Monday, November 27, 2017

Double Feature: Olaf's Frozen Adventure and Coco

Okay, so perhaps it's a bit of a stretch to call this a double feature, but the new Pixar film Coco came attached with the new Frozen short Olaf's Frozen Adventure in front of it, which I of course have a lot to say about, so there you go. So first up, Frozen!

The story sees Olaf go out in search of a family tradition for Anna and Elsa to celebrate during the holiday season, and I really quite enjoyed how this new Frozen short played out. Something I've noticed is how both Frozen Fever and now Olaf's Frozen Adventure are essentially gift themed, which sorta plays into how the films are presented more as gifts to the fans of the series. However, while Frozen Fever may have been a bit more heavy handed on the fan service, this one ties back into the original film in ways that feel a lot more organic, and are as such a lot more satisfying.

I mentioned in my Frozen Fever review how I liked how that movie really added new layers to Elsa's character that we hadn't seen before. And I think that this movie accomplishes a similar feat with Olaf, adding a lot more depth to the character, and strengthening his bond with the other characters in a really fulfilling manner.

However, not all of the characterization feels quite right here. Specifically, there's one scene that takes place in an attic (which itself felt odd as a setting. Do castles even have attics like this?). And in this scene, Elsa speaks to Anna as if Anna's far younger than she is, and Anna in turn responds accordingly, acting about half her age. And, I dunno, it just felt awkward. Like, perhaps they'd act this way towards each other because, due to their upbringing, there's a part of them that's still stuck in that place in their life. But this is also the only time in any of these films we've really seen them act this way, which lends itself to that off feeling. That scene aside, I didn't really have any issues with the characterization, but that one did throw me off a bit. (Also, is it just me, or does it feel like Anna got just a little bit shafted in general this time around, comparatively speaking?)


Just a bit odd, that.

What I especially love most about this new short though is how they managed to fit in a full fledged musical into such a short period of time. The previous short, Frozen Fever, was just a single song, which is about what one would expect from one of these. However, with a slightly longer runtime of about 20 minutes, there's actually six new songs packed into this one. And the music is mostly great all around.

I'd say that perhaps a single song is a little extraneous, that being Elsa's brief solo reprise of "Ring in the Season". I know, shocking that I'd say such a thing about anything Elsa related of all things, but it honestly was the one musical cue that felt a bit forced, though the song is still quite nice. And really, I'm just nitpicking at this point, and probably wouldn't have felt it as out of place had it perhaps not been quite as abrupt as it was.

That said, when you listen to the soundtrack, you'll find there's an extended version of Kristoff's song "The Ballad of Flemmingrad", which is really the only time in which Jonathan Groff is given the opportunity to really show off his singing chops. However, the version we get in the film is significantly cut, including his moments where he really shines as a singer, which is really a bit of a shame. Groff really does keep getting screwed over in these movies like that, but it would've been nice to see a fuller version play out in the final film, even if it meant cutting the brief Elsa song to make it happen. At least we got it on the soundtrack, though.

As to the rest of the songs, Olaf's numbers "That Time of Year" and its more somber reprise are obviously the bulk of the film, and they're fine for what they are. But the two big standouts are the opening and closing songs, which are both duets from Anna and Elsa, "Ring in the Season" and "When We're Together", which are both really powerful tracks that'll stay with you well after the movie.

So anyways, there are some hiccups along the way, but all in all, I quite liked the new Frozen short. And the fact that it has its problems is perfectly fine honestly, and stays true to the rest of the series. I've mentioned time and again that Frozen is by no means a perfect film, and a lot of its charm comes from its flaws, being a film about such broken characters after all. So I'm more than okay with there being a handful of flaws here as well, none of which bring this film down at all.

And I'd also say that this was a perfect short to place in front of Coco, despite not actually being a Pixar short. For one, there's a lot of shared themes regarding family between the two movies, but the fact that it's a musical preceding what is essentially Pixar's own first musical is also quite fitting.

Now, I call Coco a musical, though that's not in the traditional sense. There's no moment where the characters suddenly stop and spontaneously break out into song and dance. Rather, it's one where the music comes more realistically, through performances and such throughout. So leave it to Pixar to take a different route with the musical genre, but it definitely works for what they're going for.

Hell, the main character, a boy named Miguel, doesn't even actually sing any of the songs himself until about halfway into the movie. But they spend a lotta time building up to the moment where we'll finally hear him perform, and when he does, boy is it worth it. Anthony Gonzalez seriously surprised me in the role, what a voice!

As to the film as a whole, we follow Miguel who wants to be a musician, but his family has forbidden it. So, in his quest to follow his dreams despite his family's wishes, he somehow finds himself in the world of the dead, and now has to find his way back home. And along the way, the story is beautifully told through its stunning visuals and outstanding mariachi style music, with plenty of satisfying twists along the way that keeps things interesting, and keeps the emotions stirring in unexpected ways.

And really, I honestly don't have much to nitpick about Coco. It's a real solid outing through and through. So much so that I've already seen the film twice. Though if I'm being honest, had it not been for the Frozen short attached, it's very likely that I wouldn't have gone out of my way for that second viewing. Because after all, while the movie is magnificent while in the moment, my one squabble with it is that it's not exactly a memorable outing.

You see, right after the movie's over, I've left the theater, and almost immediately it was the songs from Olaf's Frozen Adventure that leaped back into my head, as opposed to the songs from Coco. And soon enough I found that I was barely thinking about the new Pixar movie at all. And I've experienced this now twice. So I can say that, yeah, it's a bit ironic just how much of the movie is about being remembered, considering just how little I find myself able to keep this new film in memory after the fact.

Still though, I'd say it's definitely worth checking out, even if it doesn't quite have the staying power of the likes of other Pixar films such as Wall-E or Inside Out. If you're a fan of Pixar, then you'll love this. And if you're a fan of Frozen, then definitely check this out while it's still in theaters, so you can see Olaf's Frozen Adventure on the big screen beforehand.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Velcro: Polluted War - Now Available!

It's been a little under a year since we had our last Ninja Kat romp, and already we're back at it with Velcro: Polluted War, which is available now! The darkest chapter yet in Velcro's action packed tale comes at you in either paperback or e-book form, so pick up your copy and continue the fight today!

www.VelcroTheNinjaKat.com

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Breathe v Breathe

When I first got the trailer to this new Andrew Garfield flick, and I saw the title of the movie was Breathe, well you knew that I was going to see this and talk about it. Of course I was. After all, just a couple years back I released a short film by the same title, so of course I couldn't resist seeing this feature length remake to my own movie (though it is odd that nobody bothered to tell me about it before now). And to top it off, my film was a horror movie, and this new film was being released in October, the month of horror movies, so surely it was going to live up to the original short, right? So then, how does this new movie compare to the original made by yours truly?

Well for one thing, despite all of the budget at their disposal, not one single werewolf appears in this movie, which I'm sorry, but that's bullshit. Especially when we come to the ending credits and I see that this was directed by Andy Serkis. You're really telling me that he couldn't have put on some CGI makeup and played a damn werewolf in this thing?


Now imagine this face, but like, a wolf.

And it doesn't end there. In fact, there's very little relation between this movie and my own at all. In this movie, we follow a man played by Andrew Garfield who suddenly becomes paralyzed and has to learn how to live with this, and his wife played by Claire Foy, who does everything within her power to make life manageable for her husband. Now, notice I didn't include these characters' names. That's because this movie does so little to initially establish anything about these characters that it wasn't until well after halfway into the movie that I even learned the man's name. (Not sure I ever actually caught the woman's.)

You see, before becoming paralyzed, the movie wastes no time immediately dropping us on a scene where Andrew Garfield sees a pretty lady at some pompous rich people's gathering, and decides he wants to woo her. We then jump to him playing cricket, where they're incongruously positioned to where the ball would be hit directly at the gathering of people for some reason, and he hits the ball and breaks a dish directly behind this woman, drawing her attention.

Cut to the two driving together in a car, I assume on a date, and then cut immediately to another scene where she's on a swing talking with her brothers about the prospect of marrying him. Then we cut to the two on some outback vacation, where we learn that she's now pregnant, yet I've still yet to even learn anything about these two. Not their personalities, not their relationship, and not even their names.


Our heroes drive in a car, and we learn nothing.

If it seems like I'm just randomly hopping all over the place with those quick scene descriptions, then that only means that I'm doing an accurate job portraying what it was like sitting through the opening 15 minutes of this film. And during this entire hopping around sequence, I was just shaking my head, worried that I was in for a hard sit, and just thinking, this movie could really take note from its title and just calm down and actually allow these scenes to breathe a little.

You see, we get the opposite problem here as we do in the original short. In that film, we possibly spend a bit too much time with a couple of our characters early on, a pair of policemen who become quite engaged in conversation while hauling a masked perpetrator off to jail. And we perhaps learn a little too much about them in the process. Where as here, we really don't spend nearly enough time with our two leads, and thus learn nothing about them. So, what we get is essentially an over-correction, if you will.


Our heroes drive in a car and, we learn too much.

So really, one of two things seriously needed to happen with these opening scenes in this new movie. Either they needed to be cut, and we just open on the two already together on the day that he's about to fall ill and become paralyzed. Or they needed to be drastically expanded upon, and a solid extra half hour should have been added to the final runtime just to really give these scenes their proper breathing room. Because as is, we literally learn nothing about these characters, so nothing from these brief opening scenes carries over into the bulk of the movie.

Thankfully, after Garfield gets paralyzed, the movie finally calms down somewhat, and becomes a bit bearable. We finally get a sense of these characters and their situation, but the passage of time is still radically off. What feels like weeks passing in the film, we discover is actually years, as his child is newborn when he's first admitted into the hospital and hooked up to his breathing machine (which I bet they weren't forced to shoot their hospital scenes gorilla style like we were), and when he's finally brought home, his child is now closer to three, though it felt like maybe only a few months had passed at most.

Anyways, the movie goes on, and we see how Garfield becomes accustomed to his new life, and how his friends and family help him still find a way to actually live, as opposed to merely exist, inventing a chair that aids him with his breathing and such, and going on adventures around the world along the way. And this is all mostly fine, I will admit.

Fret not though, for the aspect of poorly developed characters is a recurring one throughout, as there's a revolving cast of side characters who just sorta slip in and out of the movie on a whim, and only a few who I was able to still even recognize come the film's end. Like, there's his one lonely friend, and their inventor friend, and the wife's two brothers. But then as he's coming to terms with his death, there's some large gentleman who comes to sit by him and express how they've known each other for all these years, and I was left asking myself, has this character even been in any of the rest of the movie? And he certainly wasn't alone in that regard, not by a long shot. Though, to be fair, this much is in keeping with the original as well, to a certain degree...


You only learn the girl on the far left's name in the credits.
As to the other two, even
I'm not entirely sure.

But anyways, as we near the end of the movie, Garfield is giving a speech to a group of people who are deciding whether or not to fund the production of chairs such as his, so as to make for a better quality of life for people like him. And as he's speaking, he says the line, "When I first became paralyzed, I wanted to die." And then, right on cue, the power in the theater went out, like someone in the back was playing some sort of really twisted joke. I mean, I didn't think this was too entirely funny, but two ladies in the back row were hysterical at this, so what do I know? We figured the movie was mostly over, but I'm glad I stuck around for it to start back up and resume, because there was still some darker areas for the movie to go to yet.

Now, up to this point, despite a handful of scenes of sheer panic on Garfield's part as it concerns his condition, you'd be hard pressed to call this film a horror movie. However, I gotta say that I was quite surprised to see that they still went with the bloody conclusion in the end all the same. Literally, he's even bleeding out from the neck and everything, just like one of my own characters does in the original short. And it gets pretty gruesome, too. So at least they got that part right.


Now imagine this face, but like, Andrew Garfield.

Otherwise though, there was very little in common between these two films. No murder mystery, no tangential police conversations, and worst of all, no werewolves. But at least we still got the bloody finale, not to mention the obnoxious constant breathing, though this movie's came as a result of a breathing machine, as opposed to someone just relentlessly breathing heavily into a mic for minutes on end. So, to say the least, while the film started out rough, I wouldn't necessarily call it a bad movie overall. It does pick up, and actually becomes quite an intriguing and heart warming story as it plays out. But as an adaptation, that heart warming feeling is a total miss, and not at all faithful to the source material (even if it may well be faithful to the actual true story this movie purports to be based off of).

But then, maybe I'm just too close to the source to really compare the two for sure. So just to be safe, while I don't highly recommend it or anything, it's not a terrible movie by any stretch of the imagination (the first 15 minutes or so aside, that is), so by all means see this new movie if you're curious enough. But first, definitely check out the original short, and see for yourself just how well the two stand up to one another:

Monday, October 16, 2017

A Look Inside Velcro: Polluted War

The next installment of The Ninja Kat series is coming soon, but in the meantime, here's a quick first glance inside the pages of Velcro: Polluted War. Just click on the image below to read the first two chapters right now!

www.VelcroTheNinjaKat.com

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Velcro: Polluted War - Coming Soon

Book Four of The Ninja Kat series.

War is imminent. And Velcro has begun her preparations to set out and gather her allies. First she'll travel to the hamsters hideout, then to the village of Redfield, before they collectively make their way across the border to the Country of Rath, where they intend to meet with the Elder Meow in order to request Rath's aid in the impending war with the Devil Corps.

Meanwhile, blinded by his jealousy and pride, Charlie is still in pursuit of Velcro. However, a revelation he discovers along the way will send him down an even darker path than he's already traveled, and present him with the greatest challenge of his entire life.

It has all been leading to this moment. In Velcro: Polluted War, a history of corruption has finally caught back up with our heroes. Unlikely alliances will be formed as it all comes to a head, when Velcro and Rath's Bone Army battle against the Devil Corps in a fight that will determine the fate of the Country of Widows, and quite possibly the whole world over.

Coming soon...

www.VelcroTheNinjaKat.com

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Hangin' With Web Show Interview

So in a rarity for me, I was actually captured speaking on camera. This past May at MegaCon, I was interviewed by Allyson Ingerham of the Hangin' With Web Show, where we discussed a little bit about my Ninja Kat series, as well as my other writing and filmmaking ventures. Check it out!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

GLOW

So generally when someone requests a review from me for something, it's after I've already seen it and have shared my general reaction of it, and they merely want me to expand my thoughts. In this instance, however, this was the first time someone requested me to review something I hadn't actually seen, and honestly wasn't even planning on watching, as I don't exactly feel it necessary to watch every single new show that releases onto Netflix. So after that initial request, I was a bit hesitant to jump in. But then I learned that this series actually consisted of half-hour long episodes for a change, as opposed to the usual hour long. And honestly, that was the biggest selling point for me.

I've mentioned in the past how I'm not a big TV guy. I just think that it's generally too long, too time-consuming, and too much to keep up with. And nowadays, with these mini-series popping up on Netflix that are closer to the 10-13 episode range, that does make them easier to digest. However, almost every time, I come out thinking that they were still unnecessarily too long, and that there was so much that could've easily been cut in order to make the shows even tighter. But honestly, I didn't get too much of that feeling from GLOW, and I think a lot of that does have to do with the tighter half-hour format, which we just rarely see anymore these days in anything that's not a sitcom. So that was a huge breath of fresh air for me, as it made this such an easy sit to get through, and not at all a chore, like so many shows these days usually wind up being.

So it's a nice, quick watch, but is it any good? Well, I have my reservations, but on the whole, yeah, I dug it. Standing for Gorgeous Women Of Wrestling, the series follows the production of building a small wrestling organization centered around a colorful cast of women, and it's a pretty fun and interesting watch. I would say that my biggest initial drawback was that our main character who we follow, played by Alison Brie, starts off as probably the most unlikable character in the whole show, but then it makes sense when she's eventually cast as the main heel of this federation, as she's such a natural in the spot. So while it might start off initially off-putting, it comes together in a nice way that really works, and by the end of it, I found myself starting to come back around to this character, if not entirely able to forgive them, very similar to her co-lead in the show, played by Betty Gilpin.

Another souring element that recurs mostly earlier in the show is that there's a lot of really unnecessary nudity that honestly adds nothing and actually takes away from the show, making it feel gratuitous even, and often happening at random, so it doesn't even feel like it naturally fits in with everything else. A minor point, sure, but again, the way it was handled just felt needlessly off-putting and distracting, so thankfully they did away with this as the show continued to progress.

But as for the good, the cast is great, and everyone really gets their time to shine and let their characters grow. For as large a cast as this is and how relatively brief the show is, you really do get a good grasp on all of these lively characters. My favorite though was probably the director, played by Marc Maron. He starts off as a totally unlikable douchebag, but has one of the more complex and intriguing arcs in the series, as he battles with all of the personal demons that are haunting him in his life, and the way he allows for these elements to dictate his demeanor towards others, as well as how they influence his art as a film director.

Obviously I was able to relate to a lot of this aspect, and seeing this whole low-budget production come together really hit home for me in a lot of regards. But especially later on, after he discovers that an idea of his has already been used, yeah, that's something that I've experienced myself and have even discussed as recently as my Power Rangers review from earlier in the year (though that is not the only time this has happened to me in the past year), and it's definitely one of those things that almost make you question why you're even doing this. So to see that element play out here was sort of surreal for me, for how recently relevant it is to my own experiences.

I also really liked just the way the whole thing grew from the ground up, watching these ladies discover their wrestling personas (and yeah, taking place in the 80s, a lot of this winds up being very generic stereotypes, but it works here) and learn how to actually wrestle, featuring some decent cameos from actual wrestlers who would come in and show them some moves. Yeah, it became a bit cheesy when you could tell they could only afford some of these guys for a limited time, so there were episodes where the main cast were essentially training themselves with no actual supervision, which, what the hell? But that was easy enough to sorta shrug off.

My favorite episode though was probably as our two leads were putting together their match that was to be the main event of the first show, when they met with Carlito and Brodus Clay to teach them a few tricks in the ring. It was just really cool seeing them start to slowly grow as actual wrestlers, and I actually found it pretty motivating witnessing their undying determination to improve.

So yeah, this winded up being pretty good overall. There are some minor missteps here and there, but nothing that's not easy enough to look past. Unlike a lot of these shows, I never got the sense watching this that they were padding it out for time, so it's very well paced and easy to digest. All in all, there's a lot of fun, and while I can't say for sure how accurate a lot of this is to real life (I'm guessing most of it's not), I thought this worked on the whole, and would definitely recommend it. I wouldn't even say you have to be a wrestling fan to enjoy it either, as, similar to some of the characters in the show, I actually think the show's good enough to where it may very well win you over and make a brand new fan out of you yet.