Blade Runner 2049 Review

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No bullshit.

Impeccable as it is, this film has none of it. No filler, no filibuster. It moves at paces ranging from a bird flying in the morning sky to a snake slithering in the desert sand, yet it does not stop. Always moving, elegantly presenting events that capture some underlying force or ubiquitous mood which keeps the stew boiling in the darkness. That may very well be what I appreciate most from this picture; that it does not do anything to grope you around through heaps of mindless serendipity and glamour. No distractions from some obvious flaws or cute side swipes to appeal to a wider audience. Blade Runner 2049 does what it desires to do with such automated grace that it implements the stylistic intricacy of John Wick’s action sequences and employs it to every other aspect but that. Absolutely. No. Bullshit.

This is what Disney’s Star Wars could’ve been. Had it not been for all of its profound bullshit.

The original Blade Runner was a film dedicated to asking the questions without relaying any obvious answers. Nearly everything was shown, and not once told (at least not explicitly). This created an isolating effect between the viewer and the film; such that it felt more interested in serving as a cinematic enigma of sci-fi psychology and existentialism. Like being presented with a Rubik’s cube with no colors on any side, and being asked to solve it. Intriguing as it is, there’s no context to care, and little reason to identify with the struggles of its characters, aside from what is innate within humankind to be empathetic of those who only wish to survive—and to live among their own freedom. An island’s worth of style, but substance? Debatable.

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Blade Runner 2049 may have single-handedly convinced me that characters are the greatest asset to film or any other similar medium. As toxic as the term “linear” has become in this day and age, the narrative structure of choice here is undoubtedly so. The choice to employ a more straightforward story is something that will no doubt alienate some from this sequel film’s roots. Yet it is a choice that is one of many choices that I not only find to be a true strength, but one that I would rather not have differently, despite other possibilities. It is so that standard structures can harm the worth of creativity, but it may also compliment all that which surrounds the structure in a more fulfilling fashion.

For it is the characters that make this movie what it is. What makes it so powerful, so transcendent in its mental capacity that one can only hope to collect all that is offered in a single sitting (I needed two sittings to write this review with confidence). For the things that the original wanted to convey, it didn’t have the proper connection between viewer and character to connect that link of ultimate empathy, the key to any true experience of extravagance. “Joe” is not only interesting on his own, but his condition, his context, his origins—everything so clear-cut yet shrouded in delicate mystery—become interesting as both he and the audience discovers more as the story unravels. Deckard in the original already had the benefit of knowing so much, being within a position where it was hard for someone without that context to surmise his thoughts and actions. With “Joe,” he’s far less human, far more empty in both humanistic characteristics and input on the larger aspects of his own “soul” that to build upon his knowledge along with him creates an experience that truly puts one in the midst of the dilemma. Immersion is no issue here; even if it was, the aesthetic presentation will alleviate that by itself.

Though what helps in Joe’s development as a character and source of human connection is Ryan Gosling’s performance, which, in my humble opinion, should garner him every award. All of them. What are replicants supposed to be? How are they supposed to feel? Baseline; no distractions, no bias, no physiological or psychological fluctuations. Ryan Gosling is stone-faced for a good portion of this film, flushed in the embodiment of a character that is not expected to feel desire or passion. Yet it is the subtler movements of his face, the slow accumulation of tears flowing in his eyes, the sudden, one-time burst of ferocity, that really brings “Joe” to life. With more time comes more opportunity for him to question his capabilities and his “humanity,” masterfully performed by Gosling. His mannerisms alone provide a spark of residual intrigue into every scene.

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Thankfully, it is not just “Joe,” but a variety of characters that allow further insight into the plot and basis around the world presented in 2049 to flourish into a sea of conflicting moods and ideas. Joi, Luv, Deckard, and those whose names aren’t even important (as ironic as that sounds given their importance) all help present the importance of character within not just this film, but films in general. There are complexities, multi-faceted personalities to every character, and the way they bounce off of one another creates not just an interesting connection, but a realistic connection. Connections that transcend the standards of machines with human clothing. And the fact that some of these connections even exist says more about the characters than the interactions themselves.

Joi, for example, is the cybernetic encoding system that projects and mimics the personality and mindset of a real female partner—perhaps the “model girlfriend” would be a more accurate description. She, as a character, is worth liking, as she is programmed to be liked and irrevocably loyal to “Joe,” but she isn’t real, and oft-times throughout the film it is shown that she is simply a projection of everything “you” want to see and hear. I’ve seen various critics criticize Joi as a self-indulgent submissive female stereotype, and that through her desire to be real to Joe, the film becomes inherently “creepy.” Through my take, all I can say is THAT’S THE POINT! Joi isn’t real, but Joe wants her to be real, because he wants something real. He’s both submissive to the idea of having someone who loves and supports him while ashamed that he may never have that feeling of genuine connection with anyone aside from a company that manipulates that. It’s. Character. Building! Further acknowledgment that his humanistic desires are beginning to envelop his cerebral duties as a baseline “retiring” machine. Joi is, in a sense, a scapegoat to further build upon the ideas of the plot’s presence and the intricacy of the lead character’s inborn desires.

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I could go on for hundreds of thousand of words about the characters and what they mean to the story, what each line could possibly allude to or how it all connects to the larger summary, but I’ll spare the reader my uncontrolled ramblings. What this means to show, however, is that the world within Blade Runner 2049 is filled with detail and substance, something that isn’t quite as noticeable in the original picture. Every scene, every character, almost every line has some deeper meaning to it. Packed with a keen sense of direction that seems to lead to a multitude of different destinations, finding every piece of the puzzle is as much an experience as the film’s surface messaging. That, I can absolutely believe, can be a hefty and off-putting task for the casual viewer. Not quite as much as with mother!, but enough to warrant those who fear the mounting expectations that become noticeably gargantuan within the first fifteen minutes of the film a passive regard.

Profound characters, a straightforward, yet immersive story. What more can one ask for? Why, captivating visuals and atmosphere, of course! Indeed, the colors are not vibrant as, say, Guardians of the Galaxy, nor are they as focused on grabbing one’s attention. The tone of 2049 is intrinsically dark and depressing; a dystopian world full of casual pleasures and leisure, without a shred of empathy or individuality. Everything is, as already said a number of times before, clear-cut, meticulously organized, and gray. Everything is in the state of decay, the death of humanity itself, or its drive, should one prefer. It makes the more focal points of color, whether the red lights of a police cruiser, the purple-pink skin of the projection of a nude female advertisement, or the orange mist of an abandoned city full of radiation, far more instilling. What 2049 manages to do, apart from creating a visual world that shows the capabilities of current-generation special effects, is embellish the more bombastic features by showing patience. When one is accustomed to three hours of special effects, those effects are no longer special, but a norm of the visuals. Here, those pinks and oranges and reds glow with an intermittent fascination that reminds the viewer of what it means for effects to be special.

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Last, but most certainly not least, is the soundtrack that accompanies the film, taking a fairly similar lead as the special effects. It picks its moments of heightened hostility and intensiveness. Silence is not often heard through this film, though it is most certainly very quiet. The action scenes are as far and few between as the music that accompanies them. The most scandalous realizations are accompanied by harrowing, mind-numbing impacts of heavy synthesizers and sheer volume. Not only setting the tone, it sets another course for the story’s direction, and the mood of a character, and the breaking, the recovery, the peace, the frustration, or the reconciliation of a person. So simplistic in its nature, the heaviness of the soundtrack becomes heavily embedded in the already masterfully-woven intricacy of the film’s core parts. Everything plays a part and works beautifully together to not only provide insightful think pieces, but valid entertainment as a whole.

There are things about this film that many can criticize, break apart, or question upon the logical foundations with which it means to present itself. Perhaps the pace is too slow, the violence too prevalent, the diversity too white (Ha!). For me, and the way this film evoked the inner workings of my emotional turmoil is something that cannot—and will not—go unnoticed. Much like my most treasured possessions of the visual medium, in which my memories paint the perfect, picturesque brilliance of a modern masterpiece, Blade Runner 2049 is, without any single shred of doubt—two times over—the closest a film could ever be to perfect in my mind. Production values, character intricacy, narrative potency, atmospheric sincerity; everything and more is there for me, for you, and for anyone to indulge in to their utmost pleasure. And I, as one who always clamors to share my wondrous, oft-times contradictory feelings, urge anyone reading to not only watch this film once, but twice or thrice, so that one can experience what it means to truly be in the presence of human passion.

Final Score: 10/10

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

mother! “Review”

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Indeed, your eyes do not deceive you. There are quotations around the word “Review” in the title. That is because this will not be quite like the traditional style of review, but also not quite my own version of putting down my thoughts. Instead, I will treat this post as a hybrid creation, something that can both pass off as an official review and personal diary. And for those aware, I did also do this with my “review” of La La Land.

So then, what do you call a film you consider good, yet cannot help but not enjoy?

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mother! is symbolic to its very core. Everything that is shown onscreen is an allegory to some bigger picture that the audience is pressed to figure out. Now, a number of theories creeped into my head with every scene, with issues such as female empowerment, idol worship, abusive relationships, rape culture, patriarchal dominance, and the toxicity of humankind giving weight to the things being shown to me. Little did I know, there is an answer to this film, a key to understanding the puzzle of mother!. After learning of it, I’m left with only regret. Something of this magnitude, so delicately precise and foreboding in its imagery and atmosphere, to all come into one simple answer.

This isn’t a fault of the film itself, but rather the intentions behind it. I believe ambiguity could’ve served to make this film all the more interesting, without the need to pin it all down on a single aspect which generalizes the film’s potential. This also isn’t a disagreement with mother!’s ultimate message, as I feel it makes (enough) sense to have the scenes collide the way they do. Strange as it sounds, I can’t find myself enjoying the film after knowing the answer; I found the film a lot more inviting when I hadn’t a clue.

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It ended up being more fantastical than what it appears, especially in the beginning. I found out a lot about myself when all the theories I concocted for myself, things that shroud themselves in today’s society by the screeching mouths of dozens, ended up being of a practical sense. I considered nothing of the fantastic, of how or why the bizarre things occurring could be happening. Assuming it would all explain itself in the end, the final minutes only strengthened my previous theories. It seems I do not enjoy giving up without a fight.

Should this review seem obnoxiously vague, that’s because it is intentionally. Much like mother! itself. Critiquing the film is more akin to the Chinese finger trap, where one can only pull and struggle with the solution when, in reality, the answer lies through unexpected perspectives. An open mind is critical when viewing, as the film certainly doesn’t pull any punches (or kicks or insults). It’s no surprise to me that mother! is such a polarizing experience for many. In the end, how one feels about it may very well say more about the person than the film. This sounds like common knowledge, but I think there’s more to it than that. Either you enjoy a cryptically chaotic experience or you prefer the simple strategies of good vs. evil. In this case, there’s very little in-between.

Final Score: 7/10

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

The Iron Giant Review

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The first (and last) time I watched The Iron Giant in full was somewhere in the early 2000’s. It held the distinction of being special due to peculiar origin—being that I watched it with my cousin at my Aunt’s house one solitary day, joining the likes of Kung Pow, Spaceballs, and a number of Godzilla movies. At the time, it left such an impact on me that I imagined myself with my own giant robot, yet never felt the desire to ask for the movie myself or any toys of it. Various scenes stuck with me throughout the years, and watching it over again, I’m surprised at how much I really remember about the film. What surprised me more was how much of the film I didn’t remember.

This film takes place in 1957? Was there always this much pro-gun control symbolism? Oh, my God! The emphasis on the American government’s paranoia in the height of the Cold War era is spot-on! Hogarth’s mother is a hard-working, upstanding woman who doesn’t play a significant role in the film but speaks wonders with the scenes that she’s given? Wow, were all the scenes this short?

The Iron Giant delivers in a way most animated films only dream of doing. Clear dedication and love to the craft of traditional animation and storytelling, despite its formulaic approach, it’s its execution that leaves a substantial bite. Not a single scene feels truly wasted, complete with animation that only rarely falters and characters uplifted by fantastic vocal performances that only occasionally spout stupid lines.

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I could only think back on E.T. prior to rewatching this film. A young boy finds an “alien creature” that quickly becomes attached to the boy as he tries to assimilate his life to playing with the creature and hiding it from the public eye. My cynical sensations assumed that that was the build-up I would receive and the payoff would be something of an overproduced yawn. It was, indeed, the build-up I received, yet there were little touches—almost tender pinches reminding the audience to pay close attention—that added a complexity to the film’s entertainment value. A classroom scene showing school kids watching a bomb threat awareness video, with kids around the male lead commenting on how any unidentified “creature” should be blown to smithereens. The “antagonist” screaming at the male lead in a diner about how anything unknown should be eliminated because it “isn’t ours.” The Giant looking at a comic book displaying an evil, robotic menace that’s eerily striking to the Giant’s design. Look, Ma! Layers!

Never did I ever think to consider the time and place of the events that shape this story. As a kids’ film, there’s so much that their ignorant minds will miss within the lines that inhabit the narrative. I certainly missed them when I was eight or nine-years-old. This allows the film to take on a course that prevents it from being a straightforward, point A to point B film, as I expected it to be. Flourishing within the identity of anti-war, there are many allusions to the capabilities of man and the fear of the unknown. The Giant, in some capacity, is almost a manifestation of mankind—gentle and docile, yet absolutely destructive when provoked. There’s a lot to be made of the film’s subtle subtext, including the decision to base this in the height of the Cold War, but that’s for a more organized platform.

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Production values seem to be well-allotted for the time. While not perfect, the animation is, at times, brilliantly fluid and awesome. I particularly like the opening scene where The Giant flies down to Earth in a flaming heap of mass. However, The Giant itself (or “himself”) is the primary cause of uneasy animation. Stiff in some scenes, endearing in others. He has more noticeable chinks than any other character—the insinuation that others characters are indeed stiff is present. Voice actors do their work splendidly, with the honors of “Best in Show” being awarded to Christopher McDonald as Kent Mansley, the “antagonist.” Eli Marienthal does splendidly as Hogarth, the male lead, as well, giving him a spunk and wit that many young male leads don’t tend to carry anymore. And though the film is nothing compared to the numerous works of animation in other fields, it carries a traditional charm and, on occasion, humor that gives it its own aesthetic appeal.

To balance the level of praise, know that the film is not perfect, with its weakest link spawning from two key issues: the ending and the length of the film. Length in full, excluding the ending credits, The Iron Giant is roughly 79 minutes. Even for an animated film, that’s on the verge of being criminally short, especially for the things they wanted to develop behind the scenes. This may have contributed to each scene feeling so short, so fast, and so packed with a number of important lines and events. There’s cutting the fat, and then there’s fasting the remains. Each moment feels important and weighted, but at the same time rushed and, wrapped up in the inevitable final conflict, half-hearted. The ending is likely my least favorite part of the entire film. Not for the content it shows, but for how fast everything goes by, how easily all the pieces come together to form the most predictable of final scenarios. Some alleviation comes in the form of emotional payoff, which bodes well enough (as in I actually felt something), though it doesn’t compare to the poignant potential that led up to it.

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Even so, the emotional foundation behind The Giant and his role within the scope of the film is on par with the film that likely inspired it. As with the gentle, caring E.T., The Giant has a charisma through family-friendly, child-like creativity. He is “like a little kid;” curious, empathetic, and wishes not to be alone or afraid. The bond between human boy and giant metal boy is one that is as charming as one would expect a film to feature a male lead as open-minded (which is important to more than just this aspect) and good-natured as Hogarth. Fast as the pacing may be at times, the beginning few scenes where Hogarth is introduced to The Giant are brilliantly contained and almost blissfully timeless. Timing, mood, and character quirks all blend into a beautiful blend that lathers itself through the more slow and quiet moments between man and machine. Also noteworthy: this film knows how to efficiently use THE POWER OF EMOTIONS!!!

My safe rating for this film would be an 8/10, as I knew in my mind from past experience that the film was a great one. I was skeptical, of course, that it could be worse than expected, but I never expected it to be better. In such instances, I can think fondly of the things that make a film so wonderful, while also rummage through the fickle matter of emotional attachment that somehow overlaps the logical capacity. The Iron Giant is not just one of the greatest animated films of all time, it is a film that can hold its own against even the most cherished films within cinematic history, even if its most intriguing themes are moderately safe and close to the chest.

Final Score: 9/10

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

Logan Lucky Review

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Wanting to make my birthday special, I clamored for something—anything—remotely interesting playing at my local cinema. Watching Kubo and the Two Strings last year for my twenty-third birthday, I harbored the desire to turn this, as I do with many other personal events, into a bonafide tradition. Yet, in response to my child-like enthusiasm, the cinema cruelly gave me choices ranging from Superhero movies #435-437The Emoji MovieThe Nut Job 2, and The Hitman’s Bodyguard. Only two choices stood out: Logan Lucky and Detroit, however Detroit had only one showing at 9:20 P.M. Thinking with my wallet and my convenience, Logan Lucky had the “honor” of being this year’s birthday movie. Was the money and coziness well spent? Yes and no.

What director Steven Soderbergh is most known for in his career is the Ocean’s series of heist films—his bread and butter, so to speak. Logan Lucky is by all accounts a heist film, and does little to seclude itself from the meticulous preparation and motivation needed to make such a film work (and not work). While I have little experience with the Ocean’s series or heist films in general, I’ve seen the niche genre parodied in other visual media. Though the manner in which I criticize this film is based almost entirely on logic, there are things present that those familiar with Soderbergh’s fingerprints are sure to either tip their hats to or throw their hats at.

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With the blueprints firmly imprinted, the name of the game is characters. How do these characters involve themselves in something as grand as a heist and why? Watching a plan unfold is nice enough, but the characters and what they’re “fighting for” makes the syrup for the cakes. Channing Tatum plays Jimmy Logan, a good ol’ boy from West Virginia who’s down on his luck in life. Divorced, trying to raise a single daughter while also instilling the good morals of society unto her, and isn’t well off financially. Things finally boil over when he’s fired from his blue collar construction job and his ex-wife announces the family is moving away to expand her current husband’s business, taking Jimmy’s daughter with her. With nothing left to hope for, he hatches the idea to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway with his brother, played by Adam Driver, and a hometown havoc-maker named Joe Bang, played by Daniel Craig.

Throughout the film, characters repeatedly state that they’re “done with” their days of immoral mischief. Jimmy, his brother, Joe, Joe’s brothers; every cast member seems to have a mean streak to them that they’re willing to cast aside to start anew. Some seem more likely to abide to it than others, yet this creates a situation where the audience can empathize and cheer for these characters and their heist, as they’re under the impression they’re doing it for some “greater good.” Again, some feel more loaded with their ambitions than others, but the mother hen of the group, Jimmy, is constantly shown to be the “better” of the people around him, even if his situation doesn’t show it. If all of these characters were simply robbing speedways for the sake of it, there wouldn’t be any emotional attachment achieved through their struggles, and would likely become flatter as characters because of it. With the inclusion of the film’s almost bloated amount of set-up, the payoff feels like a win for not just the mission, but for the humanity of the characters involved.

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Somewhat bittersweet of a strength to this film is the symbolism it presents through its cast of characters and their situations. Bitter because there isn’t much weight to it by the end, as well as how forced it feels at times, but sweet that it allowed for some snark to the writing and humor of the film. Them country folk layin’ ’round the yard, fixin’ them trucks and spittin’ e’ry minute end up being the most intelligent of their peers. As said before, Jimmy is constantly shown in a better light than his peers, especially Seth MacFarlane’s character and his ex-wife’s current husband. Reversing expectations is a common method of intrigue and humor that Logan Lucky plays with throughout, most notably through trivial interaction. Jimmy’s ex-wife’s current husband, Moody, is a city slicker disguised as a hometown boy, with his wealth, and ignorance of morality and common “Country” knowledge on display in contrast to Jimmy’s persona. His children are spoiled rotten and crass, and he is often teased for not fitting in with the crowd. This persistence creates a noticeable divide between old and new, diligence and convenience, that paints the image of who these characters are and what they mean to the film’s whole. One thing it is not is subtle, but better for comedy than a serious think piece.

Logan Lucky’s major drawback is that its writing is not as clever as it thinks it is. Parading as smart when it’s really only passable; hilarious when it’s really only humorous. When one really begins to think about the heist and the steps taken to ensure the entire thing works step-by-step is probably more hilarious than any joke the film attempts to make. Many will argue the value of “coincidences” in visual media in terms of progression of a particular aspect, whether it be romance, friendship, or master plans, in this case. One or two are likely to be shrugged off, depending on how major or minor, for the sake of the illusion of reality presented in cinematography. This piece, this heist, however, is so clamored with coincidences and “How would anyone know it would turn out this exact way?” that it comes across as overindulgent in its specificity. Leaving the viewer in the dark as to what the plan entails allows each answer to come through naturally, yet also allows whatever mishap to seem like just another part of the plan. There’s also a joke about how Jimmy is kind of a genius, yet can only secure jobs at places like Lowe’s. Such is life’s unforgiving grip.

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Of the characters, very few of them end up being entirely endearing. In fact, close to every character only seems to be along for the ride, with a few only showing up for the sake of becoming important(-ish) later on. It’s what I like to refer to as “Marking the checklist,” where a story introduces various elements for the sake of seeming as though it actually cares, when it doesn’t. For example, Jimmy’s high school sweetheart randomly comes into town and rekindles the spark between them. She is never brought up before this and is shown in two instances afterwards, both near the very end. Her character is a throwaway character that only showed up for the sake of giving Jimmy a romantic interest in the end. Such is the case for many other characters, like Jimmy’s ex-wife, and to some extent even his daughter. There is a touch of artificiality that hampers the empathetic response of the film’s core messages and realism. The two characters that escape from this are the characters who feel the most real and receive a bulk of the development: Jimmy and Joe. Though, it helps when Tatum and Craig were both spectacular in their roles.

Dumb fun, with a pinch of symbolic intrigue. Not something I would willingly recommend as a lasting experience, but something that knows what it’s doing and knows how to entertain, at the cost of its realistic virtues. I gained a lot of respect for Channing Tatum and Daniel Craig as actors from this picture—standalone as they were compared to the rest of the cast. As a birthday film, I’m not disappointed. As a film in general, it’s something of a mixed bag. Fortunately, containing more gems than stones.

Final Score: 6.5/10

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

Pokémon: The Origin Review

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(Originally posted October 5th, 2013 on MyAnimeList. Minimally edited.)

It’s important to remember that when reviewing any topic, one should keep their personal bias to a very low minimum. This is especially difficult when dealing with a monster type franchise such as the Pokémon series, as most—if not all—people have been exposed to either the Pokémon series or games at some point in their lives. To the degree that this affects their opinion of the franchise is what ultimately will decide the fate of the future of the series. Keeping this point in mind, when it was announced that a new anime would be produced that would follow the storyline of the original Pokémon games, it was safe to say that a few people were excited. They were promised a look back at what revolutionized a franchise in the form of a four-episode special. What it was willing to accomplish in those four episodes is the most debatable topic of all.

Once again, when reviewing, one is recommended that they put their personal bias to a very low minimum. Keeping this in mind, I viewed this four-episode special through the mind of someone who has no prior knowledge of the Pokémon series or games. I watched Pokémon: The Origin as if I was playing the first game for the first time through the perspective of the main character. From what was gathered, the story begins with a character named Red, who is passionate about catching and training creatures known as Pokémon. He, along with his rival, Green, is tasked with collecting every species of Pokémon known to that world by the town’s local Pokémon professor: Professor Oak. With his goal set in stone, Red sets out to catch ’em all.

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With only four episodes to work with, there is a guarantee that not everything from the game will be shown in the series. To someone who has no prior knowledge of the game, these time skips do more justice as a form of confusion than anything else. Along with this, the special only chooses to show certain scenes from the game, with some scenes being obvious to the hardcore fan, while random to about everyone else. Due to this, each episode not completely focused on the goal of collecting every pokémon possible or advancing that plot accordingly is viewed more as a filler episode. To those not aware of the Pokémon games, they will also notice a variety of plotholes within the special that don’t make sense unless you’ve played the game. One such thing is the absence of police or the logic behind sending a child out to collect potentially dangerous creatures in order to satisfy the wish of a man no one knows anything about. Without these security blankets, viewers won’t know how to interpret the impact of certain scenes and their importance to the series. These gaping plotholes and the lack of any character development is prevalent and noticeable throughout the entirety of this special.

Speaking of character development, it wouldn’t seem too far fetched to think that the special would focus a little time on developing the main character, Red, as he’s on screen roughly 85% of the time, whether in recaps or otherwise. With the entire series being based on this one character, it’s hard to really enjoy any other character that’s introduced during the time span, that is, unless you’re a fan of the series. I’m sensing a pattern here. The only other character that gets any amount of focus in more than one episode is Green, and even he doesn’t develop into anything more than the rival character. The issue with the lack of depth can be solely attributed to the lack of time and the length of the individual pokémon battles. Whether in recaps or actual battle, Red is shown fighting other characters’ pokémon a big chunk of the time that this special has to offer. It does take the liberty to offer some insight on how Red develops as a trainer through his struggles with certain opponents, and the views he shares when facing someone with far different beliefs. Unfortunately, this is the most that the special is willing to offer.

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What would be an appropriate way to animate a series trying to showcase nostalgic elements? Why, with save screens and in-game text, of course. At the beginning and end of each episode, the viewer is shown a small snippet of animation that plays to the feelings of those who played the original games. Before each episode, one has to load up the save file in order to continue their adventure, and when they’re finished, they have to save their progress. These in-game pop-ups serve as a reminder of how important it is to save the game, what it matters to the quality of the animation is not exceedingly accurate. The recaps that I’ve mentioned before are also reminiscent of the original games as a small text box will appear at the bottom of the screen, explaining the situation that is being spoken of to us by Red. In terms of the animation in general, it’s appropriate, to say the least. It’s not the most spectacular animation one will see from animators of the 21st century, but it’s enough to satisfy both fans and newcomers alike. The battles are vivid and well-detailed, granted the viewer isn’t stricken with how dull the humans look in comparison to the pokémon. Such is only expected from those who know the series.

Taking everything into consideration, if one is a fan of the Pokémon series, this special will probably hold a special place in their heart. It’s respectful to its source material (until the end) and the character Ash Ketchum, who plays the main role of the original Pokémon series, is nowhere in sight. Seeing as I am a fan of the Pokémon series of games, it was enjoyable to view from a fan’s perspective, but that doesn’t erase the numerous problems that are hidden behind the spontaneous animation. Some of these problems are excusable due to the time restraints that a series has with only four episodes, but there have been series that have done more with less, and to excuse something as enormous as Pokémon from doing anything less than possible puts it in hot water with those unfamiliar with the series. Everything else considered, this is the perfect treat for fans of the original games, but its purely restricted to that group in particular.

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

Nympho Waifu++ Review

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Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this game by its producers, Marble Syrup, for the intention of review. This in no way influenced my overall rating or my thoughts on the game in general.

About a year ago, this blog took the first step into the world of indie adult visual novels with my thoughts on studios Marble Syrup and Paper Waifu. Despite not writing about anything of the two—or anything within the specific genre—since, I’ve quietly been keeping tabs on their progress and their future plans, as well as supporting them (one of them financially) from the sidelines. Paper Waifu is still updating their first full-fledged game, The Ramen Prince, and a text-based novel/RPG called The Godhood Chronicles, while Marble Syrup is hard at work with other games. A few weeks ago, one of the heads of the studio commented on my blog asking if I would like to receive a review copy of their latest game. Under the whimsy of being asked for my opinion specifically for the first time ever, I gladly accepted and we rolled from there.

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Nympho Waifu++ is an updated version of the original work which I could’ve sworn was called Nympho Wife at one point. It comes prepared with the tried and true visual novel experience, complete with choices to make, intertwining paths, and specific to its “adult” moniker, sex scenes to peruse. Plentifully so with this last point, as the concept of a nymphomaniac as a wife is guaranteed to create every opportunity for sex and things of the like. If people were irritated by the general lack of sex scenes in the studio’s last game, Re:Maid, they more than make up for it here, with more sex scenes than I can count on both hands. With the premium version (the one I used), one can also exploit cheat codes to make the experience somewhat different for added replayability and diversity of dialogue.

The one thing that should be made perfectly clear is that for those looking for a splendid story and developed, heart-warming characters more akin to the studio’s work with Re:MaidNympho Waifu++ will not be for you. Indeed, while the idea of a riveting narrative in an adult visual novel may seem far-fetched to some, some prefer to, how should I say, cry with their dicks, instead of crying out of them. Unfortunately, I am one of those blasphemous people, as I prefer my sex-filled games with writing geared towards making targets as submissive to the player as possible to have said targets feel realistically inclined to favor my player’s strengths and charm. Or, the desire to have the player feel as though they deserve and/or work for the “prize” of sex.

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My biggest issues with Nympho Waifu++ are predominantly personal issues. Preferences that are not accommodated by the overtly sexual nature and specific taste of the game’s purpose. To say this title is vastly different from Marble Syrup’s past work would be both right and wrong. It is right because it is, by far, the most blatantly “It’s a sex game”-type of approach to writing and character interactivity. It is wrong because all of their games are within that degree; the argument is that it is far too much so, at least for my taste. This isn’t to say it cannot work, but that it is only geared towards a certain niche of audience, one I’m not part of. Every character has tremendously large breasts. Every character is familiar with the main character in some way, whether his wife, his childhood friend, or his co-worker—all of whom developed feelings for him before the start of the game. The game’s cheat codes allow for players to indulge their incest fetish, and also has a few endings touching on rape fetishes. Note: the prior sentence also has no effect on the overall score or thoughts, as I believe fantasy is fantasy for those mature enough to handle it. Nympho Waifu++ has the intentions of getting the player horny, though not necessarily involved mentally.

On a more technical light, the game is fairly good, but not great. Through my multiple runs at the game, I found a few glitches, two of which are pretty jarring. At one point in the game, the player is sitting with his childhood friend in the park eating lunch. At the beginning of the game, the player has the choice of naming themselves whatever they want, but the default name is “Minoru.” At one point in the conversation, no matter what the player’s name is, the childhood friend will playfully call out “Mi-no-ru~.” Another instance is along the later portions of the game, when the player is out to dinner with his nympho waifu. If I recall correctly, the player can compliment her dress or tenacity (or something), to which she responds with disappearing entirely. Her model just fades out of existence for the next line, then reappears as if nothing happened. Some spelling errors here and there also popped up, though a few glitches are not too harmful to the overall experience, just somewhat alarming.

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The pride of Marble Syrup lies within their art, which once again, completely knocks it out of the park. Somewhat too sexually-stimulating for my tastes, but there’s no questioning the talent behind whoever the head artist is, as they create some truly spectacular work. It helps to embody the purpose of the game and makes the girls’ every expression instantly charming, especially the childhood friend. Text works quickly and efficiently, the skip feature had no issues, everything worked correctly and as intended, and the gallery is bursting with sexual imagery, in case anyone wanted to skip to “the good parts.” A cleanly-coded game with great art and only few bugs and glitches is sure to please just about anyone not looking for a story to go along with it, which is admittedly far too short and simplistic here.

In the end, it’s almost pitiful that I found so little to like with Nympho Waifu++. It’s a case of not being able to fit the pieces correctly where they should, as the game isn’t really directed to my priorities; a contrast to Marble Syrup’s other works. Even Crusoe Had It Easy, with its incredibly short timeframe, held a little more impact on me than this latest entry. By game’s end, I remained passive and calm, without any desire to really go back to it, lest I were in the right, er, mood. I suppose the one truly great thing I could say is that its Title Screen theme is seriously fantastic. Go play it just to listen to that.

Final Score: 4.5/10

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Review

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There’s a lot of buzz surrounding this film’s eccentric charisma. Not only does it have a plethora of positive reviews from critics, but audience members have generally given their input through two big thumbs up. Oftentimes, they cite the expressiveness of the animation or the wit of the writing—one that shows they’re smarter than the average toilet. Both points, along with others, are all valid in theory, however there’s something I, as a fan of the original book series, can’t help but point out.

Another common point of agreement is that the film is faithful to the original book series. To what degree, I’m unsure, but the big, bold letters show that many believe this somewhat vague statement. While Captain Underpants does share a lot of common points with its source material, there’s something also inherently different; or perhaps I should say some things.

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I have no recollection that the book series had so much meta humor. No recollection of Harold being a random doofus. No recollection of Krupp having a love interest or that his grumpiness was, even to some degree, justified by his loneliness. A number of changes take place that make me question the validity of the statement of its faithfulness. In my eyes, it’s more faithful to the standard transition of adaptations that a collection of writers go through to make something as streamlined as possible. The film oozed the aura of following what’s trendy within successful films, perhaps most notably from Marvel films.

This fascination with making the source material more “modern” is something that ultimately ruins the experience for those who harken back to the original titles. Captain Underpants as a book series is simple, effective, and filled to the brim with potty humor. There are some jabs that align with the film’s writing, but it was evened out with all mentions of underpants. How the film upends this sort of simple approach may be deemed necessary by some, with its simplistic originality too straightforward to be used as a 90-minute film sequence. For me, the way they took the foundation of Captain Underpants and sculpted it into their own beast is almost insulting to Dav Pilkey’s original work.

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Writing aside, no one can question the vitality of the animation present. By far the most impressive quality of Captain Underpants is the art and animation, which takes a lot of chances in terms of presentation and comedic timing, as well as embedding a shot of creativity in each scene. However, by the halfway point, it begins to fester together in a bright mesh and no longer seems all that impressive. Not to mention, there are a number of scenes that are almost dizzying in their grandiloquence. The science fair scene in particular, once Melvin’s device spins out of control, results in a rainbow orgy of spastic movement and flashing lights. I never felt more tired getting through a single scene!

Even so, it’s hard to overlook how modernly simplistic the writing, which aims to not be so, becomes due to the oversaturation of meta hype within animated features in recent years. Everything feels forced in a way that both improves and contradicts its key motivation in entertaining and enlightening the audience. Scenes in which George and Harold are fondly reminiscing of their past (without the stupid dolphin jokes) or trying to control Captain Underpants speak to a level of simplicity that allows me to enjoy the film for what it is at its core: stupid fun. Trying to embellish it with meta humor, almost parody-like sequences, or random references destroys the essence of what the original book series felt like it wanted to do. Which is unfortunate, because this film is by no means bad. It simply shoots itself in the foot constantly with its “smarter than thou” attitude.

Almost like dressing a ninja in bright yellow to be artistic. It defeats the point entirely.

Final Score: 5/10

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