Sunday, September 23, 2012


I went into Dredd expecting it to be just another dumb fun action flick, but what I got was so much more than that. From start to finish, Dredd was a freaking tremendous movie. The visual effects were gorgeously gory, and the non-stop action was among the best I've seen this year.

In this world, Judges act as the law enforcement who have the power to act as judge, jury, and executioner. The plot sees Judge Dredd evaluating a potential new Judge, who has psychic abilities, as they respond to the murder of three at the slum tower called Peach Trees. But once they arrive, they find the place is under control of a drug lord known as Ma-Ma, who puts the place on lockdown, forcing the Judges to fight their way through an entire tower of criminals who are out to kill them. In many respects, the synopsis is very similar to The Raid. However, where that one was about the violence progressively devolving to a more primal level, this one goes the opposite rout, constantly upgrading with bigger and badder artillery around every corner.

Karl Urban is Judge Dredd. He just breaths the character to life. He's a man who abides by the law to the fullest extent, and hands out punishment to any who break it. And he's a man who takes his job so seriously that, no matter how bad their situation got, he's always reminding the rookie that her evaluation was still under way, which I got a good kick out of. But just everything about him, his scowl, his rugged voice (Christian Bale could have learned a thing or two from Karl Urban), the delivery of his one-liners, this guy has got the Judge down pat.

I also found that the supporting cast all played their parts well. The villain, Ma-Ma, was played by Lena Heady, who definitely channels her inner-Cersei to deliver the kind of calm crazy that we've come to expect from her. You can definitely buy all these macho gang members falling in line at her command. And Olivia Thirlby played Judge Anderson, the rookie under evaluation, who felt out of her element in the best possible way. She looked absolutely stunning in this movie, giving off a vibe that reminded me of Samus from Metroid: Other M. And her telepathic scenes were definitely an interesting touch. In particular is a scene where she enters the mind of their captured suspect, and they exchange a series of increasingly morbid thoughts of one-another in an attempt to mentally break the other one down.

As I mentioned before, the visuals in this were a thing of beauty. Taking place in a post-apocalyptic future, the scenery has a very rough and gritty feel to it. But through the grittiness, there are times when moments of brilliance shine through. This is mostly whenever we see the characters under the influence of a new drug that makes it seem like time is moving in slow motion. During these sequences, the action is slowed down in a way that I can only describe as euphorically violent. And the finale kicks that euphoric feeling up a notch, ending with an angelic, almost even heavenly sensation that left me mesmerized.

I found this stark contrast almost fascinating. The way the world changes from grim to marvelous under the influence, it's no wonder that the people in this world are after such an escape from their reality. And yet this escape always comes back to bite them in the ass, turning bad situations into something so, so much worse, which I definitely appreciated (don't do drugs, kids!).

But as I said before, the action only gets bigger and badder as the movie progresses. Other than the slo-mo scenes, we see the weapons get more and more powerful, and as a result, more and more of the building gets turned to rubble, and the casualties pile up quick. They don't play around at all with this movie, this is definitely a fun but bloody affair.

I honestly wasn't expecting to enjoy this movie as much as I did, but I thought this was great. The best action movie of the year thus far, and something definitely worth spending your money to see. It's just such a shame that this movie is apparently being set up for failure at the box office. At least in my town, the theaters are only playing a handful of shows per day, and at some of the most inconvenient of times at that, which really just sucks. But if you do get a chance, and if you're a fan of action, definitely go see Dredd.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Naruto's Fourth Shinobi War - Top 5 Worst Fights

So last time, I looked at the best fights the Fourth Shinobi War had to offer. This time, let's dive right in and take a look at the worst!

#5 - Kakashi's Rampage

Kakashi's rampage against the Seven Swordsmen of the Mist was... well, I don't know. See, this battle was built up and everything, only to take place off-panel. In fact, I'd like to go ahead and include a few more fights that were set up and off-paneled in this pick as well: Hiashi vs. Hizashi; Choza vs. Dan; Darui, Izumo, and Kotetsu vs. Kakuzu; The Feudal Lord Guardians vs. Black Zetsu; and anything else I might have missed. Consider these fights all Dishonorable Mentions.

I just can't help but feel like Kishimoto was a little in over his head going into this war arc, and he set far too much up, more than he could honestly handle. And it shows in the sheer amount of material that he skipped over in his efforts to rush Naruto out onto the battlefield. And for those who kept clamoring that he was skipping these fights in order to let the anime expand on them, whelp, that hasn't been happening so far either! Blah!

#4 - Naruto vs. Dark Naruto

Before Naruto could begin his training to tame the Kyuubi, he first had to do battle with his inner darkness. And, well, this was one hell of a missed opportunity. This had the potential to explore so many aspects to Naruto's character: his on-going obsession with Sasuke, how he's neglected Hinata after her love confession, his issues with Sakura after her own false confession and subsequent actions, how Naruto's been getting somewhat big-headed as of late, etc. And those are all just things off the top of my head.

But instead, they chose solely to focus on Naruto's conflict with the villagers, and how they treated him badly as a kid. A conflict that has been mostly resolved by this point, and hasn't really been brought up much at all as a real nagging issue anymore for Naruto in the past several years. In fact, the only reason it appears to have even been brought up now is because Naruto recently felt a little uncomfortable signing his autograph for some of the villagers after gaining some fame from defeating Pain. It felt like it was retreading old ground (a common issue with the war arc. See: Kakashi's Battalion vs. Zabuza, Haku, and the Kekkei Genkai shinobi; Shikamaru, Choji, and Ino vs. Asuma), and honestly didn't add much growth to Naruto's character once it was resolved. Like I said, the potential was there, but Kishimoto kinda blew it with this one.

#3 - Itachi and Sasuke vs. Kabuto

Now, this one wasn't all bad. It started off really great, with Kabuto showing off his own Dragon Sage Mode, and his use of the Sound 5's abilities was awesome. And Kabuto's flashback was very interesting, and certainly one of the series' best. However, on the other end, we have Sasuke. I mentioned before how Naruto's character has been inconsistent, but it's nothing compared to Sasuke's. This guy went from being a reserved and fairly calm gray area figure, to suddenly becoming a raging, psychotic lunatic. But then he ran into Itachi, and he reverted back to his calmer, cooler self, more similar to how he acted before he left the village in part 1. He's just all over the place, and I'm not sure if it's Kishi's fault, or his editors interfering, but somebody involved just can't decide what they wanna do with Sasuke, and it sticks out like a sore thumb.

But despite the good and the bad, what really drags this whole fight down is just one thing, that being Itachi's Izanami. This is a technique that basically traps someone in an infinite loop playing out in their head. It's one of the most broken techniques we've seen, and came entirely out of nowhere. No hype, no hints, no foreshadows, just Itachi happened to have this overly overpowered technique lying around in his repertoire, and only waited until now to make any mention of it. Yet, despite this, it came intact with an overly complicated explanation and convoluted backstory, all of which was, again, never once made even the slightest mention to before now. After Izanami is activated, Kabuto is put entirely out of commission, and Itachi cancels out his Edo Tensei jutsu, removing all of those revived shinobi from the battlefield before we even got a chance to see most of them in action. This whole ordeal felt like one big convenient cop-out, and for this to be the way that Kabuto goes down, after being the longest running villain in the series to date, well, that's just a damn shame.

#2 - The Five Kages vs. Madara

Speaking of poor writing, Madara may well be the worst written character in this whole series. In a world where we see people perform incredible feats on a regular basis, Madara's strength and abilities are so much that it actually breaks my suspension of disbelief. Here he is, taking on five of the strongest ninja in the entire world, the leaders of their respective villages, Tsunade the Hokage, Gaara the Kazekage, A the Raikage, Onoki the Tsuchikage, and Mei the Mizukage. And yet, Madara is completely toying with them. At no point did they ever legitimately have the upper hand against him. And apparently, nobody in the entire world could stand a chance against him other than the Hashirama, the First Hokage. But... why is this? How come, in all the years since Madara's and Hashirama's time, has there not been one single shinobi who has been able to attain this ungodly level of power? I find it extremely hard to believe, especially in this series where the message has been constantly drilled in that the next generation will surpass the previous one.

The worst was Madara's Ultimate Susanoo, which is basically a mountain sized samurai aura that is able to crush mountains with a single blow. It's an instant win move, and the Kages don't stand a chance. But it's only when Itachi cancels Edo Tensei that this technique is, too, cancelled. Only, Madara's such a bad ass that he somehow knows how to remain revived through Edo Tensei, despite the technique being cancelled. And the only reason he doesn't resume using his idiotically powerful move is because he's already used it, and that would be tacky or some such dumb shit.

This whole fight was a sloppy mess, and the last that we saw was Tsunade getting her second or third teased death, only to be rescued at the last minute by the walking, talking deus ex machina, Dan. He somehow knew that Tsunade needed his help, and was only just then, at the very last minute, able to use some bullshit ghost technique in order to save her. And like Izanami, there was no hype or foreshadowing to this moment. It just sort of came out of nowhere, and for no real rhyme or reason. And it was bullshit. And not only that, but as crap as the fight was, they didn't even bother to show the conclusion, as Madara has apparently left that battlefield in order to join Tobi's fight. God this fight was a wreck.

#1 - Darui, Samui, and Atsui vs. Kinkaku and Ginkaku

This isn't just the worst fight in the whole war, it may well be the worst one in the whole series. The Kinkaku Brothers feel like something the anime filler writers would have spewed out. Their abilities don't fit in with the established Naruto style at all. They use a series of weapons that all act in conjunction with one another in order to seal one's soul if they say a certain word. It was just a convoluted load of crap, and it went on for far, far too long. While most of the fight in the war have last for a chapter or two, this one just dragged on for week after week after week.

These characters were horrible, and this fight was a boring chore. If there was a single good thing to come of this, it would be that it at least makes the Sora filler from the anime somewhat believable now, seeing as Kinkaku and Ginkaku are pretty much canon pseudo-Jinchuurikis. But if that's the best contribution that this fight can offer, to make a ridiculous filler arc from the anime seem legit, well, then, this fight really doesn't have much going for it. And, well, really, that's pretty much all there is to say about this one, which isn't much. This fight sucked.

So there you have it, my picks for the best and worst fight in the Fourth Great Shinobi War. But the war is still technically going on, so who knows, my picks might shuffle a bit in the coming months. We'll see...

Naruto's Fourth Shinobi War - Top 5 Best Fights

So it's been over a year since the last time I talked about the Fourth Shinobi War going on in Naruto, and, wouldn't you know, it's still going on. It's hard to believe that this arc has lasted for almost two and a half years now, yet it appears to finally be winding down. So, while I should probably hold off on this list until the war arc is good and done, I've decided to go ahead and post my choices for the best and worst fights showcased in the war thus far. So then, without further ado, let's start off with the good.

#5 - Konan vs. Tobi

Before the war officially began, we were treated to a handful of fairly impressive, if somewhat minor, fights. The most impressive of these fights was the confrontation between fellow Akatsuki members, Konan and Tobi. Despite leaving Tobi's organization, Konan remained in her Akatsuki cloak, claiming that the ideals for the organization originated with her and her comrades in the Rain Village, and she wants nothing to do with Tobi's vision. Up to this point, Konan hadn't really had much of a chance to shine, but she more than made up for that in this fight, consuming Tobi within an ocean of explosive paper tags, and pushing Tobi further than anyone prior had been able to yet.

Her efforts culminated in the destruction of his mask, partially revealing the humanity that had been entirely hidden up to this point. Her efforts were ultimately fruitless, however, as Tobi managed to survive via Izanagi, a Sharingan technique that allows one to turn illusion into reality and basically renders one immortal for a brief period of time. In the end, Tobi succeeded in killing Konan and retrieving the Rinnegan eyes from the corpse of Nagato in this explosive lead-in to the Fourth Great Shinobi War.

#4 - Minato vs. Tobi

This technically takes place well before this part of the story, though it was first shown during a flashback in the war arc which finally showed us what really happened on the night of the Kyuubi attack on Konoha. Tobi managed to infiltrate the village and set the Kyuubi loose. And, leaving the Leaf shinobi to deal with the Kyuubi, Tobi lured Minato into a one on one encounter, as he attempted to capture the Fourth Hokage.

Tobi's use of chains in conjunction with his transparency technique was very clever, and seeing the two's warping abilities combat with one another was very slickly written. This was a classic battle of strategy, and while Minato managed to take Tobi out with an awesome Hiraishin/Rasengan combo, Tobi was the true victor here, as Minato was left with no alternative but to sacrifice his life in order to tame the rampaging Kyuubi.

#3 - Mifune vs. Hanzo

The confrontation between Mifune and Hanzo was more a battle of ideals than of strength or abilities. And it is one of the more interesting fights that we've seen as of late. Mifune claims that one's blade is merely an extension of himself, and unless one keeps his ideals as sharp as his blade through the years, he will ultimately whither. Hanzo held these same beliefs at one point in time, though through years of war and corruption, his resolve began to weaken, and so, too, did his blade begin to dull.

And so, it was without much effort that Mifune was able to slice right through Hanzo's blade, in this return fight from many years ago, when Hanzo's resolve was still strong. Hanzo won their first encounter, but was impressed enough with Mifune's resolve that he allowed him to live. And now, seeing the error in his ways, Hanzo made one last gesture that was a return to his old ideals, breaking free from the Edo Tensei's control and allowing himself to be sealed, stamping an honorable end to a man who had lost his way. This fight was also awesome due to the inclusion of Pain during one of Hanzo's flashback, as we see him in his final, cowardly moments before Pain originally killed him, showing just how far Hanzo had truly fallen.

#2 - Naruto's Clone vs. The Third Raikage

Naruto's character has been a bit inconsistent as of late. He seems to fluctuate between being strategically brilliant and calculating on the battlefield, and being an incompetent doofus more similar to his part 1 self. And while the real Naruto throughout most of the war has had more of the obnoxiously brain-dead moments, his clones have actually been the ones to showcase his more up-to-date, smarter characteristics. One clone in particular seemed to be completely unstoppable, and was sent off to help out in the battle against the revived Kages. And while most clones go poof and disappear after a single hit, this one just kept on going like he was the real deal.

His most impressive feat came when he took on the Third Raikage, who up to this point had been single-handedly holding his own against an entire platoon of shinobi. But Naruto's clone took his time to observe his opponent and his situation, and formulated a strategy that finally lead to the Third Raikage's defeat, utilizing Sage Mode's enhanced reflexes with a well timed Rasengan to force the Raikage's attack back on him. This was a nice return to the more strategic style of fights in this series, as opposed to the more recent trend of "who has the bigger jutsu".

#1 - Naruto, Kakashi, Guy, and Bee vs. Tobi

In case you haven't noticed by now, Tobi has definitely been the MVP of this war. Now, when this fight started, I wasn't initially a big fan of it. The portion with the Jinchuuriki and the Tailed Beasts wasn't really doing it for me. It wasn't bad, necessarily, but it had a lot of 'meh' moments, save for maybe the first time we saw Naruto's completed Bijuu Mode. But once the Jinchuuriki and the Tailed Beasts went away and Tobi came out to play, this fight kicked into a level of intensity we haven't seen since Naruto battled the Six Paths of Pain. Naruto and the Masters' fast paced combinations to try and just land a single hit on Tobi were the epitome of awesome, and resulted in some of the best fight chapters this series has ever seen. And it all culminated with the reveal we've been waiting for so long to see.

Chapter 599 was one of the most stunningly beautiful chapters in the whole series. Without a single line of dialogue, we were shown a story of a happy and loving boy named Obito, who somehow survived his brush with death in the last war, only to give in to the corrupting powers of evil. We still don't know why this is, as the reveal has only just happened, and the battle is about to change shape as Madara has entered the playing field. But up to this point at least, this fight has been tremendous, and definitely one of the best in the series. And while the debate continues to rage on concerning Tobi's identity, I personally feel that his reveal has been handled fairly respectably thus far.

I'd like to also give an Honorable Mention to Gaara and Onoki vs. The Second Mizukage. While the fight itself was merely decent, I feel this deserves some recognition solely for the Second Mizukage, who is, without a doubt, the best new character introduced in the war. He's been an extremely entertaining presence every single time he's been shown, with his cocky grin and his goofy, carefree demeanor, all backed up by a surprisingly powerful reservoir of techniques.

So there's my picks for the best fights so far in the war. Join me next time, as I shift gears and take a look at the worst fights that this war has had to offer thus far.