Sunday, July 31, 2011

Batman Family: Part 4 Harley Quinn

One of my favorite characters from the Batman game Arkham Asylum was Harley Quinn.

And as always, be sure to check out the entire album at the Essential Webcomic Showcase I am sure you will find some even greater comics and art work from the talented members that contribute there.

Batman Family: Part 3 Batwoman

Batwoman's run in detective comics has been great.  I really like the character.

And as always, be sure to check out the entire album at the Essential Webcomic Showcase I am sure you will find some even greater comics and art work from the talented members that contribute there.

Batman Family: Part 2 Batgirl (Stephanie Brown)

The current Batgirl is Stephanie Brown, whose book has been great.  I am not sure what her fate is going to be in just over a month when DC "reboots" everything.

And as always, be sure to check out the entire album at the Essential Webcomic Showcase I am sure you will find some even greater comics and art work from the talented members that contribute there.

Batman Family: Part 1 Batgirl (Cassandra Cain)

My favorite Batgirl was one of the more recent ones, Cassandra Cain

And as always, be sure to check out the entire album at the Essential Webcomic Showcase I am sure you will find some even greater comics and art work from the talented members that contribute there.

Review: Wonder Woman Pilot

Yay! I finally got to see the Wonder Woman pilot!

I'm actually going to be jumping all over in my review, so if you don't want to be spoiled, you should probably watch the video first (click on the link above). Don't lolly-gag, though, I don't imagine it's going to remain up for very long.

So let's start with the good. Adrianne Palicki does just fine in the role. I was unfamiliar with her acting prior to this, but I had two concerns with her appearance, that she looked too young and that she was reportedly very petite. She carries the role just fine and they did the typical trickery to make her appear taller than most of the male actors in the pilot. Her acting was just fine as was that of most of the principle cast. There are a few duds in there, but that was generally the incidental roles.

I, like most people, felt that giving her three identities would be convoluted. However, actually watching the show, she really doesn't have three identities. Diana Themyscira and Wonder Woman are one and the same. Her demeanor is the same whether in her super suit or in a business suit. Everyone knows her real name is Diana Themyscira. "Wonder Woman" is just an alias or a title. Diana Prince is the separate identity, so it's really no more convoluted than the average hero... in fact, it's pretty much exactly how she was depicted in the real comics, before J Michael Straczynski revamped it. She didn't use the surname "Themyscira" but everyone knew she was Princess Diana from Themyscira and used the code name Wonder Woman, but they were the same person. She adopted the Diana Prince identity in the comics to get closer to humanity, which is basically the same motivation as it is here, just gone about in a different way.

And as for that, I read an interview with David E. Kelley and that was the nugget of his take on this character, what made him want to do the project to begin with, to address the isolation and loneliness she must feel. I have to admit, it's not a bad idea. (Like I said, I'm gonna jump all over the place here.) The last scene shows Diana Prince in her apartment, attempting to start a Facebook page, but when she has to list her friends, the only name she can put down belongs to her cat, Sylvester. This cuts to her sitting on the couch watching two anchor people gush about how great Wonder Woman is, with the female anchor wishing she could spend one day as her. The scene is well-shot and captures what Kelley wanted to convey and would have been an interesting take on the character. She does NOT as everyone was fearing, come across as neurotic, like Kelley's other creation Allie McBeal. Also thankfully missing were the rom com moments from the script of her having a sleep over, where she and her gal pals dance to "Single Ladies," and a workout scene set to "Bad Romance."

The Steve Trevor subplot WAS soapy and felt tacked on and like a lot of other things, at once overly complicated and unnecessary. As Diana Prince, she flips on the TV and what's playing but The (Fucking) Notebook, which causes Diana to flash back to her breaking up with Steve in order to move to LA and launch her Wonder Woman career. There's another soapy Steve flashback later on and then he pops up at the end, except wah waaaaah, now he's married! He's also working for the State Department, investigating Wonder Woman and her methods and has been transferred to LA. All of this could have been left out. Or at least postponed to a later episode. I know folks like romance on their TV dramas, but this one was poorly executed and seemed to weaken the Diana character. It just wasn't very well-done!

Carey Elwes as Henry Johns and Tracie Thoms as Etta Candy are just fine. In the original pitch, Elwes' character was supposed to be hopelessly in love with Diana, but there's no evidence of that here. Thoms is actually really good and it's too bad she isn't given more to do.

Let's talk about that costume. It actually films better than it photographs. I was particularly impressed with the gold metallic parts which DO in fact look like metal onscreen, even in low-rez pirated definition, versus looking like cheap, dull plastic in pictures. The bodice is still too shiny and plastic looking, though, although maybe I'm just used to seeing it, because while I didn't LIKE it, it didn't distract me. I got over it, fairly quickly.

And the trunks she wears in the last part of the pilot are made out of the same shiny material as the first revealed long pants that were scrapped. The shiny plastic-y pants accidentally pop up, after the first scene, where she is wearing the darker fabric pants, when she returns to her base, she is briefly shown wearing the original, much-hated shiny pants. This was an oopsie, and I guess if they'd actually aired this, they'd have digitally corrected it.

And about that... in one scene Diana complains that Veronica Cale calls her an "action figure" on TV, to which Etta replies, "You are an action figure. You deigned your costume specifically to look like one." But then in a later scene Diana complains in a board meeting about her skimpy costume and how big her doll's breasts are. It's a DREADFUL scene. If Diana designed the costume, why is she bitching about it now? At one point, Henry points to an illustration that bears a strong resemblance to this HORRIBLE real Ame Comi statue DC Direct produced:

...and claims that Diana approved the prototype, to which she replies that she didn't and they never settle on the truth.

There's also an illustration that shows her wearing the silver DCnU choker so you know that ugly look has been in the works for a while now. In the meeting, there are a number of different Wonder Woman toys and illustrations shown, most of which are wearing unique costumes, leading me to think she would probably switched up her look often, had the show gotten picked up.

Anyway, moving on, Elizabeth Hurley is "soap opera bitch" campy as Veronica Cale, the pharmaceutical villain... which I was okay with. I can see where it might not appeal to everyone, but I was okay with it. Honestly, my biggest complaint about her is that she only wore one dress in the entire movie!

Every scene, she wore the same dress! No one thought that was strange? In a real head-scratcher of a scene, Wonder Woman calls a press conference and accuses Veronica Cale of selling illegal super steroids and flat out says "I have no proof." You can't do that! It's a stupid scene that makes no sense, but sadly, there are a few more of those to come.

After running down one of Cale's henchmen in the first action sequence, Wonder Woman remarks that he was "like a cheetah." Oh come on! That couldn't have just been a cheap throw away line! That was a direct reference to Wonder Woman's arch foe The Cheetah! WHY didn't they just USE The Cheetah! Too often on super hero shows and even some movies, you have these super powered beings duking it out with non-powered executives and so forth. It wouldn't even have to have been the Barbera Minerva were-cheetah version.

The Priscilla Rich or Deborah Domaine versions would have worked. Instead she faces off against a pack of generic, roided-up muscle men in off-the-rack Under Armor.

Speaking of, nearly every other review of this pilot points out two disturbing scenes. In one, Wonder Woman PLAINLY places her magic lasso on the chest of the bad guy she chased down in the first scene, but rather than USE IT to get info out of him, she apparently breaks his arm/tortures him to get it. In the big final battle, she flat out kills two of Cale's guards. This is in addition to the somewhat confusing fact that she is an actual vigilante, using illegal methods to capture her foes, which the other characters repeatedly point out, but apparently "illegal search and seizure" aside, if they find out that Wonder Woman was right, THAT holds up in a court of law?! Why even point out that her methods are illegal?! Why not just just do what they did with Batman in the 50s and make her an unofficial deputy. Give her carte blanche. Otherwise, that kinda just makes HER a criminal, which may work in reference to someone like Batman who lurks in the shadows and maintains a SECRET identity, but would NEVER work for a public figure with a big skyscraper base of operations, with a whole corporation in place producing licensed merchandise to fund her crime fighting endeavors! Once again, illogical and overly-complicated.

The action sequences were decent. In the first, she does a lot of leaping, calling to mind Lynda Carter's depiction, wherein Wonder Woman couldn't fly. Some have complained that she uses the Magic Lasso more as a bullwhip, rather than twirling it over her head like a traditional lasso. I didn't have a huge problem with that, though. The cut I saw was unfinished, so you could see a lot of the ropes and wires during the big fight scenes, but interestingly, the lasso effects were all complete. She also has one bullets & bracelets scene in the final conflict, which was nice.

Here's where the flaws really bog things down. In Captain America, there were some gaps in logic or things that didn't quite make sense, but overall, Captain America had heart and was an excellently put-together story, so you could overlook a few flaws. With Wonder Woman, it's the opposite. There are just TOO many things that don't make sense, and really nothing GREAT to counter that. The "positives" are just "acceptable" or "okay" or "better than I thought they would be."

However, I would have kept watching the show, had it been picked up. It had potential and I think that after hearing criticism, the producers, writers, etc. could have taken the show in a better direction. It wasn't un-salvageable. And I must say, it actually felt less cheesy than Smallville. At least her "world" looked real, not like fake-ass sound stages. Unfortunately, potential or not, the pilot was a 1.5 out of 5 at best.

It Came from the Comic Cosplay got Talent

Free of the Monday-Friday slog, Saturday's the day for upbeat tunes and crazy-fun antics. Over at the London Film and Comic Expo, a group of dedicated fans thought they'd show the Saturday style is their way of life, by lip-syncing to P!nk's ultra-infectious hit Raise Your Glass.

While the title line is sadly never sung by an in or out of armour Tony Stark, Batwoman, Spidey, Black Cat, Deadpool and more all join in on the remix - and yes they even give the line 'Why so serious' to the Heath Ledger Joker guy.

Crank your speakers up loud and hit play - even throw in your own moves if the mood strikes you, after all it is the Saturday thing to do.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Movie Review: Soul Surfer

When a film is based upon such a widely known story it's a real challenge for film makers to do justice to both the original story and to an audience who expect to be entertained. I feel they delivered on both counts. So, thank you.

Of course, the core of the story is the terrible shark attack that happened to Bethany Hamilton. That kind of thing is universally thought to be so horrific that merely surviving at all would be a triumph of human will. But Bethany Hamilton transcended that by leaps and bounds to become an international icon for what it means to be courageous in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds. Her courage, strength, perseverance, dedication, work ethic, professionalism and just plain bare faith have become a model for success to a large number of people all over the world. She has justly earned every accolade, every compliment and every success that I feel sure she feels privileged to have received. Oh, and she's gorgeous too.

With that incredible young woman's story as the fodder for the film it was a walk in the park for the film makers. All they had to do was tell the truth and let the facts speak for themselves. But that is something Hollywood has a lot of trouble doing. But this simple formula seems to be what they did, and did masterfully. The setting for the film is one of the most breathtaking on earth, so that was easy to enjoy. The cinematography was excellent as was, of course, the special CGI effects. Makeup and costuming didn't have much of a stretch, letting the beauty of the islands, its people and the athleticism, beauty and youth of the principal actors deliver what artificiality never could.

The cast was well chosen with the petite AnnaSophia Robb as Bethany Hamilton and Lorraine Nicholson as Bethany's lifelong friend Alana Blanchard. Much of the story centered on these two girls so it was a lot for them to carry. I can imagine how it must have been difficult for Robb to try to give credence to a part depicting someone who is so genuinely bigger than life - even legendary. I think she did a terrific job. I was taken in by watching her nuances of emotion throughout the film. She's no rookie but this was a real challenge that she met with talent and grace.

Nicholson was a perfect fit as Hamilton's friend; adding a few smiles to the tension we all certainly felt watching the story unfold. Real friendships should never be underplayed and she came across as a solid, loving friend to Bethany. Then Helen Hunt as Bethany's mother Cheri Hamilton and Dennis Quaid as her father Tom Hamilton both did outstanding work, but that's what I've come to expect from them. I think I'd be genuinely shocked if either of them ever did poorly in any role. They were ably backed by Kevin Sorbo as Alana's father Holt Blanchard and Craig T. Nelson as Dr. Rovinksy, Bethany's attending physician. All of them made the film that much better and I enjoyed every minute each was on screen. Perhaps the most interesting to me is watching Quaid. He's become quite a versatile and talented actor.

Last but not least was Carrie Underwood as Sarah Hill. This is the first time I've seen her do any acting and I can say she did a terrific job. I really liked her playing the part of someone who was so important to Bethany's success and she did so with genuine warmth and friendliness.

I was very well entertained. I was left with the thought that I wish much success to the film - it's a masterful character tale for all young people the world over - and ever increasing success to Bethany Hamilton herself. She deserves no less. 4 out of 5

Famous Movie Characters: Seth Gecko (From Dusk Till Dawn)

One of my all time favorite vampire movies is from Dusk Till Dawn, starring George Clooney.

And as always, be sure to check out the entire album at the Essential Webcomic Showcase I am sure you will find some even greater comics and art work from the talented members that contribute there.

New Banner as well created. 


X-Men: First Class Theme Part 4 Havok

Although I don't like how they change Alex being the older brother in the film, I still liked the character and enjoyed seeing him actually in a live action movie.

And as always, be sure to check out the entire album at the Essential Webcomic Showcase I am sure you will find some even greater comics and art work from the talented members that contribute there.

Movie Review: Captain America: The First Avenger

I've never been the biggest Captain America fan. Even when I was into comics he always just seemed kind of boring to me. I have friends these days trying to tell me he's even more awesome now, but it just seems like too little too late. But despite that Captain America: The First Avenger looked like it had a lot of potential. Chris Evans seemed to fit the Steve Rogers role incredibly well and Hugo Weaving always plays an excellent villain. I've also enjoyed nearly every Marvel film since Iron Man anyway. So Captain America: The First Avenger looked like it could be great, but also had a lot to live up to. It mostly delivers, but comes up a little short in being fully and completely satisfying.

Just about all of Captain America is spent in 1942 during World War II. We follow Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) as he persistently tries to join the army and fails repeatedly due to his small size and asthma. A scientist named Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) sees potential in Rogers and recruits him to Camp Lehigh in New York. Erskine sees something in Rogers; his integrity, his honor, his natural desire to be nothing more than a good man. It's here that Rogers is chosen for the "super soldier" experiment and eventually becomes Captain America. Meanwhile, Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) leads HYDRA, a private terrorist group, and has just come into possession of a mysterious tesseract that Schmidt claims gives him the power of the gods.

The cast is ridiculously flawless in this. I've always been a big fan of Chris Evans, but I never really imagined him in the role of Captain America. He fits the role so well. He does look a bit odd before he gets the super soldier serum injected into him, but the method used was probably the best way to go. Evans is able to portray Rogers in a spectacular light. You believe he's a good guy just doing what he thinks is best for his country. Hugo Weaving is also a fantastic Red Skull. He's so hellbent on destroying the world yet he has class taking time out to have someone paint his portrait or enjoy a glass of wine in the middle of a pep talk to his HYDRA troops. Tommy Lee Jones also manages to squeeze in quite a few humorous one-liners. I feel like Hayley Atwell deserves the most credit though. In most superhero films, the love interest usually just does that; makes love to the superhero and sits on the sidelines worrying about him the rest of the time. Atwell's Peggy Carter actually makes herself useful. If it wasn't for her, Captain America never would've been given a serious chance as a soldier. Atwell also showed the widest range of emotion in the film next to Evans, as well. Captain America felt simple in the most flattering of ways. It never strayed too far from Cap swooping in and having to save the day and never tried to over complicate things by cramming too much of the comics into an origin film. The action usually resulted in tremendous explosions and men being thrown across the screen. It's like the movie gave you pride to be an American without being too political or overly preachy. In fact, it wasn't either of those things at all. It was just extremely gratifying entertainment that did its source material justice.

The special effects were really top notch, for the most part. The finale with the highly anticipated battle between Red Skull and Captain America is probably the most impressive. There's a fight that takes place in freefall between Cap and a few henchmen that's done incredibly well and the special effects always shine brightest whenever that blue cube Red Skull is obsessed with is shown on screen. Some of the scenes that were obviously shot in front of a green screen kind of got to me though; once you notice that it kind of takes you out of the action for a moment. Luckily, this was a film that made it easy to get sucked back into it.

Captain America has a lot of buildup with the pay off coming up short of completely delivering. We spend all this time with Steve Rogers before the super soldier serum and after and his time on stage selling war bonds. We're basically itching and craving for him to beat the snot out of some Nazis by the time he goes off venturing on his own to where the 107th's last known whereabouts. That scene delivers the action in spades, but everything else that's exciting after that seems incredibly short. We get a montage that would've been amazing in its entirety and we basically get bits of incredible action sequences sprinkled throughout the second half of the movie. We never really get that tingling sensation from being punched in the face too hard during an incredible action scene. Fantastic things happen in the film, but they seem to end as soon as they begin.

Captain America: The First Avenger is one of the best written and most well-rounded superhero films of the year. The entire cast is phenomenal, the special effects are impressive, and it has all the right seeds planted for next year's The Avengers. The action almost feels like an afterthought though. It's as if there was too much story to tell and Joe Johnston had to cut down on action to cram in more dialogue. Captain America: The First Avenger is still explosive, exhilarating, captivating, and fairly entertaining, but it drops the ball on delivering a completely satisfying climax. I will still give the movie 4 out of 5 though.

Movie Review: The Smurfs

Thank goodness The Smurfs was not the god-awful trainwreck everyone made it out to be, or else I would have wasted thirty minutes in line to see another failed cartoon adaptation.

I won't say it's good, but it was surprisingly not bad. Of course, The Smurfs does not exactly have enough substance to hold a full-grown adult's attention for all of its 86 minutes, but it is a surefire hit with the kids. The linear and simple plot follows a small group of Smurfs that get accidentally sucked into a portal to the human world while trying to escape the evil wizard Gargamel (Hank Azaria). The little blue people quickly enlist the help of married couple Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris) and Grace (Jayma Mays) to protect them from Gargamel, who plans to harvest the Smurfs' essence for magical power, and to re-create a portal that only happens once in a blue moon…

The movie includes some emotional subplots with Papa Smurf and Patrick, who feels he is unready to start his own family; though it all becomes pretty unnecessary in the face of the Smurfs' main goal to return home. Humor, again, mainly appeals to the kids, sporting sight gag after sight gag, but every once in a while there's a clever reference thrown in for the older folks in the audience. Hank Azaria gives about the most cartoonish performance as any villain could, resulting in an upsetting mix of interest and annoyance. On the other hand, where it is used the CGI is incredibly high-quality (i.e. the Smurfs, Gargamel's cat, etc.), and the special effects are designed more specifically for 3-D viewing than in most movies as of late.

I know some people have proclaimed this film to be a bastardization of a childhood cartoon favorite, but I argue that it isn't. The film is very aware of its origins with Peyo and respects that fact. They actually pay direct homage to the creator towards the end of the story. An exact imitation of the cartoon series this movie is not, but it is a fun and well-intentioned take on the story.

The Smurfs is mildly entertaining, at its best, but it is written with the right spirit and is in no way an injustice against the original series. It offers a nostalgic throwback (with a modern twist) for the adults and an amusing show for the little ones. For the ones in between, I advise avoiding this movie.2 out of 5.

X-Men: First Class Theme Part 3 Beast

One of the more interesting and tragic characters of the new movie was Hank McCoy aka the Beast.

And as always, be sure to check out the entire album at the Essential Webcomic Showcase I am sure you will find some even greater comics and art work from the talented members that contribute there.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Justice League International: Part 2 Green Lantern Guy Gardner

One of the toughest and biggest jerks in the superhero game is the Green Lantern Guy Gardner.

And as always, be sure to check out the entire album at the Essential Webcomic Showcase I am sure you will find some even greater comics and art work from the talented members that contribute there.

Justice League International: Part 1 Booster Gold and Skeets

The JLI was one of my favorite incarnations of the Justice League.  Some of the characters while not big at the time were later huge names with lasting fan bases.  Booster Gold is one of those.

And as always, be sure to check out the entire album at the Essential Webcomic Showcase I am sure you will find some even greater comics and art work from the talented members that contribute there.

Awesome Avengers Pics and Preview

In a surprise move, Paramount Pictures and Marvel Studios  have officially released, through Yahoo! Movies, a look at a condensed version of the final scene of Captain America: The First Avenger, including a portion of the post-credits tease for next summer's The Avengers. Check it all out in the player below!

Captain America is in theaters now, while The Avengers will hit on May 3, 2012.