Monday, August 16, 2010

JUSTIFIED: A Good Excuse to Watch Timothy Olephant Being Generally Awesome...

I don't have cable. That seems to shock a lot of people, but over the last few years, my viewing habits have changed; I'm just to busy to keep to TV's immutable schedule, and beyond that... there is just not that much I want to watch anymore. Most of what's on Television fails to do the only two things I require of it: interest me, or entertain me. Thankfully I have doting parents with a PVR and a DVD recorder, so I can request the very few things that do succeed in accomplishing one or both of those goals.

Which brings me to JUSTIFIED, an FX original series showcasing one of my favorite actors doing what he does best; playing the baddest Sheriff in a bad town!

JUSTIFIED follows the life of Raylan Givens, a US Marshall who is forced to return to his hometown of Harlan, Kentucky, after he kills a drug dealer, in what he describes as a 'Justified' shooting in Florida. Returning to Harlan seriously complicates Deputy Marshall Given's life as he worked really hard to get OUT of Harlan, and away from his past, which inevitably comes back to haunt him.

Now, while I enjoy the show, it's not high art; but neither is it aspiring to be. This isn't DEADWOOD or THE SOPRANOS. There's not much subtext to the show, nor does it aspire to impart some sort of wisdom or message through an overarching theme. Quite frankly, the only thing that separates this from it's formulaic Network equivalent, is better writing, acting, and the well timed use of my two favorite words; 'shit' and 'fuck.' JUSTIFIED is a mostly by the book police procedural; every week there is some kind of crime, which Marshall Given's investigates, and solves by the end of the episode. No, JUSTIFIED isn't aspiring to be high art; it's aspiring to be a solidly entertaining and compelling television drama.

Unlike most Network police procedurals, though, there is continuity and subplots that career through each episode, and a over arching plot that is followed through on throughout the season, involving a family that is basically a redneck mafia, who, despite their lowbrow command of the English language and stereotypically hillbilly-ish appearance, are experts at squeaking by the law.

The show is set in the deep South, but unlike most things set in the south by a Southern creator, there is no romanticism, of good ol' boys playing banjo's on the porch and tipping their hats as the Southern Belle's sashay on by. Harlan County is portrayed as something of a crime ridden cesspool; a powder keg ready to explode as races, religions, and feuding families clash and confront each other. White Power pricks spout off about blowing up Synagogues, and how their favorite past time is beating up any person of color that they come in contact with. One of the shows recurring 'villain's' goes to jail and 'finds the Lord', only to use the Word to justify his criminal activities and build a cult of loyal followers around himself as he makes moves to take over his Father's lucrative drug trade, and possibly rape his dead brother's widow. The bad guys are bad, and there's plenty of them to go around in Harlan County. Which is why I think the show works so well for me.

JUSTIFIED, to me, is basically an attempt to modernize the classic Western paradigm and bring it to the 20th Century. It's morality is mostly black and white; there's no mistaking your white hats from your black hats, and they carry on the tradition of the family of criminals that seek revenge on the Sheriff that stands as the only law in town. Raylen Given's justice, from his perspective, is just as clear cut; he'll never shot a man in cold blood, but he has no problem out-drawing any sonbitch that draws on him first, and will sleep just as soundly at night.

That's not to say that show is entirely clear cut, black and white though; which is were the modernization of the Western paradigm comes in. In our modern, gray shaded world, there's no room for a man whose morality is so clearly defined as good VS bad; there are consequences for even a so called 'justified' shooting, and it's also unclear as to just HOW justified Raylen was.

Raylan Given's is a complex and textured character. Calm and collected on the surface, superficially he comes across as a man of unwavering moral fiber, and a clear and concise code of conduct, who follows the letter of the law. But underneath that upright exterior is a boiling cauldron of repressed rage. As his past is slowly revealed, you begin to realize that his motivations in becoming a US Marshall are probably not entirely pure, but rather borne out of spite and petty hatred for his career criminal of a Father, and his apparent disdain for his own perceived destiny to follow in those footsteps.

Timothy Olephant is quite masterful at playing this kind of character; Raylan Given's could almost be considered a descendant of Seth Bullock, his breakthrough character from DEADWOOD (still my favorite TV show of all time, even after FIVE viewings). His instincts are fantastic, and he manages to be both charming and frightening on cue. Raylan Given's is a conflicted and sometimes violent man, who often loses patience with the very system he professes to believe in, often taking the Law into his own hands, bypassing the proper channels to threaten, bully, and beat anyone that crosses him or his, while struggling against the Authority that he serves. His judgment, while often logical and concise, is fallible, and easily compromised by his emotions.

Despite all his various failings, though, Marshall Given's is not an unsympathetic or unlikable character. He's charming, quick witted, and funny (I enjoy those Southern expressions, like a retard farting in a bathtub, I do!). He has an utter disdain for any sort of racial or religious intolerance, or any other kind of general ignorance, and is often frustrated by the ignorance of the people in his hometown, but at the same time, sympathetic, as he knows how easy it is to be trapped by that same blissful ignorance in a small town.

JUSTIFIED isn't the greatest thing to ever be on TV, but it far better than most of the crap that gets on the air, and, really, it's mostly just a vehicle for a good actor and rising star to do what he does best. You're really just watching the show to watch Timothy Olephant be a Southern Bad-Ass, because he's so damned GOOD at it, and, frankly, that's all you can really ask for.

JUSTIFIED is smart, well produced, entertainment, starring one of my favorite actors, doing what he does best; keeping me interested and entertained.

Friday, August 6, 2010


Just throwing this out there because I'd feel like an asshole if I didn't at least attempt to express my thanks.


To: Mae Whitman

Re: Thank you for the (indirect) Autograph and Note

My cool gay friend Chris, upon who Scott Pilgrim's cool gay friend Wallace is the basis, got your autograph for me today, and that was super cool. If this digital message in a bottle ever finds it's way to you, I really and truly appreciate it, as it is now the coolest scrap of paper I own, and I'd never have asked you myself, because I can't bring myself to bother people.

Thanks for being super cool!

Derek Halliday


If Lady Ga-Ga is right, every celebrity Google's themselves at least once, so...

GO INTERNET! Work your astounding scientific nonsense and deliver my message in some ludicrously roundabout way.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

SCOTT PILGRIM vs THE WORLD: The Muthafucking Trailer, Bitches.

I'm going to have to clean my apartment this weekend, after having exploded my nerd-wad all over it, HA HA HA!

Seriously though, after, like, two years of anticipation, and months of wondering when the fuck a trailer would come out, this TOTALLY exceeded my expectations... well, at least visually. As a trailer, I feel like this was more of a teaser trailer and didn't really give you much information on what the movie is actually about beyond the premise; but it does promise spectacular fights, romance, comedy, and just shit that you've ever seen before in a movie. There are some great sight gags in the trailer (the "Get's-It" meter is my favorite), that really seem in keeping with the spirit of the book. I had no idea what Edgar Wright's concept for this movie was going to be, much less how he'd pull it off, but I did know that he would be the guy to do it. This is beyond promising.

Cast looks good... May Whitman is well cast; excited about that. I wasn't feeling Micheal Cera before... I like him, but I've never seen him play a dude with confidence, however misplaced, but now I just look like an asshole; he kills it up in this trailer. The dude stepped up.

Overall... I'm stoked. Ravenous with anticipation and my characteristic impatience. Fuck does August seem a long ways away...

Monday, March 8, 2010

PONYO ON THE CLIFF BY THE SEA: When Did We Become so Cynical?

Through a series of events I don't need to go into, I ended up seeing Miyazaki's newest movie twice in the same month, and now own the DVD... which is a given since I love Studio Ghibli and Miyazaki-Sensei's in particular.

So what to say about PONYO ON THE CLIFF BY THE SEA...

Well, first off, I greatly enjoyed the film; I can't say it's my favorite film Hyao Miyazaki has directed, but, then, this film wasn't FOR me; which I guess is why I'm a little taken aback by the reception it got among the people I've talked to who have seen it (except for Chris Butcher, who knows how to watch him some children's movies!).

PONYO ON THE CLIFF BY THE SEA is one of the only movies I've seen in recent memory that is explicitly for children. I mean, like, pre-school to grade 4. That's not to say it's pandering, or talking down, or without substance; I find it's themes of social and ecological responsibility to be as relevant and subtextural as any other Miyazaki movie; maybe even a little less obvious than past movies, which really hit you over the head with the enviromental issues, while PONYO chooses to comment without preaching or lingering.

So what is it that brings the cynic out in the Miyazaki loving adults that watch this movie? I believe that it's because it's a film without any direct conflict. While the stakes may be high, there's no real sense of threat or menace, nor even a real villain in the movie. In fact, most all of the characters are charming and likable; even the most unlikeable character, PONYO'S father, Fujimoto, is still a very sympathetic character (frankly, he's my favorite in the movie, what with his Tezuka style nose, and big, crazy, Tim Burton-esque red hair, and Doctor Suess-ish machines and absurdity about him... I'd actually love to see a spin-off prequel with just him); a doting father trying to keep his daughter innocent and pure, filled with the anxiety that all fathers have of their daughters growing up before they are ready to let go. He doesn't particularly stand in the way of Ponyo's happiness, or do anything menacing, thus he's only really a villain in that he's the only character in the movie who has any sort of sense of the danger they're in.

Even with the world covered in water, there's no sense of "this is it... the end of the world!' There's no sign of chaos or death; not even any worry of drowning, as the magic of Fujimoto and Ponyo's mother protect anyone beneath the sea, so while there is a threat, there's no real sense of urgency or danger (except for a bit of comical flailing around from Fujimoto, who seems to be taking everything way to seriously by comparison).

No, there's no conflict in this movie, because it's a movie created for children and from a child's perspective, which doesn't play well in the cynical world of adulthood. Which is something I didn't get upon exiting the theater... because I didn't watch it as an adult, I watched it as a child.

I believe it's important to put yourself into the mode best suited for watching the movie. Be aware of what the target audience is, otherwise your expectations will be counterproductive to the experience of the movie. I don't go into watching HOW HIGH or BLACK DYNAMITE expecting high art, and I don't go into THERE WILL BE BLOOD or NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN expecting car chases and explosions.

And from that perspective, I was drawn into the movie the same way I'd want to be if I was still a child, and in that respect, the movie made sense to me. A world filled with water wouldn't worry a child; they'd find it fasinating, they'd see the adventure in it. But, on the flip side, the things that a child would find scary are things like long, dark, tunnels, and not knowing where your mother is; the prospect of being left alone for the first time, with all the expectations of adulthood resting on your tiny shoulders. Children aren't cynical or world weary; they accept everything as truth, without questioning; such as how a fish could become a girl, or a toy boat could become a ship.

PONYO is a movie for children told from the perspective of children, and is successful at both; a beautiful little story that, yes, is without conflict, but is also without cynicism.

UWE BOLL: Untalented Badass Living in Richmond Hill...

I don't know why I decided to see what Wikipedia had to say about universally despised German genre-hack director Uwe Boll, but while his movies mostly leave a sour, acidic, chunky, vomity taste in my mouth, I have a new respect for the guy; he's got BALLS. You've got to appreciate any dude that calls out Micheal Bay and Eli Roth for being 'fucking retards' (truer words have never been spoken), and George Clooney for being boring (Hey, I like the dude too... but he has made a lot of boring bullshit lately); but to go beyond that an actually challenge your most aggressive critics to a series of back to back boxing matches, and then ACTUALLY fight them, and WIN... that's the baddest shit I've ever heard! Maybe this is just another case of me taking the side of the underdog... but I appreciate any guy that does shit his way, without compromise, and doesn't take shit from anyone. The dude's got balls, and lives up the street from me (apparently).

That still doesn't excuse this though:

This was truly, one of the shittiest movies I've ever seen... before any of the movies that followed it. ^_^;;;

If only the dudes talent matched his balls... then he might be the genius he claims (without irony) to be...

Friday, March 5, 2010


Remember that post I made about stuff I was excited about getting in February? Well, it's March now, and I've purchased all the animated tie-in material I wanted, one week at a time, and here's my thoughts on each of them.


MARVEL has recently upped their game in terms of media tie-ins, but still have a ways to go before they catch up with DC's animated tie-ins in terms of overall quality and nerd-satisfaction. WOLVERINE/HULK/THOR was definately much closer to achieving that than PLANET HULK was.

PLANET HULK is a 90 minute long adaptation of the recent, popular (and quite excellent), HULK story-arc wherein the Green Goliath is exiled by a cabal of Earth's into deep space, as he's become to dangerously unstable and violent to be allowed on Earth anymore. While in transit, the Hulk, predictably, loses his shit, and wrecks up the joint, inadvertently sending himself hurtling out of control into a weird wormhole which dumps him headlong into Gladitorial adventure on the savage alien planet of Sakaar, in a far distant galaxy.

This story-arc is actually some great fodder for a stand-alone animation project, as it's nicely self-contained and seperated from any other licensed properties, as well as being a nice departure from your usual 'Hulk wanders into town, gets mad, fights big monster' story. It's Hulk out of context and in a new and exotic setting; a weird alien planet filled with cool looking monsters, robots, and aliens, political turmoil, and moral and ethical conundrums. It's a planet where Hulk can thrive; here he's not just a monster, because there are things worse than he is. Here is anger is righteous, and his strength revered. This is Hulk as a hero.

PLANET HULK is for the most part a successful adaptation, hitting all the beats of the source material, while streamlining the plot to fit more smoothly into a 90-minute format. There's lots of action and characterization, as well as few cameo's from some obscure MARVEL characters if you know who you're looking for; but still somehow just doesn't quite make it.

That animation is good, coming from MADHOUSE (yes, the anime MADHOUSE of VAMPIRE HUNTER D: BLOODLUST fame, among others), but somehow doesn't seems nearly as good as it should be coming from a Japanese studio; especially when compared with how good their work on WOLVERINE vs HULK was. There are spots of truly excellent animation, and other spots where it just looks... lacking in some way. Overall art direction is great; it has a good pallete and some great background designs, and the character designs are slick looking, but sometimes seem flat or awkward (Korg and the other Stone Men of Saturn especially), and while Hulk looks like Hulk at the beginning of the movie, I'm not sure how I feel about a 'pretty' Hulk... mostly because of the lost of mass. He's less... hulking by the end of the movie (this was a conscious choice by the director and the designer, and their reasoning is sound, but it doesn't quite work).

There's also something insincere about the story as adapted; one of the elements that really played well with me while reading PLANET HULK was element of mythology; there was a sort of poetic and grandious feel to the story that's lacking in it's adaptation. Here Hulk is just a hero; in the comic he was a savior, myth come to life. I feel like this still could have been achieved, even in this steamlined format, but wasn't in favor of 'playing it safe.' A little more daring and this could have been really great.

Overall, it's hard to criticize PLANET HULK; it was well animated, looked good, and entertained me; but given that it was adapting a specific source material, I can't help but compare the two and find the animated version wanting. PLANET HULK was good but not great, and it could have been.

In terms of extra's in the 2-Disc special edition, it's loaded; two informative, if somewhat self congratulatory, commentaries, a fairly comprehensive 'Making Of', which gives everyone their fair share of credit (even the opening credits designers, which I found the most interesting part, because I never really knew that they outsourced those kinds of things to outside sources, nor the work that goes into making them), and a nice little feature about the source material, highlighting the work of Greg Pak and Aaron Lopesti, and exploring the themes of the story. As an added bonus, there was also, like, five minutes of MARVEL's next animated project, THOR: TALES OF ASGARD, which is about a young, wreckless, teenage Thor and Loki on their first adventure, which looks like it could be a pretty good original story (though I can't say the animation or designs grabbed me... they look like the same sort of crappy North American animation they've done in the past...). Overall, the 2-DISC is definitely worth it.


I didn't actually know anything about this when I saw it; I don't have a PS3 or an X-BOX 360, so I don't really follow games to closely, but the trailer looked good and I've always been interested in Dante Alighieri's DIVINE COMEDY, though this doesn't really have much to do with the poems except in name and theme.

DANTE'S INFERNO is based on the game of the same name, which is about Dante Alighieri (named for the poem's writer) returning home from the Crusade's only to find his family horribly murdered, and his finance, Beatrice, slain. Cradling her cold corpse, he spirit rises before him, and asks if he has kept his promise of fidelity, to which Dante responds, "Yes." A black shade rises from the ground and proclaims Dante a liar, claiming Beatrice as his own, and dragging her pure spirit into the depths of Hell. Dante pursues the shade to the very gates of Hell, breaking the doors down while proclaiming his innocence, only to be marked as a sinner, the tapestry of his sins sown into his chest as he gives chase, determined to free Beatrice from the horrible fate he's condemned her pure spirit too.

DANTE'S INFERNO is done in an ANIMATRIX style, utilizing five different directors, but unlike the ANIMATRIX, which allowed the directors free license within self contained stories, DANTE'S INFERNO is a single narrative; which is actually the biggest problem with the film. There are 9 circles in the Inferno (five for self indulgent sins, two for violent sins, and two for malicious sins) and five directors... so there's no real logic to how the animation chores were broken up, and each director is given free reign with how they portray the design and look of their part, so while part of a single story, the change of style from each director is jarring, and the models never the same. I would find this acceptable if there had been 9 directors, one for each circle of Hell Dante conquers, with each circle having it's own distinct look, and Dante changing to match that between circles (sort of like the IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASIS), but that's not the case.

Still, despite that, each director brings their A-game, and the movie overall looks great; some parts stand out more than others (the opening, done by Film Roman, is the weakest of the entire movie... I have no idea why North American animators are just not good at this kind of extreme and adult content), but the highlight for me, personally, was the final part done by one of my favorite Japanese animation directors, Yasuomi Umetsu (CASSHERN, KITE, MEZZO FORTE, HURRICANE POLYMAR, GOTCHAMAN, etc). There's a wide range of styles, and a high level of polish to the animation.

The story is actually pretty compelling and explicitly adult; no punches here pulled here. It's violent, and bloody, and has some pretty explicit sex. I think this actually takes a lot of influence from BERSERK, either directly or indirectly, as it is uncompromising in it's vision of horrible violence and emotional trauma, as Dante tries to murder his way to redemption, and is forced to confront his sins, and the sins of others. His life is a tapestry of abuse, trauma, and mistakes, and by confronting his past, he is forced to reconsider his faith and the meaning of faith and the will of God; Dante is a deeply flawed person, and hardly a noble character; the more that is revealed about his actions during the Crusades, all done under the belief that he has been exempted from sin by the Church; the more he comes to understand his own evil nature, and that sins committed in the name of God are sins against God. This is all handled in a way so as not to come across as preachy; Dante's fight for redemption is a harsh critique of the hypocrisy of organized religion, and a a more personal examination of the nature of good and evil, which is some pretty deep territory for an animated, monster killing, tit filled bloodbath. ^_^

Overall, while the choice to divide the film randomly between five different directors with vastly different styles of design and direction may be... confounding... the overall product is polished, entertaining, and surprisingly engaging. There are certain elements brought in from the game that seems out of place (such as Dante's ability to absolve the sins of those trapped in hell, which serves no real purpose, and sort of comes out of nowhere...), but overall it's fairly intelligent and has surprising depth, once you get past all the super awesome decapitations and tits.

There are no extras to speak of, which is disappointing, but overall worth watching, at least, if not worth owning.


I've only ever played HALO once, and while it was fun, I didn't really see the point in playing it single player; the fun of the game seemed to be the co-op aspect, and driving around in cool vehicles, DUKES OF HAZARD style, while shooting the fuck out of goofy looking aliens. I didn't even realize that there was any more to the HALO mythology than 'Guys in Armor kill aliens on Weird Ring shaped things.' Guess I was wrong...

HALO LEGENDS is another ANIMATRIX style tie-in project, giving seven directors a chance to play around in the HALO mythology. That's not to say they have free reign though; the studio behind the games has a very tight hold on the franchise, and supervised the project very closely, and wrote all the stories; eight in all.

There's the typical ORIGINS story, done in two parts, and actually done by the same director as the ANIMATRIX SECOND RENAISSANCE, which was very similar in theme. It's a basic, chronological rundown of the HALO mythos from beginning to end, narrated by the AI unit Cortana, to a cryogenically frozen Master Chief. Visually, it takes a lot of influence from Moebius, and is gorgeous, if a little dry.

Next up is THE DUEL, which is directed by Mamoru Oshii (of GHOST IN THE SHELL fame), and is the most visually... confusing of the shorts. It's a weird blend of 3D animation with a filter on it to make it look like a moving watercolor painting that just doesn't quite work; it's over done and the colors are all too close together to tell what's going on; in the end it seems like failed experiment with a new technology that just wasn't far enough along. The story is also a little bizarre, as it's basically Oshii trying to do Musashi Miyamoto with aliens. It's an interest experiment overall, but I don't think it quite works; you can skip this.

Following that is HOMECOMING, about the secret horrors behind the training and creation of the Spartans, as a female Spartan reminisces about her past, and her encounter with 'herself', when she tries to return home. The animation is nice, but the designs are out of place, and while the premise is pretty dark and engaging, it's all plays out pretty dry. Not bad, but not one of my favorites.

What follows IS my favorite, though, and I sort of wish they'd done more stuff like this... hell, I'd rather just see a whole movie about this; ODD MAN OUT is the only short on the DVD that really has any sort of fun with the HALO mythos, taking it out of context for a moment, and basically asking, "What if HALO was DRAGONBALL?" It probably helps that it has the same animation director and character designer, united again for the first time in 15 to 20 years. I think this is the only short where they were given free license to do whatever they wanted with it, and they made it count in spades! Just great, goofy, fun, some great designs and animation, and some awesome action; my favorite on the DVD. I'd love to see more of Spartan 1337 (heh... Leet...), but probably won't.

PROTOTYPE takes you back to more serious ground, and is probably my second favorite of the shorts; a pretty dark and serious story that highlights the human infantry rather than the genetically engineered Spartans, and the horrors and inhumanity of war, and the numbness of Full Metal training, while still providing some extraordinarily cool action, and introducing powered armor to the Halo mythology. This is probably one of the more visually spectacular of the shorts, and really shows why the Japanese are the best at this kind of shit.

BABYSITTER is a nice piece of fluff... it's just a cool little story about a day in the life of the ODST (Orbital Drop Shock Troopers) HELLJUMPERS, as they are assigned to provide backup to a Spartan sniper on an important mission in hostile territory. Really nice animation and art direction, and an ok story, that I wish they'd had a little more time to tell; there's a great twist at the end which doesn't really get enough play to really hit home the message, but what can you do, when you've only really got 10-15 minutes?

The last short is directed by Legendary level player (that's right; his old ass is THAT GOOD AT HALO) Shinji Aramaki (MACROSS, APPLESEED, VEXILE, among other things), and done with his new signature style of 3D animation... and is probably my least favorite of the bunch. I don't like the look of the 3D, the mo-cap is stiff and awkward, and there's no story to speak of... just it's an over the top, and rather pointless, 10 minutes of inexplicable action; boring and hard to look at, it adds nothing to the DVD.

Overall, I think this was a pretty successful way to introduce people to the franchise (and I actually think this was more aimed at expanding the brand into the Japanese market, where HALO has yet to catch on, and we just got lucky to that there's a market for this DVD here), as I'm now more interested in HALO than I was before, and a cool little DVD. It's loaded with extras; a chronological recap of the games, narrated by the various writers, artists, and producers of the games, a comprehensive 'Making Of' for each short, as well as commentary on every short. A must have if you're already a fan of HALO, and worth having if you just like sci-fi and animation.


The latest in DC's series of straight-to-DVD nerd oriented tie-ins, this showcases just how good have gotten at this over the course of almost 20 years. Seriously, you just can't beat WARNER BROS. at animated adaptations of their licensed properties.

I generally like all of these as a given (though SUPERMAN: DOOMSDAY could have been better...), but CRISIS ON TWO EARTHS was probably one of the better ones. It borrows a LOT (almost everything) from Grant Morrison's EARTH 2 graphic novel, but writer Dwayne McDuffie puts his own spin on it, for better or worse (a straight adaptation would have been interesting to see, but definately would have flirted with a hard R rating, which I'm pretty sure is a place they're not ready to go), re-envisioning the Crime Syndicate as Super Mobsters, which is pretty fun and lends them some character beyond baseline 'super-evil.' He also manages to raise the stakes about as high as you can go by putting ALL REALITY, PARALLEL OR OTHERWISE IN DANGER. That's really saying something!

Basically, there's a parallel Earth where the roles of good and evil are reverse; heroes are villains, and villains are heroes. The Lex Luthor of this reality recruits the Justice League to help him free his Earth from the facistic grip of their evil counterparts, the Crime Syndicate; little knowing that Batman's doppleganger, Owl Man, is the ultimate nhilist; having meditated on the nature of Quantum Theory, that every decision every made creates a parallel reality in which the opposite decision plays out, free will is an illusion and life has no meaning... so there is only one choice that has any meaning; the choice to collapse all probability into one definite solution; the end of all existance, in all realities.

My only real problem with this, and in fact, most all of the DC animated stuff, is Andrea Romano's voice direction. She's just not a good voice director, and I don't know why people think she is... everything she works on sounds stiff, lifeless, and matter-of-factly unless the actor themselves brings something to the role; and when you chose to cast fucking Billy Baldwin as Batman, you know he's not bringing much to the role (WORST... BATMAN... EVER!!!), so you need something to poke and prod and performance out of him, while James Woods as Owl Man, just brings it, because he's a fucking amazing voice actor and gets who to bring that guy to life, while everyone else always sounds so fucking dry.

My other problem with the DVD is how lame the extra's are getting; no commentary, no making of; just a bunch of past promotional video's that I've seen before, and have been rehashed on other DVD's, a digital copy that no one uses, and random episodes of JUSTICE LEAGUE that I already own. The only worthwhile extra's on here are a promo for the next DVD, BATMAN: BEHIND THE RED HOOD (which doesn't actually show much... just a few rough layouts and storyboards), and a DC SHOWCASE: THE SPECTRE short.

THE SPECTRE short is written by Steve Niles (30 DAYS OF NIGHT fame), and while I'm not a fan, this was actually pretty fun, and a fresh take on a character I've always liked. It's the Spectre done as a short grindhouse movie about a ghostly vigilante who visits grisly, ironic, justice on Hollywoods sinners. The faked film grain and scratches are a nice touch that adds character to an otherwise pretty straightforward story. Some really slick animation and designs make this a pretty outstanding extra, and I hope to see more of these to help grow the brand with other obscure characters (Bwana Beast? Congrilla? Ragman? I can dream, can't I?).

Overall, another slick, high quality animated feature from DC, but not really worth the 2-Disc, except for the SPECTRE.

Monday, March 1, 2010

STARGATE UNIVERSE: The First Time I've Ever Liked STARGATE...

I just started watching STARGATE UNIVERSE, after having seen the first half of the first season on DVD really cheap at BMV, and... it's actually surprisingly good... sort of like BATTLESTAR GALACTICA before they dropped the ball. Lots of hard science and conflicting personalities, plus it's just a gorgeous looking show. The art direction and effects are fantastic. The cast is pretty good too; Robert Carlyle is fucking amazing!

This is the first time I've ever liked anything involving STARGATE. I barely remember the first movie; I watched it when I was in highschool, but I've always sort of found everything involving STARGATE sort of disappointing on some level; like it was lacking something. I think it's the whole thing with the aliens using human bodies... I hate human aliens. It's part of why I can't watch any STAR TREK after the original. There's something so bullshit about cheating the aliens in science fiction to keep the budget down. That's probably not a good reason to not like a show, but it always stuck in my craw and kept me from getting into both the movie and the show that followed... but apparently it didn't affect anyone else enjoyment of the show, because it's been on for 10 FUCKING YEARS. @_@

So I've been avoiding this show for 10 years. I've tried watching it a few times, tried watching different series, such as ATLANTIS (which was even more bullshit to me than before... something about the shows attempt to integrate humor into the premise really felt insincere, out of place, and completely off-putting to me... like it disarmed the seriousness of the show), but it still never caught on with me.

STARGATE UNIVERSE, however, fixed all the problems I've had with the franchise; it's smart, serious, sci-fi drama. The science is hard, and the drama is engaging. Characters are complex and there's conflict. It's all the shit I want in my science fiction entertainment!

STARGATE UNIVERSE starts off fresh; you don't need the 10+ years of continuity to get into it; just a general refresher of the basic premise; Humans find ancient alien technology which allows for instantaneous travel over intergalactic distances. The US military creates a special corp. charged with exploring the gates and uncovering the secrets of the technology, as humanity takes it's first small steps into the greater universe.

UNIVERSE takes place years after the initial discovery of the gates; humans have made first contact with many other species, both hostile and benevolent, and have mastered certain aspects of the technology. Interplanetary travel via conventional means is now a reality, and other planets have been colonized. The SG Project now has one final mystery to solve; the dialing of the Ancients final legacy, a Nine Chevron code, it's destination unknown.

While attempting to dial the code, the SG project is attacked by alien hostiles, and all personnel are forced to evacuate through the Stargate; only to find themselves stranded on a massive alien ship many thousands of light years from Earth, and traveling further away with incredible speed. The ship is heavily damaged, and resources are limited. They have no way home.

You can imagine how this would be a great McGuffin for generating drama. Add into the mix a diverse cast of complex characters; military and civilian personal clashing over control, secrets and intrigue, hidden agendas and relationships, constant pressure and danger... there's always something happening!

I think my favorite character in the show has to be Robert Carlyle's; Doctor Nicolas Rush. Rush is a great character, neither hero nor villian, saint nor sinner, he's a brilliant scientist struggling to wrap his head around technology so advanced even he can barely comprehend it; and this irks him, especially given all the pressure being put on him by his superiors within the project and financiers demanding success. Rush, to me, is like a duck; he attempt to project a calm, cool, and in control, demeanor of knowledge and confidence, but underneath he's furiously thrashing around, just barely able to comprehend the advanced alien technology.

At the same time he's social awkward and isolated by his intelligence; he's constantly frustrated by everyone else relative lack of intelligence, and has no idea how to relate to anyone else on a social level; especially given that most all of the other characters blame him as the cause of their bleak situation. Rush isn't without concern for his fellow man, but he sees everything in terms of logic and probability; he has a stubborn refusal to waste time on anything that he deems as having no chance of success; even if the attempt will at least comfort his fellow exiles. He doesn't believe in the abstract concepts of hope or faith; he's a man of absolutes; scientific fact and quantifiable results. This makes it easy to misjudge his motives; is he only doing things that will ensure his own survival, or does he have genuine concern for the community of the ship?

The clouding of his motives isn't helped by his obsession with the study of the alien technology and the deciphering of it's secrets, which he puts above both social grace and even human life, which leads to a surprise twist in the season finale; and really, the only logical way to end the season; I'm surprised he didn't see it coming.

STARGATE UNIVERSE is a truly pleasant surprise in a TV season otherwise lacking completely in anything of interest for me (part of why I haven't had cable in almost a year...), and coming from a franchise that has never held any interest for me. Don't let the fact that it's another installment in one of the longest running SCI-FI franchises in North American television; they give you all you need to know in the first episode, and by the time everything gets going, all of that is irrelevant anyways; it's a whole new Universe.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

ZONE OF THE ENDERS 2: The Second Runner

I know all these link blogging posts are lame... but I've been having trouble getting excited enough about anything to post anything else. ^_^;;; I promise to do a nice juicy post about PLUTO once it's finished, as I don't want to spoil anything or make a fool of myself with my own wild theories as to how it ends.

In the mean time... this is something I'm excited about right now, as I just bought ZONE OF THE ENDERS 2 off Ebay. It's one of my favorite games of all time, along with MEGA MAN LEGENDS 2 and METAL GEAR SOLID as a franchise.

Given that, it's not surprise that I like ZONE OF THE ENDERS 2 so much as it shares things in common with both franchises; the slick, cell shaded, 3-D anime look and immersive 3rd person RPG gameplay of MEGA MAN LEGENDS, and the same game designer as METAL GEAR SOLID in Hideo Kojima, who beyond being a pioneer of cutting edge immersive gameplay, is also a masterful storytelling.

Both METAL GEAR, and ZONE OF THE ENDERS really upped the ante for visual storytelling across all media, in my opinion... the first METAL GEAR SOLID was so visually beautiful and so engrossing a story, it was actually maddening to have to actually PLAY the game, as you were dying to get to the next cinematic and find out what happened next... ZONE OF THE ENDERS 2 has much the same effect on me.

The reason I was prompted to post this trailer is because... it's amazingly good, and totally reminded me how much I loved this game and wanted to finally own it. The fasted paced music, the stunning, and epic, visuals, and the urgency in the plot... it's engrossing.

I really like the depth of the mythology of ZONE OF THE ENDERS as well; which is shocking for a game that Kojima-San worked on as a side project between METAL GEAR's; an epic, hard sci-fi, world of political strife, philosophical musings, and high-energy drama and romance.

Set in the not to distance future, Man has moved out into the solar system and unearthed a powerful force deep in space; Metatron, an ancient technology closer to magic than anything else in existance. Metatron is used to power special Orbital Frames, which become the center of a massive conflict between the Earth Federation and the outer colony armies of Bahram, which have a foothold on Jupiter and Mars.

The first game involves a young boy named Leo Stienbeck, who comes across a mysterious Orbital Frame called Jehuty during a Bahram offensive that kills his parents and almost kills him and a young girl he likes. Having no choice he stumbles into Jehuty and this puts him at odds with Bahram, which wants to recover the Orbital Frame at all costs.

To be honest, I've never played the first game... I don't like the 3D cinematics they used, as they're very early on in the Playstations evolution and look awkward and clunky... surprisingly, even compared to the in game models and animation! The story is intriguing, and the gameplay was supposed to be pretty inspiring for it's time, but by the time I'd gotten interested in the series, ZONE OF THE ENDERS 2 had come out, and by all accounts at the time, was vastly superior, and in fact, somewhat revolutionary, as it was the first game engine to be able to hand multiple enemies on the screen at the same time without any slowdown; combat was fast paced and epic, forcing you to battle up to 40 enemies at any given time, as enemy robots swarmed around you like locusts.

ZONE OF THE ENDERS 2 expanded on the mythology, as the story moved onto an older protagonist named Dingo Egret, a salvage miner on Mars, who discovers the remains of Jehuty, who was apparently abandoned by Leo at the end of the first game, during a Bahram sneak attack. Injured and dying, Jehuty uses Metatron to resurrect Dingo, but his survival now depends completely on Jehuty, and he's trapped inside the robot, and forcibly implicated in a massive conspiracy perpetrated by Bahram to use Metatron to activate a massive, ancient weapon; Auhman, a super-massive fortress with unlimited destructive capabilities, and use it to destroy the Earth and game independence for the outer colonies.

ZONE OF THE ENDERS 2 sees the return of most of the characters from the first game, weaving them into the story, giving it depth and history. Beyond that, the anime tie-in ZONE OF THE ENDERS: DOLORES, I; which I actually really enjoyed and found to be a refreshing departure from anime convention, as it featured a fun, but mature and involved, hard sci-fi story with a middle aged, caucasian, protagonist, and a series of references to North American action movies (there's an actual episode that is basically anime DIE-HARD); also helped to expand the mythology, as it took place simultaneously before and between the first and second games, and had two characters cross over; Viola and Nohman.

So, yeah, I hope people enjoy the trailer as much as I do, and I cannot wait for the game to arrive in the mail!

Sunday, January 10, 2010


I don't give a fuck about HALO, but this looks bad ASS. Also, a preview of the BONES short.

JUSTICE LEAGUE: CRISIS ON TWO EARTHS is basically an adaptation of Grant Morrison's EARTH 2 mini, and looks like it'll more than make up for the lackluster disappointment that was SUPERMAN/BATMAN... despite just downright confusing casting decisions (why would y0u cast fucking BILLY BALDWIN as Superman, next to the super awesome James Woods as Owlman!?! James Woods is so super good that it'll just make it more obvious how shitty Billy Baldwin is).

PLANET HULK is probably the hands down BEST HULK storyline ever, and this looks sick as fuck... glad to see MARVEL finally getting their shit together in terms of their animated tie-in's... the last few have shown tremendous progress as compared to their first, rather disappointing and downright pitiful efforts... ULTIMATE AVENGERS 1 and 2, IRON MAN, and AVENGERS NEXT bordered on unwatchable, and had shitty animation. Thing picked up with DOCTOR STRANGE, which was actually pretty good, though the animation was a little sloppy-joe at times, and they finally got their shit together on the WOLVERINE/HULK/THOR double feature, both of which were fucking EXCELLENT, and exactly what you wanted from ALL of those characters.

February is a great month to be a nerd. ^_-

Also... and this is just for me and probably Jerry... DOCTOR WHO THE COMPLETE SPECIALS, MUTHAFUCKER! We bid a tearful goodbye to David Tennant... ;_;



That's right... TIMOTHY DALTON MUTHERFUCKAH! God... DOCTOR WHO is so fucking good.

EVANGELION 2.0: You Can [NOT] Advance


I really love the new score for the EVA movies... each one gets a little more Gregorian and epic. I'm doing a complete 180 on my 1999 opinions of EVA, and going on record as saying I love this shit... Emo-bullshit and all. It's very 90's... all they need is for Shinji to lament how music died with Kurt Cobain, and it'd be the voice of a generation of sad teenagers all grown up; tears streaming down their pale cheeks. This is the only sadgasm I can stomach. Super fucking excited... I hope the next movie gets a theatrical release here as well. ^_^