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Gojira X Mekagojira (2002)
The Apology for Godzilla X Megaguirus
Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla is the fourth Godzilla film in the "millenium era" that started with Godzilla 2000. It is the second Godzilla movie by director Masaaki Tezuka, after his previous (and relatively unimpressive) GODZILLA X MEGAGUIRUS, and this entry retreads a lot of ground covered by that movie. So much that it's plot could be considered a remake of GXMegaguirus only with Mechagodzilla.
After the first Godzilla that attacked japan in 1954, there have been attacks by other giant monsters prompting the formation of the Anti Megalosaurus Force (AMF), an elite tactical unit given sci fi technology and tasked with fending off such attacks. A failed sortie against a new Godzilla in 1999 had prompted Japan To use the bones of the previous Godzilla to create Kiryu, a titanic robot in the form of Godzilla: a Mechagodzilla.
Equipped with missiles, beam weapons and the dangerous "absolute zero" freeze cannon, Kiryu is a force to be reckoned with. Unfortunately their first battle awakens the memories of the Godzilla whose remains form a part of Kiryu and the giant robot causes just as much damage as the monster it was designed to stop. While awaiting the next attack, the AMF scrambles to ensure Kiryu is able to remain in control. It's similarity to GXMegaguirus comes in not just the setup of a deadly uncontrollable new weapon that leads to more trouble than it is worth, but also the characters. The 2 main characters are Akane Yashiro, a soldier and survivor of the failed 1999 sortie racked with guilt and vowing revenge against Godzilla, and Tokumitsu Yuhara, an optimistic jokey scientist who helped with the creation of Kiryu.
Both of them are rehashed from the characters in GXMegaguirus Kiriko Tsujimori and Hajime Kudo, complete with the scientist trying to get friendly with the cold and distant soldier. Fortunately, the character development here is more gradual and the characters themselves more likable than Director Tezuka's prior efforts.
The addition of Tokumitsu's daughter and her bond within Akane gives the soldier an emotional anchor to slowly warm up to. Akane's character arc of at first being looked down upon by fellow teammates but slowly winning over their respect to be treated as an equal mirrors a very real challenge women in male dominant professions continue to face. The overall tale is much more focused on the human characters with a very pro-humanist slant. Godzilla himself is devoid of personality, reduced to merely being "generic threat to humanity", an obstacle that a country can overcome through unity, dedication and ingenuity.
It is decidedly more in the "feel good" category as compared to the more nihilistic GODZILLA, MOTHRA, KING GHIDORAH: GIANT MONSTERS ALL OUT ATTACK. Depending on one's taste, this could be seen as an improvement over something that was too dark or as a step backward into more idealistic "happy and kid friendly" territory. A more objective improvement is in the special effects. Miniatures of the buildings, vehicles and city are breathtakingly detailed. Green screen effects are also more polished than what came before.
However with detail comes a trade off, and that can be seen in the monsters themselves. The well crafted giant monsters move very stiffly; melee fights consists of awkward flailing or pushing or hugging each other while pyrotechnics go off behind them.
Director Tezuka tried to get around these limitations by enhancing the footage with CGI and filming in a certain style involving over the top feats. This all only adds to the often cartoony feel of the battles like one scene when Mechagodzilla flies at full speed to tackle Godzilla away. Mechagodzilla comes to a complete stop upon hitting Godzilla and just stands there while Godzilla is sent careening into the distance. It is like something out of Looney Tunes! Like Kiryu of the story, GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA is not without some kinks. For all it's good special effects, characters and themes, you have the cartoony battles, the often over the top acting, and the cliche ridden story that we have seen twice already.
For me, I found it very entertaining despite its shortcomings. It is a competent movie and while I did prefer something darker, I do appreciate the entertainment value of this one.
For every positive there is a negative
GODZILLA: TOKYO SOS has the honor of being the only "sequel" to exist in the Millennium era of the month running Godzilla franchise. Taking place a year after the events of GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA, Tokyo SOS sees the return of not only fan favorite Mothra but of late actor Hiroshi Koizumi reprising the role of Dr Shinichi Chujo from the 1961 movie MOTHRA.
With the Mechagodzilla named Kiryu undergoing hasty repairs in preparation for Godzilla's return, Mothra's fairies, the Shobijin, appear to Dr Chujo, his grandson, and his nephew Yoshito, with a warning that using the bones of the previous Godzilla in the construction of Kiryu was an affront to the natural order of the universe and if the bones are returned to the sea, Mothra would take Kiryu's place as Japan's defender.
Of course the Japanese government is reluctant to give up the one weapon capable of defeating Godzilla, and have much less faith in Mothra's capabilities. As Godzilla returns to wreak havoc, those capabilities will be put to the test alongside an increasingly unstable Kiryu that is still haunted by its memories of its death back in 1954.
In its overall premise, TOKYO SOS shows a lot of potential. It goes back to the "humanity's sins returning to punish them" theme that was prevalent in the first Godzilla movie. It also promises an exploration of two common contrasting reactions to disasters: faith in the divine (embodied by the fairies asking for japan to trust in Mothra) and a pride driven reliance on human capability and self determinism (embodied by the government's refusal to scrap Mechagodzilla).
Where the film could have delved deep into these themes, deconstructing both or showing how they can coexist hand in hand, it instead drops the ball in favour of cliched storytelling and characters.
Rather than continuing the previous movie's character development, those already shallow characters are ditched in favour of new though much less likable characters. Our main protagonist is Yoshito Chujo, a hot headed mechanic in the Kiryu maintenance team. He had a quirk for understanding machines more than people and.....that's about it.
The movie sets up a relationship triangle between Yoshito, former mechanic turned pilot Azusa, and another arrogant male pilot Akiba which.....goes no where. You get a couple of scenes involving fiery male tension and that's it. Not much in the way of resolution other than an arc about how our lowly mechanic wins the respect of the glorious pilots (an arc that was already done in GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA).
In terms of acting, the older actors do a much better job. Almost as if the younger actors portraying the young adult characters, especially Azusa, were hired more for their looks than ability. The characters they portray come across as generally unlikable with only Yoshito having some redeeming qualities.
Visually, this movie upholds the standards set by its predecessor: beautiful imagery, detailed miniatures and monster suits, near flawless visual compositing. It also upholds the flaws, retaining the overly choreographed cartoony battles and the stiff movements of the monsters.
What I appreciated the most of GODZILLA: TOKYO SOS, was how it and it's predecessor GODZILLA AGAINST MEGHAGODZILLA is the first Godzilla movie to retroactively establish a proper "shared cinematic universe" by bringing in old Toho movies like MOTHRA and WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS as part of its continuity. This stands in contrast to the Showa era and heisei era Godzilla movies which were just sequels to each other and not actual "shared" cinematic universes in the way we know them now.
Other than that this movie is a mixed bag for me. For every positive such as the special effects, the shared universe lore building, and a return to the darker themes of the original GODZILLA movie, there are equal number of negatives in the cliched storyline, unlikable characters, and cartoonish fights
An Ok End to a bumpy franchise
Apokalips war review
The often bumpy "DC Animated Movie universe" which began with JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE FLASHPOINT PARADOX now comes to an end in JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK: APOKALIPS WAR. In a highly out of character moment, Superman leads the DC universe's greatest heroes on what is tantamount to an assassination Mission against Darkseid, ruler of the planet Apokalips. But the intergalactic warlord laid a trap using new elite creatures cloned from Doomsday, the creation that once killed Superman. Heroes are gruesomely slain, others were captured and brainwashed to serve Darkseid, some even willingly collaborated with the enemy. Superman himself was infused with pure kryptonite and made to watch powerless as Earth was laid to ruin.
Now two years later, dead heroes have returned as robotic monstrosities, vicious parademons roam, picking off the remaining population, and the magic wielding John Constantine, is drowning his survivor's guilt over the death of his friends. But with the arrival of two unexpected visitors, John is about to be roped into a do or die counteroffensive to save what is left of this ruined world.
On the surface, APOKALIPS WAR is easily the most brutal of the dc animated movies. Character deaths are shocking and gory with dismemberments, disembowelments, and decapitations. Truly this movie earns its R Rating. The animation is provided by "Tiger Animation Studio", a South Korean company who had done mostly support work for past Dc animated movies like JUSTICE LEAGUE VS TEEN TITANS. This is their first project as main animation studio and they have exceeded all expectations.
The level of details in the artwork with actual shadows and Dynamic shading that shift as a character moves, it is beautiful! The amazing art thankfully does not come at the expense of the animation quality which maintains its smooth frame rate throughout. Action scenes are fast paced and intense with a lot of things happening at the same time in frame. The only nitpick that stands out are a few scenes where hordes of enemies like the cloned "paradooms" are done in a cel shaded CGI form and this clashes badly with the other traditionally animated characters.
Dig below the surface however and this movie comes across as a bit shallow and rushed. With A story about survivors' guilt, the horrors of war and defeat, one would expect this movie to be among the darkest and deepest of superhero movie offerings showing how failed individuals can still rise to the occasion and overcome their past failings and emotional shortcomings. Unfortunately, it revels more in its shock factor than anything deep. The main story follows the group of Constantine, Etrigan the demon, Raven and Robin of the teen titans, along with a depowered Superman. None of them go through much development over the course of the movie. Raven and Robin's arc merely brings closure to their romantic tension in past TEEN TITANS movies, Etrigan is just bored and looking for a new challenge, and Superman of all people seems comparatively upbeat for a guy who led half of earth's greatest champions to their deaths and then further doomed his home world. Constantine himself could have had a character arc of grieving and eventual acceptance and self forgiveness, especially after the revelation that he only survived by running from the pivotal battle. Alas, he gets no such emotional arc whatsoever and the whole thing about abandoning his friends turns out to be a literal "Batman gambit" involving a compulsion spell.
There is no emotional journey for anyone. Who they are at the start of the movie ends up being who they are at the end of the movie; there is no development. Whatever conflicts the characters face come from external factors, threats that can be punched, blasted or magicked away. The plot with its often contrived twists drives our main cast from one such conflict to another whether it be a prison run by supervillains or the fiery pits of Apokalips. Where the script excels is in its brisk introductions of all its characters, giving them easily recognisable qualities, and making them immediately likeable especially the villains comprising the Suicide Squad.
One gets the sense that this movie is less concerned with telling a story and more concerned with being "the conclusion to a franchise". In that regard it succeeds in bringing the closure needed for plot threads set up in the ongoing JL movies, the Batman solo movies and the teen Titans movies. Just that whatever emotional connection viewers may have with the characters comes from past movies rather then what they go through in this film.
On its own, JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK: APOKALIPS WAR fumbles its execution. What could have been a deeper character deconstruction of various heroes in their darkest hour is instead turned into a fairly typical "A-team lost, so B-team steps up to play"type of plot that we've seen countless times. The more interesting side of actually showing the war and its effects is merely glossed over or glimpsed or happens off screen or in brief flashbacks. As a mere "finale" to a 15 episode series of movies, it does it's job. Whatever narrative shortcomings are buried nicely under its superficial visual splendour, shock value and just the novelty of seeing so many characters interacting on screen. Nothing more, nothing less.
Sonic Underground (1999)
A curiosity of inconsistent tone and style
Near the start of the new millennium, sega launched a new round of heavy advertising for its main franchises, one of which was sonic the hedgehog. To enhance the hype, they commissioned a new cartoon from DIC entertainment, the same company that did the previous 2 Sonic cartoons. The result was SONIC UNDERGROUND, a curious little series with many questionable Creative decisions.
For a start, they got the head writer of the more serious SONIC THE HEDGEHOG cartoon on board for plotting SONIC UNDERGROUND. Instead of continuing that cult classic, which many fans were clamouring for, they incorporated broad strokes events and loose elements of that story into a whole new story unrelated to past animated series or games. In this new continuity, Sonic and his siblings Sonia and Manic are the heirs to the throne but the evil Doctor Robotnik launches a coup and took over the royal capital of mobotropolis. Instead of establishing a pollution spewing all powerful empire of machine Troops and servants created from roboticizing civilians, Robotnik in this show is content to let the rich and powerful civilians remain untouched so long as they do as he says and do not get in his way. Only the lower castes were roboticised. As such there are populated towns and much more in the way of talking critter side characters contributing to the plots of episodes.
In terms of tone, it is no where near the comedic camp of ADVENTURES OF SONIC THE HEDGEHOG but it is also much lighter than the post apocalyptic dystopia of SONIC THE HEDGEHOG. The stakes are not as dire, the villains are still evil but not as monstrous, and the world is "friendlier" with the episodes consisting of the 3 Hedgehog siblings travelling the globe in search of allies, clues to locate their mother and to fulfill a prophesy to take back their kingdom.
The second and most divisive creative decision was....the songs. No this is not Sonic The Musical, though it might have been better if it was. In every episode, at least one of the sibling Hedgehogs will whip out their magical instrument (electric guitar for sonic, drum set for manic, and keyboard for Sonia) and start this late 90s MTV music video sequence full of cheap visual tricks like multiple split screens, fade ins, cross dissolves etc. Again, I have nothing against a good musical but the transition between the episode story and the sudden music video is so jarring. There are a few catchy songs but the majority are a cheesy dated mix of 90s pop and rock tunes which border on cringe. A pity since they are generally well sung and with voices that sound much better than the characters' speaking voices. Namely because Sonic, Sonia and Manic are voiced by Jaleel White, Jaleel White doing falsetto, and Jaleel White doing surfer dude.
Having the same guy doing all 3 main voices, including a female character's voice, really does not work especially when at times the voices seem to slip into each other like Manic would suddenly talk like Sonic or Sonic himself would have that higher Sonia pitch. The other characters' voice actors do a decent job with the cheesy material they are given, and fan favourites like Knuckles do appear later on. However some of the casting choices just do not seem to fit. Like Doctor Robotnik is played by Garry Chalk, sounding exactly like his Optimus Primal role from BEAST WARS. For Knuckles he is played by Brian Drummond and one would expect a gruff warrior type voice similar to his Zechs Merquise role from GUNDAM WING but he sounds like a whiny teenage geek.
The animation on SONIC UNDERGROUND is equally hit or miss. Other traditional animated contemporaries in 1999 include series like Redwall, Big Guy and Rusty, and Batman Beyond in the west, along with Digimon, Monster Rancher, and Zoids in the east. No matter how you compared, SONIC UNDERGROUND's animation does not hold up. While the character models are much more consistent and there are some exceedingly well animated sequences, these are far in between. There are a fair share of animation mistakes, mostly in compositing, and A lot of the animation comes across as lazy. For example, in past SONIC cartoons when sonic ran they would animate his full body motions of running with at most his feet being a blur. In SONIC UNDERGROUND the typical portrayal of Super speed is to reduce Sonic to a glowing blue smear streaking across the screen. There is also reused and looped animation which pop up most frequently in the previously mentioned music video segments.
The series itself ended with no resolution to any of the ongoing plot lines. Though there is a Small segment of fans who do like the unorthodox approach, it never got the level of fan following that SONIC THE HEDGEHOG did Nor did it achieve the memetic status of ADVENTURES. Between the indecisive tone, juvenile writing that did not match the epic fantasy setup, and the comparatively mediocre visuals I would consider SONIC UNDERGROUND less of a classic and more a mere curiosity.
Crazy loony tunes inspired fun but lacks quality control
Heavy on juvenile slapstick humour, THE ADVENTURES OF SONIC THE HEDGEHOG is an unabashedly fun, crazy series that is less like the games it is based on and more like Bugs Bunny against Yosemite Sam or Road Runner against Wile E Coyote.
The titular speedy blue hedgehog is the Bugs Bunny analog. He is a fun loving fast talking little critter embodying the smart mouth slacker type which somehow appeals to kids of that era. Ever ready with an annoying boast or a silly roast directed towards his enemies, Sonic is voiced by Jaleel "Urkel" White in a fittingly nasal voice. Peppering his dialogue are catchphrases like "I'm waaaaiiiting" or cravings for chilli dogs or some other quip making him sound like a cross between an impatient spoiled brat. As you can tell by now, I am not too big a fan of his. Accompanying Sonic is his twin tailed baby fox pal Tails, who is much more level headed and comes across as childlike and innocent.
To Sonic's Bugs Bunny, there is the Yosemite Sam in the form of Doctor Ivo Robotnik and his two mechanical minions Scratch (robot chicken) and Grounder (robot drill thingy). Now this trio is actually funny. The outrageous plots to get back at Sonic, outlandish inventions and crazy capers are not exactly comedy gold but at least they are funny and not annoying. Their voice actors do a reat job with the material they are given, imbuing the baddies with unique albeit exaggerated voices befitting their personalities and appearance.
Episodes are less like stories and more like a series of crazy misadventures designed just for laughs. This craziness extends to the look of the show which, for all intents and purposes, work. Simplistic character designs, trippy background art, all harkens back to its source of influence. It's classic style only just makes up for its lack of quality control. Characters' proportions vary wildly within each episode, animation mistakes and scenes where action, foreground, and background don't seem to be completely integrated happen once too often.
At a whopping 65 episodes Long, the series had Long since overstayed it's welcome with repetitive scripts and recycled jokes. There is a guilty giggle to be had at its corny comedy which is often so bad it's good. In a way, this forgettable format makes ADVENTURES OF SONIC THE HEDGEHOG highly rewatchable and accessible. One could just pop in on any episode and be entertained. It is easy lowest common denominator type entertainment to pass the time but little else beyond that.
Sonic the Hedgehog (1993)
Not perfect but the best among 90s sonic cartoons
In the 1990s, there was a cool little cliche permeating Saturday morning action cartoons: dystopian future resistance group against megalomaniac and his legions of disposable troops. It started as episodes in ongoing cartoons where the main characters get shunted into a bad future but soon it became the premise that entire shows were built on. One of such shows was SONIC THE HEDGEHOG.
Deviating entirely from the video game source materials, this Saturday morning cartoon had the titular Super speedster join a resistance group led by one Princess Sally. The evil doctor Robotic has taken over the kingdom of Mobotropolis (renamed Robotropolis) and has turned most of its anthronorphic animal populace into subservient robots. Episodes typically involve incursions into the mechanized city or exploring the often deadly countryside for some means to defeat the machine empire and return its people back to normal.
Operating out of the secluded Knothole village, the resistance is a collection of characters with unique and sometimes exaggerated personalities. Aside from the childlike twin tailed fox named Tails, Sonic's best pal from the games, the others are original characters which would occasionally get an episode focused on their development, and them overcoming whatever personality shortcomings they may have whether it's An arrogant one learning humility, an aloof one learning to count on friends or the trusting one learning to be more discerning.
The episodes may seem formulaic after a while but a few of the standout ones do contain a fair amount of tragedy and are surprisingly dark for a kids cartoon. And that's where Sonic himself becomes a bit of a problem.
The stakes are dire, the situation is grim, but here comes Sonic with his "totally radicool" speech style, ever ready with an unfunny quip or cringe pun. His fast talking comical overconfidence stands as a stark contrast to the bleak atmosphere of the plot. A skilled writer could have written his jokey demeanour as a coping mechanism to deal with tragedies he has faced. But alas, it is just passed off as Sonic being Sonic.
The series gets better when it has Princess Sally front and centre. She is a leader, an emotionally vulnerable individual dealing with the loss of her family and kingdom but having to present a strong front to her followers. She is the one reining in Sonic's wild side to get things done; the burden of leadership and the hopes of an entire world weighing down on her petite shoulders.
Another great character for me is Doctor Robotnik. This is not the bombastic boisterous baddie from the games. This guy means business. His rotund character design is offset by inhuman demonic looking eyes and a voice oozing with menace that elevates him from funny fatty to a truly devious devil.
On the quality side of things the animation is more consistent than its sister series ADVENTURES OF SONIC THE HEDGEHOG. There are cool visuals like the polluted dystopia of Robotropolis or the mysterious wilds of mobius, as well as moments of standout animation. Generally it is a tad better than typical outsourced Cartoons of its time but still no where near the level of detail as Japanese anime.
SONIC THE HEDGEHOG saw a bit of changes after the first 13 episodes giving us slight design tweaks, stories that were less dark and Robotnik lost some of his menace. By the time it was cancelled after 26 episodes, quality had dipped to the point of repeating or looping past animation to pad out the run time. At very least it ended on a satisfactory though rushed and cheesy conclusion (power of love saves the day) leaving enough teases to spawn an entire franchise continuing in comic form.
Considering the time period of its debut, and its contemporaries catering to the same pre teen target demographic , SONIC THE HEDGEHOG is above average. It lacks the clever scripting of the BEAST WARS, the solid character development in various DC Animated series or the quality control of the Disney cartoons, but it is certainly a better cartoon based off a video game than the likes of Legend of Zelda or Double dragon.
The standout episodes especially the two parter taking place in the past hit all the right pointers for engaging animated stories while the episodes in between feel like mediocre run of the mill filler held up purely by the characters and cast.
Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)
Jim Carrey steals the show
SONIC THE HEDGEHOG delivers a fun family film with a simple message, great comedy, and a straightforward plot. Not to mention tons of nostalgia fuel. Let's start with the plot. I was terrified that it would be one of those "cartoon character comes to the real world to be a supporting character to help bland protagonist with personal problem" type of cliche which we saw in the likes of SMURFS. Thankfully this movie sidesteps that cliche by having Sonic clearly be the main protagonist and focus of the story.
Hunted on his home world for his extraordinary speed powers, Sonic has been in hiding on our Earth in the forests near Green Hills town. He likes it here but has kept a Low profile for fear that he would be hunted once again and be forced to escape to another world. As such, Sonic is one lonely individual. A mishap with his powers exposes Sonic's presence in Green Hills and sets the eccentric tech genius Doctor Robotnik on his little blue tail. Now stranded on earth due to having lost his means of inter-world travel in San Francisco (it makes sense in the context of the movie) Sonic must enlist the help of Sheriff Tom Wachowski, the one person he thinks he can trust, to get him to across the country while evading the mechanical minions of Robotnik.
Here is a simple story cobbled from "person befriends non human creature" movies like ET, and "bonding through a road trip" movies like PAUL. The underlying theme of an outcast desiring friendship and a sense of belonging is also often used in such movies. Not the most original idea, but the decision to keep it simple and even simplify the franchise's often convoluted lore ensures this movie is accessible to even the most casual viewers.
Sonic himself is distilled, retaining his recognisable confident personality but downplaying His sometimes annoying arrogance from the games, replacing it with a child-like curiosity and innocence. This coupled with his tragic backstory and character development as the plot progresses makes this version of the beloved video game character one of the most relatable and (wait for it) three dimensional incarnations ever. The special effects used to bring Sonic to life on the big screen is top notch but one gets the impression that most of the Budget was pumped into this and not much else.
Robotnick's robot drones are created in CGI too but some scenes have the lighting or the composting feel slightly off, especially since most of the movie takes place in broad daylight. Most egregious is a scene involving sonic and a tortoise early in the movie with the compositing on the tortoise looking particularly shoddy. Ultimately, the special effects aside from those on Sonic come off as just serviceable.
While most of the human cast are just as serviceable, high praise goes to Jim Carrey as Robotnik. This is classic manic, old school crazy fun Jim Carrey of the 90s, obviously having the time of his life with the role. The energy he brings and the way he plays off the rest of the cast is such a delight to watch.
The music by Tom "Junkie XL" Holkenborg of TERMINATOR DARK FATE and BATMAN V SUPERMAN fame also deserves praise. His score on this movie is very unlike his past work, eschewing the loud brass sounds and heavy percussions for a more whimsical cartoony tune with light strings and woodwinds that feels right at home with the family friendly nature of this movie.
There is much to love about SONIC THE HEDGEHOG. The passion of the creative team is clearly evident and it delivers simple entertainment without too much pandering. Between this and last year's POKÉMON: DETECTIVE PIKACHU, I feel video game movies have a bright future ahead.
The Predator (2018)
Long tall Sally she's built sweet. But she don't have everything Uncle John need.
Helmed by director Shane Black, THE PREDATOR is an odd creature of a movie that at times feel as much a gene spliced monster as the "upgrade" Predator which features as the main antagonist of the story. It splices elements of other movies that audiences seem to drawn to such as the lighthearted snarky comedy of marvel cinematic universe, well written kid characters from the 2017 IT remake, the R Rated violence of JOHN WICK and a relevant social issue which in this case seems to be mental conditions. It is big, it is imposing, but it is not necessarily stronger or more impressive.
Our story begins by establishing our main character: sniper extraordinaire Quinn McKenna. He's a badass with issues. During a mission he encounters a crashed alien spaceship and comes into possession of some alien tech which he mails home to keep it out of the government's reach. But the ship had an occupant too who is captured by the Stargazer project, an extraterrestrial monitoring organisation. Now McKenna's Son, who is autistic, somehow manages to activate the alien tech which draws another meaner and bigger alien Predator to earth to retrieve the tech and crashed ship's occupant, who is soon revealed to be some sort of traitor to his race. McKenna must team up with a rag tag bunch of war veterans, who all have issues, to stop this new threat.
For me, THE PREDATOR is really a step down for the franchise. Take the main characters for instance. In the first movie they all had distinct personalities. In PREDATORS they were all from various different backgrounds. Here, Everyone of those veterans forming the main "team" is a snarky foul mouth with a new quip ever at the ready. There are some genuinely funny moments, even tender moments, but much of the emotional aspect is lost amid one too many "trying to be funny" scenes.
The director tries to bring attention to various mental issues like Autism and PTSD but unfortunately some of the symptoms are played for laughs. Ultimately the mental issues aspect just serves to give characters some unique tics rather than being used to get a deeper point across. Then again with such bland characters we could use anything to tell them apart.
The action is equally as bland. Most of the movie is set in a American suburban town and nearby forest. There is not much In The way of that suspenseful feeling of being hunted by a superior unseen foe since the foes are revealed in full visible glory early on. The one word to describe the directing is "pedestrian". You know, the bland medium shots, jittery cam during action scenes, the kind of camera angles you would expect from a less experienced director than Shane Black, particularly since this is amateurish when to his work on IRON MAN 3. Only the cinematography, courtesy of Larry Fong, adds to the atmosphere of the movie.
Another positive would be the music by Henry Jackman, paying homage to the iconic themes of the original while adding a sufficiently fresh touch. The actors also do their best with the forgettable script they are given. Standout performances include Thomas Jane (PUNISHER) as Baxley, the guy with Tourettes, and Keegan-Michael Kay as Coyle, the vulgar strutting one who is hiding a vulnerable secret.
While not a complete reboot of the franchise, THE PREDATOR does make some changes, especially in the titular aliens' motive for hunting humans. Long time fans will be hard pressed to accept this new direction after years of tie in media painting the titular Predators as honour bound warriors who test themselves by hunting only the most dangerous game. Here, they get painted more as scientists who harvest genetic material to introduce into their genes to improve their species.
I really wanted to like this movie much more than I did. The acting, cast chemistry, music and cinematography is great. But on the flip side it feels too juvenile with its incessant humour, bland action and lack of much depth. It would be intriguing to see how these latest story developments are incorporated in to sequels or tie in media but for now all we are left with is a mediocre movie experience.
Beyond Skyline (2017)
It reminds me of Power Rangers
Mark Corey is your average Los Angeles cop with a no good son he keeps bailing out of jail. They got problems. An uneventful train commute turns into the end of the world as we know it. Giant alien space ships have come to earth, abducting the population and extracting their brains to be used as wetware processors for their war machines.
You know where this is going: bunch of people forced together by circumstance against impossible odds. Mark and son are joined by a train operator Audrey and an old blind homeless man Sarge. They got problems. Big problems. Alien biomechanical creatures of all shapes and sizes are assaulting every major city. Each one looking amazing despite being CGI in a movie with a relatively small Budget.
Their adrenaline pumping escape through an alien onslaught does not end well as they are abducted by what seems to be one of the alien generals. It is here where we see the intricately designed alien ship interiors. Once again amazing work, well beyond what one would expect for a film of such measly budget.
We also get to see the aliens themselves up close and they are realised through a combination of suit actors and minor cgi touch ups. The suits are great, if only a little derivative looking like a rearranged combination of leftover parts from Aliens Vs Predator. It is revealed that the human brains the aliens are using can be triggered to take over the exoskeletons or war machines, as evidenced by a rogue alien which seems to bear the memories of the human whose brain it had been installed with.
Unfortunately there is little explanation for this phenomenon other than a contrived "power of Love" gimmick where the sight of a loved one in danger will somehow "snap them out of it" and allow the human brain to exert control over its alien exoskeleton. For those who have watched the first SKYLINE movie from 2010, there is a payoff to that movie's cliffhanger though you may be hard pressed to recognize it considering that the previous characters are played by all new actors.
BEYOND SKYLINE does try to thread some new ground by the second act which sees the protagonists rescue a baby girl who seems to be aging at an accelerated rate and exhibiting powers to control the alien technology. They clash with the alien General and end up crashing the ship into a south East Asian Jungle. There, the protagonists join up with a rag tag band of guerrillas led by Indonesia martial artist Iko Uwais. Unfortunately the execution is less than polished; a lot of talking, erratic pacing, and a lack of plot focus until the aliens show up again in the climax.
What could have been a desperate intense battle for survival instead turns into something out of power rangers. Having blown the budget on the city wide invasion and space ship interiors, the special effects in the climax do not look as good as the rest of the movie. The aliens, who were previously portrayed as so fearsome that just looking at one will leave a human in a trance and ripe for capture, are now typical foot soldiers and cannon fodder. The cinematography and flat lighting make the rubber suited aliens almost painful to watch as the guerrillas fight back with, i kid you not, Silat martial arts moves. All while ducking around Raiden's temple from MORTAL KOMBAT.
It's like Power Rangers at times! There is a nice homage to old giant monster movies that would have been more enjoyable with better CGI. All this leading to the ending which, as uplifting as it was, is just too contrived for words, setting up what looks like a new video game.
Alien invasion stories seem to be in a whole new nadir since INDEPENDENCE DAY RESURGENCE, and BEYOND SKYLINE does little to help the genre. It is decent, with relatable though somewhat uninteresting characters. The initial mystery over the aliens, their motives and what not is fairly intriguing but the mystery is never allowed to develop gradually, instead solved via mandatory exposition dump. Also, CGI and special effects clearly deteriorate in quality from the start (big Budget movie standard) to the end (tv series from more than 6 years ago standard).
Gojira: hoshi wo kû mono (2018)
A deeper more introspective Godzilla movie for thinkers. Action junkies can go watch Michael Bay films.
Ever wondered what a Cosmic horror styled Godzilla movie would be like? This comes complete with fanatical cult, a charismatic religious leader, human sacrifices, and an extradimensional dark deity that defies all laws of physics. In this story, Ghidorah has evolved beyond being just a three headed space dragon. He is now a living time space anomaly, existing in our reality on the combined beliefs of fearful fanatical followers. The ultimate pinnacle of extraterrestrial evolution; a dark mirror to how Godzilla had been portrayed as the pinnacle of earth's evolutionary development.
That being said it is important to approach this movie with the right expectations and in this case it is not for giant rubber suit wrestling matches. The battle between Godzilla and Ghidorah, both representing the evolutionary peak of their respective natures, is the the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object. That's it. A force meeting an object, and the fight is exactly as it sounds.
Instead, GODZILLA THE PLANET EATER is a feature length clash of metaphors and philosophical concepts, each one building on the last. Drawing heavily from the likes of Nietzsche and other perspectives on nihilism, this movie is a biting critique of human nature, motivations and actions; of our flawed sense of superiority and self righteousness.
The nebulous comforts humanity cling to in times of desperation such as seemingly advanced technology or the faint solace of false religions are harshly deconstructed. Deconstructed too is the nature of the messianic narrative as it is being twisted into crafting a figurehead for advancing a hidden agenda.
At its core, it is a cautionary tale against single minded obsession to the point of sacrificing the qualities that make us uniquely human. This has been portrayed in a deeply metaphorical sense, through the Godzilla destruction Mission in the first movie, the nanometal in the second movie, and now the Exif's dark god in this third movie.
But it's themes are not all darkness storm and stress. In our main character of Haruo, we are given a tragic tale espousing the virtue of letting go and moving on from past emotional baggage; hatred, anger, fear arising from past trauma and failures. On a greater scope, the state of humanity and Haruo can be seen as a commentary about Japan itself; a country still paying for its misdeeds of the past (given form as Godzilla), who's traditional ways of life are being replaced by "alien" (western) norms, beliefs and mindsets (the Exif religion and Bilusaludo technology), all the while asking the question "how far do we go until we lose who we are?".
Visually, the style of this movie fits the narrative. Desolate post apocalyptic landscapes complete with perpetual overcast skies and creatures that come in varying shades of grey. This all contributes to the serious, bleak and often tragic tone of the story. There seem to be some improvements in the animation, with characters having more dynamic range of expressions compared to the first movie. And all this is complemented with a fine cast, both for the Japanese and English dubs.
GODZILLA: THE PLANET EATER is easily one of the darkest entries in the Godzilla franchise and one of the deepest with tone and themes hearkening back to the original 1954 classic. Like the original GOJIRA (1954) this movie thrives on atmosphere and suspense. It is relatively light on traditional "blasts and beatdowns" kind of action, but if one was expecting that all the time, a Michael Bay movie might be a more suitable alternative. For those of us who like stories that get you thinking, this one has tons to unpack.
It is highly recommended that one watches all 3 of the GODZILLA anime movies back to back. Some of the revelations in the third lend themselves to having a deeper appreciation of certain events in PLANET OF MONSTERS and CITY ON THE EDGE OF BATTLE as well as clarifying some initially vague plot points. On a whole, the trilogy of GODZILLA ANIME movies might have had a slow start and is not flawless. It is however "true Godzilla" in spirit and a respectable addition to the franchise.
Death Note (2017)
Like Donnie Darko mixed with Final Destination
DEATHNOTE, the popular manga series gets its obligatory Hollywood remake. While taking liberties with the source material, it works less like a faithful adaptation and more like a alternate universe scenario of "what if a book that is able to exert supernatural control over anyone whose name is written in it, leading up to their deaths, ends up with a typical American teenager?".
Light Turner is that teenager. He is the bullied loner from a broken family, the under appreciated smart kid sitting by himself in the corner. The law has failed to bring his mother's killer to justice, the education system has failed to punish those that pick on him daily, all around him Light is faced with a world of injustice. Enter the death god Ryuk (an immaculately rendered CGI creation with performance by William Defoe) and the titular Deathnote. Ryuk is the devil on Light's shoulder tempting him to use the power of the Deathnote for selfish means.
It sets up a familiar tragedy of a young person pushed to the edge by unfairness, given the power to change things, and who ultimately abuses said power to take his anger out on the world. This is the familiar stereotype of school shooting perpetrators as sensationalized by the media and Light is set up specifically as such a character. The performances by Nat Wolff (Paper Towns) as Light and Shea Whigham (Boardwalk Empire) as his father help sell Light's plight and set up his expected eventual fall.
However, director Adam Wingard tastefully plays with and eventually subverts this expectation. Though Light does test out the deathnote's power against the aforementioned bully, and uses it again to send his mother's murderer to a nasty gruesome end, he ultimately tries to reject Ryuk's temptation of absolute power over others' fates. It isn't the idealistic "with great power comes great responsibility" shtick of superhero comic books but neither is it the nihilistic trope of absolute power's corrupting influence. This middle ground makes Light more relatable and is a much appreciated deviation from the source material. Where Light Yagami of the manga and the Japanese Deathnote movie was this cold, haughty sociopath with a god complex, Turner, in all his social awkwardness, genuinely regrets his decisions to use the Deathnote, with much of the movie being about him trying to avoid being found out, making the wrong choices as any teen in a panic would, and ultimately escalating the situation by mistake.
But things aren't so straightforward. Into Light's life comes manipulative girlfriend Mia Sutton who's ambitions for the Deathnote extend beyond just simple payback. Under Mia's influence, Light starts killing any suspected criminal based on the news. They create the persona of "Kira", Japanese mispronunciation of "killer", to divert police suspicion. Kira's supernatural killing of criminals splits the world; while unlawful many support what they see as justice in an unjust world. Complicating the matter further is when Light's policeman father gets involved in the investigations into the killings, and a mysterious super genius detective named L takes on the case.
Now this second half when L comes along is where things get shaky. I get the sense that on one hand we have this deeply personal look at the birth of a sociopath and subsequent subversion of said villain's journey by focusing on Light himself, yet on the other hand we are tied down to the plot beats of the original manga. That means a Kira cult, a convoluted cat and mouse game between L and Light, new rules for the Deathnote, memory loss as a means to be absolved from all suspicions, etc. The generally over the top nature of the original manga just does not match the more grounded "Everyman" tale in the movie.
While Light's dilemma of trying to shake off Mia's manipulations, evade capture, and plan an outrageous series of events to get away scot free is thrilling and tightly plotted, the movie takes a weird tangent to explore L's origin. L, played by Lakeith Stanfield (Get Out), is amazing. His demeanor, body language, everything is right out of the original manga. How he slowly loses it after being outsmarted time and again by Light is also well done. But the whole tangent storyline to explore his origin may have been better left to a spinoff.
One thing that got lost in the translation was that the original source material brings up philosophical and moral dilemmas, questioning the rights and wrongs of its characters' actions. This movie focuses squarely on Light and his own struggles with the escalating situation he finds himself in. This makes the movie less deep than its Japanese counterparts.
Despite its ups and downs, I enjoyed DEATH NOTE. Like a combination of Donnie Darko and Final Destination, DEATH NOTE is suitably suspenseful, well cast, and boasts great shots courtesy of Adam Wingard making this low budget movie look much better than it ought to. Combined with the music and the cinematography, this is a loving tribute to 80s and early 90s teen horror movies with both the pros and the cons of what that entails.
Beautiful, grand, operatic, an emotional rollercoaster from start to end
The sequel to 2014's GODZILLA and third installment to Legendary Studio's "Monsterverse", is a non stop, edge of the seat thrill ride in the vein of classic worldwide disaster movies like INDEPENDENCE DAY. Building on feedback from the previous installment, director Michael Dougherty delivers a spectacular love letter to the entire 65 year old (as of this year) franchise. It is exciting, it is beautiful, tragic, grand, an emotional rollercoaster from start to finish.
We start off in real-time 2019. In the years following Godzilla's battle which leveled San Francisco, the world is divided over the knowledge that more of these so called titans exist and that the organization"MONARCH" desires to protect them despite the destruction they may cause. Amidst this chaotic backdrop, a MONARCH facility in China is raided by an eco terrorist cell who kidnaps scientist Emma Russell along with her daughter Madison, so as to use her invention called the "orca"; a machine that is able to record and mimic the titans bioacoustics signals which they use to communicate with each other. Led by the enigmatic renegade Alan Jonah, the eco terrorists plan to use the orca to awaken the hibernating titans in hope that they will restore the earth to its former glory. But there is more to this plot than meets the eye. Meanwhile, MONARCH engages the help of Doctor Mark Russell, Emma's estranged husband, and co-inventor of the orca, to try and locate the stolen device, his kidnapped ex-wife and child.
If it starts to sound like a human focused "angry dad rescuing family" kind of movie, rest assured it is not. Our giant monsters, the titans, they are not just the backdrop, they feature front and centre from the get go. The prize target of the terrorists plot is to awaken "Ghidorah", a three headed dragon who had been the basis of legends like the hydra. They hope for Ghidorah to establish dominance over the other titans and control them. Unfortunately, Ghidorah himself has other plans. With seemingly alien abilities and power beyond measure, the only titan that might stand a chance against the multi headed monstrosity, is Godzilla.
From the very first on screen appearance of Mothra, to Ghidorah, to the bird-like Rodan, and of course Godzilla, the whole movie goes full throttle with its plot. There is never a dull moment as we follow Mark and the MONARCH scientists led by Dr Serizawa across the globe trying to prevent an end-of-the-world scenario. You could say that it moves so fast that there is hardly any breathing room. Plot developments and characters development happen simultaneously and it's easily to get lost in the details if you do not pay attention.
At our story's core is a tale of a broken individuals dealing with loss at the expense of a loved one. The Russells were victims of the San Francisco Godzilla battle. Their loss drove Mark to drink and become abusive leading to his divorce with Emma who in turn buried herself into her work, all while Madison suffered the fallout. In their journey towards making peace with the past, we see two hurt and bitter individuals choose to put aside their differences for the sake of their child and the world. It is a simple plot thread but with a heartwarming message about family.
The cast play their roles perfectly; especially Kyle Chandler as Mark Russell and Serizawa played by veteran actor Ken Watanabe. The latter's role in the story becomes even more poignant if you watch the first movie and read both prequel comics "Godzilla Awakening" and "Godzilla Aftershock", knowing more about his history and a his connection to both Godzilla and nuclear weapons.
However, the ones I found the most memorable were the G-Team led by badass lady Colonel Diane Foster. They are side characters with minimal development but the situations they are called to deal with, suppressing a terrorist attack, evacuating a city, luring an enraged Rodan away from a populated area, they do all that with guts and a strict dedication to their duty. The best part of it all? The human element is sufficient and never overstays it's welcome.
Equal focus is given to the star attraction themselves: the giant monsters. All do them, Mothra, Rodan, Ghidorah and Godzilla all feature cool redesigns that pay homage to their original looks while taking it to a whole new level of badass. Moving Pictures Company (MPC) has outdone themselves once again in the CGI department. Special mention goes to the performance capture used for Ghidorah and Godzilla. Their expressions showcase clear human-like emotions and traits. Their body language blending the actor's performance with animalistic like movements. This motion capture is truly the descendant of traditional rubber suit monster performances.
And when the titans clash, the visuals and cinematography effectively convey the immense scale of their battles. Thanks to Director Michael Dougherty and cinematographer Lawrence Sher, the movie is spectacularly shot with dark apocalyptic visuals, heightening the surreal spectacle of these massive clashes. We are truly witnessing war among gods!
Pulse pounding music by composer Bear McCreary reproduces many of the iconic tunes from past Godzilla movies while giving his own unique spin, with drums and chants, imbuing an almost operatic feel to the movie. This is easily his greatest work to date.
From the music to the characters to the monsters themselves, everything! The passion and love of the genre coming from the cast and crew is evident in every minute of this film. It is great for Newcomers to the Godzilla franchise thanks to the simple story, memorable characters, decent actors, and tight script. It's great as a gateway into the Godzilla franchise. For long time fans, there are numerous Easter eggs, references, callbacks, and parallels to past films. See if you can recognise them all. All in all GODZILLA KING OF THE MONSTERS distills everything cool about Godzilla into a single modern movie.
It's Moby Dick, with Godzilla
This second part of the Netflix GODZILLA anime trilogy improved on many aspects of the first film while still keeping the elements of that film which appealed to me. Haruo is given some great character growth particularly in his budding relationship with childhood friend Yuko. What started as a typical cold angry guy and wide eyed innocent girl gets some much needed development. We see new aspects to their personality, all shaped around the deconstruction of dedication.
GODZILLA CITY ON THE EDGE OF BATTLE is a more traditional "Moby Dick" story of how dedication to their mission slowly but surely turns the protagonists into something worse than the creature they are hunting. The callback is rather blatant, right down to the survivors wanting to use a sort of "harpoon" to take down Godzilla (it makes sense in context).
Like captain Ahab of the classic tale, we are presented with the fine line between dedication and obsession. When does one become another? Does one truly have to become a monster to kill a monster? How far will someone go to uphold their dedication to a fleeting ideal? In typical anime style, this theme is fleshed out in both a symbolic and literal level, with parallel thematic developments for our protagonist Haruo, Yuko, and humanity's allies from the stars, the Bilusaludo.
With all these great elements, the anime only suffers if the audience does not accept it's often deconstructive execution of the plot. Expectations are cleverly subverted, underlying themes switch between literal and symbolic, even the monsters are referred to in both an actual and a figurative sense. This might come across as a little confusing for those who do not take the time to think through the story and read between the lines.
Visuals-wise, GODZILLA: CITY ON THE EDGE OF BATTLE retains the cel shaded CGI look of the first film and many of Polygon Studio's work. The animation, which beautifully mimics that of traditional 2D animation right down to the reduced frame rate, is really an acquired taste that may not be for everyone. It is calling back to something old, using something new. Small improvements have been made particularly in the drab mono coloured creatures that populate far future earth. Godzilla himself gets a harsher shading and contrast in lighting which makes him distinct from the already dull grey background.
These little improvements make me hopeful for the upcoming finale to this trilogy. It is not perfect and the improvements may come too slowly for more cynical viewers. Like the animation style, the movies so far are truly an acquired taste that boils down to personal preference. Complex or confusing? Subverting expectations or failing to deliver on its publicity? Perhaps the greater battle is not within Haruo himself, or between monsters, or even between the various factions and Godzilla. Perhaps it is between the fans.
Deadpool 2 (2018)
Heartfelt, Tragic, and Darkly Humorous. Ups the Ante on Everything in the First.
DEADPOOL 2 is a family movie, or so claims our titular protagonist. An extremely violent, witty, fourth wall breaking family movie. At its core is a tale of loss, a tale of wanting to belong, of failed father figures, and the cycle of vengeance all wrapped in a message of overcoming personal tragedy to be better individuals. It mixes genuinely funny comedy, pop culture references and lovable characters with a deeper more personal tale of the Merc with a mouth put through .
As with the first movie, DEADPOOL 2 defies genre and subverts viewer expectation at every turn. Each time a "typical" story beat or trope is brought up, it is soon subverted and deconstructed in the most clever way possible. An escape plan right out of PRISON BREAK? Does not end well for Wade and Russell. An action packed vehicular chase through the city? Very different from what one would expect. A team up with a bunch of badasses to form X-Force? Yup, definitely not how one would think it would go. In fact, DEADPOOL 2 subverts all expectations of what Deadpool should be about.
Even the characters undergo this subversive deconstruction. The poor abused boy who's supposed to be running scared? He's starting to show the makings of a serial killer. The part man part machine time traveler Cable? He is the embodiment of "generic 90s comic badass" taken to its logical extremes, complete with tragic motivations, growling voice and eternal scowl. And it all works in the context of the franchise's self referential humour.
Deadpool himself is slowly revealed to be a stepford smiler, using humour as a means to bury the pain he feels while he undergoes the various stages of grief. Ryan Reynolds effortlessly channels both Deadpool's funny and dramatic side, bringing an earnest portrayal that serves as the heartfelt emotional core of the film. The narrative does venture into some heavy territory, showing the initially self serving Wade subconsciously subjecting Young Russell to the same emotional neglect that his own father put him through.
The script, courtesy of Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick and Reynolds himself is masterfully written, full of wit and charm. Jokes come perfectly timed where appropriate, segueing into drama and back again without coming across as jarring. It even improves on the musical aspect.
The score, now composed by Tyler Bates (WATCHMEN), sounds much more epic and unique compared to the previous work by Junkie XL. The choices of songs, peppered throughout the movie, have lyrics that run parallel to what is happening in the story itself; cleverly used to heighten the emotional impact of many scenes.
This is an amazing movie and a great sequel. Not perfect though. The steady clear shots and fluid fight choreography that Director David Leitch brought to movies like JOHN WICK is missing here. Instead it is replaced by rapid fire cuts and some erratic editing which, in hindsight, may have been a cost cutting measure considering how some of the special effects, particularly on some fully CGI characters, look spotty at times.
Nonetheless, nitpicking aside, DEADPOOL 2 takes its titular character to new depths, ups the ante on everything that made the first movie such a hit, and then goes beyond with bigger action, a new cast of unique and relatable characters, and all while keeping it grounded in the very personal tragedy that is the life of Deadpool. Truly a movie to add in the list of great sequels.
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
When a "fun" experience can overshadow all other shortcomings
So this is the big one. Ten years in the making, 18 movies in a franchise leading to this. Despite the sky high expectations stemming from the popularity of its preceding films, AVENGERS INFINITY WAR delivers the wide appeal, casual friendly entertainment one has come to expect from the Marvel Cinematic Universe brand. Only that this time, Marvel studios takes it a notch higher.
AVENGERS INFINITY WAR is bigger from the get go. The scope is expanded from earth to the entire universe as the alien warlord Thanos' personally expedites his quest to retrieve the powerful infinity gems for his own ends. Gems which are closely tied to the fates of this world's greatest heroes. Through perfectly logical (within the context of the story) means and reasons, the actions of Thanos and his servants end up bringing together heroes from across all the past MCU movies.
How does the movie juggle so many characters at once? Well it does so very well. All the characters get a decent amount of time in the spotlight. Half the fun is seeing these characters that you grew to love in their respective movies come together and interact on screen; characters who merely years ago would have no reason to be interacting. Who would have imagined StarLord, whose adventures are at the far end of the cosmos, would be talking face to face with the earth based Iron Man? The cast is perfect in every way with decent chemistry even among those interacting for the very first time on screen.
The one thing i really appreciated was the more serious tone, carried on from Black Panther earlier in 2018. A pet peeve of mine has been this obsession with throwing in random quips and comedic moments into the middle of a hectic battle, a tense dialogue or a tension filled face off. This has plagued more than half of MCU movies and all it serves is to trivialise the stakes and destroy any attempt to take the movie seriously. Thankfully, the stakes here are more dire than anything ever seen in the MCU. INFINITY WAR does have witty banter, but this is kept separate from the drama; a very welcome change.
I can safely say that the movie entertains. Its energetic script and fast pace makes the long run time zoom by. There are multiple sub plots but nothing too complex if you are paying attention. The awesome action sequences are finger bitingly intense and the highlight of the entire movie. All this is set to some of composer Alan Silvestri's best musical work yet. S
I can also safely say that this movie is not perfect. As amazing as the action was, some of the fights are just overly choreographed, more like a dance than a fight. Personally, I would have preferred something more raw in the fights.
The story too comes across as a little shallow, especially compared to CAPTAIN AMERICA CIVIL WAR and BLACK PANTHER which managed to weave in some relevant sociopolitical commentary that generate discussion. INFINITY WAR touches on themes of self sacrifice, and a Machiavellian take on population control, but it never brings those themes front and centre.
Instead what is front and centre is the laughs, the action, the tears, and other simple emotional appeals. The fact that all the characters enter and leave this movie "as they are" rather than undergo development through the course of the narrative makes it feel like a season finale to a saturday morning cartoon. Whatever development comes about suddenly in the closing moments rather than organically as the story plays out.
On a whole, I would describe AVENGERS INFINITY WAR as this big reunion party. It sells itself on the experience rather than the story. The experience of a loyal fanbase being rewarded after 10 years of loyalty. The experience of that roller coaster ride through flash CGI graphics all "woohoo" and "yea!" and being able to enjoy it in the company of like minded individuals. It is a party more than a movie. Who cares about overly convenient events that drive the plot, who cares about unremarkable cinematography and overly hectic action sequences. Who cares about deeper themes, symbolism and narrative depth. It makes me feel awesome. Exactly like a good party.
Gojira: Kaijû Wakusei (2017)
Generic Monster Planet
Rendered in a cel shaded CGI style, GODZILLA MONSTER PLANET is beautiful to look at. The computer animation captures the look and feel of traditional animation right down to the lower frame rate.
Lesser studios have tried this to varying degrees of success (see: DEAD SPACE AFTERMATH, BERSERK) but Polygon Pictures seems to have nailed it. The designs of the humans, mecha and technology all look good.
On the other hand some of the Creative decisions on the monsters may have been better in concept than in execution. The monsters all share the same monotone shade of dark metallic grey. Their features barely visible amidst this messy jagged design aesthetic. In motion, they look like a jumble of twisted thorns shaped like dragons or dinosaurs.
This uninspired aesthetic is a wasted opportunity to take advantage of the anime medium. Godzilla himself has a new design with new characteristics are this is more than welcome. But it has to be compelling, it has to stand out from the other creatures in the story.
Here, you could swap out Godzilla here for any massive menace and it would not make a difference to the story. He could be a giant robot, a sludge monster, an energy entity, anything, and you would still have the same anime story.
A most capable cast of voice actors give life to our characters. Both Japanese and English VAs fit their roles perfectly. On the Japanese side, the usual over acting that tends to plague many anime is not present here. Instead the performances are realistically restrained befitting the setting and story. Similarly, the English dub is among the best in recent years; filled with energy, nuance and without the uncomfortable inflections that do not match the animation.
It is the show's generic script and characterisations that betray the otherwise fine acting. Haruo is your typical revenge driven hot headed hero, Accompanied by your typical overly concerned girl Friend, manipulated by your typical ambiguous ally with effeminate mannerisms. Literally everyone is less of a character and merely a series of "typical" archetypes in any science fiction anime.
There are some thrilling action sequences and I loved the first act which deconstructs the usual "civilians on a space colony mission" trope through a cynical lens. What is typically portrayed as a second chance for humanity in greener pastures is instead shown as a waking nightmare of mental isolation and degenerating social structure on a dark cold and depressing colony vessel; exactly what you would expect when civilians, not at all trained for the rigors of life in space, are forced on a journey to the stars. Sadly, that is not enough to detract from the underlying flaws.
"Typical", " generic" and other associated synonyms have peppered my review and that is sadly this movie's weakest aspect. GODZILLA MONSTER PLANET is free of the limitations of rubber suits and miniatures, able to envision a larger than life hard sci fi setting and explore Godzilla through a medium of limitless possibilities. It is disappointing that the overall product turn out so bland. Not bad, but just bland. As if it could be any other run of the mill science fiction anime and it would not make a difference.
Justice League (2017)
What should have been like an epic season finale ends up as a mid season filler
It is no simple task for a movie to introduce 3 new characters, present a narrative of these characters coming together, build camaraderie, flesh out the stakes, the threat, follow up on existing plot threads from past movies and give closure to the development arc of Superman all within a mere 2 hours (including opening and end credits). JUSTICE LEAGUE is brief to the point of absurdity and most of its problems result from the post production process of editing and incorporating reshoots all in a bid to cater to the lowest common denominator.
Following the death of Superman, criminals have become emboldened, plunging the world into a state of terror. In London, Wonder Woman stops an extremist bomb Attack while back on Gotham City, Batman is investigating the appearance of flying alien creatures that seem attracted to intense feelings of fear. A close encounter with one of the creatures convinces Batman that the alien invasion he so feared was imminent and he proceeds to recruit the super powered individuals whom he discovered in the previous movie BATMAN V SUPERMAN. Meanwhile, the alien warlord known as Steppenwolf makes planetfall intent on stealing 3 ancient artifacts known as the Motherboxes in order to unite them and summon forth a power that will destroy the earth.
The first act is a hasty haphazardly edited sequence jumping around the world and from character to character. There is hardly a sense of chronology or flow to the scenes! Perhaps if the movie was edited to focus on one character at a time culminating in the arrival of Steppenwolf at Paradise Island it would have flowed better. Instead it feels like scenes just end prematurely to cut to a wholly unrelated scene only to cut back minutes later. Arguably the flow improves once the team gets together for their first mission to investigate mysterious abductions in Gotham.
Problems of its truncated narrative aside, JUSTICE LEAGUE does a good job of establishing its characters and building the camaraderie. The chemistry between teammates is impeccable. Their unique personalities play off each other beautifully and there are tender emotional moments interspersed throughout the script. My only beef with the script is all the random moments of humour. It just does not mix well. This is an end of the world scenario and you have awkward slapstick, flat jokes and even traditionally serious characters like Batman trying to be funny. With its laughable dialogue peppering even serious battle scenes, the stakes are trivialised and it becomes difficult to take their story seriously.
The hodgepodge Of 2 very differing styles courtesy 2 very different directors is evident from the get go with character even changing appearances between scenes clearly giving away evidence the insertion of reshoots. Even the overall look of the move was given an overhaul. Gone is the evocative colour filters of past movies replaced with a garish palette. Also in removing the filters, the CGI elements stand out more due to the lighting mismatch with the non-CGI elements.
This is a huge pity as much of the action depends on visual effects. Even the villain Steppenwolf is a full CGI character. Thankfully he is a compelling threat. His limited screen time gives him an air of mystery like one of those traditional slasher movie villains and his twisted personality really comes through. The action is also masterfully shot for the most part utilising dynamic camera angles and slow motion to give the perfect resemblance to comic book panels brought to life. Only the final battle comes across as disappointing and generic (and very obviously a reshoot).
It pains me to have to counter every positive with a negative but there is something I have always enjoyed and it is when movies go beyond being mere stimulators of adrenaline and endorphins, and instead address and explore deeper themes in the narrative. Movies that get you thinking. Justice League was none of this and it is sad because there was a lot of potential to explore. We are hinted at the more metaphorical aspect of a movie as a tale of reviving hope in the most hopeless of situations. We are hinted at moral conflicts and the ethics of Batman's sudden proposal to revive Superman with an alien device. We are hinted at a much deeper narrative surrounding the individuals and their emotional baggage. Hinted hinted hinted but never explored or even addressed outright. Themes that were explored in past movies, the deconstruction/reconstruction of a savior archetype, the impact of super powered beings on international politics, the world's reaction to such beings, and much more all abandoned.
The result is a truncated summary of an epic that could have been. Sacrificing thematic depth for levity robs the movie of any uniqueness it may have had in this day and age saturated with superficial superhero shows. It's inconsistency is it's greatest weak spot and seems to indicate that the studio had little interest in telling a compelling tale. The amazing action, the bombastic battles which showcase the extent of each characters' skills, and the near perfect portrayal of each character show that this movie was meant merely as a primer: a means to instill an audience with a greater interest in its characters so as to get them on board for the many inevitable spinoffs. It may make you see superheroes as cool again in a most perfunctory way, but little else beyond that.
Shin Gojira (2016)
Giant Monster and Biting Political Satire
Japan is back in the game with their very own new Godzilla movie SHIN GOJIRA. Where Hollywood revived Godzilla as a tribute to his more heroic role in the late-showa era "versus" movies and the Heisei era, Toho Japan has gone back to the roots of the 1954 original Gojira and crafted a modern thriller about the horrors of mankind's misdeeds, the inaction of a government embroiled in bureaucracy and the impotence of a military in the face of this fiercer, meaner, force of nature Godzilla. .
SHIN GODZILLA is likely the first Godzilla movie to focus squarely on the political scene within the government when a giant monster attacks. Past movies have always involved Scientists, soldiers, or civilians focusing on the chaos on the ground. This movies looks into the chaos at the top as we follow young civil servant Yaguchi, deputy chief cabinet secretary (the first in a long list of designations to come).
A regular day in the government is interrupted by the collapse of the Tokyo bay aqua line tunnel and mysterious attacks off the coast of Japan. While the aged officials hold fruitless meeting after meeting in an obvious parody of real life bureaucratic process, Yaguchi theorists that the disasters are caused by a living creature.
No sooner is his theory shot down than an enormous tail rises out of the water. As the government scrambles but always falling a step behind the escalating disaster, Yaguchi forms a task force of unorthodox civilian experts to figure out how to stop this creature.
As the government's tried and tested efforts become increasingly futile, USA sends a special envoy Kayako Ann Patterson with the promise of military aid and insider knowledge to this mysterious creature dubbed "Godzilla".
The creature is growing, mutating, and taking on increasingly dangerous characteristics. Yaguchi's team is forced to think outside the box for a new way to halt its rampage before the UN deploys nuclear weapons on Japanese soil.
Contrary to the trailers, this is not the dark depressing disaster movie that was promised. Instead we are treated to one of the smartest and most biting social and political satires in modern cinema. Right in the crosshairs is the inefficient bureaucratic processes of the government and their obsession with trivial minutia which results in a complete mishandling of the crisis posed by the constantly evolving Godzilla.
The satire comes in the fact that the film does not overly dramatize anything; what you see is as close to reality as one can get in an old fashion parliamentary government like Japan's. Each ministry out for itself, passing the buck wherever possible, defending only their own interests. Standard procedures take precedence over unconventional methods.
Scenes of the prime minister making an announcement of Godzilla not being able to come ashore, intercut with the revelation that not only has the creature made landfall but has started trashing the town, hearkened back to the perceived mishandling of past real life disasters in Japan.
Yet the message underlying this movie is not a strict criticism of the government but an affirming call to action aimed at a new generation of leaders to unite a nation. Where the traditional methods fail, innovation and initiative will be the true weapons of the future. Yaguchi and his team represent this perfectly; outcasts from their respective fields because of their unconventional ideas.
Their tenacity in the face of hopeless defeat soon inspires fellow citizens from all walks of life, engineers, mechanics, construction workers and other blue collar roles typically overlooked by a status obsessed people, to come together and stand against a God incarnate.
The titular monster is unlike any incarnation ever seen. It's keloid looking skin, seemingly torn in places, gives the impression of pure suffering. Yet his inhuman all staring eyes betray a being devoid of soul. It is as it was back in 1954; a soulless unstoppable force birthed from mankind's sins. The military is powerless, though not for a lack of trying.
Where previous Godzilla movies have shown the military in a less than flattering light (cowardly, incompetent, or unable to hit such a massive creature), SHIN GODZILLA shows a military force truly giving their all, only hampered by slow indecision from the top.
The special effects used to bring this colossus to life is arguably good. No where near Hollywood blockbusters but amazing once you consider the comparatively tiny budget Toho had to work with. The naturalistic direction an camera-work courtesy of Evangelion creator Hideki Anno and his crew give the movie an almost "documentary" type feel.
It is devoid of filters, using very natural looking lighting wherever possible, which enhances the realism of the events taking place. Though the cuts can be a bit distracting at times, alternating between rapid fire jump cuts to scenes that look as if Anno left his camera running and forgot about it. Equally distracting is some of CGI compositing on Godzilla and some of his movements which end up more jerky than a puppet's. These are just minor faults though and only an issue to the more OCD of viewers.
Perhaps the only thing it does lack is the element of human drama. It is unafraid to show the horrible consequences of a monster's rampage through a macro view of a country's key decision makers but in doing so it does not leave opportunity to get the audience invested in any particular character.
More than just a monster movie, SHIN GODZILLA is a smart political thriller that satirizes an inflexible system. Those expecting a brainless action blockbuster will no doubt be disappointed. But as long as one is willing to turn in the brain and appreciate this movie for the deeper more complex themes it tries to tackle, you will find a refreshingly novel giant monster movie which the industry definitely needs.
Wonder Woman (2017)
Continuing DCEU's more serious and philosophical examination of superheroes
The origin story of the quintessential female superhero is finally realised on the big screen. Only the fourth entry into the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), WONDER WOMAN is an feature length flashback detailing the events behind the mysterious photo from the First World War that was shown in 2016's BATMAN V SUPERMAN.
Before she became a hero, Diana of the Amazons had only known a paradise of sisters forged in the ideals of cooperation and a Mission to defend the world against Ares, the last of the old Greek gods. Her perfect world is shattered when war comes to Paradise Island in the form of the American spy Steve Trevor and a ship full of German enemy pursuers. Diana in her innocent idealism believes Ares to be responsible for the war and leaves the island with Trevor in the hope that killing Ares will spare innocent lives from the horrors of war.
Giving life to the character of Diana is actress Gal Gadot. Gal is a dead ringer for the iconic superhero, looking exactly like she stepped out of the comic books. The earnestness she brings to the role perfectly conveys Diana's innocence and idealistic outlook. Much time is spent focused on the characters such that even side characters receive decent characterisation and development.
Diana shares a magnificent chemistry with co-star Chris Pine playing the world weary captain Steve Trevor. Their romantic sub plot can be compared to classic romances like Casablanca, masterfully and tastefully realised on screen. But the more intriguing aspect is when the movie goes into their minds, showing their contrasting perspectives on life.
Diana approaches her Mission like a child approaching a fairy tale story. Clear black and white morality, destroy the bad guy and the world is saved. That simple. Unfortunately, it is not that simple and her entire story is one of growing up and seeing the truth about humanity's ugly nature. On the flip side, Trevor straddles the line of cynicism; he knows full well the worst that humanity is capable of yet cannot bring himself to break Diana's innocent worldview.
What begins as a relatively run of the mill superhero origin story morphs into a surprisingly deep narrative that seeks to shatter viewer expectations. True to the DCEU, WONDER WOMAN, like its predecessors, explores some heady themes against the backdrop of war. Key of which is weighing Diana's idealism against worldly cynicism and outright nihilism.
The movie explores those perspectives through its characters, never preaching one over the other and coming to a mature conclusion that ties into an ongoing theme of "hero by choice, not by obligation" that the DCEU movies had been conveying.
The movie never shies away from showing the true horrors of combat, broken families, broken people, a hero helpless against the odds, a truly dark time serving as a stark contrast to the amazon's paradise island. Into this darkness comes Diana herself who is given ample opportunity to flex her powers in a spectacular show of Super heroics. Patty Jenkins approaches the action like a pro, keeping to the more fantastic, speed ramped portrayal of superhero fighting as established by Zack Snyder, while adding her own touches such as the amazons' uniquely cooperative battle tactics (which gets a wonderful payoff later in the movie). Her masterful direction extends to the balanced tone of the movie. Many comic book movies prefer to stuff their narrative with humour, even in the middle of intense battle scenes, such that the movie fails to take itself seriously. WONDER WOMAN does not fall into that trap.
The battles are approached with respectful gravitas, and a genuine sense of peril. Bookending such sequences are character centred scenes in a peaceful setting which help to develop their relationships in a very natural and heartfelt way. There is humour and it is used sparingly, never detracting from the underlying themes or the seriousness of the setting.
This balance gives us a product that can easily appeal to everyone. Diana as a character is one that anyone who had ever been a child can relate to. The epic action, consistently focused on the characters and set to an emotionally rousing score by Rupert Gregson Williams (Legend of Tarzan), will please the typical blockbuster fan.
For those who love the deeper more thematically complex cinematic offerings, you will not be disappointed by the themes explored in this move. And as a refreshing surprise, WONDER WOMAN features what I can unabashedly say is the most genuine and well written romance in a comic book movie, ever.
Wonder Woman (2009)
Before Gal Gadot, there was this wonderful little animated movie
Wonder Woman makes her live action solo movie debut in 2017, but that is not her first feature length film. In 2009, the animated Wonder Woman movie was produced by Warner Premiere as part of its then-new direct to video series of movies. Overshadowed by higher profile releases like Batman Gotham Knights (no doubt bolstered by the success of Christopher Nolan's dark knight trilogy), the 2009 Wonder Woman animated movie failed to perform as well in terms of sales. Surprising when you consider that on its own, WONDER WOMAN is a well made, thought provoking, energetic little movie that deserved much more recognition than it got.
Our story opens in ancient times where the amazon women wage a bloody war which ended with he imprisonment of Ares, but at the cost of many lives. As a reward, the Greek gods grant the amazon queen Hippolyta a child fashioned from clay: Diana. The amazons flourish in isolation on paradise island where Diana grows up into a fine young warrior. But a part of her seeks greater adventure outside the boundaries of the island. Her chance comes when pilot Steve Trevor survives a frantic mid air battle and crashes on the island.
As the amazons hold a contest to determine the one most worthy to escort Trevor back to America, Ares escapes with the help of a traitor just as Diana wins the contest. Tasked with tracking down Ares, Trevor opts to help Diana as the enter man's world in search of the missing god of war. But Ares has a far more sinister plan in the work, one that could spell the doom of the world and the extinction of the amazons.
Right from the get go, the first thing that struck me was the dialogue in the movie. Written by comic scribe Gail Simone, the dialogue is witty, clever and mature. Take the visuals out of the equation and it feels like watching a well written live action movie or prime time TV show.
Our characters are brought to life by a perfect cast; Alfred Molina is truly menacing as Ares, Rosario Dawson as the regal queen, and Keri Russell imbuing a nuanced inner strength to Diana.
However the true standout performance is Firefly's Nathan Fillon as daring scoundrel pilot Steve Trevor. Steve is part Han Solo, part Maverick Mitchell from Top Gun and Fillon slips into it perfectly. He completely owns the roll, delivering his dialogue in the most natural way possible, sharing a magnificent chemistry with Russell.
The story is deeper than your average cartoon. Aside from being an origin story for Wonder Woman, showing her growth from reluctant and slightly defiant girl to a champion of the oppressed, the narrative weaves in many underlying themes relevant to our times.
Themes of sexism, gender bias, racial privilege and the differing expectations on man and woman are all interwoven into the narrative and brought to the forefront. It is refreshing to find a movie that is this smart in its handling of such themes; indeed a rarity in American animated works.
Unfortunately, the movie is not without its flaws and WONDER WOMAN's flaws are in the visuals. The animation was done by Moi Animation, a Korean studio who worked on many critically acclaimed works such as Legend of Korra and Young Justice. WONDER WOMAN was their first feature length work, having only done animation in the past for TV shows like TEEN TITANS and BOONDOCKS. The animation is OK. Nothing horrible but nothing as stunning as their later works. The often uninspired way the fight scenes are done does not help matters. Fights either involve one too many cuts or just do not feel as dynamic as other later DC animated movies.
The art work is also up to personal taste. Director Lauren Montgomery brings a look that mixes 90s Disney cartoon aesthetic with the more simplistic designs of the Bruce Timm cartoons, but the mix tends to look a bit lazy at times.
I personally did not like it as all the women looked the same, with big emphasised lips and angular hips, only differentiated by different hair styles. The few attempts at using CGI for vehicles just came off looking cheap and unprofessional.
On the bright side, composer Christopher Drake bring an epic score to the movie, giving otherwise mediocre fight scenes a sense of intensity and danger.
At 75 minutes, some would call the movie short, but i call it succinct. A lot happens in that time, going from paradise island, to America, to the depths of the underworld, and then to a climatic showdown in Washington DC. This brisk pace may leave it up to the viewer to connect some of the sub plots but the main story of Diana's more innocent nature contrasting with the ways of the modern world works to develop her character from sheltered princess into a true warrior and hero. This movie in a word is terrific, let down only by its technical shortcomings. If you can forgive that, that you would be in for a truly wonderful experience.
Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)
Easily the most true to the source material among all the movies
The first RESIDENT EVIL movie was a scary fun romp. It's key downside was having nothing to do with the original video games outside of a few characters designs and settings. RESIDENT EVIL APOCALYPSE is the sequel and tries to right the ship by introducing us to some of the characters from the actual video games. Video game characters Jill Valentine, Carlos Olivero and A few others are finally adapted into live action and the results are amazing. The movie finally feels like an actual adaptation, taking the setting of RE2 and 3, as well as many plot points and faithful recreations of key scenes.
The movie starts when the Umbrella corporation opens the underground facility known as the Hive in which the T-Virus outbreak occurs. The virus spreads to nearby Raccoon City (which looks a lot like Toronto Canada) turning the dead into zombies and showing us the chilling societal degeneration into chaos. Amidst this chaos, Umbrella head scientist Doctor Charles Ashford loses his Daughter Angela during a frantic evacuation. As local armed forces attempt to stem the tide of undead, Umbrella corp releases a newly weaponised Alice, having been granted superhuman abilities. In a desperate bid to reunite with his Daughter, dr Ashford manipulates Jill, Carlos and Alice together to rescue his Angela. But a new bioweapon is loose in the city. The hulking, chaingun toting Nemesis.
Alexander Witt in his debut role as director eschews Paul WS Anderson's claustrophobic filming style of the previous movie and instead ops to mimic the "camera" placement of the video games. Gone too are the scares of the first movie replaced by a straight forward action movie plot. The cinematography is crisp and clear, showing the action in full. But that also means it shows some poorly crafted special effects in full.
The infamous cgi Lickers are back, though now half enshrouded in darkness so they do not look as bad as before. On the other end of the spectrum is the Nemesis bioweapon, a hulking behemoth with a mini gun that looks exactly like a big guy in a suit and rubber mask. His platform heels, obviously meant to make the actor look taller, are laughable and makes this lumbering leather bound lunk move stiffly. He looks exactly like he does in the game though, which I guess is another plus, and he is meant to hunt down our main characters. Not that he exudes much air of menace or as if it the audience would care about the main characters.
Protagonist Alice (Milla Jovovich) has developed a hint of personality here which can be summarised as "badass lady". That is it. Still as shallow as a pan with an abrasive snarky attitude, Alice is near invincible with her superhuman agility, strength and cunning, taking the spotlight away from others in what is blatantly becoming Paul Ws Anderson's fan fiction. Which is a pity as Carlos Olivero and Jill Valentine make for much more appealing protagonists. Sienna Guilroy looks exactly like her game counterpart from the outfit to the way she walks and holds a gun. An intriguing backstory is hinted at but never developed on, instead cutting back to Alice since she is the main character.
While I do give points to RESIDENT EVIL APOCALYPSE for being an action packed zombie blockbuster with a plot hearkening back to the shallow 80s macho action movies, its underdeveloped but wholly more appealing side characters and insistence on a bland protagonist does hurt the enjoyment. It is a mash up of my 2 Favourite genre of films and more faithful to the games yet it is plagued by Low Budget special effects and horrible antagonists.
A cartoon right out of the comics
Nostalgia. It is a disease that infects our senses to perceive products through rose coloured glasses just because of some fleeting connection to good memories of our younger days. In reviewing the much loved X-MEN THE ANIMATED SERIES it is only right that nostalgia is removed from the equation and we can review those show as objectively as possible to the standards of that era. The end result is really a mixed bag with its ups and downs when it comes to technical quality, writing, artwork and voice acting. It is not a bad show but not the epitome of perfection that many may choose to believe.
An roaring action packed opening sequence, beautifully detailed art and amazing animation, kicks off each episode to the electronic fanfare of the now iconic X-men theme. As we segue into the episodes proper the drop in quality is very noticeable. There has always been a trade off between the level of art detail and the smoothness of the animation motions. Here, they tried to mimic the detailed art of the era's comics. The designs are straight out of the 1990s comics particularly those drawn by artist Jim Lee, maintaining lots of shadows and contrast with lighting effects, clothing folds and skin creases painstakingly drawn frame by frame. The level of detail is almost on par with direct to video Japanese Anime of that era, no simple feat coming from Korean studies AKOM. Unfortunately the quality of the animation leaves much to be desired. There is a stilted look to many scenes particularly in the more crowded action sequences. Backgrounds seem unfinished at times and the occasion animation error can be quite jarring. Close up shot fare better only because there is less to animate and the detailed art more than makes up for the mediocre animation.
The stories are very close adaptations of tales straight out of the comic books, particularly the best works by Chris Claremont and Fabian Niceza. Overarching story lines spanning multiple episodes give each season a grander more epic feel. Stand outs include the Phoenix Saga, the Cable and Apocalypse conflict, and of course Magneto's Insurgency. There is a good mixed of "event" episodes and more intimate character Centred ones where there is less emphasis on action, more on drama and development.
Initially both scripts and actors fell into the trappings of typical Saturday morning cartoon fluff: overacting, juvenile dialogue. Come season two and the script took on a more mature tone (again a result of adapting lines directly from the comics). Characters die and relationships get broken then healed as the episodes tackle themes of discrimination, extremism, illegal experimentation, and even some existential philosophy. The status quo continually changes unlike many other cartoons which always revert to status quo by the end of the episode.
Slowly but surely the voice actors eased into their roles and by season 3 they were emoting like experts; subtle, nuanced, perfect. Many of the voices like Iona Morris' extra dramatic Storm, Norm Spencer's heroic leader Cyclops and Cathal Dodd's scowling Wolverine have gone down in history as being THE iconic voices of the characters that comic readers hear in their heads whenever they flip through their Favourite books.
It is easy to see why the series garnered such a wide appeal, pleasing both casual viewers and Long time comic readers alike. It's faithfulness to the source material and visual aesthetics of the comics are tampered with necessary tweaks to make the continuity less convoluted. Having read the comic, I dare say that some of the changes are actually an improvement over the original stories. The cartoon's biggest asset is its willingness to show the more mature subject matter of the comics without dumbing stuff down for kids. The artwork is beautiful in all its rich detail, a cut above other cartoons of that era but sadly let down by sub par animation. Though it takes it's time to find good footing, X-MEN THE ANIMATED SERIES is right up there among the best of 1990s cartoons. Not perfect, and definitely not aged well when compared to shows of today, but excellent nonetheless.
Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)
More Mad Max with Zombies than Resident Evil
The word "extinction" points to an end, the dying out of a species, the final full stop after a long story, usually coming after a series of disasters that drive home the finality of the situation. And what better way to do that to a movie franchise based on a video game than to totally disregard anything to do with the source material in favour of a clichéd mish mash of other well loved movies. We are in familiar post apocalyptic territory as the events of the previous RESIDENT EVIL APOCALYPSE has led to a global T-Virus outbreak which is implied to have caused lakes and rivers to dry out and the land itself to die, turning the whole continent into a barren desert. Las Vegas is covered to its buildings' rooftops in sand, zombies roam the land, cannibal gangs lie in wait for unsuspecting victims, survivors form convoys to stay alive and on the movie. Good golly, it's MAD MAX all over again and every other post apocalyptic movie ever.
Some time has passed since the end of RESIDENT EVIL APOCALYPSE and the virus has spread, slowly killing the world and mutating its population. Alice, now cursed with psychic powers, wanders the desert of central USA searching for survivors. A convenient twist of fate puts her back together with former allies Carlos Olivera and L.J, along with new companion Claire Radfield and her convoy of survivors heading toward the ruins of Las Vegas. Meanwhile, the Umbrella Corporation is desperate to replicate the special powers that manifested in Alice, creating clones and putting them through conditions that replicated the events of the first RESIDENT EVIL movie. Another series of convenient twists put Alicia back on Umbrella's radar and head scientist Dr Issacs will stop at nothing to recapture his lost Super weapon.
Ties to the video game are nearly non-existent here as we are throw into a rather generic post apocalyptic wasteland type of tale. The cast does their best with the material they were given but they never go beyond generic archetypes. It is hard to distinctly describe each character only because they are so bland. Newcomer Ali Carter barely resembles Claire Radfield from the video games. This is a major disappointment after how Sienna Miller perfectly portrayed the video games' Jill Valentine in live action. Which brings me to my other pet peeve: where's Jill? Where's the little girl from the previous movie? All this is never explained. Instead we are treated to a half hearted attempt at a character arc with Alice feeling more disconnected with her human feelings thanks to her growing powers. Some form of digital correction seems to have been applied to Milla Jovovich's face, giving this slightly off focus effect. Maybe it was meant to make her seem less human but it just serves to emphasise her lack of emotional range, keeping her stern stare and neutral expression looking even more artificial than usual.
What makes up for all these short comings is the amazing production design and the action sequences. The costumes, vehicles and facilities are uniquely crafted and just screams "badass". And this movie sports some of the best looking action sequences courtesy of director Russel Mulcahy (of Highlander fame). His wide crane shots and sweeping cinematography make the otherwise generic fight scenes look a lot better than they should.
With connection to the games all but severed, we could call this movie "Alice in Zombie Land" or "Fight of the Limping Dead" instead of "Resident evil". It is the best looking entry in the series with the best fight choreography and camera-work but Character development and motivations take a back seat to sweeping action pieces and one too many convenient twists.
Resident Evil (2002)
Who the heck is Alice?
Resident evil 2002 review
Hello. This is the resident evil movie franchise. And this is its story. The start of its story. It was conceptualised as an adaptation of the "Biohazard" horror genre video game, renamed "Resident Evil" for the global market. Paul Ws Anderson, director of the successful Mortal Kombat movie, was chosen to spearhead the project. But something seemed wrong. The characters were different from the game. Changed. Unrecognisable. It seemed as if he read the synopsis at the back of the video game box then tossed it out in favour of his own script. A script. Consisting of dialogue as silted as the first paragraph of this review.
Considering that the games were never well liked for their characters' flowery discourse or Shakespearean soliloquy, the creators of the movie cut and pasted elements from other movies in Paul Ws Anderson's DVD collection then give it some cosmetic do-over to resemble the video games. Special force team sent to deal with an unknown threat in a cavernous facility? Aliens (which Anderson is unabashedly a fan of). The facility is "alive" and trying to kill you? Event horizon (also directed by Anderson). Actress Milla Jovovich in a skimpy red dress, combat boots, scenes teasing near nudity and doing all sorts of nimble kung fu to show off her lithe hot body? Straight out of Anderson's wet dreams. Jovovich plays Alice. Who the heck is Alice? We do not know as she's got amnesia. But clues to who she is are sprinkled throughout the film and it is fun to piece it all together by the end. What can I say? Other than that, Alice is a blank slate audience surrogate. The ultimate escapism protagonist titilating the men and allowing women to feel empowered by how she maintains her stunning beauty while fending off shameless groping perv.....I mean, shambling groups of zombies which only appear more than halfway through the movie.
For much of the first half we are treated to a whole sequence of a special forces team breaking into a dark scary mansion to find Alice and another guy named Matt. The mansion is a cover for a hidden entrance to The Hive, a massive underground facility that had been had been mysteriously sealed. The artificial intelligence Programme dubbed "red queen" had killed all personnel in the hive and it was up to this special team to find out why. This is essentially a modernised haunted house story with the "house" being the hive and the red queen springing traps to kill the intruders. Though lacking in actual zombies, the film maintains a brisk pace and an increasing sense of dread as we descend further. The appearance of another amnesia named Spence compounds the mystery when they learn the lockdown was initiated by a virus outbreak and the red queen was merely acting to contain the virus.
When the action kicks in, it is fantastic. Sure the characters do some silly things that fly in the face of common sense but the fight scenes are well shot with tight angles and claustrophobic feel which heighten the sense of panic when facing the zombie hordes with no escape.
The mystery story is well plotted and shot but the experience is dampened by some of the corniest special effects even for a movie of its age. Near the end, they have a run in with a Super powered Monster rendered in the worst cgi ever. Why they decided to use rudimentary computer graphics instead of practical effects, puppetry and make up astounds me. The creature never blends with the rest of the footage and the disappointment is that it could easily have been done with a stuntman in a suit or animatronics.
With an eventual resolution leaving more questions than answers, RESIDENT EVIL is undoubtedly a fun guilty pleasure. It does not follow the story but retains the tone of the games. A shallow superficial plot is at least held up by consistent tension and decent pulse pounding action. Once you can forgive all the familiar elements borrowed from other movies, RESIDENT EVIL proves itself to be a decent start to a Long running science fiction horror franchise.
Kong: The Animated Series (2000)
Fit for a kid, not for a king
KONG THE ANIMATED SERIES is what you get when you take an iconic giant movie Monster and turn him into a Saturday morning cartoon to cater to the pokemon generation. Created in 2000 as a competitor to the then successful GODZILLA THE ANIMATED SERIES, KONG purportedly takes place Long after a loose retelling of the original movie. Unlike its reptilian kaiju counterpart which still maintains a plausible continuity within the world of the movie, KONG goes right off the wacky end with kooky technology, ancient artifacts, demons, cloning, and more feeling less like a King Kong show and more like a mash up of DIGIMON and 90s era Saturday morning cartoons.
In this series, King Kong dies but a scientist Dr Lorna Jenkins clones Kong using DNA of King Kong and her grandson Jason. Many years later, Jason gets invited to his grandmother's secret lab on "Kong island" (because "Skull Island" may be too frightening for little kids) along with his Friend Eric Tannenbaum and university professor Ramone De La Porta. Dr Jenkins has apparently been researching magical primal stones and created the cyberlink technology which allows users to merge with creatures turning giving them a power boost and turning them into humanoid giant Mutants. Lo and behold De La Porta turns out to be a bad guy and his cronies steal the primal stones and some cyberlink headsets. This causes some demon to slowly awaken. The race is now on to retrieve the stones from De La Porta before the demon Chrios awakens.
The digimon influence is readily apparent in the character of Kong himself. He is an animal Friend/Guardian who can power up to a stronger form in times of need. He and Jason share a loyal sibling type relationship with a few charming moments. With the , You have a scantily clad shaman girl Lua that serves as romantic foil to the protagonist, the comic relief sidekick Tennenbaum, the mentor type in dr Jenkins, all of these staples of old Saturday morning cartoons. Yes they are just as bland as those old cartoons but special thanks goes to the voice actors who lend much needed energy to otherwise insipid scripts.
Fans of anime would be able to recognise voice acting veterans like Kirby Morrow, Saffron Henderson and many others infusing their characters with distinct personalities while sharing good chemistry with each other. David Kaye and Scott McNeil are the stand out performances here with Kaye portraying De La Porta as a smooth cunning criminal with a fancy foreign accent (which tends to slip now and then between Spanish and French accent) and McNeil doing a range of voices from the comedic Tennenbaum, to one of De La Porta's African henchmen, to Kong himself.
The futuristic tech and unexplained magic, also staples of such cartoons, are effective hand waves for the inconsistent sizes of the giant monsters; one moment Kong can fit in a warehouse and the next he's towering over the same warehouse. Or we could just chalk that up to lousy animation courtesy of the Philippine Animation Studio inc. The studio's claim to fame were the horrible last season of the 90s X-men cartoon and some of the worst animated episodes of Animaniacs. In this series, the animation is serviceable. There are moments of Super smooth movements that stand out among the sometimes choppy and other times overdone character motions. For some reason, characters tend to gesture a lot when they talk in this cartoon and sometimes it turns out corny like something out of a stage play. As mentioned, such gesturing alternates between awkward and excessively expressive. The gaudy neon bright Colours and simplistic art work really do not help matters, which is a real shame especially when it comes to the giant Monster fights.
While the plots for the episodes are varied enough not to fall into a set formula, the overall story does meander a lot often losing track of the core story of retrieving the primal stones to stop the demon from awakening. The scripts are simplistic and borderline juvenile at times, betraying the magnificent performances of the voice cast. It's mediocrity from both a technical and artistic standpoint, along with its cliché ridden premise, only does a disservice to the legacy of King Kong as a timeless character.