Tag Archives: Coming of age

Cinema-Maniac: Brooklyn (2015) Review

Simplicity isn’t something I demand when it comes to films. One reason being I prefer films that offer plenty for me to analyze either on a technical, or narrative level. Another reason being when it comes down to it simple stories, and simple characters are easy to fully comprehend on one viewing. Leaving very little to ponder once the film ends. Sometimes offering no reasons to rewatch a simple film in the future if I understood everything I wanted on a single viewing. At the same time it’s a necessity to have simplicity in films because not every great story, and masterpiece needs complexity. I would much rather have films like Whiplash which while not an amazing viewing experience soars in accomplishing its single minded goal as opposed to something that collapsed under its own weight. Brooklyn I would place alongside with a film like Whiplash; both films didn’t provide anything amazing of an experience from the reception they received, but they accomplished what they set out to do with little to no hiccups.

Brooklyn is about an Irish immigrant, Ellis (Saoirse Ronan), who lands in 1950s Brooklyn, where she quickly falls into a romance with a local while being torn up between two countries she loves. The film is a simple mixture of coming age, and romance that doesn’t get elaborate. It follows a simple three act structure, and is linear as a film can traditionally get. What differentiate it from a traditional romance film is nothing in the film is overly dramatize. Conversations feel natural with dinner scenes serving to get across the passage of time without directly stating it. These dinner scenes also provide the films with most of the jokes as well as some insight into some it characters. Everything in the film is written to get across the most amount of information with simple dialogue. Working wondrously for the film.

image-2589b6a8-8716-4275-a3f9-75e8266762b1
Oh, been wondering what happened to Carrot Top.

The romance isn’t the main focus of the film, but rather use as a narrative tool to show growth in Ellis life. Showing Ellis as young timid girl to eventually becoming an adult woman. Her interaction with her love interest, Tony (Emory Cohen), changes her as a person, and seeing those changes is what makes the romance effective. Much like Ellis, Tony feels like an actual person expressing the kind of life he desires with Ellis. In his own understated way contributes more to the film than just being a love interest. Another appealing aspect of the romance is how it portrayed. There’s no flair to any of it. One example of this is when Tony confesses to Ellis he loves her, and the scene is neither accompanied by music, nor characters making a big deal out of it. Simply being treated as another part of the relationship. Granted a love confession in serious relationship is significant, but the way it written it intently wants the audience to know every moment between these two is significant no matter the context.

As a coming of age film it has the message of growing up is filled with hardship, but an added bonus is actually seeing the character growth in the film. It does not end when Ellis experience a life altering event by moving to 1950s America. The film instead uses the opportunity of Ellis growing to make her face a serious dilemma. Viewing the conflict she face with in a new light as oppose in the beginning of the film where she viewed it like a young adult simply going along with what everyone else wanted. It’s also very clever how it uses a one off character within the first act of the film to be a fulfilling showcase of far of a person Ellis came in her journey. In terms of a tone it plays out a bit like a fantasy before the third act where reality comes crashing down. While there is the issue of living in an entire country feeling homesick, and trouble socializing it never overcomes Ellis life. She is simply able to deal with her problems directly. If not, then she’ll asks her friends, or family for advice.

2K3A5005.jpg
Creed: With arms with open.

If there is any serious issue with the film writing it would be the climax of the film. Once Ellis has to decide to live in Ireland with a newfound purpose, or go back to the US to a life that helped her transition into adulthood. The catalyst, or motive that determines Ellis decision feels tacked on plain, and simple. Throughout the film, it makes an attempt to make both 1950’s America, and Ireland as desirable places to live without any serious problems that is too much to handle. However, after a conversation with someone Ellis didn’t like in her past it reminds her of everything she hated that particular country. Here lies the simple problem of the audience not knowing what Ellis specifically means. This film starts out with Ellis spending her last day in Ireland before going to America, and that’s honestly all the viewer is given on Ireland. She experience similar events in both the US, and Ireland. Viewers only gain a full understanding of how much the US means to her as oppose to Ireland where it comes across as a repeat of what Ellis experienced in America. However, like the rest of the film, this is an understated moment that does not dramatize the climax “movie moment” kind of way. The same applies to the ending. While subtle in showing how much Ellis grew as a person it is also understated. Everything about the is simple to comprehend, and in a understated execution succeeds in what it tackles.

Much like the screenplay by Nick Hornby, the acting is once again understated, but for simple reasons. None of the performances are powerhouses, though they’re all fine because of the film’s direction. Saoirse Ronan takes leading the role as Ellis portraying in one of her most challenging role. She comes off as awkward, naive, sincere, funny, and other shades of her character. What is best about this performance is how steadily she transition into becoming an adult. It’s a steady change that retains her character established traits with a new boost of confidence. She expresses through her performance how much she matured, and her facial expressions gets it across vividly. There is a not a scene in the film where you’ll be impressed by her acting since the entire film is subdue in emotion. Taking a timid woman at the start of the film, and convinces viewers she’s now a strong individual. Still, it’s another noteworthy performance from Saoirse Ronan who doesn’t have to put up a fake American in this film which is another plus.

50-brooklyn-lionsgate
I’ll take any opportunity to post a image of Saoirse Ronan. What? I like her.

The other performances are overshadowed by Saoirse Ronan. Of course it’s because she the leading actress, but there’s rarely a scene where she’s not present. Only Emory Cohen gets the most of amount of screen time of the supporting cast. His performance is also sincere, and very believable in his performance. The moments he shares with Saoirse Ronan are sweet. They’re both good onscreen together. Acting veterans like Jim Broadbent, and Julie Walters aren’t utilize much in the films. Walters can deliver a funny line, but with the exception of one scene she’s mostly spent her time in the dinner scenes with some kind of reference to god. Jim Broadbent is in the film less so since his only purpose seems to be to deliver a plot point to get the story rolling. He doesn’t get to do much in the film, but doesn’t takes it seriously nonetheless to not be a distraction. Then there’s Domhnall Gleeson who only appears in the third act. His chemistry with Saoirse Ronan makes it possible to believe why Ronan character can like him, even if they spent less time together. 

Supporting actors like Hugh Gormley, Brid Brennan, Maeve McGrath, Emma Lowe, Barbara Drennan, Fiona Glascott, Jane Brennan, Eileen O’Higgins play typical characters. Being used mostly to portray the nice old lady, the woman who has trouble maintaining relationship, the depressed mother, the irritable old woman, and other archetypes. As you might have imagined none of these archetype are exaggerating the personality. Director John Crowley doesn’t miss anything when it comes to details in the costumes, and showing visually showing good distinction between two countries. Yves Belanger cinematography is visually the most interesting part of the film. Offering some standard wide shots, but it’s at it best when it comes to showing the most out of its actors performances. Music is composed by Michael Brook offering a classic sounding soundtrack to the film, and having some Irish music. John Crowley is smart enough to know when to place music, and when not too.

Brooklyn is a film that will leave viewers conflicted at the raving reception it received. While in no way close to resembling a bad film it’ll nonetheless contribute to disappointment by its many raving reviews that it receives. This will make some viewers expect something grander than what they will actually see. On the contrary, if you want a coming of age, and romance that is more down to earth than Brooklyn is the film for you. It’s has sweet moments of romance without being sugarcoated. Has the ability to gripping without over dramatizing any events. By all, it’s a simple film that knows how to tell a simple tale without many layers on it, and when it works nearly this flawlessly it doesn’t have to be more than it is.

9/10

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: Psychic School Wars (Nerawareta Gakuen) (2012) Movie Review

Nerawareta Gakuen effortlessly weaves a story that combines romance, time travel, an impending apocalypse, and growing up into an incomprehensible mess of a film. The film is plagued with aimless direction, among other things, that prevents it from being any more than eye candy. Besides being pretty to look at there’s nothing to be gained from seeing this film that’s a chore to finish.

The premise of Nerawareta Gakuen, which translates to the cooler sounding, but very misleading English title Psychic School War starts out simple. Introducing four characters into what appears will be a romance story with light elements of sci-fi. Following four characters each of whom contain bland characteristics leading to force conflicts that could have been easily been resolved. Being dragged out in order to pad out what little story it has. If it was only focused on the romance in the story, it would have been bland if it revolved around childhood friends along with a love triangle that’s entirely one sided nor add much of a conflict between the characters. Seeing, let alone learning about the character’s relationship with one another is spread thinly in the film. Emoting a sense of boredom that plays the usual tricks (will they won’t they hook up being the main element in use) in its setup.

If it was only a sci-fi than it would have still been incomprehensible. Vague explanations are given on how time traveling works, character backstory is revealed with sparse bits of information, the apocalypse that occurred gets a quick brief mention with unanswered questions, and how psychic powers work is flimsy. Some of it is explained like how other character can unlock the ability to read other minds, but what exactly it can do is left up to the imagination. One of the most crucial elements in the film that receives muddle explanations is an hourglass shaped device that Ryouichi carries around with him which he uses in order to create more psychics. He uses this device predominantly to achieve his goal and by badly presenting it purpose it’s easy to lose sight of how he’s going to accomplish what he sets out to do.

It’s so bad at telling its story that the whole plot has to use a very weak plot point involving a school policy which prevents students from bringing cell phones to school in order to show visible progress of the central conflict. In the worst possible way it tries to use this plot point to say some sort of commentary on social interaction by having students ignore or enforce the no cell phone policy. On a dramatic level this plot point becomes exaggerated that anything serious it wanted to say is downplayed in delivery. Seeing students expresses their hatred for cell phones in an over the top presentation is unable to be enjoyable in silliness because it wants to be taken seriously. There’s no build up to steadily show its central conflict becoming larger nor provide enough visual cues that more students are becoming psychic. At most, it only shows two students becoming physic which isn’t enough to provide a glimpse at the bigger picture. Instead characters have to exposition it to each other to get important information out. Sounding unnatural in several conversations.

The characters aren’t any better. Our four main characters in the film are archetypes that get introduced and three of them remain static in their journey. Kenji Seki is a dumb teen who has bad luck and oblivious to the fact his childhood friend Natsuki Suzuura loves him. It’s reasonable why Kenji is oblivious about Natsuki feelings since in one minute Natsuki teases him, punches him, and calls the police on him. He’s an idiotic character who’s unable to process thoughts. Unable in the fact he doesn’t how to handle any situation when comforting friends. He’s simply lucks out in how problems play out. Kenji is underdeveloped, though the only one who seems to grow in the film. In some ways he matures gaining a different outlook on life. Without much of a character to explore he ends up banal like the other characters.

Natsuki Suzuura is the typical girl next door who picks on Kenji to hide her true feelings from him. The way she acts needlessly prolongs an easily solvable conflict. She even says herself if she was more direct in expressing herself she wouldn’t be going through any overblown struggles. She’s another bland character who’s made entirely unlikable by how she acts. The first time she’s seen in the film she reports Kenji to the police by lying that Kenji was going to rape her. This is also how Natsuki character is introduced in the film, which gives a bad first impression of her character. Around the 23 minute mark Natsuki slaps Kenji for a comment he made regarding loving someone without mutual feelings being returned. Natsuki up to this point has shown no sign of even liking Kenji. Within that time frame she acts like a tsundere hitting Kenji throughout the film and teases Kenji nonstop who does not like getting teased. Despite acting how Natsuki does she wonders why Kenji doesn’t love her. When the film ends she still hasn’t a change bit proving she’s the film most dense character.

Kahori Harukawa is an unimportant character. Besides one brief scene the writers prefer to keep Kahori entire character one dimensional. Her backstory is glanced over with a brief mention which ends all of her characterization with a couple of seconds. As a character she’s weak and her place in the story is unimportant. She has no conflict nor does anything to advance the story. She also falls in love with Ryouichi Kyougoku for shallow reasons. It’s explained she fell in love with him at the first sight of Ryouichi and the material reinforces that fact. There is hardly a scene of Kahori and Ryouichi getting to know each other. The only thing they know about each other for a majority of the film is they both play piano. That’s about it. Once it reaches the hour mark both characters are lovey-dovey towards each other despite only sharing one scene of actually doing anything together outside of school. This later comes to affect the final act of the film. Due a specific revelation both characters won’t be able to be together. Instead of being a strong dramatic pull in the story it’s simply just there as fluff.

The worst character in the film is Ryouichi Kyougoku who’s the popular, mysterious transfer student with a hidden agenda. Ryouichi single handedly brings down the time travel and physic aspect of the film. He’s a poorly written character, giving out his backstory unnaturally as possible and providing vague explanations on the process of time traveling and physic powers. He knows how everything works, but the audience doesn’t making any scene that has anything supernatural onscreen become convoluted. Almost as if literally making up the rules of how time traveling and physic powers work as he goes along in the story. He receives scatter characterization some of which gets dropped. In the film its mentioned Ryouichi will execute a revenge plan. What exactly it was is delivered in a throwaway line that’s easy to miss.

The animation is done by Sunrise studio and it’s virtually flawless. Director Ryosuke Nakamura eye for details is rich in every single scene of the movie. Meticulous details in the visuals from the cherry blossom petals being blown in the breeze to the gleaming rays of light shining through the classroom windows. Everything from beginning to end looks beautiful. Another outstanding feature is the use of color hues and tones to accentuate and render scenic clouds and evening skies. There usually something always moving on screen with high detail that it becomes mesmerizing. For a majority of the film it movements sticks to the ordinary with the occasional over the top short burst moments and supernatural elements when on display. No matter what’s on screen the amount of time it must have taken to animate the film is something to appreciate.

The voice acting is in general is passable, but underwhelming due to the material. Kana Kanazawa plays Kahori who I already mentioned is pointless in the story. It’s a performance that I can’t blame Kanazawa for phoney in since her character hardly changes emotion limiting options in her portrayal. Daisuke Ono, who plays Ryouichi Kyougoku has a similar problem. A big role with limited range, which again limits the voice actor abilities to portray the characters. That’s two talented voice actors who are handicapped because of the material.

Yuutaro Honjou plays Kenji Seki whose performance does allow ranged. Unlike his more experience co-stars his balance of drama and comedy generally misses the mark. When he’s meant to sound sincere it comes across as a bad rehearsal take. Sounding mundane when experiencing important life changing events. Mayu Watanabe plays Natsuki Suzuura does a good job. Unfortunately because of how her character is written she also comes across as the most annoying. Playing a tsunderes she sounds sweet one moment then flips the switch to being angry the next. That’s our four lead actors, each of whom are unable to overcome the material shortcoming. The supporting cast because of limited screen time don’t suffer the same problem. They’re fine in small roles. There’s no English dub for the film which given the sloppy delivery of the story is understandable.

The soundtrack is done by Shusei Murai and it’s repetitive. Nearly all the tracks sound sentimental working against the film. There’s hardly any variety in the music Murai composed. Becoming aggregating to listen to when most of the tracks are soft piano ballads that sound similar to one another with just a minor variation of one track. Too many tracks sound too similar to each other its entirely lazy. To paint a clearer picture on the lack of varied music the OST for the film there are 25 tracks and 22 of them are soft piano ballads. If it doesn’t feature a soft piano ballad it’ll feature a Violin another instrument Murai goes out of his way to make annoying to listen to. Hearing the soundtrack is infuriating because no effort is made to make each track sound different. Getting the suspicion that the soundtrack simply looped one song over and over again. There are only two distinctive sounding and noteworthy tracks in the film coming from artists Ryo and supercell. Like the rest of the score, the songs these two artists provide are blissful with usage of soft piano ballads. They are nice songs, even if they are forgettable immediately after they end.

Nerawareta Gakuen is a complicated mess and poorly told, but does make sense. Although this being my second time seeing the movie I wrote down notes which in the end made the story sensical. However, the information is so poorly relayed to the audience due to brief throwaway explanations that reveal very little or simply glancing over important details that are essential to understanding its story. Before reaching the one hour mark the film fails to provide characters good enough to carry a story, wanders around aimlessly without a purpose, and finally a conflict that uses convoluted plot points making it uninvolving. The remainder of the film will feel longer than it actually is. That’s not even taking into account the repetitive soundtrack becoming grating on the ears as it goes making the experience worse. Pretty to look at, no doubt, but with no substance whatsoever it makes you ponder what a waste of beautiful animation.

2/10

Cinema-Maniac: Koto no ha no niwa (Garden of Words) (2013)

Animation have brought to life realms far from our own grasps, but never far enough they are unrelatable from our very own. Director Makoto Shinkai vision mirrors reality from the architecture of the city to the foliage of a park with no shortage of details. Garden of Words mirrors a live action film in production in all area capturing the real world in detailed animation with the support of strong writing makes it visually arresting as narratively engaging.

Garden of Words is about Takao meeting a mysterious woman, Yukino, without arranging the times, the two start to see each other again and again, but only on rainy days. At it most basic level Garden of Words tells nothing more than a simple story of two lost souls; however, what is gain is a clear understanding of both characters lives and what they strive for. It’s hard to imagine the film going into much territory with a forty-six minute runtime, but succeeds in every area that makes any good narrative have a lasting impact. It doesn’t skipped on character development even interweaving a greater meaning giving depth to the rain as a character as well to the changes in the environments. Characters are more complicated than the story being told. Looking beyond the limitations of society sets on them, motivation to fulfill one’s dream, and overcoming boundaries set to them by society. Beyond that is another interpretation showing the beauty of everyday life to the smallest interaction around us. Nothing is ever lost in its story maintaining focus and complicated characters action are always concentrated towards benefiting the narrative. Under an hour Garden of Words story has the key elements that makes up a good story regardless of it length leaves a big impression.

Makoto Shinkai lush imagery connects a delicately rendered urban landscape, one in which the daily grind of everyday life and the regular changing of the seasons appear breathtakingly beautiful. Vivid colors, lush and deep dark shades, crystalline highlights bring the sceneries to life. Combining hand-drawn animation, rotoscoping, and seamless CGI effects. Shinkai consistently sustains a dreamlike, otherworldly mood throughout with a direction more in line of that of a live action film. For example, when it comes to editing he compresses time, flashes back to multiple points, and creates montages in a way that just isn’t done in the medium very often. The soundtrack top-notch mixing is spacious, with clear dialogue in the central channel and carefully crafted atmospheric sound effects around the edges (especially noticeable during the rain shower sequences). Diasuke Kashiwa’s lovely, contemplative musical score is also well-integrated with the rest of the soundtrack. Voice acting is equally as strong with the rest of production.

Garden of Words is a visual poem that hits all the right narrative notes and personal chords to be taken by its artistic majesty. Visually stunning and with a equaling involving story work in harmony for an animated film that accomplishes the same than most films do with double the run time. Proving no great film is too short or too long, but the perfect length to leave a lasting impression.

10/10