Photo: IMDB

Tomb Raider, The Video Game Film They (Sort Of) Got Right

As a nineties child, I spent a great deal of my money, and an even greater deal of my time, on the Tomb Raider games. We loved the games because they were fun and walked the perfect balance difficult puzzles and great action. I remember being disappointed in both 2001 and 2003 – with the release of the first two Tomb Raider films (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life). While these films were entertaining and highly stylized, the films were unmemorable. And they lacked the genuine qualities which made the games so damn good.

Film’s based upon video games have always sucked, and the bar is set perpetually low. Whether we were watching Resident Evil, Doom, Silent Hill, or Hitman; regardless of how great the gaming franchises have been, these films have all turned out to be disappointing. Part of the reason is, that video game inspired films have, and always will have, the challenge of condensing a story told via twenty-six of hours of game play into a two-hour feature film. This is not an easy task. But Tomb Raider shows us how it is not as difficult as we previously imagined.



Wonder Woman Trailer: Top Ten Fake Spoilers

Top Ten Fake Spoilers from the latest (and last) Wonder Woman Trailer:

10 - Warner Bros. went out of its way to hire a female director to make sure Wonder Woman got that touch of Baywatch young girls can look up to.
10 – Warner Bros. went out of its way to hire a female director to make sure Wonder Woman got that touch of Baywatch young girls can look up to.

x - Little Wonder Woman: "Where do babies on "Hot Chick Island" come from, Mommy?" Wonder Woman's Mother: "Uh..."
9 – Question: “Where do babies on Hot Chick Island come from, Mommy?”
Answer: “Uh…”

Wonder Woman: The feminist icon who doesn't leave the house without her favorite accessories.
8 – Wonder Woman: The feminist icon who always accessorizes before leaving the house to fight crime.


supersize squad

The Fast Food Mascot Re-Boot

Off of the tease announcements from McDonald’s that the Hamburgerler is coming out of hiding,  filmmaker Leigh Scott debuts this re-imagining of our favorite fast food mascots. From Wendy to Col. Sanders to the King and the Clown , in all honesty, this works great on so many levels.  My particular favorite appearance is from the purple guy himself, Grimace.  It’s the Supersize Squad.

Astronomical: How Sailor Moon’s Reboot Improves on the Original

Can I admit something to you?

I really didn’t care for Sailor Moon as a kid.

SMC-640x426And being a girl who grew up in the ’90s, that’s a hard thing for me to admit. Most of my pals who had a fair share of animation adoration (and even those who didn’t) had a special place in their heart for the series.

I tried to like Sailor Moon, believe me. And looking back now, I can see why I kept on watching, and why all my friends loved it. The show about a troupe of magical teen girls, led by our main character Usagi (or Serena in the U.S. version), who can transform into the beautiful Sailor Scouts, all represented by a planet in the solar system. These Sailor Scouts, use their powers to save the world from the dark grasp of the villainous Queen Beryl. You have it all there: magic, secret powers, and girls near our own age. It had the makings to be something great. And in Japan, it was.

The original series in Japan, Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, received lots of acclaim and was even said to have revitalized the magical girl genre in both the manga and animation world. The manga won the Kodansha Manga Award in 1993 for shōjo and the show was said to be popular with girls because our heroines were using their power to save people, not just to have fun or play tricks, which was popular in other similar shows at the time.

Screen Shot 2014-07-20 at 4.08.11 PMBut then DiC picked it up and tried to air it in America. And if people my age remember anything of what the TV landscape looked like in the early 1990s, we remember that what sold was often boxed in ‘80s packaging, with bright neon colors, some shoddy fight scenes, and a moral at the end of every story. Basically, if it wasn’t  “Saved by the Bell,” “Power Rangers,” or the like, it wasn’t selling.

So, though I don’t doubt them, it’s easy to see that DiC did their best to try to sell the Sailor Scouts — they added in gimmicky lessons at the end, awful Power Ranger-esque dialogue during fight scenes, and animation scenes more reused than a hipster’s mason jar collection.

The show also ran into some cultural barriers as well.  Scenes of near nudity, an implied lesbian relationship, and that infamous transformation scene all caused major controversial edits to be made to make the show “suitable for younger viewers.” But I also felt like something else was edited out: the fact that these girls were supposed to be heroes. I felt like Serena cried a lot, whined, and generally made life hard for all of the other Sailor Scouts until she was saved by the mysterious male lead, Tuxedo Mask.

Basically, it just felt like a bit of a letdown when a big battle would be about to take place, and Serena would run away and leave Tuxedo Mask to take care of most of the dirty work. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to like it so very badly, but at the end of the day I’d end up rotting my brains out to Cowboy Bebop instead.

Screen Shot 2014-07-20 at 2.42.54 PMAnd I finished the series, but after that, I left the Sailor Scouts behind. I saw that several other series followed it, Sailor Moon S and Sailor Moon SuperS (as well as some films), so it must’ve still been doing well. But when Hulu started streaming the unedited series back in June, I watched a few episodes, and it wasn’t awful. I still didn’t really care for Serena, but it was more tolerable.

But then, two weeks ago, Hulu also started streaming the brand new Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal. And I decided to give it a go. It was hands-down one of the best animation choices I made this year (next to buying a Wacom and watching “Attack on Titan”) and I could not be happier with it.

First of all, it looks gorgeous. From the opening scene of the first episode you can practically hear creator Naoko Takeuchi yelling, “I take this seriously and so should you!” The animation is nearly flawless and crafted with such a light, careful hand — I can’t help but just watch it to stare at the craftsmanship.

Screen Shot 2014-07-20 at 2.43.10 PMBut I also noticed something in the opening credits, the new theme song includes the lines, “We are not helpless girls/Who need men’s protection.” Now those are some big claims. And as I continued to watch the first two episodes (the third will be up next week), I think they’re going to keep their promise. Now sure, the show does not come without its problems.

It follows the manga more closely, which is nice, though a little too narratively tight at times for my taste. And Serena (now back to her original name, Usagi) is definitely still a teenager who is pegged immediately as popular and ditzy — but she wants to fight, she just doesn’t know how to use her powers yet. And once the other guardians are located and join the team, I can only see character growth coming our way. And I keep thinking this might just be the show I longed for when I was a young girl watching anime shows where, most of the time, guys got the save the day.

So, if you are like me, if you gave up on Sailor Moon all those years ago — or maybe you didn’t, maybe you stuck it out and are a die-hard fan — you’ll love this new installment. Even if you aren’t particularly into animation, the artwork is definitely worth an episode or two of your time.

The episodes are available for streaming on both Hulu and Crunchyroll. So in the name of the Moon, get to watching!


Déjà Reboot: A Nightmare on Elm Street

As a fan of the horror genre (a genre that has been most frequently victimized by the age of remakes), I can say that remakes aren’t always bad. Of course there are some exceptions, but in the recent tradition of Hollywood, making a quick dime is what’s really important, so why not churn out some cheap-budget version of a cult classic horror flick in order to turn a decent profit?  That’s exactly what they’ve been doing…for years. So with a respectful nod to the hot commodity that has been the horror remake, I bring you “Deja Reboot” – The “Nightmare” edition.

When A Nightmare on Elm Street was first released in 1984, the film’s villain Freddy Krueger struck fear in audiences around the nation. It contained an original story that hadn’t been seen before and a new kind of villain that could physically torture and kill you in your dreams. Director Wes Craven was genius to bring this new twist of horror to life. Not to mention Robert Englund made a very terrifying Freddy Krueger. What made the original so terrifying is that we’d never seen a villain like Freddy before. When we think of sleeping, we think of being at peace, a time to ultimately relax and let go of all of our worries. However, this film takes that away from us. Craven took a peaceful function of the human body and made it a place to be feared. On top of that, “Nightmare” also presented a cast of relatable characters, as well as a compellingly complex villain in Freddy.

The "Nightmare" Reboot
The “Nightmare” Reboot

The remake was a semi-faithful adaptation in the visual sense, but it tried to tie up loose ends that might not have been made clear in the original. In other words, there was an abundance of exposition. Exposition is good; over-exposition is bad. The story behind Freddy in the original is that he was a child rapist whom parents of the town hunted down. In this case, it was Nancy’s mom describing to us what had happened, which explains why Freddy is trying to kill Nancy (our heroine). However, it is not made clear why he is killing her friends. The remake takes it one step further by trying to connect all of the characters in order to explain why Freddy wants to kill them all.

Here is where the reboot fails. It tries to take an original story and add so much that it ends up getting muddy. There is no sense of mystery. In the original, Freddy’s face is kept mostly in the shadows until the end of the film. This makes Freddy’s character all the more frightening. There’s something truly terrifying in not knowing what you’re being chased by.  However, in the remake, Freddy is completely exposed. There is no attempt to hide his mangled features in order to taunt the audience. Not to mention the “new” Freddy did not look nearly as frightening. He looked far more like an animal.

All in all, while the reboot may not have been quite as bad as one might have expected, with a mostly-entertaining cast and an interesting style, the original trumps it in the most important category (i.e. being a scary horror movie).