Archive | February, 2012

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Mobile Suit Gundam Episodes 4-8

Posted on 26 February 2012 by VinnieAve

So, we’re changing the format of the article a little bit this week. Instead of talking about each episode we’re just going to talk about the batch we watched. We covered from episode 4-8 this time around.

Vinnie’s Take

So this week’s batch saw us move from space to earth and gave us the introduction of the Garma Zabi, the first of the Zabi family villains. The high points in this set were the times when Char and Garma and interacting both talking about the Gundam and Char working on his master plan. Meanwhile while we see one of the thing that make the series shine, the antagonist having a real personality (albeit here that are still pretty villainous, but it’s a step in the right direction) we also have some of the weakest parts of the show. Last week I wrote about how this moved the mecha genre from exclusively having super robots to having more realistic robots. Once the show moved to earth it seemed as if the robots got more human in the way they move. This bothers me mostly because I’ve gotten used to Gundams being realistic (I’m also watching Double-Zeta and AGE right now) but this is just part of the transition in the genre.

DM’s Take

I’m of two minds regarding Amuro. For one, he has kind of been a dick. However 2, is that I am really enjoying how realistic his portrayal is.  Seriously. He is a teenager thrown into war with all the violence and responsibility therein.

Red Comet is fast becoming a villain I love.  He’ll screw you over. He will screw his comrades over, his followers, and anyone he needs to.  AND YOU WILL LOVE HIM FOR IT

I am fast getting tired of all the I outrank you this is insubordination! Can we just acknowledge that these fold know more than you already?

I wasn’t happy with Amuro’s explanation of why the Gundam is so good.  If it is because of that reason then it really does not need him, does it?

My final thought on this batch: Civilians are idiots.

Gundam Video of the Week

Four men who sing the themes of other shows since the Gundam theme, almost a little off key.

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Manga Moveable Feast: The Astonishing Works of Tezuka Osamu Review

Posted on 24 February 2012 by VinnieAve

Let me first say that while this isn’t manga, it is from Tezuka. This is not one of his most well-known works but it is one of the essential parts of his body of works. Throughout his career he made several short experimental films. In 2009, Kimstim and Kino released a collection of these films. Part of the interest of this collection is that it is from a range of years from the early 1960s (pre-dating AstroBoy) to the late 1980s. I wrote more about some of these films since often there is much more to say than about these than others but I want to give you a feel for this collection.

Tales of the Street Corner (1962, 39:04)

The first film in this collection is about a group of characters (including little girl, mice, characters on posters,  and lamppost), visually it has a simple look until a military man appears who appears to be rotoscoped (I can’t say for sure)  but this is the only part of the film that has this particular look. This film is impressive for its variety of characters Tezuka’s ability to have each of these beings able to express emotion no matter what it is. As many of you know Tezuka was very anti-war and this piece is part of that world. I don’t want to talk too much about what happens but it should be pointed out this is a nice piece about propaganda.

Male (1962, 03:09)

In the three minutes we have cat complaining about a man spending time with a women. This film has a clever use of darkness and revealing parts of the scene (the entirety of the film takes space on one shot but shows different parts as needed). This is a nice clever piece. I wouldn’t say its one of the standouts but I have no complaints. It’s a nice cute piece.

Memory (1964, 05:40)

If these were to be batched into groups this would go into the bizarre category. The animation on this is mostly based on photographs. It was a funny little piece about how human memory works, and how men behave towards women.

Mermaid (1964, 08:17)

This is another piece with simple animation (seeing a trend), about a boy who finds a fish but thinks it’s a mermaid. Sadly, the society that he lives in is trying to fix this. He suffers greatly. This also has no dialogue (like Tales of the Street Corner). This one is fantastic, of his short films for the 1960s this was my favorite.

The Drop (1965, 04:18)

Here we have quick little drama about a lost sailor trying to get the last bit of water that he can, all in all not particularly remarkable. It’s similar to Male in many ways but this lacks any dialogue where Male is the only of these that really dialogue heavy.

Pictures at an Exhibition (1966, 32:56)

This is also one of the longer pieces in the collection, also one of the most notable in the group. This film uses Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition as the music for the film. The easiest analogy to make to this is to Fantasia since they both are inventive animated works that use orchestral music and create wonderful animated stories. Here Tezuka looks at different characters that are portrayed in these portraits. If you are familiar with his work’s you know that Tezuka is not afraid to point out the faults of modern society. In this short film there are no less than ten short stories that are told. Each and every one looks at the way that people try to be perceived. This piece could easy have several long articles written about it and I hope that someday someone does.

The Genesis (1968, 04:02)

This one caught me a little off-guard. I was not expecting this to be based on the Biblical story of Genesis. It was interesting to see how Tezuka did this but the ending really threw me for a loop. It seems misogynistic, which after reading Princess Knight, I shouldn’t have been as surprised. That shouldn’t be a reason to skip this.

Jumping (1984, 06:22)

There is a significant gap in time between this film and the last. This film has more to it than it seems. At first glance and for the majority of it, there is this character just jumping, starting with small jumps and then growing to absurd heights. This feels to be the most accessible of all the films. The animation is of no distinct style (which is true of most of these films) but it also isn’t too simple to make it jarring. I said there is more to this and like many of Tezuka’s works there is a social message (however it isn’t too ham-fisted here). This is without a doubt my favorite of the short films.

Broken Down Film (1985, 05:42)

This is the funniest of the all the comedies in the bunch. It struck me a little odd that Tezuka would do a film that looked like Popeye but these are really neat experimental films so everything is up for grabs.  This was a nice little piece that played with the tropes of good guy/bad guy cartoons and stories of the American West.

Push (1987, 04:16)

This film has a very American look it, it almost looks like an animated comic strip. The world we see is a ruined and lost planet but there are still vending machines that can essentially replace everything. The style and message of this film are great.

Murasama (1987, 08:42)

This has the most anime look of everything on this DVD. This is most action-like of all of these being somewhat odd with its entirely serious tone throughout. At the beginning this man picks up a sword and whoever he kills he sees as a straw dummy. It’s an interesting discussion about those who have power and how they see those who are weak.

Legend of the Forest (1987, 29:25)

This is the crown jewel of this collection. While it is technically unfinished (only parts 1 and 4 were completed, although his son has said he plans on completing the full film), what was made is some of the best animation I have ever seen. This falls into the same category as Pictures at an Exhibition, in this case it is set to Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4. For me what makes this film so impressive is not the blend of animation and classical music but the at times nearly seamless shifting from one style of animation to another, ranging from still images that look like plates from a field guide to early Disney and then later Disney up to Tezuka’s own style for the last part of the part 1. That is somewhat interesting since Tezuka was a medical student so he had to know technical details like those found a field guide and sort of shifting through his influences and then looking at his own style that was so influential.

The second part is not nearly as interesting but still very good with us seeing some of the plot threads expanding and getting worse from the first part. It is more message heavy but still has the shifting styles. It manages to have a long plot for the duration. This film alone might make the DVD worth buying for any fan of animation in the world. Also if you are looking for things where the villain is Hitler, this is an example.

Self Portrait (1988, 0:13)

This is just a short little picture of Tezuka flipping through, it’s nice but since it comes right after Legend of the Forest, it can almost be forgotten.

There is one bonus feature that I am sure every Tezuka-phile would love. This is an interview conducted in 1986 where he talks about Jumping and his philosophy on animation, which boils down to he didn’t care about Japan as an audience by the end but was interested in finding a world market.

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Update: If you are a Hypochondriac BEWARE!

Posted on 22 February 2012 by VinnieAve

Original article published on November 27, 2011

So the line between science and mad science may have been crossed. Ron Fouchier of the Erasmus Medical Centre in the Netherlands and managed to modify the H5N1 Bird Flu into a virus that can transit between humans. The sole reason that it hasn’t already swept the world is because it can get into humans but it cannot leave and transit. The scary part of this is that it only takes 5 mutations (I am going to assume single nucleotide polymorphisms (a single base pair change)). This the scary part. Given the number of times that the disease replicates I am willing to bet that this could happen someday, easily within the next 10-15 years.

The next scary part is there is a backlash that this work was done at all. This is good news, we now have an idea of what we could be fighting against in the near future, we need to prepare if this ever should happen. The other backlash is coming from people who want to prevent this work from being published. There is the obvious fear that if this has been done once it can be done again. However, if this does not get published no one will be able to work on a cure. It is needed to see this work get done.

Original Article: RT News

Update (2/22/12): It seems that this research will be published in Nature later this year. This is based on a decision by the WHO I think this is the right move still but I think that there should be strict controls (maybe stricter controls) on the amount of work done on the virus.

SciAm article

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Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengence

Posted on 21 February 2012 by VinnieAve

Normally, I am not particularly rushed to get a review out of a film but when it comes to Nicolas Cage films, there is a sense of priority since they have a habit of not staying in theaters for too long. It’s doubly surprising that Ghost Rider got a sequel but behold it did. Well, calling it a sequel might be a little misleading since this film more or less has nothing to do with the previous movie. Other than Nicolas Cage giving some back story when needed there is no relation between the two films.

Between the two films Johnny Blaze has moved to Europe and gets recruited by the alcohol, violent, Catholic priest (who we never see in a Roman Collar or frock) Moreau (Idris Elba, who is everywhere now), to prevent Satan or Roarke or whatever he is called from getting a new and better body. He is also promised that he can be freed from the curse of being the rider. So there’s your plot. What I haven’t told you is that the directors of this film are Neveldine/Taylor (Crank, Crank 2). If you have seen the Crank films and this is interesting to you, go and see it with this caveat, it is a PG-13 film, sorry about that, it may have hurt the film.

If you haven’t seen Crank, I will give a brief run down of what to expect, the Crank films are over the top action comedies which are more about doing things in the most ridiculous way possible than making sense. Sadly, only some of this was able to be transferred to Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. It felt held back if you know what the Crank films are life. The managed a lot with those confines though. It was good to see the Cage ghost rider-ify more things than just a motorcycle.

I’m going to start spoiling stuff here so beware. This felt oddly like Dracula: Sovereign of the Damned to me, I say this for two reasons, the ceremony at the end where Satan/Cheap Robert DeNiro is trying to get his soul into the kids body and that once the rider loses his powers he regrets he did it. This kind of pissed me off, that within minutes of losing his power he needs them again. At least he wasn’t mopey Nic Cage ever. Also this had a case of anime Christianity for a while. If this is stuff out of the comics, I’m sorry, I haven’t read that much. So for one the way that the Cage is freed of his power is though Communion, which I can buy since this is Satanic but then we see that the next room is the most armed room on the planet. Clearly we have battle priests.

At the end of the day I enjoyed this movie and if you enjoy the other N/T films or the Cage, they do the best they can with them. I am glad that the film made 3rd this weekend, I hope it makes its money back and that we see more of this series, maybe with a sweet R-rating.

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Anime Fans Give Back is Returning for a 2nd Year

Posted on 20 February 2012 by VinnieAve

If you want to have faith in humanity, taking a look at Anime Fans Give Back should help. Last year the folks over at the One Piece Podcast organized the anime community and raised over $30,000 for the relief effort after the earthquake. The better news is that this was not a one-time event. This year on March 10th (just a few weeks away) there will be another 24-hour marathon of podcasting and guests. I am sure you are all thinking that AGC is making an announcement that they will be participating this year. I don’t think that will be happening, we’re small and they want people to tune in to hear people that are interesting

This does not mean that I will be listening to the event. I plan on listening for as much as I can that day and making a donation. Yes, this is to raise more money for disaster relief and with a new goal of $50,000 I hope that all our readers will at least put a little bit towards this massive goal. I look forward to this so far they have a great line-up ready with a number of big guests and I am sure that more will be announced as we get closer to the event. I hope that all of you follow this group and at least catch a little of this fantastic event. I will be sure to talk about this afterwards and if by some chance any of us end up in this I will be sure to make you know either with a post or via with Twitter feed.

Anime Fans Give Back Website

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Online Piracy and Digital Distribution

Posted on 19 February 2012 by VinnieAve

I’m sure you’ve heard episodes about this topic on other shows but we here at AGC decided to be timely about talk about this.

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Humble Bundle: Mojam! LIVE!

Posted on 18 February 2012 by Jessica Dunn

Humble Bundle

Theres a new Humble Bundle going on right now, but this one is a bit different – its a Mojam.  Mojang, developer of the cube-tastic hit Minecraft, and their friends at Oxeye Game Studio and Wolfire Games are developing games over the weekend for the cause.  The added bonus is that you can watch them build the games live – I was just watching someone at Mojang making a spinning coin animation.

If you don’t already know, the Humble Bundle is a pay-what-you-want bundle of indie games raising money for charity.  The charities the bundle is raising money for right now are Child’s Play, charity:water, American Red Cross, and Electronic Frontier Foundation.  And if for some reason you don’t like one of the charities, don’t let that stop you from picking up a Humble Bundle, they let you choose how much of your money goes to each charity.

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Being a Better Geek: Mobile Suit Gundam Week 1

Posted on 17 February 2012 by VinnieAve

While DM went with a show that is popular and a major part of modern Scifi dialouge, I am picking a show that is significantly older and not very popular with American anime fans but is one of the supremely important anime, this is Mobile Suit Gundam.

Up to its release in 1979, the mecha genre was based around so-called super robots, with heroes yelling attack names and meglonaical villians, think Mazinger Z or Voltron. Gundam is the first of the so-called real robot shows, the robot is a tool with a purpose. That is not to say that some of the elements of super robots are not here but this show was the game changer. A good example of a real-robot show that people in America should recognize is Macross, which become the first part of the Robotech.

Similar to Firefly, this show was not successful first time around, it had its order cut, howful with the release of plastic models the show grew in popularity so much so that the 43 episodes were recut in to three films (if you don’t have the time or dedication to watch the show, watch these, also they removed a lot of the super robot elements that were present), a few years later they made a sequel series and the franchise has lived on since.

Now, for me this was the Gundam series that made me into a Gundam fan, unlike many who fell in love with Gundam Wing, which had aired the previous year on Toonami. I had watched Wing but I really watched MSG and loved it until it stopped airing after 9/11 (this was right at the end of the series, so the point where ships are crashing and people are being killed with a beam through the back of the head), CN tried a few years later by putting it in a worse spot and got through less episodes. However, now is the time for every to see this show, Bandai Entertainment has re-released the show in two sets and for the first time both language tracks. So in light of these facts Mobile Suit Gundam is the second entry in the All Geeks Considered continuing column, Being a Better Geek.

So you get an idea of the show, this is what I saw back in 2001, as an ad for this show:

Episode 1- Gundam Rising
DM’s Take
The intro was hokey as I thought it would be. There is not much more to say about that. The suspension of disbelief that watching this show will require is going to be enormous but I think I may be up to the challenge. MSG is said to have its battle suits based on the novel Starship Troopers but I think they are pulling more than battle suit tech from the book. The very atmosphere of a war torn universe and martial law seems to match the novel well. We get some character introductions in the pilot, including Amuro Ray. Some general thoughts on the pilot… The action sequences were strong and appreciated. The dubbing and animation synched up nicely and contributed to a general sense of tension. The technology seems ridiculous. How did Earth develop such advanced technology without Zeon being aware of it? And exactly how user friendly is a Gundam Suit? I do not care if Amuro is a techie, it is like saying your local technogeek could go and pilot a stealth jet. In any case, it was an all right pilot and I will continue to watch with an open mind.

Vinnie’s Take

 

 

 

 

 

Space Ships Shooting Lasers!

 

 

 

 

 

Ugly Robots, like they would be in reality

 

 

 

 

 

I wonder why this show was cancelled after 9/11 (that’s New York).

 

 

 

 

 

The Cute Mascot, Haro, built by Amuro

 

 

 

 

 

It’s the protagonist, in his underpants, this is first time we see him.

 

 

 

 

 

And Char, with his awesome mask, if you say otherwise, clearly you’re missing the point.

 

 

 

 

 

See giant shells, realism

 

 

 

 

 

Just think if this was made today, you’d have seen her panties.

 

 

 

 

 

The first of many slaps, in this case it was slap a women out of hysteria, oh 1979 Japan.

 

 

 

 

 

The Gundam activates

 

 

 

 

 

The Zaku’s pilot is dead.

 

 

 

 

 

And that was an aimed kill shot, remember this is a kids show.

 

 

 

 

 

His reaction to killing, in actuality I hope this is at least a little realistic

Episode Two- Destroy Gundam

DM’s take

We have part two of the pilot here.  Amuro continues to assist Earth forces in the Gundam Suit, although they begin to get suspicious of exactly who is piloting quickly.  We have what I suspect is a recurring villain in enemy pilot Char.  I would say that the two episodes together make for a stronger story and I suspect that was what was intended when originally aired.

Vinnie’s Take

 

 

 

 

 

How do you seal breaches to the colony? With huge amounts of bubble gum.

 

 

 

 

 

Kai gets slapped for the first time, this time for being a coward. Good job, Sayla.

 

 

 

 

 

For a man who wears a mask he reveals his face pretty early in the show

 

 

 

 

 

Could these blond people who dress in pink be related?

 

 

 

 

 

Char’s Custom Zaku II, notice the red color and badass spike on the head.

Episode Three: Vote to Attack

DM’s takes

I am just going to say it: Earth Federation Forces are pretty hard up if 10 year olds are voting whether to attack or not. We start getting additional character development in this episode as well as an idea of how the civilians are fairing on the military ship, White Base. Amuro has taken his posting as the Gundam pilot seriously and studies up on its manual while forgoing silly things like food, rest and showering. I think that at this point the thing that is most hindering my enjoyment is lack of any stand-out characters.  With any luck that will change soon.

Vinnie’s Take:

 

 

 

 

 

Our characters are now getting their uniforms and remember cadets are colored coded for your convenience, boys in blue and girls and in pink.

 

 

 

 

 

Zeon, the home of cock-eyed, mustachioed supply ship captains.

People often ask, why would an engineer build a robot with legs, this is the reason.

That’s all for this week, see you next time.

 

 

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Vincenzo and DM’s Review of One Man Lord of the Rings

Posted on 13 February 2012 by DM

DM’s Review: I can honestly say that I did not know what to expect when I sat down at the theater to watch One Man Lord of the Rings by Charles Ross.  Afterwards I did not know how I could have expected anything else.  Ross leapt right into the performance with manic energy not only mimicking character voices from the feature films but also sound effects with unnerving accuracy.

Portraying the three movies in one hour did not seem possible but Ross managed it with a bit of sweat and epic desert mouth with enough time to spare to chat with the audience between “films”.  Watching him oh so professionally change scenes with nothing but his voice, gestures, and a little bit of lighting change was nothing short of magical.

And he was funny.  So very funny.  I am quite certain that my abrasive and echoing laughter disturbed quite a few people but I could not help it in the face of his jester like performance.  Ross had no problems weaving humor into the oh so serious fantasy works while still maintaining what is an obvious admiration for the works.

Ross also had no problems pulling the audience to him. Laughter sprang out when his humor touched the work and people had trouble not interrupting his performance with applause at key moments such as when Gollum first spoke.

What can I say about One Man Lord of the Rings? It was unexpected.  It was funny.  It was magical. And I desperately need to see One Man Star Wars. See this in New York or elsewhere if you have the chance.

Vincenzo’s Review:

First I have to say sorry, this look me longer to write than it should have and is now not timely, I am sure DM will chew me out.

So last week a Groupon showed up and it was for Charlie Ross’s One Man Lord of the Rings, so I think to myself, well I’m not the biggest Rings person but I think to myself, well it would be cheaper than a movie and I can walk there. I went for the matinee, since well, its more convenient, and I don’t like staying up too late.

I will admit that I know that I didn’t get the most enjoyment out of the show as I could (I have vowed to watch the films on one day at some point (maybe Spring Break, yeah I’m a nerd)), so other than being able to tell you little about the quality of the jokes which seemed to be pretty good based on the audience reaction, the show was fantastic.

Ross’s energy was incredible, he made sure that each character had some defining feature, being it a voice or a gesture that allowed the audience to determine who was speaking. He had brief moments when he spoke and talked to the audience between movies to get a feel of the group (I wonder if he modifies the show when the audience is less nerdy). If you just enjoy LoTR, like I do, or are a devote Tolkien person, see this show if its in your area, and if One Man Star Wars is in my area I will see it.

For more information and future performance dates: Performances

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Star Wars 3D isn’t for the Fans, its for the Kids

Posted on 12 February 2012 by VinnieAve

I am not proud to admit this but I saw Star Wars: The Phantom Menace this weekend. The movie still sucked (although it sucked less, due to a well-placed nap between Darth Maul Fights), the 3D wasn’t done too well. If you liked this film you are wrong or young and will learn soon enough that this film sucks. It wasn’t until I got to the end of the film and I all the kids in the audience got up and gave applause, now it seemed that these kids ranged in age from 8-12. So most of these kids were born after this movie came out the first time and now they get to see it in theaters.

I have to assume that most of these kids are fans of Star Wars, many of them I assume have grown up watching Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and even though it look me too long to start watching it after the travesty of the 2008 Clone Wars film (although I am proud to say that I saw it in theaters), when I was a kid I just had the three movies and there was no real effort to make new fans out of kids. I might not have liked the film and the group of people I went with didn’t like it but the huge group of kids who got to this see this film on the big screen got an experience that I hope they don’t forgot it, personally, I can’t wait to see Episodes IV, V and VI in a few years but next year we have sand, which is so grainy and gets everyone it’s not like you, you’re smooth and soft.

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