12 Apr 2011 4:15 pm

I’ll admit to first really falling in love with this music when it was used in Evangelion (like so many other classical pieces).

As for this piece, I’d despair that this beautiful work of art ends up almost being sullied for commercial purposes, but then again, am I referring to the music, or the execution? That’s a long and strangely commingled relationship that I’m probably not well-equipped to untangle.

Ultimately, that doesn’t stop me from appreciating this for what it is; a really clever and visually engaging momentary distraction.

06 Apr 2011 8:48 pm

It’s probably a bad idea to read too deeply into the strange synchronicitys of media releases, but given the unsettled nature of the times we’re living in (what with the Japanese earthquake, tsunami, and subsequent nuclear difficulties; and all the continued political instability in the Middle East), it does seem kind of strange that we’re seeing (or have recently seen) not one, but FOUR major media releases about alien invasion.

The first would have been Skyline, which was utterly forgettable. Even the CG aliens and mecha were… kinda bland. It didn’t help that it had a ridiculously disjointed plot and relatively unlikeable main characters. The best thing that could be said about it is that portrays something seldom seen in alien invasion movies — the utter demoralization of Earth’s defenders, without the usual cinematic pablum of a heroic rallying to destroy and push out the aggressors.

Battle: LA is then the logical follow-up for Skyline (not surprising, considering that the same visual FX went into both movies, an issue that could have led to Sony suing the directors of Skyline for basically being hired to work in Battle: LA’s FX, only to use those same effects in a movie released four months earlier). This one is a more traditional alien-invasion scenario (in the vein of ID4) coupled with a thinly-veiled US Marines recruitment advertisment. As expected, the good guys win, the bad guys retreat, things go boom.

If it had been left at this, I’d chalk it up to the Deep Impact / Armageddon effect, except for the presence of Falling Skies.

It’ll be interesting to see a longer-format alien-invasion series, as that should allow for a larger exploration of many of the issues that arise from the ongoing occupation of the planet and the depredation of the human species by a vastly technologically superior foe. Plus, Noah Wylie does make for a charismatically earnest leading man, and my love for disaster porn means that I’ll make some effort to follow the show as it goes on.

What really made me question this overall invasion zeitgeist was wandering into the Inversion website, which seems to be a video game whose core mechanic is basically the Half-Life 2 Gravity Gun, writ large and first used by aliens on an unsuspecting Earth.

So, is there something going on? And I’m not talking conspiracy-theory-crazy here; just that the overall mood of the entertainment-seeking audience seems to be be keyed to watching humanity get decimated by unfathomable forces from beyond this world. That’s kind of disheartening, on the whole. Hopefully we’ll see a reversal of this trend when someone announces a My Little Ponies – Friendship is Magic movie or something.

30 Mar 2011 3:58 pm

Voltes V


UFO Robot Grendizer

Hearing any of these themes now always sends me back to being eight years old again, watching these shows on the air (in the case of Voltes V), or from a rented betamax tape (in the case of both Daimos and Grendizer). I’d imagine that something about these super robot shows had a massive impact on me as I was growing up, but, truth be told, it was an experience almost uniquely associated to my childhood in the Philippines. It wasn’t a particularly deep association, mind you — when you’re a kid, it’s harder to connect the dots between the heroic struggle against the oppression of the strong over the weak and the political reality of living in a dictatorship, but certain themes of courage and valiant sacrifice do manage to get through.

When I moved to Canada when I was twelve, anime generally fell by the wayside in favour of other geeky offerings (Dungeons & Dragons, video games, and comic books, mostly), and it wasn’t ’til the early twenty-first century that I started watching anime again in earnest, largely due to Neon Genesis Evangelion (and boy, was that ever a reaction to the earnest offerings of the super robot genre).

No modern anime quite recaptures the feelings of exhilaration and heroic righteousness engendered by these three shows, but I suppose we’re into post-modernism now and the wide-eyed honesty of that time is long since past. Gurren Lagann came close, with its structure that mirrors the ages of the mecha genre in anime with the first eight episodes, up to the death of a major character, being the late ’70’s and early ’80’s age of super-robots; the middle act with all its tragedy and pathos and redemption being the Evangelion / Gundam-esque “silver age”; and the last act being… well, the post-modern take on mecha in general, which seems to be a combination of knowing references, a desire for the return of the old “hard work and guts pays off” approach, but always acknowledging that sometimes, everything you work for doesn’t mean you get the happiest ending.

It may be a bit of a fool’s errand to seek to recapture that essence of childhood while looking through today’s mecha offerings, but plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, and who knows, the days of the Robot Romance Trilogy might yet come again.

22 Mar 2011 2:07 pm

I began the movie-watching year with True Grit (a bit late, true) then last week, the TNMC went and saw Rango. It’s probably one of the most fun movies I’ve watched all year. It’s almost too earnest to be a kids movie, but this fact is disguised by the comedy and by the meta-references all throughout. I mean, a movie starring Johnny Depp as the Chameleon-With-No-Name (sorta) gets a cameo of Johnny Depp as Hunter S. Thompson? That’s…. deliciously loopy. Oh, yeah, so here be spoilers, of a sort.

A lot of the movie’s musings on the nature of the West will probably be lost on a majority of its officially-intended audience, but I found it a truer meditation on westerns than the aforementioned True Grit (which, while technically competent and masterfully told, was about more straightforward than you could usually get from the Coen brothers). Rango’s homages, comedic asides, and heroic journey (which is made even more telling by its use of the Mariachi Greek-chorus) harkens to the whole of the western oeuvre, not just Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy, but every Sunday afternoon Black Hat / White Hat cowboys-an-injuns serial. This really shouldn’t be so surprising, considering that Gore Verbinsky directed the whole shebang, and he does seem to have a talent for lovingly deconstructing and re-integrating the best things out of a genre (see also: the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie).

It’s interesting to see how Verbinsky chose to direct this project by sticking all the actors in  a skeletal mockup of the town of Dirt and environs letting them have at it. I’d love to see a side-by-side view of the animated movie with the actor’s reference in the director’s cut DVD, but for now, this Youtube video will have to do.

Is it me, or do I keep hearing a bit of the Hunter S voice coming outta Johnny Depp?

They got a lot of really recognizable voice talent out for Rango, and overall it was nice to see it used appropriately, though it was criminal how few lines we actually heard out of Claudia Black. Still, Bill Nighy as Rattlesnake Jake was an inspired bit of casting. The movie’s done pretty well for itself, but I’m kind of hoping we don’t see a sequel. Some things are more complete when it’s had its moment, and then wanders off into the sunset.


Have some bonus music from Rango — Ride of the Valkyries, with Banjos!

21 Mar 2011 11:51 pm

So, the World of Warcraft community is abuzz with the picture Blizzard released on their Facebook wall about their new, purchasable Winged Lion Mount….

Considering how much their first store mount earned for them, this would likely be yet another financial windfall for the company. Gamers, with their bizarre sense of surreptitious elitism, were quick to decry the first mount as a blatant money grab, considering that it was a re-skinned version of a much more difficult to obtain mount. I say “surreptitious elitism” because I’d imagine a lot of these same gamers quietly went and bought the mount for themselves anyway. It’s interesting to see the same arguments of “non-exclusivity”, “conformity”, and “unearned privilege” that were leveled against the Celestial Steed (or “Sparkle Pony”) are already being recycled for this new mount, which seems to have already acquired the nickname TRL (“That Retarded Lion”).

While I didn’t pay for my sparkle ponies (they were gifts), I was very appreciative of them, and in turn, the new winged lion would be a zero-day purchase for me if at least half the proceeds went to helping out the victims of the recent Japanese catastrophe. It does seem unlikely that Blizzard (well, Blizzard-Activision) would do so, considering the dearth of upcoming income streams for Activision. One can hope, though.