Sunday, December 30, 2012

Bigger, Stronger, Faster*

Apparently I missed two weeks of updates. Once, because I ended up going to some seminar (which was unexpected), and again because I forgot that what day of the week it was. Yeah, that's how my brain has been running as of late.
On to the show!

Today we'll be taking a look at an important documentary which seems to have slipped right under the radar. The Christopher Bell film is titled 'Bigger, Stronger, Faster*', and it's a movie about athletes who wish to become larger than life. But as far as the consequences and the origins of their desires go, well, that's all up for discussion.

To spoil the introductory scene for you, the opening talks about the influence that personalities like Hulk Hogan, Sylvester Stallone, and Arnold Schwarzenegger have all had on the impressionable minds of young boys.
These are supposed to be the heroes that always triumph over evil, shooting and blowing up the bad guys, getting the big paychecks and winning the heart of all of the women around them. What's not to like?

Of course, what all of these guys had in common was a tremendous physique which many men only dream of having, but which are not achievable without the use of steroids.
But is it really "cheating" if you use steroids? What are the potential dangers of use, if any? And what of Olympic competitions?

The film largely is partly autobiographical and largely revolves around the director, Chris Bell, and his brothers, 'Smelly' and 'Mad Dog' - all brothers having been bitten by the 'muscles' bug. Despite the first hand experience, the film manages to remain neutral as statistics, both pro and con, and presented throughout.

In fact, the evidence presented by experts would lead you to consider that steroid use is not as harmful for you physically or mentally, as detrimental as it may to your self-confidence (namely, never feeling satisfied and constantly fighting a power struggle for more).

Arguments are made explaining that steroids don't magically enhance your physique or athleticism, as much as they increase your potential to improve - and that's a large difference.
Also taken into account, how widespread forms of steroid use actually is, from the porn industry, to college students studying for exams, and musicians playing in orchestras.

A third variable that comes into the picture, however, are drug companies which only see the potential to make money off of the men (and women) who are seeking to sculpt their bodies. As well as the magazines that sell their products, and the models which don't look exactly as depicted.
And then, there's the government which has passed legislation in favor of the drug companies which are screwing over consumers.

Bigger, Stronger, Faster*

Final Grade: A+

To be completely honest, I've also been attracted to this sort of 'lifestyle' and culture scene before, but generally speaking, I've mostly always been in favor of doing things as naturally as possible. Protein bars are as far as I've personally gone, but even that didn't last too long.

In the end, it's a great big mindfuck that's left America insecure and striving to win a shameful dick-measuring contest which goes on unregulated. Much like our obsession with money, war, and photoshop.
But all in all, it's a great, informative, and surprisingly entertaining presentation.

Highly recommended! And if you act now, you can actually find the whole movie (in parts) up for streaming on YouTube!!

P.S. The movie has a good number of equally great deleted scenes. It'd be great to get an extended cut. 'Bigger, Stronger, Faster, Longer', anyone?

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Black Butler

I've resorted to having to wear sunglasses whenever I'm at my computer because the eye-strain is getting really painful.
Also of note, I started this post and got waayyy off-track, so I'm starting over from scratch and hoping to stay focused this time.

There were a good couple of months, a few years back, when my sisters and I would go through the Manga section at the library and pick out anything at a 'Volume 1' that we hadn't already read before. This turned out to be an excellent way to find great new material because you can run through a volume in about half an hour or so, or just put it aside if it's not to your liking.

This is where I started to rant about the differences between Japanese & American graphic novels, their differences, and their pros and cons. However, that proved to be a LONG discussion which only took away from today's entry.

So, we eventually came across a series known as 'Black Butler (or Kuroshitsuji, originally). Though an African-American butler - like that Geoffrey guy from the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air - may be the first image to come to mind, this is not that. At all.

Living within a British mansion is moody rich kid 'Ciel Phantomhive', and his four faithful and equally maladjusted servants (a militarized cook, a gardener with super-strengh, a clumsy maid, and a cartoonish house steward who is usually found drinking tea).

Oh, and there's also Ciel's own personal butler, 'Sebastian Michaelis. Aside from being the best and most charming butler around, Sebastian is also a demon who acts as a bodyguard for Ciel in eventual exchange for Ciel's soul.
As you may imagine, we instantly liked this series as soon as we began reading it.

Anyway, the story arcs seemed to be influenced by Sherlock Holmes, as Ciel and Sebastian wander around town, searching for clues and interrogating various characters in order to solve crime cases. Unexpected setup, but it worked!

Of course, Sebastian isn't the only demon, or butler, in town. Early antagonists range from petty crime families, to dangerous grim reapers (one of which has been killing prostitutes with a chainsaw!), and others who want the spoiled child, Ciel Phantomhive, dead.
All of this, by the way, while the servants back home make a hilarious mess of things which Sebastian will have to fix once he gets home.

So it's a funny, gothic Sherlock Holmes with demons! Awesome!!
But, there exists a problem.

You see, we stopped reading the volumes after Vol. 5 or so, and instead we ended up watching the anime series (which this review is strictly for). As it turns out, season one of the show is supposed to follow the manga fairly well, but the people in charge decided to abruptly end the show by the end of the first season (24 episodes).

All of this, despite the fact that the manga is still going on today, with 75 chapters released thus far. But wait, there's more!
I guess the guys in charge came to realize that the show garnered enough popularity to make the cancellation seem stupid - which it was.

So they then decided to animate a second season, but since it had already "ended", the story would have to diverge from the manga (think of it as an alternate timeline, like in 'Back to the Future') with unofficial characters and stories.

The second season (and really, even before the end of the first season) saw a drastic change as it dropped all of the case solving and funny shenanigans for a long and gloomier slow-paced season talkative, emotional episodes full of hatred and despair. Not a welcome change!

Even though the new characters are as interesting as ever, the story is spread thin, and I often found myself falling asleep, with no idea as to how the story progressed (if at all) by the time I woke up.

And then, the foolish heads in charge of the show decided to end the show again at the end of the second season. This time for realsies!

Blah. Needless to say, this all left a bad taste in my mouth, despite fans just being happy that there was something to watch.
Before I wrap this up, check out this trailer for the show's first season.

Black Butler: Season One, Part 1

Final Anime Grade: B

As you can see, the great news is that the entire show is up for free streaming on YouTube! Yes!!
Season 1 and Season 2.

By the way, Season 2 says 'Season 1' because it's the first (and only) season of 'Black Butler 2'. So stupid!!

So while we had a great setup with a cool and original gimmick, the series was tarnished by the alternate extra season (expect contradicting tags at the end of this post).
This had the potential to become seriously awesome, if only the people in charge had stuck to the official story.

Either way, I do recommend checking out the first 12 episodes (subbed, NOT dubbed) for shits and giggles. And take a gander at the second. Why not? You may end up liking it, even if I didn't.
Me, I'm curious enough to resume where I left off with the manga.
I want to find out how the story REALLY continues.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

50 First Dates

Okay, so I missed a week due to unforeseen circumstances. Let's get on with our lives, yes?

Today, I'll be reaching far back into my memory to try and recall 50 First Dates, starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore (because they were showing it nonstop on TBS a while back).

The thing about Adam Sandler is, I think the guy is it's awesome how "down to earth" this guy is, and his acting skills can actually reach beyond the cheap comedies he's in, but I find that most of the films he appears in aren't really worth watching more than once (if that).
Of course, I usually blame the director more than I blame him, but he's usually playing the same role anyway. He just plays himself. Aside from that, many of his roles have some promising gimmick set up (the son of Satan and an angel in Little Nicky!), but the rest of the film's flimsy foundation usually causes the whole effort to just topple over.

But this one, this one's considerably - and surprisingly - better.

Sandler plays 'Henry', a womanizing veterinarian who seems to specialize in marine life (think 'penguins', as opposed to crustaceans and the sort).

Anyway, as it turns out, he and 'Lucy' (Drew) cross paths, take a liking to each other, and make plans to meet the following day. Of course, Henry goes over to see Lucy, but she doesn't remember a damned thing about him.
And if you've read the title or seen the trailer, you can already tell where this is going.

So the whole movie is a romantic comedy that revolves around a guy who is afraid of commitment, but falls in love with a girl he has to win over day after day because her condition causes her memory to reset every day when she wakes up.(Remember Groundhog Day?)

Not the worst premise, though I'm uncertain about how realistic this is.
Anyway, I'd post the trailer, but it spoils too many of the better scenes found throughout the movie.

50 First Dates (Widescreen Special Edition)

Final Grade: B+

So, yes, not much else to say about this movie. It's better than your average Sandler flick, but still a comedy with some ridiculous gags - which makes it a little harder to suspend belief during the more emotional scenes.

Otherwise, acting and story are both decent, with a good tropical setting in Hawaii.
Watch it to be amused, and don't miss it if it's on tv, but don't expect it to be amazing or unforgettable.

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