Friday, September 29, 2006

Joe Mathlete Explains Today's Marmaduke

Joe Mathlete Explains Today's Marmaduke and I can't think of a single pithy comment to add to it. Just check it out.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

My Roleplaying Purity Score (take 2)

I did this one a while back. Note the slight differences:

Ultimate Roleplaying Purity Score
CategoryYour ScoreAverage
Enjoys the occasional head-lopping
Sensitive Roleplaying58.23%
"But what's my motivation for this scene?"
GM Experience72.46%
Ran a module once or twice
Systems Knowledge77.4%
Local rules guru
Livin' La Vida Dorka57.47%
Has interesting conversations in public
You are 67.01% pure
Average Score: 68.8%
Take The Ultimate Roleplaying Purity Test
and see how you match up!

(By The Ferrett)
So, yes Mary, I have gotten geekier. (Just less publically geeky.)

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Quote of the ______

"Sometimes my responsible anarchism and pacifistic nilhism really play against the raging reactionary inside me."

-Me, from here.
(Man, I can be full of crap sometimes. Although that may have been intentional.)


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Here it comes

So, I've now had my first hit linked directly to the review below. I've been editing the review live today, so it's now close to being what I want it to be. I'm going to add one last clarification to the review, and that will be it. What I'm about to say isn't for the majority of you, as you're mature enough not to take comments on a film you like personally, it's for the juvenile cretins that linger on certain message boards who are threatened when people's opinions differ from their own.

If you don't agree with my review, that's fine. I just don't want to hear about the errors of my way, I don't want to get flooded with e-mail explaining why my opinion is wrong, and I definitely don't want to get monosyllabic support for it. If you want to counter my review, write your own and post it to your own blog or any one of the various kaiju fan sites out there. It's your opinion, and it's just as unimportant as mine.

If you believe that Gojira is the best film ever produced, then more power to you. I don't, but that's really not important.

The truth of the matter is that, in time, my opinion might just change. The reality might just be that all the fan hype has soured the film for me just like it has soured my opinion of fandom in general. (ie. the whole 'fandumb' thing.) In time, I may just find the film to be the classic that people say it is, but that time is not now.

One day, I may just pop in the DVD and 'get it' in a way that I didn't today. It might not happen either, to be fair, but if it does happen... it happens. I'm not going to lose any sleep over it, and I frankly hope that none of you do either. Like I said, my opinion is unimportant to your enjoyment of the movie. If it were, then I seriously suggest some therapy, as I really shouldn't matter at all.

In closing, Gojira was an inarguable milestone in film history, but it was one that I didn't happen to like, and the world won't end because of it. That said, I'm once again not going to allow comments, as I know there'll be some idiot out there that just wants to flame me, and I refuse to reward asshattery.

King of the Monsters

Okay, I'm going to get lynched for this one. I'm going to get hate mail, so I'm going to shut off the comments for this one. I just don't want to hear about it.

Before I start, though, here's the trailer for the recent North American release:

So, the original uncut Gojira, eh?

This is a sacred cow to many geeks, and probably should be for someone who loves kaiju movies like myself.

Well... nope. This is a not a particularly good movie, nor a particularly terrible one either, but it is an amazing achievement for it's role in the expansion of Japanese cinema. I'm a little more fair about the film than Ebert was, but at the same time, he's got it right on a few key points.

I'm not going to describe the plot, as you're probably well aware of it. Even if you haven't seen a Godzilla movie, you know the plot: Monster attacks Japanese city. Military counter-attacks. Scientist uses pseudo-science to save the day. The End. (There's also: Evil monster attacks. Military counter-attacks. Good monster shows up. Military confuses good monster for evil monster. Kenny does something. Good monster fights evil monster. Kenny cheers. The End.)

I'm also not going to comment on the quality of the special effects, as this film was the origin of the suitmation style of shooting FX movies. Yes, the effects are pretty crude, but at the same time, almost all FX were crude at the time. Even the classic George Pal version of War of the Worlds, which won the Academy award for FX, was pretty chintzy. Gojira didn't have the FX budget that War of the Worlds did, and it unfortunately shows. At the same time, it does work for the film, which is almost black for most of the night scenes and hides the short-comings of the FX work. (Now, whether or not it's supposed to be that dark is left to be explained.) It should also be pointed out that, despite the comparison to the bigger budget Hollywood movie, this film was one of the most expensive Japanese films at the time, and it shouldn't be seen as just a cheap creature feature.

I'm also not going to comment on the anti-Nuclear elements of the film. It is a very political film, and was probably one of the biggest anti-Nuclear films of the time period. As Ebert states in his review "properly decoded, [it] was the "Fahrenheit 9/11" of its time." It does take a decidedly sober look at the effects of nuclear testing, and does draw an almost direct link to the Daigo Fukuryƫ Maru (Lucky Dragon No. 5) incident. The only comment I'm going to make is that this line of commentary in the film is about as ham-fisted as it comes. There's little subtlety here at all folks.

All of that is film history, and it doesn't really affect the film's quality either way. Many argue that the high mindedness of the film directly equates to quality, but it unfortunately does not. I'll be the first to say that the message that the film gives is an important one, but at the same time, it's where the issues begin. If the film weren't so high-minded, it would be easier to overlook the other issues as just something out of a B-movie. The same sort of issues plague the 2001 G-flick, Godzilla/Mothra/King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack, which is another high minded film that gets tripped up in it's own absurdity.

What I'm going to comment on is the seeming ineptitude of the film-making process itself. The story is borderline ridiculous, the science is wrong (even for its time period), and the majority of the characters are pretty two-dimensional. It's obvious that this was an early film for director Ishiro Honda, as far too much of the film's background is relegated to bouts of exposition, and scant little of it is actually shown on the screen. In his later films, he generally avoided this issue, or at least managed to balance it much better, but in this outing it was a little too thick.

Basically, with Gojira, Honda broke the first rule of film-making: show, don't tell. The commentary leads one to believe that this is just how films were made in Japan, but the two other major Japanese films released at the time, Miyamoto Musashi and Seven Samurai, illustrate otherwise. What makes this so unforgivable is that the dialogue points out things that the direction should. For example, the entire love triangle between Emiko, Ogata, and Serizawa is nearly invisible until it's pointed out in exposition. For that matter, the character of Serizawa is introduced through exposition after he silently stands in a crowd.

There's also the issue of the characters themselves, and the lack of any character development. Even veteran actor Takashi Shimura, who played the lead in Kurosawa's Seven Samurai, can't even rise beyond the writing. His character is very passionate, he performance is fine, but he just spouts pseudo-scientific gibberish. At the same time, his performance does rise above the rest of the cast, and he always comes off with understated grace. The worst off is Akihiko Hirata, who portrayed the tortured Dr. Serizawa, as his pivotal character is reduced to a one-note caricature. It's not the fault of Hirata, but it is the fault of the screenplay and the direction.

In one of the featurettes there is mention that there may have been a flashback scene that never made it to the film that illustrated the relationship between Emiko and Serizawa, and another scene that had the main cast sharing a car ride. These scenes would have added much depth to the character, and would have made the character that much more tragic of a figure. What we're left with is a brooding, mad-scientist type in an eye-patch whose own personal tragedy is only referred to in passing during another bout of exposition. The only scene that illustrates Serizawa's character without exposition is the scene where he's introduced. He stands silently in a crowd of people, looking alone, and which is probably one of the more artful scenes in the entire first hour of the film.

The rest of main cast is bland, which is sad, as they're actually billed as the leads. The character of Emiko Yamane, played by Momoko Kochi, is more of a catalyst than a character. She's the typical 50s daughter of the scientist, and love interest of the male lead. There's not much depth to the character besides being in the middle of the love triangle. The other point in the triangle is Ogata, played by Akira Takarada, and he's about as non-descript as Emiko. He's the handsome, young rugged Navy man... and that's about it. There really is no purpose in the film for him except as part of the weak triangle, and to help Serizawa at the end. That's it.

The other major issue with the film is the big G himself, and the absolute lack of motivation for his rampage. In the original screenplay, he was searching for food. In the film, it's never established why he decides to come ashore in Tokyo and level it. The commentary says that it's to show that Godzilla is an indiscriminate killer who just destroys everything in his path, which is all well and good, but there is never an explanation as to why he does this. Yes, there's the whole nuclear bomb metaphor, but there was actual motivation behind the bomb. Godzilla? Not so much. There's implications that he's just angry, made by the commentators, but it's never really answered in the film. The commentary felt like fanwankery at times, at least for me, in that they just seem to assume things to make what happens on the screen seem better than it really is.

I should point out, in all fairness, that the commentary is otherwise excellent. Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszweski know their stuff better than most do, far better than I, and it was a treat to listen to them even if I wasn't as enthusiastic about the source material that they obviously are. I'm looking forward to their commentaries on the upcoming discs from Classic Media, as I at least know that I like those films.

As I type this, I've got the movie running behind me, for the second time, with the commentary on. What's just passed is the scene where the news crew in the tower is killed when Godzilla topples the tower. This is one of the more idiotic scenes of the film, as the crew continues reporting as Godzilla rends the tower in his teeth and claws. The reality would be that the newsmen would've long ran for their lives, as no reporter in the world is that dedicated enough to their craft to pointlessly give their lives for it. It's scenes like this that ruin the mood for me, destroying my suspension of disbelief, and take the film into the realm of Ebert's "stupendous idiocy."

Now here's where I'm going to change my tune. After the destruction of Tokyo, Honda captures the devastation with great sobriety and compassion, and these few scenes bring what depth there is to the film. I suppose these are the scenes that are the most personal to the director, Ishiro Honda, as he saw the devastation of Hiroshima first hand and, as the son of a Buddhist monk, was greatly touched by it. The somber and haunting moments in the final act of the film are what people tend to remember about the film, and it is very difficult not be moved in some way.

This is where my largest issue is with the movie. The first two acts almost completely undermine the final act, and the final act deserves a better lead-in to what it has. The blasphemy I'm about to speak is that this movie needs a remake to correct the errors of it's way. The film needs to have a serious opening in order for the final act to earn the power it shows, and it doesn't have that. This is probably also what makes the 1998 American Godzilla film that much less palatable, in that it sheds any level of sobriety to make it a summer popcorn movie.

As for the DVD itself: it's nicely packaged, the menus are great, the features are nice, but the remastered video is borderline terrible. The contrast and brightness is spotty, at best. The night scenes are almost impossible to see at times, and since the issues don't occur in the US version, it's most assuredly a problem with the transfer itself. There's also the poor font choice for the subtitles, which is one that's so thin that it gets lost if there's any high contrast detail behind it. Mind you, at around 20 bucks, it's still worth the price.

I really, really wanted to like this movie, but I can't. It is, however, a piece of film history and deserves respect for that. So, with a heavy heart, I'm giving it a **.5 out of ****.

Rock 'n' Roll!!!!

Okay, you're going to have to bear with me on this one, as I'm going to attempt to describe the indescribable. First off, here's a Guitar Wolf video for the song "All Through the Night Buttobase!!" which features behind the scenes shots of the movie I'm about to attempt to review, Wild Zero. (It's not particularly work safe as it has scenes of minor zombie gore.)

So, Wild Zero, eh?

Basically, the only way to describe this movie is that it's Rock'n'Roll High School meets Plan Nine from Outer Space meets Evil Dead 2 meets Night of the Living Dead meets Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

I'll let you try to take all that in, as I know it's a lot to comprehend in one sentence.

Basically, what we have is an indie horror, SF, comedy, action, romance vehicle for the Japanese punk band, Guitar Wolf, who are essentially a cartoonier version of the Ramones mixed with early Joan Jett. (I'd say the Jesus & Mary Chain as well, but they've never been listed as an influence.) Feedback and distortion with a 4/4 beat in a 3 minute package is what we're talking about.

Basically, aliens are invading and using zombies to do it. Ace, our protagonist, is caught up in this plot and calls in his heroes, Guitar Wolf, to save the day. Also involved are his love interest Tobio (who has a not-so-secret secret, if you pay attention), a pair of losers in love, an arms dealer, and a manager/promoter with a massively homicidal grudge against the band.

The one thing I can describe to explain this all would unfortunately be a spoiler for the end of the movie. Let's just say that it involves a guitar, a katana, and the alien mothership. The next best thing would be jet power.

Yes, jet power.

We have motorcycles that spew flames, we have cars that spew flames, and we even have a mic that spews flames. We also have CG exploding heads, guitar pick energy shuriken (don't ask), and puppy love. (Thankfully, that part doesn't involve actual puppies, or any other sort of unnatural acts involving animals.) Also, there's the kick ass garage punk soundtrack that never ends, and adds Dick Dale to mix. As you know, like monkeys, everything's better with Dick Dale's surf guitar.

Wild Zero is a movie that will polarize, and that's probably an understatement. It goes places that you'd never expect, and it does things that just don't make sense in any rational sense of the word. That's not to say that this is an incoherent mess, as that would be far too easy. This film is an exercise is pure controlled chaos, and it succeeds in a mighty way.

That said, don't go into this movie expecting to like it, as it's just not one of those types of movies. It's intelligently stupid, and maturely juvenile. It goes out of its way to be odd, stylish, and, well, 'rock'n'roll'. It's about as alternative a movie can get without leaving the mainstream, but at the same time, I'm not even remotely sure this movie is mainstream.

I knew this was going to happen.

I knew I couldn't form a coherent review for the movie that I've watched twice in past 24 hours.

What I do know is that I'm giving it *** out ****.


(My next review will be of the original Gojira, and probably the American version as well, but first I sleep.)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Final thought for the day

I think that I'm going to buy a Nintendo DS by the end of the year. If only to play Final Fantasy III on it. (Although, I think I'll be getting those Final Fantasy GBA remakes as well.)

Siskel & Ebert between takes

This becomes some pretty funny stuff, but it's not work safe. Oh, the language out of these two. Also, it's 12 minutes long.

Speaking of media....

The lack of updates is due to illness, so it's a late media rundown.

Watching: My continuing Kaiju-fest (feat. Godzilla: Tokyo SOS, Varan the Unbelievable, Space Amoeba, Dogora, The Mysterians, Godzilla vs. Gigan, and Godzilla vs. Hedorah), District 13, Seven Grandmasters, Red-Wolf, Legend of the Wolf (aka The New Big Boss... and well, it's an attempted to, as it's pretty damn bad), Danger: Diabolik!, House of Fury, half of Dark Angel season 2, a few episodes of Gundam Wing, and the most recent episodes of Stargate SG-1, Stargate: Atlantis, and The Venture Bros.
Listening (to): Not much of anything, really.
Reading: Same here.
Playing: Shadow of the Colossus, Splinter Cell, and Final Fantasy X.


The Association for Media Literacy

I've just learned that John Pungente, of Scanning the Movies fame, is a member of The Association for Media Literacy which promotes media literacy. (Obviously...)

I found this article quite interesting, once you get past the anti-Right wing mud slinging. Basically, it tries to explain why media literacy is imporant, and questions why institutes like the Fraser Institute are against it.

Even though I'm not an educator, I'm actually giving the idea of membership in the group some serious thought. (Probably can't, though.)

Well, let's make it public

For those of you who are just joining us because that the site shows up in the recently updated list, I apologise as you're just not going to get this.

For the rest, I'm cutting Skarka loose. His ironically hypocritical ranting has finally worn thin, his kneejerkiness is annoying, and his raging ego isn't as funny as it used to be. His Livejournal's not going to get any more spectators from here.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Happy Boldly Going, or Going Boldly, or whatever... ???

Um, yeah, anywho...

Happy 40th Anniversary to Star Trek!

(And I found the image on the net.)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Study shows that study results are often misleading

From MSN/Sympatico:

Nun Study Counters Notion of 'God Spot' in Brain

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 30 (HealthDay News) - High-tech MRIs of the brains of a group of nuns suggest there is no single so-called "God spot" in the brain.

Nun Study Counters Notion of 'God Spot' in Brain

Instead, mystical experiences appear to involve a number of brain regions and systems that normally control a variety of functions, including self-consciousness, emotion and body representation, said a Canadian team at the Universite de Montreal.

Their findings were published in the current issue of Neuroscience Letters.

The researchers conducted real-time functional MRI (fMRI) brain scans on 15 cloistered Carmelite nuns, aged 23 to 64. During the brain scan, each nun was asked to relive a mystical experience, rather than to actually attempt to achieve one.

"I was obliged to do it this way, seeing as the nuns are unable to call upon God at will," Dr. Mario Beauregard, of the department of psychology, said in a prepared statement.

The results showed that a dozen different regions of the brain were activated when the nuns relived a mystical experience. The finding contradicts previous research that suggested that a specific brain region may be designed for communication with God.

This counter-study negates itself, as it's really just a study of memory. It's not like the nuns were actually having religious experiences, they were just recalling them.

Monday, September 04, 2006

So, the Spanish hoaxers are at it again.

Take a look at this:

Far too intentional to be real. Creepy, though.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Speaking ill of the dead

Way back, in the lost days of ds2.0, I talked about UFOlogy and professional skepticism in regards to an article about how most reports of alien abductions are from people who could be called "believers". At that time I mentioned a professional skeptic by the name of Philip Klass, who I probably described as arrogant and obnoxious.

Well, here's an example.

He took it upon himself to inform the NRC in 1980 of Stanton Friedman's emigration to Canada, and took pot shots at his character. (For the record, I'm not exactly Friedman's biggest fan, but I wouldn't do anything this obnoxious.)

Meme of the ______ : Silent Library

From Youtube (where else?) comes a clip from a Jackass style Japanese TV show. The clip is called Silent Library, and you'll get the gist of what's going on after a minute or two, and it's pretty damn funny. Also, the big black guy is K-1 championship kickboxer Ernesto Hoost.