The Life & Times of an Auteur.

Commentary on Pop Culture, and maybe creating some of my own.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Leaving this here...



This should also extend to models, rappers and wrestlers.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Not So Mighty After All...




Well, this is how I as a watcher feel about the rest of this season, and what Marvel Animation has turned into. Really, no other image says it better. "The Avengers - Earth's Mightiest Heroes" had a rocky start, a brilliant middle, and a very disappointing end. While none of the episodes ever got as bad as "Powerless" again, the magic was flushed down the toilet and never quite came back.

Let me just say that I really enjoyed "Assault on 42," "Ultron Unlimited," "Emperor Stark," and the two Kree episodes. They were good episodes, but Loeb's mandates were already all over the series and even these episodes felt like a shadow of what they would have been. I liked them, but that intangible quality was long gone. For me shows like "Gargoyles," like "Spectacular Spider-Man," like "Batman the Animated Series," like "Avatar: The Last Airbender" and "Legend of Korra" have that quality. And, from "Gamma World" to "Secret Invasion," this show had it too. Everything else felt like an outline of what the rest of the season would have been like....

When asked if would reveal his plans for the future of "The Spectacular Spider-Man," Greg Weisman has said:

"I had many specific ideas, some of which would undoubtedly have changed over the course of production. But I'm just not too inclined to reveal them. It's not that I'm trying to torture you, it's just that there's no way I can do them justice in this format. I write "X" would have happened, and that one statement will get dissected across the internet. And any idea is only as good as its execution - which you'll now never get to see. It may sound stupid here, but I might have been able (with the help of Vic Cook and all my other many collaborators) to pull it off on the series and have everyone think I'm a genius. Or not. But at least it would have had a shot. I just don't feel like opening myself up to potential second-guessing based on raw notions as opposed to executed episodes."

And, after seeing the rest of the season, I cannot blame him for this stance anymore. There were a lot of great ideas in the second half of this season, but the executed episodes themselves were not great. Take the Winter Soldier and Red Skull episodes. The potential was all over those episodes. They could have been great, they should have been great. They were not great. They weren't awful, but they didn't approach the bar this show had raised.

Chris Yost is a great writer, but even his episodes suffered here. Did anyone care when Black Panther "died." Granted he was saved by an ass pull, but even when I thought he was dying, while the episode by itself was fine, the overarching narrative was in shambles and I could not be made to care, and I'm pretty sure that I as a viewer was supposed to. I don't blame Yost, my blame is placed elsewhere.

Did anyone else think that final episode with Galactus felt tacked on? They knew they weren't getting another season, so they decided to end things with a big climatic fight against the most powerful of foes. Don't get me wrong, in a vacuum I like this episode, but as part of the larger narrative, it should have been Surtur. I can't speak as to the motives behind the scenes, and while I know Chris Yost wrote the episode, I'd be curious to know if Galactus was suggested by someone higher up. Probably, that is how television works. And considering Jeph Loeb's apathy of things like continuity and story narratives, I would not be surprised if he suggested Galactus.

Believe it or not, for a long time I was enjoying this series more than "Young Justice." Don't get me wrong, YJ has better animation, better writing, and is the superior production in every tangible way. But while YJ had my mind, it did not have my heart. For a long time, "EMH" actually did even if it was a more lowbrow show. I enjoyed it more... in the same way I enjoy watching "Kill Bill" more than I enjoy watching, let's say "Schindler's List." But, this show destroyed all that. It was ruined by corporate politics, and as a whole I cannot now, with any intellectual honesty call it a great show anymore. Watching these last several episodes felt more like a chore than anything else. "Young Justice," wear your crown of current superhero animated series and wear it proudly and securely. Your competition doped up on blow and was found passed out on the men's room floor in a puddle of his own filth.

All things considered, I consider this cancellation of this show to be akin to putting Old Yeller out of his misery. He was a great dog, but then he got rabies and needed to be put down. Would anyone want to watch a whole other season of Jeph Loeb pissing all over a once great show? I most certainly would not.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Book One - Air


Been a while since I reviewed this show, hasn't it? Well, let me get this out of the way, I think it is the most brilliant animated series on the air right now. I was not disappointed in how the season progressed and how it went down. This was just great storytelling. It wasn't perfect, and believe me when I say I'll get to that. But let's talk about what I liked.

From beginning to end, Korra was the kind of protagonist I like. Strong yet flawed. She was so wonderfully human. Tough yet vulnerable. Strong yet she had a lot of growing up to do. Powerful and yet unfocused. She didn't even grasp airbending until a moment of desperation and finally touched her spiritual side while contemplating suicide on that cliff side. And yes, she was contemplating it, the camera shots and angles, this is basic filmmaking 101... subtle enough to get passed Standard & Practices but it still got the point across. A very dark moment for a cartoon targeting kids in a series that was full of them.

Likewise, Amon is the type of villain I like (and he was voiced by Steve Blum!). I'm still seeing people debate whether he was a true villain, or merely misguided. The answer is, of course, both. We know why he is the way he is, and what made him that way. So, in retrospect, Amon and Tarrlok's entire stories are about two kids trying not to become their bastard of a father, both becoming just like him, and one deciding to end the both of them just so the cycle doesn't repeat itself and end up hurting a whole new generation. That's actually pretty fucking dark for a kid's show. I could not believe I was watching that murder-suicide... "they're not gonna, oh shit they did!"

I saw the reveal that Amon was a bloodbender and related to Tarrlok coming weeks ago. Granted, in episode three, I thought there might be a Koh connection... but once we learned about Tarrlok and Yakone, it became obvious to me how bloodbending could be used to cut off a bender's ability to bend. Bending is still a physical act activated by the brain, just like lifting your arm... Amon knew how to bloodbend to stop it. Did the show spell it out exactly? No. But I've never been the type of viewer who needs to have my hand held. Give me enough pieces and I can figure it out myself without needing to be spoon fed.

Asami was a great character; Zuko's grandson, General Iroh was cool; and General Bumi... I want to see more of him in season two. While I'm wishing, I hope we see old wandering Zuko. According to Mike and Bryan, Fire Lord Zuko abdicated the throne to his daughter to become a wandering diplomat for peace.

It wasn't perfect though...

Despite Amon being revealed as a fraud, the social issues that fueled his anti-bending revolution were not resolved. While I can believe that his fall knocked the wind out of the sails of the Equalists, I do think overtures need to be made towards non-benders. Maybe put one on the city council, put some into law enforcement. The Equalist movement didn't start because a man in a mask had a sad story about a firebender killing his family and burning his face... the resentment had to already exist, and for good reason.

And yes, the last two minutes of the series were a deus ex machina. I thought Korra regaining her abilities came too easily. I'm not bothered by Lin having her bending restored, considering it was taken away by a physical act and not a spiritual one, then I agree that it is fixable. But I think it just came way too easily to Korra.... I know why it was like this. The series was written as a twelve episode mini-series, and the order for more episodes came well into production. Had they known they'd get a season two earlier, it might not have ended quite like that. That's my theory anyway, and I say this as someone who wasn't much bothered by the energy-bending at the end of the original series.

And finally, this is not a complaint about the writing as I think this was purposely done by design. But I hate Mako. I think he is a really terrible person. I'm not a 'shipper at all, I've said it before and I'll say it again, 'shipping is the single lowest form of fandom there is. But I hope Korra dumps his ass in season two. If anyone lost anything from all of this, it was Asami. Okay, put yourself in her shoes for a moment. She is a teenage girl, she meets and falls in love with this handsome athletic guy, the guy is really sweet at first then acts distant, she thinks she might be doing something wrong so she spoils him, she takes him and his brother to her villa so they don't have to live on the street, he's treated like a king, she choose him and his kind over her father who disowns her and later tries to murder her, she sticks around when trouble gets deep and puts her life in danger to be there anyway she can be only for him to blow her off like nobody's business... she's the one who sacrificed all here. Fuck Mako.

Still, that was great television, and I cannot wait for season two.


Bang.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Depths


Before the final three minutes of this episode, this review was going to open up with these words: couldn't it have been anybody else?

I fell for it. I actually fell for it. For the entire episode, I was waiting for the teaser of doom to become reality. And then, when Aqualad showed up, I had an idea how it was going to go. I was reminded of the second season of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" when Joss Whedon had Angel kill Jenny Calendar, just to hammer it into the audience that Angel wasn't pretending to be evil. I bought into it all. Hook, line, and sinker.

Then we got to the final three minutes of the episode. Artemis is alive, and Aqualad is under cover. Only Wally, Nightwing and Artemis are in on it. Finally, the Team pulled a Xanatos Gambit of their very own, and this one was on the Light. While the Light still got what they wanted, the communications satellite was destroyed, it was the Team who scored the Xanatos Gambit on them, right after we were told that Black Manta arranged for the satellite to be destroyed weeks ago, in case Aqualad failed. And considering how well the Light has mastered Xanatos Gambits throughout the entire series, that's what made this episode so satisfying... the Team, for once, beat them at their own game. And now, we're seeing the seeds being planted that might bloom with the defeat of the Light.

We also learned why Ms. Martian and Superboy broke up, and half of the story I figured out. He did not like how she was performing deep psychic scans on bad guys, leaving them catatonic. But the fact that she tried to do it to him was what pushed him away. To once again mention "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" it reminds me of when Tara dumped Willow... abusing magic and then erasing Tara's memory of the incident. I really hope these two do not get back together, they probably will, but I hope they don't.

Up until the final three minutes, I was ready to hate this episode. I was drafting this review in my head, and it was a very different review. Instead, we ended up with one of the most satisfying episodes of the series' entire run. Aqualad is still a hero, and Artemis is back in the game. And with Artemis back in the game, Wally won't be far behind.

Welcome back.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Prometheus


All right, so I went to the 7:10 showing of "Prometheus" today, and I have a few things to say. Not sure how much I want spoil, but it's actually a pretty predictable movie. I don't mean that as a put down, because as much as it was predictable, it was still very smart, very well done, and a terrific companion piece to "Alien."

It answers some questions, but really raises a lot more questions. And, honestly, that is what the best science fiction movies have done, and Hollywood hasn't given us anything like that in a very long time. If you like "2001: A Space Odyssey" or "Blade Runner" or films of that ilk, you'll like this. But if you like the Alien movies directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, I recommend you stay away from this one.

I've very seldom seen prequel movies that I liked. Sure, this movie leaves things unanswered but none of that is a plot hole. Unlike the "Star Wars" prequels, there is definitely craft displayed in this screenplay and how this story is constructed. I did not leave the theater unsatisfied. I know the reaction is mixed, but... like I said, we so seldom get science fiction movies that have a brain, I think many movie going audiences forgot what smart science fiction was like. I'm amazed Fox green lit this.

I thought Michael Fassbender turned in a terrific performance as the android, David. It's not a spoiler to call him that, they tell you right off the bat. He felt so mechanical and yet so human at the same time. I loved that his favorite movie was "Lawrence of Arabia" and how he seemed to study human behavior through that. Noomi Rapace was the best I've ever seen her as Dr. Elizabeth Shaw. And Charlize Theron was really intense.

I liked it. It wasn't perfect, there were moments when some of the characters acted like complete imbeciles... I don't need to elaborate, you'll know them when you see them. But even in those moments, I never felt like the movie was talking down to me. "Alien" fans are going to debate this one for years, but I'm glad that this franchise finally has a third movie to be proud of.

I give it an A-. It wasn't perfect, but it was perfectly enjoyable.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Two For the Price of One: Behold The Vision & Powerless

I will mostly be skipping over "Behold the Vision" so I will just say I enjoyed the episode. I was wondering when the Vision would show up, and I was not disappointed. Ultron is back also, and I am curious how he survived his self destruction in season one. I liked Hawkeye's verbal sniping at Black Panther, and like all of you, I was happy to see the shield has been repaired.

"Behold the Vision" was also the final episode before Jeph Loeb took charge. So let's move on to the first episode written by Man of Action, "Powerless."



This. Is. Going. To. Be. Painful.

Enchantress approaches Loki in his torture prison and offers him his freedom if he destroys Thor. To that end, she casts a spell on Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man that removes their powers. The spell will only be restored if .........

WHAT?!?!?!?!!?!?! The spell only lasts until the cursed finds INNER STRENGTH? Of all the cheesey LAME OVERDONE SATURDAY MORNING SPECIALS!!!!!!!! Thank you, Man of Action. CAP SHOULD HAVE REVERTED IMMEDIATELY, considering the Strength he showed in "Along Came A Spider". COME ON!

Well, I guess only Thor is the one who needs to learn humility and inner strength. WHAT THE FUCK!? Thor was willing to GIVE UP HIS HAMMER to BETA RAY BILL because he felt Bill NEEDED it MORE! How MUCH MORE CHARACTER DOES HE NEED TO SHOW? IT'S FRICKIN' MJOLNIR! This is the sort of Thor story you do in season one. Which…THEY ALREADY DID. THOR'S HUBRIS is WHAT PUT LOKI IN POWER IN ASGARD IN THE FIRST PLACE.

AND ANOTHER THING!!!!! IRON MAN'S ARMOR? REALLY? YOU DO KNOW THAT HE HAS MORE SUITS, RIGHT?

If they're going to take away Tony's science skills, why didn't Hawkeye get hit and loose his depth perception?

Oh…Really? Loki? Ending on a cliched villain line? YOU'RE BETTER THAN THAT!!!!

Yeah... remember, Jeph Loeb called "Man of Action" the best in the animation field. Not Chris Yost. Not Josh Fine. Not Greg Weisman. Not Bruce Timm. Not... shall I keep going?

Monday, June 4, 2012

More Misogyny Among Geeks

Back when season three of "Justice League Unlimited" was airing, two things happened. One of them caused major controversy, and the other went with barely anyone saying a word.

1. Shayera Hol aka Hawkgirl slept with a man she had just met on the first date.

2. The Flash, for all intents and purposes, raped Tala.

Guess which one of these caused an uproar.

Come on, guess.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Bloodlines


Oh yeah, there was a "Young Justice" episode this weekend too. This is going to be a hard one for me to review because, well, I don't care about the Flash, the Flash Legacy, or most anything this episode was paying tribute to. This was a lovely tribute to the Flash Legacy, but it mattered as much to me as a tribute to the Monkees ever will. That isn't to say it wasn't all well done, it was. I just didn't care. Well, that's not entirely true, I loved seeing Wally put on the Kid Flash costume again. And I hate seeing people complain and moan about how he is "not as good a speedster" as Flash or Impulse. This episode still depicts him as a far better character, and that means more to me than any feats of power. If feats of power mattered to me, I'd love Superman instead of loath him and everything associated with him.

I am so glad that Impulse's entire annoying personality is an act. I hope he breaks character again sooner rather than later. Characters with personalities like that tend to grate on me. I know some would call it "fun" but I guess I have an entirely different definition of fun.

I did, however, enjoy Red Arrow and Cheshire's story quite a bit. I assume that temple they found Roy in belongs to the League of Shadows. Now that the real Roy has been found, I can't wait to see where this goes, and how Lian is affected. The potential dynamic intrigues me.

Good episode, a great episode if you're a Flash enthusiast. I did like Wally's return and I am sure we'll see even more of him. But next week's episode features Artemis returning, and she is probably my favorite character in the entire series, so I cannot wait. I apologize for the short review, but this episode did not make much of an impact on me, and it was overshadowed by several "Avengers" episodes being bombarded at me, as well as a gigantic controversy about one of them.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Along Came a Spider...


This episode cannot be discussed without talking about what will fast become the most controversial moment in Marvel Animation history. I know some of you think I enjoy going here, but I don't. I've been looking forward to this episode for a long time. I won't lie, I was disappointed when I had it spoiled for me before watching that Drake Bell was voicing Spider-Man in the episode. Then I watched it and something felt off. Very off.

1. Grey Delisle returned as Betty Brant, from "Spectacular Spider-Man." Daran Norris also had two lines at most as a generic cop. You don't bring in a voice actor for a generic role like that. J.K. Simmons was voicing J. Jonah Jameson, and well, I am convinced that Daran was originally recorded and dubbed over. But much as I love Norris in the role, I don't think that will be very controversial. But here comes the kick to the teeth...

2. Drake Bell sounded off. Way off. Like he wasn't in the room and no one was playing off him in the booth. He sounded like a bad anime dub. I began to suspect that he wasn't originally Spidey when this episode was recorded. Something smelled fishy. Like a can of tuna in July. Yes, my spider-sense was tingling.

Then, Josh Keaton posted this on Facebook:


Josh and I had a short conversation after this, and I am also reasonably confident that Josh Fine and Chris Yost were not in on this travesty. This was ordered from higher up very late in the game, it may have happened as recently as a month ago. But, it's bad enough that Craptimate Douchebag-Man is making a mockery of the webhead, now they need to infect this show with it too? I'll admit, I'd have been disappointed if it was Drake Bell either way. But knowing it was Josh Keaton and knowing that he got screwed over is a taint on the entire production. This is not what Fine and Yost wanted or envisioned. We were going to see Spectacular Spidey again... and it looks like for more than just this episode too.

The episode itself is not bad at all... the script and the story I mean, but it will forever be infamous for this. And I don't want to re-watch it every time and think about the behind the scenes assholeish behavior of certain individuals. Pissed off doesn't even begin to describe how I feel. I'd rather be just disappointed than outright pissed off. I can get over disappointment. This, is just nasty, dickish behavior. Shame on you, Marvel Animation. Shame on you.

As for the episode itself. Josh Fine and Chris Yost are admitted "Spectacular Spider-Man" fans, and this episode felt like a love letter to it. I remember Fine saying in his mind this show, SSM and "Wolverine and the X-Men" shared a universe. As much as the dub seems to kill that, I am going to treat them as such to honor the work of everyone involved and the intent of everyone before Loeb got his claws into this. This is the fault of no one who gave a damn about any of these shows.

Vanessa Marshall rocks as Madame Viper and I like how she's shaping up this season as a villain. Three episodes ago, she was repaying Cap by saving his life... now she's ordering the murder of civilians. She is a vicious and evil broad. I enjoy her very much, and I hope she pops up again.

Cap's words to Spidey are a lesson we should all take to heart. It's what we do that matters, not what others say about us. I need to take that to heart myself, it's a hard lesson to learn. In a lot of ways, it seems to perfectly echo the controversy of this episode. Cap may as well be saying all this to Josh Keaton too. We know what he did here, and we know that he is Spidey. Genuinely loves the character and no matter what Loeb does, how much Loeb tore down his work, the work is immortal and will speak for itself.

I wanted so badly to say this episode was spectacular. I'm sure it was once upon a time, but it's been stained. But you know what, why don't we let Marvel know that we want to hear the real version of this episode. It exists, it can be aired, it can be released on the DVD and Blu-ray release. So, if you're a fan of "Spectacular Spider-Man" and Josh Keaton... let Marvel know, and let them know now.

Tweet Joe Quesada with #JoshKeatonIsSpiderMan, and #DrakeBellIsNotSpiderMan ... the episode won't air in the US for at least two months. If we can't have it corrected for that, let's have it corrected for the home video release. We can do this, people.

Two For the Price of One - Infiltration & Secret Invasion


It has all built up to this, an adaptation of "Secret Invasion" that was much, much better than the original story. I don't mind reviewing these both at once, because they are, for all intents and purposes a two parter.

The Avengers have been scattered. Hulk is in lock-up, Black Panther returned to Wakanda, Ms. Marvel is on Damocles, Iron Man is trying to figure out how to detect Skrulls, Cap is on his way back to Earth in a stolen Skrull shuttle, and the world is a very uncertain place.

The first episode deals with a ship full of Skrulls impersonating the Avengers (as they were at the end of season one) landing in Wakanda and teaming up with Ms. Marvel to try to overthrow Black Panther and take Wakanda. They are defeated, and the Skrulls exposed. For once, Jan beats Hank senseless.

Elsewhere, Dr. Doom makes a surprising and welcome return when he blasts his way into Tony's Malibu mansion and shares his discovery on detecting Skrulls, completely unwilling to admit he needed Stark's tech, but only assisting because he feels the world is his to rule. His assistance only goes so far, since he feels he can leave the grunt work to the Avengers and other heroes. I LOVED THIS SCENE. Vintage Doom. So perfect, and Lex Lang continues to be a great actor for the character.

Queen Veranke takes out Nick Fury and his Secret Warriors and orders the invasion to begin in Washington D.C. And we head into the most exciting episode of the series to date. Maria Hill even gains some serious cool points when she totally plays the Skrulls on board the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier, and reveals that she's known where Nick Fury was for over two months. Cool.

Skrulltimate Cap makes his speech to the world telling everyone to bow down to the Skrulls and then we get our big fight between the Avengers and the army of Super Skrulls. Cap, Madame Viper and the rest arrive, and Thor returns in a grand entrance that is nothing short of godly and sporting his modern chain mail.

The highlight for me had to be watching Cap beat the crap out of Skrulltimate Cap. I've always hated the fascist Sean Hannity wannabe that is Ultimate Captain America, so watching him get his ass handed to him by the real guy was very cathartic. The helicarrier goes down again, Damocles is destroyed, and the Skrulls are defeated and Queen Veranke is imprisoned.

Awesome. Loved every second of it.

But how did this end up destroying Kang's timeline? Or is there another piece of the puzzle we haven't gotten yet? Curious.