Monday, November 19, 2012

Loonatics Unleashed – The World is My Circus

Let us return once again to that terrifying world of the future, Acmetropolis, for another embarrassing outing with those most deservedly forgotten heroes, the Loonatics.

A pink spaceship floats over the city/planet, while a voice booms out over the rooftops boasting of containing the greatest show in the universe. And it depresses me to say this, but this gaudily-clad figure is the Ringmaster, voiced by none other than Tim Curry. If I squint really hard I can kind of pretend Skull Master and Freako the Clown fell into the Brundlefly machine together, which made this a little easier to get through. Pay attention to that modifier.

He unveils the pride of his show, the “galactic oddities” which are each a mix of two regular animals. They do this thing where they all ride around on a big beach ball and switch positions, which didn’t strike me as particularly impressive since I’d just seen and hadn’t had a chance to get used to these monsters. So I wasn’t really able to remember which was where in between switches.

Then the Ringmaster brings out his dwarfish sidekick Otto the Odd, who’s the target in a knife-throwing act. Sort of. One of the monsters sucks up some kind of yellow balls in its trunk and shoots them at him, but I have no idea if those balls are supposed to be dangerous or not so the effect is largely wasted.

As the spectators are leaving, Ringmaster tells Otto to turn on the “sonic DNA scrambler,” and a kid is turned into some kind of crocodile-goat thing that our villains then show up to collect. Brilliant scheme there, guys. You not only couldn’t just do this to somebody who hadn't attended your show, you had to go pick them up in the same clothes you wore at the performance. In a city with a known superhero team, yet.

Granted, not a particularly effective team by anyone else's yardstick except maybe Bananaman’s, but still…

Back from theme song, Ringmaster sends Otto to feed the monsters their slime, and from the back Otto’s outfit is colored like the Ringmaster’s. One monster, some kind of chameleon/monkey hybrid, has gotten out of its cage and slips past Otto. When he complains to the Ringmaster, wondering how “she” got out of her cage, Ringmaster claims responsibility (“I let it out”) and laughs claiming “She’ll lead them right to us.” Although we’re going to wonder how that critter was captured in the first place once we find out who it is.

You see the inconsistency in those sentences? The guy paid to didn’t.

Over to our “heroes,” where Wile E.’s invented what sounds like a gun that shoots sticky slime to trap villains. I don’t think I mentioned this before, but his character’s gag, apparently, is that everything he invents has a name like “the science electron glucose hydro projector” something-thousand. At least, I think that’s supposed to be a joke. With this show’s bass-ackward priorities, it’s hard to tell.

Hey, you asked what it was. Why you lookin' so annoyed, Lexi?

Daffy complains about everyone being in their meeting room, but no sign of Zadavia. Lexi retorts, “Patience, is a virtue, duck,” and he retorts right back with “What are you, a fortune cookie?” Even Bugs is on Daffy’s side, since what kind of mission-dispenser is late for meetings?

Lexi tells everybody to shut up because she hears “something I don’t like.” This proves to be the lizard-monkey thing, and as it de-camouflages off the wall alarm bells start going off. For about five seconds. Daffy tries to zap it, but Bugs catches it and noticing the tag on its collar for the circus, they decide to take it back. All six of them. Even though they’re expecting a call from Zadavia.

They fly their jetpacks up to the circus ship and drop off the lizard-monkey, and Ace decides it’s trying to lead them somewhere and the team follows it into the area where all the other mixed-up monsters are kept. Bugs fails at witty banter once again when he notes, “Something in this place smells fishy. Oh, that’d be you.” Because he’s next to a fish tank holding some kind of camel-fish. Get it?

A couple vulture-rhinoceros things come in, and when Daffy tries to give back their little acquisition, they punch him, which leads to a quick little fight the Loonatics easily win. Probably deliberate on the villains’ part, since when the Loonatics enter the next room they find a log of genetic experiments giving away the Ringmaster’s plan, but are also trapped in a bunch of cylinders.

He comes in and explains how he’ll turn them into hybrid freaks and stick them in his performance just like that kid. Taz slobbers something unintelligible and disparaging, and Lexi adds, “I’m right there with you, [Taz].” That’s not funny either. You guys aren’t very good at this.

Otto throws the switch, but Wile E. shoots his handily-established jello gun up through a tube so it covers the gene-splitting machine, which explodes, leaving the Loonatics a bunch of mismatched freaks like the others. Although they conveniently still look a lot like themselves so there’s no trouble telling them apart.

This also mixed up everybody’s powers, so when they try to attack, nothing happens. Ringmaster summons his other monsters to “Round them up! All of them!” As opposed to just some of them?

Bugs, who’s saddled with Daffy’s energy egg-conjuring power, hits one charging monstrosity, attempting to quip, “Hope you like your eggs sunny-side up!” Whether that was supposed to be a joke or an action star one-liner, it was a pretty bad one.

Things continue in this vein. Daffy accidentally fries Roadrunner, which is okay because he has Wile E.’s healing power. But he still talks really fast, for some reason, even though somebody else has his speed powers. I even went back and watched his flashback from the last episode again; he talked at a normal speed before getting his powers. Watch it yourself if my word ain't good enough for you.

Lexi says that with everybody having everybody else’s powers, they’re not going to win this one. And she makes an attempt to link this show to the old ones with her disdain for her new “Pepe le Pew” look. Are the classic characters legends on Acmetropolis some seven and a half centuries later? If you're going to try to establish some kind of time line, let alone take the serious approach to your show, you should think about these things. Especially come second season.

Anyway, Bugs agrees. “I never thought I’d say this, but haul tail!” I’m surprised you don’t say it more often, with the competence on display. They escape into some sewers through a hole in the floor. After explaining everything we already figured out about how their mutations also swapped around their powers and a pointlessly quick fight with some kind of “gorilla-snake” (what’s that doing there? Does the Ringmaster drop his failed experiments down there or something?), Wile E. says they need a plan and Bugs shows us why he’s in charge.

Where do you see "gorilla" in that?

“The way I see it, we gotta somehow rebuild the Ringmaster’s sonic DNA scrambler, and reverse the transformation.”

Brilliant. Got any other brainstorms you want to toss out while you’ve got everybody’s attention, Glorious Leader?

Oh, and Lexi’s grossed out at being in the sewer and needs a bath ASAP. Because she’s a girl.

Somehow instinctively knowing their way around the Ringmaster’s gigantic ship, they find where the DNA machine is and Wile E. speeds off to fix it while the others try to hold off the guards. Bugs shows his razor-sharp tactical prowess once again with this little gem: “That’s it. We can beat these guys if we work together.” That’s just now coming to ya, huh?

The idiots have no trouble fighting with each other’s powers now, and after knocking out Ringmaster, Wile E. rebuilds the DNA gizmo into a portable gauntlet form in exactly four minutes. Please get your damn stories straight, show. Is he an accident-prone genius, or just a genius?

Anyway, Wile E. turns all the “galactic oddities,” his teammates, and the lizard-monkey thing back to normal. The lizard-monkey thing having been Zadavia the whole time. Okay, how did the bad guys capture her and turn her into a lizard-monkey? Did she step out for a night at the circus? Do other people know she’s in charge of the Loonatics?

Oh come on, how did that thing get up into a cage?

She semi-menacingly tells Daffy “We need to talk” over his previous treatment of her. No, Zadavia. You need to communicate better. She couldn’t like make a “Z” in the air with her fingers and then jump on one of the countless computers and type “I’m Zadavia, help me”? Nooooo, all she managed was pointing at the door out of the meeting room.

Closed door...

...opened door?

Ringmaster tries to run away, but when the Loonatics corner him, Otto whips out a remote control and turns his boss into a big cobra-lobster-octopus thingy. Otto declares that he is the real boss of this operation (Translation: They could only get Tim for this one episode). Which is why the Ringmaster acted like the boss when nobody else was around.

Wait, what?!

In the course of the fight both Wile E.’s DNA glove and Otto’s control are destroyed, but Wile E. remembers that it was a sonic DNA scrambler; they can undo its effects with a sonic boom. Sure, whatever. This involves Taz and Roadrunner going around Ringmaster in circles really fast, and for some damn reason the rest of them shooting their various energy blasts into the resultant tornado too.

This does does succeed in turning Ringmaster back to normal, and in the process also cripples the ship, which crashes into the ocean. How convenient. And in case you care, Wile E. stops the fleeing bad guys with his jello gun (where did that go while he was an alligator-zebra-coyote thing?).

Back at the base for the wrap-up, Zadavia’s thanking the Loonatics and is about to leave when Bugs tries to ask, several times, if maybe there’s somebody she wants a private word with. Okay, maybe there’s some small effort behind made to link him, personality-wise, to the original model. Except that as a pretty standard, non-Deadpool-esque superhero, it just ends up making him seem like an asshole.

She says no, then she leaves. Then she pops back in and does want to chew Daffy out for how he treated her as a disgusting lizard-monkey that couldn’t be bothered to communicate its identity to them.

Who are you and why do we listen to you again, Zadavia?

I'm finally off the first disc! Yay!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Breaking Down - Part 2

Yeah, right.

I didn’t think I’d see this movie. After finishing the final review of the book series, I’d planned to call things done and move on. After all, the movies covering Eclipse and the first half of Breaking Dawn were such retreads of the books that, with admittedly how tired I was by that point in the series of reviews, I just didn't think there was enough material to justify the time spent banging out another comparison article for them.

But then I read a few reviews and, damningly, several of them claimed that the series was actually improving with its final installment, and that it went out on something of a high note. It would’ve been a lie to say they were written by people with no love of the franchise, since these were professional film critics. However, for all my hatred for the series, I still fancy myself a person who tries to give things a fair chance to prove themselves.

So I went and I saw it.

Was my opinion of the movie less positive than those reviews I read? Yes, but more than anything that’s because those critics have probably only watched the movies. They haven’t read the series, spending book upon book trapped in the head of one emo nincompoop or another. Their perceptions of the main characters haven’t been forever colored by all that whining the way mine have.

But is it better than the movies that came before? Does the franchise end on something of a high note? Is it really better than the last and worst literary turd crapped out by someone whose name we’ll hopefully never see on an ebook cover ever again?

Yes, I’d say that.

But keep in mind we’re talking about Breaking Dawn. The one even fans rebelled against.

The only way to go was up.

I’m not going to go into an elaborate breakdown of the movie. I saw it once, in a theater, and plan to leave it at that. Twilight’s moment in history has passed and it’s time to find new things to work ourselves into frothing-at-the-mouth frenzies about. I’ll pick some categories and tell you why they sucked or why they were decent. And spoilers will be present and unforgiving. Last chance to turn back.

The Movie In General

Better Because…

  • Bella, Eddie and Jake pack things up and head up to Alaska to ask their buddies there for their help. We see the others in other countries to enjoin their other friends’ aid too. Finally, we get away from Forks for a while and the Cullens seem less like a bunch of lazy-ass reactionists for a bunch of super-awesome vampiric superheroes.
  • We see the Volturi killing the Alaskans’ mom and the little boy vampire she created. And it’s brought up when it’s actually relevant to the plot, instead of being shoehorned in before the wedding so Steph can say she totally did mention that after all. It’s not a great scene; the Alaskans are still such a non-part of the series you still don’t care much about them, but the movie still handles it better than Steph did.
  • The useless J. Jenks subplot is still included. However it’s over a lot sooner, and Jasper and Alice did all the work for Bella. Meaning we’re spared that insipid “Jacob and Vanessa Wolfe” crapola.

Stupid Because…

  • With all of Bella’s pointless monologuing taken out, all the stuff they could keep comes at you nonstop. Even more than the other movies. Especially for the first half hour or so, it feels like the movie just won’t let up.
  • In the book I got the impression Bella and Edward’s cottage was just a house where they could go to have time to themselves. That it didn’t have modern amenities like power and running water, because the people who live there are vampires and obviously don’t need any such things. Maybe that was just me trying to make the idea a little less ridiculous and make the Cullens look less like morons who have no idea how to lay low. Well, in the movie it has lights and our couple take a bath together there. Where the hell does that stuff come from? What web of lies and payoffs surrounds the cottage that nobody asks how a small-town doctor could afford to give his son and new daughter-in-law such a gift? When was it built that nobody knows about it and the surrounding woodland is totally undisturbed? What’s the point when they’ve really only got a year or two tops in the area before they have to move again even with things being all hunky-dory at the end of the movie, and would have to wait at least two generations before anybody who could recognize them would be out of the picture? Are Bella and Edward that freaking special to the rest of the family? Are the Cullens that loose with their money despite trying to blend into a small town? Yes, they are. It’s that kind of story.
Vampires in General

Better Because

  • In the early scenes they really did create a sense that Bella’s at the peak of her newborn strength. Edward even wryly remarks that “It’s your turn not to break me.” I don’t remember if that was in the book, but I doubt it.
  • When we see the other vampires, there’s none of Meyer’s infamous whitewashing as a side effect of vampirism. Everybody looks like a member of the race they’re supposed to.
Stupid Because…

  • Vampires look even more ridiculously powerful in live-action. During her first hunt, where Bella almost slips and kills a rock climber, she then jumps off the side of a mountain and looks like she goes down a good hundred and fifty feet or more without injury. I know vampires are usually supposed to be hard to hurt, but this is Twilight, the series that created an entire race of invincible Mary Sues. At least most bad stories that give the Sue powers stemming from a supernatural bloodline also make them more special by making them the last or one of the last of their kind. Yes that’s annoying, but Twilight took the bold step of showing how much more annoying the opposite can be.
  • Vampires using their powers still looks stupid, especially moving super-fast. Especially at the end when the Volturi leave the clearing at super-speed. They don’t even look like they’re running; they appear to be walking when they vanish into the distance via the magic of sped-up footage.
  • I know vampires don’t get cold, but the amazons look ridiculous enough showing up in their little Shanna the She-Devil animal hide bikinis, doubly so standing out in the snowy battlefield like that. And wearing war paint. Fucking war paint! Same goes for the half-vampire dude when he shows up in nothing but a loincloth. How did they all get to Forks, when it appears none of them once changed their clothes during the trip? Did they run? All the way from South America to upper Washington state? Do sparklepires have an inherent GPS instinct too?
  • How does super-senses-equipped veteran vampire Edward fail to notice how Bella threw a book on the fire? It's sitting right there on top of the logs.


Stupid Because…

  • Kristen Stewart looks the same as ever, just with CGI’d vampire eyes. So becoming more beautiful because of the change to vampirism seems like more meaningless hyperbole from a monomaniacal author.
  • The movie doesn’t skip the part where she freaks out at Jacob imprinting on Nessie, so we actually see her bounce Jacob around and hurt Seth in her childlike petulance. Again, for her being a stupid cunt to stand out, she’d have to not be a stupid cunt all the time.
  • Bella masters her powers even faster because of having to shovel everything into two hours. And she still tries to shield Edward from Aro out of instinct before she realizes that would only make things worse, but it doesn’t say why she’s doing that or why she stops.

Jacob (and a little bit of Charlie)

Better Because

  • He seems smarter and more able to stand up for himself in this version. When Jacob goes and tells Charlie that Bella’s alive, I got the sense it was less because he didn’t see any reason not to, and more because it was the only way he knew how to strike back at Bella’s intent to leave and take Nessie with her. The reason he did it’s no less disgusting, though…
  • The scene where Jacob reveals his werewolf form to Charlie, getting naked as he intimates that Charlie knows so little about what's going on with him, Bella, and the Cullens, was hilarious. What a few moments like that would’ve done for my ability to put up with the books.
  • At the end Jake does run off with Nessie, and as the wolves start to get slaughtered there was this nice moment where he slows down even though a vampire’s chasing them, and he seems torn between his friends and his loyalty to Nessie, showing just messed up being imprinted has made him.

The Volturi

Better Because…
  • In person, Aro seems more like the devious mastermind he’s meant to be (at least in a campy comic book sense), rather than the mincing pixie of an arch villain he was in the books. On the other hand, in person the mincing pixie parts work better too. The noise he makes when he meets Nessie was worth the price of admission all by itself.
  • Aro pats his species on the back less hard when talking about modern weaponry. Instead of that idiotic, loaded "destroy some of us" remark, he just says "destroy us."
Stupid Because…
  • The movie acts even more like the Volturi are an evil dictatorship and ignores their other effects on the world, with Edward talking about their right to live the way they choose when asking the other vampires to fight if it comes to that. The movie doesn’t shy away from the fact that most of the vampires he says that to still prey on humans, even if it doesn’t show him lending them his collection of cars to do so, either. So we’re still ignoring the existence of vampire warlords and powermongers even with the role they played in Jasper’s secret origin.
The Climax

Better Because…
  • We finally get to see that that battle we were denied in the book, and we’re down a few Cullens by the end. It’s everything you could’ve hoped for from all the descriptions of vampire powers and whatnot. I swear I heard the Mortal Kombat music playing in back of that scene.
Stupid Because…

  • Bella Swan is not and never will be believable as a badass killing machine, vampirism or no. Her sparkly block of wood of a husband only slightly more so.
  • Leah dies.
  • It still starts with an idiotic debate session about loopholes and things the Volturi didn’t know existed.
  • It’s still resolved by the half-vampire dude showing up. In a loincloth.

  • It never really happened.

Feeding us bullshit  right up until the end.

Did I honestly think they might change?

I did. I’m kind of an idiot that way, I guess.

The End Credits

Stupid Because…
  • The movie ends on the actual last page of text from the book. Please don’t remind me of that.
  • They’re not just the end credits of this movie, they’re the end credits of the entire fucking series. We get credits for characters who weren’t even in this movie. Like Bella's classmates. And James, Laurent and Victoria. Both of them. And the credits specify who was who for everybody, even though a lot of the witness vampires weren’t even named. And could hardly be called characters even in the original work.
Stephenie Meyer
Better Because…

  • If the author had a cameo, I thankfully missed it. Don’t tell me if I did, or where I should look to see her. It’s over.