Electric Ferret -

Young Justice

Season 2 of Young Justice started today. The premier episode was, in no uncertain terms, off the chain. This show is flying way under the radar considering how good it is. The animation creates great fight scenes. The massive cast of characters – heroes and villains – could make any DC fanboy squeal. The plots, both overarching and episodic are intense and meaningful. If you haven’t watched Season 1 of this show, Season 2 is a decent place to start. Every Saturday morning on Cartoon Network at 10:30.

Heavy Metal: Taarna the Taarakian

If you are any fan of either animation, fantasy, comics, science fiction or hot chicks with swords then you are probably familiar with the 1981 animated film Heavy Metal based on the adult magazine of the same name.

And, being familiar with the film, you probably remember a couple of things about it.  One, that it had an amazing soundtrack and Two, that it contained some amazing eye-popping animated visuals.  As to the soundtrack, yes it is legendary – indeed so legendary that legal disputes surrounding it actually kept the film from being released to the home entertainment market for fifteen years.  And on the subject of the film itself  I defer to film critic  Leonard Maltin who gave it three out of four stars and declared it “…uneven, but great fun on a mindless, adolescent level” which is an assessment I generally agree with.

So, it is to this subject of Heavy Metal that I turn today – or more specifically the subject of Taarna the Taarakian who was the “hot chick with a sword” chosen to fight the Great Evil of the Universe(tm) at films end.  Viewing the CBUB Fight History for Taarna, I am appalled to find that she has been thrown into two web fight matches and lost both of them.

First losing a match to He-Man’s ineffectual nemesis Skeletor (which is terrible enough) but next (and perhaps even more appallingly) loosing a match to John Carter of Mars heroine Dejah Thoris.  Actually, it is probably best that I do not rate them on the Appall-O-Meter because, really, losing to Skeletor is pretty bad to start with.

Match results such as these make me sad and I can only shake my head at the internet denizens which judge the outcomes of these things.  It is clear that Taarna is not well  understood or appreciated as a powerful character and that is unfortunate.  The final scene of the film Heavy Metal where both the warrior powers and flying mount of the Taarakians is passed across time and space to a new defender might be a clue that Taarna is wielding a deeper power than Dejah Thoris: Princess of Mars could ever hope to muster.  Let alone Skeletor.  As a combatant in CBUB, Taarna is hardly given the credit due her.

Sad as I am to see these kind of outcomes, I imagine that I will just have to put that particular nerd rage in the happy box and let it go.  Due to the “R” rating of Heavy Metal, younger viewers will of course be exposed to Skeletor long before Taarna the Taarakian.

On the subject of a Heavy Metal theatrical sequel there have been rumors for… decades.  in 2009 there was some buzz that a new theatrical Heavy Metal anthology film was in the works.  Articles here and here suggested such directors as James Cameron and Zack Snyder were on-board to direct segments of the new Heavy Metal film.  However, no film was forthcoming.  Since then the word is that Robert Rodriguez has acquired the film rights and will be the next person to try and get the project moving.  We shall see…

In parting, if you haven’t seen South Park’s parody take on Heavy Metal, it is pretty hilarious if you get a chance to find and see it.  Here’s a bit on YouTube though.

Board Game Flashback: The Dark Tower

I owned this electronic board game at one time Dark Tower, a classic Milton Bradley release of the early 1980′s.  A true collectors item, working editions can still be found traded on E-Bay.

Lucky for you, in the Internet Age you can just click over to Hot Flash Games to play a flash port of it.  However, you are out of luck on  multi-player – the Flash version is single player only.

It was quite an ingenious game for its day and although it is very primitive by modern standards it still has its fans.

As it turns out, there is also an interesting trade secrets case surrounding the game.  For some reading on that subject try Triumph: the Origin of Dark Tower.  Also of interest, Board Game Geek has a good page on Dark Tower.

Miss Hannah Minx and Elvira Cosplay

If you are not familiar with Miss Hannah Minx she is a YouTube personality  on the “MissHannahMinxy” channel.  An American student living in Japan, her videos are generally educational and revolve around her area of expertise which is Japanese culture.

However, as intelligent and educational as Miss Hannah Minx is, one might also surmise that a good deal of her YouTube fan base simply shows up to ponder her buxom physical gifts.  Here she puts her attributes to good use in a YouTube segment on Cosplay as Elvira: Mistress of the Dark.

 

 

But it turns out that Elvira: Mistress of the Dark watches YouTube as well, and here she turns the tables with some Miss Hannah Minx Cosplay

 

 

Yes, it is true … I am easily amused.

DCUO

Let me just start by saying that flying around is by far the most interesting part of this game. Let me also say that this is the first MMO I’ve ever played, so I’ll be basing my opinion on single player RPGs.

Let me start by saying that Sony actually seems to actually give a sh*t about product testing.

Ok. So, flying is cool. Really cool. I haven’t really tried any other movement options (when you’re creating a character, you get a choice out of flying, acrobatics, or super speed), the flying mechanic, especially in the relatively open area of Metropolis (I chose to be a hero allied with Superman, you can also choose to be with Batman or Wonder Woman), is well done and fun. As for the actual game-play?

I thought it was boring. I mean, nearly all of the quests were destroy X number of machines, or kill X number of retarded cartoony looking characters. The boss fights were boring- spam attacks until you see a icon that looks like the logo for a death metal band and then roll out of the way. The combat leaves little to ingenuity, and I wasn’t really impressed with the overall level design or missions. Just a maze of enemies with a boss at the end. The loot system works pretty well, even changing the aesthetics of your character when you equip an item.

This game seems to try and cash on its label more than it provides a unique and ingenious (or hell, even fun) method of gameplay

On Symbolism

On Symbolism

I remember when I was a sophomore in English Class, boldly raising my hand and asking “What if it’s not a symbol? What if it’s meant to be read literally? What if you are shoving extra meaning into the book?” I would like to apologize now to Mrs Woodlin. I was wrong.

We as readers do no disservice to books, authors, or ourselves by learning to read for symbolism and draw meaning where it is not apparent. The book suffers nothing for having intelligent readers who know how to read past the literal. Without exception, authors have spent orders of magnitude more time with the book than you have, and they are looking for readers who will consider their work deeply. And a figurative reading does not prohibit a literal one. It’s true that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t also be a symbol. In any case, it tells us something about the character using it. It tells us that he’s the type of dude who smokes cigars.

It’s important to understand that reading is intrinsically dependent on the ability to elicit meaning from symbols. Every letter on the page is nothing but a symbol. These squiggles have no intrinsic meaning, and instead they stand for something. In the same way that a bunch of letters make up a word from which any reader can draw meaning, a bunch of symbols in a story make up a character or setting which adds addition meaning for the astute reader. Being able to read for symbolism is simply a step up from being able to read. When a student complains that he’s being asked to read past the literal, it is analogous to someone saying “Words?! These are just symbols on a page! There can be no connection to the words we speak.”

So I’m sorry Mrs Woodlin, but I understand now. Holden’s hat is more than just a hat.

James Bond: Skyfall

A small round up of info on the new James Bond film SKYFALL coming November 2012.

U.K. Mail Online reports on James Bond star Daniel Craig dashing through London with his trademark Walther PPK Pistol in hand.  Lots of good photos.

Popular Mechanics reports on the latest version of Bond’s Walther PPK from the manufacturer: the Walther PPQ.

Here’s a post at Hip Variety noting that this will be the first Bond film ever released in I-MAX.

MTV News has a video report from the set of the film with interviews of Daniel Craig and villain Javier Bardem.

And, of course, you should check out the Official 007 Skyfall site.

“In Space, Noone Can Hear You Scream” Finale

Well guys, to finish off my review of this great and complex movie, we’ll take a look at some of the characters behind Alien, and perhaps most importantly, the atmosphere of the movie. Not many movies can successfully pull of a mix of genres…

No, not many at all.

But Alien seems to do so seamlessly (pun completely intended). Anyways, lets look at the characters of the movie.

It’s no secret that Ripley is a groundbreaking character as far as sci-fi goes. Ripley is one of the first strong female leaders and protagonists in the history of sci-fi, period. In addition to being an influential heroine in the sci-fi genre, Ripley serves mainly to explore the theme of feminism in the movie. It was mentioned before that Ripley did not allow the team of explorers to reenter the ship with Kane after they came back from investigating the SOS signal. This is not a very traditionally feminine thing to do. Rather, it is something a leader would do. Also, Lambert, the story’s more emotional, feminine character, is placed directly at odds with Ripley to emphasize Ripley’s portrayal as a female leader. For example, Lambert chastises Ripley for not letting Kane on board. Lambert also clashes with Ripley when Lambert wants to escape on the shuttle.

You know its bad when the most iconic picture of you, is of you crying.

Make no mistake, Ripley is still somewhat sexualized—as shown in the scene where Ripley strips down to her undergarments in the space shuttle. However, the point still stands that she is a highly revolutionary protagonist.

Ugh. Sigourney in underpants. Basically an underline to Ripley's rejection of traditional feminism. In aesthetic form.

Anyway, even the secondary characters of the movie are interesting in their own right.

Playing on the same theme of feminism, Mother the ship’s AI, is depicted to be anything but motherly. This irony is highlighted by her actions, or lack thereof, throughout the film. She serves no purpose save to reveal the expedition’s true purpose and to thwart Ripley’s attempts to override the self-destruct sequence. There is also the alien, an interesting character itself. The alien is different from most other science fiction antagonists because it is not sentient at all. It is a primal beast, and Ash points out that he admires the fact that it is “unclouded by conscience or delusions of morality.” This lends the story a distinct survivalist feel, as opposed to Frankenstein or other famous sci-fi monster movies. There is a sense that the story is man’s desperate fight for against the far more powerful force of nature, and it adds to the atmosphere of horror created in the movie. Another interesting point about the creature is that Ash calls it “the perfect life form”. This raises the question: if it was the perfect life form, how could it be beaten by a mere person? The movie makes me consider the alien—is it truly “better” than man? It is faster, stronger, hardier, but man still comes out on top of the encounter. The movie, in this way, makes me consider the factors that make on3 organism “better” than another- is it dependent on physical feats, or adaptability and intelligence? The film seems to lean toward the latter point of view.

Rack up a point for humanity.

“Come on, its a Sci-Fi movie, get to the damn explosions already!” Fine, fine.

Just like the atmosphere of Alien is a fluid combination of science fiction and horror, the special effects also include this melding of genres. Horror movie special effects consist mainly of the movie monster, such as the shark in Jaws, while science fiction special effects are famous for explosions and the like, such as Star Wars. Alien has both. In contrast to today’s standards, some special effects in Alien are almost comically bad, such as the explosion of the Nostromo near the end of the movie- a ridiculous two dimensional blue and orange mushroom. Sometimes, the special effects lead to a “dilution” of the impact of the scene. For example, the scene where the baby alien violently explodes out of Kane’s chest is meant to be one of, if not the, most disturbing scene in the film. Yet the impact of the scene is lessened because of the unrealistic spurting of blood out of Kane’s chest and the obviously puppet-like alien baby. The scene was still disturbing, but the impact would have been even greater if the special effects were better, or if I had been watching the movie in the 70s when it first released. However, Alien does have its high points when it comes to special effects. One particularly impressive example was the decapitated android head talking, which looked exactly like it did on Ash’s body. Also, when watching movies from the time period, I find it is very hard to get frightened because the monster itself doesn’t look scary at all, due to the limitations of special effects at the time. Ridley Scott realized these limitations, so he took steps to maintain the horror of the alien creature. Scott hides most of the alien in darkness throughout most of the movie. Not once is the full alien shown in full lighting—the closest the viewer gets is the scene where the Alien is in Ripley’s shuttle, but even that mainly shows the alien’s head. This leads the viewer to fill in what he imagines the rest of the creature to look. In this way, Alien seems to have a scarier monster than other movies of its time period.

BOO!

Well folks, that’s all for this movie. I hope you enjoyed the movie just as much as I did, and enjoyed the review just as much as I enjoyed writing it (although whether you experienced actual humor, or just find my analysis hilariously bad, is debatable). Until next time!

Force, out.

Death and Resurrection as a part of storytelling

Well, since today is Easter Sunday, I thought I would write a bit about resurrection. Today 19—years ago, it’s reported that Jesus Christ came back from the dead. Jesus’s miracle has been replicated in numerous literary characters. Aang, Scott Pilgrim, Goku, The Doctor (1-10), Roy Greenhilt, Dean and Sam Winchester, Kazuya Mishima and many others. Why is death and rebirth such a common occurrence in fiction?

It’s part of the monomyth is why. The monomyth is basically a blueprint invented by a man named Joseph Campbell. You may have heard of it in English Class as “The Hero’s Journey”. This blueprint loosely follows the plot arch of every story ever created. The death and resurrection of your main character is a part that Campbell called “Apotheosis”.

The basic idea is that the hero has accomplished his goal. He’s gotten what he was looking for. He’s at the end of his game when suddenly he is laid low somehow. Everything that he worked for is taken away from him. Often, this is in the form of death; a character literally has his life taken. But why? Why is it important for the hero to get knocked down? For two reasons.

One: It builds suspense before the final battle. If the hero gathers everything he needs and then approaches the villain and gives him a thrashing. There was no suspense. Everything happened exactly as expected. The audience needs to see the hero near-victorious and then immediately kicked to the dust afterwards. It gives them something to look forward two on the trip back up.

Two: It gives the hero the ability to use everything he learned on the journey. The death and resurrection often kicks our heroes back pretty far in their journey. They will remake their steps this time with the masterful wisdom of someone who has been here before. Aang’s death teaches him that the best way to master the avatar state isn’t through brute force but spiritualism and giant turtles and such. Scott Pilgrim’s death teaches him that the main ingredient in his relationship isn’t love, it’s self-respect. Goku dying at the hands of Cell teaches him that Cell is a villain not to be messed with, and it’s going to take ruthless power to defeat him. Goku puts on his game face and changes his attitude completely.

Don’t think this occurs only in Actiony fighty stuff. For those of you out there who like Romantic Comedies (I know there are some of you, I don’t judge), notice at the height of their relationship, the female lead will catch the male lead in a compromising position with his never-before-mentioned, exotic and foreign, gymnast cousin. He’ll squeak out a “It’s not what it looks like” and she’ll scream “WE’RE THROUGH!” Everything our hero (the male lead) was looking for (a relationship) is dashed to pieces. Then follows all the sadness and depression. The hero will be alone in his apartment, sighing over a photo album. He may even have an unfulfilling relationship with some other female character. Eventually he figures out that he has to try again with the female lead and he uses whatever he learned about trust or love or whatever.

Death and Resurrection is an essential part of fiction. It supercharges Act 3 and leads directly to the final showdown/kiss at the end of the movie.

That said, Happy Easter, everybody.

The Debutantes of Disney

princessesBoth pretty cool and easy on the eyes…

A series of professional photos of Real-Life Human Disney Princesses

I’m thinking the human Jessica Rabbit might look even hotter than the Disney cartoon version.  Via Geekologie

Extra: the J. Scott Campbell Sexy Disney Princesses Pin-Up Calendar 2012 and Sexy Disney Princesses 2011.  Yowza!  Hey, we don’t judge – if cartoon chicks are your thing that’s alright with us.

I first became a huge fan of Campbell via his run on the Gen-13 comic.  He now works on Danger Girl.  You can get your copy of the Sexy Princesses Calendar if you are so inclined at the Official J. Scott Campbell store.

“In Space, No One Can Hear You Scream” Pt. 2

Force here again, opening your eyes to the complexities of one of Sci Fi’s great classics- Alien.

Initially, many critics believed that Alien was a shallow horror movie (unbelievable, right?). For example, David Kehr, a reviewer from The Chicago Reader, describes the movie as “an empty-headed horror movie (1979) with nothing to recommend it beyond the disco-inspired art direction and some handsome, if gimmicky, cinematography” (“Alien”).

This is for you, Mr. Kehr

Anyways, in contrast to Kehr’s beliefs, I found the film to have a great deal of thematic depth to it. In the beginning of the movie, Kane is attacked by a facehugger while the team was investigating an SOS call. The team, consisting of Dallas, Lambert, and Kane, returns to the Nostromo, and Dallas demands Ripley to open the airlock to let the team into the ship. Ripley refuses, saying that if she lets Kane in, whatever attacked him might kill the whole crew. Ash wants to let Kane in, and although this is later revealed to be because Ash wants the alien for the corporate heads behind the expedition, the ethical dilemma still applies. Does Ripley let in Kane, who will die for sure if left outside, or run the risk of the whole crew dying in exchange for the possibility that Ash could heal Kane? You might say, “Let the f*cker die, why the hell would you poke around alien eggs anyway?”

Aww, look at the wittle wormy baby! Good thing that dumbass Kane is dead.

You might say, “What the hell do I care, they can all die if ya ask me.” You might even say, “Force, what the hell are you talking about, this is a movie about a rubber alien eating people for Christ’s sake!”

Or Do the Xenomorphs have an ulterior motive?

In which case you might be among the majority of readers. In any case, it turns out that Kane dies anyway, and the alien that springs out of his chest goes on to kill everyone except Ripley on the Nostromo. In this way, Scott may be advocating the need to protect the greater whole over the need to protect the individual.

Speaking of Ash, the android makes for a highly interesting subplot. After Brett and Dallas die trying to find the alien, Ripley discovers that Ash is an android commissioned by The Company– the company which sent the Nostromo on its mission– to ensure the safe delivery of the alien. This betrayal does introduce a major plot hole however—if the company was capable of making androids, why not just send a whole team of androids to collect the aliens? Regardless, I find Ash’s role interesting, because in many science fiction movies, science is glorified. In Alien, there seems to be the sense that science is ineffectual. Mother, the ship’s AI does little to help the crew stop the alien, and the chief science officer turns out to be a traitor, even admitting that the crew of the Nostromo is doomed. There is also the now common science fiction theme of evil faceless corporations concerned only with their own gain, and not human life. When Ripley looked up the mission agenda from Mother, she found out that the corporation, presumably not named to keep its “faceless” and inhuman quality, labeled the crew as “expendable”. The story could also be a cautionary tale about how the pursuit of knowledge, in this case a new bio-weapon in the form of the alien, could have devastating consequences—a theme dating back to Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, published in 1823.

I wonder if I could go into the thematic complexity of why the f*ck his blood is white. Maybe it ties in with the rape theme.

In addition to its other themes, the film also explores an underlying theme of rape. It’s no secret that horror movies try to play on what makes the audience uncomfortable, which is what makes them scary. In this way, Alien plays off of the theme of rape. In one part in the beginning of the movie, a baby version of the alien called a facehugger was clinging to Kane’s face and forcibly shoving a tube down his throat to deposit an embryo, which emerges from its host in a disturbing fashion, causing great pain to the host in the process. The imagery is not very subtle. Even more surprisingly, the target of the “rape” is male, not female. This may be going against the audience’s preconceptions about the targets of rape. In another scene in the movie, where Lambert gets killed, the alien’s tail is shown to slither between Lambert’s legs. The camera immediately cuts to Ripley, but the audience can still hear Lambert moaning and crying for a few minutes. Other critics have thought of similar ideas. For example, Mark Kermode writes about an interview he had with Alien scriptwriter Dan O’Bannon, where Dan argues that “it [the chest buster scene] also functions as a metaphorical dramatization of the male fear of penetration. He says that the oral invasion of Hurt’s character was ‘payback’ for all those horror films in which sexually vulnerable women were terrorized by rampaging male monsters” (“All Fright on the Night”).

Giger was one f*cked up individual. How about that for a parting image?

P.S- In looking for an image to fit with the last paragraph, I typed in Alien rape. Lets just say I found a couple of images I definitely was NOT looking for. *Shudders*. The things I do for this site.

“In Space, Noone Can Hear You Scream” Pt. 1

Force Echo here, talking about one of the most revolutionary films of all time.

Everyone knows Alien, everyone knows that it has produced countless spinoffs (Alien vs. Predator anyone), comic books, books, 1 awesome sequel, 2 shitty sequels, etc. But what makes Alien such a damned good movie?

Just take a look at this horror scene.

Alien is filled with carefully constructed horror moments like these, making it, in my opinion, one of the scariest horror films I’ve ever seen. Personally, I like the movie because of its thematic complexity. I find it interesting how the movie contains themes about science, about the inhumanity of corporations, and about sexual assault. I like how the film prompts me to consider ethical dilemmas, such as the importance of one man’s life over the lives of the whole crew. I find the character of Ripley to be unique, one of the only female leaders I have seen in a science fiction movie. Other characters like Mother and the alien also contribute to the film—I found it enjoyable to see the irony behind Mother or the simple minded mentality behind the alien. The atmosphere is not only genuinely scary, but also one of the most seamless fusions of two genres I have ever seen in a movie. The setting, the surrealist elements, and the cinematography of the horror scenes all contribute to the atmosphere. The special effects elements are clever, even though they fall comically short in some places (due to the period in which the movie was made). The story of Alien is not that complex, but the individual scenes, and the masterful use of a hybrid science fiction and horror atmosphere make this movie one any film aficionado should possess.

The movie is uncharacteristically deep for a science fiction movie. And over the course of this Alien series I will be exploring that very thematic depth.