Friday Flix: Fullmetal Alchemist – Brotherhood

friday flix jae scribblesIt’s been a long time, friends, but welcome to another edition of Friday Flix. This week we’re doing it anime style in the foreign fantasy lands of Amestris, something like the European industrial revolution as far as setting goes. For those unfamiliar to the anime scene, there are actually two series titled Fullmetal Alchemist the first premiering in 2003, the second in 2009.

Why two series? Well, the original only followed the manga (Japanese comic) story line for half of the series, then went off on its own tangent. Now, I should note I was a HUGE fan of the original series. And when I was in Japan, it was still quite popular. I found me one of these.

Fullmetal Alchemist charm

I own the original series on DVD and there are bits of the story I think they do better than the new series (of course, the contrary is also the same). But, that having been said, is the 2009 series worth watching? You bet your sweet bippy it is!

The description from Hulu.com:

Brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric hoped to resurrect their mother’s corpse when they attempted human transmutation, but their reckless defiance of alchemy’s Law of Equivalent Exchange resulted in no miraculous reunion. Their experimentation with forbidden science plunged the boys into a hellish nightmare; half of Ed’s limbs were torn from his body, and Al awoke to discover his young soul transferred to a suit of armor. There is but one way the Elrics can restore what was lost – find the fabled Philosopher’s Stone. In a land marred by war and persecution, where truth comes only with tragedy, they undertake their desperate search. Every step closer to the mythical Philosopher’s Stone brings the broken brothers deeper into the darkest shadows of reality. Sinful abominations, both unnatural and human, will try to keep the boys from their redemption – but the Elrics must forge ahead if despair is to be transmuted into peace.

There are English dubs available as well as Japanese language with English subs. I tend to do original language and since I once heard the original series’ voice for Edward and vomited, I decided Japanese it is.

WHY IT’S AWESOME

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (aka Philosopher’s Stone) briefly touched on this idea of alchemy, and FMA runs full blast with it. Much like Voldie wanted the stone to get his body back, so do the Elric bros. That’s the power of a Philosopher’s Stone. Although when the Elrics realize what it takes to get a Philosopher’s Stone, they’re faced with major moral dilemma. So think scientific wizardry at the turn of the century.

One of the main characters is an empty suit of armor. Try working with that characterization. Even better, the massive, intimidating suit of armor has a little boy’s voice. Alphonse Elric quickly became one of my favorite characters (although the Elric bros tie on favs).
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Seven deadly sins run amok throughout both stories. It’s interesting to see how each character plays out their sin, be it Greed, Lust, Envy, Gluttony, etc. This is some serious creativity, taking old things and making them new. And above all, you come to love these Elric brothers as if they were your own siblings or kids. You want them to succeed no matter what, despite any flaws or difficulties that come their way. That’s some good storytelling!

2004 vs. 2009

So are they both worth watching? Purists will say skip the 2004, go straight for 2009. I say don’t count 2004 out. Even though they did their own thing with the story, the idea is still interesting. Plus it makes for an interesting study on how a story can go two separate ways depending on choices we make. What a perfect case study for us writers to see what worked better for each storyline.

I liked Barry the Chopper from 2004 better than 2009. The former was much more terrifying and left our boys in a lot more trouble. 2009’s BTC seemed too juvenile, reminiscent of Pokemon episodes. And that’s another complaint I have about the 2009 series. It seemed a lot more juvenile in the beginning. I felt like 2004’s was a bit more mature throughout, although 2009 does get crazy awesome in its ending. For those of you who are in the know, compare Rose’s story line between the two.

I liked Hohenheim from 2009 better than 2004. Good gracious, Hohenheim 2004 is almost completely useless to the story except that he’s the Elric bros dad. He’s shows up like he’s late for rehearsal and gives a half-baked performance before leaving the bros to do what they could have and would have done on their own in the first place. 2009 Hohenheim? He’s a bad a** mambo jambo who knows how to use alchemy like a boss. And did I mention he’s a big part of the reason the story is happening in the first place? You really dig Hohenheim 2009. 2004? Meh.

Something that bothers me about anime in general is going off on side character stories just as soon as the plot is getting good so they can drag it out. Ugh, I don’t care about the half animal dudes’ backstories and everyone’s brother and sister and cousin and so on. Maybe I’m remembering 2004 with rose-colored glasses, but good gracious is 2009 riddled with filler bits all over the place. Sometimes I wondered when the Fullmetal Alchemist of the show would be back on screen again. It got a bit Peter Jackson for me at times.

But all that being said, the ending of 2009 is beyond your wildest dreams and makes everything worth it. Well, minus a really long wrap up. Please, don’t do this in your novels. It kills the satisfaction.

Also, I just missed this video from the 2004 series, since it was my fav closer.

CONCLUSION

I really think it’s worthwhile watching, not only for the pure awesomeness of the story, but to compare different paths the story took and understand that our novels may do the same thing. I know with SHADE it started on a very different path than it’s on now—and that’s okay. Think parallel universes. Which one is better? Whichever one gets you to the strongest story.

Have you seen either of the FMA series? Do you agree or disagree? Any other series you would recommend?

Friday Flix: Star Trek Into Darkness

friday flix jae scribblesIt’s that time again, and this week we bring you something dark and sequelish. Okay, not -ish, just the sequel bit. But still! Top notch movie headed your way. I’m going to start out non-spoilers and give you fair warning when they begin. Anyway, is this Jae’s favorite movie of the year? Quite possibly!

My only complaint? More Cumberbatch please? No, actually one of my real complaints was only a brief appearance by Noel Clarke (also known to us Whovians as Mickey). I mean, it’s cool that he got a part and all that, but why so short?

And speaking of geekery, is there some way we can get Cumberbatch and David Tennant in a project together. I don’t know what said project would be, and I really wish Tennant was still the Doctor for this little bit of geekery. Either way, somebody make this happen.

Okay, onto the IMDB description:

After the crew of the Enterprise find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction.

It’s not often that sequels are better than their predecessors, but in STID’s case, this is certainly the case. Lots of action, a few less lens flares, and a whole lot of fun.

THE MUSIC

Those who have followed the blog long enough know I’m a big fangirl when it comes to John Williams, but my close second is Michael Giacchino. In fact, if John Williams weren’t taking the job, I’d suggest Giacchino for composing the new Star Wars movies. He’d do it right, peeps. He made it still very Star Trek, with theme kickback to the first film, but also brought in a little new. And who can’t love a soundtrack with titles like these:

THE GEEKERY

I think the word is out, so I don’t feel like this is a spoiler. But I recommend watching The Wrath of Kahn if you want to get all the fan jokes plentiful throughout the movie. JJ loves his alternative universe jokes, and STID is no exception. There will be a scene you’re crying along with everyone else and then suddenly laughing your geek self silly with people giving you the stink eye, cuz they don’t get the funny. Trust me, it’s delightful, but if you don’t know Wrath of Kahn well (meaning having watched it recently or often enough), you may not get it.

I think it’s JJ’s way of saying to the fans, I know I’m totally screwing with this franchise, but here’s some delicious candy. See? Now that wasn’t so bad, was it?

THE BROMANCE

Kirk and Spock have a sort of lover’s quarrel a lot of the movie, though with good reason. It makes certain parts of the climax that much more effective. Which is one of the main reasons I love this show. They did a lot of groundwork in the beginning to make the climax both believable and satisfying.

Zachary Quinto does the perfect Spock, much as he did in the last film. Everyone so glad he was cast as Sylar, even if that show completely fell apart? Mm-hmm, thought so.

Okay, but back to the bromance, there are tons of Vulcan/Human mishaps and misunderstandings to be had, which for us writers, is good to watch and see how the relationship arcs for the climax.

And now, here comes the…

STORYTELLING

We start right in the middle of action, which is good. It doesn’t like some movies, with, let’s say, two jedis on some boring mission they didn’t care about.

Nope, we get right into it. Spock must stop a volcano from erupting to save some powdery tribal peeps. Okay, one nitpick. I didn’t get why Kirk and Bones were in the temple, other than for the plot’s sake to get the people out of the temple when the volcano smashes it, and to bring Kirk and Spock on screen.

Anyways, so Spock is supposed to stop the volcano and does, but at the cost of his own life, except Kirk won’t let the latter part happen and gets them in trouble. So, the inciting incident for me was this moment. Because now Kirk faces the big problem.

He no longer is captain of the Enterprise. Now Kirk must prove he understand the responsibility of being a captain and how his choices affect his crew or lose the Enterprise team forever. (Sounds like a query letter, right?) Great big problem.

And now come all the subplots: the terrorist, Spock’s betrayal and their deteriorating friendship, proving himself, etc. All culminating back to solving the big problem.

It’s like the movie Home Alone. No, stay with me for a second. Kevin’s big problem is he’s too little/immature to take care of himself. He’s mistakenly left at home where he not only learns to “grow up” but takes care of some bad guys all by himself. Even with all the slapstick humor aside, Home Alone is a great example of a well-written movie (we often cited it in film school). Mind, I’m just talking about the first movie, not about any of the sequels.

But back to STID. Kirk’s story follows a great line of climax build with things continually getting worse for him. I remember from Donald Maass’ books the question: if your character gets what they want, how can you make it the worst possible thing? And vice versa. And for Kirk, they follow this rather nicely.

He gets a position as 1st officer with Admiral Pike back on the Enterprise. Okay, not exactly what he wanted, but he’s back on his ship and perhaps he can regain captainhood soon. Only the worst happens. The terrorist attacks. Now he’s not only lost his position but a father figure in Pike.

He convinces the head honcho (can’t remember the dude’s name, Marcus I think) to let him take the Enterprise and go after Cumberbatch. Yay, he has his ship back! Except he learns he’s been set up as the scapegoat to start a war and wasn’t expected to come back alive.

It goes on and on like this, the stakes getting higher and higher. *sigh* I really enjoy a movie with a good plot. It seems so rare these days.

SPOILER-FREE ZONE COMMENCING IN 3… 2…

I CAN HAS MOVIE NOW?

The only downside to watching this movie is that you can’t buy it yet. I know, I could go back and see it again in the theater, but I’d rather spend my $$$ on owning the movie. So I guess I’ll have to wait a few months… 😦

But seriously, I ❤ this movie in a major way. If you loved the first movie, you’ll certainly love this one. Lots of high drama, stakes, action, and great humor. I can’t say enough about this movie, except, if someone knows JJ personally, please tell him to send me an advance copy. What are we thinking, all, September for this to be out?

Have you seen Star Trek Into Darkness? Please mark your comments with a nice big SPOILER if necessary, but what did you think? Did you enjoy it? Best movie of the year? Did you see it more than once?

Friday Flix: Iron Man 3

friday flix jae scribblesOh, you knew this one was coming! Tony Stark strikes again in Iron Man 3, which some could call Iron Man 4 since Avengers was in some ways Iron Man 3, but I digress.

If you haven’t seen this in the theater yet, I’m going to warn you now of potential SPOILERS coming in the next several paragraphs. And I want to state up front right now that I thought Iron Man 3 was a solid A movie. It’s really, really good. But that doesn’t mean I don’t take issue with some of it. And since many of us are storytellers or at least appreciate good storytelling, it’s good to learn from the stories we hear.

But back to Iron Man 3. The description from IMDB.com:

When Tony Stark’s world is torn apart by a formidable terrorist called the Mandarin, he starts an odyssey of rebuilding and retribution.

Okay, so there we have it. Iron Man faces terrorist. And go!

WHAT I LOVED

The best part of this movie for me was the interaction between Tony and this kid Harley. Tony escapes certain destruction via the Mandarin and ends up in the middle of Tennessee where he meets a boy named Harley who helps him recover and keep his malfunctioning Iron Man suit safe.

Harley also plays the role of audience, asking Tony all the questions about New York we’d like to ask him. I think this worked really well for the story because Tony needed a different kind of reminder of what he’s doing this all for. There were the personal reminders of protecting his friends and his love, but there’s something so perfect about the innocence of this kid that helps Tony see what he needs to do to find healing. Kids are honest in ways adults just can’t be anymore.

Plus it worked great as a contrast for Tony’s ego to see this little kid has got it together better than he does. If you go for anything, even if you haven’t liked Iron Man, I think you’ll enjoy the back and forth between Tony and Harley.

Continue reading

A Star Wars Intermission

I promise, I was all ready to go with an Iron Man 3 Friday Flix, but this Storymakers conference got in the way of things. But fear not, lovelies, I won’t leave you without some entertainment this happy Friday.

First of all, want to see some rad Empire Strikes Back photos? I thought so.

Need to a quick recap of what happened in Star Wars: A New Hope? What if I said I could give it to you in one full minute?

Hey, everything doesn’t have to be about Star Wars, does it? Let’s see what Stan Lee is up to these days.

Okay, so maybe I did sneak in just a little bit of Star Wars. But this blog is an educational blog. And what better way to learn than School House Rocks? Today’s lesson is on “interjections.” Since a lot of us are readers and writers here, we need to know what all of this stuff means. I give you, interjections: Star Wars style.

Want to know how I felt when I watched Episode I, II, and III? I think this video about sums it up.

Okay, we certainly can’t leave it on that sour note! I just wanted you to see Star Wars Halloween decor and we’ll let Seth Green finish things off for us.

Also…

Enjoy the rest of your Friday!

May the 4th

Happy Star Wars Day everyone!

SW4thSince it’s May and since I feel like it, all of May will have Star Wars references, pics, memes—whatever it is, it’ll have some Star Wars reference guaranteed.

There’s so much awesome Star Wars fan art, videos, cool stuff out there. And I think most of that is due to George Lucas being a bit lax with his copyrights. Say what you will about the man and his botching the prequels, but he doesn’t sue and the fans keep the culture alive. Some people with big media assets could learn a lesson from him.

It’s interesting, isn’t it, that there’s not really a geeky fan name for Star Wars fans? Not like Whovians, Trekkies, and Browncoats. I guess we could be Star Warriors. I don’t know. Maybe it’s because we want the name Star Wars to say out there.

Anyways, I just wanted to let you all know on this May the 4th that Star Wars will be honored. Look forward to things you may have seen, new things you may not have, and a whole lot of hoopla. I’ll figure some way to tie it all into writing. Enjoy!