Archive for June, 2012

30
Jun
12

Classically Shitty: Blazing Saddles

lol?

I’ve been a fan of Mel Brooks for as long as I can remember. The first movie of his that I saw was Spaceballs. The humor is sophomoric and obvious and low-brow and terrible and hilarious. I loved it. Over the years, I have watched all the other movies he made, and have mostly enjoyed them all. Whether it was the genius of The Producers or the sheer insanity of History of the World: Part One, Brooks always had me laughing. His best movie is without a doubt Young Frankenstein, which is also one of the greatest comedy films of all time. The one movie of his that I never seemed to get around to until recently was Blazing Saddles.

This 1974 movie was not the first that Mel Brooks directed, but it was probably the one that really put him on the map for the public at large. Supposedly, it is a hilarious, classic film that should be watched by all movie fans. At least that’s what the film-fags say. Of course, having enjoyed all of Brooks’ other works, I expected them to be right. It turns out the film-fags were wrong again.

Blazing Saddles is, for lack of a better word, shitty. I wish there was another word I could use to articulate what a bloated, excessive, nonsensical, boring piece of crap this movie is. But no other word better encompasses all of those things than: shitty.

Continue reading ‘Classically Shitty: Blazing Saddles’

16
Jun
12

Alias Season 5 (Bonus Alias Drinking Game)

Alias Season 5 cast.

Alias probably should have ended with Season 4. Rewatching it, you can see that just about everything was resolved. “The greatest power”, the evil Elena Derevko, was defeated. Nadia did not survive fighting Syndey, thus fulfilling Rambaldi’s prophecy. Irina more or less got away, but in a suitable manner. Syndney and Vaughn got engaged. And Sloane redeemed himself to become good. Or at least as “good” as he could ever be. The final two episodes looked as if they had been written to be a series finale. It should have just been over at that point. But they got picked up for Season 5, so they ended things on a ridiculous cliffhanger, and kept on going.

Season 5 is strange for a lot of reasons. First, Jennifer Garner is clearly bored with her role at this point. Scene after scene, line after line, she is phoning in her performance. Second, Michael Vartan, who played Vaughn, left the show. Naturally, the best thing to do is kill his character. Yeah, why not? There’s no point in letting a character, whom we’ve enjoyed for four seasons, live. Third, Nadia turns out to have survived but is off the show, anyway. Fourth, Greg Gunberg, who played Weiss, left the show, as well. This leaves us with a cast including Sydney, Jack, Dixon, Sloane, and Marshall. Fifth, Jennifer Garner got pregnant and, while the show already required a lot of suspension of disbelief from the viewers, people were not going to accept a pregnant spy jetsetting around the world and kicking peoples’ asses. So, the series had to bring in some new recruits.

The two new characters are Rachel Gibson and Tom Grace. We are introduced to them through a series of episodes which go on for way too long. They could have each been introduced in 1-2 episodes. But we get so much boring backstory that half the season is wasted getting them up to speed. This makes matters worse when the season is abbreviated at 17 episodes.

Because they took so much time setting them up, I got the sense that Alias was going to make them the main stars of the show. Since Jennifer Garner was so bored at this point she was either going to quit outright, or just become a background character. Or the other possibility was that Alias was meant to conclude at the end of Season 5 and then immediately spin-off into a new series with Rachel and Tom as the leads with Jack, Sloane, Dixon, and Marshall reprising their roles.

Regardless of what the original plan was, about halfway through the season, ABC announced that Alias would be cancelled. This actually worked in the series’ favor because they decided to scrap whatever plans they had, and tried to end the show on a high note. The writing of the second half was a definite improvement. The stories became better. The episodic “getting to the know you” crap of the new people was jettisoned in order to refocus back on resolving the stories of the show’s original characters. The conspiracy stuff and Rambaldi prophecies came front and center once again. The writers had several loose ends they wanted to tie up, and tried their damnedest to make it happen.

Everybody from Alias

Fortunately, they did a pretty good job. The second half moves along at a good clip. Characters who hadn’t made an appearance in a long time (e.g. Anna Espinosa, Sark) returned for a couple of episodes in order to have their stories completed. Bradley Cooper even came back to guest star in one fairly strong episode. After Sydney had her baby, she was able to go out on missions once again, and the old style of show came back. The only thing that didn’t work was the return of Vaughn.

Clearly, Vaughn was supposed to be dead. That much is obvious based on how he got his body turned into Swiss cheese by machine gun fire, and then he died and had a funeral. But then guess what? LOL SURPRISE EVERYONE IT TURNS OUT VAUGHN WAS ALIVE AFTER ALL AND WAS JUST IN HIDING LOL! I suppose this would have been acceptable had Sydney not known about it. But no, it turns out that Jack and Sydney somehow planned for Vaughn to go into hiding until it was safe. They both knew he was alive the whole time. Well, for Jack this could have flown, but for Sydney it makes no fucking sense. She spent many scenes bawling her eyes out, sometimes in the privacy of her own home, and this ruse doesn’t jibe with what happened. If she knew he was alive, she wouldn’t be weeping at home alone. That part was handled so badly, it certainly made it clear that the writers have been shooting from the hip on Alias for a long time. There was definitely never an overarching plan for the story.

In the end, however, they managed to resolve things nicely. Sloane got a fitting end; he got to achieve Rambaldi’s endgame (which he spent 30 years trying to do) but did not get to enjoy it. Jack’s death seemed sort of unnecessary but his ultimate sacrifice worked within the context of the final episodes. Sydney and Vaughn had a nice resolution to their relationship and were finally granted peace. Irina got what was coming to her. Lastly, Sark, who I always enjoyed as a fun villain, got away and continued to be a nuisance. All in all, a decent ending to the series. In fact, the final three episodes were phenomenally good. They were a definite highlight amongst the series as a whole. Too bad they weren’t so good they made up for the extremely weak first half of the season.

When I set out on this rewatch, I figured Alias would not have aged gracefully. On the contrary, it has stood up surprisingly well. It isn’t perfect. The acting is good but not great. The special effects are cheesy. Sometimes the plot makes no sense. But overall, there is a lot to like. The main story is strong and has an actual ending. The characters are likable. The action scenes are fun despite being ridiculous. The spy aesthetic may not be realistic, but at the very least it is entertaining. Overall, this is a TV series worth revisiting.

Verdicts:

Season 5 – Average

The Series Overall – Good

Here’s something to get you in the mood for the Alias drinking game.

Bonus: Alias Drinking Game

Drink every time

  • Sydney gets emotional (two drinks if it happens during a mission).
  • Sydney beats up a guy twice her size.
  • An agent gets caught/seen by a security guard.
  • An agent trips the security system.
  • The target/bad guy/contact is in a night club.
  • The target/bad guy/contact is a Russian.
  • Someone gets double-crossed.
  • Someone gets kidnapped (two drinks if they are also tortured).
  • Somone uses a fake accent.
  • The special effects look really cheesy/cheap.
  • Jack does something badass.
  • Weiss says something sarcastic.
  • Marshall gets nervous/stammers (skip this one if you don’t want to black out).
  • Someone says, “Your plane leaves in one hour.” (or some variation of that)
  • Someone says something mean to Sloane.
  • Someone mentions Rambaldi.
  • Someone uses the word “endgame.”
  • The background music is something slow and soulful.
  • A main character is about to get shot by a bad guy, but the bad guy gets shot by someone else who is off-screen.
  • The episode ends on a cliffhanger.
09
Jun
12

Shana Second, Wolf’s Rain

Shakugan no Shana Second

snore

I reviewed the first season of Shana a couple of years ago. What I thought would end up being a horrible slice of life moe shitfest turned out to be a rather entertaining fantasy/action series. It had this unexpected dark side where Shana would mercilessly obliterate her enemies. The action was fun and the pacing was good. Plus, it had an incestuous brother and sister, and everyone knows incest improves everything by 10,000%.

So when I got around to watching season 2, I was fairly excited. It started out pretty good with a couple of action-packed episodes. After that, the series settled in to a long stretch of really annoying slice-of-life/love-triangle bullshit that was so badly written it was only tolerable to watch on fast-forward. Now, this kind of stuff was in the first season, too, but usually there would be one or two episodes intermingled with the other story/action episodes. Season 2 just gives a seemingly endless onslaught of these crappy episodes. Everything is so boring, so contrived, so inconsequential that it is impossible to give a fuck about any of it. Plus, we get to see Yuji training for about a thousand episodes, and that certainly could have been condensed into two or three.

Nothing even remotely interesting happens until episode 16. And then we get another lull until the writers finally decided they needed to have something happen so they could claim this season had some semblance of a plot. Episodes 19-24 feature a battle between the protagonists and Sabrac/Bal Masque. The fight drags on for several episodes and even though they “kill” Sabrac, he somehow manages to survive, which destroys the payoff and makes the entire thing seem like wasted time a la Dragonball Z. 

Overall, this season was a huge clusterfuck. They should have rethought the pacing and story structure. If they didn’t have enough material to keep 24 episodes consistently entertaining, then they should have pared it down to 12 episodes. That would have at least been respectable. I’m not sure about the third and final season of Shana, hopefully it fares better.

Verdict: Shitty

Wolf’s Rain

Wolf’s Rain cast.

I originally included this in my list of the 20 Awesomest Anime of the Decade (2000-2009), and since then I have given the series a rewatch. So, did it hold up to my original review? Yes it did. Wolf’s Rain remains a phenomenal series. There are very few TV shows and movies I would consider a work of art, but this would be one of them. The tone is far more subdued than in most anime. There are no annoying moe characters. There is no stupid love-triangle. There is no intent to sell merchandise. There is no pandering to the audience. The only agenda Wolf’s Rain has is to tell an incredible story, and it certainly does that.

The setting is a bit murky, we don’t know for sure if it takes place on Earth or just some unknown fantasy planet. Wolves are semi-mythological creatures that have super strength/speed, can speak, and have the ability to make themselves appear as human. And no, they aren’t werewolves, it’s more a trick of the mind that humans perceive them to look like other humans. In this world, wolves are foretold to open the door to Paradise, which may or may not bring about the ultimate destruction of the world.

The visual aesthetic of the series is amazing. There is attention paid to even the smallest detail. The animation is so intricate that you can see all the dirt and grime, the crushed out cigarettes, and the wasted plant life. The world looks realistic, and a lot of this is due to the high-quality work by Studio Bones. Just like Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo, a lot of work went into the details. The budget must have been relatively high, as there is rarely any recycled animation, there is minimal use of well-integrated CGI, and character movements are quick, fluid, and well animated. I can’t rave enough about how great everything looks. I imagine this is how a Final Fantasy anime series should look, if anyone could ever make a decent anime of Final Fantasy.

The voice acting is excellent in both the original Japanese and the English dub. You can’t go wrong listening to either one. The music was composed by the legendary Yoko Kanno, so expect to be listening to the soundtrack over and over again. The characters are all unique and have well-formed story arcs. The pacing is nearly perfect. There was a period of maybe 4 episodes in the middle that dragged a bit, but if anything they give more insight into the characters. There is a lot of humanity amongst everyone, the story is fascinating, and there is a healthy dose of action. Also, this is the only anime I’m aware of where the opening credits play a role in the story.

The story never verges into cliche territory. With most anime, you pretty much know how things are going to end. With Wolf’s Rain I was never quite sure. They always manage to give an unexpected plot twist or simply pull the rug right out from under you. The climax at the end is simply astounding. The first time I watched it I found the ending to be tragic. This time, well, it was still tragic, but I found much more hope than the first time around. Wolf’s Rain is such a wonderful, rare anime series, that it deserves to be seen by everyone. It really is a work of art.

Verdict: Awesome

02
Jun
12

Irregardless, You Sound Like an Asshole

lolcats, appropriate for any occasion.

I’ve been working on my Ph.D. in Internet Trolling for the last 15 years. In all that time, I’ve probably read a billion blog and forum posts. One thing I’ve learned from all that is people have terrible grammar. And I don’t mean the occasional typo or awkwardly phrased sentence. Hell, immune from that I am not. Ahem. What I mean is really fucking horrific grammar. The kind of stuff that makes you question whether you’re reading modern English or Celtic runes. It just goes to reinforce the fact that people are stupid.

Further reinforcing that is the constant use of fake words. It would be way too much work for the average mouth-breather to use a dictionary, so instead they type words they think are real. Unfortunately, more often than not, they turn out to be bullshit words that people propagate because they want to sound intelligent, but are too lazy to put any work into actually being intelligent.

My all time favorite most hated example of this is the fake word “irregardless.”

OK, so I guess you could say that “irregardless” is a real word, because it is something that people say. That’s like believing Bigfoot is real because a lot of people think he is. Just because you want something to be a certain way, doesn’t make it so. No matter how much you want “irregardless” to be a cool-sounding, super-fancy word, it never will be. “Irregardless” is not something you will find in the dictionary, except that it may be there to point you in the direction of “regardless” or “irrespective” which are, in fact, real words.

See?

Yes, that’s right, the words you are thinking of are “irrespective” and “regardless.” Putting them together does not suddenly create a new hybrid word that is more powerful than all other words combined. No, you just sound like Sarah Palin, making up bullshit words like “refudiate.” Clearly, you have no respect for the English language. You continue to rape it like it is some poor 13 year old Russian prostitute trying to pay off her father’s gambling debts.

I realize that I’ve probably just blown your mind by telling you that “irregardless” is not a real word. Of course, you may be thinking that “irregardless” sounds like a perfectly cromulent word, so why not just go ahead and use it? Well, the problem is that to people who have half a brain, you sound like a dumbfuck. Just because “irregardless” is a portmanteau of two real words doesn’t make it real by extension. Kind of like replacing a sandwich’s two pieces of bread with two pieces of fried chicken, and continuing to call it a sandwich. It is no longer a sandwich. It is a godless monstrosity meant to destroy mankind.

Oh, the humanity!

So, here’s a breakdown of why you shouldn’t use “irregardless.” Let’s start with the definitions of its root words:

Regardless: heedless, unmindful, without concern as to advice

Irrespective: without regard to something else, ignoring or discounting

Basically, the two root words mean the same thing. But when you combine them you form a double negative. “Ir” means “not” and “less” means “without.” If regardless means you are unmindful of something, and you put a negative in front of that, it changes the meaning. It now means you are mindful of something. You have changed the meaning 180 degrees. For example:

“I must make the decision regardless of consequences.” — or — I must make the decision despite the consequences.

“I must make the decision irregardless of consequences.” — or — I must make the decision because of the consequences.

The entire meaning of the sentence has now changed. You see how stupid that sounds? That’s exactly what you sound like when you say “irregardless.” You sound like a pseudo-intellectual moron, throwing around words (real or fake) without knowing what the hell they mean.

What he said.

To my surprise very intelligent people such as professors, doctors, lawyers, etc all make this mistake. I think they say it because they think it sounds more intelligent. “LOL WELL I COULD SAY REGARDLESS BUT PEOPLE WILL THINK I’M EVEN SMARTER IF I SAY IRREGARDLESS NOT INSTEAD LOL!” Yeah, that about sums it up. People use the word to make themselves look smarter but end up looking dumber as a result.

Take “irregardless” out of your vocabulary. It doesn’t belong there in the first place. You might be an intelligent person (although that’s doubtful if you’re wasting your time reading this blog), but if you say, type, or think the word “irregardless”, you sound like an asshole.




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