Facing The Phantom Menace: In 3D!

February 11th, 2012 by Kyle

Kyle here;

So I saw Phantom Menace 3D today.

Reaction: Yeah, it’s still the Phantom Menace. The only major difference, other than the 3D, is a slightly extended pod race scene. We’ve all had 13 years to dissect what’s wrong with this movie, so there’s no point in going over that again.

The 3D was actually surprisingly good, or at least a lot better than I expected. The only really odd thing about it (other than the fact that 3D in general doesn’t really look three dimensional, but more layered, like a pop-up book) is that the CGI objects in the film fairly consistently pop out of the screen more than the physical objects and actors. This isn’t surprising to me: 3D actually normally looks much better when applied to CGI (the Toy Story movies, for example) than when applied to live-action. In fact, this may really be why TPM looks good in 3D: because so much if it is CGI that redoing the CGI stuff so it looks good in 3D can work pretty well.

But this is, of course, the heart of what’s wrong with the movie in the first place: that George Lucas was so enamored with what computers could allow him to put on the screen that he concentrated on that and made characters, storytelling, pacing, tone, and plot secondary concerns. If Phantom Menace 3D is a tactical success, in that it does actually look good in 3D, it is a strategic failure, in that this just serves to reemphasize Lucas’s misplaced priorities in making the film. Phantom Menace 3D is a better-looking movie, but it is not a better movie.

And this is why it fails.

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Categories: Reviews

Thoughts On Madoka Magica

April 28th, 2011 by Kyle

We just finished watching the last episode of Puella Magi Madoka Magica. The verdict?

This is the best anime series in a over decade, now stands at #4 in my own list of greatest anime series of all time (behind only Legend of Galactic Heroes, Macross, and Cowboy Bebop), and is guaranteed to be a classic.

This series does for the Japanese concept of the superhero (which is what magical girls are) what Watchmen did for the western concept of the superhero – and does it every bit as devastatingly effectively. And, as with Watchmen, nothing in the genre will or can ever be the same after this.

It also is something with some very important messages for adolescent girls – be careful what you commit to; consider consequences; don’t throw away tomorrow for temporary happiness today; don’t trust appearances; don’t believe words just because they come out of a pretty face; find out exactly what’s in a contract before you sign it; if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is; don’t assume that everyone else has the same sense of morality that you do; there’s such a thing as being too nice to others; some wishes don’t come true, and often it’s better that they didn’t.

That it’s beautifully animated in an amazing, distinctive art style is just icing on the cake.

A true masterpiece.

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Categories: Reviews, Reviews

Geek Tragedy #51: At the Movies!

August 10th, 2010 by Kyle

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Dave is joined by Fancy Fembot of the Sci-Fi Party Line as they review their favorite summertime geeky blockbusters! How did this year’s batch fare in their eyes? Dave and Cat are here to let you know!

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Categories: Episodes

Kyle’s Inception Review

July 20th, 2010 by Kyle

It seems that my role is very often to be the official Geek Tragedy contrarian, and so I shall be today. In contrast to my cohost Dave, NPC Comics Editor-In-Chiel Jaimel Hemphill, and virtually the rest of the geeky world, I wasn’t that impressed with Inception.

First of all, I want it understood that I’m not saying that Inception does have some good points. It’s a very well-crafted film, filled with superb performances. But what bothers me most about the reactions to Inception is the idea that it’s a very innovative or groundbreaking movie. This, it most certainly isn’t. Virtually every concept, whether plotwise or visually, is something I’ve seen done before, and often better. Allow me to go through a list of some of Inception‘s concepts, and show you what I mean.

Inception Concept: Using a high-tech device to enter someone else’s dreams
Where I Saw It Before: Paprika

Released four years before Inception, Satoshi Kon’s movie (based on a Japanese novel from 1993) involves a psychologist who uses a device called the DC Mini to enter other people’s dreams in a plot that involves a lot of corporate intrigue. Sound familiar? I know that a lot of western directors lift concepts from anime, but this was pretty blatant.

Inception Concept: Using a high-tech device to enter someone else’s dreams
Where I Also Saw It Before: The Cell

But hey, maybe that’s not where Nolan got the idea from. Maybe he got it from this ten-year-old J-Lo movie that everybody seems to have forgotten about.

Inception Concept: Using a high-tech device to enter someone else’s dreams and plant ideas there
Where I Additionally Saw It Before: Dreamscape

Or maybe Nolan got the idea here! Hat tip to Appman on the Rifftrax forums for reminding me of this semi-obscure 1984 Dennis Quaid movie that also covered this ground.

Inception Concept: Lucid dreaming; a long time in the dream = a short time in real life.
Where I Also Saw It Before: Waking Life

Richard Linklater’s been there, done that, more creatively, ten years ago.

Inception Concept: People trapped in a world that may or may not be a dream.
Where I Saw It Before: Urusei Yatsura Movie #2: Beautiful Dreamer

This was an early film from Mamoru Oshii (Ghost In The Shell, The Sky Crawlers), based on a manga and anime series written by Rumiko Takahashi (InuYasha, Ranma 1/2). The film was released in 1984, and was actually the first full-length anime film I ever saw. It’s a fantastic film – beautiful, spooky, carefully paced… one of my favorite anime films of all time. If you haven’t seen it, you should. Without going into great detail, the characters are all trapped in what they eventually realize is an increasingly bizarre dream, and none of them can be sure which of them is actually the dreamer. So not only did it do one of the big concepts behind Inception, it did it better, and 25 years earlier.

Inception Concept: Hacking someone’s consciousness to artificially plant ideas there
Where I Saw It Before: Ghost In The Shell

While we’re on the subject of Mamoru Oshii, this is basically what we saw in the form of “ghost hacking” in GiTS. Yes, it was done by different methods, but the basic idea is the same.

Inception Concept: Someone trapped in a dream they might only be able to escape by death.
Where I Saw It Before: Life On Mars

(SPOILER ALERT for the original BBC series) This was, essentially, Sam Tyler’s dilemma: He was mostly, but not completely, sure that he was trapped in some kind of world that was a dream or hallucination. By the end of the series, he came to believe that the real world was the dream, and decided to go back to the world of 1973 by jumping off a building. In other words, he did exactly what we see Cobb’s wife do in Inception.

Inception Concept: Dead folks from a character’s the past that manifest and torment them in a state of altered consciousness.
Where I Saw It Before: Flatliners

This 1990 thriller with Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, and Kevin Bacon put its characters through the same drama that we saw with Cobb and the wife that haunted his dreams.

Inception Concept: “Which story is real, and which is the dream/fantasy/hallucination?”
Where I Saw It Before: Total Recall

Cobb’s dilemma at the end of the movie is basically the same one faced by Quaid/Hauser on Mars. And, as with Inception, the movie ends with us not really totally sure what the truth is.

Inception Concept: Japanese megacorporation employs brilliant but disgraced hacker to steal industrial secrets with unusual, daring plan
Where I Saw It Before: About half the novels William Gibson ever wrote

Yeah, pretty much…

Inception Concept: “Just one more job, for a good cause, and then I’m out”
Where I Saw It Before: The Killer

This is actually a fairly common trope, but John Woo’s HK action masterwork is a particularly good example, albeit one with an ending less happy than Inception‘s.

Inception Concept: A story layout that structures time in unusual ways and plays tricks with memory
Where I Saw It Before: Memento

I know that the John Fogerty court case established the idea that you can’t really plagiarize yourself, but I’m just saying’…

Inception Concept: A battle taking place simultaneously on multiple levels of reality
Where I Saw It Before: The Matrix

Especially the Matrix sequels. Oh, and the girl is… “The Architect”? Really, Nolan? You thought we wouldn’t notice that?

Inception Concept: Cutting back and forth between multiple battles taking place simultaneously, all leading to one climax
Where I Saw It Before: Return Of The Jedi

And technically The Phantom Menace too, but accusing Nolan of copying Phantom Menace would just be too cold-blooded.

But that’s not all I felt was wrong with Inception. The other big thing that bothered me about Inception is the fact that it more or less simply wasted the opportunities given to it by its structure. The characters end up in a dream world, but instead of facing grotesque or bizarre monsters from the Id (as, for example, was done in both Paprika and The Cell), Nolan simply represented the dreamers’ defenses as guys with guns. By doing this, he threw away the chance to craft some really interesting concepts and images, opting for some well-shot, but standard-issue and more or less forgettable action sequences instead. This was a big disappointment for me – I was expecting something more interesting, both visually and conceptually.

In the end, Inception isn’t a horrible movie – but it’s nowhere near the masterpiece it’s being made out to be. A little looking around will reveal films that have done the same things before, and often done them better. I know it’s a minority opinion, but I give Inception a big fat “Meh”.

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Categories: Movies

Episode 48 Show Notes

June 23rd, 2010 by Kyle
(Note: This is a Macross Egg Plane)

Episode 48: Hexed!

Starters:

* In Today’s Show…
* Congratulations Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart

Geek News:

* From the Hollywood Desk:

1. Deadpool movie may be directed by Robert Rodriguez
2. Russell Crowe is… The Equalizer
3. Niall Blomkamp rumored to direct The Hobbit
4. Sam Raimi to direct new Wizard of Oz
5. Whedon’s Cabin In The Woods burned down in MGM financial firestorm

* From the Gaming Desk:

1. Internet post declares JRPGs dead
2. “Easy” D&D Encounters winning back players

* From The Television Desk

1. Possible Blue Beetle TV show coming

* From the Comics Desk:

1. (Little Orphan) Annie Comics ends after 86 years

* From the Cellar:

1. Harry Potterland opens at Universal Orlando
2. Star Wars fashions debut
3. James Franco goes batshit insane
4. Shatner to direct documentary about Capt. Kirk
5. Hustler working on XXX parody of Avatar

Commercial:

* Natural 20 Clothing
* Fog City Wrestling

E3 Wrapup:

* Dave covers all the news from E3

New Release Tuesday:

* Afro Samurai Complete on Blu-ray
* The Guyver Complete on Blu-ray
* Last Airbender Collectors DVD Set Part 1
* Death Race 2000 Blu-ray

Pick Of The Week:

* Macross Egg Planes from Hasegawa

Saturday Morning Rewind:

* Jayce & The Wheeled Warriors

Stuff You Should Know About:

* I Was Kidnapped By Lesbian Pirates From Outer Space

Ten Minute Review:

* Jonah Hex
* Toy Story 3

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Epidsode #48: Hexed!

June 22nd, 2010 by Kyle

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It’s a mixed bag this episode of Geek Tragedy, and Kyle and Dave recount the joy of Toy Story 3, and the sheer torment of the 70 minute abortion known as Jonah Hex!

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Categories: Episodes

Update on GeekTragedy goings on

May 26th, 2010 by Dave

Hey there,

We’ve been having some issues the past couple weeks; looks like Sci-Fi Surplus isn’t the only one having technical difficulties. But we’re still going and still recording episodes to be released. So, don’t let our recent lull in audio downloads give you hope that we’ve given up. Or something along those lines that’s not quite as self-depricating.

Anyways, here’s an update on what we’re currently working on and what we’re dealing with.

1) NPC Comics Editor-In-Chief and podcast recording engineer extrodinare Jamiel ‘Killer J’ Hemphill is getting ready to take the final plunge and doom himself with wedded ‘bliss’ to the lovely Miss Emily. So, while he deals with the 1001+ tasks that need to be done for the wedding, Kyle and I are going to be editing our podcasts for the time being.

2) We’ve been having issues with our recording software, Audacity having eaten interviews at WonderCon and a couple of podcasts we and our sport-minded brothers at West Coast Bias have done in the past couple months. So, we’re looking for a replacement while we struggle on with Audacity.

3) At the top of our editing list is our big review of the new Undisputed Worst Movie Of All Time, ‘Birdemic’. Kyle forced this upon yours truly as well as our friends Fancy Fembot of Sci-Fi Party, Browcoat Lisa, and Smartbunny. Suspiciously, Kyle developed a ‘sore throat’ the day we were to record and couldn’t speak. His miraculous recovery the next day has been recorded for future consideration as one of the three required miracles for Sainthood in the Catholic Church. However, we’re working on editing the review and releasing it along with a ‘lost episode’ or two of Geek Tragedy once we get those edited as well.

4) When I say, ‘we are editing’, I really mean me, since Kyle is neck-deep in his graduate coursework for the spring quarter.

5) Finally, I’m going to be making my own lady love Pixie Gina rather happy by actually assembling the metric ton of miniatures I have in my collection and building up armies for Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000, hopefully giving us more storage space in the garage before the madness overtakes me again and I put in a huge order to Forge World. The Tau Manta still tempts me in my dreams… *droooool*

Anyways, I’m currently speed assmebling a mass of Chaos Space Marines to get them ready for an Appocalypse game at my local GW store on Saturday. They’ll pretty much be just black primer, but at least it’s a start in converting lots of bulky boxes into small, fragile, bits of plastic and metal with sharp points. If I get permission from the store manager, I’ll take pics and post them here.

So, hang in there True Believers (please don’t sue us, Stan), we’ve got more on the way as we continue our quest to defend true geekdom from the forces of Hollywood corruption.

McG and Michael Bey, I’m looking at both of you…

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Categories: Announcements, Movies

Hailing frequencies open, preparing rant

January 31st, 2010 by Dave

Hey there, it’s Dave here, posting from inside Star Trek Online head start. Or rather, *trying* to post from inside Star Trek Online head start. You see, it seems that when tried to log in, I got a ‘server is full’ message and was placed in a queue to log into the game.

Let me say that again: I was put on hold while trying to log into a game that I have invested a not-inconsiderable amount of my finances into…2 days before the official release.

This is really not a good sign. Now more than likely, 90% of the people that were going to play this game already pre-ordered it, and there’s a lot of Star Trek fans world-wide that have been waiting for this. However, I don’t think the player base is going to be nearly the size of WoW (11 million +), and I’ve never had an issue logging into a WoW server whose status is ‘Full’.

Another little matter that I discovered Friday morning: all throughout Beta-testing, we were limited to only 2 character slots. I figured that this was only for the durration of the beta test so as not to overload the game. But lo and behold, I log in on Friday morning when the servers go live and for real for the head start…and I’m still only limited 2 character slots.

Seriously, what the Hell are they smoking over at Cryptic? They already have a char-gen issue by forcing players that only want to play Klingons to grind to level 6 before making a Klingon character; now they’re forcing those players to devote 50% of their character slots to a Federation character that they’ll NEVER PLAY AGAIN?

Of course, if you get the lifetime subscription of the locked in 1-year subscription (a program which ends the day before the official release date), you get a whopping *2* extra character slots. Fascinating.

Come on, Cryptic. Get your act together here. I’ve been defending you for a while now. Don’t let this turn into the ‘Kamp Krusty’ episode of ‘The Simpsons’ with me and quite a few others, curled up, rocking back and forth, and chanting ‘The fixes are coming…the fixes are coming…the fixes are coming…’

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Categories: Gaming
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