Day Ten: Rocky (MotM 2021)

If you follow my blog, you’re gonna see a lot of Stallone in the coming week(s). Might be all in a row, might be scattered throughout. But my brother and I have started one of our traditional franchise marathons, and we’ve decided on Rocky. How does it fare?

And a note: My brother does not share my sleeping schedule, so these films will have to wait until after my work shifts. I’ll have to keep the posts on these films relatively short!

Continue reading “Day Ten: Rocky (MotM 2021)”

Thoughts on Red Vox’s “What Could Go Wrong”

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Reviewing music is a topic that has been prevalent in my mind for the blog for quite a while. However, my whole “reviewing should be completely objective” thing combined with “I don’t actually listen to a lot of music” made for very lofty self-expectations, which was intimidating. Now that my mindset is a lot more mellow (probably?), I’ve rekindled my interest in putting my thoughts out on a medium that makes up a great portion of my (and likely many people’s) lives. What better way to start than with an album that already coincides with another interest of mine? Continue reading “Thoughts on Red Vox’s “What Could Go Wrong””

Merry Days of Anime: Tensei shitara Slime Datta Ken [DROPPED]

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I don’t like isekai. I know I don’t like isekai. If not for some kind words thrown at this series that led me to believe it broke some of the tropes embodied by the genre, I wouldn’t bother with it. I gave it a shot, and for a while, it was true. It focused much less on the self-indulgence of flaunting one’s OP-ness and more on building a fantasy world full of dozens of interesting creatures and personalities.

Until it didn’t. Continue reading “Merry Days of Anime: Tensei shitara Slime Datta Ken [DROPPED]”

Day Twenty-One: Lars and the Real Girl (MotM 2019)

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I kinda-sorta only watched this because it’s an earlier film from Ryan Gosling’s career with an oddball premise. Not to say I wouldn’t think this movie could stand on its own without him, but after La La LandBlade Runner 2049, and First Man, I’m willing to assume comfortably that Gosling being involved with anything can help substantially. Continue reading “Day Twenty-One: Lars and the Real Girl (MotM 2019)”

Day Eight: Space Cowboys (MotM 2017)

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Wow, a Clint Eastwood movie involving cowboys? Next you’ll tell me Charlie Chaplin’s a silent movie icon.

In all seriousness, Space Cowboys is more about space than cowboys. The people involved never even refer to themselves as cowboys, if I recall. They just have a strong desire to fly, fly as high as man could possibly go. Or more accurately, two of them do. The other two hang out in the background and make a joke or two that fits their deep and engaging character model. I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s kick up some context.

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First of all, I feel the tags attributed to this film are a little misleading. IMDb lists this film as an Action-Adventure-Thriller. With that in mind, one would expect this film to be more on the cusp of Alien than Grumpy Old Men. Alas, the more the movie progressed, the more it dawned on me that the synopsis covers more than half of the movie. Perhaps being tagged as “Drama” or “Realistic Fiction” would be more accurate as genres, as the only action present is a punch or two, the adventure doesn’t begin until over an hour into the movie, and thrilling is an overstatement all things considered.

Additionally, there seems to be a play at favoritism in this movie, with the two characters previously mentioned as lovers of flying getting far more attention and development than the other two. In a stroke of luck, they’re even the kind of people who value one another, but are always at each other’s throats. Having seen Jersey Boys, I’ve noticed that Clint Eastwood enjoys having dysfunctional groups of friends. Though where Jersey Boys had a better focus of developing each member, Space Cowboys can’t seem to find any opportunity to let the others shine.

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For a while, Donald Sutherland’s character seemed to be the weakest link of the cast. His character is nothing but a ladies’ man and cannot seem to function without burying his face in technology or, more often, ogling any woman that passes. However, by movie’s end, the real weakest link is James Garner’s character. While a little more than a one-joke machine like Sutherland, his usual banter involves religion in some fashion and his screentime progressively lessens, especially during the later portions. Frankly, one would have to ask if he was even in the movie! More likable than Sutherland, just not as involved in the major course of things. The movie adores Clint Eastwood, with Tommy Lee Jones as a close runner-up.

Characters outside of the group have varying degrees of relatability or depth, with a lot of them finding resolve through the efforts of the group of “space cowboys.” There’s a female character played by Marcia Gay Harden that receives some development as a human being, though the cracks begin to show as the movie goes along. Her scenes almost never feature her alone, and she seems to develop relationships with the space cowboys almost randomly. Rather, most minor characters interact with the main group as if they’re completely off the script. Sequences of romance, vulnerability, or hostility feel bloated and without cause, almost as though they were thrown in because the writers felt it was necessary for a story to include them. It doesn’t do much for believability, while creating an aura that builds the main group up to be idol-like unnecessarily. Self-insert-like.

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As transparent as it is, Eastwood and Jones’s characters are developed pretty well. Jones especially has a solid performance and has a fiery wit that makes him charming, despite being a little more childish than he should be. Eastwood seemed a little flat at first, but improved as the scenes went on, putting forth more effort to seem convincing enough of not being completely monotone. Their chemistry is light on originality, but sweet enough to take it seriously regardless.

The worst part of any story is a bad story. Redundant, yes, it speaks volumes for a story to feel more appropriate for made-for-TV movies. Background history is established. Years pass. Conflict arises. A character is brought in as “the only choice.” Silliness ensures when something out of the ordinary becomes reality. Chances are slim—always. So on and so forth. The story is nothing short of the most bland “against all odds” plotline as humanly possible, with events that appear only to support such a fragile outer coat. It remains so unenthusiastic that even its attempts at playing with its recurring trinkets become lost in painful ordinance. Not even the ending, which attempts to be bittersweet, hardly causes a clink of emotion.

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One noteworthy praise is with the special effects, which does enough to make the later scenes in space travel feel entirely out of a different film. The mood changes for the better, the characters no longer rub their shtick until combustion, and the stakes become more tangible. It looks wonderful, like one truly is flying around in space, gazing down at the splendid Earth that we inhabit. A tenseness appears with how splendid everything appears, traveling into a world where, honestly, I expected the movie to impede on far quicker than it did. Everything just takes a turn for the better, giving a nasty realization that the film probably would’ve been better should they not have taken so long getting prepared. Of course, they needed to do all of this for the sake of their grand story.

Interestingly enough, the more I type about this movie, the more I realize I don’t care for it. Initially, I found it fair, nothing special, but not something that makes me angry upon consideration. Writing this review made me understand just how benign and forgettable the film truly is, even with a stronger second half. All that leads up to that point is a tired and beaten plotline that adds a little twist through old men being astronauts. Try as it might to build up the characters, two slightly-intriguing characters aren’t enough to carry an atmosphere of crusty, insufferable mush.

Final Score: 4/10

The rating for all other films can be found on my IMDb account.

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

Updated Thoughts on Highschool of the Dead

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Generally, most anime watchers will see this image and think one of two things:

Tits

or

Zombies.

Highschool of the Dead is infamous for being notoriously lenient with its female cast’s anatomy and non-stop zombie-killing horror. These two things stick out far more than the rest of the anime’s core features, due in part to the quantity of time dedicated to employing different things in just about every episode. Some years ago, when I was still a young’n in the world of anime, this series turned out more entertaining than anything else, and even got some attention as an anime I wish I had viewed earlier than I did. It’s almost a strange case study, as despite the ecchi eruption, Highschool of the Dead is different than about every other alternative.

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The best thing about the series is actually the first four episodes. People like to insinuate that the sexual fan service is non-stop and continuous throughout, but there’s a modest amount between episodes two and four. A good amount of attention is put into developing the phenomenon that is the zombie apocalypse, mixing with the unknown the main characters have to face as it begins to grow out of control. Characters are established via hair color personality and their relationship with others within the main group, and acclimate to the situation well enough that the viewer can see them as a capable bunch of fighters. Some might question the characters’ abilities, particularly Hirano, which is justifiable. Balancing out the action, the sexual fan service (though never really necessary), and the character interaction is done well enough within the “Set-up” phase of the anime that it actually becomes fairly immersive and enjoyable.

Unrealistic or not, the main cast has a charm to it that’s lost on a number of other anime with a rag-tag bunch of opposites. While slightly archetypal, the heroes have a good head on most of them, giving a better realism to these particular individuals being so well-equipped to survive. Interactivity between the six is also fairly enjoyable, particularly whenever Takagi is involved, with her fierce determination and tsundere air about her. One member of the group, the airheaded nurse of the school, is a useless, uninteresting, and magnet for sexual fan service character. I’d rather she get cut from the series altogether.

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As the series continues, the flaws within its writing begin to rear themselves and mold the story into an eye-rolling tirade of zaniness. Though the first few episodes aren’t completely devoid of this, when the group sets off for the city, the insanity begins to take over the pacing. The action begins to pop up out of nowhere, throwing off the progression of the group and any sense of rest. A few (useless) new characters are added, and recurring characters that were seemingly left to be fed to the zombies become important for short spurts, only to be shoved off yet again. If not recurring characters, then complete strangers. Yes, there is a sense of urgency in trying to make the world seem as psychotic as the events transpiring. And it is because of this that the biggest flaw of Highschool of the Dead becomes far too frequent.

Not the sexual fan service, not the random and unrealistic action scenes; the biggest flaw of the anime is its focus on self-insert style writing. Early on, there was chaos, so no one was really sure how to handle or cope with the situation. Cut to days later, with everyone getting “used to” what was happening, a majority of the characters focused on outside of the main group become A) retarded, or B) insane. Quite often, a situation is presented where a stranger comes up and says or does outrageously stupid things, as the camera cuts to the main group’s serious faces, their eyes narrow in obvious disagreement. Yes, the main group is the only one capable of surviving without a moment’s hesitation, being the clear level-headed intellectual superiors to grown adults and everyone else involved. A bunch of angsty teenagers who write depressing monologues at the beginning and end of almost every episode. Yep. Uh huh.

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It makes the scenes hilariously cringy and simplistic. God forbid the series challenges the main group’s line of thinking and lack of experience in the real world in a time where an adult’s wisdom would likely help them tremendously. And the nurse doesn’t count because she’s an idiot. Instead, we have adults chastising these kids because they’re kids and they’re adults and they know everything and the kids know nothing because fuck you. Or we have school teachers who hypnotize a bunch of delirious school students into having orgies inside a school bus (?!?!?!?!?!?). Seriously, the hell is up with this series and its relentless attempts at making the main cast as God-like in every regard as possible? It’s boring, boring and incredibly irritating.

One very positive thing about the series is the focus on art and animation. The series, even for early 2010’s, looks like it could’ve been animated months ago. Everything is very sleek and sharp, accustomed to the current trend of how high-standard anime look. The lighting and atmosphere make the more tense scenes all the more tense… assuming the sexual fan service or stupid characters didn’t ruin it beforehand. The characters are all fairly attractive (even Hirano) and the sexual fan service, as much as people harp on it, works efficiently enough at arousing some members. Not mine, personally, as I’ve become immune to such blatant attempts without any payoff, but it looked very nice. Very nice. Even the animation was pretty consistent, without a lot of shortcuts taken.

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As perfect as the story tries to make them out to be, the main cast varies in excellence. Surprisingly enough, there is some effort into developing these characters, most particularly the relationship between the male lead and his childhood girlfriend. Strangely enough, I feel these two are the weakest characters, mostly because of their bland, purer-than-thou personas. Their development (especially the girl) feels somewhat forced, while also a little bit too pseudo-intellectual. That comment about depressing monologues at the beginning and end of each episode wasn’t a joke. The male lead drones on all the time about “the end of the world” and it gets tiring fast. The rest of the cast (excluding the nurse) are a little bit better in this regard. Hirano being the chubby, silly weakling without a gun, and an ace-shooter “badass” with guns, Takagi as a no-nonsense tsundere with a bad mouth (my personal favorite), and Busujima, the mild-mannered and polite swordsman with a desire for power. These characters have a lot more spunk to them that make conversations all the more lively and believable, which is important for a character-driven story. I would almost recommend the anime simply for these three characters, but they don’t match up against the force of mediocrity in the writing.

The rating went down quite a bit, but I had a decent time with this series, at least for a little while. By series’ end, I was ready to be done with it, as the last three episodes are a complete drag, full of the issues I made note of. Should the anime (miraculously) get a second season, I’d be more than willing to watch it with meandering expectations. It has a nice amount of bloodshed and fun that makes for a mindless brainfizzler, along with some above-average characters. If only the series tried to be a little more like The Walking Dead than Zombeavers.

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