Tag Archives: comedy

Some Thoughts On: Hinamatsuri (2018)

Here’s an anime I didn’t intend to watch, but I did read a blog post by Karandi who did poll on her blog. A post I forgot to like earlier since I was on my phone, and typically not logged in XD. Moving on, on that post she shared the results of a poll asking her readers to vote on the best anime in the Spring season. In that poll, Hinamatsuri won the vote for best Spring anime, and that brought it to my attention. Not being one to solely be persuaded by public opinion alone I went on Discord to check if anyone I knew has seen it. Luckily for me, someone by the username of Robtaku has seen it, and he enjoyed it. How credible was his input to me you might ask? Well to straw man my point, he likes Hand Shakers (2017), and I don’t so there’s that. I started Hinamatsuri around the time I finished Devils Line, and that anime just sucked the soul out of me. I was in need of a comedy, even a bad one to lift my mood after feeling drained by that. Much to my surprise I did not end up disliking this anime. A  pleasant surprise that I found something I agree with the general census on.

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This whole scene is comedy gold

Hinamatsuri starts in a odd place with the first episode providing a glimpse three years into the future. On one hand the opening minutes of episode 1 will get viewers attention with a nicely animated action sequence, and keep them watching. On the other hand, it’s also a misleading draw since the anime only dedicates half of an episode to that event, and it the rest of the series is nothing like that. Trying to give Hinamatsuri a synopsis would be pretty pointless, but I’m doing it either way. Initially you think it will be about a Yakuza by the name Yoshifumi taking care of a stoic blue hair girl with telekinetic powers named Hina, but eventually jumps around characters a lot becoming more of a slice of life comedy. In your average anime series I would likely complain about the lack of an overarching story, but here I’ll give it a free past. Unlike the common slice of life anime I see, Hinamatsuri actually knows how to handle drama.

This is strange for me to compliment since I’m used to complaining about how poorly handle comedy, and drama is handled in a anime series. Something like March Comes In Like A Lion I complained about how the tonal shifts are jarring being very serious one moment, and the next being overly silly. Hinamatsuri on the other hand has a simple fix to this through Anzu. A character who carries the most dramatic weight in the series. Struggling with living on her own being stuck in the past she sees how harsh living the homeless life can be at her young age in Japan. By dedicating an entire character to explore this drama it prevents the anime from creating constant tonal shifts. So whenever it wants comedy it’ll focus on Yoshifumi taking care of Hina, and if it wants drama it’ll shifts to Anzu. By doing this, the audience will know what to expect until that arc eventually gets finished. My only complain to how the drama is done is the anime wants you to be in tears, but given how well it’s done if someone actually cries during Anzu portion of the anime I won’t be scratching my head like I would with other animes doing the same thing.

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This happens all the time when I drink

On the comedy side Hinamatsuri offers a host of hilarious supporting characters. All of whom overreact, or underreact to a strange event. The character who best excels at this is Mishima, a middle schooler who gets pulled into being a bartender. This puts her in a number of odd situation where she constantly interacts with stupid adults. One of them being her teacher who denies believing Mishima is his student because of her abilities to make a good drink. It’s about as silly as it sound, but works better in context. I ain’t going to do a breakdown of the comedy since it offers a lot of good jokes, but I will add aside from being funny it uses comedy to touch on some serious issues quite nicely. I personally just see Hinamatsuri as just a good anime comedy, but there is a solid foundation for the average viewer to probably take more away from it than I did.

The production is apparently handled by Studio feel. which I find shocking because the only other anime I’ve seen from them is Dagashi Kashi season 1 which I disliked a lot. It felt so pointless, and none of the characters learned anything. So it’s further shocking for me to accept they made this because I laughed, thought the drama was well handle, and I felt satisfied with how it turned out. On the animation side it was good, even if there’s no flashy action. Everything is nicely detailed, and it’s very colorful as well. What the animation did greatly was capturing the character exaggerated expressions. Studio feel. spared  no expense on that front, and especially the lighting which allows some proper shading. Also, it’s pretty good doing visual analogy for a good laugh. In particular, I like the visual where the words of Hina word kept changing in episodes. Good on you studio feel.

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And good on them for giving us this horrific reaction XD

One minor thing I did appreciate is depending on what episode you were watching the opening, and ending credits will change. For instance, after episode 7, Utako (a bartender) doesn’t appear next to Yoshifumi in the end of the opening credits. It’s something I appreciated, even if it doesn’t affect anything at all. In terms of sound nothing about it stood out to me, especially the ending, and opening theme which I didn’t care for that much. I saw this with the English dub, and it was pretty good. All the voice actor had good chemistry with each other, and nice comedic timing.

If anyone in the English cast deserves my highest praise, performance wise that is, it would be Anzu voiced by Amanda Lee! What! When I discovered this my head exploded because I’ve been listening to her covers of anime music for years (side note: I also like her original stuff a lot), and not once did it register to me that it could possibly be her. So, yes, because of this she obviously deserves my highest praise. She nicely portrays Anzu in all her charm, and sorrow. Doing exceptionally well in the dramatic sequences, and her outstanding moment is easily episode delivering a very emotional performance. This anime full is packed with pleasant surprises. With that, I should I conclude this before I accidently spoil anything while gushing about it.

If I were to rate Hinamatsuri I would give it an 8 out 10 easily. It was a lots fun, and knew how to handle drama well. Go watch it if you haven’t, especially you finished Devils Line, and feel drained by it like I did.

Cinema-Maniac: The Debt Collector (2018)

In 1986, there was a Hong Kong movie called A Better Tomorrow that influenced a entire film industry, and was the first of many collaboration between actor Chow Yun-Fat, and John Woo. While it’s uncertain the collaboration between Scott Adkins, and director Jesse V. Johnson will have any kind of effect on the direct to video action business. They certainly are leaving a mark already. From Savage Dog (2017) an ambition action movie with a historical background that’s solid, to the surprisingly good comic good adaptation of Accident Man (2018), and now a film with direct inspiration from buddy cop movies with The Debt Collector (2018). Adding on to the list of good films under their collaboration.

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Sue: “See this towel? It’s for you after the beating I’ll give you.”

The Debt collector follows classically-trained martial artist French (Scott Adkins), who goes to work as a mob debt collector in order to save his gym. This synopsis sounds like something out of a early 90s action flick, and in some ways pays homage to that. Teaming French up with experience mob debt collector Sue (Louis Mandylor). Starting the relationship in predictable, but well executed fashion of the two not getting along, and over time striking a closer friendship. The banter between French, and Sue keeps the film proceeding events engaging when action isn’t on screen. Making wisecracks at each other expense, talking about the moral lines that should never be crossed in their line of work, sharing a bit about themselves, and some very subtle references to some of the actors previous works for fans to catch. Also, some tongue in cheek lines to the sorts of movies it burrows from.

What simply starts as a series loosely strung together events do lead up to a overarching story. It takes halfway through the movie before it gets there being more incline to be character driven than story driven. Slowly having French, and Sue engage in various scenarios all of which end up going south. Mixing tightly choreographed action sequences, comedy, and the occasional characterization into it many scenarios. Once the overarching story becomes a mainstay it’s also another predictable path. Leading to French to further if what the job requires of him is actually worth it. There’s the part of learning about his target making him reconsider his job. Coming together in a climax with a unexpected outcome for a movie starring Scott Adkins, and even more surprising is the ending. It’s an ending ultimately suits the story for how far both French, and Sue went for their job by having actual consequences movies it is homaging wouldn’t go for. Earning it’s ending by having its characters question what they do, and taking the time to delve into that. However, it does mean anyone expecting the usual triumphant Scott Adkins climax in this movie will be disappointed when not receiving it.

One noticeable misstep in its early goings is completely ignoring the whole save the gym motivation for French as the film progresses. It does kick off the plot in a organic fashion, but a more personal driven motivation would have serve a greater purpose in the long run, especially considering the course it final act takes. Briefly touching on the value French gym has to him will suffice initially since it’s a fun throwback action flick. That is until you reach the final act where it changes course, and the undercooked motivation weakness comes into full effect. Aside from this misstep in the beginning, just about the only other major drawback would be the uneven structure. Half of the movie is packed with action sequences one right after the other, and the other half takes a drastic turn into the dramatic side with some splices of comedy. Taking into account the story’s intention it misdirecting the viewer works in it favor. Well, mostly. Throughout the movie, you see stock footage of cows eventually being taken to get slaughter. It’s on the noise in it’s message delivery, and far from subtle as the closing lines hammer its point home.

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Despite low budgets, Adkins is always reliable on the action side for excitement

Scott Adkins takes the lead as French with his British accent. This role allows Adkins to stretch more of acting chops than his usual role, though isn’t given any heavily dramatic scenes. The most dramatic he’ll get is letting out a sigh of exhaustion. While his dramatic scenes are lacking what isn’t is Adkin capturing the straight man characteristic of his role. Managing to be convincing as someone out of his element. Where he does deliver the most is where it counts (besides the action sequences) is with his co-star Louis Mandylor. Adkins rough straight man attitude compliments nicely against Mandylor sleazy has been demeanor. Mandylor easily outshines Adkins since the material provides him opportunities for his character to be more intimate with those around him There’s also intensity in Mandylor which he captures perfectly in his eyes when he has to get his hands dirty. Their chemistry is the film biggest strength creating something that feels genuine in the actor comradeship with each other. It’s unlikely you’ll care a deal about the characters, but you’ll definitely find the duo entertaining if nothing else.

The supporting cast will largely go unnoticed since all of them get push to the wayside because of the film’s story. Only Jack Lowe is able to leave much of an impression in a small role since his character is begging for his life. Showing an ease to become a character with not a lot to chew on. Biggest surprise is easily Tony Todd. He doesn’t get plenty of screen time, but visibly has fun in his brief appearance. Then there’s Vladimir Kulich in a bigger role who also doesn’t have much screen time, though he’s enjoyable if only for the fact Adkins is once again playing a character who works for Kulich. Other than that, the supporting cast do fine in their small roles that do prevent nearly all of them from being able to shine does also mean the acting in general is better than average in your direct to video action films.

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This movie has a of Scott Adkins driving people

When it comes the action side, fight choreography is handle by Luka LaFontaine (also responsible for the fights in Savage Dog) goes for a more grounded treatment to better fit its movie. Meaning, restraining Adkins from using many of his high flying maneuvers in favors of a more brawler like approach. Thankfully, LaFonatine is more than capable to get creative with his fight choreography. Since Adkins typically fight with men taller, and bigger than him this makes fight scenes eventful as none of them go down easily. LaFonatine is able to corporate some clever counter moves into his grounded choreographed fights without them feeling out of place. Seeing Scott Adkins get fling into a wall when someone blocks his punches, or seeing Adkins get slammed multiple time on a bar table when the person he’s fighting him won’t let his go of his grip is nicely worked in. Adkins receives plenty blows in the film requiring his character to either fight out of a scenario where he’s out number 3 to 1, or use something in his environment to get the upper hand. The action choreography is perhaps the least complex Adkins ever performed, but it’s shot nicely, and edited together nicely to make them entertaining nonetheless. The film does have one gunfight towards the end, and it’s pretty laughable it continues the tradition of people constantly missing at point blank range in Adkins direct to video action films. It’s further highlighted by the fact that Adkin character background, but it’s still an enjoyable gunfight in spite of that leap in logic.

The Debt Collector proves that Jesse V. Johnson, and Scott Adkins compliment each other really well. Jesse V. Johnson molds a story, and character that are engaging while allowing Adkins a departure from his usual roles, and letting the action experts do their thing. Adkins is able to rely more on his acting, and is able to hold his own against Louis Mandylor who takes the spotlight from him. When it comes to the action side Adkins is always reliable on that front, but here it’s nice to see him shine in a different way. Jesse V. Johnson, and Scott Adkins shortcomings in their fields are evident, but their understanding of each other strengths compliment each other in the films they make, and that’s make them an effective team. Producing far better films than you would expect from the direct to video market.

Rating: 7/10

Cinema-Maniac: City War (Yi dan hong chun) (1988) Chinese Heroic Bloodshed Movie Review

City War (Yi dan hong chun) follows two buddy cops; the calm, and collected Dick Lee (played by Chow Yun-Fat), and the hot-headed Ken Chow (played by Ti Lung) in their everyday life when drug lord Ted Yiu (played by Norman Chu) is released from prison seeking vengeance. Despite the classification on numerous film sites calling City War (Yi dan hong chun in Chinese) an action film it doesn’t offer much in terms of action. It’s two-third crime drama sprinkled with comedy with the final act switching gear to an action driven resolution. To a certain degree, anyone familiar with Korean action cinema will feel familiar this type of structure for an action film. However, in this is an instance where the film stumbles in being a drama having no pay off for your patience. It knows what it wants to be, and what it needs to do to pull off its own story, but not how to get there. Having a jarring jump between Dick Lee more comedic centric scenes to contrast Ken Chow more dramatic scenes. There’s nothing like the smooth transition of seeing Chow Yun Fat going on a date to smoothly transition into Ti Lung arresting a criminal with grim music playing. Unfortunately, for the film the dramatic scenes usually incorporate one detrimental flaw each differently preventing these scenes from having the full effects they should.

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The officer is just as confused as I am with Ti Lung clothing.

For example, half of the motivation for Ted Yiu (the film’s villain) vengeance is that his balls were shot off. I would like to be joking, but since the film is subtitled there’s no mistaking what I (and other viewers) have read. The serious delivery of this revelation comes off as unintentionally silly since balls being shot off is held to the same significance as someone important in Ted Yiu’s life getting killed. This plot point could have been taken seriously if there was more added to it. Only once does the film do anything with this plot point, and it ain’t much. Ted Yiu, while having sex, with his girlfriend suddenly reminds him of that incident, and that’s it. Something like Ted Yiu possibly wanting kids in the future would have made this silly motivation easier to embraced. This whole “shot off my balls” motive undercuts the other half of Ted Yiu motive for vengeance which is enough to maintain the serious tone of the story. You can also probably make an accurate guess on what Ted Yiu other motivation is if you’re familiar with Hong Kong action flicks when it comes to cops vs. crooks.

A major hindrance in the film is the lack restraint on the film’s listed three writers. Portions of City War will have scenes that feel like they go on far longer than they actually should. For example, a scene where Dick Lee goes on a blind date, and shows him joyously interact with his blind date. The intention of the awkwardly comedic scene is clear, but lingers what feels like minutes of Dick Lee interacting with a character who doesn’t make another appearance in the film. For a while, it forgets it’s mostly a crime drama becoming a romantic comedy in the second act before returning to crime drama without ease. Given the film had three writers it certainly comes across that the film didn’t have a unifying vision, nor cohesion in combining several ideas together.

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Hm, I wonder if these are the bad guys?

There’s also the in your face subtlety of some its dialogue that attempt to provide some sort of commentary about law enforcement. There are three instances where the film characters would simply say something along the line of (paraphrasing) “More regulations are making it harder for good police officers to capture criminals”. Now imagine that, but put even more bluntly because the film will sprinkle these odd dialogue at random moments. When this happens, the film comes to a complete halt just to make sure you, the audience, like this sentence, get the point of what is being said to you. It would have been less damaging if the film actually bothered showing the consequences of going against these regulations instead of just ending abruptly like it did. Another reason this commentary does not work is everything within the story goes of it way to justify going against these regulations. Without a balance depiction the commentary comes off tacked on. Yes, it also contains a strictly follow the rules, promotion seeking lieutenant as a bonus whose only purpose is shove the film’s point about laws preventing cops from capturing criminals.

City War final act is where the action finally comes into place, but lacking the emotional resonant intended. A major reason for this is Ken Chow is hardly shown doing anything else besides police work. Ken Chow is meant to serve as the film emotional center given the events that transpired; however, Ken Chow is hardly shown interacting with anyone else besides Dick Lee when it’s not job related so the importance of anyone else in his life does not come into fruition. Ken Chow lost is meant to be sad just because it’s meant to be sad. Ringing a hollow feeling when he decides to take justice into his own hands. Another issue is regarding his attitude towards anyone giving him any kind of opposition. Certainly doesn’t help him, along with everyone else, naturally act impulsively stupid in order to force itself to tell the story it wants.

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A rare still of unscripted laughter of both Chow Yun-Fat (left), and Ti Lung (right) when reading about the film’s commentary on police regulations.

The ending is something that just happens abruptly. Granted the main conflict is resolved, but it makes the instances of characters bluntly talking about how difficult it is for police officers to do their job seem pointless. Another downside to the abrupt ending is the absence of weight. Due to the final act being action driven from scenes of tragic loss; character reflection would have been acceptable to linger on are glossed over. Making two acts worth of character building go to an immediate waste in favor of showing people getting blasted with bullets.

Chow Yun-Fat, and Ti Lung performances are easily the best part of an otherwise misguided film. These two actors, whom worked together in John Woo’s A Better Tomorrow (1986) basically play the reversal of their characters from that film. Yun-Fat plays the calm, and collected Dick Lee while Ti Lung plays the hot headed Ken Chow. Ti Lung is given the heavy lifting duty of carrying the film drama almost entirely himself. Being able to make a character that lacks depth sympathetic through his performance. He never over states, or over deliver in any of his scenes. Chow Yun Fat is varied in his performance, but is given some bad comedy to work with. He’s able to make some of the jokes passable while at other times you just want him to shut up. Despite the stupidity of Chow Yun Fat, and Ti Lung characters both actors are able to prevent them from becoming hateable. When on screen together both Chow Yun Fat, and Ti Lung raises the quality of the film, even if it is briefly.

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Coming soon…no wait this man has no balls.

 

Norman Chau whom plays the villain Ted Yiu plays his part with a straight face. Only once in the film is he allowed to humanize his character, and it’s when he’s outside of prison for the first time in ten years. After that point, he’s just straight evil leaving his performance on auto pilot. His mannerisms, facial expression, and dialogue delivery remains the same throughout its entire runtime.

In terms of action for what little there is the choreography is fine. The first action sequence at Ti Lung character’s house has a goon tearing up Lung’s house with a barrage of bullets before it eventually becomes a somewhat grounded fight scene. Hand to hand combat is mostly one sided with Lung character barely being able to hold his own. There’s no complex fighting of any kind done in this scuffle as the most elaborate it gets is Ti Lung kicking the villain goon, and while he’s falling the goon shoots some glass. Despite the small apartment the stunt work is commendable as the two actors bodies aren’t afraid to get tossed around. As typical of 80s, and 90s action flicks glass anything is not spared from destruction.

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Can’t blame these two for not liking the turns of events.

Finally, the climax where the remainder of the violence finally unfolds is somewhat interesting. Chow Yun Fat goes to interrupt a deal at a bus terminal starting off with Chow Yun Fat being a one man army against an entire gang. In fashion of other movies of this era, Chow Yun Fat can run into a barrage of bullets without getting hit, nearly always hitting the goons trying to kill him, and just barely dodging bullets when the action choreography is going into a new part of its staging. Unlike in nearly all of John Woo films, when Chow Yun Fat actually gets shot in this film working it way into the action choreography without adding much to it. Instead of intensifying the climax seeing Chow Yun Fat in a wounded state fight for his life. Chow Yun Fat just limps for a couple of seconds, and that’s all. Same thing also applies to actor Ti Lung who in spite of receiving a direct hit with an axe to his body moments later is able to swing that same axe with ease to kill a person seconds later. A couple of more seconds later, does a some very brief fighting making the axe wound pointless. When it comes to the final confrontation it feels empty overall due to the lack of rising action. Also, the lack of applying injury to the action choreography certainly adds to that problem too. Finally, the score of the movie works just fine when it’s needed. Nothing that’ll stick with you (especially for me) once the film has ended.

City War (1988) is unable to fashion a compelling crime drama for two-thirds of its total time to columinate into an explosion of bullets filled emotions in its final act like intended. The pacing is an hindrance either lingering on scenes longer than it should have, or rushing moments that should have been significant. The action sequences that are packed at the end of the film start off well before making whatever action it does have feel hollow no matter how much the film wants to emphasize the emotion that you should be feeling. It’s a sloppily made film that had the potential to draw in crime film, and action fans. Instead, it’s a film that is unable to function cohesively enough for either type of viewer to like.

Rating: 4/10

Post Review Note:

Also, if you do plan on seeing City War regardless of my negative review I strongly recommend you avoid looking up any trailers since it spoils the biggest turning point in the film, and sets up unrealistic expectation it’s going to be an action heavy film instead of the drama it is for the majority of its run.

Cinema-Maniac: The Visit (2015) Review

Pre-viewing discussion:

(interrupting a quiet day as a cashier)

Izanagi: “So will you see The Visit with me?”

Cesar: “Do Pigs sweat?”

Izanagi: “No”

Cesar: “There you go”

Izanagi: “You got to stop your bias thinking on M. Night Shyamalan”

Cesar: “Really? Okay, starting from 2002 all the way to 2010 M. Night Shyamalan was only ever attached to one good movie.”

Izanagi: “The Sixth Sense?”

Cesar gives Izanagi a grim look, and a head shake of disapproval.

Izanagi: “You didn’t even like The Sixth Sense!”

Cesar: “I did like Unbreakable, but that’s about it. In my book Shyamalan is a mystery. Kinda like Neill Blomkamp, minus starting off with a great movie, and then declining. Shyamalan was bad for me out of the gate.”

Izanagi: “Come on! See it with me!”

Cesar: “You have two things working against you. One I already mentioned, and to reiterate M. Night Shyamalan is a terrible writer. Second is the found footage format, and I’ll stand by my claim by saying 98% of found footage movies are garbage. Also, if it is like his other movies it’s going to have a plot twist.”

Izanagi: “Even if it does you won’t guess the twist.”

Cesar: “Give me the setup”

Izanagi: “It’s about two kids visiting their grandparents…”

Cesar interrupts Izanagi to say what he believes is the twist.

Izanagi: “If that’s so, only one way to find out.”

Cesar: “Fine, but if I win you buy me a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey.”

Izanagi: “Jigoku no!”

Cesar: “There you go I win.”

Izanagi: “Fine I agree, but if I win you have to…see Jack and Jill”

Cesar: “No way. I could barely tolerate one Adam Sandler. I don’t even want to picture two of him in one movie”

Izanagi: “Afraid now are we?”

Cesar: “Fine, but if anything happens to me….”

Izanagi: “Like the time Ooga Booga made your soul leave your body, or the time you had a bomb inserted in your balls, and timed to explode when you reviewed Diana. I’m sure you’ll survive this”

When I heard about “The Visit” I immediately lost interest even before knowing who was involved in it. The title alone kept me away, but when I discover the two other factors; M Night. Shyamalan, and the found footage format it was “No Zone” film for me. One thing I hate about the found footage format is that it’s the most insulting sub-genre in film. Allot of found footage movies claim they’re real which immediately discredits them. Not only that, but virtually everyone in a found footage movie has an HD camera to record whatever incident they are in. Cameras have gotten better from their conception, but I’m expected to believe every single person has an HD camera to record what they’re seeing. To further explain my distaste for found footage films are the force justification for a character to film everything they’re doing, and not let go of the camera. If some of these movies incorporated traditional scenes along with the “found footage” scenes I would believe what I’m seeing a lot easier. Except I’m not, and the first found footage film, Cannibal Holocaust, has hard to watch content (actual animals are killed on-screen) is still a high point in this sub-genre. Combine a movie with one of my most hated writer of all film, and my most hated sub-genre you have “The Visit”.

The Visit I will not provide a synopsis for. I want to reiterate this is an M. Night Shyamalan film so by nature if you know his writing any description of the premise can spoil the movie. Therefore, any review that has a synopsis for the “The Visit” fan or no fan of the director should consider them spoilers. Now, the first thing that raised a red flag about the poor writing skill of Shyamalan was a mistake in the first five minutes. We’re told the mother of the main characters was contacted by her parents through the internet, and the grandparents want to see their grand kids. So this would have not caused any suspicions if the mother did not established she had a rocky relationship with her parents, and has not seen them for 15 years in the first two minutes of the movie. First of all, by simply saying she got a phone call would have been believable, but nope the mother simply says the internet is how her parents found her. You know, that thing is basically a digital ocean of information. Two, the protagonist’s mother found out about her grandparents being counselor through the internet also.

(Cesar drinks an entire beer bottle.)

You gotta be kidding. I was hoping I would never have to say this because there is bad filmmakers, and then Jorge Ameer who is worse. M. Night Shyamalan writing has crossed over into Jorge Ameer territory. In 2013, Jorge Ameer wrote a movie called D’Agostino where the main character found an entire backstory for a pet human slave by simply typing his name, D’Agostino, on the internet. Shyamalan writing is similar to that of Jorge Ameer in this instance. Third, is the mother keeping tabs on her parents at all times? It would explain how she quickly  manage to found out about her parents started counseling. Four, the main character, Becca, is an aspiring filmmaker whose filming the events for a documentary. One important thing about documentaries would be research. So how come Becca didn’t tell her mother to show her a picture of her grandparents? I found this suspicious which is extremely good for those like me who just love to prove the overly hated, overly criticized M. Night Shyamalan “talent” has been overlooked.

Izanagi: “Dude, get on with it!”

Cesar: “I would, but I still got to complain about the first five minutes.”

Izanagi: “Man you suck!”

Five, the protagonist’s mother went to her parents counseling website, and finds no picture of them? Now, because this is a Shyamalan film within the first two-minute I figured out the twist. At least in Signs (2002), the twist wasn’t easy to spot. Sure it turned to be plot breaking, and rendered the premise broken, but I wasn’t able to predict the twist. Here, everything that has been established in the first five minutes of the film, and the lack of logic in it only serves to giveaway the twist. Six, if Becca actually saw a picture of her grandparents the film itself wouldn’t exist. This leap of logic is needed in order for there to be a film. If there’s no sound foundation for the story to begins then it’ll serve hurt it more in the long run with more mistakes.

Seven, the mother despite telling her kids not to go still lets her kids go visit their grandparents. If this was written competently than the mother would accompany the kids instead of leaving them on their own despite what her kids wanted. You know, like a reasonably concerned parent. Shyamalan could have used the mother memory against her. A simple “It’s been so long. I don’t recognize you mom, and dad” would have been enough to buy into this setup. It’s established that the mother hasn’t see her grandparents in fifteen years, and some of these simple changes would have removed these plot holes. I was willing to look past this immediate failed setup by Shyamalan until, Tyler (one of our main characters) attempted to make Vanilla Ice rapping seem like Tupac Shakur in comparison with the following rap.

Tyler: “Girl. I’m chilling again. I feelin again. I am like Iron-Man and Batman. I’m a hero again. Ugh. You think I’m little, but last month I grew an inch, and a quarter again. You think you’re 2 good for me. But that’s really a joke, cause you c. That doesn’t bother me. Cause I’m not a sensitive blough. Ugh. Now in the end, you’ll be in my bed. We won’t be just friends. You’ll write inappropriate text, and hit send. We share a Starbucks frappuccino blend dog. And see this isn’t just philosophy. It’s based on science you see. My Mista Pediatrician disconfront for me. You tall skanks! I’m going through puberty. Hoe!”

Izanagi: “Oh, man. That was just painful.”

Cesar: “Pass me the mic.”

Izanagi: “Dude, just forget it please. That rap was awful. Let’s just move on.”

Cesar: “No, no. I need to illustrate how incompetent M. Night Shyamalan is at writing.”

Izanagi: “You eventually will with the rest of the review! It’s already bloated enough.”

(Cesar grabs a mic out of thin air, and begins rapping)

Cesar: “The same old boring day just keeps rewinding. Everybody’s fear just keeps on binding. Still they act tough, like they’re hot stuff, but it all doesn’t matter cause it’s all a big bluff. The same routine everyday is boring. Need to get outside and start exploring. Thoughts in my mind are overlapping. I’m running out of lines to keep on rapping. What did you think?”

Izanagi: “…That was good.”

(Cesar, drops the mic.)

Cesar: “M. Night got nothing on me. I wasn’t raised the streets foo!”

Izanagi: “Well, he was nominated once for an Oscar for his screenplay for The Sixth Sense”

Cesar: “Stanley Kubrick received a Razzie nomination for Worst Director for The Shining, and Brian De Palma received one for Scarface (1983). Awards, and nominations does not make talent factual.”

With the first five minutes of the film alone I already have enough material to post a satisfying review. Not only did I bring up issues with the premise itself that it never fixes, but also presented solutions to some of those problems that could have led to a better film. However, if I stopped at just the first five-minutes that would leave many to discredit my position on the film, even though I just proved, and provided reasons as to why the writing is broken.

The Visit is meant to be a comedy, and horror film preferring the former genre for its overall tone. However, Shyamalan does not know when to implement comedy. There’s a scene where Tyler goes into a tool shed of sorts that is setting up a horror scene. Tyler enters this dark shed, and says throughout the scene how much it smells. This destroys the atmosphere the scene was going for, and misleads the viewer into thinking they’re meant to be afraid of what’s in this shed. When the scene is solely comedy it doesn’t hit well. Besides timing, the cast is filled with only two major characters to follow, and aren’t written to balance the horror, and comedy of the movie. Becca is mostly serious in the film so she is not reliable for humor. She hardly breaks out of her serious mold, and when she does it simply to set up a horror scene with no payoff. Then there’s Tyler who has the role of being comedy relief. He has to rap terribly in the movie for comedy relief, and also be taken seriously. He’s a character whose poorly written because little about him is developed beyond the fact he wants to be a rapper. As for his backstory revolving around dealing with his father leaving from his life at a young age affects Becca more than it does Tyler. With Tyler constantly shown without concern for serious issues until the last act rolls in. Tyler is never an engaging character.

There’s a moment in the film when Tyler says, and I want to emphasize M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN WROTE THIS! Tyler says, “No one gives a crap about cinematic standard. It’s not the 1800s. Have you seen reality TV? Housekeepers of Houston has like a billion viewers!”.

Cesar cynically clapping.

Thank you M. Night Shyamalan for reaffirming your negative attributes from your ego, not listening to criticism, and sheer ignorance for proper filmmaking with this dialogue. You dare insult the audience telling them they don’t have cinematic standards? Not only that, but you’re only defense is reality TV is popular? Have you missed Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Oz, The Twilight Zone (1959 – 1964), and other great series so you could cherry pick only reality television? M. Night, you just can’t assume you’re critical stance is correct with a narrowed mindset like yours. Maybe if you know, you were anything like Steven F$%@ing Spielberg you might be taken seriously with this claim. You do have Becca counterarguing Tyler claims, but the fact is M. Night Shyamalan is solely credited as the writer, and told everyone (including his fans, who might even hate reality TV) they do not care about cinematic standards. If professional film critics, and audiences didn’t have cinematic standards Shyamalan people would be eating up “The Last Airbender” just on name value alone.

There’s also the introduction of two characters in the movie that go absolutely nowhere. On this trip, what were the chances that Becca would filmed two completely random adults who used to be actors. One during the train ride in the beginning of the film, and another twenty minutes in when someone came up to check up on the grandparents. These two characters don’t do much from the single scene they are in besides being more evidence to assure viewers who made predictions on the twist. Another person is brought up in the film is a stranger who just appears in an empty neighborhood to just get beat up by the grandpa.

Why this stands out so much is before grandpa, and the our main kids characters arrive at the high school their grandparents met each other. We’re shown the drive to that destination, and there’s hardly any people walking on the streets. Sure it’s winter, but another trick to good horror movies is removing the suspicion of there being any scares in a scene which can’t be done when the one time we’re shown the outside of this house is an empty neighborhood. Becca encourages her grandpa, and brother to play a game where they make up a story for a person in a building. I spotted the house where M. Night Shyamalan good ideas never existed.

Another aspect about this scene that also gave away the twist was the grandpa feeling like he was being followed. Now, we’re told these old people are counselor so when the grandfather acts funny by believing someone is following him it doesn’t add up. I mean, it’s part of his job to talk to people so this scene was also reaffirming my prediction on the twist, as well as breaking what’s established. If the grandpa simply stated one of his patients has it out of him problem solved, and nothing seems out of character. Except grandpa, and grandma never talk about their jobs, nor mention the people they help in detail.

The last secondary character that is worth mentioning is a young woman who brings food to the house. Seeing the lack of attention for establishing any form of normality this character also goes nowhere. If the lack of secondary characters didn’t giveaway there’s something clearly wrong with the situation then the interaction will. Shyamalan problem was immediately making the grandparents awkward for the kids to talk too. He does not show a gradual change from a welcome home environment with the grandparents to unsettling visit. This decision cost Shyamalan to write himself into a corner. Without establishing a sense of normality, or a nice family moment viewers will expect something bad to happen at the end. Also, there’s not a single shot of Becca, Tyler, and the grandparents all together in the same frame. Hmm, nothing suspicion is there. You think Becca, an aspiring filmmaker would at least want one shot of the entire family together for documentary, except the thought never pops in her mind. Hm, completely makes sense to me. Unfortunately, something bad did end up happening in the last act.

Izanagi: “No! Why?!”

Cesar: “I was right! I told you M. Night Shyamalan is a terrible writer!”

Izanagi: “I don’t know who I hate more right now. You for acting obnoxious for being correct, or the fact M. Night is still writing twists into his movies!”

Now the twist wasn’t hard to see to coming. Before the twist is revealed there is not a single scene in the film with the entire cast all together. The two kids, are never shown sharing a scene with both grandparents together besides when they meet for the first time. They either hang out with the grandpa, or the grandma. On top of that, every scene where the kids interact with the grandparents is written awkwardly. One way to counteract this would have been writing a single scene of the entire family having fun together. Except that never happens. Something has to go aray whenever the kids are with their grandparents. Then there’s the plain problem that the kids are mostly together implying they hardly hang out with the grandparents. Also, let’s not forget the counseling job is mentioned once in the beginning, and is briefly brought up again in the middle of the film. So connecting the dots wasn’t a difficult task for me. It wasn’t being used in the film to drive the plot so I made a note of it. The broken premise, combine with awkward interaction between kids and grandparents, the lack of secondary characters written in the film, the lack of the grandparents talking about their jobs or seen doing it, no nights at the grandparents house without some odd occurrence, and that it is written by M. Night Shyamalan made me confidence about my prediction. Also, the fact I dread being correct goes to show I take no pleasure in being correct about a bad piece of writing, and the whole film in general.

There’s still other elements to write about though. Those the are the characters which don’t have depths to them. Becca is an aspiring filmmaker, but talks about film in a snobish way. There is no enthusiasm towards her approach in filming. There’s also a subplot brought out of nowhere of how she doesn’t like looking at herself, even though there was a moment fifteen minutes into the film of Becca looking into a mirror when talking to Tyler. This would be better foreshadow if she turned around in that scene, and talked to Tyler. Also, she’s an aspiring filmmaker, and does not like looking at herself? There’s also this plot point of the kids father leaving them at a young age which also get brought out of nowhere at times. This eventually connects with why Becca is filming the documentary…but it’s very silly. A simple phone call would fix everything if all the mother was looking for was forgiveness. Then the plot twist opens up more plot holes, and brings up the serious lack of police world in this small town.

Now, the acting is surprisingly good. The dialogue is written awkwardly, and the kids don’t talk like kids, but they are convincing in their roles. Olivia Dejonge who plays Becca deliver convincingly her role of a troubled young teen. She sounds like she has built up resentment, sounds like she’s into filmmaking, and shows uncertainty on to how to feel in situations. Dejonge does not come across wooden in her performance. Dejonge comes across convincingly as her character. Ed Oxenbould best trait was his chemistry with Olivia Dejonge. I believed him, and Olivia Dejonge were siblings. Their chemistry felt natural in every sense of the word. However, Ed Oxenbould was the most annoying out of the cast. I blame Shyamalan for giving him his awful rapping scenes, but Oxenbould takes the blame for confusing shouting for comedy. Ed Oxenbould does not have the acting chops to sell good jokes because he has no charisma behind his setup, and punchline, let alone selling a film filled entirely of bad jokes. Making matter worse is he ends the film with another one of his terrible rapping scenes.

Deanna Dunagan plays the grandmother in the film. Aesthetically she fits the role by simply having to look old, but her appearances is her greatest attribute in this film. Managing to come across as some nice old lady, and flipping the switch into insane crazy old woman. She shows fear whenever she does anything odd which adds to the character uneasiness towards the kids. Dunagan comes across convincingly as a senile person. Lastly, Peter Mcrobbie gets a less showing performance compare to his co-star Dunagan. Mcrobbie comes as sincere in portrayal which is to his credit. He’s makes a character that little to explore, and acts naturally in it. There ain’t much to his performance besides being the more normal acting grandparent. The supporting don’t have screen time to make an impression making most of their inclusion in the film mostly pointless in one scene.

Night Shyamalan’s The Visit is just plain bad. It’s not a good movie by Shyamalan’s standards, nor ties for the worst films he’s made in his careers. By found footage standard, the acting is better than the genre generally provides, but the writing matches those of the worst in the genre. Then finally, the same mistakes 98% of found footage movies do The Visit also falls victim from audio being able to be heard despite long distances, the characters filming everything, and acting against reason. For instance, there’s a scene where the grandmother picks up a camera, and film herself attempting to enter her grandkids room with a knife with the intention to kill them. So despite losing her marbles this old woman has the sense to pick up a camera, but not destroy the footage? Shyamalan is not successful enough in creating a fictional illusion barely comprehending makes work of fiction engaging. Whatever made him think he could sell something else as reality to viewers is about as nonsensical as his writing.

2/10

Izanagi insisted I include this epilogue.

After-viewing discussion:

Izanagi (furiously looking at Cesar): “You’re such a buzz kill!”

Cesar: “I told you so Izanagi. This is M. Night Shyamalan we’re talking about.”

Izanagi: “You’re so obtuse on the guy! Other people enjoy his works. If you don’t, then don’t be a dick about it! There is no one out there who shares your same viewpoints on movies”

Cesar: “Fair point, but think about this. From my perspective, the hack that is M. Night Shyamalan gets more attention, articles, and discussions for his films over talented filmmakers like Charles Burnett who made a great biopic called Selma, Lord, Selma in 1998 for Walt Disney Pictures.”

Izanagi: “There is no way Disney made a film on Dr. King. I mean, hello. They’re Disney!”

(Izanagi takes out his phone to check if it’s true. Much to his dislike CM is correct.)

Izanagi looks at a smiling CM: “I hate you so much.”

Cinema-Maniac: The Starving Games (2013) Review

At this point among filmdom (or whatever you choose call it film planet, film world, film committee, etc.) it’s common knowledge to avoid anything by the duo of Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg. These two greatest contribution to cinema have always the years they didn’t release a film. Unfortunately at this point in these the duo along with the people giving them jobs refuse to use their brains make a competent comedy.

The Starving Game is about Kantmiss Evershot fighting for her life in the 75th annual Starving Games. Like the duo previous films its plagues with the same issues; outdated film references, no comedic consequences, no pacing, non existence plot, absent of characters, to stupid to make fun of, beating a dead horse with every joke, and wasting the audience time. That’s the whole film in a nutshell, but where it fails the most is being a basic parody of “The Hunger Games”. It does not understand the definition of the word parody. That would have been asking to much from the writers who predict Lady Gaga will become president in the future. Instead of poking fun the film “shaky cam” by simply having a film crew capturing the action why not make a semi-political allegory on the Hollywood system downgrading intellectual properties. Then again, asking for actual minimal effort from the writers that only use “The Expendables” and “The Avengers” as throwaway gags instead of actual participants is a bit too much to expect. Now that I think about it that would have been a whole lot better, but who am I to judge the brilliance of movie where Kantmiss missing Peter as a giant cake next to her in the middle of the woods. Well to the writers credit they did copy the stupidity of that scene from the actual movie…though that’s not a good thing either since it had no punch line in its delivery. Much like the film structure it seems my brains cells were not present in this paragraph.

Narratively how does it all play out? If you seen “The Hunger Games” try to imagine the same plot points only brain dead slowly killing your brain cells being filled with unfunny overused jokes. Kantmiss offers herself to participate in the Starving Games (although everyone looks well fed, another miss point to satirize), Kantmiss faking her romance with Peter, underdeveloped little girl who helps Kantmiss gets kicked to death (let that sink in), underdeveloped romance, Kantmiss and Peter in a standoff finale. Talk about being uncreative stealing directly from the source material this duo is “satirizing”. I will admit this film did make me laugh one time with a fake commercial for a hamburger (a mixture of pizza, ice cream, buns, vegetables, and other things). However, that joke is soon forgotten when M.I.A. appearce play the earrape known as “Sexy and I Know It” and the I don’t understand humanity anymore popularity of Gangnam Style being killed off. Not that these musical references (including Taylor Swift) have no comedic purpose other than being completely superficial to the film just like its creation. Filled with incoherent sight gags, fart jokes, pointless pop culture references, and anything you could imagine from a duo set on destroying any fiber of humor. At least the acting talent despite being given awful material are okay. Diedrich Bader, bless him, who despite the godawful material he’s given, still commits to his every line. Likewise, star Maiara Walsh has brief glimpses of talent, but they’re usually spoiled a few seconds later by whatever cheap trick the movie has her doing next (like bird poop being thrown at her).

The Starving Game like it title will suggest leaves it does not fill its audience stomach for comedy. Saying this is for the lowest common denominator is an insult to the lowest common denominator. Even at under 83 minutes it fails to have enough material to support itself let alone entertain an audience. In vein of a bad rehashed sequel the duo rinse and repeats every mistakes they committed unable to comprehend the basics of how comedy works.

1/10

Cinema-Maniac: Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (2013) Review

Bad Grandpa lose story is about 86-year-old Irving Zisman is on a journey across America with the most unlikely companion: his 8 year-old grandson, Billy. The plot is serviceable doing exactly what it was intended to do; string together practical jokes and physical comedy in a serviceable narrative without feeling like one giant YouTube video. In context it makes sense for the duo to travel around to several locations and because of the way the characters are written the jokes make sense. It has good intentions providing a different take on embracing parenthood. Characters without question are far from being decent, but contains a heart in the bond between two unlikely characters. In its core it’s a basic story which evidently feels force in its format. Whenever the fictional Zisman interacts with a non-fictional character pacing becomes inconsistent. Spending too much time setting up the joke in a specific manner or waiting on a camera man to capture some of the non actors reactions. Jokes here in general are nothing you wouldn’t expect from MTV; sex jokes, jokes about women and male genitalia, fart jokes, old people doing crazy things, and a kid joining his grandpa on the hijinks. Hardly does it diverge from its own brand of humor for better and worse. Sure the plot is basic and far from what the majority will ever remember, but it gives the film a better purpose than just being just another series of hijinks just for the sake of it.

The film while mostly a series of jokes with hidden camera catching regular people reaction it does contain bits of fiction meant to be fiction. Certain scenes without question feel heavily acted destroying what joke was meant to be found in the reaction. When the reactions are genuine it’s funny, but when it’s staged it gets across the opposite effect. Cinematography quality is minor distraction. At times the cinematography will differ appearing grainy while appearing clear in the next shot. Acting is one dimensional whenever the film allows there to be. Johnny Knoxville and co-star Jackson Nicoll retain the same personas from beginning to end. Knoxville is a foul mouthed and sex obsessed old men while Nicoll is a kid doing and saying funny thing. Jackson Nicoll surpasses Knoxville when it comes to improv making his scenes flow naturally as oppose to Knoxville where his improv can come across as awkward.

Bad Grandpa doesn’t have much of a story, but it’s a serviceable distraction before going into the comedic setups. It’s lack variety when it comes to having a sense of humor, but what kind of jokes it chooses to create can bring laughter to its audience.

Rating: 7/10

Cinema-Maniac: The Story Of Luke (2013) Review

This year hasn’t been a good year for comedies with the likes of Scary Movie 5, Movie 43, A Haunted House, and InAPPropriate Comedy failing to garner even a chuckle. The Story of Luke while nothing original the execution brings the best elements of the script to life with a cast that balances the dynamic in the characters.

The Story of Luke is about Luke, a young man with autism, who is thrust into a world that doesn’t expect anything from him. The story is old fashioned with the humor coming from the interaction from the protagonist in his situations. Luke has an interesting dynamic where his disorder remains consistent to the plot. It’s not solely used as a plot device and becomes a characteristic of Luke. The humor is not haha funny, but when it makes a joke it delivers. It plays more the dramatic side dealing with themes of death, acceptance, and moving on. These dramatic elements are well woven into the plot where you feel invested towards what is happening. The dramatic elements while serious allow room for jokes that don’t be feel force. The plot tends to rely on Luke and the people around him telling him what to do. Some of Luke goals are realistic and some plot points are introduce only to return when the plot needs them too. What it might lack in originality it satisfies with an effective balance of both comedy and drama.

Star Lou Taylor Pucci is an embodiment of his role. Not only does find a tight tuned balance between the agitation and kindness of his character, but also respectfully portrays with autism disorder accurately. Being able to laugh with Taylor Pucci in his comedic situations because of how more lighthearted his take is. Seth Green in a surprising supporting role makes for an equally funny supporting actor. He plays his at times rude character with a good spirit. His scenes with Taylor Pucci can make for ones that are both touching and humorous. Green is allow more capabilities making a fun contrast towards Taylor Pucci characteristic. The supporting cast do fine in their roles. Each cast member is given their own specific scene to shine whether it’s Cary Elwes lack of idea of how help one of his kids or Kristin Bauer van Straten opening up. The direction works creating a tone that never gears too much on direction and pacing that never feels like a scene is dragged.

The Story of Luke is wholesome comedy that is more a lighthearted take on autism while being sincere and not using the disease as a plot device. With a strong lead in Lou Taylor Pucci embodying his character both comically and dramatically carries it flawlessly. The Story of Luke is a film that is more than deserving of a bigger audience in a year filled with notable bad comedies The Story of Luke is one very good standout.

8/10

Cinema-Maniac: Easy A (2010) Review

Easy A (2010)
January 24, 2012
There’s reason why I like this movie, beside the fact that it has Emma Stone, is that it’s a smartly written teen-comedy.

A clean-cut high school student relies on the school’s rumor mill to advance her social and financial standing. So the plot wasn’t exactly what I expected, by that I mean I didn’t laugh that much in the movie. There wasn’t really that many jokes that were funny, I got the jokes, I didn’t think they were that funny. Luckily the smartly written story doesn’t heavily rely on just humor like many poorly made teen comedies as it tell the viewer a smartly written story and give actual character development to a relate-able character. Now for a guy who hasn’t seen many teen comedy, I have to say I was actually sad when it ended because I wanted the movie to go on.

Emma Stone does a great job in her first starring role. Her charm and character adds more likability to the movie. Now the rest of the cast is good, but Emma Stone actually proved she can carry a movie in a lead role. I truly hope I get to see her in more lead as I think she’s a charming and talented actress.

So Easy A is a smartly written teen comedy missing many laughs as there not executed correctly or just aren’t that funny. Thankfully Emma Stone first lead role is a good one and it shows that she can a big star.

8/10

Cinema-Maniac: The Gold Rush (1925) Review

There’s a reason why classical humor is more appealing to me, unlike modern comedies that focus on sex jokes, the silent era humor is more about character humor. No doubt Charlie Chaplin’s, The Gold Rush, is one of the best example of this.

The story is actually more entertaining and heartfelt than most of the modern comedies in recent years. Charlie Chaplin plays the Tramp and goes to the Klondike in search of gold and finds himself some humorous situations. Chaplin alway plays his characters with such grace that imitating him is just impossible. The jokes are actually funny, the characters are worth caring about, and since it’s a Chaplin film, prepare yourself for some of the most hilarious moments ever filmed.

What else can I say about this movie, it helds up really well. Unlike most comedies where the humor dies off with passing years, this film has only gotten better. I have to say the best thing about this is the production value. Every characters is worth watching, every shot captures the scene perfectly, the pacing is just terrific in every way possible, and it’s just a joy to watch. I honestly can’t remember the last time a movie has made me laugh as much of this.

The Gold Rush proves that comedy can timeless if done correctly. Even though the current state of the comedy genre is not so good, it’s great that a talented artist like Chaplin made this movie for generations to smile, laugh, and bring them an unforgettable experience.

10/10