One Piece Zou Arc Review

April 13, 2016 no comments Posted in Animation & Anime, Film

I was going to write a “Beginners guide to Anime” but due to time constraints I wouldn’t be able to get it out in time, but worry not that should be out in a couple of weeks.

The Zou arc had been built up for literal years in One Piece, first being mention at the beginning of Dressrosa. After the finale of the Dressrosa arc we soon began our story on Zou.

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Zou for those who don’t know is an island on the back of a giant 1000 year old elephant. It is home to the mink tribe, a race of anthropomorphic animals, for example, Bepo for Law’s crew is a mink from Zou. And it was commented by Luffy that it was like a race of Choppers.

The arc starts off rather slow, with a lot of it being to do with what has happened to the crew members that were already there. tl;dr: Kaido’s right hand man, Jack (super badass) comes to Zou and wrecks everything. He then releases a gas that is releavled to have been previously created by Caesar Clown, who is still in captivity. The Straw Hats release him to help with the gas and him and Chopper save everyone. The reason Jack showed up was because he was searching for Raizou, the ninja Kine’emon and Kanjuro and looking for, along with the samurai themselves.

I felt that while this story line was good it wasn’t as good as Dressrosa. In Zou they really dragged the ass out of where Sanji was. Because he wasn’t with the other crew members. I’ll try and keep this review spoiler free and so I won’t talk about the specifics of what was up with Sanji.

But once that Sanji stuff starts to wrap up is when we start getting to the greatness of Zou. The last couple of chapters sky rocketed this arc to one of the best in the entire series. We begin to learn end-game level stuff, for example more clues to where Raftel is, along with the reintroduction of some fan favourite characters such as Marko the Phoenix. This arc is hard to talk about without spoiling thing so I can’t go into much detail. I highly recommend that you catch up on the manga if you haven’t already.

 

In summary, Zou was great. Jack was badass, Zunisha was better. Momonosuke stepped up. My mind was blown on several occasions. That fight at the end of the arc was the hypest shit I’ve seen since Gear Fourth and Carrot is mai furry waifu all years.

 

 

Batman v Superman: Really THAT Bad?

March 30, 2016 no comments Posted in Film, Movies

So Batman v Superman just came out and I’m going to talk about it, but to get the full picture we have to go back and look at

 

THE HISTORY

 

Chances are, you already know a good deal of this, but bear with me while I take you through the history of the two ever-youthful grandfathers of modern superheroes. Superman’s first published appearance was in a prose story in a science fiction magazine called Reign of the Superman in 1933, but he did not get his big break until 1938 when, after 5 years of failing to pitch the Superman character elsewhere Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster sold the character to Detective Comics Inc, who then made the character the cover star of Action Comics #1. Other notable appearances in this issue were Zatara, father of prominent DC Comics character Zatanna and Tex Thompson…err, Mr America, who, despite appearing 3 whole years before the Captain of the same name has not quite had the same lasting appeal. Superman himself in this issue was quite a different beast from the one appearing in this film. There is no mention of Krypton, he has only been sent from a non-descript planet. He is turned in to an orphanage, rather than being raised by Jon and Martha Kent. He could not fly and was only indestructible to “anything less than a bursting shell”. The character we know today did not truly appear until Summer 1939’s Superman #1 where those absent elements were added. The characters’ on-screen presence began with George Reeves’ TV stint as the character in the 1951 series Adventures of Superman. It planted the character in the public consciousness before the character who defined the superhero comic book defined the superhero movie in 1978 with Superman: The Movie, directed by Richard Donner and starring Christopher Reeve (no relation to George Reeves). The film captured imaginations worldwide with its revolutionary (at the time) special effects that “made you believe a man could fly” and of course the oh-so-iconic John Williams score. The series then took several….questionable turns after Superman II before making a true return in 2013’s Man of Steel starring Henry Cavill as the man himself. The movie had a few things rough around the edges but showed true promise for the future. While questioning that future Zack Snyder and DC thought of something to add to the sequel. That something, or rather someone was…

 

Batman. The caped crusader first appeared in Detective Comics #27, where he wore purple gloves and killed without remorse. He led to a huge spike in the comics’ sales and was given his own book, the first issue of which included several things that define the dark knight to this day. His adversaries The Joker and Catwoman, as well as his origin story that you have doubtlessly seen countless times in film, television and even other comic books. Batman first came to screens in 1943 with Lewis Wilson and Douglas Croft portraying the dynamic duo in the film serial, which had them face off against the villainous…Dr Daka? Not really an abundance of reference material there. Grant Morrison wasn’t even going there. The film had a sequel but we will now move on to one of the more iconic Batmen of the screen, 1966’s Batman TV show and movie (released shortly after the first series’ ending) was for a good time the most famous rendition of Batman and one that was somewhat unfairly maligned for not being a fair representation of the character.. The character went through several rebirths in the comics and finally, in 1989 a film came out to somewhat reflect this. TIm Burton’s Batman gave the character a darker edge while still being reasonably silly, this carried on to Batman Returns with the most perfect casting in the history of film, I am of course talking about Danny DeVito as the Penguin. And frankly, he’d still be perfect so get on that Mr. Affleck. We know you’re making that film. Just make it with this lovely little goblin man as The Penguin. Batman Forever…continued? the series with a new director and man in the cowl. Joel Schumacher is a pretty good director, but these are not pretty good films. I can take Forever for its campiness, Jim Carrey and Seal, but Batman and Robin is a step too far. The movie-going public seemed to agree, and the series vanished for several years. WB tried to bring it back with a variety of projects that were ultimately cancelled, like the earlier Ivan Reitman film starring Bill Murray as Batman and David Bowie as the Joker which was cancelled way back in 1985. These newer attempts included Joel Schumacher’s The Dark Knight Returns, which would’ve been entertaining at the very least, a Batman Beyond adaptation, Darren Aronofsky’s bizarre Batman: Year One pitch which involved a poverty-stricken Bruce Wayne taken in by a mechanic named Big Al. This project, which Frank Miller thought went over the line, was dropped for Batman vs Superman. Don’t worry, we didn’t skip anything. The 2004 project would’ve revolved around a loose continuation of the Burton/Schumacher films where the Joker kills Batman’s bride to be in the middle of their wedding. This resulted in Superman having to hold back Batman and being blamed for her death by Batman, which lead to their confrontation. In this film, Superman would have been played by Josh Hartnett, while Batman would’ve been played by Christian Bale, a descision that carried over into Christopher Nolan’s 2006 film Batman Begins. In my opinion the best Batman film as of March 24th 2016 but we’ll see how that goes. Nolan’s trilogy is the definitive take on the character for many. Just not me. Ok now hear me out please I’m so sorry. I feel the series takes the realism a bit too far, losing a lot of what makes Batman great. He’s not a man walking among gods, he’s a man walking above other men. He’s not the world’s greatest detective, he’s got people for that. To me, Nolan’s take on the character is a bit too grounded. I rarely get the sense that Bale’s Batman is the smartest man in the room and he solves his problems with punches too much. I think they’re fine films, I just can’t get behind that aspect. The series is (almost) universally loved and set high standards for the next cinematic appearance of the caped crusader after the trilogy ended with 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises

 

The two characters have been intrinsically linked since their inception. Batman was created in direct response to Superman, to give the Detective Comics book its own similar figurehead to the Man of Tomorrow. The characters have shared many books together, from World’s Finest Comics and Justice Society of America in the Golden Age to Batman/Superman and Justice League today. The two are amazing friends, wait, that’s the other guy. Super friends, that’s the one I guess. Superman, in most adaptations is perhaps one of the only people Batman really trusts. Ignore the Kryptonite in his basement, that’s for when the mind controllers come knocking. I do just wish they could’ve met on screen under these terms…

 

SO HOW IS IT

 

Batman v Superman is a very strange film. The film is perhaps best described with its parallels to the performance of Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor within the film. It’s offbeat and a little disjointed and just different enough some people will absolutely hate it. I didn’t though. Batman v Superman has problems with pacing, with scenes flashing up seemingly at random with no rhyme or reason to their order. The film takes a solid few minutes in the middle to show you a few Justice League teasers with no relation to the story. It is incredibly lazy filmmaking the way this was done but I took the bait hook line and sinker. It was on par with the scene in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 where all of the Spider-Man villains’ equipment is in a basement in Oscorp for some reason but I liked this. As lazily inserted as the teasers are I think they’re very well done and it did get me, somewhat more cautiously, excited for Justice League next year. The film’s cast is almost impeccable. Ben Affleck finally plays the superhero he has had in him since 2003. He perfectly captured Bruce Wayne, regardless of his direction or script. I cannot wait to see what he does under his own direction and script. Gal Gadot embodies Wonder Woman perfectly in her admittedly short screen time, the character is a highlight of every scene she is in and her theme is top class, letting JunkieXL stretch his Mad Max muscle a little. Jeremy Irons plays what I think is without a doubt the best on-screen Alfred. It is played somewhat differently to how those Nolanites out there came to expect from Michael Caine but I feel it is much closer to the somewhat sassier Alfred of the comics and animated shows. Henry Cavill still shows promise of a Superman to surpass Reeve, but I feel direction holds him back. Those who thought Man of Steel was “not my Superman” will have less problems than they did there with this film, though some scenes may still leave them asking questions. Amy Adams as Lois Lane continues to be somewhat wasted, it is still a mystery whether it’s down to acting, directing or no-one at Warner seeming to be able to write the character properly. As mentioned before I believe Eisenberg as Luthor will be a very divisive element. He plays a very new take on the character and many seem to find it irritating. Personally, I think that was the point. At times I was reminded of Thomas Middleditch’s performance as Richard Hendricks in Silicon Valley, bratty, compulsive and calculating, he is an evolved Lex Luthor representing today’s not quite as big men at the top. Your mileage may vary.

 

The film looks very nice. The opening scene takes a scene that has been done countless times before and gives us without a doubt the best version yet. The team of Zack Snyder and Larry Fong can do nothing if not make films that look fantastic. It is a welcome change of pace from the constant big budget TV movie stylings of Marvel Studios’ regular outputs. The pieces of a fantastic film are all there. Though perhaps it may be a few too many. There was a “leaked” image last year that suggested the film would be split into two parts and we all scoffed at it, correctly assuming it to be fake but would it have been so bad? The film does already feel like a few films jammed into one. A sequel to Man of Steel, a Batman movie and a Justice League prequel. It functions decently as all of those but you have to wonder if they’d have been better served on their own.

 

My biggest question going into this movie after reading the reviews was not “Who will Win?”, it was “Could it possibly be THAT bad?”. The answer, I think, is no. Is it perfect? No, but only two films are. Is it fantastic? No, but it does have some great parts. Is it awful? No, but there’s plenty wrong with it. Who is to blame? Zack Snyder? Chris Terrio? Ben Affleck? Devin Faraci? Christopher Nolan? Joel Schumacher? Richard Pryor? Frank Miller? JJ Abrams? Kevin Feige? Mark Millar? The Estate of Bob Kane?  Warner Bros Executives? That crafty old rapscallion David S Goyer? Who really knows?

 

In the end, I enjoyed the film a great deal but recognised enough problems that I’m not sure how easy it will be for others to enjoy it. Do I think you should see it? Maybe. Do you like DC Comics and don’t hate Zack Snyder? Then totally. Are you bored, want to go see a movie but you’ve already seen Zootopia 4 times? Yeah, go ahead. Do you have a furry friend who keeps asking you to see Zootopia with him? See this instead to annoy them, that’s what I’m doing.

Gravity Falls Review

March 11, 2016 no comments Posted in Animation & Anime, Film

It’s no real secret that what the Disney Channel does to it’s actors is sleazy to say the least. They take in mostly teens who have dreams of becoming big in acting and they reuse them in a bunch of different show’s then discarding them when not needed. So it’s a wonder that the Disney Channel got Gravity Falls.

 

Having just ended 2 weeks ago I feel as though this is the perfect time to reflect on Gravity Falls as a series while it’s still fresh in our memory.

Gravity Falls stars Dipper and Mabel Pines, two twins who go to live with their Great-Uncle (Gruncle) Stan at his Mystery Shack in the small town Gravity Falls. They soon meet the two other people who work at the Shack. Soos, the handy-man who functions as the twin’s sidekicks and Wendy who acts a a love-interest for Dipper for the first part of the series.

You might be thinking “Does Soos function as one for Mabel”. The answer to that is no. As Mabel is always on the prowl. Looking for anyone and everyone who will be her boyfriend.

For the first part of season 1 it would be very simple to write Gravity Falls off as just another “Random” show with an above average art budget and is in general pretty funny. But they they started creeping in more plot. Namely with the introduction of Lil’ Gideon and later on Bill Cipher. Gideon could have easily been a one off character who was in love with Mabel.  But his little involvement in the story throughout the series and his small appearances make him into a bigger and more fleshed out character which makes his redemption all the more gratifying at the end of the series.

Bill Cipher the antagonist of the series was also slowly built up in the series’ ciphers and his appearances, so by the end he’s a fully fleshed out antagonist with motivations and reasons for his actions.

Getting back to the cipher’s that another big thing about this series. Lots of codes and ciphers have been hidden in the series. Some of which reveal nothing important but some of the reveal useful information in theorising and putting together information about the series and its story.

Verdict

Gravity Falls is a fun series with great comedy, plot and visual. It is a must see for any animation fan and will likely be remembered as a masterpiece if it isn’t already.

 

Why One Piece Works So Well

February 19, 2016 no comments Posted in Animation & Anime, Film

Unless you’ve been living under the proverbial anime rock you’ve probably heard of Eiichro Oda’s One Piece. On the surface One Piece looks very similar to other long running, shounen series but it has consistently ranked higher with critics than others such Naruto, Bleach and Fairy Tale.

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So something is clearly different here between One Piece and other shows and I think I know what might be. First off let’s look at it’s structure. Right form the get-go Oda had the ending and general structure planned out and since then hasn’t really left from that path. He originally intended for one piece to only go on for 5 years but continued the series on to flesh the story out. For most the high amount episodes and chapters will be an incredibly high barrier of entry but I would argue that in the long run it helps the series. The characters are traversing an entire world stopping on each island along the way, most islands’ stories arguably out does many other series in size and scope alone. Not only that but since the character’s  goals are such lofty or in the case of some vague such as “Become the worlds greatest swordsman” or “Chart every ocean in the world” or even “become a great warrior” it makes sense that it would take a lot of time to achieve them.

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The appearance of One Piece is another determining factor.  Right from the start Oda’s art is great and only gets better over time. Not only that but Oda has a grasp on the medium he works in that few others do. He understand both what flows well and especially what looks cool in format. Luffy’s power to stretch his body already seems cool but when paired with cool perspective tricks his attacks appear incredibly flashy and badass.

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Zoro’s three sword style also looks great in the way that only a non-moving comic can make it look.

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Oda also never seems content to merely let events start and stop. There always seems to be a logical reason for why the characters move to the next place or do the next thing even if it is occasionally is obvious that things or character happen or appear just to move the story forward.

Finally, I would like to talk about the types of stories One Piece tells. One Piece especially recently has gotten much better at building up stories before they even happen. For example the whole Baroque Works saga begins in volume 12 telling the story of the Strawhats trying to return a princess to her kingdom and to defeat the a corrupt warlord so when we finally get to Alabasta it feels like a mini victory in and of itself. Similarly Fishman Island is first mentioned around volume 45 so when we finally get there it feels great along with this the Skypeia arc is famous for being a great self contained story that is just part of the overall narrative. One Piece also handles war arcs good too. Naruto was famous for having a long and drawn out war arc that tainted the ending for some. One Piece’s Paramount War on the other hand was is the best arc in the series.

I’m tempted to go into the themes of One Piece but I can tell many people are already bored of this as it it. So maybe I’ll do a follow up to this eventually.

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Thanks Again,

Kevin Smith,

Doctor Who: Series 9 Retrospective Part 1: Flooding Daleks

January 22, 2016 no comments Posted in Film, Television

Doctor Who last year, frankly, wasn’t very good.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of good things to be said about it – Capaldi was a fantastic choice to play a darker Doctor, Jenna Coleman got an actual character to play, and it had many entertaining episodes. Overall though, it was a bit of a mess, a show that couldn’t quite decide whether it wanted to be a show where the Doctor can talk a robot to suicide or a show that featured the Doctor swordfighting Robin Hood with a spoon.

I’m happy to say that series 9 not only is a return to form, but one of the most consistently Very Good seasons since the return of the show. But it does raise one problem:

The Problem with Reviewing Two-Parters

Series 9 used an interesting spin on the show’s formula by having two-thirds of the series be two-part episodes, with one three-parter and only one single-episode story. This works on a number of levels, as it gives more time for characters and concepts to develop effectively and it can create a more detailed story. However, it also means that it is difficult to decide whether to judge each episode individually or the story. If the second part is amazing, can I ignore a lacklustre setup? It’s a difficult question to answer, but I’ll be judging these story-by-story. It just seems like the best way to go about it.

SPOILERS WILL BE AHEAD. SPOILERS STRAX IS WARNING YOU.

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Spoilers Strax warding off a spoiler-hunter.

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