I was just accused of being German...

...by my own mother to boot.

I said in the previous entry that anything I'd post would likely have something to do with beer. And my mom told me this afternoon that my fondness of beer and onions were distinctly German traits. Since I don't have German family, this has me slightly confused.

Speaking of Germans, Valkyrie finally showed up in theaters. Apparently it sucks.

But who didn't see that coming? It's budget is estimated at around $95 million. It came in fourth at the box office this weekend. It's in no way going to regain for Cruise any sort of esteem or personal interest capital (even making fun of him and his Scientology is slowly going out of style). I say that Xenu did it for the lulz.

Tom Cruise, you see, is no Clint Eastwood. Clint can make a movie with more than a passing resemblance to the goofiest of Charles Bronson's late career output (Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects, in this case) with the utmost seriousness and not only get away with it, but receive lavish critical praise that falls just short of verbal fellatio. Clint Eastwood wants to be a racist with a heart of gold who will eventually die in a Jesus pose saving the poor non-whites from their own depraved elements while teaching everybody a lesson... and sing the theme song to bookend the film? Damn straight, he can direct it too! Some might argue that Gran Torino is Eastwood's semi-ironic attempt to re-examine his archetypal "scary white man with a big gun" character. However, Clint is more a stereotype than an archetype. He's a pretentious film maker making a B-movie without realizing it, using silly metaphors that can be guessed at a mile away. Spoiler: the Gran Torino represents Clint's innermost soul! It's as hokey as it sounds, and unfortunately, it isn't being played for laughs. Yeah, good luck trying to top Gran Torino, Xenu. If Tom Criuse tried that he'd be rightly laughed at.

I think the worst thing about the Holiday season is that my favorite movie that's been released so far has been Un Secret. It's French. Oh how it pains me to say that. It's the complex and earnest WWII film that Valkyrie dreams of being, focusing on less than sympathetic Jews - one of whom is a cruel bastard who hates his child (whose only real flaw is unresolved oedipal issues, and those aren't really his fault) for not being athletic enough - rather than on heroic Nazis. It's been one bizarre Christmas movie season, no? I haven't even seen that poo eclaire known as The Spirit yet.

C'est la vie, c'est la vie.



This Blog is changing from an unfortunate school project into something of a personal blog. I'm keeping some of the old entries though, so if you see terms like "media criticism" and "cultural artifact" it's because of that. If it annoys you, sorry.

Supposedly, that ethereal, mysterious thing called "content" is coming. Expect it to be about beer and movies.


Epic Fail...

And this is coming from somebody that hates using the word "epic" as an adjective or modifying adverb:

It's pretty sad that somebody actually felt the need to not only poorly adapt an irrelevant manga/anime series, but to also employ the same sad attempts at Hong Kong style filming and fight choreography (handled by 87 eleven, a stunt troupe that worked on stunts for The Matrix, Daredevil, and the upcoming Ninja Assassin) without really understanding its mechanics or aesthetics.

James Wong already tried to do a "kung fu" movie with The One, easily the silliest movie Jet Li has ever made, and Jet Li made a movie where he wore a chicken suite to fight a giant, mechanically operated metal centipede.


Eating durian and Vladmir Nabokov...

...are two things best enjoyed without the company of others. Sad as it is to put the "king of fruits" and one of my favorite prose stylists in the same category I hold masturbation and listening to Nickelback, but it simply must be. Durian is too pungent to allow anybody near you while eating it, and it's better to keep to one's self for longer still as the odor sticks for several hours. Nabokov is too good to allow distractions while reading, and usually if people see you reading a book with a title like Lolita in public, you run the risk of getting Chris Hansen blindsiding you and asking if you can have a seat over there.

This is the point in the blog post where I write something that's supposedly pertinent to the theme of "media criticism." However, I don't have anything.

The only thing that I'll say is that I have become extremely aware of people who do things in public that should remain private. Much worse than that, I'm aware of people who take private things of others and put them in public. It's like somebody somehow capturing the scent of your breath after a big mouthful of durian, and then somehow putting that scent on the internet. A good example is Documenting Reality

I don't know what to say about that site. The owner, Chris Wilson, traded a free pass to his amateur pornography community in exchange for grisly photos of just about anything, which became at least as popular an attraction as pictures of people who would have likely looked better with their clothes on. That landed him in trouble in Florida, where his computer was seized. Considering somebody sent me a link to his sight to see what are supposedly photos stolen from a "closed community forum" for cutters in which an emaciated, scarred young woman flays open her arms in some of the most horrendous ways imaginable, I feel perfectly justified in saying that Mr. Wilson has earned my utmost contempt. Not only because of his glee in publishing photos of a person at their most vulnerable, but for his refusal to own up to how he came across those photographs. Of all places, Something Awful actually had people who were in a position to figure out who the girl was and how to alert others of her self-abuse. Some calls were made (to Germany, apparently) and that was that.

I still want to know how that creep managed to get those pictures, since the forums this young woman posted on are closed to outside registrations (for good reason, apparently) and even the people who managed to get onto these web pages while in search of this girl didn't find anything like the pictures posted on "documenting reality."

Moreover, looking at his forum, it hardly documents much of anything aside from hearsay. I've seen photos with descriptions like "crack baby" and the accompanying picture looking very much like an infamous deformed child that was born in the aftermath of Chernobyl. Simple Google image searches would have yielded that result.

I despise this person. I'm terrified that he can apparently run a web site like this legally, and I'm even more horrified by the people who post on his forums. It's an unpleasant, ugly view of humanity. I'm not talking about the pictures he posts either.


Tonight, I prove my nerd credibility...

Have you ever witnessed a six-year-old boy playing with his toys? By that, I don't mean just a few of them, I mean enlisting the aid of every action figure he owns, at the same time. If afforded the chance, dear reader, to witness a child bashing his toys together and see that he has Batman fighting the Ninja Turtles and Spiderman with a G.I. Joe’s gun and the Power Rangers coming to help him while Luke Skywalker looks on, please understand that such a thing is completely normal. At least - in the developing mind of a six year old boy - it is likely the most interesting story he’s ever seen unfold, as it contains all of the things he’s interested in… and they’re fighting.

Now, one would assume that these early exercises in pastiche would eventually evolve into something less juvenile. It’s not hard to imagine George Lucas doing this sort of thing when he was younger, but by the time he made Star Wars he had at the very least graduated from “juvenile” to “sophomoric” in terms of narrative. (Not to say anything as to his technical innovations or his abilities as a business man) In some ways, that’s good enough. It keeps people entertained, and when the storyteller tells it well, the audience can get into the story, and forget for a moment that they are watching a middle aged roid-rager fighting an evil French ecologist with capitalist ambitions over Bolivia’s water supply, or that they’re reading about cyborg ninjas fighting Martian dragons in sixteenth century Western Europe.

These were realizations I had while playing a video game that employs all the tricks one finds in pastiche, but not well. That game is Warriors Orochi 2, a Playstation 2/Xbox 360 game developed by Omega Force and published by Koei, a Japanese company known for their consistent flow of games based on the Chinese historical-novel, Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Omega Force started making games about Romance of the Three Kingdoms in the late nineties when they released a fighting game that was released in the US as Dynasty Warriors. The Playstation being on its last legs, Dynasty Warriors 2 was released on the Playstation 2 shortly after its launch in 2000. Since then, there have been five more games in the series, along with expansions and other miscellanea. As if it weren’t enough to have the option to play as about forty to sixty different glorified folk heroes, generals, tyrants, mystics, and literary figures from China’s history, Omega Force developed a game that was more or less the same, only this time with Japanese history, literature, folk legends etc. Samurai Warriors was released and nobody cared who didn’t already play Omega Force/Koei’s games.

What’s amazing is that all of these games are the same, with the exception of the first. From Dynasty Warriors 2, Omega Force has developed a single game and merely tweaked various aspects of it. But it doesn’t matter if you can pick up new weapons, upgrade those weapons, upgrade the characters, learn new skills for the characters, fight on horse back, or have a one on one duel; the game is still nothing more than running about on a field and slaughtering (bloodlessly) literally hundreds of enemy troops until the game tells you that you’ve killed the right person.

It’s a stupid game, and a stupid concept, but I love it. It is mindless fun based on an exciting classic novel based on an equally exciting time in history. But, what absurdity is this: a Samurai Warriors and Dynasty Warriors… crossover?

Yes, Koei actually combined their two flagship game series (that are basically the same game) into a game that is the equivalent of what that six year old boy does with his toys. Warriors Orochi combined the characters appearing in both franchises (not all of them, but an ungodly number none the less) with a story about the demon Orochi who invades the world, causing a time-flux (or some other term that sounds like it came from"Star Trek") that allows Chinese warlords and generals from the fourth century AD to interact (i.e. fight) with Japanese warlords and generals from the fifteenth century. Orochi is also drawn from Japanese mythology, an eight headed dragon defeated by Susa-no-O and holding the legendary Kusanagi sword in one of its tails.

Also appearing is a character from the Ming dynasty era Chinese novel The Creation of the Gods (aka Fengshen Yanyi), Da Ji. The sequel upped the ante by adding even more characters from The Creation of the Gods (and also prominent figures in other myths/legends), Fu Xi, Nu Wa, and Taigong Wang, along with some characters from the Heike Monogatari, Yoshitsune Minamoto and Kiyomori Taira, and Himiko, the legendary Shaman Queen of ancient Japan (referred to mostly by Chinese sources I believe). Inexplicably, Yoshitune wields a lightsaber (the Kusanagi might have been more appropriate, but then, nothing about this game is appropriate), and Himiko is a thirteen year old girl.

The garishly colored Frankenstein-esque assembling of characters from disparate sources reenacting decisive military battles (Kawanakajima, Hu Lao, Chi Bi are all missions to complete) in the histories of two different countries is funny, more than anything else, and Koei/Omega Force deserve credit for making all of this so accessible that the Warriors games have become immensely profitable the world over, even to the point where Omega Force has started to develop other franchises (Japanese animated series "Gundam") with more or less the same formula (it’s the same game, but with giant robots instead of ancient soldiers). If nothing else, this amuses me too.

But then, I know where all of these characters come from (honestly, the only characters I didn’t know about until I played the game were Da Ji and Taigong Wang, and that’s only because I hadn’t read The Creation of the Gods yet), and so it amuses me to see Kojiro Sasaki fighting on a team with Guan Yu and Cao Cao against Kiyomori Taira and Zhang Jiao. It’s a weird, and at times worrying concept to me that so many young guys (and let’s face it, it’s mostly guys, and they’re mostly young) are “learning” their historical and literary knowledge from games like this. It’s like watching Roger Corman’s Tower of London and then claiming to be quite knowledgeable not only about Shakespeare’s Richard III, but of the greater thrust of English history. But then, who is to say that the heir of the Genji clan didn’t attack Musashibo Benkei (sadly missing from this iteration, but I’m certain Omega Force will rectify that in the inevitable sequel) with a lightsaber?

But I can’t bother to worry about that now. I’m going to play as Dong Zhuo (great name, isn’t it?) and kill upwards of 900 people at Honnoji castle. Do I know anything about Honnoji? No, but at least I have the decency not to pretend I do.

I just wrote over a thousand words on what began as ruminations on how a six year old bashes his toys together. I am a pretentious ass.


"Dragonball" trailer


I wish you could hear me laughing.

The upcoming adaptation of "Dragon Ball" has been one of the most amusing sources of nerd rage on sites like superherohype, IMDb, and Youtube. Don't believe me?

My favorite...

Warning: "Megaman" music, bad video/audio editing, and general nerdiness abound.

They're actually upset with this adaptation for good reasons. For one thing, the film looks bad. A bit more specifically, it looks bad and nothing like Akira Toriyama's Dragon Ball manga/animated series. Particularly with regards to the major characters, the writers and director (Ben Ramsey and James Wong, respectively) do not seem to have grasped the nature of the protagonist, which is amazing since he can be summed up in two words: monkey boy.

But the anger of fans - however goofy their expression of it may be - stems from reasonable complaints. It looks cheesy, and has been long delayed (it was originally scheduled for release in August of this year, but has been pushed back to April 2009) after it was stuck in limbo since 2002, when supposedly Roland Emmerich was going to direct it. 20th Century Fox has had the rights to this movie for a long time now; enough time to actually get a movie that - even if it alienated the hardcore fans (the people whose videos are linked to above) - would at least look like something. Say what you will about the garishly colored, badly written, psuedo-agitprop approach to the Wachowski Brothers' live action Speed Racer, but it was certainly something.

Making a bland, soul less action movie with bad wire effects and "kung fu" is nothing new and it would not normally bother me, regardless of whether or not it was based on a cartoon that I have fond childhood memories of. It does not please me to even appear to be joining in the orgy of nerd hate that this movie has garnered, as just watching it is much more fun without any of the embarrassment. But this actually fits with my cultural artifact selection and subject for the "culture jam" assignment.

Not only is this 100 million dollar budgeted film going to be marketed world wide, it's going to be a major merchandising effort. None of that is in any way new, but consider that the only thing that Fox owns the rights to is the movie adaptation, and that Dragon Ball as an anime and manga still has a considerable following, with its own merchandise still selling well (especially when compared to other animated Japanese properties). Fox will liscence a video game (to THQ, I believe) based on the movie, while Namco/Bandai continue to make their ongoing series of console fighting games based on the anime that they started in 2002.

Basically you'll have Dragon Ball vs. "DragonBall." Two competing versions of the same product, the same story and the same characters. Bizarre.

Actually it's not, only more direct than usual. And on top of that, I've already seen people say "it looks alright for a kung fu movie" which I'm guessing has something to do with the fact that people are doing martial arts and there's some shoddy looking wire effects. It's the Americanized version of both Japanese anime, and Hong Kong action, but with none of the foreign flavor that worked out so well for the original versions!

Again, I wish you could hear me laughing right now.