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Monday, February 27, 2017

Blankman v. Meteor Man: Clash of the Black Superhero Parodies Part 2

To anyone out there, 'sup. Here is part 2 of the clash of these movies.

Arsenal/Gadgets/Powers
Next up is whose arsenal was cooler. I’m talking about the powers, the gadgets, and overall look of the heroes. All Meteor Man had was his powers and his costume which was fine. He had the usual superpowers like strength, speed, flight, and x-ray vision. He could also talk to dogs, he had the super green thumb, and he had telekinetic powers. As for Blankman, he created a lot of gadgets to use. He also created a chemical that could make his clothes and costume bulletproof. He even had a hideaway in an abandoned subway. Then, there was J-5, his trusty robot/washing machine. That thing went out with a bang!
When it comes to who had the better arsenal, I’m going for a tie on this one. It’s my list, after all. Most of Blankman’s gadgets were kind of cool. Those automatic nunchukus were kind of cool. Plus, the “Blank Station” looked pretty swanky especially with that motorcycle. As for Jeff, He had the powers of Superman as well as a couple of weird, Silver-Age ones.  I also liked his costume a little better too. Hey, there’s a lot of good to like with both, so it’s a tie for this section.

The Meteor Man – 3
Blankman – 2


Comedy
Next up is one of the most important things a comedy movie must have: good comedy. Do these movies make me laugh or make me cringe? They both go for low-brow humor though Blankman goes for it more. Robert Townsend, the director and star of The Meteor Man, is (or was, is he directing anymore?) known for getting funny moments into his movies. One of my favorite movies from him is actually The Five Heartbeats, a good drama with some pretty funny moments sprinkled in. Also look for a few comedians in different roles like Sinbad and Bill Cosby.  With Blankman, we had two veterans from In Living Color (Damon Wayans and David Alan Grier), Jason Alexander, and other bringing the laughs.

Both movies have their amounts of laugh-out loud moments. Blankman’s is much more over-the-top. The movie is like an overlong spoof from In Living Color at times. All we needed was a couple more Wayans brothers and Jim Carrey to show up! The comedy with The Meteor Man wasn’t as over-the-top. I’m saying that even though the hero can do some pretty wacky stuff with his powers. A lot of the comedy comes from his use of his powers. You’d also get other characters bring the laughs like Jeff’s parents, Sinbad, and Bill Cosby who was playing a vagrant with no lines. Cosby probably wishes he was that vagrant now since… eh, never mind.
I don't know how folk would react to a scene like this today. It's still freakin' hilarious though.

When it comes which comedy I liked better, I got to go with The Meteor Man on this one. A lot of the folk cracked me up in it especially James Earl Jones. Plus, seeing Jeff get into trouble with his powers was pretty funny. You had a couple of places where the comedy didn’t hit but it was only a couple. As for Blankman, there were funny moments. Unfortunately, there were a few places where the humor didn’t work for me.

The Meteor Man – 4
Blankman – 2


Story/Overall film
Finally, it’s time to see how all of those different elements played into the overall story and film. Both films have their pros. They both try to set out to do something interesting. Blankman doesn’t do as much as Meteor Man but it tries to be the ultimate spoof film. I can say that it try to do the best in spoofing its inspiration, the 1960's Batman show. The Meteor Man does that but it also tries to do more. It tries to get a message across about taking a stand for yourself and we see that in Jeff’s character throughout the movie.  Most comic book stories try to teach a moral and Townsend tried to follow suit with that.

Unfortunately, these movies have problems. There’s a reason critics didn’t rate them well and I can’t blame them either.

  • The Meteor Man starts out well and sets up certain things well. It does start to get pretty spotty in the middle and towards the end. It kind of felt like the movie was in fast-forward most of the time. I heard that there were a couple of scenes left out of the movie. It also felt like there was too much going on in those 100 minutes especially in the middle part. The ending was also a bit of a weird one for me. It was like they ran out of room for a proper ending.
  • Blankman also starts out well but it does get a little spotty in places. It is helped by telling a simpler story but there are times where it can be a bit of a chore to watch. As I said before, there are times where Blankman himself can be a little too much to take. Hey, at least Darryl gets to make out with Robin Givens at the end. It’s unfortunate he had to spaz out or whatever was going on with that. Get a room, man!

Overall, I’m going with The Meteor Man on this one. I just felt that the movie was trying to do more than just spoof Superman. The movie had a message to tell and while it wasn’t all that good, I think the message was clear. At the end of the day, Blankman is just a spoof film that at least has an really inept guy try to do right. If had been just a little better, this battle might have ended differently.

The Meteor Man – 5
Blankman – 2

.......................................

At the end of the day, it’s The Meteor Man that gets the ultimate win for me. That doesn’t mean that I don’t like Blankman. For what it is, Blankman is fine. I just think The Meteor Man just worked better for me. Heck, both movies showed a somewhat original black superhero, so they should be remembered for that even if they aren’t good. At least we are getting better superhero properties these days especially ones involving black superheroes. I’m not one who just looks for race when concerning superheroes but it is cool seeing one of us be the hero. It’s even better when it’s a well-written character. Well, I’m outta here. Peace, God Bless, pick up the pieces, and play that funky music!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Blankman v. Meteor Man: Clash of the Black Superhero Parodies Part 1

When it comes to black superheroes in live-action, it’s been a mixed bag. I still haven’t seen 2003’s Catwoman and I won't go through that torture. Recently, it’s been going well with Marvel Studios doing good things and DC (movie and TV divisions) putting different superheroes and characters out there. Before the 2000’s, it wasn’t looking too good. Yeah, there was Blade but other than that, we had Steel and Spawn. Y’all already know what I think of Steel. Where these two movies end on that wagon is a matter for debate. Today, it’ll be 1993’s The Meteor Man vs. 1994’s Blankman.

It’s been a while since I’ve done a face-off between two things. The last time I tried this was between the two live-action Hulk movies. These two movies are at least on similar footing quality-wise and theme-wise. They’re both parodies of the superhero genre. The Meteor Man parodies Superman as well Spider-Man while Blankman is pretty much a parody of the 1960’s Batman show. Not only do they feature black superheroes, they also came out around the same era. For a while, I wondered which of these movies were better and I found them over time. Since it’s Black History Month, I’m going to see what the better movie was.

First, here’s a general overview of the movies:
  • In The Meteor Man, Robert Townsend plays as Jefferson Reed (I almost want to call him Jefferson Pierce), a mild-mannered teacher from Washington D.C. He stays in a neighborhood which is being terrorized by a gang called the Golden Lords. One night, Jeff is hit by a green meteor and is given super powers. He has the usual stuff like super strength and x-ray vision. He can also talk to his dog and can retain the knowledge of any book for 30 seconds by touching it. When the Golden Lords go too far, Jeff becomes Meteor Man and heads out to stop crime in the neighborhood and city. Things get worrisome when the Golden Lords find out his identity and he begins to lose his powers.
  • In Blankman, Damon Wayans plays as Darryl Walker, an overly nerdy repairman who lives in a city (probably Detroit) which is undergoing a cop strike. When his grandmother is killed by robbers sent by the film’s villain, he sets out to be come a superhero like Batman. Through the use of different gadgets, his bulletproof suit (not the face), and his trusty robot/washing machine, he becomes Blankman. He even gets his more rational brother, Kevin, roped into the whole thing. He even gets a pretty fine reporter chasing after him.


The Hero
First off, it’s our main protagonists. I already went through their backstories above. Both guys are pretty much the downtrodden guy though Darryl is much more over-the-top. They both come from bad neighborhoods and try their best to put things right as superheroes. They also have valid reasons for doing what they do. With Darryl, it’s the death of his grandmother. For Jeff, it’s the constant terror his family and friends get put through by the Golden Lords. They also have to overcome obstacles with the crime-fighting and it comes from mostly everywhere even those close to them.

I do like both characters and the actors do fine in the roles.  I do think Damon Wayans goes over-the-top at times but it is a spoof, after all. I think he read “The Abridged Book of Nerdness” or something for his portrayal. Townsend’s character is much more straight-laced but he has times where he does get silly. He also actually has a bit of an arc in the movie. His powers and stature cause him to build a backbone and stand up for himself. As for their costumes, they’re alright. I’d have to give it to Meteor Man’s costume though. Blankman’s costume is a little too much for me and yes, I know I’m not supposed to take it seriously.

At the end of the day, it’s kind of tough to choose who the better character is. Darryl is incredibly smart and brave but he is kind of annoying at times and a bit dim-witted for my tastes. Jeff is good as the hero but sometimes on the bland side. In the end, I’m going with Jeff on this one. Not only was he not annoying at times, he also had a nice character arc. Darryl had his nice moments but his weirdness could be a bit of a turn off.

The Meteor Man – 1
Blankman – 0


The Villains
Next up is the villains. On Meteor Man’s side, there are the Golden Lords led by Simon (Roy Fegan). They aren’t the only villains of the movie though. The Golden Lords answer to an organization of criminals led by a boss played by Frank Gorshin. On Blankman’s side, there’s Mafia boss Mike Minelli (Joe Polatio). The Golden Lords and Minelli put some terror into their respective heroes’ cities though it’s actually Minelli who take s a more lethal approach. Of course, they all get taken down in embarrassing ways toward the end. They are villains in a parody after all.

Both sets of villains are pretty cheesy. Just take one look at the Golden Lords and you’ll see what I mean. Just look out for a younger Don Cheadle in the role of Goldilocks (yeah, that’s his name). Simon even gains powers toward the end from a spare meteor rock but his battle with Jeff is more funny than epic. The organization led by the Riddler is not really a factor until the end and even then, they’re just there. Minelli seemed a bit more straight-laced in Blankman but he still feels like he came out of Golden Age comic book. He even had a big painting of himself at his hideout.

As for which villains are better, I’m a little stuck. They’re not particularly great villains but they bring the laughs and they also do villainous deeds. I did think it was strange that the Golden Lords never killed anyone in the movie. There’s really no reason given on why that is. On the other hand, Minelli and his guys bring up the death count. Not only does Darryl’s grandmother get killed, the city’s mayor gets blown up in a bank! I have to say that’s some legitimate street cred! Overall, I’m going with Minelli on this one. The Golden Lords were funny but felt a little tame for their movie.

The Meteor Man – 1
Blankman – 1


Side Characters
Then we get to the side characters:
  • Blankman has Kevin Walker (Darryl’s brother) who is a cameraman at the station where Kimberly Jonz (Robin Givens) works at.  He's also Other Guy, Blankman's more competent sidekick. As for Kimberly, she’s pretty much the Lois Lane of the story. We get Kevin’s boss, Larry Stone, who’s played by Jason Alexander. Then, we have Darryl’s grandmother played by Lynne Thigpen and the city’s mayor.
  •  The Meteor Man has quite a few. We got Jeff’s friend and confidant, Michael (Eddie Griffin). We have Jeff’s parents played by Marla Gibbs and Robert Guillaume. Then, there’s Jeff neighbors. The ones who we really get to know anything about is Mr. Moses (James Earl Jones!!!) and his landlord, Mrs. Walker. Then, you have smaller roles for folk like Sinbad, Bill Cosby, and rap groups Naughty by Nature and Cypress Hill. Luther Vandross even makes an appearance. Also, let’s not forget Ellington, Jeff’s talking dog.

On Blankman’s side, we have Kevin who is pretty much the rational one in the family. He’s also the butt-kicker since Darryl’s read-through of “The Abridged Book of Ninja-Fighting” never took form. As I said before, Kimberly’s the Lois Lane (or Vicki Vale) of the story. She sets out to get the scoop on Blankman and falls for him. Jason Alexander’s character is really only there for the laughs. I didn’t know men in wheelchairs could generate many laughs back then.

As for Meteor Man’s side characters, they also have plenty to do. Michael is pretty much the guy who figures out how Jeff’s powers work since he’s a school scientist. Just roll with it. He also tries to capitalize on the popularity of Meteor Man at one point. Jeff’s parents and neighbors are pretty much the ones who get Jeff in the suit. When he first uses his powers in public against the Golden Lords, they expect him to do some butt-kicking. His parents are also there to kind of guide him. His mother even creates the suit. Unlike Darryl, Jeff doesn’t have a love interest but there is an ex-girlfriend around who plays no role in the story. That’s were Sinbad’s character comes in to be a hoot.

At the end of the day, I thought both sets of side characters were fine. Some were better than others though. In this case, I’m giving this point to Meteor Man and not because it has a lot of cool black folk in it either. They helped make the movie a little better since Jeff was pretty much the straight man for the most part. They were funny, sometimes insightful, and added stuff to the story. That doesn’t mean I don’t like Blankman’s side characters. Kevin was cool, Kimberly was cool (and hot!), and I liked the grandmother even though she doesn’t get much time to be around. Still, Meteor Man gets this round.

The Meteor Man – 2
Blankman – 1


Well, I'm cutting it off here for now. Tomorrow, I'll finish this little battle.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Movie Talk - Mass Effect: Paragon Lost

“Is it warm here or is it just me?” I almost said to someone online. In either case, both would be true since Tennessee is getting a bit warmer. It’s not a “summer-warm” since it there are times winter creeps up. Here’s hoping I can enjoy my small vacation from work, Nashville, and anything else.

Today, I’ll be talking about Mass Effect: Paragon Lost which was released in 2012. I’m still on my Mass Effect fix, so watching this anime sort of hit the spot. I’ll get to why I said “sort of” later. This movie was produced by Bioware, Funimation, and T.O. Entertainment. It was made to tie right into the Mass Effect universe by focusing on James Vega, one of Commander Shepard’s companions from Mass Effect 3. Freddie Prinze Jr. reprised his role as James Vega from the game and he was apparently the only one to do so here.  Critically, the movie isn’t regarded too well but that didn’t stop me from checking it out.

SYNOPSIS
The movie starts out right after the destruction of the Normandy SR-1. Vega and his team is sent to the colony on Fehl Prime to help the colonists fight off a part of the Blood Pack. Vega and his squadmates struggle for a bit but are able to take down the gang. Afterwards, Admiral Hackett orders Vega and his team to stay at the colony and build up its defenses. Two years later, the Collectors come to the colony in order to take its people. Lives are lost and many explosions happen as Vega and what’s left of his team do the best they can to save Fehl Prime. Considering what “fehl” means in English, let’s just say it doesn’t turn out too great for James and his friends.

From left: Wolfwood from Trigun, "Random Female Woman, Guy Gardner, Billy the Blue Power Ranger, and "Bland McBighuge". Yeah, I said it!

 OPINION
So, what did think of this full-feature presentation? I have to say that I’m pretty torn on it. It’s not that good but it has its moments. I thought the voice acting was fine. Freddie Prinze Jr. does try to show a different side to Vega here than what we saw in the game. The other actors were fine but it was noticeable when characters form the games showed up with different voices. Admiral Hackett was the biggest one I noticed. Also, this thing can get violent. The games didn’t shy away from being for adults and the movie doesn’t either. Also, the story, while bland, had an interesting ending for those who may not have played the game yet.
Dang, these Collectors must have hit the gym or something...

I did like most of the animation here. The action was pretty cool especially toward the end. Some of the character designs were also good. Seeing the Mass Effect universe show up like this was a little jarring but I got used to it. I’m not a big fan of anime but I do like most anime properties. Plus, I like animation in general. The animators took some liberties with certain races like the Collectors and the krogan but that is artistic license, after all. I wasn’t bothered by those things. There were other things to be bothered with.

As for negatives, there are a few. The story was okay but really lacking. If you’re looking for an anime that is action-packed, this might hit your spot. If you’re looking for more than that, you’ll be  disappointed like I was. The story is pretty much akin  to things like the Alien franchise or the Predator franchise. In other words, “a lotta folk gonna die!” Unfortunately, it’s not well written.  It’s basically James Vega teamed up with Billy from Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, “Random Female Woman,” Guy Gardner, “Hot asari who isn’t Liara,” and Wolfwood from Trigun. That team would probably be cool if they weren’t stuck in this movie. For a movie that is supposed to help us know James better, it really fails at that since we rarely learn anything about him here. I think we learn more about him in the game than here.
"Oh, don't mind me, I'm a guy who kind of may be the reason the Collectors came here," Messner sarcastically says. Seriously, screw this guy!

Another thing that felt weird here was how James himself was portrayed. Even though he was voiced by the actor from the game, his character and personality felt off. I wonder if the writers for the game were heavily involved with the writing of this. I’m not sure if they were or not. James was far from my favorite companions but I did like him in Mass Effect 3. Here, he’s just “Bland McBigHuge.” The rest of the characters here also felt a little bland for the most part.  There were also times where the animation was a bit bland for my tastes.  I wasn’t a fan of the computer-generated stuff here either. It didn’t’ mesh well with the 2-D animation.
Wow... talk about artistic license.

Overall, this was far from a good video game tie-in. It talks about a story that we more or less know about and it doesn’t do anything interesting to with that story. The production team did what they could here but I saw why folk were disappointed with this. Whether you’re a Mass Effect fan or not, I don’t know if I can even recommend checking it out. If you are curious about it, go for it. Well, that might be the last ME post for a while but I might have one more in me. Y’all find out later since I have something else I working on. Until then, Peace, God Bless, and “Keelah Se’lai.” Yeah, I’m down with the quorians… or at least Tali.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Random Thoughts On… Mass Effect: Redemption and Mass Effect: Evolution

Wow, it’s been a minute since I’ve posted anything! Maybe I’ll let it last a month… or not.

While I’ve been on my sabbatical, I’ve been in a bit of a Mass Effect fix. Mass Effect: Andromeda is right around the corner, so a revisit was needed. Heck, since the beginning of year, Bioware has been my go-to developer for a bit.  I played through Mass Effect again and it is still really good. I played some of Jade Empire last month and decided to face the Collectors again with Mass Effect 2. Somehow, I lost Mordin again. A tear was shed for the cool salarian. Right now, I’m finishing off the trilogy with Mass Effect 3.

While playing the games, I started to think about a couple of Mass Effect trade paperbacks I picked up some time ago. I think it was at McKay’s but I really don’t remember. It was a while before I really read them. They were tie-ins done by Dark Horse around the time of the Mass Effect sequels and they center on certain characters from the series. Today, I thought I’d give a bit of an overview of these two trades.

Mass Effect: Redemption was released around 2010. It contains one storyline. The next trade, Mass Effect: Evolution, was released in 2012. It not only contains a four-part storyline but two short stories. Mac Walters, the creative director for the games, handled the story for these two trades and later ones that I won’t be talking about today. John Jackson Miller handles the script and dialogue. The artwork for Redemption and Evolution was done by Omar Francia. Incursion’s artwork is done by Eduardo Francisco while Inquisition’s artwork is done by Jean Diaz. The colors and letters for all the stories were handled by Michael Atiyeh and Michael Heisler.