Evangelion Session 1: E01-04

In the distant future of 2015… after the Second Impact in 1999… SIGH. Those seemed like plausible "future" times when this came out, really.

Netflix defaulted to JP/subtitles for me, but I tried the EN dub for about 15 minutes. It's OK, maybe better/more literal than the old one? Nobody sounds goofy, Shinji's very mild, as he should be. But I went back to JP, at least for this first time thru. Might do a dub watch second run.

This is the Netflix English dub actors list:

Looking some of these up, they're interesting choices. Several also appear in the new Gundam dubs. The Shinji actor Casey Mongillo being a transwoman is very appropriate, given Shinji's gender ambivalence.

It's weird that Netflix changed the "Fly Me to the Moon" cover from the end credits, it's just incidental music now. Rights problems? I never felt it was really appropriate, but I only sit thru the end credits to see the "next episode" bit, which is A) Not very spoilery, and B) sometimes contains in-jokes. "More fanservice" is not so much a joke as self-awareness; there's a lot of T&A from Misato and even scientist Ritsuko in early eps.

I am just as much in love with Misato as I was when I first saw her. When she kicks her clock and wakes up looking like a storm hit. Whoo.

Get in the damn robot, Shinji. And follow Misato's orders, ya little creep. I'd forgotten about the blackout/flashback structure of E01-02. The dumbass schoolkids are great for illustrating how weird Shinji is, but they're an annoying distraction the rest of the time, and they mostly get dropped later.

The constant SDAT rewinding of tracks 25 & 26…

Only goes up to 22, so I dunno how he's listening to the last two eps (yes, I know Shinji doesn't have the OST to his own show on his SDAT. OR DOES HE?!)

Neon Genesis Evangelion

There's lots of theories about what order to watch. Just watch it straight through, maybe no more than 2-4 eps per day because this is some heavy shit for what's ostensibly a "mecha anime". Definitely watch eps 25 & 26 and then the movie, End of Evangelion. Evangelion Death(True)² is a recap/remake which is entirely optional, but fine afterwards; I barely recall Death & Rebirth.

If you're very confused, that's fine, that means its working. Keep watching.

What I'm Watching: I Am Mother

13,000 days since extinction event, a single robot Mother raises a young girl (Clara Rugaard) in an advanced complex, the first to repopulate the Earth. Everyone outside is presumed dead from plague. Until a stranger shows up.

Most of the plot is based on who is lying or just deluded, and it turns out everyone, all the time.

The sets are great, sterile industrial Terminator vibe to everything.

I was going to complain about the origin of the stranger, and then it's resolved. I was going to complain about various robot cliches, and then the film does the right thing instead.

Just a perfect actual science fiction film.

★★★★★

What I'm Watching: Kong Skull Island

I wanted more Godzilla, but the classic Toho collections are unclearly listed on 'Zon and elsewhere, I want only Japanese-language (English subtitle) theatrical versions and many are 4:3 English-dubbed TV versions. So… I'm putting this off until I can do some real research, and bought an iTunes two-pack of Godzilla (2014) and Kong: Skull Island (2017). Silly American films, but at least I know what they are.

Sort of: I didn't realize Kong Skull Island was a Vietnam-era period piece. That's kinda cool. Sam Jackson at 71 was really way, way too old to be a field officer (Lt Colonel); he's badass and insane, as usual, but it's like your grampa being badass and insane, not like a midlife officer going all Colonel Kurtz up in the jungle. The grunts are mostly personality-free, except for one played by Shea Whigham, and they serve only as expedition "hit points", getting picked off one by one so we can see how much danger the civilians are in. It is very, very, very Apocalypse Now-derived in style.

Hiddleston as the tracker J. Conrad (ha ha Heart of Darkness reference, but yeah…) is bland but effective, a Ken doll with all the hunting accessories and a lot of dialog which he recites competently, but slightly less than alive. Brie Larson as the photographer "Mason" Weaver has no motivation, and a weird boxy face, but at least she has an active role, and only once has to be saved by Kong and improbably held in his hand during a fight. John Goodman and Corey Hawkins do great as the lunatic scholars/scientists organizing the mission; sadly Jing Tian as the biologist does nothing and has almost no lines, despite this being exactly the kind of thing a biologist should be interested in and have a bunch of infodumping to do. The film fails the Bechdel Test because there's really only one female speaking role.

John C Reilly's comic relief role is… well, not the worst thing I've seen. They didn't spend too much time making jokes at his expense. He's awful fat and pale for a guy who's lived among skinny primitive people on an Indian Ocean jungle island for 30 years.

The chopper pilots are really foolish and don't understand the point of a long-range gun. A realistic (OK, physics of titans whatever man) fight between Kong and a bunch of Hueys with heavy machine guns and bombs does not go well for Kong; they should hover 100-500m away and just whittle him down to chipped beef, not go mano a mano with an ape who likes throwing rocks and trees.

The giant bugs and pseudo-pterodactyls all do physically implausible things, but they're scary monsters in a kaiju film. OK.

"We're not gonna talk about this? This is not normal! Stuff like that does not happen!"

The face/heel turns for Sam Jackson and Kong midway through were obviously telegraphed from the start (which is why I don't even bother to say "spoiler"). The soldier's love of war for its own sake, against Kong's self-defense and (usually) mercy for Humans who don't attack him.

So all of this makes a functional movie by itself. Then there's the bad kaiju, and here it kind of falls apart.

The "Skullcrawlers" are weird. They're based loosely on the two-legged skinks from the original King Kong, but the skull head is ridiculous, and they're very smart tactically (completely at odds with how lizards hunt) and then just line up to attack one at a time; they're all CGI, so why are they shot like there's just one suit?

The extreme plot convenience of a skullcrawler giving the tracker useful information during the fight, I would normally give a pass to one deus ex machina, but then the confrontation is almost completely ineffective.

I barely noticed the music, other than some '70s rock records which the grunts inexplicably took along on a 3-day combat mission; a soundtrack driving the tone of the film would've helped.

★★★½☆

The problem with King Kong movies (other than the Toho ones which just use him as a normal kaiju), they all struggle with complexity. The basic premise is:

  • Voyage to Skull Island
  • Horrible Natural Hazards
  • Primitive Tribe
  • King Kong is huge and terrifying
  • Explorers run away

That's enough for a good story, but then each filmmaker piles a bunch of stuff on top:

  • Kong fights dinosaurs
  • Trappers take Kong to the circus
  • Kong fights a bunch of aircraft
  • Kong picks up a girl (romance seems out of the question, it'd be like a Human and a 9" pixie… YOU PERVERT, put Tinker Bell down!)
  • Jessica Lange struts or sits in a boat nearly naked for long periods of time, and then professes love for the beast; as noted, problematic.
  • Jack Black tries to act in a dramatic role

And pretty much none of this works. They pad out a film to 2-3 hours and take away from the thing that matters: King Kong.

What I'm Watching: Godzilla, King of the Monsters

Lovely film. The monsters look and sound amazing, the music is great, the monster fight scenes are long, complex, and more visible than the previous American Godzilla (2014). This really is on par with the Toho movies, and respectful. It takes thousands of people and $200M to accomplish what Ishiro Honda did with $175K ($1.662M after inflation), a few dozen people, and a rubber suit. They have a nice credit memorial to Haruo Nakajima (1929-2017), the original Godzilla actor.

The mythology and backstory for the monsters is a nice touch, the kind of pseudo-scientific gobbledigook Toho does. The literal deus ex machina plot device is annoying, but functional, it drives the plot along.

Naturally, I sympathize entirely with the villains. Their motivation is the only sane response; the evil megacorp (led by the dumbass CEO from Silicon Valley) and military trying to destroy the kaiju are insane and species-suicidal. Ken Watanabe is great, and Zhang Ziyi and Bradley Whitford (who I think of as TV's Frank Jr, but he was on West Wing) are interesting and given good lines. Most of the other Humans I could do without, especially the annoying screaming child and the "hero" who shares my name.

The credits sequence bears rewatching, there's a lot of details there and I couldn't follow all of them; and there's a post-credits sequence, so stick around for that. The next sequel should be interesting.

This is PG-13, but there's nothing above PG in it, and really should have been in a few places; it's obvious scenes were cut or written around to avoid violence and, uh, suggestive monster behavior. So I'm dinging it a half-star for that and the screaming girl who should've been the first one eaten.

★★★★½

All the Streaming Video

In which I compare some of the thousands of streaming media services:

  • Netflix: $13/mo for adult content: Love, Death & Robots, Bordertown, dozens of other crime dramas, adult comedies, and a huge backlog of content. In anime they have a bunch of current series, the Godzilla anime, classic Robotech (goddamn I still hate Minmei), and this summer they're replaying Neon Genesis Evangelion. Best video player of any streaming service. One caveat is that because Apple won't guarantee secure HDMI out on Airplay devices anymore, Netflix took down their Airplay support; I watch on a PS3 or desktop in Chrome, so this doesn't affect me, but some people will have to change how they watch it.
  • Amazon: $120/year for adult content: Bosch, The Tick, The Man in the High Castle, The Americans, and a huge backlog of (mostly shitty) movies for free. Second-worst video player I've ever seen, I scream obscenities at Amazon every time I watch something distractedly and want to go back 1 minute. I can't quit, anyway, I rely on Prime too much.
  • Disney+ (November): $7/mo for kids shows, mostly Marvel, Star Wars, Disney/Pixar (Dixar), and 512 seasons of the fucking Simpsons, which hasn't been funny since it left Tracey Ullman's Show. Not much new content, almost nothing for adults to watch.
  • Apple+: Unknown date & pricing. G-rated, mostly mainstream garbage content from what we've seen. Steven Spielberg should just find a rest home in Florida, he won't live long enough for the flooding to be a problem. If Apple makes it free with Apple Music, I'll take a look and mock the shows, but I expect nothing of interest to an adult.
  • CBS All Access: $10/mo for STD, er, Star Trek Discovery, and a lot of mainstream garbage content.
  • Twitch: "Free" with a shitload of ads; not just games, there are several networks streaming content, like Carl Sagan's Cosmos, ShoutFactory playing MST3K, The Prisoner, classic (good) Dr Who, Thunderbirds Are Go, and more. I would happily pay Twitch to get rid of ads.
  • Crunchyroll: $8/mo for currently-streaming anime. Second-best video player and queue manager. Really no longer a high value compared to Netflix and Amazon's anime selections, but sometimes there's new stuff you can only reasonably get on Crunchy. Partnered with/part of VRV, which has a bunch of other nerd media services, but the VRV player is the worst thing I've ever seen, really unusable, and the VRV staff are jackasses.
  • Funimation: Just like Crunchyroll but less current (usually; sometimes they have first-run and I have to sub for a month), and mediocre video player.
  • Hulu: $12/mo for "no ads" which has quite a lot of ads before and after shows, but at least doesn't have them in the show. Moderately shitty video player. Very poor new content, lots of old TV shows; Rockford Files was great but it's not worth $12/mo.
  • HBO Now: $15/mo. Usually has 2 current new shows at any time, a moderate amount of older shows and (often good) movies. Only really valuable for brief binges, then disable it; you'd quickly run out of content if you kept it subscribed. Ought to be half the price.
  • Criterion: $11/mo or $100/year. I haven't tried this yet, but I really should, they have dozens of old samurai movies and thrillers, which alone would pay for it. Their new content is very very limited, since good movies mostly stopped being made in the 1990s. There's a "channel" there of Guillermo del Toro talking about classic movies and then you watch the movie! OK, this is next month's media activity for me.
  • Youtube: Did you know Youtube had original content and a paid service? Well, they do, but nobody uses it.

Given this, if you're over 18, you should have Netflix and Amazon, and bang Criterion and HBO Now on the side once in a while. If you like old nerd media and current game streaming, watch Twitch. If you have kids, Disney+ and Crunchyroll are great deals. There's very narrow interest areas for the others.

On top of which, I check out iTunes Movies every month for their deals; never pay full price. This month I got Lawnmower Man (director's cut!), The Crow, and Equilibrium for under $8 each, all of which I can rewatch endlessly in actual HD, better than any streaming service.

What I'm Watching: Hap & Leonard S3

It is 1989. Hot (black) lawyer Florida goes down to a backwoods Texas shithole to deal with rights to a legendary blues man's lost recordings, goes missing, Hap & Leonard cowboy up to find her, and run into the KKK. They have a satchel of guns, it'll work out.

Great new and old rogue's gallery of weird characters, from Sneed the creep cop from last season, useless Sheriff who's doing Little Bill from Unforgiven with a busted nut, Deputy Hitlerella, Brown the KKK cult leader, creepy mechanic, Bacon the step&fetchit who's more than that. Andrew Dice Clay does a good turn as a DJ, I know he's vilified by the Kids Today™ but I loved The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, and clearly the producers did, too.

Not a lot actually happens until E5, but there's good banter and threats and some Twin Peaks-like weirdness.

So that's where I got up to by last weekend. Now, to finish…

Finally the shit hits the fan. Fights and shootouts and a Mexican standoff… and then it ends abruptly and wrongly, without resolution. Are they planning to do more of this season? What the hell?!

I was like ★★★★★ up to this point, but now I'm angry.

What I'm Watching: More of Love Death Robots

Apparently Netflix is doing 4 different ep orders, they say it's completely at random, though some people think it's based on gender, sexuality, age, etc. What horoscope does my robot show order reveal? Humans are idiots.

The Dump: Joe Lansdale story of a weird dump thing, videogamey CGI of of slime & trash, quick and obvious, but amusing. Not shown: Fuel-air bombing of the dump after missing persons are tracked there. ★★★½☆

Shape-Shifters: Military werewolves, realistic CGI, clearly the next Call of Duty game. Too much werewolf dick. The transformed state isn't as convincing as the Human. But not bad at the personalities and how shitty the military is. Author's Marko Kloos, a military fanfic writer. ★★★☆☆

Helping Hand: This is perfectly designed to piss me off (or any educated person). As anyone who's ever seen a spacewalk knows, astronauts don't work without a tether and a tight grip on their ship or station. It just does not happen. That was bullshit in Gravity, with idiots flying around on 5-minutes-of-fuel maneuvering packs that haven't been used since the '80s, and it's bullshit here, too. Dumb astronaut—again like Gravity a woman, which is so insulting to Peggy Whitson and other skilled woman astronauts—is knocked off station by space junk. I don't buy a cheap company sending out a lone astronaut, either: Launch cost for an extra body isn't much compared to a whole ship. And then her first solution is dumb, maybe 1kg of reaction mass thrown half-assed overhand won't move a 50kg body anywhere. Her second solution is even dumber—in reality, heat radiates away from a body very poorly in a vacuum. THAT'S HOW A THERMOS WORKS! YOU INCOMPETENT FUCK WRITER! Vacuum of space will chill you eventually, especially if you touch cold metal or regolith, but a floating body won't freeze solid for days. ☆☆☆☆☆ Claudine Griggs, hack "sexual politics" writer, I hate you and want you to get an education and then die of shame at your stupidity.

Fish Night: Interesting look, motion-captured CGI but so cel-shaded it looks hand-drawn. Probably took 10x as much time and money as simple rotoscoping and hand-drawing would've. Alas, I care nothing for the characters or the situation. Stop talking and start doing. Hunter & Dr Gonzo had "The drugs took hold around Barstow, on the edge of the desert", too, but then they did shit. Supposedly another Joe Lansdale story, but it's just nothing but a screensaver. ★★☆☆☆

Lucky 13: More Call of Duty, now in a space dropship but carrying Marines to terraforming stations on some planet. And the writer keeps calling the Marines "Soldiers" which at least modern ones don't like much. Love affair of a pilot and her dropship (AI? Maybe. It never speaks, but gets a camera POV.) is nice, and the dogfight videogame sequences are fine. It's not clear who the enemy are supposed to be, they're just as well-equipped, so are they a rival nation of Humans? Why would anyone bother shipping military to space to fight over an uninhabitable rock? Stupid premise, unexamined. Author's Marko Kloos again. ★★★☆☆

Zima Blue: Another Alastair Reynolds adaptation! Perfectly animated and told. The joke of Zima the beverage is a little weird against a serious story. The theme of transforming and abandoning unneeded complications is done several times in Reynolds (Diamond Dogs is another), but here is the best of those. ★★★★★

Blindspot: Mad Max/Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors/GI Joe do a train job with no planning, and get hosed down amusingly for it. All the nonsensical robot-on-robot violence we grew up with, but more swearing. Fuck yeah! Vitaly Shushko makes more of these ridiculous animations, too. ★★★★☆

Ice Age: A very light microscopic civilization take by Michael Swanwick (Vacuum Flowers!). Almost too silly to publish, the characters are utterly passive, but cute graphics for the micros. ★★★☆☆

Alternate Histories: Multiple ways for Hitler to die and consequences. Trivial, and I hate the stick-figure art, but amusing. Surprisingly by John Scalzi, who managed to make several actual jokes in a row! Maybe he wrote this before the brain injury that made him a humorless Internet troll. But it's about Nazis, so it gets no score according to Godwin's Law. He should have done the Lincoln one instead.

The Secret War: More Call of Duty with Soviets in fur coats in the snow during WWII, hunting monsters. And a story of making monsters, and the futility of being right in the Soviet Union. The monsters look like crap, almost literally, like the Xen in Half-Life. Written by David W. Amendola, another military fiction/horror writer. ★★★☆☆

Fin and Philosophy

And that's it for this season! More dumb combat and horror than robots in this half, and I do not appreciate that.

When I say "Call of Duty", that's not a compliment, I think the lowest form of Human slime make and play these mass murder simulators, and stories which are just "then I shoot everything wooo!" are by and for morons.

I have no objection to monster-killing if it illuminates something in a story, or in games if it's a drain on strategic resources (tactical RPGs with HP, MP, and gear to keep an eye on, and that's why my games are bright and happy AND bone-crushingly hard), but otherwise you leave those monsters alone, it's their world and you're just a morsel in it. Compare especially Beyond the Aquila Rift, where there are no "monsters" but these Call of Duty fuckheads would see one.

Total ratings are not bad, Scalzi and that incompetent Hand ep are all that's really bringing it down, but that glut of mediocre military content is hard to wade thru.

☆☆☆☆☆ 2
★☆☆☆☆ 1
★★☆☆☆ 1
★★★☆☆ 7
★★★★☆ 5
★★★★★ 2

What I'm Watching: Love Death Robots

Anthology series of adult SF cartoons, produced by David Fincher and Tim Miller (Deadpool director). Which is like Netflix said "hey, Mark, we made a thing exactly for you!" I <3 you too, Netflix!

18 episodes, I watched 8 so far, will see the rest next binge.

Sonnie's Edge: I instantly recognized this, but couldn't place it—how could I have seen it already? Impossible! Turns out it's adapted from a short story in Peter F. Hamilton's A Second Chance at Eden. What's weird is I remember it visually, where most of my SF reading I remember as text/lore with a few mental illustrations. Nicely animated 3D, a little bit videogamey and exaggerated. I already knew the twist but I don't think it's hard to figure out. ★★★★★

Three Robots: Walker, tiny walker, and weird pyramid robot explore a ruined city and talk too much. Despite withering contempt for Humans (which is entirely deserved), they don't have enough intelligence to avoid a trap. Meh, I don't like cats much, but people infected with Toxoplasma gondii will find this hilarious. CGI is adequate. Ah, it's a short story by John Scalzi, "Three Robots Experience Objects Left Behind from the Era of Humans for the First Time", which is why it feels like obvious jokes driven into the ground by a humorless boot. ★★★☆☆

The Witness: Rear Window/Run Lola Run with a stripper. Characters look like painted dolls, unfocused "camera" like an Italian giallo flick. Striptease could be erotic if they weren't so toy-like. Neatly tied up plot, nonsense surrealism but I like it. Alberto Mielgo has a number of other good animations and paintings. ★★★★½

Suits: Farmers in mecha fighting bugs. Weird 3D with cel-shading to look like a cartoon or plastic toys. This is pretty much daily life in Rifts, they even call the bugs "DeeBees" (dimensional beings in Rifts, no definition given here but maybe Damn Bugs?). Decent combat story, a little personality for the farmers, but not deep. ★★★½☆

Sucker of Souls: Archaeology/adventurer team explore a tomb and are not alone. Hand-animated mostly, I think they had to have traced over 3D in several places. Very aesthetically similar to Castlevania. Not much plot, and no chance of further adventures, but I like the team. Written by Kirsten Cross, who writes hack military-horror shovelware books; short form clearly suits her "talents" better. ★★★★☆

When the Yogurt[sic] Took Over: John Scalzi's shitty parody knockoff of Greg Bear's superb Blood Music, adapted into weird stick-figure and frizzy-hair CGI blobs, narrated ("tell, don't show") by The Brain^W Maurice LaMarche. Sadly no relation to The Stuff, which had a better plot, actors, and special effects. Fucking awful, everyone involved should be drowned in yoghurt. ★☆☆☆☆

Beyond the Aquila Rift: Short story from Alastair Reynolds! Spaceship has a bad wormhole jump/technobabble, ends up somewhere wrong, greeted by a person who shouldn't be there. Music is excessively on-the-nose. CGI is detailed but videogamey, and the space scenes look right out of some space shooter. ★★★★☆

Good Hunting: An evil man and his stupid son hunt a beautiful Hulijing (Chinese Kitsune), tragedy ensues. Then becomes a weird steampunk thing in Hong Kong. Then a superhero origin story? Hand-animated, good fighting motion, but very flat, I don't like the style. Based on a short story by Ken Liu ★★★☆☆

Guardians of the Galaxy 3

Hell yeah. I grew up with some of my favorite comics being ROM Spaceknight, Nova, Rocket Raccoon, Adam Warlock (in Marvel Presents, I think?), and so on… the Marvel space series were so much better than their ground superheroes. While the films are a little trashy, they're fun trash, and the music was just awesome.

But then some Nazis doxxed Gunn and Disney was like "I'm shocked, shocked I say, to discover that the writer of Tromeo & Juliet makes dirty jokes!", but happily have seen sense since everyone involved wanted him back.

So here's the music again: