Tag Archives: sam liu

Review: Thor: Tales of Asgard (2011) Animation | My Reviews 01 MAR 2012

Sam Liu steps back into the director’s chair for Marvel/Lionsgate’s latest animated direct-to-DVD movie to hit the street, namely Thor: Tales of Asgard – and to be honest, it’s another competent, enjoyable outing from him!

Thor: Tales of Asgard delivers to us a tale of a hot-headed, impetuous teenage Thor, well before he ever lifted the mighty Mjolnir – basically when he was nothing more than a prince confined to his kingdom, trying to impress his father by proving his manhood against all comers. After a heated argument with Odin, Thor decides to pick up on a coming of age tradition amongst Asgard’s young men, to head out in search of a legendary sword that has been missing since Odin defeated its demon bearer in the land of the Frost Giants.

Sneaking out of Asgard with his magic-wielding brother Loki aboard the ship of the Warriors Three, Thor’s quest leads them deep into the heart of the enemy territory where they discover the fabled sword, but which in turn initiates a chain of events that leads to all out war as the Frost Giants attack Asgard in an attempt to reclaim what is “rightfully” theirs!

Thor: Tales of Asgard is the eight Marvel release, and despite presenting us a Thor which no one is familiar with, it is quite an enjoyable tale, being a well written, self-contained story that pushes all the right buttons in terms of humor and action, delivers a decent message to the viewer, and is actually pretty likeable despite the decision to cast such a young Avenger. In amongst this, it even manages to hide a decent and unexpected twist, making it quite the enjoyable outing for both newcomers and long time comic book fans.

On the art front, Thor: Tales of Asgard adopts a slightly more cartoonish approach to character design and animation (with particularly silly looking feet), but makes up for this with some gorgeous backgrounds and a striking color palette that raises the overall look of the film. The action and fight sequences are well choreographed and very slickly done, making for some pretty exciting viewing at times.

The voice actors employed are all enjoyable to take in, but there is a dissonance in the age of the voices versus the age of the characters, so it does take some time to get over this. Nevertheless, backed by a great musical score, Thor: Tales of Asgard does come out sounding pretty good.

In summary, this is once again a polished product that offers enough frames of reference for long time fans of comic book Asgard, but at the same time introduces a fresh new spin on old characters which makes for an exciting, enjoyable, and action-packed animated movie outing. It certainly isn’t the most mature of titles out there (unlike the recent slew of DC direct to DVD releases like Batman: Year One for example), but then again, that isn’t the target market (this one fits in more along the Next Avengers line). You and your kids are sure to enjoy it together, and that is pretty much all that counts! :)

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thor:_Tales_of_Asgard

Review: Batman: Year One (2011) My Reviews 05 JAN 2012

“When Gotham City is in desperate need of heroes, two men take a stand for justice… but on opposite sides. Bruce Wayne returns home after years abroad to become a crime fighter, just as honest cop Lt. James Gordon moves to Gotham and finds corruption at every level. When Bruce becomes the masked vigilante Batman, the city explodes as the mob, his new nemesis Catwoman, and Gordon all close in!”

So another Batman movies enters the fantastic DC Universe Animated Original Movies stable, this time in the form of Batman: Year One, based on the classic Frank Miller’ and David Mazzucchelli’s ’87 story arc. Essentially a tale based in the start of Batman’s career and an exploration of how his relationship with Jim cemented itself, Batman: Year One is gritty, focused, and very much not an overblown, save the world super hero type of story – instead the spotlight hangs for the most part over James Gordon and his early tribulations as he tries to clean up in a very corrupt city, with of course the rather unwanted assistance of Gotham’s first masked vigilante!

Matching the subdued, dark tone of the story, the animation style employed resembles very closely the emotive art of Mazzucchelli, giving the film a very distinct, adult look, resulting in a truly good looking piece of work. Similarly, fantastic voice artist work from the likes of Benjamin McKenzie as Batman/Bruce Wayne and Bryan Cranston as Lt. James Gordon adds to the class already delivered by the stunning visuals, never mind the suitably moody and well arranged musical score that acts as the backdrop for this very serious tale that is being told.

In summary, Batman: Year One is a very, very good movie. Because the source material was already so cinematic in nature, directors Sam Liu and Lauren Montgomery didn’t have to fiddle very much in bringing it to the silver screen, and so fans of the original comic arc will definitely be blown away by this fantastic adaptation, as will any other fans of the Dark Knight.

However, that said, I didn’t necessarily enjoy Batman: Year One. I appreciated it, yes, but perhaps it was a little too grounded and dark in tone for me to say that I loved it. However, despite my personal taste, there is no taking away from the fact that this is a VERY well made animated movie, a fantastic new entry into the DC animated movies stable, and most important of all, an excellent example of animation aimed for a mature audience done right.

Well worth picking up then.

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

Review: All-Star Superman (2011) Animation | My Reviews 19 MAY 2011

Well, that was certainly… different. Not that it wasn’t enjoyable or anything, but DC Comics and Warner Bros. Animation’s tenth outing in their DC Universe Animated Original Movies line, namely All-Star Superman is a very different sort of story from what the line has thus far trod.

More of a thinking man’s movie than a kid’s knuckle buster superhero yarn, it tells the tale of a Superman whose cells have been over saturated with the sun’s energy, increasing his powers and intellect tenfold but at the same time poisoning him and radically shortening his lifespan.

The question then arises, “what should he do?”. It is a film about Superman settings his affairs in order and dealing with the various threads that make up his existence, leading to a far more intellectually challenging story than what we normally get from these particular movies, a good indicator being that this is the first movie in the line to receive a PG rating instead of the usual PG-13 rating!

The pacing of the first half of the movie feels a little rushed and off, but it does propel us down the story just fine, though it may lose some of the casual viewers not associated very well with the Superman mythos along the way. It covers all the ground it wants to in order to make it a meaningful outing (for example the relationship between Clark and Lois) and ends off in a way which you might not necessarily expect, but one which certainly suits the mood of the story.

As per usual, the animation is strong and the ever so slightly styled and colorful visuals are fantastic to take in. Voice artists all fulfil their respective roles nice and credibly, while the orchestral background music remains as strong as ever.

This is definitely not a movie which action-hungry kids or adults will necessarily enjoy (though it does feature a fair bit of action funnily enough), and I can’t say that I really enjoyed it all that much either -though I can understand what it was trying to achieve and appreciate it for the type of story it so successfully tells.

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Planet Hulk Comic Books | My Reviews 21 AUG 2010

So Planet Hulk is the latest straight to DVD animated film to be thrown out at us by the awesome Marvel Animation and Lionsgate Home Entertainment partnership, and after catching it I have to say that for the first time I really wasn’t blown away by what up to now has been a pretty exciting surge in comic book-related film releases.

Based on the comic “Planet Hulk” storyline by Greg Pak and Carlo Pagulayan, Planet Hulk basically throws Hulk (from the phase when he was still the half intelligent green guy instead of the constantly morphing Bruce Banner to Hulk mode) off of our world thanks to some combined super hero ingenuity and sends out towards an uninhabited planet where he can’t be harmed and more importantly, can’t harm anything around him.

Unfortunately the plan goes slightly awry and Hulk finds himself cast upon an oppressed world where he is enslaved and tossed into the gladiator pits to become a fighter that will entertain the crowd as well as the all important Red King, the tyrant that rules the people of this planet in his iron grip.

However, Hulk’s appearance coincides with the natives’ legends of a saviour for their people and as Hulk slowly begins to gather followers (whether he wants them or not), the tide begins to shift as the Warbound, basically his band of fighters, continue their quest against ever stronger opponents to earn their freedom – and perhaps even that of the planet while they are at it!

While there is certainly nothing wrong with the story itself, the pacing just feels horribly wrong and we are shuttled from sequence to sequence, sometimes making huge leaps in the story being told and then simply be expected to fill in the details and make the mental leap ourselves. Stripping away everything else, this is pretty much a gladiator film and worse, a pretty tired gladiator story with the only new thing being aliens in Roman gladiator dress instead of humans.

The animation is pretty okay and the battle scenes are nice and fluid, though the visuals are kept pretty simple in terms of line count and colouring, and there isn’t all that much in terms of atmosphere created by the line art are shadowing. Also, I kept wondering to myself where Hulk’s nose kept disappearing to – for some reason they seemed intent on giving him the cutest little button nose whenever the opportunity arose! :P

Of course, as with all these new breed of animated films, there is a fair bit of animated violence to contend with, including the squishing of bug aliens by a huge brick monster. Nothing that should induce nightmares in kids, but something certainly worth taking note of.

The musical score and voice acting on the other hand are all pretty good and although I didn’t recognise most of the names on the voice roll call, I thought that just about everyone put in a pretty fine performance.

So in summary, a pretty average outing delivered to us courtesy of director Sam Liu, and it must be said that I can’t help but think that the work he delivers for the DC stable of animated films continues to be stronger than the work he delivers for Marvel. Still, it is an animated movie, it does feature the big green rampaging giant and so for any Marvel or comic book reader, this remains a film that should be watched and will bring joy to those fans of the jolly green giant! :)