Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Now, normally I'm very, VERY weary of Hollywood adaptations or, even worse, "reimaginings" or existing franchises. If you've read any of my other tongue-in-cheekly titled "Accurate Look at" reviews here on The Nail Gun, you might see why: they're half-assed cashgrabs that don't care about the source material and will deface whatever they want to make that money. The A-Team, however, is not like that. Unlike those other movies which are completely brainless, The A-Team is smart. It is well thought out, well-written, and is in on the joke. It is supposed to be over-the-top and characters even mention that it's completely ridiculous. It is carefully planned action with brains behind it, rather than the usual shootout/explosion/car chase/fight scene formula of action flicks, with awful writing, bad acting, too much CGI, and fake tits thrown in. The action is over-the-top on purpose for the sake of intense humour, rather than just plain excessive in order to drive up the CG bill. It's a light-hearted action comedy, really, and the humour and adrenaline does not stop.
The film starts with an explanation of how the team came together, and how B.A. got his fear of flying. A friend of mine told me that the opening scene itself was worth the price of admission. Had I left the theatre once that high-octane introduction was over, I would have got my money's worth. But instead, I stayed until the end and got more than I bargained for.
The A-Team was better than I expected and much better than it should have been. I love Liam Neeson, and his Hannibal combines the cool wisdom of Qui-Gon Jinn with the badassity of his character from Taken. Bradley Cooper is great as Face, the ladykiller disguise guy. I wasn't sure what to think about the casting choice for B.A. (they used some UFC fighter), but he was able to act, and he won me over in very little time. And of course, District 9's Sweetie Man returns with a vengeance and knocks 'em dead as Howlin' Mad Murdock. This guy had talent with a capital T and I'm looking forward to his other projects. In terms of story, the movie explains the team's origins and the events that lead up to their needing to run from the law. You know, the stuff the narrator mentions in the opening of the TV show. Yeah, that stuff. He basically summarizes the movie for you. Not that that's any excuse to miss this one.
The story itself is a rather convoluted scheme of secrets and mysteries which isn't exactly plausible, but neither are most of the action sequences, but it's all part of the fun. It's so ridiculous that anything can happen, so viewers aren't sure what to expect, despite the Team's careful planning of every mission. That's another thing that separates The A-Team from crappy action flicks - the Team fights not only with guns, fists, helicopters, and GMC vans. They use their heads and plan things out rather that rushing in with explosions and bad CG. It's a smart, genuinely funny action movie instead of a brainless action flick that ruins a timeless franchise, which is what it would have been in someone else's hands.
It's not all plausible, it's not all credible, it doesn't all make sense, but it is ridiculous on purpose. It's a fun, exciting and genuinely enjoyable comedic action film with brains and lots of love for the source material. There are even a few cameos by two of the original A-Team TV show actors. I laughed much more than I anticipated, and when I wasn't laughing, there was still a huge grin on my face. While I strongly doubt older A-Team fans (the ones who tuned into the show every week) will be quite as thrilled as I was, the movie delivers the action and characters to a new generation, while maintaining the fun of the classic program. It's well worth checking out. Just lighten up and get ready to laugh.
EDIT: Having just watched some oldschool A-Team, I have to say that the movie is truer to the show than I thought. Some elements of the TV series were translated beautifully to the screen, such as the Team's smart-talking, the building-stuff montages, and Murdock's Howling Madness.
Monday, May 31, 2010
In my last article, I posted an introduction to the new Marvel Universe crossover event: The Heroic Age. We are in the middle of the month and I still have optimistic pessimism for this whole debacle. But as I promised, I’m going back to the start, to how this whole thing started.
In the Beginning, Stan Lee created Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four. Okay maybe I went a bit too far back. A few decades later, in the year 2004, Ronald Reagan passed away, and Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby won numerous Academy Awards. I was just a wee lad back then, finishing high school and eager to enter first year of college in September. At this point in my life, comic books meant nothing to me. They were simply an aspect of the world that I acknowledged. But that does not mean important things were happening in the Marvel Universe. That year’s major crossover, Avengers Disassembled, was beginning to assemble.
Avengers Disassembled is quite unique; it was not necessarily a “crossover” like the events that come after it. Several series have had Disassembled in their title, such as Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man, but the main storyline (which consisted of four, count ‘em, 4!) issues of the Avengers. These four issues of the ongoing series are required to comprehend the entire event. If you are asking “So what?”, then you probably have not seen what happened with Civil War, or even worse, Secret Invasion.
Unfortunately, there is a downside to the brevity of the event. Since the storyline is only four issues, it’s not very well developed. Everything is introduced in the first few pages, and then explained in the last few. There’s little-to-no build-up, or character development. Despite this, the story does have characteristics to it that make up for its shortcomings. Unlike other story arcs, this event is key to the future of the Marvel Universe.
It begins as a normal day at the Avengers Mansion. The Avengers are just chatting mildly about previous encounters. Nothing exciting. But soon something shocking appears on the security system, and terrifies the Avengers. The recently deceased and now decaying hero Jack of Hearts strolls slowly to the mansion. Relax, he’s no one special. I would love nothing more than to tell you more about him, but I know jack-shit about him. After these four issues, he is practically forgotten. Just know that he used to be Avenger before he DIED-died (for reals!). A different Ant-Man, (not the wife-beater, goes to his friend and asks what’s happening. Jack of Hearts, after moaning something ominous, blows up, killing Ant-Man and destroying almost half of the mansion. Yes, I am not making this up, this is Marvel’s doing.
Meanwhile, at the UN… Iron Man, currently the Secretary of Defense, descends into a drunken rage, without ever drinking. He loses his mind and accusing the Latverian diplomat of being a terrorist, a madman and a monster. Back at the mansion, the Vision suddenly appears and crashes the Quinjet on the mansion grounds, destroying the other half of the mansion. He comes out of the debris and creates duplicates of Ultron, who immediately attacks the Avengers. She-Hulk hulks out to a point of illiteracy (something she has almost never done before) and rips Vision in half, essentially “killing” him. He got better. Already, have seen three deaths in the first issue of this event. There was neither grieving nor tears, only quick and apathetic deaths.
The Avengers take a break from dying, and decide to turn their anger on each other. If that wasn’t enough, all of the previous Avengers appear on the grounds (don’t ask me, I still don’t know). Suddenly, they are thrown into a large battle against the alien race known as the Kree. During the battle, Hawkeye is mortally wounded sacrifices himself to blow up the enemy ship.
“But UXM266, why are the Kree here?!” you might ask. The True Believer is Magic.
Eventually Dr. Strange gets his act together, walks into the mass hysteria, and accuses Wanda Maximoff, aka the Scarlet Witch as the perpetrator for all these deaths. He claims that her mutant abilities are too powerful At first, people believed she created hexes, which were minor inconveniences. In fact, she has the ability to warp reality, create false images in peoples minds, and generally act as a Deus Ex Machina for future Marvel events, stories and retcons. The story ends with Magneto coming to the ground and taking his daughter away to be cured. The Avengers then split up for numerous reasons, such as the loss of loved ones or morale.
I have mixed feelings about this event. Though I do like the tension it created between America’s Golden Boy Team, I was turned off by how quickly everything happened. The ratio for breakups and “deaths” in these four issues is far greater than most seven-parters. Despite its premature delivery and the lack of care for most of the characters, I felt it was a good beginning for even greater crossovers. The tensions start to develop between friends, while superheroes are beginning to be feared by the public. I feel that what they did to Wanda is a complete copout. I’ve never liked heroes or villains who are essentially gods, or have the power to alter the fabric of time and space. It seems like lazy writing and an excuse to do whatever one wants and pass it off as magic.
This event is not resolved in the following issues. Though it begins with the Avengers, the wrath of the Scarlet Witch begins to spill over to the homo superiors (mutants), and something must be done before it’s too late…. For we are going to enter the World of Magneto! The next post will not be House of M and Decimation. Instead, I’m going to write a letter of appreciation to the mutant Cyclops.
Monday, May 10, 2010
Okay class, time for a history lesson. Remember these important periods events:
- Golden Age (1930s-1940s)
- Silver Age (1956-late 1960s/early1970s)
- Bronze Age (1970s-1980s)
- Modern Age (mid 1980s-2010)
- Heroic Age (May 2010-Next Major Marvel Crossover)
- Avengers #1
- Secret Avengers #1
- New Avengers #1
- Avengers Academy #1
- X-Men #1
- Wolverine #1
- Young Allies #1
- Luke Cage running the group of super villains called the Thunderbolts, replacing Norman Osborn
- Hope Summers (who is assumed to be a reincarnated Jean Grey.) is returning t the X-Men
- Wolverine is going to Hell.
- Captain America *Batman ripoff* was never dead, but actually sent back to the past. He's back
- Iron Man has no recollection of Civil War. He and Steve are now back to being best of buds.
Even though I complained about the decisions Marvel has made, I am not opposing this decision. I’m just sceptical like I’ve been with every other Marvel event. Here’s hoping for the best! As a special treat, I would like to spend some time going over the major crossovers that occurred since the beginning of the end, those which lead to the beginning of this new age. In the next issue: the Avengers Disassembled!
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
I love the book. When I heard about the movie, I was excited. (Well, rather, read about the movie in the back of an issue.) The TV spots and trailers got me pumped. I wasn't crazy about the costume redesigns, but hey, I was sort of expecting that. As long as they didn't mess up the coming-of-age superhero story, I'd be happy.
So I get to the movie theatre and a brace myself for the ride. I mean, the comic is a straight-forward 8-issue miniseries which I read in 2 hours. How could they possibly mess up a film adaptation?
Surprise, kiddies. They messed up the film adaptation. I had no issues with the casting, and the generic superhero-ish music was good. It starts out accurately enough, but then it all falls apart. It's like the writers read the comic, picked-and-chose points they liked, threw out meaningful, important elements that should have stayed, and tossed in needless excessive action-flick content instead of the characters and story that made the book so great.
If you've read my other movie-related articles, you know I don't write spoilers. [And if you haven't read them, just browse the site for posts that begin with the tongue-in-cheek phrase of "An Accurate Look at:"] With that in mind, there really isn't anything much I can mention without spoiling the story, other than some of the most important elements of the book were omitted, making many of the characters seem either excessively flat or just too over-the-top. By reducing the comic's story to an action-packed teen comedy, the mood of the book is completely killed. It was like listening to someone try to tell someone else about something they'd heard but don't know about. Some of the details are there, but the information is just plain wrong.
While the room howled with laughter and applause, I literally exclaimed "What the f#%@?" while looking around. You know that clichéd supervillain hand gesture? Where the fingers are spread out, gripping something that isn't there? It might be easier to visualize if I use a picture:
I'm not even joking when I tell you that my hands hurt afterwards from them both being in that position due to rage. By now, I should be no stranger to Hollywood butchering my favourite comics, but that doesn't make me less annoyed each time it happens. I'm used to facepalming in movie theatres, but this is the first time I've hurt myself due to anger. Yes, something is most definitely wrong with me.
Once again, Hollywood misses the point of the source material. The book is about a young man who tries something ridiculous, and through his actions and interactions with others, learns about the world and grows as a character. It's a coming of age story about missing youths, illusions, expectations, and violence. The movie conveniently pushes all that character junk aside and focuses on the ridiculous. Sure, it's funny, and I laughed at times, but there is more to the Kick-Ass of the comic's world than just comedy. As the book shows us (graphically at times), the joke ends, and that's when reality begins.
The Kick-Ass movie entirely misses the point, mood, message, and spirit of the comic and does not do it justice. It feels like the whole flick would be one of Dave's daydreams in biology class, wearing his Kick-Ass costume under his school clothes. It's that excessive. Yes, I'm attached to the comic, but I'm able to recognize its flaws and shortcomings. Unfortunately, the unplausible elements of the comic were only made worse in the movie. Compared to the movie, the book is non-fiction. Honestly, spend the money on the trade rather than the movie ticket.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Halo Legends is a series of eight animated episodes (the first two being halves of one story), made by Production I.G, the group responsible for the groundbreaking Ghost in the Shell animés (without a doubt, 2nd Gig is one of the greatest seasons of television I have ever had the privilege of watching, animated or otherwise). The first 2 chapters introduce the history of the Halo universe. As a PC gamer who hasn't yet played Halo 2 since I wasn't going to get a new OS just to play it and Halo 3 isn't even available yet, these episodes were helpful in getting me caught up. They're slow, but dark. Chapter 3, "The Duel," is a heavily-stylized tale featuring the Arbiter being torn between duty and honour. Chapter 4 is titled "Homecoming" and follows a Spartan-II subject who didn't want to be chosen, and features one of the songs right from the soundtrack of HALO: Combat Evolved used particularly effectively. Chapter 5, "Odd One Out," is the story of (I kid you not), Spartan 1337, the clumsy one (remind you of anyone?). It serves as much-needed comic relief, considering the depth and darkness of the other shorts. Chapter 6, "Prototype," is a return to seriousness, in which a troubled sergeant tries to fight the ghosts of his past. (Also, the vehicle introduced in this chapter SERIOUSLY needs to be made into an action figure.) I should also mention that fans of Production I.G's Ghost in the Shell series might pick up on a reference they planted in this episode. The seventh chapter is called "The Babysitter" and follows some ODSTs on the mission of their lives. Which might just be the last mission of their lives. And the final short, "The Package," is a CG-animated space-flying dog-fighting battle as a team of Spartans, led by the Master Chief himself, attempt to retrieve a package stolen by the Covenant.
Legends is immensely enjoyable and exceeded my expectations. The format of a series of short films works to its advantage, showing different facets of the war in ways a single two-hour film could not. My biggest complaint about Legends is the lack of the games' original voice actors. Having Cortana voiced by anyone other than the lovely Jen Taylor just feels wrong. Granted, the actress who gives Legends' Cortana her voice does sound like Jen, but she can't act like Jen, and her performance unfortunately falls somewhat flat. I also found the ending to be a letdown. Sure, I see what they did there, but I was expecting more, especially since it started so strongly.
Halo Legends is an epic journey through time and space, across planets, peoples, and battlefields. The scope of the film is remarkable. There's much more here than just guys in space suits blowing stuff up. The seven-action packed tales present a galaxy in peril and the brave efforts of soldiers doing their jobs with impossible odds against them. I also particularly enjoyed how they portrayed the Spartans: they are looked up to by their fellow soldiers, they are feared by their enemies, and they are devastating when unleashed in the field -- but they are human. They are fallible. And they are mortal.
Legends' seven action-packed tales of sacrifice and honour are exciting, but also touching and powerful. Never thought you'd hear something Halo-related be "touching," did you? And that damn sad tune gets to me every time. Legends reveals the grit and pain of war. It's not all pulling a trigger and getting Gamerscore, boys and girls.
Halo Legends is available on DVD, Blu-Ray, and as 2-disc special edition DVD set. And no, you won't get any Achievements by watching it, but that's not a reason to avoid this adventure. Frat boy Halo fans will clearly not see the merit in Halo Legends. But for all you Halo fans out there with taste, Legends is not to be missed.
The story is that you are a man on a plane in 1959 and you crash in the ocean, stumbling upon a lighthouse like structure in the middle of the ocean. You enter and discover the underwater city of Rapture, a city meant for the worlds best and brightest to be themselves with no hindrance - an intellectual Utopia. But it has all gone horribly wrong, with gene-splicers gone mad, raving and violent, everywhere. You are helped by man via radio named Atlas who tells you you must take down Andrew Ryan, Rapture's creator and current Head Honcho. Along the way you must collect ADAM to buy upgrades and extra plasmids and tonics. The only way to do so is to harvest or rescue a Little Sister...who is protected by the heavily armored and deadliest creature in Rapture, the Big Daddy.
Luckily for me, when I received and finished Bioshock, Bioshock 2 was only within a month of release. So, I pre-ordered, and I got. I finished Bioshock 2 and was left just as impressed as I was before, I refreshing feeling from a sequel. Considering it was almost three years on in development, I suppose it was likely to be good. The adventure continues, but this time it is ten years on since the end of Bioshock and you are playing the Alpha Series of Big Daddies, your name is Delta. One of the original, plasmid using, more independent thinking Big Daddies, your quest to save Rapture from itself continues.
The game-play did not go untouched, however. Plasmids have been edited and made severely better. Enemies have been made tougher, and some new faces show up - it can't be all the same, your a Big Daddy now. The system for hacking was changed, not for the better I feel, but I suppose to a more realistic format. At least, compared to previously. The ADAM gathering, which is now done by adopting a Little Sister as your own so she can collect the ADAM from the "angels" (Can you see the light in their tummies?), is incredibly hard. Or, can be. The game is surely tougher, despite the fact you are constantly dual wielding plasmids and weapons at the same time, including the signature Big Daddy drill.
The new nemsis, Sophia Lamb, has taken over Rapture and attempted to mold it in her image - and that imagine is reminiscent of a certain Dorian Grey. New splicers and Big Daddies attempt to stop you on your quest to save the Little Sisters and take down Sophia Lamb and her new weapons, the Big Sisters.
A fun game with many hours of game-play and re-playability, this game is highly worth the expense. And if you're into art and music, I recommend the Rapture Edition which includes the soundtrack of Bioshock 1 on vinyl, the soundtrack of Bioshock 2 on CD, the Art Book for Bioshock 2 and some Rapture posters. Mahalo.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Flash forward a few years. Conan gets to take over The Tonight Show, which is a huge deal. I watched the first episode, laughed like hell, and loved it. It was great to see Conan with Max and the band at an earlier time doing the same kind of gags they usually do. The bits about Conan dicking around in the studio backlot were hilarious - pretending to do an exorcism on cohost/sidekick Andy Richter as the studio tour bus drove by, turning his desk into a go-kart and drag racing a forklift operator, and taking a tour group out on the town, to name just a few moments. Don't forget his other escapades: going guitar-hunting thanks to Craig's List with his buddy Slash in tow, and pimping around LA in his green '90s Ford Escort, getting girls pregnant by just looking at them and making Fabio himself feel jealous.
Remember the BIG events outside his studio? The human cannonballs? The Grave Digger monster truck leaping over a ramp to stomp a giant pumpkin? The "Conan, Please Blow Up My Car" contest in which they actually blew up the winner's old clunker? (Don't feel bad. The winner received a brand new car as a prize.)
Well, all that's over. You know what's been going on. And it's not funny.
Last night was Conan's final episode on The Tonight Show before it will return to the humourless drivel it was prior to his arrival. Conan had a few jokes about what will become of their new studio, suggesting they leave it empty as a metaphor for NBC programming. How fitting.
His guests included Steve Carrell as an NBC bureaucrat, followed by a tired, nostalgic Tom Hanks, who emerged from backstage with round sunglasses and two glasses of scotch - one for Conan and one for himself. Sidekick Andy Richter, of course, carries a flask in his breast pocket. Tom Hanks and Conan spoke about the good old days, when Hanks hosted SNL and Conan, "the Irish kid," would write sketches for him.
The musical number was an incredible performance by Neil Young. Yes, the Neil Young. When he heard the news about the NBC late-night fiasco, he was the first to offer Conan support.
The closing act of the show featured Max and the band and guest Will Ferrell performing Free Bird, with Conan on guitar. While Ferrell's overall unfunniness and inability to sing ruined what should have been a powerful finale to Conan's stint on The Tonight Show, the most powerful moments of the episode was the montage of various unforgettable moments from the seven months Conan hosted (including some of the clips mentioned earlier), Conan's farewell speech, and the audience's unstoppable roaring applause. I've never cried watching late-night talk shows, but if any episode ever gave me a reason to, it would be this one.
Farewell, Conan. Thanks for the laughs and the good times. Best of luck in the future. I can't wait to see you on my TV screen again.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
A happy, wealthy suburban family George (Tim Roth), Ann (Naomi Watts) and their son Georgie (Devon Gearhart) are just beginning their holiday in their beautiful summer home when two creepy and soft-spoken teenagers, Paul (Michael Pitt) and Peter (Brady Corbet) invade their home and proceed to toy with the family for their own twisted amusement.
Ann: Why don't you just kill us?!
Peter: Never underestimate the importance of entertainment.
Exactly. Heneke is clearly toying with the audience's desire to see a film where the family is tortured (physically and emotionally) with the real possibility of death. This is done in a fashion which can only be described as "soul destroying" as you watch the family desperately trying to get free from the grasp of these insane people, whilst simultaneously making the audience uncomfortable with some very unexpected moments of breaking the fourth wall from Paul. The film comments on how violence is seen in film and on the news, how the audience is separated from the violence by the television screen, but that doesn't stop it (philosophically) from being real.
Paul: [Fiction] is just as real as reality because you can see it too.
Overall the film is stylistically brilliant and very well scripted, but definitely not for the faint of heart. Although the viewer is uncomfortable for almost all of the film, it is still (for lack of better terms) an enjoyable watch - that is, if you don't mind your soul being just a little destroyed. Mahalo.
Sunday, January 3, 2010
Avatar takes place in the future, on a dangerous, distant alien world called Pandora (note the name). Humans are there for the sole purpose of robbing it of its natural resources, an element called "unobtanium" (note the name). Along with the military forces is a team of scientists, lead by a lady named Grace (note the name) who wishes to learn of the planet rather than rape it.
The humans are obviously at odds with Pandora's natives, a race of blue anthropomorphic cats, hereafter referred to as "furries." The furries are primitive, living with nature, wearing little clothing, and fighting with bows and knives. Some uptight people would probably get upset and draw comparisons between the furries and African tribes (and there's a lot of evidence for them, believe me).
To get closer to furries and attempt any kind of communication, Grace's team technologically transmits their consciousnesses into some lab-made furry bodies. With these "avatars," they are able to roam Pandora and interact with the natives. But not all goes well, as you'd imagine.
The world of Avatar is very well-designed and feels complete. The humans have incredible technology: holograms, cryosleep, badass mech suits, and of course, the avatar technology. The furries have their own culture, their own customs, their own language, and their world is beautiful. Some of the scenery is breathtaking. And the animals of the world are frighteningly unusual. There's a real sense of being on another world. This isn't just New Zealand with a giant fibreglass tree, people.
But a fleshed-out world is nothing without characters. Unfortunately, Avatar's characters are dull archetypes. You have the Unlikely Hero/Chosen One (complete with troubled past!), the Geek Who Learns to Be A Man, the Hotshot Driver, the Gruff Drill Sergeant military guy, the Profiteer, etc. None of the characters are particularly fleshed out. They all feel very flat and uncompelling. The story has been done before. Ever seen Dances With Wolves? Then you've seen Avatar. Combine uninteresting characters with a generic, predictable lacklustre story, and what do you get? A letdown of an overhyped blockbluster.
But what about the amazing IMAX DIGITAL 4-D? Surely the stunning visual effects will redeem Cameron's flick? While I enjoyed the 3D of the 15-minute preview, those scenes were obviously chosen to demonstrate said 3D. In the final film, though, the pop-up visuals really don't stand out. While other 3D flicks milk their AMAZING 4-D GRAPHICS for all its worth with gimmicks such as axes flying "through" the screen and other objects "reaching out" towards the audience, Avatar features none of that crap. You will notice the 3D and in some scenes it looks great - just look at the hologram projectors. But as they've avoided obvious shots such as spaceships flying out of the screen, nothing in particular stands out. The 3D ends up feeling underused, and, outside of a few scenes, you'll wonder why you bothered paying so much for an Imax 3D ticket in the first place. Don't get me wrong. The 3D is constant throughout the film, it just doesn't seem to add much. Perhaps it would have ha dit not been so subtle.
Avatar is an overhyped version of Dances With Wolves set in space, with elements of Alien thrown in and some freaky furry crap off Deviant Art somehow made the cut. The good action scenes and terrific creature design do nothing to save the film's uncaptivating story and flat characters. Yet another disappointing overmarketed blockbluster.
To use the words 'cute' and 'endearing' to describe this film would be an understatement. So would 'hilarious' and 'quirky'. The film opens with a fairytale-esque sequence of the main characters Steven (Ruffalo) and Bloom (Brody) as children, with narration that rhymes in a cadence similar to that of Disney films or other such children's films, but with a distinct dark humour to it. After this and as soon as the film opens properly, you are met with a story so intriguing and characters so compelling and likable that you are actually disappointed when the films ends, wanting more. The brothers Bloom are conmen who find their final mark in the form of eccentric (and beautiful) shut-in, Penelope (Weisz).
Although there are moments with the intricacy of the plot is confounding, it can be revealed upon further viewings, which will be wanted as a result of the overall sweetness and enjoyability of the film as a whole. It is a thoroughly enjoyable film and will leave you with tears of joy and the laughter of sadness. Mahalo.