Bring the Dark Knight Home Tonight

12-Mar-08 4:15 PM by
Filed under Trailers; 1 comment.

Combining the trend of direct-to-DVD adatations of DC comic books such as Superman: Doomsday with the multiple personalities of The Animatrix, I present to you Batman: Gotham Knight, hitting home video on July 8th:

This comes hot on the heels of the recently-released Justice League: New Frontier, which I hope to review soon:

I'm a fan of DC Comics and find their animated adaptations to be consistently above average (unlike, say, live-action Marvel films). I love how energetically DC is pursuing the home video market as a viable alternative to cinematic releases — and since I'm not a fan of Christian Bale, these DVD releases will give me an alternative to The Dark Knight this summer. Keep 'em coming!!

D'oh! A Deer, A Female Deer

09-Mar-07 2:52 PM by
Filed under Films, Television; 5 comments.

This summer, theaters will be embiggened by the silver screen debut of Springfield's first family.

The Simpsons Movie, premiering July 27th, will be an opportunity for fans old and new to indulge in this long-lived piece of Americana. And it is indeed a mainstay of our culture: though kids today may no longer express their contempt for authority with a snappy "Eat my shorts!", a variety of other cromulent phrases have entered our daily vernacular.

My earliest memory of this jaundiced clan features one of my own siblings hosting massive "Simpsons Sunday socials" in the basement, laughing uproariously at each quick, verbal punch in the latest round of animated sparring. I don't know if such parties are still held somewhere out there, and sadly, my own exposure to the Simpsons ended years ago, though not for lack of desire. Surely anything that's been on the air for nearly two decades — probably more than half the life of any one of its viewers — has some staying power.

OTOH, I'm a bit worried by what I'd find, were I to tune in again. Has this show, in my absence, jumped the shark? Could this film mark that point? Few shows have transitioned well to cinema, especially while the show is still being aired; witness X-Files and South Park, both of which met with mixed reviews. There just doesn't seem to be much incentive to pay $10 to see the same quantity of show as two free episodes back-to-back.

Based on the three trailers I've seen, I have no doubts that I'll be opening my car hole and heading to the theater this summer to reintroduce myself to Homer, Bart, and the gang.

Domo Arigato

02-Feb-07 4:41 PM by
Filed under Reviews; 6 comments.

In seeking meaningful animated films, I was recommend to watch Howl's Moving Castle, a movie about a young wizard named Howl who roams the countryside in a quadruped mansion. When a storegirl is unprovokingly cursed to be four times her age, she seeks Howl's help in breaking the curse. Hilarity ensues.

I found much to enjoy about this film. Despite aging literally overnight, Sophie adapts to the role of a crotchety oldtimer amusingly well. More so than her and Howl's central performances, though, the supporting characters steal the show. A bouncing, mute scarecrow nicknamed Turniphead always lends a helping hand, imbuing himself with more personality than many spiky-haired protagonists. But it's Billy Crystal as a Muppet-like, hearthbound fire demon who's far more enjoyable than any of his screen brethren. His quirky, animated expressions, enthusiastic exclamations, and near-constant bemoaning of his situation are very much in character.

Howl wasn't a great film, though — just average… which still makes it one of the best anime I've ever seen. Yes, this film, published in America by Disney, is a product of Japanese animation and the eccentricity that is its hallmark. I'm sure I'll receive many a rotten tomato for this admission (sorry Arc — Alissa), but I've just never been able to penetrate or comprehend the genre.

(more…)

Mazes & Monsters – A Requiem

05-Jan-07 12:10 PM by
Filed under Television; 1 comment.

Late last night, I added the complete Dungeons & Dragons animated series to my shelf of TV shows I've watched. The DVD extras were nice, but I was a bit surprised by how much I enjoyed the episodes themselves. Though the first season rambled a bit, there was a definite progression of character development and storyline, and even the occasional moral. The episodes I remembered were nostalgically appreciated, and the handful I'd never seen before (mostly the third season) were undiscovered treasures.

But that wasn't the best part. (more…)

To Grandma's House We Go

04-Jan-07 3:16 PM by
Filed under Reviews; 2 comments.

I recently saw the CGI animated film Over the Hedge. I'd not read the comic strip upon which it is based, but like any good adaptation, it didn't seem necessary to enjoy the film.

And enjoy it I did! Like most good animated films, it had plenty of content aimed at kids and adults alike. It was fun to pick out the well-known actors' voices, especially those not typically associated with animation, such as Bruce Willis and Avril Lavigne. Of course, one of the dangers of such top-tier talent is the difficulty disassociating them from their images. They played to William Shatner's and Eugene Levy's nicely, but I had a hard time not seeing "The Verminator" character, played by Thomas Haden Church, as akin to Lowell from Wings (or perhaps even Spider-Man 3's Sandman?).

I was a bit disappointed the film didn't have a stronger moral, though. Wikipedia suggests that, unlike the 1994 animated Japanese film Pom Poko, Over the Hedge "does not… develop the themes of environmentalism or anti-urbanization." OTOH, perhaps that's my own political beliefs viewing a missed opportunity; such may've been misplaced in "just a cartoon" (as some felt it was in Happy Feet).

In November, when I expressed a conflict between seeing Casino Royale or Happy Feet, a group of "adults" mocked me for even considering the latter, especially since I have no grandchildren with whom to see it. I'm disappointed that people are willing to judge, and thus limit themselves, art based on the medium. Something being animated does not necessarily make it a "cartoon"; just watch Richard Adams' Watership Down or Plague Dogs — as a friend of mine recently did, commenting, "I can't believe anyone would let their kids watch this!" (which she thought they would, since it's "just a cartoon", right?) Comic books, video games, Dungeons & Dragons — they too have been criticized by outsiders. Until they learn, I'll happily continue enjoying these media, while the critics don't even know what they're missing…

Exit, Stage Right

18-Dec-06 7:25 PM by
Filed under Fade to Black; 1 comment.

Joseph Barbera, half of the Hanna-Barbera cartoon team, creators of Yogi Bear, Tom & Jerry, Huckleberry Hound, the Flintstones, and others, died today. He was 95. [Story continues]

Not only a creator, Mr. Barbera was also producer of several shows, such as The Smurfs, Richie Rich, and Pac-Man. See his IMDb filmography for the complete list.

It's an odd mix of feelings when someone with such a legendary portfolio passes away. On one hand, the world has lost an irreplaceable genius. OTOH, it is not an untapped talent that is gone; Joseph Barbera and the world got the most out of each other, and his passing doesn't change that. It was a veritable smorgasboard of entertainment.

I appreciate the impact he's had on my and countless others' childhoods. If not for Mr. Barbera, who knows how many little siblings would not have been whacked with rubber mallets in emulation of our animated idols?

To Boldly Go…

15-Dec-06 12:49 AM by
Filed under Star Trek; 6 comments.

The answer to my question about the future of Star Trek has come sooner than I'd like… and I'm not sure what to make of it.

One of my last posts on the original Showbits board was about George Takei's interview wherein he proposed reviving TOS as an animated series. Enough of the original actors are around to lend their voices, and the franchise has earned enough respect to deserve better animation than the original such series — so why not?

So there is a new animated series in the works… but it's for the Web only, and it's set 150 years after TNG. Granted, such a quantum leap forward was how the whole series got relaunched with TNG, but it just seems extreme in this case. Have we already explored all the possibilities of the known universe? Some would say yes, which is why there's no Trek on the air anymore. But between this and the news of a prequel film, it seems like there's too much time travelling going on (just ask viewers of the Voyager finale).

I'm an open-minded skeptic on this one. How about you?