Friday, July 29, 2011

Wonder Woman Pilot Review

Yay! I finally got to see the Wonder Woman pilot! Thanks to my friend Tee and
I'm actually going to be jumping all over in my review, so if you don't want to be spoiled, you should probably watch the video first (click on the link above). Don't lolly-gag, though, I don't imagine it's going to remain up for very long.
So let's start with the good. Adrianne Palicki does just fine in the role. I was unfamiliar with her acting prior to this, but I had two concerns with her appearance, that she looked too young and that she was reportedly very petite. She carries the role just fine and they did the typical trickery to make her appear taller than most of the male actors in the pilot. Her acting was just fine as was that of most of the principle cast. There are a few duds in there, but that was generally the incidental roles.
I, like most people, felt that giving her three identities would be convoluted. However, actually watching the show, she really doesn't have three identities. Diana Themyscira and Wonder Woman are one and the same. Her demeanor is the same whether in her super suit or in a business suit. Everyone knows her real name is Diana Themyscira. "Wonder Woman" is just an alias or a title. Diana Prince is the separate identity, so it's really no more convoluted than the average hero... in fact, it's pretty much exactly how she was depicted in the real comics, before J Michael Straczynski revamped it. She didn't use the surname "Themyscira" but everyone knew she was Princess Diana from Themyscira and used the code name Wonder Woman, but they were the same person. She adopted the Diana Prince identity in the comics to get closer to humanity, which is basically the same motivation as it is here, just gone about in a different way.
And as for that, I read an interview with David E. Kelley and that was the nugget of his take on this character, what made him want to do the project to begin with, to address the isolation and loneliness she must feel. I have to admit, it's not a bad idea. (Like I said, I'm gonna jump all over the place here.) The last scene shows Diana Prince in her apartment, attempting to start a Facebook page, but when she has to list her friends, the only name she can put down belongs to her cat, Sylvester. This cuts to her sitting on the couch watching two anchor people gush about how great Wonder Woman is, with the female anchor wishing she could spend one day as her. The scene is well-shot and captures what Kelley wanted to convey and would have been an interesting take on the character. She does NOT as everyone was fearing, come across as neurotic, like Kelley's other creation Allie McBeal. Also thankfully missing were the rom com moments from the script of her having a sleep over, where she and her gal pals dance to "Single Ladies," and a workout scene set to "Bad Romance."
The Steve Trevor subplot WAS soapy and felt tacked on and like a lot of other things, at once overly complicated and unnecessary. As Diana Prince, she flips on the TV and what's playing but The (Fucking) Notebook, which causes Diana to flash back to her breaking up with Steve in order to move to LA and launch her Wonder Woman career. There's another soapy Steve flashback later on and then he pops up at the end, except wah waaaaah, now he's married! He's also working for the State Department, investigating Wonder Woman and her methods and has been transferred to LA. All of this could have been left out. Or at least postponed to a later episode. I know folks like romance on their TV dramas, but this one was poorly executed and seemed to weaken the Diana character. It just wasn't very well-done!
Carey Elwes as Henry Johns and Tracie Thoms as Etta Candy are just fine. In the original pitch, Elwes' character was supposed to be hopelessly in love with Diana, but there's no evidence of that here. Thoms is actually really good and it's too bad she isn't given more to do.
Let's talk about that costume. It actually films better than it photographs. I was particularly impressed with the gold metallic parts which DO in fact look like metal onscreen, even in low-rez pirated definition, versus looking like cheap, dull plastic in pictures. The bodice is still too shiny and plastic looking, though, although maybe I'm just used to seeing it, because while I didn't LIKE it, it didn't distract me. I got over it, fairly quickly.
And the trunks she wears in the last part of the pilot are made out of the same shiny material as the first revealed long pants that were scrapped. The shiny plastic-y pants accidentally pop up, after the first scene, where she is wearing the darker fabric pants, when she returns to her base, she is briefly shown wearing the original, much-hated shiny pants. This was an oopsie, and I guess if they'd actually aired this, they'd have digitally corrected it.
And about that... in one scene Diana complains that Veronica Cale calls her an "action figure" on TV, to which Etta replies, "You are an action figure. You deigned your costume specifically to look like one." But then in a later scene Diana complains in a board meeting about her skimpy costume and how big her doll's breasts are. It's a DREADFUL scene. If Diana designed the costume, why is she bitching about it now? At one point, Henry points to an illustration that bears a strong resemblance to this HORRIBLE real Ame Comi statue DC Direct produced:...and claims that Diana approved the prototype, to which she replies that she didn't and they never settle on the truth.
There's also an illustration that shows her wearing the silver DCnU choker so you know that ugly look has been in the works for a while now. In the meeting, there are a number of different Wonder Woman toys and illustrations shown, most of which are wearing unique costumes, leading me to think she would probably switched up her look often, had the show gotten picked up. But I hope she never would have worn that FUG Ame Comi look. Yuck!
Anyway, moving on, Elizabeth Hurley is "soap opera bitch" campy as Veronica Cale, the pharmaceutical villain... which I was okay with. I can see where it might not appeal to everyone, but I was okay with it. Honestly, my biggest complaint about her is that she only wore one dress in the entire movie!
Every scene, she wore the same dress! No one thought that was strange? In a real head-scratcher of a scene, Wonder Woman calls a press conference and accuses Veronica Cale of selling illegal super steroids and flat out says "I have no proof." You can't do that! It's a stupid scene that makes no sense, but sadly, there are a few more of those to come.
After running down one of Cale's henchmen in the first action sequence, Wonder Woman remarks that he was "like a cheetah." Oh come on! That couldn't have just been a cheap throw away line! That was a direct reference to Wonder Woman's arch foe The Cheetah! WHY didn't they just USE The Cheetah! Too often on super hero shows and even some movies, you have these super powered beings duking it out with non-powered executives and so forth. BOR-ING! It wouldn't even have to have been the Barbera Minerva were-cheetah version.
The Priscilla Rich or Deborah Domaine versions would have worked. Instead she faces off against a pack of generic, roided-up muscle men in off-the-rack Under Armor.
Speaking of, nearly every other review of this pilot points out two disturbing scenes. In one, Wonder Woman PLAINLY places her magic lasso on the chest of the bad guy she chased down in the first scene, but rather than USE IT to get info out of him, she apparently breaks his arm/tortures him to get it. In the big final battle, she flat out kills two of Cale's guards. This is in addition to the somewhat confusing fact that she is an actual vigilante, using illegal methods to capture her foes, which the other characters repeatedly point out, but apparently "illegal search and seizure" aside, if they find out that Wonder Woman was right, THAT holds up in a court of law?! Why even point out that her methods are illegal?! Why not just just do what they did with Batman in the 50s and make her an unofficial deputy. Give her carte blanche. Otherwise, that kinda just makes HER a criminal, which may work in reference to someone like Batman who lurks in the shadows and maintains a SECRET identity, but would NEVER work for a public figure with a big skyscraper base of operations, with a whole corporation in place producing licensed merchandise to fund her crime fighting endeavors! Once again, illogical and overly-complicated.The action sequences were decent. In the first, she does a lot of leaping, calling to mind Lynda Carter's depiction, wherein Wonder Woman couldn't fly. Some have complained that she uses the Magic Lasso more as a bullwhip, rather than twirling it over her head like a traditional lasso. I didn't have a huge problem with that, though. The cut I saw was unfinished, so you could see a lot of the ropes and wires during the big fight scenes, but interestingly, the lasso effects were all complete. She also has one bullets & bracelets scene in the final conflict, which was nice.
Here's where the flaws really bog things down. In Captain America, there were some gaps in logic or things that didn't quite make sense, but overall, Captain America had heart and was an excellently put-together story, so you could overlook a few flaws. With Wonder Woman, it's the opposite. There are just TOO many things that don't make sense, and really nothing GREAT to counter that. The "positives" are just "acceptable" or "okay" or "better than I thought they would be."
However, I would have kept watching the show, had it been picked up. It had potential and I think that after hearing criticism, the producers, writers, etc. could have taken the show in a better direction. It wasn't un-salvageable. And I must say, it actually felt less cheesy than Smallville. At least her "world" looked real, not like fake-ass sound stages. Unfortunately, potential or not, the pilot was a C- at best.
But, y'know, glad I got to see it!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

SDCC Toy News

Mattel had some surprising and not-so-surprising news at ComiCon this past weekend. Both of its major DC Comics lines are ending! With Justice League Unlimited, it's been a forgone conclusion for a while. The cartoon series that inspired it has been off the air for YEARS. The line struggled at retail. The last few announced waves were canceled! Mattel has graced fans with a Final Seven boxed set that will be offered through their website which will provide the final seven characters that were depicted on the cartoon but that had yet to be produced as action figures. And they seem to have done a nice job with them. We get Gypsy the last member of the Detroit League and from the Golden Age, Dr. Mid-Nite, Johnny Thunder and his Thunder Bolt, niftily rendered in clear pink plastic and the Crimson Avenger, plus The Creeper and in a surprising move (somewhat) Teen Titan Speedy who guest starred in the episode paying tribute to the Seven Soldiers of Victory. I don't consider Speedy a Justice Leaguer, but I know a lot of fans wanted him because he did pop up in that one episode, so it's nice that he's there. IF this set sells well, Mattel says they will try to offer the other sets that got pulled from retail release, which helps further fill-out the Legion of Doom.
JLU's demise was already in the cards, but the real shock was Mattel's announcement that DC Universe Classics would be ending with Wave 20, which they revealed at ComiCon. It's a Blackest Night-themed wave with a Nekron C+C, Sinestro, Hawk & Dove, Green Lantern in his Smallville inspired costume, Red Arrow and Reverse Flash. I mainly want Hawk & Dove. They also unveiled a Crime Syndicate of Amerika boxed set, which looks super sweet and is a must-have!
Here's what went down. Earlier in the week, news leaked that Mattel would launch an on-line subscription service and offer 12 exclusive figures that would only be offered online, but ONLY if enough people subscribed. Fans went BATSHIT! First of all, no one had any idea which characters were going to be offered. I CORRECTLY guessed that it would be a way for them to fill out more obscure teams that they'd begun like The Metal Men and Doom Patrol and offer more off-beat characters that would struggle at retail. The Metal Men and Doom Patrol characters that HAVE been released at retail haven't done well.

What no one suspected was that the retail line was being canceled all together and that this would be the ONLY way for DCUC to continue. The only figures they've revealed are Jay Garrick the original Flash, Starman from the Legion of Super Heroes/Justice Society and Atrocitus the leader of the Red Lanterns. They are offering one figure that will only be sold to subscribers and allowing fans to vote for who it is, Shaggy Man, Rocket Red, Black Lantern Swamp Thing or Metron and his giant chair. I can't imagine anyone but Metron winning.

They haven't confirmed it, but what is likely to happen, is that DCUC will be replaced at retail with a line that reflects DC's big upcoming revamp. Booooooooooo! FUCKING BOOOOOOOOOO!
So, I signed up for the subscription. Starman doesn't do much for me and I absolutely don't want Atrocitus, but I want Jay Garrick and a bunch of additional characters so I'm hoping things work out and the line is able to continue in this capacity.

The thing is, though, even though I want additional characters like Vixen, this toy line gave me a pretty much complete classic Justice League PLUS the Wonder Twins, the ethnic Super Friends AND characters plumb made up for the Super Powers toy line, not to mention a bunch of characters that were planned for the SP line but un-produced. I mean, I can't be mad or even sad about it possibly ending, because right there, I pretty much already have the awesomest toy line ever!
Marvel unveiled a slew of new figures, many of which I want, many of which I don't. It's a bit refreshing after all the DC dramz. With Marvel, you can cherry pick and choose who you do and don't want. they don't have C+C pieces so you feel like you have to buy all of an assortment. Just buy what you want. And they showcased a TON that I want, like classic Luke Cage (Power Man) and Iron Fist above, Scarlet Witch, She-Hulk, Dr. Strange, The Falcon, Wonder Man, Quicksilver... just a bunch that I consider essential additions to my collection.
Masters of the Universe Classics now has the rights to produce the Filmation characters/version of characters and the biggest announcement was the much clamored-for Shadow Weaver... but alas, she is the Masters subscription exclusive, meaning you have to sign up to buy EVERY Masters figure this upcoming year to get her. FUCK that! I'll just pay whatever I have to on eBay. I hope it's not more than $100!
Swift Wind, She-Ra's winged unicorn, is rendered in his eye-catching cartoon colors. (The toy version was originally all pink.)
The Sorceress is sporting her falcon-inspired cartoon look.
For me, a bigger shock than Shadow Weaver were the Star Sisters! All three Starla (above)...
Tall Star...and Jewel Star are being released TOGETHER in a boxed set along with their falcon, Glory Bird:
I have always hoped that they would produced these figures that went UN-produced in the original toy line, but I'm stunned they came so soon, before such stalwarts as Glimmer and Angella and Frosta! But the fact that you can get them all at once and not slowly over time just makes me swoon! I'm just THRILLED! I can't wait!

I've also bitten the bullet and bought a few Masters figures I didn't get the first time around. Well, I DID by He-Man, but I just re-bought him. It's the re-issue version that does NOT look like he's wearing rouge. I also got Skeletor, Battle Cat and Hordak. And I just ordered Orko and Prince Adam. I'm a sucka. But that's kinda my cut off with Masters. If they reissue Man-At-Arms, I'll get him too. But that's all. I don't want all the others, which is why the subscription thing doesn't appeal to me. Even bigger name characters like Fisto and Kobra Khan who were announced don't appeal to me. (I will be getting The Sorceress, though and the new Battlefield Evil Lyn, colored in her cartoon color scheme with white skin and a purple, blue and black costume.)

Yep, it's gonna be an interesting year!

Captain America: The First Avenger (Plus the Other Avengers)!

First of all, Captain America was GREAT! Marvel is just killing it! I was actually not very impressed with Iron Man the first time I saw it, but I've rewatched it a couple of times and I've come around. RDJ just does an excellent job with the role. I'm still rather apathetic about the big battle sequence in it, though, but overall, it's pretty good. I completely enjoyed Thor, but I think I liked Captain America even more! I'm already a sucker for things set in the 1940s. Chris Evans does an EXCELLENT job embodying Steve Rogers' altruism, patriotism and just overall all-consuming passion for justice. You really believe him!
The special effect of making him scrawny in the beginning is just mind-blowing!
I must admit, there are gaps in logic and points where I was like "That doesn't make any sense" but I was willing to let it go, because overall, I just enjoyed the movie that much. (I think Thor was the same way.) Even moreso than Thor or Iron Man, you got the sense of tying the entire Avengers universe together. Howard Stark, Tony's... dad? Grandfather? Grandfather would probably make more sense, but I think it's his dad. But anyway, Howard Stark plays a supporting role in the movie and there's a cameo appearance of the original robot Human Torch in a scene at the beginning.
I liked that Bucky was reinterpreted from being a kid sidekick into Cap's best friend. In fact, in the beginning, Steve is more Bucky's sidekick. Also, SPOILERS, Bucky's death is reworked to give it more drama and I think it works much better than the last-minute comic book death.
I wasn't expecting the movie to involve Cap's awakening in the present (taken heavily from The Ultimates) nor the previews of The Avengers movie. THAT is going to be awesome!

It just worked. I think Marvel has tapped into the fact that for the most part, people want their super hero movies fun. They don't want the psychoses and neurotics of 80s comics. They want popcorn and that's what Marvel delivers.
At ComiCon, Marvel gave out four posters to fans featuring the characters as they will appear in the upcoming movie. Cap's costume has been simplified a bit from his movie costume. (My source.)
The utility straps are gone. I actually liked the fact that the stripes on his torso were redone that way. It was a fun nod, but made it seem more useful. The brown elements are converted to blue and red. I liked the brown actually, but this is more faithful to the comics. Overall, the new suit is more bright and comic book-y, so I can't argue with that. Some people don't like the painted on wings on the cowl, but I do. They're faithful to the original design, but not silly. Also, they're hardly even that noticeable.
Iron Man just looks like Iron Man. I couldn't tell you what, if any changes had been made.
Hawkeye's costume is basically his suit from The Ultimates. It's kinda funny that with Cap and Thor, they sort of made their suits LESS realistic and more cartoony and bright, but with Hawkeye, he looks more utilitarian. I can't quite make out what COLORS are used, but they are muted and dark. I wish they'd worked in some purple in homage to the regular comic book costume. I mean, they can skip the loincloth and buccaneer boots, but a matching color scheme would be nice. I'm completely alright with them not covering up Jeremy Renner's adorable face, though.
Black Widow's costume is fine. That's really all I got.
They didn't do a Thor poster, which is odd, since I think my right hand more people would have wanted that than a Black Widow or Hawkeye poster. But anyway, in Thor's movie, his costume was very much like a suit of armor and looked heavily based on the costume he wears now in the comics.
In the Avengers preview clip though, he has a short sleeve shirt, seemingly more closely based on his original classic look. I mean, why does an indestructible Thunder God need armored sleeves? Show off them guns, baby! (No cape, though... now that I think about it, I think Ultimate Thor has no sleeves and no cape, so maybe that's the real inspiration.)
Exciting! I really can't wait to see this movie! Joss Whedon, heed the wise advice of scholar RuPaul: "Don't fuck it up!"

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Throwback Thursday - Outrageous October!

October 11 is going to be the most OUTRAGEOUS day ever, when Shout! Factory releases Jem and the Holograms: The Truly Outrageous Complete Series on DVD! Years ago, Rhino had the rights and issued Seasons 1 & 2 (in one set) and 3 Part 1, but never FINISHED the series before they lost the rights. Among the unreleased episodes was the fan-beloved "Out of the Past" that for the first time revealed the secret origins of the band, revealing secrets about Jerrica and Kimber's parents and that Aja and Shana had been the first Starlight Girls, effectively making them Jerrica and Kimber's adopted sisters! (Oh... maybe I should have spoiler alerted that.)
Not only that, but the fourth season, introducing new characters The Stingers, Astral and Regine, which marked a noticeable leap forward in drama and character development was also unreleased. NOW, finally, fans can enjoy the Truly Outrageous world of Jem in all its glory!
Am I crazy for thinking I'm not only going to buy the complete series, but the individual season releases too? Nah! Nothing's crazy when it comes to Jem! Also, I LOVE Shout! Factory for releasing the complete series up front rather than doling the seasons out bit by bit. They did it with GI Joe too, which I have. (The Movie was a separate release.) That way, die hards like myself can get our fix all at once, but casual fans and buyers can pick up more affordable alternatives over time. YES!