May 29, 2015

Shadowcon Reviews- Shadowzone

You're really not winning any favors this episode, Arcee (and nor are you, Miko!)

Shadowcon Reviews: Transformers Prime Season 1, episode 15, “Shadowzone”

I realize now that I’m actually covering this that it would’ve been smarter had I done this directly after doing “Out of His Head”, since some of this ties directly back into that story. Also, all of this month’s episodes would have probably made more sense coming before my discussion of the finale to the series, but whatever; this is my site where I’m late almost all the time and lazy the rest of the time. “Shadowzone” is a very flawed episode, which is probably why I’ve put off reviewing it until now. It’s just not that entertaining, and the parts that are entertaining are few and far between. This is a kid’s-focused episode with enough technobabble that makes no sense to give Star Trek Voyager a run for its money, interrupted by the occasional funny scene. It’s harmless, really, but it’s also pretty boring. There’s not a whole lot to talk about with this episode in terms of character, so brace yourself for a good helping of summery with this review (sorry).

May 27, 2015

Shadowcon Reviews: Stronger, Faster

Shadowcon Reviews: Transformers Prime Season 1, episode 22, “Stronger, Faster”

When I mapped out which episodes I was going to do for this month, the objective was to focus on pairs of episodes that explored characters that were otherwise rather weak. Bumblebee, for example, is usually the most expendable Autobot with the least developed personality. But “Sick Mind” and “Out of His Head” attempted to explore his character, and in so doing, also developed his rivalry with Megatron a little bit that would wind up being crucial at the end of the show. I did not, however, plan on all of these episodes with the exception of “Deus Ex Machina” being about the Autobots losing their minds in one form or another. That actually hit me as I was watching this one, that every episode focused on an Autobot at his most vulnerable or in a weakened state. So I guess you could call the another theme of the month “mind-screw”, because that’s pretty much what happens to all the ‘bots this time around. And now, it’s Ratchet’s turn. I’ve been giving Ratchet some crap over the course of the month, but that’s in spite of Jeffery Comb’s acting ability that really needs no introduction. The man knows how to make serious characters, who might be wooden in other hands, come to life. Here, he gets to test and play with that significantly, and that’s great to see. Also, many of Ratchet’s actions and his reasoning behind them will become clear with this episode, which is good- Ratchet being a bit of a tool was another theme of this month that I swear was not intentional.

Shadowcon Reviews: T.M.I.

Shadowcon Reviews: Transformers Prime Season 1, episode 21, “T.M.I.”

Apologies for not having this review up on Monday; stuff got in the way, and also I really think summer vacation is getting to me! Anyway, to make up for that, you get two reviews today, and to start, we’re finishing off our look at Bulkhead and Miko with this episode, and thankfully it fairs far better than their last outing. “T.M.I.” builds on the rather unfortunately conveyed point about how Bulkhead is not too bright from “Deus Ex Machina”, although here at least it doesn’t make an unintended jab at construction workers everywhere. What’s more, this one is far more of a character piece; while the plot is thin and the action sparse, what makes this episode work is how it hinges on the relationship between Miko and Bulkhead, especially focusing on Miko’s side of that.

May 22, 2015

Shadowcon Reviews: Deus Ex Machina

Mom, imagine getting this kind of massage!

Shadowcon Reviews: Transformers Prime Season 1, episode 10, “Deus Ex Machina”

This episode… If someone were to capture what made Prime weak in the first season, I’d have to assume they’d turn to this episode first and foremost. This episode might as well be called “Minor Incompetence” because it seems like everyone in this story is really unsure of what’s actually going on and how to properly behave. This also focuses on Bulkhead and Miko, but it doesn’t give us any insight into either character, focusing on them for plot reasons and little else. This serves as a Bulkhead/Miko story, and while I like Miko a lot, that mostly comes from Season Three and some of the later episodes in Season Two, so this one, coming in the very early days of Season One, really grates on me as her character’s more annoying traits are made apparent especially in the beginning. Nicole Dubac, the woman who wrote this episode was really off her game this week, because she normally delivers some pretty solid scripts- she actually did Wednesday’s “Out of His Head”, so she does good stuff, or at least entertaining material. But this is just kind of sad. I really have to wonder if this didn’t get an un-credited rewrite after she drafted it, because a lot of this doesn’t feel like her script. It feels more like bits and pieces of a good script jumbled up with dead air. Let’s jump in and see if we can’t find out why that is.

May 20, 2015

Shadowcon Reviews- Out of His Head

A plan so epic, not even the mighty Stan Lee could have conceived it!

Shadowcon Reviews: Transformers Prime Season 1, episode 14, “Out of His Head”

This episode picks up shortly after the last episode, with Optimus getting a checkup by Ratchet, and yes, Megatron running around in Bumblebee’s head too. It’s actually a pretty freaky image, with Megatron’s head just kinda floating there surrounded by black emptiness. He makes his objective clear:

“I must reclaim my body, which means taking complete and total control of yours!”

Bumblebee’s character is the weakest out of the bunch, and especially here in the middle of Season One, he’s pretty bland. Because he can’t speak, we don’t really get to delve into his personality a whole lot beyond the basics: like, we can tell when he’s angry, sad, surprised- and make no mistake, the animators did a fantastic job having his face and body emote all of that- but in terms of character development, there’s not a whole lot to him. He’s the kid-appeal character, so it seems odd to me that he’s the one devoid of a voice; you’d think that a kid’s show would want their kid-friendly character to be able to be, y’know, relatable in some way. And I guess Raf could stand in for that, but given what we find out in this episode, I’m not too sure that holds up to scrutiny.

May 18, 2015

Shadowcon Reviews- Sick Mind

Shadowcon Reviews: Transformers Prime Season 1, episode 13, “Sick Mind”

We’re running out of episodes to do! I actually picked this two-parter because I think it ties in nicely with what happened in “Deadlock”, y’know, the whole Bumblebee-killed-Megatron thing. That loose thread of character arc has its roots here, though more so in the next episode. I kinda like that I get to revisit Season One, too. This episode comes right in the middle of the season; Megatron’s been offline for a whopping eight whole episodes, Starscream is still in his early badass mode, and Optimus still has his old body that is awesome.

May 12, 2015

Sh*t That Got Me Through Freshman Year

Okay, so finals are done, which means I'm officially now all done with my first year of college! That's kinda cool. And, because I'm now a rising sophomore- and of course know everything there is to know about everything because, y'know, I'm in college so what more do I possibly have to learn- I thought I'd take a look at all the things that helped make this transition from home in a desert where the sun always shines and any plant life is brown to a green, rain-filled pacific place where clouds and grey skies are so ubiquitous so much easier.

(Obviously, keep in mind that this isn't all I did out of class. Contrary to popular belief, you have a lot more free time in college than you think, so while this looks like a lot, it didn't take up nearly as much time as one might expect. As I'll say again at the end, the true memories that I made during this time were with friends, family, and making new friends and taking awesome classes. Just bear that in mind as you read this; I'm not a completely sad loser person.)

May 7, 2015

Women Who Are Amazing to Me (Both Fictional and Real)

Y'know, I really should just change my "Top 10" tag to something like "Random List" or "Top Whatever Number", because now I think I have more posts in that tag that don't have ten examples of whatever it is I'm covering, or posts that aren't necessarily covering the top figures of the subject matter, than posts that do. Oh well.

So, I have a few role models and people whom I look up to and I thought I’d come up with a list of celebrity women specifically who inspire me, because most of the women I’ve met in my life have all been some of the smartest, most caring and thoughtful, and just overall damn strong people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. And so, I thought I’d give some female characters (and actresses) some love here! These are just off the top of my head (and characters who I've seen most recently, so y'know, this isn't all my role models or whatever.) Enjoy.

Arcee from Transformers Prime - Obviously, she’s one of my favorite characters on the show, as you can probably tell by the header image there! I just love how she just doesn’t take shit from anyone! Her character gets the most development throughout the series too, even though she was relegated to a filler role by the end; in the beginning, it could be argued that she and Jack were the main characters, and I think that’s super important and really cool! I like her voice actor too; she's very much in favor of representing women to young girls as people first instead of Women with a capital W, which I often find irksome as a mainstream whitewashed feminist statement. Arcee is definitely more than a "strong female character", and I think that's great.

Cobie Smulder’s Maria Hill in the Marvel Cinematic Universe- Okay, so this is a case where I actually prefer the MCU version of a character over their comics incarnation… because let’s be honest, Maria Hill in the comics is a real bitch. But something about Smulder’s acting and the way her character’s written just works for me. I think it’s that she’s witty and kind without being obnoxious; it never feels like she’s shoehorned into any of the scenes like many of the lesser MCU characters sometimes come off as being, and obviously Smulder’s acting is great! Plus she gets all the awesome sass lines!

Emma Stone- Yeah, I’ll just say it right now, she’s my celeb crush. I love this woman, oh my god! She has a great aura of getting down to brass tacks and being just in control of the situation. Her acting’s great and she has a good screen presence because of her gumption and gusto! And her smile fills me with confidence; it's like, because she’s smiled I can now do anything, and that’s awesome! I loved her as Gwen Stacy in the Amazing Spider-Man series and thought she did a good job in Birdman as well... admittedly those are the only two films I've seen her in; I mainly like her interview material.

Ellen Page’s Kitty Pride in the X-Men franchise- One of the most underutilized characters of the whole film series, Page brings so much life to this character. I am so sad that she’s in only a few of the films as essentially a glorified extra. I’d love to see Page helm an X-Men film; she obviously has the chops for it, and her quiet demeanor and subtle performance makes for a three-dimensional character that is only ever written as a two-dimensional one. Such a shame; I hope they do more with her in the future!

Lindsey Stirling- I may not be a fan of where her career has taken her in the past two years or so, but this woman helped take me from the brink of quitting the violin to taking it up again with a vengeance! In the beginning, her music was inspirational as all hell to me, and her story even more so. She was a real influence in my life during high school, and for that I am super thankful and grateful to her. And I got to meet her and oh my god she is the nicest pixy girl on the planet! She’s adorable!

Taylor Hebert from Worm- As the protagonist and POV character of the book, it was of paramount importance that the readers be able to connect and sympathize with and care about the main character, and holy balls did McCrae succeed like nobody’s business! This character is absolutely stunning, from her wickedly sharp intelligence to her off-balance confidence issues to her unhealthy obsessive need to do good, it’s just so much of what I loved about the book and is truly one of the best characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading because she’s inspired me on many occasions to just push through to the end. There’s so much humanity in the character, and that’s really what makes her so compelling

Madoka Kaname from Madoka Magica- While certainly not my favorite character of the show, she is still the most optimistic person out of the core group (maybe Kyoko could win that argument; I don't know). But Madoka's clear optimism and general happiness about life really strikes a chord with me. I'm generally a pretty optimistic and happy person as well (even though, y'know, I may act brooding and stoic sometimes). I love to remind myself that there's plenty to be happy for, and Madoka really embraces that ideal in an otherwise cruel and dark world. Her wish at the end of the show encapsulates this mindset perfectly, and I really love her for that! Plus that bow and arrow is just totally kick-ass!

May 3, 2015

A Rant Regarding Black Widow in Age of Ultron

This rant is focussing on a slight spoiler for Ultron here, so if you haven't seen it yet, here's your warning to leave. If you've seen the movie, or if you just don't give a damn about spoilers, then hey, welcome!

Okay, so I've come across a lot of hate towards Black Widow in this movie regarding a certain character development that happens. See, there's a subplot in the film involving her and Bruce Banner as a romantic couple. Some people criticize this as taking away from Widow's character, believing that now that she's in this subplot that she's sacrificed her female empowerment or humanity... which really should illustrate right there how much the people who say these things don't get about character development, woman empowerment, or humanity.

Now, I'll be the first to admit, I'm not the biggest fan of Widow; I didn't like her in the first Avengers, I really hated her in Iron Man 2, and while she's grown some in Winter Soldier, I still find her to be bland, needlessly written to be a "strong female character" with the need to constantly remind us that she's a woman, and that she's given these lines that just sound so cliche and on the nose- "I'm multitasking!" "Always picking up after you boys."- Really? So, no, it's safe to say, I don't really like her all that much.

So it might come as a shock to some of you that I'm coming out and defending her like this, but come on. If you're nitpicking the romance plot that sadly ended too abruptly (like many things in Ultron), then frankly you're just looking for shit to complain about, because this romance actually developed both Widow and Banner as characters. And I never got the sense that this was like the next big phase in the "Black Widow Woman Character Development" whiteboard outline; this felt very natural and human, and that's especially excellent for Widow's character, because to me she's always needed something to help flesh her out.

Now, some might say "well giving her a romance is just shoving her back into being a damsel." You could read it that way, sure. Or you could read it as just another relationship that Widow's forged with another character. The fact that she's a woman doesn't automatically have to factor into this, after all; I didn't see many people decry Banner for this sort of thing in the film. This relationship isn't a detriment to Black Widow, it's a good thing. And what really helps it is that the romance part isn't the main focus of their relationship. It's not like Widow and Bruce announce to the team and to the audience "ta-da! We're dating! Isn't that great?!" This is a strained relationship, it's a painful thing for both characters, and that's really human. Indeed, I'd argue that this is something that Whedon shouldn't have cut at all... but that just goes back to me wanting to see the three-and-a-half hour version of the film.

Yeah, I'm not a fan of Black Widow, and I have a wealth of reasons for that. No, I wasn't really a fan of Ultron either, and again I have reasons for that. But the Bruce/Widow relationship is not one of them. This is a strength for both the film and for the two characters, with Ruffalo and Johansson imbuing a lot of personality and emotion into the two scenes that this is brought up. The relationship doesn't ruin Black Widow's femininity either; it certainly doesn't detract from her role as the female representation or as a supposedly badass feminist icon. It strengthens her as a person, focusing on her humanity rather than her being a woman, and that's something that I can get behind.

That's all I wanted to say about this. The end.