Saturday, December 26, 2009

Blood:The Last Vampire (2000) animation movie review

Overall verdict: 5.5/10

The Good: Extremely life-like animation fluidity, intense atmosphere, genuinely scary at times, impressive level of art detail, novel use of "mixed language" dub track

The Bad: flat one dimensional character personalities, no character development, lack of emotional depth, too short running time, erraticly paced story.

Current Availability Status: Very rare to find in local stores. Internet is the answer(order online)


Standing at 48 minutes long, Blood: The Last Vampire (2000) is cornucopia of pure violence, bad ass melee combat and suspenseful monster slaying action. It has exceedingly smooth animation combined with highly detailed artwork; a rare combination in japanese anime that works really well thanks to the professional production team at "Production I.G". This movie's appealing character designs are a far cry from the cutesy big eyed girls in most anime and together with some awesome fight choreography, sets a standard for a martial arts monster slayer action film that rivals many big budget live action productions.

However, look beyond the "wow factor" and there is little else that this film offers.

In terms of plot, "Blood: The Last Vampire" is very straight forward and predictable with few story twists. Saya is a half vampire, half human who hunts demons for a secret government organisation. At the dawn of the vietnam war era, Her latest assignment is to go undercover as a schoolgirl at a school on Yokota air force base in japan in order to uncover the cause of some mysterious but familiar killings. She is to seek out the demons disguised as humans in that school and eliminate them. Think "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" minus the wit mixed with "Blade" minus the cool factor of Wesley Snipes.

The characters are typical action movie stereotypes with the main character of Saya being seriously under-developed. It is very difficult to emotionally connect to any of the characters at all. Any sense of peril in the fights is effectively negated thanks to Saya being characterized as some unbeatable monster hunter extraordinaire. What is her motivation? We never get to find out. Her personality can be summed up as "cold" and her emotions range from bored anger to angry boredom.

Although the actors do their best to bring out as much emotion from the characters, the flat dialogue falls squarely on the shoulders of the writers. Special mention however goes to the decision to record a mixed language dialogue, which is no doubt a novel approach in japanese anime. Western or caucasian characters speak English, Asian characters speak Japanese. This movie enhances the realism and believability of the setting and the international cast of characters.

To top it all off, The pacing of the movie in erratic and it shows in the more subdued scenes of conversation where things get really boring. Lump that together with a huge let-down of an ending and you have Blood: The Last Vampire.
*****Fanboy RANT***

Vampire?? WTF vampire?? Where's the fangs?? Does she look like a vampire to you?!?!? The word "vampire" only appears once in the title and another time on a piece of paper. Saya is never shown to drink blood or die under sunlight. The creatures she hunts look more like mutant dinosaurs than vampires. So WHERE THE HELL does "Vampire" fit into this whole movie?!?!?!?!?
*****Fanboy Rant end****

Sure, this anime is famous and exceedingly popular among enthusiasts. But we have to look at what made it famous and it definitely was not its half baked story or one dimensional characters. Surely the animation and level of detail in the artwork is way beyond anything seen in typical japanese anime, having won a couple of awards and all, but an anime film with impressive animation alone is not a good anime film. There has to be a balance and sadly Blood: The Last Vampire does not have that balance.

The entire movie is easily summed up as a A bloody, over hyped, waste.
*****************************Review End******************

Go For it:If you want to see some of the most impressive animation and beautiful blending of traditional artwork with CGI. Watch also if you need some badass monster slaying action to pass the time

Avoid it: If your favorite anime involves "kawaii" characters or if you want to get emotionally attatched to these characters

Entertainment: C-
Animation: A+
Art: A
Voice work(English and japanese mixed ):A-
Replay Value:D+
"Brains": D

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Friday the 13th (2009) review: When being "true to the original" is not a good thing.

Overall verdict: 5.5/10

The Good: Retains everything good thing about the original. Stylish camera-work, action packed chase scenes, a new and improved "Jason Voorhees".

The Bad: retains every BAD thing about the original. Unlikable characters, cheesy dialogue, too much sex, illogical plot holes.

Availability: On discount priced DVD in singapore
DVD features:
- Rebirth of Jason Voorhees "making of" featurette
- deleted scenes

DVD Value for money grade: C

When you get down to the nitty gritty of this movie, the 2009 remake of Friday the 13th specifically caters only to existing fans of the genre. It takes EVERYTHING synonymous with 80s slasher movies and ups the ante on them. A huge pity that "everything" also includes the flaws of such slasher genre films such as annoying teenage characters, too much sex and a less than adequate story.

For starters, those who have watched at least one of the previous 1980s Friday the 13th movies can feel safe in the knowledge that this movie is pretty faithful to the spirit of the Friday the 13th franchise. However, it also means that the story is clichéd and stale to the core. Instead of doing something new with the franchise, it falls back on standard slasher movie re-threads. As usual, we follow a bunch of horny/idiotic teenagers who come to the lakeside for whatever silly reason (in this case, it is either to look for Marijuana or to party away from adult supervision), and then get hunted down and picked off one at a time by a crazed serial killer.

The movie jumps straight into the action for the first 20 minutes or so starting with the murder of Jason's mother and then Jason's attack on a bunch of campers many years later which would then lead into the story proper of Clay(played by the star of the "Supernatural" TV series Jared Padalecki) looking for his sister who went missing at camp crystal lake. But other than that, there is hardly anything else of interest to speak of.

If the story is not going to hold an audience, at least the characters should. right? Also no.

All of them are your usual, stereotypical horror movie stock characters who are just there to provide eye candy until they die. Even the character of Clay, who could have been given a more well rounded development, falls flat. Almost all of them are portrayed in such a terrible light that one would actually WANT Jason to kill them off just to prove Darwin's theory of survival of the fittest(or in this case extinction of the silliest). The actors(mostly culled from TV series) seem to do their best, but a mediocre script ruins everything.

Well, at least for a horror film it has to be scary right? wrong! There is not a single scare or even a shock in this entire film! So what silly excuse can anyone give to even waste their time with this movie?
Where Friday the 13th fails to reinvigorate the genre and fails even more as a competent horror movie, it suceeds in its "slasher" aspect coupled with some impressive production values and directing.

For starters, the film looks great, easily the best looking horror movie ever. Slick camera-work, a dark gloomy but crisp lighting style and some creative directing skills bring out the most in every single kill scene. Though the kills are not spectacular in any way, they are quite realistically played out. Every chase scene is a tense nail-biter, every bloody slash, bash and impalement is done with the flair and style of a big budget action flick.

The second "saving grace" of the film is the Jason Voorhees character himself. Face it, Jason in the previous Friday the 13th movies was a goofy looking retard who then became a dim witted, lumbering Zombie freak. THIS new Jason(played by Derek Mears) actually feels more threatening for a change. He plans his kills, he baits his victims into traps, he strikes with uncanny precision; more like a savage commando than a retard.

If anything, Friday the 13th 2009 succeeds at delivering the fundamental desire of any fan of slasher films: watching people you dislike getting dispatched in the most horrific and gruesome ways. It is sheer escapism and it blatantly focuses on that aspect while disregarding all others, for better or for worse.

************Personal rant**********There came a point in the movie when i actually started rooting FOR Jason to make his next kill only because the characters were just THAT unlikable.

I bet the producers were like, "Silly teenager characters with little development? All the more reason to want them to be killed off! Story?? Who needs story?! Just think up some shenanigans for them to go through until the next on gets offed."
*************Personal rant over. Back to review Proper*******************

At its core, Friday the 13th 2009 is no where near the standard of a "good movie". Merely good for 106 minutes of violent escapism. It adheres too much to the blandness of the original films but manages to up-the-ante on the aspects that matter to slasher fans; Better kills, a slick new look, a clear directing style, an improved re-imaging of Jason. Even the disgusting but mandatory sex scene(a staple in all slasher movies) is taken up a notch by having not one but two sex scenes to please the hot blooded male audience. Sadly, Friday the 13th fell back too much on its franchise's staples. It failed to carve a fresh new identity of its own and thus ended up tipping over into mediocrity.

It is violent and fun in a sick escapist sort of way, but fails as a "horror" show due to its lack of scares. Maybe being too faithful to the original wasn't such a good idea afterall.

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

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bionicle The Legend Reborn (2009) review: "reborn" or stillborn?

Overall verdict: 6/10

The Good: great animation, stellar acting, easy to follow story

The Bad: Might be too "kid friendly", Static directing style, newcomers to the bionicle franchice would be left lost.

Current Availability Status: DVD in MJ and Laser Flair stores now.
DVD features:
- Extended ending
- deleted scenes
- Character gallery
- trailers
- music video


Mata Nui, the great god of the Matorans has been betrayed and stripped of his power. Cast out into the universe, the once powerful deity must now fend for himself as a mere mortal in the barren lands of Bara Magna. there he would face untold dangers, make new comrades, and launch his quest to return to his homeworld and rescue his lost people.

The story's premise takes a new twist on the classic "fall of a king" story coupled with an almost Greek epic styled hero's journey. Narrative is easy enough to follow, straightforward and with little twists. (there is actually only one twist, but one that does not come unexpectedly). The creative team manages to throw in an ideal mix of seriousness and fun adventure, with some really good comedy moments involving Mata Nui's inexperience in dealing with Bara Magna inhabitants and adjusting to his new life. A real treat for the whole family to enjoy.

Despite their rather inhuman appearance, the bio-mechanical "bionicle" characters in this show very appealing and easy to relate to. Granted, some of them may come across as cardboard cutout stock characters from a Saturday morning cartoon, but the very professional level of the acting and a well written script makes up for the perceived lack of character development. Special mention goes to Star Trek: The Next Generation's Michael Dorn(Worf) who nails the role of main character Mata Nui head on, maintaining the regal tone befitting of a fallen king while infusing realistic believability into every spoken line.

No complains as well about the overall look of the show. The character designs are intricately detailed and the movements are fluid. One cannot help but be reminded of the robot designs in the live action Transformers movies(even though the Bionicle franchise came before the 2007 Transformers movie.) Of course the quality of the CGI in this show is not up to Pixar's standards but it is easily one of the best ever featured in direct to DVD CGI animated movies. Even the gears and turning parts on each character are fully animated and everything is given a dirty gritty look.

Now Bionicle The Legend Reborn may attract viewers by its entertaining story, script, fabulous acting and great graphics, but it would be REALLY HARD for viewers to actually "jump in". For one thing, the movie seems to require some familiarity of the bionicle universe. Casual animation movie fans would be literally left hanging due to the lack of backstory or even an introduction to the world of bionicle. Is this supposed to be a sequel? or a prequel? Or maybe even a reboot of the franchise? A small booklet or featurette in the DVD to explain the Bionicle backstory would have benefited the majority of viewers who might not be familiar with the Bionicle brand.

Secondly, the fine looking CGI graphics feel wasted on some terrible scene directing; this is the part where this movie suffers the most. Mark Baldo(whose only other directing credit is a couple of episodes of a TV series called "Father of the Pride") is the director here and his camera work can only be described as "LAZY". Most of the fight scenes are unusually static; more like watching a documentary than a fight scene in a movie. There is hardly any dramatic effect or intensity conveyed with his lackluster "matter of fact" directing style which leads to some very boring action sequences.

Music was relatively mediocre sounding like standard dramatic animation movie fare, but there were a couple of themes that stood out. The opening theme in particular had just the right epic feel to go with the story. Sound effects could have also been better too. Right now, the sound effects come across as too "light", giving a sense of weightlessness to the characters. Tech Specs on the Bionicle wikipedia says that the characters should be around 7 feet tall. But those light sounding sound effects and lack of a heavier bass make them seem like only 7 inches tall. Swords clashing sound like toys hitting each other, rocks crumbling down a slope sound like pebbles; that sort of thing.

All in all, Bionicle The Legend Reborn is a valiant attempt at bringing Bionicle once again into the animation DVD market and a solid entry following the previous animated Bionicle movies. However, this movie might not be able to impress anyone but the kids and the hardcore Bionicle fans. Not to mention that there was hardly any publicity prior to this movie's release. Maybe it might also attract some Star Trek fans thanks to Michael Dorn's awesome performance.

An entertaining little family movie that could have been better overall.

Entertainment: B-
Story: B
Animation: A-
Acting(english): A+
Replay value: C
"Brains": C-

Friday, December 11, 2009

Ultraman Towards the Future (1990) review: ... and a bright Future it is...

Overall series verdict: 7.5/10

The Good: Great acting, intriguing story, epic monster battles, lovable characters and special effects that are ahead of its time.

The Bad: Some issues with bad usage of green screen effects and moments of over-acting.

Current Availability status in Singapore: A few imports from japan and hong Kong available in privately owned shops.


Ultraman Toward the Future is the first live action Ultraman series NOT produced in Japan. This marvelous entry into the much loved Ultraman Mythos was an Australian production which was easily years ahead of its time. The likable cast of characters and top notch special effects coupled with a well crafted story makes "Ultraman Toward the Future" one of the best Ultraman series in existence.

Originally recorded in English, The story starts of very mysteriously and the 2 plot arcs unfolds across 6 episodes per arc over 12 episodes only in total. In the first story arc, Jack Shindo and Stanely Haggard are members of the first manned expedition to Mars where they encounter a giant slug-like monster, Gudis. They are rescued by the mysterious silver and red giant ULTRAMAN but not before Gudis escapes to earth in the form of an alien virus and Stanley is presumably killed. To ensure Jack Shindo does not die on Mars, Ultraman joins with Jack, allowing Jack to summon the heroic giant whenever all hope seems lost. On earth He joins the UMA organization in order to help them battle the monsters created by the Gudis virus. The story is very well plotted and does not drag.

There is a fair amount of human drama and a little comic relief thrown in but does not detract from the overall dark feel of the story. Every character is fully fleshed out and immediately likable. One can develop an emotional connection with each of the characters, from the hot headed Jean Echo to the "straight to business" base commander Arthur Grant. The actors are mostly Australian but are of mixed ethnic heritage and manage to pull off different accents, lending to a very diverse look for the main cast. Ultraman is not longer just a plot device to defeat the monster but a character onto himself who converses with Jack and helps him to deal with more subtle problems. He even dishes out some philosophy once in a while.

Each episode deals not only with a monster but with very down to earth themes that anyone can relate to. Themes like a child dealing with divorce, family neglect, and the importance of trust are interspersed with enough plot twists and intrigue that put some crime dramas out there to shame. The second half of the series even boasts some environmental cautionary tales with a overarching subplot of the earth trying to fight against the humans who have polluted it.

Those still suffering from traumatic memories of rubber pillows with eyes that pass off as monsters wrestling with a red and silver rubber man, fear not! The monsters are not just men in suits like the Japanese series but a mix of man in a suit, puppetry and props. Close-ups make use of still-props of, for example, the monster's head or foot, which allows a greater level of detail. Puppetry is used to give the monsters a more organic feel, to give life to tentacles, antenna and wings instead of just letting them flop to the side like in the Japanese series. The special effects used for the powers are astounding. They look better than Power Rangers which came out 3 years after this show and just as good as Ultraman Tiga, which came out 6 years after this. The fight choreography doesn't make use of quick cuts, but rather, the director(Andrew Prowse, who would go on to direct a number of episodes of the popular sci/fi series "Farscape") uses long panning shots from the ground level upward to give a grand feel and a sense of scale to the giant monster battles. Close ups are only used when necessary for dramatic effect.

Ultraman's design in this show is also a real treat. It Keeps true to the spirit of the original without any added gimmicks while creating a great looking character in its own right. This Ultraman is visibly bulkier and more muscular than the previous ones, looking more like a comic book hero than ever before. The miniatures are very intricately and realistically built and it helps that shots of miniatures are inter cut with shots of real cities. The Hummer flying scenes can look a little weird at times though due to the use of green screen against a stationary hanging model instead of real time puppetry.

Unlike power Rangers, "Ultraman Towards the Future" proves that giant monster defender shows of this sort can go beyond just brainless action and have an intelligent story with themes both simple and complex for children and adults. It even teaches good morals. The action is well paced and special effects are revolutionary for its time. A pity it only ran for 12 episodes.

A great jumping on point for anyone looking to get into the Ultraman fandom.

*******************************review end****************************

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

Thursday, December 3, 2009

X-men Origins: Wolverine (2009) review. A Feral Hearless Beast...

Overall verdict: 5.5/10

The Good: Excellent acting, awesome special effects, Hugh Jackman at his fittest

The Bad: Too many characters and not enough story, superficial take on Wolverine's "origin", lack of emotional depth, over-reliance on special effects and action

Current Availability status in Singapore: DVDs on sale now in all major DVD shops.

(the DVD is a 3 disc special edition with over 2 hours worth of extras for the same price as a regular single-disc edition. Real value for money!)
DVD features:
disc 1
- "Wolverine unleashed" behind the scenes featurette
- Deleted scenes
- Alternate ending
disc 2
-Weapon X mutant files character profiles
- "thrill of the chase". Deconstruction of how the helicopter chase scene was made
disc 3
- "On location" directors video log
- Wolvie's greatest hits (the history of the character)
- Generation X: comic book history (complete comprehensive guide to the x-men's history in comics)

DVD Value for money Grade: A


A feral heartless beast clawing frantically at its enemies and searching in vain for something missing pretty much sums up both the character of Wolverine and this movie. It is action packed, it is fun to watch but it is also a huge disappointment if you are expecting an honest to goodness "origin" story.

Though not entirely obvious in the first viewing, its flaws are really obvious once you look past all the visual effects and this whole grand scale epic journey.

First off, for a movie entitled "X-men origins: Wolverine" one would expect a more character centered narrative that delves deep into the core of Hugh Jackman's Wolverine character; his motives, his personality, what drives him and what unusual circumstances molded him into the character as seen in the X-men movies. What we are given instead is a generic action movie with the whole "origin" bit as merely a backdrop for introducing more "cool" mutant characters.

That is the main flaw of this movie as a whole: giving in too much to the demands of the typical summer blockbuster audience and sidelining everything else. No doubt that people will be impressed with the many scenes of wanton destruction and fast paced fights that this movie delivers. Vehicles are blown up, buildings are demolished; heck even a school is practically blasted in two. There are so many moments of "wow!" that even the brain-dead can just sit back and enjoy.

Sadly the characters themselves, though played well by some very professional actors, are not enough to drive the movie. Thanks to a half baked script that favors "cool" one liners over logical narrative sense, the character interactions are not strong enough for the audience to have much of an emotional connection to any of them. Wolverine's falling out with his brother, the death of his love interest, the betrayals that led to his decision to graft Adamantium metal to his bones, they never really convey much of an emotional impact. Instead they come across very "matter-of-fact-ly"; those events just happened so that the plot could advance. Even Wolverine's portrayal of a cool kick-butt hero with a sarcastic sense of humor may incite a giggle or two with his crass jokes but anyone looking for a deeper emotional understanding of the character, look elsewhere.

Fans of the Bryan Singer X-men movies might agree that there was more emotional character development for Wolverine in 1 hour of X-men2 than there was in the entire 107 minutes of this film. The only audience that might enjoy this superficially bland piece of work are the adrenaline pumped teens looking for a quick action fix or Hugh Jackman fans who want to see more of him doing cool things.

Like its titular character, X-men Origins: Wolverine is cool, funny, and pack to the gills with heart pumping action. It slices and dices its way from one grand special-effects laden battle to the next leaving behind a paper thin plot and a core without "heart". Emotionally disappointing as a tragic origin story, this movie is never really able to find the balance that made other superhero movies like Batman Begins and Iron Man such hits.
*****************************Review End******************

Go for it: if you are a fan of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine in the previous X-men movies or if you like some big brainless, special effects laden comic-book-movie action.

Avoid: if you are expecting any deeper insight into the Wolverine character other than what you already know from X-men 2 or if you expect any form of emotional involvement in a movie.

Entertainment: B-
Story: C-
Acting: A
Characters: D
Replay value: C+ for the movie, A+ for the DVD
"Brains": C

Full List of Reviews

This is my entire list of live action movies and TV shows reviewed on this blog.
For animated movies and TV shows please go here


300 (2007) - 7
300: Rise Of An Empire (2014) - 6.5
47 Ronin (2013) - 6

About Time (2013) - 9

Alien Vs Predator (2004) - 4.5
Aliens Vs Predator: Requiem (2007) - 5

Avatar (2009)- 8
(the) A-Team (2010) - 7.5
(the) Avengers (2012) - 8.5

(the) Amazing Spider-man (2012) - 6
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) - 7
Ant-Man (2015) - 6.5
Avengers: Infinity War (2018) - 9


Blood: The Last Vampire (2009) - 5.5
Battleship (2012) -6.5
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) - 8.5

Cloud Atlas (2013) - 9
Cinderella (2015) - 7
Captain America: Civil War (2016) - 8.5


Deadpool (2016) - 9.5
DeathNote (2006) - 5.5
Death Race 2 (2011) - 5.5
Drive (2011) - 9.5
(the) Dark Knight Rises - 10

Dredd (2012) - 8

Edge Of Tomorrow (2014) - 9.5

Friday the 13th (2009)
- 5.5
50/50 (2011) - 9

Fant4stic Four (2015) - 5


Godzilla (1998) - 6.5
Godzilla X Megaguirus (2000)- 5.5
Godzilla. Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001) - 7.5
Godzilla: Final War (2004) - 6
Gamer (2009) - 7
G.I Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009) - 6.5

G.I Joe: Retaliation (2013) - 6
Green Lantern (2011) - 6.5
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengence (2011) - 5

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) - 6
Godzilla (2014) - 8.5

Halloween (2007) - 7

Initial D (2005) - 5
Iron Man 2 (2010) - 7
Immortals (2011) - 7
Iron Man 3 (2013) - 6.5

Jurassic World (2015) - 6

Justice League (2017) - 7


Konga (1961) - 4.5
(the) Karate Kid (2010) - 9
King of Fighters (2010) - 1.5

Kong: Skull Island (2017) - 9

Love in Disguise (2010) - 3.5

Logan (2017) - 9.5

Mortal Kombat (1995) - 6.5
Monsters (2010) - 8
(the) Muppets (2011) - 9

Man Of Steel (2013) - 9
(the) Maze Runner (2014) - 8
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (2015) - 5.5


Need For Speed (2014) - 7.5
Ninja Assassin (2009) - 7


Pandorum (2009) - 7
Prince Of Persia: Sands of Time (2010) - 7.5
Predators (2010) - 7.5
Priest (2011) - 6.5
Pirates Of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - 7

Prometheus (2012) - 9.5
Pacific Rim (2013) - 8



Resident Evil (2002) - 6
Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004) - 5
Resident Evil: Extinction (2007) - 6
Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010) - 5
Real Steel (2011) - 9

Resident Evil: Retribution (2012) - 4.5
Robocop (2014) - 8
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2017) - 5.5

Speed Racer (2008) - 8.5
Street Fighter: Legend of Chun Li (2009) - 4
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) - 8.5

Suicide Squad (2016) - 6
Shin Godzilla (2016) - 8.5


Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) - 5.5
Transformers (2007) -7.5
The Ugly Truth (2009) - 6.5

Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen (2009) - 5.5
Tron Legacy (2010) - 9
Thor (2011) - 8

Thor: The Dark World (2013) - 7
Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011) -6.5
Total Recall (2012) - 7

Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014) - 7.5
Terminator Genisys (2015) - 7

The Mummy (2017) - 5.5
Transformers: The Last Knight (2017) - 5



Wonder Woman (2017) - 9

X-men Origins: Wolverine (2009) - 5.5
Xia Dao Xiao: Where Got Ghost?! (2009) - 3
X-men: First Class (2011) - 8.5

X-men: Apocalypse (2016) - 7




Tekken (2010) - 6
Tekken 2: Kazuya's Revenge - 3.5
Universal Soldier: A New Beginning (2009) - 5
Universal Solder: Day Of Reckoning (2012) - 7.5

TV Series
2025 (2015) 13 episodes - 2
Robocop: Prime Directives (2001) 4 Episodes - 5 
Mortal Kombat Legacy (2011 - 2013) Web series 19 Episodes - 6
Ultraman: Towards The Future (1991) 13 Episodes - 9
Ultraman: The Ultimate Hero (1993) 13 Episodes - 5

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009) review. It knows its from a cartoon, and knowing is half the battle.

Overall verdict: 6.5/10
The Good: excellent cast chemistry, straight forward and easy to follow narrative, witty humour, captures the spirit of saturday morning cartoons

The Bad: cheesy dialogue, special effects laden, deviates too much from the original source material

Current Availbility status in Singapore: DVDs on sale now in all major DVD shops.

DVD features:

Director's commentary

G I Joe: The Rise of Cobra is another one of those of big screen movie adaptations of Saturday morning cartoons, following the big but brainless Transformers movie sequel released in the same year.

Unlike Transformers, the producers and director of G I Joe know that it is, after all, a live adaptation of an 80s CARTOON. Instead of going for a real-world contemporary setting, they decided to push the storyline years into the future allowing the rather far fetched technology like Plasma weapons and nanobots to not seem so far fetched.

For better or for worse, this entire movie is a tribute to the classic action adventure Saturday morning cartoons that thrilled an entire generation of children. Director Stephan Sommers manages to balance great moments of "wow" with more subtle subdued scenes, then throw in the right amount of humor, an easy to follow story and very likable characters.

The story may come across as a little too straight forward at times and the characters, though very likable, are a rather one-dimensional......which is exactly like in the original cartoon. Good guys are good guys, bad guys are bad guys and every character is a living breathing personification of "stock stereotypes". What saved the characters from being dull was the excellent script, rather natural acting and chemistry that each character had with the others.

A romantic sub-plot was thrown in for good measure but don't expect anything too sappy. Again, the romance comes across as very typical of a Saturday morning cartoon. Nothing dirty, nothing lovey dovey, a little contrived at times but it really takes one back to more innocent times of old. Flashbacks are used frequently throughout the film for certain characters to establish their background and their motives but the placement of some of the flashbacks sort of "takes us away" from the build up of story.

Similar to his previous work in The Mummy and Van Helsing, Stephan Sommers' clear and easy to follow directing style brings out the best in the action. Chase scenes are thrilling, edge-of-your-seat rides, and slow-mo is used at all the right moments to accentuate the impact of the scene.

G I Joe: The rise of Cobra does a commendable effort at re-capturing the fun, though flawed, spirit of its original 1985 Saturday morning cartoon show and Depending on your own point of view, that can be a good thing or a bad thing. It is really up to personal preference. If you considered cartoons juvenile, their characters plain, the plots simple, the romance cheesy, then your opinions about the cartoons would be easily carried over to this movie.

People of all ages will enjoy this exciting thrill ride of a movie. Great cast( both in terms of chemistry and eye candy), awesome action(the underwater mini-subs battle was definitely something not often seen in movies) and great fun for the whole family.
*****************************Review End******************

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

Go for it: if you love the feel of saturday morning cartoons and are in the mood for a straight up fun, action-packed thrill ride with eye candy to boot.

Avoid: if you prefer gritty and grim. Cheesiness of the movie may put off viewers.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Batman: Gotham Knight (2008) review. The best of Both Worlds

Overall verdict: 9/10

Current Availability Status: 2 Disc special edition On DVD in stores at discounted price

DVD features:
disc 1
- A Mirror for the Bat: The Evil Denizens of Gotham City”: A stimulating documentary covering Gotham City’s most nefarious of characters, combined with a look into the symbiotic relationship Batman shares with his enemies.
-“Sneak Peek: Wonder Woman” - DC Universe animated original movie
-Audio Commentary - Featuring the filmmakers of Gotham Knight.
disc 2
-Batman and Me a Devotion of Destiny: The Bob Kane Story” - The comprehensive chronology of the remarkable life of the creator of Batman.
-“Batman: The Animated Series” Bonus Episodes - Bruce Timm selects his favorite episodes from Batman: The Animated Series.

Deep engaging stories written by renown American writers, rich detailed art and animation from top Japanese animation companies. Batman:Gotham Knight is truly a blend of the best from the east and west. 6 different animation directors and writers lend their own vision and creative flair to the legend of batman with highly successful and entertaining results.

First is "Have i got a story For you" written by Josh Olsen("A History of Violence" screenplay), directed by Shojiro Nishimi(who worked on TekkonKinkreet)and animated by Studio 4C(TekkonKinkreet, Spriggan). Most people i know say this is their least favorite of the short films. I find it quite good. It is about a bunch of kids relating their encounters with Batman, each giving a different spin on who the DArk Knight is and what he can do. HE is envisioned as vampire-like specter(no doubt inspired by the "Red rain" elseworld's Batman title), an invincible fighting machine(A hybrid of Gigantor and Iron Man) or like a feral bat-beast(similar to the Man-Bat) by 3 different kids. This segment is a metaphor basically for what the entire movie of Gotham Knight is all about. Different people giving their own different unique spins on Batman. It also speaks about how the legend of Batman in Gotham is fueled mainly by exaggerations made by the public. This first short film's art detail is kept painfully minimal but the character movements are flowing and fluid. The backgrounds are also the most intricately designed of all the 6 short films.

The second is "Crossfire". Written by Greg Rucka(comic book writer of 52, Ultimate Daredevil and OMAC project) directed by Futoshi Higashide in his directorial debut and animated by Production I.G(Ghost in the Shell, Sky Crawlers). It is more closely tied to the ongoing story arc of batman Begins and Dark Knight in that the police are not so trusting toward Batman. This story is a very straight forward tale of Batman gaining the trust of a skeptical detective after a daring rescue. THe director's inexperience shows in the poorly choreographed fight scenes. Where it falls short in the story and directing department, Crossfire makes up for it with some of the most beautiful character design seen in anime films. Batman's design here is possibly my favorite among all the 6 and the most true to the armored look of batman Begins' design.

THe 3rd short film is "Field test"(and my LEAST favorite among all). Written by Jordan Goldberg(film writing debut) directed by Hiroshi Morioka(Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles) and animated by Bee Train(.Hack). Aside from the moral at the end of the story about batman unwilling to put other's lives in danger for his own sake, this tale has nothing much to speak off. The story is a bore for the most part and the action is uninspired. The character designs are also very out of place. Bruce Wayne is suddenly a bishonen teenager and Batman looks more like "Eagleman" than Batman. THe fantasy-ish designs doesn't fit with the otherwise down to earth serious plot.

THe 4th, "In Darkness Dwells", can be easily seen as the definitive follow-up to Batman Begins. Written by Batman Begins writer himself David S Goyer, directed by Yasuhiro Aoki and animated by Madhouse(Ninja Scroll, Spawn). This story involves Batman going against the scarecrow and killer croc. It is a straight forward crime busting story with whacked out action sequences and a refreshingly stylized look. The character designs, colors and art style all lend to a very haunting and almost scary look to the whole segment. Action packed from start to finish, the fight scenes are truly epic. No so much in the story but since it is only a bridging piece between the Batman Begins and Dark Knight, i do not expect much resolution to the scarecrow plot here.

The 5th short film is my favorite in terms of story. "Working Through Pain" is a direct continuation of In Darkness Dwells, featuring a wounded Batman wandering the sewers in a daze due to loss of blood remembering his training days in India. Written by Brian Azzarello( comic book writer of "Superman: For Tomorrow" and "Batman: Broken City"), directed by Toshiyuki Kubooka(Origin: Spirits Of the Past) and animated by Studio 4C again. There is minimal art detail but extremely smooth an realistic character movements and animation. A nice break from the action heavy stories that came before, this one is a purely character driven tale about a seldom touched on time of Bruce Wayne's life. By the end of the story, we find out it is not so much physical pain that Bruce was looking to be able to bear. But it was in fact his own inner spiritual pain and the pain of the burden he now carries as Batman(reflected in the metaphorical final scene)

The last short film "Deadshot" is my all time favorite. It has an intriguing yet action packed story with a moral, and it has the best animation, choreography and artwork in the entire movie. Ironically, this one is the only one directed by a Korean, Jong Sik Nam(BASTof syndrome, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe 2002). Written by animation veteran Alan Burnett and animated by Madhouse(Vampire Hunter D Bloodlust). A very well paced chase story hearkening back some of the best episodes of the 90s Batman animated series. I could not help but realize that the animation, fight choreography and even some character designs seem like a homage to the style of Yoshiaki Kawajiri(Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, Ninja Scroll). Slow motion inter-cuts, muscular square jawed protagonist, flowing capes and full motion backgrounds all lend to this short film's awesome look and feel.

All in all, Gotham Knight is truly the blending of the best of both worlds. Most of the best animated movies have always been co-productions and this one is no exception.
*****************************Review End******************

Entertainment: A
Story: A-
Animation: A
Acting(english): A
Replay value: B-
"Brains": B+

Go for it: if you love Batman Begins, Dark Knight and great animation in general

Avoid: if you prefer more linear stories or if your idea of "anime" is synonymous with "kawaii"

Gamer (2009) review: One of the Best video game movies, ironically NOT based on an existing video game

Overall movie verdict: 7/10

The Good: underlying social commentary, easy to follow story, Gerald Butler kicking ass, video game style shoot outs

The Bad: underwhelming acting, cliched premise, erratic camerawork during fights, uninteresting characters

Current Availability status: DVD in stores now

DVD Features:
- none. just the movie

DVD value for money grade: C-

Anyone would be right in expecting this movie to be nothing more than pure action. Just watch, have fun and forget. After all, that is what the trailers make it out to be.

Gamer, however, proved to be a huge surprise and a better than expected.

For starters, Gamer is far from a mindless action flick. If anything it hearkens back to the late 80s where films were exceedingly violent and there was this obsession with futuristic settings and dystopian societies(remember Robocop, Total Recall, Blade Runner etc). Great to see that genre getting a revival.

Couple of parallels can be noticed between this and a number of other movies. Particularly Paul WS Anderson's "Death Race" and "The Condemned" which starred Stone Cold Steve Austin. Gamer's Premise about a wrongly accused criminal forced to take part in a "game" that is popular worldwide would no doubt cause an uproar of about how this movie lacks originality.

But who cares, this film delivers what one would expect from any first person shooter video game: non-stop action. The action is relentless and fast paced, though some viewers would be turned off by the erratic camera motions, whip pans and weird angles. Depending on the individual's taste, that style of filming would actually serves to increase the intensity and frantic feel of each action scene. Video game fans would no doubt agree that some of the "in game" combat footage scenes beats the crap out of the highly publicized 10 minute FPS scene in the 2005's "DOOM" movie.

Sadly, the acting was not really up to scratch, especially from Gerald butler. Gerald Butler is not a terrible actor judging from his previous starring roles. Maybe it was just how he was told to portray his character or the script he was given, but the acting was a little disappointing. Then again, its the future, a future where the general populace is so desensitized to violence that they may be a little less emotional than people in the present. In that case, much of the "flat" acting is negligible since it merely serves to better portray this dystopian society and how far humankind has fallen.

What stood out most was the implied messages and underlying themes of this film. The whole thing is a direct spoof of modern video gaming culture. It is like a cautionary tale about where our society may be heading . Themes about corporations controlling the people, desensitization to media violence, a downward spiral into decadence, and a world where the media is gaining a greater dominance over the minds of the youth are ALL spliced into the movie and, thankfully, come across as only implied and in no way "preachy". However that is also Gamer's downfall. The subtle social messages might be lost on the casual viewer thanks to the disappointing characters, less-than-original storyline and too much emphasis placed on the action.

In the end, most people might regard Gamer as a brainless action-er meant only for Video game addicts, action junkies and adrenaline pumped young adults. Not as if that is a bad thing. Also the more learned crowd like university students might get a kick out of discussing the many social issues that this movie brings to light.

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

Go for it: if you like violence like in video games and a story with a deeper social message

Avoid: if you demand only thespian level acting in a movie or are not a fan of "dystopian future" genre. Also if you get queasy at the sight of blood.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Ninja Assassin (2009) Review: Wicked weapons, killer moves and Bloody battles at its all-time Best

Overall movie verdict: 7/10

The Good: Intense non-stop action, bloody violence, beautiful fight choreography, a respectible update of the "ninja" film genre

The Bad: Convoluted story, Rain's bad acting, cheesy romance sub-plot, edits made by local film authorities

Current Availability Status in Singapore: DVD release pending

If the Wachowski brothers' Speed Racer was the ultimate tribute to family friendly classic cartoons, Ninja Assassin is the ultimate tribute to 80s martial arts B movies like "Enter the Ninja" and the Ultra-violent anime genre titles like Ninja Scroll.(Already noticed the name "ninja" in all the titles mentioned? well, what a coincidence!). It is violent, it is bloody and packed to the gills with action. Every thing else ends up playing second fiddle to the fights.

Unfortunately, "every else" also includes the story which is, a hodgepodge of very familiar elements. Raizo (played by Korean star Rain) is an orphan raised by a cruel master Lord Ozunu(played by Sho Kosugi, famous for his starring roles in, what else, 80s ninja movies like "Enter the ninja".) to be part of a secret clan of ninjas that have been responsible for countless assassinations over the centuries. Through a series of flashbacks (intercut with scenes of a half naked hunky Rain training with some vicious looking weapons), Raizo's tragic story is fleshed out. We see his tormented childhood days as a ninja trainee; his only emotional refuge, an orphan girl who, like Raizo, is part of the clan. One day, his friend tries to escape from the violent ninja way of life and is executed, prompting a change of heart in Raizo who eventually betrays his clan after a narrowly botched mission. Now on the run, hunted by both his former comrades and a special international task force, Raizo finds an unlikely ally in the form of Mika Coretti, a Europol agent who is close to exposing the secret existence of the Ninjas and hence targeted for assassination.

Simply put, the unoriginal storyline is highly predictable and filled with B movie clichés from stem to stern. It is a definite step down from the philosophical Matrix trilogy or the sophisticated and political V for Vendetta. It also lacks the fun of Speed Racer.

Characters are, at best, cardboard cut outs and at worse painfully bland. None of them come across as emotionally engaging. Raizo is especially underdeveloped despite being the main character. His internal motives for his betrayal are never fully explored and the cheesy romance bit, not to mention the whole big about "the heart' feels like a tacked-on afterthought. The acting is passable; nothing better than the level of a TV series, but the script manages to have a couple of witty lines and dialog.

However, being a homage to 80s martial arts B movies and violent anime, one would not expect a work of storytelling perfection. One would expect lots of fights and lots of violence, to which this film delivers in spades. Limbs are lobbed off, stomachs are split open and heads are busted as the movie slashes its way from one fight scene to the next, delivering scenes of wicked weapons and bloody carnage that make even Friday the 13th and Texas Chainsaw Massacre look like a tame PG film. The fight choreography is well executed with a good mix of slow motion and frantic close-ups. Special effects and CGI are used to effectively give the movie a very comic book-like feel (not surprising since the Wachowski brothers are avid comic fans and one of the screenplay writers is also a comic book writer). Thankfully some erratic camera work (especially during the scene where Raizo is being chased through a busy street) does not feel distracting but enhances the frantic and lightning fast pace of the fights. Blood flows like rivers as Raizo proceeds to disembowel enemies en masse; definitely not for the squeamish.

On a whole, Ninja Assassin feels like a fan-boy's dream come true from the first skirmish to the climatic showdown involving modern day special forces taking on an army of ninja warriors . Some cheesy bits here and there require a certain suspension of disbelief but the film's portrayal of ninjas in general is gritty and realistic yet preserves their mysterious and legendary status. It is refreshing too to see that Raizo is not some invincible killing machine as he does tire and he does take his fair share of hits, even going down a couple of times.

Forget Naruto and all those brightly dressed, magic power spewing ninjas of recent anime. Ninja Assassin is the butt-kicking, face slashing answer to all that. A respectable re-imaging of a dated genre and 99 minutes of non-stop violent escapism once you look past its narrative flaws.
*****************************Review End******************

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

Go for it: if you're in the mood for some unadulterated bloody violent escapism the likes of which rivals Ninja Gaiden, God of War and Rambo.

Avoid: if you have a weak stomach for bloody violence or have a deep respect for historical accuracy.