The Attack on Titan Movies Were Meant to Suck

The live action Attack on Titan duology was the most expensive comedy ever made. That’s my final interpretation on this; it’s the only conclusion that makes any sense to me. Some enterprising producer in Japan thought Hajime Isayama’s tale would make perfect fodder for some experimental, avante garde, special effects laden farce of, uh, titan-sized proportions.

And by God, it works.

This live-action adaptation crossed the Rubicon into Dum-Dum Town not even five minutes into part one. The only reasonable course of action is to accept it. Fear not, fellow fanboys and fangirls; there is no need to weep into your $40 Scout Regiment hoodies. Lightening up a little was precisely what this very, very serious franchise needed. I humbly suggest that the AoT fandom embrace the cult classic drinking game masterpiece status these two films will surely attain once they become available on Netflix. Trust me; we will all be happier for it in the long run. The anime, manga, Marvel crossover and that whacky junior high adventure are still around for your reading and viewing pleasures.

Take for instance, Satomi Ishihara, the actress who plays Hange Zoë with an infectiously crazy gusto. She alone among the cast seems to realize exactly what kind of movie this is, and she acquits herself admirably. Ishihara is absolute joy to watch and even manages to stay true to the character of Hange. She would fit right in with an actually good version of a live-action AoT without having to change any aspect of her performance.

On a more tragic and spoilerific note, one of the characters invented for the film whom I liked a great deal didn’t make it. Sannagi, played by Satoru Matsuo, is big dude with a giant axe who makes weird howler monkey noises when in combat and possesses a shocking degree of mobility for a guy his size. Charming, immensely likeable and not completely devoid of personality, he goes out in a blaze of glory that is both gut-bustlingly hilarious and awe-inspiringly badass. Sannagi gets shot 86 billion times with assault rifle rounds while trying to use his Omni-directional Mobility Gear to pull down a ruined tower to cover the escape of the people who get to live. Some not-as-good-as-they-initially-seemed rebels pump this guy with bullets for a solid minute and make zero effort to get out from under the slowly falling tower despite knowing exactly what Sannagi is trying to do. The tower lands on an explosives-laden truck and they all die in a fireball so huge you think director Shinji Higuchi might have been trying to make some sort of clever point about unreasonably massive movie explosions.

I dislocated three ribs and ruptured my spleen after witnessing that glory. Rest in peace, Sannagi.

Bad guys turn into bad-er guys. A dude takes four arrows to the throat and transforms into the Colossal Titan while in freefall. Not Captain Levi (Hiroki Hasegawa) maybe is or is not Eren’s previously unaddressed long-lost brother, whom we see in a flashback that receives no payoff. Titans punch each other. One titan kills another titan by spiking a reactivated aircraft bomb into his mouth. Eren and Mikasa get to see the ocean from atop the wall and we are supposed to accept that as a happy ending.

It’s all so glorious and maddening. It’s not the Attack on Titan adaptation any of us wanted, but we would be fools to not to cherish it. Let the drinking games commence.

How About That Star Wars Trailer? No, the Other One

In the midst of a fairly uneventful Monday Night Football game, we caught another glimpse of the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens and this one was a doozy. More explosions! People other than Han saying “Chewie, we’re home” got to speak! And God Almighty, the music! This trailer could probably have just been two minutes of that music against a black screen and it would almost have the same effect.

So what’s going on here? We finally get to hear Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), Finn (John Boyega) and Rey (Daisy Ridley) talk, for one. Rey does some scavenging, Finn reveals some of his backstory (apparently he is a defecting Imperial First Order member) and Ren vows to “finish what you started” while presumably speaking to that charred Vader helmet we have previously seen. Han does some light exposition dropping to Finn and Rey, telling them that “it’s all real,” in regards to the Dark Side and the Jedi.

That’s a tad revealing, as it suggests that the Force and all its history have become even more obscure and forgotten about than it was in “A New Hope.” Remember, Tarkin says that the Jedi are “extinct” and that “their fire has gone out of the universe” in that film. Did things get worse for the Jedi since the events of the OT? Also, where did this New Order come from? I’ve theorized (and I can’t be alone in thinking this) it may have been the new government the Rebels formed after the Empire’s defeat in Jedi gone way bad but that feels too derivative of what happened to the Republic in the prequels. Then again, it’s been like 50 or 60 years since Jedi and we still have Not Rebel X-Wings zipping around shooting at Not Empire TIE Fighters; originality probably isn’t on menu. But who cares? It’s Star Wars.

Parting thoughts: that fleeting shot of Han and Leia embracing just kills me on a thousand levels. It’s good to see that they are still together. And once again, Luke’s face is being obscured in favor of that robot-hand-giving-Artoo-a-scalp-massage shot. What’s the deal? We already know he’s in the movie.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens comes out on Dec. 18. Tickets are already on sale. If anyone is still wondering, those last words uttered in the trailer are “Just let it in.”

‘Attack on Titan’ is so Bad it’s Actually Worth Seeing

I feel like I should disclose the fact that I really like Attack on Titan and that I’m still caught off guard by how much I enjoy it. I’m not an anime guy at all, but the show was sufficiently buzzworthy for me to look into and I was immediately hooked. Hell, I’m even following the manga series right now since we aren’t getting a second season anytime soon. God help me, I’ve turned to the Dark Side…

With that out of the way, I should also tell you that the live-action Attack on Titan film that is currently getting a very, very limited release in North America is kind of dreadful. You already knew that if you pay any attention to all things Titan, but here’s the part you might not know: it is a fucking beautiful disasterpiece.

I’m nowhere near well versed enough in Japanese film to tell if the acting and writing is bad by their industry’s standards but my gut instinct says yes. Bad art is a universal phenomenon that transcends cultures and languages and I’m pretty sure Japanese audiences were sniggering just as much as my fellow attendees and I were. In the realm of bad movies that inadvertently morph into gonzo, madcap comedies, Titan out does all of them except maybe The Room. And that is its greatest-check that, only-strength.

I mean you certainly won’t be seeing this to watch the characters and story that you love be brought to life. Example: I can’t for the life of me remember how or why film Eren (Haruma Miura) gives film Mikasa (Kiko Mizuhara) the red scarf. If that doesn’t warn the purists just how far this thing strays from its source material, I don’t know what will. Titan shares a premise, most of the characters and a few key scenes with Hajime Isayama’s opus and pretty much nothing else.

So what’s so funny about all of this? For one the Titans themselves are pretty much an abysmal failure. Everything that was so creepy, off putting and threatening about them in the manga/anime is completely lost in live-action. They shamble around like Burners who’ve taken some bad acid and they are never not hilarious, even though you start to pity them after awhile. That Titan’s visual effects range from just all right to YouTube fan film quality doesn’t help matters.

Weirdly enough the jokes or at least the parts that seem like they are meant to be funny actually work. It’s really bizarre and something I’ve never experienced in these kinds of bad movies before, but all of the stuff with the perpetually hungry “Potato Girl” Sasha Blouse (Nanami Sakuraba) and eccentric genius Hange Zoë(Satomi Ishihara) is pretty damn funny and the filmmakers and actors milk those gags for all they’re worth. For a few glorious minutes, you will be laughing with Titan and not at it.

All of the serious stuff, though? It’s exactly the sort of shit-awful, what-the-hell-am-I-watching chucklefest circus you were expecting. Dialogue is lathered in non sequitur. A single mom Survey Corps member tries to deprive Ehren of his virginity in the midst of a battlefield and is promptly devoured by a Titan that somehow snuck up on them (16 and Pregnant: Trost Edition). A woman sobs for her dead lover and insists that he’s still alive, only for the camera to pull back and reveal that the dude has been chomped in half. People eating apples somehow gets turned into a running gag. There is a guy who is pretty much supposed to be fan-favorite Captain Levi but somehow he isn’t. Hilarity ensues.

That’s pretty much all you need to know about Attack on Titan: it’s pretty bad, there’s an action scene or two that almost work but are undermined by shoddy effects and it pulls off the truly impressive double feat of being both intentionally and unintentionally funny. If you can accept the fact that this isn’t the Attack on Titan movie we all wanted, you’ll have a pretty good time. Judging by the audience reaction at my screening, I strongly suspect this will become an On Demand/Netflix classic for groups of geeky friends to throw on for some cheap but hearty laughs and drinking games (think apples and potatoes). It’s not quite The Room (the Mortal Kombat films might be a better comparison) but it’s gloriously unhinged and a total blast.

Find out if part one of Attack on Titan (yep, there’s another one) is playing near you right here.

The ‘Allegiant’ Trailer is Here to Bore a Hole in Our Heads

Two very uncool things have happened to me on Sept. 15, the day of my 26th birthday: an obscure relative of mine described me as a “hunky guy” on my FB timeline for the entire world to see and the teaser trailer for The Divergent Series: Allegiant has been released.

In addition to being the worst thing to happen to the great city of Chicago since this, Divergent perfectly embodies everything that is wrong with contemporary YA fiction: clichéd “I’m the only special one,” plotlines; boring, interchangeable love-interest hunks played by British guys struggling to affect an American accent; cheap-looking, uninspired production design; and cookie-cutter, insert-any-allegory dystopian governments that could probably be overthrown by an unruly class of fifth graders. If you aren’t sick to death of any of these fleshy, beaten horse chunks, then you will love Divergent.

The trailer isn’t anything special but what the hell were you expecting? It spends half its time recapping the first two awful movies before showing some new footage in which Beatrice “Tris” Prior (Shailene Woodley) leads her friends out of Chicago into some desolate wasteland. There’s some running, shooting and explosions before we end on a scene where Tris meets Jeff Daniels, who will definitely not turn out to be a badguy.  I’m sure he’s completely harmless and trustworthy.

I’ve somehow made it through two of these so I might as well suck it up and finish this shit show. Each movie has had a few sprinkles of delightful unintentional comedy and I expect there will be many more as we approach the end…

Oh shit; this isn’t the last one?! Well, fuck me.

The Divergent Series: Allegiant will be out in March 2016. No, I don’t know the specific day and I don’t care enough to look it up. Frankly, neither should you.

A Grossly Unnecessary Recap of the Only Pokémon Movie that Matters

Nov. 13, 1998 might be the worst day of my mother’s life.

This was the Friday she took my friends and I (in the third grade and aged nine at the time) to see “Pokémon: The First Movie,” which was gracing movie theaters all across North America. Like just about every other kid in the world at that moment, we were caught up in PokéMania and you bet your asses we were going to follow the adventures of Ash, Misty, Brock and Pikachu from the small screen to the big one. One of my friends even suggested we sit in the front row so the Pokémon battles would look “super freaky.”

We were such badasses.

As for my mom, she was the parent unlucky enough to chaperone us. I was exceptionally poor at putting myself in the shoes of others at the time, but looking back, I imagine she probably had the same face as that dude who tried Borat’s cheese for most of the 70 or so minute run time. My sister Aimee was also there, just in case it wasn’t excruciating enough.

With that crucial background information established, let’s dive into the film itself.

“TFM” opens with Mewtwo himself, our villain of the piece. He’s created in a lab from the DNA of the supposedly extinct Pokémon, Mew. I imagine Mewtwo is meant to be sympathetic in these establishing scenes, but all of that is quickly undermined by the fact that his voice sounds like Michael Shannon’s aggressively Republican uncle. So far we are not off to a fantastic start.

Mewtwo has a rather convoluted arc he needs to quickly embark upon so he immediately destroys the lab in a manner that almost certainly kills every person inside of it (“TFM” does not dwell on this, for some reason). It’s at this moment that Giovanni, the sinister leader of Team Rocket and the benefactor of the clone project, appears. Giovanni offers to help Mewtwo control his powers in exchange for Mewtwo being his sla….oh, wait. Oops. I meant in exchange for being his special little helper. That sounds much better, doesn’t it?

We get this brief montage of Mewtwo helping Team Rocket capture wild Pokémon en masse and beating the crap out of some unlucky trainers (including that piece of work Gary Oak). However, Mewtwo is still questioning his purpose. When Giovanni helpfully informs Mewtwo that his purpose is to serve TR, Mewtwo flips out again and escapes rather easily. Like seriously, he just blows a hole in the ceiling of the Viridian City gym and flies away. Did Giovanni not have any security measures for his immensely powerful psychic slave killing machine? I guess he blew Team Rocket’s entire budget on the cloning experiment; there weren’t any funds left for so much as a shock collar.

Mewtwo returns to the island where the destroyed lab is and makes it his lair. It is from here that he will set his sinister plan into motion. It is also called “New Island” now, because the translation/localization team came into work hungover that morning.

After all of this, we finally get to see our heroes. Ash, Misty, Brock and Pikachu are setting up camp on a clifftop overlooking the sea. Ash is being useless while Misty and Brock set up a picnic table (how is there room for that in their backpacks? How?!) and cook, which will not surprise anyone who has ever watched the anime. Ash would have probably walked right off the cliff if they hadn’t told him to stop. This relaxing moment gets interrupted when some broish trainer challenges Ash to a battle. Over the course the opening credits, we get our first proper Pokémon battle of the film. Not far from this action, the Team Rocket Trio of Jesse, James and Meowth are spying on the heroes and plotting another attempt to snatch Ash’s Pikachu that will most certainly succeed and not send them blasting off again.

Mewtwo’s plan works like this: he presents himself as the greatest Pokémon master in the world and sends out invitations to a select group of trainers inviting them to New Island (typing that is painful). According to the invitation, the trainers will battle each other tournament style with the winner taking on the host. So far that’s not a bad setup for a Pokémon movie. The “Enter the Dragon” formula is always ripe for plundering, and I won’t begrudge Pokémon for getting in on it.

For reasons that have everything to do with him being the protagonist and nothing at all to do with his actually abysmal skill as a trainer, Ash receives an invitation in hologram form from a courier Dragonite, who almost kills the gang in the course of the delivery. This should probably be the first indicator that is some sort of trap, but since this is Ash we’re talking about, he just takes it in stride with Brock and Misty simply going along with his whims. Because they need to be in the movie for a very stupid reason that comes later, Team Rocket intercepts the courier (even though he’s a magic dragon and they are a pair of dolts in matching outfits with a talking cat) and steals one of his invitations.

Ash and the crew head to a ferry station to hitch a ride to New Island (Uggghhh…). While there, they get a chance to size up the competition, one of whom could only be described as Pokémon world’s version of Patton Oswalt. The PokéGang is about to face their first real obstacle of the movie: in order to make things more interesting, Mewtwo summons a massive storm (psychic Pokémon can do that, I guess). The idea being that only the invited trainers that were truly worthy of facing him would find a way through the storm to the island; the rough seas cause the harbor master to cancel the ferry ride, much to everyone’s dismay. The harbor master then tells the disheartened trainers and other would-be passengers a story about some fierce storm that happened long ago. Said storm killed everyone in town, but the tears of their sad Pokémon bring the deceased back to life. This tale does nothing to encourage our heroes, but it does cock Chekhov’s Gun.

This isn’t a problem for PokéPatton, who rides his Gyarados to the island (if you just pretend it’s Patton Oswalt riding a sea dragon, the movie becomes much better). Similarly, the other trainers simply hitch a ride on their flying and/or swimming Pokémon. I guess that would be like me piggyback riding on Spike across Lake Tahoe, but I don’t think either of us would enjoy that.

Not a flotation device and most certainly not a Pokémon. Photo by me.

Not a flotation device and most certainly not a Pokémon. Photo by me.

Oh, that really dumb reason for Team Rocket being in this movie? That moment comes right about now.

The PokéGang is in quite a dilemma here. The ferry rides have been canceled and none of them have Pokémon strong enough to carry them through the storm. But luckily, a longship pulls up alongside the dock and the female and male Vikings onboard who are totally not Team Rocket in disguise (spoiler alert: the Vikings are totally Team Rocket in disguise) offer our heroes a ride. Since they have no other choice and are dreadful at seeing through obvious ruses, Ash, Misty, Brock and Pikachu step aboard the boat. What follows is perhaps the most baffling exchange of dialogue in all of Pokémon.

Brock: “I didn’t know Vikings still existed!”

Ash: “They mostly live in Minnesota.”

Don’t believe me? Here’s the clip:

That’s right boys and girls; somewhere in the geographic clusterfuck of the Pokémon World, there is the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Not only are Team Rocket just in this movie to get the PokéGang from point A to point B, but the only reason they are dressed as Vikings is so Ash can make a football joke for the English dub (the Vikings were 15-1 in 1998, should anyone ask). The Pokémon anime is no stranger to non sequitur, but this was some next level shit.

The antiquated longship handles the storm about as well as you’d expect and it is rapidly capsized by an enormous wave. Ash and Misty deploy their Squirtle and Staryu respectively, and manage to get themselves and Brock to the island. Because they still need to be in the movie for some reason, Team Rocket also gets to the island safely despite not having any water Pokémon. This is pretty much the end of any usefulness Team Rocket has in “TFM.” They are dead weight from here on out.

Though we have more or less reached the middle of the movie, there is still one more element that needs to come into play: Mew. The flying psychic mouse thing that our villain is cloned from is first seen sleeping in a pink bubble under the ocean which just so happens to be right next to New Island. Since we don’t really have a movie without Mewtwo fighting his progenitor, Mew wakes up, breaches the sea and flies off to the island because it has this big weird windmill thing that looks fun to him. Mew then starts playing on said windmill.

I know; this movie is odd. I mean, hero stumbles into bad guy’s lair because he thinks it looks like a place to have a good time is kind of a forced way to set up a showdown. Do you go into biker bars because they have signs in the windows stating “Karaoke Night?” Bear with me; we’re halfway through.

So we’re now on the island. The PokéGang is greeted by the woman from the holographic invitation. Said woman is a missing Nurse Joy, but somehow that still doesn’t convince anybody this is all a trap. After some mingling between the PokéGang and the other trainers (PokéPatton is very proud of his Gyarados), Mewtwo drops the charade and reveals himself to his guests. Now a flying, psychic kangaroo-looking thing is by itself not all that surprising in Pokémon World, but Mewtwo’s claim to be the world’s greatest trainer doesn’t sit well with everybody, and especially not PokéPatton, who promptly orders his Gyarados to attack. This doesn’t end well for either of them.

Now outed as a proper villain, Mewtwo does the bad guy thing where he informs the heroes of his plan: he considers (and not without reason, in all fairness) that the human-Pokémon relationship is that of master and slave. To bring about liberation, he brings the best trainers in the world to his island (this doesn’t explain Ash’s presence, but whatevs) to pit their Pokémon against his clones of Pokémon. That big storm still going on outside? Mewtwo is going to use that to wipe out all the world’s humans and their Pokémon and replace them all with his cloned Pokémon.

I don’t get it either. I mean, liberating Pokémon by killing them all and replacing them with clones is dumb enough on its own, but doesn’t this just perpetuate the cycle of violence of Pokémon fighting each other for entertainment and a vaguely defined sense of fulfill…oh, fuck it. This movie’s sense mortality only gets more confusing from here, so buckle up.

The trainers all enter an arena where a Venusaur, a Blastoise and Ash’s Charizard all get wooped by their clone counterparts. Satisfied that his genetic copies are superior to all else after watching just three different one-on-one matches, Mewtwo decides to seize all of the trainers’ Pokémon and uses some nightmarish magic black Poké Balls to do so. These things start zooming around, either of their own accord or guided by Mewtwo’s telekinesis, and start snatching up Pokémon left and right. This leads to an extended chase sequence throughout New Island that drags on a tad too long. This is also the point in the movie where Ash might have gone Super Saiyan.

But before we get to that, we need to revisit the increasingly purposeless Team Rocket, who exhausted their usefulness to the plot about 15 or 20 minute ago. They are infiltrating New Island through its sewers and are being stalked by little Mew, who has now grown bored of the windmill. There is some physical comedy that 9-year-old me would’ve thought hilarious where Meowth becomes vaguely aware the trio is being followed by something and then whips around real fast to catch the stalker only to see nothing there. Ha ha. Jesse, James and Meowth finally do something noteworthy by stumbling across the island’s lab and activating a video log in which a scientist describes the cloning experiment (Mewtwo was created from a fossilized eyebrow hair from Mew). The video cuts out right as the lab gets destroyed, confirming my suspicion that everyone on this island died when Mewtwo escaped. While they are in here, the cloning machine activates.

Meanwhile Ash and Pikachu are running themselves ragged around the island, being pursued by the nightmare Poké Balls. “TFM” sort of just forgets about Brock, Misty and the other trainers at this point. There’s also this weird lack of urgency afflicting the proceedings. The storm outside is supposed to kill every human and Pokémon on Earth, but we don’t see any of it. We just have this 10-year-old kid and his electric mouse being chased by balls in the Cathedral of St. Bowie. That thing I said about Ash going Super Saipan? He’s basically indestructible during this chase, getting pelted in the back by a shitload of with Poké Balls at potato gun-velocity and also falling off the edge of a many story high spiral staircase into some not-soft-at-all water. The fall comes after Pikachu finally gets caught by one of the balls and Ash goes to some truly insane lengths to get him back.

Fortunately, the much deeper than expected body of water Ash falls into leads into the lab where Team Rocket (“I don’t have time for your stupid motto!” he shouts at them) is. Now this is the part of the movie where you are really going to regret eating that bag of mushrooms. Before Ash shows up, the cloning machines start oozing out Pokémon clones, which emerge from a fetal position out of goo-filled tubes and they are covered in tar-like birth marks. Jesse, James and Meowth spend most of this time cowering in the corner, their Team Rocket job training (whatever that entailed) utterly useless in the face of this Frankensteinian horror. I almost feel bad for them.

Ash continues to display his newfound indestructibility by diving into the cloning machine, where he proceeds to kick, punch and bite the motherfucker to death. No, seriously, he does that. Fuck this kid. I wish I was that tough at age 10. Breaking the machine frees all of the Pokémon and we get an allegedly touching reunion between Ash, Pikachu, Bulbasaur and Squirtle. What follows is meant to be “TFM’s” badass rally moment: Ash leads all of the freed Pokémon into the arena to put a stop to Mewtwo and all of his evil machinations. Brock, Misty and the other trainers are still there, in case we forgot they existed, but tragically they have nothing useful to do for the rest of the movie. Ash once again demonstrates his stunning lack of self-preservation instincts by charging Mewtwo and attempting to punch him, which is pretty dumb even for this movie. Unsurprisingly, Mewtwo uses his psychic powers to pick up Ash and launch him through the air to the upper deck of the arena. He is promptly saved by deus ex Mew, who finally reveals himself to the other characters.

Despite not having any prior knowledge of the situation or the players involved, Mew shows his heroic colors and decides to stop Mewtwo. Well, he doesn’t really have a choice, at least initially. Mewtwo of course instigates a fight with his genetic source material, as it is the logical extension of his clone superiority rhetoric. So if you aren’t sick of this shit yet, here goes clones versus originals, round two. This time Mewtwo telepathically blocks all the Pokémons’ special abilities (no breathing fire or flying, etc.) to level the playing field. As for Mewtwo and Mew themselves, they carry out their duel by respectively turning into blue and pink bubble sphere thingies and crashing into each other really hard. I feel like this should earn points for originality. At one point Mewtwo even uses that damned shadow ball move I could never hit anything with in “Super Smash Bros Melee.”

Snark aside, Mewtwo and Mew inside their blue and pink bubbles crashing into each are the most endearing imagery of this movie. When I think of “Pokémon: TFM,” this scene comes to mind. Weird. But if you think that’s strange, just wait until the most jarring musical number ever kicks in. I had somehow completely forgotten about this detail of “TFM,” so when it happens, it hits you like a truck filled with bricks. Behold the beauty of “Brother, My Brother.”

Yep. Whoever was in charge of the English version of the movie felt it needed a fat dose of Blessed Union of Souls, Sevendust’s bastard alt rock half-brother. The song itself is…alright, I guess. Those people who insist that 90’s music wasn’t awful might have had these guys (still active 17 years after this musical landmark) in mind. The scene itself is where “TFM” really goes off the rails. We see Pokémon punch, kick, jab, tackle, head butt and bite one another and it’s presented as The Saddest Thing Ever. They get sweaty and pant a lot and none of them appear to be in any actual mortal peril, yet the PokéGang, the other trainers and the now de-brainwashed Nurse Joy are overcome with sorrow at the sight of these mildly exhausted Pokémon and want the fight to stop.

In short, “Pokémon: TFM’s” moral message is that fighting is bad and that we should all just get along. This is great, but if you just herniated yourself laughing, it’s because you made a crucial realization: this theme completely undermines the entire premise of this juggernaut multimedia franchise. Catching them all and becoming the very best, like no one ever was? Why do that when everyone can just get along?

The best/worst part is that the writers (at least those who translated the English version) seem to be aware of this contradiction and make very half-assed attempts to address it. Hence we have lines like “Pokémon weren’t meant to fight,” from a distraught Nurse Joy on the verge of tears with a convenient “like this” tacked onto the end of it so we know that not all Pokémon battling is bad. But exactly what the hell is so bad about Pokémon fighting “like this?” Remember, Mewtwo disabled all of their abilities, so it’s just physical combat. Wouldn’t Pokémon battles be less dangerous when they aren’t burning, poisoning, electrocuting, freezing and confusing each other? I mean, God forbid Pokémon get sweaty and start panting, which is the worst thing that happens to any of them in this fight.

Nine-year-old me was riveted to the screen at this point.

We’ve reached our breaking point. Ash, Misty and Brock want to stop the fight but are powerless to do so. It’s at this moment that Ash does something very dumb even by Ash standards: in a desperate bid to halt the battle, he charges in between Mew and Mewtwo right when they both release a charged up super move. I mean, I can kind of understand why he’d do this. Throughout “TFM,” Ash has survived a storm, gotten machine gun pelted by evil sentient Poké Balls, fallen like 50 stories, destroyed a machine by punching it and has been thrown a mile through the air. He probably just assumed he was invincible by now, and can you really blame him? Alas, the boy from Pallet Town is shit out of luck; he succumbs to the psychic attack and gets…turned to stone? The fuck? How does a psychic type Pokémon do that to someone? You know what, never mind.

Here we get The Saddest Thing Ever, Part Deux. Statue Ash is laying belly-down on the ground while a devastated Pikachu tries to revive him with some DIY defibrillation. Completely unaware that electric can’t beat rock (duh), Pikachu’s efforts are futile, and he starts crying. Moved by his devotion to his fallen master, all of the other Pokémon – clone and non-clone – join in for one big sob fest. Hey! Remember that story the harbor master told about the storm that kills humanity and the tears of their Pokémon bring them back to life? Well, through the power of tears, Ash comes back from his second onscreen death, to the delight of Pikachu, Brock and Misty. With all of this love and devotion breaking through his steely exterior and striking him right in the heart, Mewtwo relents, ending the battle and halting the storm.

Does the whole “Pokémon tears bring the dead back to life” business ever come up again in the series? I would be most appreciative if someone who watched the show/movies past Generation One can answer that.

Would-be clone dictator/genocide conductor Mewtwo sees the errors of his ways, and all it took was accidentally turning a 10-year-old into stone in a psychic battle with a flying pink cat-thing. No longer interested in world domination, Mewtwo decides to establish a secluded utopia for his clones by using his vast powers in just one more dickish way. He teleports everyone through space and time back to the ferry dock also wipes their memories clean of the entire incident. Seriously, how did anyone catch this guy in Red and Blue?

Ash, Brock, Misty and Nurse Joy come to their senses in the crowded dock, except this time there is no storm outside and it’s bright and sunny. Despite being entirely unsure how they ended up at this dock, the PokéGang are in good spirits and decide to head out to the next town. Before departing, however, Ash catches a brief glimpse of Mew flying through the clouds, mirroring his sighting of Ho-Oh in the first episode of the anime. With all of that business of getting along with each other and not fighting anymore safely mind-wiped away, it’s back to catching ’em all and becoming the very best, like no one ever was.

Since we absolutely need to know Team Rocket’s fate, “TFM” ends with them on a tiny island in the middle of the sea, with no apparent means off of it. Despite the fact that they are maybe a day and a half away from considering the necessity of eating Meowth, this is presented as a happy ending for them.

When the movie was over and the house lights came back on, my friends and I were pretty pumped. I’m not sure if we thought it was the best thing ever at the time, but it was definitely in 9-year-old Kyle’s top five. My sister looked annoyed; my mom looked as if our beloved dog Ashley had come back to life and then died again. I probably enjoyed the rest of that afternoon.

So, yeah, “Pokémon: The First Movie” doesn’t hold up. I mean, I’d be shocked if it did, but it doesn’t quite sink to the depths of true terribleness either. This is the rut that the Pokémon anime is in when I look back on it. It’s not particularly good, but it’s not really bad enough to go on the hate-watch list either. It’s just sort of there; a curious childhood staple, as endlessly fascinating as it is confusing; to be laughed about and picked over by Millennials of a certain age as we continue to get older. And nothing in the franchise exemplifies that better than “Pokémon: The First Movie”

My 2015 San Diego Comic-Con Top 5

As just about all of you already know, last week was San Diego Comic-Con. While SDCC has strayed pretty far from its roots over the years (and for the record, that hasn’t always been a bad thing), there’s always been at least a handful of stuff to get really excited about. This time around, though, there were five big effing deals that have captured my attention. Without further ado, here’s the SDCC announcements that I was most excited for.

  1. The newest “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” trailer:
    Putting aside all of my concerns about this movie, it’s pretty damn hard not to be excited about it. Zack Snyder is a goddamned genius when it comes to spectacle and visceral thrills, and in many ways his inner eight-year-old is perfect for Batman and Superman’s first live-action onscreen pairing. Until the movie itself rolls around, I’ll save the judgment and just take in this breathtaking three and half minute trailer. We see our first glimpse of Wonder Woman in action (fleeting, but there nonetheless), Jesse Eisenberg’s “Silicon Valley” version of Lex Luthor (I’m thinking of trademarking that description), and that money shot at the end…damn.
  2. The Darth Vader crossover: Trade waiting all of the ongoing “Star Wars” comics Marvel is currently publishing is so far my biggest regret of 2015. It seems that Marvel is hell bent on punishing me for that disastrous decision even further. In addition to that new Chewbacca miniseries we’re getting, Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada announced that the “Star Wars” and “Darth Vader” ongoing series will crossover in an event known as “Vader Down.” Jason Aaron and Kieron Gillen will be handling the writing duties and Salvadore Larroca will be illustrating. I’m about to lose so much money this fall…
  3. Grant Morrison’s new DC projects: Weirdly enough, there were quite a few really cool SDCC announcements that actually had something to do with comics. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the great Grant Morrison is doing a followup to his “Multiversity” miniseries, called (I kid not) “Multiversity Too.” Considering how awesome “Multiversity” was – the whole series is this jubilantly insane celebration of every bizarre nook and cranny of the DC Multiverse – I’m definitely hungry for more. In addition to more of that stuff, Morrison will also be doing a series of “Batman: Black and White” graphic novels.
  4. The “Star Wars” behind the scenes video:
    This video was shown to fans at “Star Wars’” Hall H presentation. Watching it, it’s hard not to get caught up in the enthusiasm shared by JJ Abrams, the cast and crew. Look at those real sets! Those on location shoots! Was that an actual explosion?! Holy crap, that bucking bronco Millennium Falcon cockpit looks like a blast! So far Operation: Make This as Different as Humanly Possible from the Prequels seems to be working out for Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy and co.
  5. This: If you don’t like this, we can’t be friends.

Sir Christopher Lee: 1922-2015

I think it was around the early 2000s that I first became aware of this ginormous British fellow, who struck an Imposing with a capital “I” screen presence and spoke with an icy elegance that seemed impossible even for one of those artsy English thespians. It’s not like I couldn’t ignore him even if I wanted to, because for a few years back then, Lee was suddenly everywhere. Or at least, he was everywhere I was looking.

There he was in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, imprisoning Gandalf at the top of Orthanc and raising an army in the depths of Isengard. Then he was in the “Star Wars” galaxy, trying to tempt Obi-Wan to the Dark Side and fighting with a curved hilt lightsaber, because of course a Sith lord played by Lee would have one of those. And then, during one of my annual James Bond marathons, there he was again: challenging Roger Moore’s 007 to a duel as “The Man with the Golden Gun.” Such was Lee’s talent that he managed to give the franchise one of its greatest villains while starring in one of the (arguably) worst films in the entire Bond saga. He was that good.

Of course, Lee already had lived a pretty damned impressive life even before he stepped in front of a camera. During World War II, he was a member of Britain’s Special Operations Executive (SOE), which was also – I kid not – known by the name “Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare.” The SOE carried out acts of espionage, sabotage, assassination and generally raised hell throughout mainland Europe disrupting the Nazi war machine. In case all of that wasn’t cool enough, these guys are also the reason why the Nazis never got their hands on nuclear weapons.

Given this guy’s staggeringly huge resume, both within and outside of his 250 plus credited film roles, there’s not really much I can say about this spy-turned-actor turned-metal vocalist (see the above video) that would really do him any justice, but…(*sigh*) they don’t make ’em like they used to.


Deciphering all of that Trailer Madness

Last weekend ended up being pretty busy on the movie trailer front, with at least two of them generating enough buzz and angst to keep us sufficiently distracted until “Avengers: Age of Ultron” kicks down our doors. Seeing as these sorts of movies are kinda my thing, let’s take a closer look.

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Seeing as Celebration was going on, it’s no surprise we ended up seeing this trailer earlier than expected (it was, and probably still is, slated to appear before “AoU” when that hits theaters on May 1). Here are my takeaways:

  • Luke’s voiceover (a reiteration of his “the force runs strong in my family” speech to Leia in “Jedi”) certainly implies that at least some of these new characters will be the children of the Trio. The smart money is on Han and Leia.
  • That melted Vader mask; chilling in all the right ways.
  • The hooded figure with the robot hand giving Artoo the functional equivalent of a scalp massage is our only shot of Luke. Because let’s face it: that can’t be anyone but Luke.
  • The lightsaber exchange solidifies my thoughts on the first point.
  • I absolutely love that shot of Oscar Isaac’s X-Wing pilot (Poe Dameron), if only because he perfectly channels the emotions of just about everyone watching this thing.
  • Our first good look at our new antagonist, Kylo Ren, played by Adam Driver of HBO’s “Girls.” I know basically nothing of Driver, but he’s 6-foot-3 and clad in mask and armor, so he’ll at least be physically imposing.
  • More of the new Nike-ized Stromtroopers, new TIE Fighters and a new Empire logo. So far, so good.
  • There’s a bit of our new heroes in this. Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega) do a whole lot of running and panting and we once again see Finn in Stormtrooper armor. Whether he’s a spy, a defector or a sympathetic Imperial remains to be seen, but the first two scenarios are more likely than the third.
  • “Chewey, we’re home.” There cannot have been a better way to end this. I’ve got nothing, other than that the jacket Harrison Ford is wearing seems more Indy than Han. Interesting.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

After the initial excitement died down, it took me quite awhile to realize “Man of Steel” was not good. With that in mind, I can’t help but to look at all of WB’s upcoming DC films through a lens of apprehension. And since you can’t get bigger than the first ever live action teamup of the two greatest superheroes ever (at least until “Justice League” comes along), my scrutiny is magnified a hundredfold. So here’s what caught my eye:

  • Things are already off to a gloomy start with that opening barrage of extremely worried sounding voices, at least one of which belongs to Holly Hunter, whose roll in this is yet to be disclosed.
  • We get a shot of Superman’s (Henry Cavill) unreasonably handsome face. Supes is surrounded by people, some of whom are reaching out to him. Some in the crowd are wearing grisly skull-like facepaint. I’m assuming that they are supposed to be protestors of some sort. Keep in mind, Superman is at least partially responsible for turning Metropolis into a crater in “Man of Steel.”
  • There’s a Superman statue in a park with a presumably rebuilt Metropolis behind it. Behind the statue are marble slabs inscribed with the names of the deceased from all that collateral damage in the last movie. The statue has been defaced with graffiti stating “False God.” Okay, I can see where this is going.
  • Jeremy Irons’ Alfred is seen but not heard and we get our first close-up of Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne, looking sufficiently brooding. Note the gray in his hair and stubble.
  • It’s far from my favorite Batsuit, but damn, it’s a hellava lot better than the black rubber suits of the previous movies. Also, what the hell is Batman holding at 1:22?
  • If that’s the Batplane and the Batmobile, then I like it. And holy crap, Affleck fills out that suit pretty damn well. Consider me on board Team Batfleck.
  • Bats and Supes, at night, in the rain, in a forsaken alleyway. Batman is wearing some crazy armor and is looking to throw down. All of this should be instantly familiar to anyone who has ever read this bestselling trade.
  • “Tell me: do you bleed? You will.” Well, this looks like a barrel of laughs…

Fantastic Four

It appears someone at 20th Century Fox once again realized that they also have a summer tent-pole blockbuster on the horizon, because nothing else can explain this thing (pun intended) popping up at the close of the weekend to compete for our attention. Pretty much everything I’ve seen and heard of the new “FF” paints the portrait of an unmitigated disaster, so it is out of dutiful obligation that I analyze this to find something – anything – substantial to say. Here it goes:

  • Reg E. Cathey’s very serious sounding Dr. Franklin Storm introduces us to Reed Richards, played by the baby-faced Miles teller. No surprise there, since this film will pull from the Ultimate Universe version of the FF, who are teenage science prodigies.
  • There’s the Baxter Building, which is very helpfully labeled “Baxter.”
  • We see the rest of the gang: Kate Mara’s snarky Sue Storm (Invisible Woman), Michael B. Jordan’s cocky Johnny Storm (Human Torch) and Jaime Bell’s jockish Ben Grimm (The Thing). I’m already bored to tears by all of them.
  • In a different movie, that machine, those suits and all of this talk of interdimensional travel might interest me.
  • So they went to Mordor…
  • The machine blows up and we see the four in medical care, starting to exhibit their powers. Bell’s Thing looks positively Hulkish, and spends the whole trailer sans trunks.
  • There’s our first look at that dreadful looking Dr. Doom.
  • Good God, watching this again was a chore…