Tag Archives: dramatic

Naruto: Shippuden, My New Obsession

After 10 straight months of watching nothing but, I am completely caught up in the world of Naruto. I’ve started performing Fireball Jutsu’s all over my house, creating Rasengans with my long time friend and avid fan, and even bought a rather expensive and very nice Shino Aburame cosplay for my own personal enjoyment. In a word, obsessed. I can’t get enough of this show, and you already know all I’m gonna do in this post is rant and rave about Naruto: Shippuden. Keep the episodes coming, I want to see Naruto: Shippuden, episode 500.

For those of you who are familiar with Naruto, I don’t need to remind you of the original story. Naruto has lost Sasuke and needs to get

Badass, character clash, as per usual.

stronger to get him back (if he can at all). After 3 years, Naruto returns with a vengeance, a few new Rasengans up his sleeve, and a new unbreakable vow and fervor. Sakura is a bit more badass, but just as useless as before (her battle with Sasori almost leaves something to be desired, Granny Chiyo did most of the work…). The new partner, Sai, is an unlovable bastard with a strange affinity for Japanese ink drawings. Everyone else is pretty legit now in Shippuden. Gotta love my Shikamaru.

So who are the new baddies in this one? Well, you have the Akatsuki. These guys were an outer force in the original Naruto with Kisame and Itachi trying to capture Naruto. The reason? The Nine-Tailed Fox that rests within him. And the other eight tailed beasts (Bijuu) that rest inside their ninjas (Jinchuriki). Sorry for any misspellings. If they get all 9 of the tailed beasts, it’s game over for the world of ninjas. And with 10 badass Akatsuki, the most relentless fighters in all the land, it’s gonna be a fight to the death. And it doesn’t stop there.

What could this be I wonder…

Sasuke has obviously teamed up with Kabuto and Orochimaru, wielding the ways of fire, lightning, and snakes. It’s all very badass, but who (other than fangirls) really likes Sasuke? He’s a bad boy, and he’s kind of a whiny biatch about his brother. (More on that later in the series.) Anyways…

Everybody has powered up and all these new Jutsu’s are being thrown around like hotcakes. Shikamaru is a Jonin, and he’s so damn smart that he’s actually super important in the main plotline. Perfection in a can. Choji is as wonderful as always, his battle with the Sound Ninja in Naruto being one of my favorite fights of all time. Neji lookin’ like a huge master, as per usual. Not a single character has become less cool than they were in Naruto original. Rock Lee, ballin’ and breakin’ hard as well.

And there’s so much I can’t tell you that is just so good to watch! All of the emotions and the brand new soundtrack that makes this one so much more adult and dramatic than anything ever before. The fluid fight scenes and crisp animation make it an enjoyable watch with every episode. I’m learning all the hand signs as we speak.

Here’s a new twist. Does anybody remember my last post on Naruto? I watched that all dubbed. BIG MISTAKE. Maile

Epic and beautiful, all-in-one.

Flanagan ruined it, and the only redeeming qualities for me were Itachi, Shino, Shikamaru, Rock Lee, and Gaara (Liam O’Brien for life). So I watched this one subbed. And let me tell you, Junko Takeuchi is a godsend. She does an amazing job as Naruto and really creates a character that feels and hell, even goes through puberty. Try to pull that off, Male Flapagan. (Every other Japanese voice actor is amazing too. Shino’s deep voice threw me off though…)

What more can I say about this show to rave about it…

There’s a character for everyone in this show. Every character has a unique personality and fighting style that anyone can fall behind. You get what appears to be the precursor and inspiration for Avatar: The

Just for funzies.

Last Airbender with the different element affinities, and plenty of strategic battles that go off so badass like. With so many versions of Naruto and the greatest one-ups-manships of all time, Naruto and Naruto: Shippuden will disappoint no one. At all.

With incredible backstories of a bunch of new characters, great all around presentation, and a fandom that can’t be beat, Naruto: Shippuden gets a well deserved 11 out of 10, my first more than perfect score ever.

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The Raid: Redemption. Action, Done Right.

And now we come to what has become one of my favorite movies of all time. The Raid Redemption is one of the most cohesive, brutal, action driven films I have seen since I first watched The Protector with Tony Jaa. And what makes it better is that a lot of people actually like it. For once, Rotten Tomatoes is right in giving it a 83% fresh rating. This movie is fresh as hell.

What should I start with in talking about this martial arts movie to the extreme? Well, its

Get your shoot on.

basis comes from some of the best. In an interview, I remember Gareth Evans saying he was inspired by Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and earlier films of the time. But when you see this, you know it shoots right into the vein of Muay Thai, no holds barred, stunt fighting with punches hardly pulled. People are getting worked in this movie (on and off camera). And when you introduce guns into the mix, you know things are going to get even more brutal.

And there’s a plot here as well! No running after elephants and single minded goals to be had here. There’s a raid, some character development, and then a twist. Everything you need in a movie like

Br00tal.

this. Basically, Iko Uwais, now one of my top 5 favorite martial artists of all time, plays Rama, a passionate SWAT team member with a wife and a baby on the way. His team leader, Jaka (Joe Taslim) is determined to do the mission with no losses and everything in order and justified. But with the sounding of the alarm, a 30 floor slum building crawling with hundreds of crime gangs, everything is going to go off.

Other than the adequate acting in this film, I was really impressed that some martial artists I hadn’t see before showed up in this one. Joe Taslim was quite the throw artist with his specialty in Judo. His fight with Mad Dog was literally redonkulous. And then there’s Mad Dog himself, played by Yayan Ruhian. That little greasy haired monkey absolutely destroys half of the people in this movie, and doesn’t even stop when he gets a light bulb shaft shoved in his neck. Unbelievably badass. Throw in the expertise of Iko Uwais and his Silat, and you have the best 101 minutes of my life.

What I was surprised about in this movie was how much weaponry was used in a classically martial arts movie. Guns,

Mad Dog, unleashed.

assault rifles, knives, police clubs, the environment as well as the weapons available created a more realistic situation than just fists and feet. (Watch out for the Machete Gang though…) People getting thrown into furniture and off of ledges, this movie becomes so brutal everybody is shouting “OH!” while watching it.

Now we come to the soundtrack. For the U.S. and English speaking release (I mean subtitled of course), Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park was recruited to make his own original electronic soundtrack to complement the movie in comparison to the Indonesian release. What is created is what I would consider a throwback to the first two L.P. albums which is far superior to the stuff they’re coming out with now. The drums and bass come in at just the right moments to escalate your emotions and really get your blood pumping. Just like a video game, you have this rising action as you get into unique fight after unique fight. Superb.

30 floors of Hell.

Throw together all these elements and you have a Welsh director in an English speaking country that gets Eastern martial arts cinema. If I could grow up to be like him, I’d do it. The Raid: Redemption just proves that martial arts action films can be explosive, entertaining, and dramatic. 9.8 out of 10.


Ghost Rider 2: Spirit of Vengeance

The second I saw this trailer in theaters and Ghost Rider is pissing fire, I lost my mind. First, I am a huge Nicholas Cage fan and love all of his work, good or bad. Second, I am a huge fan of the Ghost Rider comics. And this movie came up just at the right time. The first one didn’t do it for me. It gave me a small taste of the Ghost Rider I’m familiar with from the comics, but wasn’t true enough. This one, thankfully, redeemed that for me a bit.

In this installment of what I hope turns into a yearly thing, Ghost Rider is back. With a vengeance. Etc., etc., etc. And this time, Johnny Blaze is trying to hold back his powers. Knowing that, if he unleashes them, The Rider will kill those he loves and hates, Blaze must hold back the demon. This works for a time but soon, his powers are needed to save the world.

Nic Cage is back, with a more badass bike.

At the start of this film, in a nondescript location, Moreau (Idris Elba) is a drunken vigilante priest set out to warn a castle full of monks that they are no longer safe and cannot protect a young boy named Danny (Fergus Riordan) who is said to have the Devil within him. He must be kept from evil before the day of reckoning, and, of course, that’s not gonna happen. A swat-like takedown ensues and Danny and his mother Nadya (Violante Placido) are forced to leave the safety of the castle. Moreau performs a dastardly move and protects Nadya and Danny for a while.

Guilty.

Meanwhile, after Moreau escapes from his lofty predicament, he seeks out the help of Johnny Blaze, The Ghost Rider (Nicholas Cage). Confining himself to a shed in the middle of Europe somewhere, Blaze vows never to allow his powers to be used again. When told of Danny’s situation and the promise that Moreau can help remove his powers, Blaze agrees to let The Rider out one more time.

Nadya and Danny are on the run from Ray Carrigan (Johnny Whitworth), a no good gun runner and overall punk who is in league with Rourke, The Devil (Ciaran Hinds). He is successful in kidnapping him a number of times and it is up to Moreau, Nadya and Blaze to save him before it’s too late.

How is this drunk man driving?

I was more impressed with this movie more than the other one. Scott M. Gimple, Seth Hoffman, and David S. Goyer wrote a better script/plot that allowed for more elements of The Ghost Rider universe to enter. Johnny Blaze’s conflicted feelings come into effect in this movie. Although Peter Fonda didn’t come back for Mephistopheles (The Devil), Rourke was a poor substitute. Hinds’ decrepit body was no appeal for a diabolical devil. Blackout was a good addition to the series, although the decaying thing isn’t really a part of it, and Blackout is more a factor in the Danny Ketch/Ghost Rider series. Including Danny as a suggestion for the continuation for the Marvel Knight’s Ghost Rider was exciting, but that Fergus kid was a strange one.

Good old Johnny Whitworth is back!

The writers got most of the powers right, and even added a new one. Leaving out the Penance Stare was a bit disappointing and I really enjoyed that in the last film. But what was cool about this one was the ability for The Rider to create any vehicle into a Hellfire machine. I know it’s not true to the comics, but the CG suggestion of it was pretty badass. What they should have brought in was The Rider’s shotgun which projects hellfire. That’s what I’m talkin’ about.

I think where most people got hung up on this movie was Nic Cage’s performance. His performance comes off as over the top manic, and, if he had toned it down, things may have gone over better. His age is also a factor in the movies. A much younger Johnny Blaze probably would’ve been better. And the “Cage stigma” on the film probably stigmatizes the whole thing, but hey, as least it was a more truthful approach to Ghost Rider.

A little bit of the Nic Cage madness.

Other than the Cage’s acting, I was impressed with Idris Elba’s performance in this movie. This English actor badass from the 5th season of The Office as Charles Miner and his hit/award winning show Luther, his acting really attempted to tie down the movie in a more dramatic superhero style. Violante Placido wasn’t bad, although hard to pinpoint where she was coming from in this movie. The most exciting part for me in this movie was the return of Johnny Whitworth to my knowledge in the film world. After having not seen him since The Rainmaker, I was happy to see his good lookin’ mug again. And Ciaran Hinds just came across as some decrepit pedophile, no thanks to a strangeness in his character’s lines.

Get a taste of them comics, G.R. fans.

Other than that, I’m glad that The Rider returned. And Nicholas Cage thought, “Hey, I’ll reprise the role and give the people a show.” With a darker outlook on the Ghost Rider series, I really appreciated this one more than the other. And hope for more. Much more. This Ghost Rider gets a 7.5 out of 10.


Casshern Sins: Robotic Humans, or Human Robots?

Hey all you readers out there! It’s been too long, so now I’ve returned in full force! Expect over the next few days to be reading over 10 new posts! I’m pumped and I hope you all are too. So let’s get down to this.

A little while ago, I watched Casshern Sins, the story of a mecha dramatic tragedy in which the world is ending and there’s no glimmer of hope in sight. And who is this tragedy all due to? Casshern. The misunderstood tragic hero of this tale is said to be invincible. By destroying the Sun Called Moon, Luna, Casshern has gained invincibility and is now sought by all robots to be consumed. Why he is sought to be cannibalized, you may ask? Casshern, with his everlasting life, appears to be the only cure in a world that now is overrun with the Ruin. The Ruin is a disease of sorts that begins to slowly errode the machines. With their metallic bodies rusting, it seemed as if the immortality that had been achieved by humans and robots alike. With the meshing of these two races into one race against time, Casshern must rediscover his murder of Luna and the world in which he has destroyed.

Now, to tell the truth, this anime threw me for a loop. I had caught the first 4 episodes at Anime Boston and I found it to be dark and interesting. With a sort of

The interesting art of Casshern.

animation and drawing style I’d never seen before, the first 4 episodes seemed to flow with a slow undercurrent slowly building. Never having seen what Masaki Takei has done before (it seems as if he’s written/created smaller works dealing with sci-fi/fantasy) I was intrigued with the way in which this anime looked. With swooping hairstyles and slender, fluid characters up against the blocky, brutal masses, this sci-fi drama blends the worlds of what’s real and what is seen as the apocalyptic future into one.

Eric Vale gives a stirring performance as Casshern.

What really caught my eye about this anime was some of the voice acting. Not knowing which characters would remain constant after the first 4 episodes, I found Eric Vale, the voice of Casshern, to be a compelling and distant character. His innocent voice withholding power to end lives creates a construct in a character often show in control, but that’s the last thing that Casshern is. Lyuze (Brina Palencia) gave another angle to Casshern Sins with a character with a soft side and revengeful edge. Another few actors that round out the top actors of this anime are Jerry Jewell, Shelley Calene-Black, and Jason Douglas, characters that’re introduced later in the anime.

And now I come to the bad point about this anime. The cyclical nature of this anime is its downfall. Despite the draw of the first four episodes, the following 20 episodes follow in the same fashion. Casshern, on his journey of discovery, comes across characters with tragic and emotional pasts. And what happens? He passes on past them and continues on his way. Either through destruction or heartbreak, Casshern can’t seem to come to terms with those around him and his uncontrollable power. But this anime, if you can get past its monotonous pace, really makes up for this in its art style and fluid animation in a rigidly dying world. So I encourage you to check it out. I give Casshern Sins a 5.8 out of 10. The Abyss is back in full force!

If anything, the fluidity may blow you away.


Paprika: The Inception Anime

So based on my new obsession with anime, my mom picked this little anime film up for me from the library. I had not expectations and I was delightfully surprised. This anime film, which got positive reviews across the board in 2006, is an anime about dreams. In my opinion, anime is one of the few mediums that can accurately depict dreams. (Nice attempt Christopher Nolan, but this film came 4 years earlier than your Inception.) If I had seen this before I had seen Inception, I would’ve considered Inception a rip-off (sort of is). But it’s comparing apples to oranges. And that’s the way in which this anime stands out.

Paprika is a story that appears to take place in modern day. A Japanese technology company has created a piece of technology known as the DC Mini. These apparatus is used by psychologists to analyze the dreams of patients firsthand in order to diagnose and treat their patients. The one problem? The machine hasn’t been finished. And then it’s stolen. So the members of the company must go on what appears to be a wild goose chase in order to find who stole them before dreams become fused with reality.

That’s what makes this film unique. At any moment, the characters in the film could be dreaming, awake or asleep, and the

What's going on here? Probably why it's rated R...

mind-bending elements that present themselves in this film as the characters navigate the dreams is done beautifully. The film incorporates a love of parades, movies, and the thrill of flight all in one. Although I myself do not dream in terms of surreality, I could appreciate the elements of dreaming used that most people experience. The vivid colors and feeling of a warped reality and drawn beautifully and the movements of the characters are animated fluently and gracefully, something I’ve found that some anime have trouble with. (I guess it all depends on the budget and skill of the artists…)

Yuri Lowenthal. Fat, but good.

The voice actors are decent, most notably is Yuri Lowenthal. I didn’t pick up on his voice immediately, but he is one of those A-list voice actors that get a lot of work today. I think now would be a good time to explain voice acting in terms of skill. In the past (1970’s to 1990’s I believe) voice actors were picked more often for the sound of their voice rather than their acting skills. (It’s like choosing a sports announcer.) But in recent decades, voice actors are being chosen for their versatility and their acting skills. It’s this change that has given a lot of credit to an industry that is not seen as all that credible in America. In a more dramatic sense, in comparison to cartoon voice actors, these actors can perform dramatic as well as comedic and everything in between. And this gives us a better viewing experience because sound is half the battle in anime. Big league hitter companies in anime dubbing are ones like Funimation and Aniplex.

Paprika. Worth the jump.

Other than that, there is a certain cute element to Paprika. If you watch the ending romance you’ll understand. Characters are thrown into each other’s dreams and the underlying feelings that are discovered help bring a happy ending. I do enjoy those snapshot films where a problem arises and returned to normal through understanding and conflict resolution. A “slice of life” if you will. And that’s what Paprika is. A little slice of dreams. 8.1 out of 10.


Creation: The “A Beautiful Mind” of the 1800’s

So I just finished this movie and, I have to say, I was blown away by its simplicity. I’m pretty sure this movie had about 5 shooting locations, and this simplicity alone was touching and dramatic. This film about the entity that is Charles Darwin and the theory that changed the world through conflict, was one of anguish, inner turmoil, and alienation. This movie may have been pure speculation about the life of Darwin and his quest to write “Origin of the Species,” but it is rare to encounter a film that makes you believe that the actor who is Darwin must have known Darwin. Must have been Darwin.

I had heard about this movie a year or so ago and have always had an affinity for Paul Bettany. All of his

Paul Bettany as Darwin with his Wife Jennifer Connelly as, well, his wife.

work is top shelf stuff. And Creation is no exception. Another amazing piece from across the sea, and it kept me entranced in Bettany and those around Darwin. The 1850’s was a time of religious dominance and this film portrayed that quite clearly. It is this conflict between science and religion (still ongoing) that frames the film. It is not all encompassing of the purpose, but gives substance to the interactions between work, family, and the past.

Martha West as Emma Darwin. What a relationship they had.

There are two amazing relationships that also frame this movie. The first is between Darwin and his daughter Annie (Martha West). The conflict between the live Annie and the memory of her past self haunts Darwin throughout the film. Annie loves her father and his dedication and fervor for life. And at the same time, she loves her mother and the devotion she shows to her religion. As Bettany says ever so touchingly, “I thought we were making the perfect child.” But it is this child that causes the loss of faith as well as the devotion to his soon to be world changing book. And, with every painful interaction, Darwin is forced to face the demons of his past and the issue that this creates with his family, most importantly his wife. And therein lies the second best relationship portrayed in the film. Between Darwin and Emma (Jennifer Connelly), there is an ocean. Emma’s religion and Darwin’s science seem to be the issue at the heart of the problem, but in a surprising and touching twist, it is the daughter that causes the rift. And the resolution is worth the watch in itself. It is rare in films that a leading man and lady would be married in real life. This is one of them. And I give that credit to whoever cast a married couple in a role like this. It’s absolutely amazing to watch two people with chemistry that is based in life to interact on film. Every scene with their interaction is so fluid and natural that I was blown away by how wonderful it must be to be those two in love. Quite literally the best part of the film.

Quite similar.

And there are a few notable mentions to make about minor acting parts. Freya Parks does a great job as Etta, the oldest of Darwin’s children, fighting for the attention of her father who is perpetually focused on the memory of his dead daughter. Her scenes are touching and tragic in the way that she tries and seems to flounder without any affection from her father. The last scene, something to see. Benedict Cumberbatch (BBC’s current Sherlock) gave a great minor performance as Mr. Hooker, one of Darwin’s confidantes and emotional support in his hour of need when it comes to writing his book. And Martha West, bless her heart, gave it her all as Annie, the focus of Darwin’s obsession and past regrets. Having to play a protagonist and antagonist simultaneously must be quite hard for a child, and she pulls it off with aplomb.

You may have noticed the title of this blog. And I would have to say this plot reminds me of A Beautiful Mind, the great Ron Howard award winning story of another theorist who could see figments of his imagination, John Nash. All of the dramatic elements are there and its done with the same grace. I gotta give credit to Jon Amiel, a director who I’ve not seen do anything like this before, directing with all he has. Throw in some scenes straight out of The Fall with their exotic nature, and you have a recipe for a great movie. 9.5 out of 10.