Friday, 18 September 2015

Avengers Grimm (2015)

You could probably have guessed from the title, but this is a mockbuster cashing in on the popularity of Marvel's Avengers movies, made by the masters of the form at The Asylum. It's got a very different feel in general, though, and interestingly, there are more superheroines in this movie than there are in all of Marvel's movies put together.

So, there's trouble in the land of fairytales: Rumplestiltskin (who is not a hideous gold-loving troll, but a smug guy with mind control powers) has brainwashed the king's armies, and is generally causing havoc with the aid of his main henchman, The Big Bad Wolf (who is actually a large muscular man, not a wolf, though he does growl and snarl a lot). Using the mirror on the wall as a portal, Rumple, the Wolf and Snow White end up going to the real world. Some time later, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty and Red Riding Hood turn up and also go through the mirror, smashing it (but bringing a piece through with them) in the process. They arrive in a modern-day American-looking city that's ruled with an iron fist by mayor Rumplestiltskin, while Snow White provides a thorn in his side.

Of the heroines, only the actual royalty gets superpowers: Cinderella can cure Rumplestiltskin's brainwashing, as well as transform objects, Rapunzel has long, unbreakable hair with an iron ball on the end that she uses as a flail (prehensile hair tendrils would have been cooler, but probably also too expensive for a production like this), Sleeping Beauty can sort of project energy that makes people fall asleep, and Snow White has ice powers. Red Riding Hood is just a highly skilled fighter and archer, with an obsession on achieving vengeance against the Big Bad Wolf for killing her family. Red's also by far the most interesting and charismatic of all the characters, with the princesses all being a bit bland in comparision.

Obviously, the main plot is the princesses trying to kill Rumplestiltskin, Red trying to kill the wolf, and Rumplestiltskin trying to both kill the princesses and get their piece of the mirror so he can open a portal and bring through his armies to conquer the Earth. There's also a gang of Earth natives who are a kind of neutral third party, until Rumplestiltskin brainwashes their leader (Iron John, played by Lou Ferrigno) and literally turns him into a living metal golem.

I wont spoil any more of the plot, because I actually did like this movie. It was entertaining, it hid its low budget well, and it's about a team of super-powered heroines. Though I do have a small, probably futile hope that we might get a spin-off all about Red Riding Hood, the ending does leave things open for a possible sequel in the future at least. The reception this film has recieved in general though is really unfair: all the people you see wanting superheroine movies have ignored it because it's not licenced from a comic, and everyone else has really brutally slated it in what can only be a deliberately hyberbolic, affected manner simply because that's what "has to be done" when talking about B-Movies. Actually liking a flawed, low budget movie is totally uncool,  unless it's done ironically. How boring.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Dragon League Episodes 1 & 2

So, before I get into the specific details of this show, I want to talk about the concept of "6AM Cartoons": a specific kind of cartoon defined more by a vague feling than anything else. Basically, the kind of cartoon that would be picked up cheaply, usually dubbed into english from Japanese or French and broadcast in the UK or US at 6AM, with no accompanying merchandising push or promotion of any kind, in those countries at least. Stuff like Sandokan, Spiff and Hercules, Albert the Fifth Musketeer, Ulysses 31 (at least when I saw it in the 90s, anyway) and so on. Even Sailor Moon was one of these shows at some point in its history! Anyway, though it has no english dub (as far as I'm aware, these two fansubbed episodes are all that's been translated into english at all), Dragon League definitely has the feel of a 6AM cartoon.

It's a sports anime, though it eschews the usual modern Japanese school setting for a medieval fantasy kingdom, where humans live alongside animal-people and dinosaur-people, and also actual dinosaurs. Obviously, football is very important in this kingdom, to the point where the equivalent of the knights of the round table are the national football team, led by a huge lion-man. The main character is a young boy named Tokio and his dad used to be on that team, but apparently there's some kind of old grudge between him and the aforementioned lion, Leon.

This cumulates when Tokio and his dad return to the city, and his dad has a "duel" with Leon. Of course, the duel is a one-on-one football match using a magic golden ball. Dad loses, and as a result is turned into a tiny dragon, but he can still talk and stuff so I guess it's okay? The next day, Tokio sees some teams of youngsters roughly his own age (though it's hard to tell, since none of them are human) having a practice game inside the castle grounds, and since one team is a player short, he joins in. The team he joins is terrible, and they're playing against a team of skilled bullies.

By the end of the first half, Tokio's team are losing, but only by 10 goals, where they're apparently down by 40 by this point in most matches. But then, disaster strikes! Tokio is arrested by a castle guard for trespassing and taken to the dungeon. He then has to escape using a combination of football skills and general mischief before half-time is over to finish the game.

Unfortunately, this is where episode 2 ends, so we don't get to see the outcome of the match. So, Dragon League isn't any kind of great hidden gem or anything, but it's an inoffensive little show, and though the concept is pretty strange, you can't help but be surprised you haven't seen it done before. It's also surprising to find that there's apparently no videogame adaptation at all, not even a Japan-only one. There's something about it that just screams "Super Famicom licenced game".