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Thursday, March 10, 2011

CD REVIEW: Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger Single by Joseph Michael Sciola

            I’m in uncharted territory. Not only am I here to write a text review for a CD – something I have never done before – but it a CD that I imported from Japan, and to say I am not entirely fluent with the Japanese language is a bit of an understatement. This CD is a single so it is only four tracks long, but the lack of song quantity is more than makes up in quality. It is my opinion that good music transcends all language barriers, and this track exemplifies that.
            The first track is the opening theme song, creativity titled “Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger” which is the name of the show itself. Listening to the song itself, it’s clear that there is some influence being taken from “We Are!” -- The best known opening song for the similarly pirate themed anime One Piece. While I feel as if I should simply trash the song just because it reminds me of One Piece, which is the only anime that I have seen that I have outright hated and gave up on after forcing myself to watch ten episodes, even I can’t take away that “We Are!” is a great song filled with energy and a great way to get people excited for the show. If they had to take anything from One Piece, I’m glad they took the one thing that was actually enjoyable. “Kaizouku Senati Gokaiger” is performed by Tsuyoshi Matsubara with Young Fresh, both members of the music group Project R.
            The second track is the Ending song, titled “Super Sentai, Hero Getter” is quite frankly my favorite song on the single. The song is fast paced, catchy as all hell, and just plain fun. The best comparison I can make for it is that it is essentially the Pokemon Poke-Rap that aired after the episodes had finished that covered the then 150 Pokemon with the song being broken up into segments. That’s pretty much what “Super Sentai, Hero Getter” does with the previous thirty four Super Sentai titles, going through the names of the previous thirty four and a brief one line description of the show’s theme. “Super Sentai, Hero Getter” is performed by the various members of Project R.
            The third and fourth tracks are instrumental versions of the first two…. sort of. They start out as instrumental versions, but then the background vocals kick in. It just sounds weird, and since I can’t read Kana, I have no idea if they are actually Karaoke tracks that you are supposed to sing with, or not. It definitely makes more sense that way, but I would need much more practice with Japanese before I attempt to use the track as it was possibly intended, but they are worth a listen nonetheless.
            All in all, I have to say this was a very satisfactory purchase. I got a CD that has some great music, and because I pre-ordered it, I got some free gifts as well. The CD came with a poster, a Dice-O card (which is useless because they don’t have Dice-O machines outside of Japan) and a Ranger Key (which is useless without out the toy of the Gokaigers’ transformation device, which I do not have, and despite my irrational want of one, I don’t really feel like spending $100 to get it).  I am very happy with the CD, but unless you are already a fan of Tokusatsu I can’t really recommend importing it.
Now if only the show these songs were made for were half as enjoyable…

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Shawn Ryan Strikes Again: The Chicago Code – An Observation

Shawn Ryan, probably best known for The Shield, is one of those rare producers that really knows how to make an intricate show. While none of his many projects have been called a Masterpiece, many have been memorable at least and critically hailed, if rarely highly rated. The Chicago Code is no exception, blending a gritty cop drama with a serialized arc and intriguing, layered characters.

The show stars Jason Clarke as Detective Jarek Wysocki (no relation to Burt Wysocki on Reaper, almost sadly) and Jennifer Beals as Chicago’s first female Superintendant, Teresa Colvin, who used to be partners. Jarek is incredibly unique as a character, having many problems with his various partners (who tend to last days at most) stemming from either Jarek’s methodology or sometimes just his aversion to swearing in public. Partnered now with Jarek is Detective Caleb Evers (Friday Night Lights’ Matt Lauria), who almost gets kicked out of Jarek’s car just for having the audacity to be a Cubs fan (for the Chicago uninitiated, Cubs fans and White Sox fans do NOT get along).

This Yankees fan can relate. If he were ever forced to share a car with a Red Sox fan, oh man…

The supporting cast includes Generation Kill’s Billy Lush as an Undercover inside the Irish Mob, Jarek’s niece Vonda played by newcomer Devin Kelley, Vonda’s partner and possible boyfriend Isaac Joyner (In Plain Sight’s, Todd Williams), and corrupt local politician Ronin Gibbons, played by veteran supporting player Delroy Lindo.

The main myth arc involves Colvin and Jarek trying to take Gibbons down. Unlike Blue Bloods, which we covered early on in the Geek Heaven podcast’s life, this myth arc doesn’t bog down the show, but instead enhances it. Gibbons’ ties to the Irish mob are what compels Billy Lush’s character to even exist. The arc plays out like a cat-and-mouse game between the two adversaries, but it’s far more complicated than that, since Gibbons is A: influential enough to ingratiate himself with the police, and B: damn smart. These things together make him an incredibly tough opponent, and played far more realistically than many series in the same vein.

Much like The Shield, the day-by-day cases go on along with the myth arc are intelligent, but not so much as to confuse the audience. The narrative is very fast-paced, rarely letting the audience catch their breath, a technique that has worked well for Fox’s prior hit in that same timeslot, 24. The cases flow back and forth with the myth arc easily.

The actors are generally solid, though Jason Clarke has a tendency to be a bit over the top, and Jennifer Beals’ accent – Chicago Native or not – is not very clean. Delroy Lindo honestly only seems to have one kind of character he can really play with good guy and bad guy variations therein, but he’s in his element here. There is a wide and varied recurring cast, which like all casts runs the gamut between talented and, well, not. On the down side, Billy Lush seems miscast, as he doesn’t have the necessary gravitas for what is basically Leonardo DiCaprio’s role in The Departed. Lush’s emotionlessness made him ideal for the sociopathic Cpl. Trombley on Generation Kill. It does not, however, make him ideal for the more conflicted role he plays here.

One of the gimmicks of the show – one that miraculously works well, I might add – is the use of Flashbacks. Unlike Lost, the Flashbacks on The Chicago Code are fast-paced and are accompanied by narration, explaining a bit about the characters’ motivations. It’s a useful tool, and doesn’t take too much time. It also managed to increase the shock value in the pilot, where Colvin’s driver and bodyguard (and protégé Antonio) had his Flashback and narration interrupted by being shot to death. It was a jarring and emotional scene, and again, much like The Shield, Shawn Ryan tricked us into believing that the doomed Antonio was going to be made a main character.

The whole series is shot on location in Chicago. The Dark Knight really paved the way for productions to move to Illinois. With Los Angeles and New York both losing productions left and right due to the recent economic problems, anything that keeps film and TV productions in America is a good thing. The cinematography does a very good job of capturing the essence of Chicago, but certainly with more flair than The Wire did for Baltimore.
Overall, this is a very strong show, but there’s one thing that keeps me from believing that it will live beyond a single season: The presence of the Killer of Shows himself, co-executive producer Tim Minear. Joss Whedon’s old crony has managed to get every single new show he’s been on cancelled, one for one, most recently F/X’s Terriers starring Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James, a subtle, engaging, and often funny show. This man needs to get away from television before he kills everything good about it. The worst part is, Minear is not even a bad producer or storyteller, but I am personally convinced that he is the single unluckiest man in show business today.

The Chicago Code airs Mondays at 9 PM EST on Fox.

TV Season in a Nutshell

The series that started it all! Joseph's first video, and without this, Geek Heaven would not exist.

This episode, Supernatural season 3.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Context Helps, Episode 2

In this episode, Joseph thinks Debbie should see a doctor on True Blood.

Context Helps, Episode 1

A new series from Joseph! Context? Who needs context. We have humor!

In this episode, Power Rangers Mystic Force