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Posts Tagged ‘shit blows up’

Destroy All Kaiju

July 16th, 2013 No comments

I’m just speculating here, but I imagine that the average anxiety level in the production offices of Legendary Pictures has risen a few notches. Here they are, trying to drum up interest in next summer’s Godzilla reboot at the same time that the American public is demonstrating its indifference toward their current giant monster epic, Pacific Rim.

Maybe it was just a scheduling issue, but it did seem odd to me that Godzilla is being produced as the follow-up to Pacific Rim rather than the other way ’round. Godzilla has the name recognition, but it also has (so far as we know at this time) just the one giant monster. (EDIT: Ding dong, I’m wrong. The official description was just released, and say “this spectacular adventure pits the world’s most famous monster against malevolent creatures who, bolstered by humanity’s scientific arrogance, threaten our very existence.” So there’s that.) Pacific Rim, on the other hand, has lots of monsters (and robots), but isn’t based on an existing property.* Coming out second, Godzilla risks being seen as the lesser spectacle, a potential problem made worse if Pacific Rim appears to have poisoned the giant monster well.

Unfortunately for Legendary Pictures and Godzilla fans, Pacific Rim isn’t just a mediocre box office performer, it’s a mediocre film.

I’m torn here. I really, really, really, really want to love it. I want to hold it to my bosom and proclaim it as the Second Coming of Spielberg.

And, lest we forget, I am very forgiving when it comes to giant monster movies. I unreservedly love Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster, despite production values perhaps 1,000 times lesser than those displayed by Pacific Rim. Hell, recently I voluntarily watched the nadir of the Toho Studios film series, Godzilla vs. Megalon, in its native Japanese.

Now I’m in no way saying that Pacific Rim is inferior to Godzilla vs. Megalon, in that very little that exists in any of the known states of matter is less than Godzilla vs. Megalon. It’s just that, considering both its production budget ($190 million) and pedigree (acclaimed filmmaker Guillermo del Toro), I hold Rim to a higher standard.

The main problem for me is the assortment of stock character types with their off-the-shelf backgrounds and motivations. That wouldn’t be a problem if they brought a bit of personality or fun to the party, but the only ones who seem to be having a good time are Ron Perlman as a dealer in monster body parts, and Charlie Day and Burn Gorman as the comedy relief scientists. When the frog-faced guy from Torchwood is the most entertaining member of your ensemble, that’s a concern.

My other major complaint is that, with the exception of a couple of flashbacks, every monster appearance takes place at night, in the rain and/or at the bottom of the ocean. I thought that we were past the point that we needed everything to be dark and rain-streaked to hide the special effects seams.

So, what does Pacific Rim do right? A lot, actually. It’s got a bit of a Top Gun vibe with its international team of pilots. The monster designs–many courtesy Hellboy artist Guy Davis and master alien illustrator Wayne Douglas Barlowe–are varied and bizarre. A great deal of attention has been paid toward world-building, with such details as a slum built inside the carcass of a dead beast and a misguided attempt at border-security known as the “Wall of Life.”**

It’s far from a disaster, but it’s a definite disappointment coming as it does from del Toro, whose love for this subject matter runs deep.

In light of this, I say good luck, Godzilla. Your long-anticipated comeback just got a bit more difficult.

*And if you doubt the power of intellectual property, look at the many Internet comments declaring Pacific Rim to be a Transformers rip-off, even though what it’s really ripping-off predates the robots-in-disguise by several decades. Furthermore, consider that Transformers: Dark of the Moon made nearly as much on opening day (a Wednesday) as Pacific Rim did in its first weekend.

**It, of course, works here about as well as it does in real-life, never taking into consideration–for example–that the evolving cavalcade of creatures might eventually exhibit the ability to fly.

Robots And Dis Guy

July 6th, 2011 No comments

This week it’s fashionable to chastise American moviegoers for dropping $180 million on Transformers: Dark of the Moon, never mind that the rest of the world seems equally willing to spend 154 minutes watching robots explode. It’s an easy target for sneering hipsters who resent the masses for not sharing their love of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.

Look, folks. Transformers isn’t hurting you. It’s not going to emerge from your closet in the middle of the night and belt you with a sockful of quarters. It’s not going to hold down Wes Anderson and mercilessly pummel him until he promises never again to pick up a camera. It’s not going to launch whipping mechanical tentacles to drag you out of your free trade coffee bar and force a pair of 3-D glasses onto your head.

Which is my way of saying that, yes, I saw Transformers: Dark of the Moon. And shut up.

I was pleasantly surprised by Michael Bay’s first Transformers film. It was fluff to be sure, but well-produced and enjoyable fluff. I skipped Revenge of the Fallen, partially because of its minstrel-show automatons, but mostly because even the people who like movies about exploding robots said that it didn’t have enough exploding robots.

This was not a problem with Dark of the Moon. The final third of the movie was a running battle through the streets of Chicago. And I’ll admit that the chief appeal for me was the opportunity to see Chi-Town take its lumps for the sake of the summer blockbuster.

3-D suits Michael Bay. It not only plays to his visual strengths, but it forces him to eschew hyper-active editing in favor of establishing spacial relationships. And, of course, it allows him an additional dimension in which to fetishize his female stars. The very first shot in the modern-day section of Dark of the Moon is a lingering embrace of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s panty-clad hindquarters. Walking up a flight of stairs. Bay knows what he likes.

One thing that I liked about Dark of the Moon was the lengthy alternate-history sequence that saw the ’60s space race recast as a struggle to capture the remains of a Cybertronian spacecraft. (Amusingly, the real-life Buzz Aldrin showed up too.*) Between this, X-Men: First Class‘ mutant spin on the Cuban Missile Crisis, and Doctor Who‘s own Apollo 11 moment, it’s been a summer for divergent timelines.

Another famous spaceman, Leonard Nimoy, lent his gravelly voice as Sentinel Prime, former leader of the Autobots. And there were not just one, but two references to The Wrath of Khan, including a wicked twist on Mr. Spock’s classic “needs of the many” quote.

The human characters in Dark of the Moon were a strange lot. What I’m saying is that John Malkovich was in it, and he wasn’t the weirdest person on the screen. He would’ve needed a tiny John Cusack inside his brain to match up against the Bizarro World scenery-chewing of Frances McDormand, Alan Tudyk and Ken Jeong.

Yet the most off-putting person had to be Shia LaBeouf as ostensible hero Sam Witwicky. I don’t know what happened to Witwicky in Revenge of the Fallen, but Dark of the Moon had him pissed off and put upon, even though he managed to swing a huge Washington, D.C. loft apartment and a second smoking-hot girlfriend. I find myself wondering whether Michael Bay made a deliberate, subversive choice to make the good guy a douchebag, or whether LaBeouf showed up on the set that way and Bay said, “I can work with this.”

But, let’s face it, no one is going to see Transformers for the humans. Some days, you just want to watch Chicago blow up. That’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Don’t look at me like that.

*Yes, from the Apollo 11 mission to chatting with Optimus Prime.

31 Monsters #26: The Judge

October 26th, 2009 No comments

Another “remember that?” pop-culture artifact of the ’90s was the late and occasionally lamented WB television network (1995-2006), which for a time was our nation’s chief exporter of angst-ridden fictional teens.

Perhaps no series better identified “the WB” than Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a spin-off of the unpopular 1992 film of the same name. While it was never the network’s most-watched series (that distinction went to religious-themed family drama 7th Heaven), its success encouraged the WB to focus on shirtless and/or mascara-smeared teens for the remainder of its brief life.

For the uninitiated, Buffy was about a high-school girl who learned that she was the “chosen one” born to assume the mantle of the Slayer. Granted supernaturally enhanced strength, dexterity and recuperative powers, she was tasked with ridding the world of vampires and other demons until the day she died. And Slayers typically didn’t live long. Let the weeping commence.

In a not-especially-surprising twist, Buffy’s broody soulmate, the mysterious Angel, turned out to be a vampire himself. I mean, really, I too have genuflected at the Church of (Buffy creator) Joss Whedon, but when a guy in a black leather jacket shows up calling himself “Angel,” you know he’s gonna be anything but.

Angel had once been an especially vicious vampire named Angelus, but was cursed with a human soul after getting on the wrong side of some gypsies. (In Buffytown, vampires were soulless demons mimicking the personalities of the humans whose corpses they inhabited.) The idea was that he would be forced to live with all of the suffering he had caused. This made him sad.

It really wasn’t until the second season of the show that it found its stride, with the introduction of a pair of Sid-and-Nancy inspired vamps named Spike and Drusilla. But even more important was the development of the tormented relationship between Buffy and Angel.

It all came to a head in the two-part episode “Surprise”/”Innocence.” The two celebrated Buffy’s 17th birthday by getting funky. In the middle of the afterglow Angel ran off into the night, only to return a changed man corpse. You see, under the oddly complicated rules of the gypsy curse, Angel would lose his soul again should he experience one moment of pure happiness. (If you know what I mean, and I think you do.) It played as a metaphor for the way that men (allegedly) change personalities overnight after successfully planting their flag.

So evil Angelus was back, and he teamed up with Spike and Dru to resurrect The Judge, an ancient demon so powerful that “no weapon forged” could harm him. Defeated but not killed some six centuries earlier, the pieces of his body had to be physically separated to keep him dormant. The Judge had the ability to “burn the humanity” out of anyone less than 100%, Grade-A evil.

Buffy’s friends looked for a way to defeat The Judge. Ultimately, they brought her a mysterious “present.”

The final confrontation took place in the midst of a crowded shopping mall. As The Judge began to (er…) judge the humans present, a bolt twanged harmlessly into his chest. Buffy stood atop a mall kiosk, covering the demon with her trusty crossbow.

The Judge scoffed, “You’re a fool. No weapon forged can stop me.”

“That was then. This is now.” Buffy set down the crossbow and pulled out her “present”: a rocket launcher.

I admit it. I find this kinda hot.

The demon’s last words were “What’s that do?”

And then he blew up in an extremely satisfying manner.

I had originally thought that they might get around the “no weapon forged” rule by the old “by man” disclaimer. (Buffy, of course, not being a man.) Instead, the answer was simpler, and oh, so sweet. According to Joss Whedon’s DVD commentary, he never loved Buffy more than in the moment she hefted that rocket launcher, and I don’t disagree.

Ka-Boom

June 1st, 2009 No comments

Okay, you’ve probably already seen this on about fifty different websites by now, but I thought it was funny enough to post one more time: Andy Samberg’s ode to shit blowing up and heroes failing to care about it, “Cool Guys Don’t Look at Explosions.”

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Clone Of Silence

August 18th, 2008 No comments

According to Box Office Mojo, The Clone Wars brought in only about $15 million this weekend, landing in third place behind the Dark Knight cash machine. That’s still five million better than The X-Files managed, but just the same, I doubt anyone at Lucasfilm is all that happy about it.

And yes, that total includes my own five bucks.

Oh, don’t look at me like that. Like I wasn’t going to go. Grow up.

It was strange to attend a Star Wars flick that began without most of the traditional trappings: the familiar theme music, the receding logo, the expository crawl or the 20th Century Fox fanfare. The latter is considered so much a part of the Star Wars experience that most of the soundtrack CDs begin with it.

Still, I got about what I expected from The Clone Wars: lots of glorious eye candy and things exploding. Since the droids and vehicles were built from the same digital assets as those used in the real Star Wars films, the battle scenes were on par with the prequels. One action set-piece arguably exceeded anything from Episodes 1-3: a spectacular sequence in which Ashoka the Jedi padawan rode atop the windshield of a Republic walker as it climbed up a mountainside.

The human characters were, as reported elsewhere, surprisingly stiff, springing into action only during the lightsaber duels. Digital Padme, I must note, did have a nice ass.

I found that I didn’t miss the original voice actors much. The guy that played Obi-Wan channeled Ewan McGregor, just as McGregor had previously channeled Alec Guinness. And at least Christopher Lee had a fair amount to do reprising his Count Dooku role.

I did find myself questioning one character choice: the decision to play the villainous Ziro the Hutt as a gay stereotype dolled up with feathers and given a Truman Capote voice. Like Jar Jar Binks–a character in the Stephen Fetchit tradition who was cast with a black voice actor encouraged to perform with a rasta accent–it’s one of those “what were they thinking?” things. Note to George: making him an alien doesn’t help.

As for the story…well, it was more a series of events than a story, which befits its origin as several kludged-together episodes of the forthcoming TV show. And I couldn’t get very invested in it. Will Anakin come to accept his new padawan pupil? Of course he will, until he kills her. Will the Republic convince the Hutts to permit military supply lines through their territory? Could I possibly care less?

Supercollector Adam Pawlus over at Galactic Hunter appears befuddled by the poor reception of the new film by Star Wars fans, but I think it’s pretty obvious. For one, this was more obviously kid-focused than the live-action films. (Indeed, virtually everyone at the 4:00 pm Saturday show I attended was a young child or a parent.) I would also point to the backlash against Lucas not only for the prequels but for the recent Indiana Jones feature.

But more important, I think, is that the fans could smell that there was no movie here. Lucasfilm has tried similar tactics before: the first Clone Wars cartoon was originally conceived as little more than a series of one-minute toy commercials until animator Gennedy Tartakovsky lobbied to make them longer and more elaborate. Prior to that was “Shadows of the Empire,” a between-the-movies, multi-media project that involved books, comics, toys and even a soundtrack, but no film. I believe that the fanboys saw that Lucas wasn’t even trying, so why should they bother?

And honestly, while I can’t say that I disliked the “movie” or felt that I wasted my money, neither can I recommend it to anyone who isn’t a diehard fan in it to see Shit Blowing Up. Or digital Padme ass.

And There’s Daaaangerous Work To Do

April 18th, 2008 No comments

The only recurring villains to bedevil Speed Racer were the members of the Car Acrobatic Team, who also had the distinction of appearing in the sole three-part story of the series, “The Most Dangerous Race.” Each driver sported a uniform marked with a letter of the alphabet, and their cars deployed tiny wings to aid them in performing wild, mid-air pirouettes.

They were also stackable.

Their leader was Captain Terror, who wore the letter “Z” for “zesty.” One look and it was easy to see why he wasn’t called “Captain Snuggles.”

Captain Terror hurried to the dentist for a deep gum cleaning.

Aside from Cap’n Z (affectionately known as “Ol’ Smiley”), the other Car Acrobat of note was Snake Oiler, who was assigned the letter “S” because he loved sandwiches. He was kind of a tool.

Speed insisted upon entering the Alpine Race despite the warnings of Racer X, and indeed found it to be a most dangerous race. The grueling, three-day course traversed icy tunnels and 1,000 foot drops; many drivers were killed attempting to jump Yawning Chasm Pass.

Speed himself failed to reach the other side, and was temporarily blinded in the crash. Somehow the Mach 5 was still drivable, and Speed located it by the smell of its oil. Racer X then showed up, determined to let Speed finish the race without realizing he was being helped.

Now, any reasonable people might’ve realized the futility of attempting to drive over a treacherous mountain course while blind, but reason was in short supply at the Racer household. Racer X’s solution: to drive his own car and allow Speed to follow in the Mach 5 by listening for the distinctive sound of the Shooting Star’s engine. Surprisingly, this didn’t quite work.

When Speed became stuck in the mud, the Masked Racer faked a crash and pretended to be injured so that he could provide the eyes while Speed provided the legs. Amazingly, the pair managed to catch up to the sole remaining racer, Snake Oiler. Unknown to him, Snake’s car had sprung a bad oil leak, and he ignored the warnings of Speed and Racer X.

And by now you should know what that meant.

Snake didn’t die, but was badly injured and carried off the course by Captain Terror, who vowed revenge. That didn’t occur until the next-to-last episode of the series, when the surviving Car Acrobats (who didn’t appear to include Oiler) challenged Speed to a final race. However, it turned out that all of them were being set up by International Spies, Incorporated, who planned to kill both Speed and Racer X by wiring the Car Acrobatic Team’s vehicles to explode. In the end, Speed teamed up with Captain Terror and blew up the spies’ headquarters by parking the rigged cars nearby.

Snake Oiler is featured prominently in both the merchandising and advertising for the upcoming film. I’m not certain whether the rest of his team will join him, but it looks like pretty much everyone is a car acrobat in this one.

Here He Comes…

April 14th, 2008 No comments

This is a huge summer for geek-friendly films: Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, The X-Files, Hellboy II, Get Smart, The Dark Knight, not to mention an animated Star Wars release and the long-awaited return of a certain Mr. Jones.

I expect to see ’em all, but the only one I’m really hyped about?

Speed Racer. No shit.

Understand that among my many geek loves, Speed Racer is one of the earliest, second only to dinosaurs. It was the show that made me want to run home after elementary school.

It was also the show that forever ruined real-life motorsports for me. Who wants to see cars roaring around and around an oval when they could be racing through mountain ranges and active volcanoes? And who cares about a Nascar wipeout when you could witness a wreck like this?

Ain’t no one walking away from that one. And that was in the opening titles.

Unlike later, defanged cartoons in which the bad guys parachuted to safety or were robots who could be killed without icky moral qualms, fiery, human death was a frequent visitor in the world of Speed Racer. So many racers met apparently fatal ends in a typical event that it’s a wonder there were enough professional drivers left to provide competition for Speed and his rivals.

No one was safe. Certainly not the spectators.

I believe that was Clark Kent wetting himself in the front row.

And it wasn’t just the races that were dangerous. Unlike most Formula One drivers, Speed devoted much of his free time to battling international spies, assassins, gangsters and mad scientists. Submachine guns were their weapons of choice, though they weren’t adverse to employing Mizmo Rays or flying, dragon-shaped submarines. Here are a couple of mug shots of the stone cold villains that gave Speed grief.

These guys would bitch-slap the Mystery Machine gang into next week.

As the release of the Speed Racer film approaches (May 9), watch this space for future posts about the original cartoon. I’ll be introducing the cars and their drivers in order to get you up to (er) speed.

Oh, and there will be monkeys.

Exploding News Reporters, Tonight at Ten

April 9th, 2008 No comments

Gawker has posted a marvelous three-minute video compilation of local TV news reporters being beaten, trampled, mauled, bitten, buried in snow, annoyed by dogs, and run over by everything from snowboarders to airplanes. I’m pretty sure at least a couple of them died. You can watch the carnage here.

Updated: I wondered whether the guy getting hit by a plane had been faked. Nope. And he lived.

So did the exploding woman: she’s Anthea Turner, whose long British TV career included a stint (and Vic will appreciate this) as a host for Blue Peter.

Not sure about the guy run over by a horse.

Kick Ass!

April 7th, 2008 No comments

Nothing much to say about the following except that the season premiere of Battlestar Galactica continued the series’ tradition of ass-kicking space battles. Here’s a six-minute clip of the Battle of the Ionian Nebula, as the Galactica faces down an overwhelming Cylon force.