Saturday, December 17, 2016

Pokemon: The First Movie - Mewtwo Strikes Back (1998) Review:

Since its introduction to the world, Pokemon is one of the most recognizable and popular animes to ever exist. With TV show seasons far longer than many others, the adventures of Ash Ketchum and co. has captured the imaginations of people of all ages. All this based on the catch phrase "Gotta catch 'em all!". On top of that, with augmented reality becoming more and more prominent in today's culture, smart phone app Pokemon GO further cemented its craze among fans. However before this, Pokemon boomed with success even with its first theatrical film. In retrospect, it might have been bigger than today's excitement. When it started, Pokemon was all about catching the total 150 types throughout its world. But when the trailer made it clear that Ash would be coming in contact with the last Pokemon of the official list, it drove people nuts. Nobody knew what to expect and people were psyched to see what happened. Revisiting it again was definitely a nice little trip down memory lane but it does have a few things that should be recognize that needed fixing.

Picking up close after the first TV season, the film starts with an introduction to Mewtwo (Jay Goede), the 151rst-pokemon waking up from his initial cloning. Confused and frustrated with his placement, he learns that he is a clone of mythical pokemon Mew but more powerful. After being informed his usefulness will only be for his extensive strength, Mewtwo becomes angry and declares world domination over humans and the pokemon who follow them. It is with that viewers are switched over to Ash (Veronica Taylor), Misty (Rachael Lillis) and Brock (Eric Stuart) doing what they do in every episode. That is until they are invited to New Island to meet the best pokemon master (Mewtwo); but they don't know this. Tagging along is the infamous Team Rocket still looking to capture Ash's Pikachu (Ikue Ă”tani). Originally written by Takeshi Shudo and adapted by Michael Haigney, Norman J. Grossfeld and John Touhey, the script is okay but does have its problems. Like many foreign movies, scripts get lost in translation and that's what happened here.

Shudo's screenplay had painted Mewtwo in a much more innocent depiction. Instead of being hell-bent on conquering the world because of mistreatment, Mewtwo was a pokemon who sought to prove itself to others. As to how that would've gotten worked into the western version of the script is up for debate but apparently the idea of making Mew's clone a tyrant was easier. Hard to say. Yet this is one of the film's major flaws. The overall moral to the story ends up being stated that "fighting/violence is wrong". Yet this is a complete contradiction to the whole essence of pokemon because majority of the way fans play the games is by having their partners fight in battle. So the point was what again? Another odd tidbit was various circumstances various characters had to endure. Sometimes there were times where things weren't as plausible as portrayed. The other problem to this film is for people who are not familiar with pokemon. This did not initiate pokemon so in order to understand the movie one had to watch the show.

So if a viewer has never watched the show, they won't be as engrossed as other fans because they never met Ash and company or anyone else. For fans however, seeing this was a big deal and looking back on it now can be a nostalgic journey. Surprisingly there are a number of scenes that involve dialog that probably viewers of younger ages wouldn't understand, but now is more clever or funny sounding. It's inside humor that is realized over time that can make the movie all the more enjoyable to revisit in later years. All voice actors involved with this production perform well and do what is required to make it sound more connected to the TV show. As always Veronica Taylor, Rachael Lillis and Eric Stuart as the main protagonist and antagonists are the best choices for these roles. Jay Goede as Mewtwo although short-lived in his role definitely made the character sound unique enough. Mewtwo would later receive a short explaining more on his backstory with Goede reprising the role. Too bad he didn't do much else other than this.

"You can't do this,...I won't let you"
One thing that doesn't make sense in this film is that cinematography was credited to Hisao Shirai. Not exactly sure why it was listed because there wasn't a scene of live-action unless accounting for one scene with realistic looking clouds. Other than that, the animation looks great. Much of it looks more polished than that of the TV series, which would obviously have a smaller budget. Especially towards the finale it is at its best quality in detail. The music is thankfully another plus. The soundtrack has several nostalgic tunes from the late 1990s with artists like M2M and Blessid Union of Souls. Very catchy pop songs. Even composers John Loeffler and Ralph Schuckett's film score is another great element. The sound of it does incorporate orchestra but also an equal amount of synths. Although that may sound not so good, the mixture of these instruments sounds natural and really works in a number of scenes because of how much they pull on the viewers heart strings. It is also one of the few pokemon scores to ever be released.

The ending message is a contradiction of pokemon in general, and for those who aren't fans will have trouble paying attention. But for those who do enjoy it, will love taking a stroll back to the late 1990s and remember when there were only 151 pokemon with the original crew. The animation looks great, the characters are likable and the music is effectively memorable.

Points Earned --> 6:10

Friday, December 2, 2016

Krampus (2015) Review:

Everyone in the world may not celebrate it, but during December, many countries and cultures around the world celebrate Christmas. As heard through several mediums, it is the season of giving and being joyous. However it is important to note that this isn't the only time people should be merry with each other. The attitude should be carried out as much as possible; but this is far from the case. In various circumstances there have been incidents where people are not nice to each other. This is most commonly found among consumers in popular shopping malls or more relatably at home where family members must confront other members that just aren't worth it. These are norms that many people will not acknowledge or bother to recognize because many do not want to confront it. They are however apart of today's culture and things many people have to deal with. Of course there are also some that just want to escape it all, but be careful what you wish for. That is at least according to writer/director Michael Dougherty.

kreepy krampus
Seeing he made such a cult classic with his Halloween holiday horror film Trick R' Treat (2007), it's no surprise he produced another holiday horror film except this time for Christmas. Written by Dougherty, Todd Casey and Zach Shields, the story follows Santa-believer Max Engel (Emjay Anthony), a boy trying to enjoy the holiday. Problem is everyone around him except his loving parents Tom (Adam Scott) and Sarah (Toni Collette) feel the exact opposite. When family members arrive and start annoying him, Max makes a wish for them to all go away. Little does he realize it would be his last wish he ever asked for. By doing this he has released the Christmas devil known as Krampus into his small neighborhood. Script wise the plot strikes a poignant note when it comes to morals. Overall, be grateful and don't wish for any harm because the end result may be far worse than what was wanted. The idea itself of Santa's shadow being heavily maniacal is ridiculous but nevertheless true when comparing it to karma.

There are however some minor plot holes that don't make sense. When Krampus arrives, he also makes several other people vanish as well (very quickly). It's understandable that he is supernatural but his speed seems limited. Also there are some motivational contradictions for the holiday demon. When such creatures are summoned, most have a set of rules to follow but it seems as though Krampus doesn't or at least not consistently. Aside from this though, the acting is all done well by every cast member. Even the less important characters like Beth (Stefania LaVie Owen), Aunt Dorothy (Conchata Ferrell), Howard (David Koechner), Linda (Allison Tolman) and Grandma Omi (Krista Stadler) all have development in one way or another. And although this is a horror film, there are also several moments of comedic value to experience. Some of these occasions take place either when family members exchange certain lines or their reactions to preposterous situations. This is surprising considering the tone is more serious than comedic.

As for horror, that's another gift in itself. Sadly the gore isn't as high as one would expect since Dougherty did make Trick R' Treat (2007), but believe it or not, it still works. There are several things to enjoy about the way Dougherty handles the movie. For much of the running time, Krampus is hidden in the background. The image of the creature itself is disturbing - with a hunchback, giant horns and rickety sounding joints. Adding to that is a bunch of other creative holiday ghouls that are just so ugly its amazing to see. The way it's presented is through a mix of CGI and practical effects but most of it looks practical. This is excellent because the degree of detail on these monsters look spectacular. Who knew such regular everyday items could be so hideous. Aside from the level of gore, the only other thing that may disappoint horror fans is the level of horror it takes its viewers. Perhaps this is because of its rating but it just isn't that scary. The horror and imagery is great but there's nothing to fear. Thankfully there aren't a lot of stings.

Adam Scott
Cinematography was another different experience thanks to Jules O'Loughlin. Rarely do horror films change their setting when it comes to execution. However this is different since it takes place in the middle of a snowstorm. How often does one think about the horrors of dying in the cold? O'Loughlin's skill also works very well with how the scenes are shot. Much of it has him capturing large amounts of the house’s interior to show what's around. There are even some slow motion shots for comedic value. On a side note there's also a short stop-motion animated segment that is impressively put together as well. Kudos to that. As for music, Douglas Pipes’ film score is another great audio effort. The composition is a mix of a few comedic and several horror cues that lift the main theme from classic Christmas songs. The difference is, Pipes puts them into a minor key. The score itself is well constructed with regular orchestra, Christmas bells, tribal drums, horns and church bells. A great sounding holiday horror score.

Although it may miss a few exposition points when it comes to consistency, the overall product is a unique holiday horror film. Krampus is truly an iconic monster smartly brought to life with relatable writing, creepy monsters and fantastic music.

Points Earned --> 7:10