Monthly Archives: November 2012

Eureka Seven: Ao…. Umm, what just happened?

So I just finished watching the final two episodes of Eureka Seven Ao that aired yesterday. Let’s just say I am stunned. Not stunned in a good way mind you, I am stunned in disbelief. There is only really one sentence that can sum up my feelings about this show: “Bones! What was the point of this whole series?” I am totally baffled as to how this series turned out considering the fact that the director of this series is the same one that did such a stellar job on Eureka Seven. It’s like he forgot the great job he did on the original.

Let’s start off at the beginning shall we? When Eureka Seven Ao was first announced, I was bouncing off the walls. Its precursor series, Eureka Seven, is easily one of my most favourite animes that I have ever seen. Heck, it’s one of my most favourite TV series that I have ever seen. When the first couple of episodes aired, I was a bit let down. The series got off to a fairly rocky start. However, I ignored the rocky start because let’s face it, the original Eureka Seven also got off to a rocky start as well. However, the premise and the characters showed enough potential that I hung on after those first few episodes.

So after about a dozen episodes, the series really did not pick up. This should have been the first warning sign for me. I was still just as confused as ever about what was going on, the show did not do much to explain things and the writers were still throwing new plot lines, characters and concepts at me. I still kept watching though. Why? Well it really seemed like the plot was starting to pick up. Some of the characters were being more fleshed out, major players in the show’s world were moving and interacting, and the show’s animators were delivering some great action sequences.

By the last few episodes, things did not really improve. Most of the major characters were not as fleshed out as the characters in the original series were. Some of their motivations were still baffling (and this was when there were only like 3 episodes left). People were constantly switching sides without much thought. Hell even sides were switching sides. Plot lines, problems and character relationships that were introduced were not developed or closed at all. In fact, almost all of the things that the writers of the show introduced were practically just left dangling by the 24th and final episode. In fact, looking back, it feels like the writers just tossed in as many things as they could to see what would stick and did not spend much effort to think about how they would resolve all these things that they introduced.

The ending was absolutely abysmal. I won’t spoil it here, but let’s just say that the ending undoes and basically cancels out everything that has happened in the show thus far. It left me in disbelief and wondering, “What was the point of watching those past 23 episodes when the ending just makes it all void.” Now I know some of you readers (if there are actually any of you reading this blog) who are thinking that its more about the journey than the ending. That would be fine and all if the journey wasn’t confusing, underdeveloped and generally feeling lacking. Even if the journey was good, the ending is just so deus-ex machina and so poor that it negates all the positives that could have been gained from the journey itself.

So my final verdict about this show? Skip it please. Also, skip the Eureka Seven Pocket Full of Rainbows movie. Just watch the original Eureka Seven TV series then go on your merry way. I want 12 hours of my life back.

SkyDrive + C# + Windows Desktop

For my 4th year design project, I was tasked with building a way to communicate with SkyDrive from a Windows desktop application that is running C# on the .NET 4.0 framework. I thought this would be a fairly straightforward affair since Microsoft is responsible for both SkyDrive and C#, so surely there must be a fantastic or at least usable C# library that I can use. Unfortunately there isn’t.

After digging through the Live Connect API documentation, I came to the depressing conclusion that the only way I could communicate with SkyDrive, and any other Windows Live service was by using the WebClient class and using REST to make requests to SkyDrive. Then, I would have to grab the JSON response, parse it back into an object graph that I could use in C# and work from there. What is more unfortunate is that the documentation provides some very nice examples using the LiveConnect client and C# for Windows 8 Metro apps and Windows Phone apps. There are even nice examples using the LiveConnect client for Objective-C (iOS) apps and Android apps!

Searching Codeplex also does not bring up anything promising. There is one library that someone has been working on, but it is in Beta and has been not updated since August 2011. So, for all those developers scouring the internet and are looking for some way to easily integrate their desktop applications with SkyDrive, your best bet will be to write your own boilerplate to create REST urls to access the data and JSON parsers to interpret the data sent back.

Mirror Mirror Review

Mirror Mirror was one of those movies I chose to watch purely because it appeared on Netflix. The film is not a serious take on Snow White, but instead is very light-hearted and more focused on the comedy. The Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic ratings for it were not too promising considering the fact that they are, at the time of writing this post, are hovering at around 50%. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the film and am confused as to why it got such a poor rating on RT and Metacritic. Honestly, this film is worth at least a 70%. It is certainly better than Snow White and the Huntsman.

Acting/Characters

First, let’s get one thing out of the way. These are not complex characters. In fact some of them are very 2-dimensional such as the Prince. However, other main characters such as Snow White, the Evil Queen and the 7 Dwarves, while not that deep, do have backgrounds flushed out just a bit. Now that we have gotten that out of the way, let’s look at the actors/actresses. The main stars of the show are Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen, Armie Hammer as the Prince and Lily Collins as Snow White. Julia Roberts gives an outstanding performance that is pure comedy gold. She portrays a slightly crazy, but more light-hearted than Snow White and the Huntsman, evil queen really well. Armie Hammer’s portrayal of the Prince is also incredibly well suited to the comedy and light-hearted nature of the film. Newcomer Lily Collins also does a fantastic job of keeping this film feeling light-hearted and funny.

Score: 7.5/10

Cinematography/Special Effects

This film is beautiful to look at. The world, the sets and the costume design are colourful and fantastic to look at. The intricate dresses that people in the palace wear are totally over-the-top and incredibly creative. The costume designer for this film deserves a lot of credit for his/her work. The special effects used are also quite good. While they certainly will not beat more CGI intensive Hollywood blockbusters, they are good enough that they do not diminish the creativity of the film’s look and feel.

Score: 8.5/10

Plot

Let’s get one thing straight, this is not the most original plot for a Snow White based film that you will see. In fact, many elements of it are fairly predictable and that is certainly a downside. However, this film is not focused on making some amazing, complex plot. It focuses on a light-hearted journey that is filled with laughs, and for that, the plot fits in admirably. There are tons of comedic moments in the film including several jokes that have double meanings that adults will understand, but will probably just fly over kids’ heads. There is even a small critique about the upper-class or noble-class in the film during some scenes. Despite the predictable plot, the plot did keep my attention and kept me entertained and laughing for the almost 2 hour run-time of this film. There are moments that could have been cut out to reduce the run-time and have a tighter film, but there was nothing that felt so extraneous that I was rolling my eyes.

Score: 7.5/10

Overall Score: 7.83/10

Wreck-it Ralph Review

When I first heard about this film, I will admit I was not as enthusiastic as I was after watching this film. After doing Tangled, a take on Rapunzel, I was hoping that Disney would revive its tradition of making classic fairly tales as films. I was saddened when Wreck-it Ralph was not such a take until I saw the first trailer and they showed all the cameos that were in the film.

Acting/Characters

First off, the voice acting talent chosen for this film were great. Especially Jane Lynch who nailed her character as the tough girl, no nonsense, leader character that she is so well known for. The other voice actors/actresses did their jobs splendidly as well and I have no room for complaints. Now, on to the actual characters. There are a ton of cameos in this film from various other video games including Sonic, Street Fighter, Pac-man, House of the Dead, Super Mario Bros, Q-bert, etc. There were also a ton of characters that were references to various video games, and there were many references to video games and pop-culture overall including a character that looked a lot like Skrillex. Now the actual main characters themselves were thankfully not outright references or cameos. They were original characters with their own designs and back-story although it was apparent that Ralph himself did take some design cues from Donkey Kong. I am thankful that they were original because it would have been easy for the characters to be weighed down by audience expectations if they were just cameos from other games or were obvious references. Also, the originality and personalities of the main characters allowed them to stand out enough that they were not drowned out by all the references and cameos thrown in the movie. The main characters were strong enough to carry the movie on its own.

Score: 9/10

Special FX/Cinematography/Art

The art of this film was fantastic. The models of the various video game cameos and references were spot on. It was amazing the amount of devotion the various video games featured in the film got. Disney even went as far as to make scenes where there were 8-bit graphics for older games. The attention to detail was amazing. There were references and cameos everywhere you looked in the film. The small touches to the models and textures were especially nice. For example, when there are cake stains on Ralph, the stain shape is blocky and 8-bit-esque. The animations of the apartment dwellers in Ralph’s game had jerky animation and transitions between poses just like an 8-bit game would. When Ralph jumps between games, each game is like a whole different and unique world and it was obvious that Disney’s artists were not lazy at all even for a single frame. Just like past Pixar and Walt Disney Animation studios work, we can see that Disney has improved on their animation technology further with textures and models being more detailed, and particle effects are more fine-grained and fluid.

Score: 9/10

Plot

Considering how many references and disparate game worlds there are in this film, I did not expect a plot that tied things together to be the strongest point of the film. In fact, I did not expect the plot to be that original at all. To an extent, this was true. This is a standard plot about characters discovering themselves, a father-daughter relationship that is developed and a basic romance thread. However, the plot did offer a twist that genuinely caught me off guard. It also ran 3 plots in parallel that eventually came together towards the end of the film. Despite having 3 plots in parallel, Disney did not stumble when presenting them at the same time. Things were coherent, it did not feel like one plot was rushed or another lingered on a certain event for too long, it all just felt right. I am genuinely impressed by Disney’s ability to prevent the plot from being drowned out by the weight of sticking all these references into a film. It really is a throwback to the old days when films that were targeted more towards children also had enough content and references in them that adults could enjoy them as well.

Score: 8.5/10

Overall Score: 8.8 / 10

Ayutha Ezhuthu Review

Ayutha Ezhuthu is a tamil political thriller film written and directed by Mani Ratnam. Like his previous political thriller films, this one features personal relationships set against politics. However, unlike his previous films, this one focuses more on the politics and features not just one relationship, but 3.

Acting/Characters

Unlike many films, this film is full of well known actors and actresses including Madhavan, Surya, Siddharth and Trisha Krishnan. It’s rare to see so many actors and actresses that are well-known star in the same film. First, let’s talk about Madhavan. The man does a splendid job of portraying a power hungry thug who swings quickly from anger to kindness. The level of emotion that Madhavan delivers is truly astounding and he flexes his acting muscle quite a bit. It’s also refreshing to see him playing a more villainous role that his previous acting gigs. Surya, Siddhart, Trisha Krishnan and Esha Deol both deliver good performances that I will classify as “good enough”. I don’t have anything bad to say about their performances, but I did not see anything that really pushes their performances. Meera Jasmine, who plays the wife of Madhavan’s character, does an impressive job and is able to keep up with Madhavan’s acting. To be honest, these two make a great pair on screen and you can really see the chemistry between them during their performances. The most of the main characters themselves are not 2-dimensional at all. Unfortunately, the villain characters come off as fairly 2-dimensional. They are villains because they want to keep power and money, and that is all there is to them. Madhavan’s and Meera’s characters are both fairly complex. They have a complex relationship between them that both continue to pursue due to various motivations that are shown over the course of the film. Surya’s character also gets some background exposition and his motivations are revealed. Siddharth’s character undergoes the most change from being a selfish young man to being a politically active individual who wants to represent the best interests of other people. Trisha’s character also shows some change during the course of the film as she develops her love for Siddharth’s character. Unfortunately, Esha’s character is a 2-dimensional affair. She plays a girl who loves Surya, but that’s about all that there is to her character. Overall, the acting and character department of this film is fairly solid.

Score: 8/10

Music

The music is helmed by A.R. Rahman and as usual he delivers. What is particularly interesting about this film is that A.R. Rahman experiments with more Western styles and influences, and I even saw some hints of music from the Electronic genres. Songs such as Dol dol dol and Yakkai Thiri have modern Western styles and make heavy use of electronic sounds. They sound incredibly experimental, especially considering music from Kollywood during the time of the films release. Heck, even now, they still sound quite new and edgy in comparison to most Kollywood music. Janna is a song that is a typical upbeat song and of course there is a melody song there as well. Both songs are solid.

Score: 8.5 / 10

Cinematography

This is one part of the film that I was not blown away by. Don’t get me wrong, I did not find the cinematography bad, but I did not find it astounding either. It did its job and did not get in the way of telling the story. The angles were fine, shots set up nicely and there were no shaky cameras. The song/dance sequences for the various songs in the film also were nothing special. There was nothing really special about any of it.

Score: 6.5 / 10

Plot

This is easily one of the strongest parts of the film. We start off with a sequence of events that involve all 3 characters. Surya is giving a ride to his love interest, they have a conversation and he drops her off. Then, Siddharth who is chasing his love interest asks Surya for a ride so he can chase down Trisha’s auto-rickshaw. Then, we see Madhavan’s character having a discussion about how he can’t live with his wife and how he cannot live without his wife. Eventually, the scene culminates into Madhavan shooting with a gun Surya as he is riding his bike. At first the viewer is totally confused about what is happening. Then, we are sent back in time to see how this particular sequence came about. We  start with Madhavan’s character’s story and how they relate to this sequence. Then, we see Siddharth’s story and Surya’s story.  These flashbacks make up the first half of the story. After the flashbacks, we are brought back to the present where the aftermath of the sequence is dealt with and eventually this leads to the movie’s conclusion. While part of the time, the story is non-linear, it is not confusing at all because it manages to be simple enough that the viewer can understand. The flashbacks are also used to greatly develop the characters. While the story is simple, there are a lot of interesting nuances that the viewer will connect together during the course of the various flashbacks that lead to me having a few “AHA” moments. Arguably, the first half the film is the strongest. The second half of the film is where it starts to falter a little bit as the story becomes a standard young people fighting the old geezers in politics. Thankfully, the second half still remains strong enough to not drag down the movie.

Score: 8/10

Overall Score: 7.75 / 10