Category Archives: Reviews – Other Media

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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At the Movies

Monday was big day for this particular super-hero fan, as I took in not one but two DC-related movies. Obviously, I, like so many others over the past few days, hit the local movie theatre (with my wife in tow) to catch the big-screen incarnation of Watchmen. Upon our return home, there was nothing on TV and my attempts to engage my better half in conversation about the movie failed. So I booted up my computer and popped in a DVD I’d rented: Warner Bros. Animation’s latest DC Universe, direct-to-video release, Wonder Woman.

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Rage Matches

Hulk Vs. direct-to-video animation
Directors: Sam Lui (Thor)/Frank Paur (Wolverine)
Writers: Christopher Yost & Craig Kyle
Studio: Lionsgate Films/Marvel Animation
Rating: PG-13

My wife and I were at Blockbuster a short while ago, looking for a flick to kill an evening. While she was off picking something out for the both of us, I happened upon this DVD, and I decided to give it a look (figuring I’d watch it on my PC while my better half immersed herself in one of those History Channel shows I find so tedious). The animation for both short films is sharp, and it seems to be somewhat in keeping with the house style for the new Wolverine and the X-Men cartoon. It’s obvious this DVD is intended more as a marketing tool for forthcoming big-screen films featuring Marvel properties (this summer’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine and the in-production Thor flick), and I went in with that in mind, eyes wide open. With the two short animated films, Hulk Vs. offers up a mixed bag. There’s a nice introduction to the players and Asgardian culture one needs to appreciate Thor, but the Wolverine short is awful, its gratuitousness matched only by the completely ineffectual nature of its script.

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DVDoomsday

Superman: Doomsday direct-to-video animated movie
Voice actors: Adam Baldwin, Anne Heche, James Marsters, Adam Wylie, Ray Wise, Swoozie Kurtz, Cree Summer, John Dimaggio & Tom Kenny
Directors: Bruce Timm, Lauren Montgomery & Brandon Vietti
Writers: Bruce Timm & Duane Capizzi
Studio: Warner Bros. Animation
Rating: PG-13

Ads for this DVD billed it as an adaptation of the original 1992-1993 comic-book storyline, but the writers and producers have diverged significantly from the source material. While it’s definitely inspired by “The Death of Superman” and takes a few cues from it, it’s really an original plot. I was surprised, but after a while, I was taken in by the new story. The 75-minute feature moves along at a brisk pace, never letting go of the audience’s attention. The animation is slick and polished. The only real disappointments to be found with this feature is that it’s perhaps too much of a pared-down version of the original story, but more importantly, the climactic confrontation between good and evil is perhaps the least compelling scene in the movie. It’s the one predictable sequence in the film, but given the nature of the plot and genre, that’s certainly to be expected to some extent.

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Unlimited Possibilities

Justice League Unlimited Season 2 DVD box set
Writers: Dwayne McDuffie, J.M. DeMatteis, Matt Wayne, Paul Dini, Geoff Johns,
Directors: Joaquim dos Santos & Dan Riba
Producers: McDuffie, Bruce Timm & James Tucker
Publisher: Warner Home Video

When Justice League Unlimited first aired, I didn’t catch it on a regular basis. I don’t get the Cartoon Network in my cable package, and here in Canada, the show aired on YTV. The schedule was rather sporadic and choppy, though, and I’d miss several episodes in a row. It was frustrating, but as the Justice League and JLU shows were being released, the age of DVD releases of TV shows was upon us. I felt confident I’d get my chance to see every episode, and I was right. I’ve picked up every set, and I was eager to see the series wrap up with this final 13-episode run. The producers and writers have clearly opted to take a more traditional approach to super-hero storytelling, making for a season that’s more appropriate for all ages. The second season of Unlimited continues with efforts to include a diverse array of second-tier and even obscure DC characters, and it’s even more satisfying that the first season in that regard. These cartoons are a delight, full of fun and energy, serving as a celebration of the wonder and fantasy the genre has offered over the past seven decades.

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Spartan Decor

300 the movie
Actors: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, Dominic West, David Wenham, Vincent Regan, Rodrigo Santoro & Andrew Tiernan
Director: Zack Snyder
Screenplay: Snyder. Kurt Johnstad & Michael Gordon
Studios: Warner Bros/Legendary Pictures/Virtual Studio
Rating: R

Like many filmgoers in the west this weekend, my girlfriend and I attended a screening of 300, the film adaptation of Frank Miller’s comic-book series of the same name (most have been referring to the original work as a graphic novel, but they seem to have forgotten it was released in an episodic format initially). The historical epic is surprisingly accessible for the masses, and it’s been long enough since I read Miller’s original work that the story offered a couple of surprises along the way. Obviously, the greatest appeal of the movie is the never-ending array of visual delights, from stunning special effects to Miller’s dazzling character designs. In fact, one’s initial impression of this film is that its appeal rests entirely in the visual experience, that storytelling and characterization are barely secondary concerns. But that’s really not the case. The actors’ charisma — especially that of star Gerard Butler — keeps the audience involved in the plot even when alien and monsters visions aren’t filling the big screen.

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