I’ve run out of ideas on how to start these monthly posts, and I don’t feel like putting forth any actual effort. Besides, this post is already long overdue–December is pretty much over and I’m still stuck talking about November. Well, fuck it–this is What I’ve Been Watching/Reading in November of 2017.
Notable YouTube Videos
- Kirby: Fright To The Finish! – The Pleeb and The Weeb S2E3 by My Japanese Animes (feat. Endless Jess, Digibro, and Munchy) – 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, WAAAAAAAAARP STAR.
- Mad Bull 34 – The Pleeb and The Weeb S2E4 by My Japanese Animes (feat. A Hefty Handful of Hambois) – MAD BULL, MAD BULL, MAD BULL, MAD BULL, MAD BULL, MAD BULL, MAD BULL, MAD BULL, MAD BULL, MAD BULL, MAD BULL, MAD BULL, MAD BULL, MAD BULL, MAD BULL, MAD BULL, MAD BULL, MAD BULL, MAD BULL, MAD BULL, MAD BULL, MAD BULL, MAD BULL, MAD BULL, MAD BULL, MAD BULL–WATCH THIS VIDEO AND DIE!
- Mr. Plinkett’s Star Wars Prequel Reviews by RedLetterMedia – I know I’m a little late to the party with these videos, but Mr. Plinkett’s reviews of the Star Wars prequel trilogy is some of the funniest shit I’ve seen in a long time. Few things this month were as satisfying as seeing The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith each being torn apart piece by piece in a 3+-hour-long analytical diatribe. I actually have to thank my older brother, who’s an even bigger Star Wars fan than me, for showing me these videos. They reignited my contempt for the prequels and my love and appreciation for the original trilogy.
- Polybius – Angry Video Game Nerd Episode 150 by Cinemassacre – I know Halloween season is long over, but I simply couldn’t resist including this video on this month’s list. Polybius is something of an urban legend from the arcade era of video games, the kind of campfire story that’s perfect for Halloween (it’s actually Christmas Eve as I’m typing this–the irony is not lost on me). Being something a horror fan myself, I really like what James did with this video. Don’t get me wrong, I love the regular episodes of The Angry Video Game Nerd, but it never hurts to stray away from the formula and try something new every now and then (yes, I realize this is rich coming from the guy who’s posted nothing but formulaic update posts for the past 5 months, but get off my back). The episode starts out as a seemingly non-fictional documentary. James explains the backstory and urban legends behind the Polybius arcade game, and then attempts to track down the real thing–if it really does exist. About halfway through the video, however, it begins to morph into a documentary-style horror film in the same vein as The Blair Witch Project. It was a whole lot of fun to watch, and really made my day. If you’re already a fan of AVGN and the Cinemassacre channel as whole–or even if you aren’t–I highly recommend you check this video out.
- Dead Poets Society (1989) – Dead Poets Society is one of those rare teen movies that actually understands its target audience, and genuinely appeals to it without pandering. Individuality, personal expression, love and appreciation for art and the humanities, unrequited love, and suicide are just a few of several topics that the film explores through its eclectic cast of likable, relatable characters. The late and great Robin Williams plays John Keating, an unconventional English teacher who inspires his students to follow their dreams and teaches them about the value of poetry and beauty. Keating actually reminds me a lot of an English teacher I had last year, who opened my eyes to the world of literature in a way that no teacher ever had before. All of the student characters are great, too. The one that stuck out the most to me was Todd Anderson, played by a young Ethan Hawke. He’s shy and unconfident, and struggles to express himself verbally or otherwise. His plight and his growing admiration for Keating throughout the film really struck a chord with me. I think I chose to watch Dead Poets Society at just the right time. That’s not to say it doesn’t appeal to younger or older audiences, but the fact that most of the characters are the exact same age as me definitely contributed to how much the film resonated with me. I eagerly look forward to revisiting Dead Poets Society in the future.
- Doctor Strange (2016) – Look, deep down I know that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is essentially a giant corporate scheme to turn the affection of superhero fans like myself into billions of dollars worth of profit–but I’ll be damned if I don’t love each and every one of these films regardless. I don’t know why I waited so long to watch Doctor Strange, but the wait was worth it, because this movie kicks ass. This is the first time that Marvel’s brain surgeon turned Sorcerer Supreme has made his way to the big screen, and in my opinion, he’s a welcome addition to the MCU. I thought Benedict Cumberbatch was a strange (no pun intended) casting choice at first, but he captures the character really well, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of him in Avengers: Infinity War. I don’t really have much else to say about Doctor Strange, but it’s currently available on Netflix, so go watch it if you happened to overlook it.
- Gangs of New York (2002) – If there’s anything I learned from watching Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York, it’s that the Civil War was probably the worst era in American history. Even compared to the dark ghettos of Taxi Driver, the New York City depicted in this film feels like Hell on Earth–a chaotic melting pot of corruption, violence, and racism, with wildly different groups of people split into what can only be described as tribes. When you think of the Civil War, you typically think of a perfect half-and-half divide between North and South–people in the North supported the Yankees, and people in the South supported the Rebels…right? Well, not really. Gangs of New York shows how conflicted America truly was during this era, not only at the national level but at the local level as well. To be perfectly honest, though, Gangs of New York is far from Scorsese’s best film. The best part of the movie without a doubt is Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance as William “Bill the Butcher” Cutting, the boss of a criminal gang of Protestant nativists, based on the real-life historical figure William Poole. He’s ruthless, racist, and arguably downright evil, but he’s also a wise leader and an undeniably captivating character to watch. I can’t really say the same for the rest of the cast, though. Look, I like Leonardo DiCaprio for the most part, especially in more over-the-top performances like Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street and Calvin Candie in Django Unchained. His more serious roles can be somewhat hit or miss, though, and I think Gangs of New York is proof of that. He doesn’t do a bad job, per se, but he’s done better–a lot better. Cameron Diaz is okay too, I guess. The movie is definitely well-directed–this is Scorsese we’re talking about, after all–but it just doesn’t have the same visual appeal as many of his other films. Ultimately, Gangs of New York might not be my favorite of Martin Scorsese’s movies, but I’m glad that it exists. It is, if nothing else, interesting.
- Hamlet (1996) – Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet is the single greatest adaptation of a Shakespeare play I’ve ever seen. Besides being the only faithful and unabridged movie adaptation of Shakespeare’s magnum opus, Branagh breathes new life into each and every scene, making the old feel new and refreshing, yet somehow familiar at the same time. It is a testament to the timelessness of Shakespeare’s stories, changing the original Elizabethan setting of the play to a Victorian one, with luxurious palaces and snowy landscapes shot beautifully in exquisite 70mm widescreen. It not only captures the emotional impact of the play, but actually enhances it. The famous “To be, or not to be” soliloquy is beautifully delivered, and the cinematography enveloping it contains some of the most brilliant use of mirrors I’ve ever seen in a film. Part of the appeal of Hamlet is the constant sense of characters being spied and eavesdropped on–it makes sense considering the extremely public lives of the play’s upper-class characters and the themes of political intrigue and corruption–and I think this scene (along with many other scenes in the film) capture this perfectly. However, my personal favorite scene, which the thumbnail of this post comes from, is the “My thoughts be bloody” soliloquy. All it really is is one long pan-out–a close-up that transforms into an extreme wide-shot, but its simplicity only makes the scene more powerful. Branagh’s delivery is so good it makes my heart race and sends chills down my spine no matter how many times I re-watch it, and the musical score is downright orgasmic. If I ever make a list of my top 10 favorite film scenes, this will almost definitely be included. Furthermore, the movie is brilliantly casted. Branagh himself plays the eponymous hero, and he brilliantly captures all of the character’s emotions and nuances. Other performances include Kate Winslet as Ophelia, Julie Christie as Gertrude, Derek Jacobi as Claudius, Richard Briers as Polonius, and Nicholas Farrell as Horatio, with notable cameo performances by Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, and Charlton Heston. Everyone does a magnificent job–the whole cast really brings the film to life. Despite being a whopping 4 hours long, Hamlet is never boring or dull. It’s an incredible cinematic experience from beginning to end. If there’s one complaint I have with the film, it’s that Branagh went way too over-the-top with Claudius’ death. Admittedly, Shakespeare doesn’t describe exactly how Hamlet kills Claudius in the play, but I doubt he could have imagined the magic flying sword or the chandelier of death. If nothing else, though, the scene is certainly entertaining, and it doesn’t take away from the emotional catharsis of the tragic ending in my opinion. With all of that said, Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Hamlet is a cinematic masterpiece, and the best film I saw this month.
- Hot Fuzz (2007) – With all of the mediocre comedy films being made on what seems like a daily basis, Edgar Wright always finds a way to breathe new life into the genre. Hot Fuzz has all of the over-the-top action, witty jokes, visual comedy, and kinetic camera work that Wright has become beloved for. Where his previous film, Shaun of the Dead, was an homage and parody of the zombie genre, Hot Fuzz is an homage and parody of buddy-cop flicks. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost make a dynamic duo as the perfectionist hero cop Nicholas Angel and his oafish but lovable partner, Danny Butterman. Their antics and blossoming friendship are really the backbone of the film. Over the course of the film, the story evolves from a serial murder mystery to a bizarre cult conspiracy plot, resulting in one of the most hilarious yet undeniably kick-ass action finales I’ve ever seen. Overall, Hot Fuzz is one of the best action-comedy films of the past 2 decades, and yet another reason to love Edgar Wright.
- Thor: Ragnarok (2017) – Up until this point, the Thor films were always the weakest link in the MCU. Besides the impeccable casting of Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Tom Hiddleston as Loki, nothing ever really stood out about them. The first film was decent enough, but nothing special. The second film, on the other hand, is one of the most mediocre, middle-of-the-road, and downright forgettable movies I’ve ever seen. I’m glad to say that Thor: Ragnarok completely blows both of its predecessors out of the water, delivering all of the action, humor, emotion, and likable, well-written characters that got me invested in the MCU to begin with. They definitely took a more comedic approach with this one, probably drawing upon the success of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. If this were any other series, the shift in tone might have bothered me. But because it’s Thor, I instead thought it was a much-needed breath of fresh air. Teaming Thor up with Hulk, who hasn’t had his own movie in almost a decade, was a stroke of brilliance, and Cate Blanchett’s Hela is one of the more memorable villains to appear in the MCU thus far–that’s not really saying much, but still. Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie is a great addition to the cast, and Jeff Goldblum delivers a delightful supporting performance as The Grandmaster. Overall, Thor: Ragarok was just a blast.
- Stranger Things Season 2 – When I talked about the first season of Stranger Things last month, I sort of copped out and said I would go into greater detail about the show later. So I guess I have to do that now…oh boy. For those few of you who somehow don’t know about the show, Stranger Things is a Netflix original science-fiction-horror show set during the 1980’s in a small town in Indiana, inspired by the works of Stephen King and Steven Spielberg, along with a plethora of other 70’s and 80’s media. The story is a sprawling mystery involving, monsters from an alternate dimension, psychic powers, and government conspiracies. The show won over audiences with its likable characters, its interesting story, its blend of humor and drama, and its nostalgic setting. I really enjoyed the first season, but it had its flaws. With all of that said, Stranger Things 2 takes everything that was established in the season 1 and builds upon it to create something truly magnificent. The plot, the world, the characters, and the relationships between them have all become more developed and fleshed out, and the whole experience of watching it was altogether more satisfying than watching the first season–at least for me. After watching all 9 episodes of season 2 in a single weekend, I can now safely call myself a Stranger Things fan. And now we have to wait an entire year for Season 3…well, shit.
- Soul Eater (Vol. 5-8) – My opinions on Soul Eater haven’t really changed since I talked about it last month. The artwork, the action, the comedy, and the characters are all still fantastic, and Maka remains a contender for my top 10 waifus list. For these particular volumes, the highlight was definitely Crona’s emotional arc and his blossoming friendship with Maka and the other characters. Anyways, I’ll continue talking about the series next month and throughout 2018.
- Hamlet by William Shakespeare – Like many other people, I hated Shakespeare even before I’d read any of his plays. After reading Romeo and Juliet in English class as a freshman and Twelfth Night as a sophomore, that opinion didn’t really change. It took me a long time to finally appreciate everything that Shakespeare has done for English literature–and the English language in general for that matter. Just about every writer of fiction across the world has been influenced by Shakespeare in some way, whether they realize it or not. He is the ultimate inspiration and a source of infinite fascination for scholars and casual readers alike. And out of all of his works, none has been more widely studied or as influential as The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark–or just Hamlet for short. Simply put, Hamlet is Shakespeare’s magnum opus, and joins the ranks of The Great Gatsby and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest on the list of my favorite books that I’ve studied in school. Loss, grief, mortality, morality, madness, betrayal, deception, revenge, honor, family–Hamlet is a deep well from which an infinite amount of thematic and literary ideas can be drawn and analyzed. It’s probably the most challenging of Shakespeare’s tragedies, and you might be better off studying it for an English class than trying to read it casually, but it’s more than worth putting the extra time and effort into to fully understand. Now that I’ve finally learned to enjoy and appreciate his work, there’s a pretty good chance I’ll be reading more Shakespeare in the future.