We’re deep into the dog days of summer and what better why to beat the heat than to sit back and watch a couple of great TV shows! In this episode, I recommend 2 great shows to watch while waiting for all your favorite series to return in the Fall! Hulu’s Castle Rock and Freeform’s Cloak & Dagger! Castle Rock is supernatural mystery/thriller that takes place in the universe of Stephen King’s novels. Cloak & Dagger is superhero, coming of age series, about 2 classic Marvel superheroes. These are 2 very different shows, but both are a blast to watch! Listen here or subscribe on Stitcher and iTunes:
I’ve always been a big fan of the DC Animated movies that come out each year. For those of you that aren’t familiar, they’re animated adaptations of DC Comics stories that go directly to iTunes and Blu Ray. They usually release three a year, around January, April, and July. They’re PG-13 or R-Rated films marketed to adult and teenage DC superhero fans. They’re hit or miss, in terms of quality. They run the spectrum from “Ok” or “Fine” to “One Of The Best Superhero Movies I’ve Ever seen”.
Their latest release is “The Death of Superman” and you may be thinking: “Wait, didn’t they do this one already?” The answer is: Kind of. Way back in 2007, the very first DC Animated Movie was Superman: Doomsday, a very loose adaptation of the classic death of Superman story. So, as far as THIS movie is concerned, this current film I’m reviewing is a much more faithful adaptation. The Death of Superman is the first part of a 2 movie story.With Part 2 titled, Reign of The Supermen, premiering in January or February 2019.
Like I said before, they usually release three of these a year. Starting with 2013’s Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox and 2014’s “Justice League: War” (A JL origin film FAR superior to the live action one we got in November 2017), 2 out of the 3 animated movies they released each year were part of an ongoing cinematic universe, like the MCU or whatever the fuck DC is trying to do in live action at the moment. Including Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, 11 movies that take place in this DC Animated Movie Universe have been released. The other stories are cool one offs, like the recent Batman: Gotham by Gaslight, for example. Which is a what if? tale that imagines a steampunk, Victorian era Batman hunting Jack The Ripper in late-19th Century Gotham. Most of these have been pretty solid across the board. It probably doesn’t say much about the overall quality of this Animated Movie Universe that there isn’t a sense that we got to know these characters over an 11 film continuity. Or that the movies had been leading to something like this.
At nearly an hour and half, this movie is slightly longer the most of the recent DC Animated Movies. However, it’s a smart move because the running time allows for a much deeper film that I was expecting. Going into this, I expected the whole thing to one big superhero punch up. Great animation, cool fights, but at the end of the day just a fun piece of entertainment. So, I was delighted when at least half of the film is about Clark and Lois and the issues that arise in their still relatively new romance. The movie is well paced considering all of the characters in play. Because this movie is about his death, everyone in Clark Kent’s life is in this film and they all get their moment to shine. The Justice League, The Daily Planet staff, Ma and Pa Kent, Lex Luthor, and few other local Metropolis citizens with ties to Superman all pop up in the movie. It’s a credit to the film that even with all these characters, it never feels over stuffed or loses it’s focus on Lois and Clark.
You don’t need to have seen any of the other DC Animated Movies to enjoy this wonderful film. All of the great character work and storytelling come straight from THIS movie. Real life husband and wife Jerry O’Connel and Rebecca Romijn are perfect as Clark and Lois. O’Connel has voiced Superman to good effect before in other animated movies and Romijn makes a solid debut as Lois Lane. They’re real life chemistry definitely translates into the film. We have all the usual suspects from the other films back to play their respective roles in the Justice League, as well as other returning supporting characters.
Before getting into the movie there’s one other bit of voice casting I want to touch on. Rainn Wilson (Dwight from The Office) voices Luthor and is surprisingly effective as the character. Lex is an interesting presence in this film. He’s not that dissimilar to the Lex we’ve seen in the comics over the past few years. He’s undeniably despicable, arrogant, and cold, but there’s a glimmer of something more underneath. Inside him’s the shadow of a man who could be better than he is. He adds a little something special to the overall film.
I’m going to make a bold statement here. I think this is the best film about Clark Kent that I’ve ever seen. This movie is Clark Kent’s story. Lois is very important, but this is Clark’s tale. This man’s death shows us who he is. This was just one more reason I loved this movie. Outside of the fights with Doomsday, I deliberately refer to the character as Clark, not Superman, throughout this review. This is one of the better onscreen portrayals of Superman I’ve seen and that’s because they understand who Clark Kent is. The kid who grew up on a farm in Kansas, that’s the real character. Not Kal-El, not Christopher Reeves’ mask of Clark Kent as pathetic buffoon, not Superman. He’s Clark Joseph Kent. Jonathan and Martha’s son. Even when he’s in costume at the beginning of the movie, interacting with the League or stopping bad guys with high tech weapons. He seems more man than god. He’s happy to stop and take a picture with a man he’s gotten to know, because he’s saved the guys life so many damn times. In these scenes before the fight with Doomsday, while he’s in costume as Superman, he feels like a citizen of Metropolis. Not a distant god, but more like a cop on his beat that gives you a nod and smile. Superman knows these people and they know him. It’s a brilliant way to humanize the character in a way live action films always struggle with.
At the heart of Clark’s story here is his romance with Lois. Unlike other takes on the Lois and Clark/Superman dynamic, Lois is into Clark, NOT Superman. She wants their relationship to move forward but she knows something’s holding them back. She knows there’s more going on with Clark, but doesn’t quite know what it is. She’s a little taken aback when, while asking Clark to dinner, he tells her he cant because his parents are in town and he’s having dinner with them. Lois is understandably a little insulted when Clark didn’t even mention the possibility of meeting his parents. It’s clear that they’ve been dating for at least several months if not more. But what she perceives as Clark being aloof and having an emotional wall up, is actually Clark wrestling with the idea that he’s falling in love with her and that he should tell her he’s Superman. He’s afraid that his parents will accidentally let something slip before he has a chance to tell Lois the truth about this part of his life. After all, besides a few fun DC Easter Eggs mentioned by Ma and Pa Kent, Clark’s ex- girlfriend knew had superpowers from the jump, this the first time Clark has been in a relationship like this. Not just with a normal person, but someone he’s falling in love with.
The movie does an excellent job of showing the audience exactly what an unstoppable, terrifying force Doomsday is. We’ve seen Doomsday in live action and animation before, but the threat he represents is much more impactful here. This is a creature that kills every single living thing it sees.
The Justice League faces Doomsday before Superman gets into the fight and they have some pretty heavy hitters. We see Doomsday go up against Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Martian Manhunter, The Flash, Cyborg, and Batman all before the Monster’s fateful Confrontations with The Man of Steel. Even with out Superman, that’s a fucking stacked roster. Despite how powerful the Justice League is, they’re simply not up to facing Doomsday. They’re completely helpless to stop him.
So, when the fight between Clark and Doomsday finally goes down, there’s no backup or cavalry coming. Superman is the “last watcher on the wall”. If he doesn’t stop this Monster there and then, there will be no end to the death and destruction Doomsday will unleash. There’s an inevitability to Doomsday. As he slowly kills his way to Superman. We all slowly march towards death and this story shows us The Man of Steel is no different, but for him Death comes in the form of Doomsday.
The fight between Superman and Doomsday is easily the most brutal and bloody Superman fight I’ve seen in any medium. I found myself wincing or exclaiming “Jesus..”, as conflict went on. At a certain point, it stops being a fight. You realize you’re watch Superman slowly be beaten to death with each blow and it’s hard to watch. The fact that there’s such emotional heft shows that the storytellers did their job with this film. The movie is called The Death of Superman, OF COURSE HE’S GOING TO DIE! But the movie magic was that the filmmakers had me so engrossed in the story onscreen, I almost forget that there was no question to the outcome of this fight. The battle’s hard to watch not just because of the level of violence, but because you really care about Clark Kent and it’s heartbreaking seeing this man die in front of us.
The animation in this film is top notch. When the action goes full tilt there’s a level of detail that comes close to resembling anime, without completely going over into that style. Every once and awhile a western animation superhero project will use anime influenced sequences, Justice League Unlimited comes to mind for example. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s used well here and only adds to the already visceral fight scenes. For those of you who aren’t fans of that animation style, It’s not so noticeable that it takes you out of the story.
I think its was smart that DC decided if they were going to tell this story, it should be a 2-Parter, like they did with their fantastic adaptation of The Dark Knight Returns. As impactful as the death of Superman is, the story of how the world, his friends, his enemies, his family, and his fellow superheroes react to his death is arguably more compelling . Who or what will step up to fill the void left by The Last Son of Krypton? Considering how well this story was told, I can’t wait to see what the filmmakers do in Reign of The Supermen. If you’re a DC Comics fan, there are some Easter Eggs in the movie that hint at some of the story and characters elements that’ll be used in Part 2. Make sure you stay for the end credits, there are multiple mid credit tags setting up the next movie.
I didn’t want to end this review without mentioning something I noticed that the writers chose to add to the story. As I said before, this movie is part of a DC Animated Movie Universe, this story doesn’t exist in a bubble. I don’t want to spoil this for anyone and I’ll let you draw your own conclusions, but pay attention to EXACTLY how Doomsday comes out of space, ultimately crashing on Earth. Also be sure to pay attention to the details when STAR Labs examines the high tech weapons Superman takes off the thugs at the beginning of the movie. None of these story elements are from the comics, so the writers deliberately chose to add them in. I have my own theory about what’s going on, but I wont spoil the fun here.
This is top notch superhero story telling from DC Animation. This movie is the best DC Animated Movie since Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (which is high praise). This a surprisingly moving story about love, death, family, friendship, and sacrifice. No DC fan worth their salt should miss this one. I know I cant wait to see Part 2, when Reign of The Supermen comes out early next year. The Death of Superman is an excellent film, the best DC Animated Movie in years, and a must watch. Don’t miss it.
On this week’s episode of “The World’s Best Podcast”, Paul Sr. and I discuss the new trailers for Halloween, Spider-Man Into The Spider-Verse, & Predator, The opening of Ocean’s 8 and the other films in the franchise, the death of Anthony Bourdain, and much more! Listen here, on The Boston Podcast Network pod617.com , or subscribe on Stitcher and iTunes:
Before you get to hear Part 2 of our EPIC Quentin Tarantino discussion, here’s an new episode of “The World’s Best Podcast” where I discuss some cool news in the world of movies, comics, TV, and a BOOK REVIEW! In this episode I discuss Avengers Infinity War SMASHING box office records, this year’s Free Comic Book Day, the new season of Westworld on HBO, and much more.
I also give a review/recommendation for an excellent trilogy of books that are collectively called The Themis Files by author Sylvain Nuevel. The series consists of Sleeping Giants, Waking Gods, and the latest and final book in the trilogy Only Human. Below the podcast links I’ve posted links to each book on Amazon if you want to give them a try. But this is one of my favorite sci-fi series in recent memory, so I highly recommend these books. As always, I really appreciate you guys using the Amazon links, because going through those links helps support the website and get great content out to all of you. Listen to the podcast at the links below
Check out the new episode of The World’s Best Podcast, where I talk about 2 new, but very different and intriguing shows: The Terror and Krypton. I only reviewed Part 1 Of The Terror, Part 2 airs Monday 3/26 on AMC. Definitely give it a listen if you curious about either series. Listen here or subscribe on iTunes (soon to be on Spotify):
Paul did a podcast a week or so ago that covered the show Star Wars: Rebels, and out of curiosity, I began watching it with my son. We’re hooked. I like the fact that it’s a legitimately great entry into the Star Wars saga, and my son loved that there were half a dozen Wookies (or as he calls them “Bacca!”) and he also loves that there are lots of “Star Wars” which is what he calls the stormtroopers. I’m starting him off young if you can’t tell.
Now, I haven’t made it through the entirety of Rebels, and I will dive into Clone Wars when I’m done (I know it’s backwards but I don’t care, I saw Return of the Jedi first as a kid, and honestly it didn’t ruin anything for me). I also recently read an article about how Disney with their television programming has a tendency to shut shows down, regardless of success with in about 65 episodes. Rebels runs for 69, but many adhere to the 65 rule. While this might be irritating for some, I think it may actually be good with Star Wars, because if we get multiple series, that might be a great way of doing things. So I’m ok with this idea of 65ish episodes.
If the next show is Star Wars: Resistance, I have some specific things that I want to see. First, I want this to take place between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, it could be right in the middle, or leaning toward either one, but I really don’t want there to be much overlap with Force Awakens. There are supposed to be roughly 30 years between the two films, and I don’t want this to just be the lead up to Force Awakens.
I’m interested in seeing the creation of The First Order. There must be a power vacuum created in the wake of Return of the Jedi, and with both those loyal to the Empire, and the Rebels wanting to recreate the Republic, there must be a lot of story that happens within that power struggle, and arguably it could be more interesting than much of what we’ve seen. One of the things that I love about Rebels, is that we’re getting to see a group of 5 rebels take on Ezra, and then become a part of a larger rebellion faction which then begins recruiting and forming the alliance. Meanwhile, we’re seeing the Empire slowly complete their destruction of the Republic and its remnants. Seeing both sides regrouping and seeing the Rebels trying to take more control from the crumbling Empire, while the Empire loyalists try to find their own new structure could provide some great storylines along with the ‘scrappy’ type of action that the originals, and now Rebels provide us.
I don’t really want to see much of Poe, Rey, or Finn in this show. I love those characters, and sure Poe has something of a background in the Resistance, and Finn goes through stormtrooper training, but ultimately, I want any interaction with the younger versions of them to be cameo or Easter Egg level.
I’m somewhat interested in Kylo and the Knights of Ren, but I think perhaps that should be in its own series, something based on Luke training new Jedi or something, but it seems to be somewhat separated from the action of the Resistance.
This show however, could provide some of the answers that people are wanting that haven’t necessarily been necessary answers. We could see who Snoke is, and fill him in more, we could see more about Hux, and I’d be ok with those explorations as long as they’re not the main focus. What I really want to see though, is new characters. These wars span the course of 90ish years so far, and an entire Galaxy, and so I want to see more of the people who are also giving it their all, but aren’t necessarily connected, or not deeply connected to the Skywalkers.
I am sure that now that I have started down the rabbit hole of the Star Wars animated universe, that I will likely be along for the entire ride, so I’m not saying I won’t watch if they don’t do it the way I necessarily want, but that is ultimately what I do want to see.
I know we don’t usually cover this type of thing at World’s Best Media, but I really felt this was something that needed to be acknowledged. Today it’s important that we mark the passing of the great Stephen Hawking who died today at age 76. Despite being diagnosed with a rare motor nuerone disease he develops in his 20’s that left him wheelchair bound and eventually only able to speak through a voice synthesizer, he was without hyperbole, one of the greatest scientist minds in the history of our species. His groundbreaking work on quantum physics and cosmology were true gifts to mankind. Many of his books are very accessible to the layman and incredibly fascinating. Prof. Hawking’s work will spark the imaginations of scientists, artists, writers, filmmakers, and so many more for centuries to come. Despite having so much stacked against him, he truly changed the world with his gifted mind. We are all poorer for his loss. If you’re curious about him please look into his work. I’ll be putting links to some of his books on my website. He was a true visionary. Rest well, Professor…
Here are two of his most famous and amateur friendly books collected in one editor: “A Brief History of ziti even” and “The Universe In A Nutshell”. You can pick them up on Amazon through the link below:
Adapting a book to another medium is tricky thing to pull off. The general audience consensus when it comes to filming a good books is: “The book was better.” Or some other iteration of that. People said for years that Lord of the Rings Trilogy was “unfilmable” and those movie ended up becoming Oscar winning classics. Harry Potter is another impressive book to film series. But as good as those movies are, at their best amazing and at their worst still very good, they often gloss over important, subtle, nuanced character moments that make the novels the pieces of legitimately excellent literature that they are. Then there’s HBO’s adaptation of Game of Thrones, which pulled the Fantasy genre into the mainstream even more than the Lord of the Rings films. I’m also of the opinion that the Game of Thrones TV series is the almost unheard of case where the adaptation is better than the already excellent source material. Then there are the out right failures like The Dark Tower. It’s a difficult balancing act for any filmmaker. Which is why I was so curious to see how Annihilation, the first book in a trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer, would be adapted to the big screen.
After an unknown object fell out of the sky and crashed at remote lighthouse, a series of events begins that could eventually threaten the entire planet. A bizarre event causes a large portion of an national park and a seaside community to be covered in an alien looking energy bubble, dubbed “The Shimmer”. Everything inside “The Shimmer”, referred to as Area X, is being subjected to bizarre and unexplainable changes, including anyone caught inside “The Shimmer” as it spread never coming out again. A government organization called “The Southern Reach” has been charged with overseeing and dealing with this unique problem. Since the initial impact, the phenomena has defied understanding at The Southern Reach. Any attempts to study the phenomena at a distance with electronic equipment simply won’t work. Attempts to send teams in to investigate have ended in failure when no one ever returns. Natalie Portman plays Lena, a biologist with a military background and one of those missing teams included her husband, Kane (Oscar Issacs). That is until after being thought dead for over a year, he inexplicably shows up at their home with absolutely no answers to where he’s been and what happened to him. He quickly grows extremely ill, which is the impetus for Natalie Portman to go into Area X to try to understand what happened to her husband. Area X is slowly growing outward, which is not good. So when a new team is being sent in, her background and motivation make her a welcome addition to the mission.
Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy (as all 3 books are collectively referred to) by Jeff Vandermeer is one of the best science fiction stories I had ever read. It’s incredibly unique and thought provoking without providing clear, easy answers to what exactly is happening (in a good way). When a film adaptation in the works was announced, a director had been announced as attached to the project as well, Alex Garland. Had it been another director, I would have been worried that this was a difficult story to turn into a film. But Alex Garland directed Ex Machina, an absolutely fantastic sci-fi film. He also wrote 28 Days Later and Dredd, among other things. It seemed like a match made in heaven, an excellent sci-fi director adapting an excellent sci-fi book. Unfortunately, Annihilation doesn’t nearly reach the heights of it’s source material or Garland’s last film, Ex Machina.
It’s by no means a terrible film. There are some cool and interesting scenes and I enjoyed seeing this world and these characters being brought to life. I think the problem was that some stories just don’t work as well outside of their original medium. The movie is pretty loyal to the book. It doesn’t wildly deviate from the original story. So, I wasn’t sure at first why the movie didn’t really work.
For example, in the book the team of characters that go on the expedition into Area X have an almost anonymous quality to them. They’re cyphers that we learn more about throughout the book and the rest of the trilogy. But that doesn’t really work on film because now you have a group of characters that are difficult to care about and therefore there’s less of a sense of urgency for their survival. You’re just not as invested in them. The actors are all fine, Natalie Portman is ok in the lead role. Jennifer Jason Lee and Tessa Thompson are both perfectly serviceable in their roles. The movie also lacks the surreal sense of dread that constantly permeates the story in the book.
To be fair there is one pretty creepy and interesting scene that’s probably the best sequence in the film. I won’t spoil it here but it’s the closest the movie comes to capturing the spirit of the book.
If you’re a fan of the books and have the time and money to do so, you could do a lot worse than to see this film. The movie does have enough meat on it to be interesting for someone who has read the series. I’d say at the very least, check it out on Blu-ray or digital when it does come out, just to fulfill any curiosity you may have as a fan of the book. To anyone else I can’t say I would recommend this movie. It’s not particularly memorable or interesting, which is a real shame. It’s always good to see great science fiction pop up in films, unfortunately this is not one of them. I definitely recommend reading the trilogy of books if you haven’t because they are quite excellent. Annihilation is ultimately a fascinating failure from a filmmaker that has incredible potential. Despite this hiccup, I still think Alex Garland is definitely a director to keep an eye on.
Annihilation is in theatres now
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An R-Rated, animated Batman movie, that’s essentially, Batman Vs. Jack The Ripper? To quote the great Kevin Smith “Fuck you. Take my money.”. Batman by Gaslight adopts a storytelling device often seen in comics called ”Elseworlds”. “Elseworlds” are basically one off stories where you take a familiar hero and and put them in a unique setting or story they normally wouldn’t be in. It’s a “What If…” story, essentially. For example, What if baby Superman’s spaceship crashed in Soviet Russia instead of Kansas? Or What if Batman hunted Jack The Ripper in Victorian-Era Gotham City? The original graphic novel of the same name that the movie is based on, with art by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, was too short to be adapted to a feature length film. So, the filmmakers had to add to the story, which is fun if you’ve read the graphic novel because you’re getting something that’s both a strong adaptation and completely new tale at the same time.
It’s a great premise that’s a natural fit for the character. Batman’s often referred to as “The World’s Greatest Detective” in the comics, so I loved seeing Batman in a real mystery where he has to use his skills as a detective as much as his skills as a fighter. Batman’s incredible detective abilities are rarely utilized enough outside of comics. It doesn’t hurt that the whole story takes place in a world that looks very much like the city of fictions other great detective and one of the inspirations for Batman, Sherlock Holmes (there’s a small Sherlock Holmes reference that only true Sherlockians will get). The movie looks like it’s was pulled out of the pages of an Arthur Conan Doyle story, which adds to the movie’s cool, steampunk, murder mystery vibe.
Bruce Greenwood plays Bruce Wayne/Batman in this film and besides Kevin Conroy, I think he’s my favorite Batman voice actor. He’s played Batman before in movies like Batman: Under The Red Hood (one of the best DC Animated Movies) and the excellent Young Justice animated series, returning for it’s third season later this year. Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter) does some great work as Selina Kyle, but I don’t think they ever call her Catwoman in the movie. Besides Batman, Selina Kyle has the most to do in this movie. She’s basically Batman’s partner in solving the murders. She’s taking matters into her own hands because she knows if the victims were rich, white men instead of poor women, the police would be doing a lot more. At the very end she has a little damsel in distress moment I wasn’t crazy about, but other wise she’s an ass kicking badass who is more or less Batman’s equal.
Of course, it fun to see Victorian-era versions of the wide array of characters from Batman’s world. I wont spoil all the fun cameos, but you get to see characters from Hugo Strange to Solomon Grundy throughout the story. Unfortunately, a lot of the supporting cast isn’t as fleshed out as Batman and Selina Kyle which is definitely a big weakness in the film.
This movie takes full advantage of it’s R-Rating. This is easily one of the more bloody and gorey DC Animated Movies made so far. The real life Ripper Murders always struck me as particularly brutal and vicious. The movie does a good job of conveying that THIS Jack The Ripper is a terrifying butcher as well.
One of the things that made this version of Jack The Ripper work for me is that he was a physical match for Batman. This isn’t the same Batman that could kick the shit out of Superman. Batman gets pretty fucked up a few times in this movie. We’ve seen Batman fight armies of alien invaders and beings with all kinds of super abilities and come out fine. But the fact that The Ripper is just a man and he comes so close to killing Batman makes him much more frightening. Compared to other Batman animated movies recently, the stakes may seem lower but they feel higher than ever. This story isn’t “canon”, so characters who wouldn’t normally be on the chopping block could be taken out at anytime, which give the movie a nice edge.
Stylistically, this film has stepped away from the more anime inspired look that much of the other DC Animated Movies have adopted. Instead, the animation style is more traditional, without sacrificing quality. Including several great fights and action sequences. There a few showdowns between Batman and The Ripper that are particularly well done.
Having never read the original graphic novel, I didn’t know who The Ripper was while watching the movie (and this being Gotham City it could be almost literally ANYONE). So, it was fun not knowing where the story was going, but I did know The Ripper is NOT the same character from the original graphic novel. I’m definitely going to grade on a curve here, because as I’ve said before the quality of the DC Animated Movies has dipped over the past few years and I feel this is a huge step in the right direction. I have a feeling that the movie seemed a lot better than it actually was because the quality of the DC Animated films hasn’t been as consistent lately
Batman: Gotham by Gaslight is fun little Batman mystery, taking place in a interesting setting. Whether you’re a fan of Batman, these animated movies, or you just happened to see the trailer and were intrigued, I would definitely recommend this movie. While not without it’s flaws, It is without a doubt one of the best DC animated movies that we’ve seen in a long time. Let’s hope they keep this momentum going into their next movies…
Batman: Gotham by Gaslight is available on iTunes now and the Blu-Ray will be released on 2/6/2018
Batman: Gotham by Gaslight – 8.4/10
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