Wednesday, August 31, 2016

REVIEW: Heroes Reborn

I'm so fucking frustrated with this series right now.  What the hell happened?! How could Heroes, one of the funnest concepts I've seen in any show, degrade into the most clichéd, unfun piece of shite that I've ever seen?For those who don't know, I loved Heroes when I first watched it.  It's not a perfect show, but the first season of this show is beyond fun to watch. In our culture where a lot of us have grown to love the many superheroes of the Marvel and DC universes, I found this show very refreshing, because it didn't depend on people who wore the common superhero costume or held the high profile to save the world.  This show was based on ordinary people unknown to the world, who accomplished things that changed the course of humanity.  It was a lot of fun while it lasted.  Yeah after season one, the show went kinda downhill rather fast. Season two's potential was hurt by the writer's strike that happened that year, and it felt rushed and unfinished.  The first half of season three was garbage, but thankfully, the second half of season three was pretty fun, albeit a little clunky. Season four wasn't terrible, but it left the show at an unsatisfying finish that I couldn't help but wonder what was going to happen. So when Heroes Reborn was announced for 2015, I got my hopes up.

I was so ready to see how this fun show would finally close the doors. Close out the universe. Give us that ending we'd been waiting for for years now.  We were so ready to see the faces of our beloved characters return, alongside some new interesting characters, for one last big hurrah!  Something to send the franchise out on a bang with.  And what did we get? Strap yourselves in guys, this is a long one. 

I'm going to warn you guys now...spoilers are here.  

Well half the returning cast dies in insulting ways, of the many newer characters, three of them are memorable maybe, the story leaves that intriguing narrative, and instead falls into the lowest common denominator of clichés and deus ex machina plot elements that had me slapping my head in more ways than one.  Oh and if you're hoping for the return of faces like Claire, Sylar, Peter, or Ando?  Guess what?  The only one who shows up or is even mentioned is Claire, and she's dead upon arrival. In fact, the only real memorable characters that appear that contribute anything to this story are Hiro and Noah. And they are handled attrociously. This miniseries wasn't just bad.  It was insultingly bad. 

And the biggest complaint?  They bring two of my least favorite words into the plot. Prophecy and destiny. Because yeah. Heroes has always been about prophecy and destiny. The only character who even gets to use the word destiny is Hiro Nakumura, who was always an adorable guy who was rather unique amongst the cast from the start.  Of the characters, he's one of the few who gets really giddy about what he can do, and he wants to genuinly help people.  He wants to be that guy in a costume, and he'll often use the word "destiny".  It's funny to watch. The combination of Hiro and Ando in the original series was very fun, because Hiro was all about how his destiny was to make the world safer and whatnot. And when he didn't succeed, he had genuinly hurt emotions. But here?  Everyone knows their destiny, and there's this prophecy about the end of the world and how to save the world...and it's just insulting.  I absolutely cannot stand it when we get mentions of prophecies out of the blue.  And in the case of Heroes Reborn, it's maddening.  WHAT PROPHECY ARE THEY TALKING ABOUT?  It's only mentioned. Never do we see what they're talking about. Never once is it seen or explained. It's just there. The prophecy says this. So do it. 

The newer characters of this series are a complete joke. Everyone seems so bland and uninteresting! Again, there are maybe three characters that I actually kinda liked.  They had some pretty fun arcs in this series, but the awful storytelling didn't exactly help their position at all. My favorite arc of the series came from a couple who had lost their young son in a terrorist attack which is blamed on evos, which is short for evolved human.  Why they didn't just use special as their term as they normally did?  Who knows? I guess that's not the important thing. It focuses on the husband who slowly begins to realize that he is in fact a special, and how this influences his thought patterns and emotions. That's actually really well done! But sadly, even this just gets handled badly towards the end. In fact the ending of this particular arc is pitifully anticlimactic, when we get this exchange between the two how the husband apparently never liked killing, and how his wife was apparently always this bloodthirsty psycho who is killed without any emotion. I also enjoyed following the character Tom around though he could have used much more development...and he falls right into the prophecy bullshit.

So what about the returning cast? Well they did a good job of bringing back some of my personal favorite faces. The Haitian, Micah, Hiro, Noah, Matt, and Mohinder all make appearances, but each contribute so little to the story, that I can't help but wonder why bother including them at all. I was really excited for Mohinder who was built up as this terrorist in the story. I was on board! I was so ready to see him actually the leader of this underground resistance movement in support of specials or whatnot, but nope.  None of my expectations would come to be. He merely served as a dead scapegoat for this terrorist attack that happens at the beginning of the series. Great...well played. A lot of my favorite characters are forced into the back seat, or get the most unsatisfying ending you can think of. Matt Parkman for example...they just kinda leave him laughing insanely in a car. The end. 

Hiro Nakumura, who for the longest time, was the face of the franchise, is handled even worse. In fact I shouldn't have gotten my hopes up when he was finally revealed. I was so excited to see him because before he came along, literally the WORST STORY ARC of any Heroes season I'd ever seen had happened. More on that shortly. The story does pick up when he comes into the picture, but only for so long, because arguably one of the biggest plot holes would show its ugly face after this. Spoiler alert. Claire dies in childbirth. I can get on-board with this, especially since I honestly didn't like how they built her up in Heroes to practically be immortal. I think her dying in childbirth is actually kinda clever. But the reason they give, gives us one very annoying plot hole. She dies because as she gives birth to twins, one of the babies has the ability that Arthur Petrelli had in Season 3, power absorbing. Thing is, I think they tacked this on as a way to kill off Claire since they couldn't get her actor back for this. Because this power only comes into play once more, when he takes Hiro's power. Yeah. That happens. They make this big deal how be shouldn't come into contact with his twin sister...who has an ability, but it's never really hinted what it is. It's just this...God power. She can do literally anything. Oh and if you're wondering who their father is? Don't. They never tell. Back to the son, he takes Hiro's power and never again is his absorption ever mentioned again. In fact they play his character as if he's had time manipulation his entire life. He touches other specials, and never gets their ability. Why not just give him the ability from the start? I guess because you wanted to kill Hiro off in the most anticlimactic way possible. Offscreen and powerless. Yeah! That happens too! 

I mentioned up above that this series has possibly the worst story arc of any Heroes season out there. It does. It involves two completely forgettable characters, a gamer, and this character who can fight inside a video game or something. And the entire point of this arc was to free Hiro from the big forgettable villain.  Each time this story was focused on, I grew very annoyed. Not only were the video game sections painfully atrocious to look at (HORRIBLE animation), but it was so unbelievably clichéd and predictable. By the end of it, the gamer tells the video game girl he loves her. Despite absolutely no development between the two. I'd hoped this would be the last we'd see of them but they'd bring them back for more bullshit I no longer cared about. I also didn't like how these two characters, who were Japanese, may as well have been Hiro, because like him, they were all about honor and destiny. Call me narrow-minded but I have a feeling that it came off as a cheap Japanese stereotype. These guys are Japanese. They are all about honor! Right?

But none of this shows my true anger at how they ended this series. Firstly, to save the world, Claire's children need to do this...thing to prevent the sun from incinerating the earth due to the poles reversing (it's never explained what exactly they do), and in order for it to work, someone needs to willingly sacrifice their life in the process. So they kill Noah, who probably was the only thing left holding this mess together.  The way they go about this is so infuriating to me, that I honestly barely remember how they executed it. You know, they has a decent story going on, but once this ending starts, this house of cards just comes tumbling down. And once the world is saved, I readied myself, hoping for some sort of ending that would at least end this series. 

NOPE. What do we get? Another cliffhanger! Because fuck a finished story, right? Did they really expect this to go on? I watched this, ready for the end story. And instead, we get this "Who's the father" cliffhanger that makes no sense, before the miniseries ends. This series introduced so many characters, killed off so many old and new characters, put us through one of the worst plots out there, and gave us this atrocious ending, and they have the guts to attempt to say "To be continued"?

FFFFFFFFFFFuck this series! I've never been so unexcited for this show. Had it had a quality story and narrative, I'd be more open to this. As it stands, this is a slap in the face for the fans who were so eager to see this series conclude. The characters are forgettable, the story is mediocre, the effects tend to take the center stage and somehow aren't as great as the original effects in Heroes, this miniseries did almost everything wrong. And for that, Heroes Reborn earns a one star rating out of four. The only reason it's not getting scored lower is because that there are moments that did give some satisfaction. But they're so few and far between that it's hard to tell fans of this franchise why they should even bother. It needed more of these cleverly told stories, and less of this cliché that it turned out to be. Heroes never got the satisfying ending it deserved back in the day, but at least the ending we got was open to interpretation. It didn't sequel bait. This? The fact that it's practically begging for a sequel is insulting. It doesn't deserve one. Tim Kring should be ashamed that this turned out as it did. I don't know what he has to do to give this franchise the ending it deserves, but I'll just say this, if he intends to give it one, he desperately needs help. 

Please feel free to request any film you'd like me to review. Leave a comment down below expressing your own thoughts of this series, and as always, thanks for reading. 

Final Verdict: 1/4

Friday, August 19, 2016

REVIEW: Kubo and the Two Strings

Kubo and the Two Strings is a fun, and unique story that is absolutely gorgeous to watch. There I said it. Go watch it. Okay I'll get serious. I had very little expectations going into this movie. I didn't exactly know what to expect. The only reason it really caught my attention was that the animation in the trailers looked absolutely stellar. That and it had George Takei, and my inner Star Trek Nerd said I had to go see it. So I did. And I liked it. I guess I also liked how it was based on the culture of old Japan. I still have a bit of a samurai geek inside me.

Right off the bat, this movie wows you with its absolutely incredible animation. This movie uses its 3D rather well, so I'd recommend the viewing as such. And while some character models can appear rather dull at times, the constant movement in the environment and atmosphere of this film can be absolutely phenomenal. The movement of grass, the papers, and action are just so wonderfully done. It's some of the best stop motion I've seen, and the movie actually gives us a little glimpse at how they did it in the end credits. It's a little treat to stay for in the end credits. I also gotta say that the excellent blending of CGI and Stop Motion is practically flawless. I daresay this is the best animation of 2016, even beating out my beloved Zootopia in that retrospect.

I will also say that the casting is pretty well done. Though unless you're one of the main characters, you don't get a lot of screen time. So if you're a Takei fan, his part is very minor, and you might find slight disappointment there. But I did have a hearty chuckle when I heard them expertly throw in a classic "Oh my!" line. But each voice fits absolutely wonderfully with this movie. Not one voice sounds like it doesn't belong, and coming from a film portraying Japanese society, that is actually really well done.

The story, while fun, can at times be kinda predictable or hard to follow. One of the things I was asking myself by the film's...slightly underwhelming climax was why things happened in this film. That's not to say that the film doesn't do a good job explaining the here, now, or why, but one thing I would have liked out of this film would be a longer run time. At times the story feels rushed, or like it's explaining the full details. One thing I asked myself was who the Moon King was to the people. The villagers really aren't given much of a reason to fear the Moon King of the film, especially since the Moon King only seems interested in the young protagonist. But I must say that the antagonist's goals are actually pretty unique in a fairytale sort of way. Is it slightly clichéd? Sure, but it's not a bad thing here.  What shouldn't work, does manage to work, and despite the few questions I still have about the movie itself, it was wonderfully done. And I will say, the ending is open to interpretation, though it can be slightly deus ex machina.

However, for a movie, which has a bit of a focus on a musical instrument, one thing I had to ask myself was would the films music deliver? I tend to focus a lot on the film's soundtrack because despite it being a background thing, the music can absolutely carry a film's mood, and tone. The greatest moments of fun need an appropriate soundtrack. And I'm proud to say that this film's soundtrack is an absolute treat to listen to. The instrument they feature, called a shamisen, is energetic, and never dull. It creates one hell of a backing soundtrack. And during the credits, despite my tenancy not to care for these updated covers, they do throw in a nice rendition of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps". It makes for one surprisingly fitting closing song.

With everything said and done, Kubo surprised me in more ways than one. I was kinda nervous going into this one. I'm not familiar with Focus Pictures and honestly wasn't sure what I was getting into with this. But once things start rolling with this film, it's absolutely dazzling. The action is surprisingly fun, the story is charming, the animation and soundtrack are absolutely stellar, Kubo and the Two Strings I am sad to say will be a gem that people will overlook this year. Is it flawless? No. As far as animated movies this year are concerned, I do believe Zootopia left me on a much bigger high, mainly due to the messages in that film, and stronger characters. But this is still very well done, and if you're reading this, do yourself a favor.

Kubo and the Two Strings earns a solid three and a half star rating out of four. The absolutely incredible animation and music more than makes up for the few shortcomings I feel it had in its story. The characters, though underdeveloped are still fun, and by the end of it all, you're left with a smile. It's been a while since I've seen a story with a fairytale feel like this and I have to say I'm very impressed with what I got. This will undoubtedly be nominated for the best animated feature this year.  And it well deserves it.

Feel free to request any film you'd with for me to review in the future. Leave a comment deceiving your own thoughts about this film, and as always, thanks for reading.

Final Verdict: 3.5/4