Friday, October 20, 2017

Classic Film - Episode 7

 A drama for this week. The Fugitive was released in 1993. From my understanding it was based on a 1960 TV series, which was based on a real person. I seriously doubt the film even remotely resembled reality but it is still a fun movie to watch. Starring Harrison Ford as Dr. Kimble, a man wrongfully accused of kill his wife, the fugitive follows Dr. Kimble as he escapes jail and seeks out the real murder all the while being chased by a hard-nosed U.S. Marshall named Samuel Gerrard.

The film opens with the murder of Dr. Kimble’s wife. It’s very blurry and in slow motion so most of the violence is muffled by the odd camera angles. It’s clear what’s happening but the details are fuzzy, which makes the crime all the more poignant since it is precisely the truth of these details that forms the subject of the next scene with Dr. Kimble’s trial. The most damning evidence is a 911 call of Mrs. Kimble in which she says she’s being attacked and then calls out her husband’s name before dying.

We are then treated to the escape, which is an exciting action scene. Dr. Kimble is being moved by a prison bus when several of the other prisoners attempt to escape. They cause the bus to run off-road and flip over several times before landing on the tracks of an oncoming train. Dr. Kimble barely escapes and then runs for it.

Enter Tommy Lee Jones as the U.S. Marshall sent to capture Kimble and the one other prisoner to survive the crash. This is Tommy Lee Jones at his best. He’s sarcastic, scarily perceptive, and cracks jokes in a dead-pan fashion. He also immediately takes charge and announces one of the best short speeches I’ve ever heard in a film in which he directs the police to search every gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse, and dog house in a four mile radius.

While we can certainly relate to the sympathetic Dr. Kimble and his quest to discover the truth behind his wife’s murder, it’s really the U.S. Marshall that makes this film so much fun. When Gerard confronts Kimble for the first time in a sewer, Kimble announces that he didn’t kill his wife. Gerard, even though he has a gun pointed at his head, casually replies that he doesn’t care. He’s funny, single-minded and seemingly good at his job.

The overall story is a standard murder mystery. If you haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil the ending but there really aren’t many twists and turns. What’s interesting about the film, however, is how Dr. Kimble uses his knowledge of hospitals to sneak back into society and covertly investigate his wife’s murder while playing cat-and-mouse with Gerard. Both men are intelligent and it’s fun to watch them match wits even though they aren’t technically enemies.

The film is a drama so there are a lot of slow moments broken up by the occasional chase scene. There’s a fist fight at the climax, which is so over-the-top ridiculous and long that it almost takes away from the real seriousness of the rest of the film. My older kids really got into the story. They liked the conflict and the tension between the two main characters. There’s a villain and his lackey but they are in the film so little they might as well be side characters.

One of the interesting little trivia bits about The Fugitive is that they filmed part of the movie in North Carolina. They crashed a train into a bus and then pretty much left it here. You can drive out and see the wreckage if you are so inclined. They did a sequel to The Fugitive called U.S. Marshalls, which followed Gerard tracking down a different fugitive played by Welsey Snipes. I remember seeing it years ago and not being very impressed. I don’t remember much about it.

There was one thing in the story that stood out to me personally more this time around and that was one of plot twists involving a pharmaceutical company that was faking its research in order to get a drug approved. I’m not just not shocked by it. I guess it might be because I’m older now and have had more experience with the medical industry that I’m honestly disillusioned about the lack of morality in the health sector. Or maybe it’s because I’ve studied how academic and scientific research is conducted that this kind of blatant falsehood for profit doesn’t surprise or alarm me. I kind of almost expect it. Now I just feel jaded.

Overall, The Fugitive is a great drama. Harrison Ford plays the mournful victim well. We feel bad for Dr. Kimble and want him to discover the truth. You can feel his simmering anger at the injustice of the situation and while I enjoyed his detective-work, the scenes where he’s kicking butt and brawling just feels out of place. Thankfully, those scenes are short and there aren’t too many of them. Tommy Lee Jones is just awesome as the hunter. The dialog is witty and the banter between Gerard and his team helps us enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

WIP Wednesday - 2017 - Volume 14

I've been a bit slow on this project the last week or so. There's only 2 new sketches for the new archetypes--Bondage Villain and Holy Knight:

Monday, October 16, 2017

Episode 4 - The Alchemist's Anguish

I see this as the first episode in which Brotherhood really begins to diverge from the '03 anime. The episode begins with one of my favorite characters from Brotherhood. 

And there goes this Basque Grand, which is fine by me. I didn't like him very much in the '03 anime, so cheers to his early demise. Plus, I am a bit biased towards Scar.

Beyond this point though the episode ranks as FMA's more depressing episodes. I think that can be said for both versions of the anime. 

Introducing this episodes creepy evil guy with squinty eyes drawn to make him look like a loving father figure. He reminds me a lot of Cornello at this point. This was never a connection a made until I started pulling screen shots and writing this stuff up, but both Tucker and Cornello start out looking sweet and relaxed with their eyes closed. As the episode progresses and we see more of Tucker's dark side, his eyes gradually open, and the lighting in his scenes gets darker, much like it did with Cornello. The only difference is the timing. Cornello goes evil fairly quickly, while Tucker takes most of the episode to show his true colors.

All these fun scenes with Ed, Al, Nina, and Alexander. They're bright and cheerful. They really want to make you love these guys. 

The eyes are starting to open. Clearly the happy times from the middle of the episode are not going to last...
 Nope... probably one of the worst scenes in the series.

The eyes are wide open now, and he's going on about how what he did wasn't really that wrong because science. Yeah... No... This was a great idea, said no one ever. 

And the end of Tucker and Nina. In the '03 anime, Scar only stumbled upon Nina. Here he has intentionally tracked down Tucker. He ends both of them here.

At this stage, I remember wondering where the story would go as both Basque Grand and Tucker played larger, although still secondary, rolls in the '03 anime. It might be worth adding here that I have not read the manga, so all of this was entirely new to me the first time I watched through it.  I found it quite exciting, as I especially disliked the Lab 5 episodes from the original anime, and without Tucker they would clearly change. 

This episode plays on what I think are two of FMA's major themes: the value of human life and ethics in science. Ed is greatly distressed by Nina's transformation and loss of humanity, and then, in spite of what Tucker has done, Nina still loves her father and values his life, which she demonstrates when Ed attacks Tucker and again after Scar has killed Tucker. And, although there is some justice in Tucker's death, there is only sadness for Nina and Alexander. Their deaths feel cruel and wrong. This episode sucks... period. It introduces Scar, and sets up themes, but overall still leaves a bitter aftertaste.

Friday, October 13, 2017

What I'm Watching - Fairy Tail

I'm even more behind the times with this one. I finally sat down to watch Fairy Tail. I've made it through the 48 episodes they have on Netflix. I enjoyed it. I'd love if Netflix had more of it. Now, I know I can watch it on Crunchyroll, but I can't get the Crunchyroll app on my tablet, and my tablet tends to be what I watch this stuff on as I often run it while walking on a treadmill and similar activities. (Side note: if anyone knows how to side load the Crunchyroll app onto a Kindle Fire 8, please let me know.)

Fairy Tail reminded me of a cross between One Piece and Slayers. I had watched a couple of episodes years ago when it first came out and never got into it. I never got into One Piece either. It's just not my thing. I did love Slayers though. Now that I have a treadmill so I can exercise even when it's abysmally hot and humid outside, I've started watching more things on my tablet, which is cool because it's been a while since I've been able to watch much of anything. Now if only Crunchyroll would work on the tablet...

I enjoyed Fairy Tail, although it took a little while for me to really get into it. I initially did not like either Lucy or Natsu, and given that they are 2 of the main characters... They have grown on me though. I like that they've made Lucy a stronger wizard because at the beginning she seemed weak compared to the others, and she never seemed to contribute much to their adventures. She got better--I especially liked her episodes with Loke. My favorite characters are Loke and Gray. I also like Erza and Levy a lot. I'm hoping I get time to watch more on Crunchyroll, or maybe Netflix will release more of it, because I'd really like to see more of it.

I won't say Fairy Tail was particularly brilliant, but it was still good. It was a fun series, which kept things generally positive--like the heroes were able to win most of the time. It's one of those feel-good series, and that's the kind of thing I've been really enjoying lately. Life is dark enough; I prefer to keep my entertainment on the lighter side.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Episode 3 - City of Heresy

The Liore episodes from the '03 anime rank as some of my least favorite episodes from the original anime. Mainly, I think the science vs religion stance annoyed me. This is a personal thing for me. Anyways, Ed gets fairly preachy about it, so I'm pretty sure the Liore episode from Brotherhood is going to stay at the top of my least favorite episodes. ... Moving on...
 Look, here's Ed being a jerk to Rose. Maybe another thing that kind of rubs me wrong about this episode is that Ed argues here how "cheap" human life really is, when they spend a lot of time discussing how priceless it is, like how it cost him a leg and Al his whole body to attempt to return life to their mother. Basically the value of human life is something no one person could truly pay. But then, given the form Al has taken, maybe this isn't too contradictory if you consider a person's body as a separate entity from their soul. Anyways, I still think Ed's a jerk for mocking Rose.
And here's another jerk. Lol. This episode is full of them. Squinty-eyed bastard disguised as a loving father-figure.
Squinty eyes and slanty eye-brows... starting to show his true colors.
Yep... there they are. The lighting gradually gets darker around Cornello so that there are more shadows on his face, you know, in case we weren't sure this guy is supposed to be sinister. =P
And here's Cornello showing off his "power" by manipulating a Rose. Brilliant.
Yep... that went well. Now she's even more traumatized.
And to show that Cornello really doesn't care about his followers, in case having Rose try to kill the Elrics wasn't enough, he opens fire on her. The whole scene was really stuipd of him, imo, considering she is probably one of his most devoted followers. Really, though, as far as villains go, Cornello belongs on the level of Scooby Doo. He's cliched and makes obvious mistakes. He isn't clever. He's just an arrogant and greedy. Moving on...
First picture of one of my favorite additions to Ed's character for Brotherhood. Gotta level Ed's style. He doesn't just create an opening in the wall; he creates an elaborate set of double doors. Ed's style is over-the-top. It's excessive to the point of being tacky. At the same time, I think it's brilliant, because if you've gotta do something like that, why not make it look awesome too.
This is really just beautiful.
More of Ed's style. He's going for intimidation here because I'm pretty sure that wouldn't be useful for much of anything. I especially like that one serrated edge. It's kind of like an over-large can-opener.
The episode concludes by getting Cornello to monologue because that's what bad guys do...
And the cliched trap. Yep that was on for the entire monologue. But then, like I said, Cornello's not a very clever villain, so he was super easy to beat.
And here's Ed being a jerk again (personal opinion). I mean his over-all message is good, but his communication is insensitive. Or maybe it's just puberty rearing it's ugly head. I do live with a pair of teenagers and they can say some completely inappropriate things and think they're being either sensitive or funny when they're really not. Anyways.

Aside from setting up discontent in Liore, introduce a few characters like Rose, and show off that the Philosopher's stone can be faked or used up (this was shown in episode 1, but Ed didn't see that one disappear), this episode does not contribute much to the development of the story. Bonus: it only took one episode in Brotherhood. It's the little things.

And then there's these guys at the very very end:

Yeah, I bet that symbol's important, given the lovely slobbery up-close we get of it.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Classic Films - Episode 6

We get two this week for the price of one. Since the last film was such a depressing topic, we needed a healthy dose of humor to remind us that there are good things in life too. The first film on today’s menu is “Raising Arizona” starring a true master of insanity Nicolas Cage and the ever-funny Helen Hunt.

So to understand this film well you have to know a little bit about the directors. The Coen Brothers are one of those directorial teams that have created a bunch of great films from “The Big Lebowski” to “Oh Brother Where art Thou.” They are quite the film scholars so their films often make sly references to older movies and genre tropes. Their films are a but strange and not for everybody. I hated their film “Fargo” but mostly from the exaggerated Minnesota accents and the repetitive “Ja” that’s in every single line but I can forgive them for being eccentric since I’ve generally enjoyed their other films.

“Raising Arizona” is one of the Coen brothers’ earlier movies and it follows an unsuccessful robber named Hi who keeps trying to stick up gas stations using empty guns because he doesn’t want to hurt anyone. He falls in love with the police photographer, which is cutely shown through a series of arrests in which they spend a minute or two talking each time. Each scene is shown in a montage generally skipping the long periods in between where Hi serves his time for his crime. Finally, Hi gives up crime and proposes to Ed and they settle down to live the typical American family life.
A small problem arises when the couple discover that they can’t have children. They then hatch a ridiculous plan to steal a baby from a local unfinished furniture store owner who had quintuplets because his wife used fertility drugs. Hi and Ed steal a baby and through a series of mishaps involving a couple of Hi’s old convict buddies and a bounty hunter, Hi and Ed realize that they shouldn’t have taken the child and return him. While the two initially talk about divorce, the film ends with them in bed and Hi has a dream in which we see their future as a loving old couple surrounded by a large family of children and grandkids. It’s a hopeful ending to an otherwise silly journey.

The film follows an old comedy genre called the screwball, which was really popular in the late 1930s and early 1940s. This genre typically followed a married couple who split up and then through a series of unlikely events would rekindle their love with one another. Sometimes the couple aren’t married and just fall in love but they are almost always opposites of one another. One is poor, the other rich. One is educated, the other isn’t. And so forth. In “Raising Arizona” Hi breaks the law, while Ed upholds it.

Screwballs are also marked by witty dialog particularly between the two romantic interests. There are loads of just ridiculous conversations in “Raising Arizona.” At one point Hi’s criminal friends show up and Ed asks them if they broke out of prison. They respond by saying that they released themselves of their own recognizance because they felt the correctional institution no longer had anything to offer them. When Hi and Ed welcome Nathan Jr., the stolen baby, into their home Hi points to the TV and says, “That there’s the television. No more than two hours a day either educational or football so you don’t ruin your appreciation for the finer things.”

Lastly, screwball comedies are most well-known for absurd situations and events. Possibly, the best scene in the film occurs when Hi, frustrated at his attempts to live properly, holds up a convenience store to get diapers. Ed sees him and drives away leaving Hi alone with an unloaded gun, police sirens blaring, and a pack of Huggies. What follows is a hilarious sequence in which Hi is chased throughout the suburbs and a grocery store by some gun-happy police, a pack of dogs, and a vindictive shopkeeper with a shotgun. All the while, Hi is trying to keep his grip on the diapers.

Screwball comedies were popular during a time when the institution of marriage was under severe question as states were legalizing divorce. People felt that the bed-rock of the family unit was under attack but screwballs emerged as hopeful reminders that marriage can withstand rocky patches. Some great screwballs of the past include “It Happened One Night,” “His Girl Friday,” and “Bringing Up Baby.” “Raising Arizona” is a nice tribute to a forgotten genre but it’s also a funny movie on its own. My kids really enjoyed it. While I don’t think they were as interested with the film’s presentations of the American family dream as I was, they liked the silly sequences and the slapstick humor.

Our second film for today is “Brain Donors.” What can be said about this film except that it’s sheer lunacy. Our cast of characters include Flakfizer, an ambulance-chasing lawyer/con man played by John Toturro, a cab driver named Rocco played by comedian Mel Smith, and a handy-man named Jacques played by Bob Nelson. These three nutballs hatch a plan to start a ballet company in order to scam a wealthy widow by fulfilling her dead husband’s last wish. What results is a zany series with the slapstick comedy of the Three Stooges and fast-talking verbal humor of the Marx brothers.

“Brain Donors” came out in 1992 and was produced by the Zucker brothers whose other comedies include “Airplane!” and “Ruthless People.” I missed it in the theaters but that’s not surprising since the studio pulled the film after initial screenings performed poorly. After renting the movie, it quickly moved into one of my favorite comedies. However, it’s sort of an odd duck and will either make you snort with laughter or the puns will make you groan.

My 10-year old couldn’t stop laughing. He greatly enjoyed the finale of the film in which our three intrepid heroes purposefully ruin a ballet performance in order to win back their ballet company. For the most part, the film is pretty dumb. The villains are your stereotypical greedy lawyer and a stuck-up bully of a ballet dancer. There’s a side-plot involving a “nice” ballerina and her boyfriend that seems sort of tacked on. The wealthy dowager is a fool whose opinion and goals sway with every gentle breeze. She allows Flakfizer to mock her publically and generally forgets important things within moments because it would be inconvenient for the plot.

However, there’s a lot to enjoy about “Brain Donors.” There’s some wonderfully silly lines. Flakfizer flirts with the widow by saying he can’t wait to take her on a Carribbean cruise where they can watch the old Jamaican moon. “Why the old Jamaican will be mooning us, I have no idea,” he remarks. This is an obvious nod to Groucho Mark’s classic joke about shooting an elephant in his pajamas and then wondering why the elephant was wearing his pajamas.

After our trio breaks into a hospital by pretending to be doctors, they are arrested and we are treated to a bunch of gags as one of the characters has to empty his pockets and he just keeps dumping random stuff on the desk including a rubber snake, a fire extinguisher, and a bicycle pump. It’s over the top but really that’s the point of these films. The characters break social norms and the laws of nature and they do it joyfully. They set fire to a woman’s hat. They play basketball on a ballet stage. They jump out windows to pick flowers. It’s a bunch of nonsense. One of my son’s favorite scenes involved the greedy lawyer shouting, “This is nonsense,” to which Flakfizer responds, “You’re wrong. This is nonsense.” He then points to Jacques who starts imitating a monkey and then eats a candle.

Some of the humor is a bit adult. Flakfizer casually comments that “Two’s company and three’s an adult movie.” However, the slapstick jokes are well-suited for a young child’s sense of humor. In order to annoy the ballet jerk, the main characters have a few dozen pizzas and a singing lobster delivered to his dressing room. I was paying attention to the potty humor this time around and was surprised at how little there actually was of it. I think my kids were able to get more of the jokes in “Brain Donors” than “Raising Arizona” but they still laughed at them both. It was a fun night of guffaws and absurdity.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

WIP Wednesday - 2017 - Volume 13

I really enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy 2, so here's a couple of chibi sketches from that movie. If I don't get too distracted, this will become part of a set of buttons.

Gotta love bad cell phone pics at weird hours of the knight so the lighting is all messed up. But, beggars can't be choosers, and I don't tend to be conscious when I'm home and have access to my scanner. =P At least not when I'm thinking about posting these updates...