Friday, December 30, 2016

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them (2016)

Plot: Set roughly 70 +/- years before the events of the Harry Potter films, Newt Scamander is a British wizard and magizoologistwho travels to America in hopes to find a new home for one of his magical beasts he has in his magical suitcase. But when one of his creatures escapes which leads to a non magical man (or No-Maj) named Jacob to accidentally release a lot of his other beasts, it's up to the two of them along with two witches named Tina and Quennie to find and recapture them.  

When I went to see this movie, I mostly expected to see a decent film that set in the Harry Potter world with a few interesting creatures and an enjoyable enough story, and for the most part that's exactly what I got. It's hardly one of the most intriguing things I seen from the world of Harry Potter, but for a decent flick that expands more of the Wizarding World I had a nice time.

The story itself was interesting enough. It's very basic story about looking for beasts, trying to capture them and try to prove that there's more to them than all the people in the Wizarding World think and has a comedic sidekick to help him. Newt is exactly what you expected him to be if you have seen any of the trailers, bubbling, strange but has a good heart and very knowledgeable in what he does in a way that's kind of similar to The Doctor in Doctor Who. His non-magical best friend Jacob while not one of the most interesting characters has a likeable charm all by himself. He's bumbling, he's curious and is amazed with the Magical World, but he has this innocence and charm that makes him chamring. In fact the most interesting part of the movie surprisingly was his romance with Tina's sister Quennie The concept between them is generic, but the chemistry between them is so cute that you want to see them get together despite their differences. Tina I hate to say was not the most interesting character in the film. I would not say she was bad, but I feel like I didn't get to know her as much as I did with Queenie, Newt or Jacob.

The beasts and the concept of The Wizarding World in America were the most interesting aspects of this film for me. There are quite a few parts of the film I thought were really imaginative and really cool to look at, and I like how in the very beginning of the film makes it clear how different life in the Wizarding World is in America. They have a different name for non-magical people, you need a permit for your wand if you're a foreigner, and apparently around this time in magical history there is a possibility of a war between magical people and non-magical people. I feel like there could have been more to that, but it was still pretty interesting to see how magic is perceived in America that I found myself wanting to know a little more. The graphics are also surprisingly pretty enjoyable. Yeah there's a couple of moments where you can tell that it's CGI, but like I said before the magical creatures themselves we're still interesting to look at and some of the other effects for whenever people are using magic were surprisingly very neeat to watch. There's even a scene where Queenie is making a strudel just from a wave of her wand in the way that is created was so good I surprisingly found myself saying "wow you know that was actually pretty cool watch." I did not expect to say anything like that with this release so this automatically gets points for that.

I do however have a couple of problems with this movie. First and foremost there are a few things that weren't explained particularly well. Most things are explained in a way that is clear to understand, but they're a couple of moments where it feels like they left out a few details. Like they're a couple of moments where I found myself wondering how much did JK Rowling put into her screenplay and how much did David Yates decide to put in from the original screenplay. I say this because with the last four Harry Potter films, David Yates had a knack for being vague on certain details there are actually important to the Harry Potter lore and the story, but where his decisions where mostly forgivable if not understandable in the last four Harry Potter films was that he was adapting from three considerably long books and he had to pick and choose to tell the bigger picture while still telling the story in a way that both readers and non-readers of the Harry Potter books can follow. So for the last Harry Potter films it was relatively forgivable how he would be vague in specific details such as Dumbledore's childhood or how Dumbledore came across the owner of the Elder Wand or why he had a shriveled black hand in Half-Blood Prince just to name a few examples. But here the things that he decides to be vague on where so vague that I found myself confused on what is happening. For example, there's a scene where newt and Tina are in trouble. They're sent to this mysterious room that Tina in particular is very scared of but they don't explain why. We witness these visuals that seem to imply that these people are trying to kill them, but we don't know how specifically and it wasn't until I was reading the synopsis for this film on Wikipedia that I fully understood that the people who captured them were trying to execute Newt and Tina. I was guessing that that's what was happening based on Tina's emotional reaction to the scene, but the problem is I was only thinking what was going on as opposed to being positive on what was happening. It's like that tentacle ability in Suicide Squad where there's little explanation to what the danger is and therefore I have no reason to connect to what is emotionally happening to the characters. There's also another scene during the very end where somehow one of the beasts are trying to solve a problem for the Wizarding community but it's never explained what the beasts is specifically doing until after spending several minutes showing the beast do it with no clear action apart from just flying all over the city. Finally there's two brief scenes that imply that Newt is looking for some lost girl or something or other that is briefly explained but never showed. You feel like you should be feeling sorry for him, but the explanation is not told clear enough. 

And that's my review for Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. It's sadly vague in certain parts of the story that might leave you confused in what is happening, but it otherwise is a nice magical adventure with creative creatures, new Harry Potter lore and likeable characters. It's not the greatest thing I've seen from the world of Harry Potter but I came in wanting to see a decent flick and that's exactly what I got. If you're a fan of Harry Potter, this is a nice movie to check out.

Rating: 70%

Sausage Party (2016)

Plot: A supermarket called Shopwell's is filled with anthropomorphic grocery items and the human shoppers are worshiped as gods who take groceries to the "Great Beyond" when they are purchased. Among the groceries in the store is a sausage named Frank, who has dreams of living with his hot dog bun girlfriend, Brenda, in the Great Beyond, where they can finally consummate their relationship. Frank and Brenda's packages are chosen by a grocery shopper but when a returned jar of honey mustard warns Frank that the Great Beyond is a lie and creates an accidental cart collision that causes Frank, Brenda, and several groceries to fall out, Frank goes searching for answers while the rest of the groceries discover a horrible truth about the Great Beyond.

Good Jamison Issac Crocodile this was so wrong. I may have gone to see this movie with my brother, Johnathan knowing that it was going to have very raunchy moments, but it still is pretty unpleasant in so many areas.

I'll start off with the good stuff first. The concept itself is funny. It's a perspective that does demand a lot of over the top humor that we haven't seen before and the animation as you would expect is pretty good. Some of the designs of the characters were a little creative and even the "gory" moments with the food were surprisingly a little funny. In fact, my personal favorite scene is when they did a spoof of the Omaha Beach scene in Saving Private Ryan. I also thought there were some twists to the story that were clever.

My biggest gripe with this movie however is how offensive it is. To be clear, I know that this movie is meant to be offensive to its audience and I went in knowing that, but when Johnathan and I left the movie theater and he told me how he read a review that said that "everyone gets offended in this movie" and later I watched Jeremy Jahns' review for the movie where he says the same thing, we both found ourselves saying "no it doesn't." Granted, I do recollect a couple of moments where the movie makes satirical looks at politics and warring countries, but from our perspectives they were very dumb downed to focus souly on attacking the belief in God. So much of the dialogue from Frank and Brenda in particular were debates over their rules and beliefs and what happens if you don't follow them. By the end, they reach a decision that (in our point of view) was pretty nihilistic which leads to the second to last scene with all of the food that was really hard to watch. Even if for the sake of the argument I say that maybe Johnathan and I read to much into and we only saw the movie like that because it attacks our beliefs that we both really care about, I still say declaring that everyone gets offended in this movie is not entirely accurate. It attacks some people but appears to favor attacking others. I know it's a comedy and comedies are meant to offend people in order to get a laugh, but from our perspective it doesn't work as well as most people think it does.

And that's my review for Sausage Party. There are moments where I did find myself laughing and it has a number of creative aspects to it, but while it does offend other aspects of society, it feels like it's more focused on offending people with religious beliefs and is executed in a way where the message feels nihilistic. I realize that my brother and I might be taking this more seriously than the film probably wanted us to be, but we really cant look at this any other way. If you're just after cartoon gore and dark humor and want to see a film that sort of offends everyone, I guess you'll like this film fine given its reception. But if you don't want to see a film that has cartoon gore or offends your beliefs in a way that may come off as too insulting, then this is a movie I would skip.

Rating: 50%

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Batman: The Killing Joke (2016)

Plot: The Killing Joke is two different stories that don't tie up together. The first is a story about Batman and Batgirl chasing down a gangster while the second is the actual story of Alan Moore's The Killing Joke. In The Killing Joke the Joker shoots Barbra Gordon and captures Jim Gordon in attempt to prove that anyone can go crazy from a bad day, so it's up to Batman to save Jim Gordon and stop the Joker.

This movie has been out for a while but because of focusing on a few other things I haven't had time to take a look at it yet. But after checking a paper for class I decided to go on Amazon, rent the movie and take a look for myself. And after all this waiting how does the animated version of the ever so classic Batman comic Batman The Killing Joke hold out? Honestly I'm going to say roughly the same thing that everyone has said already; first 28 ish minutes or so the movie is completely useless while the rest of it is virtually everything you'd expect the film adaption of the graphic novel.

Let's start with the good stuff because there isn't a whole lot to say. Now I don't mean that in that it's bad at all. On the contrary, it delivers exactly what fans have been waiting for, for so long. When we get to the actual story of The Killing Joke it's essentially everything people have been waiting for. It's the entire infamous story told almost exactly the way its portrayed in the novel panel by panel. The only real differences between the novel and the movie is different locations for some of the last lines of dialogue between Batman and Joker and that it includes Joker doing a musical number while he tortures Jim Gordon, but none of these things are big changes to whine and complain about. Both Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill reprise their roles as Batman and The Joker and no one would want it any other way. These guys are the definitive Batman and Joker in many people's eyes and for a film adaptation of The Killing Joke most people wouldn't want these characters to be performed by anyone else. I've heard that Hamill in particular wanted this to finally happen and thinking back to when I was watching the film it shows. From the musical number alone you can probably tell he's having a ton of fun finally playing the character in such an iconic batman story. The animation was great (thought Batman's ears were a little over-the-top in hindsight), the story telling was great, it's ultimately everything most people wanted for a film adaption of the infamous graphic novel.

Not let's talk about the first half hour of the movie. People are complaining how this is completely useless because all it really is it is just a story of Batgirl and Batman chasing down a gangster and have a brief sexual relationship. Long story cut short, they're right. While the animation is as good as you'd expect from the studio and there are some good action scenes, it doesn't hold any purpose to the main story. As far as anyone's concerned, it's just a short episode of Batman the Animated Series that's just pushed in, so they could have gotten rid of the first 28 or so minutes of the movie and you would have lost absolutely nothing. On top of that, like I said, it also has Batman and Batgirl in a sexual relationship which most people are highly against. Jeremy Jahns argued that this is not too big of a deal as people are making it given that there have been adaptions were something like this has happened before, and granted both DC and Marvel have given us different adaptions were there different relationships between the characters (i.e. Black Widow and Hulk in Age of Ultron.) But I think at this point in the comic book world, people are starting to become more associated with  Batman and Batgirl's relationship depicted as more of a niece and uncle relationship as Doug Walker puts it in his own review for the film. Plus I'm going to be bluntly honest, Batman having sex with college girl Barbara Gordon is kind of creepy to me. Anyway, people are talking about the first 28 minutes more than the main story which is unfair but at the same time it's well deserved. We know they were trying to make it so that it ties into The Killing Joke, but it's an attempt that wasn't needed. All we really wanted was just the 40+ minutes of The Killing Joke brought into film and nothing else. I think another reason why people feel so distanced from the last 40 minutes of the film is because the tones between both stories are completely different. The Killing Joke is dark, brooding and has a timeless feel to it whereas the first 28 minutes has a relatively lighter story and dialogue that feels more modern. They just don't match up. So I think people are especially pissed because the first 28 minutes did virtually nothing to even set the mood for the story we were waiting for and it ultimately compromises the entire experience.

Does this mean there's nothing worth seeing in the first 28 minutes? Well personally I wouldn't go that far. As I said before, the animation & action are still great and as far as a short of Batman and Batgirl capturing a gangster goes it's not the most boring story I've ever heard. There's even scenes where Batman and Batgirl talk about what it means to be on the edge when they're doing what they do that I think it's worth remembering. I guess if you just want to see Batman and Batgirl hunting down gangsters, kicking butt and all around giving us the standard action that you expect in the world of Batman, you'll get your fill. But as far as a part of Batman: The Killing Joke goes, this would have made much more sense if they replaced chasing the gangster with chasing the Joker prior to the events of the Killing Joke comic.

If there's anything else I feel I should talk about, it would have to be the film's R rating. At first I thought this was going to be a movie that well deserved that rating given the content of the graphic novel, but what I saw instead was more warranting a PG-13 rating. It seems like they just gave the film the rating to make it look like they're really edgy when really it's nothing particularly special. Granted, film is subjective and thus the rating system is subjective too, but when I think of films that deserve and R rating, I think of films like Deadpool, The Godfather, Saving Private Ryan, Gamer - films where there's a considerable amount of blood/gore and the sexual content is showing people having sex and seeing the nipples of women's breasts or something like that. Here, you have Batgirl beating a guy until blood is coming from his mouth, two guys killed off from clean shots in the head, a sex scene that's cut off before it gets graphic and while Barbra Gordon is stripped naked in the main story, we don't see so much of her body that's particularly risque, at least none that I saw. I guess it really depends on what is considered too much for you, but to me most of this was standard PG-13 content.

And that's my review for Batman: The Killing Joke. The first 28 minutes have some good things in it, but it's completely pointless in the long run, while the rest of the film is more than likely everything you wanted out of a film adaption of the graphic novel. If you're a fan of the book but haven't seen the movie, I do recommend just skipping past the first 28 minutes in order to have a solid good time, but as a whole movie it's a mixed bag. Take it for what it's worth and see for yourself.

Rating: 65%    

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Hunchback of Notre Dame II (2002)

Plot: Set six years after the events of the first film, Quasimodo is happily accepted into Parisian society and Esmeralda and Pheobus are married and have a son named Zepher. A festival called Le Jour d'Amour is coming where people in Paris celebrate love by having the people declare their love for their love ones while Quasimodo rings a valuable bell called La Fidèle. But an evil magician named Sarousch wants to steal La Fidèle so that he can become rich, so he forces his assistant Madellaine to to discover its whereabouts. She tries to trick Quasimodo into showing her the bell, but a romance begins to bloom between them.

For all its obvious cash-in problems that a lot of Disney sequels suffer for, The Hunchback of Notre Dame II is probably one of the few Disney sequels that I wanted to see as a kid and watching it again, I sort of have a slight soft spot for it. Now don't get me wrong, the film itself is terrible. The story is generic, some of the dialogue is really bad and most of the songs are just awful, but at the same time The Hunchback of Notre Dame is one of my personal favorites Disney films and I can't help but sort of like that this film exists if for no other reason than for the fact that we get to see Quasimodo fall in love and live happily ever after with a nice girl. (Yeah that's kind of a spoiler, but you probably can figure out what happens on your own.)

Let's go ahead and dive into the biggest problem with the Hunchback of Notre Dame 2: the story. The story by itself is nothing short of cheesy. It's a basic villain who wants to be rich and uses an innocent person to get that they want that leads to a romance with the main protagonist that eventually leads to redemption. I know that might be revealing a lot, but let's be honest you can probably tell from the first ten or so minutes what's going to happen almost step by step. Personally I think it had potential to be stronger, but I'll get to that later.

Most of the main characters feel almost pointless to appear in this film. Even when I saw this as a kid I felt like I didn't have as much of a connection with characters like Esmeralda or Phoebus as I did with the first film. Sarousch is a complete downgrade from Frollo as far as villains go. I know that's to be expected given that this is a Disney sequel, but given that Frollo is arguably the most complex and interesting Disney villain out there, it kind of a shame that we go from a corrupted judge to a circus magician who just wants to steal this valuable bell for fame and money. Even when I was a kid there were times where I was more interested in wondering what it would have been like if Frollo was somehow still alive during all of this or how we would react if he was a ghost witnessing the events of this film. I know that sounds silly, but it's still more interesting than Sarousch as a character despite Michael McKean giving him a neat evil voice.

The music is a mixed bag to me personally. When Doug Walker did his Disneycember review for this movie, he thought the songs were crap, and watching it with that in mind I actually found myself liking a couple of the songs. The first one Le Jour D'Amour has a catchy melody that hasn't left my head since the first time I saw this film as a kid, and while Jennifer Love Hewitt's song I'm Gonna Love You is cheesy, it's still an enjoyable song for what it is. Aside from that, all the other ones are crap. I think my personal least favorite is the song I'd Stick With You. Doug Walker also personally enjoyed the instrumental score for this movie and hearing the music for myself I have to agree. It's obviously not as good as the first movie, but there were a couple of moments where I thought the music really fit into the moment that it was playing such as when Quasimodo and Madellaine first meet.

Finally let's talk about what I consider to be the main subject about The Hunchback of Notre Dame II: the romance between Quasimodo and Madellaine. On the one hand it is cheesy and predictable - in fact looking back the romance is almost similar to Hercules and Meg in Hercules. In both cases the villain in some way or another has control over the girl and plans to use her against the hero but she and the hero fall in love which leads to the liar reveal story line and all that stuff. However as far as a story of Quasimodo finding love, I thought the romance between them is cute, but needed a lot of work. The scene where they meet is probably the strongest moment in the movie. Quasimodo is very nervous, he and Madellaine strike a nice conversation and have a few laughs, but when his face is revealed she is scared and runs away. That was great. However I feel like they could've dived more into that somehow or at least make it more believable when Quasimodo falls for her. When she's frightened away, Quasimodo is very sad about it and feels like there's no hope because of his looks, but then he suddenly talks about miracles and sings about falling in love. How did he go from getting depressed to deciding he's starting to fall for this girl? With Madellaine it kind of makes sense how she later starts to see past his looks when she watches Quasimodo fondly playing with Zephyr, but him looking past the fact that his face scared her away came out of nowhere. I feel like there's more they could've done with the fact that she was afraid of him at first before they start to fall in love. Also, I would have liked it if they did more with Madellaine herself. She has a likable personality and she is drawn pretty for the animation budget that they had, but her background is rushed. All we get is that she tried to steal from Sarousch when she was little and now she owes him for not throwing her into the streets or something which is not particularly interesting. Personally I think it would have been much more compelling if they focused more on Sarousch tricking Madellaine into thinking the world is a dark cruel place. He does say that to her early on the film and I couldn't help but think they could've dove more into that. Like maybe she could relate to Quasimodo in how they both were tricked into how the world works. That would have made so much more sense and would have made Quasimodo and Madeline's relationship stronger. Wouldn't that have been more interesting?

And that's my review for The Hunchback of Notre Dame II. I liked the romance okay for what it was and some of the songs were okay, but the story is cheesy, the villain is uninteresting, most of the moments with characters like Pheobus and Esmeralda were forgettable, and the music and animation just isn't as good as in the first film. It's not a movie that I would own, but I am sort of glad it exists just for the sake of knowing that it's Disney canon that Quasimodo does find a certain special someone. It's not the worst Disney sequel out there, but it's still pretty bad.

Rating: 35%

Monday, December 5, 2016

Dr. Strange (2016)

Plot: Dr. Strange is a skilled neurosurgeon who loses the use of his hands in a car accident. He uses all of his resources to try to fix them, but nothing seems to work. Eventually he hears about a place called Kamar-Taj where he is taken in by two sorcerer; the Ancient One, and Mordo. The Ancient One shows Strange her power and eventually agrees to teach him the ways of conjuring magic. But a former apprentice of the Ancient One called Kaecilius is threatening the way of life as he intends to open a portal that will summon the dark being Dormammu of the Dark Dimension and it's up to Dr. Strange and his new magical allies to stop him.

Sorry that this is late but I've had a lot of stuff going on around both times that I went to see this movie. Anyway as I'm sure a lot of you have heard by now, this movie once again has a lot of praises just like so many of the other Marvel movies and for the most part I agree with him. Do I think it's one of the best? I think there are a couple of considerable problems, but for the most part it succeeds in giving us a good origin story of another likeable Marvel superhero.

Let's start off with probably the most obvious positive thing about this movie; Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange. There is no debate that he makes this movie in the same way that Robert Downey jr. makes all of the Iron Man films. At times it's a little distracting knowing that he's also Sherlock and Smaug and Kahn before he was this character unlike with a lot of other superheroes in Marvel, but as far as bringing Dr. Strange into the MCU he delivers in bringing the character to life. I also really enjoy the journey that he goes through. Now to be clear, I will say one of the main problems with the movie for me personally is that we are experiencing a bit of repeats within Dr. Strange's origin story. A lot of people have pointed out by now how it's a lot like Tony Stark's journey to becoming Iron Man in how he's so cocky and self-absorbed before he experiences a tragedy that ultimately leads him to become this hero, and for the most part they're right. But at the same time you look past it because 1) Stephen Strange did start out as a very cocky and self-absorbed guy in the comics before his accident, so there's no way around that in making a movie out of his origin story, and 2) the journey that he goes through really works. What makes him stand out from Iron Man is that he isn't as quick to being fully willing to lay down his life for others. Now don't get me wrong I love how Tony Stark is quick to show that despite being this rich arrogant jerk he also has a kind heart in the first Iron Man movie, but what makes Dr. Strange's journey better in terms of giving us a growing character is that he has to overcome his arrogance, he has to overcome his selfishness and all the while his morals are challenged. In fact one of the most memorable scenes in the movie for me personally is a conversation he has with Kaecilius who sadly is not very memorable like a lot of other Marvel villains. They have a discussion on what is morally right and wrong and how there may be more to the Ancient One than she implies. The ideas that have been done before, but once again like many other cliches used in Marvel films it really works. I can see the conflict that Doctor Strange is going through and it's great to see how he's growing to become a better person which really pays off with what he does at the end of the movie.

The supporting characters are also pretty good. While you may not remember the names of the other sorcerers, you still like them. Tilda Swinton does a decent job as the Ancient One, and while the villain like I said it's not very memorable I do like some moments with him. He even has one moment with Strange before they have their serious discussion that was funny. Rachel McAdams I'm kind of back and forth with on her importance in the role. On the one hand she is rarely there and while there is a decent chemistry between her and Cumberbatch, it does feel like they could have gotten rid of her from the movie and you would have lost almost nothing. But at the same time I agree with Jeremy Jahns with his review of the movie where he points out that they use her sparingly and only in moments where it's important to the plot. So as forgettable as her character was, I'll admit that they were smart to put her in the film only when it's necessary.

The visuals in this movie are unbelievable. This movie contains some of the most surreal imagery that I have ever seen. I think Doug Walker put it best when he said that this is the kind of movie where it needs CGI. All these creative visuals that this film comes up with really gives this film a unique style as a superhero film and leads to a lot of creative action scenes. The comedy is pretty good too. They have a couple of jokes that miss, but there are still plenty other jokes that made me and the rest of the audience laugh just the way you'd expect a Marvel movie to do.

If I had any other real problems that I reluctantly have to agree with my dad when we talked about the movie, it would be that there are pacing problems with the film. It feels like with explaining the world of magic, there are some explanations that are rushed and you get the feeling that you haven't learned anything really special. At the same time however, you could make the argument that that's kind of the point and what they're trying to do with Dr. Strange's journey. He is learning how to conjure up all these different spells and weapons and gadgets and such, but the fact is he still has so much to learn it in the end so that just leaves us with hoping he will get a lot more in the sequel. Plus I still like what will they do tell us about magic; I really like how the Ancient One explains how they specifically conjure up magic or how in terms of using magic to fight the kind of grounded to mostly conjuring specific weapons and use specific gadgets to help you out of the situation. I think that's kind of a smart move given that - as far as I know from what few comics I've read containing Dr. Strange and other sorcerers, most of the action in the comics are more Harry potter-like, meaning it's mostly shooting beans out of their hands and things like that. So it's good that they grounded it so that magic is still something that we can understand in a world that has more science fiction than fantasy elements, but at the same time I hope that they can think of more creative things to do with Dr. Strange in future projects.

And that's my review for Dr. Strange. Benedict Cumberbatch give us a great performance as Stephen Strange, the supporting characters are good, the villain this weak but he has some good moments, the visuals are great, the action is a marvel to watch (no pun intended), and while there's some things that are rushed, it still gives us an interesting aspect of this particular part of the world of Marvel. Would I say that it's one of the greats Marvel films? Well... I wouldn't go that far. Like I said it has a sense repeating elements from past films and some of the world building is rushed, but it still is a good film It may not be as big as Captain America: Civil War, but hey how could you top off a film like that with another origin story? If you want a movie where Marvel really outdoes themselves, I can't say that they really did much of that apart from it's unique and surreal visual style. But if you just want to see you another good Marvel movie with all the likable characters, action and comedy that goes with it, Dr. Strange is definitely another enjoyable part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to check out.

Rating: 75%

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003)

Plot: Andie is a writer who works for a magazine called Composure as the "How to..." girl. After her friend Michelle breaks down from a break-up, Andie gets the idea to write an article of how to lose a guy in ten days which she will demonstrate by dating a guy and drive him away by "only using the classic mistakes women make". At the same time, an advertising executive named Benjamin is striving for a pitch to advertise diamonds. When his boss and his rival co-workers question whether or not he understands the concept of love, he makes a claim that he can any woman fall in love with him. So they bet that if he can make any woman fall in love with him before the upcoming company ball, in just 10 days, he can head the advertising for the new diamond company. Thus Andie and Benjamin meet and choose one another for their mutual assignments, with neither knowing about each other's secret agenda; Andie doing everything she can to get Benjamin to dump her while Benjamin does everything he can to keep them together. 

So couple of days ago my friend Candra watched this and told me that it was cheesy but good. I got a little curious and decided to take a look for myself, and it certainly is cheesy, but I wouldn't go so far as calling it all around good.

So what is good about it? Well long story short, the main cast. Both Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey are what drives this movie. The characters are kind of cut board characters, but they still manage to bring their own spin on them. When it's all said and done, the chemistry between them is believable. Everytime I see them hanging out together or working on their devious plans against each other I look at two smart people who could end up in serious relationship that was what they were trying to do. I think the best moments are when they are coming up with these plans against each other. I don't know why, but it's kind of amusing to see how Kate Hudson is so excited do all these devious things against Matthew McConaughey. And in the end it totally fits up to it I can start to form a connection.

But as I said, the film is cheesy. While I wouldn't say it's one of the worst chick flicks I've ever seen, it does have this presence around it that makes it distinctly early 2000's cheese. Every single beat in developing the relationship between Andie and Benjamin you have seen many times before, the music it's forgettable, and apart from one or two jokes that made me chuckle a little (though even then I don't even remember what they were), the comedy is dull. It also has scenes that - at least for me, are a little hard to watch. Kate Hudson as a whole is enjoyable, but when she acts too needy and clingy towards McConaughey, it's a little over the top.

Honestly, the funny thing about the story to be is the idea of a story about writing an article about the mistakes women can make when dating a guy is not entirely a bad concept. I guess to me as a guy, this could have been a movie that goes deeper into the problems and challenges of dating - somewhat similar to He's Just Not That Into You. I think the story could have been a little bit stronger if that was what they were really going for. But as it is, it's more about the execution of both Andie and Benjamin's plans against each other and while it is amusing at some points, it still come out as predictable and corny.

And that's my review for How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. I like the chemistry between the two leads and occasionally their plotting against each other works, but it still is met with a half interesting premise and a predictable script. If you're just looking for a chick flick to watch or just want to see Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey together in a rom com, this isn't the worst chick flick to see. But if you're looking for a rom com that is more interesting and original, I'd give this one a pass.

Rating: 45%

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Suicide Squad (2016)

My 675th review: Suicide Squad.

Plot:In the aftermath of the events of Batman V Superman, intelligence operative Amanda Waller assembles a team of dangerous criminals - Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Killer Croc, El Diablo, Cpatain Bommerang, and Slipshot, and places them under the command of Colonel Flag. When a magical being called The Enchantress rebels against Waller and besieges Midway City with a horde of monsters and her brother Incubus to assist her, it's up to Waller's team to go on a suicide mission to save the day. 

When I left the movie theater after seeing Suicide Squad the first time, both my brother Johnathan and I agreed it was a fun mess. I had to watch the second time after having further discussion with Johnathan and concluded that this movie has a number of ups and downs similar to Man of Steel, but unlike Man of Steel this movie has enjoyable characters, music, and action (on occasion) while everything else it's considerably muddled.

The strongest aspect of this movie are the characters. I honestly expected that this move is going to focus almost no one but Deadshot and Harley Quinn just because Harley Quinn is one of the most famous female comic book characters out there and Deadshot is played by Will Smith. While it does turn out to be the case in the long run, there's still a serviceable amount of focus with the other characters of the Suicide Squad. The first 10 minutes or so of the movie is Amanda Waller telling us who each and every member is from their powers to their goals and so on and so forth. And I'm glad that they did that because it helped me get to know DC characters that I personally am not familiar with. That said however, the movie left out some members of the squad to show later in the story. Katana and Slipknot are forced in with less than a minute spent introducing Katana and no genuine introduction to Slipknot at all. I realize they did that because Katana isn't evil like the rest of the group and Slipnot doesn't have as big of a role, but it still feels awkward to spend so much time building up all of these characters and then as the big mission is about to begin they suddenly go "Oh yeah, by the way here's these two characters as well." But with that said, the characters are still fun. They may not be Marvel fun, but most of the characters like Harley and Deadshot have some funny moments. The soundtrack is also fun...even if it's obvious that they're taking the concept from Guardians of the Galaxy. Honestly, if you want Warner Bros. and DC to finally give us a movie where they make you laugh, this is it.

The relationships between the members of the Suicide Squad was done reasonably well. It's not as strong as teams like The Avengers are the Guardians of the Galaxy as it does have clunky moments with the development of relationships like Harley's relationship with the rest of the team, but to be fair this is a hard adaptation to do in one movie with so many characters. Frankly, I'm impressed that they handled the characters and their relationships as a team as well as they did. Will Smith brings the most humanity to the team as Deadshot as well has having some cool action moments. Margot Robbie is prefect as Harley Quinn. We may only see her in her original costume in one or two shots, but on performance alone there's little doubt that we're seeing Harley Quinn on the silver screen. She crazy, she's ditzy, she sexy, she's obsessed with the Joker, there's not a whole lot more we can ask for. Viola Davis was also nothing short of perfect as Amanda Waller. She's a controlling manipulative powerful woman that you do not want to get on her bad side. I also liked how we became better acquainted with DC characters that not many people know like Diablo and Katana. They may not have as much screen time, as Deadshot and Harley like I said, but there was enough attention that I remembered them.

Finally we have the most controversial casting - Jared Leto as the Joker. Honestly, he was a mixed bag. I think Jonathan said it best when he stated that they focused on the wrong aspects of addressing that The Joker is this crazy person to the point that he comes out more as a gangster rather as a super villain. In fact, given that Batman v Superman implied that he's already Batman's main arch enemy to the point that he already murdered Jason Todd aka the second Robin, it's hard to believe that this is the same guy when most of what we see is just him acting like a wild mob boss. Also, I've already seen mixed reaction to the fact that The Joker plays a very small role in the film. We see him in flashbacks that Harley has, but as far as the main story, he's a detached third party with his own agenda. On the one hand, there's people like Chris Stuckmann who were looking forward to this portrayal and wanted to see more, and part of me agrees because - again, I wanted to see more of The Joker as the super villain. But on the other hand, I'm glad that Joker has a small role because it shows that the filmmakers know that while he is one of the greatest villain of all time, the focus is what it should be - on Deadshot, Harley, Diablo and the rest of the Suicide Squad. All in all, I think Leto gave us a decent performance, but I want to see him do much more in future films. That said, I also liked the realtionship between Harley and The Joker. I like how Harley is madly in love with The Joker, but I especially like how even though The Joker loves her too, there are moments where he doesn't care about her well being. In the comics and the original animated series, The Joker and Harley have an abusive relationship to the point where sometimes The Joker would even try to kill Harley. I particularly enjoyed a moment about halfway into the movie where Harley has a flashback that shows both sides of Joker's feelings for her. I won't spoil it, but it definitely makes their relationship more accurate to how its portrayed in the tv show and comics.   

One of the real problems with the movie is the editing. The story as a whole sounds simple enough to get behind, but after watching the movie again, I realize that some of the exposition is missing. Between after introducing the characters to roughly before the Suicide Squad go out on their mission, there are some moments where I found myself asking "wait, how did we get from point A to point B?" with some of the characters. In fact after seeing both Suicide Squad and the ultimate cut for Batman v Superman (which I strongly recommend by the way), I found out that for both films the filmmakers decided to cut out certain scenes of exposition that are actually very important. The ultimate cut for Batman v Superman makes the movie so much more solid than the theatrical cut because it added scenes that explained moments in the plot that people were confused on. The movie still has problems, but with those extended scenes the ultimate cut further proves why I think Batman v Superman is a better film than most people give it credit for. With Suicide Squad, I realized that the same thing has happened here. I might not have noticed the first time I watched it, but after discussing it with my brother, Johnathan and then watching the movie again, I figure there must be at least 15-20 minutes worth of footage that they cut out that might contain some exposition that the film actually needs. Bottom line: here's hoping for an ultimate cut for Suicide Squad when it comes out on DVD and Blue-ray.

The second major problem is the villain. Now on the one hand, I liked that Warner Bros and DC are moving toward giving us villains that are forces of magic - specifically because now they're establishing how there's more to the world of DC besides just super powered people and some ordinary people in suits like Batman and Green Arrow. I also like how the relationship between Flag and The Enchantress displays that there's more at stake for one of the members of the squad besides simply defeating a metahuman (it's a DC universe term, it counts) who wants to destroy the world. That being said, Johnathan made a legitimate point when he told me that it actually doesn't make sense to have an all powerful magical being to be the villain for Suicide Squad. It looks cool that the Suicide Squad are going against a being like that, but it also makes the villain look stupid when she is fighting against a group where Diablo and Killer Croc are the only metahumans. Also the background for who The Enchantress and Incubus are and what powers they have is almost completely thrown out the window. We get that they're evil, immortal and want to destroy the world for revenge...and that's literally it. There's no explanation as to how they came to be thousands of years ago or how they were betrayed. Even their abilities seems to be lacking an identity. Like Incubus has this tentacle ability that's used to kill people. It seems unique, but there isn't really anything we really know about it apart from that it kills. Granted, not every superpower has to stand out as its own thing like The Force in Star Wars or the unforgivable curses in Harry Potter, but the powers the villains display in this movie are so glanced over that there's no wow factor or any emotion in general behind what we're seeing.

That's my review for Suicide Squad (trying to break the habit of starting a sentence with 'and'.) The story is muddled and has a lackluster villain despite some decent ideas behind it. But if you just want to see DC characters like Deadshot, Harley Quinn and Amanda Waller do their thing in their own movie with some okay action scenes and a few good laughs, you'll have a good time. It's sadly another mess from DC and Warner Bros, but it's an enjoyable mess.  

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Pokemon: Hoopa and the Clash of the Ages (2015)

Plot: A hundred years ago, the legendary Pokemon named Hoopa appears to a small desert town and boasts about how strong he is and summons other legendary Pokemon to fight him. But in the process, his fights with the other Pokemon start to destroy the town, and so a mysterious man takes away Hoopa's power with a Prison Bottle and saves the town. Cut to the present where the mysterious man's great grandchildren named Baraz and Meray are Hoopa's caretakers. They meet Ash and his companions who agree to help protect Hoopa from the darkness inside his powers. But then Team Rocket steals the Prison Bottle and releases Hoopa's power which turns into its own separate being and wants to make the real Hoopa disappear. So it's up to Ash and his companions to protect Hoopa and make another Prison Bottle to recapture Hoopa's power. 

As the last Pokemon film in this marathon, this was another mixed bag. There are some memorable aspect to it but it not that special at same time.

First of all I give the movie credit for its unique setting. This takes place in a desert with a middle eastern style to it that we never seen it before in a Pokemon film and it definitely makes it unique. Also, I think it was smart to give us these flashbacks that display the relationship between Hoopa Baraz and Meray. And Hoopa himself is a uniquely designed Pokemon ... though maybe too uniquely designed. For me personally, he looks so unique that in my mind I don't believe he's even a Pokemon to begin with. I don't know what's the best way to explain why, but the aspect that he's this genie that can summon Pokemon and shoot lasers with its rings and has this cocky devilish grin... it just makes him look more like a creature from a completely different anime like Digimon or something. But that's just me personally.

With that said, Hoopa as a character is a mixture of both likable and annoying. Like I said before, you get a good idea of what his past is and his goals are and can get behind his his relationship with Baraz and Meray. But he is also kind of a prankster just like Zoura and that can get annoying really fast - especially whenever he says his catchphrase "were you surprised?" which he says way too much. Also slightly similar to Kyurem vs.The Sword of Justice, I feel like he didn't have as much of a connection with Ash and his friends as a group. He has a couple of special moments with Ash who is personally helping him overcome his fear, but his companions hardly have any personal moments with Hoopa. Is a shame that one film ago, we went from the whole gang connecting and becoming buddies with the legendary Pokemon that's the main focus and now Ash gets to be the only person from the show with a specific connection with that Pokemon again. True, Clement, Bonnie and Serena still play a part in the climax as a team which is great, but it doesn't feel like they're doing anything as special as how they befriended and helped Diancie in Diance and the Cocoon of Destruction.

The climax is arguably the most memorable aspect of the movie for one specific reason: it's mostly a big battle between two groups of legendary Pokemon. It's Lugia, Latios, Latias and Rayquaza against Kyogre, Groudon, Palkia, Dialga, Giratina, and Kyurem.That may not sound like much to anyone who isn't a Pokemon fan, but for anyone who is, just saying that sound nothing short of awesome. If they somehow found a way to add a couple more legendary Pokemon like Mewtwo, Darkrai and Lucario (even though the last one isn't a legendary), this climax would be set. But with the Pokemon that they had, this was an epic show down. With that said however, as a Pokemon fan, I would be remiss if I didn't say that I wish Lugia stayed in the fight longer as opposed to only haven taken part of the battle for a few minutes or so. Also, given that the fight takes place in a big city, there are moments where Pokemon like Palkia and Giratina are destroying buildings in the process of trying to catch Ash, Pikachu and Hoopa which - similar to the climax of Man of Steel, opens the question of whether or not people died while Ash is trying to distract the legendary Pokemon and protect Hoopa. But even that is bearable compared to the end of the climax where just like with Destiny Deoxys and Lucario and the Mystery of Mew, the stakes are raised with a conflict that has a forced explanation and exists only to resolve a part of Hoopa's story. And just like those other films, it wasn't even needed. They could have found a way to resolve this specific piece of Hoopa's story with what the third act already had with fighting all of these dangerous, legendary Pokemon. It was dumb when it happened in those other two films, and it's just as dumb here.

And that's my review for Pokemon: Hoopa and the Clash of the Ages. The relationship between Hoopa, Baraz and Meray is solid, Hoopa as a Pokemon is interesting in some areas, and the fight between the legendary Pokemon is enjoyable to watch. But Hoopa has his annoying moments, Ash's companions have no memorable impact in the story again, and the climax contains another forced raising of the stakes. It's has it's memorable moments, but it's nothing special in the end.

So that concludes my movie review marathon of the Pokemon films, and truth be told I'm glad that I did this. When I started this I thought I was going to find so many films that are boring or uninteresting that I wouldn't want to continue reviewing them. But this film franchise exceeded my expectations. Is it a good film series over all? Not really. Even the best films have at least one or two major problems. But even most of the films that are bad still have good things in it. Whether it be moments of world building, interesting characters, special Pokémon abilities or whatever, these movies helped me look at Pokémon in ways that I would never have before. The first movie will always have a close place in my heart, but my top the favorite films apart from that from least to greatest would have to be Pokemon Ranger and the Temple of the Sea, Pokemon 2000 and Pokemon Heroes. My top three least favorite would have to be Pokemon Giratina and the Sky Warrior, Pokemon Genesect and the Legend Awakened and Pokemon Kyurem and The Sword of Justice. There's actually already a 19th film released in Japan. Will I watch and review it when it gets an English dub? Maybe. It is another film with Ash and the X&Y/XY&Z gang and I wouldn't want to miss any adventures with them. But will I watch any films in the future that are made for the Pokemon: Sun and Moon anime series? Well...that completely depends on how they finish Pokemon: XY&Z. At the present, it is completely up in the air as to how they're going to finish Ash's adventures in Kalos and as to whether or not Serena in particular is going to join him in Aloha. Honestly, my interest in watching the show again began with Serena and it will end with Serena. If they get rid of her for Pokemon: Sun and Moon, they will rid me of any interest in watching the show further. Until then, thank you for reading my Pokemon movie review marathon and I hope you'll stick around for my 675th review.

Rating: 50%

Pokemon Diancie and the Cocoon of Destruction (2014)

Plot: In an underground country called "Diamond Domain" lies a powerful Heart Diamond that serves as the kingdom's source of energy. But it's slowly withering away, so the Carbink that live there look to Princess Diancie to create a new one. But Diancie is not powerful enough to do so yet, so she has to go on a journey to find the Life Pokémon named Xerneas to help her create a new Heart Diamond. Along the way, Diancie escapes from her Carbink escort and meets Ash and Pikachu and his companions, Clemont, Bonnie and Serena who also help her find Xerneas while also defending her from Team Rocket and the jewel thieves named Marilyn Flame and Ninja Riot.

Finally we make it to the X&Y films. Oh Kalos sweet Kalos, it's good to see you again. I may have mentioned once or twice already that I've been watching the X&Y and XY&Z series and really enjoy it. Since this takes place in the series, I personally enjoy this movie has a whole. This isn't to say that this is one of the strongest Pokemon films, but there's a lot of improvements in it.

Let's start with the big improvement with both the show and the movie: Ash's companions. I admit that I may be a little biased when I say this, but I really enjoyed Ash's companions in both the X&Y and XY&Z. Clemont is my least favorite member of the group given how he can be annoying with his catchphrase "the future is now thanks to science." But with that said, I still like him to a degree in how he's voice of reason and gives good information about Pokemon. Bonnie you could say is the little girl version of Brock because of how she keeps proposing to women, asking to be Clemont's wife.  This sounds like she's just a diet version of Brock, but I enjoy it. She's a cute character. And then we have Serena. Good golly am I glad that they created Serena. Not only is she the reason why I started watching X&Y and XY&Z in the first place, but she may be one of my favorite characters in all of media. The main reason why is her crush on Ash. I completely support the idea of the two of them getting together. *audience members boo* Yeah I know it seems like I'm betraying a part of my childhood by not supporting the idea of Misty getting together with Ash, but that's honestly how I feel. Serena may be a girly girl a good portion of time (some of which you see in the movie), but at the end of the day she's a character that you can easily grow to really care for her and hope that she will one day confess her feelings for Ash and they will get together. I can go on and on about Serena, so I'll just save that for another post. I have been working on a top 15 Favorite animated female characters list, and she will be on it. So if I get it up, I'll be sure to go into much more detail.

Anyway, another big improvement to me personally is how Ash's companion feel more like a team than any of Ash's companions in the other films. Apart from some cases like Pokemon 3: The Movie or (to a lesser extent) Kyurem and The Sword of Justice, it's rare for Ash's companions to have a purpose in these movies at all let alone act together as a group. But here, not only do they do that but they honestly improve on it. They aren't just summoning their Pokemon to help, they're using their special talents to help Diancie. Clemont uses an invention that doesn't blow up (which is a rarity in the show), Serena uses her skills for Rhyhorn racing and provides moral support... okay that doesn't sound like much, but that still makes her more productive than Brock.

Another nice albeit small improvement is how Team Rocket actually had a point in the story. I may have held my tongue at this point,  the main purpose for Team Rocket in almost all of the films between Pokemon 2000 and now is just to be the comedy relief. They almost never even have a personal encounter with Ash and his friends. They just follow Ash secretly and observe the adventure he's having and make jokes. Heck, they don't even appear in Kyurem and The Sword of Justice. Apart from trying to capture Pikachu early into Jirachi: Wish Maker, they haven't really done anything since helping Ash retrieve the last orb in Pokemon 2000. Here we have a scene where they capture Diancie and try to use her to become rich. It may not have been the longest scene in the movie, but it's more than they've ever done in fifteen movies now, so to have them at least capture the main Pokemon characters is quite refreshing.

Diancie as a character was....okay. She does have an important role in the story and has something to overcome, but at the same time she was your typical fish-out-of-water character who is learning new things in this whole new world that she's wanted to see all her life. She also ( in my opinion) brings out the most corny moments in the dialogue. As much as I like to praise both the X&Y and XY&Z series, I will be the first fan to admit that the dialogue has its corny moments. Granted, it's not like the dialogue in the show or other films prior to X&Y or XY&Z had had dialogue that meets the quality of Quentin Tarantino movies. But it stands out more with scenes like Ash, Bonnie, Serena and Clemont helping Diancie learn how it's wrong to steal or what it means to be friends (but hey, at least they handle the latter better than in the last movie.)

The climax is fairly decent. The legendary Pokemon, Yveltal is pretty intimidating and leads to one of the darkest third acts in a Pokemon film. It's kind of like the fake Groudon in Jirachi: Wish maker except you have a better understand that both people and Pokemon are dying at the hands of this dangerous monster. The only real problem I have with the ending is that it gives us a sad moment  with Pikachu that could have worked if they let the moment sink in longer like with what happened to Ash in The First movie. But even then, it probably wouldn't be as effective as we know it's going to come out happy after 17 movies. Also I know I haven't talked about the music to the end credits of the movie since the first movie, but the end credits song Open My Eyes is very enjoyable. Yeah it's not the most stand out song, but it's kind of a memorable song if you're an X&Y and XY&Z fan.

And that's my review for Pokemon Diancie and the Cocoon of Destruction. It has its corny dialogue and Diancie as a character is just okay when comparing to other Pokemon from past movies, but for me personally the movie is an enjoyable improvement with likable main characters who play their own parts in the action, the most productive use of Team Rocket since almost the beginning of the film series, and an enjoyable dark climax with Yveltal. I realize that I could be biased seeing as I'm honestly enjoying this current rendition of the show more than anything else from the anime, but I like to think that most of it is justified. It may not fit that standard of Pokemon Heroes or Pokemon 2000, but it's a nice time for the improvements it has.

Rating: 65%

Pokemon: Genesect and the Legend Awakened (2013)

Plot: The Genesect Army escape from the lab that revived them and try to return to their home. But three hundred million years have passed, and their home is no longer habitable. Suddenly, a Mewtwo saves four of the five Genesect from an avalanche and leans what they are looking for. But the Red Genesect who Mewtwo was unable to save attacks it and takes the army to a large city and mistake it for their home. Ash and his friends travel to the city and encounter the Genesect Army who take over  a nature park and plan to use it to build a giant cocoon that threatens the city's power supply. So it's up to Ash and his friends and eventually Mewtwo to try to stop them.

I'm going to be honest here. For a while I actually thought I was going to hate this even more than Kyurem vs. The Sword of Justice. And even though it avoided being that bad, it's still another one of the weaker Pokemon films.

I'll start off with the real reason why I thought I was going to hate this more than Kyurem vs. The Sword of Justice: Mewtwo. Just the first few minutes of Mewtwo pissed me off for one reason: that they had a voice actress to voice the character. Now let me be exceptionally clear; I have nothing against female voice actors at all. But I started watching this movie thinking this is the same Mewtwo from The First Movie, so the idea that they would all of the sudden cast an actress to voice the part of this character for no reason pissed me off. Thankfully, they do imply that this is a totally different Mewtwo with a slightly similar back story and in retrospect, the way that this particular Mewtwo is designed, it does look a little more feminine than the original Mewtwo. So if you're watching this movie and grew up watching the first film, bear in mind it is a totally different Mewtwo. Though I must say that while I'm all for the idea that there is more than one of every legendary Pokemon like Mewtwo, it is a shame that I'm not seeing a continuation of the story of the Mewtwo I grew up with. But that's just me.

I will also admit that it was a good idea in making the origins of both this other Mewtwo and the Genesect similar. They both were creating a science experiment and had escaped and are looking for a place to belong and that's actually not a bad way for Mewtwo to play a role in what's happening with the Genesect. But it's not done well enough for things to stay interesting. In fact the movie ends with a Mewtwo saying "everyone's a friend" as a way of convincing the Genesect to join her. That kind not just cheesy that's just silly.

I know there's some people who like that we see Mewtwo in action again with its own Mega Evolution and is fighting these other rare Pokemon and everything. Personally, I think it's Not that I don't understand why people are saying that, but this Mewtwo is not quite as interesting in battle as the other one. The powers that it has doesn't look all that intimidating or powerful and its particular Mega Evolution design just looks kind of silly to me personally. I know I'm being biased by comparing this Mewtwo to the one in The First Movie, but the fact is I don't have as much of a connection with this Mewtwo as I did with the first one.

The other characters I don't really remember. I don't even remember much of what Ash does in this movie let alone Cilian or Iris or even Pikachu. We even even see that Ash has his Charizard again, and even that was really rushed. He didn't have to have as big of a part as it did in Pokemon 3: The Movie, and I imagine some fans probably would have liked to have seen it in a little more action. I'm sure he has a bigger part in the Black and White series, but he has almost no purpose here.

And that's my review for Pokemon: Genesect and the Legend Awakened. I'm glad that they make it clear that this is a different Mewtwo and I like the idea of how the Genesect could connect with Mewtwo. But the action wasn't very exciting, I barely remember a thing that happens with Ash or his friends, and I personally just couldn't connect with this Mewtwo.

Rating: 15%

Pokemon: Kyurem vs. The Sword of Justice (2012)

Plot: Keldeo is a small horse Pokemon who wishes to become a member of the Swords of Justice alongside the three legendary Pokemon, Virizion, Terrakion, and Cobalion, but is unable to learn the ability Sacred Sword. Unwilling to wait until the as obtained the power, he secretly goes and challenges the mighty legendary dragon Pokemon Kyurem. During the battle, Keldeo's horn is broken and the members of the Swords of Justice are frozen for trying to interfere. Keldeo flees the scene and bumps into Ash, Pikachu, Iris and Cilian who try to heal him while also running away from Kyurem who wants to finish the battle.

So by the time I started writing this review I've already gone ahead and finished watching all the Pokemon movies, and I can easily say that I like Kyurem vs. the Sword of Justice the least. There was nothing particularly interesting or even that adventurous about it.

The main problems really focus on the story and the characters. Keldeo is a character that we've seen a hundred times before. He's a cocky, air-headed youth that ignorantly believes that he is good enough to do what he wants when in reality he is far from ready and he ignores his elders and is too stubborn to hear the moral, and believe me, it is as uninteresting as it sounds. And on top of that, the morals that he supposed to learn are things we've heard a million times before. Face your fears, keep an eye on your target, sometimes you learn from your failures, all of them you've probably heard many times already. They may be good morals, but they don't being anything new to the table.

On top of that, the story itself is not interesting. Granted, not everything has to be life-threatening as it has been in most of the Pokemon films. But this feels more like a rehash of an episode from the show were Ash and his companions are trying to help a wild Pokemon earn this specific thing that helps it grow up or complete its goal. Not to say that some of the aspects of past movies aren't in any way similar to stories from the show. Ash and his companions have encountered situations that are life-threatening in the show as well as the films. But when you really think about it, Kyurem is chasing Keldeo just to finish their duel. So this action adventure themed movie is just about a Pokemon battle, and that's just dull. This is a franchise where Pokemon battling each other is a part of life, and the fact that the villain just wants to finish fighting a Pokemon battle makes what Keldeo, Ash and his companions go through not very threatening.  It sounds like they're in danger, but at the same time there are no consequences to the events of the story. You could argue that Lucario and the Mystery of Mew would technically be more dull since I criticized how Ash's journey was just a quest of picking up Pikachu from Mew's hideout. But while the quest in that movie wasn't very dramatic on paper, at least it had a sense of danger given the obstacles the main characters encountered at the Tree of Beginning where life threatening. This is just a big beast chasing a little horse just because we wants to have his little fight. Oh Boo-freaking-hoo. I will grant that Kyurem does having an intimidating presence as an extremely powerful Pokemon, but I think that's the most I can do is give any of the characters credit. There isn't even much in the relationship between the Keldeo and Ash and his friends. It kind of shows honestly that this is only 66 minutes long given that these characters barely have moments the bond before they have to start running away from Kyurem some more. I may not really care about Giratina and the Sky Warrior or the movie that comes right after this one, but at least those films for more interesting than this. This was so dull that honestly I started playing on my DS while watching the movie I cared so little.

And that's my review for Pokemon: Kyurem vs. The Sword of Justice. It's a dull excuse of a Pokemon film with an annoying main Pokemon character and a story that is not very exciting at the end of the day. As far as I'm concerned, this is without a doubt the worst Pokemon movie ever.

Rating: 10%

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Pokemon: Black - Victini and Resheram / White - Victini and Zekrom (2011)

Before I talk about the plot of the movie, it's important to understand that this movie has two different versions. They have the same plot with some major and/or minor changes, notably the legendary Pokémon that appear, Reshiram and Zekrom swapping roles.

Plot: Ash and his Black and White companions, Cilan and Iris travel to Eindoak Town where they meet Victini a.k.a. the victory Pokemon. They learn that a thousand years ago, a civil war broke out at the Kindgom of the Vale that threatened the destruction of the world, and in order to stop it the king had to use Victini's power to move his sword-like castle out of the Vale to its current spot in order to contain the Dragon Force energy. This also however traps Victini as it can never leave the outskirts of the town, and so Ash promises Victini that he will find a way to set it free. But one of the townspeople, Damon is in league with Reshiram or Zekrom (depending on what version you are watching) who plans to use Victini's power to restore the valley, killing Victini in the process. So it's up to Ash and his friends to find and awaken the other legendary Pokemon in order to try to stop Damon.

For what it was, this movie was good. Its strength mostly comes from the moral dilemma between right and wrong, which also fits with the main idea of the Black and White series/games.

Reshiram and Zekrom basically represent Yin and Yang in the Pokemon: Black and White video games. I only played the Black version and while I honestly hated it as a Pokemon game, I can't deny its story was intriguing in tackling the moral dilemma of the relationships between people and Pokemon which also ends where the antagonist captures either Reshiram in the White version or Zekrom in the Black version. Is the dilemma as intriguing and complex as something along the lines of the Sukovia Accords in Captain America: Civil War? Of coarse not. It may be interesting, but there's only so much that the makers of the games are willing to dive into with something like Pokemon. But it was still smart in giving gamers a story in a Pokemon game where the conflict isn't entirely...well black and white. The same thing can be said with this movie regardless of which version you are watching. What Damon is doing is wrong, but he's doing it with good intentions. In fact, it's a shame that he's not really an antagonist because he could easily be one of the best villains of the Pokemon films. What he's doing to Victini is especially cruel, but at the same time the film gives you the feeling that he's still a good person. This is a very out there argument that I know is flawed given that he's still hurting an innocent creature, but when you look at what happens in the film from beginning to end, it doesn't seems right to call Damon the antagonist. It's a tough call to say the least. If I had one problem with the idea of two different versions it would be that - to me I feel like there should only be one version; the Black version. The key thing about Reshiram and Zekrom is that Reshiram represents truth which Zekrom represents ideals. So it sounds more fitting that Zekrom would side with Damon because of his ideals while Reshiram sides with Ash because of his sense of truth as opposed to the other way around in the White version. I'm sure there's fans who would make strong, philosophical arguments stating that it works either way, but given the goals and motivations from both Ash and Damon, the Black version's story feels much more solid. But this is a personal opinion.

The other characters that Ash comes across are honestly not very memorable. Damon's mother and sister have almost nothing going for them apart from the fact that they're related to him. Sure, his mother fights Reshiram/Zekrom with her own Pokemon, but her Pokemon kept getting its butt kicked so it was pretty useless. Victini on the other hand was a decent character. He's all cutesy, but I still cared for the fact that it's this poor creature that has been trapped for so many years. If there's any characters that I do hate however - and this goes for the other two Black and White films as well, it would be Ash's companions, Cilan and Iris. Now if you watched the Black and White anime and liked it, then good. I'm glad you had fun. But I only watched the first 13 episodes, and I thought it was a mixture of boring and annoying - the latter coming mostly from these two characters. Cilan is connoisseur, so some of his dialogue is nothing but expressing things like he's describing food and it's really dumb to me. Then you have Iris. *groans* It's not that I hate Iris per say... I just want to smack her really, really hard on the face. I say this with confidence because from what I've seen online, a lot of people hate her. The majority of it all comes down to her relationship with Ash. They keep butting heads and she teases him by constantly calling him a kid. It's worse because most of the time it doesn't even make sense. A) she's a kid too, and B) she usually says it when Ash does something that doesn't warrant calling him a kid. Yeah, he'll act childish now and again, but then he does something like informing his companions that he's not hurt or something and she'll still say "What a kid." or "Ash, you're such a kid." and good gravy is it annoying. Ugh, it's a comfort knowing that I'm in the majority when it comes to this character because she is easily my least favorite of Ash's female companions... *sighs then whispers to himself* just two more movies until Serena, H.A.K., keep it together. 

And that's my review for Pokemon: Black-Victini and Resheram/White - Victini and Zekrom. It's a decent movie that has a dilemma that's complex for the story they're trying to tell. I do think the story is more solid in the Black version, but I think it's a nice time regardless of which version you watch. Just do your best with putting up with Cilian and Iris.

Rating: 70% 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Pokemon: Zoroark: Master of Illusions.

Plot: On the way to a Pokemon sports game, Ash, Pikachu, Dawn and Brock rescue a Zorua from a group of wild Vigoroth. Zorua informs them that he needs to go to Crown City to find its mother, Zoroark. Unknown to Ash and his friends however, an evil businessman named Kodai has captured Zoroark and is taking it to Crown City in order to find a secret portal that he can use to recharge his ability to see the future.

This is another mixed bag Pokemon film. As the last film that takes place in the Sinnoh region, this film has some fairly interesting ideas, but still has some negative aspects that keep it from anything that lead to the type of quality of Pokemon Heroes or Pokemon 2000 for me personally.

I'll start with was most interesting yet twisted part of this movie; the villain, Kodai. This is probably the most fascinating yet confusing villain that I've seen so far in a Pokemon film. He's a rich businessman who can see the future and it is desperate to keep his powers. He doesn't want to take over the world or destroy it or anything. But heck after characters like Zero I'm all for it. Kodai's evil plan however is a little convoluted. If you really think about it, some parts of his plan weren't very necessary in accomplishing his goal. On top of that, some of his actions may be a little too dark. Main example would come from the climax where he is is choking a Celebi. I'm all for dark deeds from the villain, but I can see people finding moments like that to be a little too dark - especially given that this is a Pokemon movie.

Zorua was nothing new as a character aside from being cocky and sinister, but at the same time he was more interesting than Shaymin... at least to the point that I care about him enough that I wanted to see in reunite with his mother. The idea that he uses telepathy to talk is a little forced, but it helps give him little more character, and it makes him more bearable then Zoroark. Now granted, I'm sure the voice actor for Zoroark is doing his best. But most of the voice acting is Zoroark roaring which sounds more like he's trying to clear his throat. Also, I would have liked the more development with the relationship between Zorua and Zoroark, especially since in the beginning the film implies that they may actually not be biologically related. Kodai states that Zoura is not Zoroark's child and it left me wondering if there's a sad backstory behind that. Unfortunately that particular line of dialogue is all we get, and given that their relationship seems so close anyway you can ignore it and just stay they're mother and son plain and simple. Celebi also stars in this movie and he's being cutsy for the sake of being cutesy still, but at the same time he had more of a purpose given his history with the town. Dawn and Brock don't stand out that much which is no different with the last few films but it's still a shame with Dawn in particular. From what little I do know about her from some fanfiction and a few YouTube videos, she seems like a relatively cool character with a fun platonic relationship with Ash. And yet apart from all the moments where she's  she's teaming up with him, I didn't really learn anything about her after watching these past four movies. Guess I got lucky with May and Max.

The climax for the most part was rather clever. I won't give too much away give that a lot of what makes it good are some spoilers, but it has some twists and turns that tricked me pretty well. I think the only real flaw it has is how it gives us another sad moment where you think the ending is going to be bittersweet like in Pokemon Heroes and Pokemon: Lucario and the Mystery of Mew, even though you know it's going to end happy.

And that's my review for Pokemon: Zoroark: Master of Illusions. The villain was interesting if not maybe a little too dark, and the climax delivered with good twists and turns. But while I did care for Zorua and Zoroark on some level, I wasn't into their story in the same way I was into other legendary Pokemon like Mewtwo or Latios and Latias and so on. It's not the worst, but it's another mixed bag to me.

Rating: 50% 

Ghostbusters (2016)

Plot: Erin and Abby are co-authors of a book which posits the existence of ghosts. The two went their separate ways when the book becomes unpopular. But when Erin is requested to investigate a possible paranormal activity, the two of them find a ghost and eventually decide to form a group to capture them. Thus with Abby's engineer, Jillian, and an MTA worker named Patty, the four become - what else? The Ghostbusters.

When this movie was coming out it got a lot of negative feedback. Some of it was warranted to a degree given how the trailers made it look like it wasn't going to be a thing really good. I think I can say that I was more optimistic than most people to a degree. But after it came out, people are either saying it's "eh" or at least a decent flick. For me, I'm in the "eh" group.

Let's start with both the Ghostbusters themselves and the writing because they go hand in hand. People were the most curious about how these actresses for going to carry out these roles given how big of phenomenon the first film was and the fact that it's being done by women instead of men. For my money, I think they did a decent job with what they had to work with. They're having fun with their roles and the chemistry between the four of them works very well, and while I can't think of an example for each of them, I think I can say they each had at least one good joke. To be clear with that statement, there are plenty of moments when the jokes work - mostly with Kate McKinnon who I got the most laughs from. But when the jokes die, it's usually because the writers wrote some bad jokes that the actors are doing their best to pull off. Nowhere is this more true with the jokes revolving Chris Hemsworth's character. I did not have high hopes for him in the trailers, and while he did land one or two good jokes his character was a nuisance. Again, not necessarily his fault it's just the way his character is written.

As bad as some of the jokes were, the worst part of the movie for me was the villain. Granted, I give the movie credit for the idea of having the villain make portals that brings these ghosts to New York as opposed having the villain be an all powerful ghost like the last two films. Points for doing something different. But the fact that the villain is this dweeb who's doing this under his basement at his job was pretty lame to me. They tried to make it seem like he can relate to the Ghostbusters a little before the climax, but I think they needed to do more in order for that to work.

The climax was also a mixed bag. There was some cool moments during the action (again, mostly with Kate KcKinnon) and the designs of the ghosts looked neat. But I feel like they could've done more with both the action and the designs because it feels like most of the interesting stuff was already shown in the trailers. Also without going into too much detail, there's a moment in the climax shortly before the final battle where it looks like they're going to give us a joke with Hemsworth, the CIA agents and the military that's so over-the-top silly that you have no choice but to laugh. But instead they do nothing with the build up until the end credits which by then the moment was passed.

And that's my review for Ghostbusters. It's not a movie worth hating like everyone in the Internet thought it was going to be, but it could have been a lot more. There was effort put into this product which pays off with the performances and chemistry with the four lead characters and there are some good jokes. But in the end, a considerable amount of the jokes die, the creativity with the action and the ghosts aren't as good as I hoped it would be, and the villain on a whole was pretty lame. I'm glad that it has a relatively positive reception given how practically nobody had any hope for this movie, but for me it's a mixed bag. If you want to see this movie, I'd say give it a shot. It's not Ghostbusters II at the very least.

Rating: 55%

The Words (2014)

Plot: Clayton Hammond is a writer who attends a public reading of his new book, The Words. The story is about a writer named Rory who is trying to get his first novel published but is constantly rejected. During his honeymoon, his wife Dora buys him an old briefcase from an antiques store where Rory finds an old but masterfully written manuscript in the briefcase. He becomes so amazed with the story that decided to type it all onto his laptop which leads to Dora believing that the story is his own original writing and convinces him to publish it. Things turn out well until Rory meets an old man who reveals himself to be the true author of the manuscript.  

My family and I found this film a long while back and decided to take a look at it, and we were surprised to find out that it has a 23% on Rotten Tomatoes. Neither of us thought this movie was one of the greatest things we have ever seen in our entire life, but 23% that seems like a bit of a stretch because for the most part we had a nice time with it.

What we enjoyed the most about this movie was how it made the concept of writing stories so interesting. The stories that the character tell, or heck even watching them just type their stories page after page just made the idea so exciting to the point that in a way we all wanted to go out and write something after we finish the movie. Heck, I'll go so far as to admit that I actually decided to try to write a story after we finished talking about the film. While we were watching it, there was an idea of a story that was kind of popping in my head for a My Little Pony: Equestria Girls fanfiction story that in the end I decided "screw it" and got started and outlining in writing a story. The story is now long dead and left for scraps for me to polish up and put whatever I have written into a Microsoft Word document along with explaining how the rest of the story was going to go and send to my mom, my future sister-in-law and my brother who were the only people who have read any of it. But if a movie about writing influenced me to do that much with telling my own story, then to some reasonable degree it must have done something right.

The acting does all soap well done. I couldn't help it phrase my eyebrow went right smells said that many critics you this film as a major waste of great talents. Looking back at the film and I didn't see any of that... except maybe arguably Jeremy Irons as the Old Man. Don't get me wrong I enjoyed his performance as much as I enjoyed Bradley Cooper or any other actors in the cast. But the more I thought about it, the more I decided to ask what exactly was his goal or his purpose in the story? In a sense we do know what he's going through and we care about him and we sort of know what he wants but not entirely not enough to feel like we are satisfied or dissatisfied precisely with what is happening with his part of the story.

If I had one more problem with the film, that would be how the ending. not in the sense. It had an interesting idea in how it was suppose to tie in between Clayton and Rory, but the delivery was off to the point that it left me and my family a little confused.

And that's my review for The Words. There are some aspects about it that are confusing, but it still has an intriguing story with and entertaining cast that makes the concept of writing stories so exciting. It's not a terrific film, but if you're looking for a movie that gives you a decent experience, this isn't a bad film to do it.

Rating: 70%

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Jonah: A VeggieTales movie (2002)

Plot: Bob the Tomato is driving Dad Asparagus and a group of Veggie children to to see their favorite pop singer, Twippo in a concert. But Laura brags to Junior that she has a backstage ticket to the concert which leads to Dad Asparagus accidentally causing their van to crash. They walk (or hop in the case of this world) to a nearby seafood restaurant where the group encounter The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything who decide that since Bob and Junior are mad at Dad Asparagus and Laura respectively for the crash they decide to tell them the story of Jonah. For the two of you who don't know, the story is about Jonah trying to run away from God when he commands Jonah to preach in the wicked city of Nineveh.

Being a kid raised in a Christian home during the 90s and the early 2000s, I grew up with Veggie Tales, do a few months ago I decided to go through the majority of the Veggie Tales series. For the most part it was a nice experience of  re-living some memories and seeing some of the good and bad from what Big Idea Productions has made since after I stopped watching it. With that said, how does the first movie hold up after watching it again for the first time in ages? Honestly, I think it's still a nice film, though I do acknowledge how much it is more for kids.

The main reason why I still liked this movie was because it is a part of my childhood. Even years later, I do enjoy a lot of these characters - particularly Larry the Cucumber who was always my favorite from the show. For what they were doing, they tell the story pretty well with characters that a lot of people have grown to love. Archibald was a good Jonah, The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything are fun, and it's nice that they have this story with Bob, Dad Asparagus and the Veggie children to go with the story of Jonah so that the majority of the characters that people have grown to love get to play a part in their first big film. We also are introduced to Khalil who I honestly don't think left much of an impact. Nobody I know hates him, but I don't remember anyone really liking him at the same extent that we liked the other characters like Larry or Bob or Mr. Nezzer or whoever else.

Also, even if you know the story of Jonah, chances are this movie will give you an ending that I don't think a lot of the common person knows about. In fact, when I was a kid, the only thing that I didn't like was the ending, partly because I never heard about it. I think the every day person focuses too much on the part where Jonah gets eaten by the whale that they don't know that there's more behind Jonah's story. How they deliver it at the end may be a little abrupt, but now that I'm older and have read the full story for myself, I respect the ending. If you're wondering what I mean but am not interested in seeing this movie, I suggest that you look up the entire book of Jonah.

The music holds up fairly well for me personally.  I'd be lying if I said Message from the Lord and Second Chances still hold up even now I'm an adult. But I still enjoy a lot of the other songs like Billy Joe McGuffrey, Jonah Was A Prophet, The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything theme song and even now, I still listen the Newsboys song Belly of A Whale.

And that's my review for Jonah: A Veggie Tales Movie. If you didn't grow up with Veggie Tales you're probably not going to get much out of this movie apart from the basic tale of Jonah. But as someone who did grow up with it, I think this movie is still a fun time even if some parts don't hold up for me now that I'm older. It tells the story of Jonah in its own Veggie Tales way that I think makes it a good time only if you're a kid or if you're someone who grew up with the show or watched the show with your kids.

Rating: 60%