Monday, March 31, 2014

Freelancin': BioShock Infinite Burial at Sea and Kill la Kill Finale

Another week, another Freelancin'.   I talk for a half hour this time. I'm thinking it will be a formal point that the podcast-ish-ness that is Freelancin' will be out every Monday. I've never managed to keep to a schedule before, can I do it now?

Oh, also, SPOILAHZZZ.  You were warned.

Sunday, March 30, 2014


Okay, Christians, I've had it with you people.  You've had your chance to make religious films this month, and you've failed.  First there was "Son of God", a crushingly boring, painfully orthodox adaptation of the life of Christ, and then you made "God's Not Dead".  I don't even need to qualify the "God's Not Dead" bit.  You made "God's Not Dead", you should all be ashamed.  So that's it, Christians.  That's a six month ban from making movies about your faith.  I know you're making "Heaven Is for Real" next month, a fantastic exploitation of a little boy's near-death experience, but no.  I'm not covering it.  That's a little too despicable even for me.  I don't like watching movies that will make my skin crawl - even if the ban wasn't in place I wouldn't watch that.  So now that the Gentiles have thoroughly pissed God off, its time we Jews, the Chosen People of Adonai stepped up and made a religious movie of our own.

"Noah" is an epic biblical fantasy film made by Non-Christian director, Darren Aronofsky.  It is obviously based off the tale of Great Flood and Noah's construction of an Ark to carry a remnant of Creation to safety while God's wrath washed away the corrupt world below.  Since Noah's tale takes place in the nebulous Antediluvian world of early Genesis, Aronofsky has chosen to take the rather sparse Biblical passages and beef it up with various Apocryphal details and ancient legends mostly ignored by mainstream Judaism today.  So "Noah", for example, features huge hulking stone monsters which help Noah build Ark.  (Biblical Apocrypha is pretty damn weird.)  Aronofsky is not going to enslave his narrative to orthodoxy, he creates a dark, bold, and thoroughly unique movie based upon the Genesis narrative.

Aronofsky's "Noah" is part drama, part epic fantasy war film, and of things, part horror film.  For those unfamiliar with the Apocrypha, "Noah" is going to be quite a trip.  For those who are familiar - both of you - then you might be disappointed that it isn't quite weird enough.  It is certainly a spectacle to see one of the patriarchs of humanity and a prophet of God hanging around what are essentially stone Transformers in a post-apocalyptic landscape.  We have war scenes, trippy montages, and the blending of good and evil within the prophet himself.  Darren Aronofsky has created what might be the very first example of a cinematic midrash.  He is following the long rabbinical tradition of extending Biblical stories by adding details and defining characters, interpreting the text through what is essentially a very scholarly fan fiction.  That makes it one of the more fascinating and profound films to come out of the Hollywood blockbuster machine, one that meditates deeply upon man's place in the world, man's place with God, while creating a grey morality story with deep characters.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

God's Not Dead

Give me strength.

"God's Not Dead" is not really a movie from the dimension you and I live in.  There are two Americas today, parallel universes running opposite each other.  There is the mainstream culture where we focus on money, teenaged pop stars, Russian aggression in Eastern Europe, and Taco Bell breakfasts.  Then there is the other America - one which believes itself constantly under threat from secularism, liberalism, and Democrats.  The Other America is a land ruled entire by gaudy megachurches, an overwhelming obsession with Evangelical Christianity, and its own little microcosm of popular culture.  It has its own rock bands, its own best selling novels, its own celebrities, and its own movies.  A film like "God's Not Dead" would typically float around churches, religious book stores, and bible camps, until it would inevitably be forgotten in the span of a few years.  Yet somehow, "God's Not Dead" slipped by past the dimensional boundaries and reached this plane of existence.

One problem with sealing yourself off from secular America is that you lose access to all of the talent, money, and more importantly, basic technical expertise of the rest of the world.  For the most parts film made by the Evangelical community are bad - laughably bad.  "God's Not Dead" is really the upper echelon of their capabilities, starring several major stars.  TV stars... from the 1990s, but stars none the less.  The fact it made it to real movie theaters is probably an impressive achievement of some kind, since the film has all of the production values of a made-for-TV piece of crap.  Pure Flix Entertainment, the distributor, apparently has made over a dozen films* in the past few years, and their filmmaking skill is barely above Asylum levels.  Worse though, is the storyline.

"God's Not Dead" is supposed to be a vast epistle on the issue of faith in the modern world, as a diverse cast of Christians confirm their religious devotion against all odds.  Its like "Crash" but with Jesus replacing racism.  Instead it feels like an improbable fairy tale, relying not on honest affirmations of faith, but rather strawmen tropes, cheesy lines to incite applause from the audience, and worst of all, celebrity cameos.  Forget Jesus, what church-going audiences really want to see is some bearded redneck from the show "Duck Dynasty" apparently.  I'm not entirely sure if "God's Not Dead" is really about Christianity vs. Atheism, or if its all an overly long advertisement for the Christian Rock band, Newsboys**.  The story is underwritten, painfully slow, and pandering.  "God's Not Dead" had the opportunity to give honest, heartfelt statements of faith and acceptance, but instead builds viscous stereotypes for its fans to boo at mindlessly.  There is merely being cynical and stupid, then there is actively being hateful and confirming ignorance.  "God's Not Dead" is truly despicable, and in ways well beyond merely mediocre filmmaking.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

LOOK AND DESPAIR at the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Trailer

Well, we all knew this was coming.  Michael Bay has been threatening to produce a Transformers-style Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles blockbuster for years.  All he wanted for ransom was a trillion dollars and his own fleet of army helicopters to fly at sunset, we should have paid.  But President Obama does not negotiate with terrorists, so Michael Bay went through with the threat... and God Help Us, here is the trailer:

And - you know - I am a very outspoken person, and I say a lot of things on the Internet.  I really love to abuse hyperbole.  But!  I am fair above all else.  I always admit when I am wrong.

This... is not one of those times.  "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" looks like ass.  It looks like the things that come out of asses:  shit.  The turtles look like lumpy CG freaks.  They look like somebody microwaved their 80s action figures.  Did Shrek mate with the Goombas from the "Super Mario Bros" movie?  The plot is pointlessly violent and quote-on-quote "realistic" "dark" - AKA:  "we want to rip-off 'The Dark Knight' six years later" - bullshit.  I love how the Nickelodeon logo, once a symbol of my happy cartoon babies going on adventures, now is being juxtaposed with terrorists shooting machine guns.  I hope you love dubstep rumbling noises, because the Turtles are all about that now.  Remember when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were a fun kids show?  They ate pizza?  They had catch-phrases?  They fought giant brains from space?

Yeah, the 80s were a better time.  Here's the trailer to the original "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" film.  Its funny, and adorable, and shameless and fun.  Its a movie made to be Ninja Turtles, funny puppetry and non-serious action.  Just lovely.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Anderson is a director with an extremely specific visual style - an auteur who has built his own unique world of cinema.  He's easily one of the best creators working in the motion picture world today.  Which makes it incredibly awkward for me to admit that I've never actually understood anything Wes Anderson has ever said.  There's this big expensive, idiosyncratic production going on before my eyes, and I'm never quite sure if this is sincere or some intense level of irony.  Its a gag so deeply undercover its lost track of its own identity, now I'm not sure if this is a satire, a self-parody, or an honest straight comedy.  I've always been more than a little lost by Wes Anderson, and "The Grand Budapest Hotel" is not going to lead me any closer to understanding.

If you know Wes Anderson, you know what you're getting into with "The Grand Budapest Hotel", perhaps his most Wes Anderson-y movie yet.  Its a mystery caper set in an imaginary Eastern European nation between the World Wars, focused upon the fictional 'Grand Budapest Hotel', a pink slab of delicious masonry and old world charm on top of a bizarre cartoon background.  Anderson has collected an international cast of diverse actors and actresses, whose accents are deliberately inconsistent, to bring his vision to the screen.  The visual style is obsessed with straight-on completely symmetrical shots, with a story-book esthetic that even surpasses Anderson's previous film, "Moonrise Kingdom".  Anderson is a true innovator, finding new ways every film to add in still more hipster quirks into every shot.  And he's getting further and further away from comprehension.

"Budapest Hotel" will not inspire many converts, but as for those who already appreciate Anderson for his weird brand of filmmaking, you will be pleasantly satisfied with what you're getting.  I wrongly believed that "Budapest Hotel" would finally be the movie where Anderson would go too far, where he would build up a monument to his own quirkiness that would be simply too lopsided and pretentious to continue to stand.  But he's definitely pulled it off here, creating a strange comic epic out of his own imagination.  "The Grand Budapest Hotel" is probably not Wes Anderson's best film, but its definitely the one movie that most encapsulates everything that Anderson has ever wanted to be and wanted to create.  Much like the hotel he depicts, he's a pompous living anachronism, perched impossibly on an high peak in an equally impossible time, ready to collapse over the edge at any time.  But yet Anderson still stands strong, still creating great, completely inscrutable movies.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Muppets Most Wanted

I hate being a bad guy.  Or well, I actually love being a bad guy - it allows me to wear flamboyant outfits, give maniacal speeches to terrified minions, and laugh like a lunatic while leading an army of zombie Jews to conquer Madagascar.  Being evil is a dream job in a lot of ways, I would definitely recommend it to young people looking for a career.  What I mean though, is I hate being a bad guy to movies I thought I was going to love.  Hey, if some naive knight in shining armor breaks into my Doom Fortress to save the princess I kidnapped fair and square, I won't feel bad at all to impale him for all to see.  But now I have to impale Kermit the Frog.  It doesn't feel right.

"Muppets Most Wanted" was a movie I was really looked forward to.  I'm not the kind of man who wears Muppet underpants or Kermit the Frog watches, but I do appreciate the artistry and the love that has gone into the forty-year career of these puppet characters.  2011's (kinda sorta) reboot, "The Muppets" was a genius return for Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Fozzie, and all the other characters.  It focused itself as a movie made for the fans by fans about fans, with its new Muppet character, Walter, being a supercharged Muppet fanboy.  Jason Segel as star, producer, and writer, really managed to find exactly what made the Muppets such a beloved vaudevillian institution and wrote a love story as to why they still matter today.  Together with his support team of director James Bobin, co-writer Nicholas Stoller, and song writer Bret McKenzie, they made "The Muppets" one of the best movies of 2011, and seemed to perfectly resurrect the franchise.

Logically, one would think, the best place for the Muppets to go would be right back on television, with the original 1970s variety show format brought back and modernized for the 21st century.  Instead Walt Disney came to a different conclusion, which was that the Muppets were to be a film series above all else.  So "Muppets Most Wanted" is here, Jason Segel-less, with a huge new movie for its fans to enjoy.  "Muppets Most Wanted" is loud, its busy, its full of gags, and its here to entertain.  Its everything you would expect to see from the Muppets, just on the big screen, not on TV.  But when its not on TV, when its two hours long, when the plot can barely hold together, when there's no lead or much of a focus, "Muppets Most Wanted" turns into a mess.  And I have a job to do.  So Kermit, its time for you bend over, take this huge iron spear up your ass, and realize where you went wrong.  Just know, this hurts me more than it hurts you.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Freelancin': James Rebhorn and Need for Speed

This is (possibly) a new weekly feature here.  I'm calling it Freelancin'... because I'm a Dragoon and Final Fantasy, and spears.  Look, I don't think of good names, okay?  Rather than just writing a review every damn time or doing something more complicated with a video and editing and what-not, I'll just heat up my microphone, talk about a few subjects, and throw in a quick dirty unscripted review of something in.  This week:  Need for Speed, but first the under appreciated career of the late great James Rebhorn.  Also some blog natter is thrown in there too.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Fanwank Corner: Why Naoki Yoshida Needs to Run Square Enix

Yesterday at the Game Developer's Conference (GDC), "Final Fantasy XIV" producer Naoki Yoshida took to the stage to give a small PowerPoint presentation on his philosophy of gaming design and production.  Halo floating behind his head, Yoshida floated down from the heavens to bless us lowly peons with his divine presence.  The presentation reviewed why "Final Fantasy XIV 1.0" failed, how Yoshida's rebuild saved it, and then concluded with a subtle point of "Naoki Yoshida is the coolest man in the universe".  Yes, there was a small amount of gloating involved in Yoshida's speech, as he triumphantly noted that he saved "Final Fantasy XIV", turning it from a bloated boondoggle to a streamlined success.  That's like taking Kristin Stewart and turning her into Eva Green, its a miracle.

Naoki Yoshida never sees to act like the rest of the major Square Enix directors.  The rest of that crew are extremely tight-lipped, only willing to give press conferences if it is exactly the very last option available.  Its a secretive club, and we, the fans, can only look on when we are allowed.  The Square Enix way is to be as quiet and vague as possible.   Top secret NSA spying programs were more visible to the general public than the status of "Versus XIII" until just last E3.  Yoshida has never acted like that.  He's never just thrown out a trailer and stayed quiet for years like Tetsuya Nomura.  No - he releases design documents online, interacts directly with fans, seems to love their input, and is entirely transparent about his plans.  If he was the director of "Final Fantasy XIII", he would be showing off the linearity of the game and explaining proudly why it was to the game's advantage, unlike Motomu Toriyama and Yoshinori Kitase, the actual directors, who sheepishly hid that aspect of the game until release and could only respond to fan outrage with excuses and apologies.

One of the great things about Yoshida is that he's probably the first major Final Fantasy director to be a Final Fantasy fan.  All of the previous games have been created by long-term Square Enix insiders who have been with the company since the SNES era at the latest.  Its mostly been an insider club of Kitase, Nomura, Toriyama, and Hiroyuki Ito ever since Hironobu Sakaguchi resigned a decade ago.  The first producer of "Final Fantasy XIV" was Hiromichi Tanaka, a man who had been with Square literally since the beginning, having worked on their very first game, "The Death Trap".  But Tanaka was an insider and extremely protective of his product, allowing almost no fan feedback, ignoring QA, and releasing the game early.  Naoki Yoshida only joined Square Enix in 2004, he's a huge "Final Fantasy III" and "Final Fantasy VII" fans, and legitimately wants to make great games that matched Final Fantasy's golden age.  And who should be surprised?  "Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn" wound up being Square Enix's best Final Fantasy game in nearly a decade.  Because Yoshida could look beyond the corporate mind-set, see what was broken, see what worked, and fix the real problems.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Peanuts Teaser Trailer

This trailer made me giggle.  I was happy for a moment.  Let me share this happiness with you:

"Peanuts" is being developed by Blue Sky Studios, an animation studio famous for having made exactly one memorable movie in their entire history, which was "Ice Age".  And then followed a bunch of very mediocre and forgettable things like "Rio", and the occasional nightmarish affronts to God himself like "Robots".  Hopefully they have finally found some talent beyond being the weaker cousin of DreamWorks.

But "Peanuts" looks like fun.  The CG animation seems deliberately 2D to fit with Chuck Shultz's cartoon style.  They also kept the frames on the animations somewhat choppy, to more look like classic Peanuts cartoons that we've all seen and love on some level.

Maybe someday we'll see a "Calvin and Hobbes" movie?  And I'll become the Queen of France?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Koji Igarashi Leaves Konami

Dracula throughout history has proven to be a pretty unkillable bastard.  He's survived being killed by at least a dozen Belmonts on at least as many video game consoles.  He's been murdered by his own son, he once got beaten up by a little girl who threw an owl at his face - he's even been defeated by a teenaged Japanese resurrection of himself in one of his more sillier adventures.  What do you expect though?  Dracula is the immortal vampire ruler of a hellish castle who keeps Death himself around as a recurring flunky.  The "Castlevania" franchise has been a pillar of gaming for generations now, and it seemed to be as immortal as its star methuselah.  ...Until now.

Long-time series commander, Koji Igarashi, has left Konami, with Saturday being his last day of work.  During his reign, beginning as writer and assistant director of one of the greatest video games ever made, "Castlevania: Symphony of the Night", Igarashi has been the producer of much of the series modern installments.  He defined the word "Metroidvania" by making brilliant sidescrolling maze-like adventure video games.  Those included the generally brilliant "Aria of Sorrow", "Portrait of Ruin", and "Order of Ecclesia".  And also the badly misguided "Curse of Darkness", and the bizarre fighting game, "Castlevania: Judgement" (which featured the very worst character design of any video game in history).  Igarashi's video games were often repetitive, but they were all generally all fun, had their own style, and kept Castlevania relevant to modern gaming for over a decade.

All of that ended, of course, with "Castlevania: Lords of Shadow", a mediocre video game built mainly to finally bring Casltevania into the third dimension... mostly by stealing gameplay from "God of War" and "Shadow of the Colossus".  "Lords of Shadow" was developed by Spanish developer, MercurySteam, and had no input form Igarashi of any kind.  MercurySteam managed to follow up their generally mediocre game with the far more terrible "Lords of Shadow 2" which landed with an inglorious thud last month.  "Lords of Shadow 2" decided that the best way to keep the franchise alive was with awful stealth missions and pitiful gameplay.

So now Igarashi is leaving to find his own stars.  He'll probably resurface the same way that Richard Garriot, Yasumi Matsuno, and Keiji Inafune have - with a Kickstarter campaign to make a new video game based upon his older better work.  Kickstarter has become the inevitable graveyard of gaming celebrities.  So Castlevania might live in, but under a different name - luckily Dracula is a public domain character, so he can easily saunter over to join Inafune without a lawsuit.  As for Konami's Castlevania games well... You'll be missed.  Castlevania:  1986 - 2014.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Nymph()maniac Vol 1 & II - VIDEO REVIEW

If you've noticed that there has not been very many posts this week, it was because I was watching "Nymphomaniac", the newest movie by Danish Nazi Lars von Trier.  I decided that a movie of such epic proportions could only be responded properly with a review of equally epic proportions, so here is what might be the first of many video reviews from me:

I'm reasonably happy with this.  It could be better, it could be far far worse.  I still think it needs to be funnier, I'm too nervous while I speak, I wind up falling into some semi-natural radio voice.  Criticism, suggestions, comments, whatever, are welcome, because no matter what you say, I am always my own most viscous and completely savage critic.

This took about three days to finally get together, and I assume the more I do, the faster they'll be made.  Changes are coming to this blog.  Consider yourself warned, but don't be too fearful of it, we're either going to become ten times greater or go right back to where we used to be.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Final Fantasy Type-Zero Fan Translation Teaser

A few years Square Enix released "Final Fantasy Type-0" the largest and greatest Final Fantasy game yet for the PSP.  They then very generously refused to release it anywhere else besides Japan.  You could either blame it this on the fundamental corruption and evil that has devoured the corporation for the last few years, or on the utter wasteful failure that the PlayStation Portable became towards the end of its life.  Luckily, where Square Enix is Satanic and hateful, Square Enix's fans are generous and loving, so have taken it upon themselves to translate the game.  The trailer is below:

The translation will be out for consumption come August 8th of this year.  That is, assuming Square Enix does not drop a cease and desist upon our hopes and dreams.  So come late summer, make sure you legally purchase a copy of "Final Fantasy Type-0" and add in this patch, that way the legal owners of this game get credit for their work.


I'm kidding.  Torrent the everliving shit out of "Type-0".  Make sure SE never sees a dime.

Friday, March 7, 2014

300: Rise of an Empire

It has been claimed for centuries that our modern civilization owes its entire foundation to Ancient Greece.  Our democratic government was Athenian in origin, Aristotle developed the first traces of science, Socrates and Plato devised philosophy, Homer imagined the first poetry, Herodotus wrote the first history, Hippocrates created medicine.  If you are a fan of maths:  they brought us the Pythagorean Theorum, Achimedes' Principle, pi, parabolas, etc. etc.  But the greatest genius of all is that one anonymous chef who put together the world's first gyro, forever liberating mankind from the dark depths of culinary ignorance.

What we forget about the Ancient Greeks is that they were a bickering collection of dysfunctional city states, who had nothing but contempt for any culture other than their own, and worshiped a gang of psychopathic deities whose king was a serial rapist.  Who was the greatest of Greek heroes?  Heracles, a dim-witted muscleman who murdered his entire family in a fit of madness.  Yeah, Hellas birthed Socrates, but it also had him tried for treason and forced him to commit suicide.  The Athenians kept slaves, their democracy was a sad oligarchic joke, the Spartans were fascist warmongers, and the entire miserable collection of backwards pederasts was too ridiculously divided to ever form a proper nation until they were all conquered by the Macedonians.  In contrast, the Achaemenid Persian Empire was a model for centralized government, abolished slavery, and brought peace and prosperity for much of the world.  If I were to go back in time to the 400s BC, I would definitely prefer to live under the wise leadership of a Persian Padishah than bickering Athenian old men.

Yet knowing all that, we still have movies like "300: Rise of an Empire", a completely shameless exercised in millennia-old jingoism.  As a sequel to the equally stupid 2006 Zack Snyder film, "300", "300: Rise of an Empire" continues that film's tradition of turning history into a militarist cartoon.  The Greeks here are golden supermen spinning around spears for freedom, fully equipped with perky nipples, rippling abs, and unsullied by body hair or shame.  The Persians are dark Eastern villains accompanied anachronistically by music that sounds suspiciously a lot like the Muslim Adhan, the call to prayer.  We, the glorious defenders of democracy, must crush those horrible dark Iranians, what with their nuclear program and frightening heathen religion.  When it Obama going to stop being a liberal pussy, throw off his suit, and join Brave King Leonidas in a big gay naked phalanx to save the world from the Ayatollah?

I guess I am reading far too much subtext into "300: Rise of an Empire", a movie so stupid that it would probably need a dictionary to learn the definition of the word "subtext".  And it would also need a helper to explain to it what a dictionary even was.  Despite every learned neuron in my brain screaming at me to tear this movie to pieces thanks to its clueless disrespect to world culture, I am somehow charmed by "300: Rise of an Empire".  Yeah, this might be a movie fully without merit, and it might be a huge festival of man-flesh and homoeroticism on a scale never before attempted, but it is so mindless and stupid as to be weirdly enthralling.  And more importantly, it stars Eva Greene, the shining salvation to this sausage fest.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Wind Rises

Hayao Miyazaki is a director who needs no introduction.  He is a man whose prestige, talent, and body of work is so beyond compare that it can be said without hyperbole that he has no living peers.  Between "Nausicaa", "Castle in the Sky", "Princess Mononoke", "Howl's Moving Castle", and his previous film, "Ponyo", Miyazaki has had a simply absurd career, having made so many beautiful, inspiring, and loving films that it is almost unfair so much talent and power could exist within just one man alone.  There is probably not a director alive whom I respect more.  If there ever comes again a director with a vision equal to Miyazaki's, we as a human race would be horribly spoiled creatures.  Do we really deserve a Hayao Miyazaki?  We are so full of sin and failure, and then a movie a perfect as "Spirited Away" comes to us, and we can see for once, in animated form, the very grace of creation.

Now that this review has reached the highest levels of pretentiousness in just one paragraph, I can finally introduce "The Wind Rises", the latest film from Hayao Miyazaki.  "The Wind Rises" was just this Sunday nominated for Best Animated Feature, having been released already in Japan, and last fall given an extremely limited subtitled run in New York and Los Angeles in order to make it eligible for Oscar contention.  At the end of last month it was given another dubbed release, first only in major cities, and then a wider one across the United States.  Yesterday I finally got a chance to see it.  This review easily could have come out months ago, but I knew a proper Hayao Miyazaki film experience could not be enjoyed online or from cheap torrents.  I have never actually seen Hayao's work in theaters, and that was something that I had to do once before I died - I still have centuries of life left to live, but there's no reason to put off something as important as this.

"The Wind Rises" is a very loose adaptation of the life of Jiro Horikoshi (played in Japanese by none other than "Evangelion" creator Hideaki Anno), the aeronautical engineer who was the lead designer of the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, the main Japanese fighter aircraft in WWII, and one of the greatest fighters of all time.  Miyazaki fictionalizes Jiro's personal life, creating a female love interest, Naoko, based upon the main protagonist of the 1937 Japanese novel "The Wind Has Risen" ("Kaze Tachinu") by Hori Tatsuo, from which this movie gets its name.  Jiro is a young man in love with the air, fascinated by plane designs, who wishes to follow in the footsteps of his hero, Italian WWI bomber engineer and pioneer of air travel, Count Giovanni Caproni.  Despite the film being Miyazaki's most grounded yet - a very serious adult drama taking place almost entirely in the real world - Miyazaki indulges in his own whimsical instincts by having Jiro meet with Count Caproni in their dreams, where the old Italian mentors the young Japanese boy, as together they ride their dream aircraft to a both violent and beautiful future.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Son of God

Disclaimer:  I am not a Christian.  I have never been Christian.  The story is two thousand years old, and so inevitably I picked it up along the way.  As a matter of fact, religion is one of the most interesting topics around on a purely scholarly level to me.  I love learning about faiths,  interpretations, sects, and dogma.  For a figure to have held such an important place in billions of people's lives for thousands of years, Jesus of Nazareth had to be a great man.  As a Jew, I'm proud of him.  I do not believe he was the messiah, I do not believe he was the son of God, I do not believe in the Christian faith.  But I do respect him and his teachings - though I will make the occasional sacrilegious joke every so often, and you'll just have to deal with that.  I also respect the faiths of every person in this world, include those of the people who made this movie, and those people who want to have a religious experience at a movie theater.

That being said, despite  my honest respect for Christianity and Jesus Christ and his teachings, I have the unfortunate job to tell you, my audience, that "Son of God" is a piece of fucking shit.

Adapting the story of Christ has never been an easy task for Hollywood.  Indeed, it is difficult to adapt the story of any major prophet to any artistic medium.  Jesus has been more heavily served than Muhammad*, Abraham, Mani, or L. Ron Hubbard, mostly because film has generally been a medium dominated by Christians, who generally have had no problems with depicting their lord and savior visually**.  In India there is an equally large tradition of making films about Buddha.  So there is a long history of Jesus movies, going all the way back to the silent movie era.  We've seen huge sprawling Hollywood epics such as "King of Kings" and the humbly-titled "The Greatest Story Ever Told", but also dramatic musicals with "Jesus Christ Superstar", controversial re-interpretations with "The Last Temptation of Christ", and finally two hours of meaningless violence with "The Passion of the Christ".  However, "Son of God" is infinitely less interesting than anything that has preceded it.  It is boring that even the Holy Ghost cannot sit through a viewing without falling asleep.

"Son of God" is so painfully safe and orthodox that it is entirely not worth seeing.  It has all the dramatic weight of a Sunday school pageant.  There is very little in the way of unifying plot, there is no interpretation into the character and identity of Jesus Christ, and there are no surprises of any kind.  It simply colors in the Gospels well within the lines, it might as well be an illustrated children's Bible.  If you want to have an experience where you will better understand Jesus either as a human being or as a divine figure, you will find nothing but coldness here.

Batman: Arkham Knight Launch Trailer

Yesterday came a major news announcement:  "Batman: Arkham Knight", the final game in the Rocksteady Batman Arkham tetralogy (if that is a word), coming later this year for two systems I do not own:  the PS4 and the Xboner.  Here is the trailer below:

As a trailer, this is lousy.  It looks cool, but all it is a promotional FMV, probably not even made by Rocksteady themselves.  If any of these specific scenes end up in the video game exactly as they are shown here, I will relaunch this blog as a "My Little Pony" fan forum.  And not the modern "My Little Pony", but the 80s "My Little Pony".  Essentially we can see nothing of what this game will be, aside from a few facts:  1) it takes place after "Batman: Arkham City", 2) old Batman Rogues are coming back to do wicked deeds on the streets of Gotham, and 3) the Batmobile is in it.  So possibly "Batman: Arkham Knight" could be a huge innovation in this series... or maybe it will be "Arkham City" again just with the Batmobile.  Time will tell.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

34th Golden Raspberry Awards Worst Picture Winner - Movie 43

This Sunday all of Hollywood's hottest stars, most venerated artists, most powerful producers, and most beautiful people all gathered to celebrate their year with an award show.  The 34th Golden Raspberries was not that show.  While the Academy Awards were there to reward the greatest in movie making magic, the Golden Raspberries had a different purpose:  to wallow in the worst of woeful filmmaking.  Two years ago to celebrate its win of Worst Picture, I watched "Jack and Jill", the double-dose disaster of Adam Sandler.  Last year the winner was "Twilight 5", which I had already watched, so no March special review was required.  However, this year, the winner is a movie simply called:  "Movie 43".

There have been times when the Golden Raspberries have been a little unfair and given Worst Picture to a few movies I feel were honestly misunderstood.  "Showgirls" is a masterpiece of intentionally awful filmmaking, "Rambo II" was a classic 80s action film, and I know I'm going to get heat for this, but I think "Freddie Got Fingered" is honestly a hilarious movie - it helps I saw that movie when I was ten.  When on Sunday the Razzies announced that "Movie 43" was the winner, my veins filled with frozen fear.  Already within a single year, "Movie 43" has become a legend of truly awful comedy.  I knew what was I getting into when I watched "Jack and Jill".  I had not read any reviews for "Movie 43" beyond that threatening Rotten Tomatoes score:  4%.  This was not merely going to be a bad movie-watching experience, watching this movie was going to be honestly threatening to my health.

Before I watched the movie last night, I had to prepare myself.  "Movie 43" was on Netflix, so easily available to be watched at any point.  However, this was a journey that needed to be taken properly.  When you're in a movie theater, there is no escape, you must focus on the movie, nothing else.  At home, you have ten billion different kinds of entertainment facing you in every direction.  I had to put away all those temptations of video games, honestly good movies, human interaction, and the Internet.  I had myself locked away in a room, tied down with ropes, and made sure my assistants would not come to my aid no matter what I said.  The experiment of Blue Highwind watching "Movie 43" had to happen with no interruptions, no distractions, and no chance of salvation.  I needed to stare directly into the abyss, into the pure illogical madness that is the truth of our universe, all summed with a single nightmarish failure of a comedy.  These are my findings:

Monday, March 3, 2014

Academy Awards 2014 Post-Show Reaction

The Broncos didn't win this time either.

The 86th Academy Awards last night were a non-offensive ball of fluffy television, entirely by design.  The Academy chose Ellen DeGeneres as host because DeGeneres is not Seth MacFarlane.  I thought MacFarlane was a hilarious host who brought new energy and entertainment to the Oscar telecast last year - especially when compared to the utter disasters that had preceded him.  But in a night where your Best Picture nominees are focused on AIDS, slavery, African piracy, and robot sex, it makes sense for the Academy to want to play it safe.  Nobody wants a slavery joke freaking out the audience at home.  Well... except for me, but I'm still crossing my fingers for the day that Anthony Jeselnik will host the Oscars.  I may not be able to come up with a slavery joke, but I'm sure he could, and mix a rape joke in there too.  He is a saint.

So there were no musical numbers celebrating topless scenes in movies.  Ellen DeGeneres came forward with her typical semi-nervous "deer in the headlights" approach, being just awkward enough to seem human, while still being very bubbly, nice, and unoffensive.  Early on in her speech the writers fed her a few barbs, such as accusing Liza Minnelli of being a male impersonator.  DeGeneres seemed just as uncomfortable saying that joke as Minnelli seems uncomfortable to be the target of it.  Eventually she hit some kind of stride by announcing a tough truth:  "Possibility No. 1:  '12 Years a Slave' wins best picture.  Possibility No. 2:  You're all racists."  Which was brilliantly followed up by:  "And now, please welcome our first white presenter, Anne Hathaway!"

Where DeGeneres was more solid came when she got off the stage.  Some hosts simply disappear during the course of the night, such as James Franco who was more interesting in entertaining a bottle of scotch than the world.  DeGeneres gave up the main stage to the presenters and spent most of the night palling around with the celebrities in the audiences.  There was much talk of Jonah Hill's penis, a major supporting character in "The Wolf of Wall Street".  Her bits here were considerably more funny than her last hosting gig in 2007, when she decided to start vacuuming the floor out of boredom.  Tonight she ordered pizza, stole a lot of money from Brad Pitt, and had that pizza delivered.  She did not order nearly enough for the entire audience, but it was a weird gesture simple comedy in a night that really did not want to focus on the subject manner of its Best Picture winner.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Academy Awards 2014 Preshow: Oscar Winner Predictions

Tomorrow night comes the Academy Awards the biggest night in Hollywood.  Unfortunately judging by Russia's current belligerent foreign policy, by tonight much of the world is going to look like the opening FMV of "Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2".  By noon tomorrow, all of us will either be dead or have evolved into subterranean mutant societies.  So we can expect some extremely low ratings for the Oscar telecast this year, but luckily since most critics will be dead, nobody will be around to make the same tired complaints about how the show was boring, the host was either drunk/offensive/not funny, and the winners were wrong.  So maybe the apocalypse has a silver lining?  Or is that a symptom of radiation sickness?

However, if perhaps Vladimir Putin does not in fact start World War III to reconquer Ukraine*, tomorrow night most of us will be watching the Oscars, absorbing complex carbohydrates in potato chip form while the hottest stars of last year come together to celebrate the greatest achievements in filmmaking.  So let us forget the growing powerkeg in Eastern Europe and come together to focus on imaginary people taking part in stories that have never happened (aside from "12 Years a Slave" which makes our Ukraine problems seem like a naughty game of Twister).  2013 was a very mixed big of a year, one where nearly every single major blockbuster landed with a bombastic whisper of mediocrity.  However, the Oscarbait releases were above-average, and this is a nicely strong crowd for Best Picture.  There is a lot of artistry on display at this awards show, and it would be a crime to let impending atomic annihilation get in the way of some very watchable television.

The question therefore is:  who will win?  That is why I, Dr. Blue Highwind, was called in, a veritable expert of statistics, the zeta function, occultist lore, German strategic planning in WWII, and "Final Fantasy XII".  Or more appropriately, I am a random dude on the Internet with a blog, and I've seen a lot of movies, so my predictions are based upon nothing more than gut-feeling and a few notes cribbed off the AV Club.  That of course makes my opinions far better than anybody else's.  Because nobody knows, but we can all pretend that we do know, and when we are wrong tomorrow, we do not have to admit anything to anybody.  That's the beauty of predicting things.  Nostradamus never predicted the War of the Spanish Succession, but stupid housewives still look to him for guidance.  I was wrong about "Metal Gear Rising", and nobody called me out on that. But I won't be wrong this time, because I have a huge throbbing brain.  Here are my predictions for tomorrow night:

March 2014 Look-Ahead

February has come and gone.  It was a month, as most of them are, this one only twenty-eight days of our lives.  Those days are not coming back, so I do hope you spent them well.  Reading this blog is clearly one of the best ways of living a life, just behind a constant 24-hour orgy, and being the Padishah-Emperor of the Moon.  However, if you are one of the more confused and less fortunate souls in this world and require a guide to planning your life for the next thirty-one days, here is a Look-Head for March, 2014.  First, the Movies:

300: Rise of an Empire (March 7th) - This is the long-awaited sequel to the 2007 film "300", which was based upon the Battle of Thermopylae in the Greco-Persian Wars.  "300" was innovative in that it proved to modern audiences that even 2500 years later, we can still make disgusting racist propaganda films against an empire that died out hundreds of years before the birth of Christ.  I'm not sure what this title "Rise of an Empire" refers to:  no empires rose during the Greco-Persian Wars.  Judging from the trailers, "300: Rise of an Empire" features the Battle of Salamis, the tide-turning naval battle where (spoilers) the Greeks win.  However, the Wikipedia page tells me that "Rise of an Empire" will also involve the Battle of Artemisium, which occurred at the same time as Thermopylea, and for some reason, the Battle of Marathon, which was a generation earlier.  So this movie is a prequel, midquel, and a sequel, so it is altogether just as confusing as its title.  On a fairer note, Eva Green looks like a perfect choice for the Persian commander, Artemisia.  On a less fair note, the star of this movie is apparently some bland White guy.
-- Chances to Be Good:  30%.  Focus on Eva Green, we might have a movie.

Mr. Peabody & Sherman (March 7th) - This is an adaptation of the 1960s cartoon characters, Mr. Peabody and Sherman, who used to travel through time in between episodes of "Rocky & Bullwinkle".  Let us hope that "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" fares better than Rocky and Bullwinkle's horrifyingly awful feature film from 2000 - not that I wish to unearth any repressed abuse memories within my audience.  DreamWorks is producing this creation, and it has some very crisp animation.  Unfortunately, nothing in the trailers seems to really "pop" for me.  It might make for some very basic family entertainment, or maybe it will surprise us all and be something special.  Time will tell.
-- Chances to be Good:  50%.  The little blond girl in the trailers wears too much eyeliner.