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Koto no ha no niwa (2013)
Garden of Wonders
Having never seen a Makoto Shinkai film before, I decided to give this one a peek, having heard that he is practically "the next Hayao Miyazaki". I can definitely see why. I was enamoured by the film from beginning to end. The visual imagery was extremely superb. Each scene was visually scintillating...so much so that it pretty much puts live cinematography to shame.
The story itself was quite on par as well. A forbidden love story set in the backdrop of Nagoya, Japan's rainy season. The emotional tone was executed just right enough to give your heart that extra beat. All in all, a perfect short film in my books.
Dysfunctional Friends (2012)
Nearly knocks it out of the park.
I was curious about this film back when the trailer had come out, and it got lost in the back of my mind. I finally got a chance to see the movie and was quite entertained. Wouldn't say it was underrated...it was just on par with what I was expecting.
Nine friends living their own separate lives are re-united when a close friend unexpectedly passes away. Upon attending his funeral, they are informed that they are all bound to receive a huge inheritance from the friend on one condition: they have to live together for one week in the deceased friend's house, and should anybody choose to leave before the week is done, then they all forfeit the inheritance.
Dysfunctional friends boasts a cast of who's who in black entertainment. Stacey Dash is a beauty to behold, and she seems to stay young with age. Wesley Jonathan and Hosea Chanchez were interesting to watch, though the latter's character didn't seem all that much different from the character he plays in "The Game", so it was a really easy role for him to play. Terrell Owens was quite impressive, not the best, but left me impressed as the over-possesive athlete. Stacey Keibler, while easy to look at on the eyes, did not seem to jump out much in her role. Jason Weaver's character is truly the comic relief of the film. Reagan Preston's character was truly an annoying one, so very well acted. Christian Keyes is humorous as the suspected gay model. While I was bummed that their roles were not bigger, it was pleasant to see Meagan Good, Tatyana Ali and Essence Atkins in the movie.
There were two roles here really that did not really warrant being there, but I guess they served their purpose in a useless way. I felt the character's of Storm and Stylz were not really needed in this flick. I would say they were more there to escalate the situation that these friends had with each other.
I have to say Mr. Grant definitely had a challenge ahead of himself, trying to combine nine lives within a 120 minute picture. He pulled it off only to a certain point. Certain characters backstories would have been helpful while the backstories that were provided weren't fleshed out enough. And of course the plot was predictable. But nonetheless, the film was quite enjoyable to watch.
Also, while it was a mouth watering sight to see, am I the only one to think Meagan Good's attire at the end left too much to the imagination? For an attorney nonetheless?
Video Girl (2011)
I have seen many instances of this movie played on BET countless times, yet each time I always seem to catch it when it is right in the middle, or close to the end. Luckily, I happened to catch a full showing of the movie in one instance, and after watching it, definitely warranted a review that I do not see much of on this page.
Meagan Good, as always, is a pleasure to watch, though my qualms are more about the writing than the acting. While it may have been an interesting concept to make a movie about, the overall theme seemed very cliché and overused. Young girl who comes from a decent loving family decides to embark on a mouth-watering career that promises wealth and fame. Along the way, girl meets unscrupulous characters that steer her good natured ways to that of a darker nature. A couple of bad decisions later, usually drug-related and/or abusive partner, girl realizes this is not the life for her. Girl learns life lesson about herself and goes back to decent loving family. Again, cliché and overused. Then again, it is always interesting to see how different versions of the same concept are tackled by different writers/directors/actors.
When it comes to actual production, I am usually most critical, as this is an aspect of film making I enjoy the most. Camera work can only be described as moderately decent. I agree with another reviewer on this part...why they chose hand-held instead of staying on sticks is also something i am dumbfounded by. It worked for some scenes...some being the key word. Also, as an audience member, when a scene is supposed to imply flashy and glamorous, I don't usually expect it to look so dull and monotone. That's where the lighting for me failed to meet my expectations of certain scenes. Probably depends on what camera they were using. Audio wise, meh. For a budget of 5 million dollars, I'm sure they could have afforded some ADR work. The editing was a pass or play here. The music was sometimes not necessary in some scenes.
Overall, the movie was interesting to watch. It made it's point that being a Video Girl sometimes is not what it's cut out to be. Actually, I shouldn't just say Video Girl, as in , breaking out in the industry as a beautiful young naive girl can be very dangerous if you have not mentally and physically prepared yourself for the demands of being in the spotlight. That's why this movie gets a 5.0 in my books.
On another note, I had a friend of mine tell me, "Geez, so that's the atmosphere on a music video set, is it? Glad I don't work in the music video industry". I just want to point out that everything that happened in this movie was meant to serve the plot, and doesn't necessarily happen in reality. I have produced and directed music videos for big name stars for quite a while now, and never have I had an instance on my set where anybody was disrespectful of anybody. In fact, not that I like to brag, but my sets are always described as a fun place to be. Everybody treats each other like family, and the talent is always quick to notice this. So for any aspiring people wanting to work in the music video business, it's quite fun actually.
So, Next up to see is Dysfunctional Friends...another movie that the gorgeous Meagan Good is in. Let's see how she fares in that one.
35 and Ticking (2011)
Not quite Up-To-Parr, but enjoyable nonetheless...
Having just watched a slew of African-American films such as Jumping The Broom, This Christmas, Soul Food, Breakin' All The Rules, Two Can Play That Game, & it's counterpart Three Can Play That Game, I thought I would add this film on my list to watch...my other reason being my interest in watching the careers of some of my favorite black actors like Meagan Good and Mike Epps.
The film itself was enjoyable...a bit unrealistic, but enjoyable. The film was well casted with some of the most humorous black actors we have in this industry today...I can't say I am too familiar with Nicole Ari Parker's work, but she did a very decent job on this film, bringing lovable, relatable warmth and humor to her character Zenobia. The amazing gorgeous Tamala Jones was a delight to watch (if I had a wife her age with a beauty and a killer bod like hers, I'd consider myself the luckiest bastard on earth). Kevin Hart is quite humorous, at times. Mike Epps is funny as ever...maybe even steals the show. The simply stunning Meagan Good was a refreshing sight for sore eyes, having just seen her in JTB.
I can't say much about the writing. I admire Russ for coming up with a storyline about four best friends in their mid to late 30's still trying to make sense of their love lives, especially with 40 creeping up on them pretty quick. I bought some of the situations that some of the characters went through, yet others seemed highly unrealistic, or if it was, the subject was approached in a very harsh, careless manner in an effort to generate sympathy for the characters. The ending of the movie kinda threw me off...way off (won't spoil it for anyone)...it just seemed thrown in there as a last minute ditch effort to complete the script and bring closure to the characters' arc. If anything, it didn't seem like quite the happy ending that they had hoped for...they just seemed to...settle with what they could get.
On the Technical side, things were even more awry. One could possibly make the assumption that to save on the budget for this film, a group of film school students were whisked away right after graduation to work on this project. Much more notable than others was the sound editing...in some parts of the movie it was fine...maybe probably easier for the sound people when working indoors, but when filming outside, a complete disaster. The ADR, if any, was abysmal...the background noises didn't quite match as they were edited (yes, I know, very picky...but believe me, quite noticeable)...in a seemingly simple scene of four characters having a conversation, in one shot, the sound seems fine, but when it cuts to another shot, the sound is way off, as though someone or something in the background was blasting tunes next door when that shot was being filmed. No effort made to edit out the clearly mismatching background noises. The cinematography wasn't horrible, but it could've been much much better. In some of the indoor locations, it seemed as though not much effort was used to make full use of the location...the actors always seemed confined/compressed to one spot...maybe to make room for all the lighting and crew in the room with them...not much movement. The editing...no comment. I just re-iterate that maybe film students were used on this one...maybe.
The casting, I had no problem with it, although I am now noticing a trend in over-using the same actors over and over again...Meagan is in practically every African-American film that has recently come out...but I guess it must be a good thing if she's trying to get some more exposure as an actress...Mike Epps as well. As well, very noticeable, the film only seemed confined to use a certain number of actors, maybe due to budgetary constraints...(this could be a spoiler, or not), but some of the secondary characters 'conveniently' kept popping up at the utmost opportune moment....maybe to help serve the story's purpose, I don't know...you'd have to see the film to know what I am talking about.
Overall, despite it's noticeable flaws, 35 and Ticking was an enjoyable film to watch. It had a few punches here and there, but it did it's job. Not quite up to par, but enjoyable nonetheless...