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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!

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

Review: Teen Titans – The Complete Third Season (2004) My Reviews 13 AUG 2012

There is virtually nothing that you can dislike about the insanely fun, targeted at young kids, Teen Titans, who return for their third 13 part season, this time ditching the manipulative Slade as lead bad guy and instead replacing him with the hypnotic, cult leader Brother Blood instead!

Terra who was introduced in the last season is dropped and the team is returned to the core of level-headed leader Robin, the adorable and likeable Starfire, the cool techno wizard Cyborg, the enigmatic and grouchy Raven, and of course the over the top, ball of silliness that is Beast Boy.

Stories are again an equal mix of all out action and over the top silliness, where pretty much anything goes, as seen in particular by the groovy Mad Mod and out of the hat Amazing Mumbo episodes. In-addition to the variety of villains, both old and new, that get tossed at us during the run, we also get treated in the latter part of the series with the introduction of the new Titans East franchise, consisting of Bumblebee, Speedy, Aqualad, and the super fast Guatemalan twins Más y Menos.

With just the right mix of action and slapstick comedy, combined with a great voice cast, fun music, and the loose but fun animation style that often dips into the super deformed sort of stuff one usually only encounters on Japanese anime shows, Teen Titans is an absolute delight that is sure to be loved by your kids, and if you are a comic book fan, will probably entertain you in the process of watching it with them as well!

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teen_Titans_%28TV_series%29

Review: Teen Titans – The Complete Second Season (2004) My Reviews 12 JUL 2012

The insanely catchy and fun opening theme by Puffy AmiYumi is back, heralding of course the return of the awesomely fun superheroes for kids television series, Teen Titans!

The second season of Warner Bros. Animation’s Teen Titans consists of 13 episodes (just like the first season), and was aired back in 2004, making it pretty old already.

Following on from the first season, this new outing kicks off with the introduction of the new and sixth Teen Titan, Terra, who has the ability to manipulate rock (although she only hangs around for the first episode or two, then disappearing for most of the remainder of season, before returning right before the end to kick off the big finale arc).

As you might imagine, everyone that made up the team in the first season is back for this second run, giving us the adorable and likeable Starfire, the level-headed but headstrong Robin, the cool techno wizard Cyborg, the enigmatic and grouchy Raven, and of course the over the top, ball of silliness that is Beast Boy.

The series also brings back Slade (Deathstroke) as the principle manipulator behind the scenes, and after an enjoyable and action-packed two thirds of the episodes are done, the show really kicks into high gear, shifting to an even heavier amount of action and drama as Slade shows his hand and things get pretty serious!

With just the right mix of action and slapstick comedy, combined with the loose but fun animation style that often dips into the super deformed sort of stuff one usually only encounters on Japanese anime shows, Teen Titans is an absolute delight that is sure to be loved by your kids, and if you are a comic book fan, will probably entertain you in the process of watching it with them as well.

Light hearted (but with plenty of butt kicking superhero action), and with a great voice cast, fun music and silly but enjoyable animation, Teen Titans shouldn’t disappoint anyone in their target market – i.e. your youngsters! :)

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teen_Titans_%28TV_series%29

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: Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010) Animation | My Reviews 14 JUN 2012

Years ago, the Joker managed the unthinkable and killed the second Robin, a.k.a. Jason Todd. Time has since moved on, and although Jason is no longer with him, Batman has continued his never ending crusade against crime, with new partners and allies forged from the old.

However, something sinister is moving in Gotham, a new face, a villain wearing a red hood, who appears to be brutally taking control of all the gangs currently operating in the city, including the biggest of them all, the gang running under Black Mask.

Needless to say, this new villain’s trail of blood and headless bodies means that Batman will soon be on his tail – though unbeknown to the Dark Knight, this encounter is going to be stirring up some pretty dark secrets, and history, along with it!

Based on the classic “A Death in the Family” and “Under the Hood” storylines, Batman: Under the Red Hood is a 2010 direct to DVD movie released by Warner Bros. Animation, the eighth film released under the DC Universe Animated Original Movies banner.

Directed by Brandon Vietti and written by Judd Winick, this film is probably one of the strongest, darkest and most dramatic to come out of the line yet, packed to the brim with action, drama and a whole lot of secrets and unexpected twists.

Masterfully told and paced, with some great lines of meaningful dialogue between the various characters, Batman: Under the Red Hood is sure to satisfy just about any mature comic book audience.

In terms of animation, the movie boasts some slick and well designed characters, combined with great choreography (for the fight scenes), and a suitable color palette, all lending themselves to a visually enjoyable animated movie.

Similarly, the vocal talents of the actors used to bring the characters to life are all spot on, with the likes of Bruce Greenwood as Batman, Jensen Ackles and Red Hood and John DiMaggio as the Joker all producing great performances.

Finally, on top of all this, sits a fantastic soundtrack composed by Christopher Drake, the end result of it all being a highly polished, highly engaging, and highly enjoyable animated outing of the highest caliber.

Well, well worth picking up if you are either a comic book fan, or a fan of animated films in general then!

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Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batman:_Under_the_Red_Hood

Green Lantern: First Flight My Reviews 22 SEP 2009

Green Lantern First Flight CoverWhen test pilot and war veteran Hal Jordan accepts a mysterious, powerful ring from a dying alien creature, it transforms him into the Green Lantern, one of an elite force of intergalactic heroes who patrol the universe to ensure peace and justice for all, under the leadership of the Guardians of the Universe.

Unsure of their newest recruit, the Guardians assign Hal to their most-honoured Green Lantern Sinestro for training, unaware that a sinister plot is already well under way that seeks to overthrow the Guardians and create a new order that will replace chaos throughout the galaxy.

It’s a battle of might and willpower as Hal, the first ever human Green Lantern, must prove his worth both as a honourable member of the human species and as a hero to all!

Green Lantern: First Flight is a 2009, direct-to-video Warner Bros. and DC Comics animated film adaptation of the Green Lantern mythology, the first such film of its kind. The story focuses on the first mission of Hal Jordan, the first human inducted into the Green Lantern Corps and is written by veteran DC scribe Alan Burnett. The film is produced by Bruce Timm and directed by Lauren Montgomery, who previously directed DC’s Wonder Woman animated feature film also released in 2009.

In terms of story, Alan Burnett has been such a staple in the DC bullpen for so long now that it is almost impossible for him to put a single step wrong when it comes to DC superheroes and as such the film simply works, building up nice and quickly, humanising as many of the characters as possible and then finishing off with the perfect heroic and explosive end. There are scatterings of humour here and there, but first and foremost Green Lantern: First Flight is an space-based action movie fuelled by limitless imagination – and this is exactly what it chases after from start to finish.

One thing that I am glad about is that they decided not to rehash the whole origin story (despite the film’s title) as this had been covered more than comprehensively enough in the previous Justice League: New Frontier movie released in 2008. Rather, they rushed through this rather well trod sequence and instead chose to focus on the story of Hal Jordan’s first missions as a Green Lantern and the rise of Sinestro, a decision that I wholeheartedly applaud.

Visually, Green Lantern: First Flight is pretty much standard super hero fare, but this is in no way a bad thing when you realise that this means crisp, square-jawed antagonists with extremely clean lines and fluid animation, which when combined with a fairly bright (if a little flat) colour and shading palette delivers an end result that is certainly more than just a little pleasing to the eye.

Unfortunately the film does however stray in that ‘throw a little CG in here and there’ mentality and as per usual the meld between 2D and 3D does not blend seamlessly together and this does cause a little bit of irritation in what other wise would have been a perfect visual spectacle. Thankfully though these sequences and blendings are kept to a minimum and in the end, I can only hope that the cost savings made by substituting the CG in for traditional was worth the money for the producer.

As per usual, the orchestral arrangements and just general background music choice and sound effects for the film are absolutely spot on, but what is a nice change of pace is the inclusion of quite a few well known actors and actresses for the various voice roles in the movie, a move that DC seems to have started in earnest now, following their inclusion of a big(ish) name in Keri Russell for the previous Wonder Woman film. This time around we get Christopher Meloni as Hal Jordan, Victor Garber as Sinestro, Tricia Helfer as Boodikka, Juliet Landau as Labella, Olivia D’Abo as Carol Ferris, John Larroquette as Tomar Re, Larry Drake as Ganthet, and last but most definitely not least, the king of B film action actors, Michael Madsen as the ever lovable Kilowog.

Like it or hate it, having big(ish) names attached to a project (even if just in the voice acting category) certainly can’t hurt in overall sales, and apart from the ‘star power’ that the producer is most certainly hoping for, all these people are trained actors, meaning that their performances are all pretty much top notch.

In summary, Green Lantern: First Flight is a more than worthy addition to DC’s ever growing stable of animated feature length films, featuring some great action, solid story telling, competent animation and just an amazing level of faithfulness to the source material as a whole, all jumbled with that complete sense of wonderment that space-based superhero yarns so often instil deep in a fanboy’s heart.

It is a great composition and if you are a comic book fan then this is one animated film that should definitely be sitting snugly in your DVD rack! :)

Green Lantern First Flight Screenshot

Related link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Lantern:_First_Flight

Watchmen Back on Track! Moving Pictures Notes 16 JAN 2009

Yippee, news just in is that Fox and Warner Bros. have come to a settlement, thereby green-lighting the delayed release of Watchmen, probably one of the most anticipated geek movies of the year. It is going to be SO frikken’ awesome! :)

And in case you can’t wait, here’s the Japanese trailer for the movie, just for kicks:

watchmen movie characters

Related link: http://blog.wired.com/underwire/2009/01/fox-warner-bros.html

Justice League: The New Frontier My Reviews 07 JUN 2008

Justice League The New FrontierAs the Earth was formed all those millions of years ago and life slowly but surely began to inhabit her, another creature was being born into existence at her very core, the centre of her being. This powerful and slumbering power chose simply to watch, to observe as time passed by and in doing so recorded the entire birth and rise of humankind. However, in watching, this power, known only as “The Centre”, grew impatient and disillusioned with mankind’s propensity for destruction and despair and the time has finally come to put an end to all life on Earth so that Earth may once more be cleansed of the plague that is human beings.

It is the 1950s and McCarthyism is in full swing in the United States where the Communist threat now runs paramount to any other threat to national security. As a result of the strict political atmosphere, superheros and costumed vigilantes have been outlawed and the Justice Society is long since no more. Despite this, some heroes will never go away as Superman continues the good fight, standing tall in the light while Batman continues his crusade against criminals of all sorts from the shadows of the night.

Of course, there are other, less active heroes around, but the majority of them have gone undercover, waiting for the time when they will once more be called into service. People like Wonder Woman, The Flash and Green Arrow to name but a few.

And then there are the heroes that are still being birthed. Ace pilot Hal Jordan who survived the Korean War and is now a test pilot destined to journey to the stars and one day come into possession of one of the strongest weapons in the universe – the legendary ring of Green Lantern. J’onn J’onzz, the Martian accidentally transported to Earth who takes on his human detective persona and starts his crusade against crime as John Jones.

All these heroes are about to be brought together as knowledge of the global threat known only as “The Centre” begins to emerge and in order to solve this mystery and in the end take on the very creature that is capable of destroying all of mankind, these heroes must cast aside their differences, be accepted by a government that is suspicious of all and work together to save Earth before it is too late!

Justice League: The New Frontier is a 2008 direct-to-video animated film adaptation of the popular DC Comic, DC: The New Frontier limited series. It is directed by Dave Bullock and written by regular Justice League writer, Stan Berkowitz, with Darwyn Cooke (the guy behind the comic on which the movie is based) serving as story and visual consultant. This is the second in a line of DC Universe animated original movies released by Warner Bros. Animation, the first release being Superman: Doomsday.

Before it even begins, the story is guaranteed to be a hit because you have all that wonderful origin material to work with and Stan does a great job of weaving it all together into a single coherent movie. We get a lot of focus on the rise of Hal Jordan and his eventual taking ownership of the Green Lantern Ring as well as the Martian Manhunter’s arrival and assimilation into Earth culture. Then we get how Superman and the original Flash continue their struggles in a country that doesn’t want them and even how Batman continues to do the work that he has always done, always cloaked in the shadows. And of course, what would any comic book storyline be without some global threat arising to band these various heroes together, and in doing so form the basis on which the Justice League was formed in the first place!

Of course, with so many different plotlines all hanging together on the thinnest of threads, the movie doesn’t have a very tight feeling to it and it is pretty much all over the place until the final few scenes where everything finally comes together and we get off with the usual big slugfest. While it is great to have this many heroes and their stories crammed into a single movie, it is a bit disjointed and you can’t help but feel that they should have perhaps focussed on just a single storyline which would have given the movie a more unified feel to it.

Of course, this movie is based in the McCarthy era and as such has a lot of political commentary to make as well as a very strong pro-American rhetoric to expound. For non-Americans this is more than a little annoying, but you have to realise that the Justice League and its forebear, the Justice Society has always been “of America”. So as a non-American I find the pitch of the movie more than a little annoying, but taking its target audience into account I can’t hold it as a fault against what is in the end not a badly written piece.

Visually, Justice League: The New Frontier shies away quite a bit from the style usually employed for the DC Animated line of cartoons, instead going for a far more angular look to its line work, something that goes a long way in giving the movie a very classic feel, the same type of feeling that gets invoked if you ever care to pick up one of those dusty old Golden Age comic books. The art isn’t overly detailed but this doesn’t matter that much thanks to the gorgeous colouring employed which really makes the whole work seemingly jump out of the screen.

The animation itself is extremely fluid and the whole package is actually quite pleasing on the eye. The movie slips in a little bit of CG here and there, but on the whole this feels like a traditional 2D feature and the slightly aged stylistic feel to the art fits in perfectly with the time period for which this story is penned.

As for the voice acting in Justice League: The New Frontier, you can’t help but marvel at the professional level of every single one of the talented people employed to voice some of the greatest superheroes of our time. Although no real A-list celebrities are used, you still get some pretty famous people thrown into the mix, including Kyle MacLachlan, Jeremy Sisto, Lucy Lawless (of Xena fame) and Brooke Shields of all people! Kevin Manthei is the man responsible for the more than decent orchestral based soundtrack and he certainly delivers some great material for your aural pleasure – just as every superhero movie should!

Honestly though, apart from the sheer fun as a long time comic fanboy in seeing all these Golden and Silver Age heroes up on the silver screen, Justice League: The New Frontier just doesn’t do it for me. Sure the movie is stylistically visually appealing, the voice acting is superb and the soundtrack just as good, but the various elements just don’t tie together enough to make it a superb story. Another problem for me is this being one of those very American-centred patriotic pieces makes it a little hard for a non-US citizen to accept and the pro-American way rhetoric becomes a little hard to swallow after a while.

However, this movie does do a great job of bringing the origins of some of the greatest comic book creations ever to life and manages to weave a good, global-scale threat storyline which makes for your classic comic book yarn and therefore a perfectly average superhero movie as what you have come to expect from the genre. It is a solid and entertaining movie, but the huge cast of characters and the swapping between multiple storylines holds back the movie from being very, very good.

So, a great watch for all those long time DC comic book fanboys out there, but not necessarily the greatest of movies to get people new to the genre onboard and is therefore NOT one of those movies that you HAVE to pick up unless you are like me, a diehard comic book fan.

Justice League The New Frontier1 Justice League The New Frontier2 Justice League The New Frontier3

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