Tag Archives: Hero

Close Encounters of the Third Kind: My Father’s Take

Finally, here’s the long awaited post from my Dad for his Father’s Day present. Enjoy!

On the surface, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, released in 1977, is a story of how three individuals’ lives become intertwined when some possible alien ship encounters are experienced. Roy, an electric company engineer in Indiana, has a growing need to understand if he is crazy or if he has really received a message from the aliens. Jillian, a single mother from the same area of Indiana and her three-year-old son have received the message too and the aliens have apparently taken a particular liking to the little boy. The final character is Frenchman Claude Lacombe who is part of an international team both reaching out to the aliens and investigating the people the aliens have affected.

It would be easy to say I like Close Encounters because it is a Steven Spielberg movie. He both wrote and directed the film, and it was early on in his career when I feel he had a great child-like sense of wonder in his storytelling (E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Empire of the Sun). I also think he was enjoying his time saying, “I really get a big budget and get paid for having fun?” I could say I like the movie for the gifted John Williams score. I could discuss the symbolism of communication like languages (French, Spanish, Indian, English), physical interaction (radar, toys, sign), and art (music, painting, sculpture) to show that even humans have a hard time so why do we think the aliens could easily get their message across. I could say I like the 70s costumes – which weren’t costumes at the time but who would have put Teri Garr in a short yellow nighty and robe with earthy clogs – brilliant!! And I do think the special effects are good with the alien ships, the clouds, the lighting, the sandstorms, etc. I guess the problem I have is with the aliens. Why are there three different kinds of aliens so vastly different from each other?

My favorite part of the movie is the hero portrayed by the everyman who has been tapped for an adventure – Roy Neary. Despite his obstacles – like his beautifully portrayed dysfunctional family, like everyone thinking he is crazy, like his own belief that he is on the edge of sanity – he faces his fears, does the right thing, and is rewarded in the end. Richard Dreyfuss, who had been acting at this point for over 10 years but hadn’t had a great deal of recognition except for his role of Curt in American Graffiti and Hooper in Stephen Spielberg’s Jaws, is fantastic in this role. He shows anger, wonder, insanity, happiness, and despair. He gets to be in the action sequences – driving in the chase, driving cross country, climbing the mountain; being interrogated by the “bad guys;” saving the girl. He deals with the mundane – his son’s math homework, kids that want to stay up late (watch for a great quote – “I told them they could only watch five commandments), a boss who doesn’t want to talk to him, and a wife who cares for him but can only take so much. And he does it all while trying to figure out his purpose in life. He gets the Oscar nod from me!

So do yourself a favor, when you don’t feel the need for extreme action or extreme thought but want to play with your mashed potatoes, play in the dirt, and watch a great actor having a great time with a great script, get lost in the wonder of Close Encounters. It is better than Goofy Golf or Pinocchio. I give it a 9.9 out of 10!

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The Dictator: An Actual Plot from Sacha Baron Cohen

I would say I’ve been a pretty big supporter and follower of Sacha Baron Cohen since his Ali G Show days. I loved all his characters when I watched it on HBO and to see them grow into full length movie characters is wonderful. Borat was a wonderful undercover comedy film. Then he followed that up with Bruno, my favorite of his alternate egos. And then, from all this talk about Hussein, Kim Jong-Il, and Gaddafi comes Admiral General Hafez Aladeen. His ability to focus in on one idea that plagues people’s prejudices and preconceived notions on the world around them is spot on as usual. But this one comes with a twist.

Aladeen (Cohen) is a dictator from the North of Africa. In the sweltering heat and tossing sands (a la Hussein), Aladeen lives his life as dictator in luxury. His WMD’s are coming

Aladeen and his majestic hawk, in luxury.

along, he has an all female amazonian entourage and guard, and his palace is so gigantic and wonderful, especially with his fleet of golden Hummers. He’s had sex with everyone (including the great Schwarzenegger. Megan Fox makes an appearance. I wasn’t surprised.) and he is an unforgiving ruler. He sends so many people to death that it’s expected.

As I expected Megan Fox to be in a situation like this…

And then, with the U.N. meeting in NYC looming, Aladeen is kidnapped and tortured. Clayton (John C. Reilly) is a forgiving CIA operative and lets Aladeen off with a shaven face (and then he accidentally burns to death). Stuck in America with only his wits and nobody who believes he’s the real thing, Aladeen’s uncle Tamir (Ben Kingsley) is planning on making Wadiya into a democratic country with the ability to sell their oil. Aladeen must stop them and keep Wadiya a dictatorship. This is the only time you’ll see a dictator as the hero/protagonist (unless you’re watching a film in their country, then probably you will).

This movie is full of a bunch of funny satirized stereotypes and Middle Eastern humor. As usual, Cohen self deprecatingly attacks his Jewish heritage once again. The Chinese law of one child per family is attacked with the baby birthing scene (as seen in the trailer) and masturbation has never been so patriotic. Sacha Baron Cohen is rather tame in this film in

The Man.

comparison to others, only one or two penises on screen and a handful of sexual references (unless you mention the Saw like birthing canal scene).

I really hoped this happened on the streets of NYC.

There’s a great supporting cast of cultural ecclesiastics  in this film. There’s Ben Kingsley, using his darker complexion to play a Middle Eastern man in this film. I’m always surprised when he pops up in comedies. Jason Mantzoukas plays Nadal, the weapons expert and friend to Aladeen in this movie. This man of Greek descent has been doing comedies for a while now and this is just another one. Bobby Lee rears his freaky head in this movie as a U.N. representative who can get a B.J. from whatever celebrity he wants (insert Ed Norton cameo here). His outrageous nature is made for this movie, and that dude will do anything to strip down into a thong. And one of my favorite appearances was Adeel Akhtar as one of Aladeen’s posse, Maroush. Throw in Fred Armisen and the revitalization of Anna Faris’s career as the love interest hippy, Zoe, and you got yourself a satirical comedy.

The best scene.

I really don’t think there’s anywhere that Sacha Baron Cohen won’t go. His terrorist attack scene in the tours helicopter is hilarious. Ironically, he and Jason Mantzoukas are speaking Hebrew. This points out the fact that a lot of languages, although all different may sound similar to an American audience. And all the iconic songs that he turned into an Aladeen medley! Everybody Hurts, 9 to 5, Let’s Get it On, how much that the way the songs were sung alone made me laugh! Cohen even goes to a black man’s funeral in order to procure a beard from a severed head that reappears constantly in the movie. With no bounds and no forgiveness, Sacha Baron Cohen delivers on all cylinders. 8.1 out of 10.


Iron Monkey: Martial Arts in Flight

I have to say at first I was a bit skeptical about this movie. From the get go, the Iron Monkey/Robin Hood hero is flying through the air pulling off some ridiculous kicks and spin moves. It reminded me of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but in more of a comical way. And then I let all those inhibitions go and enjoyed the movie for its technique and visual thrill. By the end, I was pumped up, and inspired to go downstairs and try out some moves on my little sister. But it was 2 in the morning, and I was to lazy to beat up on a sleeping person.

Iron Monkey is the epic tale of a man with a hidden, superhero-like identity. Yang Tianchun (Yu Rongguang) is a medical doctor. He treats the poor for no fee and makes the rich pay what they feel is necessary to heal their ailments. Nights, Yang

Donnie Yen, the master.

moonlights as The Iron Monkey. He sneaks into the evil Governor Cheng’s (Jean Wang) chambers and steals from him. He defeats a dozen guards and four Shaolin monks. It is apparent that no one can stand up to the power of The Iron Monkey.

Wrought with despair at having any of his massive plunder taken, Governer Cheng orders the head of his guard, Fox (Yuen Shun-yi) to search and find anyone who could be the Iron Monkey. When a foreign physician/rapist martial artist rolls into town, Wong Kei-ying (Donnie Yen) and his son/disciple Wong Fei-hung (Angie Tsang) are arrested. Noticing Kei-ying’s power, the Governor enlists him to find the Iron Monkey, or he will leave his son in the dungeons forever. It is up to Donnie Yen in his fight for his son and the well being of a town who benefits from the one man he is trying to capture. Let the chase begin.

Angie Tsang, what amazing things she did with that stick.

After getting over the wire propelled stunts and kicks, I came to really enjoy the characters and the setting for this film. A remake from back in the 1970’s, this movie went farther and more elaborate than I’m sure the other film did. Based on a myth of the Wong father and son’s interaction with an “Iron Monkey” like character, a real mystery is placed around a Batman like character.

All of the fight scenes are dope. Every one is unique and takes place in a different location that utilizes the surroundings to pull off a spectacularly choreographed fight scene. And there are 4 martial artists whose skills are showcased. It’s not all about the Monkey. I

An evil power looms…

found that to be a relief from films that focus on the protagonist and no one else. The Iron Monkey actually had less fight scenes than anyone else!

And here’s another thing that blew my mind. Donnie Yen’s son in the film is actually played by a girl! Angie Tsang is on Hong Kong’s national Wushu martial arts team. She won silver in the Asian Games and Gold in the Wushu Championships. And the whole time I thought she was some malnourished little boy. I’m always thrilled to see a young woman destroying big burly guys on camera with skills she actually can do and will do in order to defend herself and utlimately kick you ass (i.e. Chocolate). A big bravo and props sent Angie’s way.

What a great last fight scene. Get some of that.

With an almost over the top plot with lots of great comic relief and fight scenes, this movie is something I would recommend to a lot of first time martial arts movie watchers. It has the plot in order to draw you in and then blows you back with the martial arts action. Donnie Yen is a martial arts destroyer as usual, and I plan to do a lot more reviews of his movies in the future (most likely his Ip Man films). This movie inspires you to fight for the weak and poor, and rightly so. It is the true way of a master. 8.2 out of 10. 

 


Blue Gender

I’m not usually a fan of pre-2000’s anime. I love some of it, but a big killer for me of such a wide array of anime is the choppy animation. I know the times have been a-changin’, but that’s just the kind of person I am. I’m excited with the direction that anime is going, and this is one of those shows that kicked it off. Blue Gender is the show of a post-apocalyptic Earth that has been disheveled by gigantic bug creatures called the blue. One of those mecha shows in line with Evangelion and a little bit of Gundam, this show provided more than action, it provided mental breakdown and disaster.

Blue Gender is the story of one man, Yuji Kaido (Eric Vale). Let’s start off by saying I was happy to see Eric Vale do good justice to another hero in a series of heroic mecha shows I’ve seen him do. Anyways, Yuji is a sleeper, one of thousands of citizens of the world that were sent to sleep in the 2000’s. Now, 22 years after his slumber began, Yuji is abruptly awakened into a newly advanced world that is being slowly destroyed by a gigantic race of bugs. You may be wondering, “How did these bugs get so damn big? Are we in Honey I Shrunk the Kids?” No, that’s a strange assumption to be making. It will all be explained at the end.

Eight legged freaks?

So Yuji is accidentally awakened and he spends the first episode yelling and running around this scientific facility, trying to figure out what’s going on. He nearly dodges death and finds his way into the arms of a young, unfeeling cadet, Marlene Angel (Laura Bailey). The two of these spend a big majority of the show attempting to get into space to regroup on Second Earth. And that’s not where the show ends. That is a big discovery and a secret I will keep. Well worth the wait that this show still delivers all the way until the end.

Yuji, always emotional and humming.

At first this show started off similarly to Casshern Sins (refer to earlier blog if you need a refresher). Yuji and Marlene’s gang of soldiers are in a race to beat the clock back to Second Earth. But a lot of people die along the way. But a lot of new people are met at the same time. The first half of the show, basically, is Yuji’s discovery of just exactly the difference is between living on Second Earth. The schism between the two is brutal and astounding to him. This is where the heartfelt apathy is felt for humans in general. Then the show picks up with a lot of action and some role reversal, and you’re left with a “we must save the world” situation.

I don’t mind this construction in anime. What I did mind was a not so subtle undertone of sex in this sci-fi/horror/mecha anime. With this whole idea of

Yuji and his B.A. mech unit.

free love and no consequences came off as strange. Nobody cares about each other and this is really emphasized through Yuji’s eyes. But what I don’t get is that all this free sex is unabashedly displayed and done in front of everyone else. I get that this is a common theme in sci-fi novels, but I think it reflects poorly on the genre in that it really doesn’t have to do with anything and just comes off as awkward.

This show gets steamy.

Animation-wise, the show looked fine. There was a good deal of gore and mature content, and I was okay with that. I can imagine its stint on Cartoon Network’s Toonami must have been greatly edited. The recording of the dub was a bit low and I missed some key lines throughout. I don’t know if it was Netflix, but that was a bit of a problem and detracted from watching it. But that opening song sure is bumpin’.  Overall, I really enjoyed that this show was more than your average mecha fighter. The characters had fight and soul, and it made out for a better plot and drama. I’m sure some other anime could take some cues from this formation. A well deserved 8.4 out of 10.


Bleach: Shounen on a Giant Scale

With the new circuit of conventions on the East Coast comes a new batch of cosplays to plan. And what caught my eye this summer, as my girlfriend suggested was Sosuke Aizen, main antagonist of the hit shounen series (still running) Bleach from Japan. (As all anime are usually from  there.) Not knowing a thing about the character I would attempt to portray, I thought, heck, let me take a stab at watching some Bleach. I had no idea what was in store for me for the next 5 weeks. With incredibly long battle scenes of at least 2-3 episodes in length, filler SEASONS and the occaisonal humorous episode, this show throws a lot at you in what I feel is a reasonably paced amount of time. And the more you watch, the more you feel for certain characters and the more you feel like talking about it all the time (I wish I had a Bleach buddy to discuss the finer things with…). With such a cult following (very similar to Naruto) Bleach has become a staple I feel any anime fan should at least tune into every once in a while.

Ichigo and Rukia. Strange love twisted relationship?

So I’m not going to delve to deeply into the story, so I’ll keep it restricted to the first couple of seasons. I already ruined one spoiler for you, so I hope it doesn’t deter you from watching at all. Ichigo Kurosaki is a typical 15 year old high schooler. Well, almost. He has the ability to see spirits that haven’t crossed over and he doesn’t really know why. But this hypersensitive awareness to the Other has caused him a bit of trouble. Which turns into a lot of trouble. That he may inevitably face for the rest of his life.

One day, while walking home from school (insert whistling skip here), Ichigo encounters something he’s never seen before. (Which, based on how often it happens in his hometown of Karakura Town, I’m surprised he hasn’t seen it before…) Rukia Kuchiki, a black robed Shinigami Soul Reaper is battling what appears to be a skull-masked monster. After a few episodes, in her weakened state, she can no longer battle and lends almost all of her power to Ichigo. In a sudden flash and transformation, Ichigo is transformed into a Soul Reaper himself and embarks on countless adventures of struggle and strife.

Due to Ichigo’s acquirement of Rukia’s powers, Rukia is taken prisoner by her brother Byakuya Kuchiki and Renji Abari, and sentenced to death. Ichigo and his friends, Orihime Inoue, Yatsutora Sado, and Uryu Ishida, must all band together and reach the Soul Society, afterworld in which the 13 Court Guard Squads reign supreme over all souls and the dealings with the Hollows. (Hollows end up being a main form of opponent of Ichigo in the first and successive seasons, just in different forms.)

Ichigo fights to save Rukia!

After coming to and entering the Soul Society’s inner chamber, known as the Seireitei, Ichigo and Co. must battle hordes of Soul Reapers, both weak and powerful. Beginning his own path to strength, it is with and against the Soul Society and the Court Guard Squads that Ichigo finds his place in such a new world. With new enemies and challenges that seem to pop up out of nowhere as the seasons go, it may seem (as Ichigo’s voice actor said reluctantly, yet happily, that the show may never end, but at least he’ll continue to get paid for it.)

An immense amount of badasses.

All-in-all, with such an expansive cast with so many characters, this show is unbelievably immense in its scope and plot. And it’s mainly due to the writing and characters behind it. Although many fans may think the show should’ve ended long ago, I’ll have to see once I get farther (I’m on episode 212.). But there needs to be a lot of credit given to the vocal cast of this show. This show, although it would be just fine subbed, may credit it’s American fan base success to Johnny Yong Bosch, voice of Ichigo Kurosaki, our hero. With his deeply troubled teen facing a whole lot of changes in life way beyond that of anyone else due to its mythical quality, Bosch adds an at times playful yet at most times serious voice to a complex character.

Seeing as there are so many characters, I can’t really give credit to all those who lends their great voices to the show. So, for starters, Derek Stephen Prince is owed some credit for his snarky, unabashed portrayal of Uryu Ishida, the

I enjoy this fan pic. (Uryu Ishida)

last of the Quincies. And, although he may not speak much, Jamieson Price gives a greatly underappreciated voice as Yatsutora Sado, the deeply softspoken Hispanic wonder. Gin Ichimaru, voiced by Doug Erholtz, is another voice that stood out to me with its snake-like charm and venomous words as another worthy opponent. Karen Strassman gave a semi-heartbreaking performance as Momo Hinamori, the lieutenant of Sosuke Aizen (voiced by Kyle Herbert), a woman in love with duty and the will to follow. Byakuya Kuchiki is amazingly voiced by a badass, Dan Woren. His I-don’t-give-a-shit attitude really shines through with that heart of gold underneath with

Byakuya Kuchiki, how fantastic

Woren’s voice. David Lodge, a voice actor I’m not that familiar with, adds a new voice I haven’t heard before with the grave undertones of Kenpachi Zaraki. And last but certainly not least comes Liam O’Brien. His amazingly recognizable voice lends itself perfectly to the soft spoken Jushiro Ukitake. And that’s only to name a few. After a while, characters voices become synonymous with the character portrayed on screen in perfect sychronization.

Now, the animation is the good and bad thing about this show. As it progresses, through the past few years, it has gotten better. It’s never been completely terrible, but I admire and try to find anime that have a more fluid style to their action scenes. This show has improved, but I find there are more stationary shots dealing with dialogue and explosions than actual fluid swordfights. Although a part of this show deals with powers and sword attacks not in the short term, there is an element of strategy among the characters I can admire.

Something to look forward to in Bleach.

Apart from being in the top 10 longest running anime, it would be nice to see this show concluded in a way that won’t have been conceived out of a sense of pressure due to its length. I would rather have a harmonious ending with all the seasons fitting together in what becomes a well planned final battle between the characters that matter. Also, I wouldn’t mind if some of the main good guys perished every once in a while, it seems like (with most anime of this style) that no main characters ever die. It might add an element of drama not before captured in this show. Just a thought.

A solid 8.3 out of 10.

 


Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Parts 1 & 2

Wow, it’s been far too long since my last post! Been busy, but now coming back more furious than ever. (Not mad.) So first things first. Let’s start with the last of the Harry Potters. Didn’t catch the midnight showing, but watched the first part the day before and the second part only 3 days after its release (matinee in the middle of the day? Yes thanks.). I gotta say, I was semi-impressed. In totality, these movies do justice to the end of an era. But separately, it just seems as if they need to be combined. (Total of 4 hours of film in a row? It’ll just be Gods and Generals with magic.) It’s the final battle, and Harry has to take on the wizard of wizards, Voldemort. If you haven’t read the books, then I won’t spoil anything for you. But here it is.

Good old Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) has to find the Horcruxes. These are items in which Voldemort

Harry, Ron, and Hermione vs...

stored his soul through the act of committing unspeakable evils (a.k.a. killing people). With one down (Dumbledore’s sacrificed hand to the “ring”) and another out there in the kid’s peripherals (a locket), the adventure is set. The Ministry of Magic,

...Voldemort & Crew

Gringott’s, the Malfoy’s house, and even Hogwarts, this movie goes everywhere. And as the books did, everything sums up and becomes clearer and connected. People have always had problems with the movies not lining up with the books, but come on, there’s no way all of the info and exact actions of the books can be portrayed, so some slack has to be given to Warner Bro.’s. But that’s besides the point.

The action is fantastic. No 3-D for me though, there’s really no point in any film being in 3-D. I would continue to rant about this, but the movie industry likes the money coming in from it and doesn’t care about the headaches and unrealistic way 3-D alters the films. Oh well. The magic duels were great

Just some of the movie magic from Part 2

and the carnage was really brought to a level not a lot of children’s books would go to in theaters, hence, the PG-13 rating. The effects, as usual for every movie, every year, are top notch. The locations are interesting and breathtaking. (I always picture any adventure film outside must be filmed in New Zealand since LOTR.) It feels almost as if every location were waiting for the characters to return to play their part.

These 3 have thankfully improved over the years.

The acting, thank God, has gotten better with every film. Daniel Radcliffe’s flighty and flinty acting has improved to an acceptable level, but I’m sure, in most fan’s mind’s eyes, Harry should’ve been different. (No offense, you did the best you could Daniel.) Ron (Rupert Grint) with his older age has improved and gone on to make other good films (two I would recommend would be Driving Lessons and Wild Target.). Hermione (Emma Watson), in addition to her beauty, has become a wonderful young actress (come on, I’m her age and I’ve grown up with her basically.) who I’m looking forward to seeing in other films now that the H.P.’s are over.

There’s still the supporting cast (in reality, senior acting class that really give the movies their class) that needs to be mentioned. Snape (Alan Rickman) gives a stirring performance in Part II that was tearful, heartfelt, and lovely. It completely redeems his misunderstood character over the years. Ralph Fiennes is as

Snape. You were the best.

fierce as ever as Voldemort, scary and unrelenting as he was meant to be. Helena Bonham Carter plays the deranged (yet sexy, well at least to me) Bellatrix Lestrange, Voldemort’s right hand woman and biggest fan. Jason Isaacs plays Lucius Malfoy. Although completely defeated and beaten by Voldemort and his failings, I respect Malfoy and his wife and child, Draco (Tom Felton) for their misunderstood compassion shown in the films that is taken for cowardice. Rhys Ifans plays Xenophilius Lovegood, Luna’s father, a smaller part but still important. One of my favorite characters, besides Sirius of course.

Neville Longbottom. Just as heroic as Harry.

And there’s the rest of the kids. I won’t go through all the great acting that the students of Hogwarts have given over the years, but it’s spectacular. Neville becomes the hero he always could have been, Dean has gone through some freak growth spurt, Seamus still blows shizz up, and Luna is as quirky as ever. The whole Weasley family is amazingly brilliant, the Hogwarts teaching staff has all come back for the fight and Hagrid is disappointingly left out for pretty much all of the movie.

I feel a sadness in me as the books of my childhood leave me. When I turned 11, for that birthday I went to see the first movie with my friends. From the beginning I was blown away. The books I was reading were coming to life on screen. I was growing up with Harry as a constant friend. They were all my friends I would return to read and see every year. I, like everyone else my age, wished we were wizards. (Or had crushes on Emma Watson.) We wished we had the adventures of Ron, Harry, and Hermione. And now that it’s over, now that Voldemort has been beaten for good, what is there left to do? Will J.K. Rowling write more on Harry and his children’s lives? Will she be a one trick pony? I hope not. I hope generations to come see Harry Potter and become as bewitched with it as we all did. In its entirety, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows deserves the 10 out of 10. (Separately, Part 1 – 8.8 out of 10, and Part II – 7 out of 10) This magical empire has come to an end, but its the books that will be read and movies seen that will live on forever. In all those Muggles who believe in magic.

Will it continue? What is the future of Harry Potter?