Archive for the reviews/opinions Category

Double Feature Review: Zeta Gundam (1985-86) and Char’s Counterattack (1988)

Posted in anime, future + scifi, japan, reviews/opinions, television on March 4, 2014 by reccaphoenix

**Note: I wrote this post some time ago and somehow neglected to publish it.  Finally got around to it, put in some minor updates.**

Continuing with my recent trend of Gundam-shows-by-Tomino/Universal Century Gundam shows, I immediately started watching Zeta (the direct, 5-years-later sequel to MS Gundam) and followed up with Char’s Counterattack.
*note for nerds: I realize that I’m not being totally chronological here: Double Zeta review possibly to come later, I’m in the middle of that one now*

If this review had to be one word: Wow.  If this review had to be one sentence: Zeta has everything that MS Gundam has…times 3.

First, and least importantly, there is at least 3 times the face slapping and punching.  There was enough to base a whole drinking game on.  Amuro got his fair share of the “Bright slap” back in MS Gundam and now Kamille gets his.  Kamille is initially even more of a whiny little bastard than Amuro was, so I can’t say that he didn’t deserve some of them, but I started feeling sorry for him when he gets the crap beat out of him by Wong-san, especially because that was partially motivated by Haro.  Haro gets too much abuse in this show.

3 times the drama. At least:  the Newtype emotional drama, which really only played into the final episodes of MS Gundam, takes center stage here.  There are more Newtypes…and many female Newtypes.  You can see what’s coming.

This brings me to another point.  Gundam series have become increasingly derivative of Zeta and MS Gundam since those shows aired, even if the new series are “alternate universe” affairs.  And sadly, even Zeta jumps on that train a little.  The first time we had newtype love + tragic death in a 3-person fight (via Lalah/Amuro/Char) it was sad.  This time, Amuro/Char (can’t remember which) even points out that “gee, it’s just like that OTHER SERIES.”  But they do it again.  And it’s still sad.  But it happens again in Char’s Counterattack…which I’ll get to.

The Song: I LOVE the first opening, Zeta: Toki o Koete.  I love that it is the Neil Sedaka song “Better Days Are Coming” with Tomino-penned spacey lyrics and funky ’80s electronic instruments.  I’ve learned to play it on my ukulele and I play and sing it bossa nova style all the friggin’ time now.  It has become my favorite anime opening of all time.  Interesting note: the ending theme and second opening are also both Japanese-lyrics versions of Neil Sedaka (which is why they are not on the US DVDs).

Character Development:  Seeing so many characters return from the last series was fantastic, and I loved most of the “new guys” just as much.  Here’s some impressions:

  • Kai Shiden is a total badass now, not just a snarky teen.  What they did with this character was great, even though he didn’t show up much.
  • What happened to Sayla?  She only appears for a second, and doesn’t even talk.  I love Sayla and I wish that she had played more of a role in the sequels.  Apparently she and Amuro had more of a romance in the novels of MS Gundam and they even had sexy time on the White Base.  Whhaaaaat.  Does Bright Noa allow sexy time on the White Base?  Or does he overlook it because he is too busy checking out Miss Mirai Yashima.  You KNOW that staring at her backside for months had to be one of the motivating factors behind that sudden “Hey girl, Mirai, I can be that guy for you” confession (so cute) in the latter part of MS Gundam.  But I digress.  (Keep it together!!!)
  • Amuro is a lot cooler now.  It is really interesting to see an emotional teenage boy grow up into someone struggling with his past and reluctant to go back to fighting.
  • Four Murasame: I can’t. I’ll start crying.  FOUUUURRRRR….you were so ’80s-tastic.
  • Rosamia Badam I could do without.  She’s another anime “Onii-chan”-ing clinger.  This has basically become a trope by now, and–big surprise–it happens again in other Gundam series.
  • I loved the return of all the MS Gundam characters.  It was fantastic.  Even though Mirai Yashima, er, Mirai Noa is a housewife now.
  • I’m going to stop now before I start ranting again.

This is all really disorganized, but I’ll sum it up: See this series, especially if you’ve seen the original MS Gundam.  It’s amazing.  I’d rather urge you to see it than fill in my likely-to-be-novel-length list of opinions on Zeta.

Char’s Counterattack

Don’t get me wrong, this is a really good movie.  But I have some issues with it.  Warning: serious spoiler alerts, because I want to discuss this one fully.

Another time-jump in Universal Century brings us into a situation where Char and Amuro are on opposite sides of the battlefield again.  And the old Lalah situation comes back to haunt them.  Ironically (of course), there’s a new love triangle….er….polygon brewing with our new characters, Hathaway Noa (obligatory kid-of-chara-from-original-series), resident Char fangirl Quess, Char’s lady friend Nanai, Char, Amuro, Chen Agi (substitute Beltorchika-san for the movie), and Char’s assistant Gyunei.  So maybe it’s not so derivative.  Char’s cooking up a plan to attack the earth and Amuro has to stop him.  That’s the plot, basically.

New characters.  Quite a few of them.  Here’s my take on a couple:

  • Quess Paraya: if you didn’t already notice from my assessment of Quess as the “resident Char fangirl,” I don’t particularly like this character.  I think she’s interesting, but her execution veers into Mary Sue territory.  As if somebody said “Oh boy, I’m gonna write a fanfic where I’m a super cute girl who’s the BEST PILOT EVAR and I fall in love with Char Aznable and Amuro and they fight over meeee.”  That being said, Tomino writes believable teenagers, and I’ve known a few girls like this.  Still, I would’ve liked to have seen her not blatantly state her motivations and feelings all the time.  Show don’t tell, geez.  But we’re working with a two hour movie, so I can forgive the filmmakers on this one.  Lalah is how a character like this should be written, Quess is not.  But we’re dealing with 20 years of separation, and cute plucky girl had become more of an anime trope by the early ’90s.  And I guess Gundam was missing a Lolita type character aside from Elpeo Puru in ZZ (who I would trade for Quess any day).
  • Hathaway: Basically, Hathaway is like the Katz Kobayashi of this movie.  Kid-from-older-series-returns-and-repeats-mistakes-of-older-generation.  But I don’t have any complaints.  He has a Haro, and you all know that I LOVE HARO.
  • Gyunei: I liked this one.  He was interesting, given that he is really loyal to Char but also intensely wants Quess for himself.  I also don’t think we’ve seen a volunteer artificial Newtype yet (i.e. not all messed up in the head), so that was interesting.
  • Haro (just kidding): Seriously, though, I love Haro and I wish he had more screen time in every single Gundam series, if only to say “HARO. HARO AMURO” and tell everybody when they are emotionally stressed.  Everybody should have a Haro.  I want a Haro.  The closest I have is the Haro alarm clock I got for Christmas, which keeps calling me “Amuro” for some reason.
  • Nanai: I love that Char has a love interest who is not Lalah.  Especially after Amuro got one/two (Beltorchika/Chen).  And the fact that (uh, spoiler) Char is really just manipulating all of these love interests and others makes it all so interesting.  That being said, it was kind of inevitable that the film ends the way it does, because I don’t think he could have kept up the double-crossing.

It’s that very double-crossing and manipulation that, along with his crazy plan, turned Char into a “bad guy” again (for me at least).  Char/Quattro is still sympathetic but he is not Quattro anymore.  He’s not the cool mentor that he was in Zeta.  This is a brilliant turn of events and really makes the film “work” for me, especially because Amuro and Char made so much headway towards forgiving each other (or at least tolerating each other) in Zeta.  The only one who was totally unforgiving of Char then seemed to be Kai Shiden, and we know how he rolls.  Snark snark.

Admittedly, Char’s whole drop-colony-on-Earth plan starts the fight, though.  And that’s another thing – Char wants to save the earth, and even though his colony drop would make everybody evacuate, a nuclear winter isn’t the most environmentally friendly of methods for doing that.  So the whole idea seems a little forced.  What made Char change so much between Zeta and here?  Was it the fact that the Argama replaced its emotionally laden teens and badass women with a plucky group of scavenger kiddies and that the show got all cartoony?  But I digress.

Anyhow, as I said before, Newtype love triangles are getting old at this point.  It’s hard to get emotionally invested in this one, because we only just met the new characters.  Well, OK, we “knew” Hathaway as a child, but he had no lines and didn’t do anything.  And literally, the original Newtype love triangle is at the root of this entire movie.  The one sentence summary for this one is “Two grown men are still fighting about the same thing and keep fighting about it till they die fighting about it.”  It’s kind of funny that they just keep going at it until the end.

However we got into this Amuro-Char standoff, though, it’s happening.  So what do I think of it?  Like I said, the movie itself is on par with Zeta in terms of quality in storytelling and characters.  But the movie format compresses everything, which can make characters’ actions make less sense.  It also gives us less time to learn about the new batch (Quess, Hathaway, Chen, Char’s love interest, etc.) – as a new series, this film could have been fantastic.  I probably would have liked it better.  But what we get is still great and a good “makeup” for the goofiness of Double Zeta, which I’m sure most fans appreciated.  (I myself have yet to form a solid opinion of ZZ because I’m still watching it).

Some additional notes of the humor variety:

  • I love that Gyunei straight up says that Char  has “lolicon” (Lolita complex).  I figure somebody might have noticed that over the years.  I guess he never got over Lalah and, like Humbert Humbert, is forever chasing the memory of preteen love.  How old is Quess again? 13? Er, uncomfortable.  Although at the end of the film it seems that they didn’t really have a “thing” after all.
  • I was shocked that Beltorchika-san was not around (wasn’t she Amuro’s “girlfriend” or whatever?), only to find out that Beltorchika literally replaces Chen’s role in Tomino’s novelization of the movie.  That makes sense.  Why not use Beltorchika, though?
  • It was nice to see Mirai Noa again.  Will she ever get into space to see her husband?  Has she been trying since Zeta?  That’s so sad….
  • Amuro has literally been wearing the same kind of underwear since the space ’70s.  No, I’m serious, it’s in the movie.  Ha ha ha.  Let’s hope it’s not the same set, although if Fraw Bow was the only thing that got Amuro into the shower back in MS Gundam, maybe he’s still that much of a slob.  Gross.
  • Speaking of which, Boyfriend and I had a running joke that Bright Noa only owns two outfits: (1) Earth Federation uniform; and (2) space suit.  Evidenced by the fact that even when he joined the AEUG in Zeta, he kept wearing the Earth Federation (the enemy’s!) uniform.  And I’m pretty sure that he’s been wearing THE SAME uniform the whole time because you can’t get new clothes in space.
  • Who the hell gave Bright Noa EYEBALLS?  He looks so weird.  I know the ’70s style characters didn’t necessarily mesh with all the others, but I liked them that way.  I lost faith in humanity when Bright Noa got whites in his eyes.  Now I should really get that tattoo back piece of Bright Noa bitch-slapping Amuro Ray with Japanese ukiyo-e waves in the background and a Haro flying through the sky….but I digress.

A Conclusion

After these two, I started up Double Zeta (the direct sequel to Zeta), which I’ll cover in another review when I finish it.  It’s a huge, sudden, and extremely awkward tone shift after Zeta’s depressing drama bomb ending, and I’ve got mixed feelings at the moment.

And I just felt like I wanted more.  There are still so many unanswered questions and untold stories about the White Base and Argama crews.  I couldn’t help but long for a “third” series – a series that could be to Zeta what Zeta was to MS Gundam.  But at the same time, I could see that Char’s Counterattack was starting to get derivative.  Even the alternate universe Gundam shows are mostly derivative now, so would we really want rehash after rehash of the same old stories and Newtype drama with Bright Noa’s children and all the others?  Perhaps it’s for the best.  Often, shows that people wanted to keep going but ended instead are the most fondly remembered.

I know that Gundam Unicorn tried to pick up the Universal Century story recently, but I haven’t watched it so I can’t speak to the quality of that show.  I figure that if it was a truly good sequel, I probably would have heard more about it, and Tomino wasn’t involved.  My next steps are to watch all of the Tomino Gundam series, Space Runaway Ideon, and perhaps Gundam Unicorn (despite its silly name).  I’ll be reporting back here, maybe, after I do that (if I do).

As always,

Recca

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Review: Mobile Suit Gundam (1979)

Posted in anime, future + scifi, japan, reviews/opinions, television with tags , , on March 15, 2013 by reccaphoenix

Long absence, I know.  But I just wanted to share my thoughts on a remarkable little anime series from the ’70s.

When I was 13, and a big nerdy Gundam Wing fangirl, Cartoon Network started showing Mobile Suit Gundam after the conclusion of Wing.  I stopped watching the show after a few episodes because I didn’t like any of the characters and I thought it was lame and cliche.  But boy, did I misjudge it.

I just finished watching the entire series (in Japanese, if you must know) and I really enjoyed it.  If you compare it with everything that came before (cartoony giant robots), it was really groundbreaking.

A quick summary for the uninitiated (no spoilers): This is the first show in the long-running Gundam series, which involves vaguely samurai-like humanoid giant robots in some variety of warfare.  In MS Gundam, Amuro Ray and a group of military and civilians survive an attack on their space colony and are drawn into conflict with the evil Principality of Zeon.  World War II…IN SPACE, sort of.

My favorite point came towards the end of the series, where there are some truly avant-garde psychedelic (and most likely 2001: A Space Odyssey-inspired) moments as the series spirals quickly towards its epic conclusion.

Speaking of influences from other films, I definitely can feel some Star Trek influence in MS Gundam.  The multicultural cast (their names are a combination of German, Japanese, Spanish, English, and other influences), strong military women, and “space navy” theme are clearly present.  On that note, I think that MS Gundam most likely started the Gundam series’ tradition of strong female characters.  Sayla, Hamon, and Lalah are some tough and awesome ladies and were enjoyable to follow through the series.

I enjoy anime from the 1970s – the hand-drawn dusty cel look is charming to me, I guess.  The retro look and feel of MS Gundam is great, as is the disco-style funky battle music and J-folk ending theme.  While the opening theme song recalls other giant robot series in that it is mainly about the Gundam itself, it’s catchy, upbeat, and infectiously fun.

Let’s talk about the characters, which are really the best thing in the show, in my opinion.  These are some of the best-loved characters in Japan and I hope my descriptions and opinions here do them justice.

Let’s start with the White Base crew.  I grew to love this bunch of tough folks with funny names, along with the obligatory pack-o’-orphans (Kikka, Katz, and Letz) that add comic relief here and there.  MS Gundam gets in a lot of character development, which is one thing that Gundam Wing didn’t do so well (there were really too many characters).  Amuro has his issues and moments, but that’s probably realistically to be expected of a teenage boy.  My boyfriend and I both posited that we would probably be the Kai Shiden of the group if thrown into the same situation (laziness, snark, etc.).

…now for the bad guys.  While pretty much all the Zeons have something….kinda…wrong…with them in terms of appearance (they all have purple hair, weird body shapes, look sickly, etc), that just adds to their evil appearance.  Char Aznable, who Japanese people love “three times more” (qualifier used to describe Char’s mechas) than pretty much anything else, is a cool dude.  And the foundation for every masked baddie in anime (and every masked bad guy in Gundam, pretty much) since the ’70s.  Char was the only thing that kept me watching MS Gundam as a 13-year-old.

Did I mention that there is a lot of face slapping and punching?

Image

(c) Bandai/Sunrise/Sotsu Agency. Not my image.

 

….yeah.  Good to know that Kai gets slapped around almost as much as Amuro.  Slegger Law’s only purpose as a character is basically (1) to slap a bitch and (2) to hit on the ladies of White Base.

Okay, now for the bad points.  This show was made partially to sell toys.  So the Gundam does a lot of really goofy transforming stuff that is often used as episode filler.  Also, some of the designs weren’t quite up to the “realistic robot” standards that Tomino envisioned when he conceived of Gundam, and come off as…well, silly.  But I can’t really complain about this, since the Gundam and friends still look ten times more realistic than most of their contemporary giant robot brethren, who look like the mecha from Power Rangers or plastic toys.

Well, that’s it for my disorganized quick review blurb.  I hope you will check this series out, it’s a real gem.

(…and before you ask, yes, I am a colossal nerd and have already started watching the sequel, Zeta Gundam.  Will I review that?  Maybe.)

Review – Brighton Rock (2010)

Posted in cinema, mod, movie posters, reviews/opinions with tags , on February 7, 2012 by reccaphoenix

Recca’s note: Sorry for the paucity of reviews and posts lately.  I’ve been in law school, which basically means no time for anything, especially not watching films.  I’ve also just been lazy.  When I’m exhausted, I can only stomach light comedic television nowadays.  That being said, I just got Hulu Plus last year (Netflix drove me away) and they have a large selection of Criterion films.  So expect something periodically in the future.  I’ve been on a bit of documentary kick lately, though, and I highly recommend The Eyes of Tammy Faye.  Anyhow, I can’t say no to a mod movie review (the specialty of this blog), and when the mod remake of Brighton Rock presented itself on BBC iPlayer the other day, I had to watch it.  So on to the review!

Brighton Rock (2010, UK) dir. Rowan Joffe

I saw the original Brighton Rock (1947) a few years ago on film and fell in love with it.  When I heard that there was a remake in the works both based more on the novel AND set in mod-infested 1964 Brighton, I squealed fangirl squeals of delight.  I picked up the Brighton Rock novel by Graham Greene right away and while reading it, imagined how the remake would transfer the plot into the mod era.

So, naturally, I was quite excited to see this film.  Overall, it’s a solid watch, though it is not without its issues.  I am inevitably going to make a few comparisons with the original film which, though excellent, is also not without its issues, so please bear with me in that regard.  I would highly recommend viewing both (in any order) as well as reading the novel (if you’re into crime novels with a twist of Catholic subtext).

The plot concerns a young gang leader named Pinkie, who struggles against an established mob run by Corleone (played brilliantly in this adaptation by Andy Serkis of Gollum fame).  When Fred Hale gets caught between the two gangs, Pinkie has to murder him.  A young waitress named Rose becomes the only remote witness to Fred Hale’s “disappearance” and Pinkie starts up a relationship with her to keep her quiet.  Both of them are Catholics, which figures into the plot extensively.  In the meantime, busybody good-time girl Ida (who in this adaptation also runs the cafe where Rose works and is played by the great Helen Mirren) becomes interested in the mystery and will stop at nothing to make sure Pinkie is caught.

The most interesting part of the story, in my opinion, is the relationship between Pinkie and Rose.  This part of the story is what the 2010 adaptation excels at portraying.  Rose is a little bit overacted in the 1947 version and I tended to pity her less in that adaptation.  Rose is far more dimensional in the new film.

The new film sticks to the novel in some ways more than the 1947 film, but it’s a little superficial.  Characters are condensed (Ida and the cafe owner) and changed, along with the time period.  While this largely works, I found Ida to be the weakest character in the new film, while she was far more interesting in the 1947 version and in the novel.  Helen Mirren’s Ida is too serious and comes off as pretty boring overall.  The shorter length of the film may be to blame, but she barely gets involved and the tension surrounding her investigations has little time to develop.  Kudos to the new film for expounding on the Brighton Rock candy metaphor, a central feature of the novel’s plot.

The cinematography in the 1947 film is far more interesting and black-and-white lends itself to the gangster film noir atmosphere of the plot a bit better.  The 2010 film is well shot, but it can never beat the fantastic murder scenes in the original.  Interestingly enough, the ending of this film is shot-for-shot an homage to the 1947 version.  Color does help capture the mod world quite well, though, and I loved the use of colors in Rose’s clothing throughout the film.

I really appreciated that this film didn’t become complete mod-sploitation.  That being said, a few of the “mod moments” felt a little bit forced, such as when Rose goes shopping.  The scene where Pinkie dresses in the full mod kit – fishhooked parka sleeves included – is pure mod porn.  These scenes didn’t detract from the film as a whole, though (and I rather enjoyed most of them, being a mod myself).  These moments fit the plot – Pinkie seems to be a bit of a mod, and he steals a scooter and uses a mod disguise to escape into the crowd.  However, mods are notoriously picky and even I, not hardcore by any means, found a few issues.  Some of the men had more “freakbeat era” long haircuts which you probably wouldn’t see in 1964, and a few of the girls had more mid-60s Carnaby-type dresses as well.  This is ‘pop culture’ mod, but it doesn’t fit the time period.  I also spotted some older people as extras in the scooter parade scene, which is also completely inconsistent with the era (although I bet those old-timers were glad to be in the scene…it probably reminded them of their youth).  On a positive note, the Brighton mod riots add a fascinating new dimension to the film’s thematic focus on the conflict between young and old (Pinkie vs. Corleone, Rose vs. Ida, mod rebels vs. Brighton businesses).

I appreciate the risks taken in this adaptation, and unlike most adaptations of great films, I enjoyed it and could easily re-watch it.  Again, though, while Rose came across better in this film, I miss the Pinkie and Ida in the ’47 film, and the murder scenes that shone in the original can’t be matched.  I find myself in the odd position of recommending both films.  They are both fun to watch and look great.  I especially recommend the new film for fellow mods (let’s face it, this is the closest thing to another ‘Quadrophenia’ that we’re going to get in this decade).  I hope the film sparks another revival (we need one!)

(chants) We are the mods, we are the mods, we are, we are, we are the mods…..

Sorry, I got carried away there.  Check out both films….and/or read the novel!

–Recca 2/7/12

Rating (2010 film): 7/10

Trailer:  http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi4823321/

My PERSONAL Tops of the Decade (TV, Film, Video Games and Music)

Posted in cinema, music, nostalgia, reviews/opinions, television on October 25, 2010 by reccaphoenix

It being 2010 now, everyone’s doing the whole retrospective thing.  I am SO unqualified to do this as a “best by some aesthetic standard” list, because I wasn’t really old enough to have a good critical eye/ear when the decade began, and because there’s just so much out there that I simply haven’t seen.  I’m just going to go with my personal favorites – the things I enjoy a lot, whether they’re “lasting greats” or not – of the noughties.  So no flaming.

And by the way, these lists were very hard to narrow down.  There were a lot that *nearly* made it (and probably would make it if I revised these lists) but I had to draw the line somewhere.  Unfortunately.

Best Films – doesn’t include re-releases, restorations, or sequels.  I’m only going with one from each major director/animation studio as well (because otherwise this list would be 60% Pixar films…)

  1. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (dir. Peter Weir, USA 2003) This movie has everything – great characters, AMAZING sound design and editing, great sets, a thrilling story, wonderful suspense, a beautiful soundtrack, and lots of great naval battles.  Every time I watch it, it gets better, and in my opinion it holds up as well as another historical epic, my #2 favorite movie of all time, Lawrence of Arabia.  God damn, this is a good movie.  Definitely my favorite to come out of this decade, no question.
  2. Ratatouille (Pixar, USA 2007) If I have to pick just one Pixar film for this top-10, then it has to be this one.  It has a great soundtrack, great dialogue, lots of fun and humor, and timelessly beautiful settings.  The sheer amount of detail and love put into this film is just astounding, and it’s a film that not only blew me away the first time I saw it, but actually got better with repeat viewings.  And I just love how the end credits are done in traditional animation – Pixar isn’t losing touch with their roots, that’s for sure.  Bravo for proving CGI animation worthy in my eyes, Pixar.
  3. Millenium Actress (dir. Satoshi Kon, Japan 2001) A great film that makes amazing use of both the film medium and the animated film medium, and one of the best and most interesting examples of “postmodernism” I’ve ever seen.  Most people prefer Kon’s other 2000s film Paprika, but this one speaks to me more as a film buff so I had to pick it over Paprika.  The film jumps through Japanese history, Japanese cinema history (and a bit of anime history too, one could argue), the history of the main character’s acting career, as well as the progress of her romantic pursuits.  It takes a lot of skill to tell so many story threads in one film without losing the audience.  Did I mention that the entire film is framed in a sort of meta-film documentary as well?  This is one impressive film, and if it sounds confusing – surprisingly, it’s not – it’s pretty easy to follow, although knowing about Japanese history and Japanese film helps.
  4. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (dir. Peter Jackson, USA 2001) This, in my opinion, is a modern-day revival of the old epics of the ’50s and ’60s.  I have to give Peter Jackson and WETA a huge tip o’ the hat for using a lot of REAL stuff and not just reverting to CGI entirely, and for having the bollocks to knock out a generally faithful and highly entertaining adaptation of what is arguably the greatest fantasy series out there.  This film is just so…dense….with awesome and detail, kind of like the old Star Wars films, that it’s great to watch again and again.
  5. The Triplets of Belleville (dir. Sylvain Chomet, France/Belgium/UK/Canada 2003) A triumph of unconventional animation and retro style weirdness that one wouldn’t expect to find in this decade.  There’s almost no talking in this film, which is an achievement in itself.  It’s surreal, funny, crazy, and reminds me of political cartoons.  Plus, it has a great soundtrack, and some amusing stereotypes of French and American people.  The CGI may be a bit odd in parts, but the film is still pretty damn awesome.
  6. No Country For Old Men (dir. Cohen Bros., USA 2007) A modern-day suspense classic.  The acting and sound design are top-notch, and the story is riveting.  I think the reason they gave Javier Bardem’s character that silly haircut was to take the edge off his otherwise-terrifying character…and to prove that even someone with that haircut could be totally scary.  He’s an amazing actor.  But anyhow, since I can only pick one Cohen movie for my favorite of the decade, it’s this one.
  7. The Cat Returns and Spirited Away (Studio Ghibli, Japan 2002, 2001) It’s a tie between these two.  The Cat Returns didn’t get a very wide release, and I honestly like it just as much as Spirited Away (which DID get a huge release and tons of press – it was the first Ghibli film that a lot of Americans saw, thanks to Ghibli’s deal with Disney – although its Buena Vista affiliation generated some pretty lame English voice talent and translation, though it could be far worse).  Both of these films, and Ghibli films in general, are so beautiful, fun, and magical.  And both are thematically similar, dealing with a “real world” girl being transported into an alternate reality populated by non-humans.
  8. School of Rock (dir. Richard Linklater, USA 2003)
  9. Angel-A (dir. Luc Besson, France 2005)
  10. Amelie (dir. Jean-Pierre Jeunet, France 2001)

*honourable mention: Casino Royale was just edged off the list – it deserves at least a shout-out if nothing else.  Also, I only just saw Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story which was utterly hilarious and also deserves a shout-out, as does The Princess and the Frog for getting back to what Disney does right, and Inglourious Basterds for being downright awesome, good old-fashioned Nazi-killin’ ultraviolent fun.*

Best Television Series – doesn’t include re-runs or “remixes” (ála Dragonball Kai).  No TV movies – only miniseries and series.  I’m being unfair here and including spinoffs and sequel series, if they occur separately and not just as extra seasons of the same show.

  1. Life on Mars (BBC, UK 2006-7)
  2. Top Gear (BBC, UK 2002-present)
  3. Ashes to Ashes (BBC, UK 2008-present)
  4. Cranford (BBC, UK 2007)
  5. South Park (Comedy Central, USA 1997-present)
  6. Samurai Jack (Cartoon Network, USA 2001-4)
  7. Flight of the Conchords (HBO, USA 2007-9)
  8. The Boondocks (Cartoon Network, USA 2005-present)
  9. Kino’s Journey (WOWOW, Japan 2003)
  10. Kingdom Hospital (ABC, USA 2004)

*honourable mention: Rome (it was pretty good but I never finished watching it, so I feel unqualified to judge it) and Doctor Who with David Tennant (because I’m a huge nerd)*

Best Video Games – doesn’t include re-releases of pre-2000 games unless they have been significantly altered. Only one game per franchise.

  1. Kingdom Hearts (Squaresoft, PS2, 2002)
  2. The Beatles: Rock Band (Harmonix, Wii/PS3/Xbox360, 2009)
  3. Black Jack Hinotori Hen (Sega, DS, 2007)
  4. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (DS remake) (Capcom, DS, 2005)
  5. Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift (Square Enix, DS, 2007)
  6. Devil May Cry (Capcom, PS2, 2001)
  7. BioShock (2K Games, PS3/Xbox360/Mac/PC, 2007)
  8. Onimusha 3: Demon Siege (Capcom, PS2, 2005)
  9. WarioWare: Twisted! (Nintendo, GBA, 2004)
  10. Dynasty Warriors 4 (Koei, PS2, 2003)

*honourable mentions: Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance for GBA and King of Fighters 2000 for NeoGeo*

Is it just me or are “console exclusives” becoming increasingly rare these days?  Maybe it’s so the companies can make more money….

Best Albums – doesn’t include compilations or greatest hits collections, although I am counting remixes.  Only one album per artist.

  1. Guero (Beck, 2005)
  2. Love (The Beatles/George and Giles Martin, 2006)
  3. Employment (Kaiser Chiefs, 2005)
  4. Disney Bossa Nova (Various Artists, 2004)
  5. The Grey Album (DJ Danger Mouse [remixing Jay-Z and The Beatles], 2004)
  6. Friendly Fire (Sean Lennon, 2006)
  7. Demon Days (Gorillaz, 2005)
  8. Chaos and Creation in the Backyard (Paul McCartney, 2005)
  9. Crescent (Gackt, 2003)
  10. 100 Days, 100 Nights (Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, 2007)

(top comics/manga of the decade to come later, perhaps)

Sorry, guys – I never really finished working on this ages ago but I decided to just publish it anyway for the heck of it.  Hope you enjoy the fragment 😛

Review: What’s New Pussycat (1965)

Posted in animation, cinema, mod, reviews/opinions with tags , , , , , on August 15, 2010 by reccaphoenix

What’s New Pussycat (1965, UK) 35mm, color, dir. Clive Donner & Richard Talmadge, written by Woody Allen

I’d been dying to see this one for a while.  I love Woody Allen’s films, my two favorite Peters (O’Toole and Sellers) are in this film, it’s from the ’60s, Tom Jones sings the theme, Burt Bacharach did the music, and Richard Williams (great animator) did the opening titles.  If you, like me, fell in love with Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia and wanted to see him in a film with some women, then….this is one for you.  At least it would be, if not for some major issues.  The many things I mentioned above make the film appealing on a cosmetic level but are not combined in the best way they could be.

This film concerns a great number of characters and love polygons, which I will try to sum up the best I can…showing one of the film’s weaknesses – too much going on.  But then again, it’s a kind of Continue reading

Review – Modesty Blaise (1966)

Posted in cinema, mod, movie posters, reviews/opinions with tags , , , , on April 3, 2010 by reccaphoenix

(heavy emphasis on the MOD in Modesty)

First of all, how could I not see this film?  It features two of my favorite actors of the ’60s, Monica Vitti (of Antonioni fame) and Terence Stamp (the attractive young idol of Swinging London and a damn fine actor – see my review of The Limey for one of his more recent works) in the leading roles, has some MODTASTIC architecture, costumes, and sets, a hip score, and action-packed espionage…. so, given the opportunity to Continue reading

Dumb Cars of the Noughties

Posted in cars, rants, reviews/opinions on March 31, 2010 by reccaphoenix

Everyone’s doing their best and worst of the decade lists and whatnot, it being 2010 and such, as it were.  So I thought I’d give my thoughts on something that has really bothered me the past 10 years of my existence – ugly and stupid cars and car trends.  Now, don’t get me wrong, car aesthetics have certainly improved since the 1990s for the most part, but there are quite a few styles and models of automobile introduced in the ’00s (which is pronounced “noughties,” I believe)  that really grind my gears.  So here’s an informal list of some of the worst of the worst that come to mind.  And this is only an Continue reading