Saturday, October 29, 2011
I remember last year back in December the announcement of this series. I usually don't get hyperactive over announcements, but some things I do. This was one of them. I remember the headline over at ComicBookResources: "Godzilla, King of the Monsters, Returns at IDW." That was the biggest announcement of the decade besides the upcoming film being confirmed. I was extremely impatient with waiting for this series, then it got pushed back from March to April. Wow, I thought they were just messing with me. Anyways, when that April 27th came, I found Issue One and had two options. Go with the Godzilla solo cover, or go with the cover showcasing some of the monsters. Usually I would have gone with the latter, but the first had such great detail when compared to the other. So I bought it, then I went home to feast my eyes on my most anticipated comic ever. I'll repeat that, most anticipated comic ever.
I read, or should I say, blasted through it. It was probably the fastest comic I've ever read. It showcased Godzilla attacking Tokyo, and the President. (Who bares a striking resemblance to Obama.) Pretty much a normal, generic Godzilla story. Was I disappointed? A bit, but it wasn't a bad first start. It was Godzilla destroying things, alright in my book. Of course, even that would get a bit boring after awhile, like the films, it's always more exciting when there's another monster. So with the debut of supersonic horror Rodan and spiky armadillo Anguirus next issue, it would get better. And it did......for a bit.
The second issue floored me, I had the impression that this would be a very good series. It was a combination of Godzilla, 2012, and The Walking Dead. As the issues went on, something happened. Each month it seemed that the issues had lost focus. It seemed hell-bent on poking at today's culture rather than focusing on the monsters. I gave Issues Four and Five pretty harsh reviews, the first got a 4/10 while the latter got a 3/10. At that point, my enthusiasm went dry, I was then only collecting this series just cause I'm a Godzilla fan. Personal honor you could say. My past two reviews of Issues Seven and Eight were good, the series was on the right track. Now that Eric Powell is out, I decided to revisit the series, read all all eight issues back-to-back. Reading them again made me realize something.....they are much better read that way.
Re-reading Issue One made me realize that it was a perfect start. The reason why I found the first issue disappointing back months ago was that I felt so excited having the first issue in my hands to read. I was expecting something big, I just gazed over the issue, and finished it within five minutes. Now that I was more relaxed, I took my time with the issue. It was actually a lot better than I remember. Godzilla's emergence was great, and it a very good issue now that I've re-read it. Godzilla's portrayal was spot-on, and the humor, (at that point, remember that) was actually funny. I especially liked the scene where they nuked him and their reaction to his having the ability to shoot an atomic beam because of it. So I'm glad I re-read this issue, I've gained a better appreciation for it.
It's really the other monsters and confrontations I was looking forward to. I have the same opinion as before, Anguirus and Rodan make fine intros. I don't think the writers like Rodan all that much. I mean, he appears the least, (not counting Kumonga, will address that soon) and when he finally is in a fight, he gets mind controlled. I wasn't expecting the monsters to be portrayed 100% accurately, but they were. Both Godzilla and Rodan are aggressive and attack anything that moves. Anguirus isn't as aggressive, more like minding his own business as he intends to cope with the situation. Beautiful. However, Godzilla's portrayal turns into something of a mindless monster. In the films, he always had a distinctive character, (villain against Japan, hero of Japan, anti-hero, etc) here he's becoming just a raging beast. By issue eight, he's more of a walking event than an actual character. The thing that separates Godzilla from other giant monsters is his character. He isn't some raging one-shot Tyrannosaurus, he has character, and I hope this series will give him that soon.
It's hard to surprise people today, mainly cause every time type of surprise has been done already. Issue Three back when I read it had the perfect cliffhanger: the surprise arrival of Battra. Of course, re-reading it didn't have that same effect, but it's still such an amazing appearance. Battra so far is lacking his character from the film. There he was not truly evil, he was the protector of earth. He just couldn't stand humanity, and wanted to purge the earth of all humans. That's what puts him at odds with Mothra. In this series so far, he seems to be a mindless slave for the Twins. Speaking of them.....
Who are these strange twin girls? Despite all these monster appearances, they are the main antagonists. I don't mind new characters, but using them over established monsters is almost a crime. They can control monsters such as Battra and Rodan? That's sure to get on some fans' nerves. (I still cannot get over Rodan being controlled.) We get introduced to two monsters in Issue Six: Mechagodzilla and Kumonga. The ladder gets ONE scene and hasn't appeared since. I mean, it seems like he was just thrown in just to have another monster appearance. Take out that appearance, it doesn't effect anything. Mechagodzilla gets a pretty good and accurate portrayal, based solely on his look from Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II. However, as stated in my review, the part where he goes haywire doesn't make sense. It's a homage to when Kiryu (Mechagodzilla III) went haywire, but here it happens all too quick. There isn't any reference to him having DNA from Godzilla, so it makes zero sense. He reappears in the latest issue, but goes dead for no apparent reason.
KING GHIDORAH. Now there's a name every Godzilla fan knows. Universally accepted as Godzilla's greatest opponent, his appearance in Kingdom of Monsters was inevitable. Even after re-reading issue seven, I STILL think that was a great issue, unlike in most of the reviews. Ghidorah's build-up was perfect, but is thrown away in the next issue. The battle was of epic proportions, but once he lost, he felt like a throwaway character. I mean, it seems the writers are more bent on making the Twins the menacing force rather than King Ghidorah himself. If he doesn't come back anytime soon, there will be trouble. I hope the same doesn't happen to Destroyah.......
I actually really like the art back in Issue One. It wasn't Jim Lee, but it was good. The splash pages are nice, and the monsters look great. There are some amazing shots of them. However, starting at issue three, the art falters. The humans look odd and just plain bad. I don't know what happened, one issue the President looks fine, the next he looks like he needs a face transplant. I don't want to say this, but the art is making the humans look slapstick. The covers themselves are always something I look forward to. Powel's covers are mixed. His cover for issue one stands out as the best. Matt Frank's covers are truly phenonminal. My only problem is that sometimes it gives you the illusion of what's going to happen. I mean, one of the covers for issue three showcased Godzilla, Anguruis, and Roan battling it out. Did we get? Nope. Not even a meeting between the three. What's worst is that in the actual comic, they say "Next Issue!" Which features Godzilla shooting at Mothra. She didn't even appear in the following issue, that was false advertisement right there. (Where is she anyway? She's only been hinted at, her appearance is overdue.)
Overall, re-reading the first eight issues of Kingdom of Monsters back-to-back made me realize something. It's a solid tale when read like that. I actually enjoyed it better than when I bought the issues every month. The real-world references are more durable when read like this, the story has MUCH better pacing. The first fight, Godzilla vs. Anguirus, was disappointing when I first read it. Now that I've re-read, I appreciate the detail put into it, the monster fights are great, they just need to be a bit longer sometimes. Steven Woods and Allie's plot felt like it was going nowhere each month, but when read back-to-back, it feels a lot better paced. I wrote in to IDW and got my letter published in the letter column of Issue Three. I said it had potential to be the greatest comic book series ever. After reading the issues that came after, I revoked that claim. Now that I've re-read the first eight issues, I don't think the series is a disgrace to the Godzilla name anymore. It has a long way to go before being "great" however. It's a fun story, go check out the trades.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Heh, I guess this is the part where I say "Kingdom of Monsters has been a mixed read," and all that. Well, I've probably said that a thousand times already, so let's get down to business.
What do you get when you put a giant lizard named Godzilla in the same place with a giant three-headed dragon named King Ghidorah? AN ALL-OUT MONSTER BRAWL! It's a true clash of the titans as these two foes battle it out for what is the greatest battle on earth. Meanwhile, Steven Woods is bitten by a poisonous snake, and MECHAGODZILLA returns......
Unlike in a lot of the other reviews surprisingly, I thought the last issue was a HUGE step in the right direction. Kingdom of Monsters in it's early mid-stage suffered for it's political-references, it gave you the impression that this series was being used to poke at today's world. The last issue helped separate from that, the focus is where it should be: The monsters. This issue had really no real-life references. (Besides the President of course.) It's focus was on the showdown between G & KG (believe it or not) and Steven Woods.
I'm not ashamed to say that this was one of my most anticipated comics of the year. I live for these fights. Surprisingly, there haven't been that many monster fights in this series. There's only been Godzilla vs. Anguirus, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, and Rodan vs. Battra, all of which were too short to be satisfying. This is the issue we've been waiting for. With a titanic showdown teased last issue, we get it here, and it was epic.
My eyes were wide as these two titans battled each other. After I was finished with this issue, I wanted to go back and read it again, it's that epic. The best fight in a comic I've seen in a long time. I could hear the roars and beam sounds in my head as I read. That's the focus, but really the main focus is on Steven Woods and Allie. Their plot hasn't really been going anywhere these past issues, they just travel and travel and travel. That's over, when Mechagodzilla shows up. Now it gets interesting. Seeds are planted for the upcoming new arc, and I have rekindled interest in this series.
The only problem that all fans will agree with is......King Ghidorah losing. Now, it's not the actual lost, it's how fast it happens. We can all agree that this three-headed beast is Godzilla's greatest enemy, and one of his most powerful. (Second to Destroyah.) He's based solely on his GMK counterpart, which is fine, but for a lot of build-up, he gets washed away a bit TOO quickly. It seems that this series is favoriting those creepy twins as the main villains, while those like King Ghidorah, get the shaft.
The art for this series has been alright. It shines in this issue, Ghidorah looks awesome, a perfect portrayal of his GMK counterpart. Godzilla looks great too, the fight really comes alive as if you were watching one of the films. There's this really great scene where Mechagodzilla first appears, the art makes him look astounding. The regular cover a lot of people like, it's pretty cool. What I don't get, is why the way Godzilla and Ghidorah are drawn on the cover don't match their interior designs. It's a cool cover, but the looks don't match. The second cover, which showcases Mechagodzilla, is another amazing job my Matt Frank. (And this time, it doesn't give off an illusion that we won't see him in action.)
Overall, this is definitely one of the best issues of the series. It features a big satisfying monster showdown, and that's really all we want, right? Fans will be disappointed at how fast Ghidorah loses, the only real negative. Gone are the real-world references for good, the monsters are the focus. Hopefully it will stay like that.
Saturday, October 22, 2011
The first two Marvel animes, Iron Man and Wolverine, were good starts. Iron Man at least anyway. I've been hearing some really positive things about the X-Men one, now that it has aired in the States also, I can say what I thought.
The story follows the aftermath of the death of Jean Grey. The X-Men have disbanded. However, when a teenage girl is kidnapped, Professor Charles Xavier calls in the team once more.
Sure, the Phoenix is probably the most overused plot point in the X-Men shows, though it's only used for the flashback, which is a good thing. The last X-Men show was the canceled Wolverine and the X-Men. After a season, the show didn't come back sadly. So we have to this for now. Of course, when Japan takes our characters, we can only hope for the best. They produced Iron Man, which kept the core concept well. Wolverine on the other hand, did NOT keep the core concept, changing Wolverine himself into someone who would better fit in with something like Bleach. So when you adapt something as big as the X-Men, you can't afford to mess up. We want to see our characters kept to the core, with a hint of anime style. And the X-Men premiere succeeds.
I actually found the premiere similar in tone with Wolverine and the X-Men. This episode was surprisingly slow-paced, there wasn't any big fight, it's basically the X-Men coming together. If handled wrongly, this could have been dull, but thankfully it's handled right. The character dynamics from the comics are here, from Wolverine's constant chatter with Cyclops, to Beast and Xavier being the two big brains of the group. It's good stuff.
One of the few negative things about this premiere was.......Cyclops. Man, he was awful in Wolverine and the X-Men, but here he's just about the same, if not worst. Why is he now always painted as this mellow-in-self-misery guy? You just feel like you want to slap him. Thank goodness it looks like we won't have to deal with that for the rest of this series, unlike Wolverine and the X-Men, where he was just plain awful the whole time. Wolverine.....now that is what I'm talking about. Now it's hard to even imagine what that other Wolverine was, this is the REAL deal, complete with Steven Blum as his voice. A true highlight of the premiere. Storm on the other hand is vastly different than all of her previous incarnations. She's more care-free than her serious goddess-like character from previous appearances. She still is the voice of reason though. Beast is portrayed similar to that of his Wolverine and the X-Men, albeit cooler. He's going to be a major player in this one, something the other show was lacking. Professor X is the same as always, no difference. Which is a good thing.
Like I said, there's really no fights to speak of. That was surprising, usually the first episode of anything is pretty explosive. The dialogue here is pretty solid. (save for the ridiculousness of the humans in the classroom scene, nah, scratch that. All non-Mutant people look pretty ridiculous) Watching Wolverine arguing with Cyclops is worth the watch itself.
Overall, the X-Men anime is off to a great start. The characters are for the most part, adapted from the comics. It has potential to be a great X-Men show, maybe one of the best. Plus, after the Wolverine anime, it's good to see our clawed friend back in action with his real voice.
Friday, October 21, 2011
So I just finished reading the final issue of the Marvel Comics event: Fear Itself. This wasn't a small-time event like Chaos War where it affected only a few books, this event effected EVERYTHING. It all leads back to Secret Wars, the first major Marvel event. For the most part, these game-changers have been astonishing, save for a few. (Secret Invasion.) Universally, it is is accepted that Civil War is the best out of them. In fact, no event prior Fear Itself came anywhere near Civil War in terms of quality. So to combat the more negatively reviewed events after Civil War, prior to Fear Itself, (Secret Invasion and Siege) Marvel decided to make the biggest story they ever told. Don't remember or believe me? Here are some quotes I had the courtesy of finding.
"We are going to be busting the doors down with the biggest story we've ever told."
When I heard that, I took it like a marketing technique. That's just basically hype, I doubted they really meant "the biggest story they ever told." But they said it, and based on the title of this editorial, you can tell it wasn't. However that quote was not the most important my friends, this was.
"The biggest event since Civil War, maybe even bigger!"
Whoa there, hold on a second. Unlike Secret Invasion and Siege, they were pouring down MASSIVE hype toward this event, they really did mean it......or should I say, meant it. You see, Fear Itself didn't come close to being as epic as Civil War. Of course, you've heard lots of people say that, so I'm here with this editorial to explain things deeply.
Now to be fair, the first issue of this event was the perfect start, I gave it a PERFECT score. The seeds were planted in that issue, ensuring that the event would definitely be world-changing. What what we got wasn't even a land-changer. It changed things, sure, but practically every major thing felt forced. Alright, like I said, issue one was a stellar beginning with amazing moments. The scene where Thor and Odin battled and the latter chaining the first was not only epic, but supremely dramatic. That goes out the window an issue later where Odin lets Thor go free. Huh? Where did this sudden change of character come from? Of course, the aspect that got on everyone's nerves was:
THE DEATH OF BUCKY BARNES.
It wasn't the death itself that annoyed the fanbase, it was how afterward it was forgotten and undervalued. No one seemed to really care, not even Cap. (His care for it was displayed in the Avengers tie-in.) In the issues after, it was forgotten, like the death didn't matter. I knew that he would be the one to bite the dust, but it just felt so meaningless. Like, back in Civil War, Goliath died, that felt major, and was never forgotten. And he isn't even as close to a major character as Bucky! When a death of a major character feels meaningless, you have a problem.
The main antagonist is the "God of Fear:" the Serpent. This guy's backstory with Odin was very interesting, but wasn't explored or fully fleshed out enough. It doesn't help that he was given MASSIVE hype over the course of this event, yet he loses pretty fast in the last issue. I guess it's because he himself barely fought during the event, it was the Worthy who did all the work. One scene they did right was when Thor when to meet the Serpent for the first time, and he slapped aside the Thunder God like paper. What this event needed was more of the Serpent showing his power. The problem with a lot of media, is that if you wait until the very last scene to showcase the villain's power, it will feel underwhelming, cause you kinda know that he won't be able too look too powerful, especially in Marvel's case here, cause they were already saying what's coming after. Therefore the Serpent couldn't have looked like the world-changer villain they hyped him up to be. In a couple of months, this guy will most likely be forgotten, never to be seen again like other characters. (Toxin, what happened to you?)
Another major hyped-but-miserably-failed factor of the series was this:
They were the Avengers' answer to the Serpent's Worthy. Now that's one pretty awesome concept, I mean, look at those guys. Powered up with Asgardian technology, it's an amazing concept, if executed correctly, it could be one of the epic things to grace comics.......and of course this event mishandled the concept. They were saved for last, which was fine, but they have really no significance in the story. There's no big transformation sequence, it should have been more of a factor.
Fear Itself DOES have its moments. I said in a previous editorial that a very powerful scene I'll never forget was when Cap said, "We're going to lose." The Thor vs. Hulk and Thing battle back in issue five was one of the most epic battles I've ever read in comics. Not to mention the stellar art, some of the best I've seen in comics. And the last issue had the Serpent transforming into well, a real serpent. Now that was EPIC, that beast was the perfect end-boss......if only it could have lasted longer, the final battle was too anti-climatic. So the prophesy was fulfilled that Thor takes out the Serpent, and dies along with it. Not only does this death feel empty, it's hard to take seriously. There wasn't much emphasis on it, and let's face it, he's coming back. And don't get me started on Odin. He never seemed truly sane in this series. I mean, when Cap told him off back in issue six, he actually seemed surprised by the way the Avenger was addressing him. Also, even in all the chaos and "fear," the Spidey I know wouldn't abandon the battle, it just isn't in his character.
Here's another false quote. "It has a beginning, a middle, and an end."
It doesn't have closure. One of the epilogues has Sin waking from injuries. What follows are these strange people saying that there's still work to be done. So Sin gets up saying that the world can still be changed. TO BE CONTINUED IN FEAR ITSELF: THE FEARLESS it said. Therefore, the story of Fear Itself isn't completed. Wrong, just wrong. They should have just killed of Sin, no one likes her anyway, and I really don't see much people having interest in this Fear Itself sequel. Let's face it, it will have no significance at all, with big events coming such as Avengers: X-Sanction, and 2012's the Age of Ultron. This Fear Itself sequel is nothing but a waste of time.
Overall, Fear Itself was a sound concept, we had very unique teasers showcasing what our heroes fear most. We didn't get any of that. We knew what Marvel was aiming for in this event, we knew that they wanted to make it grounded in the public's view. It was meant to be the opposite of Final Crisis. It was meant to be more from our point of view, what fear feels like. It failed. Fear Itself failed as an event. DC's Justice League and Detective Comics has more of a high-quality feel when compared to some of Marvel's all-star books, like Avengers and Amazing Spider-Man. It's sad. Marvel needs to step it up now, I hope they've learned from this, and start to produce high-quality stuff like they use to.
Thanks for reading.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Gangsters and Goliaths has been a very good Godzilla story, and just as a story itself. It has a real plot with established characters, (something Kingdom of Monsters doesn't have) very good, intelligent writing, (another thing Kingdom of Monsters doesn't have) and EPIC MONSTER SCENES. Indeed, I've given each issue an above eight, it's that's good.So now we enter the final issue, and oh man, was it big.
The story continues with Detective Sato unleashing his plan: MECHAGODZILLA. He plans to get the Elies from crime lord Tekahashi. Of course, he'll have to get through all-powerful beasts to restore order......namely Godzilla.
When these issues go together in trade, it's going to be an awesome read for those that are waiting for it. This mini-series felt like a Heisei film. Mix the Return of Godzilla, Destroy All Monsters, and the mafia, you have this.
Detective Sato once again proves to be a character the reader can root for and like. I like how he fully understands the mistake, and seeks to fix it. Tekahashi comes off a good antagonist for this type of series. The Cosmos again looks pretty weak and just pitiful. Then again, they never did look that tough in the films, have they?
Of course, we want to see some monster action, and it delivers. I was smiling the whole time, seeing the likes of Rodan and Titanosaurus destroying things. Naturally, it's Godzilla who gets the most page of them. What I like about this series, is that he has some character, whereas in Kingdom of Monsters, he seems to be nothing than a mindless beast. I LOVE his appearences in this issue, he looks nothing but AWESOME. Mechagodzilla fans might be disappointed at how weak it looks, displaying really no strength whatsoever. I did find this piece of dialogue funny and cool.
"That's not going to stop Godzilla. In fact, that's not even going to slow him down." Classic. Of course, you have to be a longtime fan to see the humor in it.
The art is really the only downside of this series. The humans look way too sketchy, and just plain bad. The monsters look great for the most part. Godzilla especially looks amazing, sporting a look akin to his Heisei incarnation. Mechagodzilla looks amazing....well, the headshot scene in the building. It's lacking sufficient detail. There are two covers, the main one with Godzilla towering over some buildings with airplanes, and one with Detective Sato, his son, and Mechagodzilla. I liked Cover A more, it has really good detail and the perspective makes Godzilla look even more imposing.
Overall, this issue was the best in this mini-series. Gangsters and Goliaths has been a great read, it has set the standard that hopefully Kingdom of Monsters will follow. I'm sad to see it go, but it had its run. Next month we'll have another mini-series, Godzilla: Legends, which I hope will be as good, if not better. With its great story, excellent pacing, interesting characters, and awesome monster destruction, you'll want to check out Gangsters and Goliaths, Godzilla fan or not.
10/10. PERFECT score.
So, I enter the second issue of the rebooted (um, revamped) Justice League series. This has been really special for me, cause I haven't journeyed into the DC world in quite awhile. I rented some trades at my local library in the past, but I wasn't following what was happening currently. Then the New 52 was announced, and I picked Justice League #1. I was floored, giving it a 9/10. So I, a Marvel reader, was now following a DC title, thanks to this revamp. Issue one was the perfect start, and issue two has to keep it up, right? Of course.
The story continues with Superman attacking Batman and Green Lantern. You see, Superman thinks it was Batman who attacked him and attempted to destroy the building. Realizing that they are doomed, Green Lantern calls in Barry Allen, the Flash......
Ah, truly a blockbuster issue. What I like is the perfect balance between action, dialogue, and drama. It doesn't go overboard on any. You can see the seeds being planted for them being a team, but it feels natural, and it's going to be cool when they form, though it's still hard to see this hot-headed Superman joining a team.
Speaking of Superman, I really don't like his revamped portrayal. He's too rash and hot-headed, this is not the Superman we know. They're trying to make him more "hip" for today's crowd, but what we're getting is a completely different character. He acting more like Superboy from the Young Justice show. What I do like is how Batman is the one taking charge. Back in the old days, it was officially Superman who was the leader, but technically it was Batman. I like how this series is establishing Batman as the leader fully, because so far there is NO ONE that is up to his league in this Justice League reboot. (Sorry, revamp.)
The Flash is the new member established. I don't like his portrayal, he comes off as whiny and the guy you just want to slap back into commission. I've read plenty of Hal Jordan stories in the past, this Hal Jordan comes off as a rookie and is just annoying like the movie's version. I know I know, this is the "early" days, but he's acting TOO much like a jerk. "Yes, Batman is real, and he's a tool." I mean really?
Besides that line, the writing is very good. It isn't dull and keeps you wanting more. Cyborg, (though technically he isn't yet) is portrayed as the "nice" guy. His scenes with his father are the man points of drama in this issue. It's rather generic, but it has some very dramatic moments. One of the few things I didn't like was that Darkseid wasn't mentioned, it feels like the main plot is getting pushed to the side in favor of introducing the character dynamics between each other, That is a good and bad thing, it depends on the reader's perspective. I also would have liked that Superman vs. Batman fight, there really wasn't much of that sadly.
Is it really necessary to mention how great the art is? Jim Lee is awesome with it, some of the best art in comics right now. Each character and backdrop is given sufficient detail. And the splash pages, they are just AMAZING. This is why we read comics, to see people breaking free of green alien chains.
Overall, I was floored by this issue. It is the definition of "comic." It has amazing action sequences, it has superheros looking cool, and novel-worthy writing. When you buy a comic, you're not supposed to get bored while reading silly dialogue, or put it down after reading and saying, "That wasn't worth my $4." (I'm looking at you, Amazing Spider-Man.) You buy a comic for stories of epic magnitude not seen in books or films. That is what Justice League has been thus far, a story of epic magnitude. Pick it up if you aren't reading it already.
Sunday, October 16, 2011
When it comes to giant monster movies, I'm your guy. I've seen them all, from the all-star Cloverfield, to the awful Deep Rising. The found footage genre, (started by the legendary Blair Witch Project) has recently become more used, such as in this last year's Paranormal Activity 2 and this year's Apollo 18. I myself have only seen one movie in that genre, Cloverfield. (Until now of course.) The shaky cam puts off a lot of people, but I find it supremely engaging.
Troll Hunter is a rather unknown film in the States. It was made in Norway, and it wasn't dubbed English. This little gem was kinda random and came out of the blue. (Giant trolls? Sounded like something the Syfy channel would air.) This little gem found its way onto Netflix Instantly, and I heard it being compared to the great Cloverfield. The last low budget independent film I saw was last year's MONSTERS. I wasn't fond of MONSTERS. (The DVD cover says it's "the greatest monster movie of the millennium," HA.) But I'm always open to these films, and Troll Hunter seemed interesting and unique. I'll tell you what I thought in the coming paragraphs.
The film follows three college students as they attempt to make a documentary about a supposed bear poacher, Hans. It turns out they got more than what they bargained for. When the students followed the supposed poacher into a forest, a roar is heard, from something much bigger than any bear. Hans runs back, shouting "Troll!" There are trolls in the area, and the students want to film Hans and his hunt against the beasts.
So as you can see, this film is a rather different one. The film literally jumps into the action right away, putting you in the car with characters you have no clue about. It's kinda confusing in the beginning, cause it's hard to grasp what's happening. You begin to understand as it goes on, and also in your head decide what's going on, cause not everything is fully explained. The characters are not really fleshed out at all, you don't understand who they are or anything of that sort. Then again, as a found footage film, it would make sense that we don't know the details, realism and and all. Then again, when we watch a film, we expect to know the characters a bit, were they good people doing a film for good purposes, doing it for adventure, or making it for a sinister purpose? I expect to know about that. Then again, that would be taking the realism out of it, wouldn't it be? See how hard it is to rate a movie like this? It really tests one's reviewing skills.
I really like how all the actors are all unknown, like with Cloverfield. (Except this time, they are really unknown.) A lot of modern films today sometimes bank it on the lead actor then the actual story. The actors in this film do a good job at making this whole thing seem "real," especially Hans, the Troll Hunter, who was the highlight. These little unknown films shine in that they have amazing stories without having to worry about marketing. (A really good film is Hunter Prey, which is Instantly on Netflix, check it out.) This film is very fast-paced, and has a very interesting story within the story.
Of course, the reason why we're (or at least me) are going to watch this film are to see the monsters, (or in this case, Trolls) in action. I was surprised that the term Trolls was used, I always thought these things were tiny goblin-like creatures. With that said, some of them looked a bit too goofy to be taken seriously, though some did look menacing. (The one with three heads had a unique look.) They have that "grouchy" look. The effects truly surprised me, with not a big budget, the effects are AMAZING. On par with the likes of Cloverfield. Speaking of that, this film does feel like Cloverfield in a forest, though that's a good thing. It has a very interesting backstory, and doesn't get dull.
Overall, Troll Hunter is a gem you do not want to miss. If you liked Cloverfield or the Blair Witch Project, (I haven't seen the ladder, but the reviews say it's similar) you will greatly enjoy this film. It has some very tense scenes. (The one with the goat on the bridge was pretty darn intense.) The only thing I didn't like was the ending, it didn't have closure. (I know these type of films have those type of endings, but this one really felt too "open.") Watch Troll Hunter instead of MONSTERS, trust me.
Airachid: "You have something to say, Soundwave?"
Airachid: "I command this vessel, you will resume your post!"
I don't know about you guys, but I've been dying of anticipation to watch this episode all week. Once I saw the preview, it was one of those "freeze and jaw on the floor moments." I had high expectations for this episode. Now that I've watched it, (and again on YouTube) I'll give you a review, and even a look-back at the first season, talking about the characters, and what they got right and wrong. Minor spoilers approaching.
The plot continues as Optimus and the Autobots follow Megatron into the core of Unicron. Meanwhile, aboard the Decepticon vessel, Airachid claims that Megatron is lost, and that the Decepticons should move on with her in charge. Soundwave has something to say about that....
Wow. That was the one word I thought while watching it. After, I was speechless. This episode is by far the best in this show yet, and one of the most exciting episodes of ANY show I've ever seen. Amazing writing, epic fight scenes, and just had a very cinematic atmosphere. I found my myself getting supremely excited over some scenes, (SOUNDWAVE!) which I hardly do.
There are some really big pay-offs in this episode. We get a very nice flashback of Optimus and Megatron before they were hated enemies. Very in-depth and helps newbies understand. The biggest pay-off (for me anyway) was Soundwave taking a stand against Airachnid. Seriously, I have been waiting for this guy to make a move, I'm glad the writers understand that he's not just the computer guy, he knows how to fight. (Megatron did make him his chief among his followers.) That scene with Airachid getting humiliated automatically gets five stars.
The Unicron plot finishes, though fans might be disappointed at how fast the "Chaos Bringer" loses. To be honest, this arc lacked pizzazz, he wasn't fully fleshed out. Optimus and Megatron, them being the central characters of the show, have some great scenes in this episode. Hated enemies, but have their backs in honor. The other Autobots don't really do much, but that's to be expected. Jack and the rest of the pitiful humans are thankfully nothing but side-characters. (Jack's mom says that they should play a game to ease the tension. I mean really?) Also, that important Cybertron card Optimus gave Jack? He's tapping it against a rail casually like it's some credit card. And that ladies and gentlemen is why we need more mature main characters. And I have to wonder why Bulkhead was the only one effected by Dark Energon.
Overall, fans will be disappointed at how fast the Unicron plot finishes. On the other hand, this episode is packed with thrills, not a dull moment. (Excellent music by the way.) Soundwave finally shows Airachnid who's the real person in charge, I'll never forget that moment. (Seriously, I've been waiting for that.) When they said a mind-bending ending, (saw what I did there?) they weren't joking, even I was caught off-guard by how ambitious it was. You are not going to want to miss this.
10/10. PERFECT score.
So the first season of this show is over. Transformers has had a lot of incarnations in the past. G1 is still, and always will be, the most popular and recognized by fans. There's the infamous Beast Wars, the anime trilogy, and Animated. (Which was pretty horrible by the way.) Prime seems to want to appease both fans of G1 and the movies.....and it succeeds wonderfully. It takes the good stuff about the franchise, and just puts a hint of the movies in. (Like Bumblebee not being able to talk.) The show succeeds in having that cinematic atmosphere, having superb voice acting, great animation, amazing fight scenes, (more hardcore than you would think from a Y7 rating) and spectacular writing. There are many standout scenes, such as when Ratchet became powered up and entered the Decepticon base. Megatron laughs, saying he isn't a threat. Ratchet then punches Megatron to the ground, with the ladder getting up and saying "Alright then." Another great moment was when Megatron entered the Autobot base, saying "So this is where the magic happens. Quaint." Those are just a few of the amazing dialogue pieces. Now I will examine the character re-designs.
Optimus Prime is the same as always. Voiced by the ever great Peter Cullen, he brings a certain calmness, putting the atmosphere at ease, even with certain death impending. Megatron has his look more akin to his movie incarnation, but with the famous Frank Welker as his voice. He is definitely his most evil yet, none of that cheesy "Decepticons, RETREAT!!!!" nonsense. Bumblebee completely resembles and acts like his movie incarnation. I don't mind, he was never a major character to begin with. Fans of Arcee may be annoyed at her color change. But really, I can't picture an all pink bot running around. Bulkhead, a character first introduced in Animated, (though technically his name was first used in Energon) is portrayed as the strong, but not very bright type. So take that as you will. Now, for Soundwave.
Soundwave's re-design is by far the most diverse, sporting a completely different look. The major change that had us fans scratching our heads was that he doesn't talk, he's silent. His new ability is being able to record anything through computer, and play it. (Heh, I still remember when he played Arcees's recording way back in episode one, and everyone thought he was a girl.) We're so used to his awesome computerized voice, this wasn't welcomed. However, after episode one, I began to appreciate this re-design. Him being silent, (though he could talk, according to producer Duane Capizzi, he just chooses not to, how awesome is that?) made him unique in this show, and his look is by far the coolest. The only gripe is that he was underused, way too underused. He was absent for some major episodes, and sometimes all he would do is just making a standing appearance, it was like the writers didn't know what to do with him. The season finale finally gave him a fight, (seriously, up until that point, he hadn't fought once) and truly established his character. He's not this quiet computer whiz you push around, you mess with the order of things, you better watch out. This Soundwave is by far the coolest of his incarnations, my favorite character.
I almost forgot to mention Starscream. He's like his campy G1 self, but at the same time, cunning. (He is voiced by all-star Steven Blum, which helps.) He was surprisingly absent for the Unicron arc, then again, what could he do? Nothing, he's not exactly the brightest or strongest. Original character Airachid brings something new to the table. (She might be a Predator wannabe, but she's cool anyway.) Her story and rivalry with Arcee is a very good dynamic, especially with the flashbacks. Knockout and Breakdown are good, they bring some genuine humor. There's this evil human group called MECH, I forgot about them throughout this arc. Let's face it, they are NOT INTERESTING. I don't see why they were added in the first place, they really bring nothing to the table.
Some things I have to mention, good and bad. A bad thing was when Megatron came back to the living, he didn't destroy Starscream, even though he knew that the ladder would have destroyed him in space. I didn't get that, after that fiasco, I would have expected him to completely eliminate Starscream. The humans are just plain annoying, the episode where they are absent or side-characters are always the more enjoyable ones. Seriously, I want to see a whole arc without these guys. The show succeeds in giving each character a diverse personality, something G1 was lacking. (I love the scene where Soundwave sends Laserbeak to monitor Starscream, it's those little moments that make this show stand out.)
Overall, if you haven't been watching Transformers: Prime, what are you waiting for? Old and new fans alike will greatly enjoy this show. Season Two is coming soon, so catch up with the episodes. The series has been good with keeping the episodes exciting and non-filler, the only episode I didn't care for was the one with those Scraplets. The two things this show needs to do are: Give Soundwave a much bigger role in things, and.......destroy off Miko, I don't know how, just do it.
Saturday, October 15, 2011
After twelve episodes, the Iron Man anime has finished. It was by far the most popular and least-bashed of the two. I myself have enjoyed both, but more on that soon. I will present to you first my review of the series finale. Some major spoilers for both reviews.
The plot is coming to a close, with the death of Captain Sakurai, Tony is ready for the big battle. The stage is set for the final conflict between him and ZODIAC leader Minister Kuroda.
This episode had it all. Big fights, lots of drama, and Tony Stark showing everyone why's he's Iron Man. A very cool part with Dr. Tanaka was her transformation into a ZODIAC member. Though at the beginning, her getting suicidal didn't feel right, it felt forced. I was a bit surprised by her death, though it makes sense, since she technically can't interfere with whatever this show's continuity's in. There was this cheesy scene where Stark somehow got new strength to beak free of Kuroda and fly into the sky, just a bit too cheesy if you ask me.
I really liked Tony in this episode. While so many things are happening, he doesn't crack or get too emotional. Prime Minister Kuroda is a decent villain, but lacking the pizzazz Yinsen brought. His armor is still pretty awesome. The other characters, such as Nanami, still bring nothing to the table.
Overall, this episode was definitely one of, if not the best episode of the series. It's a fine closure, with some epic fights backing it up. There might have been a bit TOO much melodramatic, but the fights and Tony keep this episode from getting drained by it.
Looking back, the Iron Man anime was a success. It provided a very good portrayal of Tony Stark, with the animation and fights being top-notch. ZODIAC was a good choice for the villains, since them being an established force in the comics. The problem was that a member would appear each episode, and die very fast. No characterization, only Minister Kuroda and Yinsen are get any real character. Useless characters, like Nanami could have been cut, since she and some others have no significance. The romance between Stark and Dr. Tanaka felt a bit forced, it could have used a little more build-up. The whole Yinsen thing was unexpected, and got fans angry. This guy wouldn't have turned evil, so I didn't like it either. (I forgave it once we found out the power controlled him.) This show succeeds in having real drama and sad flashbacks, not to mention the awesome fights. (I think I mentioned that.) It would have been nice to get to know Captain Sakurai more, he was portrayed as the "cool cat," but ultimately failed, becoming more laughable than anything. Still, his suit was pretty awesome. The Iron Man anime was a good watch, I would recommend it to fans and non-fans alike.
The series gets an 8/10.
Ah, now for Wolverine. While you might hear some good things about Iron Man, Wolverine gets bashed A LOT. I fully understand, and will address those things in the look-back, after my review of the series finale.
The plot comes to a close as Logan and Shingen duke it out for a battle of ages.
My major thing with this episode was WHY IS WOLVERINE SO DARN WEAK?! Seriously, this bald samurai guy was slaughtering him, Wolverine got knocked around, it was almost unbearable. I can't get over how pitiful they made him. If this was a comic, Wolverine would have eradicated that guy in under five minutes.
They really do try to make Kurohagi an interesting character, flashbacks and everything. It fails miserably. This guy is one of the most un-threatening beings in existence. Mariko continues to be an even more useless damsel in distress than Princess Zelda herself. Kikyo is one of this show's saving graces, bringing something new to the table every time he's on screen. Yukio gets a moment of glory, and an unbelievable plot twist that I never saw coming. Wow.
The fight between Wolvie and Shingen was good, but could have been a lot better, The fights in general with this show could have been better. Nice music though.
Overall, the final episode of Wolverine was a bit underwhelming. Mariko dies, therefore this whole story feels like a waste now. At most, a decent finish, but the ending felt un-fulfilled.
Looking back, the Wolverine anime was a lot more mixed. The Wolverine portrayed here seems to be more easy going and more of a "dude" than the hardcore one us fans are use to. The Wolverine in this show would better fit in something like Bleach. It doesn't help that he looks so darn weak. (And don't get me started on the voice.) Only thugs he seems to be able to beat easily, everyone else he has trouble with. It doesn't help that whereas in Iron Man, Tony Stark is always the main focus, Logan is put to the side in favor of the journey and side characters. The sometimes awful writing is a major downside. In the middle of his battle with Vadhaka in one of the later episodes, he randomly says "I'm the best there is at what I do, but I what do is-" before getting slapped away by the statue. What? We got a very nice appearance from Cyclops, the dialogue between him and Wolvie ranks as the best scene in the whole show. A lot of the side characters work, and succeed at being interesting to watch. Kikyo is by far one of the best characters in the show. But what on earth happened to his final battle with Logan?! The show kept hyping it up, but there was no pay-off! Major fail there. It's hard to recommend the Wolverine anime. I think non-fans would enjoy it better than us fans. Still, it was great to see him slice and dice with no Y7 rating holding him back for whatever reason.
I give this show a 6/10.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Last year I traded in some old Gameboy Adance and Gamecube games in hopes of getting a $20 store credit. I wanted to get the Clash of the Titans for the PS3, but then the Gamestop guy said the game pretty much sucked. What followed was him showing me the best of the best, and then we came across Infamous. He explained that it was his favorite game on the system and went to say how great it was. I still wasn't convinced, I wanted Clash of the Titans. But it would look kinda strange picking it up without at least trying this other supposed great game, wouldn't it? I picked it up, and it was great. It is one of the best games I've ever played. Thanks to that little conversation, I had gotten a much better game worth every penny. (Seriously, it's only $27, pick it up if you haven't yet.) What's cool was that a sequel was announced beforehand, so I after I finished the first one, I got to follow the second one closely. It had big shoes to fill. Now that I've beaten it, I can say whether it succeeds as a sequel. Sorry to keep you waiting, on to the review!
The plot continues with Cole preparing for the attack.....but he soon realizes even he isn't close to being able to stop......THE BEAST. Cole is easily slapped away by its awesome power. THE BEAST completely eradicates Cole's hometown, Empire City. Now Cole is stuck in a city called New Marais. THE BEAST is coming after him, Cole has to find some way to power up if he hopes to have any chance of stopping it.
As you can see, the sequel, like the first, is a story-driven game. It's comic-book style, with unbelievable plot twists, and stellar voice acting. I've been reading comics for awhile, but there were some things I didn't see coming. That's how you tell a story, surprise people.
Like the first game, Infamous 2 is an open-world game. Thanks to the Spider-Man titles, I'm pretty much use to it. The difference, however, is that this open-world and its citizens are more life-like and realistic. No offense to the Spidey titles, (they are great games by the way) but the citizens there were like walking robots. In Infamous, you could go ahead and take anyone out if you wanted to. You could throw a grenade in the middle of the street, and watch the explosion rock people and cars alike. (Not that I do that, I'm Hero Side all the way.)
Both Infamous games put a strong emphasis on gameplay. You have street-level combos mixed in with the power of lightning. The engine is very tight, and it improves with number 2. You have satisfying combos with a finisher that is always awesome to behold. It's a good mixture of hand-to-hand combat with shooting thunderballs. What I like about this game, is that it carries over some of the moves from the first one, without having to re-learn them. I don't like it when a sequel makes you learn everything again and makes you go through some painfully easy stages in the beginning. *Cough*Legend of Zelda*Cough* (I am a big Zelda fan by the way.)
One of the few things I didn't like was that this game was a lot more mission-based. Yes, the first Infamous was also mission-based, but the story was kept at a good pace. In Infamous 2, with every vital mission moving the plot, there are two more that are just meant to kill time to prolong the game. Some missions are plain annoying, I also don't like that they added in the option to switch moves. There should be a set of moves, and that's it. Still, these two things shouldn't stop you from picking this bad boy up.
I miss Cole's old voice from the previous game. His new voice takes a little bit to get use to, but it's adequate. With that said, the voice acting is triple A class, with each character having a very distinctive voice. The soundtrack is good, it fits the atmosphere of the game well. (I would have liked some opera thrown in there.) Graphics wise, like the first Infamous, this game is a powerhouse. It boasts some really impressive graphics, and the framerate is always nice and steady. The monsters look mighty impressive, especially the Behemoth, it sports a very unique design. I would love to see that captured on the big screen. Of course, nothing could beat the imposing appearance of THE BEAST.
One of the big selling points of the first Infamous was the "good karma" and "bad karma" system. Basically, the game will sometimes give you choices to do right, or to do wrong. (Example: Save a guy from a prison cell, or electrocute him to take a Blast Core.) They said for Infamous 2, the decisions will be harder and more like "What's more wrong, this or that?" I am disappointed with the karma system in this game. If you have a moral conscience, you will always go with the good side. I was hoping for more harder decisions that would have to really make me think.
Overall, with it's cast of interesting characters, great story, and perfect gameplay, Infamous 2 is a must-own for any PS3 owner. Don't skip out on the first, which is just as good. Now that Cole is appearing in the upcoming Street Fighter X Tekken, he's making a mark on the video game world. Infamous 2 will engage from the start. I haven't really touched upon the UGC. (User Generated Content.) This concept was first introduced in the all-star game: LittleBigPlanet. It's a fun little feature, adds some replay value, but thankfully isn't a main focus or gets in the way of the actual game. (I was afraid it would be more of a focus than the story.) Still, I have to wonder how on earth everyone has Cole's cell number, people randomly call him, even the villains!
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Michael Bay's Transformers series has a rather infamous reputation. To be fair, people liked the first one. The second, Revenge of the Fallen, destroyed the box office, but got pretty negative reviews. Why? You know the story, Transformers were taken out of the screen time in favor for lots of crude humor. While the first film did have those negatives, it was relatively well-paced and an alright start for the franchise. Revenge of the Fallen took what was negative about the first, and increased it ten-fold. As Dark of the Moon approached, Michael Bay even said that Revenge of the Fallen didn't turn out the way he wanted. (Right.) He said Dark of the Moon would be the best one yet, with lead actor Shia Labeouf saying, "It's going to be the craziest action movie ever made, or we failed." Have they failed? That's what I wanted to find out. And I did.
The story begins with a flashback to 1961, about the Apollo 11's landing on the dark side of the moon. They find a mysterious spacecraft with technology beyond their understanding. Inside, they find an inactive robot, which means one thing.....we are not alone. It was the most well-kept secret for years, until now. An invasion is coming, and even the Autobots may not be able to stop it.
Believe it or not, I wasn't a big Transformers fan when I saw the first two films. The only two characters I knew where Optimus and Megatron. That was it. When I saw the second film, I decided that I was going to delve deep into the franchise, because these characters interested me. I liked this satellite one from Revenge of the Fallen, a Decepticon called "Soudwave." Thus I had a starting point. I went back to my Revenge of the Fallen video game, re-read my old comics, watched some G1 episodes on YouTube, and currently watching Prime. So I get to review this film as big fan of the franchise. Sorry, I've been talking about the life and times of myself, let's get on to the review. Skip to the last paragraph if you've yet to see it, there will be some spoilers.
Here's the problem. This is not a film about robots with humans as the backdrop, it's about humans with robots as the backdrop. That's the problem with all three films, and Dark of the Moon suffers greatly from that. I could maybe let that slide if ANY of the main performances were half-decent. The scripting is lousy, stuff you'll hear on a Saturday morning cartoon. (Mixed in with Adult Swim humor, not a good thing.) Take out the robots and war backdrop, you have the basis for an R rated comedy.
Shia Lebeouf once again gives a strange performance. I'll admit that he could be funny sometimes, but as the main lead, he's not good enough, I'm sorry. There was this big thing that happened awhile back that changed the way some looked at the film. The main female lead from the first two, Megan Fox, quit for the third. I'm going to say what's obvious, she wasn't in the films for her acting credibility, she was there purely to help sell the film with looks. So when she left, someone had to take her place. Instead of hiring a seasoned veteran actress, you know what they do? They hire a Victoria's Secret model with no acting experice in the form of Rosie Huntington Whiteley. What?! So instead of hiring someone who could have given this film a little class, they hire someone who had NEVER acted in a movie before. Isn't it sad that a film relies on eye candy and mindless explosions rather than having a well-paced story to tell? Apparently it does, and succeeds, cause according to the stats, it dethroned Return of the King. (Now I know humanity has lost it.)
Of course, the main reason why we're watching this thing is for the robots. The scenes with them are always a treat, it's nice to see them rendered with great CGI. Optimus Prime as always is the most fleshed out and gives the audience a reason to watch these films. With his great quotes and Peter Cullen as his voice, he's truly great. But it's actually Soundwave's robot vulture Laserbeak who stole the show. Transformer purists probably won't like that they gave him the ability to talk, or his transformation ability. I for one thought they were both awesome inclusions. In G1, Laserbeak was always this silent thing Soundwave sent out to do missions, this film gave him character, his scenes were pretty horrifically awesome. Megatron is pretty much a chump the whole film, he doesn't appear that much, and is beaten up the whole time. His end is also pretty quick. Starscream in this film is one of the more accurate ones. My main bot Soundwave gets a nice little role here. It's nice to see him participating in the action, though he needed a heck lot more screen time.
One of my major criticisms with this film was the hardly-appeared Shockwave. This guy was marketed as the main villain, seen on the posters and everything. I remember the first major announcement, saying that Shockwave would be the villain. He appears near beginning of the film for a few seconds, then disappears until the invasion. He doesn't even get a big fight. Major disappointment there.
Sentinel Prime is portrayed as an ancient Prime would.......for the beginning. His betrayal and emergence as the main villain was unexpected, but didn't fit. As a Prime, he wasn't the Fallen, it just didn't make sense. The more logical thing would have been to him team up with Optimus and the Autobots against Shockwave and the invasion. So, not a big fan of that turn of events.
Things that don't make sense to me include the appearence of Carly. (Rosie Huntington Whiteley.) It doesn't make sense to me because Sam's past girlfriend is barely touched upon besides being heard that "she dumped him." The transition just isn't smooth. Like, if you were to watch the three films back-to-back, the third film would feel a bit out of place in that part. Also, the death of Ironhide was dramatic, but isn't touched upon or seen as a major factor. I mean, not even Optimus addressed it. Also, an annoyance, (big one for me) is that a scout like Bumblebee, could beat a communications officer like Soundwave? Absurd.
There are some really epic action pieces. Optimus's fight with Sentinel Prime being a highlight. The intro flashback to the war for cybertron was truly a treat and a taste of what a full blown prequel would look like. I'm sure the final forty minutes of this film looked amazing in the IMAX. The film's sountrack is decent enough, with two standout tunes. Could have been better though.
Overall, Dark of the Moon was a disappointment. It's far superior to Revenge of the Fallen, and maybe slightly better than the first. Once again, it suffers from too much unnecessary bad humor, bad performances, and too much screen time on the humans and not enough on the bots. Sam's parents could have been easily cut, they have ZERO significance in the film. To sum up the very cheesy scripting, here's a short quote. "I want to matter!" -Sam Witwicky, talking to Carly on why he feels like a helpless person. Ah, that line just might be the best, I'll never forget the ridiculousness of it. The only other line in movie history movie I know that is even more ridiculous was from the Asylum's Alien vs. Hunter. "Don't do! Don't do!" -The unmemorable main character from that Alien vs. Predator rip-off. Still, Dark of the Moon has some pretty amazing set pieces. Near the middle, with Megatron, Starscream, and Soundwave, felt like an episode from G1! The action is by far the best in the trilogy, the final forty minutes being one of the most epic forty minutes in movie history.