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.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

My Favorite Directors

This is a list of my favorite directors (they are in no particular order):

  • Christopher Nolan - My favorite new director. His Batman Trilogy is just one part of his brilliance. Watch Memento or Inception if you don't believe me. Anything he directs is something I look forward to. 
  • Martin Scorsese - I don't like the "actor-dependence" some directors have. I could swear that Tim Burton and Johnny Depp are Siamese twins because they are working together so often. But whether it's Leonardo Dicaprio or Robert DeNiro, Martin Scorsese gets the best out of everybody regardless of how many times he works with them. If it wasn't for Scorsese I probably would have zero respect for Dicaprio as an actor. But once I saw movies like Gangs of New York, The Aviator, and The Departed my mind was changed completely. Plus he's made two different movies where Joe Pesci gets whacked. 
  • Sidney Lumet - His first film was 12 Angry Men. Talk about setting your feet down with a authority! The man's movies are very diverse. Hell, he even directed The Wiz. But it is with movies like The Hill and The Verdict that really draw me to his work. 
  • Clint Eastwood - Okay, he has a few duds both as an actor and a director. But anything he has a hand in, on the screen or off, is something I'd like to watch at least once. I even sat through The Bridges of Madison County, by God. Not that it is a bad movie, but it sure as hell ain't a man's movie. Just sayin'. 
  • Hayao Miyazaki - Quite possibly, this man is the king of the stand-alone anime film. In fact, I know he is. I'd recommend his movies to anybody. 
  • Shinichiro Watanabe - No, he is nowhere near as prolific as Miyazaki, but he has directed Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, and two segments in the Animatrix movie. Anything he is involved with is something that has my interests. This man is proof that quality is much more important than quantity. 
  • Stanley Kubrick - Stephen King fans may hate his version of The Shining, but I think it is brilliant. Of course, I watch that particular movie for more than just the (in)accuracy of the adaptation. All of Kubrick's films are a real experience, visually and mentally. I like that. He only directed thirteen movies, but he's got a pretty damn good hit-or-miss average with me. 
  • Alfred Hitchcock - This is a gimme. Of course, he would be on this list. 
  • Steven Spielberg - Another gimme. 
  • Sergio Leone - Another director of very few movies, but most of them are pretty darn good.
  • John Ford - Once he found his voice he became a huge force to be reckoned with. 
  • Frank Capra - If for no other reason than Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. But trust me there are plenty of other reasons too. ;) 

I'm sure I've left off a few, but the ones we often think of first are the most important.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion (Kōdo Giasu: Hangyaku no Rurūshu)

Politics are not my bag, but anime shows that deal with them intrigue me. Mobile Suit Gundam, Fullmetal Alchemist, and Ghost in the Shell all deal with the subject in very detailed and sometimes hard to follow ways. Code Geass is the same in that respect even though the show moves at a lightning fast pace. We are immediately placed in a world where discrimination against the Japanese is not only tolerated but encouraged. The Japanese people have been stripped of everything from the name of their country to their own land. Everything essentially belongs to the Holy Britannian Empire now. Japan is now called "Area 11" and the Japanese are now called "Elevens."

The Britannian Empire is a monstrous affront to individuality and freedom, but there is no one strong enough to fight the Empire. The cruel Emperor who controls most of the world cannot be stopped it seems. The so-called "terrorist groups" that fight against Britannia for the sake of Japan are disorganized and have no one to guide them. The Japanese freedom fighters need help, but where can they get it from? Who is insane enough to fight against Britannia?

Enter Lelouch Lamperouge. Lelouch is a schoolboy with a grudge against the Britannian Empire. In fact, Lelouch is actually the son of the Emperor of Britannia, but the world does not know this. Lelouch has a younger crippled sister who was hurt when Lelouch's mother was killed years ago. Lelouch has always expected foul play and blamed his father for her death. So Lelouch and his sister Nunnally live on school grounds owned by the Ashfords with the hopes that neither the terrorists or the Britannian Empire can find them.

But one day something very strange happens to Lelouch. He comes across a witch who can give him the power of "Geass" in return for his services. Lelouch accepts her terms even though he does not know what she wants from him and he is given the power of "Geass." This formidable power allows him to control people. All he has to do is look at someone and he can control them.

The only limitation to Lelouch's Geass is that it will only work on a person once. After that, they cannot be affected by it ever again depending upon the order Lelouch gives.

For example: If Lelouch tells a woman to draw a smiley face on a brick wall every time she passes one then she will do just that for the rest of her life. But Lelouch could never tell her to stop drawing smiley faces because he had already used his power on her once.

This power finally gives Lelouch the opening he needs to bring down his father's empire. But he cannot do it alone or as himself. So he creates the identity of Zero and seeks to unite the Japanese terrorists in order to create an army strong enough to bring down Britannia as Zero.

But to the outside world Lelouch must remain a typical schoolboy caring for his crippled sister. No one must know his secret.

Lelouch is very much an antihero and some of his decisions are downright shocking. Some things I just couldn't believe and I didn't know whether I hated Lelouch or still liked him.

This is a very difficult show to watch at times because it has the tendency to get very bleak and depressing. Power does indeed corrupt and those who set out to change the world are often changed more than any changes wrought on the world. This is very true in Lelouch's case. To be Zero and use Geass, Lelouch is using evil to try and vanquish a stronger evil. Lelouch creates a world of lies and people die in the process. Even many that Lelouch cares about, but he can never be truthful about his existence. He takes the sin upon himself and moves forward. He began his journey for a peaceful world by shedding blood and he will continue to shed blood even if he has to destroy the world to re-create it again.

To quote Dave Mustaine: "Can you put a price on peace?"

Again, this show is very heavy. But it is a tremendous show and all fifty episodes will just fly by. Plus there are giant fighting robots called "Knightmares." How can you say no?

I command you to watch this show...

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises (2012) - A Review

This world needs heroes. In the wake of the events of Aurora, Colorado, I don't think there would be anyone who could argue that. But I think that the point of Christopher Nolan's Batman movies is very simple: heroes are inside of ourselves and it is up to each of us as individuals to let them loose. Inevitably, when chaos strikes and when bad men like that fuck who killed all of those people yesterday rear their ugly heads it is up to the everyday Joe Schmo to do what he can to protect those who cannot protect themselves. If that means giving it all then we give it all.

Though we may be hopelessly outmatched and outgunned, we've got to try and give it everything we've got.

Of course, that is all easier said than done. Being a hero sure isn't for pussies. But, then again, neither is life where we constantly have the promise of death staring at our faces. I don't think just living is what it takes to be a hero, but living certainly helps. Not too many zombie types are out there...

I rarely watch films on opening day, mostly because I've never had the money and because it is normally chaos.

But I went to the movies because these Batman movies were important to me. Not just the movies in terms of the characters, but what the movies meant and represented was important and it is a message that cannot ever be delivered enough.

I also went because I decided that I could deal with a crowded parking lot. Nothing like a tragedy to make us appreciate the everyday inconveniences of life... Sad to say.

The Dark Knight Rises is one of the best movies I have ever seen and it makes Nolan's Batman Trilogy into probably the most successful trilogy next the original Star Wars movies. But I think these movies are better because I think they have much more meaning.

Eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne is in a self-imposed exile and Batman is practically dead and gone. Commissioner Gordon is haunted much like Bruce by the events of the previous movie, the death of Harvey Dent and the cover-up of what he did. Of course, Bruce is also haunted by the death of Rachel.

These two tortured characters are the bare bones of the movie. It is a time of relative peace, but these two just cannot shake the past.

Then Bane enters the picture and the past comes back one more time.

I'm honestly not going to say much more about the movie. I don't want to spoil a shred of this movie.

Instead there are other matters...

Anyone with sense knows that Batman is not to blame for what happened in Aurora. Neither is the Joker. They are only symbols that are supposed to represent ourselves in the best of times and in the darkest of times. We can only blame the people who do bad things and curse ourselves that we could not do more.

These films are about rebuilding ourselves once we have been torn down. We have to get up again after every single blow, whether we are afraid or not.

Very much a post-9/11 sentiment and I applaud Chris Nolan for his vision. Don't let this movie suffer because of a crazy man's actions. This message is important and it is the very thing that people like that stand against.

Remember those that were lost and remember that it is okay to still try to enjoy yourself. Don't be afraid to watch this movie because of his actions.

I believe in the power of film to move audiences and inspire awe. This film will do that to you. Please see it. Honor those victims and see this movie.

P.S. - Anne Hathaway is not as terrible as I thought she would be.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Fate and Fortune: A Review of The Vision of Escaflowne (Tenkū no Esukafurōne)

I bought this series on DVD with the idea that I had seen it before or at least some of it. Well, apparently, I haven't. I couldn't remember anything more about this show than the name. And I think I only know the name from the movie that so divides the fans of the series. The title of this show is often just shortened to Escaflowne, but the credits say The Vision of Escaflowne so I posted the entire title to avoid any confusion.

This show is a neatly wrapped package of 26 episodes and the plot is pretty thick. It's hard to believe that FOX Kids once had the show on (in a heavily edited format, of course) because this show is very hard to understand. In most cases the key concepts in this show are fate and fortune. One of the many questions asked in the show is whether or not we can change our destiny just by wishing it to be changed. This is a particularly heady concept and it is not really prevalent until the later half of the series, but it is something to look out for. This show won't hesitate to get all philosophical on your ass. Especially toward the end.

But let's talk about the beginning and our key characters. The main character of the story is Hitomi Kazaki and she is just your typical school girl from Japan. She likes a certain boy in her class and the boy is moving away. Naturally, she is sad. It's only that when she goes to see him for the final time that things really get weird. A brilliant flash of light appears from the sky and a strange boy appears. This boy's name is Van Fanel and he just happens to be carrying a sword and warning everyone to get away because a dragon will soon be coming.

Now let's fast forward a bit.

Eventually, Hitomi is transported back to Van's world by seemingly mere happenstance and it is in the strange world of Gaea that the story truly begins. We are introduced to a world that is at war or at least on the cusp of it and violence seems to be erupting in Van's kingdom of Fanelia. The strange and evil Empire of Zaibach is on the attack and they want one thing called the dragon.

Well, the dragon happens to be a large robot (or "guymelef") named Escaflowne and it just happens to belong to Van. Hitomi finds herself constantly under attack because of her association with him, but she soon finds out that she may be the one more capable of destruction or salvation than any guymelef.

So this story really does have everything you could want. Dragons, robots, war, heavy concepts, and a love triangle or two.

There's virtually no nudity and little swearing so that may be a plus for some. But the show is fairly violent. There are quite a few battles between people piloting large robots and blood does get spilled.

But there isn't a single episode wasted. I would have loved to see a few more episodes, but I guess I'll just have to get the movie. And I said earlier that the movie really divides fans and that is for a good reason. Some movies can fit neatly inside of its series and others can't fit at all because of how little excess time there is in the series to make another adventure fit in, but the movie of Escaflowne is different because it takes on the whole "alternate dimension" thing. Characters are wholly changed and the plot is changed from anything resembling the series. It is kind of like the difference between Richard Bachman's The Regulators and Stephen King's Desperation.

I think I once saw the movie, but I can't really remember. Hell, I thought I saw the series before, but I guess not. But I'm glad I bought the series because I see some more repeated viewings on the horizon.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Elfen Lied (Erufen Rīto)

How can I put Elfen Lied into words? Well, I just can't. I recently purchased the entire series on Amazon based on a whim and a few mumblings I heard on the internet that basically reinforced my whim. Well, I can't possibly be more grateful that I purchased and watched this show. It's wonderful. It could be one of my top five favorite anime, but I'm not really sure because I really haven't tried ranking them. Maybe one day I'll do that in a list.

But onto the show... There are only 13 episodes and that just doesn't seem fair at first. What can 13 episodes really cover? Even great shows like Cowboy Bebop and Trigun could make 26 episodes, twice as long as Elfen Lied. So how can a show that is so short be so remarkable? Well, that just goes to show the restraint it takes in making a show like this. There's just enough time to tell the story, but it ends leaving the audience wanting more.

This show is simultaneously brutal and beautiful. The first ten minutes of the first show is ridiculously bloody that it feels like someone compressed all of Hostel into ten minutes and made it an anime. In the first minute a bare-naked girl wearing a steel mask is ripping soldiers limb from limb with an unseen weapon known as a "vector" and this continues on until true plot of the show is sort of introduced in the eleventh minute of the first show.

This show is not for kids and really not for most anime fans. It's pretty brutal as I hope I have conveyed. But if you can stomach blood than you are in for a real treat.

But there are moments of real beauty. The feeling of being the outcast and the cruelty that some people are capable of making are portrayed perfectly in this show. The relationships that people have between each other and just how strong and fragile they can be is the meat of this show. There is blood and gallons of it, but the blood largely be overlooked if the steak is good enough.

The show tackles heavy issues like prejudices, child abuse (specifically the rape of a child), and genocide. There is also a lot of female nudity and strong language. Again, not stuff for kids.

But the show also balances these things out with bits of comedic relief and just plain cuteness.

If I may borrow a quote from the Anime News Network, this show mixes "insane amounts of violence with a heavy dose of ultra-cuteness." That is Elfen Lied.

And I should add that the theme song is one of the most beautiful theme songs ever...

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Quite Possibly My Favorite Music Video Ever...

This is a fan-made video that contains just about everything I love in one neat bundle: zombies, clowns, and Wednesday 13 music. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

R.I.P. Andy Griffith (June 1, 1926- July 3, 2012)

What truly sad news this is for me to post about. I love The Andy Griffith Show and A Face in the Crowd is one of my favorite movies of all time. No, the movie didn't make my top 15, but it's in my top 25 or top 30. 

Goodbye, Sheriff. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Wednesday 13 from Worst to First

Wednesday 13 has quickly become both one of my favorite bands and one of my favorite singers. Wednesday 13's real name is Joseph Poole and he has sung for many bands including Murderdolls (formed with Slipknot's Joey Jordison), Frankenstein Drag Queens from Planet 13, Gunfire 76, Bourbon Crow, and his self-named solo band Wednesday 13. I really dig all of his projects, but I think his solo work is the best. His solo work has a very campy horror rock feel a la The Misfits or Rob Zombie and the rocking feel of AC/DC. I would describe his voice as sort of Marilyn Manson-ish, too.

Anyway, I decided to rank his solo work. Wednesday 13 has released four studio albums, one live album, and a few EP's. As always I will not include EP's or live albums. So this will be a really short list. 

4. Fang Bang (2006) - Sometimes I think that these lists I make are really unfair because one inevitably has to come in last. Each song on here is very good and I do love Kill You Before You Kill Me, but I just don't like this album as well as the others. 

Morgue Than Words 2:37
American Werewolves in London 4:20
My Home Sweet Homicide 3:02
Faith in the Devil 3:30
Happily Ever Cadaver 3:33
Curse of Me 4:02
Haddonfield 2:59
Too Much Blood 2:43
Till Death Do Us Party 3:34
Buried with Children 3:42
Kill You Before You Kill Me 2:33
Die Sci-Fi 3:36

Line-up: Wednesday 13, Jamie Hoover, Kid Kid, Ghastly

3. Transylvania 90210: Songs of Death, Dying, and the Dead (2005) - The debut album of Wednesday 13 is another solid album. There no real lulls on here and all of the songs kick butt. But I think that there aren't as many great songs on here as there are on the other 13 albums I ranked below. 

Post Mortem Boredom 0:57
Look What the Bats Dragged in 2:32
I Walked with a Zombie 3:43
Bad Things 3:37
House by the Cemetery 3:20
God is a Lie 3:37
Haunt Me 4:35
Transylvania 90210 3:54
I Want You...Dead 4:08
Buried by Christmas 3:08
Elect Death for President 4:23
Rot for Me 4:03
The Ghost of Vincent Price 5:08
A Bullet Named Christ 4:00
Thank You Satan (Japanese Bonus Track) 3:56

Line-up: Wednesday 13, Ghastly, Piggy D, Kid Kid, Ziad

2. Skeletons (2008) - I believe this is possibly 13's darkest and heaviest solo album. Perhaps this album could have fit easily into the Murderdolls canon. The point is arguable I suppose, but the album is still very killer despite the lack of campiness. No Rabbit in the Hat and Gimmie Gimmie Bloodshed are songs all-out rockers that make you want to kick ass. My Demise and Skeletons are melancholic and dreary in tone and would be great funeral songs. Well, I guess it depends on how much you want to depress your loved ones. 

Scream Baby Scream 4:01
Not Another Teenage Anthem 3:54
Gimmie Gimmie Bloodshed 2:23
From Here to the Hearse 3:45
Put Your Death Mask on 3:54
Skeletons 4:53
My Demise 4:10
With Friends Like These 3:04
No Rabbit in the Hat 3:14
All American Massacre 3:11
Dead Carolina 3:52

Line-up: Wednesday 13, Nate Manor, Racci Shay, Jamie Hoover

1. Calling All Corpses (2011) - I don't typically rank new albums very high, but this one is excellent. I think I listened to every single song at least four times while writing my Trigun story. Of course, I really listened to nothing but Wednesday 13 while writing that story so I'm not sure how much that is supposed to mean. Anyway, I think it was probably one of the best albums to come out of 2011. Just fantastic. It's tough to choose a favorite song but I think I would choose Silver Bullets

Blood Fades To Black (Intro) 1:12
I Wanna Be Cremated 4:05
Ghoul Of My Dreams 3:32
One Knife Stand 3:31
Calling All Corpses 2:32
Miss Morgue 3:39
Silver Bullets 4:20
Bad At Being Human 4:28
London After Midnight 3:53
Candle For The Devil 4:26
We All Die 3:31
Something Wicked This Way Comes 4:19
Blood Fades To Black (Reprise) (Outro) 1:00

Line-up: Wednesday 13, Roman Surman, Jack Tankersley, Jason "Shakes" West, Brent Clawson