Thursday, May 24, 2012

Cinema plans and a spoiler-free review of "Dark Shadows"

Well, today was one of those rare days when I just felt like going to the cinema. And not much was showing. I've already seen "The Avengers".  For some reason I was under the impression that today was Friday and "Men In Black III" would be out, which I wasn't terribly fussed about, but it appealed to me the most out of what was showing. Me being me, I didn't want to just go home when I found out that film wasn't out yet. So I went for "Dark Shadows" with some vain hope of enjoying a dumb and cheesy horror comedy.

But before I start the review I'll mention some of the films I'd like to see in the near future:
1. Prometheus - a sci-fi movie from Ridley Scott set in the "Alien" universe, but not directly related to the film. If nothing else, it promises to be very interesting visually.
2. The Dark Knight Rises - Well, did you expect me to miss out on a Batman picture? I've enjoyed the other two Dark Knight films, so I'm expecting to like this one as well.
3. Brave - It's a Pixar production. Naturally, the trailer for it looks beautiful. And the story seems good as well. I like the time and place they've chosen. And even if I don't enjoy the tale itself as much as I expect, I think I'll learn something from this movie in terms of art and visual storytelling.  
4. Frankenweenie - I think the trailer looks really good and the movie should be fun. I've seen Burton's live action "Frankenweenie" from 1984 and thought it was alright, if only a bit too short. The claymation movie has every chance of being better. For once I have honest faith in Tim!

Films I might watch:
1. Chernobyl Diaries - Okay, just the phrase "a new film from the creator of 'Paranormal Activity'"  alone is enough to persuade me to stay away from a movie. but... This one's about Chernobyl! And as a proud post-soviet I see no reason not to check it out. I've heard some of the Cernobyl ghost stories and if any of them are used here, I'd like to see that. Am I honestly bothered enough to go watch it in the cinema? Well, depends on my mood and the ticket price. Let's be honest - it won't be the worst movie I've ever paid to see.
2. The Amazing Spider-Man - I've never been too bothered about Spider-Man or the related movies, but I've never really disliked the character either. Having seen how good the recent Marvel films are I'd probably be tempted to give this one a shot as well. I couldn't tell from the trailer if it's worth seeing, so I'm in no rush here.
3. Top Cat: The Movie - Well, I'm not going to the cinema to watch it, that's for sure. Unless I'm roped into an outing of some kind, which is unlikely. The trailer looks terrible. The VA chosen for TC seems absolutely awful at the role. The whole thing falls apart stylistically - the 2D and 3D just don't go together at all. A Top Cat film should have been hand-drawn. Or it should have been given to Pixar (unlikely that they would take the job, but still).
Still, "Top Cat" was one of the few Hanna-Barbera animated series I used to watch often and honestly enjoy, so I feel somewhat obliged to see what they've done with it.

And now, the "Dark Shadows" review:

Overall rating:
Expectations exceeded? Not at all
Disappointed? Well, it had some redeeming moments and past a certain point I felt that I was rather enjoying the film.
Writing: Clearly, it's a throw-away script that just seemed to consist of a few funny ideas thrown together and the rest of the story written to tie them into one thing.
Acting: Very reasonable
Action/Drama/Humour:  Well, I was hoping for the whole thing to be a bit more slapstick and openly silly. We got a typical "Disney live-action movie" cast for the most part, but they were allowed to have dirty humour. Put those together and you get plenty of cringe-worty moments. Not much at all was shown, but plenty was implied. But there was some genuinely funny stuff there, too.
Worth watching: Well, knew what I was in for, but let's just say that I was glad of the student discount I got on the ticket. I wouldn't say it's particularly amazing in any way, but it's not a complete waste either. Definitely not the worst Burton's done. But I wouldn't buy the DVD unless it was in a bargain bin.

The film started in a typical Burton way - plenty of stylized gloomy scenes and a story of the protagonist's tragic past. But it wasn't long until he emerged in the 70s and tried to re-unite with his family. His inability to adapt was funny at times, but not as hilarious as it could have been. Then again, there were two very redeeming moments in this movie. One of them involved Alice Cooper. After that scene I no longer felt bad about going to see a film that was bound to be a disaster. The other redeeming moment? Well, that would be a spoiler!  I suppose there is a third as well, for those who are sick of seeing Helena Bonham Carter in Burton's films (I have nothing against her personally. She can be very good when given a decent enough role).
I didn't understand some of the cast choices. The family matriarch didn't really feel needed. It felt like they just wanted to stick Michelle Pfeiffer somewhere in the film for no apparent reason the way Disney keep putting Julie Andrews in their movies. She just looked weird and didn't seem to do anything for the story at all.

All in all, it was more of a trashy romantic comedy than a funny, cheesy horror. Some moments are good. In fact, I would have very much liked it if it was cut down to a third of its length, getting rid of all the prolonged emotional scenes and the absolutely painful "adult humour".

A sequel?
As I've said, it's a throw-away script, but considering what happens towards the end, we've got plenty of characters with problems to solve. If it was Disney, they'd definitely try to milk that storyline for all its' supposed worth. I don't think Warner Bros. are that bad, but if "the sequel nobody cares about" does appear, I won't be too surprised.

Because lava lamps are awesome. Art by wrathofbrandon

Friday, May 11, 2012

Freaky Friday

This week I'm bringing you the art of Robert Steven Connett (or vmaximus, as he's known on DevinatArt).
The artist specializes in surrealism and has a rather large gallery of phantasmagoric images (see the links above). He also has a very philosophical approach to art (which I see as a bad habit of needlessly overcomplicating life, but that's just me!). It's not rare for his images to have long and thoughtful comments, on DeviantArt especially. 
Here are a few of my personal picks from Robert's gallery:

Bad Dreams

Planktonauts V3

Microbia 1, in Blue

Red Microbia



Zoooids - Underworld II

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Time Squad: a review

 Time Squad is another one of Cartoon Network's fun, but short-lived and soon forgotten shows. It ran for two seasons and has 26 episodes in total (technically it's 52, since they're 10 minute episodes grouped by two).

Action takes place in the year 100,000,000 AD. The Earth has somehow managed to reach a stable utopia state -  "no wars, no pollution, and bacon is good for your heart."
And here's the technobabble -  "time is like a rope". As time constantly progresses, the past starts to "unravel". History starts messing up, which affects the future. Obviously, this needs to be prevented in order to preserve Earth in the perfect state it's in.

And that's where the Time Squad comes in with their famous motto - "Ensuring the past to protect our future."

Here's who our heroes are:
Officer Buck Tuddrussel - an infantile musclehead who wanted to be a cop. But since he was lucky enough to live in an utopia, he ended up being a "time cop" instead. Buck's talents lie solely in shooting and kicking the crap out of people. On a side note, I would guess that he's a reference to Buck Rogers.

Lawrence "Larry" 3000 - an android who was designed as a diplomat. But since the Earth's governments have formed a single nation, he has to be re-assigned. Larry is proficient at all things girly - he can cook complex dishes an average person has ever heard of, his speech and manners are excellent and he's very good at embroidery. He's also a bitter, miserable misanthropic git a lot of the time, but, once again, girly things make him happy. Larry is essentially a parody of C-3PO, which the creator himself admits to.

Otto Osworth - a present day orphan who was "adopted" by Buck and Larry despite Time Squad regulations. He's a young prodigy with a passion for history and therefore the only one in the squad who knows what needs to be done.

So is the series actually educational? On a very basic level, perhaps. But mostly it's just dumb fun. You get to watch the big names in history making idiots of themselves (to be fair, the squad does the same).

And here's my usual rating breakdown:

Series name: " Time Squad "
Foxy's rating: 
Expectations Exceeded? Not really
Disappointed: No
Writing: It isn't bad. The episodes are reasonably entertaining and the stories don't drag.
Animation: I like it. The style is simply nice and there isn't anything wrong with the motion.
Action:  Very slapstick, which is great
Drama: Fantastic at times. Anything to do with Larry is bound to be hilarious. And there are no "serious" moments at all in the series.
Humour: Very silly, but fun.
Worth watching: I'd say so. It's a reasonably fun show that's simply nice. The squad acts like a dysfunctional family and there's an interesting enough mix of characters to make that entertaining.

The best episode:
Every Poe Has a Silver Lining—The Time Squad discover that famed horror writer Edgar Allan Poe is now overly cheerful and writing children's books, and must remind Poe of how horrible the world really is.

Though you might also like this one:
Orphan Substitute—While on a mission to 2001 to stop George W. Bush from building the world's biggest ball of twine, Otto is taken back to the orphanage from which he came (as seen in the first episode) by Sister Thornly. Without Otto, Larry and Tuddrussel must once again try to complete a historical mission (this time centered on Christopher Columbus) on their own, but when that fails, they scour many orphanages from the past to find a replacement boy genius.
(episode synopses taken from Wikipedia)

Fan love:
I Wanna Break Free
The State Dinner
Oy Vey

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Avengers: bite-size spoiler-free reviews and general ramblings

I've seen "The Avengers" and it was awesome!
Since I haven't really seen any of the Marvel films apart from "Iron Man" 1 & 2, I've decided to also watch "Captain America" and "Thor" before actually going to the movies. Thought I'd share some thoughts while my memories are still fresh.

First mini-review: Captain America
I wanted to see that film in the cinema last summer, but I was a bit too late. I remember seeing the trailers and I knew they've came up with some kind of an interesting back story for a very cheesy hero. I was looking forward to see how they've done it.
I really liked the film. It's basically a nicely-done somewhat humorous WWII drama with a twist. Very slightly, it's reminded me of "The Dirty Dozen" (which I happen to really like!). I loved how convincing the atmosphere was in the film. Also I found the humour fantastic - it was PG, but in a classy way, which was a very pleasant surprise.
As for the Captain himself - I think they've done a great job of giving some depth to a character, who didn't seem to have too much potential. I really like him actually - he's an old-fashioned idealistic soldier. And from what I can tell, he rides a Harley in the later film (why yes, I do think that choppers are purely awesome!) 
One thing that did stick out to me was the red skull. I thought it closely resembled plasticine. But hey, I do like plasticine animation! I was happy enough to go with it, though some viewers might think it doesn't really go with the rest of the film visually and looks cheap.
All in all, a good film. Should be a treat to fans of American war film (unless you really like taking everything seriously). I recommend it!

Second mini-review: Thor
I've enjoed "Captain America" more than Thor, but it's still a fun film. It's more of a comedy than anything else, despite its serious moments, and I like how willing the creators were to show the characters making themselves look stupid. Thor's friends reminded me of the Asterix & Obelisk movies and I mean that in a good way. I've really enjoyed some genuinely warm friendship moments we got to see. 
I liked what a smug show-off Thor was. I also like Loki. Mostly because he isn't just a cowboy in a black hat who's obviously evil from the start. I found myself wondering whether he was actually trying to do the right thing, did he want admiration, is he actually evil or just insane? You will form a more solid opinion on him by the end, but there's still the question of his plans and motives left.
I wouldn't call it a must-see film, though it's good fun. In other words, I'm not gonna try and convince you that it's a pure masterpiece, you've never seen anything like it and you haven't lived till you've seen it. But it's a good idea to watch it if you're planning to see "The Avengers".

A slightly more in-depth review: The Avengers
Let's start this one with my usual rating breakdown:

Overall rating:
Expectations exceeded? They were indeed! I had reason to believe it would be a good movie, but I was seriously blown away regardless
Disappointed? one scene. just one scene.
Writing: Clever, funny, dynamic.
Acting: Fantastic! One of he strong points of this movie. The actors carry their roles exceptionally well! (apart from that one scene anyway...) 
Action/Drama/Humour:  Yes, I've put three categories in one. Mainly because there's a great deal going on for each of these and the film switches between the three rapidly. There quite literally isn't a dull moment. And the best part is, it works! It's serious enough to make the characters believable, but not enough to make he whole thing boring. I loved the fact hat the heroes aren't trying to be "serious" or show how much they're suffering from a tragic past. They're just, simply put, being awesome. They're aware of the silliness that comes with the superhero role and they fully embrace it, which is just beautiful to watch. The "Hulk smash" part made me very happy. Also the humour is absolutely amazing. It's one of the very few films that have made me physically laugh out loud quite a few times. Not a single joke made me cringe. I was amazed at how funny a film can be without showing any sign of bad taste or lowbrow humour. Another thing I've noticed - it's awesome how a film with so many explosions does not seem tacky (watch and learn Michael Bay! ...On second thought, no. Just make yourself useful - go die in a fire).
Worth watching: No prizes for guessing!

So this movie is a hands-down instant favourite. I suppose now's the time to mention that scene I didn't like that made me take half a star away from the film. Well... I'm Russian...
And that Black Widow interrogation scene... Well... I found that absolutely painful to watch. Or, to be more precise, to listen to. The old guy spoke like a senile farmer from Ukraine, the rest just sounded like white trash of the post-soviet variety who had half of their teeth missing. The dialogue sounded like it was translated using Google. I mean come on! There was also a huge billboard outside the building full of Cyrillic letters, yet there wasn't a single vowel there! The whole thing would sound something like "Szhsthszhft". I mean I'm alight with Hollywood making clumsy attempts at depicting us Russians, but they've done ten times better decades ago! In fact, I thought this sort of thing was in the past, after I've seen how well the Russian soldiers were played in the recent "Indiana Jones" movie, as well as the Russian characters in "Max Payne", and the Russian-speaking gypsies in "Drag Me to Hell".  And it's not like real Russians are difficult to get hold of. I wish they would have just gotten some voice actors to dub the damn thing! After the amount of effort they've put into accurately depicting a Russian ex-con in Iron Man 2, this just seems like they were honestly trying to do a terrible job!

The general ramblings:
I've always considered myself a DC fan, but now I've noticed that I'm definitely drifting towards the Marvel side of things.
I suppose I couldn't have seriously considered myself a fan of neither since I grew up without comic books. There was literally nothing available in my area. And by the time I got the internet ( I must have been 16 then or something like that) I completely forgot they existed since years before that I've discovered the wonderful world of animation.
The reason I've seen myself as a DC fan was the fact that I loved "Batman: The Animated Series". A few years later I got the "Fox Kids" channel and I saw some Spiderman catoons, as well as "Hulk" and "The X-Men". I couldn't get into them. I think that in all of them, there was a lot more serious drama than in the Batman cartoon. There were long-running plot lines so I had a lot of continuity to catch up with, which was difficult to do with the episodes often being shown at random so I've decided I didn't care that much. Also, Spiderman, who seemed to be the face of Marvel, was just too bright and colourful to me. Mostly because those colours rarely have anything to do with spiders and I didn't get the idea of a character more "serious" than Batman dressing up in bright spandex, especially if he works at night. I no longer feel that way though. I was kind of interested in the Hulk series, but it was rarely on when I was home, so I didn't really bother with it.
So when the Spiderman movies started coming out, I really didn't care. I haven't seen a single one and I haven't really been told hat I've missed out. As for the Hulk movies, I believe I've caught each on TV late at night. I was tired and they seemed slow-paced. Of course, I fell asleep watching them and didn't really feel the need to look them up.
Then in 2006 a new "Fantastic Four" animated series came out and I really liked it. I've even decided to watch the live action movie after that. Which is a decision I've bitterly regretted.
So just when I've stopped expecting anything good from Marvel, the "Iron Man" movies came out and I liked them both. Now I've also watched the movies I've reviewed today and it seems I really like the creative direction Marvel has recently taken! I hope they aren't gonna stop producing such awesome things and I'm very willing to give the Mavel universe another try.

P.S. The art used in the post is by these guys

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Pony Theme Songs

For a little while now I've been wondering, if each of the mane six had a theme song, what would those be?
The ideas I've got so far are not exactly solid and I do welcome suggestions. I might come back to this post later if I think of something better. But here we go regardless:

Twilight Sparkle - "The Educated Fool" by Iron Maiden
A flawless match if you ask me.

Applejack - "Dani California" by Red Hot Chili Peppers
A runner, a rebel and a fighter swinging hammers in Alabama. Sounds like good old AJ to me!

Rarity - "Vanity" by Lady Gaga
She might not be all that vain, but you better not even think of messing up her hair

Fluttershy - "Papillon" by Editors
It's a lovely song that could tell a timid, insecure character to keep fighting. Plus, the name means "butterfly"

Pinkie Pie - "This Cocaine Makes Me Feel Like I'm On This Song" by System of A Down
Okay, okay. It's a placeholder. But still... Pinkie has her moments.

Rainbow Dash - "All Fired Up" by Judas Priest
A burst of speed is all she needs. RD loves racing and she's got a lightning bolt mark for a reason!

Cool Scratch art by xXMioXx