Thursday, May 17, 2018

Deadpool 2 (2018) movie review

Overall verdict: 9.5 /10

A Heartfelt Yet Darkly Humorous Sequel

The Good: Perfect acting, witty dark humour, emotional story, relatable character development, well written script with a deconstructive slant, explores deeper themes related to loss, family and belonging

The Bad: instances of shoddy CGI, rapid cuts leading to some erratic fight scenes


DEADPOOL 2 is a family movie, or so claims our titular protagonist. An extremely violent, witty, fourth wall breaking family movie. At its core is a tale of loss, a tale of wanting to belong, of failed father figures, and the cycle of vengeance all wrapped in a message of overcoming personal tragedy to be better individuals. It mixes genuinely funny comedy, pop culture references and lovable characters with a deeper more personal tale of the Merc with a mouth .
Wade Wilson has found true love and a fulfilling mercenary career. What looks to be just a repeat of the first movie soon takes a tragic turn as all that Wade treasures is stripped away. Lost and alone, Wade tries to fit in with the heroic X-men but his violent ways during his first mission lands him in a prison called “The ice box” with a young orphan pyrokinetic Mutant named Russell. 
Meanwhile, a cyber enhanced soldier from the future named Cable is hot on their heels, on a mission to terminate the young rotund runaway. Sounds like TERMINATOR? Well not quite (Even though this is the Terminator movie we need right now.)
As with the first movie, DEADPOOL 2 defies genre and subverts viewer expectation at every turn. Each time a “typical” story beat or trope is brought up, it is soon subverted and deconstructed in the most clever way possible. An escape plan right out of PRISON BREAK? Does not end well for Wade and Russell. An action packed vehicular chase through the city? Very different from what one would expect. A team up with a bunch of superpowered allies to form X-Force? Yup, definitely not how one would think it would go. In fact, DEADPOOL 2 subverts all expectations of what Deadpool should be about. 
Even the characters undergo this subversive deconstruction. The poor abused boy who’s supposed to be running scared? He’s starting to show the makings of a serial killer. The part man part machine time traveler Cable? He is the embodiment of “generic 90s comic badass” taken to its logical extremes, complete with tragic motivations, growling voice and eternal scowl. And it all works in the context of the franchise’s self referential humour.
Deadpool himself is slowly revealed to be a stepford smiler, using humour as a means to bury the pain he feels while he undergoes the various stages of grief. Ryan Reynolds effortlessly channels both Deadpool’s funny and dramatic side, bringing an earnest portrayal that serves as the heartfelt emotional core of the film. The narrative does venture into some heavy territory, showing the initially self serving Wade subconsciously subjecting Young Russell to the same emotional neglect that his own father put him through.
 The script, courtesy of Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick and Reynolds himself is masterfully written, full of wit and charm. Jokes come perfectly timed where appropriate, segueing into drama and back again without coming across as jarring. It even improves on the musical aspect.
The score, now composed by Tyler Bates (WATCHMEN), sounds much more epic and unique compared to the previous work by Junkie XL. The choices of songs, peppered throughout the movie, have lyrics that run parallel to what is happening in the story itself; cleverly used to heighten the emotional impact of many scenes.

This is an amazing movie and a great sequel. Not perfect though. The steady clear shots and fluid fight choreography that Director David Leitch brought to movies like JOHN WICK is missing here. Instead it is replaced by rapid fire cuts and some erratic editing which, in hindsight, may have been a cost cutting measure considering how some of the special effects, particularly on some fully CGI characters, look spotty at times.
Nonetheless, nitpicking aside, DEADPOOL 2 takes its titular character to new depths, ups the ante on everything that made the first movie such a hit, and then goes beyond with bigger action, dark humour, a new cast of unique and relatable characters, all while keeping it intimately personal. Truly a movie to add in the list of great sequels.


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

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Transformers Armada

The Good: Huge improvement in quality of the second season, decent voice acting, 

The Bad: stiff animation, inconsistent art, inconsistent script, weak first season
I would compare Transformers Armada to one of the most painfully boring up-hill theme park rides in the world. However, as it crawls its way past its halfway mark, things start looking up. The show finally finds its footing and picks up pace with a steady increase in quality in all aspects, until it plows its way headlong into an epic and satisfying climax. Transformers Armada is essentially like two different shows or seasons(and that is how it is so conveniently presented in the DVD release). The first "season" which comprises of episodes 1 to 26 is, in my humble opinion, a complete waste of time.

The story never had any build up and instead plodded along like some sickly hippopotamus. Its core concept of the minicons was a blatant rip-off of pokemon, a silly underhanded strategy just to get kids to buy more toys. None of the episodes ever came close to the writing level of the original or Beast Wars and Beast Machines; the stories are shallow and juvenile.

The animation too is a huge disappointment. Very stiff and with minimal character movements, there is an abundant usage of scrolling or repeating backgrounds, still shots of characters sliding across the screen, and dialog which involves only animating mouths while the rest of the screen remains absolutely still. The only well animated shots are the stock transformation and some combat footage that are repeated in nearly every other episode.

The human character designs are a step away from your typical anime designs of cutesy faces and large reflective eyes, sporting a more western cartoon look but with still some anime aesthetics thrown in. On the other hand, the designs for the robots are really mixed. Compared to the human-form designs in the original, the stylized organic designs of Beast Wars/Machines and the sleek edged ones in "Robots in Disguise", the designs here seem overly bulky and utterly clunky. Optimus Prime, Megatron and Starscream look great, but the rest of the cast range from looking weird(Demolishor, Red Alert) to just plain silly(Hot Shot).

Couple all those factors with yawn inducing monologues, overly frequent exposition, dull uninspired acting(though a few actors like Gary Chalk and David Kaye who play Optimus and Megatron respectively, make the most with what they are given) and a constant re-iteration of plot points(sometimes many times within a single episode) and you get one of the worst Transformers viewing experiences ever.

In The second season, especially from the introduction Wheeljack and anything after episode 30, the writers apparently got their act together and started writing proper Transformers stories. Character development is taken up a notch with the introduction of Starscream's reason for his wavering loyalty. It gives a lot more dimension to the character other than just wanting to usurp Megatron for his own selfish gains and actually allows us to care a lot more for this character. His character arc is possibly one of the more heart wrenching ones second only to Dinobot's in Beast Wars. We get some nice emotionally charged episodes from here on with "Past"(32), "Sacrifice"(33), "Crisis"(39) and "Cramp"(48) as some really shining examples.

The voice acting improves dramatically, though the script changed little. The actors have finally settled into their roles and the level of emotional range slowly returns to that same high quality last seen in Beast Machines. The plots involving collecting minicons take a backstage to a greater sweeping epic involving a returning villain last seen in the 1986 Transformers movie. 

Gone are the juvenile story lines and themes, replaced with more mature themes like the conflict of purpose, philosophy of war, honor and many others that are more commonly seen in shows targeting a young adult demographic and not for children. This new, more mature style of storytelling, with its emotionally charged moments and more intense dialog are accentuated with a greatly improved quality of animation. There are still some inconsistencies and the painfully drawn out monologues are still present, but thankfully they are few and far in between.

To make an overall fair assessment of Transformers Armada, I would give season 2 a 8/10 for its excellent build up to the climax, emotional character development and vast improvement over the course of the series. However, season one would only merit a 3/10 from me for its horrible scripting, bland animation and unprofessional writing. Together, Transformers Armada is an average series at best. The improvements later in the show came a little too late. By that time, Transformers Armada had already alienated many viewers and enraged the fanbase. Personally i recommend just watching the first two episodes of season 1 and then skipping to the second season DVD set.


Entertainment: B+
Art: C-
Animation: C
Story: B
Voice Acting (English): B+ 
Characters: C+
Music: C
Replay value: A-
"Brains": B

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Avengers: Infinity War (2018) movie review

Overall verdict: 9/10

Where 10 years of brand loyalty is rewarded with a party

The Good: Grand scope, spectacular action, snappy dialogue, complex storyline, rousing energetic soundtrack combining characters unique themes, more serious tone compared to past movies.

The Bad: character development takes a back seat, some instances of spotty special effects, disappointing villain, banks on emotional investment in characters from past movies. 


So this is the big one. Ten years in the making, 18 movies in a franchise leading to this. Despite the sky high expectations stemming from the popularity of its preceding films, AVENGERS INFINITY WAR delivers the wide appeal, casual friendly entertainment one has come to expect from the Marvel Cinematic Universe brand. Only that this time, Marvel studios takes it a notch higher.

AVENGERS INFINITY WAR is bigger from the get go. The scope is expanded from earth to the entire universe as the alien warlord Thanos' personally expedites his quest to retrieve the powerful infinity gems  for his own ends. Gems which are closely tied to the fates of this world's greatest heroes. Through perfectly logical (within the context of the story) means and reasons, the actions of Thanos and his servants end up bringing together heroes from across all the past MCU movies: Doctor Strange, Black Panther, The Avengers, The Guardians of the Galaxy.

How does the movie juggle so many characters at once? Well it does so very well. All the characters get a decent amount of time in the spotlight. Half the fun is seeing these characters that you grew to love in their respective movies come together and interact on screen; characters who merely years ago  would have no reason to be interacting. Who would have imagined StarLord, whose adventures are at the far end of the cosmos, would be talking face to face with the earth based Iron Man? The cast is perfect in every way with decent chemistry even among those interacting for the very first time on screen.

The one thing i really appreciated was the more serious tone, carried on from Black Panther earlier in 2018. A pet peeve of mine has been this obsession with throwing in random quips and comedic moments into the middle of a hectic battle, a tense dialogue or a tension filled face off. This has plagued more than half of MCU movies and all it serves is to trivialise the stakes and destroy any attempt to take the movie seriously. Thankfully, the stakes here are more dire than anything ever seen in the MCU. INFINITY WAR does have witty banter, but this is kept separate from the drama; a very welcome change. As the plot thickens, we run the gamut of emotions ranging from exhilaration and laughter to some very painful tragedy.
I can safely say that the movie entertains. Its energetic script and fast pace makes the long run time zoom by. There are multiple sub plots but nothing too complex if you are paying attention. The awesome action sequences are finger bitingly intense and the highlight of the entire movie. All this is set to some of composer Alan Silvestri's best musical work yet. Silvestri combines the individual themes of each hero, blending them nicely into a seamless score which complements the equally seamless narrative.

 I can also safely say that this movie is not perfect. I did have some issues with it. As amazing as the action was, some of the fights are just overly choreographed, more like a dance than a fight. Personally, I would have preferred something more raw in the fights. The story too comes across as a little shallow, especially compared to CAPTAIN AMERICA CIVIL WAR and BLACK PANTHER which managed to weave in some relevant sociopolitical commentary that generate discussion. INFINITY WAR touches on themes of self sacrifice, and a Machiavellian take on population control, but it never brings those themes front and centre. 

Instead what is front and centre is the laughs, the action, the tears, and other simple emotional appeals. The fact that all the characters enter and leave this movie "as they are" rather than undergo development through the course of the narrative makes it feel like a season finale to a saturday morning cartoon. Whatever development comes about suddenly in the closing moments rather than organically as the story plays out. 

The only exception to this is Thanos himself. Pay no attention to his henchmen, the "Black Order", for they are generic CGI baddies, just there to provide some reason to have the next few spectacular battle scenes. Thanos on the other hand, gets a very nicely fleshed out motivation and even some emotional moments tugging on the heart strings for good measure. In a way, I did feel sympathy for this devil.

On a whole, I would describe AVENGERS INFINITY WAR as this big reunion party. It sells itself on the experience rather than the story. The experience of a loyal fanbase being rewarded after 10 years of loyalty. The experience of that roller coaster ride through flash CGI graphics all "woohoo" and "yea!" and being able to enjoy it in the company of like minded individuals. It is a party more than a movie. Who cares about overly convenient events that drive the plot, who cares about unremarkable cinematography and overly hectic action sequences. Who cares about deeper themes, symbolism and narrative depth.  It makes me feel awesome. Exactly like a good party. 

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

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+