Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Star Trek Beyond

So, is Star Trek Beyond the Fast and Furious shit show we sci-fi fans all thought it was going to be? Well, a little yes, but mostly no. Surprisingly, the main problems with the film aren't poor actor chemistry or too many stunt scenes (although there are a lot of the latter).

The essential trouble, if you could boil it down, would be the story. Quite honestly, it’s very clumsy bordering on being nonsensical. The main villain, Krall, is essentially the equivalent of a big dude whose shadow is looming over the city in an arcade game’s intro. Even his “plot twist” later is pointless.

Unlike Khan’s character in 1982's Wrath of Khan, Krall has no legitimate beef with the Federation. Khan was marooned by Kirk on Ceti Alpha V, which then became a barren world. There most of Khan’s crew grew sick and died. Krall, on the other hand, is basically Tom Hanks from Cast Away. His revenge is akin to blaming a root for tripping him.

All that being said, Beyond is a true summer blockbuster. Explosions dart the black recesses of space, and photon torpedoes bloom as miniature suns. Hell, even the Beastie Boys have an actual plot inclusion that will sure to be a crowd-pleaser.

But what makes this still Star Trek to me are the characters and their love for one another. A moment between Spock and Bones on their unspoken friendship really got to me. As Zachary Quinto’s Spock mourns his predecessor’s passing, the audience feels a sense of reverence. Just one question: How many times are they going to blow up the Enterprise? 7/10

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

My Friend

I met you when I was a shadow of my past.
I resigned myself to trusting no one.
But we poured our quirks into each other.
I trusted you.
Then you needed me... really needed me.
Through all my stains, I was there.
We laughed together in a room of pot and anime.
Then you didn't need me anymore.
You left... and I trusted you.
You were my friend.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

An Anime Dark Age

There's always been slow years in any entertainment medium, or even in a historical context. That’s just life. However, with the topic of anime for the last ten years or so, I have to say that quality products are down to a minimal trickle. The age of Akira has passed.

Like any complex phenomenon, multiple factors are at work. But first I’d simply like to highlight what anime used to mean for me. I was born in 1989, so while much groundbreaking anime had already come out, it wasn’t really until 1998 or thereabouts that I actually recognized what anime was. You see, collectively we as a culture had been watching anime since the 60’s with Astro Boy and the 70’s with Speed Racer… but we all just thought that they were drawn weird. Even Voltron in the 80’s suffered with this assumption.

By 1998 Pokemon finally came out, and with that came the licensed anime. Pokemon, as ridiculously simplistic as it was, was the first show to have all the hallmarks of anime on American television. Then the floodgates opened on Cartoon Network. Ronin Warriors, Outlaw Star, Gundam Wing, Rurouni Kenshin, Yu Yu Hakusho, and of course, Dragon Ball Z.

Anime back then had humor, sure. But if you look at the overall arc of its style from the 80’s to the end of the 90’s it mostly had one thing in common: being badass and having an unapologetic macho streak. Being the non-historian that I am, I suppose I’d place the beginning and end to awesome anime as a general trend from 1984’s Fist of the North Star to 1998’s Cowboy Bebop.

Then you get into the stuff they never dared show on Toonami, which ahead of its time as it was, still was a children’s programming block. Radical content like Akira, Ninja Scroll, Ghost in the Shell, Vampire Hunter D, Demon City Shinjuku, and Wicked City blew away my teenage mind when I brought them home from Blockbuster. It wasn’t just the bloodshed, it was the manic yet masterful way these titles were drawn. Not with fancy computer algorithms either, but hand-drawn frame by frame just like the great Disney animators of old.

Now with big exceptions like the Hellsing Ultimate reboot and Attack on Titan, I really think mainstream anime has lost its way. No longer can I show a bunch of friends a new anime and expect their jaws to hit the floor… instead, I can expect a shrug. Which is fitting, because that’s what Japan itself seems to be doing. Katsuhiro Otomo and Satoshi Kon have been replaced with Ouran High School Host Club and Lucky Star. Unfortunately, this is not an aberration, it’s the status-quo now.

I’m not that smart, but if I could, I’d give Japan some advice. That being, stop overworking your animators like glorified sweatshops and listen to their creative input for once. Stop producing garbage for the lowest common audience. Yes, stupid high school comedies might be good for business on paper, but it’s a dead end. Go back to your roots. Don’t just make everything CGI. Tell a story worth telling. Finally, be badass again.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The public death of American Christianity

Words have meanings. That’s as simple a fact as admitting that some things are so and some things are not so. In 2016, however, the definition of a “Christian” has officially become nonsensical and irrelevant in the United States. Obviously, there are always gray areas… probably hundreds of them. Yet with the inevitable rise of Donald Trump as the Republican nominee, all rules have been broken.

Quite honestly, the religious right or “moral majority” has always been hypocritical to some degree. This is due to the founder of the movement, Jerry Falwell, being largely unaware of basic theology in a way that other evangelicals like C.S. Lewis and Billy Graham never were. These cracks were evident from the 80’s. Civil rights for minorities was shunned, wars were lobbied for, and the rich were made richer and the poor were made poorer. When you have an ignorant teacher, you create ignorant students.

This long assembly line of pious stupidity helped create the America we are held witness to today. The tragedy of it all is that conservatism, and yes, even the GOP have a proud history. While the two parties did fracture ideologically in 1964, it is a fundamental truth that the “man who freed the slaves,” Abraham Lincoln, was indeed a Republican. How far they’ve gone into the Wilderness!

Even men like Ronald Reagan, someone I thought was dramatically overrated, kept the Oval Office dignified. When Reagan called the Soviet Union an “evil empire,” it wasn’t just an insult. He was protecting something noble. He talked about us being a “City on a Hill,” a Biblical phrase his Christian audience well understood.

If Donald Trump had been president then, I honestly have little doubt that he would have engaged in MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction). And, quite frankly, I wouldn’t have blamed him for it. That’s because Donald Trump isn’t trying to protect something near and dear to him. He is trying to win… by scorched earth if he has to. When Trump says that we as Americans have to collectively lower our moral standards and torture to fight enemies like ISIS, he is saying he doesn’t care if he fights evil with evil.

The bottom line is that Donald Trump is not a Christian. While we are rightly admonished in the Gospel for talking about a speck of sawdust in a brother’s eye while we are stricken with a plank in our own, we are also called to speak out against false prophets. If Donald Trump is just a “politically incorrect” truth-teller, then I’m Donald Duck. He wants pure power.

When Trump says he’s never asked God for forgiveness, when he calls Mexicans “killers and rapists,” when he refuses to denounce the Ku Klux Klan, when he mocks our veterans, when he says that we need to ban all Muslims from America and even create a “database” to identify them, and when he says he wants to actually target the wives and children of terrorists, I have a Biblical duty to call out this monster.

I will never be a conservative. I am a liberal and proud of it. That being said, if you voted for Reagan or look up to Lincoln, and call Jesus as your savior, you cannot vote for Donald Trump. It’s better for you and Christendom that the Republican Party lose the White House than lose its soul instead.

“Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.” -Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf

“Christian love draws no distinction between one enemy and another, except that the more bitter our enemy’s hatred, the greater his need of love. Be his enmity political or religious, he has nothing to expect from a follower of Jesus but unqualified love. In such love there is no inner discord between private person and official capacity. In both we are disciples of Christ, or we are not Christians at all.” -Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship