Thursday, February 9, 2017

Happy Anniversary... Now Make Me Want to Go Buy Some Stuff.

I'm going to break my formula of "talk about what you enjoy instead of bitching about what you don't" for a moment and complain a bit.

Doctor Who turned 50 in 2013, and oh what a celebration it was. Eleven months of non-stop celebration of every Doctor, starting with the First Doctor William Hartnell in January and then covering a new Doctor every month all the way up to the then current Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith. Each month we got new TV specials, eBooks, comic books, and audio dramas focusing exclusively on that Doctor's era, culminating in a multi-Doctor TV special for the newer Doctors and a multi-Doctor audio special for the classic Doctors. (And even a humorous multi-Doctor video for the other surviving classic Doctors!) It was a year to remember.
A small sampling of the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary merch.
 And then came 2016, the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek, quite possibly the biggest most wide spread science fiction series ever. But the powers that be decreed "This is not the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek as a whole, it's the 50th Anniversary of The Original Series." And a movie came out in June which was going to come out anyway, and a version of Risk came out which included all the shows but (probably for legal merchandising reasons) left out the current film incarnations, and there was a book trilogy focusing completely on TOS, and an audiobook version of that same TOS trilogy, and a comic book that on the plus side does cover all the different eras of Star Trek but on the con side started in September and is being published bi monthly so it's mostly coming out during the year of the 51st Anniversary instead of the 50th. 
Pretty much the complete Star Trek 50th Anniversary merch.
("But Fer," I hear you counter, "Doctor Who was all one TV series! Okay, two TV series. Well, two TV series and a TV movie." True, but to my perspective it makes no difference. In both cases you have many people who watched all of it or alternatively stopped watching when they lost interest in the current incarnation.  With the exception of Deep Space Nine, from 1987 onward each version of Trek voluntarily left television with the full intention of the studio to immediately replace it with the next version during what would have been the outgoing show's next season, which is essentially the same as recasting the Doctor and taking the show into a new direction (and even redesigning the TARDIS set as they currently often do). If anything, one can argue that Star Trek has a more consistent connection than Doctor Who has had, because The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise were all still run under the direction of Rick Berman, while Doctor Who frequently changed who was in charge and had control of the show. But I digress.)

Here we are now in 2017, the 40th Anniversary of Star Wars, which has spawned three trilogies, a spin-off series of anthology movies, three TV cartoon shows (four if you count the Droids/Ewoks Adventure Hour as two), some very nice Ewok movies, and a Holiday Special everyone loves to hate, not to mention built probably the most in-depth Expanded Universe through books, comics, and games in tie-in history. And once again, the powers that be seem to have decreed that this is not the 40th Anniversary of Star Wars as a whole, but of that film the kids today like to call Episode IV. Marvel Comics is doing a bunch of variant covers showing scenes from A New Hope. Hasbro is doing a new "Titanium" line of action figures giving us the same characters in the same outfits from A New Hope that we've already bought a dozen times, but this time with fancy display stands featuring backgrounds from A New Hope. And we've got a movie that would be coming out this year anyway. Granted, this is just a ruby anniversary and not a golden anniversary, but... still! Doctor Who set a great precedent that Star Trek and Star Wars could have learned from!

Someone in a forum once complained to a friend of mine that the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary was only good if you were willing to pay for it. 12 monthly comics at $3.99 each, 11 monthly eBooks at $3.99 each, 11 monthly audios at $11.99 each... technically I didn't have to pay for each monthly episode of "The Doctors Revisited" on BBC America, but I did have to pay the cable company for BBC America or alternatively pay $39.98 per DVD box set, each covering three to four Doctors. But we paid it, because getting to immerse yourself so much in each era of Doctor Who each month was fun.

I wanted to have that same sense of fun for Star Trek's 50th Anniversary,  so I had to make my own celebration. Each month I read a book and a comic and listened to an audio from a specific era, preferably ones I'd never read or heard before. And just like Doctor Who, the actual anniversary month (in this case September) lined up with what was the current incarnation:

January: The Original Series
February: The Animated Series
March: Films I-VI
April: The Next Generation
May: Deep Space Nine
June: Voyager
July: The Next Generation Films
August: Enterprise
September: The Kelvin Timeline films (aka the JJ Abrams reboot)

...But you can't release a summer blockbuster in September, so Star Trek Beyond was released in June. But I did still get to see it again on September 1, at the film's final showing at my local theater.

And you know what? By deciding to do my own celebration, I still spent money on getting novels and audiobooks that I hadn't purchased the first time around. Many of them I had to buy used because they've been long out of print. So that's sales that could have gone to CBS/Paramount and their licensees if they had just put out an anniversary line of new books, comics, and audios following this formula like Doctor Who did. (Heck, Enterprise doesn't even *have* any comics or audios, since it come out during Trek's twilight years. I had to listen to a fan audio and read a comic that focused on a different NX ship set during Enterprise's time period.)

Star Wars could've gone like this:

January: A New Hope
February: Empire Strikes Back
March: Return of the Jedi
April: Droids / Ewoks Adventure Hour
May: Ewok Movies
June: The Phantom Menace
July: Attack of the Clones
August: Revenge of the Sith
September: Star Wars: The Clone Wars
October: Star Wars Rebels
November: Rogue One
December: Last of the Jedi / The Force Awakens

(Or alternatively you could do each trilogy in one month and give the other months to various Expanded Universe elements; Star Wars has had many games, novels, and comics that derived from each other.)

Tell me you're doing a year long celebration for each with new comics, new books, and new audios all focusing on each different corner of the Star Wars universe that month and I'd have been all over it. But it didn't even occur to me until I saw this article today.

So to Star Wars I say, you've got ten years. When your golden anniversary does come around I hope you make it a celebration of everything that Star Wars has become, and not just one movie.

Friday, July 8, 2016

My Reactions to the Announcement About Sulu in Star Trek Beyond

My thoughts on hearing the announcement that Sulu will be revealed to be gay in Star Trek Beyond, in the order that they occurred:

1) I wish I had seen that in the movie first. That would have been a nice moment and heartwarming revelation. Oh well.

2) Well it's about damn time. Star Trek, pushing the boundaries of inclusion and boldly going where Babylon 5, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Doctor Who, Battlestar Galactica, Stargate, Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, and Archie Comics have gone before. And maybe some others I can't remember, since having an LGBT character has become so commonplace I don't even think about it when it happens any more.

3) Why Sulu? Do they not realize that just because George Takei is gay that doesn't mean that Sulu was? Ohhh, they did it as a tribute for all George has done for the LGBT community! Okay, that's pretty cool.

4) Wait, Uncle George is unhappy about it? Why? ...Oh, because he'd rather it had been a new character. Yeah, that was my first choice too, I get where he's coming from. (Although I do disagree with him about it being a change to the way Gene created the character, because this is Kelvin Timeline Sulu, an alternate universe version. Roddenberry's version of Sulu remains unchanged.)

5) Oh wait, Simon Pegg pointed out that making a new character gay would have been tokeninsm, and this way it's just revealing something about a character that's already been accepted. That is an amazing point. Go, Simon!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Note: I just discovered that this was left unpublished as a draft. I suspect I wanted to expand on the things that I liked about it to make it a more even review. But I don't really have anything to add to it, so I'm publishing it now as is. - Fer in 2016

Okay, this is kind of hard for me to explain, so bear with me.

After the movie ended I said to my buddy Dave that I felt like I had just read a big crossover comic event, but I couldn't figure out why. Discussing it with other buddy Rich the next day I was able to nail it down.

After Dave saw the first Avengers, he said how each hero's parts felt like a continuation from their solo films, leading to them all meeting up and their stories naturally flowing into one another to become one common narrative.

Age of Ultron felt like the opposite of that-- when we last saw Tony Stark, he had lost his internal power source, destroyed all his armor and was talking about giving up being Iron Man. When we last saw Rhodey he had now become Iron Patriot. And Thor was using a different means of getting to and from Asgard in Avengers, since the Bifrost Bridge had been destroyed (at least that's how it seemed to me). And the Avengers itself ended with the team going their separate ways and Fury being asked "What if we need them again?"

So Age of Ultron starts and not only is everyone back together already, they've obviously been back together for quite a while. Stark is Iron Man again. Rhodey is War Machine again. The bifrost bridge is working again. And the Falcon has added his costume colors to his wings (which I really liked, by the way). And everytime one of these things came up, part of my brain was saying "But I thought..."

So the approach for Age of Ultron is that each character's story has kept going off-camera. They've all managed to restore their status quo, we just didn't see how.

And that's *why* it felt like a crossover to me. I felt like everyone else's comics had kept publishing but I had only been reading Agents of SHIELD, so I was out of the loop on all of these developments. The only difference being that when it happens in comic crossover events it's because I chose to not buy the other comics every month, whereas here I had no say in the matter.

So that's what bugged me. And since it kept happening from the first scene to the last, it kept bugging me over and over again, and left me feeling disappointed when the movie was over. Maybe now that I realize it and know what happened to everyone, I'll be able to enjoy it more on its own next time.

Which is not to say that I think it's a bad movie. There was a lot in here that I enjoyed. The Vision was awesome. I liked the many different Ultrons giving nods to his various comic book looks. And the character interaction in general were all wonderful. I had a good time, and that's what counts.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Birdman, or (Who Was REALLY Mike Shiner?)

Spoiler Level: High. Definitely see the film first. And since I'm probably the last person in the world to see it, you probably already have.

Hi! My name is Fer, and I used to write a blog called Fer's Forum. I enjoyed it and it was fun until it wasn't, at which point I took a break and never came back.

Part of the reason is that I generally feel that there's many people already saying what I'm thinking, so why bother saying it myself? There's a nice, easy simplicity about being able to just post "THIS." and move on to the next thing.

But every now and then I can't find anyone who has already perfectly summed up my feelings, so I feel the need to dust off the ol' blog and shoot my proverbial mouth off once more. This is one of those times.

So I just finished watching the Oscar-winning film Birdman or (The Unexpected Value of Ignorance). I enjoyed it for its unique directorial approach, its parallels to Michael Keaton's history with Batman and his character Riggan Thomson's history with Birdman (and by extension Riggan's parallels with the play he's trying to put on), and its excursions into Riggan's questionable sanity.

Like many people I was left with many questions after the film ended, and since I watched it by myself I didn't have anyone to discuss it with. So I turned to the internet and found many, many well thought out perspectives that, even if they didn't give me answers, at least addressed my questions.

Except this one:

Where the heck does Edward Norton's character Mike Shiner go for the last part of the film?!?

Mike Shiner is a major character throughout the film. From his beginning he challenges Riggan, first by questioning Riggan's writing skills, and then by forcing him to push his acting skills, breaking character during a preview, upstaging him, belittling him in the press, and eventually by getting physically and/or romantically involved with Riggan's daughter.

And then... nothing. He's just gone. He's so gone that in the final performance we see of the play, the character Shiner was playing has been recast with another actor, with absolutely no attention being given to the change at all.

Here's my perspective on why:

Mike Shiner may also have been a product of Riggan's imagination.

Riggan is torn between prestige and popularity. Birdman reflects the popularity side, the mainstream success that failed to bring him happiness. Shiner reflects the prestige side he craves. Shiner has the acting chops where Riggan's are questioned, Shiner gets the good press while Riggan gets the bad, and most tellingly-- Shiner wins the love of Riggan's daughter Sam while Riggan can't seem to make any kind of connection with her. In every respect, Shiner outshines Riggan.

The last scene we see of Mike Shiner is when Riggan sees Shiner kissing his daughter. Once that happens, Shiner's work is done-- he's now achieved everything that Riggan wants. He has Sam's love, while the closest connection Riggan has to her is following her footsteps into substance abuse. Riggan then goes to the opposite extreme and dives into the fantasy world of Birdman, causing explosions with the snap of his fingers and flying to wherever he wants to be. Realism has left the building, and taken Shiner with it.

This is why Shiner wasn't in the play for the last scene. If you look at the film with the perspective that Shiner was a real person, then the practical answer is he must have quit or been fired after Riggan caught him with Sam (although considering how much it was emphasized how important he was to the play's success that seems unlikely). But if Shiner was part of Riggan's delusion, then he was never really there. Perhaps Ralph was never injured by a falling light at all, and that was part of Riggan's delusion as well. (Or perhaps Ralph was injured and the other new actor was Riggan's understudy. It would help if I could have been able to tell who was actually playing that character in that scene.)

Shiner is always pushing him for more realism. Birdman pushes him for more spectacle. In the end, Riggan delivers a performance with both-- the realism of using a real gun instead of a prop, and the spectacle of shooting himself onstage in front of the audience.

And in the end, both Shiner and Birdman are left behind. As Riggan recovers Birdman quietly gives his final "f*** you,  goodbye" from the corner of Riggan's vision. But Riggan's new nose and the marks over his eyes now resemble Birdman's mask, but being his actual face they do it in a realistic way. Both Shiner and Birdman have been melded into Riggan. He now has the popularity and the prestige, and the love of his daughter. Rather than pulling him from opposite sides, they're now in balance.

At least that's what I've come up with. I would love to hear other opinions and perspectives.

And that's it for 2015. See you next year!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


When I was around 11 years old, I was all about collecting action figures. That's nothing unusual, most 11 year old boys are. And that time period was pretty good for it too, thanks to the Star Wars action figure boom. We also got action figures for Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, The Black Hole, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, not to mention the Micronauts, and all in 3 3/4" scale. To this day that remains my favorite scale for action figures, and I have no doubt that it's due to that childhood influence.

One day my local Toyco got in a box of Battlestar Galactica Series 2 action figures. This was around 1979 (possibly 1980) and back then of course there was no internet to let us know new toys were coming; it was just the thrill of discovering them at the toy store. So I had no idea that these action figures even existed. I only had enough money for one, so I agonized over whether to get Baltar or Lucifer, and decided on Baltar. Which turned out to be the wrong choice; when I went back the next week to buy Lucifer after getting my allowance he was gone, but there was still another Baltar left. I never did get that Lucifer figure. Oh well.

But I loved the packaging as much as the figure itself, because the back of the toy card had drawings of all the new action figures pictured on it. I could look at all those other new figures and still feel that rush of excitement I had when I discovered them, and plan out which ones I was going to get next.

The card with the new Battlestar Galactica figures that I gazed at lovingly for days.
Image swiped from John Kenneth Muir's Reflections on Cult Movies and Classic TV.
This exasperated my mother. "Why can't you just enjoy the ones you have instead of focusing on all the ones you don't?" It was a very valid question that I didn't have a good answer for. I did enjoy the ones I had; I still played with them at that age. I loved looking at all the details on them. And I loved simply lining them up and admiring them all.

But oh, the excitement of the ones I didn't have yet! The thrill of the hunt, trying to save up the money just to get the next figure, planning out which one my next conquest would be, only to change my plans when I got to the toy store and discover the one I wanted had sold out or new figures had been released. These were all things I just couldn't articulate at the time.

Over the years the things I've collected have changed, and so has the game of collecting them. Hasbro puts out the same number of Star Wars action figures in a month that Kenner used to put out in a year, but most of them have become new versions of old figures so it's rare that I'm interested in any of them these days. I was really into the Doctor Who figures for a while, but ironically now that I have 11 Doctors and a bunch of companions and monsters in the 5" scale, I'm not interested in starting all over from scratch with them since manufacturer Character Options has rebooted the line in the 3 3/4" scale. And while the ReAction Figure line has totally pushed my nostalgia button, I have yet to see any outside of the internet and be tempted by holding one in my hands. this doesn't mean the collecting bug has gone away by any means.  My new love of collecting has been Big Finish Doctor Who audio drama CDs.

These are great, and if you are a Doctor Who fan, I urge you to check them out. And right now is the perfect time to do it, because they're celebrating their 15th Anniversary of making Doctor Who audios, so if you try them out before August 20, 2014 you'll have the opportunity to download some of their stories for just $1 each. They change the audios they're putting on sale every 48 hours, so go early and go often!

These all feature the original actors performing new stories. Yes, even Tom Baker. Think Paul McGann is a one-off Doctor? Not here-- the Eighth Doctor has no less than 67 stories with five different companions (you may have heard them name-checked in The Night of the Doctor minisode) spread out over 190 episodes. Oh yeah, did I mention they recreate the episode format of the original series? McGann's changes from the 4-episode/ 2-hour serial style to the new series 1-episode/1-hour-with-a-story-arc style about halfway through his run, so it makes the perfect transition into the new series.

But I digress.

A good friend of mine got into the Big Finish audios when they first started making them 15 years ago. He played a few for me, and I started borrowing some from him that I wanted to listen to. Then the real world got in the way and he fell behind on getting them. I wanted to pick up the torch but was unable to do so until the Doctor Who DVD line ended, at which point I started channeling all my money that had been earmarked for DVDs into these CDs. In addition to keeping up with all the new releases Big Finish puts out each month we also had a sizable backlog to get caught up on. While I used my DVD money to keep up on the new releases, I now started selling my old stuff on eBay to make money to catch up.

That's when the lists started. Lists of which ones we needed, wishlists at places that sold them, chronology guides so I could determine the listening order I wanted to use for both listening them and storing them, budget plans figuring out which ones to get next...

Oh, yes. The hunt is alive and well.

And that's when it hit me today-- this isn't just wanting to be able to listen to them all, this has become a collection. It finally clicked when I was looking over those lists, watching my wishlist shrink and my iTunes grow, and I had a flashback to that day with my mother when I was looking at those Battlestar Galactica figures. Can't I just be happy with what I already have? Hmmm... yeah, I think so. I'm loving listening to these. I've been listening to an episode per day since January, in the "order" that they would take place if they were lost episodes of the TV series. But the excitement of closing in on those last couple dozen titles we need, that rush of collecting them, is almost as big a high as -- or is possibly even equal to -- the fun of enjoying them.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to listen to episode two of Helicon Prime, starring the Second Doctor as told by Jamie McCrimmon.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Robotech: Love Live Alive

The international cover, because I like it better.
Spoiler Level: Atomic  NEUTRON-S!

Okay, time for me to dust off the old blog. I finally found something that made me want to spout off an opinion. And that thing is-- what else? -- ROBOTECH! Specifically, the new release Robotech: Love Live Alive.

The Good:

* First off, let's give kudos to Harmony Gold for successfully completing and releasing a new Robotech project. And no, I don't mean that in a snarky, ironic way; I am genuinely grateful when new Robotech material is completed and released, and the canonical Robotech universe is made a little bit bigger.

* The new animation. The majority of it is absolutely beautiful. We get to see so many of those classic still frames from the beginning of "The Invid Invasion" brought to life! We get to see the Invid destroying the three mountains that contained the remains of the SDF-1!!! Talk about beautifully tying Southern Cross and Mospeada together... wow, just wow. And we get to see Dana, watching the Invid invasion happen, and climbing aboard a ship and leaving Earth. (That few seconds of animation is very crucial, my fellow Robotech fans... it establishes officially that Dana did not leave Earth before the Invid arrived as was commonly cited in other media, but that she was there for it. And the implication is that she may have been part off the Southern Cross that "weary from the constant battles with the Robotech Masters, was no match for the battle hungry Invid." The implication we're left with is that Dana was in fact killed in those opening still frames from "The Invid Invasion," and we just never knew it. Of course, we're still not shown that, so the possibility that she survived the battle and headed for Tirol is still there. But I digress.) And we get to see Lancer, now officially identifying himself as Lt. Lance Belmont of Yellow Squadron, trying to join up with Jonathan Wolff and Point K in an earlier attempt at reclaiming Earth and meeting with the same fate as Scott Bernard. Great stuff.

The new animation of Sera and Lancer at the end is, admittedly, pretty weak. I honestly do appreciate the effort to mimic the original 80's style so it would look consistent when intercut with the original Japanese Mospeada: Love Love Alive animation, but the result is more reminiscent of the times when Sandy Frank Productions tried to have Mark and Princess interact with 7-Zark-7 on Battle of the Planets. But you know what? I DON'T CARE!! Because it gives Lancer and Sera the absolutely best post-finale ending they've gotten in any media since 1985. It's wonderful, it made me smile, and it made me forgive that the animation didn't really work.

* The return of the classic voice actors! And everyone is there, even the classic announcer! The homages in the dialogue to "Booby Trap" also seriously warmed my heart. Oh sure, everyone sounds older, but that's okay.

* The new musical score.  Now I mean absolutely no disrespect to Scott Glasgow when I say this, but this was more like it. The score he wrote for The Shadow Chronicles is very beautiful music, but the themes he created reminded me more of Stargate than Robotech. This time he stuck to the original Robotech compositions, but rearranged and reorchestrated them into an absolutely beautiful opening medley of the Robotech theme and the Flower of Life theme. It evoked the classic Robotech feelings while exciting me for something new. I hope it gets released on a soundtrack someday.

* The "next episode" promos for both Robotech: Love, Live Alive and Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles using the original announcer. Priceless.

Dana watches the Invid destroy the SDF-1 burial mounds.

The Bad:

* It's a 90-minute clip show.  Okay, I was always a staunch defender that Robotech is something new and not beholden to its original Japanese source materials. But good gods, what a horribly wasted opportunity. Mospeada: Love Live Alive was a farewell love letter for the Mospeada fans, a Yellow Belmont concert featuring new songs, classic songs, and new renditions of classic songs, all done up as music videos using footage from the original Mospeada TV series, with about 6 minutes of new animation used as a framework.

Now of course you can't just drop the Robotech Yellow Dancer songs on top of the Mospeada Yellow Belmont music videos, but this would have been a great opportunity to create new music videos to the Robotech songs that tied all three generations together.

But no, instead Robotech: Love Live Alive is a freakin' meatloaf episode.

And it's not even that they wrote dialogue to go with the original Mospeada clips used in the music videos; no, those original clips are completely excised in favor of simply showing us truncated versions of the episodes "Lonely Soldier Boy," "Eulogy," "Enter Marlene," "Ghost Town," "Frost Bite," "Reflex Point," "Dark Finale," and "Symphony of Light," with a few origin sequences from "The Secret Route" and "Metamorphosis" thrown in.  And there isn't even any connecting dialogue for most of it, it just fades out from one episode clip and into another episode clip.

Robotech: Love Live Alive restructures Mospeada: Love Live Alive so that the opening Yellow Belmont concert is now instead a climactic Yellow Dancer concert at the end of the show. The interview sequence in the middle of M:LLA now forms the frame work for R:LLA, with Lancer telling his life story (and thus explaining the clips) to the interviewer. And that's fine; in fact, in many ways I feel they were very creative with the way they mixed everything around and integrated some new animation for the interviewer.

But the end result is we get a wonderful new 9-minute opening sequence and an enjoyable new 8-minute closing sequence sandwiching 70 minutes of boredom. And that's a lot of time to be bored. Oh, sure, I suppose if you haven't watched Robotech since 1985 it's a nice nostalgia trip, but for those of us who have... a lot... it's dull. ("Definitely cute, but dull.")

* No new Michael Bradley music. Again, such a wasted opportunity. Michael Bradley's already recorded new versions of his Yellow Dancer songs on his wonderful albums Lonely Soldier Boy and Lonely Soldier Boy II (available at, and using some of those instead of the standard Harmony Gold Music versions would have mirrored the Mospeada version nicely. But they didn't do that.

I have no idea why, I haven't heard anyone comment on it one way or another. I assume because if they wanted to use Michael Bradley's new versions, they would have had to pay him, while they can use the versions already owned for free. I doubt there's anything malicious about it; it's just less expensive to do it that way.

But it's also a lost opportunity that creates more lost opportunities. Remember how I mentioned the new renditions Scott Glasgow did of the background music? Well, that's less than 9 minutes worth of new music, but if you had some new Yellow Dancer songs too... well, they could have put out a whole Robotech: Love Live Alive soundtrack album.

(And I have to mention this-- Michael Bradley is also lead singer for a Police/Sting cover band called Ghost in the Machine, and they've done a version of "Synchronicity II." Now, as any self-respecting Southern Cross fan knows, there was a piece of frequently used background music in the original Japanese Southern Cross that was a direct rip-off of "Synchronicity II." So they had a chance to do a Robotech Masters music video to Synchronicity II as sung by Yellow Dancer! Yeah, yeah, it now means paying Michael Bradley AND Sting instead of using all your own music for free, but... man, that would have been cool.)

* No Macross clips. Part of what makes projects like this special is the opportunity to tie all three generations of Robotech together. But just like how the new version of The Sentinels removed every frame of Macross, there's not a frame of it here either. Granted, they wouldn't fit in as smoothly as the Southern Cross clips due to the time frame, but an image of Admiral Hunter from either Sentinels or Shadow Chronicles during one of the times Lancer referred to him in the interview would have been nice, and would have represented the Macross Saga generation without getting into any sticky legal issues of likeness rights.

In the interest of full disclosure, for the last two complaints I'm being the kind of fanboy I find annoying. Because around 1997 when the first full length Robotech soundtrack came out, I started making my own version of Love Live Alive. (But I think I called it Robotech: We Will Win 2045, or something like that.) And with the release of Michael Bradley's new albums, my vision for it only got more grand. (The only thing that I felt I still needed was Michael Bradley making a cover of "Land of Confusion" by Genesis!) So I am totally suffering from a case of "That's not how I would have done it!"

But that still doesn't forgive 70 minutes of clip show.

The Ugly:

* The 2-Movie Collection. I wanted to have Robotech: Love Live Alive on my DVD shelf. Instead to even get a copy of Love Live Alive, I had to rebuy The Shadow Chronicles. Again. Which means I don't even get the nice Lancer cover art that was made for it. Or have a Love Live Alive logo all nice and prominent on my Robotech shelf. I was willing to let it slide that I had to rebuy something I already owned just to get something new because the price point was the same as I would have willingly paid for Love Live Alive by itself, but I wasn't pleased about it. Especially since...

* The Love Live Alive disc is a bare-bones DVD. It has a small art gallery (which granted, is nice because the M:LLA art book is impossible to find) and the previously mentioned "next-episode" promo, but that's it. Which could also be forgivable if it wasn't for the fact that...

* Mospeada: Love Live Alive subtitled and all the bonus features for Robotech: Love Live Alive will only be available in the new Robotech: The Complete Set DVD Box set. For $89.98. So, instead of giving me a full DVD with both the Robotech version and the subtitled Mospeada version-- something I've been wanting since the 80's-- they make me rebuy The Shadow Chronicles and then tell me I'll have to rebuy everything, again, if I want the stuff that should have been on this release in the first place.

Um.... no.

You know, I'm not a Harmony Gold hater. But you know what? I don't like being treated this way either. Harmony Gold-- fuck you. I'm breaking up with you.

The Final Verdict:

While containing some wonderful moments, it runs too long, rehashes too much, and is the victim of some horrendous business practices. It's worth getting if you can get it cheap, but only if you're a big fan who will get the same big thrill out of those first 9 minutes that I did.

Maybe I'll go back to making my own adaptation again.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Spoiler Level: High

What the-- I'm breaking my blogging dry spell for Battleship?!? Why on earth would I do that when there's been so much other good stuff to talk about?!?

Well, because poor little Battleship needs a little love. Sure, I could rave about how much I liked The Avengers, but everyone's doing that. And while I can't honestly say I loved Battleship, it's not the utter drek everyone's treating it as.

Yes, there are some parts that made me want to groan. When the radar went out so they came up with a tracking grid, and started calling out their attacks ("Echo One-One! Foxtrot Seven!" "It's a miss!") I just thought to myself, I can't believe they actually went there. And the alien missiles actually looking like pegs as they smashed into the ships just made me groan inside as well... and I tried really really hard to overlook that, because the missile launchers revving up to fire them looked so cool. And lastly, the Hasbro logo coming up as a movie studio logo at the beginning of the film made me actually laugh out loud. I recognized the logo as soon as it started, because it's on my Japanese Collection Transformers DVDs (something else I hope to review someday). On the DVDs it makes sense-- a DVD is a consumer product, so I can understand Hasbro putting their stamp on their product. But putting it right after the Universal logo makes me feel like Hasbro is trying to say, "Look, we're a real film studio!" Now that takes some serious pegs.

But the thing is, those are all small parts of the movie. I went into this movie with the attitude that this was no different than Cowboys & Aliens, it's just Navy & Aliens. And I like me some good military-vs-aliens shoot-em-ups. And in that sense, this movie delivers-- there's lots of great hardware, both human and alien. And the scenes of the USS Missouri launching and joining the battle, with those great big guns swiveling and blasting away, warms my Yamato-lovin' heart. Very good eye candy, very exciting battle scenes. And they worked in a believable reason for why there's a Japanese Destroyer in the fleet.  And having the veterans come back aboard to run the Missouri with the younger generation worked great for me as well... I just loved seeing these octogenarian soldiers kicking butt.

And there's a lot of cool little in-joke homages to other science fiction, including Star Trek, Star Wars and X-Files. They're all subtle enough to make me smile and not so over-the-top to make me feel like they were trying too hard. (I would have even dismissed the Star Wars one as coincidence if it hadn't been the third one I caught.)

So that's what, three things I didn't like and five that I did? So it comes out two points ahead.

Battleship is by no means a great movie, but it's good enough. Heaven knows I've sat through much, much worse.

Monday, November 21, 2011

V - Season 2

Spoiler Level: High

I have to admit, I was very impressed with Season 2 of V. (Once I finally got to see it, that is.) Oh sure, I'm very disappointed that the "Let V no longer stand for Visitor; let it stand for victory" attitude was lost again after only one episode (and could there be any bigger perversion of the meaning of "V" than Tyler spray-painting a red V as a pro-Visitor message?), but in this season the show stopped trying to imitate the original and found its own voice, and as a result it was a much better show. And since it did have its own voice, I found myself being more content with what it was than being frustrated with what it wasn't.

For starters, we learned the real reason for them coming to Earth-- and it's got nothing to do with wanting to pillage the Earth for our resources. It's not to use the human race as food, but as breeding stock. Apparently they've been stealing DNA from different races, harvesting the best of every race in the universe so they become the genetically superior beings. And the human race is next on their list.

The way they go about it gets a bit convoluted; apparently Visitors and humans can interbreed with some scientific help. But the survival of the race depends on their queen, who is only fertile during a short period of her life. So they infiltrate a few decades earlier and set up test subjects to be containers of all the best DNA mankind has to offer. Then they show up with the smaller fleet, get into the planet's good graces, and the next Queen-to-be mates with one of the test subjects, thus ensuring new offspring with all the best DNA. Then they bring in their fleet en masse, round up all our women and turn them into baby factories (yes, this show could have been called Visitors Need Women), ensuring that their race continues. I'm a little hazy on how the two points connect, but that's it in a nutshell.

Storytelling wise, this was revealed in a very even pace, much better than the first season. Each episode felt like it was advancing the story, and like we were actually getting answers. We also got to see the resistance movement finally grow, expanding both on their own and then finally hooking up with a world-wide network. Of course, it may have helped that I watched the entire season over two weeks on DVD instead of over ten weeks on TV.

And then there's Jane Badler, returning as Diana. Not the same Diana, of course, but at least the producers of the show had the sense to always dress her in red to hit the proper nostalgia buttons. This Diana is almost a good guy-- she's learned the value in human emotions and the soul, something that her daughter, Anna, doesn't agree with. It makes Diana an interesting character-- she's just as concerned with the survival of their species as Anna is, and her loyalty is definitely with her own species and not humanity, but what Anna sees as humanity's flaws and a risk to their survival, Diana sees as something that can improve their race, making them something greater than they were.

And then there's the finale.

Like most shows these days, V was canceled without enough notice for any kind of wrap-up. But the ending we're given here works for an ending. Not a happy ending in any way, shape or form, but still an ending.

* Diana's plans fail completely as Anna kills her in front of their entire race. Anna wins.
* Ryan's plans to rescue his daughter Amy fail completely as his daughter kills him when he tries to take her away. As far as she's concerned, Anna is her mother, and Ryan isn't fit to be her father. Anna wins.
* Lisa II mates with and then kills Tyler. Anna wins.
* Chad Decker's role in the Fifth Column is exposed and he's taken into custody by the Visitors. Anna wins.
* Amy helps Anna spread Bliss to humanity, enslaving the entire human race to the Visitors as the breeding ships move in. Anna wins.
* The only hope left at all is Project Ares, a secret military organization run by the world's governments hidden literally underground so they escaped the Bliss (and lead by none other than Mark Singer).

What a great set-up for Season 3. At last, everything is out in the open, and Project Ares would have had to fight a war against the Visitors to save their own people who wouldn't even want to be saved. As closure goes, this is The Empire Strikes Back-- a series of down endings, ultimately ending in defeat but with a hope for the future. Only in this case there will be no third act. And who knows, maybe it wouldn't have worked, but there is closure here for nearly all the characters, and the potential for what could have come next is fantastic.

I've said before that if they did any V novels or other media tie-ins with this show I'd give them a pass, but I have to go back on that now. There's potential here for a great story, either in prose or comics. I don't believe we'll actually get it, but if it happens, I'll check it out.  Otherwise, for me the ending of this story is what we got on screen-- the Visitors triumphant, with Erica Evans and Project Ares still out there fighting the good fight to save humanity.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Robotech Ratios [UPDATED]

The new Robotech Complete Series box set is out, and I have three questions before I commit to buying all of Robotech again. I'm posting this because my friend and fellow Robotech fanatic Lisa has offered to help answer them for me!

For those who don't know, Robotech was remastered several years ago. On the plus side, this remastering corrected a problem the video releases has always had: the image ratio was finally fixed. More on this later. On the negative side, they changed all the sound effects, and changed the opening titles. Instead of having one title sequence for all 85 episodes mixing all the generations together, they gave them three separate title sequences focusing only on one generation. I didn't like that; I like the way that showing all three generations made it feel like one big story. I liked the change in sound effects even less. This version was then collected in one giant box set called the Protoculture Edition, which has become a kind of shorthand for referring to this version.

Now the impression I was getting from the convention appearances of the Robotech staff this year is that with this new edition, they were able to recover the original, separated audio tracks, and so were able to restore it the sound to the original versions yet still keep enhance it for 5.1. However the sticker on the box in this picture posted by Harmony Gold from NYCC says it's the Remastered Extended Edition. So do they mean it's been remastered for this edition (as they made it sound at the cons), or is it the same as the previously released Protoculture Edition?

So, here's my questions (and anyone can feel free to chime in and answer):
UPDATED: Lisa's gotten back to me with the answers, so I'm sharing them here in case anyone else cares.

(1) Does it have the original, multi-generational opening and closing title sequences?

Original titles

Remastered Titles
VERDICT: No. This edition has the Remastered, single-generation openings and closings.

(2) Does it have the original sound effects?
Here's a brief comparison from Episode 2, "Countdown"

VERDICT: No. This edition has the Remastered sound effects.

(3) Is the image in the correct ratio?
This is a tough one to explain. Some time after 1985 but before the Remastered Extended Edition, the show was tweaked. Some of the background music was altered for different scenes. However, something went wrong on the video side. The image was now zoomed in too close. It's still 4x3 (or 1.33:1), like a regular television image; it's just that the image has now been blown up, and parts are no longer able to be seen. I've put together a few examples below. Click on them to make 'em bigger.


VERDICT: Yes. This edition has the correct ratios (just like the Remastered Edition)

So all in all, this is the same as the Protoculture edition. It may be a Re-Remastered Protoculture Edition with some of the music restored to what it originally was in 1985, but it still has the same good points of having the correct ratio and added footage, and the same bad points of the changed sounds and openings. But on the plus side, that volume of bonus features sounds SWEET.

Thanks to Lisa for doing all the detective work to try to appease this cranky old fanboy!!

Friday, October 14, 2011

CBLDF Presents Liberty Annual 2011

Been feeling the itch to blog again.

I just got done reading this year's Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Presents Liberty Annual 2011. I always tried to make sure I was a member back when we ran Joy's Japanimation, because a lot of the cases where a retailer is being arrested for selling a comic book, it turns out to be a manga book. And these are always cases where the books are sold to adults. So being an anime and manga store, I always felt we were a prime target. I remember putting the CLBDF phone number in our rolodex-- I wrote on the bottom of the card, "Let's hope we never have to use it."

Since leaving the comic-selling industry, I've still made the occasional donation, usually at the urging of Peter David's blog. I bought More Fund Comics when it came out, but somehow never got around to Even More Fund Comics. It's still an important cause-- comic books are always a target because the public still views them as kids stuff, even though kids don't read comics anymore. (Seriously, according to a poll at Comic Book Resources, only 5.19% of comic book readers are under 17. The largest group was 30-40 year-olds. It's part of the reason that the comic book industry is shrinking-- there's been no new generation of readers since the 90's. But I digress.)

So I'll confess by saying I bought this comic because it has a new Grendel story in it by Matt Wagner. And yeah, it always feels good to know that I'm helping the CBLDF at the same time.

What I didn't expect was for it to possibly be one of the best anthologies I've ever read.

Seriously, there's not a bad story in the bunch. And while the main topic is of course about free speech, it covers such a range of related topics from Free Speech to Separation of Church and State to the "It Gets Better" campaign that it never gets dull. It actually felt downright inspirational.

For starters, I was pleasantly surprised to learn in Bob Shreck's introduction that he's bi too. Bob Shreck was art director for Comico, which means I always saw his name in the Robotech and Grendel comics back in the 80's, and from there he moved to Dark Horse (more Grendel for me) and Oni Comics (where I read various Kevin Smith comics). So his name is one that has always kept showing up in my comic reading history and that I've always associated with quality books. So as a bi guy, it makes me very happy that he's willing to casually out himself as part of this project. Hence the focus on the "It Gets Better" stories.

Extra points has to go to Carla Speed McNeil's piece "Dunce," which ties it all together very strongly, where she talks about the frustrations she's run into even trying to talk about her son who has Down's Syndrome, or Trisomy 21 as is apparently the new PC thing to call it. The problem is that terms used to describe people with learning problems immediately get turned into insults, so how can you talk about the problem when the words that weren't intended to be offensive now are? To me this is the comic that ties the entire book together, because it's shows how people being offended by words that have been twisted to bullying lead to both outside and self-censorship.

Another gem is J. Michael Straczynski & Kevin Sacco's "Separation of Church And State - The Best Friend the Church Ever Had!" where he explains that because the Founding Fathers specifically stated in the treaty of Tripoli that "the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion," it allowed for all denominations of Christianity to grow without the fears of conflict with each other such as the whole Catholic vs Protestant mess. We always hear about how Separation of Church and State has allowed all religions to practice here, but it never occurred to me that it also saved us from the infighting that Christianity has faced in the past in the UK. This piece should be required reading in schools.

I could go on and on, but really, you should just buy this comic and read it. Heck, I'd buy this as a monthly book. I'll certainly be buying every CBLDF Liberty Annual from now on, and that'll help give me that reminder to donate to the cause as well.

And incidentally, the CBLDF is currently handling a case where a guy entering Canada brought a hentai manga comic with him, and was arrested at customs and is now facing a prison term of up to one year. I can't imagine being jailed just because someone objected to what you were reading. The CBLDF is paying for his defense and they could use help. You can make a donation at It doesn't matter how small, every bit helps.