Justice League The Flashpoint Paradox

  • Title:  Justice League The Flashpoint Paradox
  • Director:  Jay Oliva
  • Voice Director:  Andrea Romano
  • Date:  2013
  • Studio:  Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre:  Animation, Action, Fantasy
  • Cast:  Justin Chambers, C. Thomas Howell, Michael B. Jordan, Kevin McKidd, Kevin Conroy, Sam Daly, Dana Delany, Cary Elwes, Nathan Fillion, Ron Perlman
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“They’re motivated by greed. They lack the commitment, the absolute focus…” – Professor Zoom (Reverse Flash)
“…to kill me.” – Flash
“To erase you.” – Professor Zoom (Reverse Flash)

“Brake the sound barrier and there’s a sonic boom. You broke the time barrier, Flash, time boom. Ripples of distortion out from the point of impact, shifting everything just a tiny bit – but enough. Enough for events to happen slightly differently.” – Professor Zoom (Reverse Flash)

Justice League The Flashpoint Paradox starts with what we quickly realise is a flashback or memory. Young Barry Allen and his mother are stranded at the side of the road with a broken car. Another car passes but fails to stop to help them. Barry is incensed that the person in the car didn’t care enough to do what’s right and stop to help them. Nora, Barry’s mother, urges him to not worry about it – then spots a gas station close by, they decide to walk there to find a phone.

The next flashback finds Barry coming home from school – only to find that his mother has been killed.

In the present, Barry and his wife, Iris are putting flowers on his mother’s grave. Barry expresses his regret that he wasn’t there to save his own mother. He and Iris are interrupted when Barry gets an emergency call, there’s been a break-in at the Central City Flash Museum. As Flash, Barry arrives and confronts The Top, Mirror Master, and eventually Captain Cold, Captain Boomarang, and Heat Wave. It soon becomes obvious that the person in charge of the break in is Eoband Thawne, aka Professor Zoom, aka the Reverse Flash. He uses the distraction of the Rogues Gallery attack to place small but powerful bombs on each Rogue as well as on Flash. He also traps Flash in a gooey substance he can’t escape. Flash manages to trap Professor Zoom, but he can’t get free. The Justice League arrives, and each takes a Rogue to get rid of the bombs, without hurting anyone. The various plans that each Justice Leaguer uses, work and all the bombs are destroyed harmlessly and the Rogues sent back to prison. Meanwhile, Flash is still trapped. Professor Zoom taunts Flash, but Flash manages to disarm the explosives on himself and Thawne.

Next, Barry wakes at his desk. He’s a little confused by the news headline on his computer screen – and even more confused when he exits the building and meets his mother. Things go from bad to worse, as Flash realises he’s in an alternative world that never had a Flash. A world that’s in the midst of War. Barry goes to the Wayne Mansion just outside Gotham City – but the place is a wreck. He gets inside the Batcave and meets Batman – a very violent Batman, who uses guns, and has no problem with killing. Barry quickly realises that this Batman is Thomas Wayne, and it was Bruce who died That Fateful Night. To make matters worse, the death of her son, and seeing her husband become a violent vigilante has turned Mrs. Wayne into the Joker. Though it takes some doing, Barry not only convinces Thomas that his world is “all wrong” – he convinces him they have to re-create the experiment that turned Barry into the Flash. The resulting scene brings to mind various filmed versions of Frankenstein. The first try fails, but, the second try works. The Flash, however, is unable to get enough speed and theorizes there’s another speedster out there also tapping into the “speed force”.

Since using his own power won’t work, Barry’s next idea is to ask for Superman’s help. Batman tells him, though, this world has no Superman. Barry, however, from his own nightmares of the divergent timelines, gets an idea. Batman calls in Cyborg, who works directly for the US Government, and convinces him to hack every computer system he can, looking for information. Eventually Thomas Wayne/Batman convinces Cyborg to hack government and military records. This leads them to find a warehouse that holds the little baby rocket from Krypton. Superman is locked-up, and very weak because he’s been kept in a room with red light and hasn’t experienced the Earth’s yellow sun. Batman, Flash, and Cyborg break Superman out of the military cell.

In Europe, which has been flooded by Aquaman, then taken over by Queen Diana and the Amazons, Lois Lane is about to be killed by Amazons. She’s rescued by the Resistance, another group of Heroes, like Cyborg’s group. Lois swears she saw a yellow-clothed speedster, but the Resistance Group tells her that no speedster works with them. When Batman sees the footage, he tells Flash, who realises it’s Dr. Zoom.

Lex Luther, Deathstroke and Clayface work together on a US Military Carrier to attack Aquaman and attempt to find his doomsday weapon. They fail.

The Military also find Hal Jordan and offer him the chance to fly a captured alien spaceship. Hal jumps at the chance. (The ship’s pilot is dead and enclosed in a glass tube.) The air force general tells Hal that when he died, a glowing green ring flew off his hand and into space. Hal has trouble believing that part of the story. However, Hal has no trouble flying the ship. He too goes after Aquaman, specifically attacking a giant octopus-like creature. Unfortunately, Hal and his ship are swallowed by the creature and Hal is presumed dead.

At that point, the President fires Cyborg, stating there’s nothing left to be done. Cyborg goes to Batman and the Shazam kids and tells them it’s over. Flash talks everyone into not giving up. They all go to Europe. In Europe, they meet Lois and the Resistance group. However, Aquaman and Wonder Woman are in the midst of their final battle. There’s a huge fight, and one by one, most everyone is injured or killed. Finally, Reverse Flash arrives and confronts Flash – explaining that everything that’s happened is his fault, he changed things – and created the mess.

There’s more destruction and heroes, Amazons, and Aquaman’s troops dying. Superman arrives, and cuts off Aquaman’s arm to save Cyborg. However, severely injured, Cyborg dies. Diana goes to kill Aquaman, but he launches his doomsday weapon, Captain Atom. Barry’s absorbed the info from Professor Zoom. Batman kills Zoom, and gives Barry a letter for Bruce. Barry runs and runs, barely escaping the Doomsday weapon, and catches himself.  He prevents himself from changing the past.

Barry again wakes up at his office – and everything is back to normal. He visits Bruce and gives him the letter. Bruce recognizes his father’s handwriting and is moved to tears by Thomas Wayne’s letter.

The first time I watched this film, I really didn’t like it. It seemed so unfair to Barry that he’d have to sacrifice his mother and his happiness with Iris to save the world (in the alternate reality – she’s married to someone else and has a child.)

Watching it a second time, I liked it slightly better, but the film still has some issues. First, Barry, The Flash, is thrust into the altered reality suddenly, and with no explanation. We don’t see him time travel, or Professor Zoom trying something, or even a strange portal. There’s no visual or other indication that somehow time has changed. So the audience is as much in the dark as Barry Allen. And, although in some films, that technique of utter confusion can work, because the audience has faith that All Will Be Explained, in a short, animated film, it becomes wearying to have no idea what is going on. The film is full of action sequences, that sometimes make sense and other times don’t – because so little is explained in the film. And the only explanation is at the end, and from the villain – who places the blame squarely on Barry’s head. Really? How did Zoom know? If he was from the altered reality – he shouldn’t know anything about Barry Allen, because Barry never became the Flash in that reality. Not to mention, if Zoom tapped into the Speed Force by copying the accident that made Barry the Flash – how could he exist without an accident to copy?  (A non-invention paradox.) Meanwhile, Barry actually brings up the other problem – how could his interfering with his mother’s death have affected events before that event? Professor Zoom’s explanation is inventive, but not quite convincing. My guess is he actually lied to Barry – and it was Zoom who messed with things to create the Really Messed Up world then dumped Barry into it. Or, caused a version of Barry to exist that never became Flash. It certainly sounds more like a plot put together by a supervillain.

The other issue was the animation – which I thought was crude, and frankly, pretty bad. The Justice League in the opening barely looked human – or, Kryption or whatever they may be. And in some scenes, the animation was OK, in others, especially the opening flashbacks – it looked very much like Japanese anime, and it others the humans/heroes just didn’t look right – at all. (Diana / Wonder Woman looks awful in nearly every shot she’s in.) It really was quite messy – and there seemed no reason for it.

I will say, it was nice to see a story about Barry Allen, The Flash, but this particular story was dark, and the execution wasn’t very successful.

Recommendation:  For die hard DC fans only, otherwise skip it.
Rating:  3 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  No idea – I have, The Prestige, Inception, Superman Unbound, Justice League War (New 52 Origins)”, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind on deck.

Robin Hood Men in Tights

  • Title:  Robin Hood Men in Tights
  • Director:  Mel Brooks
  • Date:  1993
  • Studio:  Columbia / Tri-Star
  • Genre:  Comedy
  • Cast:  Cary Elwes, Richard Lewis, Amy Yasbeck, Tracey Ullman, Megan Cavanagh
  • Cameo Cast:  Patrick Stewart, Dom DeLuise, Dick Van Patten, Mel Brooks
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R2, PAL

“Let me introduce you to my best friend, Will Scarlett.” — Little John
“Scarlett is my middle name. My full name is Will Scarlett o’Hara. … We’re from Georgia.” — Will

“And why should the people listen to you?” — Prince John
“Because, unlike some Robin Hoods, I can speak with an English accent.”  — Robin

“We’re men, we’re men in tights. Tight, tights!
Always on guard, defending the people’s rights.
When you’re in a fix, just call for the men in tights.”  — “Men in Tights”, song and dance number (Cast)

Robin Hood:  Men in Tights came out as a parody of Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood:  Prince of Thieves, but actually also parodies the classic 1938 Adventures of Robin Hood starring Errol Flynn. There are also some references to the ITV series, Robin of  Sherwood (aka Robin Hood – the one starring Michael Praed and Jason Connery). But with a new Robin Hood film in theaters (Starring Russell Crowe, and directed by Ridley Scott) and a new Robin Hood TV series (starring Jonas Armstrong and Richard Armitage) – this parody actually almost seems to work better now than when it was originally released. Some references no longer really work, but Cary Elwes is the perfect Robin Hood.

In this version of the tale, Robin is captured in the Holy Land during the Crusades, and thrown in a dungeon. There he meets Asneeze, who help him get free. The two led a revolt freeing all the prisoners. Thankful to be freed, Robin promises to look up and help Asneeze’s son, Achoo, when he arrives in England. In England, Robin finds his family’s castle being repossessed and the local villages being burned. He vows to rescue England from tyranny. Soon he’s put together a merry band:  Achoo, Blinkin (Robin’s family’s blind servent), Little John, and Will Scarlett. In a parody of Flynn’s Robin Hood, Elwes’ Robin brings a wild boar (rather than deer) to Prince John’s feast. He sees Marion, and they fall for each other. After a fight with Prince John’s men, Robin, rescued by his men, returns to the forest and begins training the villagers. Also, in a scene straight from The Adventures of Robin Hood, John decides to lure Robin into a trap with an archery contest. As in the Flynn film, Robin arrives at the archery contest, dressed as an old man. But it is John’s archer who splits Robin’s arrow. Shocked, Robin checks the script to see — and discovers he gets another shot. He uses a patriot target-seeking arrow, and blows up the another arrow. Robin is captured and John threatens to hang Robin, if Marion doesn’t marry him. She’s about to do it, when Achoo saves the day, shooting Robin loose from the hangman’s noose. King Richard (Patrick Stewart) arrives and knights Robin. Robin and Marion are “quickly married” by Rabbi Tuckman (Mel Brooks), and start their new life. Robin appoints Achoo the new sheriff of Rottingham. At first the villagers protest, “A black sheriff?” But Achoo responds, “Why not – it worked in Blazing Saddles,” — why do I get the feeling Brooks was waiting the entire film to use that line?

Elwes has a pencil mustache, like Flynn’s from The Adventures of  Robin Hood, and the costumes are also vintage the 1938 movie. Several scenes from the 1938 film are also parodied, notably Robin bringing the deer/boar into the Prince’s feast, and the archery contest scene. Also, Robin has a habit of starting long speeches – which quickly bore his audience. In one, he starts, sounding like Flynn, and ends, sounding like Churchill.

From Robin of  Sherwood – we get the opening sequence of the flaming arrows being shot from English longbows (in silhouette). Also, the character of Achoo, seems to be drawn from Nazzar, though he’s a lot more chatty.

But, Robin’s jibe that, “at least I can speak with an English accent,” is aimed straight at Kevin Cosner – who’s really awful accent (and inability to do one) was a major problem in Prince of Thieves. Unfortunately, though Elwes does an English accent perfectly — most of the rest of the cast is American and sounds it. The worst is Richard Lewis, who just does a bad job as Prince John.  (What is it with Prince John, anyway?  Nobody seems to get him right!  I swear, Doctor Who had the best Prince John I’ve seen in the story “The King’s Demons”).  But yeah, Robin Hood should definitely not sound like he comes from Iowa, and that was the trouble with Cosner’s film.

However, though funny in parts, and filled with some excellent honest-to-goodness sword-fighting scenes, this isn’t the classic Mel Brooks of The Producers, Blazing Saddles, or Young Frankenstein. I did like that it drew on all the Robin Hoods to date, and, again, with two new Robin Hoods out there, it’s worth watching again, but overall a bit disappointing for Mel Brooks.

There is a lot of excellent music in the film — the Robin Hood Rap is fun, the title number of We’re Men, We’re Men in Tights, is hilarious, and even Marion’s Theme is quite sweet.

Yes, I do have an R2 version of  this film. I couldn’t find an US/ R1 / NTSC version anywhere when I bought it. However, you can now find the film as part of the boxed set of Brooks’ films.

Recommendation:  It’s OK, but not stellar.
Rating:  3 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Roman Holiday

The Princess Bride

  • Title:  The Princess Bride
  • Director:  Rob Reiner
  • Date:  1987
  • Studio:  MGM
  • Genre:  Adventure, Romance, Comedy
  • Cast:  Cary Elwes, Robin Wright,  Fred Savage, Peter Falk, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, Billy Crystal, Peter Cook, Andre-the-Giant
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“You fell victim to one of the classic blunders.  The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia.  But slightly less well known is this – never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line.”  — Vizzini

“We’ll never survive [in the Fire Swamp].”  —  Buttercup, the Princess Bride
“Nonsense, you’re only saying that because no one ever has.” — Westley

“You know how much I love watching you work – but I’ve got my country’s five hundredth anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder and Gilder to frame for it.  I’m swamped.” — Prince Humperdinck

The Princess Bride is one of my favorite films of all time.  It’s a film I actually owned a copy of on VHS, then replaced with a DVD.  I absolutely adore this film — it’s smart, fun, intelligent and chock full of fun and quotable lines.  The film actually has two storylines — the frame story of a grandfather (Peter Falk) reading the story of The Princess Bride to his grandson (Fred Savage) who is home sick.  The growing relationship between grandson and grandfather adds a sweetness to the film, as does the young boy’s growing interest in the story.  The main storyline, though, is the story of Westley and Buttercup, two young lovers separated by fate who simply must end-up together.  However, what prevents the story from sinking into typical romantic comedy is the intelligent, witty dialogue and the simply gorgeous cinematography.  The film pulls itself together in such a way that it just works incredibly well.  It’s also shot in a very storybook style, which ranges from castles with interiors that obviously look like sets, to some simply wonderful sunsets, and some great scenery when Buttercup and Westley first meet again. (The wide shots of the castles are no doubt real ones in Ireland and England where parts of the film were shot).

This film also has some wonderful sword fights.  The fight between Westley and Inigo Montoya is wonderful! I really enjoy it every time I watch the film.  But there’s also some wonderful fight scenes between Montoya and the evil Count Rugen.

Overall, the film is just enjoyable.  Simply enjoyable.  It’s funny, it’s sweet, it’s romantic.  The good guys are good because they treat other people nicely and well, and the bad guys – Vizzini, Count Rugen, and Prince Humperdinck are bad guys in part because they treat other people terribly.  Humperdinck’s motivation is also to start a war between Florin (his country and home to Buttercup) and neighboring Guilder.  And a bit of wordplay with the names of  the country as well – Florin and Guilder are two coins in a former Netherlands currency.  Florin is also the name of an old two-shilling coin in the UK that’s no longer in use.

If by some chance you haven’t seen this movie, it’s an absolutely must-see.

Recommendation:  See it!  Also good for all ages without being overly sweet.
Rating:  5 of 5 Stars
Next Film:  The Producers