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.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Once Upon a Time in High School: The Spirit of Jeet Kune Do

I've only ever watched one Bruce Lee movie and that was The Way of the Dragon. You would think that a guy like me would be a bit more well-versed on Bruce Lee's movies, but I am not. Oddly enough, the list of martial arts films I've seen is very short. 

I'm not sure if this film counts as one, either. This movie certainly does not feature Bruce Lee since it was made in 2004, but it does channel a little bit of that Bruce Lee ethos.

That being said, this movie isn't one you watch because you want to see a lot of fight scenes. There are certainly fight scenes, but this is scarcely an action film. If anything, this film is more in the vein of The Karate Kid then it is The Way of the Dragon, although that description isn't entirely accurate, either. 

This film takes place in 1978 is Seoul, South Korea, and follows a quiet main character as he struggles to survive the tough high school teachers and the bullies that the teachers seem to encourage. Not a single American student alive today could have been able to survive that. At least that's what many of the school shootings that have been all the rage for two decades seem to suggest. 

Most folks would have lost it like Gomer in Full Metal Jacket... and to an extent that seems almost understandable. Korean teachers in the 70's were brutal fucks. Pure and simple. It just wasn't right. And the bullies were even worse. Of course, people being dickheads isn't solved by homicide since basically everyone alive is part-dickhead. 

Hyun-soo, our quiet hero of this film, bends only so far to the injustices of the school grounds until things just go too far. Then Hyun-soo teaches himself to fight back using the teachings of Bruce Lee. 

Kwon Sang-woo portrays Hyun-soo and you might just recognize him from his role in More Than Blue. You certainly wouldn't think it from that movie and even most of The Spirit of Jeet Kune Do, but Kwon-Sang-woo can kick some serious ass. Bruce Lee would have been proud. 

This being a Korean film (as well as one of those universal coming-of-age stories), there's certainly a bit of romance blossoming, too. However, the romance isn't the corny feelgood type that plagues a lot of romances these days. It's not too dramatic, either. Instead the romance is handled with a touch of realism, much like the rest of the movie. 

I enjoyed this movie a lot and it really does have something for everybody. You could do a lot worse than to watch it. 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Black Bullet (Burakku Buretto)

Black Bullet was undoubtedly one of the more hyped series of the Spring 2014 season. I'm pretty sure that a lot of it had to with Satomi Rentaro's voice actor, Kaji Yuki. No, that's far from the only reason for Black Bullet's hype but having Yuki star in the project less than a year after his icon-achieving role as Eren Yeager in Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan) was certainly going to raise some awareness levels for this particular anime.

Fair or not, comparisons were going to be made between the two anime even though they really do not have anything to do with each other outside of sharing a voice actor and a few of your basic apocalyptic tropes.  

Thankfully, Yuki's character isn't the high-strung blood-thirsty kid with an inferiority complex that is Eren Yeager. Rentaro actually has a sense of humor and doesn't take himself quite as seriously. 

Revenge does play a key part in Rentaro's mindset, though. This revenge is aimed at the enemies in Black Bullet, large bug-like creatures called Gastrea. In some ways they reminded me of poorly animated CGI-counterparts of the bugs in Starship Troopers. If I had any major complaint about this series is that the Gastrea just don't look very menacing. Of course, neither do most of the titans in Attack on Titan, but the creatures in Black Bullet look especially dull. 

What greatly helps Black Bullet overcome this design flaw is the fact that this anime doesn't take itself too seriously. When "Lolis are the last hope for the earth" is the primary plot point it can afford to goof off a little bit. 

However, Black Bullet isn't an entirely safe anime, either. Yes, there's plenty of moe and shounen-style action, but there's also a darker edge to this series. 

Most of the fighting characters in this anime are children (all of the children are girls, actually) and it's the children that have to do most of the fighting because they are descendants of women who were infected by the Gastrea virus. These children were bestowed unique powers (and some trademark glowing red eyes to boot), but with those powers came the scorn of the regular people. You know, everyday dickheads just like you and me. Many of the children (often called Cursed Children) are treated like dogs, but those that are special enough and powerful enough to fight against the Gastrea are enlisted by the government and the Civil Security Corporation to do so. 

Once these children become warriors they are known as Initiators while the humans that watch over them (or in many cases use them and abuse them) are known as Promoters. 

Satomi Rentaro is one of the few Promoters that treats his Initiator like a human being, even going so far as to make sure she still goes to school. 

Many Initiators are not so lucky, though. Not only are they shunned or beaten, but many of them meet unfortunate ends at the hands of the very same civilians they are supposed to be protecting. At one point in the anime one of the Cursed Children is shot repeatedly by some policemen and almost killed. Police brutality much?

So yes, there's plenty of violence and even a message about discrimination to go along with the moe and lolis. 

But that doesn't necessarily make this story a must-watch, either. 

This anime has quite a few things going for it that I love, but it does feel rushed. Notice I didn't say "suspenseful." The anime is very suspenseful and it moves very fast, but the problem is that it moves too fast at times. The direction is a bit uneven because characters are killed off so quickly after they are introduced that it just deadens the impact a bit. Had these characters been given a bit more time to actually live a little then the payoff would have been that much better when those characters bit the dust. 

Still, I can say that I really do like the series. It's not quite what I was hoping it would be, but I don't think it is bad enough to be considered a disappointment, either. 

A lot of people don't like it when too many elements are added to a story, but I like a good bit of diversity (assuming the writers are up to snuff when it comes to juggling the elements). Black Bullet, more often than not, succeeds rather than fails. I mean, this stuff is a masterpiece compared to a Michael Bay film. 

This story just needed a bit more room to breathe and a bit more time dedicated to the masked man, Kagetane Hiroko. Although he's gleefully corny and insanely overplayed (purposely so, I should add), Hiroko adds a lot more to the series than I first thought he would. Obviously, he'll remind people of the Joker and the character doesn't do much to dissuade the comparison, but I don't think anyone will find fault in that. Hiroko, while undoubtedly a villain based on his motivations, is a fun character and one you want to see more of with each passing episode. 

During the middle of the series he is largely absent and I didn't notice just how much of a presence the character had until he was supposedly "killed off." Of course, I figured he'd turn up later and I was right. 

This anime has one more episode left and I don't think it will be the last one, either. While not as insanely popular as Attack on Titan, I imagine it will get some sort of second season or perhaps even a more fleshed out reboot in the future. We'll probably even get a second season of this before we get one of Attack on Titan

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Shutter Island

At the behest of my good friend and fellow Stephen Message Board member Joe, I went out and got Shutter Island so I could finally give it a good watch.

I think I have made it abundantly clear that I am a big fan of Martin Scorsese to a lot of folks.  If I haven't then I'd like to re-state that I am a huge fan of Martin Scorsese and it's thanks to Martin Scorsese that Leonardo DiCaprio is a part of my go-to list of actors when it comes to movies. 

The two of them have combined for some great movies and Shutter Island ranks right up there with the best of them. And, no, I wasn't confused a bit by this movie. I was intrigued, but never confused. That space in my skull where my gray matter resides is anything but vacuous (although you could argue that the same isn't true of certain characters in this movie). In fact, you could say that this movie and I were a perfect match. *wink, wink*

While I wouldn't consider this my favorite Scorsese film of all time (I'd have to think on that one now although on this older list I placed The Departed as being my favorite), I do believe that Scorsese managed to showcase enough of that magic to once again confirm for me just why Scorsese is one of my go-to directors. 

Martin Scorsese is certainly known for his gangster films, but that doesn't make him a one-trick pony. Not only has he taken the dive into the music world with films like New York, New York, The Last Waltz, and Shine A Light, but he has also held his own with borderline horror films like his remake of Cape Fear (remember that one?) and this new-ish unsettling movie Shutter Island

Not for the first time in a Scorsese movie I saw shades of Hitchcock, but Shutter Island tries very hard to not be an obvious one-note movie. At times I wondered if it was trying too hard, but it typically held just the right amount of swagger to please both the older crowd and the slightly-less-older crowd, I think. I don't think a lot of people my age will be won over by this movie because it doesn't have a catchy song like Frozen does, though. It doesn't feature a superhero, either. Sorry, that was a bit, mean-spirited, wasn't it?

Shutter Island is a movie fan's movie and I certainly appreciated it. It makes me want to watch older movies of the film noir type that inspired it. The ones I haven't managed to see yet. 

Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Kingsley, and Mark von Sydow were excellent in this movie. Especially Leo since this movie's success relies solely on his ability to sell his character, but it's always nice to see Max von Sydow in a movie worthy of his talent, too. Mark Ruffalo, on the other hand, seemed kind of vanilla to me although Mark Ruffalo's role itself was designed to be vanilla. So by that logic you could say that Ruffalo was the perfect man for the job. 

Scorsese still has it and I think he always will. The man knows what works for him and even when he does something risky like Shutter Island or The Wolf of Wall Street, he always manages to find some sort of success with what he does. At least as far as I'm concerned, anyway. 

Dragon Ball Vol. 2: Wish Upon a Dragon by Toriyama Akira

When we last left off, Muten Roshi was being summoned to the Gyu-Mao's castle in order to put out the large fire that has been consuming Fry-pan Mountain for ages. Or something like that. Generally, these stories sound cooler when you say "for ages."

Actually, Muten Roshi was actually being called upon by Son Goku and the Gyu-Mao so that they could use his Basho-sen to put out the fire. However, the Basho-sen had been thrown away because the great Kame-sen'nin accidentally spilled Wonton Soup on it while using it as a potholder. I understand because I often do the same with my mystical powered fans. Nobody's perfect.

The second volume of the ever-popular and classic Dragon Ball manga introduces us to the much loved Kamehameha technique that I'm sure many people have tried to perform while cosplaying. It is the technique that Muten Roshi uses to put out the fire on Fry-pan Mountain... as well as to accidentally destroy Fry-pan Mountain in the process. 

Didn't I say nobody was perfect?

In this volume we also meet Emperor Pilaf and the famed eternal dragon Shenlong for the first time. Unlike in the anime, Emperor Pilaf isn't featured nearly as heavily. I never thought he was that much of an interesting villain to begin with, but I thought it was funny how he was quick to break fourth walls and mention Toriyama's previous manga Dr. Slump

Shenlong himself isn't much of a character, but he was always meant to be more of an intimidating and mystical image than an actual character anyway. 

Perhaps the most important thing in this volume is Son Goku's transformation into the Oozaru form. While you don't know why he transforms into a Giant Ape-like form when it's a full moon night, it's no stretch of the imagination that it's an obvious allusion to Journey to the West.

Of course, Toriyama would include his own interesting take on the reasons for Goku's transformation later on in the series.

This volume ends with Yamcha and Bulma becoming a couple and Son Goku seeking out Muten Roshi one more time so that he can train under him.

Monday, June 23, 2014

My Movie Collection

I don't just stream films. Some folks may not believe me when I say this, but I own a lot of films and it's quite a diverse collection. That's not my opinion, really; it's a fact. I have all kinds of movies. I am not posting this to brag about how many movies I have or to compare collections, but merely to serve as an indicator of what I really watch. But if you want to compare sizes, I will say that my movie collection is much larger than the average person's movie collection because mine is an actual COLLECTION and I love collecting things.

I sometimes take some heat from peers for liking movies that are "old," but if there's one thing that I've learned is that age don't mean jack when it comes to entertainment. There are movies I watch that are older than my father and I like them as much as I do Marvel's superhero flicks.

I have so many movies that I sometimes forget which movies I really have and I'm hoping this list (one which will be changed from time to time, I'm sure) will help me keep everything straight. I really don't want to accidentally buy the same movie twice. I know I don't have to publish this list and I'm pretty sure most people don't care, but hey, I actually spent some time gathering this list. I might as well get some pageviews from it or something. 

The blu-rays:

  1. 2001: A Space Odyssey
  2. A Clockwork Orange
  3. The Admiral: Roaring Currents
  4. A Fish Called Wanda
  5. Akira
  6. A League of Their Own
  7. Alien
  8. Aliens
  9. Alien 3
  10. Alien Resurrection
  11. American Beauty
  12. American Hustle
  13. American Psycho
  14. The Avengers
  15. Bad Lieutenant
  16. Barry Lyndon
  17. Batman
  18. Batman Returns
  19. Batman Begins
  20. The Dark Knight
  21. The Dark Knight Rises
  22. Dragonball Z - Battle of Gods
  23. Battle of the Bulge
  24. Being There
  25. Big Trouble in Little China
  26. Birdman (Or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  27. Black Hawk Down
  28. Blade Runner
  29. Body Heat
  30. The Boys From Brazil
  31. Braveheart
  32. Chinatown
  33. Colorful: The Motion Picture
  34. The Conversation
  35. Cool Hand Luke
  36. The Crow
  37. Dead Alive
  38. Deadgirl
  39. Death Proof
  40. Die Hard
  41. Die Hard 2: Die Harder
  42. Die Hard With a Vengeance
  43. The Dirty Dozen
  44. The Dirty Dozen 2: The Next Mission
  45. Dirty Harry
  46. Magnum Force
  47. The Enforcer
  48. Sudden Impact
  49. The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya
  50. Django Unchained
  51. Dr. Strangelove Or: I How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
  52. Edge of Darkness
  53. Escape Plan
  54. Every Which Way But Loose
  55. Any Which Way You Can
  56. The Evil Dead (original)
  57. Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn
  58. Army of Darkness
  59. Fight Club
  60. Firefox
  61. The Fly (Jeff Goldblum version)
  62. Forbidden Planet
  63. From Beyond
  64. From Dusk Till Dawn
  65. From Up On Poppy Hill
  66. Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos
  67. Full Metal Jacket
  68. Fury
  69. Get Carter (original)
  70. Get the Gringo
  71. The Godfather 
  72. The Godfather Part II
  73. The Godfather Part III
  74. Goodfellas
  75. Good Morning Vietnam
  76. Grave of the Fireflies
  77. The Great Gatsby
  78. The Green Mile
  79. Guardians of the Galaxy
  80. Halloween (original)
  81. Halloween II (original)
  82. Harry Brown
  83. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
  84. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  85. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  86. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  87. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  88. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  89. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1
  90. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2
  91. Heat
  92. Heartbreak Ridge
  93. House of 1000 Corpses
  94. Howl's Moving Castle
  95. The Hustler
  96. The Illusionist
  97. The Incredible Hulk
  98. Inception
  99. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark
  100. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
  101. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
  102. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
  103. Insomnia
  104. Interstellar
  105. Iron Man 3
  106. J. Edgar
  107. The Jerk
  108. Kelly's Heroes
  109. Kill Bill Vol. 1
  110. Kill Bill Vol. 2
  111. The King's Speech
  112. LA Confidential
  113. Logans Run
  114. Lolita
  115. The Longest Day
  116. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
  117. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  118. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
  119. The Lords of Salem
  120. Mad Max
  121. Man of Steel
  122. M*A*S*H
  123. The Matrix
  124. The Matrix Reloaded
  125. The Matrix Revolutions
  126. Memento
  127. Men in Black 3
  128. Mobile Suit Gundam 00: A Wakening of the Trailblazer
  129. The Natural
  130. Network
  131. Once Upon a Time in America
  132. One-Eyed Jacks
  133. One Hour Photo
  134. Pacific Rim
  135. Paprika
  136. Paths of Glory
  137. Payback
  138. Planet Terror
  139. The Player
  140. The Prestige
  141. The Public Enemy
  142. Raging Bull
  143. Re-Animator
  144. Redline
  145. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  146. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
  147. Robin Hood: Men in Tights
  148. Rounders
  149. Scarface (Pacino version)
  150. Scream
  151. Scream 2 
  152. Scream 3
  153. Se7en
  154. The Shawshank Redemption
  155. Stanley Kubrick's The Shining
  156. Shutter Island
  157. Sin City
  158. Snowpiercer
  159. Some Guy Who Kills People
  160. Spaceballs
  161. Spartacus
  162. Spirited Away
  163. Star Trek
  164. Star Trek Into Darkness
  165. The Sting
  166. Superbad
  167. Terminator 2: Judgement Day
  168. Thor
  169. Tightrope
  170. True Romance
  171. Twelve O'Clock High
  172. 28 Days Later
  173. The Usual Suspects
  174. V for Vendetta
  175. Viva Zapata!
  176. Where Eagles Dare
  177. White Heat
  178. Whiplash
  179. The Wind Rises
  180. The Wolf of Wall Street
  181. The Wolverine
  182. X-Men: First Class
  183. Young Frankenstein
  184. Zombieland
The DVDs:

  1. Absolute Power
  2. A Few Good Men
  3. American History X
  4. American Gangster
  5. Airplane!
  6. The Alamo
  7. Analyze This
  8. ...And Justice For All
  9. A Nightmare on Elm Street
  10. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge
  11. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
  12. A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master
  13. A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child
  14. Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare
  15. Wes Craven's New Nightmare
  16. Freddy Vs. Jason
  17. As Good As It Gets
  18. The Aviator
  19. The Bad News Bears (original)
  20. Beavis and Butthead Do America
  21. The Beguiled
  22. Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston version)
  23. Beverly Hills Cop
  24. Beverly Hills Cop II
  25. Beverly Hills Cop III
  26. The Big Lebowski
  27. Billy Madison
  28. The Black Hole
  29. Blades of Glory
  30. Blazing Saddles
  31. Bleach: The Movie 3 - Fade to Black
  32. Blow Out
  33. The Bone Collector
  34. The Boondock Saints
  35. The Boneyard
  36. The Brave One
  37. Carlito's Way
  38. Carlito's Way: Rise to Power
  39. Carrie (original)
  40. Casino
  41. Casino Royale (Daniel Craig version)
  42. Cast Away
  43. The Chronicles of Riddick: Pitch Black
  44. The Chronicles of Riddick
  45. Click
  46. Clue
  47. Coogan's Bluff
  48. Cowboy Bebop: The Movie
  49. Creepshow
  50. Dances With Wolves
  51. The Dark Half
  52. Das Boot
  53. The Da Vinci Code
  54. Dazed and Confused
  55. The Deer Hunter
  56. Deliverance
  57. The Departed
  58. Devil's Advocate
  59. The Devil's Rejects
  60. Dillinger
  61. Dr. No
  62. Dog Day Afternoon
  63. Dracula: Dead and Loving It
  64. Dragonball Z - The Dead Zone
  65. Dragonball Z - World's Strongest
  66. Dragonball Z - The Tree of Might
  67. Dragonball Z - Lord Slug
  68. Dragonball Z - Cooler's Revenge
  69. Dragonball Z - Broly: The Legendary Super Saiyan
  70. Dragonball Z - Broly: Second Coming
  71. Dragonball Z - Bio-Broly
  72. Dragonball Z - Wrath of the Dragon
  73. Dreamcatcher
  74. The Eiger Sanction
  75. Evil Dead (remake)
  76. The Exorcism of Emily Rose
  77. The Exorcist
  78. Exorcist: The Beginning
  79. Falling Down
  80. Fatal Attraction
  81. The Firm
  82. First Blood Part II: Rambo
  83. A Fistful of Dollars
  84. For a Few Dollars More
  85. The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly
  86. 1408
  87. Fletch
  88. The Formula
  89. The French Connection
  90. The Freshman
  91. Friday the 13th
  92. Friday the 13 Part II
  93. Friday the 13th Part III
  94. Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter
  95. Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning
  96. Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives
  97. Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood
  98. Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan
  99. Jason Goes to Hell
  100. Jason X
  101. The Funhouse
  102. Funny Farm
  103. Gangs of New York
  104. The Gauntlet
  105. Gettysburg
  106. Gods & Generals
  107. Gojira/Godzilla: King of Monsters (original)
  108. Good Will Hunting
  109. The Great Outdoors
  110. Halloween III: Season of the Witch
  111. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers
  112. Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers
  113. Halloween (remake)
  114. Halloween II (remake)
  115. Hanky Panky
  116. Harper
  117. Heaven Can Wait
  118. Hellraiser
  119. The High and the Mighty
  120. The Hill Have Eyes
  121. The Hills Have Eyes (remake)
  122. History of the World Part I
  123. Hostel
  124. Hostel Part II
  125. I Spit on Your Grave (original)
  126. Independence Day
  127. Inglourious Basterds
  128. Island in the Sky
  129. IT
  130. The Italian Job (remake)
  131. Jackie Brown
  132. Jackass: The Movie
  133. Jeepers Creepers
  134. Jeepers Creepers 2
  135. Julius Caesar (Marlon Brando version)
  136. Killer Klown from Outer Space
  137. Kingdom of Heaven
  138. King Kong (2005)
  139. King of New York
  140. The Last House on the Left (original)
  141. The Last Samurai
  142. Letters from Iwo Jima
  143. Licence to Kill
  144. The Longest Yard (original)
  145. Love at First Bite
  146. MacArthur
  147. Machete
  148. The Machinist
  149. The Magnificent Seven
  150. The Man with the Golden Gun
  151. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
  152. Maximum Overdrive
  153. "McLintock!"
  154. Million Dollar Baby
  155. Misery
  156. Mission Impossible III
  157. Missing in Action
  158. Missing in Action II: The Beginning
  159. Missing in Action III: Braddock
  160. The Mist
  161. Mixed Nuts
  162. Monty Python's And Now For Something Completely Different
  163. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  164. Monty Python's Life of Brian
  165. Monty Python's The Meaning of Life
  166. Mutiny on the Bounty (Marlon Brando version)
  167. My Cousin Vinny
  168. Mystery Men
  169. Mystic River
  170. The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad
  171. The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear
  172. The Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult
  173. The Night Flier
  174. Night of the Living Dead (original)
  175. Ocean's Eleven (remake)
  176. Ocean's Twelve
  177. Octopussy
  178. The Omen (original)
  179. Once Upon a Time in the West
  180. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
  181. Open Range
  182. Pale Rider
  183. The Passion of the Christ
  184. Patch Adams
  185. Patriot Games
  186. Patton
  187. Pay It Forward
  188. The Pink Panther (original)
  189. A Shot in the Dark
  190. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
  191. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
  192. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
  193. Pet Sematary
  194. Phantasm II
  195. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
  196. Play Misty for Me
  197. Point of No Return
  198. Primal Fear
  199. Prince of Darkness
  200. Prom Night (original)
  201. Pulp Fiction
  202. The Punisher
  203. Puppet Master
  204. Puppet Master 2
  205. Puppet Master 3: Toulon's Revenge
  206. The Quantum of Solace
  207. Raw Deal
  208. Rebel Without a Cause
  209. Red Heat
  210. Reflections in a Golden Eye
  211. Reservoir Dogs
  212. The Right Stuff
  213. The Rite
  214. The Robe
  215. Rocky
  216. Rocky II
  217. Rocky III
  218. The Rocky Horror Picture Show
  219. Ronin
  220. Rosemary's Baby
  221. The Rundown
  222. The Running Man
  223. Saving Private Ryan
  224. Saw
  225. Saw II
  226. Saw III
  227. Scarface (original)
  228. Scent of a Woman
  229. Schindler's List
  230. The Score
  231. Scrooged
  232. Scrubs [Season 1]
  233. Scrubs [Season 2]
  234. Sea of Love
  235. The Serpent and the Rainbow
  236. The Seventh Sign
  237. Shoot 'Em Up
  238. The Silence of the Lambs
  239. Hannibal
  240. Silver Bullet
  241. The Simpsons Movie
  242. The Six Degrees of Helter Skelter
  243. Sleepwalkers
  244. South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut
  245. The Spirit
  246. Sssssss!
  247. Stand By Me
  248. Stripes
  249. The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (original)
  250. The Teahouse of August Moon
  251. Ted
  252. The Ted Bundy Story
  253. The Ten Commandments
  254. The Terminator
  255. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (original)
  256. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
  257. This is Spinal Tap
  258. There Will Be Blood
  259. The Thing (John Carpenter)
  260. 3:10 to Yuma (remake)
  261. Thunderball
  262. The Tommyknockers
  263. Total Recall (original)
  264. Transformers: The Movie (animated feature)
  265. The Transporter
  266. Transporter 2
  267. Trick 'r Treat
  268. Trigun: Badlands Rumble
  269. 12 Angry Men (original)
  270. Unforgiven
  271. The Untouchables
  272. Up in Smoke
  273. Village of the Damned (remake)
  274. Wall Street
  275. What Dreams May Come
  276. Wholly Moses!
  277. The Wild Bunch
  278. The World is Not Enough
  279. The World's Greatest Lover
  280. X-Men Origins: Wolverine
  281. Yellowbeard

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Love Hina (Rabu Hina)

For many, Love Hina is an anime that probably brings up quite a bit of nostalgia. Given that it is fourteen years old at this point, I'd say I would be well within the range of someone who would have appreciated this anime when it came out and be able to look back fondly on it.
However, I never watched Love Hina until very recently. This anime wasn't a nostalgic trip to me like it would undoubtedly have been to quite a few others. If anything, the only bit of nostalgia I felt was for the time period during which this anime was being made. In 2000 I was just discovering anime, albeit in an edited and Americanized way and it was a great way to start. 

My first harem anime was Tenchi Universe and rightly or wrongly that's the standard by which I judge all other harem anime. Love Hina is no Tenchi Universe. Of course, that's not to say the anime is bad, but it really isn't one of the great ones even as far as harems are concerned. 

It's quite popular enough and I can't say I didn't like it, but I think I've just about had my fill of the fanservice-filled harems that don't really play up the story enough. In fact, the story was nonexistent through much of the series and the romantic element was never really committed to until the final few episodes. 

Basically, this anime is all fluff. If you are nostalgic for it then the chances are that you still love it as much as you used to because this anime really is a product of its time. But there's only so many times I can watch overly violent female characters, dense male characters getting abused by said female characters, and forgotten childhood friends

However, the one redeeming factor this anime has is the fanservice. I think too much fanservice can make good anime weaker (or better, really... depending on what type of anime we're talking about), but too much can also make middling anime better, too. The episodes sometimes feel a bit too drawn out (pardon the pun) and the story kinda sucks, but there's plenty of hot spring scenes and women in very little clothing. 

So, hey, it all works out. It gets tedious after a while, but you've got boobies and pantyshots to keep you company. 

I wouldn't have minded a better story, though. Not even boobies can hold my attention for 25 episodes. A little bit of brain stimulation never hurt anybody. However, I love the way the anime ended. You never do find out who the childhood friend Keitaro made his promise to and that is the closest this story actually came to being good. 

I imagine the manga is probably better than the anime, but I don't really think I care enough to go down that route. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Running Turtle

I'm not quite sure where the title comes from or exactly how it pertains to the film, but Running Turtle is a flick worthy of the attention of fans of Korean films. No, it isn't quite in the same league as OldBoy or I Saw the Devil, but Running Turtle is a film that can stand on its own two feet. The story is a fairly familiar one, though: A married (and very much suspended) cop who gambles too much decides to steal his wife's savings in order to bet on a bull fight. He chooses the underdog and miraculously wins, but his earnings are stolen by an escaped fugitive known for his fighting prowess. From there it's a cat-and-mouse game until the final badass fight between the two main characters. Of course, even if he can somehow defeat the legendary Song Gi-tae (Jong Kyung-ho), is there anywhere he'll be able to patch things up with his wife and daughter? Or with the police force that suspended him?

I wouldn't exactly call this movie a suspense-fest because it takes a bit to build up and sometimes it relies a little too much on some forced humor, but the real strength of this film is veteran actor Kim Yoon-seok and how he makes you want to root for his quite flawed character. You might recognize his name from the films Chaser and The Yellow Sea, both of which I enjoyed mightily and reviewed on this blog, but if you don't recognize his name then here's your chance to get acquainted. 

This film was directed by Lee Yeon-woo, a man who has only directed three films in the past twelve years, with Running Turtle being his sophomore effort. I believe he also co-wrote the script, too. 

I found it hard to believe this was only someone's second movie, but I think that the good filmmakers are just naturally gifted that way. Again, that's not to say that this is one of the greatest Korean films I've ever seen, but it's a solid movie and worth a watch if you are a fan of chase movies with a bit of comedic relief or Korean films. I'd certainly be willing to watch it again, if only to see if it flows better after a second viewing. 

Watch the movie and maybe you'll enjoy it a little bit. That's my advice.

Fight Club

It's probably one of the corniest lines you could say today, but "The first rule of Fight Club is: You don't talk about Fight Club" has to be one of the greatest movie quotes around. Of course, purists will acknowledge it as coming from the novel by Chuck Palahniuk originally, but let's not get nit-picky. Fight Club is one of those movies that people who like movies just know about and if you a familiar with the novel it's probably because you saw the movie first.

With the exception of a few films like Inglourious Basterds and Se7en, I've never really been a Brad Pitt fan. I suppose this where public opinion of him has actually affected my view of him more than anything else. While I know he's a good actor from some of his movies, he has always seemed like one of those actors like George Clooney that come across as being more tabloid image than actual substance. I once thought Leonardo DiCaprio was pretty much the same way, too. 

I suppose I really should change my views a bit about Brad Pitt although I think I'll wait just a bit longer and watch a few more of his movies before I really add him to my list of go-to actors. However, the performance he gave in Fight Club is stunning. 

Edward Norton, on the other hand, has been on my list of go-to actors ever since I first saw American History X and Primal Fear back when I was a sophomore in high school. Norton, like his more famous co-star, delivers a fantastic performance. Norton and Pitt are great foils for each other and their chemistry is really what makes the movie work. 

However, I'd almost argue that its Meat Loaf's role in the film that has to make this film a must-see. I know that's a bit of mean snark on my part, but an overly-sensitive Meat Loaf with man-boobs trying to strangle Edward Norton in an overbearing man-hug... Well, that's just funny as hell. 

In fact, Fight Club as a whole is a very funny movie. Just not necessarily the "haha" kind of funny movie. Its humor is much the same type of dark and satirical pessimism that colors A Clockwork Orange and, to a greater extent, American Psycho

This movie isn't about fights at all. Yeah, there are fights, but the fights serve as a bizarre catharsis rather than the smash-and-bash brutality you'd find in Jason Statham flicks. The fights in this film are often ugly and borderline homoerotic, especially the one where Tyler is being beaten by the mafioso-like character.

The flick is more about the main character (Norton) and his struggle to adjust in a world where his possessions and unsatisfying job seem to define him. He goes out to meetings for survivors of testicular cancer, brain cancer, and just about any other type of disease just so he can feel a type of emotional release. 

But once a woman named Marla (Helena Bonham Carter), also a person who doesn't suffer from any of the ailments these meetings are designed to address, joins these meetings for essentially the same reasons as the main character, the main character no longer seems to be able to find satisfaction from these meetings. I suppose he has a one hypochondriac per meeting limit or something like that. 

That's, more or less, when Tyler Durden (Pitt) enters the picture and our main character gets introduced to the world of underground fighting and eventually something else more sinister. 

This film is renowned for its famous ending, so much so that you might even know how it ends before you even see it. Much like The Usual Suspects, Se7en, or The Sixth Sense, this movie's ending is so famous that you'll probably know what it is. Or you might be able to just do what I did and kind of guess the ending. I think I guessed it when I saw the similar briefcases. 

Still, this is a fantastic movie. Knowing the ending or even what the message is doesn't rob the movie of its power. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Mobile Fighter G Gundam (Kidō Butōden Jī Gandamu) Part II

I didn't really do a lot of reviewing or deep analysis in "Part I" of my entries relating to Mobile Fighter G Gundam. That wasn't because I was trying to sound lazy or anything like that; I was just enjoying watching the series and since I was only halfway through the series I didn't feel like spoiling things too much for myself. It had been so long since I had last watched the series that I couldn't remember how it ended or even if I had actually watched all of it before. So I wanted to keep myself as ignorant as possible of the events up ahead.

It turns out that I had actually finished the series about twelve years ago because I remembered bits and pieces as I made my way through each episode, but the further I advanced through the series the more it felt like I was watching it for the first time even though I really wasn't. I always think that's kind of a blessing when that happens because you don't have to worry about how "something will hold up." Maybe if I had watched this series for the first time only six years ago instead of twelve my reception to this series wouldn't have been as warm this time around.

Time is funny that way, I guess. So is maturation. I think in a lot of ways I was more mature when I was twelve then I was when I was sixteen. 

Anyway, let's start dishing out what makes this series really tick. 

Mobile Fighter G Gundam consists of 49 23 minute episodes separated into two fairly distinct seasons. The first season depicts are hero Domon Kasshu as a man on a mission to find his brother Kyoji. Domon is from the space colony of Neo Japan and he is on earth because he is Neo Japan's representing Gundam Fighter in the upcoming Gundam Fight. Winning the Gundam Fight is important for Neo Japan because it will give Neo Japan the right to rule the universe for four years, but it is even more important for Domon because it will also free Domon's father from the cryogenic sleep the Neo Japanese government put him in. 

Now the question is why is Domon's father is a cryogenic sleep? And what does Domon's missing brother have to do with this?

The answer lies in the mysterious and potentially deadly gundam, the Devil Gundam. The Devil Gundam was created by Kyoji and Domon's father, but its abilities were seen as dangerous and the Neo Japanese government tried to seize it. During the process Domon's mother was killed by crossfire and Kyoji managed to escape to earth by himself in the Devil Gundam, leaving his father to be interrogated and then ultimately put to sleep for his crimes. 
Kyoji and the Devil Gundam are the primary bad guys of the first season even though they are rarely given any screen time until the final battle in Shinjuku. But even then Kyoji himself is almost a nonexistent figure throughout most of the series and it isn't until the appearance of the masked character Schwarz Bruder (German for Black Brother) in episode sixteen that you kinda wonder if Kyoji is really the bad guy after all. 

Because, well, let's face facts: Anyone who didn't know that Schwarz was really Domon's brother in disguise... Well, come on. I know this series was primarily aimed at kids, but even when I was twelve I knew that Schwarz and Kyoji were one and the same. I wasn't quite sure how or why at the time, but it was excruciatingly obvious then and so much more so now. 

I've always thought it was funny how none of the characters recognized him for who he was, but they could easily recognize Rain in that one episode where she became a member Schwarz's Gundam crew and had to wear a silly mask too. Another note about those silly masks is that the director of the show thought it would be funny if all of the people from Neo Germany wore masks, but he chose not to pursue that idea because he wasn't sure how real-life Germans would appreciate the idea. 

The first season culminates in the first all-out battle between Domon and the Devil Gundam. Domon's master Master Asia (also known as the Undefeated of the East) joins in on the fun as a servant of the Devil Gundam as well. 

The battle is certainly a fun one, but certainly not the final one because there are still about 25 episodes left in the series. 

I thought it was kind of funny, how five minutes after defeating Master Asia and the Devil Gundam in the Guiana Highlands, Master Asia magically reappears at the Gundam Fight Finals and everyone is surprised. 

Of course, Master Asia and the Devil Gundam reappear. You think that new villains would suddenly be created for the second half of this absurdly goofy series? Heck no.

During the second half of the series we meet the character Allenby Beardsley. The introduction of her character also begins the closest this series gets to a "love triangle" type of thing. In typical fashion, Domon is the dense male protagonist, Rain Mikamura is the under-appreciated childhood friend, and Allenby is the troubled Gundam Fighter who finds comfort in helping Domon. While not certainly a love story as good as Toradora!, Mobile Fighter G Gundam is at least capable of some feels.

Those feels certainly strike big time when Kyoji/Schwarz Bruder make the ultimate sacrifice, though. It's a moment that would make even the mightiest of shounen heroes proud.

This is quickly followed up by the very emotional defeat of Master Asia in episode 45. So you get a back-to-back feels trip.

While Master Asia was never a favorite character of mine (it was established at episode 14 or so what a douchebag he really was), his ending is very classy. Cheesy, but classy. If Chuck Norris ever had to die in an anime then I think Chuck Norris would be happy to bow out in such a way.

So in many aspects I think Mobile Fighter G Gundam is an perfect example of the action genre. By that, I mean that this series is the embodiment of all things cliched, but the very fact that it is intended to be a cliche adds to its charm. When someone dies it's a larger than life spectacle. The more badass they are the more of a spectacle it is.

That being said, Master Asia's death isn't completely spectacle. There is a slight bit of restraint shown or at least as close to restraint as an anime like this can come to.

However, one odd thing about Master Asia in the second half of the anime is how he mysteriously gets sick and develops a cough at inopportune times. No explanation is given as to why he is suddenly sick when he seemed perfectly fine during the earlier episodes. I guess this is just yet another one of those things you take in stride as you watch. Just don't think about it too much.

Of course, even this silly show had to be edited so it could get Stateside approval. I know it sounds absurd, but there was a time when you could find Gundam toys in Walmart and back in 2002 the English version changed a few of the Gundam names because Walmart thought some of the Gundam names were too offensive. Or something like that. Domon's God Gundam was changed to Burning Gundam. Kyoji's Devil Gundam was renamed Dark Gundam. Hell, basically all of the Gundams were renamed because Americans probably didn't approve of the ethical stereotypes or religious imagery. Go figure that one. I thought they were funny. Not that there was really anything religious about the anime to begin with. It's all just another example of people being whiny-ass people.

Of course, now Mobile Fighter G Gundam can't even be found in stores and that makes the changes made for the English dub seem even sillier now.

Anyway, the climax of the anime is very rewarding. Episode 49 makes all of the previous episodes with all of the standalone battles, cheesy one liners, bizarre introductions by a character never even directly mentioned in the story, and all of the hokey moral fodder seem worth it.

We get the ending we deserve and that this anime deserves all at once.

Although the name of the "ultimate move" that Domon and Rain perform together to defeat the Devil Gundam is silly.

This is nothing new, though. In fact, it's even a bit welcome because it's a sign that the anime stayed true to its roots the entire time.

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Great Gatsby (2013)

This might sound difficult to believe, but I have never actually read F. Scott Fitzgerald's famous book. Nor have I ever seen any of the previous film adaptations of the novel. I do recall the novel being mentioned a few times in Nelson DeMille's novel The Gold Coast. In fact, although I knew nothing about the premise of The Great Gatsby, neither the plot nor the characters, I had a feeling that I would know the story based on the influence it provided on what I believe to be Nelson DeMille's finest literary achievement. Indeed, once you take out The Godfather influence, Nelson DeMille's novel really is the reincarnation of The Great Gatsby

This movie, however, seems to be a glimpse into the world that F. Scott Fitzgerald created in 1925 before dying in 1940 believing himself to be a failure as an author. Fitzgerald's story is almost as tragic as that of his literary creation Jay Gatsby in that both of them seemed to dream big, but neither were granted the ability to make their wishes come true. Fitzgerald never made it big during his lifetime and Gatsby never got his girl. 

Fitzgerald only became a literary hero years after his death and to this day his once mediocre selling novel The Great Gatsby is now mandatory reading for many high school classes. 

As is the case with many other authors and musicians, Fitzgerald only became popular with the masses after he died. And it took a second World War to help accomplish that. 

Some folks just can't get a break.

As for this 2013 adaptation, I'm not sure how many breaks I want to give it.

I certainly enjoyed the movie, but it's not without its flaws. I'm not exactly thrilled that I had to spend so much time listening to Tobey Maguire's voice (can't stand him) or watch some out-of-place special effects during certain car scenes and close-ups, but those things by themselves aren't a deal breaker.

However, I really didn't like the out-of-place hip hop soundtrack. I'm not too familiar with Baz Luhrmann, but I've read up on his works and I understand he's done this kind of thing before; however, it's just doesn't fit with the world presented in The Great Gatsby. A straightforward jazz approach would have done this movie wonders. At times I actually laughed when I saw how everyone was dancing to hip-hop. Seriously. It completely took me out of the movie.

I really hope that people fifty or sixty years from now are smart enough to know that people didn't dance like that or to that kind of music in the 1920's. Hip hop didn't exist in 1922. Neither did the racial equality this movie magically seems to have.

For whatever reasons this movie seems to shun the historical setting of Long Island in 1922 in favor of a fantastical and over the top hybrid story of history and fantasy. I'm not quite sure Fitzgerald envisioned things like this.

However, Leonardo DiCaprio really is the glue that holds this movie together. Although he is largely absent for the first half-hour and we are forced to hang around with Maguire the entire time. Once Gatsby's character is actually introduced I think the movie begins to find itself and as the movie continues it gets much better. The soundtrack even gets better as the movie goes on. I suppose that is because once they got the obligatory Jay-Z stuff (he helped produce it) out of the way at the beginning they could move on with the real music later in the movie where songs like Jay-Z's 100$ Bill wouldn't exactly carry the same emotional weight.

Once this movie stops trying to be silly it really becomes a very good movie. Good enough to make me want to pick up the book and meet the true world of Gatsby. This movie could have been so much better, though. I still enjoyed it, but a better soundtrack, less Tobey Maguire, and a slightly toned down approach would have made a world of difference.

So thumbs up but with some reservations.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Mobile Fighter G Gundam (Kidō Butōden Jī Gandamu) Part I

Domon Kasshu: The hero of the story, typically thick-headed
like many Shounen heroes. 
The Mobile Suit Gundam franchise is a hallmark of not only the mecha genre of anime, but also of Japanese entertainment itself. There's a reason they built a 59 foot statue dedicated to 1979's original Mobile Suit Gundam. Of course, there have been many spin offs, sequels, and OVAs furthering the story of those trademark mechas. There's Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket, and even Super Deformed Gundam. That's far from all of them, but it's certainly enough to get your feet wet.

Not all of the Gundam spin offs are made equal, but more often than not they feature many similarities that make them strictly Gundam material in more than just name. With the exception of SD Gundam (with its own multiple spin offs) and Mobile Fighter G Gundam, the Gundam franchise is typically dark in tone and rich with political intrigue. While fights in the mecha genre are always encouraged and even essential, they are not the "story." The fights are typically an attraction rather than the main course. 

Nastasha Zabigov: I didn't realize how hot this scene was
when I was twelve. 
At least, that's the way I remember it. It's been a while since I watched many of the Gundam shows and with so many of them being out of print and costing a fortune, it is tough to refresh my memory. There's also the fear of ending up spending a fortune for a bootleg that I have to worry about, too. 

Of course, all hope is not lost. Sites like Daisuki (streaming both on their site and on YouTube as well), Rightstuf, and even Amazon (if you are careful) are trying to keep the flame alive. Even if it's only through the release of graphic novels. I suggest that folks who are fans contribute to the cause and buy Gundam material (legal, non-bootleg releases) when they can find them. 

I have done my part for the moment by purchasing the entire series of Mobile Fighter G Gundam. I don't want to tell you how much I paid for it. 

It's been twelve years since I've seen the series and man, does it ever feel like no time has passed at all by the time that disc hits play and Flying in the Sky starts playing. I've definitely been here before. What is different this time around is that I am watching it in Japanese with the subtitles on, but that nostalgia feeling is still there is spades. 

You want cheesy? You got it! Fist bump, yeah!
I enjoyed the first 24 episodes just as much as I did the first time around. 

However, I am a bit more critical of the series now. I suppose that's only natural since I was twelve the last time I saw this series and this was the type of thing that appealed to me then. But I'm 23 now and I can recognize brainless popcorn fodder for what it is. Mobile Fighter G Gundam is most assuredly brainless and the plot is so pencil thin that you can tell that the director and writers were basically making things up as they went. The director even says so in the notes included on the DVDs. His mindset was basically keep it fun and no one will care. 

They are plot holes so huge that you could fit one of Michael Bay's Transformers movies inside of them. 

The Space Colonies look absurdly bad. There is almost nothing remotely technologically advanced-looking as a flat piece of land in space with a Statue of Liberty on it, is there? Or even worse... a giant sombrero? 
Name this space colony...

The fights, characters, and dialog are so insanely cheesy at times that you have to wonder if you are really watching a Gundam series or a parody of a Shounen anime where the characters use mechas that look like Gundams. 

Even some of the gundams themselves are borderline racist in terms of design and name. You can probably guess what countries the Pharaoh Gundam, the Viking Gundam, the Dragon Gundam, and the Tequila Gundam all originate from. It's ridiculously obvious and silly. 

There were times where I was watching where I felt like I needed to watch something with a bit more substance and realism so I started watching Team America: World Police instead. 

But you know what? Mobile Fighter G Gundam is still one of the best anime I've ever seen. It's just so over the top that you can't help but be won over by its charm or hate it intensely. And I don't hate it. 

Master Asia, Domon Kasshu's master. Apparently, martial
arts mastery means you can fight with giant robots without
needing an actual robot yourself.
The fights are generally really good. Cheesy as hell, but very good. And the primary story, when focused on, is certainly interesting enough to carry this madness along. 

Another really cool thing I discovered was that the same guy who voiced Jiraiya in the sub of Naruto and Naruto Shippuden also voiced Chibodee Crocket, the fighter for Neo America. 

Anyway, this is about as in depth as I'll go for the first part. In my next review I'll spoil the shit out of this series. For now though, I'm just having fun and celebrating the 20th anniversary of the anime that is Mobile Fighter G Gundam in my own special way. 

Yu-Gi-Oh!, Vol. 2: The Cards with Teeth by Takahashi Kazuki

Phew, it's hot here. Right now it's about 90 degrees, but it feels closer to 100. It's one of those days I'm glad to have off so I can be inside not doing anything other than catching up on my blogging. 

The first entry of today deals with the first continuation of the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga. I'm sure the previous volume made fans of the show wonder where all those duel monsters that are so popular originated since they weren't in the first volume of the series. Well, I suppose everyone can breathe a sigh of relief with the knowledge that the second volume actually features a duel with the monster cards and even the famous Blue Eyes White Dragon. And, yeah, you get to meet Kaiba for the first time, too. 

That's not to say that this series is consumed by the card games, though. Aside from the single duel between Kaiba and Yami Yugi, there is not another duel with the cards to be found. The anime really did focus on the card game much more than the manga. At least that certainly seems to be the case so far. 

What is more fascinating about this volume is the backstory of Yami Yugi and the introduction of Shadi, the Egyptian trying to understand the mystery of the Millenium Puzzle. At this point we can only assume the Yami Yugi is somehow connected with Ancient Egypt, but we don't really know how or why. The one thing we do know is that Yami Yugi is the ultimate badass. 

I'm just not quite sure if he is a good guy or a bad guy yet. At this point I'm throwing the anime out the window and starting this story with a clear head. Yami Yugi is certainly mysterious and even though he seems to protect Yugi and Yugi's friends, his methods are certainly brutal. The Shadow Games he plays with his enemies are pretty disturbing. Burning people alive, causing them to go insane, or electrocuting them almost to death... You really don't want to make an enemy of Yugi or his friends because that will send Yami Yugi after you. 

And you don't want that. 

While I really liked the introduction of the duel monsters in this volume, I hope this manga does not become strictly about the duels like the anime. The duel monsters were cool and fun when I was younger, but I much prefer the morality tale of the Shadow Games that Yami Yugi plays over the "Heart of the Cards" schtick that the anime repeated endlessly. I already own most of the cards and I don't want to feel like I'm being asked to buy them again. 

This is a fairly solid volume that gives us a bit more of a glimpse of the world introduced to us in the anime, but the manga is a much different beast. Like the room to Yami Yugi's soul, the manga is a lot more twisted. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Stand Up Guys

Good day, everyone. Welcome to my first official entry in my new blog. Today I'm going to review a film that has been on the backburner for a while for me, 2012's Stand Up Guys. I remember my dad giving the DVD of the film to me on my birthday, I think. It wasn't my last birthday, though. Probably was the one before that. 

Anyway, the reason I haven't watched it until now was because I really wasn't sure if I'd like it. Much like why I've been putting off reading another Dean Koontz book, I have been shying away from recent Al Pacino movies. Al Pacino is one of my favorite actors, but he has been phoning it in lately like its nobody's business. I tried watching 88 Minutes the other day and it felt like I was reliving the mediocrity of Righteous Kill all over again. I really hope Jon Avnet and Al Pacino never cross paths again. 

However, today I decided I was going to watch Stand Up Guys. Why? Well, I just can't not watch an Al Pacino film. Plus Christopher Walken was in it, too. Of course, that didn't mean jack for Gigli, but it really is different this time around. 

Stand Up Guys is a very solid flick with a very good cast. The writing and dialog at time is kinda meh at times, but the screen presence of Pacino, Walken, and eventually Alan Arkin is more than enough to keep this film buoyed and the atmosphere light. 

But if you want to watch this film then I strongly suggest that you don't go into it expecting a shootout or a gangster film in the vein of the ones like in Pacino's heyday. 

This film is a character piece, first and foremost. There's almost no action in this movie at all. There are certainly some scenes, but in those scenes you'll see it isn't really about the action as much as it is the characters. For the most part, anyway. 

After serving a prison sentence of 28 years, Val (Pacino) finally gets released from prison and gets picked up by his old buddy Doc (Walken). Doc has unwillingly been assigned the duty of killing Val by a mob boss, but Doc decides to give Val one last hurrah. Eventually, Val finds out but that doesn't really change the situation or anything. The fact remains that Doc still has to kill Val, but Val decides that if he's going to bite the dust then he's going to have the time of his life before he does. 

This film describes itself as a bit of a comedy and while it will give you a few chuckles (especially the erectile dysfunction bit), I think it's just a bit too melancholy and depressing to be a "real" comedy. If nothing else, this film has a strong "slice of life" aspect about it. Sure, these guys are former gangsters reliving their glory days, but the approach taken with this film is a very down to earth one that makes it markedly different from your average gangster flick (although you could say this is an average gangster flick and be right about that to a degree). 

I'd say that Stand Up Guys has more in common with The Wrestler than Carlito's Way.  

Of course, Stand Up Guys is not a great film and you'll notice while you watch it. You'll wonder what a better director and scriptwriter could have done with the excellent cast, but there's more than enough good things about the movie to keep it from being a bad movie or even a mediocre one. It is decent. Good, even. 

I definitely think the ending pissed a lot of people off, though. I really wasn't surprised the movie ended the way it did because the movie was never about the action in the first place. I don't have much of a problem with how it ended. 

Would I recommend this film? Well, I don't know who I'd recommend it to. No one unfamiliar with Pacino, Walken, or Arkin will probably watch this film. Those are familiar with them will probably watch it and immediately decide they don't like it since it isn't as good as The Godfather or The Deer Hunter

So while this film is watchable, I don't think there is much of an audience for it. Unless you are like me and are willingly to watch just about anything. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

ef - A Tale of Memories

I'm not a big fan of artiness just for the sake of art and at first glance that is exactly what ef - A Tale of Memories seems to be. There seems to be virtually no setup or introduction to the characters, but we are instead treated with amazing and abstract animation. 

I certainly wouldn't classify this as your typical "school romance anime" because the way it is presented does make it stick out like a sore thumb. In some ways, the entire thing reminds me of the final episodes of Neon Genesis Evangelion where the animation portrays the thoughts and emotions of the characters rather than portraying the characters and situations "the proper way." Only in this case the animation is a lot better and you can tell there was a budget to work with. 

Indeed, Shaft does an amazing job like they always do when it comes to animation. I knew from the first few seconds of the first episode that I was going to be in for some great visuals and I was right on that front. 

The story, though... I'm not sure about it. 

With the animation being as abstract as it is, the story seems rather pedestrian by comparison. Essentially, it's about three male characters and the three female characters that they eventually fall in love with. 

The story certainly tries to make things interesting by giving one of the characters a 13 hour memory and I found that story to be the most appealing part, but the anime as a whole seemed to suffer from a bit of a pacing issue. It takes a while for the characters to really come alive, outside of Chihiro with her 13 hour memory, and by the time you become really invested the anime ends. 

All of the primary characters grew on me and I found myself having some favorites and least favorites, but what annoyed me is that almost none of them really became anything more than abstract animations to me. They didn't really come to "life" like they do in really good anime. 

Which is a pity because the animation really does come to life. 

Perhaps this puts me in the minority because I know a lot of people like this anime and swear by it as one of their favorite romance anime, but I just think it is a little bit too bizarrely presented for its own good. 

One thing that does stand out to me is how one of the female characters seems vanish and appear. Amamiya Yuuko is a character whose presence in not explained or understood. She dresses like a nun and hangs around at the church Chihiro's brother seems to live in, but there is certainly a sense of "otherworldliness" about her. 

She doesn't seem to a have a major role in the series, but she somehow seems connected to many of the situations presented in the anime. And on occasion some of the characters have conversations with her and you wonder if she's really a ghost or not. 

I'm hoping ef - A Tale of Melodies will fill in some of the blanks. That one is next up on my viewing queue, but I might push it out of the way so I can finish up Mobile Fighter G Gundam

Anyway, thanks for reading. 

P.S. - Am I the only one who wonders why so many girls in anime wear eye patches? Chihiro is the fifth eye-patch anime girl I've come across so far. What's with the eye-patches? Why can't we give them something really cool like monocles instead?