Black Rock Shooter Review

Black Rock Shooter is one of those shows that I knew nothing about except the design of the main fighter. One of the oldest music themes in my favorites list is “Battle of BRS” which may be from this show but I was listening for it during the show and didn’t notice it so maybe it’s from the OVA or something else. Either way it’s cool to be entering into this adventure now and it’s definitely a great show. It’s a fun divide between the human world and the other place where fights rage on forever. It’s short but makes the most of the length.

The show starts off by introducing us to Mato who has had a very fun life up to now. She really enjoys reading a book about the bird who saw a million colors and has lives her life modeled after that. Mato enjoys everything and sees life as being something amazing. When she sees her classmate Yomi is really by herself and not having a good time, Mato tries being her friend. This will be tough though as Yomi is shackled by her sick friend Kagari. Mato will have to learn what it means to go through both emotional and physical pain on this journey of hers but she doesn’t want to stop trying to get Yomi to a better place.

The plot changes over the course of the 8 episodes but a large chunk of this is really about Mato learning that there’s more to life than just pure joy even if it would be cool if that was the case. So by trying to help Yomi she ends up throwing her own life off of the clear path it was on. That’s why throughout the show Mato is just great. She doesn’t get down easy and she’s always going out of her way to help out the other characters. She helps out quite a few characters before this is over.

Now I should talk about the other world. It’s a very interesting concept and one that the show dives into quite a bit by the end. So in this show, every character has an inner self which is quite literal. This self is born to fight on your behalf in the other world. Mato’s counterpart is Black Rock Shooter. So BRS’s objective is to protect Mato’s soul and get rid of anyone who endangers it. It is quite literally a life built for nonstop fighting. There is never an end to the battles and there are always more fighters to battle.

As a result it can be a depressing existence for these beings. Fortunately they are built to have no emotions by default but as we see in the show, it is possible to develop them. So all these years BRS has been fighting off enemies and protecting Mato. I’d say she has done an excellent job of it considering that Mato’s had a near perfect life. It’s important to note that the humans don’t know about their inner selves or at least most don’t. Mato has dreams about BRS on occasion but that’s really the extent of it.

When your inner self is destroyed, you lose all memory of whatever had been causing you pain. So, lets say someone bullied you at school and stole your lunch. Your inner self absorbs that pain and if the despair is too much then it will cause your real self to also be empty inside. If someone destroys your inner self containing the despair, your real self will completely forget it. It’ll be like that deed never happened to you so you now have peace but it’s a false peace since you’ve lost your memory. So one of the trials here is deciding if what BRS is doing is right. After all, aside from protecting Mato she is going around and destroying all of the negative inner selves.

This is helping these other people by conquering their despair. It takes Yomi and Kagari from each being near suicidal to being able to be happy again. So it does seem like a really positive thing but it completely erases all of their bad memories which does have a big impact. There’s a whole debate to be there for sure. My short answer though is that BRS is doing good. She is protecting Mato and if she didn’t destroy those inner selves then they would have possibly destroyed the human hosts as well. It’s hard to say for sure but it definitely seemed to be going that way.

BRS seems like one of the only positive inner selves though. So I wonder if you have to have despair in order to generate one of these or if we just don’t see the positive ones. I am going to assume it’s the latter for now and BRS is intentionally only going after the evil ones. If so, it speaks even better of BRS even if by the end some characters are convinced that she may destroy the entire world. BRS is very determined and gets the job done, that’s definitely very impressive. She is easily my favorite character as well. She takes some really heavy blows and always manages to get back up. Additionally, just imagine what it’s like to be locked into a never ending conflict for years and years at a time. You have to have strong mental fortitude to keep up with that and we see that BRS really is a strong soul.

That’s about all I need to say on the Other World so you get the gist of it. We see several other inner selves of course as each main girl has one and they all try their best to fight off BRS. Aside from Strength none of the others get any real character but the designs are all fun. Of course they do give us a ton of great action scenes as well. It’s all very styalized and is using a noticeably different animation style than in the human world. It helps to make the fights stand out and I definitely liked it quite a lot.

The fights are great throughout and you really feel the blows. If handled wrong this could have been excessively violent but it’s all styalized so it never actually feels that way. The characters are almost like machines fighting and I’d say this is intentional to show how they have been containing the despair for so long and nothing phases them. BRS will be getting pummeled over and over only to jump up and land a powerful combo. The other world scenes are definitely the best part of the show.

Not to say the human stuff is bad, I’ll get onto that shortly. The human stuff is really good too but it’s nice to have a literal battlefield where we see how the emotions are affecting these fighters. It also adds the action genre to the show which is never a bad thing. The fights remind me of Madoka a bit with how everyone has an absolutely massive arsenal where they can spam their attacks at will. These fighters never run out of attacks to use and will fight until one of them is completely destroyed.

So now lets get to the human part which is almost like a different show. Maybe that’s part of what makes the show so effective, it’s like two shows for the price of one as we switch into worlds. For an emotional story like this where Mato is helping everyone out, I’d say a crucial part of whether it succeeds or not depends on how dark each person’s story is. It’s very easy for a show to write everyone going through absolutely horrible tragedies where the scars will be with them forever. Fortunately the show has a lot of restraint and while all of the characters are in bad situations, it never crosses that line.

The darkest situation is the first friend for sure which is Yomi. So here’s the situation. When they were kids, Yomi was best friends with Kagari. Unfortunately Kagari got injured and blames Yomi for this. Yomi must now play with her and her alone at all times. If she tries to play with anyone else Yomi will guilt trip her further. Unfortunately Yomi’s mother is also in on this and doesn’t notice how Kagari completely terrorizes her the whole time. Yomi is now too scared to do much of anything and even allows Kagari to physically injure her. This is where Mato steps in to save the day.

This is the kind of situation though where I have to blame Yomi quite a lot though. I get why she feels guilt here but at the end of the day the injury was actually more on Kagari when you think about it. Additionally, guilt can only go too far. Yomi has already given Kagari many years but when it comes to letting your friend stab you and scare everyone away that’s just going way too far. I wanted to see Yomi stick up for herself a bit here. It’s a character arc I’ve seen before definitely and each time I think it just goes way too far.

Yomi ended up being my least favorite character in the series as she just keeps sinking even after the arc. You’d think that the experience of having a possessive, abusive friend would help Yomi learn what not to do in friendship. Instead she becomes unreasonably jealous of Mato’s other friend Kotari. It would have been so easy for the 3 of them to be friends. Mato and Kotari were both all for it but Yomi of course had to make sure this couldn’t happen. It takes forever for Yomi to finally turn into a decent character. In a sequel I’m sure she would look better but in this show she was really annoying with how this all ended up. I still think there was no reason for her to go off the deep end. (Not gonna blame the inner self for any of this)

Kagari was of course an awful bully in the first half but fortunately after BRS saved the day she was able to become a good character. I mean she still has some moments that seem off like when she yells Yomi not to be too clingy but I guess she was trying to be nice about how she framed it and just didn’t know how to do it. It’s hard to just forget about the first half so I wouldn’t say Kagari is a good character. She is on a good track to be a better person going forward though.

Another character who needed help was Arata. Her situation isn’t nearly as bad though. Basically she likes a guy but he’s a wimp who lets his friends make fun of her for that and does nothing to stop them. Now that Arata had her heart trampled on like this she has retreated within herself. She has always internalized all of her issues and believes that anything bad that happens is her own fault. It’s a rationale she uses to make sure that she never gets sad but of course this is catching up to her. It doesn’t help that Saya is always making some little comments about this but I’ll talk more about her shortly. I liked Arata quite a lot though.

Internalizing like that isn’t healthy but it is certainly better than blowing up at the other characters and causing a scene. Arata never does that and does ultimately stand by her ideals of rising or falling on her own merits. You’re rooting for her to have a happy ending by the end of all this. Her inner self is probably the weakest one as she doesn’t really fight but it makes sense. Her inner self has no despair to absorb since Arata keeps it to herself and the inner self probably doesn’t even know what to do at this point.

Now lets talk about Saya. So for most of the series Saya was my favorite villain. She’s the counselor at the school but her actual role is the opposite. She will call in a student who is having a bad time and will intentionally give them bad advice. For example Yomi arrives in a very bad mental state and Saya tells her that nobody needs her. Arata mentions how things went badly for her and Saya basically says that’s a good thing. Mato goes in for help and Saya literally starts choking her before saying that she lost control for a sec.

It’s how not subtle Saya is that really sells the character for me. It’s also just surreal because I’ve never seen a character like this. Everyone is caught up in their feels so nobody ever complains about her to the administration so Saya’s really in the clear. The comments are always obvious but when the character questions this Saya will say that she misspoke or just do the classic “Huh?”. It’s very twisted of course since this is a villain who only targets you when you’re already down and in a delicate headspace. It’s why this makes her so unique as a villain though. She doesn’t do anything over the top, she’s not using swear words, beating people up, or doing anything crazy. She’s just using mild comments but ones that are specifically tailored to each character to maximize how hard they will take the comment. Now there are some twists about this that make you think about her character some more. It’s an interesting twist but whether it truly helps her or not can be debatable.

Finally we have Mato’s best friend Kotari and from the start you probably figured that something would happen to her eventually. She’s always happy and cheering Mato on so clearly something is wrong here right? Well, she gets quite a lot of development such as a burning house and growing up in an awful household. It’s certainly not a good situation for her and like Arata she seems to internalize this. At least..that seems to be the case at first. So the next 5 paragraphs are pretty big spoilers so avoid them if you haven’t seen the show yet. This will also tie into Saya as I untangle this a bit. Get ready to skip nowwwwwwwww.

Begin Spoilers. So Kotari actually switched places with her inner self “Strength”. How is this possible? Anything is possible in these things if you believe hard enough. So now Kotari is the one who receives all of the despair and it’s sort of driven her crazy. She has a whole speech about this at the end where she’s screaming about how it hurts but how she’s also still here and she won’t let the pain beat her. The speech itself could be rather inspirational if she wasn’t so crazy by this point trying to murder BRS. The message is good how Kotari has been through a lot but won’t let the pain define her. At the same time, Kotari has completely abandoned the human world so is she really dealing with the pain or avoiding it? She’s clearly been through a lot and was a really good character.

Then of course the character we thought was Kotari for most of the series was actually Strength. As a result I can safely say that Strength is a great character as well. She takes a lot of risks to help Mato throughout the series and was really a nice person to everyone. It seems like she takes her life very seriously since she knows first hand how any sadness would affect the real Kotari in her world. So the setup they have is pretty good and it’s a credit to both characters. Ultimately this can’t last though and the real Kotari will need to go back and hang out with everyone. Hopefully she still has all the memories of Strength and knows what is going on or school’s gonna feel crazy.

Now lets talk about Saya’s plan. It turns out that there was a method to her madness. So she was intentionally breaking each student down to expose their true selves so BRS could destroy them. This would grant the students their inner peace. Then once BRS had absorbed all of that negativity, Saya would destroy her so then Mato would be free and everyone would be free of despair. It’s one of those plans that doesn’t sound crazy at first glance. If Saya succeeds then everyone will be happy so isn’t that good?

Well, it would be except how can she beat BRS? We see how powerful BRS is in every fight and she seems to get stronger after each adventure. Saya’s inner self is powerful as well but definitely not on the same level. Maybe the fact that Saya seems to pretty much be able to control her inner self would make her stronger but I still see no way to close the gap. Saya is also tempted to murder Mato at one point which would have really not solved anything and would have made everything worse. I don’t think BRS ever needed to die though as she only happened to go crazy because of the failed fusion with Mato. Otherwise I think she would have stopped once the threats were gone. So Saya’s plan was very convoluted and was no good.

Here’s another huge flaw in the plan. What if she broke down Yomi and the others too well and they ended up doing something they’d regret? If they died then her plan would have been completely off the rails since she would have indirectly murdered the people she was trying to help. That’s why I think they should have played it straight and kept Saya as a villain. Make her the final boss and that would have been more satisfying. This plan just doesn’t make much sense to me even if it was well intentioned. Reminds me of Athena’s plans in that sense. Plus Saya was just so much fun as a villain. Ah well.

End spoilers. As mentioned, Mato is a great main character so that wraps up what I would consider to be a very impressive lineup here. You really won’t have any issues with Mato because she does her best to protect everyone at all times. She is willing to put her physical and emotional selves in jeopardy to help out as well. Mato really doesn’t hesitate to put herself in harm’s way and while it ends up hurting her, she’s okay if she has helped someone. You can’t ask for much more out of a hero.

The animation for the human world is good too. It may not stand out as much as the inner world but of course that’s because we don’t have big action scenes in the real world. Either way it works well as the animations and designs are on point. The soundtrack is also good. I wouldn’t say there are any really standout themes but the battle theme is good. The opening and ending are okay but I wouldn’t say they are too memorable. I don’t think you’ll be humming these tunes after the show ends or anything like that.

Black Rock Shooter works in large part because of the writing. Of course the fights are good as well but this is really a show that could have gone sideways. Writing an emotional show will always be tougher than a standard action one because you have to be sad without being too tragic. It’s a tight line that you have to walk and this show did a great job with it. It’s why it ended up surpassing expectations for me and is definitely a top notch show that I would recommend checking out. At only 8 episodes you’ll be done with this one in a flash. The story breezes by and the pacing is always quick so you can’t go wrong here.

Overall, Black Rock Shooter is a great show that is emotional by day and action packed by night. The contrast between both worlds is really handled excellently. I would be cool with a whole show for either world but by merging it like this you really get a complete adventure. From the two though, a full show for BRS in her world would be a lot of fun. Since nobody there talks though I can see why this would have to be more of a sub plot though. I mean, not that they can’t talk but as emotionless fighters they don’t tend to talk much. Only BRS and Strength really show any kind of emotion here. Well, it’s nice to know the story behind the fun battle song “Battle of BRS” now. I’d recommend looking up that tune if you haven’t yet and of course you should check this show out if you’re up for a solid adventure.

Overall 8/10

In/Spectre Review

I know what you’re thinking. Inspector Gadget finally got his own anime right? Well, not this time but this is still a mystery type show. It’s a very unique kind of approach to it though as the cases revolve around finding an explanation but not necessarily the correct one. I’ll explain what I mean in a moment but it’s a nice way to change things up. Ultimately this is a show you will remember quite well after watching it and I’ll be interested to see what cases season 2 covers.

So the series starts off by introducing us to Iwanaga. She was kidnapped as a child and when she was found, Iwanaga was missing a leg and an eye. In exchange she has now gained the ability to see yokai and helps them out as the goddess of wisdom. There is still some mystery regarding what exactly happened to her but the outside world is unlikely to ever know the full truth here. Well, Iwanaga has been solving mysteries for a while now but her top goal is getting Kuro to fall in love with her. Now that he has broken up with the girl he was dating for the last 2 years, it’s time to make her move!

Okay that’s the plot for the first episode and after that we get the cases. The first episode is important though because it sets the stage for the rest of the series and the dynamic between Kuro and Iwanaga. Also, I would say the first episode is the best episode in the series. Not a diss to the rest of the show but I didn’t feel like it ever quite matches up to the first adventure.

The first episode really has a similar vibe to Death Note. We know there’s something odd about Kuro but it’s hard to say exactly what. Iwanaga is odd in her own way too so who is the hero and who’s the villain here? Kuro gives a story about how his girlfriend Saki broke up with him because a Kappa appeared and Kuro was too scared to help out. Iwanaga counters that this is unlikely and we get an interesting dynamic there. There’s a lot of verbal battles as they compare theories. Finally the episode ends with a massive cliffhanger as Kuro seemingly outs himself as a villain and walks away.

From the first episode you almost get a Death Note meets Carmen Sandiego feeling as Kuro will keep avoiding Iwanaga while she chases him. Things don’t quite go in that direction though as Iwanaga is not scared of his abilities and is still in love with him anyway. From there they end up forming a very reluctant team as they are “dating” and Kuro has to protect her at all times since the world of Yokai is a dangerous one. It’s a different dynamic compared to the first episode but still a good path. That first episode just really leaves a strong impact.

The first case is a fairly small one. So a body was found inside the lake of the Great Snake and so he summons Iwanaga to ask what happened. If the answer is not satisfactory then he will create a giant storm and cause a lot of destruction. Throughout the two episodes Iwanaga poses several theories and explanations on what has happened. This is really the meat of what makes the series interesting. So in most detective shows/movies you will have the main character explain everything as we get flashbacks as to exactly what happened and then we call it a day.

Well we get the explanation and the flashback but then the Snake starts poking a lot of holes in the theory. So Iwanaga switches her story up and you quickly realize that she was completely bluffing the first time. It’s a fun subversion because you are used to the main character being correct the first time around, not having to backtrack and try again. I can’t think of the last time I saw something like that. It happens over and over again as the Snake keeps dismissing the theories until he accepts the last one. Thing is, we don’t know if it’s actually correct. Iwanaga ultimately admits to Kuro that it’s still a guess since it’s not like she was actually there.

Although she did have her mystic Yokai informants to fill in some of the holes but ultimately she doesn’t know if this is the truth. Iwanaga points out that it’s close enough though and works as an “Alternative Truth” which is a main theme of the show. As long as you get to the correct outcome, the details themselves don’t matter and can therefore be made up. Iwanaga’s job is to make everything make sense, not to necessarily uncover the truth behind these mysteries. You can see how that’s a very different perspective from what you may be used to. It makes for a fun watch and becomes a bigger debate/point of emphasis in the upcoming arc. The snake adventure was a good way to kick things off as we see different flashbacks which keeps contradicting themselves as the story goes on. I’ll give the Snake props for shooting down so many theories initially though.

Now we enter the final arc. You may be thinking that this was awful quick but the final arc is quite long which is why it shows up immediately like this. So there is a rumor going around about “Steel Lady Nanase” which is believed to be the undead spirit of Nanase that is going around and murdering people. Nanase was crushed when a giant construction beam broke and fell on her. The circumstances of her death were very suspicious though. Why was she alone in the middle of the night at an abandoned construction area? She was a very well known voice actress of world renown who should not have been there at the time. Additionally, the way she died makes it appear that she didn’t react to the beam falling down at all as if she was already knocked out or put to sleep. Thing is there are no other injuries to be found or any traces of a drug. Naturally Iwanaga is called into action.

With almost 10 episodes for this arc it’s quite a long one as you can expect with quite a few twists and alternative truths mixed in. We also meet a new villain and several new characters. This is a good place to talk about Kuro’s abilities since they will play a big role in this title. So Kuro ate part of a mermaid at some point which is part of his origin story and so he is immortal. Any fatal wound he receives will quickly heal up at all times. Additionally, while he is dead, Kuro has the ability to grab onto the literal strings of fate to determine what path he takes.

This isn’t an invincible ability where he can change the future though as it has some limitations. First, he can only see some branches into the future and can’t follow them along too far before his healing factor kicks in and he regenerates. Additionally, if the future is something very strong then he can’t change it. For example, if a villain is attacking someone, it’s probably too late to change their fate to spare the victim because the action is already in progress. Another wrinkle to the equation is that he’s not the only one with fate altering abilities so if the other user is more powerful than he is, then Kuro will be blocked out.

A side effect of Kuro’s abilities is that his blood is poisonous to monsters/yokai now. So most avoid him by default. Mix that in with his immortality and getting eaten intentionally is an actual battle tactic for him since he can walk away from that while the monster will blow up. So that wraps up Kuro’s abilities and it makes him a very valuable asset to have. Iwanaga always wants him to help out but unfortunately for her he isn’t a great team player and tends to vanish a lot. Ultimately he will show up to help out in each arc though.

It does also feel like the show jumps around a lot. It feels like there is a significant jump between the giant snake case and then Steel Lady Nanase. Personally I’m thinking the show may have skipped some stories to get to the big Nanase case or something but it may just be a normal jump. Either way the duo have really grown comfortable with each other by this case and Kuro no longer denies being her girlfriend. The two of them are just partners in for the long haul at this point although if Kuro’s immortality includes his age then that could be tricky for Iwanaga eventually.

Back to the arc though, here’s a bit more of the details. So of course Yokai exist in this world and the Steel Lady Nanase is very real. The trouble is that spirits grow stronger based on how many people believe in them. Initially there weren’t a lot of people who believed in Nanase, but a certain website has helped her become big through its active forums. It turns out that Rikka, Kuro’s cousin is at the helm and she appears to be using this as some kind of experiment. That makes the case extra personal for Kuro. The problem is that it’s not so easy to figure out how to beat Nanase since Rikka keeps using fate alteration to prevent her defeat.

So the goal here is really for Iwanaga to convince people on the forums that Nanase isn’t real. Effectively she has to make the truth appear to be a lie and the lie appear to be truth. It’s interesting because we know that the villain in this case is telling the truth about Nanase being an evil spirit murdering everyone so in a way you’re hoping that the forum won’t fall for Iwanaga’s fake news. On the other hand, this is the only way to stop the spirit since if nobody believes in her then she will fade from existence.

We get a lot of rules about how this specifically works. The fact that everyone knows how Nanase looks and that someone drew an image of her also made the spirit more powerful since everyone would have the same illustration in their minds. It was really quite the impressive trick by Rikka. Rikka is quite fortunate that the forum was so supernatural though as on Reddit I can’t imagine a lot of people buying into this. They may ironically post about it but that’s really it.

It was a lot of fun to see the forums going though as Iwanaga and Rikka both infiltrated and pretended to be random users. We get multiple episodes of all these users interacting as Iwanaga provides story after story. Like with the giant snake she just keeps on throwing out constant theories until one sticks. I personally thought she should have used a different user name with each one to really split everyone up though. See, her goal isn’t to win everyone over at once but to gradually split up the group so that everyone is believing in different things at the same time. That would weaken the collective image and allow Kuro to take Nanase down.

After all, while Iwanaga is typing all of this, Kuro is fighting Nanase so that she can’t murder anyone else in the meantime. I did have major issues with this fight though. So Nanase isn’t super strong on her own, I mean she is decent but you can absolutely wrestle her to the ground. For someone like Kuro this should be easy right? Nanase’s only big weapon is her steel beam which murders Kuro several times. That’s fair, I accept those losses since the man seems to have 0 fighting instincts. There are 3-4 times in the fight where he throws her beam off of the stairs or she is separated from it.

In those cases he should absolutely be grabbing the beam right? No, each time he’ll just throw her back into the beam, just stand there with a stunned expression on his face, or he’ll destroy her but then she’ll regenerate and just pick up the beam again. Kuro’s win conditions aren’t too hard here. Just keep the steel beam out of reach since she can’t summon it remotely and then get her in a choke hold. He successfully did this and murdered her once but then ran off. Instead keep holding onto her as she regenerates and wait for Iwanaga to solve the case.

I feel like they made Kuro fight super poorly the whole time so that her solutions would work completely but it would have been more impressive if he was just holding her in place the whole time. Maybe it wouldn’t have been as visually interesting but then just keep the focus on the inside world with the texts and the virtual selves. I think that would have worked out quite well if you ask me. That fight just didn’t make sense the whole time and since the climax is so long, it just makes this impossible not to notice.

So lets talk about the characters. First off you have Kuro who works well as the main guy. You feel bad for him to an extent as he clearly doesn’t want to get back into a relationship but Iwanaga is quite persistent. Even now when they are together you feel like he’s just there to protect her but doesn’t really return her feelings just yet. They work better as just being friends but I think we know that’s likely off the table right away. Kuro is never quite as mysterious as he was in the first episode but you always get the sense that he could crack at any second.

He does have some character weaknesses though like how he runs off to take care of the Rikka element by himself and that ultimately comes back to bite him. The whole plot with Rikka does no favors for Kuro either. They are still cousins after all so I don’t care how big the family is, that means Kuro needs to stay out of that arena. At least he’s finally starting to get over that but in the meantime it does hold him back as a character.

As for Iwanaga, her detective skills are on point. When solving cases she is second to none and I do like how quickly she is able to pivot from one story to the next when they are proven to be incorrect. She’s quick on her feet in that respect and is also willing to jump into danger as needed. On the minus side, she can be rather crude at times. That’s almost her whole gimmick with how she obsessively chases after Kuro and tries to keep his ex Saki at a distance. Iwanaga is always calculating and that includes when she is talking to her friends. I’d like for her to be a little more dignified at times though. So like Kuro I wouldn’t say I’m a big fan of her so far.

Saku is the ex girlfriend who gets a big role in the Nanase case. Her first appearance in that arc is quite good as she charges Nanase and tries to fight. Of course it doesn’t work since Nanase is a ghost but I did like her enthusiasm there. She really went for a big punch and since she is usually scared of the occult that was a big character moment. I was surprised when it happened but very much in a good way. You’ve probably noticed a trend with the characters so far though which is that they all have a weak point as well. Saki is no different and my issue is with how she ditched Kuro so easily.

Mainly the show points to the incident with the Kappa as why she ran off. When she noticed that the Kappa was scared and not Kuro, she had to dash out of there because it was all too scary. If she broke up with Kuro because he was emotionless I could buy into that. Or if he started acting evil and edgy, sure that makes sense. Running off because of that? I think that’s a real stretch and even in the present it doesn’t make much sense to me. Later on we see that she knew about his regeneration after witnessing it at one point so I don’t see why this was so much of a shock to her.

At the very least I would have expected them to sit down and talk about it a bit. So that really hurt her character since it makes her look bad. At least it looks like there won’t be a “Take Two” so they will just stay as friends now. One minor character who stole the show for me was Terada. He’s Saki’s superior in the office and while he doesn’t believe in the supernatural he keeps his mind open about it. I was glad that he was trying to crack the case and didn’t just say Saki was crazy or something like that. Unfortunately, going up against a spirit will usually be the end of you and that’s how things went here. At least he was a lot of fun while he was around and that’s how you develop a good one shot character.

Finally we have the villain Rikka. Eh, I’m not a fan of hers either although we don’t really know her full goals yet. It appears that ultimately she wants to die since immortality is a bit of a curse for her. So, perhaps by figuring out how to make spirits come to life, she is trying to find a way to reverse her own immortality. I don’t really know why she was trolling at the hospital for a few years though as with her immortality she seems to have been okay. When the hospital discharges her eventually she just walks off. Maybe she just liked scaring Saki. (Yeah Saki’s also scared of her which isn’t a great look) I’ll need to see what Rikka’s real motivations are but in the meantime she’s just not a very interesting villain. It is fun to picture her typing on the keyboard as the enemy troll in the final debates though.

I doubt she really knows what she wants to do at this point but it would be hard for the heroes to stop her if she got serious. Put it this way, there’s nothing stopping her from creating a lot of myths around the world and summoning more monsters. Maybe they wouldn’t be as powerful if she doesn’t get the circumstances just right but the heroes can’t be in more than one place. Just summon a bunch of them and watch the world burn. It’s not like the humans can do anything against Yokai so that’s game set and match. Her goal isn’t to destroy the world but if she needs the spirits for her goal…well that’s how you do it.

That about covers it for the characters. There are a bunch of random yokai running around too of course but they’re not quite big enough to go in depth on. As you can see I wasn’t the biggest fan of the cast but they hold their scenes well enough. You’ll still be entertained while going through it mainly because the detective angle is a blast. The series is at its best when the characters are debating viewpoints and trying to find flaws in each other’s arguments. Since Iwanaga is creating lies each time, it makes sense that there will usually be a hole to exploit somewhere.

It does have a bit of a fanservice issue in the final case with Nanase. The fanservice is effectively built into her reputation which is why it’s emphasized and mentioned so much but it’s not really needed. Kuro doesn’t miss a chance to tease Iwanaga on her appearance with this and they mess around a bit but it ultimately felt like a bit of an excuse to use Nanase for fanservice. The rest of the show is pretty much devoid of this so I like to think it won’t be an issue for season 2.

The opening song is very solid here. It’s quite catchy and I particularly like the guitar strum at the beginning. It’s the kind of opening you can listen to a whole lot. Within the show the ost isn’t quite as memorable but it’s hard to top that intro. As for the animation, it’s pretty solid. I wouldn’t say it’s particularly memorable but works well enough for a more mystery based show. The action scenes aren’t quite the focus after all and everything is still clear enough. There are good contrasts with the colors and you can’t mistake the fact that this is a newer anime.

As this is a mystery show you can also expect some of the backstories to be a little dark. Usually with murders that’s how things go but I would say the show never goes too dark with the backstories. At times things can get a little violent as the show exploits how Rikka and Kuro can keep regenerating anyway. Rikka keeps destroying herself to grab onto fate and I would say Kuro is sandbagging to an extent to keep grabbing fate as well. As a result they do die a lot and quite brutally in some ways. It certainly can be a bit much at times and they could tone down the violence in season 2 but for the most part it’s usually not excessive like that. Certainly none of the other cases aside from Nanase were that violent so I wouldn’t expect it to be a trend.

Overall, In/Spectre is definitely a fun show. It may not have gone the route I was expecting with the dynamic between Kuro and Iwanaga but ultimately down the road you always expect a two man show for the detectives. The one solving the cases and then the muscle to back the detective up. (Alternately the second person would be comic relief like with some variations of Watson) The show maintains really solid dialogue throughout with the cases and I like how unique the whole thing is. To get to the next level I’d like the characters to get a little more likable and then we’re really in business. If you’re looking for a good mystery show then this is one to check out. The first episode will almost certainly have you hooked.

Overall 7/10

A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood

Who doesn’t remember good ole Mr. Rogers from back in the day right? The show was always fun and while I don’t think I saw a ton of episodes, it was certainly around. Having a film based on both the show and Rogers himself was a fun idea. The movie can certainly get dramatic and all but it seems to have been a rather accurate/realistic portrayal here so I imagine everyone would be satisfied at this point. Since the film is based on a real story there won’t be a review or score but I will still have my thoughts below.

The main character here is a guy named Lloyd. He has been dealing with issues with his father. Lloyd blames him for their mother’s notably unpeaceful death. The guy was cheating a lot back then and now Lloyd finds it hard to forgive him even if the guy seems to have changed. Mr. Rogers wants to help Lloyd let go of this grudge in the show and eventually meets him in the real world. Lloyd is a reporter and his boss wants him to write about Mr. Rogers. Lloyd looks forward to finding faults with Rogers but is unable to find any. Could it be possible that Mr. Rogers is just a nice person? Lloyd has never thought that this could even be possible.

The writing is solid and so even if you know more or less exactly how this will play out, the adventure is good. I would say the film’s only weakness is that it can go a little too far in being dramatic at times. For example, it takes Rogers an eternity to finish his sentences at times because he’ll take very long breaks to look at the camera. We have moments of silence that go on for a while and in general the film’s pacing is like that of a glacier. This is a movie that will absolutely feel long as every scene is stretched for maximum effect. I think it can be a bit much at times but I understand why the effect is used. That’s just how this is supposed to be played out.

As for Lloyd, well he’s definitely not a nice character for most of the film. He holds onto his grudges and just does not move forward. Ultimately he does manage to learn his lesson though and we see how Mr. Rogers has changed him. Rogers does a tremendous job of being a good role model at all times. He is very conscious of how much kids look up to him and doesn’t make many mistakes. He’s not perfect of course and he knows this but he goes out of his way to make sure that people see the good side of him. He even leaves mistakes in the episodes after editing so that kids can see that sometimes things don’t work out. It’s a good lesson to be learned and also shows that he was really good at being an editor. He knew what scenes to keep and what scenes to cut.

It’s very unlikely that you will walk away from the film not liking Mr. Rogers. He’s just a very good guy and I would have liked seeing him as the main character of the adventure even over Lloyd. I suppose Lloyd gives us the more dramatic parts of the story but you could absolutely do a lot with more Rogers scenes. Seeing him take the train or eat out at a restaurant are fun because you get to see him outside of the routine. At the same time, he always has to be with Lloyd in these moments since that guy’s the main character and it seems like he holds Rogers back there. I know the point is that Lloyd’s not a great guy but so until he changes, his scenes can be more on the brutal side.

More scenes showing Rogers hanging out with the kids and being patient with everyone would be enjoyable. We see that he drives his producers crazy since he has a hard time sticking to the script but it also shows that he is very serious about his show and persona. He never breaks character and is always helping out. More scenes could show him at various news shows and programs where he could talk to people directly.

I did enjoy the dream Lloyd has where he joins the show though and that was a moment where the movie used his character really well. It was fun seeing him shrink and have to accept his new situation. it was certainly very trippy but it worked out well. It’s also cool to see the old sets and the music since it’s exactly how I remembered it. It’s been many years since I’ve heard the theme song but there are just some tunes that you never forget. The intro song to Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood is definitely one such example. It could probably be another 30 years before I hear it again and I would still recognize it.

Overall, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood does a great job of really capturing the spirit of the show while also having a story where you get to see how Rogers’ changes someone’s life personally. I do think that the adventure would be even better without Lloyd but having him around was a good way to see how Rogers would deal with this situation. It was important to see him take on Lloyd’s bad attitude with a good attitude of his own. Nobody could really knock Mr. Rogers off of his game. He was really committed to helping out everyone as best he could and ultimately he succeeded. If you’re feeling nostalgic about the series or just want an emotional story then this is certainly a good pick.

Cactus Flower Review

Cactus Flower is one of those movies where the main character really creates all of the trouble for himself. He’s not in the wrong place at the wrong time or anything like that. It’s his lies that turn a molehill into a mountain so it’s hard to feel bad for him at any point in the film. I don’t think the romance works very well and while some scenes are funny, others are not. There are more misses than things that work well in this film so ultimately I have to give it the thumbs down.

The movie starts with a girl named Toni deciding to commit suicide but she is rescued by Igor who decides to have a little fling with her in the process. Toni doesn’t seem to mind all that much and explains that she has decided to remove herself from the picture in the cheating affair she had with Julian. Julian receives her suicide note though and dashes over to see her. He convinces her that his wife doesn’t mind the affair and has even given her consent for a divorce. Toni finds this hard to believe and wants to meet this wife. Here’s the issue…Julian doesn’t have a wife. He decides he will have to get his dental assistant Stephanie to play the part but she isn’t thrilled about doing so. Is all of this really worth it to keep the relationship with Toni? Toni’s neighbor Igor is also suspicious of what’s going on and decides to step in.

This film starts to play out like a soap opera after a while with how complicated the circles are. Julian’s reason for lying to Toni about having a wife in the first place makes him look pretty bad too. Basically he told her that so that he wouldn’t have to marry her and they could just have the friends with benefits routine. Toni didn’t mind at first but clearly this got to her later on as you can tell from the opening scene. At this point Julian should have confessed but a big part of Toni’s character is that she doesn’t like liars so Julian chickens out yet again. The guy never really gets good at the whole honesty thing even through to the end. So you definitely don’t want to wind up with that guy.

So Toni likes Julian, Igor likes Toni, Stephanie likes Julian, and Julian likes Toni. Throw in a few supporting characters who will go out with any girl and you’ve got a regular circus going on here. Everyone’s certainly desperate for romance here except for Stephanie who tries to stay strong but 5 seconds into the movie and you probably know how this will play out. The romance angle is just very weak here and there is no relationship that you are rooting for.

Lets turn our attention to Stephanie for a second here who probably has the toughest ordeals in the movie. She has performed really well as an assistant for many years and has never failed in any tasks. It’s really a credit to her skills and she has a good home life. Well, one day Julian makes this crazy request for her to pretend to be his wife and she should have stuck to her guns and said no. By joining in she is basically lying herself and these things tend to come back to haunt her. Having to go on a fake date with Julian’s awful friend was another shot to her reputation and dignity. By the end of the film Stephanie basically cracks as she decides to have a wild night hanging out with a dicey crowd. Julian drove her to this so you don’t want to see them together in the end.

While Julian isn’t honest, you don’t like Toni either because she is having a relationship with the guy while she thinks he is married. No way you can get behind that. Even if Toni starts to feel guilty later on, it’s just too late. Her demands get more and more unreasonable though like after she meets Stephanie then she wants to meet the new boyfriend and things like that. All the while she seems like someone who will cheat on Julian without a second thought. Julian is correct to be suspicious of the next door neighbor Igor, that’s for sure. Toni is just way too annoying to be likable.

Then you have Igor who isn’t great either. I give him some more points than the others since he did save Toni’s life and tries to be a decent guy but his romance plot isn’t great either. He tries to look out for Toni but doesn’t exactly confess at any point and if anything makes her jealous by hanging out with Stephanie. He does get some of the best lines in the film though so by default I would consider him to be the best character here. It’s really not saying much but I like the confidence he has in his writing. He wants to write plays that are dignified and don’t rely on fanservice. It’s a good goal and hopefully he can achieve it.

There are some side characters but they’re all pretty bad like Julian’s friend who wants to have an affair with everyone and the one guy who’s always going after Stephanie even though he is married. I suppose you see some real characters while working at the Dentist. I’ve just seen way better romantic comedies in my day. You can survive while having a bad romance if the comedy is really good, but I wouldn’t say it is exceptional or anything like that. It has some fun moments but what comedy doesn’t? Most of the jokes don’t land very well and that hurts. Any scene of Stephanie having to survive her dates and try not to run out is more tragic than funny. She went too far in trying to help Julian and just should have let him sink instead.

Julian just kept getting worse and worse as the film went on. There’s one point where he starts to lecture Stephanie on how she isn’t feminine and how she is limiting her world view while they are driving back. This is after she has put her reputation on the line to help him out and she has been a great worker for many years. The entire speech just made absolutely no sense. Not only was Julian incorrect in each of his assumptions but it just made him look like a grade 1 jerk. Talk about having no gratitude for what she had done for him. Julian forgot it all in an instant.

Overall, Cactus Flower is a weak comedy. It’s hard to find any character to root for here and the style of comedy just ended up missing a lot. The romance is rather poor and while the dialogue can be good, it wasn’t enough to save the movie in this case. It does go by fast though, I can tell you that. The movie doesn’t drag on and a whole lot happens before the movie ends. So I can at least say that the pacing is good which is a small silver lining at least. Perhaps a remake could handle the film better as the plot of a close friend pretending to be the wife or girlfriend can work at times. You just have to have a really good setup and likable characters. This one forgot those key steps.

Overall 4/10

Ad Astra Review

Ad Astra is a fairly low key space adventure. You’re not going to have a lot of explosions or anything like that but you do get to see space which is always fun. I do think the movie would have benefit a lot from some actual aliens and explosions though. Maybe have the humans turn into space apes or something. Still, it’s a fun film and it should keep your interest the whole time.

The movie starts by introducing us to Roy. He is one of the top astronauts and one thing that really makes him stand out is how he has no real emotions. Rather, he is so good at suppressing them that this comes naturally to him. He is the son of the legendary Clifford, an astronaut who was doing great work on the Lima Project but unfortunately died in space. The Lima Project was all about finding any aliens in space. Well, the government lets Roy know that Clifford may actually be alive. Unfortunately, it appears that as a byproduct of the Lima Project, mysterious power surges are rocketing across the cosmos and causing all kinds of dangers. Roy was almost destroyed by one of them. The government needs Roy to make contact with Clifford so they can ask him what’s wrong and fix this. Is that really all they plan to do though?

As always in these films, you have to take what the government tells you with a grain of salt. If they say they just want to talk…you have to assume there’s more to that than meets the eye. Of course with Roy not showing his emotions much, he’s not really going to talk about any of this. It’s not until we’re deep into the film that he gets to show off his emotions more like when the government tries to take him off the case. Roy’s a very capable soldier and proves his worth in several fights like when bandits nearly end his mission from the start.

Roy also seems to dislike the fact that space has become a really big retail mall. When you go onto the Moon the first thing you see are a bunch of food stores and things for sale. He mentions that his father wouldn’t have enjoyed this either. It’s clear that everything has been turned into a place for shopping and Roy figures humans will continue to wreck every planet they come to. It’s a jaded opinion but one that’s probably correct at this point. So yeah I liked Roy as a main character. He had to make a lot of tough choices but I would say he always made the right ones. He didn’t back down and aimed to complete his mission from start to finish.

He’s a good contrast to some of the other characters who are doing the whole “Just following orders” routine. Some of them really don’t think for themselves and just obey all commands even if they don’t make sense. There are 3 agents in particular who look really bad here as they are ready to instantly try and murder Roy. Fortunately for the lead he ended up being more powerful than they were and stopped them. It was a needless loss of life though and only serves to weaken their chances at completing the mission.

As for Roy’s father Clifford, he gets a decent sized role by the end. We get a few plot twists on the Lima Project and the extent to which he wants to complete it. Needless to say, this mission is really Clifford’s life. Now he hasn’t done a great job with some parts of it though like putting the whole universe at risk. Clearly there are some bugs with the project that need to be resolved. He’s not really addressing the issues though and by the end you could say he feels like a total villain. Same with the government here but at least their overall objective will protect everyone. Clifford seems willing to sacrifice the known for the unknown which isn’t good. Even if he were to find his objective, there would be nobody left to celebrate this.

The writing here is solid. The film can move a little slowly at times and it’s certainly not meant to be a thriller but you will be engaged. In some ways it feels like a very old school sci-fi adventure where it isn’t relying on action or explosions to get by. It’s just telling a story about space. Of course I’ll always take a more action packed adventure but when executed well this can certainly work and Ad Astra will end up being a good example of that. The dialogue is good throughout and most importantly, you won’t be bored. Even while plot developments are slowly tossed over to you, the characters are able to hold the scenes up well. At worst the emotional scenes just won’t land so much but they’re typically quick and then you get back to the adventure.

Due to the nature of the film there isn’t a whole lot to discuss though. The story is very straight forward with Roy needing to find the source of these power surges and stop it, even if it’s Clifford at the helm. Most of the film is about the journey there and realizing that space has quickly become the new Earth. If anything it’s probably even more lawless judging by how easily the pirates were able to show up and cause trouble. I wonder where the pirates live though, it must not have been easy to create another base on the Moon. Perhaps it started as a revolt and they overtook one of the sites. Either way you’d expect the government would be able to take them out then. The film’s not about that but I would have been interested to learn more about that.

Overall, Ad Astra is a solid Sci-Fi film. It’s not a game changer or anything like that but it’s just an all around quality movie. I could recommend it to anyone who likes Sci-Fi since it’s so accessible. One of the benefits of not being super deep or having a lot of foreign concepts is you could even watch this as your first sci-fi film and immediately understand everything. It’s basic and not in a bad way. I’d be up for a sequel that goes more all in on the action but they’ve shown that they could do a low key movie once so I’m sure they could do it again.

Overall 7/10

The Shop Around the Corner Review

The Shop Around the Corner is a pretty fun title for a movie. It does give you a classic rom-com feeling although you could also see this working for a horror title. It’s a fun little story although it is one of those times where the romance seems is hard to buy into because of how mean the main heroine is though. If she’s this mean to just anyone…well the main guy better watch out.

The film starts off by introducing us to Alfred who is the best salesman in the store. This store sells just about everything from music boxes to suitcases. Alfred has been exchanging letters with a lady and is starting to get serious about her but they are anonymous pen pals so they don’t even know what each other looks like. In comes the main heroine Klara who really wants a job. She and Alfred do not get along right from the start but she ends up getting the job. Fast forward many months and things have not improved between them. Each of them are getting ready to meet their pen pal but Alfred is distracted by the fact that the boss: Hugo has been turning on him as of late. Is Alfred’s job security in trouble?

Alfred seems like a nice guy right from the start. While the 6 month feud between him and Klara is mainly off screen, it seems like she’s always the one who starts it. A lot of her remarks towards him seemed rather uncalled for the whole time. She insults his intelligence, his character, and is always just taking any shot she can get. Even when he is being nice or at least trying to be, she just tears him down more and more. So it was hard to find her likable throughout the movie. Klara is someone who is only nice to some people and that’s not a good thing. When you’re conditionally nice, that just means you’re probably someone to be avoided.

As for Alfred, well he is a good main character. He’s put up with a whole lot on the job but kept on going. He’s the most dependable employee in the whole place. Alfred also does really enjoy the letters he gets and responding to them. In a way his life was going perfectly well until Klara stops by and the boss starts acting rather aggressively towards him. Alfred’s life is thrown upside down but at no point does he take it out on any of the other characters. He just does his best to stay professional and really does all the right things. By the end you’ll certainly be rooting for him.

I did not like the boss Hugo. So, Hugo finds out that someone is having an affair with his wife and so he jumps to conclusions on who it is before waiting for his private investigator to let him know who it was. Not like the PI was a lot of help though as the guy just narrowed the options down to an employee which was most likely anyway. Hugo goes in hard on burning the bridge with Alfred. Alfred’s a nice guy and still stays courteous but I don’t think many would overlook how Hugo treated them.

Pirovitch is Alfred’s best friend and he’s a loyal sidekick to have at the ready. Whenever Alfred needed help with anything, Pirovitch would help out. The guy also took things in stride and had a very laidback approach to everything. Whatever you needed to be done, Pirovitch would do it. Then you have Vadas, one of the more dicey characters. He is quick to agree with the boss on anything to curry favor. He’s not trustworthy or honest in the slightest as he can only think about moving up. There’s always someone like that and so you need to keep on high alert around him.

Finally you have Pepi and this guy was really entertaining. Pepi started out as an errand boy and gradually moves up the chain. The voice he uses for the phone calls is great as he trolls Hugo’s wife and he also really knows how to command the troops once he moves up. Pepi has a lot of confidence in himself and this really ends up paying off for him. I like his confidence and his will to win. Through rain or sun, you could always count on Pepi to get the job done. You can also tell that he is going to be a very strict boss. There’s no doubt about that.

The writing is solid here with a lot of good banter between the characters. You’re always glad when Alfred defends himself so that it isn’t just a one way smackdown as Klara destroys him. Fortunately Alfred rarely takes the comments to heart and just lets them bounce away. I’m rarely surprised to see good writing in these old films because if anything I’ve come to expect it. This one doesn’t disappoint in that area and the whole film flies by pretty fast. Really the only weakness as I’ve mentioned is the romance which doesn’t really work.

The concept itself is sound. The idea of two characters liking each other as pen pals but not liking each other in the real world is a fun dynamic. It’s almost like a Clark Kent and Lois angle where she likes Superman but in most continuities doesn’t like Clark like that and will even insult him at times. I think the problem here is that they just made Klara too extreme. To balance this out, they should have also had Alfred taking more shots. Maybe tone down the actual shots so it’s more like fun colleague banter as opposed to extreme dislike. that’s really the only aspect where touching it up a bit would have been really good.

Overall, it’s not enough to really hurt the movie or anything like that though. Either way I had a good time with this one. When you have good writing and a very strong main character, you’re likely going to succeed either way. I like the story’s premise and the execution was on point. The movie never drags on at any point and the side characters are also very memorable. I wouldn’t have minded Pepi getting to appear more but ultimately he served his role well. It’s a very charismatic store and you can see why they have so many sales each year with such a talented team. I’ll even give Hugo some credit there since he tries to lure in customers as well. His main issue is that he’s already too well known so his tricks don’t seem to work very often at this point.

Overall 7/10

It’s a Dog’s Life Review

Right from the title of the film I had a bad feeling about this one. The tricky thing about having an animal be the focus of anything is that it increases the risk of some animal violence being around. Let me tell you, that definitely gets awful risky and this film was not able to avoid the issue. As a result I would definitely say it’s a bad film that you should avoid. Most of the characters are rather mean spirited and the tough road that the dog had to travel was simply too challenging.

The movie starts with Wildfire explaining his life. He lives in the Bowery, a tough part of town. He owns the back alleys at least and chases out dogs who try to eat there. It’s just tough keeping up this lifestyle though and there are certainly no frills or benefits here. His life’s goal is to find and destroy his father for leaving his mother when she was still pregnant. Unfortunately for him, Wildfire’s mother will never even talk about the guy. One day his mother disappears so Wildfire is forced to start his journey early. He will end up being involved in dog fights and fashion shows, but will he ever get closer to finding his father? Will he even be able to locate him since he doesn’t really know what the guy looks like? The only thing he does know is the father’s title: Champion Regent Royal. That will have to be enough.

As soon as I mentioned dog fighting I’m sure your eyebrows twitched for a second there. Well, rightfully so as this is the weakest part of the film. So Wildfire figures that his father may have been a fighter based on the title so he doesn’t mind being in the circuit. In fact, he enters into the store to make sure that happens. Unfortunately it’s not a very pleasant sport and we see him get bruised up after each fight. Even when he wins you can’t feel good because you know that means that he beat up another dog. Eventually he is defeated and barely escapes with his life but the whole thing is definitely on the violent side.

Of course the injuries are just makeup and such but it looks quite realistic. This is the kind of film where you’d rather they just made them robotic dogs or something like that so you wouldn’t really worry about the injuries. His owner Patch is also an abusive guy. Both to humans and animals so you don’t like the idea of Wildfire working for him. All of Patch’s scenes are just hard to watch and his toxic romance really didn’t need to be on the screen for any period of time. The sooner that guy was gone the better.

The movie was really going for some rather serious themes here but it didn’t need them. This could have been a nice little Air Bud kind of story and that would have been really good. Of course with Wildfire wanting to take down his father from the start, it’s safe to say that this was never really in the cards. One way or another this was going to be a rather serious film with lots of danger around every corner.

Things start to get a little brighter for Wildfire when he meets a nice old man named Jeremiah. The guy works for the rich Wyndham who enters professional dog shows. The guy doesn’t see any potential in Wildfire but his daughter Dorothy disagrees and bargains that if Wildfire can win a show then Wyndham can’t throw both him and Jeremiah out. Wyndham agrees to the terms and Wildfire finally gets to see the glimmer of what it’s like to live the life of royalty. Certainly it’s far different from how it was in the Bowery.

You never have to wonder about what Wildfire is thinking of something either since the guy is constantly talking. It’s all as thought bubbles I should say but he never quiets down. Wildfire is always thinking about something and has a lot to say. There is pretty much never a moment’s silence in the film. The dialogue is okay though so that’s not too bad. Wildfire’s not a bad lead either. I wouldn’t call him super interesting or anything like that but he gets the job done as the lead.

As for the human characters, well Patch is obviously no good. Aside from him you have Jeremiah who is nice enough. He’s probably the first person who has Wildfire’s back which is important. He’s also loyal enough where he was willing to lose his job to stay with the dog. That’s definitely how a good character would act. Wyndham isn’t nearly as reasonable at first, particularly as he is the one firing Jeremiah. The guy slowly starts to come around but it was an extremely rocky start. To so easily get rid of someone that has faithfully worked for you for so many years? I can’t say I liked Wyndham after that because it was just far too drastic.

Dorothy was nice enough. She doesn’t have a huge role but is the one who preps Wildfire for the matches. Without her he definitely wouldn’t have stood much of a chance so she deserves a lot of credit there. If the whole film had been about the talent shows this would have been a winner. The second half of the film is more like what you would expect in a light hearted adventure. There is a moment of danger when Patch kidnaps Wildfire. I would have certainly cut that out since we didn’t need to bring this awful character back. It was nice to see him get punched out though as opposed to Wyndham falling for the usual blackmail scheme. Instead he just took the guy down a few pegs and showed that he could fight. Now that was a really solid moment.

Overall, It’s a Dog’s Life just really suffers from not being a very fun movie. When bad things are happening to Wildfire, there’s just no way to enjoy the scenes. You can’t enjoy any of the scenes with Patch in it either aside from him getting beaten up so that adds up to a considerable part of the movie. As a dog, Wildfire’s dialogue isn’t quite up to par with the classic writing of this era either. Mix all that together and this is a film you’ll really want to skip. There aren’t any big hooks to draw you into the story and there are much better dog films out there. Since this one loses as its main sub genre, that means it was doomed from the jump.

Overall 3/10

Santa Claus vs the Devil Review

With a title like this you would really be expecting something really intense right? Well, it’s a very strange and odd film to be sure but unfortunately it doesn’t stick the landing. That’s not quite right though as that would imply that it had a good beginning. The movie started out on a low note and then it just never improved as the film went on. It’s held back by slow pacing, no likable characters, and a boring plot. When you’ve got all of these elements working against you, it is very hard to have a good film.

The film starts off with showing us Santa’s workshop. It’s a little different in this verse as his reindeer are mechanical toys, he has the wizard Merlin to help him turn invisible, and he even uses technology to get fit enough to go down the chimneys. It’s all a very different setup and instead of elves, he is helped by alien creatures who look just like kids from different cultures and customs. They help operate the telescope which can track any person’s movements on the Earth. There’s also a giant mouth that can hear anyone talking while on planet Earth. Santa came prepared at least on a tech level but the Devil has decided to stop Christmas this year. He sends his loyal minion Pitch to put a damper on things. Pitch will try to tempt various kids into doing the wrong thing so they’ll be on the naughty list. Can Santa stop him?

Well..not really since Santa just watches for 80% of the movie from his telescope. Sometimes it’s unclear if it’s Santa yelling or the narrator but they’re always panicking as Pitch goes around spinning his webs of deceit. The main kid he focuses on is a poor little girl who just wants a doll. The problem is that her parents can’t afford one and so she is tempted to just steal one. Pitch keeps trying to egg her on while Santa clenches his fists and watches in dismay. Ultimately the girl is able to stay strong even when she has a very disturbing dream about this.

I’ll give the dream some slight props for being unique. The backgrounds and little puppet creatures were a bit disturbing. That said, it loses a lot of these points right away since the scene drags on as the girl just repeats over and over again that stealing is wrong and she won’t do it. We get this by the third time she says the line but it just keeps on cycling. Pitch needs to have better material if he wants to trick the kids.

This is also a sleight against Santa when you think about it though. So he never got her a toy all these years when it was her big wish? At best you could say this was really the first year she wanted a doll and in other years she wanted something else but I have big doubts. Additionally, it doesn’t seem like she had any possessions so does Santa just not deliver to the poor? It’s almost like the film itself forgot that Santa was real and treats this like the first time he is going to deliver her some presents. That part doesn’t make any sense the more you think about it.

It’s hard to like Santa though. The guy is constantly laughing at everything to the point where you can tell that he isn’t focused. He falls for all of Pitch’s tricks with ease. Even the narrator seems surprised at times like when Santa tried jumping into a chimney that wasn’t really there. Pitch has the upper hand a lot of the time but fortunately for Santa, the guy is rather inept as well. None of them are able to really gain any ground on each other as a result and just end up being a nuisance. Neither character has a really fun Christmas. It’s interesting that Santa’s reindeer turn to dust if the sun rises though. You’d think that Santa is a vampire or something.

There are quite a lot of interesting ideas here. The only thing I can say positively for the film is that it’s a very fresh take on Santa. It really seems like he is an alien from a highly advanced planet and he wants to make the humans happy. It’s a different look on things and we know he isn’t even immortal as he explains that he is much younger than Lucifer. Some backstory into why Santa wants to help people and how he got this setup would be pretty cool. Unfortunately the film doesn’t ask any of the interesting questions or even approaches them.

A tug of war battle with Pitch and Santa could have been fun as well but it’s hurt by how every scene is so dragged out. Take the intro scene when Santa is listening to the kids all playing their instruments and having a good time. That may have been okay for a minute or two but the scene drags on for ages as we have to see literally every kid play their instruments and sing their songs. It’s all very repetitive and just not engaging. The film will have you asleep before things have even started happening. It’s a shame.

The writing is okay at least though. Santa does remember the true meaning of Christmas and brings up the birth of Jesus Christ a few times. I’ll always give a film some props for doing that rather than trying to say that Christmas is about presents and good wishes or something. No beating around the bush here so when a film directly says that it’s because Jesus Christ was born then I’ll give out some kudos. Beyond that I suppose the narrator had some fun lines. Again they’re all super obvious lines and the film has all the subtlety of a cheeseburger sandwich but at least you can tell that the guy is invested.

Overall, it’s almost like a backhanded complement but that’s about all I could do there. It’s just a shame because somewhere in this film is buried some really cool concepts that we will probably never see again. This really could have been a smash hit and yet the film is just boring. It’s really boring at times and that’s really something you don’t want to see in any film. It especially shouldn’t be happening in a vs title but here we are. If you want to watch a film about Santa Claus, you could do better with almost any other title. The fact of the matter is that this one will ultimately leave you wanting for more or for the film to end much sooner. Either way you just won’t be satisfied here.

Overall 4/10

The Man Who Came Over For Dinner Review

Time for a crazy comedy film where you get to see what it would be like to have someone living at your place and creating a lot of chaos. You’ll probably have some issues with the main characters getting pushed around so much but it is fun to see Sheridan constantly bash everyone over and over again. The guy is quite committed to taking everyone down verbally to the point where you have to give him some credit. He is quite consistent with how he acts towards them.

The movie starts by introducing us to Sheridan who is a very important man. For publicity he will be having dinner with Ernest and his family although he is not happy about this. Sheridan doesn’t really like people and he doesn’t like anything that messes with his routine. Well, this dinner falls into both of those categories as reasons why he isn’t happy about it. Things get worse for him when he slips on their steps and breaks his hip. Now he must stay in their house for days as he tries to complete his business duties. Will the family continue to be overwhelmed in their own home or will they fight back?

Sheridan is a very entertaining antagonist and he really makes the movie. He never lets a minute slide where he isn’t insulting the cast with his actions or even just verbally. He has utter contempt for all of these guys since he believes he is above them. The only character he seems to care about at all is Maggie and that’s mainly just because he wants a consistent secretary so he doesn’t have to train a new one. Sheridan is a very selfish guy but it’s all so over the top that you can’t help but have fun with him. I’m telling you, the movie would not be the same without him at the helm. This guy’s great and he also has complete confidence in himself.

Whenever he’s concocting a plan, Sheridan knows that it will succeed. He also has quite a lot of allies to help him out in case things don’t go very well. One such character is a guy named Banjo who may be the craziest member of the whole cast. He isn’t crazy in a cool way though and I would consider him one of the weakest characters here. He certainly does have a lot of energy and adds to the insanity of it all but he’s one character that could have been toned down. Traumatizing the maid like that was mean spirited.

As for Maggie, she’s a solid main heroine. She is the only character who can keep up with Sheridan in terms of banter and even takes the edge sometimes. We see just how crucial she is to his success and has really done well for herself. Now that she is entering into the romance game that ultimately pits her against Sheridan. While the film shows that Sheridan will still win any match against an opponent, she puts up a really good fight here. Her cleverness and talent with making plans gets her far.

Bert is someone I didn’t like quite as much. See, my issue with him is how oblivious he is. An actress invites him to spend some time alone with her in a cabin to go over the script? He should have declined right away considering that he was seeing Maggie. Yes, he could have gone and made sure that everything was above board but the optics of that are awful. Especially with Maggie being so distressed and he acts like he has no idea why that could be. The whole thing hurt his character a whole lot.

As for Lorraine, well she is shown to be a character who will do whatever it takes in order to get her roles. She certainly isn’t afraid to admit this and has a lot of drive. The end to her character is rather intense here. You know she’ll be okay but I’d say a few bridges have certainly been burned by the end of this film. Out of all the characters though, Ernest and his family have to be the worst ones. They are actively bullied in their own home and don’t do anything about it.

Ernest’s two kids are quickly tricked by Sheridan and get themselves into trouble. Ernest’s wife ends up just trying to stay polite the whole time even as she is insulted and makes no move to defend herself. Then you have Ernest himself who just rolls over each time even when he is initially talking tough. That’s no way for the head of the household to be acting. Then when he finally makes a move he starts to get blackmailed? The guy should be ashamed of himself for ever letting it get this far. He should have made a stand right away. When Sheridan told everyone to vacate the first floor and use the back door exit he should have just said no and started reading the paper. Realistically there isn’t a whole lot that Sheridan could do about this.

That would have been amazing to have seen Ernest fight back like this. It would have changed the whole feel of the movie of course but I think this would have been the right direction. If you want to keep the events similar, just have Sheridan bribe a cop to arrest Sheridan or something and then you’ve still got the same scenario but now Ernest did fight back. It’s just almost hard to feel bad for Ernest with how he let everything go up in smokes like this.

The writing is good though and there is a lot of witty banter throughout. That’s where a good deal of the humor comes from and it’s all rather effective. The pacing is good too with a whole lot happening during the movie. You get to feel like it really has been a long time since Sheridan ended up staying at the house. The film also has a pretty solid ending which ends the movie off on the right tone. We’ll see if the characters handle things a bit differently next time.

Overall, The Man Who Came to Dinner is a very interesting comedy film. It’s all rather crazy like with how Sheridan invites murderers over for dinner and is obsessed with criminals in general. A murderer ends up being a part of a plot twist and there’s just always something happening. Whether you enjoy the film or not will completely depend on how much you enjoy Sheridan and how he pushes everyone around. I quite enjoyed that and also seeing how he’s built up quite a few friendships despite his gruff exterior. I doubt any of them would admit to being friends but it shows that even this cold lead needs someone to talk to.

Overall 7/10

Christmas in Connecticut Review

You can’t really go wrong with a Christmas in Connecticut although of course I would recommend New York first and foremost. This is a very classic comedy/romance title that really goes all out in how crazy it can be. The romance is particularly weak which holds the film down a bit but ultimately I would say it’s still decent. It should keep you entertained all the way through which is always good.

The movie starts by introducing us to Jefferson and his friend from the army as they are stranded at sea. They’re slowly floating along after having been at a warzone but so far nobody has spotted them. A few weeks later they are finally found but it was a tough voyage and Jefferson longs for a home cooked meal. His nurse Mary figures that she will send him to Elizabeth, known as the best cook around. Elizabeth’s employer Alexander thinks this is a tremendously good idea and also invites himself to her home in Connecticut. There is just one problem, Elizabeth does not have a home in Connecticut and she doesn’t know how to cook. It’s all just been a bunch of lies that she has been pedaling with the help of her legendary cooking friend Felix. If she comes clean now then she will be fired along with her editor so she has decided to play the ultimate gamble and pretend that the life is real. To do this, she even goes as far as to finally agree to marry John since she is supposed to have a husband and kid. He’s thrilled about this since he’s always wanted to be with her so he aims to make this official with a ceremony before she can back out. Then you have Jefferson who likes her as well but is worried about making a play on a married woman. What will happen next?

So there’s quite a lot going on here and the movie always has a frantic feeling about it. The characters are always running this way and that way to keep the deceptions up and monitor many situations at once. It’s rather impressive just how much they are balancing at the same time although the heroes often make everything harder on themselves. Just think, they could have had the marriage wrapped up if they just left the people by the door a few minutes longer instead of dashing off to open it.

Of course, Elizabeth was glad to do so since she really didn’t want the wedding. It shows just why this was not a great decision on her part. Effectively she was going to get married to someone that she didn’t like in order to keep her job. Marriages for business and such happen of course but it’s certainly not something I would root for. By the end you almost start to feel bad for John since he is the one who will certainly lose out in the end. Elizabeth likes to quite openly flirt with Jefferson in front of John. If anything John should have enough self respect to start shutting this plan down earlier. I suppose he was that desperate to be with her.

This is why the romance is weak though. You don’t care for either character by the end. John is overly desperate to be with Elizabeth even though he knows that she doesn’t like him. Then you have Elizabeth who has been lying for her entire career and seems to enjoy tempting Jefferson into having an affair with her. Even though she knows that he is trying to resist since she is “married”, Elizabeth keeps trying to ensnare him. It’s definitely a very shady thing she’s doing here.

I did like her boss Alexander though. He’s one of those guys who has really climbed his way to the top and is used to getting what he wants now. He is quite outspoken and decisive whenever he is making a move. Just the kind of guy you want as a boss and while that means he may be slow to see deception, he gives his team a fair shake. He’s a guy you feel bad for by the end since he really did his best at every corner. When a baby is seemingly kidnapped Alexander wastes absolutely no time in calling up the cops, the army, and everyone he can think of. He’s just a good man who is put into a rough spot here.

I also enjoyed the cook, Felix. Felix really knows how to cook and isn’t really a fan of what’s going on here. He wants to make sure that Elizabeth and John don’t get together and does what he can to push them apart. He tends to panic quite a bit but the reactions are always funny. Side characters exist to support the main ones and make the film even better so Felix really succeeds in that role.

As for Jefferson, well I don’t like him either. For starters, while he does resist in getting together with Elizabeth, he certainly cuts it very close. The guy still goes with her on a ride and they have a lot of adventures together. All the while he was already engaged to Mary, the nurse from the hospital. The ending gets very convenient for Jefferson but otherwise he just proved himself to be a very unreliable guy. Someone who quickly jumps from one girl to the next. That’s not what you want to see from the main guy here and he was trying to manipulate Mary at first so he could get some food.

While the characters are able to keep up the charade for a while, I have to say that they didn’t plan any of it very well. Not only did Elizabeth not tell almost anyone which leads to people spilling the beans but then she didn’t even know what gender her baby was, or have any setup for that. She really boxed herself in by saying that the kid was sick as otherwise she could have said he was with the grandparents or something. She did at least attempt to learn cooking from Felix so I’ll give her that. She just gets lucky for most of the film and a lot of the time you figure that everyone would have already figured things out if this wasn’t a comedy.

Overall, Christmas in Connecticut may be lacking a bit compared to other rom-coms because of how the romance angle is fairly weak. That said, it does still have enough good points to keep it in the green. For starters, the writing is still solid. The pacing is good and you will be entertained the whole time. With the characters not being very likable for the most part you may have a tough time actually rooting for the leads (I was rooting for them to get exposed by the boss) but the film is still able to hold itself up. This wouldn’t be my first recommendation but it wouldn’t hurt to check it out.

Overall 6/10