Halloween Horror Week

It is once again that time of year for me to do “Horror Week.” The month of October has been busy so I finally got around to it this week so it won’t be a month of horror like what I’ve done on the blog in the past. This month the two themes I’m exploring are films inspired by Stephen King books and Lovecraftian inspired films.

On the Stephen King side I’ll be reviewing the newest “IT,” “1922” and “The Langoliers” and on the Lovecraft inspired side I’ll be reviewing “In the Mouth of Madness” and “Dagon.”

Both of these authors are ones I enjoy and the otherworldly horror is such a cool concept in fiction, and seeing the different ways it can be brought to film is part of what makes the film media so amazing. How do you show the abstract and make your audience through fear? These films all do that to varying degrees and that is one thing I’ll be exploring as well as any philosophical ideas that may enter the works.

So without further ado, so being 2017’s Halloween Horror Week.

Advertisements

“Castlevania” Season 1 – Of Origins and Building the Party

   “Castlevania” is a great video game adaptation. This is a series that explores Dracula’s motivation and really lets us explore and get to know the world before it gets into the action. Without going into spoilers, the only issue is how short it is. The first Season is only 4 episodes long and each of those episodes is only 20 minutes. It could have easily had 8 episodes just off of the characters and the world and I’m really that it has been renewed for future episodes. The fact that this is an adaptation of a video game is all the more amazing given the track record of suck projects as they usually always end up sucking.

The series was written by Warren Ellis and directed by Sam Deats.

The story involves Dracula’s origin and what lead him to turn against humanity (turning it into the depressed hellscape of the games). After the origin we pick up with the last of the Belmonts, Trevor Belmont as he wanders the hellscape, just trying to survive and find purpose.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: Dracula’s Origin – Dracula’s hate is born out of tragedy. It begins with him as an illusive immortal lord who falls in love with a woman who wants to help the people through the medical sciences. Sadly they turn on her and we learn she married Dracula. Out of anger for the loss of his love he raises the army of hell and puts them on the population, leading to the status quo of the games. This is the first time in any of the games where he has actually been explored as a character and I love the character choices they made for why he became a monster.

People are Hell – A major theme of the story is that people are hell. The Church kills Dracula’s wife for being a “witch” and through the story we see murders who joined the church as enforcers and the general apathy of the general populace and our supposed hero Trevor Belmont. This theme is great at giving justification to Dracula and the question of hope even exists in this world.

Hope in Strange Places – Thankfully there is hope, both in the Speakers, travelers like the Roma who pass on stories of old who end up finding another hero, Alucard who is Dracula’s son who wants to stop his father since he knows the monster he’s become is not what his mother would have wanted. In the end Sypha (the speaker who finds Alucard) and Alucard show Trevor their is hope and give him a reason to fight. Also James Callis voices Alucard and Richard Armitage voices Trevor Belmont. Both these were brilliant casting choices and I really wanted more with both of the characters.

Okay: The Church – The Church is the Catholic Church and we only really deal with the corrupt members. One priest helps in the final fight but we never get his name or any of his story. Large organizations should have more complexity or their drive for power better explored…I hope we get both these things in the next season.

The Cons: Length – The show is only 4 episodes long and because of it the Church feels underdeveloped and we only get hints at the demons having their own agenda outside of Dracula. This is a shame as these were interesting ideas that could have been explored so much more. Regardless, I highly recommend this series. The writing is solid, the characters are fascinating and Netflix has once again made a great show.

Final Score: 9 / 10 Solidly great start to a series. Netflix has done it again.

Paranoia Agent – A Beautiful Critique of Society, the Self, Life and Death

        “Paranoia Agent” is a fascinating anime that pulls you in almost immediately as it proceeds to critique and explore reality through the world it exists in and the characters who inhabit it. My friend had recommended this anime to me and I’m glad that I finally got around to seeing it as any story that explores deep concepts and ideas and does it through complex characters is a story worth watching. It helps that the director Satoshi Con is one of my favorites for his film “Tokyo Godfather.”

     The story takes place in Japan involves Tsukiko, a character designer who created a famous character named Maromi (after her childhood pet)  who is under pressure at work to create the next character just as famous. When she is walking home at night a young boy with a twisted bat and roller skates attacks her leading to an investigation that leads to questions about what really happened as this Lil’ Slugger grows into legend as more attacks occur.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – The world is very much a reflection of our own but with supernatural elements as Lil’ Slugger proves to be a major break from reality beyond the breaks from reality our characters face in the show. This is part of what makes it so fascinating. All our characters are broken and it is through their fractured lenses that we view their world.

The Tone – The tone is dark with an element of unrealness. From characters like toys being able to talk, but only a select few hearing them, a guy who sees life as an RPG where people are monsters to be defeated and an actual monster in Lil’ Slugger. The tone is dark as all our characters are broken in different ways and that is established early.

The Animation – The animation is beautiful and does a great job capturing the twisted reality of our characters and the dark tone. It is beautiful and at times trippy as warped reality scenes appear on multiple occasions.

The Characters – The characters are complex and fascinating, with the Police Chief being my favorite as he is caught up in his old ways but it is in his finding empathy for others and their perspectives that helps him save Tokyo from Tsukiko whose fears and denial created Lil’ Slugger in the first. We get a lot of days in the life of characters too and their relation to the events unfolding and how they react to the Lil’ Slugger incidents.

Gossip and the Creation of Legends – One of the major themes of the episode is Gossip and how it can feed the darker aspects of already horrendous things (like the Lil’ Slugger attacks) we see a group of women isolate and pick on another as each tries to one up what they know about Lil’ Slugger…Through it all there is fear of the other and the woman who is quiet is constantly targeted by the gossiping horde who has turned Lil’ Slugger into Legend.

Consumer Culture and How it Feeds Isolation and Fear – Isolation and the things that feed isolation are a major theme of the show too. From Maromi being the isolating factor of consumerism that gives Lil’ Slugger a feast of people’s insecurities and their avoidance of others and responsibilities. The ending sets up Lil’ Slugger is likely to return as rebuilt Tokyo is just like the Tokyo before meaning the same culture of consumerism is likely to lead to another being overwhelmed and creating another Lil’ Slugger as no one cares about anyone beyond themselves.

Escape versus Obligation and Responsibility – Escape versus Obligation is another theme as all our characters are running away. Whether it is running away from life, suffering, responsibility, etc. The episodes are about reeling them back in and forcing them to confront their obligation or responsibility. IT is only in taking responsibility for the death of her pet that Tsukiko is able to stop Lil’ Slugger from completely destroying Tokyo.

How Denial Can Consume – Denial consumes a lot of our characters…and each instance Lil’ Slugger arrives and kills them or knocks them out. Sometimes he saves, sometimes he arrives after they’ve already done the damage, like the anime worker who kills his entire team or the Police Chief after he’s lost his position. In one instance he has a suicide group who chases him and it is the only time he’s afraid as his power comes from those consumed by guilt and fear and the three who chase him were not. In the end denial destroys Tokyo as even Tsukiko’s guilt was not enough to turn Lil’ Slugger into the darkness that consumes Tokyo.

Isolation versus Relationship in Culture – All our characters are isolated and it is only in moments of connections with others that they find relief and peace. Isolation is what feeds Lil’ Slugger as lack of communication leads to obsession and fear. In the anime the culture of Japan in the story is one where everyone is isolated on their phones and stuck in their jobs and not wanting any responsibility or obligation. It represents the own darker nature of humanity and our own contradictory nature of wanting connection but wanting to be alone. Wanting responsibility but wanting none at all. This anime is great at showing the two sides of wants and desires and does it so well.

  This is easily one of my favorite animes now. Like “Tokyo Godfathers,” Satoshi Con created another classic that gives us complex characters and deep things in an overarching narrative that is willing to push the boundaries of understanding and comfort and in the process creates a masterpiece well worth your time. I’m extremely grateful to my friend for recommending this anime, and I plan to watch it again. There are so many deep themes that are covered and the complex characters are the perfect way to present these ideas. This is a perfect anime that sets out and achieves it’s narrative ends.

Final Score: 10 / 10

Gintama – Episode 175 – “People of All Ages Hate the Dentist!” – Insanity, Empathy and Comedy

Gintama Episode 175

    “People of All Ages Hate the Dentist!” is a messed up and hilarious episode. In this episode more critiquing of face takes place as well as playing up the real and unreal fear of the dentist…and has an unexpected payoff to end it all.

     The story involves Sakata and Hijikata ending up at the dentist and finding the one they are at to be much more horrible and twisted than they expected.

The Pros: Critique of “Face”- Both Sakata and Hijikata are afraid of the dentist but pretend they aren’t around one another and in trying to one-up each other just freak themselves out more on what may happen, showing how trying to save “face” prevented nothing.

Dentist Horrors – Limbs are replaced, drills, and a room that looks like a murder scene. The real and unreal horrors of a dentist office are on display here.

Sakata and Hijikaka – These two are a lot of fun as they are both serious types, though Hijikata is much more cynical and than Sakata. I look forward to seeing him in future episodes of this show that I review.

The Ending – To get their teeth fixed Sakata and Hijikaka are given a robot to take the pain that is being done and in the end they stop getting their teeth fixed to get the robots fixed as the robots give them an illusion of an entire life lived.

Okay:  Too Much of Joke – This one feels like a skit and less of a story and as a skit it is fantastic, but an episode should be a story and it doesn’t quite reach the great story level because of the times it feels like a skit.

This was a still a great episode and is one of my favorites, even though I think it could have become more though it does succeed in the drama and humor. For this reason I’d recommend it. The episode is a lot of fun and captures the crazyness that makes “Gintama” the show it is.

Final Score: 9 / 10

The Twilight Zone – Season 1, Episode 1 – “Where is Everybody?” – Cost of Isolation

Where is Everybody

     As I’ve been watching the latest “X-Files” I decided to go back to the roots of “The X-Files” which “The Twilight Zone” if at least culturally would be one of those roots. This is a show whose entire point was exploring the unknown and posting mysterious premises to be explored, that at the end would reveal a twist of some sort. They are great shows and it was fun going back to the first episode of the show.

   “Where is Everybody?” was directed by Robert Stevens and written by Rod Sterling.

  The story involves a man with amnesia arriving in an empty town and seeking to find out who he is as the town is not all it appears to be.

The Pros: The Soundtrack – The soundtrack is good and Bernard Herrman really did a good job keeping thing mysterious and creepy. The music was easily the best part of the episode.

The Cinematography – The cinematography was pretty great and there was a great use of shadows to capture the feeling of isolation and being trapped that the character was feeling. Joseph La Shelle did a great job on it.

Okay: The Writing – The writing is a whole bunch of monologues from the main character and it doesn’t hold up. He didn’t feel like a fully fleshed out human being, just the idea of a pilot.

The Twist – He’s in a lab being tested for a trip to the moon since he’s going to be up there isolated for a long time.

The Cons: The Main Character – Mike Ferris is a pilot who monologues a lot. This was a problem with the writing and a better actor could have made it interesting but I just didn’t care. I didn’t know what defined this character or what he wanted except to talk to people.

  This was a decent episode of the show but I didn’t like the main character and since we were stuck with him for too long the episode just dragged. The premise was intriguing, but could have been handled a lot better. There were no hints at him being an astronaut or going to the moon until the very end.

Final Score: 6 / 10

Top 5 Films of 2015

Mad-Max-Fury-Road-Banner-Charlize-Theron-Tom-Hardy

     It has been a pretty fantastic year for films! I wish we had more original films that weren’t part of Franchises come out or were not based off books, but that’s besides the point. I will always wish for that and in the end some of those stories aren’t as good as some of the ones born out of Franchises that have the passion and commitment of a good director and team at their back. Now, before I get started on my Top 5 Films of 2015 I want to do an honorary mention to a few films that are well worth checking out.

       “The Force Awakens” didn’t make the list but it is great Star Wars and is worth seeing. “Ant-Man” is one of the funnest Marvel Films in the entire Franchise and Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” is more of his cinematic and writing charm. “Spotlight” is also a fantastic film that is well worth your time as is “Beasts of No Nation”. These are the ones that really stood out as “Age of Ultron” is a film you can take or leave and wasn’t nearly as much fun as “Ant-Man” or “The Force Awakens.”

     So without further ado, here are my Top 5 Movies of 2015, from 5th Place to 1st.

ex-machina-french-movie-poster-15x21-2015-alex-garland-alicia-vikander

5) Ex Machina

Director Alex Garland

    “Ex Machina” is high concept sci. fi. at it’s best. In my opinion it blew “Interstellar” out of the water as it had a focus on characters and concept that we don’t really ever get from Nolan. It was also good at showing rather than telling which gives us some extremely haunting scenes. Oscar Isaac does an amazing job as the antagonist as Nathan the creator of the A.I. who manages to be both threatening, scary and vulnerable. The side characters are great too and I loved Gleeson in this role versus his General Hux in “The Force Awakens.” Here I could take him seriously as you could see where he was coming from as an outcast seeking connection with anyone. It’s a powerful film with themes of what it means to be sentience and what liberation is and if you enjoy science fiction, is well worth your time.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2015/07/10/ex-machina-2015-sentience-and-the-path-to-liberation/

Mr. Holmes

4) Mr. Holmes

Director Bill Condon

      Ian McKellan is the most human of all the Sherlocks as it is the conceit of this film that Sherlock has to face how alone he is and that he can no longer count his mind as it is failing and nothing can prevent that. It’s a sad story for that reason as we learn about the case that caused him to retire. The film is powerful as we are given glimpses into different time periods of his life and how they tie to his loneliness in the present as he seeks to solve the problem of the case that caused him to retire, as he no longer remembers it and only has a picture of a woman as a clue. From here the case unfolds as we deal with all the layers of what it means to be mortal, and in that what it means to live and to die. I can’t recommend this film enough.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2015/09/05/mr-holmes-2015-a-reflection-on-mortality-regret-class-and-empathy/

The Martian

3) The Martian

Director Ridley Scott

   Check out the book. It is really good and Ridley Scott stayed surprisingly true to it. This is the best Ridley Scott film since “Kingdom of Heaven” and chances are you’ll enjoy it even if you aren’t into science fiction. This is a film full of humor and drama that gives us glimpses into the lives of the characters as Mark Watney (Matt Damon) seeks to survive on Mars until N.A.S.A. can work up a plan to bring him home. We see all of the drama…from the politics at N.A.S.A. to the hard choices that Watney has to make in order to survive some extremely difficult situations, and even the choice his crew is faced with on their journey back to Earth. There are no villains and because of it every character get’s explored in why they made the choices they did. The cast is fantastic and the cinematography is absolutely stunning. This film will no doubt win awards during the Oscars and it certainly deserves those awards.

Final Score: 9.8 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2015/10/03/the-martian-2015-a-masterpiece-celebrating-the-wonder-of-science-discovery-and-survival/

Inside-Out-Official-Poster

2) Inside Out

Director Pete Docter

       There were two unbeatable Pixar films for me, until I saw “Inside Out.” Those films are “Wall-E” and “Up.” Both films capture the beauty and hardship of being alive or being human so well and this film is no different as we get to see emotions as living beings interacting and making choices when their host Riley is pulled away from her hometown to San Francisco and has to make new friends and get used to a world where she feels alienated. Without giving anything away, this film will probably make you tear up. There is loss, growing up and moving on and integrating past events and emotions to create a whole. It is one of the best films that explores human psychology that I have ever watched, and as an aspiring psychologist I appreciated the framework this film brought and explored. The characters and living emotions are wonderful and the voice actors were perfectly cast for the roles whether it was Lewis Black as Anger or Amy Poehler as joy. If you haven’t seen it, check it out. Pixar has struck gold again and told one of the most compelling masterpieces of what it means to be human.

Final Score: 10 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2015/06/20/inside-out-2015-the-importance-of-all-emotions-and-another-pixar-masterpiece/

Mad-Max-Fury-Road-Poster-Posse-1-600x900

1) Mad Max: Fury Road

Director George Miller

     “Fury Road” is one the deepest action film I have ever watched. Who would have thought that a giant car chase could explore themes of patriarchy, feminism, liberation, redemption and the healing from trauma while giving us the best cinematography and some of the best characters to come out of any fiction. Immortan Joe was a fantastic villain who managed to be both vulnerable and threatening, Theron’s Furiousa was an amazing protagonist who was flawed but whose drive carried the plot as it is her freeing Joe’s Breeding Wives that lead to the chase and the premise of the film. Tom Hardy as Max also gives us a gruff vulnerability too as we see him slowly regain his sanity over the course of the film. This is a universe that is so much fun and that I look forward to returning to again. George Miller created a masterpiece greater than all of his other past work and created a film that I expect to forever be a classic.

Final Score: 10 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2015/05/22/mad-max-fury-road-2015-healing-redemption-and-actions-that-matter-in-a-world-gone-insane/

      These were my Top 5 Films of 2015, I’d be curious to hear about yours as well. It was an overall great year for films and I look forward to see the stories that these films inspire in the future.

Rick and Morty – Season 1, Episode 2 – “Lawnmower Dog” – Incepting the Dream and Liberation

Lawnmower_Dog

      “Lawnmower Dog” is hilarious! It has two arcs that are both really good and come together in the end, though they are a little confusing as for what the final outcome is as it could all just be a dream, which is part of the joke.

      The story involves Rick and Morty Incepting Mr. Goldenfold so that he will give Morty an “A” but things soon go wrong as they find he is an active dreamer while elsewhere the Rick gives Snuffle the family’s dog a device to make him smarter and he begins to plot the fall of man.

The Pros: Mr. Goldenfold – Mr. Goldenfold is hilarious as he’s obsessed with Mrs. Pancakes and Wheat Thins and controls his dream to the point that Rick and Morty’s attempt to Incept him on their own fails and they have to Incept Mrs. Pancakes.

The “Inception Arc” – This arc is hilarious as they go deeper and deeper into the dream eventually running into the supressed area and fear where Scary Terry lives and after they figure out Scary Terry’s fear they help him overcome it and he helps them incept Mr. Goldenfold and is later seen chilling with Rick.

Scary Terry – Scary Terry loves to say “Bitch” as his catchphrase and his family he is taking care of. He is afraid of a teacher in his past and not having any pants which has lead to him being unsuccessful as a scarer but after Rick and Morty help him he defeats all levels of the dream.

The Snuffles Arc – Rick gives Jerry a device that helps Snuffles learn and grow in intelligence which leads to a takeover of the world and humans being enslaved, though we soon learn it was all a dream as Rick incepted him to show that it would lead to Morty’s death so the dogs leave to another dimension to live in peace.

Snuffles/Snowball – Snuffles sees how humans have mistreated dogs and plots to raise their intelligence (like Ceaser in “Planet of the Apes”) and when he finds that his balls were cut off he turns on the family. He eventually realizes peace can only be away from humankind after Morty dies in the dream he is shown so he leaves giving a heartfelt goodbye. He also takes Snowball as his newname  seeing Snuffles as his slave name.

Rick – Rick is hilarious and his madness comes in handy as he chills with Scary Terry at the end and the possibility of this whole episode just being his dream is suggested in the process.

Morty – Morty is the good guy in this episode as it is Snuffles’s love of him that makes him spare humankind from the dogs taking over after he would be making them all intelligent like him. He also is the one who gives Scary Terry pants which makes them his and Rick’s friend which leads to successful Incepting of Mr. Goldenfold.

Okay: Jerry – He just causes trouble by asking for Rick to make the device to make Snuffles smarter. He’s just kind of there and doesn’t really have an arc except for being happy for the dogs when they say good-bye to Morty to travel to their own dimension.

This episode is hilarious and it’s two arcs manage to flow together perfectly creating one of my favorite episodes. It has great comedic timing and the jokes payoff, especially since the episode is one giant gag that pays off really well and even has tender moments like Scary Terry getting over his fear and having joy with his family as well as Snuffles/Snowballs saying good-bye to Morty.

Final Score: 9.7 / 10