Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Halo: Fall of Reach: Covenant Review (2011)

Halo: Fall of Reach: Covenant Review (2011)

Kelly: If we miss…

Sam: “We’re Spartans, Kelly. We don‘t miss.” 



So, I was sitting in Barnes & Noble a couple days ago, and decided to grab a random graphic novel to keep me occupied. That graphic novel was "Covenant"…which is a Halo comic. I’ll be lenient on this one since I’ve only ever played Halo about twice, and that was when it was new. But hey, I even reviewed Super Metroid, so how hard could this be?  Today’s review is the long-winded  Halo: Fall of Reach: Covenant, graphic novel from Marvel Comics!

     The graphic novel seems to follow the UNSC around, first the fleet, then the Spartans (Which are like Super Marines I guess.) and then the grunts, as they all battle the Covenant, which are weird looking aliens crossed between a Muppet and a bug from Starship Troopers. One of the things I find hilarious about Halo is how outmatched the Covenant seems to be, and yet the UNSC constantly acts like they’re a threat.

    In the first chapter, there’s a lot of techno babble about some secret weapon they have but: “They will counterattack, and we will be destroyed.” So, maybe not such a good plan then? After the fleet gets destroyed, then they call in the Spartans, and unveil…sigh…the Mjonir battle suits at a base called Damascus. They really grabbed for mythology there. I have no problem with mythology, but it’s not a madlib, okay? They should have reasons behind the names.

Anyway, in the second chapter it’s all about the Spartans: Three Spartans Jeff, Sam, and Kelly have to land on this Covenant ship and blow it up. At least, in this part we actually get to see the Covenant, and it’s hilarious. One of the Spartans gets trapped as he sets the explosive, and sacrifices himself so that the others survive. One of the things I liked about this sections was, for all its madlib mythology, they explain that the armor triples their strength, and in normal test subjects the suit reacted so quickly it broke their bones. Spartans, however, are not normal test subjects.

   Really? And I thought I was just playing a first-person-shooter! Now, I know that I actually was simulating a hilariously ineffectual military organization that relies on secret plans and test subjects! At least Captain America was one superhero fighting Supernazis, so he has a reason to exist! Here, it’s just Dr. Hadsley takes three random guys to a secret base after their fleet was destroyed and gives them super armor. Can anyone explain this to me other than as a bad parody of Starship Troopers? I’m not kidding…the whole organization seems to be built on secret plans, instead of actual plans.

    The final chapter is the battle of Cote de Azur. I just thought this was badly written. There are scenes where people are saying: “We’re losing men here!” and “This is more than I’ve ever seen in one place!” But, we never actually see much of the battle except for one ship that takes out a jeep. Show, don’t tell! Anyway, I was willing to give Halo a chance. It does describe the mythology for me, but I feel like at the end of the day, it’s just a bland first-person-shooter about a terribly ineffective military organization battling Muppets.

    The Covenant still don’t seem like much of a threat to me. They are bug-Muppets vs. super soldiers with guns! Most of the destruction, as I understand it, was caused by the UNSC’s poor decision-making, and not the alien threat. They sacrificed men, they sacrificed the fleet, and they sacrifice test subjects.

    Just because I’m relatively new to the Halo universe, I’ll rate this one 2.5 out of 5 stars. It does explain the universe (Though it’s poorly shown.) and it seems to be at least a good parody of Starship Troopers. But the illustrator didn’t have much to work with, because scenes were dedicated to people talking about death rather than showing it.

 I feel like Captain Kirk would be really disappointed in the UNSC. And even he would take along some red shirts, but he always had a plan! Oh, well…I suspect within the videogame Halo the secret plan plot exists to make the player feel special. But, as a comic, it just left me in the dark about how this organization can even operate!   Master Chief has nothing on Captain Kirk!
   



Saturday, October 19, 2013

Gravity (2013)

Gravity (2013):

“I hate space!”

- Dr. Ryan Stone


I can’t say I blame Sandra Bullock’s character for hating space. In this movie, everything bad happens to her. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the movie, it’s just non-stop disaster movie action. This movie doesn’t give you time to breathe! And when it does, something else goes wrong. I don’t know, I just wish Hollywood could make space cool again without overdoing the explosions.

   George Clooney is in the film for about 20 mins. Then, there’s not enough oxygen between the two astronauts, and well, one has to go. First, the space junk hits Hubble, then the International Space Station, then a Russian rocket. Everywhere she (Dr. Stone) goes space tries to kill her. One of the things I thought the movie did well was use 3D. I certainly got dizzy!

    One disaster after another sort of stretches credibility. I’m no physicist, but I highly doubt that the fire in the I.S.S. lab would’ve followed Dr. Stone’s exact path. But, you have to love that everything just turns into a giant fireball conveniently shaped for fitting through doors. Pretty much every second of the movie after the debris hits is Sandra Bullock freaking out and screaming: “What do I do? What do I do?” Even the quiet moments are chock-full of ham-fisted symbolism, such as when she sheds her space suit and goes into the fetal position abroad the I.S.S.

    In one scene, it’s made to seem like George Clooney (Matt Kowalsky) returns. (Mild spoilers.) The movie continually raises your hopes, and then lets you down. Initially, these twists were cool, but by the 3rd time they get tiresome. I can’t stress enough that I did like the movie. It’s a Hollywood disaster movie. And it should be treated as such.
   
Nonetheless, it used 3D effectively, which is rare. On the other hand, it is a heavy-handed mess. I’ve always been a big fan of sci-fi and space movies, and while many of the dangers here seem plausible, it’s so exaggerated as to be almost laughable. Take your breaths while you can. This movie just might make you hate space.
 
   Perhaps the most sci-fi aspect of this film is that America still seems to be invested in NASA. I hope one day it returns to manned space missions, but I certainly don’t hope for anything that happens here! Thrilling as it was, Gravity just leaves you floating around in emptiness and despair. Kind of like in space! I give it a solid 4/5. But, I needed more oxygen afterwards! Ha!






Thursday, October 17, 2013

Planet of Snail (2012)

PLANET OF SNAIL (2012)




 Young-Chan Cho: “All the deaf and blind people have the heart of an astronaut.”

Planet of Snail is a documentary from South Korea. It is very slow-paced and plays with minimal sound to simulate Young-Chan reliance on tactile communication and finger taps as opposed to always using voice. His voice, one might say is the lack of sound. The story follows him along with his wife Soon-Ho. Soon-Ho has a disability caused by degeneration of the spine.

Together the film explores their mutual dependency and quiet, slow lives. The reference to Young-Chan Cho as an astronaut in the Planet of Snail is interesting because I too consider myself an alien. Some things that an able-bodied person can do very easily, I can’t. But, I think from that I gained a desire to explain my worldview. For Young-Chan Cho, it’s the same. On one hand, he talks about his disability as no different than fading memory for a sighted person. When you remember something with sight, it’s never as clear as it was when you saw it the first time. A very insightful critique of sightedness!

    On the other hand, Young-Chan’s poetry reveals a deep understanding of how his life is alien. “What I see in front of me is my reality.” He says. “I am deaf-blind even in my dreams.” In spite of this determination, he encounters obstacles very early on in the film. While taking a Hebrew exam, Young-Chan’s professor says that he had the words in the right order, but his assistant transcribed it wrong. That is, his wife, not his assistant. But, he gets an A+!

    Later in the film, we see Young-Chan eating with friends, who look as though they may be deaf-blind as well. They get into an argument about why he married, and the other friend believes he may never marry. Much of this argument is done through tactile communication and finger tapping. I don’t know Korean sign language, and only understand little bits of American Sign Language, but the finger tapping to me seemed vital to understanding the language. Young-Chan’s friend believes he married Soon-Ho to be a live-in caretaker, which Young-Chan Cho denies, but seems shaken by.

   Through his friend, we see his clay crafts, including a mug shaped like a naked man. Young-Chan explains that he didn’t like that one very much. Soon-Ho says that sometimes he takes care of her, because sometimes her pain is so bad that she can’t even pick up the phone. “I couldn’t even say hello. I could only make screeching sounds.” She says. Nonetheless, we see Soon-Ho helping Young-Chan around the house more often than vice versa: Fixing a light, helping with food, walking on the beach, even helping to organize Cho’s play with his friends.

     The film ends with a solo trip to a doctor's appointment, where he admits he was scared to be without his companion. “I felt colder.” He says.  Then, Young-Chan Cho goes swimming, where he says he can open his eyes and see a different world. (As opposed to The Planet of Snail.) In closing, he says he's only waiting to see the most precious things. He and I have much in common. We are both astronauts; we both use words to paint our lived experiences with disability; we have many of the same fears. What will happen to me when my friends and caretakers are gone? The film explores these fears, which at times seem to contradict his coping mechanisms…art and poetry which transcends his body.

    The film is very slow-paced, but there was enough going on that intrigued me that I never lost interest. I love movies about disability experiences, other planets, and other cultures and ways of life. I identified with the main character; but only insofar as he uses art to overcome his disability, such as I try to do. The rest was new to me: The finger tapping, Young-Chan Cho’s beautiful descriptions of his disability in poetry, having a partner vs. having friends, and negotiating each other’s disability. These were all wonderfully new to me. The slow pace also helped me drink in Young-Chan's world.

     I found Planet of Snail to be a fun, dramatic and captivating experience… it is not  just internationally appealing to me, being a Korean film, but it is interculturally appealing too. I mean, I related my experiences with disability with Young-Chan They didn’t always match up. For example, in my dreams, I'm able-bodied, though it by no means is a reflection of de-valuing my life with a disability...I can simply do more in my dreams. Also, Young-Chan says sometimes he knows he’s being stared at. I would tend not to focus on it…nonetheless, I do know it probably is happening.

Anyway, this is a great film that explores many themes about disability and relationships, and the role of art as a tool for life. Highly recommended…I’d say 4/5 stars: the slow pace might be off-putting to some, but in my case, it helped me catch details like the finger tapping as communication. A wonderful film! Go see it!




Monday, October 14, 2013

Whatever Happened To The Caped Crusader? (2009) Review

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE CAPED CRUSADER? (2009) REVIEW:




“You don't get heaven or hell. Do you know the only reward you get for being Batman? 

You get to be Batman.” 

- Disembodied voice

Whatever Happened to The Caped Crusader? is a story by Neil Gaiman in which Batman dies. Many times. Each villain/person in the story tells a story of when Batman dies. It’s essentially a reboot story. Batman is able to deduce that the disembodied voice is a result of a near death experience (NDE) that takes the form of his mother. As Batman notes, each story is different, but remains the same. Catwoman, Alfred, Joker, Robin, and Riddler all tell stories of how Batman died; honestly, I found it kinda cheesy for a reboot comic.
   
Catwoman’s story takes place in the ‘40s, back when she wore a cat’s head mask and no one knew she was a woman. She tells of their first encounter and when he discovered she was a woman. Batman ends up wounded by her some years later after he rejects her advances. She ties him up and allows him to die near her, which is creepy. Then, she quits crime and opens a pet store for high society “ladies.” (But, she uses a different word.)

Alfred’s story was my favorite, and by far the most creative interpretation.  This story reveals that Alfred belonged to a troupe of actors. After Batman’s parents died and he swore vengeance, ALFRED dressed up as all Batman’s villains, and hired helped from his acting to troupe to employ people like Penguin and Riddler. Riddler then shoots Batman after Batman discovers the truth.

Speaking of other villains, the art here is very good, even if some of the stories are a little lackluster. Joker in particular looks like straight out of The Animated Series, and has some great bits….(For maximum effect, read in Mark Hamill’s Joker voice.) “I don’t just randomly kill people. I kill people when it’s FUNNY!” But, then again I always imagine Mark Hamill’s voice paired with The Joker, including his laugh. Joker’s story is that after he kills Batman with his Joker venom, he didn’t even smile…and then he realized killing Batman wasn’t very funny after all.

After every villain says their bit, Batman deduces that he’s dying, and the disembodied voice is his mother. She tells him that there’s nothing he can do but say good night. Then, the book turns into a strange Batman version of Goodnight, Moon. The story ends with Batman being born in a hospital. A symbol of his rebirth in The New 52. Touching, if not chronologically and contextually confusing.

This is a reboot comic, so I will say they did a pretty good job. It had some nice tributes…in particular the art on The Joker and placing Catwoman in the ‘40s. But, the story doesn’t feel that heroic to me. All the stories are of Batman dying. (In creative ways, I must say!) It seems to me you could find other ways to show off a reboot then multiple deaths.

Death worked for Superman because he was split into about five different people and then put back together. Batman could’ve done absolutely nothing to deduce his death, and the comic still would’ve been the same. There was no action. Apart from some nice conspiracy theories, this essentially does nothing but show Batman as weak. Yes, I know, Batman never gives up, etc. But, he could’ve given up here, and nothing would’ve changed…I still give it a solid 3/5.




Friday, October 11, 2013

THE END OF EVANGELION: THE NEON GENESIS EVANGELION MOVIE (1997)

THE END OF EVANGELION: THE NEON GENESIS EVANGELION MOVIE (1997)

“Reality can be painful. But, it’s something you have to accept.”

- Kitsuragi






    Right off the bat, this “movie” is a little weird. I don’t remember that Asuka ended up wounded from the battle with the last Angel…but the movie starts with her in a hospital bed. Fair enough. Maybe something happened in-between. But, that doesn’t matter anyway, because NERV gets attacked by hijacked EVAs. Not the Angels, because theoretically they‘re defeated! Meanwhile, Asuka’s death puts Shinji in doubt again, and right when they need him to connect to his giant robot to kick butt, he “can’t do it.”

In general, I find that anime movies made from series tend to be weak, because they reset most of the character development, However, in this case, at least it progresses the story, and gets rid of the final villains…it takes the form of 4 episodes, effectively becoming extensions to a series that could’ve ended 10 years earlier, no muss no fuss. But, the villains are using EVAs to back Angels to restart mankind. Plus, at least Shinji has Asuka’s death to push him back into doubt. It makes sense, but is no less annoying. Kitsuragi and the rest of NERV fend off the terrorists, but still Shinji won’t pilot the EVA, and needs a pep talk.

I wouldn’t think that Shinji would have a choice. But, here’s where things get a little crazy. Kitsuragi gets shot and dies in front of Pen-Pen, the lovable cyber penguin, just after she gives her talk. And it turns out Asuka wasn’t dead, and that she was being visited by the spirit of her dead (German, remember!) mother which activates her EVA. She fights the rest of the EVAs alone while Bach plays in the background. It is glorious, and the best scene in the movie…not only because it’s the only straightforward action scene, but because it’s Asuka!

 Shinji’s father reveals that he was working with the Angels, and Rei (The 3rd pilot, remember!) tells him she won’t participate, but nonetheless she ascends a staircase to this weird looking giant Robojesus on a cross and becomes a giant spirit, an angel herself. Here’s where it gets weird. Rei approaches Shinji and asks if he wants to restart the Earth, and becomes blended physically to Shinji. The rest of the movie is Shinji reasserting his individuality.

So, it turns out that Shinji/Rei did destroy the Earth, but by choosing to be an individual…he saved it. Or re-created it? Is it recreated just how he remembers it? Does everyone continue on like before? What just happened? Doesn’t that invalidate the entire movie? So many plotholes to restarting timelines…wouldn’t Asuka still be dying in a hospital?

Overall, I liked this movie, but only because I get to see those characters from Neon Genesis Evangelion again. Though two out of three characters are in their worst philosophical forms. A siege is no time for philosophy. I mean,  Evangelion had comedic moments, but is mostly action. But, you wouldn’t know it from this movie. I gotta give them credit though. One of the show’s main supporters, Sega, was on the brink of oblivion at the time. By 2001, they’d cease to develop hardware.

Hey, I’m always up for some philosophy…it just happens in awkward places throughout the episodes. The siege of NERV; Rei becoming an Angel; right before Shinji needs to defeat the last Angel, Asuka! Some of the manipulation of Christian imagery is nice, as well as German classical music during Asuka’s battle scenes. And yet, the message is slightly contradictory and detracts from the mind-blowing revelations of the series. Face reality…from a giant robot! On second thought…never change, Evangelion! 3 out of 5 stars for this one, despite a rocky start and tragic ending. Oh, and feel free to discuss the ending in the comments!
 


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown (1989)


My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown (1989)

Christy Brown: I need a light.

Mary Carr: Don’t go thinking I’m your mother now, just ‘cause I’m takin’ care of ya.

Christy Brown: I don’t need a [expletive] psychology lesson. Just get me a [expletive] light.

    I’ve gotten several requests to review this film, and I wasn’t disappointed! My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown is the story of the Irish painter Christy Brown, who has CP (Cerebral palsy.) It covers from his birth in a crowded Irish family to the opening of his own exhibition. As someone who has a more moderate form of CP (Christy grabs everything with his left foot. I also don’t have Christy’s speech problems as severely.) I really have to give credit to Daniel Day Lewis’s method acting. I can almost feel his muscle twitches, spasms, and the battle he must’ve had to create within himself to perform the role.

    Daniel Day Lewis plays Christy Brown as a man who is held together by his sheer will to survive.  Early on, when his mother has a heart attack Christy drops down from the bed where he was placed by his mom, scrapes his way down the stairs and bangs on the door with his left foot. This tenacity endures all throughout the film, into his later adult life, when he’s played by Daniel Day Lewis. Even though throughout his childhood he’s called a dunce and a burden by adults. Surprisingly, like me, he gets along well with able-bodied children, enjoys football, and even for a time rides in a cart for lack of a wheelchair until his 18th birthday.
   
Obviously, as a person with CP myself, I identified with much in this film. I never took speech therapy, but little things like Christy’s artistic impulses I deeply identified with, as well as his search for intimacy. I suppose sometimes I’m even difficult to understand due to my slight tongue thrust. I suppose what I’m getting at is I don’t agree with the idea that able-bodied actors shouldn’t play disabled characters. If I can’t tell the difference, I don’t see how anyone else could.

    Indeed, one of the things I really like about this movie is that it’s not played for sympathy. From the moment he grabs a piece of chalk in his left foot as a child, Christy displays a stubbornness that allows him to overcome his disability as well as  display a deep intelligence behind the stubbornness. Later, he enters speech therapy (At first, so that he can impress his good-looking therapist…) but they fall out when…in a powerful scene…she announces she’s  getting married. He doesn’t handle this well.

    You see, Christy Brown seems to have inherited his father’s love of drink as a coping mechanism, and does not take this very lightly. While they were supposed to be celebrating opening his exhibition, Christy instead launches a tirade against platonic love. The only love he’s ever gotten. Also, his family tries to build him a new art studio, in the hopes that he’ll become motivated to paint again and come out of his depression. Which ultimately culminates in a bar fight, and of course the opening of the exhibition where he meets Mary, who we are later informed Christy married in 1972.

     Daniel Day Lewis’s portrayal of the adult Christy really makes this a good “disability” movie. Christy always aims to prove people wrong about his limits, even if it is to spite them. He first tells his therapist to “[expletive] off!” but she tells him that with therapy he could learn to say it more clearly. But, I think also, his rhetoric and art reveal a deep striving and human understanding which lie beneath his stubbornness. Christy always had to prove people wrong…he also strove to connect with them…though not always successfully.

    Overall, it’s a great film. It is inspiring, but not in a way that inspires pity…which is what I suspect is what most people mean when nowadays people say “I’m not here to inspire you.” in connection with the disability rights movement. Of course, I’m here to inspire people. I’m just not here to be pitied. We as humans must continually strive to inspire ourselves to keep living; to make life meaningful. Which is I think what Christy Brown does in this movie…both with his painting, and continual self-improvement.

I mean, he learns to crawl with his foot, then to grab things, then to speak…this is a story of continual overcoming, but a realistic one…full of rejection and hope deferred. 5/5 stars from me! I fully support able-bodied actors playing disabled characters! (And think the modern controversy…is to be blunt…ridiculous.)  I don’t think you could’ve gotten a better Christy Brown. I think all disability advocates should see this! Or if you just like great movies!

     



Monday, October 7, 2013

ReelAbilities Columbus 2013:

ReelAbilities Columbus 2013:





When I went to Reelabilities 2013 this weekend, the first movie I saw was “Aphasia”, in the McConnell Arts Center. It’s an American film (2011) about Carl McIntyre, an actor and salesman who has a stroke, and suffers from aphasia, the inability to read, write, or understand spoken language. The film follows his year and a half trying to regain these skills. It’s a very comedic film, but not without it’s touching moments, such as when Carl first suffers the stroke, his kids jump on him and his wife yells at him to get up and stop messing around.
   
Also, the film shows Carl’s frustration of having to learn words again. Oddly, the first words he seems to learn quickly are curse words, which is sometimes played for comedic effect. (They must be stored in a different part of the brain…or linked to his frustration.) Such as when he goes to a fast food joint and tries to order a “Frozee”, but ends up seeming to order…something else! He also has trouble distinguishing between yes and no at first, which means he ends up with much larger orders sometimes and says yes when he means no.

    In his therapy,  he begins to show “cognitive flexibility” which is why he can relearn words by getting around to them in his brain. For example to say “when” Carl at first has to say “Chicken” which surprises his therapist. “Chicken?” she asks. Then, Carl says “Chicken! Eggs! Hen! Www-when!” The surprising thing for me was how much I empathized with Carl’s aphasia. Having learnt another language (And sometimes having difficulty with my own…but haven‘t we all had those?), it’s frustrating when you can’t convey what you want, and embarrassing when you say something completely different.

     This is a short film, 40 minutes long, that embraces the entire gambit of human emotions, and the human struggle to adapt to worlds which we don’t understand. Ultimately, Carl realizes when he’s watching himself on TV that: “There are two mes. The then and the now. And the now me is the only version of me this little boy [his son] will ever know.” And spoiler alert: He does finally get that Frozee!

   This is a great film for anyone who has struggled to communicate. Or likes to laugh. Funny story: as I came into the theater, people there must’ve thought I was with the Dancing Wheels, a disabled dance group that was there earlier that evening. They showed me into the theater, and then I got on this big metal lift, and I almost ended up on stage. I didn’t know! I thought it was just really good handicapped seating! But, then I told them I wasn’t a dancer, and they took me back down into the audience. Communication breakdown even between non-aphasiacs!

     The second day was when I saw “Renn Wenn Du Kannst” and “Yo Tambien” in the Wexner Center. These were the two films I’d planned to see originally. “Yo Tambien” (Me too.) is about a man called Daniel with Down Syndrome who falls in love with his able-bodied coworker Laura in Seville’s Department of Disability Services. Daniel is wonderfully arrticulate, and discusses philosophy, and art, and his disability with her. Laura is more of a “wild child” who has a dislike for rules, and is new in town, so Daniel is her first connection.

     However, just as Daniel is Laura’s first connection as a friend, Laura is taught how to love again by Daniel’s example. There are hints that Laura was abused as a child, and is estranged by her family. Likewise, Daniel’s mother can be a little to overprotective of him, and thinks he’s somehow being taken advantage of. Daniel also has a friend, Pedro, a dancer, who falls in love with a woman with Down Syndrome in his dance class. This serves to show how the concept of normative relationships doesn’t always function correctly.

    In both cases, it is the able-bodied people who do not approve of the relationships. But, they don’t want or need their approval. In Daniel’s case, people think he’s being bamboozled. In Pedro’s case, people think: He has Down Syndrome, how can he know what love (or sex!) is? These are the kind of presumptions the disability community has to work against! It’s not able-bodied vs. disabled. We need more stories like this that show us that. Also, it did remind me a lot of my trip to Spain, as I suspected it would. The fast, colorful language, the classical architecture and wild countryside, and Daniel’s family was always drinking wine. What a great Spanish presentation of the Independent Living and Disability Rights movements!  

    Now on to Renn Wenn Du Kannst (Run If You Can)! This film is from Germany, and follows Ben, a quadraplegic about to complete his MA (Boy, I’ve been there!) who falls for one of his assistants friends, a woman who plays cello, but has crippling stage fright to where she can only perform solo. Now, here’s what I thought was cool: In the opening scene, Ben in ordering his assistant around and cleaning up his apartment, but the moment his aide leaves, his thesis which he just PRINTED, flies out the window. I nearly cursed at loud as Ben does!

    You see, when Annika (His aide/Ben’s love interest, in a sort of love triangle!) has stage fright, she can run away, as she does many times during performances in the movie. Ben can’t run away from his fear which is that he will no longer be able to maintain relationships after his accident. Indeed, in the course of the movie, Ben kind of laughs off the notion that Annika could possibly love him. But, then of course, she does, but neither find that they can perform sexually under the weight of their traumas.

    Ben’s story is that he was in an auto accident that killed his disabled girlfriend as well as left him quadriplegic. Since then, he has developing a joking attitude (He calls his attendant Christian…Nurse Christiane!) and stays away from people, since he can’t run from his fear. As Ben jokes with Christian: “I was not put on Earth to have sex with women. I was put here to look at their backsides.” I must admit, I often take myself out of the game so to speak, before I even know if I’ll succeed. For many of the same reasons; and the fact that it was in German made it hit home closer for me.

    The film wonderfully juxtaposes the need for order (Classical music; cleaning the apartment; the Master’s thesis.) against fear and non-logical impulses. Though all three in the end remain friends, it is left unclear whether they will go their own separate ways. There is a small scene where Ben’s mom comes to visit, and she starts cleaning and Ben tells her to get out! That to me was pretty powerful, as a cultural analyst. This is Ben’s territory! Only he and his aides can order it!

     And hey, as a non-native German-speaker I learned a few new slang words! As usual the European scenery was great…but in a different way than Spain’s. The city of Bottrop, as presented here is large and modern, dominated by high-rises and steel. Actually, Ben climbs the Bottrop Tetrahedron and sits on top of it. Something he told “Christiane” was his “unattainable dream”. A wonderful film dealing with interability relationships…but certainly not as afraid to dive into pain as Yo Tambien. Yo Tambien was more colorful; more Spanish…for lack of a better adjective!

     Afterwards, a speaker read her academic paper on the presence of able-bodied/disabled actors in the media. And even gave some cursory background into the disability rights movement in Germany…by commenting that Germany’s movement is based on “self-determination” (Which she never called by the German Selbstbestimmung.)

   The trouble is, in the USA, it seems to be based on “Independence”. So, whatever differences both movements have based on those words are (to me.) completely rhetorical. I don’t get the difference…but the main argument seemed to be that media presence within the “community” is growing. This year was the opposite of last year’s for me: I came prepared to speak this time, but never quite got the opportunity to ask questions!
 
   All in all, a good ReelAbilities Festival, with some great intercultural discourse on inter-and-intraability relationships. And I got to see one more film than I originally thought! (“Aphasia”) I’m glad VSA Ohio invited me to take part. Each film dealt with the same issues, more or less. But each had a different cultural lens which with to examine our common humanity through stories about disability! ReelAbilities 2013 was a very fun, and very educational time!
     



 


Thursday, October 3, 2013

THE 99 (2011) REVIEW:

THE 99 (2011) REVIEW:


Narrator: “It is said that the light of one heart can illuminate all the darkness in the world.”

Once in a while Netflix completely surprises me and shows me something that I really like. In this case, it’s the animated superhero show The 99. The 99 is a 26-episode series written by Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa, that focuses on a group of heroes who are powered by magical gems called Noor stones. Supposedly, there are 99 stones. Each stone grants it’s user different powers. The first one to be found is a paraplegic man with the power to send out pain waves/healing waves from his hands: John Weller.

   The others found all have different abilities and powers, and all have Arabic names given to them once they join the 99. I suspect it has to do with the 99 names of Allah…well, and 99 Noor stones. Of course, I myself am an Agnostic, but I love discussing multiculturalism! As for the superheroes: There is (mainly) Jabbar The Powerful, (Superstrength and invulnerability) Darr The Afflicter (John), Mumita The Destroyer (Superstrength and agility.) Noora, The Light, (Light-based  powers and  empathy.) Jami The Assembler (Super engineer.) Those are the main three from what I see. Although the series plays off of Islam, the show itself is more about universal values of good and evil, and happens all around the world (Hong Kong, St. Louis, Hungary, and Jakarta, to name a few…) just  like the X-men and the mutants.
     
Dr. Ramzi Razem serves as the mentor (The Professor X, if you will.) of The 99. One thing I liked about the show was how well it depicts in my mind, how people would react to being superheroes. John doesn’t just get on a plane and fly off with them! No! He tells them to get out of his house and go away until his powers go out of control and they chase him down! Although John is a little bitter in the beginning, and generally has a negative view of his chair (Except when The 99 upgrade it into a sort of armored Permobil powerchair!) I tend to think that’s due to his tough-as-nails persona and background, rather than pity.

    In fact, I have to say, for all it’s cheesiness, I really liked The 99’s depiction of John’s disability. He sort of moves extra-consciously…with a click before he moves from his powerchair of course. And although I never realized it…that’s how I move too. I sort of have to think “Okay, turn here; then straight ahead.” but of course it’s all habit. Early episodes have some nice examples of John’s POV, all punctuated with clicks from his chair. Little things like this I notice. I’m always somewhat pleased when I see disability in mainstream superhero media!

     Of course, opposite Ramzi and The 99 is Raghul. Raghul is the Magneto to The 99’s X-men. A nice plot twist occurs when John becomes suspicious of why Ramzi brought them to The 99 Mansion, and gave them codenames. Why do superheroes need secret identities, anyway? (I know, to protect their loved ones.) It turns out that they had been working for Raghul, and the man they were told was Raghul was Ramzi! Nice twist on the secret identity theme. Anyway, Ramzi reasons that since they already have codenames and a secret base, he might as well use them for Good.

     The base of The 99 is in Selville, Spain, on the ruins of a 13th century Islamic library. I like how the show is based in Arabic/Islamic mythology and culture, and explores themes of ethics, social justice, and multiculturalism, in much the same way as X-men does…but just as X-men is not specific to any religion…The 99 has a different cultural/historical setting which adds to the backgrounds of the characters and Good vs. Evil narrative of the show.

Though Islamic culture is important to the show, the religion is never explicitly  discussed. Though I felt like maybe it’s time we have strong Islamic superheroes? I felt like it was a missed opportunity. It’s time we had a serious intercultural dialogue in that respect. If Nightcrawler can discuss Christianity, why not John Weller discuss Islam? Though I really like that the show went for (to me.) something new, to show how people act on cultural values; and for including a bit of disability culture as well.

The only thing I didn’t like about this series was…the animation. Until Beware The Batman proved me wrong, I’ve always kinda thought 3D animation was inherently clunky and awkward…and it’s still pretty bad here. Often, it feels more like a product of the late 90s than modern animation…but the action and themes covered are good, even though animation is lacking! If you’re looking for more disabled superheroes, or just a new show to watch about superheroes, I highly recommend The 99 for its cultural settings, sneaky plot twists, and cool superheroes! I’d rate this 3.5/5 stars, but just for animation issues! Give it a watch! I was pleasantly surprised!




Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Trigun: Badlands Rumble (2011):

Trigun: Badlands Rumble (2011):



    Gasback: “So, you’re the one who keeps getting in my way, one little bit at a time.” 

Vash The Stampede: “One little bit at a time? I thought I tried harder than that.”

Vash is back! Sort of! You see, it's a bit disconnected to the series. 20 years ago, after a bit of his doughnut falls into a bank robbery, Vash The Stampede inadvertently saves a vicious murderer who’s robber companions are about to turn on him. It’s sort of independent of the events of the Trigun series, with a vague connection being Vash’s love for doughnuts, and that after Gasback escapes he rescues Wolfwood from dying, and the preacher swears to become his bodyguard.

   Also, Meryl and Millie are back (To save their floundering agency!) and the whole gang meets up in Macca City via steamship. Vash claims to be only sightseeing, despite Gasback being worth 300 million double dollars and in town! (With Wolfwood by his side!) While on the steamship he encounters Amelia, a gunslinger who he immediately falls for. Vash defends her when some goons try to attack her, but she can hold her own it turns out!

    Vash books himself in the same hotel as her and discovers both her name, and that she’s after Gasback, who he helped escape 20 years ago. My least favorite thing about this animated movie is that it sort of resets the growth of the characters throughout the original series. Milly and Meryl are protecting property again, and meet Vash The Stampede in the hotel bar. Wolfwood and Vash have a quick gun battle, but then he decides his duties to Gasback ended when Gasback got to town.

     Gasback is a big beefy outlaw with a robotic gun-arm. He kinda reminds me of Barrett from Final Fantasy VII. He tosses a die to decide people’s fate, which is how Vash lived through their first encounter. He makes a lot of jokes about rolling the die. He’s kind of like Two-Face. He’s never that intimidating, except for maybe the robot gun-arm, and one scene where he looks like he’s defeated Vash in a very cool dune buggy chase. Wolfwood then turns on Gasback.

     Amelia meanwhile reveals that she doesn’t trust Vash, and they go back and forth for a while, with one twist development. I don’t know, one of the main avantages of the original anime I thought was how it developed relationships and had really good gunfights with varied villains. Since this is a movie, and introduces new backstories and new characters in just under two hours, it doesn’t have the luxuries in storytelling and character development that the other series did.  So, the twists feel kinda gimmicky and sudden.
   
That said, I love this movie! The animation is BEAUTIFUL, and vastly improved from the original, incorporating more depth and 3D effects! Just the die alone has immense detail! Also, it’s just really good to see Vash The Stampede, even if he is back to his normal, childish, free-spirited persona! In the final scene, Vash has a quick draw with Gasback! Gasback rolls the die, and tells him when it drops they shoot. Amelia plays a role, but no spoilers! One more remark though about Amelia, without spoilers…she’s kind of annoying.

    I think they tried to make her like Vash, and she does this thing where she acts all mysterious and distrusting of him, but she acts like a little girl and breaks out in hives when boys touch her. Vash at least had time to develop those two personas…AND HIS MATURITY was a direct result of him uncovering his dark history and accepting it over the course of the series. This movie just sort of lays out Amelia’s dark history, despite her attempts to cover it. That and she starts out tough…so her sudden fits of tough-girl/girly-girl…get really annoying. And it was hard for me to take her development seriously.

  But, I promised I wouldn’t give spoilers! I highly recommend this movie if you liked the series. Sure, it resets Vash’s character a bit, but maybe he’s more natural as a free-spirit. I like how the old characters are brought back, the animation is wonderful (No joke. Vast improvement…real eye candy!) You can really tell the differences in technology between the two. This one is simply better to look at! And of course, some wonderful gunfights!
   
Trigun: Badlands Rumble is definitely worth a watch! But, it’s a bit like Vash himself. It has more comedy and pizzazz than actual story development; although it does okay trying to tell a new story. I’ll give it a 3.5 out of 5...for a weak love interest, and a villain who…tries too hard to talk tough. But, man! It’s got Vash, it’s got Wolfwood, and it’s just a beauty to look at! Check it out! Again, yes, it’s a 2010 film, but the USA release was 2011!





Tuesday, October 1, 2013

ReelAbilities Film Festival 2013 Preview

ReelAbilities Film Festival 2013 Preview:



Well, I always love the ReelAbilities Film Fest in Columbus! You get to see movies dealing with disabilities and even discuss it afterwards, which is a rare opportunity to make one’s viewpoint as a person with a disability heard. It’s even better, because they always have international entries. So, I get to do some intercultural analysis as well.

     This year they have two entries from Germany, one from China, one from Portugal, one from Israel about a disabled soccer (Football to international viewers.) team. Other entries deal with Down Sydrome, (Yo Tambien, Spain.) and Aspberger’s (The clayamation feature Mary and Max, from Australia.) Longtime viewers of this blog know how important it is to me to promote strong, human portraits of disabilities. And I think ReelAbilities gives us all the opportunity to look at those kind of portraits. The festival begins Oct. 4 and ends on the 7th.

I will go to at least one showing…probably on the 6th, as I am close by the Wexner Center for The Arts. They will show “Yo Tambien” (“Me too”, from Spain.) and Renn Wenn Du Kannst (Run If You Can, from Germany.) Renn Wenn Du Kannst is about a paraplegic man in love with his nurse aide’s love interest. Since I speak German, I definitely want to go when one of the German movies is playing.

The Spanish film will probably remind me of Spain, which is a beautiful country. But, anyway, I rarely see disability films in an international context, so ReelAbilities is a real treat for me.
 
If you’re in the Columbus area, you can catch all the times by going to: columbus.reelabilities.org. Tickets are $5 at the door. If you’re an international reader, let me know of some good films with disabilities in them, and I will submit some requests. If you’re too far away to attend, I’ll provide analysis of the films after I see them to give you a taste. Regrettably, I think I’ll only be able to go to the one screening this year. But, we’ll see.
 
As usual, it should be a fun time, and give me a chance to share my human experience with others who have disabilities. We’ll have some guest speakers, one of whom I know is the poet from last year’s festival. In any case, it should be fun to see some disability stories with a little bit of international flavor! Maybe I’ll see YOU there!