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Fast & Furious 7 (2015)
Way over the top
With silly and crazy action pieces (some of them, way overlong, particularly in the last third), over the top and sanitized violence, so much testosterone it is pouring out of the screen, and with characters that are, basically, immortal, "Furious 7" is also mysteriously hypnotizing, and, even if not particularly original. Family will always be family.
A blast. With a touching coda.
Tokyo Idols (2017)
A fascinating look on the idol culture in Japan
The idol culture is huge in Japan, and moves tons of money. This documentary, even with some shortcomings, tries to understand a little bit of what goes on around the idol world, and what are the reasons it is so important in the country. To do so, it particularly centers on one of the idols, what moves her, and why did she decide to take this path in her career (society kind of gives few options for women, seems the documentary to be vying for?) and one of her oldest fans, a guy that seems to be there for lack of better options. The documentary does a great job of humanizing all the persons that appear in it (even if it is clear to see some 'criticism' towards some of them) and of pointing out to aspects of a phenomenon that show that it cannot be understood by itself, outside of the bigger picture: why do these people use so much money to follow the idols around? why want young girls want to become idols? etc., etc.
Of course, the movie has an agenda. And of course it is a kind of Westernized look on the subject. And of course, it understands what is normal (or not) or accepted (or not) in a particular way (as when the director asks the idol or the fan about having a partner, the desire to marry, etc.). That does not take from a very fascinating look on an aspect of a society that informs about bigger aspects of that society, its culture, its institutions (and the world).
El reino (2018)
This movie is brutal. From second one, it grips you in its story line about politics and corruption, with a tight and breathless script and amazing acting (de la Torre has an intensity that transpires from the screen, and here gives us again a bravura performance) and doesn't let go till the last very last frame. It may be *just another movie about corrupt politicians and their love of money and power, but it is so magnificently done, so beautifully shot, and so angry, that you won't be able to take your eyes from the screen. Watch it.
A very entertaining thriller
Talal has gotten himself into trouble. He went to his ex-wife's new town of residence and got into a fight. Now he is in a dirty, dark (and probably smelly) cell in a police station in the middle of nowhere, waiting for the judge to decide on his future, with a lazy cop keeping an eye on him, and with little hope of being able to see his ex-wife again. However, when Dabaan, a cop from another station, comes in, things take a turn for the unexpected.
"Rattle the Cage" is a great thriller, gripping, with an amazing set-up (the reasons of which, we, the viewers, actually know very little of) that puts two men in very different situations face to face, with their lives on the line. Will Dabaan get his objective, whatever it is? And will he kill Talal? What options of leaving the place alive has actually Talal left?
If the beginning of the movie is good, but relaxed, from the very first moment Ali Suliman (as Dabaan) enters the scene, the movie goes to a whole new level of gripping and crazy. However, even if the atmosphere, acting and color palette is amazing, the story falters a little bit towards the end, with a couple of moments that are stretched a little bit thin.
You won't regret watching it, though.
Bleach: Burîchu (2018)
A pleasant surprise
Taking into account how much live action movies based on manga have disappointed me in the past, I came into "Bleach" with low expectations (probably not the only one). However, this movie adaptation is funny, with acceptable action set pieces and relatable characters (on top of not stretching its running time endlessly and pointlessly (even if it falls a little bit into this trap in its third act)). And, even if you don't know anything about the manga, it is easy to jump into the story, as the movie does a great job of introducing the world and building it up from scratch. Totally worth watching!
Ash vs Evil Dead: Family (2018)
I said a hint!
Season 3 of "Ash vs Evil Dead" starts with a wimp, with little of interest happening and situations that repeat and rehash moments from the movies and the first two seasons. It feels as if the show, sadly, has run out of steam. Which is a pity, because Bruce Campbell and Ash should be fun to be with. Let's see if the next episodes improve on this weak, humorless first.
Kazoku wa tsuraiyo 2 (2017)
An improvement on the first
"Kazoku wa tsuraiyo 2" continues the adventures of the Hirata family, with a little and charming movie that ends up being more than it seems at first sight.
The movie continues with its low key approach to its subjects: we see the everyday life of the Hirata family and how things have changed since the end of the first movie. The MacGuffin of the story is the 'patriarch' 's stubbornness and denial in recognizing the need for him to stop driving. This too common situation gives Yôji Yamada all he needs to develop the story, a plot that, as the first, revolves around family, its tensions, the changes that are happening in Japanese society (family relations, elder care, job relations...), with some light touches of humor and also some serious moments. The pace is still quite slow, and it drags for moments, but the approach is spot on, and the the movie's mood and situations will delight the viewer, in particular for anyone interested in everyday's life and human relationships.
Not a great movie by any means, but oddly entertaining (if you like martial arts movies)
"Jailbreak" is your run-of-the-mill martial arts movie: we get our heroes (instead of just the one, here we have a team of 5), an 'of course things are going to turn sour' set-up (Prison Break!), heaps, but heaps of bad guys bent on destroying the good ones, fighting non-stop and a plot that has been knocked-out by some random flying kick. And while it doesn't bring anything new to the table, it does its job and delivers nicely choreographed fighting scenes, with some nice touches, and some silly humor to keep things chugging along (like one of the good guys not joining a fight because he is trying to light his cigarette).
It won't make you think, but you won't, probably, be bored either.
MacGyver: The Prodigal (1985)
MacGyver and Family Matters
In this episode our friend MacGyver has to protect a, erm... protected witness of a drug dealing family when he wants to, first, disappear, and second, meet his dying mother. MacGyver has to go against the powers to be and against the drug dealers to help his new friend and, along the way, has the chance to create some nice gadgets.
The episode is a more toned-down one than some of the previous, with MacGyver home and in an episode that centers on family and relationships. That makes for some acceptable character development (nothing great, but more than just your usually good/bad people) and adds depth to the story. On the side of what really matters, people..., I mean, the inventions, the episode offers a nice array of basic MacGyver: smoky devices, flashy devices, dry ice and things that help you ran away. It is not particularly original but they are well deployed (and, if you allow me, more original and surprising than in the 2010s reboot/remake iteration of the show; also the old "MacGyver" has more heart, but I know I wouldn't be comparing them if not for the name, so...).
Entertaining, as always really fun, and 7 MacGyvers for the inventions.
Running to survive
A tearjerker of a story, "Rikuô" is one of those typical Japanese shows that centers on the local, the small, the fight that the little puts against the big and bullies, to tell the story of a small tabi (Japanese socks) company on the verge of bankrupcy. Instead of going belly up, the owner of the long-standing and very respected company decides to go into the sneakers world, which puts the company against the big sport shoes companies. In part to be able to break through, the owner of the tabi company, Miyazawa, tries to get a promising runner to use their new sport shoes.
What follows is your typical Japanese drama full of touching moments, ideas of sacrifice, the importance of family and traditional values and some romanticized ideas around Japanese culture and lifestyle. It is very well done and acted, and the direction and plot (even if some extended episodes just run for a little bit too long) grip the viewer's attention and make for compelling viewing. It never gets boring and knows how to bring the tear to the eye (curious, when it is a drama about a sock company trying to survive bankruptcy; you know, capitalism). The viewer will easily enjoy the story and how the characters are very human and nicely developed. Harder to sit through though, are some of those romantic ideas, that some times smell a little bit (it even feels like the drama is sending subtle patriotic messages).
A very nicely done show, with great acting and development, which highlights are the characters and their development (something at which Japanese shows shine, with a mysterious knack to walk the line between cheesy and touching without falling into the first).
An amazing start to season 5
"The 100" is back, and it does so with a bang. "Eden" is an amazingly taut, thrilling and gripping episode that brings us back to the world of Clarke, Bellamy and Octavia and puts the basis for a new beginning after the devastating ending of the previous season.
The episode does a great job centering first on Clarke and her fight for survival after the storm and the radiation. We find a desperate and hopeless Clarke, alone, without friends or purpose, and with no idea on how she will survive till her friends come back. She tries to find a way to open the entrance and join the survivors at Second Dawn, but she soon has to give up and try to survive by herself. Pretty soon she finds a companion and we get to the moment in which season four ended, with the prisoner space ship landing on her valley. Also we get some snippets on the life Bellamy and the others are leading on their little and broken spaceship.
The plot is simple but is delivered in a great way, with good direction and solidly anchored by Eliza Taylor's performance, which is a great one, her acting keeping the viewer with their eyes on the screen. She does a great job in bringing the world and her character to life while we stay with her, and with her we get introduced to this new and desolate world, even worse that the one they were on before. It also helps that the episode gives us time to feel and understand this new world we are in, and the little breaks from it to go to the spaceship on which Bellamy and the others are feels like a perfect counterpoint to what is happening on Earth.
"Eden" does a great job of picking things up after the ending of season four while delivering, probably, the best first episode of any of the five seasons of the show. Amazing.
"Unnatural" is your typical procedural, with a body per episode, some character development, and your team interacting with each other while the plot of the episode develops. However, the setting, acting, and touch make this show really enjoyable, even if not particularly original.
The show centers on UDI, the Unnatural Death Investigation unit, an organization that works to discover the truth behind unnatural deaths that occur in Japan. Japan being a country where people are not normally buried, but cremated, which means you cannot go back to those bodies to do another autopsy. The UDI has a couple of lead forensic surgeons, Mikoto Misumi and Kai Nakado, and a group that works around them.
As said above, each episode offers a case, even though there is an overall arc that offers a particular mystery related to one of the characters, and some other mysteries and plot threads that will be developed little by little. The cases are not particularly surprising or original, but they are engaging enough and offer a couple of surprises along the way. The fact that the group has only a short time before the families want to cremate the bodies adds a countdown to the proceedings that make it more nail-biting (even if we have to suffer the 'character-running-to-stop-a-body-of-being-cremated' moment here and there).
The best of the show, however, are the characters and their interactions. Satomi Ishihara is particularly good here, her acting fitting the character better than in some of her other dramas. But the package around her, with Yutaka Matsushige or Masataka Kubota, really helps. Their interactions, banter, and how they are developed is the highlight of the show, with some very touching moments. Yes, the show may try to manipulate the viewer with the music and some particular plot twists, but when you care about the characters and it does it not in an intrusive (or very intrusive) way, you won't care much.
If you want a mystery of the week, with funny characters, and some feelings thrown into the mix, you may enjoy "Unnatural". A good one.
Not your average teacher
A movie called "The Teacher" has to be an uplifting movie about all the good teachers do, and the inspiration they bring to their students, right? Well, not exactly, particularly if you believe bribing, using power for your own benefit and to bully others, and beings selfish is something teachers should teach.
"The Teacher" tells the story of a school meeting, where the parents of the students of a class meet to talk about the teacher of their children, for reasons that are not very clear at the beginning, but seem to be pretty damning for the aforementioned teacher. Little by little, by flashbacks, and by the conversations between the parents, we get to know the problem, and we get to know the different opinions and why those different opinions happen.
It is a very interesting look on how power, families, or school work, with a lot of dark humor and sarcasm and an ironic look to an era where Communism was in power in what nowadays is Slovakia. The director, Jan Hrebejk, goes for satire, not being bleak and angry, but tongue-in-cheek. Nothing of what he tells will be particularly surprising, but centering on the abuse of power and corruption in a school, instead of in the government or military, offers a fresh look, and the amazing work by Zuzana Mauréry elevates this movie to another level. Her acting is amazing, and she brings Mária to life in a performance that will stay with the viewer long after the credits roll. A really interesting, and good, movie.
The haunted doorplate
Yurika lives in a condominium with her family. One day, the letter F appears on the doorplate of her flat. And her best friend dies in an accident. And strange things start to happen. What is going on?
"Eyes" is your run-of-the-mill Japanese horror movie. It has the high schooler, it has the little child (in this case a brother), it has the not very subtle ties to family relationships, and it has some random woman with long black hair. And even if it tries to be original and offer some twists on an old formula, the truth is that the movie can't sustain its flimsy plot. Things make little sense, the mystery is quite lame, and the acting is not crème de la crème.
Some points for atmosphere, though. It will entertain you if you are in the mood, but you will forget it even while watching it. Not the best J-horror.
Kono sekai no katasumi ni (2016)
A beautiful, touching and realistic story
"In This Corner of the World" is one of the most beautiful anime I have ever seen. It is a story that will touch the heart of the viewer, a story that tells what seems a simple story, but that has layers and more layers in it, and that will stay with you for a long time after the end credits roll.
The story centers on Suzu, a young girl from Hiroshima, before, during and after the Second World War. She has a brother and a sister, she loves to paint and draw (and is a real artist), she enjoys simple things and has an easy smile, she just wants to be happy and help the ones that surround her.
However, life is never so simple and here, the war comes into play. And "In This Corner of the World" does a great job in balancing the small (Suzu) with the big (Hiroshima, the war and its consequences...). Even if Suzu is almost always there, on the screen, many little details, small conversations, and the interaction between characters depict a world of violence, of hate, of power and unresolved conflict. It is sad, it is touching and it shouldn't be a surprise if it makes you cry.
The animation is amazing. It is all very cute and smily, which makes the hard moments hit harder, the sad moments be sadder, and the angry moments make you angrier. The color palette, and the character's expressions help to bring the story to life and to make all of them feel real and close and their needs and desires truthful.
It is a great movie and totally worth viewing. Highly recommended.
Of family and power
One of Kurosawa's best, "Ran" is a story set on samurai era Japan that touches on different subjects, as for example family, power, revenge or betrayal, delivering a powerful movie that will stay for a long time with the viewer.
Old Lord Hidetora Ichimonji is getting old and, when a couple of lords come to ask for his third son to marry one of the lord's daughters, Hidetora decides it is time to retire. He will divide his territories between his three sons and retire, even though he will keep his title and some power. The youngest, Saburo is against this decision, but the older two brothers are really happy with their father's decision and promise to take care of him. Saburo is sent away, stripped from all of his possessions and Hidetora starts his new life.
What follows is a story of hate, betrayal, desire, corruption... You know, the stuff of great stories. The two older brothers start to plot against each other and against their father, the wife of the older brother too, Saburo just seems to worry about his father... There are a lot of threads but Kurosawa does an amazing job in threading them and keep the plot advancing while making things more and more interesting. The plot is full of nice twists and touches, and the characters are well rounded, their behavior and decisions well justified and presented. Kurosawa was a great director, and every frame of this movie is a clear example of his touch. Everything is really great, from the music to the palette of color, and even the use of the scenery is also top notch.
Totally worth seeing, "Ran" is a movie about the dangers of power. Any kind of.
One Punch Man: Wanpanman (2015)
Fights, fights, and more fights... and all end with our hero destroying the enemy with just one punch.
"One Punch Man", the anime adaptation of the manga of the same name, delivers a constant barrage of laughs and action in a faithful adaptation.
Saitama is a hero. But not your average hero, like Son Goku, that needs 30 episodes to destroy the big bad after having gone through another 30 episodes of fights with the henchmen. No. Saitama wins his fights with just one punch. We don't really know how he got so strong (the explanation of his training regime to Genos is hilarious), but he is. So strong that the constant apparition of new and more dangerous enemies are never a threat. Even if you keep waiting for a real 'enemy' to appear.
With this introduction it is pretty easy to see that "One Punch Man" plays the "Dragon Ball" or "Naruto" card but with a twist, poking fun to all the constant fights in those anime. And it does a great job of it, with a constant tongue-in-cheek approach to your hero anime: from the 'heroes association' to the hero's rankings to Saitama's fights, "One Punch Man" is in constant 'funny' mode. Some jokes will be better understood by fans of action anime, but all the deadpan jokes can be enjoyed by everyone. It also helps that the fights, when they come, are perfectly paced and with amazing effects. The humor delivers, but the action too and the threats are always 'believable'.
But in what "One Punch Man" excels is in characterization. Saitama is your hero after all the threats have disappeared. He is a hero that does his job because it is his job, but doesn't really find a challenge in it anymore. Genos is the perfect secondary, the one that would be the hero in your regular show. And all the others, like Mumen Rider or Terrible Tornado, just add to the series. The voice work is amazing (in its Japanese version, which is the one I saw) and bring the characters to life. The only problem I found is that I enjoyed more the manga than the anime (it also had the surprise factor that this adaptation doesn't (can't) have).
Do you like anime? And action anime? Or action? If you do, this is for you. And if you don't, this is for you too. "One Punch Man" is amazing.
You won't regret it.
I have to recognize that I have a soft spot for episodes that don't take themselves too seriously, be it "Buffy", "X-Files" or "Supernatural". The ones that have a very silly premise for the plot, and play all of its running time with a constant wink to the viewer.
In this episode, Xander is depressed after Cordelia break's up with him before Valentine, because, you know, appearances. Cue Xander teaming up with long forgotten character Amy, now, as her mother before, also a witch. Xander just wants Cordelia to go through the same sad and depressing feelings he is going through, but the spell doesn't work... well, as intended, and all the women start to love him, and obsess around him.
From that moment on it is all silly plot development after silly plot development, but so perfectly done, that the viewer won't be able to stop laughing. It's the kind of episodes that make casual viewers become fans, and that, after all the plot and background have already been set, gives life to a show and helps the viewer relate to the characters. It is an episode that doesn't just go for laughs (there are quite a lot of them), but also offers a lot in character development and is, in its own way, quite realistic in that respect.
Very, but very funny episode. Classic.
The story of five random people that get entangled in a world of politics, conspiracies, and death, "Kfulim" starts strong, keeps a grip-your-sofa gripping second act and ends on a high note (even if, though, it leaves some loose ends that could have been better tied).
The plot in its basics: five citizens of Israel with double nationality but otherwise seemingly normal lives are accused of kidnapping the Iranian Minister of Defense. Little by little we get to know why, how and all the other answers to the questions behind the kidnapping. At the beginning, though, all five of them seem to be completely innocent people (ok, except Sean, who looks shady from second one). The plot does a decent job on developing this premise (even if, when you think about it after ending the show, it is all a little bit head-scratching because some plot points make no sense).
However, the strongest points of the show are the characters, all of them really interesting and well developed, and the pace of the development of the story. In regards of the first, the characters are fleshed out and the acting good enough. And in regards to the second, the rhythm, the music, the camera work all work to make every episode "Lost"-style gripping, normally ending with a cliffhanger and with some really nice twists along the way.
Dimension W (2016)
Lots of fun
This anime is really fun and cool, and if you like your anime with some sci-fi, a mysterious hero and some very silly moments and humor, "Dimension W" is for you.
We have the typical hero that has a secret and, even if he doesn't want to, has to join forces with another character. In this case, our hero is a 'collector', a person that tries to recover illegal components that use energy from the 'dimension W', a dimension that has helped humanity to get an endless supply of energy. He is old style and doesn't like the use of the components that let humanity tap into the dimension W. Not very deep sci-fi, that's true. At the very beginning of the anime he gets involved with a robot, the creation of the man that found the dimension W and the robot (with the typical character and looks of a young girl, something too typical in some kind of Japanese anime) decides to stay with him.
From that moment one we get our hero, Kyoma, getting his missions and the robot Mira helping him. The model is one mission per episode. Around the half of the series we get into the big arc of the show that will last till the end of the anime.
The first part is lots of fun, with cool characters, great rhythm and funny plots, with some silly humor thrown into it. The second part is darker, the plot gets a little bit messy and is more into 'big fights' but it is still really interesting and fun. Not very demanding, but always fun.
The animation is really cool, even if there are a couple of moments where the quality is not great. It does a great job in making the viewer feel involved in this world and characters, with a very stylized look and a nice use of color. Perfect for this type of series. And the music is just plain great.
P.S.: I haven't watched the OVA, so this review is just for the anime series.
The episode that marks the moment the show enters into the 'big storyline'
Till this episode, "Dimension W" has been just your run-of-the-mill one storyline per episode model: we have Kyoma getting a mission, Mira helping him, and some characters interacting with them while they get to finish the mission, normally Loser and his daughter or Albert.
But in this episode everything changes as we enter into the big story-line the show has been teasing us from the very beginning: the big 'numbers', the 'original' coils and the accident that happened on the Easter Island. This is the big arc of the show, and it does a great job of introducing new characters while keeping the center on the ones that have already been introduced, feeding the viewer on some quite relevant back story. The pace is slow at the beginning, but after the flashback the episode gets into a frenzy mood, with lots of action, things happening non-stop and the start of a big mystery. Will the show be able to give a good answer to all the questions introduced till now? Maybe yes, maybe not, but till now it is a really funny show.
BORDER2 Shokuzai (2017)
It nicely ties the loose threads from the series
When "Border" left us, we had a cliffhanger for the ages, with Ishikawa (Shun Oguri) on a roof with Ando, 'pur hero' seemingly going to push the 'bad guy' to the streets.
The special picks from this moment and follows as if nothing had happened and there had not been more than three years (for the viewer) between both moments. Which, if you see all together will not matter, but if you see this special without refreshing your memory, well, you will have problems trying to remember why the two characters had ended up there.
Without getting into what happens between them both, the special then follows your typical "Border" episode, with a 'ghost' asking Ishikawa for help, and him trying to decide which way to go: the 'official' one, with rules, police and the system, or the 'un-official' one. The special does a great job on keeping Ishikawa on the grey zone (more than ever), without letting us know if he will go all dark, or if he will keep trying to fight his demons. It helps that Oguri seems to have been born for this kind of ambivalent characters, and that the mood, the pace, and the grey and dark illumination is perfect. From the moment the music from the series sounds, you will be back to the world of Ishikawa, the policeman that, after getting injured and left with a bullet in his head, can talk to the dead.
A really good ending (?; it leaves the door open for a second series or even a movie) to the series, one that fans of the TV series will enjoy.
Haha to kuraseba (2015)
A movie about loss and human relationships
Koji dies when the atomic bomb falls on Nagasaki. He was a medical student, living with his mother, his father and brother already dead, and thinking about marriage with his girlfriend Machiko. His mother is left alone, trying to survive in the struggle after the end of the war.
"Living with My Mother" is a very touching, slow, introspective movie, typical or your late Yôji Yamada, with sparse use of camera work, long takes, and a focus on characters and their dialogues, instead of on action or fast changes of view points. The story centers on Nobuko, Koji's mother, after the end of the war, and how she tries to come to terms with what has happened in her life. Sayuri Yoshinaga does a great job of imbuing her character with life, making her feel close even if you know little of the history behind her story. Yamada does not center on pain or tears, but on the little things that make us human, and instead of telling us a story of the struggle to eat to live, he tells us the story of the struggle to understand, forgive and adapt to be able to live in an world that has changed completely.
It is a little bit slow, and some moments can be a little bit stretched, but the direction, the acting, the mood and the pace are great, and it is a movie that is worth seeing. It is a movie about humanity.
Episode 9 of the first season of "Buffy" is probably the funniest of the show so far, and it has also one really neat twist in a show that, in this respect, has not been particularly original.
There is a high school festival but, again, someone seems intend on killing the students. Buffy and Co. suspect that the dummy is doing it.
The episode does a great job in poking fun at the fact that students keep dying on the premises of the high school (who would want their children to go there after the first couple of episodes?) and also does a great job at playing the 'dummy' card. We all know the dolls are scary, but "Buffy" turns this upside down offering a very funny take on it, with a very tongue-in-cheek approach to the plot. It is also has a very nice pace (an upgrade after the previous one's stilted one) and the acting fits perfectly with the mood. Buffy, Willow and Xander's horror at having to take part on the festival is the perfect mood setting for the rest of the episode.
All 'horror' shows have to have one episode with a dummy in them, and this one does the trick for "Buffy". In a really funny way. A winner.
A great start to the series
Liza Miller is a 40-year-old, mother of a teenager who is in India, jobless, divorced and who can't find a job because she has been for too long taking care of her family. After a couple of interviews, depressed, she goes drinking to a bar with her best friend, where she gets mistaken for someone younger. With the help of her friend, she decides to try and pull it off, and pass off as a 26-year-old. Would she be discovered?
The pilot of "Younger" is fun, fresh and fast, and it introduces very nicely the viewer to the characters: Liza, her daughter, her best friend and her workmates. It has lots of humor (of the white kind, all very nice, but with charm) and the plot develops nicely, without hiccups, just going for laughs. It helps that all the actors do a great job, starting with Sutton Foster (even though just changing clothes and hairstyle to pass her for a 26-year-old is stretching things a little bit thin).
A show that tries to entertain while doing some commentary but without meanness in its bones, "Younger" is off to a great start.