DVD Review Text Reviews

DVD Review: Justice League: The New Frontier

OK, I’m actually holding out to buy this on HD-DVD when it hits on March 18th, but I couldn’t wait to see it any longer, so I bought the rental of this through the Xbox Video Store last night. It’s available in Standard and High Definitions, and for these rentals, it’s pricier than normal. Hoosiers is also new to the Xbox Live marketplace, and it’s standard def version costs 240 points, whereas JL: TNF costs 320 (and the High-Def is 480 points compared to Hoosier’s 360). I DLed the Standard def version and watched it late last night.

Justice League: The New Frontier is the second direct-to-dvd animated feature from Warner Brothers and DC Comics, following up last year’s spectacular Superman: Doomsday. This is an adaptation of Darwyn Cooke’s six-part series which basically took a look at the DC Comics characters from the start of the Silver Age and set them against a more realistic backdrop then what they were in when originally published- covering a 7 year period from 1953 to 1960. Cooke’s original series is one of my all-time favorite DC Comics stories, and for the most part, the animated film does a great job of capturing the spirit of the piece. The biggest drawback to the animated feature is basically it’s running time. This easily could’ve been a 90-minute or even a 2-hour film and had felt more full, but right now, Warners is pushing to keep these features in the 70+ minute range, probably for budgetary considerations more than anything else. Within those constraints though, they do a pretty good job of covering the high points of Cooke’s series, and almost all of the other points are at least mentioned in some form or another.

It’s very nicely animated and of course, Cooke’s style lends itself to this animation very well. It at least looks like a mix of 2D traditional animation with 3D cel-shaded animation for vehicles, and for the most part it’s a great look. Some of my favorite bits in the film involve the Flash taking on Captain Cold in Las Vegas, Batman saving a young child from a cult and just about any scene with Superman in it.

The voice cast is absolutely stellar here, and kudos go out to Andrea Romano for her consistently high standards for these Warners productions. This features the following in the voice cast:

David Boreanaz – Hal Jordan/Green Lantern
Neil Patrick Harris – The Flash
Kyle MacLachlan – Superman
Jeremy Sisto – Batman
Lucy Lawless – Wonder Woman
Miguel Ferrer – J’Onn J’Onzz, The Martian Manhunter
John Heard – Ace Morgan
Kyra Sedgewick – Lois Lane
Brooke Shields – Carol Ferris

They all do a great job, but I was really surprised by two in particular: Brooke Shields did a terrific job as Carol Ferris, strong, confident and sexy all at once in her performance, she really committed to this and Jeremy Sisto as Batman, which is about as different a vocal take on Batman as any, yet for this time period, it just seems really right.

I really enjoyed this, I truly did, but I wasn’t as blown away as I expected to be, and I think it’s just a matter of having my expectations so high considering the source material, but with that said, I expect I’ll be taken with it even more on subsequent viewings, just because that initial phase is over. I give Warners and DC huge credit for even attempting to adapt this as an animated feature, as it’s pretty ambitious and it’s take on the characters is hardly the contemporary take that everyone’s used to. I honestly cannot wait to watch this again when it hits on HD-DVD, and I expect to have even more fun with it then.

Now keep in mind too, I’m a huge DC Comics fan, I’m a huge comics fan in general, but DC Comics were my first exposure to comics and thus, they’ve always been my favorites out of the big two publishers. I don’t think JL: TNF is a movie that someone who knows nothing of these characters is going to enjoy that much, I think at least some sort of passing familiarity is needed, and really the more you know, the better. I think if you at least know who the Superfriends were, well then you’ll probably be able to pick up on this, but after that, this might be a struggle for a casual viewer.

Still though, this gets a big recommendation and the DVD package features a lot of great extras, including a history of the Justice League, a couple of commentary tracks (one from Darwyn Cooke), a making of featurette, and a preview of Batman: Gotham Knight the next DC direct-to-dvd project.

Text Reviews Theatrical Review

Theatrical Review: Vantage Point

In Spain, the President of the united States is attending a summit on the global war on terror, and as he’s ready to give a speech to the citizens of a Spanish city, a shot fires from above and the President is struck down, as all hell breaks loose around, within moments everything escalates further as a bomb goes off within the plaza the president was speaking from.

As the movie starts, we see this entire action taking place from the eyes of the control room of a cable news network, and what they’re seeing, is pretty much virtually what we’d see if we were home watching these events transpire from our TV screens. What follows next is a series of vignettes, played out from five different viewpoints leading up to the time of the tragedy with all converging together in the end. Effectively taking the Rashoman concept from Akira Kurosawa and placing it within an action/suspense narrative…

… and in my eyes, doing it pretty well.

The above describes the new movie, Vantage Point from director Pete Travis, who’s pretty new to the scene near as I can tell and who’s looking like he’s borrowing a page or two from Paul Greengrass’ book on how to make this sort of thriller and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that when it’s done well, and here it is done quite well, with each separate vignette all adding a little more to this puzzle of how these events were put together. We see this from the point of view of a top Secret Service agent, a Spanish police officer, an American tourist, the President himself and the terrorists who execute the plan and I think it’s all done quite well. I’ve read that elsewhere how some view this as being a bit absurd, but considering how the event is framed (we see it at the start as how it would be presented on TV and it closes the same way) and knowing how other real events have come to pass, I’m very much willing to acept how the events roll off here.

Travis plays with the handheld camera quite a bit, especially in the up-close-and-personal situations, but he also manages to know when to pull back and show the big picture and as such, I know I certainly never felt lost as the events were unraveling.

There’s a good cast at work here, Dennis Quaid, Matthew Fox, William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, Forest Whitaker and Edgar Ramirez are the better known members of this cast, and everyone plays their part quite well, with kudos from me going to Quaid and Whitaker in particular. But the real star of the film is it’s gimmick, and personally I love a movie that plays with a good gimmick, whether it’s something like having all of the film play out in one room, or in real-time, or like Vantage Point does with it’s Rashoman style, when the gimmick is well-committed to, it scores high with me.

Vantage Point ends up being a lot of fun and while it dips slightly in some of the Hollywood political cynicism, it’s just real slight and nothing that really does anything to over-politicize the film, thus making it a pretty huge turn-off. Good stuff here, and one that I look forward to seeing again when it makes it’s way home…

Back Seat Producers Fanboy Smackdown Season 02 Shows

FBSD Episode 049: Harry Potter

In this newly recorded episode…  You read that right, this one is brand-spankin’ new! … we welcome a new host to the show.

Adam is an experienced podcaster and a welcome addition to the show.

Our way of welcoming Adam is to put him on the spot and discuss all five of the Harry Potter movies.  We talk about the relationship to the novels and do get quite spoilery with the films, and after the break, the books too.

We are still running a contest for the DVD of Song of the Dead.  To enter, email fanboysmackdown at gmail dot com with the subject ‘Contest’ and put your address in the body of the email.

This is a Region 1 DVD, so please make sure you have a Region 1 player before entering.

For more information about the film and to see the trailer visit:

Promo: Buffy Between the Lines

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Text Reviews Theatrical Review

Theatrical Review: Jumper

David Rice is a young man with a unique gift- at the age of 15, David discovered that he could teleport himself to anywhere he can see, and with that talent, David has ran from home (due to troubles with his father) and has spent the last 8 years, giving into his whims financing himself by robbing banks and leaving IOU notes promising to one day pay it all back. But soon, we discover that David isn’t the only person with this ability, and people with this ability (called Jumpers) are being pursued by special government agents (NSA is their cover) called Paladins, and the lead Paladin, an imposing figure named Roland, is soon on David’s trail. David, being back on the run decides to re-establish himself with a girl he was sweet on from high school named Millie, and soon David, along with another Jumper named Griffin, find all Hell breaking loose as the Paladins are on them full force…

… and I dearly wanted the Paladins to win…

… not a good thing for this movie. Jumper is the fifth movie from director Doug Liman, who in the past has given us three great ones (Swingers, Go and The Bourne Identity) and one pretty awful film (Mr. and Mrs. Smith) and Jumper follows suit with his last film, being pretty awful. It’s initial premise (adapted from a novel) isn’t really a bad one at all, but the writing, direction and editing used to execute it doesn’t do it any favors at all.

One of my bigger problems with the film comes at a point where David and Griffin are together and David brings up the Marvel comic book Marvel Team-up and how the two of them are “super-heroes” who should be teaming up to take out the bad guys, namely the Paladins, when the fact of the matter is that throughout the film, these two “heroes” don’t do anything that’s heroic at all, both taking what they want in life and not really caring about any repercussions left behind. And at one point, Griffin decides he’s going to use a bomb to destroy the Paladins in pursuit of them, not at all giving a damn about any of the collateral damage around them. No, what you have here are a couple of nihilistic twenty-somethings who think they know the world, but in reality have no real concept of what’s right or wrong, and to me anyway, these aren’t exactly characters that you can get behind and root for in a movie that obviously wants you to root for them simply because “love” is David’s backbone and of course the Paladins are “the man” trying to put these “free spirits” down. It’s a pretty simplistic and off-kilter moral compass that the film has, and it doesn’t do much to make you give a damn either way.

Another problem that I have with the film is that it’s established through dialog, that Jumpers and Paladins have been around for a few hundred years, though there’s nothing else that really gives you any roots to the history that they’re trying to establish, there’s something here that could be pretty rich for the film had there been a scene or two to establish that further. As far as I know, there very well could’ve been that scene, but the film is edited in such a way to keep the action brisk and just hope that it’s intended audience just won’t even want to ask those questions.

I can’t really blame the actors for any of this- Hayden Christiansen is David, Rachel Bilson plays Millie, a skeevy Jamie Bell is Griffin and the great Samuel L. Jackson plays Roland and I expect they’re all pretty much doing what’s asked of them from the script, though it’s a bit of a waste on a talent like Jackson, who’s not really given much of a chance to be the Sam Jackson that you want him to be here, unless of course those scenes are on the editing room floor.

No the fault for this mess is with director Liman and his scriptwriters (David Goyer being one of them) and his editor. To Liman’s credit though, it is a good-looking film and the visual effects and action is pretty impressive. But that matters not at all here if you don’t have any reason to get behind any of the characters. And maybe some of that is my fault, being in my mid-40s, having had ups and downs in life and knowing the difference between right and wrong, I see these Jumpers as a sort of pseudo-terrorist/criminal and can’t really get behind their free-spirited ideas, so there you go. Maybe if I was a nihilistic twentysomething who knows it all, I’d probably love this one to death…

Yeah, right…

Jumper has the dubious honor of being the first film that I’ve seen in 2008 to be a firm contender for the Worst Movie of the Year… hardly a recommendation at all…

Back Seat Producers Fanboy Smackdown Season 02 Shows

FBSD Episode 048: Four for the Price of One

List of Links for the show.

Bad Buddhist Radio –

Gameheads the Movie –

Manticore –

Alien Siege –

Song of the Dead –

Morevi: Remastered –

Info on the Contest:

The DVD is Region 1. If you can’t play a Region 1 English Only DVD, you’ll only win a shiny coaster.

Disregard what my sleepy-self said about the voice mail number. It’s 618-207-4747.

Email to Fanboysmackdown at gmail dot com

Text Reviews Theatrical Review

Theatrical Review: Rambo

Outside the border of civil war torn Burma, a group of missionaries are trying to contract a mysterious snake trapper to take them up the river and into Burma where they can hope to administer aid to innocent Burmese caught within the conflict. The snake trapper is former super soldier John Rambo, now doing what he can to escape his former life, and he first tells the missionaries that he won’t do the job, but eventually he’s persuaded to do so, and manages to get them to where they want to go, where they start to give their help. The village that they’re helping falls under the prey of a Burmese warlord and soon all of the missionaries are taken prisoner. Having failed to return, a representative of the missionaries’ church, come to Rambo and tells him what they think has happened and he persuades Rambo to take a group of mercenaries to the village to rescue the prisoners and soon, John Rambo realizes that he can’t escape his former life…

And that’s the premise of Rambo the fourth film in the series, and Sylvester Stallone’s second return to a signature character within the last year, the last film being last year’s Rocky Balboa. And much like Rocky Balboa, with Rambo, Stallone still proves that he has the chops, delivering a fast-paced, very violent and extremely gritty adventure that at least in my eyes, epitomizes the “guy film” and in the good ways.

It’s a good-looking film with a very raw and gritty feel to it, totally adding to the violence of the piece. Just as he did with Rocky Balboa, Stallone proves that he has the best understanding of his signature characters and he wastes little time getting to the heart of them. There’s a few subtle messages here, nothing overtly political by any means, but stuff worth pondering a bit after the film. One of the things that I give Stallone a lot of credit for as well, is going out of his way to share the camera with the rest of his cast. Yeah, sure, Rambo is the big hero here, but all of the actors playing the mercenaries get their time to shine as do the actors playing the lea missionaries.

Now Stallone won’t win any awards for this performance, but he gets the job done and I think he does it well, coming through with a very brisk, action-packed matinee sort of movie. He’s still in fantastic shape and while he doesn’t show off his physique he same way he did in the prior films, he doesn’t really need to, just his presence alone is the force enough needed to drive the film. The rest of his cast does a great job here filling out their parts, and in particular I was impressed with the other actors playing the mercenaries. Again, don’t expect this to be Oscar-calibre stuff, but for the type of film that’s here, they do the jobs well.

I thought it was a lot of fun, and much like he did with Rocky Balboa, Stallone provides a point of closure for John Rambo. I think it’s very cool that he’s bucked the odds with his last two movies and has come through and delivered some very solid entertainment. Rambo is a lot of fun taken at face value, and if you’re a fan of the character or of Sylvester Stallone’s, well I can’t recommend it enough… good stuff here…