Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Review: Maleficent

Let’s talk about Disney Princess for a second.

One of Disney’s bigger money making operations Disney Princess is a multimedia merchandise platform featuring various female characters (not all of them princesses) from their feature length animated films aimed at young girls and pretty much no one else, much like action figures based on action cartoons are aimed at young boys and no one else. There are a lot of questions about the anti-feminist nature of this franchise and honestly that’s too important a subject for me to write extensively about in an intro like this but I think that while their depiction of women and defined gender roles can be troubling there are certainly examples of good female role models in place, such as Mulan who I always thought was a badass. However the further back in time you go the less legs you have to stand on as the classic depiction of Princess in Disney’s catalog are clearly sexist and clearly represented Walt Disney’s idea of patriarchal system. If the main character of your film is a woman who is basically waiting an hour and a half for a dude to come rescue, and then marry her, then your movie sucks, plain and simple.

This brings us to Sleeping Beauty, possibly the most obvious film to fail in this regard. Based on at least two fairy tales we all basically know the premise of this story; Princess Aurora gets got by an evil fairy and falls into a coma until the man of her dreams waltzes into town and sexually assaults kisses her while she’s under, magically freeing her from her curse. Aurora is such a prop in her own movie that she has less than twenty minutes of screen time. She’s such a non-character that I suspect the average person wouldn’t even know her name aside from being called “Sleeping Beauty”. Now the flip side of this is despite the uninteresting lump of uselessness that was Aurora this film also introduced us to one of the coolest Disney villains ever conceived: Maleficent.

Now Maleficent isn’t exactly a great character either, as her major motivation stems mostly from “because I’m evil, stupid” but her design, power set, scope and even her name are all make for an very memorable villain. She routinely places high in Top Disney Villains lists all over the internet and continues to be used as an antagonist in various Disney projects, probably most famously in the video game series Kingdom Hearts. With this in mind it shouldn’t be too surprising that Disney is making a film featuring Maleficent as a protagonist, epically when we consider the incredibly successful musical Wicked which similarly took the villain of a classic story and flipped her role. This film also follows in the footsteps of recent flicks Snow White and the Huntsman (which in retrospect I probably scored too high) and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (which I fully plan on never watching again), modern reinterpretations of classic children’s stories/fairy tales aimed at wider audience and not simply little kids. In some case they’re darker in tone and in most cases they are far more complex. With first time director Robert Stromberg at the helm where does Maleficent stand in this relatively new genre?

Full review after the jump.

[WARNING: This review contains some spoilers , so if you were aching to see what boils down to be a kids movie you better proceed with caution]

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Mini-Reviews: Edge of Tomorrow, Jersey Boys (Film)

I’m running behind in my reviews so far this summer so this might be a good time for some mini-reviews. Today we’ll be looking at two summer flicks, the science fiction “epic” City on the Edge of Forever Edge of Tomorrow and the Broadway hit Jersey Boys now turned into a film of the same name.

Two new reviews after the jump.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Anime Review: Gundam Build Fighters

Last time I talked about the anime metaseries Gundam. Today we’re looking at the most recent addition to that series, Gundam Build Fighters. Like pretty much all Gundam series in recent memory it was produced by Sunrise and made its debut in 2013, making it the timeliest anime I’ve ever reviewed. As of this writing it has yet to be selected for import but there is some legal streaming of it around the web.

In the last couple of years Gundam hadn’t been doing super great and had not lived up to the runaway success of 2002’s Mobile Suit Gundam SEED. The most recent TV show, Mobile Suit Gundam AGE, ended up being a huge flop. Perhaps that’s why the creators decided to go in a different direction for Build Fighters. Like with Mobile Fighter G Gundam this anime threw out all tropes associated with the franchise but unlike G Gundam that included the space opera narrative. This series takes the concept first introduced in the OVA series Model Suit Gunpla Builders Beginning G, an anime that is basically about fans of Gundam playing with the model kits associated with the show (which are nicknamed “Gunpla”), and takes it to its logical conclusion: have a whole TV show about young kids battling each other. To put it simply this show is basically a cross between Gundam and Yu-Gi-Oh! If reading that last sentence made you want to shake your head and close this window I don’t blame you as I had a similar reaction when I first discovered this show. Here’s the thing; it’s wrong to judge something before you check it out so let’s take a look at this crazy anime and then verbally rip it to shreds.

Full review after the jump.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Beta vs. Gundam

"Fly, Gundam!"
Today I was going to do a review of Gundam Build Fighters, the latest Gundam TV series which just finished up its run in Japan a few months ago. However it occurred to me that the Gundam metaseries is a pretty big deal but that a lot of people who read this blog might not know much about the franchise. So really I had two choice; either I write the review and have an intro that may be as long as, or longer than, the review itself OR dedicate a blog to talking about Gundam and get it out of my system. Since that’s something I’ve wanted to do for years anyway it seemed like a pretty good time to do so.

For those of you who have absolutely no idea what the hell I’m talking about Gundam is a large franchise, primarily an anime, that’s extremely popular in Japan and pretty darn popular in America as well with the right people. Although it’s a bit more complicated than that the most important thing to know about it that is it features giant robots (or “mecha” as they’re often called) fighting each other with beam rifles and laser swords….and usually in space. If that sentence doesn’t at least peak your interest than I’m unsure if you and I will get along.

So today I’ll be looking at the Gundam TV series. It’s important to understand though that there is a lot more to this franchise than just the cartoons. As a giant money maker for its parent company Bandai this series has taken just about as many forms as you can think of. However for the purposes of this article I won’t be going over every little thing. In fact I’ll likely be skipping or skimming over many of the spin-off movies or OVAs, of which there are a lot, so if I don’t mention a comic or a light novel series here or there just note that I likely am aware it exists and you don’t need to tell me how dumb I am for forgetting to mention it. And if I do skip your favorite Gundam related thing and it really bugs you feel free talk about it in the comment section (just don’t ramble; that’s my job and I’ll delete anything that tries to touch my Kool-Aid).

We all dig giant robots after the jump.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Review: Godzilla (2014)

We all know about this franchise, right? Just in case you’re a hermit I’ll briefly discuss it. Godzilla is the American name for the fictional Japanese giant monster Gojira, star of a huge film series popular in both Japan and the United States (probably significantly more so in Japan) produced by the company Toho. Godzilla originally appeared in the self-titled film from 1954 where the creature was a metaphor for reckless use of nuclear weapons (this was a post-World War II Japan so nuclear destruction was a pretty terrifying concept). Since then Godzilla has appeared in a ton of films. The Japanese movies are split into three distinctive eras: the original Showa Era (where things were goofy and more often than not Godzilla is basically a superhero), the Heisei Era (which supposedly to be more serious yet still produced a film called Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla with a straight face) and the Millennium Era, which I know nothing about because I somehow managed not to see a single film in that series. Interestingly all eras seem to use the original 1954 as a starting point for their continuity.

In 1998 Hollywood attempted its first attempt to make their own fully American version of a Godzilla film directed by Roland Emmerich, who has pretty much never directed anything anyone has considered art ever, and while it did well financially it was a critical disaster that seemed to wipe it’s ass with everything that made Godzilla what it was in favor of, I dunno, a weird giant iguana thing that no one could possibly like (and thinly veiled potshots at Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel). The film to this day is considered one of the most hated movies of the 90s and a huge betrayal of the Godzilla franchise that even Toho openly mocks in their own movies.

Now let’s fast forward to 2014 and Hollywood is at it again. That’s what we’ll be looking at today. This time, with Gareth Edwards as director, they have sworn up and down that they had learned from their blunder from sixteen years ago. The marketing has at least proven that, yes, that’s totally Godzilla in that poster. So far so good.

I love Godzilla. My father was a huge Godzilla fan when he was a boy so when I was a little kid and expressed interest in it he gleefully fueled the fire by getting me access to lots of those old kaiju films from the 1960s and 1970s. This would lead to me having a casual Godzilla addiction during the mid-nineties. For the record my favorite film of the franchise is Godzilla on Monster Island, actually titled “Godzilla vs. Gigan”, which is goofy as hell (the villains turn out to be human size cockroaches and I’m pretty sure Godzilla and Anguirus have a conversation at some point) but I still have a lot of nostalgic fondness for it. But my point is that I’m a pretty big Godzilla fan and I, like all of the other Godzilla fans, hold a generous amount skepticism about this flick. Can Hollywood succeed where those before them (also Hollywood) failed to do; to create a good adaptation of a classic Japanese franchise? Or am I just a fanboy who will never be satisfied? OR WILL IT BE BOTH?!?!?

Yeah, this movie wasn't great
Full review after the jump.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Review: X-Men - Days of Future Past (Film)

X-Men Month concludes! I wanted to throw up one more post, which would have been a Nerd Rage about something, but I couldn’t get riled up enough to do it which is probably for the best: one less nerdy rant on the internet.

But in any event we have come to the X-Men: Days of Future Past. Is there anything left to be said at this point? It’s a sequel to X-Men: First Class, a movie I LOVED and consider it to be the best X-film. It’s being directed by Bryan Singer who directed X-Men and X2 which were both great but hasn’t directed a ton of great stuff since then (and Jack the Giant Slayer was actively terrible). It’s based on the very classic X-Men comic storyline of the same name. The plot was pretty much the same; the future has been conquered by the Sentinels, mutant hunting robots, and a small group of surviving X-Men use their resident super psychic Rachel Summers to send the consciousness of Kitty Pryde (or “Kate Pryde” as she prefers to be known in the future) through time to 1980 (or “the present” as it preferred to be known at the time) into the body of her teenage counterpart to stop Mystique and her Brotherhood of Evil Mutants from killing a specific dude which will cause a ripple effect that creates the terrible future. Of course this movie still takes place in the X-Men Movie Universe so the details would have to be drastically altered but the main crux of the story seems to be intact.

Anyway with two good movies, one awesome movie, one not terrible Wolverine movie and two absolute garbage flicks the X-Men Film Franchise has had its ups and downs over the years. BUT there’s been a lot of positive buzz about this movie where many people saying it’s the best X-flick to date. So it’s pretty clear that with so many people I like, trust or admire enjoyed it so clearly I’ll love this movie too, right? Right? Why are you just staring at me like that?

Full review after the jump.

[WARNING: There are a few spoilers throughout this review, though I avoid the really big ones. Still, read at your own risk]

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Beta's Top Ten X-Men Villains (Part Two)

Sorry this took so long. I was really busy then I was suddenly sick.

Some of these guys are actually X-Men, but the image is cool nonetheless
And X-Men Month is back. Here we are with Part Two of my Top X-Men Villain List, where I’m counting down my personal favorite adversaries of my favorite superhero team. You can find Part One here but if you’re lazy (and I suspect you might be) then let’s do a quick recap of the list so far.

#10: Sabretooth 
 #9: Sentinels 
#8: Mojo 
#7: Dark Beast 
#6: Mystique 

So let’s get back to the list and see who made the top of the list. But first let’s take a quick look at another Honorable Mention that wasn’t good enough to be on the list.

The Brotherhood of Mutants: Or “The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants” if you prefer. I’m pretty much just lumping them all together as the vast majority of its members won’t appear on this list. The Brotherhood are the closest thing the X-Men have to an evil opposite team, being similar with a different ideology. Here’s the thing; the Brotherhood is pretty much completely different with a different roster every time we see them and every incarnation has a much different modus operandi than the last. Hell, originally they didn’t do shit about mutant freedom and just want to conquer the Earth. There’s no consistency so I tend not to care too much when a new group of villainous mutant that Marvel Comics labels “The Brotherhood of Mutants” show up.

Final Five after the jump.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Let’s take a quick break from X-Men Month, shall we?

In 2012 Sony rebooted the Spider-Man film franchise with a straight face and zero irony. While the film was successful it was critically mixed. I gave it a pretty good review but even I couldn’t ignore the film’s major problems: it was full of plot holes and unforgivably dark for a Spider-Man film. Regardless The Amazing Spider-Man did well enough to warrant a sequel.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 features the return of Marc Webb, who directed the original, but has a completely new writing team (Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkner). This flick was already working through some pretty bad mojo since, let's be honestly, pretty much everyone agreed the first one wasn’t great (but to be fair that is likely mostly due to The Avengers also coming out that summer making every other superhero movie look boring and stupid by comparison). Sony did not help their situation any by their marketing strategy of “let’s show Spidey fighting as many villains as possible” as there are clear scenes of the title character fighting Electro, Green Goblin II, and Rhino with obvious visual cues to Doctor Octopus and the Vulture. This implies that Sony learned absolutely nothing from Spider-Man 3. Allow me to break this down: in order to properly develop a villain in a superhero movie you need time and thus the more villains you feature the less time any of them will have and the more shallow they will feel as characters. Half the reason Spider-Man 3 sucked was because it tried to develop Sandman as a sympathetic character, included the ENTIRE Venom origin which is probably too complex for one film, and feature the Harry Osborn “I’ll kill Peter Parker/Actually I lost my memory/I got it back and now I’m a dick again/Just kidding, here’s my redemption scene” plot line that took up way more of the film than it should have.

Of course this is conjecture. We can’t know exactly happens in a movie until we look at it and judging it before that is ridiculous and short sighted. Then again as I write this intro I HAVE seen this movie…so take that how you want.

Full review after the jump.

[WARNING: The following review contains HUGE amounts of spoilers so read at your own risk.]