I Visited Endor

I went on a family vacation in the California Redwoods along the coast this week. Due to some poor planning on my part, it kind of ruined the update schedule, so there’s no page this week. I will share some of my favorite photos from the trip, since I’ve got nothing else to show! I also played a lot of Monster Hunter Stories during the trip. I randomly decided to download the demo just before the plane trip, fell in love with it, and ended up buying the full game. It’s super cool.

Seeing the Redwood (sequoia sempervirens) forest is a surreal experience. It’s the forest that you see over and over again in movies because it looks so alien and prehistoric. Our tour guide pointed out areas that appeared in Jurassic Park: Lost World, which I found highly entertaining, because, if you think about it, redwoods wouldn’t have even been possible on Isla Sorna due to the overly warm and humid climate (the redwood forest maintains a temperature range of roughly 40 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit year round), and because all the wildlife put on the island to accommodate the dinosaurs wouldn’t have had enough time to grow into something that looked like a centuries old giant tree. But maybe I’m over thinking Lost World.

I did have a lot of Endor nostalgia while walking through the forest. In fact, I went on the trip with the simple goal of locating an Ewok. Despite my best efforts, though, I was unable to find a single Ewok reference in any local shop or building we visited, which was very disappointing (but I’m sure the Ewoks are out there somewhere). Apparently it’s scientifically impossible to determine the exact age of a redwood, because they grow genetic clones of themselves off of the shallow roots at their base, so a 1000 year old redwood tree may actually be a continuation of a previous 1000 year old rewood tree, but still technically the same organism. Even when a rewood falls over, it doesn’t die, but instead will sprout new vertically growing trunks from its horizontal position. As long as their in their preferred habitat, redwoods are surprisingly hard to kill. I only bring this up because it sounds wild enough to actually be Star Wars lore, but it’s the REAL DEAL.

 

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Oh man, it’s a SAMURAI SHODOWN!

I watched this movie Gantz:0 on Netflix because some trailer I saw for it at some point looked interesting. Turns out it’s narratively incomplete, a tad misogynist, and totally bonkers. I know it’s based on a manga also called Gantz, and all I’ve ever really known about the series is that people who have just recently died are mysteriously resurrected by a black orb in a non-descript Tokyo apartment and told they have to put on tight black scifi catsuits and fight ‘aliens’ in a sort of life or death game where you earn points by killing the most enemies. The movie manages to completely fail to explain the motivation behind these aliens, or why they all look like creatures out of Japanese mythology, or what the black orb is or why it makes people who have recently died fight these aliens in a point based game format. Nor does it explain how this black orb or its creator provides the main characters all the high tech weapons they use or even how it brings them back to life. Basically, it’s an infuriating movie with lots of mysteries and no answers. On the flip side, it is a pretty darn good looking CG film where the characters feel very vulnerable (you don’t quite know who the plot armor is protecting until the very end), with some great effects and animations (outside of the obnoxiously ludicrous jiggle physics on the women). It’s a movie that runs almost entirely on predictable cliches utilizing a bunch of mostly one note characters and a lot of ham fisted melodrama, but if you’re looking for some eye candy that’ll leave you scratching your head, along with some fairly creative action scenes, maybe it’s worth a watch.

Gantz: 0 actually reminded me quite a bit of another Netflix anime movie based on a manga that I watched. BLAME is also a narratively incomplete story driven almost entirely be cliches and ending with almost every question posed by the film unanswered. The basic plot is that a bunch of generational survivors living in a superstructure that’s so huge no one knows how big it is make contact with a travelling guy who apparently is looking for a human with some gene that would allow them to control all the hostile robots in this super city. The movie fails to explain the origins of this mysterious traveler, or why everyone keeps calling him human even though he is very clearly a cyborg with re-attachable limbs, or what the ultimate purpose of the superstructure is, why it became hostile toward humans, and why dart guns are apparently a more effective weapons against murder robots than, say, an automatic rifle. At least its female characters aren’t treated like dainty, vulnerable eye candy, though.

Maybe these movies are meant to be the beginning of franchises, or maybe they’re just meant to be supplementary material to their respective manga, although I find it hard to believe these fairly high budget films aren’t made with the express purpose of being able to stand on their own and increase these franchies’ popularity! I’ll give both these movies points for only being an hour and a half each, though.

And while we’re talking about film adaptations of manga, the trailer for the upcoming Blade of the Immortal film looks gloriously accurate to the source material, which has my hyped. And although the Bleach manga ultimately turned into one of the most overstuffed, over confused shounen franchises of all time, its initial setup was wonderfully unique and compelling, which gives me some hope for the live action film adaptation. On the other hand, as much as I love Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, and am currently reading through the manga, the live action trailer for that movie looks laughably cornball. Maybe keeping Al’s suit of armor design identical to the manga was not the best idea, as Al looks like a walking cartoon in world of competent cosplayers. Actually, ‘a world of competent cosplayers’ pretty much describes every live action anime adaptation I’ve seen, so maybe it’s fine.

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A TRIAL BY FIRE! Clearly Hirotomo’s favorite sort of trial. He’s a harsh mistress. Err, mister. Well, a harsh dad. At least he can count on Tadashii to put Yori through the wringer, OR CAN HE? He probably can.

We just spent the weekend at Matsuricon 2017, chillin’ out, hosting panels, and having a good time. Joe, who’s well into the three digits (and working towards four) of numbers of hours played of Breath of the Wild, hosted a BotW panel where he relentlessly bombarded the packed room with the most obscure Zelda trivia questions you can imagine. I think the most shocking part was that so many of them got answered correctly. I also had a Star Wars panel where I relentlessly whined about the franchise as if I was Luke Skywalker in A New Hope. Maybe some day I’ll remember to actually mention the con we’re going to be at before we actually go there.

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I can’t being to imagine what Tadashii is implying here!

I started watching Little Witch Academia, and it’s pretty great;  fantastic animation, whimsical, orchestral soundtrack, distinct, enjoyable characters, and none of the most cringe worthy anime cliches! I’d recommend it for any animation fan who’s looking for a high energy/low stress show (and who also has a Netflix account). Unfortunately I’ll never be able to watch anything again after I burn my retinas out staring at the SOLAR ECLIPSE.

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AND THEN THEY FIGHT! Wait, is Tadashii fighting with a broken sword?

I’ve been watching the third season of Voltron, and it significantly elevates the show from the sort of generic ‘good vs evil’ template it was plodding along through the first two seasons. Suddenly we’re being hit with (somewhat) difficult moral decision, multiple antagonists in a power struggle, in-fighting between various groups, buildups with high stakes, and flashbacks establishing complex, dramatic turns of character. I’m starting to enjoy the show as much as I enjoyed Korra. It doesn’t hurt that the animation is still outstanding. Even the music seems to have gotten better in season three (although it still fails to compare to that original theme). Granted, for anyone interested, you still have to push through some 24 episodes of varying quality to get there. Watch them for the animation.

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That’s not true! THAT’S IMPOSSIBLE!

Search your feelings, Yori. You know it be true!

 

Okay, we went and saw Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets, a movie I REALLY WANTED TO LOVE, but, ugh, nope, it’s kind of awful. I REALLY want to write about the myriad of plot holes and nonsense character decisions the movie bombarded us with, but I don’t have the time! The short of it is that the main character is extremely unlikable and the film does a terrible job of both establishing what anyone is doing and why, and defining the rules of the world (as far as I could tell, it’s a movie universe where the only reason anything is considered ‘illegal’ is because the main character just randomly decides it is). Valerian could’ve been this great buddy cop scifi action comedy, instead it’s an ungodly mess of half baked ideas and rampant sexual harassment that runs about forty five minutes too long. Although, there is a great five minute opening title sequence that’s easily the best part of the movie. It definitely got my hopes up before tossing them out an airlock.

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Well, this escalated quickly!

I saw Baby Driver this week, and enjoyed it quite a bit! If I had one complaint, it’s that the second half of the film lacks an incredible choreographed car chase sequence, which is disappointing since that is the movie’s gimmick. The opening action scene sucks you in with one of the coolest movie car chases I’ve seen, but it sets up false promises as well, because it never tops its opening action piece. Still, Baby Driver has plenty of personality, quirky characters, and a tightly scripted plot that’s well paced. It’s easy to sympathize with the lead character, Baby, and his plight to escape the criminal underworld. Even all his criminal cohorts, who are all horrifically awful people, are given sympathetic elements that make them hard to hate. The story flies by despite the movie’s hour and fifty minute run time. Going into an Edgar Wright film, I anticipate a lot of comedy and goofiness, and although Baby Driver has those elements, they’re more on the sidelines. The film is far more interested in tense action, high stakes, and stylish editing. Don’t expect a straight up comedy, but if you’re in the mood for a tense, unique crime thriller, Baby Driver is s good time… It’s also got a fantastic soundtrack. I’d recommend it, even amidst the plethora of worthy summer films filling theaters this month!

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OH SNAP! (I couldn’t help myself)

So I finally got to the movie theater and saw Spydermen: Homecomers. It was a GOOD TIME, a top class action comedy! So I’m going to talk about it briefly, and there will be SPOILERS.

I don’t have a lot of problems with Homecoming, in large part because it IS a comedy, which lets it get away with quite a few leaps in logic and sudden scene changes without needing to bog itself down with minutia exposition. So my only real problems with the film feel like nitpicks, and they’re also the kind of problems that make me feel old! But I’ll just cover what I loved before I mention the stuff that let me down a bit.

Firstly, HOLY HECK, the mechanical designs in this movie are so freaking cool. The Vulture flying suit might be the coolest thing I’ve seen in a movie in a while, I definitely got some Metal Gear vibes from it. I also loved the setup for the main villain, it’s a great origin story hook.

Everyone in this film is incredibly likable. RDJ might be sick of playing Stark but he’s still great in the role and every time he shows up I’m smiling like an idiot. All the younger actors in the movie feel genuine. The whole vibe of the movie makes me feel good, which is nice because most of the time nowadays I am the living embodiment of darkness.

The plot has a nice clear flow to it, I didn’t really find myself getting hung up on any particular thing UNTIL… (okay, here comes the stuff that let me down some.)

The final action scene is kinda bad. It takes place at night on a plane with a bunch of flashing holographic panels that were desperately trying to give the movie audience a headache. The scene is so dark and the editing so fast and choppy that it’s nearly impossible to tell what’s going on.

Considering every other action scene up to that point was very readable and well done, I don’t really know what happened here. The stakes for the final scene also feel pretty low. Peter’s basically just trying to stop the Vulture from stealing some crates of weapons, something the Vulture has kind of already done to various degrees, so even though it is an escalation, it doesn’t really feel like one.

The scene preceding it is also Peter’s ‘darkest moment’, I guess, in which a ceiling falls on him and he feels helpless for a few seconds until he remembers he’s super strong and lifts the debris off of him. It just made me shrug my shoulders. I suppose it kind of illustrated that Peter found the will to believe in himself, but, I mean there were probably less ‘meh’ ways to do that.

So then the plane they’re fighting on crashes, and the Vulture punches Peter a few times, then decides to just steal a crate of weapons from the crash site, at which point Peter sees the Vulture’s suit is sparking and looking worse for wear, so he tries to websling the vulture, this time specifically to ‘save him’, by, I guess, grounding the Vulture and then explaining to him his flying suit is about to explode? This was definitely an “I read the script so I know what I’m supposed to do” moment, and not something that followed any sort of logical train of thought. Anyway, the suit explodes, but the bad guy isn’t killed, and Peter pulls him from the wreckage and carries him to a safe distance. Note that’s AFTER the suit explodes, but I guess there were some fires so the bad guy might have burned to death if Peter hadn’t moved him. Still, the fact that he was otherwise okay after his suit exploded seems pretty unlikely and anticlimatic. Then again they did both survive a shockingly destructive plane crash (the plane was being flown on autopilot so no bystanders in danger). Either way, it was a muddled and confusing final encounter, devoid of much tension because very little felt at stake.

I also felt pretty bad for Liz, Peter’s romantic interest in the film. She clearly likes him, and she puts up with a lot of crap from him, but she gives him the benefit of the doubt and goes to the Homecoming dance with him. Unfortunately her dad turns out to be the main bad guy, and then Peter awkwardly clues dad into his own secret identity. Peter then ditches Liz at the dance without providing any real explanation, and goes to stop her dad from stealing the weapons. So he essentially ruins her life both directly and indirectly, but at least he saved her dad! Still, poor Liz’s life is royally mucked up by her dad and Peter, and none of it was her fault. Considering everything works out for pretty much everyone else at the end of the movie, it’s kind of a bum wrap for her!

And lastly (and this is the part that makes me feel old), the film’s pacing is EXHAUSTING. I’ve complained about this in other films before, but it seems a common trend in modern movies. What’s also annoying is that this movie is over two hours long at this rapid pace. I think cutting the film down to an hour and fortyfive minutes would’ve notably improved my viewing experience. Homecoming rarely ever stops to breath and we never hang around in a single location for more than a few minutes at most. Few, if any, shots linger, and the pacing is generally frantic. It still works because this is a comedy film, but I do like a movie to slow down once in a while. Also, the action scene in the Washington Monument and the action scene on the ferry probably could’ve been merged into one big, tension building action scene that really played up a set piece moment and covered all the necessary plot points, instead of wildly jumping from one thing to the next. But I guess that’s just the age of movies we live in now! They have to write those scripts in a month with studio approval so they can get the filming done so they can fix it all in post production, that’s just how it works.

And now I think I have to do the obligatory thing where I decide my favorite Spiderman movie. Considering I haven’t watched any of the Raimi Spiderman films in years, it’s a tough call to make. I’ll admit that I found the first Amazing Spiderman film mostly forgettable, and the second one memorably awful, and the third Raimi Spiderman watchable but not particularly good. The original Raimi film honestly didn’t impress me that much when it came out, but Spiderman 2 was one of the rare comicbook films that made me actually cry, more than once. Spiderman Homecoming made me laugh a lot, but it didn’t punch me in the gut, so I’ll say my favorite is Raimi’s Spiderman 2. Here’s a funny video that explains near the end why Raimi’s Spiderman is better, if only by a little (totally subjective, but it’s an opinion I agree with).

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And then Yori ran off, just like that! I hope it’s a good snappy thing!

I watched that very brief Castlevania show on Netflix and I enjoyed the heck out of it! Its biggest problem is that it’s way too brief, and also four episodes should’ve at least been enough to get into Dracula’s castle! But the writing is great, schlocky fun,  and the relationship between the obnoxiously snarky Trevor Belmont and hilariously aloof Alucard is ready to blossom into the bromance of the decade.

Also, I played some Splatoon 2 over the weekend. It was a chaotic mess! I’m sure I’ll still buy it when it comes out, because I enjoyed Splatoon 1, but playing this weekend demo I found myself feeling pretty down when I was on the losing side of a match, something I didn’t really feel in the first game. That’s probably because there’s no character progression yet. The best part of playing Splatoon 1 multiplayer was that your character still gained levels even if you were frequently on the losing side. I’m sure that will also be the case for the sequel, but until then, losing is just losing, and it’s no fun!

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Cho’s troubles with gender differentiation continue. Or maybe he just recognizes the fluidity of gender, he’s a progressive guy.

There’s a movie I want to see coming out every week this month but I haven’t managed to get to the theater yet! On the other hand, I did discover Gundam Wing is on Hulu, and I started rewatching it. Oh, the nostalgia! Before that show, the badassitude of mechs had never registered to me. It was a life changing experience but i haven’t rewatched it since highschool. I’d kinda forgotten that Heero Yuy’s a complete psychopath!

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