Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Review: Cube

Starring: Nicole de Boer, Maurice Dean Wint, David Hewlett
Directed by: Vincenzo Natali
Language: English
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

How do I begin to introduce this unique science fiction thriller? Well, it randomly appeared before me at my workplace and it looked extremely intriguing. Upon reading the back of the box, I knew I had to explore this wonder. I mean look at that cover art! Doesn't it scream "Watch me, I'm amazing!"?

Six different people, each from a very different walk of life, awaken to find themselves inside a giant cube with thousands of possible rooms. Each has a skill that becomes clear when they must band together to get out: a cop, a math whiz, a building designer, a doctor, an escape master, and a disabled man. Each plays a part in their thrilling quest to find answers as to why they've been imprisoned. [Source: IMDb]

Something I mention from time to time when it comes to a good movie is that the first 10-15 minutes are the most important. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule for those stories that have a slow build, but usually maintain some sort of underlying strong hook. Cube definitely has a strong beginning that causes you to ask lots of questions. The movie does not hold back in dropping you into this mysterious man made contraption and then immediately makes you sit back in your seat when the inevitable happens to one of its victims, then the story slows down and lets us marinate on what just happened as it introduces the cast of characters and where their surroundings. The movie offers some really great characters that may come off as one dimensional through their dominating traits, but they contribute a lot to the progression of the story. The longer they stay together and we learn more about them, the more the stakes grow and paranoia sets in. Your emotions are going to change a lot throughout this film, from panic to relief to paranoid to hopeful. It's very easy to attach yourself to certain characters and have this strong feeling to avoid the bad apples. It's somewhat obvious who to avoid, but who to cheer for is up to you in the end. Once you find your favorite(s), there's a good chance that your emotions are going to sync with theirs and you want to protect them through and through. As for the ones you're not cheering for nor disliking, you still care about them and want them to succeed as well. No matter what you feel, the way these characters are portrayed, you want to know more about them and understand their motives.

I already touched a little bit on the story in the paragraph above. If it wasn't obvious, I really enjoyed the heck out of this story. It had a very strong start that instantly got me curious and wanting an explanation for the madness with its characters. The story had really good pacing and knew when to slow down and speed up when things got tense and claustrophobic with our group of characters. There was some explanation for this mysterious experimental cube, but it didn't flat out lay the reasons behind the selection or the existence of said cube. Normally, this would be an aggravating factor, but what is withheld keeps me wanting more and kinda increases the mystery and horror of this seemingly losing battle of wits and endurance. Finding out that there was a sequel made me extremely happy and hopeful that I would learn more about the cube and its participants who are on the inside and outside of it. Sometimes a little mystery can go a long way if you do it right and Cube hits all the right notes. For that, I understand how this movie has made cult status.

It has been quite some time that I've seen this movie and I feel awful that I put off reviewing it. So, I can't go into too much detail on the negatives. Honestly, what I can recall, there wasn't much complaint while watching. There might've been some cheesy, dated dialogue and possibly some annoyance from Quentin, but other than that, I can't think of any major complaints coming to my mind immediately.

Cube was definitely a fun, science fiction thriller with a great variation of characters to keep the story interesting. I really enjoyed their relationships and conflicts and how they functioned in their unusual situation. The whole premise was something that I enjoy in movies like Saw and You're Next where people need or want to work together to get through a dire or strange situation. The story had good pacing and kept just enough information secret to keep me hooked and wanting more in the sequel.

Rating: 4.5/5

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

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Quick Anime Review

Psycho-Pass 2 (2014) | Rating: 3/5

I wasn't quite enamored as a lot of fans of the first season, but I knew eventually I would try out the second season to see if it would change my mind and pull me onto the bandwagon. Well, I felt about the same as the first season. I enjoyed the cat and mouse chase and the action and character development kept me hooked, but it did not excite me enough to join the diehard fanbase. On the surface and a little below that, the story seems very similar to the first season, except Akane Tsunemori becomes more of the headstrong motivator of the team and the brainstormer. It was nice seeing Akane's growth without her season one partner Shinya Kougami. I also thought their opponent presented quite the challenge for our characters. One compliant I have is the controversy over the Sybil System still exists and it feels like everything Akane accomplished in the previous season didn't change anything in this season. It's a little frustrating for me, but maybe there's more detail about that in the movie or something.

Ajin (2016) | Rating: 4/5

I briefly mentioned the anime in my first impressions of the manga and anticipated it, along with the movie and boy, there were some complaints. The complaints had nothing to do with the characters or the story but the choice of animation style. It was an interesting choice of CG, but after a few minutes, my eyes weren't too put off by it and thought it fit the tone of the story. I will admit that there were a few small moments where the animation did look a little odd. As for the success of adapting such an intriguing manga, I thought it was successful. I'm still currently reading the series and I got further in the story through the anime and I'm looking forward to delving further into the series and eventually start the first movie. Fortunately, it does seem like viewers did enjoy the story and either adjusted to the visuals or tolerated them for the character development and unpredictable turns in the narration, which leads to a greenlight for the rest of the movies and a second season for the series!

Yowamushi Pedal (2013) | Rating: 4/5

Alright! So, I've watched swimming, basketball, fishing, and waiting for the third season of volleyball. Now, here we are with competitive cycling! I guess I really am getting involved with all these sports anime series and so far they have been very enjoyable. So, did this sports anime break the cycle? (pun intended) Nope. While it did take a bit of time for me to get comfy with our home team, but it didn't take long for me to feel very acquainted with the first years to be. The training was a long, grueling process, but worth the blood, sweat, and tears of each member. They worked very hard to get to Inter-High. Of course, their journey to victory does not slack up on the intensity and stress of this entertaining series of cycling. I'm currently watching the second season and the tension is still there.

Mayoiga (2016) | Rating: 2/5

This is one of the series I watched in the Spring 2016 releases that I wanted to check out. It sounded and looked like an interesting horror trip and I was looking forward to jumping on the bus with our characters. Upon the first episode, I didn't realize we would be keeping up with so many characters and at first, I was a little concerned, but I went with it. I'm used to keeping up with a lot of characters from The Walking Dead to Battle Royale (novel, manga, and movie). The one thing that those stories had that this series didn't was an interesting and entertaining story. It had a strong beginning as our characters looked forward to starting a new life on this abandoned island, but once the mysterious "monster" and trust issues began, the story slowly went off the tracks. With one note characters cluttering up the flow and a weak haunted tale, disappointment gradually loomed its ugly head and a sigh of mourning for potential passed my lips on the final couple of episodes.

Kagewani (2015) | Rating: 4/5

On the eve of finishing High School of the Dead, I was ready to jump into Kagewani: Shou, but I realized that it was the second season. Clearly you can't start the second season without the first. Before I started the series, I noticed that each episode was about 7-8 minutes long; very easy to binge watch. So, it took me a couple days or so to get through 13 episodes and I had a mix of emotions, none of them were negative though. I had no idea what was happening before my eyes, but I couldn't stop watching the horror unfold on these unsuspecting people. These monsters were attracted to fear and despair and no one knew how to stop them. Sousuke Banba wanted to help the people and understand the monsters and Masaki Kimura wanted to control them to his will and gain power. We've seen it many times when the government wants to weaponize something uncontrollable and unknown; it never works. Not only was the story intriguing, but the unique cut out, watercolor art style that I'm still not sure what to call it really kept my eyes busy. I'm currently watching the second season and it's just amazing how a 7-8 minute show feels like a full length episode. It's very engaging, action pack, and has some very interesting characters. Definitely a different kind of horror I've never experienced in the anime medium.

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

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Four Music Reviews (June 2016)

The Human Condition - Jon Bellion
(Genre: Pop/Alternative Pop)

Ever since I became acquainted with Visionary Music Group through Logic, I caught wind of one of the other artists on the docket. It was Jon Bellion and I couldn't help but be intrigued by his brand of pop music. I began with The Separation album and was hooked after seeing the making of some of those tracks. After that, The Definition album solidified him to me as the next thing the pop radio needed. His uncanny ability to fuse pop with an alternative flair with a J. Dilla (hip hop) influence is addicting.

This is where The Human Condition comes in as his official debut album on the major label, Capitol Records. Though his affiliation with them apparently started after the first project, the scale of this LP is noticeably larger. Bellion brings his catchy pop vocals and his signature sound with more bells and whistles with gorgeous results. People who dwell in the sounds of pop music and hip hop could definitely get their fill here. My favorites include: "New York Soul (pt. ii)", "Maybe IDK", "Overwhelming", & "Guillotine". 

Half Way There, Pt. 1 - Snow Tha Product
(Genre: Rap/Hip Hop/Pop)

My introduction to Snow Tha Product was through her collabs with Strange Music artists like Krizz Kaliko and Tech N9ne. I was drawn in by her level of lyricism and technical skill displayed by her fast rapping (or chopping). Through research I found out about her WOKE movement and Good Nights and Bad Mornings mixtape. I discovered that she just became my new rapper to "turn up" to, especially after the extended version "GNBM: The Hangover" was released. Even with "The Rest Comes Later" mixtape, I knew that she was an artist that you can play at the party and listen to her relatable stories on your downtime.

The long awaited release under Atlantic Records, "Half Way There, Pt. 1" EP is a slightly more radio ready sound for Snow, yet it still maintains her style. The singles "Nights" and "Get Down Low" really aim for that chart hit appeal, but has her expressing her feelings and hustle naturally and respectfully. She even includes a track that's predominately in Spanish with the Reggaeton-esque "Nuestra Cancion". It seems like Snow is primed and ready to finally get the mainstream recognition she deserves with this project. My picks from the EP would definitely be the less pop tracks like "No Cut" and the interludes "Too Much" & "Too Much to Take".

A Star - Alleon Mathis
(Genre: R&B/Trap Rap)

Alleon Mathis is an acquaintance of mine from Kansas. I met him years ago and was instantly impressed by his stunning vocal performance at a show. I knew then that he was one to keep an eye on, because he had a lot of potential to breakout. I then saw him pop up on occasion with a new track or music video and enjoyed the quality of his work and appeal. I was then left waiting to see if a new project would eventually be released.

That happened last month to my surprise as I lost track of him on social media for a bit. Yet, catching the premiere of the title track's music video, "A Star", I immediately downloaded the album. I suddenly became aware that his definitive sound would be akin to Chris Brown on trap beats or cloud rap. Or you can imagine if Migos or Fetty Wap sang really well, instead rapped. Many of the songs have a hip hop club vibe that will get a grinding session for anyone on the dance floor. Tracks range from love of women, relationships, and working hard for your dreams delivered in the most concise way possible. Though his song writing may be simple, his vocal performances are not and provide the vibe anyone who enjoy that type of music. A few joints I enjoy include "A Star", "Let's Have Fun", "Always & Forever", & "785". 

Calm B4 the Storm - Sav Dawsyn
(Genre: Cloud Rap/Hip Hop)

Sav is another Kansan artist that I came across a little while ago. I was introduce to him through a Topeka artist compilation and his affiliation with another childhood friend/artist Seuss. I was appeased by his clever wordplay and production choices. Ever since that introduction about 2 years ago, I've watched him grow into one of my favorite new artists from my hometown. After "Project 301" and seeing him perform live, I knew for certain I needed to keep my eye on him.

On the road to this project, the singles he put out before the release excited me by showing more variation on the production side demonstrating his continually expanding versatility. This album gives a nice range of topics from his pursuit of dreams, the skill he possesses, his loyalty to his girl, & his usage of the ganja. This a very enjoyable listen as he glides over beats with precision and authenticity. To be honest, I find him to almost be Topeka's J. Cole and Sav is actually starting to dabble in producing himself. Standout tracks, in my opinion, would be "Trip6ix (ii)", "PocketPlottin", "My Steez", & "Matching Mercedes".

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Quick Television Review

I watch a lot of television shows, whether on TV, DVD, or Netflix, and I've been going back and forth on whether I should treat some of these shows like anime and movies. As much stuff as I watch, sometimes I just don't have enough words to describe them to fill a single post for each show. I want to share them and get their quality out there to you guys, but obviously, I caved into my desires for some quick television reviews to satisfy my need to share. Just because these shows are in a quick review does not mean that they're bad, it's just that I don't have a lot to say about them good, bad, or in between.

Lucifer Season 1 (13 episodes) | Status: Renewed
Rating: 4/5

Not only have comic books invaded the cinema, but now they're taking over our homes through television and Netflix (and other streaming mediums). While I haven't delved into DC and Marvel heroes too deeply, I'm pleased with the few comic book adapted shows I have seen so far. I didn't know this show was a comic, until after the first episode, so I'm looking forward to checking out the source material, even though a co-worker confirmed that the show and comic are different. I don't mind that as I was very entertained from this first season. Tom Ellis was the perfect devilishly, charming gentleman that you wouldn't mind committing a few sins for. I skimmed through a Yahoo! review [which I think people should take with a grain of salt] that the show was your typical criminal of the week type of show and while it seems that way, there's so much more offered. There's crime and the supernatural, a supernatural element that majority of familiar with. There's plenty of biblical references littered throughout the show and it really made me think as Lucifer Morningstar struggled within himself on how he feels about his newfound crime partner Detective Chloe Decker as well as his past relationship with his heavenly Father and ties to hell. Each crime was an interesting adventure, but what kept me was the character development our main cast of human and demonic characters. They have great chemistry among each other and I really enjoyed watching them interact and react to each other. If you haven't watched it, I would definitely check it out. I know I'm very happy that it has been renewed for a second season and once again I am looking forward to checking out the source material soon.

How to Get Away With Murder Season 2 (15 episodes) | Status: Renewed
Rating: 4/5

First of all, I want to say that I have a newfound admiration for Shonda Rhimes and I highly recommend fans of hers to check out her book, Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person. Now, you're probably surprised that I'm not doing a follow up full length review of the second season, since I did one for the first. Annalise Keating and company are back with another rollercoaster of emotions, borderline criminal activity, and plenty of twists and turns to keep you on your toes! This second season does not hold back with the relationship conflicts. The biggest thing on trial in this season is trust. While most of Annalise's students seem mostly resolved with the results of what happened with Annalise's husband and Rebecca, another huge problem occurs that seems nearly impossible for mother bird to deflect. Yes, this season keeps me extremely hooked to the drama and I just can't believe how they're able to escape each corner they're placed in. Of course, all this protection comes with a price and the stress clearly shows for Annalise and her associates Bonnie and Frank. This season Annalise shares the spotlight with Wes, which can be good and bad for some viewers as he can be a little annoying, but his buried past is somehow intertwined with his teacher and that also helped hook me even further into this show...not that it needed to. There's still a few trials laced in this crazy story to keep you in awe of Annalise's arguing abilities, so the premise isn't lost in who's sleeping with who and character confrontations. The season finale definitely was a killer for me and I am dying to know what Wes and Annalise's fate is in season three. One little criticism though, I do wish there was less sexual encounters or switching of partners. While the romance aspect of these characters are entertaining, I don't want the intriguing, heart hitting content to get lost in lust.

Gaycation (4 episodes) | Status: Renewed
Rating: 4.5/5

I've been following VICE on YouTube for years and the webseries that I've followed have been very informative and entertaining for me. When I saw commercials for a new channel called Viceland, I was excited to see what unique, informational, and eye opening content they would provide on television. This show was a good reason to check it out. Actress Ellen Page decided to go on a mission with her best friend Ian Daniel around the world and learn about a different culture and their LGBT+ community. I wouldn't want anyone else but Ellen to host a show like this and her and Ian did a respectful job of explaining and displaying cultural differences between one country and America's. While I'm sure someone is gonna call appropriation, white privilege, or something extremist SJW, hear me out. The dialogue used by both Ellen and Ian, but mostly Ellen as she narrates this series, is handled with so much care. She says exactly what we're thinking, then breaks it down in a way for viewers to understand that country's point of view. The first episode takes place in Japan, which made me excited. For those who are into anime and know what fujoshi are, then think of the best way to explain the popularity of yaoi content compared to the way society treats citizens part of the LGBT+ community to a friend, acquaintance, or family member. Difficult, right? Not only do Ellen and Ian hangout with two fujoshi, they also come along to support a gay man coming out to his mother, which is something that is usually kept secret or covered by marriage. This show doesn't hold back with its content, good and bad. Some of the things people have to say about homosexuality, transgenders, and other LGBT+ issues is just mindblowing. After seeing Ellen trying to take down former presidential candidate Ted Cruz and delving into her own public coming out as an actress with her agent in the final episode, I was kinda distraught that this worldwide trip had ended. I anxiously checked Wikipedia and VICE for any hopes of a second season and as I write this, it has been confirmed for a second season. I highly recommend this LGBT+ positive docu-series which covers Japan, Jamaica, Brazil, and the USA!

Night Manager (6 episodes) | Status: Completed
Rating: 3.5/5

The last TV mini-series I saw was Syfy's Childhood's End, which was an interesting and really focus intensive show with some very intricate visuals. I was hoping this mini-series would go a little easier on my mind in comparison. For the most part, I frequent AMC around The Walking Dead season as well as Fear the Walking Dead, but seeing commercials for this John Le Carre adaptation made me excited. Not really because of it being an adaptation of a book as I most likely won't be reading it any time soon, but because it starred two actors I adore, Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie. Or in my mind: Loki and House! Aside from their iconic characters, they are fantastic actors in their own right as well, so naturally I was excited to see them on the same show together and boy, was I not disappointed! While the show does require some focus to catch the intricate spy details and nuances, it was a very mature thrill ride of great wits. Richard Onslow Roper definitely kept Jonathan Pine on his toes with his plans, but Jonathan was always one step ahead, even though a little bit of romance couldn't be ignored. Whether this was a faithful adaptation or not, I couldn't say, but the few snippets of an interview I caught while browsing through On Demand sounded very passionate and dedicated from the cast, especially Laurie. With such a great cast, I have no doubts that they put their all into this project. If you're looking for a mature, spy thriller, then check out this AMC miniseries.

Telenovela Season 1 (11 episodes) | Status: Cancelled
Rating: 3.5/5

I know Eva Longoria has been quite busy after her recognition from Desperate Housewives, a show I've started since its television premiere that I've never finished quite yet. I've also been suggested Jane the Virgin by a co-worker who describes it as a parody of telenovelas. Obviously, this show does the same thing, but unfortunately didn't gain the same positive stats as "Jane". I casually enjoy telenovelas and what I've seen of Ms. Longoria's work, I've enjoyed her as well. I had a feeling that this show wasn't going to be that big of hit, but I followed it all the way to the end of the season wanting more humor and over dramatic shenanigans. Despite not watching telenovelas often, I am familiar with the tropes and if you're not in the demographic or not familiar with telenovelas, then you're not going to understand a lot of the humor and satire of this show. I enjoyed the over the top acting and the dramatics of Longoria's character and cast mates, even the fact that she doesn't know Spanish is amusing! The campiness and craziness was absolutely perfect and appropriate for such a topic and it's unfortunate that the show's run was cut off so short. Comprobar que funciona cada vez que tenga tiempo.

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, June 16, 2016

Review: American Horror Story: Hotel

Title: American Horror Story: Hotel
Starring: Kathy Bates, Wes Bentley, Lady Gaga, Matt Bomer
Language: English
Genre: Horror, Drama, Thriller, Mystery
Episodes: 12

Welcome to another installment of Ryan Murphy having amazing ideas, but doesn't know what to do with them. Better known as the American Horror Story franchise! I have covered my least favorite season, the season that got a little better, but had some missteps and annoying/unnecessary characters, and one that fell flat after a certain character died and we were stuck with a lot of annoying characters and boring plot. I even covered one of Murphy's newer projects with plans to review another show he put his hands in by the name of The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. Am obsessed with the man's work? Not really. I'm just very critical and cynical at this point as I continue to power through new installments of AHS.

The story takes place in 2015 in Los Angeles, California in the haunted, retro Hotel Cortez which was built to become a torture chamber for the customers by the founder James Patrick March. The wardens of the hotel includes the 111 year old vampire, Elizabeth Johnson, and the front desk clerk and manager, Iris. The residents include the drug addicted prostitute ghost, Sally McKenna; Iris' hateful son and former drug addict turned vampire lover of Elizabeth, Donovan; and transgender bartender Liz Taylor and later some unsuspecting guests. When Detective John Lowe checks in to the hotel, what he doesn't know is that he is targeted by a serial murderer, The Ten Commandments Killer, which will bring the inside and outside danger crashing together. [Source: Wikipedia, Modified by: Suzahiru Miko]

If you know my track record (or just recently checked it out above), I haven't had the best of experiences with the American Horror Story franchise. My expectations were pretty high after the first season as I really enjoyed the concept and characters, but over time, the quality has been very inconsistent from season to season. I'm sure I'm going to get some unhappy comments with this review, but I expect them. All I have to say is: "Bring it on!". Before I start groaning and complaining, I want to touch on the high points of this past season. As much as Jessica Lange was being praised season after season for the same bitchy/diva persona, I was elated that she didn't sign on for this fifth installment. She isn't a terrible actress, but she's clearly typecasted or at least is playing the same character in a different outfit and setting, which increasingly tries to plead for sympathy from its viewers, especially in AHS: Freakshow. This time we have Lady Gaga taking the spotlight as the "diva" of the Hotel Cortez. Going into this season, I was once again cautious, but admittedly a bit excited because of the minor cast change. The promo helped a little too. Gaga + Rammstein = Win! Sure, many of the previous cast members were making their usual return such as Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters, Lily Rabe, Denis O'Hare, and Finn Wittrock, but I was happy to see that Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett would be returning as well. They definitely made a place for themselves in AHS: Coven and their performances were consistent for the most part in AHS: Freakshow. They're both the most seasoned actresses from the bunch, so higher expectations.

Upon the first couple or so episodes, I felt a slight uneasiness with the story. For now, I'll focus on the overall positive elements of the story. Like the previous installments to this franchise, Murphy provides some great and interesting ideas with stunning visuals. AHS: Hotel is no exception. Majority of the time, I enjoyed looking at The Shining inspired hotel set and some of the horror elements. Also like the previous seasons, there are multiple subplots going on simultaneously linking back to the main storyline. Naturally, there were ones that worked better than others, but I'll delve into that soon. Subplots or story elements I enjoyed following, for the most part, were The Countess' imperfect, but perfect relationship with Donovan and Detective John Lowe's investigation of the Ten Commandments Killer. The Countess and Donovan, right off the bat, had an intriguing relationship as they seduced their victims and drained them of life in the most arousing and satisfying manner that made me enjoy the act of the hunt. Some of their disagreements made me enjoy their chemistry more and more over time and a lot of the time I wish their relationship was given more care. As for the Ten Commandments Killer, I constantly complained that there was not enough screen time dedicated to this subplot, during the first half of the series. The investigation kept me into the season, until the Murphy complex happened.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Let's Strip "Freezing" Bare (Analysis Video)

I wanted to take another look into ecchi humor and how it can be effectively used while still telling a compelling storyline. We can do that by looking into both seasons of Freezing in the video below!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Quick Movie Review

Sinister 2 (2015, USA) | Rating: 3/5

Both Ophelia and myself have reviewed the first installment to this refreshing and haunting story. Similar to the first movie, I was a little cautious going into this sequel as I felt that it was perfectly fine as a standalone, yet I was curious how they would continue it. I waited until it was released on DVD, for one reason or another that I don't completely remember. While watching this sequel, I was curious how this story was going to play out and I was a little afraid that it would go overboard with the good points of the first movie kinda did. There's more home movies, creepy children, and cult shenanigans. They weren't all bad though. The videos were still quite eerie, but with the addition of a soundtrack, it kinda made it a little less creepy in comparison. Also, once again, I really wish that they didn't show the "monster" so blatantly. Overall, it was a decent addition, despite it using evil child tropes. It was executed well enough to warrant good entertainment, but I wouldn't want this to be a full blown franchise.

Freaks of Nature (2015, USA) | Rating: 2.5/5

I vaguely mentioned this movie in my short review for Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse and this movie doesn't just deal with zombies, but vampires too. Humans, vampires, and zombies co-exist together in this town, but there are some prejudices among these three groups. Despite their past history, our main characters, among others of their kind, attend high school together. Something arises between them and causes these groups to attack each other and suddenly a common threat appears on their little town. Our main characters band together to find and save their loved ones and destroy the alien threat that looms over their city. So, not quite apocalyptic, but kinda close. This comedy is a bit hit and miss with its humor and action. The characters are decent and the story was entertaining enough to get through. It's not that memorable of a movie as say Cooties, but it isn't awful either.

Zootopia (2016, USA) | Rating: 4.5/5

I must admit that originally, I wasn't planning on seeing this. For some reason, I guess it looked a little goofy or something. I can't really explain it. Over time, the commercials became a little more appealing and my mother's excitement became somewhat contagious. Obviously, we went to see it and...I had a very good time with it. This is definitely a great animated feature for the whole family as it not only provides cuteness, entertainment, action, and laughs, but touches on some real life social commentary that'll make both young and old attendees think a little. The characters are so much fun and very lovable; they definitely move the story along and make this investigation worth the journey. The colors are very vibrant and the art style is polish and animated, which is to be expected from Disney. If you haven't seen it already, what are you waiting for? This a great movie that has a balance of lighthearted fun and thought provoking maturity like Inside Out and I appreciate it.

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

Much like The Cobbler, I was curious if this was really as bad as everyone said it was or they just dumped it in the bad pile because Adam Sandler is the star. In short, it wasn't that terrible of a movie. If it removed some of the dumb potty or elementary humor that pollutes a lot of his more recent films, it definitely would be better, but what we're given is still entertaining to me. This is definitely not a movie I would think or criticize too deeply. I enjoyed the nostalgia of arcade culture and the rivalry between Sandler and Peter Dinklage was amusing. Although, I do agree with Black Nerd Comedy with certain points on the pixelated cast [here's the spoiler review] that they don't mesh with previously established character traits, but it didn't ruin the movie for me...except maybe a little bit of the end.

A Girl Like Her (2015, USA) | Rating: 4/5

Don't let the cover deceive you, but this isn't a horror flick. No, this movie is about bullying. A reporter does a documentary on a student that attempted suicide,fghf after being bullied by a childhood friend. It's a very realistic situation that I can somewhat personally relate to from my past. Most bullying stories would focus on demonizing the bully and making us sympathize with the victim completely, but this movie takes a different approach with the subject. While I recognize that not all bullies are victims, some of them are just downright evil, but instead it gives us both sides of the story. The movie offers both footage from the victim's best friend and the reporter's footage for their documentary that captures the bully's backstory and actions. Bullying is a problem around the world and I feel like this movie successfully gives us the emotional tools to deal with both problems of our main characters, while not completely turning the bully into a sympathetic victim. Yes, I feel bad that she is a product of her environment, but it doesn't excuse her actions toward her childhood friend or even her circle of friends. Check it out and let your mind marinate on the matter.

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, June 9, 2016

Three Winter 2016 Anime Reviews

Dimension W
Genre: Action

This was one of the shows that was first introduced to me as the trailers were being released. I was intrigued to see how the Sci-fi element would be included. The idea of the discovery of a brand new dimension that provides unlimited energy for mankind's usage was a big draw. Yet since I was busy watching Erased as my subtitled show at the time, I decided to wait for the broadcast dub that just recently finished.

Kyouma is a cool ninja-like collector of coils that you find actually has quite a disdain for these objects that power this high-tech future. He gets dragged into conflict with the government and other collectors with a quest to find the first coils. This journey is brought upon with his run-in with a incredibly advanced robot, Mira, and that it's slowly revealed how it connects to Kyouma's forgotten past. Now while watching this, I found myself less interested in the story and more attached to the characters. Therefore it was a fun watch, but some of the story elements I found some plot holes in or found rather convoluted.

Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash
Genre: Action, Drama

I was very hesitant to check out this show while the Winter season was airing, since I knew it was another show based on gaming. With the slew of anime surrounding this setting lately, I was afraid it might be along the lines of Sword Art Online. When I also learned later that it had A-1 Pictures behind it (which was behind SAO), I figured it was a repeat of the same with a Final Fantasy-esque art style. Eventually, I allowed my bit of curiosity to give the show a chance.

I can say that I was pleasantly surprised by this show's presentation. I was convinced that it would be a more action/comedy, but it quickly brought into the drama of the plot. The realism of the world Grimgar built and the themes of survival and coping with loss in multiple angles had me hooked. Now this show may not be for everyone since unlike SAO, this show actually takes its time with the characters in a more day to day basis. The few time jumps forward never feel quite as drastic and less like you've might have missed out on some cool adventures. I really hope they give us another season as I've become very attached to this party of unlikely friends.

Prince of Stride: Alternative
Genre: Sports

Despite the sports anime you'll find on my list on, I've never been a heavy watcher of this genre of anime. There's not many sports in real life that I actually take the time to keep up with, but I occasionally check in here and there. Though there are newer explorations into athletics that I find interesting, so news that there was going to be an anime focused on free-running/parkour grabbed my attention.

This story of the rebirth of the great Stride team of Honan Academy was one that I enjoyed every step of the way. It was cool to see them try to translate the energy and athleticism of parkour in an animated format. Also, seeing how they would integrate such a new sport in a way that makes it seem possible for high schools to take part was nice. I guess you can say it's an alternative to Track and Field! The themes of trusting each other and becoming like a family is the usual for team oriented sports stories, but it never felt monotonous. This was another show that I looked forward to when the new episodes would be released. This was certainly an easy watch for me that was a good balance to Grimgar for me. Any fan of sports shows I believe could enjoy this show, since it's not too hard to understand the Stride sport that's basically like a relay race with the city as the obstacle.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Review: Hellsing & Hellsing Ultimate

Title: Hellsing & Hellsing Ultimate
Language: Japanese
Rating: R-17+
Genre: Action, Horror, Seinen, Supernatural, Vampire
Episodes: 23 & 10

All my years of being part of the anime fandom, I have heard this series constantly from horror fans. When I watch WatchMojo countdowns, it's either the original or Ultimate that is mentioned. After some years have passed, I finally got around to watching it, including a supplementary episode. Obviously, this is going to be a lengthy review and I'm going to try my hardest to split things up.

Decades ago, the legendary Dr. Abraham Van Helsing and his companions defeated Count Dracula, one of the world's deadliest vampires. After this success his name was used in the founding of the Hellsing Organization, a British task force with the duty of eliminating supernatural threats.

"Hellsing" follows the exploits of that very organization. Led by Integra Fairbrook Wingates Hellsing, the Hellsing Organization finds its trump card not in the power of man, but in the strength of a monster it has tamed. Alucard, one of the oldest and most powerful vampires in existence, now hunts his fellow monsters at Hellsing's bequest. Alongside new recruit Seras Victoria, Alucard will find that a new threat has arisen, one greater than anything the Hellsing Organization has ever dealt with before.
[Source: MyAnimeList]

Going in chronological order, I'm starting with 2001's Hellsing, which apparently detours from its manga source material. I won't be doing any comparisons here as I have not read the manga and probably won't be for quite some time now. Just too many titles in my reading list is all. Things I've heard recently about this first entry, before starting it, is that not many fans enjoyed it compared to Hellsing Ultimate. Some complain about the animation being dated and not looking as crisp and others complain about it not following its source material. Of course, I've only seen these complaints in small pieces as it seems the franchise as a whole is beloved by horror and vampire anime fans. Starting with some positives, I thought the story was very interesting and I loved the diversity of the characters. The viewer is given nearly equal opportunity on learning about our main characters: Integra, Alucard, and Seras Victoria. Watching these characters work together, including Walter, was always entertaining and intriguing, especially when their personal dynamics change in certain episodes. The story also successfully puts Integra and Alucard in the spotlight as I felt a lot for these characters. It almost feels like your Seras and you're trying to figure out this brand new world of supernatural creatures and immortality the same time she is and I appreciate that. Of course, I'll go into more detail on these characters later on in this review as I really want to break them down a little further and compare the two versions of them.

Older animation can sometimes become a little difficult to adjust to when you're used to crisp, clean animation you see in present day anime series. If you look at my track record in my reviews or even my MAL, you would know that I'm not bothered by the dated art style. It is a little rougher and darker compared to, let's say, Magic Knight Rayearth. Of course, there's a big genre difference between them as well. Anyway, I didn't have too many problems with the animation as I thought the rough, darkness of the style suited the tone of the series. There was plenty of grit and violence to satisfy me and get the point across of each character's personality. In short, I personally didn't have a problem with this style of animation. Before I get into the cons of this series, I want to move forward with Hellsing Ultimate and do some comparisons in between the critiques.