Monday, June 26, 2017

Transformers Car Robots / Robots in Disguise (2001) anime series review - 39 episodes



The Good: detailed character designs, vibrant colours, decent voice acting, overall fun atmosphere

The Bad: Juvenile story and dialogue, flat humour, limited animation, generic music, little stakes except until the last few episodes

If Beast Machines was "Transformers on philosophy" this show is "Transformers on happy fuel". From the get go, Transformers:Robots in Disguise came across as more of a comedy than any other Transformers show ever was.
Now, i am not lambasting this show for being funny. The original cartoon had its funny episodes and so did Beast Wars. This show's humour however is not only overdone and terribly handled, but it is in all the wrong places, ALL THE TIME. This show was obviously written as a comedy series first, and then had elements of sci/fi robot action thrown in. Seeing the Autobots and Predacons duke it out in this series is less like seeing the conflict between Autobots and Decepticons in the original cartoon, and more like Bugs Bunny Vs Yosamite Sam. 
The first few episodes were perfect in keeping with the sci/fi adventure feel of Transformers, but after than, everything descends into a laugh-a-minute. An autobot flirts with a red sports car every episode, Predacons whine like schoolgirls and over-the-top lameness typical of comedic Japanese anime(see huge sweat drops and super deformed characters/chibi) get thrown into even the most serious and emotionally charged scenes, thereby ruining whatever impact those scenes were meant to have.
If the humour works, i would have no qualms. Problem is, it doesn't work. This show cannot seem to decide if its a serious sci/fi adventure or a slapstick comedic spoof with the genre going into either extremes multiple times(and at all the wrong times) in a single episode. The scripting is very juvenile, more in line with Pokemon and Powerpuff girls than Transformers. In attempting to give a more serious tone to the series halfway through by the addition of the Decepticons and Scourge and an entire story arc involving some ancient Transformer, it in fact causes the entire series' already meandering plot to get even more convoluted.
The humorously and sometimes painfully childish story is not the only thing that does not quite work. The animation is only mediocre; the bright vivid pastel colors and limited frame rate make it on par with other Saturday morning kids' anime like Digimon or Beyblade. The character designs for the humans also carry that typical "for children" anime art style. Thankfully, the usual animation short cuts are only used sparingly and the series maintains a consistent level of art detail throughout.
To add to the overall childish look and feel, the transformers now sport "special powers" akin to the special powers in digimon or Dragonball. They shoot, laser/missiles/fire/plasma etc, while SHOUTING OUT the name of their attacks and striking "cool" poses. 
Even doing something as normal as taking out a gun and shooting at the enemy requires the autobot to proudly declare "LASER BLASTER!!!" before striking a stock footage pose and shooting a laser beam. Later characters sport such ludicrously sounding "attacks" as "Hurricane Kick" and "Tsunami blast".
Thankfully, an excellent cast that delivered spot on professional voice acting, saved this show from spiraling into down the drain hole. Too bad about the material they had to work with, or this series could have been so much more than it currently is.
Fans would enjoy the sleek re-designs of many classic characters. Plus, the bright pastel colors, slapstick(though misplaced) humour and good clean action would no doubt make this a hit with the younger crowd. But compared with what came before(Beast Machines, Beast Wars, G1 and the comics) this show falls short on many levels, never really living up to its potential. There really isn't more to this than meets the eye.

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

Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen (2009) movie review


Overall verdict: 5.5/10

A franchise starts its fall

The Good: big action, well acted characters, generally impressive special effects

The Bad: inconsistent CGI, uninteresting characters, flat jokes, shallow narrative, erratic camera work

Where should I start?
Maybe i shall start on the plot which, although not a total mess, lacked whatever semblance of depth the first film had. Instead of building upon previously established plot threads, Transformers 2 decides to throw everything out and plonk in a whole new mess of plot threads. The whole backstory about thew "Primes" coming to earth eons ago seemed like it was just conveniently inserted into the plot as there was no mention of this particular story thread in the previous movie. The motivations for Megatron have also changed, from chasing the allspark to earth in order to seize its power in the first film to coming to earth to find his "Master" whom we are introduced to as "the fallen", an ancient decepticon that came to earth a long time ago. Already, inconsistencies with the first film and plot holes the size of Saturn's moons abound.
Next we have the characters. Instead of developing the already underdeveloped robot cast from the first movie, Hasbro decides to include even more robots. Some of them are not even named in the movie and just end up becoming cannon fodder at the end of the day. The already decently developed character of Bumblebee gets sidelined after a rather embarrassing bout of crying with the plot thread of Sam and Bumblebee's strained friendship left undeveloped. Optimus Prime himself takes a dive down from being a level headed and compassionate tactical commander to being an impulsive and brash bully with a bad attitude. 
He "talks down" to humans now instead of treating them as equals, he rushes headlong into a battle without as much as a tactical analysis and he needlessly puts his own team in danger more than once with his impulsiveness. The Fallen, the seemingly new and more menacing villain, comes across as having more bark and no bite; being able to "use the force" and throw things around with his mind or something but barely holding his own in actual hand to hand combat.
The humans don't fare any better either. Whatever witty humour there was in the first movie got replaced with terrible, and even offensive sexual jokes. Done in moderation, sexual jokes are fine. But Transformers 2 takes the innuendo to new heights of unnecessary offensiveness. I highlight "unnecessary" as many of the jokes could have been replaced with better ones or done away with no effect to the story. It is just so counter productive to have so many sexual jokes in a film made for all ages. It offends the kids and the parents. Heck even me as a teenager felt offended by those jokes. The acting takes a turn for the worse. At times it gets so over the top that the characters some across as caricatures of their former selves, especially John Turturro's character, Agent Simmons. On the other hand, the voice acting from the robot characters keeps more true to its cartoon roots than the first film with more time devoted to dialogue interplay between the autobots or decepticons.
The acting of the human characters is only thing that takes a turn for the worse. The CGI is highly inconsistent in this movie. You got great scenes, very nicely rendered and animated, mostly in the first half of the movie. But once the movie moves to Egypt and toward its climax, the level of detail and fluidity in the CGI robots starts to dip. Its lowest point is at the final battle between Prime and The Fallen which looks like an X-box game cutscene with lighting and texturing on the robots that look really out of place among the physical background.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is a wild, unrestrained misguided practice in EXCESS. Everything is just so overblown, from the action, to the acting, to the budget. Even the media coverage and publicity was overblown and it resulted in Transformers 2 NOT living up to the hype.
If anything, Transformers 2 feels like a extra long running toy commercial. All that matters is CGI graphics, action, explosions and new robots. Story, characters and what not apparently do not matter anymore. The sadder thing is that so many people LOVE this kind of shallow and excessive shows that it would just encourage movie producers to make more. This is an pretty but offensively silly excuse for a film; Big and brainless.

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

Friday, June 23, 2017

Wonder Woman (2017) movie review


There is wonder in 'most everything I see

The Good: Best written romance in a comic book movie, heartfelt character development, excellent cast chemistry, outstanding soundtrack, explores deeper themes

The Bad: underdeveloped supporting villain, some instances of sub par special effects

The origin story of the quintessential female superhero is finally realised on the big screen. Only the fourth entry into the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), WONDER WOMAN is an feature length flashback detailing the events behind the mysterious photo from the First World War that was shown in 2016's BATMAN V SUPERMAN. 
Before she became a hero, Diana of the Amazons had only known a paradise of sisters forged in the ideals of cooperation and a Mission to defend the world against Ares, the last of the old Greek gods. Her perfect world is shattered when war comes to Paradise Island in the form of the American spy Steve Trevor and a ship full of German enemy pursuers. Diana in her innocent idealism believes Ares to be responsible for the war and leaves the island with Trevor in the hope that killing Ares will spare innocent lives from the horrors of war.
Giving life to the character of Diana is actress Gal Gadot. Gal is a dead ringer for the iconic superhero, looking exactly like she stepped out of the comic books. The earnestness she brings to the role perfectly conveys Diana's innocence and idealistic outlook. Much time is spent focused on the characters such that even side characters receive decent characterisation and development. 
Diana shares a magnificent chemistry with co-star Chris Pine playing the world weary captain Steve Trevor. Their romantic sub plot can be compared to classic romances like Casablanca, masterfully and tastefully realised on screen. But the more intriguing aspect is when the movie goes into their minds, showing their contrasting perspectives on life.
Diana approaches her Mission like a child approaching a fairy tale story. Clear black and white morality, destroy the bad guy and the world is saved. That simple. Unfortunately, it is not that simple and her entire story is one of growing up and seeing the truth about humanity's ugly nature. On the flip side, Trevor straddles the line of cynicism; he knows full well the worst that humanity is capable of yet cannot bring himself to break Diana's innocent worldview.
What begins as a relatively run of the mill superhero origin story morphs into a surprisingly deep narrative that seeks to shatter viewer expectations. True to the DCEU, WONDER WOMAN, like its predecessors, explores some heady themes against the backdrop of war. Key of which is weighing Diana's idealism against worldly cynicism and outright nihilism. 
The movie explores those perspectives through its characters, never preaching one over the other and coming to a mature conclusion that ties into an ongoing theme of "hero by choice, not by obligation" that the DCEU movies had been conveying.
The movie never shies away from showing the true horrors of combat, broken families, broken people, a hero helpless against the odds, a truly dark time serving as a stark contrast to the amazon's paradise island. Into this darkness comes Diana herself who is given ample opportunity to flex her powers in a spectacular show of Super heroics.
Patty Jenkins approaches the action like a pro, keeping to the more fantastic, speed ramped portrayal of superhero fighting as established by Zack Snyder, while adding her own touches such as the amazons' uniquely cooperative battle tactics (which gets a wonderful payoff later in the movie). Her masterful direction extends to the balanced tone of the movie. Many comic book movies prefer to stuff their narrative with humour, even in the middle of intense battle scenes, such that the movie fails to take itself seriously. WONDER WOMAN does not fall into that trap. 
The battles are approached with respectful gravitas, and a genuine sense of peril. Bookending such sequences are character centred scenes in a peaceful setting which help to develop their relationships in a very natural and heartfelt way. There is humour and it is used sparingly, never detracting from the underlying themes or the seriousness of the setting.
This balance gives us a product that can easily appeal to everyone. Diana as a character is one that anyone who had ever been a child can relate to. The epic action, consistently focused on the characters and set to an emotionally rousing score by Rupert Gregson Williams (Legend of Tarzan), will please the typical blockbuster fan. 
For those who love the deeper more  complex cinematic offerings, you will not be disappointed by the themes explored in this move. And as a refreshing surprise, WONDER WOMAN features what I can unabashedly say is the most genuine and well written romance in a comic book movie, ever.

Truly wonderful.


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

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001) movie review

Overall verdict: 7.5/10

The one where Godzilla is a super zombie and beats up wimpy versions of classic monsters 

The Good: Awesome special effects on modest budget, beautiful production design, pulse pounding score, well developed human characters, 

The Bad: deviates from established science fiction genre, some obvious green screen effects, weakening of supporting monsters, 
Godzilla mothra and king ghidorah: giant monsters all out attack or GMK for short can be considered a semi-reboot of the franchise. Compared to the rest of the millennium era Godzilla movies, GMK is the most unique in terms of tone, spirit and overall feel of the movie. Even Godzilla's origin and design sets itself apart. Here is a monster mashup done well, despite its budgetary limitations, with a bigger badder Godzilla than ever.
Where Godzilla films have been mostly sci fi in nature, GMK seeks to throw in a supernatural fantasy spin on a familiar mythos. As usual, a string of mysterious attacks on sea vessels, this case some submarines, leads the the reemergence of Godzilla. Defeated in the 1950s by a destructive chemical weapon, Godzilla's corpse was apparently reanimated by the souls of world war 2 soldiers. 
Larger, angrier and more powerful than ever, this super zombie Godzilla is possessed by pure evil as he starts tearing his way across japan. Meanwhile, an intrepid reporter discovers an old prophecy that seems to foretell the second coming of Godzilla and an old man who reveals to her the legend of three guardian monsters who would be the key to ending Godzilla's murderous rampage.
This fantasy retelling, as well as reworking familiar monsters' origins, may not sit well with some. On its own merits, this movie works; recasting Baragon, Mothra and Ghidorah into mythical guardians of earth; a big change especially for Ghidorah who was in previous films an alien weapon of destruction. 
The first thing to stand out were the new monster designs. Intricately crafted yet with a decent amount of mobility. Godzilla gets special mention for his menacing new look; vampire fangs, jet black skin, insanely sharp claws and soulless white eyes oozing with evil. His overall look is closer to the original Godzilla only with his size and fearsome features pumped to the max.
What many would appreciate is the return of "Godzilla is the ultimate badass" theme. Here he is the villain and humanity is powerless. The monsters engage in truly spectacular fights with the director's stylish camera-work enhancing the scale of such clashes. Another mistake this movie corrects from previous ones is that even in scenes without the monsters, their presence is felt. 
Many past films just drag in their human scenes until the beasts show up for the action. Accompanying the action here is a pulse pounding score by Kou Otani whom anime fans would recognize as the composer for Gundam Wing Endless Waltz and many other memorable anime soundtracks.
GMK's human characters are well developed; we see our main character go from just wanting the scoop of a lifetime to a well rounded individual who has experienced true horrors of disaster yet pulled through. 
The monsters, who are the stars, are by far the best among the millennium series of Godzilla movies. Perhaps the fantasy element was not too popular, seeing as how subsequent movies went back to sci-fi. But no doubt, it was a bold move, a bold semi reboot, with awesome action, great production design for its modest budget, and a story that never let's up with the tension. A must watch for any Godzilla fan.

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

Godzilla: Final War (2004) movie review

Overall verdict: 6/10

The one that copied The Matrix, Star Wars and X-men, where an overpowered Godzilla destroyed all monsters 

The Good: Memorable characters, dynamic directing style, intense fight scenes, highly entertaining

The Bad: rips off too many other movies, inconsistent tone, disappointing musical score, cheesy writing, sub standard CGI effects, over the top acting

Godzilla bows out on his 50th birthday with the massive multi monster mash up GODZILLA FINAL WAR. Stylishly directed by horror action director Ryuhei Kitamura, GODZILLA FINAL WAR is essentially a modernized remake of DESTROY ALL MONSTERS. 
Godzilla, the king of monsters, lies trapped under the Arctic ice, but earth is determined never to be caught off guard again by giant monsters. The Earth Defense Force trains an elite team of soldiers comprising men and women enhanced by a mysterious mutant gene. Led by captain Douglas Gordon, the man who first defeated the legendary Godzilla many years ago, this M-Organisation hunts down monsters across the globe.
The discovery of an ancient cyborg creature called Gigan leads to a monster invasion of titanic proportions. Giant beasts appear across the globe, wrecking havoc. Captain Gordon leads his team of mutant monster hunters in the Gotengo, an advanced spacecraft armed to the teeth. But just as the counterattack is underway, the monsters are seemingly disintegrated by human like aliens known as the Xilliens. 
The Xilliens come in peace, but Captain Gordon has his suspicions. These suspicions are proved right when it is discovered that the ancient cyborg, the mutant soldiers and the Xilliens share the same mutant gene. This same gene allows them to be put under mind control! With chaos reigning from within and from beyond, captain Gordon initiates a plan to turn Godzilla loose on the invaders.
Sure we have seen this monster mash up scenario play out across multiple forms of fiction, but only here does it play out under the keen direction of Ryuuhei Kitamura. Kitamura brings a stylish dynamic look to FINAL WAR; visually it looks on par with blockbusters 10 times it's budget. His direction in action scenes is intense and fast paced, using a good range of camera tricks to bring out the scale and ferocity of the monster clashes.
Yet mr kitamura's visual acumen cannot make up for all the other flaws of this movie. First and foremost being the story, which manages to rip off Star Wars
, x-men, the matrix
, Independence Day,
 and many other far superior Hollywood films. The unoriginal premise and plot comprises a range of over acted characters trying to be "edgy". The actors turn in fine performances with nothing entirely cringe worthy, but the fault lies in the writer who pens some truly cheesy lines right out of bad fan fiction. 
I do however appreciate the diverse ethnicity of the characters, under utilized though they may be, which gives the movie a broader international feel.  You may recognize Kane Kosugi, Hollywood actor and son of the classic ninja actor Sho Kosugi, as well as Don Frye channeling the best of middle age macho through his character of Captain Gordon.
Being a 2004 movie, one should not expect too much in terms of special effects. Is it then too much to expect for special effects to improve just a little bit from the mid 1990s? Sure the movie is in HD but the miniatures, monster costumes and pyrotechnics look just as good (or bad) as Godzilla movies from the 90s. 
Basically, the more elaborate a monster design, the stiffer it moves. More agile monsters like King Caesar, Gigan and Monster X look like something out of power rangers. 
Godzilla himself looks leaner but has a weird tiny head, rat like ears, a perpetual squint and moves just as stiff as most millennium era Godzilla movies.
Unlike other Godzilla movies where the big G gets up close and personal to deliver the beat down on enemy monsters, Godzilla in FINAL WAR is a living deus ex machina overusing an over powered nuclear breath to solve every conflict.
This fight strategy of blowing away enemies with a giant mouth laser soon becomes real old real fast. So the creative team throws in some truly hilarious scenes like having Godzilla play soccer with 2 other monsters while using another monster as the ball. 
It is instances like this, and much of the hammy human dominated scenes (not to mention every appearance of Godzilla's baby Minila) that makes this movie more like a parody than a serious blockbuster.
No doubt that GODZILLA FINAL WAR was an ambitious project, but the skills of director Kitamura and the film's actors were hampered by an insultingly bad Japanese script (and a laughably horrid English dub), an unoriginal convoluted story with too many sub plots, weak special effects, and a synthesizer soundtrack right out of some old video game. This would be the movie that drove the Godzilla franchise into a 10 year hibernation until it's revival in the 2014 Hollywood remake.

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