TV Review: Attack On Titan (2013- )

Original Run: April 7th, 2013 – current
Created by: Hajime Isayama
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Attack On Titan manga by Hajime Isayama
Music by: Hiroyuki Sawano

Wit Studio, Production I.G., Dentsu, 37 Episodes, 24 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*written in 2014.

I’m not what you would call a big anime fan. Well, at least not since I was a kid and a teenager in what I now consider to be the golden age of anime, which was the mid 80s through the 90s. As a kid I was captivated by Robotech and Akira. As a teenager, it was Ninja Scroll and Ghost In The Shell and really just about anything I could get my hands on before anime went really mainstream in the United States.

Once it became a big thing, I sort of checked out. At that point, the quality of what was successful paled in comparison to the earlier stuff that I loved. The fanboys who raved about how good everything was, even the shit, just irritated me and I had the attitude of, “Fuck you, I was here when all you knew was Power Rangers and Ninja Turtles.”

Anyway, Attack On Titan is the first anime series that I have seen in years that not only kept my interest but also had me applauding its writing, its characters, its philosophy and its artistic execution. Other than Hellsing, I cannot think of another anime series in the last decade that had me so engaged from beginning to end. In fact, I am assuming that it is resonating with many others and sort of anticipate some English-speaking live-action crappy remake in the next few years – hopefully not starring Sam Worthington.

The premise of this tale is pretty compelling and is what initially hooked me. Essentially, it has been a hundred years since humanity has been decimated by a race of giants called “Titans”. In that time, they have built a wall around themselves in an effort to keep the Titans out. As the story starts, the Titans bring down the wall and our main hero sees his mother eaten by one of them – spurring his rage and his quest for vengeance.

What follows, one would assume would be pretty predictable: kid wants revenge for dead mother, kid becomes badass, kid kills evil, revenge accomplished. What you get however, is a story that is anything but predictable and in fact, takes several crazy turns throughout the series, always giving you something fresh and new. Roadblocks seemingly come from everywhere and no one ever feels like they’re safe.

Yes, it is a dark and intense show. While that seems to be a trend in entertainment lately, Attack On Titan doesn’t just use it in a generic typical way, they use it to motivate the characters and the plot in a pretty dynamic way. The characters constantly find themselves at odds with the awful cruel world that they live in and even though they must fight to survive in it, at the core, they strive for something better and refuse to accept their doomed apocalypse of a life.

The show presents a lot of questions and by the time you get to the end, many of those questions are left unanswered. This leaves me thinking that there is more to come. The show is over, at least this initial series but there are companion films being released and I anticipate a proper conclusion to the main protagonists story at some point.

Again, this is an amazing series and I’d recommend it to anyone wanting something different and refreshing to watch. I binged watched it in two sessions of about five-to-six hours each, so you can get through it fairly quickly. Check it out on Netflix. Also, it is not dubbed, it is subtitled. I really enjoyed being able to hear the traditional Japanese dialogue.

TV Review: Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995, 1997-1999)

Also known as: The Adventures of Batman & Robin, The New Batman Adventures (relaunched direct sequel series)
Original Run: September 5th, 1992 – September 15th, 1995 (original series run), September 13th, 1997 – January 16th, 1999 (sequel series run)
Created by: Bruce Timm, Eric Radomski
Directed by: Kevin Altieri, Kent Butterworth, Boyd Kirkland, Frank Paur, Eric Radomski, Dan Riba, Dick Sebast, Bruce Timm
Written by: Laren Bright, Alan Burnett, Sean Catherine Derek, Paul Dini, Steve Perry, Michael Reaves, Randy Rogel, Brynne Stephens
Based on: Batman by Bob Kane
Music by: Danny Elfman (theme), various
Cast: Kevin Conroy, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Bob Hastings, Robert Costanzo, Loren Lester, Mark Hamill, Arleen Sorkin

DC Comics, Warner Bros., Fox, 109 Episodes, 22 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2014. Also covers the sequel series, which is more or less now considered the final season of the show.

I’ve been revisiting this series lately, as it has been a long time since I’ve watched it in its entirety. Also, I wanted to do a list for this site that counts down the top fifty episodes of the series. That post will come in the near future.

In my estimation, this is probably the greatest animated series of all-time. Many will argue against that but I can’t think of any other that was as entertaining, epic, stylish, consistent, engaging or that had the quality of this series. There were a few hiccups with episodes drawn by lesser quality animation studios but those houses were quickly let go, as the show’s producers felt a necessity to maintain the show’s otherwise impeccable quality.

Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski created a unique world for Batman to play in and Paul Dini (who later went on to write amazing Batman comics) created some amazing scripts. In fact, their legacy and the influence of this show will live on forever, as many of the characters and situations created for the show, went on to live in the comic books.

Without this show, we would not have Harley Quinn, Renee Montoya and the awesome origin of Mr. Freeze, which was so awesome that it propelled him to being the greatest villain in this series and lead to him being featured as the main protagonist in the second animated film based off of this series.

Batman: The Animated Series was also innovative in the way that they produced it visually. As opposed to the industry standard of designing large set pieces and landscapes by coloring in white paper, they instead used light colors painted over black backgrounds. It provided this show with a dark atmosphere but not in a dreary way; it was more of an inviting film-noir style with very complimentary and carefully chosen colors added in.

The voice actors in this series were top notch. Mark Hamill, who was typecast after playing the iconic Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars trilogy, was given a second life when he was cast to voice the Joker. Kevin Conroy was equally as good as Batman. Both men actually continued to voice these characters for years after this show went off the air. In fact, both voiced these characters as recently as the Arkham video game series and some of the animated movies.

For an American produced animated series, this show is about as perfect as you can get. There are very few shows that can maintain a level of quality this high for over 100 episodes.

Film Review: Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

Release Date: June 22nd, 1988
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Written by: Jeffrey Price, Peter S. Seaman
Based on: Who Censored Roger Rabbit? by Gary K. Wolf
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Bob Hoskins, Christopher Lloyd, Charles Fleischer, Stubby Kaye, Joanna Cassidy, Kathleen Turner, Mel Blanc

Touchstone Pictures, Amblin Entertainment, Buena Vista Pictures, 104 Minutes

Review:

“Is he always this funny, or only on days when he’s wanted for murder?” – Dolores

Back in 1988, I saw this movie in the theater. It was a pretty memorable experience, as this was an incredibly unique and enjoyable motion picture. I used to watch this a lot as a kid but I hadn’t seen it in a long time. Watching it again, I realized how much I missed this film. I mean, what’s not to like?

The film uses animated characters in a live action world. When I was young, this was a really cool experience, as I hadn’t seen anything like it before, at least not an entire movie like this. After Roger Rabbit, this would become a technique that was fairly common but this was the first movie to do it on such a large scale.

The really cool thing about the use of animated characters, is that everyone was in on the movie. For the first time, we got to see Disney characters mingle with Warner Bros. characters. One scene, in particular, has both Bugsy Bunny and Mickey Mouse on screen together. The film really is a cool crossover before crossovers even really became a thing.

Roger Rabbit stars Bob Hoskins and Christopher Lloyd, as the main human components of the movie. The film provided iconic roles for both men and they hit it out of the park. Hoskins was tailor made to play a noir type private dick while Lloyd had the perfect balance of being sinister, chilling and completely insane when the reveal of his true identity came out.

Charles Fleischer was perfect as the voice of Roger and he instantly made this character a megastar and worthy of a place alongside the great animated stars of the Disney and Looney Tunes characters he shares the screen with. Roger truly felt like he belonged, which wasn’t an easy feat but Fleischer gave the character real life and comedic charm.

Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman wrote a great script that had elements of film-noir, comedy, fantasy and lightheartedness mixed in with some really dark material. The scene where a character gets steamrollered was pretty harsh stuff for a kid but it is counterbalanced by the fantastic absurdity of how that moment plays out. This is truly a living cartoon.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a real classic. It still hits the right notes and being a period piece makes it a pretty timeless motion picture that still works just as well today, as it did in 1988.

Film Review: The 20th Annual Manhattan Short Film Festival, Part II (2017)

Having participated in the 20th Annual Manhattan Short Film Festival, I wanted to shine a light on the ten finalists. I’ll break this review into two parts, covering the first block of films before the festival’s intermission and then the second block of films after the intermission.

What the film festival does, is it takes thousands of short films from all over the world, narrows it down to ten finalists and then lets the audience from all the participating venues vote on the winner for best film and best actor. Currently, there are more than 250 venues from six continents that participate.

Just Go! – action, adventure – Latvia (2017):

Release Date: September 28th, 2017 (Manhattan Short)
Directed by: Pavel Gumennikov
Written by: Pavel Gumennikov
Music by: Michael Bahnmiller
Cast: Aleksandrs Ronis, Toms Velicko, Jana Herbsta

11 Minutes

Review:

This wasn’t one of my favorites of the film festival but it was a lot of fun.

The story follows a teen who lost his legs. He is smitten with a girl around his neighborhood. While he is talking to her, she has her purse stolen by two thugs. Without hesitation, the legless teen flies after the thugs in hot pursuit. First he uses his wheelchair, then his car, then moves with just his quick hands, then uses a skateboard and does everything he can to keep up with the thugs until finally being cornered by them in an alley.

The point of this short film is to show that there aren’t really disabilities but just abilities. It is a good representation of this idea and pretty much proves its point while being fast paced and exciting.

The teen wins out, the thugs are defeated and we get a happy ending with a little funny extra scene in the credits.

The teen in the film is actually a player on Latvia’s sitting volleyball team.

Mare Nostrum – drama – Syria (2016):

Release Date: October 26th, 2016 (France)
Directed by: Rana Kazkaz, Anas Khalaf
Written by: Rana Kazkaz
Cast: Ziad Bakri, Zayn Khalaf

Georges Films, Syneastes Films, Philistine Films, 14 Minutes

Review:

At first I didn’t like this film. But the ending and the added context brought everything together like a finely woven tapestry.

Taking place in Syria, on the Mediterranean coast, the film sees a father basically terrify his daughter by throwing her off of a pier, again and again, trying to force her to learn how to swim.

You feel for the girl and understand her pain and the horror that this puts her through but you don’t fully realize why the father is doing this until you get to the end. It is really hard not to hate the father for what he is doing but it makes you understand what a parent’s tough love is and how he only wants his daughter to have a better life.

It also humanizes the struggle of those who are good people that are demonized as enemies because they just so happen to live in a part of the world that many consider a threat. But ultimately, the good people of these faraway lands are victims themselves.

Mare Nostrum is well shot and beautiful. It’s a short film that hopefully gets its message out to more people who might need a reminder that we’re all human beings with our own adversity to overcome.

Viola, Franca – drama, biography – Italy (2017):

Release Date: May 30th, 2017 (Poland)
Directed by: Marta Savina
Written by: Andrea Brusa, Marta Savina
Cast: Antonio Bruschetta, Carlo Calderone, Claudia Gusmano

15 Minutes

Review:

Viola, Franca was damn good and it is almost tied for first place overall with 8 Minutes, but I liked 8 Minutes just a bit more.

That being said, this is the more important of the two pictures and it tells the story of the real Sicilian women that fought against social injustice perpetuated by the Italian government and the Catholic church.

This is Franca’s origin story on how she came to resist what her church and her community tried to impose on her.

In the story, she rejects a despicable local man’s advances. He then waits for her father to go into town and he rapes her. Being that she is now seen as impure by the Catholic church and the community, she is pressured into marrying the very man that raped her. She decides that this is not the course that her life will go and she refuses to conform to the outdated and archaic ways of her culture.

Viola, Franca is the only period piece out of all these films and it feels like it has the highest production value. It employs stock music but the selections work well for the film and the landscape of Sicily is a breathtaking backdrop.

Claudia Gusmano gave the best acting performance in the entire festival.

In A Nutshell – animation – Switzerland (2017):

Release Date: June 9th, 2017 (Japan)
Directed by: Fabio Friedli

5 Minutes

Review:

In A Nutshell is the shortest of all the films in the festival. It is a scant 5 minutes but that’s all it needs to work.

There isn’t a story or actors or anything really, other than everyday objects being animated in an interesting way, showcasing their relation to one another. There isn’t much point to this other than showing these objects evolve from one thing to another forming a perfect metaphorical circle.

The film looks good and is well animated for what it is. But what it is a forgettable art piece reminiscent of a quick time killer segment from a public access children’s show.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot to walk away with.

8 Minutes – sci-fi, drama – Georgia (2017):

Release Date: September 28th, 2017 (Manhattan Short)
Directed by: Giorgi Gogichaishvili, Davit Abramishvili
Written by: Zaza Koshhadze, Mari Bekauri, Giorgi Gogichaishvili
Cast: Slava Natenadze, Ani Bebia, Giorgi Sharvashidze, Donara Gvritishvili, Zanda Ioseliani

12 Minutes

Review:

This ended up being my favorite film of the festival and not just because it went on last and was the freshest in my memory.

8 Minutes told an interesting tale and it really pulled you in.

The film is primarily about a father reconnecting with his son. The father is a career magician. However, the film is set in a time where the sun is about to burn out. In fact, the sun has already burnt out but it takes 8 minutes and 33 seconds for the effects to reach the Earth. This all takes place in that time frame.

The father and the rest of the world know that it is the last moments of life on the planet but the man’s son, who is off on a scientific expedition in the wilderness, doesn’t know what is about to happen. The man doesn’t tell his son but uses the final moments to try and touch him over the phone and to pull of his last great magic trick.

The film is sweet and well acted. It also utilizes some great cinematography and pulls off some magic tricks of its own.

As the world is crumbling and chaos ensues, a father and son find peace.

8 Minutes was fantastic.

20 Animated Properties That Haven’t Gone Live-Action Yet

*written in 2015.

I recently did a list called 20 Comic Book Properties That Haven’t Gone Live-Action Yet (see here). This is a sequel to that.

Considering that Hollywood is out of ideas and they keep resurrecting old stuff from my childhood as live-action blockbuster films, I figured that I would list twenty awesome cartoon or anime properties that they haven’t turned into a live-action spectacle yet.

Now some of these have been in live-action development, whether in film or on television, but for the most part, those that have been in development, have been in a state of limbo for quite some time.

Sure, I’d like to see Hollywood take a crack at some of these depending upon who is involved in them. I’d prefer Michael Bay to stay away, however.

Also, a few of these may have had a live-action version but it is either really obscure, very poorly done, really outdated or for a foreign market.

1. Robotech: The Macross Saga
2. Neon Genesis Evangelion
3. ThunderCats
4. Star Blazers
5. Voltron
6. Space Pirate Captain Harlock
7. Akira
8. Ninja Scroll
9. Johnny Quest
10. SilverHawks
11. Mobile Suit Gundam
12. Dino-Riders
13. Captain N: The Game Master
14. Defenders of the Earth
15. She-Ra: Princess of Power
16. M.A.S.K.
17. Captain Planet
18. Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors
19. Gargoyles
20. Filmation’s Ghostbusters (the one with the Gorilla)

Film Review: Coda (2013)

Release Date: July 13th, 2013 (Galway Film Fleadh)
Directed by: Alan Holly
Written by: Rory Byrne, Alan Holly
Music by: Shane Holly
Cast: Joseph Dermody, Orla Fitzgerald, Brian Gleeson, Donie Ryan

Film Group of Unions, Frameworks, Irish Film Board, 9 Minutes

Review:

I’ve been watching a lot of short films lately but this is one that really stuck out. I remember seeing the press for it when it was making the rounds and I wanted to see it but like many things in life, it was brushed away by time and I forgot about it until coming across it while screening a bunch of shorts. I’m glad that I finally got to see this.

Coda is a short animated film that features Death. However, it is sweet and comforting even in its sadness.

The films starts with a drunk walking out of a bar and getting hit by a car. His spirit rises up and wanders the streets, not realizing that Death is in pursuit. He follows a fox into a park where he rests on a bench when Death appears and sits next to him. Begging for more time, Death takes the man on a journey through his memories.

The animation style is very minimalist but it is majestic and alluring. The music and even the voices of the characters enhance the feeling of peacefulness throughout the short film.

This is a pretty hard piece of cinematic art to review, in all honesty, but it is incredibly effective and builds towards a true sense of ease and acceptance, as it moves on from scene to scene.

It is definitely worth a watch and being that it is only nine minutes, even if you don’t enjoy it, isn’t a huge waste of time. But I would find it hard to not walk away from the experience without being effected.

Film Review: Destino (2003)

Release Date: June 2nd, 2003 (Annecy Animation Film Festival), originally began production in 1945
Directed by: Dominique Monféry
Written by: Salvador Dali, John Hench, Donald W. Ernst
Music by: Armando Dominiguez, Michael Starobin, Dora Luz

Walt Disney, 7 Minutes

Review:

In 1945, Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali and American animator Walt Disney started work on this collaborative effort. While it didn’t actually come out until 2003, 58 years since the project began, it is a perfect marriage of the two artists’ styles. Taking the surrealist style of Dali and bringing it to life via Disney animation.

From 1945 and into 1946, Dali and Disney studio artist John Hench worked together on storyboarding the project. Due to financial woes during the World War II era, Disney had to halt production. Hench put together a seventeen second animation test in an attempt to keep the company happy and on board with the project but it was put on hiatus for decades.

Roy E. Disney, Walt’s nephew, rediscovered the project in 1999 while he was working on Disney’s Fantasia 2000. He decided to resurrect the amazing collaboration and Walt Disney Studios worked on it until it was finally completed.

Twenty-five Disney animators fleshed out the project based off of Dali and Hench’s storyboards and notes. They also got help from Hench himself and delved into the journals of Dali’s wife, Gala Dali.

The final production uses the original Hench animation while the newly animated parts are a combination of traditional hand drawn animation and some computer animation. It all comes together beautifully, however, and is consistent with the originally conceived style.

The short film follows the story of the god Chronos and his love of a mortal woman. The woman dances through surreal imagery in the style of Dali’s paintings. All of this is brought further to life by the musical score of Mexican composer Armando Dominiguez and the vocals of Dora Luz.

If you are a fan of Dali and classic Disney animation, there is nothing not to like here. It blends the two styles together magnificently along with the fabulous score.

The public and critical consensus was very positive for the film and it even received an Academy Award nomination in 2004 for Best Animated Short Film.