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, March 31, 2015

Tiffany Vollmer Knows How to Sonic

Not going to lie about it. Working in the fast food industry is pretty shitty. Really shitty. Basically, at this point I'm just accepting a paycheck because I just don't give a damn anymore about it. When I was sick for a week and a half I was even considering not even coming back at all. After three years in the same place I'm basically over it. 

Yet something strange happened not too long after I came back from my convalescence. I have no earthly idea what strange powers drive this world or why one of the voices of my childhood would even be associated with Sonic Drive-In, but I am nonetheless grateful for one particular day. 

I have no idea what she was doing there at my place of work, but Tiffany Vollmer was there doing some kind of computer stuff. Who is Tiffany Vollmer? Well, she was the voice of Bulma from Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z for the English Funimation dubs. 

She'd been there one day before I found out who she was and I was kind of pissed because nobody had told me. It's not that I didn't think that she looked familiar, but it's just... Who the hell would expect someone like that in a place where schmucks like me work? I guess no one knew, but if she hadn't walked up and told me herself who she was I would have been kicking myself for a long time afterwards. For a decade, at least. 

Had I known I might have brought a card from home for her to sign. I had nothing on me, though. I was also busy as shit and couldn't properly nerd the fuck out.

Anyway, Tiffany Vollmer drew this and signed it for me. I imagine my boss had an idea or two of what she could put on there, too. Later on I saw that "saiyen" wasn't spelled right. It should be "saiyan."

I'm not tripping too hard over that, though. I'm incredibly grateful. I don't meet cool people and it seems the only way I can get autographs is to pay for them.

Folks, Tiffany Vollmer is awesome. I miss her as the voice of Bulma. No disrespect to Monica Rial or any of the other actresses, but Vollmer is the English voice of Bulma for me.

It sometimes really does pay to be an otaku. Literally. I was on the clock while getting an autograph. That will never happen again.

Thanks, Tiffany Vollmer. My awesomeness level is highly questionable. Tiffany Vollmer's is not, though.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Attack On Titan Vol. 15 by Isayama Hajime

Well, this volume wasn't the titan-on-titan action I thought it might have been. In fact, there is almost nary a titan in this entire volume outside of a jaw-dropping flashback at the end. 

Also, don't be fooled by the cover of this manga. Eren Yeager isn't featured at all until the very end. So the cliffhanger we experienced in the last volume isn't mentioned at all until the final pages of this volume. Of course, this volume ends on a cliffhanger, too. 

The bulk of this volume concerns two different but intersecting plotlines. 

The first of which is Levi's attempt to search for Eren and Historia Reiss. Levi and the Survey Corps have been under a witch hunt thanks to the monarchy in power and moving around has been tough. If Levi isn't careful he'll be captured, too. 

The second plot line is that Erwin Smith has been captured by the MPS and is on his way to the scaffold unless something miraculous happens. However, Erwin has placed his faith in the idea of a "bloodless revolution" and he won't go down without accomplishing his goal. That is the miracle he is counting on.

The current monarchy must fall and the true heir must take control. That is, if Levi and the Survey Corps can even find the heir. 

The newspapers have been living in fear of the monarchy and publish lies to prolong the witch hunt on the Survey Corps, but a glimmer of hope appears on the horizon when Hange Zoe and the Survey Corps makes an appearance. Hange has a favor to ask of them and won't take no for an answer. 

Later on the newspapers begin to fight back against the monarchy along with the Survey Corps. 

The truth is out and the bloodless revolution seems to have been accomplished. Erwin Smith's neck has been saved. 

But what about Eren Yeager and Historia?

Well, you'll get a taste of the truth. Boy, will you.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (Translation by Robin Buss)

To date, I think that The Count of Monte Cristo could be the greatest book I've ever read. I've read some pretty awesome books in my time, but not many epics. Stephen King's The Dark Tower series certainly counts and so do It and The Stand (Uncut), but that would have been it for my list of insanely long books and stories read in my life until I decided to try this one out. I certainly haven't read anywhere near close to the amount of classics as I should have by now. I had read Bram Stoker's Dracula, but nothing else pre-1950 until this. I'm not really proud of that. It goes to show my knowledge of older works is incredibly limited.

A lot of people (yeah, that's right, I'm talking to you, too) tend to avoid classics because there is some effort involved in reading them. These books were written a hundred or two hundred years ago and that's obviously back before people had a lot of other things to do for entertainment like watch internet porn or grow pretend farms on Farmville.

The longer the stories were the better because there really wasn't shit else to do back then. Your neighbor probably had a bad case of cholera and your wife or husband was probably out having an affair with someone else that might have cholera, but you had done your work duties for the day so the only thing you could do was sit down and have someone read to you while you possibly contemplated challenging your wife's lover to a duel or some sort of murder-suicide. Ah, the good old days.

And if The Count of Monte Cristo was being read to you then so much the better. You could close your eyes and pretend that the Count was fighting for you on your behalf.

Stories like The Count of Monte Cristo spoke (and still speaks) to people because it's about a guy that gets terribly wronged by a small group of people that just had it out for him because he was a stand-up guy and they were jealous dicks. A lot of us feel that this happens to us in life. We are wronged by people for no damn good reason and we want revenge or at least acknowledgment of the wrong. Most people don't want to go out and get revenge because the wrongs we face almost everyday aren't really that big of a deal, but in the world of fiction it's a bit different. Getting cut off in traffic is not a reason to create a fake identity and ruin the life of the man that cut you off, but having your honor ruined? Bring out the swords!

The Count of Monte Cristo provides the perfect storm of elements and really sells the idea that one man can come back and singlehandedly topple three corrupt and wealthy families. Nowadays just about anyone can do that with a phone and a YouTube account, but back then a guy had to work for it using disguises, multiple identities, and a vast amount of wealth.

So yes, The Count of Monte Cristo is wordy and a bit bloated, but it is a product of its time. It sounds like it is trying hard to be accepted by the very people it centered its story around (extravagantly rich Parisians) and that does hinder it some if you compare to modern day thrillers, but this book is a classic for a reason. Originally published as a serial, The Count of Monte Cristo is one of the most well known titles in the history of the written word.

It's not just an adventure novel, though. There's so much more to it. In a lot of adventure novels there is one true and shining good guy. This isn't really the case here.

It is Edmond Dantes that is wrongfully imprisoned in Chateau d'If for fourteen years and it is Edmond Dantes that finds the fortune promised to him by Abbe Faria. You root for Dantes. He's the hero. You want him to find the treasure and then kick ass. Yet after he makes amends with the one soul that stood up for him during his imprisonment, Dantes changes completely into the Count of Monte Cristo. He becomes cold, callous, and distant. Driven by vengeance, Monte Cristo wants to use his wealth to topple the families of Danglars, Morcerf, and Villefort.

Revenge is the ultimate goal for Monte Cristo. Sometimes he seems like he is acting to maintain the guise of Monte Cristo as Dantes, but at others he seems legitimately lost in his vengeance and seems to really be Monte Cristo. Towards the end he even has a chance to become a villain in a very real sense. His actions cause death, madness, and destruction, but at one point he has the chance to get blood on his hands by much more direct methods.

The ultimate question becomes, "Is the heart of Edmond Dantes still alive somewhere inside of Monte Cristo?"

The anime changed the conclusion of the novel into a much darker one and I think I like that one more, but the conclusion of the novel is satisfying in its own right. Everyone gets what they deserve, for the most part.

Unfortunately, Monte Cristo's plans for revenge do cause harm to those who didn't even harm him. So it is tough to call Monte Cristo a good guy. Dantes was a good guy, but Monte Cristo seems more of an antihero.

The ingenious of Dumas is that he makes it seem like everything is happening because of Monte Cristo at several points to the reading audience even if that isn't the case in the actual story. There seems to be a constant addition to the spectacle of Monte Cristo. Is this newest character yet another disguise of Monte Cristo? Are these two people meeting because of Monte Cristo? Sometimes the answer is yes and sometimes it's just a case of coincidence, but Monte Cristo is built up into such a mythical creature that you can never really be certain.

The truth is that the wheel Monte Cristo sets in motion becomes almost uncontrollable and for the longest time it is tough to tell just how much mastery over his plan Monte Cristo really has. He seems to know everything while also being blissfully unaware of everything at the same time. It's a great acting performance and one of the reasons he was able to become so deeply involved in the matters of the families he was haunting.

But he's human.

His friendship with Albert de Morcerf is definitely a strong point of this novel. In the anime Albert was featured so much that he was practically the main character, but in this he's a much more minor one. Still, it seems that Albert genuinely likes the Count and the same goes for the Count. But it's tough to trust this friendship because the Count never seems to do anything that doesn't forward his cause for vengeance.

That's why the Count of Monte Cristo really just comes off like a dick sometimes. He views people as tools and nothing more. In some ways he seems much more cold than the people he is trying to defeat. Which made me think about the saying of fighting fire with fire. Monte Cristo is definitely a fire to be reckoned with.

Yet some of his friendships do seem genuine and it seems like he's hurting himself in order to hurt others.

When I did finish the novel I did feel a bit letdown. The wrongdoers had been punished and at a high cost to Monte Cristo himself, but I just couldn't help but feel that this story should not have had such a happy conclusion. As good as it was, it could have been just a bit better. Then again, I just have a personal preference for bleak stuff.

And for a small nitpick:

One thing I also noticed while reading was that there were frequent "as we have said" interjections thrown in. It gets kind of annoying because it almost frequently references something we just read less than a paragraph or two ago and comes after a paragraph or so of rambling about scenery of something else.

This is something I just made up, but it is kind of a decent representative:

Valentine walked in her father's room in her best dress, looked around.... blah, blah, blah, as we have said she was in her best dress... blah blah blah, as we have said she was in her father's room...

A drinking game could be made out of how many times to come across the phrase "as we have said" during reading sessions.

However, for all of its faults, The Count of Monte Cristo is still excellent. It is a classic and deserves to be read by more people. Just stay away from the abridged crap.

As I have said, this is an excellent novel. Read it.

P.S. - Get ready for a ton of characters because you'll be spending plenty of time with them.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

City Hunter (Siti Hyonteo)

Iris was my first Korean drama and it left a good enough impression on me that I knew that I would revisit the world of Korean drama again. This time I decided on a topic of revenge and City Hunter seemed to fit the bill. Why? Because revenge tales are always awesome. 

City Hunter is a 2011 drama loosely based on the 1985 manga of the same name. This particular telling of the story moves the events to Korea and changes some names and a bit of background around. I haven't read the manga (and I'm not even sure if it is available in English) so I don't know exactly what all changes there were, but I know there were plenty. 

In October of 1983 there was a covert mission led by South Korea to infiltrate North Korea and kill some pretty big heavy weights. The attack was in response to a terrorist attack from the North, but the orders for the counterattack were given without the president of South Korea's permission. Facing a possible international incident if the secret mission is discovered, a terrible decision is made by men with too much power. The five men who ordered the counterattack agree to a vow of silence and erase the existence of the 21 soldiers that they sent on the mission. 

With the soldiers lying dead in the waters of Nampo, the five men go on with their lives and ascend to further greatness. The story seems to end there before it could even begin. 

However, one of the soldiers survive the betrayal and makes a vow to enact a terrible revenge on those that betrayed him and his fellow soldiers. 

Lee Jin-pyo (Kim Sang-joong) manages to make his way back into South Korea and kidnaps the son of the man that saved his life in the Nampo waters. He then escapes to the Golden Triangle where he can train the ultimate soldier for his revenge. 

28 years later a young man named Lee Yoon-sung (Lee Min-ho) emerges from a car in South Korea after a recent trip to America. His instructions are clear: Infiltrate the Blue House, discover the identities of five particular men, and do not get attached to anyone. 

Despite (or because of) a rigid and harsh upbringing, Lee Yoon-sung is a bit different than his surrogate father and this causes a slight clash between the two. Both of them are after revenge, but it's how their methods differ that causes this friction. 

Lee Jin-pyo wants blood. Lee Yoon-sung wants justice. 

Adding to Lee Yoon-sung's troubles are an enchanting female bodyguard named Kim Na-na (Park Min-young) that wants to love him (and hate him) and a headstrong prosecutor named Kim Young-joo (Lee Joon-hyuk) that wants to put the heroic "City Hunter" behind bars. 

Life isn't easy for this aspiring hero. 

This series is twenty episodes and each episode has a runtime of an hour and a few minutes. The format is the same as it was for Iris and I really like this approach to making television shows. I suppose all Korean shows are like this and I hope they are because I plan on watching more Korean dramas. 

One thing about dramas that may make them a bit more of an acquired taste is that they do tend to be melodramatic. Almost like a soap opera. They have moments where they get absolutely over the top with the tears and lovey dovey stuff. Common sense even gets thrown out in favor of prolonging the story. 

It can be frustrating, but in a good way, I think. 

At the risk of contradicting myself, I will say that I think the pacing was pretty good. There was just the right amount of fluff to keep the action from seeming monotonous and the right amount of action to keep the fluff from completely losing the suspense of the entire episode. Of course, your mileage may vary. These types of shows want to provide an intense reaction in their audience so they really go for it all, no matter what. The dramatic scenes are absolute tearjerkers and the action scenes and fucking movie-level. There's no middle ground. There is a good deal of humor, but this isn't really a laugh out loud comedy. It's cute, though. You'll probably get a goofy smile on your face before your next cryfest. 

These types of series can wear thin for some people that don't have the patience to go from one extreme to the other. Some people watching this for only romance will be disappointed. Some people watching for only action will be disappointed. It's a hybrid. You'll either have an appreciation for it or not. I do. I don't mind the melodramatic and lovey dovey stuff because I've seen enough anime and movies from East Asia that it just clicks with me. 

The cast is rather exceptional and I especially liked Lee Min-ho, Lee Joon-hyuk, and Chun Ho-jin in their respective roles. The latter portrayed the president of South Korea 28 years after the events of 1983. Ironically, the actor Chun Ho-jin actually started his acting career in 1983. 

The only gripe I have with the series would be its ending. It's not that I didn't like it, but it could have been a lot more powerful. Ironically, if it had been more powerful I probably would have fucking hated the ending. You'll know what I mean when you see it. 

All in all, I was extremely impressed by this drama. It is excellent. Highly, highly recommended. I saw it on Netflix, but you are welcome to see where and how you want. You just might need to dole out some dollars to buy the DVD if you want to find it (ahem, "hunt" for it) on Amazon or YesAsia. Dramas are expensive. 

Most of the episodes end on an insane cliffhanger so I imagine some binge-watching will be in order. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Keys of the Kingdom

Now moving on to something more wholesome...

If I made a list of my top ten favorite actors I believe that Gregory Peck would undoubtedly make that top ten. Movies like The Keys of the Kingdom are a good reason why, too. However, the main reason would be because his first name was actually Eldred. Full name: Eldred Gregory Peck. It would have been awesome if Cary Grant and Gregory Peck could have starred in a movie together so I could say that Archibald Leach and Eldred Peck had been in a movie together, but that was not the case. I do say that they probably had two of the coolest names of any actors.

That bit of silliness aside let's dish out the goods. 

The Keys of the Kingdom was Gregory Peck's second film and it earned him an Oscar nominee for Best Actor. It was released in 1944 and co-starred Vincent Price, Thomas Mitchell, and Edmund Gwenn. You can also see a cameo of a young Roddy McDowall at the beginning of the film as the younger version of Peck's character. 

Add in a screenplay co-written by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and the directorial effort of John M. Stahl (a vastly underrated director) and what we have here is a film that is incredibly well put-together. 

Peck is Francis Chisholm, a catholic priest that has the honor of being transferred from his hometown of Tynedale, Scotland, to a small village in China where he is supposed to set up a Catholic parish. There are not many open-minded christian types (I admit I chuckled as I typed that) in China so Father Francis has his work set out for him. He doesn't even have a proper building. His initial reception in China is also a bit frosty and it is a while before he can form any kind of congregation or even have anything to house a congregation in. 

The movie takes place over a series of decades. It starts us out at the end when Francis is old and gray and back at home before going way back the Francis's childhood and then working forward from there. 

This film is a based off of a religious fiction book. So it can feel kind of preachy. This is where I insert my inevitable smartass "duh, the main character is a Catholic priest" comment. I'm not really the most religious guy, but this didn't bother me. Of course, it's not like I didn't know what the movie was going to be about before I started watching it, either.

Peck's character represents the archetypal good guy character and I think that only the most cynical asshole would want him to fail. So probably most people, these days. He is a "goody, goody," but if there were more people like him in real life I probably wouldn't be so distrusting and disliking of people in general.

This is a very inspiring movie and it's worth watching if you get a chance to see it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Queen's Blade Rebellion (Kuīnzu Bureido Riberion)

Masochism, boobies, tentacles, overpowered female warriors, and the overstimulation of certain body parts of said warriors thanks to electrical current from tentacle-like devices. Yep, I'm talking about Queen's Blade: Rebellion. In a way it is exactly what I expected, but in another way it is something else entirely.

The third entry in this ridiculously over the top series is a fairly big departure from the previous entries thanks to there not being an actual queen's blade tournament. The cast is also entirely different. The only thing that is the same is that there are plenty of boobies and white viscous substances. While the new characters aren't really a step back it is tough to seriously call these characters as good as the ones they are essentially replacing.

Since the plot of this series is virtually nonexistent, even more so for this series since the queen's blade is gone, it is tough to keep on watching while trying to acquaint with all of these new and relatively pointless characters. Whatever fights that take place seem very happenstance. There wasn't a lot of build up to the fights and when they did happen they were slightly underwhelming. There's also very little episode-to-episode tension. Granted, the previous entries are not the standard by which fighting anime should be measured, but it shouldn't seem that difficult to at least match that. The standard of the series is incredibly low when it comes plot, but in that regard Queen's Blade: Rebellion still comes up short. 

I cannot fathom that, but that is the case here. 

The one thing that really hurt this series was the lack of the previous cast. The series had managed to have a decent enough cast of characters by the end of the second series. Much like these new characters a lot of them started out with little personality and purpose, but over time the old characters did at least develop into interesting characters. What little plot there was was at least enough to push the story forward and their background information was unique and diverse enough to warrant some attachment. 

Queen's Blade: Rebellion destroys all of that and decides to try its own hand at creating some new and endearing characters. While I can't say it fails miserably I will say that it doesn't succeed. The new main heroine Annelotte Kreutz seems too much like a Leina-lite at the start. I was willing to give this some time to build, but by the time she did become something interesting and unique her transformation was not only bizarre but also unexplained. After watching all 12 episodes I am left wondering exactly what the reason for watching all of that was. 

Not only was my patience not rewarded, but the ending was also incredibly disappointing because it took us seemingly back to square one. I am left saying to myself, "Nothing at all really fucking happened." 

One of the few saving points of this series is the inevitable appearance of some of the original cast. However, the original cast has been remade a bit and they featured only in cameos with the exception of Ymir and Elina. 

So... boobs. This anime has boobs. That's all. I don't think this anime (or any anime) are worth watching because of boobes. 

It's hard to believe that an anime would make me actually miss how good Queen's Blade was, but Queen's Blade: Rebellion does the trick. 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Host (Goemul)

My first ever Korean monster movie. Yay, another personal milestone achieved. This movie also features a very familiar face going by the name of Song Kang-ho. In all of the movies I've seen him in he's been incredibly good and sometimes even unrecognizable because he throws himself into his roles so much. 

This time Kang-ho portrays the underachieving father Park Gang-do who sleeps all of the time when he is supposed to be watching his family-owned snack bar. He also the food from his customers' plates. His daughter thinks he's lazy and so does the rest of his family, but other than that he's got it made. Life seems fairly easy. 

However, trouble rears its ugly head when a monster rises from the Han River and throws the lives of the Park family into disarray. 

Monster movies are a tried and true formula and they are almost a sure-win when they are of the East Asian variety, but The Host is in a class by itself. While this movie certainly contains a fair share of monster movie cliches and a couple of cringe-worthy moments courtesy of some terrible American actors, The Host is buoyed by the actors portraying the Park family and by the creature itself. 

I thought for sure this movie was going to have some horrible SyFy movie type of effects from the outset. I just knew that the creature was going look insanely stupid and ridiculously fake. I was wrong. The monster, while maybe not as convincing as... say, the one in John Carpenter's The Thing, is definitely a passable creature that stands up to all of its many scenes in broad daylight. It looks creepy and menacing, but it doesn't look like something too alien. It does look like something that could have plausibly mutated from a polluted river. 

The fact that there were so many scenes of the creature in broad daylight showed some real cojones from the creators of this movie. Normally a creature first appears in shadow or at night or in the fog and the big reveal isn't until the very end, but we get to see all of the creature from the get-go in this one. It makes for a very memorable early movie sequence as it chases after Park Gang-do and his daughter. 

Song Kang-ho is brilliant in this movie and what I loved most about his character was that his character really was borderline stupid throughout most of the film. He's a slacker and doesn't know shit from shinola, but he must somehow outrun a government that wants to use him as a test subject and then rescue his daughter from a monster that is as big as a dump truck. If left to his own devices he'd be screwed and his daughter would likely be dead. In that sense, he probably isn't too much different than any of us would be in that situation. 

If not for the help of his brother (throwback protester type), his sister (bronze medalist archer), and his father (snack shop owner) there wouldn't really be much of a movie. So it's basically these four characters vs. the world and an evil creature. 

But if a fairly nondescript actor like Matthew Broderick can single-handedly defeat Godzilla then there must be hope for this family, right? 

I guarantee you'll love this family. What Dean Koontz tries and often fails at doing when it comes creating to warm quirky families, The Host succeeds at doing while making it look easy. Pay close attention to the young actress that portrays Park Gang-do's daughter, too. She'll win your heart. 

I guess I should also give fair warning that there is a bit of critique aimed at the US from this film. It's not even the talentless American actors that frequently seem to appear in Korean movies when the presence of someone English-speaking is needed, but the actual storyline that contains a few jabs here and there. The river pollution is caused by an idiotic American in a position of power that orders one of his Korean subordinates to dump a shitload of formaldehyde down a sink because the bottles were dusty. The formaldehyde subsequently enters the Han River and over time the Mega-Fish creature or whatever it is gets born. 

There are a few other instances, but that one should suffice. According to Wikipedia, North Korea even lauded some praise on this film because it seemed anti-US. I don't really think that is the case, though. This film is critical of the US, but it seems to me that films that like to critique the US made by foreigners are often considered anti-US while ones made by Americans that do the same thing are often considered thought-provoking. Of course, we tend to quibble amongst ourselves about what is really anti-US, but we almost always agree (in red states, at least) that foreign films that try to make fun of us or make us look bad aren't "American" (as if being "American" is something other than simply being a native of the US). 

Well, duh, this film isn't "American" and it doesn't care about being one. It's South Korean. I didn't disagree too much with what it had to say about us, either. However, if you know a few Republicans that have a hard-on for a "America" (or "'Murrica") than I'd give you five bucks to make them watch this film. That is, if they watch things that aren't in English to begin with because doing so isn't "American."

That aside, I think anyone should be able to enjoy this film and I definitely recommend it. It is a very enjoyable monster movie with some great acting, directing, and a fairly cool monster. The ending was brutal, though. Great, but brutal. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Masquerade (Gwanghae, Wangyidoen Namja)

Well, thanks to an ass-kicking virus, I've been forced into taking a bit of a mini-vacation. Last night I felt like I was going to actually die and the same goes for this morning. I've been forced to stay in bed because getting up and actually walking around is almost impossible. So I've been doing some much-needed queue clearing when my head hasn't been feeling like it's going to explode. 

Who says I can't make the most of the situation?

My first entry regarding my "virus watchings" is the 2012 Korean costume drama Masquerade. If you are a fan of The Prince and the Pauper and/or Dave then Masquerade might be just the movie for you since it also deals with the topic of two people that look alike switching roles. Although in this case it's a bit more one-sided. 

During the Joseon era there was a king named Gwanghae and he was prone to ideas that people were out to assassinate him. So he had his servants go out and find someone that looked just like him. Ironically, the one person that looked just like him was a low-born jester that knew more about making fun of the king then being one. 

After some convincing the jester becomes king when the king calls him to do so. However, when the king is poisoned the jester is called to a more permanent form of impersonation until the king can recover. 

Both the king and the jester are portrayed by Lee Byung-hun, one of my favorite Korean actors. As the king he is ruthless and brutal, but as the jester he is goofy and warm. In both roles he is very convincing and watching the jester gradually "become" king is very rewarding. 

This movie was truly hilarious at times, too. Probably the funniest moment was when the jester was learning what it was like to take a dump like a king. The king's bowel movements were very, very important. 

I'm not sure what comes to mind for a lot of people when they hear the words "period pieces" or "costume drama," but whatever preconceived notions I had of those terms were blown away. 

This movie is definitely excellent to look at. There are no special effects (outside of there being two Lee Byung-huns in the same scene) or explosions or anything like that, though. This movie really is a bunch of people talking while wearing costumes. However, it is incredibly beautiful to watch. It actually felt like I had been transported back to late-1500's Korean. Also take into account that most of this movie takes place inside of rooms or closed-in spaces. There's not a lot of greenery. Yet every scene seems almost breathtaking. 

The cast is excellent, but this movie is undoubtedly made by Lee Byung-hun's presence. I've never seen his Hollywood movies, but in all of his Korean movies he is an absolute juggernaut. He doesn't disappoint here. His ability to flawlessly perform dual roles is the strongest part of this movie. 

A Korean movie named I Am a King had a similar plot and came out during the same year as Masquerade, but I Am a King flopped while this Masquerade became a huge success. Lee Byung-hun's superstar status probably brought much of that success to this movie, but after you watch this movie you'll realize that this movie was extremely well-made and that it deserves its reputation as one of the better Korean movies. I haven't seen I Am a King so I can't say anything about that movie. 

I managed to watch this before its presence on Netflix expired, but I'll undoubtedly get it on blu-ray. It's definitely worth watching more than once. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Jerk

It's one of the finest feature films of our time. Better than Gone with the Wind. Better than The Godfather. And yes, even better than Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Obviously, I'm talking about the fabulous head-turning hit of the century that wrecked cinema everywhere in the '70's and sent everyone everywhere in search of salvation. I'm talking about The Jerk

It's a catastrophe that this film didn't win the Academy Award for best picture, but I think I know what caused that grievous snub. The world in 1979 just wasn't ready for the violent footage of cat juggling to make its way to the public. Sure, it was staged and brilliantly so, but it was this single scene that caused the Academy Awards to ignore this masterpiece. It's such a violent scene that just watching it in HD on a 42 inch television made me want to reach for a vomit bag. I can't imagine watching that same scene on a 78 inch Aquos Quattron UHD Curved Television. Although I'd really like to...

It's been a long time since I had last watched The Jerk. I'd say it was back when we had it on VHS and I was too young to know what the word "rubber" meant when used suggestively. I also didn't get a lot of the jokes. Watching it this time, so many years later, it still took me a second to get some jokes. 

However, I finally managed to remember why Steve Martin has long been a favorite comedy actor of mine. For a while I had forgotten. Much like his Bowfinger co-star Eddie Murphy, Martin just hasn't been rolling on all cylinders for a while. Unlike Murphy, Martin has some fantastic musicianship to keep himself in the public eye, but his comedy on film just hasn't been hitting those same notes. 

I don't know when it started, but I know that his take on The Pink Panther just made me cringe the first time I saw it and since then I haven't seen a single new Steve Martin film. Maybe that isn't fair of me considering that movie was released close to a decade ago and I only watched it once, but that is what did it for me. Maybe I'll watch it again soon. I probably should. Since then I've seen far worse movies and a little perspective couldn't hurt me. 

But The Jerk is one of those classics that I had been wanting to watch again for a long time now despite the fact that I haven't forgotten most of the gags. Much like Blazing Saddles or any of the Monty Python films, there are just so many quotes and they are so easy to remember and act out with drunk friends that sometimes the films themselves end up forgotten a bit. 

I loved the timing of this movie. Essentially, this movie really is a bunch of short gags stringed along a loose plot. A movie made such a way could easily get tiring, but so many of the jokes along the way are so sharp that the movie flies by. The character of Navin Johnson seems to change with each new gag, but Steve Martin plays the "straight man as an idiot role" to perfection that it doesn't matter much. Navin Johnson is what Steve Martin makes him. That's what makes this movie compulsively watchable. In this regard, he is a lot like Peter Sellers and Leslie Nielsen. He plays stupid so seriously that you almost think he thinks he isn't making a comedy but a drama. 

That's an incredible talent that a lot of people don't have. 

The "that's all I need" sketch is still hilarious because it just drags on and on and on. I'm certain Seth Macfarlane was influenced by this scene with the way some of the scenes in Family Guy drag on. 

Carl Reiner also deserves a lot of praise for this film since he not only directed it, but also had a role in it as a fictional version of himself that had been ruined by the Opti-Grab. I'm not sure how many takes he had to stay crosseyed for, but it was worth it. 

Of course, this film isn't for everyone. This isn't quite Blazing Saddles brilliance, but there is some racial humor not a lot of people will understand. The "I was born a poor black child" line should be a good indication, but the opening credits scene when the black family is singing a song and Navin is vainly trying to snap his fingers in rhythm is priceless. Later on he hears a "white person" song and begins to tap his toes and snap his fingers in rhythm and becomes ecstatic by it although his family can't seem to understand why he'd like such a song. 


This movie may not have been completely ahead of its time (since Blazing Saddles had come out a few years prior), but it still remains absolutely hilarious and a bit underrated. 

If you don't remember or know why Steve Martin was really funny then pick up The Jerk. There are certainly other movies that Steve Martin made that are good, but this is "the one" for me. 


Sunday, March 1, 2015

The (Almost) Horror Shirt Collection

I have posted about Fright Rags before. Surely, I have. Yup, it's right here. It was so long ago I almost forgot. I have this thing where I always get a snapshot of each new shirt by itself just so everyone can see the design. Naturally, I share these pictures on Facebook. It's just that sharing crap on Facebook seems second nature to me now. Terrible habit, isn't it?

So I've decided to make the habit worse by sharing the pictures on my blog. I really love cool horror artwork and I'm picky about the stuff I own and wear outside of the house. Most people should be, too. If I'm going out to eat in a very nice restaurant I think that the Cannibal Thanksgiving shirt would be perfect for such an occasion. See? Who says I can't dress for an occasion? 

Seriously, I love horror. I haven't visited the genre much lately, but I'll always have a backbone of horror. Whether it is music or movies or books, I think that horror is awesome. 

Most of these shirts are Fright Rags. Most of them. You'll probably notice what isn't. 

These are the shirts I wear proudly. Most people don't care or notice because everyone is involved in their own things, but when someone does and says, "Cool shirt, bro," it makes it all worthwhile. Same goes for my anime shirts. One or two might sneak up here. Again, you'll notice. 

Anyway, I believe in never passing up an opportunity to buy a really cool shirt, horror or otherwise. These are my favorites up until now. This list will probably expand as I get more shirts. 

I'm not sure how many people can boast owning two shirts from Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. This is
my second one.  

Remember the one I described as Cannibal Thanksgiving?

I love this shirt because it combines Tarantino and anime.
Oddly enough, the movie this shirt parodies had anime in it, too.
Someone did their homework.  And yes, I can make yellow look badass.

This shirt looked too good to not buy. I love the first two Robocop movies. 

This was my first ever horror shirt as well as my first one from Fright Rags.
Wal-Mart is lame and doesn't have any horror shirts.
Hot Topic, too. Hot Topic is just too hipster-ish. So discovering Fright Rags was like
discovering a second home. Horror shirts for horror fans.