Remember how bad it is

Now that we are getting painfully close to the next cascade of space-piss called [DISNEY]Star Wars, some of you may have forgotten just how bad the last movie in this series of films is.

Just in case you need a reminder in incredible detail: READ THIS.

Note, I’m not talking about Solo or Rogue one, both anchored by the old plot-lines and characters as they were, and prequels to boot–I’m referring to Disney’s creative failure: the post Return of the Jedi films. This series and it’s financial (wait for it), artistic and narrative failure pretty much assures that Disney will never successfully move FORWARD in time after the Return of the Jedi and will likely cannibalize the past (before the prequels, etc.) from here on out. Hopefully though, Disney will stop making Star Wars films altogether.

“The people sometimes called fanboys, but by the wise called loyal, lifelong, cash-heavy customers with disposable income, did not make undue demands. All they asked was not to be bored, not to have their intelligence insulted, not to have their beloved space fairytale of princesses and star-knights mocked and derided and deconstructed and turned into a political football.

All the filmaker had to do was not suck. That was all.”

More Jung-induced violence

I just got back from seeing Us. Great acting, but I think it will be a confusing film for those that aren’t up on what’s influencing many writers in the indy film scene: Jung’s Red book.

Remember Mandy? I did some research after seeing that film to try to figure out what the very, very end was all about: the final shot with the twin suns over an alien landscape as Red drove off into wherever he was supposed to be going. That through me for a loop, big time (which was the point of it). This led me to read some descriptions of the film and it’s ending and specifically it’s purpose in relation to Jung’s recently released and translated Red book, which is a book about his imaginings later in life that was finally made available to the public in 2009. Specifically this part:

We hauled things up, we built. We placed stone upon stone. Now, you stand upon solid ground…We forged a flashing sword for you, with which you can cut the knot that entangles you…We also place before you the devilish, skillfully twined knot that locks and seals you. Strike, only sharpness will cut through it…Do not hesitate. We need destruction since we ourselves are the entanglement. He who wishes to conquer new land brings down the bridges behind him. Let us not exist anymore. We are the thousand canals in which everything flows back into it’s origin.

The final chapter in the Mandy film is entitled MANDY and yet she is in this portion, nearly the entire last half of the film, barely at all. The Jungian concepts that are brought together in Mandy are the concept of the conscious self and shadow self, and that dealing with trauma, truly dealing with it, is destruction of the current self to be renewed as a new, stronger self that better merges the shadow and normal selves. It’s postulated that the revenge part of Mandy is not a dream, but a trauma-management imagination where Red is the destroyer of the demons that destroyed her old self, or caused it to need to be destroyed, so that she can be reborn (watch the cartoon parts again if this doesn’t make sense). Enigmas of the people that scarred her in her youth enter the house that she and Red live in, to me symbolizing that she brings that same baggage to her and Red’s relationship and it’s causing Red to want to change things (specifically move away from where they live). Later in the film, Red is Mandy, or rather, she imagines herself as him.

But back to Us. About half way in, I realized that Us is another Jung’s Red book-influenced film and I think both this and Mandy will be compared in that way. I don’t want to put spoilers but:

  • The main character is named RED.
  • Certain characters wear red jumpsuits
  • The main weapon is a scissors– cutting threads or… you guessed it: entanglements (which is you yourself).
  • There are shadow and non-shadow selves. Which are the good, which are the bad? When you see the film, what are the ‘bad’ ones doing at the end?

I also noticed that the film tricks the audience to think it’s about racial inequality with some of the statements in the middle of the film. However, the quite well-off family in the film is black, so if you go down the inequality between people with different skin pigmentation, it doesn’t get very far, so I don’t think Us is about that at all.

Us is a solid film, and the acting is superb, though a bit slow in the middle as it slowly peels back the onion. If you look at it as a sci fi-esque slasher-thriller, great– but if you look at it from the Jungian perspective I think there ends up being a lot more meat to it.

Shirigui DEATH FRENZY

I first saw this Anime on netflix years ago, watching only the first episode. We just had a kid and I couldn’t give it the attention it deserved at the time. You can tell from the first episode, it’s going to be a series that rewards close attention.  My first draw was that Shigurui looked like the art style of Ninja Scroll with some of the same animators and, of course, it is, which should tell you something about it’s quality.  For those of us that grew up with Ninja Scroll as the GOLD STANDARD (along with Akira) for Anime,  Shigurui is like Ninja Scroll all fucking grown up.

From the outset, I want to highly recommend this anime with almost zero caveats… maybe just two.  First, it’s very dark and violent along the lines of 13 Assassins but a bit worse. Second it is UNFINISHED.  There is no resolution to the entire story, as that would have taken most of a second season which was never made. You never get to see what happens in the end, which a tough pill as things are set up in the first episode for a climactic battle, yet most of the series is a flashback that never flashes forward again!  How can you get the full story? You have to read the manga. That said, while incomplete, this is a masterpiece of anime.

What’s is Shigurui about? Like the film 13 Assassins, the series takes place during a peaceful era after the ‘warring states’ period in Japan.  And again, like 13 Assassins, a relative of the shogun is a Daimyo of a province and a full bore psychopath, one who dreams of a more violent era, regardless of the fact that he lives in lazy splendor and can kill servants on a whim. At the beginning of the first show we see him getting his head lopped off in a seppuku ceremony– one in which he ONLY touches the fan–he isn’t even given the time to touch the fan to his abdomen as is traditional– the executioner just lopped his head right off!  So he must have done something more than raping and killing peasantry right?  Right.

We then have a first flashback to a one armed man and a blind man about to duel to the death in front of said Daimyo. They prepare to fight and then another flashback occurs when one of the men (the blind one, but no longer blind) steps into a dojo. The other combatant is there and neither have any injuries (yet).  The show moves on to show the rivalry of these two men at the dojo, but then turns into something very different towards the end.

Add to this the fact that the master of the Kogan-Ryuu dojo is  insane, and lies in a state of dementia for most of the show, however, he has massive parts in the series when he is in his right mind and is probably the most dangerous character in terms of ability to apply violence.

The show and manga has everything samurai you can imagine–various fighting styles, ‘magical’ or unlucky swords, western sword styles, rival schools. You know how Game of Thrones very much includes nearly every fantasy trope and most of the ‘fantasy’ races without being like a bad Forgotten Realms based Dungeons and Dragons movie?  Shigurui HAS all the samurai tropes, it just presents them in such a way–again, much like ninja scroll– that helps you forget that you are seeing/reading about the same old tired stuff that showed up during the ninja and samurai craze in the 80’s.

The meat of the show outside of the character development are the various fighting styles.  The fighting styles are extremely well detailed, and will have you thinking quite a bit about it as the learning of the two protagonists increases and they not only learn the secrets from the master, but come up with their own modifications and evolution to the styles.  Having read the manga, I can say that this continues well into the second half of the series and ends spectacularly.

One other thing I really like is that if you look up the series in google and do an image search, you cannot find out what happens in the final duel.  The manga author has many dream sequences and day dreams where BOTH of the main antagonists are show to be killed or terribly wounded during the final fight, so it’s impossible without reading the manga to get spoiled by the internet.  The picture you are looking at with the guy with one arm’s face cut off could be during the final duel, or could be a dream sequence.

The entire series is up on youtube.  The manga is a bit harder to get a hold of.

Gaming

The only mechanical system that would be able to handle Shigurui’s level of combat depth and manner of wounds, is, of course, Mythras.  Most of the sword fights are over in a SINGLE stroke, which is simply not possible with D20 systems that use hit points, nor WFRP, nor 13th Age.  Story games would not effectively simulate the fights without far to heavy narrative control: you may as well just play with action figures at that point rather than roll dice.

In Mythras, both of the protagonists would have over 100% in their relevant sword skills (in the Kogan style), and you would probably need to break out different weapons having different skills (such as the shorter sword, the longer katana’s, and the big honking club thing one of the characters uses, and two swords at once).

One other thing that may be difficult in any RPG, even Mythras, is that the Kogan-Ryuu sword school students NEVER parry.  This means that the swordsman that strikes at the higher strike rank and hits is going to need to score a heavy wound most of the time to not himself be killed, but vs another Kogan swordsman, he will get a special effect straight away since there is no parry.

In order to simulate the sword styles, I would give special traits when characters got to 90 %, 100% and finally 120% skill levels, so every style would have three traits.  These are usually only given once to an entire style in the core game, but it should not break anything to give more, especially at such high skill levels.

I would also recommend using the advanced range and distance rules.  There are a couple of the fights in Shigurui where the range is critical.  In fact the first Kogan style trait I would add at 90% mastery would be that the sword used counts as one level up in terms of weapon length.

Passions can also be very useful in this type of game, as they could boost combat skills in certain situations to god-like levels.  Getting close to 10% chance of a critical is scary– 14-17% is insane.   Anyway, a game with Mythras where on one wears armor and no one parries could be very interesting…

Mythras

Mandy

Mandy, Mandy, Mandy.  There is one film per year that becomes your gang of freaks’ “movie of the year.”  Doesn’t matter if it’s a quality film, doesn’t matter the genre, the actors or the amount of swords and TITS included (usually prerequisites though…).  It just has to have an effect on your group in a meaningful way, even if it’s arguing.  Examples of this are Fury Road for 2015, the VVitch in 2016, Get Out for 2017, Hundra for 1983, etc.  It’s only September, but I’m feeling like Mandy is already a strong, strong contender.

This film came to my attention when the trailer hit and moreso on account of strong rotten tomatoes score after Cannes. When the trailer hit, I watched it like 4-5 times the first day, then again the second day while whoring around the trailer to others whenever possible.  This film pretty much aims straight at Appendix N people and it hits like a Sniper Elite NUTSHOT.   If you like weird ass horror, HK cinema crime/revenge films and dig a bunch of stuff from Appendix N, you will cream your jeans on this film.  If you grew up in the 80’s as well, this will be an enlightening experience as the film is like an extended music video from 1983 or so.

So go see it. The film will likely be out of theaters until award season at least as it’s likely going to be up for something and then get another stint in the theaters again.  Stop here if you don’t want spoilers.

The Film and stuff I liked

  • Mandy and Red’s bed in the porch room with the greasy windows surrounded by woods.
  • The part where they were in the boat and then Red is looking across the fire at Mandy.  A lot of people have said that these characters are ‘really in love’ but Red has a level of obsessed awe and confusion when he really looks at Mandy that Cage is able to pull off that is different from some Love Actually shit.
  • The scene with Mandy being killed is very disturbing and they linger on it a long time.  This is extremely effective BUT I feel like they did not linger on the deaths of the cult enough when their time came.
  • The bathroom scene with Red in his tighty whities was amazing.  There’s a lot to love about Nicolas Cage’s performance overall, but that scene takes the cake.
  • I really enjoyed the fight in the shitty drug house with a coked up demon biker who was watching a porno on a small TV.
  • You can’t argue with practical effects face melting.  As a kid I accidentally watched this one movie where a woman gets too close to a volcano and her face melted.. then the next summer it was on again and I walked into the room just as that scene was playing so I saw it a second time!!
  • Acid. Every single character is on LSD or something like it at some point in the film.
  • The music

Stuff I didn’t like

  • I couldn’t understand what Red was saying at the end of the movie! Too garbled up.
  • I think the film should have given more of a feeling of time-span between when Red escapes and starts killing people, or spans in between the killings
  • Some of the killing/fighting was a bit boring, granted most of the cultists were petrified non-combatants, but the demon bikers could have been a bit more interesting in the fight choreography /setting (think Freddy Vs Jason or Evil Dead 2/Army of Darkness witch fights type of shit).  Red gets all fucked up, but you don’t FEEL it like you do when Ash does in Evil Dead.
  • The film is slow in the beginning and then there is payoff. I was expecting some 2001 style psychedelic trip out at the very end of the film (there’s a small one, but not a huge freak out that I expected) to tonally shift it back to the first scenes of the film.  It shows a surreal flashback of Mandy and Red at a party where Red is staring at Mandy with that obsessed confused look and she is smiling and crying and I would have cut the movie right there and not shown Red again driving in his car through the woods.  His gift for going to hell for revenge is to be able to experience her memory uncluttered with all the ‘crazy evil’ and they should have left him with that.

Questions!

Why didn’t Red kill the young whore-cultist girl?  She was party to everything and didn’t help Red for shit at any point.

What was the double moons and alien landscape at the end of the film supposed to indicate?

Why didn’t they kill Red when they had the chance (twice!)

Where did they get that VAN? Where did they find that HOUSE?

The Solo movie

When it was announced, to me the Solo movie marked the beginning of the Disney “Star Wars Spam” of films that will never stop coming out until people stop going to them (never).   I vowed I wouldn’t go see the movie the first night it came out (which I’ve done with every star wars film except the very first one) but fate intervened and Maat accidentally got tickets for opening night forgetting he was going to be out of town. I went.

So, we knew there would be SWS (star wars spam) as soon as Disney bought it off Lucas, but we didn’t know was that there would be SJW *and* SWS, and the combination of these things brought the most terrible star wars film since Attack of the Clones, which was horribly cynical to boot.  Add to this that we now know that there was no and is no overall meta plot for the non-prequel Star Wars films; i.e.: each director /writer can come up with his/her own plot with the characters that is totally independent from the plot that came before.   Since this tanked The Last Jedi, and left the next Director with a fucked set up that would make the writers of the Kamandi Challenge titter with glee, I see NO HOPE for the mainline post-Return of the Jedi Star Wars films.  The potential for the characters was fully ruined by The Last Jedi, and I think it will eventually become non-canon.

…. yet I think the Solo “series” will save the Star Wars brand from total obliteration, for a time at least.  That is a long way of saying I liked the film for the most part and found it entertaining enough to want to watch again.  There were a few characters that could have been better (the ‘revolution’ robot was needless comic relief and Lando was a bit too predictable) but overall, a well done space noir western.

I want to put the cover of this issue here because this was one of the comic books that I had as a kid that expanded the Star Wars universe, especially the rogues, thugs, thieves and pirates.  You have the old ass Jedi, the Rabbit guy, the Quill guy, and the dangerous madame.  When I went into the new Solo film, I felt like: Hey, if this movie makes me feel close to what I felt as a kid reading these comics tangentially about the characters and Star Wars universe, that would be great.  Not everything can be about the empire and the jedi and the rebellion right? Well– sort of.  Solo had a divergent plot that incidentally gave evidence for the early maneuvers of the nascent Empire, and held all that stuff at arm’s length for most of the film and expands quite a bit into interesting territory, until the end.  The end, as my brother said, shrinks the Star Wars universe back down to being just about the Jedi, just about the Rebellion and just about the Empire.

This is the closest to Ice Pirates we will get in the Star Wars series, especially with Ron Howard involved.  Is it better than Ice pirates? Nope, but it’s still good.

Go watch it! Then go watch some really good non-Space Western sci fi stuff!

Films of the 2018 ski trip

We went skiing in Oregon in February.  At night we played RPG’s and a few board games and watched terrible, terrible movies.   Steve managed to bring some DVD’s filled with some of the worst films in the scifi genre in addition to the ‘Miami boob’ DVD’s that must have graced skinimax back in the day.  Here’s what we watched and the average grade for each.

Raiders of Atlantis
Rating:  C

I liked this movie, despite it being, you know, terrible.  It had some Italians that pretended to be in Miami and Atlantis rose up out of the ocean to unleash some sort of human control mechanism that gave rise to a biker gang that attacked everyone with silly go cart things.   This is sort of an island mad max with aliens and shit.  The Italian actress in here (Gioia Scola) is a looker.

Robo Vampire
Rating: F+

Unwatchable.

Horror High
Rating: F

Unwatchable

Galaxina
Rating: C

An interesting sci fi movie that a couple people really liked. The android lady is played by a beautiful woman who was murdered just as her career was getting rolling (the movie Star 80 was based on her life and murder). Overall I thought this was poorly paced and overacted, yet with some interesting parts. The space ship designs were cool.

Deadly Prey
Rating: D

This is a ridiculous film, with almost all scenes taking place within a few hundred yards off a road somewhere in California. People may enjoy this for the comedy of it, because it does take itself so seriously, it’s hard not to laugh. There were some good fight scenes here and there, but overall this was pretty boring.

Hard Ticket to Hawaii
Rating: C

This film has the famous scene where the skateboarder with a fuck-doll and a shotgun gets blown up by a rocket launcher. Let me tell you that it is the best scene in the film and the rest is pretty forgettable. I like boobs and this has a lot of them often, but it’s just not enough, even compared to some of the other Andy Sidaris films we suffered through. The concept of taking playboy and penthouse actresses and throwing them headlong into films like this I do appreciate and approve of. You could strike gold: look at Marilyn Chambers in Rabid— despite her ‘park a couple of mac trucks in there vag,’ she was a decent actress.

The Eliminators
Rating: C

Well shit this has Security officer Natasha Yar from Star Trek the next generation. She gets her WHITE tanktop wet while nearly drowning inside a crashed airplane too. Otherwise this is a strange cyborg movie that has a few solid scenes, including a very comical bar fight that ends up being highly entertaining. I could barely sit through this one, but it’s not unwatchable. The pursuit of the ‘heroes’ by a pissed off lesbian boat tour captain was the highlight for me.

The Dungeonmaster
Rating: D+

I don’t know about the other guys, but this movie is one I wished I hadn’t watched. Sure it has Bull from night court and he does a hammy good job, but overall a lot of the vignettes are trash. Generally disappointing, but has some funny parts. It has WASP playing a song in it. Great.

Rolling Vengance
Rating: C-

This is some sort of coming of age film for a young truck driver in a truck driver family in Ohio that runs afoul of some hillbillies that end up killing accidentally then on purpose his entire family, and then they rape his girlfriend outside his barn. He gets revenge by running them all over with a monster truck with the help of the local police. Fucksakes.

Hands of Steel
Rating: D+

This is a near-future cyborg movie from 1986. The plot isn’t that bad: a critical anti-pollution activist is nearly killed by a mind-wiped cyborg that botches the assassination on purpose and escapes. Yet, the critical scene is an arm wrestling one so you can imagine where this ends up.

HUNDRA
Rating: C (I rated it higher!)

This is my favorite film from the ski trip and one I want to force others to watch as soon as possible, especially women. Hundra is a full bore warrior woman of a tribe of women who only need men to mate with and make more women! She has to confront some VERY hard choices when things go wrong for her tribe and while this starts out just like Conan the Barbarian, it soon takes a very strange and incredible turn when Hundra goes to see a seer who tells her things she does not want to hear. Laurene Landon is awesome. Absolutely recommended.

Prisoner 984
Rating: D-

Unwatchable.

There were a couple more I’ll throw up onto another post.

Obligatory Star Wars post

Because it’s 2018 and I did go see the Last Jedi the first night it came out, just like I have all the movies since Empire Strikes Back, I’m going to write a few paragraphs about it for posterity.  This is mostly I can look back at this post when we are hit with even WORSE cascades of space-piss than this one (the Han Solo movie for example).  There’s a ton on the internet about the film and more and more daily.  Mostly, it’s that this “Star Wars” film has a ruthless misanthropist message, but not in a Sword of Doom type of way, but in an angry, resentful sort of way– the sort of film that would come out after Trump beat a clearly more qualified female candidate for president of the united states.

The space battles looked great, but lacked much of the emotional intensity that Return of the Jedi or a New Hope had.  I get that the ‘bombers’ in the first scene couldn’t ‘drop’ their bombs and that was all stupid.  It was forgivable except that it was a harbinger for things to be stupid later. That said, the film was not as “war-y” as Rogue One, and that was sad.  Rogue One the conflict felt a lot more intense and real, where in the Last Jedi, it felt like a Star Wars animated series episode at times.

The final surprise attack by hyperdriving into the big ship pretty much made it so the Death Star could not have existed for long since the rebels could have constantly sent (unmanned) ships warping inside it.  Of course, the Imperials could have done the same thing to any of the planets that opposed them as well.  There needed to be some technical reason for that to be able to happen– like the means by which the ship was TRACKED in hyperspace (which they made a big deal about but never closed the loop on?!) allowed that ship and that ship alone to teleport inside the other ship. Nothing like this was presented of course and to me that’s a plot hole.

While it may have been inevitable, they handled the legacy characters poorly.  Luke was not portrayed in a way that made sense at all based on the original films.  Leia was force sensitive right? But all she did was save herself?  So Yoda’s statement of “there is another” meant nothing (and yet they will be making an entire movie about the kessel run in contrast).  I don’t care about the new characters EXCEPT in relation to the old.

To echo red letter media: what happened between Return of the Jedi and Force Awakens was that our beloved characters were made out to be miserable the entire time between films, and not just because of the Star Wars Xmas special (which I sat through over the Xmas break unbelievably).

Of the new characters that are worth talking about, Adam Driver was quite good, and frankly his character is the only one I care about at all in these new films on his own.  His scene where he asks the Mary Sue to give up on all the cyclical destruction was the only poignant scene.  Finn was underutilized and pretty much comic relief, though what he ended up doing in the film was not funny at all.

So I’ve used the term a few times already, but certainly, Rei will go down in history as the poster child Mary Sue forever.  In fact, the term Mary Sue may become Rei (like, “rewrite that chapter man, that character is a REI”) or even “Daisy”.  I REALLY thought she would die in this film or get messed up on the level of Luke in the Empire Strikes Back.  The scene where she goes into that hole in the island and just saw herself infinitely in every direction was when the film hit rock bottom for me.  That was the spot for a Lynchian or Tarkovsky-esque coming of age TRIPOUT scene.  Instead, it was fucking meaningless pysse.

My own thoughts on the film is that it essentially projects a message of nihilism: people are ground to dust in a cyclical, unending conflict based on the misery of dualism which reflects in all ways that this is the beginning of unending films based on the same conflict grinding to dust infinite dollars spent by fans, and this fact was obviously felt excruciatingly by the writer.

Based on this film, there is no hope or happiness for people that are force sensitive AND trained in the ways of the force in Disney’s version of Star Wars.  Just the crushing knowledge that with the power comes unending misery, conflict and death. For a film about a pure warrior caste like 13 Assassins, great.  For an order of enlightened space monks?   uhhh?  The capitalistic focus and the misanthropic messages, with no overall controlling story arc for what’s going to happen, would drive any writer to a nihilistic state, and that certainly came out in the film.