Monday, November 29, 2010

Initial Reaction to Young Justice

This was pretty much just an hour them repeating that they aren't sidekicks

In case you were wondering I’m thoroughly enjoying Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. It’s a good chunk into its first season and I can honestly say it’s one of the most entertaining Marvel cartoons I’ve ever seen…so far. I’ll be doing a season review once it wraps up though when that will be I have no idea. Fair’s fair though, so I figured I’d watch the premier of Young Justice and post some initial thoughts like I did with EMH last month. As I understand it this was the first two episodes, “Independence Day” parts 1 and 2. Obviously it’s hard not to draw comparisons to the Avengers cartoon but there’s an important difference between the two shows: technically EMH’s season premier was the sixth episode of the series where this one was the first. Character development as well as exploration of the world had already begun with EMH where in this cartoon everything starts here at once. As a result things felt more jumbled here. Anyway here’s some thoughts and notes I took while watching it.

-My sister says that Robin was stealing lines form 10 Things I Hate About You

-Speedy is a jerk. I hope we never see him again

-I like how the characters have distinct personalities, but where are the ladies?

-Zatara? Really? What is this, 1941?

-Dear DC Comics: Kid Flash is a horrible name. Please stop using it. Love, Beta

-Robin needs to lay off the jokes...for all our sakes

-BlAqulad’s powers sometimes seem a bit too much like Green Lantern. I guess that’s okay, there’s no “Teen Lantern” after all, but even so I think I’d prefer a power ring over “vague water powers”

-I should point this out while I’m thinking about it: the animation is great! It’s a more realistic style than the Avengers. I dig it a lot

-Robin calls Kid Flash “KF”? That’s not clunky and awkward at all

-Holy crap, Superboy is nothing like his comic book counterpart. Not even close

-Superboy is not only different he’s annoying. He’s like a teenage Wolverine with half-ass Superman powers

-This show is the opposite of Teen Titans cartoon in terms of structure,style, and tone. The lesson: be careful what you wish for

-I am not enthusiastic with the character design for Blockbuster

-Two Green Lanterns on the Justice League? Why?

-Hell yeah Captain Marvel!

-Seriously, go to hell Not-Suberboy. You’re awful

-Jesus Tap-dancing Christ on a Sofa, these main characters really seem to enjoy displaying how “rebellious” they are

-Red Tornado being here is so far the only thing that feels familiar to the original comic

-Let’s send teenagers on covert opts missions. I foresee no problems with this

-Why the hell was Miss Martian only introduced in the last two minutes of the episode? Why wasn’t there any female character along with the four guys running around on the adventure? Why do none of the female Justice League characters have any lines? I know a lot of character didn’t get lines but still this seemed like a Boy’s Club to me

Okay so after watching the premier episode I’m not particularly impressed. The animation is good and the dialogue is mostly without major problems (But minor glitches made me roll my eyes several times) and most importantly doesn’t feel like its talking down to its audience. However the characters are not very compelling and seem sort of flat. Robin is annoying with his Mary Sue-like ability with hacking (Which seems more like a Tim Drake thing rather than a Dick Grayson trait), BlAqualad doesn’t seem to actually have a personality and Not-Superboy is a rage fuel asshole that bares almost no resemblance to his comic book counterpart. The writers need to flesh out the cast big time but truthfully Justice League/Unlimited had a very similar problem with its season premier and that show ended up being fantastic so there’s no need to condemn anyone yet. However shame on the writers for apparently forgetting to add women to this episode. I can forgive the fact that despite seeing no less than three female members of the Justice League on screen none had any speaking lines but why did they decide they didn’t need Miss Martian to take part in the first adventure? With her traditional power set she would have been more useful than BlAqualad was. Or did we need more time flesh out Not-Superboy’s psychotic rage issues and thus couldn’t be bothered with a fifth member at this time? In any event there are some unfortunate implications there.

Bottom line is that this show didn’t exactly floor me with excitement. There are some pretty cool things about this show, and BlAqualad wasn’t the annoying problem I was worried he might be, but at the end of the day I was more bored than interested while watching the pilot, which was the opposite reaction I had with EMH. When the series starts proper in January I hope the kinks are worked out. Also the writers couldn’t have picked a worse personality to give to Not-Superboy. I’m sure he’ll be pissing me off all season long. The Avengers cartoon is officially winning the war.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Review: The Social Network

Facebook may or may not be evil and/or soulless. That’s beyond the scope of this review. For now let’s just agree that Mark Zuckerberg will happily sell the information on your profile and leave it at that. This is merely a review of The Social Network, which shouldn’t be taken as commentary on the website that no longer even bothers with the exclusivity this film’s characters brag about every couple of seconds.
Ahem. Anyway this movie is based on a supposed non-fiction book by Ben Mezrich called The Accidental Billionaires. Apparently no one from Facebook was involved in the film’s production, save Eduardo Saverin who was a consultant for the book. Which is good because we of course wouldn’t want to know Zuckerberg or Sean Parker’s sides of the story. It’s directed by David Fincher who also directed Fight Club which might be my favorite movie of all time. So that’s cool. This is my least favorite type of bio-flick: where the subject’s story is technically still unfolding. Ray or Walk the Line followed legendary figures whose most memorable years were behind them; the fate of Mark Zuckerberg and his Facebook is still being written. Why make a film right this second? The movie W. was a bio-film about George W. Bush despite the fact that he was still in office at the time and like this film it doesn’t seem to let a little thing like “bad timing” get into the way of telling a story. This is the first strike against The Social Network and we haven’t even actually started yet.
Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) is the worst type of nerd: an asshole with zero social skills. Still somehow the Harvard freshman managed to land a relationship with a cute girl named Erica (Rooney Mara), but she soon dumps him when he makes one unknowingly insulting comment too many. Quietly devastated Zuckerberg gets drunk, hacks into the various Harvard dorm databases, posts a really mean blog about his ex and makes a website that rates the attractiveness of nearly the entire female undergraduate roster in the span a just a few hours. While nearly the whole campus calls for his head three older students hope to recruit him into their own web project. None of them are aware that their actions during the next few months will drastically change the current direction of online communication and social interaction.
Apparently he raises adopted cats
Fame has truly gone to his head
There’s not a whole lot to say about this movie honestly. This seems to be one of what will soon seem like an endless line of Oscar bait films that will be extremely hit or miss and heatedly debated so there’s little point in getting into too much detail here. I enjoyed the narrative of the film, which is told in flashback by way of two separate depositions (Zuckerberg tends to get sued every so often, possibly because he’s a ruthless sociopath but possibly because he’s misunderstood). This results in an unreliable narrator indirectly telling us how Zuckerberg is the most evil and ambivalent monster in history. And boy is he depicted as a heartless monster. If you were on the fence about Facebook you will likely not only choose against signing up you will probably start thinking all your friends already on the site are simple minded sheep who are following a modern day pied piper…except with the internet…and the piper made a shit ton of money…and no died…not yet anyway.
In this case the film’s greatest strength is the cast. I don’t really like to admit such a thing but the casting director made some pretty badass choices to play the characters. Jesse Eisenberg, who may or may not be the original genetic source that resulted in the creation of Michael Cera, isn’t the most diverse actor in Hollywood but strikes gold here by playing Zuckerberg. I agree that he’s very solid in this role and that an Oscar nod isn’t out of the question, though I will be surprised if he were to win. Andrew Garfield was a pleasant surprise as Zuckerberg’s sexual assault victim original partner Eduardo Saverin. It’s surprising because I’ve never heard of this guys at all until recently because he’s playing Spider-Man in a forthcoming reboot film. However his sympathetic and grounded performance has finally sparked my interest in his future superhero movie so I have to give him credit. By the way, isn’t it funny that the only real sympathetic character in the movie also the only person to have anything to do with the original book? Obviously it’s a complete and utter coincidence and Hollywood has far too much integrity for such bias.
Rooney Mara plays the girl Erica though she didn’t really do enough to make me have a strong opinion on her performance. That said Mara will be playing the lead in an American remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo so I expect her to be filling me with rage in the very near future. The breakout role here is, of all people, Justin Timberlake. He is perfect as the scheming Napster creator and enemy of all record labels Sean Parker. He has the perfect blend of scummy, egomaniacal and pathetic; a range of character acting I assumed Timberlake was incapable of grasping. Seriously, the guy from ‘N Sync has no business being as good as he is in this film. I assume this is an after effect of Disney kidnapping an entire generation of child performers and forcing them learn all aspects of entertainment before being unleashed on an unsuspecting world.
Pictured: A possible future Oscar nominee
God help us all
Honestly the only negative thing I have to say about this film is that the ending is really more of a "Non-ending”. The movie doesn’t really reach a resolution, but that what happens when you make a film based on events that are still transpiring. Facebook is still getting bigger, growing ever larger and soon it will consume the entire internet. Perhaps Social Network II: The Squeakquel will cover the time where Mark Zuckerberg uses his growing influence with the American people to overturn the government and force the country into a socialist nightmare (Currently scheduled for 2015). That’ll be pretty good movie.
This is a fine movie and I wish I had more to say about it. Really it’s artistically good and it has few flaws. The actors were great, the characters were compelling, the structure was intriguing, the ending was non-existent; that’s pretty much all there was to it. I can say that as art this film needs a lot of credit, but unfortunately it didn’t leave me with a sense of wonder and endearment that I usually award a perfect score. However this is one of the best movies of 2010 and if you haven’t caught it yet you need to make sure you figure it out sooner than later because everyone should check it out while they can, since once Zuckerberg takes over the world it will likely be banned.
I give The Social Network 4 out 5 Adorable Pandas.

(Yes, I have a Facebook account. What of it?)
-Good characters
-A surprisingly good cast (Cry me a river)
-Unreliable narrator ensures that people will debate the content of this film forever
-The movies doesn’t end, it stops

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Anime Review: Black Blood Brothers

Black Blood Brothers was originally a Light Novel series just like Kaze no Stigma, Slayers and apparently half the anime that gets made today. Seriously if the number of children’s books in America got turned into cartoons with the rate that it happens in Japan Cartoon Network would actually have to play cartoons 24/7 again. The books were written by Kouhei Azano from 2004 to 2006. A 12 episode cartoon was produced by Studio Live and Group TAC in 2006 and licensed for America by FUNimtion Entertainment (Those guys again) and released starting in 2008. I had heard of this show when it came out but wasn’t able to discern it from another vampire anime that I had no interest in called Trinity Blood (Which was apparently based on a Light Novel series for a nice change of pace). I hesitated with this show because I tend to avoid vampire fiction since most of it these days seem to deal with vampires dating underage girls and no one calling it creepy, but I broke down and gave it a look because it was convenient to do so.
Ten years ago a Vampire Apocalypse was narrowly avoided when a coalition of vampires and humans banded together to defeat the Kawloon Children, a bloodline of highly, highly contagious vampires who attacked Hong Kong. The most celebrated of this heroic group was Jiro Mochizuki a particularly powerful vampire who apparently disappeared soon after the conflict. In present day Jiro has resurfaced, along with his ten year old vampire brother Kotaro, and is trying to make his way to the Special Economic Zone, a safe haven for vampires located in Japan and his arrival seems to have many up in arms over it. However it soon becomes clear that the two brothers are not the only ones trying to enter the city.
Despite the aviator goggles this is not a steam punk show
After watching this show I have to say that it is hard not to draw comparisons to the original Hellsing anime from 2001. Both are shorter series (Hellsing was thirteen episodes to BBB’s twelve), both deal with vampires fighting other vampires and both leads are extremely powerful creatures in a red coat and a cool hat. However I think it’s fair to say that BBB is a softer counterpart to the dark setting of Hellsing. Everything is brighter here, just about every character is considerably friendlier and/or more emotionally stable, and comedy tends to rear its head pretty often. Plus with Hellsing the anime lost its footing around the halfway mark and never really recovered while here it stays fun all the way through. Also Hellsing’s music had a lot of bass driven hard rock which helped give the show a unique tone. BBB’s music has more of an orchestra feel to it; both styles have their merits. I should mention that I found the ending song used in BBB’s credits, 'Shinkirou' by LOVEHOLIC, to be hauntingly beautiful which is something I’ll never say about the crap Hellsing used in its credits.
I liked the setting depicted in this series a lot. I thought a lot of the ideas presented about a world where vampires and humans co-exist to be fun and original (Or at least it was original to me). At least co-exist outside of the whole “brooding by moonlight” stuff in, say, True Blood; which, by the way, is less a TV show and more a weekly excuse to see Anna Paquin’s boobs. That’s right, I said it. Anyway the show was able to balance between being more lighthearted than some of its contemporaries while regularly dipping into darker regions when the plot called for it. I thought that separating vampires into different blood-lines was a clever call as it allows different types of vampires with different powers and weaknesses to be represented in this show with nothing looking out of place. The vampire mythology was far more intriguing than it was annoying which is more than a lot of series can say these days. However on the downside (For me at least) most vampires in fiction are either embodiments of, or metaphors for, sex and BBB is no different. In this case being bitten by a vampire is, *ahem*, a pleasurable experience. I mean really pleasurable. I mean it’s in “I’ll have what’s she’s having” territory. Good for them, I guess, but I for one was feeling a little bit uncomfortable with the whole thing. Then again what the hell was I doing watching anything about vampires and then being surprised about sexuality being addressed? That’s like going to a movie theater and being shocked and appalled that the popcorn costs more than the ticket; you knew it as coming so stop pretending to be surprised.
Don't worry, Kotaro
You're too adorable to be a sex metaphor
The show is very action packed and the fight scenes tend to be pretty fast paced, which I always enjoy. I also really dug the art style. I don’t normally celebrate artwork but I thought that the animation flowed nicely and looked top notch all the way through the show’s end and the character designs were (Mostly) unique and detailed. This was a very pretty show. I have assume that, with a lower episode count, the art budget wasn’t as thinned out as has seemingly been the case with a few of the other shows I’ve reviewed. Speaking of the low episode counts this show works with what is has very well. The plot doesn’t really slow down, but also doesn’t sacrifice character scenes in the process. It completely lacks the feeling of being padded with superfluous crap that so many of these other anime have been plague with. As they only had 12 episodes to tell a story, rather than 24-26 or even 50, they couldn’t waste time on that extra filler that producers tend to throw in to make their episode quota. In a lot of ways Black Blood Brothers feels like a very long film rather than a TV show and I mean that as a compliment.
The characters featured in the show are not the best ensemble, but that has a lot to do with the show’s real problem. As it is most of the characters seemed potentially interesting but we only have time to focus on a few of them. Jiro comes off very different from the “anti-hero” protagonist I’m used to in this sort of show as he’s friendly and happy to help others so long as it doesn’t conflict with his protection of his brother. He has a lot reason to be the brooding type but for the most part he doesn’t let it take over his personality. Kotaro manages by way of a miracle to not annoy me as much as the little kid character could have potentially done. He seemed more adorable to me than anything else. Most of the rest of the cast are shown to either have cool designs or clearly show shades of being badass, but there is no time to ever really get to know any of them. For example the Dark Princess of the North shows up for maybe a minute or two, is implied to be very powerful, and then is never seen again afterwards (Though she’s mentioned). I assumed that having showed up early in the show she would have played a major role during the show’s climax. That was an incorrect assumption.
Hey, this guy looks cool
Too bad he doesn't do much besides "looking cool"
Presumably the lack of character development for the supporting cast was due to two major reasons: #1) There just wasn’t enough time to go into depth with everyone, but even so they do a pretty decent job with what they have. #2) the characters were written as if they were being introduced but would get characterized a bit more in later stories. I assume this TV show is more or less adapted from the first Black Blood Brothers novel so it’s only natural for themes, ideas and characters to make appearances here and gradually become more detailed as the series continues. The problem is that, as far as I’m aware, there aren’t any new BBB shows being produced! Which is a damn shame because the ending, while more or less fine, finishes the story by setting up a status quo that obviously is meant to set-up the further adventures of the three main characters. That’s all well and good for the first in a series of books or pilot for a TV show but there is no more of the anime after episode 12 and it feels like a disappointing cliffhanger! In fact truth be told the entire show almost seems like a commercial for the know, books that are unavailable in America. Combined with the large amount of back-story that it feels like we’re missing the whole thing is pretty frustrating from a viewer’s point of view.
That right there is one of the major problems with trying to watch a Japanese television program as a foreign viewer. Chances are extremely good that BBB’s anime adaption was something of a device to garner more interest in the books, that sort of thing isn’t uncommon even here in America (SEE: Every cartoon produced by Marvel Comics ever) but an average Japanese viewer can easily go to their local book store: I can’t. This seriously hurts my enjoyment of the series because there’s clearly a greater story waiting to be told in the cartoon that never really comes to fruition here. I despise having to be faced with what feels like missing plots only to be told that the information is listed in something apart from the work I’m looking at, but it becomes downright depressing when I don’t have access to those plot points at all.
This isn’t really a minor complaint since it made me punch a hole in my wall in anger when the show ended, but even with that in mind what we do have is still very good stuff. The action is good, the world is interesting, and the characters are fun and have cool designs even if most of them don’t get to do a whole lot. The fact is that it if any anime needed a sequel it’s this one but it’s hard to say if such a thing will happen or not. I don’t want to call this a good “vampire anime” because I believe, with no sense of irony, that this was a good anime that happened to involve vampires. If you like vampires Black Blood Brothers is a must see. If you hate them then it’s unlikely anything in the show will be able to change your opinion since, while very good, the series isn’t genre defining by any means. Still I think that this cartoon is a worthy addition to any anime collection and that Jiro Mochizuki is a protagonist who could theoretically stand alongside the likes of Vash the Stampede and Spike Spiegel and not look out of place.
Pictured: Proof that the character designs weren't all unique
Despite being somewhat burned out on vampires I give Black Blood Brothers 4 Adorable Pandas out of 5

-Great action
-Good artwork, animation and character designs
-Intriguing story makes it hard to turn off
-The show feels very incomplete

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Batman Versus II

After several months of being idle it's time once again to play the greatest game ever created: Batman Versus.

Batman is the only non-powered superhero to be "too powerful"

For those of you who have forgotten or are new readers who don’t like looking at the archives Batman Versus is a fun variation of the “Who Would Win in a Fight?” discussion. We (And by “we” I mean “nerds”) all know that Batman can’t be defeated by anyone; that’s just common sense. The Dark Knight can pretty much overcome anyone given enough prep time (Or so the saying goes). Let’s assume that’s not just fanboyish nonsense; in this game you must explain how Batman defeats his opponent.

Here’s how it works: The first player challenges the second player to explain how Batman defeats someone or something. It needs to be an organic and natural explanation or else it won’t count. The first player and the judge decide if the theory is sound. The Judge has final say whether the explanation was satisfactory. Players One and Two then switch roles.

[WARNING: Because she is the most powerful creature in the multiverse using Squirrel Girl is grounds for disqualification because to suggest that even Batman could defeat her, regardless of preparation time, is laughable. Also trying to initiate a “Batman Vs. Batman” scenario is also prohibited as it could create a paradox that may cause a chain reaction that will destroy the universe. Although the damage may just be limited to our own galaxy you should still not take the chance.]

Here are some more examples to help you get started:

Batman Versus Spider-Man: Perhaps Bruce Wayne subscribes to the Daily Bugle. Perhaps J. Jonah Jameson was a close friend of Thomas Wayne and Bruce knows him very well. Maybe he doesn’t take kindly to superheroes who make self-serving deals with the devil are young, hip and single. Whatever the case Batman seems to think that Spider-Man is menace rather than a hero and has to take him down. Tell me how he does.

Are...are they about to kiss?

Difficulty: Beginner. It’s just a superhero fight after all

Batman Versus Doctor Doom: In a lot ways Doctor Doom is what Batman would be like if he was evil and Eastern European. Can the Dark Knight defeat a foe with an intelligence and preparation time a match for his own? Obviously yes, but how?!

Difficulty: Easy, but might still run the risk of creating a paradox

Batman Versus The Klingon Empire: James T. Kirk has dropped the ball in regards to this proud warrior race problem one time too many so now it’s up to Batman to clean up the mess once and for all. Since Klingons aren’t really a superstitious and cowardly lot could this be the final curtain call for the Caped Crusader? Nope, he defeats their entire civilization.

"Is Gowron gonna have to cut a bitch?"

Difficulty: Moderate. After the battle Batman is known as “Bruce the Unforgettable” from then on (Have I mentioned I’m a big Star Trek geek?)

Batman Versus Dinotopia: Who the hell do these overgrown lizards think they are, walking the streets like they own them? Technically “Dinotopia” means “terrible place” so you know that there’s some gun running or drug trafficking going on. So it’s up to Batman to bring their society down for good!

Pictured: A prefect depiction of what went on in Dinotopia

Difficulty: Moderate. Incidentally I imagine the plot of such a crossover could be similar The Dark Knight Returns, except instead of fighting Superman in the final issue he fights Moon-Boy and Devil Dinosaur.

Batman Versus The Linear Flow of Time: Unfortunately Lois Lane has been killed in an earthquake and Superman is nowhere to be found. Batman needs to go back mere minutes in time to prevent her death but the Laws of Physics stand in the way. How does he do it?

Hopefully this fight involves Batman punching out Newton

Difficulty: Expert, but mainly because I didn’t take physics in High School or in College.

If you have any one has any responses to any of these challenges feel free to post them in the comment section or e-mail it to me.

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