Category Archives: Reviews – Other Media

Water World

Actors: Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Nicole Kidman, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Temuera Morrison, Dolph Lundgren, Randall Park & Graham McTavish
Directors: James Wan
Writers: Geoff Johns, James Wan, Will Beall & David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick
Studio: Warner Bros.
Rating: PG-13

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (yes, this is an Aquaman review, stick with me) has been heralded for its innovative approach to animation, and justifiably so. The creative forces behind that animated piece of wonder have truly captured the color, dynamics and unrestrained energy of a comic book. While Spider-Verse felt novel and new, Aquaman, its comic-book-inspired brother and competitor at the theatre, feels thoroughly conventional — but in the best possible ways. This latest installment in the DC Cinematic Universe dazzles the eye with wondrous imagery and tickles the brain with its celebration of various fantastic genres. What the movie lacks is a sense of suspense — we know from the very start how the story will turn out — but surprisingly, the flick is strong enough to distract its audience from that. And at the foundation of the fun is a charismatic, everyman performance from Jason Momoa.

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Death, Be Rather Proud…

The Death of Superman direct-to-video animated film
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Voice actors: Jerry O’Connell, Rebecca Romijn, Rainn Wilson, Jason Mara, Rosario Dawson, Nathan Fillion, Christopher Gorham, Matt Lanter, Shemar Moore, Rocky Carroll, Nyambi Nyambi, Patrick Fabian & Cress Williams
Directors: Sam Liu & James Tucker
Producer: Warner Bros. Animation
Rating: 14A

In a commentary I posted here a few months ago, I questioned why DC was revisiting its classic “Death of Superman” storyline for an animated film when it had already explored that plot in the Superman: Doomsday direct-to-video animated movie in 2007. Having watched the latest installment from the DC animated movie universe, I now understand why the producers and Warner Bros. Animation chose to do so. This is a superior effort, far truer to the source material and surprisingly touching and resonant. I know how this story plays out, know what to expect from next year’s sequel, The Reign of the Supermen, and yet I found myself caught up on the emotional beats of the story. Peter J. Tomasi, a former DC editor and current teller of stories in DC comics titles, has crafted a compelling, concise and accessible script that the voice actors bring to life nicely.

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This Is No Joke

Batman: The Killing Joke direct-to-video animated film
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Voice actors: Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, Tara Strong, Ray Wise, Maury Sterling & Nolan North
Directors: Sam Liu
Producer: Warner Bros. Animation
Rating: R

I know I’m well behind the times in turning my attention to this 2016 video release, but a few nights ago, I found myself with some time on my hands, alone at home, and I spotted this listing on Netflix. I suppose with the recent news of a Joker flick starring Joaquin Phoenix, I was open to delving into another piece of work that touches on a possible origin for the Clown Prince of Crime. I read the original graphic novella by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland when it was released in the 1980s, during my teen years, and I remember being impressed with it. But given the evolution in culture today, I’m not sure it holds up. One thing of which I am certain, though, is that this attempt to adapt that iconic comic book is wrong-headed, given that the first act, added to pad out the story, warps a key relationship in the Batman family and adds a pointless villain to the mix.

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He’s Like Michael Jackson, but More Nihilistic

Avengers | Infinity War
Actors: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Josh Brolin, Dave Bautista, Don Cheadle, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Shaw, Dania Gurira, Letitia Wright, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Karen Gillan, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Peter Dinklage, Benedict Wong, Pom Klementieff & Tom Vaughan-Lawlor
Directors: Anthony Russo & Joe Russo
Writers: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
Studio: Marvel Studios
Rating: PG-13

Fear not, for I’m endeavouring to omit spoilers (to the best of my ability).

Avengers: Infinity War is epic, it’s funny and it’s surprisingly well balanced, given all of the moving parts included from 10 years of flicks from Marvel Studios. It’s a good movie — not a great one, but a good one — and the real reason for that isn’t the iconic nature of the characters or actors, the action, the jokes or the effects. The reason is the writing, and specifically, the skeleton that holds the parts of this pop-culture Frankenstein monster together. The underlying theme here — one of sacrifice — recurs throughout the movie, even for Thanos, and it belies a thoughtfulness that was prioritized ahead of action and goofiness and sheer coolness.

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Haller Back, Girl

Legion Season 2 premiere
“Chapter 9”
Actors: Dan Stevens, Rachel Keller, Aubrey Plaza, Jermaine Clement, Hamish Linklater, Jeremie Harris, Jean Smart, Amber Midthunder & Jon Hamm
Director: Tim Mielants
Writers: Noah Hawley & Nathaniel Halpern
Producers: FX Productions/Marvel Television

If one hadn’t watched the first eight-episode season of Legion on FX last year, this continuation would likely have been quite impenetrable, mainly because the backgrounds and abilities of the supporting characters aren’t explained at all. If one found the first season of this show to be too bizarre or surreal, well, the second season is off to an even weirder start. That all being said, the launch of Legion Season 2 was riveting, challenging and occasionally quite amusing. My wife was in the room for a few minutes and was quite put off by the unconventional visuals and tone of the show, but then, she can’t even handle the commercials for this series. Me, I was entranced.

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In a Galaxy Far, Far Away…

Krypton TV series pilot
Actors: Cameron Cuffe, Georgina Campbell, Shaun Sipos, Elliot Cowan, Ann Ogbomo, Aaron Pierre, Wallis Day, Rasmus Hardiker, Ian McElhinney, Paula Malcomson, Rupert Graves & Nicholas Witham Mueller
Directors: Ciaran Donnelly & Colm McCarthy
Writers: David S. Goyer & Ian Goldberg
Producers: Phantom Four, DC Entertainment & Warner Horizon Television

Fans of comic books are certainly living in a Golden Age of other-media adaptations. There are so many comics-related shows (and not just flowing from the super-hero genre) on the air and streaming now, it’s impossible to follow them all. There was a time when I probably would have watched any comic-related show out of pure devotion to my beloved medium, regardless of quality. Having PVR’d the first episode of Syfy’s new Krypton series (airing on Space here in Canada), I only got around to watching it this weekend, a few days after its premiere. I was of two minds after having watched it: disappointed and relieved — relieved I don’t need to cram another show into the lineup of programs I watch regularly.

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Jonesing for the Next Fix

Marvel’s Jessica Jones Season 2
Actors: Krysten Ritter, Rachael Taylor, Eka Darville, J.R. Ramirez, Carrie-Anne Moss, Janet McTeer, Callum Keith Rennie, Leah Gibson, Rebecca Demornay, Terry Chen & John Ventimiglia
Directors: Uta Briesewitz, Rosemary Rodriguez, Mairzee Almas, Deborah Chow, Anna Foerster, Liz Friedlander, Zetna Fuentes, Jennifer Getzinger, Neasa Hardiman, Jennifer Lynch, Millicent Shelton, Minkie Spiro & Jet Wilkinson
Writers: Melissa Rosenberg, Aïda Mashaka Croal, Lisa Randolph, Jack Kenny, Jamie King, Raelle Tucker, Hilly Hicks Jr., Gabe Fonseca, Jenny Klein & Jesse Haris
Studio: Marvel Television/Tall Girls Productions/ABC Studios

Ahead of the March 8 release of the second season of Jessica Jones on Netflix, I scrambled to finish watching the first season of Marvel’s The Punisher, as these Marvel Netflix shows can boast minor connections. It turns out there was no such link to be found, but it made for an easy comparison to how the two shows were constructed. Punisher suffers under the standard 13-episode structure for these shows, as there just wasn’t enough plot there to justify them. The first half of the season was drawn out and terribly slow, which was even more frustrating given how clearly it telegraphed where it was going. And then you have JJ S2, which was far less predictable and much more engrossing. Aside from a single flashback episode, I didn’t find any of this season to be lagging or obvious.

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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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