Crunchy Pants

Captain America’s Sexy Man Meat

Up until now, I’ve been kinda “meh” on the whole Captain America movie. But goddamn, this trailer is freaking awesome! They did a really nice job of making Chris Evans look all scrawny and yuck before and all meaty and sweaty after. And the Red Skull makeup is fucking fantastic.

The gun bothers me. It never feels right to me when I see Cap with a gun. But honestly, that’s something I can live with. It makes sense in the context of the time period and, well, this trailer makes me want to see this movie much more than Thor’s Night At the Asgardian Disco trailers.

The King and the Beaver

This is actually called Le Royaume and was created by a bunch of amazing students at France’s Gobelins animation school. Absolutely gorgeous!

The World Loves Japan

Yesterday, we wasted space and highlighted some hateful assholes who have nothing nice to say about Japan. Well, today is Gundam Wednesday where we celebrate awesome things. And while it may be some time before we have some proper Gundam news, we still have many awesome things to celebrate. So in honor of the awesomeness of Gundam and Japan, let us turn our attention to people around the world who are doing awesome things for Japan.

This list took all of ten minutes to compile. And I didn’t have to look very far to find amazing things that people are doing to support Japan.

It’s sometimes easy to get caught up in hateful things that people say. I know I have. But know that these people are in the minority. The rest of the world is pulling together.

Rango, a Love Letter to the Spaghetti Western

Rango is a thoroughly enjoyable love letter to the spaghetti Westerns of old.

There! My one-sentence review! Of course, if you’re not a fan of spaghetti Westerns, my simple review may steer you away from the film. However, I am not a fan of the genre and I loved this film.

Who Am I?

Rango is a bit of an existential film. Essentially, it’s the search for self. Indeed, when we’re introduced to our chameleon hero, he doesn’t even have a name. It’s not until he’s thrown out of the safety of his glass cage and confronted with creatures of the town Dirt that he calls himself Rango, a name inspired by a bottle of fire water.

Rango is an actor playing the hero which has so many layers of meta meaning that it’s probably best to ignore all that existentialism and just enjoy the movie. Of course, we all know that he’ll eventually live up to the role he’s fabricated for himself, but the journey to that end is a bumpy, dusty ride.

Water Water Everywhere

The town of Dirt is dry which should come as little surprise being in the middle of Mojave Desert. Water used to flow one day a week (I forgot the day) from a rusty spigot. But now that’s mysteriously dried up and the town is drying out. And it’s up to Sherif Rango and his posse to find where the water went.

Wearing Influences on its Sleeve

This movie is full of references and nods to other films. Rango’s look is clearly inspired by Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Raoul Duke in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas which is punctuated by that character’s brief cameo in the beginning of the film. Johnny Depp playing a lizard version of a character he previously portrayed encountering said character.

This is ILM’s first animated feature (well, those damn prequels should probably count as well, but there were some useless meat bags in those) which I had no idea until a particular scene that reminded me of a certain chase scene involving Tie Fighters and an X-Wing. Replace the Tie Fighters with bats ridden by moles and the X-Wing with a buggy drawn by a pig and you’ve got yourself a Western take on that last battle in A New Hope.

Of course, Rango is filled to the dusty brim with references to the spaghetti Western references. Among many of the nods, Rango dons a familiar poncho and hat for his final stand off. But things once again swing out into super meta territory when Rango encounters the “Spirit of the West” who’s cameo almost threw me out of the entire film. It works, but just barely. I was surprised to learn that the Spirit was voiced by someone else, and not the person its modeled after.

Family Fun For Everyone

What makes Rango a perfect family film is that even if you don’t catch any of those movie or meta references, it’s a fun film that kids can get into. Our theater had both adults and kids rolling in the aisles. It was particularly fun to hear all the parents laughing at the more subtle references and jokes and to hear the kids bust out at the more physical comedy. There’s something there for everyone which makes Rango and excellent film for any occasion.

Skullkickers Vol.1 Kicks Comics in the Skull!

Review week continues! You may have heard me rave about Jim Zubkavich’s Skullkickers here, here, here, and here. If you’ve been patiently waiting to see if the first arc would be collected into a trade, you missed out on the awesome Skullkicker Stew recipe in issue #3. BUT, tomorrow is your lucky day. Skullkickers Vol. 1: 1000 Opas and a Dead Body hits shelves tomorrow!

Skullkickers answers a lot of my complaints with the mainstream comic book industry. There’s no complicated continuity to slog through. You don’t need to know the origins of our heroes to understand their motivations. Each issue actually stands on its own while adding to the overarching plot. You never feel like things are being pulled out of Jim’s ass because he wrote himself into a corner. This is what comics used to be, original stories that were fun and easy to get in to.

Jim does a great job at playing with fantasy tropes. You don’t need to be a fantasy fan to understand a majority of the humor, but if you’re familiar with the genre, you can appreciate the funnies that much more.

As fun as the writing is, Skullkickers wouldn’t be half as entertaining without its stellar lineup of artists. Edwin Huang’s line art for the regular series has always impressed me with his expressive faces and kinetic action scenes. Sometimes artists get lost in the minutia of a scene muddying things up with extraneous lines and dense backgrounds, but Edwin’s work is always clean and readable. Misty Coats brings life to Edwins lines as the colorist for the regular series. Her color choices give each scene a proper mood. They’re an excellent team and I hope to see much more from them.

Included in the trade are the original bonus stories that started this whole Skull Kicking in the first place. Chris Stevens’s painted work is Goddamn beautiful! We don’t see a whole lot of digitally or traditionally painted work in comics because the process takes so damn long and it makes me sad because Chris’s pages are not only gorgeous, they tell a great story. Fortunately, Chris is still on cover duty so there’s plenty of painted Skullkicker goodness in the regular series to go around.

If you’re a fan of comics that are fun, easy to get in to, and not bogged down by fanboy expectations or overly dense continuity, you should get out there and Kick some Skulls.

Source: Skullkickers

Disney Brings Tales From Earthesea and Nausicaa to DVD and Blu-Ray

It’s review week here at AZM! Every day this week I’ll be reviewing a movie or DVD release or comic book or something. Okay, really, I only have enough material for three days of reviews. But I’ll see if I can find something else those other two days.

To kick things off, I received some review copies of two new releases from Disney that are hitting stores tomorrow.

Tales From Earthsea is the first full length animated feature film directed by Hayao Miyazaki’s son, Goro Miyazaki. The film is based on the fantasy novel series by Ursula K. Le Guin. Since I don’t read anything without pictures or word balloons, I’ve never read the series so I don’t know how close the film follows the series. The title is a bit of a misnomer because there’s really only one tale that’s told in this film.

The world of Earthsea is out of balance. Crops are dying. Dragon has returned. Magic is dwindling. Chaos threatens to destroy the world of man and it up to the Archmage Sparrowhawk and young prince Arren to discover the cause.

Even though it’s definitely Goro’s film, you can feel the elder Miyazaki’s touch throughout the film. The look of the environments in the film is inspired by an illustration Hayao had done to portray his vision of the world of Earthsea. The little details that help realize Earthsea as a tangible environment are a familiar hallmark of Hayao’s productions. 3D CG for environments is used throughout the production which may be something that Goro brings to the table (although, we saw some early Ghibli CG work in Spirited Away). It’s difficult to tell because the 3D set pieces are so well blended into the work that if you’re not looking for it, you probably wouldn’t notice.

I never bother with the English language track on these releases, but Disney has assembled an impressive cast of voice actors, Timothy Dalton, Cheech Marin, Willen Dafoe, and Mariska Hargitay. There’s a special feature about the making of the film and a fun interactive feature that gives you previews of all the Disney Ghibli releases. But I suspect there will be a Blu-Ray DVD combo pack sometime in the future. If you don’t have a Blu-Ray player or have a previous Ghibli Blu-Ray release (it seems like a lot of the extra features are the same across the Blu-Ray releases), you can pick up Tales From Earthsea tomorrow at your favorite DVD retailer for $29.99 USD ($35.99 CDN).

Disney is also re-releasing Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind in a Blu-Ray DVD Combo pack tomorrow. Someday I will find someone with a Blu-Ray player so I can really compare the quality between the two versions.

Earth has somehow survived a destructive global war. The Valley of the Wind is one of the few places left that have escaped the horrifying ravages of war. A poisonous forest threatens to overtake the valley so it’s up to the young Princess Nausicaa to somehow bring harmony back to the ravaged world.

This is one of my favorite Ghibli films and I think one of Hayao Miyazaki’s best. The Ohmu creatures are absolutely wonderful to behold. And the animated sequence of the God Warrior is still one of the most striking scenes in anime to this date.

The DVD has a Behind the Microphone feature with the English language voice cast as well as “The Birth Story of Studio Ghibli” which is the same one on the Ponyo Blu-Ray DVD combo. The Blu-Ray disc, which is mocking me right now as I can’t play it, has a “Behind the Studio” feature that goes into the origin of the Nausicaa film and an interview with Hayao Miyazaki. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

The 2-Disc Blu-Ray combo pack of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind drops tomorrow for $39.99 USD ($44.99 CDN).

Tron Uprising Makes Something Else Rise… IN MY PANTS!

You had me at Bruce Boxlightner!

Thanks to Angry Zen Minion David Caceres and AZM Ally Kensei Dave for sending along this awesome trailer for the animated Tron Uprising which will premiere Summer of 2012 with a 10-part micro series to show this Fall. From the sound of it, Uprising will fill in the gaps between the original film and Legacy although it seems like it’ll be closer in visual style to Legacy than the original. I’d kind of like to see a visual bridge between the first and second films in this series. I’d really like to see how all the random complex grids from the first one get simplified as we get to the current film. But I love what I see. It looks like there’s going to be a decent blend of CG and 2D cell animation which guarantees crunchy pants action.

And more Daft Punk! Well, at least music inspired by Daft Punk.

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