Friday, November 13, 2009

Sooooo...not really updating anymore...

Yeah, I pretty much realized that there is really no reason to keep updating this blog. It's not that I don't WANT to, it's just that more of my time and energy is better spent at Deviantart.

Of course, I'll keep this blog around, since there is a lot of important stuff here, ALSO, in case something "happens" at DA and I need to go somewhere else, this will be waiting for me.

So for all art and blog updates, check here:

Also, keep an eye on, there's a major revision in the works.

Friday, September 04, 2009


Want to destroy yourself, along with everything you ever believed it, and love yourself for doing it?

That, my friends, is "Chibiterasu," lovable little puppy-goddess of Amaterasu, hero of the wildly-praised-and-horrifically-under-appreciated OKAMI, Game of the Year for 2006.

For those who know me, Okami is my absolute favorite single game of all time, even moreso than any one Zelda game and thousands of times over all of the crappy Street Fighter ripoffs and the literal armies of brown-and-gray Space Marine games where you are told, time and again, that life is horrible and you should feel bad for breathing.

Okami is the antithesis to all of that, taking the core concepts of the borderline-played-out Zelda franchise and dressing it up with a lovely, unique art style, great characters and an epic anime feel to it all. Naturally, because it was daring enough to be different, and GOOD at it, it sold terribly because all gamers want is to beat hookers to death.

Yeah, I'm a little bitter.

But Amaterasu's brilliant light shines on us again! Okamiden, a sequel built for the DS, is coming sometime in 2010.

...Great, now I need to get a DS. Maybe I'll settle for an art book or something because I LOVES ME SOME OKAMI.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Dear Legendary Pictures...


How NOT to Screw Up a New Godzilla Film

The first attempt at an all-American Godzilla as designed by William Stout. It was intended for the stop-motion-centric "Godzilla 3-D" back in 1983. Stout channeled a Tyrannosaurus Rex as a major factor for inspiration.

The second attempt came in 1993/94 for a script written by Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio. Longtime dinosaur fan Ricardo Delgado gave the Heisei Godzilla design a sleek look.

The third attempt was finally made into a film by Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich. The new monster was designed by Patrick Tatopoulos, who tried some thing radical and new.

There is no doubt that Godzilla is an icon of popular culture. With 55 years, 28 films and hundreds of thousands of fans worldwide under his extra-extra-large belt, there's some serious baggage that comes with a name as well-known as Mickey Mouse and Superman.
Last week, leaked a news bite that Legendary Pictures, the folks behind a bevvy of recent hits such as The Dark Knight, The Hangover and 300, are "in early discussions" to possibly produce a new GODZILLA film. Further rumors point out that Weta Workshop, the wunderkids behind the effects for The Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson's King Kong and District 9 are front-runners to handle the special effects wizardry.

A qualifying statement is in order: this is all just here-say. No official statement has been issued, and Toho is remaining tight-lipped on the project...if there even IS a project. It could very well fall through. Still, once word hit the internet that there was even the POTENTIAL for a new US-made film, the internet practically exploded. People not even known to be fans were posting like crazy about the possibility that Godzilla in all his reptilian fury could be stomping across screens once more. Quite honestly, Toho and Legendary would be complete and utter fools to let this opportunity pass them by.

There's no question that there is a huge potential for profit here, and that's what the studios are all for: making money. HOWEVER, that is if, and ONLY if, the proper steps are taken. There's no doubt that a profit is to be made regardless, because the simple fact is, while you can praise and worship Gojira 1954, Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris and Cloverfield until the eagles choke, people DON'T go to monster movies for plot, script and acting (although those are all factors). They go to see GIANT MONSTERS BREAK STUFF. That's the reason while Godzilla 1998 was still a financial success; American moviegoers loves them some giant monsters.

Quick aside: why did I say "American"? Because I DON'T mean Japanese. That's right, the birthplace of the kaiju genre is experiencing a terrible downturn in giant monster least in films. Ultra Galaxy: Mega Monster Battle is currently one of the most popular children's shows in Japan, and it's all live-action monsters in rubber suits beating the snot out of each other in the tradition of Poke'mon, Digimon and YuGiOh (themselves all inspired by UltraSeven, so it's practically come full-circle). But the Ultra series aside, giant monsters are decidedly NOT on the minds of moviegoers in Japan. Gamera The Brave was a box-office flop, Godzilla: Final Wars performed terribly, King Kong did VERY poorly, and even Cloverfield underperformed in the Japanese box office. While monsters are an undeniable part of Japanese culture, they've turn their backs on the "big budget" monster feature in favor of kiddish TV fare...hey, it's the 70's all over again!

But Americans are definitely still in to giant monsters. Monsters vs. Aliens, though decidedly a family-film, was a huge success at the box office, and let's not forget Cloverfield. The excitement generated online over the vague possibility of a new US Godzilla film should be proof enough.
Of course, this brings me to a touchy subject that, despite my best attempts, I can't ignore: the 1998 Tristar Godzilla. It's a flick that will inevitably come up when discussing a potential Godzilla reboot, or hell, Godzilla in general. 1998 was a year that will live in infamy as "The Year of Godzilla." Seriously, Big G's name was EVERYWHERE. There was no doubt that it was the hottest film of 1998...well, suffice to say, it wasn't so hot anymore. I could go on for another two or three pages about why this film works and doesn't work, but I'll wrap things up here and move on to the potential new flick. The bottom line is, simply, it wasn't Godzilla, and that felt like a big missed opportunity for the franchise.

But 11 years have passed and mayhaps it's time to try again. The Toho series went out with a bang AND a whimper with Godzilla: Final Wars. But, as mentioned before, there's a helluvalotta' baggage that comes with a new, American-made film. What should be done? What shouldn't be done? Should it be done at all?

First and foremost, the topic on everyone's mind is what to do with the special effects? Many are rallying for a grassroots approach, rubber suits and all, while others are accepting that CGI may be the necessity in order to attract a modern, dumber audience that wants everything brighter and shinier. There's no argument that the rubber suit will cause a lot of confusion and ultimately turn a lot of people off from the project...THEN AGAIN, it is entirely possible to make rubber suits convincingly gigantic. Shinji Higuchi comes to mind (Google him, we don't have time to get into that here), but it's a foregone conclusion that CGI will be heavily utilized in SOME way. If the rumors are true and Weta does jump on board (and they'd be happy to do it) there's no doubt that there will be plenty of miniature sets. But the monsters themselves are the real issue...
One possible solution is the recent trend of "practical CGI," as I hath dubbed it, in which a physical object, often an elaborate suit ala Where the Wild Things Are and Land of the Lost is mapped over with a number of additional digital effects, be it for facial expressions, overall movement or what have you.

Know what I'D like to see? A suit actor, maybe Kitagawa, in a half-practical suit, the legs marked with digital reference dots to be made into convincing digitigrades later, and that long tail and a fiercely expressionate face ala KONG.

It goes without saying that this film also needs a really fun plot, and what's the easiest and most lucrative solution? MONSTERS, as in PLURAL. I'll put it simply for the business majors out there: more monsters means more toys. But on a more insightful note, putting more than one monster (and no, I DON'T mean a bunch of velociraptors hatched out of xenomorph eggs) will make the film infinitely more interesting than Godzilla having to carry it on his own. That only worked for ONE film, and even in Godzilla 1985 he had an enemy in the form of the Super X! We all know who Godzilla is, we don't need an entire film to re-acquaint us with the monster all on his lonesome.
Did I mention toys?

Speaking of toys-er, other monsters, what should be used? You'd be surprised at the thematic elements of storytelling that broil about when discussing this topic. I'm sure that many fans and even mainstream moviegoers will be dieing to see classic Toho beasties like Mothra, Rodan and King Ghidorah fight Godzilla in his comeback flick...but it ain't gonna' happen, at least not likely. Word has it that Tristar, back in the day, payed literally millions of dollars for Godzilla alone...and I don't see Legendary shelling out the scratch for Gigan or Megalon. Chances are we'll have a non-Toho monster.

But what will we get? Storytelling aesthetic demands that the monster compliment Godzilla and be something of an antithesis. In the 1994 script, Godzilla was pit against "The Gryphon," a creature not unlike The Thing, specifically John Carpenter's version, in which it absorbs victims and gains their characteristics until it becomes a giant cougar-monster with bat wings, a mouth full of snakes and human-level intelligence. It's a nice enemy monster since it differs in origin, appearance, powers and personality, but, according to the script, Godzilla's destiny is to fight the thing, neatly tying things together.
A similar plot would be utilized for the proposed sequel to the 1998 film where "Zilla" would go up against a horde of mutated insects that have taken over an island, with the big boss being the "Queen Bitch," a sort of giant termite queen that, thanks to a quirk of evolution, Zilla is intended by nature to destroy. It'd be hella cool to see some new giant insect that isn't Mothra, Kamacuras or Megaguirus.

Basically, what I'm saying, is that we need an enemy monster, and preferably one that maybe turns Godzilla from a misunderstood villain into an anti-hero in one flick, that way the audience gets behind the Big G from the get-go...that's my opinion, anyway.

Another issue that I feel doesn't get addressed nearly enough is the human story YES BY GOD THERE ARE HUMANS IN GODZILLA FILMS WHAAAAT???
Anywho, I feel that the '94 script did something that more Godzilla films need: something for the humans to do. Final Wars did manage to make the human scenes entertaining, but they would up horning in on the kaiju screentime and ultimately stealing the plot itself. In the '94 script, as well as in Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah; Giant Monsters All Out Attack, not to mention a good chunk of the Showa films, the humans are given plenty to do without distracting from the crisis at hand. In the '94 script, they take an active role in the final battle by (spoilers) actually saving Godzilla so he can defeat the Gryphon.
Like it or not, the human characters in Godzilla films are there to carry the story. While films like Godzilla 2000 badly fall short of this, alternatives like Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster keep the humans relevant and interesting.

A final thought: perhaps the most important aspects, especially for myself and the Godzilla fans out there, is that Godzilla's spirit and character must remain in-tact. Sure, his origin changes, his role changes, and his look changes, but Godzilla's FIGHTING SPIRIT must remain in-tact. In other words, the Big G is a bona-fide BAD ASS. He does not run from fights. He is a role model for young boys in that he don't take no guff from no one. He's GODZILLA, dammit.

- a fan who likes to think he knows what he's talking about.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Big Man Japan...?


For the last several months, whenever I'd bring up Ultraman or Godzilla in mixed company, and particularly amongst the trendy hipster weirdos of my fellow Austinites, they'd ask me "Have you seen Big Man Japan?"

"No," I replied.

"You have to. It's crazy and hilarious and (insert more shallow praise here)!"

So I finally rented it last night.

I'll keep it short.

BIG MAN JAPAN is probably the most boring "crazy film" I've ever seen. There's no question that the film is smart, and it's making plenty of observations on modern Japanese society (particularly the slow decay of its culture), and there are a handful of moments where we found ourselves laughing, but generally it was remarkable that a film could be so filled with...well, NOTHINGNESS to the point that it's over an hour and a half.

And it's not that I didn't "get" the film. As a fan of the kaiju genre, not to mention Japanese film in general, I actually understood the film completely. Nothing seemed truly confusing to me, even the "blowdart ending" as one friend dubbed it, so I was never lost or weirded out (not TOO much, anyway). But I think that the humor of watching this aging monster-fighter who's not appreciated for his work sit for minutes upon minutes talking about the minutia of whether or not he should go on vacation is lost on me because, simply, I'm not Japanese.

Japanese humor is admittedly hard to get for a lot of Americans. Their slapstick comedy and situational humor is funny for the most part, but their puns and social commentary is pretty much lost to us. So maybe the humor of BIG MAN JAPAN is truly cultural, as much as I understood it all.

Another thing is that there's no "redemption" in the film. It's just wave after wave of depression and emotional punches to the gut, and then an ending that supposedly solves the conflict of the film...but offers nothing for the hero and gives him nothing to develop from or grow. It's all just more awkward situations.

Oh yes, and you won't get the ending unless you know who and what ULTRAMAN is. Y'know, ULTRAMAN? More culturally relevant to Japan than almost every anime ever produced?

Anywho, I honestly can't recommend the film, simply because it's just so damn boring. As a social commentary, it's interesting and it's quirky, so I can only recommend it for that.

but in the meantime, here's a better kaiju parody: GEHARA

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Chinese Ultraman - Metal Kaiser?!

A couple of years ago, Tsuburaya Productions started work in that most elusive of foreign markets, the mighty and intimidating China, to create, you guessed it, a giant superhero series.

Now we know what Tsuburaya was doing while the budget series of ULTRASEVEN X and ULTRA GALAXY were running!

METAL KAISER is a really colorful, nifty looking series that features lots of nuances of the Ultraman franchise while mixing in distinctly Chinese visual cues and story elements.
Here's the story, according to

In the year 2052, a legendary sorcerer gives a mystical bracelet to a member of SAM (Science Analyze Mission) to allow him to transform into a giant super-warrior, armed with a laser sword and mad kung-fu skillz.
Okay, so it honestly sounds really, really unoriginal, but the visual style is very nifty, and apparently it was going to be divided into 4 seasons, each with a new giant hero.

Check out the awesome trailer here!

Yet another here!

Looks cool, right? Sure, it's really similar to Ultraman...but hey, Tsuburaya made it! So it's like GRIDMAN, a.k.a. SUPERHUMAN SAMURAI SYBER SQUAD...only...Chinese! It was an honest-to-goodness attempt to bring the coolness of Ultraman to China while bringing the massive nation's cultural pride to fore.

Unfortunately, it was not to be.
According to some internet snooping, the Guan Zhou Broadcasting Company banned the show before it could even air, wasting thousands of dollars and all of Tsuburaya's hard work, and denying Chinese children a chance at seeing a culturally relevant take on Japan's most popular superhero.
Of course, this is another chapter in the saga of Chinese censorship. It's a bad, BAD deal. The Guan Zhou, or whatever they're called, have not released a statement as to WHY the show was banned, but it likely had something to do with the strict regulations of violence on Chinese televisions (which fluctuates frequently) as well as probably negative connotations against a Japanese studio producing a Chinese program, something that entails a lot of hot-button issues for the Chinese.

Still, there's a glimmer of hope; Ryuji Honda, son of the legendary Ishiro Honda, has been strongly pushing the series, and hopefully it'll receive a release in Japan once the legal crap with China is all wrapped up.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Punish the Innocent

I don't usually post stories like this but I felt it necessary to at least spread the word about a man who was imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit (i.e. "Here we go again!)

Eric in the link above was convicted of rape, despite there being no evidence whatsoever that he committed the act, the only evidence being a massive dumptruck's worth on some white guy who admits to being a "jealous boyfriend," so what's the logical thing to do? Throw the innocent guy in jail. THAT makes sense.

Spread the word, get this guy some help.

- From the Army of Common Sense (informed by Phillip DeFranco)

Friday, June 26, 2009

G-Fest XVI right around the corner!

Well, consider this "official" ;)

I'll be attending G-FEST XVI, the 16th annual Godzilla, Kaiju and Tokusatsu fan convention in Rosemont, just outside of Chicago, Illinois.
Myself as well as a plethora of kaiju artists will be set up in the Haneda Room at the Crown Plaza Chicago O'Hare.

I'll be at my table from about 11:00 AM until 6:00 PM or so starting Friday, July 3rd through Sunday, July 5th.

What I'll be selling:

Posters/Prints - $10 each
The Screaming Brain! 2008 Sketchbook - $5 each (comes with a free sketch!)
Drawing Monsters (and hoping they don't kill me) 2009 Sketchbook - $5 each (comes with a free sketch!)
Sketch cards - $3 each
WRATH OF THE TITANS: CYCLOPS comics - $4 each (autographed...probably the last ones that will ever be available ever)
G-Fan #87 (featuring a cover and Gfantis comic insert by Matt Frank) - $6 each
Original art - $ varies (make me an offer!)

Private commission sketches:
Pencils: $10
Inked: $15

G-FEST is the Mecca of Daikaiju fans every year. Check out the website at:

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Livin' in the Laaaaand of the LOOOOOOSSSSST.

Well, the title is more of a reference to the 1991 remake Land of the Lost series, but you get the idea.
My girlfriend, my bud and I decided to check out LAND OF THE LOST this past Friday at the Drafthouse. We unfortunately arrived a half-hour early, which, for the Drafthouse, is like getting there 5 minutes after the trailers have started. Still, we sat down in the very front row. He ordered a cheeseburger, she ordered potato skins, and I ordered fried alligator! I'd normally be against something like that, but given the prolific numbers of the American Alligator, I was convinced to give it a try. Tough and chewy, but with a nice flavor.


It's not for everyone.

That above statement can best be illustrated by the three of us: us guys loved it, my girlfriend hated it. It has a bizarre, admittedly Will Ferrell brand of humor that reminds one of Adult Swim or Family Guy; a lot of rambling nonsense and gross-out shock humor, which, as I mentioned, I and my dry-humor oriented friend loved. However, because this type of comedy is so weird and offbeat, it's going to throw people off. And also, there was a good chunk that was genuinely not funny. The overall plot was also pretty weak, lifting story aspects from the original, well-written-but-badly-executed TV series and throwing it all together into a weird, big-budget Saturday Night Live-styled adventure.

Of course, we got a kick out of quite a bit of it; first and foremost, the flick is damn cool to look at. There are some wildly awesome set pieces and some really neat, retro-styled sets that are specific throw backs to the original series. And then there were the dinosaurs, not to mention all of the other creatures and critters. It was nice to see a well-animated Allosaurus, as well as a big, crazy, funny crab monster. And holy crap, the sound effects, music and editing? Excellent across the board. I especially liked the crab monster's sound FX. But beyond all the CGI whozamawhatzit were the practical effects, i.e. THE SLEESTAKS. Good stuff.

The human characters ranged from boring to weird to compellingly funny. Will Ferrel played Will Ferrel. Chaka was also a little weirdo. The bits with Matt Lauer were also a laugh-riot.

But hands-down, the coolest part of the whole flick? GRUMPY THE T-REX. Go see it for him if nothing else.

Like I said, not for everyone, but it may be worth at least checking out on DVD...or at the Drafthouse. We loved it, but we're weirdos.

Pointlessly Awesome Trivia Time!
The original series was written by a lot of old Star Trek writers. Leonard Nimoy plays "The Varn" in the new movie. Captain Kirk's Nipples!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

A new blog, a new project

FYI, for my friends and watchers, my new buddy Jeff P. and I are working on a pretty AWESOME project. A kaiju comic with plenty of teenage comedy and angst to go with it.

One of the lovely beasties of Zak Goji :D

Keep an eye on that blog for all details!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The day I met Tommy...

This was a few months back, but yes, I met Jason David Frank, world renowned martial artist and best known as Tommy Oliver, the Green Ranger! ...Then the White Ranger, then the Red Ranger, then the Black Ranger. You get the idea ;)

He was the special guest at IKKICON 2009, and I gots pictures! I took my precious Dragon Dagger, which I've had since I was but a boy, for him to sign the box.

A crappy picture of my childhood hero. Yes, that's a White Ranger helmet there!
JDF stated that he would prefer if Power Rangers were more like the Japanese version; just a little more violent ;)

A fellow fan in an EXCELLENT Green Ranger/Dragonranger outfit. Yes, that's my Dragon Dagger he's brandishing!


A few more Tokusatsu fans in attendance. Kamen Rider HENSHIN!

Another fellow fan, thankfully headache-free.

While waiting in line, nothing less than Won Tiger aka the White Tiger Zord was entertaining the crowd. MAN what some fans are capable of!

A gift for Mr. Frank, from another Mr. Frank ;) He got a kick out of it.

And the fruits of my labor that day. Signed by Tommy himself!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Been there, done that.

Or "Exactly what's starting to bore me about Transformers."

A heroic Megatron...exactly what this franchise needs.

Brace yourselves.

There's no question that Transformers is a juggernaut of popular culture. It's probably never been more popular or widely recognized, and there is more merchandise for fans to dump money into that could even be thought possible (TF was in fact created to sell toys, so it makes sense). Still, in the flurry of new material and fiction in the wake of the "Transformers Revival" (even though it never went away), I've come to a realization that inevitably befalls all epic, gigantic points of fiction that have been around for so long; we're retreading old ground.

Tell me you haven't seen a pattern here. Optimus Prime and his Autobots battle the evil forces of Megatron and his Decepticons. The battle is inevitably taken to Earth. Bumblebee does silly things. Starscream betrays Megatron. And then again. And then again. All of this is repeated over and over and over and over.
I'm keenly aware that Prime and Megs are the big moneymakers, the defining characters of this franchise, but for the love of Primus, can we catch a break?

Allow me to enter these examples into the mix:

G1 - Optimus Prime vs. Megatron. It was cool, it was fresh, it had the classic flair of good and evil and established the characters we all came to love. Not a great show but still extremely entertaining.

Ah, back when it was fresh.

The Movie - Optimus dies, Megatron gets reformatted into Galvatron. Rodimus Prime takes up the mantle (badly) but it shifted things around and made it all interesting again. Then Optimus came back. Okay then.

You suck. But at least you were interesting.

Thennnnn....the Japanese took over. Now let's not forget that, if it weren't for Takara's toy designs, there would be no Transformers. BUT let us also not forget that the Japanese don't have a great track record when it comes to the fiction (see: really effed-up story elements and WAY too much "comedy"). However, they still gave us a handful of switch-ups. For example, no more Convoy (Optimus) or Galvatron/Megatron/WHATEVER he was supposed to be on a given day of the week. In the new series such as Victory, Battlestars and Masterforce we were given characters like the serious-but caring Star Saber and his vicious-but-caring (?) nemesis Deathsaurus (?!) and a plethora of other Autobot Supreme Commanders and Decepticon Emperors of Destruction.

Brutally slaughtering Decepticons and raising a human child. All in a day's work.

Things were...well, not "good," but varied and crazy. If it's one thing the Japanese are good at, it's repainting an old product. Still, Optimus and Megatron returned, like they do, as Star Convoy and Super Megatron for one final, massive storybooks and whatnot, but hey, at least it was "epic"! Seriously, something like this wasn't so bad; having these legendary characters return to settle things once and for all at the tail end of G1 (and show all these upstarts how it's done) was probably the way to go.

Yes, he is, in fact, FULL OF STARS.

And no we get to Beast Wars, and by GOD is everything right in the world. G1 references are made and G1 character appear, but we now have a new, fresh cast of characters in a new era with new grievances. True, the main actors are still "Optimus" and "Megatron," but the two only resemble their namesakes in spirit *cough* BW was so damn awesome and so well written (by Season 2 at least) that it brought a new generation into Transformers (myself included) and helped push the entire mythos into a new and better direction. complete me.

And THEN Beast Machines happened. We had officially gone off-track. True, it's not a bad show, but it really stretched the definition of a Transformer, and got way too far up its own exhaust port. So what happened? Well, it was time for "back to basics," so to speak.

The only problem didn't really get things quite right. So they tried again.

...Nothing less than THREE DAMN TIMES. And the Unicron Trilogy was AWFUL.

So, Hasbro has pulled out all the stops, and now we have nothing less than three current continuities, ALL with Optimus Prime vs. Megatron, i.e. G1 rehashing.

The Movies.

The Comics.

And "Animated" (as though that's something new).

Okay, I can cut Transformers: Animated some slack. It's still Optimus Prime vs. Megatron, but the characters all have a wider range of motivations and there's new and cool influences taken from various sources, and, thank Primus, IT'S A NEW ART STYLE. But the series is already barreling head-first towards its finale. So what then? Will we have to sit through another reboot? Will we get to see Starscream backstab Megatron AGAIN? Will we get to see Optimus use the Matrix (or Allspark) to eliminate evil (see: Unicron) AGAIN?

In my opinion, it's time for a new direction. Once the movie franchise cools off, I say we start up with some new characters and a new direction. Not Optimus and Megatron (or at least not DIRECTLY those characters), but something cool and new. Hell, why not Transtech, the ill-fated sequel to Beast Machines?

I'd watch this. ESPECIALLY if it wasn't about Optimus and Megatron...although it originally was...gah.

Dammit, Janet, I love Transformers. I'm loving the comics and digging the new movies and love the hell out of Animated, but I'd love even more for another Beast Wars with a dash of Victory. In other words...let's stop walking in circles and point ourselves in a new direction.

Monday, April 13, 2009

"That was Not over 9,000"

“That was not over 9,000...” or Fail CGI Monkey is Made of Fail.

Let’s not kid ourselves; this was going to be bad from the day we heard internet rumors screaming “They’re making a Dragonball Z movie ” back in...what was it? 2001? Anyway, while I didn’t foresee EVERY steaming, badly rendered CGI monkey turd that was dropped, it all evened out to about what I expected.

At first, things are actually somewhat entertaining. There are some genuinely funny moments that are surprisingly Toriyama-esque, if you can believe it. Things even begin to descend into self-parody, making the first 10-15 minutes MUCH more entertaining than the rest of the flick. White Kid, or “Goku” as he’s called in some universe, has a hilarious daydream about ChiChi. There’s a fight where White Kid doesn’t even throw a punch, forcing his enemies to do all the damage (again, very Toriyama). But it’s when the film starts taking itself seriously that things get even more sloppy and just downright badly executed.

There were a handful of things that I genuinely liked...y’know, aside from ChiChi’s...chichi’s (look it up in your Spanish dictionary). Okay, that’s a lie: Chow Yun Fat’s portrayal of Muten Roshi was the ONLY element that I felt had any quality to it. Like Jack Black’s version of Carl Denham, CYF takes an established character and, while noting the original, takes his version in a refreshing direction that still fills the proper role.

Another problem is that the film really has no clue what it wants to be: does it want to be Dragonball? A Dragonball parody? A cheap kung-fu action scifi film catering to mass audiences? It seems to be trying to please Dragonball fans while trying WAY too hard to cater to what’s “hip” and “cool.” It tries both, fails at both and offends both.

Trust me, just about everything in this movie is bad: the acting, the script, the plot, the special effects (though the Chi, or “Ki” effects are kind of cool), but I was actually kind of enjoying myself. Having a handful of friends along for the ride was a HUGE help through this piss-filled swamp of a film. One thing that was also very disappointing was one of the reasons I used to be excited; Piccolo. He carries no screen presence, has no motivation (other than “You locked me away ...for trying to destroy your world BUT STILL ”) and is just...BLEH.

Here’s the kicker: at the climax of the film, Oozaru shows up. Then goes away. And thank God, because that was probably the worst CGI I have ever, EVER seen in a major motion picture. It was just as bad as the CGI in one of those direct-to-dvd ripoffs like KING OF THE LOST WORLD (don’t see it, believe me). What really pissed me off, though, was that there was a really interesting rubber-suited version of Oozaru that popped up online a few months back. It wasn’t really a monkey-monster, but it was a hell of a lot cooler that the poorly animated, badly edited, OUT OF FOCUS monkey monster in the final version. Seriously, what is it with movies like these? Are they so scared of the FACT that it’s a rubber suit (and a fairly decent one at that) that they’d rather put inexcusably bad CGI in place of it?

Trust me, this was much better than what we got.

I guess I shouldn’t get so worked up about it. There was a total of about 20 or so people in the theater...on opening night, no less One of my compatriots noted that “this film will be out of theaters in a week.” Probably.

The thing is, this COULD have been a much more interesting film...if an entirely different approach was taken, and certainly if Fox didn’t make it. Fox is notorious for taking franchises, spitting out a quick, crappy movie, getting a little bit of money, then trying it again. Still, when I think about it, one of the graces of the movie (being mercifully short) was also an overall detriment; in order to do a halfway decent Dragonball film, it would need to be more than an hour and a half (it was probably even less). The final film was so crammed and rushed that it was inevitable that we wouldn’t care about any of the characters or even what was going on. In fact, it would be rather easy to make a good Dragonball film, if the elements of trying to appeal to a “mass audience” were simply removed (the high school angle, for a painfully glaring example) and try to make it more of a fantasy.

But I digress (I love saying that), what’s done is done and nobody will ever try this again, and we have Dragonball Kai to look forward to (the newly edited, SHORTENED version of Dragonball Z).

Oh yeah, and Shenron doesn’t talk...or even take up the whole sky like he should...or even be anywhere near as cool as the Celestial Dragon from Dragon Wars.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Deadly Creatures - Yes, it is good.

"A game about bugs. Woo-hoo."

- Some jerk on

True, there's no Chun-Li, no Samus, no Pikachu and none of the other characters that have had the same games put out year after year that gamers throw millions of dollars at, but Deadly Creatures, without a doubt, rounds out the best Wii games to date. Granted, there's not much competition, but this epic saga of critters underfoot is right up there with Metroid Prime 3, Smash Brothers Brawl and Mario Galaxy of quality Wii-exclusive titles.

The premise is a strange and unique one: a pair of arachnids, a scorpion and a tarantula, meet and square off. Before the two can kill each other, they are interrupted by a pair of enormous homo sapiens searching the desert for something...or someone. The player takes control of the tarantulas, and later the scorpion, while they fight their way across the desert, establishing territory while stalking one-another. Meanwhile, a strange tale unfolds where the humans prove to be more than just background noise.

The premise is an exciting one, though some have complained that the main characters "lack motivation"...but what motivation should they have? Did someone run over their respective puppies? They're arthropods for God's sake. They hunt, fight, kill, and establish territory, all while just trying to survive. The fact that they run into humans is just bad luck. The real story is all about the two Southerners who are searching for gold buried out in the desert. Ala Cloverfield, the main characters' actions rarely have anything to do with the humans, but the two stories cross over only in critical moments. My only complaint is that I wish that I could hear more of the human story in more instances, but I suppose in this case that less is likely more.

That said, let's talk gameplay; it's well-mapped and reasonable, with lots of cool moves for both arachnids. It's not terribly intuitive, however, thanks to the Wii's already cumbersome control layout. Still, once you get the hang of it, it plays just fine. Waggling motions are also not terribly necessary with the exception of critical boss fights, and most attacks can be preformed with simply button mashing (though waggling makes it a lot more fun). It's important to note, though, because one problem with a lot of Wii games (I'm looking at you, Unleashed) is that because waggling is essential to movement, then the motions get confused VERY easily. This is generally not the case in Deadly Creatures, as the basic movement controls aren't mapped to movement. It makes for a cleaner gaming experience.

The graphics are impressive as well, ranging from fairly decent to near realism (a few particular underground tunnels are evident of this). Beyond that, the character animations are all extremely well researched and programmed, especially the smaller lizards that one finds themselves fighting in the desert. The set pieces are awesome too, with plenty of tense, cinematic moments (the black widows descending on your trapped form, the assault of the raptor-like-lizard, the epic boss battles against the rattlesnake...). The only place where the graphics truly falter are on some of the human character animations (which appear too cartoony at times) and the final cutscene, which is badly pixelated and poorly edited.

Music and sound for this game are both top notch. Really excellent work has been put into allowing the creatures to have a much more menacing, monstrous scale. And speaking of scale, it's very entertaining to see how much the developers played with this; I recall the first time I wandered into the dump, and saw a house in the distance, looming over all of the garbage. I thought that perhaps that would be the final level, but believe it or not, it was a damn doll house. VERY cool.
There was a nice Godzilla reference too that will slap a firm smirk on your face.

To wrap this up, Deadly Creatures is easily one of my new favorite games. It's a little too short, and it would have been nice to see more content besides a handful of concept galleries and interviews (a fighting game perhaps?) but its innovation makes it something that Wii owners should look into, even though it doesn't have Diddy Kong in it.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Kamen Rider Dragon Knight is....good?

Heads-up, the total 4 people that check this blog!

For those unawares, Kamen Rider is a vintage Japanese property owned by Toei, which, way-back-when in the ages of "The 90's" was given the "Power Ranger Treatment," though, much to fans' dismay and heartache, didn't receive the same amount of credibility, exposure or even respect in its US adaptation. Needless to say, it went the Ultraman route of "perfectly good Japanese programs with crappy reception in the US." That said, one of the more recent Rider series, Kamen Rider Ryuki has received a new adaptation by Adness Entertainment into Kamen Rider Dragon Knight (which, interestingly, is more or less a direct translation of the Japanese title).

Kamen Rider (literally "Masked Rider") has always interested me, though not on the same level as sentai (Power Rangers) or Ultraman. Still, it's a fascinating series; originally it was a series about a lone hero, altered by an evil organization into a fighting machine, rebels against his would-be-masters and, each week, fights another one of their crazed mutant or cyborg henchmen. Sort of a one-man Power Ranger team, if you will. However, things have gotten a little more...varied, I suppose you could say, with the more recent series. Kamen Rider Ryuki started a fairly new trend of there being a great many riders in each new series, not all of them on the good side of karma, and adding new levels of artistic stylization, writing and cinematography. While not always successful, it's nice to see a Japanese series that prides itself on innovation (the upcoming series is Kamen Rider Decade, which will focus on riders from the last 10 years teaming up with this new Rider).

Anywho, what of Kamen Rider Dragon Knight?

Actually, it's pretty good.

Initial fears that it would be another attempt to capture the Power Rangers phenomenon all over again are squelched when the series opens with some rather brooding subject matter (kidnappings, a not-so-truthful government, foster care, etc.) while dovetailing into some cool martial-arts action and monsters and all sorts of goodness!
The acting ranges from surprisingly fun to decent to so-so, but never gut-wrenching, like in some Power Rangers episodes, and the writing is about the same. It's clear that this isn't a show for the Power Ranger crowd, i.e. toddlers, but more focused on a pre-teen/early teenager audience, which is a nice surprise.

So, check out the site and clips here

I hope I find some time soon, because I'd love to draw up some Kamen Rider fanart :D