Friday, May 29, 2015

‘What We Do in the Shadows’ Is a Fresh, Hilarious Spoof of Vampire Mythology



What We Do in the Shadows is a mockumentary from New Zealand about four vampire flatmates of varied ages and personalities.  With a documentary crew following them around for a couple of months, the undead friends are filmed arguing about house chores, roaming around clubs to pick up victims, accepting a neophyte vampire and his human friend into their circle, dabbling in modern technology, bickering with werewolves, obsessing about past flames, and other matters of their daily nightly lives.

This movie succeeds in hitting all the right notes in parodying known vampire tropes, and the script itself is cleverly-written and extremely funny.  Everything about this movie’s set-up is silly, but there are no needlessly dumb jokes.  Moreover, the humanization of the vampire characters provides relatability and thoughtfulness to the story.

On what it is intending to be, I think What We Do in the Shadows is flawless and inspired.  It is never dull, is consistently humorous, and, at this point, head-to-head with Spy as my choice for 2015’s best comedy film.

That Time When Kobe Taught Me to Love Defense

Note: this is from the draft of a post I wrote some years ago in a LA Lakers fan community blog, with some slight edits.


In basketball, the defensive aspect of the game is often overlooked by most audience.  It’s just that offense’s elements – like dunks, alley-oops, fadeaways, 3-point shots, killer crossovers, and no-look passes – can easily incite excitement from its observers.  If defense is ever given any attention, it’s mostly on blocking – an incomplete and, sometimes, misleading indicator of good defense.

I love playing defense; I understand its value.  But during my early years of being basketball fan, I lacked the appreciation for it.  Yeah, I encountered stuff that preached the importance of defense with sayings like “Defense wins championships” and such.  But I never really quite fully grasped the idea.  I was also aware that Kobe was one of the best defenders of the league – being a consistent All-Defensive Team selection through the seasons.  But I was numb to that fact, taking it for granted with the same degree of apathy as knowing the fact that he plays for the Lakers.  My awe for his exciting offensive skill-set probably blinded me of his equally impressive defensive capabilities.

Then it all changed because of one game.  It was way back in March 15 (16 in my timezone), 2004 – a regular season game between the LA Lakers and the Orlando Magic; it was one of my most favorite duels between Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady.

First of all, let me establish how I consider T-Mac the closest thing there is (so far) to a Kobe Bryant-clone, hence, I respect him.  He was, like Kobe, an awesome well-rounded offensive player and also had his legendary clutch moments (e.g. 13 points in the last 35 seconds to steal the win from the Spurs).

In this particular game against the Lakers, during the first half, T-Mac single-handedly torched the Lakers.  In comparison, Kobe was quiet in the offense during the first half.

But in the second half, Kobe went to gunslinger mode and shot the lights out of the Magic.  Above that, Kobe took over the defensive assignment of guarding T-Mac and neutralized him.  And it blew. me. away.  That’s the time when something just clicked inside my head which made the fact of Kobe’s awesomeness as a defender dawn on me and made me fully appreciate and comprehend the awesomeness of defense.

The Lakers won that game, with a large part due to Kobe’s brilliant performance in both offense and defense.  It is also worth nothing that Kobe had a shoulder injury at that time, and isn’t completely at his 100%.  He was just that awesome.

From then on, I would fully enjoy Kobe as a defender almost as much as a scorer, and I get to love the defensive aspect of the game.

I understand why defense is not so popular with people.  It’s hard work.  And basketball is supposed to be play, right?  A tomahawk dunk?  That’s fun.  A buzzer-beating three-pointer?  That’s fun.  A behind-the-back assist? That’s fun.  Shadowing your man all game long?  Not at all.  Moreover, it’s unrewarding, as people will tend to remember that one time your man embarrass you with an ankle-breaker rather than those five other times that you made him miss his shot. 

But to those who learned to embrace defense, they find something romantic and thrilling about this underappreciated and grinding facet of the game – that there’s a special kind of satisfaction and achievement to be derived from it as much as in putting the ball through the hoop.  And thanks to that one Kobe Bryant moment, I get to understand that.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Pros & Cons of the 'Supergirl' Pilot



Just like what happened last year with the respective pilots of The Flash and Constantine, the pilot for the new DC TV series Supergirl was recently leaked online months before the season officially starts.  Here are my thoughts – labelled in Pros and Cons:

CON: It was completely the same as the trailer – and I disliked the trailer. 

When the trailer for The Flash pilot came out last year, I was underwhelmed – it didn’t compel me to watch it.  But I did.  And I was glad I did, because, though the plot of the pilot was basically summarized by the trailer already, the pilot itself turned out to be more awesome as I was expecting.  It won me over.  From then on, I was hooked.  And now, a full season later, The Flash has become my most favorite ongoing TV show.

I was hoping that it would be the same way with Supergirl.  Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be.  The trailer perfectly embodied the tone and direction of the pilot.  There’s too much The Devil Wears Prada vibes.  It’s littered with YA rom-com tropes, hence, there’s always this nagging feeling it’s targeting the demographic that avidly watches YA rom-com.  Ugh.

Hence, with all these things going against it, I was more sensitive in picking up unimaginative, bland, or dumb parts.  And there was an unforgivable amount of them.  There are flaws in The Flash as well, but I don’t care, since the flaws are outweighed by all the fun and excitement it generates.

PRO: Melissa Benoist as Supergirl. 

When the first image of Benoist’s Supergirl was released earlier this year, I felt that, at least, as far as appearance was concerned, the casting was perfect.  And it made me excited for the series.  After the pilot, I still think that she looked amazing for the part.

CON: Supergirl isn’t compelling half of the time.

Again, this might be The Devil Wears Prada vibes ruining the characterization of the character.  Everything feels annoyingly off.  To be fair, there is no real definitive characterization of Supergirl.  But, still, I don’t think that Supergirl is someone that struggles with her self-worth or considers the word “girl” demeaning that she’s bothered she has been christened “Supergirl.”  Yes, there are times that she struggles with things like finding her purpose or finding her place in the world or living up to the legacy of Superman, but she doesn’t mope – she gets mad.  She has lesser restraint and patience than Superman.  Heck, in the New 52 version, there’s much anger in her that she even became a Red Lantern.

PRO: Mehcad Brooks as Jimmy Olsen.

Supergirl’s version of Jimmy Olsen resonates with pleasant good-nature, optimism, and charm.  I easily find him likable from the first scene he appears.

He’s a unique version of “Superman’s pal.”  He’s black and non-geeky, and serves as Superman’s liaison to Supergirl (more about this later).  Also, if what some articles are saying is true, he is going to be Supergirl’s love interest.  I find that intriguing.

PRO: Superman exists in this universe.

Because it’s not going to make sense if he does not.  The character of Supergirl is always hinged on the mythos of Superman.  Of course, the show could have opted to take the whole Superman mythos and made it Supergirl’s own – like, there’s no Kal-El at all, and only Kara Zor-El was sent from Krypton to Earth.  That could work, but it will really be weird and confusing.

CON: But he probably won’t really appear in person.

Still, Warner Bros./DC won’t allow a live-action Superman to happen in TV that is more than a cameo.  Hence, this probably means that Supergirl’s Superman is going to be like the “Mother” in How I Met Your Mother? – just out there, but won’t make an actual appearance (until, maybe, at the latter seasons of the series).

Seriously, he sends Jimmy to talk to Kara in his behalf instead of talking to her personally?!  I find that so stupid.  And, sadly, more of this stupid kind of writing is sure to come to avoid putting Superman on the screen.

PRO: Jeremy Jordan as Winn Schott… maybe.

To be honest, I’m still neutral about him.  And it was kind of strange that Kara would quickly tell him her real identity just like that.  But Winn is supposed to be the obligatory IT/tech guy for this show (since every show these days has at least one such character), and the thing about this kind of stock character is that either you get to like them immediately (Arrow’s Felicity Smoak, Leverage’s Alec Hardison) or you initially found them unlikable but eventually liked them over time (The Flash’s Cisco Ramon).  So, yeah, there’s a good chance I’ll like this guy.

CON: Calista Flockhart as Cat Grant.

She has a big hand in giving the pilot The Devil Wears Prada vibe that I hated.

CON: David Harewood as Hank Henshaw… maybe.

The moment he opened his mouth, I know that this is a xenophobic A-hole I will hate all series long.  But there’s a chance this could be a good thing in the long run.  Sometimes, loathed characters became the kind “you love to hate”, which actually makes the character – especially villains – compelling.  Besides, if the show will take its cue from the comics, Hank Henshaw could eventually become Cyborg Superman – in my opinion, the greatest Superman villain next to Lex Luthor, Brainiac, and Doomsday – down the road.

CON: Chyler Leigh as Alex Danvers

Alex Danvers feels like more of a plot device rather than an actual character.  It’s as if she only exists to help push the plot rather than being part of the plot.  She’s that generic character who has a close relationship with the main hero/heroine, and possesses some hidden, vague resentment/jealousy for the hero/heroine, and initially discourages the hero/heroine from being a hero/heroine because – you know – hidden, vague resentment/jealousy, but eventually supports and encourages the hero/heroine because love overcomes all.  Pfffft.

PRO: The “Danvers” surname

In the comics, the Matrix, a shape-shifting version of Supergirl (this was the first version of Supergirl I encountered; this was way back during the “Death of Superman” storyline) from an alternate reality, merged with a character named Linda Danvers to became a new, white-shirted version of Supergirl.  So will this version of Supergirl appear in the show?  Or is it just a loose reference?  Will other versions of Supergirl appear in this show?  Will Power Girl?!  Maybe I’m overthinking things, but more unexpected awesomeness have happened already in current super hero shows.

PRO: Potential for crossover with the The Flash/Arrow universe

Just look how adorable this is…
"On your mark, get set..."
But establishing that Supergirl exists in the same universe as The Flash and Arrow won’t make sense.  Again, Superman exists in the Supergirl universe, so if the Supergirl universe is the same as The Flash/Arrow universe, why was there no mention at all of him prior?  Thus, I don’t like this approach.

How can a crossover happen then?  Grant Gustin said in a recent interview that The Flash will be exploring the multi-verse in season 2.  So, yeah, let them use a cross-universe phenomenon to make that crossover happen.

PRO: Greg Berlanti is on the helm.

This is the same guy that has brought us The Flash and Arrow.  Hence, there’s a good chance that Supergirl will improve.  It was a subpar pilot, but it was only a pilot nonetheless.  The writing could get better; the characters could become more interesting eventually, and less boring or irritating.  I think Mr. Berlanti has earned enough goodwill for me to give this show at least half-a-season of a chance.  

Saturday, May 23, 2015

'Tomorrowland' Is a Disappointment, but Still Worth Watching



This original science fiction story, which is somewhat inspired by the futuristic themed land of Disney theme parks, tells the story of a promising teenager named Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) who got hold of a mysterious pin that allowed her to see a glimpse of a secret futuristic utopia named “Tomorrowland.”  Enamored of what she saw, and desiring to go there, she seeks the help of an embittered inventor named Frank Walker (George Clooney) who had been there as a boy.  Together, the two go on an intrigue-filled adventure towards it.

Tomorrowland infuses optimism back to science fiction, and kind of criticizes how the genre – and society – now seems to mostly focus on obsessing about a gloomy future rather than rousing the imagination for a wonderful one.  Hence, the movie continuously stresses the importance of dreaming, and never giving up, and always hoping for a brighter tomorrow, and clichés like that.  And I have no problem with that.  That is pure Walt Disney philosophy, and I actually appreciate what Tomorrowland is trying to accomplish.  My problem is that the movie fails to communicate its message through consistently exciting storytelling.  The narrative initially succeeds in stirring wonder, thrill, thoughtfulness, and intrigue but fails to sustain it – the climax and final revelation fall flat.

I was really hoping it will have the makings of a classic, because the potential is there.  Two-thirds into the movie, I thought it was indeed headed into that territory, but when the last third wrapped it up, there’s a lingering disappointment that the film never achieved the greatness that it could have had.  All throughout the film, there’s always the feeling that there’s epicness inside it, but the wobbly story just can’t tap it.

Anyway, Tomorrowland is a personal disappointment to me, but it is, by no means, an entirely awful movie.  It’s entertaining, there are enough captivating visual sequences, and its direction is terrific – as to be expected from talented director Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol).  It’s still worth checking out.  And one might enjoy it more if expectations are lowered.             
   

Miscellaneous musings:
  • Hugh Laurie’s character isn’t really compelling (he had a thought-provoking monologue though), but it was nice to see him acting again after House ended in 2012.  I am aware that he had been in other movies since then, but I wasn’t able to see those.  This is the first time I get to see Hugh Laurie act again after House.  I followed his musical career though. 
  • I disliked the main protagonist, Casey Newton.  There’s something unlikable and annoying about her.  I’m not sure if it’s due to the characterization or due to Britt Robertson’s performance.  But because of this, I grew to somewhat dislike Britt Robertson, too.  Of course, the possibility is always open for me to grow liking this young actress in the future, but at this point, I’m not a fan. 
  • George Clooney is George Clooney.  Any complement-worthy performance from his part is to be expected.
  • The performance that really stood out in this film is Raffey Cassidy as Athena.  She absolutely outshone Britt Robertson.     
  • SPOILERS.  If you choose to think deeply about it, there’s something troubling about the whole idea of all those visionary people banding together and creating a utopia hidden from the rest of the world.  The set-up can easily result into conflicts, exclusivism, elitism, and other problems.  Sure, the whole idea is to eventually open Tomorrowland and share all of its technological wonders to the rest of mankind someday.  But if that’s the idea all along, why not utilize their intelligence and talents in making the world a better place by actually doing that while living in the world?  You might point out that it was explained that Tomorrowland is isolated from the world so that its inhabitants won’t have to worry about the things (e.g. politics) that could hinder their work.  But when the time comes that Tomorrowland is revealed to the world, won’t politics and all those things they wanted to avoid come into play anyway?  And when will be the “right time” for Tomorrowland to be revealed?   Won’t there be ill-will or jealousy from the rest of mankind when they learn of Tomorrowland?  Won’t there be tension between Tomorrowland and those that “aren’t good enough to be invited to Tomorrowland”?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Don't Judge This Movie by Its Bland Title; 'Spy' Is Comedy Gold



In Spy, Melissa McCarthy plays the part of CIA analyst Susan Cooper who volunteers to go on a field mission for the first time in her career so that she can continue the unfinished assignment of her partner, the debonair secret agent Bradley Fine (played by Jude Law), after he was seemingly killed by the arms dealer, Rayna Boyanov (played by Rose Byrne), whose house he was trying to infiltrate.  Finally given the opportunity to prove herself on the field, and maybe even avenge Fine, Cooper has to go undercover to prevent a nuclear arms deal from happening.

“Spy” is a boring, unimaginative title but the movie itself is anything but.  Countless spy comedy films, spoofs, and parodies have been made already, but this movie has ample original material to be distinctive and fresh.  At first, some of its plot elements reminded me of 2008’s Get Smart, but if there were similarities between the two movies, Spy did them a lot better.

Spy is comedy gold.  In fact, I think that it’s as funny as, or even funnier, in some aspects, than Austin Powers (probably the funniest spy film parody I’ve ever seen).  Paul Feig replicates in Spy the good comedic direction and sense that he previously displayed in Bridesmaid and The Heat, and the cast had robust comedic performances all around.

Most of the comedy is unsurprisingly hinged on Melissa McCarthy.  She is truly one of the best, if not the best, comediennes right now; she is Chris Farley incarnated as a woman – only better, in my opinion.  And this fact is as apparent in this movie as it was in The Heat (my most favorite McCarthy-starring film prior Spy), as her terrific performance really made her character a very likable heroine and easy to cheer for.  Can’t wait to see her being the Bill Murray in the all-female Ghostbusters reboot (which Feig will also helm – yay).

McCarthy’s supporting cast were great, too.  Rose Byrne has the funniest performance of her career ever, and displays enjoyable on-screen chemistry with McCarthy (I want a few more movies starring these two to be made); the insults that spew from their mouths are brutally hilarious.  Jason Statham’s tough guy demeanor is a perfect fit to the context of his character and successfully yields the comical effect intended.  Miranda Hart and Peter Serafinowicz also deserve honorable mentions.  As for Jude Law, except for that one early scene where he accidentally killed someone, his character lacks substantial comedic moments, but does a fine job being the James Bond personification that the story needs.

It’s still too early to say, but there is a strong case for Spy to end up as the best comedy film of 2015.  

‘Focus’ Strong Leads Elevate an Otherwise Middling Movie



I’m someone who greatly enjoyed the Ocean trilogy, has Leverage as a favorite TV series, and considers 2013’s Now You See Me as awesome while critics hated it.  I have an affinity for twist-filled heist/con comedies.  So there’s no wonder that, despite of Focus’ lack of substance, I was still very much entertained by the movie.

The plot of Focus centers on a veteran grifter named Nicky (played by Will Smith) who takes an alluring amateur named Jess (played by Margot Robbie) under his wing.  Nicky serves as a mentor to Jess, and includes her in his crew.  Eventually, the two develop a romantic relationship.  But when Nicky realizes that they are getting too close – something he can’t afford in his trade – he broke off with her.  Three years later, Nicky is in Buenos Aires working on a high-stakes job.  But things get complicated when an unexpected reunion with Jess occurs in the midst of it.

The highest points of this movie are the performances of Will Smith and Margot Robbie.  Will Smith used to be my most favorite actor – I would watch every movie he was starring in, and immediately like it.   But After Earth was a big turn-off for me.  He wasn’t necessarily bad in it, but he was a prime reason why such atrocity was brought into production.  I kind of forgot everything I liked about him.  In Focus, I get to be reacquainted with Will Smith’s charisma and strong screen presence once again.  If anything else, Focus reminded me why I liked Will Smith and made me look forward to his future projects.

Before Focus, I only knew Margot Robbie as that girl from Wolf of Wall Street and the actress that is going to play Harley Quinn in next year’s Suicide Squad movie.  Aside from these, she was an unknown to me.  But I really saw in Focus that she has the makings of a legitimate star.  Her performance was almost as compelling as Smith’s.  This young lady is to watch out for in the next few years.  Moreover, I really like her look in the Suicide Squad teasers – the rest of the characters are just “meh.”  In fact, Margot Robbie and Will Smith (and to see Jay Leno’s take on the Joker) are the main reasons I have a tinge of excitement for that movie.

Aside from the magnetic performances from its leads, I also liked the fun plot twists and some genuinely funny moments that are scattered all throughout the film.  And thanks to these things, this movie is saved from being fully mediocre.  

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ Is an Unexpected Cinematic Masterpiece


  
As a cable-loving kid, I got to see and enjoy all of the original Mel Gibson-starred Mad Max movies.  This franchise – or, particularly, the second movie, The Road Warrior – introduced me to the “post-apocalyptic” subgenre and has ever since served as my benchmark for future post-apocalyptic stories I encountered.  When it was announced that a new Mad Max film starring Tom Hardy was happening, I wasn’t really enthusiastic about it.  But I didn’t loathe it as well.  I was willing to give it a chance.

But maybe due to a bit of skepticism in my part, I had this subtle prejudice of already initially dismissing Mad Max: Fury Road’s chance of ending up as a fantastic product.   At best, I was expecting it to be an enjoyable but dumb action movie.  I never expected this movie to be awesome.  And it is.  Seeing it finally, I was blown away.  The entire movie is basically a long, badass car chase sequence, but despite of all the explosions and violence, Mad Max: Fury Road can’t really be mistaken for just a mere dumb action flick.  It’s greatly more than that.  It has depth and art.  It’s a genuine cinematic masterpiece.

The post-apocalyptic tone and setting of Mad Max: Fury Road is basically what we remember from the previous Mad Max movies – only a bit more savage, barren, and hopeless.  The focus of the story is actually on Charlize Theron’s character, Imperator Furiosa, as she leads the daring escape of the prized “breeders” of Immortan Joe, the tyrannical warlord of the War Boys.  After realizing that the “breeders” are gone, Immortan Joe leads his War Boys in pursuit of the women.  Tom Hardy’s “Mad” Max Rockatansky is only drawn to the conflict after being previously captured by the War Boys and then finding himself strapped on the hood of one of the pursuing vehicles.  Later on, Max and Furiosa became reluctant allies to survive.


This movie, as it carries a noticeable but agreeable feminist message, is as much as Furiosa’s story as Max’s.  Furiosa definitely has the best character moments and development in the movie, but her awesomeness doesn’t diminish the characterization of Max.  He’s still a worthwhile, interesting anti-hero.  This is still his movie after all, and he has enough character moments in this movie to keep it that way.

This is an all-around awesome movie.  Plot, world-building, characters, acting, direction, editing, visuals (oh boy, that mindblowing, breathtaking visuals!), production value, cinematography, action, and even humor – every detail is covered properly and exceptionally that I have nothing to nitpick about.  So far, this is my favorite movie of 2015.


Miscellaneous musings:
  • I love the War Boys’ vehicle that was crammed with speakers and carried a weird electric guitarist.  It was truly inspired.
  • One perfect illustration in which Max and Furiosa elevated each other’s characterization was the scene wherein the party’s truck is stuck in mud while the Bullet Farmer, one of Joe’s allies, is closing in.  In an attempt to stop the Bullet Farmer, or at least slow him down, Max, armed with a sniper rifle with three shots left, shoots twice at the Bullet Farmer but misses both times.  Down on one last shot, Furiosa’s body language indicates that she wants to take that last shot but she hesitates in saying this.  Noticing her desire and probably realizing the fact that she could be a better shot, Max hands her the rifle.  And she does hit the target – blinding the Bullet Farmer.  It was a beautiful moment for both characters.       
  • That sand storm scene!  Just wow!
  • Just like Game of Thrones or Attack on Titan, this movie knows how to develop characters well and make the audience be invested in them, that the deaths always have impact.
  • I hope that in the next Mad Max installment will have a whole new story, with Max finding himself in a different setting from the one in Fury Road, so that we’ll have something fresh.

Top 10 Fictional Drivers


Simply stated, this is a list of fictional characters that are defined by their time behind the wheel.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that this list is dependent on their driving skills.  They are picked and rank depending on how I find them interesting as wheelmen characters.

10.) NEEDLESS KANE

Needless Kane is the driver of the most popular car from the Twisted Metal games, Sweet Tooth (which, for a time, I mistook for the name of the driver – and I know I’m not the only one).  He’s simply the Joker (or It’s Pennywise) on wheels.  He derives a demented sense of delight in death, destruction, mayhem, and chaos, hence, bringing those about with his iconic killing ice cream truck.

9.) OVERDRIVE

This B-list Spider-Man supervillain possesses nanites that allow him to have limited technopathy and modify vehicles to his liking.  Hence, he makes a great getaway driver and is sought by crews to be their wheelman during heists.  An amusing aspect of this character, as revealed in the excellent Superior Foes of Spider-Man comic series, is that he really wants to be a superhero but chose to be a supervillain since he thinks the stint will give him the best opportunity to “break in” the superhero community, reasoning out that famous superheroes like Hawkeye, Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, and Quicksilver all started out as supervillains first.

8.) FRANK WILLIAM “CHAS” CHANDLER

Chas is probably John Constantine’s closest and most loyal friend.  He is a London cab driver that constantly functions as Constantine’s ride whenever he’s on a case.  Most of the time, Constantine doesn’t really let Chas to be deeply involved on his supernatural escapades, for his own good, thus, he enjoys a survival rate that few of Constantine’s friends have.  However, in the now-cancelled (bummer) TV series, Chas is a more active sidekick for Constantine and has more of a supernatural reason behind his survival rate.  One night, in a club, Constantine put a protection charm on him before they separated.  Later, the club caught fire and Chaz with 47 others were burned.  But because of Constantine’s spell, Chaz absorbed those 47 lives, giving him the ability to die and regenerate 47 times.

7.) ALEX TULLY

After geek god Nathan Fillion was Malcolm Reynolds and before he became Rick Castle, he took on the role of Alex Tully, lead protagonist of the short-lived, unfinished TV series, Drive.  The show focuses on an illegal, cross-country road race of unlikely participants and Alex Tully was one of them.  Because of his past experience as a semi-pro racer and a notorious getaway driver/bank robber, he was coerced into joining the race when his wife was kidnapped.  It’s an intriguing story, but, unfortunately, we’ll never know how it ends since the series was cut off at only 6 episodes.

6.) BO DARVILLE a.k.a. BANDIT

Everybody – the people in the Smokey and the Bandit’s universe as well as the movie’s audience – loves this charismatic and iconic Burt Reynolds-portrayed character.  Already established as a legendary driver and folk hero in the beginning of the story, Bandit would bait the police to chase him so that he can divert the attention away from a beer smuggling operation that he had bet he and his friend, Snowman, can accomplish in record time.  Along the way, with occasional help from truckers that he was constantly in communication with via CB radio, Bandit would constantly outsmart and outrun the police – led by Sheriff Buford T. Justice – to hilarious effect.

5.) RACER X

Racer X is an important recurring character in the classic anime series Speed Racer.  This heroic masked racer/secret agent is actually the estranged older brother of main character, Speed, but though he has nagging suspicions of his real identity throughout the series, it was only near at the end of the series where the truth is fully revealed to him.  Racer X is considered by Speed as a superior racer that he vows to beat, and Racer X vows to look after his younger brother always.  His car’s name is the Shooting Star (number 9).

4.) DOMINIC TORETTO

Dom is the face of The Fast and the Furious franchise as well as its best driver (sorry, Brian).  He always wins in every race (he only loses when he allows himself) and does the craziest, most badass stunts.  He is a strong leader, a religious man, has a moral code, and puts family above anything else.

3.) FRANK MARTIN a.k.a. THE TRANSPORTER

Frank Martin is the titular character of The Transporter movie series and my most favorite Jason Statham role.  He was introduced as an immensely skillful and meticulous driver known as the best wheelman-for-hire there is.  He will transport anything or anyone – no questions asked, and always on time.  He strictly maintains three rules: 1.) “Once the deal is made, it is final”; 2.) “No names”; and 3.) “Never open the package.”  Moreover, he is a former Special Forces operative and can kick butt whenever he is crossed.

2.) SPEED RACER

The titular character of the classic Speed Racer anime drives the iconic Mach 5 – a racing car that has eight special features installed on it, which are activated by buttons labeled A to G on its steering wheel hub and a button H located on a console between the car’s two seats.  Speed is extremely fond of racing and his love for the sport is only rivaled by his love for his family.  His adventures aren’t exclusive in the race track, as he finds himself occasionally dabbling in crime fighting.

1.) WACKY RACERS

I have to admit that this list is built around the participants of Wacky Races, one of the Hanna-Barbera properties that I loved watching as a kid (and re-watching now as an adult).  I have no clear favorites and I enjoy all these quirky racers and their respective outlandish cars as a whole, so all of them – the Slag Brothers (#1 Boulder Mobile), the Gruesome Twosome (#2 Creepy Coupe), Professor Pat Pending (#3 Convert-a-Car), the Red Max (#4 Crimson Haybaler), Penelope Pitstop (#5 Compact Pussycat), Sergeant Blast and Private Meekly (#6 Army Surplus Special), the Ant Hill Mob (#7 Bulletproof Bomb), Lazy Luke and Blubber Bear (#8 Arkansas Chuggabug), Peter Perfect (#9 Turbo Terrific), Ruffus Ruffcut and Sawtooth (#10 Buzzwagon), and Dick Dastardly and Muttley (#00 Mean Machine) – share the top spot.

Monday, May 18, 2015

‘Legends of Tomorrow’ Trailer Incites Excitement



The Legends of Tomorrow trailer just came out a few days ago.  And I was blown away.  With the goodwill that its parent shows, Arrow and The Flash, have established, I was already sure to watch this from episode one.  But because of the trailer, I’m now really excited for it.

Constantine is cancelled, Gotham is awfully stupid (glad I stopped watching it early), and Supergirl (which had a recent trailer as well) isn’t looking too promising (but I will still give it a try).  But with Legends of Tomorrow to join Arrow and The Flash, I think that DC’s TV series line-up is enough to keep Marvel’s small screen surge at bay for a while.  And I approve of the competition.  These two trying to out-do each other in adapting their properties in the small screen (and big screen) will only mean that us fans are going to be the winners.

Anyway, Legends of Tomorrow is a truly intriguing and original show.  Yes, the characters are adapted from DC comics, but the team and premise have no concrete comic book connections.  There is no “Legends of Tomorrow” team in comics, and it is in this show that this unlikely roster of characters will get to team up for the first time.  Thus, this is the most unique thing happening in the DC TV universe.

I love how villains Captain Cold and Heatwave are part of the team.  In the comics, Cold and his rogues are “crooks with a code”, only concerned in profiting from “honest” crimes like robbery and burglary, that when the fate of the world is at stake, it is more likely for them to team up with the heroes to save it than fight against them.  I appreciate how this facet – as implied by Cold and Heatwave’s inclusion to the team – is being translated into the TV universe.  This provides a genuinely interesting dynamic for the team.

But above anything else, my most favorite thing about this show is…
Caity Lotz was fantastic as Sarah Lance and being the original Black Canary in Arrow.  As a comic book fan, I wasn’t surprised when Katie Cassidy’s Laurel Lance was eventually made into the Black Canary in Arrow (in the comics, the real name of Black Canary is Dinah Laurel Lance after all), but, at that point, it was already apparent that Laurel is an inferior, annoying character (though she gradually improved in the latter part of Arrow’s third season) while Sarah is just plain awesome that I prefer for Sarah to remain as Black Canary.  Hence, when the character was killed off, I was pissed and heartbroken.  So, ever since it was being mentioned during this spin-off’s early days of development that Caity Lotz is going to be part of the main cast, my want for this show to happen is 150% affirmative.  I want Sarah Lance back to life so bad.  Hence, I’m so elated that this trailer confirmed that she’ll really be back via Lazarus Pit.  I don’t even care that the name “White Canary” originally belongs to a Birds of Prey villainess – that can easily be retconned (and bring Sarah Lance to the comics).

Sarah Lance – and the rest of Legends of Tomorrow – will kick butt in January 2016.  Yep, still several months away, unfortunately.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

'Project Almanac' Fails to Become the 'Chronicle' of Time Travel Movies



I always have high standards for time travel stories.  I expect them to be smart.  I want interesting time travelers that do interesting stuff in their time traveling, and clever set-ups made possible by time travel.  There should be a general adherence to the time travel rules it set – whether they are plausible or outrageous.  If it’s going to wobble a lot with its time travel logic, then, at least, the story should be engaging and enjoyable enough to compel my brain to turn off and just be overwhelmed by the fun.

I’m not fond of the found footage format of movie narrative.  It generally turns me off.  There are, of course, occasions that I liked movies that employed “found footage”, but it is more due to having good stories than due to the style.  I think, the only time I saw the found footage format being perfectly used to enhance the storytelling and cinematography was with last year’s Afflicted.

Now, for the first time ever, somebody decided to mix these two – a time travel story and a found footage format – and the result is Project Almanac.  I have to admit that when I got wind of the concept of Project Almanac, even with my distaste for the found footage format, I found it intriguing.  I don’t buy the argument that this movie is justified to use a found footage format so that, as a small budget production, it won’t have to worry of the subpar camera work (since how amateurish it will look is going to be justified by the realistic shakiness of a found footage).  Primer’s $2,000 budget proved that you don’t need a big budget to make a great time travel movie.  So if this movie decided to tell a time travel using the found footage format, it should mean that it’s primarily for the sake of creativity and doing something different – as if intending to become to time travel movies as what Chronicle was to superhero movies.

However, after watching it, I was disappointed by how it turned out.  Yes, it has its share of fun, sophistication, ingenuity, and intellect parts, but these fail to form an original, cohesive, and compelling time travel tale.  It employs cliché in its plot, and was boring and messy at times.  Worst, as expected, the use of found footage format did more harm to the narrative than good – it simply did everything I hated about it.

For what it’s worth, Project Almanac has enough good or passable parts to be watchable at least.  I simply had high expectations – since its premise is asking for such – that weren’t met.  It didn’t break ground with the time travel story nor with the found footage format, as it was obviously attempting.