Sunday, October 27, 2013

1 Sentence Reviews: Grown Ups 2

Not sure if this movie is purposely bad or accidentally bad, but f**k this movie is incorrigible.
How do these movies get made?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Legend of Korra, Beginnings Parts 1 & 2 Review.

When I sat down to watch this episode of Korra, I was a little worried about it. Origin stories, after the fact, are always a little difficult to do well, and now we are getting the origin story of the Avatar. Was this guy going to be a brave warrior who learnt to bend all the elements at once? Was he a king, a spiritual leader, a learned man? The answer, none of the above. He was just some Joe Schmo who was going to tell Korra his journey so that it may help her.
A young Wan largely unaware of the outside world.
For the first part of this episode, I did not like Wan. Sure he was the down on his luck street kid like Aladdin, but unlike Aladdin, he didn’t come off as a brave street smart kid who looked out for the innocent and helpless. He lied and stole and cheated, and by the time he was banished I didn’t feel too sorry for the young Avatar in the making. Hailing from the pseudo Fire Nation on the back of the Lion Turtle, Wan gains the element of fire, and chooses to keep it instead of gifting it back. However, this all leads to his banishment, and it’s from this point out, with Wan free of the shackles of his village, his story really comes to life.
Fire Lion Turtle gifting the element of Fire.
First thing first. Spirits, living along side with human, was awesome. Their designs were really interesting to look at, and I got the impression that each one had distinct personalities to go with their odd shapes. Their general dislike of humans was an interesting choice for them. After all, it was the human’s world first, and the spirits came into the world and forced the humans to live on the back of Lion Turtles. It’s not really surprising that the humans did not like these invading spirits, and the fact that they live in distrust of one another kept an undercurrent of tension throughout the episode that manifested into fighting and death on more than one occasion.

No spirit stood out more than Aye-Aye. He was just pure fun to watch. His opinion of humans was so low, it was comical to see him interact with then as if he was dealing with an unwanted ugly pet. Jason Marsden (his voice actor) did such a great job bringing this charming character to life. Aye-Aye came off as intelligent, wise, kind to spirits, but overtly arrogant and hateful of humans. But as Wan tore down Aye-Aye’s distrust, wanting to live along with the spirits and learn from them, Aye-Aye went from mean bully to reluctant teacher. He had an interesting journey, and is integral in the development of the Avatar. I would like to know what fate befell the big eared spirit.
The charming Aye-Aye.
With Wan spending two years learning from the spirits, I expected him to achieve a level of knowledge and spirituality that would allow him to solve great problems and end calamities. However, the first thing he did once on his own again was unleash ultimate evil. It was such a rookie mistake I was surprised he fell for Vaatu’s trick. Why he was never told of Vaatu the spirit of chaos and darkness or Raava the spirit of peace and light is a glaring omission on Aye-Aye’s behalf, but the fact that Wan couldn’t determine a sinister looking being based purely on looks alone shows just how little Wan had developed in his two years of banishment. It was worrying.
Raava and Vaatu locked in eternal battle.
With Wan’s unleashing of evil, he finally had a goal. To right his wrongs, Wan chose to find the other Lion Turtle cities and gain the elements from then. The first stop was the Air Nomads, and it was wonderful to see that they weren’t as distrustful of the spirits as those on the Fire Turtle. Spirits lived with them in peace and harmony, and it spoke volumes about the nature of the various humans in this world, and what their descendants would become. It seems that the people of Fire are predestined to be violent, seeking fights, whereas the Air Nomads were a gentle people who were already a very well developed culture at this point. Sadly we didn’t get to see too much of the Water Turtle of Earth Turtle villages, but it would have been very interesting to see what they were like too.

The fact that in order to gain the elements, humans had to go to the Lion Turtles and be gifted the power was not what I was expecting. I always assumed that the humans of this world had this power naturally, but it seems that there was a point in the planet’s history when no human could bend any element, and the world may have been better off. It reminded me of Prometheus’ story of ancient Greek mythology. The Lion Turtles, who genuinely love the humans, had good intentions, but in gifting the elements gave the humans a powerful tool to cause more harm than good to one another, and no appreciation for that power.

Before the final fight with Vaatu, Wan tried to prevent a battle between the spirits and fellow outcasts from his villiage, but once again failed. Vaatu’s influence was too great, and the spirits lead by Aye-Aye slaughtered the humans, and Wan was left with the knowledge that he had been the cause of it all. It’s like he can do nothing right. Teaming up with Raava, Wan took on Vaatu in the spirit realm, and one of the best duels in the Avatar universe took place. The bending of this era was so elemental. Great cloud gusts that made up air, fire and water looked primordial, and earth was big, blocky, and not done with the finesse that Toph would bend. However, despite his training, Wan was not making any ground against Vaatu.
Wan staring down Vaatu.
Vaatu was powerful, and in a world full of distrust and hate he was in his prime. Thus Wan and Raava became one, and for the first time, the Avatar came into being. Avatar Wan’s power was great. I got the impression that even he was unaware of its full extent, but once he got a grasp of the basics, he overwhelmed Vaatu and locked him up. Wan then makes the executive decision to close the spirit portals and declare that he will dedicate his life to bring about peace to the world. After this, I have no doubt that Unalaq is not the big baddie, and that Vaatu is pulling all the strings. It also highlights how much of Wan’s work Korra had undone this season thus far, but with her memories back, and the knowledge of Wan’s life, Korra has some powerful tools at her disposal.
Raava moments before binding with Wan forever.
In the end, Wan didn’t solve some great calamity. He didn’t bring about peace to the world. He died old, broken, and all alone on a battle field, apologizing to Raava for his failures, lamenting the choices he’s made. It was sad to watch. Almost difficult. But from his life, we got Korra, Aang, and the always great Kyoshi. So he may not have had an easy, carefree life, and he may have caused more problems than he solved, but Avatar Wan had a good soul, and it was a sad ending to a man of good intentions.
Wan's dying breath.
This episode was beautiful to watch. It was like watching a painting come to life. The music was really well done, complementing the ancient vibe of this episode. As Korra goes on break into November, there is still so much left unanswered, and I can’t wait for its return. This was a truly great episode, easily the best in the entire Avatar series. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

1 Sentence Review: The Lone Ranger

I don't know what all the negative fuss was about, this movie is fine, just remember it's based off an old show that wasn't particularly great to begin with, and you'll have fun.
Johnny Deep looked different back in the 50s

1 Sentence Review: The Heat

I had so much fun watching this movie, with another really fun performance from Melissa McCarthy and a solid performance from Sandra Bullock, so if you enjoy the buddy cop fish outta water story, then this is for you.
I can't even begin to tell you how awesome this poster is.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Legend of Korra: The Sting Review

This week, Korra barely shows up so everyone else had to pick up her slack. This episode was really well done. It had the slow methodical pace of a detective serial of old while bringing in the inter policing rivalries of more modern shows. Throughout the episode, Maco gathered and examined clues to seemingly uncover the mystery behind all the terrorist attacks that have been going on. Finally, Mako had something to do besides getting yelled at by Korra and Lin.

Starting off with a raid on one of Asami’s shipments to the South, things quickly escalate to espionage, betrayal, a full on Bond style water chase between ships, ending with the ‘bad guy’ seemingly getting the upper hand. Throughout the episode Mako tried hard to stay ahead of all the sleight of hand and trickery afoot, but with no one on his side, he remained a step behind. It didn’t help that Chief Be Fong was so unwilling to listen to him. I get it that he’s a rookie, but come on, has she never seen… read, any of the numerous stories where the rookie cop is proven right at the end? Come on BatLin, I hold you to a higher standard than this.
Good work officer. One day you'll make detective.
Through and through, Mako did as a good job as he could. He followed, clues, believed his gut, and was not motivated by trying to prove Korra wrong or win Asami back. He was doing it all for the truth, and because of that he put the clues together leading him right to Varrick. Not Varrick!

Like I said last week, there is far more to this eccentric man than meets the eyes, and I’m sure his ultimate goal is not just gaining a controlling share in a competitors company. I’m sure money is a huge motivator for him, but I’m beginning to get the feeling that he might be in cahoots with Unalaq. Like he said, ‘if you can’t make money during a war, you can’t make money period’. He may be a source of endlessly great quotes, but the man is sly as a fox, and has wiggled his way into a very powerful position. And it doesn’t hurt that he likes to play both sides. At least Mako’s on to him.
There's no way it can be me, right?
On the B side of this episode, Bolin has found the celebrity side of life to his liking. With a lot of money now at his disposal he gets to buy frivolous items. He’s also doing a good job of playing the vain celeb, ignoring Mako in his time of need (and eye for and eye leaves all but one blind). Meanwhile, Unalaq seems to be getting some sort of direction for his actions from some unseen force. He is openly entering and leaving the spirit portal at will while his children wait for him. I’m sure some evil entity is pulling the strings here, and ultimately he’s going to be as powerless as cabbage man. But for now, his plan has a set back as he believes the Avatar is dead.
Just Bolin, doing his Nuktuk thing.
Speaking of which, it was nice of Korra to show up at the end. Or was it her? She certainly no longer knows, but at least she’s with people who know who she is. She’s had a tough season thus far, especially seeing how she just came off her biggest challenge last season; I guess no one ever said being the Avatar would be easy. So as Korra tries to remember who she is (at least she knows she can bend, and for some reason chose to air bend over water bend!) the shot panned out and lingered over the water which seemed to be hiding something beneath the surface. Possibly one of these so called ‘evil spirits’ which might not be as evil as they have been purported to be (all speculation here).

This was not only a very well done episode, but one I believe will ultimately prove vastly important to the series. It was different from what’s come before on the show. It was both slower and more intelligent, and didn’t feel the need to hit the view over the head with the obvious. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and can’t wait for the two parter next week. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Legend of Korra: Peacekeepers Review

Korra this week returned the show to Republic city to deal with the fallout of the Water Tribe civil war. From the start, we are once again reminded just how little Bolin has developed. As the rest of Team Avatar leave to go complete an important task, Bolin is left to wonder what his fate should be. I really felt for him. It reminded me of when I graduated college, looked back at where I’d been, and realized I’ve spent most of my life thus far in school and not really sure how the real world works. And as I tried to figure it out, I spent the first couple of months in a daze caught between two very distinct lives, and not sure if I was ready to leave one for the other. It feels like Bolin too is trying to discover his groove now that his pro-bending days with Mako are essentially over and each member of Team Avatar doing their own thing. Lucky for him, the always great Varrick was at hand to accompany Bolin in his search for self-discovery.

Varrick has been great. Whether he’s giving another great quote ('being famous is like getting hit with a rock all the time'), or the fact that I’m becoming increasingly more convinced that the eccentric billionaire inventor persona he embodies is just a shtick he uses to throw everyone off the fact that he is not only very intelligent, but also very observant and cunning, but once again Varrick stole the show. Between propaganda movies and shoes for hands, Varrick is a treasure trove of endless possibilities, and I hope that he doesn’t have a turn to the sinister before the series end.
We're ditching the girl kid and going to have some great adventures!
On a lighter note, Korra and Mako make huge waves throughout the episode. Caught between being loyal to his girl or his job, Mako’s forced to make choices that are neither easy nor clear cut. Korra desperately wants to liberate her people from the invading forces, and is using all her influence and karma she’s built up to get the help she needs. But it would have been easier for her to get help by yelling at a brick wall. The newly elected President of the United Republic is unwilling to drag his nation into a war that doesn’t really involve them. Further complicating matters is Mako going against Korra and giving the president inside information of her movements. When she went to Gen II Iroh, the President nipped any ‘effort’ to assist in the bud.

This final shut door forced Korra to head to the Fire Nation to seek help from the Fire Lord. However, her journey there was thwarted by the wonder twins and an evil spirit. When Unalaq ordered his children to go retrieve the Avatar I was left a little surprised. Very few benders could hold their own against an Avatar. Both Yakone and Noatak were incredibly powerful benders, but were still unable to best the Avatars. So what makes these two so special? And why are they so confident in their abilities that there were initially going into this fight with the intent to kill! Clearly there is more to these two than meets the eye. However, they are unsuccessful in capturing Korra. That honor goes to the evil spirit who seemingly swallowed Korra, despite her Avatar Stating and trying to calm said spirit.
There is something seriously not right about these two.
Other main points to touch upon are Unalaq revealing that he needs Korra to open the spirit gate up north. I’m beginning to think that he’s getting his orders from someone else, but I could be wrong. An attack on the Southern Water Tribe cultural center looks to inflame a war. Mako is investigating the terrorist attack believing that it was not perpetrated by Northern Water Tribesmen. And at the air temple, Tenzin releases the inner monster within Meelo (his words, not mine!), as he continues his personal time with each of his kids. I assume Jinora is next. This was a very fun episode. The animation and music were once again great. Oh, and the BatLin returned! More BatLin please. 
Just give us the Lin Bei Fong show we deserve!