Monday, July 16, 2012

Reviews - Transformers 3, Conan

It's summer!  And summer usually means poor TV viewing, so I've been watching a lot of movies lately.

Transformers:  Dark side of the moon was something I watched a few nights ago.  Now, this is not the greatest of movies.  And I got flamed for saying Transformers 2 was ok, but I don't really care, because let's be perfectly honest, here...  It's a movie about giant robots based off of a cartoon about giant robots.  And as someone who grew up watching the original cartoon, there WAS a teenage boy in the series who was good buds with Bumblebee, the snazzy-looking yellow muscle car transformer.  The transformers movies have been EXACTLY what the cartoons were about.  The fight between the autobots and the decepticons.  The cartoon only rarely featured the teenage boy, and frankly, to my way of thinking, he was shown much more than was absolutely necessary.  Much, as I am sure some of you agree, like Shia Lebuffy or whatever his name is, was shown in transformers.  Let me try and explain why this is.

To my way of thinking, featuring giant robots fighting each other in the context of earth as a background is completely sufficient for a cartoon, movie series or TV show.  I personally would not require the addition of a teenage boy to goad the story along, to become a focus for the conflict, or to scream like a girl as many times as humanly possible.  The mere fact that the Autobots represented good and the decepticons represented evil was sufficient for me.  The conflict between good and evil is exemplified in thousands of movies, TV shows, and cartoons to great effect.  I need no further explanation for a faction's actions than to say "This side is good."  or  "this side is evil."  Sure, if the actions they take exemplify the archetypes of good and evil, such as evil killing innocents or good defending same, that just demonstrates what I've already understood from the concept, but I don't need that.  I just enjoy watching the battles.

The addition of a teenage boy, however, was probably done for one reason and one reason only...  To try to appeal to a wider audience of people who could NOT identify with the giant robots based on good and evil alone.  To add a human element to an otherwise completely perfect story about good and evil robots fighting each other.  Of course, when you have giant robots that transform into trucks and cars, you'll need earth as a backdrop (because trucks and cars don't fly well in outer space), and humans are going to come into the equation somewhere.  In the movies, the government responds with a military task force designed to work with the autobots to fight the decepticons wherever possible, which makes sense.  In the cartoons, if I remember correctly, the autobots were pretty much on their own.

So let me sum up.  The transformers series of movies is almost identical to the cartoon in all respects, except for the updating of the technology and special effects.  There was a teen boy in the cartoon that screamed almost as much as Shia Lebouffy does in Transformers 3.  So as far as staying true to the original concept, the movies were dead on.  Shia Lebouffy's acting, well, hey, I don't cast these things.  I personally would have tossed a teenage girl into the role and solidifed the primarily male viewership with some tits and ass, which they tried to do with Shia's love interests, but i think failed miserably.  Simply said, if what you were looking for was giant robots beating the fucking crap out of each other, you were satisfied.  And since I was looking for that, I am satisfied.  If you could cut shia out of the entire movie, I think the movies would be even better, but I think a lot of people agree with me on that one.  Honestly, despite megan fox's acting talents (or lack thereof), I don't think they should have replaced her.  She was nice eye candy, much better than Rosie Huntintin-whitely, or whatever her name is.  At least, that's my opinion on the subject

As for the overall plot, where here's how it goes.  There was some Autobot scientist who had a plan to defeat the decepticons (voiced by leonard nimoy, which was very cool), and his escape ship crash landed on earth's moon ages ago.  The autobots learn of this (with some sneaky prodding by the decpticons), they recover the artifacts within the ship, and then all hell breaks loose on earth as both sides fight to control the technology.  Happily, Optimus does not die like a bitch in this movie like he did in 2.  That's one thing I always liked about the cartoons.  Optimus was always one good goddamn ass-kickin robot.  Decepticons might have all been planes and guns and tanks and shit like that, but Optimus truck-lookin ass whipped them all so bad they were afraid to face him.  You got to respect a guy who can hold his own in a fight.

Conan, well, that movie is a slightly different story.  To anyone who's ever watched the conan movies or read the books, there are tons of monsters, demons and magic in the conan story lines.  That's why I liked them.  The movies done with Arnold schwarzenegger a couple decades ago were quite good in that respect.  Rife with monsters and magic, there was still the human element involved.  The second conan movie (with Arnold) had much more in that department, but the first movie was the story of conan's beginnings and his quest to destroy the demi-god who slaughtered his village.  Basically, it's the story of how conan slays the shit out of the monsters and saves humanity, usually in the form of a hot female sacrifice, which certainly sums up the plot of the second conan movie.

Now, the recent conan remake is a little different.  They make a big deal about how conan was born in battle and he manages to kill a bunch of evil-looking raiders when he's like 12 or something, and then all of a sudden, things seem to change.  His father's trying to teach him the ways of the sword and conan's failing and getting his ass kicked.  Now I understand that conan's supposed to have respect and love for his old man, otherwise, he's not going to feel a thing when the old man gets killed (conan's old man always gets killed, otherwise, conan doesn't go off into the world to learn how to kick ass and become a thief and have other adventures), but why would you apparently show what a badass the kid is and then immediately slap down his legend again by saying conan's not smart enough to learn how to handle a sword?  Just confusing, if you ask me.  Then they leap forward to conan's adult life (where he's apparently had tons of adventures already), and sort of rewrite who he's after for killing his people.  In this case, it's just an evil warlord.  There's little or no magic involved, no demons are summoned, there's no giant serpents, and conan doesn't kill any monsters.  Nope, it's just good old fashioned human on human violence.

See, here's the point of the conan movies, and where i think the movie would have done superbly well, is that conan's best efforts fail and the demon, evil god, or dark sorceror manages to GAIN whatever power he was after, or comes to our world.  And then conan has to kill the shit out of him anyway.  And conan does.  And that's what made conan  great.  He was one helluvan ass-kicker.  This conan?  Not so much.  This conan has a hard time fighting off one old scarred up warlord.  And he gets his ass kicked by the guy several times.  Not just once.  SEVERAL TIMES.  Doesn't really make much sense to me.  Bah.  Poor remake, if you ask me.  And very little magic and almost no monsters...  certainly no monster deaths.  There's one monster, looks like some giant squid type thing, but it doesn't die at all.  The real conan would have killed the thing just for killing's sake.  Not this conan!  He's more monster-friendly, I guess.

In other news, there ARE things to watch on TV.  In order on sunday nights, I watch The Glades on A&E at 9, then Longmire right after it, then I pop over to HBO for True Blood and Newsroom.  The Glades is a cop show, as is Longmire, just different locations.  One is set in the everglades area in florida, and the other is set in.. wyoming, maybe?  There's a lot of open land, what they'd call Big-Sky country, I guess.  Anyway, both cop shows, different focuses.  The Glades is more of a borderline comedy, because the main character tends to have fun solving crimes and catching the bad guy, and Longmire is more serious, it's main character being more along the lines of Jesse Stone in the Tom Selleck series of murder-movies.  True Blood is about vampires, werewolves and supernatural beings of all kinds trying to co-exist with humans (but mostly vampires), and Newroom is a look at what happens behind the scenes of a news show that's trying to actually report the News.  Facts, not what is supposed to bring in viewers.

I watch The Glades mostly because the main character seems to be an instinctual crime-solver.  He makes leaps of intuition that lead him to the bad guy and then has a blast of a time anticipating and countering the bad guy's moves.  Longmire I've only seen a couple times, and I'm really only watching it at this point because it's got a lot of decent actors in it.  I haven't seen it enough to get invested in the characters yet.  True Blood i mostly watch for Anna Paquin.  Enough said.  Newsroom, now that one surprised me.  I thought it was going to be serious.  And it honestly plays itself off that way.  But I end up laughing my ass off during most of the show.  The situations these poor newspeople end up getting themselves into are just too funny not to laugh at, and the one liners and dialogue is exceptional.  They've got a couple decent actors in main spots, but most of the cast is unknowns (to me, at least) who end up doing an excellent job portraying a quirky, but very competent group of morally good people trying to put out a decent news show.  It's still funny as hell.

As a quick aside...  Ever notice how it's always the professions in our society who need the most good press, that are always the stars of movies and TV shows?  Think about it.  Isn't there a joke about what you'd call a thousand lawyers at the bottom of the ocean being a good start?  And aren't cops beating up innocent people always making the news headlines?  And politicians seem to be universally corrupt as far as the news goes, and in the movies there's always that one guy who's trying to just fight for the people?  And yet who is always the hero of the story?  A good cop.  An honest politician.  A lawyer who's not morally corrupt.  And now news people and journalists are in such bad regard as a profession that we see a story about a newscaster who's NOT just a gossip-chasing fear-peddler and it's...  well....  news.   lol

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