Random Thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens Final Trailer

Last night, millions of nerds cried out because they had to watch an American football game in order to catch the final trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Since it’s the biggest nerd movie of 2015, I want to hear your thoughts on the trailer (embedded below, for your convenience). I’ve watched the clip thrice and will watch it lots more before the movie comes out on December 18. For now, here are some random thoughts on the final trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

00:08: The trailer kicks of with Rey (Daisy Ridley) dressed as an albino teenage mutant ninja turtle. Her outfit is useful in the arid environment of Tatooine…because, you know, sand. As Anakin Skywalker once said about sand, “It’s coarse and irritating and it gets everywhere.”

00:39: Finn (John Boyega) takes off his stormtrooper helmet. Some longtime Star Wars fans have a problem with Finn (presumably) becoming a Jedi. In Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Yoda said that a six-year old Anakin Skywalker was too old to become a Jedi. Finn appears to be in his 20s, so some hardcore nerds have an issue with him being the next “chosen one,” while Fox News has an issue with a…melanin-enhanced person becoming a Jedi. Also, Finn appears to suck at piloting his T.I.E. fighter. So yeah, an old (for Jedi training) stormtrooper reject is your new hero!

00:50: There be lens flare. You really didn’t think JJ Abrams would drop it, did you?

00:53: Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) has a bad-ass name and a bad-ass voice. Too bad his helmet makes him look like an evil aardvark. The good news is that he’s a fan of Transformers: The Movie and quotes a song from the soundtrack to Darth Vader’s helmet.

01:05: The Millennium Falcon appears, in all of its shabby glory. You’ve never heard of the Millennium Falcon? This part of the trailer made me mark out and become a kid again.

01:15: Han Solo (Harrison Ford), looking as leathery as a worn out saddle bag, appears and tells the kids, “It’s true.” Apparently news dissemination sucks in their world, making it so that tank girl and a stormtrooper reject are ignorant of recent history. Clearly they have the technology, but apparently there weren’t any bloggers a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

01:17: The first warp lines appear. JJ Abrams did an excellent job modernizing warp lines in the recent Star Trek movies. These old-school warp effects look like stick figures. I guess they have nostalgic value. *shrug*

01:24: Kylo Ren is flanked by what appears to be imperial guards. Some people say they’re his Sith followers, but that would have him breaking the Sith rule of two. Either way, having a gang makes him look like a bit of a pussy. Darth Vader didn’t need any backup.

01:25: I love the X-Wing, but am disappointed that it hasn’t made any significant advancements (to the naked eye) in 30 years. Hell, Airbus and Boeing move at a glacial pace and even their birds look considerably sleeker than ones from 30 years ago.

01:40: Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is whining to R2-D2 about not being in the official movie poster. That’s what he gets for going to Toshi Station to pick up some power converters, which apparently constitutes playing with your friends in Tatooine.

01:46: Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), what a wookiee. Finn, Chewie, and Han appear to be getting arrested. Some things never change for scoundrels.

01:57: Princess Leia (Carrie Fischer) cries on Han’s shoulder, sad about what a hottie she was in the late 70s and early 80s. Hopefully they don’t show old Leia in a metal bikini.

01:58: Finn starts a lightsaber duel with Kylo Ren. He leads with a strong stance, but looks inept after that. This has lead some people to believe that Finn isn’t Force sensitive. I’m not sure about any of that. Swordsmanship is a fine art that’s difficult to master. When you add in laser swords and the fact that Finn sucked as a stormtrooper, of course he’s not going to be the best dualist. On a side note, my favorite lightsaber form is Soresu. What’s yours?

Anyway, that’s what I observed from the Star Wars: The Force Awakens final trailer. I’m sure that you guys and gals noticed many things that I did not and that certain bits meant much more to you than they did to me. With that in mind, kindly use the Force, let go, and share your thoughts on the trailer in the comments section.

LEGO The Avengers: Age of Ultron in Two Minutes

How it Should Have Ended is one of my favorite YouTube channels, but the content has been lacking in both quantity and quality for the last few months. Thankfully, the guys and gals at HISHE got their groove back with this excellent LEGO The Avengers: Age of Ultron in Two Minutes video. It’s a glorious piece of stop-motion video that pokes fun at everything people loved and hated about The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Check out the clip below and let me know what you think (please!).

Fast & Furious To End With a New Trilogy

While I was busy having a spectacular birthday celebration, Vin Diesel posted a Fast & Furious update on Facebook. After scrolling past his goofy face, you’ll see that the legendary thespian wrote, “I promised the studio I would deliver one last Trilogy to end the saga. I will announce the directors on my next post…” So the Fast & Furious crew will definitely be going on one last ride…followed by two more last rides.

Obviously the executives at Universal would love to cash in on three more Fast & Furious movies. Furious 7 raked in a preposterous $1.5-billion. Millions of moviegoers will surely pay for three more Vin Diesel-powered (*snicker*) heist films. Those certainties aside, there are a number of questions that make me wonder about the future of this storied franchise. How do you replace Paul Walker’s mesmerizingly bad acting? I don’t believe that it can be done. The franchise is also running out of permutations of titles that use the words furious and fast (Fast & FuriousFast 5Furious 7, etc.). Will the wordsmiths at Universal be able to conjure up three more catchy movie names without adding another word?

While I’m not sure about the movie titles, there is a possible solution for filling the void left by Paul Walker (as much as it can possibly be filled). Perhaps Michael B Jordan — fresh off his pathetic performance in Fantastic Four — could join the crew. If Jordan can bring a Fantastic Four-level performance and Vin Diesel spends the entire movie indecipherably mumbling then maybe the pair can do a bad enough job to properly honor Walker. The key is tandem acting that’s so bad that it’s practically hypnotic. Between Diesel’s warbling and Jordan bring Jordan, they just may be able to pull it off!

On a more serious note, I love that Diesel managed to slip in the word “family” in his Facebook post. It wouldn’t be Fast & Furious without him muttering about family. On a completely serious note, I will likely pay to see all three films in the Fast & Furious closing trilogy. The franchise is one of my favorite series of dumb movies ever and hitting a tenth film would cement its place in history.

Now, who’s with me?!? What do you want from the last three Fast & Furious films? Who would you like to see direct them? Any suggestions on replacing Paul Walker? Will Universal add another token Asian guy (TAG) to boost the international box? Please leave a comment and let me know.

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Coffee Talk #659: Nerd Canon and You

Canon is a touchy subject for nerds. Fundamentalists loathe when their beloved sci-fi and fantasy properties are taken in different directions by creators of non-canonical works. Others appreciate when established properties are taken in all-new, all-different directions. Today I want to talk about a few nerd-specific cases of canon and hear your feelings on the matter.

Star Wars Heir to the EmpireStar Wars: Let’s kick things of with one of the hugest nerd properties in existence. Many Star Wars fans were delighted by tales of the Expanded Universe (EU). The EU had several excellent Star Wars books written by several great authors. When Disney purchased Lucasfilm, it wiped out the existing EU and rebranded it as Star Wars Legends. Shortly after that decision was made, Disney created its own EU.

Many Star Wars fans were outraged by the move. They loved the books and felt robbed that they were no longer part of the proper Star Wars universe. While I empathize with that point of view, killing the previous EU didn’t bother me. I enjoyed the many Star Wars books I read and nothing can take that away. It doesn’t matter that these stories are no longer “official.” They entertained me and that hasn’t changed.

Gotham: Yesterday in the RPadTV Google Hangout, the Gotham television show was briefly discussed. This reimagining of a pre-Batman Gotham is controversial among nerds. Some people hate that Batman’s rogues gallery was up and operating well before the Dark Knight arrived to Gotham. I believe it was RPadholic Smartguy that said that having Joker without Batman doesn’t make any sense.

I definitely agree with the sentiment that having most of Batman’s villains in pre-Batman Gotham is silly. Like many comic-book fanboys, I am of the opinion that superheroes and villains fit into a nerdy chicken-and-egg scenario. Gotham is full of weird villains because some rich guy in a bat costume started being a vigilante there. Having these colorful criminals established in Gotham before his arrival doesn’t make sense to me.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t bother me that Gotham isn’t canon. What bothers me is that it’s a crappy show. The writing is trite and the acting is mediocre to poor. Bruce Wayne once said that criminals are a superstitious and cowardly lot. Apparently they’re middling television actors too.

Marvel Secret Wars: Closing things out is Marvel’s Secret Wars crossover series. Due to a confluence of ridiculous events, the Marvel multiverse has become a singular mashup. The past few months of Marvel stories featured reimagined worlds and reimagined characters. All of this will lead up to the all-new, all-different Marvel Universe.

I have a few problems with the Secret Wars. The obvious one is that most of the stories aren’t very good. The secondary problem is that the crossover event interrupted several books that I was enjoying. Lastly, none of these stories matter in a canonical sense. The Marvel Universe is going to reboot and my time has been wasted with months of filler stories. While part of my problem with Secret Wars has to do with canon, most of it is that the damn thing is taking too long and most of the writing has been forgettable.

Your Take: Looking back at what I just wrote, I suppose canon doesn’t matter much to me. A good story is a good story, whether it’s official or not. Naturally, I want to hear your thoughts on nerd canon. Feel free to use the examples above or bring up any of your own. Do you place a high value on canon? Or is something entertaining simply entertaining?

What’s Your Favorite Straight Outta Compton Meme?

With the Straight Outta Compton movie just around the corner, the denizens of the Internet have been having fun making their own “Straight Outta” memes. In a sharp move, Beats by Dre has created a meme maker at StraightOuttaSomewhere.com. I’ve seen dozens of hilarious memes generated with this tool and I’d love to hear about some of the ones that have cracked you up. Even better, I’d love for you to create your own and post a link to your witty concoction.

As for some of my favorites, here are two. First up is one the makes fun of LeBron James’ receding hairline.

Next, is a super nerdy one from my pal Lauren.

Home anywhere I live. #StraightOutta http://www.straightouttasomewhere.com/

A photo posted by L337Lauren (@l337lauren) on

Now it’s your turn! Kindly share some of your “Straight Outta” memes and make one of your own when you have a chance.

Random Thoughts on Fantastic Four

The best thing that I can say about the Fantastic Four 2015 reboot is…that it was better than Green Lantern. That movie was traumatically horrid. Fantastic Four isn’t quite that bad, but it felt incomplete — as if the studio released a rough cut of the movie or an entire act was missing. It’s certainly not a good movie (superhero or otherwise), but I was surprised by how unfinished it felt. It doesn’t have a grand climax or a profound sense of resolution. Instead you’re left with a feeling of, “That’s it?” Whether it’s in a bedroom or in a movie theater, you don’t want that feeling.

In the grand RPadTV tradition, here’s a binary breakdown of the 2015 Fantastic Four movie.

Flaccid Four (Bad): Someone involved in the making of this superhero movie doesn’t like superhero movies. Fantastic Four lacks the standard superhero movie devices of epic battles, a stentorian soundtrack, and cool special effects. The movie’s finale was such a letdown. When the Fantastic Four finally fought Dr. Doom, the buildup was slow…and then suddenly the fight was over. Whether it was the director, the editor, or the studio, the people involved with this movie took the Fantastic Four and made them a fantastic bore.

Dr. Doom (Bad): Why, why, why can’t a movie portray Dr. Doom properly?!? It’s confounding. He’s one of the best villains in the Marvel Universe! Comics Doom is an awesome combination of science and sorcery. While much of the world fears him, the people that he rules love him. Many of his actions are driven by mommy issues (i.e. love). He’s arrogant and capable, with just enough vulnerability to make him sympathetic. In the last two Fantastic Four movies, Doom was an evil businessman. In this one, he’s an angry tech geek. In all three films, he lacked the confidence, competence, and heart that make Doom such a brilliant character in the comics.

Kate Mara Fantastic Four

Kate Mara (Good): On the plus side, Kate Mara was the best part of the movie (visually). She wasn’t great as Sue Storm/The Invisible Woman, but she did an adequate job and will satisfy those that felt Jessica Alba was too dopey in the last two Fantastic Four movies. I am, of course, biased when it comes to Kate Mara. She’s alluring and she comes from a wealthy family. It’s fun watching her on a big screen while you dream about her making you a kept man.

Michael B. Jordan (Bad): When Jordan was announced as Johnny Storm/The Human Torch, some fans were livid that an African-American actor was cast as a white-bread character. What they should really be mad about is that he completely sucked in the movie. Jordan was easily the worst lead in the Fantastic Four. While the rest of the cast did a reasonable job of movie-level acting, Jordan brought his WB-level game to the film. He was so bad that I have high hopes of him replacing Paul Walker as my favorite crappy actor. If Jordan adds a bit of charm to his inept acting then he has a good chance of getting there.

Michael B Jordan Human Torch

Franklin Storm Rocked (Good): The best actor in the movie wasn’t one of the four main protagonists or the sole villain. He was a supporting character — Reg E. Cathey’s Dr. Franklin Storm. His performance was easily the best in the movie — dude has a wicked voice that adds gravitas to his scenes.

Oyster Bay Why?!? (Bad): For reasons that seem random, the movie’s version of Reed Richards and Benjamin Grimm grew up in Oyster Bay. My personal problem with this is that there’s a cutaway scene in Oyster Bay where the Manhattan skyline is shown. I lived in Oyster Bay for a few years. Unless you have a really tall house and a very powerful telescope, you cannot see Manhattan from Oyster Bay. The scene reminded me of Jackie Chan’s Rumble in the Bronx, when a cutaway of the Statue of Liberty was shown. Similar to how you can’t see the Statue of Liberty from the Bronx, you simply can’t see Manhattan from Oyster Bay.

The bigger issue pertains to Ben Grimm’s character. In the comics, he grew up on the Lower East Side on Yancy Street. His older brother was killed in a gang fight. Grimm’s rough big-city upbringing is a huge part of his identity and The Thing’s rocky exterior is a metaphor for his tough shell that covers a soft heart. Going deeper, comics Thing has several personal elements from his creator, Jack Kirby. “The King” grew up on the Lower East Side on Delancey Street and had an older brother that died when he was young. The movie’s change in locales makes no sense geographically and is insulting to the character’s creator.

Thing Yancy Street

Not the Least Bit Fantastic: Honestly, Fantastic Four isn’t as bad as some people are making it out to be. It felt like it was a little more than halfway to being a decent superhero movie. Whether it was the directing, editing, or studio meddling, something went terribly wrong and the end product was poor. Again, it’s not nearly as wretched as Green Lantern (an admittedly low bar) and has a few moments that were superior to anything from the last two FF films. At the end of the day, Fox bungled Marvel’s first family of superheroes. The movie definitely isn’t worth seeing in theaters and certainly not worthy of a Blu-ray purchase. When it gets in cable rotation then perhaps you can justify watching it out of curiosity, but there are better superhero films to spend your time with.

Deadpool Red Band Trailer is Awesome!!!

While it doesn’t contain everything shown at Comic Con 2015, the Deadpool red band trailer is still pretty awesome. The silly humor and ridiculous violence that make the comics so much fun appear to be present in the movie. Of course the action and quips are fantastic, but I really enjoyed Deadpool’s interactions with Weasel. I’m a fan of the character and TJ Miller usually makes me laugh. My only disappointment with the Deadpool red band trailer is that the Negasonic Teenage Warhead joke was cut.

Anyway, check out the clip when you have a chance. While Ryan Reynold’s is partially responsible for the most traumatic superhero movie that I’ve ever seen, I’m cautiously excited for Deadpool. Reynolds seems to have the character’s tone down perfectly and the ludicrous violence is as it should be. What do you guys and dolls think? Does the Deadpool red band trailer give you high hopes for the movie? Or is the stench of Green Lantern still too fresh?

7 Days in Hell Review: A Love Letter to Tennis and Sports Documentaries

7 Days is Hell is a wonderfully absurd and surprisingly raunchy made-for-TV short film currently playing on HBO. Starring Andy Samberg and Kit Harington as a pair of polar opposite tennis players, the movie is a mockumentary that skewers so many things — tennis, sports documentaries, Sweden, sports moms, British talkshows, the Queen of England, and more. Although 7 Days in Hell parodies a wide variety of topics, director Jake Szymanski does an admirable job of keeping the movie focused. If you’re a fan of tennis or sports documentaries (think HBO Sports numerous documentaries and ESPN’s 30 for 30 series) and don’t mind smutty humor then you should definitely give 7 Days in Hell a shot.

Andy Samberg does most of the heavy lifting in 7 Days in Hell as Aaron Williams. The adopted brother of tennis legends Serena and Venus Williams, Aaron is a physical pastiche of Andre Agassi, but with the personality of John McEnroe…with the lewdness cranked up to 11. Samberg does a fantastic job of playing a character that’s brash and obnoxious, but charming and vulnerable enough that you don’t hate him.

On the other side of the net is Kit Harington’s Charles Poole. Trained to be a tennis superstar since he was a child, Poole has a terror of a sports mom and few redeeming qualities outside of his athleticism. While Samberg owns many of the scenes in 7 Days in Hell, Harington was pleasantly subtle as Poole. Best known as the heroic Jon Snow on HBO’s Game of Thrones, Harington plays a character that’s wonderfully dim and vacant — the perfect contrast to the over-the-top Williams.

In order to make 7 Days in Hell feel like an authentic sports documentary, there are several cameos from athletes, analysts, and newscasters. Serena Williams, John McEnroe, Chris Evert, Soledad O’Brien, and Jim Lampley help make the movie seem like a real HBO sports production. Fred Armisen and Will Forte help make fun of the overly serious tone of many sports documentaries as a pair of fictitious tennis historians. Rounding out the cast are a bunch of characters playing themselves in a tongue-in-cheeks manner, including magician David Copperfield and movie star Dolph Lundgren. Without spoiling anything, their involvement in 7 Days in Hell is most excellent.

As a fan of the game of tennis and someone that has watched dozens of sports documentaries, I had a feeling that I’d enjoy 7 Days in Hell. The movie was different from what I was expecting. It’s far more crass and sexual than I thought it would be, but the real surprise was how deftly the director managed the short film’s tone. I was very, very impressed by how seamlessly 7 Days in Hell alternated between crass humor and witty satire. Juggling the two contrasting forms of comedy into a congruous experience is difficult and director Jake Szymanski handled things excellently.

While I love the pomp and circumstance of Wimbledon, 7 Days of Hell is a refreshing take on a sport that many view as stuffy and elitist. While the over-the-top humor will appeal to many viewers, the real joy of the film will be had by those that know tennis and sports documentaries. That said, the mockingly serious take on an absurd situation featuring two absurd characters is so good, that there’s a chance 7 Days in Hell will be enjoyed by people that don’t like sports at all. With a runtime of 43 minutes, I recommend giving the movie a shot. If you like it, I recommend watching it again because there’s a lot of subtle and background humor that you’ll probably miss the first time around.

If you’ve watched 7 Days in Hell, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. Please share your musings in the comments section. Now excuse me, as I’m about to give the movie a third viewing.

The Best Shia LaBeouf “Do It!!!” Videos

I’ve discovered that the cure to fluctuating between depression and ennui is watching Shia LaBeouf “Do It!!!” videos. The original motivational speech was entertaining on its own, but when you add it to various scenes in movies and television, it becomes pure gold. The following are a bunch of my favorite Shia LaBeouf “Do It!!!” juxtapositions.

Let’s start with this unforgettable scene from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Shia LaBeouf’s motivational skills make Yoda’s look pedestrian.

Next up is Goku building up a “spirit bomb” to take down Frieza in Dragon Ball Z. Forget a power level that’s over 9,000. With Shia LaBeouf in your corner, your power level will easily exceed 9,000,000.

Even the King of Pop needed help back in his day. Forget “Beat It.” It’s all about “Do It!!!”

While Harry Potter achieved ordinary wizarding levels (OWLs) on his own, Shia LaBeouf helped The Boy Who Lived take it to next level in this epic showdown. I don’t know that Potter could’ve taken down Lord Voldemort in The Goblet of Fire without the extra motivation.

Shia LaBeouf can also help when grisly acts are required, as seen in Rorschach’s grand finale in The Watchmen.

Last, but not least, Shia LaBeouf has chosen a side in the conflict between Batman and Superman.

Random Thoughts on Pixar’s Inside Out

Pixar’s latest summer spectacular, Inside Out, is a very good movie, but not among the company’s best. Like previous Pete Docter Pixar films, Inside Out is quite clever and full of heart. It’s a simultaneously cute and heady story of what goes on inside a young girl’s head as she deals with stress of moving from suburban Minnesota to San Francisco. Moviegoers get to watch anthropomorphic versions of the girl’s emotions — Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Anger, and Fear — working together in her head. Naturally, things get fouled up, the emotions go through struggles, and everyone reaches a new understanding during the denouement.

First off, I’m going to admit that I probably enjoyed the movie more than many people will, simply because I’m a huge Pete Docter fan. I loved his work in Monsters Inc. and Up. Docter co-wrote and co-directed Inside Out. Secondly, I’m rooting for the movie to do well because Ronaldo Del Carmen is the other co-director; I have to support the work of my fellow Filipino-Americans. Thirdly, since the movie takes place in San Francisco, some of the scenes touched a place in my heart, bringing up fond memories of a city I lived in for many years. With all of that in mind, Inside Out is at the top of Pixar’s second echelon of movies for me. However, I completely understand anyone that rates it as middle of the pack.

Like most good Pixar movies, Inside Out is enjoyable for children and adults. It has plenty of visual gags and slapstick humor for youngsters, but also has several smartly written scenes. After the screening, my friend Paul said that this is one of the smartest Pixar movies to date and I totally agree. Emotions can be complex and intricate, and Inside Out had lots of fun playing with how human brains function. From cherished childhood memories to jingles that get stuck in your head, Inside Out handles the brain in a very clever way.

In a recent Google Hangout, a few of you RPadholics said that Inside Out was Pixar’s version of Herman’s Head. While several of the concepts are similar, the Pixar movie is much smarter and emotionally deeper than the Fox sitcom. Frankly, comparing Inside Out to Herman’s Head is more than a little bit insulting to Pixar. I mean…it’s Fox.

Anyway, the main conflict of the movie has Joy and Sadness getting separated from the other emotions. The pair go on a journey through other parts of the girl’s head, desperately trying to get back to headquarters so that they can restore emotional balance. The main problem I had with Inside Out is that the journey seems too long. There isn’t a single part of the quest that I disliked or would have cut entirely, but the whole thing could have felt tighter.

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The actors and actresses that play the emotions are the best parts of Inside Out. Amy Poehler and Phyllis Smith are perfect as Joy and Sadness, respectively. Mindy Kaling is great as Disgust and Bill Hader is lots of fun as Fear. My favorite was Anger, played by Lewis Black; let’s face it, the guy lives to play angry. An honorable mention goes to Richard Kind as Bing Bong, the girl’s imaginary friend. A forgotten remnant of the girl’s childhood, Bing Bong has a scene that will leave many moviegoers in tears.

The way the various internal characters work with and against each other is a fun take on emotions. While neuroscientists will probably disagree with Pixar’s take on how the human brain functions, it makes for an entertaining plot device. Personally, I believe that emotions are complex chemical reactions that happen in your brain; I don’t believe that there’s anything spiritual or magical about them. However, I’m also a man with borderline ridiculous emotions, so anthropomorphic characters playing around in heads is a plausible (enough) explanation. For some people, the plot device of Inside Out will be a fun exercise in examining the sometimes inexplicable intricacies of emotions.

With a runtime of 94 minutes, Inside Out isn’t very long, but it feels like a loose 94 minutes. The movie is an entertaining and emotional ride, but there are several parts of the film that feel close to going off the rails. Better editing and tighter writing would have made the journey smoother. Nonetheless, Inside Out is a very good Pixar movie that’s shy of being among the greats. Keep in mind that my opinion is in the context of the high bar Pixar has set.

As an added bonus, Inside Out viewers also get to watch the delightfully charming and exquisitely animated “Lava” short movie. As a fan of ukulele-based music, I loved it. It’s a shame that Hawaiian legend Iz passed away. A singing island with a sweet voice was meant to be played by an island of a man with a sweet voice.

If you’ve seen Inside Out, let’s compare notes (please!). Kindly share your thoughts on Pixar’s latest movie in the comments section. For another take on the movie, be sure to check out this fine review on PaulSemel.com.