Saturday, April 2, 2011

3DS [chat]

Nintendo's 3DS launches this week. Check back for links to forum and blog posts of people complaining about its $249.99 pricetag, the terrible launch titles, its absurd 5-hour battery life, and their impending glaucoma.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hume the Dog has a Message.

He wants some fucking Barbecue.

The Hell?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Review: Evangelion 2.22 You Can (Not) Advance

Any particular story exists as a concept, as a tapestry of ideas skillfully woven together by a caring author whose purpose is to communicate a core message, an infinitesimally precious and delicate realization of truth. The author notices a something, a real, and carefully guides the audience towards an understanding of that aspect of reality to which we cannot speak, but only gesture and hope with a shared yearning and eagerness to understand. Neon Genesis Evangelion, in its previous iterations, gestured at one key aspect of life, a primordial feeling of a wrinkle in our being, that resonates with all, but seemed fundamentally incommunicable. The remake, represented by these first two films, may be the closest we as a species have ever come to saying what that wrinkle is.

The first movie blew me away. If you read my review, you know that my initial reaction was to loudly exclaim, “WHAT THE FUCK JUST HAPPENED?” in inexplicable shock. 2.22 makes that reaction seem tepid, commonplace, boring. 2.22 redefines the series; it takes the series somewhere for which there are no words.

We enter the story where we left, at the point of deviation from our core canon. The narrative skillfully shifts to accommodate new characters, new angels, and new relationships while still maintaining precious core components of the original series. We are in Tokyo-3, but it is not the same. We encounter Shinji, Misato, Rei, and Asuka (voiced by the blessed return of Tiffany Grant) and recognize both their familiarity and their novelty. Asuka’s entrance and initial, “What are you, stupid?!” somehow communicates both that this is the same character, and that she is undeniably different. Somehow a new Eva pilot is added to the mix in a manner that makes her seem familiar. When she first appears I am not shocked or jarred but, rather, I think, “Oh, hey, it’s Mari. It’s good to know that she is back.” despite the fact that she has never been here before.

Actually, think of it this way: Take the relationships Shinji had with Misato, Rei, and Asuka. Now divide each of those relationships into their core features. Alright, now take all of those features and divide them between Misato, Rei, Asuka, and Mari. By redistributing and redefining these relationships, the series is tightened and eloquently restructured to more acutely communicate that which the television series, at best, implied. Shinji’s relationship with femininity is honed with far greater precision by dividing it between four characters rather than three. Through these redefinitions and subtle changes, the characters in 2.22 seem more core and foundational than the characters from the original show. 2.22 gives us the real Asuka, the true Rei, 16 years after these characters were created.

The story of 2.22 covers episodes seven through nineteen, or at least moves us along the path from seven to nineteen. With all the additions I thought the series would fully deviate from the established path. But the beauty of 2.22 is its ability to weave between novelty and canon to finally place us at a precipice that is, in one word, astounding.

The finale puts us at the battle from episode 19, that quintessential moment at which Shinji finally actualizes his own volition and maniacally defends the Geofront from Zeruel. This reimagined battle loosely mirrors the original and then, in one moment, drastically shifts everything we knew about the series into a fundamentally new framework and direction by hurling the viewer into an event of the most fucking-epic-of-fucking-epicness you have heretofore been incapable of imagining.

That is not hyperbole; this shift is fucking amazing.

We make the turn, we take the plunge, and we’re gazing into a void of unknown, unimagined futurity that deviates entirely from any semblance of a track known to prior canon. Then the action, the scope, the possibilities get bigger, and we mutter in amazement, “Ho-ly shit, they just cranked it to 11.”

Then it cuts to black.

As the credits roll we fill with a bittersweet adrenaline high as we realize that what we witnessed cannot be topped. We know what the manga did, what the television series did, what the End of Evangelion gave us, and there is nothing in any of those stories that can match what we just witness. This reimagining has reached the ceiling, and with two movies left, all they can do is match this height.

Then the credits stop. And something happens.

You do not utter a syllable. You do not think. You do not applaud.

Your mouth falls open.

You stare at the screen in unintelligible amazement, incapable of processing what you saw. And then you slowly come to realize what just happened: They broke the ceiling of what Evangelion could be. They redefined the scope of this tale.

Hideaki Anno just said, “Fuck 11. Fuck 12. We are cranking this story to all.”

And there are two more movies to go.

I cannot stop smiling.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sucker Punch is AWESOME!! (which is bad)

Maybe my feelings about this are the result of the aging taste of a guy who never really had great taste to begin with, but I've noticed that I chafe pretty easily whenever a thing tries so overtly to be AWESOME!!

I would define AWESOME!! as what you get when you force any number of disparate yet exciting things into one package and add a rocking sound track (optional). A summary of Sucker Punch's idea of AWESOME!! is school girls fighting steampunk Nazis by way of machine guns, axes, katanas, and a mech with a bunny painted on it. Also, there is a rocking sound track.

I'm not against that, necessarily, but when that's all there is to a movie, it kind of feels like something is missing. It seems work in a trailer because, well, what else are you going to do in 90 seconds besides blast both AWESOME!! barrels at once? Spread it out to a couple of hours or so, add in the price of admission, and I start to wish that they could have thought of something besides what could have been generated by a machine programmed to randomly assemble things that are just regular awesome. It winds up feeling a little lazy and devoid of real creativity, which is a fatal flaw for something as absolutely dependent on spectacle as this movie.

Incidentally, another deadly mistake is to choreograph fight sequences in such a way as to reduce the combatant's fighting style to some variation of putting her foot out and trusting the wire-fu guy to swing her over so that she kicks the bad CG man in the face, interspersed with slow motion spinning around.

One thing I did enjoy was the awkwardness that they established, almost immediately, around sexuality. For the most part, Sucker Punch's men are all rape-thirsty grab monsters and the women are all strong yet fragile and probably virtuous. So, when the girls start dressing slutty, it is almost a challenge to the audience; a dare to find short skirts and exposed midriffs sexy.

It was a very similar awkwardness to seeing Dakota Fanning in Runaways, actually. In that movie, their manager is so vile and unwaveringly sleazy, while Fanning 's startling real-life transition from a cute-as-a-button child actor makes the thorough exploitation of her sexuality doubly uncomfortable.

In both movies, the juxtaposition of sexual pandering next to some pretty troubling conditions on the part of the people that would otherwise be objectified is interesting, I think, especially when there is a character (or several) who are more than willing to keep on objectifyin' when they should be showing a little empathy. Perhaps I only speak for myself here, but it is as if the movie were saying "all we have to do is change a couple of parameters, and this guy? That's you."

Otherwise, I'm not sure that Sucker Punch had much going for it. The fights are all imaginary, by the way, as the trailer indicates. As far as I can tell, any metaphors they might have squeezed out of the imaginary fight scenes were pretty much reduced to ordinary items defining the theme of the environment and engagement. Reasonably clever, I suppose, but it seems like a wasted opportunity not to let certain things in the imaginary world have more to say about the real world besides "that wyvern is actually a zippo".

I give Sucker Punch one conspicuously unused sword out of a possible does the fact that the Asian girl was flying in pretty much every dream fight have any significance?

BONUS: A single viewing of the trailer for Sucker Punch a few months ago reminded me of watching the Casshern trailer endlessly a few years ago. Not a bad thing at all, really, except that the Casshern trailer gave way to the foolish $80 purchase of an imported 3-Disc special edition of the movie that, as it happens, really kind of sucked. So, I resolved to not get to excited about Sucker Punch, but also to go see it when it came out. My reduced investment, both monetarily and emotionally, softened the blow, I think.

BONUS 2: There is a commercial for some bank around here talking about their overdraft protection that uses AWESOME!! It features mutant zombies etc and you fight them with a rubber ducky or something (which is why you didn't get to the bank to cover that $10 Dairy Queen charge). The duck is part of that other thing I hate, OMG RANDOM! which is also pretty lazy, but my point is that a fucking bank has this stuff figured out, so the movies really need to step it up. To paraphrase Eddie Izzard "Space is awesome, sir. / What, like a hot dog?" Sucker Punch is awesome like a hot dog.