Thanks for the Memories…

Craig DB5

It was recently announced that Daniel Craig had turned down an offer of upwards of $100 million to play the role of Fleming’s Agent 007 for two more films.  Having been in the role for 4 films spanning a decade, Craig was simply done.

The speculation, dream casting and multiple reports of whose in talks with producers has begun in earnest, but no matter who takes up the mantle, Craig’s legacy as James Bond is assured.

Battle of the Heavyweights

From Yahoo:

Marcus Goh is a Singapore television scriptwriter. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. He Tweets/Instagrams at Optimarcus and writes at marcusgohmarcusgoh.com. The views expressed are his own.

The iconic superweapon from Star Wars has to be the Death Star, a moon-sized orbiting space station with a literal death ray attached to it. A single blast is all it takes to destroy a planet, and there exists no greater power in the universe.

Unless we’re talking about a multiverse. Other famous planet-destroying entities include Galactus and Unicron, and if all three were to meet in a battle of cosmic proportions, who would win this Royal Rumble? This debate has raged for eons (well, maybe close to three decades) in geekdom, and has been known to cause ferocious flame wars across the Internet. Let’s take a look at our combatants.

Death Star

We’ll take Death Star II (in Return of the Jedi) as our example here, since it’s larger and newer. It measures 160km in diameter, and carries an entire fleet of starships and firepower. Specifically, it has 15,00 heavy and standard turbolaser batteries along with 7,500 laser cannons and 5,000 ion cannons (as stated by Wookiepedia).

Of course, its planet buster is its most deadly weapon, which was used to destroy Alderaan, described as an Earth-like planet. From this we can conjecture that the Death Star is more than capable of destroying anything the size of Earth, and probably more than that given all its additional firepower.

Unicron

Unicron is an evil god from Transformers, who transforms into a devil planet with actual horns. He eats planets, although not by opening his mouth and chomping down on them. There are no definitive sizes for Unicron, so we have to extrapolate it. Unicorn is about the same size as Cybertron (who is actually a Transformer that’s Unicron’s good twin brother), which in the cartoon is about the same size as the Moon, placing it at a diameter of 3,474 km.

In “Transformers: The Movie” (1986), Unicron’s goal is to eat Cybertron, so we can safely assume that he can destroy something the size of the Moon with ease. He has some trouble handling attacks from the Transformers though, with one of his eyes getting shattered during the fight (and another one after his demise), so we know that smaller foes can hurt him. But since he is a deity, it is possible that such attacks mean nothing to him.

The only thing that Unicron fears is the Autobot Matrix of Leadership, but that can only be opened by the Chosen One, who is in all likelihood the current or next Autobot leader.

Galactus

Galactus is a cosmic entity in the Marvel Universe that has to eat planets for sustenance. He’s generally depicted as 18 to 25 metres in height, which makes him tower over virtually anybody else. But he wields a force known as the Power Cosmic, which effectively allows him to do whatever he wants. Since he wants to devour Earth in his first appearance, we can safely say that he can destroy anything Earth-sized with ease.

His only fear is a weapon called the Ultimate Nullifier, which can eliminate any target it chooses, and has been shown to destroy an entire universe. Hence, the only kind of power that could hurt Galactus would weapons that deal damage on a universal scale.

Fight!

So, size-wise, Unicron wins, hands down, followed by the Death Star and then Galactus. But then, since Galactus has the Power Cosmic, he could use it to become larger than the other two, and trump them in the size department.

In terms of sheer power, Galactus would be able to do the most destruction, followed by the Death Star and then Unicron, going by the size of planets that they have attempted to destroy in the past. In all likelihood though, since Galactus and Unicron are both deities, their damage output would be pretty similar. Unicron might have a little bit more trouble handling the starships that the Death Star would send his way, but Galactus is also smaller than say, a Super Star Destroyer, so that might pose some inconvenience as well.

However, in terms of resilience, the Death Star would be the first to go down, since it doesn’t have any specific weaknesses. It’s as vulnerable to conventional attacks as any other planet, and it also has a nasty habit of hiding its planetary shields on nearby moons or have crippling design flaws that allow a well-placed shot to blow it up. So despite its destructive ability, the Death Star can’t take it as well as it can dish it.

Galactus vs Unicron

So it comes down to the two cosmic deities. Since their power level and toughness would be at the same godlike levels, it comes down to whose specific weaknesses are easier to exploit.

Galactus’ Ultimate Nullifier is pretty easy to get a hold of — nearly everyone in the Marvel Universe has held it at one point — and it’s also easy to use, since hardly anyone has trouble activating it. In fact, Galactus is scared off in his very first appearance when Mr Fantastic wields it against him. Kind of shows how conspicuous the Ultimate Nullifer is, eh?

Unicron’s Autobot Matrix of Leadership is a bit more difficult, since it’s usually contained in the chest cavity of the current Autobot leader, who’s usually a formidable giant transforming robot of war. In addition, only the Chosen One can use it, which means that you need to find and convince a specific person (or Transformer) to use it against Unicron. So when it comes to exploiting weaknesses, Unicron has the more difficult one.

Unicron wins!

So there you have it — an evil transforming robot god trumps a celestial force of nature and an orbital space station with a death ray. I’m all ready to be hunted down and drawn and quartered for having proven that Unicron would win, and having added to this endless debate.

Who do you think would win?

 

~In the grand scheme of things…. I agree.  The Death Star, be it version one or two, is a small moon in the hands of these titans of the stars.  Yes, it could unload the planet buster, but I’m sure Unicron and/or Galactus could easily dodge or misdirect it.

Unicron also has the  ability to re-create and re-format matter at least on a small scall as he recreated Megatron and his troops as well as create their ship.  More-so in the comics, he is a God, where as in the cartoon his origin was never given much attention.  For sheer size and power, I still give Unicron the edge as Galactus has often been beaten by the superheroes of Earth with a variety of weapons and ideas where Unicron, even after his destruction in The Transformers: The Movie continued to function in his ‘escape’ pod of a detached head…. and yes, the Autobots needed the Matrix, a calling card of their deity Primus, to do the deed.~

6 Enduring Legacies of 1986’s Animated ‘The Transformers: The Movie’

This article originally appeared on Inverse.

Still the reigning, undefeated, and undisputed movie champion of the Transformers franchise (sorry Michael Bay), The Transformers: The Movie blew the little minds of Transformer fans across the country. Come with us as we celebrate six things that made Nelson Shin’s 1986 feature film so epic.

1) WTF is an Anime?

I know, I know. Some of you cool kids had been watching GoShogun and Robotech on the Betamax long before us noobs ever heard the word “anime,” but for many of us, this was our first foray into the darker, much more grown-up style of animation. That isn’t to say The Transformers featured the same quality of animation as other ’80s anime classics like Akira, Heavy Metal, or Vampire Hunter D; Toei Animation, who had done the animation for the TV series, has always had a bit of a bad rep for producing cheap-and-it-shows animation.

However, janky-ass artwork notwithstanding, The Transformers was distinctly different than any of the Saturday morning comic book/toy line adaptations. It was visually rich, emotionally challenging, tenaciously paced. It showed a lot of us that mainstream animated feature films could exist outside of Disney-fied musicals in which animals sang and wore hats.

2) I Recognize That Voice …

Obviously the film producers cut some major costs on the animation front, so why not blow some of Hasbro’s money on big name actors? Years before celebrities flocked to voice animated characters for Disney and Pixar, Transformers drew some big (well, big for the time at least) Hollywood names. Joining original animated series voice actors Peter Cullen, Frank Welker, Casey Kasem, and the legendary Scatman Crothers, the project featured Leonard Nimoy as Galvatron, Robert “Unsolved Mysteries” Stack as Ultra Magnus, Lionel Stander as Kup, Monty Python alum Eric Idle as Wreck-Gar, and the ailing Orson Welles in his final role as world-gobbling planet transformer Unicron. Some of the youngsters won’t remember, but Judd Nelson, fresh off of St. Elmo’s Fire and The Breakfast Club, was a legit A-List star and a huge get as Hot Rod/Rodimus Prime.

~Though he died very shortly after completing his voice-work in 1985, those close to Welles say he was very proud of his inclusion in the film and saw Anime as an up and coming genre of filmmaking. And for those who weren’t familiar with Nimoy’s Transformers past, you may have seen his turn in “Dark of the Moon” coming if you had been.~ 

3) Bitching Tunes, Bro

From Lion’s epic title song remix packing Satriani-esque guitar licks into composer Vince DiCola’s score, The Transformers: The Movie soundtrack was jammed with Aqua Net scented ’80s glam-metal greatness. (Look, the link’s right there; you should probably use it as the soundtrack for the rest of this story.) Instruments Of Destruction by N.R.G., Hunger by Spectre General, are legit heavy metal bangers. “Weird Al” Yankovich credited the success of his studio album Dare to Be Stupid to the title track’s inclusion. Stan Bush’s iconic Touch was so popular, it remained in heavy rotation on MTV for years. Quite frankly if you hear the phrase “Transformers movie” and this song isn’t the first thing that comes to mind, I have nothing but sympathy for you, whippersnapper.

4) I’ll See Your Half-Hour Commercial and Raise You Another 60 Minutes

It’s no secret that many of the great animated TV series of the 1980’s were produced specifically to sell toys. He-Man, G.I. Joe, and the Transformers all got shows based on toys. The Transformers: The Movie solidified the idea of turning a full-length theatrical into a glorified commercial (weirdly enough, the first Hasbro/Toei Animation collaboration was the Danny DeVito/Rhea Perlman led My Little Pony film). ~Which also bombed at the box office.~

While the original Transformers series was really a way for Hasbro to package an amalgamation of a couple different Japanese toy lines, the full-length movie was the platform that successfully launched a generation of original Transformers characters. And while the line went on a hiatus in the 1990s, the movie helped ensure that the multiple variations of the franchise — toys, TV series, and (unfortunately movies) would continue over the next three decades. The $1.3 billion-and-counting Michael Bay live-action flicks owe a great debt to the piddly $5.8 million the animated film pulled out of piggy banks in the ’80s.

5) Rated PG for Sentient Robot Uber-Violence

For all of the over-the-top CGI death and destruction of the Michael Bay films, the carnage in the 1986 animated version was truly shocking. Those 1980s cartoons had always hewed to one immobile rule: no matter how violent things got, no one ever died. Even when it came to giant talking robots, there were scrapes, there were bumps, and there were bruises, but characters always came back by the end.

~The only Bay film to come close to touching upon this nerve was “Dark of The Moon”.~

But when you need to make room for that second-gen toy line, the hell with convention and childhood sensitivities, amirite?

~ The idea of killing off characters, namely the 1984/1985 line, was indeed to make room for the 1986/1987 toy lines which included several movie characters.  G.I.Joe was originally in production months before TFTM went into pre-production and received permission from Hasbro to kill Duke and make way for a new leader’s toy (Lt. Falcon), causing Hasbro to commit Optimus Prime to the same fate.  Due to the parental backlash to OP’s demise, Duke’s death scene was redubbed into a ‘coma’.~

The opening scene was literally Unicron committing robot genocide on a race of unwitting cyber people. Within 10 minutes, shell-shocked children across the country watched in horror as Deceptions hopped on the Autobots’ ship and straight-up murked five stalwarts from the animated TV series, including Ironhide and Ratchet. From there, many of us watched in horror as pretty much all of our favorite Autobots were unceremoniously massacred in the Battle of Autobot City: Wheeljack, Mirage, Brawn, Prowl, Windcharger, Trailbreaker, Red Alert — pretty much everyone but Bumble Bee and Jazz — all ended up as scrap metal with little-to-no fanfare.

Everyone knew the Deceptions were bad guys, but this was the first time those of us who didn’t rock with the Marvel comics got to see Deceptions as cold-blooded killers. The first half of the movie saw Megatron and his boys go from ill-tempered, but mostly harmless comic relief to the animated equivalent of Tarantino villains finding the most fucked-up ways to slaughter your childhood. These thugs were slagging your actual toybox. And while it was traumatic as fuck for just about every 6-to-12-year-old at the time, almost 30 years later, tell me Optimus Prime’s gut-wrenching death scene still doesn’t make you want to pour a little Pennzoil out for the big homey.

 

Horrifyingly, the final version of the movie was actually toned way down for younger audiences; the original story boards show that Ultra Magnus was literally supposed to be drawn and quartered by Galvatron and the Sweeps.

Ice cold, man.

~Toned down indeed.  The original idea was that the Battle of Autobot City was to be turned into a lethal gauntlet for the Autobots where the Decepticons simply lay waste to most of the established ’84/’85 characters.  While the number of deaths was dialed back, characters such as Wheeljack & Windcharger were simply murdered offscreen and shown as corpses to get the point across.  If you watch the scene where Ultra Magnus is cut down by the sweeps, you can see the Sweeps firing the ‘phaser ropes’ originally designed to draw and quarter their prey.~

 

6) The Power of Nostalgia

Working with a paltry $6 million budget (here’s where I take the high road and don’t make a Judd Nelson/coke trailer joke), Shin and team were able to crank out that Transformers flick in less than a year. That in and of itself is a minor miracle considering it took the production team about three months to complete each 30-minute TV episode.

~Commercials actually touted the film as “Two years in the making”.~

And while the film served its purpose, hawking second-gen action figures, at the time the movie was considered a flop by just about every metric. The critics panned it for being “too adult” and let’s face it, the animation really was choppy kludge. Even with such a small budget, the film ended up losing Hasbro money at the box office, effectively guaranteeing any other feature-length toy ads would go straight to TV.

~True.  TFTM combined with the aforementioned “My Little Pony” film cost Hasbro millions of lost dollars and immediately destined the over-budget, behind schedule G.I.Joe: The Movie to a direct to television release.~ 

But nostalgia is a funny thing: for many us in the 30-and-over Transformers fan club, that first movie was an integral part of our childhood. The hell with what the reviews said — the O.G. Transformers movie rocked our collective worlds. There was so much love there, Hollywood dropped $250 million on Michael Bay to get us a live-action remake. We still love the original so much today, part of the fun of watching Bay’s explosion-fests is being able to wave our canes at the youngsters and wax poetic about how back in our day, Hollywood knew how to make a real movie about giant, alien robot warriors.

~Critics have, as a track-record, always panned what they never really understood.  Most of your early version science fiction – fantasy – comic book films suffered the same way.  TFTM is a must see for anyone who claims to be a child of the 1980’s, a fan of awesome toys or just needs a flashback as to why growing up in our generation was just plain awesome!~

Batman & Robin is terrible, and here’s why you should watch it immediately

By Kwame Opam of The Verge

Does It Hold Up is a chance to re-experience childhood favorites of books, movies, TV shows, video games, and other cultural phenomenon decades later. Have they gotten better like a fine wine, or are we drinking cork?

BnRDid you know that Batman & Robin is one of the worst movies ever made? That it killed Batman until Christopher Nolan resurrected it? Well, I have a confession to make: I love it. Sincerely. I recognize that I’m rare here — it took Netflix just one month to realize it made a grave error in adding the film to its streaming movies stable. But almost 20 years after it very nearly killed all love for superhero movies at the box office, I enjoy (almost) every minute of it. Not because it’s a good movie. It isn’t. I’m not a crazy person. It’s because it’s fun in a way that some of the best, most memorable comic book movies are, and it’s a reminder of how truly silly this entire genre can be.

Let me be clear, lest you decide to cast me into the pit of fire made for woefully misplaced fandom. Batman & Robin is terrible. It’s the Titanic of superhero films (the actual ship, guys, not the James Cameron movie); the movie was born of pure Hollywood hubris for the sake of selling toys, and watching it is watching a major franchise sunk by bad design and even worse puns. The casting, writing, costuming, and even set design were all so bad as to be utterly incoherent. It demonstrates a piss poor understanding of what makes Batman, well, Batman, and it wrecks what little of the source material it actually gets right. Not to mention, yes, the bat nipples. Sure, most of the film’s stars managed to escape what might have been a career-ending vacuum created by the film, but poor Alicia Silverstone’s star fell the furthest from her Clueless heyday. (Meanwhile, the world may never know what happened to Coolio after his decision to marshall Gotham City’s neon motorcycle races.) It takes a singular piece of dogshit cinema for a director to publicly apologize for it — Sam Raimi recently did so for another classic mess of a modern superhero film, Spider-Man 3 — and director Joel Schumacher is still apologizing to this day. It’s that bad.

Tragic Trio

All this being said, there’s a kind of sick thrill in watching a movie this bad. For me, Batman & Robin rests comfortably in the space where legendary bad films can be adored for how irretrievably awful they are, alongside the likes of Plan 9 from Outer Space and The Room. This is a special class of bad movie — the kind that, with time, lets you laugh at its mistakes like a drunk old friend. It lets you look back and appreciate how far you’ve come, and even wish you could go back and see it all for the first time again. And after a while, even the egregious has its charms.

There’s some actual, honest-to-god good to this movie, trapped under all Ivy versus the Duothat flash and bad acting. For one, Uma Thurman is perfect as Poison Ivy. Not because she does justice to the comics character, because that’s a mixed bag. Rather, in a movie that’s so committed to Schumacher’s over-the-top campy style, she vamps it up flawlessly. She commits, and she even looks like she’s having some real fun in the role, which is a far cry from George Clooney’s bored-and-boring take on Batman. For another — and you have to dig a bit here, so bear with Pamela and Bruceme — there are kernels of a good, well-paced story here. There are heartfelt and genuinely affecting meditations on the nature of family, partnership, and life and death in this film, hinting that, had things not been so mucked up by Warner Bros’ need to make this a family picture, Batman & Robin might have been something else entirely. Screenwriter Akiva Goldsman (who wrote A Beautiful Mind, by the way, so he’s not a total hack despite this god-awful script) even had the good sense to lift Mr. Freeze’s back story from Batman: the Animated Series, which comes close to Greek tragedy in its pathos.

But most importantly, it took this movie for studios to start thinking about what could make a superhero movie actually work. Batman & Robin is a watershed moment because, while it did decently at the box office, it was a failure of legendary proportions among critics and fans. All the industry at large had to do after this cautionary outing was do better — and it did. The evidence is obvious enough in how Marvel and DC now hold the box office in the palm of their hands, but today’s directors, who probably wouldn’t touch his style with a 10-foot pole, are actually just much better at what Schumacher already did.

Promo artworkI’m not talking about what makes a superhero story work regardless of medium. I’m talking about how the movies themselves are presented on the screen. Little by little, comic book movie directors were forced into becoming better filmmakers, and we’ve seen the fruits of that over the past decade, all tinged with lessons learned from Joel Schumacher’s colossal failure. The Dark Knight trilogy is the most obvious because it ran from the previous franchise as fast as it could for the sake of gritty realism, but the Spider-Man franchise reveled in its own camp sensibilities and it worked. Man of Steel didn’t shy away from overwrought action cheesiness and anatomically-correct costumes, and it mostly worked. And while DC and Warner Bros. have allegedly enacted a “No Jokes” policy for their movies going forward (which means no puns in Batman v. Superman), Marvel has been having fun for years, most evident in the recent Guardians of the Galaxy, which was every bit a comedy as it was an action movie.

Rogues gallery artworkWhy does Batman & Robin hold up? Because at this point you could (and should) watch the movie as an unwitting parody of the good superhero movies that came after it. It’s much easier to laugh at what’s wrong when you think about what’s right buried beneath the surface. As comics continue to dominate pop culture, so much of what we love owes this movie for helping studios think of superhero movies as films instead of just toy commercials. And you know what? Sometimes bad jokes are still funny. With all this in mind, it’s a shame that its run on Netflix was so brief. Oh well. We can only hope it’s not gone forever.

I was going to suggest renting it online, but… I’m not a monster. Wait for it to play on TNT or something.


Hmmm.  This is a tough one.

On one hand, this film was terrible in the scheme of the Bat-Universe and the nail in the coffin for the original Bat-series created by Tim Burton while also bringing about the spiral of Joel Schumacher’s career, which before taking the helm of the two Bat-sequels for Warner Bros., was doing quite well. To his credit while he burns in Bat-Hell, the regime at Warner’s demanded a light family fare in response to Burton’s previous efforts… in effect a living comic book.  It probably would have been easier for them to reboot under an Adam West like guise or seriously consider more cinematic animated tales than continue with the original Keaton/Burton story-line in Batman Forever and Batman & Robin.

Batman and RobinOn the other hand,  this film also opened the door for Marvel to slowly take over the comic book cinematic universe.  Blade brought us some grit for a Marvel Knights tale, X-Men took us closer to mainstream and finally the aforementioned Spider-Man blew the doors off.

This film also forced Warner Bros. to look for a non tent-pole director to helm a reboot for the Bat-Universe and gave us Christopher Nolan, who demanded non-interference from the Warner’s regime and gave us an actual/factual comic book Batman in return.

If only Bryan Singer thought of that for Superman Returns.

Is Batman & Robin watchable in the grand scheme of things?  Sure, just don’t go in with any expectations.  It is what is, an Adam West-esque Bat-tale that will kill some time.

It’s not a Harry Potter film… The Woman in Black (2012)

The Woman in BlackIt’s also not a ‘horror’ film, it is a Hammer Film and gives Daniel Radcliffe a chance to stretch his legs following a full career as the boy wizard.

The premise is nothing new, just presented in a new way. The story is fairly concise, unfolds properly and hits all the ‘bumps’ where it should (properly accompanied by the standard musical score). Being a British ‘Hammer’ film, it isn’t a gore-fest or overly action themed but is a bit more cerebral and unfortunately a bit predictable. I did see this on opening weekend to a full house and it induced a fair amount of jumps and gasps as it was designed to.

The supporting cast does a respectable job with their parts and Radcliffe is refreshing as something other than a magical teen and is believable to boot.
Not Harry PotterThe ending however… is a hollow and unresolved wound for the film. It raises more questions and gives little thought to resolution for a number of characters let alone ‘The Woman in Black’. Yes, a film’s ending is designed to make you think but usually not think “Wha’..?”

A good date flick or Saturday afternoon fare but not too much more than that. Skip the bathroom breaks as the film unfolds fairly well and you may miss something more important than the ending.

3 Stars

The Art of the Deal… Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012)

Ghost Rider SOV TeaserAnd while the original ‘Ghost Rider’ focused on just that, Ghost Rider, this one focused on the ‘deal’ to be Ghost Rider. Now, up-front, I’ll admit I’m a comic book guy and film buff and this film is not ‘The Dark Knight’, ‘Iron Man’ or even ‘Thor’. However, it isn’t Dolph Lundgren’s version of the Punisher or, luckily, the original ‘Ghost Rider’. (FYI: I saw this film for free at a special engagement Preview.. otherwise, I probably would not have seen it till the DVD or pay cable release.)

‘Spirit of Vengeance’ is a bit more of a reboot than a sequel, and in my estimation better than the original from a comic book standpoint. As a Hollywood flick, it’s simply the same sh!t, different film. The story is recycled from a number of genres, the acting is nothing the Academy need worry about (Nick Cage’s performance was on par for… well, any Cage performance), and some of the action sequences are a bit too herky-jerky for the 3-D, but it isn’t a total loss. The comic lore is advanced a bit (depending on which version of Johnny Blaze / Danny Ketch you want to follow) and even drops hints for returning characters in a possible sequel. Idris Elba does give a fair performance for an underwritten yet prominent character and Christopher Lambert cameos are always fun.
Spirit of Vengeance‘Marvel Knights’ is the mature comic line for Marvel characters and at some point Disney will hand their more adult characters to film makers who understand the difference between making a 90 minute crash’em-up and a story with action. While Punisher: War Zone was almost a step up for ‘Marvel Knights’, this one is a step back. Luckily, it’s only a 90 minute crash’em-up flick and you’ll be on your way to lead a normal, happy life. Bathroom breaks allowed but you probably won’t need it.

2 Stars

“I’m not so sure about that Bette Davis..” Three on a Match (1932)

3 on a MatchThat was a quote from the director when speaking to the WB front office about the great turns shown by the young cast members of ‘Three on a match’. Ann Dvorak received high marks for this great showing as a socialite who tires of her lifelong place in the upper crust of virtue and society only to take the most devastating of falls to the bottom. Joan Blondell also received high marks for her role as Dvorak’s childhood friend and social opposite who soon takes her place at home and in high society. Davis, who gave a standard turn for a supporting role, didn’t earn Mr. LeRoy’s kudos… but everyone makes a mistake now and then.

I’ll admit, I didn’t expect too much out of this film and was greatly surprised. The story starts out innocently enough (as many a WB early 30’s crime drama did) and then opened a wound just to pour salt in it with a lemon juice chaser by the very riveting end. Lyle Talbot and Warren William turn in very good supporting turns along with a very early gangster cameo for Humphrey Bogart.
The 3Well paced and to the gritty point, this one is a keeper. Popcorn and absolutely no bathroom breaks.

5 Stars