28 July 2011

War of the Months: July

Well dear readers it's the final Thursday in July, which means it's time once again for the War of the Months, our year-long look at both the Critical and Box Office Trends for the films released in each Month of the Year. July is a nutty one. It's really the King of Months commercially but finding some real quality flicks may be tricky. Of course, it's all about fun, baby and July brings the rain. Hard. Needless to say, many July months have indelibly seeped into Pop Culture becoming part of our every day lives. Whoa. Let's Jump in!

Harry doesn't want July to end.

July: King of Months

July is this incredible month really. It's the ultimate Summer Month. It's the farthest away from school, that is. June is pretty cool but really there's just too much happening for people to concentrate on movies. When July rolls around though we're ready for excitement, thrilling action and romance as well as some quality Air Conditioned Theaters. It's become part of American Culture to spend July eating Hot Dogs, splashing in the pool and catching a flick with some friends and beers. It's beautiful. August is really too much of an afterthought. It's the dead month of Summer. We're still excited about getting some heat in July finally. We want to do stuff, and that stuff is movie stuff. Alright!

Rich. Like Ali Baba Rich.

The Top 10 July Weekends Ever include three of the Top 5 All-Time Weekends Ever. Nasty. The tops include Three Harry Potters, Two Transformers, a Pirates, a Batman, Spider-Man, Austin Powers and Simpsons. That list is the peak of the range, the cream of the crop, baby. Now, Spider-Man 2 (2004) and Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011) were both June Releases with weekends that spilled out into July. If we're being purists with only July Releases we'd end up including Planet of the Apes (2001) and Captain America (2011), which actually seems kind of bizarre. It's also incredible that three of the current Top 12 are 2011 releases, which may indicate that this year becomes one of July's best and therefore one of the best Months All-Time. Which is sick.

Joker Approved.
So clearly at this point you can tell that July has become Franchise Month. It's all about loud, crazy big movies, but the ones that do really well usually still have some quality to them. The Dark Knight (2008), Despicable Me (2010), Inception (2010), X-Men (2000) and Men in Black (1997) are all July Films that have done spectacularly at the Box Office as well as in my opinion.

Now the best July Ever (before this year) was 2010, which was aided largely both by the rapid business of The Twilight Saga: Eclipse along with the fantastic slow burn of Inception. There actually wasn't a whole lot else besides Angelina Jolie's Salt, Predators and Dinner for Schmucks which all did decent if not spectacular business. The afortmentioned Despicable Me also contributed to this month just barely edging out July 2007 for the Best Month All-Time at $1,319,393,415. It helps that 2011 has Five Fridays and with Cowboys & Aliens (2011) coming up I wouldn't be surprised if this goes down as the Best Box Office Month Ever. After all, July has absolutely dominated the Box Office in the Past Decade.

The Greatest July Movies Ever:

July is full of some pretty quality blockbusters. In the 80s and 90s almost every July Movie was an instant classic. There's the foundation of Franchises before they were Franchises here. Let's run through the Top 10, clearly the few best July Comedies of the Decade make it but beyond that the quality just isn't there. Take a peak:

#10: Step Brothers - 07/25/2008
#9: Inception - 07/16/2010
#8: Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy - 07/09/2004
#7: Aliens - 07/18/1986
#6: Back to the Future - 07/03/1985
#5: Forrest Gump - 07/06/1994
#4: Die Hard - 07/15/1988
#3: Saving Private Ryan - 07/24/1998
#2: Animal House - 07/28/1978
#1: Terminator 2: Judgment Day - 07/03/1991

There were a lot of close calls here. July has had some fantastic comedies such as Clerks II (2006), Wedding Crashers (2005), Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (2004), American Pie (1999), There's Something About Mary (1998), BASEketball (1998), Kingpin (1996), Clueless (1995) and Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993). Phew.

It's also full of awesome Action Flicks like Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), Independence Day (1996) and True Lies (1994). I also like how July features both Sunshine (2007) and Little Miss Sunshine (2006).

So that's July, folks. It's an epic month to be sure. You can note the quality of most of the movies I've talked about though. It's this month were huge and awesome come together perfectly. These are wonderful times.

27 July 2011

Tops: Best Songs to Listen to in the Rain

In honour of both some cherry new Red Hot Chili Pepper tracks falling on our ears as well as a recent flurry of showers we've gotten in the Northeast this week (along with some crazy hail, that was nuts), today we're taking a look at the Top Five Songs Ever to Listen to in a Rainstorm. Hoorah hooray!

#5: "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" by B.J. Thomas

I remember this song from Spider-Man 2 (2004). Alright then. This is a charming little song that has a message of positivity through the bitter rainstorm. Change what you can, don't worry about what you can't and let that rain keep falling. It's okay, it won't be long till happiness steps up to greet you. That's about the nicest thing I've ever written on this site.

#4: "Have You Ever Seen the Rain?" by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Creedence is one of the Greatest Bands of All Time so naturally their rainy themed track makes this list. John Fogerty belches out this equally jolly and painful tune to a mildly but consistent pounding beat that ensured it as a classic in the background of coming-of-age early 70s movies and TV dramas everywhere. As far as during a rainstorm goes, the answer is "Yeah I've seen the rain. It's right there, man. Right there."

#3: "Riders on the Storm" by The Door

All these rain songs need that steady beat which this interlocks with the occasional distant Thundercrack. The song paints an image of a world-weary traveler making his way through a stormy highway, the rain and road as connected and part of the world and character as he is. Jim's the man, I'm an unashamed fan and generally side with his characterisation as "Poet" rather than "Asshole." That said, Hitler is alive and well and living in Miami.

#2: "The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie" by Red Hot Chili Peppers

The inspiration for this post is a great new song that emulates vintage RHCP. It's incredible they can infuse just as much chill funk into a 2011 song as they could a 1991 track, even with a brand spanking new guitarist. The only thing I know about Rain Dances is that it makes my Blastoise awesome but it gives Maggie a nice boost as well. This post is so stupid. This is a great song though, Anthony sounds like he's twenty and this is a perfect background for a relaxed party inside while watching it pour outside. In fact I bet that's the reason for the Rain Dance - make it so we don't wanna go outside. Deep, man.

#1: "The Rain Song" by Led Zeppelin

Nothing beats playing this song while watching beads of rain slip down your window pane. This song was made for rain. It makes me want to move to Seattle. It's beautiful on a rainy day, as usual every part of Zep comes together brilliantly to help craft this masterpiece. It's epic in nature while maintaining a humble yet reliant tone and structure. Let the clouds open and commence the downpour!

25 July 2011

First Impressions: Captain America: The First Avenger

Captain America is an interesting cultural figure. He's surely more widely known than Thor, Green Lantern or even Iron Man, but what do we really know about him other than his red, white and blue spandex and his fights with Red Skull? Yeah, nothing. He doesn't have a Butler named Alfred or some nice redhead arm candy named Mary Jane. What are his powers exactly? Is he just a dude? Or is he super-strong or something? And didn't he fight in WWII? Wait then how'd he get here?


These are the questions Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) faced this weekend. From the Shield to the patriotism he is an Iconic American Figure but that's about it. He's just a figure. No one really knows what his deal or backstory is. So it's this film's task to flesh all that out believably, create an engaging superhero period piece and simultaneously set up The Avengers (2012) as well as Captain America 2: Punches on Parade (2013). The film accomplishes all of this while crafting a very entertaining and fun Summer Ride. There be spoilers ahead:

Hunky Blonde American Beefcake:

Chris Evans is showing some great range here, namely because he's a perfect Steve Rogers, which is crazy because he was also a perfect Johnny Storm (Human Torch) in two terrible Fantastic Four movies. I was ranting about heroes earlier, and I think a hero's origin does really establish what that hero is supposed to represent. Steve Rogers is one of the only one of the whole lot who is a genuine hero, regardless of powers. Spider-Man and Hulk kind of fall into their roles without their consent, Superman was born that way and both Batman and Iron Man crafted images and equipment after feelings of guilt and brooding with a vast fortune. Thor is interesting because his power is always there but he has to earn it by being less of a dick.

For America!
Captain America doesn't whine. He doesn't sit in a cave or cry about daddy issues. He knows what the right from wrong and stands up regardless if he's a 98-lbs weakling or 200-lbs of Muscle. It makes him charismatic and easy to rally behind. It's the core of what has always made Cap the default leader of the Avengers, even alongside more powerful teammates. It's also easy to see through this movie that Steve will easily lead the Avengers when that film comes out. More on that later.

Chris Evans has actually been crafting a respectable career for himself after largely jackass roles in films like the aforementioned Fantastic Four Franchise and Not Another Teen Movie (2001). In stuff like Sunshine (2007) and Push (2009) tho he was a dick he was still a hero by the end and he was able to make fun of himself in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) (It's still notable that Scott Pilgrim defeats both Superman and Captain America in that movie). Basically what I'm saying is that this kid has gone from punk to legit hero in a pretty short time, without his charisma Captain America would fall on its face, not unlike Downey Jr.'s contribution to the Iron Man Franchise and Chris Hemsworth's work in Thor (2011). He's great.

Everyone Else:

The entire casting for this movie is impeccable. Tommy basically walks through his role but that's all he needs to do at this point. Stanley Tucci is on as the man of both science and ethical philosophy, Dr. Erskine, the creator of the Super-Serum. The Howling Commandos borrowed from Nick Fury comics don't have a lot of screen time and basically serve the same purpose as these random dudes from Thor. They aren't really allowed to bog down the narrative so that's okay.

And Romance!
Captain America is very much a simple hero story although the Love and the Villain are both fully fleshed out characters helmed by competent actors. Hayley Atwell is a babe as the for-some-reason British Agent Peggy Carter who has a little crush on the Cap but they both don't really know how to admit it. She doesn't get herself captured every ten minutes like Lois Lane or Mary Jane Watson do though and she's badass while being Sexy. 40s Sexy. I'd consider her one of the stronger Marvel Female Characters so far, as she's someone who is actually capable of an independent life and thoughts beyond the Title Male Hero. Their love isn't nearly as hokey as the Hemsworth on Portman Action in Thor, nor is it as rushed as Hulk's Boner for Betty in the Hulk Franchise. Damn The Avengers is melding so many franchises...

Hugo is awesome as Red Skull, I'm not sure there's a villain he can't play after killing it as Megatron and Agent Smith in the Transformers and Matrix Trilogies and then doing the Renegade Nazi Schtick here. He's larger than life without being over-the-top (are you watching, Julian McMahon?) and also just unforgivably evil, usually to his own troops. The film was wise to keep the fight a secret US fight against a secret Nazi Organisation. Otherwise we'd have an Inglourious Basterds (2009) ending without any of that film's irony.

Lastly there's Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark, who is perfect as Vintage Stark Asshole. It's a very obvious call towards the Iron Man films and begets an awareness of them on some level. That said, we should segue into:

Another Two-Hour Avengers Preview:

There is a steadily growing interconnection between these universes. What started as a minute cameo at the end of The Incredible Hulk (2008) has become a full-on merge of Marvel Properties. The Avengers is very ambitious and now that Cap is finally out there we can start chatting about it.

Captain America is full of backwards advertising. An object from Thor's Universe largely fuels the Red Skull's plot and a character we first met in Iron Man (2008) has a substantial role, both with plenty of callbacks to prior films. It makes watching these prior films a necessity for full enjoyment and understanding of the Shared Universe. Marvel was wise then to ensure that none of these were Ghost Rider (2007) or Daredevil (2003)-level films. They're all pretty good, I'd say the weakest has been Iron Man 2 (2010) or The Incredible Hulk.

What's clear though is that The Avengers will be a team of Assholes like no other. The massive egos of Thor and Stark are sure to bump into each other, along with the gruffness of Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and I'm really not sure how Bruce (Mark Ruffalo) will fit in. Captain America actually really assured me that The Avengers will pull together because Rodgers is their glue. They all have egos and their own heroism but Captain America is the only one who can really lead them. He's the only unconditional hero, the only one who didn't need to learn that he was put in the world to make it a better and safer place. He has a very different character arc than Stark or Thor. He's already proven his worth to himself, he just needs to fight and show others he can be all he can be. It's very inspirational stuff, folks. He's equal parts boy scout and badass, the traits that make a great leader. He's a Captain, after all.

Miscellaneous Observations:

I should probably talk about the setting quickly. It had a very well done retro feel, everything about this film is just authentic and genuine. Nothing is bigger or crazier than it should be. I think that the large exhibition of a terrible yet very true-to-the comics Captain America Costume was well done, it should silence anyone who ever complained that the movie made unnecessary changes from the source material.

I'm also wondering at this point what the hell Stark was doing with Cap's Shield in the Iron Man films now. It's half-finished here, what's the deal, man? Sure there has got to be some connection through his Father but I'm wondering if this will develop or be forever dropped as nothing more than a cool Easter Egg. Oh well.

So this movie was sweet, it's obviously got tons of Avengers stuff in it but it's also surely a solid film on its own merits. Go see it.


'nuff said

Summer Jam 2011: July 25 Winners

Well Amy Winehouse is dead. Moving on, it's another Week of Summer Down, a weekend of jumping in lakes, trying to beat the heat, catching fireflies in your mouth and really resisting the temptation to read Harry Potter. What a time to be alive, my friends. Let's begin.

#8: "Tonight Tonight" by Hot Chelle Rae

This track has been around for some time now but it took this long to break into the Winners List for the week. It's the kind of song that I hate in general, just ironic shitty hipster bullshit. Sorry. It's a nice Summer Song though, even if it's fabulously irritating and extremely simplistic rhythmically. It's actually been hovering in the Top 10 of the Hot 100 for a few weeks now and if it keeps up Radio Play it could stick around for some time.

#7: "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)" by Katy Perry

This song vanished this week tho it's still rated pretty highly on all the Countdown Lists so here we are. I actually don't think this is making the kind of splash that any of her other ridiculously successful prior four tracks have made. It's just oversaturation at this point. Despite my prognostication I'm sure "LFN(TGIF)" isn't going anywhere, the well of Katy fans is mainstream enough and pop-friendly enough to beef up anything she does right now.

#6: "The Lazy Song" by Bruno Mars

What else could claim the #6 spot? This was the inverse of "Last Friday Night" this week, it's been falling down the charts but I still heard it constantly on the Radio. It's definitely past its prime by this point but it's floating around enough to nab this old spot comfortably. Barring something ridiculous I'm sure this will be the last I mention Bruno this Summer.

#5: "How to Love" by Lil Wayne

Wheezy lays it down, son. It's slowly assaulting the charts but if you check out all the tracks currently ranked higher it's tough to imagine it gaining any significant ground. I do like this song though, it's ideal for some poolside babymaking with a couple frosty Coronas handy. In that light, it's a very smooth Summer Jam. We'll keep our ears on this one.

#4: "The Edge of Glory" by Lady GaGa

For the past six weeks GaGa has alternated between the #4 and #5 positions. After a bit of a surge this week, she makes the Top Four. At this point I don't think there's any way that she gets much higher but I would also be surprised if she has any big drops. GaGa seems stuck in Summertime Limbo. I really thought "The Edge of Glory" had a chance to finally earn a Crown for GaGa this Summer but once again it seems like she'll skip off to school bareheaded.

#3: "Super Bass" by Nicki Minaj

After trashing this track last week Nicki was everywhere this time around, easily nabbing #3 on the week. I really don't know what to think about her anymore, the song is still solid and I guess still has a shot to make a nice little run here. Nicki should definitely stick around and may have a shot yet at a Summer Jam Crown.

#2: "Give Me Everything" by Pitbull ft. AfroJack, Ne-Yo & Nayer

This is one of the worst songs of the year and the video is terrible. Pitbull is just such an unrelenting douche, I have a really difficult time even looking at him. That said, this track is still pretty popular. I still can't figure out where Nayer and AfroJack come into this song. It's all Pit and Ne-Yo. Whatever. This song is full of swagger and arrogance, it's awful.

#1: "Party Rock Anthem" by LMFAO ft. Lauren Bennett & GoonRock

Once again, our #1 is Party Rock, baby. I'm not sure what a Party Rock is (or a Super Bass or an Edge of Glory for that matter), but it's still fantastically catchy and very energetic. If it's #1 for another week it'll match "Rolling in the Deep" this Summer and definitely secure itself as a fearsome candidate. Will LMFAO have long lucrative careers after the Summer of 2011? That makes me laugh my fucking ass off.

So we finally got a week without "E.T." or "Rolling in the Deep" here, which is awesome but don't count either out just yet. I'm also still looking at a chance to talk about Beyonce's "Best Thing I Never Had" which may have to wait until next week. Maybe. Britney also vanished this week although it's possible she can come back as well. Unbelievably it'll be August in a few days - the Final Month of Summer. Oh Diggity!

22 July 2011

Throwdown! Iconic Superheros - Marvel vs. DC

Well my friends, I can scarcely believe it but the last Superhero Movie of the Summer is upon us. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) hits theaters today and as the last in a long line of Marvel B Heroes I thought I'd take a look at the competing pantheons of Marvel and DC characters and what they all represent. Who knows, we might learn a thing or two about what makes these things so stinking popular and at the same time figure out if a movie adaptation is worth it. Let's start with the A-Level Properties, shall we?

A is for Asshole!

The DC A-Line-up is very clearly defined. You've got Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. They've been around forever. Unlike the best that Marvel has though, DC often groups together some combination of the three and they all know each other at an extremely intimate level. Marvel is a bit tougher. Spider-Man is obvious and after that I'd say the most recognizable and marketable are Wolverine and Hulk. Let's dig into the cultural reverberations of all these folk and see what makes them tick.

Superman is simply the Most Iconic Superhero of all time. He's the Original Flying Brick. He's built of everything that every other hero shares. He's the Boy Scout, honourable, powerful and heroic. The nuances of his character are what makes him interesting though. He has a duty above all other heroes to literally shape the cosmos in some instances along with a balance between pride, humility and stability that he always battles with. This is of course, completely wasted in the majority if his films.

Batman is the opposite of Superman. While Superman was born with All-Encompassing Powers, Batman is self-made (possibly arguable) into a perfect mental and physical human specimen. Thus he represents Human Vigilantes and classic detectives while Superman is the Flying Brick. Wonder Woman is the chick. She really just represents all female heroes, though her Origin and most of her iconic stories are so terrible that she hasn't really been able to break into the mainstream media as much as she should have by now. I mean, that pilot sounded equally as awful.

Naturally Marvel is very different. Spider-Man and Hulk represent heroes unlike Superman or Batman who didn't choose to have their powers. Part of their conflict is how they deal with these powers. Spider-Man is a good-natured kid though and has probably the funnest attitude of any A-Lister. The Hulk, depending on his incarnation is absolute Id, the Brawler, uncontrollable. Wolverine's power acquisition doesn't matter as much as his attitude. He's the ultimate anti-hero, a fanboy podium to pin all their badass dreams to. He's really the least interesting of the six other Heroes in the A-List.

B...is for Beotch!

These six were the first Superheros to get the Big Screen treatment (except Wonder Woman, who has no good story to tell, which isn't exactly her fault) but as we're running out of stuff do to with these guys (nuh uh), there have been many more B-Hero Films as of late. On DC's side I'd consider the B-Listers to be the Green Lantern, the Flash and Aquaman.

The Green Lantern has made tremendous strides in Comic History as of late, really getting into what makes the character tick and giving him important things to do. Of course, the film probably set all that back a few decades. GL represents the Galactic Nature of superheros, the Space Travel and Science Fiction sides. Spinning off Blackest Night it has also come to represent very basic emotions, will and intense inner conflict. It's not surprising that the conclusion of the Sinestro Corps War features a Depowered Hal in a Depowered Fight against a Depowered Sinestro. It's a conflict of minutely different ideologies.

The Flash is a well known name but not a well known character. I love the Wally West Asshole version; the immature dude who can still be a hero. He also represents a very basic superpower - superspeed. There are plenty of good Flash stories but they do all get kind of weird with Cosmic Treadmills and Speedforces and other stuff that really bogs down any grounding that a cool character should have. And Aquaman's just a joke, I think he represents terrible Superhero ideas that got lodged in our Collective Pop Culture Consciousness.

For Marvel's Part there are the three big B-Names that have fought to topple both the Film World and the actual Marvel Universe as of late, these are Captain America, Thor and Iron Man. It's important to note here that Marvel's B-List includes basically the characters most important to the Marvel Universe. Captain America is almost like a Batman, he's as far as a Human can go. No shit. He's all Bravery and Leadership over smarts or Superpowers. He's not absolutely more patriotic than someone like Iron Man although his name has become synonymous with American Jingoism. He IS also a fan of liberty and independence though.

Iron man is the technological superhero. Despite his creation in the 1960s he fits in very well in our current age. He's all computers, mechanical muscle and ingenuity. Although the films haven't really treated his character as such, he's also a political conservative and really a huge asshole. Thor is really Marvel's answer to Superman. He's a god and thus represents the Magical Side of Superhero-ing just as Iron Man represents technology. The melding of both worlds is a property unique to universes like Marvel and DC and their likewise meeting in The Avengers (2012) will be interesting.

C is for Cunts!

There are even more heroes and heroines abound and these guys may get a film someday. Some actually have already. These are people who are pretty important in their Comic Universes but no one in the real world gives a shit about. These are the Martian Manhunter who has a ridiculous amount of powers, including Super-Strength, Flight, shape-shifting, intangibility, telepathy and super-breath. Just don't invite him to a campfire! Yeah, his weakness is fire. That's the same weakness that Newspapers have! I don't think he could ever carry a movie, he represents cold and distant heroes, unrelatable yet unwavering in duty. Yay.

Then there's Hawkman, or Hawkgirl or Hawkwoman, it doesn't really matter. Hawkman's actually a gnarly badass but with an origin story so absolutely twisted he'll never carry a film. These guys just need to be background objects in a Justice League film. Lastly I'll include Supergirl / Power Girl or any of their incarnations as DC's other C-Lister. I will never ever say no to a Power Girl movie. She really represents the blatant Sex that Comic Book Characters of her Ilk possess, which is either empowering or demeaning, depending on who you're asking.

I'll also place the Green Arrow here, who is DC's bleeding heart Liberal to Marvel's Asshole Conservative Iron Man. This is actually an awesome, unique Green Arrow idea that will likely never be made.

On Marvel's side I consider this level to include Daredevil and Ghost Rider, both of whom can be interesting in the right hands. Ghost Rider represents Demon or Hellish Heroes, but it's his connection to the man (Dan Ketch or Johnny Blase) that makes his character interesting. Otherwise he's just an emotionless prick running around setting things on fire. He is also fantastically powerful, something that made the first movie remarkably uninteresting. Maybe Nic Cage will have his way and Ghost Rider II: Funky Ghosting (2013) will get him that much coveted second Oscar.

Daredevil on the other hand represents...disabled Heroes. Actually Daredevil really is the grittier version of Spider-Man. He's not stalking SoHo, he's stalking Hell's Kitchen. He's in a literal world of darkness with source material that's actually adaptable to a noir-ish Superhero film (read: Dark Knight Clone). Other than that I'd clump in a lot of other well-known X-Men such as Storm and Cyclops, which really represent the Team Aspect of Superheroics. Possibly Dr. Strange representing the mysticism and wonder of the Universe.

D is for Douches

There are so many D-Level Heroes out there. They don't represent much more than seat fillers. For DC you've got Red Tornado, Black Canary, Plastic Man, Atom, these are awful. Every hero ever in DC has been in Justice League at some point, which serves more as a Crossover Tool than the very defined Avengers Program in Marvel.

I'd consider Marvel's D-Team to be a lot of those Batman-ripoff guys with very similar names like Black Panther, Moon Knight, Night Thrasher and Nightwing. Wait, Nightwing is DC. Shit. None of these guys should be in a movie any time soon.

Well that's about it. Clearly the supporting material is there and if these characters are treated well, that is really pumping up what they're supposed to represent, the films won't be that bad. Or they will easily be terrible, who cares. I'm sticking to my local comic shop anyway.

18 July 2011

First Impressions: Hairy Pothead and the Breastly Swallows: Fart Poo

There's a nice, family-oriented title for you guys. This was Potter Weekend, baby. Despite that there actually wasn't that much on ABC Family, although they did have one of their very rare Harry Potter Weekend Events the weekend prior. If you hadn't heard, It All Ended and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011) made an immense amount of cash this weekend. Needless to say, this doesn't guarantee that it'll be a runaway success, in fact, the impression I get is that everyone who wanted to see it ran to see it during its first weekend and that's that. Of course as time wears on anyone and everyone remotely interested in this nerdy little wizarding boy will have to check this out.

Snape!! Remember when you cried

But that's just it: This is a tough film to enjoy on its own merits. It really doesn't stand alone but must be instead judged along with the entirety of the Series. There are so many callbacks and characters who reemerge from older films that I imagine someone being pretty lost coming in for their first Harry Adventure. This is part of the brilliance as well as the downfall of this film - it is immeasurably interconnected with the preceding stories, which both ties the Franchise together really well and also leaves lots of head-scratching moments when we can't remember what happened way back in The Chamber of Semen (2002). Again, thank you lucky stars for ABC Family ensuring that we memorize the entire damn Franchise by airing it every weekend.

Now, I haven't read any of the books at all, but from what I can tell there was actually a change of pace in Fart Poo, as the books seem better. I naturally gathered this after skimming this Harry Potter Wikipedia. On the same site is a nifty list of differences, but I'll still gripe here.

The ending Battle of Hogwarts is huge, but it could have still been bigger. I'm not worried as much about the lack of Centaurs and Elves and crap in the film version, but I'd like to see more of the duels, like Voldemort against McGonagall, Slughorn and Shacklebolt and Neville burning under the Sorting Hat. Apparently this holds true for the book as well, but c'mon, we needed to have a moment to see Remus Lupin's death. This guy is one of the most sincere of all the characters in the whole series, a very likeable mentor to Harry and he's really just cast aside. It's terrible.

This is again both the greatness and bane of this franchise. It is full of so many good characters that it becomes difficult to give them all time. At this point though it's not difficult because there's less development necessary. We've known Remus since 2004, he deserves a death scene. I'm sorry, that really pissed me off. Somehow this movie felt rushed in parts like this. Harry and Ginny share a brief kiss and that's about it, apparently that's enough to ensure a marriage later on. Likewise they slid Neville and Luna's relationship in there at the last second as well, tho it's nice to see Neville a bit more confident.

Soon to become the most feared Death Eater of all
This is Neville's movie actually. He's got the most character development of anyone in the cast. I think he's interesting as this sort of parallel to Harry. He's the other kid who could have possibly fulfilled the Prophecy that Harry eventually would. He also lost his parents who were members of the Order of the Phoenix, just like Harry. It's just that he spent his first few years as a total boob while Harry was out stopping Voldemort at Age 10. Here though he's finally able to latch on to some of that bravery he's had inside him with Harry as his inspiration, stepping up to lead Dumbledore's Army while Harry the Boy Wonder is off trouncing around the English Countryside with his pals.

I always thought Draco would eventually become this great counter to Harry as well, but his role really petered out in this film. I mean, he was actually sort of really important because he (inadvertently) helped pass the Elder Wand over to Harry rather than Voldemort but he still didn't really DO anything. Neither did his parents, tho his mama Narcissa was instrumental in convincing Voldemort that Harry was dead after their little scuffle in the Forest. Still, I thought the Legacy of the Malfoys had been building up since the first film, instead Malfoy just proved that he really is a little wiener with no real reason for anyone to like him or care. He sucks.

So Ron and Hermione finally put it in during this film, which rules. Hermione is really showing off those little boobies of hers, which is pretty cool. They even have their own private Fuck Chamber. They're also lucky the Janitor never came by to clean up them Ol' Snake Bones.

That said, there is a bit of weird shit in this film. First of all, the Dumbledore Gay News invariably affects how he's wandering around that little dreamscape with Harry. What the hell is that, anyway? I was expecting Harry to encounter some ambiguous Indian Family at any second. I think the books did a nicer job of explaining what the hell was going on both with this scene and Voldemort's Final Death. It's actually not hard to understand that the Elder Wand saw Harry as its Master so the Killing Curse rebounded off him onto Voldemort. Instead in the film as soon as Nagini is killed Voldemort just kind of gets real ashy then oh it's over. Yay.

I just got snake venom in my eye.
I also cannot let Snape's Endless Boner for Lily Evans go without a comment. Does that Old Woman obsess much or what? There's this interesting conflict between him, Harry Potter and Harry's Parents. It's very clear that James Potter was just a total dick, I'm not sure how he had friends as good as Remus and Sirius or a wife as kindly as Lily. It's like Snape wanted to be a father to the Lily-part of Harry but not the James part. He gets off on looking in Harry's Lily Eyes as he dies, for sure. There are some weird emotions going on here, namely the fact that Snape is actually a Huge Whiny Emo Kid who couldn't get over not being picked over the popular jock kid. Thank goodness for his patheticism, if not Harry would have died years ago. The revelation that Snape was a double agent for Dumbledore is huge, his connection and love for Lily is what anchors him on the side of good, not unlike Harry's love for those around him as well as their unity for him. That's why they're able to win against Voldemort who is just an asshole.

I think Harry should have made this revelation to Voldemort as he did in the books, along with a final chance for redemption. It's important to show Harry's empathy and ability for friendship, which is possibly the only major difference between the two. Harry doesn't actually do a whole lot else during the battle, despite all the people dueling and dying around him. I do like how Harry calls him "Tom" as Dumbledore did and as McGonagall says, referring to him as "He Who May Not Be Named" is retarded because he's coming to roast their bones anyway.

Like I said earlier, it's important to recognise this movie in context against the seven that have come before it. Despite a lot of my complaints here, the film does an excellent job in bringing the story full circle. It's interesting to re-watch some of the Chris Columbus entries again to see a totally different Hogwarts. As Harry and Valmart battle through the castle it's all abandoned, partially rubble and mostly grey and terrifying rather than the warmth it used to have. The look and effects of this film are pushed so much further than prior films, it's an astounding ride. There's this real sense of shock throughout the whole thing, from the awe of Griphook and Ollivander at the start through to Slughorn and Filius Fitwick's frowny battle faces. Really the kids are the only ones who cling to hope, believing that they must destroy the horcruxes at all costs. Or perhaps rather they're the only ones who realise it is actually possible to kill Valmart once they do.

In summation I think I like Part 1 a bit better. That was all about character development with a unique telling of the typical Harry Potter story. Part 2 retains the adult nature though I think it fumbles at the Goal Line when scoring the final TD.

Summer Jam 2011: July 18 Winners

Hello Potter-Maniacs across the world, here is another edition of the Winners List, the Top Eight Most Jam-Worthy tracks from the Summer of 2011. It was a bit of a crazy week, but then again, most of the weeks this summer have been all over the place. There are some shifts, some New Classics and a lot of action. Let's Dive in!

#8: "Rolling in the Deep" by Adele

This song just won't die. I can't stand it anymore. This is really a victim of overplaying at this point, back in March I actually liked this song. Nowadays I've just heard it far too often to get any enjoyment out of it. Of course this points to its credibility as an all-encompassing ubiquitous Summer Jam, which I just can't believe. It limps in again this week.

#7: "Super Bass" by Nicki Minaj

I don't know what happened to Nicki this week, but she was absent from the Radio. I think after championing this song all Summer it's finally starting to crest and may fall off pretty shortly. I guess that's all Nicki could muster. This is actually a very invigorating track that kind of falls apart into mediocrity during her last pop sell-out stanza. I think she could have used another rap instead of breaking down and singing like Beyoncé.

#6: "I Wanna Go" by Britney Spears

This song grew up fast. Not unlike Britney herself. I'm sure it'll start charting a bit better shortly but it did have a big surge this week. I think this track works for her because she's having fun again and not whining about stardom or her own crazy personality and expectations. It's still a very typical pop song though and I don't think it'll do all that much better than this. Big Jams these days need to be exceptional and Britney is just painting by numbers here.

#5: "The Edge of Glory" by Lady GaGa

GaGa's been hovering around this position for some time now and despite this song aptly running with the Women's Soccer World Cup all week it hasn't really held up against other pop giants in the zeitgeist. It is an epic song through. Can't you imagine this running through Harry's head as he faces down Voldemort for the last time? It was there, baby. Watching this video again I'm really thinking that GaGa has this innate humour to her, though I'm not sure if she means it.

#4: "How to Love" by Lil Wayne

I actually really like this song. Lil Wayne has quite an auspicious debut with this track this week. It's got a great slow build-up and a soft coo that is lacking from his other work. It could certainly do some damage on the charts by appealing to the chick crowd. It's a nice soothing track to shoot on the stereo on a balmy summer evening and could have a significant late season run. It really doesn't sound Wayne-like, but then again this didn't either. Wait, isn't Wheezy in Prison? How is he still making all these songs?

#3: "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.) by Katy Perry

I'm pretty much done with this song already. It's such a bland track. There's nothing really special about it, just the mild shock value that has run through Katy's entire career. I wouldn't be surprised if it rises a bit higher, especially as Pitbull and LMFAO burn through their moments of sunshine quickly. Katy's proven her sustainability over the entire past year and has successfully avoided overexposure by releasing tons of songs that don't sound at all alike. This song is really nothing but a grab for attention. Which of course, means people will eat it up.

#2: "Give Me Everything" by Pitbull ft. AfroJack, Nayer and Ne-Yo

This is really just a medley of other pop songs. It's so disjointed. I hate Pitbull's snear and...well I don't really know who anyone else is in this crapfest. It's a mild dance hit but really difficult to get into. There's so many shifting parts, it can't make up its mind for what it wants to be. It's terrible. Anyway, it's still charting pretty well and shouldn't go anywhere in the next couple weeks.

#1: "Party Rock Anthem" by LMFAO ft. Lauren Bennett & GoonRock

The Anthem for Party Rocking is still #1. That's pretty cool. What the hell are these idiots going to do with all that money? They better find a bank that's not Goldman Sachs and deposit it because they're in no shape for long-term careers. At all. This is a great Summer Jam song though, and in a few years we might remember "that party song" by those "weird dudes in the fro's and glasses" who made it. That will be "Party Rock Anthem" by LMFAO. Perfect.

Next week expect Lil Wayne, Britney and Katy to keep dominating and I've also got my ears on Beyoncé's "Best Thing I Never Had" as well as "Moves Like Jagger" by Maroon 5 and Xtina, naturally. Yeah that's a nice connection through The Voice. What a terrible show. I'm also wondering if "Pumped Up Kicks" by Foster the People can catch on. I love that track. School shootings have never been so catchy.

12 July 2011

Because it's Sort of Relevant: The Case for a Beast Wars Movie

Before we get too marred in Harry Potter Mania with the Grand Finale coming this weekend, I want to spend one more post rambling about Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011). I will defend this movie forever actually, my integrity is that low. There is no other film that cranks up the Awesome like this one has nor one that has simultaneously cast such a sense of dread over its entire world. It's a very effective film, and I will yet refuse to acknowledge the acting and script problems or a beginning two-thirds that is at times boring, awkward and full of young adult coming of age themes kind-of that have nothing at all to do with giant Robots Smashing Each Other. See, Dark of the Moon is actually not one, but a hodge podge of movies all crammed together. It's a political conspiracy drama, giant robot action film, teen comedy-drama and Ancient Mythological Battle all rolled into one. See? We're finally getting our $15 worth, despite an absence of Hot Rod.

But that's all I'm going to say about the Summer's Most Explosion-y film. I'm here today to talk about the future of this Franchise. Mike and Shia both claim to be done with the Autobots and Decepticons but I believe it's time for them to turn to the Maximals and Predacons.

Let the fur fly!

Fuck yeah.

I was actually a bit too young for Transformers. I had some toys of course, I think I was stuck with a Ramjet for a while and everyone knows Megatron and Optimus. But the show was at its peak about two years before I was born. I never got into the mythology, I just kind of made up my own as I smashed trucks and planes together on my living room floor.

I was the prime age for Beast Wars, though. I watched every episode, had tons of the toys, I was obsessed, man. I would wake up at 7:00 AM on Saturdays just to watch the damn thing on Fox Kids. It really wasn't that great of a show actually. The mythology was very muddled, the scripts were thin and I'm pretty sure Silverbolt banged Blackarachnia. She's basically the Mystique of the Beast Wars Universe. Still, it was probably at least on par with Transformers and could equally be a fine basis for a live action feature film. Listen, the remainder of this post needs to be pretty tongue in cheek, so bare with me here:

Michael Bay needs to direct, obviously. Beast Wars will be slated for a 2014 release, with of course Beast Wars: Revenge of Reptar (2016) and Beast Wars: Dark of Optimus Primal's Moon (2018) to follow. Brilliant jokes already, guys. The tricky thing about Beast Wars is that in the original show there weren't any humans (there might have been one caveman or something). So a feature length live action film could evolve in two possible ways:

1) A Simple Update of the TV show. In the show the descendents of the Autobots and Decepticons now known as Maximals and Predacons travel through a time warp thingie and land on a Prehistoric Earth with overloads of Energon, forcing them to use Organic Sources for their Alternative Modes. This actually explains the whole shebang quite nicely. This is about as close as you can get to reasoning why Flesh and Metal have united here, and it's a pretty cool idea. It also allows for a Beast-Only cast with no humans, and honestly, who saw any Transformers Movie for a human who wasn't named Megan or Rosie?

2) The second option is trickier and it would involve the Beast Wars spilling over into the present day. The Autobots would land in...I don't know, a Zoo or something and get the animals from there. The Decepticons would land in...Jurassic Park or something and get their alt forms that way. Either that or go with Crocodile Megatron. Anyway, the story could evolve something like Transformers (2007), Sam Witwicky turns 16 and wants his first...Cheetah and the story just plays out naturally and logically from there. I really like this idea.

3) The third option of course is just how I always played Beast Wars on my living room floor, two big groups of Maximals and Predacons see each other and start fighting for no reason. Possibly all on a beige carpet.

Airazor's a total babe, obviously
So now that we have the airtight plot out of the way, what characters to use? As I was thinking about it, I realised that the show actually did use some of the best Maximals, they all had very nicely fleshed out characters, even romances between them, the main core of these dudes (and one chick) to my left (your right...I'm a computer!) would suffice. I do have personal favourites like Cybershark, Polar Claw, K-9 and Bonecrusher I'd love to add though. C'mon it's not like Sideswipe or Jolt got any screentime for character development. With a Beasts-Only Cast there might actually be some room to treat this team like real people and give them the development and dignity they deserve.

A lot of these were pretty analogous, Rhinox I think was supposed to be Ironhide or Ratchet, Cheetor is Bumblebee, Optimus Primal is well, Optimus. Dinbot the Predacon Defector could be seen as a younger Jetfire from Revenge of the Fallen (2009). Well, not really. There were a shitload more but we can skip the Fuzor and Transmetal bullshit for now. As for the Predacons, you've got to have Megatron as Megatron and Terrorsaur as Starscream but I'm not really attached to much else.

Megatron the Friendly Dragon, lives by the sea
See, the Maximals were always this tight, unified family-like group. The Predacons however, were typically full of retards, mental defectives, insane maniacs and more retards. It's pretty rough. It's a lot different from the Transformers Franchise that has tons of really cool Decepticons like Devastator and Shockwave, dudes who turn into badass F-22s and giant monsters while all the Autobots have are GMC Pick-Up trucks and various sports cars. The Maximals defintely got the cooler animal group. The Predacons are filled with bees and crabs (what the hell use is a 6-Foot Wasp Disguise anyway?) yet also with the occasional Dinosaur thrown in there. It's tough to have a casting call for these guys that in any way could resemble an effective team, or even some worthwhile characters. Only to avoid Fuzors and Transmetals I might go...Spittor and Retrax? Yeesh. I really want the comic that pits a Poison Dart Frog against a Fucking Polar Bear in the Arctic. As long as we can avoid Transquito. C'mon you've got all the Dinosaurs and Reptiles to choose from and they come out with line-up after line-up of Insects? This is terrible.

Points for naming....any of these

So obviously this is a huge cash cow and the Legacy of Transformers needs to live on. There's nothing better to keep the frantic energy of the Transformers Trilogy going than a Beast Wars Trilogy. Flesh and Metal baby, claw on steel on hoof on pincher-mouth. This is compelling stuff, folks. There's no doubt that the Box Office Gross for a Live Action Beast Wars Movie could be in the hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

I'd see it.

And then go back to my living room floor.

11 July 2011

Summer Jam 2011: July 11 Winners

Hello lovely people out there in Internetland, you have stumbled once again upon Norwegian Morning Wood's Summer-Long tracking of the most Jam-Worthy songs of Summer. This is a big deal - whoever gains the crown may forever be known as THE song of Summer 2011. It's always engaging - especially in the wake of a stunning US Victory in the Women's World Cup against Brazil (Hell yeah Abby!!) let's list some Summer Jams!

#8: "Rolling in the Deep" by Adele

Mighty fall this week, Adele is still charting well but after a ridiculous radio week last week she was seldom heard this time around. I'm hesitant to count her out but for now she's barely limping in after giving it her all for quite a few weeks on the top of the Winner's List. She's not controlling her own destiny anymore so we'll see how things turn out!

#7: "E.T." by Katy Perry ft. Kanye West

Like Adele Katy is still hanging around, tho her stock is about as it was the week prior and continually falling. There's getting to be far too much Summer Competition for these tracks to stay afloat much longer, it's a matter of time until we bid them a final fair adieu.

#6: "Lazy Song" by Bruno Mars

With a nice little resurgence this week Bruno Mars climbs back up to the spot it's had for the majority of Summer. I was actually pretty ready to count this guy out but a spike late in the week really saved this track from irrelevance. This comes back and may actually get some good numbers just on it stability at this spot as well as its great Summer Message of doing nothing. All praise to Bruno.

#5: "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)" by Katy Perry

I love giving myself a little punctuation test every time I write this song title. This track's stock is rising but isn't as immediately dominate as one might have thought. It appears that Katy has some work cut out for her if she actually wants this to rise as high as some of her other singles in the past year. It is probably the most typical and uninteresting song musically she's released since "California Gurls," and at this point that could work against her as much as for her. For now she's smack in the middle of the Winner's List with plenty of potential yet.

#4: "The Edge of Glory" by Lady GaGa

GaGa is climbing here, I'm not sure if she can get top billing one of these weeks if she hasn't so far. This is a good Summer Track compared to some of her other work but there's a lot of other songs that are just way more attuned to the zeitgeist and far more immediately catchy. The shame is that "The Edge of Glory" is a great song by all means, but that certainly doesn't hold sway for a Summer Jam. She's hanging in there though so we'll see.

#3: "Super Bass" by Nicki Minaj

I'm not sure Nicki gets much higher than this but this is great for her. "Super Bass" is a hot track right now that should stay put for most of Summer at this point. Has Nicki established herself as a mainstream pop artist yet? This song really doesn't have a very invigorating beat, which gives more props to the impeccable flow that Nicki effortlessly exudes. I have full confidence that this track stays right where it is, especially as she supplants the other artists around her.

#2: "Give Me Everything" by Pitbull ft. AfroJack, Ne-Yo & Nayer

Is that everyone in this song? I hope so. I don't care. It turns out that Pitbull's Summer Reign at the Top of the Charts was shortlasted; I had a feeling it would. This song isn't even a song, really. It's a medley of other pop hits. It has nothing unifying the track as unique or special. Sometimes I'll get halfway into Pitbull's track with Usher or Enrique and mistake it for this track. How many songs about Tonight can he have? It's gotten to a pop carbon copy point that's pretty ridiculous. For all these reasons I actually don't think that this track holds on for that much longer, it was always a temporary track with little long term significance, this is the start of a slippery fall.

#1: "Party Rock Anthem" by LMFAO ft. Lauren Bennett & GoonRock

I gotta give these cats some props for crafting a spectacular Summer Jam as well as a Dance Video that is continuously entertaining and watchable. Earnesty and Genuinity are still appreciated and these guys have this - they just want to Party Rock. Wait, what the hell is Party Rocking, anyway? Whatever, this track has been dominant this week and as long is the beat is thumping we'll keep Party Rocking, baby. To the people!

So I still think that Britney's "I Wanna Go" can make some Thunder as one of her funner songs in years. I'm also keeping an eye on Lil Wayne's "How to Love" which could make some Lightning in the coming weeks. Finally, the two-shot of Jason Derulo and David Guetta need to make some kind of splash, I can't believe these tracks aren't charting well. Does anyone have a Jason Derulo album, does he really shout his name out before every song he does? I hope so. What an artistic genius. Stay tuned, folks, believe it or not, this is the Halfway Week for Summer, we got eight left to go! It's anyone's game baby!

06 July 2011

First Impressions: Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Part II; Blood and Precious Metal

Alright folks, it's time to really get into this flick. Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011) had one of the hugest worldwide box office weekends of all time (actually recently American movies are doing very well overseas, it's clear that just like everything else we will soon be completely outsourcing our Film Audiences) with a plot that is very comprehensible for a Transformers flick. I am really into a lot of the characters here, mostly the mechanical ones and they're worthy of discussion. Also check out my more contextual impressions. We'll go through this toilet bowl style, talking about the ancillary characters before twirling down to the center core. Let's Roll!

Perfect Emulation: Re-Colours

The original Transformers television series was infamous for killing off characters only to replace them with marginally different ones. The toy lines would follow suit coming up with basic re-colourations of the same figure. Thus Starscream becomes Thundercracker and so on. So we've got retreads of Brawl and Long Haul and Scrapper and all these guys that just appear for no reason. Dark of the Moon generally does a better job with introducing a few of the Transformers than Revenge of the Fallen (2009) did, but there's still these very general Decepticon Armies and random Autobots that show up for no reason.

I find it interesting how the Decepticons always have the hugest armies and the coolest shit. Tyrese even agrees. The only thing really standing in their way is Optimus. Not the Autobots, Optimus. I feel like it would be easy to recruit for the Decepticons - World Domination is an easy sell, especially over humans who continually hate them and restrict their freedom (wtf Frances McDormand?). There has been this Decepticon Escalation throughout the three films. In Transformers (2007) they had much greater reliance on stealth and sneaking around the humand and Autobots present (more on how Megatron relates to this later). You still see this a little bit in Dark of the Moon with Soundwave disguising himself as Rosie's car and Laserbeak transforming and hiding just about anywhere. They're Decepticons - they're deceivers!

New Arrivals to the Party:

In Revenge of the Fallen though the Decepticons decided to unleash themselves onto the world but their greatest fighting force still ended up in an Egyptian desert. Here they've claimed Chi-Town with no prisoners. They brought their spaceships and guns and everything mean and nasty they have left. This includes Shockwave and his Driller, who is really one of the more Badass Transformers present. Shockwave was always this emotionless dude, he was the only one who actually acted like a robot. He's a cold killer and his presence here just emits that. He actually killed Jolt off-screen, apparently. So that's what happened to that useless character. Driller is the closest thing that could top Devastator, it's big and hungry but fast as well, unleashing city-killing power in a way that's hard to believe Devastator could. All Devastator can do is punch and eat Pyramids, after all.

There are some other weird-ass Decepticons running around here. Igor is supposedly a formerly severed head, what the hell is this thing doing running around Megatron's Secret Shitty African Base? Is he just for creepy pathetic effect? Then there are the Dreads, who are actually pretty cool, there's Crankcase the Predator, Hatchet the Dog Thing and Crowbar the...Other One. They actually get their asses handed to them by Ironhide and Sideswipe, who are by far the two coolest Autobots to never get good screen time, I was pumped.

NASCAR and Transformers: Perfect Advertising Brothers.
I feel like some Target suddenly...
As for the other Autobots we've mostly got the Italian Dino (or is he Mirage? Why the hell can't the production team ever pick names?) and the weird Scientist dude Que. Or is it Wheeljack? C'mon guys. Que wins the creepiest Autobot Face Ever Award and also one of the sadder (more pathetic) deaths via execution squad. After that there are The Wreckers, which should have been cool additions but they tend to just drive around firing their machine guns while the Decepticons have giant drilling worms, spaceships and huge missile launchers. Also Leadfoot is like Fatbot why would you make a fat robot? Anyway, who knew Jimmie Johnson had been driving a Transformer?

I should mention Sentinel Prime here. He's the most complex and dignified Villain in a Transformers Film to date and his prestigious Nimoy voice speaks to that. There are so many Spock references in this flick, it's clear that Bay was excited to get the dude who once voiced Galvatron. Now if they had Maurice LaMarche doing an Orson impression, that would make things really come full circle. Sentinel Prime is supremely powerful, only he and Megatron have been able to take down Optimus Prime and I'd say he would have devastated Megatron if he was expecting it. You can see he retains much of his Autobot ideology tho through despair and defeat he had switched sides. More on that later.


Bumblebee does his schtick again, getting his big kill with Soundwave, one of the more bigger villains in the film. He also has probably the coolest stunt, the jump/launch Sam/fight/transform back with Sam in the passenger seat which is amazing. Like I mentioned earlier, I was very happy to see Ironhide finally relevant...then die immediately afterwards. Ratchet though is yet again useless. They really mostly retained the cool Autobots - Sideswipe returns but the Arcees and Volt are gone. I think that Skids and Mudflap should have been in the movie had this happened to them. If you remember, that was almost the death I wanted them to have in Revenge of the Fallen.

Starscream is back to being a badass, tho his death here is actually fitting for how much of a bitch he really is. He's the only Transformer ever to be killed by Shia LeBeouf. That scene went on way too long though. Soundwave is back on the ground and doing what he should be although the Decepticons seem to have abandoned their hacking prowress. Soundwave has a new pet, Laserbeak who is just brutal, he really gives the film a good edge and consequence. And finally Barricade is back and a badass, unflinchingly executing Que as he begs for his life. It's all part of Dark of the Moon's heightened stakes and precarious tone - it manages a great "anyone can die" mode after a while.

Megatron and Optimus:

Megatron's arc through the Trilogy is the most interesting of all the characters. In the first film the Decepticons were really pretty scared, they ran from the Autobots, they hid and snuck around all the humans who had aligned with Optimus. This is all until they free their Lord High Protector Megatron. Megatron doesn't acquire an earthly alt-mode, he keeps his Cybertronian Jet because he doesn't give a fuck. He's Megatron, dammit! He's not hiding. Only Death from a power overload from the AllSpark stops him.

Nice to have on your side during a Zombie Outbreak
In Revenge of the Fallen he's revived with an even more Badass Flying Cybertronian Tank Alt-Mode but he's still subservient to The Fallen for the entire film. As the film ends he's severely wounded by Optimus and witnesses him killing his master. Megatron could only do the next best thing - instead of killing Optimus' mentor, he corrupts Sentinel Prime and makes him into an ally.

Throughout Dark of the Moon Megatron is forced into what he had rejected - hiding. He's got one of the worst alt modes in the Trilogy, a beaten down rusty Mack Truck. He's unable to prove the leadership he commanded with ease in the first two films and instead forced to stand around and watch Sentinel Prime assume control of his Armies. Somehow Rosie Huntington-Whitely brings this to his attention and he finally has a little badass moment when he saves Optimus from the assault of his Former Mentor and then offers Optimus a truce.

This is actually a complicated moment. Optimus sees that if he were to ever align himself with Megatron he would turn into Sentinel Prime. After all, with Sentinel's ass whooped and Megatron still injured, Optimus at this point would be the undisputed Autobot and Decepticon Leader. It's almost like the way it was back on Cybertron when this was the case prior to Civil War. Optimus isn't a punk though. He knows it's too late to reconcile. The Decepticons are deceivers and Megatron is the most deceptive of all - he already corrupted Sentinel regardless of what Sentinel says (Megatron claims him his "Greatest Victory"). Perhaps Optimus realises that his power would too corrupt if he allied with Megatron. Optimus uses this moment to kill Megatron and then Sentinel, knowing that the Sentinel he once trusted already died long ago when he forsook his honour to work with the Decepticons. This is why it's really a tragic ending for Optimus. He kills two Transformers who were once his closest confidants with the knowledge that he's an earthling now.

So Optimus is still mostly awesome. He's finally got his trailer in action and uses it for access to a ton of badass weapons. Why doesn't he ever let his fellow Autobots get some of those jetpacks and guns? Ratchet could have used something more than his useless Medigun at Chernobyl. The only problem is when Optimus gets tangled up in those wires for half the Chi-Town battle. What the hell, Optimus? You're going to get eaten by Tarantulas that way, buddy. I suppose it's the only way to give a little more tension in the final battle before Optimus Deux Ex Machinas his way through the Decepticon Front Lines. I mean, when there's all this devastation and you're thinking "How will the Autobots ever survive? The only thing I can think of is Optimus!" and it turns out that the only way for them to survive IS Optimus, it's necessary to literally tie him up for a bit in between Fantastic Action Set Pieces.

Puny Humans and Random Final Thoughts:

I mentioned before that in movies previous the Decepticons always had to tip toe around the occasional powerful human because they were all working with the Autobots. Not here, baby! This time the Decepticons are fully immersed in corrupt Humans and they got McDreamy. Way cuter than Jon Voight, man.

Is Josh Duhamel an action star yet? Cuz he's trying really hard! Tyrese might be. They need a Fast Five (2011) / Transformers crossover, that'd be perfect.

Linkin Park's new track, "Iridescent" is a much wimpier song than prior Transformers songs but it actually works more for some of the more introspective scenes and tone set by Dark of the Moon. by the way, how the hell has Linkin Park gotten this song deal? How is it reliable that Linkin Park will come out with a new song for each Transformers movie? Actually the franchise is one of the few movies that have signature songs any more, which is kind of neat..

I needed to say this somewhere, I do take issue with the Autobots "covert" Iranian mission - what the hell? Isn't it obvious that the government is working with the Autobots and the Autobots are blatantly attacking Iran? Wouldn't that be cause for a huge war? What the hell? I only take solace that this brief scene was the most racist part of a Transformers film for once.

The most exciting thing about Dark of the Moon is that there is room in Transformers Mythos for a yet bigger 4th film. Transformers: Boogaloo of Lightning (2013), if it's ever made, and that growing Overseas Market may be just tempting enough, it would have to feature Megatron remade as Galvatron and a Maurice LaMarche-voiced Unicron. That actually makes me excited. That or Beast Wars, obviously.

05 July 2011

First Impressions: Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Part I

I don't understand why people hate Michael Bay. Hating Michael Bay for making incoherent explosion-filled action films is like hating Chris Rock for being Black. It's like hating Harry Potter for being a witch. You know what you're getting into here, if you're not down with it at the start, stop griping. Michael Bay's immeasurable skills are vastly underrated. There are those that acknowledge him correctly as a genuine auteur. There are those debating his maturity and psychological development, and there are of course those that just tear him down with unnecessary negativity and harshness. Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011) deserves more than that. There is much more to say about this movie rather than dismissing it as juvenile fetishism and over-the-top action that obfuscates plot and character development. This is one of the Greatest Summer Movies Ever Made. It's long-range analysis time, folks, SPOILERS everywhere.

Context Through the Oeuvre of Michael Bay:

I'd rather not approach a few issues in this post. There are some issues with plot and characterisation, obviously not everything lines up perfectly, but inarguably this is the most coherent Transformers film to date. Things are big and noisy but generally shit follows a logical and interesting path. It's not all that bad. In comparison to some of what we have expected from Mike over the years, things are sailing pretty smooth here.

Revenge of the Fallen (2009) was a mess. It really was an absolute disaster. It's so continuously obnoxious and crude that even the spectacular action set pieces suffer. I saw the thing twice in 2009, once in 2-D, once more in IMAX. Dark of the Moon rectifies all these mistakes I whined about in that Second Post. The irritating parents are minimalised, there's no loopy sidekicks, no racist caricatures (Tho the Italian-Speaking Ferrari is a nice touch) and no vastly immature jokes. At least none as bad as Enemy Scrotum. As for cameos, this flick is full of them. Ken Jeong, Alan Tudyk, McDreamy, Frances McDormand and John Fucking Malkovich all make pretty great appearances.

Bay is always fast and mean. There are tons of points in Dark of the Moon where he does slow the action down and allow some painful emotion to creep in. He gives plenty of time to develop Rosie and Shia's relationship as well as some really tender moments in the wake of a complete Decepticon Takeover and Autobot Exile. They may seem hokey but the film is dark enough and treats its material more seriously than Revenge of the Fallen. He sells the pace, which really is often too slow rather than too fast. The Wingsuit scene goes on for far too long, as does Starscream's death. There is some room for emotional development here and Shia goes beyond what he's shown himself capable of in previous terrible movies. Rosie is also a much welcome addition over Megan Fox, she is so much less bitchier and gives the film a much sweeter attitude. Although did Shia somehow get her huge mutt in the custody agreement? It works here.

Everything is bigger. Somehow everything is bigger than any other Transformers movie, really bigger than anything Bay has ever done. The scale is enormous. The villains help this quite a bit. While Devastator and The Fallen were certainly threatening, neither are as interesting as Sentinel Prime or as wicked as Shockwave. Megatron's turn here is also a cool development but more on that a bit later.

Context Through Comparable Summer Movies:

Dark of the Moon is an immensely entertaining movie. There's romance, incredible action and sets, and a huge amount of technical achievement. This could become a legitimate multiple-Oscar winning film for its sound and effects. The CGI in this is insane, definitively superior to anything that has come before it. The thing about Bay is that he doesn't do the whole thing CGI. He perfectly integrates an incredibly complex robot model crashing into a real-life car and sells it to an eager audience. There has never been CGI on such a grand scale like this.

Most of this is during the final hour, which is basically a non-stop city-wide giant robot war, the effects of all are intricate while suspenseful and outrageous. They Decepticons sucessfully take over an entire city and Bay does this far better than comparable flicks like Skyline (2010), Battle: Los Angeles (2011) or Falling Skies, both in visual effects, tone and stakes. The Decepticons live up to their name, they're very evil and sneaky, tho it's more through human agents this time around rather than hacking into Government Networks this time around. Some of the shots are brutal, human skulls rolling around, everyone dying (why the hell do Alien Death Rays always leave clothes behind?) There's been this escalation in their tactics in every film and here they have abandoned any kind of subtly in their takeover of Earth. There is a feeling of dread and hopelessness in this film like few before it, there is what feels like a good twenty minutes of unbelievably bad things happening that seems like it'll never have a happy ending.

This is all above and beyond a typical summer flick. Dark of the Moon is less of a fun ride than a desperate thrill ride. It succeeds in entertainment though, which reminds me of how this is how The A-Team (2010) was one of the funner, exciting flicks of last Summer. That and Inception (2010). Speaking of which, Steve Jablonsky has completely ripped off Hans Zimmer's Inception score. It's blatant. But it works...because it's a really good score. I hope that becomes the trend for all serious action flicks from now on.

There are tons of movies that attempt to emulate Bay but none can really pull it off. He's holding back a lot here. There aren't little kids running around screaming about how it's "better than Armageddon" or little robots dry humping Megan Fox's legs. There is a tone here that is not necessarily realist and brooding like Batman but it's certainly got a bit of gravity. It's not like Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007) either, which could be considered comparable in budget, expectations of ridiculousness and position in its Franchise. At World's End couldn't match the tragic, overbearing tone however and its attempts at adequately digesting its plot came off tortured rather than efficient. Parts of Dark of the Moon's plot doesn't make sense but it's able to quickly skip over these parts and instead fill itself with truly impressive effects sequences and emotional peaks and valleys that it never really matters. Dark of the Moon is the King of all Blockbusters. It's the target every other Summer Film should be aiming for. It's the Apex.

Coming shortly I'll get into some of what makes Dark of the Moon tick, it's characters, Autobots vs. Decepticons, the Evolution of Megatron, Rosie's lips, all that juicy stuff. Stay tuned, folks!

04 July 2011

The Long Halloween Vol. II: Independence Day

Welcome once again Ladies and Gentlemen to The Long Halloween, our year-long look at the greatest Holiday movies food and activities. We come now to Summer's Golden Weekend, the Fourth of July, America's Birthday, Independence Day, and it's a really easy one.

Independence Day Movies: Independence Day

Watch Independence Day (1996). It's always easy when there's an explicit Holiday movie like this. Reminiscent of Valentine's Day (2010) really. But this really is a great patriotic if not jingoistic movie that should get you pumped up for America. As the 4th is also a day of explosions, any film in which a bunch of stuff blows up is also good viewing, meaning that just about any Michael Bay flick will do.

Independence Day is a good one though, it's loud, brash, arrogant with just a touch of heart and some booty squeezing at the end. Just like America! Really if you get through the 4th Weekend (which by the way this year has been awesome because the Holiday basically started on the 1st) without catching this on TNT sometime, something's wrong with you. "Welcome to Earth!" Haha oh Willy. Other than that the day really isn't a whole lot different than Memorial Day or Flag Day, just watch something American dag nabbit.

Fourth of July Music:

Anybody want to crank some "Firework?" Does that work? No, not really at all. Just like movies, the best Independence Day music is loud, mean, crazy and American. I'd crank some Boss or Molly Hatchet or just about any Southern Rock will do. I think really generic stuff is better here. Skynyrd should hold a special place in our hearts this weekend as well as the Allman Brothers or .38 Special. Seger, Petty, Cougar, there's actually a lot of genuine American Music out there. Crank the Heartland Rock baby. Wow, I never listen to this crap.

National Explosion Day Activities:

I love how the prototypical American holiday is really a throwback to Blue Collar culture. Grab a hot dog and a Budweiser, take the folding chair onto the lawn and get some sun, brother. As dusk sets on get some Fireworks, I know you have some laying around (of if you're living in one of the 46 states where the shit is legal go buy some) and blow up a small part of this country that we love so much. Fireworks Store sales are ridiculous on the day of and it's always easy to get something crazy for relatively cheap. Make sure the beer is flowing and let's see how many hot dogs Joey Chestnut can eat. I love this Holiday.
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