A Blast From The Past: Duck and Cover


Let’s face facts.  We live in a scary world and it’s not getting any safer.  However, before we all give up on the future, maybe we should take a look at the past.  With that in mind, it’s my pleasure to share the 1951 educational short film Duck and Cover.  

Seriously, if Bert the Turtle can survive then I think there might be hope for us all…

This is the epitome of one of those things that simply has to be seen to be believed.  That said, if I was a child in the 50s, I think Duck and Cover would have provided me with some comfort.  After all, Bert is just so cute and the Duck and Cover song is kinda catchy.

Poll: Which Films Are You Most Looking Forward To Seeing In April?


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Last month’s results can be seen here.

As always, you can vote for up to 4 films and write-ins are allowed.

Happy voting!

Visual Novel Review: Steins;Gate


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Steins;Gate is a Japanese visual novel created by collaboration of two developer companies Nitroplus and 5pb. for multiple platforms. Even though it doesn’t have any official releases in English a fanmade translation patch for it exists allowing to play it even if you don’t know Japanese.

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Steins;Gate’s genre mostly could be classified as hard science fiction which already makes it stand out among most of the others sci fi stories that could be found in anime, manga or visual novels. You aren’t going to find there giant robots, superpowers, aliens, supernatural creatures, talking animals or transforming magical girls. The setting of Steins;Gate nearly completely abides known laws of physics with one exception that is the discovery of a phenomenon leading to possibility of time travel. The theme of time travel is the key focus of the story of this VN and many aspects of time travelling covered in others works dealing with it such as Butterfly Effect are being touched upon as the story progresses.

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The story of Steins;Gate is set in Akihabara district of Tokyo and revolves around members of “Future Gadgets Laboratory” created by protagonist of the story Okabe Rintarou. The start of the story is rather slow and it takes a while until the events take turn into more dramatic and thrilling half of the story. This might turn off some people from the VN personally I enjoyed the first half of it as much as the second one. Akihabara is known not only for its electronics stores but as the heartland of otaku culture as well so it’s no wonder that many characters of the story to various extent belong to it as well. As the result most of activities in early parts of the story which starts from accidental discovery of strange side effect in the latest creation of the lab (a remote controlled microwave oven) revolve around either scientific or otaku related topics. Those two topics blend in together very nicely with science part building up a rather plausible base for time principle while otaku part mostly serving to fleshen up main characters. Together with its second half which brings many engaging moments, sudden twists and suspenseful drama Steins;Gate has very well written and masterfully planned story.

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Characters means a lot for a visual novel and even in cases when the story isn’t that great or too cliche a lovable cast could became saving grace for it. And already possessing good story Steins;Gate adds excellent cast of characters to boot. I must admit that I end up either disliking or not caring about more than 90% of protagonists in visual novels. In most cases they end up being narrowed down to either to nice guy with no personality archetype or nihilistic jackass archetype. Steins;Gate is a rare exception to that boasting one of the most memorable protagonists that I saw. Okabe Rintarou is a chuunibyou. To those who don’t know chuunibyou is a slang term that roughly could be translated as second year of middle school (8th grade) syndrome. It refers to a certain behavior pattern that sometimes develops in age which most often corresponds to the 8th grade of school hence the name. Making up dark past background, pretending to have hidden superpowers, engaging in activities that they think makes them look “cool” and adult like those are the main qualities that identify chuunibyou. Usually it soon passes as they keep growing up but in some cases they remain being chuunibyou and Okabe Rintarou is hardcore example of that. Calling himself mad scientist Hououin Kyouma, claiming to be pursued by some kind of secret organization, suddenly engaging into monologue conversations with imaginary correspondent on his cell phone and having strange and pompous speech manner all of this makes him really stand out. Naturally he isn’t able to maintain his mad scientists persona all the time and his true personality occasionally shows up and when faced with adamant unwillingness to communicate with it or in dire situations it completely cracks up. Such “dual” personality makes him really interesting and fun character to follow after.

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The others main characters although not as much flashy still hardly could be called ordinary and each of them possess one or more quirks that makes them to stand out. Besides Rintarou the others founding members of Future Gadgets Lab are his airheaded cosplay loving childhood friend Shiina Mayuri and hardcore otaku and skilled hacker Hashida Itaru. Neuroscience prodidgy with tsundere personality Makise Kurisu joins the lab soon thus completing initial cast of main characters. Several more characters joins them as the story progresses and each of them gets a bunch of development. Overall there are 6 endings in this VN, 5 of them corresponding to 5 different heroines and one true end.

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The art of Steins;Gate is done by huke, an artist possessing a highly distinctive drawing style who became known from his work on Black Rock Shooter. To be honest I didn’t like his style at first since normally I prefer more traditional character designs. But as I kept playing it was growing on me more and more blending perfectly with characters and overall mood of the VN. As the result I ended up loving it so much that even ordered huke’s artbook of Steins;Gate. The music of the VN is above average. PC version of Steins;Gate has two OP themes sung by Itou Kanako: Skyclad Observer that plays early on and A.R. that plays later when the story reaches its culmination. Both of those songs are superb and fit perfectly with overall mood of the VN. Unfortunately BGM soundtrack isn’t that great although it isn’t really bad either. It has only only one memorable melody Gate of Steiner which in various arrangements plays in many moments of the story. The others tracks blend nicely with situations where they are playing but really forgettable otherwise. On other hand voice acting in Steins;Gate is excellent. Many highly profilic seiyu were chosen to voice characters of this VN and they did great job in delivering characters voiced by them.

From technical standpoint the main difference of Steins;Gate possess from the others visual novels with branching plot is that it doesnt have any dialogue choices. Instead you have to use Okabe’s cell phone in order to respond or ignore calls and text messages. An interesting decision although I wouldn’t call particularly great since it could be rather confusing early on. Another uncommon feature is fairly big tips section explaining meanings of various scientific, otaku or internet slang term which are in abundance encountered during the course of the story.

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In conclusion I must say that I was starting Steins;Gate with big share of skepticism to all praises that it was receiving since previous works from its producers left me with an impression that their VNs doesn’t fit my tastes much but as I kept progressing through the story it grew up on me into being one of the most enjoyable visual novel reads that I ever had. Still I wouldn’t recommend it to just about anyone. While touching various aspects of otaku culture the character abundantly use 2channel (called @channel in the VN) lingo and memes in translation partially replaced by their 4chan counterparts and it certainly might alienate some people not accustomed to that.

AMV of the Day: Careful What You Wish (Black Lagoon)


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I’ve gotten to watch Black Lagoon once again and I must say that the more I watch it over and over the more I have put this anime series on my favorite list. It’s just an anime that hits all the right buttons for me. Hyper-kinetic action, loads and loads of gun play and the most diverse cast of psychotic, badass female characters ever. One of these said badass females is one Rosalita “Roberta” Cisneros who headlines the third season of the series.

“Careful What You Wish” is the latest AMV of the Day that shows this lonewolf former FARC assassin turned maid for one of Colombia’s ruling families as she goes on a warpath to avenge the killing of her master and protect his only son in the aftermath. The video was created by LasSamurai2011 and he does a great job of putting together the video to work hand in hand with Metallica’s “King of Nothing” track.

While some of the sequences look just a tad dark it still shows enough of how much a badass Roberta really is and in a series full of such character that’s an achievement in of itself. Fans of the anime know what mean and those who are interested in checking out the series should do so. It’s every action film from the 80’s multiplied to a factor of 1000.

Anime: Black Lagoon: Roberta’s Blood Trail

Song: “King of Nothing” by Metallica

Creator: LastSamurai2011

Past AMVs of the Day

The SPM Trilogy Revisited : “Slumber Party Massacre III”


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What the heck, let’s wrap this up, shall we?

While the appearance of Slumber Party II may have surprised some being that it came five years after the original, it’s safe to say that when Roger Corman unleashed Slumber Party Massacre III  on the direct-to-video market in 1990, nobody was shocked in the least.

Shot primarily at one beach location and one residential home for exteriors, and with all the interiors being filmed at Corman’s Venice, California studio, the third installment in the SPM series cost a grand total of $350,000 and took somewhere in the neighborhood of one week to get “in the can,” as the saying goes, so yeah — it’s cheap , quick stuff we’re talking about here.

That being said, that certainly doesn’t mean it’s bad. What starts as a pretty bog-standard tale of stereotypical SoCal bimbo Diane (Brandi Burkett) and her friends ( a crew that features a few  young-at-the-time ladies, such as Hope Marie Carlton, Maria Ford, and Keely Christian, whose faces — and other parts — you may recognize from similar early-90s “slasher”/sexploitation fare) playing volleyball at the beach and then returning to Diane’s parents’ place for a weekend slumber party, where they are set upon, in turn, by their prankster-ish boyfriends, a voyeuristic “nosy neighbor” type, a mute Albino creepy dude, and finally a pyscho killer with a power drill, actually morphs somewhere along the way into a flick with a pretty wickedly sadistic, even black-hearted, sense of humor — with a pretty heavy dose of the misogyny you’ve come to expect from these things thrown in, of course.

As a brief case in point, instead of the standard bathtub-electrocution with either a hair dryer or toaster, in SPM III one of the nubile young co-eds is dispatched in the tub by means of a vibrator gone haywire! Nasty stuff, to be sure, but clearly not something that takes itself too terribly seriously while it’s dishing out its feminist-unfriendly — hell, female-unfriendly — goods.

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As with the previous two entries in this series, Corman again opted for an all-female writing and directing team here in order, one would assume, to help deflect any criticism this one might bet from the usual quarters (not that very many people were paying attention by this point), with those duties falling to Catherine Cyran (one of his regular screenwriters at the time) and Sally Mattison (a semi-veteran of Hollywood’s low-budget fringes best known for her work as a producer), respectively, and while it’s fair to say that this film is the most “seems-like-it-coulda-been-directed-by-a-man-ish” of the bunch, given that it ups the ante a bit in terms of its misogyny and plays it much “straighter,” if you will, than its predecessors in terms of sticking to the standard and much-maligned slasher formula, at the end of the day it’s still a pretty tongue-in-cheek affair  that’s just a bit more self-indulgent and gratuitous in terms of the T&A and overall mean-spiritedness.

To their absolute, credit, though, Mattison and Cyran, while carrying over the blatant phallo-centrism of the whole power drill thing, at least decide to throw in a bit of “whodunit?”-style mystery into the proceedings vis a vis their killer’s identity. Yes, folks, for the first time in a Slumber Party Massacre movie, the psycho might actually have some motivation for his murder spree here!

Or, ya know, he might turn out to be just some random stranger after all. I guess I won’t “spoil” anything in case you haven’t actually seen it. I will say, however,  that the mystery angle isn’t a particularly involving one — but hell, at least it’s there. We’ve already firmly established that “take what you can get” is the order of business with these things, haven’t we? The same — ahem! — “philosophy” applies here.

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All in all,  though, you do get the sense that everyone involved here is giving it their best go on what they’ve got — which admittedly isn’t much in terms of time, talent, and money — but I’d rather watch so-called “D-listers” actually try than “A-listers” sleepwalking through yet another mega-budget production any day of the week. Slumber Party Massacre III may not be particularly ambitious stuff by any stretch, but it’s put together and performed by people who gave an honest day’s effort at the office. That’s worth a little something right there,  and after the absolute clusterfuck of wanna-be “trippy-ness” in the second flick, the “return to roots” sensibility in this one is very welcome indeed.

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As always, the third and final outing (to date) in the SPM “oeuvre” is available on DVD from Shout! Factory packed together with its older celluloid sisters in a two-disc set under the heading “The Slumber Party Massacre Collection,” part of the “Roger Corman’s Cult Classics” series. It’s presented full-frame with 2.0 stereo sound — and while if there’s been any remastering done with either it’s certainly minimal, the whole thing looks and sounds generally decent enough. Extras include a good little “making-of” featurette, a feature-length commentary with director Mattison, the original trailer, a few trailers for other titles in the Corman series, a poster and still gallery, and a liner notes booklet by Slumber Party Massacre fanatic/filmmaker Jason Paul Collum. A very comprehensive package well worth your time.

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Look, who are we kidding? This isn’t a movie out to set the world on fire — hell, it’s not even out to set the DTV slasher world on fire. It’s there to give two distinct parties their money’s worth — Roger Corman and you, the viewer. It manages to deliver on both fronts, even if just barely. That doesn’t mean it’s necessarily worthy of a ton of respect, but it’s not worthy of any sort of scorn, either. Don’t expect too damn much, and you’ll walk away satisfied.

Not, I suppose, that anyone who might be inclined to “expect much” as far as their entertainment choices go  is even watching this in the first place.

Song of the Day: Hold On (by Tom Waits)


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Whether one loves, likes, hates or is indifferent when it comes to AMC’s The Walking Dead tv series I haven’t heard much complaint from most about the producers on the show’s taste in music. This show has done a great job in picking an eclectic selection of tunes that fit the mood of the show as a whole or a particular episode. This past weekend’s new episode hasn’t broken that streak of quality choices and it’s the producers’ choice for this past episode that makes our latest “Song of the Day”.

“Hold On” by Tom Waits would’ve made this list even if The Walking Dead didn’t use it to end their latest episode. I mean it’s Tom Waits. He’s the only reason why. Again, he’s Tom Waits, enough said. So, “Hold On” is the latest song in this long-running feature and it didn’t just fit in with The Walking Dead episode, but it’s also by Tom Waits.

Once again, it’s Tom Waits.

“Hold On”

They hung a sign up in out town
“if you live it up, you won’t
live it down”
So, she left Monte Rio, son
Just like a bullet leaves a gun
With charcoal eyes and Monroe hips
She went and took that California trip
Well, the moon was gold, her
Hair like wind
She said don’t look back just
Come on Jim

Oh you got to
Hold on, Hold on
You got to hold on
Take my hand, I’m standing right here
You gotta hold on

Well, he gave her a dimestore watch
And a ring made from a spoon
Everyone is looking for someone to blame
But you share my bed, you share my name
Well, go ahead and call the cops
You don’t meet nice girls in coffee shops
She said baby, I still love you
Sometimes there’s nothin left to do

Oh you got to
Hold on, hold on
You got to hold on
Take my hand, I’m standing right here, you got to
Just hold on.

Well, God bless your crooked little heart St. Louis got the best of me
I miss your broken-china voice
How I wish you were still here with me

Well, you build it up, you wreck it down
You burn your mansion to the ground
When there’s nothing left to keep you here, when
You’re falling behind in this
Big blue world

Oh you go to
Hold on, hold on
You got to hold on
Take my hand, I’m standing right here
You got to hold on

Down by the Riverside motel,
It’s 10 below and falling
By a 99 cent store she closed her eyes
And started swaying
But it’s so hard to dance that way
When it’s cold and there’s no music
Well your old hometown is so far away
But, inside your head there’s a record
That’s playing, a song called

Hold on, hold on
You really got to hold on
Take my hand, I’m standing right here
And just hold on.