Tag Archives: 5/10

Cinema-Maniac: Blue Exorcist The Movie (2013) Movie Review

My previous ventures into a film adaptation based on a anime series were usually first exposures to certain properties. Blue Exorcist is a different story with me actually taking time to see the anime series. Overall I thought the show was decent and anyone wanting to know why I say that there’s a link to a blog on my thoughts on the anime series at the end of this review. However, unlike the anime series Blue Exorcist The Movie is strictly for fans with little characterization, explanation on its world, and clumsy plotting will leave newcomer in the dust.

Blue Exorcist The Movie is about Rin coming across a seemingly innocent child demon with no memories and soon realizes what the boy really is and later understands why he was sealed ages ago. Understanding the simplistic story doesn’t require any level of knowledge on the source material. By removing itself from the anime series it could be view as its own creation following no continuity. However, what isn’t as accessible is basically everything else. It doesn’t bother to tell newcomers needed information about the world. You’ll wonder why some exorcists carry guns while other don’t will seem nonsensical. In the series it’s explained there are several advantages and disadvantages to combat a demon something the film sheds no light on. Another issue are the large cast characters that go wasted. Some characters make pointless appearances in the films that chew up screw time. Aside from the protagonist Rin and the demon child he takes care off characterization is left as is. Fans will have an understanding of the familiar cast of characters, but newcomers on the other hand will be given virtually nothing on why they should care for these characters.

When it comes to story Blue Exorcist has never been an expert on that front. It’s plot formula is given in the form of a children story in the beginning if done right would have been foreshadowing events and nothing else. Unfortunately the story reiterates the children story several times eliminating any mystery and making itself predictable. This is the first time I’ve seen a movie literally spoiling the plot itself. Blue Exorcist problematic writing unfortunately is a trait that is retained too. Much like the series, the film excels in building up to a big fight by slowly escalating the stakes. Like the series, the film has a disappointing resolution to its conflict and lazy writing in pivotal moments. For example, Rin Okumura and others attempt to exorcise a phantom train. Whenever it appears on screen it is proven difficult to defeat. That is until lazy writing pops up with Rin Okumura demonic powers serving as an easy getaway when things get rough. What is done properly are the personality of the characters. They’re down to Earth and easily relatable. The relationship are earnest and so are how they interact with one another. Most of the highlights come from the cast comedic antics often deliver laughs. Comedy relief is far superior to the film dramatic elements, but gets it across it points without any emotional gain for newcomers. Ending in a way that guarantees to adds nothing for either side as the ending made sure it leaves no impact on the series or the film itself.

This is an often gorgeous looking animated film, one with incredibly detailed backgrounds (some of the urban settings are really and scenes at the festival are spectacular looking in the film), as well as well done characters. Colors are very intense at times, running the gamut from bright, vivid primaries to more subdued pastels. Line detail is very sharp and consistent throughout this presentation. Exceeding in taking you into another world. Action sequences come in short supply, but it does offer satisfy. The few action scenes sports plenty of visuals flare whenever the combatant attacks be it with guns, demonic blue flames, and a simple strike display considerable amount of damage to their surroundings. Hiroyuki Sawano score is cinematically excellent. His score sells the somber moments of the drama and the lighthearted tone of the comedy. Perfectly pacing itself with the events of the story and exceeding the film writing in strengthening the tone of scenes where the writing does no justice. Simply hearing UVERworld track “Reversi” brought greater sense of emotional closure than the film ending. Voice acting is all around solid maintaining the same charisma that could be found in the anime as well. These performances aren’t movie level, but work because they stay in line with the anime series representation of the characters.

Blue Exorcist The Movie certainly could have been better if its writing was on the same level as its technical aspects. Animation is smooth and the world design is intricate, voice acting is solid, and the soundtrack is absolutely perfect enveloping you into the mood. It’s story is easily accessible for newcomers, but it’s clearly a film just for fans of the anime series or manga. Unlike the anime, Blue Exorcist isn’t given enough time to fix any of its shortcomings leaving everything introduce as is.

5/10

Cinema-Maniac: Foodfight!(2012) Movie Review

Product placement in films is actually okay in my book; Minority Report, Cast Away, E.T., Skyfall, Casino Royale, Back To Future, Fritz Lang’s M, and several other films have product placement that actually are the last thing anyone remembers from those films. Then there’s the “Mac and Me” of product placement that blatantly shove it down the viewer throat or whenever promoting the product is shoved down the viewer throat instead of attempting to conceal it. So can it be called product placement if the whole film takes place in a supermarket with famous product icon…probably not since I doubt the sponsors of the film would want their product to be associated with a film aimed at children that has Nazi undertone.

Foodfight! is about Dex, a dogtective, the law of the land helping the world’s most recognized brands take on the forces of evil and the devilish Brand X. This film script is all sorts level of wrong, yet it’s such a fascinating train wreck it’s hard to look away from. Picture if you will a mixture between “Toy Story”, Mr. Clean, Micheal Bay, McGruff the Crimedog, and Nazism than you got Foodfight!. One of the biggest issues about the film is making sense of its world. For example, in the opening of the film we see a store transform into….lets just call it Producity into a living and functioning city. Immediately the opening raises many questions about how the supermarket world function all of which the film is more than gladly to ignore. Everything else in the film is just broken like the introduction to our protagonist; Dex (a knockoff of McGruff the Crimedog wearing Indiana Jones costume) is on top of a hot air balloon fighting hairless Hamsters and the Rat burglar to save kittens in a basket. What an introduction it is with bad puns, wretched dialogue, and ending the epic confrontation with the famous last words “I just wanted to be loved”. Beyond that point every major plot point introduced becomes an unintentional joke. One that plot point that carries the film is Sunny Goodness (Dex’s girlfriend) going missing. Right after Dex friend says “It’s not like it’s the last time you’ll get to propose to her” it goes to a title card that says “Six Months Later”.

Spiraling into a series of repeated problems that consist of more bad puns, constant character introduction, horrid dialogue, and sexual innuendos. Oh yes the innuendos are very sexualize with no effort to tone it down. Somehow a fetish for food product icon worked it way into the film putting the villainess in a schoolgirl outfit attempting to seduce a dog. Sure in context it’s a two food icon dancing while flirting, but also comes across as bestiality as a human woman trying to seduce a dog. Humor contain some slapsticks, but in general most of the jokes and references are for adult. The dialogue is not clever enough to sneak in crude jokes. For example, “What the fudge” and “Oh Mamacita! Yo, sweetcakes, nice packaging! How about some chocolate frosting? I’d like to butter your muffin!”. Dialogue like this does make the viewer question if the content for children as these elements have straightforward intentions. The dedication to remain friendly provide plenty of awkward dialogue that entertains all for the wrong reasons. Although when it comes to having Nazism is where lines are drawn. Not only is the idea of Nazis undertone in a kids film a potential red flag, but also that it might have a hidden agenda. By that I mean perhaps it’s trying to present it’s own version of Hitler; the villainess wants to dominate the supermarket, slowly gains political power, starts a war, has a grudge against a specific group, and the only person stopping her is Gex who’s a Jew. Okay I’m convince writer/director/producer Lawrence Kasanoff smoked to much pot with Pillsbury Doughboy while watching a documentary on Hitler when he created this film.

For as much criticism the film deservedly gains it is literally a bad movie lover dream to poke fun off. I can comically break this film down without leaving anything out, but doing so would take away from the anti-genius of the story. Animation is very crude and zany. Expressions are always exaggerated with jerky motion. Nothing in movement has any sort of rhythm to it; speed of characters action is always off, objects are weightless, not a single subtle movement in the animation. Textures are ugly especially up close when human faces look deformed more fitting for a horror movie. Aside from having muddle textures it also has a funny color scheme. In the film there’s a weasel that literally looks like a piece of shhhhhhhh….should refrain from completing that word. Other than looking cheap the director resorts to reusing stock scenes. Near the end of the film there’s a war between food Nazi and food products that is done Michael Bay style. The battle contains explosive pancakes, explosive cakes, explosive ketchup, just about whatever the food product use explodes. This war scene goes on for around half hour being both hysterical and repetitive. Voice acting cast is interesting having the talents of Charlie Sheen, Hilary Duff, Eva Longoria, Wayne Brady, and Christopher Lloyd. Charlie Sheen being the star his voice work is one note. Sheen talks casually as if the dialogue in the film are things he says everyday. Hilary Duff is airheaded, Wayne Brady shouts a lot, Eva Longoria attempts to sound sexy, and Christopher Lloyd is over the top. Given the character that Christopher Lloyd voice his over the top performance makes his appearance in the film a highlight.

Foodfight! is an oddity of film history that should be seen. It’s all sorts of wrong, yet entertaining at the same time. A stroke of brilliance and stupidity come together for a script that is nonsensical and an assault on the brain. Unintentionally offensive and unintentionally entertaining Foodfight! highlights all the best things about watching bad movies. If you’re the kind of person who enjoy seeing bad movies for entertainment value or wants a see a piece of lost animation history Foodfight! is that film kind of film.

5/10
Odd Production History:

In late 2002 around Christmas computer drives containing all the film’s files of Foodfight! (rumored around 60% of the film was completed) were reportedly stolen in what writer/director/producer Lawrence Kasanoff called an act of “industrial espionage.” With no backup available the film was restarted with a proposed 2005 release date…which was missed. Then in 2007 a distribution deal was struck, but it, too, evaporated. When StoryArk’s investors, frustrated by the missed release dates and the fact that Threshold’s production company had defaulted on a secured promissory note, invoked a clause ultimately giving the insurance company, Fireman’s Fund, the right to step in and complete the film as quickly and cheaply as possible. A trailer of the film before the theft is online and having seen the film I can tell you the pre theft trailer version has better animation, textures, and more food mascots. It remains a mystery if the original copies of the film will ever be found or be lost like Japan’s King Kong. Having seen the film from what I saw in the trailers it didn’t appear any different plot wise, but one thing I can say for certain is this version of Foodfight! is entertaining if for the wrong reasons. While nowhere the “next Pixar” as originally envisioned this film has for better or worse earned a spot in obscure film history for all the wrong reasons.

Cinema-Maniac: Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (2013) Review

A sequel that delivers more of the same can share several ranges of quality. Depending how it predecessor did it could be either good or bad if we get the same thing twice. In the case of Percy Jackson: Sea of Monster it all depends on your feeling of the original because when it comes to delivering more of the same this sequel stays closely to its predecessor in every imaginable way.

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monster follows Percy Jackson and his friends embarking on a quest to the Sea of Monsters to find the mythical Golden Fleece while trying to stop an ancient evil from rising. Following suit of the original this sequel has good ideas, but rushes through them before they could even develop. Introducing several mythical creatures, new characters, and diving into established characters past without the proper time to explore them. Instead of getting into one thrilling adventure it all feels like a series of side trips. Any obstacles upon being presented is easily defeated by plot conveniences or the villain forgetting basic knowledge of our heroes. These flaws hold back any sense of danger in the heroes journey. The dialogue ranges from cringe worthy recycling of bad lines to entire scenes fill solely with expositions. What it does get right does not contribute in favor of the writing in any significant way. Never is there a dull moment moving from set piece to set piece in its own fast pace. With it’s brisk pace making it easy to look past it’s unexplained moments. Telling a simple story that’s easy to keep a track of and understand the characters even if they are not compelling. It’s has a consistent tone that isn’t fighting against itself on what to be. Like the original the story had potential that could be seen which unfortunately it never reaches.

Logan Lerman reprises his role as Percy Jackson and does another solid job. Lerman has charisma and charm to carry the film to the finish line, but when it comes to expressing his character emotions he’s given little to work with. Only seeing a half of Percy character and half of Lerman potential as an actor. Alexandra Daddario returns as well as Annabeth. Her performance allows her to portray a vulnerable layer to her strong character and a convincing chemistry with Lerman gets across the idea of a potential romance angle better than the film itself. Although she is not given enough scenes to showcase her strength like Lerman both in her character and acting. Brandon T. Jackson screen time is considerably reduced. He’s plays the stereotypical best friend comedic role well. It’s the only thing that script requires him to do. The rest of cast fare out in the same way. Not enough material work off from and not enough time to evolve their roles. Strictly delivering what the script requires of them. Solid acting from the cast, though nothing inherently deep. Thor Freudenthal like Chris Columbus goes more for modern music because when you think of Greek Mythology you want Fall Out Boy. This results in the music being forgettable with no sense of anything becoming epic. What it’s not light on is CGI effects which are passable. Every time CGI is used everything including the actor all look plastic. Sure some of the CG deliver some decent creative set piece and unique monsters designs, but doesn’t leave any lasting effect failing to pack any kind of punch.

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters is bigger, but repeats past mistakes with a pace that does not allow its story to take shape preventing it from reaching its true potential once again. Saying it’s more of the same is an understatement carrying over the same strength and weaknesses from its predecessor. Depending on your position on the first film should help you make the decision easier as it does little to innovate the franchise in any better or worse direction.

5/10

Cinema-Maniac: Special ID (2014)

Much in the same reign as Jackie Chan, Chow Yun-Fat and Jet Li, Donnie Yen action roles are arguably his most popular. Although when compare to the previous three most of Yen earlier starring efforts don’t pack the same punch. Yen’s latest sadly falls in that category whenever having to endure a muddle story before getting to the goods.

Special ID is about a cop and his team of comrades going undercover in one of China’s most ruthless underworld organizations to stop a gang leader. The premise and narrative beats are standard action film affairs without a change in formula; you have the undercover cop who’s been on the inside for too long, undercover cop running the risk of criminals discovering his identity, protagonist not getting along with his partners, the superior officers who uses protagonist life for his own means, and by the end protagonist attempting to fulfill a personal vendetta. For a film that hardly strays away from familiar territory making sense of it all is more difficult than needed to be. Its plot is easy to understand, but distorted plot points never connected with one another in a seamless flow. A love interest for example is hardly touched upon even though scenes are entirely dedicated to hinting at it. Nothing ever becomes at the hinted romance providing moments of character development with the interaction contributing little. Another noticeable issue comes in the directionless writing. Tones drastically change on the spot from becoming a gritty action film to feeling like a rom-com at a moments notice. Characters like the plot itself are easy to understand, but the muddle story makes it needlessly difficult decipher. You’ll have an understanding of the relationships, the characters, motivations, but even with a clear understanding muddle storytelling prevents any worthwhile investment to be made. This film never manages to find its own identity at the end coming off as a collection of several scripts each being drastically different each in their own muddle way.

Donnie Yen is comical and naughty rascal-like acting in the film is passable, but for the emotional side of his character he doesn’t cut it. A weak script is blame as Yen does his best with heartless dramatic scenes. When it comes to Yen fight choreography it appears brutal, but doesn’t get across that feel of brutality. Every fight is restricted to being in a close a quarter and even when the action is taken outside of a building it plays strictly by the rules. Yen is the only actor who uses MMA techniques while the rest of his cast are kickboxers. This eliminates the tensity in fight scenes as Yen opponents have no idea how to counter his MMA and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu techniques. Even in the first few minutes of the film even though Donnie Yen literally fights crawling around the floor his opponent does not know how to counter Yen moves. The only time it mixes fighting techniques is during Yen fight with Andy On. Andy On using primarily Muay Thai and variation of several others fighting styles offered more elaborate choreography. Only when On fights against Donnie Yen do the fight scenes deliver on its brutality. Action scenes don’t have the wow factor though they are well staged that provide the film the much needed energy. As for Andy On acting it’s solid selling the idea he could go toe to toe with Donnie Yen. Jing Tian provides a pretty face and impresses with her agility and flexibility. Tian might be small, but her move set makes her believable and the film climactic action scene sells her in the action role. Her acting is good genuinely the often corny and cheesy dialogue sound as good as it can.

Special ID delivers solid performances and solid action scenes, but in order to get to see those you have to endure the deadweight of a muddle and standard story. It plays by the rules in terms of narrative and action unable to find an identity of its own.

5/10

Cinema-Maniac: Sexy Evil Genius (2013) Review

Sexy Evil Genius is about a group of exes drawn to the same bar in downtown Los Angeles by an ex-girlfriend they all have in common. There is not a whole lot to talk discuss when it comes to this film. It is entirely driven by dialogue and is primarily set in a bar. I don’t have a problem dialogue heavy film so long some good writing can compensate for it. In the case of this it does not. The story has no structure of any kind and goes too much into flashbacks. My main problem with the film is the lack of character development. We get to know the ex-girlfriend very well, but the other main characters not as much. The plot does go into some interesting dark places at the cost of tonal consistency. The history this ex-girlfriend has with our main character is also interesting. The plot constantly builds around the big reveal for gathering all these people together with an underwhelming payoff. It constantly shift motivations for why this gathering is happening and by the time it changes reasons for the third time your patience will be tested. At times the conversation are interesting and at other they will bore repeating already established plot points.

The only sure positive praise I can give to this film is the ensemble cast. They play off one another well enough to keep things interesting even when the plot doesn’t. The cast good chemistry with one another pays off for some fun moments when the material is good. The cinematography on the other hand is boring. The camera either slowly turns in one direction or stands still. That’s about it when it come to what you see aside from every shot being basic. It’s not an interesting looking film because of it and you could tell the direction is struggling how tell the story on limited resources. Also the director has a thing for lens flares when filming a flashback. Sexy Evil Genius overall is okay for a one time watch for the fun cast, but the underwhelming writing will prevent some from completely having a good time.

5/10

Cinema-Maniac: Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen (2010) Review

Donnie Yen second attempt at playing Chen Zhen is much better because he’s not imitating Bruce Lee, but it unfortunate the movie is poorly paced with action sequences that are too quick for full enjoyment.

Donnie Yen no doubt is man of action proven by his Ip Man movies, but when your taking on a legendary character like Che Zhen, who’s a real martial artist, you have to have the right balance of action and drama. The action sequences are well made, but unfortunately short or too fast for our enjoyment. Which is a real shame, I mean the prologue in this movie (one of the best I’ve seen since Goldeneye) gets you excited into watching this and is a real let down when you watch the whole thing.

The story simply put this way, seven years after the apparent death of Chen Zhen, who was shot after discovering who was responsible for his teacher’s death in Japanese-occupied Shanghai. A mysterious stranger arrives from overseas and befriends a local mafia boss. That man is a disguised Chen Zhen, who intends to infiltrate the mob when they form an alliance with the Japanese. Now while it’s sounds good on paper, execution of it was poor in mu opinion. It could have definitely been better in terms of it story, but there’s enough good moments in the story to keep you entertain.

I have to praise Donnie Yen for learning from his mistake for imitating Bruce Lee in his first portrayal of Chen Zhen. He does a better job in this one not imitating Bruce Lee and feels more like a Donnie Yen movie than a bruceploitation movie.

Overall it’s a okay movie with well done action sequences that are too fast and unevenly pace throughout the movie. If you want a good portrayal of Chen Zhen, I recommend Fist of Legend and The Chinese Connection.

5/10