Friday, July 29, 2011

Transformers: Dark Of The Moon

Transformers: Dark Of The Moon:
Amazingly, With All The Brilliant Homages To Transformers Mythos
Micheal Bay Still Manages To Make Robotic Nightmare Fuel Awesome

For the few of you out there who are loyal readers, and for those of you who know me, you are all aware that among my many geek tenancies, the one that overpowers all is my love of The Transformers, I am the definition of lifelong fan, with a collection boarders on wasting my entire life spent in an eternal pokemon like hunt for new or old ones I am missing, and a collective value to match. I am constantly rambling off trivia about the various versions of the tv show or toys, to the point it annoys most around me. One of the most rambled off facts is how I really didn't care much for 2009's Revenge Of The Fallen, feeling it was made with almost no care or thought or even with out a real plot, almost to the point someone honestly thought because all of us Transformers fans came running like the bulls in Pamplona to anything with the transformers name, we'll pile money into anything. And yes, we flocked to Revenge Of The Fallen in almost Exodus like fashion, but that didn't stop us, myself included, from pointing out its many flaws, but assuming that like with every film series, there is always that one film that isn't as good as the others; with Star Wars its Jedi, with Harry Potter its The Half Blood Prince, with Back To The Future its Part 2, with Dirty Harry it was The Death Pool, and so on, it just happens that ours, we hoped, would just be Revenge Of The Fallen, and thankfully, that assumption was true. For you see, Transformers: The Dark Of The Moon has done what it was ment to do, show us all that Micheal Bay was sorry for how horrible the film before it was, and to maintain a promise he made to us all that the final film in his trilogy would be beyond epic, and oh my, did he ever make this film beyond epic!

What Bay did was almost as epic as his bold promises and statements that he was going to use Dark Of The Moon to make up for how bad Revenge Of The Fallen was, he made the writers sit and watch all of the original cartoon from the 1980s, something both writers stated they really hadn't done "but ment too" and from that, they not only took a plot for the film itself, but found many bits to homage that only us life long fans would have gotten, Bay also made them read what the film's fan consultant felt was the best comic books to give you the feel they're going for as well, which ofcourse lead to even more Easter eggs tossed in for the long time fans, which delighted so very many people, even if some things seemed a tad forced and like they slightly missed the point, but you have to allow for stuff like that, not everything is gonna always work outside the original context, and thats fine. Because what does work is just so awesome that afew weeks after seeing it for the first time, and only recently seeing it again to refresh before writing this, I'm as excited as I was the first time I saw the film, which as any of you will know is an astounding feat unto itself.

The plot of the film itself, is where the homages to the fanbase begin, but I'll explain all of that later. The film starts in 1969 on the day the first moon landing happened, they use the fact that there was that 20 minute gap in footage and broadcast rely to explain that the astronauts investigated and then brought back various things from, a giant space ship that crashed not far from the moon landing site. After that we are transported into the modern era were we once again meet up with our hapless male lead Sam Witwicky who is now living in Washington DC and is trying to find a job, because I guess saving the world twice, and getting a medal from President Obama, not only doesn't get you free college, it also doesn't get you a pretty sweet job working in the government with the robots whom you have helped save the entire world. Yes, apparently, saving the world kinda sucks. But, you get a brand new insanely hot blond girlfriend who works for some high up consulting company, who doesn't care that you were dumped by your last girlfriend for some unknown reason, but you were left with her pet robot who turns into a radio controlled car, and his weird little friend who turns into a laptop, and she also left you with her dog, this is Sam's life while BumbleBee is off doing top secret autobot stuff, which also leaves him with a broke ass old Datson to drive about in, Sam, as you can guess, isn't really all that happy. We then see the Autobots as they travel around the world tracking down any signal of energon they can find, making sure that its not a decepticon. In doing this, they discover, inside the reactor at Chernobyl, there is a power cell that is of Autobot technological basing. Not only that, but its from The Ark, which we found out is the name of the ship on the moon. To say this pisses the autobots off is an understatement beyond all comprehension.

When the autobots return to base, they not only meet a new agent from the Department of Defence whom they must deal with, but accuse her of holding out on them, which she then states she was going to brief them on, or more so, have someone more close to the mission brief them on it, that person being legendary astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who explains he was sent to the moon to investigate the wreckage, and bring back samples and photos of what they see. Prime decides they must take the ship the last group of autobots came to earth in to fly up and investigate the wreck himself. After introducing the ship's crew "The Wreckers" as they're called, and being explained we've not met them yet because they're kept on site at NASA simply because they're, and I quote directly here, "A couple of assholes", Prime and Ratchet head to the wreckage of The Ark, where they discover only a small amount of pillars for what they call a "Space Bridge" they also discover the body of a former autobot leader, Sentinel Prime, whom Optimus claims was autobot leader before he was, and that he disappeared after creating The Space Bridge, a long distance teleportation system. They take him and what they've gathered, back to earth where Optimus revives Sentinel Prime with the power of the Matrix of Leadership. And from there, once the main cast is set, and they discover that Megatron's plan is to bring their home planet of Cybertron into orbit around earth, in true transformers style, it becomes almost nonstop action with bot on bot action, bot on Sam action, and general mindless and limitless ultra violence sent at you via breakneck speed with many wonderful and amazing action scenes, that range from amazing to dazzling to completely outstanding, and it doesn't let up till the very end through all the twists and turns and surprises along the way, Micheal Bay takes us on a rollercoaster ride one more time, and we all love it. All the way to the very end, which it really pains me to leave out a big chunk of the film so you don't get over spoilered or lost shock value, I've been trying to keep from giving way more then the first 20 or so minutes of the film, and well trust me, it pains me to not tell you! lol but you'll all have to see how it all goes for yourselves. I will say this though, the final battle between the Autobots and Decepticons, gets COMPLETELY dark, like, we're talking Deer Hunter POW camp dark, like to the point I actually felt alot of it was a tad TOO violent and unsettling, which really says something.

Now I'd like to explain why this movie was doubly amazing and just plain awesome, it was full of what we in the transformers fandom call "fanwank" or as most of the world would call them Easter Eggs, and let me tell you, this film is FULL of them. The Space Bridge is from the original cartoon, it was a transwarp transportation system that could send you from earth to Cybertron in afew seconds (though to be fair by the end of season 1 they'd traveled there via ship in what seemed like no more then afew hours max, so no one's really sure how far away the planet is), and at one point, in a multi part story called "The Ultimate Doom" where Megatron brought the planet to earth's orbit to try and generate power from all the earthquakes and floods that would happen if another planet came that close to earth, they literally lifted the concept from that episode, that also featured a human working with the Decepticons, however that plot point was more lifted from "Megatron's Master Plan" where he promised a rich business man reign over the enslaved population of earth once they took over everything, when all they had to do is convince the world leaders to banish The Autobots from the planet, and then take over, only be be double crossed. The scene with Megatron sitting on what used to be the Lincoln Memorial is taken from the episode "Atlantis Arise" though admittedly, it was ALOT funnier when you see it in animation form. There are other awesome homages too, The Ark was the name of Optimus Prime's ship in most versions of the mythos, and it normally crashes on earth, and in one case in the series "armada" did crash on the moon, it looked alot like the wreckage in the film. In every incarnation of the series that Sam "Spike" Witwicky appears, he dates and then marries a blond tech genius named Carley, though Dark Of The Moon is the first time she's depicted as British, this was to correct the fact that most of the fanbase were upset at this whole Mikaela Banes thing we had to sit through in the other two films. Shockwave as a solitary hunter is a play on his lone warrior of logic persona from the comic books, and his "pet" the Driller looks alot like a creature from the cartoon called The Dweller who ate the lifeforce of Transformers. And finally, possibly the best fanwank of all, when Laserbeak, the small bird like decepticon is hiding out as a photocopier, he beeps afew bars of the original cartoon's opening theme. I've seen this film 4 times now, and I'm not kidding he really does it, its the greatest thing of all time. Now how the hell is all of that for packing all sorts of fan love into one film? Simply amazing.

So ofcourse now we come to the big question, is Transformers: Dark Of The Moon worth watching? Well the answer is yes and no, it all depends on your taste and point of view. If you're a life long fan of the transformers, then its a must see, hell the fanwank alone makes it almost a religious experience, if you're a lover of action movies, then its a must, its 100% pure Micheal Bay style awesome and explosions and complex but insanely awesome action scenes that go on forever, you'll love it. However, if you are a parent, and your child wanting to go see it, then please, keep the kids away from this one, there is alot of swearing, which really is no big deal, in the 1986 animated movie we had swearing, but more so, this one isn't for the kiddies simply by the amount of dark and twisted violence in it. I'm not kidding, from about the half way point when a major plot point happens, the cast starts to drop like flies, all in very dark ways, infact during the final battle there is a scene where the autobots are lined up like POWs and Soundwave says "Understood, no prisoners, only war trophies", then he and the rest of the decepticons not only execute one of the autobots by means of shooting him in the back of the head, but then they attempt to shoot another one by shoving him down over the body of the one they just killed. Its a seriously unsettling scene, that might be nightmare fuel for the younger viewers of the world. So keep that in mind when deciding if its something you want your young ones to see. So there you have it, possibly the most nerded up review you'll ever read of a transformers film. My only hope is that assuming they do a second trilogy, they'll do more with it, maybe explore pre-earth life for the transformers, or something. So many ideas, but time will tell. So for now, if you're up to it, go enjoy this marvelous film.

And if you still need convincing, here is the trailer...



Thursday, July 28, 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger

Captain America: The First Avenger:
When Captain America Slings His Mighty Shield,
All Those Who Chose To Appose The Shield Must Yield...

Anyone that knows me, and has long, dragged out, "conversations" with me about how comic book movies should be made, will tell you, I've always said that in a post 9/11 world, the only way you could make a Captain America film work would be to set it in World War 2 and then progress later on to modern times. Anything else, given the world climate these days, would be dismissed as American propaganda going full tilt boogie straight into a giant wall of what the world believes in general these days. I know it sounds mean, but its the truth however harsh it might be. With that said, and the horrible memories of such failed films as X-Men 3, Wolverine, Daredevil, Ghost Rider, ManThing, Electra, and two Fantastic Four, two Punisher and ofcourse three Spiderman movies still ringing in my head, as they always do, when I heard that Marvel agreed with what I believed in regards to setting up a proper movie for Cap, who is ofcourse, their biggest icon of all. I looked forward to this film with the same excitement as I did for X-Men First Class and Transformers: The Dark Of The Moon, hoping it would be as good as I was dreaming it to be. And thankfully, my dreams, my hopes, all of it, were well placed, for this film was amazing!

The film starts out in the modern day north pole where a long believed lost secret jet is found, and onboard is possibly the greatest find in all of history. Then we jump backwards to a world not different from what we know of the accepted origins of Captain America, young Steve Rogers is a kid from Brooklyn who wants to go into the army to serve his country in a post pearl harbor world war 2, Steve is small, weak and asthmatic, and he though he enlists many times using different last names, he keeps getting rejected, though this doesn't stop him from wanting to be like his best friend James "Bucky" Barnes, who is soon leaving for basic training and then off to Europe to stomp those goose stepping Nazis into the ground and free Europe, and by proxy, the world, and you know, all that other jazz they told the troops of World War 2. Steve and Bucky's relationship is changed greatly from the original material, which is refreshing, I'll get more into that later. After a night out at Conney Island with Bucky and some girls he'd gotten them dates with, Steve decides to give his dream of being an enlisted man one more shot, and after getting the attention of the recruiter for being there a second time that day, Steve is introduced to a Doctor by the name of Abraham Erskine, a German born scientist who asks Steve alot of questions, and then accepts him into the army as part of a "Special project". As this is going on, we also flash to Norway, where a German officer by the name of Johann Schmidt is storming a monastery for what he calls an artifact of great power, claiming it is older then time itself and was said to once be the crowning jewel of Odin's Treasure Room (a lovely tip of the cap to Thor, marvel's film before this one), which after not falling for a decoy, and discovering where the real one was hidden with in the same room, Schmidt shoots the monk guarding his prize, and then sets off with his troops for parts unknown.

From here we jump between Steve and Schmidt as they set themselves on their collision course, Steve training for the special program he was allowed into, all the other recruits and their commanding officer Chester Phillips, treat him like crap, trapping him under barbwire fences, mocking him as he gets caught in riggings, ect, general military dickery, Phillips tells Dr. Erskine he feels Rogers will be a horrible choice for the program, and suggests another solider who is the definition of what a solider should be. Erskine states he does not wish for that man to be the subject simply because he is a bully, and he feels no good will come from making him a more powerful bully, he then tells Phillips that he's chosen Steve, for he will not only show the best growth potential of the project, but also because he's a good person and he feels giving a good person that kind of power would be best for the world. That night Erskine and Steve talk after Erskine tells Steve he's been picked for the project, he then tells Steve that the experiment not only enhances your body, but it enhances everything about you, your strength, your intelligence, your personality, every single thing about you becomes enhanced to the peak of what it can be. He then tells Steve of how he was working on the serum in his native Germany, and though it wasn't as refined as it was now, he was forced to use it on a high ranking Nazi who would go on to be called "The Red Skull". On the other side of the world, Schmidt has returned to his base of operations high in the mountains of Europe, where we meet Arnim Zola, Schmidt's second in command of a special branch of the Nazi party called "HYDRA", where they make advanced super high tech weapons and equipment for Hitler, its revealed the object Schmidt found is a glowing cube which he claims is all the power and knowledge in the universe, as they are testing they're visited by an envoy of Nazis sent by Hitler to check on their progress with all things super science. When Schmidt refuses to let them in on his newest find, believing it too powerful for just anyone to get their hands on, they then tell him that Hitler wishes to dissolve Hydra, believing its a failed experiment, and in quoting Hitler on the matter, they refer to Schmidt as "The Red Skull". Schmidt then shows them the very power he'd harnessed by using it to destroy them. He then proclaims that Hydra has struck out on its own, believing that the Nazis are limited, he then reveals that he has been wearing a mask all this time, and as a side effect of the early version of the Serum, it turned Schmidt's head into a red colored skull.

Back in the states Steve has been introduced to Peggy Carter, a British intelligence officer who is involved with Erskine's project now dubbed "The Super Solider Project", she explains what it is as she takes Steve to the project's base of operation, a secret facility behind an antique's store in Brooklyn, not far from where Steve grew up. Peggy leads Steve into a very back room where he sees the doctor and various other people involved, including Harold Stark, a rich technology firm owner who works super secret projects for the government, Steve is placed on a table with what looks to be a special injection chamber on it, Steve is strapped in, the chamber closes around him and he's injected with the super solider serum, which after they think it hasn't worked, has not only worked, but has altered Steve into a whole different man, growing taller and more muscular, literally becoming the peak of human perfection. The officials in viewership cheer and claim this is going to tip the war in their favor. As they cheer, a spy deep inside tries to steal the one vile left of Super Solider Serum and then shoots Erskine dead, before rushing out to get to the harbor and his hidden mini-sub. Steve, instinctively, chases after him through the streets of Brooklyn with out realizing how more advanced his body has become, he does catch him, but he takes a suicide pill and dies before Steve can bring him in for questioning. After this, for whatever reason, Steve is, not used as a solider, but a PR machine, being called Captain America and wearing his trademark suit, is sent around the states with dancing girls doing a song and dance show to raise war bond money, until he's in Italy, and discovers that Bucky's unit was captured, and against orders, he singlehandedly saves then all, gaining the respect of not only the troops, but of the high up brass as well. From there, and still using the Captain America name, Steve is tasked with creating his own commando unit, tasked with taking down Hydra, and helping to win the war.

As you would expect the film from here becomes your classic war film with the us vs. them mentality, Cap and his crew start taking out and looting Hydra equipment gathering more intel on Hydra's plans and how they operate, eventually leading them to capture Zola, The Red Skull's right hand man, who after awhile gives up the location of the headquarters for Hydra, and Cap and his team get their raid on, leading to the final showdown between Cap and The Red Skull, which comes full circle to the opening sequence of the film, and then lightly deals with Captain America being woken up 70 years in his future, and the shock that causes, and ofocurse, a lead in to the Avengers film at the end, as is customary with all recent Marvel films. Over all, the film was great in not only giving you a back story for Captain America, one thats true enough to the original that we all know to be pleasing to the hardcore fans, and tweaked enough to make the few new additions better, its truly a great film over all, my only real dislike in the film, had nothing at all to do with the film itself, it had to do with how rudely the guy parked next to me and my family at the Milford Drive In (in Milford NH where I went to see the film), who kept stating all the recent marvel movies were setting up for a film about "The Justice League" got when I corrected him, claiming I was wrong and that I should mind my own business, which, after seeing the after credits scene with Cap and Fury, which leads to the teaser trailer for The Avengers, lead to me giving him a big middle finger, and a threaten of a fight until he saw how tall and muscular I am, which lead him and his date to find another spot to park for the second film. But that aside, I found nothing wrong with the film, I totally loved it.

The few changes they did make I rather enjoyed greatly, the idea of Steve Rogers being the younger and weaker kid who was always getting beaten up and had to be watched out for by Bucky, the older and stronger kid was a nice reversal of roles, where in the original stories, Bucky was the weakly teenager who Steve took on and trained and would dress up in outfit and fight crime and nazis with him, thankfully in this version Bucky does not wear a hero outfit, but, as with all versions of the story, he does die, and it fuels Cap on to victory, which is odd because the guy who plays Bucky, Sebastian Stan, claims he's signed on to do more then just one film, maybe we'll see him in Avengers as Bucky's revived incarnation The Winter Solider? Or in flashbacks? The plot doth thicken. I also liked how the movie served as a means to introduce a key part of world war 2 marvel, that most people forget because they weren't actually made during the 1940s, I'm speaking of The Howling Commandos. the comic book was created in the early 1960s and is seen by many as the first official retcon in comic books, retroactively putting Nick Fury (who's white in the original marvel universe) and his crack unit of misfits turned heroes, The Howling Commandos, into Marvel's 1940s lore, long before they became founders of SHIELD. In Captain America, basically Cap and Bucky are put into the group to replace Fury at the head, simply because movie universe Nick Fury is too young to have been in World War 2, and I must admit, when i saw Dum Dum Duggan's trademark mustache, I did yell out with delight because of how perfect they got him, and the others as well. This film really was, in a sense, a love letter to some of the best comics of decades long sense past and an era almost completely forgotten thanks to retcons and reboots and the out and out whoring of Wolverine to the masses. I also will go on record as saying that though most will complain about the awkward and kind of creepy looking CGI they did on Chris Evans before he was injected with the serum, to make him look as small as they did, I personally liked it, it worked way better then having someone else with his face CGI'd on or something. I loved that Stark was not played by Robert Downey Jr. I do love him as Tony Stark, but he just didn't really fit the concept of what his father should be, plus if he did that, then you'd get that whole Star Trek Worf playing his grandfather in Star Trek 6 nonsense, and no one wants that.

So at this point, you're ofcourse asking yourself the big question, is it really worth going and seeing this film? And your answer is, ofcourse, YES, it is more then worth going to see it, its a brilliant film for comic book fans, for world war 2 movie fans, for sci fi world war 2 films, for action movies in general, its just such a great film for so many levels, specially how they work both the traditional Cpatain America suit in, as well as the one from marvel's ultimate line, which is ment to follow more along the lines of the movies and allow for reinvention and such. I truly do commend the staff for taking what is to many holy land in comic books and making it the perfect blend of traditional and new enough to bring in new readers and fans, and also to perfectly set up for the Avengers, which looks so perfectly amazing and has be excited already. So yeah, if you get a chance, or want a good film you can enjoy thats not gonna bore you like The Tree Of Life did, then by all means, you gotta see this one.

But if you aren't convinced yet, here is a trailer to show you the awesome...



Saturday, July 9, 2011

Green Lantern

Green Lantern:
Well, Atleast It Was Still Better Than
Superman Returns... Kinda.

I believe it was the great Adam West who, while wearing his iconic guise as 1960s Batman, said "Somedays, You just can't get rid of a bomb..", a sort of tongue in cheek nod to what many Hollywood higher-ups believed of the idea of taking Batman from the small screen to the big screen, and though this line would go on to define one of the greatest camp films of all time, in a less fun way, it also defines the way that nearly every movie based on a DC Comics character that has followed that lovely bit of camp history, and yes all you hardcore comic nerds out there, I said "nearly every" because Superman and Superman II, as well as the Nolan Batman films and Watchmen are infact, brilliant films. For some reason, which no one can really figure out, all the things that DC Comics Animation division gets right, DC Comic's movie division gets wrong, well unless its Batman, its frustrating really, watching the constant build up and build up and almost Icarisian fall from the top of the box office to relative obscurity outside of its core fandom. As some of you either already know, or can judge by my statement, Green Lantern is no exception to the list of non-Batman related DC Comics bombs, which is sad, because visually, this film is beautiful, but, a bomb is a bomb no matter how you look at it.

Green Lantern tries to mash together the classic origin of Hal Jordan with a more recent, more confusing retcon that didn't really play over all that well in the comic books, and someone for whatever reason felt it would be a good idea to add to the movie, you know, because stuff tried in a comic book that is almost universally panned, works so well in the movies. The story starts millions of years before the Earth was formed on a planet called Oa, where we meet The Guardians Of The Universe, who are using the essence of willpower, which is for some reason green, to create an intergalactic police force to help them in their peace keeping efforts, this force would be called The Green Lantern Corps. The Lantern Corps split the universe into 3600 sectors, sending one Corps. member to each sector, each member is equiped with a power ring that allows them to do incredible things, and a lantern for which to recharge the ring, they are expected to travel between all the planets in their sector, doing whatever needs to be done for the lantern corps. Its very military that way, assuming you aren't already asleep at this point.

Apparently, not long after this, one of the elder Lanterns, Abin Sur, fought, and then imprisoned a being known as Parallax, a creature made of complete and utter fear, locking him away in the "lost sector" known as Sector 666. If your brain hasn't exploded yet, or if you gone to get popcorn or ice cream or whatever the hell it is they serve at movie theaters where you are and just didn't care about that first part, its ok, it'll be explained again in a second, because surprise! In a twist of story that only M. Night Shyamalan could have figured on, Parallax escapes! And his list of things to do once he breaks out of Lantern prison is as follows 1) Get an Arch Deluxe and some McNuggets at Space McDonalds, 2) Trash a Space McDonalds because even they don't have The Arch Deluxe anymore. 3) Settle for a Baconator at Space Wendy's out of frustration and self hate. 4) Find and destroy Abin Sur for locking him away in the not Phantom Zone. 5) Bang Abin Sur's wife cuz he's been in the not phantom zone for a long time and feels he deserves to be her post death of her husband bang after all those years of him avoiding having to kneel before Zod.

After leaving Abin Sur for dead on a small unimportant mudball called Earth and rushing to the awaiting bedroom of a grief stricken recently widowed Mrs. Abin Sur, Parallax didn't check his work, and though near death, Adin Sur, like megatron at the end of act one of the 1986 Transformers movie, still functions, however instead of being tossed out of Astrotrain to float through space till found and reformatted by a giant robotic Orson Welles, Adin's ring searches the planet for a replacement, knowing that it can not repair the wounds to Abin's body, because like they said in the lost sector, when Parallax shanks you, you stay shanked. Apparently the ring settles on hot shot test pilot and all around one dimensional douchebag Hal Jordan, I'm kind of assuming the ring is broken at this point, or because the ring is the only person that really liked Two Guys A Girl And A Pizza Place, or it secretly hates itself, or all of us. After the ring transports Jordan to where Abin lies dying, where he's explained why he's there, and what his fate is to be, Jordan, possibly being drunk on Red Bull, Prozac and Corona Light, or angry cuz his missed his last GTL, he accepts ownership of the ring and the lantern and told to speak the oath to make it official, later back at his douchepad, Hal, in what is probably the only funny scene in the film, tries many different ideas of what the oath could be, hoping to activate the ring, after the ring gets bored with him being stupid about it, it puts him in a trance and he recites the iconic Oath Of The Green Lantern Corps; In Brightest Day, In Darkest Night, No Evil Can Escape My Might, Beware My Power GReen Lantern's Light! ..... apparently the evil that let this script make it to film escaped your might, so you're 0 and 1 already there Sport Billy. Oh also at this point we discover that a small bit of Parallax's DNA has infected a scientist working for the secret alien investigation branch of the US Government, and is slowly taking him over, you know, because the film needs a villain at this point because Sinestro hasn't made his heel turn yet... oopsie, spoiler there as if any of you care at this point in the film.

After reciting the oath, Hal decides to do what his marvel comics counterpart Iron Man would do on a night ends in a y, which is go to a bar and get drunk, because the best way to celebrate meeting your first dying purple alien is to get kriggity kriggity krunk up in this mug and make it rain for your now dead purple homie. And a night of getting toe up from the floo' up isn't completel with out a fight or some kind as an ender, when Hal goes to punch one of the guys trying to get all up in his grill, the ring forms a giant green hand and knocks out the rapscallion trying to get Hal to fight with him faster then Mike Tyson in Mike Tyson's Punch-out. Hal, puzzled, really drunk, and partly believing he's just gotten his Duchess of Queensbery rules on, runs home, where he can sleep off his booze and brag to the internet about his fisticuffs action. At this point, Hal is magic ring'd away to the planet of Oa, the home of the Green Lantern Corps, where he's put through Lantern Bootcamp, and no, I am not leaving out stuff for comedy's sake, it seriously happens this fast in the film. He's put through Lantern Bootcamp and impresses most of the corps members who mostly believe humans are lower primate lifeforms, below the intelligence level or refinement deserving of a lantern. The Lanterns are kind of a mix of the Marines and the Heaven's Gate cult if you haven't figured it out yet, the Guardians even look like little Marshall Applewhite clones, oh and also the green lanterns are dicks. One person Hal doesn't impress with his stupid human tricks is Lantern answer to D.H Hartman, Sinestro, who's so dickish that his nose even looks like one. Sinestro hates humans, I'd assume because his mom is one and he hates them for it, or maybe he's just racist or something, anyway he objects to Hal being a lantern and has a girly hissy fit about it, right there infront of everyone, you know, cuz thats how the leader of a universe wide multi race law enforcement organization should behave., like a whiny bitch. Eventually, that leads to fight between the two, a fight thats so bromantic it would give the late Paul Lynde sexual arousal, complete with a very phallic scene of Ryan Reynolds with a very phallic looking giant machine gun, looking very phallic, for serious, this scene would be on a dvd looping it on Charles Nelson Riley's porn collection.

As you'd guess, this fight leads to a mutual respect between the two, but it also leads to Sinestro deciding that the only way they can defeat the now done banging Abin Sur's widow Parallax, is the create a ring out of the same stuff Parallax is made from, because you know, becoming the all powerful murder being is always the way to beat it. Once its crafted, the guardians prepare for the invasion of Oa, Hal, who Sinestro still doesn't really a'cotton too, is furious to discover they plan on making their stand against Parallax on his eventual return to Oa, with everyone believing Earth should be sacrificed for the good of the rest of the universe in order to stop the dreaded sort of vaguely explained creature thingie. Hal, forgetting that everyone apparently hates humans, is outraged at this and asks for help in defending his home world, and the rest of the lantern corps, ignore him and he storms off to defend earth alone, you know, cuz thats what heroes do. The final battle happens and as I'm sure you can figure out by now, the power of the one ring is greater then the power of an all powerful being of pure fear or whatever the hell he is, and Hal, taking a page from the preachings of Mr. T, tosses Parallax into the sun, because nothing can survive the heat of the sun, though i'm really not sure if Parallax is alive or not, so, yeah. In the end, Hal passes out only to be saved by Sinestro and afew of the other corps members, who bring him back to Oa where everyone now loves him and humans, claiming he's a true lantern now, and giving him control over earth. In the end, they show Sinestro don the yellow ring made of whatever Parallax was, implying his soon to be heel turn which would probably be the plot of a second film, had this film not bombed at the box office.

So its not really a question of if the movie is worth seeing or not, its a question of, just how much mashed together half baked half understood ideas can you take at one time on film? If you're like me, and is aware of the source material, and among the masses who were outraged at the entire retcon of the entire Parallax thing, see in the comics, Hal's hometown of Coast City is decimated by some massive event and the Guardians forbid Hal from using his ring's power to save the city, not even the family and friends he had there, saying they died nobly and with honor, there is no reason to bring them back to life, Hal becomes enraged, breaks into the vault where the unused power rings are kept and steals all but one which had fallen out of his hands in the raid, becomes insane with power and becomes Parallax, leading to a new Green Lantern, one people actually liked, in preparation for this film, the whole story of Parallax was retcon'd to something very vague and very confusing and alot like what he is in the film, and Hal is "freed" of his essence, which allows him to be the Green Lantern again, which REALLY pissed the fanbase off, it really doesn't surprise me that the whole involvement of Parallax was kept secret till the last minute given the uproar it has caused among the fans, and is infact the reason this film didn't match numbers with giant comic to movie adaptions like Iron Man and X-Men First Class, which is what DC was hoping to do with this film, lay the groundwork to have a shared movieverse like what Marvel's doing, and sadly, much like with Superman Returns, which really was just 2 hours of Superman doing general dickery and being a deadbeat dad, it just failed in the most horrible way. Even taking the comic book knowledge out of the situation, and my sarcastic write up aside, the film just isn't that good, its rushed, its confused, it feels like there are giant chunks missing that should give us abit more of a clue as to whats going on at any given time, and also, the CGI looks wrong, it looks like someone took the engine used to make Avatar, and then cell shaded it to give it "depth", and then ofcourse ran it through a 3D filter, which really made things worse, there was less need for 3D in this film then there was in Yogi Bear, and if you've suffered through that 90 car crack up of a bad film, you'll know that it didn't need 3D at all, you know, like most films these days. So if you're just a die hard comic book adaptation fan, or you just have two hours and a free movie pass you wanna kill, or because deep down you hate yourself, then go see Green Lantern, but if you're one of those people that actually enjoys their time at the movies, and doesn't like to have them wasted by just horrible horrible stuff, go see something else. But thats my two cents...

If you're still interested, here is the trailer....



Sunday, July 3, 2011

Super 8

Super 8:
Clovefield 1970s Style...
Or Close Encounters Of The J.J Abrams Kind..

Like most people, I've become a big fan of J.J Abrams during his recent television and movie exposure (overexposure?) from Fringe to Star Trek to Cloverfield to everyone but me apparently loving Lost, J.J Abrams has been producing, writing, directing just amazingly big hit over big hit, its almost unheard of outside of afew now legendary directors, taking this all into account, when I read the early reports of what his next project would be, the supernatural thriller Super 8, I felt I was rather worried that maybe he'd hit his speedbump in the road. But as is almost always customary with things of this nature, I was happily surprised and delighted to discover that I was wrong, and infact Abrams' has once again, turned out an amazingly wonderful film, that as always is the case with him, invokes fond memories of watching the masters of film as they produced their crafts.

The film takes place in 1979 in the fictional town of Lillian Ohio, where we meet a then 13 year old boy named Joe Lamb, he's just lost his mother in a factory accident, and his father police officer Jackson Lamb, believing that another local, Louis Dainard to be at fault because she was covering his shift because he was drunk, is the blame and takes him into custody after Joe's mother's wake. Fast forward afew months where we once again see Joe Lamb, but we now meet his friends Charles Kaznyk, Preston, Martin, Cary, and Alice Dainard, Charles is an aspiring film maker who's hired Alice to star in his low budget film that he's filming in town with the help of his friends, and using his Super 8 home movie camera. Alice steals her father's car to drive them to the location they're filming their next scene at an old train depot near the edge of town, while setting up for their shot that needs a train to be going by in the back ground, they witness a truck driving onto the tracks heading straight for a high speed transport train, this causes a massive derailment, there is a fantastic wreckage, the kids survive luckily, and as they investigate the debris they discover the truck that caused the wreck, it was driven by a teacher of theirs who warns them about not talking about what they've seen there, they don't truly understand what that means at this point. They get out of the area as the Air Force shows up to take care of the scene.

Over the next few days strange things start to happen all over town, pets start to act strange and run away, everything from kitchen appliances to car engines to power lines go missing, and Alice goes missing, her father claims that she was taken away by a "Creature", people are confused and paranoid and starting to wonder just what the hell is going on, and when the air force claims they need to evacuate the town because a major fire is coming their way, most people start to flee, while very few stay behind and ask questions, though no one is aware that the air force started the fire to drive them all out of town so they can properly search the area, they've all been transported to a near by air force base until farther notice. During their time there Joe finds Alice's father, who tells him of Alice being taken away by a monster, Joe, unlike most, believes him, and after telling his friends of what he was just told, they all decide to go back into town and try to find her. From here the film becomes a strange mix of Cloverfield, Close Encounters of The Third Kind, E.T and (if you remember your tv adaptions well enough) Stephen King's It, as the kids move about their small town trying to not be seen by the Air Force, and trying to not only spot the creature they believe is loose in their town, but uncover proof of its existence. Its part monster movie, part sci fi thriller, with just enough drama tossed in to make it a nice mix.

I know alot of you are gonna cringe at the compare to Cloverfield, when mentioning that film I'm well aware of how I am among the minority who actually understood and rather liked that film, and thats fine, and though some scenes are shot through the Super 8 camera, its important to note that 90% of the film is not, its only used for dramatic effect, and nothing more, the plot is also very similar, rampaging monster let loose by accident from its secret holding facility, but instead of in a giant city, its in the middle of smalltown america in 1979, it might to some seem like the same old same, but its really not, not by a long shot. You find yourself wondering just what is going on, is there a creature rampaging because its all that it knows? Is it fighting for its freedom over land, sea and air, and only acting violently as a means of defense against those who mistreated it? Its a wonderful puzzle that takes its time to unravel and come to its natural answers. It also shares a ponderance with one of the greatest modern sci fi films of the last 10 years, District 9, by making you ask yourself logically, if aliens really did land here on earth, what exactly would we do? Would we be nice and friendly, would they be friendly in return, or would we, as the human beings that we are, screw the whole thing up to the point we would ruin the entire experience over something petty, selfish and small minded. I do love when a film makes you wonder about that.

So the big question now, is Super 8 worth seeing? Well ofcourse it is! The summer is the time when the biggest and the best are trotted out to the masses and we're expected to shovel wave after wave after wave of our cash into the pockets of those who make these films, and though 90% of them really aren't worth the time or effort it takes to sit through them, Super 8, thankfully, is in the minority, where its almost actually worth more then the ticket price to see it. The kids play off each other so well and it seems so organic, and you truly believe that they are just random kids in a small town in southern Ohio, they also went out of their way to amke it feel like it really is 1979, I always find myself looking in the background for hints they missed something thats not from that time, and I found none, I do so love when that happens, it makes the movie that much more enjoyable. So if you aren't into comic book movies, or pointless sequels that are the exact same movie set in a different location, or you aren't up for a movie about a young wizard, his geeky friend and the plucky young girl who assists them fighting magic hitler, or any of the other big films dropping this summer, and you want a nice well done bit of Sci fi that transcends science fiction as a genre and just becomes something amazing and wonderful all on its own, then definitely give Super 8 a shot.

But if you aren't convinced yet, here is the trailer to the film....



Friday, July 1, 2011

X-Men: First Class

X-Men: First Class:
So Whats An X-Men Movie Like With Out
Wolverine Sucking It Up? Pretty Damn Good

As most of you know, I've been a comic book fan for almost as long as I've been alive, and though unlike the majority of comic book fans out there, I understand and allow for differences when they translate a comic book into a movie or a television series, even if I was, as some said, over critical to the point it was almost seen as critical assassination, of Fox's other four X-Men movies, with my references to X-Men 3 and Wolverine being the most harsh. With that said, and the bad taste still in my mouth from those last two films, I was both excited and leery about the announcement of X-Men First Class, though reboots are all the rage in Hollywood for those not interested in 3D, they aren't always the way to go. But in this case, like with Star Trek back in 2009, I was gladly proven wrong.

X-Men First Class takes us back to the very beginning of the X-Men, a time normally only implied or hinted at in the previous films. It starts out with a lovely homage to the opening sequence to the 2000 X-Men film, the scene most feel was the best filmed sequence in the entire original film trilogy. Its 1944, and we're with in the confines of the hellish Auschwitz concentration camp, where young German born Jew Erik Lehnsherr is forcefully separated from his parents, his fear and anger trigger the manifestation of Erik's mutant power, the power of magnetism. Next we see young Erik in a room with a doctor by the name of Dr. Schmidt, he explains to Erik that he's a mutant and that he wishes to help him learn to use his new found powers, though his methods of teaching aren't exactly what one would call caring and nurturing. From here we shift across the world to 1944 New York state, to an upscale house in Westchester County, a lavishly rich suburb of New York City, where we meet a young Charles Xavier, who is already well aware of his powers of mental control and telepathy, where while investigating a sound he hears in his kitchen, discovers a young homeless shapeshifter Raven Darkholme, in the guise of his mother, attempting to steal food from the house. Charles states that he knows she is hiding her true form, causing Raven to change from the guise of Charles mother, into her natural blue skin and blue haired state. Overjoyed to discover that he's "not the only one" Charles extends his hand to Raven, claiming that she shall never have to steal food ever again, stating he will convince his parents to let her stay.

The film jumps forward from here to 1962, Charles and Raven are at Oxford University, where Charles is just about to finish and become a professor of genetics specializing in human mutations, a fact he uses to attempt and pick up girls, much to the annoyance and boredom of Raven who seems to just be along with Charles for the ride, staying in the guise of a beautiful blond girl in her 20s, around the same age as Charles, though she hints early on that she takes Charles "be mutant and proud" rhetoric more serious then him, questioning why she can't just be her normal blue skinned self, she also implies that though she is grateful to Charles and his family for raising her, she wishes that Charles would see her as more then just a sister. From there we jump to an adult Erik now hunting down those nazis who tried to make a weapon out of him as a child, he starts out in a french bank where he forces the location of several known nazis in hiding claiming he was going to kill them, and then come back and kill the one he got the info from after painfully extracting it from his unwilling informant.

From there we jump to Las Vegas in 1962, the height of the first golden age of The Vegas Strip, we meet young CIA operative Moira McTaggert who is trailing a high ranking general who she believes will put her in the trail of a man named Sebastian Shaw, the leader of an organization called The Hellfire Club, an organization operating under the facade of an exclusive high end gentleman's club. Moira infiltrates the club, where we discover that Sebastian Shaw is infact Dr. Schmidt, Erik's biggest target, but with out the German accent, and that Shaw not only is a mutant himself, but has many in his employ. From here the film starts to move everyone into place, Moira recruits Charles and Raven into the CIA to help in her tailing of Shaw, they encounter Erik as he crosses path with Shaw, trying to rise his private submarine, Charles saves Erik's life, and explains that he's not alone in the world as Erik thought he was, and that he will never be alone again, the same promise he made Raven all those years ago. From there, under the guidance of Moira and a guy simply called the Man In Black, a CIA agent who's incharge of a special facility he's been using to study and prove the existence of mutants, with out knowing he had one under his nose the whole time, a young brilliant man named Hank McCoy, who with the help of Charles creates a machine to detect the locations of mutants just like them, and together, Hank, Erik, Raven and Charles form a team of mutants, a sort of mutant special ops team to go against Shaw and his team of mutants, all leading up to the inevitable battle between the two sides, as a film like this is expected too do. For reference the teams are set up as follows; Xavier's team: Charles Xavier (Professor X), Raven Darkholme (Mystique), Erik Lensherr (Magneto), Hank McCoy (Beast), Alex Summers (Havok), Sean Cassidy (Banshee), Angel Salvadore (Angel), Armando Muñoz (Darwin) with Moira McTaggert as their CIA handler. Shaw's Hellfire Club consists of: Sebastian Shaw (The Black King), Emma Frost (The White Queen), Azazel and Janos Quested (Riptide), though none of them are ever referred to as their code names like the soon to be X-Men.

First Class does a great job making you understand that these characters, some of which we've known for almost 50 years now, are not the well established in complete control of their powers and knowing who they are. It does a great job showing them grow from young confused people who think they're all the only one in the world like them, a fundamental part of all the early mutants in the marvel universe before mutants became publicly known, some might call it forced but its not, logically this would be the case in a pre-internet world, this would be the case, specially in the pre-revolutionary group period of the mid to late 1960s where repression of knowledge and ignoring the facts were common place. It would make sense that none of them would really know what they were because at that time there is no school for them to go too where they can learn what they are and how to deal with their powers at this point. And the film does a great job of explaining how the Xavier Academy is formed, and how each character starts to move in the direction of who they are ment to be, Hank McCoy ends up in his more commonly known blue fur via an accident in the lab, just like in the comics, though they explain the blue shade of it by means of it being a test with Raven's blood cells, sense she is blue in her natural state. It also does a great job showing the transformation from Erik to Magneto, which really is what we all want to see, seeing as the whole point of the film is to see how him and Xavier become the opposite sides of the same coin.

And though there is all of this wonderful and amazing story and imagery, as well as two great uncredited cameos, one by Hugh Jackman as Wolverine who is approached by Charles and Erik to join their team and they are promptly told to "fuck off", and the other being Rebecca Romijn as one of the forms Raven takes on, there are some flaws in the film. Mostly that it focuses so much on the soon to be first class of X-Men, but it gives almost no time at all to any of the villains other then Shaw and afew scenes with Emma Frost, there is almost no lines at all spoken by Azazel and there are infact no lines at all spoken by Janos, infact no one even refers to Janos at all in the film, he's just there, with his bad hair and he's apparently evil, and there really is nothing we learn of Azazel other then that he's red, demonic looking and can teleport around with the familar BAMF sound made famous in the comics by Nightcrawler, who in the comics is the son of Azazel and Raven. Unlike others though, I don't mind that The Hellfire Club doesn't have its normal structure system; Shaw is the Black King, Emma is the White Queen ect. because it wasn't really needed for this film, it wouldn't have any point in the story, and to be honest, neither are really strong enough built up characters to make any sense of the idea in the first place, all we know of Shaw is that he's old and has a vaguely defined power of energy absorption, and all we know of Emma is that she's a telepath who can also turn into a diamond form that she can use for defense, there is no explaining why she has this secondary mutation, its just implied to be like Beast's turn into his more well known blue animalistic form, but no idea how hers was triggered. There are other things that were slighty annoying and unexplained, but to go into them it would be a spoiler for anyone thats not seen the film, and I just don't wanna do that.

So the big question, is X-Men: First Class worth going to see? Ofcourse it is, I'd actually venture to say its worth about 95% of ticket cost. Sure there are some things that aren't exactly all that great about it, but you get tht with all films, what amazed me the most about the film was its three key characters; James McAvoy as Charles Xavier was brilliant, he gives you enough of the character to understand that under all of his equality preaching, Xavier is a vain prick who thinks using his power to glorify himself over others is ok cuz its "for the cause". Michael Fassbender who I only remember from Inglorious Bastards honestly, plays an incredible Magneto, you can see in his face just how much pain he's been through, even when you see him happy, you can see the pain he's repressing, they don't just drop his change at the very end on you as a shocker, its a local and expected given all of his trauma, reaction. The biggest surprise though is just how well Jennifer Lawrence, whom I've only seen before this in Winter's Bone and The Beaver, was as Raven Darkholme, Mystique has always been abit of a strange character, she really only raised to prominence sense the 1990s when it was revealed she was the mother of two of the X-Men and in the last as been linked to afew major characters, and other then a short stint as a hero she really wasn't all that big of a character until the original trilogy made her one, the fact she not only was believable, but made you actually care about a character most seemed to deem as one dimensional, is really just amazing. I will also say, if you are expecting January Jones as Emma Frost to be interesting, you'll be out of luck, other then showing off a fair amount of skin, though not in her mordern outfit or her original cape over a corset and knee boots look, there really isn't anything to Emma Frost in this film, i kind of expected that honestly, Emma's more a nitche and fanservice character who plays well in the comics, she was really only done write in a 2008 animated series which featured her. But all of the downs and ups aside, if you are up for a good fun time where you get to see some action and some great visual effects, as well as an Sr-71 Blackbird 7 years before it was created in the real world, definitly give First Class a look.

here is the trailer for those who aren't convinced yet...