5 Star Movies, Live Action Movie Reviews, Live Action Movies, Reviews

Annie Review


It’s time to look at a pretty popular musical from back in the day. Musicals can definitely be hit or miss depending on how good the songs are. Ironically the songs are usually way better in films that aren’t musicals and just happen to have a song or two. There are a lot of reasons for this, but a big one is that the songs are usually professionally done in the background as opposed to the characters actually singing on screen. The on screen songs just don’t end up having the same effect and pale in comparison to these big blockbuster songs. Annie’s songs aren’t bad for the most part but they won’t really stack up in the long run.

The movie starts by introducing us to an orphanage run by Agatha. She really doesn’t like kids, but needs money in this tough economy so she made the hard call to run the place. Annie tries to keep the kids moral up but it gets tougher with each passing day. What is there to look forward to when you’re in such a mean place? Well, Annie won’t have to deal with this for much longer because she was selected to spend a week with the rich Mr. Warbucks. Warbucks is so rich that even the President defers to him. Now Annie can learn what it’s like to live in wealth with her dog, but can she learn to enjoy this or will she continue to look back and forget the future?

The premise is one of those plots that can be fun to think about. Who wouldn’t want to spend a weekend being as rich as humanly possible? Money can’t buy happiness but it can help you lease it for a while. Even more so considering that Annie was an orphan at a pretty badly run orphanage so she has a lot of reason to be happy at this new place. That’s why she can seem rather ungrateful at times. Even after Warbucks has given her one of the best weekends ever she is still desperate to meet her parents and hops in the car of the first strangers who claim to be them. You can understand her wanting to meet her folks for closure, but just leaving with them like that? Doesn’t seem like the wisest course of action because you really don’t know if they’re good people or not. Whether they had reasons for leaving Annie or if they did it on a whim, it doesn’t change the fact that they never looked for her until a reward was placed.

Meanwhile Warbucks is definitely a lot of fun. He doesn’t let anything get in the way of his making money prior to Annie showing up. While he has a gruff exterior he ultimately does let Annie stay so the guy is pretty nice deep down. His romance plot with Grace is very cheesy though. For starters she works for him and workplace romances are always a landmine that you don’t want to go to. It would have been perfect if they were just good friends the whole time. So Warbucks’ character got watered down quite a bit by the end of the film, but he was still an engaging character on the whole.

Then we have Agatha who is one of the main antagonists here. She’s definitely a very mean character who is always messing with the orphans and somehow nobody has caught or fired her yet. She makes moves on any guy who shows up and somehow even seems to be succeeding with two of them. Her character is way too exaggerated and most of her scenes are pretty iffy. I think the film could have dialed down the her desperate romance angle a bit. She’s also rather mean to the dog, I never like how they used to lift the dog by the scruff of their neck, same with cats. There’s no way that’s comfortable for the animal. By the end you just aren’t able to buy into her redemption arc.

You’ve got two more villains in Rooster and Lily. They’re a little more sinister than Agatha as they don’t mind hurting the kids if it means they will get rich. They have a long song with the 3 of them where Lily keeps beating up Agatha mid-dance without Rooster realizing it so he’s not the brightest guy in the bunch. Agatha was also losing that match entirely so we know who the tougher character is. It’s almost a bit odd since Agatha seemed to be winning in their initial encounter but I suppose you can’t win them all. The villains weren’t bad. They served their purpose at least and gave us a little danger in the climax.

As for Grace, she’s probably the nicest character in the group. Without her Annie wouldn’t have had a chance at all. Grace got her in even if it meant using some blackmail and then she convinced Warbucks to let Annie stay. Grace really put in a lot of effort to make sure that everything worked out and was the unsung hero of the movie. You’d think that the other orphans would have been helpful but most of them were mean and petty throughout the film. Even when Annie was in trouble one of them didn’t want to hear about it and several of the others were ready to give up. Some friends right? Warbucks had some good assistants but none of them were around when Annie was really in danger.

Annie has a lot of fun little moments with her exploring the mansion and the film is at its best when things are going well there. I’d be up for a full movie of just having fun enjoying the rich life. There is so much you can do when you’ve got that much money and the film could have explored that angle. Throwing in the villains distracted from that part as there was far less time for such things. Sandy was a lot of fun though and I’m always up for a dog companion so long as he gets a happy ending. I’d like to see Hallmark do a modern version of this with a grown up who is selected to live in a castle for a week. It’s a plot that I’d say could be executed better than how this one went about it.

Overall, Annie is a decent musical that can be a bit too extreme at times. . Agatha’s character is a bit odd with how mean she is yet the kids keep messing with her. It’s likely done to keep the film from being too dark which I can appreciate. How much you enjoy the film will likely depend on how much you can tolerate Annie. Warbucks is a really fun character and in a sense you’re hoping he doesn’t crack under the pressure and stays as the suave rich guy that we all know. The film is largely predictable so you’re really just along for the ride as you hope the execution is good. You should be entertained all the way through which is the important thing.

Overall 5/10

Manga, Manga Reviews, Reviews

Attack on Titan: Lost Girls Review


It’s time to look at an Attack on Titan manga spinoff. I remember reading the light novel for this a while back so it’s interesting to revisit it in manga format. It seems to be a pretty faithful adaption, at the very least I couldn’t really see anything big that was removed or changed. Each of the girls gets one volume with Annie’s being a pretty big mystery while Mikasa remembers the good ole days. It’s a fun enough story that completely obliterates the actual manga and reminds me that the series is always at its best when there are no actual titans around. Yes, it’s pretty ironic, but it is what it is.

In Annie’s story she is preparing for her big showdown with the Survey corps. In a sense it’s her last day before her whole life is shaken upside down. She was planning on using the day to meditate and dwell on what’s going to happen, but then her roommate asks her for a favor. Well…”asking” may be putting it politely. In the novel it’s downright blackmail while here it’s basically the same thing even if maybe it’s more implied than stated. Since Annie needed someone to cover for her the next day when she was out on her master plan this girl wanted her to cover for her right now. See, this girl was put in charge of finding a lost girl, but decided not to bother with it. It’s been days, but someone’s got to take the mission on and at least give a fake speech to the person who gave out the request that they tried. Annie figures this will be a bother, but decides she may as well do it since it’ll give her something to do in the meantime. This mystery won’t be easy to solve though.

Keep in mind that everyone in Attack on Titan is pretty corrupt, especially the military police. As a result it’s hard for Annie to actually get any info through legitimate means so she has to go to bars and beat people up to get the answers. Everyone’s pretty suspect so you don’t feel bad for the various people she beats up. They all seem like criminals and would destroy her without a second thought. Annie is very capable so eventually she gets through the mystery and figures out what happens. It’s fun to see the series taking a stab at a mystery and it did a good job. It’s not easy to figure out the mystery so you may connect the dots along with Annie rather than jumping ahead.

I also liked that the guy who gave the mission seemed pretty intelligent. Usually these guys seem to be really slow on the uptake, but he did a full psycho analysis of Annie the moment she stepped into the room. That was certainly impressive. Then the actual missing girl also seemed pretty smart which was a nice dynamic. We’ve got enough drunk bar guys as it is so it’s a good change of pace to have some other characters who can think ahead. The only part of the story that may make you wonder a bit is the climax involving a titan shift. The shifts are incredibly loud and bright so I feel like there’s no way you can get away with doing that and not having people ask a lot of questions. It’s the only part that would make this seem to be non-canon as otherwise everything works pretty well. I suppose you could also explain this away by saying that Annie has enough control to lower the glow/intensity which isn’t really all that far fetched.

The other story for Mikasa isn’t quite as exciting. That’s likely because it’s a flashback story. We get to see how she and Eren first met up. Naturally this doesn’t cover the part with her parents getting bumped off since that was already covered in the show. Eren already seems a bit unstable and obsessive here which is an accurate depiction of him. He’s certainly one of the most ambitious shounen leads of all time with how his character arc goes so it’s always fun to see a bit of his early days as well. The issue is that there isn’t much to do. We see them hang out a lot, we get some foreshadowing with the human traffickers running around, and Eren gets beaten up for his political views. The story’s a little more mean spirited than the first one as it’s dark throughout. I don’t know if it’s meant to be dark, but you feel the tension throughout since you know that things aren’t going to end well.

The story also makes Mikasa’s parents look pretty bad since they definitely should have left the house after they knew people were lurking around. The mother was sick, but then tell Eren’s father or something. You need to have some kind of backup so you can escape because otherwise they were all doomed. They just really didn’t think ahead here. The scene of Eren getting beaten up by the adults is also pretty intense and not a fun scene. It’s literally full grown adults badly beating up a kid to the point where he was severely injured for a while. At this point we already get how the city is super corrupt, no need to beat it into us. (pun intended) Things don’t end well for them though since karma also tends to hit like a truck in this series. Characters who do bad stuff rarely get a happy ending, the cycle of violence tends to get everyone.

Finally there’s a 2-3 page story with both characters I guess so their stories could link up a bit. Mikasa basically takes issue with Annie’s ring blade since she feels like it could hurt Eren so there are a lot of veiled threats in the conversation. I’d definitely take Mikasa in a human fight between them, but in a no holds barred battle Annie would naturally win. Of course it would completely blow her plan so in a sense Mikasa could at least take a consolation victory there.

The artwork looks pretty good. It’s a little smoother than the main series art. I wouldn’t call it top level or anything, but it certainly holds its own pretty well and makes for a pretty easy read. The fight scenes have a lot of pop behind them with the art which is always a key fundamental to have. It really helps the whole manga rise up an extra notch as well. The writing is also pretty good which is definitely important no matter what kind of manga you are. This one does a good job with that.

Overall, Lost Girls is an interesting spinoff. Annie’s story definitely destroys Mikasa’s though. I don’t think we really need to learn too much more about her origins since the manga already covered that pretty well. It could have worked better if things worked out more for the heroes but with everything already being grim I don’t think this story really added to anything. Both stories are pretty self contained so you could probably enjoy them even without reading the main series. That being said, you’ll naturally get more out of it if you already know the characters. I’d recommend picking this one up, it’s a good enough story to add to the verse.

Overall 6/10

Book Reviews, Books, Reviews

Attack on Titan: Lost Girls Review


It’s time for another Attack on Titan novel! After that last one, I prepared myself for just about anything. This one splits into two very short stories which end up equaling a novel that is still 100 pages shorter than the last one. As such, it goes by fairly quick. On the other hand, it doesn’t stop the first story from severely holding the whole thing back for basically the same negatives as the last novel. Lets dive right in!

The first story is about Mikasa and how she first met Eren. It turns out that Eren was a lot meaner and more unlikable than we all remembered. Mikasa had been pretty bored at the time and only got to spend time with her parents on rainy days. One day, her doctor showed up and brought his kid along. Eren didn’t like to play with dolls and immediately started helping Mikasa break rules that she had never questioned. The two get to be friends, but Mikasa is always worried that one day Eren is going to go too far and anger the wrong people. This could end up being a fatal mistake.

At least Mikasa is a likable heroine here. She helped out around the house when her mother got sick and was always courteous to those around her. She stood up for Eren when he was getting bullied and didn’t give up even after he kept ditching her. Whether that was the right move or not if another story. Mikasa ultimately did grow up to be a very likable character as well as one of the best fighters in the series so she’s certainly never strayed from that path.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about Eren. He could be a likable main character at times in the anime although he ultimately dropped off quite a lot in the manga. In this book Eren is not even close to being a good character. He starts off very quiet and reserved and comes across as just very aggressive and mean whenever he talks to Mikasa. He compares her to a Chicken multiple times and even predicts that she will one day be destroyed. He picks fights with just about everyone and gets beaten up multiple times. Even though Mikasa is the one who helps him out of these situations, he refuses to visit her and spends all day hanging out with his new friend Armin. The way that Eren handled the situation was terrible. Whenever he appeared, you knew that Mikasa was going to feel sad again since that’s what Eren does best.

This series continues to enjoy upping the grittyness factor as much as it can and this story is riddled with it. For starters, a grown up beats up Eren for many, many pages. Keep in mind that Eren is only 9 years at the time and the beat down is very brutal and descriptive. It just keeps going on and on and on. This isn’t even the only time that Eren is beaten as a group of kids also took him out. It’s a scene that we really didn’t need in the volume, but it’s meant to show how corrupt the world is. Nobody is going to stop these guys and by the time the heroes investigate, the criminals are already dead via car crash.

There’s also a random magician who tries to get Mikasa to murder him and succeeds, but the twist is that it was a trick knife. The point of it was to show that ultimately anyone can be corrupted and convinced to murder someone. Before that, a mob ended up beating up Mikasa a bit by mistake as she was shoved to the ground and hit a few times. I believe that one aspect of the series which continues to bring these situations up is the overall locale. The slums are shown to be in extremely poor condition with people doing their business in the streets and the place just being in shambles. It makes for a lot of unnecessary details that don’t help the book, but just remind you of what a tough world the place is. Eren and the others will never get too much peace because they are defying the system. A bunch of people will die to the Titans and the other humans. It makes for a very somber piece.

Mikasa’s story was basically just a tale of grit and how you can’t trust anyone with the actual plot being on the backburner. The other story was about Annie which took place the day before she attempted to kidnap Eren. She needed her roommate to explain that she could not make it the next day but in exchange Annie was told to try and locate a missing person. The case is 10 days old with nobody actually looking so Annie would have a tough challenge ahead of her. Luckily, she is fairly determined and does have some time to burn.

This story was a considerable improvement over the last one. I’m always up for a good mystery. Some lingering elements of the Titan writing style remain as the areas continue to be described as being excruciatingly bad and it seems like everyone is either a drunk or a criminal in this world. Nonetheless, there is less time for grit and less opportunity for it since Annie does have her Titan powers and regenerative capabilities so she is never in any real danger. It really is handy to have powers like that right?

The end of the case may not be the most satisfying, but there were a sufficient amount of twists along the way and it was an interesting one. I liked how the rich father of the missing girl was actually smart for a change and was good at telling if someone was lying or not. It may not have helped him much in this scenario, but at least he wasn’t just oblivious to the whole thing. I’m a little skeptical about Annie transforming into Titan mode to take out the villains though. It’s not a question of whether it was necessary or not, but I feel like someone would notice even if the place was fairly deserted. It’s hard to miss the explosion and the light blast that hits the Titan to start the transformation right? I definitely wouldn’t mind a novel adaption of the actual mission to get Eren from Annie’s point of view. She’s a fun main character and has always been an interesting villain. Learning more about her background could help solve some mysteries in the long run.

There is a bit of an epilogue where Mikasa and Annie meet each other. I’m guessing it relates to the actual TV special/OVA content. It’s always cool to see veiled threats being hurled at each other and then the novel ends with Mikasa striking Annie down. Those two were certainly good rivals and if Annie ever breaks out of the ice that she’s in, I wouldn’t be too surprised if she ended up joining the heroes. It would make sense in a way as she was never too committed to the villains and seems like someone who could make a turnaround.

Overall, This novel had two very contrasting stories. On one hand, the first story was pretty terrible and had just about everything that’s wrong with the franchise as a whole. The second half was good and is certainly one of the better attack on Titan products, but still doesn’t exactly fall into great territory. Respectively, the first story would probably score a 2 while the second would get a 6. If we go halfway, then that’s around a 4 although the halves aren’t necessarily weighed equally. It’s like how a negative review always seems to hurt more than a positive one helps an item. In this case that’s the score that the novel gets though. I’d just advise to skip the Mikasa story when you get the volume and just read the Annie one. It’s still worth a purchase even if the book is a little small in that case. Alternately, buy the first Before The Fall novel. That one’s a solid story and easily had the least amount of grit from the Titan novels. I’m finally reading the last two part adventure for now and then the Titan novel marathon will be over. It was a good run even if the scores started to fade out. At least it’s always interesting to read, whether for good or bad.

Overall 4/10