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Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You! (2017)
Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You! (2017)
2017 |
6
6.0 (1 Ratings)
Movie Rating
20th Birthday Tribute
For the uninitiated, let’s start with some key facts: Pokémon has been entertaining kids and the young at heart for 20 years. A phenomenon like no other in the 90s, Nintendo’s award-winning franchise has been a worldwide smash, and despite a dip in the late 00s, it shows no signs of slowing down.

With 19 movies under its belt, dozens of video games including the ridiculously popular Pokémon Go, and countless TV series, Pokémon is an occurrence that doesn’t come around too often. Now, to celebrate the brand’s 20th anniversary, Nintendo has released this; Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You! But does being the 20th film in the franchise mean it’s not worth a watch?

Acting as a soft reboot of sorts, Pokémon: I Choose You! follows franchise hero, Ash Ketchum from Pallet Town, as he starts out on his journey to catch as many Pocket Monsters as he can. For fans of the brand, what follows next needs no introduction; he meets Pikachu and the rest as they say, is history.

Or is it? Well, in this case, not so much. The basic story that delighted kids in the 90s has been slightly reset as we are taken through the pairs journey, meeting people and Pokémon that weren’t in the original 1st television series. This has both positive and negative results on the finished product.

The plot is as simple as you would expect from a children’s film and it’s clear that Nintendo are out to make as much money from this as possible. Pre-film adverts were all Pokémon related and the cost of a ticket for this particular showing was double the normal price.

Why? Well, this is the first Pokémon film to be released in the UK in 15 years. That’s not a milestone to be sniffed at, and it’s clear the producers, animators and orchestras have gone all out for this instalment.

The film itself is beautiful to look at. Pokémon has always been criticised for its rather lacklustre animation compared to other Anime features like Spirited Away, but I Choose You is right up there with the very best. It’s colourful and drips with detail. From gorgeous sunsets to damp caves, the animation comes alive.

Elsewhere, the score is nicely integrated into the film with a single, haunting piano playing through much of the succinct 98-minute runtime. The familiar theme tune that kids and adults have come to know and love over the years is given a lovely instrumental upgrade and this is when the flutters of nostalgia start to kick in.

Unfortunately, the removal of Ash’s companions, Brock and Misty, from the film undoes some of the hard work for this 20th anniversary as they were such an integral role in the first films and television show. However, newcomers Sorell and Verity each provide the story with a couple of different layers.

I Choose You also tugs at the heartstrings more than previous instalments. As the title suggests, this is about Ash’s journey with Pikachu and that doesn’t just include the happy times. Younger viewers may find some of the imagery on screen a little disturbing as we’re taken through an at times, dark and menacing backstory.

Overall, Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You! is a film that absolutely represents 20 years of the beloved series. With gorgeous animation and an intriguing change to the story that kids and adults have come to know, it’s definitely the best Pokémon movie out there. Let’s be frank, each of the films has been made to sell Pokémon toys and games, but never has it been done so beautifully.

https://moviemetropolis.net/2017/11/05/pokemon-the-movie-i-choose-you-review/
  
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
2018 | Action, Animation, Sci-Fi
This is the Spider-Man movie that we deserved.

 

It’s hard to believe that the movie I would end up saying that about would be an animated one. Nevertheless, I left the theater this time feeling a sense of warm satisfaction for the first time since Sony originally graced us with Tobey Maguire.

 

Spider-Ma n: Into the Spider-Verse is the most poignant statement that Sony could make about their recommitment to all things webslinger. The star-studded cast for this film includes Academy Award winners like Nicolas Cage and Mahershala Ali as well as the likes of Lily Tomlin, Chris Pine, and John Mulaney. But those aren’t even the main characters. Along with the stellar writing, an unbelievably well curated soundtrack and art direction that can only be described as sublime, Into the Spider-verse was exactly what we all needed right now.

 

This entry into the world of Spider-man actually brings us up to date with the comics by introducing us to Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), the black teenager from Brooklyn who has taken up the mantle of Spider-man following the death of Peter Parker (well, one of them). Witnessing Parker’s demise at the hands of The Kingpin, Morales promises to help destroy the weapon that killed him. Little does he realize that the weapon has opened a hole in the multiverse and multiple other spider men, women (and things) have been drawn through the rift into his universe. They all have to work together to get back to their own universes and to prevent the destruction of reality itself.

 

The soundtrack for this movie really brings Spider-man into modern times. Artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Eminem and Run the Jewels speak to the Brooklyn upbringing of Morales as the new webslinger. At the same time, it also serves up artists like Marshmello, Pendulum and Prodigy who demonstrate how action can be fueled through their EDM stylings. The music here is the most perfect complement to each part of the action and drama alike. Just as you will see multiple different Spider-men, you’ll be taken through a wide spectrum of musical stylings to match each hero.

 

The animation style displayed here really can’t be appropriately categorized. Part graffiti, part moving comic book and part CGI, the film brings together numerous different styles and effects such as cell-shading, anime breaks and word bubble subtitles to create something truly unique. The medium itself is perfect because we can finally see everything that a live-action film couldn’t execute. But unlike other animated superhero movies, this feature brings the artistic nature of illustrations to new levels. The mix of styles is unlike any cartoon you’ve ever seen (or are likely to see again). Beauty and realism combine to actually take you into a comic book instead of simply translating one for the screen.

 

The writing for Into the Spider-verse achieves something that few producers have managed to do in the animation field: it’s equally appealing to both children AND adults. These days it’s rare to see an animated superhero film being made for the big screen instead of going straight to television. As a result, Into the Spider-verse offers up plenty of quick witted and intelligent jokes for adults without crossing the lines of propriety. In addition to the quality humor, the story includes a number of emotional moments that all manage to evoke real feelings instead of coming off as just pandering. So, if you’re planning to take your children to this movie, you’ll certainly both enjoy it.

 

All-in-all, Into the Spider-Verse brings together all of the best elements in film-making and executes them to perfection. Writing, drawing, music all come together to create an experience that you have to see to believe. The only disappointing part here is that we had to wait 16 years for a Spider-Man movie this well done.
  
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Becca Major (95 KP) rated Love O2O in TV

Jan 21, 2019  
Love O2O
Love O2O
2016 | International, Romance
Characters (Main and Side) (2 more)
The Story
I like the basic premise.
I'm not a fan of the ending (0 more)
A Simple Meet-Cute
Contains spoilers, click to show
One of the best things about Netflix is that there are a plethora of media that would otherwise be practically unavailable for viewing otherwise. For me, that primarily means Asian dramas, though I know many people discovered anime or other foreign television the same way. One of the most recent shows I watched via Netflix was a 2016 Chinese drama called Love 020. While it is not my favorite drama ever (that distinction belongs to Bromance) it is pretty good.

The story follows university students Bei Weiwei and Xiao Nai, who are computer technology majors at Qing University and both have a passion for game design. One day Weiwei has to log into her preferred MMORPG from a public computer and is spotted by Nai. He later finds her in-game and they begin a relationship between their characters. It isn’t long before Weiwei and Nai begin to develop real feelings, and Nai goes out of his way to pass by Weiwei in real life. Their eventual official IRL meeting is sufficiently exciting.

The best part is that Xiao Nai, while ruffling a few of my feathers for his more stalker-y actions, is not an asshole! He is nice to Weiwei from the start and is a devoted and engaged boyfriend. Weiwei herself is smart and sassy, though aloof online. One of my favorite scenes involves her putting her ex-in-game-husband in his place once they meet IRL. It also doesn’t help that these two are practically the perfect couple.

All of the characters, in fact, are fairly interesting. Both sets of roommates have different but very dynamic relationships with each other; it feels very organic. My personal favorites were K.O, Hao Mei, and Weiwei’s roommate Erxi. Though my attachments may be because they are the central characters to my favorite side-plots. If there was a character I had to choose to dislike, it would probably be Nana, the character who does the most bad in the plot but doesn’t suffer any real consequences for her actions.

I don’t want to spoil the ending for you, but most of my criticisms concern how the story wraps up, so if you want to watch the series, then go for it! It is a very simple, easy story that hits all the right buttons if you just finished a heart-wringer.

|SPOILERS|
My main points of contention with Love O2O stem almost entirely from the way the series ends. As a brief summary, Xiao Nai’s game development company goes head to head with a rival, more established company, over the right to develop a particular game that both companies really really want, and (extra spoilers) they win. The side-plot of Erxi and Cao Guang comes to a head as the two realize the misunderstanding that’s been happening for the last few months. And Hao Mei still doesn’t realize that K.O has a huge crush on him!

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t mind this ending because it flows with the narrative, every story thread is tied, and it ends on a happy note with the main couple en-route to a wedding. It’s just… Where are the stakes?! The tension, where it exists, doesn’t stem from Xiao Nai or Weiwei or their relationship with each other, like what happens in most other dramas that I watch. Almost all of that drama and tension seemed to be relegated to other characters.

Everything is wrapped up so easily, the antagonists (for what little they did to advance the plot) simply admitted to the leads that they were wrong and they’re sorry. Additionally, the final “threat” that Xiao Nai and Weiwei face is meeting Weiwei’s parents, in which Weiwei’s father doesn’t like Nai because of course he doesn’t; and that is solved easily by Nai reminiscing with his future father-in-law about Weiwei as a child and how adorable their future children will be.

I wish I could have enjoyed this series a lot more than I did, but the ending means a lot for me because it’s the last thing I tend to remember, and the emotions that go with those endings tend to stick. So, yes I enjoyed this series, but the ending left a disappointing aftertaste.
  
Batman Gotham Knight (2008)
Batman Gotham Knight (2008)
2008 | Action, Animation
8
8.0 (1 Ratings)
Movie Rating
Batman: Gotham Knight was originally advertised as an animated feature that bridged the gap between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, but it’s more of a Batman in his early stages becoming the legendary crime fighting vigilante he’s known as today. There are six segments in total with each segment having a different production studio.

The first segment is entitled, “Have I Got a Story For You,” and it’s written by Josh Olson (A History of Violence) and animated by Studio 4°C (Berserk: Golden Age Arc, Mind Game). The segment follows a boy who is waiting for his friends to arrive. Once they do, each of them tells a different story relating to what incredible Batman incident they witnessed that day. Each retelling is farfetched in its own way as this story capitalizes on teenagers stretching the truth and having overactive imaginations. Their day doesn’t seem to be finished though as the fight they all witnessed makes its way to their local hangout; the skate park.

“Crossfire” is written by Greg Rucka (Gotham, Jessica Jones) and animated by Production I.G. (FLCL, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex). This segment focuses on Chris and Anna being a part of Lieutenant Gordon’s MCU (Major Crime Unit). Chris thinks Batman is a vigilante that takes the law into his hands while Anna is still unsure about him and is just thankful that good cops that know how to do their job are actually being respected now that Batman has become part of the picture. After taking a recent Arkham escapee back to the asylum, Chris and Anna soon realize that they’re stuck in the middle of a gang war between Sal Maroni and The Russian.

“Field Test” is written by Jordan Goldberg (Westworld) and animated by Bee Train (.hack//Sign, Blade of the Immortal). Lucius Fox is showing Bruce Wayne some new gadgets. Amongst them is a harness equipped with an electromagnetic pulse strong enough to deflect bullets. Batman decides to test it out with Maroni, The Russian, and his goons. Everything seems to be going well until Batman encounters a glitch.

“In Darkness Dwells” is written by David S. Goyer (the Blade franchise, Man of Steel) and animated by Madhouse (One Punch Man, Death Note). Everyone is hunting Killer Croc. For this story, Croc is a former patient of Jonathan Crane/The Scarecrow and one of the reasons he was admitted to Dr. Crane was for his fear of bats.

“Working Through Pain” is written by Brian Azzarello (Batman: The Killing Joke) and animated by Studio 4°C. Batman is injured on what seems like any other night he puts his mask on. His tenacity takes center stage as you witness how often he struggles with nightly injuries. There are also flashbacks to his past that illustrate the difference between exterior and interior pain. There’s a way to put pain in its place and this is how Bruce Wayne found out how.

“Deadshot” is written by Alan Burnett (Batman: Mask of the Phantasm) and animated by Madhouse. Deadshot has returned to Gotham and has set his sights on Jim Gordon, but he looks to have ulterior motives. You also learn about how Bruce Wayne feels about guns.

Gotham Knight is superbly animated and has an accessible flow to it despite its various stories and alternating casts. The animation is fantastic as everything moves crisply and smoothly. The artistic style may change from story to story, but the voice cast is the same throughout. While each individual story has its own narrative to tell, everything is connected in some way that flows together nicely. This was one of the first times Kevin Conroy returned to voice Batman and his voice has become the iconic Batman voice for anyone who grew up watching Batman: The Animated Series. Hearing Conroy as Batman is like a homecoming in so many ways.

Whether you’re an anime fan, a Batman fan, or you’re looking for something new to catch your eye, Gotham Knight is worthwhile for animation and comic book fans alike. The animation is beautiful and the stories are enticing enough to keep you interested throughout. Kevin Conroy is the real drawing point here, but the rest of the voice cast is solid, as well. The Batman Begins/The Dark Knight connections are mostly hogwash as the animated feature adds nothing to Christopher Nolan’s Batman universe, but is an entertaining way to spend 76-minutes nevertheless.

Batman: Gotham Knight is available to stream on Amazon Prime, YouTube, Vudu, and Google Play for $2.99 and iTunes for $3.99. The Multi-Format Blu-ray is available on Amazon for $7.32 and as a double feature Blu-ray with Batman: Year One for $17.97. The Gotham Knight/Year One Blu-ray is $9.08 on eBay and the Multi-Format Blu-ray is $6.99; both are in brand new condition and both have free shipping.
  
Kingdom (2019)
Kingdom (2019)
2019 | Action, Adventure, International
6
7.5 (2 Ratings)
Movie Rating
Action sequences. (2 more)
The Mountain Tribe.
Zuo Ci.
134-minute duration feels like a marathon. (1 more)
Drags a lot in its first half.
I haven’t read any of the 55 volumes (and counting) of Yasuhisa Hara’s Kingdom manga or watched any of the 77 episodes of the anime adapted by animation studio Pierrot (Bleach, Yu Yu Hakusho, and Tokyo Ghoul among many others). To make matters worse, I haven’t seen any of the films by director and co-screenwriter Shinsuke Sato (the two live-action Gantz films, Death Note: Light Up the New World, the live-action Bleach film for Netflix). I’m going into Kingdom completely blind and I have no idea if that makes the viewing experience any better or worse.

In 255 B.C., Kingdom revolves around the quick-tempered and charge-headfirst-into-battle-without-thinking Xin (Kento Yamazaki) that dreams of being the greatest general of the Qin Kingdom. There’s other stuff going on; a bloody 500 year war between the seven states of China, Xin’s best friend Piao (Ryô Yoshizawa) being enlisted by the King only to turn around and be killed, and King Yin Zheng being a splitting image of Piao, but nothing is emphasized or screamed louder than Xin’s desire to become the greatest general China has ever known.

Kingdom feels like it’s about 45 minutes too long for its own good. The first hour seems to drag as blood spraying into the air every now and then isn’t enough to keep you fully intrigued. The manga is an exaggerated recounting of Zheng actually becoming king in 221 B.C. during the Warring States period and eventually unifying China while the characters are loosely based on actual historical figures. The action adventure film attempts to portray Xin and Piao as worthy and capable swordsman because they clunked stick swords together 10,000 times in an empty field throughout their childhood and teenage years.

The film tries to compensate for its slow first hour with a more eventful second half, but it doesn’t totally succeed. Yang Duan He (Masami Nagasawa) and her mountain tribe are pretty awesome. Their masks remind you of something straight out of Princess Mononoke and you’ll be trying your hardest not to compare Yang Duan He to Xena: Warrior Princess. There’s this competition for the throne that gets a little complicated. Zheng’s brother Cheng Jiao (Kanata Hongo) is nasty and heartless and basically a human version of Salacious Crumb sitting on an even more elaborate version of Jabba the Hutt’s dais. Zheng and Jiao have the same father, but different mothers; Jiao’s is of royal blood and Zheng’s is a dancer or, in other words, a commoner. Jiao viewed peasantry as being bone deep; it isn’t something that can ever go away.

The main theme of Kingdom sounds like a direct ripoff of the main Guardians of the Galaxy theme, which is kind of brain-numbing. The prosthetics in the film are questionable with Li Dian, the original slave owner of Xin and Piao, having this awkwardly orange colored face, inhumanly puffy cheeks, stringy facial hair, and the ugliest facial expressions imaginable. After Xin joins up with Zheng, a girl in a bushy owl costume named He Liao Diao (Kanna Hasimoto) is mostly only around to take everyone to the mountains later. The chemistry Xin, Zheng, and Diao have is reminiscent of what Mugen, Jin, and Foo have in Samurai Champloo. Another observation is that Xin is basically Goku with Vegeta’s short-fuse temper; he lives to fight and eat, he’s dumber than a bag of rocks, and he can’t identify a woman when she’s standing directly in front of him.

Cheng Jiao’s go-to henchman, former general and current hitman for hire Zuo Ci (Tak Sakaguchi) may be the film’s coolest character. He doesn’t care about anybody, tells Xin that all dreams are BS, and is a part of what is arguably the best action sequence in the film. Meanwhile, General Wang Yi (Takao Ohsawa), the most renowned general in all of China and the guy with the status Xin plans on taking in the future, is a bit overrated. He mostly just parades his weird and pointy facial hair around and swings his giant sword as if it won’t remind us of Guts from Berserk.

All in all, Kingdom is a decent action adventure that just takes a while to really get going. The performances aren’t totally satisfying with Kento Yamazaki hamming it up on more than occasion and taking the brainless dolt with a huge mouth thing to uncomfortable levels. The story isn’t exactly hard to follow, but it does feel like it’s trying to be more convoluted than it needs to be. You don’t feel any sort of attachment to any of the characters and any sort of twist can be seen long before the reveal. Kingdom is just an okay way to spend two hours that is probably a justifiable rental on a day when you have nothing better to do, but is not worth paying full price to own.
  
Starlight Stage
Starlight Stage
2014 | Card Game
Your talent agency is failing. All you have available are rookies looking for their big breaks. However, they will take almost any work you can give them, and they can use their experience to reinvent themselves to bring greater visibility to your agency and greater star power for themselves. Do you have what it takes to show them their true potential and set them up for success? Or will your skills in talent management sink your ship before leaving the harbor? Let’s find out.

DISCLAIMER: I do not intend to cover every single rule included in the rule book, but will describe the overall game flow and major rule set so that our readers may get a sense of how the game plays. For more in depth rules, you may purchase a copy from the publisher directly or from your FLGS. -T

Starlight Stage is a deck building, card drafting, and set collection game with a very unique theme and art style. As with all deck builders, players start with a hand of beginner cards. In this case, all players are dealt the same hand of starter idol, model, and actress cards. These are collectively called “Idols,” which is confusing, but I will address that in my summary. Essentially, each different type of idol provides you with a different type of currency/energy/power/resource to use when buying or drafting newer, more powerful cards.

On your turn you MAY flip over a card from one of the three decks available – Idol, Fame, or Event cards. Then you play cards from your hand in order to acquire more cards from the offer rows. Typically, you may only use one idol card per purchase, unless you are purchasing an Event card – you may send more than one idol to an Event. If there are no cards that you want, or that you can afford to purchase, you may “take a lesson,” by grabbing a resource token.

Tired of using just the starter idol cards all the time? Idols may reinvent themselves to become stronger. You do this by exchanging your starter (or upgraded) idol card and adding supporting cards and tokens to purchase a stronger idol card. These will typically provide more currency used to purchase more and better cards from the offer rows as well as providing more end game VPs. Example (shown below): exchange your starting Model idol card (blue diamond) plus several other supporting cards and tokens to transform your current Model into Super Idol Saori Tenkawa, who now provides you with one of each resource each time she is played.

Play continues until the Fame deck runs out, and points from cards are tallied to determine the winner.

Components: This game is a ton of cards and some resource tokens. The cards are great quality and will hold up well to repeated use, but super fans of the game may want to sleeve them, as the cards will be handled quite a bit. The tokens are typical cardboard chits and feature the diamond, heart, or music note symbols that are used throughout the game. Overall, production quality is pretty good.

So here’s the rub. When I pulled this out to play with Josh and Laura, we were immediately impacted by the art on the cards. When I started to explain the game mechanics and flow, Laura just COULD NOT contain her giggles as I tried to tactfully cover how to make your girls do jobs and attend events so that they can later upgrade themselves. I have to admit, the theme is not one I am accustomed to nor one that I can really get behind. I understand I come from a different culture background than that which is depicted in this game, but the theme is a definite detraction for us. Similarly, the art on the cards ranges from cute and uniquely anime to outright demeaning and near softcore hentai (there is no real NSFW artwork on the cards, but I certainly will not be playing this with my son until he’s at least 18). The idea of employing only young females and assigning them to different jobs to gain more fame or sending them to photo shoot events in skimpy clothing is just not very PC and not very 21st Century American. Again, I cannot stress enough that I do understand where this game comes from and the intended audience, but that intended audience is certainly not a group of highly inclusive, mostly minority, LGBTQIA member and allies, gender equal, 30-something board game enthusiasts and reviewers.

That said, the game itself can provide an interesting play session, but I highly recommend only playing with a specific group of people that you know will tolerate its suggestive art and overtones. For us at Purple Phoenix Games, we suggest Starlight Stage consider reinventing itself with a different theme. Also, I think some alternate terminology could be used for the Idol deck of cards that contain Idol, Model, and Actress cards. A minor quip, but it should be stated. Perhaps with some “Americanizing,” or at least having it be more PC, it would then overcome its 6/18 score and be invited to Hollywood with Simon Cowell.