Wednesday, September 21, 2011

My X-men Collection part 1

Pretty much all of my writing energy at this point is going into editing volume 2 of The Hinges of Destiny, trying to get it ready so I can start posting on the site again. The entirety of volume 1 is now up for reading if you haven't checked it out yet. I'll be honest, I would feel massively guilty if I took the time to write an entry right now instead. Apparently taking time to film and edit videos does not cause that guilt however, so here's the first in a series of my X-men collection.

I start off by doing a mini review of X-men: First Class's bluray release, and then show you my VHS tapes, stuffed Wolverine, DVDs, SNES game, and t-shirts. Being me, I also tell you some stories about these various items, so this isn't just a slideshow. And yes, there is a Logan cameo.

I filmed twice as much material as you see here and technically have a little more to do, so there will be a part 2 for sure and possibly also a part 3 coming soon.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Monsters vs Aliens Challenge: The Creature from the Black Lagoon

It's my penultimate post in this challenge! After this, The Fly is the only one left. This also serves as my final review of all the main Universal Studios Monsters, though I still have plenty of sequels to get through if I want to see them all.


I had high hopes for this movie, and that may be why I came off feeling a bit disappointed. Since the creature in the film does not talk, it would require a strong cast to help pick up the slack. Unfortunately, I didn't find it here. It felt very stereotypical and standard, and one day after watching the film I can't even remember anyone's name. There's an older scientist who mostly exists to get the plot moving. Two young scientists with differing views serve to build conflict - one wants money and fame from his discoveries, the other wants to better mankind. Then there's the girl, who serves to provide badly aged jokes like "Why aren't you two married yet?" and to do silly things like swimming alone in a strange swamp just to get the creature to notice her. There's also the captain of the boat, who has an absolutely terrible accent and fails miserably as comic relief.

As such we're pretty much left with the creature itself. I got a little worried at first because in the first few scenes, all we see are hands or arms. But we get our first real glimpse of the creature 24 minutes into the film, and he stays around pretty heavily from then on. His characterization is a little inconsistent. First he attacks a camp for seemingly no good reason, then he sees the girl and basically just swims beside her, mesmerized, and doesn't really harm anyone until the humans attack him. I think the reason he attacks the camp early on is because they find the bones of a hand of one of his species and take it away, but honestly that seems like a strange thing to kill two men for. The scene seems to be there to try to amp up the danger for us and doesn't really suit the rest of the plot. Without it we would be left with a creature who only becomes dangerous when his life and home are threatened, and he could become a much more likeable creature that way.

The costume is really rather impressive, and has more movement then you might expect. It's even more impressive when you realize it had to be designed to function both on land and under the water. There are a lot of scenes that happen underwater, and the score is strong enough that you don't mind the lack of dialogue at all. Really, given how I felt about most of the people, I think I would have been happy to have a movie that was 100% underwater.

There are strong physical differences between The Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Missing Link in Monsters vs Aliens, but there's no doubt that one influenced the other. Link is said to be 20,000 years old, and shortly after he was thawed out he caused some problems at his old lagoon habitat.


Link is voiced by Will Arnett, who I love thanks to Arrested Development. He's ultra macho with a lot of pride, perhaps because he is so old he's bound to have an outdated way of thinking. He also lives up to his name - he's the only one able to communicate with Insectosaurus. Unlike a lot of the other characters who only serve as comic relief, Link is a strong supporting character, keeping the group moving forward whenever Ginormica isn't around.

The creature received two sequels and has been referenced countless times in other media. As a member of the Universal Studios Monsters group, he gets a fair amount of attention and tends to be instantly recognizable to most of us in America. Perhaps my favorite tribute to him is the fishman found in The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

This was the point in the series where I finally got to read the latest book along with everyone else. Apparently I had a lot more free time in 2005, because I don't recall having to worry about spoiler avoidance at that time. I must have read it very quickly. I remember how fun it was to be part of the Harry Potter communities on livejournal, and getting to discuss so many of the details with others. I even discovered Wizard Rock not long after this. In some ways a lot of that overshadows my memories of the book itself, which is not to say that I didn't enjoy it.

Needless to say, this post is full of spoilers.

In order for the book to grow up along with its characters, this one is full of relationships and two young characters being given very adult tasks. Sometimes the drama is a little drawn out, particularly in terms of the Hermione/Ron/Lavender bits, but overall it feels as fitting as Harry's snotty attitude in the previous book.

Perhaps the biggest criticism you could give is that not very much of importance happens in this book until the very end. It's mostly just back story for Voldemort combined with snogging and Quidditch until the large crescendo of an ending. It is a credit to Rowling's ability to define her characters that very little of this feels tedious. By this point she has drawn you in to these characters so well that I think we're all happy to spend some time finding out about how Tom Riddle was born and what happened to him before and during his time at Hogwarts. But it is a strange bit of pacing.

Perhaps because of this we need to be forgiving when we judge the movie adaptation. Not everyone who watches the films reads the books, and so many little details have been left out of the previous movies that spending this much time on back story may not make for a very entertaining film. They did their best to inject proper amounts of action and comedy and character development. The scene between Draco and Dumbledore in the tower is fantastic. My biggest complaint, both for the movie itself and also related to the adaptation, is that Harry is not paralyzed during this final scene. Even though Dumbledore tells him to stay still and say nothing, I think we all know Harry well enough at this point to know he would not listen as long as he had the ability to do something.

While the opening scene of rampaging Death Eaters works much better than us seeing two ministers discuss the issues at hand, the attack on the Burrow makes no sense and feels as obviously tacked on as it is. Voldemort wants to kill Harry himself, there's no way he would allow his followers to attack him without him there. Additionally, we see a lot of scenes of Malfoy trying to get the vanishing cabinet to work again, yet when the Death Eaters finally arrive all they do is heckle a bit, destroy some things and set Hagrid's house on fire. That's an awful lot of effort for almost nothing.

I have absolutely no problem with them completely rejecting the "what's going on with Tonks?" subplot, as it doesn't work very well in the book at all. It's an awful lot of misdirection with no real purpose behind it. I was happy to see my two favorite adult characters hook up, I just don't think she had to turn Tonks into an emo child before it. So I'm glad the movie glazes over it and just puts them together from the get go. There's also no Bill and Fleur here to serve as a counterpoint to it, so that also justifies leaving it out.

While I don't mind that they skipped a lot of Voldemort's back story, I do think the scene where he finds out about the locket and the cup would have been important to help Harry know what to look for in the Deathly Hallows movies. But I'll discuss that a little more when I get to the next film.

I never would have thought of this as a film that needed to be R rated, but there are at least two scenes in this movie that lack a lot of weight, and the only thing I can think of is that they were trying to keep the ratings down. When Harry uses Sectumsemptra on Draco in the book, Draco's blood literally splashes on to Harry. It's a perfect way to impress upon Harry just what he has just done. In the movie Malfoy just gets pushed back and then Harry walks closer to see him covered in blood. Similarly, the inferi just aren't very scary. It's a decent jump scare when the first one emerges out of the water, but overall they're just not very scary creatures at all, and I say that as someone who is frequently frightened of zombies.

But the absolute worst of it is Snape. It is obvious, in every single scene, that he doesn't want to kill Dumbledore. It's written all over his face when he makes the unbreakable vow, which is pretty stupid given that Bellatrix is standing right there. It's obvious when we see him talking to Dumbledore before they leave for the cave, and you can see the pain on his face as he performs the killing curse. I can't help but think of this as a horrible mistake on their part. For one, it was a huge thing for readers at the end of the book, wondering just whether or not Dumbledore had misplaced his trust in Snape after all. We felt just as betrayed as Harry did. It also seems silly that a man who has worked so well as a double agent for so long could not at least fake being a true Death Eater properly.

Overall I just felt like the drama in the movie wasn't pulled off very well, the one exception being the scene between Dumbledore and Draco. I think we were all very relieved to hear they would be splitting up Deathly Hallows into two films, because that meant they wouldn't have to cut as many corners and therefore give the ending of this story the proper treatment it needed.

I'll be splitting up my post for the last book as well - I'll read up until where the first movie ends then do that post. Until then, what did you think? Were you angry about the movie adaptation or did you think it improved the story? How did you feel when Snape killed Dumbledore in the book?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension

For the most part I don't regret my decision to "cut the cord" and go without cable, but every now and then it means I miss out on certain things. In this case, it meant I couldn't watch a Disney Channel Original Movie when it premiered. The good news is that Disney loves money, so of course they put it out on DVD. And the good thing for me is that I belong to the Disney Movie Club, so since I was going to order The Lion King on blu ray anyway, I got this one for 60% off. The DVD release also features an episode I've already mentioned on here before, "Attack of the 50 Foot Sister" with creator commentary which was a nice bonus. There's also "Perry-oke" so you can sing along with all the songs in the movie.

As a comic book fan, the idea of an alternate reality anything is usually pretty exciting for me. Add to the fact that this particular alternate reality features a Dr. D who is actually evil, and I knew I was going to be in for a fun film.

Given the way most Phineas and Ferb episodes are actually two shorts in one, you might think stretching something from 11 minutes to 77 would lead to a dragging storyline, but that's not the case here at all. You really have to hand it to the writers of this show for continually making something that is creative, intelligent and funny regardless of length.

Beyond seeing alternate reality versions of nearly all of the characters, this movie also allows characters who never meet in the show to finally interact with each other. There was something about seeing Phineas, Ferb and Dr. D all work on an invention together that was a whole lot of fun. The movie also brought out a surprising amount of dramatic range for Phineas. In the first scene, before we flashback, Phineas says he can't be his normal positive self at the moment, and in a way that is largely true for the whole movie. When he discovers that Perry is really a secret agent, he lets loose on him for not telling them about it. When you combine his verbose complaining with the fact that poor Perry can't talk to explain himself, it's kind of heartbreaking. By the time the song "I Walk Away" started playing, a tear came to my eye. (Though in all fairness, that's not the first time this show has made me cry. "Little Brothers" gets me nearly every time I hear it.)

Speaking of the songs, I wish I could rave about them, but honestly overall I'm not terribly impressed. While they fit the movie very well, there isn't any particular one here that stands out to me. Technically I now have digital copies of all of them since they also came with the DVD, but I can't see myself playing them much. I enjoyed the animated sequences that went with them more so than the songs themselves.

Perfect example. I love all the little things referenced here, and I love seeing Dr. D x 2, but the song is just okay.

I loved all the alternate reality counterparts, particularly the truly evil Dr. D and the confident, grown up Candace. I enjoyed the way the story allowed both for our versions to have an effect on the alternate reality and that our reality was at least temporarily visited by the alternates as well. The movie is also basically a big tribute to former episodes, almost to the point that this could have worked as a kind of series finale. Part of me would have liked to see things permanently change on the show going forward, but I can understand why they didn't do that. The way they do turn everything back to normal is fairly predictable and handled well.

If you've never seen the show before, I don't think you should start with the film. There's too many winks and nods in here that you probably won't entirely get it. So go watch the show (I've already told you why you should!), and then check out the film. I think most of my fellow fans have already seen the movie.. so what did you guys think?
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