Double Feature

Let me tell you a story.  A story of stories and how they make me feel, because that is what stories are meant to do.

They are meant to hammer at you until your cold, jaded, forgotten heart lurches in your chest. Until the pit of your stomach falls away like the temple floor beneath Indy’s feet. Until you feel drained of pent up emotion – angst, anguish, laughter, joy, fear, dread, doubt, wonder, thrill, anger, rage – we’re not allowed by society and cultural norms to express. Until we are cleansed of these things in the sacred cathartic act of empathy.

One day back in the fall, I went to the movies. I hadn’t seen anything in a while, and there were several seemingly good options out there, so I decided to make it an entire evening – taking advantage of $2 popcorn Tuesday at Regal – at the theater and ended up watching Gone Girl and John Wick back to back.

This was an excellent decision. Here’s why.

Gone Girl is fraught with tension and suspense.  I truly believe it to be an admirable successor to Hitchcock and would call it a modern Psycho. Yes, I think that highly of it.

I’ve quipped many times that Gone Girl is a film that justifies my decision to NEVER EVER GET MARRIED.

The film does an excellent job of storytelling. It is gripping and draws the viewer in. Even when you know what happens, you’re fully convinced Nick is a wife-killing d-bag. Then it smacks you half way through with what’s really going on in a “That Bitch” moment. And it really never lets you go…leading you around by the nose.GoneGirl

It jangles the nerves and gets the viewer all worked up until the very last frame and doesn’t let them go even as the credits roll.

Never.

Trapped, like Nick.

Well. Gone Girl did it’s job. I felt something. Boy did I feel something.

I left the theater twitching mentally, completely creeped out, and walking a knife edge between tension and being drained.

Another popcorn. Refill the drink. Bring on John Wick.

I’m just going to go ahead and get this out of the way and say John Wick has become probably my favorite Keanu Reeves flick.

It’s a guilty pleasure action flick that has a beautifully symmetrical, surprisingly meaningful story to hang the violent body count on.

It begins with a dark and gritty hook. Well considered and laid out. Rather calm and deliberate. Cut to black and alarm clock announces the day of his wife’s funeral. Cut back to the illness and the joys found and lost. Progress forward again to the aftermath of her death, leaving John one last gift. A dog to love, to love him, and to give him purpose so he can begin healing.JohnWick_Daisy

Enter Scum-Bag Russian Mobster Theon Greyjoy. We already know it’s not going to end well for him. It never ends well for Theon.

He steals John Wick’s car. Kills John Wick’s dog.

There are two hard and fast rules of life one should not ignore if one values their life.

You don’t mess with a man’s car, and you certainly do not kill a man’s dog.

And John Wick is not just any man.

John Wick is the Boogeyman, rather, he’s the bastard you send to Kill the Boogeyman. The mere mention of his name turns bowels watery.

Anyone think he’s just going to let this go?

Didn’t think so.

Yes, it becomes a gleeful revenge tale told in a rather classy, gentlemanly manner. The film elegantly creates this cultured underworld that operates by its own rules and codes of conduct. Of hitmen – and women – and hotels and clubs and operators and organizations that work to maintain a certain balance and decorum amongst the seedy underbelly of the city.

A civilized world in which the name John Wick carries utmost respect. Damn uncultured kids not showing proper respect. Had Theon just acted with this same code of civility instead of the pompous arrogance common among  entitled brats…but I digress.

JohnWick_ManTears

Mandatory fight in the rain. Because men don’t cry.

The film establishes “the way it is, and must be” and follows it step by step until the inevitable conclusion of this gentlemanly shoot ‘em up, culminating in the classic show down in the rain.

It follows the rules and gives the audience the catharsis it desires. It relies upon understood touchstones of storytelling and uses them to great effect. I mean, if you can’t have Nazis as your villain, Russian Mobsters is a close second in my book.

JohnWick_ThatGuy

That Guy!

Plus you’ve got this guy’s mustache again. You may recognize him from The Equalizer. His name is Tait Fletcher, and he’s my new favorite “that guy!”

It’s gloriously overblown and larger than life, and that’s what makes it the perfect chaser for Gone Girl.

 

JohnWick_Hammer

Where Gone Girl is subtle and stealthily knits your nerves in a net drawn close around your heart, John Wick takes a sledgehammer to the emotional blocks, breaking desires wide open, fulfilling the wishes in the darkest corners, and washes them all away in the rain.

JohnWick_EndDogAnd with puppy kisses.

For a violent revenge flick, John Wick extols the virtues of love more than anything else. Love is what raises us up, makes us better, heals us, and bereft of it, plunges our hearts into the darkest recesses of existence.

That is what good storytelling does for you. It works you up, draws you out, and winds you down.  This combo did that for me. An excellent choice, to do this double feature at the theater.

That was then, this is now. I just finished Gone Girl and John Wick for a second time, and my feelings on the subject remain unchanged.

Time For A Little Magic

Magic: the Gathering, that is.

Yes, I play. I’m not a long time player, nor am I any longer a serious competitor in the game, but I still enjoy it.

I first started playing back in 2012 when I picked up the habit at Max’s old comic shop. It gave me something to do that was fun and social and not related in any way, shape, or form to anything I’d done before. And it was pretty fun.

That’s what games are supposed to be… fun.

Now, there’s also a dark side to Magic. A bloodthirsty competitive side. That’s not so fun. People can take it way too seriously, and that’s what drove me away from the game.

Here’s where I had a lot of fun though – building decks. I always built my own decks, my own way, ignoring for the most part all the deck lists coming from the pro tours and IQs and other tournaments.  The one trick pony decks designed to instantly kill you opponent. Granted, I did build a few decks designed to put opponents down hard and brutally, but I always put my own spin on it.

WARNING: I’m about to go into some deck theory examples that few people will be interested in… please do skip to the FINAL THOUGHTS ON GAMING section at the end if you don’t really play MtG.

Fun Decks I’ve Built… Reckoner

Continuing the thought above.  For example, I built a Naya Reckoner deck around Boros Reckoner, Frontline Medic, and Legion Loyalist, with Blasphemous Act for the kill. Harsh, brutal, all my creatures live but you have naught before you but a field of ashes and all your life burned away. But because I wanted to, I put a few Sleepy Dragons in the deck to combo with Increasing Savagery. I just really like that combo because it throws people for a loop and off their game plan. A theme prevalent in my most favorite decks. They don’t know how to react to it. Some are smart enough to kill it straight off.  Others just stall their attacks and wait for their win con to work out. Then a dragon eats their face. Or they have enough creatures stalled on the field I can Blasphemous act for 1 red mana. Or a lot of other things could happen. It’s the meanest deck I’ve built as far as speed and competitiveness go, but it’s still fun for me.

That’s how I build though. I build decks that I can play any number of ways. I build decks I can play seriously or sillily, depending on my mood. I build flexibly so that I can still win even if I don’t get a combo off, or so that I can’t be shut down by one countered move. A lot of decks are too rigid, in my opinion, focused on that one perfect moment where you’ve got everything in place, and blow their load.

That’s no fun to me, I enjoy actually playing the game. Not pulling the same trick over and over and over and over and over until I can do it in my sleep. Boring.

I also enjoy the mental challenge of deck building.  I love making Pauper decks. Especially Pauper Burn.

Pauper Burn

A Pauper deck, as the name would indicate, is made up of cheap cards. Magic can be pricey with popular winning cards going for $30-100+ in Standard format, and in the thousands for rarer cards for Legacy. I like taking a $5 deck and instilling a little hubris in the occasional braggart who thinks they’re the deuce because their deck is expensive. I also like just building a $5 deck for the challenge to see if I CAN beat those other decks with it.

You can build one easily enough using cards ranked as Common or Uncommon…sometimes throwing in a Junk Rare if it’s cheap enough (though strictly speaking Pauper decks can only consist of Commons and Uncommons…the lowest ranked cards).

Again, it comes down to fun. You can invest lots of money in it, or a little, as long as you decide to have fun with it, that’s what matters. Challenge yourself as much as you challenge others.

Then there are decks I build just because they are patently absurd. I have a penchant for taking cards viewed as useless, the quirky cards, the ones from the Isle of Misfit Toys, and making them shine.

Slumbering Dragon

The Sleepy Dragon combo I mentioned above is one such instance. The card is a 1 drop dragon that just sits there. It’s a 3/3 flier, but can’t attack or block until certain conditions are met.  Those conditions are that it has to have 5 +1/+1 counters on it, with a condition that says I can put one such counter on the dragon for each creature that attacks me. Normally it just sits there. No one’s going to attack and let me pump it up…the dragon becomes an 8/8 beast of a creature when awake, and grows stronger with every attack launched against me.  Quite vicious. I put it out turn one and stare people down with it. Most players don’t make serious overtures at winning until about turn 4 or 5 anyway, so logically, the card is kinda useless because other players will have built their win condition up while my dragon just sits there, right?  Wrong.  Turn 4 Increasing Savagery puts the necessary 5 counters on it and by this point I’ve pulled a few other shenanigans so you’re taking upwards of 16 in the face from flying double strike added to the little bit I’ve whittled you down early on. Boom. Win. Didn’t see it coming.  (for those unaware who are still reading at this point… you only get 20 life points in Magic…this dragon can eat most of them in one gulp when played correctly)

The card is valued at around 50 cents-$1 I believe…at least it was when I played more.

Goblin Burn

There’s another deck I’ve built around a terrible card called Burn at the Stake…takes 5 mana to play, plus you have to tap creatures to inflict the damage – three times the number of tapped creatures, to be precise. That’s a pretty hefty cost considering most players only have 3-4 creatures on the field to tap at one time, and they’re usually needed for defense.  But, I do things differently. I put it in a fun little goblin deck that multiplies goblin tokens faster than Tribbles, thanks to another overlooked card, Krenko, Mob Boss. Most people only see it as useful for over-running your opponent with little goblins, and play accordingly, somehow preventing them from attacking, etc.  They never see the Burn at the Stake coming.

Lost in the Woods

Likewise, I enjoy making people become Lost in the Woods. Another clunky mechanic most people wouldn’t ever prepare for because to make it work, your deck has to be almost entirely made up of land. A typical MtG deck consists of 60 cards divided into 20 land (mana base) and 40 spell (does stuff) cards, or some ratio close to that. Lost in the Woods, if I recall correctly, has 36 Forests (land) and 24 spells. Four copies of Lost in the Woods, and 20 for support and win cons.

The way this works, Lost in the Woods is an enchantment that affects the field of play that states whenever an opponent’s creature attacks me, I may reveal the top card from my deck, and if that card is a Forest, the creature becomes Lost in the Woods and does no damage to me, then I put the revealed card on the bottom of my deck. That’s why there are so many land cards in the deck, to increase the odds of becoming Lost. With 2 or 3 copies in play, it’s almost impossible for any attacking creature to do damage to me.

I throw out Garruk to generate blockers and absorb any other damage, and some other support and life gain and I’m pretty invincible.  And it frustrates the heck out of most opponents.  Plus I always throw in a few surprises for them to encounter while they’re Lost in the Woods. You never know what you’ll stumble on.

Goats

Probably my silliest deck, Goats doesn’t conform to many standard conventions. It follows the rules, there are only 4 copies of each card, but it’s not a 60 card deck – it fluctuates between 68 and 74 depending – and it’s not sleeved. It’s entirely for casual play and is handily beaten 7 out of 10 times.

But those other 3 times have lead to some epic matches. The core of the deck is Trading Post, a 4 drop junk artifact card that lets you do four things:

1, Tap, Discard a card: You gain 4 life.
1, Tap, Pay 1 life: Put a 0/1 white Goat creature token onto the battlefield.
1, Tap, Sacrifice a creature: Return target artifact card from your graveyard to your hand.
1, Tap, Sacrifice an artifact: Draw a card.

Pair that with some heavy life gain, token multiplication, stat boosting, and a monument that makes those goats 6/7 flying, first strike, protected and all sorts of other nonsense…plus some other artifacts that let me recycle my deck…

I had a guy playing a Counter/Burn deck mill me out 3 times, hit me with every burn spell he had, and I still won with a 67/67 Serra Avatar…because every time he drew me out, I fished the artifact I needed out of the graveyard with the 3rd ability, sacing a multiplied goat from the 2nd ability, recycled the deck, etc, etc, etc.

The match lasted well over an hour and it’s still one of my favorite memories playing.  Ridiculous, but fun.

Legacy Goblins

I think this is my favorite deck. It’s actually a competitive deck in the Legacy format, though it’s not structured like any other I know of.

Legacy is famous for the super expensive cards considered too powerful for regular game play and for decklists that are designed to do one thing supremely well… Turn 1 or Turn 2 win.

I don’t play that way. I’ve only ever played this deck once competitively and when I did it confused the hell out of people. So much so, they walked away with a >~<; look on their faces. People just could not figure out what I was playing because I drew upon 4 different Red Deck Wins strategies to build my Goblins.

One game I won with Goblin Charbelcher, so my opponent sideboarded (adjusted) cards in his deck to counter it. The next, I burned him to death with Storm, which he had no counter for because he adjusted his deck to play Charbelcher.  Third game (for fun) I just kept hitting him with Goblins, because he wasn’t prepared for significant defense and I drew a lot of Goblins.

Yeah, he was entirely furious because I didn’t play traditionally constructed strategies.

But. That’s how I play.

Final Thoughts on Gaming

Typically straight up Burn…I hate Control style play.  I play the cards in front of me and don’t worry too heavily what my opponent may be doing.  I hate memorizing what EVERY card played does, though I pick up enough as I play to sometimes pick apart the threads of their strategy, but I don’t really worry about it. I never play well when I’m worried about countering moves all the time.

I don’t play Magic very much anymore. Usually I’ll play with Max.  Or with my friend Matt on dinner break at work. He’s an old school player, most of his stuff is illegal in competitive play now, but we play for fun. I don’t have a Standard deck anymore either, so it works out.

I hadn’t played in almost a year until recently when I picked it up again. I like playing it. Just got burned out on it.

That’s the thing about gaming…you can take it too far…take it too seriously…and lose sight of the fun.

I’m a competitive person, but I’ve learned winning is fun, but not everything.  It’s also fun to do silly things just to have done them. Like with my Goats. Ridiculousness.

I like it when a game can let you play with serious, focused intent. Allows the glory in your victory as you crush all your foes with wit and power. That’s fun. And then lets you hardly even pay attention to what you’re doing, chat, do cool things, make interesting plays, do the unexpected. That’s fun too.

You’ve reached a happy medium when you can play a game as seriously or as sillily as you like and feel equally as good about winning as not winning. When you can find like minded players to do this with.

I want to play more. Anyone up for a friendly game?

The Good, the Bad, and the Screwy

New to anime? Want a fresh take? Follow along as we explore the best and worst and most out there Japan has to offer.

New to anime? Want a fresh take? Follow along as we explore the best and worst and most out there Japan has to offer.

We have a new show here at Halfacre Pond.  It involves anime – a topic near and dear to my heart – and broadening my friend Max’s horizons in that regard.

We call it The Good, the Bad, & the Screwy.

If you’ve read some of my posts, you’ll know I’m somewhat of an aficionado on anime, and derive a lot of entertainment from it.

Not all of the entertainment is because it’s good.  Some of it is just so mockingly bad.  I like all flavors of anime because I appreciate breadth and variety of the offerings.  From the intense, gut wrenching action to the light hearted fun and joy to the absurd gags that tickle my funny bone, I like it.

Max is a Toonami kid.  He grew up watching the dubbed versions of the classics like DBZ, Sailor Moon, Gundam, Cowboy Bebop, Trigun, Tenchi, Macross, etc, etc…but that was about it. He likes it, but never really got into it and had a few distasteful encounters that left him soured on it for a while.

Then peer pressure kicked in when I and a few other friends got him to watch Attack on Titan and he loved it.  The door opened a little and now we’ve come upon a grand experiment.

Up first.

Up first.

Max has agreed to watch the first 4 episodes of any 4 anime series I give him each month and give his reactions.

My challenge is to cultivate this list each month, and expose Max to many varieties of anime and gauge his reactions.  I’ve decided the best way to do this is to put a good anime, a bad anime, and some sort of screwball goofy comedy anime on this list…bonus, each month there will be a themed show on the list!

Here’s the kicker… Max won’t know what show is which.  Each month from now on he’ll go in blind and figure it out the hard way.

We’ll try to release a new episode each Friday.  All the series will be chosen from what’s easily available for streaming online.  Watch along with Max as we venture down this rabbit hole.

Enjoy this brief introduction and tune in next week as Max tackles his first challenge :)

Winter Anime Forecast 2015

To be frank, the winter lineup has left me cold. I have little to no interest in any of the new titles being released, the only highlights coming in sequels to some fantastic series.

Up first: Durarara!! X2

I admit, when I stumbled on the existence of this in the lineup, I got a little giddy. Definitely fanboyed out a bit.  Baccano! and Durarara!! are some of my absolute favorite series due to their off the wall, extraordinary nature and the bat sh!t insane comedy they excel at. I was ecstatic to see the continuation of Durarara!!  

Celty Sturlson - Kubinashi Rider

Celty Sturlson – Kubinashi Rider

The first episode doesn’t miss a beat. It maintains the sharp, fast paced, disjointed storytelling style that I love so much and it starts right off with my favorite character, Celty Sturlson – the Kubinashi Rider.  That’s right people who didn’t watch the first series, the headless horseman is actually a woman and she’s been living in Japan working as a motorcycle courier while looking for her stolen head.

The motorcycle is a horse.

The motorcycle is a horse.

Her flight through Ikebukuro connects us back to the denizens of this strange city nicely, while allowing the story to jump back and forth through events taking place in the intervening time between the last series and this one.

Next up: Aldenoah.Zero2

I wrote about the first series back in my Summer Anime Offerings and it did turn out favorably.  It quickly lost it’s alt history feeling and moved in to an exceptionally well told story. I enjoyed every moment of it. The twists and turns and the struggle. Until the ending.  It was one of those moments all too common in anime. The moment of “WHAT THE F WAS THAT!?!?” that typically never get a follow through to find out what happened. Well this one did. The follow up turned a really depressing ending [HIGHLIGHT FOR SPOILER] where you’re left believing the two main characters died, failed, and everything is lost around into a nice hook for A.Z2.

Inaho in action.

Inaho in action.

Nothing is clean cut in this show and everyone has dirt and blood on their hands. To describe it as dark would barely suffice. These characters are broken mentally, physically, and morally in their journey toward their goals. The art remains gorgeous and the conflict between Inaho and Slaine is probably one of the best ever written. You never know what’s going to happen next between them. Taught with dramatic tension and a world at war, A.Z2 looks to deliver quite a few more gut punches before all is said and done.

Continuing Series: Log Horizon 2 & Cross Ange

The other two series I’ll be keeping up with over the winter are Log Horizon 2 and Cross Ange. Not really much to say about them except check them out if you aren’t watching.

Log Horizon 2 (Electric Boogaloo) is the second installment of a “trapped in a video game world” series which debuted in 2013. Players wake up one day trapped in the world of Elder Tale, a WoW-like MMORPG, and must figure out how their new home works. It follows the exploits of Shiroe, a top class strategist in the game with a someone nefarious reputation as “The Villain in Glasses” due to his cold, calculating, ruthless nature when it comes to game play, and the friends he gathers along the way.

Cross Ange is kind of your typical girls with mechs fighting anime. Highly ecchi, good conflict, and it turns out to be another spin on a post-apocalyptic world. There are also dragons.

That’s it.

I only have four anime on the schedule right now.  That’s appallingly short.

To supplement this shortfall of material though, I’m going to start a new project with my friend Max in which I teach him the ways of anime. He’s agreed to watch the first four episodes of four series I assign, and we’ll see how he likes them. We’ll watch what I consider a good anime, a bad anime, a screwball anime, and the fourth will be themed for the month.

Stay tuned for the debut of The Good, the Bad, and the Screwy right here on Halfacre Pond.

The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner – directed by Wes Ball and starring Dylan O’Brien – is an adaptation of James Dashner’s novel of the same name.

I got a freebie offer from Redbox, so I thought I’d check this one out. It seemed to get overshadowed by some of the other young adult literature adaptations hitting the screen last year, and I didn’t hear much good or bad about it. But hey, can’t be worse than Hunger Games, right?

For what it is, it’s a decent film. It’s rather a standard survivor teen series which is far more literal than its ilk in that youngsters are actually thrown into a giant puzzle to be solved ‘for the greater good’ of humanity – no metaphor needed.

The Glade

The Glade

It’s got some good things going for it. The pacing is steady, the action and suspense are tight, and the characters are remarkably well dimensioned and developed. Though “greeny” Thomas, played by Dylan, may be the catalyst for all the changes in the film, I didn’t feel compelled by his character. Rather, I thought Chuck (Blake Cooper) and Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster, aka Peter Pan from Once Upon a Time and Jojen Reed from Game of Thrones) stole the show with their performances.

Banishment

Banishment

It feels most strongly influenced by The Lord of the Flies and the Forest Temple from Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

For some reason, boys stranded in the middle of nowhere with no society to fall back upon will always make pointy sticks and end up re-enacting The Lord of the Flies. At least that’s what the movies tell me.

That’s fairly obvious.

Boy, I could use a Hookshot.

What I like though was the incorporation of the Forest Temple.

That’s how the Maze felt to me, at least.  Like running through one of the many puzzle dungeons from Legend of Zelda. Chuck even at one point tells Thomas it’s dangerous to go in alone. No lie, the maze walls are covered in ivy and he climbs up them to escape giant Skullutlas (they call them Grievers).

Forest Temple.  With HD graphics.

KILL IT WITH FIRE!

KILL IT! KILL IT WITH FIRE!!

MazeRunner_DungeonKey

Dungeon Key & Compass

After Thomas defeats the Giant Skulltula, he retrieves the dungeon key and dungeon map, which will lead them all to the boss room.

MazeRunner_MazeMap

We’ve visited all the rooms! Where’s the f-ing boss room!

Where they discover there are still more dungeons to conquer before they really get out.

 

All in all, it’s a decent movie. Could be better, but it’s not as bad as a lot of the YA Lit adaptations plaguing the silver screen these days.

This one has a good balance of mystery, heart, and adventure to it. I’d watch it again and I’d watch the sequel.

Next up, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials later this year. Fire Temple?

Okay, if the one after that is the Water Temple…might not watch it. Damn Water Temple…

Damn Water Temple

Damn Water Temple

Live Action G.I.T.S. ScarJo

Ghost In The Shell: GITS ScarJo

“Animated texts can represent to viewers not some stylized fantasy world, but reveal something about the world of actuality. The animated worlds depicted are, actually, part and parcel of our world”- Paul Ward (Animated Interactions: Animation Aesthetics and the World of the ‘Interactive’ , 2006

Too many times movies, comics, manga, and animation become part of our lives as memories we don’t want disrupted. Sacred. Immutable. However, the way Motoko Kusanagi was previously depicted is now being changed because the role will be played by Scarlett Johansson.  I understand the early uproar about it and the complaint, “Oh no! An American actress playing a Japanese character. Impossible!” but it happens in most adaptations or remakes. This complaint is the same as someone having a problem with Hugh Jackman, an Australian, playing the Wolverine, a Canadian.

ghost-in-the-shell-21

Ghost in the Shell we have many reflective moments of ‘stillness’ that draw attention to the Major’s preoccupation with self, the body and what it means to be human or not, in essence her ‘life’, soul or ‘ghost’. Her issues with who she is are made apparent with sequences where the Major is inanimate, and some of these sequences last for several frames drawing attention to her psychological state of mind. Ghost in the Shell’s preoccupation with identity and gender identity issues, as well as the use of reflective surfaces and images to depict fragmentary identity, is perhaps suggestive of the cross over of narrative theme and stylistics between cinema globally, but perhaps more importantly also the cross over of theme and narrative between anime and live-action which is arguably linked to generic traits- Caroline Ruddell – Breaking Boundaries: The Representation of Split Identity in Anime.

Take a look at the picture. Does she strike you as Japanese? The heart of the character really means anyone can play the role. She is manufactured, made to order just like a Realdoll™.  Of course when the news broke of the casting, the internet started demanding a recast. Yet, I believe Scarlett will do an awesome job, just look at her previous films. More than that, she brings a recognizable name and established fan base to the movie.

Next, we come to the westernization of many anime characters, specifically women. How many large busted, tiny waisted Asians are out there? How many blondes? While talking to a friend about this, he mentioned how in anime the popular girl normally looks American while the “friend” looks more traditionally Japanese.

Despite all the complaints about the casting we know how it will turn out – the people that took to the internet to vent their frustrations will still be the first in line. Meanwhile, I will continue to say that Scarlett will do a good job in the role.

–Max

The Equalizer

The day before New Year’s Eve, I rented two movies from Redbox. Both were movies I originally wanted to see in theaters, but hesitated because of mixed or poor reviews.

One of the two was The November Man, starring Pierce Brosnan and directed by Roger Donaldson. I wanted to like it, but did not. The story is a jumbled mess, lacking coherence and thrust, and Brosnan is left to carry the movie mostly by himself. I’ve already devoted more words than I should to the film – don’t waste your time.

The balance to this, if you will, came from The Equalizerstarring Denzel Washington and directed by Antoine Fuqua. After the first of my two rentals disappointed me, I was not very hopeful about this one. The trailers looked very good and Denzel is usually a good bet, but the only thing I heard about the film was that it was boring and it made very few waves upon its release.

I can see why it was received this way, and while I am glad I did not see The Equalizer in theaters, I unreservedly recommend watching this film.

Reality.

Reality. Ritualistic tea time.

Yes, it is beautifully shot and there is much for the eye to feast upon, but it is a film that necessitates pause.  It is a film that invites contemplation.  It is a film which tells you to be mindful within the first five minutes through the illustration of a thoughtful life that is Robert McCall. He seeks peace and calm through the power of ritual.

This humble, yet exemplary man of character demonstrates greatness in small capacities that eventually build him into a mountain best summed up by this: “Progress, not perfection.” A profound and thoughtful mantra espoused by Robert. Pause for thought, not what was advertised.

Expectation. Non stop action.

Expectation. Non stop action.

The film was advertised as a straight up action flick with Denzel kicking much ass. Now, there is plenty of action, and it is epic, but The Equalizer is far from your standard action flick. Rather the action comes as an aside to Robert’s own character development. His internal struggle with his mysterious past. His desire to help those who need it.  And the friction created as he goes against a Russian fixer by the name of Teddy, played to perfection by Marton Csokas.

Every lead role needs a foil, a nemesis, and the stronger the performance of the lead, the more substantial the foil needs to be. Csokas delivers hands down. The performance is spot on and again, summed up early on with Teddy’s introduction to the local cadre of dirty cops.

"I am all that matters."

“I am all that matters.”

It is steeped in language and storytelling and character and thought, using many classic narrative structures and devices.  For example, one device used comes in the form of the three books Robert reads in the diner. We begin with the Old Man and the Sea, which he illuminates the meaning of in the narrative. Second, Don Quixote – which is never named, only alluded to when he describes it as being “about a man who wants to be a Knight in Shining Armor in a time when there are no more knights.” At the conclusion, once he has come to terms with who he is and wants to be, we see simply that he is reading Invisible Man.

Equalizer

Robert McCall is a gentle man, a humble man, and as inexorable as a force of nature. He won’t solve your problems. He helps others to help themselves. He champions the betterment of one’s self and one’s position in the world, only stepping in when the odds are unfairly stacked against those he helps. Balancing the scales.

The Equalizer.

An excellent film that espouses more than anything what character and integrity are about.

And that home improvement stores are potential death traps…

Also, this guy’s mustache makes the movie.

Equalizer_Mustache

“Da.”

So if you feel the world is against you.  Look for the gentleman with the quiet voice sitting in the corner booth reading a book.

Equalizer_Help

How To Know A Character You Love Will Die

Step 1. Let George R.R. Martin anywhere near them.

Need I elaborate?

Honorably mention goes to Joss Whedon with his signature move – “the Heartbreaker.”

 CharacterDeaths_Wash CharacterDeaths_Coulson

 Step 2. Have them point a gun at a double agent and NOT shoot them.

While you didn’t even have enough time to even warm to Agent Koenig on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., you knew he was done for the moment he pulled a gun on Ward and didn’t take that traitorous bastard out. More’s the pity

Whenever a character knows too much, stumbles upon some secret that must not be known, or has an epiphany of epic proportions… he must be silenced. Characters cannot know critical plot points only viewers are privy to. The Fourth Wall must be maintained!

Step 3. Have them reveal they know a hero’s secret identity, reconcile with that character and mend their broken relationship.

This one actually caught me by surprise. Good job Arrow. You created an incredible moment of tension, beautiful story symmetry, and sheer drama when [SPOILERS in white text] Slade killed Moira Queen. Perhaps one of the most meaningful, wrenching deaths on the small screen.

CharacterDeaths_MoiraQueen

Be wary any time things seem to be going too well for a character or two characters experience a moment of resolution. After resolution is achieved, the character is expendable. Expendable characters tend to be given new meaning, greater purpose, and less screen time. One way or another.

 

Pardon the late posting of this…was originally scheduled to go up back in May.

NGE – Live?

Neon Genesis Evangelion Live Action Movie To Be Directed By Michael Bay…..Finally

When I see such articles appear in my Facebook feed, like everyone else I have to read it immediately.  So far the general consensus is; “Oh my God no…Noooooooo…Whhhyyyyyyyy”.

On the contrary who would be better than Michael Bay to direct Evangelion?

I say no one.

I know everyone will quote some facts or errors about some scenes in one or more of his movies or just explosions, blah blah blah. The fact remains that you will still go see it in theaters and enjoy it, just like the rest of his films – which you love to bitch and moan about.  I’ve known plenty of people who say how much they hate his films and tell me they will never go see them, and yet they are first in line for tickets on opening night.  Just like TMNT. You will go see it and complain afterwards, and then buy the collector’s edition merchandise. [Editor’s Note: No, I won’t. Unless the entirety of the Internet rises with one voice proclaiming it the best movie ever.]

When Hideaki Anno ended NGE originally, he received death threats because he left the series confusing.  I believe this would be motivation enough to stay true to the story.

In the end Michael Bay will do what he does best: fighting robots, half-naked Megan Fox, with massive explosions everywhere – and it will be awesome.  He has the experience working with giant robots from the Transformers series, so he knows how to do the EVAs, and for the most part would stay true to the series, give or take.

Just imagine the EVAs versus Angels.

The battles over Tokyo 3.

In Imax 3D.Evas and pilots

Side Note: When talking to James about this the other night, I proposed that same question: Who better to direct?  Around 3 in the morning I get a response of “Del Toro”, to which I responded “he would be guest director”.

[Editor’s Note: And I say it’d be a good team up to have Bay direct, and Del Toro design the Angels.]

[More Editor’s Note: Also, people, this project is at best speculative hype from the media related to a question he was asked on the Transformers/TMNT press junket in Asia and the coy response Bay gave.]