Sunday, August 29, 2010


Why is it that so many years later this movie still bugs me?

"X" is a long-running manga series that was adapted into an absolutely terrible movie back all the way in 1996.  However since back in 1996 nobody on my continent cared about anime except for three dudes on the Internet, it took four years before the movie made it to America.  And it even got a limited release in the US back in 2000.  It wasn't until... 2005, I thiink, that I ever actually caught this movie on Starz.  Anyway, "X" is a massively complex story with around six hundred million named important characters all fighting an epic battle of Good vs. Evil that will decide the fate of the universe.  Being huge and complex, adaptating this story into a ninety-seven film is quite frankly impossible.  So as you'd expect, the movie is really confusing if you watch it knowing nothing about the "X" saga (which I didn't and still largely don't) because there are tons of named characters and a lot of really complicated rules you have to learn while trying to meet and care about characters.  Actually the movie is a mess, and the English dub doesn't make anything better - its the second worst dub I've ever heard in my life*.  I wouldn't recommend it on any level.

So that's exactly the thing that lead me to write this post.  I've seen dozens of shitty anime movies.  As matter of fact, I have plenty of fingers to list all the good anime films I've seen - all but two of them were made by Miyazakis.  But while I've complete forgotten mindless crap like "Eureka 7: The Movie", for some reason "X" is the movie that keeps me up at night.  There are even really good movie that I saw in 2005 that I've forgotten largely, like "Good Night and Good Luck".  What is with this stupid little movie?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Hopefully the End

Fulfilling a campaign promise, President Barack Obama* has begun a massive draw-down of US forces from Iraq, semi-officially ending the seven year conflict that has raged in that nation since our invasion back in 2003.  Of course, our last President, George W. Bush, in typical oblivious form, declared "Mission Accomplished" on board the USS Abraham Lincoln only several weeks after the US first invaded.  Yes, Saddam Hussein was gone, his government ousted, the Baathist forces defeated forever, but we all know painfully well that the war was far from over.  Obama, preferring not to repeat his predecessor's... um... let's find a diplomatic phrase and call it "enthusiasm", will probably not be dramatically flying onto a Nimitz-class nuclear powered war ship and then enjoying a victory party, as much fun as that would be.  However, as low-key as this affair might be, its still a major turning point in the history of Iraq, and the United States as well.

But even though this moment may indeed be a signal to the end of the war, one cannot help but be worried.  Iraq for most of these seven years as been a nation-state in complete chaos.  And ultimately I really do think that most of the blame for the initial failures of Operation Iraqi Freedom stemmed directly from the Bush Administration itself.  Remember, these are the people who convinced themselves that Iraq held Weapons of Mass Destruction - the real world was never much of a concern for that organization.  For years the situation was allowed to fester and the country was allowed to fall to pieces purely because there just weren't enough security forces on the ground to take control of the situation.  Now that the Surge (which I'll admit I never believed in until it worked) had ended, its truly a worrisome prospect whether the country can hold together without a military occupation.

I suppose all you can do is pray and hope for our country, the Iraqis, and indeed for the entire world - and it is the world's problem, even if most of us can ignore it - that Iraq can hold together and the country can survive intact and peacefully.  Obama might be signing this country's death warrant or perhaps leading it towards a great new period in its history.  Its impossible to tell at this point.  All we can do is hope.

That's all I got:  no real conclusion, no real argument, not even particularly eloquent, just a prayer.

* Two years into his presidency, its worth noting, Obama name still gets readlined by Firefox's spellcheck, hilariously.  Of course, Firefox's spellcheck sucks to begin with.  It doesn't think that "teleport" is a word either.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Magicite Madness II

This Friday at the Final Fantasy Wiki, I and a certain lizard-creature named "Drake Clawfang" will be co-hosting a Final Fantasy character tournament, named "Magicite Madness II".  Three years ago (or maybe longer) the wiki held a tournament called "Magicite Madness" where dozens of classic and not-so-classic Final Fantasy characters came together and had an epic brawl for supremacy.  In the end, only one character could possibly have been voted No. 1, and that was Vivi.

Now, I don't think that the tastes of the Final Fantasy fandom have changed much, but the tournament was silly fun and was probably worth repeating.  So 256 characters have been picked from all across the Final Fantasy epochs, both good and bad, famous and obscure, to come together and fight in glorious battle for the chance to dethrone Vivi as the Ultimate Champion of the Universe.

So this coming Friday, come by the Final Fantasy Wiki and get voting.  Only you can decide who the champion will be.  Enjoy.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Expendables

Is there any point to even write a review of this one?  Spoony pretty much summed up everything that needs to be said in his review.  So let's just cut to the point:  "The Expendables" is not good.  It just isn't.  If you really must see a popcorn goofy 80s action movie, there's "Predator 3" from earlier this summer.  There's no tension, no real threat, no serious enemy that can threaten the heroes, and well you get right down to it:  no point.

At first, when I was watching this movie, I was just a bit unentertained.  I was going to simply let it off with a pass:  "not my kind of movie", "worth a rent", "if you have sexual fantasies involving Sylvester Stallone, here's your film".  But I've soured on this, and soured fast.  I wasn't expecting Shakespeare, I wasn't expecting a timeless classic, but I was expecting fun.  And this movie just isn't fun.  The action is messy:  hard and gritty but completely artless and unexciting.  There are tons of explosions, lots of deaths, lots of punches thrown, but no real soul to any of it.  The movie is just not well shot.  The story is just not convincing or interesting or worth anybody's time.  And the characters just aren't any good.

Plus, arguably worst of all, this movie is just too damn loud.  For some reason or another, this movie was just several decibels higher than even the loudest movies I've seen.  Every other shot has an explosion or gunshots or loud punches or engines roaring or some other loud noise.  As I'm writing this, I have a splitting headache, all thanks to this stupid movie.  I think my brain is trying to dig itself out of my skull.  There are movies that are mediocre and pointless, and then there are the mediocre and pointless movies that are physically painful to experience.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Tales From Earthsea

Can somebody please explain to me why the Japanese hated this one so much?

"Tales From Earthsea" is the latest* movie released by the legendary Japanese animation house, Studio Ghibli.  And it also is easily their most hated film yet.  It won Japan's Worst Movie of the Year award for 2006.  Goro Miyazaki, son of legendary "Japanese Walt Disney" Hayao Miyazaki, won Worst Director.  That's a seriously negative reaction right there.  Rotten Tomatoes gives this film a 39% approval, which is only but a few points lower than Obama's current standing in the daily political popularity contests.  Why?  I honestly don't see how this movie is massively worse than Studio Ghibli's usual work.

Going to see this movie today, I really had a very mixed feeling.  There was a lot going against this movie.  Miyazaki Jr. had never directed a movie ever before and seemed to only get his job through nepotism thanks to his illustrious father.  Then there was the negative reception.  Even the author of the fantasy novels which this movie is based on, Ursula K. LeGuin, didn't like the many changes from her original work.  Having never even heard of "Earthsea" before this movie, I can't really vouch from the film's faithfulness**.  I can say this, unlike the careless SciFi network, Goro Miyazaki seems to have legitimately wanted to please LeGuin with his work, though its now clear he didn't really succeed.  Fans of "Earthsea" probably won't like the changes made.  But despite the seemingly dark cloud surrounding the film, I still decided to go on an epic quest to go see it.  To my surprise, it was an excellent little movie, even brilliant at times.  I give it a very high recommendation.

So why all the hate?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Blue Rewrites Cloud Mows the Lawn

Last weekend when I tuned in at midnight for another fun episode of "Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood" I was disappointed to find that, as always, the English dubs were moving at a glacial pace*.  So instead of a new episode, the entire show is repeating again, meaning that I won't know if (spoiler) Ed and Envy and that Chinese Dude can escape Gluttony's Hammerspace until sometime next spring, maybe.  SHIT!

Wait a second.... "Shit".  The reminds me of something...

Ah yes, a few weeks ago I read the most hilarious bit of fanfiction ever in my entire life.  Based on "Final Fantasy VII" very loosely, it was called "Cloud Mows the Lawn" and written by a person known only as Rasso (I don't want to know anything else about this author).  Whether man, woman, or robotic bunny riding a pink ogre operated by a Shinra Executive, either way Rasso is an undeniable freak with little concern for international copyright laws.  I'm going to spare you the ordeal of reading it, but if you must know what happens, Masterpiece Fanfic Theatre has a dramatic read here.  Trust me, its one of the funniest things ever, if you're not faint of stomach.  Also there is a chance that you may not be able to look yourself in the mirror ever again if by happenstance you get sexually aroused.  I still have not decided whether or not this story is just a joke or actually is Rasso's fetish, and I can't decide which possibility is worse.

However, as fascinatingly weird as Rasso's fetishistic story may be, I find that he greatly missed his chance for something of true artistic merit.  You see, I only wanted a story about Cloud doing gardening, little more.  As long as Cloud has a lawnmower and a lawn below him. that's all I need.  I loved the story right up until the eight paragraph, when it turned from lawn care to... umm, shit.  Also Rasso's writing skill is also... well, crap.  I think the real point of this story is the lawn, and it should be changed to reflect that.  So here's my rewrite:  (On a similar note, I already have a draft of "Balthier Cleans the Gutters" in the works and am very close to finishing "Terra Filters the Pool".)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

If you're wondering how the rest of the review here is going to go, here's a hint:  Scott won, the World lost.  This may indeed be the Best Movie of the Year.

There was a good chance that this movie might have sucked, and sucked badly.  From the trailers I could see several features that might have either been awesome or completely horrible:  eternal dweeb Michael Cera is a the lead, the fight scenes are a mix of cartoon action and live action, and tons of video game clichés are thrown in as a metaphor for a coming of age story.  Michael Cera has been in as many good movies as bad, and his "lovable loser" act is getting a little stale I think.  This "real life cartoon" style has been done before and never well:  see 2008's incomprehensible disaster of a superhero movie, "The Spirit" if you want proof.  (Actually don't see that movie, its beyond awful and seemingly by design.)  And the video game effects could make this movie little more than a masturbatory byproduct of the "hardcore gamer" tribe, filled with constant game references so that people outside the subculture are purposefully excluded from the experience*.  Well thank God that all that was avoided.

Indeed this movie is "an epic of epic epicness" like the poster here claims.  Funny, silly, cartoony, exciting, and at times, partly cloudy.  The movie is a mixed-up jumble of video game tropes, awesome Indie rock, and adolescent relationships.  If its occurred to you that those three things have roughly nothing to do with each other, then you're absolutely correct.  But that's Scott Pilgrim's life for you, and he's the guy this movie is about.  And like so many odd combinations, it makes a perfect harmony of flavor.  Think "Fooly Cooly":  coming of age, bass rifts, and giant robot anime mixed together.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Just a Game

Before I start on this post, I think I should explain something here: I've never played a "Medal of Honor" video game in my life. At least I don't think I did. For about a decade there every single war shooter game was based in WWII, and they all looked and played exactly the same. I played a few of them, myself. Never liked any of them. The games I played might have been "Call of Duty", they might have been "Medal of Honor", who the Hell knows? I made it through D-Day like three times in three different games, that was enough for me.  I don't like shooter games in general, first or third person, and I especially don't like historical shooters.  That genre always seemed like trivializing the sacrifices of real men who died for their country.  We're recreating these terrible hours in history just for our brief amusement?  It never sat well with me, personally.  I'd rather fight in a fictional battlefield against fictional enemies, preferably in a setting that doesn't take itself too seriously.

So that's my obligatory "my experience with this game series speech".  You might have wanted to skip that paragraph, maybe.

Anyway, "Medal of Honor" never really caught my eye as a gaming series - until now.  Instead of mining WWII for ideas, they've instead moved on to the War on Terror.  You remember the War on Terror right?  Its that war that the US is fighting... right now.  The actual game is based on Afghanistan during the invasion back in 2001, so I've been told.  This is already controversial enough, since its detailing the initial phase of a conflict that continues to rage, but EA decided to go one mile further:  in the multiplayer mode you actually can play as Taliban fighters taking shots at American soldiers.  I'll give you a minute to take that in.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Boring Day

The following story was inspired while writing last week's post on Paradoxes.  In my original plan for that post, I hoped to solve the Grandfather Paradox by claiming that your grandparents actually were a lesbian couple and you didn't actually have a "grandfather" in the truest sense.  However, this felt like a cop-out to me because you kinda need to know who your grandfather is in order to shoot him.  So instead I spent a few hours sitting on my couch pondering a less silly solution.  Eventually it came to me that perhaps the Grandfather Paradox could be reversed:  if you traveled into the future and your grandson murdered you, would you still be alive?  In order for him to exist, you must return to the present and have children, and if that doesn't happen your grandson can't come about and so he can't shoot you.

Unfortunately this highway of thought led nowhere to solving the Paradox - which is why the Grandfather Paradox was not discussed in the aforementioned post.  So instead I found myself lying down on my couch with quite the burning headache and my arm reaching out towards the ceiling, as I desperately reached for the answer (who knows, maybe the literal action of grabbing might give me some unimagined insight).  But though I reached for the answer to my problem, I instead found something very different in my hand:  a story which had absolutely nothing to do with what I was just doing.  I'm not that happy with it myself, but I hope you enjoy it.

It was a boring day.

I laid down across the bed, looking up at the white ceiling.  A three-bladed fan spun around lazily in its lowest setting.  My apartment was silent except for the sound of my own breathing and the constant screams of the horns of the cars below.  The day was hot, even with the windows open and the fan on, I was covered in a thin coat of sweat.  I should have gotten off my queen-size bed and unwrapped myself out of the heavy blankets, to move over to the fan controls on the wall and speed it up, but I couldn't bring myself to move.  As much as I wanted to feel the wonderful breeze of the fan at full power, what the advertisement called "arctic chill", merely moving was such a massive effort.  Boredom had broken every bone in my body and left me a shattered empty shell of a man on his bed, as shirtless as I was helpless.  Thank God I was a male or I might have needed a shirt in order to be "decent".  The walk to the drawer was just as long as the walk to the fan controls, either one would have killed me.  So instead I put my hand on my forehead and let out a moan.  Maybe somebody would hear it and they would rescue me from the monster called Doldrums.  I doubted it.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Josie and the Pussycats

Recently the world collectively let out a groan as Hanna-Barbera productions unleashed the latest incident in the very long and very sad history of live-action adaptations of classic cartoons with their new feature film "Yogi Bear".  If the mere concept of making Yogi Bear into a live-action film doesn't scare you away, these details will:  Yogi and Boo-Boo are terrible CGI creations and they're played by Dan Aykroyd and Justin "Backstreet's Back Allright" Timberlake respectively.  The saddest part is that "I Want it That Way" is the only one who sounds even remotely like the classic cartoon characters they're supposed to be.  Will this movie be good?  Was "Alvin and the Chipmunks" good?  Was "The Squeakquel" good?  Was "Scooby-Doo"* good?  Was "The Flintstones" good? How about "G.I. Joe" or "Transformers" or "Dragonball:  Evolution" or "The Last Airbender" or "Aeon Flux" or any other movie ever adapted from a cartoon?

Here's the sad truth:  live-action adaptations of cartoons are never good.  Its like a law of nature.  I don't really understand it myself, since several of those movies listed there had plenty of potential - "G.I. Joe" was so close to being decent.  So close!  I think the universe is actually conspiring against these movies for the sheer travesty of taking cartoons out of their natural healthy environment and putting them in the strange smelly land known as "the real world".  Why not just make a cartoon movie?  I'll never know.  But I do know this:  Hanna-Barbera Productions is currently in line for making about four other live-action adaptations in the coming decade, like "The Smurfs".  I don't think I'm alone when I feel ice crawl up my spine when I say "The Smurfs:  The Movie".  Uch...  What else can they drag up from the depths of Boomerang's mid-day line-up to make into a bad live-action movie?

But almost the moment I say "list action adaptations of cartoons are never good" that I realize that this law is hardly universal.  There is indeed one, and only one movie based on a cartoon that actually was pretty decent.  And that movie was 2001's "Josie and the Pussycats".

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Blue Solves Some Paradoxes

For thousands of years mathematicians and philosophers have spent countless hours attempting to understand any number of strange and fascinating problems.  Thanks to the limitless imagination of the human mind, we can create a certain kind of particularly difficult problem:  paradoxes that make sense only within the carefully defined laws of the puzzle itself.  Thousands upon thousands of hours have been spent solving these paradoxes, mostly because they're fun.  I don't think we'll ever break the United States' dependence on foreign oil by solving Curry's Paradox, will we?  But we can make an afternoon out of it.  This is just yet another extension of the human mind's beautiful insanity that I love so much.

As a note:  paradoxes are not unexpected outcomes - they are problems that seem to have no single outcome that is particularly more "logical" than the other.  Some people seem to think that the fact that most eco-friendly legislation results in companies actually increasing pollutants is a paradox.  They're wrong.  That's unexpected and unintuitive - ironic definitely - but not a paradox.  There's only one logical outcome.  Instead we're talking about logic games that have confounded mankind for years.  Problems that by design have no solution - or merely seem to.

However, since I'm just that brilliant, I'm going to go ahead right now to save you all a lot of trouble and solve some of our favorite paradoxes here on Planet Blue.  But I'm going to use a very special tool:  common sense.  Most paradoxes depend upon a very confusing and complicated form of rules, somehow always represented through a mathematical formula.  Well, I'm not going to even add 2 + 2 here.  Instead its all going to be through nothing but premium unleaded brilliance:

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Ignorance Beyond Measure

I happen to listen to a lot of talk radio while driving.  A lot of what I listen to is from pundits who usually I agree very little with and in fact think to be highly dangerous people* at times.  But they do serve an important purpose:  they're the political faction out of power and must serve as the watchdogs of those in power.  Sadly most of their "watchdogging" is brining up ridiculous non-issues like criticizing the President for golfing too much.  Even so, occasionally they do have good points, but you should listen with a very critical ear, as you should with all political commentary - especially my own.

It was while listening to the conservative view of things that the commercials came on.  It was at this point that I heard a particular ad that truly infuriated me.  It was a campaign ad for Carl Paladino, a prospective Republican candidate for Governor of New York.  Paladino is currently running in the Republican primary against Rick Lazio, the guy who lost against Hilary Clinton for Senator back in 2000.  The polls don't look good for either of them - the Democratic candidate, State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is winning by a margin so wide that I think it might technically qualify as murder.  So I'm not surprised that "businessman" (as the ads call him) Paladino is going to try something wild.  In this attack ad, he went ahead and actually threatened to use the power of eminent domain - governmental seizure of property without the owner's concept - to tear down the Cordoba House and place a war memorial in its place.

For those a bit ignorant on this issue, the Cordoba House is a Muslim community center open to people of all faiths built in the purpose of bridging the vast divide between Western culture and the all-too-radicalized Muslim faith.  It is being built by the Cordoba Initiative, a moderate Muslim organization which bases itself educated Americans that not all Muslims are lunatic Jihadists who throw acid in the faces of poor Afghani girls (read some of their articles if you have doubts).  This is exactly the sort of cultural discussion we need to be having right now:  the War on Terrorism** isn't a clash of civilizatoins, its a clash of the world order against a fringe group of dangerous criminals. However the Cordoba House has one issue:  its being built two blocks from Ground Zero.