Book Review – The Shape of Things to Come (Audio)

  • Title: The Shape of Things to Come
  • Series: Big Finish Classics
  • Author: H.G. Wells (original novel)
  • Adapted by: Guy Adams
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Dr. Philip Raven, Jane
  • Cast: Sam Troughton, Nicola Walker

Spoilers

I was first introduced to Big Finish back in 2001, when I discovered their full-cast original Doctor Who audio plays. I liked the audios, and even subscribed to the main monthly line for a while. I continue to purchase Big Finish audios, when I can, to this day. H.G. Wells’ The Shape of Things to Come is a full-cast audio drama of Wells’ famous novel. Although I have read some of Wells books (The Time Machine, The Invisible Man) I have not previously read The Shape of Things to Come so I had no previous expectations for this story, other than a few general assumptions about Wells.

The audio is really good. It’s extremely well-produced. The acting is extremely good. It draws you in to its’ world completely, even though I listened to it while driving back and forth to work during an extremely trying week. Even though it is a full-cast audio drama, in many ways it feels like a two-hander (e.g. a play starring only two actors) – yes there are other parts besides the two main characters, and they are performed by others (this is not a dry oral reading of Wells’ novel), but the majority of the novel is about Dr. Philip Raven and Jane. Philip is a diplomat, who, when the story starts is on a plane heading for the UN in the US on a diplomatic mission. Jane is a historian and archivist from the future – from an alternative future.

Jane meets Philip on the plane and takes him on a journey. A journey through events in his future and her past. As these vignettes covering a future history are told and experienced by Jane and Philip, Jane explains her mission. She shows him horrible events: a world war where toxic gas is dropped on civilian populations; the complete destinigration of any sort of political or social order; disease and plague (including bubonic plague); a world where society has fractured to not even towns or villages but neighborhoods where everyone is armed to the teeth and shoots to kill any “strangers” without even finding out who they are, why they are there, or if they need help; a world where zoo keepers are forced to kill their charges. It is bleak and unrelentingly depressing. And, at the end of Disc 1, Jane tells Philip that she doesn’t want him to prevent this horrific alternative timeline – she wants him to ensure that it happens.

Disc 2 explains why. Jane shows him how, once the old world had been completely destroyed – with no government, no order, no law, and even no social order – it began to come back. The transportation unions banded together and took control, controlling first all air transport of goods (with no government, no law, and no rules – goods were no longer moved from place to place, neither necessary goods like food or luxury goods. And with no markets, the factories producing those goods collapsed), then all shipping, and finally all roads. The transport unions had their own private police, they developed and imposed the first law and order for decades. Eventually, what developed was a single world state. Initially ruled by the Transport Union, it eventually just became Control. There wasn’t even a single leader, though a man named Essington becomes a figurehead of a sort. But Jane is quick to point out, laws are not issued by a person, nor a dictator, nor even a ruling council – they come unsigned and are merely “Control”. Jane shows Philip the rise, and fall, of Essington. Then she takes him to her home and her wife – the Utopia that Jane is desperate to preserve. This future world is the one that she wants Philip to create – because he will be in the right place at the right time. For Jane, all the pain, all the destruction, all the death of the past, is worth it to create her perfect world.

In the end, Philip is returned to his timeline, to his diplomatic meeting. He is met by Jane one final time, and given a case. And the story ends on a question – Will Philip open the case and use its contents on the world leaders gathered for his conference? It’s implied the case contains a deadly gas – it’s Philip’s job to kill the diplomats. Or won’t he? Will he think that the cost is too high? That maybe the world could reach a world like Jane’s Utopia without such drastic action and without the pain and death that would result before the new world could be born. By leaving it open-ended as to what Philip would do – the entire play becomes a moral exercise for the listener. As with much of Wells’ work, it asks, What would you do?

Also, as an adaptation, though it deals with alternative timelines and history – the play addresses the here and now in a very real way. And it addresses the long view of history. The character of Jane, as a historian and archivist, has a view of her history, based on what she’s been taught in her world’s schools. It’s based on the histories she’s read, even the documents of the path to her world. But history is written by the winners – when Philip questions her (such as about her world’s banishment of religion and the, albeit, she say non-lethal attack on the world’s last large religious gathering – and the establishment of the secular state) she dismisses his arguments of human rights to religious freedom with the “religion causes wars” argument and claims in her future no one fears religious persecution, prejudice or bigotry. When she shows him Essington’s Fall – it’s telling that the person accusing Essington, his wife, attacks him has a traitor, as an individualist. While too much individualism leads the the exploitation of the weak – too much emphasis on the opposite suppresses the spark of creativity, diversity, and the very notion of being different. One wonders what happens to the poets, writers, and artists of Jane’s perfect world? One wonders about people who are different? Does her world even have people of different races and cultures? She goes to great lengths to explain the World State is One – so there are no countries, but what does that really mean? Is everyone in the World State white and British? (no offense meant). Yet at the same time the story parallels real history, especially the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, because it is a story of the fall and rise of civilizations.

Again, this dramatic presentation of H.G. Wells’ novel, The Shape of Things to Come is excellent. Yes, disc 1 is overwhelmingly depressing at times, but disc 2 is much more hopeful. The entire play ends on a question, a moral quandary, something that is often left out of dramatic entertainment today, but that was an essential part of H.G. Wells work. The CD version includes a trailer for another title in this range, The Island of Dr Moreau, and a panel interview with Sam Troughton, Nicola Walker, and Guy Adams. The Shape of Things to Come was originally published in 1933, and Wells lived from 9/21/1866 to 8/13/1946. Big Finish’s audio play is highly recommended.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website: www.bigfinish.com

Click this link to order H.G. Wells’ The Shape of Things to Come on CD or Download.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!

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Son of Batman

  • Title: Son of Batman
  • Director: Ethan Spaulding
  • Voice Director: Andrea Romano
  • Date: 2014
  • Studio: Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre: Animation, Action, Fantasy, Drama
  • Cast: Jason O’Mara, Stuart Allan, Thomas Gibson, Morena Baccarin, Sean Maher, David McCallum
  • Format: Widescreen, color, animation
  • DVD Format: Blu-Ray

“I’ll drive.” – Damain
“No.” – Batman
“I know how.” – Damain
“No.” – Batman

“Do you know what you were tonight?” You weren’t a warrior. You weren’t a soldier. You were a child.” – Batman
“If it hadn’t been for him [Nightwing, Dick Grayson], I…” – Damian
[breaking in] “If it hadn’t been for Dick, you’d have gone too far.” – Batman
“It’s easier my way!” – Damian
“It has nothing to do with easy. It’s about doing what’s right, because it’s right and that’s the only reason you need.” – Batman

“You’ve never felt vengeful?” – Damian
“Everyday. You have to keep your center, Damain. You can’t fight crime by becoming a criminal.” – Batman

Son of Batman is the first of a trilogy of films about Damian Wayne – the son of Talia al Ghul (daughter of Ra’s al Ghul) and Bruce Wayne. Damian will become the fourth Robin (after Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, and Tim Drake). The film opens with Ra’s al Ghul and Damian standing on a balcony in the secret temple of the League of Assassins. They watch the assassins exercising and training below, and Ra’s tells Damian it will be his birthright. But the temple is attacked. Talia protects Damian, but ultimately Ra’s is killed. Talia takes Damian to his father in Gotham City.

Once Talia makes introductions she leaves, and Batman returns to his mansion with his young son. Meanwhile a scientist, whom we learn later is Kirk Langstrom, is being forced to work on a formula or his wife and daughter will be harmed. Previously working for the League of Assassins, Langstrom is now working for Deathstroke – the leader of the attack on Ra’s temple. At Wayne Manor, Damian finds an antique sword and attacks the bushes. Bruce is impressed by the young man’s skill, while Alfred bemoans the destruction of the shrubbery.

Later that day or the next, Damian shows up at Wayne Enterprises – and proves himself an adept hacker. Bruce brings him home and grounds him. This will not go well.

Deathstroke’s henchman, Ubu, enters a hotel room with two hookers – but immediately gets suspicious. Damian arrives and fights Ubu – the fight spills out onto the street. Damain’s about to take Ubu’s head off with a sword, when Nightwing arrives. A few minutes later, Nightwing, looking the worse for wear, calls Bruce and tells him he has his son.

Back at the Batcave, Damian says just the wrong thing to Batman, and Dick who knows his mentor well, mutters, “uh-oh”, then Batman reads Damian the riot act. However, Damian is allowed to put on his own spin on the Robin suit and he and Batman travel on Gotham’s rooftops together. Batman introduces the new Robin to Commissioner Gordon with a nod and a “I’ll explain later”. Gordon gives Batman a clue, a scrap of paper from the investigation of Ubu. Batman and Damian follow it up, finding Langstrom. They find out Deathstroke has his family. There’s a massive fight against guards that ends-up in an old stadium that’s filled with giant man-bats.

Damian has Langstrom at knifepoint. He’s taken to the Batcave. There, finding out about his family, and that Ra’s wanted him to create a formula to create human/animal crossbreeds to create super-soldiers. Batman and Damian head off on a rescue mission, while Nightwing watches Langstrom as he makes a antidote to his man-bat formula. Damian had recognized the scientist’s daughter’s description of two mountain peaks like cat’s ears as Interlochen.

The rescue mission goes smoothly, and Batman finds the mother and daughter. But the daughter slips Damian a phone with a video message from Deathstroke and a location of Damian’s still-missing mother, Talia. Bruce calls Dick from a hotel room – then realizes Damian is missing. Batman, having heard from Mrs. Langstrom that Talia was also a prisoner but she was taken to another location. Dick quickly deduces the location, a nearby oil rig off the coast of Scotland.

The oil rig is at sunset and the animation is gorgeous. Damian takes an elevator to a sea base. Batman arrives and takes out the guards. Damian discovers a Lazarus Pit. Deathstroke threatens Talia. Damian threatens Deathstroke. But when pushed, Damian drops his gun. Talia gets shot trying to save Damian from Deathstroke. Batman arrives. Man-bats also attack. Batman uses sound signals on his batarangs to draw away the man-bats. Batman has the injured Talia.

Man-bats burst through the reinforced glass ceilings of the base, causing water to rush in and the system to overload. The man-bats burst above the base from the ocean and Nightwing and Langstrom fire antidotes at the man-bats from Nightwing’s plane.

Batman takes Talia into the Lazarus Pit. Damian and Deathstroke face off in a sword fight. Talia is cured by the Lazarus Pit.

The Sea-base starts to collapse as the sea rushes in. Water from the Lazarus Pit, which is being mined, also gets released. Deathstroke goads Damian into killing him – but Robin refuses – taking the name as his own for the first time. However, Deathstroke is caught by the explosion of the Lazarus pipelines. Batman, the new Robin, and Talia make it to an escape capsule and Nightwing rescues it from the ocean and the collapsing oil rig.

Talia and Bruce discuss who will have custody of Damian, but in the end he will stay with Bruce for now. Talia goes to rebuild the League of Assassins.

The animation in Son of Batman is excellent. This film looks gorgeous and the action sequences (of which there are many) are crisp and easy to follow. The sunset colors of the oil rig sequence are stunning. The film’s last shot of Batman and Robin, their capes blowing in the wind, the sunset behind them is beautiful. But this is also an extremely violent film with a high body count. The characterization is OK, but could have been better. Bruce Wayne seems a bit bland – and I found it hard to believe he didn’t even questions Talia. You’d think he would have demanded a paternity test – if only because of his position. Yet, Bruce also stops short of openly declaring that Damian is his son to the world.

I avoided this film and the two sequels for awhile because I’m not a fan of Grant Morrison at all, nor am I a fan of New 52, and I don’t really like Damian either. But, having said all that, I enjoyed this film. It looks gorgeous. The characterizations were pretty good. I loved seeing Dick Grayson as Nightwing, and the hint of the brothers-in-bat-hood relationship he will eventually have with Damian.

Recommendation: See It
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film: Well, it should be the next in sequence, Batman vs. Robin, but it will probably be Batman: The Killing Joke which I just bought.

Spy

  • Title: Spy
  • Director: Paul Feig
  • Date: 2015
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • Genre: Action, Comedy
  • Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Miranda Hart, Allison Janney, Rose Byrne, Morena Baccarin, Jude Law, Jason Statham, Jessica Chaffin
  • Format: Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format: R1, NTSC

“I must have watched this fifteen times now, because What the fuck? I almost put it up on youTube.” – Elaine Crocker
“I must say I was uncomfortable with the event, but I’d also like to say – it was over ten years ago, the instructor was not harmed.” – Susan
“Fine was your mentor, right?” – Elaine
“Yes.” – Susan
“Why did you not become a field agent?” – Elaine
“We’re such a great fit and a great team… Fine made some great points, maybe I’d match better staying in his ear.” – Susan
“Yeah, he sniped you. All the top agents used to do that before I got here.” – Elaine

“I do not condone these sexy but reckless actions of yours, Susan!” – Nancy

Melissa McCarthy’s Spy is an empowering movie – but it is also laugh-out-loud funny, fast-paced, and quite the ride. The movie stars five very different women and a few men. At the core of the film is the friendship between Susan Cooper and Nancy, two analysts at the CIA. Their job is perfectly explained by the opening scene of the film where Bradley Fine, top CIA field agent, tracks down a man who’s made it known he’s willing to sell a small, portable nuclear weapon. Fine’s holding the man at gunpoint when he points out that he erased the men who helped him hide the nuke, then he erased the “erasers” so Bradley better not kill him. At that moment, Fine sneezes, the gun goes off, and the guy dies. Susan asks, “Why did you do that?” then calmly, and expertly guides Fine to his escape, even calling in a drone strike so Fine can get away. Susan and Nancy’s friendship is illustrated by a scene where they are in a bar talking. Nancy spots Carol Walker, the agency’s top female agent and quietly pokes fun at her for being so perfect. The scene is very real and illustrates how real women talk.

After Fine’s disastrous mission, Elaine Crocker, the head of the department at the CIA tells the agents that someone else must know about the nuke because it’s come up for sale on the black market. Susan had figured out it was Rayna, the seller’s daughter. Fine is sent to get Rayna – but he’s killed and Rayna reveals she knows the names of all the top agents. Thus Crocker needs to find an unknown for the mission. Susan Cooper volunteers. Susan, as a woman, is given a horrible cover story, and even worse and more embarrassing special equipment. When she arrives in Paris, her hotel is the type of dive that makes one want to take a shower just looking at it in the film. In Paris, she runs into Ford, another top agent who quit when Elaine choose Susan for the mission instead of him. Ford will continually show up – proving himself to be an incredible egotist, who constantly brags up his own abilities and insults Susan.

Susan herself through luck and talent manages to do quiet well. She’s supposed to be on a track and report mission, but the building she’s supposed to watch, where Deluka, their lead is staying has burned down the night before. Susan runs into Ford, who leaves her, but she notices that a woman has switched backpacks with Ford. She chases after him, right into the middle of a German dance pop outdoor concert. Ford barely realizes what’s going on but manages to throw the bomb into the river. After the encounter, Susan asks to go to Rome to follow their next lead. Her new cover is even worse than her first one.

In Rome, Susan saves Rayna – the woman she’s after, from a poisoned drink. Rayna has the man who slipped it to her killed, then invites Susan  on her private jet to Budapest. On the jet, Susan is knocked out. When one of the men on the plane threatens Rayna (largely because she treats him badly – not even knowing his name), shoots up the plane, and kills the pilot and navigator. Susan lands the plane. Rayna concludes that Susan is CIA – Susan convinces her she’s Amber Valentine a bodyguard hired by Rayna’s father. Rayna accepts this but is wary. When they land, Susan runs into Nancy, and tells Rayna she’s another of her operatives. A car shoots at them, killing Anton, one of Rayna’s retainers – Susan gives chase on a scooter. She catches up to the car, and fires at it and it crashes – it’s the agent, Carol Walker. Susan’s apologizing, when Carol pulls a gun at her – then is killed by a sniper.

Rayna is to meet her buyer at a disco. The Ally from Rome, Aldo, shows up – as does Ford and Nancy. Ford causes trouble, Susan has Nancy cause a distraction, and Susan goes after the woman to prevent her from meeting Rayna. Susan gives chase and fights the woman in a kitchen, using things like cast iron pans and tupperware. She does pretty well, but ends-up cornered. Fine shows up and kills the girl, but he and Rayna who are working together take Susan hostage. She ends-up tied up with Aldo. Susan’s pretty demoralized by this but Aldo cheers her up and then helps untie her. They escape.

Susan goes to find Rayna, Fine, the broker, and the buyer. Rayna claims Susan is doing all this because she loves Fine. Fine had revealed himself to be a triple agent. Rayna takes the group to the nuke, and again all hell breaks loose as the broker kills everyone he can so he can take the nuke and the diamonds that were Rayna’s payment. Ford arrives and pratfalls into the room – becoming a liability. Susan and Fine handle things in the room, though the broker escapes with the diamonds and nuke. Susan runs to the helicopter to get him and jumps on the strut. Ford jumps on her. Susan lets Ford fall in the lake, knocks the nuke and diamonds in to the lake but gets caught at the wrong end of the broker’s gun. Nancy shows up in another helicopter and fires at the broker. The broker, not quite dead fights back and grabs Susan’s necklace – she loosens the adjustable toggle and the guy falls into the lake.

Now successful, Susan passes up a chance at a dinner date with Fine for a girls night with Nancy. Elaine promises to keep her on as an active agent.

Whereas the opening credits are a typical Bond-type montage of smoke and girls – the end credits show Susan’s missions, complete with secret identities and special weaponry and they are hilarious. The movie also has a terrific soundtrack of fun music. Spy is an empowering movie and I enjoy it every time I watch it. It pushes through the Bechel test like water. The main characters – Susan, Nancy, Elaine, and Rayna are all women. Even secondary characters – the traitor Carol, and the third analyst in the basement – are women. Moreover, the men aren’t particularly competent. Bradley Fine walks into the opening scene like he’s James Bond, but he sets-up the entire movie by killing Rayna’s father, accidentally, before finding out where the suitcase bomb is. Ford is an egotistical braggart who’s claims are so ridiculous he’s obviously making them up (and Susan calls him on it), and the reality of his “abilities” is considerably “less”.

Susan begins the film as an extremely competent CIA analyst – without her in his ear, Fine wouldn’t last 30 seconds. When Elaine, Susan’s boss, digs into Susan’s records at The Farm – the CIA’s training facility, she’s impressed and even asks why Susan didn’t apply for a field agent position – only to discover that Fine suggested that she should not. Susan and the other analysts have to endure horrible conditions in the CIA basement in Langley – with bats and mice in the room – yet all three analysts deal with it like it’s nothing. No women standing on chairs screaming at a mouse here. The scenes between Nancy and Susan, especially their first scene in the bar, are written the way women actually talk. And Nancy is also a strong woman who adds to the chemistry of the film.

Rayna, as the villain of the piece, is the type of woman it’s easy to dislike – she’s a spoiled, pampered brat. She always gets exactly what she wants, yet she cares little for other people. Even her underlings can’t stand her – and many try to kill her in the film. Rayna’s method of intimidation includes poking fun at Susan’s looks and her clothes. She also is a psychopath – she doesn’t even care about Fine, whom she’s sleeping with, even though he killed her father.

I highly, highly recommend this film. It’s empowering to watch. But it’s also very funny – and it’s a great action/adventure film.

Recommendation: A Must See
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film: Son of Batman

Superman Doomsday

  • Title:  Superman – Doomsday
  • Director:  Bruce Timm, Lauren Montgomery, Brandon Vietti
  • Voice Director:  Andrea Romano
  • Date:  2007
  • Studio:  Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre: Action, Animation, Drama, Fantasy
  • Cast:  Adam Baldwin, Anne Heche, James Marsters, John Dimaggio, Tom Kenny, Swoosie Kurtz, Cree Summer
  • Format: Widescreen, color animation
  • DVD Format:  Blu-Ray 

“Just look at him, so sleek, so powerful, so beautiful, like some great golden god made flesh. Of course, any sensible god would demand absolute obidence in return for his favor. But no, our Man of Steel protects us and keeps us with no strings attached. And the people, hum, they practically worship him anyway. Enjoy your reign while you may, Superman, for as surely as night follows day, there comes a time when even gods must die.” – Lex Luthor, prologue

“The subject in question was biologically engineered to be the ultimate soldier: precise, clinical, unstoppable. But its creators came to realize it could not distinguish between friend and foe, thus this Doomsday machine lives to extinguish any and all life forms. Because it must.” Superman’s robot in the Fortress of Solitude

Luthor has a group of scientists and miners digging to the Earth’s core in search of a new energy source that Lexcorp can sell. However, they get more than they bargain for by freeing Doomsday, a biological killing machine. Luthor will later have his assistant Mercy eliminate all trace of Lexcorp’s involvement in freeing Doomsday, and to cover his tracks further, Lex cold-heartedly murders Mercy.

Doomsday escapes and wrecks havoc. Lois and Superman had been having a romantic get away to Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, when Superman’s robot informs him of Doomsday’s attacks on Metropolis. They return. Superman fights Doomsday, and they both cause havoc. Lois and Jimmy Olsen cover the story. The fight between Superman and Doomsday wrecks buildings, causes havoc, and ranges all over Metropolis – city streets, subway tunnels, city streets again. But in the end, Superman does the only thing he can – he grabs Doomsday from the back, flies straight up to the stratosphere, then crashes to Earth. He and Doomsday land in a huge impact crater. Doomsday is stopped, but Superman is also killed. Superman crawls out from beneath Doomsday’s body, and dies in Lois’s arms. Jimmy Olsen takes a picture of the dead Superman, and of Lois with tears streaming down her face.

Martha Kent, who had been watching the fight between Superman and Doomsday on TV, collapses off her chair, tears streaming down her cheeks. In the wake of Superman’s death, Clark Kent is missing, though Perry White is convinced he’s “fine” just incommunicato in Afghanistan (where Kent had gone as a war correspondent). Lois decides she has to talk to Clark’s mother, and drives to Smallville to see her. At first, Martha is suspicious, but when Lois talks about being “in love with him” and “being loved by him” the two go inside to talk.

Lois returns to Metropolis and covers a story of Toyman threatening a schoolbus full of kids. She sneaks inside to rescue the kids, and all of them get out but one little girl. Lois and the girl are also threatened by a “Chuckie”-type living doll/toy with a big knife. Lois defeats the toy/doll, but Toyman pushes the bus off the building. Lois and the little girl are rescued by “Superman”. At first, Lois is overjoyed to have Superman back – but then she notices things – like he doesn’t know where her apartment is, and his attitude towards her is cold and clinical not romantic. Lois tries to figure out if it’s a result of Superman’s trauma, or if this Superman is perhaps not really Superman.

Lois becomes even more suspicious when Clark Kent still doesn’t return or make contact, and Martha calls her and says that even though “Superman” has returned – Clark hasn’t contacted her, he hasn’t even called.

The new Superman goes to confront Luthor, but he’s trapped in a room filled with red sunlight, and Luthor beats him up with Kryptonite brass knuckles. We then learn two things – this new Superman isn’t Superman, he’s a clone made by Luthor and under his control. And Luthor actually missed his enemy Superman so much after his death, he made the clone but a clone who would work for him. Luthor also has Superman’s dead body in status.

Lois tries to get Jimmy to help her investigate, but Jimmy, feeling his mortality after the huge Superman – Doomsday fight in Metropolis, has quit the Daily Planet, and taken a well-paid job as a Paparazzi photographer for a tabloid. Jimmy refuses to help the first time Lois asks.

Meanwhile, Superman’s robot steals Superman’s real body from Lex Luthor. The robot takes the body to the Fortress of Solitude where it turns out Superman isn’t dead – his pulse had slowed down to a rate of once every 17 days to allow him to heal. It had taken the robot 17 days to detect it, and another 17 days to pin-point the location. The robot tells the still injured Superman he retrieved him from LexCorp.

“Superman” takes on Toyman, and, after learning the villain had killed a young child at a day care center, takes him from police custody, flies up high with Toyman, then drops Toyman to his death on top of a police car. Jimmy takes a picture of the bloody and very dead Toyman. It becomes very apparent this this is not the Superman we know – he’s cold, threatening, and scary. Plus he’s still very, very powerful. When the police commissioner asks Superman to come in for questioning – Superman simply refuses because he has “better things to do”, and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop him.

At the Fortress of Solitude, the robot continues to treat Kal-El, the real Superman.

Back in Metropolis, “Superman” goes into a beauty shop and looks into a mirror. With his X-ray vision he finds a lead ball in his head containing Kryptonite. He uses his laser heat vision to remove it.

Lex Luthor hits on Lois when she confronts him. Lois lets Lex kiss her – and knocks him out with a hypo. She, and Jimmy search Lex’s office.  Lois and Jimmy use Lex’s unconscious body on a retinal scanner. They find Lex’s bank of cloned Supermen.  Lex arrives to kill Lois and Jimmy, then Superman arrives. Superman destroys the clone bank. Superman locks Lex in the red room and takes the entire thing into the stratosphere then throws it to the ground.

Meanwhile at the Fortress of Solitude, Superman weight-lifts and exercises to tone his body. He hears the news reports of Lex Luthor’s death. The army is mobilized in Metropolis to take out “Superman” for “killing” Lex Luthor.

The real Superman, in a solar suit, armed with a Kryptonite gun, flies to Metropolis to confront the clone “Rogue Superman”. Superman tries to use the Kryptonite gun, but it goes flying. Superman and Rogue Superman fight. There is a lot of destruction during the fight. Lois grabs the Kryptonite gun, but when she fires at Rogue Superman – she misses. Rogue Superman beats up Superman. However, Superman is able to get the Kryptonite into Rogue Superman’s chest and it explodes – destroying him. Superman is also weakened by the blast but survives. He kisses Lois Lane as proof that he’s the “real” Superman. At the end he reveals himself to Lois as Clark Kent.

Luthor also is reveal to be not as dead as he appears.

This animated film adapts the Death of Superman storyline from the regular weekly Superman comic books. The blu-ray is accompanied by three excellent documentaries – especially the one on the public and press reaction to the Death of Superman (Superman # 75), as well as trailers and sneak peeks for other films in the DC Animated Universe series of films. However, this film also has some changes and unique features that differ from the original printed story. First, Bruce Timm, who co-wrote, produced, and co-directed the film with others introduced Luthor both as a narrator for the story and as the cause of Doomsday’s escape. I thought that made the film stronger – if someone’s going to kill Superman – it should be his well-known enemy. Second, though, simply for time limitations, many of the vignettes of the one to two-year long story arc of the death of Superman and his return weren’t used.

Also, this story, like many Superman stories, is a slug fest. Yes, it’s a slug fest where Superman loses, and he has to sacrifice himself to stop the threat, but it’s still a slug fest. The second half of the film -the world without a Superman, and Lois, Perry, Jimmy, and Martha all coping with there grief in their own ways, was better than the opening and closing fight scenes. However, I wanted to see more of that human story – especially Lois and Martha. Specifically, when Lois goes to see Martha at the Kent family farm, and Martha invites her in – I really wanted to see what happened next.

The animation in Superman- Doomsday was incredible. It was gorgeous and at times I forgot I was watching an animated film. It was that good. I haven’t seen a DC Comics / Warner Brothers Animation film that looked this good since Batman: Under the Red Hood (which, yes, I realize chronologically came after this – but I saw it first.) The realistic animation style and the seriousness of the subject matter also reminded me strongly of Batman: Under the Red Hood.

I will say though that this animated film from several years ago handled Doomsday and the Death of Superman better in many ways that a certain live-action film that is probably still in theaters.

Recommendation:  See It – especially  if your a fan of Superman or good animation
Rating: 4 Stars
Next film: I have several new films to choose from, but probably Spy

Hot Fuzz

  • Title: Hot Fuzz
  • Director: Edgar Wright
  • Date: 2007
  • Studio: Rogue Pictures, Working Title, Universal Pictures
  • Genre: Comedy, Action
  • Cast:  Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jim Broadbent, Timothy Dalton, Bill Nighty, Edward Woodward, Ron Cook, Martin Freeman, David Bradley
  • Format: Color, Widescreen
  • Video Format:  Blu-Ray

But the fact is, you’ve been making us all look bad.” – Met Chief Inspector
“I’m sorry, sir?” – Nicholas
” ‘Course we all appreciate your efforts but you’ve been rather letting the side down.” – Met Chief Inspector
“It’s all about being a team player, Nicholas.” – Inspector
“If we continue to let you run around town you’ll continue to be exceptional and we can’t have that. You’ll out us all out of a job.” Met Chief Inspector

“You can’t switch off, Nicholas.” – Janice

“I just feel like I’m missing out sometimes. I wanna do what you do.” – Danny
“You do do what I do. Why on Earth do you think you’re missing out?” – Nicholas
“Gun fights, car chases. Proper action and shit.” – Danny
“Police work is not about proper action! Or shit! It you’ve paid attention to me in school you’d understand. It’s not all about gun fights and car chases.” – Nicholas

Nicholas Angel is an excellent police officer – excelling in training, as well as academically, and has an arrest record 400 percent better than his fellow officers in the London Met. He is completely dedicated to his job and extremely good at what he does. But that becomes his problem as well. His girlfriend tells him he “can’t switch off”, and his fellow officers find his talent for policing annoying because he “makes them look bad”. So the Met comes to a decision – Nicholas is promoted to sergeant and transferred to the quaint English village of Sandford. Nicholas protests – but to no avail. So he and his Japanese Peace Lily plant head for Sandford.

In Sandford, Nicholas has trouble fitting in, though he gradually becomes friends with his new partner, Danny. But Nicholas also begins to suspect something strange is going on, as a series of fatal accidents occurs in the quiet village. Nicholas suspects these accidents are murders – but everyone from the villagers to the other police officers insist they are accidents. It’s obvious the murders are murders, and Nicholas can’t understand the reluctance the police have to investigate them as such. Slowly Nicholas even suspects the random acts of violence are linked.

Nicholas investigates, and also becomes acclimatized to the village and it’s rather odd inhabitants. But soon his investigations turn up a vast conspiracy – of actions and silence, that even reaches into the police itself. Nicholas is forced to leave.

However, he soon returns, and with the help of his partner Danny, he cleans-up the town in a symphony of violence and action.

Trust me – it’s funnier than it sounds. Hot Fuzz combines a satire of American action thriller films (such as Lethal Weapon, Point Break, and Die Hard), an English Village horror story (The Wicker Man, which starred a very young Edward Woodward, who also appears in this film), and a surprisingly sensitive story of a man’s coming into his own. Simon Pegg is the main character, Nicholas Angel, but he plays the role as the Straight Man. It isn’t Angel who’s the comedian – what makes the film funny is how Angel reacts to the outrageousness around him. And Nicholas also grows, not simply learning “to switch off” but to embrace his inner nature, but to take the time to form friendships as well. The arc of the relationship between Nicholas and Danny is well told, and parallels many classic American buddy cop films.

Yet it isn’t simply Nicholas’ story that Hot Fuzz tells and tells extremely well. Danny’s favorite passtime outside of work is watching the American action films that Hot Fuzz will ultimately parody, especially in the action-packed final sequences. A central scene in the film has Danny talking Nicholas into a real night out at the pub, with the two both drinking lagar, rather than Nicholas having his one cranberry juice then leaving. After several beers, the two head to Danny’s for an action movie binge night. Danny however grows as well, learning self-confidence and ultimately stepping out of his police inspector father’s shadow.

Yet this film, for all that it borrows and parodies from American action thrillers, is also quintessentially British, in that the actual plot that Nicholas discovers is that of the “perfect English village that gets it’s perfection from weird cults and strange sacrifices or conspiracies”. It’s a story that’s been around for awhile (the film The Wicker Man is a prime example, but I’ve seen versions of the story on Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) (2000), Torchwood, and even the Neil Gaiman novel American Gods, and I’m sure there are more examples.) But Hot Fuzz combines an insane amount of violence, lots of action, including a bit pulled from Lethal Weapon with Pegg and Frost firing two hand guns each while moving diagonally through the frame, car chases, confrontations, explosions, and just lots and lots of gunfire and sight gags. It’s hard to describe how such over-the-top action scenes can be funny – but because they are so over-done they are. Yet the film never loses sight of it’s characters or the characters unique points of view (even the villagers’ conspiracy, as misguided as it is – makes sense to them). Throughout the story the characterization rings true – even when the action and violence hits the ludicrous level (which makes the film funny). Nicholas Angel isn’t someone the audience will laugh at in this film. He’s someone the audience will sympathize with, especially as some of the other police officers, especially at the beginning, bully him,  and ignore his knowledge.

In the end, Nicholas gets to the bottom of things, and not only is all well – but the trio of inspectors from the beginning of the film arrive in the village to ask Nicholas back to the Met. Nicholas declines, deciding he likes his little village.

Hot Fuzz is a great movie, full of wonderful bits, great acting, and a top-notch cast. The films blends genres effortlessly and showcases the talents of Nicholas Pegg, who really is the central character of the film.  I highly recommend it.

Recommendation: A must see!
Rating: 5 Stars

All-Star Superman

  • Title:  All-Star Superman
  • Director:  Sam Liu
  • Voice Director:  Andrea Romano
  • Date:  2011
  • Studio:  Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre:  Action, Fantasy, Drama, Animation
  • Cast:  James Denton, Christina Hendricks, Anthony La Pagulia, Edward Asner, Alexis Denisoff, John Dimaggio, Robin Atkins Downes
  • Format:  Widescreen, Color
  • DVD Format: R1, Blu-Ray

“Lex Luthor, you’re under arrest for attempted murder and crimes against humanity!” – SWAT Captain

All-Star Superman opens with a group of scientists in a spaceship that’s about to crash into the Sun, in no small part due to evil goings-on by Lex Luthor. Superman flies near the Sun and rescues the scientists but soon finds out that he suffered and overdose of solar radiation and he’s dying. Essentially, the theme of the story is Superman with cancer. You would think that would be depressing, but this animated film has a wonderful tone to it. The story is very episodic, but in a very real sense we’re seeing Superman actually fulfilling the items on his bucket list.

Superman, tells Lois Lane he’s Clark Kent – something she barely believes, and brings her to his fortress of solitude. There he gives her a serum that gives her his powers for a day, and the two have a romantic day playing superheroes together. They even stop a fight between Samson and Atlas and intelligent dinosaurs from the center of the Earth. When Superman brings the creatures back where they belong, he’s goaded into a fight with Samson and Atlas. However, he ends-up besting them with his intelligence solving the Riddle of the Ultra Sphinx. The riddle is what happens when “the irresistible force meets an immovable object”, Superman answers, “They surrender”, and rescues Lois. He then bests Samson and Atlas in arm wrestling.

Meanwhile, the Daily Planet has exposed Luthor’s water crisis scheme, and Luthor’s been charged by the International Court of Justice. Not only is Luthor found guilty he’s sentenced to die in the electric chair even though it’s been banned for years.

Clark goes to interview Luthor in prison, and Luthor states he likes Clark Kent but he hates Superman – and he’s happy that even though he will die, Superman will die first. The Parasite escapes during Luthor and Kent’s discussion and starts a riot in the prison, killing guards and prisoners alike. Luthor escapes.

Superman, in his fortress with her, tells Lois he’s dying. Lois insists he will figure out an answer.

Superman takes the bottle city of Kandor to a planet that they can safely colonize. Two months later he returns to Earth.

Two Kryptonians show up and prove to be spoiled, superior, colonials bent on cultural imperialism. Superman discovers, however, they have been poisoned by Kryptonite. In the end, they are sent to the Phantom Zone.

Superman even goes to his father’s grave, leaving a Kryptonian flower there. He says hi to his mother, Martha Kent, but doesn’t stay long.

Lex Luthor is “executed” but he doesn’t die – he’s stolen some of Superman’s serum to give himself super powers for 24 hours.

Superman records his final journal entry in the Fortress of Solitude.

Luthor’s next stratagem arrives – Solaris a living, intelligent sun eater who will poison the sun and turn it blue. Luthor thinks he’s gotten Solaris to turn the Earth’s Sun red, which will leave Superman helpless – but Solaris betrays even Luthor and poisons the Sun to turn it blue.  There’s a classic fight scene.  Superman has his pet sun-eater attack Solaris, but Solaris rips it to shreds. Superman then faces the super-powered Luthor, including firing a gravity gun at him. The gun eventually speeds up Luthor’s personal time, so just as Luthor is beginning to see the real meaning of things, and that everything is connected, he collapses because he’s burned through the serum.

But Superman is also dying. As his face cracks with light, he kisses Lois then flies off to the Sun to “fix it” and reverse the poisoning done by Solaris. The film ends with Lois sitting in a park. Jimmy Olsen drops by and asks her if she’s “going to the memorial”. Lois says no because she knows that Superman isn’t dead, he’s fixing the Sun and he will be back.

All-Star Superman has a wonderful 50s/early 60s quality to it. It has innocence and sweetness without being saccharin. The story is episodic, but underlining the individual bits is the very real threat that Superman is dying, essentially from cancer, and there’s nothing that can be done about it. You’d think that would be depressing, but Superman takes the news in stride and does take the time to do the things he wants or needs to do. It’s even Clark Kent who writes the “Superman Dead” newspaper story then collapses at his desk. The animation style also has a wonderful retro look to it that works wonderfully with the story.

There are some lovely special features as well, including interviews with Grant Morrison who wrote the original graphic novel. Overall, it’s an enjoyable and feel-good Superman story that doesn’t get bogged down in just fight sequences but shows the audience a human side to the Man of Steel.

Recommendation: See it, especially if you’re a fan of Superman or Classic DC Comics
Rating: 4 Stars
Next Film: Hot Fuzz

Batman v. Superman Dawn of Justice – First Thoughts (spoilerish)

I saw Batman v. Superman Tuesday night. I normally wait until I have the DVD and can pause the movie while its playing, write down quotes, etc, before writing a review – but several of my friends on Facebook have asked for my thoughts, so here it goes – based on one viewing.

Overall – I liked it, but I have quibbles. Two of the quibbles were rather important – Ben Affleck (didn’t like him, more below) and the director (Dear Warner Brothers – Can we please fire Zack Synder? Please?) But there were also good things, and overall, taken all together, not only was the movie not as bad as I’d expected from the fannish rumbling and even critical backlash I’d heard even while trying to ignore spoilers, As I said, overall I liked it.

So – starting with the good:

I loved, loved, loved Wonder Woman (Diana Prince) – and I loved that she was a mysterious woman. We really don’t know who she is at first, and I liked that surprise factor. And she kicked butt during the fight sequences. I loved that. Plus her New 52-inspired armor actually worked for me.

I also really liked that the two “hero women” in the film were in a very real sense – the only ones with brains (we’ll get to that). Lois Lane and Diana Prince were the only people who knew what was going on. And they seemed to be at times the only ones with common sense.

Lex Luthor – omg, Lex Luthor. I never thought I’d be excited by Lex, he’s always bored me, other than his rather obvious direct parallels to real world politicians and businessmen. We’ve seen Lex as a buffoon, as a sociopath, and as cold unemotional b*****d, and even as president of the US – but I have never seen Lex Luthor as totally bonkers. Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex is completely and totally nuts – and even people other than Superman seem to realize it. Eisenberg plays Lex like he’s The Joker – and I liked it. It was very different, and it was interesting. Possibly in the Chinese sense (May you live in interesting times – the old Chinese curse) but wow. That was pretty much amazing.

I also liked that the film started with a different view of the battle from the end of Man of Steel. Seeing the same events from a different perspective was a cool way to start the film. And it should have set-up why Bruce was, um, concerned, to say the least about Superman.

I also loved the sneak peaks into the other “meta-humans”. But I refuse to spoil that by going into details.

Okay – now on to the bad.

Ben Affleck – from the beginning, the very beginning, I questioned this casting choice. And Affleck sank the last superhero movie he was in (2002’s Dare Devil), but I reserved judgement until I saw it. And Affleck was so bad as Bruce Wayne/Batman. Just awful. His grizzled look, heavy armor, and throaty voice reminded me of The Dark Knight Returns – both the graphic novel and the two-part animated film. But whereas it works, both as costume design and by the actor (Peter Weller) in The Dark Knight Returns it definitely does not work – at all – in Batman v. Superman. This film is supposed to be setting up the Justice League – so Batman should be young and relatively new to crime fighting. He definitely should not be old, cynical, gruff, rough and tumble, and grizzled. It was just wrong. I also hated seeing Batman using guns. Batman doesn’t use guns. It’s one of his major principles. Having Batman using guns, beating criminals to a pulp, and even branding them – that makes him into the criminal those who do not know the canon always accuse the character of being. Heroes need to be heroic or they aren’t heroes.

Bruce Wayne’s cynical outlook and utter lack of trust, especially of Superman, just didn’t really play either.

And since when did Bruce start having apocalyptical visions of the future? Can someone explain that entire thread in the film to me? Because it made no sense.

The other big problem was the director. At this point, I’m thinking Zack Snyder needs to have his directing license pulled. His ADHD hyperactive directing style is counter-productive. I found I was just starting to get involved in a story thread – when Snyder would change focus, completely. Action is completely meaningless if you don’t care about the characters – and Snyder directs in such a way it’s like he’s afraid of character and actual meaning. Good characters, meaning – that’s basic to what makes a film work. You have to care about the characters and have empathy for them. Characters drive the story – that doesn’t make it “boring”, it makes good film. Action sequences centered on characters we actually care about always work better that action that’s simply there to blow stuff up. And the sad part is, Snyder’s such as bad director he could sink the entire DC Comics movie line before it gets started. If Batman v. Superman Dawn of Justice has poor box office results – Warner’s could sink the whole line as “not profitable”.

OK – and on to the fan wank. Do Superman and Batman actually duke it out? Yes, they do. But what did I think of that scene? I was angry and annoyed. All Superman had to say was five words. Five words. He’s the bloody man of steel and he can’t get out five words because he’s either too dumb or too busy? Come on! That is not good action or good drama – it’s a bad excuse for a fight. And, in the end, it’s Lois who points out the truth to Batman. Though it was nice to see Lois being proactive for a change – that whole big fight scene just… well, it got my blood boiling. (Also, not spoiling what Superman just needed to say, because: major plot point, send me a message or comment below if you want to know.)

OK, finally, nice, not quite subtle point about how people treat Superman – as a hero, then as someone to fear, then as someone who’s “alien”, then as a saviour again. I actually liked that bit.

Overall, I’d say – go see Batman v. Superman Dawn of Justice. It’s worth two and half hours of your time. And it’s the necessary prequel to Wonder Woman, Aquaman, etc, which I have high hopes for. I will be getting the DVD or Blu-Ray and posting a full review then.

UPDATED: 4/3/2016 to fix typos.