does not show any change. Then there’s Andrew McCarthy who does okay. He’s not convincing in his dramatic scenes due to his lack of emoting in these scenes operating on autopilot. McCarthy is good when showing his character more playful side. It’s unfortunate McCarthy has plenty of terrible lines. However, his delivering of his awful lines makes them that much better to poke fun off. Judd Nelson plays Alec Newbary who’s only meant to be dislikable. Nelson doesn’t get much range to display besides anger, or desiring sex. It’s a role that doesn’t offer enough meat for an actor.

The women of the cast suffer similar problems, though not to the same degree. Ally Sheedy benefits most from her large amount of screen time comfortable settling into her character. She shows a natural change in her personality from the beginning of the film to the end. Sheedy has no one scene to make full use of her talent, but comes out unscathed from the writing unlike her costars. Demi Moore plays a character named Jules who ironically also suffers from a drug habit. Moore is simply in St. Elmo Fire to look beautiful which she succeeds in. Like Judd Nelson, Demi Moore role doesn’t much meat to the character resulting in a narrow performance. Finally comes Mare Winningham who has to display giggling and being upset when being questioned about her virginity. Winningham comes across as a pouting adult who refuses to accept her reality. That’s about it on her performance. Mare Winningham easily got the worst role out of any of the cast member being offer little traits and little screen time. She could have been written out of the movie which further strengthen her pointless inclusion.

The soundtrack to St. Elmo’s Fire is very cheesy. Dated, and rotten kind of cheese not the kind you could laugh at. Easily the best song in the soundtrack is John Parr St. Elmo’s Fire (Man In Motion) which I already mentioned tells a far more compelling story. Parr’s song is completely unrelated to anything that occurs in the film. However, the film cheesy instrumental is use for a good purpose to inspire, and considering his song is about a man in a wheelchair basically going the distance it’s a good song to listen too on its own. Whenever you hear St. Elmo’s Fire in the background it’s a highlight, but those moments only occurs twice and misued twice in the film. Also, it must be addressed that during the closing credits I spotted a listing for stunt double. There are no dangerous stunts in the film, and the most life threatening scene is one character simply shoving another character to the floor. That’s about as life threatening as it gets. There’s also a scene where one character is consider letting his friends go off ledge, but due to the close ups it’s makes it a fact the actors are doing this scene themselves. So, since I like to make up stuff spontaneously I award St. Elmo’s Fire the “Most Pointless Use of A Stunt Double” award from me.

St. Elmo’s Fire wanders around aimlessly for its entire duration not providing engaging characters or satisfactory story arcs for those characters. Simply giving characters some relatable traits that a viewer(s) can connect too doesn’t hide the weak writing. A character and their story should be able to engage the viewer(s) regardless if they can make a personal connection to what’s unfolding on screen. The cast isn’t talented enough to rise the material above its actual quality making its cringe-worthy dialogue that much more noticeable. This film’s ideas could have weave together a challenging film on the subject of becoming an adult with its different types of characters pursuing different interests, but the only thing St. Elmo’s Fire will be burning in me as well as those who dare to witness St. Elmo’s Fire will be hatred that won’t be extinguished.

3/10

Anime-Breakdown: Aldnoah.Zero (2014) Series Review

Spoiler Warning: This review will spoil specific plot points in certain episodes in order to provide examples of why Aldnoah.Zero writing fails for a number of reasons. While I attempted to keep spoilers to a minimum, it’s best recommended to avoid reading this for those who have an interest in checking out Aldnoah.Zero and don’t want anything to be spoiled. In a nutshell, Aldnoah.Zero has the aesthetic for a great series, but no substance to support it not offering anything in between all the eye candy. If you plan to continue reading past this point you have been warned.

“Fiat justitia ruat caelum” is a Latin phrase that means justice must be achieved no matter the consequences. Its usage varies depending on who uses the phrase, especially those among writers in any media, but it has significant value in history prevalent in important court cases where a judge reflects on the duty of the Court. Why do I bring this quote up? This is Aldnoah.Zero tagline that is shown alongside the anime logo in the opening animation. Except it’s translated to “Let justice be done, though the heavens fall” in English. Not only is it a misuse of the quote because of A.) Politics don’t exist in Aldnoah.Zero, B.) Heroes aren’t in any danger because of it’s lead character, C.) villains don’t face the consequences despite going against direct orders from their superiors, and finally it’s a one sided conflict that’s black and white with no significant meaning tied to it. Aldnaoh.Zero is a plain and simple a mecha anime about good versus evil. Yet even with that much simplicity no amount of eye candy is able to disguise the poor writing of the anime.

Unredeemable: Nonsensical Story

Aldnoah.Zero takes place in the futuristic year of 2014. Basically last year at the time of posting this review. I double checked around the internet and some local newspapers just to make sure this anime wasn’t based around any true events. If they were based on true events than this anime would have played out differently with some level of logic. The anime follows main character Inaho who is thrust into a world of conflict when a peace mission goes disastrously wrong. Everything about it first episode is a mess in writing. It’s bad in establishing the setting, introducing characters, and creating a central conflict that have a sense of weight to it. What exactly it was trying to achieve in its first episode is unfathomable.

Within this first episode characters provide a quick summarization of a war that occurred in the past in some unnatural exposition. Apparently Vers and Terrans aren’t really all that different since both race when boil down are basically humans. It is also explained that Princess Asseylum is attempting to ease the tension between Vers and the Terrans who I’ll refer to as Earthicans. As soon as something bad happened to Princess Asseylum the Vers Empire immediately launches a military invasion on Earth. A race of species that is more technologically advance than Earthicans apparently doesn’t know how politics function. This one moment becomes further questionable when shown a sick emperor in bed and told he has authority over the Orbital Knights (basically Vers military). The Vers Emperor didn’t issue an attack on Earth to start a war, yet he does nothing to punish those who killed possibly millions. He even goes as far as calling a ceasefire with Earthicans to negotiate peace which goes nowhere near a brain cell in the story. Orbital Knights can do whatever they want without repercussions. In episode 8, Saazbaum, a high ranking Orbital Knight kills another high ranking Orbital Knight and this is never brought up again, nor is the fact he kidnapped a prisoner who was being tortured for information mentioned to him.

For the central characters, they are never in any danger because of leading character Inaho is the solution for any battle. The other characters don’t get the opportunity to contribute in a battle lessening the group dynamic and eliminating the purpose of teamwork. Inaho plans always work out due to luck or plot conveniences. Usually his plans have smart setup to them. Like in episode 3, Inaho uses a toy plane in order to determine what kind of camera a specific Vers mech is using and how it functions in recording its surrounding. Then the actual plan itself throws away logic in order to write a scenario that best suited to make an action scene around. Opting for escapism over intensity which fails due to how it was set up only to be ruined by good luck in execution.

Still on episode 3, it’s established that a mech uses drones in order for its pilot to see the area around him. In a later episode it shows the Vers empire have developed some sort of teleportation device for communication. So by this anime logic; something difficult like teleportation is achievable for this race, but apparently not allowing it’s own pilot to control its own camera drones from within their own robot is not. No matter how often the anime claims the Vers Empire has the superior technology oversights like these show up regularly which can’t be forgiven. Escapism itself is broken when down the line another plot point will either break that immersion by what it reveals or create more nonsense. The thought of how these Martians who have superior technology, yet act so stupid never leaves the mind.

One major problem as a whole in the anime is the lack of weight that comes from a worldwide invasion. It never gets across that this war between the Earthicans and Vers Empire is a global issue. Only focusing on a single group never bringing up how other parts of the world are holding up. With a self-contained mindset this central conflict feels less like a major catastrophe by the way it chose to depict it. A small scale approached backfires when the central characters are static when introduced all the way to the end. Supporting characters do change somewhat, but they aren’t the focus feeling free to just leave their storylines dangling in the finale.

Episode 1 shows a Vers mech using lasers, but other robots Inaho and his group fights against use practical weapon like swords or projectile arms. Despite in several battles Inaho proves with limited training he’s able to overcome any opponent that uses a practical weapons. Vers never change up their tactics, even when it has a success rate of zero percent. Vers strategy comes down to only sending down a single one of their mech pilot to fight against large numbers of Earthicans mech pilots. Not once in this season do the Vers Orbital Knights ever mention perhaps sending two experienced pilots to fight against Inaho since he poses a major obstacle for them. Another issue regarding the weaponry are the soldiers of Vers do have guns, but for unexplained reasons gun type weapons aren’t made for their mechs and if they are not implemented in battles.

The anime also explains what kind of power source the Vers Empire uses for their technology. Once this plot point gets explained it further questions the villain’s motive. Basically, if the only two people who are able to provide power die Vers is as good as dead. Now from the villain’s perspective it makes no sense to eliminate the only source of power for your own species. The villain claims he wants to help the masses, but still goes with his plan to kill the royal family, even though they are the key to supplying their planet with energy.

The final episode of Aldnoah.Zero first season is awful and unfulfilling in every sense. At this point, none of the central cast are developed to care about and the one supporting character who has potential is pushed to the sideline in the finale. Like in previous episodes, there is no sense of suspense on the character’s livelihood as they already have victory in their hands by plot convenience and enemy pilot stupidity. Inaho doesn’t struggle much to fight against a pilot whose mech is a combination of mechs that he already fought. With that alone, it guarantees his victory because at this point it proves Vers aren’t intelligent despite the writing claims that they are. How it ends is weak and purely for shock value. Narratively it’s a horrible ending because it forgets to inform the viewer status of Earth, which is at war with Vers. Only offering a narration of what happened to the characters it focused on. Leaving the fate of its central characters ambiguous isn’t bad, but in this case when the characters are one dimensional who really cares what happens to them.

Unredeemable: Shallow, inconsistent characters, and miss opportunities

Inaho Kaizuka is a young teenager of average height, short tousled black hair, and our lead character. He’s stoic and despite what his sister claims about him being human in episode 10, Inaho never actually shows human emotion. When he does show emotion it’s out of character; in episode 1 Inaho expresses his interest in buying eggs that are on sale. Within the same episode, a couple minutes later Inaho sees Princess Asseylum of Mars killed in front him, remaining stoic at the sight of it. Showing no concern despite the clear consequences of the assassination he has just witnessed. Later on in the series the anime attempts to ship Inaho with Princess Asseylum which simply does not work because of this one moment. So any affection Inaho shows to his “love interest” is as artificial as the robot he uses. Expecting you to believe he developed emotion for his “love interest” when he showed no reaction when he saw her presumably die in the first episode.

As a leading character events magically have a way working out for Inaho even though it’s establish in episode one he’s a trainee of the military. Somehow, with minimal training, he surpasses Martian pilots who have had more experience under their belt in actual combat. It’s not because he smart that he wins. It’s either due to plot convenience, his enemy being stupid, or a mixture of both. Another skill Inaho has over his far more experience comrades is the ability to move out of the way of attacks. This godly power can’t be obtain by the other pilots. All of which are usually standing around in front of an enemy attack until they get killed. Granted evasion should be obligatory in basic combat training, but if allowed so Inaho wouldn’t be the overpowered self insert lead that he is.

In episode ten, Inaho claims that anyone that fights against the same enemy on his side he considers an ally. A statement that is completely proven false in episode seven when he shoots the plane of a Vers pilot that helped him fight for an entire episode. These inconsistencies further weaken the anime when Inaho has no consistent traits let alone a consistent philosophy to believe in. Inaho becomes as much of a plot device as everyone else he interacts with. Finally, Inaho is the character that delivers a speech about how war is used to gain something and ends until the objective is met or the cost outweighs the gain. Not a bad position to take when voicing your thoughts on war, except this character has never shown sympathy when killing his enemy nor ever mentally coped with taking someone’s life. He says within the same speech here cares for no such emotion to gain anything in war. So this whole war speech in the final episodes coming from a lead who said he himself “I care for no emotions” is forced to sound deep and makes Inaho full of himself.

Another major character is Princess Asseylum (who I refer to as Princess Ass since she doesn’t give a shit) is the embodiment of Aldnoah.Zero problems. Easy on the eyes and pleasing, but shallow with no identity of her own. The anime only gives her positive traits like acting like a child when she’s learning about Earth with Inaho and desiring doing the right thing. She looks nice on the surface, but that’s all. In actuality she’s a terrible character. Asseylum has been friends with another major character, Slaine Troyard, for five years showing no concern for him throughout her near death experiences. When reversed, Inaho proved in about a week’s time showing no emotion he’s able to capture Princess Asseylum’s heart. In context, the anime wanting to ship Inaho and Asseylum makes no sense given how little time they’ve known each other. It’s also brought up in a episode she knew someone was trying to kill her, and doesn’t bother to take extra security just to be cautious in case anything happens. Then again, the Earthicans don’t bother giving her protection when they attempt to keep her safe so I shouldn’t be surprised.

Slaine Troyard (not the only pointless reference to Greek mythology) is another poorly written character. His conflict of wanting to be accepted by the Vers Empire is worth investing on paper. Having to overcome the racist mindset of his superior officers and being treated like scum. In execution it’s the opposite, creating scenarios forced to make the viewer care for him. There’s an entire episode dedicated to Slaine being tortured, which doesn’t since in the same episode, it shows Princess Asseylum without care enjoying the day. This episode’s impact is lessened when the entire Vers race is one dimensional and not given any redeeming values to perceive them as actual people.

Supporting characters, just like the main three, that receive tons of screen time are merely plot devices. There was potential with the character Marito to create a satisfying subplot. His back story is compelling, has likable traits by being himself, and has a strong personal turmoil that he can’t immediately overcome. Seeing Marito struggle and trying his best to improve himself provides the best moments in the anime. Unfortunately, by the finale his subplot is left unresolved.

Another wasted opportunity is with character Yuki Kaizuka (Inaho’s sister). Like Marito, Yuki carries a permanent scar from war with her. Unlike Marito conflict, Yuki war scar is resolved quickly and has no important use afterwards. The thought of her brother being an expressionless killing machine never bothers her either. When one of Inaho friends asks Yuki why Inaho is expressionless. She answers by saying yes, he does. A wasted opportunity to develop Inaho beyond a stoic lead, and a miss opportunity to explore what kind of life, Yuki had with Inaho since the status of their parents’ livelihood is never brought up. Other minor supporting characters serve a single purpose. There’s one created to simply die, there’s one that created to be simply racist against Earthicans, there’s one simply created to be sick so the Vers can have power, and so on.

Rayet Areash the worst of the supporting cast being given a position in the anime similar to that of Gavrilo Princip. The anime attempts to paint her in a sympathetic light, except for the fact that it was her fault as well that millions of people got killed. Forgetting this fact, it dedicates an entire scene in episode 10 where she blames Princess Asseylum for something out of her control. Somehow she’s able to make Princess Asseylum feel guilty. This is the equivalent of making Archduke Franz Ferdinand the villain and making him apologize for being assassinated. It doesn’t work that way, even in fictional context when the entire starting point for the story’s existence is because she helped in the assassination. For unexplained reasons, she’s also allowed to do whatever she wants on a military base.

Then there’s the villain Saazbaum who is about as well thought out as the writing in the anime. This character personifies how nonsensical the writing is in physical form. For starter, his motive contradicts his goal. He hates the royal family for manipulating the masses, but the first episode the emperor sends his daughter to Earth for a peace mission. He also initiates an attack on Earth without consulting the emperor. Despite his intentions to help the masses, he fully should grasp the consequences of his own action by attempting to eliminate the only source of power for the Vers Empire. These two points don’t add up; just like the Vers technology and their actual intelligence. The writing never treats the characters it creates as actual characters. They’re a means as story devices and nothing more.

Good: Production side of the anime is generally good

The animation is a joint effort between A-1 Pictures and Troyca. Together they create an anime that all around looks great. It clearly has a high budget incorporating both 2D animation with nice looking 3D robot models that aren’t distracting. Environments in general tend to come across as being large and empty. Since our heroes are on the move battles, mostly take place in environments where nothing much is happening in the background. In some cases, it is put into good use to keep an action scene moving in an large environment as well as showing some environmental destruction. In one action scene, the size of an environment is use to its advantage when Inaho has to stop an attack from a Vers mech on an ship he’s on.

However, the biggest drawback is there’s no visual scale growth in the battles. One of the few memorable scenes in Aldnoah.Zero is in the first episode where an explosion has a similar impact to that of an atomic bomb hitting Earth. Buildings crumbles, cars are blown away by a gust of wind, onlooker to the site are in shock, and it’s large scale destruction implants what a serious threat the Vers Empire is. Everything else, past this moment feels smaller in comparison. There isn’t another scene that visually comes close to matching the mass destruction in episode one. All the characters have appealing looking design no matter the situation. Especially Slaine, who even when being tortured looks good! Particle effects are in no short supply to adding more visual flair to the battles.

One questionable decision in the animation would be the mechs even when stationary are still in 3D. It makes sense in a action scene to use 3D since the thirdimension offer more maneuverability than a 2D plane, but it comes across lazy when mechs are stationed and simply there to show off its high budget. The downside to the animation is the awful staging of the action scenes. Going more for visuals splendor than actual staging. So in most battles there will be multiple mech stationed in one position accepting their death or shooting to hold off an enemy attack. Without a single creative battle that avoid doing these things action scenes are a one time deal for entertainment.

Voice acting is serviceable. The writing didn’t offer much in anything so the voice cast are stuck with what they are given. Natsuki Hanae plays protagonist Inaho and he’s stoic throughout the series. His vocals, mostly stay in emotionless delivery range sounding uninterested in anything. It’s not a compelling performance because there’s no range, but he does portray how the character was written properly. Then there’s Kensho Ono, who plays Slaine, who has a slightly more open role. He gets to scream in pain when his character is tortured, sound serious, concerned, and in the finale near hysterical when he goes insane. Ono role is similar to Hanae where in both performance they have to repeat themselves. Sora Amamiya plays princess Asseylum. It’s passable in general. When Amamiya portrays the more innocent and childlike side of Asseylum she’s convincing as Asseylum, but when in a dramatically heavy scene she falls short. She’s sounds like she’s on autopilot delivering most of her dramatic material with little variation no matter the context of a scene.

The supporting cast in general suffer from the same handicap that Natsuki Hanae is given in which they mostly portrayed a single character trait. This is especially true for voice actors that get casted as Vers Martians. Show Hayami who plays Cruhte only yells for his time on screen. Only having one tone voice in the series. Inori Minase plays Edderlrittuo and sounds like a little girl. It’s an appropriate performance getting across Eddelrittuo sisterly love towards Princess Asseylum.

Tooru Ookawa plays Saazbaum and unlike Hayami who’s allowed a single scene to change up his act Ookawa isn’t as fortunate. His performance isn’t bad, but it’s a single note role where one line delivery is no different from line another delivery. Takahiro Sakurai plays Trillram and thanks to his more expressive character taking delight in killing people. He’s the most enjoyable screen presence out of all the pilots that Inaho fight against. Yuki Kaida plays Femieanne, Hiroki Yasumoto plays Vlad, and Mamiko Noto, who plays Orlane aren’t as lucky in playing interesting villains. They lack the proper screen time to make something out of their role being forgettable once off screen. Sachika Misawa plays Rayet Areash. While the character is full of herself Misawa performance is fine since she does her best to make her character sympathetic despite what she did. There is a scene in episode 10 where she’s allowed to express her dislike for the Vers empire and it’s a highlight for her performance.

Any Japanese voice actor playing an Earthican gets sideline eventually into the background. Unlike the voice actors that play a Vers. Earthicans voice actors don’t have a single episode where they’re given a highlight moment to show off their acting chops. They get stuck in a single note sometime delivering the same lines of dialogue word for word in different episodes. Ai Kayano who plays Darzana Magbaredge and Yuu Shimamura who plays Kaoru Mizusaki have this problem. Whenever they share a scene together, it plays out the same getting repetitive over time.

The best voice actor in the cast regardless of what race he portrays is Kazuya Nakai and that’s because he plays Kouichirou Marito. His character suffers mental turmoil while on the outside, he shows a free caring personality. Nakai is allowed the freedom to vocalize different sides of a single character more so than anyone in the cast. When he mentally breaks down it’s believable through his delivery. His performance is the most interesting because he’s funny, likable, and a compelling actor in the role. It’s a shame that his character isn’t fully use to his full potential in order to create a good character.

The soundtrack is composed by Hiroyuki Sawano mixing ambient and techno music with aggressive synthesizers, beats, even some 8-bit and a few thunderous orchestral compositions thrown in with Japanese singers singing German lyrics. The music is all around a great fit for the anime and when used correctly in its placement creates some stellar scenes. In episode 1, the musical piece “aLIEz” sung by mizuki is played during a scene of mass destruction is instantly memorable. It’s not as demoralizing seeing an atomic bomb like explosion at the sight of a more technically advance race, wiping out humans with ease, but it’s a cool scene none the less. As great as the music might be there tracks that get reused frequently. In particular the track “BRE@THLESS” sung by mizuki is used in a number of action scenes. Preferably when there’s a chase scene this track will likely play. Losing what made them exciting musical pieces in the first place.

The anime has a single theme song that’s also used as the ending theme in episode 1 is titled “Heavenly Blue” by Kalafina. Despite the less than stellar opening animation “Heavenly Blue” manages to create a strong atmosphere with orchestral composition along with a catchy chorus. It does feel slightly phoned in since there’s not an extra push or power to the track that really demands your attention. The following tracks are sung by mizuki are “aLIEz” used as an ending theme in episode 4, 7-8, 10-11 and “A/Z” in 2-3, 5-6, 9. “aLIEz” loses some of its impact since it’s used frequently in the series failing to rekindle the same feeling when hearing it for the first time. While the usage in the anime distracts from its impact over time the track is a great listen. “A/Z” is more of a techno side with 8-bit beats that’s more optimistic in general. In both tracks mizuki vocals add to the songs; in “aLIEz” her vocals are on a level of opera singing those high notes beautifully sounding as epic as the instrumentals. In “A/Z” she sounds almost robotic like which is fitting for the track. Sawano score is fantastic, but how it’s used in the anime tends to undermine it.

Personal Enjoyment: It killed some brain cells

Usually the first time I ever see an anime I don’t go in them with a critical mindset. Although, fleshed out characters and a story that have working elements is part of the requirement for an anime to be enjoyable for me. However, the first episode did so many things poorly that I couldn’t simply see it without critical thinking. What flipped the switch in my brain was the scene where Inaho showed more emotion for a sale for eggs more so than he does the princess of another planet trying to bring peace to both race when killed in front of him. From then on it’s been nothing, but an infuriating experience how little of the anime was fully thought out. I was so infuriated by Aldnoah.Zero I didn’t bother waiting for any news regarding an English dub. I went into writing out a review for it. Not even the action scenes for as pretty as they look were awfully staged and required very little to no strategy on the characters part. Aside from hearing Hiroyuki Sawano score there wasn’t any other good reason the anime provided to keep me watching. If it ain’t evident with a review consisting of over 4000 words that I think very poorly of Aldnoah.Zero first season I don’t know what will convince you.

Story: 0/3

Character: 0/3

Technical: 3/3

Personal Enjoyment: 0/1

Final Thoughts:

Aldnoah.Zero is nothing more than eye candy and takes pride in that. It’ll excuse logic and good characters if it means it’ll get to show off nice looking action scenes. Understanding what type audience, it wants to appeal to, but mere action spectacles aren’t enough to make an anime worth viewing. It takes itself too seriously unable to be dumb fun, it’s too idiotic to touch on the topic of war maturely, and paints each side in black and white dumbing down the premise to be approachable sacrificing depths along with it. Its central lead wins through a series of plot convenience and luck that remove the suspense of battles. It’s all aesthetics and without substance, it guarantee its own expiration date in a short amount of time. Once you’ve seen the explosions and action there’s nothing left to Aldnoah.Zero.

3/10

Anime Breakdown: Sword Art Online Extra Edition (2013) Recap Movie Review

If you have never seen Sword Art Online I recommend you stop reading at the second paragraph (discounting this passage) since I go into spoiler territory past that. Using specific examples of important events in the series to prove a point on how badly this recap movie present the material. By the second paragraph I generalize the main issues without spoiling anything specific. I might not think the series is great, but I wouldn’t dare ruin the element of surprise for anyone seeing it for the first time if they choose to do so.

The anime Sword Art Online is a fluctuating experience. The story was stupid breaking its own logic, not understanding how video game programming worked and filled with some idiotic characters, yet it was for those exact reasons I kept watching it. Part of the appeal of watching Sword Art Online is that it was always entertaining no matter what happened. Whether it was good or bad there was something to go back to. Something this recap film fails to emulate in the same way and serves to further highlights season one weaknesses while barely displaying of the strengths it had in the series.

So in order to save both fans and newcomers time this film is basically a bad recap of the first season of Sword Art Online that lasts an hour and forty minutes. In the first hour and twenty minutes there is some new footage mostly of characters sitting and talking, but pale in comparison to the usage of clips from the series first season. The remaining twenty-minute is spent on a subplot involving Kirito and the gang exploring an underwater dungeon in Alfheim Online. For fans of the series I wouldn’t recommend seeing this film for the new material since like a character said in a scene before this movie ended it is unimportant.

The way more than of half of the film is set up is like an interview. A government official, Kikuoka Seijirou, wants some dangling questions regarding the Sword Art Online and Alfheim Online incidents cleared up. Despite Kitiro expressing that he told them (the government) like a million time what happened. Within the first couple of minutes this simple exchange of dialogue expresses how pointless it is for both Kirito and anyone who seen the series to go over what happened. While Kirto talks to Kikuoka Seijirou there’s a subplot involving Asuna, Keiko, and Rika teaching Suguha how to swim. This framing device among the girls provides some character moments with them commenting on each other story on how they met Kirito. It’s not a bad framing device even if the girls remain in swimsuits for most of the non-recap clips. Compare to Kirito narrative framing which adds nothing. The girls framing device provides the rare interaction between characters in the real world.

One thing that is fixed in the movie are certain plot holes aren’t made as noticeable in the film. In the first season of Sword Art Online it was established in episode two that beta testers were passing out guide books so non-experience players can learn how to play the game. Including clearly stating a couple of months has passed and people will in real life die if they die in the game. Apparently death is not a good motivation for some players to learn how to play the game. With that bit of information left out it managed to make the whole scenario come across grimer and make the players look less idiotic in comparison to the anime series. This is later counteracted when the film has Kikuoka Seijirou asking how Kirito he survived in Sword in Art Online despite it going against the video game programming. Kirito ignores giving any sort of logical answer. Simply put, he survived death by sheer willpower.

It does this on another important occasion including the cardinal sin of not showing what happened when Kirito faces Sugou Nobuyuki in the Alfheim Online arc. Before giving a flimsy explanation one of the last thing seen is Sugou about to seemingly rape Asuna in front of Kirito. After Kayaba appears to give Kirito a motivation speech, it cuts back to Kirito talking to Kikuoka. The only explanation that’s given regarding what happened to Sogou is he self destructed. Not exactly satisfactory when it’s casually resolved like that. I could only imagine how fed up non-viewers of the series might feel when seeing that.

For some reason Shigeru Nishiyama (the film and anime series editor) thought it was a good idea to cut out certain things for no reason. Near the end of episode ten when Kirito goes over to Asuna house there’s a misunderstanding. In the scene, Asuna finishes undressing after diner mistaking Kirito intentions, thinking he wanted to have sex with her when actually he just wanted to stay the night at her place. Kirito clears up the misunderstanding which intentional or not was a hilarious moment in the anime. In the movie, once Asuna finishes undressing and tells Kirito to take off his clothes it cuts to black. Fading into the two of them sleeping together in bed. So according to this movie both Kirito and Asuna had sex.

Another mishaps by editor Shigeru Nishiyama is how he presented Yui story in the film. This piece in the movie is terribly edited together with noticeable abrupt cuts that even non viewers of the series would be able tell had content cut out. Instead of showing at least a single scene of Kirito and Asuna bonding with Yui it just immediately goes to Yui telling the viewer what she is and then possibly dying. Not even the anime was as rush in the same way when presenting this storyline. Unless you have seen the anime this moment will leave viewers confused and with so many questions that won’t get answered.

There’s also a random cut where Yui is around the same size as Kirito in Alfheim when Kirito enters Alfheim Online for the first time. Later in that moment the next cut shows Yui in pixie size. There was no point in cutting out Yui shrinking herself within the same scene which by doing so also cut out the explanation Yui gives for still being alive in the video game. Why this was cut makes no sense.

A shared element of both the film and anime series is Asuna getting the short end of characterization. Like in the anime, Asuna personality is no different from a thin piece of paper with boobs drawn on. However, it’s not presented in the same manner. The film doesn’t introduce Asuna as a capable player which in turn makes her role in the story less of an issue. Her role does not receive a downgrade in the film, which is a slight improvement to how she’s presented in the anime. Unfortunately the movie does not make a good case for Asuna being the center of Kirito affection. In the movie she’s just presented as an another girl who fallen in love with Kirito on a whim.

Suguha on the other hand is presented as having an actual relationship with Kirito. Unlike the other girls, Suguha is the only one who is shown having a conflict with Kirito and solving it with him. Suguha side of the story paints her in a better light showing the rough side of her relationship not just the good moments. Just like in the anime, Suguha is the only female character who gets any good characterization in the movie. She’s the only character in the movie who has a conflict to overcome from the beginning of the movie all the way to the end. It’s not much characterization that gets added to her, but it is far more significant than what the rest of the cast gets. Nothing.

Music while good gets replaced or amped up version from the anime series. The most noticeable is when it splices both of Kirito attempts to conquer the world tree in Alfheim Online it uses “Innocence” by Aoi Eir for those scenes. This specific track is not as effective as the original track use in the series. For the most part, the soundtrack is thankfully untouched. While not good enough to stand on its own without the help of the anime visual it works just fine in the movie as it did the series. There were times I will admit the music did get me to forget the issues I had and got me to enjoy what I was watching. Also, there were times where the editing would use a track to unintentional comedic effect. Simply cutting or fading out at a bad time. The voice work for both the Japanese and English cast is similar to the anime series. If you want more emotional performances watch it with English subtitles or if you want subtlety (and no stuttering) albeit with some underplayed characters go with the English dub. Unfortunately for both cast, it feels like rehash performances.

The last twenty minutes contains all new footage and stills without splicing any footage from the anime. It’s a simple subplot of Kirito and the gang exploring an underwater dungeon. If it wasn’t included in the film the material would have been just fine released as an OVA. The new material in the last twenty-minute is decent as a whole. As usual, despite playing an MMO and how they are actually design Kirito is able to handle any situation virtually by himself. What the new material does get right is capturing the fun experience from the series. The humor is intact and the interaction between the characters prevent things from being boring. Where it stumbles is the new material is not entirely animated. There’s some action oriented stills which would have made up for the disappointing climax at the end of the movie. Setting up what seems like would be a cool action scene, only to have an outside force and one-shot character fix everything. I can’t forget how easy it was to figure out the identity of the NPC giving the quest. Surely a better name than Nerakk for an NPC could have been more clever to hide the true identity for English speakers. Just change around a couple of letters and you can solve what the NPC actually is.

This movie is pointless offering only twenty minutes of new material, but even with that new material it is pointless. Aside from Suguha getting a small bit of new characterization nothing significant is added. Failing to condense the material of the first season of Sword Art Online and getting it to work in a movie format. The one to blame for this terrible piece of a film is not the source material since in the anime it does have good scenes that work in favor of the story, but the editing and the way the film presents them is to blame. It was sloppy, rushed, forgetting about the tiniest details like showing what happened to Sugou for a resolution. Instead of at least being a pleasant walk down memory lane it come across as a waste of time. There isn’t enough new footage to recommend to fans and it’s not a good presentation of the series for newcomers. You’re simply better off just watching the anime series or reading the light novels. No matter how they turned out, they at least will offer a complete experience unlike this film.

3/10

Cinema-Maniac: Newsies (1992) Review

On the surface “Newsies” has my attention being based around true events that are usually ignored and starring a young Christian Bale. While the material doesn’t sound riveting Bale is more than capable in providing a compelling performance to carry the film. However, upon discovery it was a Disney live action musical it turned into a worst case scenario that instead of subverting expectation it plays into them. Creating one noisy mess of a film that could have worked for both it actors and the story if it knew to be a drama or musical instead of sloppily meshing the two together.

Newsies is a musical based a true story about the New York City newsboy strike of 1899. Immediately the film begins to crack opening with a poorly written and constructed song about working (oh come on, that lazy Disney formula). Now I’ll accept back in 1899 New York City “Newsies” sang on a daily basis on just about anything, ten years old were allowed to hang out in pubs and drink the night away, and I’ll even buy Joseph Pulitzer plan to make more money will obviously not work if it all leads to something compelling. It never amounts to much because of the Disneyfication of a film that clearly was meant to be a drama is tailored into an indispensable, uninspired mess. Missing is coherency in its narrative structure to support dialogue dramatics and the musical numbers. Pacing is erratic sometime going for long stretches without a musical number to having too many songs pile up on each other. The quiet moments of the film are filled with indispensable cliches. From the cast of heroes there’s a newsboy on crutches, the little kid, the rebellious hero going against the establishment, and of course the hero’s best pal that warms up to him, who has a pretty sister. Not to forget the one dimensional villains whose only defining traits are to make money or pick on children. There’s nothing wrong with simple morality, but when the characters themselves acknowledge how stupid they act it begs to question what is actually consider morally good by this film standard. Our protagonist, Jack Kelly, lies for a living to make money to not starve to death. A trait that is meant to earn the audience sympathy, but Joseph Pulitzer who makes a honest living selling newspaper and gave kids jobs barely scraping by with their wages in the first place is perceived to be bad. Since Pulitzer is the standard villain who hates people and motivated by money his action have a predictable outcome to the conflict. On both sides you have characters whose action are supported with a weak body of characterization to take them seriously.

In middle of the erratic pacing and cliches it calls characters are the plotlines simultaneously having too much with little breathing room and stretched out beyond repair. Token supporting characters drop in and out at a moment notice. For example, Jack Kelly visit his best sister house falling in love with his best pal sister. All that was needed for Jack Kelly heart to be taken away with his significant other wasn’t the growth of their relationship, learning about each other, but occasionally gazing at each other in one scene and they know it’s meant to be. It doesn’t matter that Jack Kelly shares more scenes with a older man another supporting character than he does with his own love interest. Jack Kelly also has his own arc to overcome which is too kinda organize the Newsies to strike. A job later handle to another character temporarily which goes to display the lack of importance of their position. None of the characters feel important to in fighting for their cause. Every one of them feels disposable and interchangeable with one another. Weak characters, scatter plot lines, erratic, and some badly written musical numbers can create a noisy snooze fest of a film. Top it all off, the motivation to start the strike is thrown away at the climax as if to say I give up.

If judged as a Disney musical it’s PREDICTABLE! Anyone not familiar with the “Disney” formula here’s how Disney lazy efforts usually play out; It opens with a choral arrangement preferably a work song (Carrying the Banner), characters grow up in a montage over the span of a single song, dead or absent parents that occurs quickly or off screen and probably in a montage with no dialogue or brief mention, a “I want” song sung by the protagonist (Santa Fe), and the gilded cage: you’re trapped in this place, probably for your own safety. For me the film did no favor playing it safe by the book. Not one element or plot device used made a difference in how it all played out. In particular the dragged out ending which is similar to “We Are the Champions” by Queens if it only bragged for seven minutes repeating “No times for loser cause we are the champions”. The ending is similar to that minus the musical talents of Queens being replaced by off key singers by non professional young stars and poor musical composition, and sound arrangement from the adults putting it together. It should be noted that once a musical number ends the character act back to normal like nothing happened every time making even less sense when seeing our protagonist dance in the middle of the street despite wholeheartedly singing about his past struggles to reach his dream. Like the characters, it best to pretend choreographed musical numbers and songs never happened.

Christian Bale delivers a good performance. When not requiring to sing Bale brings some likability to Jack Kelly. Charming one moment and alienating the next swiftly conveying his character personal turmoil. He’s the only actor who manages to overcome the annoying New York accent making it a part of his character unlike the rest of the young cast where it’s a nuisance to listen too. Singing on the other hand Bale voice cracks going for the high notes. However, his crack voice works for his solo number “Santa Fe” showing off some good dancing skills. Bill Pullman is meh in his role, though among the most tolerable not having that New York accent to handicap him. Robert Duvall plays Joseph Pulitzer not making much of an impression. Duvall has little screen time and even less of a personality given the character he has to portray. At best Duvall is one note, though given how standard the role is written in this film there’s no way he would have pulled off anything interesting unless it was meant to be intentionally cheesy. The supporting cast has some interesting names from David Moscow, Luke Edwards, Trey Parker, Josh Keaton, and number of others that get tossed to the sideline. Their performances are average unable to deliver the more heavy side of the material with any emotion. Some of them are better singers than Christian Bale, but unlike Bale,when the supporting cast speak in their New York accent it can get annoying. Despite a good performance by Christian Bale the film is miscast. The characters we follow are meant to be children, but all have the appearances of teenagers going against the concept. As for the music it ranges from where the mute button like “Carrying the Banner”, to well that just happen song like “King of New York”, and finally to that was surprisingly good like “The World Will Know”. Hopefully among the few songs made for the film you’ll find one you’ll like because it’ll reuses some of them twice and about five of those musical numbers are performed on the same set despite having of a number of sets that perfectly captures its era. Dancing choreography while well performed, much in vein of the story is uninspired.

Newsies on the surface for me had the ingredients to hold my interest, but once Disney got involved attempting to mesh drama and musical together poorly it became tedious. Anyone who knows the Disney musical formula will find no surprises in this repetitive film that takes no risk nor executed in the manner to make it enjoyable. Even if the plot does interest you the characters are one dimensional cliche and so are the standard villains. Plotlines aren’t developed to support itself without a musical number to liven things up. The music is limited and generally badly sung while the drama side of the story tread familiar waters like it a commitment to the end. All in all, Disney tried something different, but at the same time it was afraid to do anything different ending up with a film with the worst qualities of the studio present for two noisy hours of boredom.

3/10

Cinema-Maniac: Hercules Reborn (2014) Review

Earlier in 2014 a filmed titled “The Legend of Hercules” was released and it was absolutely terrible. Especially it leading star Kellan Lutz who was incapable of showing any personality and acting talent in the title role. If you were to tell me “The Legend of Hercules” was knockoff by “The Asylum” I would believe you, except “The Asylum” actually managed to make a better Hercules movie with significantly less money. The saddest part being if there was actually more effort put into it’s screenplay and production it could have been entertaining.

Hercules Reborn follows Arius seeking help from the mythical hero Hercules to save his wife and his town from it’s new maniacal king. Despite his name being in the title Hercules is not the film’s protagonist. Instead it’s Arius in a conflict that gets resolved in a by the number fashion. Protagonist power hungry mentor betrays protagonist by kidnapping his wife and killing off the current holders of power, protagonist goes to seek help from a famous character in the same job field to help him in his rebellion, but upon first impression in seeing the legendary figure is a pathetic drunk or in a pathetic state he loses some hope. Until a moment arrives to prove his identity in a situation requiring him to save the protagonist and the legendary character takes a chance to redeem their name to his/her former glory. Just giving that rough summarization on the first act is enough for experience film viewers and storytellers to predict how the film will play out. There’s no twists of any sort to the story that is dead set on a straightforward delivery. Like every character in the film Arius is unengaging. Characters are one dimensional so there’s not much to read into and motivations are strip down to the lowest common denominator. Everything is kept at a basic level simultaneously committing the screenwriting crime of being rush and lingering too much on something established. Whenever there’s any possible room for characterization it’s rush and whenever you’re given a scene where you know the purpose it’ll linger on it. Clearly that’s some backward thinking in screenwriting. That’s not even taking into account the story doesn’t take advantage of Hercules as a character. In the film, he’s not a demi-god going on fantastical adventure based on any of his famous stories. While the intention was clearly made to make Hercules more grounded as a character it’s a decision that horrifically backfires especially when providing no characters of any depth. If given more time to fleshed plot devices and characters the film would have had an okay story. With some developed characters it would made the predictable journey feel less dull and uneventful.

Now on this corner we hear there are stories that claim this man is a God, has the strength of twenty men, and is a nearly unstoppable warrior. The actor that plays Hercules is none other than John Hennigan, or as some wrestling fans might him as WWE Superstar John Morrison. John Hennigan is not a good actor when he has to speak, but the script he’s provided requires more of his physical mannerism than actual line delivery. Despite his physical appearance Hennigan understands how to play the pathetic aspect of his character usually stumbling whenever his character is drunk. His inability to maintain his composure when drunk helps with the illusion that maybe Hennigan is not that great of a warrior. He’s also convincing in his action scenes, though it would be nice if the director knew how framed or shoot an action scene. Hennigan only falters in his line delivery, but his performance is above average since Hannigan knows how to portray the character on a physical standpoint. The only other actor that might register with viewer is James Duval (Frank the Rabbit from Donnie Darko) who gives a bad performance. He’s very off in his comedic timing and shares no chemistry with any other actor on set. Than there’s Christina Ulfsparre who’s nothing more eye candy on screen. Her scenes don’t amount to much aside from showing her in peril as the token damsel in distress. Finally Christian Oliver is the leading man and he’s bland. Oliver is given a typical role with little range to do show more emotion. Action scenes on the other hand are all terrible. In every single action scene the camera is way too close to making it difficult to make out what’s going on and the choreography behind the action scene is atrocious. Looking as if they were the rehearsal take instead of the actual finalize action scene. Adding to the bad action scenes is a shaky camera that makes it that much harder to enjoy an scene if in the faint chance you can make it something out of it. As for the editing, that’s also terrible with too many frequent cuts destroying any sort of flow in the action scene. Another issue is something I never expected to criticize. This film lack of extra hurts the grand scope it wants to pretend to have. The lack of numbers makes everything smaller, in particular to the ancient cities when depicting a crowd at most you’ll see on screen close to twenty. Although, knowing the studio history to be cheap it’s a surprised the location the film shot at gives off the ancient city vibe it’s trying capture.

Hercules Reborn is a knockoff and there’s no hiding that fact, but as a film it falls victim to being uninspired dull trite instead of an entertaining B movie “The Asylum” more often gets wrong than it does right. It could have been entertaining if more effort was put into it. There’s little for viewers of all kind to gain, especially those into B movies will find the film lacking inspiration in anything it does.

3/10

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

When are comic book films going to learn when a single hero goes up against multiple villains it increases chances for disaster. Why be so dead set to be realistic when the characters act like cartoon. Don’t follow the course of blockbusters formula aiming bigger. Instead aim for being better even if it means going small scale. That’s why “The Dark Knight”, huh, what you do mean wrong movie, Izanagi, figment of my imagination. No I’m pretty sure I just saw “The Dark Knight”. A throwaway villain, lackluster romance, bad set pieces, realistic tone defeated by logic it characters live by, and, oh it was “The Amazing Spider Man 2” that I just saw. Oh you can’t be serious. Are we still pretending “The Dark Knight” was a good influence on comic book films? Yeah the day I believe that is also the day I believe Thor is a competent character in his own franchise. Preconceived notions aside about unrelated movies. “The Amazing Spider Man 2” is….amazingly bad especially when it comes to screenwriting.

The Amazing Spider Man follows Peter Parker trying to maintain his love life, discover what happened to his parents, while dealing with three villians. It reeks of very noticable rewrites, ideas that are clumsily stitched together, and is just a series of non sense when you step back to think about it. All of these moments are clumsily stitched together. It setup asks allot of the audience to accept before earning their trust. The first seven minutes are a bad indication of things to come. The opening scene has Richard and Mary Parker trying escape from inconsistent Oscorp on a plane. All we know is in the first seven minutes Oscorp doesn’t want the Parkers to leak or upload specific information. Before getting more…scribbles of information the method to take out the Parkers is very illogical when viewing how flimsily they conceal information on another employee by the name of Max Dillon. After seeing a bit of how Oscorp maintain secrecy you’ll question the logic from them in the opening scene. A plane crash is not very easy to hide especially when there are burned remains of former employees of Oscorp and one that has bullet hole through her body would cause suspicious under investigation. I could assume that Oscorp has that much power to do away with anything unwanted, but that doesn’t go well for attempted realistic tone.

Marvel properties in general is mixed when it comes to making their action scenes. Depending on the director, concept, superpower, or secondary filming unit there’s too many variables to take into account to know for sure they’ll utilize everything as their disposal. Now imagine this; a couple is on a plane, a hired killer just took out the pilot, the hired gunman knocks out the wife, and the husband is now struggling in a prolong fight against the hired gunman. A sound setup, but the why it’s occurring is literally something someone would write for a spoof movie. We have a fight scene that is over closing, and opening a laptop. Sure it’s too upload information, but it’s still two people fighting over closing, and opening a laptop. If that wasn’t cartoonish enough there’s the classic logic of a single bullet that goes through a plane window opening a big whole. That grows increasingly as it sucks out anything in the plane. This scene is shot to be very dramatic with overly dramatic music in the background as Richard Parker attempts to keep a laptop open. An opening scene like this could have been fun and exciting, but borders down to being heavy handed dramatics with its serious tone. It does not favor either the audience or the film when you don’t play by your own established rules which this film is more than happy to disregard.

That’s only seven minutes in. When a film opening is as broken as it is in this film you could only down hill if you fail to recognize the problem. In this, just as with “The Dark Knight” which it’s heavily influence by, is attempting to be realistic while it characters function like cartoons. So after that over the top and heavy handed opening action scene it’s immediately follow up by another action scene. One that tops the opening plane fight in silliness. Here’s the setup; Spider Man must stop, Aleksei Sytsevich, Russian mobster (this ain’t Captain America to allow a clever ironic joke, so nitpick strike one), who is wildly driving a Oscorp truck full of plutonium. Unlike before where the setup is good minus why it’s happening. With this action scene you are left with a series of questions. Does Aleksei Sytsevich know exactly how dangerous the thing he stealing is? If so, was getting chase around New York by dozen of cops part of the plan? If not, what exactly in his thought process prevented him and his goons from quietly stealing plutonium? All these questions are neither importance to me nor the writers that wrote this mess. My biggest complain is how Spider Man does not handle this robbery. Instead of immediately stopping Aleksei Sytsevich whose driving like a mad man destroying everything in his path. Spider Man takes his time to wisecrack. As irresponsible this particular moment might be of Spider Man I would still prefer him to protect New York over Thor. The worst thing that happens while Spider Man is not focus is a couple dozen people likely got killed. Compare to Thor who while focus almost gets the whole universe destroyed. Yeah, they’re both terrible heroes in hindsight aren’t they? This is also the right time for Spider Man to answer a phone call….just exactly where does one keep a cell phone in a skin tight outfit? On second thought, I would rather not know.

I want to take a moment and acknowledge Denis Leary first ghostly appearance in the film. He disapprovingly looks at Peter Parker while he’s attempting to stop a robbery, though I like to believe his disapproving look is aimed directly at the audience. As if to tell us “You’re still staying? You disappoint me” with his soulless eyes staring into your soul. I laughed the first time Denis Leary appeared on screen because of how silly it looked. In context, Dennis Leary is likely disapproving of Andrew Garfield dating his character daughter. There is a good excuse for that…it’s Emma Stone. Of course Andrew Garfield is going to break his promise and I would too, but that is just me. Thankfully Denis Leary does return in the film a couple more time who disapproves of me (and possibly you) of watching the film. In one scene, he looks directly at me behind his family with his emotionless stare. Telling me telepathically “You have a loving family? Go spend time with them. If not, I’ll keep staring at you disapprovingly”. Everytime Denis Leary appears it’s comedy gold. Wondering what the next thing he’s going to disapprove of next is something to look forward to. Until you’re given actual context if you haven’t seen the previous entry.

I could literally break this whole film down, but why continue to beat on a dead horse with the same old criticisms. Multiple villains that lack proper motivation and development. The first villain that appears on screen, Rhino, is very cheesy and goes unused for virtually the whole film. Peter Parker is terrible at concealing his identity. He uses his powers in public buildings that have cameras and in one instance almost forgets to take off his mask. Aunt May and Norman Osborn are superfluous characters adding nothing the film. Both could have been easily written off and in way no would it have affected the course of the film. Sparing viewers from the pointless laundry argument between Peter Parker and Aunt May. Most of Peter and Gwen Stacy dialogue goes like “it’s over”, “we’re back together”, “it’s over”, and “we’re back together”. Then there’s Peter Parker finding this secret laboratory in a location that convince me these writers are as far as remove from reality as possible. The final act consist of two climaxes and two action scenes right after one another. Several subplots like Peter discovering what happened to his parents, his friendship with Osborn, Aunt May struggle to raise Peter, Peter romance with Gwen Stacy, and so many more get tossed aside without the proper time to develop them. The ending is very stupid and insulting to Rhino fans. Something cool is happening behind the closing credits. These complaints are pretty much common for anyone who hates this film, but for me these common criticisms is not enough for me.

So lets focus on specifically Electro who is play by….um what was his name again? It’s that one actor who always gets overshadowed even when he’s the star of his own movie. This movie might be bad, but I will say casting, Jamie Foxx, there we go is an inspired move. Because who better to play a forgettable character than an actor who is unable to steal the spotlight from his costars. For the first half Jamie Foxx fits his role just fine pre-electro. The way he speaks and the way he move capitalizes on the nerdy characteristics of Max. While also allowing room for his obsession to Spider Man can be perceived as creepy won’t overshadowed an ultimately good intentioned man. However, when Jamie Foxx is cover in blue skin he’s forced to play a rejected member of the Blue Man Group. He’s unable to recover when he turns into Electro or make the villain remotely memorable. Speaking of which, how exactly does his powers work? Apparently when he walks by cars alarms will go off, but doesn’t affect cell phones in time square despite a scene showing earlier his power can affect technology not on the ground. Electro also has the power to fix gap in his front teeth. Well if that’s not pointless I don’t know what is. I especially love how in New York a glowing blue man doesn’t get anyone attention even when he pulls up a grate to get more electricity. Just another day in New York I guess. Since I’m still on Electro I want to discuss just how ridiculous it is how he obtain his powers. There’s is no way that…wait what. Huh, uh huh, hmm? You can’t be serious Izanagi! That is not a valid flaw!

Okay. Originally I was going to test the film theory myself, but it was rather difficult to find a fish tank big enough to fit around ten electric eels. Turns out after who knows how many hours of explanations and research here’s some science for you. Apparently, a person could pick up some of the electrical producing cells of eels called electrolytes. If you want to splice electric eel power cells into your body it would then possible to become Electro. All of our cells operate electrically; they are pumping ions in and out all the time and changing charges, and nerve cells absolutely work on electrochemistry. If you can generate half a volt out of a nerve cell, and you could stack up a bunch of them, in theory, you could get a reasonable voltage. Electric eels generate about 1/6th of a volt per electrocyte, but stack up thousands of them to generate typically 600 volts. But they do not shoot lightning bolts, because their voltage isn’t high enough.

So rather than a capacitor Electro is more like a battery. He feeds his cells, and among the things the cells will do with chemical energy is create electricity. So he would be feeding his electrical cells with food, and when he needs to produce a charge, he would generate a charge electro-chemically. It makes a lot more sense than if he were a living capacitor. Depending on how it’s designed, you can make nice arcs. But the problem with a conventional capacitor is that you have bunch of conducting plates with an insulator in between them, so that’s a problem with a human body. Because it’s full of salt water, it’d short itself out all the time. If it did hold a charge, there are all sorts of problems. If he has a million volts moving from one side of the body to another, why wouldn’t he electrocute himself? If he’s shooting sparks out of his fingers, that means that his fingers are going to a much higher voltage than the rest of the world, so how does he do that? The electric eel does it by doing some chemistry on the fly, and that’s the best this theory can describe. But he’s really a battery, not a capacitor. By the way, there is some evidence that electric eels do in fact shock themselves, but that they are more resistant to the effect than their prey is.

I’m just speechless. So how Electro gets his powers is actually possible if unlikely to duplicate it exactly in the human body as presented in the film. They did not insult the audience intelligence with that scene. Scientifically speaking it’s possible. I was proven wrong by “The Amazing Spider Man 2”. Damme you movie. Even when you’re correct at something you still find a way to make me angry. Wait a minute, than the way Electro is defeated in the climax makes no sense at all. Since Electro produces electricity it would have been more effective to throw him into salt water to make him release his current of electricity. Well if that’s true, then it makes no sense how Electro remains in the film as long as he does since I doubt every single drop of water in New York is purified. Even then, that’s still asking a lot for the audience and regardless the quality of the water Electro should still short out. Just wow. I won’t even bother how Electro clothes stays on him when he travels through electricity. Electro is scientifically possible, but at the same time how he functions is not accurate. Did I really spent four paragraphs on Electro? See what happens when you have poorly written movie and a maniac.

Actually comes to think of it what was the point of having three villians? For starter Rhino doesn’t really make much of an appearance in the film. Write him out and what do you know not that much changed. What about Harry Osborn? Well the way he’s brought into the the film is contrive, much like how I brought up the Japanese god Izanagi as a figment of my imagination out of nowhere in this review. If I removed all references to Izanagi you wouldn’t have noticed much of a change in what you’re reading. The same goes for Harry Osborn who is just there as a plot device whenever it’s at a stand still. If you removed Harry Osborn you would have a shorter film, with better character development, and more scenes with Aunt May raising Peter Parker. Unless of course the writers wanted to stretch this out as long as possible. What about if Electro was removed? You would pretty much have another Green Goblin versus Spider Man film.

Now time to analyze one of my pet peeves with comic book films in general and those are the action scenes. Action scenes in this film are very short and go more for visual flair over clever staging, and creativity. All the action scenes in the film try to make spectacles appear bigger than they actually are. One way the film crew go about is huge amount of particle effects whenever Spider Man and Electro fight each other. Whenever these two fight it formulaic; Electro has the upper hand in the beginning with his electrical bolts and Spider Man turns the tide of battle after receiving a certain amount of electrical shot. That’s all. Talk about basic that you could literally picture point A to point B in your mind. In glorious slow motion which is always present and for Electro his own dubstep theme. The opening fight in the plane cannot have the camera stay still to make it possible to enjoy. The fight in the plane is basic granted two grown men fight over the screen of a laptop is silly. Than after that are the two throwaway Rhino scenes. Shockingly the action scenes involving Rhino feature more environmental destruction than the two climaxes combine. They look impressive of the sheer amount of destruction, but the execution and design of them are land in specific point, talk, and in quick fashion finish the scene. As for the second climax that involve the Green Goblin it’s short, shot in tight spaces with closeups, and favorite the usage of slow motion to keep up with the not that fast fight.

The direction is a mess with unfinished CGI effects. That’s also the same reason why Spider Man isn’t in the film much since it would actually require the filmmakers to put some actual effort. It’s selection of music is off putting distracting the scene it plays in. Dubstep is not exactly fitting for action sequence that is meant to be taken seriously when the lyrics cannot be made out properly. My eardrums might have bled since I personally don’t like dubstep, but I’m pretty sure I heard “He Hates-A Me” while Electro was fighting Spider Man at time square. I never knew Mario did film scores.

The cast is generally mixed, though easily the best part of the film. Andrew Garfield brings innocent charm and enough heart as ordinary Peter Parker. While as Spider Man comes across as energetic and cocky, even if a scene does him a disservice. Emma Stone is delightful in the film even when delivery some pretty awful dialogue. Stone chemistry with Garfield is genuine and very strong when the two share a scene. They make the on and off again relationship come across naturally. Jamie Foxx like mentioned earlier pre electro is good in the role. However, pass his scene at time square Foxx goes into a one note role. He’s always angry and, yeah that’s about it when he becomes Electro. Paul Giamatti is cheesy in his short time, though easily the most enthusiastic in his role. He plays his character like a glorious cartoon that it’s a shame he receives less than six minute of screen time. Sally Field gets very little screen time as Aunt May. I could forgive her for not trying in the role since there is not much to her characters. Dane Dehaan is okay in the role. He’s gets thrust into scenes with jarring tone differences with little breathing room in between. Leaning too often in one emotion of his character.

The Amazing Spider Man 2 has plenty of ideas and characters that sadly culminated into making its emotion superfluous. There is too many undeveloped ideas that holds it back from evolving into the grand spectacles it wants to be and from a technical standpoint it set pieces are too basic and short to deliver on its promised thrills. With the exception of the acting, every element in the film implodes on itself having the ideas, but not knowing how to use them. It’s a mess of a film that has too much for its own good and delivers very little of it.

3/10

Side Stories: Superficial stuff that happened before and after viewing the film

So I have a friend, Eric, who knows one of my biggest gripes for movies is terrible writing. Eric knows it to the point he doesn’t bother to ask me my thoughts on a movie I hate or love. For this one, after seeing the film himself Eric said to me “This is definitely something you would award a 0%. No doubt about it”. That is true, if I only cared that one thing. There is the production side of things which is just as important to me. It’s also his comment about Electro gaining his powers as an insult to the audience that inspired me to actually seek out information if it was possible. If you’re going call anything an insult to audiences intelligence be sure it’s an area you’re an expert in. If not, you could have a friend like me who loves bringing it up in debates.

My original review of this film was so long that it exceeded Rotten Tomatoes word limit. So I cut out 60% of that material and then edited everything in the remaining 40% down to what you just read. What I took out was not really all that useful or helpful. Plus, it went against my policy of the no spoiler rule. There are exception to the rules, but unless the film had some sort of promised in a theme or concept I won’t go into detail about its story. If I’m going to write anything that contains spoiler I rather put it after the closing paragraph to a review. Therefore anyone who has any interest in seeing the film regardless of they read can rest assure it won’t get spoiled entirely. There was also numerous scenes dissection that made it tedious to read. There’s only so many times you want to read “that piece of dialogue was horrible” before becoming redundant yourself. Now with a review that long I still would have given it the same rating. The film as a whole is flawed, but has it few merits. As a whole though, it just another film that solidifies my feelings that “The Dark Knight” has been a negative influence on comic book films. Three paragraphs about why that is, but like Rhino, it’s rather superfluous to include.

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

Hollywood has a history of remaking Japanese films. “Seven Samurai” became “The Magnificent Seven”, “Yojimbo became” “A Fistful of Dollars” and “The Warrior and the Sorcerers”, and “Rashomon” became “The Outrage”. What all these Japanese films have in common besides being helm by Akira Kurosawa. All contained samurai as a major character. I wanted to list specifically samurai films because Japan love Western as much as Hollywood loves (remaking) samurai films. So it is no surprise that Japan would remake Clint Eastwood masterpiece “Unforgiven”. Calling the original “Unforgiven” the “Seven Samurai” of the Western genre is no exaggeration by any means. However, the remake, “Yurusarezaru mono” (Unforgiven in English) is not of the same caliber. While it’s not quite as insulting as Hollywood take on “47 Ronin”. This remake is by definition lazy. Retreading familiar material without much effort to deviate for its own identity and missing all source of passion. Kinda ironic when you think about it since Warner Bros. who are responsible for the original are responsible for the remake.

Yurusarezaru mono (Unforgiven in English) is about Jubei Kamata, a fearsome former samurai of the Tokugawa Shogunate taking one last job. Plot point by plot point this retelling is superficial. Just because the setting is changed and characters named change does not qualify as a proper remake. Scenes for scenes copy dialogue from the original sticking too closely to them. Making it tedious to sit through for anyone who seen the original. Ironically the worst scenes of the film are it rare attempts to deviate from the original. In the opening we see Jubei Kamata fighting for his life against some military soldiers. Immediately this remove the mysterious aura around Jebei being this so call legendary killer. Because we saw Jubei kill we don’t once ever question his ability or doubt he is this legendary killer. Therefore never seeing him as this ordinary person he pretends to be when he’s introduced. Another change in the story is who convinces the protagonist to get involved for this hit. In the original it was The “Schofield Kid”; a young admirer of William Munny (the original film protagonist) and this came into play very strongly on depicting morality in the old west and the influence of legends. Here it’s Kingo Baba (Morgan Freeman character basically) convinces Jubei to get back out on the field. This too is also ruined instead of developing the relationship between these two long time friends during their journey they are downgraded to simple two dimensional characters. Than comes the climax that butchers the preceding. In the original, Munny had a reason a to return to Big Whiskey for more than just payback; in this remake it just comes off as an act of vengeance. Schofield Kid character is also diminished in this remake. Whereas most of the characters stay the same this character gets needlessly changed. Using Schofield character as attempt to bring up race discrimination, but does nothing with it. Discrimination is just brought up as this character defining feature who does discuss his struggles with it once. Once, other times discrimination is just brought up because it a thing that happened to him for small talk. Worst part about it bringing up discrimination is pointless in this. If discrimination was never brought up the film would not change in the slightest.

Does the film work if you haven’t seen the original? How can the remake fail for those who haven’t seen it if virtually everything remained intact? Simple…okay it’s actually not, but I’ll explain the best to my amature abilities. What the original did was play on expectations and doing a complete one-eighty in its board depiction on sophisticated themes. This remake falls victim to those expectations; it sets up those expectations of what is associated with Samurai films and following them with a straight face. The humor is more varied and less subtle, but is also more spontaneous and noticeable when it disappears entirely from the film. Pacing issues are apparent with some scenes rushing encounters and introductions while others overstay their welcome. This is a major problem, as the emotional link that could be potentially had with a tale of two old fools, one chasing and one running from a dream, doesn’t hit as well as it might. It adapts the story well replacing guns with swords, but is not an seamless exchange. It doesn’t bother exploring why some still prefer to carry sword despite the advantages a gun can offer. Another is the setup appears to be wanting to make commentary on a theme, but which one that is becomes clouded by what characters do. Characters motivations aren’t clear or properly set up; like why the young Auni wants to been seen as a killer aren’t made clear. Our main cast is two dimensional with supporting characters changing through the course of the film more so than the actual protagonist. In the climax, Jubei image being this frail man is removed as he able to endured multiple wounds from bullets and swords. The ending is set up in a way to create an image of Jubei as a passing legend despite trying so desperately earlier on to disprove audience from that notion. In the eyes of a newcomer is might come off as a passable film with no developed, clear ideas with miss potential for greatness.

Ken Wantanabe is our leading man and his performance is below average. He’s no Clint Eastwood vocally or physically and that’s where the problem lies. Eastwood in the original looks like someone grandfather who you would have trouble believing was this legendary outlaw, but Wantanabe just comes across as someone out shape. Wantanabe young looking appearance makes it difficult to see him as the frail old man he plays. His line delivery is always assured eliminating the unease that his character might not actually changed. Since there’s no distinction in the way Wantanabe speaks there is no subtle transformation. Imitating Eastwood performances instead of making it his own. Akira Emoto is an excellent replacement for Morgan Freeman playing virtually the same character. Charismatic and committed in his role being a good supporting actor to help remove Wantanabe never settling into the role. Another stand out is Koichi Sato glowering, witty and assured performance, given a dandyish touch by his curlicued moustache, has a finesse worthy of the role’s originator, Gene Hackman. Sadly though, our lead isn’t able to the break image of whose first played the role like the rest of the cast. Cinematography is pleasing to the eyes with rich textures that changes environment according to the protagonist mood. It’s nice hidden visual theme that sadly is undermined by the majority that retread old material.

Yurusarezaru mono (Unforgiven) is a remake that encourages laziness. It’s a carbon copy of the original with none of the same passion or sophistication. Whatever small change the film rarely goes for backfires making characters two dimensional and simplifying such gray themes as discrimination as throwaway material. Characters motivations are lost and it’s story plays into your expectations. As a remake it’s just retreading virtually everything the original cover making it tedious for anyone who seen the original and for newcomers with unclear ideas that get lost among the mess of what could have been.

3/10