Review: Superman vs. the Elite

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s OH DEAR GOD RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!

September 14, 2012

I’ve made my distaste for Superman known before. I think he’s an overpowered brute that’s too far removed from humanity to really matter. He’s as close to a physical god as DC can show and still remain viable as a recurring character that won’t break the story.

And yet…

I was pleasantly surprised by Superman vs. the Elite. If done properly, I believe nearly any story idea can work. Well, almost any, but you get the point. I was intrigued because the movie is based on a Superman storyline, “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice, and the American Way?” that asked the eternal question.

“Why is Superman still relevant?”


Two down, two to go! by ~BaSHeL1K on deviantART

The Story

Superman fights the Atomic Skull on the streets of Metropolis and causes millions in collateral damage. To draw Superman out, Skull nukes several civilians. At a meeting of the UN, Superman is asked how he can keep just locking up supervillains when he could easily just take care of them permanently. He counters that his ways don’t involve killing, that he wants to show the world that even if all his power, he can be better than a common thug.

Some, however, feel that Superman could be doing more to keep dangerous super-powered criminals down.

Enter the Elite, a group that vocally supports Superman’s efforts to rid the world of crime, but their tactics are much more brutal. And they’re not afraid to kill. After seemingly putting an end to several catastrophes ranging from super-powered villains to terrorists to a possible war in Eastern Europe, the world sings the praises of the Elite over Superman, but Supes thinks the world may regret it…

The Good

The story is an interesting one for me from a thematic standpoint. Does Superman really matter anymore? Do we need the “Boy Scout?”

Yes, the movie says. Like I said, Superman is as close a god as the DC Universe has to offer (aside from those other gods) and puts criminals away. He doesn’t kill, which means villains have a chance of coming back. His adherence to the law means that he’s constantly tied down by bureaucracy and politics. The Elite, however, have no qualms about such things and easily stop a war and deal with Atomic Skull in the most permanent way possible.

They blow his head up in a public execution. This is just one of many times where the sound effects and animation really sold the fact that, yes, these are demigods we’re talking about, but they’re still getting hurt and it SHOWS.

When Superman decides to show the Elite just what their methods will lead to, he seemingly kills each member one by one, until only their leader, Manchester Black, is left. The true horror of an enraged, vengeful Superman has to be seen to be believed.

The best part?

Superman. Bitch-slapped. Manchester Black. Repeatedly.

Seriously, it’s both awesome and hilarious as Black just loses it and actually cries, begging for his life. Of course, that’s not the end of the story, but I won’t give the ending away.

Oh, and did I mention the SWEET intro sequence?

Overall, the movie goes back and forth between very dark action and black comedy, mostly courtesy of Manchester Black, a villain with style and the rage to be both hilarious one moment and sociopathic the next. I figure if the Joker got telekinesis and tried to be a good guy, he’d be Manchester Black.


Manchester Black by *CaptainUnobservant on deviantART

The Bad

The dialogue can get pretty cheesy, especially at the very end with Superman’s monologue. I’m sorry, but it sounds too much like a motivational poster. Up until that point, I was rooting for Supes, but then I had the urge to put up fliers for the elite. The sentiment was there, but as much as I wanted to side with him, he came off like a bad after-school special.

The Weird

Overall, the movie was fun, but I was actually kind of shocked at the level of violence in this one. People get twisted until their arms and legs break, Manchester Black gives a couple of terrorists strokes (complete with blood from the eyes and mouth), and let’s not even mention Atomic Skull’s victims.

This movie has more cursing and gore than other DCAU movies out there, so it’s really better for the adults than the kids.

Overall, a nice romp. It can get a bit preachy, but I think it delivers in the end. ESPECIALLY in the end. I’m talking of the last twenty minutes.

Final rating? 4 out of 5.

Check out the trailer below.

Star Trek: How Heroes Fall

Readings indicate a “Braga” did this.

September 10, 2012

Last week marked the 46th anniversary of Star Trek. That short-lived series spawned an entire culture, but for me, Star Trek was about more that cool ships, ham and cheese, and cool effects.

Star Trek taught me how hard heroes can fall.

It was 1996. I walked into a movie theater and saw the trailer for Star Trek: First Contact. Soon afterward, I tracked down where I could watch Next Generation and, within three years, I’d tracked down stations showing Deep Space 9, Voyager, and the original series. I rented the movies at Blockbuster and read about the making of the show, bought books on the artwork, technology, everything. I couldn’t ingest Star Trek fast enough.

As I grew up and new movies and series got off the ground, something felt off. I couldn’t quite place my finger on it. As I re-watched old episodes, I didn’t feel the same excitement. Yes, I enjoyed the episodes, but there was something missing, and it was the same feeling I was getting from the newer episodes of Enterprise and the later movies like Insurrection and Nemesis.


Spock, Star Trek by ~Hanger-18-shirts on deviantART

By the time Enterprise was cancelled and Nemesis flopped, I finally figured out what it was that had bothered me for so long. Part of it, I think, was the fact that Star Trek was no longer about analogues to real-world problems or philosophy. Episodes like “City on the Edge of Forever,” “The Measure of a Man,” and “In the Pale Moonlight” are classics that asked big questions about ethics, the nature of sentience, and the morality of war.

By the time Insurrection, Nemesis, and Enterprise came around, Star Trek was about Star Trek. Voyager was probably the worst offender. Every other word was made up and made sense if you knew the internal science on the show and had a complete disregard for actual physics and engineering. Characters were there to function as set pieces. The biggest slap came with Enterprise’s final episode, a supposed grand finale to the story that was really nothing more than a chance to do a B-story to a Next Generation episode.

I was crestfallen.


Star Trek Abbey Road by ~Rabittooth on deviantART

Don’t get me wrong. I do still love Star Trek, warts and all. My friends and I made it a game to pick out the production errors or blatantly wrong scientific terminology. I still think it made a huge impact on my love of science and speculative fiction, and I have fond memories of finding out my mother was a Trekkie in her youth, watching the redeeming 2009 movie with my now-fiancé, and the shared geekness that links me with millions of people around the world.

But Star Trek did force me to admit that even that which we love can betray us. Oh well. We’ll always have Vulcan.

Oh, wait…

Ninja Turtles Sans “Teenage” and “Mutant”

Yeah, not gonna happen.

September 7, 2012

I have made my love of my childhood franchises known for years. When Michael Bay went and gutted the spirit of Transformers and rolled Optimus Prime’s ashes into a large cigar to smoke while he sodomized my memories, I did not take it lightly.

Now, though, he’s going after the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

There will be BLOOD, Bay…

I’ll give him this much. He’s producing. He didn’t write the script and has little control as to the details in the movie. Still, he’s putting his name on it, so against logic and the rules of civilized criticism, I am going to tack this on him.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by ~Zlydoc on deviantART

If you’re willing to read a few excerpts and a small synopsis, go here. I’ll just highlight the… low points.

Shredder is now an Army colonel or something. The turtles are actually aliens from Dimension X. Krang appears but only in the third act. Bebop and Rocksteady also appear, and they’re apparently the only ones who vaguely resemble their original versions. And the writing? Oh my gods… A note to anyone wishing to write a screenplay: don’t tell us the character’s thoughts in the directions. That’s NEVER going to be on the screen. Don’t say a subject is loaded for the characters involved. We should be able to tell. Don’t use weird word-play to describe the action. It’s confusing.

I know, I know. I’m a 28-year old man complaining about a thirty-year old franchise. About anthropomorphic turtles. That know ninjutsu. And fight aliens and mutants. I grew up with it. Fine. I have good memories. Whatever. Things change. I know this.

But this isn’t about how I… feel… about Bay and his lackeys taking this franchise and twisting it into an unrecognizable film project. This is about having respect for the source material.


Eat a D*ck Michael Bay by *TomPreston on deviantART

NOTHING in this script sounds or acts like its comic book or even 80’s 90’s or 2000’s cartoon equivalent. Even the new Nickelodeon cartoon at least shows that it will pay homage and respect to the 80’s roots. This is an action movie that has turtles. It’s like saying Star Trek: First Contact is an adaptation of Star Wars because both have space battles. Even thought the Turtles’ creators are supposedly onboard, I’m going to call “crap” on this whole project.

It’s one thing to expand a short work and add elements to it, much like Red, and end up with a different product that still makes sense. This? This is going to suck.

Let’s try and clean our minds by watching a bad lip reading of Twilight. Trust me. It’s funnier than it sounds.

 

Limbaugh vs. Medieval Literature OR How Robin Hood Can Become a Tea Partier

Is this the face of the Tea Party? Or a Medieval set of stories adapted through the centuries that have now been twisted to serve a pill-popping madman?

August 9, 2012

Limbaugh’s setting a new record for most dumb things said in a single month. Between his claim that The Dark Knight Rises is some sort of slam against Romney and the claim that liberals are somehow trying to make football illegal, he’s wandered into literary territory.

As a writer, I take particular offense to this. Just watch and see if your head doesn’t shoot blood from every pore.

Rush claims that people don’t understand the story of Robin Hood. He fought the government, he says. Most people, according to Limbaugh, think that Robin Hood just stole from the rich to give it to Maid Marian. It’s a lie, Limbaugh cries! He was stealing from the government! That makes him a Tea Party activist. Robin Hood, Limbaugh proudly claims, was anti-taxes.

I see about fifty things wrong with Limbaugh’s analysis, the key one being that he’s still somehow on the air and people are listening to him.

His analysis of Robin Hood as a Tea Party activist, however, is deeply flawed. Let me just say that what we consider the mythology of Robin Hood is actually a composite of various ballads and stories. There is no “definitive” story, but there are various early stories that have laid the path for the modern, popular incarnation. Here’s what can be pieced together.


Limbaugh by ~OblivionSoul327 on deviantART

Sources differ on whether Robin Hood was a commoner or a member of the aristocracy, though the modern portrayal shows him as a man who’s been wronged by Prince John and seeks to reclaim his family’s honor and land. It wasn’t until the 16th century that Robin Hood was given a definitive setting: the 1190’s, when King Richard I fought in the Crusades. There are various references to Robin stealing from the rich and giving to the poor in the original stories, but the general idea was there.

In fact, in popular culture, he stole from a group of aristocrats who made themselves rich by overtaxing the common people. In a way, Limbaugh is right in that Robin Hood was anti-tax, but he’s massively wrong to claim he’s a Tea Partier. The Tea Party, for all its claims that it’s standing up for the little people and the common man, is a branch of Koch Industries. The Tea Party may believe it’s helping the middle class, but the result of their actions are to give MORE power and money to the wealthy. It’s a fact, if we look at an America ruled by the Tea Party, that the results are not good for anyone except rich white Christian fundamentalist men.

Say goodbye to healthcare, police, firefighters, voting rights, education, social security in all its forms, and say hello to surveillance, limited marriage, and corporations that will rule over us like Prince John and his ilk who answer to no one and enforce the laws they see fit. Be sure you buy a gun, because law enforcement and gun regulations are a thing of the past.


The Three Rs by ~poasterchild on deviantART
Tea Partier? Please. Robin Hood would have marched with Occupy. The rich abused and took money from the poor. Robin Hood fought to get that money back and depose those who stepped on the backs of others to get their power. If we’re going strictly by the popular, modern incarnation, as I’m sure Limbaugh is doing since I’m certain he’s not looking up manuscripts stating “Robyn hode in scherewode stod,” he’s obviously never actually seen a Robin Hood movie or TV show.

This is typical of many Right Wing analogies. They lack either context or they deliberately remove one part of the analogy to make sense. Or, like Steve King recently did, they completely lie about what they’re talking about. This is what got me back when Glenn Beck was still on Fox. He kept using movie metaphors like comparing the Tea Party to the heroes in everything from Terminator to It’s a Wonderful Life. He, like Limbaugh, has no clue how to analyze literature or films and misses the important context clues.

If Limbaugh were my student and gave me this kind of analysis, I wouldn’t fail him because I disagreed with his political views. I would flunk him because he seemingly got his plot synopsis from a third-rate SparkNotes knock-off and looked at the story with all the clarity of a particularly nearsighted bat.

Let’s wash away the grating sound of literature dying by watching really bad drivers.

The Dark Knight Rises Review (Spoiler-free)

It’s going… going… IT’S GOOD!

July 23, 2012

I waited three days before writing this review mostly because I knew I was going to fanboy all over it. I’ve waited for this movie for over three years. I wanted to see what Nolan would do with the story since the end of Batman Begins. When the first film was announced, I wanted the Dark Knight to get redemption from Batman and Robin and, to a lesser extent, Batman Forever.

Ladies and gentlemen, I was not only satisfied with the finale of the Dark Knight Trilogy, but utterly blown away by it.

The first half of this review will contain zero to minimal spoilers, or at least spoilers that should be obvious to anyone who saw the trailers or is familiar with Batman lore. The second half, which will be CLEARLY marked, will contain MASSIVE spoilers, so keep going until the end at your own risk.


The Dark Knight Rises Poster by ~visuasys on deviantART

SPOILER FREE REVIEW

The story begins eight years after The Dark Knight. Bruce is broken, both physically and mentally, following the ordeal with the Joker and Two-Face. He’s been retired for years, but Gotham has seemingly gotten by without him. Because of the events in the second film, the Gotham Police Department has been reformed and crime has dropped to historic lows. However, when a mercenary called Bane arrives in Gotham, all bets are off. He’s as trained as Bruce, as unpredictable as the Joker, and more dangerous than Ra’s al Ghul.

And that’s just the first fifteen minutes.

The movie did a lot of very good things with both story and characters. Bruce, for example, is showing the real emotional and physical toll of crime fighting for years. His leg is busted and he’s retired due to the events at the end of The Dark Knight. His reluctance to return in this movie shows that Batman may be the peak of human training, but he’s still human. His desire to become a symbol has succeeded and Gotham is safe (at least until Bane arrives), but in the end, Batman must succumb to Bruce Wayne’s own human frailty, both physical and emotional.

At first, the movie felt like it was moving way too fast, but then I looked at it through the point of view of traditional narrative structure. The entire Dark Knight Saga can be seen as one massive story, so in this third act, we can do away with traditional structure. It’s definitely a movie that needs the first two in order to make sense since every bit of backstory is based on those films.


The Dark Knight Rises by ~darroldhansen89 on deviantART

But how does it stack next to The Dark Knight, a movie few think can be topped as far as superhero movies are concerned?

Bane is no Joker, but that doesn’t make him any less interesting. He’s scary. He’s the intelligent, manipulative, BRUTALLY effective warrior from the comics, not the mindless ape from Batman and Robin. While he’s a bit difficult to understand with his mask, he’s not unintelligible and it’s easy to pick up his patterns. I don’t see Tom Hardy winning an Oscar, but I don’t see him NOT taking a place among the great villains in movies. When he speaks or appears, he steals the scene, and his humor, while dry, is very creepy.

Story-wise, the movie moves quickly. It takes bits and pieces from Batman lore, such as the iconic storylines Knightfall and No Man’s Land. One review I read already said the second half of the film doesn’t do the first justice, but I think the author missed the point. The movie is split almost entirely in two due to a single event around the halfway mark that should be obvious to those familiar with the Knightfall story. From that point until the end, the movie moves in a very dark, and very epic, direction. The review in The Atlantic complained that instead of going for the realistic noir approach of The Dark Knight, Nolan went for the epic comic-book feel of the first film.

I think this had to be done.


Why do we fall by ~lerms on deviantART

Like I said, this is the third act. This is where everything comes to a head, and despite Alfred’s insistence that Bruce had to find another way aside from being Batman, he was wrong. The city needed his example many years ago, and right now, he’s the only one who can save them from Bane’s master plan. These films are a deconstruction of the superhero myth. They break down what it would take to be a superhero, then they built the myth back up. The Incredibles did something similar, and the big payoff for the audience in this case is that yes, Batman can be real, and yes, he’s a symbol that’s larger than life.

Make no mistake, though. This movie is the last for Nolan and Bale. This is the end. There will be no fourth Nolan Batman movie. As such, the movie has the massive task of ending Bruce Wayne’s story and Batman himself, and without giving anything away, I firmly believe Nolan pulled it off with grace and a sense of believability. Others have tried to write how Bruce Wayne would end his career as Batman. One of the most famous, The Dark Knight Returns by fallen hero Frank Miller, showed an aging Bruce Wayne taking up the mantle one final time before finally succumbing to age, but not before he fought Superman to a standstill.

Other versions, such as the one from the DC Animated Universe, showed Bruce also retiring when his body simply couldn’t take it. He eventually passed the Batman mantle to another and served as a mentor for many years.

Nolan doesn’t really go that route, but it’s a wonderful ending to Bruce Wayne’s life as Batman. The movie is, in its entirety, amazing. There was ONE little moment where I chuckled at an inappropriate moment, but I’m sure my mouth was hanging open the entire time. I would see this movie on loop for a week if given the chance.

Solid work all-around.

SPOLIERS AFTER THE IMAGE! STOP READING IF YOU REALLY DON’T WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!


Bane’s secret by ~MacAddict17 on deviantART

The complaints I’ve heard so far has been with the second half of the movie. It’s too bright and Batman runs off with Selena Kyle and abandons Gotham. Also, we have the ridiculous accusations from both sides that Bane is either a stand-in for Romney and the Bain Capital fiasco or a condemnation of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

First off, the movie HAS to be bright. Think about it. Bruce has lost his fortune. His secret is compromised. For all intents and purposes, his life is over, but he can still give Bane one final fight. Batman can’t operate in the darkness after the League of Shadows cuts Gotham off from the rest of the world. He can’t just be a symbol. He must be a symbol and a man, someone who leads by example, and sure enough, there he is at the end, fighting in broad daylight with rescued police officers to reclaim the city. Fittingly, the final battle takes place at dawn, during a new day, and as the movie showed in the beginning, Gotham itself is entering a new day.

Batman won. His crusade overcame fear, anarchy, and iron-fisted order to create something better.

As for Bruce running off with Selena, this one’s trickier. How much longer can he remain as Batman? The doctor told him it would be dangerous, and he’s already suffered broken vertebrae and his leg is busted. He can want to do this all day long, but his body just can’t take more. This is perhaps the most realistic aspect of the movie for me. Bruce realized, like the beginning of The Dark Knight, that he would eventually have to step aside. While Harvey Dent was a massive failure in that regard, when the city as a whole came together, they did what one man could not do. With the Wayne fortune gone, Bruce really has nothing but burned bridges behind him. Faking his death after saving the city from the nuclear bomb allowed him to move on. Bruce Wayne and Batman are dead. No one will look for him, and he could leave confident the city would survive with its new protector: Robin John Blake.


Bane’s Bain by ~fiendfilms on deviantART

As for the accusations of what Bane is supposed to represent, this one is not as clear-cut.

Some on the Right are mad because he’s supposed to represent Bain Capital. I already said why this was such an idiotic theory. However, the speeches about Gotham reclaiming its wealth from the rich and Selena’s speech to Bruce about how the wealthiest people can’t live that way for too long make it sound as though the villains are supposed to stand in for the Occupy Movement.

That is also extremely stupid for a number of reasons.

Bane is “liberating” the city by taking out the police, much like Republicans have stripped police departments across the country of resources and manpower. His idea of freedom is to get rid of every social program and structure and just let people fend for themselves. The regular people are at the grip of courts run by the most powerful. Military hardware is being used against those who would oppose them, much like anti-riot hardware such as sonic weapons were used against Occupy. The final fight sees police fighting armed thugs. The police, in this case, are the people. They are the ones who have been powerless. If anything, Bane represents the establishment, status quo. This is even more explicit when you remember that Bane is working to fulfill Talia al Ghul’s plan of getting rid of Gotham because of its immorality, a line often parroted by right-wing fundamentalists.

So, no, Bane does not represent Romney’s former company, but he does represent a lot of the things the people on the Right do. It’s not a perfect analogy since the tactics he employs are superficially similar to what Occupy did, but the results and rationale are vastly different.

That’s my interpretation at least.

The movie rocked. I’d see it again. Now to wait and see if the next DC hero, Superman, gets a similar resurgence. The first teaser already looks wonderful, shot realistically, and has two versions: one with Pa Kent narrating and one with Jor-El.

Corn Syrup vs. Computer

Ah, horror movies. At one point, they were entertaining. When did we stop trying?

July 6, 2012

I miss old movies.

It’s how I know I’m getting old. I don’t miss them for the usual reasons, though. It’s not that we aren’t making good movies nowadays. I thoroughly enjoyed Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. The Dark Knight was a blast. 28 Days Later was awesome. In general, it’s not so much the old plots and conventions that I miss, but rather the special effects, and this goes mostly for horror movies.

Can we please stop using CGI for EVERYTHING?

I realize it’s easier for a lot of studios to make a CG monster and it grants the opportunity to make effects for nearly any budget level, but that doesn’t mean the effects look good. Or real. Take a look at these two short clips. Tell me which one looks better, more real, and strikes a better cord with the audience in terms of suspension of disbelief.

And now, Exhibit B:

Okay, I know. I’m comparing one of the classic 90’s movies, and one of the pioneers of the modern special effects movement, to a SyFy channel original movie starring Edward “Wanna Pay to Watch Me Poop on a Plate” Furlong. It’s not a fair comparison.

But I’m really only focusing on the effects. Even a movie like Terminator 3, which should have had effects ten times better and more realistic than T2, actually looked worse. The news is even worse for horror movies. With CG, you can create all the gory little cuts you want, add squibs, or show us the insides of your hapless victims. It’s good to have these tools, but like overeager writing students who think they can write a sonnet and not worry about meter because rules are meant to be broken, moviemakers have gone overboard.

Even Rob Zombie, a man who is an avowed fan of horror movies, couldn’t resist going CG with his own movies despite making them as an homage to 70’s horror and exploitation flicks. While I’m not one who thinks gore equals horror, it does add a level of realism to have actual props, blood, and monsters on camera. We’re not at the point where CG can totally recreate reality, at least not on the levels some studios think it can.

Maybe some day it will look as good, but we’re not there yet. I actually miss watching behind-the-scenes videos that showed the ingenuity needed to make shots occur. Now, behind-the-scenes videos are just information on how many terabytes certain things took up.

All I’m saying is… take the time to make it look good. Or at least make an effort. If it feels like it was too easy, it probably was.

And now, I leave you with a trailer for a movie that, despite using CG, seems to rely more on actual plot. Time will tell, though.

The Death of Heroes, the Rise of Hope

June 20, 2012

WARNING: This article contains spoilers for the Justice League episode, “Legends.”

Between the new story and the superhero campaign I’d like to run in a few weeks when we take another break, I’ve had superheroes in the brain. I grew up a Superman fan, then Spiderman, and have moved to Batman. The allegories in superhero stories, those that are well-written anyway, are applicable to a story about a soldier, especially when told partially through the point of view of his young daughter.

In doing a little digging into the old classics, both DC and Marvel, I came across an old episode of Justice League that… well, it’s not the flashiest (no pun intended) and it doesn’t feature the epic villains of the DC universe… but it’s possibly one of the greatest moments in the DC Animated Universe.

“Legends” revolves around Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, and Hawkgirl being transported into a parallel world ripped from the pages of 1950’s American nostalgia. It’s all there: the campy villains, the clean and idyllic city, and its protectors, the Justice Guild of America, composed of barely-disguised versions of Silver Age comic book heroes from the DC universe. Green Lantern recognizes the Guild as characters from comic books he read when he was younger, comic books that helped give him the moral compass he would later employ as a member of the Green Lantern Corp. In this reality, he figures, those characters were real…

The big problem, of course, is trying to get the League members back to their own reality, but as the trio gets caught in the Adam Westian crime-fighting of the JGA, hi-jinks so tame that Captain Boomerang looks like flippin’ Darkseid by comparison, they discovered a bigger problem.


Silver Age DC vs Mortal Kombat by ~thechrishaley on deviantART

It turns out the world was devastated in a nuclear war decades ago and the Guild was killed trying to stop it. The heroes the League members have been interacting with are the creation of an insane mutant psychic who’s recreated the “perfect” world of the past to cope with the devastated world around him. As he lashes out against the League and soundly beats them, the Justice Guild of America realizes that stopping their creator will save Flash, GL, Martian Manhunter, and Hawkgirl… but it will mean their own death.

And then one of them utters a line that gives me chills every time I hear it.

“We died once to save this Earth… We can do it again.”

And they jump into the fight. It’s campy. It’s cheesy. It’s every clichéd move you can imagine.

But never have the phrases, “Crime doesn’t pay,” and “Let justice prevail,” as hokey and out-dated as they may seem in a world of Rorschach, Frank Castle, and John Constantine, sounded as awesome and inspiring during that final battle.


JUSTICE LEAGUE by *earache-J on deviantART

The idealism of the Pleasantville-style world was not perfect, though. The episode does have hints that the JGA has its fair share of sexism and even racism, but it’s nothing that would have been out of place in post-WW2 America. The Leaguers don’t shy away from condemning it, though.

But why is this episode one of the greatest?

Because as dark as DC animation can get, it’s expected. Think back to the 50’s or even the 60’s. You would NEVER have had a heroic sacrifice like this. Death in general was something avoided. Criminals got beaten to a pulp, then tossed in jail. The heroes prevailed, moved on to the next case, and wackiness ensued. This episode’s climax involves the realization that billions are dead, the world is a fantasy created by psychotic man-child, and the mutant psychic who created the illusion is something straight out of Tales from the Crypt.

It’s the intrusion of the Other, the concept that something is utterly shocking or disturbing when introduced into a non-standard setting. Imagine a war zone. Someone with a gun is to be expected. Now place that same character in the middle of a school and you get horror. The Guild could easily have doubled as extras in the Adam West Batman series, yet here they showed the kind of sacrifice and bravery usually reserved for heroes in a world where death is very real, and that’s saying something since death has a very buttery grasp on superheroes and supervillains. The final scene, though still tame since it IS a kid’s show, was akin to watching Mickey Mouse go on a suicide mission. It was like watching Archie take a bullet for Jughead from a gunman at Riverdale High.


Paranormal Archie by ~dio-03 on deviantART

I’ve been called everything from a jaded mess to a cynic. I’m a skeptic through a through.

I’m not afraid to say I choked up when the Guild made their sacrifice and showed, not simply said, they were heroes who stood for truth and justice.

I know it’s only a cartoon, but I grew up with stories like this. Later, I found out even death was cheap in comic books. But those comic books also helped me see right and wrong in a world of fantastic villains and heroes. As much as Sesame Street shaped my language, comic books shaped my idealism. It’s not that I think humanity is wretched and unworthy of this world. The reason I get so angry at the propaganda, the lies, and hatred I see, the reason I write and the reason I keep this site going, is because I think we’re better than that. I want to help others realize it.

We don’t have superheroes. It’s just us. I’m not going to wait for a red and blue flash to fly in and save the day.

And in case you still think I’m making too much of this, here’s the full episode.

We’re All Going to Get Eaten

Run! It's a horror trope!

June 1, 2012

Well… It was bound to happen. As Buzzfeed reported via Will Wheaton, the zombie apocalypse has begun in Florida. That state’s already the epicenter of every other weird thing that happens, so why not the living dead? Of course, we also have the guy who ate someone’s heart and brain in Baltimore and the guy in New York who threw his own intestines at police. I’m willing to chalk it all up to some seriously bad trips. Maybe.

But now I’m scared. The funny thing is that geeks the world over have been planning for this day for years. We know what’s up. We know a shotgun is worse than a long-range rifle in these cases. Of course, that assumes we’re dealing with slow zombies and now quick runners. We’re not the only ones planning, though.


Zombie fingers by =Meiio on deviantART

We’ve got zombie-proof housing, for example. Kansas also sold out all its missile-silo homes. Barring a foot of concrete and steel between you and the undead, though, maybe a bladed weapon deigned to break through bone and muscle? I’m not joking. There’s a company that makes melee weapons specifically to dismember zombies. Hornady even sells bullets specifically designed to take out these undead menace. They claim they work since we haven’t seen any zombies lately. I’m going to bet they need to change their slogan now. Me? I’d love to have a few blessed bullets from “Elves With Shotguns.”

I don’t know if it’s viral or if hell is now full. Maybe there’s some Big Dumb Object putting out plot rays and turning people into barely-restrained cannibals.


Zombie Outbreak Survival Kit by ~Christofurr on deviantART

I just know that when things get real, the geeks shall inherit the Earth. We’ve been planning for years. We have our plans. When the blood-soaked fog clears, it will be a world of nerds and survivalists. This new era of humanity will mean many less people, sure, but traffic will be much lighter. Plans, of course, never survive first contact with the enemy, so I’m not entirely sure if zombie survival plans will really work out now. Maybe the zombies will retain enough critical thinking to be much more dangerous enemies who just happen to be bullet-proof except for the classic head-shot.

Or maybe these are just a series of unrelated stories that we’ve pieced together into a humorous narrative of flesh-eating undead.

In that spirit, let’s enjoy the great-grand-pappy of zombie fiction: Night of the Living Dead. See you on Monday, and don’t forget to pick up your copy of “Elves With Shotguns” at RPGNow!

“Bait 3D” Trailer Review

Incoming bomb!

May 23, 2012

I just saw… something. I’m not sure I can adequately describe what it was, so I’ll just let you watch the video. Warning, though. It’s a red band trailer and includes some gore.

From the movie description:

Torn apart by a tragic accident, former couple Josh (Xavier Samuel) and Tina (Sharni Vinson) come face to face in a supermarket for the first time since their break up a year earlier. The awkward encounter comes moments before a robbery takes place; and then the unimaginable occurs, a tsunami swallows the sleepy beach community.

Josh and Tina find themselves in a desperate situation, trapped in the underground supermarket along with other survivors from the store with no escape. Rushing water quickly floods the supermarket threatening to entomb them in a watery grave. Before long the survivors discover they are not alone, the tsunami has brought unwanted visitors from the depths. The survivors quickly realise their battle is not only to overcome the threat of drowning and the predator within their midst, but a threat far more sinister — hungry great white sharks.

Okay… just what the hell were they trying to sell? It started off like some romance movie right out of Nicholas Sparks. We start off with a couple in some sort of trouble that’s trying to get their lives in order? Okay. Sounds pretty standard. Then we get a robbery complete with scary-looking masks. Okay… so is it now a crime drama? A thriller? Then we get the tsunami that levels the town and now it’s turned into a disaster survival film. And of course, it doesn’t end there.

Bring on the sharks.


Shark by ~firest0rm22 on deviantART

Any one of those set-ups would have been good for a movie. I don’t watch romantic movies, but I’m sure many of you might have been interested in the story of a couple trying to stay together after a tragedy. Then things go downright weird. It makes me think people just really don’t care about the movies that get put out. As much as I’m waiting to see The Avengers, The Hobbit, and The Dark Knight Rises, those are all derivative from older works or sequels. I can’t really recall the last original movie I saw that really gave me a thrill.

Mary and I just saw Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, though, a GREAT horror thriller with zero gore for all you horror newbies out there, and that was a really good time.

Bait, though?


The Slender man Movie Poster by ~TinyButDeadly on deviantART

If this movie actually makes good money at the box office, I’m going to start pitching my own ideas until one of them sticks and I get a movie deal.

A jaded Iraqi war veteran returns home to start his life over. But the town mayor, his old high school rival, has stolen his woman. Then, they decide to settle it once and for all with a table hockey match, the country’s leading sport. That’s when the zombies attack. I’m thinking Will Ferrell as our veteran.

No? Okay, how about this?

A bumbling IT guy tries to get a promotion at work by installing new servers in one night, accidently creating an AI that help him in life and love. However, his father has recently died and willed him a mansion purported to be haunted and he must spend the night to receive the rest of his inheritance. However, the house is filled with teens having a wild weekend party while being stalked by a mysterious psycho-killer.

Oh! Even better! High school sweethearts get invited to a raucous party in the middle of the woods. When they get there, everyone is missing and a mysterious figure is stalking them. It turns out to be an adorable alien stranded on Earth who needs their help. The catch is that they’re also being hunted by government agents. Who are also aliens. From the future.

Trailers and movie descriptions are not above making a movie sound different than it really is, so I’m sure this is mostly a monster movie of some sort, but it really irks me with the way five different plots were seemingly strung together. At best, Bait looks like a hastily-put-together monster movie. At worst, it’ll be thirty minutes of watching these idiots go through their lives before something interesting happens.

I’ll skip this one.

Instead, I think I’ll watch these other idiots hurt themselves through sheer stupidity.

Tim Burton’s Greatest Mistake?

Johnny here is trying to figure out how to get his soul back from Burton.

March 19, 2012

I was excited when I heard Dark Shadows was going to get a movie adaptation. First of all, it was being directed by Tim Burton. Second of all, it starred Johnny Depp, though that’s kind of a given at this point. Burton and Depp did a great job adapting Sleepy Hollow, one of the great horror comedies of all time as far as I’m concerned. Burton has a good track record (even considering Alice in Wonderland) and he has a style that would lend itself to the campy soap opera.

And then I saw the trailer. If you missed it in the last article, here it is. Keep a tissue handy. You may cry like I did.

Yeah…

I’ll admit I’ve never seen Dark Shadows. I wish I had. It was one of those shows that had a good amount of camp to it but managed to hold its own despite a hectic schedule and soap opera storylines. The fact that it’s still watched and talked about today makes me think it’s something to put on my Netflix queue. In fact, two of my favorite shows, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel could be seen as spiritual successors to some of the things Dark Shadows started, namely using supernatural themes

But this?

I’m getting flashbacks to Alice in Wonderland. I love Burton’s style. It’s like a child’s fantasy on acid. My on artwork was influenced by the darks and playfulness and the way something cute might become something horrific at any moment. Lots of black, lots of white, a little gray, and let the creepiness do the rest. Burton, though, seems to be forgetting the lesson he learned from Sleep Hollow.

If you change something, it better be to make the end product superior.


Sleepy Hollow by ~Mize-meow on deviantART

Sure, the old series was full of little mistakes and the production could have used some polishing, but at least it tried. Now, instead of a drama, we’ve got what looks like a fish out of temporal water story. We’ve already got the same tired joke of the visitor from the past getting freaked out by television and the very unfunny mix-ups with modern slang. So far, I haven’t seen anything that tells me this will build on the original series’ legacy or form. There’s nothing groundbreaking about it.

Maybe I’m wrong. I hope so. Alice in Wonderland was an atrocity. This looks no better. Next thing you know, someone will take Quantum Leap and make it into a zany buddy comedy starring Ashton Kutcher and Jack Black. Ooh! How about we bring back Law and Order but make it a musical comedy starring Zac Effron as Lennie Briscoe?

Hollywood, cut it out before we, the fans, decide to pool our resources and invest in a neutron bomb.

And to clean out the broken dreams, here is every episode of Itchy and Scratchy, all in one place.