Monday, February 28, 2011

Important Announcement from NASA

NASA makes another important announcement regarding the search for extraterrestrial life

NASA: Good news, everyone! We've just discovered a rare species of rhesus monkey that can live off of arsenic!


And this starfish that can eat at Jack in the Box!

Everyone: Yes, that's great. Can you please go back to finding aliens?

NASA: Ohh, but scanning the night sky is boring.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Power Rangers Totally Ripped-Off Spider-Man

As we gain more details about a subject, often a larger picture emerges. Sometimes it can be inspiring, at other times terrifying, and ocassionally you discover that that one weird series from your childhood is a total ripoff of that other totally unrelated weird series from your childhood... kind of.

It all starts in 1978 when the Japanese company Toei signs an agreement with Marvel to license each others' characters over a three-year period, during which time a Japanese Spider-Man series was produced. The results were interesting.


That's right, Spider-Man has a giant robot, which I guess is why in the show he introduces himself as the messenger from hell. 'Nuff said.

Toei took this idea of the mecha-accessory and ran with it, introducing it into their long-running Super Sentai franchises. These were a genre of shows about a small team of color coordinated fighters (the term 'Sentai' was applied to squads in WWII) who would battle a variety of alien and/or magical threats using special powers and lots of kung-fu. Dozens of these shows were produced, and a few continue to this day.

After the webslinger introduced the giant robot concept (given to him by the alien Garia), other Sentai shows began toying with the idea, including one called Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger. In 1993, U.S. studio Saban Entertainment shot new scenes with American actors, edited it together with licensed and redubbed action footage from Zyuranger, and brought the show to American audiences as Power Rangers.

So the next time you see the Megazord defeat one of Rita Repulsa's gargantuan goons, give a salute to the wall-crawler who does whatever a spider can, including summon a giant robot.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Back to Back to the Future: a Critical Restrospective

Somehow I had managed to avoid the Back to the Future films until very recently. Eventually I grew tired of the constant teasing and the threats of physical violence and decided to sit down and watch the trilogy over the past couple of years. I'd like to give my take on them as someone who has no nostalgic stake in them.

The first film is relatively straightforward by time-travel-story standards. Marty McFly simply has to 'fix' the the timeline he has inadvertantly screwed with, and manage to get back to future, or present (though Back to the Present doesn't sound as good). Overall, I feel that this film is the strongest of the trilogy as everything holds together well and I have no particular criticisms. The scene with the clock tower is thrilling, and the final few seconds of the film are fantastic (and I'm not sure how I avoided having them spoilt for me).

The second film is probably the most rewatchable as it has the most labyrinthine plot and some really smashing visuals, particularly in the 'future' segment. However I also feel that it is ultimately the weakest of the three as greater emphasis is given to the series' antagonist, Biff Tannen. Through no fault of Thomas F. Wilson, Biff is a pretty weak villain. He's completely one dimensional and, worst of all, not all that threatening. Perhaps due to this, there weren't any scenes that felt particularly suspenseful to me. In the first film, Biff's the stereotypical Hollywood jock, but by the second, his evil jock persona has ballooned out of all proportion. For me, Biff is not a strong enough villain to build an entire film around, though a valiant effort was made.

The third film has some great elements, but is held back by some noticeable flaws. Introducing a more distant historical setting is a nice change of pace, and the old west is realized in a way that is both tongue-and-cheek and believable. I love that Marty's historical equivalent is also played by Michael J. Fox. The Biff equivalent is still weak, but downplayed from the second. The big problem is that while he was never mentally intimidating, here he no longer seems physically intimidating either. And while the fairly straightforward plot holds together pretty well, there's not much of a sense of urgency about anything since there's no particular hurry to get back to 1985, and no apparent threat of messing with the timeline. In essense, Biff's role as a source of tension has been dialed back with nothing dialed in to replace it, though in my opinion this still makes for a stronger film, and a good amount of excitement is generated in the climax. The movie does have one extremely bothersome plothole though. Early on, they save Clara from plummeting off a cliff, but are mildly concerned that this may have disrupted the timeline after discovering that she was indeed supposed to die. After she and Doc Brown fall in love, Marty suggests bringing her back to 1985, but the Doc dismisses this idea as he is afraid it will disrupt the timeline. No!!! Leaving her in 1885 is what will disrupt the timeline! Hello? Hello?! What's worse is that this is never pointed out, and the entire 'disrupting the timeline' idea is dropped like horse pucky. Come on, you're smarter than that, Doc. Think, Brown, think!

Overall, the series is pretty solid. All three films range from decent to great, Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd are both endearing and enduring in their roles, and the only big problem is that the sole antagonist is not intimidating, although this isn't really a problem in the first film. I think it would have been interesting if, for the second or third film, they'd introduced a rival scientist, or maybe a cruel version of Marty from an alternate timeline. Ultimately though, Back to the Future is the rare film that is both enjoyable for adults and appropriate for children, and it is no small feat that they were able to duplicate this achievement two more times.

I'm interested to try the new adventure game that has come out. It's nice that Christopher Lloyd is reprising his role, and the guy doing a Michael J. Fox impression is outstanding.

I close with the immortal words of Sam Neill: "Where we're going, we won't need eyes!"

Friday, February 11, 2011

John Hughes' Legend of Zelda

Hands down one of the best videogame parodies I've ever seen.

Their indie God of War is pretty great too.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Words of Wisdom

If Uwe Boll actually hates gamers, it's only because he's been making movies for them. If he started making movies for florists and spelling-bee contestants, he'd quickly learn to hate them too.