Monday, October 14, 2013

Future Diary LE Part 1 & 2

To say Yuki isn’t good with people is a gross understatement. He’s the kind of high school student who spends more time detailing the minutia of his life into his phone than he does actually speaking to any of his classmates. Even his friends are virtual … or are they? The creatures he thinks he has created challenge him by giving him a special phone that can predict the future…or at least his future. Then these same creatures pit Yuki against a group of people with similar phones to fight a battle to the death. The last one standing will be declared the new God of Time and Space. The story gets a bit ridiculous at times, but the characters are developed enough to sell it even at its silliest.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Michuko & Hatchin: Complete Series

The only way they could improve this awesome anime would be to edit all the individual episodes into one feature film. It tells the story of a criminal named Michiko – one of the sexiest anime characters ever created – as she rescues a young girl called Hatchin from her abusive foster parents. They make the unlikeliest duo you can imagine, but their fates are intertwined by a mysterious man from the past.  Their adventures along the way are action-packed, and extremely cinematic, but the story never forgets to take time to let the characters breath a bit and get to know each other. The voice acting is perfect, too, especially the sexy purr of Monica Jean Rial as Michiko. If you’ve ever wondered what separates anime from ‘cartoons,’ this is a perfect place to start.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

In the Fog

Most war movies focus on the big picture, meaning that all of the character and drama is there only to support the cinematic spectacle of the big battle. This fascinating film from director Sergei Loznitsa takes the opposite approach: It shows audiences how the big events of the war impact the life of one man, an innocent rail worker named Sushenya (Vladimir Svirskiy). Sushenya is mistakenly arrested as a saboteur when a train is derailed near his village and, instead of being killed with the others, he is set free by the Germans. His freedom comes with a price, however; the price of being suspected of collaboration by everyone in his village. The movie moves at a slow, at times glacial, pace which takes a bit of getting used to. Loznitsa knows what he’s doing though, as the rhythm of the movies goes from slow to hypnotic as the story progresses, setting you up for a nerve-shaking climax.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Top Gear: The Worst Car in the History of the World

For more than a decade, the men of Top Gear have been getting behind the wheel of just about every great car ever made, racing them around a test track and reporting to their millions of fans, in no uncertain terms, just what they like and didn’t like about each one of them. So it’s a delight for them to turn their laser-sharp insights – and razor-sharp tongues – on finding the worst car in the history of the world. (And no spoilers here – watch and find out for yourself who the winner is.) The show features only two of the three Top Gear hosts – the curmudgeonly Jeremy Clarkson and the overly meticulous James May – and the rapid fire repartee they exchange is better than the dialogue you’ll find in almost any of the latest movies.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Wild Things With Dominic Monaghan: Deadliest Creatures

Every other nature show and travel show host needs to learn a lesson from Dominic Monaghan about  how to be genuine – and genuinely interesting – on camera. The idea of stalking through rain forest and jungle to find deadly creatures and creepy crawly insects may be most people’s idea of a nightmare, but Monaghan makes it seem like the most natural ---and coolest -- thing in the world. The way the show pretends that this episode maybe the one where they don’t find the animal they are looking for gets a bit old at times, but you almost forgive Monaghan and his crew because they turn up so many other cool things to look at along the way. A big part of the fun in it all is that, unlike guys like Jeff Corwin or Jack Hanna, Monaghan is not a trained professional. He’s just a geek who loves animals.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Mulan: Warrior Princess

It’s a story most will know from the 1998 Disney girl-power cartoon with the sappy songs and Eddie Murphy as a tiny dragon doing basically the same shtick he would do three years later as a Donkey in Shrek.  This film from directors Jingle Ma and Wei Dong, is a much grittier, more realistic telling of the tale of a young girl who disguises herself as a man to take her ailing father’s place in the emperor’s army. And, for anyone over the age of 12, it’s also much better. Sure, it’s hard to believe anyone would ever believe Wei Zhao was a man, even when she’s dresses up in armor, but her performance is strong enough that you won’t worry about it too much after the action starts. Speaking of which, the fights scenes in the movie are first rate, especially the big battles. The directors make sure, however, that the grand scale of the war never overshadows the drama being played out beneath the armor.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Halloween Home Haunts

Looking for a cool way to decorate your house this Halloween? Then this is the ultimate guide for you. Granted, it’s not exactly a “how-to” video, but seeing the lengths that the people in it go to decorate their houses every Oct. 31 should at least inspire you to do more than buy a couple crappy banners at Walmart and think you’ve decorated the house. The film divides itself between the people that simply decorate the outside of their houses – simply being a bit of a misnomer given the lengths they go to – to those who create special interactive environments for people to walk through and have the wits scared out of them. Although the tours the movie gives of each unique environment are fun to watch, the best part of the movie may just be meeting the people who do it all and hearing why they dedicate so much time, energy and money to scaring others once a year.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

Sean Connery had already starred in four James Bond movies by the time this bleak masterpiece from director Martin Ritt gave audiences an inside view of what life really was like for a spy – dull, dreary and debilitating to the soul of any poor bastard who signed on for the job. Richard Burton stars – and gives a terrific performance --- as Alec Leamas, an almost washed-up operative who is called to task after his plan to get an informer out of East Germany only gets the agent killed at Checkpoint Charlie. His bosses use his blunder as a cover story for his quitting the agency to become an informer for the very person who foiled his plan. There are plenty of twists and turns to the story, all made without any real action taking place outside of the war of words Burton fights with every speech he makes. Despite the lack of babes and bombs, though, it’s far more exciting to watch than anything Bond ever did on screen.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Haunting of Helena

After losing her first tooth, a young girl starts having visions of the Tooth Fairy hiding in her closet, demanding more teeth. Naturally, her mom is a bit upset and tries to get her daughter help, but everywhere she turns, she just finds weird details that add to the mystery in dark and disturbing ways. Directors Christian Bisceglia and Ascanio Malgarini do an excellent job of giving their film a tense, atmospheric feel that will make the hairs stand on your neck, while at the same time keeping it firmly grounded in a twisted sort of reality that makes even the strangest visual images seem real. The acting is top notch, particularly Harriet MacMasters-Green as the mom. Good as it is, the film rockets into the realms of greatness when the real mystery is revealed in the final reel.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: The Complete Season 8

It’s virtually impossible to explain in words the inspired madness that takes place in each episode of this popular FX series. Reading that Dennis and Dee (Glenn Howerton and Kaitlin Olson) are faced with the moral question of whether or not to pull the plug on their grandfather may make you think the producers are making a message episode. By the time its over – grandfather is a Nazi, Frank (Danny DeVito) is searching for hidden Nazi treasure, Charlie and Mac (Charlie Day and Rob McElhenney) are on the hunt for a missing painting by Adolf Hitler – you have a much better idea what the show is really all about. And it just gets wilder with every episode. The writing is sharp and the dialogue on target, but it’s the perfect timing of the comedic cast, honed by seven previous seasons, that makes following their wacky adventures such a hilarious treat.