Volton: Legendary Defender Review (Very Lite Spoilers)

I just finished watching the first season of Netflix and Dreamworks’ new attempt at rebooting Voltron, and I have to say I was impressed. This is no surprise, since the people behind the reboot are the same team and studio behind Avatar: The Legend of Korra, and they bring their trademark style of character, action, and humor to the project. So what did I like and didn’t I like?

Likes

  • The animation is beautiful, and they’re not afraid to mix different styles together and do tricks like dropping to black and white line drawing at certain dramatic scenes. They’re very in control of the medium, and even though we’re looking at a mix of CGI and 2D animation, it all blends very nicely.
  • The story is overall well written, and while it starts a little rushed it picks up quite well as it goes along. While each episode stands on its own, there is a clear overall story and progression, and they deftly avoid falling into the “Voltron fights monster of the week” trap. (In fact, I was shocked by how few monster battles there actually are.)
  • The monster battles that happen are extremely well thought out and well choreographed, not “fight>fight>fight>blazing sword>end” but requiring the characters to think each monster through as a problem, not just as an obstacle to their goals. (Which makes the monsters more scary and actually intimidating.)
  • They made Hunk, Lance, and Pidge into distinctive (and very loveable) characters who all have a purpose in the story and aren’t just sidekicks.
  • They’ve expanded Zarkon’s forces into an actual race, The Galra, and treat them like an actual military force and even gave them bits of their own language.
  • The shift towards an active role for the team instead of passively sitting there waiting for the next monster to attack.

Undecided

    • The original Voltron used Keith as it’s core anchor, and then slowly expanded on the rest of the cast as it went on. (It was following the formula set up by Gatchaman (aka Battle of the Planets/G-Force) and which is still used in Sentai today, where the Red Ranger is always the default hero/leader.) This new series is all ensemble, all the time, with no clear focal character except a character that the episode might choose to focus on. While this works okay, I found this results in the Hunk/Lance/Pidge trio getting the majority of lines and screen time, while the actual more heroic warrior characters of Keith and Shiro kinda get shafted in terms of story focus. Keith and Shiro start the season as enigmas, and pretty much end there too, in fact Keith is now reduced to being just another skilled but generic pilot, and a boring one. (Imagine a Legend of Korra where they spent 75% of their time on Mako and Bolin instead of Korra, and Korra just turns up to fight.) I’m hoping this is because Keith is now on a slow-burn towards hero-dom and it will be remedied in the following seasons.
    • The new Voltron design is okay, not great, not bad.
    • Every time they form Voltron, I keep having GaoGaiGar flashbacks, because the new Voltron combining sequence is a total GaoGaiGar “homage”. Watch…

Forming Voltron (however, this is the shorter version, there is a longer version which is even more like GaoGaiGar’s Final Fusion)

GaoGaiGar’s Final Fusion sequence for comparison.

Dislikes

  • I’m oldschool this way, but to me Voltron isn’t Voltron without this theme! (Which I’ve been humming since my childhood.) Instead we get a bunch of really lackluster synth music that’s functional but nothing exceptional.

Overall, it’s a very well done show, and in some ways is superior to the original. It kind’ve reminds me of the Thundercats reboot they did a few years back, although that show had a little more depth to it. This new Voltron series is just a simple and fun retelling of the original Voltron story, and I look forward to seeing where they go with it.

Rob

P.S. Here’s your useless Trivia of the day! The original Voltron series wasn’t supposed to be translated from Beast King Golion at all. It was supposed to be translated from another series called Daltanius, which also featured a robot with a lion component. However, during pre-production World Events Productions asked their Japanese partner to send them tapes of “the one with the lion” and Toei Animation accidentally sent tapes of Golion instead! WEP liked Golion so much they decided to translate it instead!

And now you know…the rest of the story.

Review- Dragon Blade (Jackie Chan) (Mild Spoilers)

I just finished watching Dragon Blade, and I have to say I have really mixed feelings about it. It’s a giant pile of awesome ideas and potential wrapped in a badly directed and mismanaged package. The core idea is great- a team of Silk Road mediators in Han Dynasty China lead by Huo An (Jackie Chan) have to keep peace among the 36 different tribes that control parts of the Silk Road which runs between China and Rome. One day, a Roman army shows up on the Chinese border city of Wild Geese led by Commander Lucius (John Cusack) on the run from Rome because they’re fleeing with their lord’s youngest son to keep his elder brother from killing him. The Romans and the Chinese are the two ends of the Silk Road, but this is them meeting for the first time and lots of cultural conflicts and misunderstandings ensue.

Great stuff, and the first half of the movie is actually pretty good with a nice mix of comedy, action, and some cool scenes where each side gets to show off what they can do. It was made for Chinese audiences, but the Romans are played as strong and heroic, and Cusack and Chan are fun to watch together, regardless of how awkward the English dialog is. (And it’s REALLY awkward- this movie needed an English re-write badly, the lines sounding like they used Google Translate on a Chinese script.) I especially enjoyed the portrayal of the Romans as builders and engineers as well as warriors.

However, then the second half of the movie hits and it turns into a nonsensical mess that pretty much squanders everything the first half built up. Things and characters appear and disappear, and stuff happens that makes sense but was never really explained or built up to. You can kind of piece most of it together, but you’re left scratching your head as to what the writer/director was thinking. For example, the version I saw has a bizarre flash-forward to modern day at the end that comes out of nowhere and seems to be part of a whole storyline that was left out except for this final scene. Stuff like that.

I blame a lot of this on the director, Daniel Lee, as you can see in this a movie that in the hands of a good director like Ridley Scott could have been fricken amazing, but was instead reduced to a dog’s breakfast of a film.

I give the first half a B-, but thanks to a D- second half, I can only give the film a C- in the end. Which is sad, because I liked so many things in this film, just not the film itself. See it on Netflix, it’s definitely not worth a theatrical price to see, unfortunately.

Rob

Hunter x Hunter (2011) Anime Review

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The manga Bakuman is about two young manga artists (Takagi the writer, Mashiro the artist) who work their way up through the manga industry at it’s top selling publication- Weekly Shonen Jump. Written by two veteran manga creators, it’s a masterpiece on many levels, and at its core it’s both a critque of the industry and a how-to for those who want to become future manga artists. Another way to describe it is if Scott McCloud made his incredible Understanding Comics as a story about a young pair of creators working their way up through the ladder at Marvel Comics instead of in textbook form.

In chapter 8 of Bakuman (“Carrot and Stick”) there is a scene where the two young heroes first meet their editor Akira Hattori, and he tells them that there are two types of manga creators- “the Genius type” and “the Calculating type”. The Genius is the natural creator who draws comics they love and because of their natural talent and passion for their subject matter is able to come up with a hit manga that blows the audience away. The Calculator, on the other hand, looks at it from the audience’s point of view and tries to make something that will appeal to the greatest number of people regardless of their actual feelings about the subject matter.

In a lot of ways, through Hattori the creators are talking about classic writer dichotomy – the Pantser who makes it up as they go along and the Plotter who plans it all out – just taken to an extreme. And, of course, in reality just like that classic writer dichotomy, it’s rare for any writer to be a Genius/Pantser or Calculator/Plotter alone as almost all creators are some mix of the two extremes. Even a Panster will usually at least think about what will appeal to their audience, and a Plotter will generally pick subject matter they’re naturally attracted to and passionate about to some degree. (Few people are good at writing things they honestly hate or dislike, especially if they have any choice.)

As a result, it’s uncommon that you can look at any work and say “that was created by a Genius” or “that was created by a Calculator,” because after all, any work is normally a mix of the two and it’s hard to tell how much of each is involved. There are, however, exceptions to this, and one of those exceptions is something I came across on Netflix a few weeks back when I was looking for something to watch which I exercised- an anime called HUNTER X HUNTER (2011).

Hunter x Hunter is a manga/anime about a stubborn 12 year old boy named Gon who leaves his home village to become a Hunter- a person who travels the world seeking whatever it is they’ve chosen to seek. In his pseudo-modern fantasy world, there are Treasure Hunters, Monster Hunters, Bounty Hunters, Delicacy Hunters, and many other kinds, who brave dangers to find their targets. All of them, however, much first pass the Hunter Exam, which is where the story starts, and get a Hunter License that gives them free access to the world and status as members of the elite. Gon’s (missing) father was one of these great men, and through following his footsteps, Gon hopes to find him and experience the world himself.

Hunter x Hunter (2011, because it’s the second attempt to animate the Hunter x Hunter manga), which can also be read as “Hunter Hunter,” is perhaps the most calculated anime/manga I have ever seen in 20+ years of anime fandom. It started in 1998, and it’s like someone took all the popular elements of the hit manga of the previous two decades, disected them, and then based on extremely careful analysis produced the most planned piece of storytelling I’ve ever seen. I’m not just talking characters and plot elements, I’m talking story, pacing, backgrounds- you name it, there is not a single original element in this story- none. It’s like they had a computer analyze the history of manga and this was the end product.

Yet, and this goes to the skill of the creator Yoshihiro Togashi (creator of the also hit anime/manga YuYu Hakusho back in the 1980’s) I don’t mean that it’s unoriginal in a bad way. In fact, for what it is, it’s actually very well done, and in fact is almost perfect in a textbook sort of way. Whereas most manga are a rough exercise in creative serial pantsing, with the creators only thinking a few chapters ahead, Hunter x Hunter is extremely well plotted and thought out. Everything happens at a carefully measured pace, everything is introduced at exactly the right time in the right way. The humor is in the right spots, the chapters all end on cliffhangers of sorts, and there’s no sense of it being rushed, it’s a piece of art without a line or comma out of place.

Well, calling it a piece of “art” might be pushing it, it’s really a machine designed for maximum appeal and marketing potential. And, like any machine, there’s a certain cold, mechanical nature to it that keeps it from being in the same class as stories like Naurto, One Piece, and even Bleach, which are also top series from the same era. The creator definitely reaches to those levels, but he doesn’t quite make it because of the calculated nature of it all. It’s like Hattori says in that Bakuman chapter- the Calculator has the greatest potential for a hit and long-term success, but they don’t have the same potential as the Genius has for creating a true smash hit story that excites the audience.

In any case, I’d definitely recommend Hunter x Hunter (2011) as a watch, whether just to enjoy it as a well-told story, or to take it apart as a creator and see how the whole thing was so well put together. Either way, it’s time well spent.

Rob

Legend of Korra Finishes (spoiler lite)

And with tonight’s episode, Avatar: The Legend of Korra reaches it’s final conclusion with the end of Season Four.

It’s been a rocky road for what has turned out to be one of the best animated series Americans have ever produced. The show itself was only meant to last a single season, and then suddenly given three more when it turned into a mega-hit, which left the writers scrambling to continue a story they’d rushed to finish at the end of Season One. Then, once Season Two didn’t get the ratings of Season One, the executives at Nickelodeon lost faith it in to the point they pulled it from the air halfway through Season Three due to “low ratings”. (Low ratings on a show that they didn’t advertise, and which they threw onto the air during the notoriously low-rated Summer season. Surprise!) In the end, it only got a fourth season because it was already in the can when Season Three was stuck online-only, and because it still got great ratings in overseas markets.

Despite all this, the writers and producers of Avatar: The Legend of Korra managed to produce a fine show. A series with unique characters that grew and had a life of their own, a setting that actually changed with the story, and some amazing heroic action sequences that could be mind-blowingly good. Korra started as a unique lead, a hotheaded “female jock” who didn’t fall into the stereotypical “strong female lead” traps, and changed as the series went on into a balanced and considerate person. She suffered, and grew from her suffering, and since the theme of the show was “change and transformation”, she exemplified those ideas in the best possible ways.

Each of the villains represented a different philosophy- equality, harmony, anarchy, and order taken to a radical extreme (mostly in the pursuit of power) and that gave the show a thoughtful edge that challenged the preconceptions held by the main character and the audience. It forced Korra to expand her way of thinking about the world, and in doing so also made the audience question as well. Even if it was all in the service of some great action/adventure stories, it gave the show a subversive depth you rarely see on TV anywhere, much less on a Nick cartoon.

It wasn’t a perfect show, of course. There was the horribly rushed ending during the last 15 minutes of the first season, and then the second season didn’t come anywhere near the quality of the first in terms of writing. (It was very much a generic “evil villain wants to take over the world because he’s evil” plot.) And, while the third and fourth seasons were amazing (and even managed to make the second season look better in retrospect of what we learn later), there was a lot of character randomness as the writers struggled to make characters designed for one season work over four seasons. (This was especially true of Asami, but more on her shortly.) There was also the decision to “break” the link between the Avatar and her past selves during Season Two that I maintain was a big mistake that even the writers felt later on. But, what’s done is done.

And, in the end, it all came together in a spectacular fourth season that echoed real Chinese history, with Kuvira standing in for Shang Kai-Shek and his Nationalist Army. The finale played to the show’s strengths, and the whole thing showed how Korra had really changed the world and herself through her actions and choices. If Korra hadn’t come along, the ending never could have happened, and that’s the mark of a good story- where everything fits together.

Everything except one small piece…

SPOILERS from here on in! Don’t read if you haven’t watched the ending yet and care.

So, first, let me say that I don’t care who Korra ended up with. I’m not a (relation)shipper, and don’t often invest in character romance stories or pairings. In fact, Korra could have ended up with Kuvira, or Tenzin, or even the Ghost of Uncle Iroh for all I care. That said, I didn’t like the pairing of Korra and Asami at the end, and in fact it pissed me off.

When I first saw it, I actually smiled. Both because it was nice to see Korra start a new relationship, and because I was impressed a Nick show would end with such a LGBTI friendly ending. It took guts to end the show that way, and they must have worked hard to slip that past the Suits. (I wouldn’t even be surprised if it’s edited for later airings after a flurry of “concerned parents” write like crazy to Nickelodeon.)

However, something bugged me, and after a bit of thought I realized what it was.

You see, one way to see a story is as an argument. The whole story is an argument for why it ends the way it does. It sets up evidence and puts into motion events that produce the ending we get. A perfect example of that is Varrick and Ju-Li. Varrick starts as a heartless capitalist rogue with Ju-li as his assistant, and then after he loses everything she still sticks with him. When he loses her too and goes on a journey of self-discovery he comes to realize that she is the most important thing in his life, and eventually appreciates her and asks her to marry him. (Something the Varrick we first meet would never have done.) She also grows in her will to be a person, and in doing so, earns his love by not just being his assistant, but by being his partner. You can think back and examine the trail of evidence, and reach the conclusion that this was the proper ending for their story.

Not so for Korra and Asami.

When Asami was introduced, it was as a romantic rival/femme fatale/non-bender character who represented the new technological age and stood between Korra and her love-interest Mako. She was intricately tied into the story for Season One, since her father was one of the main villains, and so when Season Two came around the writers struggled with what to do with her and ultimately stuck with the romantic-rival role. Finally, partway through Season Three, she took on the “best friend/confidante” role, and that’s where she sat until literally the last second of the story when it’s implied she and Korra are starting a romantic relationship.

Now, over-viewed like that it doesn’t look so bad, but in actual presentation there was zero clues or hints of anything romantic between the two of them until the very very end. Like nothing. After more than two seasons of chasing a man and being passionately in love with men, and being heartbroken about losing men, they suddenly decide to run off together. How does that work? This would be like if at the end of Harry Potter, Harry and Ron suddenly decided to run off together after spending the whole story chasing girls. It’s a valid ending, but is it the valid conclusion to the argument the story makes?

Now, you could make an argument that Korra wasn’t emotionally in a position or ready to take on a relationship like this until the end of the story. She’s a changed person, and as a result she’s ready to try something new and go in a new and more balanced direction. That would be fair, however, it takes two to tango, and Asami was never shown to have any romantic interest in Korra either. If she had, I could have bought the ending, but we’ve never had even the slightest hint that Asami also likes women, and every piece of evidence in the show tells us the opposite.

So there’s the problem, we have not one, but two characters making total left-turns at the end of the story out of the blue. I can only guess that the writers/producers wanted to do something controversial, or perhaps please the Korra/Asami Shippers by giving them the ending nobody expected to get. Then again, it was the ending that nobody expected because it didn’t make any sense, not because it was socially radical.

For the record, I was rooting for Korra and Bum-ju. (It had just as much evidence to support it.)

Rob

Star Wars Rebels Premiers!

This past weekend, the new CGI animated series Star Wars:REBELS premiered on the Disney XD app with the first two episodes strung together into a “movie” (which is all of 43 minutes long…). It’s basically the story of how Aladdin comes to join the crew of The Firefly and…err…I mean how EZRA comes to join the crew of the GHOST and fight against the evil oppressive Empire. I wish I was joking, but ever since someone online referred to Ezra as Aladdin, I can’t not see him as Aladdin in space, they even refer to him as a “street rat” during the episode, like they want us to make the connection or something.

As first episode stories go, it’s a confused mess of bad tactics and jumps in logic mixed with lots of action, which means it’s pretty typical and not bad. I’d actually say it’s a better first episode than Clone Wars had, and Clone Wars turned out to be pretty fun series, so I have some hopes for this one. (Having the same creative team from Clone Wars mixed with the creative team for Young Justice gives me extra hope.) On the downside, the core story looks to be another Jedi-Padawan training story, but that can’t be helped since Jedi sell toys and without the Jedi the Star Wars universe is pretty a pretty generic Sci-Fi setting.

I’ll keep watching to see where this one goes. It has real potential, and I trust the people in charge, so it could be a good ride. Rebels premiers on regular TV next week, and with this and the final season of Legend of Korra starting next weekend (officially) it looks like I’m going to have some good weekend TV to look forward to each week!

Rob

Memrise This!

A year or so I found a site called Memrise, which is basically a really advanced memorization card system for helping you memorize stuff. I puttered around with the Mandarin course they had on there, found their system so-so and promptly forgot about the site.

Then in May of this year I happened across the App for it on the iTunes store (it’s also available on the Google Play store) and decided to give it another whirl. It’s free, and so are the courses, so I selected the Introductory Chinese deck they had on there and began to use my phone to study Chinese hanzi characters.

To say I was blown away was an understatement.

Suddenly, I was not only learning Chinese, I was actually remembering what I learned and it was sticking like it had never stuck before. Memrise’s system of testing is amazing at helping you remember what you’re learning, and I have to say I’m a true believer! The learning itself uses several different methods to help you remember whatever the information is, most of which are fun or at least enjoyable, and then the system also comes back and has you review the material you’ve learned on a semi-regular basis to reinforce it at key intervals to improve retention. Pile onto that an interactive community-based approach to learning where people trade memorization tips and can have memory competitions, and it’s a whole new way to learn.

To date, I have learned 1076 items, most of them since the start of May, and I can say I easily remember 80-90% of them very well. Today I finished Level One of the Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (HSK) Chinese proficiency test vocabulary, and I can say with confidence  I could write the actual test tomorrow and pass by a wide margin. I couldn’t wait to start Level 2 of the HSK, which has just over 1200 items itself (a single item in this case is the Chinese character and its Pinyin pronunciation guide, so that’s really 600 words in Chinese, not 1200) and am already at Level 8 of 54.

All this in little chunks of 5-10 minutes, 2-3 times a day when I have spare time. Each level is broken down into smaller “lesson” chunks that can be finished in a few minutes, so it’s easy to just do them on your phone when you’re waiting for something or someone. When you need to refresh your memory of older material, your phone will also notify you, which is handy, since there are certain key learning times. It’s easy, convenient, and most of all, it’s actually fun, especially when you find yourself really remembering the material and being able to call it up at will.

Now that I’ve gushed about Memrise as a tool, I should put in a few comments as someone who’s been using it for a few months. First, the App version for your phone or tablet (see the video above) is way better for learning that the actual website itself, the website turns the learning into a timed pressure game, whereas the App version uses a series of more fun visual learning exercises. Second, not all Memrise decks are created equal, as most of them are made by the users themselves by borrowing material from textbooks or other sources, so you have to hunt around for the best decks. I recommend sorting the decks by Popularity, since the most popular decks tend to be the highest quality ones. (And are often ones made by the Memrise staff or employees like Ben Whatley, who made the amazing Mandarin ones!)

And finally, Memrise is a place for memorizing rote material, not advanced concepts like grammar. So, for example, I’m learning vocabulary, and only Mandarin vocabulary, I have to go elsewhere for grammar or dialogues. This is a great way to build up large amounts of knowledge, but Memrise isn’t there to help you use it, just remember it. This isn’t a flaw, it’s simply what Memrise is designed to do, and if you need more helpful resources you can ask about them or discuss them with other learners in the forums that go along with each learning deck.

Overall, Memrise is a great example of using gamification (making things into a game) to make learning easier and more effective, and I can only wish we had something like this years ago when I was studying Japanese in University or French in High School. If you’ve got something you want to learn, check Memrise out, it’s free (for now) and is a lot more productive use of your time than playing Angry Birds or Candy Crush, but just as fun!

Rob

Review: Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

So, I just watched Tucker and Dale vs. Evil– a deconstructionist horror/comedy in the same vein as The Cabin in the Woods. This is not to say that it’s as good as Cabin, which I’d argue is actually a masterpiece, but it tries to cover some similar territory. The basic premise is that two scruffy but likeable hillbillies are being terrorized by a typical bunch of college kids who think the hillbillies are psycho killers due to a series of misunderstandings. It’s meant to be a tongue-in-cheek reversal of the typical college kids are hunted by crazy rednecks movie, and is played more for laughs than horror.

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It’s a cute movie, with a nice premise, but if I had to use a word to describe it, I’d use the word “timid”.  I know that’s an odd word to describe a horror movie, so let me explain by giving an example of an early scene in the film. (minor spoiler, but it won’t ruin much)

There’s a scene early on where Dale and Earl are driving along in their truck and drinking beer. They spot a cop behind them with its lights on, and Earl (who is driving) fumbles his beer, trying to figure out where to stash it and spills it all over himself. Dale, being the nice guy he is, leans over from the passenger seat to try and clean it up, but his shirt collar gets stuck on Earl’s belt, and so his head is stuck bobbing in Earl’s lap as Earl pulls over for the cop.

What we have here is the classic awkward humor shot of the cop walking up to find one redneck who looks like he’s getting oral sex from his buddy. A nice uncomfortable situation for everyone involved, and some nice squirming humor for the audience, right?

Nope.

As they pull over, Dale unbuttons/rips open his shirt and sits up, bare-chested. The cop never sees the implied oral sex, and while there are suggested gay humor overtones to their conversation, it doesn’t actually amount to anything. No squirming humor, just a mildly amusing situation.

And the whole movie is like this.

They spend the whole film almost doing something neat with a character or situation, but almost always pull away at the last moment to give us something cute instead of actually pushing it to make us laugh or squirm. This is especially weird since there’s a scene of a classic horror movie massacre (historical flashback) that’s quite gory and almost over the top, but it’s one of the only things in the movie that is. The two rednecks aren’t quite rednecks, the college kids aren’t quite college self-absorbed or jerks, and the whole thing feels like a collection of neat ideas that they just didn’t take to the next level.

I guess that’s why I’m writing this. The whole film to me felt like a missed opportunity. If they’d just been more over-the-top with it and pushed things a bit more, it could have been a great film, but as it is, it’s just a cute one.

I rated it 3/5 on Netflix, and I’d say that’s just the right rating for it. If you’re in the mood, it’s a fun watch, but don’t expect it to quite live up to its premise.

Review- Dredd

While some of my closest friends are Judge Dredd aficionados, I am merely a casual fan of Dredd and his world. As such, I wasn’t really hung up on accuracy or continuity when I saw Stallone’s Judge Dredd film, or the current film Dredd. As a result, I didn’t hate Stallone’s take on it as much as they did, but I didn’t especially like it either, as it was an over broad and not especially well written film.

In fact, about the only baggage I had going into watching Dredd this weekend was that I watched The Raid earlier this year, which is a film with a very similar premise. I admit, like many people, I viewed Dredd through the eyes of it being a Raid knock-off, which might be part of the reason I took so long to watch the film, despite being curious about it. (As it turns out, Dredd went into production before The Raid did, and came out after it because of bad luck, so the films are the result of parallel development rather than one film copying another.)

In any case, despite its over-the-top violence and occasional flaws, I really enjoyed Dredd. It’s a solid and entertaining film that didn’t get as much attention as it deserved, and it will be a shame if it doesn’t get a sequel. (Which it likely won’t, due to poor box-office.) Yes, it could have upped the dark-humor quotient a little more, but I thought overall it was pretty balanced and well thought-out. About the only thing that bugged me was that it really made the judges look massively outnumbered and almost impotent in the face of trying to control Megacity One’s crime. Maybe that’s accurate for the comic, I’m not sure.

Also, I don’t think Karl Urban has the chin for Dredd. But he does have the attitude and his voice does convey menace pretty well…

But I’d have to say I enjoyed it, and give it a thumbs up. 🙂

Rob

P.S. 138 is the number, in case you were wondering.

Movie Review- Singham

Friday night is movie night in my household, I collapse onto the couch, pick a movie from Netflix and go to it.

This week, I decided to go for something a little out of the ordinary and this poster caught my eye…

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Now, the fact that it’s a clear ripoff of Iron Man’s aesthetic aside, it is a pretty impressive poster and so I read a few glowing reviews and decided it was time to finally face my destiny. You see, to my eternal shame, I’ve never actually watched a whole Bollywood movie, just seen pieces of them here and there. So, I decided to settle in and see if this movie earned it’s cool poster.

Short answer- it did.

The basis of the film is super simple- Singham (the guy you see in the poster) is a modern Hercules (or rather Rama) who works as a much beloved policeman in a small rural village where nobody ever actually goes to jail because of his wise guidance and judgment. Unfortunately, he runs afoul of an urban gangster from the nearby big city of Goa and the gangster uses his corrupt influences to get Singham transferred to the big city where the gangster is the one who has all the power and is determined to destroy our hero. Of course, things don’t quite go as the gangster planned.

For my first Bollywood film, I think this was a good choice. The plot was dead simple, the music was catchy (this is Bollywood, of course there are song and dance numbers!) and it was just plain fun to watch. My only issues were that it’s actually a bit long (it drags in a few spots) and the ending is really odd and brutal by North American standards, it’s not a Hollywood ending, and was a little unsettling in some ways. (Ethically and morally, but it’s good to see non-Hollywood endings from time to time and different perspectives.)

If you’re still on the fence, just watch this clip, and you can decide whether this is your kind of film:

Ironically, I had seen this clip months ago, but didn’t realize it was from this movie until I got to this part.

Singham!

Rob

Year in Review- Most Popular Posts of 2013

So, what did people read on my blog in 2013? Here’s the list of the twenty most read posts. (my own thoughts follow)

Keys to Writing a Good Story 841
Naruto creator has gay ending planned? 834
Korean Period Dramas I Love 581
Neil deGrasse Tyson and Lawrence Krauss Have a Throwdown about Manned vs Unmanned Space Exploration 435
Thoughts on Narration 411
How To Use A Samurai Sword Properly ~ www.popgive.com 353
New Three Kingdoms e-Book 331
Novelty – Visual novel maker 315
Facial Reconstriction 272
Samurai Horses 266
Korean Drama: Ghost (aka Phantom) 232
Urban Sprawl- Mexico City Style 223
Writing for Audio Drama 218
In Defense of the Male Miniskirt- Thoughts on the First Season of Star Trek:TNG 183
A Neat Trick for Finding and Getting Rid of Passive Verbs in MS Word 181
Stop Certifying New Teachers in Ontario 171
The Save the Cat 10 (STC10) Story Writing Challenge! 165
The (Hunger) Shaky-Cam Games- A Spoiler Lite Review 155
Superman vs. Tony Stark 146

Naturally, since the blog is often focussed on writing, my Keys to Writing a Good Story was the top read post. What was more surprising was that Naruto’s possible homosexual ending also got a lot of attention, although given that this has truly been the year when gay culture reached new levels of acceptance in North America maybe that shouldn’t be such a shock. (Although in truth, I think Kishimoto is just playing the crowd with statements like that to keep his numbers up as he rockets toward the manga’s finale in 2014.)

Korean dramas are also very popular online right now, so people are always looking for good ones to watch and so they checked out my selections. Neil Degresse Tyson’s throwdown was also great watching, so it doesn’t surprise me that people found their way to it through my site.

As for the rest, it’s heartening to see so many people interested in Writing Audio Drama and the Three Kingdoms eBooks, since neither usually get much attention in popular culture. I’m also happy to see so many people found my “In Defense of the Male Miniskirt” essay interesting, although it didn’t garner much commentary.

I mostly do this blog for fun as the whim strikes me, but I’m glad to see some people find it interesting enough to visit and read about what goes through my head. (You poor, poor folk!) Seeing that people do read it inspires me, and I’ll try to post more interesting articles in 2014!

Happy New Year!

Robyn Paterson