Some Short Words on Netflix’s “Castlevania”

netflix castlevania 051m2xpnnb8z

So yes, Castlevania on Netflix is neat!  It’s already great to see a legendary game franchise finally getting the animated treatment, but even better, it’s amazing to see said franchise get a WELL WRITTEN adaptation in this format.  My first sight of the trailer made it appear as though Castelvania 3: Dracula’s Curse would be the focus and right we were.  We got Trevor Belmont, Alucard, Sypha and lots and LOTS of exposition into Symphony of the Night territory with both Lisa Tepes and Count Dracula.  All in all, Castlevania is worth a watch and below are my quick thoughts on what’s good, bad and ugly about this new show.

The Good – The Look, Story & Sound:  First off, let’s start with the best thing about the show, and that’s the script.  Utilizing Castlevania 3 and Symphony of the Night as starting points, Warren Ellis and the gang do an excellent job of fleshing out the backstory of Vlad Tepes, his time in Wallachia and yes, how he meets Lisa.  Furthermore, the show goes to great lengths in depicting how HORRIBLE the Church is to EVERYONE, and that maybe, just maybe, Dracula’s bloody reign across the land is ample punishment against an institution that’s as evil (or more) than him.  Lastly, I think a good word needs to be said about how well thought out the characters of Trevor, Sypha and Alucard are.  Sypha especially gets the Golden Treatment here as a benevolent ass-kicker with magical know-how.  Trevor is great as the drunk exile who’s seeking a purpose in life amidst the madness ravaging the land and Alucard….well, we don’t know that much about him, but here’s hoping that Season 2 will do more in that regard.

Speaking of our three heroes, we need to give Sam Deats and his team a round of applause with the Ayami Kojima-inspired character designs.  Everyone not only looks great, but they’re damn true to form for an animated video game adaptation, especially in regards to Trevor and Sypha.  However, we can’t applaud this show without talking about the action.  Let me be clear and say that the action can be sparse at times, but when it shows up, it’s awesome.  This is best exemplified in the well-animated battle between Trevor and Alucard, which has a languid fluidity that’s got the trappings of Spike Spiegel’s first fight scene in Cowboy Bebop’s Asteroid Blues.  And finally, let’s not forget that Castlevania has some top-notch voice acting.  When it comes to Bishops, drunks and even Count Dracula himself, rest assured that we’ve got some damn fine storytelling behind the mic.  So all in all, when it comes to the Look, Feel & Sound of Castlevania, I think we’re all golden.

The Bad – No Grant, Sparse Combat and Power-Ups:  Mad props to Warren Ellis for his work on this show and all, but one gripe I have with him is that we’re without the presence of the climbing pirate known as Grant, where he feels that he didn’t fit with the overall timeline of the show (and that his name was ‘stupid’).  Not the end of the world mind you, but it’s pretty damn unfortunate because if we were able to see Ellis do some nice work in fleshing out the Speakers and the Belmonts, then I’m sure we could’ve repackaged Grant as a thief or bandit with a heart of gold.  Also, the man vs. monster action was SPARSE! (I think I said that already)  For a show that’s adapting one of the most illustrious chapters of the Castlevania franchise, I was hoping for more vampire whipping and less choir-boy busting, but that’s just me being picky.   Lastly, I really didn’t see enough of the fun elements that made the games so enjoyable, i.e. the POWER-UPS.  Now we DID see holy water being used during that great fight between the townsfolk and the monsters (led by our inebriated Vampire Slayer), but what about the axe and the boomerang?  Hell, what about using the whip to even greater effect?  You know, the mainstay weapon of the franchise?  These criticisms aren’t deal-breakers mind you, but we’re making Castlevania folks, so let’s remember that adding the words ‘camp’ and ‘video game’ aren’t entirely ‘bad’ things here.

The Ugly – The Blah Blah Blah:  If there’s any element about Netflix’s Castlevania that deserves to be in the ‘ugly’ category, then it’s the pacing.  You know why?  Because it’s ALL OVER THE PLACE!  Scenes where drunks make gossip may seem necessary for exposition but they inadvertently drag episodes, which make the long stretches of the show a slog instead of a series of eye-catching reveals.  Even Dracula’s ‘walk’ to his burnt home before he goes AWOL is paced so poorly that it makes him look awkward and STUPID which, for that instance at least, undermines how much of a villain he’s supposed to be.  Seriously, how is Dracula and the word ‘inaction’ even in the same damn sentence!?

I think we all understand that animation is an expensive endeavor, and although it’s not uncommon to create still scenes with heavy voice work as filler, the Castlevania team could’ve used their resources to visually convey these expositions without having to slowly pan across landscapes while yapping our brains to mush.  Aside from the ‘sleeping soldier’ tale, Castlevania not only needs to work on how it paces itself via exposition, it simply needs to inject more mythos into its myths.  It needs more mystery.  It needs more spooky.  It needs more creepy that’s paced RIGHT!

Overall, Netflix’s Castlevania is worth the watch.  Despite it’s brief run time and strange, groggy pacing, the show does wonders in adding new nuances to the Castlevania 3 storyline.  Furthermore, it’s got great character designs, well-animated fights (when they DO show up), a slick script and a boat-load of voice talent to back it all up.  So yeah, check the show out and cross your fingers for a much-improved Season 2.

The Twin Peaks MINDF*CK!

I am thoroughly enjoying the Twin Peaks Revival.  So much so that I would rather lose sleep on a Sunday night than to miss the buzz from whatever Lynch & Frost may throw at us next.  From Dougie Cooper to Richard Horne, from the sights of the good ol’ cast to hearing Albert cussing out Gene Kelly, it’s been one helluva ride back to the quaint world of Twin Peaks.

Then came Episode 8.  Motherfucking Episode 8…….

I have no words to describe what just happened last Sunday.  No words except that it was a surreal mindfuck.  7 episodes in and I was already convulsing about what in God’s name was going to happen next.  Was the simple charm of Dougie Coop finally ready to give way into our Special Agent Dale after he judo chopped Ike the Spike?  Was Hawk going to find more clues to unravel where that missing page went from Laura’s diary?  Were we gonna see more hijinks from the Horne Brothers, or even Dr. Jacoby?  What about Ed, Nadine & James Hurley?  Will we get to see more heartbreaking moments with Bobby Briggs?  Will we get to see more of Laura Dern as Diane?

Well, we didn’t see any of that.

What we saw was this:

From there we saw creation, obliteration, the collision of worlds, the birth of Bob, the Experiment, the cans and, yes, we saw the Golden Orb.  We saw Laura Palmer.

However, these surreal, brutal flashbacks weren’t over.  They weren’t done with us yet.  Other horrors had emerged in its wake, many of which we can never look away from again.  The eeriness of the Woodsman.  The head crushing.  The gutting of Bad Cooper, and yes, the bug crawling into the little girl’s mouth.  There’s so much that we don’t know in this episode that it’s simply mind-boggling.  It changes how we view Bob, how we view the Trinity test and yes, how we view Laura.  Was she sent by the Giant as a heroine to fight the coming darkness?  How crucial is she in the push-and-pull between Good and Evil?  Did Bob know all along, hence the abuse and suffering that he put her through via Leland?  Noel Murray from the New York Times explains this hour as such:

I think we saw mankind setting loose forces beyond its control with the introduction of potentially civilization-destroying weapons in 1945. That test blast may have been what brought Bob into the world, and thus re-engaged our celestial overseers. But as is often the case with the way the universe works in “Twin Peaks,” nothing happened instantaneously. The darker elements took root gradually, while the warriors meant to combat them — like the spirit of Laura Palmer, or the various non-malevolent forms of Agent Dale Cooper — slipped into the world in ways both clumsy and imprecise.

This is one of the most provocative ideas from the original series that these new episodes have been carrying forward: this sense that even the most well-intentioned humans are incapable of interpreting and acting on the messages coming from the gods, who neither think nor communicate as we do. That’s why the dark side keeps winning out — except on rare occasions when someone as completely unselfconscious as “Dougie Jones” just blindly follows the directions from above, winning slot-machine jackpots and brilliantly analyzing insurance documents along the way.

It’s because of this disconnect between what the immortals are saying and how the humans are responding that it seems inadequate to reduce this hour to a simple explanation.

Whatever it may be, I believe we can all count on one thing:  that this Episode is TV history in the making.  We all thought that Lynch & Frost would be ill-prepared for this era of the boob-tube.  We were worried that it couldn’t be done.  We all feared that Twin Peaks would render itself a dud after 25+ years and be laughed off by the fucks that wouldn’t want to understand it.  However, it’s only Episode 8.  We’ve been totally mindfucked.  All our collective heads are spinning just to make sense of what we all saw and we are all hooked.

That’s right everyone.  It is happening again.

Note:  For those of you who might not know about Twin Peaks and are interested, see below:

What the Heck is Going On?

Police investigate a shooting scene after a gunman opened fire on Republican members of Congress during a baseball practice near Washington in Alexandria

This past month has been insane. Hell, even the start of this week featured Foghorn Leghorn as he testified in front of a Congressional Committee about Lyin’ Trump.  However, I was NOT prepared for Wednesday morning, where someone from my home state came to my current state to shoot up Republican lawmakers as they trained for a charity baseball event against their Democratic counterparts.

I saw the news pour in from the lobby TV before I made my way out of my apartment complex and the first thing I thought was how close this was to my proximity? Was it going to be like what happened to Gabby Giffords?  Was it by the hands of a liberal who went off the rails? Did it really need to come to this?

I guess what I’m trying to get at is that regardless of how you feel about the assailant’s politics or penchant for violence, it’s stunningly clear that in the midst of this Trump Presidency, we are losing ourselves. The Comey testimonies, along with Trump’s reaction to alleged ties with the Russian Government, have now revealed the disturbing possibility that Donny might have obstructed justice like a cheap dictator with aviators.  The fact that an investigation into this obstruction has surfaced is not surprising, but we all need to hope that Mueller doesn’t get the axe either in this case.

It’s harrowing stuff folks.  Really.  However, one’s outrage about these very disturbing allegations (or other issues in general) has to be tempered so that it’s channeled in the right way.  Go talk to your Reps.  Hash it out with your Conservative friends and co-workers.  Point it out to a fellow passenger on the Metro whose face is frowning just as much as yours when you both read the Express.  Get your pals together and run for office.  Do all those things.  Just don’t go out and hurt people.   Just don’t. We don’t need that shit right now.  We’ve got enough of it in front of the TV as is.

A Great End to a Disappointing Arsenal Season (2016 – 2017)

18765734_1491553554241816_4077796175652832984_n

It’s Memorial Day today and after returning from a quaint little Jazz festival in Alexandria, Virginia, I just thought I need to make a few blurbs about Arsenal.  I originally wanted to write another hate-filled speech about Cheetos Emperor Donaldore J. Trumpfuckery the 15th and his ties to a secret cabal of one-eyed KGB kickboxers, but that’ll be for another day.  Today is for the vets, and it’s also for me to celebrate Arsenal’s victory over Chel$ki F.C. to win the 2017 F.A. Cup.

Our season in the Prem started out well, and things were looking good between November 2016 and January 2017.  However, losing Santi Cazorla was a massive blow, and as you already know, the wheels started to come loose a little later in the campaign.  Losing to Crystal Palace, Liverpool, Tony Pulis F.C., and Watford, along with ties to fucking Bournemouth and some offsides bullshit with Citeh dented both our hopes and our top four chase, making us 5th for the Europa League.  A big blow to us for sure, but I really REALLY want to stay positive and hope that there’s a silver lining in that as well.  If Chel$ki and United fall into the Europa League with little ire from the press, why can’t Arsenal, right?  (I’m being sarcastic of course)

However, I’m still not in the Wenger Out camp.  I’d only do so in order for Uncle Arsene to be spared of all this stuff.  That’s not to say that Arsenal aren’t without problems.  I’m as sick of it as anyone else when it comes to our pattern of implosion, but to visibly vent our frustrations on Wenger does him or us no justice.  Protest the way we play, or get in the board’s face about investment or even a change in tactics, but for reals folks, please don’t dis Uncle Arsene.  He doesn’t deserve it.

So give the old man credit for that back three.  Give him credit for his selections.  Give him AND the players some cred for smacking Mourinho in the face after beating ManU in the Prem and give him his due for giving us one helluva F.A. Cup final.

If you watched the final, then you know how exciting it was.  I was screaming at Arsenal all day to make sure they didn’t fuck anything up and sure enough, they didn’t.  The first 5 minutes was all Arsenal with some amazing possession and, handball or not, a neat goal from Alexis Sanchez.  I’m glad we got in Chel$ki’s faces and I’m glad we got some fortune for once.  Ramsey offside?  Yeah right.

However, with all the chances we had throughout the first half, the game should’ve been out-of-sight with 4-0.  We dominated the midfield battle and for all the excuses Chel$ki fans can make about not being at the races, save it.  You guys put out THE title-winning eleven and for an occasion like the F.A. Cup final, you guys looked ordinary.  Oh, and that Ozil tackle on Hazard?  Priceless.

The second half saw the Blues amped up with a few more fouls, penetration and pace, which only made David Ospina look cooler and cooler with some fine saves.  Per, Rob and Nacho held Neaderthal Costa back pretty well for the most part.  Well, except for his goal of course.  But that was after the Victor Moses dive.  Which he got a red card for.  Sweet.  Again, you’d think Arsenal would be safe after that but then we got Costa’d.  I kicked a box at home as my head boiled with fury.  For an Arsenal fan like me, this usually means that we would not only implode, but  Per would break all three of his legs somehow, Ox would get a Red card for being Gibbs (again) and Phil McNulty would begin masturbating at the thought of writing another thinly-veiled ‘Arsenal-are-weak-get-Wenger-sacked’ fluff piece.

However, in only a few short minutes, Phil would have to go limp and clean his chin in disgust because when Olly Giroud came on, he made made a beautiful cross to an unmarked Ramsey, where he cannoned a header past Courtois (the best GK in teh Prem mind you).  The roar of the Gooner faithful thundered the air, the blue poop of London groaned and the Red Sea parted in Divine Rapture.  I wasn’t the only one jumping for Joy.  I clutched my Wife, I held on to the sky and was ready for Arsenal to defend for their life.  What a feeling, and what a goal!

Ospina and the rest of the defense had to then pull in one helluva shift to make sure the game didn’t turn into 2-2, with a brilliant save to keep us all in.  Mesut should’ve scored when Arsenal broke free but had to settle for the post, Courtois’ leg and a corner and I wished to God Giroud got his 100 goals for the club, but when that final whistle came, I didn’t care.  We saw through the challenge.  We beat the deserved Champions of England.  We won the F.A. Cup.  And we did it with our BFG Captain making his FIRST START OF THE SEASON!

I’m not so sure if this ‘saved’ our season because there’s just sooooo much that we still need to work on.  Injuries, motivation, mentality and, overall, contracts.  It sounds like the ‘same old Arsenal’ tag that most shit pundits like to beat us with, but it all happened at the latter half of the season, not the tail-end of November like usual.  We’re starting to slowly find a way to play without Santi, but we need to really rethink our defensive transitions because teams are finding out how to exploit us in our own half.  It’s my hope that the maturation of Xhaka in the Prem will help in that regard, but like many new signings at Arsenal, they usually don’t mature until they take a pounding.  Keeping Sanchez and Ozil are should be the main target of the club this summer, and if we do, we need to drill Sanchez to avoid turnovers at all costs.  I also personally think Giroud and the Ox should still stay at the club, with the former being a beast from the bench and the latter shining as a wing back.  Finally,it’s my hope that with a win like this, we can take a serious look at our problems, use Spurs’ current form as a kind of jealous motivation, and our sinking into the Europa doldrums as a silver lining for experience as we try to recoup ourselves to do something big next season.

Until then guys, let’s savor this win and tell the rest of the naysayers to piss off.

A Touch of Sammo

Sammo Hung is one hell of a legend when it comes to Hong Kong Cinema.  How he fights so fast with his frame defies imagination, so I try my best to find what I can from him here in the States.  So let’s get a few of my favorite fights together from Mr. Hung and check out the master at work.  Don’t forget to pick up your jaw from the floor.

I’ll definitely post more fights in the future, but for now, these’ll do.

Mawwiage

My husband and I did not court. I don’t even know if that is the way you say it. He didn’t court me? I wasn’t courted? We met in November 1992 through a mutual friend who knew we weren’t interested in dating. We were so disinterested in dating that we went straight for marriage. We got…

via 24 Things I’ve Learned During 24 Years of Marriage — Kathy Khang – writer, speaker, coffee drinker

My ego is a fragile thing, and it’s gotten me in trouble with my lovely wife many times.  When I let myself down, and more importantly, when I let her down, I really need to understand that whenever I do something wrong, I’ve got to NOT take it personally.  But as an uber sensitive guy, I’m still learning.  Thanks for sharing the list Kathy.

T-Square’s EWI Legends

Those that do follow me know how much of a huge T-Square fan I am, and one of the signature sounds of the band comes from the EWI – Electronic Wind Instrument.  Manufactured by Akai, the EWI has been described by the gang from Video Games Live! as a ‘terminator flute’ and to be honest, it’s true.  It’s easy to dismiss the instrument because it sounds like a over-hyped synthesizer, but it packs power if you know how to play.  Given that T-Square had three sax / EWI players during their history, I decided to show my favorite live performances that  you can find on YouTube, so please check the videos out below and enjoy!

Takahiro Miyazaki was T-Square’s third saxman and EWI artist before band legend Takeshi Itoh returned.  Here he’s jamming to the amazing Knight’s Song, which would eventually become Masahiro Andoh’s “Moon over the Castle” for the Gran Tursimo game series.  Watch how the tempo of the band makes him almost explode!

Second is the insane Masato Honda.  Many fans consider him to be the best and most talented front-man of the group due to his amazing improvisations.  He’s a great artist but I still think Itoh-san is the best.  I don’t care how crazy his version of Truth is, but that’s Itoh’s song.  However, Honda-san’s got TONS of EWI hits to his name.  Samurai Metropolis, Door to Tomorrow, Little League Star, Crown & Roses and more.  However, for my money, his EWI hit would have to be Faces.

And lastly, Takeshi Itoh, the legend of T-Square, has that ONE song.  The song that put them on the map.  The song that made them an international sensation.  The song that no one forgot….TRUTH.  Seriously folks, ’nuff said.