Friday, July 24, 2009

DVD Review: Green Lantern: First Flight

On his first day on the job, a rookie cop works with a rogue senior officer who isn't what he appears to be. But enough about about the Oscar-winning crime film Training Day, lets talk about Green Lantern: First Flight, the latest direct-to-DVD animated feature from animation legend Bruce Timm. The film documents the first mission of Hal Jordan (Christopher Meloni), the most enduring character ever to bear the mantle of Green Lantern. Sinestro (Victor Garber), a highly respected officer of the Green Lantern Corps, takes the young Jordan under his wing. However, Jordan soon discovers that Sinestro is involved in a conspiracy to take down the Corps, and must stop Sinestro before he takes over the universe. Wow, maybe this is Training Day.

The Pros: As much as I joked about the plot's similarities to Training Day, in no way to I consider this a ripoff. But despite the title, this film is not a origin story. In fact, his origin is over and done with within the first five minutes before the credits even role. This is not a bad thing, however, in fact, since his origin is covered in detail is Justice League: The New Frontier, you could very easily consider this a spin-off of that film. This film is basically like the second half of your average superhero film. Most superhero films spend the first half introducing the character and then transforming him into a superhero, then he usual meets his villain and has his first adventure as a superhero in the second half.

One of the best aspects of this film is the animation. Bruce Timm & Company have always been superior animators, but this is some of their best work ever. The explosions are beautifully realistic, and nowhere will you see better space battles involving no space ships. The redesigns on the characters are great too, particularly on Sinestro and Kilowog, who always looks somewhat ridiculous in the comics. Incidentally, Michael Madsen as Kilowog = AWESOME!!

The Cons: There seems to be an unwritten law that all Direct-to DVD animated features can be no longer than 80 minutes in length. It's a law that needs to be done away with because it's been seriously affecting the quality of these otherwise stellar DC animated films. Justice League: The New Frontier and Wonder Woman in particular suffered greatly because of their short running times. They simply leave too little time for real character development, and often the plots feel rushed.

It's my understanding that fans intially disliked the character of Hal Jordan when he first appeared in 1959. He was thought of a a bit of a stiffneck, with no real characteristics to distiguish him personality-wise. However, the more recent portrayals of Hal Jordan particularly is Darwyn Cooke's excellent graphic novel DC: The New Frontier, Hal is portrayed as someone more akin to Marverick from Top Gun, the hotshot pilot with a devilmaycare attitude. And while that is ostensibly the Hal Jordan portrayed here, the film rushes by so fast you barely get even a sense of that.

Hal doesn't even seem have time to react with suprise and awe to any of the fantastic events happening to him out of the blue. I don't know about you, but if I were suddenly recruited into an alien police force, I'd proabaly start babbling like an idiot. But Hal just takes it all in a stride. It would've also been nice to see Hal actually learning to use the ring. One of the best parts of the Iron Man film for me was the bits with Tony Stark getting the hang of his armor. Here, Hal pretty much masters the ring either instantly, or offscreen, either wat depriving us of some great comedic moments.

The Rest: Not that I'm complaining, but this film was way, way more violent than I was expecting. Superman: Doomsday wasn't as brutal as this. Blood is spilt almost literally every other scene. In fact, if not for the fact that most of it is alien and therefore not red, this film might've very well received a R rating. And not all of it isn't red. There's on seen where character is impaled and covered in his/her (no spoilers!) own very red blood.

The End: Overall, this is fairly average work for Bruce Timm. Of course even mediocre Bruce Timm is lightyears beyond most people. I would however reccomend watching this back to back with Justice League: The New Frontier, to really get the full Hal Jordan experience.

Overall, I give Green Lantern: First Flight a Silver Anarchy Coin.

Click here to visit the official website for Green Lantern: First Flight.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Evil is on the loose, the forces of darkness are attacking both the magical and human worlds, and the most dangerous wizard of all time is gearing up to destroy the world. So naturally, the most important thing in the world right now is to get Ron and Hermione together. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the 6th installment in the film franchise based on the much beloved book by J. K. Rowling. It is Harry Potter's (Daniel Radcliffe) 6th year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The truth of Voldemort's return has finally been exposed, dark wizards are not only openly attacking the magic world, but the muggle world as well, and Harry seems to be the only hope of preventing the Dark Lord's victory. Oh well, back to school. Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) has finally aquired his dream job as the Defense against the Dark Arts professor (which explains why we never see him teach a single class or even discuss this fact beyond mentioning it is passing once), and a new professor named Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) has taken over the potions class. Harry's new potions textbook is mysteriously marked "Property of the Half-Blood Prince", and is filled with notes and corrections that allow Harry to excell in the class. On a completely unrelated but far more interesting note, Harry and Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) go investigating Voldemort's past, Draco (Tom Felton) is dragged into a plot to kill Dumbledore, and all the kids start hooking up (OK, not so interesting).

The Pros: There's not denying that the Potter books were very well written. I'm not actually finished with them myself (I've only read the first three), but no who has read any of them can deny that author J. K. Rowling possesses a talent for sucking her audience into the story from page one. It's virtually impossible to be bored reading her work, even if you're not a habitual reader.

But the Harry Potter books are more that simply great stories, they are coming-of-age stories, and some of the best ever written. You could literally give a kid one book a year starting at age eleven. Kids decades from now might very well be growing up on these books and maybe even the films as well.

The Cons:
Admittedly, I'm not the biggest fan of the Harry Potter mythos. I grew up on The Chronicles of Narnia books, so that's always been by fantasy franchise of choice. So maybe it's just that I'm growing tired of the films, but this one came across to me as boring. Really boring. I even considered giving it a re-watch just to make sure it wasn't just me (and I probably will eventually, with lowered expectations), but I honestly don't think it will do much good.

This film is the first real wake up call to the fact that the Harry Potter books are very difficult to film, maybe even unfilmable is some cases. And I'm not saying that because they're some kind of sacred cows that can never be done justice, I'm saying that because they're simply to long to be put on film with proper coherance. There's simply too much that has to be lost for time reasons. And I hate to have to say that because the films thus far have been extraordinarily faithful to the books, which is a rare thing. For example, I understand the plot element the title derives it's name from is vitally important to the plot in the book, but whatever it did lend to the overall story has apparantly but cut from the film, which already has a very long running time, to long to not have an intermission.

Another thing that bothered me was that the most interesting characters were really pushed into the background. I know I'll take hate for saying this, but the three main characters (Harry, Ron & Hermione) are actually the least interesting of the cast. Harry is a passive blank slate for the other characters to mold and use as they please, Hermione is an unlikable know-it-all bitch, and Ron, well, is just a dork. In fact, when it comes to the kids, my three favorite characters are Luna Lovegood (because she reminds me of River Tam), Neville Longbottom (because he reminds me of Samwise Gamgee), and, believe it or not, Draco Malfoy. Yeah, I know, but as much of a asshole as he is, you have to admit he has far more dimensions to his character that Harry ever had. Not that you could tell that at first. In the first film he was just the stereotypical snobby rich kid. But as early as the second film we started to see that there was indeed a real reason for his behavior. I mean, think about it: His dad, who abuses him, essentially works for the devil! That'd screw anyone up. Harry's aunt & uncle are mean, sure, but they're nothing next to Lucius Malfoy (by-the-by, it's pretty telling of Harry's character that after witnessing Draco's plight multiple times, he still has zero sympathy for him).

Once again, I haven't read the book, but everyone who has tells me that there's supposed to be a huge battle scene in the school at the end, a battle that was despertely needed but left out for some reason. It's honestly hard to believe that this is supposed to be the follow-up to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which had some of the most spectacular battles in film history. But this really killed the momentum of the series.

The End: I think I can safely say that this is the second worst of the Potter films, with Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets retaining the award for worst. Chamber of Secrets was a boring retread of the first film and a completely pointless addition to the story. Half-Blood Prince is certainly boring, but it's certainly not pointless, nor a complete retread. It's more like a less entertaining version of Order of the Phoenix. Of course, even the worst of the Potter films are still good films, but they're still disappointing by this series' standerds. All I can say is that they picked a hell of a time to break the pace with the saga nearing it's climax. If they do make Deathly Hallows into two films, they better step it up.

Overall, I give Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince the Bronze Anarchy Coin.

Click here to visit the official website for Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.

VLOG: July 23, 2009

Moving, censoring, laptop repairs, and the next Lunatic Fringe episode.