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Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Woman in Black

     The woman in black is a fucking bitch. Seriously she just keeps killing kids for almost no reason, and even after her son is brought to rest she doesn't stop, though she does pretend to just to troll everyone. With a soulless villain like that you have the beginnings of a decent film. What makes this a decent film is firstly it wasn't made in the Noughties, which produced very few to non decent horror films, and secondly it tries to evoke a more gothic type of horror, which can be very effective when coupled with a decent director and actors, and besides Daniel Radcliffe they are.

     Now with Harry Potter as the lead actor it is a little bit strange, but it works alright after maybe 10 or 15 minutes, you even sort of forget that Daniel is the lead actor. As a character he is kind of a blank slate, but he does have a driving motivation of his son, so he has like maybe 2-dimensions, which is not bad for a horror protagonist. Our villain is a fairly standard ghost, bringing back other ghosts, though they don't seem to affect anything physically, just mentally scarring the townsfolk. The people themselves are standard cliches, fearful of foreigners and ominous about the location of the film.

     The location of the film is great for a horror film, a mansion in the middle of nowhere, with rolling banks of fog, a path which disappears when it is convenient to the plot, and even a dark forest if you need that. The house itself is a great example of a Victorian haunted mansion, with lots of candles, hallways, staircases, and creepy children's bedrooms. Apparently the toys of the era where absolutely terrifying, with the whole range of creepy, clowns, monkeys, the blank stares of dolls, and good old fashioned self rocking chairs. The whole gamut really.

     The main question of any horror film is of course is it scary, which I can answer with a resounding probably. It's got some good images, a fairly scary lady ghost, and a good amount of creepy children, with a array of different murder methods. There is also a good sense of desolation with Harry being the sole person in the house for much of the film, including just about all of the actual horror stuff. There are a few cheap jump scares, but overall it is mostly atmosphere, and fairly well done at that. Admittadely they could have done more with the environment, and probably should have given its roots, but you take what you can get.

     There are a few things that don't work, such as the downer ending not really making too much sense. They could have had a nice simple ending, ghost defeated and all that, but no it is a horror film so has to have a shocking ending. Also they forget about the dog that was in the house which was kind of weird. They made a point to include it, then just kind of, forgot. Also Harry's acting is a little bit okay, I mean he's never been great, and it's on show here as he has to do a good 80% of the acting. Overall though it's a decent horror, with a few scares, and an actual decent finale, an issue that many horrors have a lot of trouble with.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Evangelion 3: The Search For Love

          Despite the fact that she calls him an “arrogant bastard” who expects her to “come when he calls” she still obeys him, though not completely. She slips in a self-destruction program but it is ultimately defeated by her mother’s mistakes, a common theme throughout the series as her mother chooses her lover over her daughter, choosing Gendo over everything else. Despite Ritsuko’s repeated statements that she doesn’t want to be her mother in the end she is led to her downfall by both of their mistakes, and ends up dead for it, just like her mother.

            Misato arrives at the command deck and takes control, very decisive even with everything that has been going on in her personal life she is still cool and collected in a time of high stress. She forgets about everything else when the time comes that she needs to be a leader effectively ignoring everything else, pushing it to the back of her mind and bottling it up until the current conflict is done, resulting in her crashing in her personal life and her relationships destroyed because she doesn’t really understand her emotions outside of combat.

            The sole computer that remains is Casper, the personification of the lover, as opposed by the mother and scientist. The others are also named for one of the three original wisemen, Balthasar and Melchior. The computers stand as the voice of reason more than any human being, and their destruction or take over is treated as one of the worst possible things, worse than losing any single person. For Ritsuko however it is much worse, it is losing the last thing her mother left to her, and in fact essentially losing her mother again, which is why she is so adamant in defending it even though it means working for someone she hates. As she leaves the bowels of the machine she comments how she will see her mother again, knowing her death is soon at hand.

            Soon after there are some beautiful images of the greenery outside of Tokyo, but it is disturbed by armed forces rushing in and destroying near everything, indicating that the end has begun for NERV, and at the hands of humans not the eldritch abominations they were fighting. It is ironic that the last Angel, Kaworu is arguably more human than these military soldiers who are nameless and wear identical uniforms. Kozo comments that their “final enemy is man” as opposed to the spectral incredibly deadly angels, and that is actually who they lose to, fellow humans.

            Makato when confronted by the fact that the human soldiers will soon be assaulting them says he wishes that they would acknowledge that they are all humans, and should not be fighting amongst one another. Despite this he is still willing to fight and kill when it comes down to his life or others. The soldiers are then shown mercilessly slaughtering members of the NERV defense force who are almost unaware of what’s happening, and definitely not prepared for any of this kind of violence. This is shown clearly as guards are assassinated or mercilessly destroyed before they have a chance to retaliate.

            The control station descends into chaos as the enemy forces begin to invade. Misato shouts orders and is in her element, collected even with all the madness that is going on around. This is the only place she actually feels right, and may actually be enjoying it as her last hurrah, since NERV is soon to be disbanded. She attempts to secure the pilots safety above all else, as the children are the only people capable of operating the Evas, the ultimate weapons. However Rei is missing, Asuka is comatose, and Shinji has lost all hope.

            Rei is bathing in LCL, the lifeblood of Lilith. She is naked, but at peace, completely unaware of what is going on around, all the violence and death, merely content with her life. Rei may be some incarnation of Lilith, cloned from part of Yui’s body and created for Gendo’s needs, both sexual and emotional. She was essentially a puppet for him, and created to help him meet with his one true love, Yui. Unfortunately through Shinji’s affections and Asuka’s fiery personality she created a personality of her own, far from Gendo’s original plan, which leads to the Third Impact occurring quite differently from his vision, flawed as it was.

            In the next scene Shinji is shown in an extremely vulnerable position, unable to move or do anything due to everything piling up and pushing him past the breaking point, almost for good. The shot of him is followed by every barrier in the headquarters closing representing how Shinji has closed himself off completely from everyone, as his descent into total depression is complete and he believes no one can save him, or help him. Now some of the walls are being destroyed, but not in a productive way, but by extreme violence, as his walls are broken down only through the explosive situation he is in, and even then only partially and in no way permanently.

            Gendo has realized that any defence they have is pointless, and that their defeat is “inevitable”. With this he decides that the only solution is the final solution, to use the ultimate weapon to create a new world. As he leaves Kozo says to give his “regards to Yui” as he knows what Gendo intends to do, and agrees with it. He loved Yui but could never show it as she did not return the feeling, and he was her teacher and mentor meaning any relationship would be deeply flawed, not that that stops many relationships in the series, but in this case Kozo knew that nothing good could come of it, though perhaps in his last moments he could allow Gendo and Yui some happiness.

            The soldiers are shown to be incredibly efficient as the world burns around them, and they slaughter any and everyone, killing some soldiers who were hiding with no mercy or empathy. To the audience they are dehumanized not only by their actions, but also by their masks covering much of their upper faces, making them essentially mindless drones to the audience, impossible to empathize with even if they were trying to stop the end of the world, though it’s unclear who are the good and the bad guys here, or if there really are either. At this point there are simply the characters that the audience empathizes with, and those that they don’t.

Friday, May 18, 2012

End of Evangelion part 2: Unknown Ceilings

             Cut to title sequence and three minor characters talking about the fallout from the end of the angels and the Evangelion program. There are a few things to note about this scene; first it adds a bit more depth to the people who are not movers and shakers, but essentially grunts doing some of the dirty work. They just want to live and do their jobs, nothing more, but as they find out later it is very much who you work for that determines what you will be forced to do. It also foreshadows Maya’s love for Ritsuko, unrequited like so much in the series. Finally it hints at the instrumentality project, which is explained more fully in the next scene.

            We then cut to Misato staring out at a purple sea, contemplating the end of human’s evolutions, and the Instrumentality project, realizing that the Evas are the ones that will cause the end of the world. She mentions how that all of making are “separate entities” foreshadowing Instrumentality when every human becomes one. The tools that humanity had created, and what caused the near extinction of the species are what will cause it to evolve into a new form. The scene also shows her depression over losing Kaji and how he actually knew what was going on unlike just about everyone else in the series.

            The next scene is one of many mysterious scenes involving the organization SEELE and Gendo, both master planners though Gendo has direct control over the Evas resulting in his plans coming to fruition while SEELE’s flounder in the water. There is much discussion of evolution and god and death, but in the end the only notable aspect of their rantings is that they effectively refer to the Evas as God, as well as the pinnacle of what mankind has created. In the end the Evangelions have become even more powerful than the nuclear weapons they represent in modern society. 

            Nuclear weapons can be considered the pinnacle of weapon technology, but the Evas are something very different, they are the pinnacle of science and evolution, transcending the boundaries of humanity and nature to become something beyond both, and they can bring about the end of the world even more so than a nuclear war would. Despite the apocalyptic intentions of both groups Gendo says that “Death creates nothing” because he is still mourning for his wife after all these years. The relationships between Gendo and his wife, as well as Rei, will be examined later because they both drive the series so much, especially the conclusion of this film.

            The counsel ends by telling Gendo “you deserve death” which seems like a petty insult but given their plans they actually intend to ascend him essentially, so though he deserves nothing more than nothingness he will get the same as everyone else, though what exactly that is may be unassailable. He responds by saying that we exist because we “have the will to live” a call-back to what Misato said about the final angel, and him “giving up” the will to live, because we as humans have a determined survival instinct, against all odds. He then references Yui, though indirectly, because everything he does is because of his love for her.

            The next shot is Rei just waking up, and as she is partially a clone of Yui the parallel is obvious. The shots of the moon seek to represent her as a moon goddess, as she has the soul of the second angel, or the first female human/angel, Lilith. Again gods are brought up, though not in any traditional Christian sense, despite the imagery present throughout the series and the motto of NERV. The gods that humanity has created can be destroyed, though not by humans, but by the things that have evolved beyond them, the Evas. Only Gods can kill Gods essentially. 

            The final shot in the scene is of Gendo’s destroyed glasses from the first episode, crushed by Rei finally. This shows that she is not simply a puppet, but has developed into a human personality. This only happens once she has lost all of her clones and is the only one left, but it was not a direct physical confrontation that caused her to betray Gendo, but her realization that he is cruel to Shinji, and in fact to just about everyone, betraying Ritsuko and her mother, as well as manipulating the counsel he was supposedly working for and lying to everyone including her. In the end it all comes back to Yui and her initial sacrifice, but that will be detailed later.

            Again we see Shinji at essentially the lowest he has been, lying in darkness staring blankly at a wall unable to listen to the music that had been comforting him for the rest of the series, as his player has run out of battery. Shinji at this point has lost his mother figure, lost all confidence in his father, lost his friends almost killing one, lost his purpose in life and finally lost Asuka, instead being left with a broken doll. The one person who he could relate to, who was in a very similar situation, had broken down and given up essentially on life, and with what Misato had said to him he is confused about his feeling for Asuka, considering giving up on her as she has.

          Misato has gone off on her own to investigate what is really going on with the Evas and the second impact, but the entire complex has come under attack. She reveals she expected something like it to happen and prepares a firearm for battle. When she does this she kicks over a can of beer, her alcoholism a constant problem for her only exacerbated by the loss of Kaji who had been her sole confidence. It is likely she drove Shinji further away with here drinking as well, increasing their separation. Further scenes expanding upon the invasion are next, showing that first SEELE is attempting to infiltrate the computer system, requiring them to recruit Ritsuko back after she was put in prison for destroying all the Rei clones.

            The scene begins with Ritsuko in complete darkness, in complete despair. Gendo requests Ritsuko and she comes along, knowing that her love of him is self-destroying and that he doesn’t want her at all, he was merely using her. She still denies this fact consciously but her overt act of violence against Rei was a demonstration of her subconscious telling her what she will never have, repeating the same mistakes as her mother. Gendo has always manipulated the women in his life, aside from Yui and by extension Rei whom he actually cared for, even displaying open affection for them, something he did with no one else including his son.

Monday, May 14, 2012

More Evangelion (Part 1)

             The film opens with a shot of the broken city, an apt metaphor for the psyche of many of the characters at this point. We then see Shinji, broken and afraid, gazing out at the endless expanse of water that was his home. Just previous to this Shinji was forced to kill Kaworu, the only person who had ever said they love him to his face, as well as the only person he ever admitted to loving, though admittedly after his death. Not only that but he turned to what is essentially his mother figure for some guidance or reassurance that everything would be alright and she managed to say just the wrong thing.

            Misato did not understand what Shinji was going through because she was too wrapped up in her own grief and self doubt, as well as her dogged determination for revenge which she had finally fulfilled, but was distraught over what happens next. She hates the angels because she blames them for her father’s death though that was actually the cause of humans, their pride and greed dominating over common sense. Misato believes herself a survivor, and that anyone who gives up his own life deserves nothing.

            Shinji’s last line was indicative of this, as he says she ‘is cold’ and he then descends into the realms of deep depression as he realizes his surrogate mother has disregarded his love and by proxy disregarded him. Presumably he has stood at the same spot since she told him this and has considered who he loves and who he is loved by, which leads him to his bastardised expression of love in the next scene. 

            Shinji has three primary relationships with women throughout the film and show, there is the faux mother relationship with Misato which will be discussed in more depth later, there is the utterly alien relationship with Rei, and there is what is closest to a typical relationship with Asuka. At this point he believes Misato has effectively abandoned him, and Rei terrifies and confuses him because he has seen her numerous clone bodies. At this point all he has is Asuka, at least in his own mind, but unfortunately she is in a coma.

            Asuka’s entire purpose in life was to fight; it gave her drive to live. She is in fact incredibly fragile despite her fierce warrior appearance, and her inability to fight off some angels had slowly driven her over the edge, until she was forced to relive her worst memories by one of the angels, specifically Arael, the angel of birds. It is somewhat ironic that Asuka is trapped in her own mind by an angel embodying freedom and flight, especially that when given the chance Asuka is unable to either fight or flight, and so shuts down. Later she says she would rather die than be rescued by ‘that girl’, meaning Rei.

            At the end of this breakdown she says she hates everything as her Evangelion has betrayed her as have her piloting skills, because for her being unable to pilot is essentially defeat in terms of life. She had lost everything but the ability to pilot, and it is slowly taken away from her as she grows more and more deranged, eventually becoming unable to synchronize with her robot at all, causing her comatose state. This is the person that Shinji goes to for help; because he believes she is most able. 

            He enters into her hospital room and begs her to help him, repeating ‘help me’ over and over again while shaking her trying to wake her up. The image evokes that of a young child attempting to wake up a dead person, though Shinji knows better, he just can not stop himself. Asuka had frequently verbally and physically abused him in the past as she was unable to relate to anyone in normal terms after losing her parents at a very young age. This caused Shinji to constantly seek affection from her despite being constantly reprimanded. Here in his broken state he begs her to ‘Call [him] an idiot like you always do.’

            By this point he is looking for any acknowledgement of him as a person, something Misato tried and failed to give him. He is physically touching her which is more than he had ever done previously, but he is as far from her as he can be emotionally. He sobs over her body as he tries to simply have a connection with someone when he has cut himself off from pretty much everyone else, including his father who had been the driving reason behind him fighting previous.

            When he sees her naked form he wants to connect with her in any way possible, but at that point can see nothing but a sex object, and masturbates to her unmoving state. After he finishes he stares at his stained hand and realizes that in both their current states he will have no way to connect to her, and something so crude as what he has done just seeks to exacerbate his current belief about the world and everyone in it, which plays into the conclusion heavily. What else he feels is incredible guilt over using her like this, and also for not doing anything when they could actually connect. 

            This is all the love he is to show her, aside from a determination to save her that ultimately fails. The two have several other scenes throughout the film, with the most important in the film being the final scene, them together again though the circumstances are quite different aside from the incredible feeling of loneliness even together. They are locked from the world, so far apart from any sense of normality, locked in themselves in fact, apart even while they are touching. This leads to Shinji’s line, “I’m so fucked up” indicating just how far he has suck, losing all confidence in himself and in fact going so far as to hate himself and everything that he has done.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Horror Films

Let's talk about horror movies. First and foremost what defines a horror movie, and how they differ from thrillers or dramas. The primary purpose of a horror movie is to scare. This is not some dictionary definition or anything like that, it's just what feels right to me. To frighten, terrify, gross out, or horrify are all secondary objectives, and depending on the exact sub-genre may be more important than the primary purpose. First, slasher films.

Again defining the genre in a simple sentence is difficult, but an easy way to tell a slasher film from a traditional horror is it is much more focused on the villain, either showing trace parts of him everywhere, or upright showing him killing people. Good ones will do more of the former and less of the latter. A slash will also have gory deaths, or at the very least very intense deaths. A perfect example of intense but not gory deaths is in both Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the original Halloween. Even some of the slasher icons actually come from films which were very rooted in traditional horror, which is where the line blurs, thus, the sub-genre. Also Leatherface, very different type of horror from most of the other iconics.

Many modern, and by modern I mean the last decade or so, have focused less on these classic or identifiable villains, with Ghostface and Jigsaw being some of the very select exceptions. Now horror films focus on a much more human enemy. By the middle of most of the horror giants franchises they had become unstoppable killing machines, capable of mowing through armies of sex-crazed teens. With movies like I Know What You Did Last Summer these villains have become much less memorable, and much more killable, despite coming back for like 4 sequels.

Some slasher-esque films even go with concepts for their villain, for example the Final Destination series, or I suppose the Happening, even if it failed miserably in execution. A good iconic villain has simply not been created for a long time, and I'm not quite sure why that is. There are still creative people out there, and infinite ideas to work with, but maybe the classic image of a masked man slowly and menacingly walking towards the protagonist is simply not scary anymore. Nowadays psychological horror is bigger, and slashers have been way on the down low, despite decent profits from the recent remakes.

That's another thing I don't really understand, why is it that remakes never capture the 'magic' of the originals. For the three main horror legends, Freddy, Jason, and Micheal the remakes have failed by showing them more, or by splattering as much gore as possible on the camera and just praying that it is scary. It's not guys, gore is not scary, you need something scary behind it. Behind you. You know why Jaws was effective? You didn't see the shark, like at all. Maybe five minutes in total, and that's stretching it. The unknown is really fucking scary, but what is even more scary is the little known, the hints of whats to come.

Unfortunately many films go to shit during the conclusion, stretching on for too long or becoming too comical, or maybe making the villain too human, or too inhuman. It is a very delicate balance that seems almost impossible to get right, in that even my favorite slashers conclusions are somewhat lackluster. What I'm saying is that even the best of them simply do not know how to finish, because conclusions are difficult when you want the badass you created to be defeated, but not utterly, and in no way humiliated. To die with dignity is all you want, and sometimes you can't even get that. Concluded next week.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Avengers

The movie is great, amazing even. It is exactly what it was built up to be, and possibly even more. It is full to the brim with Whedonesque humor and amazing fight scenes, as well as good character development for those who didn't get their own movies, though doing less for those who did. The humor I think was quite possibly the best done part, with laughs at all the right moments, and none during the tense moments.

Loki works well as a villain in this movie only because he is clearly not the biggest threat, he is captured early on and shows that he is merely the one who opens the gate, the aliens are the true villains. This works especially well because we have seen him beaten before, whereas this new threat is untested, and when fighting earth's mightiest heroes they better be good.

As for the heroes themselves they were amazing, with the sheer power of Hulk and Thor shown extremely well in their fight scene, throwing around power that would cripple any lesser being. The Hulk I think is actually one of the best characters in the movie, because everyone is waiting for him to come out, but Banner still puts on a good performance and gives a good reason for not wanting him to. Iron Man is shown to be one of the most versatile if not most powerful members, dueling with Thor on almost equal footing, if only because ranged spam defeats melee. We got Captain America showing the power of a vibranium shield, and Hawkeye showing that an arrow can do a lot more than expected. The only one who kind of disappointed was Black Widow, but since she was out of her element it was fairly expected, and she still performed admirably.

Let me just say that Hawkeye actually works really well. Before I felt he would be clearly outclassed and be reduced to basic ranged support, but as a villain in the first half and competent spotter and precision damage worked really well, with explosive and EMP arrows allowing him to deal with robots. He also got a fair amount of characterization through Black Widow despite his little screen time. I mean previously he had what, like 1 minute in the Incredible Hulk? Samuel L. Jackson did everything that was expected of him, pulling off the all-knowing leader well, and delivering the cool confidence necessary for the role, I now know exactly why they chose him as the inspiration for Ultimate Nick.

The plot was solid, and the 2 and a half hours just don't seem quite enough to contain everything that was shown in the film. I don't know what to say, other than I'm not really familiar with the aliens they used, but I only really know the Skrull empire, so I don't know my Marvel aliens that well. They worked well as mooks, though it would have been nice if they had some big bruiser elites for the Hulk and the like to fight on sort of even terms. Also the Hulk is now officially invincible, in that a headshot while Banner did not kill him. Maybe he can be killed in Hulk form, but I seriously doubt it. So he will definitely be a foe of the Avengers at some point in the future, possibly at the end of 2.

I've got more to say but it'll be better organized in the morning. The long and short of it was the movie was amazing, and I have more faith in Joss Whedon than I did before, at least his scriptwriting prowess, and this is coming from someone that has loved everything he has previously done, excluding some seasons of Buffy and Angel. I don't like assigning numbers to reviews, but this is the closest to a perfect Avengers movie we'll ever seem, and it was beautiful.