Monthly Archives: February 2014

The LEGO Movie

“So, how are we gonna get there? And where is there exactly,” Textbox asked as Kirin fished her bow and quiver out of the closet. She slung them around her shoulder and tied her sheathed broadsword around her waist.

“The message said that they were on the way when something called a “vempine” attacked. They said they were about two miles thataway.” She gestured to the woods behind her house.

“Only two miles? That means I can tag along!” Textbox exclaimed. Kirin’s eyes widened. She suddenly got visions of him yammering in her ear as she cut down tiny gremlins.

“No!” she said too quickly.

“And why not, little miss ninja pants?” Textbox asked indignantly.

“Because…because I need you here–to protect the house from–uh–anything that tries to break in. Time to go. Bye,” she said as she headed out the door.

“Don’t worry, fair maiden, I shall guard this place with my life,”  Textbox yelled as she disappeared into the woods. As soon as he was out of earshot, Kirin breathed a sigh of relief and ran to the coordinates given by the communication device. As she ran, she began to think about a movie she saw recently.

Hello, I’m a unicorn. Do you love LEGOs? If so, good for you, but they were never my thing. For one reason or another, I just never got into those building blocks of mass foot destruction, so when I heard there was going to be a movie based on these toys, I shrugged and watched old VHS tapes of Batman The Animated Series. Slowly, though, I began to see more trailers and learned about the process of making the movie and I got curious. When I saw the reviews that came out, everyone praised it to high Olympus. So, naturally, my family checked it out. Did it live up to the hype? The short answer is yes. Why? Well, read on to find out, true believer.

First of all, the humor was fantastic. It’s one of those movies with humor both kids and adults could appreciate. There wasn’t a single scene that didn’t have me smiling or chuckling. Without giving too much away, there were a lot of jokes that I couldn’t predict, because there is so much humor thrown in your face that it requires at least two viewings to catch all the visual jokes, and at least another three viewings to hear all the jokes. I also loved all the memorable characters, especially Bad Cop. I didn’t even realize that he was voiced by Liam Neeson until I checked IMDB. He completely disappeared into the role.

The animation was also wonderful. The CGI and stop motion blended together so well, it was hard to tell where one ended and the other began.  I loved the little touches like the water and smoke being LEGO bricks. It was just really clever. The worlds, especially Cloud Cuckooland and Bricksburg were really cool to look at. In Bricksburg, I thought that the Orwellian propaganda signs were really funny and I found myself torn between reading them and paying attention to what was going on screen. I didn’t want to miss a thing.

If I had a criticism, it would be with the ending. Without giving away any plot twists, I didn’t really care for it. With all the awesomeness before it, the end and defeat of Lord Business felt a bit like a cloying cop-out. I can’t explain why without giving the ending away, but when you see it, you’ll understand.

Overall though, this movie is amazing. It is a great blend of satire, funny characters, memorable one-liners, and scenes that were genuinely heartrending topped off by great animation. It takes a generic sounding plot and goes to unexpected places with it. This movie could have easily been a two hour LEGO commercial, but it instead chose to be a a wildly creative and extremely fun film for the whole family. So what are you waiting for? See it now!

“Lilly, get down,” Eli yelled. She ducked behind a log as he threw a flash grenade into the snow, the bright light stunning several of the photo-sensitive vempines. The creatures were no more than three feet high, with lamprey-like mouths that were used to suck blood and other vital juices and black eyes used to paralyze their prey. Their scaly, albino bodies resembled grey aliens that abduction victims often describe, but with razor sharp claws on their hands and feet and practically bulletproof skin. On his world, they hunted in swamps, mesmerizing their victims and dragging them to their watery graves. On land, they were wicked fast and deadly, but usually hunted alone. It was unusal for two to be in the same territory, let alone twenty. There was a flash as another grenade went off and the two regrouped.

“That was the last grenade,” Lilly gasped. They stood back to back as the creatures circled around them. “Eli, this is not good. There’s too many of them.” The vempines slowly began to close in. The two drew their guns.

“Did somebody call for reinforcements?” Kirin yelled as an arrow lodged itself in a vempine’s back.

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Tales of the TMNT #43

Hello, I’m a unicorn. Since today is Valentines day, I thought I’d look at one of my all time favorite comic book couples, Casey Jones and April O’Neal in a very special engagement issue.

Casey and April, sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g–

There you are Textbox, where have you been?

Different places. You’ll see…You’ll all see…

Okay, ominous. Anyway, the issue opens with Casey’s good-for-nothing cousin Sid, who has now joined the Foot Clan. He’s washing the floors of the headquarters when two other ninjas overhear his complaints and taunt him. As Sid snivels and begs them not to hurt him, the ninjas start to brag about a new mission that Karai has given them. The Foot Mystics have foreseen that an ancient and powerful ring may be in the city. The heart shaped ruby in the ring can grant immortality, and it’s their chance to win Karai’s favor, but Sid needs to stay away.

So, let me get this straight. These two guys just randomly decide to brag to an underling, give him an idea of what this super-duper-chocolaty ring looks like and tell him that the ninja who finds the ring will be rewarded, just so they can tell him it’s none of his concern?  If it wasn’t his concern, why bring it  up in the first place?

Beats me, but, of course, Sid has seen the ring before. It belonged to his grandmother and was bequeathed to Casey. We cut to Casey, who is in the lair with the Turtles. He’s showing the Turtles the ring and is nervous about proposing to April. We get some funny dialogue with the TMNT trying unsuccessfully to give their friend support. Sid calls Casey to ask if he still has the ring and Casey yells that Sid can’t have it because he’s “gonna give it to my girl this weekend at the Farmhouse,” so Sid had better stay away. Smooth move Casey, now Sid knows exactly when and where he’ll be with the ring. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant.

We move on to Casey and April, as Casey not so subtly hints at his plans and they banter a bit. I like this dialogue because it isn’t mushy or gag-worthy, it’s just a couple who are talking like normal human beings who happen to be in love. We cut to the Turtles, who are preparing to leave and support their friends. They say their goodbyes to Casey’s daughter, Shadow, who is left in the care of Splinter. There is a silent page showing the Turtles hitching a ride on a train, Casey and April sitting in comfortable silence, and Karai looking determined while riding in a helicopter. Casey and April arrive at the Farmhouse and head inside to pack for a picnic as the Foot and the Turtles arrive. The Turtles discuss their excitement over Casey’s proposal, and hide when Leo hears the lovebirds coming.

The couple eats lunch as Casey works up the courage to pop the question. April suspects what’s going on and tries to put Casey at ease, but he panics and runs off to use the little vigilante’s room. The Turtles pop out of the bushes and give him the tuxedo that they had brought along and a pep talk. He returns to April and pulls out the ring. Just before April can say yes, Sid, Karai, and the Foot attack and take the ring. The Turtles intervene and Leo asks her why the clan has gone back on their truce. Karai explains that they only want the ring, and they retreat in a puff of smoke just as the Turtles attack. Casey apologizes about losing the ring and, in one of the sweetest moments of the issue, April says that she doesn’t care about the ring, she cares about him. She makes a ring out of some nearby flowers and Casey finishes his proposal. April, of course, says yes, and they kiss to the cheers of the Turtles.

Elsewhere, Karai realizes that the gem was worthless, and has the Foot Mystics punish Sid. The Mystics mutilate Sid until he looks like the the Cryptkeeper in Tales From the Crypt. Sid realizes that he should have died but didn’t, because the ruby wasn’t the source of immortality, it was the ring itself.

Overall, this issue is recommended. While there are a few head-scratchers, most noticeably with people randomly blurting out things most people would keep to themselves, the art isn’t that great, and the ending being sort of anticlimactic, the rest of the issue is pretty solid. It’s less focused on action and more on the interactions between Casey and April and the dialogue reflects that. It’s witty and realistic when it doesn’t involve cousin Sid. So what are you waiting for? Read it now, and may you have a happy Valentines doing what you love with whoever you love, whether it’s a romantic love, a love between family, or a love between friends.

“Hey Kirin, have Scully and Mulder called back yet?” Textbox asked. Kirin put the communicator in her pocket and headed to the basement.

“Nope, and I’m beginning to get worried. You think they could have gotten in trouble?” she replied. She took a sheet off an old bookcase in the corner of the room.

“I dunno, maybe they’re just busy or stopped for a bite of chimichanga. Man, I could go for some chimichanga right now, or a coookie, or a chimichanga cookie.” Kirin grunted as she pushed the bookcase along the wall.

“I hope you’re right.” She pushed it next to the fusebox and began to pile boxes of old junk in front of the case.

 “What’cha doing?”

“It just occurred to me, why am I leaving this portal to Odin knows where open for creatures to sneak through? I’d originally wanted to leave it unblocked for Lilly and Eli, but since it’s been a few hours and they haven’t called back, I should probably make sure our house is at least a little secure from invaders,” she explained. She felt her communicator buzz in her pocket and chuckled. “Typical. I should have barricaded the portal two hours ago,” she muttered as she read the message from her allies, “Uh-oh.”

“Uh-oh? What do you mean “uh-oh”?” Textbox asked.

“I mean that they’re in deep trouble, and we’re the only ones who can help,” Kirin replied.

“Oh, that kind of uh-oh.”

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Tales of the TMNT #46

Hello, I’m a unicorn. Every great villainous organization has an army of faceless underlings. The Empire has Stormtroopers, Malekith has that creepy Dark Elf army, and Hydra has its foot soldiers. If you’re anything like me, you start to wonder about the mooks being killed by our heroes. Do they have families? How did they get involved with this evil organization? Do they know that they’re the villains, or do they think that they are the good guys? What do they talk about on their coffee breaks? Are they frustrated that their superior numbers and training cannot take our those rebels with “can do” attitudes?

This issue delves into the life of a low level Foot Clan initiate named Tomi, a teenager who joins the Foot Clan after his dad is killed in the clan’s service. Although they don’t outright say it, I suspect that the Turtles unknowingly killed him. He works at the coffee shop that April frequents, and they are friends. Tomi is a talented musician and has started teaching his little brother, Jiro, to play the guitar. Since his Dad is gone, he’s become the man of the house, and is really close to his family. All in all, he’s a pretty likable guy, and that’s what makes the story so sad. Since the cover actually spoils the ending (seriously what is with that?), I don’t feel bad giving it away as well. He is killed by Raphael in his first battle. Raphael, of course, did it in self defense, but he still did it without remorse. It makes you wonder about the kind of heroes you’re rooting for.

Even more tragic, though, is that when Tomi is brought home in a body bag, his sweet little brother, who is about eight or nine, promises his mother that they will have revenge. This could go two ways, and neither of them are preferable. Jiro could either die in his first battle against the Turtles, like his brother and presumably, his father, or follow in the Shredder’s footsteps (uhh… no pun intended). If you remember in my TMNT #1 review, Oroku Saki was a little boy when Hamato Yoshi killed his brother, Nagi, over Tang Shen. Jiro would start training with the Foot Clan, become the most skilled out of all of them, and eventually try to get his vengeance on the Turtles. Either way, the cycle of vengeance will continue and it will not be pretty.

This issue is great. Even though you know that Tomi is going to die, every part of you wishes that he wouldn’t, and it’s even more heart wrenching that his brother will choose to follow the same path. I love stories told from the underling’s perspective, because I find them very interesting and they usually add a different perspective to the main protagonists. This issue actually reminds me of the Samurai Jack episode, “The Tale of X9,” which was equally tragic. The episode follows a sentient killer robot called X9 who grew to love a puppy named Lulu. He is blackmailed into coming out of retirement and trying to kill Jack in order to save the one thing he cares about. Like this issue, you root for him, even though you know that he’s going to die, and are sad when the hero wins. If I had one criticism, it would be that I’m not crazy about the artwork, which is fine on the Turtles, but makes the humans look strange. It’s a minor criticism, and doesn’t detract from this great story. So what are you waiting for? Read it now.

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Cyberforce #2

Hello, I’m a unicorn. Way back in August, back even before Textbox attached himself to me like the little parasite that he is–

Aww Kirin, I love you too.

I did a review of an early Image comic called Cyberforce. I highly suggest reading my previous review because I’ll be calling every character by the nickname I gave them, and I don’t want anyone lost. To summarize though, the art was bad, the characters were bad, and I had no idea what was going on. So, let’s see if this does any better in explaining the plot.  First, let’s talk about the cover. It’s not very good.

owned by Image Comics Well at least they aren't just standing there.

There is certainly stuff going on, but heck if I know what’s happening other than fighting. The coloring on the characters and the “background” makes it hard to tell where one character ends and the other begins. The designs are so generic and 1990’s that I can’t tell who is good or bad, but I can tell that Stupid Headgear Lady is going to need a chiropractor. Also, Skully is really freaking me out. I mean, look at that grin! Brrrr.

We open exactly where the previous comic left off. DomDID asks the team led by Stupid Headgear Lady how they found her. We also get a smidgeon of back story on DomDID in the form of a few text boxes. Even though she looks like she’s in her twenties, she is actually 16, was once a SHOC, and is now a runaway. SHOC is an acronym for Special Hazardous Operation Cyborgs, whatever the Nilfheim that is. I would like to point out that they changed the unreadable blue exposition text boxes to much easier to read yellow boxes. Apparently this team works for a company called Cyberdata, and she is a runaway employee. According to DomDID, the contract should be null because it was signed under duress, and the team of villains pooh-pooh that minor detail. I think I’m supposed to hate them, but I only have DomDID’s word, so all I’m feeling is apathy and mild indigestion from the tacos I had for dinner. Then, there is a weird panel where the “background” is colored and nothing else. The word balloons aren’t even white. Uh…hello? Colorist? Are you there?

DomDID takes off, this time actually looking like she’s running fast, but breaking her back in the process. Skully, (apparently called Killjoy but I like Skully better) debates running after her, but Stupid Headgear Lady had some previously unmentioned score to settle with DomDID. She throws a knife and gets DomDID in the leg. I’m just wondering exactly how long this hallway is. According to the villains, she is going super fast, but they have a conversation and DomDID bounces several feet after being hit in the leg, but she doesn’t even come close to hitting a wall.  Then, Cyberforce shows up on a splash page. For whatever reason, Fu Manchu wants to face the character named Buzzcut, the red guy on the cover. Four Arms notes that Fu Manchu’s anger is clouding his judgement, but why is he angry at Buzzcut? Who are these people? How do they know each other? What is Cyberforce? What are SHOCs?  Explain comic! Explain!

A big, confusing fight scene ensues, and judging by the build and the broken spine, I’d say the mystery of Skully’s gender is solved. Pepto Bismol searches for Chip and that uncanny valley demon child that is Timmie. Four Arms finds them but gets pinned by Stupid Headgear Lady and Skully. For whatever reason, Stupid Headgear Lady has somehow twisted herself into an S as she shoots at Four Arms. I also love how that the sound effect for his gun is “pchow”. It brings to mind the sound effects for laser guns in sci-fi B movies, and makes this already goofy book even funnier. Four Arms calls for backup and Not Thing helps him out. You’ll notice that I’m leaving out the battle banter. That’s because it’s lame. Really lame. For example, when Four Arms gets pinned by the ladies, he quips “Ordinarily, having a couple of babes on my tail is a good thing. Too bad these two are trying to blow me away.” This is the level of banter we’re dealing with here folks.

Anyway, I think we see see why Fu Manchu hates Buzzcut (who, by the way, is the other team’s Hulk ripoff). He’s racist. The gigantic, mutant cyborg, who, may I remind you, is a minority in his own universe, is racist, and not against the normal people like the Brotherhood. He just tosses awkwardly phrased racial slurs at the Native American guy, just because. Yeah, I see why Fu Manchu (a very stereotypical character in his own right) wouldn’t like that overblown raspberry, but wanting to kill him is a little harsh.

DomDID marvels at the fact that Cyberforce is willing to risk their lives for her and gets yet another gun pointed to her head courtesy of Stupid Headgear Lady. The way the panel is framed though, Headgear Lady is squatting very uncomfortably about ten feet behind DomDID, for some reason. Then, in a sudden twist, she gets a gun pointed to her head, courtesy of Four Arms. The way they’re standing, as Four Arms disarms Headgear Lady, implies that they have a thing for each other. Then Four Arms gets shocked from behind by some Doctor Manhattan/Electro wannabe called Megawatt. Oh, look, a character with a codename that doesn’t have anything to do with death, kill, a weapon, an attack, or cutting. Megawatt comments that he never expected to get the drop on Four Arms. Why didn’t he think he could take Four Arms by surprise? Haha, silly me, looking for back story once again. Megawatt suggests finishing Four Arms off, and, once again proving that this person is about as genre savvy as a potato, Headgear Lady decides not to take advantage of the fact that one of her enemies is at her mercy so that she can kill him herself later. I cannot stress this enough: you’re enemy, the guy who would kill you if you made one false move two seconds ago, is lying unconscious at your feet. Do something about it!

And to further prove her incompetence, Pepto Bismol swoops in and flies off with a very constipated looking DomDID, shocking Stupid Headgear Lady so much that she once again breaks her spine. Now, one would think that Headgear Lady would learn from her mistake and go after DomDID, but nope. She decides to retreat again. Regular Alexander the Great, that one.

So, in the aftermath of the battle, the team decides to shut down that base with a good old explosion. Timmie is saddened to leave because his cat/pokemon robot thingie is broken. DomDID notes that these “freaks like me” behave just like a real family, and I, once again, have to take her word for it, because I’ve never seen Cyberforce interact outside of fighting others. Even then, they often fight their enemies one on one and barely speak to one another. DomDID decides to leave with Chip and Timmie, because the underground makes her nervous for some previously unmentioned reason. Yes, I know that this probably has to do with working for Cyberdata, but I wish that we are shown, not told that she hates being underground. In the meantime, two gentlemen in suits enter the headquarters as Chip, Timmie, and DomDID are leaving. We also get a little back story on the titular team that’s barely been in this. Apparently they’re “very high-tech, low profile, no nonsense, privately funded cybernetically enhanced mutants.” How enlightening.

We cut to yet another team of… heroes? Villains? Mercenaries? I don’t know, and frankly don’t care. Basically, this team of two Hulk ripoffs and one lady with flame powers steal a lot of microchips from a research center. The two mysterious gentlemen approach Four Arms to ask him if he can help them take down the blue avatar lady from the previous issue. He agrees so that he can get at the questionably evil Cyberdata.

We move on to DomDID and Timmie, who are exiting a grocery store. She drops an orange, and Timmie, the brain trust that he is, runs into the street to get it just as the team of possible mercenaries is driving by. They swerve to avoid him. DomDID starts to chew them out, but gets backhanded by one of the Hulk ripoffs.  For some reason, the team decides to just kidnap her and Timmie. Why? Because reasons for actions are stupid. They steal Chip’s truck and Timmie puts one of the pilfered chips in his mouth. Then the idiot brigade is attacked by one of the members of the other team that I don’t know enough to care about. The comic ends with the promise (or threat depending on who you ask) that Pitt will appear in the next issue. Who is Pitt? For that, I refer you to http://atopfourthwall.blogspot.com/ which is a webshow about bad comics. Linkara, the guy who runs the show, did an excellent riff of Pitt #1.

Overall, this is not recommended. It suffers from the same problems as the first issue, namely why and how. How did Cyberforce become a team? Why is Cyberdata evil? Why is DomDID so important? Why is the team like a family? Why are the cybernetic mutant thingies hated? Why does Ripclaw (Fu Manchu’s real name) hate Buzzcut? Why are these names so lame? How do those men in suits know Cyberforce? And, most importantly, why should I care? Like the first issue, it fails because the story focuses more on the action than establishing the universe and characters. I still know nothing about Cyberforce, especially why I should like them.The characters are generic, stupid and badly drawn and everything is so melodramatic. Also, why did we need another team of characters? I can barely tell apart the first two teams, so why not focus on them first? That goes the same for the crossover. Crossovers work best when there is a status quo. This is the opening arc for the series and nothing has been established yet. I don’t know these characters enough to predict how they’ll react to a new threat or ally. It would be like Batman crossing over with Superman in the third episode of the animated series, except the I know more about Batman than these guys. To be fair, this comic is still better drawn than a lot of early Image comics, and the leader isn’t a jerk who whines about how the team isn’t a well oiled machine. Cyberforce is actually pretty competent. I actually don’t hate Chip, Timmie, and DomDID, mainly because they are the only ones that act like actual people, and don’t completely speak in cliche and melodrama. Does this save the comic? No. It’s still pretty lame, but you could do worse.

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