Category Archives: Reviews – Other Media

League Rules

Justice League
Actors: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Neilsen, Joe Morton, J.K. Simmons, Billy Crudup & Amber Heard
Director: Zack Snyder
Writers: Snyder, Chris Terrio & Joss Whedon
Studio: Warner Bros.
Rating: PG

Yes, I saw it, and it filled me with joy.

Almost every element of the new DC cinematic universe (save for the Suicide Squad) turns up in this movie, and as I saw name after name of A-list actors in the opening credits, I wondered how all of these characters and a story that could link them all could fit coherently and comfortably in a two-hour movie. But they did, they do. People who haven’t cared for director Zack Snyder’s earlier movies in the DC franchise should be pleased with what they find here; this boasts the fun they sought. And for those who did enjoy Man of Steel and Batman Vs. Superman, Justice League builds on those foundations well, acknowledging them and evolving from them to offer something brighter.

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It’s the End of the World As We Know It

Thor: Ragnarok
Actors: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Jeff Goldblum, Idris Elba, Karl Urban, Tessa Thompson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Ruffalo & Anthony Hopkins
Director: Taika Waititi
Writers: Eric Pearson and Craig Kyle & Christopher Yost
Studio: Marvel Studios
Rating: PG

It was clear early on from promotional efforts that Thor: Ragnarok was going to be a much different beast than the previous two Thor movies, and that was a wise approach on the part of Marvel Studios, since those earlier Thor flicks, while successful, weren’t among its most popular offerings and often felt a bit stiff. Well, Ragnarok ain’t stiff, that’s for sure, but I’d have to say the studio overcompensated. This is a buddy slapstick comedy dressed up with super-hero elements, and it’s quite a bit of fun. Part of that fun stems from great performances from actors just joining the Marvel cinematic universe for this project. Other aspects of the fun, though, flow from better known players in the silver-screen continuity acting out of character for brief moments. It’s funny, for sure, but ultimately, I left the theatre feeling as though this installment in the Marvel cinema brand was a bit… inconsequential. Don’t get me wrong, it’s worth seeing on the big screen, but it shouldn’t be topping anyone’s list of favorite Marvel movies.

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Assault on the Senses

Batman: Assault on Arkham direct-to-video animated movie
Writer: Heath Corson
Voice actors: Kevin Conroy, Neal McDonough, Hynden Walch, Troy Baker, CCH Pounder, John DiMaggio, Jennifer Hale, Giancarlo Esposito, Greg Ellis & Nolan North
Directors: Jay Oliva & Ethan Spaulding
Producer: Warner Bros. Animation/Warner Premiere Home Video
Rating: PG-13

I was a huge fan of John Ostrander and the late Kim Yale’s Suicide Squad series of the 1980s, and with that in mind, I was rather looking forward to Warner Animation’s latest DC-based direct-to-video release. Despite Batman’s top billing, Assault on Arkham is definitely a Suicide Squad/Task Force X flick (set in the Batman’s video-game universe), and in several ways, the filmmakers get a number of elements of the super-villain strike force concept right. But it misses the mark in others. Ultimately, the most disappointing aspects of the movie are the gratuitous sexual elements when it comes to the female characters and the over-the-top, in-your-face violence. This could have and should have been a much more palatable entertainment experience, and it could have been so without losing the property’s dark edge.

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12 Per Cent of a Plan

Guardians of the Galaxy
Actors: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Lee Pace, Karen Gillan, Michael Rooker, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Benicio Del Toro, Djimon Hounsou and the voices of Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel and Josh Brolin
Director: James Gunn
Writers: James Gunn & Nicole Perlman
Studio: Marvel Studios
Rating: PG

It didn’t disappoint.

To say I was looking forward to this movie is an understatement. Like many comics fans, Guardians of the Galaxy held a special place in my heart because it was a major movie release featuring something other than household names in terms of comics characters. As such, I did something last night I never do: I went to an opening-night showing. The plotting here is by the numbers, but the cast and dialogue really help this movie stand out. It’s a safe bet it’ll be an eternal favorite, the kind of flick that one would eagerly sit for multiple viewings.

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Stained Steel

Man of Steel
Actors: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Christopher Meloni, Richard Schiff, Laurence Fishburne, Antje Traue, Harry Lennix & Ayelet Zurer
Director: Zack Snyder
Writers: David S. Goyer & Christopher Nolan
Studios: Warner Bros./Legendary Pictures
Rating: PG-13

Reaction to the new Man of Steel movie online has been rather divided, from what I can see. Some viewers have applauded it, while others have criticized it for its excesses. Having viewed it in 2D in a rather sparsely attended Friday matinée, I can see validity in both points of view. On one point, I think all would be able to agree that Man of Steel is definitely a spectacle, a huge special-effects extravaganza. In many ways, it’s a tale of two movies, clearly striving to appeal to as wide an audience of blockbuster movies as humanly possible. Ultimately, I appreciated the movie for how it offers an unconventional and unexpected new take on the title character. I love to be surprised, and to come away from a Superman origin flick surprised is something I would have thought to be next to impossible. One flaw with the film is how, in its effort to achieve maturity and legitimacy, it’s failed to leave much room for any sense of fun or joy.

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Registering Complaints

Comic Book Men series premiere
Stars: Walter Flanagan, Bryan Johnson, Ming Chen, Mike Zapcic & Kevin Smith
Network: AMC

I love comics. I like comic-book shops. And I like a number of Kevin Smith films. With that in mind, I was looking forward to Comic Book Men. I informed my wife that whatever other plans she had in mind for the weekend, I was reserving a two-hour block Sunday night for The Walking Dead “mid-season premiere” and the debut of Comic Book Men. I enjoyed the former, but the latter was a fiasco. Apparently designed to be Pawn Stars for frat boys, Comic Book Men perpetuates stereotypes about comics fans and speciality-shop staffers, and it fails to capitalize on the lead-in that was bound to boost its premiere viewership. I suppose one could argue it’s not incumbent on Smith and his cronies to act as ambassadors for the comic-book industry, but it is their job to be entertaining. In that regard, they failed.

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Green Lantern’s Blight

Green Lantern: The Animated Series premiere
“Beware My Power”
Writers: Ernie Altbacker & James Krieg
Voice actors: Josh Keaton, Kevin Michael Richardson, Tom Kenny, Jonathan Adams, Jennifer Hale, Grey DeLisle, Jason Spisak, Ian Abercrombie, Brian George & Kurtwood Smith
Directors: Sam Liu & Rick Morales
Producer: Warner Bros. Animation
Channels: Cartoon Network (U.S.)/Teletoon (Canada)

I was thrilled to discover the new Green Lantern computer-animated cartoon was debuting on Teletoon, the Canadian counterpart to the Cartoon Network, on the same night as it was in America. Usually, these new specialty-channel ‘toons end up airing months later in Canada as they do in the U.S. Unfortunately, my surprise and excitement at seeing this latest foray into animation for one of DC’s properties quickly gave way to confusion and disappointment. While I realize the live-action Green Lantern didn’t perform to expectations, I’m at a loss to understand why the producers and writers behind the cartoon didn’t follow the continuity set out in the movie. While the use of Red Lanterns appears to build on the popularity of what’s developed in related comics in recent years, the writers take the concept in a completely different direction, one that doesn’t quite work.

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Star-Spangled Cinema

Captain America: The First Avenger movie
Actors: Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Dominic Cooper, Toby Jones, Neal McDonough, Derek Luke & Kenneth Choi
Director: Joe Johnston
Screenplay: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
Studios: Paramount Pictures/Marvel Studios
Rating: PG-13

It’s amazing how much expectations can affect the perceived quality of a piece of entertainment. When I saw Green Lantern, it had been panned so much, I went in with low expectations but left thoroughly entertained and satisfied. Now, Captain America was clearly a better constructed film, boasting a more focused vision of what it wanted to be. The positive buzz and early reviews of Captain America raised my expectations, and when I left the theatre, I didn’t feel quite as dazzled. In retrospect, I enjoyed Cap a great deal, and it offered some interesting surprises. There are a couple of thoroughly clever moments throughout the movie, and members of the supporting cast do a wonderful job with their roles. But as I watched the film, I was always aware of its construction. There was a greater emphasis on myth-building here, as Cap serves as a direct launching pad for Marvel Studios’ Avengers movie. While entertaining, Captain America unfortunately never lets the audience forget that it’s taking in a product, not a story in and of itself.

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Green-Lit Movie

Green Lantern: Emerald Knights direct-to-video animated movie
Writers: Michael Green & Marc Guggenheim, Peter J. Tomasi, Dave Gibbons, Geoff Johns, Alan Burnett, Todd Casey and Eddie Berganza
Voice actors: Nathan Fillion, Jason Isaacs, Elisabeth Moss, Henry Rollins, Arnold Vosloo, Kelly Hu, Michael Jackson, Roddy Piper, James Arnold Taylor, Bruce Thomas, Mitchell Whitfield & Wade Williams.
Directors: Christopher Berkeley, Lauren Montgomery & Jay Oliva,
Producer: Warner Bros. Animation/Warner Premiere Home Video
Rating: PG

I haven’t had a chance to get to the cinemas to see Thor (and it doesn’t look like I will at all, since it’s only available here in 3D now). I haven’t had a chance to get there to see X-Men: First Class. So when Green Lantern: Emerald Knights was released on home video this week, I was determined to get a comic-book adaptation fix after many weeks of deprivation. I’m quite looking forward to the live-action GL movie, so I figure this would be a lot of fun as well. To my surprise, I found a number of short comics stories were adapted for a pseudo-anthology video, and unfortunately, the adaptations were a bit lacking. The animation and designs are sharp throughout the direct-to-video movie, so at least it looks good.

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All-Star Superman DVD
Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Voice actors: James Denton, Anthony LaPaglia, Christina Hendricks, Matthew Gray Gubler, Ed Asner, Arnold Vosloo, Finola Hughes, Linda Cardellini, Alexis Denisof, John DiMaggio, Steven Jay Blum, Kevin Michael Richardson & Michael Gough Robin Atkin Downes
Director: Sam Liu
Producer: Warner Bros. Animation/Warner Premiere Home Video
Rating: PG

The death last week of comics and animation writer/producer Dwayne McDuffie was unexpected and shocking, and it reverberated through both industries and fan circles intensely. I was reminded of the passing of artist Mike Wieringo a few years ago. Both men were taken from their families, friends and fans at far too young an age, and the impact they had on their crafts was apparent from the impacts they had on those they worked with and those for whom they produced their art. The timing of McDuffie’s passing only served to add to the tragedy — the direct-to-video animated film of All-Star Superman, which McDuffie adapted from Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s comic-book series of the same name, was released the day after his death.

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Cape-able Hands

The Cape television series premiere
Director: Simon West
Writer: Tom Wheeler
Actors: David Lyons, Keith David, Summer Glau, James Frain, Jennifer Ferrin, Ryan Wynott, Martin Klebba, Dorian Missick & Vinnie Jones
Network: NBC

When it comes to original TV shows that embrace the super-hero genre and its roots in the medium of comics, network TV doesn’t have the best of track records in my household. Heroes grabbed my attention with its first season but quickly disappointed with what followed. I was into ABC’s No Ordinary Family last fall, but the ham-fisted characterization of peripheral characters ultimately made me lose interest in the wholesome family that served as the main characters. My wife and I were relaxing in the front of the tube Sunday night when a commercial alerted us to the imminent airing of The Cape, the latest attempt by network TV to offer an original super-hero concept. We decided to give it a shot. I was mainly interested thanks to Keith David’s appearance; he’s got a deep haunting voice that always holds my attention.

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Halloweek – The Walking Dead on TV

The Walking Dead television series premiere
“Days Gone By”
Director/writer: Frank Darabont
Actors: Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey DeMunn, Laurie Holden, Chandler Riggs, Sarah Wayne Callies, Lennie James & Adrian Kali Turner
Network: AMC TV

Halloweek comes to an end in the early-morning hours of the day after Halloween. The reason: I didn’t have access to this review subject until the end of the day Oct. 31. I’ve been looking forward to the series debut of The Walking Dead more than any other new show to hit the air this fall. In fact, there were surprisingly few new shows that caught my interest this fall season. My interest in this new AMC series stems not from the network’s solid track record with original shows. I don’t watch Mad Men, Breaking Bad or Rubicon despite all of the positive buzz that’s arisen and the awards they’ve earned. The only other original AMC show I tried was the remake of The Prisoner, and I found it dreadfully dull (not that I’m suggesting the cable channel’s other fare is). But The Walking Dead, penned by Robert Kirkman, is one of my favorite ongoing comic titles these days, and I believed it would translate incredibly well to the small screen.

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Syndication in Animation

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths 2-Disc Digital Copy Special Edition DVD
Main movie
Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Voice Actors: William Baldwin, Mark Harmon, Chris Noth, Gina Torres, James Woods, Jonathan Adams, Brian Bloom, Bruce Davison, Josh Keaton, Vanessa Marshall, Nolan North, Freddi Rogers & James Patrick Stuart
Directors: Sam Lui & Lauren Montgomery

“DC Showcase – The Spectre”
Writer: Steve Niles
Voice Actors: Gary Cole, Alyssa Milano, Jeff Bennett, Rob Paulsen & Jon Polito
Director: Joaquim Dos Santos

Producer: Warner Bros. Animation/Warner Premiere Home Video
Rating: PG-13

Crisis: Writer Dwayne McDuffie takes classic and cherished concepts from DC’s history — in this case, infinite alternate dimensions and the Justice League’s first encounter with their evil counterparts, the Crime Syndicate — and updates them. For longtime super-hero comics fans such as myself, there are a lot of familiar elements that will delight but there’s so much new going on here that the story avoids predictability and has a real sense of excitement and tension to it. Furthermore, one needn’t be familiar with the source material in any way to enjoy the plot and action. Of the various DC Universe animated movies that have been released thus far, I’d have to say this is my favorite of the bunch.

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Crazy Like a Fox

Human Target TV series pilot
Starring: Mark Valley, Chi McBride & Jackie Earle Haley
Director: Simon West
Broadcaster: Fox

DC’s Human Target property is adapted for the small screen for the second time, and judging from the pilot, it’s probably not going to last much longer than the 1992 TV series of the same name that starred rocker/actor Rick Springfield. This new take on TV’s Human Target looks promising on paper, given the strength of a couple of key cast members, but the end result is a generic action-adventure show. It’s so formulaic that the viewer is taken right out of the story. The dangers are often contrived, and low production values hinder the cool factor that the makers are clearly hoping to attain. Movie director Simon West is clearly unable to achieve the big-screen flavor the producers are looking for, no doubt due to budget limitations.

Human Target is entirely miss-able, but given Fox’s track record of dumping genre shows quickly, I wonder if viewers are even going to bother investing their time in this latest foray.

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Moore Movies

Alan MooreSome have characterized the big-screen release of Watchmen to be something of a commercial flop; I don’t agree, as it’s bound to prove to be profitable in the long run, once home-video sales are factored in. Still, it’s undeniable that it didn’t perform as hoped, that it didn’t prove to be the box-office powerhouse many expected it to be. Nevertheless, 2009 is definitely the year of Alan Moore. Despite distancing himself from movies based on his comics, he’s as well known as ever, and his work is selling better than ever before as well. Fans await his forthcoming work, notably the latest foray into the world of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. With that in mind, I delved into a couple of DVDs directly connected with Moore, one produced with his participation, and another against his wishes.

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