adventure

Two Geeks And A Podcast #Seven – Two Geeks At The Fair

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Two Geeks And A Podcast #Seven – Two Geeks At The Fair

Greetings glorious Geeks! On this weeks podcast Ashley and Anthony take off to the annual San Diego County Fair to see what kind of geeky trouble they could find. While among the fried foods, rickety rides, and blazing heat the podcasting couple throw down an epic challenge over carnival games that Anthony swears are rigged! Listen in as they dabble in the finest foods that the fair has to offer all while wishing all the geeky Dads out there a wonderful Father’s Day.

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Tangled

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Tangled

Disney’s trumpeting Tangled as its 50th animated feature seems a bit defensive at first.They pioneered the medium of animation in terms of technique, story adaptation, and marketing, paving the way for those young upstarts like Pixar and Dreamworks to take the ball and run with it later.

Still, 72 years later, people still think of animation as a genre of itself, not a storytelling medium, a kid’s parlor trick rather than a means of telling a story. Tangled, as an adaptation of the centuries-old tale of Rapunzel, can do little to defend against these stodgy critics. However, Tangled is about growing up, and it’s a testament to its 49 predecessors in demonstrating how much Disney itself has also grown up.

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The Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole

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The Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole

Matinee with Snacks

I went into this movie with pretty low expectations. The previews are gorgeous, but what computer animated film has any excuse not to be gorgeous these days? The whole thing seemed like something Elijah Wood would headline (and by that I mean Happy Feet and not Lord of the Rings). Well, it’s more like Lord of the Rings than you might imagine, and well worth the 3-D surcharge at that.

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Your Friday Flashback 03/26/10: Golden Boy

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Your Friday Flashback 03/26/10: Golden Boy

Genres: Adventure, Comedy, Ecchi

Ratings Ratings
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Every year around my birthday I take a Friday to cover a series from anime-past. This year I selected (read coerced by friends) Golden Boy from around 1995-1996, back in MY high school days. Golden boy is a six episode OVA (or OAV depending on your personal preference) based on Tatsuya Egawa’s manga of the same name.

The story’s protagonist, Kintaro Oe, is a jack-of-all-trades out seeking knowledge in the world. He takes on freelance jobs to make his way and continues traveling on his bicycle. He takes studious notes in a journal regarding all the wondrous things he comes across in his voyage. Oh yea, and he is a completely deranged pervert. The series is packed with perverse references, fetishes and all manner of bouncing anatomy. However, where many of the recent series I have reviewed failed, this classic succeeded. While the perverse nature of some series feels artificial, extra, or just uncalled for… Golden Boy embraced the genre, using it to great comedic effect.

Kintaro’s first position is with an all female office developing software, his second is tutoring an over-sexed daughter of a local mayoral candidate. His third lands him in an udon shop, on to the fourth as a swimming coach (even though he does not yet know how to swim). He works as a servant to a rich family in the fifth and as an errand boy for an animation studio in the climactic conclusion of the sixth.

Due to the short length of this series, I REALLY don’t want to discuss any of the plot points as I normally do in my reviews. Get out there and watch it already!

Overall Series Rating: A

You can see part of episode one (and beyond) after the break, I should probably note that it is not always safe for work …

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Your Friday Fix 02/19/10: Sora no Woto

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Your Friday Fix 02/19/10: Sora no Woto

Genres: Adventure, Comedy

Ratings Ratings
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A war in a vaguely European setting has left Kanata Sorami, a young girl, orphaned. She is found alone and crying in a gutted building by a female bugler. Years later she has grown up somewhat, although still quite young, and has enlisted in the military to become a bugler like the woman who saved her. Her assignment is a town called Seize, known to the military as the Time Telling Fortress. It is here that the first two episodes, and presumably the majority of the series, will take place.

On her way through the town, Kanata is distracted by a local tradition in which people are dousing each other with an orange colored water. She is met by a woman named Rio Kazumiya, who turns out to be her superior, and scolded for her lax ways. While cleaning up, Rio shows her a bell charm her father left her. In a humorously prompt manner, an owl swoops in and steals the necklace from Kanata’s hand. Rio sucks up her disappointment and instructs Kanata get to their base.

While Rio goes off the participate in her special role in the town’s ceremony, Kanata is drawn to the bell’s sound and down into the ravine near the town. While she manager to secure the bell, she falls into the water below. Under the water is a huge golden skeleton of some headless bird, possibly relating to the town’s history, but never divulged in the first two episodes. Rio hears Kanata bugling for assistance and eventually rescues her.

Now united, Kanata is introduced to the other members of their platoon. Filicia Heideman is the group’s leader followed by Rio as the sergeant major. Noel Kannagi is the platoon’s pilot and mechanic, yet has not been able to make the needed repairs to their defunct mecha-tank. Kureha Suminoya is a stubborn private and the platoons tank gunner. Kureha seems to be out to hate Kanata, but warms to her during a “mission” to seek out a ghost in episode two.

This series suffers greatly from the glaring comparison to K-ON in the makeup of the group and even in the character design themselves. Pushing this aside, the story is floating on a rich world yet has taking very little active interest in pursuing the greater story thus far. On the plus side, the scenery is beautiful.

Overall Hook Rating: C

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A Town Called Panic (Panique au Village)

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Leaving aside that this is a French film with subtitles, when you settle in to watch it, you first feel as if you’re indulging a precocious nephew’s elaborate and logic-impaired make-believe. A lower-tech stop motion even than Robot Chicken, A Town Called Panic’s characters are common children’s toys, complete with green bases and sloppily manufactured faces. Originally from a 2000 TV series, the characters have enough history to make excess exposition unnecessary. It doesn’t take long to get used to the idea of a Horse and a Cowboy and an Indian living together in this world of stiff plastic pigs and whimsical paper cars, with their petty roommate problems and kooky neighbors. What starts as a simple misguided birthday gesture ends up as a battle for world domination, as all the best films do.

When the initial problem devolves into a much more serious and surreal challenge, your best bet is to sit back and marvel at the sheer pleasure of the story and the writing. No one snipes ironically or comments on the escalating illogic — like a child carried away by their own story, every situation is accepted and dealt with in simple, pure fashion. What else would one do with that many bricks? To my companion I described it as childish in a good way, and we agreed it would be hard to describe. Its home-made charm is appealing, as well as the amusing ways the animators deal with practical problems (such as, how does a horse use a cell phone) and mechanical challenges. The voice(s) could almost be your drunk Uncle Pierre, arguing and agreeing with himself in cartoonish voices. It may be impolitic to say so, but the fact that it is in French adds to the sweet absurdity of the whole piece. In between cataclysmic disasters and deranged farcical encounters, Horse still manages to answer the telephone callers with a disinterested, “ça va.”

The small village has our heroes’ house, the neighboring farm, a music school (for children and animals), and a police box. A mailman comes, a T-intersection gets jammed, and a pond reveals hidden depths, while the residents bicker about who should have taken the trash out and the beautiful music teacher tries to interest a handsome student. The breadth of the story expands to ridiculous proportions, retaining its innocent purity to keep you in a state of childlike wonder, while also becoming a developed, grown-up plot. “What could be next?” you breathe excitedly. Panique is so unfettered with post-modern meta irony or spoof or self-reference or any of that modern comedy business, it’s a sheerly delightful novelty. The intense ramping-up of the states and the situational absurdism is just plain fun. No doubt it will vanish without a trace, but I encourage you to see it if you ever get the chance.

MPAA Rating Not Rated (subtitles and subject probably PG 13)

Release date 2/5/10

Time in minutes 75

Director Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar

Studio Zeitgeist Films

Your Friday Fix 01/15/10: Fairy Tail

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Genres: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Magical

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Fiore is a country where a sizable portion of the population has some manner of magical abilities. Due to this, magic is a common and traded commodity amongst the people. those who use magic are referred to as wizards. While their sources of magic may be varied, they all join together in guilds to further their pursuits. One such guild is called Fairy Tail. Fairy Tail’s members are a rather rough and disparate group of wizards, but they are quite powerful.

The story follows Lucy Heartfilia, a fledgling Stellar Spirit wizard who wishes to join the Fairy Tail guild. The meets with a popular, charming, yet vain wizard calling himself “Salamander of Fairy Tail.” She nearly falls under his charm magic but a young man named Natsu Dragneel, who is looking for someone named Igneel, blunders in and breaks the spell. He assumed that the man going as “Salamander” may in fact be Igneel… he wasn’t. Lucy buys Natsu and his cat Happy lunch as thanks. Knowing that she needs to get in Salamander’s good graces, she eventually agrees to join him at a party on his boat.

This party turns out to be a trap to lure women into a slave ship headed to another country. While Lucy attempts to ward off Salamander’s advances, as well as his minions’, Natsu makes a sea-sick entrance to defeat them. Lucy is pulled off the boat by Happy’s wing transformation, but end up in the water when the spell wears off. She then uses her magic to summon Aquarius to beach the fleeing ship. Aquarius, after making a few threats to Lucy, does as she is told and beaches the ship with a tidal wave.

Back on dry land, Natsu recovers and reveals himself the be the true “Salamander of Fairy Tail,” then promptly defeats the impostor. This does, however, destroy large portions of the town and they are forced to flee back to the guild hall. Natsu extends an invitation to join the guild while he, Lucy and Happy run for it. The guild turns out to be a bit more unprofessional and wild than Lucy would have anticipated. She takes a job with Natsu to get away from it all and the remainder of the second episode involves us seeing a bit more of her power, Natsu’s compassion and a little bit of history all around.

This series is pretty funny and the only negative I can see with it would be that if it does not buckle down the main story line early in the season, it will lose out big time. That aside, I’m looking forward to watching this series.

Overall Hook Rating: A

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Your Friday Fix 01/01/10: The Sacred Blacksmith

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Genres: Adventure, Drama, Fantasy

Ratings Ratings
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In the Independent Trade City of Housman a young knight named Cecily Cambell patrols the streets. In her hands she hold her family’s sword, handed down through three generations of Knight Guards. Her first true fight nearly turns out to be her last when she meets an old knight in town. Madness has taken his mind and he strikes out at anyone in his path. In one swift slice he destroys the Cambell family sword and nearly kills Cecily.

It is at point Luke Ainsworth, a blacksmith and swordsman, steps in to save her. He chides her for being ineffective and leaves her behind. After a bit of research, Cecily finds her way to his shop far outside of town. Inside she meets with Lisa, the assistant of the shop, and begins to plead for Luke to craft her a katana like his so she will never be defeated again. He denies her request, as he will only make sword for his own use now.

Soon after the two get embroiled with city guardsmen trying to protect a supply shipment from werewolf-like creatures in the forest. The beasts kill nearly every guard until Luke and Cecily step in. The raiders leader is turned into a giant ice beast by a man in black, who ducks out without being caught. Cecily is again, twice over, saved by Luke in combat. Luke’s sword pays the price for his heroics and breaks. Asking Cecily to hold the battle-line for him, Luke begins to craft a new sword using a combined magical ability shared with Lisa. With this magical fire blade he defeats the beast.

As the second episode comes to a close, Cecily is entrusted with the care of a demon sword. This sword has the form of a young woman when not in use by its wielder. This addition to the end of episode two is probably one of the few things this series has going for it. Aside from the contract between Cecily and Luke for her new sword and the man in black, there is little stringing the series along. However, the trip is not exactly boring, so it may turn out to be more than a flash-in-the-pan.

Overall Hook Rating: C

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Avatar

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James Cameron has always been an innovator. Whether it’s defining the gold standard for a female action lead or designing cameras and processes to make the exact film he is envisioning, Cameron is a technical wizard. Match his attention to detail and his creativity with the peerless effects and design team at Weta, and you make art.

Does the story lives up to its presentation? No, but only because the presentation is exceptional. It’s an age-old fable of invading force, underestimating the natives, and being powerless to destroy them once they know them. Our history is clogged with stories like this. It’s got a love story that grows organically from the story’s plot points rather than being a plot point wedged into something else. I might blaspheme here and suggest that the Titanic love story was much more unlikely. It has hellzapopping effects, and I don’t just mean nice blowy-uppy. I mean it’s a rich, textured, fully-realized world that you want to visit, that you feel like you can visit.

Sure, it’s got a little hitting over the head of the message; no matter how loudly this particular message is repeated over the millennia of human history, it is still not heeded, so one can’t blame Cameron for laying it on a little thick. The best sci-fi is that which uses far away times and places to comment on our won existence, and Avatar definitely qualifies. In a moviegoing universe bereft of original new stories (stuffed with sequels, adaptations, and toy movies) Avatar and District 9 (and Up) stand above just for having the gall to be new. While District 9 has the stronger narrative, Avatar has the more fully realized reality. Avatar’s first appeal is going to be the experience of watching it, so I’ll not tarry further.

I’ve complained more than a few times in reviews about the “uncanny valley” or what I call “creepy valley.” I’m standing before you to declare that Avatar has no uncanny valley. Seriously. Remember your amazement at the water tentacle in the Abyss? Remember the photorealism of the Titanic sinking into the briny deep? Remember how those effects served their story rather than be the point — and how those were both directed by James Cameron? Avatar has surpassed even Lord of The Ring’s Gollum in making performance capture seamless. We are really watching Sam Worthington and Sigourney Weaver and Zoe Saldana and Joel Moore give their full and committed performances in the bodies of the planetary natives, the Na’vi. Every small mouth movement (long the bane of motion capture techs) is — well, it’s real. Pandora, the world we humans are preparing to despoil, is real. Even with extensive understanding of CGI filmmaking in terms of practical objects and virtual spaces, you fully believe that you are immersed in a real place.

Worthington is a perfect balance of hero/soldier and boyish neophyte. Weaver draws on her Dian Fossey history even more than her Ellen Ripley experience. Saldana moves like an arboreal dancer, contrasting the powers of her alien upbringing with Worthington’s shriveled earthbound legs and making Neytiri relatable and strange in every movement — and she helps us recognize the difference between real and avatar Na’vi. These actors are of course perfectly capable of giving these performances in person — but to get across as much as they do while pulled into the semblance of a ten-foot blue cat-monkey-warrior is amazing.

Which brings me to the 3-D. Yes, cough it up for the 3-D. My experience with both formats when watching the movie Up is that Real D (check your local listings) is simply much less effective than Dolby or Disney’s 3D. Perhaps I will get into trouble with some theatre chains, but Real D just can’t handle dynamic movement without blurring, and it lacks the depth that Pandora needs. Pandora is a beautiful place, with logical interrelationships between species — you could probably work out their entire evolutionary scale from the specimens represented. Deeper connections in this alien biosphere are key to the plot and to appreciating the allure of the Na’vi. The grandeur of the landscape is served by the understated-but-still-clearly-James-Horner score.

The production’s approach to Pandora is reverent, which might feel forced to a skeptic. However, it is clear that the deep investment of time and care on this film inspires reverence. It may be the most expensive labor of love ever produced, being 15 years in the making as Cameron waited for the technology to catch up to the story he wanted to tell. The Na’vi consider seeing, in the sense of grok or ken, to be fundamental in tribal life and in navigating Pandora. If you allow yourself to see Avatar as it was meant (instead of bringing in Titanic baggage or waiting for DVD), you will love it as I did. Yes, he did put a stupid song at the beginning of the end credits — he just needed one more box to check on his Oscar bingo card. See it for the visuals, enjoy it for the acting, and appreciate it for its intent. I can’t wait to go there again.

MPAA PG-13

Release date 12/18/09

Time in minutes 160

Director James Cameron

Studio 20th Century Fox

Your Friday Fix 11/20/09: Tegami Bachi

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Tegami Bachi
Tegami Bachi Images

Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Supernatural

Ratings L4 Ratings
R2
R3
L3
L2
R3
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AmberGround exists in eternal twilight, lit only by its artificial sun and its inhabitants scattered cities. In this darkness roam countless mechanical insects, named Gaichuu, keeping the population imprisoned and isolated within the safe confines of the cities. There are a few brave souls that will venture into these wastelands; chief among them, the Letter Bees. A Letter Bee is a mixture of adventurer, cartographer and postman. their duty is to deliver letters between cities in AmberGround, as well as map out new routes in attempts to reconnect cities.

Gauche Suede is our first introduction to a Letter Bee in this series. His first “letter” to be delivered is actually a young boy named Lag Seeing. Lag is quite hesitant to be shipped off to his aunt’s home in the far off city of Cambel Litus. His mother was taken from him and sent into Akatsuki, the capital city of AmberGround, which is off limits to anyone not invited to enter. Gauche’s sidekick, called a Dingo in this world, is named Roda. Roda is some doglike creature and serves and a decoy and early warning system for Gauche versus the Gaichuu.

Gauche explains his weapon of choice against the Gaichuu, a Shindanjuu or “heart gun.” This gun amplifies the users will into a powerful bullet that will destroy the mechanical beasts. While holding the gun Lag accidently activates it, due to his special gemstone eye (hidden under his hair 99% of the time) and nearly dies from the effort. This in turn draws more Gaichuu to them, leaving Gauche and Roda to battle for hours on end. At one point soon after, Lag steals Gauche’s Shindanjuu and strikes off to find his lost mother, nearly getting Gauche killed in the process of saving him from a rather crafty Gaichuu.

Lag drags the nearly dead Gauche through the gates of Cambel Litus and after getting to know him as a friend, decides that he too will become a Letter Bee. He does this in hopes of gaining access to Akatsuki and finding his mother again. At this point the series fast-forwards 5 years to Lag at 12 years old, ready to start his journey.

This series has a bit of a slow start, but due to seeing a few clips ahead in the series, I can say that there is a LOT of great stuff coming! They took two episodes to complete the back-story and I feel they did it more than sufficient justice. This would have easily earned an A if they would have gotten to the point faster. The concept is solid and there are enough mysteries to keep me coming back.

Overall Hook Rating: B

Watch episode one via Crunchyroll after the break!

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