Monday, April 30, 2012

The Handmaid's Tale

I always feel utterly terrible when a week passes without a post being written.  Unfortunately, I've been busy.  Finals snuck up on me, along with lots of work, and a small nightmare of things to do other than post writing.  And it isn't just my blog that's suffering:  my novel is completely stalled on Chapter 2, mid-sentence in fact.  I haven't been drunk in a week!  What has gone wrong with my life??

"The Handmaid's Tale" is a 1985 dystopian future novel written by Canadian author, Margaret Atwood.  I just happened to be digging through the back catalog of titles in my Kindle*, and "Handmaid's Tale" was there.  I've been meaning to read that book for about five years now, even since I went through a small dystopia craze in high school after reading "1984".  I actually bought Atwood's novel right after reading over my review of "Atlas Shrugged", since I wanted to read a dystopian SciFi novel that didn't - to use a complex academic literary phrase - suck.  Now I've seen dystopia based on total government control of the mind, and dystopia based on bureaucratic inefficiency, and dystopia based on the Internet destroying all ability to think, and even Ayn Rand's dystopia based on hilarious unbelievable stupidity, but "Handmaid's Tale" is probably the scariest of them all.  Because I happened to be reading it right at the same time that the media was blaring about a War on Women.  Its one thing to read "Feed" and think "wow, a lot of teenagers today really don't use the Internet to best of its possibilities and wallow in their own ignorance".  But its another thing to read a dystopian novel about the future slavery of women right when idiotic Republicans around the country keep passing anti-abortion laws of every flavor.

Essentially the plot of "The Handmaid's Tale" is my darkest political nightmare:  the United States has been overthrown and replaced with a fundamentalist theocracy.  Al-Qaeda hasn't conquered us, but you might think that they have on first reading.  Right-wing Christianity has completely outlawed all gender freedom.  Women must serve either as maids, stern elderly matrons, wives, or walking incubators that exist only for procreation.  The unnamed narrator is a walking uterus essentially.  She belongs to a caste known as "Handmaids" for no particular reason that I know of.  Freedom of speech is gone, freedom of religion is gone, freedom of choice is gone, you must serve your job without question or be executed and hung-up on a wall for all to see.  Basically Rick Santorum masturbates to this book.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Cabin in the Woods

It would absolutely suck if I ever were to appear in a horror movie.  I would turn out to be that annoying nerdy character that spends the entire movie pointing out how this situation is "exactly like a horror movie".  Then when the slutty couple goes out into the woods to have sex, I'll say something like "your funeral, hope the tits are worth it".  And while all the cool kids couple together, I'd be stuck in the corner, all alone, because nobody can stand the sarcastic asshole.  I'd ruin the entire movie, turning what could have been a great little slasher movie into a postmodern overly-aware suck fest.  And at end, while the virgin and the least slutty dude run from Jason, I'd have already run for the hills and gone home.  Or I'd be the jerk who brought a shotgun and ruined all the fun.

Luckily I'm not actually in the movie "The Cabin in the Woods", so that movie was absolutely fantastic.  "The Cabin in the Woods" is a horror-comedy made by sainted nerd legend, Joss Whedon.  The plot is exactly what you'd expect:  five young people go to a cabin in the woods to stay for the weekend, where they are promptly slaughtered by a gaggle of redneck zombie cannibals.  That story is classic, millions of movies have been made exactly like this.  (Like I swear to God this is the same cabin from "Evil Dead", which would have me extra annoying in this movie because I would have spent the entire time making "Evil Dead" references.)  But there is more going on.  These aren't spoilers, because this is revealed almost immediately in the beginning and in the trailers.  It turns out that the cabin is being watched and controlled by a group of mid-level management office types who are manipulating the slasher bait to act like stupid drunken whores that will get slaughtered.  So the observers send in stupid gas to force the characters to say things like "let's split up" and poison hair dye to make the blond a super slut and then shoot the basement door open so the adolescents find a crypt full of damned items that will summon a demon.

So "Cabin in the Woods" is funny.  You got the great dynamic of a bunch of actually really well-acted and likable slasher bait characters having fun partying before dying.  These aren't the typical obnoxious retards that you see in a 21st century horror movie, because the writers this time can actually make real people.  And there's the observers sitting in their office begging for tits and betting on which monster will eat them first.  Also, "Cabin in the Woods" is scary, because its actually an effective horror movie while having fun with its premise.  But more importantly, "Cabin in the Woods" is fucking awesome!  And that's the third act right there.  Which I can't spoil, unfortunately.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


This movie sucked.

I recently saw "The Cabin in the Woods", an amazing horror comedy movie that you need to see right this very second.  However, before I can have fun and review that movie, I have to struggle and suffer in reviewing "Lockout", a really mediocre and forgettable action movie.  Will there come a day when I sit my brighteyed grandson on my knee and tell him of the days before the Machines enslaved humanity, back when I was in college and went to see "Lockout" alone?  No.  Because I probably won't even remember this movie existed tomorrow, let alone after the Cyborg Wars of 2020s.  Once seen the once-great cities of man destroyed by roving metal armies, you kinda lose interest in the stupid action movies of your twenties.

The Hell of it is, that "Lockout" could have been a simple fun action movie.  In fact, its just about 80% a good movie.  I respect the idea behind "Lockout", even if nobody else does.  The plot is almost verbatim the same as "Escape From Los Angeles" only taking place on a prison in outer space.  The loose cannon wise-cracking antihero character has to land into a den of crazy prisoners to rescue the President's Daughter.  Yeah, its a rip-off, but what the heck do I care?  Those movies were awesome!  We need more Eighties in modern movies.  Also, I have to respect any movie whose advertising campaign completely unironically uses the phrase "loose cannon" and isn't trying to be a smartass satire.  Unfortunately "Escape From New York" and its sequel were directed by John Carpenter, who is just amazing, and those movies weren't edited down to a PG-13.  But that's only the beginning of "Lockout"'s problems.  This movie might just have the worst editing I've ever seen in any movie, not just the ridiculous removal of gore.

"Lockout" is sloppy.  It just feels poorly timed, like its almost there but never quites comes together.  Its like building a table but not having any idea how to use a screw gun.  So you buy the right wood, the right screws, you got the right tools, only you never actually managed to get any of the pieces connected right.  You screw one corner in at an angle, and you split the wood in another spot, and you never measured anything so one leg is too long.  So as soon as you put a book down on that table, it falls apart.  Just like this movie did.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Ending of a Dance With Dragons

Last summer I was so angry over "A Dance With Dragons", the fifth book of "The Song of Ice and Fire" series, that I actually for a time thought of fixing the ending to the book.  Yeah, I actually thought about writing the ending myself, since obviously George R. R. Martin wasn't going to be interesting in doing that work for FIVE MORE YEARS.  And in the interests of some measure of closure for myself, I did outline everything I needed, and wrote it down.  Then unfortunately when it came time to start writing... I realized that I could never replicate Martin's style without years of work, and that the entire quest was honestly not worth my time.  Why should I finish this asshole's book?  I got my own stories to tell!

So for the last roughly eight months the outline for the ending has been sitting deep in my the unpublished pages of my blog.  With season two of "Game of Thrones" airing, my mind returned to this unfinished project.  Ultimately I decided that I should either share it or just delete it.  What I wrote is pretty much the entire conclusion to the Battle of Meereen, which was just beginning before Martin or his publisher got lazy and didn't bother to actually finish.  The Meereen situation, by the way, is probably the worst section of the entire series so far, because it takes place so far away from anything you care about.  But ultimately, there are major characters gathered around the city, and Martin was clearly moving the pieces towards a big climatic explosion of a battle.  He just needs another FIVE YEARS to write that.  That's where this outline comes in, it tells us what is going to happen during that battle.  And if I do say so myself, the ideas - in draft form at least - sound pretty awesome.

Of course, it is an outline.  So its never going to be as good as if I actually wrote all sixteen chapters that I imagined here.  And yeah, it took me sixteen chapters to finish up Meereen, Jesus Christ.  But that's better than all of "The Winds of Winter", which is probably how long it will take George R. R. Martin to conclude that part of the story.  Also, because "Song of Ice and Fire" is actually the most complicated story ever written, I guarantee you there are plotholes here.  Martin imagines like fifty minor Slaver's Bay characters, and I can't keep track of all of them.  Mostly my solution to the Meereenese Knot (which still hasn't been solved, as far as I can see) was to just kill off everybody.  All those minor characters that nobody gives a shit about?  They're all gone, I set them all on fire.  Meereen felt my wroth.  If you're confused as to who I'm talking about in certain parts, read this with the Wiki of Ice and Fire open.

And if George R. R. Martin is having trouble, not to overstate myself, he could use this outline as a starting point.  Anything to get fucking "Winds of Winter" here before the 2016 elections and I'm happy.  (Also, you should expect spoilers, duh.)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Blue Submarine No. 6

Two weeks ago Adult Swim did a wonderful thing and brought back Toonami for me.  And one of the shows it brought back was "Blue Submarine No. 6", a recurring anime mini-series that Toonami used to air every so often back in the early 2000s.  I probably should do every one of those shows Adult Swim aired that night the service of a full review, but time is not with me on that one.  Instead I'm focusing on "Blue Submarine" because its by far the shortest (its length is roughly that of a long movie at a bit over two hours) and also because its the most obscure these days.  Everybody holds warm memories of "Dragonball Z" and "Gundam Wing", and you don't need to look far to find an "Outlaw Star" or "Big O" fan.  But "Blue Submarine No. 6"?  I don't think it gets enough credit.  Because this show was awesome.

Unfortunately upon starting this review I realized that ultimately my point here was "this show was awesome" and I really didn't have much more to say about it.  Oh well.  Positive reviews are always harder than negative ones.  And I always feel bad when I go a week without writing a major post.  So here you go, anime review:

"Blue Submarine No. 6" is Ocean Punk, one of my personal favorite settings.  It is not, in fact, about the divinely-inspired backside of Kino up there, that's more of a subplot.  What's happened is that in the year 20XX AD, a mad scientist named Zorndyke has flooded the world and unleashed a rival race of fish-people to wipe out humanity.  Because of this, that means that all major combat happens in the seas, specifically using acrobatic submarines fighting monster whales that can shoot torpedoes.  All the nations are flooded, ten billion people are dead*, and the ruins of humanity's half-sunked cities are being destroyed by giant robots and ghost battleships.  In comes Blue Submarine No. 6 (or just "Blue 6", manned by a crew of badasses out to stop Zorndyke... only to find things are a bit more complicated than that.  Is Zorndyke simply a Fifties B-movie style scientist destroying the world for SCIENCE, or perhaps is trying something more?  And more importantly, how many ass-shots will we get of Kino?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Santorum is Out

The 2012 presidential elections are now official defeat for radical Conservatism in this country, and thank God for that.  Rick Santorum, one of the most dangerous human beings to ever reach such prominence in national politics, has dropped out, having been firmly defeated by Mitt Romney, a relative moderate.  So whoever gets elected this November, we definitely dodged a bullet on this man.  We've been all through why Santorum's brand of self-righteous moral judgment over the entire world is a horrible policy for American, a nightmarish return to Medieval standards of morality, and technically makes Santorum a Jihadist Muslim/Dalek*.  Right-wing "Christian" craziness will just have to wait until 2016.  Until then, I guess its time for a reasonable election between two moderate flexible career-politicians.

Though I think its worth being sorry that Rick Santorum wasn't completely defeated in the polls by Mitt Romney.  He ducked out and surrendered right before the killing blow that was coming in the Pennsylvania primaries.  Worse, he partially had to surrender due to a family emergency due to his youngest daughter's battle with Trisomy 18, an event I wish upon no family and no person.  No child deserves to be sick.  Either way, it means that Rick Santorum will be back in 2016, ready to try again.  By then, one hopes, that the American nation will be even less ready to listen to his deranged policies.

This week homophobia lost, birth control won, pornography won, and modernism won a battle against superstition and madness.  The government cannot decide morality, that's what Rick Santorum needs to learn before he can ever be seriously considered as a real politician and not a lunatic.

* Of course, Santorum will never be awesome or adorable like a Dalek, so the metaphor is a bit stretched.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Raid: Redemption

HOLY SHIT.  HOLY SHIT.  HOLY SHIT.  This is a controversial call here, but I think "The Raid: Redemption" might actually be the Best Movie of 2012.  And yeah, I know this is a year with "Batman 3", "The Hobbit", and a new Tarantino flick, but "The Raid" has really set the bar pretty damn high.  This movie was amazing.  This movie was gangsta.  This movie was badass.  This movie was FUCKING AWESOME HOLY SHIT.

Do you remember where you were when you first saw "The Matrix"?  I don't either.  But I do remember walking out of that theatre with my little face wearing the exact same expression as I wear now.  It was a revelation of badassary.  You never knew action movies could be so incredible before you saw Neo diving through a lobby dodging bullets and blasting random guards away.  Then he took down Agent Smith and everything was awesome forever.  ...Until the sequels, but we'll ignore them.  "The Raid" is that caliber of action movie.  And I don't mean a rip-off of "The Matrix"'s CG slow-mo effects and bullet time, no, I mean, the action scenes in this movie are just inventive, fun, and mindboggeling insanely cool as in "The Matrix".  Its the kind of movie that you watch with a big stupid smile the entire time, finding nothing but things to love as people tear each other to pieces in front of you for your amusement.  I know the metaphor "roller coaster ride" is the most over-used and terrible marketing cliché ever, but if you've ever been a truly awesome roller coaster, you know the feeling I'm talking about.  "The Raid" is a goddamn incredible roller coaster, its Millennium Force or The Beast incredible.

If "The Raid" were a human being, it wouldn't be Chuck Norris.  Chuck Norris is a wet pussy compared to this movie.  It would be Andrew-fucking-Jackson, the most badass man to ever live.

I've been reduced to my year-old-self in the sight of the magnificence of this movie I've found here.  Apparently Indonesia is the most awesome country on Earth, because they're the ones who made this movie.  Their title for this movie is even more awesome than the American one, they call it "Deadly Assault".  Rather than ruining the kung-fu Pencak Silat kickass by remaking "The Raid" and replacing the native actors with Hollywood losers like Taylor Lautner or something, the movie was simply shipped here in its foreign purity.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Best and Worst of 2011 Double Feature: The Artist

Shockingly, the Best Picture of 2011 was a better movie than the Worst Picture of 2011.  Who would have guessed?

It took me approximately three hours to finally finish "Jack and Jill", even though that movie was only an hour and a half long.  That's because I would typically watch five minutes of that movie, then spend another five minutes cringing in pain, trying to comprehend whatever the Hell I had just witnessed.  It was a medieval ordeal.  So when I finally got around to "The Artist", I had lost nearly all of my film viewing energy.  Then I remember that "The Artist" was a silent movie, and I had to sit down in pain.  All of the special comfort food I had brought:  chicken wings, nachos, root beer, it was all gone.  All I had left was half a bottle of Captain Morgan and one hundred minutes of movie to watch.

First of all, I hate silent movies.  This is not something I am particularly proud of, since they represent a vast and vibrant period in the early history of cinema, including many important landmark classics that all cinephiles need to see at some point.  For example, "Metropolis".  But god help me, they are so BOOOOORING....  Maybe twenty-one years of living in a fast-faced society with rapid fire commercials, no attention span, ignoring the people you're with to check Facebook on your smartphone, and Final Fantasy had completely destroyed my ability to have the patience to sit down and enjoy a movie without spoken dialog.  Its something of a major thing for me, I need to be able to hear the voices of characters in order to really enjoy them.  Voices are important for me to emote with people, I might be a superficial asshole for that reason, whatever.  I'm not going to go self-righteous and hate on "The Artist" for attempting a style of cinema I am psychologically wired to despise, but I will admit this was a hard sit.  Then again, compared to "Jack and Jill" this was nothing.

In a more positive note, "The Artist" is easily the best silent movie I've ever seen.  Then again, I've only seen four, so take of that what you will.  If you have the tolerance for this kind of thing, its a decent enough movie.  The Best Movie of 2011?  Nope.  But still fairly okay.

Best and Worst of 2011 Double Feature: Jack and Jill

Oh god...  Oh my god...  Yeah, I actually saw this movie.

On Sunday, the Golden Raspberry Awards, the most prestigious award ceremony for miserable failures in the art and science of filmmaking, gave "Jack and Jill" its famed prize for Worst Film of the Year.  That means it joins other mega-failures like "Showgirls", "Battlefield Earth", and 2010's "The Last Airbender" in the pantheon of hilariously unwatchable crap.  Then again, using the word "hilarious" anywhere in conjunction with "Jack and Jill" is a criminally malignancy of the English language, I apologize for that.  Anyway, "Jack and Jill" was such an especially awful piece of film, that the Razzies gave it all ten awards.  It was a full sweep, taking the prize for Worst Actor (Adam Sandler), Worst Actress (Adam Sandler), Worst On-Screen Couple (Adam Sandler and Adam Sandler), and it even managed to bend the rules by getting Worst Rip-Off, Remake, or Sequel for supposedly being a remake of the Ed Wood transexual classic, "Glen or Glenda".

For me personally, this offered a special opportunity, since I haven't seen "Jack and Jill" for well... obvious reasons.  But I also haven't seen the Best Movie of the Year, according to the Oscars, "The Artist".  So last night I did something that no other person on Earth has ever done:  I watched "Jack and Jill" and "The Artist" back to back, in a deranged double-feature.  That way I could run the full spectrum of Hollywood, from what it has hailed to be its very best, to what it has regretted to be its very worst.  All in the name of science.  Also, having seen "Jack and Jill", I now have incredible pains in my stomach, probably having been created from stress burning a hole deep within my bowels.  I'm now blind in one eye.  We can be sure that thanks to my crazy experiment, my life has been considerably shortened.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

April Fools Toonami Recap

If you slept last night, you were a fool.  Because last night was not a night a night to sleep, it was a night to watch TV!  If you weren't glued to your TV set last night, all I can do is weep for you loss.  Because Toonami, arguably the greatest thing to ever happen in the history of the universe, came back from the most glorious April Fools special I think I've ever seen.  On Planet Blue, we're skipping April Fools jokes this year, we don't need to pull any childish pranks.  We just need to sit back and bask in the glory that was, the glory of Toonami.

There are a lot of little milestones that have led to anime being a worldwide phenomena, beloved way beyond its provincial home of Japan.  Ask pretty much any anime fan where they got started, and the answer almost universally will be Toonami.  These guys were the masters of cool, they could make any show look amazing with their advanced promotional skills.  Steven Blum played the robot host, TOM, an intergalactic explorer with nothing better to do than to transmit cartoons to Earth's adoring 90s children.  SARA was his holographic robot wife.  He'd also review video games, fight alien invasions, and just ooze simple machine style.  Optimus Prime would voice the promos.  Yeah, TOM was so cool that Optimus Prime worked for him*.  Toonami had it all, it was three hours of golden television starting at four, exactly an hour after school.  I only ever played outside from three o'clock to four from 1999 to 2003 for a reason, by the way.  Toonami introduced me to Miyazaki with their month of Miyazaki, their "Final Fantasy X" review filled me with such wonder at the magical possibilities of that franchise**, they even aired the first episodes of "Neon Genesis Evangelion", a show way too dark for kids but still arguably the crowning achievement of all anime.  Its no surprise that for the last two years I've been secretly building myself a robot body in the shape of TOM so that I can too can wander the stars and watch Japanese cartoons.

But like all good things, it had to end.  Toonami cheesed out big time around 2005, thanks mostly to Cartoon Network meddling.  And it died for real in 2008.  We all know the sad story.  Let us ignore that for a moment and rejoice in the probably brief instance of reborn beauty.  It was a magnificent night.  So just in case you're a small fry and totally missed out on the Toonami experience due to a deficiency in age, I'll briefly go over the eight shows Toonami ran last night, and why you really should think about buying those DVD boxsets TOM was plugging last night: