Archive for February, 2014

22
Feb
14

Worst. Olympics. Ever.

Saying that the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics was a disaster is nothing new. People have been saying it would be a disaster since before it started. But I’m going to go on record and say it was the “Worst Olympics Ever.” That includes Olympic games held in Nazi Germany and any future Olympic games that may be held in North Korea. The 2014 games were a testament to ineptitude, a political device meant to showcase the glory of Russia to the world, but came across instead as a┬ávanity project for┬áPresident Vladimir Putin’s massive ego.
Here’s a list of reasons why this was the worst Olympics ever:
1.) Stop the gays – OK, this is an obvious one, so I thought I’d get it out of the way first. Russia has been no friend to homosexuals, as Putrin has enacted numerous bits of legislation under the guise of “traditional family values” which are nothing more than laws targeting the country’s homosexual population. The sad part is that the U.S. Republican party does pretty much the same thing when railing against gays in America. Traditional Family Values include one man marrying one woman, and each being miserably depressed, never divorcing, and being involved in alcoholism and extra-marital affairs. You know, good old fashioned American values. I suppose Russia has more in common with the U.S. than we realize. In any case, Russia seems mired in the past, enacting outdated legislation and systematically targeting a minority demographic. The rest of the world is slowly moving forward, but Russian seems hellbent on going backward.
2.) Kill the dogs – Sochi has a problem with stray dogs. There are so many that dog kill squads have been ordered to wipe out the masterless mongrels. It’s pretty fucking sad that they would rather kill dogs than attempt to adopt them to families. I’m a realist, I know that not all of these dogs would be able to find homes and many of them would be put down in shelters. But for fuck’s sake, at least give them a chance before murdering them. Some reporters have lamented becoming somewhat attached to friendly strays, only to notice after a few days they are nowhere to be found. If Putin hates dogs this much and hates gays this much, I wonder how much he must hate gay dogs? Maybe he was raped by a gay dog as a child? His anger must come from somewhere.
15
Feb
14

Iron Sky

They even have to “heil” on the moon.

Iron Sky is one of those movies that has a great concept and absolutely horrible execution. The plot is about a group of Nazis who escaped Earth in 1945 and colonized the dark side of the moon. They’ve been spending years building their space armada with plans to eventually return as a conquering force. It has all the trappings of what could be a cheesy yet brilliant sci-fi parody film. Iron Sky certainly gets the cheesy part right, but it fails everywhere else.
There are loads of problems with this movie. The writing, the acting (or perhaps over-acting), the directing, pretty much everything except the CGI was horrendous. The CGI surprisingly looked pretty good. That’s the only thing Iron Sky has going for it. And that certainly isn’t worth the price of admission. FYI, the price of admission is free on Netflix, but it’s still not worth it.
01
Feb
14

Kids on the Slope, Mawaru Penguindrum

Kids on the Slope

Sorry, I couldn’t come up with a funny caption for this picture.

Shinichiro Watanabe is a pretty great anime director. With the one-two punch of Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo, he firmly planted himself in the hall of the greats alongside Hayao Miyazaki and Satoshi Kon. So, how could I not be excited about his new series, Kids on the Slope? Instead of his usual sci-fi/fantasy/action/comedy shtick, he opted for something rooted far more in reality. The series would take place in 1960s Japan and focus on high school students becoming friends over jazz music. The incredible Yoko Kanno (who has quite the eptitude for jazz) provided the soundtrack. All the pieces were in place to create yet another masterpiece of anime.
Yet, Kids on the Slope is somewhat lacking. It just doesn’t do enough to pull itself out of mediocrity. The main character, Kaoru, seems like a typical anime kid: shy, weird, no friends, nervous around girls, etc. His friend, Sentaro, is a lot more interesting as he starts out as a thug, but slowly the audience learns his troubled backstory and that he has a lot more going on underneath the surface. Female character, Ritsuko, is a blank, offering nothing to the series except for a completely cliche and totally unwanted love triangle between the three.
Kids on the Slope is better than a lot of the shit that passes for anime these days. The time period is unusual, the focus more based in reality, there aren’t any circle eyes or people getting punched into space, the characters interact in organic ways, and the love of jazz shines through. Unfortunately, the series falls into a lot of preditable tropes like the love triangle, the nervous characters, the characters who literally run away instead of talking about their feelings, and on and on. Kids on the Slope is truly a mixed-bag. It’s a disappointment because it could have been great but wasn’t.
Verdict: Average
Mawaru Penguindrum

Spoilers: The Penguindrum is a diary. Why is a diary called a Penguindrum? Because Japan.

Kunihiku Ikuhara created one of the greatest anime series of all time, Revolutionary Girl Utena. The complexity of story, the depth of characters, the epic tone, the action, the drama, the comedy, and the underlying metaphors were what elevated that series. If it had excelled at any one of those things, it would have been an awesome series. But it excelled at all of them, making it a legendary series. Suffice it to say, I was thrilled to see Ikuhara emerged from his cave in 2011 with a new anime titled Mawaru Penguindrum.
With this series, it is quite clear that he is trying to emulate his past success. Penguindrum tries to have complex characters, an intricate story, and drama mixed with comedy. It technically has all those things, but it stumbles hard along the way. The characters aren’t very interesting. They are far more tropey than they should be. The story isn’t that intricate. In fact, it falls into the typical anime mystery camp. That is, the mystery is a rather simple background story, but important information about it is withheld from the audience until the end. There aren’t clues to follow or themes to unravel, no, it’s just purposely kept at bay. Lots of anime use this technique, and it’s frustrating for the audience.
The show has two more major problems. First, it focuses on one character at a time. For several episodes it will focus on one person, then the next few episodes it will focus on another, with a totally different set of plot points and themes. It makes the series feel like an anthology. By the end, there is little sense of cohesion. Second, the show is buried in metaphors. Utena had lots of metaphors but they were decipherable. Penguindrum has layers upon layers of metaphors. There are so many that it’s virtually impossible to know what is really going on and what’s a metaphor. There isn’t anything clearly tangible for the audience to grab hold to in order to slowly unravel what is real and what has deeper meaning.
Penguindrum becomes somewhat an incomprehensible mess by the end. I wanted to like it, I really did, but it tried to do too much. It piled on too many things and drowned under an artsy-fartsy mess of too many shitty metaphors.
Verdict: Bad



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