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Saturday, February 3, 2018

Godzilla: Planet Of Monsters (2018) CGI Anime movie

Overall verdict: 6.5/10

A very typical science fiction anime that just so happen to feature a creature resembling Godzilla

The Good: top notch cel shaded animation, near perfect voice acting, intricate artwork, thrilling action sequences, deconstructs the typical "civilians on a space colony mission" story

The Bad: generic science fiction anime story, bland characters, uninspired creature designs,
In the far future, mankind has reached the stars. But this is not some hopeful Mission of asking our brave new worlds to colonies. This is a bitter fight for survival. Giant monsters have ravaged the earth, systematically wiping out the human race. Not even the intervention of two alien races could avert the inevitable. Humanity and it’s alien allies, the elven looking Exif and the brute-like Bilusaldo, retreated into deep space. 
Twenty years later, society on board the colony ship has degenerated into a utilitarian dystopia where the elderly are sent on suicide missions to conserve resources for the young, where there is no escape from the coldness of space, and where otherwise healthy young men and women slowly succumb the despair of loneliness. Into this world comes one Haruo Sakaki, a hot headed pilot who experienced the downfall of man first hand. 
He obtains mysterious data on earth and the creatures that now inhabit it. With this data, humanity launches a last ditch attempt to reclaim the earth from the monsters. Oh and Godzilla is here too, in a whole new incarnation, but one would barely notice seeing as how little he affects the plot.
Rendered in a cel shaded CGI style, GODZILLA MONSTER PLANET is beautiful to look at. The computer animation captures the look and feel of traditional animation right down to the lower frame rate. 
Lesser studios have tried this to varying degrees of success (see: DEAD SPACE AFTERMATH, BERSERK) but Polygon Pictures seems to have nailed it. The designs of the humans, mecha and technology all look good. 
On the other hand some of the Creative decisions on the monsters may have been better in concept than in execution. The monsters all share the same monotone shade of dark metallic grey. Their features barely visible amidst this messy jagged design aesthetic. In motion, they look like a jumble of twisted thorns shaped like dragons or dinosaurs.
This uninspired aesthetic is a wasted opportunity to take advantage of the anime medium. Godzilla himself has a new design with new characteristics are this is more than welcome. But it has to be compelling, it has to stand out from the other creatures in the story. 
Here, you could swap out Godzilla here for any massive menace and it would not make a difference to the story. He could be a giant robot, a sludge monster, an energy entity, anything, and you would still have the same anime story.
A most capable cast of voice actors give life to our characters. Both Japanese and English VAs fit their roles perfectly. On the Japanese side, the usual over acting that tends to plague many anime is not present here. Instead the performances are realistically restrained befitting the setting and story. Similarly, the English dub is among the best in recent years; filled with energy, nuance and without the uncomfortable inflections that do not match the animation. 
It is the show’s generic script and characterisations that betray the otherwise fine acting. Haruo is your typical revenge driven hot headed hero, Accompanied by your typical overly concerned girl Friend, manipulated by your typical ambiguous ally with effeminate mannerisms. Literally everyone is less of a character and merely a series of “typical” archetypes in any science fiction anime.
There are some thrilling action sequences and I loved the first act which deconstructs the usual “civilians on a space colony mission” trope through a cynical lens. What is typically portrayed as a second chance for humanity in greener pastures is instead shown as a waking nightmare of mental isolation and degenerating social structure on a dark cold and depressing colony vessel; exactly what you would expect when civilians, not at all trained for the rigors of life in space, are forced on a journey to the stars. Sadly, that is not enough to detract from the underlying flaws.
“Typical”, “ generic” and other associated synonyms have peppered my review and that is sadly this movie’s weakest aspect. GODZILLA MONSTER PLANET is free of the limitations of rubber suits and miniatures, able to envision a larger than life hard sci fi setting and explore Godzilla through a medium of limitless possibilities. It is disappointing that the overall product turn out so bland. Not bad, but just bland. As if it could be any other run of the mill science fiction anime and it would not make a difference.

Entertainment: B+
Art: B+
Animation: A-
Story: C
Voice Acting (English): A- 

Voice Acting (Japanese): A-
Characters: C+
Music: C-
Replay value: B+
"Brains": B

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Logan (2017) movie review

Overall verdict: 9.5/10

The one where Wolverine..... does something that rhymes with cries

The Good: masterfully written script, gripping atmosphere, brilliant performances by the cast, intense action scenes, emotionally engaging, takes itself and the genre seriously.

The Bad: derivative overall plot that feels like a rethread of Terminator 2.

He is the best at what he does. And what he does is not very nice. He has lived through decades of war, prejudice, extremism, hate and fear. He has faced powerful beings, clandestine organisations and killer robots. Now the mutant known as Wolverine will have to face his greatest enemy: old age. 
The above synopsis does ring with a certain sense of satire but believe me, the film LOGAN is anything but. The X-men have disbanded, many of them victims of a disaster caused by one of their own. Mutant kind has dwindled to near extinction with the remnants hunted or raised in captivity for human experimentation. Logan's own powers of regeneration are waning as he cares for the dementia stricken Charles Xavier, former leader of the X-men. 
Life has passed him by, ground him up and spat him out as he lives on the fringes of society in Central America, eking out a living day to day as a driver. One day he is tasked with transporting a girl across the border to North Dakota. But there is more to this youngster than meets the eye as a sinister squad of soldiers seem intent on hunter her down, with little regard for collateral damage. Now on the run and under the gun, the gripping final journey of the Wolverine is presented as a powerful neo noir influenced thriller. 
Devoid of much flashy special effects that have become so staple to superhero blockbusters, LOGAN revels in its gritty influences and banks on what matters most: its characters. Hugh Jackman's Wolverine has been a mainstay of X-men movies since the very first one in 2000. It was through his story and his eyes that the dark world of the X-men was first realised. 
Jackman turns in a powerful performance as the weary Wolverine aka Logan. His experiences has caused him to shut himself off from any emotional connection. His co-star sir Patrick Stewart plays against type as the once noble Professor Xavier, now a rambling old man kept sane by drugs and harbouring a dark secret. Complimenting the duo is Stephan Merchant's Caliban, a fellow mutant and Xavier's caretaker who provides the minuscule amounts of comic relief. 
Into this dysfunctional family comes Dafne Keene's Laura, a child mutant with abilities similar to Logan's. She is no doubt the breakout star of this movie, conveying both the ferocity and quirks of the feral child while still showing a wide range of emotions despite being mute for most of the movie. Together, they form a most unlikely family, growing closer as the movie progresses. 
On the surface, this is a rather typical road trip cum chase film. Our dysfunctional family are pursued by increasingly powerful foes intent on hunting them down in a close copy of James Cameron's TERMINATOR 2 right down to a blossoming parent/child relationship. The story is perfectly paced with equal weight devoted to heavy scenes and brief moments of relief from the grit and grim reality all complimented by a well written script. 
Free from the confines of a PG13 rating, we are finally able to behold Wolverine's legendary berserker rage. This movie boasts the most intense action scenes to date in the whole Fox X-Men franchise. It is masterfully shot with minimal camera tricks or wire stunts giving it a very realistic feel almost too real at times yet it is wholly necessary to compliment the deconstruction of our hero. 
What we have here is not the stylised fights of comic books with quips and fancy moves set to a rousing heroic fanfare. This is real. This is brutal. Bones break and flesh is flayed. Battles are quick and painful. During combat, the soundtrack dims out and we are left with raw savagery of a man fighting for the survival of the people he holds dear. 

LOGAN rounds out James Mangold's Wolverine duology; an effective deconstruction of the beloved comic character. The previous film THE WOLVERINE delved into his motivations and the drive behind his dedication to the X-men dream, an exploration of Wolverine the warrior. LOGAN strips it all away to focus solely on the Wolverine the man, his emotional vulnerabilities, his insecurities, the result of his eons of war and battles.

As a conclusion to a character's story within a franchise, LOGAN works perfectly. There are call backs to little plot points established as early as the first X-men movie. Here, those little plot threads are wrapped up nicely as our character comes full circle on his lonely tragic journey. 


Entertainment: A
Story: A
Acting: A
Characters: A
Music: B
Replay value: A
"Brains": B+

Friday, December 8, 2017

Justice League (2017) movie review


Overall verdict: 7/10
Feels like a mid season filler episode of an otherwise decent TV show

The Good: Generally well shot and choreographed action scenes, amazing visual effects, decent CGI, near perfect portrayal of comic book characters, great acting

The Bad: Inconsistent tone, over reliance on awkward humour, disappointing final battle, generic lighting that betrays the otherwise decent CGI, clash of different styles, reshot footage was painfully obvious


“The Seven  Samurai of Superhero movies”
This is what was promised in early interviews and teased through poster homages. The first big screen team up of DC Comic’s greatest heroes was already held to lofty expectations from the start. In an age saturated with comic book movie adaptations, it had to stand out. Unfortunately the studio took the easy route by catering to the lowest common denominator and sacrificing creative integrity for the illusion of a quick buck.

It is no simple task for a movie to introduce 3 new characters, present a narrative of these characters coming together, build camaraderie, flesh out the stakes, the threat, follow up on existing plot threads from past movies and give closure to the development arc of Superman all within a mere 2 hours (including opening and end credits). JUSTICE LEAGUE is brief to the point of absurdity and most of its problems result from the post production process of editing and incorporating reshoots.

Following the death of Superman, criminals have become emboldened, plunging the world into a state of terror. In London, Wonder Woman stops an extremist bomb Attack while back on Gotham City, Batman is investigating the appearance of flying alien creatures that seem attracted to intense feelings of fear. A close encounter with one of the creatures convinces Batman that the alien invasion he so feared was imminent and he proceeds to recruit the super powered individuals whom he discovered in the previous movie BATMAN V SUPERMAN. Meanwhile, the alien warlord known as Steppenwolf makes planetfall intent on stealing 3 ancient artifacts known as the Motherboxes in order to unite them and summon forth a power that will destroy the earth.

The first act is a hasty haphazardly edited sequence jumping around the world and from character to character. We start off with Wonder Woman, then suddenly cut to Batman. Barely a few minutes in we cut to The Cyborg, Vic Stone, who resents his Father for bringing him back from the dead as a mechanical mockery of a man. Of course this does not get much elaboration as we jump back to Batman as Bruce Wayne who is now in some Northern European country trying to recruit a burly (and definitely awesome looking) Aquaman and then 5 minutes later he is back in his bat cave meeting with Wonder Woman before appearing in Central city another 5 minutes later to recruit Barry Allen aka The Flash. Did we forget the threat of Steppenwolf? No we did not as here he is stealing one Motherbox from the Amazonian Home and then we cut back to Lois Lane? And Martha Kent? They are talking about how they miss Superman and suddenly Cyborg is finding out his dad is kidnaped and Diana is trying to locate him. Aquaman is up next as he returns to Atlantis where he faces Steppenwolf and is defeated then we cut over to Bruce and Barry arriving in Gotham........STOP!

Thereis hardly a sense of chronology or flow to the scenes! Perhaps if the movie was edited to focus on one character at a time culminating in the arrival of Steppenwolf at Paradise Island it would have flowed better. Instead it feels like scenes just end prematurely to cut to a wholly unrelated scene only to cut back minutes later. Arguably the flow improves once the team gets together for their first mission to investigate mysterious abductions in Gotham.
Problems of its truncated narrative aside, JUSTICE LEAGUE does a good job of establishing its characters and building the camaraderie. The chemistry between teammates is impeccable. Their unique personalities play off each other beautifully and there are tender emotional moments interspersed throughout the script. My only beef with the script is all the random moments of humour. It just does not mix well. This is an end of the world scenario and you have awkward slapstick, flat jokes and even traditionally serious characters like Batman trying to be funny.

With its laughable dialogue peppering even serious battle scenes, it feels almost as if the movie is trying to copy the whimsical comedic tone of superhero movies like Guardians of the Galaxy or Avengers. Well AVENGERS this movie is not. There is something lacking in terms of the scale of the movie that pales in comparison with predecessors like the superior MAN OF STEEL which culminated in a true world ending threat being averted. In cranking up the comedy, the stakes are trivialised and it becomes difficult to take their story seriously. This seems to be an issue plaguing more and more comic book movies these days.

The hodgepodge Of 2 very differing styles courtesy 2 very different directors is evident from the get go with character even changing appearances between scenes clearly giving away evidence of the insertion of reshoots. Even the overall look of the move was given an overhaul. Gone is the evocative colour filters of past movies replaced with a palette that highlights reds and flesh tones. Also in removing the filters, the CGI elements stand out more due to the lighting mismatch with the non-CGI elements. Basically, removing the filters and boosting up the colours ended up emphasising the flaws of the otherwise high end visual effects instead of masking them.

Thisis a huge pity as much of the action depends on visual effects. Even the villain Steppenwolf is a full CGI character. Thankfully he is a compelling threat. His limited screen time gives him an air of mystery like one of those traditional slasher movie villains and his twisted personality really comes through. The action is also masterfully shot for the most part utilising dynamic camera angles and slow motion to give the perfect resemblance to comic book panels brought to life. Only the final battle comes across as disappointing and generic (and very obviously a reshoot).

It pains me to have to counter every positive with a negative but there is something I have always enjoyed and it is when movies go beyond being mere stimulators of adrenaline and endorphins, and instead address and explore deeper themes in the narrative. Movies that get you thinking. Justice League was none of this and it is sad because there was a lot of potential to explore. Cyborg’s situation as an analogy for physical disability, Flash’s anxiety issues, Batman’s guilt over his past actions and more.
We are hinted at the more metaphorical aspect of a movie as a tale of reviving hope in the most hopeless of situations. We are hinted at moral conflicts and the ethics of Batman’s sudden proposal to revive Superman with an alien device. We are hinted at a much deeper narrative surrounding the individuals and their emotional baggage. Hinted hinted hinted but never explored or even addressed outright. Buried under the awkward humour sprinkled almost at random. Themes that were explored in past movies, the deconstruction/reconstruction of a savior archetype, the impact of super powered beings on international politics, the world’s reaction to such beings, and much more all abandoned.

The result is a truncated summary of an epic that could have been. A film that hints at greater things but never delves deep into them. Sacrificing thematic depth for levity robs the movie of any uniqueness it may have had in this day and age saturated with superficial superhero shows. It’s inconsistency is it’s greatest weak spot and seems to indicate that the studio had little interest in telling a compelling tale. The amazing action, the bombastic battles which showcase the extent of each characters’ skills, and the near perfect portrayal of each character show that this movie was meant merely as a primer: a means to instil an audience with a greater interest in its characters so as to get them on board for the many inevitable spinoffs. It may make you see superheroes as cool again in a most perfunctory way, but little else beyond that.


Entertainment: A
Story: B-
Acting: A-
Characters: B+
Music: C-
Replay value: B+
"Brains": C-

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Transformers The Last Knight (2017) movie review

Overall verdict: 5/10

The one with King Arthur, a robot dragon, Anthony Hopkins and an evil Optimus Prime

The Good: Breaks the boundaries of CGI rendered destruction, incorporates even more fantastical elements of the cartoons, perfect special effects, standout performances

The Bad: barely serviceable soundtrack, chaotic camerawork, incoherent narrative, script filled with contrived coincidences, senseless humour

Just when you I thought a franchise had clawed itself out of the gutter, it dives right back in with a steaming pile of trash called TRANSFORMERS THE LAST KNIGHT. Continuity, a darker more serious tone, memorable characters, throw all that out the window. With this movie, we are back to borderline offensive cultural stereotypes, convoluted retcons that contradict past Transformers movies, inconsistent characterisation, and a plot that meanders its way from one logic defying plot hole ridden action sequence to another. No explanations are given for abilities that characters suddenly have and the entire movie feels like many movies crammed into one.
After the events or TRANSFORMERS AGE OF EXTINCTION, nearly nothing has changed. Transformers are still being hunted, though only to be imprisoned rather than killed, the Autobots are in hiding and Optimus has not been heard from since he left for space. It seems logic caught up with Optimus and his rocket powered cosmic adventure has left him out of fuel right around Saturn. But no worries, a mysterious force captures Prime and turns him against his former allies. Back on earth, fellow Autobot Bumblebee has befriended a new ally, 16 year old Isabella. 
This spunky girl, orphaned in the battle of Chicago back in TRANSFORMERS DARK OF THE MOON has since been hiding out in the city ruins with her transformer pal Canopy. An unprovoked Attack by the “Transformers Response Force”(TRF) ends up with Canopy killed, Bumblebee and Cade Yeager from the previous movie rescuing Isabella, and the way too convenient discovery of an ancient “knight of cybertron” who just happens to be hidden and dying in the ruins of Chicago.
Before all that we are treated to some continuity wrecking flashbacks showing that Transformers had been active on earth, shaping history in medieval times, complete with an actual King Arthur and Merlin, and world war 2.
But I digress. Back to the present day, the authorities want to hunt down Yeager all of a sudden and recruit Decepticons to help them. In the meantime, an English gentleman played by Anthony Hopkins is seeking out Yeager as Yeager has conveniently come into possession of the Excalibur sword and it is somehow tied to ancient Transformers. Arthurian legend, fugitives in hiding, an unlikely partnership between humans and evil transformers, ancient conspiracy, and into all this comes a vengeance fueled Optimus Prime turned evil by a being known as Quintessa, who claimed to be the creator of the transformers.
Confused yet? Well remember cybertron from the third movie? It is back again and on a collision course with earth. Again. There is an underwater alien ship that surfaces to serve as a set piece for an anti climatic duel, people and robots in the sky (rhymes with robots in disguise) fighting on floating land masses, every battle a display of physics defying shenanigans all in a bid to outdo the craziness of every science fiction blockbuster up to this point! To call Michael Bay’s style excessive is like calling sea water salty. It’s pretty much a given for his movies where a giant robot dinosaur rolling across a junkyard of crushed cars can produce random explosions every time he touches the ground as if he rolled over a minefield. It’s all very crazy but not in the enjoyable sense. The wide lingering shots and clear cinematography from the previous movie has reverted to his more infamous jittery shots, tight close ups, and generally chaotic camerawork. To make matters worse, all this mayhem is accompanied by one of the dullest movie scores ever by Steve Jablonsky; a hodgepodge of electronic droning and deep bass groaning, devoid of any originality or energy.
Even to enjoy this as a sequel is rendered nearly impossible by the inconsistencies with last movies. How is Bumblebee suddenly able to divide himself into parts and then control his parts to combine back into a whole transformer? How is Galvatron suddenly back to Megatron again?? Where are the other dinobots??? This is all pittance compared to the humongous retcons extending all the way back to the very first movie as if to pretend that all of it never happened.
It does seem bad but to call this film a disaster would be a discredit to some of its redeeming factors. The actors are fantastic. Mark Wahlberg brings an earnest unlikely hero vibe perfect for the character of Yeager although Isabela Moner as Izabella was the breakout role of the movie, turning in a powerful performance as the strong willed orphan. The transformers are all given memorable personalities and voices, key of which is the portrayal of Decepticon leader Megatron. After 5 movies, he has finally come to resemble his cartoon counterpart in mannerism, appearance and voice.
A shame that a lackluster script courtesy of the Writers of the equally lackluster PUNISHER WAR ZONE movie, fails to do justice to the acting talent on display. Worse is how Optimus Prime is written, completely undoing the character development he had gone through so far. It is a script and story filled to the brim with forced, senseless humour, contrived coincidences and plot conveniences. With a plan to expand into an entire shared universe of spinoffs, the franchise had overstayed it’s welcome by one movie. This one.

Entertainment: B-
Story: C-
Acting: A
Characters: B-
Music: C-
Replay value: B
"Brains": D+