Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Bleach: Fade to Black - The Movie 3

I enjoy Bleach as a series, but there are so many episodes I haven't seen. There are sixteen seasons of this show and 366 episodes. Now only about 13 seasons have been shown in the U.S., but knowing that only tells me how little of the series is left and how much I have missed. The time I spent without cable is one of the reasons I missed a lot of shows and the fact that I missed a lot of shows is one of the reasons I missed a lot more shows when I got TV back. You see, if you miss just a couple of episodes of certain anime then you are royally screwed. But a couple of seasons? Forget it. You'll have no idea what the hell is going on and it will be like the characters are completely different. You might as well be watching a completely different anime. 

But recently I started watching Bleach again. I have no idea how things got the way they are, but I am enjoying the show again anyway. Naturally, I went out and got Bleach: Fade to Black - The Movie when I saw it at Wal-Mart. The cover of the movie didn't tell me that it was the third film in a series because I didn't read the fine print on the back. The prequels to this movie are Memories of Nobody and The DiamondDust Rebellion. I include that information just in case you wanted to know. 

Now, considering the sheer amount of episodes I have missed and the fact that I had no idea if a few characters were actually main characters or not, I really enjoyed this movie. I can't tell you just where the movie might take place along the Bleach timeline, but I would assume it takes place somewhere in the last third of the series. I could be wrong, but anime movies usually are that way. The later movies take place later in the series. So until I'm proven wrong I guess I'm going to stand by that theory. 

Now I cannot stress enough how important it is to watch the anime series to which a certain movie belongs. I have no doubt I would have enjoyed this movie a lot more (and would have been slightly less confused about certain things, too) if I had managed to keep up with the series. 

So my summary of this movie will stick to the just the movie and I won't try to say much about how the characters in the series actually are. Anime movies typically don't tell you more about the characters than you already know. So if you know nothing then you get nothing. But I do know a little. 

The main character of the Bleach series is Ichigo Kurosaki. Ichigo is what is known as a Soul Reaper and he is part of the Soul Society. He was made a Soul Reaper by his very good friend Rukia Kuchiki, the woman that saved his life and his family's life by making him into a Soul Reaper. 

At the beginning of the movie there is an attack on the Soul Society and this peculiar substance called "reiatsu" ends up covering much of the Soul Society, freezing and killing many Soul Reapers. The attack was caused by two peculiar siblings who wield a scythe that makes people forget things. They confront Rukia and when they do they manage to erase her memories and the memories everyone has of her. Why do they want her and why do they want no one to remember her?

Meanwhile, in the land of the living, Ichigo Kurosaki realizes that even he had forgotten Rukia for a brief period of time. Troubled by forgetting her, Ichigo goes on mission to understand why and if she might be in trouble. But when he gets to the Soul Society, he discovers no one remembers who he is, either. Ichigo is labeled as an intruder by his friends who can't remember him and he is forced on the run while trying to search for Rukia and find whoever caused all of this chaos. 

Well, I think I covered the basic plot without stepping on any toes.

Again, I found this movie to be very enjoyable and I think it's worth the fifteen dollars I paid for it. I just wish I had managed to watch more of the series. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Favorite Album Closers

  • Black Sabbath - Into the Void (Master of Reality)
  • Metallica - The Call of Ktulu (Ride the Lightning
  • Motorhead - Orgasmatron (Orgasmatron)
  • Led Zeppelin - When the Levee Breaks (Led Zeppelin IV)
  • KISS - Black Diamond (KISS)
  • Megadeth - My Last Words (Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?)
  • Nine Inch Nails - Hurt (The Downward Spiral)
  • Ozzy Osbourne - Diary of a Madman (Diary of a Madman)
  • Alice Cooper - Wind-Up Toy (Hey Stoopid) - Hey, I really like this song. Dunno why. 
  • AC/DC - Night Prowler (Highway to Hell)
  • Alice In Chains - Would? (Dirt)
  • Pink Floyd - Brain Damage/Eclipse (The Dark Side of the Moon) - Okay, this is the only time I'm fudging on my rules. Technically, Brain Damage and Eclipse are two songs, but who ever listens to Eclipse by itself?
  • Slayer - Raining Blood (Reign in Blood) - Great song, if not a bit overplayed. Every kid seemed to want to learn this song in guitar class. Including me. But I think that listening to Postmortem just before Raining Blood makes it even better. More and more I think of 'em as one song. 
  • The Beatles - A Day in the Life (Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band)
  • Deep Purple - Space Truckin' (Machine Head)
  • Guns N' Roses - Coma (Use Your Illusion I) - Well, maybe this is my only other fudge on this list. Since, technically, Use You Illusion I was part of a supposed double album. But they are available separately. 
  • Jethro Tull - Thick as a Brick (Thick as a Brick)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter!

Regardless of what you believe or how you choose to observe this day (or ignore the day), you can't deny that chocolate bunnies taste good and giving kids eggs full of quarters and nickels and dimes is a good thing (or you could put a ten dollar bill in there if you want to be generous... that would probably make me go egg hunting again!). I'm not a big overtly religious kind of guy, but I always try to watch Ben-Hur on this day. That's my Easter movie. Plus there is nothing else on today at all so a good four hour movie is a great way to kill some time. I'm the youngest person in the household so there is no Easter egg hunting going on here. I do have cousins who have young ones and they are probably doing that kind of thing now. Or maybe they are just getting finished.

Anyway, I hope everyone has a great day. Eat some chocolate. Watch a movie. Or listen to some Slayer if that's what you want. Just enjoy the day and try to do something nice for someone along the way.

Teen Titans and Young Justice

Teen Titans is one of my favorite shows about superheros. It's goofy and it's a bit too short (only 56 episodes and one movie called Trouble in Tokyo), but I'd rank it up there with Batman: the Animated Series and Justice League Unlimited. The main characters are Robin, Beast Boy, Starfire, Raven, Cyborg, and the fantastic villain named Slade. The animation is borderline anime-style at times and Chibi-style at times. Chibi (or "super deformed") is when the body of a character is extremely small while the head of the character is rather large. The style is used mostly to convey humor and it really works. In fact, Cartoon Network revived the Teen Titans as Chibi-style shorts for their programming block DC Nation. It's one of the few things Cartoon Network has done right in the past few years. 

What I really like is the voice talent. Slade, one of my favorite villains ever, is voiced by Ron Perlman. Michael Clarke Duncan plays a character named Krall. Henry Rollins is Johnny Rancid. Clancy Brown is the voice of Trident. Keith David is Atlas. Malcolm McDowell is Mad Mod. And Wil Wheaton is Aqualad. 
Raven as a bunny (almost Chibi-style animation)
Teen Titans is largely independent of the DC Universe. Secret identities are almost never mentioned because the characters largely stay in superhero form at all times. Robin's ties to Batman are barely mentioned. In fact, you only notice them if you pay attention. I rather like that sense of separation. I think Robin is a more likable character and a cooler character now that he isn't constantly dragging down Batman.

Yeah, I've never been a big fan of Batman having a sidekick and it's good to know that Christian Bale and Christopher Nolan agree with me.

Although, I will say that Young Justice (one of the new programs on Cartoon Network's DC Nation block of programming) is a fantastic show that features Batman and Robin, but in that show they aren't really sidekicks. More like master and pupil that barely interact anymore. That degree of separation is what I prefer because I believe that Batman is naturally a standoff-ish person and he's not one prone to emotional attachment. A great father figure, in other words.  Young Justice is also more serious than Teen Titans (although the Slade and Trigon material in Teen Titans is pretty freaking serious) and features a larger array of superheros, too. 

Young Justice also takes the opposite approach that Teen Titans takes. Young Justice makes the relationship between the "young Justice League" (not called Teen Titans in this series) and the adult Justice League a strong and prevalent one. The show also features different main characters. Robin is in this one as I mentioned (and voiced by Jesse McCartney of all people!). Aqualad gets more time in this show (and he's also voiced by the same guy that voiced Cyborg in Teen Titans). Kid Flash, Superboy, Miss Martian, Zatanna, Artemis, and Red Arrow are also main characters so far. It looks like a few more could be added in time. It'll be interesting to see who. 

Even though the show is still new I believe that Young Justice is a much better show than Teen Titans and could be one of the better animated superhero shows to come out in quite some time. It's more mature and contains a better overall story line while Teen Titans only carried sporadic story lines. But I don't think either show should be missed because they are both very good. 

If you want something lighter than I recommend Teen Titans. If you want something a bit more serious and mature then go for Young Justice

Saturday, April 7, 2012


From March 17, 1997, until September 20, 2008, Cartoon Network had a program called Toonami. Any kid in America worth his salt watched Toonami. We all remember where we were and how old we were when we first watched it. We also remember the first show that left us hooked. Mine was Dragonball Z. Now Toonami went through many incarnations, but it was at its best from '99 until probably about '04. Although a lot of people will say the golden years ended in '01. 

From left to right: T.O.M. 1.0, T.O.M. 2.0, T.O.M 3.0, & T.O.M. 4.0
Toonami was hosted by two characters. The first was Moltar, a former Space Ghost character, and he served during the first two years of the show. When Moltar retired Toonami was given a new look and a new host. On July 10, 1999, the program re-launched with the Ghost Planet spaceship Absolution and the pilot of the ship, T.O.M. 

T.O.M. was originally voiced by Sonny Strait and he used to look very short and fat. It wasn't until T.O.M. got a makeover and a new voice did he really come to be born in the hearts of many kids. We call the new T.O.M. by the moniker of T.O.M. 2.0. 

The new voice actor was Steve Blum, known for being the voice Spike Spiegel on the American dub of Cowboy Bebop and Roger Smith on the American dub on Big O. And, until the end of Toonami and the ultimate humiliation of the T.O.M. 4.0 form courtesy of Cartoon Network, Steve Blum was the voice of T.O.M. 

Throughout his various forms, T.O.M. had three goals: to entertain kids and introduce them to new animated shows, to help them learn something more about life, and to keep them off the streets. T.O.M. succeeded at all of these things. The video below is a good example of what I'm talking about. It's more than just entertainment. It's the message. 

The cartoon shows on today do not teach kids anything. I know because I watch them every now and then. Cartoon Network has become a joke and shell of its former self. They play crummy live-action shows, crummy Cartoon Network originals, and terrible movies like Son of the Mask (a week after the cancellation of Toonami Cartoon Network really played this piece of shit movie. The punchline is that Cartoon Network said they cancelled Toonami because of low ratings. What a load of pure bullshit and a piss in the face of the Toonami faithful! Son of the Mask was a box office dud! They'll play that, but not Toonami?!). There's no heart in Cartoon Network anymore. Not since, in true wolf in sheep's clothing style, Cartoon Network belittled Toonami in the last few years by creating T.O.M. 4.0 and cutting the program block until it was just two hours on a Saturday instead of a six day a week block like it used to be. And I think there might have been only one anime show on when it was cancelled. 

But T.O.M. was a hero to many of us. He brought the population of American kids anime. He introduced us to a new culture. He expanded our minds. What did he get in return? An ax in the back.

Recently, Adult Swim (the late night programming on Cartoon Network that took the place of Toonami Midnight Run) played Toonami late Saturday night as an April Fool's Joke. Only one show from the current Saturday night line-up of Adult Swim made it into the Toonami revival but pretty much all of the rest were Toonami shows back when it was the classic Toonami. T.O.M. was back in T.O.M. 3.0 form and he was once again voiced by Steve Blum. This joke, while so cruel after many years of crying for Toonami to be back on, was also a welcome sight. For just a short time, Toonami was back.

Since then a movement has started on the internet to revive Toonami and breathe new life into T.O.M. Steve Blum is behind it all the way and I've done everything I possibly could to make my voice heard. Adult Swim, to their credit, told everyone to tweet #BringBackToonami. Petitions and Facebook pages have been made. They were around before, but this brief revival has brought new hope and new blood to the movement. Adult Swim recently responded in cryptic fashion "#BringBackToonami We've heard you. Thank you for your passion and interest - stay tuned." I don't know if that means they will bring it back or not. Or in what fashion they'll bring it back. If it's just a Saturday thing from now on then I can live with it. I'll stay up to four in the morning on Saturday like I used to when the good shows were still on. We anime fans are tough. We have to be. The lengths we have to go to to get some damn entertainment is ridiculous.

I think the best way to do it would be the way they used to. Have a segment with edited shows come on during the weekdays just after school for the younger people and then have the uncut shows on at night. And they've got to have some premieres, too. Shows they haven't played before like School Days shows that are still going on Adult Swim like Bleach. And if they could play a few American shows like Duckman or The Tick. But the bulk of the programming should be anime. If Nickelodeon could bring back their 90's shows (late at night on TeenNick, of course) then can't Cartoon Network bring Toonami come back?

This was T.O.M.'s last broadcast before the show was cancelled: "Well, this is the end, beautiful friends. After more than 11 years, this is Toonami's final broadcast. It's been a lot of fun, and we'd like to thank each and every one of you who made this journey with us. Toonami wouldn't have been anything without you. Hopefully we've left you with some good memories. So, until we meet again, stay gold. Bang."

T.O.M. was indeed a superhero to so many people because he symbolizes the best memories and intentions of childhood. He's the voice of the few who are tired of being pushed around and left in the dark. He had no super powers. He was just an ordinary pilot who wanted some kids to learn something while they were entertained by quality entertainment! I hope Cartoon Network remembers that and stops playing bullshit shows like Level Up. Let's bring Toonami back and show these new kids who don't know anything about quality how to do it right. I don't care if I go red-eyed from lack of sleep for the rest of my life. I just want my anime. 

Edited to add - Okay, this is the current Saturday night Adult Swim anime line-up (all times are Central):
Bleach 11:00
Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood 11:30
Durarara 12:00
Kekkaishi 12:30
Fooly Cooly 1:00
Cowboy Bebop 1:30
Big O 2:00
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig 2:30
Bleach (repeat of earlier showing) 3:00
Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood (repeat of earlier showing) 3:30
Durarara (repeat of earlier showing) 4:00
Inuyasha 4:30

Okay, I must ask just what kind of nutjob thought of this schedule. I love Fooly Cooly, Cowboy Bebop, and Big O (consequently all the shows I just listed had Steve Blum in it, may he forgive me) as much as the next guy but I've seen all the episodes a lot of times and there aren't that many episodes of each show. And what's with the repeated viewings? Anyone who wants to watch Inuyasha is fucked. And never mind the fact that Adult Swim plays anywhere between one to three episodes of Family Guy, American Dad, and King of the Hill every single night. I love Family Guy but it is on pretty much all the time. Look up the show on your guide and tell me I'm wrong. And this is the only time anime is on TV at all unless you count Pokemon, Dragonball GT, Dragonball Z Kai, or Yu-Gi-Oh! But those shows aren't exactly classics. Again, I don't mind being red-eyed, but I expect some seriously damn good anime for my trouble and no repeat crap. 

Anyway, there you have it. I'm done ranting.

Stay Gold.

I Spit On Your Grave [aka Day of the Woman] (1978) - A Review

In my review of The Girl Next Door I talked about the point where the comfort level with a movie or book becomes breached and the movie or book ceases to be entertainment and becomes something else entirely. I Spit On Your Grave is a great example of what I was talking about. A couple of days ago my dad got home from a trip to Wal-Mart and in one of the bags was a copy of this movie. My dad knew I'd been keeping my eye on it a bit so he'd gotten it for me. Well, it's not that I really wanted the movie. As with all things slightly depraved, I was curious if the movie was really anything like I'd heard. I knew it would be bad but I wasn't sure if it was going to be Irreversible-bad or The Last House on the Left-bad. Well, the movie is a lot like the original The Last House on the Left. Only in this movie the woman doesn't get killed halfway through the film. 

Jennifer Hills is a New York author and she goes to the countryside to work on her new book. There she hopes to find peace, solitude, and a strong connection with her muse. And it all goes well until she gets the feeling that she's being watched. But that can't be, right? Well, it is. Then four men trap her, rape her, let her go traipsing through the woods trying to escape, rape her again, let her go home, and then beat the shit out of her and rape her again. Three of the men leave the scene of the crime, but their dumb buddy is told to stay behind and kill her so she can't identify any of them. Well, the dumb guy doesn't kill her with the knife he is given. Instead he just covers the knife in some blood from her chin and gives it to his buddies. They think he killed her and poor Jennifer is given time to recover from her ordeal without having to face her attackers again any time soon. Naturally, Jennifer is quite pissed off. So... she decides to make those four assholes pay with their shitty little lives. Revenge is the name of the game in the last forty minutes of the movie. So if you can survive the first hour then maybe you'll find the final part of the movie a bit rewarding. The castration scene ("It won't stop bleeding!" is what the guy screams) is almost so compelling that it almost garnered an applause from me. But that scene also made me wince, too. Can't help it. It's not every day you get to see someone get their yang chopped off. Well... no, you don't really see anything, but it's just the thought that bothered me. 

The rape scenes are very uncomfortable to watch. Well, duh, right? They're rape scenes. There's nothing sexy about this movie even though there's tons of nudity. I'm pretty sure this movie will curb the ole libido for a while, too. But this movie isn't really scary in terms of "ooga-booga" effects. It's just very... documentary-like. The movie is conveying what happens without much suspense and with a lot disgust. 

Camille Keaton, granddaughter of Buster Keaton, performed the role of the tormented heroine rather well, I thought. Considering that the rest of the cast was a group of virtual no names who haven't been in any other movies and that the direction was a little bit lacking (in the long list of great directors I doubt you'll find Meir Zarchi's name). Camille Keaton is going to be in Rob Zombie's new movie The Lords of Salem, I believe. Maybe she won't get raped this time. One can only hope. 

I know there is a remake of I Spit On Your Grave and the revenge scenes are supposed to be a lot more gruesome than the ones in the original. And the acting is supposed to be better, too. Not sure if I'd want to watch it. Although there was a preview for it on the my DVD where the woman was holding a pair of shears while one guy was tied down to a chair. Hmm... wonder what she was going to cut off? I'll give you three guesses.

There's also a sequel to the original I Spit On Your Grave called Savage Vengeance. It's an "unofficial" sequel and from what I've read the movie isn't even worth the time to track it down. So I won't bother with that one. 

But, for what it's worth, I do believe that I Spit On Your Grave is a better movie than The Last House on the Left. But I probably won't watch either movie again any time soon. 

NOTE: It looks like Camille Keaton actually married Meir Zarchi after making this movie. Ah, nothing says romance quite like love on a rape-revenge movie set. Unfortunately, their marriage only lasted for a few years. Well, ya win some and ya lose some, right?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Favorite Album Openers Part II

Following the rules of my previous "Favorite Album Openers" list, I've decided to post a continuance. If a band was listed before then they won't be listed on here because of the "one track per band" rule.

  • I Got a Line on You (The Family That Plays Together) / Spirit
  • Transmaniacon MC (Blue Oyster Cult) / Blue Oyster Cult
  • Draw the Line (Draw the Line) / Aerosmith
  • Badlands (Darkness on the Edge of Town) / Bruce Springsteen
  • Rock the Nation (Montrose) / Montrose
  • We Die Young (Facelift) / Alice in Chains
  • Princess of the Night (Denim and Leather) / Saxon - Metallica actually used part of this song in their song Seek & Destroy
  • Into Money (B.L.T.) - Jack Bruce, Bill Lordan, Robin Trower
  • Lightning to the Nations (Lightning to the Nations) / Diamond Head
  • Back in the USSR (The Beatles) / The Beatles - Okay, it's tough to choose one and you really can't go wrong with any of them. But this one is one of my favorite songs, period. 
  • Driving Rain (Driving Rain) / Paul McCartney  - I think that Lennon's solo work is a bit more hit or miss than Paul McCartney's and that McCartney has a much better catalog. Of course, Lennon dying in 1980 had something to do with that, but based solely on the material released while Lennon was alive I'd still say that McCartney has the better catalog.
  • Don't Take Me for a Loser (Corridors of Power) / Gary Moore - The late Gary Moore had tremendous talent and it's a shame that his work isn't more widely heralded. Much like Ronnie Montrose. 
  • Fire and Water (Fire and Water) / Free - Free is criminally underrated just like Montrose. More people should have this album. 
  • Aqualung (Aqualung) / Jethro Tull - It was this or Thick as a Brick
  • Rusty Cage (Badmotorfinger) / Soundgarden
  • Band on the Run (Band on the Run) / Wings (Yeah, it's got Paul McCartney in it, but Wings is considered a separate band from Paul's solo band.) 
  • Dancing Madly Backwards (On a Sea of Air) (Captain Beyond) / Captain Beyond
  • Mind Games (Mind Games) / John Lennon - I think Mind Games is a much better song than Imagine. Maybe that's just me, though.
  • Eye of the Witch (The Eye) / King Diamond 
  • Go (Vs.) / Pearl Jam 
  • Unchain Your Brain (Glory Road) / Gillan
  • Burnin' Sky (Burnin' Sky) / Bad Company
  • Baba O'Riley (Who's Next) / The Who - Run Run Run is a "runner-up" for me. 
  • Sympathy for the Devil (Beggars Banquet) / Rolling Stones

Girls Bravo

Girls Bravo is a ridiculously funny and raunchy anime comprised of only 24 episodes split into two seasons. The story follows around a poor schlub named Yukinari Sasake who breaks out in a rash any time he comes into contact with a woman. All of this happens as a result of being tormented and teased by girls all his life. I believe the condition is called gynophobia. One day Yukinari is transported to an alien world called Seiren where men make up only 10% of the population and all of the women begin to chase after Yukinari because they want him. Not a good thing for a gynophobic, right? In this alien world Yukinari meets Miharu Sena Kanaka, a peculiar woman who pulled Yukinari into the strange world of women. It just so happens that Yukinari doesn't break out into hives when she touches him. Strange.

Anyway, this is a story for adults only. It's not a kid's show! That's not to say that this is a pornographic show because it is not.*

There are a lot of scenes that just happen to have female nudity, though. I think that pretty much all of the women have a nude scene at some point. But there is nothing pornographic about the show. No penetration or anything like that. So don't worry.

Most of the characters are pretty entertaining if not a bit clichéd. Since this is what is described as a "harem" anime (a way of saying that there are too many sexy female characters with "busty" figures and too few male characters... usually only one male character), one could construe this show as being sexist. But I don't think it is. Then again I'm probably too much of a chauvinistic pig. Oink, oink.

This is just fun for the sake of fun. There's nothing deep here. The plot is a bit thin because there really isn't much of one. But, again, this isn't the type of show one watches for plot. This is a pretty brainless comedy. Probably the American Pie (with boobs... a lot of boobs) of anime shows. It's probably bad for you, but you watch it anyway. So just enjoy it for the ride.

But... the show does have heart and some drama. Many of the characters are endearing and its sad when the journey ends.

Far from a groundbreaking show and probably not the best "harem" anime out there, Girls Bravo is a rollicking good time. With boobs.

I really wish they'd make another season.

(*) If you want a pornagraphic anime [or "hentai," as the Japanese call it] then there's always Bible Black. But don't say I didn't warn you. Because I did. You'll see that Girls Bravo is not hentai if you want to make that comparison between the two, though. This show is actually what is called an "ecchi" anime. I'm not a fan of hentai, but I am saying that there are such shows out there. Honest. I have a reputation to uphold, you know!