Minor update

As the title says. Basically, my job is starting to pick again, and going to be slightly more busy than usual offline. What do I do exactly? I basically work in food processing, and make sure product that gets shipped out is consumable more or less. There’s some heavy lifting, and some paper work involve, but that’s the gist of it. So, the usual movie review posts for this week that would go up on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday won’t happen. I’ll be working more weekends, and I’ll have less time to juggle my job, social life, and blogging.

I do have movie review drafts I’m working on, but none of them are close to being completed. In particular, the big four (as I’m referring to them) I don’t want to rush completion. I blame my own laziness for this, and therefore going to use this week, and hopefully next week to finish a few of them on time to post. The usual anime posts for Tuesday, and Thursday will still go up. The Tuesday one is already done, but the Thursday one is not. Aside from probably being delayed til Friday, there will be two anime related posts this week. The reason is simple, my anime content is barren! I shall fix that….slowly.

Also, it’s an excuse to watch more stuff. In terms of watching, didn’t see much anime, or movies. So, I’m getting onto that. I know, I must struggle to sit back, watch something, sit, and type! Oh the humanity! I shall aim to return to the regular posting schedule by the end of next week. If I can’t, I’ll post another update. So everyone reading this, take care, and see you when I come up with a more original closing line.

Some Quick Thoughts On (Currently) My Favorite Animes

I hardly finish any anime series in April so expect a couple of these blog posts of me writing about whatever anime related topic comes to mind. This post is also thrown together very quickly since I was unsatisfied with how my review of the Makoto Shinkai movie Your Name turned out. Instead of posting it in a unsatisfied state I would prefer working on it until I’m satisfied with it since it’s surprisingly difficult to express exactly how I feel about it. I would include more entries on this list besides of favorites the 5 (well, technically six for one of them) that I have on here. At the moment, I can say for certain these 5 animes are certainly in my all time favorites, and unlikely they’ll be removed from there any time soon.

The animes in this post are organized by alphabetical order instead of ranking them by favorites. Also, only anime tv series are included on this list, and not movies since there isn’t enough I adore to the point to make a blog post. So, here they are.

Cardcaptor Sakura (1998 – 2000)d2e

I dislike slice of life anime, and I also find it difficult to find anime where I simply sit back, and enjoy watching it. Cardcaptor Sakura breaks that trend for me as it has elements of slice of life, but done tremendously better than most. Who knew simply having characters grow up, and changing through the course of the series doing everyday things would go a long way. Not only that, but Cardcaptor Sakura also tackles the subject of love far better than a majority of romance, and harem animes I’ve seen. While not complex, it explores it in a broad sense from family love, understanding the differentiation between different type of love, and so forth. Never becoming to sappy, or overbearing when exploring the subject matter. All the while making me forget it’s a series starring little kids, and it shouldn’t be this good at doing everything it does.

There’s also a sense of wonder, and adventure that rarely capture it like Cardcaptor Sakura. For me, the experience of seeing the series was just like watching a Studio Ghibli movie. Making the real world seem fantastical, virtually without leaving it. Another reason I like enjoyed it besides the endearing characters, and good theme exploration was it felt like it always made progress. Nearly every episode would have Sakura capture a Clow Card causing trouble, and saving the day. When she wasn’t capturing a Clow Card, Sakura was simply doing her best to either finish school work, or something important for a friend. It had a formula it was more than comfortable repeating through its entire run, but I didn’t mind it. It either offered me a good source of entertainment, a well written piece of fiction, or both at the same times. Like Sakura deceased mother actually being developed in the series instead of just being a thing in the background. Too frequently do I see the dead parent trope/plot device used just a mean to sympathize with the hero. In Cardcaptor Sakura, it never felt like, and the series treated her as an important like it should have. Most surprisingly, multiple episodes to Sakura learning about her mother leading to some sweet moments.

Cardcaptor Sakura is only one of three anime that has ever manage to get some tears out of me, and currently the only anime to do it twice. Typically, in media I consume I rarely ever tear up at things I watch, even more rare at the times I actually cried watching something. Aside from Paddington 2 (yes, the talking bear movie), Cardcaptor Sakura is the only anime to ever get tears from me because of how heartwarming it was. The episode that did it for me was episode 22, titled Sakura, and Her Caring Father. By this point in the series, I grew to like Sakura, and her kind hearted nature came across as genuine. It was a likable part of her character. Also by this point, I was also invested into the other characters, and seeing them was simply a joy. It basically felt like seeing family. When seeing this episode, I wasn’t expecting it to get me surprisingly emotional as it did. It simply treated itself as another episode in the series, and didn’t go out of it way to get to me cry. All the characters acted as they usually do, and it was business as usual. By doing so, it didn’t make me raise my guard, and all my reaction to the episode came naturally.

Too frequently in anime do they try too hard to get me to feel something, and more so that short length anime try to get me to cry when I spend so little time with the characters. This is different since I spend 21 episodes beforehand growing to like the characters, and getting to know them. When I finally got around to seeing episode 22, ah, it was so heartwarming that it went from a anime series I thought was already special to become something I simply adore. There was also another moment that got to me tear because of how sweet it was, but unfortunately that would involve going into spoilers, and I rather not be the one to spoil that great moment.

I could go on gushing about how I enjoyed the growth of Sayaron Li over the course of the series. In particular, how his rivalry with Sakura grows simply beyonds being rivals in love with the same person. There’s also the huge praise of anime original character Meiling Li whom I felt added more to the series especially in terms of having a great character arc, and how her involvement in the series made for some great character interactions. Her absent in the manga was strongly felt for me when I eventually read it. There’s also the possibility of gushing about the fantastic soundtrack, the great animation, great voice work, and so forth. However, just like everything else on this post, if I did this would go on for probably another dozen, or so paragraphs.

Death Note (2006 – 2007)death-note-anime

Pft, it’s only my all time favorite anime series of all time, and for a while it took up the top two spot of my all time favorite anime series. Yes, I liked Death Note so much there was a time where there wasn’t a series I would put below it in terms of favorites. That eventually changed, but that’s on the next entry. For Death Note, simply put set a new standard for what I consider great writing. Before even starting Death Note, I constantly questioned how something with such a limited sounding premise be any good. One viewing of the entire series later, if it wasn’t for Death Note I wouldn’t have gone on to see like over 300 or so animes.

I wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I did since it took me about 4 episodes before I became addicted to the series. The first three episodes I thought were good, but nothing that would personally get me hooked into seeing it. It wasn’t until the halfway point of episode 5, and seeing Light Yagami on that subway threatening an investigators to give up the names of the investigators after him that the series became something I had to marathon. Within two days, it became the fastest anime I’ve ever finished, and only among the likes of Breaking Bad where no matter how much I saw of it I simply needed more of it. The mind games between Light Yagami, and L were always engaging to me. Seeing those two trying to get one up on each other seal the deal for me. Wondering how Light could match someone equal to him intelligence, and simply witnessing him face against L was pure bliss in terms of excitement.

Another aspect I liked about Death Note is the descend into madness. Witnessing the downfall of Light Yagami from a self-righteous young man whom came from a background of justice simply wanting to do good, and letting power get to him was good to see. I see part of myself in Light Yagami which is partially a reason why I love him so much. Well more specifically the part of him that easily detaches himself from anyone close to him to in order to meet an end goal I can relate too. Going into specifics on the other hand, not happening any time soon.

Even if that wasn’t part of Light Yagami character, there was also the intrigue of seeing officers trying to solve the case of Kira. How does one exactly capture a criminal whom is able to kill anyone, anywhere, and anytime if he has their full name. Most importantly, how does one capture that individual. I didn’t know the answers to that, but this anime series certainly did, and it offering surprises one right after another.

Of course, there’s also the last 12 episodes which I enjoyed honestly. At the same time, I am also the same person who enjoyed the first 25 episode of Death Note so much that I’ve yet to see another anime surpassing the sheer enjoyment, and expectation breaking experience that this has provided me.

 

Fullmetal Alchemist (2003 – 2004)fma.pngFullmetal Alchemist is the only anime on this post I saw twice, and it’s because of that rewatch that it certified itself in as permanently being my second all time favorite anime. More specifically, the first question why the original, and not Brotherhood. Simple, Brotherhood is a typical shounen, but excellence execution of everything shounen is known for. Therefore, I found Brotherhood very predictable, and also the first 12 episodes of Brotherhood ruined some of my favorite moments from the original series. Now, on the original Fullmetal Alchemist. What appeals to me more about it is the story remains a personal one, and unlike shounen doesn’t devolve into a saving the world story line. A nice change up from these kind of series aimed at it demographics.

Much like Cardcaptor Sakura, the cast of Fullmetal Alchemist is among my favorite of all time. Nearly all of them are complex, and given amount of depth to them. Every character is presented with shades of grey, and rarely does anything is ever presented in a simplistic way. When it does showcase something simplistic like the methods the Homunculus would use to make a philosopher’s stone it’s usage tends to help serve a greater purpose. Among other things, it’s world given a detailed history burden with conflict. Something this series does that I wish the fantasy genre in general would showcase with magic is the effect Alchemy has in its own, and different viewpoints on it. Alchemy simply something that everyone clamour to embrace wholeheartedly.

In spite of it shounen demographic, never once does it feel like it’s undermining the audience intelligence. Too often in shounen do I feel like they cover the same themes of power of friendship, never give up, believe in yourself, and so forth in a broad sense. Hardly do shounen aim series offer much food for thought. Fullmetal Alchemist on the other hand offers just that both directly, and indirectly. Tackling the human condition, and limits of it in a world where the existence of Alchemy can seemingly make anything possible. Showing to the viewer the sacrifices are willing to make in order to obtain the power to achieve their desire. While the battles are nice, the action is never something I’m excited to see because they don’t do anything special in my eyes in terms of animation, or choreography. However, I’m always engaged in them because the events leading up to them makes them a rewarding pay off.

On my first viewing of this series, that was a funeral scene that I found powerful in the anime. However, it was during my second viewing of the same funeral scene that got me to tear up  (not cry, there’s a difference). Despite the fact I knew what was going to happen it became it even more effective on me. Growing a greater appreciation for the strong character writing that I always loved, but now adored because of how powerful it can be. Yes, that makes Fullmetal Alchemist the only other anime beside Cardcaptor Sakura to actually get a tear out of me.

It’s thanks to Fullmetal Alchemists characters that makes it a special anime to me. Not only did it help me get back into watching anime again after being burned out on so many disappointments at the time, but gave me a greater appreciation for how special anime can be sometime. Capturing you emotionally, and impacting you in ways you didn’t think were possible. There’s the filler material I honestly prefer over Brotherhood because everything feels more personal to its characters, and doesn’t become lost among the dozen of cast member in a large scale battle. Also the ending in the series, one of my favorite of all time best portraying family love, and the consequences in the pursuit of gaining what is lost in anything I’ve seen.

Gyakkyou Burai Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor (2007 -2008) & Gyakkyou Burai Kaiji: Hakairoku-hen (2011)

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I know, yet another anime series made by Madhouse. What can I say. With my favorites they made each time I went into them pretty much blind, and everytime they exceeded expectation. This was another case of that of taking simple games with big risks, but breaking my mold of what I originally thought good writing was capable of. The psychology of its characters is perfectly presented by its visuals. Empathizing the atmosphere the games being played, and the mental of its player in these games. It’s the only time I would say a card game about Rock, Paper, and Scissor was ever made exciting. Akiyuki Shinbou director of March Comes In Like A Lion takes notes of how to use a similar direction correctly, and apply it consistently for your series. I know throwing that bit of shade is unwarranted, but that bugged me a lot in March Comes In Like A Lion, and I wanted it off my chest.

Episode 1 of season, no doubt about it. Without question, Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor currently has the best first episode I’ve seen in any anime. It establishes its premise right away, it has a fantastic hook, and sets up a good leading character right at the beginning. The only place left of it to go is simply up, and remains up there for the entire run. What I love about both seasons of Kaiji is about it manages to take simple games, and makes them addicting to watch. Despite the fact my mind tells me it’s all determined because it is written I still can’t help, but me constantly engaged in it. Never once during my viewing of either season of Kaiji did I see just a single episode. I needed to see multiple episodes to be satisfied.

It was the unpredictable nature of the series that kept me desiring more. Never before have I seen this type of story been told, and one of the few times where I didn’t bother predicting the events because I knew I would be wrong. Brimming with imagination, and creative ideas in its games it wouldn’t be the same without it main man Kaiji Ito. This guy, easily one of my favorite character of all time. Aside from being flawed, one aspect of Kaiji that engrossed me into the series is his constant belief, and desire to become a person than he originally was. He’s a man of fear, and man being to the lowest point, yet keeps on fighting no matter how powerful the urge to give up is. Becoming a constant uphill battle that Kaiji Ito seemingly makes step forward, but also takes an equal amount of steps backward.

An ongoing cycle that keeps me rooting for its protagonist. There’s the also the characters whom in spite of being cartoonishly evil are given surprisingly good reasoning for why their behavior going beyond the “I’m superior” notion. One in particular simply believes it’s human nature itself that is incapable of claiming responsibility for their action, and its through this irresponsibility they seek an easy way out. Both seasons of Kaiji provided me a great deal of addiction in terms of entertainment, but it’s the fantastic writing that kept me around, and why I love it so much.

Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995 – 1996)116788-rai-ryuga-thunder-jet-anime-rai-ryuga-thunder-jet

Currently the oldest anime in my favorites (but not the oldest anime I’ve seen). As someone who consumed movies for a majority of his life Neon Genesis Evangelion is one example of a series I would point to when it comes to replicating the cinematic experience in tv format. From a purely technical level, the cinematography, and framing scenes is masterful creating from some unforgettable experiences. Whether it’s seeing something as awesome as two robot synchronizing they moves together to destroy a monster, or something as funny as framing a comedic scene. Yes, some of it is cheap, but it knew how to use that to is advantage. Like the infamous elevator scene that simply have two characters in a elevator not talking for about minute can be seen as cheap. However, it can also been seen as the distance between characters who are unable to connect despite how close they are in the room. Due to the way the series is actually written, the later interpretation is just plausible.

I could recall episode 4 when it became something special for me. Just the ending of Shinji on that train station platform, with Misato looking at him from the other side, and the episode concluding with Shinji saying “I’m home”. I know, such a simplistic moment to call back too, but for me that moment always stayed with me, and I haven’t forgotten about it. However, I would say one Neon Genesis Evangelion ditches it’s monster of the week formula for something more thought provoking, existential, and psychological driven is when it grew on more so than I thought it would. Typically, I wouldn’t be in favor of a series doing a complete 180 from what it originally started since from my experience they turn into trainwreck. Evangelion proved to be an exception evolving to become something far more memorable than it thought it would be.

The psychological breakdown of its many cast of characters embedded in my mind. Shinji Ikari in particular went from being a whiny twerp in the first episode I saw him in to being a character I love despite how fucked up he truly is. Being incapable to decide for himself what to do, having an over reliance on commands for other, refusing to pilot the robot even if the world is in danger, being capable of able to change positively, and so much more. Unlike everything else in post where I enjoyed the first episode, this is the only entry where the first episode of the anime I simply found okay. Thankfully, being one who never drops an anime no matter how bad it is I continue forward with it, and gave me for more than I would have expected.

 

That concludes it for this post. I would have gone more into detail about some of these series, but I rather just generalize what made them enjoyable for me, and if possible kept it a bit vague to not spoil anything important. Like I also wrote earlier in the post, this was thrown together last minute because my review for Your Name didn’t turn out like I wanted it too. Hopefully, spending some more time on that review will help me get it to the quality I want it at. Depending on what I do next, and my offline schedule I shall you good folks next time, and hopefully show more of my less professional side when it comes to writing about things. And hopefully, less of these last minute posts to come from me in the future.

 

I would like to credit the artists responsible for the artwork I used in my featured image for this blog.

Cardcaptor Sakura (left) artwork done by ManuLuce 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/luce4Red

Death Note (middle) artwork done by Dr.Monekers

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DrMonekers

Fullmetal Alchemist (right) artwork done by ddjvigo

Facebook (couldn’t find a Twitter):  https://www.facebook.com/ddjvigo/

 

Cinema-Manic: Best of the Best (1992)

Best of the Best follows Dee (Jacky Cheung) a member of the SDU, Hong Kong’s version of SWAT, who engages in a personal vendetta when his new girl Heidi (Sammi Cheng) turns out to be the daughter of evil triad Ngan Kwan (Paul Chun). If this synopsis sounds like an interesting movie to you, sorry to say, but it’s a slough of a movie to get through. Before the title card of the movie comes up, it shows Dee enjoying a birthday as a kid with his brother, and father resulting in a tragic incident resulting in the death of his brother. The person responsible for accidentally killing his brother is Little Ball (Ng Man-tat), Dee’s own father, whom hit his own son in the head with a gas cylinder during a scuffle with a criminal. At first, I thought the story was going to take the route of being more of a drama with some action sequences sprinkle in. This sequence while rushed sets it up that way. It doesn’t happen as the film is neither about redemption, forgiveness, and moving forward. Instead, what’s the movie focuses on romance that feels undercooked despite the amount of time dedicated to it. On top of that, opportunities that could have taken more advantage of the premise to the romance eventful isn’t taken.

Still 05
I could also use drink after watching this movie.

So dumbfounded by this, imagine my surprise less than half an hour into the movie seeing meandering scene, after meandering scene to only realize it’s going to focus on the romance aspect of its story. Confusing since the movie takes a while before even introducing the love interest Heidi, yet feels compel to rush the growth of the relationship. It takes so long before the actual main story props it head in making previous events feel disjointed. Going from a rescue mission inside a mall to a date doesn’t make a good transition between directions. Granted, action logic dictates a damsel in distress might fall in love with the hero after saving her from four gun wielding masked goons, and pulling her out of a car seconds away from exploding. However, action movie logic doesn’t excuse the rushed romance, the lack of direction, tonal inconsistency, and especially boredom. Half the reason for my boredom results in the same the couple simply talking about daddy issues, and the other time talking about running away when both characters grown adults. They don’t have the same restrictions applied to them if they were teenagers meaning they have less obstacles in their way if they both choose to run away together.

A major reason for this feeling like a chore to me was the lack of involvement with the characters. For example, Dee works with SDU, and no point considers putting his father, or any other love ones under some sort protection from  Ngan Kwan once his men attack him more frequently. Pointlessly endangering people around him that shouldn’t be caught up in it just because he’s head over heels for Heidi. Then there’s also Heidi who also doesn’t go to police to ensure her lover safety. Heck, she could have threaten her father to that she would tell the police incriminating details about his dealings just to make sure he backs off. She doesn’t do this either. Aside from not getting help when available, there’s also the lone that Dee’s conflict with Little Ball remains underdeveloped for the whole film. Once the time skip occurs, there’s no expansion on the trouble relationship between Dee, and his father. There’s no step forward for Dee to finally forgive his father, and there’s no progression in forgiving himself for the incident that push his son away from him.

There’s also the untapped potential of exploring years of hatred Dee has against his father action as a abusive police officer. If explored, it would explain why Dee is dedicated as he is to being a good SDU officer. Bringing me to the gift his brother gave to him before he died. While the sentiment is nice to have its main character carry around a memento he cherish from his brother it’s no point used to further expand on anything. There’s a point in the film where Dee’s loses the gift his brother gave him while dealing with his drunk father on the streets. Instead of using as another hurdle that has to be overcome, or Dee finally letting go of the tragic event. What the film does is simply play some sad music, close up on Jacky Cheung being sad, and end. Scratching my head wondering what was the point of establishing Dee’s brother gift as something significant if the story itself doesn’t do any with it.

Still 03.png
Jacky! Don’t asleep on duty!

Characterization is fairly handle well. While the romance of Dee, and Heidi suffer because it’s chooses to rush instead of building it is their weakest point. As individual characters their some interesting ideas surrounding them. Sadly, that all they end up being, ideas that could have been. For instance, the film after the timeskip is somewhat lighthearted during it romantic scenes, but the film progresses it slowly get harsher. However, because of the opening sequence the harshness immediately goes into lighthearted, and back into harshness instead of just being a steady flow from one tone to another. Then finally, despite the 90 minute length of Best of the Best half of it simply feels like it meanders around. This could be due to several reasons; it’s nearly half an hour before the main storyline even gets established, information that be given out quickly take longer than needed, and around half of the plot points don’t go anywhere. Even when there was action on screen the feel even made those boring due to a lack of urgency stemming from characters disappearing, and appearing inconsistently in the story. One thing it is consistent at is failing to create anything remotely engaging.

Jacky Cheung plays SDU officer Dee, and his acting is above average. It isn’t good because simply feels like he directly reading from the script instead of being the character. There’s many moments where Jacky Cheung is meant to be saddened by certain events, but puts on a sad face, and calls it a day. However, the limited material him (along with the rest of the cast) is his biggest hurdle. In that sense, he what is required of him adequately enough. However, it is a rather poor showing of his acting abilities when he comes across no differently in his tearjerker scenes as he does in his romance scenes.

Still 11
Looks like someone else is drinking their troubles away as well.

Sammi Cheng plays Heidi it’s underwhelming. When she’s meant to be cheery she is cheery. When she has to be sad she is sad. In this movie at least, she’s not capable of doing much with her material coming off unconvincing whenever she is required to be serious. Her only decent moments of acting are when the film picks up a lighter tone. However, as soon as that disappears her delivery feels robotic. Paul Chun plays Ngan Kwan, and with the exception of one scene in the climax he’s even worse. Given the direction wanted to do something serious, Chun over acting is out place in the movie. He can’t make a one dimensional character any fun, or hateable since he simply just shouts all his lines, and hoping scary sounding music will help mask some of his stoic line delivery.

The best actor is Ng Man-tat, and that’s simply because he comes off as the most pathetic out of the cast. Man-tat character is constantly depressed whenever he talks to his son, and attempts to be happy when he’s not around. During his dramatic scenes, he pour everything he could into those scenes more than the writing actually did. Convincingly getting across he’s a tortured soul who still wants to be a good father, but doesn’t know the right path. It’s Ng Man-tat who is the one bright spot among the better than average acting. Sadly, that puts everything else beneath him.

Still 01
One of the film’s few rare moments of not being boring.

Final thing worth even bringing are the action scenes, and they are all poor. Director Herman Yau simply wanted to get them done as quickly as possible. Making what little action is has seem underwhelming because there’s no coordination in it. There’s also a lack of creativity in them; like a chase sequence that requires Jacky Cheung to run away from a dozen armed goons. A majority of the chase sequence simply has him running through alleys, throwing some objects to throw his pursuers off, entering a more confined place to get a lead, and just barely making it into a taxi to getaway. There’s other action sequences like these, but very few have of them have me as bored as Best of the Best. The climax suffers from a lack of proper staging as Jacky Cheung simply goes into a wide open public area, start shooting baddies, and enters a building to confront Paul Chun. This whole climatic sequence doesn’t have much happening in it. The one stunt that occurred in this scene involved a stuntman laying down in a incinerator of sorts for a couple of seconds before the camera cuts. It’s not spectacular in execution, but it’s something eventful that required effort to capture. This is one of those films where even the action won’t keep you awake.

Best of the Best aims to be more than your standard average action, but ends up being worse as a whole because of it. It’s a half baked drama with boring characters, a romance that overtakes the story forgetting it’s intention, and becoming a total mess of a movie by the end it. It’s a movie that doesn’t accomplish anything, nor rewards viewers with much for their investment in it.

Rating: 2/10

Cinema-Maniac: Coco (2017)

Despite living in the west, my interest in Western animation is usually on the low side. A major reason for this being a majority of animation produce in the West, specifically the US, tend to be comedies, and there’s hardly much to consume in other genres. Due to this, I find viewing animation outside the US far more interesting. However, Pixar is the only animation studio that has me still giving western animation a chance. Unlike Disney, whenever Pixar releases a movie I look forward to it, even if it doesn’t match up to their great films. Their films usually have efforts put into them, and no matter how familiar their story feel never once do I get the impression they’re factory produce, or soulless like I typically do with Disney animated movies. Especially from the 2010s which is easily their worse decade for animation. With today’s film, it doesn’t break away from the path of familiar storytelling, but when you have filmmakers whom believe in their product wholeheartedly, and have a understanding of good execution it’s all you need for a good film.

coco-rgb_c330_15g-pub16n-122
So, this is where Disney passion for animation is at. 

Coco follows aspiring musician Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez), confronted with his family’s ancestral ban on music, indirectly entering the Land of the Dead during Day of the Dead festival. Now, Miguel has to find his great-great-grandfather, and get back home to his family in the real world before the sun sets. In terms of writing, the story isn’t anything special. Things you expect from a company owned by Disney are here; a plot twist to reveal the villain, a misunderstanding of events leading to hatred of a major character, a time limit for main character to return home or stay alive, an adult who hates the profession of the main character is pursuing, and yes, the host of silly side characters, and a silly pet. These plot points, or plot devices alone don’t harm the film in the long run. The good execution of a familiar story is what helps overcome anything predictable. For starter, when it comes to Miguel great-great-grandfather it’s obvious to veteran movie watching where the plot actually goes. What prevents the eventual plot twist from harming the movie is characterization. Throughout the movie, several moments in the film are dedicated to displaying the importance of family, and remembering the dead. By having Miguel experience hardship with his family, and seeing there’s more to the Land of the Dead than he original thought. It minimizes the damage the plot twist would of had otherwise if certain aspect of the world weren’t shown. 

 

Another positive is the whole theme of family the movie obviously enforce is heartfelt, even if it won’t make you cry. Miguel family bond is the foundation of the movie, and so whenever it goes for any big emotional scene it feels earned. The natural progression of conflict always remain personal to its characters. As well as add some interesting ideas into the fold. For example, there’s the consequences of being forgotten being shown in a scene in the movie. While the character it happens too won’t make you feel sad for it, it does get across the consequences perfectly. One such thing isn’t rarely ever shown as a negative in family films is the pursuit of a dream. In Coco, it shows how the pursuit can impact the people whom love you, and in a lesser way shows how success can influence those around you negatively. 

COCO
Eating sandals still beat eating Spanish food XD

There’s also the balance of humor, and drama thrown into the mix. It slightly prefers going for drama, but the great pacing always ensures a balance of both. Being able to easily take seriously, while not getting the tone diminish with its humor. Tonally being balanced for the whole film. One slight irritation for the film is some of the Spanglish dialogue. It makes sense nearly all of it would be spoken in English since it’s an English production, but for some unfathomable reason there is the odd Spanish word thrown in. In context it makes sense since it takes place in Mexico so Spanish is abound, but at the same time a country whom primary language is Spanish has a majority of people speaking English. That’s more of a deliberate decision that won’t hurt the film in the long run. What does, like mention earlier, is familiarity. It doesn’t do anything against your expectation for these kind of stories. So it’s really depended on your familiarity with movie watching, but even than it not huge knock against the film since it’s executed right.

 

The voice cast of Coco do a good job in their roles. Anthony Gonzalez (the youngest in the cast at 13) does good in his role. It helps that he doesn’t have to carry the heavy dramatic scenes for someone his age. However, he’s still display range of emotion convincingly. Mostly thanks to him being given good direction, and not simply shouting his line like younger age actors would tend to do. His delivery is also like that of true professional. Treating voice acting as seriously as he would if he were doing it in front of a camera in live action. His best moments are easily when his dialogue revolve around his passion for music, and his delivery comes across as passionate. Expressing the joy music brings to him, and the disappointment that he can’t share it with his family.

Gael Garcia Bernal, who is a pretty good actor, is no surprised that he turned in another good performance. He carries a majority of the film heavily dramatic scenes on his shoulder. Just like he’s able to in live action movies I’ve seen him in, when it comes to voice acting he’s able to bring a high caliber performance into his role as Hector. Coming off as a convincing goofball in the beginning of the film before turning into a tragic character as it progressed without it feeling jarring. Bernal is so good that even in scenes when he does an 180 he pulls it off with ease without ever feeling like he’s breaking the film’s tone. His best scenes are easily the ones when he speaks about wanting to see his daughter again. During these scenes, you simply feel the heartache in Bernal words in his line delivery for some effective dramatic scenes. Needless to say, I’m a bit of a fan of Gael Garcia Bernal as an actor despite me not seeing Spanish language movies frequently. His voice acting performance in Coco, makes me keen to see if he’ll try voice acting again.

coco
Here’s Miguel playing the cords of the Simple Plan song “I’m just a kid”

Supporting cast also do a tremendous job in their role, though Anthony Gonzalez, and Gael Garcia Bernal are the standout. Only other standout performance is Alanna Ubach who is just as good as Gael Garcia Bernal, but with a good singing voice. Hearing her unexpectedly sing in the movie was a nice surprise. The animation isn’t flashy, but the world, and character designs are colorful. Everything in the Land of the Dead is given such vibrant colors to make it pop on screen. It wears it’s Mexican influence in design in pride from the clothing of the characters, to having music players play correct cords on their guitar strings, to capturing the way the people speak. The music in the film is good, though stuff I typically don’t care for. Despite my background of being Hispanic, I actually don’t care for Spanish music.

Coco doesn’t hold a candle to Pixar great movies in terms of writing, but the execution makes it better than it should have been. It has a colorful world that is filled with likable characters, and a heartfelt story about family. It does more than enough right that it’ll make taking the trip worthwhile regardless of age.

8/10