Friday, July 28, 2023

Alternate History - Revisiting Personal Cinematic Landscape

I’ve always preferred alternate history movies to the more strictly historical ones. With historical films, we know how it ends. Some movies use it to their advantage, like Titanic (1997). The entire audience is aware that the ship will sink in the end. The movie uses that knowledge to make everything seem a little more intense. Everything feels like a necessary moment because those moments will end. I find most historical flicks don’t do the same thing. As a result, they mostly feel boring to me.
In alternate history films there’s just enough of a tweak to keep you guessing – even when there’s no other genre mixed in.
Surely, no one knew how X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) or Watchmen (2009) would end. Yet both stories, as I mentioned in my original personal cinematic landscape articles, show us the state of our history if we were to drop in superheroes.
I also mentioned Inglourious Basterds and Red Dawn. In the former, we got to see a history that brought Hitler a much swifter death, while Red Dawn turned the cold war hot on our shores. Both gave us a look into well-known areas of our history, but we didn’t have a clue where they were going to end up. It maked them more exciting and, I’ll say it again, I will never tire of watching Hitler and Nazi’s get their comeuppance.
The four films I mentioned in my original article are also four of the most thought of films when someone brings up alternate history. It’s almost expected that they appear as part of my landscape.
Over the years there’s only been one more film that affects how I feel about the alternate history genre, and some people are going to find it a hell of stretch. The movie I need to add to the list is Klaus (2019).

I’m not suggesting that Santa Claus is real. However, his lore is. It’s been passed down across the world, from culture to culture. From Turkey to the Netherlands, his story has been told. Whether he’s a saint or a mythical being, most cultures that celebrate Christmas have their own version of jolly old Saint Nick.
Klaus offers a new take on Santa Claus that portrays it as a kind of history lesson. To the best of my knowledge, it’s a completely new take on the lore, and it’s framed as someone telling us about it.
When it comes to tales told in various cultures, it’s extremely important to who they are as people. The stories told in each area, that are untouched by other cultures and are handed down, are unique. What people in those areas believe and, in some cases, how they act comes from those very stories.
As a result, I would argue that lore is absolutely an important aspect of history.
In this case, Klaus gives us an alternate look at Norwegian lore by telling us the story of a postman that encounters a desolate toymaker in Smeerensburg, which is a town based on a whaling settlement that was located on Svalbard Island. He convinces the man to take on a Santa Claus role, uniting the otherwise warring town.
Klaus has become, by far, my favorite holiday movie. It’s also changed the way I look at alternate history as it pertains to folklore and mythology. With this new view, there are movies I would consider part of the alternate history genre that I never would have considered before. Without it, my viewpoint of the genre would be much narrower.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Black Butler: One Hell of a Series Return

I just ran across some exciting news for anime fans of the series Black Butler (2008-2011). It’s coming back! It’s been a decade since we’ve had new Black Butler content outside of the manga series it was based on. I’m jazzed that this interesting dark fantasy/comedy blend will reach new audiences as well as give long-time fans something new. That’s right. I said new. 
Every source I’ve found regarding this announcement indicates that this will be a continuation of the original series story - not a reboot.

Alas, there’s still a little bit of waiting still involved - but what’s a year or so in comparison to a decade, right? The new Black Butler season has been tentatively slated for 2024 release, but no further details regarding more specific dates have yet been disclosed. 

There are some tidbits of information available, however. So far, we know that Black Butler’s creator and author of the manga series Yana Toboso is on board. She even helped break the news with a tweet while the CrunchyRoll panel at LA’s Anime Expo (July 1-4, 2023) dropped the announcement to fans in attendance.
The new series will have several key players returning for this new production. Hiroyuki Yoshino (Izetta: The Last Witch, Black Butler: Book of the Atlantic, Strike the Blood) was announced as the new head writer. He worked on some of the original series and has written for the OVAs that were released several years after the original seasons ended. Daisuke Ono (JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Attack on Titan, Welcome to Demon-School Iruma-kun) is returning to once more voice the hellaciously excellent butler, Sebastian. Maaya Sakamoto (Kaina of the Great Snow Sea, Trigun Stampede, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba) is also returning to reprise her role as Ciel Phantomhive. 

As of now, I haven’t found any information regarding the cast for any alternate language dubs beyond the original Japanese, but I’m sure it will eventually become available. The series will likely drop with subtitles available with Japanese audio only. 

The new trailer for this eventful announcement doesn’t really tell us much about what will take place during the upcoming new season, but it does give us a peek at the sleek new animation brought to us by the new studio CloverWorks. I appreciated that they seem to be keeping the essence of the original animation style while giving the series a bit more polish. 

Now if you’ve gotten this far and are thinking to yourself, “what in the world is this Black Butler show about?” I can only urge you to take advantage of the time between now and the 2024 release to get caught up! I’ve found a nifty resource here that provides a rundown of the seasons and the order to watch everything that’s come out so far (and where you can find them). Just keep in mind that there might be some spoilers involved in the descriptions so tread carefully if you decide to peruse that article’s list. 

While sites like RottenTomatoes and Metacritic don’t have a listing for the Black Butler series to give you a range of ratings, I can advise that IMDb has this anime listed as a 7.7/10 rating. I’d wholeheartedly agree with that assessment as well. (There’s a live-action Black Butler movie that you can find on those sites, but I haven’t seen it and we all know how dicey live-action adaptations can be. Just keep that in mind.)

I will be eagerly anticipating this new release next year, and I know my 19.9yr old is also fairly chomping at the bit to jump on the upcoming season as well. If you’re already a fan of Black Butler, and are happy about this news, let us know in the comments below who your favorite character is or which was your favorite episode. 

Series Name/Year: Black Butler (2008-2011)

Genre: Animation, Action, Comedy

Length:  24 minutes per episode

Rating: TV-14

Production/Distribution: A-1 Pictures, Aniplex, Mainichi Broadcasting System (MBS), Yomiuri Telecasting Corporation (YTV), FUNimation Entertainment, Sanyo Broadcasting Co., Square Enix Company, CrunchyRoll

Directors: Ian Sinclair, Hirofumi Ogura, Toshiya Shinohara

Writers: Yana Toboso, Mari Okada, Yuka Yamada, Hiroyuki Yoshino, Bonny Clinkenbeard


  • Japanese Language Cast: Daisuke Ono, Maaya Sakamoto, Yukari Tamura, Emiri Kato, Jun Fukuyama, Kôji Yusa

  • English Dub Cast: J. Michael Tatum, Brina Palencia, Gloria Ansell, Michael C. Pizzuto, Monica Rial,  Jerry Jewell, Daniel Fredrick, Cherami Leigh


IMDb Blurb: Ciel Phantomhive takes care of the many unsettling events in Victorian England. Aided by Sebastian Michaelis, his loyal butler with seemingly inhuman abilities. But is there more to this black-clad butler than meets the eye?


In support of the WGA/SAG-AFTRA strike, we want to bring you a slate of content that is a little different than our ordinary review schedule. Our desire is to highlight work that is not affiliated with the AMPTP. If you would like to learn about ways you can show your support for the strike, you can visit the official SAG-AFTRA strike's FAQ.

Monday, July 24, 2023

Adventure - Revisiting Personal Cinematic Landscape

The adventure genre mixes easily with any other genre. There may be tightly choreographed sword fights, terrifying monsters, a heartbreaking romance, far-away worlds, or just about anything else you can think of. It’s one of the most versatile genres out there. The one thing every single piece of media utilizing adventure has in common is that the setting takes on its very own characterization.
It’s less about what’s happening and more about the setting or the destination – the protagonist’s goal.
I originally included The Goonies (1985), Jumanji (1995), and An American Tail (1986) in my cinematic landscape. I also discussed the Lord of the Rings (2001-2003) original trilogy, but that was more of an influence on me from a fantasy stance. I wouldn’t keep that as part of my adventure landscape.
I kept every genre to 4 movies (or less), in the original series of personal cinematic landscape articles, and I didn’t repeat any. Lord of the Rings accidentally slipped by into two genres. It is an adventure, but it’s just more important to me as a fantasy.
There’s really only one film I’d add to the adventure landscape list.

I, for the life of me, have no idea how I failed to put Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993) in my original adventure landscape. It was one of the very first adventure films that I took to.
Just before writing this article, I decided to throw on just the ending of Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey. Even without watching the entire film over again, the tears still welled up in my eyes as Chance came over the hill and ran to his little boy. Then the cat, Sassy. And, as the anticipation drew out and Shadow didn’t immediately show himself – I still ugly cried. I knew what was going to happen. I’ve seen the movie hundreds of times. Yet, Shadow’s delayed return still gets me. It might even get to me more now than it did when I was a kid. At this point in my life, I’ve loved and lost an old dog that would have done anything to get home.
Even as a young girl, though, that ending was something that stuck with me and affected me to my core.
The animals had voiceovers, which was not a very prevalent thing in the 90s. It’s common now, but there were only a couple of films that did it previously and they were critical flops. Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey is the first flick that did it successfully. I watched it within a year or two of its release, and it was completely new to me. I’d never seen a live-action animal with a voice over. The idea blew my mind at the time.
It’s still better than the majority of films using that kind of voice over.
Between the ending being one of the first that inspired an ugly cry from me, and it being among the first that offered voiceovers of live-action animals, Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey left a huge influence on me.