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Monday, August 11, 2014

Review: Guardians of the Galaxy (Film)

I’m sure by now we’re all aware of Marvel Studios' latest offering, Guardians of the Galaxy; judging by the Box Office numbers we’ve all gone to see it at least once. Tagged as Marvel’s riskiest film to date GOTG managed to become one of the year’s biggest hits. I am a little late to the party as my current life situation did not allow me to see this film at a Thursday midnight showing like I would have years ago but I was able to see it after opening weekend and I feel I can properly review it today. However before we get into the movie let’s look back on the comic that inspired it.

First appearing in Marvel Super-Heroes #18 in 1969 the original Guardians of the Galaxy seemed to be Marvel Comics’ answer to DC Comics’ Legion of Super-Heroes, in that both were about a superhero team operating about one thousand years in the future. GOTG was more of a rebel faction fighting against an alien empire rather than a team of super-teens fighting future crime. This incarnation of the team lasted for some time but was never really popular outside its niche audience and never received an abundance of attention outside the hardcore comic book fanbase (which is why you’ve probably never heard of Charlie-27; I sure as hell hadn't).

Cult worthy title or Silver Age silliness?
You decide!
In 2005 Marvel launched a pretty massive crossover event called Annihilation that untied most of their cosmic (i.e. “outer space”) characters in one epic storyline. The comic was extremely well received despite still being more of a cult hit, and ended up getting several sequels and spin-offs over the next few years. One of those spin-offs was a rebooted Guardians of the Galaxy book in 2008. Rather than taking place in the far future this title took place in the Marvel Universe proper, just in space, and was formed by several per-existing cosmic characters: Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Phyla-Vell (the third Quasar), and rapper Adam WarRock Adam Warlock, who is definitely not a rapper. Though pretty much being exclusively fifth-string characters the team carried on the reputation Marvel had created for itself in recent years for their best storytelling being in the cosmic portion and thus the title garnered a very vocal following.

While the book has been off and on the radar since it's initial launch someone over at Marvel Studios thought it’d be an a awesome idea to make a film version based on the cult title that features characters that no one in the general public had ever heard of. And as the film has made millions and millions of dollars it’s hard to say that wasn’t a brilliant move. This film was directed by James Gunn who also directed the cult films Slither and Super, which makes him an interesting choice to helm this flick. Many people are saying this movie was very good but there are also people who are saying it’s highly overrated. Seeing as I can think of at least one other film that was highly overrated by the internet in recent memory (coughcoughfrozencouch) I think it’s best I examine it myself.

They're like the Avengers...IN SPAAAACE!!
Full review after the jump.

[WARNING: This review contains some spoilers. Nothing too bad, and really nothing that hasn't been floating around already, but they are still there and unmarked. Read at your own risk.]

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Anime Review: Kill la Kill

The last year or two there have been a handful of anime that have been so successful in Japan that their popularity has bled over to the United Sates. There have been enough titles that have done this lately that I am legitimately wondering if we’re on the verge of a new anime boom. I’m talk about shows like Attack on Titan, Puella Magi Madoka Magica and, of course, Sword Art Online which as you know I was very fond of. Even the new Sailor Moon anime, Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal, has generated a tremendous amount of buzz. But of all these surprising hits I’m willing to bet that Kill la Kill is the goddamn strangest.

Kill la Kill was directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi and written by Kazuki Nakashima, the same team responsible for Gurren Lagann, one of the most popular anime of the last decade. This show was the first full length show to be produced by Trigger, a brand new studio. Debuting in 2013 it only wrapped up a few months ago and the turnaround of it showing up on various streaming services was pretty fast. Licensed by Aniplex of America as of this writing Kill la Kill has not yet been released on home video in the USA but is has been shown on Hulu and Netflix.

The internet has been abuzz about Kill la Kill for months now and I was seeing references and debates about it for quite some time before I bothered to give it a shot. And really I only did it so I could see what all the fuss was about. Well I have and I’ve got an opinion on it.

Full review after the jump.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a sequel to the 2011 film Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which itself was a reboot of the Planet of the Apes movie franchise. “Rise of” was surprisingly well received and a sequel was approved fairly early on. As the film takes place some years after the first one, and after the ramifications of the ending, the entire human cast has been replaced. So if you were hoping for another James Franco centric film I guess you’re out of luck.

This flick was directed Matt Reeves who previously directed Cloverfield and Let Me In, two films that were met with positive reviews in the past. Still despite his talent one must wonder if “Dawn of” will be able to capture lightning in a bottle again now that it has a someone new at the helm.

Full review after the jump.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Review: Transformers - Age of Extinction

So I should probably talk about Bayformers, huh? No use putting it off anymore.

In the mid-2000s toy company/barons Hasbro decided to start trying to make movies based on their various properties. Transformers was the first to make the transition and many TF fans were pretty worried from the get-go. Once production started there were two primary concerns: 1) Hasbro is notorious for not giving a shit about their properties so long as the can sell kids toys so there was no guarantee of quality of film from their involvement. 2) Michael Bay was hired to direct the film which was a red flag because Bay has previously proven to not be all that good when it comes to things like “character development” or “plot” and prefers EXPLOSIONS when making movies.

The film, called “Transformers”, was released in 2007 and despite being overly juvenile, oversexed, slightly racist, possessing an overreliance on the human cast, featuring Megan Fox in any capacity, Dull Surprise, and no Transformer having anything resembling a three dimensional personality or an character arc and having hard to distinguishing character designs the film at least wasn’t awful. At the time this felt like a victory.

The film was a big success and thus a sequel hit theaters in 2009, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Now it would take me an entire blog to explain just how terrible this movie is so for now I will just say that it was truly one of the worst flicks I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Everything bad I mentioned about the first one returned in droves in the second one. It’s like when you meet a friend’s dog once and its fine then the next you see the thing it tries to rip your throat out. Still the film did even better than the first, despite being insanely awful, and thus Transformers: Dark of the Moon was released in 2011. This film was better than the second but ultimately it was still a very bad movie for all the same reasons the previous ones were bad movies. It’s biggest plus was that Megan Fox was fired but then she was replaced by English actor model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley who never acted before this and it showed (incidentally in the three years since this film came out the only gig I’ve seen her as having is in the upcoming Mad Max sequel, so I’m guessing Hollywood figured her out).

Also these movies introduced Transformer testicles
Never forget. Never forgive
By the way in Dark of the Moon there is totally a scene where Optimus Prime and the Autobots allow the Decepticons to blow up a big chunk of Chicago in order to teach humanity a lesson for trying to force them off Earth. This totally happened and I mention it now because this will be important later.

After three terrible but highly successful films Michael Bay decided to step down from the franchise following the third one, giving the series a possible chance to be helmed by a better director…until he changed his mind and signed up for a fourth film after all, Transformers: Age of Extinction. With a completely new human cast this appears to be the start of a second trilogy with several of the stars signed up for two more films. It’s also pretty much made ALL THE MONEY so there’s no way to avoid this terrible future. Anyway I did get around to seeing Age of Extinction and most of you likely know I’m a big Transformers fan. Thus my wrath will be swift. 

Full review after the jump.

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.