Sunday, April 26, 2009

The day I met Tommy...

This was a few months back, but yes, I met Jason David Frank, world renowned martial artist and best known as Tommy Oliver, the Green Ranger! ...Then the White Ranger, then the Red Ranger, then the Black Ranger. You get the idea ;)

He was the special guest at IKKICON 2009, and I gots pictures! I took my precious Dragon Dagger, which I've had since I was but a boy, for him to sign the box.

A crappy picture of my childhood hero. Yes, that's a White Ranger helmet there!
JDF stated that he would prefer if Power Rangers were more like the Japanese version; just a little more violent ;)

A fellow fan in an EXCELLENT Green Ranger/Dragonranger outfit. Yes, that's my Dragon Dagger he's brandishing!


A few more Tokusatsu fans in attendance. Kamen Rider HENSHIN!

Another fellow fan, thankfully headache-free.

While waiting in line, nothing less than Won Tiger aka the White Tiger Zord was entertaining the crowd. MAN what some fans are capable of!

A gift for Mr. Frank, from another Mr. Frank ;) He got a kick out of it.

And the fruits of my labor that day. Signed by Tommy himself!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Been there, done that.

Or "Exactly what's starting to bore me about Transformers."

A heroic Megatron...exactly what this franchise needs.

Brace yourselves.

There's no question that Transformers is a juggernaut of popular culture. It's probably never been more popular or widely recognized, and there is more merchandise for fans to dump money into that could even be thought possible (TF was in fact created to sell toys, so it makes sense). Still, in the flurry of new material and fiction in the wake of the "Transformers Revival" (even though it never went away), I've come to a realization that inevitably befalls all epic, gigantic points of fiction that have been around for so long; we're retreading old ground.

Tell me you haven't seen a pattern here. Optimus Prime and his Autobots battle the evil forces of Megatron and his Decepticons. The battle is inevitably taken to Earth. Bumblebee does silly things. Starscream betrays Megatron. And then again. And then again. All of this is repeated over and over and over and over.
I'm keenly aware that Prime and Megs are the big moneymakers, the defining characters of this franchise, but for the love of Primus, can we catch a break?

Allow me to enter these examples into the mix:

G1 - Optimus Prime vs. Megatron. It was cool, it was fresh, it had the classic flair of good and evil and established the characters we all came to love. Not a great show but still extremely entertaining.

Ah, back when it was fresh.

The Movie - Optimus dies, Megatron gets reformatted into Galvatron. Rodimus Prime takes up the mantle (badly) but it shifted things around and made it all interesting again. Then Optimus came back. Okay then.

You suck. But at least you were interesting.

Thennnnn....the Japanese took over. Now let's not forget that, if it weren't for Takara's toy designs, there would be no Transformers. BUT let us also not forget that the Japanese don't have a great track record when it comes to the fiction (see: really effed-up story elements and WAY too much "comedy"). However, they still gave us a handful of switch-ups. For example, no more Convoy (Optimus) or Galvatron/Megatron/WHATEVER he was supposed to be on a given day of the week. In the new series such as Victory, Battlestars and Masterforce we were given characters like the serious-but caring Star Saber and his vicious-but-caring (?) nemesis Deathsaurus (?!) and a plethora of other Autobot Supreme Commanders and Decepticon Emperors of Destruction.

Brutally slaughtering Decepticons and raising a human child. All in a day's work.

Things were...well, not "good," but varied and crazy. If it's one thing the Japanese are good at, it's repainting an old product. Still, Optimus and Megatron returned, like they do, as Star Convoy and Super Megatron for one final, massive storybooks and whatnot, but hey, at least it was "epic"! Seriously, something like this wasn't so bad; having these legendary characters return to settle things once and for all at the tail end of G1 (and show all these upstarts how it's done) was probably the way to go.

Yes, he is, in fact, FULL OF STARS.

And no we get to Beast Wars, and by GOD is everything right in the world. G1 references are made and G1 character appear, but we now have a new, fresh cast of characters in a new era with new grievances. True, the main actors are still "Optimus" and "Megatron," but the two only resemble their namesakes in spirit *cough* BW was so damn awesome and so well written (by Season 2 at least) that it brought a new generation into Transformers (myself included) and helped push the entire mythos into a new and better direction. complete me.

And THEN Beast Machines happened. We had officially gone off-track. True, it's not a bad show, but it really stretched the definition of a Transformer, and got way too far up its own exhaust port. So what happened? Well, it was time for "back to basics," so to speak.

The only problem didn't really get things quite right. So they tried again.

...Nothing less than THREE DAMN TIMES. And the Unicron Trilogy was AWFUL.

So, Hasbro has pulled out all the stops, and now we have nothing less than three current continuities, ALL with Optimus Prime vs. Megatron, i.e. G1 rehashing.

The Movies.

The Comics.

And "Animated" (as though that's something new).

Okay, I can cut Transformers: Animated some slack. It's still Optimus Prime vs. Megatron, but the characters all have a wider range of motivations and there's new and cool influences taken from various sources, and, thank Primus, IT'S A NEW ART STYLE. But the series is already barreling head-first towards its finale. So what then? Will we have to sit through another reboot? Will we get to see Starscream backstab Megatron AGAIN? Will we get to see Optimus use the Matrix (or Allspark) to eliminate evil (see: Unicron) AGAIN?

In my opinion, it's time for a new direction. Once the movie franchise cools off, I say we start up with some new characters and a new direction. Not Optimus and Megatron (or at least not DIRECTLY those characters), but something cool and new. Hell, why not Transtech, the ill-fated sequel to Beast Machines?

I'd watch this. ESPECIALLY if it wasn't about Optimus and Megatron...although it originally was...gah.

Dammit, Janet, I love Transformers. I'm loving the comics and digging the new movies and love the hell out of Animated, but I'd love even more for another Beast Wars with a dash of Victory. In other words...let's stop walking in circles and point ourselves in a new direction.

Monday, April 13, 2009

"That was Not over 9,000"

“That was not over 9,000...” or Fail CGI Monkey is Made of Fail.

Let’s not kid ourselves; this was going to be bad from the day we heard internet rumors screaming “They’re making a Dragonball Z movie ” back in...what was it? 2001? Anyway, while I didn’t foresee EVERY steaming, badly rendered CGI monkey turd that was dropped, it all evened out to about what I expected.

At first, things are actually somewhat entertaining. There are some genuinely funny moments that are surprisingly Toriyama-esque, if you can believe it. Things even begin to descend into self-parody, making the first 10-15 minutes MUCH more entertaining than the rest of the flick. White Kid, or “Goku” as he’s called in some universe, has a hilarious daydream about ChiChi. There’s a fight where White Kid doesn’t even throw a punch, forcing his enemies to do all the damage (again, very Toriyama). But it’s when the film starts taking itself seriously that things get even more sloppy and just downright badly executed.

There were a handful of things that I genuinely liked...y’know, aside from ChiChi’s...chichi’s (look it up in your Spanish dictionary). Okay, that’s a lie: Chow Yun Fat’s portrayal of Muten Roshi was the ONLY element that I felt had any quality to it. Like Jack Black’s version of Carl Denham, CYF takes an established character and, while noting the original, takes his version in a refreshing direction that still fills the proper role.

Another problem is that the film really has no clue what it wants to be: does it want to be Dragonball? A Dragonball parody? A cheap kung-fu action scifi film catering to mass audiences? It seems to be trying to please Dragonball fans while trying WAY too hard to cater to what’s “hip” and “cool.” It tries both, fails at both and offends both.

Trust me, just about everything in this movie is bad: the acting, the script, the plot, the special effects (though the Chi, or “Ki” effects are kind of cool), but I was actually kind of enjoying myself. Having a handful of friends along for the ride was a HUGE help through this piss-filled swamp of a film. One thing that was also very disappointing was one of the reasons I used to be excited; Piccolo. He carries no screen presence, has no motivation (other than “You locked me away ...for trying to destroy your world BUT STILL ”) and is just...BLEH.

Here’s the kicker: at the climax of the film, Oozaru shows up. Then goes away. And thank God, because that was probably the worst CGI I have ever, EVER seen in a major motion picture. It was just as bad as the CGI in one of those direct-to-dvd ripoffs like KING OF THE LOST WORLD (don’t see it, believe me). What really pissed me off, though, was that there was a really interesting rubber-suited version of Oozaru that popped up online a few months back. It wasn’t really a monkey-monster, but it was a hell of a lot cooler that the poorly animated, badly edited, OUT OF FOCUS monkey monster in the final version. Seriously, what is it with movies like these? Are they so scared of the FACT that it’s a rubber suit (and a fairly decent one at that) that they’d rather put inexcusably bad CGI in place of it?

Trust me, this was much better than what we got.

I guess I shouldn’t get so worked up about it. There was a total of about 20 or so people in the theater...on opening night, no less One of my compatriots noted that “this film will be out of theaters in a week.” Probably.

The thing is, this COULD have been a much more interesting film...if an entirely different approach was taken, and certainly if Fox didn’t make it. Fox is notorious for taking franchises, spitting out a quick, crappy movie, getting a little bit of money, then trying it again. Still, when I think about it, one of the graces of the movie (being mercifully short) was also an overall detriment; in order to do a halfway decent Dragonball film, it would need to be more than an hour and a half (it was probably even less). The final film was so crammed and rushed that it was inevitable that we wouldn’t care about any of the characters or even what was going on. In fact, it would be rather easy to make a good Dragonball film, if the elements of trying to appeal to a “mass audience” were simply removed (the high school angle, for a painfully glaring example) and try to make it more of a fantasy.

But I digress (I love saying that), what’s done is done and nobody will ever try this again, and we have Dragonball Kai to look forward to (the newly edited, SHORTENED version of Dragonball Z).

Oh yeah, and Shenron doesn’t talk...or even take up the whole sky like he should...or even be anywhere near as cool as the Celestial Dragon from Dragon Wars.