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"Making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil."

~Ephesians 5:16

Saturday, November 29, 2014

5 Reasons Why the New Pokemon Movie is Pretty Awful

The poster itself is better than the movie
It's amazing to think that the first Pokemon film came out sixteen years ago. The show itself has been going on for seventeen years. Sadly the anime jumped the shark a long time ago. The movies however are usually a breath of fresh air amidst mediocrity. They usually offer high budget animation, a grand plot, and somewhat good fight scenes. Unfortunately the latest one, Cocoon of Destruction, makes Pokemon 4Ever look like a masterpiece. Instead of this being a formal review I'm going instead list the five primary negatives, because there's not many positive things to say!

1. Length
Diancie isn't happy about being in such mediocrity
Wow, this "movie" is short. It's just a little over an hour. It feels more like a TV special. Because of its pitiful length, there's virtually no time to establish any of the new characters. (And there's quite a few.) Of course, a solid script could do wonders, but this is one of the most mediocre writing attempts I've seen in the franchise.

2.Marilyn Flame & Ninja Riot
Supposed to be an emotional moment
Who the heck were these two? They literally show up out of nowhere with no backstory. After chasing Diance and realizing it's a lost cause, Riot decides it's best to give up and be together with Marilyn. This would be a touching scene if this were any other movie, but these two are so poorly established the viewer feels virtually nothing.

3. Argus Steel & Millis Steel
Easily the worst design for a human antagonist yet
She is the unfortunate product of a good character ruined by a poor script
Same problem as above. These two get no backstory and their goal isn't even that understandable. It's an interesting dynamic that Millis is Argus's daughter, but since once again they're so poorly established as characters, it doesn't matter. I don't even remember what happened to them after Yveltal blew them away.

4. Team Rocket
Easily the most laughable characters in all of existence
Team Rocket is probably the worst written characters in the entire franchise by now. They literally serve no purpose here at all. They could have easily been written out of the script, but I guess there's some sort of rule that says they have to be in every movie and virtually every episode right?

5. The "Final Battle"
Such wasted animation
This is the big movie based on the X & Y games, so of course a lot of hype was on Xerneas and Yveltal since this would be their first movie appearance. Yveltal has some impressive destruction scenes, which in theory should set up for an epic climax between the two. We don't get that. Instead we get what is perhaps the worst final battle in Pokemon history. The two literally throw a few beams at each other, and then Xerneas wins by...we don't even know! Her final beam did something to Yveltal since it sent the latter flying away. It's not explained and then the deer transformers into a tree for hibernation. This is definitely what players of the game have waited a year for...

Pokemon the anime franchise continues to become more and more mediocre. This movie is an immense disappointment, especially for people that played through X and Y last year. You're better off watching the first film for the 10th time.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction Review

The Transformers movies are one of the most interesting contradictions in film history. They get very negative reviews, (the only one to reach above 50% on Rotten Tomatoes is the first one) yet each does astounding in the box office. It seems the concept of giant robots battling it out is so great that it overrides all the mediocrity. The last one, Dark of the Moon, was supposed to be the final one in this saga. The way it ends makes sense: the Deceptions are destroyed and most of Megatron had been turned to scrap. Director Michael Bay even went on record to say it would be his last one. But alas, when a film makes so much money the company doesn't want them to stop, so here we are three years later with the fourth installment: Age of Extinction. This movie is yet another example of why Bay is one of my least favorite directors. It's not terrible however, and there quite a few factors that deserve praise, such as the amazing action sequences. Sadly the writing and characters is typical Bay fare.

It's been four years since the battle of Chicago. The Autobots have gone into hiding and the Decepticons are no longer a group. Sadly, the CIA group known as Cemetery Wind is hunting down the good guys and making it seem to the public that they are actually runaway Deceptions. They are doing this with the help of a bounty hunter transformer known as Lockdown, who is neither Autobot nor Decepticon. Eventually Optimus Prime is brought back to life thanks to an inventor named Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) and goes on a mission to rally all Autobots. Things turn really bad however when Cemetery is able to make their own Transformers, one of which is called Galvatron, who contains some of Megatron's soul...

Before we get into the many negatives, let's talk about what the film does right. The action scenes are the best of the series, and probably the greatest from all movies this year. Sadly there are too many background shots of them and cutaways to what the human characters are doing, but when the camera focuses on those fights it's amazing. Gone are the days when the viewer couldn't tell what was happening because every bot looked the same. Peter Cullen delivers another fantastic voice performance for Optimus Prime, who is easily once again the primary highlight. Sadly most of the notable characters died in Dark of the Moon, so a good majority of the Autobots and all the Decepticons are new. Galvatron is nicely established, though doesn't get nearly enough screen time. Since this is the start of a new trilogy, it's forgivable.

Lockdown is the new antagonist established. Unlike Shockwave in Dark of the Moon, he's given adequate screen time and an interesting character. Aside from Prime, he was easily the most engaging Transformer. Sadly with Starscream, Soundwave, Shockwave and all the other notable Decepticons dead, new characters are established. They can't talk so basically they're just a bunch of one-shots. It's been stated otherwise, but hopefully a way is found to bring back those aforementioned characters because new ones just aren't going to cut it. Interestingly, Bumblebee is given a rather small role in comparison with the previous three movies. His character portrayal is also much more annoying. Drift and Hound bring something to the table and make for a fine Autobot team. (Crosshairs on the other hand not so much.)

One of the primary things that destroyed the previous movies is the awful human cast. With Shia LeBeouf gone from this movie, some hope was that the main lead would actually be likable and engaging. Mark Wahlberg's character is definitely an improvement. For the most part he's the epitome of what a decent character in a Michael Bay Transformers film looks like. Sadly, it's the directing and writing that kill what could be a very good character. The film's tone is half comedy, which is a real shame and typical Bay-fare. Too often in these movies the story revolves around the humans with the robots in the background; it should be the opposite. (For a great example, check out the Transformers Prime TV show, which is more competently written than all four movies combined.)

Perhaps the worst thing about the Transformer films is the heavy reliance on sexual appeal. Megan Fox wasn't there for her acting skills in the first two movies, and Rose Huntington-Whiteley might have even been worst in Dark of the Moon. (There's something wrong if the very first scene with a lead actress in a movie that is supposed to be about a robot conflict is barely dressed.) This time however instead of being an adult what we have is a 17 year old senior in high school. Nicola Peltz's character (Tessa Yeager) could have been okay if this movie was from a different director. Her very first line to her friends, "After school girls in the summer we're going to get wasted whoohoo!" destroyed any chance of her being likable. From there forward she's displayed as some sort of super model. (Keep in mind again that in-movie she's underage.) Then we have her boyfriend Shane (Jack Reynor) who is one mediocre character. "I'm not helping you save your daughter, I'm helping you save my girlfriend." "I like to be fresh when I'm making out with your daughter." The writing in this movie needs some serious help in producing likable characters and competent dialogue.

There are a few other notable (in a bad way) characters. We have Cade's assistant Lucas who is there just to provide comedy relief. (Thankfully he dies early on, I wonder if that was supposed to be a sad scene because I can confirm no viewer was feeling emotional.) There's Joshua Joyce, who's a decent character until after the middle where he replaces Lucas for comedic relief. The acting is extremely over the top, no one would be acting like this considering what's going on. The human antagonist would be Harold Attinger, who is definitely one of the best human characters, maybe even the best. Moving on to arguably the most hyped aspect of the film: Grimlock and the Dinobots.

For some odd reason, the word 'Dinobot' isn't used and none of them are referred to by name. If the viewer isn't a long time fan, how will he or she know who they are? The actual portrayal is decent. The CGI is absolutely stunning and the rampage into the city destroying the bad guys was easily one of the film's highlights. Sadly, they seem to lack the personality which is present in almost all other continuities. Grimlock in particular if you read some of the comics can see that he was one of the most engaging Transformers. (Hopefully this is fixed in the sequel.) The soundtrack is pretty strong, having plenty of great themes and even some emotional ones when appropriate.

Overall, Age of Extinction suffers from many of the same problems the previous three Transformers movies has. It does improve in some areas, such as action scenes and plot progression. Optimus Prime is the highlight once again, and Lockdown ranks as one of the most interesting antagonists of the movie series. The human characters are very miss, which is in big part due to the mediocre writing. (The day Michael Bay actually has an engaging female lead in one of these movies will be a day to remember.) It's still a pretty fun film for the most part, and might be the best of the movie series aside from the first one. (Not that that's saying much of course.)