Central Intelligence

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Back in high school, Calvin Joyner was at the top of the world. He was loved by everyone and seemed on the path to success. However, his life afterwards hasn’t been so great. Twenty years later he’s stuck in a job working as a forensic analyst, which he hates, and his marriage with his high school sweetheart is falling apart.

One day he receives a mysterious friend request from a guy named Bob Stone. It turns out to be Robbie Wierdicht, a guy who was heavily bullied back when Calvin was in high school but that Calvin often tried to stand up for. But he’s nothing like the bullied teenager he once was, now being a tremendously strong and confident man. They meet up for old times sake, after which Stone asks Calvin if he can help him with some financial documents he needs to deal with. Thinking it’s something small Calvin agrees, but instead finds out that the documents point towards a secretive multi-million dollar auction. Calvin is shocked of course, but Stone is elusive, and in the end Stone ends up crashing on Calvin’s couch and Calvin goes to bed as well, thinking it doesn’t really matter.

However, the next day a group of CIA agents rush into his house. They tell him they’re on the search for Stone, who has become a rogue agent who is trying to sell satellite codes to the highest bidder, and that Calvin should stay away from him. However, Stone then abducts Calvin, and tells him that he’s being framed, and that he’s the only one that can stop the real villain from auctioning the codes, but to do that he needs Calvin’s help. Calvin wants nothing to do with any of this, but it seems he doesn’t really get much of a choice.

***

Going into this film, I had no idea what to expect. What I found was a plot that was tremendously random and went all over the place, but in the end somehow managed to work itself out. It also had characters, Calvin and Stone, that grew a good amount over the course of the movie, though the growth and morals imparted were the standard, be confident, be true to yourself, type, but they were implemented decently enough. The action too wasn’t that amazing, but it fit in with the comedy. And that’s what really makes the movie stand out, that it was tremendously hilarious. It had solid comedy throughout and had some scenes that were downright hysterical. While the plot was fine, the comedy is what makes this movie worth watching.

An action flick with a standard plot but great comedy.

8/10

Also, nice to see the CIA not being the villains as is the case in pretty much every movie.

Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai

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Anti-magic Academy is a school dedicated to training witch hunters, who eventually go on to join the Inquisition, which is an organization dedicated to stopping magical crimes of all types, ranging from confiscating illegal charms to stopping development of magical weapons of mass destruction. The academy is divided into platoons who perform jobs under the supervision of the academy to gain points which they need to pass.

Of these the infamous 35th Platoon is nicknamed the “Small Fry Platoon” for being incredibly incompetent at their job. It is led by a man named Kusanagi, who is incredibly competent with a sword and is in love with the sword art to the point he refuses to use any other weapon and is aggressive against those that insult it. Unfortunately for him, swords really aren’t that useful when dealing with magic. There is also Saionji, a girl who’s a pretty decent sniper but gets nervous and makes really dumb mistakes very easily. And lastly there’s Suginami, who is an incredibly competent mechanic and scientist, but is somewhat lazy and often makes ridiculous modifications that end up causing issues. As expected of such a group, they are very low in points.

However, that begins to change when Ootori, who is an Inquisitor prodigy chosen by the sacred sentient weapon Relic Eater Vlad, but was demoted and sent back to the academy for killing a witch unnecessarily and was then put into the 35th Platoon. Soon afterwards, Kusanagi is also chosen by a Relic Eater, specifically Lapis. And then the platoon is also chosen to be a pilot for a program where reformed witches can become inquisitors, with the first entrant being a girl named Nikaidou. Hence, the platoon changes tremendously, and due to the backgrounds of their members is put in a number of situations that forces them to strengthen their bonds and adapt to survive, to which they managed to rise to the challenge.

***

The structure of the plot involves going through an arc for each character which involves delving into their background, them growing as characters, and them strengthening their bonds with the rest of the platoon. While there is obviously carry over from arc to arc, they are also very separate from each other and focus almost entirely on the main character in question. This makes the entire show feel like a set up for a main plot to follow afterwards, which leaves something to be desired but is understandable given the episode constraints and that the show was actually paced incredibly well as a set up. Most of the arcs felt somewhat generic. There’s definitely character growth and development, but they went in pretty predictable directions in terms of what would be expected to flesh out the characters, and hence while they were all pretty good for what they were, there wasn’t that much intensity to them. The exception to that is the last arc, where it was a lot more unexpected in how they would handle the resolution , and while ultimately they chose the cheapest option, they did a good job of justifying it, and that doesn’t change how intense the lead up was, and hence it was a fantastic finale to end on.

In terms of art and animation it was solid though not exceptional. The soundtrack was decent. The OP/ED were OK. I would however like to note that the transitions to the OP/ED were handled incredibly well, for episode 7 in particular. The comedy was also pretty amusing and fitting and kept things lighthearted, though not the focus.

A show that sequentially sets up a set of interesting characters to a strong degree, but doesn’t do much beyond that.

8/10

Also, it seems the novel series is finished and the fan translation for the novels is almost done as well. Woohoo! Definitely looking forward to reading it.

Now You See Me 2

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Since their entry and retreat from the world stage a year ago, the Horseman have been biding their time waiting as per the orders of The Eye. During this period, Atlas has been trying to make contact and talk to The Eye himself. McKinney and Wilder have been trying to learn hypnotism and card skills from each other respectively. Reeves couldn’t stand the waiting and left. In her stead, The Eye chose a woman named Lula to join the team instead, who’s as strange as rest of them and just as good of a magician. Rhodes is still working at the FBI pulling the double agent. Finally, they get orders to act, being told to expose a major privacy violating scheme by a technology company called Octa. However, in the middle of doing so, they’re the ones who get exposed and somehow end up in Macau. There they’re told that they’ve been forcefully recruited by tech genius and underground investor Mabry to steal a computer chip that may come to pose problems for him. Meanwhile, Rhodes is also dealing with his father’s rival Bradley, who he put in jail earlier, but still seems to have some tricks up his sleave. Working through their own issues within the group, they set off on their quest to expose wrongdoers while of course wowing and amazing onlookers along the way.

***

Now You See Me 2 like it’s predecessor is a movie that on paper doesn’t seem good at all. The core of the film is magic tricks, but because it’s in film form, meaning everything come down to standard movie magic , and because most of the tricks aren’t properly explained it shouldn’t really be all that awe inspiring. However, despite it not making that much sense, the tricks are still incredibly amazing to behold, still managing to capture the essence of magic tricks themselves, and ultimately very enjoyable to watch. The plot too is completely ridiculous, with twists upon twists without any warning or rhyme or reason, but that too just seems to workout somehow and be really enjoyable. The cast is also great, and though some of the character twists were ridiculous, they are a cast of heroes you can genuinely root for, with Lula being a great addition, and on the other end the film also has a cast of villains you can genuinely hate.  It’s lighthearted tone full of solid humor also fits in perfectly, as does it’s mystifying soundtrack. The film full well knows what it is and fully embraces it and to that end I think it deserves a lot of credit. While there are clearly issues if you pay attention too closely, it’s not really a brain dead film, though it kind is, but rather it invites you to look past them itself to enjoy the magic itself, and does a really good job of it.

A film that is finds strength in being ridiculous and managing to wow at every opportunity.

8/10

Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider

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Genius Shiki Magata has been living essentially as a prisoner on an isolated island for over 15 years after she killed her parents as a young girl, but was given a special punishment on the basis of insanity, and has continued performing research since then. Souhei Saikawa, a very indrawn but genius professor, strongly wishes to meet her, and one of his students, a rich, smart, and energetic but still somewhat cynical girl named Moe Nishinosono who has a crush on him, ends up using her connections to help him get in. However, as soon as they arrive, a murder mystery immediately begins, with them in the middle of it.

***

The Perfect Insider is a mystery anime, but rather than one that’s episodic with maybe some sort of overarching plot, there’s a single mystery from beginning to end that gets developed in great detail, which is rare as far as I know. It goes somewhat slowly at times but overall it worked out very well. Part of the reason for this is that the mystery itself is a very good one with a pretty large number of twists. However, everyone of them gets slowly developed, so none of them seem ridiculous, and for lack of another way of saying it, they all seemed fair. Some of the twists are incredibly intense. Some of them are hilarious, such as the last twist where I laughed harder than Souhei. The other reason it doesn’t get slow is the strong development of the main characters Souhei, Moe, and Magata. Magata is incredible with an incredibly unique outlook that slowly gets developed, alongside a background on what led to it. The relationship between Souhei and Moe is interesting as well due to how different their personalities are, and there’s almost as much of an interest in seeing how that develops as the resolution to the mystery. Hence, while there are a lot of slow moments, due to the strong development of the mystery and relationships between characters throughout, overall it feels paced very well.

In terms of art and animation it was solid and fit the work. The soundtrack was also decent. The OP and ED both had pretty good music, and the OP especially had a really good visual. In terms of voice acting the English portions were pretty terrible and awkward, but overall it was fine.

A single mystery that’s somewhat slow in being unfolded, but one that’s very well developed and involves a very interesting set of characters.

8/10

Prince of Persia

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A man nicknamed Prince is in search of his missing donkey in the middle of a dessert. He winds up falling into a hidden magical kingdom, where he finds a magical woman named Elika on the run from a couple soldiers. He ends up saving her, only to find that it was her father that was chasing her and somehow that leads to the seal on the ancient god of darkness, Ahriman, being broken. Hence, Prince and Elika, who has magical powers from the god of light Ormazd, must heal what are called Fertile Grounds all over the kingdom in order to reseal him before he fully escapes. However, even with only part of his power released, he is able to cast a shadow over the kingdom through releasing The Corrupted, his four generals, The Hunter, The Alchemist, The Concubine, and The Warrior, who had sold their souls to him in exchange for being granted a certain wish. Hence Prince and Elika journey across the abandoned kingdom, defeating evil and healing the land.

***

Prince of Persia is very different from the Sands of Time trilogy. It still has some central themes of platforming, combat, and a culture that resembles Persia, but beyond that not much is the same.

In terms of game play first off when it comes to the platforming, it’s very simple and easier than in the previous series, to the point it’s lacking the fluidity and responsiveness that made the other entries so great. The most difficult aspect really is centered around the new mechanic of Elika helping you jump further, though it can be hard to judge whether its needed at points simply leading to you falling. There are also no game overs however, as no matter what happens Elika simply saves you and puts you back to where you were before you started the platforming sequence, which is meant to replace the time rewind mechanic. However, I much prefer the time mechanic, as that was essentially meant to be used to fix mistakes wherever you make them, but would still somewhat punish you for them as they used up sand. This game however, encourages you to not really care much for the smaller sequences as you can just redo them however many times you want, and doesn’t help at all for the longer sequences as you always have to start the sequence over from the beginning, which is actually kind of annoying with the finicky controls, especially for the parts involving plates. These parts are essentially mini games where Prince auto-runs or flies and you have to guide him so that he doesn’t hit anything, but they aren’t done very well and it’s not clear what he needs to be avoiding, and some of these sequences can get pretty long only to have to start over from the beginning if you make a slight mistake. These are just as bad as the chariot sequences in Two Thrones, but a lot worse actually as there are far more of them. In terms of combat, they actually made a worst battle system than the Sands of Time trilogy somehow. The combo system is kind of cool, but getting to them is rather annoying, involving too many QTEs and just waiting. Furthermore, every enemy is pretty much the same, except for the Warrior who’s kind of different in that he essentially involves having to push him off a ledge, but that’s really the best way to deal with everyone so he’s not really any different either. To elaborate, in addition to enemies that are all exactly the same, there are four main bosses, the corrupted, that you each fight 6 times, so you would expect that to be annoying enough. But even beyond that there isn’t much different about the different bosses beyond the difference with the warrior I previously mentioned. It gets super old fighting them incredibly quickly because its incredibly repetitive. Then when you reach the epilogue, you finally get a new boss, which is literally an old boss that can transform into another old boss and requires killing twice very quickly. The puzzles I liked more than any in the Sands of Time trilogy, as there was more thought involved than just moving things until they worked, so that’s an area that’s definitely better. Overall though, the game play was definitely worse and barely passable.

In terms of story it moves very slowly for the vast majority of the game, just journeying around fighting the corrupted and healing Fertile Grounds. However, there’s a tremendous amount of character and world building that occurs here which makes this far from dull and makes it quite good. The world is definitely fleshed out a great deal more than it is in the Sands of Time Trilogy and is hence more interesting. I would also have to say I like Elika better than any of the side characters in the SoTT, and I like Prince just as much as the non-angsty Prince in SoTT. Furthermore, their chemistry together is much better than anything in the previous series, and is the greatest aspect of the game really. The villains too are better fleshed out and more interesting as well. The story picks up more as it reaches its conclusion. It actually makes a great point about how the journey is what’s important, and not the ending as it ends on somewhat of a cliffhanger that reverses essentially the entire game, and is somewhat unsatisfying but good in that that being the ending would truly be unexpected. However, with the Epilogue, we get rid of a lot of the mystery, severely damage the Prince and Elika’s relationship, and leave on a completely unsatisfying cliffhanger that’ll never get a sequel, taking a passable ending and making it into a train-wreck that retroactively does a tremendous amount of damage to the story.

The art style and sound track are also very highly regarded. It certainly does look good and has certainly aged a lot better than the SoTT, in part due to how colorful everything. The design of the world itself is also a lot more varied and interesting. The soundtrack too is very fitting with a good amount of variety, and here I would have to give it a point of clear superiority.

A game that looks and sound pretty nice with fantastic characters, but with mediocre game play and a train wreck cliffhanger of an ending.

6/10

Captain America: Civil War

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After the various disasters that have occurred over the years involving the various members of the Avengers, the United Nations led by the King of Wakanda have decided to pass the Sokovia Accords which put the Avengers under the control of the UN. Some members are in favor of it, such as Tony Stark, and some are opposed, such as Steve Rogers. Things get more complicated when at the signing of the agreement, there’s a bombing which ends up killing the King of Wakanda, with Roger’s old friend Bucky Barnes as the prime suspect. Rogers defies the Sokovia Accords to attempt to catch Bucky Barnes before the others do, especially as they have orders to kill on sight and the son of the slain Wakandan King T’Challa is after revenge. Rogers ultimately comes to the discovery that Bucky wasn’t the one that performed the bombing, rather that he was being framed, and that a larger plot by someone named Zemo was in the works, resulting in him attempting to escape with Bucky and stop Zemo himself. This leads others to follow him. Stark meanwhile is tasked with bringing in Bucky, and pursues them with his own group of allies, setting the two groups on a collision course.

***

While being called a Captain America film, Civil War is for all intents and purposes the next Avenger’s movie, and overall it’s not just the best Avenger’s movie we’ve gotten so far, but also one of the best films in the entirety of the MCU, and what truly feels like the beginning of the next phase of the MCU. The reason it does so well is that like other films that stand out, it’s not just the quality that matters, but that it does something new. The MCU already has a bunch of films on the same basic concepts that are incredibly high quality. Doing the same thing again but better is very difficult and even then the improvement isn’t enough for it to not feel repetetive. But doing things that are dramatically different works out very well, especially if it’s done as well as Civil War.

The plot loosely follows the comic book plot line, but it gets more personal which works out much better in the film medium and in general honestly, as I think they did a better job with this than the comics. Iron Man and Captain America seemed to have much realer motivations as compared to how things worked out in the comics, and they actually behaved in ways that you would expect of them. Stark still had his failings, but he didn’t seem like the completely obvious villain like in the comics, rather he felt like someone with complex feelings. Rogers too, felt more like a hero coming out of the entire affair than the train wreck that came out of the event in the comics. Ultimately, both characters personalities really showed through. One particular reason that helps with this is that there’s a true ‘villain’ for the whole affair, Zemo, who’s given a much more sympathetic character as compared to the comics, but still captures the true essence of Zemo, in that he’s someone with no powers, no resources, and not much in the way of special abilities, but just through planning and sheer will he manages to pull off being the most powerful villain the Avenger’s had faced so far. For all intents and purposes, he succeeded in almost all his goals, which is more than you can say about any other villain int he MCUU, expect maybe Loki. Another reason that the plot is so great is that it was legitimately unpredictable. The standard super hero flick involves a hero going through some set backs, coming to some inner realization, maybe with others, and then defeating the villain. Here, that obviously could not be the case, and hence there was real suspense in how things were going to go down and who was going to ‘win’ the Civil War.

The character roster too overall was very good. Hulk and Thor may have been missing, but really the completely new additions of Spiderman and Black Panther as well as the old cast of Captain America, Iron Man, Bucky, War Machine, Falcon, Vision, Black Widow, Maximoff, Ant-Man, and Hawkeye is a strong enough line up that played out great, especially in the main battle. Most of the characters such as Falcon and T’Challa I also liked a good amount more than the comics and Spiderman was the best film adaptation yet. All these characters led to some great intense action, the best action in all of the MCU as far as I can remember.The designs of everything were also great, as was the CG used. The comedy was still there, though I would have to say it was somewhat darker and more serious than other MCU films. The soundtrack was also excellent.

A very different but tremendously high quality MCU film that’s basically the next Avenger’s movie.

10/10

 

Fantastic Mr.Fox

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Mr. Fox and his wife Felicity used to be thieves, stealing Chickens and such from farmers, but after Felicity became pregnant, Fox promises to find a safer career and ends up as a newspaper column writer, a job which he hates. Many years later, they both live together with their cynical son Ash and Felicity’s very agile and jealousy inducing nephew Kristofferson in a tree overlooking the farms of Boggis, Bunce, and Bean, a nasty set of farmers with heavy control over the area. Fox was warned not to live in such a place as its especially dangerous for foxes, but as time went on Fox grew more and more weary of the safe and dull life he was living. Eventually, he goes back on his promise and secretly begins his life as a thief once more, pulling a series of heists from Boggis, Bunce, and Bean. Things go well, and Fox is having fun, but eventually the farmers have had enough, and they go all out, combining all their resources with the single goal of killing Fox, resulting in a long chase that turns the lives of everyone involved with Fox upside down.

***

Fantastic Mr. Fox is a very different animated movie from most recent films. First of all it uses stop motion animation, and not just that but does it with an art style that’s very different from what I’ve seen in the past. Ultimately, I would say that they did a very good job at it, resulting in something that was somewhat bizarre and was always a bit ugly, but was definitely incredibly interesting especially some of the 2-D shots. The humor too was very rough, not in the sense that it needed more work, but in that it wasn’t as smooth as it is in most animated films, which certainly isn’t for everyone but gave the film character. The plot was also decent with a lot of generic plot lines and themes: Mr. Fox finding himself, his son dealing with not being as good as his father or his cousin, and his nephew dealing with being disliked by his son, dealing with the repercussions of one’s action, and various things along these lines. The big thing however, is that rather than trying to push forth morals based on the negative result of the characters actions, the end result is more along the lines of Mr.Fox just pulling it all off even without them, and how it all just works out was certainly unique. On one hand, it does make one question what was the point of it all, but on the other hand its certainly far more amusing than the alternative. Another note that make the film quite strange, is that the world was not consistent at all. Animals can speak and wear clothes and people know that, but they aren’t people, and various other plot holes along these lines. But with how strange the film was, it didn’t even matter oddly enough even though it did sort of jump out.

A comedic stop motion film that’s very rough, but that gives it its own charm in a way.

8/10