Tag Archives: witches

Season of the Witch: Get Your Cage On

I'm liking this.

In the same vein as Black Death and watched only a few nights afterwards, I came to the realization as to why this movie didn’t work for me. It’s not Nic Cage or Ron Pearlman. It’s not the lackluster accents put on by the cast. It’s not the Rock ‘n’ Roll ahead approach to the plot. It’s the fact that I didn’t feel that any of these actors were ever meant to or destined to star in period pieces. As in Black Death, Sean Bean was specifically bred and born to play the role of a Medieval knight. In Nic Cage’s case, I’m not at all positive. Sure, Ron Pearlman has wielded a sword in In the Name of a King (come to think of it, even Jason Statham can’t play an English peasant…) but Pearlman’s body size is really only perfect for Hellboy and Blade II.

And, in this manner, I was removed from fully immersing myself and enjoying the plot presented in Season of the Witch. (Original title idea for Scorsese’s

Do you believe this wench to be a witch?

Mean Streets.) I had to watch this though. My goal in life is to watch the entire career of Nicholas Cage in full. All the way from Fast Times at Ridgemont High down to Ghost Rider 5 (I hope…). I’ll take all the good (The Cage Renaissance) all the way down to his money problems (National Treasure and onwards… for now…). Seeing as this Medieval film really fits this quota, let’s dissect it.

Nic Cage and his flowing locks of sultry power.

So Behmen (Nicholas Cage) and Felson (Ron Pearlman) are two ex-crusaders. And to say that, I mean that after many wars, these two decided all the killing wasn’t worth it anymore. And I gotta say, some pretty pimp-ass helmets as well. They look like cauldrons. Whatever floats your boat. So these two ruffians hustle it back to Germany just in time to find that the Black Plague has hit Europe. (Actually accurate that a lot of Crusaders missed that bit in history.) Discovered in some barn area that they are wanted by the Church, these two duel for a quick second and then are whisked off to meet with Cardinal D’Ambroise (Christopher Lee).

Haggard as ever and possessed by the plague, the Cardinal orders these two men to escort a suspected witch to a hidden monk’s shindig house in order to LIFT THE ENTIRE CURSE OF THE BLACK PLAGUE. All because of one girl?

Read, Deballsack!

Unlikely… But that’s beside the point. So the two agree to avoid jail/death, and they assemble their Super Squad. First up we got Debelzeq (Stephen Campbell Moore). This is pronounced De-ball-sack. Unfortunate, but an actual name. One of the more believable period piece actors, Moore brings a bit of the clergy to the screen. There’s Eckhart (Ulrich Thomsen), the soft-spoken man with a heart of gold. He obviously can’t last. And there’s Hagamar the thief (Stephen Graham). He’s really not worth mentioning.

Robert Sheehan, the last bastion of hope in this film.

And then there’s the star of the show. Young altar boy turned knight, Kay von Wollenbarth (Robert Sheehan). This new up and coming actor stars in one of my favorite shows in the U.K., Misfits. This show (which will be reviewed soon) is a wonderful breakout role for Sheehan, and he has proved his mettle since then in Killing Bono and Red Riding. He’s really not given a chance to shine in this film with the limited script, but you’d barely recognize him. If only his Irish accent could flow from those lips in every film.

So, on this whirlwind roller coaster adventure, in every twist and turn, lives are at stake. Is Anna (Claire Foy) truly a witch? Or something more? Will Behmen and Felson survive? Only watching this movie from start to finish in hopefully one sitting will tell…

There’s really not much to say about anything else in this film, so I’ll summarize. The acting is a period piece, without a sense of the period. English accents failed to veil whatever was going on at the time. If those were even accents… I love the Cage, but when you want some Cage action, you expect a bit better from him. This one was toned down and I commend him for that action, but some more terror and mania was necessary. This supernatural film came across as realistic at first, and moved towards the CGI graphics and buffoonery towards the end. It seemed as if the movie was going in two different directions from start to finish. I don’t blame the actors or what was attempted onscreen, I would say the flaws started from the writing/pre-production phase. So, cast and  crew of Season of the Witch, you gave it your all, but you let Nicholas Cage down. And for that, the Cage vehicle of dastardly deeds gets a measly 3.3 out of 10.

This haggardly crew must fight the witch in this touching film of evil.

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Puella Magi Madoka Magica: The Darker Side of a Magical Girl

Alright, I have to tell everyone now that, out of all the genres of anime out there, I am the least fan of magical girl anime. And the prospect of sitting down to watch this anime kind of gave me the willies. The misconceptions on magical girl anime run abound in our society and in Japanese society. Sailor Moon: A bunch of girls transforming without the power to beat the bad guy without the help of Tuxedo Mask. The Powerpuff Girls on Cartoon Network and their original, scarier version of transformation from Powerpuff Girls Z. I mean, come on, those transformations take forever. And the bad guys are a joke. Mojojojo? (I gotta say, Him is the only good bad guy from that series.) But then I was presented a show that completely breaks the stereotype of what exactly defines a magical girl anime, even though it clearly stays in the boundaries… to an extent.

In the town of Mitakihara, there exists a school in which Madoka Kaname, Homura Akemi, and Sayaka Miki, three young middle school students, exist in a world of evil. All around them, evil spirits known as witches cause havoc and chaos in the best way they know how. Murders and suicides. And the only way these beings can be stopped is by the power of the magical girls. And the only way these girls can become magical is through the power of through Kyubey, a creepy cat-like alien that will grant your wish.

Kyubey. Screw that little freak...

And that’s where the twist comes in. After encountering Mami Tomoe, a veteran magical girl who has lived the life of a magical girl, the true weight of just exactly what it means to fight the witches hits them. Sayaka and her love interest clashes with the use of her wish and his disability, and Madoka and her indecision leaves conflict in her wake throughout the show. The ending is slightly confusing, but there is a constant element of danger that is ironically juxtaposed (my least favorite word to use, sorry) against the comically drawn witches of innocence and childish fantasy. It all works out in the end, as expected from a magical girl anime, but not in a way that leaves everyone in a win-win situation. With that breath of fresh air achieved in 12 episodes, an amazing amount of twists and turns are evilly inserted in a short amount of time, really breaking away from what I would consider a bland form of anime into a more interesting one.

You know what caught my eye the most? The animation in relation to the witches. Every time in which the magical girls had to interact with the witches in their world, I was blown away by the different animated styles of the witches. Either crayon colored whimsy or a collage of layered paper, I was intrigued by the clash of anime and art. The fluidity of the two worlds combined was stylistically stimulating.

Some of the more interesting artwork in Madoka Magica.

The pain and anguish behind the show that permeates each episode is something one wouldn’t expect from a livelier, happy form of anime. The choices and decisions of the characters and the secrets they hide from one another leave gaps that none of the characters can cross in order to connect. Not as a

The interesting girls of M.M.

drawback, but more as a connection by separation. Feeling for the characters comes as a challenge for me (especially some of the more fated of characters like Sayaka and and Mami) but one character that stood out with her cruelty and activity was Kyoko Sakura. Although you don’t meet her until later, she’s well worth the wait.

So, all-in-all, Madoka Magica is a quick watch with a lot compiled into its short run. And, in this case, quality over quantity, one of the greatest assets of the anime. With an interesting plot scope and character development (for the most part) with the combination of fate and decision, the magical girl stereotype is effectively squashed. The powers are interesting and the tradeoff is quite good. Never sign the contract, but check this show out. A solid 7.3 out of 10.

This has nothing to do with the show, but it gives you a taste of the anime’s look, with some Suckerpunch 😛


Soul Eater: The Nightmare Before Anime

Ever since my girlfriend and her sister cosplayed the Thompson twins from Soul Eater, I had developed a growing

Liz and Patty. Yes.

interest in watching Soul Eater. I didn’t realize at the time what this show would hold in store for me. (Added bonus if Christopher Sabat does any voice in an anime.) As I began watching this 51 episode anime, I found myself falling in love with the characters and caring for what would happen to them (although I had the ending ruined for me by complete accident.) It didn’t detract from the pulse-pounding episodes of battle after battle that ensued, and I found a new love in this Halloween-type anime that sent chills down my spine and laughs throughout my body as I spent a week watching this amazing anime. I was enraptured.

This anime follows the story of three “Meisters” and their “Weapons.” These duos of weapon and wielder take on what are known as Kishins, the tainted souls of creatures that have become monsters and feed on other people’s souls. Once 99 Kishin souls are collected, and one witch’s soul, then the weapon is deemed worthy of being used by Lord Death. This grim reaper is the essential Headmaster of the DWMA, also known as the Death Weapon Meister Academy. He installed this school to battle Kishins, and it has done a good job up to this point.

The doom and gloom of Death City.

It is at this point that things begin to go downhill. The evil witch Medusa (Luci Christian) and others have made plans to bring down the DWMA, and it is up to three brave Meisters, Maka Albarn (Laura Bailey), Black Star (Brittney Karbowski), and Death the Kid (Todd Haberkorn) to defeat the evil plot of the witches and Kishins. Teamed up with their weapons, Soul Eater (Micah Solusod), Tsubaki (Monica Rial), and the Thompson twins Liz (Jamie Marchi) and Patty (Cherami Leigh).

So it may seem weird that Meisters, who are people, are fighting using weapons who are also people. But these people are born with the ability to change into weapons at will. These weapons are special as well. A Meister and its Weapon have a special bond known as Soul Resonance. This bond allows Meister and Weapon to combine into one soul and creates a higher power in which to defeat enemies. But these three are not on the level of the Professors or Lord Death himself at the DWMA. And it is the school’s purpose to train these Meisters and Weapons in order to make them formidable opponents against Kishins.

The one thing that stands out about this anime, to me, is the style in which the plot is set. The doom and gloom of death and souls is combined with the comedic

Soul Eater. With some pizazz.

drawings of the artists. This gives it an anime meets Nightmare Before Christmas feel to it. The grinning Sun and Moon with blood dripping from their teeth give it that comedic element, mixed with the morbid. The grim reapers and monster encountered, drawn in what appears to be Jack the Ripper Whitechapel area sets up one of the best environments I’ve ever encountered in an anime.

Black Star. Badass.

And there are some great english voice actors that are in this anime. It would take too long to give a whole list, so I’ll just highlight a few. I thought Micah Solusod gave a great performance as Soul Eater, Maka’s weapon scythe. His grave voice and determined attitude comes across great through Micah, although I’ve never heard of him before. Brittney Karbowski was amazing as the cocky Black Star, my all time favorite ninja child and all around badass. John Swasey was great as Lord Death. His goofy voice gave the anime a Jack Skellington element with his personality and outlook. Vic Mignogna was hilarious as Maka’s father and Death Scythe Spirit. His obsession with seeking his daughter’s approval was always worth a laugh. Chuck Huber was fantastic as the madness induced Professor Doctor Franken Stein. His tormented character fought back and forth, and this was amazingly done by Huber. Maxey Whitehead was great as the insecure, gender-bender Crona. The duo of Crona and Ragnarok against the world and the lack of acceptance was heart wrenching to say the least. And yes, Troy Baker was amazing as Excalibur, the useless, fool dueling weapon of legend and lore.

And that’s about it. To get too much into the story might ruin the anime with spoilers, so I’ll leave you with this. If you’re looking for a light-hearted shonen with gore, guts (courage/bravery), and glorious fighting, this anime is for you. I give Soul Eater a 9 out of 10.

And here’s a taste of the show with a tribute to Death the Kid and the sexy Thompson Twins. Hooray.