Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Kaijyu Dabbles In 3D? (Additional Home!)

As if there wasn't enough text to go around...

Ahoy, fellow connoisseurs.  Just letting all of you know that even as I juggle the Kaijyu, alongside V.Zero, and the occasional blips on Diet, a new garden has begun to sprout over in Wordpress land, which will cover yet another angle to my obsessions. Hobby Yokai, will become home to many a gushing rumination, all in the name of...stuff. That's right, material objects celebrating not merely anime-themed toys and collectibles, but pop culture cool, and even some discussion as to the who's, whats, and where-to-nows of popular media.

Disclaimer: (and now for a little additional honesty!)

This has all come about when my boss at work asked me to create a means to not only spotlight products I'm currently handling, but also gave me creative carte-blanche as to what I would like a hobby blog to be. So rather than merely a showcase for HQ images of plastic moe-gals, I'll be spending time on mementos new and old, strange, and unique while still retaining personal sensibilities.(which means no shying away from the occasional eyesore) Anything from the most awe-inspiring multi-jointed giant robot, to the most obscure 7inch record/book combo for kids, I'll take it on. We may also dig deep into my closet for some potentially embarrassing investigation.

This is essentially one big experiment, but one I hope many will be willing to join in.

No worries, The Kaijyu is still loud and roaring. So many lands yet to be stomped!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The End.....that wasn't...

No more talk about the bottle. Geh. I mean it.

Don't really feel a true need to report this ad to those who know me, but the footage is far too wild to ignore. This amazing teaser for the DVD/Blu-Ray release of Evangelion Gekijyoban Ha: You Can (Not) Advance (In a new Evangelion:222 cut), while not particularly character-centric as I prefer it, still has a panache we can only expect from Gainax/Khara. Wow..

Japan Release Date: 05.26.10

Monday, April 19, 2010

Love Thy Neighbor,Then Kick his Ass(Kick-Ass 2010 Review)

Call it the price of a questioning nature...

As initially mentioned, with roomie in tow, we ventured deep into Beverly Hills of all places to delve into edu-cultural hot spot known only as the Simon Wiesenthal Center/Museum Of Tolerance. Within the copper-colored walls of the structure were reminders of man's simplest tendency to fear & judge based solely upon first impressions. We are not merely given the guided tour, but are also allowed to wander the darkened halls rife with multimedia screens featuring fascinating insights into mankind's greatest folly, as well as the efforts of those who seek higher roads to understand their fellows. It was both an invigorating refresher course on many of my own personal journeys toward mutual understanding, as well as an interesting study of how things alter with time. As much as I find places like this to be necessary in an age of splintering social revolution, it is also important to consider the very nature of second-hand morality. Perhaps it is merely me, but I become skeptical when faced with a video screen sharing notions of oversimplified rights and wrongs featuring the words of men like Hitler & Stalin. Which isn't to say that the acts of many of the world's greatest tyrants weren't monstrous, but rather than history should also be open to the possibility that as the saying goes, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions."

To sit down at a table in a video room can be an interesting example of what I'd like to call "controlled conditioning", something I'd never considered when discussing this place. At tables, seating in groups of six with voting buttons at your command when asked questions by the woman's voice emanating from the video screen concerning our thoughts on certain matters displayed on video made for an interesting observation. The most prominent that comes to mind when being asked about our thoughts on the many methods of child exploitation in the world today.

We were given four buttons with which to vote with, lettered A - D. Naturally, whatever we voted for would be calculated, and then played back via the screen. When first asked about how many children do we think are sold into slavery every year, the numbers voted for were nearly unanimous. Over 300,000 was apparently correct. But what troubled me was when I'd make my selection, another button on the panel would glow in approval.

Needless to say, I was suspicious. But what did I know? It wasn't as if I knew exactly how these devices worked anyway.

It didn't feel quite so suspicious upon entering what was called "Point Of View Diner" Which was literaly designed like a cross between the soda shop in Back To The Future, and some kind of digital learning facility complete with touch screen renditions of Diner Table Jukebox Selectors. With each attendee, we were privy to the following video which gave us an interesting dilemma done in the style of a local news report...

Prom Night ends horribly when a car carrying high school football star "Chris", and his date, "Melanie". Chris is declared dead at the scene while Melanie ends up with her legs trapped in the vehicle. Worse yet is the younger victim in a car they had collided with, landing 12 year-old, "Danielle" in critical condition. When Chris's mother naturally declares on camera that her son should not be dead, and was an upstanding, model student, which we soon discover isn't true. In fact, Chris has had a history of drinking, and has even shown up to class representation under the influence. Compounding matters is the inevitable death of little Danielle, and the bombshell that a local liquor store , with a history of lenient policies on teenage drinking had possibly sold the fatal rounds to Chris, leading to his mother's onslaught of lawsuits.

Which is what leads us to our central dilemma....To vote in order of responsibility for this tragedy.

The Options:

a) Chris

b) Melanie

c) Chris' Mother

d) The Liquor Store

After a 30 second wait, these were the initial results on a scale of 1 - 4 (1 being most responsible)


3.Chris' Mother


1. The Liquor Store

Okay....I'm not so sure about anyone else, but I can't help but see this as pretty telling...

Which leads me into all the furor over Matthew Vaughn's taboo-bursting adaptation of Mark Millar & John Romita's ode to costumed anti-heroes , Kick-Ass. As certain critics and folks were inevitably going to raise their pitchforks in protest over the over-the-top violence displayed by not only a fifteen-year-old wannabe superhero, but by a scene stealing, hard-cussing 11 year old junior vigilante with a penchant for blades. It's just one of those things that many of us have always known as anathema to Hollywood. We knew from the moment there was talk of this being made into a film, that noone in town would give this script five pages upon this discovery. It's the kiss of death for your pitch. And yet, there have been instances of this taboo broken in films done outside of Hollywood that have indeed been successful. (Battle Royale, anyone?) Which isn't to say that this can't be seen as morally bankrupt to many. It is something that has long remained a final frontier for genre film, so naturally it took some pretty dedicated collaboration, and outside financing to make this unlikely film a rousing reality. And while it isn't something that even James Cameron would consider, Kick-Ass is here to stay, and has a vital place in the canon of L'Enfante terrible cinema. It is the movie equivalent of good, trashy punk shows; rife with defiance, questionable ideas, and an all out dangling wang in the face of mainstream society.

Which isn't to say that it is in any way a great film, but rather a devilishly entertaining dance with anarchy, with no brakes & even less humanity.

Kick-Ass follows the misadventures of fifteen-year-old Dave Lizewski(Aaron Johnson), as he goes from invisible loser to media phenom when he takes the crazy idea of becoming a homemade superhero to absurd heights. Brutal injuries, and a growing online reputation later, he stumbles across the truly dangerous father/daughter duo of professionals, Big Daddy(Nicolas Cage) & Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz) as they crusade against New York's vicious underworld kingpin, Frank D'amico (Mark Strong). Starting from atypical comic-loving dweeb, to this is no doubt a jarring shift to this boy's life. His previously nonexistent love life is soon thrown for a loop when his school crush begins seeking interest (under misunderstanding that he's apparently a homosexual). The boy's dive into the seedy world of vigilante justice & online heroism reaches an apex when the actions of BD & HG raise the attention of D'amico's brutal crime syndicate. And as imagined by the trailers, what follows is a frenetic, bloody, and irresponsible barrage of film rivaling anything from the salad says of Lloyd Kaufman.

And yet, this is where the film goes from unexpected sleeper success story, to another rote case in going through the motions. My ultimate problems with the film are when Jane Goldman & Matthew Vaughn's script never finds that raw balance that is so necessary for a film this rebellious to truly work beyond its time. And while many of the performances are in fact quite fun (Cage's Adam West-esque pausing are hysterical retribution for years of terribly routine roles), it is the audaciously charming performance of Moretz that devours much of the film. And a 50 million dollar price-tag never conceals the fact that the film feels like a more exploitative take on the superhero film instead of a subversive one. Actions are never as impactful, nor as sharp as they could be given the premise. We see damage, the hint of the psychological alongside the physical, and then *poof*, forgotten in favor of more middling comedy. And while it can be commended that much of Millar's original story is here in all it's wild glory, it never attempts to take it as far as movies can go. In an era where a PG-13 rated superhero film can raise the bar for literacy, acidic wit, and storytelling, Kick-Ass never feels as dangerous as it should.

And yes, I said it should have gone further. Because much like bungee-jumping, dieting, or even drinking, we are a culture based upon challenge. We thrive upon seeking the untouched. And even as kids, it can be said that the contemporary has a yen for the forbidden. This is inherent in the young despite what so many adults would rather have us believe. And no amount of self-blinding is going to undo this. Art,..yes..even trashy art has value in the human experience. There's little to preserve but common sense in a world that is ever changing. At best, Kick-Ass is an alcohol-soaked litmus test for the angry child in all of us, and at worst, an indulgence best served with less sugar & more gray matter.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Geekiest Post In History (or most redundant..)

Okay. Blame it on Plinkett. The Zoidberg-like voiced ne'er do wrong of RedLetterMedia's hilariously on point Star Wars Prequels reviews. For those unfamiliar with what I just said, watch on..

For The Rest (Including the all-new Episode II Review!)

The man has essentially piqued my good roomie's curiosity to finally get her first crack at these gargantuan pieces of cinematic carrion to see what the old psycho was talking about. And unexpectedly, she didn't loathe on them nearly as much as many of us did upion their initial run. Especially with the climactic chapter. Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith where she was relatively affected by it. Now it must be said that she is a very astute and often extremely observant film fan. But her views on the quality of these films comes from more personal connections to what was happening internally, as opposed to all the political shenanigans happening all over the place resulting in gobs of unnecessary digital waste.Just glad to see these films through the eyes of someone who never grew up with the original films, and therefore no context to how it felt to have a singular large event myth like that unfold over the course of seven years.

This all considered, going back into these films reminded me so much of not only what Mr. Plinkett said in his sprawling reviews, but also helped me remember what I personally wished to have seen in the third, and most crucial installment of the Fall of Anakin Skywalker.

Particularly, the rushed, underimagined/executed finale. Goodness help me, I'm resorting to redundant Star Wars suggestions on my blog.

Let's get to it, shall we?

1) The Murder of The Younglings:

Now this sequence has always troubled me as a most obvious point of contention when talking Anakin's sudden turn to the Dark Side. So many have tried to overuse the tired, lazy excuse that he was obsessed with saving Padme Amidala to the point that he would easily be Palpatine's drone at this point.

Seriously now. If I were lucid enough to exclaim, "what have I done?", I'd still stand by the idea that I had some kind of say in what it is I'd do exactly, versus what I wouldn't. Which is why I always found his killing of children to have no real basis in simple human behavior, lest this character was either possessed or a psycho from the getgo. Personaly speaking, I would have created a reason for this to happen. A means to push Anakin into this heinous act. Being accidentally discovered by a little Jedi in training seems to make a great deal more sense. The child/children being discovered peeping would add much needed tension to the scene, and further make Anakin's actions a little more understandable. (not that swinging a laser-sword into a large group of kids is, really. Even if there are days when we fantasize about it.)

2) Obi-Wan, You Jerk:

Now this one isn't so much about story so much as it is about character. Now personally, if I had come to the end of a 20-plus year friendship that ended so ugly, and I truly felt that my companion's pain of being multi-amputated, burned from top-to-bottom, I'd at least end his pain by decapitating him. Just leaving Anakin's burnt, writhing carcass laying on a hill is a bit of a cold move on Obi-Wan's part. Again, I guess I'd rather that Anakin had fallen into an unreachable crevasse where Obi-Wan could not see him. This would allow Obi-Wan to deliver his "you were the chosen one!" lines as more of a soliloqy, never knowing of Anakin's anguished state before leaving to get Padme."I raised you like a son. We grew together as practically brothers. And now you turn against all that is good in the galaxy, until soon this happens. Shit. That looks painful. Later!"

3) Losing The Will To Live (!?):

Again. I'm almost certain I'm not the first person to have suggested this, but the incredible negligence to allow the medical droid to utter the line " We are losing her...She's lost the will to live." is so beyond frustrating that it begs to be reconsidered and reshot. When in only a few minutes before, Padme had expressed her shock and dismay at the revelations that her beloved Anakin had become a traitor & mass murderer. To which his perturbed response was only to pull a "force choke" on her briefly while exclaiming that Obi-Wan had turned her against him only to release it seconds later. The ensuing damage,while potentially traumatizing in no way constitutes anything life-threatening.

-And this is where an idea germinated within me...(combined with what we recalled in Return Of The Jedi, when Luke asks Leia about her memories of mother-To which she replies that she remembers her vaguely. Recollections of a person, beautiful and kind, but sad...)

Now...this is where a big suggestion falls into place that at least to me seems more in keeping with continuity, and could have thrown viewers into some interesting territory.

What if Padme's mental state deteriorated after the birth of the twins instead of merely dying? To see her fall into an inescapable chasm of despair seems to be a much more potent means of ending her arc than merely killing her. In fact, this coupled with Emperor Palpatine still informing a newly born Darth Vader that he had "killed her", seems to be a much more believeable, and tragic outcome for the doomed couple. Following this with perhaps dialogueless montages of Bail Organa & his wife raising Leia, leading to a delicate moment with the young princess peering into a near closed door only to see a dementia-riddled, broken elder Padme looking out of a sunlit window before being led away by one of many royal nannies, or a governess. The idea that she died a thousand deaths to a broken heart over time seems a lot more in keeping with the tone of a fantasy saga. It's just a mental image I still see to this day, and perhaps still apply to the Star Wars prequel in my mind. I've always loved the fairy tale's ability to plumb human depths with familiar imagery, and Padme Amidala's fall seems to make more storybook sense in this manner as opposed to merely dropping dead.

And the idea that Anakin now thinks she's dead. Crusher. (of course, some would argue that he would sense her to be still alive. I would argue that with his body in such a modified manner, I wouldn't put it past Palatine to place a block of sorts into his mind in order to keep the lie in place.) I'm looking at matters in regards to dramatic weight, and with canon well in mind.

The long and short, the Star Wars prequels do have their values, albeit in ways perhaps George Lucas and cohorts mever expected. Despite their kaleidoscope array of flaws, they do offer more than mere bombast and misguided writing. They offer us a chance to share discourse, and to work out what it is we love about our collective mythology. it challenges what we know, versus what we are longing for. And perhaps this alone is a legacy worth blogging about.

Hong Kong Elegy Part I

The thought has often occurred to me that since I can be such an internal apocalpyse at times, that many of my interests tend to be applied in a fashion that is more in tune with the immediate rather than the meticulous. On one hand it can be considered lazy, while on the other, it is within the moment, filled with a grand love for unpredictability without restraint. It's just hard to place into words exactly it is that draws me into works that embrace this. Which is why when these thoughts occur, it is almost certain that a Wong Kar Wai marathon is somewhere, formulating in my mind and near imminent.

The Hong Kong auteur is no secret among my favorite film spinners. Particularly his works in the 90s, where he began to fins his own particular voice, and became infamous for extended, unprecedentedly long shoots without scripts, and sometimes merely a notion of plot. But within these particular works reside a soul longing for things intangible, a fundamental need to explore the world around him, without underlining his points with a bold black marker. Particularly his urban-centric pieces that seem to elliptically venture into feelings of both love and nostalgia within the seemingly cold doldrums of city life. Everyone is connected despite their lack of knowing each other directly. The romance comes not from merely declaring unrequited feelings, but from the small impressions left by others. And as so many lives intersect, the dweller knows within themselves a transformation has been sparked. Whether it be the inimitable Days Of Being Wild (1990), or the international darling Chungking Express(1994), Kar Wai's explorations into not only the Hong Kong experience, but of the ephemeral nature of the heart, are staggering even now.

And let's not skimp on the other element that has made the man's works so popular, few directors have the ability to simply make their lead actors look so amazing. What is likely obsessiveness, or plain visual saavy, his films create a framing that is wonderful for his actors. Even at their most anti-glamour moments in each film, his work with the ever terrific Christopher Doyle makes each star iconic in ways that few filmmakers can. Significant examples to me includes the imagery of a young Maggie Cheung working isolated shifts at the snack shop in Days. Or even the less than flattering, more disheveled looks Leslie Cheung & Tony Leung share in Happy Together(1997). And this extends well beyond the kind of looks we grew accustomed to with magazine shoots, and fashion ads. The looks are infused with feeling, often longing. Despite what some may imagine at the offset, the internal worlds of his characters carry great resonance through their facial expressions and body language - and it's something that isn't terribly easy to achieve.

On through 1995's Fallen Angels, the journeys of these intersecting lives continue to blur lines of individual realities, often opening doors into the surreal. No doubt compounded by budgetary limitations, the reuse of familiar locations also assists is in giving the films a sort of singular universal feel that implies more than any mere sequel can. The world continues to expand, adding layers to what often feels like a stream-of-consciousness visual poem.

(to be continued..)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Good, The Bad & The Weird (2008) Review

Upon first checking out the online spin concerning Kim Ji -Woon(A Tale Of Two Sisters)'s ode to retro-actioners & spaghetti westerns, a part of me leapt for joy as it truly felt logical that one of Korea's masters had what it took to breathe irreverent new life into these near-extinct genres. If Miike was to have a whale of a time with revamping the Django Western some years back, why couldn't it happen here? Part Leone tribute, part Balls-to-the-Wall Indiana Jones chase film, the film shifts chaotically between extremes in often times jarring fashion. Which isn't to say that The Good, The Bad, and The Weird is any kind of letdown, but rather that it is a matter of what one brings to the whole wacky affair.

In oh-so breakneck fashion, the film introduces the backdrop as 1930s Manchuria, a time when Korea's stake in the world stage was in doubt as Japan had begun to move deeper into the mainland, with many Koreans bandying for independence.(backdrop information which may, or may not affect viewers depending of their knowledge of this corner of history) Concerns for this have led to an increased number of displaced folk, seeking out their fortunes for varying reasons. And a potentially huge tip to fortune has just landed in the lap of a wealthy man eager to hire expert trackers to find it. The Macguffin in question is a map, leading to an unknown prize of considerable wealth. His separate hiring of black-clad gang leader, Chiang-Yi Park, and good guy bounty hunter, Park Do-Won lead the charge onto a busy cross-country train carrying Japanese banker Kanemaru, who's possession of this prize is key. Yet despite all this, it is the cunning antics of one Yoon Tae-goo that intercepts the map, and leaves both parties in hot pursuit.

To make matters worse, the fracas on the train has grabbed the attention of Mongolian groups, prize hunters, and inevitably the Japanese Imperial Forces in a nonstop race for the map. Just what is this map? And just how far are people willing to go for it?

Lee Byung-hun's twisted, Chiang-yi is a classic egoist, ready to plunder and kill all who stand between him and his reputation, an instant Achilles heel that works like an unstable powder keg. And Jung Woo-Sung portrays the Man-With-No-Name archetype with a sort of lost -soul that while appropriate is given a short shrift. But it is Song Kang-ho that comes off triumphantly in this film. In what easily could have been modeled into a Lee Remick impersonation, Kang-ho's schleppy charm becomes the film's bonding element. Part likeable loser, part danger to himself and others, Yoon Tae-goo is a man of considerable secrets that truly shows his stuff when in the most intense of situations.

And intensity is perhaps the word to utilize when thinking of TGTB&TW's strengths. Where the film sort of stumbles in the exposition/character development department, it truly excels in some truly exceptional action sequences. From the early shootout set-piece within a shanty marketplace, it is pretty clear where Ji-Woon is most comfortable. The editing, and stunt-work there are among some of the very best I've seen in years. (there are shots in there that truly rival manga imagery) And then the final chase sequence using a multitude of horses, motor vehicles, and artillery fire must be seen to be fully comprehended. In an age of digital cinema, it is nice to see a large-scale production embrace a true sense of danger. About the only gripe I could share in these areas are some of the musical choices that for me, feel forced and dare I say it, unimaginative for such impressive everything else. It is a crippling would in what could easily have been a landmark scene.

But alas, the weaknesses don't really end here. Even if the film intends to throw us into the fray, it's still important to let viewers in on what is truly at stake by giving us a little more character early on in the film. Instead, we are subject to what I can only call Bay-isms, where the audience is subject to montages of information with little or no true cohesiveness toward our characters objectives. It isn't until nearly into an hour into the film that we are given just enough to care about our leads before the grinder is switched on to high. And even if non-Korean viewers were likely not intended, it would still help the multitudes of viewers whom many of these homages were paid respect to.

It is almost apparent that the film's primary concern was the action, with the script's meditations on the spirit of displaced countrymen taking a grudging backseat because where this film truly flies is when all thrusters are on full, leaving us to charge along in the chase, hoping to cash in on all the dizzy fun. This all ends in a denouement that quite frankly should have been more focused than it is. I'm also of the understanding that multiple endings resulted. In some way, this reflects quite appropriately to my initial statement. TGTB&TW is not unlike our leads, longing for more, striving for glory, only to come back with what they themselves have brought to the journey.