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.