Transformers 2 fails to deliver an engaging plot

June 28, 2009

OK so other than the fact Megan Fox is in it, I had very little desire to watch the sequel to the Michael Bay Transformers movie. Despite a few opportunities, I never got around to seeing the first one  and I honestly didn’t think it would be so great. Yet, when my friend asked me to go, I figured a $5 matinee was a small price to pay to get out of the heat for a few hours and relax.

After getting filled in on the events of the first film while grabbing some popcorn and drinks, I took in Transformers 2 expecting some light hearted escapist entertainment and some good CGI. This movie has it in spades, but sadly, story-wise it pales in comparison to the 1986 animated Transformers film. That movie was sooooooooo much better. (see trailer above)

While this film franchise manages to take the premise of the intergalactic war between the Autobots and Decepticons and manages to weave its own story around it, it spends too much time throwing dizzying effects at the viewer, so much so that halfway through it I realized I cared very little which faction actually won, I just wanted the conflict to be over.

This is primarily because the personalities of the characters barely translate into Michael Bay’s creation like they do in the animated flick or even the cartoon show in which the movies are based on. The noble selflessness and bigger than life qualities of Optimus Prime are there, contrasted with Megatron’s evil, but the latter has been devolved into a big scary monster, instead of the flawed leader from the original Transformers. Optimus and Megatron’s rivalry always had an engaging component to it, even though Prime was always ahead of Megatron, but in a movie where the former spends half of it in pieces and the latter at the bottom of the ocean, the creators fail to make maximum use of this rivalry.

What’s more, with the exception of Prime, and possibly Bumblebee, the Transformers themselves are reduced to nothing more than animated prop pieces spewing inane dialogue, obscenities, or silly soundbites which are intended to be comedic in nature.

It seems silly to be talking about characterization in a movie where half the cast is made up of talking cars, but the original’s Transformers had a lot of personality and heart, something that is sadly lacking in this film which instead chooses to focus almost exclusively on a clichéd love story between two humans, non-stop action, and enough hackneyed characterization to render it almost unwatchable. Is this a visually engaging movie? Absolutely, but without a solid story foundation behind it, Transformers Rise of the Fallen seems as lifeless and barren as Cybertron, and that’s a pity.

Retro-Review:Tales of the Vampires

June 26, 2009


While it has nothing to do with previous editions of the “Tales of the Vampires” series published about the Buffy vampires by Dark Horse, this new one-shot is the kind of book that Dark Horse does very well. There are two covers as usual, but the unmistakable renderings by Brazilian superstar artists Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon is a gorgeous tribute to the visuals which adorned previous installments and is of course, my favorite of the two.

The story within the covers is not bad at all, centering around a guy named Jason whose life changes very little when he is turned into a vampire. We’ve seen this kind of story before but writer Becky Cloonan, who is best known for her manga work, takes the premise of a human flirting around dangerously with vampires and turns it into a moody, nuanced and introspective look at youth’s ongoing fascination with the undead.

If anyone has seen the Buffy episode where Buffy’s boyfriend Riley Finn allows vampires to feed on him because he was disturbed by Buffy’s lack of interest in him at the time, can see where some of the inspiration for this story comes from as Jason undergoes similar disturbing moments. Even though Buffy doesn’t appear in this comic (she isn’t supposed to as these are the tales of the vampires) the comic is supposed to adhere to regular Buffy continuity as this story takes place after Harmony’s reality show changes the public’s perceptions about vampires and slayers.

Dave Stewart does a fantastic job of coloring as usual, but Vasilis Lolos’ quirky artistic style, reminiscent of the Luna Brothers and other influences comes alive in this comic. Lolos of course ,worked with Ba, Moon and Cloonan before on the self published series “5.” I think when artists and writers reunite on a project they know each other so well and are so comfortable working together in the collaborative process that the end results are usually quite good.

I guess what I am saying is you should buy this comic. Next week we return to our regularly scheduled Buffy saga with issue #26.

The Return of Manhunter

June 23, 2009

manhunter…for me was the best part of last week’s new “Batman Streets of Gotham.” While there have been some major upheavals to the bat family since Batman’s death in “Final Crisis” #6, most notably the creation of the network and Dick Grayson taken up the mantle of Gotham’s protector, (again) I was more interested in Kate Spencer’s return and her relocation to Gotham as the city’s new D.A.

I have always been a huge fan of the character and while it is sad to see that Marc Andreyko’s brilliant creation has been reduced to back up status, at least nine pages is preferable to having her disappear from current DCU continuity entirely.

Kate’s move to Gotham is a logical transition for the character and while Los Angeles may have been a cool backdrop for her superheroic exploits, Gotham’s current state of chaos is ripe for storytelling possibilities. This back up feature in BSOG was rendered beautifully by the capable Georges Jeanty whose pencils regularly adorn the pages of Dark Horse’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer ongoing. Here,  Jeanty’s visuals are equally impressive setting the dark tone and mood needed to convey the desperation and utter hopelessness of the setting.

Also, while it is regrettable that we have been robbed of following the character in her own comic and therefore lost the cool cast of supporting characters like Dylan the techie, it is amazing to see how much Andreyko is able to pack into a short back up feature. Then again, I should not be surprised as he has always been a strong writer.

For example, The dialouge is impecabbly good, witness Kate’s exchange with Barbara Gordon or read over the poignant flashback scene where Kate says goodbye to her son upon taking the new job. Paul Dini gives us an enjoyable read in the main story which picks up from the events in the recent Battle for the Cowl mini-series, the only drawback for this comic was the hefty $3.99 price tag, but if Manhunter is going to be the regular back up feature on this title, it might be worth it, so sign me up and let Gotham’s criminals beware, Manhunter is back in business baby!

Summer chess league

June 21, 2009

Summer time, school’s out, that means local chess battles are raging in full. Time to come up with a defense to Mike’s “Monk” attacking maneuvers.



Captain America rises from the ashes

June 17, 2009

captain_america-thumb-400x546 First let me apologize for the infrequent updates over the past few weeks. For those who read this blog, there haven’t been any thanks to finals and work and a hectic schedule, but now things have calmed a bit.

Almost a month ago (May 20 to be exact) my trip to the comic store produced a copy of Captain America #50. Can you believe thanks to my schedule I barely read it this morning? An article from the Associated Press in today’s paper revealed that Marvel is planning to resurrect Captain America beginning July 1st in the five part series “Captain America Reborn.”

I cannot tell you how disappointing it was to hear that Steve Rogers (that’s cap’s alter ego for those who don’t know) was being brought back.

Has it really been two years since we saw him get shot on those court steps during the Civil War? Usually when a major iconic character dies, he doesn’t stay dead for long. It’s an old comic book cliche that nobody truly dies in comics, this is also a familiar trope in other mediums influenced in comic book storytelling style like Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

For my money, there are few comic books as good as Captain America has been this past few years, in spite or perhaps because of the death of the main character in ussue #25. Bucky took over Cap’s identity but writer Ed Brubaker has been weaving a magnificent story since issue #1.  It is no exaggeration to say that the character work, the plotting and the artwork on this title has been sensational, which is why I am a bit disheartened by Marvel’s decision to make the predicatable move and to bring back Rogers. Bucky trying to fill Cap’s allegorically massive boots made for some compelling drama, as did his interactions with the other characters in the comic and his learning to deal with the growing pains associated with taking over. Also, his survivor’s guilt resonated with anyone who’s ever lost a mentor and friend.

I give props to Luke Ross, Frank D’Armata and everyone else associated with producing Captain America, it not only feeds on the tradition of the old comics, but it is also a compelling book each month.

The Marvel brass say that giving the general mood of the country, the timing seemed right to resurrect the Captain because there’s a desire for hopefulness. Maybe, I will be curious to see how Rogers makes his return to life, but I doubt it’ll match the intensity of his shocking death, or the drama following his death’s aftermath.

The Poly Post – Panel brings up Prop. 8 discussion

June 3, 2009

The Poly Post – Panel brings up Prop. 8 discussion

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Buffy season 8: #25 review

May 27, 2009


Doug Petrie wrote some of the best episodes of “Buffy” including “This Year’s Girl” “End of Days” and the unforgettable Faith-centric episodes of the third season. He’s also written Buffy comics for Dark Horse in the past so I was pretty confident he would deliver a good story this month.

Even though this comic focuses on finally wrapping up the subplot of Dawn’s magical transformations, this one-shot doesn’t advance the Twilight subplot, nor any of the major story elements as the comic book is coming to the end of season 8’s projected 40 issue run. This would be OK with me because the show was structured pretty similarly with stand alone episodes which served as breathers to the main drama intensifying in the main portions of the season, except this was the fifth stand-alone story in a row! The natives are getting restless and talks of dropping the book have started to crop up on some internet boards. Despite this, Buffy and Dark Horse continue to consistently crack the top 10 in sales along with the big two.

As far as stand-alone issues go, this was a pretty good one. Only Buffy could get away with such creepy and unusual story elements such as the Thricewise demon and the tiny porcelain people.

There are some funny story bits in the comic, as usual Xander gets the best lines, but somehow they don’t pack the usual wallop that the writing had been infused with up to this point or in the early issues. Maybe it has something to do with Joss writing the characters he knows so well, or maybe the luster of having Buffy in a new medium has worn off a little, it’s hard to say, but most likely it’s just the aftermath of a good one-shot that is more than filler, a well crafted comic that’s also a good interlude to the impending resolution of the season 8 storyline. The comic’s main flaw seems to be in a rushed conclusion which wraps up to conveniently quickly for my taste.

Whatever the case, the artwork by Georges Jeanty continues to superbly complement whichever writer is on the book each month. This comic was so much better than the inconsistent Harmony issues which came before it, but it would be nice to see some old characters return.

Retro-review: Kick Ass #6

May 24, 2009

kickass006_covdw-100OK, due to school and work, I got my hands on this very late so most of you have probably read it, but for those who never did, you are missing out on one of the best books currently on the stands. The dialogue alone as written by Mark Milllar is clever and funny, even if every other word is the f-word or a curse word. What makes it funny are the allusions to comics and if you read comic books on a regular basis, you will get more than a chuckle from the dialogue in this book.

Besides, how can anyone resist finding out the secret origin of Big Daddy and Hit-Girl? Even Kick Ass himself is excited to be involved in a plot ripped straight out of conventional comics: Secret identities, scary bad guys and top-secret headquarters. Super-hero team ups are a staple going back to the golden age, but Millar and Romita Jr. turn that convention on its head and that is what makes “Kick-Ass” so much fun to read every single time. Big Daddy is an obvious spoof of the Punisher with a twist as Hit-Girl is his little girl trained for murder and mayhem.

This is probably the tamest and less violent edition of this comic, Millar and Romita Jr. tone the violence way down in order to focus on exposition and to relate the origin of Big Daddy and Hit-Girl told from Hit-Girl’s point of view.  Romita Jr’s artwork, as always is terrific and almost worth the $3 cover price all by itself.

The only bad thing about this book is that it routinely ships out late, but usually the wait is worth it. If only Romita and Millar could get it out on schedule without sacrificing the quality, we’d all be happy campers.

hump day musings: the chess axiom

May 13, 2009

I had forgotten that there is a very important axiom by which I try to live life: chess pieces are better than people. This is because, unless you maneuver them to a square where they will be captured, or misuse them, your chess pieces will never let you down. Your queen will always fight for you. A knight always behaves like a knight, you can always expect it to go in the same direction and behave a certain way on the chess board. Not so for people, people will always without a doubt, end up ultimately disappointing you. This is because they are human, they can’t help it, they are genetically bred to make mistakes. It is in the inherent nature of the human being to act in an unpredictable fashion.A friend of mine once told me that as we get older, people move in and out of our lives. People we make connections with at work, school or wherever for short and extended periods of time will move in and out of our lives. So what is the point of trying to make a connection with someone when they can be suddenly uprooted? Oh yea thanks to social networking sites and email, our world is getting smaller and we can always keep in touch with people, but that isn’t the same as the day to day interaction with someone. I remember also a guy who made it his policy not to get involved emotionally. I suppose there are a lot of people who guard themselves that way. It is a sort of human castling maneuver to insolate themselves from harm. I remember sitting at a bar with this guy once and a girl I knew who was interested in him trying all kinds of things to get his attention. No matter how hard she tried, he would not give her the time of day. I thought it was fascinating to watch this interaction take place in front of my very eyes. Is it faulty memory, or do I really remember being at some park while this girl did everything short of somersaults to get this guy’s attention and he just sat there stoic, drinking his beer. Brilliant! I thought at the time. I guess my point is that people will ultimately always end up disappointing you and chess is my metaphor for guarding against this. Chess pieces are better than people in this regard, it may not work for you, you might have something else that you may substitute, but it sure has worked for me in the past

Star Trek on the big screen

May 9, 2009

the cast of new star trek film

the cast of new star trek film

I remember how excited I got when I first heard the new Trek movie was going to be a prequel, then I was disappointed when the writer’s strike moved the release of the film from X-Mas to late Spring early summer. But now, the movie is finally out. My friend Adam said that there are nerds and there are geeks, it’s probably very geeky and unpopular to admit loving Star Trek, but I do, so I don’t care.
I literally jumped out of my seat at the theaters when I first saw the trailer for this film.

The Star Trek universe as created by Gene Roddenberry represents an ideal to so many people, the promise of great future for mankind, it celebrates humanity’s unrelenting spirit of exploration and has always taught us that persistence and hard work will always yield good results.

In short, there are many positive values represented by Starfleet’s officers and that is why I am so happy that this franchise has been rebooted and that the Enterprise is boldly going where no man has gone before right into the new century. As I left the newsroom at Cal Poly after getting this weekend’s photo assignment, promotional material for the film was strewn about all over the editorial copy desk, no doubt a result of the preview afforded to the newspaper staff for the latest edition, so I snagged a few bumper stickers and a mini poster to take home with me. I probably wont get a chance to see the film until tomorrow at the earliest, but I can’t wait.