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Monday, October 18, 2010

Superman/Batman: Apocalypse [2010]


Overall verdict: 7/10

The Good: detailled Artwork, smooth animation, top notch voice acting, sticks relatively true to the original comic

The Bad: minor deviations from the comic, lacking much emotional aspect, truncated narrative, , relatively inaccessible to viewers unfamiliar with DC comics lore and characters.

Current Availability Status: on 2 disc special edition DVDs in singapore stores now.

******************************Review********************

The Superman/Batman comic stories' main attraction has always been the character interplay. How the two famous superheroes, different in every aspect like oil and water, lend their perspective on similar situations and in the end, pull together for the greater good. In that respect, "Superman/Batman: Apocalypse" does not disappoint as Superman, Batman and even Wonder Woman bring their unique personalities to the table when they face their latest little "problem".

The "problem" in question is the unexpected arrival of Kara Zor-El (Summer Glau), Superman's cousin who crash lands to earth, disoriented, unclothed but unhurt and lost in Gotham. In perhaps an intentional homage to Glau's previous Terminator character in "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles", She "procures" a coat from a trio of overly eager warehouse workers, but not before almost accidentally killing them. The unintentional destruction she causes while trying to flee from the cops alerts both Batman and Superman who take her into their custody. While Superman is overjoyed at finally meeting a fellow survivor of his home planet, Batman is skeptical and naturally suspicious (she did trash Gotham without even trying). More trouble follows when Superman tries to get Kara assimilated into earth culture but Wonder Woman has other plans for her as she too fears Kara's lack of control over her powers. But on the burning planet of Apokolips, the dreaded DarkSeid has his sights on the young kryptonian girl to be the latest addition to his warriors. What follows is a perilous incursion into Darkseid's palace with one deadly confrontation after another with the forces of Apokolips.

Superman/Batman: Apocalypse adapts the "Supergirl" story arc of the Superman/Batman comic series by Jeph Loeb and the late Michael Turner. It is a rather faithful adaptation, barring a few very minor changes here and there, and as such shares both the good points and the shortcomings of its source material. For one thing, the story proceeds at a very fast pace, which is good as it keeps things from getting boring. However that means the time frame of the tale is difficult to follow. For example Kara was supposed to have been training with the Amazons for a few months but it seemed like only yesterday. We only know about the time skip thanks to some mandatory exposition.

Rather than its truncated story, it is the snappy character interplay, well written dialog and a top notch cast of actors that carry this show. Tim Daley, Kevin Conroy and Susan Eisenberg return comfortably to their DCAU roles of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. Everyone else is perfectly cast, especially Summer Glau, lending much emotional weight and realism to the characters. The only role that did not seem to fit as well was Andre Braugher's unmistakably African American sounding DarkSied. The tone of voice was right but a more neutral accent would have fit better.

Judging from the way the characters are handled, the target audience is most definitely long time fans who are already familiar with the personalities of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. That is because the "DC trinity" get little character development here, allowing Supergirl to take most of the development spotlight. That is not to say that the main trio do not get their chance to shine. Their differing views on life clash often which sheds some light on their individual inner natures. There is even a dramatic introspection by one of the villians regarding Batman's questionable methods in contrast to that of superman and, ironically, more similar to that of the villian himself.

Viewers who have watched the previous "Superman/Batman: Public enemies" can treat this as a sequel despite the differing art styles. As the previous movie replicated Ed McGuinness's stylishly muscular artwork, this one manages to translate Michael Turner's bold character designs barring a slight drop in art detail. The animation by "MOI Animation" is very fluid considering the "higher-than-usual" level of art detail, with no visible short cuts and a high frame rate throughout. As a result, the intense action and superhero battles are vivid and violent. Those who love some good hero on villian brawling would love what is in store for them here.

For DC animation fans, readers who loved the Superman/Batman comics and superhero action junkies, "Superman/Batman: Apocalypse" would no doubt be a hit. More time could have gone into letting the story "breath" a little or making it a smart anecdote about growing up, stepping out from under a overprotective sibling/parent's shadow and finding one's place in the world. Then again, since those themes were never present in the original comic, here is a case where straying from the original source might have turned out a better product. But no point lamenting what it could have been. Rather, enjoy it for what it is.

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Go For it: if you are a fan of the "DC Trinity" in action, have read the original Superman/Batman comics or used to be a fan of the popular Bruce Timm DC Animated universe shows (Justice League unlimited)
Avoid it: if the name "Darkseid"(pronounced "dark Side" by the way) brings thoughts of Star Wars instead of DC comics. In other words, if you are unfamiliar with the characters, it is recommended you get acquainted first via other DC animated productions or the comics themselves.


Entertainment: B+
Story: C
Characters: A
Animation: A-
Art: A-
Voice work: A-
Replay Value: B
"Brains": C

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Love In Disguise 戀愛通告(2010) review


Overall verdict: 3.5/10

The Good: Convincing acting, well cast roles

The Bad: cliche ridden, evidence of author self-glorification, bland jokes, one dimensional characters, generally uninteresting main character.

Also know as: Lian ai tong gao, 戀愛通告

Current Availability Status: coming to DVD

******************************Review********************
Either Chinese pop idol Wang Lee Hom had a breath of inspiration to try to break into the film making business, or music is not bringing in as much dough as he would like. Either way, it must take some gutsy person to make a movie, not a documentary or biopic, about......himself.

Wang Lee Hom writes, directs and stars in what is easily a glorified fan-fiction about himself. Lee plays Du Ming Han, pop idol extraordinaire with an over active imagination and adored by millions. Along with his loyal manager, Joan (played by actress....Joan Chen), each day is a routine of performances, evading the paparazzi through the use of disguises and partying at night with his band-mates. One night after giving the press the slip, Ming Han's posh Van literally runs into a female music student named Song Xiao Qing. Miraculously unhurt, Xiao Qing checks her "GuZheng" string instrument for damage. This is when Du Ming Han's overactive imagination kicks in as Xiao Qing's tune conjures up images of badly CGI-ed butterflies in his head. Immediately smitten by her, though he claims he is only her music that he is in love with, Du Ming Han and his lead guitarist Wei Zhi Bai track the talented girl to her school. Donning a couple of silly disguises, they enroll in the schools music department so that Ming Han can have the pleasure of hearing Xiao Qing play once again.

As much as Du Ming Han daydreams of flowers, butterflies and beautiful hilltops when he listens to Xian Qing's music, the entire movie seems like a wishful daydream of writer/director/main actor Wang Lee Hom. The characters that populate the story are either played too over-the-top for anyone to take seriously, are utterly unlikable or generally lack a certain presence. The first flaw falls on every single side character from the school principle (who happens to be Xiao Qing's father) to even Wei Zhi Bai. They are all played for laughs basically, and nothing more. "Utterly unlikable" goes to the character of Mu Fan, a perfectionist top music student who Xian Qing has a crush on. Played like a complete jerk rival to Du Ming Han, his eventual change of heart comes without any reason other than to move the already plodding plot along. And lastly there is Xiao Qing, played by actress Liu Yifei, who feels like a blank slate. Where the other actors ham it up to the max actress YiFei does not even seem to be trying, rendering the character of Xiao Qing an expressionless bore.

But perhaps the greatest flaw is the flawless main character himself. He is a "Mary Sue", perfect in every way. He's got the looks, the cash, the charisma, and is talented in both pop music and classical Chinese instruments. And we as the audience are supposed to like him and feel sorry for him even though it was by his own dishonest actions that put him in a spot in the first place?

Every single "twist" in the plot is easily predictable and the forced humor gets old really fast. It really is unclear whether the story is to be firmly rooted in reality or fantasy. While it gives a very satirical look into the life of a superstar, there are too many moments where suspension of disbelief has to be called into play.The story even defies logic at times, expecting the audience to believe that a person can slip out of one disguise and into another AND run from the toilet to the performing stage, all under ten seconds (unless super-speed is another talent of the main character).

There was one moment where this movie could have set itself apart. A subplot about the concept of "soul-mates" as something mutually exclusive of "lovers" could have been developed more fully. Perhaps exploring the different types of love that need not be just romantic love, or expounding on how a Soul Mate might indicate a more metaphysical connection than a merely emotional one. Instead, after a small tease, the narrative conveniently lumps "romantic partner" and "soul-mate" together again and we are back in cliché land.

As much as Clark Kent's glasses is an absurdly thin disguise for Superman, so is Du Ming Han's disguise in this film. That same thinness translates to the plot, the characters and even the dialog. "Love In Disguise" feels like a lazy vanity affair. A self promoting tale of a musical Mary Sue that offers nothing new to the genre, not even some new laughs.

*****************************Review End******************

Go For it: if you are a Wang Lee Hom fangirl or are in the mood for some extremely shallow laughs. Or if your girl pal insists on dragging you along.
Avoid it: if you are a general fan of good romantic comedies.

Entertainment: C+
Story: C
Acting: B
Characters: D-
Replay value: C-
"Brains": D+