Friday, August 30, 2013

Let's Talk About Pacific Rim

"Pacific Rim? What's that, a porno?"

No, my naive little friend, it is one of the most influential movies of Summer 2013. Haven't heard of it? Haven't gone to see it? Well, this is your much needed kick in the butt. 

"An alien attack and giant robots. Pft, I've seen it before."

While I agree that the monster and mecha genre have been around for quite some time, I'll almost guarantee that you haven't seen it like this before. Where "dark and edgy" seem to be the new trend going from movie to movie (even tv show to tv show), Pacific Rim is a surprising breath of fresh air. 

At its most basic and two-dimensional definition, it's about big robots punching even bigger aliens in the face. I know, I wasn't that impressed at first. Never before have I enjoyed eating my words as I did with this.

It's loud, it's flashy, it's in your face but it's different. 

"So what is it about?"

It's a story that takes place in the near-future (2020s) where humanity suffers under the threat of attack from a race of creatures (called Kaiju) that come from an interdimensional portal that lies on the floor of the Pacific Ocean. After years of fighting, humanity developed Jaegars or giant robots to fight this enemy. Pilots form a mental bond, and connect through "the drift"  where they share one another's thoughts and memories (so that the mental load of controlling a Jaegar is split into two). The story follows the co-pilots of one specific Jaegar (Gipsy Danger), as they work together to rid the world of impending doom.

But it's so much more than that.

It's about how strong humankind can be. When humanity has been forced to hide behind walls, or cower under the threat of imminent attack, they find a way to push through. It's surprisingly comforting to see humanity live on. To see a movie explore the after, in as positive a light as they could. That with such a colossal and terrifying threat, cities still stand. To see that they have adapted. To see that they have the power to fight back when everything is at stake. To forget the restrictions of race/gender/etc., and join forces. It's great to see a humanity that has been beaten down, a humanity that has risen back up, a humanity that spits in the face of the apocalypse. 

"Psh, what's so great about it?"

This is not an origin story. I don't know about you, but I have had it with origin stories. We get it Batman, your parents are dead. 

Pacific Rim gets rid of an hour's worth of backstory, with the careful placement of flashbacks. Sick of sitting through a collection of "who is he," "what am I," or "what should I do?" Have no fears. You will know everything that has led up to this point during the first twenty minutes or so of the movie. And you won't expect it to go where you think it will.

This story is not about personal conflicts. Sure, there are characters that clash and duke it out. But Del Toro had stated that one of the main focuses was to support a story where that concept is life. That you won't agree, may never agree, but you'll work together when you need to. 

And together not only means man and man, but man and woman, race and race. When you walk the halls with Raleigh as he takes in the lively happenings within the dome, you bump shoulders with women and people of color scurrying around: each playing an important part in keeping humanity alive.

Sure they're only minor characters, but that's a lot more than can be said for other casts. 

Speaking of which, let's talk about Mako Mori. 

When Raleigh comes in, all blond hair and baby-blue eyes, you think that Mako would just swoon and fall into his arms. That he would end up saving her. And you would be absolutely wrong. Mako Mori can save herself. She can fight by herself, for herself. And he respects that.

In fact, he spends a good portion of the time trying to convince her to be his co-pilot. Not because she's a pretty face but because she has what it takes to pilot a Jaegar. To drift with him. And that's the hero I've been wanting to see. A hero that I've been wanting to call my own. Someone like Mako. She doesn't need a snarky "better than you" attitude, to make her assertive. She doesn't have to be Ms. Serious-Business. She can be soft-spoken, with blue-highlights, and she will still be a pilot. She can still be a protagonist with a story all of her own. 

"What about Raleigh?"

Raleigh, Jaegar-program veteran who lost his brother during a mission (experiencing his brother's thoughts and feelings through the drift). He had all the makings of a cocky, a maverick, a loose cannon. But he isn't. What we expect to be a movie about his healing, we get a movie about his acceptance.

He made a mistake. He was brash. It cost him his brother. It cost him his Jaegar. It cost him a lot of emotional stability. But he made peace with it, his part in the consequences, and all before the real plot of the movie started. We don't need to see a ninety-minute fight back to the top. What we see is a man who knows how the world works (and has a message to give): you mess up, but you live with it, and you move on.

If anything, he is one of the best heroes for kids to look up to. In the case of Mako, he could've been that character who would use his god-like charm to snare her into being his partner. But he wasn't. He was the one who pined and begged. And it didn't make him any less of a character, any less of a pilot, and any less of a man. Their relationship is not romantic (not exactly). It's a bond between two people who have suffered but have had to strength to come back. They don't need to kiss, they don't swoon, they don't need to do anything to show that they are strong. That they can be partners. That they can drift.

And that's the most realistic thing.

Cheers to Del Toro, by the way, for taking the setting into Hong Kong. It makes sense. This is a worldly threat, so why not actually include people and places from all over as well?

"So, Pacific Rim."

Yep. It's not your average Transformers. 

So take a friend, take a sibling, a parent, a partner, and see what you drift compatibility would be.

Batman vs. Superman: not just a 2015 event

There's been a lot of buzz going around recently about the new 'Batman vs. Superman' movie coming out in 2015. Much of it has been directed at Ben Affleck, who was just confirmed as the new Batman. These two characters are getting a lot of attention right now with the Dark Knight series well on their way and the Superman series just starting up again. Their history goes far beyond the last 5 years though, and I'd thought it'd be fun to take a quick peak at what these characters have gone through in the past.

Firstly, let's go back to the dinosaur ages of 1966. Phrases like "gee wiz" were actually said, as you'll notice only 4 minutes into this episode from the Batman TV series:

The series was never viewed as especially good though, and they clearly had a struggling budget. 

Okay, maybe they were struggling with a little more then their budget. But before this show even existed, there was the "Adventures of Superman" TV show that started back when the pyramids were being built. AKA 1952. 

Moving way ahead in time though, this cartoon was released just last year and features an epic battle between Batman and Superman. I feel like this may give us a good idea of what to expect from the new movie coming in 2015, except instead of a cartoon it's real people and a sh*t load of special effects. 

This summer I was fortunate enough to have some free time so I decided to fill that free time by watching some TV shows I've been interested in watching for a while. It's an official list of TV shows that I am slowly making my way through. The first show I watched was Arrested Development. My original interest was sparked by Netflix producing a fourth season for the show. Being a Television-Radio major I felt this was a step in a new direction for TV that I should make sure I'm aware of. I started the show and finished the first three seasons within two weeks. The more I watched the more I was hooked. At first I was a bit hesitant thinking that this show would be too incredibly frustrating to watch as Jason Bateman's character, Michael Bluth, struggled to accomplish even the most minor victories. But by the second season, I couldn't get enough of it. Mitchell Hurwitz and the other writers did an amazing job. I felt like almost every line was a punch line but yet made sense in the story of the episode. Even the foreshadowing for Tony Hale's character, Buster Bluth, loosing his hand to a "loose seal," hilariously similar sounding to Jessica Walter's character's name, Lucille Bluth, was genius. This was the first show in a while that I could be watching alone and laugh out loud to myself. And even talking about it to the other people made it that more hilarious. The amount of great quotes from that show is ridiculous. One of my quotes is from Gob, Will Arnett's chatacter, "I know what an erection feels like Michael. No, it's the opposite. It's... it's like my heart is getting hard."

Now after getting through those three beautiful seasons was fantastic but the closer the fourth season dawned on me, the more worried I got.  How could they recreate something this good? The characters will be too old. How are they going to pull this off? These questions constantly circled through my head as I wrapped up the third season. It became a large topic of discussion with my friends who were also Arrested Development fans. So bravely and unsure of what would happen. Me and my brother let Netflix roll us over into the next season. If Netflix didn't have that feature where it just starts the next episode in 15 seconds then we probably would've put it off. The first episode of season 4 was alright. I wasn't blown away but I knew what they we're doing was tough so I hung in there. I kept saying maybe the next ones will be like the old ones. But it wasn't. In reality I shouldn't of expected it too. For what it was overall, I was impressed and it was still a good show. But the first 3 seasons we're a great show, and I missed that. I've been hearing talks of possibly a movie which I will definitely see and  I'm still glad Netflix created a fourth season. I look forward to whatever comes next. 

The Most Unusual High School Experience

I’ve spent countless years of trying my hardest to stay away from predictable, high school oriented television dramas. Finally, the extensive summer break this year forced me to give in. After watching nine seasons of One Tree Hill, all of Friday Night Lights and Degrassi, I thought I had seen every possible situation that could take place in a high school environment. That was, until I turned my sights on Pretty Little Liars. I have to admit that I had read the Pretty Little Liars series by Sara Shepard due to its popularity and the fact that the series takes place in the same town I live in. The main plot line in the series begins with a group of five best friends who are stricken with tragedy when one of their friends is murdered. After her passing, they begin to be harassed by someone who claims to be their dead friend, and who refers to himself or herself as “A”. When I heard that the book series was being turned into a television series, I was doubtful. I thought the show would never work since those who had read the series obviously knew exactly who “A” is. However, the show, much like  “True Blood”, doesn’t even attempt to follow the same plot lines as the books.

However, I do, at times, find myself questioning the reality of the show. For instance, it isn’t very plausible to say that romantic affairs with your professor, having a stalker, being accused for murder, being sent to a psych ward, escaping a psych ward, having someone drive a car through your living room, having your significant other murdered, being almost sawed in half, and more, are all frequent events during your high school career. But even though the plot lines sometimes sound ridiculous, if not impossible, I still can’t stop myself from watching.
This week, the season finale, “Now You See Me, Now You Don’t”, aired. I’ll start off by saying that this episode was more artistically filmed than most. Most interesting was the color and camera angles used during the scenes in which the Pretty Little Liars went to Ravenswood. Ravenswood is a town in the show that, to many people’s surprise, ABC Family has decided to make a spin-off show about. Although the show isn't thought to be a hit, the town itself has managed to catch people's attention. When first introduced to the town, the scenes were shot in a grayish tone, and there was no audio other than the sound of a large bell tower. The quietness and the emptiness gave the town a creepy aura that was hard to forget. In the recent episode, as soon as the girls enter the town the color switches from bright scenes to dark, harsh coloring. As far as camera angles go, there was an exchange between the girls and a magician. The exchange quickly switched from zooming into Aria's face from above to zooming into the mime's face from below. I found this juxtaposition intriguing and different from what is typically shot on Pretty Little Liars.
If you own a Twitter or Facebook account you were probably already informed that the show finished by saying who “A” is. I won’t spoil it but I will say that this finale left watchers more confused and upset than ever. Some critics go as far as stating that this show is as confusing as Lost. Even though I won’t go that far, I will say that I am extremely glad that my high school experience did not, at any point, resemble a single episode from this series.


I can watch my favorite shows for hours and hours. I can re-watch episodes and seasons over numerous times and not get tired of them. I love when I am re-watching an episode and find something in a shot or storyline that I previously missed. It is like finding the lost puzzle piece you never had to put it all together. One of my new favorite shows is ABC’s Nashville

Last year was the show’s first season and it was extremely successful. It had award-worthy original country music and one of my favorite actresses Connie Britton, who also starred in one of my other all time favorite shows Friday Night Lights. The chemistry between the actors in Nashville is amazing. Even if you just watch the pilot you will get drawn into each character's story and want to keep watching.

Last year’s season finale was explosive. Relationships ended, some were at a cross road, and others were just beginning. In the last scene two of the main characters, Deacon and Rayna, got into an intense fight and car crash leaving the audience begging to know if they’re okay. I just watched the promo for this year’s season premiere, which airs September 25th at 10 pm. It is action packed and reveals glimpses of what unravels in the first few episodes.

I can’t wait to watch! 

YouTube Success

I am assuming you all are quite familiar with the most popular video sharing website, YouTube. YouTube has come a long way since it's creation in February 2005, by three former PayPal employees. According to one of the creators, Janet Jackson's role in the 2004 Super Bowl incident was the inspiration for YouTube. It is hard to believe that YouTube is only 8 years old, it feels like it has been longer than that. 

Today YouTube holds a lot of power. It is a crucial tool used to spread word for protests, education, politics, and more. It is also a way to make a bit of income, and a doorway into a possible career. Take the example of Ray William Johnson, an early YouTuber who took popular viral videos and combined them with a video blog/commentary type of style. The way to get views on YouTube, and to keep them, is to produce content people enjoy and have it produced regularly. Which is exactly what Ray did  on his YouTube channel. He started the show Equals Three, during which he reviews popular viral videos from other users and he comments on them, and jokes. Now his show is one of the most subscribed on YouTube, and has been recognized by Guinness Book of World Records. With all of his success on YouTube, Ray has been able to make money from his YouTube channel from ads, and land some impressive career connections. In May of 2013 Ray told all of his YouTube subscribers he signed a deal to produce a sitcom for FX. Hopefully that works out for him. 

Ray during an episode of =3

Justin Bieber got discovered from YouTube, and since then his life has drastically changed. He was found in 2008 by a talent scout, Scooter Braun, who came across his videos on YouTube. Braun scheduled Bieber to meet with Usher and Bieber signed with Braun's Media Group, and was rocketed into stardom. From YouTube to the third-most powerful celebrity in the world according to Forbes Magazine in 2012. Personally I do not enjoy his music, but even if you are the farthest thing from a "Belieber" you can't argue with his success; and it was because of YouTube. 

Prepubescent Justin Bieber