Day Thirty-One: Kara no Kyoukai 8 + 9 (MotM 2017)

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The March of the Movies will end with a purr, as my motivation to continue forth with essentially the same thing day after day has worn me out completely. My thoughts on these two films will be short (one much shorter than the other).

KnK 8: Shuushou

Everything I despised about the long, overcomplicated explanations in a few of the films prior is essentially all that’s here. Some warm moments interlaced doesn’t save it from being literally Shiki’s face with mouth movements for minutes straight talking some psychological nonsense about what is and what isn’t the make-up of a human being. I grew bored within minutes and still they went on for some twenty-five hours, or so it seemed. It didn’t serve much point to anything overall, so I more just felt I wasted a half hour sitting through it. Production values, once again, are what save it from being completely skippable. Also helped with serving some sort of closure, that is until the next movie beat it even in that category.

Final Score: 3/10

KnK 9: Mirai Fukuin

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Emotionally-charged with good balance of character interaction/charm and psychoanalytical jargon? Say it ain’t so! The films prior either did one (way more often) or the other (basically never). It serves almost like a reboot of the series, but with the foundations and development of the characters already established, one can simply enjoy the characters for who they are and how they interact with new characters. Said new characters are pretty standard, but do enough to make the movie a tad more easy-going.

One huge contrast with this film is the general lack of tragic, hostile topics and developments. They still exist to some extent, but not nearly the level of darkness that would, say, open with a rape scene, or end with cannibalism. I, as someone who tolerated the darkness to the point where I almost found it overly edgy, welcome this with open arms. Finally, some variety to the film that helps it stand out, though admittedly makes it a sort of black sheep. It doesn’t have that same “feeling” to it as the others, prioritizing more with the characters than the story, along with harboring the closure that many fans are likely clamoring to see. It’s split up into two parts: one part that shows the events roughly two years after Movie 7, which takes up most of the runtime, and a second part that transports the characters far into the future and is essentially there for closure. People who have clicked the “Spoiler” tab on MAL’s synopsis for the film know what I mean by this.

Initially, I had forgotten that the film was split into two parts, which was why the end of the first part surprised me when it ended earlier than the total runtime. I was wondering what they could possibly show for another half hour, but then I remembered the half hour I wasted to get to that point. Turns out, it’s rather sweet, and almost nothing like anything the series would’ve published under its name. These two parts vary in importance and feature a large difference in cast members, but both serve to compliment one another to some capacity, whether through recurring characters or, as I’ve said again and again, closure.

In a way, this film is basically filler, something to wrap up the series in a way that a majority of people would appreciate. I feel they go overboard ever so slightly, but I’m also picky and overly cynical. The piece is an enjoyable one based on its key differences from what the film series established for its identity beforehand. It’s rather standard in terms of plot, its execution, and character quirks, but it does more with it, instead of letting things fester in nothingness for half the film before getting things done. However, this film has probably the easiest main antagonist Shiki has ever faced. Not a lot of tension, only good vibes and pseudo-drama.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s good because it finally changed itself and did everything else adequately enough to hold itself up. And the end was cute.

Final Score: 6.5/10

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!

Thank you all for sticking with me this month. I’m going to take a well deserved rest for a little bit, then I’ll be back as if I never left. Until then!

Day Thirty: Kara no Kyoukai 7: Satsujin Kousatsu (Kou) (MotM 2017)

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(Disclaimer: All images were found via Google.)

It’s only appropriate that the latest film in the franchise that I genuinely enjoy comes as a direct follow-up to another film I genuinely enjoyed. Not insinuating these films aren’t direct sequels to one another (though some aren’t), but Part 7 is a sort of continuation of Part 2, hence the “(Zen)” and “(Kou)” within the names. Part 7 is also technically the last film in the series, with the two upcoming films serving as side stories, though still within the realm of importance. One can tell with the sense of finality to the film’s ending scenes that it’s all come full circle. If only it included everyone.

As if it’s expected by this point, production value is a major positive for Part 7. Animation is spectacularly glossed over each scene and the character’s expressions. Choice of instrumentation in the background does very well for the most emotionally charged situations, all accumulating with Shiki’s fight within herself, something that’s been hinted at for many films. It did to some extent with the last movie, but seeing as I was more immersed with the story this time around, the final fight, while not amusingly gory or loaded with an epic appeal, amassed a flurry of emotions within me. Among the first times within the film series where I acknowledged the beauty of a specific scene or situation.

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Something of a debate between fans of the series is the difference in quality between this film and Part 5. The latter has the advantage of sheer spectacle and psychological creativity and intrigue. Characters are more plot pieces than individuals and the bizarre framing of perspectives makes for a very intriguing two hours. Part 7, on the contrary, appeals more to the humanity of its characters and the morality of the situation. It treats the characters as though they manipulate the plot, making their issues and conflict feel more personal and within their control. It also makes the characters feel more alive within their environment, something that Part 5 hardly did. It revealed necessary and interesting info about them, but it never allowed them to simply exude their charisma.

It is this switch in priorities that make the divide between these two parts intriguing, with one focusing on a more apathetic, psychological front, while the other appeals to the emotions and the well-being of the characters. The reasoning involved makes the difference in quality quite appropriate: viewers are likely to find Part 5 more entertaining and technically sound, and Part 7 more affectionately humane. One is likely to find Part 5 the better film, but Part 7 the more likable film. For me, it’s no different. I acknowledge that Part 5 is probably a better film, but I enjoyed Part 7 far more, especially during the second half. What becomes the central issue is how much of Part 7’s more forced arbitrariness one can tolerate.

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Realism isn’t exactly one of the series’s major focuses, but here one could make the case that it’s trying really hard to be both subtle and direct. Bloodshed is also one of the series’s more prevalent identifiers—the amount one survives this time around is a little worrying. Stenches of plot armor fill the scenes to a high degree. Some characters don’t seem to be of any importance, despite their roles in prior films. And for the last time, the male lead’s uppity attitude is still fairly annoying. There’s not a gray fiber within him, it is only good and bad, moral and amoral. God forbid one kills out of self defense. Even so, with that stipulation in place, the final scenes offer an intriguing take on what the characters truly stand for, and how they cope with it moving forward.

Emotionally gratifying as it may be, this is not of its entire body. The second half is splendid in its build-up and highlighting of the characters’ dimensions, along with some signature uncomfortable moods. Prior to it, the film is just build-up of the same degree as films past. People talk, listen, gather information, do some things here and there in a slow, but gradual pace to a tormenting end. A plague to most of the films in some capacity, slow starts are something that make the films a little tiring to marathon day after day.

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Is it the best? Or the second-best? It could be one or the other, depending on one’s preferences and priorities of technical splendor vs. emotional value. I enjoyed Part 7 a lot more than Part 5 when all was said and done, but again, Part 5 had a lot more going for it to make it a longer-lasting experience. I really appreciate that by series’s end (kind of), the characters are the ones receiving the brunt of the importance, rather than trying to fulfill more of the depressing story it adores to overexaggerate. Still, it would’ve been helpful to have the narrative serve far more closure to those outside of the two leads and within the universe that seems still so very unstable. Also, if I may be frank, the ending is just a wee too “Happily ever after” for something like this.

Final Score: 7.5/10

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!

Day Twenty-Nine: Kara no Kyoukai 6: Boukyaku Rokuon (MotM 2017)

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This won’t be long.

Everything I’ve criticized the first film of doing is multiplied here in Part 6, except without the veil of ignorance set upon the audience. Here, they manage to make the plot and the characters even more simplistic than they already were in movies past. Better yet, Part 6 stars the male lead’s younger “sister,” who is in love with him. Because anime. But she’s adopted, so it doesn’t matter. Because anime. Her characterization includes being in love with her brother, and getting embarrassed when someone blurts out that they know that she’s in love with her brother. Aside from this, she exudes a sort of naivety that suits her age well. She is also in love with her brother. Getting tired of me saying that? Film wouldn’t shut the fuck up about it, either.

Plot structure is the exact same as Parts 1 and 3; introduce characters, introduce conflict, let it fester as they try to figure shit out, and final, flashy fight to end with either a sappy resolution or bleak foreshadowing. What makes it even better is the antagonist of this film is so… uninteresting and unimportant that she may as well not even exist. And the reasoning behind her antagonizing is… well, just as uninteresting and unimportant. The entirety of this film felt like a cast-off OVA, as nothing truly felt important to the bigger spectrum and characters only occupied the screen for the sake of doing so. Barely any development (of characters one would care about), hardly any stakes, and missing a lot of that intrigue that, even if the film was somewhat off-kilter, managed to reside in the backdrop to some extent.

The only saving point for the film is animation and sound implementation. It still looks great, with a lot of imaginative spectacles that make the magic feel as though it means anything. It boosts entertainment as well as a keen eye for aestheticism, something that the series in a whole knows how to manipulate. Still, it doesn’t hold a candle to Part 5. I also enjoyed listening to the film, as the choice of music helped make the mood of pseudo-seriousness feel splendid to pay attention to. The fight scene between the male lead’s sister and the antagonist is a high point, being the best part of the film, both from a dedication to spirited choreography and animation and because it has little competition.

It’s the worst of the films thus far, though that doesn’t surprise me based on user ratings on MAL. I didn’t think it would be that bad, and to some extent, it isn’t. However, when adding into account that the film is almost a carbon copy of two other movies prior to it with less likable characters (or more likable characters taking a backseat) and a less serious plot, it’s almost a spit in the face. Production value saves it from being a nearly worthless endeavor—thank God it had at least that.

Final Score: 3.5/10

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!

Day Twenty-Eight: Kara no Kyoukai 5: Mujun Rasen (MotM 2017)

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What if I told you… that this was the best of the bunch? What if I told you that this film is not only the best in the series thus far, but the best it will ever be? The quality equivalent of the Mona Lisa, The Godfather, Tom Brady; the best of its time and the objective masterpiece that exceeds all others. What if I told you that it not only deserves a perfect 10/10 rating, but exceeds that into a realm never once even conceived, something within the range of 10/-10 or 101/010. What if I told you that the film doesn’t deserve any of this?

Creating a sense of self is important for any and all works, something that distinguishes it from the masses and gives it a flavor that can be enjoyed not just by anybody, but nobodyKara no Kyoukai 5 has a repertoire of dazzling phenomenons that give it a desirable emptiness that helps establish a line of structure within the madness. Think to a series such as Steins;Gate or The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, series that take advantage of hasty logical prompts through use of time travel and alternate realities. Think to what these series accomplish with their winding stories, constantly looping within themselves to create absurd resolutions and harrowing character experiences. Part 5 has a defensive mechanism to use this as a crutch.

It’s high time the films within this series take advantage of the situation and reveal what’s important and worth watching about their cast of faces. Not only is there above average development for key characters, it even manages to make new characters tolerable. The third member of the main group whom I left unnamed in past reviews (Sorry), Aozaki, becomes vital to the explanation of the confusion that takes place, and masterfully gives her a lot of credibility on top of her absurdity. The world that Kara no Kyoukai creates and leads up to ’till this point becomes far more clear than in past presentations, giving firm realization to the audience that they have been watching for a reason.

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What a confusing story. One that takes up so much time and tries to overcomplicate itself for the sake of appearing well-developed and deeply insightful. Plenty of development around the characters and the story are presented in a fulfilling way, almost as if the director decided to unleash their creative monsters. Previous films lacked effort in presentation, whether through story, character interaction, or action. Blending this all makes a frivolous monotony present that tarnishes the films’ ability to remain entertaining. Part 5 makes up for this tremendously with erratic camera movements, abrupt scene transitions, and a controlled chaos that usually works in the film’s favor from an artistic viewpoint. In layman’s terms, the film puts a lot more effort into making itself feel enthusiastic for what it’s doing compared to its previous line-up.

Darkness and gore always play an unnecessary factor in this series thus far, as little about this changes here. Constant reminders of despairing details haunt the characters and their dilemmas, giving emphasis on the humanity of the cast and, pray tell, THE POWER OF EMOTIONS!!! Imagery has a wonderful way of distorting one’s expectations, especially when concerning the fragility of people, whether physically or emotionally. Many times I prayed that characters were down and out for good, only to become mocked as they revert back to a comfortable state. One thing that can be said is the film doesn’t know what to tell you and it adores it.

Another step up is the art and animation direction. No, really. The amount of dark detail shown makes for an engrossing experience on top of an already ecstatic style of presentation. Scenes are given more importance through manner of specific details—whether through words or certain objects, and are animated in a crazy slideshow similar to that of the Monogatari series. Fluidity improves, gore is more obscene, spectacles are more intriguing, and abject magic gives meaningful allure. One could very well pass off the tale and the characters just to sit in awe of the twists and turns of the impressive detail.

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It is the best of its kind. Not that that matters. It has style, precision, and a controlled mess that somehow becomes engaging enough to follow through with, better established by the developments shown in previous films. With the foundations in place, Part 5 becomes more important to the establishing of characters and the chaotic muscles of the symbolic, psychological plotline. Through the lens of the big picture, it may not prove very important, as it’s simply an isolated incident with more promised in the end. However, what it does show is an impressive amount of detail the series has been hesitant to reveal in pictures past. Characters feel sparsely real, with a story that tries very, very hard to be evoking of a multitude of emotions, effort that doesn’t go unnoticed. A wild ride at its core, though perhaps not one that many of a more experienced palette will find very fulfilling.

Final Score: 7.5/10

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!

Day Twenty-Seven: Kara no Kyoukai 3 + 4 (MotM 2017)

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(I know the pictures are inconsistent.)

KnK 3: Tsuukaku Zanryuu

The film teleports back to “present time,” where the premise is very similar to that of the first film. The only true difference between the two is that, after the second film, the viewer now has further insight on the relationship between (some) of the characters and their situations. Also, this film is a lot grittier than the first, as along with murder, we also have rape. Indeed, the film opens with a rape scene. You have been warned.

Does this darker tone mean anything to the grander scheme of things? Yes and no. It helps cement the issues that revolve around this film’s main target, a girl who cannot feel, while also being there just for the sake of making the girl pitiable. I enjoyed the way that they incorporated the darker actions through the perspective of both the detached victim and the attacker. A flavor is added to the secondary characters through simple conversations, looking back on their actions and how they describe it to the major characters. This is probably what the film does best, as intrigue is really all this series has to its name thus far.

Apart from this, I could almost copy/paste exactly what I said about the first film here, because they’re incredibly similar. Opens with the introduction of conflict, featuring characters important to the film. Has the major characters converse with one another about random things in their little hideout. Bad things happen due to the aforementioned characters important to the specific film. Major characters catch wind of it and investigate. More is revealed about the important character’s past and lifestyle, cluing in on what could be wrong with them. End it with a flashy action scene, then end it with some foreshadowing of more to come or some sappy resolution. Barely a difference, barely more that I can say that hasn’t already been said.

Enjoyment was a tad higher with this one as I found the antagonist girl interesting, though she’s hardly enough to carry the film. It still feels as though the film has better things to show later on, frustratingly stuck within the introductory phases that disallow it to reveal too much early on. If, per chance, the film did a better job of making the major characters feel more like they controlled the (horribly slow and rather dull) story, instead of the other way around, I’d be more inclined to care about what was going on. Truth be told, it’s somewhat hard to watch these films seeing as they tend to blend in with one another to some extent.

Final Score: 5.5/10

KnK 4: Garan no Dou

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Here, the audience is given a continuation of Part 2, as odd numbers seem to be present time, while even numbers are reserved for flashbacks. It details the events that transpire semi-directly after the events of Part 2, with some leeway in time dedicated to one character being in a coma. The third member of the group of major characters (shown above) is introduced as the scenes show what she means to the male and female lead outside of… an employer, I suppose.

To make matters direct, Part 4 isn’t as well-paced or as dramatically emotional as Part 2, but has a lot more going for it than either Parts 1 or 3. Conversations within this film are a combination of Part 2 and Parts 1 and 3, with some focusing on the situation at hand and a dizzyingly depressing mood all throughout, along with some further character development for Shiki. Male lead is fairly absent this time around, though still shows himself as someone for Shiki to rely on (Again, the unreal determination of this guy). The third character doesn’t reveal much more about herself as much as her expertise, which while gratifying, doesn’t hold the same weight to making her feel at all relatable or likably charismatic.

A lot of the time spent in Part 4 has Shiki sitting in a bed realizing her newfound power and trying to cope with it. Essentially it comes down to her facing a horrifying new reality on her own accord, providing core strength to her character and will. She’s said to have developed this herself, but I’d like to think it’s the commitment of the two other major characters that kept her spirit and resolve to live alive. There’s a lot of talking, not necessarily new for the series, but a stark increase here as there is very little distraction from reality and humanity. Some pretty scenes of symbolic nature appear, but they’re pretty standard. Again, this film ends with some flashy action scenes, which are almost a requirement for these films to have at this point. I’m starting to lose the will to live myself.

Animation and art take a step in the right direction, as the attention to detail make it a tad more intriguing to pay attention to. Characters have a little more bravado to their forms, as Shiki’s new ability sees to it that they don’t remain normal through her perception. Her new ability also gives leeway to making more intrinsically sadistic imagery present, which better enhances the dark atmosphere’s inescapable coating. It does more for the special features to these characters that the audience gets to experience them firsthand with the characters, something the odd-numbered films lack in hindsight.

Word around the community is that I’m in for a treat tomorrow, as Part 5 is typically referred to as the best of the film franchise’s bunch. I’m looking forward to it, as aside from Part 2, nothing from this series shows me that it deserves the praise and popularity it’s garnered over the years. Part 4, after Part 2, was a bit of a disappointment, but not anything that I would actively dissuade people from watching. It’s a decent film on its own and one of the better films thus far. Still, if only I could escape this unrelenting urge to dig my way out of a blackened prison cell.

Final Score: 6/10

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!

Day Twenty-Six: Kara no Kyoukai 1 + 2 (MotM 2017)

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I could put the entire names within the title of this post, but that would take up far too much space, so I’ll simply distinguish these by their number order. I decided to take the time to watch two of these at a time, as the length of most of the films are so short that I’d hardly count them as films. Some are much longer, while some only hover around forty-five minutes. These next coming days will either feature one of two of these films, leading all the way to the end of the month.

KnK 1: Fukan Fuukei

In introduces the audience to a world not quite like our own. The characters are already established and the relations are already in place. It’s a rather confusing entry to the film series that takes the route of showing what’s to come rather than giving the facts right away. This leads to it effectively being reliant on its miscellaneous features to succeed, which in this case would be things such as atmosphere, animation and art, and basic character interaction. To some degree, it succeeds in these ways, but not without any reason to give it any insight.

A lot of things don’t really make sense, and many of the events have the sympathetic value of seeing a random kid get a ‘D’ on their latest homework assignment. That’s not to say the film doesn’t try to make them sound interesting, but the way it chooses to begin, it couldn’t possibly manage to make everything interesting while also creating a serious and dramatic tone, which limits character personality most often. I only recall a single point where the characters have anything that can be considered a “cute” discourse. It feels heavily important to take all of it in, just not for the sake of this film in particular.

Maybe later on the film will make more sense. On its own, there’s simply little reason to watch it, aside from it being the first in the series. From its other points, action scenes (the few there are) are decent, with a lot of fluid motion put forth to make cinematic actions feel grand. Outside of this, the art and animation is standard, while sloppy in some spots. There isn’t much else to say, other than that what is there isn’t completely outside the radar of interest. Things are foreshadowed and a lot of intellectual mumbo jumbo is brought to light for the sake of symbolic hootenanny. Anyone should know that I adore symbolic hootenanny.

Final Score: 5/10

KnK 2: Satsujin Kousatsu (Zen)

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And now we have some interesting story!

Two of the characters from the first film return in more prominent roles, providing some much needed insight on their character dynamic. Develop them it does, as the female lead in particular, Shiki, becomes far more dangerous than what she seems in the first film.

Before anything though, this male lead is absolutely insane. He sees this girl, alone in the middle of a dreary night, then falls in love with her. Over the course of the film, he finds out she’s capable of horrid, atrocious things, yet never feels the need to abandon her or believe in her goodness. This obviously pays off, as shown in the first film, which takes place three years after this one, but still. This guy is horribly persistent, even for a male lead.

Even so, Shiki makes this film all the more intriguing, with her strange distinction and haunting pastime. The focus of her and the male lead’s growing relationship makes for an endearing endeavor, even if the background holds a bloody secret. It’s the kind of build-up one would typically enjoy from a typical high school romance, except the loner involved isn’t a loner by means of “feeling outcast.” There’s some serious psychological contamination involved that makes the events feel bigger than normal, but somewhat in the way that feels too serious to be believable—not such that fantasy has to be, but within the range that it should be.

Character interaction alone makes this film a fascinating trinket, even with the somewhat despondent effort to make it feel grounded. There’s a lot of insightful idiosyncrasies involved that make it feel as though they try too hard to have it be grand on a scale that only the writers expect it to surpass. I suppose the need to always have something dark looming in the background gives it a sharp edge, but must they always make it feel so pseudo-intellectual through mind hacks and witty statements? These are teenagers here. Keep it simple, silly.

Art, animation, and atmosphere are better this time around as well, with a particular scene with the male lead running away from Shiki highlighting a boost in animation detail. Lots of dark (in brightness) scenes with eerie glows, and a sheen to common aspects that give it a spooky feel, which helps the horrifying tone of half of this film. Movements don’t feel as blocky this time around. Characters have a greater allure of color to their faces and attires, only to be outshined by the constant attention to background and time of day.

It’s still within those introductory stages—thankfully it seems good things are to come with a decent backstory like this one. If it can prove that it can make characters feel real and interesting, and not only one or the other, the already intriguing overarching story could really flourish. Animation is already something of a guaranteed hit at this point, the future looks bright(ly sinister) for the coming days.

Final Score: 6.5/10

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!

Day Twenty-Five: The Blair Witch Project (MotM 2017)

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Horror is not really my forté, influenced by the general lack of the genre this month. I’m not much of a thrill seeker, and the stress involved with being scared isn’t something I particularly care for. It really doesn’t help that I’m easily scared. The Blair Witch Project is among the first “scary” movies I’ve seen in a long while, and I was surprised to find how enjoyable it was outside of my growing anxiety of defending myself from jump scares. For this post, I decided I’ll keep it simple and make a to-the-point pro/con list.

Pros:

  • Use of low-quality camera and first-person perspective brings an extra layer of realism that makes the unusual events feel more impactful.
  • Build-up surrounding the legend of the Blair Witch is hinted at with each passing night the characters are stranded within the woods.
  • Character interactions feel as though one is watching a raunchy episode of America’s Funniest Home Videos. I don’t know how much more realistic it could possibly be.
  • No additional background music or sound effects make for an unsettling depiction of nature’s horror.
  • Lots of night scenes with limited light. Multiplies the impact of suspense by never being able to see what is actively pursuing them.
  • Effects of being stranded for days weighs heavily on the characters’ behavior halfway through the film. Increasing tension and hostility leads way to harsher reality once things go further amiss.
  • Pacing is pretty fluid, though it stutters occasionally near the end.

Cons:

  • Character behavior seems somewhat stunted near the beginning. Specifically with the female lead, who can’t seem to ever put down the camera.
  • [Spoiler] There was absolutely no reason why Mike would kick the group’s map into the river. The excuse was garbage and unless he was being controlled, makes zero sense.
  • Within the last twenty minutes of the film, a few scenes feel unnecessary, specifically ones only there to further accentuate isolation between the characters and the outside world.
  • In hindsight, the Blair Witch doesn’t seem to have any sense of purpose. Writing that surrounds it seems somewhat on-the-spot. Not that it can’t be senseless, but was it ever implied that it toyed with victims beforehand?

One could perhaps see this as a hesitant experience in terms of stability of quality, as I’m fairly unfamiliar with most things horror and suspense. There are films that could very well have done all The Blair Witch Project does to far better effect—I’m simply inexperienced in that department. Not to conclude that the film is child’s play or not worth watching, as I enjoyed the film a great deal and felt the way it focused the story was immensely effective in its approach to horror. It might also help that I was once a fan of Marble Hornets, whose brand of storytelling and use of first-person perspective was likely inspired by The Blair Witch Project. Perhaps most importantly of all, was I scared at all during the film? I was. My heart rate increased dramatically during the final night scene of the film, though I was never on the verge of tears or anything like that. That’s more than I can say for The Shining.

Final Score: 7/10

The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.

For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!

Day Twenty-Four: Hardcore Henry (MotM 2017)

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Seeing the trailer for Hardcore Henry, I scoffed. “The first feature-length film to be exclusively first person,” the ads praised. Such a thing being heralded for that? Way to implicate expectations based on a single gimmick. Does it have a good story? Characters? An eye for detail or something that can grab the viewer without boring them? I gave myself every excuse not to see the film, and when positive reviews piled up, still I ignored them. I had made up my mind and deemed it unworthy of my attention. It had a certain stigma about it that I didn’t care for.

Today, upon the suggestion of my brother, who watched and enjoyed the film, I saw Hardcore Henry. I gave it a shot. It not only floored my expectations but made me appreciate the amount of effort to make the gimmick feel innovative and believable. Indeed, I have completely eaten my words and have jumped onto the Hardcore Henry fan train. Though, it does have some issues.

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This is another one of those “That’s the point!” films, where things are the way they are to better accomplish an intended goal. For this film, it’s the idea of style over substance, through means of making the audience feel as though they’ve plopped right into a late ’90s-early millenium arcade shooter. Time Crisis is among the most famous examples of these, with Hardcore Henry taking everything and more to establish itself as a film that can carry the weight on its lead’s cyborg shoulders. Because of this heavy comparison, the film also embodies the flaws that carry over from video game to cinematic picture.

It is horribly simplistic, and if not for the heavy amount of blood and gore, fairly cheesy. Flashy deaths, flurries of explosions and weaponry and supernatural phenomena. One would assume they were in a modern version of Dynasty Warriors mixed with Mortal Kombat. The amount Henry gets away with can’t be counted on every finger and toe, and that includes erratic behavior and death itself. Enemies are doused like sprinklers in a hurricane. There exists a scene near the end where Henry single-handedly kills roughly fifty cybernetically-enhanced people, all of whom at one point had him surrounded. The chances of his survival at that point is laughable, not to mention against a lead antagonist that can use telekinesis.

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Story, or its iteration of it, isn’t anything truly revolutionary, either. Again, basic good vs. evil with not many twists along the way, save the end. A lot is left unexplained and what is explained leaves much to be desired, though rest assured the film ends somewhat abruptly. Its first half has a long stretch of endless goose chases and fight sequences that are all somewhat disorienting. One has to wait for the meat at the end of the bone, though whether one isn’t already satisfied by the texture of the bone getting there is debatable.

What makes Hardcore Henry so fun to watch is through means of witty writing of character and insanely chaotic action scenes. Hobo with a Shotgun tried to incorporate some of this within itself, however it only used the bare minimum and it ended up being more gory than stylistic. The action sequences in Hardcore Henry are more akin to John Wick, with a lot of scenes revolving around fast, precise weapon fire, should Henry be packing. If not, his abilities give his physical attacks a powerful force. Combined with the first-person view, it all combines to create an image of being within the action, instead of watching it.

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When mentioning characters, there’s really only one character who stands out, which is Jimmy. Jimmy is a scientist responsible for certain things within spoiler territory, and upon first glance seems to be immortal. His random change of character with every passing scene makes for a hilarious mindfuck of absurd proportions, perhaps hinting at the uselessness of NPCs. He manages to go through some development as the film goes on, though minimal, based on his interaction with Henry and the reality of his situation. More than that, however, is the charm of his constant change of attire and personality. It’s really stupid and I love it.

While this is not technically a “good bad movie,” there’s a silliness to Hardcore Henry that transcends itself onto the final product. At one point in the film, I heard the “Wilhelm scream.” That is not a sound effect that should be in a serious film. With all that was stated earlier, one shouldn’t walk in expecting something that will wrap the viewer in dramatic ecstasy. It’s easy to ignore the flaws present when it’s doing everything it can to give you the full cinematic experience. It’s uproariously entertaining, with just enough emphasis on character and plot to let the audience care about the obnoxiously heavy onslaught of metal and fire.

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It’s recommendable based on entertainment value alone, just don’t expect something spectacularly impactful. The shaky camera could cause concern for those who have issue with headaches and such, as certain parts are pretty out of focus. For those who aren’t bothered by it, Hardcore Henry is an exhilarating experience best suited for those who don’t expect the world from it. I may be biased because I really enjoyed arcade games like Time Crisis, but that’s that, and this is this.

Final Score: 7/10

The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.

For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!

Day Twenty-Three: Avengers Grimm (MotM 2017)

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Nice to see Lou Ferrigno still getting work.

Avengers Grimm is a film that may not be entirely known by the mainstream media. However, the company behind the film’s creation is notable primarily for Sharknado. Its success seemed to kickstart a trend of films that do whatever they can to be intentionally amazing through their ridiculousness. Enter Avengers Grimm, which, unless someone doesn’t know what superheroes or movies are, is a very blatant semi-ripoff of The Avengers, except instead of established superheroes, we have established fairy tale characters… with superpowers.

To add some contextual flavor, the director and writer of this film, Jeremy M. Inman, also directed and wrote for one Sinister Squad, another movie I had watched in the past that featured, well, many of the same things in this film. From time to time, I will use these two films as comparison pieces, as they have a lot in common and some key differences in quality that make for an intriguing study.

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Now, the purpose of a good bad movie is to be entertaining through its insane inadequacy. The Room isn’t amazing through its technical strengths. Avengers Grimm somewhat teeters the line between serious and non-serious film, featuring a lot of dark lines and unenthusiastic characters on top of cheesy action sound effects. It manages to somewhat embellish itself in an aura that makes it seem as though it’s a film to be taken seriously. Unfortunately, looking at it as a “good bad movie,” this works against it, resulting in the audience becoming bored at the lack of zaniness. Looking at it from a serious, objective lens, the movie is devoid of relatable characters, rational resolutions, and an original plot—just look at the title.

With the manner in which I critique things, I believe that “the point” of a film can only shield it so much from criticism. I adore The Room and Troll 2, yet I gave both one out of ten scores, because they’re horrendous on a technical level. Avengers Grimm and Sinister Squad both distinguish themselves as enjoyably bad films, but at the same time they hold enough seriousness to them without transparency that it’s hard to take them… unseriously seriously? Still, they are bad films, because they’re trying to be bad. I’m simply playing it straight as scoring as I see it. Enjoyment can only do so much for it in the end.

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That’s enough background noise. Let’s jump right into the choir. Avengers Grimm is pretty bad. It is not, however, among the worst films I’ve ever seen. There’s enough there in terms of plot and structure to make it tolerable, though perhaps very dull. A clear focus is established, along with a goal, and it never shies away from it. Even some moral code (I think) is included within the actions of the characters, establishing that helping those in need will end up being used as good karma. Should one care about any of these characters in the first place, it probably wouldn’t been more impactful. Quite frankly, I went the entire length of the film not knowing the name of two major characters.

Bringing to light the biggest issue of the film is the lack of any real personality from the characters. They simply act according to what the plot expects of them and nothing more. It’s almost as if I were watching another “hit” drama show from CBS or FX. The tone is grainy most often, with silliness taking a back seat for a more gritty approach, which only makes the film more off-putting to me, especially one who’s likely aiming to be terri-bad. Very little separates one character from the others, as most fall within a bland caricature of serious characters with a penchant for cheesy one-liners. Some (like Lou Ferrigno’s character) offer some additional inner conflict which makes them more interesting, but it’s pretty standard stuff altogether. If not him, the “Red Riding Hood” character also has some spunk to her.

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And with the characters also come the performances from their actors. Most were adequate, doing enough to make me believe the film didn’t have enough money to buy anyone remotely famous aside from Lou Ferrigno, though a few were pretty horrendous. Lauren Parkinson as Snow White was the LVP here, constantly spewing lines in strange, monotone fashion, completely flat with the heavy situations present. With the tone of the film, there isn’t much one can do outside of acting like serious shit is going down, but Parkinson’s role, as major as it is, probably would’ve been better served for a different actor, particularly any other of the female leads, who all outshine her. Still, I could be asking for too much here, as the comparison of screentime Snow White has with all others, and her role in the film, shine more emphasis on her performance. Rather, why couldn’t Lou Ferrigno be the star?

Action sequences are pretty key in films that involve superpowers and clear good vs. evil scenarios. Action sequences here are pretty mediocre. Not a lot of attention to detail outside of character traits and quick, repeated camera cuts to different angles. Filters out a lot of what’s actually going on, which is unfortunate because it was something to distract me from the never-changing mood. Special effects, on the other hand, were fine. Very minimal, but fine. I particularly liked the slow process of crystalization from Snow White’s ice powers. I also liked Lou Ferrigno as an iron giant, but that’s not really a special effect as much as it is a special effect on me in realizing how good Ferrigno would look as a bald guy made of iron. They don’t do too much for the story, though bring a little zest to the characters and their quirks. For a film about fairy tale superheroes, there isn’t very much use of power here.

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On a technical scale, Avengers Grimm is probably a better movie than Sinister Squad, though the latter had a lot more charm through its characters and intentionally unintentional charisma. Neither are good movies in their own right, but “the point” of the movies is that they’re bad, or so it seems. I would recommend Sinister Squad as a better example of something within that genre, though Avengers Grimm does get points for a good effort in remaining ambiguous with its intentions. Altogether, it’s a film worth watching if one enjoys reveling in the art of atrocity, though there are better movies of that sort out there than this.

Final Score: 2/10

The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.

For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!

Day Twenty-Two: The Devil Wears Prada (MotM 2017)

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I have a bit of a confession to make: I think Anne Hathaway is gorgeous. She is what some would call my “celebrity crush,” with her cute “girl next door” appeal and mousy features. She’s absolutely adorable to me. I had heard good things about The Devil Wear Prada for a number of years; knowing Anne Hathaway was in the starring role wasn’t exactly motivation for me to see it at any point this month… but it didn’t dissuade me, either. I’ve already seen Love and Other Drugs twice.

What does it take to make a film about relatable problems entertaining? What does it take to make characters feel fresh, small conflicts feel bigger in perspective? These are the things that The Devil Wears Prada combats, especially when it has so little to use as a crutch. There’s no fantasy subplot, no creative gimmick that makes it stand out. The film’s structure and premise are about as realistically standard as one could get. It focuses on characters, while dabbling slightly within the world of fashion and stardom. In hindsight, there really isn’t anything about this film that would scream for one to watch it. All that stands between it and one’s enjoyment is the execution of the simplest of perspectives.

With that said, it immediately becomes a fault that it simply can’t help; there is nothing special about this film. Its foundation is formulaic, the conflicts are overused. It creates a predictability about the film that seems to follow suit with films in the past, dulling the impact any one or two actions could end up having on the audience because they’re imagining someone else doing it better. Cookie-cutter, it is not. Just within the shape of something that could be a cookie, that can’t quite cut.

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Fortunately, the characters, as are the major focus of the film, are presented in a nice enough manner to make the film worth watching. Hathaway (I’m not biased) makes for a lovable lead, with a determination that fits her naive persona. Her character goes through the workings anybody within her position would go through, with a passionate enough performance to take it a little further. Not Oscar-worthy by any means, but well-served. Meryl Streep also makes for an intriguing character, one who is debatably the most interesting character in the film. Her life is much like one would expect on the surface from a celebrity: lavish, high expectations, extraordinary. It isn’t until nearly the end of the film that her life becomes more grounded, as the audience is introduced to the humanity of her character’s idol status. Hathaway ends up developing alongside her, while also through her. It makes for a fascinating comparison of what if’s.

To be frank, minor characters are rather hit and miss. More specifically, Hathaway’s friends/boyfriend are kind of there just to give her some semblance of a social life/support group. They’re never given a lot of proper development or screentime outside of introductions and foreshadowing of changes to Hathaway’s priorities. Her boyfriend in particular is really just there to be the victim of Hathaway’s growing career. That or a sex toy… but I’d prefer to address his role with the former (I’m not biased). I suppose credit should be given for making the characters appear more often than they could’ve (that being not at all), I simply wonder how the film could’ve maintained their importance for longer periods of time.

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Minor characters within Streep’s business fare a lot better in terms of development and intrigue. Stanley Tucci and Emily Blunt both do a fine job of making their character’s quirks come to life, along with making them, in a way, “frenemies” with Hathaway. Tucci has a sass to him that makes him likable, along with a knowledgeable frankness that gives scenes involving him some spark. Blunt is a little more simple, serving as the higher-up that eventually gets passed up upon some mistake or so. Her haughty behavior reflects a lot of the atmosphere that the company she works for embodies, especially by their superior. Both play a part in the bigger aspects of things, though somewhat pale in comparison to the big picture.

This big picture being the development of Hathaway’s character into one entirely unlike her current one. Again, formulaic to have a character become the evil they once mocked because it benefits their well being. Still, it’s nice to see some effort put forth into placing importance unto scenes that don’t necessarily reveal obvious changes or changes to come. I could see it in bits, but the development of Hathaway’s character came early after her change of attire. She became cockier, more affirmative. It’s really sexy fascinating. The minor characters enjoy reminding her of this, though I didn’t personally see her character change to the point where she becomes unfriendable. Just very busy. Comparisons to Streep’s character only come into focus at the very end, and by that point, it only dawns on the viewer how her character was on course to becoming an heir to Streep’s character’s throne. Like looking into a pool of one’s future.

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In somewhat of a twist of fate, I found The Devil Wears Prada far more entertaining than one with a similar structure. Perhaps it was Hathaway. Perhaps it was the energy and rush of trying to maintain a tough job. Perhaps it was the strength of the minor cast (within the business). Whatever it may be, the entertainment value rose to heights I would’ve never imagined, leaving me with a nice and cozy comfort upon the film’s final words. Despite the tired approach and the cheesy conflict, The Devil Wears Prada becomes recommendable from effort of character alone. Good performances by Hathaway (I’m no biased), Streep, and Tucci specifically make the film worth a look, though perhaps not for those with sky-high expectations. After all, in a world of stars, the only ones that matter are the ones that shine brighter.

Final Score: 6.5/10

The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.

For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!