Monday, December 31

Daily Show and Colbert Report return January 7!


Not "The Daily Show," but "A Daily Show"

Casey Albridge not the baby daddy?

There are increasing rumors that Jamie Lynn's baby does not belong to Casey Aldridge as claimed before. MSNBC says there are sources that he has been cheating on her and that she is upset. Other rumors are that he is not the father and Jamie Lynn is mum on the identity of the baby's father. There is another rumor out there saying that the real father is an older gentleman.

Why make an American Live-Action Sailor Moon?

I refer to Sailor Moon as the 'gateway drug' of Anime, because it was the first show that got many Anime fans hooked into Anime in the 90's. Anime was prominent in the West before then, but not as much as it became by the end of the 20th century. When Sailor Moon was dubbed by DiC in 1995, young Americans were unfamiliar with Anime and I remember it was mostly sneered upon and unpopular. Now, Anime is seen everywhere and common in children's animation. Anime is so respected nowadays, it inspired the style of "The Boondocks" and other animation. And such classics such as "Astro Boy" and "Lupin the 3rd" are shown after midnight on Adult Swim. Unfortunately, Sailor Moon didn't get the porcelain treatment shows have gotten recently. Fans can agree the dubs (even the ones from Cloverway) are a double-edged sword. If it was never made, fans would never be aware of it.

Many professionals (both the show producers and analysts) claim it was difficult to transliterate or adapt the Animated metaseries (the five 'seasons') because of the many taboos and/or controversies. Yes, DiC did edit and censor a whole lot of things like 'inimitable' behavior (spitting, etc.) but of course, as I always cover LGBT issues... I have to focus on LGBT... a whole lot of lesbian, gay, and transgender characters. The most popular being Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune of course. Who, after years between Sailor Moon R and Sailor Moon S got adapted, the fans were already aware of their relationship. So when Cloverway decided to call them 'cousins,' it just wasn't respected. Creator Naoko Takeuchi vouches they are indeed lesbians and always meant to be women. They were controversial as well in Japan. Other LGBT characters include Zoicite and Kunzite who became female Zoycite and Malachite (name change reason unknown). In the Manga, Zoicite and Kunzite were not romantically entangled. Fisheye (gay male to female) and Zirconia (female to male) switched genders as well. And in Sailor Moon Sailor Stars Anime, the Sailor Stars transformed from women to men which surprised Naoko because she meant them to crossdressing women. All Sailors are female. That Anime may never get adapted to English. In Italy, the Sailor Stars and their male counterparts were split.

Okay, I digress! As some might know, in 2003 there was a Live-Action Sailor Moon produced by the Japanese. In fact, the same company that produced the Anime series--Toei. Some fans, or many of the North American fans were not happy that they used Japanese actors for the series. I find this ridiculous. One of my close friends says, "If a movie is based in [Germany], we get [German] actors!" Which I don't find completely true. Sometimes Germans play Russians and Mexicans play Cubans. Anyhoo, it only makes sense a show set in Japan created by a Japanese person targeted toward Japanese children to star Japanese people. Now, yes they might look a bit ridiculous in wigs, but GET OVER IT! I love the Anime, but I love the Manga most of all as the source. The Live-Action series followed the Manga for the most part and then started spinning into its own original stuff. Fans only familiar with the Anime, would sort of get lost when it came to the 2003 series. Rei's grandfather was not present and she wasn't as boy-crazy as in the Anime, Minako was drastically different from both the Anime and Manga in mood and Motoki (Andrew) was more of a nerd. It's called "Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon," the only Japanese series to have an entire English title and the only to be called 'Guardian.' Fans call it PGSM.

PGSM was great because it focused on the girl's lives, relationships and fears. I could just ignore the stuffed doll cats, so-so CGI graphics and wigs, it was great. What was awesome about PGSM storyline was the dualism between Sailor Moon; they made a point of introducing Princess Sailor Moon (above--she never smiled in the series), an absolute power--only concerned in saving her love Endymion (Darien). In one episode, Usagi (Serena) met Princess in her mind and tried to reason with herself. It was Princess Sailor Moon who destroyed the world in the past. Where in the Manga, Usagi killed herself after her Prince was killed. In the Anime, her mother sent everyone to the future to be resurrected to live on. So I felt it was a metaphor for your potential to go over the edge, to the point of no return. Everytime she used her Moon Crystal, it would give the enemy Metalia (Negaverse) more power. Not to mention Dark Mercury or how some fans called her Darkury. Sailor Mercury, being one of the fan favorites, became evil temporarily. Luna became Sailor Luna, a little girl in a wig in place of Sailor Chibi-Moon, being that PGSM was only based on the first arc.

Back when, perhaps 1997 or something (not sure), there were rumblings about a North American Live-Action Sailor Moon movie. Especially since Disney owned DiC for a while, there were expectations Disney would do it. That ultimately fell through. Last year, there was a nasty rumor Lidnsey Lohan would star. Then there was the one Joss Whedon would direct. All has been proven to be untrue. I doubt Lohan is on any casting director's mind right now. As much as I love Joss Whedon, Sailor Moon is a major task to ask someone. I understand why some Whedon/SM fans would want him to direct something like SM, because they know he is dedicated and will do the best job he can do. And he understands super heroines. I think after dealing with big franchises, Sailor Moon would too much of a hassle for Joss. I don't even think he has seen the Anime. I think there would be major expectations from Sailor Moon fans for a project like I am suggesting. And I believe those expectations are justified because we have been hassled so much.

So why do it at all? I don't know. In my own whacked out mind, I think we (fans) deserve a decent representation of why we love Sailor Moon so much. Sailor Moon is the only original superheronie, not based on a male predecessor other than Wonder Woman. I think it would be fun. Sailor Moon can build on the popularity of Disney Princesses and also be the much need superhero role models for girls. Marketing would be great, I already imagine little girls in odangos and princess crowns. I also think it shouldn't be exclusively directed towards children and also portray Sailor Neptune and Uranus' relationship honestly and truthfully. Now you may asking yourself, isn't that crazy? Well, there are plenty of adult movie properties that has been popular with children: Aliens, Predator, Shadowman, Jurassic Park, and Robocop! Now why a movie? I think a live-action series is too much of a hassle for American producers and they wouldn't agree to it (money) as much to as a movie. I think a film company would agree more with a movie because they can test it out to see it is a hit. I believe if they make the research and carter a movie to fans, they can grab big audiences. I think Sailor Moon fans are as great in number as Harry Potter fans. You can not only attract little girls, young women, anime fans, but also many of young males. You won't believe how many Straight males love Sailor Moon. The Manga and Anime came in 5 arcs but some fans imagine 6 movies. Hey, if there is gonna be 8 Harry Potters, why not 6 Sailor Moons? I think if an American movie is made, it should follow in storytelling and mood of the live-action PGSM. Of course, there would be lots of debate over how the cats should be handled.

I brought up Disney before. The interesting thing is that recently Toei and Disney have already been collaborating. As mention before on this blog in posts about the Power Rangers, Disney has been working with Toei—who produces the source of Power Rangers (Super Sentai) since 2002. I heard nothing of Disney talking to Toei about Sailor Moon, but I think it could have been done. Unfortunately, ties between Disney and Toei may strained now that Disney may be not producing live-action Power Rangers by 2009. Besides, Toei has closed any chance of anyone obtaining the rights to Sailor Moon. The broadcast syndication license for the Anime in North America expired in 2003. and it is no longer shown on television in any English-speaking country. Toei currently has a lockdown on all Sailor Moon licenses, but Geneon (who did those big DVDs) may be interested if the situation changes. As for the live-action series, it has not been broadcast in any country outside of Japan and Toei has no plans for it to be adapted. Interestingly enough, Toei has decided to let their American company Cloverway develop Kamen Rider Dragon Knight to re-vamp the Masked Rider franchise that Saban 'ruined.'

About a year and half ago, I made my own dream cast for Sailor Moon. I might make some changes to my own cast choices.

Sunday, December 30

Eastern Promises DVD Review

Okay, here I go. David Cronenberg serves up a window to the Russian mob in London, with midwife Anna (Naomi Watts) leading us in. When a 14-year old girl dies from childbirth on her table, she involves herself with finding the baby's family. No name was left, only the girl's diary. Her father was Russian but she doesn't read it, she understands it well enough. She asks her stuffy uncle Stefan (Polish Jerry Skolimowski) to translate but he then refuses. So then she foes to restaurant owner Semyon (German Armin Mueller-Stahl), who seems nice. Stefan warns Anna about 'these people,' but it is too late when 'driver' Nickolai (American Viggo Mortensen) takes interest in her. He is super chummy with Semyon's shady son Kirill (French Vincent Cassel) who not doubt is involved in the mob. The story plays the 'more than it seems' game mixed in with 'I told you sos.' It isn't super predictable but the 'plot twists' don't the impact they should have. The atmosphere Cronenberg creates is enjoyable and entertaining, while the 'thrills' of a 'triller' fall flat.

The only squimish and thrilling part of the movie is the naked fight scene between Mortensen and two thugs. This is no doubt Mortensen's movie. He made the research, he sparks and shines everywhere. He steals every scene, and even if it was his and all eyes are focused on him. Watts plays her part as always, not anything new in this performance. Mueller-Stahl said he wanted to play something different than other mob bosses in cinema, even though he respected those like Marlon Brando. It is ahrd to snap out of what they established. He does try to make his own spin, but how much can you do with the now-old shtick of making a mob boss sympathetically and charismatic. The DVD has two short documentaries, no audio commentary and that's it. If you wanna see it, you won't be disappointed (especially Viggo nude). If you are not sure, it is worth a look but nothing to shout out loud for. And if you are violence fan, there is plenty. Although there is only about three deaths in movie, it is done memorably and artistically. The ending is pretty vague and feels it ends prematurely. Some things, I feel it should have been expanded more into. If you let us in, then why not show us everything?

Thursday, December 27

Homosexual Analysis of Eastern Promises

Instead of doing my usual review of a movie, I have decided to do a critique on the portrayal of same-sex attraction in the movie. I may do a regular review later. Director David Cronenberg doesn't like summing up his movie's plot, so I don't like summarizing it. So I will skip and you can read it somewhere else.

Bascially there is no fully out character but there is Kirill (Vincent Cassel), who sent for a friend to be killed after running around the rumor that he was 'a queer.' His father was a big drama queen about this realization. This is basically Viggo Mortensen's movie. He plays Nikolai, Kirill's driver and right-hand man, dirty work guy. Kirill basically forces Nikolai to have sex with a teenage girl to prove he is not a 'queer.' He then proceeds to watch it. Near the end of the movie, where Kirill is about to kill a baby girl, Nikolai convinces him out of it in an embrace. says: "Here in 'Eastern Promises' the young gangster’s homosexuality (the need to watch his driver engaging in a sex act--the cheek to cheek reconciliations) lacks the humor of the earlier film and is merely sinister--it harkens back to some of the old Bertolucci movies ('The Conformist' or '1900') in which sexual perversity was equated with personal and especially political corruption. It was stale then and it’s stale now."

David Cronenberg of says:
"With his new film, the violent Russian mob drama
Eastern Promises , Cronenberg has once again elected to explore homosexuality, this time in the context of a patriarchal, aggressive crime underworld. In including a deeply closeted gay mobster in his colorful ensemble, Cronenberg is, on the one hand, giving us another in an unfortunately rich cinematic history of gay villains. But the film’s refusal to condemn the character for his sexuality or to associate his sexuality with his criminality is notable, and the sensitivity with which the story is explored is unexpected and refreshing. The film may be brutal, but it is not cruel."

Francis of the blog Lessons from the School of Inattention says:
"In Eastern Promises, Cronenberg is again examining the role of geography in his theme of identity. When Semyon gains knowledge of his son's supposed homosexuality, he blames London as the primary cause for the sudden and alarming shift in gender preference within his family line. Cronenberg is careful not to make Kirill's homosexual tendencies obvious and apparent, instead he conceives Kirill as utterly troubled and divided: supposedly convinced that he is straight, in accordance with the necessity of continuing the familial machismo that is inherited from Russia, but internal and external factors pull him towards the fractured sexuality which Nikolai apparently exploits. Cronenberg never discloses whether the homosexual tension between Nikolai and Kirill become consummated but the atmosphere of ever-changing stances in identity overpowers, especially nearing the end of the film when Kirill finally breaks from his moral and sexual gray area and surrenders to Nikolai's moral and sexual ascendancy over him (as exemplified by the uncomfortably close embrace with Nikolai after deciding to turn over the baby to Anna) in the concrete banks of the Thames River."

I personally did not find the embrace between the two in the end of the movie as uncomfortable. They had close embraces before and seemed comfortable. I did feel that Nikolai was exploiting Kirill a bit to get what he wanted. His actions didn't seem sincere and Viggo does it wonderfully. Nikolai does seem to love and appreciate Kirill. It's like he is okay with him being who he is and may love him but loves Anna (Noami Watts) more. How he kisses Anna after that seems more significant. It is like he is sacrificing himself. She can't be part of his world. Like the director says, they are two trains that pass in the night.

I do agree with some of the points above, about Kirill being trouble and divided, it being good that the movie doesn't condemn the character for his sexuality, and Nikolai's sexual ascendancy. Also, about all this being a bit stale about 'ooohhh he is homosexual!'; covering old hostilities and prejudices and stereotypes within mafia may bit a bit stale and how it is handled, it could have been do a bit more quicker and less 'big issue.' There isn't a lot of information. And the movie is about that, not knowing everything about the characters, but I guess it was necessary.

For more caps of Viggo click here

Updated 1/11/08

Wednesday, December 26

Miss Teen South Carolina Spoofs

The viral video of Miss Teen USA that rocked the country.
Miss South Carolina's Answer

Add to My Profile | More Videos

Even when she says 'Some of' sounds like 'Osama.' AOL has listed various parodies.

Check out all the spoofs on AOL Video.

The second one with the girl calling 911 is hit or miss, it is ambitious an nicely done but the video seems to be longer than the joke should be. There is one of cartoons running through her head has the same effect. The one with her 'parents' is cute. The one 'Miss Teen SA vs. Bush' is pretty good but the 'scratch' effect is annoying. The blonde imitator in the yellow-toned video seems to be too smart to be playing her and doesn't have the rant good. The one that has the ranting good is in the video. The trick to talk crazy is to believe it yourself. There is some logic to her ramblings.

This is from the Today Show, where the lady reporter saying she was nervous and protecting her. Here she says she was overwhelmed. In this interview, she does still make some rambles. Her 'answer' here again is funny to me because she still says "Well personally."

For me, it proves the question. Product of the American Educational system.

Tuesday, December 25

Burger King Whopper Freak Out

Why oh Why?

You know what really grinds my gears? These new commercials about replacing the Whopper and costumers freaking out about and dissing the competition (which Burger King started). Why? Just plain why?

Seventeen Years Later: Home Alone

They play it every year but I feel 'Christmas-y' watching. Maybe I don't have the cojones to say it isn't Christmas without watching it. The thing is watching it reminds me of Christmas past. People put down the movie, for example in Dogma, the muse (Selma Hayek) said she was not responsible for the movie with the boy getting left home to fight bandits, she said 'someone sold their soul for that one.' It is even referenced in "Seinfeld," where George gets choked up with the part of the old man. It actually has good story structure and there is an actual evolution to Kevin's bravery. To me, it's a movie about self-sufficiency, in other words growing up and learning the things you are afraid of as a kid is just plain silly.

All the sequences with the shooting of the groins, fire burning skull, iron to the face, feathering and so on, my nephews pretty much had that memorized, like I imagine any kid had at the time. I like the mix of the Christmas classics before the great showdown. Oh and that horrible Uncle Frank! Ha! Catherine O' Hera, who played the mother, gives a strong performance but now is stuck with doing Christopher Guest movies and voice overs. Other than propelling M.C. to popularity and all the emotional trauma of divorcing parents and being a child star, there are indeed classic moments I like but it is not the violence. What always confused me was the amount of people in the family. What was never really clear was how many kids were in his imitate family. In the sequel, when they just had the imitate family in the beginning, it's like 'now these people have to feign being a family more than in the last movie.' Now as an adult, I can figure it out but the movie never made it crystal. My dad's favorite part is the 'filthy animal' sequence with the black-white movie that doesn't exist, they just made it especially for the movie. They did it again in the sequel.

It is probably the only holiday 'family' movie that has the lines, "Maybe he committed suicide" and "Come on you big horse's ass." I can just ignore the stupidity of a spiteful family (Kevin was more annoying than bad. Ooh wow! He spilled soda and everyone goes nuts) and the dumb-y thieves. Now, what I was mentioning before about Kevin's evolution. Before the whole ordeal, the only thing he feared most was packing his suitcase. Then, it was the basement, he got over it when he needed to do the laundry. Some kids left home alone would haven't even bothered to do his laundry. He was afraid of a simple task, he then went on to go shopping on his own and coming up with all those traps... even making the house look 'jumping!' with its just movie magic, let's say. I didn't see the movie in theaters but when I saw John Candy in it for the first time, I was happy because I remember M.C. being in Uncle Buck. John Candy was one of my favorite comedians growing up.

Sunday, December 23

I Spot: That Big Blue Eye Commercial Actor

I see this comedian so much over and over again in commercials and finally found his name. His name is Andrew Donnelly and he is part of the group Effinfunny. He has done commercials for Heineken, Mindspring, Staples, Wahoos, Sprint, Saab, and 1-800-Collect. One of his recent commercials is the Visa Check Card with a leprechaun.

Check out his videos here.

Here is his MySpace page.

More pictures here at my other blog.

Friday, December 21

The Simpsons Movie DVD Review

Yes, I am one of the Simpsons fans that have gave up watching the new episodes and treasure the days of season 7. When newer episodes air on syndication, I watch something else. Although, I have caught up with some core new eps like Marge's sister Patty revealing she is gay and Selma adopting a chinese baby. Both factors not mentioned in this movie. Of course they can't cover everything, but the producers and director have repeated time and time again about wanting this movie to appeal to people who have never seen the show. I don't think that was a good way to go. But listening to the commentary, they tried out the movie with many test audiences and even rendered to discover people weren't all that aware of Millhouse's long standing crush on Lisa. As I was preparing for a lackluster movie to remind me how lame the show has gotten, I was surprised to find some actual effort and a delightful movie.

While the trailer makes you believe the movie is all about the pig, it is much about the pig than the Transformers Movie is about a boy and his car. Which is a good thing. I am touched with the effort the writers went through with the movie, re-writing scenes and tweaking stuff and cutting jokes. They say they wanted to do scenes with their favorite characters, they said with the test audiences, didn't get much of a response. Like the producers said, the movie open up the chance to use many characters from the past. Like in the show, to fill up crowd scenes, there is filler or 'fake' characters... not so much with this one. We get characters we all recognize in the background. In one scene, I spotted Becky, who was played by Parker Posey in a episode in the year 2000. Even in the deleted scenes, we see the mayor's nephew for example. And the Bart-Homer-Ned stuff does feel a bit egged on. Can't they take a lesson in classic Simpsons episodes on subtle emotion?

What is also interesting is that the character Russ Cargill played by Albert Brooks was supposed to have a completely different look and feel. He seemed to have a more neurotic complex. Burger King made a toy of this design above and many fans were confused to who he is. The beginning of the movie doesn't feel much like a Simspsons episode, it sort of feels like the first Rugrats movie, I may be the only one that is feeling like this. That it felt 'put on,' too much of 'introducing' and happy-go-lucky music. The producers love the background music but it sounds to me generic and not Simpson-like. I suppose if they played actual Simpsons show music, it wouldn't be right. The only instrumental that sounds awesome is the slow Spider-Pig melody. It is played during the Epiphany sequence, they say it was a fluke. They played it as a gag and it fits. Putting Lisa in charge of making people environmentally aware is a no brainer but apparently to the producers, it came way later in the game of writing. What fans mainly complain about is the Simpson family leaving town and the movie not concentrating enough on the towns people. The Producers had more ideas for the towns people but they wanted to concentrate on the story. If they do indeed do a sequel, maybe the plot should revolve on many of the characters.

Above, is a generic character that is crushed by the dome. When Yeardley Smith saw the sequence in the commentary, she wondered who he was. I was surprised they didn't comment on Dr. Nick getting impaled. Producers were surprised audiences found the destruction of Springfield depressing. Of course we did! We want fun and go lucky, no real scary despair. Some scenes do feel like classic Simpsons. The scene where Marge says goodbye to Homer after 'doing the most horrible thing he ever did' (and producers had to check through stuff in the show and indeed sentencing the entire town to death is up there) does tug at the heart strings. Her voice is just awesome in that scene. Producers say Julive Kavner had just come back from a snow storm and was emotionally wasted, so that helped with the voice. The rest, like her filming over the wedding video felt a bit like lip service but playing their wedding song 'Close to you' did really help. It sort of felt like it was supposed to happen. That it was written long ago but still feels like it should have been polished a bit.

Movie: B
DVD: C, where are the early sketches and drawings?

Thursday, December 20

Ingrid Michaelson - "The Way I Am"

This song was used for a Old Navy commercial.

Wednesday, December 19

Gossip Girl Review

I haven't review Gossip Girl so I guess I would give it a go. One would think at first glance that the show is a just another teen show. The most refreshing thing of the show is the main characters of Serena (Blake Lively) and Dan (Penn Badgley). They are actually appealing and their relationship is actually smart and believable. Tonight's episode was good. Just like "The O.C.," there is a character whose father is gay and has a boyfriend (remember Luke's dad?). Claire's dad is played by John Shea, the Lex Luthor from "Lois & Clark." I love how Claire's mom Eleanor was old friends with his dad's new boyfriend Roman. Dan's exotic-looking ex Vanessa (well, rather his friend who liked him but he didn't feel the same) reminds me of the black ex of Taylor Handley in the canceled "Hidden Palms." Serena's mom Lily (Kelly Rutherford) looks suspiciously like the mom from "The O.C." Claire is just plain evil like she is expected to. She trips Roman in the skating rink. She even goes out to call Roman's ex Freddy. Her mother Elanor quickly detects it. All Claire wanted was her day out with her dear daddy and instead she gets a entire family outing with daddy, mommy and Roman. It is just the classic daughter feeling left out after a divorce... with a twist. Not much. It doesn't matter.

The breakout hottie is not Chace Crawford but Penn Badgdely (above) as Dan. He exudes sex. He is the classic "O.C." righteous smartly teen. Kristen Bell plays the titular Gossip Girl, we don't see her but only hear her. She has been applauded for her turn as a narrator. She is not annoying. Kristen Bell finally is good for something, who knew it would be just her voice. Critics say her voice is sexy. I hope they never reveal her true identity. Who cares who the omnipresent Gossip Girl is. It saves us that her lopsided face and those horrible attempts at being sexy in "Heroes". While all the class shit is tiresome, Gossip Girl may even pass the guilty pleasure syndrome. "The O.C." quickly sunk and it only lasted three seasons or so. In this episode, Serena and Dan freak about giving them the perfect Christmas present but in truth, it is their virginity. Well, Dan's at least I think. Pre-martial sex on Christmas Eve, how Christian. Overall, the show is an utter fantasy. It is not what is really going on with New York upper class teenagers but this show didn't promise to be that. It is just pure escapism.

Nip/Tuck Season 5 Overview

I did this due to popular search engine demand, I decided to write a summary overview over Season 5 of "Nip/Tuck." For those who haven't caught up and have completely know nothing about season 5, Troy/McNamara have moved to L.A., along with EVERYONE. Yup, Liz, Matt, Kimber, and Julia have all moved to L.A. Critics have applauded "Nip/Tuck" for going back to fun pastures after going super eccentric last year with sexy kidney robbers and a little person babysitter. But, 8 episodes in this season, "Nip/Tuck" has gone back to its weird turnstyles. Julia had moved to New York with the kids and comes back, in a relationship with Olivia (Portia De Rossi)--which Christian doesn't take seriously and eventually starts a relationship with Julia. Olivia has a daughter named Eden who has targeted Sean. This year has all been Sean. Sean is seen on Hearts and Scalpels, a fictional 'Nip/Tuck' parody and gets instant fame, and naturally, Christian gets jealous. So Christian modeled for a gay porn magazine (don't ask).

Matt and Kimber roll into town, gone from the Scientology and now drug-addicted. They strike Matt's 'two daddies' for money and eventually found out. Kimber leaves Matt for a porn company and Matt ends up in a fire incident. Oh, and their daughter's name? Jenna. Eden is 'Nip/Tuck' classic as a femme fatal bitch with plenty of problems and 'mixs things up.' As for Portia De Rossi, she melds perfectly with the rest of the cast. It is like she has always been there. Christian continues to be a jerk. Julian McMahon as Christian is no longer attractive to me, with his stupidity. The last episode of this year was a Christmas one, naturally and it wasn't all that bad. While last year, the Christmas episode was near to the last episodes. Last year's I liked, it was about a bum Sean befriends and eventually is killed and used for organs. The Christian+Julia match-up is pretty much George+Izzie ("Grey's Anatomy") territory. Too little and too late. And Sean discovering they are together... eh. And Matt's sexuality is called to question once again and he is a total homophobe in the end. Boring. And Kimber is evil again? Yawn.

Another Spears Oven is Baking

Yesterday it has been revealed yet more controversy in the Spears family. Jamie Lynn Spears, 16 is 12-weeks pregnant with a child from a 19-year old boy Casey Aldridge she met in church, no less. Her mom Lynee Spears's book on parenting has now been put on hold since last week. As for her Nickelodeon show "Zoey 101," the show won't be effected. The show is currently on its fourth and final season, which is actually the second half of the third season and production already ended in September. Nick and Disney shows usually last only a year or two, so I'm sure it is not like it is being canceled too soon. says Britney advised Jamie not to move in with Casey. Hollywood Gossip says Casey mother said, “Casey doesn’t wish to speak out, but it would be wonderful when the time comes." The PopCrunch Show is worried if Casey is going to jail. "Three places where Aldridge and Spears were most likely to have had sex were California, Mississippi and Louisiana. In Louisiana, the age of consensual sexual intercourse is age 17." I know I talked about Jessica Simpson's sex life and theirs, but it is really creepy.

My take on the recent Speed Racer preview

I know fanboys judge things before they are out, but I guess I will be doing that now. Above is the sneak peak of he upcoming live-action Speed Racer with Matthew Fox as Racer X, he looks hilarious in that mask cap but the suit is not all that bad. The guy in white is Korean pop sensation Rain (Jung Ji-Hoon), who I covered in my blog Caramelitos Baronil. His character's name is Taejo Togokhan. Believe it or not, the kid to the left playing Speed Racer is Emile Hirsch (Alpha Dog, The Mudge Boy). He looks Asian in the picture, a bit like John Cho.

Tuesday, December 18

Jessica Simpson & Tony Romo's romances

Since she got divorced, Jessica Simpson has been busy. She has had relationships with Adam Levine, John Mayer and now Tony Romo in just two years. She has also been rumored to be connected with Leonardo DiCaprio, Jude Law, and Dane Cook. I think people have been too rough on Tony Romo and Jessica Simpson about the Dallas' loss last weekend. Carrie Underwood, who people believe was his girlfriend, told Entertainment Weekly that they were just friends and his mind was all 'football football.' My dad who is a Cowboys fan, claims his mind was clogged too as well last year when he was talking with Miss Underwood. As for Jessica, I think every woman has their right to explore their sexuality but maybe she shouldn't be so transparent about it. I am not even saying she is sleeping with all these men but she has every right to have a candy sampler and see what kind of other men there is out there.

Sunday, December 16

Male to Female Power Ranger Monster Conversions

I am on a roll now. Since writing "Gender Bias in Power Rangers" and "Transgender Characters in Popular Culture" I felt like dealing with female villains in both series and the fact that the Power Rangers change male monsters to female. Also, the diverse male characters in Super Sentai.

In partially all Super Sentai series, there is a main villainess and the same in Power Rangers. But when it comes to the 'Monsters of the Day,' there is a only about three to two female monsters. "Kakuranger" (1994) had eight female monsters, making them the most. I did count the series from 1991 to 2007. In Power Rangers, they convert some feminine-looking male monsters to female. For example, above left male Incubus from "Magiranger" was changed to female Gnatu for "Power Rangers Mystic Force"; male Hanasakkadoshi from "Hurricanger" was changed to female Florabundacus for "Power Rangers Ninja Storm". And these are just a few of the changes. Sometimes, they don't even use the actual female monster from the Japanese series and feel short so they make one guy into a girl. For example, from the 8 female monsters of "Kakuranger," only 4 made it to "Power Rangers." I think they do it to have balance but just have a few female villains is not going to do much.

Most recently, the one above doesn't look female at all but they changed "Boukenger"'s Ouga to Crazar in "Power Rangers Operation Overdrive," the name doesn't even sound feminine. Most of the time the actor inside the suit is male. Even for the female rangers. There are rare times and more often up to recently that actual women don the female suits. And recently in "Gekiranger," a female is the suit actor for their male cat mentor Master ShaFu.

Some cases, they have no choice. Like the monster above left looks very female but was Wedding Dress Org actually male in the original "Gaoranger." In that same series, there was a intersex character Rasetsu that spoke in both female and male voice and surprisingly made it for "Power Rangers Wild Force" as Mandilok. The original American voice of Rita Replusa even voiced Mandilok's female aspect for a while. Strangely enough the female Jin (monster above right) in "GoGo Five" was converted to male in "Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue."

As for the male characters in Super Sentai, some are allowed to be artistic or hairdressers or look feminine. Some of those include Dairanger's Kazu, Abaranger's Yukito, and Gekiranger's Retsu and Ron (above left). In fact, many of the male heroes these days all look androgynous but that is the 'look' now in Japanese popular youth culture. Many times, ignorant people mistake them for girls. But us used to Anime and Tokusatsu are used to it. Actually the picture above is non-character time, the actors are in their regular clothes.

[Left to Right: Naoki Kawano; Hirofumi Araki; Hiroki Suzuki; and Riki Miura]

What's with the Stop-Action Christmas ads?

One thing sitcoms, TV commercials, parody shows and Robot Chicken have loved to remind us about is those old 60's Christmas stop-action animated specials. But this year I feel a heavy onslaught through the commercials. There are just two but after repeating so much, it is annoying. What is funny is that these two... Alltell commercial with Santa and the four 'dorks' and Mac vs. PC commercial, it is cheaper to just shoot the actors but what is strange they actually went through the trouble of having an animation company sculpt the actors' likenesses and make these commercials. They aren't bad but it is just a bit weird.

Friday, December 14

Transgendered Characters in Children's Popular Culture

I thought it would be fun to analyze the transgendered, probably the best known ones in popular culture, more specifically the ones in Children movies and video games.
The most popular and best known is Birdo. Initially an opponent, Birdo first appeared in the Japanese game Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic and the remade Super Mario Bros. 2. The American one was made from it because the Japanese sequel was deemed 'too hard' by the American game makers and it later become the 'Lost Levels.' While the American Super Mario Bros. 2 was called Super Mario USA in Japan. Birdo later appeared in Wario's Woods as Toad's ally and Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars as a boss character. All types of Birdo can shoot eggs from his snout. In later games such as Mario Tennis, Birdo's personal icon is its bow ribbon. As of Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour, the individual Birdo character started wearing a diamond ring. However, in Super Mario Strikers, all Birdos wear diamond rings.

Here is the infamous picture of the original NES version manual of Super Mario Bros. 2. Mistakenly named Ostro in the credits and manual. In Birdo's biography of the Super Mario Bros. 2 instruction booklet, it reads "He thinks he's a girl and he spits eggs from his mouth. He'd rather be called Birdetta." Contrary to popular belief, this is not the result of a poor translation. In Japan, Catherine was always male, despite the feminine name. In later American translations, Birdo was referred to as a female character. Recently, in the Mario Strikers Charged official website, Birdo is again referred to as 'he. ' "This hard-hitting power player lands some of the biggest bone-rattling hits ever seen on the Strikers field. Birdo's shooting is also feared by most goalkeepers, as he can score at will. His Extreme Egg can beat any goalie, resulting in quick goals." - Birdo's biography, Mario Strikers Charged Football official website.

Birdo made his first playable appearance in Mario Tennis for Nintendo 64 as Yoshi's default playing partner. Funny enough is the picture above from Mario Tennis. Since then, Birdo appears as a playable character in several Mario sports titles and in the Mario Party series. Despite Nintendo's tries, many gamers categorize Birdo as the first full Male to Female transsexual in the video game universe. Fans also question if Birdo is a friend or enemy, since now Birdo is treated in friendly terms.

Big Bad Wolf from Shrek
A mixture of the Wolf in Little Red Riding Hood, and the Wolf in The Three Little Pigs, he is a friendly misunderstood crossdresser whom the Fairy Godmother unaffectionately refers to as "some gender confused wolf." He appears to still be wearing Lil Red's grandmother's clothes and is apparently on good terms with the three little pigs. In Far Far Away Idol, he sings "Hungry Like the Wolf". In recent "Shrek The Halls," he shows off a sarcastic attitude.

I don't think he is just him being a crossdresser. In the first one, at Shrek and Fiona's wedding, a knight cries and the Wolf consoles him and kind of cuddles next to him. I don't know if this is because the producers confused him with a female wolf and actually intended him to be male to female transgender. This depiction, along with some other concerns, raised rage of some conservative groups who objected the film's sexual content. However, these concerns were widely ridiculed in the media. I find it refreshing that there is a transgender character in such a popular children's movie series.

Another video game transgender is Shiek, a.k.a. Zelda in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Zelda passes herself off as a Sheikah known as Sheik. With voice muffled and face concealed, the character is basically unrecognizable as Zelda. The players had no reason to associate Sheik’s voice with Zelda’s because of no proper voice acting. When Link arrives at the Temple of Time near the end of the game, Sheik uses the Triforce of Wisdom to change back into Zelda. It is assumed, in this case, that she uses her magical skills (as a Sage) to change her skin tone, hair length, eye color, etc. This is all supported by the Sheik trophy in Super Smash Bros. Melee. It is presumed she changes her voice as well as her build and her clothing; in addition, a voice actress is heard when in pain in both Ocarina and Super Smash Bros. Melee, adding to the belief that she may have imitated a deep voice as Sheik. When Link encounters Princess Ruto in the Water Temple in Ocarina of Time she asks Link to thank Sheik for saving her and refers to Sheik as "him". It is unknown, however, if Ruto was actually aware of Sheik's dual-identity.

Thursday, December 13

How can we know when there is a new ep?

Now with the strike and also the holiday season coming along, there is more reruns and Christmas specials to shake a stick at. Desperate Housewives, Heroes, and all those shows are down but only a few still have new episodes. For example, "30 Rock" and "Pushing Daisies"... but I had no idea Pushing Daisies had a new ep yesterday. Why can't the network advertise more which episodes are new this week? It is getting ridiculous. Also, that is strike is all about web, I don't feel good watching the shows on the web.

Gender Bias in Power Rangers

When the Power Rangers first came out, people were curious to know why the Pink Ranger had a skirt and the female Yellow Ranger didn't have one. One of the many concerns fans have had about the 15-year running series is the increasing gender bias. Through the years, the females have not gotten motorcycles and in the toyline, mostly ignored. Since 2005, there are only two figures of each female ranger in the whole line. While the male rangers, especially the red ranger (which is another issue fans have) gets around 30 or so products. Many would just say this is because it is a Boys toyline and that is the bare truth. Since 2001, Bandai America (that produces the figures) claim the Pink Ranger sells less than all other figures. Since then, the female rangers are spotlighted on eBay because they are hard to find in stores.

[The picture above is Sasha Craig as Kelsey Winslow and Alison MacInnis as Dana Mitchell in 2000's "Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue."]

The reason that five of twelve odd female Yellow Rangers had no skirts when their female buddy had a skirt is because of the source: the Japanese series Super Sentai. The first series to be adapted to make "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" was "Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger" (Dinosaur Squadron Beast Ranger), which had only one female. The yellow ranger was male, funny enough his name was Boy. Mostly because he was the youngest. But there are some series (of Super Sentai) that have had two females. They could have add skirts but then there would be a conflict with the footage. I guess they rather dealt with disappearing boobs than disappearing skirts. Now, why did they have to go through all the trouble of adding a female if it is a male-orientated show?

Maybe in the beginning, they did want both boys and girls to be into it. And now, it is probably tradition. Since Disney took over in 2003, it hasn't been an issue because there have been two females in the teams of five. In the cases that the show started with three heroes and eventually get to six or five, there would just be one female and no other was gender changed. Actually there was only one series in Power Rangers that the girls has no skirts... "Power Rangers S.P.D." That one had 6 females (Pink, Yellow, Red, Orange/White, Pink and Silver/Navy), all had no skirts. While in Super Sentai, there are plenty series that the girls had no skirts. Despite common belief, yellow is not always female in Sentai. More males have had that designation.

[The picture above are sketches by the Japanese artists of warriors from various Sentai series, some came before Power Rangers. Top: Phoenix Ranger from Dairanger (1993) and FiveYellow from Fiveman (1990) Bottom: Magiranger's MagiBlue (2005)/Blue Mystic Force Ranger (2006); Gaoranger's Gao White (2001)/White Wild Force Ranger (2002); Gingaman's Ginga Pink (1998)/Pink Lost Galaxy Ranger (1999)]

I think the reason people wish females in Power Rangers got a little more respect is probably because in some choice times, female characters are allowed to cross the line of the traditional roles in both Super Sentai and Power Rangers. For example in Power Rangers, there has been three female leaders. White Alien Ranger in 1995, Pink Time Force Ranger in 2001, and Red S.P.D. A-Squad Ranger in 2005. Funny thing about her (above), she didn't have a Japanese predecessor and producers had to convince Disney to have a female red ranger. It is obvious they hadn't decided on her gender until later in the series since in earlier episodes, the red ranger was heard to have a male voice. Fans sum this up as her disguising her voice to fool the enemy. Ultimately, I think they let it happen because she was not part of the main team, nor where there any toys based on her or her team. Best thing was that particular team was the first 'evil' team that was not under a spell. They actually chose to oppose the forces of good on their own free will. Super Sentai producer Hideaki Tsukada was recently asked about the possibility of having a female red ranger leader and he said it wasn't completely out of the question, "But still unlikely. For example, the fact that Super Sentai is a show for 3 to 5 year old boys, having a female leading character is not supported by the toy shops." It all goes down to toy marketing and sales, both series are aimed to boys.

The same plight that have gone to the females in Power Rangers have come to Super Sentai. Lately female warriors have gotten the shaft in the toy lines. But not so much to storylines. To the current incarnation that will end in February, "Juken Sentai Gekiranger" (Beast-Fist Squadron Fierce Ranger] that will be adapted into "Power Rangers Jungle Fury" that same very month, GekiYellow (above) is the leader. Some fans have complained that even with that, she is not getting very much focus and it could be that she was given the leader position as lip service. The picture above is about the upcoming teamup 'Gekiranger Vs. Boukenger' coming in March. Each year the previous team meets with the current team in a straight to video special. Next to her is Natsuki, Bouken Yellow from 2006's "GoGo Sentai Boukenger" (Rumbling Squadron Adventure Ranger) and she had special focus in the series. People liked her that she was a bubbly and childish. She is a fan favorite.

[The picture above is Mina Fukui as Ran Uzaki and Chise Nakamura as Natsuki Mamiya.]

Tuesday, December 11

The Thief and the Cobbler: A story of unfulfilled dreams

This story might be popularly known with animation fans but little to the American public. Critically acclaimed and award winning animator and director Richard Williams had been working on a movie that have taken many many names. To fans, it is most popularly known as The Thief and The Cobbler. No documentary or book has properly told this story.

Richard Williams began development work on it in 1964, planning to do a film about the Mulla Nasruddin, a "wise fool" of Near Eastern folklore. Williams had previously illustrated a series of books by Idries Shah, which collected the philosophical yet humorously wise tales of Nasruddin. Williams took on television and feature-film title projects in order to fund his pet project, and work on his film progressed slowly. In 1969, the International Film Guide noted that animation legend Ken Harris was now working on the project, which was now entitled The Amazing Nasruddin. The illustrations from the film showed intricate Indian and Persian designs. In 1970, the project was re-titled The Majestic Fool. For the first time, British Lion was mentioned as a potential distributor for the independent film. The Guide noted that the Williams Studio's staff had increased to forty people for the production of the feature.

Dialogue tracks for the film referred to as Nasruddin!, were recorded in 1970. Vincent Price performed the voice of the villain, Zigzag (Once known as Anwar), originally assigned to Kenneth Williams. Sir Anthony Quayle (he also was interviewed in 1989 British documentary) was cast as King Nod. Williams was a great fan of Vincent Price's work, and Zigzag became his favorite character to animate. Unfortunately in 1972, Williams had a falling-out with the Shah family. A promotional booklet released in 1973 failed to mention that almost all of the Nasruddin footage, characters and scenes that did not have Nasruddin himself were retained. While the story's focus and tone was shifted, several characters, including Zigzag, were all carried over to the "new" film, which Williams was promising as a "100 minute Panavision animated epic feature film with a hand-drawn cast of thousands."

Williams worked on the production in-between various TV commercial, TV special, and feature film title assignments, such as the 1977 feature Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure. In an interview with John Canemaker in the Feb. 1976 issue of Millimeter, Richard Williams stated that "The Thief is not following the Disney route." He went on to state that the film would be "the first animated film with a real plot that locks together like a detective story at the end," and that, with its two mute main characters, Thief was essentially "a silent movie with a lot of sound." Unfortunately, ultimately it went the 'Disney route.'

In 1986, Williams met producer Jake Eberts, who began funding the production and, according to the August 30, 1995 edition of The Los Angeles Times, eventually provided $10 million of the film's $28 million budget. In a 1988 interview with Jerry Beck, Williams stated that he had two and a half hours of pencil tests for Thief and that he hadn't storyboarded the film as he found such a method too controlling. After serving as animation director on Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Williams received funding and a distribution deal for The Thief and the Cobbler with Warner Bros. Pictures. At this point, with almost all of the original animators either dead or having long since moved on to other projects, that full-scale production on the film began, mostly with a new, younger team of animators, including Richard Williams's son Alexander.

The film was not finished by the 1991 deadline that Warner imposed upon Williams. The film was still several months and fifteen minutes of screen time away from completion. Meanwhile Disney begun work on Aladdin, a film which bore striking resemblances in tone and style to The Thief and the Cobbler; for example, the character Zigzag from Cobbler shares many physical characteristics with both Jafar, and the Genie. Also, the scene in which Abu wants to steal a ruby from the Cave of Wonders is very similar to a scene where The Thief tries to steal a gem. Williams's film had been in production so long that scenes from it had been seen or worked on by many people in the animation industry, some of whom had gone on to work at Disney.

With that film's release and its potential competition as a threat to films commercial viability, Williams was asked to show the investors a rough copy of the film with the remaining scenes filled in with storyboards. Williams had avoided storyboards up to this point, but within two weeks he had done what the investors had asked. This rough version of the film was not well received, and on the very next day Warner backed out and the Completion Bond Company assumed control of the film from Williams's studio. Television animation producer Fred Calvert was assigned by the Completion Bond Company to finish the film as cheaply and quickly as possible. In the process, Calvert made several significant changes to the film.

Much of Williams's finished footage was deleted from the final release print to make way for newly created scenes and horrible song sequences. Steve Lively was brought in to record a voice and narration for the previously mute character of Tack and several other characters that already had vocal tracks prepared for them were re-voiced. The new scenes were produced on a budget and the quality of the art is much akin to Korean Saturday morning cartoons, with little regard for matching the painstaking quality of Williams's original scenes. However, some audio from the original version were retained, like Sir Anthony Quayle's voice can still be heard in the speech scene.

Calvert's version of the film was distributed outside of the United States as The Princess and the Cobbler; in the U.S., the Disney subsidiary Miramax released their own version, Arabian Knight, in which the film was recut even further. The voices of Matthew Broderick and Jonathan Winters were added over nearly every scene of the film; Williams' version had been largely dialogue-less. The character of the Old Witch was entirely removed (save for a few lines of dialogue and ghost-like image), as was most of a climactic battle sequence. Arabian Knight was quietly released by Miramax on August 25, 1995. It opened on 510 screens, and grossed just over $300,000 (on an estimated budget of $24 million) during its theatrical run. To this day, the film has never been released, in any form, in the United Kingdom.

Titles the film has gone through:
The Amazing Nasruddin
The Majestic Fool
The Thief Who Never Gave Up and Once
The Thief and the Cobbler
The Princess and the Cobbler (World, except U.K. 1994)
Arabian Knight (U.S. 1995)

The Miramax version Arabian Knight was first released commercially on DVD on March 8, 2005, in pan-and-scan format. This DVD was re-released by The Weinstein Company on November 21, 2006. It was renamed The Thief and the Cobbler, even though it has Matthew Broderick's voiceover the originally mute Tack and the crappy singing sequences. Here is the trailer for that:

A fan-made restoration with various special features such as commentaries was released on DVD in August 2006, and this version has been tacitly acknowledged by several DVD reviewers to be better than the latest officially-released DVD.

In the late 90's, Roy Disney began a project to restore The Thief and the Cobbler to as close to Williams' original intent as possible. He sought out original pencil tests and completed footage, much of which was by this time in the possession of various animators and film collectors. Roy Disney left the Walt Disney Company in 2003, and the restoration project was put on hold. Negotiations between Disney and Williams broke down when it was revealed that Williams wouldn't be paid because of budget problems, even though he would be promised a release of the result. Currently, Disney producer Don Hahn is considering reviving the project.