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Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Movie Review: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Disney’s latest attempt to cash in on something old of theirs by using the guys who did National Treasure to make a movie that’s very loosely based on the original. For some, it was a welcomed attempt at reviving a classic while for many others, it was just uncalled for. I myself was hoping to see the nightmarish Chernabog appear at some point in the movie but I’m guessing the writers they hired felt it was better to recycle some unknown fantasy novel they got in a bargain bin somewhere. That’s just an assumption by the way, I have no proof to back that up save for the quality of the writing in the movie.

Let me get the synopsis out of the way so I can get to all the things in the movie that irked me. It’s about a kid named David who thanks to a “coincidence” meets up with a semi-immortal wizard named Balthazar Blake who has been looking for the Prime Merlinean, the chosen one that would one day finally destroy the evil Morgana Le Fay who wants to use an ancient forbidden spell that would revive all the dead evil wizards in the world so she could destroy it or something. Here’s the rundown for ten years later; Dave reunites with childhood crush, reunites with Balthazar, gets caught up in conflict of good vs. evil, chooses to be a wizard, gets closer to his mentor as well as his love interest, goes through some angst, has to choose the girl in a hostage situation, faces off with the big bad and saves the world and the people he’s gotten close to. Was that needlessly spoilery? Maybe. Should you be ashamed that you consider such cookie-cutter content spoilers? Yeah, you should be. This movie is just so horribly,horribly,horribly predictable.

Now onto my other complaints. First one starts right at the beginning of the movie. Someone had the brilliant idea of kicking off with a full blown back-story exposition that was both incredibly corny and ridiculously unnecessary. That scene alone easily killed off half of the potential the scenes had since it took out all the mystery that could have been weaved into the other scene. I can’t tell whether I should put the blame on the director or the writers but it just could have easily been both. Actually, since the director decides how the scenes play out I suppose I should blame Turtletaub for that. The rest of the scenes were either rushed, narmy, annoying, overdone, predictable or a combination of all those. I do have to admit that one or two special effects scenes were just pure awesome(TESLA COILS OF EVIL!) but that does not excuse the poor storytelling.

The characterization too was just awful. Sure the actors they got to play the roles were pretty good at their jobs but the characters themselves were underwhelming, most of them that is. Nicholas Cage’s portrayal of the self proclaimed slightly insane lone wizard who’s been walking the earth fighting off the forces of evil was pretty hammy in my opinion but I guess it’s justified in his case. The worst example was the mandatory love interest who cute and all but she just didn’t pass off as a believable character with her one-dimensional personality. She really should have been saved for the sequel and put more focus on the mentoring aspect. Thankfully, the evil mage Horvath(I’m surprised spell check didn’t redline this) brought every bit of class that was needed to make this film bearable. He’s easily the most likeable character in the film and now that I think about it, received the most characterization out of the entire cast with somewhat sympathetic reasons behind his actions. That wasn’t why I liked him though, it was actually the bowler hat, cane and evil Brit shtick that did the trick.

In conclusion, this movie was one bad decision after another. I groaned very much throughout the film with the exception of the scenes that involved the zappy Tesla coils, Horvath showing off and the magical broom mopping sequence that really could have stood to have been a minute longer. I dread the notion of a sequel if they’re using the same writing team, even if they have Horvath riding Chernabog during an eerily glowing green storm in the middle of the dessert because the writing for this movie shows exactly what’s why movie studios are losing money.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Manga Review: Me and the Devil Blues


Title: Me and the Devil Blues
Author: Hiramoto Akira
Release: Monthly
Status: Discontinued (WHY!?)
Genre: Seinen, Supernatural
Art: S+
Originality: A
Story: S
Characters: S
Humor: A
Action: S

Impression: This is a fictional biographical manga series about the life of famed Bluesman Robert Johnson, the guy who met the devil at the crossroads and walked away with mad guitar skills. To be honest I have absolutely no idea who that guy was but I’ll be damned if half the things in this manga are biographical at all. There’s definitely liberal usage of artistic license being used here but then again it’s not like I picked it up to learn about some musician. It was actually the art that got interested in the manga and it was actually the story that got me hooked onto it. The art style is amazingly detailed and conveys the intensity and moods of the scenes so perfectly that I absolutely am unable to imagine any way for it to have been made better. The events that take place in the story actually move forward very slowly but the amazing focus that the author gives to the smallest details makes every chapter feel like either a suspenseful interrogation or an adrenaline filled thrill ride. All this boosted by the truly magnificent translation provided by Stephen Paul who managed to localize all the conversations with the slangs and racial conventions of the united states back in those days. Sadly this manga was discontinued for whatever reason so go ahead and soak in the amazing five volumes that were put out. Don't let the discontinuation stop you, this manga is just that incredible!

Manga Reviews Index

Monday, 19 July 2010

Movie Review: Inception

Christopher Nolan’s latest film, “Inception”, happens to be the movie I watched yesterday and I must say that it is probably his best work yet and we all know how difficult an accomplishment that is considering just how amazing Dark Knight was. The fact that it was in the works for a whole decade most definitely had something to do with that.

Inception is about a man who goes by the name of Dom Cobb who is in the business of stealing information from various people of various backgrounds while they sleep. The catch is that they do it in their dreams. Our protagonist is on the run from the law enforcers of the U.S. and presumably Interpol as well for a crime that he didn’t actually commit. He left his family behind to stay out of prison and is now looking for a way to return home without getting arrested the second he steps foot on American soil. He is offered a chance to do so through a job offer that is the exact opposite of what he does for a living. Instead of stealing an idea from an unsuspecting victim, he has to implant one that would lead to a major life decision – an act that has been known to be “impossible”. Fortunately for Mr. Cobb, he’s done the “impossible” before. This is where the ball really gets rolling.

The premise is certainly intriguing but Nolan actually goes beyond the initial concept and plays with the usual workings of a heist plot taking the movie to a whole new level of originality. Then there’s the way he goes about introducing the concept to us bit by bit through one revelation after another. He manages to use fantastic highly packed action sequences to establish how this dream larceny idea works while building up the audience expectations towards the actual caper they’ll be pulling off. The visual effects were simply mind-blowing in this film and though I wish I could say the same for the music, Hans Zimmer’s tracks did do the job they were supposed to, which is actually a bit of letdown since he usually comes up with at least one really catchy song per movie.

The story itself actually has a great deal of heart in it. This isn’t like one of those ocean’s numbers movies where the main point was to be flashy and clever. It’s about one man’s attempts to deal with the issues he has with having lost his family and his attempt to get over the baggage that came with that and move on with his life. The main character isn’t the only one to draw in the sympathy either since his crew’s target is actually quite likeable himself since his position as the Xanatos Sucker with daddy issues sets him up for a good deal of heartwarming scenes. In fact, I actually liked the target more than the DiCaprio’s character even though he had fewer scenes than him.

And like I mentioned earlier, the movie actually does have a lot good action scenes in this one. Just because this film had brains behind it doesn’t mean it ignores brawns in favor of appealing to just the eggheads. No, no. Nolan did what so very few movies even bother to try and do, combine the workings of his abstract dreamscape business with gun fights, car chases, brawls, natural disasters and various degrees of combustion. My favorite scene was the brawl in the hotel that for certain reasons kept shifting its gravity that it takes place on the floor, walls and ceiling of the corridor they were fighting in. Sure, tearing things up in a hotel corridor has been done thousands of times before but in this movie, watching the scene is actually a lot of fun to watch.

Despite the fact that pacing, action and climax being nowhere near the levels of Dark Knight, I still consider this to be the better Nolan movie. It’s the kind of movie that’s just as much fun to watch on the first time as it is on the eleventh. Dark Knight kept you on the edge of your seat with its escalating plot but Inception reels you into the dream with everything it has. Every moment stays just as strong even after you find out what exactly what happened and how things end up. Rather, it’s because you know what happened that makes you want to watch over and over since the movie actually does pull its own “Inception” on you. It puts this one single idea in your head with its beginning and reinforces throughout the rest of the movie. Unless you’re that dense a person, you’re going to have some trouble shaking off the effect the movie has on you. Chances are, reading this review will also back up that idea Nolan put in your head. Try not to let the mindscrewiness of the movie get to you and just appreciate how good a movie “Inception” is.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Movie Review: Despicable Me

Despicable Me, a lovely title in my humble opinion. A title that doesn’t quite fit the tone of the film but is relevant enough to the movie itself that it works. I went off to watch it with some of my friends a yesterday hoping that I’d see a duel between two mad scientists in spite of the fact that I knew it was a family movie. My hopes were let down on that part however as it really did turn out to be a straight out family movie. I was really hoping to see a good loon in this movie too.

The story is about this supposedly world class villain named Gru voiced by Steve Carell who plots to pull off the crime of the century after having been one-upped by a newcomer in the supervillain business. I mean his character by the way but it would be interesting to see Steve Carell pursue a carreer in supervillainy. Anyways, his plan entails a shrink ray, a rocket ship, the moon and a bank loan from what’s obviously a shout out to the now defunct bank ran by the Lehman brothers. A problem arises when the new villain in the orange jumpsuit who goes by the name of Vector makes off with the guy’s newly stolen shrink ray and after having failed to retrieve the gun by himself, he adopts three little girls who hold the key to infiltrating vectors lair – cookies!

If you’re old enough to have sat through your fair share of parent rising to the occasion stories then you know what’s going to happen in the end. I certainly saw the plot move just as planned many times before but Gru handled the usual tropes so predictably that I was actual surprised at how normal they made his character. Sure, he treated everyone else like the villain he was known to be but he was totally an average joe when it came to the girls. Though that may be, this actually made the movie so much sweeter than I thought it would be. Chances are this movie is going to end up listed in the sugarwiki page of TvTropes because of that.

Plot and characterization aside, everything else exceeded my expectations. The music alone just blew me away in the first few minutes and several times again later in the movie. It was only at the end that I understood just why exactly the composition managed to do that – they put Hans Zimmer in charge of the sounds. They hired the guy who composed music for movies like the Dark Knight, Sherlock Holmes and the Pirates of the Caribbean for an animated family movie of all things. It was certainly a strange movie to hear some of the best stuff he’s come with so far. Seriously, how did they get him to do this in the first place? Then there’s the cinematography they used in the movie. The director used a lot of interesting “camera angles” to show off the scenes. They used angles that I firmly believe that other works could have benefited from greatly. All these amazing visual and audio work actually added a lot to the already clever jokes they put in and made the movie a much a stronger work than it would have been otherwise. In fact, the movie’s show of technique itself in is a good enough reason to go and watch this movie.

With all that’s been said, Despicable Me is a pleasant family film however predictable may be. There’s a lot of room in the story for them to follow things up with sequels and the movie itself is endearing enough for you to want to watch more. Hopefully they’ll improve the plot for the next one and remember to keep the floating henchman as a brick joke any sequels they come up with. Come back around tomorrow for my review of Christopher Nolan’s “Inception”, which also happens to have had their music composed by Hans Zimmer, which also makes his work on this movie even stranger since Inception’s tracks didn’t really grab me.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Manga Review: Kaitaishinsho Zero


Title: Kaitaishinsho Zero
Author: Kenmotsu Chiyo
Release: Weekly
Status: Ongoing
Genre: Shonen, Supernatural
Art: B
Originality: B
Story: B
Characters: B
Humor: B
Action: B

Impression: This series is about a boy and a girl who go around helping people out as dark doctors who destroy these demons who invade human bodies as parasites and bring about magical diseases. That reminded a lot of Hokenshitsu Shinigami so I wasn’t expecting much since that hasn’t really done interesting as of yet. However, it’s still a stronger shonen series compared to that so it could turn out nicely in the future. So far it’s been very by the book and plays a lot of tropes straight but it did get down to the main plot very quickly while fleshing out the main characters and the setting appropriately. The battles are drawn with a lot of spirit and they get taken care of quickly too so that’s a plus. Basically it’s a very typical shonen battle manga that doesn’t waste much too time floundering about by showing off how cool and nice the characters are. This is one of the new shonen series that I hope doesn’t get cancelled just yet since it hasn’t done anything that made me want to groan out loud so far.

Manga Reviews Index

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Manga Review: Gintama


Title: Gintama
Author: Sorachi Hideaki
Release: Weekly
Status: Ongoing
Genre: Shonen, Sci-fi, Comedy, Slice of Life
Art: B
Originality: A
Story: A
Characters: S
Humor: S
Action: B

Impression: Just checked what this long running Jump series was about since I’ve seen enough sigs and mentions to know that it’s considered to be quite funny. It might seem odd but I’m not really into samurai themed manga even though I do Kendo so I kept away from this one for a while but I gave in when I was running out of things to read. The story’s set in a retraux feudal future where aliens called Amanto have settled down in Edo and our main characters live in this world’s version of the Kabuki-chou red light district as freelance workers.

That’s a pretty odd mix so I decided to stick with it after reading the ridiculously messy hodgepodge of a first chapter this series had and sat through what I can only describe as seven volumes worth of shit fit into the first five volumes of the series. Thankfully there was at least three volumes of good in there too so I went onto volume six. Things started to get better around that point with the author setting up the arcs and punch lines better and dropping just enough of the non-sequiturs and low brow humor for it actually be funny. He even manages to come up some incredibly hilarious stuff about every three volumes that literally sent me into fits of laughter. I am never going to forget the toilet sandpaper bit for the rest of my life.

The story on the other hand could stand to be more linear as I can’t really see where this is all heading towards to since the author keeps throwing in these arcs that could easily be mistaken as filler on the anime. That being said, the guy actually does come up with some good scenes when things get serious and by that I mean really good. The guy has a knack for spinning what seems to be an inconsequential joke chapter into full blown arcs with fleshed out antagonists to sympathize with and plotlines that somehow manage to blend silliness, intensity, emotions and manliness perfectly into solid stories.

To get to the point, I think this series is actually quite underrated compared to the big three and that it's style and length are quite the turn-offs for new readers. Check it out if you haven't as you'll probably come to like it. If you can't stand the style then just skip to whenever the Shinsengumi step onto the scene and prepare to laugh, that'll ease you into the series.

Manga Reviews Index

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Hatsune Miku: Project Diva 2nd

SEGA just released a bunch of PV and gameplay videos for the Project Diva 2nd which is due to be released on the 27th of this month. There looks to be quite a number of changes introduced in the sequel. Namely:

- New Extreme Mode
- Duet Songs
- Directional Button Pads Usage
- New Hold Timing presses
- More songs by the other Vocaloids
- Extra dance moves
- They made Miku's chest flatter

That last one's not a joke by the way. The actually made her flatter for no apparent reason. Maybe it's just to her default costume though cause the other costumes she's in looks consistent with the first games. Here are some of the videos SEGA's released so far that I found on youtube. There were a few more on Nico Nico Douga that I haven't been able to find on youtube yet though.

Promo showing various costumes and song.

Hatsune Miku - Saihate Partial PV

Kagamine Rin - Kokoro Partial PV

Megurine Luka - Double Lariat Partial PV

Hatsune Miku & Kagamine Rin - Colourful x Melody Full PV

Hatsune Miku - Voice Partial Gameplay Video

Hatsune Miku - Po Pi Po Partial Gameplay Video.
I'm really looking forward to playing this one.

Hatsune Miku - Kz's "Yellow" Full PV

Hatsune Miku - SUPERCELL's "Kocchi Muite Baby" Full PV Subbed
You can tell they put a LOT of work into this one. One of SUPERCELL's best works so far.

I'm really psyched up for the second game and I'm hoping that they're including Miku's Append costume in there too. I'm also hoping that they took out that blasted Chance Time from the first game since your score completely comes down to that part of the song making it frustratingly hard to score a great on most songs. It'd be cool if they included some of Hachi-P's songs in there too. World End Umbrella would be an interesting song to play. Here's to more sequels!

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Movie Review: Knight and Day

Went off to see Tom Cruise’s latest movie where he looked to be having oodles of fun acting like unhinged loon he has come to be known as over the past few years. In the trailers we actually hear him say “I’ll kill myself then her!” and that line alone made me want to watch his latest production. I was absolutely certain that one line told us everything we needed to know about the movie, a zany action-packed shoot‘em up with Tom Cruise playing the screwball agent who falls in love with a dame who was unlucky enough to get caught up in his mess. Sadly, the craziness didn’t live up to my high expectations. The writing on the other hand actually exceeded the low expectations I had for it.

The movie starts off surprisingly quiet and much more evenly paced than I thought it would. Cameron Diaz bumps into Tom Cruise and through a misunderstanding on his pursuers’ part, she gets tangled up in this elaborate attempt on Cruise’s life and thus begins their involvement with one another.

Like I said, the craziness was much more modest than the trailers would have you believe but in spite of that the movie still had some pretty crazy stunts. I mean we see him dropping down onto cars, crash landing a plane, flipping vehicles over with bulls and guns and running around on rooftops but it turns out those scenes were taken out of context. The scenes that led up to and followed after them were of a much more subdued and serious nature though they still had a touch of absurdity in them. To be more specific, the scenes would have been totally dead serious if Cruise actually treated the events with any sense of urgency. But then again I’m chalking those unperturbed reactions of his were a result of his character’s life as a secret agent. Seriously, there’s a surprising amount depth in his character.

My biggest complaint for this movie is that the title didn’t really have much relevance to the actual plot and that it could have easily been “Miller and Day”, “Roy and Day” or “Spy and Day” and those would have actually had been more relevant. Then there’s the fastforwards between changing locations and the abundant use of the Noodle Incident trope to skip over some potentially interesting scenes. Sure, they used it cleverly enough for jokes and call backs but it felt a little more than lazy after the first time. I should also add that the Cruise’s character really seems to be the only character with a fleshed out personality here since I wouldn’t really say that there was very much done with Diaz’s June.

All in all, I found the movie to be good, nice even. However, it spread itself a little too thinly and didn’t stick with any one strong point. Humor, action and most characters feel almost half-assed at points and the movie could have been much more memorable if they prioritized any one of those things a bit more. One thing’s for certain though, if you’re going in there for Cruise then you won’t be disappointed. Unless you’re expecting him to go full loon that is. I’d sure like to see a movie about a loon sometime soon.
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