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Angry Zen Master

Enlightenment Through Focused Rage

The Only Way to Enjoy a Michael Bay Transformers Movie

Our daughter was born January 30 which meant that I missed out on the annual television advertisement competition called the Super Bowl that Sunday. So I missed out on the Coca Cola thing (which only makes me love them more) and the usual assault of movie trailers. I’ve finally gotten some time to sit down and check out some of the things I missed and lo and behold, there’s a new Transformers movie coming later this summer.

There are two ways to react to these things, IRATE FANRAGE or blissful ignorance.

Up until now, I’ve viewed this franchise through the eyes of an old school fan. I grew up with Generation 1, saved allowances to buy the toys, recoiled in horror as my generation of Transformers were killed on screen in animated form. Those are precious nerd memories to me. They’ve helped inform the kinds of wacky crap that I collect and the things I look forward to in my entertainment.

I wasn’t wholly opposed to seeing a live action version when the first one was announced. I had survived the Dreamwave comics version and the relatively short-lived 80’s cartoon comic revival that surrounded it. And there have been a handful of Michael Bay movies that I enjoyed. As my brother often points out, he made Martin Lawrence look like a bad ass in those Bad Boys movies. But when I finally saw the thing, I was less than impressed.

The jerky camera work, the claxonic sound design, the fact that I couldn’t tell Autobots from Decepticons because of the “Tinker Toy from Hell” design aesthetic, it all came off as a big stinking mess. This wasn’t even an echo of the Transformers that I grew up with.

However, there were giant robots on screen. We don’t get a lot of that here. I mean, since Transformers came out in 2007, we’ve had that weird boxing robot movie with Hugh Jackman and Pacific Rim. And I barely count that boxing robot movie. Not a whole lot of giant robot love here.

I fucking love giant robots. And if we get to see more of them on screen, perhaps more people will come to love giant robots. So shouldn’t I love Michael Bay for bringing giant robots to the screen? Even if I can’t tell who’s fighting who?

And then, it hit me. There’s one sure fire way to reconcile my love for giant robots and absolute disgust for this version of Transformers.

FORGET THAT IT’S A TRANSFORMERS MOVIE

If I didn’t know what a Transformer was, if I didn’t have the original G1 character designs blazed into my childhood fan memory, if I didn’t know that the Matrix of Leadership would light our darkest hour, I would watch this trailer and think, HOLY FUCK, GIANT ROBOT WITH A SWORD RIDING A ROBOT DINOSAUR! ROBOT WHOSE FACE TURNS INTO A CANNON? GIANT FLYING ROBOT DINOSAUR!

SIR. YES. SIR. MAY. I. HAVE. ANOTHER.

Watching this thing with blissful ignorance turned up to eleven makes it a movie about giant robots and giant robot dinosaurs. And that sounds like some shit that I want to see. And fuck, there’s even a sword! Giant robot with sword means yes. Just yes.

Granted, it’s likely going to be a very long time until I’m able to see this movie. And when I do, I’m likely only to see it at the Arlington Cinema and Draft House where they serve beer and food. But it’s pretty difficult for me to ignore a movie with giant robots with swords in it. So what that I have to delude myself into seeing this stupid thing.

My daughter needs all of these.

Baby Break

My daughter needs all of these.

My daughter needs all of these.

Not that you guys expect any sort of regularity from AZM these days, but I’m taking a break from geek blogging at least until the week of February 17.  We’re having a baby girl this week and it’s probably going to take me some time to figure out my schedule.

She’s about two weeks overdue so we’re heading to the hospital later tonight to see if we can coax her out.  So by Thursday, we will have evicted our baby girl from Audrey’s belly.

Just wanted to give you all a heads up.  When I return, I think I’ll continue with my opinion based stuff instead of just reposting new reports and announcements (unless it’s some really cool shit that I like).  There are so many aggregators for geek news these days that it’s almost impossible to scoop anyone.  And since I don’t have any real primary sources, my news is really old news by the time I report on it.  However, no one can write the crazy shit that’s in my head except me.  So that’s what I think I’ll continue to focus on when I return.

Thank you all for sticking around and reading my crazy ramblings.  And I’ll see ya mid February!

Noah Trailer Leaves Me With Many Questions

I’m not a fan of disaster movies in general and this one about Noah and the flood doesn’t really interest me.  Besides, Bill Cosby’s version is pretty much the only version I need:

Still, after seeing the trailer like five or six times (been going to the movies a lot lately), I’m left with many questions.  All I know about Noah is that he built the arc, that it housed all the animals of the land, and that it floated around to forty days and forty night.  So I’m curious to know what bits are in the good book, what bits have been cobbled together from bible scholars, and what bits are complete fabrication.

  • Noah and his family are Caucasian.  Is this just Hollywood being predictable or is there a historical basis for the ethnicity choice?
  • Why does everyone speak with an English accent when it’s a period drama?  If it’s in Italy or Greece or the Middle East, why does everyone have an English accent?  I’ve seen films that take place in China where they have English accents.  Okay, so I guess it makes sense if it takes place in Hong Kong, but still, the shit is weird.  When The Wire is remade as a period drama thirty years from now, will everyone speak with an English accent?
  • Was there an army of people who wanted to get on Noah’s Arc as the floods came rushing in?
  • Along those same lines, if ALL THE PEOPLE died, did Noah re-peopleate the earth with his family?  Caaaaauuuse that would means some brother-sister lovin’ somewhere along the way.  Or did he bring along a neighbor or two just to keep the gene pool diverse?  Or did some of the people survive?
  • How did Noah feed all of those animals and his family for forty days and forty nights?  Maybe he ran out of food and the unicorns had weak constitutions and they died which is why we don’t have them anymore.  Maybe there was a whole level full of creatures we think of as mythical who all died because they ran out of food.
  • Seriously, where did the food come from?  Was there some kind of bible stove that they could use to cook food?  Or did Noah’s family just dip in to the troughs and eat nothing but grains.
  • How did they deal with animal waste?
  • How did they prevent disease?
  • Could the Arc be steered or did they just float around and hope that eventually things would dry out?
  • How did Noah build this thing?  Did elephants help him move trees and lift things?  Did he hire neighbors to help with construction?  Plowing up a field to turn it into a baseball diamond I can see being a one person operation.  But building a vessel that will house ALL THE ANIMALS can’t possibly be done by your lonesome, at least in a timely fashion.  Noah needed some help.  Now if we believe in crossovers and that Emma Watson is really playing Hermione, she could use magic to help construct the arc.

I think this is why I don’t like disaster movies.  It’s impossible for me to suspend disbelief.  I always come up with annoying questions that will never get answered in the space of two hours.

The scientist who discovers the world ending disaster never explains things in a manner which is terribly satisfying.  The other scientist who figures out how to prevent the disaster always comes up with some bullshit that would never work.  Our charismatic hero is never charismatic enough for me to forget the completely stupid solution to saving us all.  I rarely care about the cast enough to want them to survive.  It’s not that I wish them death.  It’s just that we usually get sketches of characters that don’t give me enough of an emotional hook.  And if you don’t care about the characters, it makes their impending doom much less exciting than it probably should be.

Disaster films are what I like to call demo reel movies.  CG effect companies will use their shots in their demo reels to get more work.  And if you get to experience them in full 3D on a big ass screen, the effects are always amazing.  But as realistically terrifying as these effects shots can be, the stories rarely hold up to that level of awe.  Maybe it wasn’t always like this, but modern disaster flicks depend way too heavily on their effects.

In the case of this film, we don’t have science to lean on which may make it easier to suspend disbelief.  But some of the other questions I have would probably jump me out again.  Even with people I like in it like Emma Watson and Jennifer Connelly, I just can’t get into disaster movies.  Maybe if I pretend I’m watching Hermione and Sarah stuck in some weird ass labyrinth, this might work.

I'm doing what now?

An Epic Romantic Remake Of 1984?

I’m doing what now?

“It’s about love in a world where love really doesn’t exist anymore.”

So says director Drake Doremus about his upcoming film Equals, a new version of George Orwell’s 1984.  What’s really surprising is not the casting of Kristen Stewart, but that it’s taken so long for a new millennium take on the story.  I guess Equilibrium from 2002 counts.  Fucking gun kata!  But with all the remakes, sequels, reboots, re-imaginings, and remixes that Hollywood is so fond of these days, you’d think that 1984 would be higher up on the priority list.

My hope is that it doesn’t get all glitzed up with CG effects and green screen.  I suppose it would be cool to see armed guards walking around in some kind of futuristic armor, but I really think the version starring John Hurt captured the look and feel that I saw in my mind when I read the book.  Lots of grays.  Nothing at all fancy or shiny.  Just really brutalist and depressing.

As for Kristen Stewart, what I find most interesting is that she seems to be a little intimidated by the role of Julia:

I can’t believe I agreed to do it… I trust Drake’s process and I know we will do something really natural and real. But I told Drake, ‘Don’t expect that I am going to be able to do this. It’s too hard.’ But he wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. I’ve given directors disclaimers before, but never this much… It’s a love story of epic, epic, epic proportion. I’m scared.

Now I know a lot of people like to dog on K Stew because of her acting and whatever, but this sounds like someone who’s considered the source material.  I remember hearing similar things from Chris Evans when he was pursued to play Captain America and he did just fine.  I think Stewart will rise to the challenge.

Until we see actual trailers of this thing, we won’t really know much more about this interpretation of 1984.  I’m choosing to be slightly optimistic.  I’ll keep an eye out for this thing as it develops.

From: ABC News

I feel like Asuka is Anno and Shinji represents the fans.

Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Make Sense

I feel like Asuka is Anno and Shinji represents the fans.

I feel like Asuka is Anno and Shinji represents the fans.

It was by complete accident that I found out that The Movies at Montgomery Mall was playing Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo on the big screen last Saturday night.  Is this a thing that happens regularly there?  They really need to advertise that shit better.  If I hadn’t been randomly looking around Fandango, I would have missed it entirely.

I don’t get to see a lot of anime on the big screen so I figured, hell, might as well give it a try.  Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone and Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance were very pretty to look at and, for the most part, fairly understandable as far as Eva goes.  I also don’t mind the dubs of Eva.  I almost always prefer subs, but I’ve always liked the actors that dub Eva.  So I thought I’d give 3.0 a chance.  As you’ve figured out by now, I’m a sucker for robots punching things on the big screen.

END OF NOSTALGIA

Before I attempt to describe what I saw, I think a little background is in order.  I was in high school when anime started to break out into the mainstream.  Adult Swim was subjecting people to things like Dragon Ball Z and Inuyasha.  Hollywood Video started carrying box sets of Mobile Suit Gundam and Patlabor.  Cowboy Bebop, Macross Plus, Trigun, all of this shit was becoming mainstream.  And then, there was Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Everyone I knew loved Eva.  It was objectively good.  Who gave a flying fuck that the last two episodes were a meta mess that basically subverted the entire show.  There were robots punching and girls wearing plug suits.  Honestly, we were just happy to get copies that we could finally understand.  Fuck yeah, anime!!!

Now that anime isn’t so difficult to get, there’s a whole new generation of fans who aren’t fooled by giant robots punching just because.  Giant robots aren’t that special so if you’re show sucks, you can’t distract these new fans with exploding crosses and virbo knives.  This new generation of fans have discovered something that my generation was unwilling to see.

Eva kinda sucks.

In some ways, Eva was always meant to suck.  It was a cynical deconstruction of the giant robot genre.  Instead of asking how hard can a robot punch an alien, Evangelion asks what would piloting a giant robot to defend civilization as we know it do to the psyche of a pre-teen?  How would children deal with such a burden?  What kind of sick fuck would knowingly create such monstrous machines?  All the familiar aspects of the classic giant robot shows are there, they’re just twisted into a heaping mess of emotional damage.

It’s kind of a wake up.  Sort of a, “Hey otaku!  Yeah, you!  You know those robot shows you love so bad?  Hey, they’re actually really fucked up!  The emotional damage done to the kids piloting these things would ruin their lives! EVERYTHING IS AWFUL WHY DO YOU KEEP WATCHING THIS SHIT?!??!?!!!!”

There’s a theory that Hideaki Anno, the guy who created Eva, hates his fans.  And honestly, after watching countless hours of the Eva series, the movies, the rebuilds, it’s kind of difficult to ignore the meta context.  This entire series is a giant middle finger to giant robot shows.  A beautifully animated, completely blatant fuck you.

And we keep going back for more.

So with all this shit in mind, let’s finally talk about this fucking movie.

EVANGELION 3.0: YOU SHOULD (NOT) REDO

It’s been so long since I’ve seen an Eva anything that watching this was almost like seeing Evangelion for the first time.  And if this is your first time seeing anything Evangelion, just stop.  You won’t understand a goddamn thing.  There are no Cliff’s Notes, no “previously on” montage, no wall of text to recap episodes 1.0 or 2.0.  Fuck, I’ve watched all of these fucking things and even I had to do a wikipedia dive when I got home.

Let’s see if I got this straight.

After the events of the second film, Shinji has been in a coma for fourteen years.  In that time, Misato Katsuragi and basically the entirety of NERV except for Gendo and Fuyutski have formed a splinter group, WILLE.  WILLE’s aims to destroy NERV and all NERV created Evas.

Asuka rescues Shinji from his slumber within Unit 01.  Oh, bee tee dubs, Asuka still looks like a fifteen year old because apparently piloting Evas keeps you young forever.  Because anime!  So yeah, she rescues Shinji who is floating in some kinda space cross.  WILLE somehow uses Unit 01 as the power source for their command ship, Wunder, which must happen off screen at some point.  Misato, Ritsuko, and pretty much everyone on the bridge treat Shinji like shit.

There’s a fight.  Unit 9 which looks like Unit 0 shows up somehow and rescues Shinji.  Rei 9.0 takes Shinji to see Gendo.  Gendo says, “You’re gonna pilot Unit 13 with this weird asshole, Kaworu, because Unit 13 is like a Jaeger and requires two minds in the Drift.”  Because parenting.  So Kaworu seduces Shinji while Shinji tries to connect with Rei not realizing that she isn’t the Rei he knew fourteen years ago.

It’s finally time to jump into the Rift with Jaeger Unit 13.  Shinji and Kaworu drift with Unit 9 protecting them.  Asuka and Mari show up and it’s a big Eva fight.  With Jaeger Unit 13, Shinji pulls out the spears that stuck in giant Rei and Unit 6 and then shit happens that still doesn’t make sense to me.  Apparently, this triggers Fourth Impact but I don’t know what that is because it’s never explained in this movie.  I’m guessing that’s when everyone turns into goooo, but don’t hole me to that.

Kaworu wants to stop Fourth Impact so he stabs Unit 13 with the spear thingies and then his head explodes because anime.  Mari saves Shinji by ejecting his entry plug.  Asuka saves Rei by blowing up Unit 9.  Asuka finds Shinji sulking in his plug and pulls him out.  Rei shows up and the three of them walk off into the sunset.

Fuck.

Even after writing all that shit out, it’s still confusing.  Through much of the film, Shinji yells variations of, “WHAT’S GOING ON?!!!”  I felt like he was speaking for me the entire time.  And none of the explanations he’s given are satisfying.  Also, the Human Instrumentality Project is dropped a few times and I still have no idea what the fuck that is.  Is that where everyone turns to goo?  Or is that where everyone wakes up on a stage and claps?  Or is that the same shit?

Also, how does Asuka punch so well with the total lack of depth perception? Does syncing with an Eva compensate for all that?  Why is Mari so useless for most of this movie?  How can Gendo and Fuyutski make an Eva themselves?  Where are the rest of NERV?

YOU SHOULD (NOT) KNOW BETTER

After all these years and after all the hours I’ve spent watching Eva related things, I should know that we don’t look to Evangelion for answers.  We look to the show for giant robots that kind of look like malnourished track athletes trapped in armor and skin tight plugsuits that make for some really awesome cosplay.

When I forget to ask “why,” I enjoy Eva quite a bit.  I’ve always liked the aesthetic of the mecha and the designs of the plugsuits.  And on some level, I definitely appreciate the deconstruction of the gian robot genre.  But when I start to look for explanations, my brain starts to bleed.

Here’s the sick genius of it all.  When 4.0 comes out, I’m gonna be one of the first in line to watch that shit.  Even if Anno hates his fans, even if I don’t know what the fuck is going on, there’s something about Eva that just draws us all in.

And when Anno gets bored and decides to reboot the fucking thing five years later, I’ll be right there in line scratching my head and wondering what the fuck I’m doing there again.

gaim

With Great Lock Seeds Come Great Responsibility

gaim

I try my best not to judge a new Rider show until I actually see a handful of episodes.  But let me tell you, when I heard that this year’s Rider was fruit themed, I almost handed in my Toku card and turned my back.  I’m glad I didn’t because as goofy and saturated as Gaim’s World is, the show is turning in more compelling drama than Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

We’re twelve episodes in and it’s taken me a while to warm up to series.  I almost clocked out after the first four episodes.  We got a very surface introduction to a world that I find horribly difficult to relate to.  Gangs of high school kids compete with each other with pokemon to dance on stage? The hell? And when Kouta gets his Rider powers, he uses the suit to play stupid games all for personal gain.

And then episode five happened.  Kouta first encounters Kamen Rider Zangetsu and gets his ass handed to him.  Kouta realizes that there’s more at stake than just dancing on stage and it freaks him the fuck out.  And then it hit me.

This show is really Kamen Rider Spider-Man.

When Peter Parker discovers his spider powers, his first instinct is to cash in.  He hops into a wrestling match to win the big cash prize.  It’s a completely selfish act that results in the death of his uncle.  Peter learns a harsh lesson and dedicates the rest of his life to using his powers responsibly.  Though no one has yet died because of Kouta’s initial selfish uses of his belt, he feels a similar responsibility to those around him to use his new powers for good.

Since episode five, Kouta’s feeling of underlying dread has started to permeate the show.  Though it’s still very playful and colorful and mostly a half hour toy commercial, there’s a real sense that something horribly fucked up is coming down the road.  Episode twelve kind of nails it right on the head.  Michi and Kouta have discovered that Yggdrasil has been using the Beat Riders as guinea pigs for some unknown experiment.  The only way to stop Yggdrasil’s secret plot is to not play the game.  When Michi tells Kouta to throw away the belt, there’s a moment of dead silence and my jaw dropped.  Riders rarely question their fight for justice and here we have Michi and Kouta seriously discussing ending the show right now.

But by now, Kouta is far down the path of great responsibility.  There are creatures invading the town and attacking people and only those with belts have the power to stop them.  Certainly, whatever Yggdrasil is up to can’t be good.  And every time a Beat Rider transforms, Yggdrasil can collect more data from the belt.  But there are monsters and there are innocents and Kouta will save them because it’s the right thing to do.  When the battle is won, the look Kouta gives Michi says, “What else could I do? I have to protect this town.”  The look Michi gives Kouta says, “The only way to win this game is to not play.  Ever.”  The tension between them is palpable.  They understand where the other one is coming from, but they also can’t accept it.  I have a feeling that there’s a powerful rivalry building between them, much more so than Kouta and Baron.

In manner which only seems to work well in tokusatsu, Kamen Rider Gaim is doing a wonderful job of balancing colorful humor with deep drama all while selling toys to the kiddies.  I’m so impressed that they’ve managed to make the fruit theme work.  It’s shaping up to be a really entertaining series and worlds better than Wizard.

Ressha-Sentai-Tokkyūger

Choo Choo Sentai Den-Ogers

I try my best to not judge a Super Sentai or Kamen Rider series on suit photos or intro trailers alone.  I’ve long since learned that just because something may initially look like the worst idea Toei has ever come up with doesn’t mean it won’t absolutely blow me away.  The current Super Sentai, Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger, is a perfect example.  I initially thought the dancing transformation sequence was the dumbest looking shit in the world, but it’s turned out to be one of my favorite Sentai series!  So I will try my best not to shit on Tokkyuger just from this preview trailer.

However, I can’t help but look at this thing and think that some exec at Toei mandated the train theme for the next Sentai series so that they could bring back Den-O in a crossover movie.  Somehow, Den-O is still one of the most beloved Kamen Riders.  Personally, I can’t stand it.  But he’s had nine theatrical films and that’s without including all his appearances in the various Taisen films.  That’s fucking insane.  So I wouldn’t at all be surprised to hear “ORE SANJOU” in the middle of Tokkyuger’s run.  When that shit happens, you heard it here first, folks!

That’s my one prediction for Tokkyuger.  I have to admit, I’m not a fan of the suits or the helmets, but that’s strictly from a design sense.  The show might turn out to be awesome despite what I feel is an inevitable crossover.

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