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Angry Zen Master

Enlightenment Through Focused Rage
I feel like Asuka is Anno and Shinji represents the fans.

Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Make Sense

I feel like Asuka is Anno and Shinji represents the fans.

I feel like Asuka is Anno and Shinji represents the fans.

It was by complete accident that I found out that The Movies at Montgomery Mall was playing Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo on the big screen last Saturday night.  Is this a thing that happens regularly there?  They really need to advertise that shit better.  If I hadn’t been randomly looking around Fandango, I would have missed it entirely.

I don’t get to see a lot of anime on the big screen so I figured, hell, might as well give it a try.  Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone and Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance were very pretty to look at and, for the most part, fairly understandable as far as Eva goes.  I also don’t mind the dubs of Eva.  I almost always prefer subs, but I’ve always liked the actors that dub Eva.  So I thought I’d give 3.0 a chance.  As you’ve figured out by now, I’m a sucker for robots punching things on the big screen.

END OF NOSTALGIA

Before I attempt to describe what I saw, I think a little background is in order.  I was in high school when anime started to break out into the mainstream.  Adult Swim was subjecting people to things like Dragon Ball Z and Inuyasha.  Hollywood Video started carrying box sets of Mobile Suit Gundam and Patlabor.  Cowboy Bebop, Macross Plus, Trigun, all of this shit was becoming mainstream.  And then, there was Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Everyone I knew loved Eva.  It was objectively good.  Who gave a flying fuck that the last two episodes were a meta mess that basically subverted the entire show.  There were robots punching and girls wearing plug suits.  Honestly, we were just happy to get copies that we could finally understand.  Fuck yeah, anime!!!

Now that anime isn’t so difficult to get, there’s a whole new generation of fans who aren’t fooled by giant robots punching just because.  Giant robots aren’t that special so if you’re show sucks, you can’t distract these new fans with exploding crosses and virbo knives.  This new generation of fans have discovered something that my generation was unwilling to see.

Eva kinda sucks.

In some ways, Eva was always meant to suck.  It was a cynical deconstruction of the giant robot genre.  Instead of asking how hard can a robot punch an alien, Evangelion asks what would piloting a giant robot to defend civilization as we know it do to the psyche of a pre-teen?  How would children deal with such a burden?  What kind of sick fuck would knowingly create such monstrous machines?  All the familiar aspects of the classic giant robot shows are there, they’re just twisted into a heaping mess of emotional damage.

It’s kind of a wake up.  Sort of a, “Hey otaku!  Yeah, you!  You know those robot shows you love so bad?  Hey, they’re actually really fucked up!  The emotional damage done to the kids piloting these things would ruin their lives! EVERYTHING IS AWFUL WHY DO YOU KEEP WATCHING THIS SHIT?!??!?!!!!”

There’s a theory that Hideaki Anno, the guy who created Eva, hates his fans.  And honestly, after watching countless hours of the Eva series, the movies, the rebuilds, it’s kind of difficult to ignore the meta context.  This entire series is a giant middle finger to giant robot shows.  A beautifully animated, completely blatant fuck you.

And we keep going back for more.

So with all this shit in mind, let’s finally talk about this fucking movie.

EVANGELION 3.0: YOU SHOULD (NOT) REDO

It’s been so long since I’ve seen an Eva anything that watching this was almost like seeing Evangelion for the first time.  And if this is your first time seeing anything Evangelion, just stop.  You won’t understand a goddamn thing.  There are no Cliff’s Notes, no “previously on” montage, no wall of text to recap episodes 1.0 or 2.0.  Fuck, I’ve watched all of these fucking things and even I had to do a wikipedia dive when I got home.

Let’s see if I got this straight.

After the events of the second film, Shinji has been in a coma for fourteen years.  In that time, Misato Katsuragi and basically the entirety of NERV except for Gendo and Fuyutski have formed a splinter group, WILLE.  WILLE’s aims to destroy NERV and all NERV created Evas.

Asuka rescues Shinji from his slumber within Unit 01.  Oh, bee tee dubs, Asuka still looks like a fifteen year old because apparently piloting Evas keeps you young forever.  Because anime!  So yeah, she rescues Shinji who is floating in some kinda space cross.  WILLE somehow uses Unit 01 as the power source for their command ship, Wunder, which must happen off screen at some point.  Misato, Ritsuko, and pretty much everyone on the bridge treat Shinji like shit.

There’s a fight.  Unit 9 which looks like Unit 0 shows up somehow and rescues Shinji.  Rei 9.0 takes Shinji to see Gendo.  Gendo says, “You’re gonna pilot Unit 13 with this weird asshole, Kaworu, because Unit 13 is like a Jaeger and requires two minds in the Drift.”  Because parenting.  So Kaworu seduces Shinji while Shinji tries to connect with Rei not realizing that she isn’t the Rei he knew fourteen years ago.

It’s finally time to jump into the Rift with Jaeger Unit 13.  Shinji and Kaworu drift with Unit 9 protecting them.  Asuka and Mari show up and it’s a big Eva fight.  With Jaeger Unit 13, Shinji pulls out the spears that stuck in giant Rei and Unit 6 and then shit happens that still doesn’t make sense to me.  Apparently, this triggers Fourth Impact but I don’t know what that is because it’s never explained in this movie.  I’m guessing that’s when everyone turns into goooo, but don’t hole me to that.

Kaworu wants to stop Fourth Impact so he stabs Unit 13 with the spear thingies and then his head explodes because anime.  Mari saves Shinji by ejecting his entry plug.  Asuka saves Rei by blowing up Unit 9.  Asuka finds Shinji sulking in his plug and pulls him out.  Rei shows up and the three of them walk off into the sunset.

Fuck.

Even after writing all that shit out, it’s still confusing.  Through much of the film, Shinji yells variations of, “WHAT’S GOING ON?!!!”  I felt like he was speaking for me the entire time.  And none of the explanations he’s given are satisfying.  Also, the Human Instrumentality Project is dropped a few times and I still have no idea what the fuck that is.  Is that where everyone turns to goo?  Or is that where everyone wakes up on a stage and claps?  Or is that the same shit?

Also, how does Asuka punch so well with the total lack of depth perception? Does syncing with an Eva compensate for all that?  Why is Mari so useless for most of this movie?  How can Gendo and Fuyutski make an Eva themselves?  Where are the rest of NERV?

YOU SHOULD (NOT) KNOW BETTER

After all these years and after all the hours I’ve spent watching Eva related things, I should know that we don’t look to Evangelion for answers.  We look to the show for giant robots that kind of look like malnourished track athletes trapped in armor and skin tight plugsuits that make for some really awesome cosplay.

When I forget to ask “why,” I enjoy Eva quite a bit.  I’ve always liked the aesthetic of the mecha and the designs of the plugsuits.  And on some level, I definitely appreciate the deconstruction of the gian robot genre.  But when I start to look for explanations, my brain starts to bleed.

Here’s the sick genius of it all.  When 4.0 comes out, I’m gonna be one of the first in line to watch that shit.  Even if Anno hates his fans, even if I don’t know what the fuck is going on, there’s something about Eva that just draws us all in.

And when Anno gets bored and decides to reboot the fucking thing five years later, I’ll be right there in line scratching my head and wondering what the fuck I’m doing there again.

gaim

With Great Lock Seeds Come Great Responsibility

gaim

I try my best not to judge a new Rider show until I actually see a handful of episodes.  But let me tell you, when I heard that this year’s Rider was fruit themed, I almost handed in my Toku card and turned my back.  I’m glad I didn’t because as goofy and saturated as Gaim’s World is, the show is turning in more compelling drama than Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

We’re twelve episodes in and it’s taken me a while to warm up to series.  I almost clocked out after the first four episodes.  We got a very surface introduction to a world that I find horribly difficult to relate to.  Gangs of high school kids compete with each other with pokemon to dance on stage? The hell? And when Kouta gets his Rider powers, he uses the suit to play stupid games all for personal gain.

And then episode five happened.  Kouta first encounters Kamen Rider Zangetsu and gets his ass handed to him.  Kouta realizes that there’s more at stake than just dancing on stage and it freaks him the fuck out.  And then it hit me.

This show is really Kamen Rider Spider-Man.

When Peter Parker discovers his spider powers, his first instinct is to cash in.  He hops into a wrestling match to win the big cash prize.  It’s a completely selfish act that results in the death of his uncle.  Peter learns a harsh lesson and dedicates the rest of his life to using his powers responsibly.  Though no one has yet died because of Kouta’s initial selfish uses of his belt, he feels a similar responsibility to those around him to use his new powers for good.

Since episode five, Kouta’s feeling of underlying dread has started to permeate the show.  Though it’s still very playful and colorful and mostly a half hour toy commercial, there’s a real sense that something horribly fucked up is coming down the road.  Episode twelve kind of nails it right on the head.  Michi and Kouta have discovered that Yggdrasil has been using the Beat Riders as guinea pigs for some unknown experiment.  The only way to stop Yggdrasil’s secret plot is to not play the game.  When Michi tells Kouta to throw away the belt, there’s a moment of dead silence and my jaw dropped.  Riders rarely question their fight for justice and here we have Michi and Kouta seriously discussing ending the show right now.

But by now, Kouta is far down the path of great responsibility.  There are creatures invading the town and attacking people and only those with belts have the power to stop them.  Certainly, whatever Yggdrasil is up to can’t be good.  And every time a Beat Rider transforms, Yggdrasil can collect more data from the belt.  But there are monsters and there are innocents and Kouta will save them because it’s the right thing to do.  When the battle is won, the look Kouta gives Michi says, “What else could I do? I have to protect this town.”  The look Michi gives Kouta says, “The only way to win this game is to not play.  Ever.”  The tension between them is palpable.  They understand where the other one is coming from, but they also can’t accept it.  I have a feeling that there’s a powerful rivalry building between them, much more so than Kouta and Baron.

In manner which only seems to work well in tokusatsu, Kamen Rider Gaim is doing a wonderful job of balancing colorful humor with deep drama all while selling toys to the kiddies.  I’m so impressed that they’ve managed to make the fruit theme work.  It’s shaping up to be a really entertaining series and worlds better than Wizard.

Ressha-Sentai-Tokkyūger

Choo Choo Sentai Den-Ogers

I try my best to not judge a Super Sentai or Kamen Rider series on suit photos or intro trailers alone.  I’ve long since learned that just because something may initially look like the worst idea Toei has ever come up with doesn’t mean it won’t absolutely blow me away.  The current Super Sentai, Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger, is a perfect example.  I initially thought the dancing transformation sequence was the dumbest looking shit in the world, but it’s turned out to be one of my favorite Sentai series!  So I will try my best not to shit on Tokkyuger just from this preview trailer.

However, I can’t help but look at this thing and think that some exec at Toei mandated the train theme for the next Sentai series so that they could bring back Den-O in a crossover movie.  Somehow, Den-O is still one of the most beloved Kamen Riders.  Personally, I can’t stand it.  But he’s had nine theatrical films and that’s without including all his appearances in the various Taisen films.  That’s fucking insane.  So I wouldn’t at all be surprised to hear “ORE SANJOU” in the middle of Tokkyuger’s run.  When that shit happens, you heard it here first, folks!

That’s my one prediction for Tokkyuger.  I have to admit, I’m not a fan of the suits or the helmets, but that’s strictly from a design sense.  The show might turn out to be awesome despite what I feel is an inevitable crossover.

Goodbye Raggedy Man.

Goodbye Raggedy Man

Goodbye Raggedy Man.

Goodbye Raggedy Man.

The Doctor Who Christmas Special has come and gone.  We’ve bid farewell to Amy’s Raggedy Man and have welcomed the 12th Doctor, his 14th regeneration.

It’s not just the holidays that have prevented me from writing about “The Time of the Doctor.”  I’ve been trying to mull through my thoughts on Matt Smith’s tenure as the Man Who Forgets.  I absolutely adored him as the Doctor and there was something truly magical on screen when he was paired up with Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill.  The three of them made it so easy to fall in love with 11 and the Ponds.  And yet, as I looked back over his four years as our madman with a box, I felt wanting.

The Atlantic’s Ted Kissell wrote an excellent analysis of Matt Smith’s tenure putting the blame squarely on the shoulders of the writers and ultimately concluding that Matt Smith deserved better.  I think Kissell’s piece is spot on.  In the hands of a lesser actor, Steven Moffat’s version of the Doctor would not have been so lovable.  I mean, how amazing is it that Matt Smith was able to turn a disembodied Cyberman head into one of my favorite companions in the space of a single episode?

doctorWhoHandles

The adventures of the Doctor and Handles. Handles is my new favorite companion!

Jenna Coleman has already fallen victim to the writing.  Clara should be one of the Doctor’s most challenging companions.  She’s super intelligent, quick witted, self assured, a fast talking version of Donna Noble.  Donna was always willing to call the Doctor on his shit forcing him to reexamine himself.  On paper, Clara seems to be cut from a similar cloth.  But thus far in practice, she’s more like an accessory.  If you can replace a companion with a severed Cyberman head, you’ve got a problem.  Handles had more of an impact on the Christmas Special than Clara which makes me very uneasy about her future with 12.

THE FIRST QUESTION

Though the show is called Doctor Who, it’s never really been about the Doctor.  The companions, the alien creatures, the civilizations, the show has always been about exploring high concepts and challenging ideas with the Doctor as our haphazard guide.  The early episodes hardly stand the test of time from a production point of view.  But the themes that they explored still hold up.  I think that’s why Doctor Who has such staying power and what made the Russell T Davies revival so successful.

Steven Moffat’s version of the show is different.  He’s more interested in the Doctor than anyone or anything else, so much so that the entirety of season 7 was about the Doctor’s freaking name!  Certainly, that’s a question that’s been on fans minds for ages.  But because there was so much emphasis on the Doctor, Clara was more like an afterthought than a true companion.

The show is now entirely about the Doctor with seemingly no room for anyone else.

NEW KIDNEYS

A new Doctor’s in the TARDIS with new kidneys and new eyes.  Oh, the eyes!

doctorWho12EYES

If I look hard enough, I can see the color of everyone’s kidneys!!!

I am so conflicted.  The Christmas Special wrapped up a lot of loose threads from Matt Smith’s entire run tying them up into a somewhat wibbly wobbly bow.  In a sense, it was a culmination of Moffat’s study of the Doctor, sort of like his final dissertation on the character.

Now that we’ve new kidneys, does this signal a new direction?  Or will Moffat continue with his exploration of the Doctor with an entire season dedicated to the color of his kidneys?  If Clara was replaced by a lamp, would we know the difference?

I will miss Matt Smith and the way he swung his long arms around the TARDIS like a frantic Muppet.  I will miss his quiet moments like him staring at the cold husk of Handles as its lights blinked for the last time.  I will have fond memories of his time as the Doctor.

Farewell Raggedy Man.  You were absolutely brilliant.  And you deserved better.

I know... oh fuck it.

I Saw 47 Ronin So You Don’t Have To

I know... oh fuck it.

I know… oh fuck it.

My brother and I have an awful habit of watching absolutely horrid movies in the theater when we get together.  And so it was last night that we found ourselves in a mostly empty auditorium with Real 3D glasses strapped to our faces in anticipation of, sigh, 47 Ronin.

For the record, I am not entirely opposed to Keanu Reeves.  I absolutely loved Man of Tai Chi which he directed and starred in.  And I wouldn’t mind him as Spike Spiegel in the live action Cowboy Beebop. But I can’t figure out why he’s in this stupid thing.

This thing is pretty rad.

This thing is pretty rad.

I also can’t figure out why the studio sunk so much money into this thing.  47 Ronin cost $200 million.  Why? Where did the fucking money go? Certainly not to Keanu’s salary.  As far as Hollywood stars go, he’s the least likely to demand a stupid large pay day.  Certainly not the writers.  I don’t think they actually know a thing about the actual legend. They certainly didn’t spend money on historians or researchers or anything historical at all.  I suppose the creature design was pretty cool.  There were four creature scenes that a bunch of CG houses probably spent a lot of work on.  The virtual locations and set extensions were pretty impressive.  And the costumes were absolutely exquisit.  Buuuuuuuut that still doesn’t account for such a high price tag for such a dull ass movie.

47 Booooooooooring

The chief sin of this movie is not its vast list of historical inaccuracies.  Its fatal flaw is that it’s a total bore.  The few action scene are spaced entirely too far apart so that you almost forget you’re watching a movie about swords.  Everyone speaks ever line of dialog like it’s the. Most. Important. Thing. They. Have. Ever. Said. In. Their. Entire. Lives.  Which robs the dialog of the entire film of any import or weight.

There’s a lot of extraneous stuff in here.  The romance between Keanu and Lord Asano’s daughter lacks any real chemistry which makes it entirely difficult to connect with.  Many of the fantasy elements take away from the main plot.  Sadly, those are also the most interesting bits of the film which makes me think that maybe they needed to go even further with the fantasy stuff.

The saddest victim of waste in this movie is Rick Genest.  You may remember him from the trailers as the tattooed man with guns.

This scene isn't in the movie I watched.

This scene isn’t in the movie I watched.

There are entire posters of him in much of the 47 Ronin publicity campaign.  He’s in like one scene which doesn’t include any of the action shots from the trailer.  What the fuck?  There’s so much wasted film in this thing, you might as well extend his scenes.  I don’t know why his stuff was left on the cutting room floor, but it’s a damn shame.  Might have made those scenes in the Dutch port somewhat interesting.

Also, there needed to be more of Lord Kira’s giant warrior.

This guy is totally badass and underused.

This guy is totally badass and underused.

The Great White Token

I complain a lot when minority characters are used as tokens.  If there is a single Asian character in a majority white cast, their Asianess is their justification for inclusion in the film.  Either they’re a martial artists or some tech wizard or some former Yakuza.  It kind of surprised me to see this, but in this instance, Keanus is the token.  His whiteness is the entire reason he’s there.

I really love Tengu man's design.

Tengu man is tired of your shit.

You see, the ronin can’t defeat Kira on their own.  Kira has the witch, Mizuki played by Rinko Kikuchi, who can poison men and defeat entire armies.  The 47 need someone on their side who can fight the demons.  Which is where Keanu comes in.  Since he’s half white and an outcast, everyone calls him a demon or a half breed.  As it turns out, he actually is a sort of demon.  He was taken in by the tengu of the forest when his mother abandoned him because he was a horrid half breed.  They taught him their demon ways so now he can do things no normal human can.

The really sad part, though, is that if you cut his scenes out of this thing, you’d still have a pretty solid movie.  Even though the movie makes every effort to convince you that the 47 need Keanu’s tengu powers to defeat Kira, his character is completely extraneous.  The 47 would have succeeded on their own without Keanu’s help.  Sure, it would have been a little more difficult to fight off the dragon lady, but I think they would have eventually done it.

More Creatures! More Dragons! More ANYTHING INTERESTING!

I don’t believe I’m saying this because it offended me so that they’re using the title of the actual legend, but I kind of wish they pushed the fantasy angle way more than they did.  By making it so subtle, Keanu’s character never felt fully integrated into the narrative of the damn thing.  More demon fights would have also helped to keep my interest.

Mako Mori as a literal dragon lady is actually fucking rad.

Mako Mori as a literal dragon lady is actually fucking rad.

As long and as boring as it is, we surprisingly don’t get a lot of character development from anyone.  We see very little growth from our heroes which makes it difficult to get emotionally attached to any of them.  The romance angle feels forced and you can only get so far with a revenge story.  Lots of things going on but none of it very focused.

If you want to see a movie with samurai doing samurai things, there’s an entire Akira Kurosawa library of films to go through.  He did way more with way less.  Universal should feel embarrassed for dumping so much money into this thing.  Ran is waaaaay longer than 47 Ronin but hardly feels boring even with the camera locked down on that shot of Hidetora Ichimonji slowly walking out of a burning castle.  If you’re looking for a fantasy movie with lots of creatures and dragons, well shit, there’s a Hobbit waiting for you.  If you’re looking for both samurai action and demons, there’s nothing in the theaters for you.  47 Ronin fails to deliver on both the fantasy and reality fronts making for a totally boring experience at the theater.

timeOftheDoctorThumb

The Time of the Doctor Trailer

Oh man!  I have so many mixed emotions!!!  I can’t wait to see the Doctor Who Christmas Special but I kind of don’t want to because it’s Matt Smith’s last episode but I kind of HAVE to see it but GAH!!!!!!

Alright, so we’ve had “The Night of the Doctor” where number 8 regenerated into the War Doctor, “The Day of the Doctor” when the Doctor who ran and the Doctor who forgot helped remind with War Doctor who he was, and we end with “The Time of the Doctor” when all hell seems to be breaking loose.  There’s a lot of stuff going on in this trailer.  Weeping Angels, Cybermen, Daleks, the Silence, Trenzalor, and even mention of the Time War!  They’re throwing everything possible at the Doctor save a regenerated Master.  It’s going to be a lot of fun to watch.

And just to make sure you’re good an ready for a proper Doctor Who cryfest, BBC America will broadcast a Farewell to Matt Smith at 8 before the premier of The Time of the Doctor.

Ah, fuck. I seem to have got some dust in my eye or something.

Not crying. Nope. Not crying.

Randall_Macklin_(Earth-616)

A Blizzard Cometh

I kinda spaced out and forgot to do an episode review the Agent’s of S.H.I.E.L.D. mid season finale.  I thought it was pretty entertaining and you could probably just start watching the show from that episode and not have to suffer through the earlier ones like I did.  And it finally introduced a conflict worthy of the audience’s attention.  Coulson gets kidnapped.  Sorry. Spoiled it. Whatever.  You’re not watching it anyway.

So to entice us nerds to keep watching this thing, ABC and Marvel have announced that episode 12 which airs January 14 will feature a classic Marvel villain from Iron Man’s rogue’s gallery, the Blizzard.  Who looks liked this when he debuted:

The Ice Man cometh!

The Ice Man cometh!

Oooookaaaaay.

Sadly, this is the first time I’ve ever heard of the Blizzard.  I admit, my knowledge of the Marvel Universe is far from encyclopedic.  There are a shit ton of villains and heroes that I’ve never heard of.  So maybe there are nerds out there who might be excited to see the Blizzard in action.  I’m not sure I really care though and I don’t know if it will be enough to grab the attention of Avengers fans who only know the movie universe.

However, this is what he looks like in Iron Man: Armored Adventures:

I'm a badass ice cube tray!

I’m a badass ice cube tray!

Okay, that’s fucking badass.  And if that’s the version we’re going to get to see on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., sign me way the hell up!  I’m sad that the announcement didn’t come along with a screen shot so I have a sneaking suspicion that the Blizzard might end up being some dude in a trench-coat or some equally cheap wardrobe decision.  But if we get a man in a mech suit on television, fuck yeah!

From: Coming Soon

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