Thursday, December 25, 2014

BEST OF 2014

2014 has come and gone. Here are my top 10 movies for the year

Click on the links for A full review where applicable

1. Edge of Tomorrow

Based on the Japanese novel "All you need is Kill", EDGE OF TOMORROW is a gripping character focused tale that gives a fun fresh edgy spin to a tried and true sic/fi premise. An alien species called the Mimics have landed. Inhumanly fast, vicious and able to outsmart human attack plans at every turn, Mimic forces threaten to overwhelm the world. A massive counteroffensive on the coasts of Europe which ends disastrously for former PR officer turned forced conscript William Cage (Tom Cruise).......until he wakes up 24 hours before the invasion at the start of his conscription.
Edge of Tomorrow is a lot smarter than it seems at first. It deconstructs cliches and may even be seen as a parody of an audience's expectations when they see a movie. In playing against type, Tom Cruise shines as the cowardly Cage whom we discover is all brave talk and no action. His performance is earnest and nuanced, lending weight to the more tragic scenes of Cage experiencing the deaths of those close to him over and over again.Watch this, savour this, and repeat. 

Native 3D: No


2. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Ten years after a deadly diseases wiped out most of humanity, a colony of smart genetically enhanced apes, led by Ceasar, have made the forests of San Francisco their home. There they thrive until their peace is broken by a group of humans searching for an hydroelectric dam. Fear and paranoia mounts of both sides, with trust and friendship constantly hanging in a fragile balance. Threats mount from within as dissension slowly builds. Social commentary and political musings pepper this deep science fiction film as Andy Serkis brings his award winning performance to the character of Ceasar, leader of the apes.

A smart, vicious, and throughout provoking sequel.

Native 3D: Yes


3. Godzilla

In shaping Godzillas future, the creative team look back on the big G's past, digging deep into the earlier, darker themed Showa era godzilla movies and combining the best elements of 60 years worth of sequels. Like the first 1954 original, the monsters' appearance is teased and glimpsed through the human focused tale. This is slow build up and reveal calls back to classic monster movies like JAWS, ALIEN, and the original GODZILLA. Yet director Gareth Edwards successfully builds the tension right up to the big payoff clash of titanic proportions.
Fans of all action monster mash ups like GODZILLA FINAL WAR or DESTROY ALL MONSTERS would no doubt find the slow burn build up boring. But fans of the 1954 classic and the more serious Showa era movies would have much to cheer about. With a nostalgic score by Alexander Desplat clearly inspired by the late great Akira Ifukube, GODZILLA serves as a harrowing metaphor of nature's supremacy over mankind. Where the 1954 classic was an analogy for the atomic bomb, 2014's movie brings to mind the tsunamis and nuclear plant meltdowns that shocked the world. A clever, emotionally engaging and powerful tribute to 60 years of Godzilla.

Native 3D: No

4. Big Hero 6
BIG HERO 6 is good. It is colourful, action packed and simple enough for kids and inner children. Yet it packs a significant emotional wallop and some mature themes for those willing to dig deeper into the narrative. Visually, it is a fine piece of work to look at and just take in the details in the wonderful animation. Accompanied by a rousing electronic score by WRECK-IT RALPH'S Henry Jackman, BIG HERO 6 looks set to obscure its own middling comic book source material, (which is not entirely surprising since there was hardly any reprint of the comic aside from the hard-to-get single issues). Big on thrills, big on heart, big on technical achievement; that is BIG HERO 6. Oh and big bucks for disney's merchandising department.

Native 3D: Yes

Buy BIG HERO 6 on Blu Ray

5. Robocop

ROBOCOP retains many elements of the original, while updating the premise for contemporary audience. It got the satire down very well, firstly in the form of extreme leftist show host Pat Novak (Samuel L Jackson), then among other things, the revelation that the "all American" Robocop was made in China. Although not as dark a dark comedy as the original movie, the satire here works, as with many of the subtle changes. Our new Robocop, played magnificently by Joel Kinnaman, is sleek, fast, he's strong, plus he does not just stand there and get shot at. Best of all, he retains his heart and struggles with his humanity.The film deals with the consequences of being turned into a commercial product, where every change in your life is dictated by focus groups and monetary decisions. Choice is no longer your own and you are duped into the illusion of free choice. If the public thinks your emotions are getting in the way of your professionalism, your emotions have got to go. Slowly but surely, everything that made you human is slowly drained away. Then once the company decides to "pull the plug", are they just terminating an asset? Or is it attempted murder?

Native 3D: No

Buy ROBOCOP 2014 on Blu Ray

6. Maze Runner

His name is Thomas. That is all he knows. He has been sent via the mysterious "box" into a contained colony of boys called "the glade". Nobody knows why they are there, only that they cannot leave. Around the glade lies the maze where only the fastest and bravest among them, dubbed "maze runners", get to explore in the hopes of finding a way out. Thomas' arrival causes a schism among the boys and strange incidents start happening one after the other. As the perfect peaceful society of the Glade is slowly torn asunder, Thomas must unravel the secrets of the maze and confront the horrors within. I admit to not having read the original book so I would not know how close it is to the source material. On its own, MAZE RUNNER is The grandchild of LORD OF THE FLIES and TV's LOST. It combines tried and true story beats sieved through an intriguing premise and a decent mystery (despite being almost undone by the ill advised flashbacks). It avoids many mistakes other adaptations of young adult novels make, like lingering on romance subplots, and leaves a decent sequel hook that leaves you wanting more.

Native 3D: No

Buy MAZE RUNNER on Blu Ray

7. Lego Movie


Native 3D: Yes

Buy LEGO MOVIE on Blu Ray

8. The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies

Native 3D: Yes


9. Interstellar

Native 3D: No

10. X-Men Days of Future Past

Native 3D: Yes


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Big Hero 6 (2014) CGI Animated movie review

Overall verdict: 9/10

The Good: Top notch CGI, emotionally charged story of love and loss, adorable mascot character, full development arc of main character, rousing soundtrack, delves into deeper themes of brotherly bonds and friendship. 

The Bad: cliched side characters and story threads.

3D Readiness: Rendered in full 3D. Recommended
IMax-ability: Not formatted for iMax but detailed scenes and magnificent CGI lend itself well to the format

This is not the comic book I remembered. This is.

Then again, I barely remembered the comic book at all. Goes to show how "critically acclaimed" it was. Big Hero 6 was originally a short lived team-up of Marvel's Japanese superheroes including X-men's Sunfire and Silver Samurai........which (thanks to some other movie studio) can no longer be featured. But no worries. In typical Disney tradition, Disney studios took the title of an existing piece of work, and changed the heck out of it.

Rapunzel, The Snow Queen, and now Big Hero 6. What was originally a government sanctioned team of of super powered black ops operatives is now a bunch of genius teens named after food. Each character is recognisable modern high school stereotype: Wasabi goes from a chef with mystical qi energy blades to the tough talking genius jock, Fred is the drawling slacker with a monster "Fred-zilla" suit, no longer the psychic who manifests a giant monster construct. Honey-Lemon keeps her power purse but goes from sexy-dressed secret agent to excitable genki girl-with-glasses. Gogo-Tamago loses her ex-convict background and power to turn into a high speed energy egg (hence the "tamago" name) and becomes your typical tough but quiet girl who is secretly loves an adrenaline rush (which she gets from her electromagnetic skating suit).

The biggest change is Hiro and Baymax, our main characters. Young Hiro Yamada finally finds his place among fellow tech-obsessed teens at his brother's university. With the help of his new found friends, he creates "microbots" which can form into any shape and are controlled by thought via a transmitter. A disaster robs Hiro of his invention and his beloved brother. Grieving the loss of Tadashi, Hiro accidentally activates Tadashi's project "Baymax", an inflatable health care robot who approaches Hiro as his patient. Hiro and Baymax form an awkward buddy relationship until news surfaces of a masked villain who appears to be using Hiro's microbots for crimes. Sensing that this masked man may be linked to his brother's death, Hiro sets out to investigate and take him down, with Baymax in tow whether he likes it or not. 

Ah Baymax.......Disney's latest stroke of merchandising genius. Kids love their adorable non- human sidekicks. Olaf the snowman in FROZEN, Pascal and Maximus from TANGLED just to name a few. And now Baymax, who gets stripped of his dark and gritty comic book origin as a shape shifting robotic hulk with the brain of Hiro's dead father, who can transform into a monstrous demon form and kick butt. (see below)

In the movie, he gets turned into an inflatable, huggable, balloon-bot with a simple programme to provide the best form of physical and emotional healthcare for his patient, even if he has little knowledge of human emotions outside of theory and data.  His adorable look and innocent personality will be a big hit with kids. Children everywhere will be clamouring for Baymax balloons, Baymax floats, inflatable life sized "hug-me" Baymax, and if technology allows, an intractable "talk-to-me" Baymax toy. 

Now putting adult cynicism aside, BIG HERO 6 does tackle some interestingly mature themes for kids' show. It is no doubt a tried and true superhero origin story fuelled by the death of a loved one. We've seen it in Spiderman, Batman, many times. The whole "boy and his robot, forming a bond of family, and learning the value of human life" thing was done with much more finesse and impact in James Cameron's TERMINATOR 2. But dig deeper into the narrative and even adults will find much to love about this movie.

We have the staple importance of sibling love, a recurring theme from FROZEN. We also have the theme of how one deals with loss, with various characters being put through the five stages of grief yet acting on those emotions differently based on one's values. On top of that, BIG HERO 6 deals with wish fulfilment of any kid's desire for the perfect friend. Baymax portrays love and care in its most simplest and innocent of forms.

Hiro on the other hand portrays a harsh world's tendency to force those closest to them into roles they were never meant for. His developmental journey with Baymax, from the awkward attempts at learning a secret handshake to the Baymax's straight faced earnest calm when faced with the gravest of situations, is a heartwarming and at times heart wrenching one as a boy and his robot forms an unbreakable brotherly bond. To quote TERMINATOR 2, seeing Hiro and Baymax "it was suddenly so clear. Baymax would never stop. It would never leave him, it would never hurt him, never shout at him, or get drunk and hit him or say it was too busy to spend time with him.". Love in its simplest form. Unconditional love that any child, past or present, secretly desires.

Digital artists and CGI aficionados too will desire BIG HERO 6's impressive computer generated imagery. Starting with the fictional city of San Fransokyo, the level of detail is astounding and almost photorealistic. Leaves flutter in the wind, strands of hair react to movement. Although the character designs retain the simpler streamlined, big headed, style used in previous disney CGI movie, the amount of care that went into crafting each model and animating it with the right sense of mass shows an amazing level of expertise in the field.

Bottom line is, BIG HERO 6 is good. It is colourful, action packed and simple enough for kids and inner children. Yet it packs a significant emotional wallop and some mature themes for those willing to dig deeper into the narrative. Visually, it is a fine piece of work to look at and just take in the details in the wonderful animation. Accompanied by a rousing electronic score by WRECK-IT RALPH'S Henry Jackman, BIG HERO 6 looks set to obscure its own middling comic book source material, (which is not entirely surprising since there was hardly any reprint of the comic aside from the hard-to-get single issues). Big on thrills, big on heart, big on technical achievement; that is BIG HERO 6. Oh and big bucks for disney's merchandising department.

*****************************Review End***************************

Entertainment: A
Art: A-
Animation: A
Story: B-
Characters: A 
Music: A-
Voice Work (english): A 
Replay value: A
"Brains": B+

Friday, November 28, 2014

My Little Pony Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks (2014) Animated movie

Overall verdict: 7.5/10

The Good: Retains the captivating personalities of the original characters, top notch voice acting, beautiful animation that exceeds TV series standards, catchy well written songs,   
The Bad: trivialises its themes and core morals, lacks a credible story villain, much wasted potential, plays 'safe' with the status quo

3D Readiness: none
IMax-ability: none

There were two things I did not like about the previous "EQUESTRIA GIRLS" movie. First was the shallow theme that fantastic musical talent wins you friends. In the last movie, instead of showing Twilight winning over the hearts and minds of her school mates through her honesty, sincerity and helpfulness, she wins them over through the magic of song and dance. Next is the tons of wasted potential to tell a much deeper or more mature story that one couldn't show in the regular MY LITTLE PONY FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC series. Instead of that we get unnecessary musical numbers. RAINBOW ROCKS takes a dive off the deep end and make the music the central driving force behind the whole plot. Surprisingly, it works. And what we have is a decent musical movie that works around music to deliver the morals and themes that the franchise should have from the get go.

As Canterlot High prepares for its annual talent showcase, three mysterious girls with mind controlling voices turn the showcase into a "Battle of the Bands". Their sinister songs bring out bitter rivalries between the bands, negative emotions which the girls seem to feed on and grow more powerful. Only the 5 main characters, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy and AppleJack are unaffected by the spell due to their contact with Equestrian magic. Also unaffected is a reformed Sunset Shimmer, the antagonist from the previous movie. 

In an interesting reflection of the original 1986 MY LITTLE PONY cartoon, Twilight Sparkle takes on the "friend from another world" role that Megan had in that series. Only this time, it is a magical pony who travels to the human world to help solve her human counterparts problems. So in comes Twilight who soon realises that trouble is brewing from within. The gang ain't getting along due to conflicts of interest, egos and generally familiar problems that tend to crop up in any group of pals. Thankfully, the day is not saved once again through a song and dance routine but through some actual character development and harsh lessons.

Generally the writing is an improvement over the lacklustre first entry of EQUESTRIA GIRLS. There are good lessons to be learned from the way the group dynamics of our main characters grow and mature. The bottom line is that RAINBOW ROCKS keeps the conflicts real. The characters go through real problems that real people face everyday, solving them like real people and in doing so makes those characters all the more relatable. Most intriguing is Sunset Shimmer and her journey towards redemption in the eyes of her peers. Now the black sheep of the school, Sunset's character arc of regaining the respect and trust of her friends can get quite heart wrenching when you see how hard she tries and still people remember only her bad deeds of the past. This is a very real problem that youngsters face. Just as real is Twilight Sparkle's dilemma of being the designated "hero" and cracking under the pressure to live up to everyone's sky high expectations.

"Sky High" also describes the production quality on this. RAINBOW ROCKS earns its status as a "movie" by showcasing a tremendous leap in terms of animation quality from anything seen in the TV series. The production team experiments with bolder shot set ups and action scenes and more detail in the art. Just look at the way the shadows from the refrigerator plays off Twilight and Sunset during a night scene in the kitchen! It is beautiful!. Designs have been tweaked slightly, making the humans look less uncanny. The characters facial expressions are the definite highlight here; dynamic, perfectly drawn, and covering a wide range of emotions that are complimented with some of the finest voice acting in modern animation.

Of course, we have the songs. Expertly written and composed by Daniel Ingram, the songs are catchy and fun. As usual, one could compare them to the best of disney musicals but with a more modern spin.  Think of it as a fantasy styled retelling of Glee with a bit more depth. Moving into more mature storytelling seems to be the way to go, and a way that works well for the Equestria Girls franchise. 

*****************************Review End***************************

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

Friday, November 7, 2014

Tekken 2: Kazuya's Revenge aka A Man Called X (2014) directo to video review

Overall verdict: 3.5/10

The Good: Kane Kosugi in a starring role, realistic fight scenes with good camerawork

The Bad: overall cheap feel, confusing story, tedious pacing, boring, generally muddled direction, bad editing, has nothing to do with the Tekken franchise

3D Readiness: none
IMax-ability: none


TEKKEN 2: Kazuya's Revenge aka A Man Called X is a movie with an identity crisis. Ironic that the movie itself features a main character with a similar identity crisis. TEKKEN 2 is not a sequel, and has little to do with the beloved video game franchise it claims to be based on. The "man" in question is called "K", not "X" and "Kazuya's Revenge" is possibly the worst case of spoiler in the title, especially since the main plot is about K rediscovering his identity as Kane Kosugi, oops sorry, I mean, the titular Kazuya, after an unexplained bout of amnesia.

Waking up In a dystopian corporation run future which looks an awful lot like a present day south East Asian slum, K (who is obviously Kane Kosugi) is haunted by an obnoxious voice in his head, hunted by rent-a-cops in old army wear, and discovers he knows kung fu. Still he gets knocked out and recruited by a criminal Organisation run by "the minister". This Organization (consisting of mostly homeless Asians and stunt people) pits its members against one another in fights to the death. The victors are sent on assassination missions, something about cleansing the world or some dope like that. So when K gets tasked to take out Gary Daniels (who everyone mistakes for a Tekken character called Bryan Fury) he finds out that the Minister is not the holy man his followers think he is.

There's a bit more to the story about K discovering he is really Kazuya and a showdown with Tsang Tsung.....erm, wrong franchise....Cary Hiroyuki (although he claims to be one Heihachi Mishima) and a couple of thugs but one's patience would be truly tested by then. The story is just THAT badly paced that it actually comes across as tiresome. For example you have this whole 10 minute sequence of K taking a walk through Slum Town.......doing nothing. For 10 whole minutes while the voice-over from the Minister goes on and on about how his army of homeless beggars, sorry looking ruffians and old ladies are going to rid the world of evil. It is laughable, really.

Laughable too his how this movie is obviously not related to the Tekken franchise at all. The first TEKKEN movie starring John Foo and Ian Anthony Daniel at least looked like Tekken. Despite the mixed up story, Characters looked like how they do in the games, they wore familiar costumes and hairdos, and many familiar set pieces are showcased. In TEKKEN 2, it is a completely unrelated movie which had some characters names changed to names from Tekken.

Martial artist actor Kane Kosugi is wasted on this misbegotten prequel. Having had nothing but supporting roles so far, Mr Kosugi deserves a good movie as a main character to really showcase his skills. He does his own stunts, he is a trained martial artist with a flair for movie fighting. He could have been Hollywood's Donny Yen or at least followed in his father's footsteps (Sho Kosugi) in becoming a cult classic Kung fu star. Instead, he gets shoehorned into a production directed by "Wych Kaos".

Instead of looking like a Hollywood movie, The whole film has that "shot in my backyard" feel and visual nature akin to those cheapskate Malaysian or Singaporean TV productions. Some good camera-work does show up in the fight scenes, eschewing the usual close ups and jitter cam for wide sweeping angles that gives you full view of the fight. Unfortunately many of these scenes are edited like some amateurs on YouTube. You have a scene where K lifts his leg to kick but when the blow connects, the next cut shows K punching the guy.

Boring for the most part, tediously paced, and obviously done on the cheap, TEKKEN 2 would not have been judged any less harshly had it discarded the video game's moniker and presented itself as a martial arts movie. Kane Kosugi's fights and stunts are impressive no doubt, but their impressiveness is undermined by amateurish directing and editing. Take this sorry excuse for a movie, splice together all the Kane Kosugi fights, then trash the rest. You'd get a far more entertaining short film than TEKKEN 2.

*****************************Review End***************************

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

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Edge Of Tomorrow (2014) movie review

Overall verdict: 9.5/10

The Good: Perfect character development, well paced narrative, actors spectacularly playing against type, thrilling action, fittingly gritty but clear cinematography, well placed dark humour, flawless special effects.

The Bad: Requires some thinking to follow the time loop plot

3D Readiness: Post filming 3D conversion.
IMax-ability: Fast paced shots of combat and intense action may not lend well to imax viewing

Based on the Japanese novel "All you need is Kill", EDGE OF TOMORROW is a gripping character focused tale that gives a fun fresh edgy spin to a tried and true sic/fi premise. Remember those impossibly difficult video games where you just keep dying only to restart the game in frustration, get past that part where you last died and then die again? The cycle repeats and only through learning from past missteps can you outmanoeuvre your enemies and make it to the end. It is all a video game to us, but for the unfortunate Ex-Major William Cage, it is looping nightmare.

An alien species called the Mimics have landed. Inhumanly fast, vicious and able to outsmart human attack plans at every turn, Mimic forces threaten to overwhelm the world starting with Europe, until A mysterious victory at Verdun spurs the military's confidence in the one man army exoskeleton called "the jacket". If one woman, Rita Vertasky, could master the "jacket" within a few days of the victory at Verdun, then a legion of similarly equipped soldiers would stand a chance against the mimics. So begins a massive counteroffensive on the coasts of Europe which ends disastrously for former PR officer turned forced conscript William Cage (Tom Cruise).......until he wakes up 24 hours before the invasion at the start of his conscription.

What follows is an intense "groundhog day" style war story. True to the movie tagline, Cage lives, dies and repeats the day each time, and each time, he discovers more about the mimics and his mysterious ability. To change the future of mankind, Cage has to continually enlist the help of Rita Vertasky, the angel of Verdun, to train him and ultimately help him take down this alien menace.

In playing against type, Tom Cruise shines as the cowardly Cage whom we discover is all brave talk and no action. His performance is earnest and nuanced, lending weight to the more tragic scenes of Cage experiencing the deaths of those close to him over and over again. Equally nuanced is the tough as nails "angel of verdun" Rita Vertasky played by Emily Blunt. The emotionally captivating script conveys a beautiful heroes journey for Cage where he grows and learns following each cycle. Peppered throughout is the kind of dark humour which would make Paul Verhoven proud. Bill Paxton channels Lee Emery from Full Metal Jacket and delivers the best drill sergeant jerk face character in recent years.

Through the use of the time loop gimmick, this movie is able to deliver intense thrills and real chills. The irony is in how unpredictable the plot becomes by fooling its audience into the illusion of predictability with its premise. Just as you start to feel "safe" that Cage can overcome any problem by just dying and looping back with renewed knowledge, new twists are thrown in and this heightens the stakes; feel of peril when Cage is suddenly caught off guard has never felt more dangerous. It helps that the antagonistic "mimics" are possibly the most "alien" alien threat that we have seen in a while.

They are a mess of glass-like inhuman appendages with gaping maws that glow fiery red. They are a whipping blur and always seem out of phase with time and space, spectacularly brought to life with cutting edge special effects. While many shots were done on location, one would be hard pressed to tell where the actual location ends and the special effects begin. Those into mecha would definitely be captivated by the exo-suits worn by the human soldiers which hearken back to the story's Japanese roots.

All this aside, Edge of Tomorrow is a lot smarter than it seems at first. It deconstructs cliches and may even be seen as a parody of an audience's expectations when they see a movie. Each loop Cage experiences is slightly different and he fails when he expects only the same formula and is caught off guard by new surprises. In a way, movie audiences feel most "safe" in a cliched movie. Look at the highest grossing blockbusters worldwide and you can see this proof. In the same way, here is a movie that is built on cliche: the time loop, jerk face drill sergeant, world war two Normandy landing ripoff, special effects laden combat etc. Yet these cliches are handled smart and they are delivered spectacularly.

If not for the slightly underwhelming music, Edge of Tomorrow would have gotten a perfect score. Many have called this the movie Starship Troopers should have been. I for one come away with joy and hope seeing how wonderfully Hollywood has adapted a Japanese light novel especially after mediocre results adapting manga and Japanese movies. There are many such novels just waiting to be adapted into blockbuster films: the high school espionage thriller with mechs "Full Metal Panic", the post apocalyptic vampire tale "Trinity Blood", and of course the Gothic science fiction horror that is "Vampire Hunter D".

Watch this, savour this, and repeat. Edge of Tomorrow is easily the biggest surprise hit of 2014.

*****************************Review End***************************

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

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Maze Runner (2014) movie review

Overall verdict: 8/10

The Good: Intriguing mystery premise, well rounded characterisations, magnificent production design, well paced narrative, touches on social commentary

The Bad: cliched storyline, shaky camera cinematography, "designated hero" syndrome for main character

3D Readiness: Post filming 3D conversion.
IMax-ability: Tight shaky shots of running do not work in iMax. 

His name is Thomas. That is all he knows. He has been sent via the mysterious "box" into a contained colony of boys called "the glade". Nobody knows why they are there, only that they cannot leave. Around the glade lies the maze where only the fastest and bravest among them, dubbed "maze runners", get to explore in the hopes of finding a way out. Thomas' arrival causes a schism among the boys and strange incidents start happening one after the other. As the perfect peaceful society of the Glade is slowly torn asunder, Thomas must unravel the secrets of the maze and confront the horrors within. 

Secrets, half-truths, and a sense that all is not what it seems. I have always loved a good sci if mystery. Our premise of a community of male teens isolated from the world is a premise many would be familiar with. The group rivalries, the competition for alpha male status, the unique lifestyle and forms of punishment; MAZE RUNNER takes advantage of its slow moving first half to build that world of lost boys. All the while, the constant mystery of the maze lingers. And just when things start to wind down, the writers throw more surprises into the mix which give the film a much needed sense of urgency. What are these surprises? No spoilers now. But rest assured, this movie has great pacing.

MAZE RUNNER is how I always imagined a gritty blockbuster movie would look based on those printed mazes in activity books we used to trace with crayons when we were kids. The maze itself is marvelously designed, oozing with a sense of dread. The ominous walls combines an ancient monolithic look with pieces of worn out future tech peeking out the corners; just enough to give this uneasy sense of that something is not quite right. Couple all that with some truly spine chilling sound effects and the movie starts to cross into horror territory. 

It is to mazes kind of like what they did to a simple board game called Battleship. Unlike the battleship movie, MAZE RUNNER gives us some well rounded characters with believable motives and decent development. Yes you have some clich├ęd stereotypes in the benevolent but status quo upholding leader, the hot headed "warrior chief" alpha male edging for a fight, the conflicted second in command, and an adorable sidekick for the main character. Yet it is this sense of familiarity with the character archetypes and the isolated single gender community setting that let's one ease into the story without being alienated by the already alienating premise.

Amazing as the movie is, MAZE RUNNER is not without some flaws. Main character Thomas suffers from the typical designated hero syndrome. He is not a kid who earns his heroism or the respect of the group. From the get go, everything important revolves around him, he is able to do startling things that no one else can. You know he is special and the plot does not hide that or let it develop naturally. Director Wes Ball crafts a decently paced narrative with top notch special effects, but the visuals tend to be marred by his obsession with out of focus shaky cameras in action scenes. Perhaps the biggest misstep is some poorly placed flashbacks that could have completely ruined the mystery element for audiences familiar with certain video games (hint: Portal). 

I admit to not having read the original book so I would not know how close it is to the source material. On its own, MAZE RUNNER is The grandchild of LORD OF THE FLIES and TV's LOST. It combines tried and true story beats sieved through an intriguing premise and a decent mystery (despite being almost undone by the ill advised flashbacks). It avoids many mistakes other adaptations of young adult novels make, like lingering on romance subplots, and leaves a decent sequel hook that leaves you wanting more.

*****************************Review End***************************

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

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Need For Speed (2014) movie review

Overall verdict: 7.5/10

The Good: Intensely choreographed races, dynamic camerawork,  

The Bad: cliched storyline, flat characterisations, 

3D Readiness: Post filming 3D conversion.
IMax-ability: Wide shots of open country racing and first person POV shots lend itself well to iMax.

When a need for speed movie was first announced, people questioned its necessity. After all, a movie based around exotic cars, high octane races, police chases and racing rival had already been made and it is called THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS. Fortunately, 3 movies into the franchise and the Vin Diesel star vehicle dissed its racing concept and became a series of straight up heist movies. NEED FOR SPEED fills the vacuums it left with a plot focused squarely on racing instead of having racing as a side dish to a police/criminal cat and mouse game.

Taking its name from the long running Need For Speed video game franchise, NEED FOR SPEED manages to...........wait what? A video game movie? Yup, we can all hear the critics putting on their prejudice cap and throwing out the mandatory scathing review. All things considered, yes NEED FOR SPEED is not award winning material. It has a done-to-death "underdog out for revenge against a big wig" storyline, simplistic characterisations, and every single racing movie cliche you can think off.

Breaking Bad's Aaron Paul stars as Tobey Marshall, a down-on-his-luck mechanic who enters night time street races to try and keep his shop out of the red. One day, Tobey and his pals get hired by his childhood rival turned millionaire Dino Brewster to customise a one of a kind Ford Mustang. When Tobey's earnest nature and driving skills wins him the favour of Julia, who purchases the car, Dino challenges Tobey and his best friend Pete to a race. Too proud to lose, Dino knocks Pete off road to his death during the race, implicating Tobey as the prime suspect. Now Tobey serves his time and gets out of jail with vengeance and a plan. Catch the attention of the mysterious "Monarch" who runs the De Leon cross country race, outrun the cops, and get his revenge against Dino.

Sacrilege! Some may cry. Why is this movie not about characters that were featured in the games? Where is Zephyr and his youtube videos of illegal racing thus spurring the Cops to try and take him down? Where is Caleb Reese, leader of "the wraiths"? Why is the main character's girlfriend not named Samantha?

Oh how shallow they look. The whole story in this movie, the characters, the cars, the races, the very style of the cinematography; it is all the pure distillation of the games' concepts.  For those who had played the Need For Speed games, this movie is a real thrill as it pays tribute to most of the signature concepts of past games. The whole underground race organised by Michael Keaton's "Monarch" harkens back to "Need For Speed: Underground" series, the main character and his crew of mechanics pays tribute to "Need for Speed Carbon", the various police chases and the fact that our character is an ex-convict on the run is right up there with "Hot pursuit" and "Most Wanted". Even the main car and the holographic heads up display is exactly like in the games.

Cliched story aside, NEED FOR SPEED is surprisingly well done. Cinematography is magnificent not just for a video game movie but for any movie. Shots are bright whether day or night, colours are rich and vibrant without breaking the sense of reality, and beautiful locales are brought to life with wide steady camera angles. A far cry from the typical jitter cam and quick cuts that plagues car scenes in movies. Perhaps the most impressive is the fact that most of the movie is done with practical effects.

On a side note, the script does allow our actors to shine despite . The love/hate bickering between Aaron Paul's Tobey and Imogen Poots' Julia is a real treat showing the chemistry the two actors cook up between each other. We get a good peppering of witty laugh-out-loud humour particularly from Tobey's mechanic crew pals. Do not expect dialogue that is layered or complicated though. This is straight up good guy underdog vs rich bad guy smug snake. Between Dino's evil scowling and Tobey trying his darndest to master the "intense" stare, the subplot about their rivalry seems to hold as much weight as a rivalry between playground bullies.

So yes, NEED FOR SPEED is in no way avant grade cinema with its level of storytelling and dialogue. It is however a very enjoyable racing movie and one good example of how to properly capture the essence of a video game despite detracting from in-game story lines. Accompanied by an astounding soundtrack that sounds like a cover mix of Brian Tyler and Hans Zimmer, NEED FOR SPEED is fun, exciting and an all out thrill to watch despite its shortcomings. Until the FAST AND FURIOUS series ditches the overdone heist/chase plots, NEED FOR SPEED is here providing pure adrenaline pumping blockbuster racing to fill that gap.

*****************************Review End***************************

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

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Batman: Assault on Arkham [2014] direct-to-video animation movie review

Overall verdict: 9/10

The Good: Stunning detailed artwork and character designs, dynamic fight sequences, smooth character motion, timely comedy without going overboard, badass soundtrack, marvellous cast chemistry and acting.

The Bad: Misaimed marketing (Batman), short running time, 

3D Readiness: none


Villains get the spotlight in BATMAN: ASSAULT ON ARKHAM, a loose prequel set before the critically acclaimed Batman: Arkham Asylum video game. A black ops mission to assassinate the Riddler is foiled by Batman, prompting CIA operative Amanda Waller to assemble "Task Force X", aka The Suicide Squad. Morally ambiguous Vigilante Black Spider, seductive ice queen Killer Frost, savage brute King Shark, Australian scoundrel Captain Boomerang, crazy Harley Quinn and the cynical assassin Deadshot. These sociopathic misfits have to put aside their differences to work together, lest they "lose their heads".

Playing out like a good ol fashioned heist film in the vein of THE ITALIAN JOB or OCEAN'S ELEVEN, we see six villains assembled by Amanda Waller and sent on a mission impossible deep into the heart of the dreaded Arkham Asylum to retrieve a thumb drive containing sensitive information, that was in the Riddler's possession. From the electronic heavy rock soundtrack to the Taratino-esque roll call opening credits sequence, you know you are in for a completely different animated movie. The fun begins when we get to see how well these bad guys play off one another in a script that is chock full of dark humour and depth.

Although each villain does not get much development, we do get a "keynotes" look into their personalities, their motivations and their minds as the brisk pace of the movie sprints from action scene to action scene. Their roles in the team are familiar archetypes for classic villain teams: the alpha male leader (Deadshot), the butt monkey backstabber (Captain Boomerang), the dumb muscle (King Shark), the seductress (Killer Frost), the mysterious odd one out (Black Spider), and the psycho (Harley Quinn). Yet in this familiarity comes the opportunity for the characters to truly shine thanks to some magnificent chemistry and voice acting. 

Alas, for a title named "Batman: Assault on Arkham" the titular Batman plays a supporting, almost cameo, role. But when he does appear, he exhibits a powerful onscreen presence. Those barely visible eyes staring intensely from within the cowl, the new look of the costume which blends the dark blue streamlined design of Justice League Unlimited with the armoured detailing of New 52, not to mention the return of the classic Batman voice Kevin Conroy. But I digress. Batman is not the focus here, the Suicide Squad is. And they get one hell of a 75 minute showcase. Throughout the movie, you get a sense that some of the team members have their own agenda and secrets. What looks like a crazy outburst turns out to be a well calculated distraction for example. This movie keeps you guessing and keeps the tension up from start to finish. 

Like previous DC Animated movies, ASSAULT ON ARKHAM does not shy away from bloody violence or semi-sexual depictions. The near nudity, the blood letting, it is insane, threading close to an "R" rating. Action is smooth, fluid, with a very high budget quality which combines detailed artwork with dynamic animation. Visually, Moi Animation studios have outdone themselves once again delivering top notch animation that surpasses many of their Japanese anime counterparts. For quick comparison, take a look at the animation on SON OF BATMAN done by Japanese anime studio "TheAnswerStudio" and then compare it to the visuals in BATMAN ASSAULT ON ARKHAM. No contest. 

BATMAN ASSAULT ON ARKHAM was a risky experiment, but an experiment that pays off. Edgy but fun, dark but not brooding, intense but not shallow. There seem to be things you can do onscreen and a dark sense of fun you get with villains instead of heroes. Here I am hoping that DC would consider releasing a villain centric animated movie for every two hero centric movies per year. The DC rogues gallery needs to be tapped and tapped well. This is a good start.

*****************************Review End***************************
Entertainment: A-
Story: B+
Characters: A-
Animation: A
Art: A
Music: A-
Voice work: A
Replay Value: A-
"Brains": C-

Friday, August 15, 2014

Movie Tweaks: The Spirit

Movie Tweaks is where we tweak a tiny element of a movie in a way that may make it better,

So lets start things off from the bottom of the barrel with Frank Miller's critically panned 2008 film "The Spirit"

1) THE SPIRIT [2008]
What it is: A satirical dark remake of a classic comic that has almost nothing in common with the original.

What it can be with a simple script addition: Will Eisner's "The Dark Knight Returns".
The Octopus is revealled to be Ebony White and the movie's story is revealled to be 30 years after the end of the original comic.
 Instead of re-telling an altered version of the Spirit's origin in which the Octopus was responsible for Danny Colt's resurrection, the death we see is not of Danny Colt but of The Spirit.

The 50s. The world was good, and everything was grand. Life was great. The Spirit, champion of Central City assists the police to uphold the law. Ebony White, a young african american kid is is biggest fan.He dreams of one day becoming a sidekick to the Spirit and join in his life of crimefighting. He worshiped The Spirit and obsessed over him.

All Ebony White ever wanted was to be just like his hero. Ebony himself, being an african american in a predominantly white city, had to bear with poverty, hardship and racism. The Spirit is Loved by all, fighting crime, getting the girls, everything Ebony ever wanted. Faithfully he served as the Spirit's driver until one day, Ebony decided to tell the Spirit about his dream. Ebony would be his crime fighting sidekick. But the Spirit declined.
"You don't have these enhanced abilities like me, Ebony", he said, "plus you' No one would ever take you seriously".  It was true. Where the Spirit was reanimated by mysterious chemicals which gave him superhuman endurance, Ebony was mere mortal. In a time where coloured folk were looked down upon, no one would ever take a black superhero seriously.

On one fateful day, the two best friends had their final falling out, and then went their seperate ways. Ebony became obsessed with being a better superhero than The Spirit. He left Central city and devoted his life to science, reasearching a way to imbue himself with superhuman powers and eternal life.  The streetsmart young punk funded his obsession through an illegal drug trade, gaining infamy in the criminal underworld. Adopting the name of the Spirit's one time nemesis "The Octopus", Ebony White shed all vestiges of his former life and embraced evil as the perfect counterbalance to the Siprit's good, as the perfect yang to the Spirit's Ying.

Then one day, The Spirit died a mysterious death. No one knew why or how. Perhaps the chemicals in Danny Colt's body finally deteriorated. Perhaps Central City no longer needed him. Perhaps it was just his time to go. The Spirit died and Ebony White never got his revenge. In a fit of obsession fueled madness, Ebony White was determined to get his vegence. To that end, he used his experimental formula to resurrect The Spirit, thus leading to the events of the film. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Local Productions as internationally appealing Blockbuster Remakes

1. Virtual Reality - remake of VR Man
In a sentence: the nature of reality and all existence itself is called into question when one young man awakens with the power to change the world.

Synopsis: All is not right with the world. Vernon, An amnesiac young man, simply exists. He exists in modern day bSingapore. He exists to discover that he has powers to alter peoples' perception of reality. He meets other like powered individuals; a young mother who can control the source of all emotions, an idealistic boy able to mainpulate physical matter, and a mysterious individual named Mr Lie who claims to hold the answer to the truth about this world. With great powers, some would desire to change the world, while one would protect the world as it is. But when perception manifests as actual occurrences, Vernon has to question the very nature of existence and uncover a tragic mystery that threatens all reality. If your mind and senses tell you it's real, is it truly real? What is real? What is reality?

Tone: Dark City and Matrix meets The dark knight returns

2. 999 - remake of Triple 9
In a sentence: A veteran detective and a corrupt cop play a dangerous cat and mouse game leading up to one of the biggest anti-gang bust in the history of the country.
Synopsis: Shah Khairul was a best trainee in police academy, quickly working his way into the CID and rising through the ranks. He is a loving husband, an efficient policeman and a role model admired by his colleagues. Unknown to all, he is also a mole for the notorious "gamma" gang, planted within the CID in a never ending intel war between criminal and cop. Shah is partnered with Inspector Alan Leong, an "old timer" intending to pass on his skills before he retires. A psychological cat and mouse game ensues at at first, but a series of events at home and Alan's undying friendship slowly shakes Shah's loyalty and belief in his gang. When a rival gang moves in on gamma home turf, and the Home Team prepares for the largest anti gang operation in the history of Singapore, Shah is faced with a fateful choice. A choice that may damn life and his family.

Tone: Infernal Affairs and Gangs of New York set in Modern Singapore in the style of Kurt Wimmer

3. Extra Ordinary - loose remake of Extraordinary People
In a sentence: An honest normal girl triumphs over insurmountable odds in a superpowered society which values monetary power, beauty and purchased status.
Synopsis: For a million dollars a month, your child will be granted one Superpower of his or her choice as long as they remain in Singapore. Flight, super speed, hyper intellect, enhanced strength, we have it all. This is the promise of POWERS.SG. Thanks to a salvaged alien transmitter, children can be granted superpowers within a 40km radius. This turns Singapore into the world's leading country in all industries, cutting edge tech, work efficiency and knowledge. Competition for schools, results, jobs etc is steeper than ever. Into this  highly competitive world stands Sarah, an ordinary girl in every sense. Not rich enough to afford the monthly subscription for a superpower, Sarah is continually just scraping by in a school full of geniuses, failing physical fitness standards set by men who can run like lightning, and constantly ridiculed for her lack of status defining power. But through a quirky new friend, Sarah would learn that one does not have to be Super in order to be special. Watch as one ordinary girl overcomes extra ordinary odds to show that In a world where your ability to afford artificial enhancements define you, there is still room for a pure heart and hard work to pay off.

Tone: Gattaca with superpowers  and the social satire of Robocop

4. I'm Not Stupid - remake of I not stupid
In a sentence: a misunderstood autistic young boy forms a lasting bond with 2 social outcast friends and brave the trials of school work, competitive parents, unreasonable teachers and bullies.
Synopsis: it is a big confusing world for young Gordon Liu. A failure at everrything but math, Gordon is continually ridiculed for his isolationist behaviour, weird quirks and quiet nature. He hates it when people are late, he follows a strict time guided routine, and he never memorises his facts. His teachers find him lazy, his classmates have stopped bothering with him, his parents think he is stupid, and his only friends in school are 2 fellow social outcasts, the pampered Terry deCruz and fight-hungry tough boy Bobbie "The Hawk" Tan. Yet with an IQ beyond average, Gordon is no retard. Here is a boy with autism, a condition barely understood by those around him. Some would attempt to make use of his genius intellect, while other merely content on ridiculing him. Together, theyface demanding parents, the rigours of student politics, and a notorious school bully intent on making their lives a living hell.

Tone: man of Steel's flipped premise by way of Rain Man with elements of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

5. Army Daze: First Cohort - prequel/remake of Army Daze
In a sentence: Young men of different upbringings, race and religion must unite In a time of social divide to stand against an even greater threat,

Synopsis: this is not your Grandfather's army! Well actually, it is. In 1969, a platoons worth of brave young men signed up as Singapores first batch of combat national servicemen. Forget the quirky staff sergeants, the culture shock, or the Ntuc food fare sponsored lunches of modern times. Back then, these brave men cooked their own disgusting excuse for food, bathed in crap, and were tormented by the fiercest Israeli trainer in existence. Beaten, burned, broken in mind and body, only the strongest would survive. This was a true journey from boys to men. In a nation fresh out of turmoil, this platoon of pioneers would be all that stands between peace and a daring terror attack that history conveniently forgot.

Tone: Band of Brothers in Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket, 1960s Singapore version

6. Peace - loose remake/prequel of Price of peace
In a sentence: the price of peace is a heavy one presented as an interconnected tale of love, loyalty and unsung heroes set against the fall of Singapore to the Japanese.

Synopsis: From the north they came. Invaders. Conquerors. The gods of War. A bloody tide of vengeance swept forth from japan, consuming south east asia in what history has come to know as the Japanese Occupation. All that remains is the Lion City itself, the prized port of East Asia: Singapore. Abandoned by their british colonial masters, this tiny island was left to fend against the invaders for seven days. Seven days of death as bombs rained on the island. Seven days of terror as troops swept through villages, pillaging and kidnapping at will. Yet unsung heroes would emerge: a servant who puts aside racial prejudice to hide his late master's son, a priest providing sanctuary to the innocent despite the threat of execution, a boy's daring plan to save his family, and a brave platoon of local volunteer troops in their last glorious stand against certain death. 

Tone: tragic invasion movie in the tone of Skyline or Independence Day's first act with elements of 300.

7. Growing Up - Growing up
In a sentence: a man's faith, love and simple unassuming nature would be tested across the ages as he braves war, famine, betrayal, loss and an ever changing society.

Synopsis: Charlie Tay had big dreams. A mansion on a hill, the most beautiful wife in the world, fame, riches and many children. Life, however, had different plans for Charlie. A time of great upheaval looms on the horizon. He is One man with many stories. For a moment, he is 10; frolicking in the swamps near punggol. For a moment, he is 15; bombs go off as he runs home in terror, the Japanese flag flying from fort canning hill. In a time of uncertainty and violence, Charlie finds his first love in a young woman named Soo Mei, faces up to the local extortion gangs and tries to bring his life under control.  From the transistor radio to the HD tv, from the pager to the smart phone, Charlie has seen it all. Faced with the choices in life, Charlie would have to make tough decisions between his dream and his family. For in life, not everyone can shape their choices to reach their dream. And sometimes, the perfect life need not be the perfect dream.

Tone: About time without the time travel with The Wind Rises.

8. Orang Minyak
In a sentence: an unstoppable killer hunts down horny young campers.
Synopsis: the oily man. Folk tales speak of a pervert who sold his soul to the devil. In return for ultimate power, he would have to rape 7 young virgins. Moral of the story: be a good girl and stay home at night. But hey, in comes a bunch of 12 horny 18 year olds to a secluded chalet at the outskirts of Johor Bahru. They have one mission: get high, get laid, and get little Stephanie Chua inducted into the degenerate culture of drugs, booze and sex. Screw the folklore, screw the warnings, let's just screw. But a week of sinful getaway turns to terror when a stranger covered head to toe in slick crude oil stalks the teens. This killer rapist could be one of them, or it could be the legendary orang Minyak. Is the monster merely a sick twisted man? Or is there more to the myths of this creature's demonic origin? And what twisted fate does it have in store for virginal little Stephanie?

Tone: Jason Voorhees meets Alien and Swamp Thing

9. Break Free - Remake of "One More Chance"
In a sentence: One man's journey to redemption is plagued by doubt, fear and enemies on all sides, yet one idealistic prison officer may be all that is needed to rekindle his faith in a new life.

Synopsis: In the deadly aftermath of Singapore's largest anti gang operation, Chan Yao Ming is imprisoned when he was seized doing drugs in a local nightclub. He had heard stories of changi prison; stories of heartless officers who would beat you into painful submission, stories of violent inter-gang tension, of getting anal raped, chained to walls, stripped, humiliated and worse. Yao Ming is housed in block Bravo 5, together with other druggie inmates pending treatment. There, he becomes embroiled in the inmate sub culture, the good the bad and the utterly disgusting. In the prison, he meets officer Rachael Han, a young senior officer barely 2 years in service and trying to earn the respect of her male subordinates. Rachael's idealistic outlook towards changing inmates stands in contrast to Chief Warder Ishmael, an "old timer" who sees inmates as mistakes to be forced into correction through any means necessary. Initially dismissive of Officer Han and constantly attempting to manipulate her, Yao Ming is slowly won over by her encouraging and forgiving attitude. Yet unknown to our main players, a devious scheme is being plotted by some of the imprisoned gang members. A scheme that may forever impact the lives of both inmate and officer.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

5 other Light Novels that deserve a hollywood adaptation - And how Hollywood would change them.

Edge Of Tomorrow has earned critics' praise. Little do most people know that it was adapted from a japanese light novel called "All you need is Kill".

Now, here are 5 more light novels i would like to see in live action blockbuster form.

I also reflected on expected changes that we might see if these get adapted into movies.

1) Full Metal Panic

Tone: A-Team and Terminator without cyborgs, in a high school setting, with mechs.

Plot synopsis: Eighteen year old Katherine "Kathy" Connelly is the smart, sporty, and good looking, head of the student council at Dyson College. Her hot headed nature and tomboy demeanour makes her less of the hot prom date than "one of the guys". All is well, all is good, until a foreign transfer student arrives: Souske Sagara. This isreali with a japanese name turns out to be highly trained professional commando on a mission to protect Kathy whom his employers believe to be the last of "The Whispered"; humans with hidden knowledge of a long lost alien technology. He proves only too effective in dispatching anyone who gets too close, including the occasional panty thief, and ruining Kathy's social life. Amid the high school hijinks, a sinister force from Souske's past is plotting to kidnap Kathy. And he might just get the chance with an upcoming field trip.

2) Vampire Hunter D

Tone: Dirty Harry meets Aliens Vs Predator Requiem in the style of gothic horror

The people of the village of Tepes once cowered in fear beneath the shadow of an ancient manor rumoured to be the home of a powerful Vampire.  It became a place whispered of in ghost stories to caution young people to stay away. One day four of the village children vanished. Only three returned, with no memory of what happened or where they went.
That was ten years ago. Now, in the year 12,090 A.D., vampires who can walk in the daylight have appeared. Did the disappearance of the children have something to do with the undead's newfound powers? Into this mystery comes the even more mysterious "D"; a tall pale vampire hunter with a sullen air about him. He is instantly handsome and beautiful at the same time, and his prowess with his longsword is matched only by his inhuman strength. What secrets do the children hold in their memories? What secrets does D hold himself? The answer may lie in house on a haunted hill.

3) The Third

Tone: Elysium in the setting of Resident Evil Extinction.

The world is a ravaged desert land. With the help of an artificially intelligent tank called Bogie, Hannah attempts to make a living as a jack of all trades for hire in a future devastated by war and full of over-sized insects that plauge the sands between towns. One day in her travels she comes across a strange man alone in the desert, but rescuing him has consequences and brings unwanted trouble her way. Through this man, Hannah discovers another society observing the devastated earth from a pristine space colony. The mystery deepens.

4) Trinity Blood
Tone: Priest and Van Helsing
The background is in the distant future after the destruction brought about by Armageddon. The war between the vampires and the humans continue to persist. In order to protect the humans from the vampires, Vatican has to rely on other allies to counter the situation. The protagonist, a priest called Peter Abel Nightroad, travels through the countries as a representative for the Vaticans. However, he is also part of "Ax", a special operations group controlled by the Cardinal Catherina. His encounter with a young girl called Esther will determine the struggle and survival between the human race and the vampires.

5) Baccano!
Tone: Highlander with Sin City set in 1920s prohibition era

In the year 1711, a group of alchemists are granted an elixir of immortality, with the stipulation that they must kill each other until there can be only one. The now-immortal group unanimously decides it wasn't worth it and destroy the elixir; but one of them, Slizard Quates, starts to kill off his fellow immortals. To reduce the risk of Quates tracking them all down, the group separates and goes their separate ways. Neither of them crosses paths again till 1930, Manhattan, when Quates manages to create a new elixir of immortality. However, he loses it and it ends up going around town, taken to be a bottle of alcohol and unknowingly drunk by many residents. The drinkers of this new elixir include Isaac and Miria, an eccentric pair of thieves; the Gandor brothers, a Mafia family; and their associates in the Camorra, the Martillos (who employ some of the original immortals). Now, not only are a new group of immortals created, but the simmering criminal underworld is about to explode.