Monday, August 25, 2014

Review: The Giver

Starring: Brenton Thwaites, Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep
Directed by: Phillip Noyce
Language: English
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 97 minutes

At first, I wasn't sure if I wanted to see this movie or not, especially in theaters. I remember reading the book back in fourth grade, but I don't remember enough for comparison. Obviously, I did make a decision to take a trip to the theater.

In a seemingly perfect community where there is no war, pain, suffering, differences or choices, Jonas is chosen from a young age to his teenage years to become the receiver of the "real" world. He spends his days visiting an elderly man who we simply know as the Giver and he experiences emotions and special moments that the community has banished.

Among the slew of young adult and even children's novels, there have been an abundance of book adaptations lately. I wasn't expecting The Giver to receive as grand of a reception as recent young adult adaptations The Hunger Games and Divergent, but it was nice to hear that this book was part of some people's childhood. Also, I'm not expecting a number one spot for opening weekend with controversial turtles and a team of iconic action stars grabbing attention of the media and moviegoers. But I'm not saying this movie is bad in the least.

It seems like concepts of a post-apocalyptic world, a nation dependent on young sacrifices, a place where rules, privilege, and region are dictated by classism are very popular choices. With The Giver there is a focus of control of humanity. On paper, the ideas and intentions the elders have in mind for the community sound great. Who wouldn't want to eliminate war, murder, jealousy...simply all sources of conflict. On the other hand, you also take away joy, emotion, and growth. Living in a world of neutrality and sameness isn't that pleasant.

Not only does the movie convey the concept of "taking the good with the bad" with words and character, but in its visuals. Something I really want moviegoers to focus on when watching is color. The community is mostly seen through Jonas quite literally. The world is simply devoid of color until he continues to receive more and more memories from the past. Occasionally, the colorization is through the eyes of the other supporting characters. With such a simple detail, it explains so much of Jonas' growth and advantage he has over the other citizens in the community. Other things that I enjoyed from this movie were the characters and scripting. I believed these characters majority of the time and they really conveyed this idea of being ignorant to all the wonderful things the world used to offer as well as the pain that comes along with it. They accepted every word and idea the elders spoke of and never questioned or pursued their curiosities such as what's beyond the boundary or what is Elsewhere like. Once you learn these sorts of things, you feel hopeful and mortified. To quickly sum up why I want to praise the scripting is that these people, especially the elders, used very specific words to describe things in a lighter tone. Plus, there was a strict rule and even class over the precision of speech. Simply expressing your love for a family member is unheard of and unusual.

While the visuals, characters, pacing, and shortened time length were very good, I suppose The Giver's downfall is that it won't be as memorable as The Hunger Games franchise, Harry Potter, and so on. It is a very enjoyable movie, but once you see it and think about it a month later, there's nothing that makes it stand out, which is a little sad. Even Taylor Swift's small role doesn't make it memorable. I think I can safely lump it together with another young adaptation that came out this year, Vampire Academy. If you have the chance to check out or it was part of your childhood, I would give this movie a chance, because it is very good and easily enjoyable.

Rating: 4.5/5

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Rant: Sometimes Companies Suck

Last month or so, people have been debating on which side is the right one in the SM Entertainment lawsuit involving Kris of EXO-M. It should be obvious where I stand, but it's amusing how things get misconstrued very easily with these sorts of things. Anti Kpop-Fangirl mused themselves in the perspective of if this was treated like a female group things would be handled differently. Another perspective is if SME wasn't the big giant that it is. But the purpose of this rant goes beyond this lawsuit. This rant pertains to the terrible companies who gain a defensive party or the blame gets overlooked and passed on to the "victim". This isn't just a kpop issue, but it can be seen in any sort of company. For the purpose of this rant and for the sake of staying on topic with Muddy Cult's overall theme of the entertainment industry, I will only focus on that.

Let's start with some kpop related cases. Whether you agree or disagree with my perspective, I urge you to be respectful with your comments on this topic.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Review: Oldboy

Starring: Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Samuel L. Jackson
Directed by: Spike Lee
Language: English
Rating: R
Running Time: 104 minutes

Some of you may know that I do like comparing things from time to time and I have quickly reviewed the original film. Originally, I wasn't sure whether I would see it or not and when I did make a decision, it wasn't playing anywhere near me. I didn't want to see it bad enough to drive more than an hour. So, to my surprise, my job had it and I bared through it with my folks.

Joe Doucett, an advertising executive, is unexplainably kidnapped and imprisoned in an unknown hotel of sorts for 20 years. While in prison, he finds out that his wife has been murdered and his daughter has been orphaned. The authorities believe that Joe murdered his own wife and he is a wanted a man, but no one knows where he's located. When he is released, his main goal is to find his daughter that he's watched grow up on television as well as find out why he was locked away.

Upon hearing the announcement of this remake, majority of Oldboy fans complained and stated that it was unnecessary. At the time, I never saw the original, but agreed that the American version wouldn't do the movie justice, simply basing it on the Asian to American remake track record. Once I saw the original, I had no idea what Spike Lee was going to do with certain parts of the material. After watching it, I skimmed over some thoughts IMDb commenters left about the movie and, in this day and age, there was a debate about the old and new versions, more specifically that fans of the older version should get over themselves. Of course, this post isn't about everyone else's opinion, it's about mine.

It's kinda hard to admit that this movie had any redeeming qualities whatsoever. It isn't the worst Asian/American film I've seen, but that doesn't really say much about this movie as there's plenty of cringeworthy elements added and manipulated for the remake. Some modifications weren't that bad such as having a televised crime show for Joe to cling onto, some visual points were nice on the eye such as the mystery woman with the umbrella, and Marie was an alright character for the most part. The attempts to replicate certain scenes from the original were...decent. Simply judging on purely surface elements of the movie, meaning the most basic foundation of the original film as simply a revenge flick and appearance, it's borderline passable.

Judging this as a movie alone and avoiding comparison, I have many complaints. Let's start with the most important and biggest complaint, because the rest almost goes along with it, which is Joe's character. Joe is our protagonist. We, as the audience, are supposed to attach ourselves to him and feel some sort of positive emotion to cheer him on through this crazy journey. Unfortunately, our protagonist is very much unlikeable and despicable. I almost feel more sympathy for the antagonist than him because he has more likeable qualities. Joe doesn't have the best relationship with his wife and daughter. He's in short a selfish alcoholic among other things. I could not find myself liking this guy from the start and as the movie progressed, I still couldn't muster up any sympathy or care to cheer for his cause. Maybe Spike Lee intended for him to be that way, but it's a dumb idea to approach a revenge film in such a manner. To go along with Joe's character is his interactions with Marie which, for the most part, felt extremely awkward. They lacked so much chemistry and when the sex ensued, I just couldn't believe it. Also, Joe's drive to reciprocate the pain on the antagonist's associates felt unbelieveable and stiff. It just seemed like he was going through the motions without any feeling. Lastly, the pacing wasn't very good and the dialogue didn't help move things along either.

If it wasn't obvious, as a remake, it's not very good. Spike Lee makes a poor attempt to recapture iconic scenes and stand out moments that make the original intriguing and unique. Such examples include a popular hallway scene that doesn't feel as fluid or intense as the original nor does the lead up to the mystery man behind the monitors of the building Joe is held captive of. Even the imprisonment scene doesn't convey enough confusion and anguish from Joe. The scene is uninteresting and a bit drawn out. It also has way too much detail and doesn't completely draw you in immediately to keep watching or even pose the question of why this is happening to him. Thanks to the addition of Joe's employment and relationship background, it takes away the mystery and purpose of the film. The unlikeable Joe doesn't help matters either. The remake also holds back on the gory imagery, which is an interest choice, but not much of an issue with either version. In short, Lee's attempt is a pale comparison of the original when copying over certain elements. But my biggest reason for watching, aside for comparison sake, is how Lee would handle the twist from the original. Aside from Joe's character, this is another major complaint I had with the movie, so **SPOILER ALERT**. This warning is for both movies. So, please skip to the last paragraph if you do not want to be spoiled!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Quick Movie Review

Lucy (2014, USA) | Rating: 3/5

Before the movie was officially out in the theaters, there was already a bit of controversy over this movie. Whether it was villainizing minorities like movies of the past or promoting false information about brain activity, I chose to ignore these so-called controversies. Of course, they weren't completely gone from my mind, but I'm not using it to judge the content of this movie. Aside from comic book movies and a select few action flicks, most action movies are simple forms of entertainment that doesn't require a lot of brain power to understand. This movie is exactly that. Even though it contains sci-fi elements to it, I can't really criticize it too harshly as it was a fun trip with great entertainment value. The content and motivation is very straightforward and the story mostly depends on action more than character development or drawn out scientific explanations, so don't expect that out of this movie. Although I enjoyed this fun little trip, I did find the motion capture CGI and attempts to parallel the animal kingdom to the action to be distracting and ineffective. If you want to check it out, I recommend a discount theater or rental.

Her (2013, USA) | Rating: 4.5/5

It's merely a coincidence that I watched more than one movie starring Scarlett Johansson, but I was curious what all the hype was over that it received awards. A very deserving award though. This movie won "Best Original Screenplay" and I have to say I never would've thought of such a concept before and I've never seen anything like this movie either. The way the camera and soundtrack effortlessly worked together to keep the story flowing was spot on and the story, albeit long, was engaging. I really felt for the main character and his social struggles. I didn't think his love was bizarre in the least either. I sympathized with him a lot and could even picture this sort of reality happening in the future as technology grows and evolves. Despite the length of the movie, I recommend it. It's a nice break from what Hollywood deems acceptable to share nationwide.

Pacific Rim (2013, USA) | Rating: 3/5

I'll be honest, I had no interest whatsoever to see this movie and I only watched it as a request. [In case you didn't know that I do fulfill review requests despite my interest level.] There was a lot hype about this movie, even before it hit the theaters. My general assessment from friends and media is that this movie was for the kaiju (Japanese monster) lovers and those who enjoy big robots like Neon Genesis Evanegelion. I can definitely see the influence while watching this movie. Unfortunately, I do not fit either of these categories. Nonetheless, I did find this movie entertaining and it kept my interest surprisingly. The movie mainly focused on the characters rather than the monsters they were fighting, which is probably the best direction to go, and most of the interactions between the characters and action sequences seriously gave my Eva a shockingly good way. I wasn't too hyped when the move was over, but I can confidently recommend this to the audience it was intended for.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014, USA) | Rating: 4.5/5

So many superhero movies lately, but I'm totally not complaining, especially when it's in Marvels hands. Similar to The Avengers, this was a very fun ride with great character development, exciting action scenes, and well planned out pacing. The make-up and visuals looked amazing and Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel surprised me with their partnership as I was a little concerned how that was going to work. As much praise as the Marvel movies have been receiving, I would like to point a little flaw from movie to movie, including this one, which is that their villains aren't that memorable. Of course, the main characters keep you engaged and create a bond with their viewers during their journey, but none of their opponents seem to pose as much of a threat as the movie make them out to be verbally. I just want everyone to think about that. Nonetheless, I highly recommend this movie. It's an exhilarating ride with great characters and amusing nostalgic references.

The World's End (2013, USA) | Rating: 3.5/5

Another movie about the end of the world, but with a different approach. This came out the same year as This is the End and what they have similar, aside from the obvious, is that they took an interesting route on the world's ultimate demise. This movie focuses on a smaller scale of a small town full of memories for our main characters and retraces their steps back of their college days, more specifically of making a pub crawl to The World's End. Like Shaun of the Dead, it has some very funny moments and the character interactions are great as usual. Also, the conclusion was unexpected and humorous

If there's something you want me to review (or want a more in depth review of the movies above or previous ones), check out this post on how you can submit requests.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Quick Anime Review

Corpse Party: Tortured Souls - Bougyakusareta Tamashii no Jukyou (2013) | Rating: 3/5

Another series based on a game. Of course, I've never played it, but Corpse Party: Missing Footage got me curious for this OVA. If you're used to the gore and subject matter from series like Higurashi, then you can handle this. It is quite cruel, but there's a little less kid on kid violence. It's all about ghost, a haunting school building, and friendship. Things are a bit rushed in these 4 episodes and I would've liked something more expanded. What is given isn't that bad and there's a lot of anticipation to be had after each episode.

Shingeki no Kyojin (2013) | Rating: 2.5/5

There was (and still is) a lot of hype about this series and I was curious. Did I join hype bandwagon? Not really. I tried to figure out why everyone loved this series so much, but nothing really clicked for me. There were two episodes that did hook me and made me think the series was pretty great, but then after those two episodes I was back to being very neutral about the series. The story was interesting just not interesting enough to me. I guess there's things missing that I'd have to fill in if I read the manga, but most likely I won't do that. My biggest turn off was the art style which reminded me of Death Note, a series I'm not extremely fond but don't completely hate. There were also a few moments that did remind me of Neon Genesis Evangelion, another series I'm not super fond of but don't completely hate. I don't know. I tried to join the hype, but the hype didn't come. In short, I didn't hate the series. If I did, I wouldn't have watched the whole series and slightly anticipate a new season, if that's in the works. SnK fans, please don't hurt me. (/o\)

Danganronpa: Kibou no Gakuen to Zetsubou no Koukousei - The Animation (2013) | Rating: 4.5/5

Yet another series based on a game and I can not wait until it gets translated for the States. I didn't know what to expect from this series, but the summary sounded pretty interesting. Little did I know that I was going to be hooked so easily to it. The story is entertaining and keeps you on edge with its mysterious cliffhangers on nearly every episode. The difference between this series and the previous anime above was that I was able to really attach myself to the characters. I just felt more invest in them. At the moment, this is my favorite anime series of 2013 that I've seen.

Miss Monochrome: The Animation (2013) | Rating: 2.5/5

After finishing a couple series, I randomly scrolled by this series. I was curious, so I read up on what it was about. Most anime fans are familiar with the 3D characters Vocaloids, so this is similar. Miss Monochrome is a character created by seiyuu Horie Yui. The concept is very simple. Miss Monochrome is an android whose goal is to become a popular idol. Majority of the jokes in each 4 minute long episode stems from her being an android and simple-minded when she sees an idol on TV doing certain promotional efforts such as gimmicky props, endorsing sports, and guesting on TV shows. These jokes are pretty cheesy, so they can be hit or miss if you don't mind this ongoing joke from episode to episode. It never changes. For me, it didn't bother me too much because of the length of each episode. It was cute and simple and if it were a full length anime, it probably would get old very fast and the charm would fade away.

Karneval (2013) | Rating: 2.5/5

It seems as though with these newer anime series based off of manga series can be hit or miss with its content. Reading the comments of this series from MyAnimeList, sadly this series miss the mark for most fans. I was intrigued by this series as of last year when I started it. The plot sounded interesting, the characters and situation immediately caught my attention from the beginning of the first episode, and the art style was a treat for my eyes. Unfortunately, by the end of the first episode, I felt unsure and as I progressed I still felt unsure or even borderline neutral toward the series' attempts. Picking it up later to complete, my feelings haven't changed. The characters are interesting and have unique problems they want to solve and the art style was still very alluring, but it felt like I was missing something throughout the series. According to the comments, it seems as though that I am, which is unfortunate as everything else seems to be going in the right direction.

If there's something you want me to review, check out this post on how you can submit requests.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Starring: Gary Oldman, Jason, Clarke, Keri Russell, Andy Serkis
Directed by: Matt Reeves
Language: English
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 130 minutes

Aside from X-Men: Days of Future Past, I was really looking forward to this movie. I don't think I reviewed the first movie, but it was an exciting installment to a well known and very established franchise.

In 2016, ALZ-113 virus causes the downfall of human civilization. Ten years later, the residents of San Francisco who are immune to the virus are guarded by a guarded tower and barricade from the rest of civilization as well as a community of apes lead by Cesar. A small group of humans led by Malcolm search near Cesar's territory in search of a hydroelectric dam to power what is left of their city, but out of fear Blue Eyes, Cesar's son, is injured by a bullet. Cesar and his group pay a visit to the humans to maintain the division between the two groups, but Malcolm returns to their territory in reconciliation and permission to repair the hydroelectric dam.

Honestly, I don't think I've seen the first movie since it was released in theaters and I'm surprised at how much I remember from it. If you haven't seen Rise of the Planet of the Apes, you'll still be able to understand the sequel, but seriously...why would you want to skip it!? Without losing any sort of momentum, Dawn keeps perfect pace and entertainment throughout its slightly 2 hour runtime without a dull moment, which is a huge plus nowadays. The story has a very basic concept that could easily become monotonous, but the execution and characters keep the content fresh and leaves the audience wanting more. In short, it does everything you want in a prequel and more. It supplements the franchise and perhaps, at least in any case, make you want to watch what will inevitably be the future [i.e. the original Ape franchise].

A few points I want to mention without spoiling the movie are the parallels and character focus on the movie. One goal the plot wants to convey is that apes and humans are not that different. They both have a home and family/community they want to protect and provide for in any means necessary. This shown through parallels using character traits on both sides and situations they face like the potential of losing a loved one. I really enjoyed these parallels throughout the movie. They really enhance the plot, audience-to-character relationships, and message the movie is trying to convey. If you've seen Rise, then you understand that character focus is important. This installation made a bold choice with not only keeping consistency and having Cesar as our main protagonist, but watching him communicate to his fellow apes and family not only verbally (speaking in English) but through sign language and hand singals like the military (providing subtitles for the viewers). I know some people will probably groan at the thought of reading subtitles, but seriously...get over it. If the apes spoke too much it would feel unrealistic at this point in time. So, much kudos to the director on the bold decision. Lastly, I like that the movie kept its focus on Cesar's development and wasn't heavily human bias. I hope this continues to stay consistent in the next installment.

Similar to X-Men: Days of Future Past, I really have no major complaints with this film. The CGI wa really well done and at times I caught myself fearing the apes along with the humans. The tension was well implemented and the characters make you feel something. I'm really excited for the next movie and I'm considering looking into and revisiting previous the movies, even the one by Tim Burton. If it isn't obvious, I highly recommend this film. It's well worth your time and definitely contributes to the franchise in a very good way.

Rating: 4.5/5

If there's something you want me to review, check out this post on how you can submit requests.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Rant/Review: Heroes of Cosplay Season 1.5

It wasn't too long ago that I reviewed Syfy's Heroes of Cosplay. It took me some time to get my head straight and gather some reactions from critics and viewers. As of May 2014 another season was brought to the channel...well, a half season according to Wikipedia and IMDb. This half season experimented with a different angle or format to possibly make viewers happy or continue to irritate the cosplay community.