Posts tagged "super heroes"

Batman: Assault on Arkham (Review)

Batman: Assault on Arkham

Batman Assault on Arkham
2014
Written by Heath Corson
Directed by Jay Oliva and Ethan Spaulding

Batman Assault on Arkham
DC Animated has hit some sort of weird divergence where the films are either really good or really bad. Batman: Assault on Arkham fits in the really good category, even though it reduces Amanda Waller’s character to too simplistic of a bully villain. That’s a shame, as Waller is one of the greatest comic book characters, a high-ranking official who runs her own show outside of the normal good and evil duology, and is capable of standing up to the greatest heroes and villains.

Assault on Arkham becomes unlike a lot of the animated super hero fare because it features a team of scummy villains, who have no qualms about killing people and spend half the film trying to betray Waller and each other.

the Suicide Squad is a group of criminals with heavy sentences who are sent on dangerous missions in return for time being shaved off their terms. As the teams are largely made up of sociopaths, they don’t get along and have trouble working in teams. The fighting and backstabbing just adds to the fun of watching the villains work as they push towards their goal. Waller uses the team to take down threats that can’t be dealt with by normal means and need to be off the books, often ignoring what may be bigger problems to achieve her own goals.
Batman Assault on Arkham
This is as much a Batman film as a Suicide Squad film, so Batman runs around looking for a dirty bomb the Joker has to try to stop it from exploding. That means he crosses paths with the Squad more than once, especially since Harely Quinn is part of the team, despite her insistence that she and the Joker aren’t together any more. As the Squad has to break into Arkham to retrieve a flash disk and the Joker is interred in Arkham, he does end up becoming part of the story, especially when things begin to go haywire.

The Suicide Squad consists of Deadshot (who is concerned only with getting out so he can spend time with his young daughter), throwing expert Captain Boomerang, Harley Quinn, ninja Black Spider, ice queen Killer Frost, Killer Croc ripoff King Shark, and guy not to get too attached to KGBeast. Deadshot serves as the alternate main character, who keeps the team focused on the mission despite their various distractions like ex-boyfriends and marksmen rivalries. The Deadshot presented here is just professional enough to make a compelling main character. Captain Boomerang serves as his less moral counter and constant thorn in his side as Boomerang’s competitive and antisocial streak causes him to see Deadshot as an enemy.
Batman Assault on Arkham
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - March 12, 2015 at 7:53 am

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Superman vs. The Elite (Review)

Superman vs. The Elite

Superman vs the Elite
2012
Written by Joe Kelly
Based on “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice & the American Way?” from Action Comics #775 by Joe Kelly, Doug Mahnke, and Lee Bermejo
Directed by Michael Chang

Superman vs the Elite
Superman has been a cultural icon for 80 years, he’s survived several waves of popularity of comic books, multiple reboots and revisions to his story and character, and still remains popular world wide despite the world being far different than the one he was introduced to. In fact, one of the major things people write about Superman is how he seems to be a character from another time. Back when things seemed simple and a super powered guy could just punch his way to the right answer. Now things are complicated, because we think about the consequences of actions and about the causes of problems, so just punching things is usually out. This is helped in part by characterizations of Superman by people who don’t really know what to do with him, turning him into a boy scout tool of the government or a deadbeat dad. One of the plot points of Superman Returns was Lois Lane winning a Pulitzer for an article basically saying the world didn’t need a Superman.

Where some media interpretations of Superman has failed, he has gained a pretty solid characterization in the numerous animated projects from DC comics, across tv and dtv films. The Superman presented is a man who does his best to balance power and responsibility while stopping threats of immense power (and they usually have to be, because Superman is just invincible otherwise!)
Superman vs the Elite
So it’s natural that the animated DC movies would cover What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice & the American Way? from Action Comics #775. Written by Joe Kelly (with pencils by Doug Mahnke and Lee Bermejo), it’s a story about how the world seems to have changed, how heroes that are willing to kill (a line Superman doesn’t cross) have gained traction, and just how much Superman holds back in the hope of inspiring people to be better. Superman takes his responsibility as a role model seriously, and holds himself to the highest moral standard. Some of the themes are also present in the awesome Kingdom Come story (another tale I hope gets the animated treatment!)

The Elite is a team consisting of four members. Manchester Black is the leader, he has a Union Jack tattooed over his chest (I thought it was just a shirt until it was specifically pointed out!) The Hat is an Asian mystic who can do magic tricks and summon supernatural creatures thanks to his magic hat. He’s also constantly drunker as the movie goes on. Menagerie has some sort of alien biosuit that allows her to turn into creatures. Coldcast is a large man wearing chains that has electromagnetic powers. Aside from Manchester’s long tragic flashback, the other three Elite don’t get much in the way of characterization and pretty much follow Black’s lead.
Superman vs the Elite
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - February 2, 2015 at 7:56 am

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Superman: Unbound (Review)

Superman: Unbound

Superman Unbound
2013
Screenplay by Bob Goodman
Based on Superman: Brainiac by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank
Directed by James Tucker

Superman Unbound

“You can’t control a living thing without destroying what’s alive about it” — Zor-El

That quote is key for Superman Unbound, as Superman deals with a new threat to Earth, a threat from Krypton’s past that threatens the galaxy at large in addition to his adoptive home. Brainiac travels the universe capturing cities in bottles and then destroying their planet of origin, in an attempt to absorb all the knowledge in the universe. In order to prevent new knowledge from existing, Brainiac keeps the cities in the same state they were when they were captured. No one ages, everything stays the same, they are trapped in purgatory. As you can imagine, Superman is not okay with this fate befalling Earth, nor is he fine with leaving the lost Kryptonian capital of Krandor as a bottle decoration in Brainiac’s ship.
Superman Unbound supergirl
Superman: Unbound is based on Superman: Brainiac by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank. Brainiac presented here is a cold, calculating monster that is an unstoppable force in the galaxy. He’s been at it for decades, adding city after city to his collection and leaving a trail of death and destruction in his wake. Brainiac brings up echo of the Borg, as he arrives in a lone ship (though his is shaped like a black skull), his robot troops adapt to the local defenses and absorb the knowledge of his victims. They both carve out cities from the ground, and Brainiac is more machine parts than organic at this point. But he’s also just one guy, as opposed to a collective consciousness. The motivations are similar but also different.

We begin with seemingly normal situations on Earth, massive violence in Metropolis (committed, they say, because Superman will obviously be busy with an earthquake in South America that happened a bit ago!) The heavily armed thugs manage the best the surprisingly militarized Metropolis police, but what they don’t bank on is Supergirl showing up to ruin their fun. Lois Lane (who volunteered to be their hostage) provides the snark as Supergirl rips through their defenses, joined by Superman, who faster than a speeding bulleted his way back to the US in time to take out the last of the bad dudes.
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - December 8, 2014 at 7:09 am

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Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (Review)

Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox

Justice League Flashpoint Paradox
2013
Written by James Krieg
Based on Flashpoint by Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert
Directed by Jay Oliva

Justice League Flashpoint Paradox
Flashpoint became the even that subsequently rebooted the DC universe into The New 52!, as the covers say. Basically, everything got rebooted, and was done so with less of a notice than you would like to wrap up storylines in dozens of comic books. This resulted in some things being a bit more rebooted than others, but all that continuity you knew and loved was once again thrown out the window by the latest DC reboot. Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox doesn’t get into the continuity situation (except a brief costume change at the end), but deals with the storyline that causes it, leaving the actual fallout for the eventual sequels like Justice League: War. It lacks the excitement and fun of some of the animated DC flicks, though does have a few bright points to offer.

Flash is a character that, like Batman, is overshadowed by his villains. I say this not because I don’t really care for Flash, but because I find the dynamics of his villains far more interesting. Captain Cold and the Rogues are a cool team dynamic, working together for profit while avoiding excess casualties, even if they occasionally get sucked into more bloody affairs simply because they walk in the criminal underworld. Flash is potentially one of the most powerful heroes on the planet, and they regularly do battle with him. They even fight against other super-villain teams that try to control them. However, Professor Zoom/Reverse Flash/Eobard Thawne is simply an Evil Flash from the future who is a jerk. Sadly, the tale here turns the Rogues into petty thugs easily tricked by Professor Zoom, who then orchestrates manipulating Flash into altering history and continues to taunt Flash even as the future Professor Zoom comes from ceases to exist. C. Thomas Howell puts in a good performance letting the creepy sociopath shine through, but he’s stuck with what is there in the script to deliver, and Professor Zoom never becomes a classic villain.
Justice League Flashpoint Paradox
The biggest problem with Flashpoint is that it was never really that good to begin with. The series wasn’t terrible, but it never really turned into a classic story that will survived through the ages. The only real continual allure is the alternate reality itself, and even some of that is a bit corny. We already had alternate versions of the Justice League members not that long ago with Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, and despite the limited screen times, many of those characters felt more developed than the inhabitants of the Flashpoint world.

The fact the event was used to justify the rebooting of all of DC continuity makes it a lightning point of controversy, as some of the rebooting caused arguments of their own (Superman’s marriage went kaput, many dead characters sprung back to life, a few established female characters suddenly became giant slores) in addition to the general idea of everything getting reset yet again in DC. One theory was the resetting was a ploy to gain new readers, though if that was true, it didn’t seem to pan out too well, but much digital ink was spilt as various factions argued throughout the internet.
Justice League Flashpoint Paradox
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - November 20, 2014 at 7:08 am

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Justice League: Doom (Review)

Justice League: Doom

Justice League Doom
2012
Written by Dwayne McDuffie
Based on JLA: Tower of Babel by Mark Waid
Directed by Lauren Montgomery

Justice League Doom cheetah
The Justice League is under attack, except this time it’s by one of their own! Okay, not really by one of their own, but by the very plans Batman developed to deal with members of the Justice League.

Justice League: Doom is based loosely on the JLA: Tower of Babel storyline by Mark Waid, Justice League: Doom changes things up enough to be a different take while providing a nice adaptation of the overall themes. The main villain is changed (from Ra’s al Ghul to Vangal Savage) and some of the Justice League’s lineup is different, but the feelings of betrayal by a paranoid Batman remain.

Doom is not direct sequel to Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, but follows it with very similar character designs and voices. Many of the DC Animated films are their own shards of a loose continuity that exists purely to tell that exact tale. It’s a perfectly fine way to operate, allowing the general mythology of the heroes to exist and leaving toom for the specifics needed to make the stories work and be unique. The return of many of the familiar voice actors helps sell the loose familiarity and provides a comfort to longtime fans so they aren’t put off by Batman sounding weird or something.
Justice League Doom space station
Justice League: Doom is one of the better DC Animated films, dividing enough characterization between the different members to give each of them their own take, while still keeping a focus on Batman. Switching the villain to Vandal Savage helps push a more minor villain into focus and provides an excuse to make the full range of the plans make more sense than eliminating reading and talking.
Justice League Doom mirror master
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - November 17, 2014 at 7:48 am

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Return of Mr. Superman (Review)

Return of Mr. Superman

Return of Mr. Superman
1960
Written and directed by Manmohan Sabir
Return of Mr. Superman
In 1960, India would release not just one, but two movies featuring the American super hero Superman. Neither film was authorized by DC Comics, and both films starred famed actor P. Jairaj as Superman. Yet weirdly enough, the two films were produced by competing production companies. Both films were originally going to be called Superman, but producers from Mukul Pictures wrote a letter to Manmohan Films (ran by writer/director Manmohan Sabir), which resulted in Manmohan changing the name of their production to Return of Mr. Superman. At least, that’s how the story goes, though the oft-repeated story doesn’t seem to have an actual origin beyond people repeating it. The 1960 Superman film is not available to watch, though some songs from the soundtrack still exist. The only listings I have seen of out of print VCDs or VHS tapes all seem to be about Return of Mr. Superman, so the chances of actually locating the missing Indian Superman film might be a lot closer to zero than I want. If the past few years of lost films arising from the ashes has taught me one thing, it’s to never give up hope. Superman may still be out there, but until he returns to Earth, let’s make do with Return of Mr. Superman!

India would return to Superman a few more times. There is a well-known Hindi version of Superman that has become a common grey-market trading item. There is also a Telugu-language Superman film starring NTR called Superman, which we’ve covered before. Superman’s costume has appeared in musical numbers as well. Let us not forget about the documentary Supermen of Malegaon, which covered the making of a micro-budget Superman bootleg film. Nor is India alone in their bootleg Supermen, he’s popped up in films from Turkey, Bangladesh, and Italy, with suspiciously similar characters appearing in dozens of films from many origins. Superman just has that universal appeal that everyone strives for.
Return of Mr. Superman
Superman here isn’t the classic Superman costume we all know and love (nor is it the awful red and blue costumes from that forgetable story arc) Superman (or Mr. Superman if you’re nasty) looks like Commando Cody, complete with a crazy space goggles, mask, and cap over his head. He’s got a jumpsuit and a big cape, but still manages to not look like any other incarnation of the hero. My favorite aspect isn’t the goggles, but is his face mask that still has a hole cut for the mouth so he can smugly grin at his opponents as they land punch after useless punch against his chest, before he defeats them by lightly tossing them aside.

Superman gets involved in a complicated smuggling plot, dealing with criminals who continue to operate despite some super-powered guy running around foiling all their plans. It’s not a real mystery as to why that is, the cops in the film are so incompetent at catching these criminals that they often don’t catch them despite Superman phoning them with specific instructions. The only one with any competence is the guy who keeps answering Superman’s calls, and the cops only get effective when he’s leading them in the final battle.

Despite the print being in relatively good condition for a 1960 Indian film, there are obviously some missing segments. At one point two women are captured and Superman goes to attack the villains, but there is no actual rescue of the women. In addition, the main villain who sports a beret suddenly has a black eye for reasons unknown, possibly due to said missing rescue. Another thin is the sudden appearance of a Random Hero Dog, who may not be so random if he is from another part of the film, but as that part does not seem to have made it to the VCD releases, who knows. Finally, Helen is featured in the credits, but does not appear in the film as far as I could determine. She is also listed in the credits for the other 1960 Superman film, so maybe something shady was going on, or maybe her big number has been lost to the sands of time.
Return of Mr. Superman
As interesting as this movie sounds, it’s actually pretty close to terrible serials in quality. The chunks missing probably help the pacing a bit, though it looks like a few of those sequences were action parts, so maybe not. Definitely something to seek out for fans of obscure stuff, but Return of Mr. Superman isn’t going to make anyone’s bootleg super hero movie must-see list. It’s interesting for the obvious serial influences, but if you aren’t a fan of serials, you will get really annoyed really quickly.

As this film is obscure as heck, please enjoy the overly long film synopsis review. And there are no subtitles for Return of Mr. Superman, but at TarsTarkas.NET, we don’t need no stinking subtitles!

P. Jairaj was a Bollywood actor who dated back to the silent era, his first film being 1929’s Jagmugti Jawani. Born Paidypathy Jairula Naidu, Jairaj was the son of an accountant in a well-to-do family in Hyderabad which set up a life for him to follow, but Jairaj dropped out of college to find his own fortune in Bombay. A friend who worked for Mahavir Photoplays figured he would make a good screen actor, and gave him a supporting role. This was quickly followed by the lead in 1930’s Raseeli Rani, and a string of films followed. When sound was introduced to Indian film, Jairaj had an advantage of speaking Hindi and Urdu (Jairaj also spoke Telugu, but I don’t believe he starred in any Telugu language pictures), but had the disadvantage of not being able to sing. Luckily, the playback system saved his bacon, and he continued being an in-demand lead actor through the 1950s. By the 1960s, his star had faded a bit, and he was relegated to character roles, though managing appearances in classic cinema like Sholay, Toofan, and Don. Through the 1980s and 90s he made less and less frequent appearances. He died in relative obscurity in 2000. Jairaj had some directorial credits, was awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke Lifetime Achievement Award in 1980, and is even in the Guinness World Records for having the longest-spanning career of an actor at 70 years.
Return of Mr. Superman
Sheila Ramani was a swinging leading lady in the 1950s, her best known role might be in 1954’s Taxi Driver. She was the niece of Pakistani producer Sheikh Latif (Lachchu), who not only got her some roles in Indian cinema, but some Pakistani films as well (such as Anokhi (1956)). By the end of the 50s, her star was on decline and she appeared in B pictures such as this one and 1959’s Tarzan-inspired Jungle King. She retired from film after getting married.

Filling the supporting/comic relief role here is Majnu. He was born Harold Lewis, a Punjabi actor who debuted in 1935’s Majnu, an action comedy that satirized the story of Layla and Majnun (and provided him with the nickname he’s use for the rest of his career!) Though he started in lead roles, he did a lot of supporting/comedic roles through his long career.
Return of Mr. Superman
So here’s the full scale Roll Call:

Jaikumar R. Dayal (P. Jairaj) – A mild-mannered reporter at the newspaper Azad Desh, Jaikumar uses his super powers to listen for crimes, then beats up the criminals, calls the cops, and writes stories about the crimes.
Mr. Superman (P. Jairaj) – Mr. Superman aka Superman who cosplays as Commando Cody fights villains and stands and grins at his opponents as they inflict zero damage on him. The only way to beat Mr. Superman is to damage his reputation, which he then fights by punching even harder.
Usha (Sheila Ramani) – Usha types up a lot at Azad Desh, and is possibly also a reporter, as she seems to go out and investigate stuff. Maybe she gets two paychecks this way! Or, more likely, it’s just assumed that women do all the typing in 1960.
Johnny Braganza (Majnu) – Jaikumar’s best buddy guy, sort of like Jimmy Olson. He’s dating Stella but always hitting on typist Shammi.
Stella (Naazi) – Johnny’s girlfriend, which occasionally gets her in trouble when Johnny and Jaikumar make enemies and she gets kidnapped. Naazi generally appeared in supporting roles in B-level pictures, including the Dara Singh Hercules (1964). Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be much more about her online (unless she is also the actress Naaz?), and Google keeps thinking I mean “Nazi”, which means I’m now on a bunch of lists.
Typist (Shammi) – Shammi has a small role as a typist at the Azad Desh office, where she usually has to put up with Johnny Braganza hitting on her all day. This is especially alarming, because nowadays she’d win a million dollar lawsuit and own the Azad Desh. All hail Boss Shammi! Shammi started work in film in 1949 while she was still working at a pharmaceutical company. Taking a large variety of roles, from comedic to supporting to vamp to mythological, it’s said her willingness to take any part cost her big budget starring roles, but Shammi wanted to work more than anything else.
Inspector Dilip Desai (Ram Mohan) – The cop who does nothing but investigate tips sent in by Superman all day. Which works out pretty well, until the fake Superman starts robbing people. Then he teams up with the real Superman to finally bust the bad guys he keeps missing by a few minutes.
Boss (David) – The boss at the Azad Desh newspaper. Somehow puts up with Jaikumar and Johnny. David Abraham Cheulkar was a popular character actor from the 40s through the 70s. He died of a heart attack in 1981.
The Villain (Jagdish Kanwal) – The beret-wearing villain is played by Jagdish Kanwal. He’s the leader of the smuggling gang, and mastermind of all the evil things going on. Which means he spends the entire film getting foiled again and again before he’s finally defeated. Try not to be a loser next time, villain guy!
Shashi (Heera Sawant) – The bad girl who is part of the evil gang, and tries to kill Superman in between her seductive dancing for the members of the gang (which drives the members mad with fits!) Heera Sawant had a career as a featured dancer in many Indian B pictures.
Fake Superman (???) – It is a mystery who this could be! (Not really!)
Ram Dayal (???) – A local nice guy farmer who finds the alien baby child and raises him as his own son, Jaikumar. Raises his son almost too honest.
Random Hero Dog (???) – In the greatest sequence ever filmed, the exciting conclusion of Return of Mr. Superman features a random brave heroic dog who fights the villains. Where does he come from? Who is he? Questions you will ask forever, because the film doesn’t bother to tell us! Just enjoy the Random Hero Dog, and try to live your life as good as him/her.

Return of Mr. Superman
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - November 10, 2014 at 7:30 am

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