Archive | Being A Better Geek

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Determine DM’s Fate

Posted on 15 January 2013 by VinnieAve

So for 2013 I will be pick works that feature elements of space. While some of what I picked last year included space travel, this year I want to do a bit of a survey of space. To start this year off right I want to give you our readers and listeners a chance to choose what DM will be subjected to watching. To start off the first 3 choices are

  • Star Blazers Season 1- The classic anime that started American anime fandom, and still holds a place the hearts of men.
  • Cosmos: A Personal Voyage – The classic documentary series by Carl Sagan that inspired so many to go into science.
  • Cowboy Bebop- Possibly the best anime from the 1990s or all time depending on who you talk to

Just leave a comment to vote, also please be honest, don’t vote more than once. You have until I finish reading It.

 

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World’s Greatest Criminals Final Part: The Castle of Cagliostro

Posted on 14 January 2013 by VinnieAve

Vinnie’s Introduction

We’ve seen Golgo 13, we’ve seen Black Jack: The Movie, and now we finish off with probably the best of this series (not saying that any of the three should be missed). This film is possibly the most widely known Lupin III property in the United States (the only one that could beat it is Lupin III Series 2). This film was directed by the only anime director who could be considered a household name (even this is a stretch) Hayao Miyazaki, in fact this is his film directorial debut, having worked in television before this.

Lupin III is one of the most enduring anime franchises to exist with many different styles of character story ranging from family friendly (this being one of the best examples) to violent action with a good pile of sex thrown in (Lupin III: A Woman Called Fujiko Mine is an example, as are the first few episodes of Lupin III Series 1). Like Black Jack this was not first exposure to the Lupin III franchise (Lupin III Series 2 was, in case you were wondering), but this movie is a great introduction to the character and some of major tropes of Lupin III. All the core characters are there playing their usual roles. There is a decent amount of action but the film is without a doubt a film by Hayao Miyazaki. The visual elements are all his as is the story if only from his love of Mediterranean Europe. Also this is one of my favorite of his films, it doesn’t have an overbearing message like many of his others but it still has the fun spirit that make him so well known.

DM’s Take

OK so the wrap to Vincenzo’s BABG is the best of the lot.  Lupin the third is funny, adventurous, and entertaining as all hell.  The characters were fun and endearing, with even the bad guys being wonderful in a strongly clichéd way.  The voice acting was really quite good.  The voices seemed well paired to the characters, which my BABG journey has proven is not always the case (Vinnie note: DM watched the Manga Video dub, the one you get on either DVD).  Finally, the animation fit very well with the hijinks style of story that the movie told.

Even with the sense of there being a large Lupin the third back story, the movie was surprisingly easy to get into.  I highly recommend it to anyone who has not delved into this particular character and I will certainly be looking for more Lupin the Third!

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World’s Greatest Criminals Part II, Black Jack the Movie

Posted on 17 December 2012 by VinnieAve

Vincenzo’s Introduction

So I will admit that this is not the first piece of Black Jack media I consumed (that was the manga) or my favorite (the OVA series, which this is kind of part of) but it fit with the theme and I enjoy this quite a bit (as well as the OVA series by the same director). That director is one of my favorites who we also looked at last week that man is the great Osamu Dezaki, the protege of Osamu Tezuka the author of (among other things) Black Jack.

For the uniformed (get informed, read the manga, give Vertical money, watch the OVA, it’s free on Viki), Black Jack is the greatest surgeon in the world, but he is unlicensed and charges outrageous medical fees. How do we know he’s the greatest because when there is an “impossible” surgery he can do it, he is the Golgo 13 of doctor. Briefly what I like about this movie and the OVAs is that there is a good bit of realistic medicine (not too much here but other times). Beyond that it is beautifully animated with those wonderful postcard memories (when there is a still shot and it becomes a drawing) in this.

DM’s Take:

OK now we’re more in my playing field.  Blackjack is pretty cool.  He’s like what House would be if House wasn’t a gigantic ass.  The movie was solid.  It had some fairly realistic animation, reasonable voice acting, and an interesting plotline.  The premise of “superhumans” is always interesting and this covered the topic in a reasonably novel way.

I think the only part that did not jive with me it that there was always this feeling of back story that I wasn’t aware of.  It definitely distracted at times, as I would be wondering why things were one way or another instead of focusing on the story.  In any case, this was hands and feet above Golgo 13.  Good job Vincenzo.

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Be A Better Geek: World’s Greatest Criminals Pt. 1 Golgo 13: The Professional

Posted on 10 December 2012 by DM

Vinnie’s Introduction

This theme is a bit a cop-out on my part. Lupin III, Golgo 13, and Black Jack have many things in common but that is more to do with story-telling method and things like that. Also, I am fan of all 3 franchises and the 3 films we’ll be covering in the next few weeks are great introductions to the characters.

This time we’re taking a look at The Golgo 13: The Professional. Golgo 13 is the greatest assassin in the world. Based on the long running manga (longest running currently) this movie has all the things that make Golgo 13 great, impossible shots that only he can make, sex scenes where he doesn’t move, weird governmental plans, it’s like classic James Bond if 007 wasn’t part of a government organization.

DM’s Take

Golgo 13: The Professional

OK I will start with the fact that this was a really bad movie.  It had some redeeming qualities but only in the scenes containing so much ridiculousness you had to role your eyes.

Itemized:

Voice Acting: It was par.  Nothing above and beyond.

Animation: Not my favorite style.  It seemed like it was trying hard to be artistic but failing pretty hard.

The Story: It was simple but not horrid.  It was an expectedly formulaic story.  I do not necessarily dislike this type of story but prefer them to have a bit more dark comedy involved.

So if all of what I listed is tolerable, then what really made me dislike this movie? Two things.  I am not a prude but the gratuitous and frankly poorly done nudity was distracting.  The big loss on my part was the brutal rape scene.  While they could have inferred what happened they decided to take you through it moment by moment. Moreover, continue into its aftermath in an additional scene. It was really kind of surprising and too much for me.  Maybe the writer felt it was necessary to the plot but I think they could have communicated it much more tastefully.

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Being a Better Geek: Helm

Posted on 26 November 2012 by VinnieAve

Helm:

I cannot tell you when I read Helm for the first time.  I can tell you that I have read it once a year since then and it has been quite a few years.  That in itself makes it so that it deserves a slot on Be a Better Geek.  It is by no means a classic. It is a novel of clashing themes.  A science fiction novel that does not really contain very much science fiction.  A romance that hold little romance, or at least little perfect romance.  I could go on but I am sure Vincenzo will tell you what the book is about.  Whatever else you can say about helm, I can tell you that it contains the perfect mix of elements to keep me coming back year after year. Everyone else is on their own.

 

Vincenzo’s Take

The basic premise behind this book is that the earth has been essentially destroyed due to a nuclear war that was started because of mind-control or something and now a small group of scientists are sending off some colonists with instructions imprinted in their mind (or at least some colonists get imprinted) for how to run a society, essential be literate, clean, and eat well are the plan. This seems like it could be a neat book, and that is just the prologue.

Then we jump forward a few hundred years to one of these colonies. Leland de Laal (terrible name, anime level bad) gets imprinted when he climbs a mountain where the device is kept (the titular helm) and gets all sorts of crazy knowledge about lost languages like German and martial arts skills as well as other stuff that the novel hasn’t covered too much.

Because Leland puts on the helm his father punishes him because this is forbidden and is sent off and learns aikido (which has survived for some reason). This is where my first issue arises in full force. There had been a large us of Japanese words earlier in the book with the translation next to them, I had assumed that when this was with the scientists that it was to give diversity to the group. However, this is a constant problem in the book, sensei and kohai (among other words) can be easily translated and it comes off as this author showing off his knowledge of aikido which just annoys me hear like it does when I see it in translations of anime and manga.

Leland returns and is sent off again to fight in the annual war with the neighboring nation (this seems like a bit of a contrivance). He had already fallen in love with some noble daughter passing through and he stays in the capital while they prepare for war. Here, like in good old Game of Thrones we have to deal with nebbish young boy having sexual feelings, everyone knows this is my favorite thing to read, good god!

There are plenty of elements that I like in this, like stories about nobility and generals and court intrigue, information about troop size and training regiment, a post-apocalyptic setting and plan to save civilization, I love all of these thing then why is it that I this novel isn’t doing anything for me other than causing me brief bits of intense anger. I have to think that it is because our main character is pretty dull. It doesn’t seem to have any flaws and always does the right thing. There haven’t been any big challenges thrown at him thus far. Also while there are elements that I like they aren’t done particularly well, his main rival and the villain of the whole book just seems mustache twirling. This also applies to his father who is more evil and more mustache twirling.

The second half does follow-up and build on what happened in this story. Sadly it did little to change my perception of the book. I wish recommend this book but with a near total lack of character. I never felt that the character could fail at his task which is an important element for me. The sad part is that Leland really has no major flaws that impede his success.

I find that difficult especially where there is a great world for those characters to exist. I would actually like to see more of this world but probably more as a role-playing game source book than another novel.

The next Being a Better Geek is a bit of stretch since I’m going with 3 movies connected by a theme. The theme is World’s Best. For this we will be looking at Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro, Golgo 13: The Professional, and Black Jack the Movie.

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Cycle of the Werewolf, Powerpuff Girls, Halloween and Scream

Posted on 19 November 2012 by VinnieAve

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The Vision of Escaflowne 1-11

Posted on 15 October 2012 by DM

Vincenzo’s Introduction

I had intended not to do another giant robot show this year but I realized that there had yet to be a sword and sorcery Being a Better Geek yet. Slayers came to mind but I don’t want to watch 26 episodes of flat-chested jokes. It had to be Escaflowne. I know that it is from much of the same staff as Macross Plus (I like this but Diego was less hot on it).

Even though this is a mecha show, there are more then superficial differences from shows like Gundam and Evangelion. Those shows were aimed mainly at a male audience. This show has elements of a show aimed a female audience. This is more evident is character design and story elements. All in all, this is a show that I have enjoyed over the years with great music throughout that gives this show a much more cinematic feel than many others.

DMs take

To start I am going to be doing this review in one large chunk rather than episode chunks because A) I am sick and this is the energy level I have and B) I think Escaflowne does not lend itself to a stop and start narrative to well.

I think that I will start there.  When watching the show, I kept waiting for an episode block to reach a natural end so that I could write about a chunk of it and leave it at that.  That never happened though.  Instead, the episodes seem to me more like soft chapters in a prolonged narrative.  Rarely did they have the same start stop feel that other shows seem to.

The storytelling is spot on. Being a fantasy series, there is a certain formulaic predictability to it that one has to expect, but that does not mean that they have left it boring at all.  Instead, they have countered that predictability with interesting characters and some wonderful animation.

The characters are, within a certain range, predictable as well.  However, they are also compelling in their own way.  Hitomi is the embodiment of a normal girl in an abnormal situation.  It is always a great pleasure to see how she will react. Merle was my first cat-girl and I’m not sure what to think.  Are they all supposed to be that annoying?

While the animation is not on the level of a feature film, I do think that it is quite well done for a twenty-something minute show. More than once, it made me look twice to really get a good appreciation with what is going on.

The show is not without its flaws though.  I am starting to run out of steam here so I will mention the big one: the villains.  Villains are supposed to be ridiculous and unlikable but Dilandau is completely over-the-top. It is ridiculous to believe that no one has removed him from a command position due to gross sadism.

In any case, until next time

DM

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Being a Better Geek: Halloween (1978) and Scream

Posted on 30 September 2012 by VinnieAve

For the month of October I decided on a couple of films that steered me towards the horror genre, Halloween and Scream. My assumption is that Vincenzo will hate them both and punish me later but the point of this little endeavor is to share what helped to develop our various geekdoms. I grew into the horror franchise after High School and scream was one of the first movies I saw that drove me there. The franchise is a favorite of mine, filled with witty banter and inside jokes pertaining to the industry. I came to Halloween much later but it quickly became my all time favorite horror movie. So much so that I crave my DVD that was lent for the purposes of this article before Too much of October is behind us. I have rarely seen movies succeed at creating an atmosphere as well as this film. So much so that I watch it several times during the month of October to help me maintain that Halloween spirit. The soundtrack will also be playing most of the month in an effort to make pedestrians fear my car as it drives along.

Vincenzo's Take

I am by no means a horror fan, and in particular I am not a slasher horror fan. So I have not seen any of these, probably because there is a house in my town that does amazing Halloween decoration and at night they have people dressed up. One night when we went there a man dressed up as Freddy Kruger was there and I was terrified at the time. For this reason I avoided slasher films. Thus this week I will be talking about Halloween (1978) and Scream.

So first to Halloween, I have enjoyed John Carpenter for a number of years with The Thing coming in as one of my favorite horror films overall, so suffice it to say I have intended to see this for a while now and this was as good a reason as any. The basic story of Halloween is that Michael Myers has escaped from the asylum and has gone back to his town in the process stalking Laurie Strode and killing the teens. I don’t particularly care to go over the story since it’s pretty standard fare at this point making its way into the lexicon of film. That is not to say that this one is not great a film and there was definitely a reason to watch this even if you are not a horror fan. This film was a fantastic piece of art. There are a number of well filmed scenes from the beginning of the film with the first scene being entirely 1st person. Throughout the film there is an excellent use of light and darkness.

The next big part of the movie that was the music, John Carpenter’s films always have a standard soundtrack type that can enhance the film or not have any effect. In this case the music has such a great effect on the level of terror in the film. There was one particular story element that I found troublesome. For the first part of the story Michael is very clearly human and is bound by human rules and the laws of nature. However, in the last act of the film in particular, there are several elements of Michael that are much more super-natural. I think this change damages the character and weakens the film. However, at the end of the day I really enjoyed this film and most likely will be adding this to my collection at some point.

The second film that I was assigned for Being a Better Geek was Scream.
I have to start this with the statement is that Scream is a satire and parody of the slasher genre. Sadly this film’s humor hinges almost entirely on knowing the tropes of the genre otherwise this movie is a pretty weak and goofy film. This review will be short since by and large I like to talk about what worked really well and what worked terribly poorly.

The biggest short coming of this film is that it tries to balance between being a horror film and being a comedy about horror films, this causes there to be odd tonal shifts, particularly when there are attack scenes. When Ghostface attacks he almost always takes a few big hits and is really taken down like a chump before he kills the person who it has attacked.

It was difficult for me to enjoy this movie since so much of it hinges on the audience knowing about the genre. There is a scene where a character goes over the rules of surviving a horror film. While everyone knows them, the people who will actually enjoy this are fans, not the initiate. This major element causes me to not be able to recommend this to people who are not fans already.

 

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Being a Better Geek: Powerpuff Girls Finale

Posted on 23 September 2012 by DM

DM’s Take:

We wrap up this Being a Better Geek with some of the better Powerpuff Girls episodes of the season.  A particular favorite of mine was the Rowdyruff Boys but I suspect that holds a strong place in most people’s brains.  I also suspect that Uh Oh, Dynamo is a favorite of Vincenzo’s with Giant Robots and Giant monsters.

To sum up my feelings about Powerpuff Girls: I think the animation is great.  It makes me want to try out Dexter’s Laboratory, which I hear is similar with some strong humor.  The stories and dialogue are tongue-in-cheek and just up my alley as well.  I really have no problems with the show.  That said I do not think it will make it on to my normal watch list.  It is not that I do not like the show obviously, but it just came a bit too late.  In regards to my Geekatude though, I am very glad to have watched the first season of Powerpuff Girls.

Vincenzo’s Take

Well this was a great set of episodes. DM said a lot of what I wanted to talk about but there is one episode that he missed that was artistically great. The Bare Facts is a segment that was very experimental. The entire episode is through the eyes of the Mayor, hearing the story of his kidnapping by Mojo Jojo from the girls with each girl telling the story in a different style similar to the personality of the character. The change in tone and animation style was fantastic.

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Be a Better Geek: Powerpuff Girls Season 1 Episodes 3-7

Posted on 15 September 2012 by DM

DM’s Take

OK as is, I think, understandable I am having a rough time writing for each individual episode of this show.  My summary is as follows.  Vincenzo’s goal was to give me a show similar to MLP: Friendship is magic to show me that a show could target little girls and quirky adults.  The problem therein is that I already knew that.  Its just a matter of where I want to spend my time.  This set of Powerpuff Girls episodes continues to be entertaining, and I am giving it my fullest of attention, but it still remains a show that I would only watch in my periphery as I do other things.  We have some tongue in cheek humor (and more adult humor as well), fun villains and the like.  Honestly, it reminds me strongly of Underdog from when I was younger and makes me want to go back and see exactly how much of that is nostalgia and how much is for real.  My favorite episode of this batch has to be a tie between Buttercrush and Major Competition although honestly the show does a great job at maintaining consistency throughout the episodes in terms of quality.

Vinnie’s Take

Okay so I was busy studying for the GREs this week and didn’t get much watched. I will catch-up this week. I did get to episode 5 last week and was clearly reminded of why I enjoyed this show as a kid. For me the winner in that batch was BoogieFrights/Abracadaver. Both of these had a bit of a horror element to them with a good touch of humor. Also there was Octi Evil which introduces my favorite version of Satan, Him. The eery voice still haunts me from time to time.

Update: I watched the additional 2 that DM got to. Major Man was a great character. It felt like something that could have gone with Superman. Since this was airing around the same time as that, ensuring that the kids watching would understand what was being parodied there. We get a bit more on the origin of the girls and Mojo Jojo. This whole set reminds me why this era of animation was great and still can be enjoyed as 14 years after the first airing of these episodes. It is really a shame that Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon aren’t giving young people right out of animation school.

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