27 May 2010

More Azumanga

Above, an episode of Azumanga Daioh (Episode 3). Below, Notepad, for drafting a blog post. I suppose it's good news for me that I would rather watch Azumanga Daioh than draft the blog post, but I think it's because you folks know me by now, I'm easily distracted and still trying to get this whole blogging thing down.

I think that I truly spoiled myself, though... I watched the last three episodes of Season One of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, and it hit all of my sweet spots. A weird, out-there plot. Interesting characters. A running narrative commentary. Humor, good music, and it carried an interesting message. I could even see the parallels with some of the characters and people in my own life. It was a show that I really did not want to finish watching, yet Season One ended. I will likely be checking into getting Season Two as well, and crossing my fingers that they make more episodes as it is such a recent series. (I guess I will have to content myself with finding some fanfic, with the bonus that I will be enjoying the good stuff and likely riffing the bad.)

Azumanga Daioh is not all of the above for me, at least not yet. On the other hand, it is interesting enough for me to keep my attention, and the shows seem designed to allow someone to keep going in the series. As the original source material for Azumanga Daioh are four-panel short comics, the show stays very true to the formula by presenting four- to five-minute segments that sometimes are barely connected. This does mean that if you're not crazy about a segment, just wait it out and something else will happen shortly. (This is the ultimate "short attention span theater")

This show is one that appreciates and sometimes revels in sheer zaniness. There are segments where you wonder exactly where the joke is going, only to have people laughing for no reason. There are lots of explanations for jokes too, and people who enjoy anime in-jokes will completely understand and enjoy Azumanga. Much like what Megane 6.7 and I do, generating humor in very small areas, Azumanga assumes that the viewer will have a background in some of the references that it will be riffing on.

I am sure that I will have more opinions as Azumanga Daioh unfolds on my screen. The semi-interesting ones I will share here, while the boring ones may be edited out.

Reasons Life is not like Anime, #495:
What came out of the hole in the Gulf of Mexico would have been infinitely scarier, far more violent to humans, but likely more interesting.

25 May 2010

Review: "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya"

Hey, stuff you guys may want to see! While Megane 6.7 will review recent video games, I'll put up a review of a four-year-old series. I'm still getting the hang of this blogging thing.

Following ACen, I picked up the anime bug again and decided to nab a copy of "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya". I'd seen it more than a few times in AMVs and have also seen a few fanfics of the series, so I thought it was time to check it out. So far, I have watched eleven of fourteen episodes and I think that it is a terrific series, and definitely recommend it.

I'm fairly sure that I'm behind the curve on this one, as it has been out for a while, but here's a thumbnail sketch. Kyon is entering high school when he falls in with Haruhi Suzumiya, a high-energy girl who still believes in childhood stories of aliens, time-travellers and espers. She's the flighty type who can't seem to stay committed to anything. She creates a club, the SOS Brigade, whose goal it is to find mysteries. Quickly, she manages to rope in Kyon as well as an alien, a time-traveller, and an esper into the club, though she does not know their true identities. By the way, she's super-powerful and can change the universe according to her whim. However, she doesn't know that she's super-powerful either. And Kyon is our intrepid narrator, a normal person caught up in the craziness.

I truly enjoyed the show after seeing the first episode. It concerned a student-made "movie" which was not only a parody of many animes I'd seen, but also included Kyon doing his best impression of a Mike Nelson rifftrax. Kyon's narrative style and character are very evocative of the MST3k form, though he doesn't necessarily riff as much as provide a counterpoint to the action. He's got snark to spare and the shows following were funny to boot. I suppose my only gripe has to be with the fanservice, it seems almost as if it's a bit out-of-character and tacked on to the story. I don't mind fanservice at all, but I mind if it's transparently fanservice.

If you can engage your mind a bit past the story itself, the situation and the show becomes one of great interest. Who has more power in the world, the person who is able to bend it to their will or the person who chronicles what happens and is able to put their own spin on the proceedings? The plot itself is a looming question, because there are certainly episodes where Haruhi unknowingly brings her will to bear in order to make disastrous things occur, but all of the characters hint at a point in time three years prior without being specific. This has the makings of a dynamite 52-episode epic, though I don't know if there will ever be one....

Which brings me to the final thought, the fanfic. The story itself started as fiction, as Japanese light novels rather than as manga or anime. Therefore, it is very suited to further writing, especially with the way that it is open-ended. The anime itself only covers six months of Kyon and Haruhi's first year, and the main issue (Haruhi's powers) are never really dealt with unless they become a problem. As a result, I can certainly foresee that the fanfic that could surround this universe may be very divergent yet still true to canon, and everything from light comedy to epic dramas are in play.

I know that I may have to drag Megane in kicking and screaming, but as I try to catch more of the recent stuff I will likely try to find fanfics that go with it. As of yet, just off the top of my head, the only 'fic that we've MSTed that contains only anime after 2000 is "Dragon of the Night". Even then, Megane and I were pretty much taking it as a story rather than as a Naruto story--we were certainly unable to comment much on the plot or the characterization of the original source because neither one of us have ever seen more than an episode of Naruto. There's definitely a large collection of Ranma / Sailor Moon 'fic, but after our current Sailor Moon project I will definitely be on the lookout for some newer series and writing. I think that riffing on newer stuff will make my own MSC 3001 series more of a complement to Megane's MST6.7 series, as we can be both old school and more recent while still collaborating with each other.

As far as myself, I've never really been able to get into the newer anime. This is mostly because I've not had time or money to be able to devote to it. My original gateway anime drug was Ranma 1/2, where I ended up getting into Sailor Moon and then a few around 2000 (Fushigi Yuugi, BGC 2040, Trigun, Nadesico, Love Hina). Since anime is expensive and I had a dial-up connection for many years, keeping up with it has been difficult at best. Now, fansubs are torrented (thank heaven) and box sets retail for the price of ONE VIDEO back in the late 90s. Two Ranma tapes back then were worth more than the Haruhi box set now, and I even recall buying the second Ranma movie for $29.99. (Thanks, VIZ, for killing my interest by killing my pocketbook.)

Other than a single divergence into "Scrapped Princess", when my significant other and I spied a $4 tape at a deep discount hut, I've been pretty stagnant. I think it's time to start hitting the Amazons and fansub torrents again, and try to get a bit more up-to-date both for enjoying the art and stories, and also to keep finding new ideas to champion.

On to the real-life paragraph. I rejected the position I interviewed for on Thursday. This was due to this new practice of hiring temps as a "probationary period" rather than self-hiring. I may be an arrogant person, but I feel that my experience and resume should count for something greater than temp-to-hire, especially since it would be extremely easy for a company to tell a temp "no" after the contract term is expired. I have a family and just cannot take that risk for a few pennies more. I would do temp-to-hire, but I would rather do it for a position that has a greater compensation and is located out-of-state. On the other hand, my economics study (as mentioned in the previous couple posts) is still going on too, so I feel that at least at present I can be patient rather than throwing myself on the mercy of the first company that comes along with a few extra dollars. (Total difference: $7,500 yearly, which is about $600 pre-tax per month..... but I would need to lay out FAR more money in commuting and in gasoline just to take the job.)

Past this, the only progress has been in episode count. I will likely have a short blurb after I finish "Haruhi", and the next series queued up is "Azumanga Daioh". Yeah, I'm *really* getting recent, eh?

22 May 2010

Red Dead Revulsion

This game does not deserve a 10.

Hell, I'm not even sure it deserves an 8. This game pissed me off royally and I'm more convinced now than ever that Rockstar Games have forgotten what made their games fun in the first place. Oh, it looks real purty to be sure but the story is diarrhea on a waffle and its endless dialogue brought back some not-so-fond memories of the Metal Gear Solid series. So in short, 'Red Dead Redemption' is pretentious arty CRAP that Hideo Kojima would be proud of.

This might have been tolerable if the gameplay made up for it. Unfortunately, this game shares many of the same problems that plagued 'Grand Theft Auto IV'. The controls continue to be clunky as all fuck and while steering a horse is easier than a car, you can still get hooked up on numerous scenery, fall off narrow paths into the water (which KILLS you again, by the way, no swimming animations for this game) and just getting your horse to turn around can be a real challenge at times.

Speaking of challenge, this game has two levels of it: Auto-Aim On, which makes the game surprisingly easy or Auto-Aim Off, which makes the game needlessly frustrating. It's like using a sniper rifle and removing the scope. You can do it but it's just seems silly to me.

But even if you're the type of gamer who never plays story missions and just wants to be a wild outlaw, robbing, murdering, whoring, etc... the game is extremely rigid on what you can and can't do. You can't hurt certain characters, the game LITERALLY holds the gun back if you try or gives you an instant GAME OVER screen if you get creative, which was rather insulting as they could have simply regenerated the character when you get far enough away which would have been far less aggravating and condescending.

You can hold people up for cash or shoot them and loot their corpses, but it's not nearly as exciting as you might think and gets repetitive fast. Ditto for skinning wild animals, cracking safes and searching closets which always feature the same unskippable animations making these tasks more of a chore than they needed to be.

Also, shooting up a town can be fun for a while but it's not long before you get overwhelmed by sheriffs and you're pretty much fucked unless you use cheats. And speaking of cheats, you can use 'em but only if you don't mind losing the ability to save your game. Yep, you read that right.

And you can forget whoring as well, the game won't let you sleep with hookers to recover health and you won't be getting any girlfriends in this game. This is because the character you're playing, and I'll be getting into more detail about HIM in a minute, is a married man but more importantly, he's a REFORMED outlaw and "I'm not that man anymore" to quote the game. However, Mr. Red Dead Reform can still beat, cut, burn, stab, blow up, lasso, hog-tie, drag behind his horse and, oh yeah, MURDER most of the men, women and even the animals he encounters without any interference from the game but sleeping with hookers is never an option because that would be WRONG. 9_9.

Anyway, back to the story, the lead character has a lot in common with Niko Bellec from 'Grand Theft Auto IV'... in that he's a whiny little bitch that derives even LESS joy with anything he does and for some reason, this has become the template character for Rockstar games of late. This lead character, who was so charismatic that I've already forgotten his name... (quick check on Google, hey Pac Man, cool!)... John Marston is a REFORMED outlaw, blackmailed by government scum that kidnapped his wife and son, to find and kill members of his old gang.

Oh, and did I mention he's REFORMED? Cause he'll remind you about that. A whole lot. He's also a total hypocrite and every character you meet in the game will point that fact out to you, you know, just in case you didn't get the point the first DOZEN times and realize it yourself. Meanwhile, I'm wondering why the fuck I'm playing this.

How the hell are we supposed to get behind a guy that claims to have such noble honorable intentions while destroying countless lives working for vile criminal scum and furthering their ends just to save his family, whom we don't even get to meet until the last 1/4th of the game and when you DO finally meet them, you'll wish you were still in Mexico.

Yes, the last 1/4 of the game is John doing chores with his family. After participating in numerous gun battles with vast armies and riding across the prairies searching for stranger missions (which was about the ONLY thing that kept me playing this game to the end, as they were more interesting than the main story, including one mysterious stranger (I Know You) that I felt really should have been the main villain of the game considering the 'Redemption' theme they were going for) you suddenly find yourself herding cattle, roping horses, and delivering corn, all the while having intimate chats with your family that beat the LIVING CRAP out of your head with ominous foreshadowing.

This is usually the sort of bullshit they put at the BEGINNING of the game to get you familiar with the gameplay mechanics and to give you a reason to care about John's mission but again, his family were all annoying as fuck, so maybe that's why they switched it around. Doesn't make that 1/4 of the game any less BORING though.

Not to mention preachy, and dear lord, is this game ever preachy. I seriously felt like I was being talked down to and sternly lectured all through the game and the whole thing just had this really uncomfortable vibe that turned it from could have been a guilty pleasure to just plain guilt. You can perform evil acts which lowers your honor score but the game seems determined to punish you for this, giving very little in the way of benefits and making it more difficult to purchase items and some people won't talk to you at all if you're a bad enough hombre, FORCING you to do good deeds just to continue playing the damn game. What's the FUCKING point of letting you do evil deeds if there's almost no benefits to doing them and they don't affect the main story in the slightest!?

The whole point of a sandbox game like this, at least for me, is the freedom to be something you're not in real life and do silly, violent or evil things for fun. 'Red Dead Redemption' is less 'Yeah, enjoy robbing the bank and shooting random people! It's all in good fun!" and more "Oh, you're being stupid... *sigh*... When you're ready to GROW UP, continue with the story missions." And that takes ALL the fun out of the game.

And if that weren't enough, the game glitched out on me several times, forcing me to reset the console at one point when I had just finished a mission and the cutscene just froze solid. And I played this on an original disc, new rental with no scratches, in a non-modded system bought in late 2007 that I've never used for internet and I installed the game to a 20 Gig hard drive first. So yeah, I think the game is buggy.

My goodness, I've been ranting for a while, haven't I? In closing, 'Red Dead Redemption' was a huge disappointment for me and was definitely not worth the $10 rental. I honestly had more fun playing 'GUN', short as it was. I'd recommend picking that up used cheap if you're looking for a short but fun western sandbox game. I haven't played 'Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood' yet so maybe I'll give that a try when I get a chance to rent it.

18 May 2010

The last of the fallout from ACen:

Couple last ACen notes that warranted a full blog post (My goal is to push the Rifftrax reviews below the fold before mid-June...)

1. At least according to the almighty Internet, Anime Central's attendance in 2009 was over 15,000 paid attendees (17,500 total). I imagine that you could possibly add another 2,000 to 3,000 attendees for this year, 2010. I mention this because also according to the never-lying Internet, ACen's attendance in 2000 was slightly more than 2,000 people, including yours truly, and 3,200 in 2001, including both myself and Megane 6.7.

To be honest, when I left in 2000 and in 2001, the highlights of the weekend were pretty much getting together with all the other hard-core fans and the goofy people who devote time to writing stories that will never earn a penny in revenue. That lasted for a few hours on a Friday night. Other than a few minutes in the dealer room, there wasn't a whole lot else that really caught my interest.

While some people may decry the size of the convention and say that it was better in the old days, I'm SO not that person. The more the merrier, and it was a terrific weekend. I enjoyed myself far more than ten years ago and I think it's mainly due to the fact that MAPS can put on a better convention with more attendees.

As I believe I mentioned previously, I will be attending Youmacon in Detroit now that I know that there's a decent following there too. I think I became gun-shy about conventions due to the cost and the fact that there were so few people at the ones that I attended in the past... (two ACens and three JAFAX, JAFAX being a free convention in Grand Rapids but exceedingly lightly attended.) The larger scale makes the convention definitely worth going to. Hopefully Youmacon will be comparably good to ACen.

2. On Friday, I and my friends had just arrived to the hotel at about noon. I had already spoken with my family and told them that the car survived another three-hundred mile trip. (There's always a question...) I had a bit of a back-and-forth for the next ten minutes, but then left to get to the convention. While walking to the convention, my cellphone beeps again... and I thought it was more conversation with my significant other. No, it actually turns out to be a temp service asking me if I'd be interested in a job opportunity. To cut the story short, I'm scheduled for a job interview on Thursday, 20 May. I must admit, I'm glad that I checked the phone, even though I spoke to the temp service underneath I-190 with a convention raging around me. I hope that it was a good omen.

Megane and I will be embarking on the next MSTing shortly. (For that matter, we hope that you enjoyed / will enjoy the latest MSTing.) The good news is that there is already some work into it, but the bad news is that it is a bit longer than the typical MSTings we do. I *hope* that we can get it out before the end of the year, that'd be pretty sweet. I've got a summer without classes at least, though there's always the wildcard of when (not "if" anymore, I think) I end up at a new job. Anyway, thanks again for your support and indulgence seeing as how this has turned into some weird kind of blog/commentary/diary hybrid for me. I promise, more anime and movie reviews as well as more MSTings, and possibly some original comedic writings, I just have to get through this rough patch I'm going through.

17 May 2010

ACen Wrap-up and going forward

I'm back from Chicago, which means that it's blog posting time. First, some blog cleaning though. I see my intrepid cowriter, among all of the other Rifftrax reviews, has completely ignored my cast gauntlet regarding the "New Moon" Rifftrax. I watched it once again on the way to Chicago, and it was just as good as I remembered. Of course, both times I watched the "New Moon" Rifftrax, it was with other people. As Megane probably knows from seeing the Cinematic Titanic live shows, there's just something about having someone around to build the laughter a bit greater. I would maintain that watching the "New Moon" Rifftrax would be still good watching solo as well though, it was pretty good and while there was a bit of middle-movie lull, the beginning and the end was pretty good.

Chicago was terrific. ACen is far larger than I remembered from 2000/2001, the other two times that I attended. Both of those times, the convention was within one facility. The dealer room was essentially a hotel meeting room and the main programming was the larger hotel meeting room. Now, it has spread to four buildings, including a convention center.

I took my brother-in-law as well as one of his friends. Both are graduating high school in the next couple weeks. Having them along made the whole thing a blast. While there were a few things that I wouldn't have minded checking out solo (some of the panels looked interesting, but I only attended the fanfic panel on Friday) we still had fun. For all the other con-goers who showed up, we were the ones that sat near the convention center entrance and just watched all the con-goers pass by. We enjoyed the costumes, the jokey t-shirts, even the weird snippets of conversation that probably meant something in context but were weird to hear individually. If we weren't there, we poked through the dealer's room a few times too as the convention went along. The two of them dropped at least $80 between them, I'm poor though (and paid for the hotel) so I just bought one con shirt.

The other place we were though was the anime music video room. I'm really partial to AMVs for a couple reasons. One, I love music and enjoy listening to new music. Two, it's in a small way an introduction to series that you may not have seen before. Three, I absolutely enjoy the comedy AMVs because I love laughing. Four, I'm able to turn the "critique" part of my brain off easier than when I'm watching movies and as a result, I'm able to enjoy AMVs easier. And five, if an AMV pops up that you're not crazy about, just wait about four minutes and there'll be another one going. We spent most of Saturday in the AMV room, between watching the AMV contest submissions, Iron Editor, the awards ceremony, and an interesting panel about how artists are trying to truly animate rather than just edit. Quite like Anime Central itself, anime music videos have come a long way in ten years, and it's startling to compare each of the pairs through time.

Of course, there is always a wild-card involved in a weekend like this, and I ended up with three. My car's tailpipe rotted through somewhere between Michigan and Chicago, so I had to figure out a way to put it up and back out of the way since the bracket was still connecting it to the body. Not a big deal, though I really need a new vehicle. I also managed to roll my ankle on Friday night. It absolutely sucked, because it was not a "mild sprain" in any sense of the word. I could put weight on it, but I really stretched that ligament good because if I even attempted to move it side-to-side it would scream at me. I set up the hotel so that it was an L-stop away from the action; getting to and from the convention from the hotel, not to mention all the walking involved in a convention, and I was absolutely in pain through the end of Saturday. (It's still not fully healed on Monday morning.)

The last wild-card needs its own paragraph. The convention was primarily centered around Rosemont's convention center. Late Saturday afternoon, around 5 to 6PM or so, chartered buses started arriving with... high-schoolers attending their proms. It seems that in the middle of the ACen madness, the convention center booked TWO highschool senior proms. Some of the high-schoolers were absolutely non-plussed with the weirdo freaks walking about. I personally was laughing so hard from the situation that I was losing it, and snapping a few pictures of kids just looking distastefully at the conventioneers. One of the costumers was the Joker in full face-paint, who would go back and forth through the crowds of kids. According to a few others I saw online, this isn't the first time that ACen has been held along with a prom (or a wedding, or a reunion, etc.) but it seems that the kids really didn't expect this either. I hope that their night was fully memorable.

This is already an epic blogpost, and probably somewhat boring for most people, so I'm going all-in for more complaining. Sunday was pretty crappy, because not only do I have to drive home but I'm reminded of how I have to end up at work the next day. After being around a blizzard of creativity and laughing for at least 75% of Saturday and Friday, I come back to my ordinary, boring, crappy, work. The same place that is glad to take any of my extra effort but is highly reluctant to give anything back. The same place that doesn't even pay me enough to repair my crappy car, much less find a decent one. The same place that I can get just enough money to find a hotel three miles away from the convention rather than staying at one of the five hotels in a three-block radius because I can't afford the extra cost.

I used to be able to take vacations that I would be happy to return home and get back to ordinary life, because you've gotten your fill of not having anything to do. Every single time I've had more than three days off from work in the last three years now, I'm utterly depressed the day before returning to work because I know I have to return to work. I hate the fact that my life has become 1/7 Saturday and 6/7 dread, with the very rare oasis of a four-day vacation to a convention.

So... back to the job ads to see if there's anything new or different that I can do which will allow me to grasp at least some of my life back. Especially since I want to find a way to go back again next year.

In other con news, I will very likely be attending Youmacon in Detroit. I had never attended before, but I asked my significant other to come with me and have the children's babysitter (Grandma) all set up. It's late October, which is about five and a half months... two a year for the time being seems fine, depending on where I will end up when I do finally find that new job.

14 May 2010

Latest MSTing & QnD Rifftrax Reviews!

Hey Everyone!

As Zoogz previously mentioned, we've put the final touches on our latest MSTing! It's a two parter and you can check it out at the following links:


In addition, I've just finished writing 20 new reviews for Rifftrax which can be seen below and I'm hoping to add a few more in the coming weeks. Any and all feedback is appriciated as always!


Megane 6.7

"A Visit to Santa" w/ Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy & Bill Corbett. -- Garsh! Well, uh, it's not the WORST Christmas short I've ever seen but it's definitely a contender for most irritating soundtrack. Two Sumerian speaking kids have their sleep interrupted by a creepy elf child and brought forth by helicopter to Santa's... low rent apartment. The apathetic Santa, probably played by some bored security guard at the mall where most of this thing was filmed, shows the kids around and makes them look at stuff. For a long time. This Rifftrax is amusingly dark and I enjoyed it for the most part. Recommended.

"Teenagers on Trial" w/ Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy & Bill Corbett. -- Don't trust anyone under 30! Written by old farts for old farts, this short sets out to prove what they already knew, all kids are rotten and not to be trusted. They're worse than Commies! THE BEAVER IS A LIE! Only having them join the US Army can set these kids straight! Or get them killed, which is also acceptable apparently. This Rifftrax was a fun way to kill 8 mins of your time. Recommended.

"Cork – Crashes and Curiosities" w/ Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy & Bill Corbett. -- Irish Sweep... I'm not a fan of modern or 1940s racing, so I really don't have much to say about this short. Irish jokes dominate this Rifftrax but it's all in good fun and I enjoyed it. Recommended.

"The Case of Tommy Tucker Pt. 1 & 2" w/ Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy & Bill Corbett. -- This disturbing short starts out with a Pagen children's play which is quickly interrupted by the Hitler Youth Move... oops, I mean, the SAFETY PATROL lead by a little self-rightous snot named Tommy Tucker that resembles Howdy Doody right down to his Joker smile. Creeped out yet?

Thankfully, Tommy is run over by a car soon afterwards and hovers near death but what does he care? He's on SAFETY ISLAND, which is apparently a gated community in Heaven, and he's a martyr to the rightous cause of installing 1984-esque safety procedures to Anytown USA so people will stop running over annoying bossy kids that try to tell them how to drive! Yeah. As for the Rifftrax, while I wasn't a fan of it being split up into two parts (a practice they seem to have stopped now thankfully), the riffing was great and I enjoyed it a lot. Highly recommended for both parts.

"Women in Blue" w/ Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy & Bill Corbett. -- Yep, it's another short desperately trying to convince its audience that sexism was a dirty lie and women had more to look forward to in the 1940s than more cooking, cleaning, and child rearing by showing them signing up to serve in the Navy so more men could be sent off to war. Of course, once the war was over, the women were quickly booted back to their old positions but hey, enjoy the fun while it lasts, ladies! Much like 'The Trouble With Women', the riffing here is nicely dark and sarcastic. Highly recommended.

"The Matrix Revolutions" w/ Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy & Bill Corbett. -- Well, the film itself sucks on toast but this was far more enjoyable for me with a Rifftrax than 'Matrix Reloaded', probably because this movie was more mindless action than endless droning monologues sapping my will to live. The riffers themselves seemed more energized as well which always helps. Highly recommended.

"Star Trek 2009" w/ Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy & Bill Corbett. -- *deep breath* Okay... I am a long time fan of the majority of the original Star Trek, The Next Generation, and select Deep Space 9 episodes. I knew this film was a reboot and I tried to watch it with an open mind and reminded myself how badly 'Nemesis' had botched it and with 'Enterprise' gone, the franchise needed this sort of thing to survive.

But this... this was a decent sci-fi action film, nothing more. You can dress them up as the characters, give them the characteristics of the original crew (and I will admit that Karl Urban was FUCKING scary as McCoy, he was practically channeling the DEAD with his portrayal.) and have old Leonard Nimoy himself show up to bless the reboot, so to speak, but it still ain't Star Trek as far as I'm concerned. Maybe that'll change with the next film, who knows, but for now... NO.

All right, rant over. Now for the Rifftrax. With the sole exception of the 'Funky Spock' sequence, which was hilarious, I found this trax to be dull and lifeless with very few laughs for me. Perhaps the riffers felt the same way I did with the film and couldn't muster up the energy, I dunno. Recommendation to avoid, sadly.

"Cinematic Titanic: East Meets Watts" w/ Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff, Josh Weinstein and Mary Jo Pehl. -- I initially avoided 'Cinematic Titanic', partly because of their previous choice of films to riff on, partly because past trailers for their commentary frankly sucked IMHO, and partly because I'm a cheap bastard who'd rather pay three bucks for a rifftrax that might suck than $14 for a DVD that might suck. However, when 'East Meets Watts' was announced, I checked out the trailer and was impressed enough to take a chance. And I'm glad I did.

The film is a mix of bad Blaxploitation and worse Kung-Fu, but mixed together, it became a somewhat watchable movie featuring several actors from M*A*S*H (No Alan Alda sadly, he could have used the style of the Hawkeye... *cough*)

As for the riffing, it's great overall and there's some big laughs to be found throughout. All of the riffers have some funny choice lines in this one and going live may have been the smartest move 'Cinematic Titanic' could have made as seeing the performers smile, laugh and react to each other and the audience during the riffing definitely adds a level of energy that a studio riffing, however funny, can't quite reach. It was especially great to hear Trace riffing again after all these years and he hasn't lost his touch. To be fair, though, there were three noteworthy spots where I felt the riffing quality dipped considerably:

- After the 'Journey' riff until Stud Brown first shows up.
- The majority of the gun fight in the dark.
- And the last seven minutes of the movie or so.

Still, the majority of this CT offering is well worth checking out. Very Highly Recommended.

"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" w/ Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy & Bill Corbett. -- (Note: This isn't the version from the Live Christmas Rifftrax DVD, nor are any of the shorts reviewed here from that DVD at this time.) This was a fun 8 min short, of course I had to resist the urge to shout out rude phrases during the theme song but otherwise I enjoyed this. I do hope to see the live DVD version someday to compare them. Recommended.

"The Night Before Christmas" w/ Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy & Bill Corbett. -- My personal favorite of the Christmas themed shorts, I was laughing pretty much all the way through this one and I don't want to spoil anything. Very highly recommended.

"Three Magic Words" w/ Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy & Bill Corbett. -- Oh man, this short was just AWESOME! And I thought 'Shaking Hands with Danger' was tough to get out of my head. This delightful marketing musical has 'Mrs. Newlywed' pleading with The Three (Low Rent) Stooges, who are everyone and everywhere apparently, to save her ass by cooking dinner to settle a bet. Only the power of PORK can save her now, or more specifically, a half dozen or so songs praising said pork with a little help from dark magic. This short was an absolute laugh riot for me from beginning to end. Highest recommendations!

"Parade of Aquatic Champions" w/ Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy & Bill Corbett. -- Another short I really enjoyed with plenty of laughs and belly flops. You'd think so-called 'Aquatic Champions' would be smart enough not to belly flop into the pool, especially when racing, but hey, I never competed in the 1904 Olympics so what do I know? And I have no idea what the deal with Larry is, but I haven't been that
confused/unsettled since Mr. B Natural. *shudder* Very highly recommended.

"Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi" w/ Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy & Bill Corbett. -- And so ends the riffing of Star Wars, unless they start doing 'The Clone Wars' which might be the only thing that could make that series watchable for me. I hadn't seen this movie for quite a while and was surprised by how amazingly DULL the first half was. Once things pick up in the latter half, it's all good but why the FUCK did they change the perfectly epic and enjoyable 'Yub Yub' song at the end to that generic piece of crap? Bleah!

Unfortunately, after a great performance with 'Empire Strikes Back', the riffing seemed to drop back to mediocre levels with this Rifftrax, though it was still better than the dismal effort for 'A New Hope'. There were the occasional funny moments, like the gay jokes for the droids and Kevin Murphy taking Lucas to task for adding crap like a completely asinine dance sequence to the movie but keeping cheap special effects like Han Solo defrosting from hibernation intact but overall I was more disappointed than entertained by this Rifftrax. Mildly recommended but just barely. So now, because I felt like doing it, here's my ranking of the Star Wars Rifftraxs from best to worst, IMHO.

"The Star Wars Holiday Special"
"Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back"
"Episode I: The Phantom Menace"
"Episode III: Revenge of the Sith"
"Episode II: Attack of the Clones"
"Episode VI: Return of the Jedi"
"Episode IV: A New Hope"

"Cinematic Titanic: The Alien Factor" w/ Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff, Josh Weinstein and Mary Jo Pehl. -- Ah, the hairy 70s. When even the monsters in your films were required by law to be unshaven. Actually, that's only one of the three monsters that invade a small town filled with the usual gang of idiots that make up the cast of these things. There's the nerdy scientists who don't actually do anything, the know-it-all stranger who has all the answers. The inept mayor. The drunken posse. The sheriff and his deputy. The movie star, the professor and Mary Anne, etc, etc...

The riffing for this one was good but not quite as funny for me as 'East Meets Watts', which may be the fault of the film itself as it can be a little dry and painfully dull at times. There were some great lines though, especially from Trace who provided some of the biggest laughs, including one PERFECTLY timed riff I won't spoil here that nearly brought the house down and broke up the other riffers. At one point, Josh even acknowledges to the audience during an extended walking scene how difficult some scenes can be to riff when nothing's happening for minutes on end. Still, I enjoyed the CT overall. Highly recommended.

"Molly Grows Up" w/ Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy & Bill Corbett. -- At first I wondered if I was qualified to judge this short being a guy, but then the short itself doesn't seem all that knowledgeable on the subject either. So, I'll just say Molly's adventures with menstruation made for a very funny Rifftrax, especially hilarious was the list of "activities" one should and should not do when on the rag, as well as the riffing of the opening and closing credits. Very highly recommended.

"Little Lost Scent" w/ Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy & Bill Corbett. -- Meet Gregory, baby skunk and all around badass who rarely has to resort to his special weapon as he stares down every animal foolish enough to cross his path of PAIN. Even his vampire mom can't keep Gregory in line for long. This Rifftrax was a lot of fun and while they did talk over the admittedly long-winded narrator a bit too much
at times, I still enjoyed it. Highly recommended.

"Seat Belts: The Life Saving Habit" w/ Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy & Bill Corbett. -- YES! I love cheesy shorts from the 1980s! The music, the fashion, the hair, it's all good. This short has its share of goofy moments but its mostly serious or as serious as 80s shorts can ever be. The first half of this Rifftrax had more laughs for me than the other half though, but still funny overall. It might be a bit hard to watch though if you have kids as some child sized test dummies take a few vicious shots into the windshield in this short. Recommended, otherwise.

"Avatar" w/ Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy & Bill Corbett. -- Continuing in the tradition of movies like 'TRON' and 'Star Wars: Episode I', combining state of the art special effects with a crappy script, it's CAPTAIN PLAN... I mean, AVATAR! Okay, sure, it has blue anorexics fighting the good fight against an evil corporation who employ cartoonish, gung-ho villains, but so what? Uh, besides, 'Dances with Wolves' and 'The Matrix' were darn fine movies so ripping them off should mean this film is good by default too, right? Right??

Sarcasm aside, the rifftrax for this was amusing for the most part, nothing outstanding but worth checking out once at least. Long ass movie though. Recommended.

"Drawing for Beginners: The Rectangle" w/ Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy & Bill Corbett. -- Very funny Rifftrax for a rather dry short about drawing rectangles. The artistic skills shown here are about on par with my own drawing abilities so I can't judge it too harshly but still, funny stuff. Highly recommended.

06 May 2010

Real Life / School and website maintenance

For a week now, ever since the final exam on the 29th of April, I resisted checking my final grade for my macroeconomics class. I truly felt that my efforts in the class absolutely did not pay off in terms of grades. While I understood the majority of the material that I was being presented, I was graded on whether or not I was able to take exceptions to the material and explain/understand them.

I took the test Thursday thinking that I had ground to make up due to past grades and thinking that all the past grades would probably damn me to a failure (for a $2000 class). I needed to perform almost perfectly. The test I was given was nothing more than Groundhog day--testing on material that was beyond the material covered. At this point, we were into realms of "what happens with X when Y, Z, alpha, and Superfly are changed?"

My mindset was, "I don't need to rehash all of the reasons that I've been semi-depressed for the past four months, and relive all the problems of this class." I'm not a strong person in any sense of the word. I did seventeen-hour days, twice a week for four months to take the class. At least for me, they sapped my energy. Granted, it wasn't all the fault of the class. It was compounded by the fact that work, which takes up eight of the seventeen hours, was and still is highly unsatisfactory.

Since grades have been posted for two days, I steeled my nerve and decided to check online. I received a C+ for the course, to my surprise. It is tied for the lowest grade I had ever received in a college course. On the other hand, I didn't remember any high-school calculus over twelve years later and I definitely didn't know much of macroeconomics, so I consider this somewhat of a victory. I think that the grade can be attributed as much to participation and effort as to scores on assignments. Of course, it could also be partly due to the rather bad class evaluation that I submitted too. Whichever reason, I don't care.

I'm glad to close the book on this stressful period. This was my hardest university course ever, which makes plenty of sense as it is in the graduate level. I had a far easier time with Chinese and Japanese than I did with macroeconomics.

Thankfully, this means that my university education continues, and with hopefully far less difficulty. I am more confident that I can continue and pass the remaining courses I need to pass. It may mean that I have to take tests and possibly write a thesis in order to earn a Master's degree, but I think I will be up to the task. I did entertain thoughts of withdrawing, and almost did in February. However, it worked out in the end and I am extremely glad for it.

Yeah, this is nothing but a self-congratulary post while I'm still sitting on the non-publishing of the most recent Megane 6.7 MSTing (which by the way is pretty funny if I may express my opinion). On the other hand, ten years of writing MSTings has been a good hobby, while my Master's degree will hopefully allow me to choose my employment and my compensation for the remainder of my life. I love you guys, and I definitely want to keep writing MSTings for you, but unfortunately this stuff comes before. The positive is that if I get to the point that I don't have to keep struggling to make ends meet, hobbies will definitely be allocated more time, including this writing habit I picked up more than ten years ago.

I've rambled long enough. New MSTing will be posted by this weekend, hope everyone enjoys it, and thanks for the support!