2015/11/20 Leave a comment
2015/10/02 Leave a comment
Was the live-action Attack on Titan movie bad? No. Would I watch the live-action Attack on Titan movie again? No.
Now that that’s out of the way, here’s three movie-only details that were pretty enjoyable: Read more of this post
2015/05/07 Leave a comment
I woke up this morning surprised to find my twitter feed slowly but surely spreading this article speaking in-depth about how people actually go as far as despise the game of Cards Against Humanity.
To reply by simply saying “it’s just a game” would be irresponsible and avoiding the problems brought up by the people that well… have a problem with the game.
Cards Against Humanity isn’t an ice-breaker to play with people you don’t know. At least that’s not how I’ve ever played it. You play it amongst friends you know well and play your cards keeping in mind who the judge for the current round is. Yes, you are pandering to what that particular person finds funny (in an ironic way or not), but in that regard it’s more than a “shut your brain off and go” game. It does in fact require some sense of strategy by not just thinking “what’s the best LOL TEH RANDUMB” thing or most racially/sexually/tumblr-enraging thing. You play your cards based on the person currently judging.
And for people that have created their actual grown-up livelihood around comedy, I can see why that would upset them. The entire idea of pandering is never seen in a positive light. People love to hate shows like Big Bang Theory because it tries too hard to pander for an audience without the TLC required for said audience to actually *like* what’s being attempted to be shoved down their throats. But that’s pandering to a broad audience. Let me reiterate: Cards Against Humanity is something to be played amongst a small circle of friends that are fully aware of just how ridiculous the concept is. It’s the difference between telling a silly one-liner to a friend and taking that said one-liner and attempting to get a publishing deal based solely around it.
But wait, what about all the offensive choices you’re given and clearly encouraged to play? Choices mocking certain races or religions or sexual-orientations or disabilities, etc. etc.
Again, this has to do with the certain group of people you’re playing with. As a Filipino twenty-something, my small circle of friends are of similar backgrounds and during the handful of times we get together to play Cards Against Humanity, the inappropriateness of the game is all in good fun. None of us are actually involved in things like casual racism or the like–it’s simply the nature of the game. The “jokes” played during each round are laughed at not due to how genuine they are, but because of how downright ridiculous they’ve become within the small timespan of each round.
That is not to say that there doesn’t exist a breed of people that partake in said game, partake in a round and laugh at the cards played in a serious “I’m laughing at the subjects being mocked rather than the ludicrousness of the situation” manner. These people are idiots with too few brain cells to look past the face value of something and realize a different level of humor is at play. Said people will always exist regardless of whether or not Cards Against Humanity was ever made. The existence of Cards Against Humanity does not “breed” insufferable-ness. Rather, it better categorizes what kind of person you are based on just what exactly it is you’re laughing at.
So is Cards Against Humanity hurtful? It can be. So can kitchen knives. But for the most part, people just use those to cut fruit. Only the true whackadoos actually use it in an intentionally hurtful manner and yet for some reason those are the people that we like to focus on and create this entirely different image on the product at hand because of such.
2014/05/06 2 Comments
As ultimately forgettable as the first Amazing Spider-Man movie was, I do appreciate the fact that it stuck closely to certain aspects of the main Spidey universe. Peter Parker tinkering away in his basement working on things besides flashy spider-themed spandex, mechanical web-shooters, Gwen Stacy in all her thigh-high-wardrobey-goodness (I actually don’t know how canon that is, but it does fit her character at least aesthetically)… Sure it had its problems, but as a whole, it was inoffensive and certainly wasn’t a disaster.
My opinion remains with its sequel.
2014/03/21 Leave a comment
It’s strange to be able to refer to college in the past-tense. It’s even stranger to compare your college experience with those told in works of fiction only to see how painfully inaccurate they were to your dull, dull existence as an undergrad. Thankfully, Genshiken has my back when it comes to the ordinary (yet entertaining!) college life.
Genshiken (shorthand for “Gendai Shikaku Bunka Kenkyūkai” or “The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture”) tells the story of an anime/manga/gaming college club and the people that inhabit said club’s clubroom. Actual scenes of the characters attending classes, studying, etc are few and far between, as the series’ main focus is on what the characters do in their spare time. As such, a lot of time is spent bumming around in Genshiken: playing retro videogames on an old 4:3 TV, having rambling conversations referencing last week’s anime episodes and in general just trying to forget that by the end of your academic career, you’re expected to nab a job and join the rest of the working world. That said, the series resonates with me to a painful degree.
You would think that the idea of nerdy college students spending their days bumming around making nerd references may get old fast, but the series keeps things fresh by constantly switching focus to different characters. Initially, you are introduced to college freshman Sasahara, who comes off as a rather plain guy that joins Genshiken on a whim. But as the series progresses, it begins to focus on other club members, like Madarame—poster-boy for anime fanboy, and Kasukabe—a complete non-nerd, who puts up with the club’s nonsense since her boyfriend Kohsaka is a regular member.
It is in this combination of newbie fan, fanboy, and non-fan that Genshiken begins to show its true colors as a thesis on what truly defines one as an “otaku.” And while the series may come off as meandering at times, if you are able to relate to any of the characters, then it’s well worth the watch.
The series continues to roll with this concept in its subsequent OVA episodes, where a fourth type of fan is introduced in new freshman Ogiue—the closet fan. While the OVAs only total at three episodes, they do add something fresh to the table in its new character as well as continue to flesh out old ones—particularly Madarame and Kasukabe, who have become something of a foil to each other.
It is in its second full season (Genshiken 2) that the series begins to take a somewhat different approach to its formula. While storytelling remains consistent with the past season and OVA, visual representations of the characters’ conversations have become noticeably more… explicit. Before this season, characters referencing sex (either in real life or in the games/anime they consume) would mainly keep the details to themselves. This season, however, seems to take full advantage of the clearly higher quality animation it’s been granted by showing in full glory the gritty and borderline not-safe-for-work perverted thoughts running through some of the characters’ heads. Fanservice in general begins to crop up more frequently with this season, resulting in some of the more out-there episodes.
Nonetheless, the series continues to deliver, not only repeating the same formula it’s started with, but applying it in slowly changing situations, as each of the characters begin to grow, ultimately ending in some of the upperclassmen graduating.
One of the bigger factors that kept me watching the series with each new season was its clear passing of time. For those not in the know, Japanese colleges typically last for three years. That said, it seems like the series as a whole grants just the right amount of time for viewers to be fully acquainted to the characters before they graduate and are given significantly less screen time. Even as I finished up the first season, I still wasn’t able to remember each character’s name. But by the end of the second season, character names were remembered just in time for me to get sad when they left.
Genshiken Second Season (which is technically closer to a third season) introduces a new batch of freshmen. The club is now primarily female, and as such, club conversations have slowly become fujoshi-oriented. Speaking as a guy, it was jarring but interesting to see this sudden shift. Technically, the conversations were still nerdy, but it was geared more towards this different subculture that I’m just completely unfamiliar with. Talks about couplings, and who would be the proper “on top” partner… it’s all just so foreign to me. Nonetheless, it’s interesting to note just how the club changed in mood due to a sudden shift in gender ratio.
On top of the blitz of new characters/secondary characters coming to the forefront is Madarame—former chairman of Genshiken and recent graduate. Having taken on a job nearby campus, Madarame has taken on the role of the strange uncle that stops by the club room perhaps more often than he should. Knowing this, he begins to feel melancholic, not really seeing any progress in his life at all. As his personal story begins to unfold this season, we as the viewers are given a new dimension to the series. Build up emotions and character interactions from past seasons all begin to pay off this time around, which is especially amazing considering how episodic the series felt like until this point. While each season of Genshiken can be enjoyed as its own separate entity, Genshiken Second Season is definitely made with the long-time fans in mind.
And while the latest season has ended with Second Season, the source material manga is still ongoing, continuing to balance current otaku “funny because it’s true” jokes while fleshing out the series’ well-established characters.
2014/03/12 Leave a comment
When trailers for Resurrection and Believe started to crop up, I started to get excited about American television again. It feels like it’s been forever since an American show wasn’t about a) comicbook superheroes or b) antiheroes—both of which have long overstayed their welcome. From their trailers, both series seemed to cover some kind of fantastical phenomenon without coming off as too comicbook-y. And if at least one of them was solid, then I’d be a happy camper.
The good and bad thing about Resurrection is that you can get the gist of what the entire first episode covered from the trailers alone. People that have been dead for years are suddenly showing back up completely unharmed as if nothing ever happened and no one knows why. It’s a simple enough concept that’s shrouded in enough mystery to keep viewers wanting more.
What I especially liked about the first episode was that it took its sweet time with the story without coming off as too meandering. You’re introduced to Agent Bellamy, who escorts a lost (almost comically all-American-looking) boy, Jacob, back to the small town of Arcadia. During Bellamy’s time in Arcadia, he slowly takes in his surroundings as well as pieces together the inhabitants and their relation to the lost boy. Everything comes off as free-flowing as you the viewer explore and take in the town through Bellamy’s eyes, and yet a story and plot development seems to form so naturally regardless (or perhaps “due to”).
Definitely something I’ll be looking forward to keeping up with this season.
…Compare, on the other hand, Believe—supernatural drama about an escaped convict having to take care of a young girl with superhuman abilities as they’re on the run from a mysterious organization. Maybe if I remembered that JJ Abrams had a hand in this series going into it, I wouldn’t be so disgusted with the goings-on of its episode one. Then again, I feel like any amount of disgust had to be had regardless.
Unlike Resurrection, Believe practically hits the ground running and continually bashes the viewer over the head with plot in the form of overly blatant exposition from its characters. Every character seems to wear their heart on their sleeve if only for the sake of moving the plot forward. How do you demonstrate the main character is untrusting and hates kids? I guess having him outright say that he’s untrusting and hates kids is sufficient enough.
The overall writing throughout the episode was just so painfully straightforward when it came to “developing” its characters. Either that or it was ridiculously inconsistent. One of the first scenes has the token female eye-candy antagonist (who by the way, will no doubt end up having a one-one-one fight with the token female eye-candy protagonist) snap the necks of two innocents only to later show how inept and just plain unprofessional she is in her line of work when she asks for a day off for her mother’s birthday. You would think something like that would be played for a laugh, but the fact that it’s being used as an honest-to-goodness point to build off her character is just… no.
And in terms of world-developing, things just move too fast for comfort. Normally, something would slowly introduce you to a concept and build on it as it progresses: “When you start from the beginning, it acclimates you to the bullshit, so that once it gets to the really crazy bullshit, you’re like ‘eh, makes sense I guess.’” Not true in this case. With Believe, so much over-the-top nonsense happens involving the plot and it’s just too much to take in, not to mention accept. Why would a secret organization be willing to free a convicted killer, but be against using guns because “they’re the good guys?” How come said convict can hold his own in a fight against someone that seems to be who I can only assume is a mercenary? Maybe if it were a comic or animated series, I’d be more accepting of some of these points, but as it stands, it’s a tough pill to swallow.
Second to the writing is the actors. Even in the case that a show’s writing is awful, a well-cast actor can save what’s left of it with their performance. In the lead role as the little girl with supernatural powers is actress Johnny Sequoyah, who sadly suffers from child-actor syndrome. Absolutely every one of her lines is delivered with a sense of precociousness that is just unfitting for the character and takes me out of the moment every time. It doesn’t help that for some reason, as precocious as she is, the script mixes in some moments where she puts herself in danger in the stupidest way possible (seriously, they’ll buy you a new stuffed animal after they escape from the gunman).
Lastly, since I couldn’t find any place to naturally transition to the subject, I just wanted to bring up the casting in the series. Normally, this is something you would pay absolutely no mind to, so the fact that I feel the need to even bring it up must mean something’s up with it. In total, the first episode of Believe had three women in it: the main kid, Jamie Chung in a protagonist role, and Trieste Kelly Dunn in an antagonist role. All three of them fall into the same category of having a petite body and cute face, which I just find odd. Give the child actor a couple years, and I feel like all three of them would be auditioning for the same role. This is nothing against the actresses themselves (even if Jamie Chung has one of the worst IMDB entries I’ve seen), but rather the casting decision. Usually a point is made when similar people are cast in certain roles, but in this case, it feels like it was done more on a whim than anything else.
If anything, JJ Abrams is a master at making shows that come off as “smart” for a stupid audience, and keeping said audience viewing on a weekly basis through sensationalized nonsense in his narratives. In that sense, maybe Believe will find a big audience. Just don’t count me as part of it. I’ll be on board the Resurrection-train, where things may be simple, but at least they’re better put-together.
2013/10/19 Leave a comment
The first time I ever heard of Code Geass was many moons ago back when I moderated a Death Note forum, and a poster asked for anime suggestions with similar theming. At the time, I just shrugged off the suggestion and went about my merry way, content that my modern anime know-how was limited to whatever the American Shonen Jump articles took the time to hype up.
If only I stayed that content.
2013/10/05 Leave a comment
With movies in general, it’s easy to get caught up in a running list of “things” needed to keep audiences entranced through the entirety of the film, whether it be from dialogue, special effects, constantly shifting scene locations, cast size, etc. So to see a modern day movie take a rather minimalistic approach to their story-telling while still maintaining a quality story is nothing short of amazing.
As suggested by the trailer, Gravity is something of a disaster movie, with all the disaster focusing primarily on a one Ryan Stone (played by Sandra Bullock). Stone is a medical engineer who’s received six months of appropriate astronaut training and is currently in space alongside some other astronauts when they’re unexpectedly hit with by a cluster of debris from a destroyed satellite. Having been cut off from Mission Control, Stone must rely on her own limited training to get herself out of this fix.
Now on paper, it sounds like some standard stuff that isn’t exactly new to the world of movies. But where Gravity truly shines is in its execution. Rather than keeping to a standard big budget movie-telling format of having a large cast and cutting from mission control to the characters in space, the entirety of the movie focuses on Stone’s character. No cuts to what’s going on at Earth; no flashbacks when Bullock’s character starts giving some backstory and reason for viewers to care for her well-being… actually, I’m pretty sure the camera makes a point of either keeping focused on Stone, or switching to a first-person perspective as Stone fumbles her way through one disaster after another (really, the movie gives Bullock little to no time to breathe either due to the stress or the literal inability to breathe because well… space situations can do that). And it’s that amount of focus that gives the movie a real sense of isolation from the world, in both a beautiful and frightening manner.
You would think that with the movie having such a focused perspective for its story-telling that it would result in certain scenes becoming too chatty (or worse: too exposition-y), but the dialogue is actually kept at a rather nice balance alongside the destruction sequences. The somewhat smug and chatty Astronaut Kowalski (George Clooney is right at home as this guy) properly sets the stage and overall feel as we’re introduced to their world in space and doesn’t come off as too overbearing, keeping in mind that Bullock is the true star of the movie. Bullock’s character keeps to herself, but as she realizes the fix she’s gotten into, she begins to take a more proactive role, relying solely on what she herself is capable of doing given the situation and the handful of metaphorical bones thrown at her. Her acting is spot-on from beginning to end, (for the feminists out there) her character of Ryan Stone proves to be a very strong, independent, and capable person, and (for the dudes out there) she looks pretty good doing it, without coming off as ludicrously fanservice-y (#demlegs).
Action (er, “destruction”) scenes are over-the-top, but service the plot well, as space debris is whipped and turned about without coming off as wanton destruction. Coming from someone that hasn’t exactly been wowed by 3D in movies, I actually really enjoyed it this time around. Like the special effects themselves, the 3D is treated in such a manner that directly services the plot and is consistent throughout the film, so you don’t feel like you’re cheated “3D wise” by just having the one scene that looks really good in 3D and the rest just kinda being okay. While there was clearly a large amount of special effects used, you are never given the feeling that the effects were put first, with story second. Everything is kept tight, and compliments each other accordingly.
My one semi-complaint would be the handful of baby imagery. While I understand how this relates to Stone’s backstory, I found it coming off as more of a stretch than anything else. Regardless, it does prove to be some of the most beautiful shots/scenes in the movie, so I won’t make too much of it.
As a whole, Gravity was a somewhat simple story, executed in a unique and even beautiful manner, giving a real feeling of isolation in the vastness of space.
2013/08/19 Leave a comment
While the general plight of growing up Asian in a predominantly non-Asian community may not be the most mainstream of stories told, it has been run into the ground at least for the audience that said story is being aimed at. Recurring themes of redemption from your parents conflicting with goals of making them proud, having dreams forced upon you by another, a general coming of age tale done Asian American (replace “American” with any other secondary culture) style… it’s not exactly something Hollywood would give a second glance and from what I’ve been exposed to, I’m of the camp of “you’ve seen it once, you’ve seen it a million times.”
Or at least I would have said that before seeing Approved for Adoption.
Approved for Adoption (or Couleur de peau: miel, translating to “Skin Color: Honey”) is a French film telling the story of the influx of Korean adoptees from the perspective of the movie’s writer/director Jung. Right off the bat, Jung weaves an interesting tale of being adopted into a French family at the age of five, establishing an interesting dynamic not only between Jung and his adopted parents, but between him and the family’s biological children.
The movie is based on Jung’s graphic novel of the same name, bringing his sketchy art style to life and near-seamlessly melding it together with CG animation (think Monster House style) as well as live action footage of Jung himself as he roams the streets of Korea 40+ years after having left said country. Switching between styles keeps things fresh, but doesn’t come off as quirkiness for quirkiness’ sake, as each jump in aesthetic serves as a proper lead-in for the scenes to follow.
Growing up, you never really question the order of things, especially within your family, and Approved for Adoption successfully runs with that theme. As we follow Jung through his almost Dennis-the-Menace-like childhood, the fact of him being a Korean child in a French household is downplayed for the most part (sans visits from blatantly racist extended family) and things feel more like a film about family rather than about a Korean facing identity issues. Earlier scenes help develop the sense of belonging Jung has with each of his family members to the point that you really feel for each of them once the drama is delivered come the latter half of the movie when the elephant in the room that is Jung’s past is better inspected.
Suddenly this well-meaning family you’ve seen in its childhood has exploded into scenes of drama and introspection without anyone to truly blame for the shortcomings involved along the journey. You feel for Jung and his fish-out-of-water dilemma, but at the same time you feel for his parents and siblings who honestly have no way of relating to his problems or finding a solution to them themselves.
By the end of the movie, you’ve been exposed to so much misfortune along with signs of hope that any clear-cut finale would be an insult to what has developed so far. Rather, you are left with a lot to think about, and signs that while things may get bad, there will always be time to take on your problems one step at a time.
(Approved for Adoption was seen at San Jose’s CAAMFest. Check local theaters/festivals for showings.)