Sunday, October 19, 2014

Ever After: A Cinderella Story (1998) - Review

Ever After is a retelling of Cinderella.

That's it!  Review over!  See you next time, folks!

But seriously, what more is there to say about this?  I mean... it's a perfectly fine movie; it's got some charm, Drew Barrymore is adorable, etc.  But really... there's almost no point in doing a review of this, because there's literally nothing I can add to it.  It speaks for itself.  It's a Cinderella movie; there ya go.

I guess I can provide a bit of background.  I've never been a big fan of Cinderella.  I'd even go as far to say that it's one of my least favorite "classic" Disney movies, in a sea of films that I don't really like in the first place.  Snow White, Pinocchio, Cinderella... I don't share much of a fondness for any of these.  Sure, they're classics, I suppose, but I didn't enjoy these very much as a kid and I don't really enjoy them now.

Stories like that have been so ingrained in the public consciousness that I can't really enjoy them anymore, especially since I have precious little nostalgia attached to them.  I actually think Pinocchio in particular is rather terrifying, especially as a kid.  But I digress.

There's nothing wrong with this movie at all.  In fact, it's probably the best adaptation of Cinderella.  But at the end of the day, it's still an adaptation of Cinderella.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Sword Art Online (2013) - First Impressions

LLCoolK in action

Despite how much I have professed my love for Neon Genesis Evangelion, I have still been quite reticent to do a full-dive into the world of anime.  Oh sure, I've watched a few episodes of the silly shows on Netflix like Rosario + Vampire and Fairy Tale (for clarification, both were funny and entertaining), but something has always been holding me back from getting completely into anime.

Maybe it's because I don't particularly like reading subtitles, so all anime I watch will be English-dubbed.  And RIGHT there, I just lost pretty much everyone.  Or maybe it's the fact that a lot of anime fans are, quite frankly, weird as hell and I don't want to be lumped into that fringe group?  And right there I just lost everyone else, heh.
The best and only anime romance I've seen all year

But no, I'm sure the reason I haven't given anime a fair shake is probably because I would really like a lot of it and I simply don't have the time for dozens upon dozens of new shows right now.  Enter Sword Art Online.  I don't know why I started it, to be honest.  The reviews I saw were middling at best, I don't like MMOs, and I'm not known to watch random anime on a whim.  But I slogged through the first episode anyway, unimpressed.  At the end, I made an important decision to carry on, and before I knew it, I was 19 episodes closer to the end and had eight hours less to call my own.

The plot of SAO is unique, albeit not THAT unique.  It's just interesting enough to keep you watching.  For those of you that don't know, it's about a boy named Kirito who is stuck in a virtual reality MMO by its madman creator, and if you die in the game, you die for real!  Que Frankie Munez movie, Stay Alive.  Throughout the series, however, I really became attached to Kirito, his love interest Asuna, and their beautifully blossoming relationship.  It's surprisingly heartfelt and real, despite the anime contrivances and sitcom-like situations they sometimes wind up in.

The voicework is excellent, and the translation, while suffering from a few silly moments (sometimes the script reads like an ad for MMOs: "And THAT is what makes MMOs so fun to play!"), for the most part is stellar.  The animation is standard, but effective, the music is repetitive, yet rousing, and the storyline drastically shifts around 15 episodes in to provide a fresh change of pace.  This kept me from getting bored and was actually a big proponent of keeping me glued to the TV for eight literal hours.

To say that Sword Art Online is perfect would be dishonest.  It's not.  Not even close.  But what it has done is give me all kinds of warm fuzzies in my dank, cold, heart-region, and any show that can do that is A-OK in my book.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Howl's Moving Castle (2004) - Review

Howl's Moving Castle is an animated film directed by the acclaimed Hayao Miyazaki, based off of a novel of the same name.  Not being an expert of anime (my knowledge pretty much extends to Evangelion and Evangelion alone), I'm not sure how this fits into his filmography.  From what I've read, this isn't one of his better films.  I can't speak for this, as the only other Miyazaki film I've seen at the time of writing this is Spirited Away (also a great movie).  But what I can speak for is that both Spirited and this film are some of the most beautifully nuanced and expressive animated works that I've ever seen.

Oh Turniphead.  How I love thee!
Make no mistake; this is a weird movie.  Don't let the marketing directed at children fool you.  This is one of those movies that would have scared me all the way to death had I seen it as a kid.  The same goes for Spirited Away.  While both films have a light and fun feel to them, there's an undercurrent of darkness in some of the character designs that's hard to shake.  The expressiveness of the film allows for fully realized characters, be they good or bad; basically, what I'm getting at is that some of the designs are creepy as hell.  But on the other side of the coin, the endearing characters are made even moreso due to the subtle use of expression throughout the film.  Take Turniphead for instance.

Turniphead is ostensibly just a scarecrow with no lines of dialogue.  But because of the way Miyazaki directs the film with deliberate breathing room for the characters to grow and express themselves, he becomes one of the most likable characters from just a few little moments of je ne sais quoi.

The story isn't the movie's strongsuit.  It's a bit confusing, quite frankly, and the spectacle of the film along with the strength of the characters completely overtakes it.  That's okay though, because the story isn't really what Miyazaki is all about.  He's all about evoking emotion, be it dramatically (which this movie does quite well) or subtly (which it does even better).  He has such mastery over his vision, there really is no other way this movie could have played out.  Despite a minor problem with the rushed nature of the ending, I feel like this is one of the best animated works I've seen yet.  And it's definitely a sign that I need to get into more of Miyazaki's works, because if this isn't one of the better ones, then I'm in for some truly fantastic stuff.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Possession (2012) - Review

You have something on your face.

Possession movies are kind of done.  I mean, after The Exorcist... where can you possibly go?  I guess my question has already been answered: The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Last Exorcism, Paranormal Activity, The Conjuring, etc.  With a few exceptions (The Conjuring being a major one), most possession films feel very samey and played out.  Is The Possession (nice title, guys) one of those exceptions?

Not quite.  Almost.

Right away, the movie hits you hard with a cold open, and you can tell that it's something kind of different.  The spirit (dibbuk, in this film, from Jewish lore) is a tad more interesting than your traditional poltergeist-esque baddie.  The creature design (which they wisely saved until the end) is incredibly well-done and creepy; luckily the film saves all of its complete craziness for the very end, and the movie is all the better for it.
Creepy little girl?  Check check check.

The story is simple.  Single dad, creepy girl, cursed object, yadda yadda yadda.  You've heard it all a million times.  But the impressive aspect of this movie is its subtlety.  For the majority of the movie, everything is played with menace and suspense, but the film never quite blows up until the end.  This makes the end of the film a lot scarier because the film previously relied on tension rather than jump scare after jump scare after jump scare.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan -- John Winchester himself -- does a great job as the dad, and the kids are more than capable as well.  However, the film isn't scary per se, barring one unbelievably unnerving scene at the very end, but the film is well-made and fairly tense throughout the whole thing.  It's not the next The Exorcist, but you could do a lot worse in the genre, that's for sure.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Pitch Perfect (2012) - Review

You know those movies that seem like they're designed solely to grate on your nerves?  This is one of those movies for me.  Following in the wake of the incredibly successful Glee, Pitch Perfect attempts to songify college in the same way that Glee songifies high school.

Okay, Glee sucks.  There, I said it.  Not a controversial opinion by this point, but it still needs to be said.  So how do you think this fares?  Hint: not too well.  This movie is obnoxious through and through.

Good night, everyone!

Really?  You need more?

Anna Kendrick, you get out of that pile of talentlessness!
Fine... the film follows the always adorable Anna Kendrick and her college life, completely with snarky comments and singalongs from the college a cappella group.  Along the way there's a fairly likable male love interest (not likable enough to look up his name though, apparently) and everyone else ratchets it up to 11 and tries to be as annoying as possible.

The songs are bad pop covers, completely overproduced and devoid of life.  The only plus is Anna Kendrick's "When I'm Gone", an endearing and minimalist pop tune mixed in with all the awful.

The large girl (not looking up her name either; the sooner I forget her, the better) is the worst actress in the world and I hate her.  And I hate this movie.  Go away Pitch Perfect.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) - Review

The X-Men franchise has had a hell of a bunch of ups and downs.  The first two installments hold up pretty well and are still entertaining, if slightly dated.  The third film was never good and certainly isn't now.  After that, the series got weird and started going in a bunch of different directions, with varying results.  X-Men Origins: Wolverine was hilariously bad, X-Men First Class was also pretty lackluster (suffering from a lot of the same goofiness that Origins did), but the followup sequel to Origins, simply titled The Wolverine, was a marked improvement.  So with as many bad movies as good ones, where could the series possibly go?

How about they go ahead and make the best entry in the franchise yet?  X-Men: Days of Future Past not only reconciles both the original timeline with the First Class timeline (which had their fair share of inconsistencies), but does so with elegance.  It fixes the garbage they did with some of the lousier installments, all the while creating a fun and intense film in its own right.

Look at that little scene-stealer on the right
I don't know or care anything about the comic books, so I can't say how faithful this film is to the particular arc in the comics.  All I know is that the storyline is brilliant; the X-Men are completely screwed from the beginning, and this single hope to save them (Wolverine) drives the whole movie, making the whole thing feel important and suspenseful.  The entire cast is back (well, mostly...sorry Nightcrawler) and although the movie is jam-packed, few people get the shaft.  I am pretty disappointed with Rogue's three seconds of screentime though.

Other than that, there's not a lot to dislike about this movie.  There are plenty of great tentpole moments, the most impressive one involving the Pentagon and a new character named Quicksilver (I'd rather not spoil its greatness).  The acting is solid across the board, everyone improving massively from the dismally cheesy First Class (points to my main man Peter Dinklage).  Overall, the film goes a long way in combining the two X-Men universes while omitting some of the dumber things that happened along the way.  If you have been waiting for that great X-Men movie, well then wait no longer.