Godzilla is a part of huge part of Japanese pop-culture and it has permeated here, into the West with varying degrees of success. As part of the annual harvest festival in the Japanese town of Chikuzen, a giant hay effigy was create to the beast in 2016. A dedicated, and slightly eccentric team, spent over four months building the main frame of the beast whilst over a hundred volunteers completed the project. What makes the creature stand out, however, is the glowing red LED lights- an homage to Hideki Anno’s Shin Godzilla from 2016.
Iconic Icelandic singer, Bjork, has been making music for over 30 years, and in that time has collaborated with some of the world’s best filmmakers, visual artists and programmers to push, and sometimes blur, the boundaries of art. A few days ago, Björk brought her 2015 album, Vulnicura, to virtual reality. The songs have been put to immersive VR experiences that take you into her avant-garde world and envelop you fully.
The VR album is available on Steam for many VR headsets and while I have not purchased it yet, it does look an intriguing prospect. I engaged with some of these VR experiences when I went to the Bjork Exhibition three years ago and was incredibly impressed with what I saw. Here is what I said at the time:
Stonemilker places you in the 360 degree landscape of Grótta beach in Iceland. Bjork sings the song and during the course of the video multiplies, at one time there are three Bjork's singing! The detail is impressive and even though the technology showcased is quite old the effect is wonderful as you feel very close to Bjork physically as she sings and sashays to her lyrics and music. This is the closest most of us will ever get to the pioneering musician.
Mouth Mantra is a VR video again and has the same technical set-up as for Stonemilker but is a very different experience, placing you inside Bjork’s mouth. The VR video shows very white teeth, no fillings and lots of tonsil and tongue... I was fine watching this but I can imagine some people really struggling with this.
This VR experience was the highlight of the exhibition for me. Using a real-time graphics engine the image of a glowing orange mask with decorative lines sings, as the song progresses a body starts to emerge and starts to shoot out neon sparks. It reminded me of the patterns found in a Cave bullet hell shoot'em up video game mixed with the visuals of the video game Rez and the entrancing quality of a Sharon Apple concert from Macross Plus. This VR experience shows the potential this medium can have, the music dynamically changing as you moved. This experience really immersed me and I can see the possibilities of VR concerts.
This re-release of Vulnicura has all seven tracks with full VR visuals including:
Black Lake, and
At £15, this is not an impulse purchase but then again, if you’re a Bjork fan or want to see where VR could go next with its use in music videos it would be ideal. Check it out if you can as it seems like Bjork is pushing boundaries again.
I have a deep love for the Moomins as many of you may know. I've discussed the Moomins multiple times before, either when talking about the 80s stop motion animation, the exhibition at the Southbank Centre or even when reviewing the new Moominvalley series.
The Moomins are beloved characters created by the Finnish artist and storyteller, Tove Jansson. I am a huge fan of the creatures and with the recent release of the Moominvalley series, the Official Moomin YouTube page has launched with behind the scenes interviews with casts, creatives and other people involved in the production of the wonderful series.
However, the real jewel in the crown for this channel is that it is slowly releasing episodes of the wildly popular Adventures From Moominvalley animation from the 90s. It was this series, more than any previous one, that brought the Moomins worldwide fame. Check it out as at the time of writing the first 3 episodes are available to watch in high quality.
The Streets of Rage series has a series of amazing soundtracks. The soundtracks, by Yuzo Koshiro and Motohiro Kawashima, were totally different to anything heard in video games; it was a time of trance and dance, when The Orb, The Prodigy and Orbital were getting into the charts. This soundtracks stood out among their contemporaries as they were not the usual bleeps and bloops of video games at the time... It spoke to many youths at the time, it was zeitgeisty and hearing the music even now sends me back to the 90s dance and trance scene.
So, with the announced release of Streets of Rage 4 I and many others were eagerly awaiting to hear who the composers were, and I am pleased to hear that the original composers are back but are now joined by a dream team of video game composers including Yoko Shimomura (Streets Fighter 2, Parasite Eve) and Hideki Naganuma (Jet Set Radio). This game is going to be a day one release for me based on the soundtrack alone.
It is with great sadness that news of actor Rutger Hauer’s death has reached us. In his time he has been a prolific actor, starring in over 70 films and many more television roles. He always starred in interesting roles but his most iconic, undoubtably, was as Replicant Roy Batty in the legendary Blade Runner. He delivered a tour-de-force perfomrnace and created one of the most iconic scenes and oft-quotes monologues in film history. Farewell you wonderful man!
Stranger Things has an awesome soundtrack that reminds me of that electronic 80s synth sound. Composers Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein are performing the soundtrack live at the Royal Festival Hall, London on 7th August. I'm gutted I can't be there but thought I'd spread the word. If you want to buy tickets the link is below the picture. Enjoy!
Street Fighter has been a phenomenon ever since Street Fighter II blew away the arcades in 1991. Since then it has grown into an incredibly popular franchise with a vibrant fighting community and international tournaments with prize money in the tens of thousands. The Art of Street Fighting is a Redbulll documentary that looks into the fight scene in Street Fighter V. In the words of Redbull:
Go inside the lives of the top Street Fighter V players as they prepare for the biggest fight of their lives. The stories of Xiao Hai, Daigo, Gamerbee, Tokido and Luffy show what it takes to make it to the hallowed grounds of Red Bull Kumite.
Anima is the latest solo album from Thom Yorke, the lead singer and writer of Radiohead. I've heard the album and like it just fine, not being the biggest Yorke fan, but the accompanying 15 minute one reel short film accompanying the release is a revelation as it feels like an interpretive dance art installation piece.
The whole 3 act performance features the tracks Not the News, Traffic and Dawn Chorus and is a marvel with beautiful choreography by Damien Jalet, who also created the dance pieces (the best bits in my opinion) of the recent Suspiria film, cinematography by Darius Khondji (who shot Suspiria) and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, who should need very little introduction.
In the film, Thom Yorke dances and cuts shapes through a dystopic looking London, full of automoton like people seeming to fall asleep but doing about about their daily grind in their somnanbulist state. He sees another passenger on the train, but she leaves a bag on the train when it reaches a platform and he goes on a Buster Keaton-esque journey to return it to her.
Along the way he battles though weird geometry, high walls and people blocking his way. There are homages to various silent films here in my opinion.
The section where sleepwalking people are crawling along the angled floor in time reminded me of a scene from Fritz Lang's masterpiece Metropolis, where everyone works together in jarring motions to get the capitalist machine to work, its scary yet also strangely thrilling. In the final part, Yorke meets the lady he has been chasing and they dance together, holding each other together through herky-jerky movements before becoming more affectionate and intimate, this reminded me of capoeira.
The 3 part act can be interpreted in many ways but I think it represents our lives, the mundane, the frustrating and then those magical moments when we meet someone, only to wake up but with that glow of the memory.
Not many artists are as pioneering as Radiohead or Thom Yorke about the way they distribute and promote their music without seeming like sellouts or it seeming cynical or gimmicky. Whilst not the biggest Radiohead or Yorke fan, I do appreciate what they do and this new short film feels quite special; it reminds me of the world exclusive music video releases which had the world sitting in front of the telly as you weren't sure if and when you'd ever see it again, it feels like an event and in this day and age of streaming 24 media that's an astonishing thing.
The internet is a weird and wonderful place. Often it is the bastion of cult series and fan favourites and so it is with Twin Peaks, which, even though it only ran for two seasons over 25 years ago, has had a long tail… mainly due to online fandom. So much so, that it led to the 2017 revival Twin Peaks: The Return.
Some beautiful mad man or woman has recreated the entire introduction of Twin Peaks in paper. It’s a joy to see and is sure to please the soul!
Dove and Cartoon Network are working together on the Dove Self-esteem project, one that asks people to live their best lives but not always sell the 'I’m living my best life’ through filtered and posed content. It’s a good message as social media isn't bad, it can be positive but it can consume people and make them worry to much about how they look, what they are putting out there etc. The message conveyed is to just be yourself and social media can be a great way to stay connected and present yourself in the world, just don't forget to put the phone away now and then and talk to people. I see it too much at school, work, parks and pretty much everywhere. It would be great to see more people challenge themselves to be more present and not become isolated by the very means which are supposed to keep us connected.
Costume Quest is the animated show based on the popular indie games from 2010 and 2014. It has taken many years to get the animated treatment but boy is it a treat.
The story concerns four children; Wren, the strong headed girl, Reynold, her nervous and scared-cat twin, Everett, the confident young boy, and Lucy, the shy, quiet girl, who battle against the dark forces of the nougat eating monsters that lurk in their sleepy village of Auburn Pines. To help them in their quest they use a variety of magical costumes that have transformative powers.
This set up is quite neat and each episode revolves around the group using different costumes to overcome obstacles and develop as friends.
Even though it seems to be set in modern times with mobile phones, the Internet and meme references, the whole show is bathed in the glow of 80s nostalgia. The humour is gentle and sweet and the purposely 'Charlie Brown'-esque voice work lend it that lovable naiveté that endears those jankily voiced animated short to our hearts, and so it is with this. The young voice cast is strong and deliver their lines with suitable characterisation and emotion.
The art style remains true to the game and the colour pallete is all browns, orange, dark reds and dusky colours, which gives the show a feeling of warmth which is strangely comforting.
The music is slow jazz and quite folksy sounding, which kind of reminds me of Over The Garden Wall, which is not a bad thing at all!
So far, only 7 episodes have been released and with each being about 25 minutes long, with more promised at Halloween. Whilst it is a short, breezy watch don't think of it as a silly kids show, as although it is primarily aimed at children at 4-11 years of age, the story does develop and there are moments where characters go through personal growth.
The whole show is a wonderful throwback to some of the cartoons of my youth and whilst not exceptional, the show is definitely worth a watch!
Netflix is now streaming the Neon Genesis Evangelion series as well as three of the movies, The End of Evangelion and Death (true) 2. The Japanese vocal track remains but the English voice cast has been redubbed and the ending these song, 'Fly Me To the Moon' by either Claire Little or Yoko Takahashi has been replaced with a piano instrumental instead of an original Evangelion composition instead.
Despite all this Evangelion remains a high watermark and its influence on manga and anime cannot be overstated. A whole cottage industry popped up after it hit the big time and it had a long tail. If you haven't seen it, you really do need to as it is one of the most interesting exciting and introspective anime of all time. For fans of the show, you know the drill... Watch it, fixate on the various threads and research the key terms and concepts, contemplate the meaning of existence... then watch a YouTube video of someone explaining what was actually happening! This is huge as I remember spending hours in the library looking up the Dead Sea Scrolls, Lilith, Angels, Sephiroth Tree of Life and Robert Browning quotes. Now with YouTube, someone has done all the hard work so it won’t be such a mind-scramble! Anyways, it’s streaming online now so enjoy!
I am super excited that the Nintendo Direct today announced that they would be releasing Panzer Dragoon on the Nintendo Switch this winter. I’ve only played Panzer Dragoon Orta on the OG XBox but loved it. I have the Panzer Dragoon soundtrack as I heard it years ago on YouTube whilst marking books and bought the vinyl when it was released by DataDiscs a couple of years ago. I can’t wait to finally play the game!
In the words of Nintendo:
A new, remade version of the Panzer Dragoon game – true to the original, with improved graphics and controls, that suit modern gaming standards! On a far, lone planet, you encounter two dragons awaken from the ancient times. Armed with a deadly gun from the past, and the guidance of your armored blue dragon, you must fulfill your destiny and keep the Prototype Dragon from reaching the Tower or die trying. Panzer Dragon: Remake comes to Nintendo Switch this Winter!
With Game of Thrones ending soon it seems like HBO is really chucking money at shows to get its next big hit. A couple of weeks ago we got the Watchmen trailer and earlier today they released the His Dark Materials one. I’m a huge fan of the trilogy and have been for many years. In fact, way back in 2013, when I was creating an influence map the series featured quite prominently.
I look forward to seeing the show and hope it keeps more in line with the book series, blasphemy and all.
Watchmen is one of the most important graphic novels of all time and whilst the 2009 film adaptation did an okay job of transferring the complex comic to the screen, it didn’t quite succeed in my opinion. Now HBO is having another bite of the Watchmen cherry with an all-star cast series adaptation. The trailer had me intrigued and I’m sure Alan Moore vitriolic. Well, we’ll soon find out if it’s any good but considering HBO’s impressive output, I wouldn’t count against it.
With the Avengers: Endgame in sight, Marvel is in full hype mode. On the Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon the cast sang along to Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire”. Need I say any more? Check it out!
Yuzo Koshiro, the composer behind the Streets of Rage games, was a pioneer when bringing the sounds of the clubs into games. The Streets of Rage soundtracks are amongst the most highly regarded of the 16-bit era and rightly so. Whilst The Orb, The Prodigy and Orbital were getting into the charts, Koshiro was applying the music styling of the genre into his soundtracks.
In an interview for Red Bull Music Academy, Koshiro discussed the early days of his career, how he and Motohiro Kawashima sought inspiration in nightclubs for Streets of Rage and why he never let limitations stop him from pushing forward. At nearly an hour and an half it’s an informative and interesting in-depth discussion about a very singular creator.
The new trailer for She-Ra and the Princesses of Power season 2 has just dropped and I am excited. The first series was solid in my opinion and, even though it faced some backlash from some quarters, I’m pleased it is getting a second series. The release date is 26th April and I look forward to watching it and writing a review! For those who are curious, I reviewed the first series so check out the link.
The Xbox One has not had the greatest of times this generation but one of its shining lights has been Cuphead, the old animation styled rock hard run and gun game. Well, I’m beyond excited to see the game has been announced for release on the Nintendo Switch on 18th April 2019. I’m definitely buying it and can’t wait to play it! For fans of old Fleischer and Disney animation this is a must.
Public Information Films were government funded mini movies which tackled the myriad of issues facing society over the time. The British government were true masters at creating small horror films that warned of imminent danger and scared the bejesus out of children, sitting in the hall with a rolled out tv/ video combo. Check out the BBC video that looks back kinda fondly, if that’s the term to use, at the films that informed and petrified us in equal measure.