Shuriken Sentai Ninninger


2-shuriken-sentai-ninninger I’m going to make a change to this blog. In an effort to be more topical I’m going to post reviews of certain series as soon as I finish them. This will prevent my backlog of reviews from increasing and allow me to give my opinions of shows and movies while they are still topical. Today, its time to look at the 39th entry in the Super Sentai Franchise (I know it ended months ago but I’ve been busy).

The Last Ninja, a great warrior who defeated the evil Kibaoni army is looking for a successor. His grandchildren, Takaharu, Yakumo, Nagi, Fuka, and Kasumi are all candidates to inherit the title. Together they must strive to improve their ninjality (the power which allows someone to do ninja skills), fight the now released Kibaoni army, and search for the ultimate weapon, the sealing shuriken. Together they are known as the Shuriken Sentai Ninnninger.

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This show is a mess. All its aspects have problems. Let’s start with the sentai. They all fall into the trap of not out growing the initial character stereotypes they are introduced with. Takaharu is wild, Yakumo is smug, Kasumi is smart, Nagi is helpful, and Fuka is innocent and clumsy. The best ranger is Kinji the Starninger who shows the best growth as an individual and conquers the (literal) demons of his past. Also, despite it being a family sentai they really don’t feel like a family. Unlike Magiranger where there were multiple flashbacks to the members growing up and bonding as kids, this series doesn’t have nearly as many or any to help you understand their family bond. Frankly the show is insisting they are family but you don’t feel it as you watch it.

The mecha are weird to say the least. The main robot is a weird combination of vehicles which should not be associated with ninjas including a train and a dump truck. The later combinations are a bit better once they come together as a final form but the first and main robot takes far too long to get used to.

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The villains are the saving point of this series. The commanders are least as all of them look stunning and are formidable opponents who give the sentai a run for their money. The individuals monsters of the week are some of the worst creatures ever. These things are worse than the Trinoids of Abaranger and those things had the excuse of being three elements fused together. This show has no explanation for some of the lamest designs since the T-rex Dopant from Kamen Rider W.

The comedy aspect which comes from trying to keep the series more light in the beginning doesn’t work either. The jokes just aren’t funny. An episode or two, such as the episode where its played out like an RPG game is funny but overall the humor doesn’t play well.

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The last and final aspect which doesn’t work is the Ninja aspect. They just don’t feel like ninjas. Probably because of their insistence on rampaging and not hiding which is actually the teams personal motto. The poor attempts at humor probably is what killed the feeling of this team being true ninjas.

You weren’t entertaining Ninninger at all. You started okay but crashed hard and still had too many episodes to go to your ending. Eventually, I was begging for you to end. It’s painful enough with you being a bad series but now whenever the studio says they are going to do another ninja themed sentai, we will always be wary of getting another show like you coming out.

RATING: D

Trollhunter

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Today we come across another film which uses the “found footage” style to tell a story. Does the film stack up better than Cloverfield? Let’s find out.

A documentary film crew tries to investigate a mysterious man named Hans, who many believe to be a poacher. They soon discover he isn’t hunting bears but is instead a licenced hunter of Trolls for the government. Soon, Hans reveals his techniques for hunting and destroying Trolls. It involves a surprising amount of paperwork.

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The film offers an interesting bit of world building. Large proportions of the movie are spent explaining the workings of the Trolls. Using a lot of the old legends of trolls, it depicts how Trolls smell the blood of Christians and why they turn into stone during the day. The film also grounds the Trolls in a sense of reality when having the characters get a blood sample test to see if the creatures have come down with an illness. A lot of research and thought went into this film and it shows.

The downside of the film comes from the characters. Yes, the titular Trollhunter Hans does get a lot of backstory and character explanation but the others don’t get as much information about them. They are dedicated to investigating the truth behind if Trolls exist or not but there really isn’t much else to their characters. Thomas is memorable because he’s the one who gets injured fairly early in the film and you spend the whole time wondering if the whole “Is something going to come from the injury” plot line is going to come into effect. The cameraman Kalle has a brief bit of character but only for a crucial moment. The female in the group Johanna really has no definitive character except for being the girl. This film would definitely fail the Bechdel test.

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I’ve heard its supposed to be a comedy but I didn’t really pick up on this vibe. There are some moments which could be seen as comedic but there are enough grim scenes to make up for this. Maybe is was one of those times where you have to understand the culture to really get the jokes. I’ll admit I haven’t seen many Norwegian films. Still, it feels like there are too many light moments for it to be a horror movie and too much violence for it to really be a comedy.

As I did mention Cloverfield before I’ll take the time to compare the two films. Frankly, Cloverfield really was the better feature as it allowed us to connect with the characters and care about whether they were going to get out alive or not. This film doesn’t really have us connect with anyone except for Hans and frankly he’s presented as such a capable warrior despite fighting these intense creatures you never really worry if he’s going to make it out alive. The film is an interesting bit of world building but really could have stood to have us connect more with the cast, especially when there are so few in the main cast. Still, the film is worth watching for the giant monster fan who wants to see how other countries treat their Kaiju.

RATING: B-

Transformers: Beast Wars: Season 1



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This year marks a special anniversary in the Transformers Franchise. It’s the 20th anniversary of the Beast Wars TV series. Many felt the Transformers should never take the form of animals and dismissed the series straight out. Those who did missed out on something great. Beast Wars is one of the best Transformer series ever.

The Maximal crew of the Axalon have crash landed on a mysterious planet while pursuing a group of Predcon fugitives. Led by Megatron, the Predacons have plans to harvest the energon on the planet and use it to take over their home world of Cybertron. It’s up to the Maximals, lead by Optimus Primal to stop them  and protect the peace of this strange world.

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This series was the first original (Generaion 2 wasn’t original) Transformers series in America in almost 10 years. Deciding to scale back a bit from the huge armies of yesteryear, the show instead has a cast of only ten at first. Each character had an individual purpose and was able to grow through the adventures which took place in the show. Since then this staple of fewer characters allowing for more emphasis on development has lead to success with the series which followed.

The series also introduce many elements into the Transformer mythology. Aspects such as the Spark (the soul of the transformer), the Matrix/Allspark (heaven), the Pit (Hell), and Slag (a phrase of profanity) were all first used in this series. These introductions alone should could cause individuals to give this series a heavy degree of respect.

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Beast Wars also sports a surpassing large amount of violence. Treating the characters like the robots they are allowed the characters to suffer great damage and get the necessary repairs after the battle is over. This element led to some impressive action scenes in the first season alone.

The show isn’t without its faults. The CGI hasn’t aged the best. Sure for the time it was pretty impressive but looking at it now some of the background animation is rather dull and there are a few errors here and there. Still, these are small complaints which don’t distract from the overall series.

Beast Wars is a Transformers series which shouldn’t be missed. If you know a Transformer fan who hasn’t taken the time to watch this series then kick them in the butt and insist the show has merit. Remember, this is just my review of the first season. I’ll make sure to finish the rest of the reviews through the course of this year and give the series the proper anniversary it deserves.

RATING: A-

Engine Sentai Go-Onger

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Time to dig into another entry of the Super Sentai Franchise. Today’s review looks at a more lighthearted Sentai Series. Does the fact its not dark or deep as other series make it a bad show?

The Engines of Machine World have crossed over into Earth while chasing the evil Barbaric Machine Clan Gaiark who intend to pollute everything. The Engines obtain the help of humans and giving them their power to fight against the Gaiark clan. The humans, Sosuke, Renn, Saki, Hanto, and Gunpei fight to protect the world as the Engine Sentai Go-Onger.

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The characters are decent but a bit bland. No one has a deep character arc and the only real conflict seems to be when the other two teammates, the Go-On Wings are introduced and don’t know how to play nice with the main five, at least not at first. Otherwise, all of them seem to rely on their overarching personality type to get through the series. The interesting thing is this behavior doesn’t come off as annoying, because despite being one note characters in nature, they still are competent fighters.

The aspect of other worlds is introduced early but isn’t utilized as much as it could be. Sure they introduce it and use it to explain where the Engines come from but they don’t really look into the dimensions except in the movie. In the movie, they once again utilize the Toei Kyoto Studio Park and have the team go to “Samurai” world. For the most part the series just takes place on modern day Earth but is seems like their was more potential for a deeper epic story if they had kept traveling to other dimensions. Sadly this doesn’t happen.

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Mecha which are sentient aren’t always a bad idea (like with Abaranger) and fact they are doesn’t detract from them as a Sentai Mecha. There is a more glaring problem and it is a case where one of the design of the robots just didn’t work because of how they combine. Every combination really just looks they are piling on top of one another in an awkward moshpit. It’s not exactly the most interesting mecha design to say the least.

The villains are okay but are better when they are act more comical then trying to be downright malicious. Let’s be honest, ever since Captain Planet came out the idea of a show where the main purpose of the villain is to pollute for pollution’s sake really doesn’t sound feasible, dangerous, or even plausible.

This show is weird which really is the best way to summarize it. Between the talking sentient car animal mecha to the enemies whose mission it is to pollute the world but are quick to join forces the with heroes sometimes on a whim (like when Kegalesia decided to join the female members of the team to form an idol group) everything about it is peculiar. Don’t even try to take this series seriously. It may have a serious moment or two but these are few and far between. This is a more comical Sentai but it succeeds in being one. Even if I don’t count it as one of my more favorite series I still found it to be more entertaining than some series like Ninninger (the review of which is coming) which will live in infamy as causing the fan base to be worried every time a ninja themed series is announced. So it doesn’t do any harm and is kinda fun. Really its the best way to summarize the show overall.

RATING: C+

Geneshaft

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What happens when a show focuses more on character designs and its heavy handed message over the fact that they have a giant robot they can pilot? You get a show like Geneshaft which presents a future with giant robots that I don’t want to be a part of. It should be obvious that if a fan of mecha writes that and the series doesn’t involve aliens bugs crushing humanity then the show probably isn’t going to be good.

The world has become ruled by genetic engineering and woman outnumber men. Mika is a young woman with a white gene type and thought to be inferior by others. In order to fight a mysterious alien race known as The Rings, a ship called the Bilkis has been tasked to investigate them. Mika becomes a member of the crew but has to deal with the fact her captain’s actions resulted in the death of her friend.

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The first main problem with this series is it bites off far more than it can handle. The series deals with topics such as selective gene manipulation and what type of society these actions create. This could have been the focus in a series by itself but then issues such as people devolving into beings with less emotion who don’t feel attachment because they can easily be cloned back to life is also thrown in. These subjects are dealt with in a 13 episode series where there is a giant robot and an enemy alien race trying to destroy Earth. This is far too much to handle in such a short amount of time.

Another major problem is the show has no “outside man.” There is no character to look at what is going on with this advance society and say how mixed up it has become. There is an episode where characters from the past are transported to this future, make the claim of how strange the society has become, and then disappear by the end of the show like it never even happened. Again, this could be the plot of the whole series but they use it in only one episode and don’t address it the rest of the show.

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Now the flaws of this series could be redeemed if it had superior designed robots and outstanding mecha battle scenes. Sadly it doesn’t. The Shaft (a perfect description of the overall design of it) is a bare bones robot with one large cannon in its chest and that’s about it. The robot is plain metallic grey color (the photo is from a later episode when the Shaft is reacting to one of The Rings, which is why is gold) and looks like it is a wire frame bare bones model design no one took the time to go back and fix after they wrote the original idea down on paper. That’s what this feels like, a half finished product that no one took the time to correct and polish to make it any better or worse then the finished product.

This show really didn’t need a giant robot. It should have just had a crew of people going out into space with someone who was cryogentically frozen to awaken from the past to look at the bland and calculated way of life society has become and express the importance of feelings such as love and compassion. Because if the characters can’t get caught up on attachment and are working to repress emotion, why should the audience be expected to attach any feelings of their own?

RATING: D+

Cloverfield

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Having a fresh idea when it comes to Giant Monster films is often a recipe for disaster. It usually just ends  with the film being an inconceivable mess with a foul looking monster which sounded great on paper band in drawings but looks like it was made by a kindergartner. There are rare times when a fresh idea such as the use of the “found footage” genre of film mixed with Giant Monsters works out for the best.

Rob is about to take a job overseas and his friends have decided to throw a party in his honor. While everyone is celebrating, chaos erupts as the city comes under attack by an unknown force. As Rob and his friends scramble to escape, they will find themselves trapped by a mysterious blood thirsty creature, known only as Cloverfield.

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The film was built on the mystery of “What does the Monster look like? This hasn’t been the best plan as any Giant Monster fan knows. The most prominent example is the Sony Godzilla Film, the Studio tried their best to have a major reveal about what the monster would like alike and people weren’t happy when they got to see it. So why did Cloverfield work and Godzilla not?

There are two really definitive reasons why Cloverfield was successful. First, ti did not carry the expectations which were inherent with a Godzilla film. People were hoping Godzilla would look more like his original form. Their was no expectation with the Cloverfield monster and instead resulted in more intrigue of what it would look like. The second is the destruction the monster caused. Godzilla’s destruction seemed to more accidental from his defensive need to fun form the military. Cloverfield on the other hand decapitated the Statue OF Liberty on its way to the city and from there tore the city apart. It was a more savage and bigger threat and would more than likely beat the Sony made Godzilla in a fight.

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The biggest complaint with this movie is its use of the shake camera. The technique has often been employed in action movies in an effort to showcase the intensity of the physical movement on the scree. The camera work in Cloverfield was too intense though and many people complained of experiencing motion sickness while watching the movie. the experience of vomiting probably din’t make this film a favorite of several individuals.

Overall, this was a pretty good film which no one was expecting to be as good as it was. I’m kinda cheating and attempting to get this film done before the sequel comes out in hopes of getting a few more page reviews. Hopefully I will succeed and I will more than likely write up the review of the sequel at the other site I write for, Monkeys Fighting Robots. I’ll let you know if and when I do crew.

RATING: B

Transformers Prime: Season 2

primes23Time to return to another installment of the Transformer franchise. The first season of Transformers Prime was one of the best televisions series ever to bear the Tranformers’ name. Did the second season keep up the strength of storytelling and action?

After the events of the first season, Optimus Prime believes he is his younger self, Orion Pax and he is still friends with Megatron. His comrades will have to venture to their fallen home world of Cybertron to find a way to restore Optimus to his original self. Will they succeed or will Optimus continue to wear a Decepticon symbol on his shoulder?

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The quality of storytelling of the previous season stays constant. From the beginning of the season while Optimus believing he is a Decepticon to the quest for the Cyber Keys the drama keeps the audience in their seats episode to episode. The call back to previous Transformers series with items such as the Star Saber and the Omega Lock are excellent ways of using the franchise`s rich cannon to tell a fantastic story. Also, all of the different Cybertronian technology they have recovered over the course the series comes to a head as all seem to play a part in the season finale.

The introduction of new characters help to make the story interesting as well. The Decepticons get Dreadwing, brother of the fallen Skyquake who turns out to be very noble despite being a deadly warrior. The Autobots get introduced to Smokescreen, a young brash solider who has been sent by Alpha Trion, Optimius Prime`s mentor to help with the war. Both of these characters are welcomed additions to the show and really help to flush out the story telling.

primes21This season isn’t without its problems. First up it does contain a clip show (A big problem as this blog is always against clip shows). Second, the show continues with the fetch quests from the previous season. It keeps up the discovery of Cybertron relics before moving to the Cyber Keys. It is a small complaints but still worth mentioning.

This series continues to be one of the best installments of the Tranformers’ franchise. All that is needed is to look at the final season and the movie that followed it. Stay tuned crew. These reviews will be coming down the line but I have another Transformers series I need to focus on this year as it is celebrating an anniversary.

RATING: A-

Transformers: Robots in Disguise (2015) – Season 1

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I originally wanted to wait to review this series when I finished going through all the seasons of its predecessor, Transformers: Prime. Now with the second season’s upcoming premiere I decided to do a special review in honor of this show’s return. Let’s “Rip it up and Ride it out”…hey it took Bumblebee a few times to get it too.

In the aftermath of Transformers Prime, Bumblebee has begun mentoring a young security officer and helping to rebuild Cybertron. All this changes when Optimus Prime sends him a message telling Bumblebee he needs to head to Earth. Using a space bridge, Bumblebee arrives on Earth and discovers a crashed prison ship and the captive Decepticons have escaped. Now with the held of of his student, Strongarm, a delinquent named Sideswipe, a Dinobot named Grimlock, and a malfunctioning minicon named Fixit, Bumblebee must work to track down these Decepticon fugitives and bring them to justice.

RID3The series picks up where Transformers: Prime left off and does help to give Bumblebee his own focus. There isn’t much focus on Cybertron after the first episode. It would have been nice to see what other characters were doing and what changes had been made to the planet now that it is inhabitable again. Hopefully this will happen more in season two. Of course, it does go into some new explanations about the Tranformers Universe by introducing the Realm of the Primes, where the former Primes reside.

The major flaw with the series is the set up. The Autobots get a new Decepticon to track down almost every episode in the classic “Monster of the week” formula. Few series before have had more Decepticons over Autobots through the course of its run. Some of these characters do appear later in the season and even form a team of their own so at least they are able to modify the classic formula.

RID1The team of Autobots is standard by the characteristics they bring to the team. They consist of a novice leader (Bumblebee), the strict rookie (Strongarm), the loose cannon (Sideswipe), the wreaking ball (Grimlock), and a medic (Fixit). Not that the show isn’t able to tell good stories with these characters. Seeing Bumblebee mature to the point he is in a leadership position was a welcome sight for his fans. It was also nice to have Grimlock back into a Transformer series, it would have been nice if he wasn’t a dumb knucklehead with a punch first and ask questions never attitude.

The series doesn’t really have any major flaws but at the same time doesn’t do anything as fanatic within the show like Transformers: Prime did. Probably the lack of the darker and grittier tones which were given off thanks to the sleek computer design the previous series was animated with. Still, the show is good and I am looking forward to watching the new show as it airs.

RATING: B-

Godzilla (1998)


maxresdefaultEver swear you have done something but then when you go back you realize you didn’t do it at all? This is the case with today’s review. I could have sworn I already took the time to review this movie but once I looked through the archives I realized that in fact I did not. Maybe it’s the fact I had voiced my disdain for the film so many times previously which confused me.

French nuclear tests have caused a creature to grow to an immense size. As the military calls in nuclear research, Nick Tatopoulos to investigate, the strange anomalies makes its easy to New York City. As Nick tries to dig into the mysteries behind the creature he runs into his past and discovers something about truly terrifying which could jeopardize the safety of the world.

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Probably should try to start with the positive moments before ripping the movie apart. Jean Reno`s character is epic. Anytime that man has the opportunity to play a laid back bad ass is when he is truly in his element as an actor. Also Zilla`s (the rename he received when TOHO studios bought the rights for him)  design when not compared to a form of Godzilla is very distinct and memorable. That’s all I got now onto the bad.

Despite the re-branding he would later receive there is no escaping the fact this was supposed to be a Godzilla film. It was introduced and marketed as such and if you want to wear the crown of the King of the Monsters you better be ready to bear the weight it holds. Zilla couldn’t handle this weight as he crushed under it for not emphasizing the important facts with Godzilla: he is a force of nature and despite all our resources we as humans will be destroyed in the wake of his destruction. Zilla is killed by a few missiles as he gets tangled in a bridge and is dealt with pretty easily compared to any other incarnation of Godzilla.

godzilla-matthew-broderick-1998-reviewFor years I thought the main problem with this film was its treatment of Godzilla. That by stripping away his power, it diminished the monster and gave him less presence when he was on screen. This is not the case at all. After repeated viewings It finally dawned on me why this film is such a terrible experience. Its all because of Audrey Timmons. Audrey offers nothing to the overall story. She doesn’t help anyone but herself. She uses her closeness with her ex-boyfriend to get a scoop and then feels guilty about doing it. She does report in the moment about the nest and give Nick the recognition he deserves but she would have done that anyways as a reporter. She is given far too much of a pass for all the crap she pulls in this film.

There has been arguments that when watching the film without thinking of it as a Godzilla film helps to give it a bit more weight when watching the film just as a giant monster film. I really can’t agree with this theory. The movie is bad. It’s too long, poorly acted and scripted, and doesn’t hold up to repeat views. Even when it was with the help of the crew at Rifftrax this film is an obstacle to take on. At best I can recommend it as a movie you watch once for the experience of knowing how poorly Hollywood can adopt a property and then walk away entirely. It’s not worth more than one torturous ride.

RATING: D