Thursday, April 10, 2014

Review: Captain America - The Winter Soldier

I love Captain America as a character and I don’t care who knows it. Cap gets a lot of heat with some comic fans and causal fans about being “corny”, “lame” and “old fashioned” not unlike how people tend to view Superman. However I am of the opinion that when he’s written correctly, true to the spirit of the character, he’s pretty much the perfect superhero. I haven’t really reviewed many things that I felt got Cap correctly, as AvX and Civil War did not seem to really fully comprehend the character. But what did seem to get him were, surprisingly, the films Captain America: The First Avenger and The Avengers. Marvel Studios did a fantastic job at translating Captain America to the big screen and Chris Evans is pitch perfect in the role. In fact I believe that Evans as Cap is the best casting in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, better than Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man in fact (especially since technically his version of Iron Man was actually pretty different from the comic version which has since been altered to more resemble his performance).

So I really liked the first Captain America movie and I loved the Avengers film so it theory I should like their sequel Captain America: The Winter Soldier. However, as I learned with Iron Man 3, just because it’s a got the Marvel logo on it doesn’t mean it won’t piss me off. Also the director of the first Cap film, Joe Johnston, did not return to for the sequel (which is a very common story as apparently Marvel Studios has a serious problem with holding on to directors) and was replaced with Anthony and Joe Russo. Now these guys work mainly in television, most famous for Arrested Development and Community. Both are hilarious shows but superhero movies they are not, thus there’s a serious question as to whether they can pull it off.

Full review after the jump.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Review: Sexy Evil Genius

So today I want to talk about an actress who I’ve wanted to write about since I started the blog since I started back in 2010: Michelle Trachtenberg. At the risk of sounding creepy (haha, because having a nerd blog is totally not creepy, right?) I have nursed a crush on oh the actress since I was about ten years old, ever since she was supporting character on the old Nickelodeon show The Adventures of Pete & Pete. I have mentioned her many times before: she tops the list of the “Hottest Women in Hollywood List” I used to do and #2 was still way behind her. But unlike everyone else on that list Trachtenberg is the only one who wasn’t in a movie I was reviewing for this blog which means I went over four years without reviewing a single piece of work from my favorite actress.

The reason is pretty simple: she doesn’t star in a lot of films that I have any interest in seeing. It’s weird but most times one of her films comes up I usually have no interest in seeing it. It never has anything to do with her; ether it looks bad or one of the co-stars are on my list of actors to avoid, or it’s a TV film based on a book written by someone I hate. (Huh. That came out kind of specific). That brings us to Sexy Evil Genius.

I was aware of Sexy Evil Genius but had kind of put in on the back burner and didn’t give it a whole lot of thought. It wasn’t until my friend Mr. Kaze, who knows damn well about my twenty year crush, brought it up and told me he thought it was pretty good. Well I was going to try to watch and review Muppets Most Wanted this week but that fell through. Despite that I still wanted to get a review of something up today. Fine. Sexy Evil Genius it is.

Sexy Evil Genius is a 2013 independent film written by Scott Lew and directed by Shawn Piller. It has some pretty good nerd pedigree going, despite not being a particularly nerdy film at all. In addition to Trachtenberg the movie also stars Seth Green (who I’m such a big fan of I actually stopped watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer back in the day after he left the show…which ironically means I missed out when Michelle was on the show and had no idea she joined the cast until YEARS after it ended) as well as Katee Sackhoff, a major character on one of my favorite TV shows Battlestar Galactica Longmire and Harold Perrineau from Lost, which may or may not be all that nerdy of a show.

Anyway the point is that on paper this movie has a lot of ingredients for a really awesome film but let’s face it; I’ve been fooled before.

Full review after the jump.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Anime Review: Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040

I probably don’t talk enough about classic anime on this blog. Let’s rectify that today with Bubblegum Crisis.

Bubblegum Crisis was an eight episode OVA (original video animation; a "straight to video" sort of deal with more prestige) released in Japan starting in 1987. Set in and futuristic cyberpunk setting the series focused on a group of women who used mechanical suits, to battle against rogue robots called “boomers” and the evil mega corporation Genom. Heavily influenced by Blade Runner this series is considered to be both a groundbreaking and classic anime series. Despite this it’s initial run was cut short from thirteen episodes to eight leaving it unfinished. This was due, it would seem, to in-fighting within the studios producing it, budgetary problems and supposed a lack of initial popularity in Japan. Since then there has been a (less critically revered) sequel to try to tie the loose ends up, called Bubblegum Crash, as well as numerous spin-offs, prequels and adaptations. Furthermore Bubblegum Crisis was a pretty important anime for American audiences as it was from the same era of cartoons brought over cartoons like Akira and Project A-ko. It was one of the late 80s/ 90s anime exports that gained a cult-like fandom from collage age Generation X-ers (because there was once a time where Gen-X-ers were young and hip, apparently) that directly led to the anime boom of the early 2000s. The show is still popular today, having recently been the subject of a successful Kickstarter campaign to bring it to Blu-Ray. With so much pedigree and historical significance it’s a no-brainer that I review it now.

But instead I’m going to review its 1998 remake. Hooray.

It was decided to commission a re-telling of the original OVA, almost certainly because that anime was never properly finished. However in this new version the character designs were greatly altered, as were the personalities of most of the cast, and the story ended up going in a completely new direction with different themes. As far as I can tell Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 (as it was called) is not considered to be as good as it’s predecessor. In fact it would seem that BGC fans kind of think of it as an afterthought. Hell, it doesn’t even have its own TV Tropes page, which I found to be really odd as those guys make pages about everything! (By the way, I wouldn’t mind a Beta is Dead TV Tropes page. I’m just saying…)

Anyway it was produced by Anime International Company and licensed for America by ADV Films in 2001. Since ADV Films’ mid-2000s bubblegum financial crisis FUNimation has picked up the license and re-released the show on DVD in 2010. I have never seen a single episode of the original Bubblegum Crisis so, unlike a lot of classic anime fans, I will be reviewing this on its own merit rather than comparing to the beloved series. Is it unfairly judged or does it have its own crisis of content?

Full review after the jump.

[WARNING: The review contains a few spoilers for a cartoon that came out in the 90s so read at your own risk if you managed to remain spoiler free this whole time]

Monday, March 24, 2014

Mini-Reviews: Robocop (2014), 300 - Rise of an Empire

I suppose I should get back to doing the whole “movie review” thing, huh? A lot of reviewable movies are starting come out and it’s going to be difficult for me to see them all in a timely fashion, made worse by the fact that I’m currently staying in Chicago where movie tickets are at least $1.50 higher than what I’m used to. Still I’ve managed to get myself to the theaters a few times recently so to save time it would probably be best if we did this as mini-reviews.

Today we’ll be looking at two odd Hollywood summer blockbusters that studios clearly wanted as far away from summer as possible; the Robocop remake and the belated sequel to the 2007 action fantasy film 300. Astute readers may well recall that nearly a year ago when I posted my annual Summer Movie Preview I clearly said 300: Rise of An Empire would be coming out in August of 2013. Well apparently it was pushed back to March, not unlike what happened with G.I. Joe: Retaliation when I previewed it two years ago. So I guess if you were burning with desire for me to review that particular flick then this blog is for you.

Two new reviews after the jump.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Review: Doctor Who - Series Four (2005 Revival)

It has been far too long since my last review of Doctor Who. Long story short I never, never, never seem to have time to sit down and re-watch the show. I tend to get to watch an episode here and there except that “here and there” seem to be months apart! Since the last review a lot of changes have occurred in the franchise including a new companion and the first appearance of the Twelfth Doctor. However we’re still here in the fourth series talking about the Tenth Doctor. I will attempt to do this more frequently but as you should know by now I don’t like making promises about future content.

Anywho the fourth series of the revived Doctor Who is notable for several reasons but mainly that it was Russell T Davies’ final full season as show runner and that it would be the last season until 2010, a nearly two year hiatus (in lieu of a season 2009 had several Doctor Who specials). Change was fast approaching the show, bigger than the new series had experienced thus far.

Full review after the jump.

Friday, March 7, 2014

A Brief Intro to The King of Fighters (Shameless Self-Promotion)
Very recently my band, Zombie Apocalypse NOW!, released a new EP: “ZANVSKOF”. Although it is very short, only three tracks, it is the culmination of over a year of hard work despite numerous setbacks. I’m very proud of this album and feel like it contains some of the best songs I’ve ever written. It’s also the first of what will be a series of EPs coming out by us over a period of time. What’s different about these releases versus our previous ones is that while there’s often been a nerdy tone on our music I had the idea to make full-on themed EPs. Meaning that every EP is inspired by a different subject and, because I’m the biggest nerd I know, they will be pretty dorky ones. I was heavily inspired to do this by the music of Adam WarRock. For those of you not in the know WarRock is a rapper whose song topics tend to cover a wide variety of topics that include comic books, cartoons, TV shows, and even occasionally professional wrestling. He’s pretty fantastic and also a giant nerd so you can guess why I like him. He regularly releases free EPs/Mix Tapes and they usually are based on some top or another (I originally discovered him from his West Coast Avengers and Firefly albums). I loved that idea and wanted to do something similar. Then I remembered that I have a band and I have access to a home studio. So why the hell not?

Anyway “ZANVSKOF” is inspired by the King of Fighters video game series. I had a lot of ideas for EPs but I settled on starting with King of Fighters because I had already written lyrics to a song about my favorite KOF character years before so it seemed like a decent place to start. So now, with the album finally done, you can listen to it from our Bandcamp page and also download it for free (Or any amount. Tips and donations are appreciated).

Twenty Years of sadistically difficult bosses!
But I don’t want to just plug my new album today. It occurs to me that a lot of people, whether folks who frequent this site or even people who like my band, may not know a hell of a lot of stuff about this game series. Thankfully I have a blog and a lot of useless information in my head and therefore I can give a beginners guide to exactly what this franchise is all about.

A brief look at the King of Fighters after the jump.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Black Superheroes: Bumblebee

Not the most intimidating of codenames, but still...
Name: Karen Beecher

First Appearance: Teen Titans #45 (1976)

History: Karen Beecher was a scientist and inventor who had a fairly normal life, at least until she began dating Mal Duncan, a member of the Teen Titans who had gone through several codenames. Worrying that Mal was being overlooked by the rest of the team Beecher concocted a scheme to make him look good. She created a bumblebee themed high tech suit and attacked the team in an effort to prove how valuable Duncan was to the team. Her scheme was effective and she managed to escape Scot-free but soon afterwards she confessed the ruse to Mal. Realizing that her intellect and ingenuity would make her a valuable ally the Titans and they recruited her on the spot. Under the name Bumblebee Karen continued working with the group before eventually joining Doom Patrol.

Beta Says: Bumblebee is yet another example of a character that was “awesome on paper” but never lived up to her potential. Think about: Karen was a scientist, an inventor while also being a black woman. The black woman was the smart one. That is so rare in superhero teams. You might want to accuse DC of simply ripping off the Wasp. Truthfully aside from both being insect themed heroines who could fly I’d say there wasn’t that much connecting them. Bumblebee was as a scientist and had now superhuman powers; her costume was a power suit of her own design. She was did not change in size, which was the Wasps’ main gimmick. Um, well DC altered her so she’s stuck in a small form. Thanks for nothing, guys.

 More on Bumblebee after the jump.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Black Superheroes: Rage

I pity the fool who denies me my chocolate milk!
Name: Elvin Daryl Haliday

First Appearance: Avengers #326 (1990)

History: A small, timid kid thirteen year old Elvin Haliday was often the victim of bullying. One day while hiding from his tormentors he accidentally got covered in toxic waste. Surviving the exposure he fell ill, needing to be nursed back to health by his grandmother. Elvin recovered but was forever changed; he had aged into a body of a man in his mid-thirties and also developed superhuman strength, speed and durability. No longer timid Elvin now possessed complete confidence. At his grandmother’s urging he decides to use his new found powers to fight crime, dubbing himself “Rage”. He almost immediately confronted the Avengers and demanded to be allowed to join, which they eventually allow for a brief time. He would go one to become a member of the New Warriors and find a mentor in Night Thrasher.

Beta Says: I have an extremely strong suspicion that in the creation stage of this guy someone wanted to call him “Black Rage” but was vetoed. Because why else would you call an angry black man superhero “Rage”? Despite being 1990 Rage feels a lot more like the early attempts in the 1970s to make black superheroes. Thankfully Rage wasn’t a criminal, just a kid who suddenly got to grow up. Of course this concept is childhood wish fulfillment (what kid reading comics doesn’t dream about being an adult superhero?) and in that regard Rage is very similar to Captain Marvel. However unlike Captain Marvel, who gains wisdom when he yells “SHAZAM” and ages up, Elvin still possesses the mind of a thirteen year old. I guess that makes him more similar to the kid from the movie Big. Or the movie 13 Going on 30, but probably better acted.

More Black Rage after the jump.