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    I won't say that the final episode of Hunter x Hunter is a bad one.


    Sadly, as expected, the live-action Kite movie is a failure on practically every level. The movie so completely fails to capture the appeal of the original anime that the live-action feature doesn’t even satisfy when taken as an independent work. The live-action adaptation regrettably fails to recognize even the most basic characteristics that made the original two OVAs such a global sensation. At heart, the original anime featured tense, stylish action. And viewers thrilled to watch Sawa skillfully and mercilessly dispatch her enemies. The movie sadly doesn’t even try to recreate or emulate any of the excitement and breathtaking action choreography of the original anime. Either by incompetence or, at worst, ill-chosen deliberate decision, Sawa has been converted into a poorly trained, barely capable drug addict who seems to occasionally manage to dispatch her enemies with as much luck as skill. The action scenes are tremendously dull and uninspired, seeming to rely on the assumption that gore & splashing blood will compensate for poor framing, stiff choreography, and inept characters. In fact, the movie goes so far as to even make one of its antagonists literally retarded, making him slow and helpless and Sawa killing him feel repulsive instead of cathartic and validated. Moreover, the feature is edited and directed with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. If the exposition was any more blunt, the movie would simply consist of text title cards. The directorial emphasis on narrative and thematic points is so heavy handed that the film feels like it crams its story down the viewers’ throats rather than naturally allowing the story to unfold. And the wordless story arc of the supporting character Naima is so unnatural and unbelievable, and in the final minutes of the film so forced and artificial that it’s just laughably bad. Furthermore, creating the sensation that even the movie itself doesn’t like its own pacing, the film constantly utilizes annoying edits to speed up panning and tracking shots. The sequential jump cuts were probably supposed to be stylish, but flashbulb cuts in trailers are cliché and annoying, so using a similar technique within the actual picture is a terrible idea. Because the film has absolutely no interesting or empathetic characterizations and no exciting action, even at a mere 80 minutes without the credits, it’s a laborious chore to sit through.

    Comment


      Finished off Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun episodes 10-12.

      I was a little surprised to see that SAO II would continue beyond 13 episodes because the 13th episode really seemed like it had the potential to finish off the storyline. Watched episode 14 also.

      I’m not even sure if I should consider Karen Senki “Japanese animation” since all of the animation appears to have been Korean produced. But in either case, the CG visual design isn’t quite as ugly or as poorly animated as Sidonia no Kishi, so that’s an advantage. The story doesn’t make a lot of sense, and some of the details are infuriating, such as why the robots insist on having such unnecessarily big and vulnerable “eyes,” and how bullets appear to dislike approaching too close to Karen. But the first episode is short and fast-paced, seemingly to try to distract attention from serious criticism. I can’t say it’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen.

      I also can’t say that the first episode of the Terra Formars television series is the “worst” anime I’ve ever seen, but it’s closer to it than Karen Senki is. The first episode failed to meet even my severely lowered expectations. The character design throughout is ugly and occasionally slightly out of proportion even by anime standards. The animation quality, particularly in the first audience reaction scene and in the lengthy hospital lobby scene, is pretty stilted. The show’s grotesque violence is one of the primary appeals of the story, but the TV series is partially rendered pointless by censorship so intense that the episode’s highlight action scene is literally indecipherable. The story remains stultifyingly stupid. This series already seems to be taking off in Japan. Given Japan’s traditional affection for the stylishly grotesque, I partially understand the attraction. I rather fear for the implications should this show go over as well among American viewers. I may not like Shingeki no Kyojin, but at least I can comprehend reasons for its international popularity. I’m fearful that if this show earns a similar popularity, the success will just be evidence of the brainless lack of critical taste on the part of American viewers.

      Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei episode 26 ends with a provocative climax that depicts Japan in quite an unusual light. Illustrating Japan as an aggressor power utilizing force equivilant to an atom bomb isn't something that I'm used to seeing in anime. So that plot development alone makes the show interesting. The series, predictably, also concludes with a fairly interesting cliffhanger related to a sub-plot that's been teased throughout the entire series. I do hope it predicates a coming second season.

      I'm disappointed that the short first episode of Tribe Cool Crew utilizes so much recycled animation. But otherwise the episode is quite lively and fun.

      Finished off watching Ao Haru Ride episodes 7-11. A major problem with the later half of the show is that it doesn't reveal enough of Kou's angst until much too late. The series spends nearly an entire episode detailing what happened but spends very little time explaining how it affected Kou. Even more, much of the initial explanation isn't vocalized or isn't explained adequately. By the time Kou does finally explain why he's so morose, at the end of episode 11, the show is practially over and the explanation arrives too late to help flesh out his character. I like this show, and I do think it's better than some shoujo anime. But it's not "top tier" shoujo anime.

      The first episode of Denki-gai no Honya-san seems fun.

      Very typical of Yoshiyuki Tomino's writing, the first two episodes of Gundam Reconguista in G throw viewers deep into a complex world and expect viewers to keep up or drown. The episodes are intriguing, but only future episodes will reveal whether the show develops any depth or substance.

      Part of the way through the first episode of Gugure! Kokkuri-san I started to wonder if the show was waning or if my interest in it was declining. But the end of the episode made a recovery, turning the show into something good enough to encourage me to be interested in giving it a chance.

      I'm not sure why the first two episodes of Ai Tenchi Muyo are even referred to as "Tenchi Muyo" because it seems to be an entirely different program. The fact that the protagonist is named "Masaki Tenchi" and vaguely looks like the 90's character seems as much like coincidence as design. I'm not saying that these early episodes are bad; they're too short to extensively critique. But it doesn't seem to be Tenchi Muyo at all.

      The first episode of Amagi Brilliant Park feels like a more blunt and less charming rehash of Suzumiya Haruhi with a dash of Full Metal Panic Fumoffu mixed in. I won’t say that the first episode is especially bad, but it also didn’t feel particularly appealing, either.

      The first episode of Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis lived up to expectations, feeling like a hybrid of golden age anime and Space Dandy.

      Going into it with little expectation, I was a bit disappointed by the first episode of World Trigger because the show is a lot more lighthearted than I expected, yet it’s not funny. I can’t even tell if the show is actually trying to by comical or if it’s merely trying to avoid being grim and serious. The result is a sort of uncommitted, bland tone reminiscent of Phi-Brain but without the benefit of Phi-Brain’s engaging characters. The first episode left me cold and uninterested in the forthcoming episodes.

      The first two episodes of Nanatsu no Taizai are conceptually very reminiscent of Ninku. The core concept of both series revolve around a small band of ultra-powerful wandering warriors who are branded as traitors and criminals by the secretly evil ruling military regime. Both series appear to be predominantly comedy adventure with each episode ending in a brief action scene. I already wonder whether this new series will sustain my interest. I’d like to see more action, but the first introduced hero is so powerful that action scenes are obligated to be brief because hardly anyone can rival him.

      I was fascinated to watch the first episode of Madan no Ou to Vanadis with a friend who hasn’t watched any contemporary anime during the past several years. He found the episode engaging, attractive looking, creative, and fun. I, on the other hand, perceived the show as passable yet a mere collection of rehashed tropes seen in other shows, most noteably Mayu Maoh Yusha and Oda Nobuna no Yabou.

      I’m not sure how I feel about the first episode of Kiseijuu. I appreciate the fact that such a relatively old manga is getting revived with an anime adaptation, but the new character designs don’t reflect the manga and don’t do any favors for the adaptation. The first episode feels rather workmanlike – straightforward and blunt, without much nuance or character. Yet I vaguely recall the original manga having even less personality. Conceptually the anime is interesting, but viscerally and emotionally it’s distant, rather unappealing, and simply bland. I think that whether I continue to give this show a chance will depend on my mood.

      The premiere episode of Garo: Honoo no Kokuin is stylish and thankfully not too garish. It's definitely got my attention.

      The first episode of Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso is undeniably gorgeous looking and animated well. I also appreciate what may have been a deliberate Romeo no Aoi Sora reference. However, the show distinctly feels like a less appealing rehash of Tari Tari.

      Continued below --->

      Comment


        Continued from above.

        I read just over half of the hefty first “Hack Slash” omnibus collection before deciding losing interest in the series. The American indie comic about a goth girl who kills “slashers” (supernatural serial killers) is an amusing concept that sadly gets pretty redundant very quickly. The comic series by writer Tim Seeley tries to parody horror movie tropes but ultimately partially just ends up recycling them itself in the redundant characterizations. The series – a collection of various comic mini-series – tries to keep the concept fresh by changing the settings and introducing guest characters, but dream world settings aren’t especially original, and appearances by real-life guests like Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman are superficial novelties that don’t deepen the complexity or substance of the narrative. I may be too hard on the comic series, though, by criticizing it for adhering to the requirements of its identity. As an American comic and a series of mini-series, the story isn’t a manga; it’s not a singular ongoing, developing narrative, even though it does actually have a loose linear continuity. Furthermore, the book is hard to take seriously when it wants to be sexually provocative and can illustrate endless graphic gore and violence but can’t even depict nudity, much less sex. Multiple stories that clearly want to deal with sex but which strictly have to “cover up” feel heavily compromised and juvenile, as though whispering the word “boobies” is daringly adult. I’ll give the book credit for effort, but it just comes across to me as another example of the limitations of mainstream American comics and the reason why I prefer Japanese manga.

        Creator Jimmie Robbinson’s Image “Shadowline” graphic novel Bomb Queen: WMD ~ Woman of Mass Destruction feels reminiscent of Frank Miller’s Hard Boiled in its depiction of a dystopian ultra-violent political universe. I think the story skews in favor of its protagonist just a bit much because the super-powered heroes she battles come across as near completely ineffectual. The satire may be a bit simplistic, but the mere fact that it’s present demonstrates a degree of praiseworthy consideration. The ultimate problem with the book is that its satire doesn’t lead anywhere. The story serves as a peek into a skewed, corrupt universe, but nothing more. Ultimately, from beginning to ending of the core four-issue comic mini-series, nothing changes; there’s no character development. Either to its detriment or its credit, the story refuses to praise or criticize the titular homicidal, psychopathic Bomb Queen, but by ultimately keeping the status quo, thus allowing for a sequel, the story feels like it has nothing to say about its protagonist. Some readers may appreciate the objectivity of the book that forces the reader to either love or hate the character. I personally would have appreciated an opinion, one way or the other, to debate against.

        I can understand why casual readers and readers unfamiliar with the Cthulhu Mythos may be offended, shocked, or just offput by writer Alan Moore’s comic mini-series Necronomicon. The masterfully contemporising of the Mythos is bleak, confusing (as it should be), and intensely graphic. The hints and suggestions implicit in Lovecraft’s original stories are illustrated in this contemporary telling with grotesque and shocking immediacy including adult language, graphic violence, and all manner of “unconventional” sex, to put it lightly. While Moore arguably goes a little overboard with his abundance of Lovecraftian references, seemingly to demonstrate his own knowledge and legitimacy as much as to flesh out the comic story, he also does a good job of making the Mythos concepts relevant and comprehensible to a modern era. Readers that are familiar with the Mythos and modern filmic interpretations of Lovecraft’s stories, including Re-Animator, From Beyond, and Dagon, will probably quite enjoy the story. Readers expecting something relatively mainstream may find themselves shocked by the book, or may find themselves lost in a swamp of references and grandiloquent prose. I appreciate the mini-series as an example of the capacity of modern comics to be intelligent and provocative illustrated literature.

        I don’t have distinct, detailed recollections of the 1985 Equalizer television series, but I do remember deliberately tuning in to watch the show every week. Since I was young at the time, I recall being impressed by the series’ concept of using brains to combat savagery, but my young and inexperienced self also longed for simple, gratuitous a*s-kicking. Denzel Washington’s new theatrical reboot delivers that brutal violence that the TV series deliberately avoided. Seemingly as some sort of concession to the TV series, Denzel’s iteration of the Bob McCall character refuses to use conventional firearms, an unexplained plot contrivance that’s simultaneously neat, in an also 1985 MacGuyver TV series sort of way, and impractically ridiculous. Oddly, the film is stylish, nicely composed, and even nearly elegant for a brutal and bloody mercenary action picture. But it’s also a bit dry and hollow, not quite letting viewers into McCall’s head enough to make us empathize with him and care about him. As a result, the movie is engrossing and fun while unspooling but not particularly memorable.

        The Pierce Brosnan spy thriller The November Man delivers exactly what its trailer promises. While critics have criticized the movie for being too conventional and traditionalist, I was completely satisfied with the movie because I went in to it hoping for and anticipating a straightforward spy thriller. The movie is intelligent without being either pretentious or heavy handed. It’s serious and dramatic with nary a snarky one-liner. It’s bloody, and the body count is substantial. The movie doesn’t set the world on fire or challenge any conventions, but there’s nothing particularly bad about it either. I may not have been overly impressed by it, but I also wasn’t disappointed by it.

        Thankfully, Automata is a different story. Considering the movie objectively and critically reveals that all of the film’s characterizations are a bit superficial and under-developed. Furthermore, the film’s pacing and intensity decrease appreciably during the second half of the film when the focus transitions outside of the city and the movie stops being a mystery story. However, the very fact that the movie is a serious, speculative science-fiction story that relies on ideas and moral questions rather than explosions and action makes it a rare treat.

        Continued again below --->

        Comment


          Continued, one more time, from above

          Because a friend of mine with an even higher tolerance for bad movies than I have had an inclination to watch Will Smith & M. Night Shyamalan’s sci-fi adventure film After Earth, I watched it to, despite intense misgivings. I’ve very hard pressed to find anything positive to say about the movie. Will Smith does have superstar charisma. His son, on the other hand, is not a leading man. Despite the movie having practically no humor – the film’s one brief lighthearted moment only serves to demonstrate what the film could have been like if it had a stronger script – it’s impossible to take seriously because the movie is chock full of obvious common sense plot holes. The movie operates with the logic of a bad movie-tie-in video game. Everything occurs the way it does strictly to advance the thin plot, not because anything makes any believable, logical, contextual sense. Just to prove that I’m not irrationally picking on the film: why in heaven would the Ursa be biologically manufactured to be blind? If the Ursa have to be nearby their prey in order to attack, why don’t the humans use firearms and maintain their distance, especially when the movie’s climax demonstrates how ineffective the cutlass weapons are? How come Kitai’s high tech uniform doesn’t keep him warm when even today’s surfing wetsuits are insulated? Why on earth would the battle uniform send life-or-death enemy proximity information to the observing commander but not inform the soldier who’s actually under immediate threat? How come contemporary airlines have distress beacons that function automatically after a crash yet the spaceships in this movie don’t? How does the uniform convey visual information from a distanced frontal perspective when there’s no camera there? How come the distress beacon won’t function through even the “electrical interference” caused by a mere single volcanic dust cloud? Does the distress beacon only work on planets with perfectly clear blue skies? How come the military spacecraft has no weapons? Why is the secure section of the spaceship cordoned off by a mere wicker curtain? If the Ursa respond to pheromone smell, how come the rangers haven’t just invented a scent that masks their pheromone smell? Why is Kitai so concerned with launching the rescue beacon instead of dispatching the Ursa first when the rescue beacon won’t help him or his father unless he dispatches the Ursa first? How come the rangers have super high tech portable holographic X-ray technology yet can’t perform first aid on a mere broken leg? How come future medical technology appears to have forgotten how to make prosthetic limbs? How is it even ecologically possible for only select sections of dense growth forest to freeze nightly? I have many more complaints about the movie, such as the striking convenience that Kitai happens to be the only person on the entire spacecraft who’s wearing a seatbelt, the striking convenience that the rear of the crashed ship just happens to be directly downriver, the fact that the breathing vials that last 24 hours get used roughly every 8 hours, and more. Really, the movie sucked.

          Watched the Giants play very well in their victory over the Redskins. Watched the Bucs win a game over the Steelers that, by rights, they probably shouldn't have won. Watched the 49ers defeat the Eagles and the Cowboys beat the Saints. Watched the Chiefs upend the Patriots and later watched the Patriots defeat the Bengals. Watched the Packers squash the Vikings. Watched the Seahawks beat the Redskins. Watched the Colts beat the Texans. Watched the Ravens crush the Bucs and the Seahawks crush the Giants. Watched the 49ers defeat the Rams.

          Oh, and I should mention that I flew up to New York City for 24 hours to see X Japan's Madison Square Garden concert.
          Last edited by John; October 16th, 2014, 05:27 PM.

          Comment


            Typically I'm not opposed to satirical parody anime, but something that I can't put my finger on regarding the first episode of Ore, Twintails ni Narimasu just failed to win me over. I think the show just skews slightly more toward overt, cliche commercial humor than witty satire.

            I won't say that the first episode of Sora no Method is particularly good or bad, but it feels very reminiscent of Uta~Kata. The first episode just didn't pique my interest.

            Watched the first two episodes of Orenchi no Furo Jijou. They're fairly amusing; too short to really be substantial.

            I'm a little disappointed that Barakamon episode 12 conveniently just glossed over plot points that would be difficult to handle, but the result is a pleasant, subdued final episode.

            Watched Nanatsu no Taizai episodes 3-5. I still wish the show would move just a bit faster and include just a bit more action, but the show still feels like an alternative to Fairy Tail that's not quite as dumb as Fairy Tail.

            The first two episodes of Inou Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de are mildly amusing but don't seem interesting enough to motivate me to eagerly continue watching the show.

            I really appreciate the way Shirobako episodes 1-4 provide such a detailed and revealing look into the way anime is produced. I'm a little disappointed, though, by some of the liberal Crunchyroll translations that gloss over some of the in-jokes in episode 2.

            I decided to skip the SAO recap episode and just move on to episodes 15 & 16. Episode 15 just begins the "Excalibur" story arc. Episode 16 continues to be a lot of exposition and set-up but compensates with one extended elaborate fight scene. Also watched episode 17.

            Watched Hitsugi no Chaika ~Avenging Battle~ episodes 1-4.

            The first episode of Akatsuki no Yona develops exactly as expected. Since the layout of the show is already telegraphed, I have other more interesting shows to watch instead.

            The first episode of Magic Kaito 1412 seems to be a reboot of the previous Magic Kaito television series, so it held little appeal to me becuase it felt like I was just re-watching the same episode I've seen before.

            Similar to, but even more so than the way Symphogear felt like it borrowed many different elements from numerous different shows, the first episode of Yuki Yuna wa Yusha de Aru feels like a melting pot of ideas and concepts from numerous other bishoujo anime. Influences from Madoka Magica, Rinne no Lagrange, Vividred Operation, Mai Otome, Bokurano, and Gen'ei o Kakeru Taiyou feel most pronounced. The first episode didn’t immediately turn me into a captivated fan, but it’s interesting and appealing enough to make me want to watch more of it.

            I'm very highly tentative about the first episode of Grisaia no Kajitsu because most of the episode is the absolute worst kind of harem anime. A boy is thrown into an implausible scenario with five girls for absolutely no reason other than to surround one male with five females. The inevitable cliffhanger reveal suggest a couple of intriguing possibilities, but there's no telling when, or to what extent the show's subsequent episodes will actually develop or continue to be redundant, meaningless drivel.

            Continued below --->

            Comment


              Continued from above.

              Re-watched Watched Twin Peaks episodes 19-25.

              Watched the Patriots beat the Jets. Watched most of the Packers win over the Panthers then the end of Rams vs Seahawks game. Watched Payton set the all-time TD record during the Broncos vs 49ers game. Watched the Steelers beat the Texans. Watched the Saints overpower the Packers. Watched the Redskins narrowly defeat the Cowboys in overtime. Watched the Saints beat the Panthers. Watched the Bucs lose another game. The Broncos versus the Patriots turned out to be a far less competetive game than anticipated. Watched the Steelers beat the Ravens. Watched the Colts beat the Giants. Watched the Browns beat the Bengals on Thursday night.

              Saw the world premiere of the indie horror/comedy Bubba the Redneck Werewolf at the Spooky Empire horror convention. The film is based on Mitch Hyman’s obscure comic book series. Hyman also co-stars as the devil in the film. The screenplay was written by Unearthed Film’s Steve Biro. I’ve heard that Hyman is a bit, well, abrasive, to put it politely. Judging by his intro and outro to the screening, I can see that he’s a bit egomaniacal, which is particularly why he plays a good devil. He spent a good deal of time pre-screening trying to convey an unnecessary motivational speech about how his comic coming to life as an indie movie demonstrates how anyone can achieve their dreams. My internal reaction was, “Yeah, there are thousands of similar self-financed indie pictures that also demonstrate the same point. Your movie is not a rare exception.” Regarding the movie itself, the production values are not top tier but better than obvious backyard home-movie quality. The flick is amusing, arguably even funny, but sadly funny in the most predictable way. Steve Biro is an acquaintance of mine, and I like the guy. I don’t know if the gags in the script are his own or if they’re culled from Hyman’s original writing. In either case, the gags are consistently the most lowbrow, cliché, and predictable redneck jokes possible. With the exception of a single amusing sequence about shirt sleeve holes, all of the jokes in the movie settle for the absolute most cliché, lowest-common-denominator value. Practically speaking, the script never challenges itself, never tries to be creative or original. It’s the kind of funny that one is embarrassed to laugh at because the humor is all so juvenile and familiar. It’s Hee-Haw plus potty humor, and Hee-Haw was already dated humor when it premiered back in 1969.

              V/H/S: Viral, however, is just a godawful mess. Director Marcel Sarmiento's bookending segment "Vicious Circles" appears to be some sort of nonsensical low-speed chase involving police cars and teenagers on bicycles chasing an enigmatic ice cream truck. The segment doesn't make any rational sense, and it's far more aggravating than intriguing. Director Gregg Bishop's "Dante the Great" segment is a rehash of the core concept of Clive Barker's "Lord of Illusions" by way of "Now You See Me" and "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone." But ultimately the segment has little to say and ends up being "okay" instead of "great." Nacho Vigalondo's Parallel Monsters is not the director's best work. Like its preceding segment, it's an interesting concept that feels undercooked and ends with the most cliché & predictable denouement possible. Regrettably, the entire segment falls apart if any amount of rational criticism is applied to it. Directors Aaron Moorhead & Justin Benson's "Bonestorm" segment is an atrocious waste of time that introduces a couple of totally uninteresting teen delinquents who use their skateboards to beat up animated skeletons. The segment concludes with some sort of incoherent implication that a Mexican demon arises out of a drain pipe. The very best moments of V/H/S/ 3 merely manage to rise to mediocrity.

              Zombeavers delivers exactly and everything a viewer interested in a movie like “Zombeavers” wants: boobs, gore, goofy absurdity, satire, foul humor, low-tech practical effects, and a lot of fun. Too frequently these kind of satirical splatter comedies end up failing to deliver on even their meager promise. Zombeavers is one of the rare exceptions that’s actually very good at being very bad.

              I do think that the Austrian creature feature Blood Glacier has a meritorious core buried somewhere within it. But execution simply destroys a promising idea. The biggest problem with the film is that it has absolutely no likeable characters. Every character in the film has some degree of caustic egocentrism. The anonymous supporting characters, including one nameless girl who literally just appears out of nowhere, aren’t terribly annoying. Three-quarters of the initial core cast are insufferable. And the latecomers are initially equally repellant, only becoming moderately likeable three-quarters of the way through the movie. So instead of empathizing with the characters’ terror, the viewer just wishes that they’d all die sooner rather than later. Common sense isn’t tremendously vital to the picture, yet some points remain glaringly idiotic, including the illogical uncertainty of why all of mutant creatures are suddenly so vehemently aggressive, a deliberate Aliens homage that has to defy logic to occur, and the climax that’s supposed to be hopefully but is actually just patently stupid. Furthermore, the film is weakened by an inadequate budget. The monsters are kept in the shadows not to make them more creepy but rather to hide their seams. A number of shots, particularly in the later half of the film, deliberately keep the action off screen because the film’s budget just didn’t allow for additional visual effects. Finally, the English dubbing that I forced myself to bear is rather terrible. Not only do most of the voices not fit the characters, the voices constantly sound tinny and canned, breaking any sense of illusion that the characters are actually speaking the English dialogue. Granted, I’ve seen worse monster movies. Clearly, director Marvin Kren and screenwriter Benjamin Hessler had their hearts in the right place as they made this movie. The movie just isn’t especially good. But the totally random “Stop eating that banana while you're crying," line is memorable enough to nearly justify sitting through the film.

              Comment


                Ugh. The first episode of Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete was so bad. On a technical level the art design and animation quality are both adequate. The narrative, objectively, isn’t especially bad. But the show feels painfully derivative. Watching the first episode is like watching a stultifyingly boring rehash of Little Busters and Kimi ga Nozomu Eien. The first episode of Glasslip was equally boring slice-of-life, but at least it had distinctive characterizations. The first episode of “Waremete” simply recycles established tropes including even the roll-back time to avoid a tragedy and girl falling out of the sky tropes. Unless the viewer happens to be an inhumanly tolerant fan of dating sim anime and can actually watch this show without comparing it to other, previous anime, or the viewer happens to be a newbie that’s never seen any other dating sim anime before, I can’t fathom how or why anyone would be able to maintain interest in this show.

                The first episode of Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai isn't much better. The episode is relatively equally boring but made only slightly more watchable by a more bouyant and humorous tone. The show feels particularly reminiscent of and comparable to earlier forgettable school harem anime like Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate.

                I marathoned the first five episodes of Hi-sCoool! SeHa Girl then two days later watched the sixth episode because after watching the first episode I realized how hilarious the show is. I'm glad that it's not a GDGD Fairies style ad-lib comedy. It's a laugh-out-loud scripted comedy that actually might alienate contemporary kids and teens because many of the jokes are references to 16-bit and Dreamcast era games that are before their time. But I absolutely loved the show and can't wait for more episodes to air.

                I'm very conflicted over the UBW TV series. I've seen the story before, and I've watched the three prior canon "Fate" anime adaptations, so I don't feel compelled to watch this one (again). But the production values are so stellar, and by now UFOtable is so adept at these Type-Moon adaptations that the show is difficult not to watch.

                Watched Mushishi Zoku-shou episodes 13-15, the later of which was especially good by the standards of the "Zoku Shou" season.

                Watched Shirobako episodes 5 & 6.

                The first episode of Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo swings from such heavy handed poles that I feel as though I have a pretty good sense of the tone the show is going to take, and I don't particularly find it appealing.

                Watched the third episode of Denki-gai no Honya-san.

                My initial thought upon watching the first episode of Yowamushi Pedal: Grande Road is that skipping directly into the midst of the story may be interesting. While doing so does place viewers directly into an intense cycle race, I quickly realized how repetative the episode is. While the various racers may naturally have similar thoughts and goals, the episode simply repeats the exact same narrative routine with each of the three focal cycle teams.

                Watching the first episode of the second season of Psycho-Pass is interesting because it's neat to see that Tsunemori has somehow turned so hard-boiled. However, her climactic speech demonstrates that the show still necessarily revolves around pretentious and irrational justification of illogical concepts that are intended to sound intelligent and justify the show's ridiculous premise. The very concept of a representative of the social system suggesting that social disobedience is vital to set an example and affirm one's humanity only demonstrates how corrupt and dehumanizing the established system actually is. In a moral and ideal society, civil disobedience is not necessary, and no individual should have to take a representative morally contradictory stance just to exhibit personal conscience. I really believe that this show is only "intelligent" for viewers that blindly assume that pretentious speeches inherently equal "intelligence" and watch the show while just accepting its tenants without critically evaluating them.

                The first episode of Log Horizon second season demonstrates that despite is very similar concept, the show actually doesn't develop like a clone of Sword Art Online. It's actually a bit closer in tone and style of Druaga no Tou. The first episode seems to be "fans only," as it tries very clumsily to catch up new viewers. But the episode provides quite little to captivate viewers that haven't been watching the story from the beginning of the first season.

                Watched the second episode of Garo.

                Reaction to teh first episode of Okami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji depends partially on one's empathy for protagonist Erika. The show distinctly has charm and legitimate humor, but as much as the show tries to present Erika as a well-intentioned but misguided girl, I still can't completely sympathize with her situation, thereby making the show just a bit difficult for me to fully enjoy.

                Read the first two translated volumes of Kohta Hirano's historical action manga Drifters. I'm disappointed that Nasu no Yoichi is (accurately) depicted as a male because he would be such a fun tomboy girl. The story has the appreciable stylistic similarities to Hellsing yet this story feels very slightly more focused and lean.

                Watched the Bucs lose yet another game to the Falcons. Watched the Broncos beat the Raiders. Watched the Packers crush the Bears and the Seahawks crush the Panthers.

                (Re-)Watched Twin Peaks episodes 27 & 28.

                The new “horror” film Starry Eyes has been getting a moderate amount of advance buzz. Having now seen it, I believe that the film is probably a very polarizing one that will generate reactions based on individual viewers’ expectations and personal experiences. Beyond debate, the film is only “horror” in a relatively loose sense. Practically anything even resembling conventional horror film scenario appears only in the film’s final 25 minutes. The film’s first 70 minutes are strictly dark psychodrama about an emotionally unstable young woman with stars in her eyes, a superiority complex, and a bad case of entitlement syndrome. Viewers that have encountered people like protagonist Sarah may relate to the movie. Viewers that haven’t will wonder how a woman with such a tenuous grip on reality managed to survive into independent adulthood. Furthermore, particularly with its retro title splash and ominous synth score, the film seems to want to be a retro throwback film, but nothing else about the movie actually evokes 70’s or 80’s horror flicks. While contemporary horror throwbacks like House of the Devil, Kiss of the Damned, and Only Lovers Left Alive effectively evoked a 70’s horror vibe, Starry Eyes evokes nothing more prominently than 1999’s Eyes Wide Shut and 2010’s Black Swan. The film wants to be retro but feels unmistakably contemporary. While the films does take a very long time to set up its third act horror, the horror is sadly largely ineffective. The horror hinges heavily upon sympathizing for Sarah’s horrific plight. But for the first 70 minutes of the film Sarah is such a self-absorbed, inconsiderate, and even boorish whore that she’s very difficult to feel sorry for. The horrors that follow are graphic but also telegraphed from practically the outset of the film, compromising their narrative and affective power. Then the film abruptly ends without leaving any lingering sentiment at all. The movie is well acted and nicely shot, and while it feels like a hybrid of two different films, it also earns technical respect for its deliberate, and rather slow, effort to establish characterization and scenario before shifting into horror mode. Unfortunately, the established characterization isn’t empathetic, and the horror is gruesome but not shocking, leaving the viewer detached from the film. Viewers that can relate Sarah the struggling actress to their own experiences and encounters may get some mileage out of the film. Viewers that go into the movie expecting a grim drama may be satisfied by what the movie delivers. Viewers that expect an engrossing and transgressive horror film will likely be left disappointed.

                Comment


                  Doten ni Warau has a comparable setting and visual design to Hoozuki no Reitetsu, but in tone and approach, Doten ni Warau distinctly feels closest to last year's Hakkenden: Toho Hakken Ibun. In other words, it's a bishounen show for female viewers disguised as an action drama for male viewers.

                  Judging strictly by the first episode, I honestly can't tell whether Girlfriend (Kari) is intended to be taken seriously or not. I don't know if it's a satire of whether it's a deliberate effort to just exist as a catalog of stock bishoujo archetypes that viewers can pick through like a picture menu. The fact that the girls all speak with slow, enunciated baby voices elevates the fetishization to a near perverted and absurdist level.

                  Watched Gugure! Kokkuri-san episodes 3-5. I find myself just a bit disappointed that as the cast gets bigger the focus on Kohina decreases.

                  Watched Nanatsu no Taizai episodes 7 & 8. I really suspect that the story probably works better as a manga because print volumes allow readers to read at their own pace. Unlike typical shounen action shows, Nanatsu no Taizai really likes to thin out its action scenes. The show is fun when it gets into fight scenes, but the fight scenes constantly get broken up into brief, intermittent shots and spread out over multiple episodes. As a result, the show’s pace feels much slower than typical shounen adventure/action anime, and the show has a very slow build that actually never quite seems to fully pay off because the show never allows its tension to build to a full head of steam. Every time the action scenes start to get exciting, the anime cuts away to a lengthy dramatic scene. So the series is a bit more exciting than Magi, and it’s not as dumb as Fairy Tail. But it’s nowhere near as intense and exciting as One Piece.

                  If I didn't know better, I'd say that the first episode of Kaito Joker could pass for being an early 1990's shounen anime. It's amusing with a sort of lack of self-conscious seriousness that's different and refreshing compared to most other contemporary shounen anime.

                  Watched Hi-sCoool! SeHa Girls episodes 7 & 8. I'm disappointed that House of the Dead II served only as a disposable joke in episode 8 rather than a full episode setting.

                  Watched Mushishi Zoku Shou episode 16.

                  Watched SAO II 18-20.

                  Watched Danna ga Nani wo Itteiru ka Wakaranai Ken episodes 3-6.

                  I did figure that at some point Shirobako is probably going to turn more character-centric and focus on character drama rather than situational drama. That turn happened in episode 7, but at least the episode still revolves around professional anxiety and how the anime production industry works.

                  Watched Denki-gai no Honya-san 4-7.

                  The short first episode of Bonjour Sweet Love Patisserie looks and feels remarkably similar to UtaPri. It doesn't have the earlier show's oddball comedy, but otherwise it's very similar.

                  Tribe Cool Crew episodes 2-4 reaffirm that I really do like this show.

                  The first episode of Wake Up! Girls Zoo would be totally unremarkable were it not for one brief moment of subtle but unmistakable violent gore that illustrates the uniquely Japanese sensibility of making gruesome violence cute. Continued on to also watch episodes 2-4.

                  I was very pleasantly surprised by the Tamako Market television series. The show was charmingly unpredictable and a heartfelt slice of whimsical life. The movie, however, is suffers from all of the flaws that Kyoto Animation managed to exclude from the TV series. The movie is a completely unnecessary and uncalled for epilogue. The TV series ended nicely. The movie may be a natural progression of the story, but it’s also completely superfluous. The TV series was pleasant because the series revolved around Tamako without getting anchored to her. The TV series was also refreshing because it deliberately marginalized the romantic relationship between Tamako and Mochizou. The movie, however, focuses entirely on that relationship. As a result, the movie is dull, and it reveals absolutely nothing at all that the TV series didn’t already make abundantly clear. Adding insult to injury, Choi and Dera get shoehorned in to two completely obviously obligatory sequences just so they make an appearance. The movie is attractive looking and well animated, but it still feels entirely like a cheap cash-grab effort to milk a surprise hit franchise.

                  Watched Hitsugi no Chaika S2 episodes 5-7. I find myself increasingly anxious that the show is prolonging its mystery not to sustain viewer interested but rather because the author just has no clear and distinct idea about what to do with the plot. So he's kicking the can down the road.

                  Continued below --->

                  Comment


                    Continued from above.

                    After a wondrous first two volumes of Shoulder-a-Coffin Kuro, I was disappointed to find that the third volume felt a bit mundane and shallow. I’m very pleased that the fourth volume returned to the sort of subtly tragic whimsical melancholy that characterized the first two volumes. Reading this book also reminded me again of just how intensely I wish this manga series would get an anime adaptation. I can clearly envision a show with the visual aesthetic of King of Bandit Jing and a moody atmosphere comparable to Kino no Tabi or Mushishi. Plus, seeing the adorable little zombie catgirls Nijuku and Sanju running around joyfully would be gleeful. Typically mangaka that have more than one manga series and get one anime adaptation also get a second one. Satoko Kiyuduki’s GA Art Design Academy got a TV series, but so far, apart from Kuro having a one-frame cameo appearance in the GA anime, Shoulder-a-Coffin Kuro hasn’t gotten animated. I suppose it hasn’t gotten animated because the author pumps out the manga far too slowly for it to sustain an anime adaptation.

                    Watched the second half of the Buc's miraculous victory over the Redskins. Watched the Packers crush the Eagles and the Patriots handily defeat the Colts. Watched the Steelers come back to beat the Titans. Watched the Bears come back to beat the Bucs, the Broncos narrowly defeat the Dolphins, and the Giants lose another game. Watched the Ravens defeat the Saints. On Thanksgiving evening, watched the Eagles beat the Cowboys and the Seahawks beat the 49ers.

                    When I watched the Twin Peaks movie back in 1992 I didn’t like it. Now that I watch it again immediately after re-watching the final two episodes of the TV series, I like it even less. From the outset, the movie was redundant. Moreover, practically everything about the movie is wrong. I’ve long been disappointed that Lara Flynn Boyle’s role was played by replacement actress Moira Kelly. But upon a second viewing, that complaint is the least of the film’s problems. Not only is Donna now played by a different actress, the personality of the character has changed. Throughout two seasons of the TV series, Donna was always grounded and pragmatic. Suddenly in the movie she’s abstract and easily led. The entire opening sequence involving the investigation of Teresa Banks’ murder is completely superfluous. Moreover, David Bowie’s appearance is entirely a pointless distraction. Furthermore, Agent Desmond’s disappearance is a disturbing lapse in continuity because it’s never mentioned in the TV series. Both Laura’s bedroom and Harold’s house have a completely different appearances that smacks of lazy set design. Laura has a safety deposit box key in her diary, yet the movie never mentions Bobby’s $5,000 that Laura is saving. Bobby killing the woodsman is a massive gaff in continuity. I think that efforts to logically retcon it into the TV series are a tremendous stretch of the imagination. Laura is supposed to be the town’s darling, yet the movie never depicts her doing a single good deed. The movie completely excises her tutoring Johnny Horne and seeing Doctor Jacoby. The fact that the movie establishes a personal relationship between Laura and Ronette with Teresa makes zero sense. The introduction of the green rings is a pointless macguffin that breaks continuity with the TV series. The movie associating Mrs. Tremond with the Black Lodge makes no sense. Phillip Gerard calling Leland “Mr. Palmer” makes no sense because the two men had never met before. Cooper’s visits to the Black Lodge make no sense in relation to TV series continuity. And even beyond narrative inconsistencies, the soundtrack feels jarringly unnatural; David Lynch’s trademark weirdness feels forced and obligatory in the picture; Margaret’s cameo feels especially shoehorned in, and the movie’s pacing feels uneven and too frequently unnecessarily bogged down.

                    Watched the nightmarish Canadian short film Ethereal Chrysalis

                    As reported elsewhere, The Man From Nowhere director Jeong-beom Lee’s latest crime/action film No Tears for the Dead is not as gripping or compelling as Man From Nowhere, but it’s far from a wasted effort. The movie wants to be an intense and violent thriller grounded in sympathetic characterizations, but unfortunately the movie simply lacks a lot of characterization. Protagonist Gon is supposed to be sympathetic because he sees parallels between himself and his mother with Choi, the woman’s he’s supposed to kill. Except the couple never have a single honest conversation. They only speak to each other in person once, and that conversation is entirely insubstantial pleasantry. In effect, the movie tells, rather than shows, that Gon wants to relive his childhood by saving Choi. And Choi spends practically the entire movie in a seeming daze, led around from one event to the next. The movie gives her ample reason, and opportunities, to die but struggles mightily to find a reason for her to live. As a result, the viewer feels very little anxiety for her. When there’s no motivation or reason for her to stay alive, there’s no reason for viewers to be worried for her. So nearly the entire first half of the film is a detective thriller that doesn’t care about clues or mystery, leaving the segment largely just hollow narrative following zombie-like characters. The second half of the film introduces some tension as it begin to ramp up the intense and bloody action scenes. While not quite as stylized or choreographed as Man From Nowhere, the action scenes are still lengthy and very brutal, particularly reminiscent of Johnnie To’s Breaking News, Michael Mann’s Heat, and John McTeirnan’s Die Hard. Although the story and drama and a bit underwhelming, the explosive action that fills the movie’s second half delivers what viewers come to the movie for.

                    I love the Spierig Brothers’ first film, Undead. Like most folks, I think that Daybreakers is a fine concept hampered by flawed execution. The brothers’ third film, Predestination, actually out-loops Looper and may even be a better film. The movie is not so much “inspired by” a Heinlein story as it is a slightly expanded literal adaptation of Heinlein’s “All You Zombies.” I may not comprehend the movie enough to say for certain, but seemingly the movie does fully actually make sense, provided that the viewer comprehends and accepts the hypothetical scientific concept of a predestination paradox. Given that foundation, I really love the way the movie drops very very subtle clues and hints about its chronological nature, such as “rooster,” and “My own mother wouldn’t recognize me.” The movie is structurally rather amazing in the respect that literally half of the picture is just dramatic character back-story with no speculative sci-fi component. The movie takes a great deal of time to finally get to its overt sci-fi/time hopping component, but the lengthy wait is amply paid off because the sci-fi elements carry far more narrative weight than typical for sci-fi films. The movie is literally thinking sci-fi on steroids, as it forces the viewer to perform intellectual gymnastics to piece together all of the film’s fractured, paradoxical, and suggested relationships and connections. The acting is also roundly excellent, fully evoking viewer sympathy and engagement with the characters. Simply put, this is a masterpiece sci-fi film that rewards patient viewing and even more so rewards repeat viewings.

                    I’m entirely satisfied with the Star Wars 7 teaser. I think that seeing a black man in stormtrooper armor is a nice nod to racial diversity, as the original films at best are pretty heavily skewed toward a universe full of white folks. The X-Wings along the lake is a beautiful shot, and the camera swoop around the Falcon is the sort of breathtaking aerial swashbuckling that was missing from the prequel trilogy. Already the ‘net is abuzz with criticism of the new Sith lightsaber, particularly calling the “crossguard” pointless. Particularly since this is a Sith’s saber, I think the shorter prongs should be viewed in an offensive rather than defensive perspective. In CQC, the additional blades potentially offer additional thrusting and cutting capability. Guess I’ll just have to wait until the film to see if and how they’re actually used.

                    Comment


                      I finally got around to watching the first two episodes of Pro Golfer Saru. Unlike golfing anime such as Dandoh and Ashita Tenki ni Nare that stick pretty faithfully to realistic golf, the second episode of Pro Golfer Saru establishes pretty quickly that it's not concerned with plausibility at all. Playing t-ball with a golf ball is not officially sanctioned "golf."

                      The first episode of Gundam Build Fighters Try has a very gung-ho attitude and feels just a bit more mature, although still quite "shounen" than the debut episode of the first series.

                      Watched Shirobako episodes 8-10.

                      Watched SAO II episodes 21-23. Clearly episode 22 is intended to be very emotional, but its affectiveness is somewhat limited because viewers just haven't spent enough time with Yuuki to really feel attached to her. Episode 23 isn't tremendously interesting or compelling. In fact, it feels like an episode of a different show entirely, but it's a necessary episode to wrap up the current storyline.

                      Watched Nanatsu no Taizai episodes 9-11. Particularly episode 11 reminded me that the show has a strange habit of occasionally including brief shots of grotesquely graphic gore and violence.

                      I’ll admit that Sega Hard Girls hasn’t made me actually laugh out loud since the second episode, but episode 9 finally did elicit some audible giggles from me. Episode 10 had the full-episode setting the way I wish episode 8 did. Episode 11 is very fun.

                      Wake Up Girls Zoo episode 5 once again exhibits the shows's subtle morbidity.

                      Watched the Time Ranger Cesar Boy no Bouken: Roma Teikoku Hen OVA. My reaction to is is here.

                      Not much occurs in the Ano Natsu de Matteru Tokubetsuhen OVA, but the episode does have a pleasant tone.

                      Curiosity motivated me to watch Disk Wars Avengers episodes 24-25 & 27. The former two are the Guardians of the Galaxy guest appearance episodes, and the later is the introduction of Deadpool. The Guardians are quite a bit different than their live-action interpretation, although the genes are the same. I'm a bit impressed by how faithfully Deadpool got localized to Japanese.

                      Although I watched the Lupin III: Daikuke Jigen's Gravestone OVA series during its limited Japanese theatrical premiere, I watched the two episodes again translated to get a more complete sense of the story. As I find happens occasionally, having translated dialogue didn't actually increase my understanding of the picture as much as I expected. So I guess I did really get the gist of it the first time I watched it.

                      I’m both surprised and pleased that the final three episodes of Hitsugi no Chaika actually manage to address practically all of the enigma that the series has gestated for two seasons. A few questions, like the changes in Gillette’s personality and the reason for the evocation of the half-Chaika, remain unclear. And Niva’s decision in the final episode seems especially artificial considering that Gaz seemed to plan for absolutely every eventuality, seemingly except that one. But the show does conclude far more effectively, although a bit rapidly, than many comparable series do.

                      Watched Denki-gai episodes 8 & 9.

                      Although Magical Hat premiered at the very end of the 80s the first episode still feels and looks, especially in its second half, like a classic golden age show. The show has its own identity despite feeling comparable to a number of other shounen anime including Akuma-Kun, Wataru, and Mahoujin Guru Guru. The one thing that bothers me about the series is the persistent question, “What kind of parents name their son ‘Hat’?”

                      Mushishi Zoku-sho 17-19. Episode 18 is a particularly beautiful one, and just when I really started to lament that the series has turned into nothing but happy endings, episode 19 bucked the trend.

                      I read One Peace Books' translations of Raqiya volumes 3 & 4.

                      Largely by random chance, I happened to catch Star Wars Rebels episodes 4 & 5 on TV. While it doesn't seem exceptional or outstanding to me, at least it's better than the dreadful beginning of the CG Clone Wars series was.

                      Watched the Bucs again narrowly lose, this time to the Bengals. Watched the Packers defeat the Patriots. Watched the Broncos' powerful running game defeat the Chiefs. Watched the Dolphins narrowly defeat the Jets. Watched the Cowboys beat the Bears. Watched the Lions beat the Bucs, the Seahawks beat the Eagles, and the Pats defeat the Chargers. Watched the Cardinals beat the Rams. Watched the Panthers beat the Bucs, the Broncos beat the Chargers, and the Cowboys beat the Eagles. Watched the Saints crush the Bears. And watched the Texans defeat the Jaguars.

                      Continued --->

                      Comment


                        Continued from above.

                        As reported elsewhere, The Man From Nowhere director Jeong-beom Lee’s latest crime/action film No Tears for the Dead is not as gripping or compelling as Man From Nowhere, but it’s far from a wasted effort. The movie wants to be an intense and violent thriller grounded in sympathetic characterizations, but unfortunately the movie simply lacks a lot of characterization. Protagonist Gon is supposed to be sympathetic because he sees parallels between himself and his mother with Choi, the woman’s he’s supposed to kill. Except the couple never have a single honest conversation. They only speak to each other in person once, and that conversation is entirely insubstantial pleasantry. In effect, the movie tells, rather than shows, that Gon wants to relive his childhood by saving Choi. And Choi spends practically the entire movie in a seeming daze, led around from one event to the next. The movie gives her ample reason, and opportunities, to die but struggles mightily to find a reason for her to live. As a result, the viewer feels very little anxiety for her. When there’s no motivation or reason for her to stay alive, there’s no reason for viewers to be worried for her. So nearly the entire first half of the film is a detective thriller that doesn’t care about clues or mystery, leaving the segment largely just hollow narrative following zombie-like characters. The second half of the film introduces some tension as it begin to ramp up the intense and bloody action scenes. While not quite as stylized or choreographed as Man From Nowhere, the action scenes are still lengthy and very brutal, particularly reminiscent of Johnnie To’s Breaking News, Michael Mann’s Heat, and John McTeirnan’s Die Hard. Although the story and drama and a bit underwhelming, the explosive action that fills the movie’s second half delivers what viewers come to the movie for.

                        Nick Damici has carried some excellent indie horror films including Mulberry St. and Stake Land. He again carries director Adrián García Bogliano's werewolf picture Late Phases, playing a cantankerous blind Vietnam veteran who decides to go out with one final guns blazing stand. The movie is a bit of a treat for, and largely only for, fans of 80's creature features. The film is rather decidedly slow paced. The narrative introduces a few interesting quirks but doesn't ever develop any of them sufficiently for them to have much impact. The werewolf costumes are a bit hokey and laughable, but the gore surrounding the werewolf attacks is a bit more satisfying. The movie is absolutely no gem waiting to be discovered, but it's not without some charm.

                        Despite my deep love for Asia, I have to concede that they’ve never been the finest live act. The Asia at High Voltage performance DVD from July 2010, for the most part, is one of their better live recordings because it’s a show with a bit more personality than some of their past concert recordings. Hearing Steve Howe sing co-vocals on “One Step Closer,” is unusual. It’s also unfortunately pretty bad. There’s an evident reason why Howe has never been a vocalist. But as if to make up for it, the performance of “Without You” is especially good. Carl Palmer keeping his drum solo abbreviated is also a nice change-up. I recognize his musical talent, but his solos are too-frequently excessively self-indulgent.

                        With The Hobbit 3 coming up, I realized that Monday was my last opportunity to see Interstellar in IMAX, so out I went to my local theater. I’m glad that I’ve seen the film so that I’m now completely familiar with it, and I really don’t think it’s a bad film. But it’s a different type of movie for Christopher Nolan, and it’s not really a science-fiction movie in the conventional sense. The movie is a heavy-handed sentimental humanist film wrapped in a sci-fi cloak. The movie practically goes out of its way to include characters with different perspectives and personalities in order to fill the movie with an illustration of the scope of human reactions: acceptance, denial, aggression, confusion, madness. The movie heavily revolves around human connections and fallibility, to such an extent that certain aspects of the narrative seem to be excluded or brushed aside because they may possibly conflict with the movie’s intentions. For example, I can’t fathom why the world depicted within the movie hasn’t figured out how to manufacture synthetic food. The lengthy sequence surrounding the rogue Indian drone seems to be practically pointless, as it doesn’t advance the story and doesn’t contribute any characterization that isn’t also delivered by other scenes early in the film. I personally enjoyed the film’s most overtly sci-fi elements the most, but even among them certain elements disappointed me. Despite watching the film in IMAX, Danny Boyle’s 2007 sci-fi film Sunshine has more impressive cosmic scenery, and Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity evokes a far stronger sense of awe and wonder about space. Especially through the first third of the film, Hans Zimmer’s score is obnoxiously prominent, and its efforts to manipulate viewer sentiment is so obvious that it’s practically embarrassing. At the very end of the film, when the movie becomes just a bit more speculative and far less self-serious, it lightens up and becomes the most fun it ever is.

                        I don’t think that comparing Donnie Yen’s latest feature, Kung Fu Jungle, to his Ip Man movies is appropriate because the tone and style of the movies is so drastically different. Kung Fu Jungle is a far more appropriate parallel to other contemporary crime thriller fight films including SPL, Flashpoint, and Special ID. I think that Kung Fu Jungle is a bit weaker than SPL and possibly just a little bit lesser of a film than Flashpoint. But it’s undeniably better than Special ID. The movie has an intense, dour tone reminiscent of The Raid 2. The movie is also interesting because, like films such as Innocent Blood and Island of Fire, it packs in respectful cameo appearances from genre luminaries. Thankfully, unlike Flashpoint and Special ID, this film is strictly traditional, albeit brutal, kung fu, meaning that the film has none of the MMA grappling that Yen seems lately fascinated with. Unfortunately for fight fans, much of the movie focuses so much on emphasizing its story and tone that many of the movie’s fight scenes are short and not always shot as well as they could be. The extended climactic fight is a definite highlight of the film until, like the climax of Special ID, it ends abruptly and somewhat anti-climactically. The movie is definitely a gratifying return to traditional form for Donnie Yen after recent disappointments including Iceman and Special ID, but it’s still not one of Donnie Yen’s finest starring vehicles, and it doesn’t rival the intensity and shocking brutality of The Raid 2.

                        Continued below --->

                        Comment


                          Continued (again) from above.

                          Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films has two flaws working against it, and a bit surprisingly neither is the fact that Cannon founders Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus don’t participate in the documentary. One of the film’s problems is that it’s just a bit too concerned with being an authoritative, academic analysis of a goofy, ridiculous subject. So particularly the first and third acts of the movie are a little bit dry because these portions of the documentary focus heavily on the financial rather than the creative history of the Cannon Group. Learning how Golan & Globus managed sales, what business partnerships they established, and which investments they acquired is certainly relevant, and such facts may be interesting, but they’re not especially fun. The middle of the movie that deals most heavily with Cannon’s most famous era of schlocky output is more enjoyable because the documentary focuses on kooky anecdotes and behind-the-scenes stories of how the pictures were made. The focus of the documentary turns toward the creative aspects of Cannon more than the fiscal aspects. The second weakness of the movie is more abstract. The movie largely expects viewers to intuit the incongruous, campy, offensive, and absurd aspects of Cannon’s films. Furthermore, the movie makes a special point to explain that Cannon Group introduced the practice of pre-selling movies at Cannes. In effect, the movie expects viewers to see the absurdity in practices that are now well-established and widely accepted. I grew up watching Cannon movies, so the films seem entirely natural exploitation films to me. They seem exactly like the same type of low-budget campy movies that Roger Corman had already been producing for decades prior. So I don’t comprehend the sense of audacity and absurdity that the documentary wants to express because the Cannon movies just don’t seem that absurd to me. Furthermore, since the documentary itself explains that Cannon paved the way for modern ridiculous spectacle pictures like The Expendables, and now that the Sci-Fi Channel deliberately produces bad genre movies, Cannon Group’s business practices also don’t seem so outlandish. Certainly they were at the time, and the documentary explains that fact, but viewers don’t “feel” it because we’re now too familiar with these practices that Cannon started. So these practices just don’t seem absurd at all to today’s movie fans. The documentary does do a good job of what it intended to do, but as a piece of cinema, the documentary isn’t nearly as much fun as similar documentaries like Not Quite Hollywood and not as much fun as actually watching Cannon films themselves.

                          My closest theater wasn’t screening The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies in HFR, so I went to the Regal Cinema in Citrus Park Mall at 11:30am on Wednesday to see the film. At 11:50 the theater management finally conceded that it couldn’t get the film running properly, but could screen the movie, sans trailers, on the screen across the hall. So the meager morning crowd shuffled over. To avoid dropping spoilers, I’ll say only that this final installment moves much more briskly than the prior two installments and is just as enjoyable and satisfying as the prior film. Seeing the film in HFR, as I did the first two, once again reminds me that stereoscopic 3D is a minor enhancement, but HFR is practically an entirely different viewing experience. It’s virtually like seeing an entirely different movie.

                          Comment


                            Finished off Denki-gai no Honya-san episodes 10-12.

                            The 24th and final episode of Sword Art Online II is a lot more affecting because viewers now know Yuki well and have a lot more sympathy for her situation.

                            Watched Ramenman episode 17.

                            I really want to like the Garo anime, but episodes 3-5 still just don't feel especially involving or compelling.

                            Watched Nanatsu no Taizai episode 12.

                            I watched the St. Seiya: Legend of Sanctuary film for a second time with a friend who was watching it for the first time. I've now revised my opinion of the movie. Although it has some goofy weaknesses, I like it. On second viewing the exaggerated Disney-esque facial reactions and physical humor didn't seem as distracting. I do have to recognize some flaws, though. More explanation of the nature of the fake Athena would be welcome. At some uncertain point in the film Gemini's plan to assassinate Saori evolves into a plan to absorb her cosmo. Exactly what Gemini would have done had he succeeded in killing Saori early in the picture is unclear. Furthermore, his goal upon revealing himself at the end of the movie is also unclear. The first appearance of Seiya's pegasus armor is strictly an elaborate gimmick. Likewise, Aphrodite's entire appearance in the film is strictly superfluous fan service. Everything related to him could be edited out of the film without viewers even noticing anything was missing.

                            The first episode of Cardfight Vanguard G adheres strictly to formula. If the episode has a saving grace, it's the fact that the episode doesn't go overboard bluntly explaining the rules of how to play the card game.

                            The first episode of Oshiri Kajiri Mushi season 3 seems even more child-oriented than ever.

                            Got around to watching the first two episodes of the second season of Agents of SHIELD. While still not brilliant, the episdoes are considerably better than any episodes of the first season.

                            Detective Dee: Mystery of the Phantom Flame might be best described as a Chinese parallel to Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes movies. The film is a lengthy detective mystery peppered with wu xia kung-fu fights. The character of detective Dee is moderately interesting because he’s a principled man in an era of corruption and disloyalty, and the film does a nice job of illustrating his integrity gradually winning the trust of those who are suspicious of him. However, a bit like the Ritchie Sherlock Holmes films, the actual mystery here is a bit difficult for viewers to immerse in because the victims are either insignificant or unlikeable characters, and the beneficiary of Dee solving the case isn’t a character that the audience roots for. Dee explains that he has no interest in the political sides of the murder mystery, which is a compelling position for him but a position that places the viewer in a bind of not particularly caring about who wins or loses if the case is cracked. Ultimately the movie is a capable transitory distraction but nothing more.

                            Woochi the Taoist Wizard is an ambitious but also bloated and schizophrenic mess. The movie has a lot of story to tell, yet the movie still includes a lot of unnecessary scenes and characters. One of the film’s biggest problems is its inconsistent tone. The movie can never decide how serious it wants to be, so it varies from suspense to light drama to comedy to keystone cops slapstick, sometimes at breakneck speed. The protagonist and his sidekick aren’t exactly pleasant or likeable. The audience eventually begins to empathize with them only because the film spends so much time with them. Editing, particularly early in the film, is especially rapid and partially non-linear, forcing viewers to follow the story through context. And despite the film’s extended length, numerous ideas and concepts introduced in the movie go unexplained or unutilized. The “shoot the cabinet” concept never gets a clear explanation. Woochi’s attempts to use magic without talismans goes nowhere. The crazy elderly widow, the two belligerent cops, the night-club bartender girl, the prima-donna actress, and the movie director all seem to take up time in the movie for no reason. Practically the only thing the movie really has going for it is its extensive visual effects. The action scenes aren’t actually tremendously creative; the movie simply compensates by including a massive number of elaborate visual magic effects.

                            No single aspect of The Maze Runner is especially good. Rather, the entire movie simply avoids being bad. As an adaptation of a juvenile fiction novel, the plotting is mechanical and artificial. Every plot development follows the easiest, most predictable route. Furthermore, anything off-screen exists or occurs as if by magic. The movie makes its plot developments clear, and the audience is supposed to accept without question any and everything not bluntly addressed. Trying to apply any scientific logic to the movie is a fools’ errand. The movie could stand to be a bit shorter. And the ending is such a broad, vague cliffhanger that even calling the movie a “complete” film feels like a stretch. The movie’s conclusion makes the entire film feel like a prologue, a mere first chapter rather than a substantial complete episode. Despite the film being near embarrassingly predictable and the eventual explanation being a head-scratching stretch of credibility, the movie manages to avoid being grossly condescending or stupid. So it’s passable but little more.

                            I did my patriotic duty on Christmas Eve and spent $6 to watch The Interview on Youtube. I enjoyed the flick quite a bit more than I expected to. While not perfect, it hits far more often than it misses. It's a fun, goofy satire.

                            Watched the Eagles vs Redskins game, the Packers defeat the Bucs, the Cowboys crush the Colts, and the Seahawks crush the Cardinals. Watched Cinci beat the Broncos.
                            Last edited by John; December 24th, 2014, 03:16 PM.

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                              Finished off Sega Hard Girls episodes 12-13.

                              The first Yamada & the 7 Witches OAD seems to exist to give fans of the manga an opportunity to see the characters in motion. Narratively there's just not enough substance to the episode, otherwise, for it to deliver much of anything.

                              The first Strike Witches: Victory Arrow OVA is a better installment in the franchise despite having a limited cast.

                              Shirobako episode 12 may be the best episode of the series so far because it culminates everything that the show has been building. Furthermore, the Hideaki Anno cameo was great because it's such a spot-on perfect representation. On a side note, I suppose one may have to grow up with "Andes Chucky" to be a die-hard fan because I watched the first episode of Rockychuck Monogatari several years ago and didn't like it all that much.

                              Watched the first episode of Narihero www to see what it was like.

                              The earliest episode of the 2014 Calimero TV series I could find was episode 11, so I watched it. The CG is pretty good, and the episode is precocious children's fun that seems a bit more contemporary and amusing than the prior 2D anime that seemed a bit dry to me. I am a little bothered, though, by the continuity error of Peter's outfit changing in the middle of a scene.

                              Finished off Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis episodes 3-12 in two sittings. The story starts off a bit slow, and the characters take some time to turn likeable, but eventually the show does become engrossing, particularly after Rita joins the cast. I am intrigued by the characterizations of the angels and demons. The demons are smart and capable, but their plans don't work out because they're all demons, so they constantly backstab and sabotage each other. The angels, on the other hand, are simply incompetent and foolish.

                              The art design on Kuma Seijin to Boku is pretty bad, and the animation quality is even worse, but the goofy concept is still just a bit amusing.

                              The first episode of Chika Sugi Idol Akae-chan is one of the stranger anime I've seen recently. The episode makes me think, "If Mangatarou tried to create a moé idol anime, it would look like this."

                              Sengoku Muso Special: Sanada no Shou is clearly a budget production, although it's not terrible. However, the TV special is so concerned with trying to pack in a lot of action that it really glosses over the character relationships and politics. Even though the special focuses on just two historical battles, and one of them is relatively minor, it still feels highly abridged.

                              Watched the director's cut of the Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods movie. The extra footage is all character-centric rather than action, but the additional footage improves the film's pacing and tone tremendously. This isn't an especially exciting movie, but the extended version feels much more complete and fluid than the clipped, disjointed original theatrical version seemed.

                              Watched the Bucs lose its last game of the season in the fourth quarter. Watched the Packers defeat the Lions and the Steelers beat the Bengals.

                              Watched SHIELD season 2 episodes 3-7. The show is still not one of the all-time greats, but the second season is a tremendous improvement on the first season. The second season has much more intensity, focus, and urgency, and it simply feels smarter, less forced and less smarmy.

                              I started 2015 with my annual Highlander viewing. After maybe 30 times watching this movie, I never noticed before that Ramirez puts his palms together in the position of prayer just before he dies.
                              Last edited by John; January 1st, 2015, 06:47 PM. Reason: Forgot to mention the Sengoku Muso SP

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                                Since I was a Kickstarter backer, I got access to the Santa Company OVA. I'm regretful to say that it's not very good. The short has a good concept but weak execution. The visual design and the animation quality are very reminiscent of the quality of average early 1990s anime. As such, the quality isn't terrible, but compared to what viewers are used to from contemporary anime productions, it's below par. The story development is particularly weak, as the episode leaps from idea to idea without ever developing either characterization or its narrative ideas. The story isn't difficult to follow, but every plot development feels abrupt and isolated. Ideas are introduced suddenly then forgotten about just as quickly. I'm afraid that some of the blame may lie on director Kenji Itoso who has no prior experience directing any anime starring human characters.

                                Watched Ai Tenchi Muyo episodes 4-30 before I gave up on the show.

                                The Sekai Seifuku OVA episode is pretty cute.

                                I'm a bit disappointed that after the first Zetsumetsu Kigu Shoujo Amazing Twins OVA was intriguing and unpredictable, but the second episode ended up being far more conventional, predictable, and less interesting.

                                Finished off Mushishi Zoku-sho episodes 17-22, which included some of the best episodes of the second TV series.

                                I won't say that the Ao Haru Ride OAD is bad because it's not. But since it's just a marginally expanded re-telling of the flashbacks from the TV show, it's not very interesting for viewers that have already watched the TV show.

                                Watched the amusing first three Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun omake shorts.

                                Watched One Piece episodes 622-625. I'm still pretty far behind.

                                The first episode of Yuri Kuma Arashi takes an allegorical approach to its storytelling that would typically limit its narrative potential. But the story is simply so bizarrely creative that normally expected limitations don't apply to it. I love the way the first episode is distinctly anime because this exactly story told via live-action or even 3D CG would be impossible to take seriously.

                                The first episode of Uwabakicook is weird. It's an off-kilter, satirical comedy in the vein of something like Danchi Kokousei no Nichijou, except it's for small children.

                                The first episode of Wasimo second season reminds me that the show is an interesting example of distinctively Japanese culture. The show represents a respect for and an affection for the elderly and also the complete integration of technology into the lives of both young and old. Furthermore, I appreciate the show's simple, charming family-friendly humor. But this is a show that I'm glad is in 2D traditional anime because it would look frightfully creepy in 3D CG or, even worse, live-action.

                                I'll admit that the first episode of Doamaiger D is funny. But it's also just a little bit too self-conscious to be anything but a parody of 70's super robot anime. It feels more like a parody than an homage.

                                The first episode of Kamisama Hajimemashita second series reminds me that the show is a distinct kind of shoujo. It's not conventional sentimental shoujo like HanaDan or Ao Haru Ride, and it's not seinen/shoujo hybrid like Inu x Boku SS. It's also not kid's slapstick shoujo like Kodocha or Akazukin Chacha. It's a sort of hybrid of shoujo with shounen slapstick comedy that feels somewhat like Okami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji.

                                Watched the Panthers defeat the Cardinals in the first Wild Card Playoff game. Watched the Ravens beat the Steelers. On Sunday, watched the Colts beat the Bengals, and the Lions self-destruct against the Cowboys.

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