Thursday, June 30, 2011

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

I've now reached the latter half of the series, and things are certainly picking up steam. While she drops a few hints in the beginning of the books, I was surprised to find during my re-read that things really only get going toward the main goal starting in this book. We still don't even know what a horcrux is yet. I guess you could argue that revealing such a thing too early could have led to people figuring it out a little too soon. I enjoyed this book a little bit more on my re-read. My memories of my first time through I recall feeling like all the Umbridge stuff was really heavy handed, but perhaps because I was expecting it, I didn't mind it as much this time. Harry is still an overly moody little jerk, but so was my brother at that age, and Harry's got a lot more than hormones to make him upset. On the other hand it can be a little hard to read the story through his self righteous perspective at times. Strangely, I also find that I'm liking Hermione less and less. She's such an overly preachy know it all, constantly talking down to Harry and Ron, and her treatment of Luna Lovegood really riles me up.

Oh, Luna. In my opinion, Luna is the shining star of the various characters who are introduced to us in this book for the first time. She's flighty and believes in things that even those who know magic is real don't, and seems completely and utterly immune to mockery and criticism. I love her so very much for all these qualities. I couldn't be more happy with Evana Lynch's portrayal of her in the film, and I can't complain about them squeezing her into more scenes than necessary because she's just so good at it. I hear that she showed up to the audition wearing radish earrings and explaining to them that they had to hire her because she IS Luna. I'm inclined to agree.

When I first read the book it was Tonks I became particularly endeared to, and I still enjoy her, though her appearances are very brief. I think the first time around I was intrigued by her ability as an metamorphmagus. The idea of being able to change the color of my hair on a whim is an appealing one - I could have purple hair like I've always wanted on the weekend, then return to my natural color in time for work on Monday. Her carefree attitude in general just makes her a very appealing character.

I was also very happy to see Fred, George, and Neville all come into their own in this book. Neville especially starts to show a great deal of potential here, even if Harry the Ungrateful doesn't exactly recognize it yet. It's certainly a hint to the role he will play in the final novel. Speaking of hints - I noticed this time that Petunia mentions "that awful boy" explained something of the magical world to her as a child. Harry assumes she is talking about his father, but we all know exactly who she was referring to now. That was a nice little surprise.

As far as Umbridge goes, I think Rowling represents her annoying qualities well, though I've always felt she's a little too much of a stereotype. It would have been nice to see a little more human qualities to her - surely there must be more of a soft side to this woman beyond her love of kittens. Of course Rowling is an admitted cat hater, so even that's not meant as a compliment! We're literally introduced to Umbridge while she is shrouded in shadow, which touches on the heavy handedness I spoke of earlier. I also think Rowling fails at an attempt at humor with her too. Her constant reference to her as being toad-like falls flat after awhile, and making fun of someone who is short and overweight feels unnecessarily cruel.

In the movie, on the hand, I think Umbridge is portrayed much better. That's partially thanks to Imelda Staunton's performance, but I also like the way we get to see more of the Educational Decrees and other examples of her just being an all around nasty teacher and disciplinarian. It makes her final comeuppance that much sweeter.

The movie in general is a much looser adaptation than what we've seen previously. Scenes are shuffled around in the narrative and we get some things that simply aren't in the books. I didn't mind most of the added scenes except for when Grawp hands Hermione the bicycle handles - it seemed really random and out place. I thought maybe she was going to use the bell later to call him when she leads Umbridge out the forest, but no such thing happened so I really can't see a point to it. On the other hand changing Cho into the traitor of Dumbledore's Army makes sense, as does the fact that she only did so because of Veritaserum.

It would have been fun to see Harry and Cho's date, because it's such a wonderfully awkward moment for him in the book, but I can certainly understand why it was omitted. Ditto for some of the Weasley twins pranks. What I really, really would have loved to see though is the moment with Neville and his parents at St. Mungo's. Neville's mother excitingly handing him the gum wrapper, and Neville later slipping it into his pocket, makes me cry every time I read it. The scene we get instead, of Neville telling Harry about his parents condition, lacks much emotion and feels way too much like exposition, since that is basically what it is.

Spoiler Warning

I think I mentioned previously that I came into the Harry Potter universe in between Order of the Phoenix and Half Blood Prince, and that I had something spoiled for me before I got there. On a forum, someone had stated that they had been spoiled when someone told them: "I'm not gonna tell you who dies in Order of the Phoenix, but they play an important role in Prisoner of Azkaban!" In quoting this, they did the same for me. At the time, I figured this meant a 50/50 shot of it being either Remus or Sirius, mostly because I was deathly afraid that it might be Remus. As such, when the axe finally fell, I was actually kind of relieved. I do think it is a strong moment in the book though, and I like the way the veil works as a representation of sudden, unexplained death and forces Harry to deal with it.

However, I just can't entirely care, because I don't like Sirius as a character. In this book especially, he is amazingly immature. Using Harry as a substitute for James, goading him into being irresponsible, being irresponsible himself.. this is not the amazing, wonderful character that Harry seems to mourn for so desperately. In fact, giving us that striking memory of Snape being bullied by James while Sirius goads him on feels like a strange choice in a book where we are also supposed to feel sad that he's gone. Perhaps that is Rowling's point - that no one is perfect. But at this point in the game at least, I'm siding with Snape. While he doesn't have to take it out on Harry, I don't blame him one bit for his hatred of James and Sirius.

In the movie, I think they go out of their way to make Sirius seem a lot better than he does in the books. If you didn't know going into the film that he was going to die, it should be rather obvious, the way they frequently stress all these touching moments of him and Harry together. My love of Gary Oldman does make me enjoy movie Sirius just a little bit more than book Sirius, but I don't care for the way they show him going through the veil. It's too slow. I know they were trying to build tension and mood, but I think seeing him quickly disappear would have been much more shocking and heart breaking.

Overall I prefer the movie to the book. With a little more Neville and Tonks, I think it would have been perfect.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Since I didn't own an Xbox 360 in 2007, I remember hearing a lot of buzz about BioShock and wishing I could play it. On the other hand, it involved first person perspective shooting, so I told myself I probably wouldn't be able to play it anyway. I remember distinctly the moment my brother excitedly brought home Resident Evil, talking about how great it was. I tried to play, and when I went to move the character, I wasn't going anywhere.

"What is this?" I asked him.

"You use one stick to move and the other to change direction," he explained.

"What? Screw this!"

That's pretty much the moment video games left me behind. When it comes to modern games I generally play puzzle, jRPG, and rhythm games, because their control schemes aren't as challenging to me. I'm much more used to the SNES controller than the analog sticks and the multiple shoulder buttons of today's systems. Gaming addict that I am though, this doesn't stop me from now owning all three modern systems. I broke down and got the 360 because of the Kinect, or more specifically Dance Central. But I also couldn't resist downloading a very large number of demos that I found on Xbox Live. BioShock was among them. It was the perfect chance for me to see if I could handle the controls. More than anything though, it excited me.

BioShock sits somewhere between survival horror games and first person shooters. It absolutely oozes atmosphere. It is set in an alternate reality 1960 where a man by the name of Andrew Ryan has built an underwater society named Rapture. Meant to be a utopia and escape from the cold war turmoil facing the world on the surface, it is in fact a dystopia, where its citizens have devolved into crazed mutants hungry for a drug that gives them power. You can use a wide variety of weapons to defend yourself, similar to many first person shooters, but you also gain powers along the way, like the ability to shoot fire, electricity, or even bees at your foes. These various abilities also aid you in puzzle solving as you make your way around Rapture to put a stop to the dictator who has allowed its citizens to become these monsters.

The voice work in this game is incredible and helps to make every single one of the characters seem real, even the nameless enemies scattered throughout the game. All video games suffer from repetition, and while it was only a matter of time before I got tired of hearing the rantings of one particular foe, the fact that he (and all the others) have full scale rants and not just one or two lines repeated ad nauseum gives the game a mood the likes of which I've never really seen before. I spent most of the game on edge between these rants, the dark hallways, and the ghostly music that fills the halls. There's also tons of posters lining the walls and advertisements that occasionally come over the intercom systems that help to make Rapture feel real. I even screamed at one point when an enemy that I thought was frozen came to life right in front of me and started attacking me.

The music deserves a special mention because beyond the original score, there is also a lot of licensed music from the 30s, 40s, and 50s within the game. I absolutely loved hearing this music and was severely tempted to just sit where I was at certain points and listen. Billie Holiday, Bing Crosby and more are included - click the link to see the full list. Another fun highlight is the cassette tape messages you find scattered throughout the game, diary entries by various citizens that help flesh out the story for you.

The story has multiple twists and turns and forces you to make moral choices as well. I chose the good path on this play through because I'd heard that is what is considered the true ending that leads into BioShock 2. From what I've seen online, choosing the greedy route (it's not exactly bad, just not 100% altruistic) gives you a very different ending but otherwise leads to a pretty similar playing experience. I may eventually play it that way myself just to see if there's any difference - this game is enjoyable enough that I would be happy to play it a second time after a bit of a break.

As far as the controls, I chose the easy difficulty. It describes itself as "I'm new to shooters" and I think it is a fair choice for someone who fits that description. As I said earlier, the idea of just using two sticks to move confuses me, let alone having to aim with the right stick while pulling the right trigger button to fire, and if I have to switch weapons I have to hit the right shoulder button, and oh yeah I better heal with A before I'm dead... I still only died a few times throughout the length of the game. Of course, if I didn't have Jak sitting right next to me reminding me when to heal or switch weapons I might have died quite a few more. I think video games are best experienced with at least one other person there at all times anyway, assuming that person is helpful and interested in the story.

The end boss actually ended up being ridiculously easy for me. I don't know if it's because of the choices I made in the game or just the difficulty in general, but he was a cakewalk compared to some of the other parts of the level. The most difficult time I had was actually right before the boss, but I don't want to tell you what I had to do to avoid spoilers.

In my opinion, this game is a must play for just about anyone. It's a great example of how video games can be art and its story is top notch. If I can get through the control scheme, anyone can. I can't even play Katamari Damacy well and I made it through to the end, I bet you can too.

As you may have noticed in my sidebar, I've already started playing BioShock 2. So far the difficulty seems a little harder, but I'm determined to make it through. I also plan to purchase BioShock: Rapture to tide me over until Bioshock Infinite is released.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Twin Peaks and Fire Walk With Me (with an extra surprise!)

Streaming video on the internet has really become one of the best things out there for those of us who love movies and television. I watched pretty much the entirety of Buffy the Vampire Slayer through Netflix the old way, one disc at a time. Sometimes that can work okay, but for other series that love to use cliffhangers and suspense, it can be really hard only watching three episodes before you have to wait for that next disc to arrive. It's for these shows that streaming becomes almost necessary. The moment Twin Peaks was added to Netflix Streaming was the moment I started watching it.

Twin Peaks is a murder mystery set in a small town. Since this is the brainchild of David Lynch, you probably expect that things are not exactly as they seem. Having already seen Blue Velvet, I definitely noticed lots of similarities in theme beyond the fact that they both star Kyle McLachlan as the main character trying to get to the bottom of it. To his credit, Jeffrey Beaumont and Special Agent Dale Cooper are not one and the same by a long shot. Jeffrey is frequently out of his element in the strange situations that happen to him, while Cooper is almost always ready and willing to roll with the punches. Cooper is a fascinating, funny, and charming character who carries the series even when it eventually starts to take a turn for the worse.

While I think most people are familiar with the fact that Twin Peaks has a lot of strange elements, what you might not also know is that it's essentially a soap opera. Nearly everyone is sleeping around on their significant others and many of the characters are trying to double cross each other. It's intended as parody, but in the beginning that wasn't too clear to me. However, because the murder mystery is in full swing, it did not detract from me enjoying the series at all.

When you watch a show, do you ever pay attention to the music score? I know that I generally do not. Somewhere after a few episodes in this series I couldn't help but notice it. The reason for that is that there are basically three themes that were played over and over again. These were done by Angelo Badalalmenti. They're not bad songs, but the repetition of them made them a little hard to swallow after awhile.

What is bad is that apparently David Lynch desperately wants to be a song writer, because there are songs he wrote all throughout the series. Sometimes it makes sense, like seeing performances at the local bar or within the dream world, but in one instance, three characters just randomly decide to record a song together in their living room. The fact that the song is terrible only increases the awkwardness of the moment.

The show lasted two seasons, and for reasons only to be described as bad judgement, ABC insisted that the killer be revealed halfway through the second season. Given the difference in length of the two seasons, this also happens to be almost the perfect halfway point in the length of the show. Given the nature of the killing (and I'm not about to spoil that for you), there is still a reason for the story to move forward at that point. However, it is extremely clear that this forced direction left Lynch and the rest of the writers feeling a little confused on where to go initially. Add to it that they continued the stories under the impression that there would be a third season (and possibly beyond) and the latter half of the series rests somewhere between a jumbled confusing mess and just flat out boring. With the mystery gone we have nothing left but soap opera, and while it is a little more clear as parody here, it's just not enough to keep your interest. The last couple episodes are slightly better, but to be honest, I barely cared about those either.

There's a very important freaky/weird scene in the final episode. My internet connection was acting up and it kept getting interrupted with that "Retrieving" load screen. (For those of you who don't have Netflix, just imagine the infamous "Buffering" messages you see when trying to watch streaming video.) It would literally play somewhere between five to thirty seconds of video before jumping back to that Retrieving screen. You know what? I didn't care. Or at least, my annoyance came more along the lines of "Would you please start working so I can get this over with?" rather than "I want to see what happens!"

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

Despite this, I still insisted on watching the film that came afterward, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. The movie is a prequel. However, you couldn't watch it before seeing the series because it gives too much away, and you certainly couldn't watch it alone because it doesn't make any sense as a stand alone film. It's intended purpose is to show you the events leading up to Laura Palmer's death. The problem is that most of these details were already revealed to us over the course of watching the show. As much as I live by "Show, don't tell" in storytelling, if we've already been told, you don't really need to show it to me. I suppose for someone who really, really loved the show, it might be neat to see all these things as they happen, but for me it just felt redundant. It also has one scene that I felt contradicted events shown in the series. The only new piece of information anyone will actually get from this film is answering the question of why Laura Palmer and Dale Cooper once had the same dream.

It probably sounds like I'm attacking this series pretty hard by now, and I'm not. If you like shows like True Blood or Lost, you deserve to give this one a shot. It will most likely keep you spellbound until at least episode sixteen. There are a lot of "WTF?!" moments that will get you all excited, and Cooper's Sherlock Holmes level detective skills are fascinating to watch. There are lots of really great characters and the show has a really great sense of humor.

David Lynch himself even has a recurring role that cracked me up pretty much every time he appeared. I also now have a huge crush on Kyle McLachlan after watching him as Dale Cooper. Beyond Cooper I also really liked Deputy Andy, Albert, Lucy, Pete, and the Log Lady. I hate to go into too many specifics of why I like the show because I think the way the show slowly unravels all the little details is a large part of its appeal.

My suggestion is to start watching and see how far you get. If the murder has been solved and you are getting more annoyed then entertained, just turn it off, because you're not going to get any more answers anyway. It's really a shame that they weren't given a chance like Lost was. Perhaps if they had known when the series was going to end, they might have been able to wrap up at least some of the loose ends, or at least show us some more than what we got to see.

Black Lodge 2600

For those of you who have already seen the show, you know what the Black Lodge is. Would you like to put yourself in Cooper's shoes and take a walk inside? I present to you Black Lodge 2600 - an Atari-style video game that lets you do just that. Created by Jak Locke it is a chase and puzzle solving game that's both simple to play and yet challenging at the same time. Previous experience with the show is not required because Jak's made an instruction manual that tells you most of what you need to know. As of right now, it is only playable on PC, but he is working on a Mac version.

The graphics and music are mostly done in the Atari style, though slightly better quality in places. You use your number keys and space bar on the keyboard to play - no controllers necessary. In the game you play as Special Agent Dale Cooper and try to make your way through the Black Lodge to outrun your doppelganger and defeat BOB.

I'm not going to lie to you - this game is hard. While it starts off simple enough, after the first few rooms, the rooms will be randomly loaded for you to run through. This is a pretty fun idea to help recreate the fact that you are in a dream world. However, it also means that the difficulty can jump back up and down without warning, as some of the rooms are a lot harder than others. You'll probably have to die a few times to get the hang of some of them. There's lots of stuff to knock you down, therefore making you easier for "DoppelCooper" to catch. There are statues that can knock you back if you walk directly in front of them, and their hit detection is incredibly sensitive. Most annoying of all, Laura Palmer's screams make your controls reverse. So when you've been hit by a scream and are trying to solve a puzzle backwards while simultaneously outrunning the bad guy, you're probably going to start screaming yourself.

I think most of this is par for the course if you've ever played an Atari game before. They're not really built to be easy. While I couldn't play a marathon session of this, I was left with the feeling to come back again after a break and try again. Even if you can't get too far with these puzzles, if you're a fan of the show you'll enjoy seeing the Black Lodge being recreated in such a fitting manner. There are of course some things here that do not actually happen on the show, but that should be expected of any video game adaptation.

Also, I can tell you this: you don't have to conquer all these puzzles to beat the game. The boss is actually reached through a secret door.. but you'll have to find the giant first in order to find out where. How you get to the giant... well, that's another secret.

Even more?

I thought my journey into Twin Peaks was finished but it turns out there are in fact two books that were written - one from Laura Palmer's perspective and another from Dale Cooper's. I will be reading these eventually, and if they're worth discussing, I'll report back.

There will probably be spoilers in the comments, so here's your advance warning.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My X-men Collection: Playing Cards

I imagine most people are going to scratch their heads about this entry, but I'm posting it for the benefit of the few of you like me who will think it's neat. I'll do my best to make it interesting for everyone regardless of whether or not you care about the X-men or playing cards.

At the height of my X-men obsession I used to collect "everything with an X on it." That's pretty much how my parents and I referred to it - they both knew that if there was something X-men related to be found in stores, I would want it. This largely remained the same even after I stopped reading the comics.

I believe I found these playing cards at Walmart. I actually bought two sets - one to keep sealed in plastic as a collector's item and another to use. Even though I could easily play solitaire on our home computer, I liked to play with real playing cards whenever I could even before I bought these. I owned a book with different variations of solitaire and I did my best to recreate a version that wasn't in the book but which I had on my computer - Cruel. There were two advantages to playing "manually" - I could cheat rather than shuffling the cards and starting all over, and I could play in my room and listen to my music as loud as I wanted without disturbing anyone. Once these cards were purchased, they were the only deck I used to play on.

I placed the card box directly on my scanner to give you an idea of just how well loved these cards are.

What I really liked about this deck is the way it is set up - there is one X-men per number and a different image of that character for each suit. The deck is full of 90s X-men art goodness. Because this is not something you can easily get your hands on anymore, I have scanned each and every card to show you. They're a bit aged around the edges, but you'll note I was always careful to never bend them as I basically treated them with as much love as my comics. Click on any of the images to head over to Photobucket and see them in larger details.


As you can see, the deck also came with two rules cards for X-men War and Evil Mutants(Crazy Eights) which are identical in rules to the games you probably already know how to play. Because I was normally playing alone, I took advantage of the evil mutants for a completely different purpose. My solitaire book contained a game that I don't remember the name of anymore because I changed it to "Rescue the X-men."

BONUS: I have recorded a video showing you how to play "Rescue the X-men"! Please excuse the babbling and otherwise awkwardness in this video, as this is literally the first time I've ever done this and I was quite nervous about it. I also probably could have done some better editing, but I literally thought this up, recorded, and edited it all together in the span of a few hours.

This card deck and the fun I had with it actually ended up spawning a playing card collection for me. I now have Peanuts, Spider-man, Monty Python, Sailor Moon, Disney Villains, Looney Tunes, and more. As you got a sneak peak in the video, I also have more X-men cards!


Around the time of the movies they released another set. These are, in my opinion, not as nice as my original set, partially because they only use one image per number, and also because they pulled images from Ultimate X-men and reuse characters for multiple numbers. While slicker in appearance and possibly better made, I just don't care for this set.


These are the back of both sets of cards - the original set is on the right and the second set on the left.

At this point I bet you are thinking that I'm done. But then of course you're probably seeing more images and text below this, so you know I'm not. What's left? Around the same time as the more recent deck above, I also found X-men UNO!


This one came in a fancy metal tin. While the cover provides you with a preview, I'm scanning all the cards anyway. In this set there is still just one image per number/card type, but with so many more in a game of UNO, I find this understandable.


As you can imagine, I'm very partial to the "Draw 2" card, and the 6 isn't half bad either. I also like the way Gambit is throwing four cards on the "Draw 4" card. Looking at these again it took me awhile to remember who number 8 even was. I could tell you but I'll leave it up to you to guess in the comments.

The one unique UNO card for this set is "Mutate." With this card, once putting it down you had the option to dump all but one of your cards for the same amount from the deck OR you could force someone else to do the same. I never actually played this with a group, so I can't tell you how well it would work in practice. It seems kind of pointless beyond possibly making someone lose their valuable Draw 4 cards.

That's all I've got, at least until I happen to spy another set out there. If you happen to know of a different set beyond what I have here, please let me know about them!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

How Do You Like Your Batman?

I've had that blog title sitting in my head for months if not years now. I think I've been putting off writing it for so long simply because I feel like I can't possibly put everything I'm feeling into words. However, I don't think it's right to start off my recurring Batman posts without at least first giving you an idea of where I'm coming from.

I'm not sure if there has been any pop culture icon who has been reinvented and changed in so many ways over the year as Batman has. His compatriot Superman has seen a lot of adaptations, but beyond tweaking his powers here and there, I don't think the character varies all that much. Mickey Mouse is drastically different from the original prankster he started out as, but the squeaky clean reinvention of his personality has largely stayed the same, even if the way he's drawn changes. Every character changes at least a little bit with the times, but Batman seems to take it to a whole different level.

The early Batman comics were targeted towards children, and the movie serials that ran at the same time were also for kids. The sixties television show rocketed Batman to greater fame than he had ever achieved before, and it is best known for being overly campy and silly. By the eighties, we started to see a grittier side of Batman, particularly in the comics with Frank Millar's The Dark Knight Returns and the many others it influenced. Tim Burton's Batman films were similarly gritty and dark, though they had a larger than life, cartoonish feel to them as well. When Joel Schumacher took over, he clearly tried to inject a feeling a little more similar to the sixties television show or the four color comics that proceeded it though in nineties DayGlo tones. Not long after the Burton films began, Batman: The Animated Series was created. It also had a dark tone but treated Batman just a little more seriously, and introduced many more characters than the movies had time for. Batman & Robin's failure killed the movie series until Nolan came along with his reboot, Batman Begins, that took Batman a little closer to the real world. It took themes that had been used in the comics and put them into movies that even people who didn't previously care for superheroes could enjoy. And of course all during this time Batman evolved in the comics, even letting other people take on the role, to the point that we now have Batman, Inc. where multiple people are all Batman at once. Until the September reboot, anyway, where Bruce Wayne will be the only person left under the cowl again.

These drastic changes combined with the immense popularity of the character means most people have their own favorite version. It stands to reason that if the sixties show was your first experience with Batman, you may not enjoy the seriousness of The Dark Knight. It's kind of amazing to think that Adam West and Christian Bale are playing the same character. Sure, you can see similarities in the costume and the names are the same, but it ventures off pretty far otherwise.

So how do I like my Batman? Thanks for asking! Like most children of the eighties I first watched Batman through the Tim Burton film. (It's hard to say the first time I heard about him.. Batman as an icon is just sort of ever present in at least Western culture.) I remember most of my younger brother's friends praising it immensely. We eventually borrowed a copy of the film from someone and honestly I didn't see what the big deal was. I didn't hate it but I didn't love it either. Like a lot of stuff around that time period, I had more fun playing with the action figures with my brother and the stories we would make up for them instead. I got excited for Batman Returns because of Catwoman's appearance - I've always had an interest in females in action roles for as long as I can remember, but I didn't actually see the film until it came out on video. Before that video release, Batman: The Animated Series premiered on television and changed everything for me. Since the X-men cartoon had just come out, I was aching for more superheroes, and this show delivered.

I originally loved Batman for most of the reasons that we all love Batman. He's intelligent, strong, and although he has no superpowers he is able to get himself out of any difficult situation. He has a tragic past and uses that as fuel to make a difference and stop criminals.

What really appealed to me though was that the show really took itself seriously, especially for something shown at a children's level. Much like the X-men cartoon, it understood that children didn't need to be talked down to in their entertainment. You can limit the violence and sex without sacrificing good storytelling. You could also tell that the creators were familiar with the comics and knew that Batman himself was not just kiddie stuff.

While I would eventually see all the movies, the sixties television show, and even dabble in the comics, the animated series remains my golden standard for what Batman should be. There's no doubt in my mind that the reason I find Nolan's movies to be far superior to Burton's is related to this, and the fact that the Batman: Arkham Asylum game was utter joy for me to play has a lot to do with the fact that I got to hear the voices of Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, and Arleen Sorkin in their proper roles once again.

I made a list of potential Batman related posts, and it is very nearly 50 items long. It includes movies, television shows, video games, comics, novels, and some character spotlights. I hope to do at least one a month, so it should be going for quite a while!

So now I'll ask you. How do you like your Batman?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Rocky films

A couple years ago, I came to realize I had never seen a Sylvester Stallone film beyond Demolition Man. I think I was too young and too female when Rambo and Rocky Balboa were in their prime to take any real notice. I certainly knew who both of them were, and I distinctly remember my great aunt being very much in love with Sly, but that was about where it ended. As you've probably figured out by now, the moment I notice a glaring omission in my knowledge is the moment I set out to fix it.

I started with First Blood, aka the first Rambo film. Underwhelmed is probably the most apt description for how I felt. I was really looking forward to a sort of twist on the Predator/Alien/Slasher idea where the guy doing the hunting and killing is actually the hero. But for the most part I found it very slow moving and not particularly interesting. The end scene, where Rambo breaks down and cries, was completely laughable to me. How am I supposed to feel for a character when I can't understand what he's saying?

Determined to try again, I rented The Expendables. My hopes were much lower this time around given the extremely mixed reviews it got. Count me on the side of those who didn't care for it. Too many characters were underused, the story was weak, the dialogue laughable, and Sly and Mickey Rourke look like freak-shows with their plastic surgery and botox. The scene with Bruce Willis and Arnold was exceptionally bad. On the other hand, Jason Stathom is pretty good in it, and it was nice to see Charisma Carpenter in a feature film. Unfortunately that's about all I can give it.

The way I saw it, Stallone had one last chance before I gave up on him completely. It was time to watch Rocky for the first time ever. I don't like sports. I dislike boxing even more than a lot of them, as it's basically just two guys giving each other brain damage, as far as I'm concerned. So I was kind of expecting to hate it. Imagine my surprise when I slowly fell in love with Rocky Balboa.

Particularly in the first film, there's something sort of hopelessly adorable about him. He's the lovable loser - not too bright, orphaned, not much luck with his fighting career, and a bit goofy when it comes to trying to impress the shy girl he likes, Adrian. That last bit in particular really got me. Perhaps it's because I know exactly what it's like to be as shy as Adrian was, but the idea of a guy coming in to my work every day to tell me another silly joke makes me swoon. Not to mention how he goes out of his way to try to give her the perfect date, even though everything keeps going wrong. By the time he said, "I wanna kiss ya. Ya don't have to kiss me back if you don't feel like it," that was it. I love this guy! Rocky shouting Adrian's name has been absorbed into pop culture to the point where we all already know about it even if we haven't seen a single film. It was such a nice surprise to see there was actually a really touching love story behind it that continues throughout the entire series.

Usually I would wait and review these things one or two movies at a time, but I was so enamored with it that I actually watched all six films over the course of about a month and a half. They're all fairly structured in the same way that I figured it would be easiest to talk about all of them at once. Rocky starts out at the bottom and works his way up to the top, while also interacting with Adrian, her brother Paulie, and eventually their son Robert. You might think it's impossible for Rocky to be at the bottom at the start of each and every film, but in actuality, it works really well because he always hits bottom in a number of different ways, i.e. going into debt, being seen as a has been, or losing someone he loves. He has to find a way to believe in himself and get to the ring for the big fight. He's not always guaranteed victory either, as you might expect. Of course, even when Rocky loses, he's still a winner for going the distance.

The first film is a little slow moving at times, but otherwise highly enjoyable. I found myself a little confused by Apollo Creed, mostly because sometimes he seemed like an okay guy, and other times a flat out villain. This flirting the line between good and bad continues for the first three films, as he demands a rematch from Rocky in the second film and then becomes his coach in the third. I think the source of the problem may just be that Carl Weathers plays him as such a likeable guy that even when he's being a jerk, you still want to like him.

I think what I enjoyed most about the third film was seeing Mr. T before he became a caricature of himself. He's still the Mr. T we all know and love but not nearly as over the top. This is also where "Eye of the Tiger" came from. I guess Stallone felt like he needed something a little more than the Rocky theme. I really like that theme, by the way. I just can't believe it actually has words. I've heard that theme used in so many different things before, and it really does sort of inspire you and get you all excited. But "Getting strong now"? "Gonna fly now"? Just a bit silly. Of course, watching those kids run behind him in the second film while it was playing made it all the more hilarious. So it was nice to hear "Eye of the Tiger" instead when the third film came around.

I also found it hilarious that when Rocky fights Hulk Hogan (referred to as Thunderlips here and playing a great parody of professional wrestlers) in Rocky III, they claim Hogan is over 7 feet tall because they don't want to admit how short Sylvester Stallone is.

Rocky IV is where I felt the series really changed, and oh man, what a change. Rocky IV is everything that was silly and foolish about the 80s. My conscience will not let me call this a good film, but I absolutely loved it. Rocky has a talking robot for crying out loud! And then he gets one for Paulie, and Paulie makes it a female who is in love with him! It has essentially three music videos in it, including a performance by James Brown of "Living in America" and an attempt by the band Survivor to repeat their "Eye of the Tiger" success with such fabulous lyrics as "Is it East versus West?" Between that and Dolph Lundgren's role, the cold war era stuff is really laid on thick. However, I have to say the way the crowd in Russia turns in the middle of the fight and cheers for Rocky was a really great moment.

Rocky V is of course the low point, but you probably already knew that. Tommy Gunn is not an interesting character, and the fact that it's a street fight at the end rather than a ring match really takes away any feeling of importance. I actually thought the stuff with his son was fairly good, or about as good as they could be with Sly using his real life son for the role. While it pales in comparison to the other films, I wouldn't call it horrible.

Rocky Balboa, filmed 16 years after Rocky V, is a really good end to the series. Milo Ventimiglia lacks enough range to pull off some of the scenes he's in as Rocky's son, but I felt Stallone did a good job of re-inhabiting the role after so many years, which I sadly can't say about Harrison Ford playing Indiana Jones after a similarly long gap. Of course as the writer/director, Stallone does have an advantage there. I thought the scenes of Rocky dealing with Adrian's death were really touching and sweet, and the whole movie is really a large tribute to all the previous films and gives them a much more satisfying ending than V did. I'm glad to see Stallone seems to have no intention of continuing the series, because really, I don't think we need to see anymore than what we have here.

If you haven't watched any of this series before, I highly recommend giving it a chance. They have a lot of heart with a good bit of humor and the fight scenes are shot in a way that even a non-sports fan like me was kept interested.

If you have seen the films, which one is your favorite?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Monsters vs. Aliens Challenge: The Invisible Man

Including The Invisible Man in this challenge is kind of a stretch, because he's really just a one off joke in the movie. They reference him when the monsters are contemplating escaping from the government compound they are held in. When the other monsters point out that it has never been done before, poor lovable B.O.B. exclaims "But the Invisible Man got out!" and the Missing Link tells him, "No, he didn't. He died and we just didn't have the heart to tell you. He's still right over there." He then gestures to an empty chair. It's still a fairly smart joke - while most of the monsters in the movie come from the 1950s era, the Invisible Man is from 1933, and as such could possibly have died of natural causes by now. Of course, I may be looking a little too far into it with that one.

Since I've been going through all the Universal classics one by one anyway, I knew I was going to cover this one eventually. What I was not expecting was to enjoy this film as much as I did. I knew virtually nothing about it going in, so the special effects literally blew me away. I was not expecting to see what was essentially a green screen effect in a movie made in this time period. They technically used black velvet rather than green cloth, but the fact that they were able to do that without the aid of computers is just fantastic. The wire work done when he's completely invisible is more in line with what I was expecting, but still pretty impressive. The scene where he first unmasks himself in front of the villagers is actually pretty creepy, seeing the empty holes in his face as he removes the fake nose and glasses.

Even more than that, this movie was pretty wild for it's time period. The invisibility formula drives him mad, and he takes great pleasure in hurting and even killing people. He gleefully robs a bank and then throws the money out onto the street. He even threatens at one point that with this new power, he could rape whenever he wanted! There were times when I couldn't help making comparisons to a more modern psychopathic character like the Joker.

I already knew I liked Claude Raines from watching The Wolf Man and Casablanca previously, but he gives an absolutely fantastic performance here. There's something to be said for an actor who is willing to not be seen for almost an entire film. There was also some great action at one point where we see a car driven off a cliff and explode! This is definitely nothing like the other more moody horror films of its era.

About the only complaint I would have is that it was a little disjointed. Sometimes he was a stark raving lunatic, and other times he desperately seemed to want to find a cure. I feel like there should have been a slightly better way to explain his sudden mood swings so they could make a little more sense.

Universal made 4 sequels to this movie throughout the 1940s, though all of them are really other people taking the invisibility formula rather than the same character. There were also apparently quite a few attempts at television series throughout the years. Probably the best known recent adaptation was Hollow Man, which I personally found to be over the top and not very good. I don't think I could possibly count the large number of times that invisibility has been used in television series.

I always liked the season one episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer guest starring Clea DuVall as Marcie, a girl who is so ignored by her classmates that she becomes invisible. Whereas most other stories, including The Invisible Man film, tend to highlight the naughty deeds one would perform if no one could see them, the Buffy episode highlighted just how miserable it can be to feel invisible. If I was able to choose any superpower I wanted, invisibility would not be it. Though getting to be a secret agent like Marcie does in the episode wouldn't be a bad consolation prize!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Movies of My Years

It's meme time! I hope you won't mind me indulging in a list after that month long extravaganza I just finished. This one is fairly simple - pick your favorite movie for each year you have been alive. I decided to vary it slightly and whenever possible, pick the movie I loved that year, rather than what would be my favorite now.

Raiders of the Lost Ark
For my 30th Birthday party, I chose this movie as the theme.  Obviously, I can't remember any movies that year, but I've had a crush on Indy from a very young age.

The Last Unicorn
 I obviously didn't discover this until a few years later, but I loved this movie as a small child.

Return of the Jedi
I loved it then, and this is my favorite of the original trilogy.

Splash and The Karate Kid were close runners up for this year, but Ghostbusters is the one I probably watched the most and still love to this day.

Peewee's Big Adventure
Another close call, but I chose Peewee because this movie keeps a smile on my face the whole time I watch it.

Short Circuit
 I can't tell you how many times my brother and I watched this one together.  I watched it again late last year for the first time in ages.  Sure, it's not exactly a masterpiece, but I think it's still a cute kids comedy.

The Princess Bride
I remember watching a scene of this at a friend's house, but not really getting into it.  I actually didn't discover it until much later, but I didn't see any other films this year that I loved as a kid that were worthy of taking its place.

I miss Tom Hanks doing comedy.

The Little Mermaid
 I didn't just love this film - I wanted to be Ariel.  I still remember anxiously going to the store to get my copy on VHS that would play daily in my house.

Back to the Future Part III
Why do people talk bad about this one?  It's not that bad. Really, it's not.

Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey
I don't have to explain this, right?  I've been over it before.

Batman Returns
I remember watching a lot of behind the scenes stuff on TV, excited for this movie to come out, mostly because of Catwoman.  It's quirky and bizarre, but I actually prefer it to the first film.

The Nightmare Before Christmas
I still remember going to see it in the theater, and I fell in love immediately.  It seems like the rest of the world caught on about ten years later.

The Crow
I may not have actually watched this until high school a couple years later, but I watched it frequently.  I need to revisit it and see how well it holds up.

Batman Forever
It was the introduction of Dick Grayson into the movie continuity, so I really really loved it then, even if I don't know if I would sit through it now.

The Rock
Sean Connery + Nicholas Cage = win.  Another one I really need to rewatch.

Chasing Amy
The beginning of my love for Kevin Smith films.

A Bug's Life
 Pixar's second film has largely been pushed aside now, but I loved it when it came out.

Fight Club
My absolute all time favorite film.  One of these days I'm going to do a post or two about it.

I was so excited to finally see them in a movie, and done right on top of that.

Ghost World
I fell in love with this movie immediately.  It has some pacing issues, but I still think it deals with teenage uncertainty and being an outcast extremely well.

The Two Towers
I liked Fellowship well enough, but The Two Towers was what made me fall in love and want to give the books a try.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
I wasn't as in love with Johnny Depp as some other girls were, but I was pleasantly surprised to see a movie based on a theme park ride that ended up being so good.

Van Helsing
I don't understand why this movie is so poorly regarded. It has Hugh Jackman and David Wenham and it's a fun film!

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
I really loved this movie, and it made me go back and read the entire series again.

The Prestige
This one blew my mind when I saw it. I really need to revisit it.

I Am Legend
I know it pales in comparison to the book, and really in comparison to most horror/creature movies as well, but a less well versed in horror me loved this one a lot.

The Dark Knight
The best Batman film ever made, in my opinion.

There are other films from this year I like better, but this one was the biggest deal to me at the time.

Scott Pilgrim vs the World
This movie and I are only just now passing the infatuation phase.  I don't know if it's turned into true love, but I still think it's a fun film.

X-men: First Class 
I'm thinking it's fairly safe to say this movie will probably not be eclipsed by any others this year for me.

Friday, June 3, 2011

X-men Marathon: X-men: First Class

I was pretty lukewarm on this film during most of its development. It was only the more recent character centric trailers that really peaked my interest. I think after the last two films we all largely got our expectations lowered. Does it fit in with the X-men movie continuity? Does it stay true to the characters, if not the events, of the comics? Is it a good film at all?

It is, without a doubt, a good film. Here is my spoiler free version: If you enjoyed the first two films, you will enjoy this one as well. This is a proper origin story for the X-men and it mixes drama with action very well. These are the characters you know and love.

Now, it's time to get specific. While I'll do my best to not give away too much, if you want to go into the film blind, you need to stop reading now.

Singer's influence on the film is palpable, down to the beginning scene starting out almost identical to the first scene in the first film. From there, we basically get X-men Origins: Magneto mixed with X-Men Origins: Professor X, and get to see a lot of other mutants, both old and new to audience members. There are cameos, but I'm not about to spoil that for you. I'm sure someone else will, this is the internet after all.

While there are some mild contradictions between this and the other films (Xavier is 24 when he meets Eric, not 17 as he said in the first film) they are mild errors and not wild inconsistencies like we saw in X-men Origins: Wolverine. Any long running series has its flubs (Data speaking contractions in Star Trek: The Next Generation comes to mind) and I consider any of them here pretty excusable.

As a nerd beyond being a comic book geek, I found it fascinating to see this post cold war interpretation of cold war events. I'm afraid I'm not enough of a history buff to tell you how well they got their facts straight, however, the film strongly suggests an alternate universe due to mutant involvement in the whole affair, so you probably shouldn't worry about that too much.

While I would have liked to see some of the younger mutants get a little more screen time, it's quite clear that this movie is all about Charles and Eric. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender inhabit the roles fantastically, and if you can get over the fact that they look nothing like Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, you'll be fine. Their chemistry together is fantastic, and they did a great job of showing both their deep friendship and the way the two of them disagree. It is the emotional core of the film, and I loved every minute the two of them were together on screen.

I didn't notice any glaring errors in how the other mutants were treated for the most part. I still disagree with Beast's early appearance - he should be much more apelike beyond his feet in order for him to have proper motivation to want to cure himself. As it was in the movie, he could just put on some clunky shoes and no one would ever know. It's also a shame that this Alex Summers clearly can't be Scott's brother, but given how poorly Scott was treated in the other films, I guess it doesn't really matter. I hope we get to see more of these two in future films, if they get to make them.

I was a little taken aback by January Jones' voice. I've never watched Mad Men so I didn't know what to expect. She has a fairly high pitched voice, which is not how I've ever imagined Emma to be. Despite this I think she inhabits the role well. I don't know if people who love the character will be as happy. I've personally never seen her as anything other than a meddling bitch, so she seems right to me here.

I feel like I might have more to say on repeated viewings, and believe me, there will be many more. I'll probably see it in the theater at least one more time if my parents want to go.

As an aside, as I left the theater, I noticed another group of people who had also just seen the film. They were all talking positively about it, but more than anything I noticed that one of the men was wearing a Marvel heroes shirt, and one of the women an X-men shirt. Both of these people looked to be in their 40s. I don't think I have the proper words to describe how happy that made me. To go from the little girl who was a weirdo for loving these characters to seeing people older than me loving them enough to come to films and wear shirts of them proudly fills me with a lot of happiness. I even saw one woman of about 70 who came to watch the film alone. Awesome!


This is sort of the end of my X-men Marathon, and sort of not. What I mean by that is, while this is the end of the sequential posts, this is not the last X-men review I will be doing by a long shot. Since there were many more posts I originally wanted to do, I plan on doing them sometime in the future. This will include more X-men: Evolution, more comic book and crossover reviews, and a look at the various collector's items and unique X-men merchandise I've gathered over the years.

This will also quite likely be the very last marathon I ever do. I originally had another one planned for next year to coincide with the release of The Dark Knight Rises, but the problem with sticking to one topic for so long is it isn't so interesting for those who don't care about that particular topic. Not to mention the insane amount of preparation it requires to read/watch/play so many things one after the other like that. So I will be handling it more like what I've been doing with Harry Potter and the Monsters vs Aliens Challenge, more like a recurring theme rather than a marathon. I've got some others planned besides X-men and Batman, and I think it will be a lot of fun. I hope you'll come back to check them out!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

X-men Marathon: X-men Origins: Wolverine

I've touched on this film briefly before on this blog, but I wanted to do a more thorough review as part of the marathon.

My feelings on this movie are very mixed. I think it's a solid action film with some great performances. On the other hand, as a supposed prequel to the X-men film universe, it mucks everything up and doesn't make much sense. It tries to tie itself to X2 but fails in making any true connection. As a stand alone film, it's much stronger. In terms of how it differs from the comics, there is one huge glaring mistake, but otherwise it's not so bad.

The movie opens with a very brief scene that is an adaptation of the Wolverine: Origin limited series. When that series first came out, there was no immediate way to tell which of the characters in the book was actually meant to be Wolverine. It was a sort of tease, as there was this more savage kid that you thought was going to be Wolverine, but in reality he was the more sickly kid. For the movie they took that savage kid and made him Sabretooth, which I think works really well. For awhile in the comics, it was suggested that Sabretooth was Wolverine's father, so having him as his brother isn't too far of a stretch. I really like the credits sequence of the film that shows them fighting through the various wars. It does a great job of both showing the passage of time and developing their personalities.

Wolverine's time with Weapon X is not something I've read a whole lot of issues on. Most of it was shown before my time reading the comics, so I'm not always 100% on the accuracies of some of these things in the movie. However I do know that everyone shown working with Stryker actually was a part of the Weapon X project, with the exception of Chris Bradley. However, it still semi-makes sense to include him, as both he and the character referred to as Zero in the film both took the name of Maverick at one time. Wade Wilson/Deadpool never actually worked with Wolverine but was experimented on just like the others.

Let's talk about Deadpool right up front. That wise cracking talented fighter you see at the beginning of the film is Deadpool to a T in terms of personality. The main difference is that he also has a healing factor and is horribly disfigured so that you pretty much always see him covered in his costume from head to toe. He's also known for breaking the fourth wall constantly, making pop culture references, and being completely aware of the fact that he exists within a comic book. So while I think it makes sense the way they built it into the movie ("You'd be the perfect soldier if I could just shut your mouth"), I can also perfectly understand why hardcore fans of the character were angered by the changes made to him in the film. Hopefully they will eventually make his movie that will portray him as he is really meant to be.

Taken completely by itself, I think the story works as a legitimate origin for Wolverine and why he went through the adamantium procedure. It's also a decent adaptation of the comics, basically taking some of the key players and building a storyline out of it. The actual story is so muddled, with writers constantly coming behind each other to change things and claim the previous story was a false memory, that you could not and should not do a straight up adaptation.

There is a bit of silliness - the fable Silver Fox tells Wolverine would make more sense if it was a wolf, and we definitely didn't need an explanation of how he got his jacket. Special effects wise, some of the early appearances of his claws are really fake looking. The movie was subjected to reshoots, and if you pay enough attention you can tell exactly where - looking this time I noticed Kayla's hair is dramatically different in the middle of one scene. Having watched the alternate clip in the bonus features, I think they made the change for the better, even if Logan being shot in the head to erase his memory doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

When the movie came out the one thing I was looking forward to more than anything was to finally see Gambit on the big screen. They had been teasing possibly adding him to all the main X-films and it never happened. Josh Holloway was supposed to perform the role but turned it down because it was too much like Sawyer and he didn't want to be typecast. I can understand that, but man, he has the perfect look for the role. As it is, I think Taylor Kitsch is a good substitute, and it's probably best he ended up here rather than in the main X-films - because an adult Gambit and a teenage Rogue just wouldn't be right.

His accent is wrong. That isn't surprising, of course, and it's only bothersome as a Southern La native. I'm also pretty sure you can't ride motorcycles down Bourbon Street. Anyway, once you get past that, I think they did a great job with Gambit. While I would have liked to see his cards glow a little more noticeably, I love all the scenes we see of him with his bo staff in action. His uneasy relationship with Wolverine is also great. It's just a shame we couldn't see more of him.

Has anyone else ever noticed that when Logan says "I know who you are, Gambit" it sounds like he has a frog in his throat? Why don't they take the time to reshoot these things?

It was also nice to see the cameos of various mutants return for this film. Beyond the more obvious Cyclops and Emma Frost (whose diamond form looks absolutely terrible), I also saw Toad, Quicksilver, Riptide, the Monet twins, and I think the girl with fog all around her was supposed to be Storm. There was another more obvious cameo of Storm in an earlier scene, but it was really out of place and weird, so it's a good thing they cut it.

So, overall, it's not a great film, but I think it is an enjoyable one. It seems like they took a lot of the feedback they received on this one seriously, and if The Wolverine ever gets out of development hell, we should hopefully get a decent followup about Logan's time in Japan.

I plan to see First Class as soon as I can, so expect my review up by tomorrow afternoon!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

X-men Marathon: X-men: The Last Stand

It took me awhile to actually sit down and watch this movie in order to review it. I was really dreading it. I'll be honest, I actually stopped it about half way through and came back to finish it later. I just needed a break. I would not say that this is a terrible film as much as it just contains scenes that really, really upset me, combined with minor annoyances and a couple things that make me happy. I'll try to break it down for you.

What I Like:

1. Kelsey Grammar as Beast. Kudos to a serious actor like KG being so willing to put on all the makeup and fur for this role. His appearance and demeanor here are absolutely perfect for me. Hearing him say "Oh my stars and garters" makes me giddy. I also absolutely love seeing him in action on Alcatraz Island, and that they placed him as a former member of the team who gets an important role in the film.

2. Seeing Iceman take ice form. It's a very small detail and moment, but this is what us comic geeks live for when watching these movie adaptations. At least it's what this comic geek lives for.

3. Depowering Magneto as a way of defeating him. I don't think this has ever been done in the comics, but it's actually quite smart. Take the man who thinks that mutants are superior in every way to humans and make him human. What is left then? Of course, the movie doesn't actually explore this, but it's a good idea anyway.

4. Seeing the danger room, the head of a sentinel, and two fastball specials.

5. While I would have liked to see Angel take a much larger role, I really like all the scenes he is in.

6. The way Magneto turns his back on Mystique the moment she is depowered, and the way she betrays him because of it.

What I'm Okay With:

1. Rogue being tempted to seek out the cure. I've seen it portrayed in both the comics and cartoons before and I think it makes perfect sense that this is something she would want.

2. While it doesn't sit well with me that the Professor essentially gave Jean a split personality, I think they were trying to at least partially adapt the idea that he shut off her telepathy from her at a young age. Her friend died while Jean was still telepathically connected to her, and it caused her a lot of pain and grief. So if you look at it that way, I guess I can deal with it.

3. Using Leech as a way to create the cure. I guess it doesn't matter that he isn't green skinned here.

4. Having Storm and Callisto fight each other, given their old rivalry in the comics. It's too bad this Callisto is absolutely nothing like the comics version.

5. The reason Jean goes ballistic, the way she begins to disintegrate everything because of it, and the way Logan is forced to stop her. (As an aside though, isn't it nice of her to leave behind some shorts as she strips his costume off him?)

6. Juggernaut isn't really a mutant, but I can understand making him one for simplicity's sake.

What Annoys Me:

1. The way so many mutants appear in name only. Besides Callisto, Kid Omega is also nothing like his comics counterpart. Psylocke seems to have her Crimson Dawn shadow power, though it looks more like a chameleon ability. They also could have included so many cameos amidst the Brotherhood but the only recognizable one I could catch was Spyke - everyone else seemed to just have generic freakish powers.

2. The fact that Juggernaut doesn't seem to be related to the Professor at all.

3. I have a problem with characters who have never truly died in the comics dying in this film. Maybe that's not fair since this is a different universe, but it still bugs me.

4. When Jean sacrificed herself in X2, Singer showed us a very long emotional moment where we saw what the Professor, Logan, and Scott in particular were all going through. It's a very sad scene. In this film, after the professor dies, Logan falls to his knees and then Ororo hugs him, before we immediately fade out to the funeral. It's the difference between a good director and a bad one for me. Overall this film puts action too far ahead of story and emotion.

5. Halle Berry waving her Oscar around and forcing Storm to be in practically every scene. While it makes perfect sense that the Professor would possibly pass the school on to Storm, the problem is this Storm isn't anything like the Storm of the comics. Storm isn't sassy and indignant. She's classy and majestic and keeps a cool head at all times. What's amazing is that they show us proof that her mood effects the weather, and then we see her throw a fit when she hears about the cure. Storm throwing a fit could cause a tornado or hurricane. She must constantly keep her emotions under control. The fact is, this woman won an Oscar simply because she knew how to portray trash, and she was not made for this role AT ALL.

6. Kitty being used mostly as a way to create tension in the Rogue/Iceman relationship. The only time we get to see her have personality at all is during the scene where she rescues Leech. It also bothers me that her costume has pink highlights when she's never had a pink costume, because it seems like it was done simply because she was the girl on the team.

7. Juggernaut referencing an internet meme. To me, that's the wrong kind of fan tribute.

What Makes Me Angry:

1. Cyclops was underused and mistreated through all of the films, but it's especially bad here. The only good moment for Scott in all of this trilogy is the moment in the first film when the Professor has been incapacitated and Scott vows to lead the team and take care of them. Otherwise he was regulated as nothing more than getting in the way of Jean and Logan being together. Supposedly he was only killed off in this film because James Marsden went to make Superman Returns, but that doesn't excuse the fact that NO ONE in this film mourns for him. I have my own issues with the character, but there's no mistaking the fact that he is what the X-men are all about.

2. Rogue choosing to get rid of her powers, and most specifically, how it is done here. There is always the issue in stories to show, not tell. All we SEE is Rogue being upset about Bobby getting close to Kitty and bitching that they can't touch, so at the end when she claims she did it because she wanted to, we can't really believe her because we haven't seen anything to prove otherwise. Perhaps if she had dumped him immediately afterward, for instance, that might have been a good form of proof.

3. I'll admit that there is a part of me that wishes to see the Professor as an almost perfect person. I stopped reading the X-men comics not long after the Onslaught saga because I didn't like the way they had portrayed the Professor at all. So the nonchalant way in which the Professor talks about subduing the Phoenix and tells Logan to go get lost really bugs me.

What Turns Me Into the Hulk:

Here comes the part that you probably saw coming a mile away if you've read enough of my other reviews and know my main online handle - the Phoenix as she is portrayed in this movie throws me into fits of rage. I hate the way she is basically a bad Exorcist impression far more than a cosmic entity or a secondary mutation. I hate the yellowed skin with the dark veins and the black eyes. I hate the complete lack of fire in relation to her using her powers. Why even call her Phoenix?? I hate the way they show her sucking the life out of Scott because it doesn't even make sense for her powers. I hate the way everything is floating at Alkali Lake when Storm and Wolverine get there, because a passed out woman couldn't be making all those things free float in the air. I hate the representation of the Phoenix as an inherently evil creature. It is a complete bastardization of what this character is and I just can't stand it. It directly contradicts everything that happened in the previous film as well, so you can't even use the excuse of this being different because it is a separate universe.

I've recently heard that they are renewing plans to make a 4th X-men film. I think this would be a horrible idea. They killed off too many of the key players and damaged some the remaining ones to go forward with any kind of decent storyline. If X-men: First Class turns out well, I would much rather see that as a reboot and go forward from there.
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