Thursday, November 27, 2014

Bruce Lee, Wise Man of Kung Fu by Beth Kelly: Guest Blog

Happy Turkey Day! It's also Bruce Lee's birthday! So, in honor of this, I have a guest blogger today! Asian Film Fan, blogger, and ESL teacher Beth Kelly is going to tell us all about Bruce Lee's impact...outside of his fists! Beth Kelly deserves all credit. I didn't write this!


A Look Back at Bruce Lee, Wise Man of Kung Fu

The only thing faster than Bruce Lee’s fist was his influence. He was a slight man at 5-foot-7-inches and 135 pounds with a childlike bowl haircut. Yet he would marry Chinese nationalism with Hollywood effects with grand effect, looming large in films such as Fists of Fury and Enter the Dragon. The latter of which will be airing on November 27th in honor of what would have been Lee’s 74th birthday on the El Rey Network as part of their Thanksgiving “Way of the Turkey” marathon that will also celebrate Lee’s legacy (the channel is available through some providers like DirecTV).

Lee Jun-Fan was born November 27, 1940 at the Jackson Street Hospital in Chinatown, San Francisco, not more than an hour’s walk from Fisherman’s Wharf. The supervising physician, Dr. Mary Glover, asked to christen the boy with an English name. Bruce, she suggested. Agreed, said Mrs. Grace Lee.

Three months later, the family returned to Hong Kong. Little did they know that 18 years later, fearing repercussion from a Triad gang member whose son Bruce had bloodied in a fistfight, they would mail him back to America in a third-class ship bunk.

Young Bruce had the nickname “Mo Si Tung,” meaning never sits still. He was a hot headed youth. His status as a child film star and member of the privileged Ho-Tung clan guaranteed him some social immunity. He was privately taught by Wing Chen grandmaster Yip Man. He became a Hong Kong cha-cha dance champion. In short, he was on the fast track.

That ended when Bruce arrived in America with $100, a pair of glasses, and the plan to become a dentist. After flitting between jobs, siblings and cities, he landed as a drama student at the University of Washington in Seattle. There, Lee opened his first martial arts school, the Lee Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute. A few years later in 1963, Lee would publish, Chinese Gung Fu: The Philosophical Art of Self-Defense, explaining the Taoist philosophy upon which he would later base his martial discipline, Jeet Kune Do, meaning Way of the Intercepting Fist.

In 1964, Bruce married Linda Emery, dropped out of college, moved to Oakland, California, and was invited to the 1964 Long Beach International Karate Championships. He demonstrated the two-finger push-up and the one-inch punch, landing a solid hit on volunteer Bob Baker, who later said, “I had to stay home from work because the pain in my chest was unbearable.”

First exposed to Hollywood via the Karate Championships, Lee snagged his first role as Kato, sidekick of The Green Hornet. After a few years as a support actor, Lee returned to Hong Kong and obtained his first leading role in The Big Boss. All of Asia fell in love with Cheng, the furious factory worker fighting against Hsiao Mi, boss of a narcotics smuggling operation. The release became the highest-grossing film in the history of Hong Kong.

That is, until Bruce Lee’s next film: Fists of Fury (also released as The Iron Hand and The Chinese Connection) which showcased Lee as a martial artist retaliating against Japanese racism in Shanghai. Ever since Asians first came to America as exploited laborers on the transcontinental railroad, male Asian-Americans were often pigeonholed as stolid, nerdish and watered-down. All that changed with Lee’s bared teeth and flying sidekicks.

For Way of the Dragon, Lee’s third major film, he was writer, director, actor and choreographer of all fight scenes. The story pitted Chinese restaurant owners in Rome against the local mafia, starring Lee as the underdog martial artist, Tang Lung. It was also the big break for Chuck Norris.

Lee’s fourth film, Game of Death, was never finished. He halted production to star in Warner Bros. Enter the Dragon as a shaolin martial artist working undercover on behalf of British Intelligence to expose a narcotics trafficking operation. The movie smashed records. It launched a Kung Fu craze in the 1970s, spawned the film career of Jackie Chan, and cemented Bruce Lee as an all-time great.

Bruce never witnessed the film’s release. On July 20, 1973, he took the painkiller Equagesic for a headache. After dinner, he napped and never woke up. He would have turned 75 in 2014.


Beth Kelly is a blogger and film fanatic based in Chicago, IL. Working previously as an English teacher in South Korea and Poland, she's now back in the Midwest and feeling better than ever. Follow her woefully neglected Twitter account at @bkelly_88.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Iron Man and Captain America: Heroes United (2014)


                                           Iron Man and Captain America: Heroes United (2014):

Captain America: “That’s your problem, Stark. You never strategize.” 

Iron Man: “It’s called thinking on your feet. Or in my case…boot jets!”

You were expecting Guardians of the Galaxy? No, not so soon. This is another CGI adventure in the vein of last year’s Iron Man and Hulk: Heroes United. I have two major problems with this movie. 1. There’s some slight mind control, and 2. The “Waking Life” -like CGI makes the characters’ mouths move funny. That said, it’s at least a good intro for Taskmaster. But, I still feel a little deceived by the title. A little.

You see, the movie sort of tricked me into thinking it would be mostly Cap and Iron Man. But, Taskmaster and Red Skull also feature in it. And that’s fine. Dr. Kruler was also in last year’s Iron Man & Hulk: Heroes United. As was Abomination. But, then, even in this movie…I mean, not to ruin it, but you’ve got some Hulk in here, too. There’s just way too 1-on-1 action for job that could’ve been handled easily by the two heroes. Taskmaster is there to fight Cap and Iron Man…while Hulk has an army to take care of!

There is some brief fighting between Cap and Iron Man, but it’s a spar. Plus, the capture and Hawkeying of Cap seems a little too familiar at this point. Give me something other than brainwashing. Although they pull it off nicely. The lesson lays itself on a little thick. Throwing in Hulk doesn’t exactly help the balance of the lesson either. If each hero is to learn something from another…then brainwashing one hero and completely throwing in another seems to defeat that purpose.

I know there’s a twist, but it didn’t need to be made. Iron Man still rubs off a little bit on Cap and vice versa. But, essentially this is no different from  Iron Man & Hulk: Heroes United, maybe even with worse CGI. And it’s all kind of wrapped safely within the plot devices of 2012’s The Avengers. Still, it was an ambitious-looking movie, introducing Taskmaster and showing off Cap’s combat skills. But, if you want that, watch The Winter Soldier.

In my opinion, the more I think about this movie, the more I don’t like it. But, at least it’s only 70 minutes. Maybe it’s just a little too ambitious. I liked the voice acting, but most of the movie is just a retread, with stiff mouth movements and unnecessary Hulking out. If they’re going to call it anything, it should be called Iron Man, Hulk, & Captain America: Heroes United. I want to say it could’ve been good…but it’s too much and too sloppy for a 70-minute 3D feature. I’d give it 2/5 stars. And one Hulk for some reason.  
 




Saturday, August 2, 2014

CADILLACS AND DINOSAURS (1993 ARCADE) ACCESSIBILITY REVIEW:





CADILLACS AND DINOSAURS (1993 ARCADE) ACCESSIBILITY REVIEW:


MESS O.: “HEY CREEP! GET AWAY FROM THAT DINO!”

VICE T.: “GET LOST OR LOSE TEETH! YOUR CARCASS WILL FATTEN UP THIS 
ROCK HOPPER BEFORE I SKIN IT!”

- Stage 1 Boss “Vice T.” Dialogue 

    Today, I played the most 90s thing I have ever seen. Why haven’t I ever seen this before!? Listen to this:  It’s a Final Fight ripoff based on a comic that became a Saturday morning cartoon. That is gnarly, dude! It’s about guys from an apocalyptic 2153 fighting dinosaur hunters the best way possible. By beating them up! And sometimes even their dinosaurs, because those are obviously bad dinos. The ones you are saving are good. Since 90s nostalgia is cool, and it’s the most recent thing I’ve played, I thought I’d share some of my experiences with this radical game.

Apparently, the game supports up to four players: Jack, (Your Cody Clone!) Hannah, (Obligatory female in orange suit.) Mustapha,( Tough Black Guy!) and Mess O., (Your Haggar Clone!) Now, it’s pretty much your standard beat-‘em-up sidescroller with scifi tough guys, fat guys, and people with whips (And dinos, of course!) to beat up as you find food and power-ups in conveniently-placed oil drums and containers. But, it’s main gimmick seems to be that this game has more guns than The Punisher arcade game. There are a lot. All over the place.

Unlike most beat-em-ups, you see, it uses an ammo system. Most beat-em-ups have you throw away your gun after a few uses, like a ranged weapon with 3 uses. (The Punisher, Final Fight, Streets of Rage, etc.) Not in this game! You can pick up ammo, and blast punks with your shotguns, or triceratopses with your uzis, ‘til you can’t reload. This is the first beat-em-up I’ve seen with such a reload system, and it is awesome.

By the way, on the flipside of awesome cheese, all 90s arcade beat-em-ups had frighteningly cheesy and potentially traumatic game over screens to get you to fork over another quarter. In this one, Vice T. shoots you in the face when the counter reaches 0, and says “ EAT LEAD -- BABY!” Terrifying cheesiness. But, in this emulation, simply pressing a button inserts a coin, thank goodness. So we can be spared the potential trauma of hearing: “EAT LEAD -- BABY!” in our nightmares!

I love the cheesiness. I love that the mission doesn’t make sense. Save good dinos, kill bad ones. Sure! And I love that everything is solved with a one-liner and a punch. I even love the bad dialogue. (Jack’s victory phrase is “You can’t touch this!”) Anyway, I did have a couple accessibility issues. Since this was an emulation, I couldn’t figure out how to do special attacks. I pressed all the buttons. But, since there was no instructions on how the emulation translates arcade buttons, I still haven’t figured it all out, but have done most the guesswork myself. Thankfully, beat-em-ups  are pretty straightforward and accessible. Just punch and move forward.

Before anyone asks…I haven’t read the comics, or seen the cartoon (Yet!) But, I thought the game was mind-blowingly RADICAL. If you want to revisit the 90s, or just have fun beating up bad guys with the power of one-liners and 90s catchphrases, this game is for you. Guns and dinosaurs! What more do you want? Check it out!




FINAL GRADE: A

ACCESSIBILITY GRADE: A-  (Straight-forward beat-em-up with minimal tricky controls. Punch and move forward if all else fails.)

FORGIVENESS FACTOR: A+ (Unlimited continues if you‘re playing an emulation!)

CONTROLS: A (Pretty straightforward for a beat-em-up. But, some guesswork. Figure out how to punch, and you‘re good to beat up punks and evil dinos! Rock on!)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Star Trek Continues Episode 3 “Fairest of Them All” Review:

Star Trek Continues Episode 3 “Fairest of Them All” Review:




“Space…the final conquest.”

 -  Evil Kirk’s intro.

      I enjoyed Star Trek Continues third episode “Fairest of Them All”. First, I liked that it was set directly after “Mirror, Mirror” in Star Trek TOS. It even begins with Good Kirk’s iconic speech to Mirror Spock about the illogic of tyranny. I like that the episode is set in The Mirror Universe, and I love Vic Mignogna as Good Kirk/Evil Kirk! (He’s just a great Captain Kirk!) But, that’s where I think the episode loses focus. I think the focus should’ve been on Evil Kirk’s command, and perhaps Spock’s sacrifice in the name of logic/democracy.

Rather than this, Evil Kirk (Who is every bit the great commander Captain Kirk is, only evil.) is thwarted at every turn during Spock’s realization that empire can’t endure. Firstly, I call bologna on that! Even if Spock believed in democracy, there’s no way he could’ve assimilated all of Good Kirk’s philosophy in that one speech, beyond: “In every revolution there is one man with a vision.” Even for Star Trek, I feel that Spock’s stubborn insistence on Good Kirk’s logic disregards his friendship with long friendship with Kirk, and comes across as heavy-handed. Evil Kirk even  says as much, though through different, more passionate words: Spock’s willing to throw everything away on the words of a stranger, and in the end will probably be hunted down.

Now, the real fun comes from watching Vic Mignogna as Evil Kirk, in my view. Spock’s refusal to follow him, and his eventual mutiny sends him into MADNESS. Kirk loves his ship, and he’s not about to let anyone take it from him, or disobey his imperial orders. I love whenever he flips out on his crew. There’s a real human element to Evil Kirk, with as much passion for command as his counterpart.  Beyond this, he feels betrayed by his friend. Yes, maybe the empire is evil, but it is human! He still doesn’t want to lose his friend, but almost kills him in a rage.

Another thing I didn’t like about the episode (Although it looked great!) was how many people joined Spock’s cause just after hearing about it! The empire is still in power, and one crew isn’t likely to make a difference. One man, yes! As Good Kirk says. It might’ve been more effective had Spock made a sacrifice to get them to think about democracy. But, what is one ship to the empire? It likely won’t end well. I would’ve liked to see a couple scenes worked differently so that Spock makes a sacrifice in the name of democracy, rather than a black and white “Good always wins, Evil always loses.” characterization.

Okay, but even if you want to say “That’s how they would’ve done it in the ‘60s.” there’s still one more scene that really bothered me, and that I thought was against the spirit of Star Trek. In this Mirror Universe, counselor MeKennah is seen in bed with Sulu, covered by a sheet. In TOS, all romantic interludes were “signified” by cutaway. I don’t think they ever would’ve allowed partial nudity from women. Not only that but I felt it didn’t really tell me a lot about Mirror McKennah, and I was looking forward to seeing her character be evil. But, here she’s just being cute. McKennah is worth more than that, and I feel the whole scene was just a distraction from the spirit of Star Trek: The Original Series.

So, I guess it all comes down to no one in this Mirror Universe was evil. In fact, the only one who tried to be Evil, in a Mirror Universe built on Evil, was Mirror Kirk, who was betrayed and thwarted by his best friend at every possible turn. Remember, Trekkies, Mirror Kirk’s only experience with the Good Universe was being arrested by Spock. He has no idea what this crazy “Good Captain” could’ve said to Spock to make him mutiny. And he certainly didn’t experience kindness. All he knew was that the counterparts took away his power, and now they’ve gotten to his best friend.

Star Trek TOS had investigated the redeeming qualities of evil before, as well as mankind’s dual nature. Think “Space Seed”, think “The Enemy Within”! Even "Obsession"! While I loved the look of this episode, and I will always love Vic Mignogna for bringing back Kirk and crew, this episode deserved more than the black and white “Good guys win, bad guys lose” approach it received. But, there is a brilliantly captivating portrayal of Evil Captain Kirk’s descent into madness by Vic Mignogna! Overall, I give the episode 3/5 stars!

You can watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJf2ovQtI6w


Thursday, June 5, 2014

THE CAT RETURNS (2002) REVIEW:




THE CAT RETURNS (2002) REVIEW:

 “If you find yourself troubled by something mysterious or a problem that's had to solve, there's a place you can go where you always find help. You just need to look for it.”

- The Baron

What if I told you that Anne Hathaway was actually a catgirl before she became Catwoman? In The Cat Returns, Hathaway plays a schoolgirl named Haru, who is whisked away to The Cat Kingdom after she saves a cat who is actually The Cat Prince. Stan Girl gets lost in magical king while she’s in the Cat Kingdom, she finds out she’s becoming a cat, and is set to marry The Cat Prince!

There’s sort of a Standard Studio Ghibli plot. Girl gets lost in magical kingdom then reclaims her identity (Like Spirited Away, with cats!), and comes back to the real world. I have to say though, it’s beautiful, and the human-like cats make me laugh! I dunno, maybe I just like to laugh at really fat cats. Either way, it is magical, and a beauty to behold!

You see, like most Studio Ghibli films, the character designs and animation are where this film really shines. She is guided to the Cat Kingdom by a charming top-hatted cat from The Cat Bureau, The Baron (AKA: Baron Humpert von Gikkingen, played by Cary Elwes.) A statuette of a raven by the name of Toto also assists  her, as well as a fat cat Muta. All the cats start walking in the cat world. But, as soon as she enters the cat world, the fat, mustachioed Cat King seems determined to marry her to The Prince. Let the cat chase begin!

In addition to being a wild cat chase, Haru has to escape from The Cat King and stop transforming into a cat. So, it’s kind of like Kafka mixed with LOLcats, visually inspired by Alice in Wonderland! It’s great fun, has fantastic designs, and even swordfights! Talk about adventure! All to stop being chased by cats! And just when she thought she was having fun!

There’s a good lesson here. Sometimes imagination is good, but if it runs wild, it can become scary! What starts off as a playful romp through the Cat Kingdom twists into Haru almost becoming a cat! But, as The Baron says, you can always ask for help! A fun movie, with plenty of surprises and enough eye candy to satisfy even the grumpiest of cats! (Or people!) If you have time, and like fantasy and anime, definitely give this one a watch!

 Anyway, I’ll give it 4/5, but maybe I’m just really soft on Studio Ghibli! They have a way of infusing even the characters mundane life with such life and detail, that I was drawn in immediately! Of course, Haru’s mundane school life serves to highlight the strangeness of seeing walking-talking cats! And puts you in her shoes, confused amid a fantastical world full of cat-astrophe! Okay, I couldn’t resist! Great comedy, good story, great animation… it’s nearly purrfect! (Last cat joke, I promise!) Highly recommended!





Monday, June 2, 2014

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (2014) Review:

                                


X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (2014) Review:


                                                              (Colossus vs. a sentinel!)                                                

(The sentinels!)

Future Professor X: “Just because someone stumbles and loses their path, doesn't mean they can't be saved.”  

   So, as a fan of Professor X, I have to talk about X-men: Days of Future Past. There are even two Professor Xs in this one. Specifically, I liked the dystopian Terminator feel, which loosely matched the dystopian Terminator feel of the comics. It was basically Terminator with the X-men in it, but I like both those things! Everyone uses their powers, so if that’s what you wanna see, you’re in luck. Wolverine really stabs people, guys!

In fact, one of the angles about superpowers that I liked about this movie was that even though there are two Prof Xs and one (The younger version.) walks, when he walks, he can’t use his telepathy. I thought that was cool. He needs his disability. Now, there’s a lot of people complaining that this time travel stuff and the time doubles erase the current continuity, blah blah blah…I don’t care. The wonderful thing about fiction is you can choose which parts happened. If you like the old trilogy, you can say it happened. Personally, I like this one!

This timeline starts in the 1960s and goes through the 1970s…but there are giant robots in it, and an assassination attempt on Bolivar Trask…the creator of them. Mystique is the would- be assassin. Also, I think Peter Dinkelage is a great Bolivar Trask. He’s not pure evil. He thinks he’s protecting humanity from the mutants. His fault is he doesn’t see them as humans, which they are. And there’s a nice little lesson in there about not judging people based on fear. Future Professor X is a lot more optimistic than the past one!

But, Future Professor X needs to contact past Professor X to move forward, with the help of Magneto. Personally, I think all he’d have to say is “Don’t worry! You get my sweet hover chair in the future!” But, it takes a lot longer than that and they have a big showdown with giant robots, and Wolverine and Professor X have to stop him. Good stuff!

Overall, a good action movie that establishes a neat new continuity. I’d give it 4/5 stars. It’s a little weird to cover the sentinels in just one movie, as in the 90s cartoon and comics they lasted many years. They definitely upped the action. And I like how every movie covers a different era. I predict next will be the 80s. It keeps getting bigger and better. Mutant battles, robots, and good disability messages. What’s not to love? Go see it.  

                                               (Mutants face extinction in an apocalyptic future.)

(Beast, Wolverine, Prof X: 1970s.)



Sunday, April 20, 2014

Sword Art Online (2012) Review

SWORD ART ONLINE (2012) REVIEW:

“I’m a solo player, remember?”

- Kirito to Asuna



Sword Art Online is what happens when you let evil people design videogames. You see, on its launch date the players of the virtual MMO Sword Art Online are trapped inside the game with no way to log out, other than beating the game. (As the evil game creator informs them.) Soon after joining a guild however, our hero, Kirito, decides to beat the game solo. But, is that even possible?

But you see, Kirito has one major advantage. He was a beta tester in Sword Art Online, so he knows where to go to get good equipment, and what monsters to defeat. Well, I guess the game maker trapping 6000 players in a battle royale helps cut down on competition, too. But, he quickly rises through the ranks, defeating dungeon monsters, bosses, even participating in duels. He becomes the game’s notorious loner, The Black Swordsman. Half the fun is watching him battle every boss nearly to the death. If his HP drops to 0, he dies in real life as well as in the game.

For me, the fun is seeing the game elements mix with real world elements. For example, some people decide to play it safe and stay in the game. Others form guilds exclusively for getting back to real life and beating the game, and others are just trolls and player-killers. Things get even more interesting though, when he meets Asuna. She is a high-level guild member who keeps dragging him along on quests.

When Kirito meets her, she scolds him for falling asleep, and not beating the game. Well, they start to hang out, and start a relationship. Soon another question arises. Should they stay in the game, where they have happier and healthier lives, or risk it all to get back to the real world? Where are they even, in the real world? Indeed, it seems at first like they’d be happier in the game. What are they going to do? Meet IRL and marry?

Now, the only trouble I really have with SAO is that the fan service level is a little high. If you can stomach that unfairness, it’s a great show (25 episodes) with lots of twists and turns, sometimes out of nowhere. I like how it brings to life virtual reality issues…such as dying, which is usually no problem in a game…and flips them around by adding real world consequences. The line between the game and reality becomes very blurry. It helps build a world in which you’re invested, but also raises the question: Can/Should he give it all up? Now, Sword Art Online IS his life, and his virtual girlfriend is his girlfriend with whom he has a another life. There’s almost no real reason to go back IRL.

All in all, I like Sword Art Online. It raises good questions about escapism (For example, wouldn’t Kirito rather be the famous Black Swordsman, than some random teen?) the nature of god in the game maker, and the nature of society in how people interact with others, build societies, and guilds. The only thing that’s not very realistic is that there’s only one trolling guild, Laughing Coffin. Thank goodness! Oh! That, and the excessive fan service, which is unfair to women!

But, overall I give Sword Art Online 4/5 stars for developing an engrossing, beautifully-animated world that raises questions about the value of escapism, with great plot twists! Check it out, if you get the chance. Oh, and don’t let evil people with God complexes design videogames. That seems to be the overarching moral. Ha! But, seriously, it’s a great show to watch!





Monday, April 14, 2014

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (2014) REVIEW:







           
“Trust is what makes an army work. Not a bunch of guys running around shooting guns.”

- Captain America

Oh, that Captain America! So honorable. So gee-golly good! So trusting! 70 years frozen in an ice cube and does it even phase him? Nope. Just takes getting used to, he says. I mean, sure he’s got a long list of music and movies to watch, but that’s what the internet is a for. (Right?) And for buddies, he’s got his own little army in The Avengers! Ol’ Cap just never stopped fighting the Good Fight.

But, now his faith in The Good Fight is a little shaken up after he finds out his buddy Nick Fury’s been keeping secrets from him. What’s a supersoldier to do?  Why, keep fighting The Good Fight of course, and find out the truth behind SHIELD‘s secrets, even while being framed for them! There’s a lot more action in this one, and a lot more hitting people with shields. Especially because he’s hunted by The Winter Soldier!

I loved this movie even though a few things were changed from the comic book version, of The Winter Soldier. Namely, Bucky isn’t picked up by the Russians. Rather, he’s a HYDRA (read: super Nazi.) agent, and being a Russian assassin is sort of his cover story. He’s made to look Russian, given Soviet arms, (and an arm…) and brainwashed.  Although, it’s really HYDRA in control.

Yet, every time Cap and Black Widow get closer to the conspiracy, Winter Soldier appears to stop them. Physically, (and with that cyborg arm!) he’s a match for Cap, but not mentally, since he’s being Hawkeyed (a.k.a. mind-controlled.) It’s Cap’s good morals that win the day, even as helicarriers explode around him. Of course, if you’ve read the comics, you know where the Winter Soldier will end up, and why it was necessary that he be the titular villain in this arc.

Speaking of storylines, I guess I’m one of those rare beasts who absolutely loved Captain America: The First Avenger. This may be either because I liked the moral, or because I spent too much time studying WWII and the German language…or all of that! Nonetheless, I was pleased to see connections from the earlier film play into the HYDRA conspiracy. The arrival of Dr. Zola details HYDRA’s Cold War work…which is based in fact. The superpowers did scramble to pick up German scientists in the post-war period. In effect, Cap is still fighting the same war: Freedom vs. fear. Wowzers! Historical fiction! What will Marvel 2.0 think of next?

Speaking thematically, this is where I think Marvel upped the ante for the movies. Behind Cap’s loyalty and trust are (I think.) a tacit rejection of Batman’s use of fear as a weapon, which places Marvel vs. DC effectively in two camps philosophically. Compare Cap’s objections to SHIELD’s operations with Batman hacking every cell phone in Gotham. “This isn’t freedom, this is fear!” Cap might well say. But, philosophy aside, I simply loved everyone in the movie. I really think Marvel just created a great new world by destroying its old one.

Of course, Cap has still got it in either world. He can  still kick butt! And so can his new friends Falcon (I was worried Falcon might be a cheesy sidekick, but he works his way in to be necessary to the plot, and a good pal to Cap!) and Black Widow!  For me, this Marvel 2.0’s best film to date. It has a clear vision, good action, and sets up fascinating story arcs, if I know where this is going. Frankly, I can’t wait to see where they’ll go next! Freedom prevails! 5/5 stars from me!



(Did I mention I think I see where they're going?)

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Superman: Doomsday (2007):






Superman: Doomsday (2007):

Superman: Is…everyone…safe?

Lois Lane: Yes. You saved us. All of us.

Superman: Good…that’s all that…matters…

All that matters indeed, Superman. Once that Doomsday battle is over, the film slows to a crawl. If you’re expecting Cyborg Superman to show up, or a retelling of “The Death of Superman” comic book storyline, you’ll be disappointed. I was. This version of the story has Superman returning as an “evil clone” created by Luthor. There’s no Steel (Metal Superman!) even! So, basically, if you watched this film, it’s to watch Superman fight Doomsday. That’s it. Once the mystery of the clone is solved, there’s no more dramatic tension left.

Of course, the fight with Doomsday is fantastic. But, that lasts like 5 minutes. Including Doomsday’s arrival. You can tell the fight is intense just by the sounds of each hit. A real super slobber-knocker! Superman is still a man though, and still gets tired. After being dragged through a power station, hit by a subway, and thrown around with a few earth quaking impacts, Superman starts to tire and stagger, while Doomsday does not. It really is like watching the ultimate boxing match. In the end, Metropolis is basically a crater.

Well, that was fun. But, what happens next? Well, not much. After the funeral, Toyman terrorizes the city (Voiced by John Dimaggio! Really, kudos to the voice casting in this movie! Everyone is spot on!) and it looks like Superman has come back, but after it’s revealed only minutes later that this is a clone under Luthor’s control which he gleefully wails on with Kryptonite knuckles, all the excitement goes away. In the original comic, there was more exploration of what people did to carry on his legacy. This is just a dumb clone plot…I honestly preferred the Evil Superman in Superman 3. At least he was the result of a split personality.

Here, when Evil Superman starts threatening old grannies and kills Toyman, it’s just awkward. I will say they did a good job explaining away early 90s Superman’s awful mullet haircut. His robot dug up his unconscious body, so presumably he didn’t have time to cut his hair. The robot is voiced by Tom Kenny! Anyway, to even the odds against his evil clone, Tom Kennybot gives him a Kryptonite gun, and a black solar suit, making him look weirdly gothic. Real Superman wins, of course. With the help of Lois Lane.

Honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about this movie. It doesn’t really teach anything, and doesn’t really capture Superman’s legacy. The original comic storyline showed many different sides of Superman, some of which were evil, and some of which were good. It just seems to me that lumping all that into “Evil clone with Luthor’s personality.” is a huge waste. Luthor even ends up in the hospital once the clone becomes paranoid. So, he’s more evil than Luthor. It should’ve at least included Superboy, the good side of Luthor’s clone.

Now, a couple things this film's got right in the end, are the music and the voice acting. The Superman theme here begins from space in the intro, as it usually should. But, does that triumphant music really fit the death of Superman? I know, it’s a Superman movie…but with a title like Doomsday…you know what you’re really getting is that last, or should I say first, fight! Secondly, the voice-acting is stupendous, as I said before. And it does deliver on that Doomsday battle!

Seeing one of the most iconic Superman comic book stories reduced to a one-note doppelganger plot is hugely disappointing. But, it does have redeeming qualities, most of which I’ve listed above. (Voice-acting and music, Doomsday, etc.) It succeeds in a strong presentation of weak ideas. Really, it’s all about that Doomsday battle. Oh, and explaining away that mullet! 2/5 stars. Not very super, but makes you expect it will be. And that’s worse! I mean, you might like it, but like Superman, the film nearly dies after Doomsday.

 


Friday, March 28, 2014

Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher (2014):

Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher (2014):

Black Widow: Don’t kill them, Frank!

Punisher: I have no choice!



    This movie could’ve been so cool, if it were an actual Punisher anime! Instead, it’s an excuse for Black Widow to have a romantic fling with the villain. It starts off kind of cool, where Punisher shoots up a whole room of weapons dealers. But, then, he’s reduced to a tagalong. I’m not kidding. That’s what Nick Fury basically says. You see, because the villain has mind control powers, he needed to have two agents around. And who ends up mind-controlled? Yeah…Punisher.

    To the film’s credit, it does show that Black Widow can go toe-to-toe with Punisher. (Frank Castle). Their fights last about a minute each time…the second time he’s mind-controlled. You see, Punisher is on the heels of a weapons dealer named Kane. Who turns out to be the pawn of a lovesick SHIELD (Elias) Agent who steals SHIELD supersoldier tech to impress Black Widow. He is also the pawn of a Russian terrorist organization. Because that would impress her….invade New York.

     Eventually, the Russians use Elias’s mind control to invade New York with supersoldiers. Much of the movie consists of Black Widow being lovesick with Elias. She can take down Punisher, yes, but is apparently weak in the knees over a random SHIELD scientist who she should’ve just taken down. At least Amadeus Cho is there, a child genius SHIELD Agent who creates a mind shield after Black Widow promises to kiss him. She’s  Punisher with flirting abilities. Win-win!

   And now that Russian supersoldiers are invading New York while Black Widow is being romantic and angsty, The Avengers show up to defend the city! This is one instance in the movie where I did like it better than the movies. Because it’s animation, they have the budget to have all the Avengers show up and do their jobs. Hulk, Iron Man, even Captain Marvel. After all, it is Avengers: Confidential. Gotta have Avengers show up.
   
   In sum, I liked the movie. I liked that they were able to show that Black Widow can kick butt after she was kinda sidelined in The Avengers movie. Unfortunately, this leaves very little time to build up Punisher’s kick butt credibility. I mean, normally he has weapons that fire nukes! But, here he’s regulated to a Hawkeye-type role (I‘m calling it being “Hawkeyed”, from now on!) providing connections to the Russian terrorists, and then being mind controlled. It’s always mind control.

    Mind control aside, I do think It’s a good action film, and they build up Punisher nicely in the beginning. I just wish more superhero movies actually used all their superheroes. Punisher really could’ve been anyone. Anyway, nice to see all The Avengers together in anime form. But, who the heck is Elias? Oh, well. At least Punisher gets some revenge in the end! Go see it! 3/5 stars from me! Worth a watch.





Saturday, March 15, 2014

March 8 2014: VSA Day of Arts For All

                                         Janine Moore's "Orange Groves", 1st Place Emerging Artist


                                                     Henry Hess’s “No Place Like Home”

               (Spartan meets Pyramid Head” by Jonah Farmer.)

If you follow my blog, you know I usually go to The Day of Arts for All on March 8, to report on it. But this year, I was even in it! My piece was called “Pig Head”, which used bright colors and saturation to illustrate a pig head via digital art. Aside from art, there was also some music by Sarah Bellish, a young soloist who uses her experience with disability to write music. A great opportunity to listen to some of the great life experience disability brings, in a soulful way! There were also videos meant to illustrate the experience of disability. The theme of the day seemed  to be representing these perceptive  personal experiences.

 Then the awards came. All who participated got an award. Including me! All the pieces were great, but the two I liked best were Henry Hess’s “No Place Like Home”, showing Dorothy’s ruby slippers, which won third place in the Youth Artist category. 2nd Place in the same category went to a Halo/Silent Hill inspired piece! “Spartan meets Pyramid Head” by Jonah Farmer. 1st place in the same category went to Nathaniel Curtiss of Worthington for Where Miles Davis Recorded The Birth of Cool! A super cool use of perspective! Best in Show was called: “Beautiful Nature Life: Where Everyone Would Like to Be”, a mixed media piece by the team of Wendi Olszewski, Shawnda Osswald, and Stephanie Spencer, depicting a brightly colored rural life.

But, everyone wins in my book, because we all told our stories through art: “Why the pig head?” Someone asked me in front of my piece. “Why not?” I said. The point for me is just to create something that didn’t exist before. The image that jumped out at me in the framework of my color scheme was a pig head. I’m interested in seeing how my mind and experience as a disabled person translates to my creations, as each
artist did through their own perspective. By his/her own experience.

Going back to perspectives, the films Be My Brother is an Australian short film about a man with Down Syndrome who records everything he observes, but he cannot get his brother to record something on the bench with him. He displays a dazzling intelligence, quoting everything from Shakespeare to The Lion King, and even charms a woman who he describes as the “most attractive woman in the world”. The film ends on a bus, with his brother hugging him.    

Sensory Overload is a film from the perspective of an autistic. As such, there is intermittent sound, and sometimes it becomes increasing overwhelming. From the blaring of city sirens to a cashier tapping a pen in a café. Wild colors add to the disorientation, and autistic perspective. The film ends in silence as a woman helps the boy pick up papers he lost from his backpack.

We ended with a comedy called Jazz Hand. In this a Californian woman with a prosthetic hand enters a dance audition. While tap dancing, her hand falls off and the choreographer recoils in exaggerated disgust. She puts her hand back on! But backwards! Lots of big laughs from this one, and nice to see a “disability movie” that is a comedy. “Do you think he noticed?” Asks the dancer. Duh! Yes!

I’m pleased to have been a part of The Day of Arts for all. It was a fun time, and I got to get my art out and look and other people’s art! That’s always a good day for me when I can get positive messages about disability! We are all capable of becoming more than we appear to be. Thanks, VSA! I had a great time.
For a full list of Day of Arts for All winners visit VSA's website: www.vsao.org

                                                     ("Pig Head" by Chris Bowsman.)
                               

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Aquabats! Supershow! Season 1 (2012) Review:



The Aquabats! Supershow! Season 1 (2012) Review:






“Commander, The Aquabats have a moral obligation to help those in need. Even if they are clownbags!”

- Jimmy The Robot to M.C. Bat Commander (The Floating Eye of Death) 

The Aquabats! Supershow! is a comedy superhero show with a cartoon in it! It’s super goofy, and sort of like The Avengers if influenced by Devo. I don’t normally review music, but their music is pretty good too. In the show, they think of themselves as a band first and superheroes second. Which they are. But they have superpowers! Which they seem to be only dimly aware of! Mix the superpowers, goofy plots, and fake infomercials/cartoon interludes, and you’ve got a super fun series to watch! 

As for superpowers, M.C. Bat Commander, their leader, is super determined, sometimes to a funny degree; like when he refuses to say ManAnt’s name correctly. (He calls him MAHNAHNT.) Eaglebones Falconhawk has an invisible Falcon called The Dude, and a guitar that shoots lasers. But, my favorite is Jimmy The Robot, who solves problems through science, and has a variety of robot powers, like laser fingers. True to his robot nature, he likes science, and struggles to understand humanity sometimes. Crash is like Hulk except not a monster. He gets giant-sized when he gets emotional. Ricky Fitness has superspeed, superstrength, and…is fit. 

All this hokey superhero wackiness is interspersed with fake infomercials, (Ren & Stimpy-style!) crazy villains, and weird guest appearances! (Weird Al, Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo, Strong Bad from Homestarrunner.com.) And the Aquabats always learn some cheesy life lesson (“Learning and Growing” segments.), such as eat when you’re hungry, (ManAnt) keep clean (Laundry Day!), or help those in need. (The Floating Eye of Death.) Also, since they’re a band, you also get treated to small goofy musical interludes such as “Burger Rain” and “Doing Science”.

As I said before, it’s a wacky kids show, and it’s got a cartoon in it (which has wonderful animation! I think it‘s anime.) But, there’s also enough jokes to keep adults interested. And the action is just hokey enough to invoke shades of The Power Rangers, or maybe like The Tick. So, it’s very 90s nostalgic. Plus, they are a real Devo-influenced band, so if you have some time, give them a listen! I don’t usually promote music on here, but I like Devo, and superheroes, so I liked it almost instantly. It’s pretty funny!

Overall, The Aquabats! Supershow! is just darn fun. It takes funny and nostalgic concepts and blends them together to make a weird superhero comedy, where the heroes seem only vaguely aware that they are heroes.  They spend entire episodes just trying to make money or have fun before they realize they need to fight a villain. Often in strange ways. For example, to defeat a giant potato bug, (in the episode Pilgrim Boy!) they have a shape shifter turn into a pop star and sing it a sad song until it explodes. Another day for The Aquabats! Season 1 is on Netflix and DVD, (and it’s still running on The Hub!) so check it out if you like good humor, cartoons, superheroes, robots, or any of that! I love it all. 5/5 stars!       






Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Eden of The East (2009):

Eden of The East (2009):




“Noblesse oblige. I pray for your continued success as a savior.”

- Juiz, the computerized accountant

In this short, 11-episode anime, Akida Takizawa (If that’s his name.) awakes from a daze on the White House lawn naked and holding a gun. What would you do? If you said, “Uncover a plot by a billioniare to rule Japan while going on a semi-romantic adventure with a girl.” you’d be right! Also, if you said that, you probably watch too much anime. I’m usually not one for more  romantic animes, but this one was oddly fascinating due to the terrorist angle.

You see, in this universe, Japan was the victim of a terrorist attack called “Careless Monday” when 10 missiles were accidentally fired on Japanese soil, and 20,000 people showed up missing. That’s the interesting part to me. Evidence points to him as the terrorist. But, this girl Saki keeps showing this naïve interest in him, that ultimately changes the tone to more mushy romantic comedy.

More to the point, after uncovering this plot to fire the missiles, (Again!) Akida again frames himself and gives himself a new identity rather than arrest the group behind it. Each player in this political game has a cell phone equipped with a 10 billion yen account. Akida discovers he’s one of the players in a game orchestrated by a billionaire to see how individuals if given power, would save or change the country.

One of the contestants, in fact, is a prostitute who cuts off male members if they displease her. It’s a little unsettling…and it’s all there to make some point about love that’s developing between him and Saki. I have no idea what “cutting off Johnnies” would do to improve the country, but sometimes anime is wacky. Also, love or something.

Anyway, I was more interested in the political plot. The team that keeps track of Akida’s political funds is called “Eden of The East”. His computerized cell phone accountant Juiz will do anything he asks with the 10 billion yen. I just don’t get why he blows it by framing himself again, and evacuating 20,000 people! Again! It’s like he’ll have to do it all over again, including meeting Saki!

Yes, I know how it ends. I’m not gonna get into that. I just think repeating the same thing you did to get framed as a terrorist has to be one of the most baffling decisions ever. But, it’s oddly fascinating because at it’s heart you have an anime that wants to be romantic. So, it’s just this guy who just wants to live life, and full in love, and avoid responsibility. Also, just as a whimsical joke…he commits a terrorist act against Tokyo.

He’d probably be in jail, and lose his girlfriend. But, dang if he didn’t have 10 billion yen and a magic robot in a cell phone! Look, I know it’s fantasy, and love, and he can clear his name with a phone call. But, am I supposed to believe accepting responsibility means framing yourself as an international criminal? All I’m saying is, the minute I saw Akida had machine guns in his closet, and planned to commit terrorist acts because he can’t bring down his psychopathic buddies… if I were Saki, I’d leave. I would fear for my life

I know it’s technically like a romantic comedy/political satire, but it had real potential up to the point where he takes responsibility rather than arrest the contestants. Is the rest of Japan still getting played like a game show? What happened to the other contestants? It could’ve been a really interesting espionage thriller, but went the romantic comedy route. By the way, none of this explains why he was naked at the White House.

But, the odd mixture of romantic comedy/espionage thriller works, because the suspense lasts about right up until the second-to-last episode. Then, it’s purely and unabashedly mushy. I’d give this series 2/5 stars. I liked the concepts, and certain parts! But, it just seems like a lot of wasted ideas. And I just don’t think terrorism is a joke. It could’ve been so much more than what it aims for, but the message seems to be take the 10 billion yen and don’t ask questions. The terrorism angle drew me in, but it deals with it far too whimsically!

 


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Attack on Titan Review (2013):




Attack on Titan Review (2013):

“I’ll kill every last one of them, and break free of these walls.”

- Eren Yaeger

Okay, so let me get right into what I liked and didn’t like about Attack on Titan. I liked the unique German steam punk setting and use of German names. Eren, Armin, Erwin, etc. I liked the action. I liked that most of the Garrison Squad is annihilated by the titans, or captured and forced into other squads. It was a unique setting. Eren Yaeger has great motivation. His mother was eaten by a titan, and he wants to get beyond the walls…the titans are also grotesque and slightly terrifying, which is good.

Now, what I didn’t like. It seems like in every kaiju anime, there’s about 5 episodes of pointless philosophical debate between should they attack or should they not attack. And I know it is dramatic tension, but it gets to be too much sometimes. Example: When Eren sees Annie Leonhart morph in front of him, (spoilers!) he questions whether or not he should attack. Of course the answer is yes; he just SAW it.

I did however, like the big plot twist, and the scenes in the Giant Forest hunting down the Female Titan. Really, I liked the action scenes which are full of hyper violence, and action, plus steampunk jetpacks. I just don’t like the long pauses in-between when they question combat orders while in combat. Planning is all right though; I think they did a fantastic job world-building in that respect, where they have to study the titans, and learn more about them…it makes them more fearsome because they are unknown monsters.

Actually, one of my favorite characters was Hange, the lead titan researcher for the Scout Regiment. I don’t think she got enough time, but her scenes are certainly eye-opening. Particularly, the titan torture scene. Eren does all right as a main character, especially after he develops his special ability, but he is still a little too whiny and hesitant for my tastes. I just don’t buy this idea that he’s a reluctant soldier when he’s a.) the most powerful in every group he’s in, and b.) got all the motivation in the world to kill titans!

Ok, the last thing I didn’t like about it…and this is really a nitpick…but there was almost no comic relief. Except for maybe Sasha Braus’s overzealous eating. (Good German name! I wonder if it’s related to “In Saus und Braus leben.” To live off the high hog. If so, her name is a good in-joke. But, maybe not.) There is only hyper violence and excitement, punctuated by periods of brooding which can take entire episodes…especially pre-Giant Forest. It was kind of a drag for me. I mean, even Neon Genesis Evangelion had comic relief.

But, here’s the thing…for an action anime, it’s not bad at all, and in fact is in my book a prime example of unique world-building. The titans are freaky looking, and there’s a lot of blood. And the animation is good, although I kind of got sick of all the red and browns like everything is being viewed through a rusty filter inside the walls. The Giant Forest greens were a nice change of scenery. Especially with The Scout Regiment uniforms also being green. Also, in terms of animation, the titans are imposing, and you get a good sense of their threat just when they’re walking around.

But anyway, the question is: can I recommend Attack on Titan? Yes, absolutely! Just be prepared for a lot of brooding and whining from Eren Yaeger, who is otherwise a very cool anime hero with very cool abilities. I suppose those are my only complaints. It’s only 26 episodes. If you have time, give it a watch on Netflix. 4/5 stars from me, but points off for the long brooding parts!



Monday, February 17, 2014

iPad Game Accessibility Review: Punch Quest (2012)






iPad Game Accessibility Review: Punch Quest 

Hi there, gamers! Do you want a fun game on the iPad that isn’t a huge, ad-ridden money trap? Try Punch Quest. Punch Quest is a fun combination of endless runner/beat-em-up. So, it’s all about how far you can get punching through zombies, skeletons, monsters, and demons! Tapping the right side of the screen keeps your player punching and running. But, also, tapping the left side of the screen does a little flying uppercut move. Another tap pounds the ground in a sort of combo.

Those aren’t the only moves in your arsenal! Along the way in your punching frenzy, you’ll get power-ups like grillin’ fists,(They shoot fireballs!) and iron fists that protect you from harm for a bit, and make you stronger! And finally, there’s a raptor that shoots lasers out of it’s mouth. You read that right. If that doesn’t make you excited to play this game, you must be dead inside. A laser-shooting dinosaur!

Yes, Punch Quest sounds like something a hyperactive five-year-old dreamed up. But, that’s fine by me. It’s fast-paced, fun, and unapologetically wacky. As far as I know, the only thing that would make this game inaccessible is the speed. But, the speed is also good for racking up points. If you punch out two or more guys, it leads to a combo. Combos multiply your points.

Points can unlock new techniques and armor. Luckily, this uses app in-game points only to buy things. Not real money! So, if you’re looking for a quick bit of fun, download it. And enjoy! There are boss fights, but since it’s an endless runner, the only thing that really counts is how long you hold out, and the points you score. It’s very replayable. Radical! With its simplicity, speed, breezy controls, and fun, it’s certainly worth a download.

And it’s cheap! There are so few good accessible games that Punch Quest certainly punches its way to the top of my list. Oh, and I haven’t even unlocked new techniques yet. But, I have beaten one boss…a flying skull! How cool is that? Go download it for all of $0.99! (When I got it, it was free. But, the price seems to have gone up!) Punch your way to greater and greater glory! All in all, this is one gnarly iPad game. 5/5 stars!

FINAL GRADE: A

ACCESSIBILITY GRADE: A+ (You control the entire game just by tapping sides.)

FORGIVENESS FACTOR: A (It‘s very fun, and replayable. See how long you can hold out!)

TOUCHSCREEN CONTROL: A- (Kind of fast, but still incredibly easy to play, and fun!)