Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Avengers Chronology

 Summer 2011 has come and gone, and with it the final Marvel Studios films left before the 2012 release of The Avengers. This is a historic event for comic book and cinema fans alike, with individual origin stories and character crossovers leading to a big-budget amalgamated event.

However, while there have been several films released so far, along with a couple viral shorts, the events of their stories revealed to not have been released in order of their actual occurrence withing the movie timeline. Here, I will attempt to straighten the chronology out and put the films in their proper viewing order, should any of the fans want to have a marathon in preparation for The Avengers, or simply want to make sure they're caught up before next summer.

Ordered by U.S. Theatrical Release Date
5/2/08 - Iron Man
6/13/08 - The Incredible Hulk
5/7/10 - Iron Man 2
5/6/11 - Thor
7/22/11 - Captain America: The First Avenger
5/4/12 - The Avengers

Ordered by Chronological Events
1) Captain America: The First Avenger
2) Hulk
3) Iron Man
4) The Incredible Hulk
5) The Consultant
6) A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to Thor's Hammer
7) Thor
8) Iron Man 2

And before you object, allow me to clarify a few things.
First, the inclusion of Ang Lee's Hulk. This film came out in 2003 to box office success but critical failure. This simply wasn't the Hulk movie most people wanted, with a focus more on personal relationships and back-story and less on action (which I found to be a weird critique, given just how much action is in this film). However, while The Incredible Hulk did boast itself as a reboot and tied in to The Avengers, aside from a few brief rewrites of Hulk's origin, it basically picks up right where Hulk left off. If one wishes to get a better grip on the main characters of Hulk/Bruce Banner, his girlfriend Betty and her father General Ross, then I do recommend Hulk as a supplement to the Marvel Studios releases. Then again, I actually like this movie where many do not. Secondly, this is an approximation of the placement for the Agent Coulson shorts. Those actually would take place within the events of The Incredible Hulk and Thor, which brings me to my next point: Overlap.
The chronological list is nice for if you feel like throwing your DVDs or Blu-Rays and watching the films, but in an ideal world when I had time and capability to edit BluRay rips, I'd love to see the Avengers saga edited together into one, long chronological story.
If I were to do such a project, I think it'd play out something like this:

Captain America: The First Avenger
---starting with WWII era scenes, stop before modern day
Iron Man
--re-edited so opening flashback happens at the proper point in the film.
---stop before the scene of people trying to remove Mjolnir from the ground.
Iron Man 2
---stop after Agent Coulson leaves to go on a trip.
The Incredible Hulk
---stop after the 'blood falls into the bottle' scene
A Funny Thing Happened on the way to Thor's Hammer
The Incredible Hulk
---stop after Hulk's first encounter with soldiers Thor
---remaining scenes
The Incredible Hulk
---stop before Bruce/Betty get to NYC
Iron Man 2
---remaining scenes
The Incredible Hulk
---remaining scenes
Captain America: The First Avenger
---first scene (flashback), followed by Steve waking up in modern world.

Now, the Captain America final scene of him waking up in the modern world could play at the end of this series as well as maintaining it's place at the end of his film. That's a matter of preference, but I like the idea of having it as a bookend of this entire mess.

This is also a very basic cut. If I were truly to make this edit, I'd try to splice between the films wherever possible so we start to get a flow of jumping back and forth between various characters in their films. Given the passage of time in Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, these two are probably happening at around the same time. Iron Man 2 and Thor are definitely taking place during the same span of time, along with the Coulson shorts, so lots of intercutting would be required.

Anyway, I hope this has been an entertaining read and if you feel I've missed something or somehow got the order wrong, this is definitely open for debate!

Avengers Assemble!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Director: Michael Bay Starring: Shia LeBeouf, Rosie Hunington-Whiteley, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, John Turturro Co-Starring: Frances McDormand, Patrick Dempsey, Alan Tudyk
Main Voices: Peter Cullen, Leonard Nimoy, Frank Welker, Hugo Weaving Watch for: Star Trek references.
Editor: James Haygood Would I Buy It: Blu-Ray, for sure. "How come the Decepticons always get the good shit?" I'm fighting an uphill battle with this one. Just call me OPTIMIST PRIME: THE MOVIE DEFENDER. The problem with Transformers 3 is that nobody, not a single fanboy, forgets Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. It's name is spoken with the same instant negativity as a new Nickelback album. The problem with TF3 is that there's a smear campaign on this film before it even hit it's release date. However, as I never, ever read a review on a movie I've been waiting to see before I go see it (unlike much of the internet-going populous who seems to think knowing if they're going to like it in advance is life/death), I got to watch this and have my fanboy mind thoroughly blown. Afterwards, I read some of the reviews and boy, am I glad I didn't. They're so busy hating on the film, they don't even realize just how many spoilers and plot twists they give away. At the good ol' Spenceley Spoileriffic, you should know that walking in the door, I've got the light on and the windows wide open. All spoilers are fair game. MSNBC? Shame on you. It wasn't cool when Rosie O'Donnell did it to Fight Club, it's not cool now. I don't care how much you hated something, don't ruin it for the people who want to see it. It's just manners. Now. The movie. Which rocked my emotional world. The main story is based off of a 3-episode arc of the original Transformers cartoon (known as G1 by the fans) entitled "The Ultimate Doom". This is the first of the series that goes beyond pulling elements from the series and in fact directly uses a plot, which it gets mad praise for from me. I actually discovered this quite by accident, as I'm a casual fan of the show. In preparation for the movie, i had been watching my G1 discs and it just so happened that the evening after I saw the movie, the next episode was "The Ultimate Doom". I about jumped up in my seat when I made the connection. The major addition to the movie plot is the betrayal of Sentinel Prime, a character with whom I am not familiar of in more than name. According to a TF-loving friend of mine, he was the Prime leader before Optimus, but that was about all there was to it. He never resurfaces and he never goes "evil", however this element of the story was one of the most shocking and interesting plots for me. I was caught totally by surprise. I was convinced Sentinel was pure Autobot, but I jumped out of my seat with everyone else when he shot Ironhide in the back. This wasn't a surprise to me that Ironhide died, I kind of called that before the movie came out. Given how he was "built up" (given more screentime if not character development) in RotF, my movie guy instincts told me that he'd be the one to kill when things got serious. And they did. And they got a lot more serious than I thought they would. It seems that Dark of the Moon best defines what Michael Bay has been trying to do all along, which is show that we are bystanders, nearly helpless victims of the 'natural disaster' that is the Transformers coming to our planet. Traditionally, you don't tend to get a lot of back story when the aliens invade. However, seeing as how in this film, we have 'good guy aliens' helping out, the expectation seems to be that the inward focus should be on the robot characters, we should have fully fleshed histories and know both who they are and where they've come from. Bollocks, I say. That's the fanboy talking. Off the top of my head, District 9, Independence Day, War of the Worlds and the entirety of the Alien/Predator franchises give barely a glimpse into the origins of their alien visitors. The only thing we need to know is that they're scary and they're here to kill us. As far as the Decepticons go, I'd say they've got that down. As a fan and filmmaker, I can't speak for Joe Moviegoer, who may have difficulty keeping track of which robot is which, but with the voicework and mannerisms of the main robot cast, I understand everything I need to about these characters in order for the movie to work. It may not be the robot-centered film the diehards wanted, but that's my main problem with raging fanboyism, is that they feel their own notion of what the movie should be defines exactly what the movie should be. Rather than sitting back in the chair and allowing the director to tell his version of the story, the dig their heels into the past and refuse to let go. Generally speaking, anyway. That's the impression that I get. Anyway, the twist is revealed, the Earth is invaded, the main characters are "killed off". Tell me, did anyone actually buy that? That's twice, Optimus. It ain't gonna work a third. The main thing that bothered me about that sequence is that as giant as the explosion was, it was caused by Starscream taking a pot-shot at them. Sure, you're probably supposed to feel disgusted and think "You cheap-ass no-good villains!", but aside from the characters in the movie and lil' kids who don't know better, I wonder who this scene actually fooled. I've seen complaints about the logic here in various message boards, stating "So, basically Optimus & Co. faked their deaths and hid out while the Decepticons killed hundreds/thousands of people? What a dick." From Optimus' character's standpoint, I understand this move. I wish I had a better idea as a writer for how they could've handled this, since the comic book death thing is quickly getting tiresome in this series, but when the bad guys say "Get off the planet or we're gonna kill people", making them think you're off the planet (or dead) is a pretty good offensive strategy. It makes them let their guard down. Sure, people are going to die, but how many more people would have if the Autobots had just run in, guns blazing and been torn down before they know exactly what they were up against? You have to pick your battles. That being said, when they came back, boy did they come back. I'm not sure if the fact that it's a robot makes it okay, but I laughed pretty hard at the Wreckers tearing the fight pilot bot to pieces. "This is going to hurt". It got me hero-loving, take-THAT-you-fiend! juices flowing in the best of ways. Every Decepticon death from this point on earned some sort of exclamation from me. I was quite impressed with just how brutal this PG-13 adventure got. The absolute most brutal death was that of Starscream, everyone's favorite power-hungry, evil fighter jet. As Sam was flung about during Starscream's pain-induced fit, I couldn't help but be reminded of the eye removal scene in Kill Bill 2. The friend I saw it with was upset because it was a "stupid death for Starscream", but when I saw it, I couldn't help but think of it as a great moment for Sam. He killed a 'leader-class' bot on his own. That's substantial. Plus, Starscream was a little bitch anyway and deserved to go out like a little bitch, just like his quick death in the animated movie. My friend was also upset with how they killed Soundwave, calling it, similarly, a "terrible death for that character". I think he's thinking of Soundwave, the autotune-bot from the show, of whom I have no knowledge of his fate, but deserved something grand. Movie Soundwave had a bit part and died of the way a secondary villain dies in any given action movie. That worked fine for me. No one really understands how the group of Autobots ended up in a captive situation considering all of their limbs are made of projectile weapons, but that's a fairly standard movie thing (that I recall Austin Powers making fun of), so I'm willing to just let it slide. Optimus' kill-them-all rampage was quick, well, explosive. Michael Bay got himself in trouble with this one, by comparing it to the infamous one-shot from "Old Boy", said by many to be the greatest and most realistic fight scene of all time. So, when Michael Bay described this shot we got a 'mere glimpse' of in the trailers, I assumed it was going to be just like Old Boy, from the side, panning along. However, I'd say this is more like a Snyder "300" shot, time ramping and shifting in focal view. Most of what we see in the trailer is what we get in this scene, aside from the finale of punching a fairly large piece out of Shockwave and using his own cannon to bring down the primary pillar. Shockwave. The marketing made him out to be a bigger deal than he actually was in this movie. Perhaps it was to draw attention away from the fact that the main villain would be this new Autobot fire truck dude, but more likely it was just to get the fanboys excited and sell a few more action figures. He looked cool, though. I'd probably be happier with him if I hadn't seen all the marketing materials. They really didn't make him have much purpose though, aside from telling the worm-creature what to devour next. The human aspect of the action was one of the really surprising factors here. The V-22 and wingsuit shots from the trailers, I actually did think that was just about all we were going to get. The wingsuit sequence is one of my favorite scenes from this movie. Not only is a lot (most?) of it practically filmed, but the depth of these shots was amazing for the 3D version. I particularly love the thread-the-needle with the one soldier waving his arms frantically, fearing he's going to snag himself on some debris as they shoot through the building. It was a very exciting scene that you just wouldn't have gotten in this movie from anyone but Bay. Part of me likes to think Bay saw the other Hasbro property film, GI Joe, and thought "No, guys. THIS is how you do a military movie". Food for thought, Duke. The building collapse was amazing. If you saw it, you know. I needn't go into it. My other favorite action bit was the Prime v. Prime fight at the end. It seemed that they finally got the scale right for shooting a Transformer fight. Whereas in the first two films, many of the battles were shot low and close from the "human perspective", Optimus & Sentinel's fight felt more like a proper "movie perspective", where we were able to clearly see the fight choreography. The shot after Optimus is knocked away and all the smaller Autobots are attacking Sentinal simultaneously completely rocks my socks. Bumblebee attacks low, turns to car-mode to avoid being hit and re-transforms and opens fire again while simultaneously Sideswipe attacks from above, being carried over and away from Sentinel by the raised shield, while other bots I didn't have the capacity to pay attention to are also attacking as well. Excellent shot. My only major change to this film would be to remove the parents' scenes entirely. They do crack me up, but in this movie they do nothing but slow the first half down by basically nagging to Sam about things we already know. It's such a random, needless appearance that you could cut at the shots right before they show up each time, connect the bookending shots on either side and the movie still flows just fine. Shia's interview with Malkovich could be the only one and the movie would be okay. We don't need to see the job hunt, or them driving him around to it. Sorry, parents. You're great, but you're just making the whole thing too busy, just like last time. Anyway, I could go on and on, but to summarize, the human plot gets us through the movie, I liked the new girl fine, the robots looked absolutely amazing, in graphics and in 3D and the almost-too-dramatic style of the cinematography really does it's best to show them off as much as possible. This movie was a whole lot of fun. Fanboy note: Megatron's wideshot for his first transformation is fuckin' beautiful. I also love that each of the main transformers are given a transforming glory shot, usually before their last scene. And Bumblebee, the final transformation of the trilogy, does exactly what the first of the trilogy does: it includes the original G1 sound effect. Perfect.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Tron: Legacy

Director: Joseph Kosinski Starring: Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Jeff Bridges Co-Starring: Anis Cheurfa, Bruce Boxleitner Watch for: Cillian Murphy, Daft Punk Editor: James Haygood Would I Buy It: Blu-Ray, for sure. Greetings, Programs. Explaining how I feel about Tron has been a difficult task. You could call it "pretty", you could call it "cool", "eye-catching", "heavily-contrasted", any number of things. I've never had this much trouble describing why I like something as much as I do. It's just... cool. Warriors on the mesa fighting battles with high tech boomerangs, chasing each other on fold-up motorcycles, flying through floating mountains... it's just cool. Though, let's start with this. One thing I don't understand about Tron are the rules of the world. They did a few things different in Legacy from the original film that I'm not quite sure I understand the thinking behind. In 1982's TRON, I always imagined that the Programs were made of light. The way they were glowing, how they interacted with things, it just seemed like they were a core of light contained by clothing. In Legacy, they are depicted more as physical bodies that wear lightstrips on their clothing as a fashion statement. Is it more like the Matrix, and they are merely a simulation that merely perceive everything as we see it as someone would a 3D room on their computer, or are these physical beings of a minute scale trapped between high-speed electrons? This is why I felt a little cheated with how they handled the laser in this movie. Sam (and the entire room) gets a nice digitizing filter thrown on the shot and BOOM, he's in the Grid. That felt a little cheap compared to the bit-by-bit scanning of Flynn in the original. Granted, newer times, faster technology, but to someone with a passive understanding of visual effects, that seems like cheating. Also, the ending with Quorra leaves a little to be desired. First of all, if she is just information in a computer, bits of code saved on the magnetic disc of a hard drive, how is it the laser is able to convert her into a physical form of flesh and blood? Does the laser work like a 3D printer? Perhaps more like the machine that rebuilds Leeloo in The Fifth Element? Also, did she have her clothes like Sam was given his original outfit back, or did she land crouched and naked like one of the Terminators? The movie takes it's premise lightly, brushing the finer details under the rug, hoping the visuals and details of the story will be enough to keep people from thinking about it too hard. That being said, this movie is freakin' COOL. It maintains the basic structure of the original in a poetic form that would make George Lucas and Bryan Singer nod with approval. Our main character, Sam, accidentally gets zapped into the Grid and before he has little more than a basic understanding of what has happened, he's thrown into a barrage of techno-gladiator matches where he must fight for his life (and some more plot development). Soon after, there's some light plot development, defining the mission and planning what our characters must do, which leads them to a Program that can help them find their way (though Castor turns out to be a bit less loyal than Dumont), which then leads us to a solar-sailor journey and the final action sequence. Legacy takes the basic concepts of the first film, glow-frisbee combat and wall-building lightcycles, and refreshes them with an exciting, gravity-defying and acrobatic flare. There is not a single, action-movie-going male who didn't watch Rinzler and open his eyes a bit wider as he unnecessarily flipped over an incoming disc before landing and ducking to dodge it on it's way back. The action was well-shot, well-choreographed, and while each set it brief, you definitely come away feeling like you've seen something you've never seen before. The lightcycle match is fast-paced, suspenseful and just brutal enough that the audience will cringe at each death, but Disney will still let the film be released under their name. I did rather enjoy the "We've gotta work together" segment. It can be likened to Tron and Ram playfully messing with the red programs (in blue bikes?) in the original film, but there was something about the teamwork aspect that tugged on my heartstrings when we had to watch Sam's new/only friend be crushed by the relentless Clu. Oh, Clu. He was probably the biggest triumph and failure of this film. Of all the special effects in this movie, there were two that pulled me back to reality. The first is the Tron arcade game Sam finds with internet flash-game graphics in a 1980's machine, the second is Clu. Well, before that even, digitally de-aged Flynn talking to young Sam. For a minute, my over-thinking brain thought that maybe the reason he looked digital in that shot was going to be some "Clu was acting as Sam's father in Flynn's absence!"... but no. That's just silly fanboy crap. The young Flynn work was very good. In a lot of shots, he does look very, very lifelike. However, the uncanny valley is working against them. The most noticeable thing had to be mouth movement. It's as though his lips were pressed up against a pane of glass as he spoke. The big climactic moment with Clu getting sucked back into Flynn, yelling as he does so... that flat, semi-open scream just completely yanked me out of it. I wish the production had had more time/money/staff/whatever they needed to get Clu to look better. I feel like they could have. Tron, the character, was the briefest and coolest of any. "Flynn, GO!" echoed in my ears for days after my first viewing. The picking up of the red identity disc was a tad fanfilm/hero goes to the Dark Side for my taste, as we really don't get an explanation of what exactly happens to Tron between that scene and his fight with Sam. It is assumed he is run through the rectifier like so many programs, but obviously he's so different from Clu's legion of troops that there's something else going on here. Perhaps we'll get more on that in a sequel. Sam himself was a solid lead. He's a typical fatherless hero as far as movies go and he really is more of a visual presence than anything esoteric, but as a hero walking us through the story, he works well enough. Quorra is a bit different than I imagined. She's a bit more wide-eyed and naive, though in a way that makes her seem curious more than unintelligent. She obviously knows much about her world and how to survive in it, as the strong female lead should, but Wilde plays her in such a way that she seems very fragile also. Now that I'm thinking about it, Flynn also had something that took me out of the moment. "Man." I don't want to say that Flynn is a hippie, but he's definitely gone down some sort of techno-spiritual path in his 20 years (or however many it's been in Grid-time) that he was missing. A few moments he felt more like the man trying to be a savior to his people rather than the one who actually was. This might be unusual turf for Bridges to be playing on, but the role felt like something between 1982 Kevin Flynn and Jeffrey Lebowski, with touches of Gandalf for flare (Seriously, the sequence of him reabsorbing Clu? Total Gandalf). Just certain moments (mostly in action scenes) it felt like he didn't know quite how to carry himself, but for the moments he did nail, he nailed them hard. Beyond that, the world looked great. The glossy, CG-esque nature of the ship and world designs worked in their favor to help the digital sets, props and costumes feel natural against their practical counterparts. There were so many shots with different levels of integration that my CG detector shut off early on and I was able to sit back and just take in all the visuals without over-analyzing every frame. Also, the score from notable artists Daft Punk refuses to fade into the background, leaving a very distinct and memorable impression to accompany the nonstop visual feast. Overall, Tron: Legacy didn't have the strongest story of all the films released this summer, but it certainly is high on the list for the amount of heart behind it. It's a welcome continuation of a film that now finds itself in a budding franchise few hardcore fans, such as myself, ever expected to see. There is talk already of a trilogy set after the two films, as well as a TV series, not to mention the Tron: Evolution game (which I kick ASS at, btw. Seriously, find me on the Game Grid and you will see) and various types of merchandise. I think it's safe to say that we won't have to wait another 20 years for the sequel. End of line.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Spider-Man 4: No More

I'm very grumpy. I just read that they've decided to not only postpone Spider-Man 4 until 2012, but it's not going to be Spidey4. They're rebooting the whole frakkin' franchise. I'm trying to maintain a positive mind about this, but I'm pretty annoyed by it. I'm a geek, I'm a geek by nature and I geek out about many things. I have a freshly opened pair of Avatar action figures sitting on my desk upstairs, there's a Power Ranger sitting right above my monitor, guarding the three Star Fleet officers from the new Star Trek movie. There's a lot more stuff like this all over my house that goes even further back, I'm just trying to put my modern state of geekdom into perspective. However, when all's said and done, it always comes back to Spider-Man. I loved the movies, I read his titles more than any other comic book (despite taking a break when they did this "Brand New Day" crap). I even thoroughly enjoyed the Clone Saga, which is roughly when I started reading comic books consistently. So when they take a running storyline, be it comic or movie, and completely defenestrate it, I'm bound to be thrown for a loop. As are the many other die-hards out there just like me. I'm trying to think of the good things that will come of this, but just for fun, let's start with the bad: 1) The characters/actors we've come to know and love will be completely replaced. -They won't carry the same weight with us. The new Parker/MJ/Aunt May/etc. will be taking a giant leap back in time. We've moved forward while they've regressed. I've dealt with this in every comic or TV show variant of Spider-Man. They spend the first few issues/episodes trying to set your bearings in case you're new to the franchise, even though what's most likely is that if you're watching/reading this, you're well versed already. It's like when you buy a sequel to a video game where you spent the entirety of the original building up your character, maxing out his abilities, health and so on, only to buy the sequel where somehow this same exact character is once again weak as an infant. For the loyal fans, this can be somewhat frustrating. I'd advise the to-be-announced staff they try to minimize this transitional crap and just jump right in. 2) The events of the timeline no longer exist. -This is what people didn't like about "Brand New Day". "What do you mean Harry Osborn never died? Then what the hell was I so upset about?" The good in this is that Venom didn't happen how he happened, so maybe we'll get a movie dedicated to him as the villain, but meanwhile we're going to be placed smack-dab into the middle of a world we've already seen unfold. Hell, this'll be Spidey's alternate reality. Yikes. 3) People don't like change. -'Nuff said. Even the critics of the old trilogy will find themselves making comparisons and telling us exactly what they liked better about the old films compared to the new. 4) They're going to change something that really shouldn't be touched. -What will be the first to go? Organic webbing? Raised webbing on the costume? "My spider-sense is tingling!"? Something that Raimi and Co. were wise enough to use or let pass is going to be let go or implemented and we're not going to like it. We'll have to wait and see. 5) No more Bruce Campbell. Unless the new director talks him into it. This is just one of those random things that came along with having Raimi direct the trilogy, but we all enjoyed it. I shall miss his little asides. 6) We were THIS close to the Lizard. -And I mean this more that just Lizard for Lizard's sake. I'm a fan of him, from the first color-by-numbers kit I ever had introducing me to the character to reading Amazing Spider-Man 365 in my first volume collecting old issues, but above that I think Spidey4 was one smart decision away from doing what rarely will happen in a long-running franchise (and we have so few of them as is), which is to turn a good guy into a bad one. Darth Vader doesn't really count, since we all knew that whole trilogy's purpose was to tell his story. No, I'm talking genuine "Frodo keeps the ring", "Jean Grey kills Professor X" moments here. Non-comic fans who've been going to see Spidey have no idea about the Lizard. What a shock that would have been, eh? Imagine the dramatic pull something like that could've had. I may think of more later and edit this, but off the top of my head I think this is what pisses me off most. Okay, so the good things: 1) We are THIS close to the Lizard. -Seriously. Anyone remember a certain reboot of Spidey in the comics as done by a certain Todd McFarlane. This man is the reason Spider-Man is flexible. The opening storyline from this gifted artist was called "Torment", and was about Spider-Man fighting a man whose attempts to heal his own ailment resulted in making himself a monster. That's just loaded with potential, which is why I've chosen that particular coverart to headline my rant here. I'm not saying make Spider-Man "darker" like McFarlane did, but there's certainly going to have to be a different take on the character and style, and I don't think brighter and more colorful/kid-friendly is the way to go. Hell, if they took what Punisher: War Zone and Incredible Hulk did as reboots and make "realistic" comic book movies even moreso stylistically (grittier, perhaps?), this could do well for the franchise. 2) Skip the Vulture. -Was it just yesterday that Malkovich confirmed he was going to play the Vulture? I wasn't pleased with this. Vulture's an alright villain, but he's a lot better when he's got a certain five other sidekicks working with him. I never thought he deserved the lone antagonist position in the franchise. On that note, sure three villains was overkill for the old trilogy, but if they take the time to do the proper buildup (and don't waste any time re-imagining the already perfectly achieved old villains), we could probably get a great movie about the Sinister Six by #3. Or the next 4. 3) More Spidey! I seriously think that this is a franchise that won't go away for a long time. Spider-Man is bankable. Everybody loves him, in one form or another. I've never heard a person say "I really hate him as a character". He's good stuff, has plenty of history and given the right people working on him, shall always be a favorite. When they were making the first one, a then friend of mine said "I don't care if they make twenty, I'll go see all of them!" I agree with her on this sentiment. 4) Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst will be replaced. Don't take this the wrong way. I thought they did just fine in all three movies. However, did anyone notice that somewhere in Spider-Man 2 (I think it was the running/falling off the roof scene) that Tobey really started to look like he belonged in the Raimi family? They were perfect for the roles of their characters as teenagers, but as Peter turns into a stud and MJ into a bombshell, these two can't grow out of their boy/girl-next door look. Perhaps whoever they get next will be able to evolve as they go this time around. 5) New drama! It was established right in the beginning of the first film that this story was "all about the girl". Well, forget that. This is Spider-Man. It should be about Spider-Man. The same as Transformers should be starring giant robots, not the people running around by their ankles. This is not to say there shouldn't be the typical Parker-esque girl drama. I'm just saying maybe play it a little more Parker style. "I love you so much, Peter!" Eh. Alright then. Parker never had a problem having a girlfriend, he was certainly hard up enough for one, but it was all the things that happened to his web-slinging persona whilst courting these women that made his relationships that much more interesting. Gwen Stacy, for crying out loud. Her death was one of the pivotal moments in comic history, but thanks to shortsightedness on the original production, her character was reduced to nothing more than a tool for jealously and her father a miscellaneous police officer. Maybe she should be first billed this time around. I'd need to rehash my Spidey romance history, but I know MJ wasn't the first. Perhaps he should go the old Batman saga route and work through different loves as the films progress. Maybe not one girl per movie, but a progression for sure. Then there's Aunt May, who somehow remained in perfect health through the whole trilogy. I can barely remember a story arc in my Spidey collection where Aunt May's age didn't somehow come into play. I figured this is where they were going with SM4, since frankly Rosemary Harris isn't getting any younger, but we'll just have to see now. I do like the May featured in the "Spectacular Spider-Man" series, maybe a characterization more like her this time around could do the trick. Then there's Harry, Flash and all the others. Let's see what they do. 6) My humor-sense is tingling! Spider-Man was a little tight-lipped in his action sequences for a character who's known for using teasing and taunts simply to annoy his villains, if not to distract them enough in order for our hero to squander their plans. I've seen some outright wacky takes on this, but I wouldn't mind for the webslinger to engage in at least a little good ribbing while he takes on the baddies. So, on that note... 7) Spidey Action! Spider-Man helped define a style and means of creation for superhero action to date. The X-Men film two years prior had some digital characters in it's shots, but Spidey is the first I recall that was so reliant on a digital character for it's action to work. Each film built up the scale of stunts and became more and more impressive. I'm hoping that in the hands of the right direction/stunt co-ordinators, our socks will continue to be knocked right off. Even "Spectacular Spider-Man" has been blowing my hair back, and that's just 2D animation. As I write this, I'm realizing all the potential and I can understand why they came to this decision, but I really, really hope they don't screw it up. Let's just hope it's a little more "Torment" than it is "Ultimate". So, with all that in mind I leave you with this:

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

He's Just Not That Into You (2.6.2009)

Director: Ken Kwapis Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Scarlett Johansson, Ginnifer Goodwin Co-Starring: Jennifer Connelly, Drew Barrymore, Justin Long, Ben Affleck, Bradley Cooper Watch for: Foreshadowing scenery and storyline crossovers. Editor(s): Cara Silverman Would I Buy It: Just to have an example of what "girly" movies should strive to be. It surprised me. I rented it via Netflix for my girlfriend and I to watch. It was appealing to me for a few simple reasons: Jennifer Connelly, Scarlett Johansson and Jennifer Anniston in conjunction with Justin Long and Ben Affleck (who did a bit better this time around), though this is not the order in which they are billed. However, the marketing people want you to think this movie is about Jennifer Aniston, Ben Affleck and Drew Barrymore. They're in there (Drew least of all), but it's not. It's really about all of them. Not about their specific characters, either, but the character which each of them represent. As it turns out, "Gigi", played by an a previously unbeknown to me Ginnifer Goodwin, leads us through this drama which exemplifies every single way your average "chick flick" could play out. And I say let us be done with the genre forever!! I'm dreaming. However, there were... let me count... five women and four men that this film focused on, however over the course of it we were introduced and walked through several relationships at different phases. Breaking it down, because I was having trouble keeping up at certain points (and my girlfriend would quite frequently point a couple minutes after a scene started and say things like "Oh, he was the guy from the beginning with her!"), let's go one at a time here. Jennifer Connelly (Janine) -> Married to Bradley Cooper (Ben) Jennifer Anniston (Beth) -> 7-year relationship with Ben Affleck (Neil), she wonders if he'll ever pop the question. Ginnifer Goodwin (Gigi) -> Hopeless Perfected. Co-Worker to the Jennifers. Obsessed with every man who talks to her (while at a bar?), and even meets a seemingly wise bartender/manager in Justin Long (Alex). Scarlett Johansson (Anna) -> The temptress. Not sure if she wants Kevin Connolly (Conor) or the stranger she recently met at the checkout (Ben again). Drew Barrymore (Mary) -> The e-Dater. Consumed by electronics, works in advertising. Afraid of the real world aside from her fair allotment of, I apologize if I'm allowed to use this term, fag hags. Although, her story is the one that works into the plot the least. She's an modern-day-commentary-aside, at best. And, just to be clear: Ben and Neil are friends. Alex and Conor are friends (possibly ex-roommates?). Janine, Beth and Gigi all work together, Anna teaches yoga where Gigi takes the occasional class, Mary is Conor's ad rep and just to make sure it feels like a romantic comedy, there's some gay guys that show up here and there for flavor. And I think I'm forgetting some of the connections. So basically, there are maybe 20 people that live in this city. Moving on. If you took any one of these women, you could (or there already has been) a movie made about their love life. However, seeing as this was a 129 minute film (Aha! RomComs are usually close to 90 minutes!), the time was less-than-evenly split between them. There were some warmup scenes in the beginning, but overall we got the juicy bits. All the relationshippy parts of the romcoms engulf the movie, cutting out all the usual crap you see pasted over the TV spots in the Oprah timeslots. And while if you're not prepared for it, which I wasn't, keeping up can be a little bit maddening. The cutest, most endearing moment of the film belongs to (I'll admit it, my favorite actress) Jennifer Connelly. After discovering, for herself and the audience, that her husband is in fact a complete lying sack of shit (he looked her right in the EYES, man), she begins throwing his stuff down the stairs and breaks a mirror. She stares at it in awe and walks out of the room. Then, instead of the scene ending, she returns with a broom and dustpan. If you were watching her character at all, your heart just breaks for her in that moment. Connelly showed us the dramatic couple with the failing marriage. Aniston showed us the couple that "should" (look for the poster) be together for good, but the dude doesn't quite know it yet. Ginifer is the romcom cliche we all paid to see based on their TV spots. Scarlett has actually done this role before, only in Match Point and that one ends quite differently (this is kind of how I knew he was a liar, but that's neither here nor there). She plays the girl who's with a guy but meets another guy but that guy turns out to be a big fat liar so she ends up with nobody. If you haven't seen Match Point, go check out how different a direction they take that story in. I'm still not over it. Ms. Barrymore plays another romcom cliche, basically Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail and Hitch all rolled into one. Long distance initiation. And through all of this, along with some cutaways to "interviews", which I at first pegged as a ripoff to the When Harry Met Sally format, but thinking about it later reveals it to be a tool of foreshadowing, as well as some titles which I assume were chapters in a book this was based on (I really have no idea), we somehow got a complete film. My only problem is that I went in thinking it was going to be girl wants a guy, spends the whole movie trying to get to that first kiss. Boy, is that far from it. Ginnifer, yes, but this is a serious drama, with some mild humor that you enjoy but don't need to burst out laughing for, exemplifying what film has shown the modern city girl to expect for every relationship she goes through. It's not a straight road, there's a few different forks you can get off at, but overall the message here is that we are programmed to expect something, but relationships are their own self-fulfilling prophecies. I actually have to watch this again, but this is the general idea they sold me on. So much happens in this film, there's no way I caught it all the first time through. However, it impressed me with it's intelligence, even though at times it does get caught up within the romcom drama/comedic style, but it always brought itself right back to speed. It made me guess as to what would happen next a lot and unlike Will Smith having an allergic reaction or Sandra Bullock falling all over herself again, it kept me guessing. It took wild turns, despite all of it's regular developments that ran along side them in other storylines. And the ending, an ending to contest only with Return of the King for screentime, wraps up all the relationships in just about every way any RomCom date movie ever could. And I've barely even heard a word about this film from anywhere else. Talk to the marketing people.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Tron Legacy: Grid Concept Test

This is a teaser trailer more than any sort of effects test. A "proof of concept" probably best describes it. Most effects tests I've seen simply feature the effect. Throwing in the dramatic music and appearance from Jeff Bridges is what makes it a teaser. And I am teased. I've been a Tron fan for about five years now. I caught wind of it in my early college years and decided to buy the 20th Anniversary DVD on a whim and have loved it ever since. Soon after came the Tron 2.0 video game (which I can't get to work on my computer lately, for some reason) and that pretty much sealed the deal for me. It's a great universe and I love that they're bringing it back with all of our modern CGI glory. However, the question remains that since this is a proof of concept, how much of what we saw will actually be in the film? I assume they'll use all of it, or update the scene and do it again. One forum-goer commented on the animation being terrible. If he means in terms of movement from the characters, I guess I could see where he's coming from. It really hasn't bothered me for the year I've been watching this in a grainy, low-res YouTube camcorder version, and getting the high-def version this week has kept pretty much the same feel for it. I think if they kept the rest of the film of this quality, they'd still have a hit on their hands. He's prolly just an animator being picky, lol. Another forum friend commented:
According to the universe of TRON, the lightcycle stuff takes place in an electronic reality, which is what they're trying to get away with here - and in the first TRON, it was so ghetto and ridiculous and groundbreaking that you could buy that. (Plus, that wasn't unlike what video games actually looked like at that point in history.) These days, this doesn't represent what we assume "the inside of a video game" to look like - if anything, it looks like the current trend in cell phone commercials. It might be something you completely forget about in the context of the film (or, you know, not), but as a picture, it's only compelling as an exercise in motion graphics.
One thing I've wondered about in the first Tron is just how this world inside a computer works. Humanoid programs baffles our logical thinking minds, I'm not even sure where exactly this world exists. Within electric signals? Beneath the circuits? Does the world disappear when you shut down your computer for the night? And on that note, would every computer system or network look like this? I like to think the look of Tron as we know it is how the computer world looks in terms of the Encom computer system. Basically, in the Master Control Program's system and everything it has appropriated, this is how things look. Maybe part of the MCP's reason for cracking into all the other networks is to expand his own world. A digital Death Star which, rather than destroying other systems, it conforms it's own format. Now, say you were back in 1982 and were sucked into the computer world of a different company, like Microsoft. I bet you'd still have glowing program people, but since Microsoft hadn't invented Space Paranoids and the like, their system would likely revolve around Windows logos and helpful paper clips. So with that understanding, bring the wayback machine to present day and imagine Encom has kept the rights to Lightcycle and updated the game. If the impact of their work in the real world alters the look/existence of the computer world, then this is probably how it would look, regardless of Lucasarts and Activision's graphics of the day (tho I'd like to get a look at THEIR computer worlds). This is just a theory, but if I'm true and that's how they're explaining it, I think they should spend a little time in the film having a character find him/herself in another system. Anyway, just fan conjecture at this point. The teaser itself has many things worth noting. First off, the updated graphics are amazing. I mean, there's reflections of the lightcycles in the enemy's jetwall. I love that they're taking the black look of the film and turning those surfaces into a glass-like material. That's how Tron 2.0 was, though not nearly as reflective. When you broke things in that game, it was like shattering glass. Actually, I guess that's kind of how it looked in the old movie too, just a much lower res version of it. The one thing I'm not quite keen on is the updated outfits. However, I'm theorizing this is just a lightcycle uniform. My problem is that it just looks like a leather jumpsuit with some tube lights run through it. The outfits in the original really felt like the glow was coming from within the person, rather than just being an accessory on their uniform. However, if this is just sort of a combat armor for lightcycles, then it'll probably be fine. The updated helmet is a pretty neat idea. It looks like they're making it work like a monitor. The way we see it looks like a face inside a helmet, but it looks like they're trying to show that the headpiece is just a really fancy screen. The digital young Jeff Bridges turns his 'monitor face' on and off. Rather than having a face like a human, perhaps it's considered to be more of an interactive display through which they communicate. So, a digital face, but not a face? If you look closely, you can see a bit of pixelation over their faces, which suggests monitor. The really interesting thing is that this same effect seems to have been applied to Jeff Bridges as well. Hmmm. The film's not out yet, so I will put a a SPOILER WARNING here: The action was cool, the sound was excellent (I love the sound of the "tires" landing on the glass) and the teaser did a really good job of showing us what they're selling without really giving away much of anything. I read online that the "evil" Jeff Bridges is likely the de-rezzed CLU program from early in the first film. It'll be fun to see how he got re-rezzed. The part that I'm sure most people are wondering about is Fung Shui Jeff up in his little mountain condo. In the video cam leaked version, I couldn't see most of the details present in the scene. I didn't know he had beads on his hand, nor did I see the decor. It just looked like he was in pajamas in a white room. The theory that popped into my head today is that he's CLU's prisoner. A vengeful/mad program might just take it upon himself to capture his user. Maybe he's trying to become as powerful as Flynn was in the first film, or maybe even escape out into the real world. I'm wondering if the gate the blue program was racing toward was somewhat significant. He shouts "You won, okay? It's just a game!" Perhaps the goal of this game is to reach the palace-looking thing without being stopped by CLU. And many programs try, and Flynn is left in his pseudo real world prison to watch CLU dominate his opponents. Pure speculation, but I'm interested to see just how right I am, if at all. I can't wait for this movie. Just based on this teaser and the snippets of info I've read on the net, this thing is going to be geek-tastic.
For more news on Tron Legacy, I recommend visiting the official site: Just kidding. They'll never tell you much, it'll just be a good place for some desktop wallpapers. I've been going to: Also, for some quality Tron fanfilm hilarity, check out:

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (6.25.09)

Director: Michael Bay Starring: Shia LeBeouf, Megan Fox, Peter Cullen, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson Co-Starring: John Turturro, Ramon Roderiguez, Watch for: Repeat vehicle modes, G1 nods. Editor(s): Roger Barton, Tom Muldoon, Joel Negron, Paul Rubell Would I Buy It: I'll have the action scenes on repeat. The one thing I know is going to happen while I write this review is that I'm going to forget something I wanted to mention. This movie was long. I don't mean long as in dragged on, but it was so jam packed with robot awesomeness that there's no way I'm going to remember all of it after my one viewing last night. Some of my internet colleagues came back and commented merely on a weak story and robo-testicles. Let not the nay-sayers sway thee, there's SO much more than that. The one thing I think I have on them is a sense of humor akin to Michael Bay's. I don't think I'd make the same jokes as him, but I'm guessing he and I laugh at the same stuff. I don't understand why it's okay to have a Scottish robot, or whatever else, but the minute you cross the color barrier people freak out. Sure, Skids and Mudflap could be annoying, fine. Call them a stereotype and I shall point you towards every single summer blockbuster character in history. Nobody balked at the late great Bernie Mac as the mom-hating, less-than-reputable car salesmen who pronounced it "Alabammy". And let's not forget the FBI takedown at "grandma's house", but face it. You thought it was hilarious when the cousin slammed through the sliding door, despite all the "COPS"-laden imagery it evoked. However, the moment it's a voice behind a CG creation rather than an actor playing out the stereotype, people cry racist. They make these characters because people identify with them. Maybe YOU don't, but I'm betting you there's people in the audience either like them, or that know someone who is. Or that laugh because it's a more ridiculous take on their personality, like Sam might be to a strung out nerdy guy. As far as Skids and Mudflap, they actually remind me of a couple co-workers I used to have that worked (GASP) the dish tank at a restaurant. Though I'm pretty sure they could read. They made me laugh. The bots made the audience laugh. Did I hear anyone talking about how offensive it was on their way out? What do you think? Anyway. I've been reading up on the various characters in the movie as my girlfriend and I have been collecting the toys. Our rule is to only get characters featured in the films themselves (tho I did get her the Scout-Class Dirt Boss to put in a small matching bouquet of flowers when I picked her up to go see the movie. She got the biggest kick out of it). We got a few of them before the movie came out, one of which sparked up my attention: The Decepticons are not creative individuals. Either that, or this movie learned a lot from Hasbro. There are repaints featured in this film. Hasbro does it when they have a decent looking toy they think they can make more money off of, so they'll make one in a different color scheme, slap a new name on it and wait for the cash to roll in. This is part of the reason the g/f and I agreed movie characters only, cuz it'd be so easy to throw down $10 here and $20 there on cool variants (The G1-styled movie Jazz was tempting). In 'Revenge', I noticed multiple 'repaints', so I did a little homework to figure out just how many there were: 1) Grindor, the helicopter. The first Transformer we see in the original movie, then known as "Blackout". 2) Bonecrusher. Only seen in his vehicle mode from an aerial shot. I think he was just filling up space to make the attack look larger. 3) Scrapper. This isn't a repaint, but according to Wikipedia, there are three of him in this movie. And no robot mode to be seen. 4) Demolisher, the vertical wheelbot, was killed in the beginning, right? Be kinda hard to make Devastator without him, though. I think the second one is called "Scavenger". 5) Rampage is another re-paint. He's the yellow bulldozer for Devastator, but he's red in robot mode fighting Bumblebee. 6) The Twins got an alternate mode for the first scene, which you could argue is so they could sell one more toy. It could be that, but the other theory is to establish that Transformers can combine so when certain, more important, characters do it later, you won't jump out of your seat and call shenanigans. Again, that is. That's all I remember for now. Not sure if there's more. Don't get me wrong, there were plenty of new and unique bots as well, but it does seem like a bit of lazy storywriting if they copy/paste designs instead of just making a character and commiting them to the plot points they need him for, rather than killing him off for kicks and saying "It's okay, there's another one for this scene". So that kinda bugged me. However, we have the yellow Rampage toy. If they release a red one... there may be temptation. I'm such a TF tool. Carrying on, say what you want about "the Boof" and Foxy Megan... I think their acting is fine. To every internet hater, who hates just to hate, I want to look them in their squinty, monitor-filled glasses-hidden eyes and say "You do it". If someone can give me a legitimate reason, other than "they suck", I'll be glad to listen. Until then, I think they did pretty well for the script they were given. It ain't Shakespeare, folks. It's a robot movie. The plot was reminiscent of the 80's animated Transformers, but with a lot of changes too. For one, Megatron wasn't renamed Galvatron (coughTOSELLTOYScough). That could be due to plot, it could've been a toy guy decision. They brought him back with an Allspark fragment, using spare parts from one of the Scrappers (get it?), whereas in the animated he was completely revamped by Unicron, who gave him his new name. The deep submergent Constructicons just wanted their leader back, so he woke up and was still Megatron. The other main theme from the animated was the Matrix of Leadership. Now, I confess to having not seen the older film in a while, but I'm pretty sure this was originally found within Optimus, released when he died. Eventually, Rodimus Prime got it? To Mega/Galvatron it was like Mjolnir. He tried to open it, but no matter how hard he pulled, he couldn't. You have to be worthy of the Matrix (, Neo). So it's cool they incorporated that, though I'm still trying to understand how Sam collected every littte piece of dust from when it collapsed. Even the layman's gonna think of that, that was a rather weak moment. "Cybertronian tech, don't worry about it" just doesn't work for me. There's something about summer action movies where these things become somewhat acceptable. I do think they rushed TF2 out of the box a little bit. The action was great, CGI was awesome. We got some more "bots only" scenes, which they really could and should do more of. I understand the human element, but there's something about scenes, like Optimus finding the co-ordinates of the cube in the first film, or Megatron reuniting with Starscream and the Fallen in this film, that are so... cool. That makes it feel more like a live-action Transformers than any scene with Sam or anyone ever does. When we go get a third, I want more. Send a few of them on their own mission, or something. We don't always need a bot paired with a human for a scene to feel real. I don't really feel a need to comment on the action. You saw it. You know why I like it. Even people who hate the movie said the action was cool. I got what I paid for. I think what this movie is guilty of is trying to cram too much in. Yes, Transformers have disguises so that they can hide or infiltrate our society. So the Terminatrix, Alice? Apparently she's a really, really detailed Decepticon. With a tongue that can't change, though every other piece of skin can. Aside from a momentary bicker between Sam and Mikaela, she was unnecessary. They should've either worked her in more and had her try to gain Sam's trust, thus leading her/the Decepticons to the Matrix and THEN reveal she was evil and maybe have 'Bee or the Twins smash her up. "Wouldn't the autobots have detected her" and "I knew she was bad!" are far lesser evils than using a unique character for two scenes and killing her off. Whatever happened to the ball bearing/paper-thin bot, too? I did like that the tiny bots were basically scouts and that Soundwave was sort of the carrier craft for them. He had the same role in the show, but he walked around with everyone else. Having him as sort of a spy/backup craft was a nice touch. Hopefully we'll get to see him in action in the future, but teasing him for now was cool. They had enough bad guys to kill in the final scene. I'd be better off if I hadn't watched so many episodes of "Inspector Gadget" when I was younger, but he was fine otherwise. I'm fine with the bots having human-sounding voices and dialects, but I kind of wish Soundwave had stayed synthesized. They had the right idea with Bumblebee, giving him the radio voice. I understand his voice working for a moment at the end of the first film to help make it more genuine... but I'm glad they brought it back. I sort of hope it stays that way in the future, too. The Autobots sort of cheated with their new characters. It works, but I think we spent more time with the bad guys in this film than the good. And while the Twins were funny, I really don't think they needed to be as front and center as they were. I still don't have a good feel for Ratchet. Ironhide got a good intro, but they didn't really do too much with him. Then there's the amazingly designed rollerskating Sideswipe, when just looking at him makes you say "Cool" before he even does any of the cool stuff he does. (He cut a Decepticon in HALF while it was in CAR MODE.) And the Chevy Volt character, Jolt, was obviously tossed in there cuz GM asked them to. Yay, energy transfer! Good job Jolt, now go back in your hole! Did he even fight any, that we saw? Then there's the human good guys. Who we're given weren't given a lot of time either. We lost a good chunk of the cast from the first one and replaced them with another moron. Sam is lucky in friends. Girlfriend's a grease monkey, assigned roommate knows all about alien robot conspiracies. I can forgive the coincidence for a love interest, but they're pushing it. When Optimus died, I didn't buy Sam's sadness. Not because of Shia, that was fine, but I didn't buy it for the same reason I didn't buy it when Wolverine cried about Prof. X getting vaporized. WE know and love the character. SAM does not. Sam hasn't known him that long. Sam's life was saved by Optimus, sure. He also saved Optimus' life, on one shiny afternoon. Since then, it's made to seem like they haven't seen each other since. Bumblebee is hangin' around, they seem to have a close bond. Sam seems pissed at Optimus most of the time. I blame the writers. Would you expect Sam to get all upset if say, Ratchet, had died? No. Optimus is the famous character, so we care, therefore Sam has to care. That's not enough. (Actually, my g/f was pretty upset about it until I whispered in her ear "Peter Cullen is signed for three films". She cheered up after that.) I'm not sure if Sam worked harder to bring back Optimus cuz he felt bad, or cuz of this whole "only a Prime can defeat the Fallen" thing. Not sure what that was about. Made for some cool combiner-mode-ass-kickery, I guess. Aside from Prime getting all frenzied, they never really say why only a Prime can take him down. So there's that. So things about the story bugged me. However, what we have here is a very busy film. I think about it, I'm still not sure I can keep it all straight. In the last movie there were 12 robots and prolly just as many humans. It feels like there's so much more in this one and so much more trying to happen. The plot needed to stay simple, but somewhere in the details I feel like they really missed something. Some things just didn't happen right. I mean, did they seriously have a conversation with Bumblebee in the garage while firefighters were spraying down their house? I kept waiting for one of them to walk in. And the parents getting kidnapped? That was seriously so very wasted. Similarly, I am glad they tied up a couple of loose ends, like with Scorponok. We have no idea what happened to him for two years, but his tail was fixed, right? Prolly hooked up with his buddies at some point, then got dropped off in the desert with the rest of them. However, I had a theory I shared with my friends. Someone needs to do a short film called 'Scorponok's Story'. Basically, it'd be about how he gets injured in the desert and runs off and somehow finds out about the Matrix and learns that's what his allies are also going after, so he decides to make his way from Qatar to the pyramids and secure it. It takes a while if you have to dig, you know. He decides he wants to prove he can be more helpful than just stalking humans. Then, just as he arrives, it turns out there's already a battle going on, so he goes back under the dirt and decides to take out one of the leaders, Jetfire. He wounds Jetfire, only to have his head smashed in. Poor, poor Scorponok. I'm still holding out for Barricade. My guess is that a cop car that turns into an evil robot is too good a character to just throw away in a massive melee. He'll be back. Maybe it was the writing, maybe they shot it and in post realized they didn't have enough bots, I don't know. I think they rushed it, so a lot of the minor things got fudged, while all the really big fight scenes got all the attention, so they were well executed. Optimus vs. 3 was cool... but where were the other Autobots? That can be attributed to 'movie timing', them showing up just after he's killed. Crap like that happens all the time in every genre, but in a movie that's already pushing it's practicality boundaries, it's a bit much. On the other side of it, their rescue of Sam from his lobotomy was a great moment. You knew they were going to show up, but MAN did they show up. So yeah. Transformers. I'll be there for three, should it happen. (The bank says yes.) If you're on the fence cuz people say it's bad, go see it. Go watch these robots on the big screen. You'll be glad you did, for that. If you like to nitpick the little plot holes and plan on hating it no matter what, well. Shut up. ;-) Oh, and just to be clear... if I had to design a giant robot made up of construction vehicles, that's exactly where the wrecking balls would go.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Star Trek (5.8.2009)

Director: J.J. Abrams Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Eric Bana, Karl Urban Co-Starring: Zoe Saldena, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Simon Pegg Watch for: Leonard Nemoy, obviously, along with little Trekkie details. Species names, sound effects, etc. Editor(s): Maryann Brandon, Mary Jo Markey Would I Buy It: Hell, yeah!

This movie was just great. I have nothing further to say on the matter.

Yeah. Right.

Seriously, though. This is the best space adventure we've gotten in a long time. I definitely like it more than any of the previous Trek films (the most excited I ever got during one was the Borg space battle in First Contact, and this definitely trumped that).

People were calling it the Iron Man of the summer, and initially I thought this meant "the geeky movie that the general population ends up liking". It may still be just that, however I'm inclined to mention that there could be a trend starting here, and I really hope it doesn't.

Drunk guy humor + sci-fi genre = summer win. Yes, Kirk falling hands first into Ohura's boobs got a laugh out of me, probably equal to Tony Stark having a stripper pole on his private jet (where does that thing COME from?!?). However, that's how they won the general audience. You can't relate to Kirt making tribble jokes and such, but throw him in a good old-fashioned bar fight, and everyone'll be on his side. So that works.

The thing that got me about this movie though was the portrayal of the original characters. I have limited experience with them as far as the series go, but I saw all the movies. I know who they are. And these actors played them brilliantly. My favorite is the ever-up-and-coming Karl Urban, seemingly destined to skate the border between of stardom and "Oh, where have I seen that guy before?". His 'Bones' is just plain inspired. It's too bad that loud-mouthed stewardess kinda drowned out my favorite line of his, no one seemed to laugh much at that part except me. I still do the impression on occasion, and my friends are ready to kill me. "It means a fear of dying in something that flies!" It's the hand gestures, it's the eyes, it's the sarcasm, it's how he moves his mouth. Karl Urban is bones. A little more ruggedly handsome perhaps, but Dr. McCoy nonetheless.

And that goes for the rest of them. Spock is Spock, Chekov doesn't quite have a tan so far, Scotty is probably the biggest departure (still quite a bit of Simon Pegg in there, but once he put the uniform on he was getting closer). The best move they made was de-Shatnering Kirk. Shatner's alright in small doses, but whoever's idea it was to take the basic womanizing, hotshot qualities of Kirk and allow Pine to do his own thing with it was definitely onto something.

Then of course there's the bad guy. Eric Bana, folks. Gotta love 'im. I just like how he says people's names.

"Hi, Christopher. I'm Nero." and of course "SPOOOOOCK!" Awesome.

The update of the design was very well executed. I always thought I was looking at the Enterprise. I'm sure there's countless Trekkies cringing at the differences, but it worked for me. I'm actually amazed that all the fans seem to be going for the 'alternate reality' bit. I was almost certain that some of them were gonna call shenanigans on that one.

The characters were all very strong and well-defined. I believe that's what really kept this movie together. When the captains and commanders were off the bridge and they secondary members talking amongst themselves, it just felt natural. Like a team. Like a team should.

I really don't have much more to say. Great acting, great action. The sound work was astounding, particularly their established rules for 'no sound in space'. I'm pretty sure that only happened when a person actually went out into space without a ship, like the crewwoman getting sucked out the hull and the 3 crewmen making the spacejump to the drill. Then there was the phaser fight on the Romulan ship, my ears were a-tingle. Rather than fakey sizzle effects (lightsaber are often guilty of this) when the beam hits stuff, we actually hear clanging and thumping of metal, like it's being struck by something solid before it melts. First time I remember hearing something like that is the infamous internet vid Ryan vs. Dorkman 2, and while I can't prove it's a direct inspiration, I'd like to think Ben Burtt saw RvD2.

I didn't realize he worked on the sound until the credits, but the re-mixing of classic Enterprise bridge console sounds remixed with modern touches should've been a big clue. Burtt is definitely known for dipping into the archives and coming out with something fresh.

I saw this 4 times in the theatres, so far. I'm still not bored with it. I'll prolly let them cool their impulse engines for a bit and watch it again on DVD, but man. I so needed that.

Alright, so next on the list we need a new, more modern director to do the Star Wars sequel trilogy, meanwhile I'll get started on putting a SeaQuest film together.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

X-Men: What are you waiting 4?

<--Random piece of fanart, pretty much illustrating how we could've avoided our current predicament. I'm shaking things up a little bit today, I'm going to share a piece I recently wrote out for my LiveJournal. Maybe not a film review, but it's on my mind and film-related, so let's do this:
I'm gonna get something that's been bugging me off my chest. I think you've already figured out this is a geek rant. Hold onto something. While at dinner with my girlfriend last night, I basically broke down some of my issues with Wolverine that I'd written about here (she's the g/f, therefore she gets a live show. Jealous?). I liked the movie, but it wasn't entirely true to what the movies have said about Wolverine thus far, plus there were some story elements I'd focus more on, and some that could've been removed. Sound like any OTHER prequels you know? Anyway, carrying on. Last night we watched the original X-Men, since she hadn't seen any of them since we saw X3 in theatres. She fell asleep, per her modus operandi, but she's cute and I love her. So this morning, I woke up all X-ed out still, so I threw in X2. Then I thought about X3 (and watched it again since I wrote this. Hugh Jackman is playing Cyclops trapped in Wolverine's body. And vice versa. For cryin' out loud.). Then I thought about Wolverine, and the article I read this morning about the confirmation of a Wolverine 2. Then I thought about "X-Men: First Class", a supposed upcoming film about the first group of mutants to join with Prof. X (basically most of the cast from the TV show, minus a few characters the movie made younger). And you know what? Fuck. That. Shit. I had a lengthy conversation with one of my geekier friends about this, and he and I are on the same page. Alright. To gain back any sort of credibility for the series, X-Men 4 needs to happen, and it needs to be Superman Returns. Having Bryan Singer return may not be the worst of ideas, either. It needs to take X3, and basically shove an adamantium railspike up it's ass, and throw it out the fuckin' window. Who's not dead? All of them. That's fucking who. Jean Grey is flippin' PHOENIX. Not that bird, maybe, but in essence I think the namesake is reason enough to pull her from the ashes. The fiery apparition seen in the water... we all assumed that this was emanating from Jean. Looking at it today, I say that's the Phoenix as we know her. The astral being took notice of her host in that moment. It could've been messing with her all her life, but couldn't take hold until she died? It's so easy to write away. It took her a little while to bond and wake up, and maybe it threw Jean a little wacky in the process, explaining her actions in X3. Don't even MENTION the split personality thing again, or just say that was the Phoenix calling from on high. Or don't explain it, just accept it. Work it in. It'll work, because people WANT it to work. Cyclops: A golden Spielberg rule: You didn't see 'em die, they're not dead. Make him, sorry Hugh, the freakin' LEADER he's supposed to be. Wolverine was excellently portrayed (until X3, when Cyclops possessed him), but he's got his own freakin' movie (which will get his sequel despite my ranting). He doesn't need to hold up two franchises. There's enough characters to lead the X-series, and Cyclops should be one of them. The actor was great in the role, but for some reason got shafted with X2 and wisely followed Singer onto Superman Returns, prompting his shorter role in X3 and our current predicament (tho I bet they would've done it anyway). Prof. X: We already know he's not dead. I just hope they don't waste a lot of time 'searching for Spock'. Moira McTaggert is a medical genius and Muir Island is a fabulous place, let's just leave it at that. There's three storylines I'd like to see, one of which I think they actually might do, if someone just slapped those silly Fox people upside their heads. The Acolytes. Followers of Magneto who are basically mutant extremists. "Exodus" was the real turning point of this story. If you thought Magneto trying to make Prof. X kill off every single human was pretty awful, you should check out what these guys are up to. They basically started up when Magneto was "killed". Well, he's mostly powerless for now. That's reason enough for crazy folks. The reason we won't get this is, well, technically it's an X-Factor story, but it culminates in a massive crossover between the X-teams and the Avengers. So... prolly not. X-Cutioner's Song. One word: Cable. Basically, this could really help work Jean and Cyclops back into the mix, without even having her present for most of the movie. The fact that Cable shows up from the future, and later turns out the be Cyclops and Jean's son... someone in the present realizes this and "waitaminute... so that means... GASP!" Totally. Wouldn't even have to happen til near the end, if they wanted. There'd be way too much going on to reintroduce people, let alone bring in Stryfe, Sinister and everyone else you'd need to do it semi-proper. Plus, bringing Prof. X back from the dead only to have him gunned down would be a little too crude for PG-13. So, what I think they'll do... and this is the one I actually know the least about (mostly what I saw on the '90s show)... Apocalypse. Take a little time in the beginning, while you're warming up the villain plot (a super-powered lead antagonist that's not Magneto?!? SCORE!), to resurrect everybody. Enter the mystic side of Phoenix, "I didn't kill Scott... I... moved him?" Whatever. In theory, you could bring back everybody she vaporized if this is the case, but let's not go down that road just yet. Wolverine jumped the gun in X3 and says "I think she killed Scott". Jean's too screwed up to really know what's happening, so bah. He's alive. So, Prof. X is in his brain-dead twin's body, or whatever, and hooray, X-Men! Then you can work in Angel --> Archangel. Then an X3 sub-plot would simply be a big ol' establishment of a character, instead of yet another waste of one. Work in the TV storyline's bit about the cure, and since in movie canon, Rogue took it (but it seems like it'll wear off?), you can still work in Apocalypse's plot to use the lure of the cure to find his Horsemen. Enter Ms. Marvel, I think it was, or some no-name equivalent... Rogue accidentally kills her with her regained powers, absorbing Marvel's powers completely... and BAM. Rogue as we know her. My buddy seems to think Anna Paquin plays Rogue too shy to pull off the hot-talking, confident Southern girl we all love, but gaining her strength and flight could definitely work as the beginning of a character arc. Maybe this is where her confidence comes from. She was afraid to touch anyone, but now she has a little more control over herself. Seriously, just a couple of source-respecting writers in a think-tank, and we can end the spin-off nonsense and get back on track to a solid, successful second trilogy. Please?

Monday, May 4, 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (5.1.2009)

Director: Gavin Hood Starring: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schrieber, Danny Huston, Lynn Collins Co-Starring: Will. I. Am, Taylor Kitsch, Ryan Reynolds Watch for: X-Men references, characters. Editor(s): Nicolas De Toth, Megan Gill Would I Buy It: When I get around to it.


Say what you want about prequels and their endless power to flesh out the backstory. Science fiction especially does this, their franchises each have their own world which countless fans will beg to be given every minute detail of. It makes sense, I can get into that too, if the story is interesting. The problem I find here is the characterization. This was a prequel to X-Men, featuring a character from the sequels.

Remember how tough Wolverine was when we met him in X1, beating up people in cages, being generally rude to everyone he meets? Remember Wolverine in X3, cries when Xavier dies, tells that chick he's trying to bang that he loves her, acts all big-brotherly to Rogue, the mutant with problems? Like I said, this was theoretical 'X4 Wolverine' trapped in an X-Men prequel.

And I wasn't buying it.

I read a paragraph of a review from the Detroit Free Press (a publication whose film section I tend to heartily disagree with... they didn't even like the first Matrix), and basically, their problem with Wolverine was this:

'Wolverine is a character who has two cool things about him. Sharp claws and mystery. Well, this film gets rid of the mystery.'

To be honest though, anyone who's read/watched X-Men for a little while knows who Wolverine is. They know he's Canadian, he was part of the Weapon X program. They might not know the little filler details like his original name or all the crap the movie explained in the first few minutes, but that's just sci-fi world trivia for the fans. When X2 came out, they were supposedly "revealing the mystery!" behind Wolverine's origin. I didn't really recall finding out anything new, except that Stryker was behind it.

I don't remember a clear explanation on why he changed his name from Jimmy to Logan. Was that when he was hiding as a lumberjack? I don't recall.

Anyway. Overall, I have one major problem with this film. It focused entirely too much on the wrong parts of his life. We see a young Jimmy, father is murdered, this kid with the nails is his brother... we'll always stay together. And while we do the credits, how about we throw the pre-Canada Canadians (I think it was Ebert pointed out there was no Canada in the year the opening scene was set) into every American war that we've had between then and present day? Alright? Cool.

Not cool. If this movie had been bold enough to be longer, I would've had it dwell on the wars for a bit. First of all, how do you enlist in the Army and then re-enlist again later? Did they have secret identities, did they just hop on the boat and steal a uniform? And why did they feel a need to fight in wars anyway? Because they could? Sabretooth obviously got his jollies out of killing folks, not that his brother would let him. I think this is the interesting part.

However, it jumps forward and we jump into the story and we see Wolvie and the 'Tooth joining up with Stryker, Wolverine very quickly develops a distaste for the work (he never even has to attack anyone. What a... wuss? Wait a second.), and leaves to find his own life. Then, holy crap, they kill his woman in an effort to drive him back into their employ.

Stop me if you've heard this one before. I sort of thought about Revenge of the Sith, not to mention my own Star Wars fanfilm which touches on that very idea as a mirror to Anakin's fall, but I'm certain it goes way beyond that. I mean, c'mon. Try harder, folks. I didn't even get choked up when Wolvie, very passionately, screamed his head off at his girls' demise. And I got choked up the first time Spider-Man started swinging through the city. I'm easy. They should've spent a LOT more time on his relationship with his team members before they had him split off. What we got out of the credits and opening scenes is that Sabretooth is the crazy one, and Wolverine is a level-headed humanitarian.

So yeah... about that?

And the whole "let's make it deep" bit with the Native American (?) story of the moon and the fool didn't really work for me, since it was very obvious that this was the only reason that scene was in there. The only thing that surprised me was when the teacher turned out to be Silver Fox, but I simply wasn't looking for a twist with her. I was paying attention to Sabretooth and Stryker still being allied, and them working together to get Wolverine back. "That's why he had to volunteer" pretty much confirmed that one.


Honestly, I've had this discussion many-a-time now, but I'll say it again for posterity. We don't go see movies like this for the story. At least, you probably shouldn't. If they HAD focused on the bit about the wars for the first, hell, even the first HALF hour, it could've gone somewhere. But they rushed it. The movie felt WAY too fast. Frankly, the scenes took a lesson from X3 in "how not to linger". We WANT linger. We want characters to get fleshed out. Dark Knight helped prove this... give. us. MORE. Make the scenes intertwine, for crying out loud. This back-to-back crap just doesn't do anything.

Though yes, the action was cool. We knew it would be. There were a few surprises, mostly thanks to Wade/Deadpool. The sword/bullet shots were totally slick, I fell in love with the adaptation of the character in that instant. They didn't really cut him loose in terms of just how funny Deadpool can be, but if he gets his spin-off, we'll prolly see it then. As we learned from Hulk vs. Wolverine, it's VERY easy for Deadpool to steal the show, and they prolly didn't want that here.

Blob was the Juggernaut of this film. Scratch that, he was the Angel. They put him there just to make a couple of fans wet themselves. The boxing scene? Bah. Wasted screentime. Okay, it was funny and it helped showcase the relationship between Wraith and Logan... but they PROBABLY should have spent a little more time doing that when they were still working together for Stryker. However, this is like the Native American tale all over again. You tell it so you try try to evoke an emotional response later. Guess what? Next scene, Wraith dies. Granted, I was a little sad cuz he was pretty cool, but I was mostly upset because they just wasted a perfectly good character in one scene in order to replace him with a more famous character.


I think I'd seen every single one of Gambit's money shots in trailers and TV spots, and I wasn't even trying to watch all of them. I do think he made a good Gambit, though. A little bit softer around the edges than the famous 90's animated Gambit, but that seems to be what's going on in general with the characters here.

Remember Stryker in X2: "If you remember what kind of person you were, the kind of work we did together..."

Stuff like that. Well, I REALLY didn't get a feel for it. They did sort of make a good "Stryker the Deciever" reference out of another of his X2 lines: "As I recall, it was you who volunteered for the procedure". Well, yes he did... because you totally fucked with his life. But his claws are in your shoulder, it's best not to mention that right now.

Anyway. I'm trying to recall a specific moment of "the kind of person you were/the work we did together" that actually holds true because of Wolverine. And I'm coming up short. Maybe Stryker just has a poor memory of who did what in their operations, but of what we saw, Wolverine was fighting wars humanely and doing his best to keep his crazy half-brother in line. Honestly, he came off as a good soldier, not the soulless mercenary that is earlier implied. That, and even though Silver Fox was part of the scheme, he did end up being a good husband and earned an honest day's work for a while. You could tell he got along with his fellow lumberjacks and had a regular life going.

Then the girl is killed, and he goes on a revenge streak. Naturally, but this doesn't really go anywhere. They give him the adamantium skeleton and then he discovers their ill intent and runs on out of there. And they chase him. And he kills them. And he looks for them. Then he kills them some more. But we'll let Sabretooth off the hook, cuz he didn't ACTUALLY kill anyone Wolverine loved.

In fact, she didn't even get killed by any of the main characters. Wasn't it a ricochet or something?

Cripes. So much for the revenge plot.

Really, what I was hoping for was an idea inspired by the original Spider-Man trailer. I remember when he was chasing down the crook in his wrestling outfit, for the trailers they did some quick (tho decent) renders of those scenes with the actual Spidey outfit. So, since I imagined his claws were often digital, I imagined maybe we'll get lucky and the adamantium thing won't be until the end. Yeah, not so much. Remember when Wolverine, in X2, finally remembers getting the adamantium and storming out. He's covered in blood and screaming about these metal things sticking out of his hands? They really should have stuck with that. The movie wouldn't work as is, you'd have to seriously move some stuff around and omit other parts completely. However, I always imagined he volunteers, for whatever reason (to be more badass, ala Abomination, is how I imagined it, tho not quite so creepily), but Stryker's betrayal is his mind wipe. Then Wolverine goes animal, busts out, and he's caught in a Canadian winter with nothing but claws to keep him warm. That's how I imagined it. I'm pretty sure that's what Bryan Singer had in mind too. But for the sake of climatic action scenes, they fixed that up a little bit.

Speaking of the memory wipe... they handled it really poorly. I accidentally read somewhere that he got shot in the head, and that's what caused it. Alright, head trauma. Makes sense. Then they said in the movie they could only kill him with an adamantium bullet, which I thought alright, cool. Kinda like a Werewolf. Makes him seem more animal-like. Then the doctor-lady says "Psh, no. It won't kill him," and wait for the point of ruin... "No, but it'll wipe his memory."

COME ON. Why couldn't that have been a lucky side-effect. Why wouldn't Stryker be naively convinced it WOULD kill him... try... fail, but lucky for him, Wolvie doesn't know what's going on. That's over-writing. I always have to trim my scripts, I tend to do this a lot. Eventually, one learns you don't always have to explain things. Sometimes you should just make them happen, and tell the audience to deal with it. Stop holding our freakin' hands.

I know it really sounds like I hate this movie, but honestly, I sat there and enjoyed it. I thought it was interesting on the first viewing, but looking back on it (I may be in a bit of a mood today), I'm finding faults. Hindsight, and all that. The action was cool, but I felt their compositing and CGI wasn't quite up to modern standards. I don't know what the budget was or who worked on it, these are often large factors, but I was very disappointed to find a shot I thought was simply made for the trailers, was actually used in the movie.

Remember when he escapes the facility, cutting a big ol' X into the doors with his claws. First, not only does this scream CGI, second... he just cut two three-layer cross-sections into a door, but the little cubes in the middle stay put. Shouldn't these, like, fall? Gravity?

The movie should've been longer, and they should've spent more time making it. The script is obviously something they had some writer come up with ASAP, and while I haven't checked on the time spent on production, something tells me they had to rush a bit.

Though, at least the action was cool. Cinematography wasn't too bad, either. I remember a number of non-effects shots popping out at me. And as a general geek and hardcore Marvel/X-Men fan, I got into it. Another critic/blooger I read said that this movie will be good for the established fanbase, but he didn't expect it'll bring many new fans to the series. As a fan, I enjoyed it. As a film critic, it's pushing my buttons a little bit. Not as bad as X3, not nearly as bad, but it's not bad where I thought it'd be. I totally thought they were going to mess up continuity with having Cyclops present and using Sabretooth so prominently... but one thing I will give the writers credit for is that they were really good about knowing which characters knew what. Gambit never saw Silver Fox until the end, for example. "Do you know her?" Cyclops never actually sets his eyes on Wolverine. It's very possible some of the kids mention him later, hence his distaste for him in X1, but it's hard to say. Things like that worked out very well, and I came out decently alright with it's placement in the X-film timeline.

I'm hoping from this movie we get Deadpool. I'm not really interested in seeing Magneto with his own film. If they do X-Men: First Class instead of X-Men 4, with Apokolips or X-Cutioner's song... like they SHOULD, then I hope at least they'll take Wolverine's Cyclops and Emma Frost and use First Class as a bridge between Wolverine and X1. Sure, Emma Frost wasn't technically in the first group of X-Men, but we learned a while ago there's such a thing as comic canon and film canon, and they don't often walk hand-in-hand.

So... I'd say this movie was cool, but not as good as it should have been. Not bad, not great. That's the best I can word it for now.

I could go on about all of the little X-verse references, Prof. X, Quicksilver (I think), the old couple who get sniped by Zero... but that sort of thing is pretty much standard by now. Honestly, I think this movie was a launching pad to help people forget about the failure that was X3... but it's not going to make them forget it for the reason they were hoping.