Tag Archives: movie

Review: Superman vs. The Elite (2012) My Reviews 06 DEC 2012

Superman’s effectiveness as a superhero and a deterrent comes into question with the arrival of a teleporting superhero group known as The Elite, led by the media hungry telekinetic, Manchester Black. The Elite are not afraid to kill in order to stop the bad guys – permanently, putting them on a direct collision course with the Man of Steel, whose refusal to put a final end to the problems plaguing the world seems to have alienated the people who once adored him.

Is there still a place in our modern day world for the kind of superhero ideals that Superman embodies?

Superman vs. The Elite is an animated superhero film based on Joe Kelly’s “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice & the American Way?”, a story published in Action Comics #775, back in March 2001. The movie is directed by Michael Chang and features the return of George Newbern as Superman, and David Kaufman as Jimmy Olsen, reprising their roles from the DC animated universe. It is the 14th film in the DC Universe Animated Original Movies line.

After not quite enjoying the last Superman solo outing that was 2011’s “All-Star Superman”, I’m pleased to report that I genuinely, genuinely enjoyed Superman vs. The Elite. The pacing, the story, the character development – everything is right on the money, and the threads all combine beautifully to create a strong story that reaffirms just why we need the classic superheroes to still exist.

It’s a fairly simple and straightforward story that is told, but it has plenty of the necessary drama and twice as much action as that, making for an exhilarating comic book story that is both sure to entertain, as it is to get you thinking.

The animation is solid and bold (though it does feature a slightly off, British Pop sort of musical start intro sequence which doesn’t quite fit in with the film in my opinion), with very smooth choreography and great looking character designs – though admittedly Superman does come off a little too goofy at times thanks to his big eyes and silly chin. Nevertheless, for the most part this is a brightly coloured, strongly animated movie whose style is most certainly good on the eye.

In terms of the aural experience, it feels good to have some of the classic voices return to the characters they voiced so long ago, and mixed with with a very solid soundtrack, Superman vs. The Elite is certainly a polished package.

Overall, there is very little not to like about this film, as it looks good, sounds good, has plenty of superhero action to share around, and most important of all, tells an accessible, thinking man’s story which is guaranteed to entertain. Definitely recommended if you can lay your hands on it then!

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superman_vs._The_Elite

Review: Superman: Brainiac Attacks (2006) My Reviews 20 JUL 2012

Embittered by Superman’s heroic successes and soaring popularity, Lex Luthor forms a dangerous alliance with the powerful computer/villain Brainiac. Using advanced weaponry and a special strain of Kryptonite harvested from the far reaches of outer space, Luthor specifically redesigns Brainiac to defeat the Man of Steel. But when Brainiac betrays Luthor and reveals its sinister plans for world domination, Superman must brave the mysterious Phantom Zone to find the strength to survive this deadly showdown – and save the life of his beloved Lois Lane!

Superman: Brainiac Attacks is a 2006 direct-to-video animated film directed by Curt Geda for Warner Bros. Animation, based on a script by Duane Capizzi and Christopher Simmons.

In terms of story, Superman: Brainiac Attacks delivers knockout action from start to finish, mixing a touch of humor here and there and tempered by plenty of drama, just as was done in the original Superman: The Animated Series run. On top of the whole Brainiac and Lex Luthor plot, the film also weaves in a subtle inner turmoil as Clark Kent continues to pine for Lois and toys with the idea of letting her in on his secret identity. However, whilst the build-up to the big finale is pretty well handled, I must say that the film kind of loses it two thirds of the way in, where it rushes the whole Phantom Zone scenario, provides a rather silly golden liquid solution to the problem at hand, before end off with a rather cheesy “kiss saves her life” routine, which feels rather out of place amongst all the action going on in the background.

Nevertheless, the film isn’t all bad and the heavy hitting action it delivers is pretty top notch (even if the design of the Brainiac robot isn’t exactly the most menacing around) – in other words, certainly doing enough to satisfy most fans of the Man of Steel.

Animation is done in the same visual style as what was used in the original Superman: The Animated Series television franchise, which does mean fairly simple lines, but also means immediate familiarity for anyone who grew up watching the revival of the Man of Steel on the Silver Screen. That said, there are moments where the animation is spotty, particularly in terms of proportions and face layouts, but for the most part the animation is solid, complemented by some great choreography, especially during the many explosive fight scenes.

The soundtrack by Thomas Chase Jones is top-notch, and the voice cast sees the welcome return of many of the voices who did Superman: The Animated Series, including Tim Daly who had been absent from the character during the Justice League animation run. However, the choice of franchise newcomer Powers Boothe is a bit of a mistake, as the character of Lex Luthor is completely off, coming across as more of a Joker from the Batman universe than anything else, detracting from what is normally quite a menacing figure in the Superman universe.

Overall, Superman: Brainiac Attacks is a competent animated superhero movie, though it did feel a little more cheesy than normal. Nevertheless, it does pack in quite a lot of walloping Superman action, so fans of the Man of Steel will probably enjoy catching this one.

I personally can’t really see myself bothering to watch it again though, truth be told.

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superman:_Brainiac_Attacks

Review: Justice League: Doom (2012) Animation | My Reviews 21 JUN 2012

The Justice League consists of Earth’s finest super heroes and protectors of humanity. But in the mind of the Dark Knight, it contains potentially the most dangerous people on the planet. Over time, Batman has compiled top-secret contingency plans should any of them go rogue. When these files are stolen by a rising group of super villains, the Justice League embarks on a collision course that will test the very fabric of its alliance!

Director Lauren Montgomery and producers Bruce Timm and Sam Register are back, with the last ever movie script penned by the venerable Dwayne McDuffie before his untimely passing. Released in February 2012, Justice League: Doom is the 13th film in the DC Universe Animated Original Movies line.

The JL line-up for this outing consists of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), The Flash (Barry Allen) and Martian Manhunter, with the assistance of Cyborg who ends up playing a pivotal role in the saga. Up against them is Vandal Savage, leading a group consisting of Metallo, Mirror Master, Cheetah, Star Sapphire, Bane and Ma’alefa’ak – basically a villain from each hero’s rogues gallery and thus perfect to round things off. What follows is an excellently paced action drama that sees each of the heroes incapacitated in a surprising manner, as Vandal sets about his plan to create a new world order – which of course makes for quite an epic ending.

Being a team-based movie, not a lot of time is lavished on one single hero, but the air time is split evenly enough that you don’t feel hard done by if you support a particular character, and the various threads all combine very nicely to provide a solid and enjoyable super hero tale that has plenty of drama, intrigue and of course fist pounding action (not to mention a giggle here and there)!

Although not a direct sequel to the earlier Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, the movie does use the same character designs as the former, and to be frank, despite some of the more pretty boy faces like Superman to get used to as well as the sometimes too sparse line-work, the visuals are for the most part crisp, clean and very well animated, with some fluid choreography and effects, not to mention the vibrant colour palette it sports.

Christopher Drake scores the film and complementing the great soundtrack is a stellar vocal performance from all of the voice actors attached to the project, which includes the likes of Kevin Conroy as Batman, Time Daly as Superman and Nathan Fillion as Green Lantern.

In summary this is yet another excellently crafted super hero movie and a worthy inclusion in what is a fantastic DC animated movie line-up. Strong story which keeps you engaged from start to finish, great visuals and animation, plus a polished sound makes Justice League: Doom well worth tracking down!

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Justice_League:_Doom

Review: Green Lantern: Emerald Knights My Reviews 17 NOV 2011

At last, an enjoyable anthology makes its appearance in the form of Green Lantern: Emerald Knights, released in 2011 under the DC Universe Animated Original Movie banner.

Although Emerald Knights is the second Green Lantern animated film to be released under this banner and despite sharing character design and animation style with the first, it diverges from the continuity laid out by First Flight in that Hal Jordan is now a veteran Green Lantern and Sinestro is still a Green Lantern, something which would obviously not have been possible following the events of First Flight.

Unlike the haphazard anime-styled anthology that was Batman: Gotham Knight, Green Lantern: Emerald Knights tries a different tack, by unifying the various short stories under an overarching, linking story and employing the same animation style throughout (despite each segment being directed and written by different people, including Lauren Montgomery, Christopher Berkeley and Jay Olivia). So what we get is a fantastic set of tales related by Hal Jordan to new recruit Arisia Rrab as they prepare for an oncoming onslaught that has prompted the Guardians to evacuate Oa and place the Green Lantern Corps on high alert!

The first tale tells of Avra, the first Green Lantern to ever do a light construct, the second of Kilowog and his training under Sgt. Deega, the third of Laira and her action-packed return to her home planet, and the fourth of Mogo and why he doesn’t socialize. At this point Sinestro takes over and tells a tale of Abin Sur, before the movie decides to wrap things up by launching a full scale assault from within the sun the Lantern Corps had been monitoring, prompting the creation of Arisia’s very own tale.

This clever way of presenting an anthology means that it feels like you are watching a full film and not just little disjointed segments, resulting in a great amount of Green Lantern history and information being passed over to you for the first three quarters of the feature, before rewarding you with a proper epic finish that is worthy of a Green Lantern story.

In other words, a very satisfying affair for both those familiar with the Green Lantern mythos and those who were perhaps just passing by. As per usual voice director Andrea Romano has pulled in a wide variety of talent to voice the huge cast of characters, featuring the likes of Nathan Fillion, Elisabeth Moss, Jason Isaacs, Kelly Hu, Arnold Vosloo and even Roddy Piper of all people! Complementing the great voice acting is of course a fantastic musical score, put together by Christopher Drake.

In terms of animation style, Green Lantern: Emerald Knights actually ends up looking quite nice, with fairly simple lines being used, but in such a way as to give a good amount of detail and diversity to the varied set character models used throughout. The animation itself is very slick and there are some fantastic choreographed fight sequences, particularly in the Laira segment. In other words, Emerald Knights comes out looking pretty good for a straight to DVD animated feature!

I must admit that I did enjoy this particular one, despite the fact that an anthology will almost never grab a viewer emotionally due to the short nature of all its mini features. But thanks to the clever overarching storyline, well th05ought out stories being told, and great animation and voice acting, this is certainly another worthy entry into the DC Universe Animated Original Movie catalogue, suitable for both those already familiar with the Green Lantern mythos, as well as those just looking to enjoy some animated fun!

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Lantern:_Emerald_Knights

Review: Halo Legends Anime | My Reviews 10 NOV 2011

2010 saw the release of Halo Legends, overseen by 343, the appointed managers of the hugely successful Microsoft Halo gaming franchise. It is a seven part anthology (eight if you count the fact that “Origins” is split into two episodes), consisting of episodes ranging in length from ten to twenty minutes each, and produced by some of Japan’s hottest anime studios and directors, including work by Studio 4°C, Production I.G., Casio Entertainment, Toei Animation, and Bones, never mind the fact that the applauded director Shinji Aramaki also wades in on the act.

So this is the marriage of the Western Halo gaming franchise with Japanese anime, a mix that doesn’t always work that well in practice, but which does actually stand a fairly good chance to successfully translate this time around, thanks mainly to Halo’s focus on mecha and space ships, one of the staples of anime design!

Anthologies are not my cup of tea as the short nature of the stories means that you don’t easily get sucked in, and if they aren’t linked up in a coherent storyline like say Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic or Green Lantern: Emerald Knights managed to do, it becomes somewhat of a waste of time in my opinion.

And this turns out to be very much the case.

Ignoring the slapstick “Odd One Out” episode which is completely out of line in terms of tone to the rest of the DVD, the short stories are all haphazardly placed in the Halo mythos, and apart from Origins which at least gives us a deeper look into the historic timeline of the franchise, the rest of the stories really matter very little indeed.

In other words, unless you are already a hardcore Halo fan, there really isn’t all that much for you here.

In terms of the animation, each studio uses completely different techniques, resulting in a very disjointed affair, reminiscent of the problems that plagued the poor The Animatrix anthology release back when it was originally published. That said, the animation employed by the various studios do all for the most part work and work well, with particular mention being made of the absolutely gorgeous and fluid CG used to render Shinji Aramaki’s The Package insert. However on a similar note, the horrid watercolor effect completely destroys Hiroshi Yamazaki’s The Duel piece, and while Toei’s Dragonball Z-like animation suits the tone of the “Odd One Out” story, it just serves to re-enforce how much this episode really doesn’t belong in what would otherwise be a pretty serious group of tales.

One thing that does however work across all the episodes is the great choice in voice actors cast to fill the characters’ shoes, as is the splendid music that often serves to provide a hauntingly beautiful and epic backdrop to each and every one of the stories being told.

All in all, Halo Legends is probably something best left to the fans of the series, especially those who are interesting in the single player storyline of the Halo franchise, and not those just in it for the multiplayer. For me it suffers from the same sense of pointlessness of the other anime-inspired anthologies that have come before it, in other words The Animatrix and Batman: Gotham Knight, meaning that I really can’t recommend it to anyone other than those aforementioned hardcore fans.

Still, it’s not like it doesn’t have its pretty moments though…

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halo_Legends

Jackie Chan is Chun Li! Jokes & other Funny Stuff 03 NOV 2011

Well, at least he was for a bit in 1993’s Hong Kong martial arts action comedy “City Hunter”, directed by Wong Jing and based off Tsukasa Hojo’s popular at the time manga, City Hunter.

The manga series follows the exploits of Ryo Saeba, a “sweeper” or private detective who works to rid Tokyo of crime, and Kaori Makimura, a tomboyish girl who manages Ryo’s business affairs.
Their “City Hunter” business is an underground jack-of-all-trades operation, contacted by writing the letters “XYZ” on a blackboard at Shinjuku Station.

Anyway, to bring you up to speed, Jackie Chan who plays Ryo Saeba has been captured and has just escaped from a firing squad, stumbling inside a gaming parlor as he makes his escape. However, bad guy Donald Mac’s henchman Kim locates him and attacks, the result of which is Jackie seeing stars and more importantly… hallucinations!

Oh the fun! :)

Of course, for those of you unfamiliar with Street Fighter, what follows below will just be silly. But for those of us who grew up spending our money at the arcade on this game will undoubtedly absolutely love it to death!

For the record, Jackie absolutely hated this movie as well as his involvement in it, so much so that he pretty much disowned it and publicly slated Wong Jin after its release

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_Hunter_%28film%29

Review: Dead Leaves Anime | My Reviews 22 SEP 2011

Retro and Pandy, two unlikely renegades, awaken naked on Earth with no recollection of their past, but with superior physical abilities. After embarking on a brief but devastating crime spree for food, clothing and transportation in downtown Tokyo, they are captured by authorities and sent to the infamous prison called Dead Leaves, on the half destroyed moon.

But it doesn’t end there. Soon they have managed to slip their shackles and spark a full scale prison break – and are now running head first down the track to learning the truth of their situation regardless of whether they want to or not!

Surprisingly rising out of the superstar animation house that is Production I.G. back 2004, Dead Leaves was Hiroyuki Imaishi’s directorial debut, who has since gone on to direct both the acclaimed Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (2007) and Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt (2010) series.

Although it actually contains quite a neat little sci-fi storyline within it, you’ll be excused for mostly ignoring it as the film hurtles from start to finish at breakneck speed, never once letting up for you to catch your breath thanks to its frenetic pacing. And then of course, you would also have needed to look past all the crude and mostly vulgar fart, dick, sex and violence jokes that makes up most of the storytelling, all of which translates into a movie which has a rather limited target audience that will actually enjoy it.

If you have seen either Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann or Pant & Stocking then you will know the frenetic, simple line, highly exaggerated artwork that Imaishi employs for his fast paced approach to animated movie making, and while it certainly fits the pace of the story perfectly and works well for what is essentially an action movie from start to finish, it doesn’t exactly look pretty and nor will its style win it any awards. That said, it is unique, and you’re not going to find anything else like it out there, so maybe it does work for you after all.

The accompanying soundtrack keeps pace nicely with the visuals and the story, and is suitable epic where it needs to be, and this combines well with a good choice of voice actors who all fit their various manic personas pretty comfortably.

Overall, I can’t really think of anyone I can actually recommend Dead Leaves to. It is certainly different, I’ll give it that, but it lacks any sort of charm and the juvenile humor really will only amuse a select sort of people, meaning that as far as I’m concerned, this is one of those rare things to come out of Production I.G. that you can safely ignore.

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_Leaves

Review: Rango Animation | My Reviews 13 APR 2011

Rango just kind of snuck up on me, I have to admit. I had no idea that a film like this was even being developed in the first place, and when it did catch me by surprise by all of a sudden appearing on the circuit with Johnny Depp attached as the lead voice artist, well let’s just say that my curiosity was piqued. After all, when does Mr. Depp ever attach himself to projects that aren’t entertaining?

And after watching it with Chantelle, I have to say it turned out to be quite the entertaining project after all!

While certainly not for kiddies (though there is enough slapstick littered throughout to at least keep the little ones guffawing out aloud every now and then), Rango turns in a well written and engaging Western story, some exceptionally entertaining and well developed characters, and most striking of all, simply superb CG animated visuals, combining to produce something that is both wonderfully unique and thoroughly entertaining all at the same time!

Basically, it takes one pet chameleon with some big existential problems and a passion for acting (Rango), takes him out of his comfy life and thrusts him deep into a dusty old Wild West cowboy scenario where a town is on the verge of collapse thanks to a shortage of water and more importantly, on the verge of anarchy thanks to a lack of a decent sheriff!

Needless to say, this is exactly what Rango needs to reinvent himself, and what follows is a proper adventure in which the out of his depth chameleon attempts to restore law and order for the citizens, save the town by solving the water mystery, try and solve his own existential issues while he is at it, and in the process, find some meaning to his life and maybe even a little to love to go with it!

It has all the hallmarks of a classic Western yarn, even if it does revolve around critters no bigger than your boot and one particularly nasty shooting snake. The plot might be as formulaic and easy to predict as all heck, but the charm and manner in which it is told makes for a thoroughly enjoyable film.

The highlight is of course the wonderful CG animation that produces some of the most lifelike visuals seen yet in a computer animated film (just watch the flowing sand), combined with some simply stunning anthropomorphic character design which map typical Western archetypes flawlessly onto the movie’s lovable cast of critters.

And of course, the strong lead from Johnny Depp just adds that extra layer of awesomeness to what is already a polished film.

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Crayon Shin-chan: The Storm Called: The Adult Empire Strikes Back Anime 16 JUL 2010

Yoshito Usui’s Crayon Shin-chan follow the adventures of the precocious and slightly too old for his boots, five-year-old Shinnosuke “Shin” Nohara. A bit of a cult classic back in Japan, 2001’s The Storm Called: The Adult Empire Strikes Back, sees Shin and his friends from the neighbourhood deal with the mysterious disappearance of all the adults in his home town. It would seem that some or other madman is behind the mysterious disappearance and has now returned to take care of the children as well – leading to a madcap adventure as Shin and his little friends attempt to evade the clutches of the brainwashed adults and at the same time, break his parent’s free from this mysterious hold this unknown madman seems to have over them!

As I mentioned above, Crayon Shin-chan is a bit of a cult show in Japan, but unfortunately isn’t one that has particularly caught on in the rest of the world, mostly due to its nature of having most of its humour and puns linked very closely to Japanese parodies, traditions and phrases that simply don’t translate that well and are for the most part quite lost on Western audiences.

That said, this movie certainly did have its funny moments, enough to make me laugh out loud just that once or twice, even if it was the more crude chuckles that got me started!

The movie is absolutely silly fun from start to end, featuring Shin-chan’s distinctive zany art style which has become synonymous with the brand as well as a great little soundtrack that fits the tone of the movie perfectly. All the usual suspects get a great amount of screen time, there are more than a few funny parodies to look out for (though they might have to be explained to you first). The scenarios are all completely over the top, cute and silly all at once and as a movie adaptation, captures the spirit of Crayon Shin-chan perfectly.

It’s not necessarily a movie that I’ll watch again, but for some silly laughs and for something a little different from the norm, delving into the host of Crayon Shin-chan movies really isn’t all that bad a thing!

Eveything (even the parodies) kick off at Expo '70...

There's actually quite a lot of running around in this movie!

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crayon_Shin-chan