A Glimpse of Insanity

November 23, 2014

First Glimpse: Banshee

Filed under: Procrastin8,Reviews,TV — L @ 11:19 AM
Tags: , , , ,

Banshee

Pre-Ramble: First time I’ve seen that tagline actually haha. I think it about sums it up. I stumbled across this show when I was browsing the internets and I saw a preview for Season 3. “More explosive than ever!” it said or something to that effect, so I was curious. Of course when I hear “Banshee” I think X-Men’s Banshee and then I’m all “Oooh, mutants?” No, not even close. It’s an original series from Cinemax, which intrigued me because HBO, Starz, and even Netflix original series have been hot on my radar lately. Given that Cinemax would want to break into that original series market, I thought their effort to beat out the competition would be worth a glimpse. The premise itself is that an ex-con becomes a sheriff of a small town and deals with the problems of said small town, Banshee, in a way only an ex-con can. Ok, a little contrived, but let’s see how it pans out. Throw in the fact that Banshee has a huge Amish population (whaaa–? Weird twist!) and I was decidedly intrigued.

First Glimpse: I have to say, contrived premises can get old (cough cough Snowpiercer). I don’t like being forced to believe something I sincerely cannot reconcile with reality. Unless you go all out and say “This is a reality far different from ours,” such as with fantasy/superheroes/sci-fi, then it really starts to rankle. It’s like uncanny valley: Wall-E was a lovable robot with human characteristics, despite his completely non-human appearance. However, Beowulf the animated version freaked everyone the hell out because despite being hyper-realistic, people could only focus on the unreal parts. When you have something so distinctly different, you look for similarities and take comfort in the commonalities. But when you have something that’s close but no cigar, your brain can only focus on the differences and it makes you constantly uncomfortable. A contrived premise is much the same way: I can see how it feels real and it seems real and all the broad strokes seem to jive with my reality, but the little subtle differences, the minor off-key notes can be more jarring than, say, an entire setting that’s completely alien to my reality. Banshee does a great job of getting the viewer to focus on the parts of the show that jive with your reality and that’s why I’ve become hooked after the first episode.

Visuals: It’s a small town so the production values are low. Visually, it’s not stunning. However, I think the rural setting is complemented well by the small production feel. It’s not a Michael Bay production with explosions and over-the-top action, but more along the lines of the Bourne Identity close-in hand-to-hand-to-face combat. Less flash, more grit.

Audio: I haven’t much to say about the audio either, truth be told. It has some interesting bgm but not a lot to really rant or rave about. I think the main pull is the story and the development of the characters so the other elements are muted.

Plot: As I’ve said, I dislike contrived premises that constantly stretch belief. It gets wearing. Yes I buy that this guy must do this ONE TIME. But with a poorly contrived premise, that gets beat into you over and over and over and over until you just say “Why doesn’t he just give it all up?” I simply don’t buy it that character A can’t find any other way to do things. What I like about Banshee is that the premise is an excuse to tell a story about a man who’s treading water. There aren’t a whole lot of flashbacks and poring deep into the backstory of the protagonist. I thoroughly appreciate how the writers are teasing it out bit by bit. Right now, they’re focusing on his life in Banshee and the fact that he’s an ex-con choosing the opposite of a safe post-prison life is fairly irrelevant. That’s not to say it doesn’t come up, but it’s not the main dish here. Sure there are times when he acts in a decidedly non-sheriff way, I can’t deny that. The point of this show isn’t to highlight how he’s a wolf hiding among sheep, but rather, to focus more on the plot. Without spoiling, I’ll just say that he is an anti-hero who doesn’t aspire to higher ideals or struggle with too many moral crises. That’s what I like about him. Even with superheroes, it gets wearing to constantly hear about it: Batman won’t use guns, even if it’s the only way, even if it KILLS him, his trauma as a child is simply too great! I mean, Batman would be a terrible comic if that made an appearance every scene. The best parts of the Batman comic line are the ones that focus on everything in his life around the tragedy – how he deals with the aftermath, how he moves forward, what decisions he makes and what mistakes he makes. It’s the same deal with Banshee: we know it won’t last, but instead of harping on the borrowed time, the show focuses on the here and now and what he’s doing. You see him living two identities and it’s refreshing to not see him bemoan his fate. He doesn’t make the smart call and try to completely walk the straight and narrow. It’s simply not believable. Instead, you see a very flawed human being making bad calls and spur-of-the-moment decisions that you know will come back to haunt him. It’s believable in the reality of the mistakes he makes and how he just keeps trying to take it day by day.

The rest of the cast are slowly rounding out the story, bringing in their own intriguing story lines and dropping surprisingly poignant moments. It’s understated, though, in a way someone casually drops a quote that perfectly describes how you’re feeling, and then they move on instead of sitting down and analyzing it for days. In the end, it comes down to how the show paces itself well and scales properly. Too many shows feel like they have to prove themselves in the first episode and then find themselves tapering off to quickly and fizzling out. It speaks to solid writing and directing and I am COMPLETELY excited to see what comes next.

Final Glimpse: I have to constantly remind myself not to be a TV snob. This show makes it hard to remember that because I feel like I can go on for days about how well it’s been pulled off. It’s not a perfect show, but it is exactly what it aims to be. It’s not quite the hardest-hitting show, but it sure as hell is 100% accurate in hitting the mark. I give it a 9.5/10 because of that. I have a hard time finding a show that knows itself as well as this show does, skipping the awkward growing phase of the first season where you wonder why in the hell you’re still watching, at times. It’s like one of those people who never wonders “Who am I?” in their room, in the dark. They simply keep going because forward is the only option. There is a refreshing practicality and pragmatic feel to this show that fascinates me.

LGood programming. Bad connoisseur.

November 14, 2014

First Glimpse: Safety Not Guaranteed

 

Safety Not Guaranteed

Pre-Ramble: I have been on an Aubrey Plaza/Anna Kendrick binge. There’s something fresh and likable about their characters. As much as people hate on Aubrey Plaza’s deadpan image, I think she actually pulls off quite a range of characters, although the overall flavor remains the same. I suppose she’s like potatoes: you can fry ’em, crisp ’em, bake ’em, etc, and each way has a distinct taste, but in the end, you can still taste the starch. I love her in Parks and Recreation, she was pretty rad in Life After Beth, but so far I think I like her in this film best. There’s a more genuine feeling here, making me wonder if she perhaps wasn’t acting so much. I’d like to think so. I caught a trailer for this and I was immediately hooked. It had a strong lead (Aubrey Plaza), and is it just me or is Jake Johnson in like every goddamn movie lately? He’s also got an impressive range with an overall distinct flavor. Hard to like, really, but he plays his characters well. Anyway, I really enjoyed this film and despite knowing what was going to happen, I still feel like there’s a lot to enjoy here.

First Glimpse: It took me a few minutes but I finally figured out why it felt so familiar: it’s pretty much a live-action version of Steins;Gate. Now that is a brilliant tragmedy (tragic comedy) and I love the intensity and passion of the anime. There’s a scene where Kenneth whirls off after rapidly spitting out dialogue regarding what they’ll be doing next that is so utterly reminiscent of Steins;Gate that a few neurons fired off. That’s when I realized it really was Steins;Gate. However, despite the similarities, I would say they both have their own merits and I love both the anime and the film distinctly. The premise is a “time traveler” puts an ad in the classifieds, asking for a partner. He states: will be paid after return. Partner must supply own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I’ve only done this once before.

What’s powerful about this is the pacing. You think you know this guy is just a nutjob and his time travel is just a way for his sick mind to cope. But the director hits you with twists and leads you so skillfully through the plot that even if you’re aware of certain elements, they still manage to surprise you when they pop up. Good pacing will make you forget anything but what’s happening right now in the film. It’s why I love Ender’s Game and Aldnoah.Zero. The film is organic and you feel like you glide through the cast of characters and side plots. You keep running for that corner, to turn it and see what comes next.

Visuals: It plays like an indie film, obviously because the people from “Little Miss Sunshine” were working on it. There’s a low-budget/but not cheap feel. You aren’t distracted by camera tricks or optical illusions. You’re free to focus your entire attention span on the movie itself. The visuals are not breathtaking but they’re not meant to be. The focus is the plot and there’s enough to keep you focused on the screen, but don’t look for visual art here.

Audio: I really liked the soundtrack. It felt well blended with the film and honestly good audio factors into pacing. If you can stop and listen just to the OST, I think the audio director has poorly done the job. There are times when audio must make a point, but for the purpose of this film, it’s not meant to jar you out of your willing suspension of disbelief. It’s the harp music that keeps playing to let you know this is a dream sequence in a sitcom.

Plot: As I mentioned above, the plot is not unique. However, it has its own foible and idiosyncrasies that make it its own. I have very little complaint about this film other than the ending. It’s like an exotic drink: you wouldn’t do it again, but for the very first time, it’s a great experience. It doesn’t have much replay value, but that first viewing is quite precious. I am convinced by films such as these that despite Hollywood’s penchant for cookie-cutter plotlines, excellent cinema can still be made. The formulaic approach just means that the director has to get more creative with bringing the plot to life. It’s an unfair burden but it is the world we live in. My one criticism of the plot is that the ending left me unsatisfied. Anything more would be a spoiler, so I’ll end it here.

Final Glimpse: I couldn’t help but think about going back in time myself. If I had the chance, where would I go and what would I do? I don’t hate my life, but there are some serious mistakes I wish I could take back. Or even just assure my high school self that I would be ok. I wouldn’t mind a preview along the lines of “Be here at this time and look for this person.” Who is this person? I dunno. I can only wait and let life happen. The film kept me thinking without breaking my viewing groove, which is what I call it when I’m swept away by the plot. I normally end up hating a movie when the writing is poor and I break out of the groove and can never find my way back. However, although I was thinking of other things, I was still completely focused on this plot and damned if I didn’t love every second of it. Aubrey is brilliant in her role and you have your fingers crossed the whole time, rooting for her. I give this movie a 9/10 because despite it’s brilliance, the ending ruined it for me.

 

LDon't celebrate just shy of the end zone.

October 31, 2014

First Glimpse: Peaky Blinders

Peaky Blinders

Pre-Ramble: I normally like a wide image, but this image sums it all up perfectly. There’s debate over why it’s called Peaky Blinders, although the show gives a vague description that hints at it (I won’t spoil, just figure it out yourself in the first episode). Peaky refers to their caps and their dressing style, apparently. Anyway, the show takes one interpretation of the term and runs with it. Also, apparently there’s some debate as to whether peaky blinders was a term for a type of youth gang, or the name of an actual gang. In the show, it’s the name of an actual gang. Maybe it was originally a gang’s name and then it became the term to describe such gangs. Kind of like how people say “hand me a kleenex” instead of “hand me a tissue.” I had a hard time defining exactly why I loved this show: it lacks most of the characteristics I go crazy for. And yet, I burned through the first season in a few days and I was OVERJOYED to see that four episodes (as of this writing) were out for season two. It’s an excellent show, and while I’ve never been a huge fan of Cilian Murphy (20 Days Later, Batman Begins, etc), I think he was perfectly cast. In fact, I would say that’s what really gets to me about this show: everything has been so perfectly tailored, so perfectly British in its way, that despite not having an epic plot with unbelievable twists, I can’t get enough.

First Glimpse: Low to no expectations were again the tale of this show for me. I suppose being pleasantly surprised leans me towards positive reviewing. For me, I love shows that can be truly creative, and usually that means surprising me. So yeah, I guess this show pulled that off beautifully. I didn’t know what to expect, just that it was about a small gang that tries to make it big. I know next to nothing about the nitty-gritty history of England, being an American. However, there is such a note of authenticity that rings true here that I can’t help but admire the show. I briefly mentioned how the plot isn’t amazing and indeed, if any other show had such a lackluster presentation of plot, I would have quite thoroughly roasted it. But it’s less about the plot and more about this amazing and vibrant world they’ve created. I actually had to laugh because I couldn’t get through Tolkien’s meticulous world-building and descriptions, yet when I see a show about English gangsters after World War I, I am drawn in more by the production values than the plot! It just goes to show that a production done well does not need such extreme, mind-bending plot points that most television shows try to serve up. Id’ compare it to a wooden chair crafted without any screws or glue. The pieces fit together so perfectly and the craftsmanship is undeniable. Even if it’s a mundane object like a chair, the level of planning and preparation that went into its creation is obvious to anyone and that is what makes it amazing.

Visuals: This show has a lot of interesting visuals that aren’t always the focus. Sometimes directors can go “too creative” and try to demonstrate that their job involves more than quick cuts and super zoom in closeups. I find it distracts from the story telling and often breaks the viewing groove I get into when I’m really enjoying a show. It just feels forced and it’s more like a cry for attention rather than a serious art move. However, with Peaky Blinders, the director sneaks in some truly stunning visuals that enhance the story telling. There are a lot of long pauses (Awkward British pauses, hey?) or slo-mo scenes, but I think the director knows how to use these narrative devices to supplement the storytelling, rather than take over entirely. The Peaky Blinders were historically a well-tailored bunch, which I find interesting. I didn’t know that until I actually looked them up, but their trademark was a certain type of fashion. Well, the show does a bang-up job of making everything look proper…I don’t mean luxurious and fancy, I mean they look like a gang that’s making their money during tough times and still taking the time to look good. It’s almost the same as why I loved Boardwalk Empire, it hearkens back to a simpler time when everyone just wore suits, but more importantly, they knew exactly how to wear them. To me, it’s the minute details they put into this entire production that really drew me in.

Audio: I normally skip this section for dramas but I will say this: their accents can be almost incomprehensible. I had the great fortune to watch Peaky Blinders on Netflix for season one and I shamelessly admit I had subtitles on. Damn, but those little Birmingham accents are thick. And just wait until you meet Irish characters on the show…ugh. So that’s a stumbling block to enjoying this gem.

Plot: As I’ve said, it’s actually not the plot that drives this show. There are some twists, but nothing incredibly ground-breaking. I suppose it’s along the lines of mashed potatoes. If you bake the potatoes properly, as well as buying the best and fluffiest Idaho spuds, you end up with an incredibly filling and delicious meal. Not terribly imaginative, but the care that goes into each ingredient eventually shines through in the end product. The plot is much like that, where I wouldn’t have the plot stand on its own, but couched in the period-appropriate garb and speech, the show becomes a rockstar. I didn’t feel that there were too many contrived moments, as I don’t remember being cruelly ripped from the bosom of groove watching (which I shall term the case where I get so into the show I ignore everything else). It is too easy to marathon these episodes because they don’t feel self-contained. You feel like each episode just flows into the next, which is great if you have all the episodes. Less great when you’re waiting weekly for the episodes to come out and you JUST WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS GAWD, gimme some of that Peaky Blinders stuff, you know???

Season two is off to a fairly explosive start and I’m excited to see how the rest of it plays out.

Final Glimpse: I would say that despite the mediocre plot, the show overall knocks it out of the park. I was especially pleased to see a lot of actors I didn’t know and be sucked in by their powerful performances. Cillian Murphy really gets into the skin of his character until you can’t really see the actor inside. Helen McCrory (Draco Malfoy’s mother from Harry Potter!) is such a fantastic actress here that you really sympathize with her for having to play such a flat, no-dimensional character like Mrs. Malfoy (I don’t know her name, sorry). You almost wonder if it’s the same person, despite the voice being exactly the same. Sam Neill plays his character in such a way as to shatter my Jurassic Park childhood, but I forgive him because he plays it to the nines (I don’t know what that even means, but it sounds British). I give this show a 9/10 because if the plot had been out of this world, this would be the most perfect show ever. But that’s like saying “I’m sleeping with a super model, but if had a clone that was willing to experiment on me, I’d be happier.”

 

LGreed kills.

October 30, 2014

First Glimpse: The Flash

Filed under: Procrastin8,Reviews,TV — L @ 3:25 PM
Tags: , ,

The Flash

Pre-Ramble: Nope, still avoiding work. I’ve been burning through Anime and TV shows when I finally got to The Flash. I tried the first episode of Gotham because I thought it was an interesting reboot/fresh take. Sadly, this Penny-Arcade comic says it all: Gotham In A Nutshell. So I skipped out on Gotham because people assure me it doesn’t get better and there was nothing particularly compelling. In terms of the comics world, Marvel is doing a marvelous (yeah I did that on purpose) job of bringing the comics to live action. I’m not quite as sold on Agents of SHIELD, as I saw three eps and simply couldn’t get into it. As much as I loved Coulson. The CW had a great success with Smallville (up until Season 2, at which point the creators were just pandering and that frustrated me, they weren’t being daring and creative like the entire show was from the beginning, so there’s that), and while people love Arrow (I just–I can’t even), I’ve been eagerly awaiting The Flash. The short promo I saw for it a while back really grabbed my attention and I’m excited to finally watch the first four episodes. Coming into the show I had mediocre expectations (The Flash is one of the big players in the DC universe, after all). I’m glad to say I haven’t been disappointed!

First Glimpse: I’m trying out a new format for my reviews, inspired by my crazy-person rant on Aldnoah.Zero. Trying to bring you more content and less ramble, as I have, after all, included a pre-ramble section. Production values are solid on this show, although some of the CGI can look a tad awkward. Still, the show relies heavily on the concept of a faster-than-belief metahuman, so there’s going to be a steady stream of CGI.

Visuals: I like the look of the live-action suit. In the comic/cartoons, he’s a much brighter red, which would just look awful. Nice call on a deeper red (maroon-ish, I wanna say?) and leather. There’s something more realistic about the suit. Now the various incarnations of the suit in the comics means they had plenty of leeway, as one incarnation of The Flash had a suit that could fit into a ring that he wore (omg, the CGI bill for doing that multiple times an episode). There’s a mix of camera tricks and CGI to show the powers of our favorite metahuman, which is nice because as a new show, there’s the entirely plausible scenario where they don’t have the budget and it ends up looking cheap. The series overall has a bright visual tone that I think matches the tone of the comics, as The Flash is neither a gritty nor a dark character. It’s not too cartoon-y bright and happy, either. I like the choice of casting here, you really buy into this incarnation of The Flash.

Audio: Well for anime, audio is important, mostly because of the soundtrack. Well only because of the soundtrack, really. Here, there’s not much, as American dramas tend not to rely heavily on the audio. But there’s nothing jarring or unpleasant, either, so that’s a plus.

Plot: The show isn’t exactly as smooth as butter, there are a few definite contrived moments. However, it wasn’t as overly contrived as many other shows, and I attribute it more to growing pains than anything else. The first episode was a doozy, I’ll admit. Without spoiling, I will simply say that the writers knew what they were about. I think they set up Barry Allen’s life with enough details to make the audience invest in the character, yet enough blanks to keep us guessing and to give wiggle room for later seasons. One thing that did bug me is the crossover between Arrow and The Flash. I just don’t like that show (it boggles the mind that it’s been on for three seasons as it is). What bugs me is that episode 4 recaps scenes from Arrow and since I didn’t see those episodes of Arrow, I thought I’d missed an episode in between or something. That’s fairly annoying, but only to a completionist like me. I won’t deduct for that since it’s more of a personal preference unique to me. As for the show, the crossover doesn’t affect it much either way. It’s a nice touch on DC’s part to try to link the shows, although they fail to create the infrastructure that Marvel has been able to build with their movie franchises.

The story lines hearken back to a simpler time. It reminds me of Smallville in the beginning, when Clark only had his super speed to solve problems. Except, the Flash lacks superhuman strength, invulnerability, and of course, frost-breath and laser beams. he does, however, have a snappier suit, a support crew, and new villains to fight that make more sense than Smallville’s engine of “New villains who, 16 years ago were affected by a meteor crash yet are only just now coming out of the woodworks.” Again, without spoiling, The Flash as a show takes care of the “weekly villain” problem fairly neatly. I also love the introduction of well-known names in the DC universe making their appearances.

I felt compelled to watch all 4 episodes that are available at once. That’s how engrossing it was. I sympathize with the main character and despite a few false starts and plot stumbles, I feel this show has great potential to become an amazing franchise. I sure hope the writers don’t get lazy and continue to build on the momentum (cuz the Flash runs fast…get it?) of the first season. So far, I’m looking forward to years of watching.

Final Glimpse: I’ll deduct 2 points from Gryffindor–er, The Flash, for their slightly unpolished storylines and the few contrived moments. There’s a refreshing return to a simpler plotline routine, where Barry fights a weekly bad guy while slowly uncovering his powers and more about his past. Normally I’d be bored by such a conventional approach, but they really get it to work nicely. Visuals are nice without going over the top and I think they’ve found a nice balance. I can’t wait to see how the show develops and I sure hope the look develops along with it. I’m definitely going to keep watching because these writers are just getting warmed up!

 

L

The Fastest Man Alive...ran his way into my good graces.

October 27, 2014

First Glimpse: Aldnoah.Zero

Filed under: Anime,Procrastin8,Reviews — L @ 9:54 PM

Aldnoah.Zero

Pre-Ramble: I’ve been avoiding some serious work. Like the amount of work could physically crush me at this point. So of course I went to the old standby of watching a ton of TV and anime instead of doing what I had to do. FOR ONCE, I don’t regret it. This anime would never have popped up on my radar unless I had done a search for “Best Anime 2014.” Kotaku had a great list, the Top 5 Anime of Summer 2014 or somesuch nonsense. However, I’ve downloaded all 5 of those anime and OH MY GOD I don’t regret it in the least. This was the first anime I picked up and by the grace of being the first done downloading, I watched it first. It should say something that I burned through 12 eps all at once (barely stopping to eat). Even if you factor in procrastination, it’s no joke, I would have marathoned this anime REGARDLESS. It. Is. EPIC! If you–no, WHEN YOU watch this anime, shut off your damn phones, have food that’s quick and ready to eat, get COMFY, and watch this whole damn thing in its entirety. I haven’t been this excited about an anime since…wow, since EVER. This is my new favorite anime and I never say that lightly. Or at all, really!

First Glimpse: I went into this with low, low expectations. It’s a mecha anime, I told myself. It will have the typical “protagonist is the only one who can fight the villains despite having the exact same equipment as everyone else in the series, because he’s just exceptional like that.” It will have a tsundere (a girl who starts off frosty but eventually warms up to the guy and then falls in love with him, just like in real life, no?). There will be some bogus science going on and, if it’s anything like gundam, there will be an inexplicable singing portion to convey the hurt, hurt feelings of the protagonist as he shoulders the heavy burden of this unwanted war.

WRONG! They take the conventions of mecha anime and EXPLODE THEM. They throw out the entire playbook on anime IN GENERAL and just really go to interesting plot points with their writing. The one compelling aspect, that I happened to read in a review about it, was that instead of the mechas on the good guys’ side being all powerful, it’s reversed here. The mechas are not all powerful for the good guys and they have to fight extra hard to beat the villains. Intriguing? You’re goddamn right it is. I’m going to break this down without spoiling the plot because I freaking love this anime so much I want everyone to have the same pristine experience I had.

Visuals: As with most anime now, the art is crisp and in HD. I think this is probably my favorite era of anime because everything looks so damned good. That’s not to say that the art is overly intricate: what I really like is how the lines are crisp yet simple. There’s a very pleasing aesthetic to this anime that felt extremely refreshing to me, although the war machines were beautifully crafted and exquisite with their detail. It was ornate where it needed to be, yet minimalist elsewhere. A perfect balance. I loved the mechas and honestly wish they had more screen time.

Audio: I LOVE the soundtrack. The opening, the ending, the fight scenes – I had Shazam on in the background to pick up all the songs. The musical score was more than background music to flesh out a battle scene, it truly complemented the pacing of the story and enhanced the overall viewing experience. I am going to get all the music from this anime and listen to all of it. Because I loves it!!!

Plot: Ok so it gets tricky talking about the plot without revealing any of it, but I will say this: There is only one moment where I stopped, shook myself, broke out of the fantasy that was the perfect viewing experience of this anime, and said “Dafuq was that?” Often, anime gets storyboarded in such a way where “Ok X has to happen in order for Y to begin, so…even though there’s absolutely no goddamn reason why, X IS HAPPENING NOW!” These contrived moments make me cringe because it’s just pure laziness. Anime transports you to a fantasy world (even if it’s slice of life) and you willingly suspend your disbelief to remain immersed. But when they create these contrived moments to simply move the plot along, it’s jarring and it really shakes you out of your watching groove. What I really love about this anime is that the story is woven so carefully and so meticulously that all the little details wind up mattering in the end. It’s easy to miss, so it’s not like watching CSI where they explain every goddamn minute detail to prove they’re scientists or whatever. They take little details and weave them in so well that everything just feels snug. As a writer, I have nothing but pure respect for this anime as a whole product, but especially the storyline. A truly well told tale can easily overcome the tired tropes of an overdone genre–and I ASSURE you, folks, this anime destroys all other contenders in the genre. Is this the perfect anime? I can’t tell you 100%, but I can tell you it’s love. True love. I want to marry this anime and have beautiful Aldnoah babies with it. For reals.

Final Glimpse: I normally shy away from giving out perfect scores because I have the belief that a perfect show/movie/anime/book will eventually come along. I know in a few other genres I have given out that perfect 10, but seriously? This anime completely invalidates all those other perfect 10s. This perfect 10 score is on a whole ‘nuther level of perfect 10. There is that one contrived moment that was awkward and unwieldy, but seriously, other than that, this anime is my perfect woman. I mean, anime. It’s the first (and possibly last) time I will end an anime screaming “WHAT THE FUCK?! WHAT? WHAT??? WHAT!!! WHATTHEFUCK!!!! THE FUCK!??!?!?!” There is a season two coming but I have my reservations. It will be extremely difficult to top these twelve episodes and I’m almost afraid for them to try. I would hate to see an anime I love so much fall so far. Of course, no way I’m not watching it when it comes out. Just sayin’

 

[Also, I apologize if it sounds like I was shouting for this entire post, to be honest, I just finished watching this damn anime like 30 min ago and I’m still coming down off that high.]

 

LWe'll always have Paris (the perfect 10)...

October 1, 2014

First Glimpse: Zombies, Run 5K Training

Filed under: English,Movies,Procrastin8,Reviews — L @ 6:33 PM

 

Zombies Run
[That’s the best I can do for images. I tried, I really did. It’s an app, so get over it]

Pre-Ramble: I’ve been trying to get back into some sort of shape. 30’s coming up (OH GOD) and I’ve got a rather persistent little ring around the waist. I hesitate to call it a tire because it’s more along the lines of a kid’s tricycle tire than say, a car tire. Let’s just say when I sit/slouch, there’s a nice flap of fat to grab onto. *shudder* Anyway, I tried straight up just running but shockingly that got really boring. Also, it is SO HOT and SO HUMID in Florida. To be perfectly honest, the line between “I’m out of shape,” and “I’m not build to drink the air it’s so friggen humid,” was hard to distinguish. Now that it’s OCTOBER, it’s chilled somewhat, but I still have to wake up around 7am to go running and homie don’t play that. No but seriously, if I could go running at 8am I’d be better about it. Today I went out around 7:30am (woke up around 7:15ish) and ran for the first time in awhile. I got my new iPhone 6, my FitBit Force, my running shoes, and a whole lot of gumption! I decided to take this app out for a spin because the concept of a workout based on zombies chasing you held far too much appeal. I did have my preconceived notions going in, which I will also outline and then explain.

First Glimpse: Ok, so the basic idea of this is that marathon runners/trainers were consulted on the best way to get someone from couch to 5K in 8 weeks. I have no idea if that means a fast 5K, but we’ll see. They then combined the workouts with the concept of running from zombies, which, for me is a better idea than sparkling vampires and/or alpaca-faced werewolves (he looks like an alpaca, seriously, google it). I had high expectations, not for the running, but for the integration of storytelling and real life. See, I LOVE technology and I think the way that people can integrate it into their lives is crucial to the success of said technology. You know why nobody likes Google Glass? Because you look like a goddamn idiot running around with it. For the same reason 3D TVs were not the next big thing! People simply do not like to vary from their daily lives considerably. Integrating technology with the real world needs to be done carefully and with an eye for detail. It’s not enough to take two things that work and jam them together. How can we take the strengths of this one working thing and graft them onto the strengths of this other working thing?

So yes, I had high expectations and after the first day with the app, I’ll say it: I was disappointed. One thing I was excited for was the music integration. You could make a playlist and then choose it for your workout. So you could basically make a running playlist with adrenaline-pumping music (I was listening to the radio before). Many people have their own playlists so I thought it would be great. I took tracks from some of my favorite games and put all the blood-pumping songs into one playlist. I started the app and got…silence. What? I quit and restarted, choosing another playlist, thinking maybe that would help. It did, but then the mission ended up using the songs from the first playlist anyway. I was already annoyed. Then, instead of giving instructions (say, look, you’re gonna need a space where you can run for at least 5k), it just drops you in the story. Honestly, a 2 minute audio file that sets you up to use the app would be nice. Like I get total immersion, but I also want to know wtf I’m doing. And also, I don’t want to have to restart the app and get the wrong playlist anyway!

I ended up just jogging. Now, there are prompts on when to run, but essentially it’s this: you listen to a story as you walk, then they play your playlist after telling you to run (Oh noooo, zombies!!!! And somewhat irrelevant love interest story…?). And then after one song, they tell you more of the story, while also telling you to run again. So yes, they’re getting you to ease into running by breaking it down, but what bugged me was there wasn’t enough instruction. I would have put something in like “Ok, we need you to run to objective A. That’s about 5 minutes at your current pace.” That’s it! They could have kept the rest the same, just give me a damn idea of what I’d be doing!!! Instead, it was more like “Let’s take your mind off the really boring part of running, which is being left alone with your thoughts,” and combined it with “Hey here’s a personal playlist!”

Honestly, I was pushed through the workout more by the determination I already had to run, rather than helped along by the app itself. That’s what really disappointed me because people who need an app to run probably lack motivation. People who are motivated to run probably do not need an app. It advertises itself as a way to go from couch potato to 5K runner in 8 weeks. The concept is fantastic and I fully support this kind of blending of tech and real life. But the execution basically comes off as somebody who is unaware of the market they claim to appeal to. I’m sure people who already run are excited by this app. They should buy the full runner’s version, which already assumes you can do a daily run. But for the people like me who don’t run and want that little extra push, this app falls short of appealing to the right crowd.

Final Glimpse: I am probably raging too much. I just had such high expectations. It got to the point where I said “I want to make this app better.” Usually I don’t care, if something sucks it sucks and I don’t use it. But this app could be SO MUCH BETTER and for now it’s just…meh. I assume the first workout is a baseline diagnostic, so I’m going to give it two more workouts to change my mind. The other workouts have more description, such as 1 minute walking, X seconds running, repeat X number of times. That’s really more what I expected. But like I said, we’ll have to see. I applaud their unique concept and their storytelling. However, their execution leaves a lot to be desired so far. From app glitches (a 50% chance of getting your app to work is pretty damn bad) to awkward user interface, I have to say that their execution needs work. For now, I’ll give them a tentative 7/10. That’s how much I want to love this app, but can’t because THEY WON’T LET ME.

L

 

This crazy train runs on pure rage and haterade

August 9, 2014

First Glimpse: Continuum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continuum is a Canadian science fiction series (What?? Canada’s next greatest import, behind ice hockey and maple syrup?!). It follows a police officer from the year 2077, who in the line of duty, gets dragged along into the past. I won’t spoil (yet), but the premise itself caught my eye. Yes, time-travel is done often, the linear progression of “complete x mission in stages” has been overdone, and of course the “weird juxtaposition where the main character is out of his/her element but must adapt to this strange new world” is pretty much par for the course, but still, something about the premise really grabbed my attention. And so, three seasons after the show started, I decided it was time to see what all the fuss was about!

[Pre-ramble] I found it on Netflix, and I’d heard enough about it on American TV that I made the silly mistake of assuming it was from the SyFy channel or the like. I was pleasantly surprised by how solid the production values are (I really should have picked up on it being Canadian when it was based in Canada, but genius that I am, I simply dismissed it. Like you do, with relevant information). The main character, in case you didn’t recognize her, is from the reboot of Star Trek, where I believe she is simply “Hot Green Alien Kirk Sleeps With.” Ok her name is Gaila, but I had to look that up on IMDB because literally, that’s all you remember. She’s completely painted green (SUPER SPECIAL EFFECTS GUYZ) and she’s pretty much what would happen if Hulk was a hot girl and instead of getting more powerful the angrier she got, she got sexier the hotter she got (or maybe the other way around?). I’m trying to say she’s green. And sexy.

I may or may not have seen her in Conan the Barbarian where she has a gratuitous nude scene with the former Khal Drogo (played by Jason Momoa, but who can remember real names?) as Conan. No, that’s not why I watched that horrible movie (it was really horrible. The movie, not the gratuitous nudity. That was actually awesome), I was bored and thought “Why not?” Famous last words. “Not,” would have been wise.

Other notable characters are Victor Webster, who I only recognize from Mutant X and Castle. He’s done a lot, but I only know those two shows.

And of course, Lexa Doig, who I only recognize from Andromeda. Apparently she’s got a varied body of work (and her body truly works for me, know what I mean???), all centering around cool sci-fi shows that seem to have a niche audience. My heart goes out to her (because of the short runs of those shows, not…well, actually yeah, maybe a little of that, too haha).

I bring up Andromeda and all the other shows Lexa Doig has been in because, well, Continuum seems to almost be in that same vein. I love shows with fascinating premises, but all too often, they get bogged down by network demands and problems with ratings. Continuum really worried me for the first few minutes of the pilot episode because it showed all the symptoms. Think reverse “Firefly.” Where that show died for inexplicable reasons (still has a huge following! WTF, network execs? It’s not like it’s Game of Thrones-expensive!!!), shows like Andromeda and Continuum worry me because I feel like they just run out of steam. The premise is solid but the direction they choose to go just sorta dies out. Mutant X is another example. Wait a second…

[First Glimpse] – As I said, the production values are solid. There are some questions as to why law enforcement agents wear skin tight running suits that are sparkly gold, but the effects are impeccable and not over the top. I especially like how the time-travel aspect really cuts down on the need for SFX (a smart move likely applauded by the production team), so that when the scenes call for it, we’re neither overwhelmed by the constant SFX, nor are the SFX crappy and low-quality rush jobs.

The plot itself is fairly simple: a cop/CPS Agent/Protector gets sucked into the past as a group of criminal masterminds escapes execution using a time device. There are some dark questions raised by certain gestures and body language pre-time travel, but I’m sure they’ll come back to them, so I’m looking forward to it. Stuck in the past, the Protector (Kiera) has to capture all 7 of the criminal masterminds who are suddenly military special forces experts (with the obligatory engineer geek to give them intel, provide technical support, etc). It kind of reminds me of Brimstone, a short-lived TV series (Damnit, I sense a crazy pattern here!) where a detective is released from Hell to chase down 113 of the most vile criminals who escaped. I REALLY liked the premise of that show and I am immensely sad that the show only ran 13 episodes (*shakes fist at Network Execs).

However, here’s where the show got me. It seemed like it would follow that linear, mission-based progression where she would have to capture them, etc, then return to the future. Instead, in the first episode, we see it’s more like Sliders (man that show was AWESOME, thanks Jerry O’Connell), where the main character is just trying to get home. But with a 24-esque twist. I think, I’ve never seen 24. “TELL ME WHERE THE BOMB IS” – Kiefer Sutherland in every scene of 24 ever.

What interested me was how they tied in characters from the future (2077 to 2012 is only 65 years, not an unreasonable gap). Again, I don’t want to spoil, but the show grew on me after the first episode. In fact, I would have watched the entire first season but the second episode just made me want to write about it. I’m hoping it continues with this pace, as both sides of the time travelers are slowly settling in to the world of 2012. A lot of the tech is implanted, therefore invisible (again, another nod to the SFX guys), but I can’t wait to see how she uses the limited tools at her disposal.

[Rating] – 8 out of 10 for now. It may change, mostly because two episodes is hardly a decent sample size. With 3 seasons completed, I’m sure I’ll have plenty to write about, but if you want to get started on a fast-paced, well-written sci-fi adventure, I can wholeheartedly recommend Continuum. One of the two points off is for the awkward start, which while I understand it’s inevitable, it’s enough to make a cynic want to quit. I have my 3 episode rule, but not everyone has that. I can see people turning it off in the middle of the pilot, which means they’d miss out on all sorts of later awesomeness.

Another point off because I think they missed out on some background setup that would have improved the series, while giving it more room to grow. She’s essentially a future cop, but to be honest, cops need their support system to be most effective. Yes, there’s that element of adjusting to a new world, but it also unnecessarily limits her. Meanwhile, she’s up against criminals who were supposedly rebels/terrorists, who suddenly become special forces/black ops guys. The smart call would have been to make her part of the military police. If the future is run by corporations, why wouldn’t they make their enforcers a private military? It makes more sense and it opens up more possibilities. As they tell her in the show, a Protector doesn’t rely on his/her instincts, they rely on tech. It’s kind of at odds with how much she uses her tech, since they’re basically saying that without her tech she’s dead. Going into the past is supposed to be a struggle because she can’t rely on the worldwide network as much.

The MP know what the hell they are doing. She could reasonably be expected to be holding more future tech (to be revealed slowly over the course of the seasons, for reasons of “well we don’t know when we can replace it so we have to be careful and frugal with our use) while at the same time, she’d be thoroughly familiar with police protocols (and probably, as a student of history, more well-versed in older practices). Plus, she would be a one-woman army (which she is in the show, but given the fact that corporations run the future, you’d think their cops would be even more ineffective than the stereotypical donut-munching patrol cop!).

Another thing is why gold? Why is her superduper jumpsuit with futuristic tech that is her deus ex machina GOLD? Why wouldn’t the default color be, I dunno, BLUE? Cops wear blue. Corporations like blue, it’s uniform color. Gold? I get it, she’s from the future. Lah-dee-dah, she ends up changing the color in the first ep. Why not make the default something neutral like gray? What the hell kind of cop runs around bling blinging?

There’s also the issue of power – how is all her tech staying powered? I would believe that her tech is bio-powered, somehow tied into her own energy, thus never needing to be charged, etc. Nanites or something, c’mon! A little imagination!

But those are all coming from the nerd in me. I can’t say no to a little nitpicking because damn, I love me some sci-fi. Overall, again, I’d say watch it. There’s great pacing, well-woven story lines, and an alluring “what comes next?” As long as they keep on this track, I can’t see how this train could derail. After all, the producers of the show know what’s coming, right?

“The present unfolds. The future unravels. The past unveils.”

LI never knew Canada could be so dangerous.

First Glimpse: The Gentlemen Bastards

http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2013/09/30/republic-of-thieves—cover_wide-f360ad913913fc09258793e4613315e1ed7c9f88.jpg?s=6

I first got turned on to this series by a Google search, “best fantasy 2014,” which led me to a GoodReads post about “The Republic of Thieves.” Now THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is how to title a book. The Republic of Thieves? It sounds grandiose, yet intriguing. Is it about the lives of thieves? Are these thieves in some sort of guild? No, they’d probably call it “The Guild of Thieves.” But we all know thieves run in guilds, not republics. INTRIGUE! TELL ME MORE

I was further hooked when I found out that the series is called the Gentlemen Bastards. Again, this author knows how to use words. I can’t help but be hooked by the balance of high-class and low-class words emblazoned on a cover, arm in arm as though they face some final destiny together.

So yeah, I was already committed when I heard the titles, although the first book in the series is less provocative: “The Lies of Locke Lamora.”

You’ll have to excuse me if my formatting’s off. It’s been like 4+ years since I blogged on this ol’ girl. I’m rusty, and that’s no lie, but I’ll do my best to steer this boat of crazy past the rocks and into the deep, powerful current running my river of rambling.

So the story starts with our main character (I will give you 10 internets if you can guess the name), Locke Lamora. I don’t want to spoil too heavily because it truly is a great book, and a lot of my interest was built by the world creation and intricate backstories of the characters. Like a literature-hungry hobo, I devoured each morsel of backstory as the author skillfully weaved the tale of Locke Lamora (and his lies, of course).

What I liked: A truly rich world with vibrant characters. Now this line is written on the cover of every fantasy novel (hell, any NOVEL, period). However, I rarely use it because it’s just not true. Much of the stories out there are plot-driven, and what I’ve come to realize about myself is that I am utterly and truly in love with character-driven plot. Maybe it’s because plot-driven narratives feel too linear or simplistic. Things happen and the author never gets into the “Why” of it all. But with character-driven plot, we understand why he/she does what he/she does. We sympathize, we empathize, we truly invest in the characters and we share their joys and sorrows. We’re not simply bystanders in a theater, watching a movie, we’re invisible characters in a play, participating.

What I disliked: The framed narrative style left me frustrated at times. I understand its use and I also understand I’m not good enough to be an author so I shouldn’t be too heavy on the criticism. But that’s the upshot of being some anonymous nobody on the internet, I can say whatever I damn well please. So I’m saying the author overused the framed narrative, jumping back and forth between past and present. We get it, the past affects the present. JUST TELL ME WHAT HAPPENS ALREADY. On the one hand, judicial use of the framed narrative can build suspense and maintain a healthy rhythm. On the other hand, too much use and it feels like when anime throw out filler episodes, needlessly telling us crap nobody cares about, when all we want to see is this big fight they’ve been building up to for the past 20 episodes. DO IT ALREADY!!!!

For the most part, I think the author’s voice is not too heavy on narration and exposition, although again, the framed narrative felt overdone. It WAS important to understand the past events, but continually keeping the reader on the brink is no way to build suspense. We can’t hold our figurative breaths for that long without feeling fatigued, rather than intrigued.

However, in other instances, I couldn’t put the book down because I was so engrossed in the adventures of Locke Lamora and the Gentlemen Bastards. I still can’t get over that name! My god, it is the perfect blend of elegance and arrogance. It’s like a delta, where a fresh water river meets the salty water of the ocean and the different temperatures mix. There’s such a hotbed of activity and life and vibrancy in such a name.

Special note, if I ever become a thief, I will call us the Gentlemen Bastards. I will also name our guild the Republic of Thieves because C’MON THAT NAME IS AWESOME SAUCE!!!

I eventually got to the Republic of Thieves and it was pretty awesome. Clearly the author intends on milking this series hard, as it seemed like the first three books tied up one story arc, while the last one set up another few books to resolve a second story arc. I hope that is the case, as I can’t wait to see where this series goes.

Rating: I give this first glimpse an 8/10. 2 points deduction for that damned framed narrative which ended up making the exciting sections feel like they were dragging because I had to go learn about the history right in the middle of all the action. Almost skipped ahead anyway, just to see what happened.

Miscellanea: Apparently the Gentlemen Bastards is not a unique name the author came up with (sad face). When I searched for images to post, I came across a few links discussing the US Army and their own group of “Gentlemen Bastards.” But the group of Locke Lamora will always be the true Gentlemen Bastards because they are like modern-day fantasy Robin Hoods. Their motto, “Thieves prosper. The rich remember.” sends chills down my spine. The rich remember that thieves are the rock to their scissors in this game of Rich, Poor, and Thieves. While the rich exploit the poor, the thieves steal from the rich and give back what they can. The rich remember that they are not invincible with each and every case of theft. I love it!

August 23, 2013

The Return of the King(?)

Filed under: News — L @ 2:32 AM

A few comments drew me back to this blog which had, quite unfortunately, been put on the proverbial eternal backburner. In fact, I had completely forgotten about it. To the extent that I had to reset my password *facepalm*

Anyway, I really appreciate all the support and compliments and I decided to try my hand at reviewing things again. A lot’s changed since I started this blog (most notably my employment status, haha). At the time, I had no job because I was planning on attending grad school and thought, “Hey what can I do with all this bubbling desire for writing? I know, I’ll start a blog, because pretty much anyone with an email address has tried one at least once.”

Then I moved to Korea and got busy working and to be honest, I didn’t really have the desire to write. Now, my current job involves a lot of writing and creativity and I’m just dying for an outlet. Thus the rebirth of my blog.

I’ll slowly upload some reviews soon, as there are plenty of things I have seen/done/experienced that I’m eager to share.

One thing about this blog that I just feel the need to share is that at its inception, a friend of mine was extremely critical. “Nobody wants to read all that. Short and sweet is where it’s at. You should dumb things down, simplify, make it easier to read at a glance.”

I strongly disagreed with him for one reason and one reason only: This blog wasn’t for the readers, it was for me, the author. If I were writing to an audience, I can absolutely agree that I try to cater more. As things stood then and still stand now, this blog is more about having an outlet and possibly sharing something with strangers on the internet (that doesn’t happen to be completely lewd like almost everything else out there on the internet). I hate to sound like such a snob by quoting the “art for the sake of art” line, but it’s true. I’m writing to write, not to impress people.

If I wanted to impress people, I’d do something impressive, like write a book or something. Instead, I want to make myself happy and that’s what I’ve done. The bonus is that I’ve found a few people online who also enjoy my writing style and I hope they continue to do so in the future.

With that said, I hope you enjoy your stay here and if you find it’s not for you, no hard feelings. You go your way, I’ll go mine.

Plus I don’t know how to write any other way…

First Glimpse: Crayon Pop – Bar Bar Bar

Filed under: K-Pop,Procrastin8,Reviews — L @ 2:22 AM

I always cringe at Romanization of Korean. Korean’s just not a language that fits well into English. That, and the lack of a standardized format like pinyin for Chinese results in a myriad of awful messes that, well, you can only cringe at.

Korean has a lot of ononmatopoeia and while the official English title of this song is “Bar Bar Bar” that’s not what it really is. It’s a sound for, hmmm, how should I put this…almost like the sound of tapping lightly on your horn (like in a car). Why that’s a song title, I have NO idea. I mean I assume it’s because in the song it’s repeated constantly, but I mean why anyone would make a song about this noise…well now I just sound old.

Anyway, I’m reviewing it for a few reasons: one, it is EVERYWHERE. Two, a few recent comments have brought me back to this blog after a two year hiatus.

As for the song, it’s best described as viral. I’m almost certain there’s a subliminal message embedded in it. In keeping with all Korean Pop, there is a catchy beat, an oft-repeated phrase, and random English sprinkled throughout the entire song. Not necessarily correctly used English, either.

The most attractive feature of this song is the dance routine. I’m not creeping on the young girls, it’s the actual routine. There’s a part in the song where they say “Jumping–Jumping–Jumping–Everybody!” and yes, they’re jumping. I’m not sure what it’s called but basically when one person jumps, her neighbor dips by bending both knees. They then switch so there’s a bobbing thing going on….slightly mesmerizing.

The song itself burrows deeply into your brain and refuses to leave. And as I said, it is EVERYWHERE. Blasting from stores, on the radio, on TV…even the world’s least catchiest song would bury itself into your subconscious with that much exposure!

I’m not going to link to it because that’s a hassle and later I’m sure the link will just get taken down. YouTube it and become addicted…be forewarned, it’s a lot of “WTF” and “Dafuq did I just watch?”

7.5/10

It’s musically not that great. However, catchiness is worth something. Apparently about 7.5 points haha…ha….

It’s the helmets that really get me…

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