The Various Bits from the Net segment was something I did as part of a daily blog schedule many years ago when each day of the week (Monday-Thursday, with Friday being a summary day; hope I remembered correctly) had a specific assigned topic. They were the same week-to-week except for, of course, the content itself. Various Bits from the Net was one of those days and it was a day I would post links and/or commentary on various items from the Net that caught my interest.
I’m bringing that feature back but, as of this writing, not as a set day per week but rather something I’ll blog about here and there.
So that said, welcome to Various Bits from the Net 2.0. Today’s date is 121019.
Really curious about this one. Obviously, this takes place at some point before Avengers: Endgame, and then even at a point further back because we see Natasha training to become a spy. I’m also a David Harbour fan so I’m really curious as to what he’s going to do with Red Guardian. He’s seems somewhat Hopper-esque (from Stranger Things) which, to me, is a huge plus point.
DC/WB have flubbed their movie outings since Day One with a few exceptions. And while I enjoy the WB/DC movies overall despite their flaws, Wonder Woman delivered well when it was first released about halfway through 2017. I personally think waiting three years for a sequel is one year too many, but I also understand the delay given what’s been happening at the WB offices and them not being sure what to do in terms of the DC Extended Universe. Anyway, Wonder Woman 1984 looks to be a promising sequel to Wonder Woman and I’m curious to see how certain things and characters are explained when the film comes out. This is also a teaser, and since we all know Cheetah is the other main bad guy and she’s not in this trailer, it’s safe to say the villainness will be the focus of a trailer closer to release date.
I grew up with Ghostbusters. To me, they were superheroes because they wore a jumpsuit and had matching proton packs and stopped ghosts. I won’t mention the Ghostbusters reboot from a few years back. In the end, it looks like this is indeed Ghostbusters 3 (it’s about time), and also appears to be a transition movie to pass the torch on to a new group of Ghostbusters.
The last portion of this interview hit home hard. I’ve gone through what Alan Moore speaks about. It’s also very pleasant to see an interview with Mr. Moore that doesn’t rehash the same questions he’s been asked for the past twenty-plus years. He makes an excellent point about art in this clip and its impact on human history. It’s this point he makes that fuels me on a daily basis because I’m a firm believer that everything is art and that its value far exceeds anything else we put our value in (especially in the 21st century where our values seem awfully misplaced).
My friend and fellow author Nick Cato came out with a book recently. It’s called Suburban Grindhouse and it’s his first film book. Though part memoir, it looks at exploitation films and the effect they had on audiences in New York and New Jersey. Presently, it’s available exclusively from the publisher. Details and write-up can be found here. (If you sign up for their newsletter, Nick informs me you get 20% off.)
Lastly, today a new essay went up on my Patreon page and it’s about getting back in the creative saddle after a lengthy hiatus. I relay my own experience about getting back to work after being ill and suggest to you the steps that helped me get the ball rolling again. You can read the essay here.
And that wraps up this installment of Various Bits from the Net.
Below is a list of my ten favorite superhero movies in no particular order.
1. Superman: The Movie
2. Wonder Woman
3. Batman (1989)
5. V for Vendetta
6. Iron Man
7. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
8. The Dark Knight
10. The Avengers
Of course, there are many more. I reviewed 100 superhero movies in my book, Look, Up on the Screen! The Big Book of Superhero Movie Reviews. It’s worth checking out if you’re a superhero movie nut like me. (http://bit.ly/1NRR4Gh)
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) Written by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer Directed by Zack Snyder Runtime 151 min. 4 out of 5
After witnessing the battle between Superman and General Zod in Metropolis, Bruce Wayne takes it upon himself to ensure the Man of Steel isn’t a rogue alien who might one day enslave the human race. In the meantime, Lex Luthor has sworn to ensure humanity’s survival by securing for himself Kryptonite, which is later discovered to be the one thing that can weaken Superman. Worse, Luthor has a secret project tracking metahuman activity across the globe, which prompts Diana Prince to obtain the confidential data he has on her. To complicate matters, Luthor has also acquired the body of General Zod and creates from it an unstoppable killing machine—Doomsday, a being more powerful than even Superman. It’s going to take Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman to take down the beast lest the city—even the planet—is destroyed by this destructive force.
Okay, this is a first impression review, with some processing time after.
Batman v Superman is a comic book movie, and not in the campy sense. It has the feel of DC’s direct-to-video animated features and there’s an atmosphere to the movie that superheroes belong in the world created.
The downside to the flick is it doesn’t work as a stand-alone film. There’s no strict A to B to C to the story. It’s more an introduction of story elements that will all play out in future DC movies instead. It’s like the first part of a giant graphic novel, and it is my hope that years down the road when all the other DC movies are released, what we will have is one massive story instead of what is usually given to us in today’s superhero flicks: each one a self-contained tale with subplots running through them that culminate in team-up adventures. If indeed DC’s plan is to make one giant movie, then that’s something never attempted before and never in the superhero genre. If this is the case, that’s brilliant and should be applauded. It’s jarring for moviegoers, but once they catch onto what’s going on, they’ll no doubt be amazed. After all, we do like our epics both on the big screen and TV.
Superman/Clark Kent. Once again, Henry Cavill delivers as the Last Son of Krypton. In fact, I think his performance is a step up from his previous outing in Man of Steel. That first flick was about Superman finding his footing, and while there is still some of that here, it’s more about the world finding its footing now that Superman is on the scene. You can tell Superman has become a beacon of hope to the world despite how some might view him as a threat. He’s bigger, stronger, and carries with him that air of awe and wonder Superman should. We’re not supposed to relate to this god-like being, but instead look up to him as something and someone to aspire to, and Superman is very much coming into that form as the flick goes on. As for the Clark Kent side, reporter Clark in this flick was pretty much just Average Joe. There wasn’t all that much involved in creating a clear line between Superman and Clark Kent, that strong sense of two separate people. I wish there was, but I also see how Average Joe works better in the reality established in these movies than someone who’s an over-the-top nerd. At the same time, it would’ve been nice to see Clark trip over his own feet or bump into a desk or something to really give off that whole there’s-no-way-this-guy-can-be-Superman thing. There was also one scene I had so hoped for in this movie that never came and that was the classic Clark ripping his shirt open to reveal the S. Perhaps in another movie.
Batman/Bruce Wayne. When Ben Affleck was cast, I got behind it right away. I’m an Affleck fan and knew he could deliver on what would be a worn-out Bruce Wayne, which would eventually give way to a worn-out Batman. What can I say? Affleck did a superb job. He did the playboy thing—though he could’ve played up the douche bag part a bit; yet at this point in his life, a cocky playboy might not be in the cards for him—and also did well when it was just him and Alfred. As Batman, this is the Batman we’ve been waiting for. Finally, oh finally, we got to see the comic book Batsuit and a Batman who’s fighting and action was the stuff that made the Arkham games so darn good. He also played the detective, which was never really in the other movies. And the bat-atmosphere? That part where he’s hanging in the corner in the dark and the light shines on him? Spooky and gorgeous. I also enjoyed the final fight and how Batman was portrayed. His limits as a human being with gadgets was shown, which is good, because I’m tired of stories where Batman somehow saves the day instead of the beings that are so much more powerful than him. I’m really excited for the forthcoming Bat-flicks with Ben Affleck in the lead.
Diana Prince/Wonder Woman. Small hero part in this movie, comparatively speaking to the two male leads. As Diana Prince, Gal Gadot was mysterious and intriguing. There was also a sense of detachment about her which, once you learn who she really is, makes perfect sense since she’s from Themyscyra. When the Wonder Woman reveal happened, she stole the show. Sorry Superman and Batman, you were outshone big time. She had a heroic entrance—which is so important in superhero movies—a killer score, and was completely badass when she got down to business and helped in the fight against Doomsday. What was also interesting is while the movie didn’t get too much into who she was, she stilled carried her own weight and felt fleshed-out anyway. Of course, this could all be in my head since I know who Wonder Woman is and enough of her backstory to fill in the gaps. With the Wonder Woman movie in production as of the writing of this review, I know I’ll be one of the first in line when it comes out. She was that good.
Lex Luthor. If Jesse Eisenberg is good at one thing, it’s playing the prideful I’m-smarter-than-everybody-else-in-the-room guy. And, yeah, that’s who Lex Luthor is. He’s a genius, and despite what he tells the public, has a contempt for humanity because he thinks he’s above it. Of course, the paradox is that he himself is human. In that regard, Jesse Eisenberg did a fine job. However, I still feel he was too youthful for the role since Lex is older than Superman in other incarnations, and Lex—as crazy as he can be sometimes—is more of a reserved crazy than someone more animated. It was this animated part that brought Lex down, in my opinion. Crazy is fine. Smart crazy is even better, but this kind of Joker-esque displays that happened now and then were out of place. Maybe given the ending Lex’s personality will change and he’ll be more reserved. We’ll see.
Lois Lane. Amy Adams works for me. She does the hard-nosed journalist thing quite well, and the standard Lois Lane thing of getting herself into hot spots so only Superman can come to the rescue. I don’t mind this trope so long as it isn’t all the time. Her role in this flick wasn’t a main one like in Man of Steel. She was more part of Superman’s support team despite her entanglement in some of the later conflicts in the movie.
Alfred Pennyworth. What can I say? Jeremy Irons did a good job as Alfred, who is also Batman’s co-combatant. Sure, he didn’t don a costume and get out there and fight bad guys, but helped Batman from the Batcave as a sort of special ops overseer. More importantly, he acted as Bruce Wayne’s conscience and wasn’t afraid to go up against him when he disagreed with something. As much as Robin’s job is to keep Batman grounded, it’s Alfred’s job as well, and since he is older than Bruce, he can provide wisdom in areas Bruce isn’t familiar with. Good choice having Jeremy Irons in the role.
There were a few moments in the film where I wished things had gone in a different direction, but that could just be my taste as opposed to my ideas being better.
Unfortunately, WB and DC marketed this movie as one thing and what it was was something different. Once you get over that hurdle and see Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice for what it’s meant to be in the greater DC Universe, then a lot of pieces fall into place and it’s highly enjoyable.
Superman/Batman: Apocalypse (2010) Written by Tab Murphy Directed by Lauren Montgomery Runtime 78 min. 4.5 out of 5
A spaceship lands in Gotham Harbor. A young woman emerges with powers just like Superman.
Welcome to Earth, Supergirl.
Upon learning of Kara Zor-El’s (Supergirl’s) arrival, Darkseid orders her capture . . . and succeeds. If he can control her, he can use her to lead the Female Furries army.
Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman track Kara down with the help of Barda, the old leader of the Female Furries, and take the battle to Apokolips to save Kara and stop Darkseid from going through with his plans.
Talk about raising the bar and setting the stakes so high that it takes the combined forces of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman to save the day. Add the threat of an unstable and brainwashed Kryptonian by way of Supergirl and the all-powerful Darkseid, and you have a recipe for a strong superhero story.
The spotlight was on Superman in this one and that pleases this Superman fan. By introducing Kara into the mix, we get to see him come to the realization that he’s not Krypton’s sole survivor and that he actually has family, a blood relative (Kara is Superman’s cousin; her father and his were brothers). To see him try and show her the ways of Earth, help her fit in the same way his own earthly parents aided him, is a definite passing of the torch. It also gives him a chance to explain why he does things the way he does.
Tim Daly returns as the voice of Superman in this. I love his voice for the character. He was the man on Superman: The Animated Series and every time I see his name in the credits of a DCU movie, I know I’ll be happy with the Superman in the flick.
Kevin Conroy is Batman. No, I mean, he is Batman. He cemented himself as such in Batman: The Animated Series and continues doing so with every outing.
Summer Glau picked up the reins as Supergirl in this and sold the dialogue very well.
Darkseid—Andre Braugher—was okay, but I wish he had more of a commanding voice presence instead of just a deep one.
This movie is Supergirl’s movie, to be sure. It was based off the graphic novel Superman/Batman: Supergirl by Jeph Loeb and the late Michael Turner. Not sure why they changed the title for this movie. Whatever. They also translated Mr. Turner’s art very well to the screen. I love his artwork so was happy to see it animated as it was. He draws such amazingly beautiful women.
DC animated movies are good for including some fantastic extras and this one includes a Green Arrow animated short. It is pure gold and while I know the character is busy with his own TV show at the moment—Arrow—I hope DC at some point makes a full-length live action movie or animated feature with him. If this short proves anything, it’s that they can do it and do it well.
Superman/Batman: Apocalypse is the total package and one I really liked a lot. Recommended.
Sky High (2005) Written by Paul Hernandez, Bob Schooley and Mark McCorkle Directed by Mike Mitchell Runtime 100 min. 4 out of 5
Will Stronghold’s parents are the world’s greatest superheroes—the Commander and Jetstream—and his folks are hoping that by him enlisting in the super high school, Sky High, he’ll achieve his full potential and become a great hero himself. Unfortunately, Will doesn’t have any superpowers and must try and make his way out from under his parents’ super shadows and through the trials and tortures of a super high school. When one of the Commander’s old enemies, Royal Pain, surfaces, Will must find it in himself to be the man he was destined to be, and not just become a hero, but a superhero.
Seriously, Kurt Russell as a superhero? Yes. That is a good idea and I’m dead serious. He’s got the looks, the charm and the coolness factor to pull it off. Turning him into a Superman rip-off makes it even more perfect so I’m totally down with Kurt Russell as the Commander. Throw in Kelly Preston as his wife and fellow super crime fighter Jetstream and you’ve got a match made in super Heaven.
This movie is a love letter to the genre, featuring all the things that make superheroes great. As said, you got the Superman-type hero in the Commander, the beautiful heroine ala Wonder Woman in Jetstream, and loads of students at Sky High exhibiting all the classic powers throughout the movie, everything from flight to heat vision, to freezing people to superstrength, to shape shifting to superspeed—the list just keeps going. Tell the story from the point-of-view of the Commander and Jetstream’s son, Will (Michael Angarano), and you have the excuse to be on the outside looking in while also taking part in the adventure yourself.
It’s a simple story, but a good story and, as said, was a love letter to the genre and the tale used to share that letter with viewers was a good one to do it with.
I’ve also made it no secret in my other reviews that I’m a fan of superhero comedies. Usually, they’re done pretty well and Sky High is no exception. By making these superhero comedies and pulling it off, it goes to show how versatile the superhero genre really is. People generally view superheroes as so one-dimensional—sometimes two-dimensional—and that’s about it. Doing an assortment of super flicks breaks that perception and as a diehard fan of the genre, I’m happy these other variations on men and women in tights are created.
This movie has fantastic cameos by the likes of Lynda Carter (TV’s Wonder Woman), Bruce Campbell (Evil’s Dead’s Ash—who is kind of a superhero on his own, in a way; I mean, Ash has a chainsaw hand for crying out loud!)—Patrick Warburton as the voice of Royal Pain (Patrick was TV’s the Tick) and a bunch of other familiar faces. Nice.
Sky High is complete family fun, kid-friendly and is highly recommended for those looking to expand their superhero-movies-I’ve-watched repertoire.
Go see it. Buy it, borrow it, rent it—just see it. It’s good times.
Justice League: The New Frontier (2008) Written by Stan Berkowitz Directed by Dave Bullock Runtime 75 min. 4 out of 5
In the fifties, the world doesn’t know what to make of superheroes. Some of them are accepted and beloved, others not so much. When a mysterious entity known as The Center rises to thwart the planet, the core Justice Leaguers—Superman, Batman, Flash, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and Martian Manhunter—must unite for the first time to stop what is seemingly an unstoppable threat.
Based on the best-selling graphic novel by Darwyn Cooke, Justice League: The New Frontier is unlike any Justice League movie out there. For starters, it’s a period piece. Nothing modern day here, with the story taking place between 1953 and 1960. Even more so, it’s art direction is based on Cooke’s art from the graphic novel, where each character was drawn in a very forties-style way: simple, with minimal muscle and heavy lines for eyes. No bodybuilding superheroes in this flick. And, of course, all the backgrounds, supporting cast and tech in the film were all time-appropriate as well. Even the “advanced tech” in the film was old school in its presentation and style.
The story was good—very much an origin story for the Justice League, with the overarching origin story being that of Green Lantern—and each character was faithful to their source material. The pacing was a bit slow at times, with lots of talking—there were a few moments where I was, like, “Get on with it!”—but at the same time, it being a period piece, TV and movies back then had lots of talking, too.
Not that talking is a bad thing. Just wished for a few more fast-paced sequences—not necessarily violence or fighting—to move things along.
Warner Bros. and DC Comics are amazing at their direct-to-market animated features, each one meant to stand on its own instead of where one story feeds off another. By doing that, they pick and choose the best graphic novels to adapt and don’t have to worry about the baggage of continuity as a result. Doing Justice League: The New Frontier afforded them an opportunity to do something wholly original and deliver something that modern day audiences haven’t seen in recent years: a superhero story that takes place in the past. After watching this, I wish someone in Hollywood would do a live action version of Superman or Flash or whoever, but set it in the past. You can still be true to the characters, as this story has shown, but give something fresh at the same time and, from a marketing and creative standpoint, give something original as a result.
Justice League: The New Frontier is a fantastic movie, and for those who want more of their favorite heroes but sometimes wish something new was done with them, then this is the flick for you.
Justice League: Doom (2012) Written by Dwayne McDuffie Directed by Lauren Montgomery Runtime 77 min. 4.5 out of 5
Assembled by Vandal Savage, the elite members of the Legion of Doom—Bane, Cheetah, Mirror Master, Star Sapphire, Ma’alefa’ak and Metallo—are shown how to beat each and every member of the Justice League of America. Using the specific weaknesses of each hero, the Legion heads out to destroy their counterparts and bring them to their knees so Vandal Savage could implement the next phase of his plan: annihilating the majority of the human race so he can bring about a new world order from its ashes.
To make things worse, Vandal Savage didn’t discover how to destroy the Justice League on his own, and when the answer as to who was responsible is revealed, the JLA is rocked to its core with the fate of the world hanging in the balance.
Man, I love this movie. It features an all-star cast of all-star superheroes going up against an all-star roster of evil supervillains. Finally, we get to see the villains stick it to the heroes in a big way and not let up until the JLA is down. And I mean really down. It’s not often you see Superman on the brink of death, Batman humiliated and defeated, Flash completely screwed, Green Lantern a broken man, Martian Manhunter totally incapacitated, and Wonder Woman so messed up she doesn’t know what to do or which way to turn.
This flick is based on the “Tower of Babel” Justice League story arc by Mark Waid, who is arguably one of the best comic book writers on the planet. I can’t comment on this flick’s faithfulness to that storyline because it’s been over ten years since I last read it, but I do remember the overall premise and this movie delivered on that.
The heroes and villains look great in this movie, and it does well in showcasing their various powers and abilities.
It’s also an exciting movie that is fast-paced, has a sense of atmosphere, a sense of taking place in the overall DC Universe—thanks to other heroes and villains not mentioned above showing up—and gives the JLA a threat that even they might not be able to handle. And that’s the thing with a JLA movie: the threat needs to be so huge and so dangerous that it takes them as a team to solve the issue, and considering each one of them is extremely powerful in their own right, that threat needs to be mega huge, not just physically but psychologically as well. Justice League: Doom has that and delivers it in spades.
Also features the voice talent from the Justice League animated series so that totally adds to it as well, giving it a sense of familiarity.
Out of all the superhero movies on the market, this is easily one of my favorites and is good viewing for kids and adults alike.
Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (2010) Written by Dwayne McDuffie Directed by Lauren Montgomery and Sam Liu Runtime 75 min. 5 out of 5
The superhero known as Lex Luthor travels from a parallel Earth to ours and summons the help of the Justice League to take on the Crime Syndicate, an evil version of the JLA from his own Earth. Agreeing to help him, the Justice League travels to Luthor’s Earth and takes on the Crime Syndicate, pitting the likes of Superman against Ultraman, Wonder Woman against Superwoman, the Flash against Johnny Quick, Green Lantern against Power Ring, Martian Manhunter against J’edd J’arkus, Hawkgirl against Angelique, and, soon enough, Batman against Owlman.
In a true case of looking in a mirror darkly, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths is a super heroic and super villained thrill ride that gives you two Justice Leagues for the price of one!
Such a simple premise but such a cool story. Why not have the JLA face themselves from an alternate reality? Who would win? If you’re fighting someone every bit as powerful as you are, would someone come out on top? What if they thought like you? Talk about playing with one’s shadow.
There’s superpowers galore in this movie as each hero gets to take on their counterpart and show what they are fully capable of. More so, you get to see what our beloved JLA would be like had they taken other paths in life as the similarities and differences between them and the Crime Syndicate are explored.
A bunch of other heroes make an appearance in this flick as well, guys like Aquaman, Black Canary, Red Tornado (a personal favorite), Firestorm (another favorite), and more. Kind of a throwback to Justice League Unlimited in that way.
Don’t be fooled, though, as this movie is more than just a superhero/supervillain slugfest. It gets into the deeper issues, the big one being about choice. In the context of the movie, if every choice we make spawns an alternate reality where the alternate choice(s) was also made, do any of the choices we make ultimately matter?
This movie is smart, interesting, and grabs you from the get-go. The action is top notch, the animation is ultra sweet, and if these direct-to-video DC Universe movies have proven anything, it’s that they know how to make a good Justice League flick. I can’t wait until they transfer that same know-how to a live action Justice League movie. Can you imagine how awesome that’ll be?
Anyway, back to this one. This is such a good movie and is a must-have on any superhero fan’s movie shelf. You not only get DC Universe’s all-stars, but the all-stars of a parallel universe as well. Like I said above, definitely a two-for-one ticket and definitely worth checking out.