Tag Archive for 'Superman'

All-Star Superman

All-Star Superman (4/12/14) HBO-FAM (2011 ***1/4) Directed by Sam Liu, based on the graphic novel by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, featuring the voices of James Denton, Christina Hendricks, Anthony LaPaglia and Ed Asner. Superman, dying from an overdose of solar radiation, vows to use his remaining time to the betterment of his adopted planet, despite the machinations of his bald arch nemesis, Lex Luthor. This was my second time watching this DC made-for-video animated feature, and it’s a little unnerving that I didn’t remember watching it until I came across my July 2011 review while looking for my reviews of the two volumes that make up the original source material. My best guess is that I’d forgotten the video version because it was such a faithful adaptation of Grant Morrison’s graphic novel. That begs the question: How worthwhile are these comics-turned-animation videos anyway? I’ve generally thought of them as positive projects that might lead general audiences back to the superior comics and graphic novels. I suppose I’m on the fence about that now: Maybe there’s no real point if the videos are so forgettable compared to the comics.

Man of Steel

Man of Steel (6/23/13) Manhattan Beach Arclight (2013 ***1/2) Directed by Zack Snyder, starring Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Diane Lane, Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe. When Kryptonian despot General Zod threatens earth, a secret undercover alien do-gooder named Clark Kent must come out of the shadows and put on a cape. The well-known production backstory of this film is that after the disappointing critical reception to Bryan Singer’s 2006 Superman Returns, the keys to the Kryptonian kingdom were handed over to Christopher Nolan, who had produced and directed the money-making Dark Knight series. Many reviewers have called Man of Steel darker, and I think that’s true only in contrast to the original Christopher Reeve films, of which Singer’s version was intended as a continuation. Zack Snyder’s film was certainly far more realistic, and his directing more modern. Overall, I very much enjoyed the film. Cavill was perfectly cast, matching well with my own personal image of Superman. Man of Steel was entertaining on a big-budget f/x-heavy action film level, while also delivering emotionally. Special care in the script was devoted to establishing clear and plausible character motivations, a crucial element that gets lost in so many of these kinds of big budget action-focused films, and something I especially appreciated.

The Thirteenth Floor

The Thirteenth Floor (6/23/12) FXM (1999 **1/2) Directed by Josef Rusnak, based on the novel Simulacron 3 by Daniel F. Galouye, starring Craig Bierko, Gretchen Mol, Armin Mueller-Stahl and Vincent D’Onofrio. When his boss and friend Hannon Fuller is killed and all available evidence points to him, virtual reality tourist Douglas Hall must “jack in” to find the killer. My main reason for watching this film was that its description bore some similarities to my current book project. Unfortunately, even though it’s tone and intent was quite different from my own book, The Thirteenth Floor had a couple of awfully familiar scenes and plot elements. But like Ecclesiastes and/or Groucho Marx? said, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” As for the movie itself, the first twenty or thirty minutes were surprisingly solid, but then the story began to unwind, turning into something far less than what it could have. I predicted one of the plot’s major “reveals” early on, but the way it played out in the third act was very disappointing, as the film’s established hard-boiled detective storyline turned into what was essentially a slasher flick. In addition, the screenplay violated one of my personal golden rules of cinematic plotting. I won’t reveal which rule it is, but instead will point you to Superman III and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom for other examples. Overall, this largely disappointing film has made me want to order the original novel to see how it compares.

Blackest Night: Black Lantern Corps, Vol. 1

Blackest Night: Black Lantern Corps, Vol. 1 (10/9/11) Comics (2010 ***) Written by James Robinson, Peter J. Tomasi and J.T. Krul, illustrated by various. This volume collects material originally presented in Blackest Night: Batman #1-3, Blackest Night: Superman #1-3 and Blackest Night: Titans #1-3. The “Blackest Night” event affects the entire DC universe, sometimes targeting 3-issue arcs. I have to hand it to Geoff Johns; When he throws a “crisis,” he doesn’t screw around. When I talked my friend David into buying all the DC “Blackest Night” trade paperbacks (of which there were seven), we did a little research and found the books split between two sets. The first set (Blackest Night, Blackest Night: Green Lantern and Blackest Night: Green Lantern Corps, which I’ve reviewed previously) contained the “core” story of the event, while the remaining four books fleshed out the remaining tendrils. It’s an interesting way to present a story, though I imagine the decision was made at least in part based on guys like me and David who would buy the whole damned thing. (For the record, David bought the “core” story books and I bought the other four.) Anyhow, this book represented the first book in that second set, and while it was necessarily fragmented narratively, it wasn’t unsatisfying. Three issues is a decent amount of space in which to tell a story, and it was interesting to check in to see how various heroes dealt with their former friends and/or enemies and/or dead children returning from the grave.

DC Showcase: Superman / Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam

DC Showcase: Superman / Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam (8/8/11) Netflix (2010 **1/2) Directed by Joaquim Dos Santos, featuring the voice talents of George Newbern (Superman), Jerry O’Connell (Captain Marvel) and James Garner (Shazam). After 5,000 years of banishment, the wizard Shazam’s worst mistake returns to earth to find and kill a kid named Billy Batson, and only Superman stands in his way. I’ve rented several of these made-for-video animated films lately and had gotten used to a pattern: 75-minute main stories, with a “Showcase Presents” short. This disc was made up of four shorts, three of which appeared on other discs I’d rented. And so I was surprised when the main Superman / Captain Marvel story was over as quickly as it was. It was fun story (I’d read the graphic novel on which it was based) but I do wish it had been extended to feature length.

All-Star Superman

All-Star Superman (7/31/11) Netflix (2011 ***) Directed by Sam Liu, screenplay by Dwayne McDuffie, based on the graphic novel by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, featuring the voices of James Denton (Superman), Anthony LaPaglia (Lex Luthor), Christina Hendricks (Lois Lane) and Ed Asner (Perry White). Superman’s dying from solar radiation and in his final months must perform superhuman feats while finding closure with his greatest love… and his greatest nemesis. As DC Universe made-for-video feature-length adaptations of graphic novels go, this wasn’t bad, though its melancholy tone and the fact that it (spoiler alert) literally depicts the death of Superman may have some scratching their heads. The film’s story was also a bit disjointed, but that was really due to the deliberately episodic nature of the source material, which was (ironically, given the main storyline) intended by Grant Morrison to evoke a sense of the “fun” Superman of the 1950’s and early 1960’s. I know it’s a matter of picking nits, but I was bothered by one story point: In the prison scene in which Parasite absorbs Superman’s solar power and goes on a rampage, it appeared that Clark Kent let an awful lot of prisoners get killed in order to preserve his secret identity.

Superman / Batman: Apocalypse

Superman / Batman: Apocalypse (7/27/11) Netflix (2010 **1/2) Directed by Lauren Montgomery, screenplay by Tab Murphy, based on the graphic novel by Jeph Loeb and Michael Turner, featuring the voices of Kevin Conroy (Batman), Tim Daly (Superman), Summer Glau (Supergirl) and Andre Braugher (Darkseid). Superman’s teenage cousin crash lands on earth and tries to adjust to her new home and new powers, but then Darkseid kidnaps her to turn her into the captain of his Apokolips cheerleading squad, or something along those lines. I’ve been watching a lot of these DCU made-for-video 75-minute movies lately, and this is one of the few where I hadn’t read the original source material. It’s also (so far) the one with the weakest writing. There were lines of dialogue that absolutely made me cringe, like: “I’d tell you to go to hell… but that would be redundant.” On the art front, I didn’t care much for the character designs, which differed from the Ed McGuinness-inspired designs used in Superman / Batman: Public Enemies. I don’t know why it bothered me as much as it did, but Superman / Clark Kent’s full lips looked like they were constantly pursed together for a kiss.

Superman / Batman: Public Enemies

Superman / Batman: Public Enemies (7/24/11) Netflix (2009 ***) Directed by Sam Liu, screenplay by Stan Berkowitz, based on the graphic novel by Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness, featuring the voices of Kevin Conroy (Batman), Tim Daly (Superman) and Clancy Brown (Lex Luthor). In a world where Lex Luthor’s been elected president and a meteor made of green Kryptonite is hurtling toward earth, naturally Luthor’s top priority is framing the “Man of Steel” for murder and putting a billion dollar bounty on his spit-curled head. I’d read the original graphic novel on which this made-for-video film was based, and I was impressed by how well it worked in animated form, even though at least half the 75-minute running time was spent on all-out slugfests. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) As I’ve watched several of these videos lately I’ve felt as though I’m almost watching a new hybrid medium, something that exists in-between an animated half-hour TV show and a big-budget live action superhero film. It’s been apparent that a lot of care has been given to the quality of these films, even given the limitations of the budgets.

Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds

Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds (5/8/11) Graphic Novel (2009 ***1/4) Written by Geoff Johns, illustrated by George Perez. Talk about a superhero explosion! Superman joins with three different parallel universe incarnations of the Legion of Superheroes to battle the bloodthirsty Superboy-Prime and the Time Trapper. I was not a fan of Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis book, and in fact I believe I gave it a single star in my review. It’s a real testament to Geoff Johns’ writing skills that he was able take what seemed at times like hundreds of characters and put them into service in a story I actually cared about. Nice job!

Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes

Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes (5/7/11) Graphic Novel (2008 ***1/2) Written by Geoff Johns, Illustrated by Gary Frank. Superman is called back to the 31st Century by Brainiac 5 to battle “Earth Man” and his Legion-rejected cohorts. If the description sounds a little dumb, don’t be discouraged. Originally presented as a storyline in Action Comics, this was a good book, with lots of solid Legionaire action. Before reading this book I wasn’t familiar with Gary Frank’s art. He’s highly skilled, but his claim to fame seems to be extremely expressive faces, sometimes to the point of his characters looking crazed, even when they weren’t supposed to be.