Archive for November, 2009

I *heart* Japan! Part 2

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 27, 2009 by russellsreviews

Yes! Time for more Japan Pics!

The next day we took great tours of Kyoto and Nara, both old capitals of Japan. Tokyo was very modern so it was nice that we got to see more traditional buildings around town.

The countryside was beautiful.

At a stop some kids saw us and were so excited to see foreigners that they stopped and started waving at people on the bus. Like I said, Japan is full of nice and friendly people.

Getting closer to the temple.

On the way there we saw a very old gate. The tour guide said this is the oldest gate in Japan. It was made somewhere around 700 AD.

The entrance to Todaji temple was near a deer park and they let the deer roam around everywhere. There is a legend that when one of the deities came down at this place to help the people of Japan, he arrived riding a magical deer. When he returned to the spirit world he left the deer. The Japanese believed that these deer are actually descents of that very deer, and they can be found roaming freely around the park. It’s actually illegal to hurt any of these deer because of this.

You can buy cookies and feed them to the deer and if you do, be prepared. You will be quickly stormed and attacked. The deer will swarm you and bite until you have no choice but to drop the cookies and run. My wife learned this first hand.

Insanely massive wooden carved statue at the entrance gate. There is one at each end. This one represents the omega or the end.

Todaiji temple. The roof weighs over 2,000 tons.

Inside the temple is a HUGE Buddha. The second biggest statue in the world, just behind the even huger Jesus statue in South America. You can fit 47 people standing up just in the palm of his hand. Crazy.

The Buddha statue is surrounded by tall carved statues that guard Buddha from evil spirits.

Inside they had a model replica of the temple.

This hole is the size of one nostril on the Buddha statue. They say that if you can fit through it, then you were blessed to go to heaven. Guess if your an adult your screwed.

Later that day we went to the stone lantern park.

The park was made up of thousands of stone lanterns. Only a few nights a year do they light them all. Imagine all these centuries old lanterns lit up at once. Something to behold.

After the walk through the park you enter a Shinto Shrine.

Where they still have Shrine Maidens!

After another day in Kyoto we headed back to Tokyo. First day back we went to hippest place in Japan. Harajuku!

This was the place for shopping and fashion in Japan.

Even cooler at night. More crowded too.

Speaking of crowded, next we went to Shibuya, a district in Tokyo containing the busiest intersection in the world. The Shibuya 109 building has been in countless anime and games such as Death Note and the World Ends With You.

Still don’t believe me it’s the busiest? It pretty much looked like that at every light.

Shibuya had a club Sega!

And another Ultraman Ad! Holy crap I love this country!

Shibuya looked a lot like times square, but bigger, taller, and tons of cool and creative ads. That’s typically how shops are in Japan. One store might be on the 3F, but a completely different on the 6TH.

More big bright buildings in Shibuya. At this particular intersection they played video game music during your crosswalk. I think I heard Mario Bros. and Mega Man.

Sadly this ends part 2 of the tour of Japan.

Next time Tokyo Tower and Akihabara, the otaku mecca paradise for people who love anime, music, figures, and video games. Also see the king of monsters himself, Godzilla! You can’t miss it!

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Russell’s Rant: New Super Mario Bros. Wii

Posted in Non-Movie Related, rant, video games on November 20, 2009 by russellsreviews

Last week New Super Mario Bros. was finally released on the Wii. There has been many Mario games and spin offs in the past, but its been a very long time since a true sequel. Yeah, there was Super Mario DS over a year ago, but a it wasn’t a true flagship title. Not since the super Nintendo believe it or not has Mario returned to his 2d roots. What’s been bothering me about the game is how most mainstream video game “journalist” have been reviewing it.

Some sites like 1up gave it a perfect score, but most were all in the mid 80’s. They all praised the level design, fun factor, and the new multiplayer option, so why no 90+? The reviewers took points off for lack of originality and claimed Nintendo was playing it too safe. Well, ok, everyone has an right to their opinion.

Now, lets look at another recently released game, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. The game was critically acclaimed by all websites and magazines and no doubt will earn many awards. None seem to mention the obvious flaw, need I saw the same “flaw” that reviewers took of points for the new Super Mario. Let’s take a look. and its gaming past.

COD MW 2

COD 5 Word at War

Call of Duty 4

COD 3

COD 2

COD

Well do you see it? No way, could the newest Call of Duty be playing it safe too?? Crap man, they are even holding the guns the exact same way with the same camera angle. Actually, you could say gaming as a whole has been playing it safe. Lets see some screen shots of some other games that came out in the last few years that were all highly rated and sold fairly well.

Halo 3

Killzone 2

Borderlands

Fallout 3

Everyone has different taste, I understand that, but when you are a critic and you review things you have to try to set your personal biased aside. Obviously, this hasn’t been done lately. If New Super Mario can loose points for simply being more fun with just new 3d graphics, new costumes, new multiplayer, but guilty of not reinventing the wheel then all of these shooter games should be hold up to the same standard. In fact, these games should be more critically reviewed. There has been a new Call of Duty game for every year in the last six years. New Super Mario , in 2d not the spin-offs, has just now reached six games in its left time with Mario Bros, MB 2, MB 3, Super Mario world, New Super Mario Bros. DS, and now Super Mario Wii. They always say yeah “generic FPS” doesn’t do anything new, but you will have so much fun online you can look past it! 9.5! Super Mario Wii added for the first time ever multiplayer. Yeah, you can’t go online, but last time I recall you could call your friend up and have him cover and you can play the game together, in the same room even! COD MW2 added nothing new. In fact the single player game is two hours shorter, but that doesn’t stop them from singing its praises on top of rooftops. COD MW 2 is a fun game and I will probably will end up getting it like I did most of the games above. Truth is maybe reviewer “A” just doesn’t like the genre of “B enough” to be able to look past certain problems as game “C.” Although I look forward to Mario Galaxy 2, New Super Mario Wii should be applauded for going back to its roots, before gamers became jaded with A.D.D., and not criticized for it.

I *heart* Japan part 1

Posted in Japan, Non-Movie Related, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on November 7, 2009 by russellsreviews

Weeks ago I got married and went on a trip of a lifetime. Going to Japan was always a dream of mine and one I never thought I could reach. The Grace of God made it possible and it was more than expected. I feel so grateful and every day still in awe. I want to share it so maybe for the people who may never get the chance I did can get at taste of such wonderful and crazy cool place.

shirt

You know you see lots of people in America wearing shirts with cool fish, dragons, and Asian Characters? Yeah will they do that in Japan too just the other way around. It was like anyone who was under the age of 40 wore a shirt with some English on it. It was cool to see our language is so popular or “hip” over there.

bento

Our first night we freaked out and had no idea where to go to eat. We found this cool take out Bento Box place that had pictures to help you order. At the time we didn’t know that 80% of the places had pictures to help people like us order. The Bento Box was delicious!

ultra tv

That night I almost freaked out. They had Ultraman Advertise Honda in a commercial! I knew at that moment I was where I belong.

vending machine

Huge Vending machines were everywhere with tons of options from Soda, Tea, energy drinks, and even coffee. Some even had Dr. Pepper! New York City didn’t have Dr. Pepper. Tokyo 1, NYC 0

tommy lee image

Tommy Lee Jones was on ads everywhere for Boss Coffee. Never have been a bigger fan for the Texan actor.

kanji lessons

The first full day in Japan we took a tour trip to see Mt. Fuji and Hakone. During the bus ride the guide told us funny stories and taught us a lot. Here she is explaining the Kanji character for Sake.

castle on bus

Many great sites to look at during the ride.

fuji 1

fuji 2

Then we went up Mt. Fuji. Notice how long and tall it is. No matter if you are in Tokyo or Kyoto you can see it in the background.

lake high up

View of the lake from atop of Mt. Fuji.

fuji villageVillage near the top of Mt. Fuji

fuji shrineShinto Shrine in the village.

prayer requestIf you have a prayer request or wish for the priests to make for you simply write it down on these wood tags and tie them to this wall.

bad luckYou can also get your fortune read. If you get a bad one, make sure you tie them to these ropes. The priests will pray for you and try to get rid of your bad luck.

hokaneSide of Hakone mountain. Since Hakone is actually a volcano they drill holes on to let out the hot air.

rope way images

rope wayWe took a rope way down the side of Hakone. Needless to say, beautiful.

pirate shipAt the bottom of Hakone you could take a boat ride around the lake. On a freaking Pirate ship! So we did.

shrine waterview

gate on water

sun waterBreathtaking views from the ship.

gate in cityHuge gate at the city port where the ship was docking. Very cool.

mout

nijo gate

nail cover

Next day we were in Kyoto and went to Nijo castle. Nijo castle was the capital castle back when Kyoto was the country’s capital. Above notice the fantastic plates? There actually a very creative way to hide the nails used to build the structure. Sadly, taking pictures inside was forbidden, but hopefully you can still see the beauty.

golden pavillionThen we saw the Buddhist temple the Golden Pavilion. Made out of real gold.

zen gardenZen Garden at the Golden Pavilion.

roof endsDetail roof tops.

school uniforms

Bunch of School children at Nijo Castle. Notice the cool uniforms.

fire image in mountainA mountain view from a street in Kyoto. Kyoto had a perfect mix of old and new. That’s the fire mountain. Once a year during the fire festival they burn that image on the side of the mountain in celebration and tradition of the old ways of Japan.

great peopleIt didn’t long at all for us to see Japan is full of nice and funny people. A truly one of a kind place.

Wew. Part 1 finished. Next time one of the hippest places on earth Harajuku, the busiest intersection on earth, and some of the biggest statues you will ever see! Sayonara!

Where the Wild Things Are Review

Posted in 4 Stars, Drama, New Movie, Review on November 6, 2009 by russellsreviews

Where the Wild Things Are is a live action adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s book. The book not being very long no doubt gave director Spike Jonze a lot liberties on the direction the film could go, but he has to tackle the difficult task of how far to take it. Does he go deep and maybe a little dark and stay true to the creator’s vision and risk losing people or head for a lighter tone and a formula sure to be huge family favorite? Give Spike Jonze a lot of credit because he sure didn’t go the safe route.

where-the-wild-things-are1

Max is an energetic restless young boy who already has his fair share of problems. Max is misunderstood and feels his broken family is moving farther away from him. The night his mom brings home a date, Max dresses up like a wolf and misbehaves and bites his Mom out of anger. His Mom scolds him, causing Max to run away from home. Max finds a boat and sails away somehow, landing on a strange island with giant scary creatures. To avoid being eaten Max convinces the creatures that he is actually king from a far away land with mystical powers not to be messed with. The creatures accept him and slowly become good friends living everyday just to have fun.

where-wild-things-are-tree

Where the Wild Things Are very easily could have “movie by the numbers” with great special effects. It would have been more successful and created tons of fans. Instead, the movie tries very hard to dig deeper to the true meaning of the book. The movie looks at how scary the world must look at for child who just learns at school that one day the Sun might be gone. Max is dealing with his innocence and impulsiveness with reality. More importantly, his anger and insecurity. Now like the book, you could say the creatures are different parts of his personality, but to me the creatures all represent things or people in his life. The creature Carol is basically Max. His Mom is K.W. If you pay close attention all the events on the island are the events prior to him arriving. Carol just wants K.W. affection and attention, but she seems to care more about the owls Bob and Terry, who represent his Mom’s boyfriend. When K.W. brings Bob and Terry to their newly built fort, Carol throws a violent fit only earning K.W.’s distrust and fear. Max wants to control of everything and keep everything the same, but he can’t be the king of his emotions. There is no such king.

wild-things

There is always a flip side of taking a risk. The movie is very psychological in a sense that the raw emotions will leave children confused on why the creatures are fighting among themselves and some might even find the monsters too scary and intense. The story pace will make some viewers feel like its moving to0 slow and wonder whats the point of it all. The best way I can describe the explanations in Where the Wild Things Are is that everything is introverted. When Max returns home and greets his Mother, she welcomes him home in open arms but never really says a word to him. Emotions come across and Max understands that he is loved and accepted, but with little dialogue it will leave most people thinking to themselves, that’s it?

where_the_wild_things_are03

Where the Wild Things Are is a ground breaking film in understanding the pain and confusion of youth. Some may find it very depressing and pointless, which is understandable, however, there is a great and powerful message underneath. The movie peels back the dangers of insecurity and anger and the maturity it takes to conquer them. The film could have used more mass appeal, but the film worked for what it was trying to do. It might not be for you, but then you can’t sit back and complain when Transformers 7, X-men 10, and Saw 23 come out and wonder gee I wonder why Hollywood can’t make anything original and full of passion once in a while. Where the Wild Things Are will get overlooked, but I recommend you give it a try, you might hate it, or you might find your own reasons for thinking its genius.

4 STARS