The Amazing Spider-Man
I was a little cynical when this came out, and had little interest in seeing it. Seeing yet another retread of the origin story certainly didn't interest me, and the Lizard looked like such a lousy villain, visually, that what was there to entice me? My dad saw the teaser for the second one, however, and thought this was worth checking out. I was pleasantly surprised.
Sam Raimi's take was very "comic book", in the old-school sense. It's whimsical. It's funny. It's light-hearted. It's spooky. It's weird. It crams a lot in and makes for an entertaining ride of a time, and was exactly the kind of superhero movie folks needed at that time. It covered a lot of angles, from Peter's home life, his work in the Daily Bugle, to working as Spidey and protecting Mary Jane.
This film offers a much tighter perspective, and it's only watching this do you realise how spread out Raimi's film is in comparison. This one plays up Peter's relationships and responsibilities first and foremost. The iconic speech isn't delivered word for word (and mercifully - it's a great line, but it's very "comic book", isn't it?), but the idea is there. Spidey walking away from a situation has grave consequences, but assisting a colleague is also what ends up spawning the Lizard.
Uncle Ben is played quite well by Martin Sheen, and his death is shown on-screen, across the street from Peter, making a much clearer consequence for his inaction rather than simply hearing about it from Aunt May. Doug Walker's review remarked that it seemed to rush past his death rather quickly, but I think it was done quite sensibly.
Not only have we seen his death a dozen times in other adaptations, but responding to his death isn't through moody scenes at the funeral or crying with Aunt May. It's through his anti-social attitude. He lashes out at friendly joshing from Flash, spends a lot more time on the streets, and his quest for revenge is what starts his tenure at Spider-Man. He tracks down criminals in hopes of finding the one who killed Ben, and he shows his wisecracking, smart guy attitude. Otherwise a quiet, geeky kid in his normal life, it implies that the "Spidey" persona is his way of expressing his anger or grief.
The film features a lot of time set in high school, with the old routine of jocks, bullies and so forth. Everyone's young and silly, and it makes sense that vigilantism is Peter's way of working through his frustrations. He does it at first simply out of his own quest for vengeance, but later he does go out of his way to help people, which rewards him greatly in the climax.
The scenes with Spider-Man are almost entirely set at night - I think only his scrap in the school is during daytime, and it really plays up the "masked vigilante" angle. His suit is very sleek (and the redesign looks ace on-screen), though the eyes are now curved and reflective, very reminiscent of motorcycle goggles. It gives him a darker image that plays up his dubious interests.
The film carries a strong theme of "secrets". Peter's parents were associates of Doc Conner, but their history and involvment is still largely a secret by the film's end, and used as a hook for the sequel. Peter keeps his identity secret from his family, and only reveals to Gwen Stacy and her father, the chief of police, who at first is very suspect of him and Spider-Man, but by the end comes to respect and assist him, though, again, not without consequence. The relation with Conners is very amiable at first, but ends on a sour note as the two become cryptic and unfriendly due to their alternate identities' motives.
The Lizard is sadly the disappointing thread in the film. Spider-Man and Parker are given great treatment, and all the supporting characters are played well. Conners begins an interesting character, a devoted scientist forever seeking a way to restore his lost arm. He's determined to do this, having researched it for years, but does not wish to harm people in human testing until it has been proven successful. He then falls straight into half-baked "well-intentioned extremist" angle when the serum gives him a superiority complex and wishes to infect the whole world with the lizard shit.
Having Parker face off against whom he considers a mentor is always a good angle, previously working well with Alfred Molina's Dock Ock in Spider-Man 2, but Conners just falls into a stereotype so quickly there's no room to make him interesting, and his transformation, even after seeing it in toys and screenshots for years beforehand, still managed to make my heart sink. The film does play up some neat lizard traits, like the detachable tail and the gradual display of scales as his anger flares, but the full-on Lizard is just freakin' ugly. A big brute, sure, but its movements aren't interesting, and I can't stand to look at its face.
You know what it reminds me of? The Super Mario Bros. movie. He's like a goddamned Goomba. And seeing him deliver speeches to Spider-Man with those ugly lizard lips just gives me images of bleached-haired Dennis Hopper doing the same thing. For a mega blockbuster Hollywood film, I think that's the last thing they'd want to remind you of. I'm struggling to wonder why they made it that way - it couldn't have been just to make lip-sync easier, rather than mapping it to a lizard snout, could it? The freakin' Narnia films managed that well with lions, bulls and goodness knows what else. I respect giving things a change, but this one is like the last nail in the coffin - a lousy look for a lousy villain.
Personally, the film was a pleasant surprise. I wasn't expecting such an entertaining and well produced film out of this! I think everyone, knowing it was a reboot made to keep hold of the license, was almost expecting a quick cash-grab, but it's a surprisingly solid film with great themes and characters. The villain is the weakest element, but everything else holds up. A good show.
I can't even remember where I heard about this, I just saw an off-hand comment about it and thought it sounded interesting. And it is interesting! It's a 13 episode anime with a very rounded, cartoony art style - I'd say inspired by Osamu Tezuka's works, or even just early Disney and American cartoons. Big puffy fingers and rounded bobble heads everywhere.
Kaiba takes place in a universe where memories are a commodity - you can replace your bad memories for pleasing ones, or straight-up relocate your brain into a new, handsomer body. A pick-and-mix society, if you will, though there's a lot of classism to go with it. Most of the poorer classes are just memory chips floating in voids awaiting new bodies, having had their originals stolen or sold; while the richer folk burn through bodies and memories just on thrills. The setup is explained before every intro, though how much it relates to that episode's story is another matter.
For the first few episodes, Kaiba is stuck in the body of a puppet, unable to speak, and just kind of gets lost and bumbles around to random planets, serving as the viewpoint for little vignettes and one-off stories. Stuff like the indignant sons of a dying grandmother trying to find the supposed treasure their grandfather buried, or a poor girl from a dead-end planet yearning to see the world, but the only worth she has is as an attractive body.
There's a lot exploration of people's memories, not to mention a large dose of body-swapping, so it can be rather bananas to follow - the intro helpfully shows what body Kaiba is occupying each episode - but it's a very unique, entertaining watch.
The first two thirds of the series just explore these weird little one-off ventures, and I absolutely loved it. I enjoyed just watching these offbeat little tales in a big strange universe, with Kaiba as a mostly-mute viewpoint character. It does cover some weird angles - Kaiba first loses his body when it's abducted by a woman to use for sexual gratification in some alien manner, but ends up killing herself through climax...? It may look cartoony, but it's an effed-up series, I'll say that much.
The sheer oddity of it is part of the appeal. The animation style changes throughout the series depending on the story, one of them close to scratchy work-in-progress sketches - you could argue it's crap, but in an offbeat series like this you could also describe it as "interesting!"
The last third of the series finally puts a plot into action: it turns out Kaiba was an evil overlord who messed up his planet and was a mean ol' tyrant... but before that he was a good guy who got his memories erased, and that's why he's now a bad guy? And there's a hero from the lower classes who's looking to rise up and defeat him, despite helping him flee the planet at the start of the series...?
It also turns into a love story between Kaiba and his childhood friend who's now an assassin trying to defeat the evil overlord Kaiba, and it gets a trifle confusing without context. It's interesting, but it also becomes rather tiresome to watch. The grand focus, the exploration of the world it has created? Pfhhhbtt. Out the window. It's now just Kaiba, the girl and his enemies. Boo.
It does offer some interesting swerves, such as Kaiba's mother being a vital part in him trying to do good, even after her consciousness is put into the body of an ostrich, but I simply found it nowhere near as interesting as the one-off tales! I think I'm just desperate for something that satisfies that itch: a series that simply builds a universe and tells stories within it. It doesn't need recurring characters or an overarching focus, just whatever good tales come to hand.
It's still a very entertaining series, one I'm very glad I watched. The last third does tread back into generic anime land - and the ending is complete bullshit, total nonsense, attack of the mind, what the fuck, I don't even care anymore sorta rubbish - but what frustrated me the most afterwards was the lack of good reading on the series.
When I finish watching a show, I always like to read up on it afterwards: what do people think of it? What discussions are they having? Interviews with the people who made it, that sort of stuff. I couldn't find a thing on Kaiba! On the Anime News Network I looked up the big names behind it, and they've certainly worked on other shows, but nothing nearly as experimental. It's like-- who paid for this? Was this an auteur thing, a director had an idea and just had to see it made? Did sme company commission it? What were the inspirations behind it? I'd love to have learnt something about the show and what influenced it, and there's bloody nothing. Vexing!
Despite my gripes with the last third, this was a very intriguing watch, one I'd recommend and have to revisit sometime.
Find A Soft Spot To Land On
An autobiography of the author's life, chronicling their childhood, the turbulent relationship with their father, their ventures into the army and beyond. It's a very compelling read! The writing isn't exactly professional and the editing's a little skew-whiff, prone to quotation marks in random places and Sudden Capitalisation Out of Nowhere, but the writing is clearly very heartfelt.
Michael Coatesworth is an author who really excels about telling stories from his life, and that's mostly because he's led an interesting life! It's a very personal story, detailing his period of living on the streets, even his suicide attempts, and his experiences after his life-changing disabilities. It can be rough reading and sometimes even a little unrealistic; the book does express how mad some of its tales can be, as the blurb on the back even states something along the lines of "whether you believe it or not, you've got to admit it's a good read."
It feels questionable recommending a book that's so personal, but I'd dare say it was one of the best reads of the year, and easily the best of the author's reads I've read. I've no idea where on earth you would find it now - it used to be a print-to-order book on Amazon but is now "currently unavailable" - but it's one strong read, I can tell you that much.
Peter And Sarah: A Single Rose
May ~ Jul
A.K.A. "It Was A Ghost". Alternately, "What Kind Of Dream Will It Be This Time?"
Mike Coatesworth's non-fiction works were great reads - exaggerated or not, reading about his experiences was very engrossing, and you believed whatever event he found himself in life, be it humourous or tragic.
Peter And Sarah was the first of his fiction I'd read; its cover paints it as a romance story, while the blurb emphasises their numerous adventures, but the text itself seems determined to test your suspension of disbelief as fast as possible. Within the first twenty pages, the two fall victim to a rockfall, a cave-in, and a wolf attack... all in the Yorkshire moors, no less!
The book begins with some sort of narrative following how the two first met, their decision to marry and spend their lives together, and the heartache they feel when they're separated by their jobs. Each chapter is essentially another adventure in the couple's life - some of it very twee, and some of it a visit to bananas city. Name a disaster, and these two face it. Landslides! Car crashes! Dangerous animals! Being lost in the wilderness! Avalanches! Plane crashes! GHOSTS!
There is very little continuity between these encounters. One of the earliest chapters has Peter caught in a car crash, and being paralysed from the waist down. By the next chapter, he's cured of it in the first paragraph. The two get into so many life-threatening shenanigans it's almost parody, and only by the end of the book does it suggest they might want to settle down from all of that.
The unfortunate part is for such focus on adventure and peril, the writing lacks "pop". The chapters follow a certain formula, where the two visit somewhere for some peace and quiet, but then disaster strikes - often so suddenly I have to go back a few sentences and figure out what happened to get us from point A to point B. It's a little too easy to gloss over the text, which is often full of fluff paragraphs on the sights they see and travelling procedures they take, making it easy to overlook when something actually happens. And so many life-threatening encounters happen throughout the book it's hard to take it seriously. There's only so many times the characters can ask themselves if this is really the end for them before you feel like getting an anvil and giving them an answer.
One recurring theme throughout the book is ghosts. Ghosts, spirits, poltergeists, the book is dripping with paranormal activity. The aforementioned wolf attack at the beginning of the book? Actually a guardian angel that protects Sarah until they're home safe (and even helps them choose their first house together). Spirits or unseen voices appear in almost every other chapter to lead one of the two to safety. The ghosts of the Bronté sisters even pull in double shifts to bail them out from whatever mortal peril has befallen them this time.
And then there's the dreams! Several scenarios turn out to be complete fabrications, and Peter had either bumped his head or eaten cheese or something daft, and just had a bad dream.
One especially egregious chapter has the couple going to a swish hotel, and when Peter emerges from the bathroom after shaving, Sarah's gone -- and the staff have no recollection of her being there! Peter runs to the garden looking for answers when he finds an orb of light that tells him, "I know where Sarah is", and touching it causes him to wake up... in the distant future! Now he's drafted into some future sci-fi war and the people there still don't know who Sarah is, and just when he seems to be at the brink of despair, Peter is woken up and told he'll be late for lunch. He jokes about it to the staff, only to be told his hotel room is said to be haunted by a poltergeist!!!
Another episode features the two flying to some romantic getaway when suddenly the plane goes out of control and crashes into the ocean! Water's flooding in, people are being sucked under and drowning horribly, the rest clinging on for dear life! There's sharks making their way in! How on earth are they gonna get out of this one!?
Then Peter comes around after a suitcase fell on his head. Oh, Peter!
And it kinda goes on like that. They do encounter genuine dangers often, such as surviving the bitter wilderness of the Himalayas or somewhere like that, but the bulk of the book is outrageous adventures that feel completely out of place, even when they aren't instantly resolved with an easy exit. The blurb does describe it as "tales of romance and adventure that will keep you wanting to read more", and it is true - some stories are just so off the wall you wonder what sensible explanation they can have for resolving it... and more often than not, they don't. You can count on it being resolved by a dream or a ghost.
There's a lot of peril, but there's an attempt at romance as well. There's chapters that stop to tell you how their lives are advancing, their new accomodations and the sacrifices they make for each others' wellbeing. There's plenty of purple prose on how they can't live with each other that crops up whenever one of them is lost or injured, but there's only a few scenes that sold them as a loving couple to me. A couple who bonded and interacted with each other, who shared laughs and their own experiences in more ways than parrotting "I love you" back and forth to each other.
One quirk of Coatesworth's books is that some bits seem to be carried over between each other. Homespun Yorkshire Tales, the first of his books I read that's essentially a collection of blog posts and tales from his life, featured stories that would be repeated in Find A Soft Spot To Land On, sometimes with more or less detail. This book is no exception, and foists Mike's jaunt to a bucking bronto contest into the lives of Peter and Sarah, only now with a rushed introduction where they hear the place was robbed by Native American bandits or something. It's such a throwaway inclusion I was left wondering, does this mean there'll be a hint of danger to the proceedings? Will there be a twist ending? Er, no, it plays out identically to the last time I read it.
What's frustrating is that by the final few chapters, the book begins to settle down and explore the couple's home life, and although it's not high-octane writing, it gives a greater perspective of the characters' human sides. The final chapter is a serious change of pace, with Peter receiving word of his brother's death during service in Afghanistan. He's called back to the service to help on a bomb squad, while Sarah and his brother's wife make do with empty homes in a community for other soldiers' spouses. In his absence she makes acquaintances with the other lonely wives, learning how to make do on their own, though still longing for him as the months go on.
Eventually, the officer returns with news that Peter was killed, and Sarah refuses to believe it. She's distressed as hell, and doesn't know what to do without him. The other families offer their utmost sympathy and support to help her back on her feet, but she holds onto the faint hope that Peter is still out there, and any day now he'll show up on her doorstep...
... but he doesn't. Peter is dead, and he's not coming back. Sarah soon has to come to terms with it, and what she'll do without him. She shared many exciting experiences with her dear love, and now she has no choice but to pack up and move on with her life. She can't hold onto old memories forever.
It's a surprisingly powerful piece of writing, and easily the best part of the book. It's something that finally gives weight and gravitas to the relationship between the two. It offers a melancholy conclusion to their adventures, but also potential for a new, different kind of adventure for Sarah. After all the ghosts and cop-out endings, I was legitimately expecting some hokey "he lives on in my heart" conclusion, but it's a very powerful, heartfelt conclusion to the story. It's just unfortunate the rest of the book is such a bumpy ride. That's the vexing part - it's an ending in need of a better story.
The book wasn't my cup of tea is a polite way of putting it. I can repeat my gripes about pacing and attachment, but gosh dang does that one final chapter offer a mean sucker punch. I'm hesitant to say tearjerker because those wells dried up long ago, but it's a strong piece of writing. It's a deliberate change of pace from the rest of the book, but I wish the rest could have lived up to it. It leaves me asking myself, can I recommend this book purely on its last chapter? I'm not sure.
Michael Coatesworth has a dozen other published books, most of it also fiction, and I'm half-tempted to see how they fare, but at the same time Find A Soft Spot To Land On set a high bar, and I'd probably sooner just reread that. That book I can recommend without qualms, it's a sterling read. Peter & Sarah? Eh... there might be someone out there who loves it, but it wasn't my bag.
Saw this in theatres with my dad and a couple of pals. I wasn't too excitied for the new movie, but I was a little hype about Godzilla in general after watching the Super Best Friends' Godzilla Week.
An incident in 1999 results in the destruction of a nuclear reactor and the death of a worker. The worker's husband believes that the incident wasn't just an accident, but something bigger - a monster! Surprise, the company's been hosting these spores that showed up and started eating radiation, and they didn't want to interfere because jeez radiation's scary... then they hatch and are actually giant monsters way scarier than any radiation.
Despite the talk of the H-Bomb tests as attempts to to kill him, they end up banking on Godzilla to show up and take care of these things before they spread radiation or start breeding or something. "Bring us back to the stone age" is said a copious amount of times. While chasing these things around, the military hope to use a nuke to destroy all three monsters. In the end Godzilla solves everything himself.
I didn't really enjoy the film. It's a two hour long watch, and outside of one glimpse of a fight, Godzilla literally does nothing but swim, rise, and roar until the final half hour. In the meantime, you're watching the two monsters wreck the earth... and it doesn't even show you that much wrecking being done! Every time a monster shows up, you're lucky to get a minute of dedicated desolation before the POV character blacks out or it just cuts to the aftermath.
It's a very teasing film. You get a glimpse of a monster - is it Godzilla? who knows! - before it foists on us another twenty minutes of humans faffing about. Godzilla movies aren't renowned for their fast pacing, and it's customary to wade through the actual plot development before seeing the big monster tussles. The film has no shortage of characters and angles to cover, jumping between the scientists, the military, the soldier man, and his family.
My one wish was for them to spend this time wisely. A lot of time is spent with these bozos, and they're given no more depth or pathos than they were in the days of dodgy dubs. Everyone felt like a trope to me. Our first POV character is angry dad who's mad at losing his wife, then becomes a dodgy conspiracy theorist. His son is a generic soldier man, crossed with a smidgen of angry dad (ANGRY DADS FOR EVERYONE!). Soldier man's wife is a nurse, because that's the easiest way of instilling drama to civilian scenarios. You've got the military, who are somehow even more boring than every other stock military roster we've seen in action movies. And then we've got the two scientists, who almost creep towards having a bit of depth, but seem to contribute nothing more than profound sentences that are used as trailer material.
So the humans are boring. That's a shock.
The monsters aren't exactly satisfying either. They look good - in this era of cinema, it'd be a surprise to have CGI epics that are legitimately disappointing. They look great. The MUTOs are a bit generic, and a lot of their antics likewise, but a few brief moments show the more animalistic side of them, which is what I'm all about. The scene where the male and female reunite, nuzzle and exchange the nuclear warhead as a treat is actually rather sweet - it perfectly shows these giant monstrocities as living, breathing creatures, and it's nice to see them animated as something other than city-destroying menaces.
Godzilla himself also looks really freakin' incredible. I'd heard remarks that people thought he looked fat, but I think it's the perfect girth for a beast like that. You guys heard of the square-cube law? This is a creature that treats skyscrapers like bead curtains. This is a monster that rises from the deep and wrecks everybody's shit. Of course it's gonna be bulky! Godzilla's appearance is well and truly satisfying. It's a great new look and is animated to perfection.
The problem is everything is merely glimpsed. As aforementioned, Godzilla does nothing but roar (besides one brief tussle!) before the final battle. He is the embodiment of teasing. You're waiting a long time for Godzilla himself to show up after the MUTOs appear, but even then you're not done waiting. So when the humans can't be empathised with and the monsters are playing peek-a-boo, you're literally waiting for the end of the movie until something happens.
What's the destruction like? It's hard to tell. You never actually see it. Every time a monster shows up, you might get a few token scenes of decimation, but somehow or another it'll cut forward and show the location after the monster's fucked off. The MUTOs destroy at least five major cities throughout the film, but you're lucky to see any of it in detail. The military spends most of the second half sailing around with Godzilla while the world gets bodied, and the amount of skipping forward between locations and time is almost farcical.
At times the film shies away from destruction so much it seems bizarre. If they're not going to show the monsters, isn't that what they'd show instead? I thought it could be out of sensitivities to 9/11 and other relevant tragedies... but then they literally show a scene where a helicopter, disabled by an EMP blast, ploughs into a skyscraper. It's so wishy-washy on showing this carnage taking place, and that scene was only one of the few that actually gave a real sense of being in a scene of destruction. So many landmark cities are getting wrecked, but there's no gravitas for "oh, the humanity!" to sink in. It's like window dressing.
One of my concerns is that maybe the film just did too little, too late. It tries to cover a lot of angles - you've got giant monsters, the military dealing with this, the up-close-and-personal lives of the civilians, the large-scale destruction... but other movies just feel like that did it better. We've been a bit spoilt for giant monster stuff (or stop-gap measures) lately.
Pacific Rim was a far more satisfying film. It delivered on giant monster melees, but also had engaging characters and a far more exotic military roster. Cloverfield wasn't my cup of tea, but it had a very unique take on the up-close-and-personal angle, really showing the ins and outs of being a civilian in a city under siege. Dad mentioned a movie by this flick's director, Monsters, which employed the same teasing mechanic as Godzilla but apparently with more good stuff in between.
My pals remarked afterwards that the film was a better showing than the 1998 film... but I have to admit, I found that movie more satisfying? Like, it sure as hell wasn't a "Godzilla" movie - it was a dumb action thrill ride, played up like Jurassic Park on steroids and no fences. It had no intentions of aping the Japanese films, it just set a hugeass lizard loose in New York and had dumb chase antics in the meantime. Any glimpse at its marketing would show it hit all the same beats as The Lost World. It most certainly was not what diehard fans wanted, but at the very least it knew what it was making, it delivered on that, and it's very entertaining as a dumb action thrill ride, if you'll pardon my sacrilege.
This one? Well, it's clearly giving a more American bent on the Japanese formula, but I'm struggling to see how it delivers. The human angle is still no more interesting than it was before, if not worse because we as Western audiences are already familiar with these charades. The pacing is still wack, both being too slow and too fast in some regards. While the monsters are spectacular-looking, you're still waiting nearly two hours for a decent showdown, which is essentially background noise to a subplot about the military playing Baby's Day Out with a nuclear warhead.
... did I mention that? The plot to nuke the monsters that's ultimately pointless because Godzilla kills them both himself with no assistance? And the nuke explodes without accomplishing anything and nobody bats an eyelid? Am I the only one bothered by all this?
It was nice to watch it with pals who were passionate about Godzilla, but it's a film I hold little affection for. It didn't truly disappoint me, but it didn't really impress me either. If I'd never seen it then I'd have six quid I could've spent on a nice shirt or something. That way I'd have a nice shirt that I could wear and think, "hey, that's a nice shirt", instead of a film where I spent half an hour extrapolating my gripes about and thinking "I could've stayed in for three hours and what would have been the difference?"
Mars Attacks vs. the Transformers
Picked this up while getting back into Comixology, this was part of a series of one-off crossovers where Mars Attacks interfered with other IDW licensed comic strips, including Star Trek and Ghostbusters (though no overlap between those franchises, sadly).
It's written by Shane McCarthy, the fellow behind All Hail Megatron and all its foibles. It's a big sendup of the G1 cartoon, wringing out all the old jokes and tropes we've seen before: Spike's fashion sense gets made fun of, Cosmos is asked why he even has a UFO mode... the sort of quips we've already seen in the fandom for years, except now they're paying someone to write them into officially-licensed comic books, so fuck you Shane McCarthy. (I jest! though seriously you coulda grabbed anyone from a forum and gotten the same result for less money)
It's one of those crossovers where you kinda wonder, who asked for this? (The answer is nobody did, IDW acquired license and asked themselves how can they make the most dough out of it) There's not enough lore or characterisation to Mars Attacks! to make the interaction terribly vivid or unique, nor does this take on Transformers have the room to explore it in ways beyond blasting things. It's a crossover I feel would've been more imaginative had it been explored the way Mars Attacks! originally was, as a series of trading cards... though that's asking a bit much from a comics company, innit.
As a cheap one-off issue it's cute, I suppose, but it's not quite the quality I was hoping out of a Transformers comic, in its writing or its artwork. Feel free to skip it.
Jun ~ Dec
An Udon-published translation of the mid-90s manga, this was a lot of fun. Captain Commando's one of those video games that intrigues me because it has maybe a few snippets of background info in the attract mode or the flyers, but that's all the context you get for its wacky, surreal world. There's no detailed backstory or play-by-play on the events, you're just there to beat up people. This manga explores it a little more in-depth!
For starters, it gives the heroes a little more background. Captain Commando isn't just a superhero 24/7, but some big business dude in his off-time. Ginzu, the ninja, was employed in the ranks of Scumocide as an assassin, but joins the Captain's side after being betrayed by his former allies. Baby Head, the tiny widdle baby in the mech suit... is actually a grown-ass man who worked with the Captain's da, a renowned scientist, but something effed them up good and he had to transfer his consciousness into a robot baby. And then there's Jennety, the alien hip-hop mummy from outer space whose backstory is never explained.
It's kinda nonsense.
Most of the notable Scumocide cronies show up as well; the sisters Carol and Brenda make prominent appearances as comic relief, beginning as loyal villains but eventually grow to believe Captain Commando's the guy to be following late in the run. Some villains sadly don't make much of an impact, appearing simply as a foe to be clobbered without any exploration. It would've been nice to see the likes of Dolg get some gravitas, but oh well.
For the most part the story focuses on a journalist who follows Captain Commando, witnesses his battles against the forces of Scumocide, and eventually learns his secret identity before becoming a trusted ally of his (though not after some missteps and blunders). It's a fun, interesting jaunt that's also paced very nicely; I'm sure collecting the individual issues back in the day would've been a pain, but the two collected editions have a very pleasing flow to them. There's just enough information-gathering, character interaction and dynamic battles at just the right time to make it an easy read.
My only qualm is that the story is technically a prequel to the arcade game. The second volume ends on "To Be Continued... In The Arcade Game!" It's a cute way of capping off an origin story (per se), and a way of getting folks playing it to see what they're missing... except for the fact the manga was published like five years after the game was first released in arcades.
Not to mention there's a lot of story elements the manga sets up that I'd hoped to see concluded - where did Carol and Brenda's alliances truly lie? Who were all those folks working for Scumocide, what are they up to? There's a few members that abandon the organisation or convert to the Captain's side, and you'd like to see those angles explored. I wanna see an explanation for Jennetty, for goodness sake!
But nope. To Be Continued, Never To Be Continued. Kind of puts a damper on things just when it looks to be gearing up to huge events.
If you can handle that disappointment, it remains a very entertaining manga with great '90s era artwork, one I'd definitely recommend. One I'd love to read again, actually.
The Transformers: The Movie
I think I put this on as background noise while vacuuming, and ended up ditching that just to watch the good bits. This is a film I used to watch darn near every week after I got the DVD - it's just a fun, rock 'n' roll adventure with stacks of action, hair metal and - by Transformers standards - decent animation. As a brainless thrill ride, it fits the bill.
As a continuation of the Transformers cartoon show... it can be a real kick in the teeth. It's been years since I watched it, but you get attached to the characters, y'know? Hoist, Ironhide, Wheeljack; some had more appearances than others, of course, but after 65 episodes of the various adventures they get into, you do have a fondness for them. Gosh, it'd be fun to have them partake in a movie-length animated adventure, wouldn't it?
... well, it would if the movie didn't freakin' slaughter them. All those Autobots you loved? Blasted apart and left as smouldering corpses, all to make you fall in love with this hip new cast that you've never seen before. Bumblebee's the only one to make it out with his future intact; Cliffjumper and Jazz survive but their actors quit and died, respectively. The movie sees a lot of hatred both for its callous disregard for beloved characters, but also just for being a stupid, stupid movie. Plot? What plot?
Alternately, that's kinda why I love it. Plot? What plot! I came here to see transforming motorcycles duel with helicopters and an entire population of robots battling a planet-sized monster, backed by the tunes of 80s glam rock and power ballads. Admittedly after Optimus Prime dies I tune out because you simply haven't the attachment to these guys yet as you would Prime and Jazz, but I enjoy it.
Jun ~ Jul
I'd read bits and pieces of this nearly a decade ago, skipping through issues before hunkering down at issue 50 onwards, but this time I read it from start to finish. I did skip three issues; Flight of the Bumblebee, as it's a fill-in story that has no bearing on the plot; Man of Iron, a strip from the UK comic that has nothing to do with anything; and The Big Broadcast of 2006, which was an adaptation of the cartoon episode.
This was a very fun read, and it was great seeing this early bit of Transformers media I'd never seen in full before.
Well, we all know what how the story goes. Lifeforms evolved from naturally forming gears and levers (no fuckin' joke look it up) and became Transformers on the planet Cybertron. A long war breaks out between the Autobots and Decepticons, eventually finding its way to Earth four million years later where they try to find their footing among the alien culture.
The first four issues are pretty shaky, burdened with the task of introducing this ludicrous concept for the first time, along with the three dozen robots and their human acquaintances, mechanics Sparkplug and Buster Witwicky. Optimus spends most of the early series dead or incapacitated, and Megatron is missing in action after a dozen or so issues, leading to a long-running power struggle for Decepticon leadership. The humans play a key role in the story, among them G.B. Blackrock, the millionaire businessman who assists the Autobots with their energy supplies, and R.A.A.T., an organisation determined to destroy all of these unwelcome robots.
It's a very entertaining read that never feels dull, partly because it goes down routes rarely explored by other media in the franchise. The first fifty issues were mostly written by Bob Budiansky, and he delivers some greatly entertaining stuff, full of corny action dialogue that I can't get enough of ("Have a mechanical malfunction, courtesy of my concussion cannon!"). It's real comic book fluff aimed at kids, but I found it to be engaging enough; it helped that it wasn't all Transformers, all the time, but explored the world beyond their war.
Humans always play a key part in his stories, be it Blackrock coming to terms with his Autobot alliance, R.A.A.T.'s blundering war against them, or even a passer-by whose life is changed by a twenty-story robot entering their lives. Some characters may become the focus of a story arc, like bit-player Skids and his efforts to ditch the war to hang out with a hot cowgirl who washes him all day - or they might be a hi-and-bye, like the agent who signs on a Micromaster to their pro-wrestling federation, only for a tag-team feud match to brew between him and a gang of rival Decepticons. It's complete nonsense, and I love it!
It is a comic about robots waging an intergalactic war, but it never fails to have fun with the concept. "Robots in disguise" isn't just a tagline, it's actually an important part of the story early on! One stupidly amusing story features new Autobots arriving on Earth and given a crash course on car etiquette: lanes, traffic lights, toll booths, that sort of thing. They attend a rock concert to cool off, only for Decepticons to attack the concert and they're forced to reveal themselves and save the day; as thanks, the band invite them on-stage to rock out and provide a sound and light show.
It's real kids stuff, but it's so filled with whimsy and fun! They're short issues, but the stories in them feel really jam-packed and inventive. You never feel short-changed or anything, you get a real good adventure for your buck.
I'd dare say when the story is in its final third and delves deeper into the mythos behind the Transformers, it kind of loses its punch a bit? Around issue 50 there's a big saga involving the Underbase, a legendary font of knowledge that the Decepticons were after, killing its guardians and forcing Optimus to jettison it into space to prevent it from endangering anyone else. It ends in a double-length issue where Starscream gets a hold of it, becomes super-powered and spends the entirety of the issue killing everyone.
He basically goes through the past three years' worth of toyline and says to each of them, you're dead, you're blasted, fuck you in particular. You get pages and pages and pages of characters dying, getting blown apart, and zapped to pieces. They're dead. They're effin dead! The new guys whose toys are on shelves available to buy for 10.99? They're just fine, they survive. Oh, and Starscream gets too big for his britches and explodes, too.
The comic's scope is far broader than that of the cartoon, and some characters barely see the spotlight at all before being sidelined by new products - Sunstreaker spends the whole series comatose in the medibay! - so admittedly my reaction to the deaths was less "aw man, I liked that guy!" and more "I was hoping he'd get to do something sooner or later!" It does really mix up the dynamic so much, though; both factions are splintered with swathes of their forces dead, and the next twenty issues spend a lot of time angsting over their loss. Practically all the big-name Decepticons are toast, meaning small-time warlord Scorponok is thrust into the role of leading them - and partnering up with Optimus to defeat Starscream, first of all!
A few issues after that are still written by Budiansky, and they're very much one-offs finding what oddball stories to make out of these new characters, not necessarily make them part of the core cast. After that, the reins are handed over to Simon Furman, the writer for the UK-exclusive comics that are a whole continuity unto themselves.
His work is a lot more dramatic and bombastic, featuring higher stakes and outrageous bodycounts, and he was quite popular among most of the fanbase for over twenty years (at least until people noticed how questionably sexist his stuff was). His stuff has great elements, but admittedly it never clicked with me the way Bob's work did. Maybe it's because you can't even glance at Transformers media nowadays without tripping over Furman's handiwork, but I think it's down to him dropping the human element entirely.
During the issues he writes, there's one whole issue where there's a scrap at an aircraft base, forcing the military to intervene, only for the Autobots and Decepticons to get warped into space... and that's pretty much the last you hear of Earth or the humans again. G.B. Blackrock does return as the leader of the Neo-Knights, Furman's awful attempt to shill his idea for a superhero team, and Spike Witwicky gets an issue to himself to tie up a plot thread or two, but that's it. Bit of a bummer!
He's not a bad writer, though. Furman excels in putting the main characters front and centre during his run, showing their squabbles, dilemmas and endless inner monologue. Optimus Prime exposits about the pressures of leadership, with lots of panels of him angsting, just angsting like a motherfuck. Kup finally gets something to do as the guy always on Prime's back, criticizing him for not taking action and urging him to get his head in gear. Scorponok, being a Headmaster, struggles with where he stands as a Decepticon or as a Nebulon. He has respect for Prime, but also a desire not to fail his fellow Decepticons... but the Decepticons essentially blackmailed him into his new position. He wants power, but does he want to do evil?
The character drama does get really interesting, but it literally becomes Transformers: The Comic. There's no human element to it anymore, there's no Earth, and thus there's no real context to the transformations anymore. The last 20 issues are basically a big battle against Unicron (robot Satan) and the search for Primus (robot god), and all Transformers, Autobot or Decepticon, need to rise up and stand united to stop Unicron from destroying Cybertron or whatever. And Optimus Prime sacrifices himself again, natch. It then sort of bumbles its way through the last five issues before chucking us an ending, because Marvel cancelled the run then.
It's an interesting plot, but it demonstrates Furman's love for grand epic stories... at the expense of the characters. He loves killin' dudes. When he finds a character he likes, he can write them good, but if not then they all end up sounding the same, and he's so keen to just kill off dudes or drop them in favor of an epic storyline, it gets a bit tiresome, you know? It's a very cool and very exciting story, don't get me wrong, but I think knowing he'd trot out the same formula again next year in Generation 2, and then do it again in the Dreamwave comics, and then the IDW comics... maybe someone should tell him to stop?
The Transformers comics were a lot of fun to read. I'm really glad I saw it all the way through, and I can see why the likes of David Willis are so praiseworthy of them. The G1 cartoon is very silly but accessible, placing emphasis on its familiar cast of characters and easy formula of Decepticons harvesting energy and the Autobots duffing them up. It's cute but safe. The comic, meanwhile, barely finds time to settle down; it's hard to say there's even a proper main character, the focus changes do much from issue to issue in the early run. It made for an exciting and interesting read - what cornball story is Budiansky gonna make out of these toys?
I do think Bob Budiansky was the best writer for it, I just love his rather slapdash but very fun and whimsical writing style. Simon Furman took his stuff seriously and admitted in the letters that he wasn't fussed on the cartoon, and this was what he wanted to write. Bob just stated he's writing for kids, and he certainly delivers on plain ol' fun and lighthearted adventures.
The art is very hit and miss, though it's kind of fascinating watching it and keeping an eye on the penciler and the inker, seeing what combination makes it work. Some of the early inkers are very bleh, just fudging details on characters into indistinguishable blobs. José Delbo is one of the prolific pencilers, and most of his early work just gets the job done, it's nothing spectacular - then suddenly an inker from the UK comics inked one of his strips and holy crap, it's incredible! I'm not sure what to make of it, whether this guy's inks are good enough to save anything or if Delbo's pencils are so good only one person is capable of bringing them to life, but it gave me a whole new appreciation for both artists.
Given the blocky and abstract title characters it's probably not the best display of the artists' talents, but it's always great seeing those who make it work. One guy, William Johnson, but did an outstanding job; I think the trouble a lot of pencilers had was trying to humanize these weird robots, and let's be honest, the model designs were kinda awful back then, very static and blocky, and they kinda struggled with how to humanize these characters without straight up giving them human butts or whatever.
Johnson was the first one to really humanise Ratchet and Megatron with these really great expressions and dynamic poses. He added humanity to these alien robots, without sacrificing their funky designs; it's just a pity he only worked on two issues and appears to have done only a handful of other Marvel comics before disappearing. The artwork is all over the place and it takes a while to find its footing, but when it gets there, there's some terrific artwork to be found. The stable of UK artists really lended their qualities, from Geoff Senior's blocky-but-dynamic designs to the organic, jowl-y feel of Dan Reed just for instance.
All in all, a very entertaining read. One I'm glad I experienced, even if it took me ten years to get around to it.
The Transformers: The Headmasters: And then I read this in August: a four-issue limited series set around issue #30-something focusing on a bunch of Transformers who fled the war to another planet. The Decepticons interfere, naturally, and the local populace get involved in the scuffle, combining with the robots as Headmasters, Tragetmasters and Powermasters, increasing their strength and adding their strategic input to the battle!
It's a glorified excuse to introduce another seventy effing new characters into the mix, to give them their introductions without clogging up the main story... and as such, you're not missing much if you skip it. It's more of the same, only the Nebulans have even worse fashion sense.
The highlight of the mini-series is Scorponok, the Decepticon warlord who becomes binary-bonded to Zarak, the evil politician leader of the planet Nebulos. Scorponok's just a bad egg, amassing the Headmaster and Targetmaster tech and their alliances with the Nebulons all in the name of power, and he holds Zarak's daughter hostage to keep him loyal to their cause. Zarak's a power-hungry nogoodnik too, but he's got standards and values his daughter's safety, and finds that while bonded with Scorponok, the Decepticon's evil thoughts cloud his own moral judgment.
The binary-bonding is a cool concept and the Scorponok/Zarak relationship is one with a lot of potential, but it's a bit much to handle in a story already crawling with characters, so the series kinda forgets he's a Headmaster most of the time. Even when the cast join the main series it takes a while for him to make a role for himself, but it's good to see his development in full. I'd say Scorponok's story gives the series a whiff of merit, but otherwise you're not missing much if you skip it.
Red Dwarf X
I've somehow watched all televised Red Dwarf media (including stuff like Universe Challenge and Can't Smeg Won't Smeg) and even read a few of the books and comics, yet the long-awaited ninth series had somehow passed by me for two years. I oughta rectify that!
Being broadcast on Dave, it's got a bigger budget, CGI models, a swanky looking ship and all those bonuses carried over from the Back To Earth special... but it remains very much business as usual. The writing is pretty much the same as it ever was; there's a few gags about bits of 2000s culture the series lacked the foresight to do back in the 90s, but it otherwise picks up where it left off. And if you wanted dopey space shenanigans in the vein of series 6 and 8, you're well catered for!
My one complaint, as nerdy as it effing is... is that it's not so lonely in space anymore. The song's still there ("It's cold outside, there's no kind of atmosphere, I'm all alone, more or less..."), but it lacks any sense of isolation. In the first bloody episode they stumble across Rimmer's brother, who he hasn't seen since he left Earth! He too is a hologram, but that hasn't stopped him from exploring the cosmos in his own ship and reprogramming a simulant to be his co-pilot.
It's an entertainining enough story, but I'm afraid the sci-fi geek in me just has to question: why now? Why go nine seasons before trotting out the long-lost-brother angle? (well, they did it before in season 7, which also demanded a "why then?") It's like, how very convenient! Now, of all times, they introduce Rimmer's brother who's survived three million years (and then some!) into the future, and they finally manage to cross paths? It's treated as frivulously as any other Red Dwarf plot, though, ending with him dying unglamourously and his simulant being made into a coffee machine or some similarly dumb conclusion.
I don't know what the excuse is, but in another episode they find a ship where all the scientists have been transformed into monkeys, so they revert the monkeys and one of them turns out to be a hot scientist babe and you almost think, she's gonna be an excellent addition to the crew! And then they accidentally suck her out an airlock and she's DEAD. ... whoopsy doopsy! It's a joke, but it just feels a bit callous, killing the last few remaining humans three million years into deep space (and then some!). I'm probably just an over sensitive sack of shit, though.
I think, like any sci-fi media, once something's gone on long enough people tend to take it more seriously than it's meant to be and end up griping about a lot of things, and I've unfortunately fallen into that well. The writers are probably happy for an excuse to write more jokes about Kryten's cuboid condom head; the actors are probably happy for the work, as are the prop makers, set builders and CGI modellers... and I'm over here whining, show a little respect to the fictional universe, please! Especially to the extras you're killing off for the sake of a gag!
The final episode features an amusing quickly-forgotten sideplot where a space bandit routinely stows away in the ship and threatens revenge on Lister for killing his brother, but it's played up between the two as just a little thing they do. It's been going on for months now and they have a schedule and everything. It's little more than a joke to open up and close off the episode, but it really stuck with me. It's the closest any of the cast have gotten to making friends in their travels, and it's an angle I'd love to see more of.
I think long gaps between series do provoke higher expectations - will the continuation up the ante? Will it see a return to dramatic storytelling or grand reveals, or simply go for bigger laughs? Outside of the flashier visuals, this is pretty much the same as it ever was; it doesn't try to experiment like series 7's return to character drama or series 8's genre shift to prison comedy. If you're just looking for more Red Dwarf, then here you go! What more can you ask for?
Jurassic Park 3
I'd gotten the boxset of the series from my brother and watched them all again with the folks. Jurassic Park remains a terrifically entertaining film with special effects that are still incredible; The Lost World is a dumb thrill ride with heroes whose moral standpoints are questionable.
Jurassic Park 3 is basically the formula on fast-forward. It breezes through hitting all the beats at rocket speed: here's your token whimsy scene, here's your surprise t-rex appearance scene, here's your fight at a waterfall scene! I don't think the film is even a full hour and a half, it's that short - if you're just here for the dinosaurs, there's nothing to argue about, here's your dinosaurs!
One theme I quite liked across the trilogy was the level of professionalism dipping as it progressed. The first movie was an ambitious theme park and genetics lab, slowly broken down by the little cracks in its armour, so to speak. The second movie is a strange case of trying to appear professional, but being anything but. All the hired goons don't actually do an awful lot, and end up getting killed off in really punk-ass ways. And this movie? It's just dopes from the word "go!"
Along with Alan Grant, the family hire a group of "bounty hunters" to assist them on the island, though in actuality they're just random people they happened to know, like their builder and travel agent. They're just regular joes, and Alan, the kid and Billy are the only ones remotely prepared for what's ahead of them. It's a really fun angle once the facade drops; it's just a pity that, quite naturally, all of them get killed off so quickly. There's a right crowd of them at the start and all but a couple are wiped out in the first five minutes on the island.
By this point there's not much they could've added to the concept without a really killer script, but if you just want an extra dosage of dinosaurs to ogle at in under 90 minutes, then there's not much to argue with, I suppose.
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
This was on TV, so we figured, let's watch the rest of the series after this, why not!
It's weird seeing this again after so long. One thing I really took away from it was how it really sold this taking place in a very alien universe. It has fantastic, beautiful locations that are really out of this world, and the creatures, hominid or otherwise, are suitable alien-looking and bizarre. It covers the weird and alien stuff quite impressively, and I give it big ups for that.
But it seems to believe that silly voices are what make it alien, and it ends up coming as something I'd make when I was 8 years old. Every bloody creature has a stupid voice, from Jar Jar and the Gungans to the Asian stereotype bad guys to Watto and Sebulba... ugh. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if they weren't all really awful racist accents as well, but that's a whole other bombshell.
The acting's not really that great, either. Liam Neeson's a bit of a stoic plank; a bit too blasé, a bit too expressionless, though I guess he's following in the footsteps of Alec Guinness mumbling his way through Obi-Wan's role. Ewan McGregor is good fun as young Obi-Wan though, but the cast as a whole is a bit blegh. I do feel sorry for poor Jake Lloyd. The kid never stood a chance with Lucas in the director's chair.
It sounds like you need a stupendous actor to take George's direction and make it work, but it's worse when you read Anakin's dialogue on paper and find it actually means something. His quasi-iconic line "I'm a person and my name is Anakin", if that were delivered at all well, it would paint Anakin as standing up for himself. He's not just some beggar boy or a cute little foreigner to ogle at, he's a human being working under harsh conditions in the hopes of a better life for himself and his mother. It's actually a powerful piece of dialogue, but somewhere along the line in writing it and delivering it, it completely undersells what it stands for.
That's another thing - goddamn is there a lot of politics in this film! Who gives a hoot?! The same kinda applies to Attack of the Clones - it may not be bartering trade routes or what have you, but I still struggled to give a damn about the Jedi council or the clone army and the ramifications thereof. To its credit, that movie delivered it in a more entertaining way than old men talking in rooms, and featured people actually investigating things, though you're still just waiting for the army battle at the end. That's my takeaway from Attack of the Clones.
Of course, the Star Wars spectacle is pretty awesome; the CGI is slick and the space battles are neato and the locations are a treat. It really is praiseworthy for presenting itself as a very alien universe, that aspect really comes to life here. The film has tons of wasted potential, though, from the dialogue to the delivery to the characters - remember when Darth Maul was a cool guy and not at all just there to sell toys? It's got big problems and it's got facets I can praise it for... so that means it's a Star Wars prequel. It's a fun ol' action, if you can stomach the occasional crine-worthy parts.
I stumbled across a post of GIFs from the intro to this, and thought, wow, that animation is rock solid. I bet the show it's attached to is just as good! Haha, heh, hum. Well, I'm glad I checked it out, I'll say that now.
It's a pretty bog-standard kids action cartoon. By night, the cyborg woman Cybersix stalks the rooftops, fighting crime and stopping the actions of her evil creator and his clone son, José. By day, she masquerades as mild-mannered male literature teacher, Adrian, hanging out with her chemistry teacher pal Lucas, who's got a bit of a thing for Cybersix. Also her brother is a robot panther.
It sounds nuts, but it's pretty basic monster-of-the-week affair, though if you want to be pedantic I don't know if you could call it a superhero show; Cybersix's only abilities appear to be her agility and strength, and maybe a gadget or two. Her fights consist mostly of jumping on people's heads and bouncing around the scenery.
The animation is really effing good! It's high class stuff produced by Tokyo Movie Shinsha, notable for the Lupin III movies, the best episodes of Tiny Toon Adventures and other quality animation; although a more serious show, it carries a similar kind of bounce and pep as Tiny Toons, especially with its two child characters. The action sequences are superb, easily what the bulk of the budget went into - I'm probably just unfamiliar with cartoons of the late 90s, but some of the animation almost feels too good for television!
The designs are unique and cartoony but still carry a real weight to them. It frequently makes use of far-out monsters, such as living slime, a mechanical squid and a black panther for a sidekick, and they all feel remarkably convincing. These guys know how to make a panther kick ass.
But what's frustrating is that for such high quality animation, the rest of the show can barely keep up. The writing is almost non-existent.
The first episode carries a more serious tone where Cybersix come across as an ambiguous figure, one whose heroism was in question, defeating monsters to acquire their "sustenance" to keep herself alive. After that, it becomes monster-of-the-week guff that wraps up with an on-the-spot moral message, like "a promise is a promise" or some such cobblers. The plots are remarkably thin and the dialogue worthless.
I notice the credits often feature a story writer and a screenwriter, the latter by an English name and the former by a Japanese name. I can't help but wonder if the "plots" (such as they are) were made by the animation team as excuses to draw kickass battles, and then the "writers" were tasked with making excuse for such events to take place.
It's frustrating, because there's a lot of unanswered questions, and the series could have taken an anime approach of slowly answering those questions, revealing a bigger picture of Cybersix, her nemesis and the world around her... but it is literal monster-of-the-week affair. It can't get any more stock. I did notice that Terry Klassen's written episodes had a small dose of humour in them - nothing major or groundbreaking, but when the writing is so dry, I tried to keep track of what writers did something half-decent.
Judy Valyi, who wrote the last two episodes (aka the only solid ones), was the only one who gave Cybersix a convincing human element; she wasn't a flat superhero stand-in, but someone with real concerns and suffered real blows. So often the superhero and civilian personas were just a routine - as Adrian he learns some factoid while hanging with Lucas, and then applies that to her hero work as Cybersix. The series give little view into her "alone" time. What is considered her true identity? If Adrian is a disguise, and Cybersix is a crimefighter, then what is she when she's kickin' back? Does she relax? One of the episodes does show her in her off-time, and if nothing else it's a quaint little scene. I just wish the series had time to do something with all the potential it had.
Like, Cybersix has no expressed motive for her heroism. Is she atoning for past mistakes? Is she fighting against her evil master? The pilot features downed foes dropping vials that replenish her energy, which casts her actions out of survival - she's doing this to keep herself alive. This is then completely dropped for the rest of the series... until the finale, when her master claims he can allow her to live without the sustenance... which she hasn't needed FOR THE PAST ELEVEN EPISODES!!
She does have friendships in Lucas, Julian (an orphan street rat), Lori (one of her pupils), and Data7, her brother-turned-panther (long story). The series seems to cast her as a friend to all creatures - a number of the monsters she attempts to bring out their good side, and she seems to be on good terms with all the guest stars. It just seems strange to have a superhero show without some kind of driving force behind their actions hammered into our skulls - no gunned down parents, no Uncle Ben, no truth, justice and the American way.
The writing is subpar, but the audio isn't very inspiring either. The voice acting is adequate - Cybersix and Lucas are cast well, but the direction can feel a bit lacking. José and Julian are voiced by actual child actors, and they do a fair enough job (for a cartoon, at least!), but you feel they can't get the maximum potential out of them. José is a real hand-me-down from Tiny Toons, a retread of the bratty, tantrum-throwing antics of Montana Max, and he should be a fun villain, but the performance is only "good enough" - it fails to match up with his hyperactive animation and exaggerated wild takes.
That, and the music is such stock cartoon crap. The series carries a certain tone and mood of darkness and mystique (when it's done right), but the music just feels so... cartoon. It can never carry the mood as well as the visuals can alone. It doesn't help that some of the recurring themes, like Cybersix's theme, tend to jar with the action occurring on-screen. Her theme feels more fitting for a "oh, isn't she dreamy~!" vibe, but when it happens while she's kicking asses across the room... well, it might've worked the first time you saw her, but after that you enter every fight scene waiting for that theme to kick in and spoil the mood.
It's a very light watch and I enjoyed the show a lot, but I would watch it and think frustratedly, this should be better! Especially when it's based off an Argentinian comic book that's quite adult from what I've heard. The cartoon naturally tones down a lot of it - Cybersix is a much classier looking character in the show versus the comic where her boobs are hanging out, which just looks tacky. Her creator is an out-and-out Nazi, which the cartoon only loosely implies with José goose-stepping everywhere. It's like, what a strange origin! Who looked at that and said, yeah, that's just what we need for our children's cartoon show? And then got one of Japan's animation powerhouses to do the work for it? It ends up feeling like a monkey paw wish when you view it like that.
You watch it for the animation and the character designs, and the rest you just tolerate arguing with yourself that this could've been something so much grander if they knew what to do with it. Could they have played up the "hero for girls" angle? Could they have taken a leaf out of anime in the storytelling department? Even some snappier writers could have given it an edge, but as it is, you're left thinking, man, this animation and these concepts deserve better treatment.
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
What goes on in this one? Anakin goes to the dark side, Emperor Palpatine sinks his teeth into things and takes control of the clone army to bump off the Jedi. There's a whole lot of warring across stars in this one, with lots of inventive fights and great action sequences. Nothing quite as dynamic or trying as hard to be memorable like in Phantom Menace - it probably didn't help the other two I've seen at least twice before, but this was the first time I'd ever seen this one - but it's pretty cool nonetheless.
This finally presents the shift from the prequel universe to the original trilogy, and it's an interesting story to follow; so much of this was implied but never expanded upon. It does get a bit dark for Star Wars, though, especially when the years following this would be dedicated the various Clone Wars spinoffs, highlighting all the cool new Jedi that kids are gonna love - and here they are getting shot in the fucking back. It's really brutal! Sure, that's what happens in war and from the start of the franchise it was stated that's what happened, but it's another to see the Twi'lek Jedi, the star of several kids spinoffs already, get blasted to freakin' pieces. Start crying, kids!
The darkness is on one hand a bit of a swerve - even R2D2 gets to pull off murderous acrobatics! - but it helps it stand out, y'know? I know Darth Vader's big no is a subject of mockery, and out of context it is a hoot, but it's no more over-dramatic than anything else in the movie. I mean, big nos are a Star Wars staple, up there with "I've got a bad feeling about this" and people getting their hands chopped off. So if Darth Vader gets one in there, why not? It was a fun watch, good to finally see it for the first time. It's got its faults, but of the prequels it was the one I had the fewest moments of boredom, so that's a big plus.
Boy was that movie a lot of nothing.
What even is it? Wolverine saved this fella in Japan years ago and he's called back in the present day to be repaid with a sword, and he says I don't want your sword, pal, and the dude up and dies that night, but then the guy's daughter is to be assassinated to prevent her from taking over the clan, I think? So Wolverine runs around trying to protect her and... that's it, really.
The X-Men movies are a funny old dog. I've seen the first one, Wolverine Origins and First Class, and they're all entertaining flicks, but it sounds like they've never rebooted to clean up the mess they made after killing characters of actors with scheduling conflicts in X3, and have just given us side-stories since then.
Wolverine Origins did that well, giving the audience a film packed with great action, neato superpowers and some halfway-interesting characters. It does tie itself into the 'main' story by its end, but it did a good job making this Wolverine guy a fun character to watch; the drama of his regenerative powers and inability to die, the brotherly relationship with Sabertooth and his band of fellow mercs; the humble life he lost after being experimented upon. All the right ingredients!
Meanwhile, this movie is so standalone that there's none of those elements here. It feels like a Mad Max 3 situation where a studio got a naff script and figured the only way of salvaging it was to chuck Wolverine in there, when they could've saved everybody's time and chucked it in a shredder. The movie is such a load of nothing that Wolverine has no ties to anything. He's got no attachment to any of the characters in the plot. He's got no interesting foes to fight. He's so starved for plot relevance the only way we learn anything about him is when he dreams about banging a ghost.
I think the subtitles were missing on the copy we watched, so it's possible we missed out on a side of the plot that made it remotely worthwhile, but at the same time what is there to miss? I was just astounded by what a load of nothing this all was. I was counting on my fingers how many action sequences there were throughout, and there's probably five, tops. But they're all shockingly worthless! Every single fight is against a bunch of nobodies - nameless goons, ninjas on bikes, total cannon fodder. The only decent fight is with the Silver Samurai, and you're waiting the whole damn movie for that thing to show up.
The crux of the plot has something to do with him losing his healing factor, meaning he's not the unstoppable powerhouse he normally is, but the plot is so blah I hardly even noticed. It came across as more an excuse for angst to fill time, and to make fights against small fries appear grandiose. There's a fight on top of a bullet train that sounds cool, but isn't actually. Wolverine Origins had freakin' weapons factories and attack helicopters and was way more explosion-y, and this film just can't compete.
Wolverine frequently has dreams about Jean Grey, expressing how much he loved her, and fearing that everyone he knows will die and he'll hurt them by his presence - that old routine. It's literally there to try and give Wolverine something to think about, because he has zero connection with any of these other characters. If he kept his memory he could've pined for his wife, but he didn't so that option's out. I haven't seen X-Men 2 and 3 so I've no idea how deep this relationship was when Jean wasn't a stiff, but it just felt so cynical to me. The film had no room to incorporate this self-exploration anywhere else, so they just squeezed it into nigh-irrelevant dream sequences. There's your human element! Y'happy?!
Elektra was a stinking pile, but this felt like the first "big" superhero movie that just felt like an outright dud. If I had seen it in cinemas I would've been raging. The whole stupid film seemed to exist for two purposes: to give the crew an excuse to weeb out in Japan, and to have the Silver Samurai. The first point was a novelty, I'll confess - I recognise those streets from the Yakuza games! There's a SEGA banner! - and the Silver Samurai was pretty kickass, I guess...
... but this is a film where if you've seen the trailer, you've seen the only good bits. That damn thing teases the fight with Silver Samurai, and you're sitting there the whole time thinking, when's he going to show up already?! In the meantime we have Viper, a femme fatale who breathes toxins into people, who was a fair enough stopgap measure and could've been good if she were given a more in-charge role, but ultimately exists so the daughter has someone to fight. And then Wolvy gets to fight Silver Samurai at long last, and it's alright, I guess, but it sure as hell wasn't worth the two hour wait leading up to it.
Oh, and before the credits Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan appear out of nowhere to tease Dawn of Future Past, which suggests they needed a movie to put a stinger in, and this was the tripe they gave us. So that's three purposes, then.
If you're thinking of watching this, pssst, save yourself, because the film is two hours and twenty minutes long and it has no business being that long. You could cut a whole hour out of it and I don't think you'd be missing anything. God, what a horrible movie. What a waste of bloody time.
Streets of Fire
This is another film I've been meaning to see for a long time. It's pretty much a damsel in distress tale: a singer is kidnapped by a gang rom a really rough 'n' tumble part of town, and this travelling hardass and his military buddy are called upon by her manager to help get her back, beating up countless thugs in the process. It's basically what every beat-em-up ever took inspiration from.
It's a very light watch with a miniscule plot and characters who could be fittingly described as either flat or mysterious... but it's all about the visuals, baby. The film's opening billits itself as a "rock & roll fable", and that's very true. It's like whimsy for the senses, both visually and audibly; the fashion sense, the lighting, those run-down towns that look downright nasty but also strangely compelling. To a dope like me who's never even been under a traintrack, places like that seem magical to me, and the movie almost plays itself like the dangerous lands of medieval times in a modern city.
It's also mighty special to watch to see exactly where Final Fight took so much goddamn inspiration from. The bad guy has this really weird, like, topless onesie or something? It's got straps that might cover his nipples, I think, but it's basically a dopey pair of overalls that Capcom ripped clean off for Bret and the other lowest rung of baddies. Even the stripper's limited attire was pretty much copied for Poison and Roxy as well.
It's strangely fascinating to see a film that never made a splash in its home country have an unexpected second life in a totally different culture, and seeing the impacts it made in their own media. It's such a niche little incident that I struggle to think of any such thing occurring the other way around on English shores? The closest I can think of is the likes of Ninja Scroll, those ancient anime OVAs that amounted to nothing in their own market but were a big deal in America thanks to being cheap to license and unlike anything they'd produced.
Anyway, yeah! Streets of Fire was a great watch, one I need to revisit if just to soak in the atmosphere some more.
Tiny Toons Spring Break
Elmyra thinks Buster is the Easter Bunny, so she gets the help of Tommy Lee Jones from The Fugitive to help track him down and add him to her collection of fluffy li'l waminals. Meanwhile, Buster and the rest of Acme Acres are on spring break and do spring break-related activities.
I haven't seen this is fifteen years so it was a hoot to watch it again. It's pretty typical Tiny Toons fare, but what had me simultaneously bewildered and in stitches was the sheer amount of pop culture references. So much of this stuff flew over my head back then, and now I'm thinking, are they really referencing that?!
For instance, there's a scene where they attend an easter egg hunt at the Whitehouse, so of course Bill and Hilary Clinton are there, but of all people, Rush Limbaugh appears in an unflattering easter bunny costume. He doesn't speak and is only there for Elmyra to mistake him for Buster, but of all the cameos to choose...?!
Naturally there's lots of homages to The Fugitive, bizarre crossovers like Jaws swallowing the sub from SeaQuest, a wide range of celebrity caricatures that continue to elude me (though Michael Molten Lava is still a laugh), and Michael Jordan even sneaks in a cameo. It's positively bursting with references that only took me a decade and a half and a visit to Wikipedia to understand, though one wonders at what point does it serve as an excuse to distract you from the regular cartoon antics being a bit blasé.
The animation quality is all over the place, but it's Tiny Toons, whaddaya expect. It was fun to watch again, though How I Spent My Vacation remains a more engaging watch.
Dad expressed an interest in watching this, so I subjected the parents to it to hear their thoughts, and unfortunately had to watch the movie again. I'd forgotten how good the action sequences are - that anti-gravity brawl in the hotel is really stonking good, so that was a worthwhile refresher.
The rest of the movie? God, what a load of nothing. It's a lot of fuckin' white guys in suits walking around, flapping their gums, maybe going to a nice location once in a while, discussing all this metaphysical bollocks. It talks a lot about dreams and metaphysical concepts and they go to India where there's people who spend their entire lives hooked up to these dream machines. All these far-out concepts, the philosophy and psychology of it discussed inside and out, and there's stacks of intrigue to those ideas.
And at the end of the day it's literally the most white-collar plot possible. They're influencing some rich kid to give up his father's business... why? What was the objective again? It's such a fuckin' white-guy-in-a-suit story, it's so blah!
The visuals are superb for both the locations and the special effects, and there's some great trailer spectacle like the city folding in on itself and the ocean crashing into the Chinese palace... but not a lot is done with any of it. The dreams are boring and flaccid. The story might as well be conducted in a boardroom, everything's so tame.
I can see the movie's appeal, and I love to see dreams explored in storiages and media, but it just feels wasted here. It's got its merits and nifty concepts, but I'm simply not a fan.
I saw this for the first time ever! Even for all the years I was oblivious to it I still knew the gist of its plot: Goose and Maverick are training to be ace pilots, working their way up the ranks, getting laid, dudes being dudes, bro. Maverick's a loose cannon. They go through trials and tribulations but Maverick gets his girlfriend and gains confidence and ends up showing the world what a big dick G he is by saving the day from a real-life terrorist threat.
It's kind of the quintessential boys toys movie. Bros being bros, lots of airplane porn, and the homoeroticism is way up there. I'm not sure if it qualifies for the descriptor of "turbo gay", but there were so many times I was thinking, "just smooch already!" There's one scene in particular near the end with Maverick and the rival Iceman, they exchange a firm handshake, "good workout out there, partner", and I was really hoping they would've snogged then and there. It'd be a relief, actually. Tension's not good for a man.
It's a real artifact of the '80s - the fashion, the hair, the music, the fact Tom Cruise barely looks past his teens... I kinda love it in that regard! I'd dare say it's a more entertaining time capsule than it is a movie. It's entertaining enough, a bit slow and sweet, but it feels like a "background" movie to me; something I'd have playing more for the ambiance than to actually sit in front of it the whole time. Still, it's satisfying to tick another iconic film off the list.
And then we watched Hot Shots!, the parody of Top Gun that's very, very fun and very, very stupid. I forgot just how gosh-darned moronic this movie was! Silliness for the sake of silliness, bizarre running gags that make no sense and are never acknowledged but never failed to crack me up. It's a stupid, stupid movie.
It's basically Top Gun on fast-forward, yet packing more content into its running time. You can watch this twice in the time it takes to watch the source, and get more of a kick out of it to boot. Okay, you'd miss out on the great soundtrack, but you get the terrific romance scene of the girl popping grapes from her bellybutton into her mouth, and Charlie Sheen's dad stretching like Stretch Armstrong to keep his plane from falling apart. Real genuinely stupid jokes. I love it!
I can't wait to see the second one again; ITV used to show it all the time, but now they don't and I can't remember the last time I even watched ITV. Coincidence? I think not.
I first heard of this via TheSpoonyOne covering the FMV game adaptation... and being unaware there was a movie behind it, I was bewildered. Keanu Reeve starring in a video game? Who was reponsible for that?! I was then clued into the outrageous cyberpunk thriller it was based off, and immediately wondered who was responsible for that!?
What's it even about? Johnny is a data-carrier, meaning his head is a essentially a big memory stick, and he gets this important data put onto it - so important that all these bad eggs are chasing after him, trying to kill him and claim the data or erase it. But the data has overloaded his storage capacity and will kill him if he doesn't get it dumped soon, so he runs around, trying to figure out the fine pickle he's gotten himself into, and ends up dragging an adroid woman along for the ride.
It's... a niche cyberpunk flick that certainly looks the part; the locations aren't bad and there's some interesting tech, and it'd be a real failure if it didn't have a compelling atmosphere. But as a story and as a movie, I just couldn't bring myself to care. I've since read that, like many movies, its editing job is to blame: it was filmed as something a bit more tongue-in-cheek, a bit more fun and self-aware, but the editing stripped it of that and played the whole thing totally straight and bland. And if there's one thing we don't need more of, it's sci-fi and fantasy that takes itself too seriously.
Johnny has a breakdown towards the end of the film and bemoans his predicament: he didn't ask to be in this situation! He doesn't want to be hanging around the bottom feeders of society! And he certainly doesn't want to be chased around by hitmen toting big fuck-off weapons! He wants to be at home: "I want room service! I want the club sandwich, I want the Mexican beer, I want a ten-thousand-dollar-a-night hooker!"
... and it comes across as totally out of the blue, as it's the first time in the movie he's expressed a hint of character. For the entire running time beforehand he's painted as just some cool white guy in a suit, and while he may have expressed doubt before, it's the first time they really spell it out that this guy isn't meant to be protagonist material. It's a crying shame, as until now they needed the sassy android to fill the personality quota, and I couldn't really get behind her much.
If you're big into cyberpunk it's worth checking out just for the insanity it builds up to. The climax involves Johnny trying the upload the data from his brain into a cybernetic super-intelligent dolphin, who's then going to spread that as visual data to be broadcast on televisions across the globe for folks to copy and share on forums or floppies. All the while, Dolph Lungren playing a badass, shirtless, murderous priest is there along with all sorts of weirdoes, tearing up the place! And then Johnny is battling inside the computer some sort of freakin' cyber guardian and--!
It's bloody nonsense! I was watching this in rapt amazement thinking, what the hell is this!?!
And in that regard it's something special, but it's a lot of sitting around with little to get you invested. It's worth watching for Dolph Lungren, though. The man's nigh-unrecognisable! Otherwise... well, it depends on your taste for cyberpunk. I hear the Japanese edit is closer to the original spirit, so that might be worth tracking down.
Steven Seagal is a totally rad soldier (take our word for it) who's demoted to cook on a military ship that's subsequently taken over by crazy terrorists, and he's the only hope they've got of fighting back.
It's Die Hard on a boat, basically - and you know me, I am a sucker for Die Hard-likes. Films about one guy in an enclosed area single-handedly facing off against a million dudes - throw some fun personalities in there on both sides of the fight and you're in for a winning formula!
Er, well, about that last point. Under Siege is a good, fun action movie, but Steven Seagal cannot act. He can't. He can pull off some sweet martial arts, but emotion? One-liners? Those are concepts darn near foreign to the man. They almost immediately saddle him with a female sidekick because what energy can be bring to the screen on his lonesome? Bruce Willis had enough pizazz to carry Die Hard, but the fact he was just one of several entertaining personalities was a boon.
There's only a couple of things Seagal says that I got a genuine laugh out of, but it almost felt like a fluke. It's no credit to his talent, it's just... happenstance. At least the rest of the actors are decent. Tommy Lee Jones steals the show as a wacko rock 'n' roll hippie terrorist kinda guy, bouncing off the walls as he's updated on every unit he loses. I'm so used to him playing stern military types, it's a real turnaround to see him just go full stream-of-consciousness.
It's a little slow-going at first, but it's a pretty solid watch. I'd easily trade Steven Seagal for any other actor, but you take what you get, I suppose.
Under Siege 2: Dark Territory
Basically the same as last time, only now it's on a train! Baddies take over this regular-ass train and use computers to take control of a military satellite that they use to blow up shit and ask for money. But wouldn't you know it, Steven Seagal's on board along with his half-sister, and with the help of a spunky waiter they pull off the same routine as before to stop the baddies and all that carry-on.
It plays out like Under Siege on turbo; there's no need to introduce Seagal's character, nor does it need much time for the setup. It just dives wham-bam into the action, and it's just as good if not better than the last one. Very entertaining, very fun, lots of great action. The CGI is a bit ropey, but that can't be helped.
What can I say? It's good fun, full of entertaining action, and dare I say it, some of the CGI is just kind of funny. The ending has the bad guy hanging onto the edge of a helicopter, set on fire with an exploding train visible behind him, and you can count the number of effects applied in Corel Photo Paint. The fire is like a GIF from an old Geocities page! Mother did scream at the sight of it, especially when his fingers are sliced off by a door seconds afterwards, but to me it's the same kind of shocking that's also kind of dumb looking. In the same vein as creepy-looking low-poly models. I can imagine that scene giving kids nightmares, but at the same time it's so charmingly silly looking.
All New Ghost Rider Vol. 1
I have zero familiarity with vanilla Ghost Rider, but this offers a whole new take on the concept: an orphan struggles with school and raising his younger brother in a hostile ghetto, rife with bad eggs and corruption. He happens upon a sweet hot rod that is haunted by the spirit of the Ghost Rider, granting him superhuman powers and begins communicating with him; villains they encounter are familiar with the spirit, but not the kid it's powering. Together they work their way through the community's ruffians, eventually discovering a botched super soldier serum on the streets that's turning people into monsters.
It's tough to summarise superhero crap without it sounding ridiculous, but the writing comes across as very human with a real heart to it. Like anyone in a put-upon position, the kid's got a desire to lash out at people, even those who wish to help him, but in his heart he knows what he aspires towards and is fighting for. Despite how much the spirit eggs him on he keeps himself grounded, to fight for the betterment of the community and his brother's safety, and tries to put the uncontrollable powers to good use.
The artwork is really superb with a killer sense of flow. All scenes focusing on the car are uniformly superb, evoking a real sense of movement and even a dash of Redline in its art style. When he leaps from his car onto the roof of another, you really feel that impact. The character art is full of expression, if perhaps exaggeratedly so - there's a lot of really dopey mouths that seem to exist just to show they're expressing something, no matter how much it looks like a still frame of someone getting smacked in the gob.
I'm afraid I'm one of those plebs whose first complaint is going to be the modern medium of comics. This collected edition contains the first four issues, and at the time of this writing it's the only one. If I want to continue, I'll be dishing out £3 per floppy, but I've already seen how little can happen per issue...! Like, you pay for a book, movie or game, even if it's part of an ongoing series, you can usually be guaranteed something that stands on its own satisfactorily. With comics, most of these stories won't make sense or stand on their own unless I'm actively keeping up. Gripes, gripes, gripes!
It's a solid and enjoyable read, even if all the stretched-out cliffhangers left me a bit shortchanged. I'd love to read more and I'd hate to see it get cancelled, as it looks to be a comic with a heart and a real mdoern edge to it.
Dad picked this one out, having seen it reviewed in the Fortean Times. You can count on them for all things dodgy.
Two male models are made astronauts and sent into space to make Sarah Palin's presidency look like it's accomplished something, only for them to stumble upon a moon base where the Nazis have been hiding out since World War 2. Thinking they've been sussed out and this is the start of an invasion from earth, the Nazis kill one of the astronauts and capture the other, turning him into an Aryan and bringing him with them on a scouting party to Earth, where things escalate in bizarre ways. Palin's ex-assistant takes the Nazis onboard and turns them into fashion moguls, for one thing, and this renews their plans for world domination. I don't know.
Only after watching did we learn this was community-made Kickstarter-funded movie, with a website where people could submit ideas to be put into the film. I don't know how far it went, but it kinda shows - especially when Vivian Wagner, Palin's publicity agent is introduced in a scene parodying Hitler's breakdown in Downfall, and it's just... startlingly unfunny. And that sums up the film quite nicely, to be honest. There are so many segments that some schmoe must've thought was funny, or it looked good on paper or in a suggestions thread, but the moment you put it in front of a camera - plop. It falls flat on its face.
Even at 90 minutes long this film feels too long, like it doesn't know how to fill the time. There's not enough plot or decent motivations to carry the plot, and it lacks a central character to focus on; is the villain meant to be the main character? I can't tell! It's meant to be outlandish, I imagine, but it skirts the line between serious and goofy that I don't know how to feel, especially given how Nazis are a touchy subject to put it lightly. Even with the ridiculous premise of them isolated in space for seventy years, it comes across as pretty squirmy.
It doesn't help that the Nazis are the only characters presented with anything resembling grace or pathos or motivation. Everyone else comes across as a caricature. The black astronaut is an in-universe publicity stunt ("Black to space!") and a walking punchline who's constantly ejected from the story for alleged comedic effect. The film's jokes about race are pretty unfunny and archaic to boot. Only at the end does he get thrown a bone as the one to teach the Nazis what compassion is again.
The politicans are amusing, but ultimately one-note refugees from filibuster comic strips. Vivian Wagner is an amusing character with great fashion sense and serious firepower, but her motivation (along with the German woman) basically boils down to "a woman scorned"; the Nazis misguided her, took her work and abandoned her, so she sets out in a space satellite to get revenge. Sarah Palin is the only female character (of three, total) to have a motivation other than revenge, though it's hardly any more progressive. There's a surprising amount of characters, but in the long run, why should you care about them?
The film ends on a quasi-joke/sombre note where upon beating the Nazi forces and finding a stockpile of Helium-3, the United States claim it for themselves, prompting another world war to squabble over it. Meanwhile, the German woman and black model remain in the Nazi moon base to presumably introduce some sense to the people as their new teachers.
It's an amusing swerve and the sombre scenes of the politicans fighting, the missiles launching and the lights blinking out across the earth are actually really powerful... but it really just cements that the Nazis are the only characters presented with any depth. They're given interaction and motivations and pathos, and when civilians aboard their moonbase are nuked by the Americans, it's played for drama. Sure, the actual movers and shakers of the Nazi forces remain out-and-out baddies who get their comeuppance, but when everyone else on planet Earth is getting a bum deal in the characterisation department, it ends up coming across as "do not respect these multi-faceted fascists".
I don't know, Nazis in media are a funny ol' business. On one hand their imagery is a visual shortcut to implying "these guys are bad news", but at the same time there's also so much appreciation and fetishisation of it, so to speak. Nerd culture loves to play up the internet hilarity side of it - Nazis in space! Nazis through time! - I assume because it's an easy way of having automatic yet ambitious villains in colourful locations... but at what point does it trivialise the very real atrocities they committed and ongoing culture that follows in their wake, all because they can't be arsed to write baddies with unique motivations? I'm probably just sensitive to shit like this, but when you see the likes of Boy London ganking SS imagery for t-shirts and whatnot, it doesn't hurt to be aware of it.
The film isn't worth your while, even with its brief running time. If you've watched the trailer, you've already seen the best it's got to offer, and that's not saying much.
The Amityville Horror
The Amityville Horror's one of those things I've been interested in experiencing in one form or another; partly because I was a ghost story lovin' kid when I first discovered the internet, but also because it feels like horror movies and stories from the '60s to the '80s really left a mark in the culturual spectrum, y'know? The Exorcist, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, they're part of a generation's lexicon even for folks who have never actually seen them, they appear to have left such an impact. I suppose that's down to the belief they were based on real events more than anything, but I digress. Spooky old stories intrigue me, is all!
A family buy a nifty looking house for dirt cheap because the last family that lived there were murdered by their son, though they think it can't be all that bad. It doesn't take long before weird goings-on start a-happening: the dad always feels deathly cold and is prone to outbursts, ignoring his daily routine is favour of tending to the fireplace. The kids' roughhousing gets unexpectedly violent. The mother gets felt up by some perverted ghost. The priest who tries to bless the house is stricken with illness. The little girl has an imaginary friend that she claims is really there, but the others only see it on rare occasions - as a monstrous pig beast with glowing eyes. And it only gets progressively gonzo-bananas from there.
The book has a long preface from the "investigator" saying, nah, this is totally real you guys - what follows is a reconstruction of exactly what the family told me, and we have no explanation for the events that occurred.
At only 200 pages long it's a very easy read, but... after the first 100 pages, everything afterwards is just gravy. The first half delivers something that's an entertaining enough experience, but the remainder of the book doesn't really deliver anything new or extraordinary, unless you stick around for the ridiculous ending. You know things are only going to get worse from then on out, and it can only throw so many new things at me before making me laugh.
I think my main beef was with the writing style. It tried to present itself as a factual retelling, so it was very straight and to-the-point, but at the same time trying to deliver a narrative. It jumps between the family's first-hand haunting and the priest who's almost cursed by the house, stricken by illness and violent outbursts; the story adds narrative flourishes along the lines of "he wished the priest was there to help, but little did he know the priest was having troubles of his own!" And it never failed to take me out of the story. Every time there was an exclamation point you could tell it was trying so hard to be shocking, but more often it just left me in stitches.
And it made me wonder: if they dropped the "based off a real story" part, would anyone have cared so much? If I tried to view it from the "this could happen to you!" perspective maybe I would've been unsettled, but the dodgy writing made it so hard for me to care. Like, there's one scene where the mother hangs a cross on a door, leaves the room and comes back, and the cross is upside down!! That big fuckin' scare is worthy of both an exclamation mark and a chapter break, and I'm like, man alive, could you try a little harder, buddy?
I don't know, maybe people were more easily frightened in the '70s? Maybe I'm a desensitised sack of shit? I just felt its way of presenting the story worked against it. Maybe if it had gone pure documentary - no flourishes, just the straight facts - that would've been more up my street.
It's an easy read that I burned through in three days. I'd like to see the movie sometime to see how it approaches the subject, but the book satisfied my curiosity at the very least, even if it was hit or miss.