DC Animated Movies: DC Showcase Original Shorts Collection

The idea behind these shorts is to spotlight characters who probably could’t carry their own movie. The animation style on all of them matches up but not much else does, although I like thinking that they all take place in the same continuity. Let’s take them one by one, shall we?

Superman/Shazaam: The Return of Black Adam

I’m just going to come out say that I’d probably watch twenty minutes of Captain Marvel petting Hoppy The Marvel Bunny, I love the character so much.  Of course, I’m not deluded enough to think that that would be as good as “The Return of Black Adam,” which pairs the Captain up with Superman to fight his greatest foe. Quick summary, Clark Kent comes to Fawcett city to write an article about orphan Billy Batson and other street kids like him. Billy’s a good hearted kid who’s had some tough breaks. So when Black Adam shows up and attacks Billy and Clark, obviously, he tries to fight alongside Superman. This act of courage along with his many acts of kindness lead him to an encounter with the wizard Shazaam. After getting and quickly learning how to use his powers, Captain Marvel and Superman take down Black Adam, and a homeless guy Billy helped out a few times turns out to be Mr. Tawky Tawny.

Look,  I fell in love with Captain Marvel as a character because of Young Justice, (If you don’t want to invest in the whole show, just watch the episode “Misplaced,” where Captain Marvel and Billy both are necessary to save the day, it’s incredible.) but this short went a long way towards completely converting me as a fan. Captain Marvel is a relic of The Golden Age, but his concept, the actual wish fulfillment of a young kid becoming a superhero is what makes him stand out. Because Billy Batson is a kid, he’s allowed to stay innocent and optimistic, no matter how gritty the world around him gets.

He’s a character worth fighting for.

The Spectre

“The Spectre” isn’t my cup of tea. I love supernatural twists, and I love LA tinged Noir, but for some reason, when combined in this character I can’t get into it. This short introduces us to Jim Corrigan, and LA Detective. He’s called by the daughter of a murdered film director to solve the case. He tracks down the daughter’s boyfriend, who it turns out was working with her. It is revealed that he’s actually a cursed spirit who has to punish the guilty. “The Spectre” short is cool and stylish and really does look like a film noir, and I definitely enjoyed it more this time around than the last time I watched it. Probably because I was less confused, since Netflix bills these all under the Superman/Shazaam heading and I was waiting for Billy show up…

Green Arrow

It probably isn’t a surprise that “Green Arrow” is my favorite in this collection. Well, no surprise to anyone who’s read this blog and watched this short. It centers around Oliver Queen going to the airport to pick up Dinah Lance and being waylaid by a plan to assassinate Queen Perdita, the ten year old girl queen of some fictional DC country. Green Arrow saves the queen, fights Merlyn, and her evil uncle Count Vertigo. He beats Merlyn and is about to lose to Vertigo when of course Black Canary shows up and knocks the count out with a Canary Call. Then he proposes and she says yes and everything is great.

Obviously, I love this one, because it’s about Ollie and Dinah and I love them. But it’s also full of cute word play and fun action and an adorable ten year old queen. (Another character that Young Justice does awesome stuff with, btw. Just saying…)

Jonah Hex

Ugh, “Jonah Hex.” I hate Jonah Hex. Can’t stand him, stories about him, or whatever. But he’s DC’s big Western hero, so we’re stuck with hearing from him every year or so. So yeah, plot. A Madame is killing visitors to her saloon and taking their money. Hex is looking for one of her victims and winds up solving the case, getting into a shoot out and leaving the Madame to die in a mine shaft.

The DVD also included a bunch of episodes of shows that featured these characters, so I also watched the JLU eps. Because I love JLU.

So, there you have it. Those are the DC Showcase Shorts. I like them, they’re a fun little diversion. Up next is All Star Superman, which is definitely in my top ten graphic novels, so I’m interested in seeing how it got translated.

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Disney Not So Classics

I’ve been on a bit of a Disney kick lately. Feeding this kick is easy, because most people love talking about Disney and Pandora is free yo! Unlike when I get into a Bat binge and no one wants to discuss the implications of Bruce Wayne’s parenting style and how it shaped the different flaws of each of the boys, (Instilled horrifying fear of failure in Dick, turned Jason into a psychotic, made Tim distrustful of everyone around him, made Damian even more arrogant if that’s even possible.) and I wind up spending at least $100 on trade issues of comic books.

Disney Music

But a Disney binge just leads me to having fun conversations about which princess has the best hair, and which villain has the best song. (Aurora and Scar, natch!) But yesterday, as I listened to Huey Lewis croon out the lovely prologue to Oliver and Co., “Once Upon A Time In New York City,” and started thinking about the more underrated music in the Disney Song book.

Oh, sure, you’ve got your classics like “When You Wish Upon a Star,” your transcendent works like “Can You Feel The Love Tonight,” and even your campy rememberings like “Cruella DeVille,” but these aren’t those songs, these are the songs that no one talks about because maybe they’re from a movie that’s not super great, or a character that people would rather forget about. Or the 60’s. Either way. I’m talking about those songs.

“I Won’t Say I’m In Love,” “I Can Go The Distance,” & “So You Wanna Be A Hero” from Hercules

I don’t think that Hercules is anyone’s favorite Disney movie. But it’s got a great voice cast. (James Woods and Danny DeVito), and three of the better songs that came out of that era. The Motown influenced, “I Won’t Say I’m Love” is one of my go to shower belts and “I Can Go The Distance” was a staple of my college Hang In There Kiddo Playlist. (Others included The Glee Cast Version of “Don’t Stop Believing,” not from the pilot but from The Regionals, Katy Perry’s “Firework,” and “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down on Me” and “I’m Still Standing.”) And “So You Wanna Be  Hero” is just a fun little number for Danny DeVito and contains the great chestnut, “Like painting a masterpiece, it’s a work of heart.”

“Colonel Hathi’s March” & “That’s What Friends Are For” from The Jungle Book

I’m not saying that all of the music from The Jungle Book is underrated, because “Bear Necessities” and “I Wanna Be Like You” are both considered classics, but “Colonel Hathi’s March” is one of the catchier tunes to come out of that time and “That’s What Friends Are For” is a pitch perfect Beatles parody, and deserves more credit.

“God Help The Outcasts” from The Hunchback of Notre Dame

I’m not going to beat around the bush, The Hunchback of Notre Dame is pretty damn bad. The animation is hardly stellar and the super dark elements don’t work, even in a cool gothic way like in Sleeping Beauty. But “God Help The Outcasts,” the song that Esmerelda sings as she tours the cathedral, asking for God’s protection for her people is one of composer Steven Schwartz’s best ballads. And he’s written some good ones. (Maybe you should listen to Wicked and then come back…) Also, I used to sing this one in high school so, I have a soft spot for it.

“I’ve Got Friends On The Other Side” & “Ma Belle Evangeline” from The Princess And The Frog

With all of the Tangled and Frozen love that gets passed around, I feel like The Princess And The Frog is the Edith Crawley of the bunch, people like it but they tend to forget about it when having conversations. “Ma Belle Evangeline” is another one of those pretty little ballads that tends to get overlooked, “I’ve Got Friends On The Other Side” is just a campy masterpiece. I mean, come on when the masks on Dr. Facilier’s wall come to life? That’s a great magical moment.

“Two Worlds,” “You’ll Be In My Heart,” “Son of Man,” “Trashin The Camp,” & “Strangers Like Me” from Tarzan

I realize that this is basically that whole soundtrack, but I really love Tarzan and especially love the Phil Collins written soundtrack. “Son of Man” is a particular favorite and the pop version of “Trashin The Camp,” which features NSYNC along with Collins is a neat little time capsule and showed us just how good JT was long before SNL broke him as Greater Than Your Average Pop Star.

“The Second Star To The Right” from Peter Pan

Most of the music from Peter Pan isn’t much to write home about. In fact, watching “What Makes The Red Man Red,” is probably the only time I get really uncomfortable with past racism. I’m normally pretty good about time contextualization. But “The Second Star To The Right” is such a pretty little lullaby that no one really talks about, and it makes me sad.

“Once Upon A Time In New York City,” “Why Should I Worry,” “Streets of Gold,” “Perfect Isn’t Easy,” and “Good Company” from Oliver & Company

Another full soundtrack, because, well, this music is great. Also, Oliver & Company is just pretty underrated as a movie. But honestly the first three songs are darling love letters to the city, and in “Why Should I Worry” Dodger plays the piano with his tail, which is great, because if you didn’t know, Dodger is voiced by Billy Joel. Yes, that’s right, Billy Joel, as a dog, who plays the piano with his tail. It’s the freaking best thing in the world. “Once Upon A Time In New York City” is performed by Huey Lewis and is as sweet a song sung over late 80’s synth as possible. “Streets of Gold,” is brassy and makes you want to dance, “Perfect Isn’t Easy” is Bette Midler at her diva best, and if “Good Company” doesn’t bring a tear to your eye, you might be dead inside. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you.

So, those are my favorite Disney songs that people forget about. What about you guys?

Well Played, Mr. Fiege. Well Played Indeed

thor the dark world poster

Yesterday Thor: The Dark World came out on Blu-ray and DVD. This was exciting for a few reasons. Obviously, it means that I can watch that bathing scene over and over again. But it was also my first Blu-Ray purchase since getting a Blu-Ray player. I was really bummed when The Avengers came out and because I didn’t have Blu-Ray, I couldn’t access most of the special features and the same for Iron Man 3, but this time. I was so excited to play around in the world.

Obviously, the main thing I wanted to check out was “All Hail The King,” the new Marvel One Shot, featuring Ben Kingsley back as Trevor Slattery, the man who was The Mandarin. I was a big fan of the whole Trevor twist in Iron Man 3and I know that a lot of people weren’t. The thing that’s sort of brilliant about this short is that it works as a patch for those people who were unhappy with the decision while not undermining how it works in the structure Iron Man 3. It’s shockingly brilliant.

I mean it when I say well played, here. It was a good play. Of course the piece was masterfully acted by Kingsley, who brings Trevor’s madness to the forefront. This is madness brought on by rejection and addiction and now incarceration. It’s an enjoyable little interlude, only made better by the knowledge that Sam Rockwell returns at the end as Justin Hammer.

I’ve always loved the “Arkham Asylum” mentality that all of the foes of a superhero are incarcerated together, and I was glad to see that played with her. Also, Rockwell’s just a really funny guy.

OK, now onto the actual Thor: The Dark World stuff. Look, as I made clear in my actual review of this movie, it’s not my favorite. I still like it a lot, but it disappointed me because I loved Thor so much. And of course like any good fangirl I love me some Hemsworth and Hiddleston.

I mean really, does it get better than these two?

I mean really, does it get better than these two?

And the Blu-Ray special features give us plenty of them! There’s a featurette that literally just tracks Thor and Loki’s relationship across Thor, The Avengers and Thor: The Dark World. So there’s that. Then there’s the extended and deleted scenes, where we get to see Hiddleston deliver the Captain America lines, and it’s great. Then there’s the gag reel, which is so cute, I could barely stand it. Last, but certainly not least is the feature commentary.

Commentaries can get a little dry, but this one, narrated by Kevin Fiege, Tom Hiddleston and director Alan Taylor covered enough bases about making the film that you were never bored. Also Hiddleston and Fiege talking about how Thor, The Avengers and The Dark World are actually “The Loki Trilogy” probably put to bed any and all rumors that there will be a stand alone Loki movie. (This is a shame, but not exactly shocking.)

Also included was an extended sneak peek at Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and I literally could not be more excited about that movie if I tried. So I’m going to stop trying and just make high pitched squealing noises every time I hear anything about it. And finally there was a quick bit about creating the epic score and recording at Abbey Road Studios. Kind of cool, but hardly riveting.

All in all, the features were entertaining and informative. I’ll probably watch the movie on its own (without commentary) some other time this week. The Thor & Loki featurette may even be worth a rewatch on it’s own, if only to see some of the best acting moments between Hemsworth and Hiddleston. And if you’re interested in world building, “All Hail The King,” is worth the price of the DVD on it’s own. It isn’t quite as good as “Agent Carter” which came with Iron Man 3, but it’s still pretty good.

RIP Harold Ramis

I was kind of stunned when I saw that Harold Ramis died. I mean, I’m not going to say that Harold Ramis was someone that I thought about at all regularly, but the few times when I have thought about him and his impact on well, my life, outlook and my own work, that impact has been incalculable.

Here’s a list of the movies that Ramis is credited with writing: Animal House, Meatballs, Caddyshack, Stripes, Ghostbusters, Back To School, Club Paradise, Armed and Dangerous, Caddyshack II, Ghostbusters II, Groundhog Day, Analyze This, Bedazzled, Analyze That, and Year One.

OK, I haven’t seen all of them and I don’t love all of them. But even if he’d only written Animal House, or Ghostbusters, or any one of the movies he wrote he’d have been extremely influential on the direction comedy went. But that he wrote 3 of my favorite comedies of all time, (Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day and Analyze This.) and that he acted as one of my favorite characters in anything, (Ben’s Dad in Knocked Up), well, I mean, it’s an incredible thing.

I didn’t grow up with the things that I love now being a part of my everyday life. Yes, superheroes and sci fi were around. My dad was a big fantasy fan, and loved George Lucas. But we were a comedy house. And Ramis’s comedies were staples, especially Ghostbusters and Animal House. You don’t grow up in a comedy obsessed family with an older brother and seventeen male cousins (yup) without seeing Animal House at least fifteen times. What’s always been fun about Ramis’s comedies is that you can grow up with them. They’re silly enough that as a kid you laugh and as you get older you notice the more subtle humor and fun satire involved. Also the sex stuff. 

Frankl, Egon has always been underrated

Frankly, Egon has always been underrated

DC Animated Movies: Superman/Batman: Apocalypse

Apocalyse

I assume that the title Superman/Batman: Apocalypse was chosen because The Women of DC Kick All The Asses, Superman Throws Some Hissy Fits And Also Batman is There was too long to fit on the box. Yes, in the end Batman save the day, but the movie belongs to Supergirl, Wonder Woman and Big Barda. Which is pretty darn fantastic if you ask me.

Apocalypse is based on “The Supergirl From Krypton” storyline and is set up as a direct sequel to Public Enemies. I like Public Enemies a lot but Apocalypse is a vast improvement in quality, not only from an animation stand point but also from a storytelling standpoint as well. It begins with a voice over that lets us know it’s been a few months since Batman saved Earth from that kryptonite asteroid, but it’s still affecting the world, as smaller meteor showers have been hitting Earth. One such meteor showers lands Supergirl in Gotham Bay. After nakedly fighting off some would be assailants, (A staple of her story) she’s found by Batman and Superman and brought back to the Batcave.

Of course Kara flips out and fries the Batputer, before Clark can calm her down. After discovering that they’re cousins, he takes her back to The Fortress of Solitude to learn to control her powers. She sort of does, and also she learns English. Batman comes to visit and makes it very clear that he does not trust her. Superman gets annoyed and whines at him. After this conversation, Clark takes Cara down to Metropolis, where she decides she wants to be a normal Earth teenager. There’s a cute montage where Clark takes her shopping, stares down some dudes who are checking out her ass, and disapproves of a sexy outfit. Then as they wrap up their day, they walk through a park with a giant Superman statue and discuss her future in a vague way. Then Wonder Woman kidnaps her.

This scene is amazing, because after the montage, but before their conversation we see Darkseid order Granny Goodness to bring him Kara. So we assume that it’s Darkseid who’s after Kara, so when it turns out that Diana and Bruce masterminded the whole thing, it’s easy to feel Clark’s rage. It turns out that they’re doing it for her protection as Harbinger has been having visions that Kara is in danger. So, she’s taken to Paradise Island to be trained, and train she does. After her training and another hissy fit from Superman, the forces of Apokolips attack Paradise Island and during the chaos of battle Kara goes missing and Harbinger is killed.

Darkseid begins his brainwashing of Kara promising her power and glory as the captain of his honor guard, a position once held by none other than Big Barda. So of course, that’s the first person Clark, Bruce and Diana go to for help. The four head to Apokolips to retrieve Kara. They split up, Barda and Diana taking on Granny and The Furies, Batman looking for weaknesses (which he of course finds) and Superman confronting Darkseid directly. There, new slutty Kara beats on Superman for a while until he snaps her out of it. Batman threatens to destroy Apokolips, which Darkseid finds amusing, so he lets them all go. Once back on Earth, Clark takes Kara to Smallville, where Darkseid is waiting to have his revenge. The three of them fight, leveling The Kent Farm, and after their victory, Kara decides to become Supergirl.

It’s quite a movie. I love the action. The voice cast, lead once again by Kevin Conroy and Tim Daly is spectacular. Summer Glau takes on Kara, and I mean, who doesn’t love Summer? She’s great. Andre Braugher plays Darkseid. No need to elaborate, Braugher is awesome. Susan Eisenberg is back as Wonder Woman, which is great. I love any interaction of The Big Three, mostly because Batman always winds up being the comic relief, not because he’s silly, but because Diana and Clark are so earnest, that Bruce can’t help but react with a sort of sarcastic disdain that winds up being hilarious. Ed Asner is Granny, which in and of itself is a hilarious decision. It’s just overall fantastic.

It does bum me out that the movie isn’t just called Supergirl. It’s the same problem that leads to stupid things being said like, “the market isn’t ready for a female led superhero movie,” when the market is ready for a gun toting raccoon and a talking tree man. It’s why we need a Wonder Woman movie to make billions upon billions of dollars so that people will stop having this argument. Of course even that won’t stop the argument because no matter how many Emmys Tina Fey wins, or how big Kristen Wiig gets people still talk about women breaking into comedy being difficult. Even if Wonder Woman makes more money than The Avengers, it won’t matter. It will be a fluke. Ugh, I’m ranting, I apologize. But it just bugs me. This isn’t a Superman/Batman movie, it’s a Supergirl movie, it’s a Wonder Woman movie, it’s (to a lesser extent) A Big Barda movie. But in order to sell it, they had to slap the Big Boys names on it, and that pisses me off.

But I love the movie, so there’s that. It’s funny, and has great fights, and amazing character arcs and performances. Up next is the DC Showcase Shorts, of which I absolutely love 2 and couldn’t care less about the rest, but we’ll get there.

Heroes: Reborn Wait, what?

I was all set, all scheduled to post my review of Superman/Batman: Apocalypse today. Seriously, it was done. It’s good too. It’ll go up tomorrow though. Because WHAT THE HELL YOU GUYS?

Seriously, WHAT THE HELL?

Seriously, WHAT THE HELL?

Last night, it was announced that Heroes was going to be revived with a mini series in 2015. I don’t know how. Since Hayden Panitierre is off in Nashville, and Zachary Quinto is all Spock, and Masi Oka is solving crimes in Hawaii, and Milo Ventimiglia is all…um, I’m not really sure what Milo’s doing, but I assume he’s not going to want to be Peter Petrelli again. And I’d be cool with a mostly new cast, but Heroes without Peter, Claire, Sylar and Hiro wouldn’t be Heroes. 

But what we do know is that series creator Tim Kring will be back. So there’s that. There are so many questions that need answering. I’m actually pretty excited though, because I loved Heroes. I remember running back to my dorm from choir to watch it. It was the first piece of sci fi joy that Chrissy and I bonded over. My brother and I discussed it to death. And I’m sorry did I mention Peter Petrelli?

Sigh

*Sigh* *Swoon*

I loved Noah and Claire Bennett’s father/daughter relationship. I loved Sylar’s pure sociopathic evil. (Until it turned out he wasn’t evil anymore or actually a sociopath.) I loved Hiro’s unwavering dedication to finding the best path. I loved Mohinder Suresh.

And there are so many questions to be answered. Are we going to see Micah again? Are they going to go to the future to save Peter’s girlfriend Caitlin? (Probably not…) Are they going to try to save Nathan Petrelli again? What about that weird circus full of powered people? Or that Mexican girl who cried death? Will Kristen Bell be back as Elle, the girl who could create electricity? What about the triplets that Ali Larter played? Any of them back?

Anyway, between this, Gotham and various other superhero projects, I have a lot of google alerts to set up. Also, with Veronica Mars and 24 also coming back, I think that Browncoats are going to take to the streets soon.

Let It Go, Warrior Princess

I didn’t talk a whole lot about the Olympics. Other things held on to my attention more, but as I watched The Women’s Free Skate competition on Thursday night, I started thinking about Gracie Gold and her place in the pantheon of great American Olympic figure skaters and found myself thinking, “God, when is she going to get one of those Disney figure skating specials that Michelle Kwan got?”

Do you remember those? I loved figure skating when I was little (still do), because I was an artistically inclined girly girl, and the idea of pretty girls twirling around on ice in sparkly costumes is immensely appealing. So when Disney gave Michelle Kwan a whole hour to just skate to Disney Princess songs in 1999 it was pretty much my dream come true. I think the time has come to do this again, but let’s hand it over to Gracie this time.

Look at That Smile!

Look at That Smile!

I mean really? Don’t we all want to see her zip around the ice to “Let it Go?” (If only because it means we get to listen to “Let it Go.” Not that we need an excuse.) She could even wear her blue costume from the Olympics. Gracie has the poise and attitude of a Disney Princess, too, and actually says that when she goes onto the ice she thinks of herself as a warrior princess. This mentality will give her what she needs to channel Mulan and kill “Reflection.” (It of course will not touch Michelle’s “Reflection” but nothing ever will.) And her natural pretty blonde-ness will give her what she needs to create a memorable interpretation of “A Dream is Wish Your Heart Makes,” and “Once Upon A Dream,” would be a cinch, since she skated to “The Sleeping Beauty” in the Olympics.

This is clearly a good fit. Honestly, someone at Disney please get on this.