Sunday, November 24, 2013

200th Blogger and Some Dreams

            This is not only my 200th blog on here, but it is also the 1,000 day this blog has existed.  Which means I have produced a short bit of writing roughly every 5 days for nearly 3 years.  And I think that is pretty good considering how much else I write that ends up going nowhere.  It is strange to write this really, because I know it is not the trumpeting of an angel calling the heavens to war, it will never change anything, it is just my random thoughts and fantasies.
            This all on here isn't important really, but I know that I am a richer person for having written it.  Having exercised it from my brain and throw it out on to the internet for other people to read and care about.  Maybe think about.  I know that my review of "The Dark Knight Rises" or "Prometheus" will not change anyone, but I know my mind changed via writing them.
            Regardless I do feel a love for the stuff I have put out there it is in many ways me in various dosages and flavors, lot of them half finished or left behind on another hosting site.  I have no idea why I thought Facebook would be the ideal place for a blog considering its stellar work with keeping something as simple as notes clean and accessible.
            For this occasion I am going to write up a number of dreams I have had.  As I have done this sort of thing before it's not really new ground, but I have these and it makes sense that to encapsulate all of the rambling stream of consciousness complaining I have done on this blog, that a big round number should have... Rambling nonsense pulled straight from my subconscious.

First Dream:
            I was taking a summer class, and it was the week before finals.  After class the Professor asks to stay so we can talk.  This Prof was tossing me out of the class (this Professor does not exist and is an invention of my mind). I had a class the previous semester with this Professor and at no point had I missed a class, arrived late, and had always participated, so I tell the Professor how I am a good student and should not be cut from the course.
            After telling the Professor that, he dismisses me.  Saying, "I never cared for how you conducted yourself, Josh."  I ask why he had never given me a warning or previous talking to.  His response, "I don't really like confrontation, so I avoid it as long as possible. You should leave now."
            I told him that finishing this class was all I needed for my Masters degree.  He didn't care. I then left and looked out across a vast campus which was mostly empty space with towers on it.  The towers were stacks of real life buildings from the FSU campus, like they had been snapped onto each other, as if they were giant Lego blocks.
            I set off walking across the campus, looking for a way to get a degree with the credits I already had.

Second Dream:
            I am walking in an underground cavern and come to a massive stone door with a lock in the center of it.  The lock is surrounded by 3 crystals/gems.  They are arrange one at the 11 o'clock, one at the 9 o'clock, and the last at the seven o'clock.  The gems are green-blue and sparkling.
            I am with a few other people and we are looking for something, an underground city that is possibly behind this giant stone door.  So we examine the lock.  The gems vanish and the door opens.
            We enter into an underground jungle, lit from the stone ceiling by a massive fissure that lets in a torrent of sunshine.  We see in the distance a steppe pyramid.  While walking there I stop along with a woman in my travel party, we are inspecting a flower/seed-pod that has a weird goo coming out of it that looks and tastes like marmalade.

Third Dream:
            My last and longest dream involved a very anime like plot.  It involves three siblings (two guys and a girl), myself, a friend of mine from my trip to Turkey (Jon P.), a tough girl, someone who I think was Bryan Cranston, an older tough woman, and a psychogenic super being (the words "psychogenic super being" were in my mind when I woke up, this is not me looking up some sort of term, that is what he was referred to in my dream, which I guess just means telekinetic).  All of us become freedom fighters in a world gone wrong.
            Most of the dream takes place on trains (awful trains, mostly just engines pulling flat beds with uncovered benches for passengers to sit on).  The world is dystopian as all the stops we go to on the way are incredibly run down and unkempt motels on the rail with very empty rooms, no staff, and no carpeting.  At one point we stop in an abandoned motel and sleep on old bare mattresses, weeds growing out of the floor, and no electric light for miles.
            An oppressive military regime in gold and red power armor (sort of like Iron Man, but more mecha like with wings) runs everything and is after the group, but each part of the group for different reasons.
            Initially the dream doesn't start with me but with the three siblings, who are running through the wilderness, trying to keep moving because they are being chased (more like they are wanted for some sort of crime, its not like there are dogs on them at that moment).  This is when they come to meet me, I am in the middle of nowhere also hiding from the government of this dream world.
            The three of us all continue running and eventually fin the railway and follow it down avoiding the regime and eventually meet the rest of the group.
            It is then that the group goes on a crime spree/freedom rebellion. 
            Ultimately we are caught and attacked by one of the winged gold power armor thugs and the psychogenic super being kills him by throwing it into the sky, filling the air with hot air balloons and confetti and ultimately flying up and kicking him around like some insane version of Superman would.  The rest of us just look on in amazement unable to help at all.
            Then we all flee down rail.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Movie Series that Need More Entries, #1 "The Mask"

            I would like film studios to make more movies about "The Mask".  Each movie would star a different protagonist who encounters the mask and goes on an adventure.

            The beginning of each movie would show each character's personal plight, they are angry, put upon, down on their luck, repressed, or just somewhat cruel.  The mask then enters their life and causes their deep seated desires to rise to the surface, warping reality and making them act as murderers, heroes, sex maniacs, or whatever.

            At the end of the movie they either grow as a person, which causes the mask to pass to the next owner, having allowed the owner to have grown and changed for the experience, or the possessor dies a victim of the internal evils that the mask brought to the surface.  Sort of like "Silent Hill" but mobile, personal, and interacting with the real world rather than just the town itself.

            This would actually make it closer to the original comic in execution which was about the mask passing from owner to owner turning most into violent cartoonish monsters.

            Either way it would save a great deal on casting, would allow for varying levels of horror and comedy (like "Nightmare on Elm Street"), and grant the sort of creative freedom with limits that encourages good story telling.
Very Different Tones could be played.

Friday, November 15, 2013

10 Haiku

In the House of Sin
Just off of Ohio Street
We were all quite safe

Not origami
The product of my hard work
Just crumpled paper

I want to go home
But I want to stay away
Take it day by day

The images swim
I close my eyes, white and black
ghosts of dreams unborn

I grew up I guess
She begged me to let her down
I did, but not hard

Between the Tree Rows
You can see the Horizon
Whether dark or day

How long will it last
Till April, May, June, or August
Today if lucky

I had just arrived
A world that just did not care
I was not surprised

Went through completely
Like a bullet, not a ghost
The hole she left hurt

You know what he is
Who?  You know who, Amsada
The Man in the Suit

Sunday, November 10, 2013

My Thoughts on "The Final Countdown"

            A while back I watched a movie from 1980, "The Final Countdown" (not the song).  It starred Martin Sheen and Kirk Douglas, so I thought it would be pretty good.  It is a high concept science fiction movie with the premise, "What if a modern 1980's aircraft carrier had been magically transported back in time to the waters outside of Pearl Harbor, the day before the Japanese attacked bringing the United States into World War II?"

Nothing in this entire movie approaches the awesome-ness of this single bit of concept art.
            Now a good chunk of the movie does two things very well, it shows the inner workings of a then modern aircraft carrier and it has people talking about implications of things.  The movie has a premise.  And it discusses that premise.  Forever.

            To just spoil the 33 year old movie, the crew is fully prepared to defend with all its firepower Pearl Harbor from attack and then report to FDR for further instruction.  The firepower on board is capable of totally leveling the Japanese fleet and more or less winning the war in a day.  But that doesn't happen.  What happens instead is that the magical storm that originally transported them to 1941 shows up again and transports them back to 1980 before they can actually attack Japan's fleet and change history.

            The entire plot and question of the movie goes entirely unanswered and amounts to nothing.  I cannot express how big a waste of time the movie is when that is the conclusion.

            If this movie had been made today it would have ended with the attack, and the battle would have been huge, pulled out all the stops and definitively shown that history as it had been was no more.  The movie would have ended and the sequels (and there would have been many, MANY sequels) would deal with the fall out of this.  It would have had to put forth a lot of questions, would we assassinate the numerous despots we knew were to come in the crib, or in the field hospitals (for instance Ho Chi Minh had been treated by American doctors years before leading North Vietnam).  How many social injustices would be confronted?  Like the black officers and crewmen on the ship, would they be able to talk to the oppressed black society of the time as to the relatively brighter tomorrow that awaited them?

            None of this is answered.  The movie is a toothless gumming of the audience's expectations.  So I had to ask myself, "Why does this movie exist?  And who is it for?"

            I believe that the movie exists to teach the audience how the "modern" 80's navy functions, and somewhat in contrast to the 40's.  Think about this.  Things like wikipedia, youtube, and the navy's own website could not just provide this information to people who might like to learn about it just to satisfy their curiosity.  A veteran of World War II who at the time of the movie could be 60 years old would like to learn what is changed since he left to become a farmer or a fireman.

            Movies like this exist to show the audience something they were curious about and illustrate it with a story that they might find entertaining or familiar.  They want to take you on a journey, lots of old movies are like this, tours or vacation spots turned into movies.  I am half certain all the exotic locals in James Bond movies are about showing people fantastic yachts and beach resorts, grand casinos and tropical islands because people couldn't see that stuff for real or on the internet.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Halloween Horror Nights XXIII, pt 2

            While at Universal Studios some weeks back now I went to a lot of effort to talk about the Haunted Houses which were the main attraction, but there are of course other points of interest, two of which are stage shows, the first being the "Rocky Horror Picture Show" and the other, "Bill and Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure", whose west coast counterpart has been taking heat for being homophobic.  There were also rides which I had never been on: Despicable Me, The Mummy, and Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit.
            Starting with the rides and speaking as a man whose last trip to the studios included "Jaws", "King Kong" and "ET" all of which are now gone I was a little blown away by their replacements.  "The Mummy" is huge fun and has some meta humor and is actually an indoor roller coaster rather than just a tour of the movie, ending with Brendan Fraser being charming.  It is a lot of fun.
            "Despicable Me" has a cute little story and the same cute characters that work in the movies... Movies I have not scene.  I got the dynamic and the setting and it too was fun, it was a 3D immersion ride that had the audience bouncing around with the smell of banana all around.  Again, fun enough.
            I like roller coasters and the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit was very cool.  Pick a song to listen to on the ride, I picked Kanye West's "Stronger" and it made things move at a good pace... What am I talking about I was on a roller coaster, it did nothing to the pace.  The pace was already fast.  That was the point.  I barely heard the music because I laugh like a fool on coasters.  Still immense fun even if that particular gimmick has less impact on me than it might others.

            The real highlights were the shows, The first being "Bill and Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure at Universal Studios", or as my brother called it, "Bill and Ted's Halloween Topical Reference Musical Number".  I really had no idea what to expect from this, apparently it just takes a lot of pop culture references (mostly memes) and some legitimately good group performances of pop music and strings them together.  Lot of fart jokes, lot of stupid crap... and yes I know it is "Bill and Ted" but those movies, cartoons, and TV shows were more clever than just fart jokes and references, they were more like retard "Doctor Who" (There was a live action "Bill and Ted" show.  Seriously.  Do you believe that?  It looks and was terrible).  I guess it was worth watching, but once they had a "Sharknado" costume walk out to help fight Selena Gomez and Miley Cyrus (the obvious missing joke for me was not having the actor playing Robin Thicke in the black and white stripe suit turn into "Beetlejuice").  I was just thinking of "Epic Movie" and "Meet the Spartans" and wanting to strangle someone.  It bounced back with the final pop music mash up though.

            The real-real highlight was the other show, which was a bit less packed but a hell of a lot less crap.  I had never been to an audience participation presentation of "Rocky Horror Picture Show" and it was a lot of fun.  Water guns, corsets, and a lot of very fit dancer/singers playing it up with real reverence toward the goofy material that they were performing.  "Rocky Horror" is a legendarily "bad" movie, a "Sharknado" of its time, but was made with zero cynical mindset and the people who made it had a soul.  If nothing else you can say, "it is like nothing else".  That is what sets it apart from "Bill and Ted".  Both are musical, but one is a quick and legit presentation of material that is original and heartfelt, the other is a cynical chain of, "that thing, and that other thing, and that other-other thing", which is not all that fun.
Seriously, everyone had a six pack.  So many crunches must have been done in preparation for this show.

(Next will be on the subsequent trip to Disney's Hollywood Studios, and the Epcot World Food Festival)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Halloween Horror Nights XXIII, pt1

            Last week I and some friends went to Halloween Horror Night 23, it was the first time I had ever been there and the first time in maybe a decade or more that I had gone to the Studios side of the Universal parks (For instance, the last time I went the highlights were still King Kong, Jaws, and E.T.).  We hit up Islands of Adventure first and did the big rides (I had no idea that the park had upgraded Spiderman so much, Hydro-Man, Hobgoblin, and Doctor Octopus all had character model upgrades and everything looked a lot more fluid).  We finished up at the gate Horror Nights and thanks to two of my friends superpowers, speed pass from one of them, and copious knowledge of Orlando parks from the other we were able to blitzkrieg the entire thing, visiting each horror house at least once, and some multiple times.
            Because I like to I will now rank the 8 of them from worst to best and express my happiness for having went to the thing overall.  It was a lot of fun.  The Walking Dead theme for the majority of the park was cute with zombies randomly yelling and shambling all over the place (one of our party members is a five foot tall woman who looks about 14, conversely I am 6'1", so she got targeted almost to the point of inspiring pity, while I just laughed like a mad scientist in the face of each actor trying to scare me).

Apparently I was laughing my ass off through the whole thing because I like getting spooked.
            The lowest was not by any means poorly executed, it had its charms, but someone has to be the bottom and since "Resident Evil" is more of a B-Movie hokey horror action thing it wasn't about the scares as much as the others.  It was fun to see the health spray and ammo under tiny spotlights making them stand out like they would in the game, but since "RE" does not illicit any nostalgic feelings in my soul the whole thing was just sort of 'meh'.

Mad science can be scary, but this just isn't to me.
7) "Havoc"
            This is an original story concocted to create a house at the park and it is alright, maybe it was just fatigue in that this one came later in the night and was only okay but nothing about it was especially memorable.  A train loaded down with deranged super soldiers crashes and they begin rampaging against the troops trying to contain the threat.  It doesn't really sound like the plot to a horror movie, really more of a Sy-Fy action movie, so it didn't get any points for tone either.

It is not a bad idea for a very small scale thriller movie, like "Predator" or "Alien".
6) "Evil Dead"
            My brother, who was part of the troupe, tells me that this was a very faithful adaptation of the movie, it is all there.  I didn't see the movie.  And I have no intention to as my brother told me the movie was not very good, and I am not a fan of gore as a selling point.  That all being said it does have HORROR as a central theme which puts it above the other two.  Though I must say, putting it in the same show as "Cabin in the Woods" seems to be the biggest possible handicap because "Evil Dead" plays the idea of stupid isolated kids attacked by monsters straight, and that whole idea was put to death by "Cabin".  It is an odd mood killer for "ED".

I don't even have all that much affection for the original and that has Bruce Campbell in it.
            This was the de facto theme for the whole park with shambling undead actors everywhere and the remnants of a military resistance to the horde left broken and empty all over the place, the house itself takes you back to societies downfall, with military fighting zombies and losing.  If you don't mind zombies still being a thing (and I kind of do, because seriously "Dawn of the Dead" was 10 years ago this stuff should have boiled off to a new fad by now) then you will get more mileage out of it.  It might actually be ranked higher just because it was the first house we went through and so got me at a fresher state of mind.

6) "After Life"
            This one will hurt your brain.  Using laser and lighting effects combined with 3D glasses there are neon ghosts EVERYWHERE, and I got so lost in the crazy hellish imagery that I had to be pointed in the right direction by helpful park employees several times.  This actually works to its advantage because it is the most visually distinct thing in the whole park and getting literally lost in the visuals is kind of awesome.  And it is really creepy as you are going through hell.

            I find this movie to hit that sweet spot between overrated and classic.  Yeah it is a little slow by modern standards but the effects are still good today, and it is still studied in film classes and special effects workshops for its cutting edge practical effects and makeup.  You can tell the people who made this house loved the movie and have a great familiarity with the material, the house moves through the story and has some great scenes on display, it is a lot of fun.  Probably will rank lower for people who haven't seen it, in which case I would recommend watching the movie.

It will not measure up to its classic status, but totally measures up to its status as a classic.  It is a paradox.
            This is a hispanic legend about a woman who murdered her own children to be with the man she loved, only to be spurned by him, go even more crazy and start kidnapping and killing more children.  Since this was a legend I had not heard before, and it has a legitimately creepy aspect with very vulnerable victims and great images of a murderous woman in a wedding dress and drown kids the house works really well.  I think it actually worked even better on me because I seemed to be going through it at just the right time.  Actors who had just finished jumping out at the people 10 steps ahead of me would be discretely hiding and slipping into shadows, which made them much more ghostly, fleeting from vision, then something would jump out or move just enough so that I could become aware of it in the shadows, it was less jump scare and more just unnerving.

Totally did not expect anything from this, and it ended up getting a silver medal.  Good job guys.

            I love this movie, and apparently so did the prop and make up department because they were able to go bananas with the 50 different monsters coming from every direction.  Two of my friend with us had already gone to an earlier weekend and went through "Cabin" without having seen the movie, and had no idea what was going on, but it inspired them to go see the movie and they loved it, and they then loved the house more as a result.  It is a wonderful tour of a great movie that shows the full range of horror's creative nature, FANTASTIC.

It is so god damn good.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

My Thoughts on "Case Closed"

            Is it odd that I have only just now opened some DVD's that I bought from a Sam Goody?  And if you all don't know what Sam Goody is, it was a name for f.y.e. the mall franchise, but nearly all of them were bought out and converted in 2008, meaning I have had these unwatched movies for about 5 years.
            Yeah that is pretty odd, especially I didn't watch one whole DVD in a single sitting.  2 out of the 3 episodes of "Case Closed" were watched, the other was put off in favor of a couple games of puzzle fighter.

It is so much darker than one would think.  More Agatha Christie than "Harriet the Spy".
            It is a good show, I bought the DVD's back when it was playing on [adult swim] and thought it was a good bit of fun, though gimmicky as all hell.  A young man, who is a detective prodigy is drugged by a criminal organization, the drug turns him into a child, so now he lives under an assumed name with his girlfriend and her father, neither of which know what is going on.  And since it is a murder mystery show someone dies every episode, usually within 40 yards of the now boy detective.  since the series has more than 700 episodes it can be assumed that Conan is responsible for more murder resolution than all of the policemen in Belgium over the last 4 years.  The young detective hides his efforts by letting his girlfriend's father take all of the credit, he shoots the guy with a knock out dart and then uses a voice modulator to give a parlor scene.
            The show has minimal issues.  The turning into a kid thing is totally unnecessary, and gives the show a confused tone because it can be very bloody or complicated, yet the young protagonist seems to indicate the audience is children.  The animation is also strange, they draw Detective Conan (that is his fake name, Conan) they draw him as so small as to be not human.  If the girlfriend's dad is a tall 6', Conan comes up mid-thigh maximum, which makes him about 30" tall, or the size of a two year old.  There are times when he is animated as even smaller, which adds to the gimmick, he is tiny and wears a cute bow tie and glasses, he is a mascot.  It's silly.

            Can't argue with success though.

Perfectly reasonable to bring the tiny child to a murder scene and let him help out and poke around.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

My Thoughts on "Fate/Zero"

(A short while ago I did a first impressions at JACT, an anime club at Florida State University, and we watched some of "Fate/Zero"; last weekend we watched a little more and this is my thoughts on that...)

            "Fate/Zero" is by no means the MOST baffling of anime I have ever seen but it have so many problems layered on top of one another the thing starts to break down just halfway through the cold opener of the pilot and does not build up steam enough to escape the event horizon of my apathy.
            I will however complain about lots of stuff that I identified as issues in the first 3 episodes, the maximum amount of time I was given to let this thing impress me.  It failed, it is dead to me, and here is the autopsy.

            1) The loads and loads of cryptic info dumps.  This is an egregious problem with genre shows and if I had to point to an example of what to follow, "Witch Hunter Robin".  In the first episode a fish out of water main character is drafted into a secret society of magic users that police witches.  They have cool weapons (that we see in use) each of the main protagonists interact to show off in efficient ways their personalities in regards to one another, nothing is too term heavy, and visual depictions of things move the story forward.
            In "Fate/Zero" long conversations referring to any number of cryptic terminology and arcane political minutia make it impossible to follow in medias res.  What is more, the nature of the show makes it impossible to see the principle characters interact with one another in any substantive way.  There is no main character to whom things are explained and demonstrated, there is no haunting nursery rhyme to allude to the various mystical elements that come later, and there is very little clean displays of rules in action.  Everything has to be explained, explained again, and explained again, never getting clearer.

            2) Good God, the cast is gigantic.  This would actually be less of an issue if each cast member was as physically and emotionally distinct as they could be, but if you were to stand 4 out of the 7 wizards next to one another I couldn't tell you which was which.  There are 7 wizards competing in the show for the Grail, they in turn have 7 very distorted historical figures to work with, they also have at least one supporting cast member though sometimes 3 or more, that means there are upwards of 30 characters introduced in the first 3 episodes.  "Game of Thrones" wasn't so intense with introductions.
            Compare this to a show like "Bleach" or "Naruto" in which the first 3 episodes have maybe 6-8 characters in total focused primarily on the main character and his supporting cast.  Those worlds even had mythologies that were a lot more original and used a vocabulary that was clear, and lended itself toward explanation rather than being cryptic or trying to sound epic, even now that both those shows have dozens of characters, each character has visual personality and their introductions were paced out to allow each time to plant themselves in the minds of the audience.  "Fate/Zero" jumps into the deep end of its own story, as if you were starting 30 episodes into a normal series.

            3) "Fate/Zero" is studded with "MEANING".  Studded is a derogatory term I use for stories which have imagery from myths and history, but those things do not in anyway add to the story, what those things serve to do is add a layer of fake legitimacy to the work.  "Fate/Zero" throws around terms like Grail, and names like Bluebeard or C'thulhu without giving any of those terms the respect they disserve. 
            For instance, an objective is to summon the spirit(?) or manifestation of a famous historical sword fighter to serve as a servant in an upcoming grand battle, like Pokemon but with Historical figures.  They ask for and get King Arthur, who was apparently a woman the whole time.  Why they chose to do this I have no idea, if they wanted a prominent female warrior to serve in this battle there is no reason to alter the gender of an established figure, instead just get Joan of Arc or Boudica.  Instead they throw out Arthur cause... Reasons?

            4) Who are these people?  Alexander the Great of Macedon is a character in this series, and takes on the visage of an 8 foot tall red haired behemoth riding a chariot, several things wrong with that, as Alexander was Macedonian, and thus was ethnically Serb/Slav/Greek, not a lot of groups known for their red hair.  Then you have Gilgamesh portrayed as a blonde Adonis, even though he was Sumerian and is shown standing in front of pictures of tan skinned and dark haired Sumerians, highlighting the shows lack of research on the people they are presenting.  All of it is like this.
            You might say in rebuttal, "it is a cartoon, who cares if they have Arthur as a woman or if they have a blonde middle easterner?"  I care.  It goes back to the idea of this thing being studded with meaning, these names and titles, totems and symbols are all supposed to make us think something profound or interesting is happening... It isn't, it is a trick.  They are using these characters to trick your brain into thinking there is something important going on, when really it is just a very generic anime action series plot, with slow pacing and stilted dialogue.
Gilgamesh portrayed as a Sumerian.
Gilgamesh as presented by "Fate/Zero", and probably how Neo-Nazis like to think of him.

            What is more, I can explain what is going on faster than the show can.  There is a society of mages, divided by class and breeding.  The noble houses of this society gather every so many years to compete for the Grail, a powerful item which will bestow one wish to the victor.  These mystics fight with the souls of legendary beings, generals, kings, soldiers, and rogues (though I still find it stupid to have "caster" be a summon able thing by a wizard, it would be like having "human" as you power animal/spirit guide).  Each competitor is chosen at random and each has their own goals, supporting casts, knowledge base, and tactics.  Hell, I wrote a poem:

Seven will come so fast
to dance the dance of death
From Heaven descend breath
Of life of legends past
Wishes from Chalice lips drips
to quench the breadth of thirst
For power, chaos, conquest
Marks call souls to unrest

            But there is no clever presentation, the characters all look alike and sound alike, they all have the same jargon heavy dialogue, the few who stand apart do so mostly because of the "historical" figures they conjure.  The pacing of this show is a disaster, information should be woven into the narrative, not read to the audience like encyclopedia entries.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Superman vs Zod (SPOILERS for "Man of Steel")

            You know, in real life occasionally good people have to choose between killing someone and letting that person hurt an innocent third party.  This happens when a person has to sniper someone to save a hostage.
            In the ending of the movie "Man of Steel" Superman is forced to kill in hand to hand a madman bent on the annihilation of all life on Earth (that goal is stated by the villain in no uncertain terms, his desire to destroy is clear).  This is just the superhero version of the sniper and the hostage, the sniper being Superman, the hostage being the world.
            The biggest issue people seem to have is this, "Superman does not kill."  Which I do not know where they get that from.  I suppose it is their own preconceived notion toward the character, that they think of Superman is boring and can do no wrong (those are in fact the complaints I most hear about the character).  And I would say that the biggest complaint people have against Superman is that he manages to effortlessly solve problems, making it hard to identify with him.  By having the final conflict of the film be Superman vs Audience Expectations turns out is a far more interesting fight than Superman vs Zod.
            For whatever reason people expected Superman to somehow get out of the situation, I knew what was going to happen pretty much the moment I saw Zod no longer on the Kryptonian ship, his only end was going to be death.  By putting Superman in a situation that he has to compromise what people feel his values to be should make him more "human" or identifiable in the eyes of the audience.  I actually cannot figure out why it didn't.  This is something done far better than it has been presented in the past and sets up an interesting starting point for the new series.

And speaking of interesting starting points, go read JMS' "Superman Earth 1" which has two hardcover trade paperbacks out that have a rather cool take on the character.
            The reason superheroes don't kill to start with is because they need recurring villains. If Batman killed the Joker, then there would be no more Joker stories, and no more Joker action figure money. Superman's bad guys lack the option of being caged in an ineffective asylum so the idea of Zod being in prison is a hard idea to accept. If they wanted to they could have had the story end with Zod being thrown into the Phantom Zone, but they made a choice to have Superman kill Zod, which by the way: HE DID THAT IN THE REEVES MOVIES TOO.  Zod is a monster bent on genocide, why would you want Superman to leave him alive?

If you care for more of this, here is some more of me writing about "Man of Steel" and "Star Trek Into Darkness" for good measure.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Hero vs. Protagonist

            People do not understand the terms, "Hero" and "Protagonist".  I keep hearing people describe Walter White of "Breaking Bad" as an Anti-Hero, mostly because he does criminal activity for understandable reasons.  Yeah he is not a "hero" at all.  He is a villain.  He is a villain protagonist.
            To be fair this is a problem created by a cultural norm started with a lot of older movies.  The norm was to portray the good guys in the protagonist role, giving them clear motivations, causing people to think that motivation = heroism, and that main character = hero.
            Truth is, bad guys have motivations, they make decisions just like everyone else in the world and can be motivated by simple or complex needs and desires just like a hero can be.  Luke Skywalker is a hero, he does the right thing for the right reasons (though gains complexity as he does endanger himself and his friends for the sake of trying to bring his father back to the light side), Han Solo starts as an anti villain, does the right thing for the wrong reasons (saving the princess for reward).
            On the other end is Walter White who starts as an anti-hero, doing a bad thing for a good reason (cooking meth to pay for his care and to leave his family something after his death), then moves into full blown villain as he does things out of pride and greed overlooking extreme violence or committing violent acts to continue with his criminal lifestyle even though he doesn't need to.
            Villain protagonists are not common and so people tend to call the main character the "hero" of the story when that is more and more not the case.  TV is a cluttered medium, and in order to gain traction with an audience TV is taking steps toward more and more violent, nefarious, or just evil characters.  This has made things much less heroic.
            Look at the nominations for best series, "Breaking Bad" (show about the complex world of drug dealing), "Homeland" (terrorism), "House of Cards" (political intrigue and dirty dealings), "Mad Men" (ADVERTISEMENTS, is there a greater evil?), "Game of Thrones" (Dark fantasy with mass murder as a series highlight), "Downton Abbey" (Classism and idol rich).  Compared with 2000: "ER" (doctors saving lives), "Law and Order" (cops and lawyers fighting crime), "The Practice" (more complex, lawyers seeking justice and paychecks), "The West Wing" (ultimate romanticized political drama), and "The Sopranos" (the mob).  Things have gotten a lot darker, with only a couple shows analogous to each other and most modern shows taking after the tone of "The Sopranos" more than any of the others.
I have cancer, that makes it okay for me to hurt people in the pursuit of massive wealth.
Just for my own amusement to illustrate my position I am going to list a few of each type of character alignment.
Hero (right thing, right reasons, right methods):
Movies: Luke Skywalker "Star Wars", Hercules "Disney's Hercules", Batman "The Dark Knight", Atticus Finch "To Kill a Mockingbird"
TV: President Bartlett and pretty much the whole cast of "The West Wing", Doctor Green and pretty much everyone from "ER", Ned Stark "Game of Thrones", Hank Schrader "Breaking Bad"
Comic Books: Superman "Superman", Captain Marvel "SHAZAM"

Anti Hero (right thing, questionable reasons, questionable methods)
Movies: Batman "Batman", James Bond "Skyfall", General Patton "Patton"
TV: Jack Bauer "24", Walter White "Breaking Bad" (Initially), Tyrion Lannister "Game of Thrones", Stannis Baratheon "Game of Thrones"
Comic Books: Wolverine "Uncanny X-Men", Jesse Custer "Preacher"

Anti Villain (wrong thing, right reasons, questionable methods)
Movies: Tyler Durden "Fight Club", Will Munny "Unforgiven", HAL 9000 "2001: A Space Odyssey"
TV: Saul Goodman "Breaking Bad", Theon Greyjoy "Game of Thrones" (Very Close to Villain)
Comic Books: Black Adam "52", The Authority "The Authority" (Initially Anti-Hero), Magneto "Uncanny X-Men"

Villain (wrong thing, wrong reasons, wrong methods)
Movies: Joker "The Dark Knight", Hannibal Lecter "The Silence of the Lambs",
TV: Tuco Salamanca "Breaking Bad", Walter White "Breaking Bad" (Later Seasons), Ramsay Snow "Game of Thrones", Gregor Clegane "Game of Thrones"

Comic Books: Apocalypse "Uncanny X-Men"

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Anime Season for JACT, part 2

No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys' Fault I’m Not Popular! (Watamote)
            This is one of the rare times that the short Japanese version is preferable, but that is only because the title's length is supposed to be a joke.  This is one of those rare comedy anime in which most of the humor works even on American audiences because it is mostly about the extreme awkwardness of the main protagonist, a teenage girl who gets all of her ideas about social interaction from dating (porn) video games she plays.  It successfully juxtaposes her dark antisocial personality, the sadness of that, and the fact that what she wants (friends and a boyfriend specifically) are totally at odds with how she sees the world (referring to socializing people as "sluts" and envisions them having orgies at karaoke clubs, though nothing explicit is shown the implication is that a girl is masturbating with a microphone).

Since her normal appearance is just like any other sulky anime character design, they often go out of the way to super detail animate her when she tries to make herself look pretty or ugly, either way she ends up looking awful.
            Complaints: a lot of people were laughing really hard at different parts that I didn't find funny, I found them pathetic and sad.  Being unable to talk to people and then begging a sibling for help to form some kind of social interaction is not funny, it is sad.  Her brother then lamenting having to help her deal with this (just through the simple act of listening) is also sad, if your sibling talks about suicide and then begs you to help them find a voice to talk to people you shouldn't then try to ignore them, that isn't a joke, that is not a punch line.  If anything that should be a turning point in the show.
            In sum: a funny dark comedy about an unlikable protagonist that approaches moments of being a little too mean spirited for my taste, but then brings it back a bit.  Could stand to have a little more heart in my opinion.  This was also voted a keeper.

            I swear to god this show has the best opening teaser I have seen in a long time (that links to the whole first episode), a woman with a camera takes pictures of political intrigue, as she walks away to document the evidence she is run down by a car, the driver then destroys the memory card to the camera and drives off leaving her to die in the rain.  That is gangbuster television.  It then cuts to an anime opening about a school club based around trying out various candy and snack food and the wacky shenanigans the club members get up to.  I swear to god it is like they spliced five minutes of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" into the opening of "Bring it On".  There are also moments of politics and big pretentious speeches about school financing that have too much overture and take the series from goofy fun to grim serious in a half second.

Okay, this show has 7 female characters and made the color coded hair thing work.
            Complaints: the tone of this show is totally fucked and completely jarring.  The scenes of humor start off as relatable and fun, real friends interacting with one another, like an episode of "Boy Meets World", then it gets odd with more and more surreal humor like a guy with a propeller sprouting out of his head just spinning for no reason, and a guy with a mask that no one but the main character notices (Metaphor?).  The political intrigue stuff is from another show and is stupidly framed around student council politics (Commentary?) and just seems out of place next to the stupid goofy comedy.
            In sum: I actually was willing to give this strange blending of genres another go but it was voted down.  Maybe the political intrigue would make the comedy parts less zany, and the comedy would make the politics less pretentious, I don't know, and I guess it doesn't matter.

            This show is competently drawn boredom centering around little girls growing up.  There are four characters, the retard, the retard's stalker, the butt monkey, and the one in glasses.
            Even More Complaints:  This show is shit and I can explain why.  When you have a show that centers on Magic, Aliens invading, or other non-normal things you typically like to set the stage by having the normalcy of the main characters lives played up, each has some simple characteristics and backstory that people can easily grasp so that when the odd stuff shows up they will not get hung up on characters they can't connect with.  It is like how "Sailor Moon" and "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" had very typical teenagers as their protagonists but each had their own role in the team.  "A Channel!" has no supernatural element, it is just boring easy to identify teen clich├ęs.  It is padded to all hell and there is no plot to notice.  Maybe it is supposed to be funny, but it is mostly just NOTHING.
            In sum: I don't want to watch it, and neither did anyone else, it had the fewest votes for continued watching.
Does anybody know what the hell we are even doing here?

Free! (Iwatobi Swim Club)
            This show kind of confounds me.  It is a fanservice show.  It is about a group of childhood friends (all guys) who grew apart when one moved away.  They are all swimmers and the show seems to have them get dressed only so they can disrobe to bathing suits dramatically and often.  Lots of abdominals, lots of ass and crotch shots.  The whole thing seems to have been created backwards, a 30 second commercial for the show was created by an upstart animation team to showcase their talent, the commercial for a show that doesn't exist went viral, a lot of fan-fiction was written, and to capitalize on a market that they created the team then made a series.
            Complaints: the characters are kind of boring.  They are a boy band: the cute one, the loner, the jerk, and the big softy.  I am not a fan of fan service, I kind of grew away from sexualizing cartoons and have a hard time getting into boobs that are drawn.  Now I have a show that is showing off illustrated male bodies, so before I was 'meh' now I am at whatever level of caring that is below 'meh'.  My biggest complaint will sound insane though: it was not voted to be a regular.

There is a shocking amount of pornography related to this show... Maybe not that shocking.
            There were more women at the JACT meeting last night than I have ever seen at a meeting, and much like a ladies night out to see "Magic Mike" they were hooting and woo-ing at "Free!"  They came to watch "Free!"  Since it isn't a regular, not a lot of them will come back, so the club will revert to a much more mono-gender setting and that is bad.  I don't necessarily want to hit on all 20-40 women there, that is lecherous even for me, but I like having people to talk with about what we all are watching that are not the same people every week and not all of them should be the same gender.  Instead the club just didn't vote for it, and I imagine more than a few of them looked at the show as "gay" and wrote it off for that reason.  Now I will admit, the show isn't good, but I like the idea of another group coming to JACT for the show they want to watch and then getting some other stuff with it.  Broadening the appeal without necessarily deluding the content.
            In sum: it is fine, I am not who it is aimed at and there is a place for this type of show.

If you are a fan of Anime and are inexplicably still reading this I recommend JesuOtaku as an anime reviewer over on her own site and ThatGuyWithTheGlasses.

Anime Season for JACT, part 1

            I belong to JACT, a club at Florida State University based around watching Anime.  The full title is "Japanese Animation Club Tallahassee".  I cannot call myself a fan of anime, because anime is not a genre, it is an amorphous and arbitrary grouping of animation from Japan (though seeming all animated in Korea), and I mostly watch it when I am looking for a show that has very uncommon subject matter (uncommon for an American, in Japan this stuff could be seen as an everyday thing).
            Last night was the first meeting of the club and they previewed 7 different shows, the first episodes of their respective series and everyone voted on which they would like to see more of (the 7 were chosen by the club officers).  I have chosen to give my two cents here because I didn't bother to go to Chili's after the meeting so as not to spend money.

Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin)
            This is the biggest pop culture thing in Anime since "Full Metal Alchemist".   "Titan" was a popular choice to display, and I will give it this credit: SHIT HAPPENS.  In the first episode the series establishes the cultural dynamics, some religion, some politics, and some allusions to deeper mysteries, then the 200 foot tall skinless monster blows through the defenses and unleashes an army of creepy faced, people eating giants on the denizens we spent the last 15 minutes getting to know.
            Complaints: This show has a problem with pacing, the first thing shown in the entire show is the giant skinless monster, the second thing shown is one of the smaller (but still giant) creepy faced people eaters.  When making a monster movie/show, you don't immediately show the monster, you build to the revelation, showing it off the bat has the same issue as premature ejaculation, the monster is the money shot, you don't start with the money shot.

This is like the first thing you see.
            Also the first episode has five episodes worth of material in it and the condensing robs a lot of what happens of its dramatic weight.  A person's legs are crushed by a falling building and the heroes have to be pulled away from trying to save this person, if we had spent more than one scene with this person (no exaggeration, she was there and her next scene is being crushed) then her death at the hands of a creepy faced giant would have been shocking on an emotional level rather than just gore soaked (she could have been the Ned Stark of the series).
            In sum: poorly paced but never the less intriguing introduction I want to watch more.  Kind of reminds me of the movie "Starship Troopers".  And it is a keeper, JACT will be watching an episode a week for the semester along with the other regulars (only three of the initial seven become regulars).

Bullet Rebuttal (Dangan Ronpa)
            Based on a videogame, this is a "Battle Royal" knock off in which all of the victims look like they were stolen from either a terrible "StreetFighter" rip off, or possibly an episode of "YuGiOh!" (Look at the hair).  The villain of the story communicates with the victims via a robotic teddy bear.  For the most part each "character" acts in accordance with how they should act, the thug threatens, the fighter picks his punches, and the fat guy is an asshole.

I guess when you have 15 characters your designs have to move past the usual, Green, Red, Blue hair coding.
            Complaints: real problem is, they are not characters, they are arch-types, at least at first, I am sure the show and game flesh them out. Since the main character of the show is based of the main character of the game, the player, he is a blank slate openly telling the audience through voice-over that he is not special in anyway.  The art style as I mentioned is really over the top to the point of self parody, and the premise has become too commonplace in pop culture that this seems like a tremendous waste as it does nothing interesting with the concept to call its own.  Think about this, the concept of children being confined and forced to murder each other has become too prevalent in pop culture for me to find it intriguing.
            In sum: it looks bad, is overshadowed in its premise, its characters are one note by design, and while it might have worked as a game allowing the interactive element to explore things give it a gimmick to break out, this is just a show that has to boil down the concept out of necessity.  Unfortunately it is one of the shows JACT voted to keep watching.

            The logo looks like "Final Fantasy XIII", and... This show is a mess.  The first episode is actually 47 minutes long so for the sake of time we only watched the first half of it, so it is possible the second half makes it come together better, but what I saw had unnecessary and distracting flashbacks, pretentious dialogue, and it explained both way too much and way too little.  There was a glimmer of hope for this series when it focused on a student character, that was basically arguing for the overthrow of the aristocratic/old-money themes that the world endorses, but that is swept away for a gloomy protagonist whose story is convoluted and very poorly presented.

Look at this Logo.
Notice any similarities?

            More Complaints: the blocking on this show is insanely incompetent.  Massive rooms in which the main character stands at the center (I am not joking this next part literally happens) two characters then walk circles around him for no reason while they explain to him the gargantuan blocks of text that are the rules of this setting, dropping terms and nomenclature that mean nothing to the audience and explaining nothing in any way that can be understood, humans don't behave like this.  The scene actually shows chairs and a table that they could comfortably sit and explain things maybe with cut-away visuals to epic magic battles or still images of what they are talking about, you know, visual storytelling.  Instead the "camera" focuses on one guy as he walks and talks, then the other guy walking and talking, then on the protagonist who doesn't move or say anything and is unnaturally still.
            In sum: maybe the budget for the show's animation was trim and they needed to save it for the things they allude to but it is boring to watch, confusing and boring to listen to, and when it was over I did not miss it.  It was not voted to be kept.  (We watched a bit more, and it did not improve the experience, here is a much more lengthy review.)

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Goodwill Book Shopping

            While I sit here hiccupping I shall relate a random incident that happened to me recently that I hope does have some entertainment value.

            I was at a Goodwill looking for old copies of books the add to the pile of books I have to read but have not knuckled under and read making my room look more fit for a very literate serial killer.

            All that said, I did find a trio of books I though to buy.  They are fantasy novels from the early 90's based in the Dungeons and Dragons world of "Dark Sun".  This was a desert wasteland setting, probably meant to feed of the nerds who recently discovered Post Apocalypse fiction thanks to "Road Warrior" and "Beyond Thunderdome".  TSR, the makers of Dungeons and Dragons mostly did their own thing creatively but they also knew a fun image of imbeciles going through the desert searching for power has an appeal to disaffected youth (as the zombie genre has been doing to diminishing effect for a decade now), TSR mostly just added dinosaurs and bug people.

This is the first of the three I bought.  What I am amazed by is that this novel is still in print.
            Anyway, I had the three books and was in line and I looked over to the VHS display they had next to the front door, a young woman was flipping through them and pulled up an erotic yoga tape and then held it up for me to see.  This was weird and random, so I glanced behind me and saw the guy she was trying to motion to and said, "I think I intercepted something," and pointed her out to him.

            At this point she is mortified because she has been trying to goofy flirt with her husband (the guy I made pay attention) but had mostly been accidently hitting on me.  "Don't be embarrassed, it is funny, the sort of random thing you laugh about later."  As she turns crimson.

            I believe people need to remember that other individuals can see what is going on.  You're not online or anything and thus it won't get you sent to a gulag or fired, but it is awkward to do stuff like that with so many people in the direct line of delivery.