Friday, February 28, 2014

Git 'Er (URP) Done!

It's been brought to my attention that inexplicably popular comedian Larry The Cable Guy is currently hawking his own line of foods. The line consists mainly of various deep fry batter mixes and heavy pasta based meals.

Larry is also the spokesman for Prilosec heartburn medication.

Connection? I'll let you be the judge. If we weren't talking about, you know, Larry The Cable Guy, I'd say it's all part of some Machiavellian scheme.

Larry also has a line of "dawg" treats, for when you want to punish your pet.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Dang, I Am Officially Old


This week the Music Machinery blog, which is apparently a thing, posted this item of interest. It's a map of the U.S. listing the most popular singers and/or bands in each of the fifty states.

Interesting. The most popular entertainer in my home state of Indiana is Blake Shelton. I think I've heard that name before. It sounds vaguely familiar. Is that a man or a woman? Maybe I haven't heard of them after all.

Funny that upper New England seems firmly entrenched in the past, as their favorite bands-- Phish, Grateful Dead, R.E.M., Neil Young, Nirvana and Rush-- are all at least twenty years old. Far more in some cases. Some of them aren't even together anymore!

I suppose it's inevitable that The Boss is the favorite band of Jersey.

Looking over the rest of the map, I recognize just a scant fifteen of the country's favorite bands. I've never even seen the names of the rest of them before, much less heard their music.

I fully admit that I don't listen to music much anymore. At least not any new music, the majority of which I think is utter crap. Still, you'd think I'd have a passing familiarity with a few of these bands just through osmosis. I don't watch reality TV but I've heard of the Kardashians and Honey Boo Boo.

I don't even think some of them are real bands. Ginger Kwan? J Boog? Hinder? I think someone just took some of those magnetic poetry tiles and tossed them at their refrigerator door and wrote down whatever stuck.

Dang, I'm getting old.

Vertical Hold

Hey you! Yeah, you! Do you have an iPhone? Luckeeee! Do you use it to shoot videos of your cat's hilarious antics? Awesome! Do you shoot your videos in the vertical format? STOP IT! IMMEDIATELY!

Would you go to the cineplex and sit through a movie that was filmed like this? Of course not! 

No one wants to watch a movie like this. You'd get up and demand your money back!

So why then would you film a video with your phone held vertically, like a common peasant?

Stop peering at the world through a crack in the door and FILM HORIZONTALLY, DAMMIT!

Remember, every time you shoot a vertical video, an Oscar™ winning cinematographer dies.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Walking Dead Season 4, Episode 11: Claimed

This week's episode had a bit of everything: introductions, nail-biting suspense, and more character building.

And to think I was worried last year when the news broke that Scott Gimple was taking over the show. It's better than it's ever been under his watch!

LOTS OF SPOILERS AHEAD!

Thoughts:
• At the very beginning of the episode we see a trio of walkers grabbing at a deflated helium balloon stuck on a sign post. I don't remember ever seeing them have any interest in inanimate objects like this before. Are they hinting at something new going on with the walkers? Some kind of burgeoning new intelligence perhaps?

• Abraham, Eugene and Rosita all seem pretty much like their comic book counterparts. I'm betting Abraham's going to become the new break out character. He's a bit like Merle but without all the crazy.

Michael Cudlitz was awesome as Abraham. Christian Serratos certainly looked good as Rosita, and did OK with what little she had to do in this episode.

Unfortunately I can't say the same for Josh McDermitt as Eugene. He had little or no screen presence in the few scenes in which he appeared. He's supposed to come off as an insufferable prick, not brain damaged. Maybe he'll improve once we see more of him. I hope.

• So Eugene claims he knows what caused the zombie apocalypse and is just the man to fix it. I don't want to blurt out a big spoiler so I won't say too much about this particular subplot, but readers of the comic will know whether his claim is true or not.

Judging from what I saw in this episode, TV Eugene doesn't seem like he could open a can of beans, much less end the zombie plague. It makes me wonder how Abraham could possibly believe him and doing everything possible to get him to D.C.

• I liked the interaction between Carl and Michonne in this episode. Carl's soy milk monoloue sounded exactly like something a teen would say. Kudos to Chandler Riggs, who's become quite a good actor this season.

• It's nice to see Michonne finally opening up. She's come a long way since the one note, growling Season 3 version, and the show's that much better for it.

• Michonne tells Carl that she had a son named Andre Anthony. I wonder if "Anthony" was his middle or last name? Is she Michonne Anthony?

• Despite all the death and turmoil that's happened in the past few months, Rick apparently thought he deserved some me time and pampered himself by doing some manscaping. He had a hairy chest way back in the pilot, but in this episode his torso is as smooth as a baby's bottom. Who knew Rick was a metrosexual?

• Glenn wakes up in the back of Abraham's army truck, and Tara tells him they passed Maggie's school bus three hours ago. So... did she try to wake him up as they passed it or just passively watch it recede in the distance as they drove on?

• So Glenn's determined to hike god knows how many miles (50? 100?) back to the bus to find his wife Maggie, but Abraham doesn't want Glenn to leave, because he's trying to get Eugene to Washington D.C. Once Eugene kills the truck though, Abraham's group decides to follow Glenn.

OK, I get that their truck is dead and they have nowhere else to go. But why would they decide to follow Glenn ALL the way back to that bus? It might take days to get there. Why wouldn't they just backtrack until they found another suitable vehicle and then continue to D.C.?

• Normally I don't point out editing goofs, but there was a really blatant one in this episode. When Abraham was beating the crap out of Glenn, we cut to a shot of Eugene standing at the left side of the army truck. We cut back to the fight, and when we see Eugene again, he's standing at the right side of the truck and walks back over to the left side again. Whoops! Pretty sure the editor switched these two shots.

• When a group of walkers approaches the truck, Eugene tries to shoot them, but fails miserably. In fact he acts like he's never used a gun before in his life. How the hell did he survive this long without a rudimentary knowledge of how to point and shoot a gun?

I'm starting to wonder if his shooting the gas tank of the truck was really an accident, and he's trying to delay the arrival in D.C. for as long as possible.

• The scenes in which the thugs invade Rick's house as he tried to avoid them were masterfully shot. Kudos to the director-- he had me on the edge of my seat!

• After Rick killed the thug in the bathroom, he opened the door a bit and then climbed out the window. At first I didn't get what the whole "opening the door a crack" was about. I finally figured it out-- he opened the door so that when the thug turned, he'd be able to get out of the bathroom and attack the other thugs, causing a diversion.

And that's exactly what happened! RIght as Rick was about to kill the thug on the porch, we heard a commotion from inside the house as Rick's walker attacked the group. Nice strategy!

• I have a bad feeling those thugs were a scouting party from the Terminus sanctuary. You know, the place that keeps advertising, "Those Who Arrive, Survive."

We got a good look at one of the thugs right at the end (the one smoking on the front porch). How much do you want to be we see him again at the sanctuary?

• At the end of the episode Rick, Carl and Michonne see a sign for the Terminus sanctuary and decide to head for it. I have a bad feeling about that place. "Terminus" isn't exactly a warm and fuzzy word. Sounds a little too much like "terminal" to me.

I wonder if this is going to be the TV version of The Sanctuary storyline? In the comic book, the Sanctuary is a colony ruled by Negan, a nut job self-appointed dictator who makes the Governor look like Gilligan. Seems a bit too soon to introduce another crazy Governor-esque character, but what do I know?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Fantastic Faux

Last week Fox caused quite an uproar on the interweb with their casting decisions for the upcoming Fantastic Four reboot. 

All I have to say about their matter is this: Every time Fox releases a new Fantastic Four movie, they make the Roger Corman version look better and better.

See, back in 1994, Constantin Film owned the film rights to the Fantastic Four. The studio would lose the rights to the characters if they didn't release a film by the end of the year, so they turned to B-movie king Roger Corman to crank out a film quickly and on the cheap in order to secure the rights. As a result the film was made solely for contractual purposes and was never meant to be released to theaters. Despite this, bootleg copies of the film are easy to find. 

Despite its rushed schedule and miniscule budget, the Corman version's heart was in the right place. The filmmakers obviously understood the source material and they got the characters exactly right, much more so than in the two abysmal Fox movies. I wish Fox would stop trying to update the concept or whatever the hell they're doing and just remake the Corman film.

The Fantastic Four has always been my all-time favorite comic book, and it pains me to see it treated so shabbily. It's such a simple concept; I don't understand why no one can seem to make a decent film based on it. 

After last week's casting news, I'd sit rather sit through a Nicholas Sparks film festival than see another botched Fantastic Four movie from Fox.

It Came From The Cineplex: Winter's Tale

Winter's Tale was written and directed by Akiva Goldsman (writer of Batman Forever and Batman And Robin) and is based on the novel of the same name by Mark Helprin.

Goldsman also wrote the screenplay for A Beautiful Mind, but then wrote The DaVinci Code and Angels And Demons. Now that's an uneven career!

It's an odd, sloppy mess of a film full of new age-y hokum and cringe-worthy dialog, and is tough to catagorize. Think Gangs Of New York but with fantasy elements such as angels, demons and flying horses, and you'll have a pretty good idea what it's like.

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
In 1916, Peter Lake (Colin Ferrell) is a thief on the run from his former boss Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe), who's some kind of immortal demon or something. Lake runs into Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay of Downton Abbey fame), a young socialite whose
terminal illness gives her godlike insight. Oh, and Peter teams up with a mysterious white horse that can fly. Just go with it.

Beverly tells Peter than everyone is born with a miracle inside them and when it's completed, they die and become a star in the night sky. Peter believes his miracle is to save Beverly, but she proves him a liar by dying. Whoops!

After her funeral, Peter's cornered by Pearly Soames and his men. Soames head butts Peter and shoves him off the Brooklyn Bridge.

Cut to 2014, when Peter is inexplicably still alive, and an amnesiac. Apparently he hasn't died yet because he still has some sort of special purpose to fulfill. Or because of his intense love for Beverly. Or maybe just because the script says so.

He meets a woman named Virginia whose daughter Abby is dying. Peter regains his memory and realizes his miracle was not to save Beverly, but to save Abby. Just go with it. He saves her and his flying horse appears and they fly off and become stars in the night sky.

Thoughts:
• The story begins in 1886 when Peter Lake's immigrant parents are refused entry into the U.S. Determined their son should have a better life in America, they place him in a model sailboat and shove him towards New York.

I have a hard time believing any mother would willingly place her baby in a tiny, unseaworthy model of a sailing ship, never to know if he survived or not. Things must have really been bad in their home country if the possibility of drowning is a better fate for their child.

Do you suppose the whole "floating to shore in a boat" thing is supposed to be a biblical reference?

• When we first see Beverly Penn she's being fitted for eyeglasses. The eye doctor hesitates to even enter the room when he finds out she has consumption, but she tells him not to worry because it's not "catching."

Um… consumption is just another word for tuberculosis, which most definitely is contagious. It's spread though the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. I wonder how many people Beverly infected due to her ignorance?

• Speaking of tuberculosis, one of the major symptoms of the disease is dramatic weight loss (hence the nickname "consumption"). In true movie fashion, Beverly shows absolutely zero visible effects and looks positively radiant for someone who's been given just months to live. She even plays the piano flawlessly, dances and does anything else she wants to do, rather than lie in bed gasping for breath like you'd expect.

• One last thing about consumption before I promise to stop. Beverly's sole symptom is a high fever. To counteract this, she sleeps in a tent on the roof of her family's mansion, so the cold winter air will cool her body temperature.

Was that really ever a thing? Did people in the early 1900s really sleep outside to lower their fever? Methinks not, and this was an attempt to romanticize her condition.

And even if sleeping in the cold air really would lower her temperature, what the hell did she do in the summer? New York City gets miserable hot in July.

• Peter meets Beverly's little sister Willa in 1916. Willa looks like she's around 6 years old. He next meets her in 2014, when she's (still) working at the New York Times. She looks damned good for a woman of at least 104! I think somebody forgot to do the math here. Or is Willa another character who can't die "until their special purpose is finished?"

• The film tries to create a world full of rules and mythology, but none of it ever makes much sense. Peter's horse turns out to be his "spirit guide," but we never find out exactly why it chose to appear and help him. 

Later Peter flees to upstate New York, but Soames can't follow because he's restricted to the city. Why, we have no idea. Something vague about "ancient rules and boundaries." Soames even goes to the Devil to ask that the rules be lifted, but his request is denied, like a boss canceling an employee's request for time off.

I have a feeling the mythology was fleshed out a lot more in the novel, but didn't make it into the film. Too bad, as that might have helped the story make more sense.

There's a lot of downright awful dialog in the film, most of it uttered by Beverly. Early in the film she says, "The sicker I become, the more I can see that everything is connected by light!" Later she wonders, "Is it possible to love someone so much they can't die?" 

By the way, the latter line is obviously meant to explain how Peter can possibly still be alive in 2014. Nice try, movie.

• Will Smith makes an uncredited cameo in the film as the Devil. Uncredited so his appearance would be a surprise, or uncredited as in "please take my name off this film?"

Director Goldsman says he cast Smith in the role because "I wanted the most charming man in the world to play the Devil. And he's the most charming man in the world."

• When we first see the Devil, it's 1916 and he's reading a copy of A Brief History Of Time. You know, the book written by Steven Hawking in 1988. I guess that's a joke, to show us that time means nothing to him. Or something.

• Pearly Soames is some kind of demon in the employ of the Devil. As a sign of this, he has three lines shaved into the hair on both sides of his head, like a 1990s rap singer or someone who isn't very good at being their own barber.

In order to fight Peter outside of New York, Soames has to renounce his demon-ness and become human. When he does so, the stripes in his hair fill in. I guess they were supposed to represent some sort of mark of the beast or something?

• Peter goes to the New York Times to look up old records on microfiche (and to hopefully jumpstart his memory). I guess despite the fact that he's been around for almost 130 years, he's never heard of computers or Google.

• I'm wondering just who this movie is for. Men will likely be put off by the chick flick love story aspect of it. Women will probably not appreciate the violence and the angel and demon elements. It's a movie without an audience, so to speak.

This might help explain why the film's only grossed $11 million after two weeks.

Winter's Tale is a clumsy, meandering mish-mash of genres that never quite figures out what it's about or who it's for. I give it a C+.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Say... That's A Nice Bike

It's the liquid metal T-1000 from Terminator 2: Judgement Day.

T2 (as the in crowd calls it) is one of my all time favorite movies. It's one of the few sequels that's better than the original. It was also on the cutting edge of special effects as it was the first films to feature a completely CGI realistic human character.

I was amazed with the T-1000 and it's morphing abilities-- particularly the scene in which it's thrown against a wall and turns itself around without moving so it's instantly facing the opposite direction. Awesome!

Robert Patrick did an excellent job portraying a cold, calculating futuristic killing machine. He moved with a cat-like agility as he relentlessly pursued his prey.

Rather than cast another hulking brute like Schwarzenegger as a Terminator, the producers chose Patrick specifically because of his slim physique. They wanted the audience to assume that Patrick was a friend of Kyle Reese who had come back in time to save the Conner family. The collective mind of the audience would have then been blown when it realized Patrick was the bad guy and Arnold as the T-800 was the good guy this time around.

That would indeed have been quite a surprise. Too bad the trailers telegraphed the reveal months in advance. Why do they always do that?

One thing I never quite understood about the movie-- how was the T-1000 able to come back in time? For that matter, how was either Terminator able to do so? 

In the first film it's established that Skynet's time machine only works on organic matter. A person can go back in time, but they can't bring any futuristic weapons or technology with them.

The original T-800 Terminator was a robotic endoskeleton covered with living, human skin. I guess we're to believe that that was enough to fool the time machine into transporting it into the past. But the T-1000 is made of liquid metal. How the heck was it able to come back? Whoops! Maybe it was stuffed inside a dead human that was transported and it crawled out while we weren't looking.

Here's a good trivia question you can use to impress your friends: What's the name on the T-1000's name tag? Answer: Austin. The T-1000 can mimic anything that it touches, and seconds after it appeared in 1991, it stabbed a nosy cop whose name was apparently Austin.

The T-1000 is a vector drawing, done in InDesign.

Here's the digital sketch I did of the T-1000. Nothing much changed from sketch to final drawing.

Just for fun here's an alternate pose. Hey, T-1000! Don't you know it's not polite to point!

This Week In Ideas That Need Quashed With Extreme Prejudice

This week Paramount is re-releasing a special R-rated version of Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues to theaters for one week. This new version is no doubt raunchier than the original PG-13 one and promises 763 additional jokes (although I'm pretty sure that in itself is one of the jokes).

I don't think I like this idea. This is supposedly a better version of the film, right? So why didn't they release this version last December, instead of the inferior initial version?* Now I feel like an idiot for wasting money on the original. Actually I feel like an idiot for spending money on any version of it at all, but you get what I mean.

"But Bob," I hear you saying. "Why are you so upset? Isn't this the same thing as a "director's cut" on DVD?" Well, not exactly. By now everyone knows that a lot of movies get a regular and director's cut on home video. You can make an informed decision as to whether you want to buy the theatrical version or wait for the souped up, extended cut. 

This doesn't usually happen with movies that are still in theaters. No one had any idea that a better version would be coming to the cineplex a scant two months later.

This is nothing more than a blatant cash grab by Paramount, plain and simple. One designed to vacuum another ten bucks from the wallets of fans. 

This is just like when you call your cable company and tell them you're cutting the cord, and they tell you they'll knock $20 a month off your bill if you stay. Then you realize that you could have been paying $240 less per year for cable all along, but they never told you about it. In other words, it's a scam, one that I hope dies a quick and very painful death.

*When I reviewed the original version back in December 2013, one of my complaints was that there were vast stretches of screen time with little or no laughs. Now I know why. They were saving all the jokes for this R-rated version. 

Also, the original version clocked in at 119 minutes, which is unusually long for a comedy. Now it's gonna be even longer? Comedies need to be short, because it's tough to keep an audience laughing for a prolonged period of time. Less is more!

Friday, February 21, 2014

I've Got A Bad Feeling About This: The Amazing Spider-Man 2

In my continuing quest to rag on The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Even Amazinger months before it even comes out, I present this:

This is a blurry image of a bust that was on display at Toy Fair 2014 last week. Believe it or not, this is how the Green Goblin is going to look in the upcoming film. Oy gevalt!

No mask, no helmet, just a guy who looks like some kind of unwholesom, demented wood elf in motocross gear.

Congratulations, Sony! You just managed to retroactively make this version look awesome!

For Christ's sake Sony, give Spider-Man back to Marvel Studios already so they can make some decent movies starring the character.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

It Came From The Cineplex: Robocop (2014)

Let's get this out of the way first: I Didn't Hate It.

Believe me, no one's more surprised by that statement than I am. I've been a big fan of the original film since I saw it in the theater in 1987, and in my mind nothing could possibly top it. Ever since this remake was first announced I've been anticipating a disaster, fully prepared to hate it. The trailer that debuted last year did nothing but confirm my fears. I'm happy to admit I was wrong about the film. It's not better than the original of course, but all things considered it's actually pretty good. It's definitely leaps and bounds better than the abomination that was the execrable Total Recall remake from a couple years back.

In a way I kind of feel sorry for this film. No matter how well it turned out, no one will ever be able to judge it without comparing it to the original. It just can't be done. It might have been better if they'd changed the names of the characters and called it CyberCop or something like that.

Robocop (2014) was directed by Jose Padilha and written by Joshua Zetumer. Believe it or not, the remake was first announced way back in 2005 and was delayed numerous times before finally being filmed. Wow, nine years in production? Somebody really, really wanted to make a new Robocop movie!

Even though the film is better than it has any right to be, it's not perfect. It lacks the over the top violence and satirical edge of the original, and worst of all it has no memorable villains.

Maybe those changes are for the best though. Maybe the filmmakers realized they could never make a better movie than the original, so they decided to make a different one instead. To approach the story from another angle and explore other aspects of it. If Hollywood insists on remaking everything, perhaps that's the way to go.

SPOILERS AHEAD (FOR A 27 YEAR OLD STORY)!

The Plot:
It's RoboCop. Surely by now you know the story. Honest cop Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) is grievously injured and turned into a robot designed to be the perfect policeman. Gradually his humanity overcomes his soulless programming and he brings his "killers" to justice.

Thoughts:
• The original film was initially rated X due to its glorious, outlandish comic book violence. It had to be edited several times before getting an R rating. This version is rated PG-13 so the whole family can see it and pump up the box office take. 


The violence may have been toned down, but it still contains its share of disturbing imagery that's unsuitable for kids. That didn't stop the Parent Of The Year I saw bring their four and five year old kids to the theater when I saw it though.

• This film is set in 2028, which is a dumb move in my opinion. Placing your sci-fi movie too close to the present is just asking for trouble, especially when your predictions don't come to pass.

The original was set in a vague and unspecified near future, which seems like a much better solution to me.

• In the original film Murphy's partner was a white woman named Lewis. Lewis is back for the remake, but is now a black man. Sigh... 

So why the change? Is it White Guilt, or are the filmmakers trying to appeal to the widest possible audience, believing that blacks won't see a movie if there's no one of color in it?

Either way, it's a step back. The original Lewis was a capable, ass-kicking cop who took audiences by surprise back in 1987. There's nothing unusual about New Lewis, and he's about as exciting as spent dish water. His main skill seems to be getting shot in the gut, which he does twice (!) in the film.

• In the original (Sorry! I told you it's impossible to not compare them!) Murphy is horrifically tortured by sadistic criminal Clarence Boddicker before being killed. Here Murphy's simply and plainly blown up real good by a car bomb. Yawn.

That said, this time around we see the aftermath of the attack on Murphy's life, and it's suitably gruesome.

• According to Dr. Norton (Gary Oldman), Murphy suffers from fourth degree burns. You don't hear about them often, but believe it or not they're a real thing. They generally affect deep tissue, muscle and bone.

• After Murphy is transformed into Robocop, he believes he's been encased inside an armored suit. Dr. Norton demonstrates that this is not the case by removing his robotic parts, revealing that all that's left of Murphy is his brain, part of his head, his heart, lungs and right hand.

This scene was absolutely horrifying, and pushed the PG-13 rating to the limit.

This is one area where the new version is an improvement. The original film was always kind of vague as to just how much of Murphy was left. We saw the skin of his face stretched over his robotic skull and got a line or two about his "extremely simple digestive system" and that was pretty much it. I'm betting the producers of the original would have loved to have filmed a "reveal" scene like we get here, but were limited by their budget and the technology of the time.

• In the original film, when project leader Bob Morton is told that surgeons were able to save Murphy's arm, he tells them to lose it. In this version they've inexplicably salvaged Murphy's right hand. I can't for the life of me figure out why. Is it so he could still use touch pads? So he'd have a physical link to his humanity? Because they thought it would look kewl?

Keeping the hand makes no sense on so many levels. For one thing it's constantly bare and unprotected. Seems like an easy target to me. They don't have gloves in the future? And how is it even still "alive?" When Norton removes all of Murphy's robotic parts, the hand is just kind of laying there on the table. Are there real arteries and veins that thread from Murphy's heart, down through his robot arm and to his wrist? Lose the hand!


• At the beginning and end of the film, Robocop's body is silver. This new design echoes the 1987 version, but updates it for 2014. I liked it quite a bit.

Unfortunately they couldn't leave well enough alone. OmniCorp president Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) says he wants RoboCop to look more "tactical," and suggests a sleeker black armor. Unfortunately Murphy sports the black armored look through the majority of the film.

Whether it was intended or not, this scene felt to me like a dig at fans of the original film.

Try as I might, I don't care for the black armor. I don't know what it is about the design, but it looks absolutely nothing like a robot. It looks like exactly what it is— a man in a close fitting armored suit. It looks more like an all black Iron Man or Batman suit than a robot. 

They can foley all the clunking footsteps and servomotor whines into the soundtrack they want, but it isn't gonna convince me I'm watching a robot.


It doesn't help that Murphy keeps raising the visor on the black helmet, revealing Joel Kinnaman's incongruous baby face within.

If there are any sequels to this film (which seems likely) I hope they leave him silver.

• Speaking of Raymond Sellars, he's obviously meant to be an evil Steve Jobs analog. He even says, "People don't know what they want until you show it to them," which is an actual Jobs quote.

• One huge thing that's missing from this new version: a main villain! The original film had a very colorful and memorable bad guy in Clarence Boddicker. This version has no one who even comes close. There's a drug kingpin named Antoine Vallon, but he's dull, unremarkable and a very, very poor substitute for Boddicker.


Instead of one main bad guy, here we get a series of lesser ones. With the exception of Murphy's family pretty much everyone in the film is a villain to a degree. Even Dr. Norton isn't without sin. He lies to Murphy and treats him like an experiment instead of a person before becoming more sympathetic toward him late in the film.
 
• Murphy's wife and son have much bigger parts in this film, even going so far as to meet and have contact with him after his transformation. In the original his family pretty much disappeared (except for the occasional flashback) once Murphy "died." 

I didn't mind this change. It put a different spin on the story and kept it from being a complete cookie cutter remake.


• I miss the satirical elements of the original film. Where's Bixby Snyder, star of It's Not My Problem? You know, the guy who constantly said, "I'd buy that for a dollar!" Where's T.J. Lazer? Where's the 6000 SUX?

Instead we get Pat Novak (Samuel L. Jackson), a Bill O'Reilly type of TV blowhard who's trying to sell Americans on the idea of robotic drones for our protection.

I suppose this was an inevitable change. The original film was a product of its time, and poked fun at the issues of its day. It's only logical that this aspect would be updated for the 21st Century. I just wish they'd have have done so a bit more colorfully. 


• I may have to retire my Samuel L. Jackson Hair Rule. A while back I posited that when Jackson is bald in a film, it has a high chance of being good. When he has a bizarre hairstyle, chances are it's gonna be bad.

Jackson has odd hair in this film and it's not that bad. Maybe my Rule was wrong after all.


• The ED-209 robot in the original film was big, blundering and dumb. It had a lot of personality for a machine.

These new updated ED-209s have absolutely zero screen presence. They look OK, but just aren't as much fun as the originals.

These new ones are just as dumb as their predecessors though. Robocop hides behind one and tricks the other ED units into blowing up their kin. And this despite the fact that their readouts consistently said, "SEARCHING FOR CLEAR SHOT."

• The first film was full of quotable lines that people are still uttering today. I can't think of a single one worth repeating in this remake. 

Rick Mattox (Jackie Earl Haley) offers a weak homage to the original when he says, "I wouldn't buy that for a dollar," but the line thuds to the ground like a sack of wet laundry.

• They used parts of Basil Poledouris' original RoboCop theme a couple of times in the score. 
It made me positively giddy to hear the old score, but it may have been a mistake. Hearing it made me want to see the original movie on the big screen again, instead of this version.

By the way, last year I examined the official trailer for the film and posted my predictions and assumptions about the plot. So how'd I do? Eh, not so well. Out of the 18 predictions I made, 12 of them were correct. 12 out of 18 sounds pretty good to me. However, that's 66%, which the test grade calculator tells me is a D. Really? More than half right and I still get a D? No wonder I hated school.

An unwanted and unnecessary remake of a classic action film, RoboCop (2014) turned out much better than it had any right to. I can't believe I'm writing this, but I give it a B.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Hazardous To Your Health

This week California State Senator Bill Monning proposed a new bill that would require warning labels to be added to all sweetened soft drinks.

The bill would read: "STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay." 

Because of course the general public is blissfully unaware that soft drinks aren't health food and the government knows what's best for each and every one of us. By all means let's treat soft drinks the same as we do cigarettes and alcohol.

Jesus wept.

Of all the futuristic sci-fi films that have come out in the past 30 years, THIS is the last one I ever thought would come true.
Lenina Huxley: Ah, smoking is not good for you, and it's been deemed that anything not good for you is bad; hence, illegal. Alcohol, caffeine, contact sports, meat... 
John Spartan: Are you sh*tting me? 
Moral Statute Machine: (BUZZ) John Spartan, you are fined one credit for a violation of the Verbal Morality Statute. 
John Spartan: What the hell is that?
Moral Statute Machine: (BUZZ) John Spartan, you are fined one credit for a violation of the Verbal Morality Statute. 
Lenina Huxley: Bad language, chocolate, gasoline, uneducational toys and anything spicy. Abortion is also illegal, but then again so is pregnancy if you don't have a license.
It's enough to make me run out and commit a murder/death/kill.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Walking Dead Season 4, Episode 10: Inmates

Holy Crap! Now THAT was an episode!

A lot of whiners complained that last week's episode was dull and boring. This one was anything but! It was packed near to bursting with events.

BIG HONKIN' MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD! YOU'VE BEEN WARNED!

• So Daryl and Beth are on their own for now. Did you know there's a sizable group out there on the internet who want to see these two become a couple? Despite the fact that Beth is supposed to be 16-17 and Daryl is 35 if he's a day? The internet can be a dark and scary place sometimes.

All during her segment Beth kept talking about Luke. I confess I had no idea who that was and had to look him up. See, AMC? THIS is why breaking the seasons up is a bad idea. By the time the show starts back up I've forgotten what the hell's going on.

• So Tyreese rescued baby Judith! That was quite a surprise when he turned around and revealed he was carrying her. She died in the comic, but I didn't think they'd kill her on TV. Well, I was pretty sure they wouldn't. On this show you never know.

• The mid season finale was so long ago I forgot what happened to Tyreese's arm. Did he get shot? Hopefully he wasn't bitten.

• After hearing walkers in the woods, Mika runs off in terror. Tyreese catches up to her and tells her that she did the right thing. He tells her anytime she hears a walker to run away as fast as she can, but it's also important that they all stay together. Wha? Which is it? Run or stay together? Or try and run while staying together?

Tyreese's confusing advice then gets the better of him, as he hears a scream in the distance and takes off running toward it, leaving the two girls alone. Um... didn't he just say they needed to stay together?

• While Tyreese's group is resting in the woods, Lizzie sees some baby bunnies and quietly kills them with her knife. So I guess that answers the question of who was dissecting animals in the prison and feeding the walkers at the fence a few episodes back. 

It's also unequivocal proof that Lizzie is a full blown sociopath, as killing and torturing animals is generally considered one of the classic signs. 

She even calmly tries to suffocate Judith to stop her from crying! For a second or two I thought maybe they'd revealed Judith was alive just so they could have Lizzie kill her. How shocking would that have been? You'd have heard people screaming from one side of the continent to the other.

All I know is Lizzie is one chillingly scary little girl! I'd be afraid to turn my back on her.

• There's some Pulp Fiction type of time shuffling going on in this episode. We see Daryl and Beth come upon a group of zombies at the railroad track, and they're attacked by a middle aged walker. 

Later Tyreese happens upon the same tracks, and sees a teen and a middle aged man being attacked by zombies. He tries to help them, but the men are bitten. For some reason Tyreese doesn't finish them off. The middle aged man dies, turns and is the same one who attacked Daryl and Beth earlier in the episode. I mean later. Confusing!

• So, Caroi's back, to absolutely no one's surprise. The only question was just when she'd show up again. 

Her story about what she's been up to since we last saw her didn't make a whole lot of sense. Something about she came back to the prison and hid and watched the whole Governor attack go down? Wha....? So why didn't she help?

Actually this is par for the course for her. Anytime Carol comes back from the dead it never makes much sense. In Season 3 everyone thought she died along with T-Dog, and they even dug a grave for her (Lord knows what, if anything, they put in it) and then she calmly walked out of a closet a couple weeks later. That didn't make any sense either. I look forward to her disappearing and nonsensically reappearing next season as well.

• Tyreese still doesn't know that Carol killed Karen, and that Rick banished her, right?

• Tyreese's group follows the tracks and sees a sign offering sanctuary. The sign says, "Those who arrive, survive." That's the same thing we heard on the car radio several episodes ago when Daryl and some others were on a supply run.

The name of the sanctuary appears to be "Terminus." I don't like the sound of that! Gee, that's not ominous at all.

• Maggie, Sasha and Bob make up the third group. I was wondering what happened to Bob. It's been so long since I saw him I forgot he got shot when the Governor attacked the prison.

• Maggie searches for Glenn and finds the school bus he was on sitting dead in the road.

What the hell kind of road are they on? It looks like a dirt path that's barely wide enough for one car. Why the hell'd the bus take that trail instead of a proper road?

So everyone on the bus turned and became a walker. So much for the remaining Woodburyians! As of this episode every single person who lived there is now dead. Maybe the Governor was right-- maybe Rick and the Prison Crew really are bad people! Everything Rick touches dies violently.

• After dispatching all the walkers that pour out of the back of the bus, Maggie goes inside to see if Glenn, or rather his body, is there. She's attacked by and "kills" a walker that looks amazingly like Glenn (from the back that is). Whoever shot this scene did so very well, as it really wasn't clear if it was him or not.

• Glenn wakes up in the most unlikely place he possibly could. I'm still trying to figure out how he got from the bus to a shattered upper walkway in the prison, but I'll let it go.

• Today I learned: Glenn's last name is Rhee. I've been watching this show for four years now and never knew that. Is that something that was revealed early on, or did they make it up recently? I don't ever remember hearing anyone say his last name on air, but I could be wrong.

• Nice to see the return of the riot armor!

• Glenn finds Tara sitting in a catatonic state after the Governor's attack, and tells her he needs her help so he can find Maggie. Tara calls him by name, but I can't for the life of me figure out how she'd know it. I didn't hear him introduce himself. Maybe she heard Maggie shrieking his name a couple episodes ago?

• Glenn makes a Molotov cocktail from Bob Stookey's bottle of booze. Wow, See, Bob's not a worthless alcoholic after all! His addiction came in quite handy this week.

I thought Glenn was going to fling the firebomb into the herd of walkers, but instead he threw it at a car to distract them. Sure enough, a few seconds later all the zombies turned and oohed and ahhed at the pretty flames. Have we ever seen this behavior in them before? I'm thinking that's a big nope.

• At the end of the episode Glenn collapses, as he's still not full recovered from the flu. Tara protects him as a military truck pulls up. Out of the truck steps Abraham, Eugene and Rosita! Holy Crap! Straight off the pages of the comic! I squealed like a little schoolgirl! I can't wait to see Abraham in action on the show!

I'm A Grown Man And I Bought This: NECA 18" Pacific Rim Gipsy Danger

 A while back I reviewed Wave 1 of NECA's 7" Pacific Rim action figures. Tonight I'm reviewing their new 18" Gipsy Danger figure.

For those of you interested in packaging (I'm not, as I free all my figures from their cardboard prisons), here's a look at the front and back of the box. The front offers a good view of the figure, while the back shows it in an action pose. It's reasonably collector friendly if you'd like to take the figure out and look at it before sticking it back into the box.

By the way, don't bother looking for this figure in any brick and mortar store. I was barely able to find it online, and even then after only after a couple weeks of searching. You might be able to find it at a comic book store or a place like Coconuts, but I wouldn't bet on it. Online is your best option here.

For some reason all the Pacific Rim toys are as scarce as hen's teeth. I'm not sure why-- giant robots fighting giant monsters? That's a match made in toy heaven. Instead of cool figures like these, the toy aisles are clogged with Man Of Steel crap that are rotting untouched on the shelves.

And here we come to the bane of my existence. Once you pull the figure from the box, you're not done! You've got your work cut out for you, as there are at least thirteen wire ties to get through before you can release the figure. What sadistic bastard thinks this is a good idea?.

Once you finally get it out of the package, you're rewarded with a huge, solid and very nicely detailed action figure.

I'm not kidding when I say it's detailed. It's covered in little hatches and panels and vents. The longer you look at it the more detail you see. It really is an amazing piece of work.

In addition to the excellent detailing the figure features a top notch paint job. The pistons look suitably grease covered, the wiring looks like, well, wiring and the outer panels have a wash on them to simulate wear. In the film the Jaegers didn't just roll off the assembly line, they'd been around for years and taken quite a beating. The paint wash helps sell that idea and is a welcome addition. 

Now the bad news. I was disappointed with the articulation of the figure. The 7" version wasn't very well articulated, but that's to be expected. A figure in this scale should have articulation coming out its... er, ears. Sadly, it doesn't.

That's not to say it doesn't have any. The head turns and the shoulders appear to be ball jointed, although the design of the body limits their movement. The elbows and wrists are articulated as well. There's an ab-crunch joint that doesn't really move much, and hip, knee, ankle and heel articulation.

Now I admit that when you list it all out like that it sounds like a lot, but the range of motion of many of the joints is limited and can't really move much. There's no excuse for that in a figure of this size.

I suppose the limited articulation may be a result of trying to keep the cost down. Stupid economic and price points! 

Here's an example of the sub-par articulation. The elbow joints allow you to bend the arms an astonishing 45 degrees or so. That was, I say that was sarcasm, son.

 I was also disappointed by the hands. They're forever frozen in fist form. A figure this size ought to have some sort of finger articulation, or an extra set of hands at least. 

Again, this probably came down to cost.

Articulation complaints aside, this really is a beautiful figure. Well, if you think giant robots are beautiful, that is. Just look at that profile!

Here's a close up of the detailing on the legs. Pretty cool!

More leg details, including pistons, vents and simulated machinery.

There are all kinds of flanges and plates that appear to be separate pieces that are glued onto the figure, rather than molded as one big piece. This helps it look more detailed and less toy like.

A lot of these hatches and flanges feel like they should open up. If they do, I haven't figured out how to open them.

The only such moveable parts I've found are these flaps on the back. I'm not really sure what they're supposed to be or why they decided to make them-- and only them-- move, but there you go.

Surprisingly the figure can stand by itself in this obligatory reverse Bigfoot pose.

The 18" Gipsy Danger (man, I can't get used to spelling "gypsy" with an "I") has a light up feature in the head and chest. It's activated by a well-hidden button on the back of its neck.

The light up feature is pretty darned bright too.

Hey, when it's lit up like that it looks just like a scene from the movie...

No, wait. THIS is how it looked in the movie. You'd think that in this day and age we'd have advanced past the point where we have to render our CGI characters in the dark and the rain to make them look real, but I guess not.

Gipsy Danger comes with two, and only two, accessories: the chain swords. You plug the chain swords into slots at the wrist, above the hands.

I'm not sure why they included two chain swords, as they only used one in the movie, but I'm not gonna look a gift accessory in the mouth. 

I kind of wish they'd given us one rigid and one flaccid (heh) chain sword, as in the film.

Here's the 18" Gipsy Danger next to the usual can of Pepsi Throwback for scale. As you can see, she's big. Very big. Surprisingly big. I have no idea where I'm going to display her either. I need a bigger house. Or less crap.

Here's the 18" Gipsy Danger next to the 7" version. Quite a difference!

A cut scene from Pacific Rim, in which the massive Gipsy Danger tenderly cradles its offspring.

So what's the verdict? Is the 18" Gipsy Danger a buy or a pass? It's very highly detailed and looks awesome, but the articulation and accessories are somewhat lacking, considering the scale and the price point. It's got a nice light up feature too. It's not a perfect figure by any means, but I'd say the pros outweigh the cons. If you're a fan of the film, you have room for it and you're lucky enough to find one, I say go for it.
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