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.

Tekkon Kinkreet Review

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Something to admit outright concerning Tekkon Kinkreet is that its approach to storytelling is incredibly straightforward and uninspired. Its manner of trying to encourage the viewer to pay close attention to detail flashes signs of other films that came before it, especially within the last fifteen years or so. To some extent, it almost feels American, which becomes more apparent when one knows that the director behind this film is, in fact, American. While some are more than willing to excuse this, others won’t have the ability to fully empathize with the outcome because of it.

What makes it a little more than meets the eye is its (usually) stunning animation. Many times throughout the first few scenes within the setting of Treasure Town I was enthralled by how fluid, how realistic everything dazzled on-screen. It felt like a true and blue film, with the perks of having full control over the project’s structure. Stylistic choices are fairly divisive as they are, with characters appearing more human and fairly rigid in their anatomy, a far-cry from the typical anime style of large eyes and pretty women. It’s a gritty, yet magical attempt at creating a world both like and unlike our own, with a touch of fantasy to a cruelly realistic environment that shines brightly in its darkness.

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There’s something wonderfully human about this film that fascinates one’s curiosity, with a lot of attention going into human ordeals. Despite the tepid display of sci-fi and extraordinary elements, the real spectacle is one that underlies it all to contain the basic necessities of the human condition. Images of fire, aliens, flying children, and vivid daydreams persist, only to be struck down in importance by the idea that all life should find happiness in their own way, whether through positive or negative activities. If only Tekkon Kinkreet had the focus to make the film more than just another one-dimensional story.

Indeed, there is a lot to like in terms of storytelling through animation and character introspection. What makes this frustrating is that that’s all there really is to the film. Characters’ situations can be empathetic, but not so much that one is crying from their pain, cheering for their accomplishments, and riveted with their onscreen presence. They all, in some degree of affirmation, suit a single role they’re meant to play; the old nostalgic, the changing man, the light, the dark, the sin of everything before. All of these things add up into a single message of good intentions in addition to a number of one-hit symbolic jabs. Its value doesn’t quite hit the spot of emotional tranquility it tries to pursue with each passing line, lines which hold the key to understanding the images that accompany them.

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Fortunately, it has everything one could possibly need to follow comfortably: a decent major cast, intriguing visuals, and a lovely story. Containing heart may be all that’s necessary for this film, as the structure and flow come off as somewhat artificial. Not to mention, the imagery and its presentation within the darkest scenes make up somewhat for the semi-dull ordinary sequence of events. Fascinating how the symbolic make-up presents itself with the chaotic whimsy of the film’s dark-ish tone. Even with this, it only eats up a good fifteen minutes of runtime, so while the ending is intriguing, it takes quite a bit of time to build up to it.

One other condition of Tekkon Kinkreet is its inconsistency, both in terms of story and animation. Some scenes have wonderful, immensely fluid animation, while others are shaky at best. At points it almost seemed as though I was watching another ordinary scene from a 2006 romcom, without the destruction of skipped frames. Not to mention, some of the symbolic presentation is either not fully explained or explained to thoroughly. The contrast between Kuro and Shiro (Black and White) together is fairly straightforward, but apart, things that are hinted at with a single line or so become full-blown conflicts of major importance. And when not that, the images of what people are supposed to represent are flashed onto the screen as if to taunt the viewer—”Think! Think, so that you may better appreciate our efforts!” A shakiness illuminates the light of factored quality in one of two ways: fitting two into one, or cutting the two into three and placing the remains among the already loaded one. In layman’s terms, biting off more than one can chew.

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It’s more than a decent film, though I’d hesitate to call it a good one. I was swooned by its messages of good-heartedness and the complacency of its chaotic circus show. My only regret is that I could not try to interpret what may have been left behind by a less-than-proper level of enthusiasm. When I was done, it was done, and the fabric of all that was shown whisked into the chamber of forgotten ideas placed within my moistened brain. Perhaps that may be the most insulting adjective to be held by something so dearly crafted. Tekkon Kinkreet has enthusiasm, but nothing truly worth remembering outside a few key details.

Final Score: 6.5/10

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

The Circle Review

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One never really knows what they’ll get when they watch a film for the first time. There are reviews, trailers, interviews, and more that may influence one’s expectations going into one, but until the movie begins to play and the attention has been provoked, the quality of a given picture is shrouded in complete mystery. Thankfully, The Circle preaches that knowing is good, but knowing everything is better, and knowing everything about The Circle is a very good thing. Think of the lives that could be saved when the truth about The Circle comes into view, so that everyone with that knowledge can use it to guide people in the right direction. Really, this review is in the reader’s best interest, so read very, very carefully.

Typically, when one reviews film, they use a mental Pro-Con list of sorts to factor in the strengths and weaknesses of a particular subject. They then get a feeling of what overtakes the other, and mix it all in with their overall feelings and level of interest as the credits roll. While it sounds pretty straightforward, many different elements apply to the process of coming to a conclusion on a film’s worth, depending on the person. With all the filler context in place, the point to this spiel becomes relevant: what are the strengths to The Circle?

Absolutely nothing.

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It’s amazing how completely wrong every aspect of this film is, whether characters, story, pacing, and most notably, logic. The effort a full team of writers must’ve taken to make this film as sound as possible, while adding in the necessities of a fulfilling cinematic experience makes the conclusion all the more bizarre. The leaps this film takes to make everything so succinct is astounding, despite never making any time to realize its full potential. If the film is in any way like the novel it was based on, then it wouldn’t surprise me if the source was written by a teenager who has never left their house in their life.

Logic, especially, is one thing that The Circle actively ignores. Points of conflict and the easy coasting of one scene to the next, despite the severity of the things being claimed on-screen, have the impression that the author simply wanted everything to be taken at face value. Much like a fantasy flick, where explosions only scratch characters and travesties are met with 100% goodwill, events are placed into the world and accepted because no one is there to question it. People are completely accepting of the things that are slowly taking over the earth, because the general populace is a swarm of braindead zombies willing to listen to Tom Hanks. Except for the one, single, sole person with a brain and is aware that people lie.

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Through every minute, the fallacies begin to pile to the point that, by the end, one can’t help but question the entire structure of the society itself. The Circle is inherently flawed, from its very foundation of “The Circle” concept company to the ways it manages to bypass common courtesy laws to get to the point of power the likes of Google or Facebook. Even outside of these cases, which is difficult to shield from due to sheer quantity, the execution of these things are easy, inconsequential, and rushed. An enormous lack of feedback from the viewer takes place when things simply happen without any reason to believe things are actually happening. How sullen things become when halfway through, even the most benign of viewers become keen on how trivial the importance of the characters are in the grand scheme. Constructed from the most imaginative of minds, then coated with paint flung without a single care, The Circle has the literary capabilities of a drunken lunatic.

Undoubtedly, the story is worse overall than its characters and their actors’ abilities to bring them to life. Still, it is a one-two punch that could knock out Conor McGregor without effort. Emma Watson is perhaps the most bland female lead I’ve seen in quite some time, and what’s even worse, her character eventually loses her initial intelligence to the brainwashing of The Circle’s stupid “influence.” Not only bland and unoffending, her character becomes outright unlikable due to her hasty lack of common sense and outright heel turn at times most grandeur. This only worsens when considering her character’s screentime overlaps everyone else’s by a good twenty-five percent. Hanks, Boyega, Oswalt, and any others with some semblance of importance are treated as reserve players, popping up when the film feels it’s time for them to make an “impact.” Such transparency only further drags the film down into the depths of its own ambition. Never does it live up to the expectations it places upon itself, and its characters feel so jadedly simplistic and underutilized that Watson may as well have been the only actor to be given credit on the film’s cover art. Not because she was any better, but because her character’s importance rises so far above everyone else’s that the film can’t bear to show a single scene without her.

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In terms of performances, it allows me to grieve for what little this film has to offer. No qualms should be attributed to individual performances, as as little as some are shown, they do a serviceable enough job to hold one over. Watson, despite her character’s limited array of personalities, plays the unassuming simpleton very well. Hanks is also quite the likable host, and his character, at times, doesn’t seem to embody the seed of Satan as the film adores foreshadowing. With as little experience as John Boyega has, his performance is somewhat typical, though I would note he is likely the weakest link of the bunch. Perhaps due to his very limited screentime, his charisma is little more than a whisper, leaving it easy for one to forget he even appeared in the film at all. The most natural actor of the bunch was Beck, hands-down, as his performance was just like what one would see anywhere.

At this point, it may be redundant to include that the little implementation of technological doo-dads pertaining to the opinions of the general public was fairly interesting. It gave the film a somewhat futuristic pop that its setting tries so hard to allude to in many cases. While the manner of profanity was turned down far more than it should’ve to replicate true society, it was a nice quirk to include some oft-floating text bubbles that presented life in a rather cynical light, providing comfort and self-preservation only in appropriate situations. Too little, too late, unfortunately.

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I suppose it would be considerate to say that The Circle tries. However, the implementation of horridly exaggerated events and the zombification of every possible human being (except one) leaves only a taste of the atrocious recipe for disaster that this film represents. Borderline insulting with how easy the entire ordeal feels, cutting up the general population to their own whim for the sake of power. All because everyone seems to believe that Tom Hanks, and his signature smile and silky voice, is enough to have even the most cynical of hares groove to his tune. Not this hare.

Final Score: 1/10

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