SERIES REVIEW: MARVEL’s Jessica Jones

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When MARVEL said they were making a Jessica Jones series the first thing that goes through your mind is… who? Oh she’s Luke Cage’s wife… and I’m not being sexist about it, just honest. Despite the limited success of the character’s solo miniseries she’s not a “big” character in general. So after hearing that the follow-up to the AWESOMENESS that was Daredevil was going to be Jessica Jones my skepticism grew big, and the question about what could the series possibly offer on the shadow of its predecessor (and the source material, the ALIAS comic book) was big.

The offer was more of the “Adult” style that they used on Daredevil; so I expected strong emotional characters that grew among the drama and changed helped by an interesting and strong plot, which in itself was made stronger by tapping into this violent “adult” style as well. So, when the series started I could see a similar beginning to what made DD great, meaning a serious and sober scenario for a “super hero” story to develop, yet my pessimistic reaction to the first chapter was “mmm I hope they don’t focus only on Killgrave”… well they did, and that became the origin of most of the issues with the series, let’s call it…

MONOTONY

The series is too lineal and monotonous for its own good, it doesn’t stretch enough to fill its potential premises; like Jessica’s past or the sub world of powered people or Trish’s struggles etc. It really borderlines in redundancy sometimes… and a lot of Things suffer because of this lack of texture.

Let’s discuss some of the suffering cast…

Character development: besides Jessica and occasionally Trish most of the characters in the series are monotonous and static, purely utilitarian, even Luke suffers of being a mere introduction and let’s not talk about some of the supporting members that are just plainly annoying or mysteriously underdeveloped (->police guy<- and neighbor crazy chick for example). The series is so focused on killgrave that nobody has a chance to turn into anything but plot tools… unlike DD where even the bad guys get a chance to grow and expand, (remember what a great character was Kingpin’s assistant?) Or, unlike in ALIAS, where Jessica actually evolves towards reconciliation with herself.

In the end, Killgrave meant something to Jessica, but the “trauma” in the series feels unrelated, a cause and effect excuse to make them enemies, the symbolism of Killgrave as an “ethical” stain on Jessica’s superhero life, which gave the relevancy to the relationship, does not exist in the series and is replaced by classic TV drama sociopathy… The previous absence is justified mainly by the second suffering factor…

HEROICS: we might as well forget that Jessica Jones is a Super hero series, cause the role of it is so downplayed that it’s LITERALLY nonexistent (besides the door opening). Now regularly this would be an OK issue, I mean we don’t need the theatrics in ALL the MCU’s products, but for Jessica Jones the lack of it takes away not only the fun “fantasy-ish” action that I think we do need (if not what’s the point) but more importantly one of the most attractive characteristics of the character is lost. The plot alone is not really enough to sustain the series on its own without the special element “heroics” give. I already said that I found the plot to be redundant, so all it was left was the chance of relying on the characters, which without the heroics fell into regular tropes of drama series.

In comparison, Daredevil, even though it wasn’t that fantastic, gave great attention to the development of the character heroic alter-ego, which translated into great action pieces and strong emotional character growth. Even more important is the comparison with the source material; in ALIAS/The Pulse Jessica’s heroics put her in a “relevant” spot among the MARVEL universe and helps her develop some exciting storylines… Yet the most relevant absence made by this is the relationship her powers mean to her as a character/person. in the comics the “harsh” and “broken” personality of Jessica is in fact born out of a reaction to her powers (or the failure to live by them), whether about what the source of them mean to her (family accident and history) or how her failure as a hero, which culminates with her time as Killgrave’s captive, affected her personality and future in this fantastic universe.

As we can see everything for the character in the comics has its origins on her brief superhero career, which makes her struggles relatable yet fantastic plus way more interesting by their fantastic nature (the great “what ifs?”). The nonexistent nature of this “heroic” factor downplays the impact of the series leading character, and from there, of everything overall.

Jessica Jones is by no means a bad series; it’s well made with high production values and great photography, strongly preformed and for what is worth, as a regular TV drama, it’s well written. But it fails greatly in becoming something “special”… personally I have no interest in see another TV drama, might as well go back to see Grey’s Anatomy, what I want is a drama that uses the MCU’s fantastic setting for making its contents different or the fact that super heroes/villains are involved as a platform to situations that only could occur in a fictional world as such.

So I guess that’s the problem with Jessica Jones… it’s just so damn mundane.

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MOVIE REVIEWS: Nymphomaniac

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I’ve always been critical about sex scenes in movies, I’ve always thought that the message is pretty clear when you use them, I mean the humping starts maybe some titties show up and it’s done, either skip to the breakfast or move on. That is of course unless the point (or part of it) of the movie are the sex scenes… but most of the times that’s porn and it easy to get it pretty much anywhere else.

So an innocent trip to Netflix leads me to Lars von Trier’s “Nymphomaniac”, a movie that never interested me because, you know, as I said you can get porn in other places. I was aware of its polemic related halo of interest, and that of the director’s grim stories, so I said why not, I got the FIVE HOURS.

“Nymphomaniac” tells the life story of a woman named “Joe” that self proclaims herself as a Nymphomaniac (or Sex Addict depending on what part of the movie you’re in). The story begins when she meets a loner hipster called “Sligman” that founds her badly beaten up in an alley. The narration begins after he “rescues” her and takes her to his apartment, where she begins to tell him her life through stories, hoping that will demonstrate the point that she’s a despicable person. As an avid reader and aspiring pseudo intellectual Sligman will try to counter argument each of Joe’s points by putting them into perspective and making comparisons between her life and different types of theories, ideas, stories, or simply anecdotes out of a long list of humanity’s intellectual development.

And that my friends is the WHOLE movie in a nutshell… the WHOLE 5 and a half hours that I sat through it. So the idea is simple, let’s take each of Joe’s stories and think about them in the 5 hours context of the movie, but is the content itself simple too? Well, yes and no, not to pretend ambiguity (and take the artsy von Trier side) but to honestly call it as I saw it, a contrast between possible high end reflections and straightforward shock therapy.

“Nymphomaniac” is simple because most of its 5 hours (Imma keep reminding me that) are surprisingly monothematic, overly dramatic and even predictable on its grim decadent aesthetics at times, I promise you will predict more than one awkward moment after a couple of hours. Yet, at the same time the movie makes a real effort to be interestingly complicated and highly interpretative when it wants to. That’s the whole trick of Sligman’s character, it gives what could be a pretty redundantly dramatic movie some texture and a chance for the viewer to put the narrative in perspective and, as good movies should, put US in the role of interpreters of the premises that the director wanted to tell us.

The movie will step beyond the boundaries and become right on pretentious in more than one occasion, and it will also overexert its grim tone beyond what I would consider necessary, but regularly it will give you all the arguments to take home your own reflection on the issues at hand… and after all I get the fell that the lack of humility in the movie’s presentation was mostly intentional… yep the constant genitalia and the WHOLE 5 hours can arguably make that point.

So we got to the point where I make my question: does the explicit sexual nature and scenes of the movie make sense? short answer, yes and no… again. The explicit nature of the movie works perfectly as a shocking opener for the senses and the mind, and it WILL give the script of the movie a new light in which its content gets actually enjoyable… and not in the masturbatory sense. I always thought that the communication exercise that is putting a sex scene on a movie was pretty much straight forward, un interpretative as a symbol at best, like saying horse and just picturing a horse you know, communication; a message and a common code. But to be honest I don’t see myself exposed to THIS kind of communication efforts often, so my judgment was clearly biased, and I accept was proven wrong, there’s a way of giving sexual content more narrative layers.

Will you picture a horse?

But on the down side, your now sexually heightened senses will get overloaded (hopefully, if not you need to think about yourself) and also some chapters of the movie will, at some point, lose themselves to redundancy as I said. And that’s when the whole exercise seems pointless and you become mildly annoyed… after all we’re talking about FIVE HOURS.
In the end, overall the explicitness of the movie is a great and smartly used tool for conveying a message, do not just say “it’s porn” and move on because it isn’t, it is a cleverly crafted setting for storytelling, even if the story sometimes might not live to expectations.

And that’s the problem with “Nymphomaniac”, for all the eye opening purposes it seems to pursue it soon ends up being self serving and redundant, even the stories lose their appeal only to their explicitness and lose any kind of cohesion by being less interesting than their narrations. Not that the presence of formal script proposals is not a great thing, cause it is, it gives the stories more layers than an unnarrated version of the same movie would have (aka porn). But the process of being subjected to visual a stimuli of that caliber and then being treated to an idea that doesn’t achieve the same level of intensity is kind of a letdown… if you see the movie you’ll get it.

So in conclusion, “Nymphomaniac” is a great communication experiment, its intense and its raw but it doesn’t lose the opportunity to tell a great history that manages to touch subjects that range from basic human needs as sexuality, the social buildings of socialized human beings, freedom of gender and of act, reflections about the human soul, the grayness of life (a fan favorite for the director), among so many other topics you can find in its WHOLE 5 hours of movie. The film is not a masterpiece or anything like that; it suffers from self exhaustion and redundancies, and some thin argument lines that are left unexploited in favor of the simple grayness of them, so it has its ups and downs.

At the end of the day it’s a challenging film, and totally worth trip for getting the thinking gears Rollin’ … and if you stay till the end of the WHOLE 5 hours you’re brain will keep going for a while, you can be sure of that.

Maybe I got repetitive too…

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RANT: ALIEN 3 SUCKS ASS

So I made the exercise of watching all the ALIEN movies in one sitting, a marathon if you like, and of all the movies the one I was looking forward the most was ALIEN 3, because after all this years I just hate its fucking guts, and now I was finally gonna watch the extended yet most awful cut of the movie, so hype for me.

So the movie was as awful as I remembered, but now I took my sweet time pondering about what I hate about it…

So, first thing is that clearly the movie abandons some key elements of the saga, mainly the “sci-fi” elements, now I don’t pretend to be an expert in movie genres but if you ask me the “sci-fi” elements in a movie that is supposed to be of said genre are supposed to add some kind of pseudoscientific-fantastic elements that directly impact the plot in some way, for example in ALIEN the planet, the alien, the starship, the robot hobbit, everything was quite involved in the plot, and not just for the sake of being background elements for it but by being participants in the story, the story revolved around them,  but in ALIEN 3 said elements are just not even there, I mean how does the fact that they are on a planet that is not earth really influences the fact that they’re a prison… really, I mean sure we can wonder in the repercussions that being so abandoned in an asteroid can have in the mind of a prisoner, but the movie doesn’t take its time in said fact, like building an atmosphere about it, but in the end the whole “religious” experience of the inmates is the only thing that matters, and in the end is easily relatable without the “out of this earth” factor, and the sci-fi is certainly not taken care by the plot, so in the end there are no feels coming out of the planet or the ambiance… it’s just another prison.

Secondly comes the ALIEN itself… does it really add anything to the sci-fish feeling? I mean sure it’s an alien, but does it matter? In ALIEN we have the back-story of BILBO BAGGINS inspecting the face hugger and the mystery of the creature in general as a principal plot point adding content and feels to the whole experience, what is the alien? What is Bilbo’s target? How it’s related to the complot? How it came to be? Etc. Well in ALIEN 3 we have nothing out of it, even when there are clear points to exploit form the sci-fish point of view, such as the possible impromptu that the bovine DNA can add to the mix, let’s remember the xenomorphs genetic combining capabilities (or whatever you want to call it), the point is that the ALIEN again takes a backseat to the bloated script about the whole bullshit experience of enlightment, you could have any killer in line having the same results, meaning the overwhelming feeling of impending death on already disturbed individuals, the results can be the same no problem.

Where’s something about the queen or something, I mean the whole deal with Ripley is just barely a reference to xenomorph lore, the alien just does nothing but kill… I mean that’s cool but in a movie lacking ambiance it sorely missed, specially thinking that the alien should be the source of all things sci-fi.

Finally… RIPLEY, how can they have fucked up the character so bad? If we see the progression that Ripley has from ALIEN to ALIENS we see how her values change, from the “lets do the right thing” crewmember to the “depressed under the bridge” individual that is more than haunted by the experience, we can see how the idea unfolds, how she became attached to the xenomorph, how they became her nemeses and she finally finds some kind of new purpose for her beaten lost life in the form of the one responsible for ending the “ALIEN infection”. Yet in ALIEN 3 we see a Ripley that, for the lack of a better term, doesn’t give a shit… just look at her, she has lost her newfound hopes from ALIENS and all she does to mourn them is survive that awful burial scene with the interloping faces and whatnot, if they were implying that she had surrendered all hope and is in a state of total stoicism, well let’s just say it didn’t show very well since she doesn’t say or do anything to show otherwise, after finding out the remains of her lost crewmembers she also becomes a more utilitarian character that is only there to feed the OBVIOUS notion that there’s a xenomorph around and being once again the one that knows aliens. I really suffer for Ripley’s script in this movie, it’s so unassuming, so unchanging… I mean the contrast between ALIEN and ALIENS is so clear, yet in ALIEN 3 she’s so composed that it’s just annoying… again if the point was to made her a character that just gave up in life it really doesn’t show, if her pathos was one giving up in life or whatever it was I really think it’s a no show.

So that’s about the lack of sci-fi and franchise developing elements, now for the script itself… it sucks ass.

I get it, really, or at least I think I get it, the whole deal with the mystical salvation that people tend to achieve in such extreme environments, I get it, but you don’t have to be so fucking redundant about it, I mean the recurring lines insisting over and over about the fact that “we found OUR kind of god here” its exhausting, not necessarily because it’s not interesting, but because its portrayed so damn slowly and so damn redundantly, I mean script wise the idea barely gets out of a few statements, so you can only hope that the bare elements of such an experience develop themselves on the factual experience of the movie… yet I don’t see it. There’s no doubt that the script is heavily oriented to that “salvation” experience, yet where is it in the movie? The script doesn’t develop it, the action doesn’t apply it (except for you know what character), where is it? Am I not getting something in this two hours redundantfest of self salvation? I wish someone would explain.

Even if I grant it the whole “the movie is about the experience of personal spiritual salvation against cruel odds” I just don’t see it… from that point of view is a gamble, since its clearly not expanded directly by the script you are just hoping for viewers to get immersed by themselves in the visual and argumental apparatus of the movie, but since I am looking for sci-fi elements, or more franchise related developments, made famous by the previous movies, how can I be available for this experience thing?

Granted, it probably is a problem of expectations, as it usually is, so I can only think that ALIEN 3 was that, a gamble, a personal gamble for portraying an idea, again as movies usually are, yet you cannot blame a dude for excepting alienyscifishy things in a movie called ALIEN 3, and from said point of view the movie fails miserably and thus sucks ass.

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MOVIE REVIEWS: Interstellar

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It’s a weird thing this “science-fiction” stuff genre, mainly because the word “science” is in it. But what does it mean, really? Fantastic voyages? Robots? Dystopian futures? All of the above? The truth for me is simple, it really doesn’t matter as long as the story holds on and fulfills its purpose, which is, I imagine, reaching us and delivering the director/writers message.

And that’s the whole point with interstellar, it’s a sci-fi movie so heavily invested in the message that its media can be confusing and overwhelming for some, the key is to understand that the high production value and heavily written script is nothing but means to tell the story. We seem to forget that sci-fi might be about outer space and unreachable goals for our mind and technology, but in the end it’s ALWAYS meant for US, right here in old planet earth, and right now in our seemingly uninteresting present, and that’s something that Interstellar does with narrative mastery.

Honestly there’s nothing else to say about it, not without spoiling the movie, and I think that’s damn great. I’m writing this not as a review but as a recommendation a disclaimer of sorts, since nothing I can say to you will amount to the contents of the movie, I just feel like there’s a responsibility to warn you, to be really open minded and receptive, not defensive and demanding, hear the story this guys are telling, see it for what it tries to be, and I assure you they don’t get as pretty as this.

And I don’t need to say that the technical qualities are every bit of what you would except from Nolan, the movie is so beautifully crafted photography wise, rhythmically well directed whit all the twists and spins Nolan does gracefully, has amazing music and top notch special effects, and is so wonderfully preformed (remember when McConengwheygsdf was a joke romantic comedy generic mimbo) that we owe to it to try and understand it, not to pretend we know quantum physics or that we are students of the theories of gravitational phenomena or anything like that… because let’s face it, most of us don’t know shit.

In the end a movie like interstellar will drag you, if you let it, to its intense story and to its great message, one that is so beautiful that hopefully you’ll be moved to tears as I was. the key will be to understand that the language is not meant to confuse or complicate and not be defensive about it, let it come to you and I believe its true simplicity and honesty aren’t that hard to grasp and to enjoy, all in what is, to me, probably the best movie from director Nolan (or at least top 3).

Remember, no matter how far we travel we’re here now and that’s what matters in the end.

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Summer 2014 Anime op TOPS of the Charts (my charts)

Oh Openings why so beatufully animated and fun… all your fabolus singles and songs to make people buy stuff and feel good.

Go ranks.

Sorry if weird YouTube people make weir YouTube videos…

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Summer 2014 anime reviews: Barakamon

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As years go by you realize that there are stories and things in general that are worth seeing, hearing, experiencing, etc. over and over again… not because we forgot their type, or we need it like we were deprived of some nutrient or something like that, they deserve to persevere because, well… they make us smile every time.

That’s why a story of a “city boy” in the countryside makes its way to comedy yet again… and into our very core I might add.

Barakamon is… well described in the phrase you just read, up there see? it’s still visible, and there’s really nothing more to add plot wise, the story isn’t new, neither are the characters, wacky smiley happy characters meant to bring a smile to your face with situations sometimes overreacted and occasionally exaggerated, filled with funny faces and many of the good ol’ anime comedy staples.

So here’s the twist…

The protagonist happens to be a calligraphy writer, one of the most unique things of Japanese culture, they just do that… writing, at least to us regular folk, but see to them there’s a catch that lies in the nature of Japanese (and Chinese) character writing, an added value so personal, so culturally based, so full of layers that it might as well fall onto the category of “things people don’t care”… like art appraising, or philosophy (it’s my major so I know something of people telling me “I don’t care”).

If I was to make an explanation about my take on calligraphy it would have to be that calligraphy in the Chinese way adds a layer of content to writing, since the symbols don’t necessarily represent that which the common code might suggest, is like when we westerners write poetry, we except our code to hold an special meaning trough particular interpretations, but in the case of Chinese writing the characters are themselves home to representation, since the code indented in them is not as strict as ours (or as we like it to be).

So, it is kinda of a curious kind of glue to this whole series isn’t it? I mean calligraphy appraising (or appreciation) it’s something that probably goes beyond us regular anime viewers… so why is it there?
The contrast then isn’t really between city and countryside, it’s between the overwhelming weight of dedicating your life to such a complex thing as calligraphy against dedicating your life to the, due to a lack of a less worn out expression, the simple things. In the end the comedy is not barely physical or based on the bare contrast of lifestyles or life choices, but it lays its foundations in other difference, the one that lays between the shadow of the ghost of complex human understanding, the one that goes from the complexities of rationality and/or “common sense” such as trying to appraise calligraphy can be and beyond, and other so different kind of complexity… the complexity (or lack thereof) of happiness and simple human emotions… not that the physical setting has nothing to do with it, on the contrary, it’s the perfect place for this context to develop.

Good ol’ fun…

You may think it’s not there, this such rich and complex contrast, but that’s the magic of it, you live it, laugh at it, and enjoy it, even if you’re not aware of it, see that’s one of many of the great abilities of our human consciousness, working without us knowing, so sometime in the future up the long road of life you may look back to such moments and thoughts and realize the fulfilling greatness that they provided you, all while wearing the most innocent of disguises, or codes if you want to keep the nomenclature.

In the end Barakamon is a beautifully achieved comedy, that unlike others, takes a little sweet time to activate your brain, just enough to not only give the overall series comedic content an awesome background but also make the whole journey such more worthwhile and fulfilling than a regular unassuming comedy.. Even if you do not care enough to realize it.

Or maybe you can just laugh it out and get really happy whit it… because happiness is that kind of thing that we need to do over and over and over again, not because we need it… well you get the point.

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Summer 2014 anime reviews: Zankyou no Terror

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Zankyou No Terror is the story of the “why”, the “what”, the “when”… “How”, and so on.

I wasn’t particularly interested in the series, I mean I make the custom of watching the series that came out in such block, but I never really got into it… until the first episode. The damn thing is so attractive to the senses and in general much more solid than the average series that is not something I could just ignore, then I never really imagined the mediocrity that came after.

The plot revolves around two young terrorists that go in a rampage so they can expose some secret plans made by the usual suspects, plans that involved some degree of human experimentation and secrecy juicy enough to feed the needy. After that the series focuses in the intrigue behind the terrorist attacks made by the group, and the police efforts to catch them.

You might except some interesting back-story and some intense development to the characters, after all the secrecy seems to have some dark history, so why not?… well you are left stranded as there’s no solid or interesting character or story development whatsoever, not of their origin story, their relationship as survivors and avengers, their motives which seem to be so important to them, etc. you name it, this series is as arid as your favorite desert (not the wet ones).

And that’s the main issue with this one, it’s full of potential yet lacking so much in the content department. It seems they thought the whole terrorist attack thing would stretch far enough to fill the whole series… but it doesn’t, the whole thing just feels incomplete as not even the apparent star of the series, this being the “detectivesque” story that fills most of the chapters, is overly scripted and unexciting as the plot itself lowers the tension behind them via its less than intense characters.

I could go on and on, as to wonder why there is not more development between the protagonists and the enemy featured later, why aren’t more back stories to characters such as Lisa which supposedly play a contrasting role to the protagonists (you are left in the let’s assume this thing as the obvious stereotypical answer), how far does the secrecy goes so we can feel the intensity and urgency of the plot, an a long etc. which is not worth the time… since the thing already ended along with every chance of this being something more.

Anyway, good idea, good visual quality, a definitive letdown… it didn’t particularly pique my interest, as I said, but it’s worth the warning.

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