Sunday, December 12, 2010

Trailer Review: Get Ready To Be Bludgeoned By Real Steel!

By Scott Tre

Having grossed over 1.5 billion dollars worldwide with only two entries, it was quite obvious that the Transformers films would eventually birth a number of like minded properties.  The ultimate question remained what would those properties be, exactly?  It appeared with the advent of toy line/cartoon adaptations such as Alvin & The Chipmunks, G.I. Joe and the Smurfs that we already had our answer.  Amazingly, the Cybertronian wars would as dramatized by Michael Bay and company would also foster a demand for more robot themed properties.  With the upcoming Real Steel, it seems that the Transformers tree has born some strange fruit indeed.

Real Steel is a big screen adaptation of Richard Matheson’s short story Steel, which had previously been adapted for television as an episode of The Twilight Zone.  It’s also, in many ways, an unofficial big screen version of the game Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots.  The story centers around washed up prize fighter Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman), who gets a second shot at the title via as unexpected technological development.  Giant robots have supplanted human beings in the boxing ring, thus taking over the sport.  Charlie begins to promote minor league bouts between robots.  When he falls on hard times, he teams up with his son Max in hopes of building and training a mechanical pugilist that will one day become a champion.

Real Steel is directed by Shawn Levy and produced by Steven Spielberg & Robert Zemeckis.  It’s become quite clear at this point that Spielberg has a robot fetish, and god bless him for it.  Though his own films have taken a darker turn as of late, he still hasn’t completely lost the childlike spirit that made him a household name.  Levy has absolutely nothing on his resume that will excite fandom.  The concept is the star here, more so than whoever is onscreen or in the director’s chair.  This is basically a Rocky sequel done with visuals from the two Transformer films.  The fact that robots will be beating the crap out of each other ensures there will be no bloody violence, leaving parents free to take the little ones.

This is an easy sell for fans of action and high concept sci-fi.  The trailer wisely presents the film to be exactly what it is: a kid’s movie for adults.  The camera work is straight out of a number of tournament style martial arts and boxing films, right down to the seedy settings.  Despite the inherent silliness of the concept, the film seems to be playing it straight faced.  The FX are reminiscent of Transformers, though the boxing motif might result in more coherent action scenes.  The story will undoubtedly be both familiar and light weight.  In short, this looks like fun so long as it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Something tells me that many will end up preferring it to the third Transformers film.  Either way, count me sold.

TV Review: Misfits Season Two Episode Five

By Scott Tre

In Episode 5, things get wilder for the ASBO Five.  After walking in on a charity worker named Jessica during a private moment, Nathan has one of his infinite lives taken away.  While he and Alisha  investigate who exactly is responsible, Simon and Jessica begin a courtship and find that they have much in common.  Kelly helps and befriends a scruffy yet seemingly gentle outlaw named Bruno.  Bruno has also been affected by the mysterious storm that birthed the ASBO Five, but in a much more bizarre way.  Curtis and Nikki begin to compulsively consummate their relationship.  That night, at a costume party being held at the community center, everything comes to a proverbial head in some decidedly unexpected ways.

The main theme of Episode 5, from what I can tell, seems to be sex.  The Misfits has always had a strong sexual component (much of it by way of Alisha’s undeniably magnetic aura and Nathan’s juvenility), but the sexcapades on this episode are more explicit and frequent than any episode yet.  This is interesting when contrasted with the American take on superheroes, which hardly allows for any sexuality save for standard romance subplots.  

Nikki & Curtis

American superheroes are often celibate, some even asexual.  Batman and Spider-man, as they are portrayed in the movies, never ever get to close the deal onscreen.  They chase after the women of their dreams and never get the ultimate prize.  As many emotional/psychological issues as those characters have, it would be nice to see them let of a bit of sexual tension. 

Alas, American audiences are too prudish for such things.  Thankfully, Misfits is a British production.  Its creators understand that sexuality has to be a integral element in a series that has such attractive core characters.  Any heterosexual male who says they aren’t hoping for a peek at what Alisha, Kelly, and Jessica are working with is either lying or delusional.

A more intimate side of sexuality is also explored.  Kelly learns in a very unexpected way that Homosapiens aren’t the only ones that crave love and affection.  Nor are they the only ones that struggle to suppress their more primal instincts.  Just as the ASBO Five themselves struggle to hide their superhuman abilities to the world at large, normal people harbor all sorts of weird secrets and desires that they dare not share or indulge.  We all struggle with our true natures, no matter where we may fit in on the evolutionary food chain.   

Jealousy, in more than one form, is also explored.  As she patiently waits for Simon to blossom into the armored parkour expert of her dreams, Alisha must contend with the fact that she will not be the one to “deflower” him.  The considerable bedroom skills he displayed in episode 3 will come by way of other lucky girls.  Then there is the blind, raging jealousy of a father who guards his daughter's virtue like a crazed sentry.  His love for his child borders on incestuous. 

From a plot standpoint this episode is all over the place, but in a good and entertaining way.  Things that would sound silly and preposterous on the page play out in a way that makes them seem not only compelling but plausible (relatively speaking).   Slowly but surely, we get to see the ASBO Five take a more active role in their own destinies, and steeling themselves to the disappointments and dilemmas they are confronted with.  By the last half of the first season, Alisha’s predicament made her seem damaged and fragile.  At this point she seems a bit tougher and more capable of protecting herself, as does Simon.

My fear that Misfits might take a turn toward something more routine and expected has subsided a bit with this episode.  I don’t know where things are going or what to expect from this series.  There seems to be little that it isn’t willing to do with these characters.  It ventures effortlessly into tragic and knowingly absurd territory, all the while displaying a deft self assuredness about itself.  The show is confident that it is going about its business the right way, and as a result so is the audience.  What will the ASBO Five be when they reach journey’s end?  Will they have costumes?  Only the writers of Misfits know for sure.