Friday, October 31, 2014

Top 10 Horror Movies

Today is Halloween, so what better time than the present to rank my Top 10 favorite horror films! In general, the horror genre is not one of my favorites. All too often they are mindless gore fests or filled with cheap thrills; however, there are some horror films that rise above the rest. Due to not having seen all that many horror films, horror comedies that feature zombies and the like will be included on the list. Also, at the end I will have honorable mentions for a couple of television series in the horror genre. 

10: Zombieland
Much more a comedy than a horror film, Zombieland is a fun zombie slaying romp! Taking advantage of its quirky cast, including perfectly cast Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, and Emma Stone, Zombieland has just as many laughs as it does entertaining zombie slaying. Plus, it has one of the best cameos of all-time.

9: Scream
More of a satire of the horror genre than a pure horror, Scream follows high school student Sidney Prescott in a small town where a murder in a mask terrorizes the town. While often more humorous than scary, Scream both parodies the tropes of the horror genre, as well as crafting a surprisingly competent mystery.

8: Perfect Blue
Do you think animation is only for children? Watch Perfect Blue and your perspective will be changed entirely. The film follows Mima, a pop-idol turned TV star, as her she slowly loses her sanity after a stalker continues to threaten her live. While more of a psychological horror mystery than straight horror, Perfect Blue is Satoshi Kon’s first feature film in what would become a prolific career as one of Japan’s best directors. In fact, Kon’s work has influenced famous director, Darren Aronofsky. Aronofsky even copied a scene from Perfect Blue in Requiem for a Dream, and even though he denies it, the similarities between Black Swam and Perfect Blue are uncanny!

7: Alien
Ridley Scott's classic horror thriller, Alien, introduced the world to who would become one of the sci-fi's most famous heroines, Ellen Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver. Even though the thrills were diminished by my knowledge of future films, Alien's sci-fi setting and atmosphere revolutionized the genre.

6: The Cabin in the Woods
Written by the legend himself, Joss Whedon, and directed by frequent Whedon collaborator, Drew Goddard, The Cabin in the Woods is an ingenious deconstruction of the horror genre that shows how utterly ridiculous it has become in recent years. From the superb black comedy to the classic film references, The Cabin in the Woods is just the type of bodacious film that you would expect from Whedon.

With a sharp British wit and stylistic directing from Edgar Wright, Shaun of the Dead is a hilarious satire of the zombie genre. From beginning to end, Edgar Wright fills the film with his unique brand of clever humor, while still delivering likable characters and surprisingly effective zombie drama and action.

4: The Host
Not to be confused by the film based on Stephenie Meyer's novel of the same name, The Host is Korea's refreshing take on the monster horror genre. Thanks to director Bong Joon-ho for focusing more on the family drama, The Host is a cleverly comedic and thrilling film that still has more heart than just about any other monster flick ever made.

3: Silence of the Lambs
While almost more of a psychological thriller than a pure horror film, Silence of the Lambs is often listed among the best of the horror genre, and thus it deserves a spot on my list. Even though the film can be incredibly disturbing at times, it most definitely succeeds in creating plenty of nail-biting suspense, thrills, and many utterly horrific scenes. 

2: Jaws
Steven Spielberg's undeniable classic that took moviegoers by storm in 1975, Jaws is a masterpiece of film direction. Thanks to technical difficulties with the special effects, Spielberg had to resort to not showing the shark for the majority of the film, which obviously turned for the best. Jaws is the type of film that everyone needs to see at least once in their life, especially if you consider yourself a film buff.

1: Psycho
Alfred Hitchcock's original horror film that virtually launched the slasher genre, remains the pentacle of the horror genre in my eyes. From Anthony Perkins’ terrifyingly creepy performance to the infamous shower scene, Psycho is every bit as suspenseful today as it was 50 years ago. 

Honorable Mentions from Television

Doctor Who: "Blink"
If I had to chose my favorite Doctor Who episode, "Blink" would have to be my choice due to its perfectly crafted standalone story, inventive creature, and originality. As a standalone gothic horror story, "Blink" is a virtually flawless piece of fiction and the highlight of Steven Moffat’s writing career. In fact, I would almost go as far to say that Blink is my favorite episode of any television series.

Parasyte, aka Kiseijuu, is a currently airing science fiction horror thriller about alien parasites that infect people’s brains and turn them into powerful killers. However, the parasite that infects main protagonist, Izumi, is not able to reach the brain, and thus only replaces his hand. With the assistance of his sentient hand, Migi, Izumi must survive as other parasites attempt kill him as well, while also keeping his alien hand a secret. Four episodes in, Parasyte is already a top contender for best series of the year with its superb concept and horror thrills. Apparently, there is a live-action adaptation, although I have yet to see it.

What are your favorite horror films? Please comment below and let me know!

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Coming Soon: November 2014

Hello readers of J&J Productions blog! Welcome to another installment of Coming Soon where I will recap the movies that came out in October (which turned out to be an incredibly strong month) as well as previewing the new movies coming out in an absolutely BLOCKBUSTER month of November. October was definitely a strong month, at least for the movies I chose to see, with the final average score being 8.5, which was a whopping 10.9% more than the average. I'd call that a good month!

Here's a look at what audiences received in October:

Annabelle: I didn't see this film and it sounds like it was a good decision. I predicted that it would be a cash grab with no where near the attention to quality detail as The Conjuring received and it seems that was the case. Audiences and critics alike just seemed to not find it all that scary or essential for viewing. 
Gone Girl: A fantastic achievement and one of Fincher's best in a few years (at least in my opinion). I was a big fan of the book and I loved this movie even more mainly due to some stellar performances, a well orchestrated adaptation of the original material, and a haunting original score, among other things. (Rath's Review Score: 9/10)
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day: Despite my hatred for the long name and decision to skip it in theaters, reviews and audiences indicate that it was a decent family film that was fun for its short duration and tried to get across a good message. Probably best for readers looking to take a family trip to the theaters.
The Judge: Yet another one that I skipped, mainly because its reviews were poor to mediocre and it's nearly two and a half hours long. Aint nobody got time for that! One common complaint that I've heard about it is that it constantly hits you over the head with its screenplay, assuming the audience that it is catering to isn't all that intelligent. Probably a movie best to save for a rental from the comfort of your own home. 
The Book of Life: You guessed it! I skipped this one too. It's been a stellar year for animation so far and many critics cited The Book of Life kudos for its style, plethora of colors, and humor. Although the consensus seemed to indicate that it wasn't the best animated film of the year, but then again, it's been an unusually strong year for that art. 
Dracula Untold: I didn't have any desire to see it, nor did I. I'd probably seen almost half of it from the constant barrage of trailers that have been released and even those didn't interest me. The film itself seemed to be generic, with a distinct lack of horror. Many related it back to a superhero's origin story. Like many of Universal's monster universe (with the exception sometimes being the Underworld series), this seemed like glorified trash. 
Fury: Finally a movie I saw! And I'm glad I did because it was far more impressive than I was anticipating. The cast gives strong performances all around and Ayer's direction is intense and really captures some true horrors of war. A powerful, but very cliched, World War II movie. (RRS: 8.5/10)
Birdman: Probably the most overrated film of the month unfortunately. It had some great humor, performances, and camera work, but was a bit to weird and slightly pretentious for me to really love it. (RRS: 7.5/10)
Whiplash: An incredible film about the pain of dedicating yourself to becoming great at something. Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons play off each other fantastically and the drum sequences are intense and impressive. Pretty amazing all around (RRS: 9/10)
Ouija: A crappy PG-13 horror film that seems to be making decent money simply because its near Halloween. The scares don't seem to be there and the premise is something that has been retreaded countless times. Or at least that's what unfortunate critics who actually saw it are saying...
John Wick: A mightily impressive action film with some VERY well shot action scenes and a true return to form for Keanu Reeves. Best way to describe its action? "Flow-motion". Patent pending. (RRS: 8.5/10)
Nightcrawler: Nightcrawler comes out on the 31st of October, so unfortunately my review is not complete by the time this posts. But feel free to check back with Rath's Reviews soon and see my thoughts. I'm guessing I will enjoy the film as early reviews are strong and indicate that it's a dark thriller with a fantastic performance.

Most Surprising: Fury/John Wick (tie)
Most Disappointing: Birdman
Worst Film: Birdman by way of default (although it's still pretty good)
Best Film: Gone Girl/Whiplash (another tie!) 

There you have it! There were a few stinkers in October, but I avoided all of them. Now get ready for a preview of what could be a record box office for November. Remember to click the titles for the film's trailer. interstellar

Why It's Worth Seeing: The last time that Christopher Nolan directed an original film we got Inception. Do I really need to give any more reason than that? 
What Could Go Wrong: The length is the only thing that worries me (slightly longer than The Dark Knight Rises) but I trust Nolan to know what he is doing. It's not often that we get a "sure thing" at the theater but I think Interstellar is probably your best bet. 

Why It's Worth Seeing: To start, the trailers have been hilarious. Additional reasons would include that it's made by the same animation studio that gave us Wreck-it Ralph (classic) and Frozen (near-classic), and it's a Marvel movie, although not part of the larger MCU.
What Could Go Wrong: At this point in the year, we have had several amazing animated movies (The LEGO Movie and How to Train Your Dragon 2, among others) and we have all seen countless "origin stories" for comic book heroes. Big Hero 6 is both of these things so it will need to be special in order to stand out. 

Why It's Worth Seeing: The original Dumb and Dumber is considered a classic by many, including myself, and it stands the test of time as it's still uproariously hilarious today. This sequel looks to continue the adventures of Harry and Lloyd with the original cast and crew back (something the atrocious prequel lacked). The early previews have been a blast and I'm betting that this is nothing short of a good time at the theaters.
What Could Go Wrong: Has it been too long? Will audiences still care? Will the jokes still be there or will they feel forced? Will they recycle too many jokes? (It's that last one that I'm most concerned about). These are all questions where a negative answer could result in a very disappointing film for fans that have waited a long time. Fingers crossed that doesn't happen. 

Why It's Worth Seeing: It's been getting fantastic buzz, mainly for the incredible performances by Carell (yes that's Steve Carell in the photo!) and Tatum, and that trailer is certainly a doozy. Well directed, well acted, and a good story? Sounds like a winner to me. 
What Could Go Wrong: If you had asked me before that trailer I would have said it could be just like any other sports film and it has the possibility to be generic. But there is a layer past just the wrestling here as it gives a vibe like a Fincher film...a Gone Girl for the wrestling scene, if you will. I don't foresee too much going wrong for this one to be honest.

Why It's Worth Seeing: Catching Fire catapulted itself to near the top of the YA-novel-to-movie quality list and for good reason. It was well directed, the adaptation of the material was solid, and it had better performances than this genre is used to. Mockingjay Part 1 looks to be more of the same, and that's a good thing. 
What Could Go Wrong: My main concern is with the splitting of the third book. A lot happens in it, yes. But I'm not sure if it's enough to justify two films rather than a longer single one. My concern also lies with where they will decide to split the third book and what additions they will make to the material. These types of caverns can always sink a film like this in the fans' eyes. 

Why It's Worth Seeing: I for one loved the first Horrible Bosses. I found the premise to be unique and the movie itself was actually quite funny. Horrible Bosses 2 doesn't seem like an exact copy cat and the original cast is mostly back with some key new additions (Chris Pine and Christoph Waltz for example). The initial trailer is pretty funny as well.
What Could Go Wrong: It could tread too common of ground or recycle too many jokes. Additionally, since it has been so long since the last one, the writing and chemistry just may not be there anymore, which was the main strength of the original. Lastly, the supporting cast needs to be as awesome as they were in the first film, which is easier said than done. 

Why It's Worth Seeing: That trailer is pretty darn funny if I do say so myself. I'm not familiar with the Madagascar animated series, but I do know that the Penguins are one of the funnier aspects of it so, much like the Minions will have next year, Dreamworks decided to give them their own film. If the entire movie is as consistent as the trailer, it could be hilarious.
What Could Go Wrong: Honestly, it just comes down to the stellar other competition that the film is going up against. How does a animated film stand out in 2014? It either has to be REALLY funny, REALLY cool, REALLY well done, or all three to garnish attention. I'm not sure that the second-rate characters from Madagascar are enough to accomplish that. 

Must See (in order): Interstellar, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire - Part 1, Foxcatcher, Dumb and Dumber To, Big Hero 6, Horrible Bosses 2
On My Radar: Penguins of Madagascar
Predicted Duds: None! :-)

As you can see, it's going to be an AWESOME, but BUSY month of November. Enjoy it folks. It's not often that we get a month this incredible in the theaters. Thanks everyone and I hope that you enjoyed the overview! As always, I'd be really appreciative if you came and followed me through Blogger at RATH'S REVIEWS and like me on Facebook HERE! I follow-for-follow 100%. Thanks again! 

Hey everyone James the Movie Reviewer here. Please do not forget to check back tomorrow for my Top 10 Horror movies on Halloween. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Marvel Phase 3 Announced!

Marvel announces nine upcoming films in Phase 3, including the Civil War story in Captain America 3, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, and Marvel's first film with a female lead, Captain Marvel. Unfortunately, I do not have enough time to write out a full detailed look at each film, but expect further details about Marvel Phase 3 next week. Needless to say that I am beyond excited!
Below are the upcoming films and release dates.
Captain America: Civil War: May 6, 2016
Doctor Strange: November 4, 2016
Guardians of the Galaxy 2: May 5, 2017
Thor: Ragnarok: July 28, 2017
Black Panther: November 3, 2017
Avengers: Infinity War, Part 1: May 4, 2018
Captain Marvel: July 6, 2018
The Inhumans: November 2, 2018
Avengers: Infinity War, Part 2: May 3, 2019

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Fall Anime Impressions: Part 4

My fall anime impressions continue with Ghibli's Sanzoku no Musume Ronja (Ronia the Robber's Daughter), Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso, Shingeki no Bahamut Genesis, Shirobako, Sora no Method, Terra Formars, Trinity Seven, In Search of Lost Future, World Trigger, Yūna Yūki is a Hero, and A Good Librarian Like a Good Shepherd.

Sanzoku no Musume Ronja
Studio Ghibli takes their first forte into the medium of the anime series with Sanzoku no Musume Ronja (Ronia the Robber's Daughter). Being Studio Ghibli, one of the most prolific animation studios of all-time, there is obviously a lot of hype that it delivers the high quality we expect. Unfortunately, Sanzoku no Musume Ronja is leaving me conflicted. The majority of Ghibli's work is aimed at all-ages, yet most of the films have a mature edge that makes them enjoyable for older audiences. However, it would seem that Sanzoku no Musume Ronja is often too juvenile to appeal to older audiences. Despite this, there are still moments of the whimsical Ghibli brilliant that we have come to expect from the studio. The series is based on a Swedish children's novel, and it follows the simple story of Ronja, and her adventures as the daughter of a chief of a tribe of bandits that lives in a huge castle. Aside from the juvenile tone, one aspect of Sanzoku no Musume Ronja stands out above all else, the animation, but not in a good way. While Ghibli is known for stunning 2D animation, the series uses mediocre 3D animation on top of 2D backgrounds. While the 3D animation is not the worst I have ever seen, it is hard to look at times, especially the character designs of the supporting cast. It looks far too similar to western kid's cartoons. Also, the supporting male cast is almost all annoying and ruin most of the scenes that they are in. On the other hand, in typical Ghibli fashion, the female characters, Ronja and her mother, are rather likable. Most of the scenes involving just Ronja have the distinctive Ghibli vibe that reminds me of their best work. Unfortunately, the series focuses too much time on the other characters. Despite my criticisms, Musume Ronja is not bad, but just not up to Ghibli standard. As a fan of Ghibli, I will probably watch this series to completion, and if you are also a Ghibli, I would recommend that you at least give the first episode a watch. 
Recommended For: Studio Ghibli fans, 

Plot Summary: "The story is about a girl named Ronja who is the daughter of a chief of a tribe of bandits and lives in a huge castle in the forest with the bandits. The story follows Ronja as she encounters mystical creatures, makes friends with another young child like herself, and experiences life in the forest."

Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso
Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso (Your Lie in April) follows former piano prodigy, Arima Kosei, who, as a child, was a prolific pianist, but after his strict and demanding mother died, Kosei quit playing the piano. Several years later, Kosei's friend introduces him to Miyazono Kaori, a free spirited violinist, who plays in her own unique way, with the sole purpose of having fun. Apparently, Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso is going to turn into a romance, and thus far, is a very pleasant series. While my brief plot summary does not explain everything (more below), Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso is shaping up to be the romance series of the season with some strong dramatic and comedic elements. Unfortunately, the first episode falls into a few annoying clichés, but the later episodes improve upon the less-than-perfect opening episode. 
One aspect of Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso that appeals to me more than anything else about it is the violin music. The violin is my favorite instrument, and the series has featured some truly beautiful violin music with variations on classical music. However, what makes the violin scenes work well is that there is a purpose in the story, and A-1 Pictures’ animation for those scenes is magnificent.
In addition to the likable characters with somewhat unique backstories, at least compared to most anime today, the comedy works for the most part. Not a lot of the comedy is original, but it adds some great levity to the series. 
After three episodes, Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso is beautiful series with a lot of promise and superb music. If you like romance or classical music, definitely give this one a watch.
Recommended For: Violin fans, Romance fans, Romcom fans, Drama fans

Plot Summary: "Piano prodigy Arima Kosei dominated the competition and all child musicians knew his name. But after his mother, who was also his instructor, passed away, he had a mental breakdown while performing at a recital that resulted in him no longer being able to hear the sound of his piano even though his hearing was perfectly fine. Even two years later, Kosei hasn't touched the piano and views the world in monotone, and without any flair or color. He was content at living out his life with his good friends Tsubaki and Watari until, one day, a girl changed everything. Miyazono Kaori is a pretty, free spirited violinist whose playing style reflects her personality. Kaori helps Kosei return to the music world and show that it should be free and mold breaking unlike the structured and rigid style Kosei was used to."

Shingeki no Bahamut Genesis
Shingeki no Bahamut Genesis (Rage of Bahamut Genesis) takes place in a fantasy world that combines various figures from the mythology of various cultures, including Norse, Greek, and many others. The story focuses on Favaro Leone, a bounty hunter, who has an encounter with a mysterious woman from another world named Amira. Favaro is a clumsy and flamboyant guy, who often gets himself into trouble, which is how is becomes entangled in a magic contract with Amira to guide her to Helheim. Also, Kaisar Lidfald, a former noble, is a bounty hunter as well that is trying to hunt down Favaro to restore his lost honor. What ensues is a high energy adventure that is unlike most other anime that I have seen. In fact, the only thing that reminds me of Shingeki no Bahamut is the Pirates of the Caribbean films, yet the series is darker than those films. While the first episode did not sell me on the series as much as it did everyone else, episodes two, three, and four have solidified this as one of the season's most fun, entertaining, and unique anime. Episode three especially appeal to me with its zombie centered storyline.
Most episodes feature a unique blend of fantasy with a visual style that sets itself apart from other anime. MAPPA's animation style is a bit jarring at first, because it is so different than other anime, but after the first episode, its merits can be clearly seen. The character designs are more western in style, which makes sense in the context of the story, and the backgrounds are beautifully rendered. In addition, the action sequences are often very fluid, with a very cinematic feel to them. 
Thus far, there are only a few problems with the series. One of which is the overall plot, which is a bit convoluted at this time. Maybe, in the future episodes, things will become more clear, but the best part of the plot is the fast pace adventure in each episode as the characters travel through this fantasy world. Another issue is that some of the one-off antagonists are the annoyingly over-the-top type. Other than those problems, Shingeki no Bahamut Genesis is becoming a highlight of the fall season, due to its unique animation and fun adventurous story.
Recommended For: Fantasy fans, Action fans, Adventure fans, MAPPA fans, 

Shirobako, an anime about making anime. Shirobako revolves around Aoi Miyamori, who works for animation studio, as she tries to do her job of Production assistant at Musashino Animation. In the past, there have been countless anime and manga about writing manga, but not many about actually making anime, and thus, Shirobako is a unique commentary on the anime industry by the creators themselves. Of course, certain elements of the series are obviously fictitious, but one would hope that no one knows how to produce anime better than the people that actually produce anime. Obviously, I love anime, and seeing how anime is created from the perspective of the creators is rather intriguing. Watching the creators conflict over how certain elements of an anime like animation or direction is interesting to watch. One aspect the series effectively captures is the frantic rush to meet deadlines with everyone working overtime to get the animation ready for dubbing, editing, ect. Another great aspect is the commentary on the flaws that can make fans, like myself, annoyed. For example, the creators discuss still frames, recap episodes, and the "moe-fication" of anime, albeit briefly.
Despite the great concept, Shirobako does have a few notable flaws. For one, with so many characters working in the animation studio, you never get to know any of them and even trying to remember who is who with 30+ characters introduced in the first three episodes is difficult. Of course, an animation studio does have a lot of employees, “shō ga nai” (it can’t be helped). Another flaw is that the series is not as entertaining as it could be. I like dramas and slow building series, but it seems that Shirobako has a fast pace, but not necessarily a lot of entertainment value as it should have. 
After P.A. Works' misfire with Glasslip last season, Shirobako seems to be a return to form as they continue to produce high quality visuals in everything they do. In the studio, there is a lot of attention to detail, which is a nice touch. 
Despite the weak characterization, Shirobako is an intriguing look into creation of anime that anyone interested in the inner workings of an animation studio should most definitely give a try.
Recommended For: Otaku, Those interested in the creation of anime,

Plot Summary: "Five girls chase their dreams. The story revolves around the everyday troubles and hardships that occur when working in the anime industry, and the results and conflicts that happen day-to-day among the group of girls."

Sora no Method
In Lake Kiriya City, a mysterious blue saucer appears in the sky, yet no one knows where it came from or what it wants. Seven years later, the saucer is still in the sky, and it has become an attraction of sorts for the small city. Nonoka Komiya is a girl who had once lived in Lake Kiriya City as a child, directly before the saucer appeared, and after Nonoka and her father move back to the city. After arriving, Nonoka encounters a blue haired girl named Noel. Apparently, Nonoka and Noel have a connection to the saucer's arrival, yet you will have to watch the series to discover why. Four episodes in, Sora no Method (Celestial Method) is setting up some interesting character drama much in the same vein as other series like Anohana, and even though the series might be taking a few aspects that are bit too similar to previous work, thus far, it is delivering a solid drama. Surprisingly, some elements of the plot have already been revealed early in the series' run, which does give me hope that we will not have another Glasslip ending where nothing matters in the end. However, the sci-fi/fantasy elements introduced do add some variety to what could be a clichéd drama. Although, with the manga just starting, there is a chance that we may never receive a proper conclusion, unless, the anime and manga have little connection in terms of story, which is likely.
Studio 3Hz's animation is positively beautiful, and the moe character designs are all very pleasant. However, if slow moving drama is not your thing, maybe Sora no Method is not for you, but for everyone else, give it a try. So far, it is one of the season's better dramas.
Recommended For: Drama fans, Slice-of-Life fans, Sci-fi fans, Moe fans,

Plot Summary: "The story begins one winter day when the wish of a few girls was realized with a miracle, changing the landscape of a town. 'In the skies above this town, a disc is always there.'"

Terra Formars
Terra Formars or, as I like to call, "Censorship the Anime," takes place 500 years in the future after humanity attempts to make Mars a habitable environment by terraforming it with chemicals and leaving the most indestructible creature on earth to live on it, the common cockroach. After hundreds of years of mutation, the cockroaches turn into giant humanoids with incredible strength, durability, and some form of intelligence. To take back Mars, humanity sends genetically enhanced soldiers and researchers to create a base on Mars and retake the planet.
Terra Formars is yet another series to leave me a bit conflicted. The first three episodes are not that great, at times they are even bad and hard to watch on occasion. However, parts of episode three, and most of four and five are surprisingly intense and entertaining. Another strong element is that the characters have absolutely no plot armor. There are a lot of characters, and while they are not fleshed out as well as they could be, main characters just die, instantly, which reminds me of Attack on Titan, except to an even more extreme extent. Because of this, the action scenes are increasingly intense, and it creates a strong sense of dread and foreboding. Yet another strong aspect is the genetically enhanced powers the characters have. When injected with a special serum, the soldiers are able to use abilities of various insects and arachnids to battle the cockroaches, which is very well executed idea for visually exciting sequences.
Aside from the sloppy character dialogue in the first couple of episodes, there is one glaring problem with Terra Formars, the censorship. Due to Terra Formars being aired on television in Japan, the violence is heavily censored. If you thought Tokyo Ghoul's censorship was annoying, Terra Formars is on a whole other level. As you can see in the gifs, the series literally uses black bars and circles to censor the violence, and it is censored to the point of hilarity! Nothing is wrong with censorship if necessary, but so much of it is censored that it drives me crazy at times. Thankfully, the recent episodes featured much less censorship since the giant bugs being killed do not have to be as censored. Part of me wants to wait for the uncensored version, but I am almost a little too impatient to wait because the series has me hooked now. 
In terms of production, Liden Films' animation is not my preferred style, but it has grown on me as the series progresses. The music is surprisingly good in the series; it adds a lot to overall sense of dread.
Despite the slow start, Terra Formars is growing on me to the point where I think it could redeem itself to be one of the better anime of the fall by the end of the season.
Recommended For: Seinen fans, Action fans, Sci-Fi fans,

Plot Summary: "Terra Formars makes its anime debut as a startling work of science fiction and adventure. With Earth becoming increasingly overpopulated, an ambitious plan has been put into place to terraform Mars using mold and cockroaches. Nearly 500 years after the plan, a mission to Mars, Annex 1, is under way to accomplish crucial research into the Virus currently plaguing mankind with the crew members who've been injected with various DNA of life on Earth in order to combat the Terraformars, giant humanoid cockroaches."

Trinity Seven: 7-nin no Mahoutsukai
Trinity Seven: 7-nin no Mahoutsukai, a series that follows Arata Kasuga, who is the only survivor of the “Collapse Phenomenon,” which also took Arata’s cousin, and childhood friend, Hijiri. Arata discovers that he has incredible magic power, and is then recruited into a school for mages, which is, of course, an all girl school, except for Arata. Being the only guy in the school and surrounded by many beautiful girls, a typical plot for an ecchi/harem anime begins. Despite the interesting premise, Trinity Seven is not all that special. It is filled with fanservice and is comedic in tone. However, it is not without its merits. Being an ecchi/harem, it features many archetypal female protagonists, which produces some decent laughs. Seven Arcs’ animation is a little above average, and the use of 3D animation is not all that jarring. Both the opening and ending are among the best of season, featuring some very catchy tunes. For the most part, Trinity Seven is clichéd and a bit typical, but still entertaining at times; I will continue to watch it.
Recommended For: Ecchi/Harem fans, Fantasy fans,

Plot Summary: "In the "romantic comedy but sometime serious magical school story," life as Arata Kasuga knows it is wiped out by a bizarre incident known as "Collapse Phenomenon," which causes worldwide destruction and takes his cousin Hijiri Kasuga to the next world. To resolve the "Collapse Phenomenon" and bring back Hijiri, Arata enrolls in the Royal Biblia Academy. Waiting in the school are seven beautiful female magic users — the Trinity Seven."

Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete
Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete (In Search of Lost Future) is simultaneously intriguing and frustrating! Due to the long name, I will refer to it as Ushinawareta. Ushinawareta's first issue above everything else is the animation, particularly in the first episode, because it looks horrible! For some reason, Studio Feel, who did solid work on Locodol last season, decided to use an awkward blend of 3D and 2D animation to produce an off puttingly ugly effect to the entire series. For example, you may see a character rendered in 2D, and then a second later it changes to an abnormally 3D rendered character design. Oddly enough, the later episodes tone down the 3D-2D blend, and while it does not look horrible, it is still below average. With my frustrations about the animation aside, Ushinawareta tells a time-travel story of sorts. Even though most of the first episode was almost painful to watch, the last few minutes did something so unexpected, and surprisingly effective, that I am now hooked until the end. Thus far, Ushinawareta is not all that great due to the various clichés and the generally generic setting, but something about changing the past in a confusing way is keeping me coming back, despite so many flaws. It is not a guilty pleasure since it is not very pleasurable to watch, but it has hooked me, and now I cannot stop watching it, which is incredibly strange for me. Unless the plot for Ushinawareta pans out, I would not recommend to many viewers, at least not yet.
Recommended For: Time-travel fans,

Plot Summary: "The story is set one autumn at the beginning of the 21st century in the Uchihama area. Uchihama Academy is growing by leaps and bounds. With the construction of a new school building, there will be one last General Club Festival at the old building that is slated to be closed. The students vow to go all out to make this final cultural festival a success.

The Astronomy Club of the protagonist Sou Akiyama is filled with the big names on campus. Just before the festival on October 1, the club receives a request from the student executive committee to calm the uneasiness among the students. There are reports of ghost sightings, accidents, sleeping sickness, and other mysterious incidents at the old building. When Yui Furukawa, a quiet girl who transferred late into the school, appears before Sou, the gears of fate slowly begin to move."

World Trigger
World Trigger is clichéd shounen at its dullest. "One day, a gate to another world suddenly opens in Mikado City. Aliens invincible to Earth’s weapons, called “Neighbors”, start coming over. Earth’s only line of defense is a mysterious group called the “Border” who are armed with weapons called ‘Triggers.’”
World Trigger is about as boring as you can possibly make a shounen action series. There are moments when it is entertaining, yet those are few and far between. Episode three did improve the humor and action, but it is still not enough to keep me watching. The main character, Yūma Kuga, is likable enough, but the second MC, Osamu Mikumo, is incredibly annoying! He is intended to be funny, but it just does not work. To put the nail in the coffin, Toei Animation’s animation in the series is incredibly subpar, even for a shounen. The animation looks like something more than 10 years ago; heck, some anime in the 90s looked better! World Trigger’s only redeeming factor is the opening, which is quite good. Despite my heavy criticisms of the series, it is not all bad. At times, the series can be mildly entertaining, but unless you love the manga or area a hardcore shounen fan, World Trigger is not recommendable.
Recommended For: Manga fans, Harecore shouenen fans,

Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru
Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru (Yūna Yūki is a Hero), or Yuuna for short, is a series that is nothing like the poster or simple plot summary would make you to believe. If you truly want to be surprised by the series, go watch it now, although I am not saying that it is perfect by any means. With that out of the way, Yuuna is much like Madoka Magica, almost too much like it at times. One day, the girls of a school club named "Hero Club" discover that they are chosen to defend earth from giant monsters called "Vertex." Watching the series expecting yet another clichéd club series, yet having it turn into a mahou shoujo was a surprise for sure. However, unlike many mahou shoujo, Yuuna appears to have a slightly darker narrative (emphasis on slight) than a typical mahou shoujo, and the action is much more akin to something like Madoka Magica, except with a science fiction slant. Three episodes in, Yuuna comes as an unexpected surprise. It appears that the series is going to take some of the central elements of Madoka Magica, yet not go in the dark deconstruction route. 
Studio Gokumi's animation is quite solid and a little above average, especially in the action sequences, and the music is quite good as well.
The characters are mostly likable and moe, and the interactions are pleasant to watch. The series appears to be setting up a mysterious, and potentially dark, backstory for one the characters, which could lead in an interesting direction. Yuuna seems to have a lot of potential, and while we will have to wait and see if it can fulfil upon said potential by the end of the series, it is worth watching for fans of the mahou shoujo genre.
Recommended For: Mahou shoujo fans, 

Plot Summary: "The story takes place in the era of the gods, year 300. Yuuna Yuuki lives an ordinary life as a second year middle school student, but she's also a member of the "Hero Club," where club activities involve dealing with a mysterious being called 'Vertex.'"

Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai
Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai (A Good Librarian Like a Good Shepherd) is the type of series that is mostly generic, yet not without entertainment value. While the outward plot is standard fair for a high school club series, something seems to be going on behind the scenes with the Shepherd warning people in the academy before bad things happens (read the summary below). 
So far, Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai is not about much beyond the friendship between the characters, and the cute and sometimes funny interaction. The main female character, Tsugumi Shirasaki, is refreshingly understanding of an awkward situation that occurs between her and the main male character, Kyōtarō Kakei, which obviously leads to misunderstandings and various antics.
Hoods Entertainment’s animation is mostly standard for the genre, although it does have a few moments of above average animation.
Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai is the type of series that is worth watching, due to the lack of major flaws, yet it is not a series that I would recommend to everyone, especially if you only watch a few anime each season.
Recommended For: Club genre fans, High school genre fans,

Plot Summary: "The story is set at Shiomi Academy, a vast, prestigious academy with a Daitoshokan (literally, "great library") that rivals Japan's national library. As a member of the Library Club, Kyoutarou Kakei goes to Daitoshokan to enjoy reading by himself. He then meets a second-year girl named Tsugumi Shirasaki through the efforts of a so-called 'shepherd' who fulfills people's wishes. Eventually, more girls join the club thanks to the 'shepherd.'"

What are your favorites of the season? Watch series are you watching? Please comment below and let me know.

Below are links to the previous parts of my fall impressions, as well as my summer review.
Fall Anime Impressions: Part 1
Fall Anime Impressions: Part 2
Fall Anime Impressions: Part 3

Summer Anime Review: Top 20: Part 1
Summer Anime Review: Top 20: Part 2
Summer Anime Review: Top 20: Part 3

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Godzilla (2014) Review

Godzilla, a film with such an awesome trailer that everyone expected it to be one of the best films of the year. 
After nuclear plant meltdown in 1999, American scientist, Joe Brody, believes the true cause of the meltdown is just a cover for something far more dangerous. Since most readers know the basic premise of Godzilla, and because discussing the plot any further would delve into spoiler territory, I will leave the plot summary at that. 
One aspect of Godzilla that is both a positive and negative is that, despite many expectations, the movie does not try to reach very height in terms of saying something meaningful or trying to create profound characters. Why is this a positive you might ask? Because, since the movie does not try to think it is something other than a disaster monster flick, it does not necessarily fail. Man of Steel is an example of a film that thought of itself as smart and profound; while it was actually a simple and self-important movie (it was not bad, just dull). Even though a lot of people expected Godzilla something of truly higher quality, the movie does not even try, and thus, it succeeds at what it wants to accomplish. 
Directed by: Gareth Edwards
Genre: Action, Disaster, Kaiju, Monster, Sci-Fi,
Release Date: May 16, 2014
Running Time: 123 minutes
MMPA rating: PG-13

The Good: Godzilla is epic!, Top notch visual effects, Great cinematography, Godzilla has legitimate personality. A few cheer worthy moments, Epic monster battles,

The Bad: Forgettable characters, Gaps in logic, Too much teasing, Overuse of dark lighting,

Plot: 6.1/10- The best way to describe Godzilla's plot is adequate. Almost everything about the film is straightforward and simple without any complex themes. Of course, being a monster flick, one does not expect that from the film, so it worked to deliver the destruction and spectacular visuals. What did work in the film is that it takes a different direction than expected, although I avoided all but the early trailers to the film, so maybe it did not surprise others. Unfortunately, like other recent films from Legendary Pictures, Godzilla is a great looking film with many gaps in logic when you think about it.

Characterization: 5.2/10- Godzilla's characters are neither good nor bad, they are just there. Not for a second did I care about the characters, or even remember their names. 
However, the characters served their purpose in the story adequately. Despite this, Godzilla himself has more personality than any of the characters in the film. With only 12 minutes of screen time, somehow Godzilla actually has a personality, which is odd considering that he is a giant lizard, but it definitely works. Everything about Godzilla is the highlight of the film.

Action: 7.2/10- When the giant monster throwdown happens, it is freaking epic! Seeing Godzilla throwdown is so absurdly fun and exciting to watch, and it almost makes you feel like a little kid again. Godzilla's fighting style really works and seems believable for such a massive creature. *Possible Spoilers* Unfortunately , director, Gareth Edwards, decides to tease the audience until the final act. Other films like Jaws and the original Godzilla tease the audience to build suspense, yet Edwards seems like he is just screwing with the audience, instead of building suspense. Even before watching the movie, I knew it was going to happen, but it did not make it any less annoying, especially to those watching it with me, who did not know about the massive tease. *End Spoilers*

Acting: 7.0/10- Bryan Cranston is above average in his role, although with someone with such prestige as an actor, one would expect both a better performance and more screen time. 
Aaron Taylor-Johnson is fine in the role of Ford Brody and, and the same goes for Elizabeth Olsen, who plays the Ford’s wife. Oddly enough, Olsen and Johnson will be playing twins Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch in the Age of Ultron film, so that will totally not be awkward.... Ken Watanabe gives a solid performance as the lone Japanese actor in the main cast. On a side note, the film has quite a bit of Japanese without subtitles, and unless you know at least a bit of Japanese like myself, some scenes can be potentially confusing. 

Special effects: 9.0/10- Godzilla's special effects are an obvious highlight of the film. Godzilla looks amazing and moves with a real sense of weight. The other creatures are not rendered nearly as well, which is a shame since they receive far more screen time, although the CGI is still well above average. Aside from pulling the audience's chain one too many times, Gareth Edwards' directing and cinematography is top notch throughout the film. However, there is one notable flaw, the overuse of dark lighting to obscure fight scenes and other elements.
Soundtrack: 7.5/10- Alexandre Desplat's score works in the film, even if it is not the most memorable.

Humor: N/A- 

Entertainment Value: 7.6/10- Godzilla is a generally fun movie to watch, and while others had problems with the pacing, it did not seem to drag that much. Towards the end however, there are some truly amazing scenes of monster action.

Overall: 7.2/10- Despite the forgettable characters and gaps in logic, Godzilla is a simple yet fun monster disaster flick that is sure to entertain.

Closing comments: Godzilla is not the type of film that is trying to say anything relevant or create characters that you genuinely character for. It is the type of film that delivers the big monster battles and scenes of massive disaster without (much) consequences.

Recommended for: Sci-Fi fans, Action fans, Disaster fans, Kaiju fans

Click here to check out more of my movie reviews.

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