Sunday, September 17, 2017

My Top 10 Favorite Amourshipping Moments

Well, there's no doubt about it; I love Amourshipping. For those of you who don't know, Amourshipping is the shipping name for pairing Ash and Serena from the Pokemon anime as a romantic couple and I'm crazy about it. They're my ultimate OTP (one true parring), Amourshipping is the main reason Pokemon X&Y/XY&Z is one of my favorite shows and as I've established in my top 15 favorite animated female characters list, Serena is one of my favorite characters of all time. While they haven't become a couple in the show (so far,) the mere idea of them getting together is something I personally think gives fans like me a lot of hope on the simple concept of love despite the fact that Serena's the only one with official feelings and Ash has some hints of liking her but is still completely dense on the idea of romance. Seriously, I get they're still trying to make us buy the nonesense that he's still ten years old, but even I was able to pick up on a girl's feelings at that age, and I sucked at social interaction as an autistic person back then. Anyway, Serena is currently out of the show while Ash's adventures continue with Pokemon:Sun and Moon which is...well to be fair, not a horrible series - in fact it's way more entertaining than Pokemon:Black and White, but it's a very hit and miss take on the anime that nobody really asked for. But even with Serena's role in the anime currently over, many of us still strongly hold on to hope that the two of them will reunite and live happily ever after no matter what haters online say. So with so much love (pardon the pun) for this particular pairing, I'm going to count down my favorite moments between Ash and Serena in the Pokemon X&Y and XY&Z series. Now it goes without saying, but there are some major spoilers on this list and if you are a Pokemon fan and haven't watched the series yet, I strongly recommend it. It's considered by many to be one of the best if not the best series in the entire anime. With all that said, these are my top 10 favorite Amourshipping moments.

#10) The Second "Date"

Even though Ash and Serena never go on a real date what with Ash being so dense and all, there are two moments in the anime where they do spend quality time together that the fandom considers close enough to call dates. Please don't try to argue with fandom logic, it's not worth it. Anyway, this takes place in the third to last episode in the anime. After recently saving the world from Team Flare and Serena just held a Pokemon performace with Shauna and Jessie to cheer up the people of Lumiose City, Ash and Serena's friends go their own way, leaving the two of them alone. During this time, Serena has been debating where to go now that their journey is sadly over. She appears stuck on whether or not to take on Palmero's offer to train her to become a better Pokemon Performer. Ash notices her acting so sad and deep in thought and he decides to try to cheer her up. Thus we get a brief montage of them exploring the city and looking at dresses for Serena and grabbing snacks from local restaurants, but nothing seems to have any effect on what is on Serena's mind. Finally, Ash suggests they have a Pokemon battle, saying that it always helps him when he's worried. The battle is nothing too grand, but it leads to Ash saying some encouraging words that help Serena make her decision on whether or not to take Palmero's offer. What makes this moment so great is how determined Ash is help Serena. Even though he has no idea what is troubling her, he didn't hesitate to take initiative and attempt to ease her mind. Plus, unlike the first date (which I will go more into later,) this feels closer to acting like they actually are on a date. From admiring the city when they go on their walk to looking at their stores and restaurants, all that's missing is either of them saying it's a real date. It's one of the shorter Amourshipping moments, but it's still wonderful to see the two of them spend such quality time together and especially so see how much Ash cares for Serena even if he doesn't think of her that way.

#9) Wishing On A Shooting Star

This is a very brief moment that only lasts seven seconds during the end credits of Pokemon: Diance and the Cocoon of Destruction. As the credits roll, we have a montage of what happens to many of the characters that appeared just for the movie while Ash, Serena, Clemont and Bonnie continue their journey. About an minute and thirteen minutes into the sequence, however, the group is lying down on the grass and Serena spots a shooting star and thus proceeds to make a wish. We never find out what she actually wishes on that star; her lips don't move and even if they did, all he are hearing is the end credits music. For all we know, she could be wishing for suceess as a soon-to-be Pokemon Performer, she could be wishing good health and safe journey as they travel to whatever town they're heading to next, she could be wishing for diamonds and pretty dresses to fall out of the sky. But if you ask any fan of the series, most of them will say their interpretation of that moment is she's really wishing for something that involves her feelings for Ash. Likely, she's wishing something along the lines of having the courage to confess her feelings thus leading to the two of them to get together someday. What makes the moment even more charming to fans is Ash watching her making her wish, likely curious of what she's wishing for, not knowing that it's a wish for his heart. It's a brief moment that is left to interpretation, but that's how many people like me see this moment and why I like to watch this moment on repeat every time I watch the movie or watch the end credits sequence on YouTube.

#8) Serena Seeing Ash Again

This is the very first scene in the anime where Ash and Serena are in the same location and it's another moment I like to watch repeatedly whenever I watch episode 5 of Pokemon: X&Y. At this point, we know very little about Serena's feelings for Ash other than the fact that she apparently met him before and she started her Pokemon journey just to finally see him again. As Ash is on his first gym battle, Serena is heading toward the gym, enthusiastic to find him. As the gym battle rages on, the camera pans to the entrance and then cuts to a shot of just the door opening and we see Serena's legs enter before the camera tilts to her face, looking for him curiously. When she sees him from a distance she is so excited that she starts running over to him before Alexa stops her from interrupting the battle. A couple episodes later, we find out that she knows him from summer camp when they were little and he helped her when she was lost and injured in the woods and she wanted to see him again since. There's not much else to explain why I like this moment except that I simply love that while Ash is having his gym battle, the girl after his heart walks in and happily sees him for the first time since summer camp all those years ago and it is only the first of many moments that shows what he means to Serena. It's another brief moment, but I never get tired of seeing Serena so excited to see the boy of her dreams again.

#7) Serena's Transformation

I've talked about this moment before when I talked about Serena herself in my top 15 favorite animated female characters list, but it includes a moment between her and Ash that no fan of Amourshipping will forget. As I discussed on that list, Serena gets disqualified on the first round of her debut as a Pokemon Performer. At first, she acts okay to her friends, but very early the next morning she takes a moment at the docks to break down - a scene that contains one of the best voice acting performances I’ve ever heard. Shortly after words, she cuts off her hair as a way to start over and makes a new outfit for herself complete with the ribbon Ash gave her. When she presents herself to the group, Clemont and Bonnie are shocked and disapproving of her haircut, but Ash agrees with Serena that it looks cute, and when he sees that she's wearing the ribbon he gave to her, he's happy to see that she is, which makes her blush. It's one of the few moments that implies that Ash might develop feelings for Serena partly because he's complimenting her so much but mostly because he's never been so supportive of his past female companions when it comes to their looks before. He might have a moment where he says that they look nice or when he checked Misty out when she was wearing a swimsuit once, but with Serena he looks at her adoringly in a way that shows how he cares for her and encourages her. While there's nothing in this moment that shows that he thinks that way about her in a romantic way, his adoration and support in this moment is one of the major hints that he might think of her as something more someday. Serena's transformation is a wonderful moment for her as a character, and even if nothing is official, Ash's reaction shows the possibility that Amourshipping may not be as one-sided as it appears to be.

#6) Ash Giving Serena The Ribbon

From the episode right before Serena's transformation, we have the moment where Ash gives Serena the ribbon. This takes place during the end of their first "date" where it turns out Courmarine City is holding a festival that's kind of similar to Christmas where trainers put presents for their Pokemon under the city's giant tree called the Pledging Tree to celebrate the bonds between them and their Pokemon. The group decides that Clemont and Bonnie will look after everyone's Pokemon while Ash and Serena search for gifts. Most of their time together involves Serena trying to spend quality time with Ash while Ash just runs all over the place looking for gifts even to the point of just deciding that they should split up even though Serena clearly doesn't want to. Later that day, the two regroup and while Serena has found gifts for her Fennikin and Panchum, Ash hasn't found anything for his Pokemon. Suddenly, as Ash enters the monorail station ahead of Serena, he is approached by workers at the station and congratulated for being the millionth visitor to the monorail and is given a long blue ribbon as a prize. On the ride back to the Pokemon Center, Serena gives Ash good advice of what kind of gift he should give his Pokemon and that helps him find it just in time for the festival to start. Later when the festival is ending with a fireworks show, Ash thanks Serena by giving her the ribbon. This isn't just a big moment because the ribbon is a significant part of Serena's new outfit the next episode, but loosely similar to Spike giving Rarity the fire ruby in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, this is the moment where the ribbon became a symbol of their possible relationship. But while you can make the very easy argument that Rarity pretty much used Spike's crush on her to her advantage so that he would give her the ruby, therefore making that moment less meaningful for that particular ship, here it's Ash's own decision to surprise Serena with the gift making the gesture more meaningful and thus making the ribbon more valuable to the point that she promises to always treasure it.. Even if their first "date" didn't go the way Serena would have hoped, it's uplifting that it ended with a moment that both she and the fans will always remember.

#5) The Fight

While the least cheery moment between the two of them out of all the moments on this list, it's no less significant. In episode 28 of Pokémon:XY&Z, Ash runs into the forest alone, frustrated and confused after losing his gym battle against Wulfric. Pikachu, Clemont, Bonnie and Serena find out and Serena leaves to go find him without the rest of the group knowing. She finds him and tries to cheer him up by explaining how she understands from her experience as a performer, but then he blows up at her claiming she has no idea what he's going through and wants to be left alone. Serena gets so upset that she starts throwing snowballs at him yelling at how he's not acting like himself before she leaves in tears. In the original Japanese, she almost admits that he's the boy she loves before she angrily leaves. Now don't get me wrong, I can totally understand why some people are not overly fond of this moment. For a while, Serena has been the only female companion that Ash never gets annoyed with much less get in a fight with unlike Misty, May, Dawn and Iris and it is kind of sad that Serena no longer has that advantage over the other girls. But it's also great that it did happen because A) while Ash's fights with the other girls were more childish and petty (especially Iris,) this fight is much more serious and dramatic and B) it makes the idea of Ash and Serena as a couple feel more real because like any real couple, they're capable of giving into fights despite their feelings/possible feelings for one another. And while Ash's past arguments with his female companions involves them talking down to him, Serena actually tells him what he needed to hear to pick himself up. They also regret yelling at each other to the point that Serena feels guilty when Ash gets trapped in a terrible snowstorm later in the episode thus making it more meaningful when they make up in the end. Love doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to be real, and this is a great moment to make the two of them feel more real than anything Ash as expereinced before. A bittersweet moment, but one that I admire.

#4) Serena Reaching for Ash's Hand

As much as I enjoy all the other moments of their first "date," the very beginning of it is my faovirte part of that episode. Ash and Serena have just left the Pokemon center to look for gifts for their Pokemon and Serena realizes how the fact that they are all alone to do something together is almost like they're on a date. She ultimately has to restrain herself from trying to take his hand so she can hold it like they actually are on a date. There's not a whole lot to say about this moment except the shyness yet excitement of the voice in her head when she restrains her hand just makes me wish she actually succeeded in grabbing his hand or he notices and decided to take her hand even if he doesn't understand what that would mean to her. It's a couple of seconds to both love and feel sad for how much she still needed to grow and how much I and many other fans wish she could have taken his hand.

#3) "I-i-iron tail, Pikachu"

This takes place in episode 22 of XY&Z which many praise as their favorite Amourshipping episode in the entire series. In this episode, Ash gets out of his tent sick which no one realizes it until he starts walking to the dining table weakly until he collapses in front of Serena and holds on to her. This is already a very bashful moment for Serena because he's so close to her, but then Ash starts looking at her and starts saying "I...i..." which sounds like he's about to say "I love you" in both the English dub and the Japanese translation. According to a friend of mine from DeviantArt,  it sounds like he's about to say "Aishiteru" which means "I love You" in a romantic sense, and you could interpret it as him saying "Ai" which means "Love" in Japanese. Either way, Serena blushes fiercely almost afraid to hear him actually say the words she wants him to say but then he says "Iron Tail, Pikachu" instead and collapses. I ennoy how no matter which version you choose it really does look like he's about to say "I love you." Plus, it's cute to see Serena blush so much with Ash so close to her. Also, like her reaching for his hand on the "first date," it's a moment where you wonder what would have happened if he actually said the words. What else can you say except...well..."Iron tail, Pikachu?"

#2) Serena Disguising Herself As Ash

This is a Serena moment rather than a both Serena and Ash moment, but it's still the best part of episode 22 of XY&Z. After Ash collapses and the group discovers that he is sick, Clemont and Bonnie travel to a nearby town to buy medicine while Serena looks after Ash in his tent. But then suddenly a wild electric guitar player named Jimmy: The Pikachu Trainer comes to the campsite with his Pikachu, Spike and starts playing his music loudly, demanding a battle with Ash. Serena tries to tell him to stop playing so that Ash can rest, but eventually she claims Ash will accept his battle just so that he can stop. Because she said this and she knows Ash would want to battle if he find out even though he's sick, Serena is left with no choice but to disguise herself as Ash with his clothes and battle Jimmy with Ash's Pikachu. What follows for the majority of the episode is about as exciting, strange, and funny as you can imagine. Not only is it enjoyable to see Serena show how much she's learned about Pokemon battling from observing Ash despite the fact that she is a Pokemon performer and so doesn't partake in many Pokemon battles apart from fighting Team Rocket, but in the English dub, the voice actress for Serena, Haven Paschall does a both amazing and hilarious job of Serena trying to impersonate Ash's voice. It's also cool to see how Serena uses some of the moves and techniques Ash uses in battle with his Pikachu like using iron tail on the ground to force SPike out of hiding. The moment where her secret is almost revealed by Clemont and Bonnie and Bonnie teases Serena about it later is also pretty funny. The only downside is obviously Team Rocket trying to capture Pikachu and Spike which interrupts the battle. I mean who doesn't want to know how that battle would have ended if Team Rocket didn't interfere? Well whatever the case, it's still fun, it's still memorable and...well I hate to admit it, but Serena looks cute in Ash's clothes.

And the number one Amourshipping moment is....

#1) The Amourshipping Kiss the dickens could it not be? Even though this moment was accidentally spoiled for me before I could watch the episode by the cover of a YouTube video discussing the moment, it's still wonderful that Serena did in fact kiss Ash. You see as the series progressed, a lot of people were becoming hopeful that Pokemon:XY&Z will give us the two things fans have been dying to see for ages: seeing Ash finally win a Pokemon league and falling in love with one of his female companions. With Ash become so powerful and so skilled with his Pokemon team and all the moments he's had together with Serena, it seemed downright stupid that the studio wouldn't grant us either of those things after almost 20 years of Ash's adventures. But after the studio used different writers so that Ash would forcefully lose the Kalos league despite EVERYONE including the official writers and animators of the show saying he should win, people grew scared that we might be supporting Amourshipping for nothing too. As the show continued after that dark day where Ash's defeat aired on August 18th, 2016 (fubar,) I became more and more worried about what was going to happen to Ash and especially Serena. After a while, I accepted the likelihood that she was not going to Alola with him in the Sun and Moon anime and started to hope that she would at least either admit her feelings for Ash in some way and/or kiss him on the cheek. I became less worried about her after episode 45 where after the second "date" she made the amazing decision to make a new path for herself thus showing that she isn't trapped with either going to Alola with Ash or taking Palmero's offer to be her only choices. And then came the last episode; episode 47 where before Serena left for Hoenn, she told Ash that he is her goal and when she grows up to be a more beautiful and mature woman, she'll come for him. Even though he doesn't understand what she's saying (man, they made that boy way too darn dense), he smiled and that was that until Serena decides to do one last thing in order to make her point clear and kisses him. At first it was left into interpretation as to whether she kissed him on the lips or the cheek because we only see their feet when it happens, but then the director of Pokemon XY&Z, Tetsuo Yajima confirmed that A) she did kiss him on the lips, B) they would have shown it if it wasn't for censorship and C) the moment is meant for viewers to understand that they aren't a couple but they will probably become one later. Regardless of whether or not we see the kiss, though, the fact remains that Serena showed how far she's grown and how determined she is to make Ash hers someday and even though Ash doesn't get it, you can tell by the smile on his face and the gleam in Serena's eyes that there's hope for them yet. It's up in the air right now as to whether or not the two of them will officially get together or if we will ever see Serena again in the anime, but while we're dealing with the mixed bag that is Pokemon:Sun and Moon, this scene will remain in the minds of me and other Amourshippers everywhere because it shows that the possible romance between Ash and Serena is still alive, strong and is something and will continue to be worth rooting for, for a long, long time.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Room (2003)

Every time I reach another hundred reviews, I like to make my next hundredth review to be on a movie that I already know and love/admire, or movie that I've been long anticipating at the time, or a movie that I know is one of the greatest pieces of cinema. But this time I wanted to take a different route. This time I wanted to review purified crap. This time I wanted to review a movie that is so bad that in a way it's actually good. So a couple of months ago, I posted on Facebook a poll for what so-bad-it's-good movie I should review as my 700th review. After about a week or so voting, the results are in and now it is time to talk about a film that I've wanted to look at for many years but have never got around to looking at until now. So at long last and by popular demand, this is my 700th review: The Room.

Plot: Johnny is a successful banker who lives in San Francisco with his fiancee, Lisa. Despite having an intimate relationship together, Lisa has become dissatisfied with her life and no longer loves Johnny. Rather than - oh I don't know, talk to Johnny about this like adults, she starts having an affair with his best friend, Mark. Mark is constantly reluctant to sleep with Lisa, but he always gives in to her advances. Eventually, Johnny finds out about Lisa's infidelity and plans to capture her in the act with a tape recorder.

You know it's been a month since I finally got around to watching this movie so I could finally review it, but despite all my determination, I didn't know what to say about it. It's not just bad, it is painfully bad. I can say with certainty that it is one of the worst movies I have ever seen in my entire life. I have seen many bad movies in the past, but the extent of how this film was so poorly put together, made no sense, was poorly acted, had the most funny yet utterly ridiculous approaches to be artistic and interesting made it one of the hardest movies I have ever had to watch. Are there moments were it is so bad that it's actually entertaining? Yes, but for me personally I found it more painful than amusing to watch this glorified, incorrigible crap.

Where do I even start with this movie? What could I say that countless people have already expressed online whether by video or by blog? Well the first thing that comes to mind is all the technical problems with this movie. The editing, cinematography, and most notably (in my opinion) the sound editing/mixing are done poorly. The editing feels like the kind of editing you would expect to make in film school or even a multimedia class in high school where you have to work on these exercise projects they give you in "How to" CDs for Final Cut 7 and X: plain, dull, and does not have any special sense of emotion, pacing or rhythm. The cinematography looks just as plain, except for when they decide to shoot characters or certain actions in angles that don't make any sense. They do have some decent shots of San Francisco in the beginning, but having gone to San Francisco myself for a Brony convention last year, I can say that's not that hard to do. I was only at the city itself for one day while the convention was at a hotel a little ways from it, but I saw enough to say that it's so unique with its hills, buildings, trolleys and so forth that it's not hard to make some camera shots of the area look at least kind of nice. Heck, if even Tommy Wiseau could manage to give us that, then you know it's not a difficult task. So much of the dialogue if not ALL of the dialogue is done in post-production and it really shows. Hardly any of the dialogue sound like they were recorded from the location and some of it don't even match the lip movements of the actors. In fact, the editing of the sound is so bad that I can hear when the audio tracks start and end in the sequence with no sound mixing to make them flow with the other audio. To put that into perspective, I didn't watch the movie with a surround sound system coming from the TV to notice this, I watched it on my desktop computer. So if I can hear it with my desktop computer's sound system that's no IMAX high-definition sound system, then you know they screwed up.

The story is beyond dull. Not only to we have story lines that go absolutely nowhere like Lisa's mom having fatal breast cancer or Danny owing a guy money for drugs, not only are there scenes that add absolutely nothing like Johnny and Mark going to get coffee or...pretty much every sex scene in this film, but the main story is so plain that it works better on paper for a short film rather than a heaven forsaken 99-minute feature length. It's literally just about a guy whose fiancee is cheating on him with his best friend and virtually nothing else changes throughout most of the film. It's is only 99 minutes long because they stuff all the pointless storylines in and whenever we get back to the main story it's mostly just repeating the same thing: Lisa telling her mom that she's not in love with Johnny anymore, Mark constantly saying no to having an affair with Lisa but ends up either kissing or sleeping with her anyway, and other characters - including Mark, constantly telling Lisa not to do cheat on Johnny for fear of what he's going to do but she just stubbornly cheats on him anyway with without a care. In fact, this leads to the one aspect of the film that pisses me off the most: Lisa herself. Even though I have little to absolutely no care for any of the characters in this movie or what happens to them - least of all Johnny, I cannot remember the last time I've hated a character the way I hated Lisa. She's so cruel that she just goes ahead and betrays her fiancee not caring about what devastating (according to the film) effects it could and did bring. In a way, this is an example of how Bella from Twilight could have been a good Shakespearian villain with how she toys with the two men she sleeps with. Every time she's on screen trying to shame Johnny while also pretending to love him or makes moves on Mark I wanna smack her. I have no doubt that if I look back and think hard I'll realize how I've seen characters so much worse than her in film, tv, book or any form of media, but the consistency of what she does just irritates me so much. There are no redeeming qualities to her at all.

Many of the other characters range from boring and add nothing to the story to Lisa's mom mostly exists just to tell Lisa that she needs to marry Johnny and to announce that she has breast cancer before Lisa rebukes the news. Denny is an odd teenager whose parents we never see and says lines like asking to go upstairs with Johnny and Lisa who are about to have sex and supposedly does drugs. (I say supposedly because there's literally no indication that he does drugs other than the one line where he confesses he does to Lisa and her mom.) There's this couple who are friends of Lisa's who randomly come to sneak into her apartment and have sex halfway or so into the movie. They mostly just flirt and make googly eyes at each other, and yet somehow they technically have more chemistry (loosely speaking) than anyone in the whole film.

And then you have Johnny himself. Holy crap, can I not believe Tommy Wiseau's acting in this movie. He has this...interesting way to say even the most simple of lines of dialogue wrong. From the accent, to the tone of his voice to his facial expressions to his body movement, nothing about his performance seems natural in the slightest. Not to mention he has this annoying habit of chuckling every moment he gets, even if he's laughing at something like Mark telling him a story about a girl who dated a dozen guys and one of them found out and beat her up so bad that she went to the hospital. I don't know why in the world anyone would do something like that; it's all just horrible acting choices that seem to only make sense in Wiseau's mind. Doug Walker says in his Nostalgia Critic review that this is the kind of acting that people say can never exist and there are middle school plays that give better performances than this, and he's right. Even the dullest performances I've ever seen seem normal compared to this guy's acting. It's especially incredible how hard the movie tries to display Johnny as the most wonderful person on the planet. Practically every person whether a main character, supporting character or some extra that gets only one line has something to say that tries to make Johnny look like a saint. Even the scene where Denny runs in with an armed drug dealer is clearly there to make Johnny look like a hero who saves Denny's life and has all the answers. It is important to address how much you want your audience to like your protagonist, but it's amazing how obvious they're trying to make him seem so wonderful when we're clearly not buying it.

The dialogue as many of you know is one of the most entertainingly bad aspects of the movie. From lines like "I did not hit her. It's bullsh*t, I did not hit her. I did naaaaht," to "You are tearing me apart, Lisa!" These are some of the stupidest lines that are done so comically wrong that you can't help but want to quote this movie just to make fun of how bad it is. Most of the really bad lines come from Wiseau, but the rest of the cast have an odd line every now and then. It's my understanding that some parts of the dialogue had to be rewritten in the middle of shooting scenes and it explains a lot.

The film is of course littered with some of the strangest and most awkward scenes you'll ever see which also part of why it's so beloved. From Johnny acting so broken hearted that he starts humping a dress, to four guys throwing a football dressed in tuxedos to some of the most uncomfortable sex scenes you will ever see. Now I'm not normally someone who's into watching sex in movies, but I am aware that even some of the most pointless sex scenes in film have to show there's some kind of chemistry between the two people and at least look pleasing to watch for the demographic of people who actually want to watch people having sex in their movies. But every sex scene in this movie just looks weird, awkward and ugly - especially given how Wiseau does not have an appealing body. And again, I don't usually pay attention to this kind of stuff in movies, but when practically the first half of this movie is on these long scenes of couple dancing, playing around, showing Wiseau's butt and showing us the most uncomfortable positions like having sex in a spiral stairway or Johnny looking like she's screwing Lisa's bellybutton than having actual sex, it's really messed up. It also doesn't help that half of the sex scenes are of Johnny and Lisa, making it even more pointless when we're watching them knowing that their relationship is one-sided.

And that at long last is my review for The Room. Is it as stupid and poorly made as everyone says it is? You bet every single review and list I've ever written it does. From terrible writing, to terrible acting, to some of the most bizarre and pointless scenes you will ever see in a movie, it is one of the worst movies that has ever existed. Do I see why people would find it to be so bad that it's good? Yes actually. While I found it more painful than amusing to watch, I can't deny that this film is surrounded by problems that people would and do love to make fun of. It's both painful yet fascinating how a movie like this came to be. While I'm giving this movie a zero percent in terms of its quality as a "movie," I will say that it's worth checking out. I knew long before I started writing this review that no words of mine can express how incredibly bad this movie is. It's truly something that has to be seen in order to be believed. In fact, there's a movie called The Disaster Artist that's based on the book of the same name written by the actor who played Mark, Greg Sestero, and coming to theaters in December. It's about Sestero's experiences in first meeting Tommy Wiseau and the behind-the-scenes drama in creating The Room. There's already a teaser for this movie on YouTube with James Franco as Tommy Wiseau and Dave Franco as Greg Sestero. The teaser looks promising, so if you have not seen The Room yet, I recommend that you go see it now while The Disaster Artist is still months away.

And that guys is my 700th review. Thank you for reading as always. I know I haven't reviewed as much as I used to, but I hope to catch up in the future. Until then, here's to another 100 reviews.

Rating: 0%

Friday, July 21, 2017

Transformers: The Last Knight (2017)

Plot: Set sometime after the events of the last film, the Transformers have been outlawed by most governments of the world. Cade Yager has been hiding Autobots while a military force called TRF is hunting them and the Decepticons down. When Cade is given a metal talisman from a dying Cybertronian knight, Megatron and a band of released Decepticons chase after him, leading him to flee and come across an astronomer and historian named Sir Edmund Burton and his Autobot butler, Cogman who informs him that he has been chosen to be the last knight and thus must protect an Oxford professor named Viviane who is the last decendant of Merlin the Sorcerer who must find Merlin's staff to protect the world. Meanwhile, Optimus Prime finds the remains of Cybertron where a Soreceress named Quintessa informs him that Earth is the Chaos Bringer himself: Unicron who is asleep and must be stopped before he wakes up. Optimus Prime decides to go back to Earth, hypnotized by Quintessa thus becoming Nemesis Prime. If any of this makes sense...good for you.

When this movie kept getting closer and closer, I cringed. It was so painful to know that Michael Bay is continuing to make these movies that have little to no devotion to the source material whatsoever. It especially hurt that this contains good ideas for a story like Optimus Prime becoming bad because he became possesed by Dark Energon (or so I thought was the reason), and we were going to see Unicron who is basically the devil in Transformers mythology on the big screen and all of that was ineviteably going to be wasted by a director that wants to focus on unecesary explosions, women and racial sterotypes. It angers me how a franchise that has so much potential for the big screen is being wasted for the stupidest of things, and what's worse is that by the time its rebooted to be done right, Peter Cullen and Frank Walker could be dead or retired. So after finally going to see this sucker with my dad, how was Bay's fifth abomination? The honst answer is that it's as horrible as you would expect...but not without some very minor posititves that at least makes it better than Age of Extinction.

Let's get the most obvious problems of the film out of way first. The story is still a whole bunch of crap and silly ridiculous nonsense that has a good bajillion plot holes and storylines that lead absolutely nowhere. But to the film's credit (for lack of a better term), this plot is slightly easier and more interesting to follow than in Age of Extinction. Age of Extinction was mostly giving us just the same plot as the first movie excpet it was also throwing a bunch of things together that make you lose track of what was happening. This at least had the interesting aspect of trying to save the world from Cybertron, Unicron and Optimus Prime turned into Nemesis Prime. They still do a whole lot of ridiculous stuff that makes no sense and it's still a disgrace to the franchise as a whole, but as a Transformers fan there's still some aspects that look a little interesting. I do like the idea of how Optimus is tricked by Quintessa to become Nemesis Prime as opposed to simply becoming possessed by Dark Energon a.k.a. the blood of Unicron like I thought was going to happen. And we get the "twist" that Unicron is actually Earth itself falling asleep just like in Transformers: Prime. I will admit that as much as I would have liked to have actually seen Unicron as himself, I didn't expect them to take a similar direction from what I consider to be the best Transformers TV series. All that said however, the structure and world building is still completely nuts. We have the rewriting of history from both the age of King Arthur and a moment in World War II where somehow Transformers played a part in both of them, and somehow the world is supposed to be really screwed up and treating everything like the Transformers are invading Earth and yet at the same time life is still kind of treated like normal to the point that Cade can still watch Nascar at home and people still play golf or his daughter will still go to college even though she knows that all this is still happening. Also slightly similar if not worse than the whole NASA conspiracy in Dark of the Moon with Soundwave and Laserbeak, there are some plot points concerning Cybertron and Earth that will leave you asking yourself, "Where was this new lore during the events of the other films? What were these new characters doing during the battles of Chicago or Egypt or anything like that?"

The human characters are about as stupid as you expect them to be... mostly. Mark Wahlberg is mostly being just Mark Wahlberg which isn't necessarily a bad thing. He at least is an entertaining actor even with a Michael Bay directing the film, and it's not like we're getting any performances worse than his role in The Happening. The 14-year-old girl that you've seen the trailers has virtually no point in the movie after the first 10 or so minutes. Valerie's point in the plot is completely forced in that she is only special because she is someone's ancestor and legitimately nothing else going for her except for arguably being brave enough to try to complete the quest while Decepticons are trying to kill her. Anthony Hopkins probably brings the most likeable aspect of the movies for simply no other reason than being Anthony Hopkins saying dumb exposition in a way that makes it cool just because he's Anthony Hopkins. That said however, he falls flat on some moments where he is trying to make some of Micahel Bay's "comedic" dialogue funny but failing miserably. There's a specific moment when he meets Cade Yager and Anthony Hopkins keeps talking about whole bunch of mindless stuff for good minute or two and it's and he's trying to be funny but it's just painful to watch. And that is so sad that I actually have to say that about watching Anthony freaking Hopkins of all people. Simmons is in this movie once again for literally no other reason than to bring some mindless exposition that you will forget before the movie gets to the climax. The only other actors that I like seeing in this movie was Lennox. As stupid as a lot of the characters are from the first three movies,  he at least had a character that you sort of admire for literally no other reason than being the soldier who bravely fought alongside Optimus, Bumblebee and the other Autobots.

The Autobots have almost have has little purpose to be in this movie as they did in the last three sequels. A lot of their scenes are them saying a bunch of dumb Michael Bay humor or showing whatever stereotypes they are. What pisses me off the most about the Autobots is that Grimlock briefly appears in the beginning but has virtually no other purpose outside of that. To give a real middle finger to some fans like me, Wheelie is alive. So not only did Brain survive the ship crash in the end of Dark of the Moon which I thought was one of the best aspects about that movie but even Wheelie survives even though they clearly made it look like they both died which was great because a lot of people hated both of those characters. But nope, now we have to continue these movies knowing that both of them survived and are as annoying as ever. That is really dumb! Bumblebee as usual has the most attention and they try to go over this whole thing about his missing voice which had a little bit of potential but gets wasted almost as quickly as it was the first time at the end of the first movie. Optimus Prime surpisingly rarely appears in this movie. Much like in Revenge of the Fallen, he's there a couple of times in the beginning, he is nowhere in the second act, and then just appears again just in time for the entire climax. But the biggest insult to me personally was Hot Rod. Now I'm not going to pretend that I'm a big fan of Hot Rod as a Transformers fan, in fact I sort of sympathize with people who dislike him because he replaced Optimus Prime in the animated movie. Having said that, when I heard that he was going to be in his movie I expected him to play a fairly similar role to what he had in the animated film. But literally all we get from him instead is that he has a gun that controls time and gravity and that he speaks a French accent. I'm not even a fan of him and yet that was such a big insult that I flipped off the screen.

Sadly the Decepticons had just as small amount of screen time is that usually do in these movies. But the same time it's all for the best when you get moments like a montage of Megatron demanding the release of some Decepticon that is a total tone shift of the movie. What makes it even worse is that some of the Decepticons are human stereotypes. I'm not going to defend that the Decepticons have had the best track record of being represented correctly in these films in the past, but they at least had a menacing presence of some kind in the first three films. And to have them change that so that some of them have annoying stereotypes including a small Decepticon that turns into a motorcycle that has a mohawk who is litteraly named Mohawk, that pissed me off so much that I flipped off the screen with both fingers. Thankfully, characters like  Mohawk did not get as much as attention as I was afraid they would, but they still left it in an annoying impact. How about Megatron himsel? You know sadly the thought has occurred to me between Age of Extinction and now how Megatron has never truly been leader of the Decepticons. I mean he appeared to be the leader in the first movie, but then that is immediately botched in the second film when we find out that he was working for the Fallen, and then in the third movie he gets kicked down by Sentinel Prime and then the fourth film he actually does become the leader of the Decepticons, but he specifically becomes the leader of the human made Decepticons that he easily reprogrammed with his random psychic powers. Now in this film he is really nothing more than just a scoundrel of sorts. He doesn't appear to have any plans for world/universe domination, he has no real desire to destroy the humans, and when you get to the main plot of this movie, he turns out to be working for someone else AGAIN. Who should have been one of the most intimidating and compelling sci-fi villains you could ever put in the silver screen has become one of the most pathetic and useless characters in the entire live-action Transformers franchise.

So with all these negative things to say, is there anything remotely likable in The Last Knight? Well, there are a couple of things, surprisingly. As I said before, I do like that we get some aspects of the franchise that fans like me are more likely to recognize like Earth turning out to be Unicron and Optimus becoming Nemesis Prime. As pointless as Megatron is, I do like his new design where we finally see him wielding his arm cannon. Although the first scene with they were he shoots fire at a random spot while he's talking to Barricade looks so stupid that it's a little funny. And we also have Frank Welker finally voicing as Megatron and in his Transformers: Prime voice specifically which is welcoming. And while the action itself is nothing specia,l we do somewhat get new locations for where the action takes place. Yeah, you have a car chase in the middle of a city and things like that, but then you have the climax where there is an air battle between the autobots, the humans and the Decepticons, and then they're fighting each other on what's left of Cybertron. None of these fights really stand out as cool or interesting, but they at least feel a little more epic than the final battle in Age of Extinction and we at least see Transformers fighting in new locations. And believe it or not, there are a couple of times for the humor is actually funny. Don't get me wrong, the poor humor that you would expect is there on a silver platter just as you would expect, but every now and then they pull a joke that surprisingly is a little funny. There's a scene with Anthony Hopkins and the Prime Minister of Britain that is well-timed, and his Transormer butler, Cogman has a K-2SO kind of personality who is annoying at times but how does a few jokes that resulted in me as well as some of the other people in the theater room laughing out loud.

And that's my review for Transformers: The Last Knight. Is it as pointless, stupid, and as big of a disgrace to the franchise as we have come to expect from these movies? Oh yes, no doubt whatsoever. The plot makes no sense, the world-building contradicts itself, the human characters have no interesting qualities outside of Mark Wahlberg and Anthony Hopkins simply for the sake of being Mark Wahlberg and Anthony Hopkins, and the Transformers themselves are poor representations of the characters that a lot of us know and love. Is it worse than Age of Extinction? No, that movie was a more remarkable mess in how it had little to no effort in what it was doing and it was a complete fetish film for everything that we know about Michael Bay. This film is a complete mess as well, but it at least had the decency to have a couple of jokes that actually worked and some fan service that's poorly done but enjoyable all the same. In fact at this point, I'm beginning to sense a odd pattern with these films. It seems like the odd-numbered films are the ones that have the least unpleasant jokes and put the most effort in giving us some fanservice whereas the even-numbered films give us no real effort or passion and us are the bigger disgraces of the Transformers franchise as a whole. The first movie at least made the experience of watching live-action Transformers epic and had nod offs like Optimus saying "One shall stand, one shall fall." Dark of the Moon at least gave us glimpses of the ARK, Shockwave, the Matrx of Leadership in its rightful place, Energon towers, Optimus' trailer, Soundwave and Lazerbeak spying on people and space bridges. And now with this film, we at least get Megatron having his arm cannon at last, hints of Unicron emergings (though I'm not optimisitc), Nemesis Prime and Walker finally giving Megatron his rightful voice. Revenge fo the Fallen and Age of Extinction may have had some likable moments that fans would like, but they're better known for being true disgraces of the franchise as well as cinema as a whole. At the end of the day, I hope Michael Bay will stay true to his promise that this will be his last film or the poor box office results will be the key to make him stop making these films anyway. What else can a Transformers fan say except I hope that we're not far away from seeing everything that he's done with the franchise finally crash and burn.

Rating: 20%

BTW, stay turned as I soon makea movie that I've been meaning to see for a long time become my 700th review.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

Plot: Desmond Doss grew up in a seventh-day adventist church which leads to him strongly believing in the commandment "Thou shall not kill" after he nearly kills his younger brother during a fight. He becomes interested in medical work after he falls in love with a nurse named Dorothy and decides to become a combat medic. He becomes an outcast among his fellow soldiers when he refuses to train on Saturdays or pick up a rifle. Eventually, he is allowed to be a medic without a weapon and thus faces the challenge of trying to save lives with being able to defend himself.

You know, it's stuff like this that is why World War II is my favorite time period. It's the time in our history that's so rich with stories of different kinds and from different perspectives during a war that we tend to romanticize as a great fight between good and evil even if that's not necessarily how the entire world sees it. Right down to the concept that this is about someone who specifically wants to be a medic during World War II without carrying a gun, I was immediately invested in the story and from there Hacksaw Ridge just got better and better and better.

I'm not going to beat around the bush here, let's start off with the strongest aspect of the movie, Andrew Garfield. I love this guy in both Amazing Spider-Man films and even though I look forward to what Tom Holland has in store for Spider-Man: Homecoming, I do wish we got a little more of  Garfield as the infamous web-head, and it's stuff like this that gives me more reasons why. I love how devoted Andrew Garfield is to his role and how it's a story about sticking to your beliefs. He's not insane, he's not doing it out of pride - though at one point he considers that it might be the case, he's sticking to his beliefs as a Christian and is willing to do his part in the war no matter the risk, and to a Christian like me, that is nothing short of awesome. When I came home from watching this movie and I was talking to my brother about it who saw it weeks before I did, he asked me if Andrew Garfield is a Christian and I told him no but his performance is so good that it kind of makes me believe that he could be a pretty good Christian if he opened his heart to Jesus like that. Now obviously that's a subject that's a matter between Garfield and Jesus, but you get the idea that he makes the idea of sticking to your faith so awesome and inspiring. It also helps that is not a simple decision for him to not pick up a gun. Everyone including his fiancé, Dorothy, tells him to do it, he has a nightmare where he gets shot and is defenseless to stop it, and we even have a back story that goes further into why he refuses to carry a gun which was great.

The other actors are pretty good too. I was really surprised that Sam Worthington is actually in this film. Truth be told, I thought he practically disappeared from the map after movies like Terminator Salvation, Avatar and a couple other films, but he's in here to and he gave a nice performance. It was also kind of a nice surprise to see some other actors like Vince Vaughn and Hugo Weaving perform, and I honestly wonder if the relationship between Desmond and Dorothy was as strong and challenged in real life as they make it out to be in the movie.

One of the main reasons why I really wanted to see this movie was because of the action. Like I said before, my brother saw it before me and he said that the battle scenes are just as good if not arguably better in the Omaha beach scene in Saving Private Ryan. Immediately, that got me interested because we and the rest of our siblings we're pretty much raised to hold Saving Private Ryan in such high regard to the point that it's tradition in our family to watch the movie on June 6th as a way to pay our respects to the men who fought and died at Omaha Beach. So I was eager to find out how exactly did Hacksaw Ridge meet/exceed the gore and the emotion that Steven Spielberg brought in Saving Private Ryan. When I got to the first battle, just the mere setup exceeded my expectations with the soldiers looking at corpses that have been destroyed and some are even getting eaten by rats and it sets the mood perfectly. Jeremy Jahns said it best in his own review for the movie when he said that they set it like the soldiers are in a horror movie. The action itself is full of so much action and gore that looks so realistic and sometimes hard to watch. It establishes perfectly how anyone can die in any possible way. Now you could make the argument that it's potentially too gory if for no other reason than the fact that this is directed by Mel Gibson who does have a reputation for being considered, shall we say, a little too interested in bringing in gore to his films. I'll admit that sometimes I did think that way while watching the film knowing that he directed this too, but it doesn't hurt the movie. I think similar to Braveheart and at least most of The Passion of the Christ, he brings the right kind of violence to capture what happened at that time period.

The last third of the movie is the most emotional part of the movie. I won't go into details for those of you who haven't seen it, but it's the heart of what makes this film different from other WWII films. It's thrilling, it's suspenseful, you don't know for sure what's going to happen and when the end credits hit, I was starting to cry, the ending was so incredible.

And that's my review for Hacksaw Ridge. If your not interested in gore Mel Gibson style or something like that, I understand, but to me, the action was great, the emotional moments where powerful, and Garfield gives a wonderful performance that tells such a remarkable story. I'll admit that I'm biased seeing as I am a Christian myself, but I think this is such a moving film regardless. It probably stood no chance in winning best picture, but it's still a film that I recommend.

Rating: 95%

We're Back! A Dinosaur Story (1993)

Plot: The film opens with a trio of bluebirds teasing their younger brother, Buster who decides to run away to the circus until he meets an intelligent T-Rex named Rex. Rex tells Buster how he knew a boy who also wanted to join the circus and tells Buster the tale of when he and three other dinosaurs, a parasaurolophus named Dweeb, a triceratops named Woog and a pteranodon named Elsa, were captured from their native timeline and given the ability to speak by Captain Neweyes. Neweyes gives them a mission to travel to present time New York to go to the Museum of Natural History and to beware his brother, Professor Screweyes. Along the way, they meet a boy named Louie who wants to join the circus and a girl named Cecilia who is neglected by her parents.  

When I was little, I used to visit a friend of my mother's and her children and a few times she would show us this movie. I only remembered certain parts of it, but being a kid that would like anything animated I liked it nonetheless. Then I started to want to see it again somewhat like with Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland, and so I borrowed the movie from the library and took a look at it, and as it turns's a bit of a mess.

Let's start off with what is more or less good about it. The animation is good to look at on occasion.  Most of it is basic cartoon animation, but every now and again you'll see something that is pleasing to look at. While Rex is not the most interesting character in the world of animation, he has some likable moments- partly because John Goodman does his voice. Honestly, the only two things I really remembered is Rex and the parade scene where he sings Road Back to Back which is a catchy tune. Even though I'm an adult I liked that scene enough to replay it a few times before finishing the movie.

So what is wrong with this film? Well to put it simply, it's clunky and poorly paced. Very often the film tends to lose focus on what it's trying to do to the point that you probably forget that the dinosaurs' goal is finding the museum. Most of the time, the film wants to focus on putting the characters in comic high jinx and rushing through exposition/character development. So much of the latter feels so thrown in, rarely feels like it's given the right amount of time to be itself. Even when Captain Neweyes is telling the dinosaurs their goal and what they're up against straight out, it feels kind of rushed. The last scene with Professor Screweyes had the most interesting atmosphere in the movie, but they don't explain or really build up what exactly happens to him or why.  The romance with Elsa and Rex and Cecilia's feelings with Louie have no real purpose and are brought up in random parts of the story. All of the dinosaurs apart from Rex are pretty forgettable. When I said Rex and the parade where the only things I really remembered about this movie as a kid, I meant it. I had virtually no memory about the other dinosaurs as a kid and I barely remember much about them now even after having just recently watched this movie again. Even though there's a whole chase scene focused solely on Woog, Dweeb and Elsa, they didn't do a thing for me at all.  Heck, I had to look up their names online just for the sake of saying them in this review they're so forgettable.

The funny thing about the poor pacing in this film is that it feels similar to the pacing in An American Tail: Fievel Goes West, and it turns out that is because this movie is made by the studio with the same directors. So considering how I give that film high praise despite having a similar flaw, how does An American Tail: Fievel Goes West succeed where We're Back! A Dinosaurs Story does not? I admit that I'm biased since I grew up loving Fievel Goes West, but apart from its fun music, world, and cartoon action, that film still knew to focus a lot on its characters. Even though the film feels like it's going a little too fast paced, there still is a lot of time devoted to establishing who all the characters are and what their goals are. Fievel wants to find/save his family, Tanya wants to be a famous singer, Tiger wants to win back Miss Kitty's heart and Cat R. Waul wants to make burgers out of the mice. All of these are interesting goals that come together for an exciting film. But because there's so much focus on just Rex (and to some extent Louie) that I barely remember anything about all the other characters or their goals. the most notable thing about the other three dinosaurs is that Elsa has a crush on Rex, which like I said is barely mentioned and that Woog loves to eat hot dogs and that's pretty much it. In fact, the ending has virtually nothing to do with the events of the climax. Everyone gets what they want in the end or get some sort of a satisfying ending in Buster's case, but none of it connects to the adventure they have.

And that's my review for We're Back! A Dinosaur Story. All I truly remembered as a kid was Rex and the song Road Back To Back, and honestly that's mostly all I think is relatively good now that I'm an adult. The pacing is too fast, the supporting characters are forgettable, and the story has little focus. It was nice to see again just like with Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland and Cats Don't Dance, but like the latter, I'm not in a hurry to see it again.


Cats Don't Dance (1997)

Plot: set in 1939, Danny is an optimistic cat who dreams of Holywood stardom and so travels there in hopes of starting a career. He gets a role in a movie but is bummed to find out that it's a minor role and that animals are not allowed to play in large roles. He tries to weasel his way into a bigger role only to anger a spoiled, popular child actress named Darla Dimple her overly large Valet, Max. So he tries to band the other animals together and forge a plan to encourage humans to cast animals in main roles.

When I was a kid, I saw parts of this movie once when I was spending the weekend at my grandparent's house. I didn't get to finish it, but I liked it enough that I wanted to find out how it ends. It wasn't until about two months ago that I finally found it online and watched the whole thing.  So how is it? It's...okay. Not bad, but nothing special either.

So what makes it just okay? Well...just about everything that isn't the protagonist and the villains specifically. The story is a little predictable structurally, but the concept of trying to prove that the animals can perform like humans is a cute idea. The songs are nothing memorable, but they're serviceable whenever they're on. The supporting characters are a mix between sort of memorable and at the same time not really. While I do remember some of them like the Tillie Hippo and Sawyer, (by the way, is it me or does the voice actress for Sawyer, Jasmine Guy sound an awful lot like Scarlet Johansson?), they're nothing special apart from being merely acceptable in their roles.

With everything that's so 'okay' with the film, is there anything that's truly good? Well, the villains are surprisingly entertaining. Darla is this parody of Shirley Temple, and she's amusing to watch... though I could do without her wearing dresses where you can totally see her underwear...just no. But even she was nothing compared to her giant Valet, Max. I didn't think much of him as a kid, but he cracks me up as an adult. From his voice to his facial expressions to how much they go into how over-the-top big and powerful he is, he makes me laugh almost every time he's on screen. There are some scenes that are so funny that I replayed them multiple times.

Is there anything that is officially wrong with the film?  Well, sadly Danny is by far the blandest thing in the whole film. While most of the characters are stereotypes in some way or another, they still had their own charm in some very small way.  Danny, on the other hand, doesn't. Whenever he's on screen, I kept thinking "oh, here's the optimistic guy who has the answers and is gonna go on this journey where he doubts himself but is brought back by his friends to save the day " It may not have completely turned out that word by word, but a lot of the predictable moments in this film really comes from his story arc. If you like this kind of character regardless, fine, but if you've seen histype many times already, he doesn't really bring anything new.

And that's my review for Cats Don't Dance. The villains are funny, the hero is a bore, everything else is just passable. If you just feel like watching an animated film and don't care what it is, this is harmless. I'm glad I fully saw it, but I don't care to see it again.

Rating: 60%

Rouge One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

Plot: Set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, Jyn Erso is a criminal whose father, Galen Erso is forced to work for the Empire as an imperial scientist. When word reaches the Rebel Alliance that a defected imperial pilot named Bohdi Rook has an important message from Galen about a weapon that the Empire is building, Jyn is rescued by the rebels and they convince her to help them find the pilot and find out what the Empire is up to.

Yeah, this movie is already months old, but I intentionally delayed posting this review hoping to add a paragraph about Carrie Fisher's passing made by my mom as a way to pay our respects, but it kept getting delayed and now the film is out on DVD and blue-ray, so I figured the oppertunity to do that is past. Anyway, after months of trying to be as close as possible about this movie and finally seeing it only the day after it came out, I can say Rogue One: A Star Wars Story met most of my expectations. It started off very slow and confusing during the first 45 minutes, but after that I had a nice time that most Star Wars fans enjoy as well.

I'll first talk about how much Star Wars lore from the expanded universe they made canon. There's a ton of stuff that they certainly make canon from characters from the Star Wars: The Clone Wars or Star Wars: Rebels series, to small touches like people watching Twi'lek dancers on holograms, to even some of the ships during the final battle have designs based off of ships from the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic games. There's also a scene with Darth Vader where he has his own Sith fortress on Mustafar that is designed like the Sith temples back in the times of Star Wars:The Old Republic which is one of my personal favorite scenes in the movie.

The tone for this movie is surprisingly darker too. This isn't a simple good vs evil story line like it usually is in the Star Wars films, they make it clear that the Rebel Alliance has its darker side too. There are moments where they will make mistakes or choose to murder for the sake standing up to the Empire. I think that's what I personally like about Cassian in particular. He appears to have been created to represent how much the Rebel Alliance has cold blood in their hands too.

It's also nice to see some ships and other vehicles from the original trilogy as well. I personally was looking forward to the AT-AT walkers (or AT-ACTs as these particular walkers are actually called,) and just their entrance alone is pretty cool to watch. My personal nitpick is that they aren't there for very long and these particular walkers aren't quite as powerful as the original AT-ATs, but it turns out that's because the AT-ACTs are actually cargo transports that are designed to be powerful against infantry but weak against air forces, so now I understand why. It's still a bummer for me personally because the walkers were one of the few things that I knew about the film going in and thus they were one of the things that I was looking forward to the most, but they're still pretty cool for what they have. Maybe we'll get more in episode 8. I certainly hope so.

The characters well not as immediately memorable as the new characters in The Force Awakens, are still enjoyable. Jyn was likable, Bodhi is charming in his own way, Baze and Chirrut were memorable, but by far the most memorable character is K -2SO. He has the most charm and wit in the movie by far whenever he is going over statistics or showing his dark humor against his human friends, and it was enjoyable. Director Krennic is one of those villains that to hate but at the same time kind of pity. He's a cruel heartless man, but at the same time it's a pity how he's discredited from his life's work. It's also a pleasant surprise to see other characters from the original trilogy. James Earl Jones reprises his voice acting role as Darth Vader, we have unused footage of the guys that played Gold leader and Rogue leader from A New Hope, but the most memorable appearances were Grand Moff Tarkin and Princess Leia. Apparently, they had different actors play the roles and then digitize them to look like Peter Cushing and Carrie Fisher (rest in peace.) People have problems with how Princess Leia looks, but by far the best effects was for the digital effects for Grand Moff Tarkin. When he first appears in the movie we see only his reflection while he still has his back to the camera and so you think he's only going to talk while not being seen to mostly tease the audience, but then he turns around and he looks amazing. I don't know how they did it with both the digital effects and the voice acting, but he looks almost pitch perfect. Apart from a couple occasions where his mouth doesn't move just right, there are virtually no moments where I can tell that it's CGI. In fact, whenever I talk about this movie to someone, usually the first thing we talk about is how great the CGI for Tarkin is. It's so good that sometimes I'll hear some people say that they think it's Peter Cushing himself not knowing that he's been dead for 22 years.

The action has given us some of the most memorable moments in Star Wars including what some people consider to be the best scene with Darth Vader ever. Without going into too much detail, there's a scene where he cuts down a bunch of Rebel soldiers and his entrance alone adds so much weight and atmosphere to how dangerous the situation is against the rebels. It was also nice to see another space battle with Star Destroyers, Rebel Alliance cruisers and Y-wings actually bombing places which we've only seen in video games like Rouge Squadron and Battlefront II until now. It's a subtle moment, but it's a welcoming touch for people who know Star Wars outside of the movies. The fighting on the ground feels more like a great battle than the previous ground battles in Star Wars. I think someone on Facebook put it best that it felt like it was like Saving Private Ryan for Star Wars (minus the gore of course.)

If I had any problems with the movie which I brought up earlier, it would be the first 45 minutes. This movie doesn't start with the classic title crawl so we are left with no information about what is happening going in and because of this, the first scene was relatively strong but the rest of the first 45 minutes was mostly giving us a bunch of scenes that didn't really seems to connect with each other until you re-watch the film. I was a little more forgiving about this the first time I watched this movie, but my family really hated the first 45 minutes. They thought it was an implication that this movie was going to be really bad because they were so clueless of what was really happening. And while I'm not as hateful those first 45 minutes, I do have to admit that if you see this movie knowing nothing about it like we did, you're going to be really clueless with what is really going on. It isn't until Jyn finally meets Saw and thus finds out more about her father that the story becomes clear and the main characters are given a more direct goal. Now to be fair, it makes sense that the beginning of the film doesn't have the same intro as all the other films excluding Star Wars: the Clone Wars. This isn't an official episode of Star Wars and so some things have to be a little different. But if you watch this movie for the first time without having at least read the plot paragraph for this review, chances are you'll be as clueless as my family and I were. Though to be fair, our confusion also comes fromt he fact that we make sure we know nothing about any new Star Wars film before we finally see it and because of that, most of us thought this movie takes place shortly after the events of The Force Awakens. It wasn't until we were about 20 minutes in  that we we're starting to figure out that that this takes place  before A New Hope. Having said all of this however, the rest of the story is very strong. The third act in particular is arguably the strongest aspect of the movie by far with so many connections to A New Hope that's not even funny. I also really enjoyed how they explain some things that didn't add up in A New Hope. I won't spoil it for you but it was an appreciative addition to the story.

And that's my review for Rouge One: A Star Wars Story. The first 45 minutes are confusing if you don't know anything about the story before watching it like my family did, but apart from that, it's a great Star Wars film with great cameos, a welcoming collection of things from the expanded universe made canon, exciting action and likable characters that makes it fun for young fans and nostalgic for older fans. It's not as strong as The Force Awakens, but if you enjoy Star Wars and haven't seen this movie yet, definitely check it out. 

Rating: 85%

Thursday, April 13, 2017

La La Land (2016)

Plot: Mia is an aspiring actress who is struggling to be cast in anything, and Sebastian is a struggling jazz pianist who wants to open his own jazz club. The two of them meet each other and get off on the wrong foot until they talk about their passions and start to form a relationship. Things are going well between them and tey eventually decide to pursue their dreams further with Mia writing a one-woman play and Sebastian performing in a jazz club

During the past couple weeks, before I saw this film, I was anticipating this movie and I got more excited whenever I heard feedback from some of my friends at the film program at my college. I didn't know the story or anything like that, all I knew was that it was a musical starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Finally, the opportunity came to see this film after work and of course, I had a very nice time. Is a giant masterpiece? I don't know if I would go that far, but I had a lot of fun with its story, music, and seeing both Gosling and Stone together again to entertain me.

Let's start with talking about the main characters. Gosling is enjoyable as this passionate jazz musician who's struggling to try to make his dreams come true. Some of the best scenes in the film are when he talks about the concept of jazz making it feel so special and so important makes it something to truly appreciate which also leads to an interesting conflict during the second half. Emma Stone as some of you probably already know is my all-time favorite actress and this is another film where you can see why. She is one of those few actresses that (in my opinion) constantly entertains in a way that most actors can't quite do worth spit and this film is no exception as she gives us a bit of everything that makes her my favorite actress. She's emotional, she's passionate, she's dramatic, she's funny, she's a good singer and you can get into the moments when Mia is auditioning for a role and you know that she is a great actress with a lot of variety in her, which makes it so cruel how the casting directors don't even pay attention. I'm happy that she didn't disappoint me as usual and I'm even happier that she finally got her oscar. Together they are what gives this movie so much heart as you can imagine. I have never seen Gangster Squad, but I have seen Crazy, Stupid, Love which I praise as one of my all-time favorite films and that film proved that Gosling and Stone have great chemistry and it shows even more in La La Land. They're energetic, they're passionate, and even though it's a musical they have moments where they are deep in conversation and they're getting to know one another discussing their relationships and their goals and the dialogue works in such a way where you truly believe that this is a solid relationship between two people who are falling in love.

The musical numbers are a ton of fun to watch while not an immediate grab like some of the songs in Moana - at least for me personally. It's nice to see these big dance numbers in these modern locations with these shots that make you look like it's all being done and one single solitary shot. The beginning scene alone with the song Another Day of Sun I thought was especially impressive. It's kind of a shame how it actually isn't done in one take because the way that they make it look like it was in one shot is really neat to look at. I also enjoy how some of the songs feel more like songs from musicals back in the days where movies like Singing in the Rain where they are shot in big sets and with big long dance numbers that you could probably tell it's all on a stage but it looks very nice to see. In fact, the further you get into the movie the more you can tell that this film is meant to be a love letter to those films back in that era when musicals used to be big bucks. It's even kind of fascinating how the music and the choreography and the setting give the feeling that it's very Hollywood back of that time in a modern setting. Then, of course, you have the two songs most people think of when they think of the soundtrack, City of Stars and Audition (The Fools Who Dream.) Both of them have very memorable melodies that can get into your head easily. Now I have heard some people like my brother, Tommy discredit Ryan Gosling's singing, saying that Gosling's singing is noticeably bad. I think he's serviceable throughout most of the film, but I reluctantly admit that he does fall flat on a couple of notes in City of Stars that - to be fair, do sound a little hard to hit. Audition (The Fools Who Dream) on the other hand appears to be where people knew Stone was going to get her oscar. The singing was emotional, the music was deep, and it apparently related to people who go through the things that Mia goes through in the film (or so I've heard.)

The colors in the cinematography in this movie are beautiful. The first half of the film has a number scenes where the colors of the dresses Mia nd her friends wear for example just pop. And when they're shooting a scene that you can tell they're performing in a set as a means of paying homage to musical films in the old days they look beautiful.

If there's anything I would find a flaw in the film, it would have to be the story or more specifically the plot. Now I enjoy the story as a whole. I liked the romance and I liked the conflict Sebastian encounters over what counts as jazz and the ending was very satisfying. With that said, however, you can probably figure out most of what happens pretty early on. If you have a problem with the story coming out as predictable I can understand why, but I see it as a nitpick because I think the story was supposed to be familiar to the audience. In the same way that the musical numbers are supposed to be a love letter to past musicals from decades ago, I think the story itself was supposed to be a part of the love letter. It didn't need to be nor does it necessarily have to be a film that with a particular creative storyline with a unique story structure like Room (yeah I know, I haven't review that yet) or Inglourious Basterds or something like that. It's supposed to be its own familiar simple thing to pay homage to classical musical films while still having its own unique modern twist to it.

And that's my review for La La Land. It's an enjoyable musical with some memorable songs, beautiful cinematography, and the main actors give great performances. I don't know if this will become a classic or anything like that, but I did have a good time with it and I'm happy that Emma Stone finally got her oscar.

Rating: 85%

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (2001)

Plot: Jimmy is a ten-year-old genius inventor who gets into trouble making his gadgets with his robot dog Goddard. One day, he builds a rocket and sends a meeting message for space aliens which his parents ridicule him for trying to talk to strangers. Jimmy's message is picked up by an alien race called the Yokians who use his message to abduct all of the adults in Retroville which Jimmy and his friends enjoy at first but begin to miss their parents. When Jimmy finds out that aliens kidnapped his parents, he and the other kids build rockets to fly into outer space to save their parents.

When I was a kid, I was in love with Jimmy Neutron. I loved the show, I loved the video games, only heaven knows how many times I listened to the soundtrack, and yes, I loved this movie too. For a while I've wanted to go through a lot of it again and see how some of it holds up more that I'm older. Now that I have I can say that the show is still good, whereas this also still good, but I notice a lot of its flaws now that I'm older.

A lot of the characters are still enjoyable to watch. Libby, Carl, Sheen, Hugh, Judy, Goddard, the list goes on  The only supporting character that I don't think I ever fully cared for was Cindy. Is not that she doesn't have her likable moments, but similar to D.W. in Arthur, she was more of an annoying nuisance to me because of how she's always making fun of Jimmy and pulling pranks on him both in the movie and in the show. The villains, King Goobot and Ooblar are still fun to watch...though it's a little messed up to hear King Goobot's voice now that I know that he's voiced by Patrick Stewart. Maybe he's been in some live-action films where he's the villain, but to me he's the kind of guy you want to see as one of the heroes rather than one of the villains. Sure, he's been a villain in some other animated films like The Prince of Egypt and TMNT, but apart from them and this film, it just doesn't sound right for the guy who gave us Jean-Luc Picard and Professor Charles Xavier to be a villain in anything. Just doesn't sound right.

Then you have Jimmy himself. For a good chunk of my childhood, Jimmy Neutron was my favorite character ever. Sure, he makes a lot of mistakes and usually the problems Retroville encounters are his fault, but he has a good heart and he fixes his mistakes in the end. On top of that, he makes science and making inventions so interesting and cool. From his jet pack, to the bubble gum mobile, to his shrink ray to just about anything he came up with in the show, it was always fun to see Jimmy going on adventures or just hanging out with friends with his various inventions.

The soundtrack still hold up for me personally.  From the film's versions of He Blinded Me With Science, or We're the Kids of America, to Nsync's song Pop and especially all the songs with Aaron Carter. And I know what some of you are thinking; "Really? Aaron Carter?" Well...yeah. Say what you will about his personal life and things like that, but I enjoy his music. I still have all of his official albums and I even have his new one, LøVë. He may be a has been for most people, but his music still holds up strong for me, and his songs in this movie- particularly Leave It Up To Me and A.C.'s Alien Nation are no exception.

So what's wrong with this movie?  Well sadly it's the story - more specifically the morals. Now I know that Jimmy Neutron as a whole is meant solely for children, but the way it shows with the morals that the film is teaching hurts the film harshly. I won't spoil what they are, but while they are important morals for children, they're also morals you've heard before. Similar to The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: A VeggieTales Movie and especially Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland, the excitement of the adventure that the characters are experiencing is not as effective when the moral is something so commonly told (and sometimes not even that in cases like Little Nemo.) Even when I was a kid and my love for anything related to Jimmy Neutron practically rivaled that of Sheen's love for Ultra Lord, there was a part of me that reluctantly admitted that it was lame that Jimmy and his friends are going on an adventure with spaceships, aliens and a man-eating monster just to learn these morals that Barney the Dinosaur can tell you. This is why so many people like me prefered the show to the movie. Sure he would learn a moral there too every now and again, but the morals he learns in the show are slightly less cliche, and in the end the show is less about that and more of just Jimmy and his friends going on adventures with various enemies and inventions which is all most fans like me really wanted.

And that's my review for Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius. The morals that Jimmy learns makes the film much more corny than I remember, but it's still nice to see Jimmy and all the other characters go on adventures and see all the cool gadgets that Jimmy invents again. If you've never seen this before, I think you'll like it okay... you'll just have to bear in mind the corny moments, but if you grew up with Jimmy Neutron and you're feeling nostalgic, the show is more fun, but this is a nice little blast from the past too.

Rating: 65%

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Power Rangers (2017)

Plot: The film focuses on five teenagers who are all experiencing troubles in their lives. Jason is a former football player who is kicked off the team after a failed prank against another school, Billy is autistic and is in trouble for causing an explosion in school (at least I think that's who he explained it), Kimberly is taken out of the cheerleading team after leaking an inappropriate footage of one of her teammates, Trini has been kicked out of three other schools and Zack is a school truant. One night, Billy destroys a part of an abandoned gold mine attracting the attention of the other four kids and they all discover the Power Coins and eventually an ancient ship where they meet Alpha 5 and Zordon who tell them they are the Power Rangers and they need to learnt o use their new abilities to stop Rita from destroying the world.

The key thing to bear in mind with this review is that I never grew up with Power Rangers. I wanted to watch it when I was little, bit I wasn't allowed. Most of my understanding of the franchise comes from Doug Walker's Nostalgia Critic reviews for the first two movies which looked pretry bad judging on his videos about them. When a reboot was announced, I was interested to see it and then I officially decided to go see it when my buddy, Santiago, asked that I watch and review it. So after seeing the movie I can honestly say... the first half was surprisingly the strongest part. No joke. This is one of those rare occasions where watching the hero(es) before they suit up was the most entertaining aspect of the movie, and I mainly mean that in a good way.

So how are the Power Rangers more interesting without their uniforms? Well, the kids themselves are interesting. If you've seen the trailers for this film, you know that they are aiming for the rangers to be actual outcasts in society like they apparently are supposed to be in the original franchise (or so I've heard,) and in my opinion, it pays off.  They all have their own interesting personalities and relatable flaws, and even if some aspects about them are stereotypical like the jock who losses his fame as high school sports star or a guy who lives with his sick mother that he takes care of, you can tell they're giving us these cliches with a certain amount of effort to them. A lot of that comes from the actors themselves who you can tell they're giving it their all. The best example who is the heart of the group in my opinion is Billy. Billy is the most interesting and likable character in the group, though part of that comes from the fact that he is actually autistic. As someone with autism, I can say that he delivers the concept of being sometime high functioning in a well delivered and relatable manner. It's not something that doesn't  add much like the kid that might have Asperger's Syndrome in Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close, he's showing us someone with Autism in a tasteful and likable fashion. I didn't expect to see that in this film in a relatable way, but I suppose that makes the blue ranger my favorite now. But even taking Billy aside, the other team members are likable too. The film takes its time to show the five of them starting to grow as friends and ultimately as teammates and that was surprisingly nice to watch.

So why did the second half not grab me the way the first half did? Well part of it had to do with a scene where something happens to Billy that is dramatic but it could easily been solved, but it's mainly because when the kids finally become the Power Rangers, the rest of the film reminds me why the franchise never grabbed me the same way something like The Transformers or Marvel has. From what I understand, Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers is a franchise where the fans embrace how cheesy and silly it can be. If that's the case, then the second half does a really good job in embracing the tone of the source material. From the moment they're in their uniforms and charging into battle with their Zords, I keep looking at what is happening feeling that this would be more fun if I was a fan, but because I'm not I can't any of this seriously.  Some parts of the action is cool, like when they merge onto Megazoid and fight Goldar was neat to watch,  but apart from that, I felt very disconnected from all the corny tone.

In fact that's another flaw with the film, the tone between both halves of the film are so different from each other that it king of feels like two different movies. Even with Rita, the villain, she makes a big switch from being really creepy to completely over-the-top. I suppose she's more faithful to the material when she's screaming orders to her minions like the character probably does in the show, but it's not doing anything for me as a non-fan.

And that's my review for Power Rangers. The first half where they are these troublesome kids on top of learning to be Power Rangers is done with a lot of effort that I think is very admirable. But the second half is just corny to watch which is great if you are a fan and for sticking true to the source material, but is a major tone change from the first half and will not interest you if you aren't a fan. It's not the best, but at the end of the day, I'm glad I saw it for the first half and some of the action and I think it's an admirable film all around given the franchise itself.

Rating: 60%