Monthly Archives: June 2009

They're Giant Robots…Get Over Yourself

(DISCLAIMER: What follows are my opinions on a movie. You are welcome to have your own opinions and to disagree with mine. You are not welcome to treat your opinions as fact in an attempt to tell me that I am wrong for liking what I like. General Internet douchebaggery is no longer welcome in my corner of the world. Respectful debate and discussion are, as always, welcome. Violators will be flayed.)

I’m just going to get this over with right now–sort of like ripping off a band-aid–so, here goes: I loved Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Loved it. It was awesome. It was two-and-a-half hours of nonstop fun. Fun, people. Was it a great movie? Hell, no. Was it a good movie? Eh…probably not. But. It. Was. Fun.

prime

I don’t know about you, but I’m incredibly shocked that this movie, which was directed by Michael Bay, looked like a Michael Bay movie. Damn. Never saw that coming. It’s like this one time, when I went to a sushi restaurant and the waiter brought me a bunch of raw fish. What was up with that? There was nothing going on in Revenge of the Fallen that Bay hasn’t done before in pretty much every other movie he’s made. The only problem is that the Transformers are sacred to some people…and, to be honest, nothing is sacred to Bay. Bay doesn’t give a shit about what people expect. He just does things because he thinks they’re funny or awesome and, you know what, he’s usually right. Bay is an auteur in every sense of the word. I have no idea why Bay thought a tiny robot humping a hot girl’s leg was funny…but, dammit, he was right. That’s why he’s Michael Bay and I’m not.

This movie was not perfect. But, nothing is. As my good friend, Mr. Data, once said: “Believing oneself to be perfect is often the sign of a delusional mind.” However, this movie was a blast. I laughed for almost the entire two-and-a-half hours. I don’t care if I was laughing with the movie or at it (and Bay doesn’t care, either), but I laughed. I forgot the annoying, soul-crushing abyss that is work. I forgot the troubled economy. I forgot the fact that NYC has had a grand total of two sunny days in the last three weeks. I forgot all of this and just had fun, like pretty much everyone else in the packed theater. I mean, c’mon, how can you not laugh when one character shows another character a film that was supposedly made in the Thirties…and it’s in color? That’s funny shit, cats and kittens.

I know a lot of fans are upset because these Transformers are radically different from the Transformers they know from television and comics. Well…um…which ones? I’m G1 guy. I watched the show when it was originally broadcast in the early-eighties. I bid farewell to childhood innocence when Optimus Prime died in 1986. I collected the Marvel comic (which, by the way, had a continuity separate from that of the cartoon, yet I was still able to enjoy it). Then, “my Transformers” went away. Everything that’s come since–with the exception of Beast Wars/Machines and some of the comics–has not thrilled me. So, should Bay have been forced to use the G1 characters for my benefit? No. And it would be silly to expect the filmmakers to pick any of the other pre-existing continuities to blindly adapt for the new movies.

Now, about the acting. I know that hating on Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox has become almost as popular as pretending that a dearly departed pop star didn’t rape young boys, but enough. I happen to like LaBeouf quite a bit. He was Louis Stevens for god’s sake, it’s not his fault that he’s been cast in two different geek-centric franchises, neither of which could have possibly been good enough to satisfy the angry nerd-quakes that ripple across the Internet. As for Megan Fox…well, she’s not my cup of tea–but, neither are about 89% of Hollywood “It Girls”–and, maybe she should think a little longer before she says things to the press, but otherwise, who cares? There’s also been rumblings about John Turturro. A lot of people “feel sorry for him.” Why? Look at him…he’s had more fun in these two Transformers flicks than he’s had in his entire career. Show me one other movie he’s been in where he gets to run around in a banana hammock? It’s okay for that Borat jag-off, but thrown in a few giant robots and it somehow becomes humiliating?

And, you know who I could watch for hours on end? Ma and Pa Witwicki. Those two characters are hilarious. Do a direct-to-DVD movie about Kevin Dunn and Julie White’s suburban empty nesters and I’ll eat it up. With a spoon.

Like I said before, this wasn’t the best movie I’d ever seen. It certainly wasn’t the Transformers movie I would have made…which probably explains why I’ve stopped getting those phone calls from big Hollywood studios. Yes, the story was retarded and, at times, a little jumbled…but, at least a goal was set and attained. That’s what movies need, folks: a fucking goal. Something (anything) needs to be accomplished and either the protagonists accomplish it or they don’t.

I do, however, have the same problems with Revenge of the Fallen that I had with the first Transformers movie. First of all, the Decepticons continue to be way too grey and pointy to be even remotely discernible from each other most of the time. The Autobots? Cool, man, I can tell them apart. Not so much with the Big Bads. Someone get those guys an Earth-based alt mode, please;  a little splash of color, a wheel here, a door there, some kind of identifiable markings. Secondly, at least in my opinion, there’s a lot of unnecessary robots running around: Tiny little bug things…way more construction vehicles than I’d ever thought possible. I think it goes back to my recognition issue. Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Ironhide, Ratchet: I know these names. It doesn’t matter what they look like, I’m already on board with these characters. Jolt? Skids? Mudflap? I know these characters exist in some continuities, but I’d have been happier if they were called–oh, I dunno–Wheeljack, Windcharger, and Cliffjumper. I also wouldn’t have said “no” to the inclusion of Shockwave, Rumble, and maybe Blitzwing or something…y’know, names I’d recognize. However, I did finally get Soundwave; too bad he was kinda lame. Oh well. But, none of this impeded my ability to enjoy the movie. Why? Because it was FUN.

A final thought: A lot of the negative reviews for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen seem to revolve around the idea that the movie is stupid and, therefore, anyone who would enjoy “a movie like this” is unintelligent. Well, all I have to say to that is “Fuck you.” You don’t have to like the movie, that’s cool. What you do have to do is respect the people who liked it. It’s their opinion, which is equally as valid as yours, professor. There are scads of movies out there that I wouldn’t see, even if you forced me at gunpoint. But, other folks seem to like them, and that’s enough to justify their existence to me. At no point, while earning my two degrees, was I asked what kind of books, movies, music, or TV shows I preferred. Probably, I’m assuming, because that shit has nothing to do with someone’s intellect. There should be every conceivable kind of movie being made. Options, people. Options. Just because you don’t like something, doesn’t mean that you should keep those who do from enjoying it. Also, just because someone doesn’t agree with you, it doesn’t make them stupid, unintelligent, or uneducated. Want to know how I know this, Mr. and Ms. Reviewer? Well, it’s simple: even on my worst day, I’m still smarter than you. And furthermore, I am confident enough in my intelligence that I don’t need to flaunt it or pretend that I am somehow above “the masses.”

Advertisements

The Return of Teaser Tuesday

I’ve ignored Teaser Tuesday for the last few weeks for a number of reasons, many of which are boring and not worth mentioning. One is not. I’ve been in Plot Mode: tinkering with some things, fine-tuning others. I took an old short story I wrote (a snippet of it was posted here) and started re-working it into a larger story. Anyway, here’s a little teaser from early in the new, larger WIP:


Molly Schuster checked the navigation panel as she increased power to the out-dated runabout’s single turbine engine. Even though the runabout hovered on a cushion of force created by its antigrav units, Molly felt the entire vehicle shake with the increased speed. She tightened her restraints, but didn’t ease back on the thrust. She knew the runabout—which was older than she was—would hold together, mainly because it’s her job to make sure every piece of equipment on this rock worked when it was supposed to.

It was not an easy feat.

Menkib IV was a tiny rock of a planet with a thin, arid atmosphere made even less inviting by frequent sandstorms. These storms, which would hit several times a day without warning, could deposit several kilograms of sand and grit in even the tiniest spaces, making Molly’s job as the camp mechanic a never-ending nightmare. In fact, she had spent the better part of the day cleaning sand out of the engine’s intake and compressor—it really didn’t take much sand and grime to clog up the innards of the old turbine—and the arid climate wreaked havoc on an antigrav’s magnetic field coils, requiring constant realignment. Of course, after flying through this maelstrom of swirling sand and dust, she’d probably have to spend the rest of the day doing it all over again.

It was unwise to go anywhere on Menkib IV without goggles and a breathing mask, but Molly did wish she had remembered to bring something to keep the dirt out of her hair. Pulling her long, strawberry blonde hair back into a ponytail helped, but a cap would have been much better. She’d also like to find out whoever thought bringing an open-topped runabout to a planet plagued by sandstorms was a good idea and beat them senseless with a wrench. Yes, that would probably improve her mood quite a bit.

Since visibility was practically non-existent, Molly had to rely on the runabout’s rudimentary sensors and navigation equipment as she guided it along the floor of the wide canyon that cut across most of the planet’s northern hemisphere. Between the steady, low thrum of the turbine and the high-pitched whistle of the wind as it whipped through the canyon, Molly almost missed the ping of the runabout’s proximity alert.

Glancing at the small display screen built into the runabout’s console, Molly saw the flashing red triangle that represented the transponder signal assigned to one of the exploratory teams. Menkib was a small operation, with only enough personnel and equipment for one working mine. But, the camp’s two geologists were constantly looking for the next big deposit of duranium ore. Ahead, the canyon forked and Molly nudged the runabout down the right-hand path. Despite her goggles, Molly still found herself squinting against the abrasive tempest as she came within visual range of the blinking indicator on top of the portable transponder’s antenna. She powered down the runabout as a large figure approached through the swirling sand, a single hand raised in greeting.

“Molly! You didn’t waste any time getting out here, did you, girl.” Even though he wore a heavy breathing mask, the man’s voice boomed when he spoke.

Grabbing her toolkit off of the passenger seat, Molly took the man’s offered hand and climbed down out of the cockpit. “No rest for the greasy,” she said, showing off the fresh lubricant and hydraulic fluid stains on her dark gray coveralls.

I Scream, You Scream: A Review of MY SOUL TO TAKE

My exploratory expedition into the land of YA urban fantasy continues with Rachel Vincent’s My Soul to Take. I was lucky enough to pick up an autographed ARC of the first book in Vincent’s new YA series, Soul Screamers, at Book Expo.

MSTT

Something is wrong with Kaylee Cavanaugh

She doesn’t see dead people, but…

She senses when someone near her is about to die. And when that happens, a force beyond her control compels her to scream bloody murder. Literally.

Kaylee just wants to enjoy having caught the attention of the hottest guy in school. But a normal date is hard to come by when Nash seems to know more about her need to scream than she does. And when classmates start dropping dead for no apparent reason, only Kaylee knows who’ll be next…

=================================================

I have a confession to make: I don’t like teenagers. I never really cared for them when I was one, and now that I’m slowly making my way through my thirties, I like them even less. For this reason, I tend to avoid stories that are strictly teen-centric. Unless, that is, they are grafted onto something “weird.” You’ll never see me watching The O.C., Gossip Girl, or Beverly Hills 90210, but I never missed an episode of Buffy, Roswell, or Veronica Mars. That’s why I like YA urban fantasy. It’s much easier for me to read a book about teenagers if they happen to be fighting demons, faeries, or grim reapers.

That brings me to Rachel Vincent’s My Soul to Take. From the blurb above, I think it’s safe to assume that you’ve all figured out that Kaylee is, in fact, a banshee–or, to be more accurate, a bean sidhe. A teenage bean sidhe, living in Texas. Yeah…that’s why I love urban fantasy. I love the way authors mix standard fantasy elements–whether it’s vampires, demons, faeries, or wizards–with the “real, modern world.” The worldbuilding aspect is my favorite part of urban fantasy, seeing how the author fits these two pieces–the fantastic and the mundane–together.

Anyway, Vincent’s first Soul Screamers (God, I love that name!) novel is amazing. My Soul to Take is an origin story, introducing us to Kaylee (love that name, too!), her family and friends, and the newly-discovered “hidden world” she inhabits, including the rules regarding bean sidhe and death. Unlike standard folklore, Vincent portrays the bean sidhe as a race that includes both men and women, with each gender having specific powers and abilities. And, since the bean sidhe are closely tied to death, Vincent gives us a glimpse of the delightfully bureaucratic “collection agency” known as Death, complete with interns and regional reapers.

Ideas are all well and good, but if an army marches on its stomach, a novel marches on its characters. I don’t care how interesting a world is or how cool a concept may be, I’m not going to get very far without great characters. Kaylee is a great addition to my list of spunky, smart-mouthed heroines. I love Kaylee’s dad, Aiden, and her Uncle Brendon (I’d love to see a separate series where the two brothers travel around fighting evil…sort of like Supernatural: All Growed Up). Then there’s Sophie Cavanaugh and Nash Hudson, two characters who could have easily been little more than ciphers. Sophie is Kaylee’s cousin–a bubbly, blonde dancer. While she can occasionally be an out-right bitch, Sophie isn’t just another “mean girl.” She isn’t an inherently bad person, she’s just someone who’s used to getting what she wants–from her parents, from her teachers, from boys–making her a perfect foil for Kaylee, who pretty much has to work for everything. Plus, there’s a great running gag about the teachers at their school assuming that Sophie and Kaylee are sisters, which doesn’t sit well with either of them. That leaves Nash Hudson, the “hottest guy in school” mentioned in the blurb above. When Nash is introduced, he’s set-up to be the stereotypical alpha-male high school jock…but, dammit if Vincent didn’t make me like the kid. In the span of about five pages, Nash goes from being the book’s douchebaggy Parker Abrams to being the supportive and trustworthy Riley Finn.

So, yeah, I loved My Soul to Take. If you’re a fan of YA fiction or urban fantasy, you should totally check it out when it’s released in August. As for me, I’ll be patiently awaiting the release of My Soul to Save.