Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Three Mini Album Reviews

GO - Krizz Kaliko
Genre: R&B/Hip Hop/Alternative Rap

Krizz Kaliko from the Strange Music camp is a monument on the label as his versatile talents aid everyone in multiple ways. It's one reason why most people can't envision Tech N9ne without Krizz by his side, whether by adding a verse or singing a hit chorus. This creative mind also always brought his well-rounded style to each of his past albums while continuing to push his limits with every one. So I was heavily anticipating this current project, especially because he was going to focus his efforts more on his singing vocals and more live instrumentation.

Kaliko presents a introspective journey through funk, R&B, pop, and hip hop tracks that detail his means to escape depression and finally facing his problems head on. The singles do well to demonstrate the album's range with the danceable "Talk Up on It" and the melancholy "Stop the World". Other tracks that I found to become favorites include "Logged Off", "Orangutan", & "Happyish". Yet, I must recommend that anybody who loves R&B give this whole album a listen.

Far From Familiar - Sylvan LaCue
Genre: Hip Hop

My introduction to Sylvan LaCue was as QuESt on the album Searching Sylvan which made a fan with his passion, story, and craft over many styles of hip hop. After that album, he took a small break to regroup and rebrand by starting his own crew with Wise Up and dropping his moniker for his government name. Following that, he dropped an EP called Evangeline dedicated to his current love interest who helped him during his changes. This showed Sylvan was ready to come back with full force.

Far From Familiar still shows the great craftsmanship Sylvan became known for. We pick up following his story right where he left off, bringing life after the success of the previous album. He chronicles over production similar to modern trap beats then switch to singing something 808's and Heartbreaks-esque leading to a sound akin to Because the Internet's experimental moments. Sylvan clearly emotes lyrically and each track's atmosphere making tracks like "Fall From Grace", "Studio City", & "Crosswinds" so great. Thus, I must recommend this project to fans of Logic, Kanye West, & Kendrick Lamar.

Twenty88 - Twenty88
Genre: R&B/Rap

Now being a fan of one half of the newly formed duo Twenty88, I got interested through Jhene Aiko's teasing of a new project on social media. I soon realized that it would be a collaboration project with Big Sean, who I've always saw as a subpar rapper that has slowly improved over time. Once it released, I was surprised it was first on TIDAL before finally becoming available everywhere else. That delayed my listen to this project, since I dropped my subscription after my free trial expired. (Thank you, Yeezus!) Yet, I still got informed that this EP was coupled with a short film,"Out of Love", on the website, so I hoped I'd soon get to experience it.

That time came and I must say that their synergy is actually very apparent throughout the project. Their past collabs together (and love songs in general) have always seem to bring some decent songs out of Sean and I have to admit this gave me 7 out of 8. Plus the addition of Big Sean I feel probably aided the more diverse production which helped Jhene not get too stuck in one sound. The short film, which is set to a medley of 6 of the songs, presented a simple, but interesting watch following the artists living as a famous couple in an alternate sci-fi world. To conclude, I can recommend a listen to those who dig mainstream hip hop love songs. Oh, and favorites on this include "On the Way", "Push it", & "Talk Show".

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Review: The Forest

Starring: Natalie Dormer, Taylor Kinney, Yukiyoshi Ozawa
Directed by: Jason Zada
Language: English, Japanese
Country: USA
Runtime: 93 minutes
Rating: PG-13

The Forest is a film that was potentially doomed from its conception. The tale is based around a very real place, Aokigahara Forest, located at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan. This forest is known as a destination for people wanting to commit suicide. As many interested in Japanese culture will know, suicide is a very serious problem in Japan. It's not all visual kei, cute Lolita girls or strange game shows. Setting a horror movie in such a place is highly distasteful because it seems to be making light of the suicide epidemic. The forest is thought to be haunted by yurei, the angry spirits of those who've died in it's midst. The mystery and supernatural forces wrapped in the folklore of such a place leads a plethora of possible plot points. However, those potential stories need to be respectful of the culture and everything that comes with it.

Another problem The Forest faced was being lumped into the white washing of Hollywood. The lead actors are both Caucasian playing Caucasian characters. Some felt that the movie should have been about Asian characters exploring an Asian landscape and societal issue. However, this is a film about a foreign woman going to look for her equally foreign sister who happens to be living and working in Japan. The main characters weren't written to be Asian in the first place. 

'A woman goes into Japan's Suicide Forest to find her twin sister, and confronts supernatural terror.' [Source: IMDB]

Let's put aside the controversy that The Forest has been plagued by. The cast should be relatively sound. Natalie Dormer is quite popular for her work in The Tudors, Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games. Taylor Kinney is The Vampire Diaries, Zero Dark Thirty and Chicago Fire. Both have a relatively strong fan base that should have drawn in quite a few viewers despite the controversy. If nothing else, there would have been people who'd want to watch just to see what everyone was complaining about. 

The film opens with Sara receiving a phone call that her sister has been reported missing after a class trip to Mount Fuji. Jess, Sara's identical twin, was living and working in Japan as an English teacher. After discussing it with her husband and receiving a second phone call, Sara decides to travel alone to Japan in order to search for her sister. It was believed that Jess went into Aokigahara to commit
suicide. Once she arrives in Japan, Sara learns that the locals are reluctant to let her go into the forest. She meets Aiden, a reporter who has clearance to go into the forest with the help of Michi, a forest ranger. The trio sets out into the forest to look for Jess with the forewarning from Michi that the forest can play tricks on the mind.

This is where the film begins to fail. The scriptwriters began by trying to develop Sara into a character with real personality by giving us some time following her before she reaches the forest. Any of this development was cast aside once she reaches Aokigahara. Natalie Dormer tries her best to breathe life into Sara and by extension, Jess. Sadly, the other twin wasn't given any real screen time except in flashbacks. What was Jess' motivation? Why would she want to commit suicide? We're shown that she's on anxiety medication, but what person living abroad for the first time wouldn't be facing a bit of anxiety?

Aiden is also given no real time to develop as a character. Here is this mysterious reporter who frequently goes into the forest. What's his motivations? Is he hiding a sinister secret? Are the real
monsters human instead of yurei? The writers seem to have forgotten that he even needs a better personality. We're just expected to ignore the lack of personality as they get deeper in the forest.

Rather than developing a psychological horror, the filmmakers choose to use jumpy moments that don't result in any scares. The landscape itself could have led to quite a few intense moments. If you've ever been out in a dense forest at night, you're aware of how difficult it is to find your way. Disorientation, confusion and the sheer darkness would be enough to lead to horrifying moments. Add the additional psychological terror of knowing that every bump in the night could be the ghosts the locals believe in. Sadly, the writers didn't take these factors into consideration even after the director visited the real Aokigahara.

In the end, we're left to wonder why Jess would have gone into the forest in the first place. Was she suicidal? Why didn't Sara know what her twin's state of mind was? One could assume that they were on speaking terms despite the 6000 mile difference. It's not that hard to skype, call, email or text. If the bond between the sisters been elaborated on, the motivations would have driven the plot further along. The writing would have to be stronger for this to be possible. Instead, we get a thin plot with the usual jumpy moments thrown in to try to make the teenage audience happy. It's rather sad that this one couldn't grow past the controversy and be a strong film. The only real highlight is Natalie Dormer.

Rating: 2.5/5

Friday, April 22, 2016

Quick Movie Review

The Perfect Guy (2015, USA) | Rating: 3/5

Much like No Good Deed, this movie seemed very cliched and nothing new for black cinema. I wasn't all that interested in seeing this movie in theaters and the only reason I would want to would be to stare into Michael Ealy's beautiful, light colored eyes. Despite my boss spoiling a somewhat major plot point, I surprisingly enjoyed myself more than No Good Deed; granted that the movie overall wasn't anything astounding in the least. Nonetheless, it wasn't a terrible movie or anything. Things are quite predictable for the most part, minus that little spoiler, but things with Ealy's character almost goes from zero to a hundred like The Boy Next Door, but less laughable. Don't know if it's bias or not as Ryan Guzman was great eye candy, but Michael Ealy's experience shines a little brighter than Guzman's Noah character. I just believe him as more of a threat in comparison, in other words. The movie was an entertaining experience and did what The Boy Next Door wish it did as of tone and concept. I would probably put this on the same enjoyment level as another obsessive Idris Elba movie, Obsessed, which had its flaws and cliches, but was still fairly enjoyable.

Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015, USA) | Rating: 3/5

I'm not sure if I watched this before or after Cooties, but here's another comical zombie apocalypse movie. Although, I believe this one made it to the theater; I vaguely remember seeing the poster for it here. It wasn't anything I was anxious to see on the silver screen, so obviously I waited for the DVD release as it didn't look all that spectacular. Watching it at home proved my expectations...for the most part. It is quite silly, but it does have some laughs despite some of the perverted humor either fell flat or was overdone. I liked the main character and his romantic interest as they fight through the zombies and keeps his duties as a scout. I can see not a lot of people enjoying as much as say Zombieland, but I liked it more than another certain zombie comedy I will review later. In short comparison, I enjoyed Cooties more as it delivered more successful laughs than this one, but this movie wasn't terrible with its content or comedy.

Goodnight Mommy (2014, Austria) | Rating: 4/5

Looking at the cover of this movie, I thought this would be some cheesy straight to video American horror flick, but surprisingly it ended up being a surprisingly chilling Austrian flick. When I pick up these random horror movies at work and expect a funny time with a bad or cheesy movie, it makes me happy when they end up being remarkably good. When you go into this movie, don't be fooled by the trailer and think you're going to be immediately scared out of your skin or anything. No, this is a suspense builder that'll keep you thinking what's going on with these twins and their mother who may be someone else entirely. Throughout the movie, I tried to predict the conclusion of this, which in this case was a fun ordeal. Sometimes it can be just a fun thing to do to keep a bad movie (or show) exciting, but I genuinely was curious to know what the hell was happening. The twins were very convincing and I felt every bit of pain and struggle they experienced with each other and their mother. The cinematography is stunning and the story definitely keeps you on edge with the help of visual and audio atmosphere. The conclusion will either surprise you or mock you, but I felt a mix of surprise and a little sadness (in a good way). I definitely recommend this film for those who need a little foreign suspense in their life or those who simply enjoy that chilling feeling of the uncertain.

War Room (2015, USA) | Rating: 3.5/5

It's another rare religious movie moment! Yeah, I still don't watch too many of these, but this one is one I'm happy I took the time in seeing. I didn't know what to expect with this one, but I ended up enjoying it quite a lot. I even claimed that it's one of the best religious movies I've seen, out of the small handful. It does have a bit of cliched Tyler Perry-esque broken relationship story, but the part of the story that deals with Elizabeth and Miss Clara are the scenes that shine the most for me. Seeing these two women interact and learn from each other brings a smile to my face. Thinking about it now, I do recognize the flaws in this movie and it seems like this is a common thing that occurs in these Christian films. Elizabeth's marriage problems and Tony's relationship with his daughter seemed very contrived and not very well executed. The humor is a bit hit or miss, but at least the writer(s)' attempt to keep the jokes somewhat realistic as Elizabeth feels like someone I could meet in the real world. Also the end segment with Miss Clara's "call to arms" prayer kinda made me a bit...uncomfortable. I'm all about the power of prayer and everything, but it seemed like too much. It didn't feel natural I suppose. I understood what they were going for, but it just went a little overboard. Lastly, the conclusion of the Jordan family's story really stretches reality, but tries not to make it happy happy. Honestly, if you treat this like the better Tyler Perry movies and don't think too deeply on the marriage situation and focus on the message the movie tries to convey, I think it was a successful and even inspiring film.

A Hard Day (2014, South Korea) | Rating: 4/5

If you've been here for a while, you've noticed I've watched quite a few Korean action films and I tend to have high expectations of the content. Of course, like any genre, it can be hit and miss. With such an inconsistent track record in my selection, I guess my expectations have lowered over time a little, but for the most part, South Korea tends to deliver some good quality action films. Watching this movie, I didn't know what direction it would go, but the end result was definitely positive. Our main character Go Geon-soo has some charming, anti-hero personality traits. You like him enough to root for him against the enemy, but you dislike him a little for his unethical police habits that make him a bit untrustworthy at times. There was plenty of action in this cat and mouse chase and a surprise mixture of humor that kept me even more entertained. I never seen humor like this incorporated in a South Korean action film, so that made me very happy. Sometimes, South Korea, you don't have to be so serious with your action flicks.

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.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Four Short Anime Reviews

Noragami (2014)/Noragami Aragato (2015)
Genre: Action/Comedy

I went to check out this show purely off the review from Arkada of Glass Reflection. I'm glad that I did as well. This cool show full of gods and their battles with the phantoms of mankind's negative mentalities was extremely entertaining! The mystery behind who Yato is as the calamity god that no one knows brought a lot of neat action scenes along with a fun romp through the city with his odd jobs in order to gain more followers. Plus the relationships he gains through his accidental half-phantom friend, Hiyori, and his teenage regalia (weaponized partner-in-justice), Yukine, brought many of the laughs as well as tension. The world that these seasons built gave an interesting one to delve into and learn about as the hierarchy is structured and dangers of multi-named Nora spirits. If you enjoy a good short shonen series, I recommend it!

Ping Pong: The Animation (2014)
Genre: Sports

This one has always been on my "To Watch" list since I heard it recommended by Gigguk. I heard that once you get used to the art style of the show, you really can get into the characters and it's true. You really get a quick dive into the world of competitive ping pong in the journey of childhood friends Peco & Smile. The viewpoints of having the natural talent and actually caring about using your gifts prove how your efforts can be rewarded. You get attached to the characters quickly as they all have their quirks whether calculated & emotionless to fun spirited & cocky. If you like this genre of show, this quick 11 episode journey is a fun one to digest.

 Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple (2006)
Genre: Action/Comedy

Kenichi was a show introduced to me by my friend a while back and I remembered enjoying it thoroughly, so I decided to rewatch it in my sick bed since I had the time to sit through the 50 episode count. This show follows the journey of Kenichi who grew up as a cowardly boy, but after seeing a girl stand her ground against some street thugs decides to stop running from his own fights. This girl, Miu, befriends him and brings him to the legendary dojo, Ryouzanpaku, and its fearsome masters. There he trains in each masters' respective style from Muy Thai & Karate to Kenpo & Jiujitsu, while Kenichi becomes a target of a gang called Ragnarok. You follow his growth as a martial artist collecting friends and the respect of his peers with laughs and exciting battles. Definitely a shonen classic to me!

Steins;Gate (2011)
Genre: Mystery/Drama

Steins;Gate is a favorite of a friend of mine who referred me to it earlier last year. After watching it, I knew how it could be his favorite and later how other online reviewers recommended it. Being another show I could relive while sick recently, I gave this another go to see what new things I could catch. This little time travel tale had me dying of laughter and provoked with thought as I tried to piece together the conundrums of this group of friends who wrestle with the nuances of world lines. The invention of Future Gadgets Lab's time machine led by Rintarou Okabe chronicles how they can get to work, how they use it, and what it all leads to brings an emotional rollercoaster that anyone can enjoy. Once you get a taste of each member of the crew's eccentricities and how those dynamics play with each other, you won't get enough of their relationships and struggles to keep them throughout their troubles to reach the hallowed Steins;Gate!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Second Chances: Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon

Sailor Moon began an expansion of Naoko Takeuchi's manga series Codename: Sailor V. The series didn't feature Sailor Moon, but was centered around Sailor Venus who later becomes Sailor Moon's companion in the extended series. The mangas have been adapted into several animes, a live action and musicals. Today, we're focusing on the animes only. The mangas are certainly on my reading list. I have seen an episode or two of the musical, namely for having a cameo by Shazna's vocalist, Izam.

Super 90s anime style

Back in the 90s, Sailor Moon was a popular anime that I didn't like. I felt that the characters could be quite annoying overall when I saw the dubbed version that aired on Toonami in 1998.There was so much that I disliked about the anime that I never gave it a second chance. Sure, this was probably blasphemy since magical girl anime is the cutest thing ever. I'm fairly sure that I blacked out most of what I'd seen of that version.

Super gorgeous updated style

It wasn't until a few weeks ago that I found myself with the real desire to watch the updated version released in 2014. The art was quite lovely which is what I expect from an anime aimed at a female audience. I like the soft feel of it. It's updated, while still keeping a similar feel to what they tried to do on the previous version. I feel like this is a good balance of the old and the new as far as the animation is concerned. Toei does soften the animation even further for season 3, but I don't mind the change at all. Actually, I kind of like it a bit better because the transformations don't feel as cgi.

            90s version                                               2014 version       

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: Crystal has spanned three seasons so far. I ended up sitting in front of the laptop, starring at the screen as I absorbed episode after episode. I was enraptured with these characters that I once found annoying. Usagi is an adorable, complex character. Chibiusa is just as adorable as Usagi is. The other characters like Ami don't seem as brash as they seemed in the previous version. I keep finding myself wanting to see every episode and they don't come fast enough. I want to see what happens to these women (and Mamoru) next.

I've heard from a reliable source who has read all the manga, seen the original anime and watched Sailor Moon Crystal that the updated version follows the manga more closely. This gives me hope that I'll enjoy the manga as much as I've enjoyed Crystal. This is a huge change for someone who disliked the original so badly that I didn't want anything to do with it at all. Hurry up, Toei! I need more episodes!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Fair Shake Review: Erased

(Genre: Drama, Mystery)

Sometimes, Miko introduces me to shows that she finds my interest me like they do her. This time, though, it was right before the season was about to begin. Thus I knew that if I was to watch this, the chances of me having to watch this subbed was high. Some stories are worth that change of habit, though and this seemed promising. Since I am also a binge watcher, I stayed clear of the show until the season was near done. That didn't prevent me hearing opinions of some reviewers, so I was happy hearing relatively positive thoughts overall. The premise of traveling back in time to change the future for the better is a tried and true formula, but its approach seemed unique enough to dive in!

The first episode really fleshed out the unique aspect of our main character, Fujinuma Satoru's, time traveling ability he calls "Revival". It's explained as a sort of deja vu phenomenon where he notices something wrong that needs to be fixed from a few minutes ago. The results of saving these people occasionally do some harm to Satoru, but nothing too harmful. Yet by the end of the episode, the event that triggers his most special revival sends him 18 years back to the before the childhood tragedy seemingly connected to who he has to save. What it takes to change the future is what will unfold, and it all must be done in the form of a child.

The twists and turns of this anime kept me hooked and watching each episode. I do believe that you must suspend your belief a bit to immerse yourself into the story, but I do feel that it is decently executed. If you don't mind kids almost having a Detective Conan way of thinking, you will certainly enjoy how each new trial is dealt with. I, for one, loved how all the characters interacted with each other and kept the theme of being there for someone prevalent throughout the show. Plus, I always get a kick out of shows that try to delve a little into how the criminal mind works. I did get some hints of who the true culprit was going to be, but I didn't expect resolution we got. Yet, I certainly have more to say in the more spoiler territory of this review. The video below will contain those thoughts. For those who'd like to see Erased beforehand, I'd advise you come back to watch my spoiler-filled musings on the anime.

Other Erased related videos
Erased Promo Video (What Miko showed me)
Weebing Out Over ERASED (What I heard while waiting to watch it)
ERASED Was Never That Good (Digibro's opposing review)
Glass Reflection Review (Arkada's take on ERASED)
Steins;Gate Promo Video (Another time traveling tale)
Read Monster's Synopsis (Monster is a GREAT Thriller I recommend)

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Review: Session 9

Starring: David Caruso, Stephen Gevedon, Paul Guilfoyle
Directed by: Brad Anderson
Language: English
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hr 37 mins

This is another movie that slipped through the cracks of busy-ness that should've been posted in October. *sighs* Fortunately here at Muddy Cult, horror media is not just reserved for October. It's safe to say that this post has been collecting a bit of dust while I tended to slightly newer things in my queue.

An asbestos abatement crew wins the bid for an abandoned insane asylum. What should be a straightforward, if rather rushed, job, is complicated by the personal histories of the crew. In particular, Hank is dating Phil's old girlfriend, and Gordon's new baby seems to be unnerving him more than should be expected. Things get more complicated as would-be lawyer Mike plays the tapes from a former patient with multiple personalities, including the mysterious Simon who does not appear until Session 9, and as Hank disappears after finding some old coins. [Source: IMDb]

The downside of running a blog by yourself for a while is trying to keep up with everything. Matters are made worse when you're already majorly behind...which I still am, but I am getting a little better. In short, what I'm trying to say, is putting off certain posts for others leads you to forget things. I remember going into this movie not expecting too much. I haven't come across too many good movies that I've never heard, but sounded at least somewhat interesting. Once the movie started going, I increasingly became more and more interested in what was going on. The movie balanced the session tapes and the group's exploits throughout the abandoned building well. It didn't disrupt the flow of reveal and kept me wanting more as time went on. The characters were interesting and diverse in personality and produced a decent conflict among themselves and the mysterious assailant. While they cleaned up things and explored the area, I got to indulge in the slow building information of the former patient Mary through the tapes and her various mental inhabitants. The story does build up slowly and you're constantly wondering which direction it'll go, but once it picks up, it's quite a trip. Everyone gets to face their own set of demons: darkness, greed, and guilt.

I enjoyed the atmosphere of this movie and it successfully conveyed an emptiness and expanse. I believed that this area was big enough to lose people, although sometimes I had a tiny bit of difficulty keeping up with the layout in my head when everyone was separated. As much as I enjoyed listening to the tapes, I did have a bit of a hard time hearing certain parts and comprehending the contents completely. Some may brush this off as a minor problem, but these tapes play a major part in the overarching story. These tapes concede with our characters and reveals a bit of history of the asylum. It's also related to the climax and conclusion of their job. Thinking about it now, the contents aren't extremely remarkable or new, but the execution was at least interesting enough to keep watching and figuring out how the story would end.

Session 9 is honestly nothing super special and doesn't add anything new to the table, but what it does with its cliche contents is take a slightly different approach with its story, atmosphere, and characters. Watching these characters interact and develop kept me interested and curious on how their job would conclude. Despite the twist being either slightly predictable or cliched, I thought it was executed well and gave me a little surprise. In short, this wasn't a terrible movie and I was pleasantly surprised. It is intriguing and offers some good material to the mentally insane category.

Rating: 3/5

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

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Quick Anime Review

Noblesse: The Beginning of Destruction (2015) | Rating: 3/5

The sequel of this manwha adaptation (I believe) popped up on my feed of where I normally watch anime and I learned that it was indeed a sequel. While getting into this OVA, listening to these characters talk was slightly off putting and took some audible adjusting. It wasn't that the voice acting was bad or anything, but it was a Korean anime. Hence, all the dialogue is spoken in Korean. I'm no stranger to manhwa as I do own a small handful of them, but I've never watched a Korean anime or an adaptation of a manhwa. The animation was very vibrant and the action was very smooth. I enjoyed watching this story unfold, although at times I wish I knew more information about our two main characters and their relationship history. Despite the lack of character background, it didn't fail to make me feel strongly about their situation with each other and society. I am looking forward to continuing forward in the sequel and hopefully learn more about Raizel and Mujaka.

Divine Gate (2016) | Rating: 1.5/5

I guess I've finally become that person that gets into the new series of the year. Perhaps the overwhelming feeling has washed away some. It's still a little overwhelming, but something about this winter season has eased up the pressure to some extent. Perhaps it is the quality of what I have chosen. In my first entry of the winter season, I thought the premise seemed interesting and the art style was somewhat unique. It had a bold and vibrant color and suited its mobile app source material, although I have no idea what the app looks like. Anyway, I was skeptical on how this "adaptation" would go as there's only so much you can do with mobile apps in the first place and honestly, the story had good ideas, but was poorly executed. I'm surprised I got myself through all 12 episodes when I should've dropped it about half way. It really was lacking and didn't explain a lot of the fantasy/sci-fi elements it presented. It also didn't help that the characters didn't have much depth, so when they face their fears or those most precious to them, you don't feel anything. Lastly, spoiler, the final episode is a complete let down as the goal these characters are trying to reach throughout the series, they decide not to pursue it at all. *facepalm* In short, this series was a complete waste of time and I didn't find anyone disappointed or surprised by the conclusion in the comments.

Haikyuu!! Second Season (2016) | Rating: 4/5

Getting into Haikyuu!! was a very good decision and I was excited to jump into the next season so soon. Watching this second season and thinking of the potential content in the upcoming third, really reminded me of the game setup in Kuroko no Basket. They have their own Inter High Tournament and "Generation of Miracles" to deal with. You still get to watch your characters grow, learn, and interact with each other, especially with the pressure of the third years graduating looming in the distance. Expect the game to be stretched out over several episodes and leaving you on the edge of your seat. If you're used to the game setup in Kuroko no Basket, then this shouldn't be any surprise or inconvenience. I still love these characters immensely and watching them play brings out so many emotions and a bit of stress (in a good way). Let's bring home the championship, Karasuno!!

Dimension W (2016) | Rating: 2/5

Next new series of the winter was another show that I thought had an interesting premise and I had a mix art style of traditional and CGI. I loved the opening a lot and had a hard time skipping it as it's performed by STEREO DIVE FOUNDATION, the same group that brought you the hyped opening "RENEGADE" for GANGSTA. Unlike Divine Gate, the characters had more depth and background and I kinda felt a little more attachment to some of the characters. Unfortunately, certain plot points throughout the series seemed either convoluted or confusing. I'm not even sure if the characters understood what the heck was going on in the second half of the show. I was surprised to find that people were looking forward to a second season, even though I thought it was only a tiny bit more exciting than Divine Gate. As much as I enjoyed learning about Kyouma and watching his relationship with Mira, I was bored and kinda pushed myself through this series.

Boku dake ga Inai Machi (2016) | Rating: 4.5/5

This winter season series I've been going back and forth on whether to do a full review or not. I know BlipMasta5 has something planned on his end, so I'll see how I feel later as I do have a ton of other things I'm working on here. Some may think this series is a little overhyped, but seriously I think this is this year's Zankyou no Terror a.k.a my favorite new series of the year (so far). The story was very much addicting and I loved following these characters from episode to episode. Any show that gives me a chance to form an emotional attachment to is a great one and this show succeed in that. Despite having to adjust to the character art style and the "big reveal" was quite predictable, it was still shocking to learn all these other details and sitting at the edge of my seat at the end of each episode. Sure, there are moments where you have to suspend reality, but overall, it's highly enjoyable and it's been awhile since I've watched such a great suspense, mystery series. I'm hoping at some point I can find the manga the show is based on and that it doesn't receive a second season. That might sound strange, but I have no idea where they would go from where they left off and I'm happy with where it ended. If it does happen, I won't ignore it.

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

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Quick Movie Review

Final Girl (2015, Canada) | Rating: 2/5

This film was also reviewed quickly by Miko. My own opinion on it is pretty similar. The biggest problem with this movie is that there wasn't enough detail put into the plot. Why has William trained Veronica to kill? What is the purpose of her actions? The costuming and set design lead you to believe that this is 1950s America. The questions extend to William and the boys doing the killing. Put away any rational for this one and enjoy the visuals for what they are. There were some fairly decent moments.

Kite (2014, USA/Mexico) | Rating: 1/5

I've come to firmly believe that live action adaptations of anime, manga and video games rarely work in the way that the film industry intends. There are far too many that have been unsuccessful. Kite is one of those unsuccessful adaptations. The problem isn't entirely in the whitewashing of Sawa and Oburi. It was also in the choice to significantly tone down the source material. If you're making a film about a teenage sex slave turned assassin, you're going to have to be willing to show what she's going through. Instead, you mostly have the actress running around and appearing vulnerable when she should have been a more hardened character. One of my biggest complaint is that this ends up looking very much like a Luc Besson action film. The director leaned far too much on Besson for influence.

The Moth Diaries (2011, Canada/USA) | Rating: 2.5/5

Rebecca has just returned to her boarding school after the suicide of her father. She's intensely attached to her best friend, Lucy, to the point of obsession. When Lucy makes friends with a new student named Ernessa, Rebecca begins to believe that the new girl may just be a vampire. This one is based on a book of the same title by Rachel Klein. While I haven't read the novel, I am quite familiar with the vampire novel, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's Carmilla, that the author drew inspiration from. The film version toys with your perception of reality. Is Rebecca suffering from delusions as the events happen? It's not clear whether she's suffering from a psychotic break or whether Ernessa really is a vampire. The film suffers from being too slow and rather boring overall. I had to watch twice because I fell asleep. However, the ideas for the plot were quite sound.

The Lazarus Effect (2015, USA) | Rating: 1/5

This is another film previously reviewed by Miko. I had similar feelings on this one as well. This film was more of the same old tropes despite a cast that could have been capable of doing something new and different. It's another case of medical research gone too far with horrific consequences. Sadly, it's more of the usual jump scares with not much in between. The characters aren't given any real depth. The use of flashbacks were quite confusing overall. I wouldn't recommend anyone seeking this one out.

Jupiter Ascending (2015, USA) | Rating: 2.5/5

The Wachowski siblings are known for scifi/fantasy films such as the Matrix. Jupiter Ascending fulfills the visual standard that they set with their previous films. However, it fails overall due to a muddled script and lack of character development. The concept is all there, but without the needed execution to pull it off flawlessly. I would have liked to see what they could have put together if they hadn't suffered from script problems and an overuse of cgi. The world they'd created could have been a cohesive female driven science fiction story if put in the right hands.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Quick Movie Review

Self/less (2015, USA) | Rating: 2.5/5

The first time I saw the trailer to this movie, I really wanted to see it in theaters. It looked really interesting and starred two very prominent actors, Ryan Reynolds and Ben Kingsley. It looked very polished and the story sounded entertaining, but...I never got around to seeing it in theaters and thank God that didn't happen. Checking it out from work proved that this was better a waste of time than a waste of money. No, it wasn't a terrible movie. No, it wasn't a complete disappointment. There were interesting and great moments of action, but it was lacking in a lot of places for me to truly enjoy it. Imagine a less cheesy, better budgeted, and updated Face/Off. It's kinda like that. The story was lackluster, but the action was good and it looked good. I don't know. I just really wish there was more.

Trainwreck (2015, USA) | Rating: 3/5

Amy Schumer is someone I know exists, has a show on Comedy Central, and what I've seen of her is quite funny. She delivers adult humor that you normally would only hear from male comedians, but like other women in her field, she makes it more acceptable for female comedians to give such brash, sexual, and gross humor without it feeling forced or unnatural. This movie is probably the most I've experienced from her, because I really don't watch her show and I don't think I've seen her in much else. I'm not oblivious to her humor or anything, so I knew what I was getting myself into when I popped the disc into my PS2. The first movie that came to my head was The Ugly Truth, which has been criticized by one of my favorite reviewers for being contradictory to Katherine Heigl's goal as an actress or whatever. Anyway, I was a little hesitant about this movie, but I did enjoy it quite a bit. I wouldn't recommend it to everyone, but those ladies who are sick of conventional romance movies or cheesy romantic comedies will enjoy it. Sure, it does follow the tropes and guidelines of romantic comedies, but Schumer's humor and chemistry with Bill Hader spices it up.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015, USA) | Rating: 3/5

Surprised I'm not doing a full length review for one of the most anticipated movies in 2015? Well, I don't have too much to say about it to meet my "word quota". Much like the Lord of the Rings and Star Trek franchises, I'm simply a casual fan. I don't know all the mythos, lore, and intricate details of the Star Wars history. Although, after watching this latest installment, I feel like I need to watch episodes 4-6 fully at some point. Much like Mad Max: Fury Road, this movie received tons of hype and praise on opening weekend. I took my time getting into this movie. I think I saw it the following week or something. Now for the review portion of this paragraph. Yes, I enjoyed this movie. Yes, I enjoyed it more than the prequels. But no, I wasn't swept away by the hype. I'm probably going to receive some criticism for this, but this movie is fortunate enough to have a huge franchise behind it, otherwise its sequel may be questionable to some. The movie is predictable in a lot of places and I know some reviewers I follow mention that it is a retread of Luke's beginnings as well as repeating other elements from episodes 4-6. I was happy to see some of the iconic characters from the beginnings and making up in quality of the prequels, but I just didn't see anything special about this movie. The characters are great, I love the diversity, and it was a gorgeous looking movie. It's just storywise is...kinda simple. Just so you know, I didn't hate or dislike this movie in the least. It was alright and I am looking forward to seeing what will happen with this new generation trio and revealing the villain(s) more.

Cooties (2015, USA) | Rating: 3.5/5

We need to stop meeting like this, Elijah Wood. I've seen so many straight to DVD (I'm assuming) releases from him. I wonder if this is a career choice or a slump for him. Anyway, this movie was more entertaining and fun compared to the last Wood film I watched. Sure, zombies are everywhere in media, especially since The Walking Dead has blown up on televisions around the world. What makes this any different than the hordes of zombie movies and shows we're bombarded with? Well, this goes more the cooties effect that 90's kids know from their playground years. Circle, circle, dot, dot, now you have your cootie shot. Yeah, this infection only infects children who haven't hit puberty and the results are very comical and delivers some high energy action scenes with these over the top characters that run the school. It's great to see a movie have fun with its content and deliver something a little different while the genre is still hot.

The Hateful Eight (2015, USA) | Rating: 4/5

Ever since I saw this in theaters, I've been going back and forth on whether I wanted to give this a full review or not. Now that it's on DVD, I might give it a full review later. No promises though. Anyway, I know a lot of people who know the story about this movie's script getting leaked were worried that it would never be made and released to the public. First off, stop leaking things, people! Second, I'm very happy that Tarantino went ahead with his eighth movie. If you're used to his style when it comes to dialogue, then you shouldn't have too many complaints about the amount of dialogue and pacing. The movie is like a 3-4 scene play that mainly focuses on character interaction and subtle progression within each participate. That slow burn is what really kept me and perhaps my mother sucked into this post-war, western world with Samuel L. Jackson and company. Once it picks up, it really picks up and it is very bloody. You'll never predict the reveal and twists within this story and I love that. Honestly, I think it deserved a couple more Oscars than it received, but whatever.

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.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Review: Grave of the Fireflires

Starring: Tsutomu Tatsumi, Ayano Shiraishi, Akemi Yamaguchi
Directed by: Isao Takahata
Language: Japanese/English
Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 89 minutes

Grave of the Fireflies is a movie I've put off watching for a while. Not because of the content, but just timing. When I saw that my workplace had received a couple copies of this serious animated classic, I decided it was time to delve into this little beast of emotions and see what everyone was talking about.

Setsuko and Seita are brother and sister living in wartime Japan. After their mother is killed in an air raid they find a temporary home with relatives. Having quarreled with their aunt they leave the city and make their home in an abandoned shelter. While their soldier father's destiny is unknown, the two must depend on each other to somehow keep a roof over their heads and food in their stomachs. When everything is in short supply, they gradually succumb to hunger and their only entertainment is the light of the fireflies. [Source: IMDb]

I've heard many things about this movie from friends and various countdowns online. The most common comments are that the movie is beautiful and very sad or depressing. After watching it, I would have to strongly agree. From the synopsis alone, you can tell that this isn't going to be a fun trip, especially when children are involved. Backtracking to the animation, I would like to say a little more than I agree that the animation is great. It has a gloomy and appropriate color scheme to match the era. Lots of earth tones and browns that you see in a lot of war type films. The animation is very realistic and easily grabs you in the moment, whether good or bad. In short, it was a great choice for this emotional and realistic anime.

The other half of the compliment is the story, which is, in short, quite tragic and beautifully written. I can see this being inspired by a true story at that time. No matter what war you look at, children are affected by the violence between both parties. It was quite a feat to see such a story through the eyes of children and made it even more depressing than it already is. Watching them trying to survive on their own is a tough watch, but adding elements of abusive and unappreciative family members definitely adds a nail in the coffin for our main characters. The story successfully tugs at your heart and holds your hand through every situation Setsuko and Seita face. You'll feel frustrated, in awe, sad, hopeful, and downright depressed. In short, the story does a good job balancing the positive and negative emotions throughout the running time of the movie. So, you don't have to worry about the movie kicking you in the heart while it's down too much. Obviously, the characters greatly help the story. Sure, you can go either way with a story like this, but the characters, specifically Setsuko and Seita, really pull you in this time period and their daily struggles to survive. When our main characters leave their abusive aunt's home and live on their own, you really feel that sense of relief from the oppressive atmosphere and an instant feeling of hope that things will improve for them. Of course, when things go downhill, it really pierces your heart and you may experience some leakage from the corner of your eyes.

Despite the serious and unhappy tone of the movie, Grave of the Fireflies is an excellent film for anime fans. It gives the viewer a realistic look of that era in Japan through the eyes of children without sugarcoating it. The art and animation is not flashy nor over the top, so it doesn't distract from the serious tone of the story, but also lightens up during times of hope and joy. Setsuko and Seita successfully takes its viewers through their life of survival and optimism. This movie is definitely not for everyone, so don't assume that because it is an anime that your children would enjoy it. This is no Miyazaki fantasy story, this is reality and reality can be downright depressing sometimes. Of course, it does highlight the good and bad of life and has a bittersweet ending that'll really keep you thinking while you're wiping the tears from your eyes.

Rating: 4.5/5

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