Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Ninja Kat Backtrack - Velcro: The Comic - Chapter 2

In this week's Ninja Kat Backtrack, the Ninja Kat encounters an unlikely group of allies. Meet the hamsters!


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Ninja Kat Backtrack - Velcro: The Comic - Chapter 1

This week we're going all the way back to the beginning with the first chapter of the official comic book adaptation of Velcro: The Ninja Kat. Check it out!


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Ninja Kat Backtrack - A Look Inside Velcro: The Ninja Kat

Hey hey, it's Tuesday, so that means we're going to dig back with our Ninja Kat Backtrack! First up, this week we're taking a look inside the pages of the first book in The Ninja Kat series, Velcro: The Ninja Kat. Just click on the image below to read the first two chapters. Enjoy!


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie

So I've been following the Angry Video Game Nerd series and James Rolfe's videos on Cinemassacre for a number of years now, and have kept up with the production of this movie for the past several years as well. And, while there's still a number of problems here that don't all quite work, overall, I can't help but appreciate what they were able to accomplish with this movie.

The Nerd's most requested game review has been the notoriously bad E.T. for the Atari 2600. And, seeing as the story behind that game already provided quite the groundwork for an extensive story to be explored as well, what with the whole infamous production behind the game and subsequent supposed burial of all remaining cartridges in a landfill, they decided to base the movie around that, as the Nerd sets out to disprove the myth behind the burial in his quest to avoid having to review E.T.

James has mentioned in some of his past videos how he'd like to be the kind of filmmaker who makes movies that have a home-movie feel to them. And while this movie certainly has a much bigger budget than your typical home-movie (this was entirely fan-funded), in that regard I would consider this a success in terms of its production. However, in terms of its writing, I can't help but feel that the "home-movie" style only holds this thing back and keeps it from quite feeling like the legitimate movie they set out to make.

Oftentimes throughout, the movie will randomly break the fourth wall or add in spoof humor in a similar vain as something like Airplane or The Naked Gun. But the thing is, it's not nearly consistent enough in this regard throughout so that it feels natural, and as a result, such moments had a tendency to remove me from the movie whenever they would randomly sprout up. The most jarring example would be after the Nerd says a really bad one liner, which he then clarifies that he only said "for the trailer".

And then a number of key characters have some really shoddy writing behind them, such as our two main villains, who literally undergo a complete personality swap out of nowhere about halfway into the movie. And basically all of the female characters feel like they're written by a bunch of horny teenagers, which became really off putting really quickly.

Most of the acting was serviceable enough for what they were going for, but, again, I felt like the women weren't given their proper respect in terms of their direction. A key example would be the scene in which the character Mandi surrenders to the enemy, then immediately flicks them off in an over-the-top fashion, which felt forced to the point that it actually removed me from the film. And I can't really blame such moments on the actors, since they did seem decent enough throughout whenever they weren't directed to over-do their scenes, so I kinda gotta chalk that one up to questionable direction to go along with their questionable writing.

And I suppose I could go on with other issues I took with the movie, such as what I felt was a missed opportunity to be Kyle Justin's cameo during a scene when the Nerd busts out an old record player (the only reason I can see why they'd pass it up is that it was perhaps too obvious?), but honestly, when it comes down to it, I actually did like and appreciate this movie for the most part, so let's shift gears a bit and start discussing what this thing did right.

For one thing, the way this movie incorporated elements from the actual E.T. game was actually really neat, and only continued to prove more and more clever as the movie progressed. And for fans of the AVGN series, this movie has tons of references to some of James' other videos and more prolific game and movie reviews, with a Ninja Turtles III reference in particular standing out as a personal highlight for me.

Also, the movie also uses a lot of miniatures throughout for some of their bigger effects, which was a pretty commendable and charming effect I felt, and helped to give it that good kind of home-movie vibe that they were going for. And in addition to all of the Nerd references, it's also loaded with cameos from other internet stars and such who have been associated with the Nerd in the past (including, fresh off his awesome Guardians of the Galaxy cameo, another awesome appearance from Lloyd Kaufman!), which was nice to see.

Basically, this was a movie that was made with the help of the fans, for the fans. And overall, while I would consider the finished product to be a bit of a mixed bag, despite its major flaws, I have a hard time hating on it. It's just pretty cool to see all of their hard work on this project come together like this, especially after having followed along on it and keeping up to date with their progress over the years.

So if you're a fan of the series, then you should definitely check this out (which is now available on Vimeo On-Demand). Because if nothing else, there's a world of passion behind this movie that you can just feel throughout, and that passion bleeds through onto the screen all the way to the very end, when we're finally treated to that E.T. review that fans have been clamoring for for so long (and what a hell of a journey it was getting there!).

Thursday, September 4, 2014

In which Naruto remembers my birthday...

So yes, today's my birthday. But even so, I started it out normally enough, catching up on the internet and that sorta thing. And this week's new Naruto chapter also just so happened to be delayed until today, in which I was greeted by a most surprising birthday wish from the Fourth Hokage himself:

Thanks, Minato!

Heh, yeah, so I got a bit of a kick out of the timing of this release, and though it was an otherwise mediocre chapter, one panel in particular does happen to kinda stand out as a nice summary on my feelings as to the direction this once great manga has sadly taken.

Sakura understands.

But anyways, not only was the manga seemingly out to amuse me on this day, but the latest episode of Naruto Shippuden also managed to wow me. I've mentioned in previous Naruto posts how the anime has a tendency to make "special" episodes that really expand on the source material in incredible ways, with movie-quality animation to really enhance things, and today's episode just happened to be one of those instances.

We were treated to the fight between two of my favorite characters, Kakashi and Obito, which ultimately lead to Obito becoming the Juubi Jinchuuriki at the end. But where there wasn't much to speak of concerning their scuffle in the manga, the anime went all out, giving us a full out spectacle with amazingly fluid animation and the kind of moments of inspired creativity that keeps me invested in this series to this day. Obito using Kakashi's hand to aid his own jutsu while the two were locked up stands as an especially awesome moment in this episode that was filled with them.

I even didn't mind the interweaving of their childhood fight with the current fight, as it added an extra emotional weight to the ongoings and told a beautifully tragic story, especially near the end when the current Obito pulls the past Obito away from interlocking fingers in a show of respect after his defeat at the hands of Kakashi.

This episode was just a real treat, and just another example of how the anime really can at times improve on the manga when they actually set out to put a little effort into it. And considering just how terrible the manga will only continue to go from here, here's hoping that the anime can continue to somehow find a way to make such moments bearable. But for now, I did get a kick how, just as Obito has become Jinchuuriki, the anime is going right back to filler again with the introduction of Mecha Naruto!

Naruto beam!

Anyways though, needless to say, this was a pleasant little surprise from Naruto this week, after a good long while of this series really doing a whole lotta nothing for me. Good timing on their part!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

My ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Yesterday, my friend Chris Sanders challenged me to take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Here are the results:

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy

Recently, I've noticed a trend regarding my reactions to certain Disney movies as of late. Initially, I tend to rank them a little lower, perhaps allowing for their flaws to dictate my opinion on them a bit more than is fair. But then as they begin to really settle in, I find myself getting the urge to revisit them. And upon that revisit, I find that all of the emotional moments in those movies really start to hit home big time, in ways they didn't even touch on in that initial viewing. And it's then that these movies begin their gradual ascent up the rankings, until, before I know it, I've got another new favorite movie on my hands. This has happened with Tangled, it happened again with Frozen, and now it's currently happening with Guardians of the Galaxy as well.

The first time I saw this movie, I really did think it ranked somewhere more in the middle in comparison to the other Marvel flicks to date. But then I saw it again, and I was honestly left scratching my head as to where to place it at all. Certainly somewhere near the top, but I wasn't entirely sure. Because, while tonally this is certainly a Marvel movie, at the same time, it's very much its own beast, and is the most removed from the Marvel Cinematic Universe in many regards.

For one thing, I really can't even call Guardians a superhero movie at all. Quite frankly, it's a full blown space opera through and through, and honestly has more in common with the Star Wars franchise (fitting, seeing as Disney also owns that as well now) than it does with any other superhero movie I've seen. And unless we're willing to start referring to Jedi as superheroes, then I'm not willing to consider Guardians of the Galaxy to be a superhero movie.

But even more than that, genre issues aside, I think the one big, major aspect that sets this movie apart from the other Marvel movies is that one aspect that it also just so happens to share in common with its Disney side of things, and that one big aspect is the sheer emotional impact this movie leaves. Good as all the other Marvel movies may be, the one big thing they all lack is any form of stirring emotion. Sure, they make you laugh and they make you feel good, but more than that, Guardians of the Galaxy makes you really feel. This is a movie that'll hit you in the gut and come after your tears in many ways.

And this is actually probably the most shocking thing about Guardians of the Galaxy. Because I went into this fully expecting just a really fun, if perhaps emotionally shallow movie, as has typically been the case from Marvel to date. Hell, the trailers, amazing as they were (seriously, the trailers to this movie are among the best movie trailers I've ever seen. Simply brilliant stuff!), essentially sold this movie as such. But man, this movie will surprise you from the very first scene!

I keep talking about the emotional impact of this movie, but let's not also forget that aforementioned fun I've referred to. Because really, this movie is an absolute blast throughout. The writing is a bit more risque than we're typically used to, but it truly works, and all of the actors are great here, and really sell the hell out of this material.

Chris Pratt is believable in the lead role as Star-Lord, and does a tremendous job balancing his performance as a man who you can still take seriously despite the fact that he's a total goofball. And though Zoe Saldana is mostly the straight man of the group, even she has a number of really good comedic moments scattered about.

But then on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, Lee Pace just goes over the top serious as the villain Ronan in a way that really just works as a nice contrast to all the bright fun happening around him. And a second viewing really helped my appreciation of his performance a lot, to where I think he may well be the most underrated thing going on, given the sheer amount of comments I've heard about how weak a villain this movie has. But give this one another look and see if Ronan doesn't stand out as actually one of the better and more memorable villains in these Marvel movies yet. (Certainly not Loki good, but will anything reach that level?)

And then you've got the surprises. Dave Bautista I honestly didn't expect much from at all, but man is he a hoot here! His character is so cleverly written, and his delivery and comedic timing are spot on, making him one of the most consistently hilarious characters in the whole thing. And Bradley Cooper's Rocket is obviously the fan favorite, and for good reason, because his voice work is quite frankly phenomenal. Seriously, if I didn't know that was Bradley Cooper, I would never have guessed it was him, because the guy is simply unrecognizable, completely disappearing into his role.

But in my opinion, the standout performance here belongs to none other than Vin Diesel as Groot, in what I believe to not only be Diesel's greatest performance in his career to date, but also the single most impressive acting performance I've seen in any movie this year so far. He has one line that he repeats throughout the movie. And yet even so, he is able to convey so much with only that one line. It's simply remarkable, and a true achievement for him as an actor.

So this movie was chock full of a ton of great performances, but in the end, the real star of this movie was the music. And in fact, that's another thing that's been a weak spot for Marvel movies, is that they all really lack any form of memorable tune. We all know the classic Superman and Batman themes, and even the Spider-Man theme tends to sticks with you after the movie. But can anyone really recall any sort of memorable theme from Iron Man? Captain America? Hell, The Avengers? Not really. I mean, the music in those movies is serviceable, and it works well enough while you're actually watching the thing. But once the movie's over? Yeah, let's just say that no one's humming the theme from Thor, whatever it may be.

And sure, in this movie, the actual score itself sorta suffers a similar fate. However, it's made up for in the way of an especially awesome soundtrack. The same classic music that did such a good job in selling this thing in the trailers plays a big role all throughout, as Star-Lord keeps his Awesome Mix Vol. 1 tape with him and cues it up at the most pristine of times.

The music selection and the way that it's incorporated is just brilliant, and really makes this movie resonate all the more. And I think that it's because the music is utilized in such a way that it actually plays a role in the movie itself, rather than merely accompanying it as would traditionally be the case, is what sets it apart here. I'm always a fan of when movies do this, such as how the score from Inception actively impacted the events of that movie, not to mention how music comes into play in musicals such as Tangled and Frozen mentioned above. And here, every track that we hear, the characters on screen hear as well, which then makes us able to connect with them that much more.

The soundtrack is so good, in fact, that it was a rare instance where I actually went out and bought the Awesome Mix Vol. 1 itself. And while I was driving down the road listening to it, the scenes that these songs accompany in the movie started playing out in my head. And once we got to a song that happened to accompany a particularly emotional scene, I found that just listening to the song was stirring that same emotion without me even watching the movie. And I know I've been using this word a lot here, but it was at about that point when it really hit me in just how brilliant the decision to incorporate these songs in the way that it does actually was, in a way that'll stay with you well after the movie's ended.

After I first saw the movie, I was left thinking it was good, and it was fun, but it really didn't do much to make it stand out among the pack. But, as you can well see by now, after giving this movie some time to really sink in, boy was I wrong in that initial assessment. Guardians of the Galaxy is an incredible movie. It may well be the best of the Marvel movies to date, and yet, after giving it quite a bit of consideration, I'm not even sure it's even comparable to any of them anyways.

This movie is its own beast. Sure, it may not be perfect, but it's loads of fun throughout, and I haven't even touched on the action scenes, which are a thrilling sight to behold, particularly near the end when the movie starts to get a video game vibe to it, like watching a live action Space Invaders.

But my appreciation of this movie has only grown, and if it's anything like those other Disney flicks I've mentioned, it will only continue to soar upon subsequent viewings. The movie poster for this thing has a tag line that cheekily says "You're welcome". Well, right now, I'd like to respond to that tag line with a very sincere, "Thank you."