Moana Review

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It’s time for a fairly recent animated film although it feels a little old by now. We haven’t gotten too many films that take place in the islands. Lilo and Stitch is one of the only big ones that I can think of. I’m perfectly okay with this since the big cities are where I like the films to stay. It just makes for a more engaging backdrop. That being said, the film did have some pretty nice visuals along the way thanks to the nice action scene at the end. It’s a good film, but one that does have some issues.

The plot revolves around a girl named Moana. She is destined to rule the island at some point so she is learning as much as she can. That being said, she wants to venture off the island because she feels too constricted there. It’s prohibited because of a risky endeavor led by her father. The choice is taken out of her hands when she is chosen to save the world by delivering a relic to an island where it was stolen long ago. She’ll need to enlist the help of Maui, a demigod whose abilities are matched only by his intelligence. He really doesn’t want to help, but he gets taken along for the ride. Can these two really manage to get the stone to the island where they will have to face off against Te Ka? It certainly won’t be easy!

Moana is a good main character. I’d want to leave the island if I was in her shoes as well. The economy wasn’t going well and the job market seemed to be wearing thin as well. The village simply needed new materials and she would have to venture out to get them. Moana is very determined and keeps getting back on the track no matter how many times Maui fails. The ocean’s blessing was also super useful since it meant that Moana couldn’t drown. She had a little crisis of self confidence towards the second half of the film, but fortunately she managed to get past it.

Unfortunately, Moana is perfectly countered by Maui who is one of the worst Disney “heroes” that I’ve ever seen. There is absolutely nothing heroic about this guy. He seriously tries to drown Moana in one scene and then leaves her to die in a blocked off cave in another. Fortunately, the ocean saved her the first time and she found an exit the second. The fact that Maui tried to murder her is glossed over later on and his attempts grow less drastic as time goes on. That being said, he was already too far gone for me to see him as a likable character. Even up to the end, Maui is really just fighting for himself and his ego.

What makes this even worse is the fact that Maui isn’t even very tough. On the contrary, I’d say that he is actually very weak. He can’t really hold his own against anybody. He gets wrecked by a giant crab and doesn’t even put up a good fight against the fire demon. Maui is really just one of those characters who is all talk and no action. He gets old rather quickly. For the other supporting characters, we also have Moana’s father and her grand mother. The Dad gets annoying pretty quick as he tries to stop Moana since he lost in his mission a while back. I definitely don’t think leaving the island should be banned. The grandmother is nice and seems to know a lot, but she also does act a little crazy half the time. Her antics probably could have been dialed down a notch.

There are two main villains here. The first one is Tamatoa, a giant crab who sparkles. This guy humiliates Maui quite a lot so I was on board with that. He’s a fairly intimidating villain as well even if he is easy to trick. He made for some pretty fun scenes so I was glad to have him on board. He didn’t seem that strong, but his strength was ultimately enough anyway. The other big villain is Te Ka, who defeated Maui so completely that the poor guy was scarred for life. Te Ka’s fire abilities were pretty great and the heroes definitely didn’t seem like they had a chance against her. That being said, it does lead to one of the film’s biggest plot holes. Te Ka is probably the best character in the film.

Here’s where the plot gets messy. Okay, the whole point is that the ocean is sentient in this film and wants Moana to save the day. She needs to get the pendent/stone/mcguffin to the island to seal the demon. Here’s where the plot falls apart. We learn that the water can move and walk around. It can grab things and shoot blasts of water. Why isn’t the ocean just placing the item back itself? From what we see in the movie, it would be very easy to stun the fire demon and place it. After all, the ocean finally does take the fire demon down in one shot when it acts at the end. The fire demon keeps healing so it’s not down for the count, but it would be long enough for the water to finish the job. There is no reason for it not to act and I feel like this is a glaring hole in the film’s script/plot. It just made no sense and I was puzzled about that during the entire film.

The film isn’t very long so the pacing is relatively sound. Quite a lot happens during the time frame as the heroes have to reclaim Maui’s weapon, fight off pirates, and go on a bunch of adventures. I have to say that Maui’s shape shifting was as underwhelming as you’d expect though. He made a big deal about how he would get super tough once he had his weapon back and he still had a habit of getting knocked around by everyone. I was just surprised that he never lived up to his own hype.

The animation looks pretty good. The water is crispy and clear. The energy blasts and disaster zone with Te Ka are also visually striking. It’s a pretty well made movie all around in terms of the visuals. The character designs are also on point and I certainly didn’t notice any animation errors. By and large, the writing is pretty good as well. It’s nothing special, but it doesn’t make any mistakes so that is most certainly a good thing.

The humor can be a bit weak in this film. One of the main comedy subplots is that Moana has a bird who can’t really think straight. This means that he is always getting lost, pecking the ground, or just getting in everyone’s way. There’s nothing really fun about seeing a bird just crash into everything all the time and I could never get behind the plot. As far as animal mascots go, this one was a complete dud.

Overall, Moana is a good film. It goes by fairly quick and has some nice action scenes at the end. What holds it back is mainly Maui. The guy is just unbearable whenever he’s on screen and comes off as a total jerk. The bird subplot certainly didn’t do the film any favors either. It’s a fun flick, but odds are that you’ll find yourself choosing something else to watch. There’s nothing that this film does particularly well that isn’t completely surpassed by a better film. Don’t even get me started on comparing the songs to the classic “Let It Go” That won’t end well. Still, if you’re in the mood for a tropical animated film, there aren’t a lot of other options. This will definitely be the option for you.

Overall 6/10

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Warcraft Review

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I always like to see a video game adapted into a film…but not like this! It seems like bad luck that films keep trying to adapt games that either shouldn’t be adapted or ones that should be adapted…in 20 years. I get that World of Warcraft is a very popular video game, but I’ve never cared much for it and I don’t think it ever had a whole lot of movie potential. People will inevitably compare it to Lord of the Rings and it’ll fall short since everyone already has the nostalgia goggles on. Then we’ve got Assassin’s Creed….this isn’t the kind of representation of video games that I wanted. Where’s Mega Man, Mario, Metroid, Legend of Zelda, Gravity Rush, or the really cool looking video games like that? The films keep on choosing the most realistic ones possible as I guess they feel this is the safe route, but it’s backfiring horribly. Wait…they already tried making a Super Mario Bros film? Nah….you must be mistaken, I’m sure I’d remember Princess Peach making her way to the big screen or that iconic Bowser design if the film had happened. Must have just been a mistake.

Anyway, Warcraft deals with two worlds coming together to avoid calamity. On one side, we have the world of the Trolls. Their world has grown desolate and soon it will be completely unlivable. To combat this, they have decided to invade the human world and eradicate all of the mortals. On the human side, they see that the Trolls are attacking and decide to slay them all. There can be no peace here, only war and destruction. Which side will emerge victorious here?

This film has a lot of problems, but action isn’t one of them. There’s a lot of action throughout as you’ll see people punching and tackling each other. A lot of guys are stabbed and it definitely feels like a war. I don’t care much for war fight scenes and prefer the classic 1 on 1’s. This doesn’t help to change my opinion of that, but considering that War is in the title, I knew what to expect from the get go. The CGI and overall special effects for the film aren’t bad. In the rare scenes where we actually get to see energy attacks and video game techniques, they hold up quite well. We get mythical monsters and fantasy backdrops that also fit in seamlessly.

The rest of the film is where Warcraft stumbles a bit. Lets talk about the characters. Gul’dan is the main villain of the film. He’s the corrupt leader of the Orcs (Trolls) and ensures that there is no peace. After all, you can’t make peace with a nation that’s trying to destroy you right? He rules with fear and is the only Orc to actually have special powers. He can drain your life force by making contact with an opponent and has a good array of energy blasts as well. This makes up for not being the strongest Orc on the battlefield. It’s really impossible for any character to beat him without plot hax and that’s a bit of an issue. The only way the film gets around this is by having the other Orcs pressure Gul’dan into retreating for honor reasons. He never loses and I guess this sets things up for the sequel. He was a pretty imposing villain and I suppose that I didn’t mind him being the big bad. I wish he would just get on with it though and I don’t see why he should even care about the Orcs liking him or not. His whole gimmick is that he rules by fear so if they start rebelling, can’t he just slay them all?

Lothar is the main hero on the human side. His character arc is pretty tragic as he decides to trust Garona and is then betrayed at the very end. He’s a pretty strong warrior and is headstrong. Lothar acts like a main character should for the most part. He can be a little generic and maybe not all that reasonable at other times, but he can handle himself in a fight and the humans wouldn’t have much of a chance without him. Llane is the more reasonable character, but at the same time he goes for the more conventional ideas. He decides on a full scale war against the Orcs and this doesn’t go well at all. He then makes a rather selfless decision to have Garona murder him so she can get out of there alive, but it’s also basically suicide since he’s asking to be murdered. You always got to fight until the bitter end even if the odds are stacked against you. The ending did not help him.

I actually place more of the blame on Garona though. Accepting this option shows that she put more value on her life than on Llane’s. Essentially, she was willing to continue existing at the expense of someone else. Lothar took this as a betrayal since he didn’t know the context, but it may as well have been one even with it. She was tasked with protecting Llane and she failed. Durotan is the main protagonist of the Orcs, but he is forced to work for Gul’dan the whole time. It’s a pretty tough film for Durotan since he doesn’t get the clan any closer to peace and is ultimately murdered in front of everyone. He put up a good fight, but was clearly outmatched thanks to the magic amplifications that Gul’dan had and it felt like his journey was rather pointless. He made some nice speeches, but since he had no control over the clan, it didn’t help much. He did inadvertently save the humans by getting the Orcs to doubt their leader though.

As this is Warcraft, there were other sub plots as well. One of the human’s strongest magicians was actually a traitor and ended up joining the villains. It was either his overconfidence that led the evil magic to slowly corrupting him or he was just a bad seed the entire time. Regardless, it was a huge blow to the humans since they need all of the magicians that they can get. They have another apprentice guy who wants to help out now, but that’s just a consolation. Honestly though, the humans should be doomed in this war. They now only have 1 guy with powers on their side while the Orcs have a few. That being said, the ending shows that there are many other factions of humans who will be helping now. Where were they the whole time? Who knows, I guess it just wasn’t their fight. Ironically the human mage sub plot was probably the most out of place, but also the most interesting part of the film.

The part of the film that will end up leaving a sour taste in your mouth is really the ending. Seeing Garona just accept the life and be accepted back to her people was a rather mean spirited way to end things. Now nobody gets along and tensions are even higher. It also feels like absolutely nothing was accomplished in this film. You should think of it as a promo to encourage you to play the game, but that doesn’t work so well as a large feature film. Especially if you were never interested to play the game in the first place. As the writing is also lackluster, it never really had a chance of getting you interested in playing the game.

There is also some iffy animal violence moments here. It sadly comes with the territory of war films as people ride horses and even birds into battle. It’s not a huge occurrence here, but enough so where it warrants a mention. It’s not as if things could have gotten much worse for the film though right? It was already rather boring and convoluted without a good ending so adding the animal violence is like the cherry on top.

Overall, Warcraft is a very generic fantasy war film. It’s just the same old Humans vs Orc battles that we’ve seen in LOTR and the Hobbit already. This film doesn’t really add anything to that. There’s not much reason to watch this film and since an ending is super important, having a bad one hurts the film all the more. I doubt this film will be getting a sequel anyway so it’s not as if the cliffhangers will be resolved anytime soon. If you’re a big fan of the games then you’re basically obligated to watch this one. If not, then I’d recommend just sticking away from it.

Overall 3/10

The Jungle Book Review

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It’s time to finally get to the Jungle Book review. This film got a lot of recognition for its superb CGI and how realistic the animals ended up looking. They definitely do look pretty sharp and I’ll give the film a lot of kudos for its effects. Despite being a film with a lot of animals around and having a kid as the main character, Jungle Book did pretty well for itself. Honestly, the film would have been even better if Mowgli was older, but that’s for the sequel.

Mowgli is a kid who was raised in the forest. As such, he is used to being around animals instead of humans. Unfortunately, Shere Khan doesn’t approve of this. He faced a human once and lost his eye so now he thinks that all humans are evil. Honestly, most of the humans probably would come to the forest with the intent to do the animals harm, but Mowgli is too young for any of that. Mowgli is forced to go on the run when his clan is taken over by Shere Khan so now he must find some reinforcements and stop Khan before anyone gets hurt. He’ll need the help of a friendly bear, a panther, and a host of other animals who are around the bend. Mowgli is not a bad character, but I still think that kids can’t really hold their own films effectively. It’s just too hard to take him seriously. The scenes of him roaring, running around, or getting stung by bees all rank among the lower moments of the film. It’s really the side characters who do a good job of showing us why this film is good.

Take Baloo for example. He’s the best character in the film and since he is a bear, the guy is also a threat to the villains. A Bear would probably lose to a Lion in real life if they fought….but it would be very close. Both of them can conceivably defeat the other. Shere Khan is a tiger so then this helps Baloo’s case, but this bear isn’t a fighter anyway so that minimizes the advantage. Baloo is all about making equal partnerships and he’s a reasonable fellow. He’s a great friend to have around and he added some nice humor to the film. If he was intended to be the fan favorite all along, then the film definitely did a good job of making him a likable character.

Bagheera is the main Panther and the one who raised Mowgli ever since he was a kid. He’ll remind you of the main Panther from Animal Land and you can really draw a lot of similarities between this and that series. That one is a lot more extreme with the violence though and I don’t actually recommend it. It also got pretty supernatural by the end with all of the Chimeras running around and being as strong as Kaiju. That was certainly crazy. Bagheera may not be the absolute strongest animal here, but he’s a good all around fighter. I’d say that he seems to be a little stronger than the wolves, but not quite as powerful as the tigers. Bagheera is definitely one of the more likable characters in the film and while he may not be great at working with others, he learns to be a team player in the end.

Shere Khan is a great villain and he certainly makes his presence felt. I do think it was a little iffy how easily he defeated the Wolves though. They had numbers on their side and the leader shouldn’t have allowed himself to be taken out so easily. It’s a classic example of why arrogance leads to a fall. The Wolf wanted to show that he was in control of the situation so he lay down and pretended to be at ease. This made Khan’s plan all the easier. Khan would have won anyway, but I like to think that a prolonged fight against the whole clan would have been far too difficult, even for him. Khan is definitely persistent and you have to give him credit for never giving up. He never went down without a fight.

Kaa is another villain who got a big scene in the trailers, but didn’t actually do all that much in the film. She really got a glorified cameo if anything. Her illusion abilities are certainly handy, but in a fight she is clearly outmatched against the rest of the characters. The main character is one of the only people that she can defeat although to be fair, he’s the only one that she needs to eat in order to end the adventure.

If the film has any weakness, it’s that it can drag a little bit at certain points. For example, the escapade over to the Baboons. The plot didn’t really add anything to the movie and I never really care for the monkeys. It was impressive just how large the King was and the chase scene was cool, but it just felt like filler. The heroes were also so vastly outnumbered that it was just hard to see how they escaped from that plight without more serious injuries. I didn’t want any more bee injuries though because that always looks pretty gross so Monkeys were preferable. I also would have loved it if the film had taken place in the city, but then it’d be a completely different film right?

The writing was good, which always goes a long way in these movies. Bad writing would have made this film quite sad. I can’t say that I really recall there being much of a soundtrack in this film. That would have been pretty neat, but it wasn’t a bad soundtrack at any rate. I think there were some generic danger and action themes in there somewhere. As mentioned before, the graphics are pretty realistic. I prefer more fantasy esque graphics of course, but this wasn’t supposed to be that kind of movie anyway. As far as realistic animals go, Jungle Book did a really good job.

Overall, The Jungle Book is a good film. You’ll definitely get some Lion King vibes from the main villain and the scene where he “befriends” the cubs as a threat to the Mom is certainly familiar. Shere Khan definitely made for an epic villain. This is the kind of film that can definitely stand on its own without a sequel, but a sequel certainly wouldn’t hurt. There is definitely a lot that they can do with this series, but there are also a lot of ways that it can jump the fence. The writers will have to be careful how they handle this. I’d recommend checking out the film. There may be some scenes that drag on and Mowgli isn’t all that good, but by and large this is a solid film. The positives clearly outweigh the negatives and that’s always the important part. I think this film would have easily gotten a 7 if the main character had just been a little older, but that’s how it goes sometimes.

Overall 6/10

Transformers: Combiner Wars

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It’s definitely intriguing to see Combiner Wars turned into an online mini series. Those are rare, but fun to have around I suppose. It’s just a shame that this couldn’t be a full length TV show on its own. The plot and concept are very interesting and finally seeing something from after the war is cool as well. I’ll have a review for the series either when all 3 seasons are done (Trilogy so I’m assuming 3) or when the first is done if they add a new subtitle or something to the next. It’s a fun enough story, but 5 minutes per episode is pretty rough.

Overall 7/10

Jupiter Ascending Review

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This is one film where even the trailer looked bad. Typically, even if a film ends up not being good, the trailer will still grab your attention. Not Jupiter Ascending as it just looked iffy the whole time. It’s hard to describe, but it looks like a mainstream film that should have been a TV movie. Either way, that’s essentially what happened and the film didn’t end up being too good.

Jupiter is rather unsatisfied with her life right now. She helps out with her family by keeping houses clean and scrubbing toilets, but she feels like she was destined for better things. One day, she is nearly kidnapped by aliens, but saved by a different alien and told that she is actually a princess/queen who is the rightful ruler of Earth. That’s not a bad deal, but it also means that three different enemy groups are after her so Jupiter will constantly be on the run. Can she ever go back to her old lifestyle?

The film is a bit of a train wreck from start to finish. Let’s get the positive out of the way first. The action scenes are fairly fun for the most part. The energy affects are fairly neat and I love the fact that one of the big battles takes place in the middle of such a large city. Usually, that just doesn’t happen because the budget is too low or because the films just don’t realize how cool that kind of fight looks. There are also quite a few spaceship battles (Although those are less exciting) and the action was certainly a highlight. The only battle that I didn’t care for was when Caine fought against the lizard hybrid at the end. That fight was a little more brutal and not quite as flashy as the others. In the end, I would definitely give the action a thumbs up.

From there, thing get a little dicey for the film. For starters the romance is poorly handled. Jupiter falls in love with Caine seconds after they meet. Now that’s what I’d call a romance based purely on looks and I don’t see such a relationship going very far. It’s just not a good way to get the main characters together and the film just seemed to add that plot in because it was expected. It doesn’t help that both characters are unlikable as well.

Jupiter complains about her situation a whole lot. She also played a big role in losing the argument at the dinner table because she gave the answer to her opponent while trying to be passively aggressive. It’s why that tactic never works. Even once she’s a ruler, Jupiter never becomes a very likable main character and spends her time being surprised at what’s happening. She’s fairly gullible and gets into a lot of bad situations. Her big scene at the end involves a quick skirmish, but she doesn’t look impressive during that fight either.

As for Caine, he’s as generic as they come. He’s very gruff and certainly not the nicest of companions. He seems to be a little full of himself and his personality just ensured that I wouldn’t like the guy. Acting a little nicer to Jupiter would have been a great start, but it just proved to be too much for him. He also gets humiliated by his boss when they fight and all of his big lines just fall flat.

None of the other characters are likable either, but you may have expected that. There’s the comic relief character who is just here to make everyone feel bad and the other family members who don’t understand Jupiter’s plight. Not that they should as far as the alien part is concerned, but they don’t have any real development. The villains are also rather two dimensional and are really just here so that the film can have some antagonists. They can’t really fight and just rely on the minions to do the fighting for them.

There are also a few bounty hunters in the film who are just around to look cool. They vanish rather quickly and don’t add anything to the plot. Their laser guns are cool I suppose, but that’s just not good enough. One plot involving the bees was also unnecessary and it’s not fun to see the bees just flying all over the place. If I was Jupiter, I would have left that house as fast as possible even if she couldn’t be stung due to her aura of royalty.

While this is a sci-fi film, you’ll feel like nothing really happened by the end of it. Jupiter learned that she owns the Earth and stops a few villains. The rest of the film is mainly fluff and just expanding the universe when it’s not necessary since this is probably not getting a sequel anytime soon. If it ever does get a sequel, hopefully it will prove to be much more interesting than this one.

Ascending also touches upon the classic reincarnation idea as the heroes and villains are brought back into the world once in a while. The claim for this is that the DNA is exactly the same so it may as well be the same person right? Even if the mind is different, the body is the same. I don’t buy this at all, but at least now the villains can tell Jupiter how much she looks like her mother. They all don’t really age since they have a pool of youth that restores their body at the expense of everyone else. It’s a rather shady business, but the aliens don’t really have any morals to keep them from doing this. Generically, the pool also leads to some unnecessary fanservice as one of the characters decides to show Jupiter how to use it. It’s rather self explanatory if you ask me, but Jupiter did seem to be a little slow on the uptake at times.

This is the kind of movie that is simply better as a video game. If the gameplay played out like a Star Fox game or even a 007 title, it could be a lot of fun. Otherwise, this film wasn’t very enjoyable and it just feels worn out the whole time. It tries out a lot of ideas, but it only does so generically and even the fight scenes began to get a little generic by the end. The effects for the battles were still better than average and I liked the boots that Caine wore, but that’s hardly enough to save a film.

Overall, Jupiter Ascending is a movie that you should take a pass on. The action scenes are the only good thing about it and the rest of the film is just unoriginal and not very interesting. Adding in a good villain could have really made a difference, but with no characters to root for, you’ll quickly lose interest in the plot. At least Jupiter starts to appreciate her situation and doesn’t complain as much in the end of the film, but as long as she doesn’t mind showing off her new skills on skyscrapers, the world will likely find out about her ordeal very soon. When that happens, Earth will finally be able to fight back and take out the aliens. If you want a good alien story, then you should probably go watch Broly The Legendary Super Saiyan. That’s an alien story with a lot of tension and action!

Overall 3/10