Sunday, March 11, 2012

Back with a vengeance and a look at summer superhero films

Time to get off my ass and update this blog again. It's been almost exactly a year since the last update. I have a new computer, I'm hard at work on the first WarioWare Tooned episode since 2007, and I've got gigs reviewing movies at examiner.com and games at wegotthiscovered.com to boot. I also finished up a winter retail job, and am about to make a big effort to start some sort of media internship. Wish me luck.

Being the geek I am, and with the types of posts I've made before, you're probably expecting something about cartoons, games, or film. And you're getting the last one. I'm going to give my pre-release thoughts on the three big superhero movies opening this summer, two in particular are the big finales to some established franchises and have been hyped up for years.

Let's get the smallest one (relatively speaking) out of the way: The controversial Spider-Man reboot. You know what? I'm looking forward to this. I definitely enjoyed Sam Raimi's original trilogy (I'll even defend the third one, which I genuinely enjoyed for the most part), but their camp factor is undeniable. This looks to be a more Christopher Nolan-y take on the story, and I welcome the change. Also happy on their choice for the lead with Andrew Garfield - I liked him in The Social Network, and he looks the part way more than Tobey Maguire ever did. At the same time, I do hope that Spider-Man makes the occasional joke in the midst of battle like he did in the comics and cartoons to balance things out, and that bit in the car in the latest trailer has me crossing my fingers in that regard. I do wonder how they'll make certain elements (The spider bite, Uncle Ben's death) seem fresh, but I think this could be pretty cool and will walk in optimistic, unless it's another Green Lantern on Rotten Tomatoes.

Oh, was there another Marvel movie I forgot about? I'm kidding, of course - the movies themselves have been hyping this one up. To run down the list of the films whose characters will be making the big teamup and my thoughts:

Iron Man is the best. No contest. If it wasn't for a certain Dark Knight, it would be my favorite superhero movie. Everything about it just worked. The Hulk reboot had its fans, but it's the single one of all these I just didn't like, due to a generally uninteresting plot and cast. Iron Man 2 was a definite letdown when compared to the original, but I still enjoyed it. Thor was surprisingly fun and funny when it needed to be, and I liked the more fantasy-oriented take it had compared to everything else. Captain America was one of the biggest surprises of last year for me. It still didn't match Iron Man, but every time I see it, I like it more and more - and I really liked it to begin with!

So what do I want out of this movie? More than anything, I want each character to have their own meaningful plot going on. Bruce Banner is easy to guess - he'll still be trying to control his transformation. Judging by the end of his movie (My full review here), Thor will likely have found a way back to Earth to spend some quality time with Jane (That's the Natalie Portman character for those who don't remember - Wonder if she'll make a cameo) and be sidetracked by Loki's return, and the other two are the ones I'm curious about. I think what I want out of this film the most character-wise is to see Captain America adjusting to waking up in modern times. There are already hints of a sequel to his original flick flying about, but I really don't want that - his story has a huge opportunity to be wrapped up perfectly here, and not stretched out to sustain an entire film on its own. So where is Tony Stark going to fit in? I honestly wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't have his own real subplot, because being unfamiliar with the comics, I'm hard-pressed to think of what other problems he could face, personal or otherwise. Obviously, Iron Man 3 has already been confirmed, but I'm really wondering what they're going to use after two films and this thrown in as well.

Really, this is all going to come down to the character interaction if they want this to work - and honestly, I think that for all the action we know it'll have, this could be where the movie truly shines. The idea of two egotistical wiseasses of different manners like Stark and Thor going off on each other could be hilarious, and after remarking what a good job Cap's film did of making him a likable everyman, I want to see his patriotic ideals conflict with those two's brash nature. Bruce Banner I could care less about - he was boring to me in his own movie, and while I have nothing against Edward Norton or new guy Mark Ruffalo, I don't think an actor change will make him more interesting. Maybe he's more fleshed-out in the comics, but I have a feeling he's really going to be upstaged by the other three (or in Hulk mode for most of the action anyway). I honestly know nothing about Black Widow or Hawkeye, so I don't expect either of them to blow me away personality-wise. And finally, I really hope they give Sam Jackson's Nick Fury something substantial to do - he's basically been a walking Avengers teaser in all his brief appearances, but I hope he gets to show some personality or badassness here.

I think that at worst, the movie will be good the same way Iron Man 2 was. I feel like there's been too much pressure and buildup for them to royally screw it up, and seeing how solid the track record has been, how much people seem to love director Joss Whedon, and how cool the trailers have been looking, I think it's gonna be a great ride. And as controversial as this may sound (And I know it won't happen), I'd like to see them close the book on these characters after this - all the movies have had little references and teases at this, so it feels like a natural point to end. But seeing how Thor 2 and Iron Man 3 are apparently in pre-production, and Captain America 2 sounds like it's not too far off, that will not be the case.

Okay, let's get to the elephant in the room:

No doubt about it - this is gonna be the big one. The anticipation and excitement surrounding this is just enormous - and why shouldn't it be? Batman Begins was great, and I am not ashamed to say that The Dark Knight would probably make my all-time top 5 favorite films. Nobody was prepared for the level that Christopher Nolan would take with the second chapter, and every little thing about it just worked. I have no qualms calling it a masterpiece of filmmaking. Nearly four years later, the pressure on Nolan and his cast and crew must have been enormous filming this thing, and a lot is still shrouded in secrecy. We don't know what Bane's agenda is, we don't quite know how Catwoman will tie into the plot, and in my opinion, the biggest question of all: Is Bruce Wayne going to walk away from this at the end?

Nolan has publicly said he always intended these movies to be a trilogy with a definite start, middle, and end, and I feel that any ending with Batman alive or still in action would still feel pretty open. And I don't want that, because chances are Warner Bros. will try and continue this story with or without Nolan and company's involvement. Chances are it wouldn't be the same. And here's the biggest thing about this idea in my mind: I do cry at movies sometimes. The ending to last year's Warrior got me a little misty-eyed. Where The Wild Things Are left me sniffing. And Big Fish always leaves me bawling. If Nolan and co. do end this movie with the death of Batman - and if they do it just right - it could be catapulted into one of the best endings of all time for me. And really, it's still going to be hard to top this.

I must be entirely truthful and admit that the one thing that is leaving me a little worried about this time around is the amount of characters apparently being crammed in. My reason for concern here stems from none other than Nolan's last film, Inception. Now before anyone gets mad, let me make one thing perfectly clear: I thought Inception was great. I loved its originality, visuals, and action. But I couldn't help but feel let down in terms of its character development. The main character of Cobb (DiCaprio for those who can't remember) was the only one who got fleshed out at all, and though I certainly enjoyed his tragic backstory as it was gradually revealed, I was left wishing that the others got at least some sort of similar treatment. Can you tell me anything about Joseph Gordon Levitt and Tom Hardy's characters? Or even their names? Dark Knight had meaning and soul to all of its characters in some regard - we got a better idea of why Bruce Wayne dons his cape, the utter insanity and lack of goals Joker had, and the tragedy of Harvey Dent's rise and fall. Hell, even Rachel, easily the most hated character in Begins, managed to pack an emotional punch in the end - Four years later, I STILL remember the unified gasp in my theater when she went boom. I really do hope that the same dynamics return for this, at least for the central characters from the comic. I want to know what Bane is trying to do, I don't want him to be an anarchist that just reminds people of Joker, I want to see more of Catwoman's goals in robbing or whatever she ends up doing, and I want to know Bruce's reason for apparently retiring Batman and then coming back.

At worst, this movie's not going to be as good as either previous entry. At best, it could somehow match Dark Knight. My guess is that it's going to land in-between both entries in terms of personal preference. I don't know if they can catch the lightning in the bottle that was Dark Knight a second time, but it looks like they're trying, and dammit, I'm gonna be there opening day, and I hope I'm blown away again.

So there you have it. I've been meaning to write this post for a long, long time, and seeing how close we're getting to these three, the time felt right. Hopefully I'll find other stuff to post about in the meantime. Thanks for reading.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Back from the dead

So I'm not dead. I just haven't updated this blog or put out new cartoons or drawings for some time.

Why? Because real life happened. That's really all that needs to be said. Thankfully, I'm settling back into a routine and, as as soon as my usual laptop is fixed (I'm typing this from a relative's computer), I'll be back to work on Wario and Spacious.

In the meantime, if you were ever interested in the show Dragon Hunters I mentioned long ago, the whole series is now streaming on Netflix, available in a torrent floating around (Not linking that, but it should be easy to find), and someone is putting every episode up on Youtube, so you really have no excuse to give it a shot now if you're even slightly intrigued.

Also, of the last three movies I saw, Rango was really good, Mars Needs Moms was surprisingly decent, and Battle: Los Angeles was painfully dull. I'll be putting up more reviews at http://www.examiner.com/user-behonkiss in the future.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Back with a vengeance...and a rant about this year's bunch of animated movies.

Yeah, for those who ever read this blog and still want to read it, I'm starting it up again. I haven't been having personal problems or anything preventing me from working on the blog, I just kind of forgot about it. But in any case, I'm going back to art school and working on a new Wario cartoon, so the Internet (and hopefully the animation industry) has not seen the last of me.

I'm updating this blog because I think there's something wrong with me. Anyone who knows me in real life knows how much I love cartoons. And last year I thought had two stellar animated films in WALL·E & Kung Fu Panda, with the latter becoming one of my all-time favorites. (Yes, I enjoyed Kung Fu Panda more than WALL·E. Deal with it.) Bolt wasn't half-bad either, despite all the behind-the-scenes turmoil it had.

So why has this year been so weird for me? You're probably expecting me to say that I hated most or all of the animated films I saw, but that's definitely not the case. Or you're expecting me to say that this was an absolutely stellar year for them, like many people are saying. That's not the case either.

Here's my weird thing: I've seen seven animated films this year (Probably a personal record), and I've had the same opinion about every one: Good. Not great. Not bad. Not mediocre. Good.

Let's take a look at my reasoning behind this:


Pixar's Up was easily the most critically successful animated movie of the year. People praised its heart and originality, citing the extremely emotional and touching first 10 minutes. So why is it that this emotion- Hell, this series of events that drives Carl's character- is thrown to the wayside for most of this movie in favor of wacky birds and talking dogs? Not to say that it isn't funny or entertaining (It's both), but really, this had so much more potential than what it ended up with. It's easily one of the "least good" Pixar films in my book- but that's still saying a lot with their standards. It's still a fun film.
Dreamwork's annual entry, Monsters VS Aliens, made a killing at the box office but didn't do so hot critically. I actually wasn't planning to see the film at all, feeling that aside from one funny bit, the trailer looked like crap. But my brother ventured to see it, enjoyed it, and convinced me to go see it. And you know what? It was actually pretty good. There are definitely some problems, such as some lame pop-culture jokes that fall flat and little character development outside of Susan/Ginormica, but it's a funny movie with some great action scenes. This is actually one that I would LIKE to see a sequel to, both because the movie itself hints at further adventures at the end and I feel like it would be a good opportunity to flesh out the other monsters, but it's not going to happen- Katzenberg said some crap about it disappointing overseas, even though it made like $300 million over here.

Along with a movie I'll get to later, Coraline was praised for fantastic visuals, a surprisingly dark plot, and keeping theatrical stop-motion movies alive. So why did I walk away from it just thinking, "Well, that was decent"? I can't really place what I did and didn't like about this movie, but I can't even call it forgettable because of some of the more memorable visuals (The disintegrating world at the end looked PHENOMONAL in 3D). It's good, and that's all there is to it.

Shane Acker's 9 was being praised before it even came out for its surprisingly dark atmosphere and story, but didn't do so well with critics or audiences when it finally got released. Some called it too bleak for its own good. Others felt there was too little character development. Others hated the ending. And yet I enjoyed it even with these faults. True, the characters weren't developed, but I felt like most of them (Outside of the mute 3 & 4) had some amount of personality. As for the ending, how else can you end a movie where mankind is already gone and the world has been destroyed? Again, I chalked this one up as decent.

Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs wasn't a critical success on the same level as, say, Up, but many people did indeed praise it- My favorite online movie reviewers, Spill.com, even gave it their coveted "Better Than Sex" rating, so I went in expecting something great. And yet, while I laughed, loved the visual style, and had a good time, I failed to see what makes this so phenomenal. Once again, good but not great. Seeing a pattern here?

I saw Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox opening weekend, and was apparently one of a select few, since it pretty much bombed. And it's a shame, because this is a fun and unique film- and yet again, not a great one. Much like its stop-motion sibling Coraline, I can say I certainly enjoyed it and can call it a good movie, but I can't quite place what held it back from greatness for me personally.

And finally, we have The Princess & The Frog, which I literally saw a few hours ago. Going in, I was realizing this was my last shot. Even if I hated this movie, it would at least differentiate from my opinions of everything else I've seen this year. Guess what I thought? It was good. I will say that I thought the first half-hour was great- The songs are awesome, the visuals are awesome, the pacing, the jokes, etc. But once Tiana and Naveen are both frogs and end up in the bayou, things slow down a little. The songs aren't as good, the visuals aren't as inventive, and the jokes aren't as frequent. The romance angle also felt underdeveloped- There were some very good scenes of the two coming to respect each other, including one with a cute payoff later in the film ("You minced!"), but I didn't buy Naveen falling for Tiana by the climax. And yet after all of this, I sound like I didn't like the film. Turns out I did- it just seemed like at the beginning it might be the standout animated movie this year instead of just being a good one.

My three favorite films this year are all live-action- Star Trek, District 9, and Where the Wild Things Are were all great. I don't know what all this says about me. I don't feel like my feeling on animation have changed at all- I still feel that there are an infinite amount of different ideas and concepts that can be done with it, and I feel confident that I'll see more films I love in the future. Yet why was I so middle-of-the-road this year? Many critics and filmgoers alike feel that this has been possibly one of the best years for animation ever, yet why can't I feel any emotion other than "That was pretty good" for these films? I might actually feel better if I had bashed 9 or Monsters VS Aliens like so many, but I felt much the same way about them as I did the other films. Here's to better luck next year.

P.S. Yeah, I didn't see Astro Boy, Planet 51, or Ice Age 3, but it sounds like I didn't miss much.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Rock Revolution- What's the point?

We already have Guitar Hero World Tour and Rock Band for the complete virtual band experience, but Konami's trying to hop on the bandwagon with a crappy-looking knockoff that has no master tracks. Their E3 presentation did absolutely nothing to convince people of the game's merit (Watch to the end):



On a positive note, it was very smart of Activision to make the Rock Band instruments compatible with World Tour. Now I can pick up both.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

O Canada

AGH.  Had most of this entry typed out and deleted it.  Let's try this again.

Our trip to Canada has been a mixed bag so far.  We started in Quebec, which is a fabulous city with European styled architecture, horse carts all around, street performers, and great shops and restaurants.  Montreal, on the other hand, is a bore, simply because it's like any other U.S. city.  Most of the places there are just like those you'd find in your neighborhood.

The good news is that tomorrow, we go to Ontario and pick up a pup!  We're thinking about naming her Addy.