Blog Archives

#SundayReview Westworld

Frankie Av

U6nunsfs

Hopefully my review tonight will be as enigmatic as the show I am reviewing as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. No spoilers here!

The often overused term; mind-f**k, is the perfect term for the television show, Westworld. Based on the 1973 movie of the same name starring Yul Brynner, the series is a science fiction thriller which takes place in a high-tech amusement park. The park is populated with human-like androids with which rich people can do whatever they please while living out fantasies in a western back story. Their creator is played by Anthony Hopkins, who comes across as both sinister and disconsolate. There’s what could be a glitch in the system and some of the androids appear to be becoming sentient.

We follow the lives of a few androids and humans, key players in the park as well as newcomers there for some fun. Throughout the show you get the feeling that something is undeniably wrong with humanity. That some would revel in a fantasy of brutalizing, raping and killing others, is deeply disturbing and yet something which happens in reality all too often. You can’t help but feel sorry for the androids, especially those who have gained insight into their lives and the outrageous actions carried out on them by humans. With technology now at the point where some parts of the story are credible, it leaves a sour taste in the mouth.

The opening credits alone are jaw dropping.

It is raw and gritty, with violence, nudity and sex scenes which make complete sense to the concept, not used as a ploy to get viewers. It is intelligent and well crafted with a story which moves along smoothly and always grabs the attention. It’s rarely boring and always thought provoking. You never quite know all the humans or all the androids. You keep double guessing yourself as to which is which. Then someone who you thought was one turns out to be the other!

Every week there is a blinder of a twist that you just don’t see coming. You spend the week thinking you have it all figured out, then the next episode turns what you thought on its head. There are twists within twists, and every week I end up staring at the screen as the credits roll thinking…wow….mind…blown…..!

3r8balzx

It has been a long time since I watched a television program which made me think as much as Westworld does. Nothing is ever quite what it seems. Next week is the series finale and already my mind is blown. What else they can throw at us I don’t know, but it’s sure to be fantastic whatever it is! If you haven’t watched it yet, get watching!

F.R. Donaldson lives in scenic Scotland. She is the author of the psychological sci-fi MALEVOLENCE

 

 

Advertisements

#SundayReview Sometimes Being Stubborn has its Drawbacks…Hawaii Five-0 Proves the Point

Frankie Av

I am known for my stubbornness when it comes to new shows and books etc. I have this ability to be completely unfazed by the hype, to the point of purposely not watching or reading a thing out of pure spite. I have no idea why I do this, I just know that I do.  Sometimes I reverse my decision only to arrive at the party too late, sometimes by years.

Take for example Naruto. Now, this is one of the best manga and anime series ever made. I used to scoff at the cosplayers who turned up to conventions with these bands on their foreheads, because at that time I had no idea what they meant.


What are they supposed to be? Ninjas or something?!

It became so popular that I had to look up what these people were watching. When I got my first glimpse of Naruto, I laughed. How the hell could so many be so entranced by something so cliched? Ninjas?! What could possibly be so entertaining about ninjas?! So I had no more to do with it– for YEARS.
R7hhzrf8

Then, a couple of years ago, I had nothing to watch or read one night and came across Naruto once more. I decided to read the first manga volume out of pure boredom, hoping it would send me to sleep. I read four volumes that night and got no sleep whatsoever. Completely hooked, I became Naruto’s biggest fan, searching the internet for fan groups and art and anything I could feast my eyes upon. I bought the manga, the anime, filled my shelves with figures from the series. Of course, Naruto manga is now finished; I arrived to the show not long before the end. It was through Naruto that I met Sam, and the Dead Pete Society was formed.

I recently had much the same experience with a show on television–namely the Hawaii Five-0 reboot.  I had a conversation with a friend a while back which went something like this:

Xrmuwgx1

That conversation was a few years ago. Hawaii Five-0 has been on the go since 2010, so I am six years late on this one. A week ago I was waiting on the postman delivering my new wrist splints, bored to tears as I hate waiting on anything. I popped the tv on, flicked through a few channels then had to answer the phone. By the time the call ended there was something else on the tv. I caught sight of a lovely car,  a 2010 Chevrolet Camaro, and it looked a sweet ride. While I may not have a thing for leering over hot men like my friend does, I do have a thing for a good looking machine. Mostly aircraft, but cars do it for me too.

Davtzam0

The car which piqued my interest

So I settled back on the couch and kept watching, wondering what other good looking machines might show up. It cut to break a few moments later and imagine my surprise when I saw it was actually Hawaii Five-0 I was watching.

So I stopped watching, jumped into the Sky planner to see if they had the series on Box Sets. They had complete season one on Box Sets and so I downloaded them and started at the beginning.

That first episode hooked me immediately. There was something about it that was so different to what I imagined this show would be like. I thought it would be all jiggly-boobs on the beach and surfer dudes showing off six packs with the occasional catch-the-villain thrown in to keep the flavour of the original show alive. It wasn’t just a sex-on-the-box type of show at all, it actually had a story. It was clever, it had angst, it had a villain you wanted to know more about and a broken hero you just wanted to hug. And that was just the first episode.

Considering my favourite characters, it was actually obvious I would fall in love with this show. I love Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt. Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, Solid Snake from Metal Gear Solid. The lead character of Hawaii Five-0–Steve McGarrett–, is a similar hero.

Sspgelue

The two leads are also perfect together. Their conversations are usually snarky and make me laugh. They hate each other but love each other and all you want to do is bang their heads together and tell them to stop the bickering. Of course there are cheesy parts, the occasional cringe-worthy episode and it has its fair share of filler eps. 

I forgot the postman that day and ended up watching six episodes in a row. By the end of the last episode I booted up my computer and read as much as I could on the show. How long has it been running for? What are the odds of it carrying on? Will it be cancelled on a  gigantic cliffhanger, forever doomed to never truly finish like so many of my favorite shows?

Well, so far so good. There is a seventh season which just began airing in the past couple of weeks. There are rumours this might be the last, but that’s okay. Why? Because if the writers know it will be the last, there is a chance of them ending the story properly.

I called my friend the other day, and the conversation went a little like this:

Wcjrzl1p

Something tells me my friend and I are a lot like Steve and Danno…

F.R. Donaldson lives in scenic Scotland. She is the author of the psychological sci-fi MALEVOLENCE

 

 

#SundayReview Wolf’s Rain: A Real Pain

Frankie Av

This review has many spoilers, especially at the end.

I have many anime on my to-watch list, some more urgent than others. I always intended to watch Wolf’s Rain, but only managed to in the past week. It has one of my favorite things in it; wolves, and so of course I was going to love it, right?

Wolf’s Rain is a twenty-six episode anime (If you don’t count the four recap episodes which sucked) about four wolves searching for a mythical Paradise where wolves rule the land. Wolves are thought to to be long extinct by the human characters in the show, but they are actually hiding among them, clothed in the illusion of being human. The search for Paradise was initiated by a lone wolf named Kiba who during his journey meets the other three wolves and convinces them to head for Paradise. They are driven by the scent of lunar flowers-also extinct in the land- but the scent comes from a young woman who has been made entirely from the last of the lunar flowers; the Flower Maiden, Cheza.

I watched Wolf’s Rain via Viewster this week, an ep or three at a time late at night before bed. At first I was enthralled: wolves who could speak and flowed from human to wolf form with ease from scene to scene. And they had a purpose, a reason to fight and make their way through a strange futuristic Earth where they were not the only fanciful aberration to the norm. There were also Nobles, people with silly masks and outfits who appeared to be supernatural in nature, and ruled a depressing human world with weapons and powers unseen on our own Earth. The wolves are hunted by many throughout the story. Indeed, there are so many hunting and harming them, you have to feel sorry for their flea-bitten hides and can’t help but cheer them on through the endless fights while hoping the story will get better, happier.

With all anime, there is an element of forgiving from the viewer. Wolves can not speak-at least, certainly not human speak- yet we forgive this for the entertainment and fantasy value. But there were things in Wolf’s Rain I just couldn’t forgive. One was the creepy knack of the characters eyes to balloon in their sockets. Obviously this was an art-choice by the animators and creator to give the characters a cuter look, but these bug-eyed moments gave me The Fear.

There was also the fact that no matter what the wolves were hit with, they came back bouncing after a few moments of being winded. Of course, this changed in the last two eps, but I will speak about that debacle in a while. They were stabbed with swords and knives, hit with cars and bombs, thrown into the air with concussive weapons and yet they got up and rejoined the fight. At one point they even fought a blasted huge walrus!

There were times when the story-line became so confused it was too hard to follow. There appeared to be many part-stories floating around but never fully explained. Things happened that were forgotten a few scenes later. (They ate the massive walrus once they defeated it, yet were starving soon after!) So many characters came and went you forgot who you were meant to hate or root for. Stories should not be so confusing that the viewer or reader are left bewildered. There should be a point when everything is eventually explained so the reader/viewer can say, “oh THAT’S why!”

The main antagonists of the story were so out-there I kept thinking, why the hell am I still watching this?! Darcia, the odd-eyed villain, was some freaky love-sick dude who lost his partner to a curse which was never explained. The creator felt that calling her coma-like illness a Paradise Curse would suffice, but what caused it? Why did it affect her so? Why did it not effect anyone else? At one point Darcia explains the curse was caused by wolf-kind, but this was not much of an explanation for a happening that caused the creation of the main antagonist. And even though Darcia was established as a villain, he really wasn’t that much of a baddie until the very last episode. Until then, I kept thinking, what is he? Good or bad? Why the hell is he even in this at all?! He doesn’t do much except brood and whine and walk around with a weird mask on.

The other antagonist, Jaguara, appears to be even worse than Darcia. It would seem she hunts down the remaining wolves on the land in order to eat their flesh and drink their blood, while searching for “The chosen wolf” who would eventually open Paradise for her.

Yet another antagonist is an old man and his dog, Blue, who hunt down wolves in revenge. He lost his family and entire town to a wolf attack and spent the rest of his days hunting and shooting them down. It is later revealed that wolves had not killed his family, that Jaguara’s forces did the awful deed, yet he still remained wary and hateful of the wolves, even when Blue-his faithful companion for years-eventually turned out to be a freaking talking wolf-dog hybrid!

Are you confused yet? Because when the story then went on to say things about space rockets and the Nobles being born on a different world, I thought, why the fuck not? Throw in some aliens just to spruce up the already confusing story.

Because….

I thought I had it all figured out when Kiba ends up in “Garden of Eternity” after passing out under a poisonous plant in the desert. (How he got there, I have no idea.) and meets a caracal. The caracal is the only other animal who takes human form. When Kiba eventually gets pulled from the Garden of Eternity by a native American chanting away over his paralysed body (I shit you not!) we get to see many portals of other worlds. At this point I thought, Ah! Alternate worlds and dimensions! Paradise is just another of these! I was wrong.

All the way through the anime I rooted for the wolves, cheered them on towards their goal. They would find Paradise! They would bring this depressing-as-fuck story to an end with a lovely happy ending where the poor battered wolves could live out the rest of their lives in wonderful peace!!! Imagine my frustration when this beautiful ending did not happen.

No. Instead of the wolves finding paradise, they found hell on top of a damned mountain. They fought their way up this mountain after miles of travelling (Honestly, all they did was travel, for miles and forever) Hell came in the form of Darcia, who decided Paradise should be his and SOMEHOW managed to turn himself into a wolf with the help of some dark orb which powers are never explained. 
He then goes on to kill the old man, who inadvertently kills the youngest wolf which is trying to protect the old man. *breathes* At this part, I did almost cry. The scene of Toboe, the youngest wolf, dragging his hind legs across the snow to lean against his killer is heartbreaking. Because up to this point, he will be the only one of the original wolves who you know will never make it to the promised Paradise.

Things move on and Darcia kills Blue, the dog-wolf hybrid. Then Hige, the wolf who fell in love with her. Then Tsume-the badass wolf of the story-dies trying to help Kiba reach Paradise. So by this point I am like, holy shit! They are all dead except Kiba! The very first and chosen wolf!

So I start to think that Kiba and the Flower Maiden will open Paradise and all his friends will be there, alive again and running though fields of green under skies of blue while howling and playing together. Then, the Flower Maiden and Kiba die. I looked at my husband, who looked at me and we both said at the exact same time “What the actual fuck?!” This is the one thing I absolutely can not forgive.

Now, in the scenes after, it is clear that when the Flower Maiden died she burst into seeds which apparently, with the death blood of Kiba, opened Paradise. We get to see what is meant to be the world rebooting into Paradise, as well as a scene of Kiba falling beneath water, dying as he laments his wasted life and fruitless journey. It has all been a huge waste of energy. But the Paradise is contaminated by Darcia’s evil and so Paradise is imperfect.

A new scene begins. It appears to be present day Earth in a big city where there are high rise flats, business buildings and traffic. Cars and motorbikes and people milling around a smoggy land. Then we see Kiba in human form, then Tsume on a motorbike, Hige eating a hot dog and lastly Toboe petting a cat. In the end, Paradise looks like our world as we know it, and the wolves don’t even know each other! Kiba begins to run, the others turn to look as if sensing something, and you can’t help but think that Kiba is searching for Paradise again. No wonder, so would I if my paradise ended up being nothing more than present day earth!

I would have to say the animation is gorgeous (with exception of the bug-eyes) It is smooth and the wolves beautifully drawn. The soundtrack is haunting and beautiful, suited to the anime as a whole. But while there are so many things I absolutely hated about the anime, I still love the wolf characters, and will imagine a better ending for this depressing and heart-breaking tale. I think if you look past all the messy plot lines and weirdness, there is a beautiful tale being told. It is also worth mentioning that I watched the subbed version, perhaps the dubbed version would explain more.

How would I rate Wolf’s Rain? At the moment I’d give it a 4/10. If I ever watch it in English, that score might change. 🙂

F.R. Donaldson lives in scenic Scotland. She is the author of the psychological sci-fi MALEVOLENCE

#SundayReview Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole

Frankie Av

One of my all time favorite films is the gorgeous Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’hoole. A fully animated film, it tells the story of a young barn owl, Soren, and his brother Kludd, who are kidnapped and recruited to work for an elitist owl faction called the Pure Ones. Soren is forced into slavery whereas his jealous brother is trained as a warrior.


As owlets their father used to tell them tales of magnificent owls called the Guardians who fought for freedom of all and protected the weak. Whilst in captivity, Soren believes the Guardians still exist somewhere and believes if he found them, they would help free the enslaved. An older owl helps Soren and his friend Gylfie–an elf owl–to escape, telling them to find the Guardians and free them all. So begins Soren’s adventure on which he will meet a variety of different owls with brilliant personalities.

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole Official Trailer #1 - (2010) HD
What I love about this film is how magical it is. As soon as it starts you are pulled straight into the beauty of it all. The animation is gorgeous, from the wind through an owl’s feathers to suspended droplets of water, every part of the animation and art is detailed and crisp. I mean seriously, check the details in this still!!


Occasionally a great looking film will have a sub-standard story line, or perhaps a bad animation have a good one. But Legend of the Guardians is perfect on both counts. It is based on the first three books in the series written by Kathryn Lasky, and before you cry “But that’s fantasy and you hate reading fantasy!” I haven’t actually read them. I would like to read them and one day I probably will. Like I’ve said before, sometimes it’s good to step out of your comfort zone 😉
I have watched Legend of the Guardians many times. It is my go-to movie when I’m feeling low or ill, and it is the movie which always makes me smile. But I can’t help but feel the movie had a bad run on release. There are many 3 star reviews and I have no idea why it isn’t 5 star across the board. Despite the movie being about lovely fluffy, talking owls, there are scenes of some violence. The plot is heavily focused on elitism, sibling rivalry, hero worship and family ties. So perhaps not quite suitable for the very young. Think Watership Down but with owls, and not quite as soul destroying.

Legend of the Guardians - The Owls of Ga'Hoole - Battle of the Ice Claws

But this is not a negative by any means. The animation itself creates one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen. Superb detail is put in every scene, painstaking research has obviously been undertaken in order to create realistic movements and flights. An owl flying in a storm sounds relatively boring, until you see it.

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole Official Trailer #1 - (2010) HD

Every part of this movie is jaw droppingly amazing. I have it on DVD and Blu Ray and am on the lookout for the 3D version so I can watch it in all its glory. Seriously, if you haven’t seen this film and fancy stepping out of reality for a while into a rich and beautiful land, do yourself a favor and find this often looked over gem! I’m off to watch it again 😀

 

F.R. Donaldson lives in scenic Scotland. She is the author of the psychological sci-fi MALEVOLENCE

#SundayReview The Boy and the Beast

The Boy and the Beast is the latest movie by Mamoru Hosoda, (Summer Wars, Wolf Children)  Hosoda’s films remind me a little of Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli movies; which are renowned for being the benchmark for big anime movies. I love Ghibli movies, they include some of the best anime movies I’ve ever seen. With Miyazaki retiring from large projects, perhaps Hosoda can fill that vacant spot. And, I really feel he can. The Boy and the Beast is a beautiful film. With sweeping scenes and incredibly detailed backgrounds, the movie is as beautiful as any Ghibli movie.

I remember when I first saw Hosoda’s movie Summer Wars, how beautiful and clean the animation was. The story was intriguing and almost straight away you got a feel for the characters and the world in which they lived. It is a great film, but I feel The Boy and the Beast eclipses it in both story and style.
The story revolves around a young boy named Ren. When his mother dies, he runs away from home and is approached by a cloaked animal-like stranger. He follows the stranger to an alleyway, which he finds leads to another realm populated by anthropomorphic beasts. He finds the stranger there; a huge angry bear-man named Kumatetsu. He is to compete against a fellow beast in order to become the successor of the soon-to-retire leader, who–incidentally–is a leporid monk.

 

Humans are not allowed in the beast city, but Ren is allowed to stay if Kumatetsu takes him as an apprentice, which he reluctantly does and renames Ren, Kyuta. So begins an emotional story about loyalty, friendship, personal growth and relationships. As Kumatetsu trains for a fight with another would-be successor, he teaches Kyuta. But Kyuta wishes to become even stronger, so he secretly shadows Kumatetsu during his exercises. Through the film we watch him grow from a weak little boy into a strong young man.

 

The artwork in this film is beautiful. There are scenes which I watched over and over as they were so gorgeously drawn. There was one in particular, where the camera takes a 360 view of a busy street from Ren’s view. It is seamless and quite beautifully detailed and vibrant. The creatures in Beast City are not ugly as I have seen in other movies, but so very nearly human and they are quite beautiful in themselves. Their actions and mannerisms are realistic and convincing.

I absolutely loved this movie, and have already watched it a number of times this week. If you like tales of hardship and loyalty, friendship and triumph, the The Boy and the Beast is for you!

 

F.R. Donaldson lives in scenic Scotland. She is the author of the psychological sci-fi MALEVOLENCE