Summer Movie Roundup – 2011 Flavored

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Aug 292011
 

Time to do another summer movie round-up post. Just like last year’s post, I’ll be ranting and raving about everything I’ve seen between April and August. I saw one less movie this summer than I did last summer, and I don’t like my favorite movie as much as I liked Scott Pilgrim, but I saw fewer shitty movies this summer. Guess it’s all a wash.

17. Cowboys and Aliens

I was so looking forward to this movie. It had cowboys and aliens! How do you fuck that up? You do so by getting the guy who made the Iron Man movies to direct it, that’s what you do. The only decent thing about the Iron Man movies are the actors and how they play off of each other, but Cowboys and Aliens is lacking in the humor and interaction that allows for that sort of stuff– It’s just a big action sci-fi spectacle, and Jon Favreau sucks at action scenes. On top of that, the western bits are dull and the alien bits are unimaginative. Just plain shitty.

16. Your Highness

A sword and sorcery stoner comedy. Yeah. It could have worked it it was the least bit funny, but it wasn’t. There were a few bits that had potential, like the Hydra bit and the pedophile Yoda, but it all comes off awkwardly for all the wrong reasons. It isn’t the sort of I-can’t-believe-you-went-that-far humor it thinks it is, it comes off like that drunk guy who keeps saying everything looks like a cock and says everything’s gay and it all comes off like a heap of insecurity.

15. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

So dull and unmemorable that I completely skipped it when I initially wrote this post. ‘Nuff said.

14. Green Lantern

Green Lantern’s main problem is that it’s painfully boring. It isn’t utterly stupid like the previous two movies, but it has nothing going for it other than some pretty space effects. I didn’t give a damn about Hal, I didn’t give a damn about Parallax, and I didn’t give a damn about the Green Lantern Corps. Snore.

13. 30 Minutes or Less

Not sure why I saw this, since it isn’t the sort of movie I usually see. At least with Your Highness I had the excuse that I was out of town for over a month and desperate for something to do. Not the case with 30 Minutes or Less. At least it was a bit better. Some of the gags actually worked, and I could relate to the whole “slacker unable to get over his lifestyle vs. dude trying to make something of himself” conflict between the main dude and his best buddy.

12. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2

The problem with Harry Potter is that the source material kinda sucks. The way everything concludes is just plain stupid. Despite how lame the ending is (especially that fucking epilogue), everything else manages to elevate the material. Snape’s fate plays out awesomely, mainly because Alan Rickman is fucking awesome. In fact, all of the adult actors nail the parts and make them far more interesting than they have any right to be. With everything that works so well it’s a shame that the actual story sucks.

11. Colombiana

This would be a lot higher on my list if it was edited to hell. And by that I mean the action scenes are all but incomprehensible and the rest of the thing has that quick-cut, post-Michael Bay sheen to it that has ruined action movies. But the actual revenge story has a decent spin to it since no one is a good guy. The main chick is the daughter of a wetworks-specialist who worked for a scumbag drug dealer, and there’s no sign that he was trying to go straight. He just got double-crossed by someone who was nastier than he was. And the main chick herself is a coldblooded murderer who earnestly threatens the family of an FBI agent. It’s no ruse, she fully intends to kill his children and wife he doesn’t cooperate. This isn’t a matter of righting wrongs, it’s just a matter of rooting for the lesser evil. I liked that. Shame its action wasn’t particularly good.

10. Thor

Thor’s a lot like Green Lantern in that the spectacle part is kinda boring. I dug the part where Destroyer attacked that small New Mexico city since it felt like something straight out of a 50′s monster movie, but the Frost Giants and the big finale did nothing for me. Unlike Green Lantern, the rest of the movie was pretty solid. The guy they got to play Thor is pretty damn perfect for the role, and the rest of the cast was pretty decent. That’s been the biggest strength and the biggest problem with all of these Avengers prequels: they have awesome casts that work well with each other and nail their character, but they aren’t given anything to do. It all feels like a big sneak peek to a movie that may not deliver.

9. Captain America: The First Avenger

And Captain America is the best of the pre-Avengers movies. The action isn’t anything special, but we get a far more complete character arc for Cap and the art deco 40′s style makes the movie look far more distinct than all of the other Marvel movies. It wasn’t awesome or anything, but it was a lot more fun than Thor, Hulk, or Iron Man.

8. Priest

Almost feel dirty for ranking this higher than either of the Marvel movies, but it’s the truth: I had more fun watching Priest. I know it butchers the original Korean comic, but fuck that. I couldn’t care less about being true to the source material. The world the movie creates is fascinating– it’s all Blade Runner meets the Catholic Church. Neon signs play religious propaganda and Communion is served to you by robots in a bar. That’s fucking awesome. The action meat of the story is pretty generic,  but it manages to mesh the western and sci-fi genres a hell of a lot better than Cowboys and Aliens. Surprisingly fun stuff.

7. Source Code

You know the plot of Madoka? Take that, condense it to a more tolerable two hour movie, remove all the crying and faux-emotional bits and young girl fetishism, and you have Source Code. It’s all about manipulating quantum physics to save the world from disaster. It’s pretty standard modern sci-fi stuff, but it plays it off really well. Solid stuff.

6. Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Unlike Fright Night, Rise doesn’t so much improve the source material as it expands upon it. Sure, we’ve seen Apes origin stuff in the original movies, but we’re getting to see a different sort of origin this time around. The effects work is awesome since it manages to capture the emotions awesomely. It plays out like a twisted prison movie– like Shawshank Redemption if it was actually enjoyable to watch. And I loved the way it ties in the original movie with its brief glimpses of the Mars mission that goes missing. I’m not sure how I feel about the inevitable sequels, since this movie brings everything back around to the original movie so perfectly, but if they can put a new spin on things like they did in this movie I’d be all for seeing a new Apes franchise.

5. Super 8

Yeah, it’s a great throwback to the sort of movies Spielberg made in the late 70′s and early 80′s. It may try a little too hard and nailing that feeling, but it works far better than it should. The alien wasn’t particularly interesting– just your typical post-Alien creature– but the way the kids interact with one another was incredibly relatable. I may be a few years younger than the kids portrayed in the movie (It takes place in 1979 and I was born in 1978.), but I could “get” where the kids were coming from. You know how peeps always look to slice of life anime as some sort of reflection on their own youths? That’s how I felt with Super 8 because it actually resembled my own youth in some manner.

4. Fright Night

I really dig the original Fright Night, and the remake somehow managed to improve on the original. It retains a lot of the original’s humor while changing up details to make it work in a more recent setting. And Colin Farrell was surprisingly awesome as Jerry the vampire. Feels weird saying it, but his performance is probably the best one I’ve seen all year. Shame the Oscars suck and ignore movies like this.

3. Hanna

Art house assassins. It’s a beautiful movie filled with beautiful violence and beautiful revenge. Love this sort of stuff, especially when it’s as well-made as this. It doesn’t do anything new, but it does it with far more style than similar movies, and style’s just as important to making a good movie as stuff like plot and character development. And I loved Cate Blanchett’s character. She was intimidating and creepy without using any of the typical action movie posturing you see in this sort of thing.

2. X-Men: First Class

First Class has plenty of flaws. Outside of Magneto and Prof X, the rest of the mutants don’t get much to do, and when they do have some screentime it isn’t particularly interesting. But the rest of the movie is so good that it overcomes the lame bits. It’s like watching a 60′s era Bond movie, except Bond is busting out super powers and using them to augment his super spy tech. I loved how The Hellfire Club was rebranded as something of a mutant SPECTRE, and turning Sebastian Shaw into a Dr. No-like villain was brilliant. And if Daniel Craig gives up on Bond anytime soon, Michael Fassbender should be the first choice to replace him. If they managed to make all of the kiddie X-Men less annoying and gave them something to do, this would probably by my favorite movie of the summer.

1. Fast Five

Yeah. Fast Five’s the best movie of the summer. It’s a great action movie. The action scenes are clear and intelligible, even if they go way over the top. The characters are amusing to watch much in the same way the characters in something like Ocean’s 11 are fun– Hell, this is basically Ocean’s 11 with really fast cars, and I’m surprised it took this series this long to reach such a natural conclusion. And it has Vin Diessel fighting Dwayne Johnson– Riddick vs The Rock! These guys should be churning out action movies the way Stallone and Schwarzenegger were back in the 80′s and 90′s, and while it’s a shame they’ve had to resort to kiddie Disney movies and the like way too early in their careers, it’s great to see them duking it out together in an awesome action movie like this. We need more action movies like this.

Movies Intentionally Left Unseen Because You’d Have To Shoot Me And Drag My Corpse To See Them: Transformers 3 (Fucking hate talking robots made of indecipherable special effects and Michael Bay), Cars 2 (Fucking hate talking NASCARs and Larry the Cable Guy), Kung Fu Panda 2 (Fucking hate inept talking pandas and Jack Black), The Smurfs (Fucking hate seeing the little blue guys forced into a movie about poop jokes)

The Top 30 is now a Top 50

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Aug 252011
 

Burn down the old. Birth the new. Which is the same as the old. But different. And the same.

Yep. Updated my Top List yet again. Should be my last update for quite some time. Go check it out here.

Quick rundown of what changed:

Bebop and Kemonozume swapped places just because.

Haruhi dropped off the list completely. Yeah, even with me extending it to 50. The movie turned me off that much.

Added a few movies: Macross: Do You Remember Love, Redline, Punk Cat, and Mind Game.

Lupin jumped up quite a bit since I’ve seen the first TV series. Went from 20 to 9.

Highest-ranking new non-movie: Azazel-san.

Everything on this list is something I scored a 9 or a 10 on the old Myanimelist except for Macross and California Crisis. They’re the lone 8′s.

The ones I scored 10′s start at Cat Soup.

Debated about adding Kogepan since each episode is 2 minutes long. Then said fuck it.

The only thing I’ve ranked as a 10 that isn’t on this list is the Daicon animated opening scenes. Would feel kinda weird to put something that’s, like, 5 minutes long on this list. Kogepan and Legend of Koizumi were as short as I was willing to go.

If I were to extend it to 51 spots I think #51 would be Samurai Champloo.

Danboard Gattai

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Aug 212011
 

Nothing can stop, the Danboardastator!

Here I am, hijacking Mecha Guignol for my own insidious means once again. OHOHOHO!

The good news is, I finally got around to doing this review. The bad news is, my camera chose this photo session to be more horrible than usual.

The Danboard Gestalt. (full stop) Which can be achieved by getting 5 Revoltech Danboards, dismembering them and re-membering them into an abomination of awesome.

Anyway, onto the review proper, I’ll keep this short. Like, really short.

The Danboard Gestalt is hella taller than you might expect. Especially in it’s “full head-on” mode. As you can see by the top pic, he’s as tall as Masterpiece Grimlock.

Points of articulation are plentiful but nigh useless, as the Revoltech joints simply have a really hard time holding up all that weight. This is one reason you’ll probably want to pull off any extraneous arms as they’re not only cumbersome but add slightly to the weight of DG’s limbs. With some finagling and cheating, it should be no problem getting some nice poses for the camera though.

There are a huge number of play options available to you when you do Gestalt Danboard. For instance, you can give him a hammer hand by sticking a Danboard head onto the end of a forearm. Or grab one of the extra Revoltech joints you’re left with and make a nun-chuck out of Danboard’s leftover arms. You can even have a paired down version like so:

With a shield:

In short. If you manage to get your hands on 5 Danboards (or even better yet, 6), and you’re not some dirty low life scalper, then make yourself a Danboard Gestalt. I think it’s the law (in 52 states and none of the others).

Wacky Races (In Space)

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Aug 162011
 

Redline.

Fucking Brilliant.

The End.

But let’s keep talking about this. Redline deserves more than simple proclamation of its awesomitude.

Redline is a tournament story at its heart. Various characters with broadly-drawn personalities are placed into a violent competition where they vie with one another to be the last man standing– Crossing that red line is no different from being the dude that kicks Cell’s ass or being the guy that takes down Han’s criminal syndicate. It might seem odd to compare Redline to martial arts movies and fighting anime, but you know what might be the first tournament series?

Wacky Races.

The similarities with Redline are pretty obvious: They’re both about overly-exaggerated, anything-goes car races. But look at the format. Wacky Races brings together numerous characters to compete with one another. The “good guys” often band together to take down a common foe (In Wacky Races’ case, Dirk Dastardly and Muttley.). We may be missing the “I gotta train for the next fight” aspect we often see in shounen fighting series, but the only significant difference between the likes of DBZ and Wacky Races is the mode of competition. And really, that’s just a cosmetic difference.

So yeah, while I’m sure there’s stories that pre-date Wacky Races as far as the tournament format goes, I’m willing to bet that the series was a huge influence on all those dudes that went on to make all these tournament-styled anime series and the like.

And Redline is a pretty damn obvious homage to Wacky Races. Redline takes the basic premise– EXTREME CAR RACING– and adds in sexuality, ultraviolence, ridiculously-awesome creature designs, characters whose brief and broad characterizations cram in more style and personality than most “proper” styles of development, beautifully-fluid animation, and some snazzy beats to make a beautiful homage to a series that’s essentially one of the unsung inspirations for the entire medium of anime. At least it’s unsung amongst us non-Japanese fans. Japan’s been churning out Wacky Races games since the NES and there’s been homages to it since the 80′s. They know their roots.

Redline’s the culmination of a hell of a lot of shit that I absolutely love. It’s rifting off of one of those cheesy HB cartoons from the 60′s that I loved to watch in reruns as a kid watching USA Cartoon Express. It’s gritty, dirty, ugly, “used” future is right up my alley, not unlike Space Adventure Cobra. It revels in its own brand of logic, escalating a mere Superbowl of Space Racing into a full-blown military campaign with bio-weapons called Funky Boy and a general merging with a Dune-esque sandworm.

Redline’s damn perfect.

Wild and Loony Tiger

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Aug 142011
 

I didn’t expect this to go down. I should have, given Maverick’s power, but I didn’t expect him to go full bore with his mind control powers.

It’s a cool twist, but the timing’s a bit off.

We still have, what, five or six episodes left in the series? This isn’t the absolute climax or anything like that, so it doesn’t bother me too much but now doesn’t seem to be the right time to pull a “now you must fight your friends” story.

What throws me off is that this sort of “now you have to face your own kind” story never really feels right when we’re still in the first season/story/movie of a series. It’s like the first Tom Cruise Mission Impossible movie. In that one, Cruise gets disavowed right away. We get a brief IMF mission to start the movie, but immediately after that he gets disavowed by the IMF and he’s forced to work outside the organization to clear his name. That’s the sort of plot that’s cool after we’ve had, like, one or two MI movies, but to start things off with that sort of story feels counterproductive. I wanna see the norm in this sort of thing before we invert the formula.

While we’ve seen a good amount of Tiger and Bunny’s world thus far, it still feels too early to toss Tiger out of the system and turn him into a pariah. Maverick’s plan is pretty brilliant (If not without holes, but we’ll get to that in a bit), but narratively-speaking this doesn’t seem to be the right time to pull this off. This feels like a season two sort of thing– where the safety that’s been established after a major season-ending resolution is shattered or something. Like, this would work better if Tiger and Bunny seemingly took down Ouroboros at the end of this season, but suddenly BAM! Maverick turns around and reveals himself to be the mastermind behind everything and he shatters everyone’s illusion that all that shit from the first season had been resolved.

The timing’d feel a good bit better if they pulled it off that way. But still, it’s a fun twist. I just couldn’t help but feel that this wasn’t the right time to do the twisting.

Anyway, Maverick’s scheme is great. He’s robbed Tiger of everyone of importance that knows his secret identity. His family and his former corporate liaison buddy who now drives a taxi know who he is, but they don’t have the sort of influence that can alter Maverick’s scheme. Tiger’s identity hasn’t been stolen so much as the meaning of his identity has been rendered meaningless. He’s still Kotetsu, but to everyone that “matters” that doesn’t mean the same thing anymore. That’s some scary existential shit going on there, since it doesn’t matter if you know who you are if everyone you interact with thinks you’re a grandmother-murdering, psychopathic bastard. You still know who you are, but there’s jack shit you can do to convince your friends otherwise. That’s scarier than waking up and not knowing who you are– like one of those dreams where you know you’re dreaming but you can jar yourself awake.

Maverick’s plan would be damn near flawless if the only loose ends were normal people who are just as in the dark as Tiger. But there’s one person in the know that Maverick hasn’t considered: Lunatic.

Lunatic knows Kotetsu’s identity. He knows that he’s Wild Tiger. He isn’t like that security guard who can’t tell one dude in a mask from another because he sees far too many assholes try to sneak by him each day wearing a knockoff mask (That was an awesome bit right there, by the way, explaining why people don’t recognize Kotetsu with his pretty flimsy mask on: Any dude can slap a mask over his face and try to pass off as one of the “real” Heroes, and they do it all the time.). But Maverick had no way of knowing that Lunatic was in on Tiger’s identity, and even if he did know how in the hell was he gonna lure him in and mess with his memories without also knowing his identity?

Nope. Just like how Lunatic is the lone gunman messing around with the nice, tidy, “civilized” method of dealing with criminals via Hero TV, he’s also the wildcard that’s gonna fuck over Maverick’s scheme. He knows who Kotetsu is and he has firsthand knowledge that his guy would never murder an innocent person. He may still clash with Tiger initially, but Lunatic’s gonna be Tiger’s savior in this situation since he’s the only one that still knows the truth.

And that’s gonna be an awesome turn of events, since these two pretty much sit on completely opposite ends of the superhero spectrum. They’re gonna have to band together and take down Maverick’s scheme while finding a way to snap all of the other heroes back to their senses. And that all comes back to my initial view on this series: It’s awesome that these different views on heroism can coexist.

Also: That coffee scene where Maverick spiked Tiger’s coffee was brilliant. It’s an obviously comedic moment– the sort of thing we’ve seen in countless thrillers and the like– yet it was played completely seriously. And it worked on both levels.