Sunday, December 1, 2013

Iron Man & Hulk: Heroes United (2013) Direct-to-video CGI animation movie

Overall verdict: 4/10

The Good: Impressive character designs, art style mimics, great hulk voice acting

The Bad: lame humour, extremely dated animation, questionable casting choice for Iron Man, muddled plot, goofy dialogue

3D Readiness: none
IMax-ability: none

Hulk and Iron Man. Face it, here are the two fan favorite characters from the Marvel cinematic universe. It is no doubt that Marvel would see fit to milk these cash cows dry.Their answer: animation. Successful as Marvel's live action film projects have been, their animation projects left much to be desired. A downward spiral in quality which left off with the dismal "Thor: Tales of Asgard" led to a stint in visually impressive but narratively flat japanese anime. Now, Marvel is dabbling in feature length CGI animation. The result? This.

Seemingly a very loose adaptation of the iOS game "Avengers Initiative", IRON MAN & HULK: HEROES UNITED sees our two titular heroes first at loggerheads then teaming up to save the world. Two H.Y.D.R.A scientists have combined Iron Man's arc reactor technology with the Hulk's gamma energy and unleased an electrical energy creature called Zzzaxx. Standing in our heroes' way is a graveyard full of Wendigo monsters, a legion of robots and a goofy russian accented Abomination.

 A little background in the original game for starters. The game is a ripoff of "Infinity Blade" with a thin excuse for a story to tie one finger swiping fight to the next. This movie replaces that so called "story" with another that is just as thin and muddled. The original story was purely a Hulk adventure, with Iron Man only turning up at the end. The change feels forced and unecessary, as if Marvel mandated that Iron Man be the main protagonist instead of the Hulk just because of his misplaced popularity. At least the character designs had been successfully ported over from the game, and they look awesome.

The artwork successfully combines powerful designs with a cel shaded look that replicates modern digital colouring used in the comics. Unfortunately, visuals aside, the animation itself seems dated. The way the characters move, their facial expressions, they all feel stiff; like something made for TV from more than 10 years ago. Such lapse in quality, in this day and age of shows like Transformers Prime, is unforgivable.

The writing is no better than in TV programmes for ten year olds. Lame humour abounds (that running joke of the Hulk being hungry gets real old real fast), silly lines and childish dialogue. All of this set to mediocre acting and an Iron Man who sounds like some twenty year old fresh from university, not some veteran superhero millionaire.

With each new height set by Marvel's live action movies, there is a new low set by their animation productions. IRON MAN & HULK: HEROES UNITED is the lowest as of 2013. Either it was done on a shoestring budget or nobody involved put one bit of effort into it. The whole thing is merely riding on the brand name of Iron Man and Hulk, out to cheat money from uninformed fans.

The scariest part? Marvel seemed to darn confident that this thing would turn a big profit that they put in enough clues for a sequel.

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

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

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Thor: The Dark World (2013) movie review

Overall verdict: 7/10

The Good: Spectacular production design, top notch acting, excellent cast chemistry, epic story that expands the franchise, significant character development

The Bad: drop in standard of special effects, forgettable villain, muddled plot, badly timed humor, disappointing soundtrack

3D Readiness: None. Post Production 3D conversion. Fast paced and tight action scenes do not lend well to 3D.
IMax-ability: None.

Lightning does not strike twice with the follow up to 2011's THOR. Thor The Dark World does not live up to the standard set by its predecessor. Although it ups the ante with the action, it lacks that personal focus of the first movie. Thankfully, a stellar cast and amazing chemistry saves the movie from falling into mindless blockbuster territory.

With a combined movie universe, it begs the question of how come other heroes do not appear to intervene in the various world shattering crises that other heroes face in their individual movies. THOR: THE DARK WORLD provides just such an explanation by setting most of its action off earth. After the events of AVENGERS, Thor leads an Asgardian force to bring peace back to the 9 realms. On earth Jane Foster, Thor's love interest from the first film, stumbles on an anomalous place with portals that transports items, and herself, to another world; the so called "Dark World". There, she unwittingly bonds with an ancient weapon of tremendous power called the Aether. This alerts the evil Dark Elves, technologically advanced ancient enemies of Asgard, and their leader Malekith.

As villains go, Malekith and his Dark elves are no where as memorable as one would have hoped. Like a crossbreed of LORD OF THE RINGS's Uruk-Hai with STAR WAR's Sith Lords and Clone Troopers. They have superpowered "Kursed" warriors, who are like Berserkers on steroids, they have space age technology centered around the manipulation of gravity (and novel use of mini-black hole grenades); all these are quite cool but seem to clash with the more fantasy-tech of Asgard. Malekith himself is a one note villain who is out to destroy all realms. Zero depth, zero development. Then again, what do you expect? He is not the star of this movie.

What Thor The Dark World succeeds very much in is its world building. It crafts and expands upon the Marvel movie universe, adding much needed history and depth to the people of Asgard. This depth extends to the characters; this time focused mainly on the relationship between Thor, Loki and their parents. While Chris Hemsworth does a marvellous job as a heroic yet humble Thor, Tom Hiddelston is magnificent as Loki. He just oozes nuance in his performance, portraying the trickster as a truly tormented soul torn between the love for his mother and the hatred for his brother. You never know his true intentions or where his loyalties lie. If anything, this is more of a Loki movie than a Thor movie where your tragic villain outshines the titular character, stealing every scene he is in.

Sadly, this leads to all the problems inherent in the movie. THOR: THE DARK WORLD has a great story. Yet its execution is muddled in direction and its general look and feel. Also, its character development is almost non existent except for Loki. As it opens up the Marvel cinematic universe into the far reaches of space age science fiction, the whole thing feels very much like the "Star Wars" prequels. High speed chases in space ships accompany the ever present  laser guns, cloaking technology and plasma turrets. That sequence where Thor and Loki escape a blockaded Asgard with Jane just reeks of a similar scene in STAR WARS EPISODE 1. 

Then there are the romance and comedy. For most of the movie you have Thor and Jane pinning for each other like teenage love birds. Once together, they clearly look like they should be in love yet there is feeling of "fakeness" to their romance. Thankfully such scenes are few, with the focus on bigger action. In this department, the movie does not disappoint. The action is clearly of an epic scale and the stakes are high. Yet the movie sees fit to throw in as much inappropriate humor as possible into such heavy scenes. The humor just does not fit and in fact pulls us out of the moments. Moments where reality itself is crumbling and a character cracks a joke just feels like Disney at work again, killing another chance to take comic book superheroes seriously.

Alas THOR: THE DARK WORLD is not a bad movie, it is good. It is just not as good as the first THOR movie, and this is likely due to executive meddling trying to get all new Marvel movies to follow the tone of Avengers. In trying to squeeze different types of stories into a single mold (no doubt to further cement their shared universe concept), you kill what made the concept great to begin with. Gone is Patrick Doyle's unique and spirit lifting symphony replaced by Brian Tyler's disappointing rehash of his CHILDREN OF DUNE soundtrack spliced with LORD OF THE RINGS and (believe it or not) Marvel's AVENGERS.

In a similar vein, gone is what made THOR unique to begin with. It may not be a typical mindless blockbuster, but it is becoming a typical Marvel movie. Like Iron Man 3, like Avengers, and quite possible like all subsequent marvel movies; chock full of comedy, big action and cartoon style dialogue with no effort to try and take superheroes seriously or to craft a deep themed tale of costumed vigilantes gifted with awesome powers.
*****************************Review End***************************

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

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Robocop: Prime Directives (2001) miniseries review

Overall verdict: 5/10

The Good: R-rated violence, social satire, well developed plot of a machine regaining his humanity

The Bad: dated special effects, overall cheap feel, badly portrayed Robocop, scifi cliches, illogical plot twists, unremarkable directing, overusage of skip frame slo-mo, bad fight scenes.

3D Readiness: none
IMax-ability: none


Three movies, a live action TV series and two cartoons later, ROBOCOP returns with a made-for-TV miniseries “ROBOCOP: PRIME DIRECTIVES”. This miniseries consisted of four movies which attempted to bring back the gritty and darker tone of the first movie, as well as some social satire.  For all intents and purposes, what we have is an ambitious project limited by lack of budget and inexperience of the creative team.
Our story begins 10 years after the first movie (ignoring the continuity of the other movies and TV series). Robocop is obsolete and weary of his years trying to bring peace to the crime ridden Delta City. 
The megacorporation OCP, who runs the city, is experiencing inner turmoil among the management. Due to new policies preventing use of lethal force by the police, a crime wave is sweeping the city. From Kamikaze gangs to a psycho in Halloween armour armed with machine guns and rockets, this town is going to hell. Fortunately, they have a new kick ass police commander JohnCable; a dual pistol wielding ol fashioned cowboy cop. 
Oh, and Robocop, the supposedly invincible enforcer of law who spends the entire miniseries getting owned.
Every character goes on about how awesome Robocop is, every criminal mentions his name in fear, you never see that. What you get is Robocop being
knocked down,
 and pretty much getting his big metal butt handed to him in every combat scene

. He only manages to take down people who refuse to take cover in a firefight. This brings me the portrayal of Robocop himself played by Page Fletcher. Fletcher is a fine actor, able to convey heavy emotions with his voice and mannerism. He is not, however, I anyway suited to the role. For starters, he is  short. As in really short.
And the bulky oversized armour only makes him look shorter. Everyone including the old female scientist is taller than him.

And although he can act, he can’t seem to portray body language. His Robocop is a stumbling dwarf, always marching with his fists balled up.
On the flip side, with his helmet off, Robocop looks like an old man and even acts like one. Nothing is done to make him machine-like. He very visibly pants when tired, swallows hard when scared, he even sweats.


So a crappy Robocop headlines 4 made-for-TV movie length episodes of the miniseries. On the bright side, what the 4 episodes do is attempt to remake and redo some very classic elements from Robocop media history. Dark Justice, the first episode, deals with Robocop’s unseen history with his friend John Cable, an internal upheaval in OCP’s management and “Bone Machine”. Meltdown sees a much better take on a “Robocop 2” concept than the actual Robocop 2 movie; another dead cop gets turned into an unstoppable cyborg, and his first mission is to take down the original Robocop.
 Resurrection deals with OCP’s new CEO Damien Lowe and his intention to automate the whole city with a artificial intelligence named “S.A.I.N.T”, a callback to the pilot episode of the Robocop TV series where something similar happens. While this is happening, a cabal of high tech cyber terrorists are introduced and a rogue scientist named Kaydick who plans to use S.A.I.N.T for his own ends. Then, the final episode Crash and Burn sees the restoration of Robocop’s human identity as Alex Murphy. 

Throughout this story is the tale of James Murphy, son of Alex Murphy, who is now a young executive caught up in the turmoil in OCP. James must come to terms with the discovery of his father’s identity as Robocop as father slowly reunites with son.

The overall story is good for its drama. The actors are spot on in their portrayals and it is generally well written with many of the themes inherent in the original films. Of particular note is the hammy Kaydick and the absolutely obnoxious Damien. A huge plus is the miniseries return to R-Rated violence rather than the kid friendly style of fighting in the TV series and Robocop 3.

Sadly the execution is less than sub-par. Director Julian Grant brings a lazy hand to the directing and seems to have this obsession with skip-frame slo mo (the kind of jerky slo mo you get when shooting something at half the usual Frames Per Second). The overall low budget look to the production is heightened by dated special effects, unremarkable camerawork and crappy costumes. The New cyber terrorist villains have the fashion sense of the Matrix characters, all tight, black and trench coats. They have cartoony electrical powers and can move at super speed with a basic blur effect.
 The low budget is most obvious in the Robopcop suits. During action scenes, they come apart at the seams letting you clearly see the black leotard underneath.   

With this, Prime Directives sounded the death knell of the classic Robocop franchise. Perhaps in this new century of movies with fast kicking kung fu combat, high tech special effects and tighter narratives, the concept of classic Robocop as a walking tank is in itself obsolete. With this sad closure to a once remarkably original franchise, perhaps the new reboot in 2014 would be a much welcome revival of the concept.

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

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

Thursday, October 17, 2013

About Time (2013) movie review

Overall verdict: 9/10

The Good: realistic and relatable characters, terrific cast chemistry,  conceptually deeper than the typical romance story, rich in life lessons

The Bad: wonky time travel concept that breaks its own rules,

3D Readiness: Not available in 3D
IMax-ability: none

Have you ever looked back on your life and thought "what could I have done differently"? Have you ever wished you could re-live a wonderful moment over and over again? Well young Tim Lake has the ability to travel back in time, same as his father, and his grandfather. Tim is not exactly the handsomest of men; he is an awkward, shy and slightly introverted character. Yet with these new found abilities he tries to make life better for himself and those he care about by altering little events in his past. This brings him to Mary, the woman of his dreams. When a change in the past almost erases their relationship, Tim holds back on using time travel unless only for the most important things. As his relationship with Mary grows from friends to family, Tim slowly learns that sometimes one has to let go of the past in order to fully embrace the present and work toward the future.

ABOUT TIME is possibly one of the few romance movies that subvert the "typical" romance tropes. It is not overly sappy or awkward like the asian ones, but neither is it over sexualised or shallow as hollywood ones. It is an earnest little fairy tale that, refreshingly, frames a love relationship into the eventual outcome of a happy marriage and a family (unlike many which just ends with the couple in bed together). This earnestness is helped by well written characters, particularly Tim who goes through a complete coming of age tale that many can relate to.

Starting from a socially inept teen with aspirations of dating the hottest girl in town, Tim soon realises that looks is not everything and settles for Mary, a woman who truly complements his character. We follow him as he grows into a confident adult and a loving father. Actor Domhall Gleason shares perfect chemistry with Rachael McAdam's Mary, making their relationship all the more "real". But the true breakout character is Tim's elderly yet charismatic father played by Bill Nighly who we find out has used his time travel abilities to relive precious moments in life, knowing that his life is soon coming to an end.

Yes the movie does skimp pass the less desirable aspects of relationship to present a very idealistic image of romance: the squabbles, the arguments, they are never present. Family life too skims over the baby crying at midnight, the smelly diaper changes, adapting one's lifestyle around the child etc. But hey, fairy tale is fairy tale, and the movie would be three times the length if one were to go into the specifics of relationship trials and family tribulations. 

ABOUT TIME's only flaw is how it trips over its very own concept.
At the very onset, two simple rules are set down about time travel.
1)  He can't travel forward in time
2) Travelling to a time before the birth of a child will alter who that child is.
Yet Tim travels back and forth in time multiple occasions, and travelling past the birth of his child only altered his child the first time. Subsequent time travels, including one back to Tim's childhood, did not cause such changes. Any newbie to science fiction can see how WRONG the whole time travel gimmick works. Does he physically travel back in time? If so, why does he not meet his past self. Does his mind travel back in time and inhabit his past body? This is true for the first half of the film where he decides to travel back to help out a friend instead of going on a date. But later on, he seems to be in many places at once when he travels to the past, being able to do what he did and do what he wanted to do. 

The easiest way to deal with this is to not take the time travel aspect literally. Instead, it is merely a metaphor for a strong human tendency to revisit our past and relive precious moments.ABOUT TIME brings up many life lessons. If we change who we were, we would never be who we are. If we change what happened to us, no matter how embarrassing or how negative, we would never be where we are today. All things, good and bad, happen for a reason and that reason may not seem clear at first. Sometimes something bad has to happen for someone to learn a lesson and change for the better.

So there is no point trying to change the past. One should only cherish the present, for it is a gift. Take joy in the little things, settle the negatives and live it in such a way that in the future, one would never have the desire to change his past.

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

Go For it: for a absolutely refreshing, pro-family take on a typical romance fairy tale with deep life lessons
Avoid it: if you just want those stories where the guy has sex with the gal

Entertainment: A
Story: A
Acting: A
Characters: A-
Music: C
Replay value: A
"Brains": A-

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Robotech: Love Live Alive (2013) Direct To video animated OVA


Overall verdict: 6/10

The Good: A creative summary movie given a new spin, high nostalgia factor, good voice acting, improved sound effects, marvellous music and songs, consistent and coherant narrative.

The Bad: sub-par new animation, reflects the shortcomings of the aged original animation, mediocre editing of scenes, over-reliance on reused scenes, some voice actors did not age well.

3D Readiness: none
IMax-ability: none

 Robotech. A franchise best known as a successful rebranding of 3 unrelated japanese anime series. It's claim to fame was the construction of a cohesive narrative and rich backstory using footage from the Japanese anime Macross, Southern Cross and Mospeda. In a bid to shed that polarising reputation, the Robotech franchise created its first mass released original production "Roboteh: The Shadow Chronicles" in 2006.

Yet 7 years after that, they have gone back to old habits with this 'new' production "Robotech: Love Live Alive". True to what it did with the original Robotech, the production team took "Mospeda: Love Live Alive", a music video OVA, and expanded it into a full flashback detailing the experiences of fan favorite character Lancer, aka the concert Superstar Yellow Dancer, during the 3rd Robotech War.

Using footage from the Mospeda: Love Live Alive musical special, the original series and new original animation, Robotech Love Live Alive is a "summary movie" of the 3rd season of the original Robotech series. Now, summary movies are quite common in the anime market, compressing a whole season into a feature length production. Love Live Alive does that wonderfully by using a pre-concert interview with Yellow Dancer as a framing story for the movie.

In present day 2044, the war with the alien race known as the Invid has finally ended and Lancer is about to hold his final concert as Yellow Dancer. An intrepid reporter gets an exclusive interview with the superstar in which he shares the journey he had with his comrades:
Lost solder Scott Bernard, the mysterious Ariel, the happy-go-lucky Rand, hot headed Rook, spunky Annie, and gentle giant Lunk. We are brought through their first meeting where the group mistakes Lancer for a lady to the ups and downs of their relationships as they face a clash of ideals, betrayal and seemingly insurmountable odds. The narrative never seems disjointed, showing how much effort the producers took to craft a coherent story, reframing what was originally Scott Bernard's adventures from the perspective of Lancer. Amidst the backdrop of war, a "romeo/Juliet" like romance develops between Lancer and an enemy Invid princess called Sera. A romance that may be more than what Lancer is willing to share with the reporter.

Now other than jumping on the whole "summary movie: bandwagon, another trend Robotech producers have picked up on is combining old classic anime footage with newly produced animation. The most famous example of this is the "Dragonball Kai" series and the "Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam" movies. In Love Live Alive, the old footage is beautifully restored to a pristine state, both footage from the series and that from the music video OVA

Sadly, the "new" footage comes across as a major disappointment, consisting of only at most 10% (including a long drawn out opening sequence of planets and asteroid fields) of the movie compared to almost half of Dragonball Kai and half of the Zeta Gundam movies. The quality of the animation also varies, having apparently been done by 2 separate animation studios (Ragex and Big Star).

Some scenes do look spectacular at first, such as a flashback to the final moments of the Invid's initial invasion and the evacuation of Earth. The animation is smooth, it has a really dark atmospheric look reflecting the desperate hopeless last battle and the computer generated imagery (CGI) is blended seamlessly with the traditionally animated characters. On subsequent viewings, the stark reality of the animation's shortcomings become apparent.

 The cel shaded CGI has a "lag drag" in the models' movements. Character animations look like it was done in Adobe Flash. And To hide this clunkiness, the production company takes full advantage of the 4x3 frame and has a good deal of action take place out-of-frame or have close-ups of irrelevant foreground objects such that the object takes up most of the frame, thus drawing viewer attention away from the actual subject of the scene.

Although character designs between old and new footage do not vary that much, it is jarring when new footage has characters changing looks from scene to scene. Lancer himself is depicted as a svelte, thin, almost elegant pretty boy bishonen with sharp features. (compared to the relatively "rounder" designs of 80s anime)

 Yet some of the new footage has him with smooth features and a rounded chin

 whereas in the scene immediately after, he is back to having his sharp features. 

 This lack of quality control in the newly produced animation is disappointing. Those expecting quality over quantity thanks to the small amount of new footage would be let down. The voice acting is expertly done but, again, there is a clear distinction between lines from the original Tv series and newly recorded dialogue. Some of the actors, particularly the women characters like Rook, clearly sound older in the new dialogue.  Afterall, 20 years is a long time and can change how a person sounds. Thankfully, Cam Clark who reprises his role as Lancer is able to maintain consistency with his recordings from back then.

 No doubt a labour of love from the producers of Robotech, Robotech Love Live Alive remains polarising among audience. Those expecting a musical extravaganza like the original Mospeda Love Live Alive would be let down by the inclusion of 2 snippets of songs, one full song over the end credits and one more full song that Yellow Dancer performs in concert.

That concert, by the way, seems hastily edited, with Lancer changing costumes and even stage props constantly throughout the song, and too much repeated footage; a flaw that permeates the entire production. Seriously, there are at least 4 of the same shot of the reporter with her obsolete tape recorder on her lap pausing and restarting the recording. The whole finale comes across like a fan made anime music video.
For all the time and effort that went into digitally restoring the old footage, perhaps this summary movie would have been better off if it were animated from scratch. That way the flaws in the original series animation, like inconsistent quality of artwork, would not be so apparent. Or perhaps the slip shod editing of re-used scenes would not be so obvious. But most importantly, with a fully reanimated production utilising modern animation styles, Robotech would have finally shed it's sad reputation of being no more than a cut-and-paste americanised edit of japanaese anime.

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

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


Thursday, September 12, 2013

"Power Rangers: Infernal". Part 1 of 3 in a POWER RANGERS big budget hollywood reboot trilogy

Monsters have risen from the depths of the earth. Under the control of an ancient cult led by the sorceress Rita Repulsa, these demonic creatures emerge to wreck havoc on major cities across the globe. Earth's only hope lies in an alien being known as Zordon and 5 mysterious technology augmented troopers known as "Power Rangers". But will the people of earth be desperate enough to place their future in the hands beings that they know nothing of? Will the people of earth put their trust in an unknown technology? Does Zordon's and the Rangers' benevolent intentions hide a far deeper plot?
To destroy demons, perhaps one must make a deal with the devil.

Director: Neil Blomkamp (Elysium, District 9)
Special Effects: Weta Digital (Man of Steel, Avatar)
Soundtrack: Brian Tyler (Iron Man 3, Battle Los Angeles)
Studio: Warner Bros

CaptainWill Mitchell (ranking officer in Lightspeed Rescue organisation)
Jason Lee Scott (Red Ranger)
Black Ranger
Yellow Ranger
Blue Ranger
Pink Ranger
Zordon (Alien benefactor and defender of peace)
Rita repulsa (Leader of satanic cult, witch)

By the year 2090, astronomers are eagerly awaiting the arrival of Ryan's comet which would pass harmlessly through the solar system and pass between earth and Mars in a year's time. Technology has advanced but not to the point of flying cars and teleportation. It is a world much like our own but with a culture that is slowly moving away from war.UN peacekeeping force has been reformed from an armed coalition into an organisation focused on rescue and relief efforts. Dubbed "Lightspeed Rescue" by the international press, these brave individuals utilise cutting edge technology like exo-skeletal protective gear to respond to any disaster.

One Sunday night, the San Andreas fault is breached from below. From the fissure, grey humanoid looking creatures and fearsome monsters up to 4 meters big pour forth. They are followed by a monstrous titan in gold armour with fiery eyes and the face of a blue lion (Goldar). While the titan is tearing itself out of the fissure, the smaller monsters and humanoid creatures (putty patrol) swarm down in the direction of suburban Los Angeles seemingly heading toward the mountains on the other side of the city. The town of Angel Grove is in their way.

These events are not unnoticed. The media gets in on it, filming from choppers. The military is deployed to stop the swarm and the titan. A fierce battle involving both US Airforce and the armoured tank divisions ensues. The humanoids prove impervious to conventional weaponry. Nothing short of the direct impact from tank cannons can slow them down. Nothing short of decapitation and dismemberment can stop them. Armed forces are decimated when the titan arrives at the scene, leaving the monsters and humanoids to swarm toward Angel Grove.

The UN Rescue forces work to evacuate the town of Angel Grove just as the humanoids arrive. In the distance, the golden titan is finishing off the armed forces then holds back as if waiting for the putty patrol to do the dirty work for him. As the putty patrol swarm the town, one Captain Will Mitchell and a small team attempts a last ditch effort to save some trapped children. Mitchell and 3 of his team attempts to fight off the putty patrol as the children are airlifted to safety. It does not go well. Although they put up a good fight, the suits start to fail and The team is killed, and mitchell has been beaten to within an inch of his life.
Just then,  a mysterious individual enters the fray. He is a tall man, clad head to toe in a dark bodysuit that mimics the human musculature structure.(think crysis nano suit). The suit is armoured, consisting of segmented plates that allow flexibility, a solid chest area protecting vital organs, silver gauntlets and shin guards along with chrome markings across his abs and helmet. He proceeds to launch impressive fighting moves against the humanoids, finishing them by ripping off their heads and limbs. He introduces himself to Mitchell as a "Ranger". More Rangers appear in Angel grove, each with distinct color markings. They make short work of the putty patrol using deadly superpowered hand to hand combat and what looks like hand held rail weapons. These rangers are reinforced by A.I controlled war machines shaped like ancient creatures such as dinosaurs and sabre tooth tigers which tear into the monsters with surprising ferocity.

Thanks to media presence and satellite, the battle is broadcast around the world. With the putty patrol and its accompanying monsters decimated, the golden Titan makes his move, heading toward the mountains beyond the town when he is suddenly stopped by a blinding light. From this light a robotic giant emerges.

 He is a towering metal colossus with a Viking like horned head, a shield across his chest; his size matches that of the golden monster. The rangers teleport inside and the two giants engage in battle.

The robot's first punch is tremendous, it's force causes a sonic boom which shatters windows in the town. The battle is joined as robot and monster grapple with each other, neither seeming to get the upper hand. Reinforcements arrive in the form of another squadron of US Air Force jets. It is clear now. These rangers and their giant robot are not the enemy. After a titanic struggle, assisted by jets, the giant robot triumphs as the monster is beaten and seemingly explodes from within.

World media opinion is split on the Rangers. Some welcome these saviors, others are suspicious of them, citing their alien origin and timely appearance and air of secrecy surrounding their identities.

Second monster appears approximately a week later and the rangers are called back into action. Similar formula. A pattern emerges. One monster appears each week.
By the 10th week, a particularly disastrous battle ends with the Red ranger cornered by the media. In desperation, he reveals his identity to the world. The Red Ranger is merely Jason Lee Scott: Son, Brother, university student, Practices Karate in his free time. He is just a regular guy.

Overnight, the rangers become celebrities. In between monster battles, they are invited to press conferences where they reveal their own backstory. They were picked by a being of light called Zordon. A self proclaimed guardian of galactic peace, This being has taken it upon itself to provide earth with the means and technology to defend itself against attacks that threaten to destroy the peace on earth. These monsters are the work of one "Rita Repulsa", a witch who apparently made a deal with the devil, sending monsters to wreck havoc on earth. Yet among the rangers a schism starts to develop. The rangers question Jason's decision to go public with his identity, citing the dangers of such an act. Jason merely shrugs it off and says that this is the only way for the public to fully trust them.

This move of public disclosure is welcome by the world media. Reporters are invited to tour the hidden ranger command centre and Zordon makes his first public appearance, assuring the UN and the people of earth of his mission to main the peace.
Battles take a turn for the better with the Rangers and their "Megazord" Robot titan are backed by the full resources of each country's military. Each ranger leads a team of high tech troopers in clearing out putty patrol infested locales. Captain Will Mitchell and much of the lightspeed rescue team is recommissioned as field medics, with Mitchell assigned to Jason's squad. Then when a giant monster arrives, the rangers activate their Megazord backed by heavy artillery, air attack vehicles and tanks.

However, by the 25th week, a tragic event occurs. Rita Repulsa's monsters launch a shocking retaliation. They attack and kill Jason's family and his entire home town, then they manage to capture jason. Rita makes her first media appearance with a televised execution of Jason.

"People of the world. You may not understand why we do what we do. How could you? But we assure you, we do this with earth's best interest at heart. Ask yourselves. Why You are so quick to put your trust in these aliens? What purpose would I have to call forth these creatures? I only seek to unite a shattered world. A far greater war is looming. One I intend to win. But first, all that stand in our way, must be eliminated"

She is not an old crone in a dark hooded cloak, but a young girl, barely a teenager. She leads a cult of hundreds claiming to be an agent of some greater power who has used satanic magic to call forth horrors from the depths of hell. Her agenda is, ironically, to unite earth under a single leadership. The Ranger Command Centre is levelled by 3 monsters which are barely defeated by the singular Megazord which sustains heavy damage.

The decision is made to take a more proactive stance in the war. Instead of sitting by waiting for the next attack, a global manhunt for Rita Repulsa and her cult. A new age of witch hunt begins as paranoia flares across the globe. Among the rangers themselves, the war has just gotten personal. Mitchell is along for each assault and slowly grows disenfranchised with the Rangers' new level of viciousness. They would shoot suspected cult members on sight and openly torture others for Rita's location.

 War escalates.
Between the worldwide witch hunt and defending cities from monster attacks, the Rangers are stretched thin. However, Zordon slowly shares his alien technology with the United Nations, enabling humans to create their own anti-monster defense. Humans start to equip their own soldiers with mechanical augmentation suits and the first human made Zord is completed: The Dragonzord.Shaped in tribute to the famous "Godzilla" movie monster.

Other Zords are created; Titanus the carrier zord (modelled after the ancient Brachiosarus), the T.O.R mobile repair base and a new Zord called "Thunderzord":

Captain Will Mitchell remains with the Rangers, aiming to be a "conscience" of the team. In the meantime, he tasks the other members of lightspeed Rescue to begin construction of their own Zords; The Lightspeed Rescue Zords which are able to combine to form the lightspeed Megazord to carry out large scale relief missions in the wake of monster attacks. This is a bid to creature an autonomous defense force free from the influence of the Power Rangers.

Mitchell expressed the doubts in the Power Rangers' methods, citing that their new proactive campaign makes them just like the monster threats they seek to destroy.For in the midst of the witchhunt for Rita Repulsa, the Rangers invade countries that refuse to lend support to the campaign. Countries like Syria, Egypt, South East Asian Nations are all "coaxed" into signing a treaty agreeing to lend support and resources to the WitchHunt.

On the 50th week of the year, merely a few days before the arrival of Ryan's comet, the rangers have tracked down the remaining cult members to a huge cave in the Himalayas. Upon arrival, Rita Repulsa sacrifices the blood of half her cult to summon form a legion of a thousand putty patrol creatures, at least a hundred monsters and 5 gargantuan creatures.

The resulting battle is utter chaos. Mountain slopes, glaciers and ancient lost monuments, untouched by human hand, are levelled by the clash between the Zords and the monstrous titans. On the ground, troopers and Rangers alike are swarmed by overwhelming forces but manage to hold their own allowing a small team led by the green and pink rangers into the cave where Rita is hiding.

The insertion team encounters the cult but amidst spells of fire and ice, they manage to take down all the cult members standing in their way and head to the inner sanctum, a massive cave with numerous ancient paintings etched into the walls. There they are disabled by Rita Repulsa'snumerous ancient paintings etched into the walls. There they are disabled by Rita Repulsa's dark magic and captured. Outside, the battle is swinging in favour of the monsters as Dragonzord is demolished and Megazord is disabled. With no choice left, Lightspeed Rescue is Forced to used their Lightspeed Zord to extract Megazord from the battle as Titanus launches a suicide run, taking out three of the monsters in the process. Just then, Zordon unveils a new team of Power Rangers, backed by the samurai shaped ThunderZord.

A stalemate is reached as both side have a momentary pause in the battle.

Two soldiers have an exchange

"More Rangers and another Zord? We could have used them earlier. They've been holding back on us"
"I wonder what else they've been holding back"

Carrying out emergency repairs, a team of technicians utilise the "T.O.R" mobile repair base to retrofit Megazord with upgrades salvaged from the parts of the demolished Dragonzord. Within the hour, the retrofitted DragonMegazord is ready to go and is launched back into the fray to assist the Thunderzord.

Rita Repulsa confronts what remains of the insertion team and with her dark magic disables the rangers, leaving only Captain Mitchell.
Rita: "You see me as pure evil. But mine is only a necessary evil. Much like yourselves. You murder as I do, plunder as I do."
Mitchell: "We are not like you. We work for the good of mankind"
Rita: "As do I. And I applaud you for succeeding where I have failed. Yes. You have united a world under one leadership. Cruel Irony, yes."
Mitchell: "Rita Repulsa, we are taking you in for crimes against humanity. Surrender"
Rita: "I am yours Captain. Merely another daughter of earth, making ends meet and trying to protect my home. But think about this. Funny how quickly you throw your faith behind an ambiguous alien who claims to be the good guy. Funny how no one even bothers to ask where my monsters come from or what their purpose is?"
Mitchell: "You will remain silent...."
Rita: "You dont see the pattern. In fighting evil, you turn to an even greater evil. You've seen it yourself. Their methods, their tactics. Murders, torture, things that were supposed to be outlawed by the geneva convention. Yet all these were deemed necessary in a bid to A far greater threat is coming Captain Mitchell. To stem this threat, I serve a higher power".
 Mitchell: "Who the hell do you work for"
Rita: "Earth. I serve our planet and she has been generous in providing an army. An army you silly humans continually decimate"
Mitchell: "Who are you amassing against?"

Suddenly, the pink ranger regains consciousness and shoots Rita Repulsa dead.
It is an anti climactic end to the worldwide witch hunt. 

Casulties number in the thousands. Cities like Los Angeles are ruined by monster attacks while other cities suffer in the wake of attacks by the United Ranger/UN Coalition in their worldwide witch hunt and bid to coax countries into cooperation. A bitter New Year's even arrives as the world mourn the loss. The arrival of Ryan's Comet is all but forgotten as thousands gather around a memorial erected in China honoring those who gave their lives. Zordon addresses the UN that he would continue his vigil over the planet earth to protect it against any threat.

The power ranger programme is opened to the public where aspiring Rangers will be trained thus bolstering the ranks of earth's defenders.

A sombre Captain Mitchell sits at his desk, pondering all he had experienced in the past year. He recalls the cave paintings. He recalls an image of a shooting star passing across a planet. From that star, a being seems to emerge and rain fire upon the planet. The planet itself has unleashed creatures to protect itself against the rain of fire. Rita Repulsa served the earth. The monsters came from within the earth. The shooting star.......a comet.

Oh no........

Ryan's comet passes through the solar system but suddenly, small pieces break off and rocket toward Earth's moon. NASA scientists let it slide as an anomaly. Later, amidst fireworks commemorating the new year, a shower of meteors rain down upon earth. It is a beautiful sight, as if the sky itself were crying.

Awe and wonder turn to stunned horror as the meteors crash into city centres across the globe. Dubai, Beijing, Tokyo, London, Washington, New York, Paris and more. From the fiery rocks, a new breed of monsters emerge; Bulkier, bigger and fiercer than ever, exhibiting phenomenal alien powers of plasma projection, electro magnetic discharges, and chemical weaponry.

Zordon unleashes the full arsenal at his disposal. Multiple teams of Power Rangers and at least 5 new Zords are teleported across the globe to launch a full scale counterattack. As the credits roll, the Zords battle valiantly against the titanic creatures. We pull back from earth to the surface of the moon to reveal the mastermind behind the attacks.

 The Zedd War has begun.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (2013) direct to video animated movie review

Overall verdict: 8/10

The Good: dark and bleak tone, well rounded characterisations, top notch voice cast, dynamic fight scenes, opens up a world of possibilities for future animated projects

The Bad: sub-par animation, weird looking character designs, action may be a bit too bloody, other heroes reduced to bland one-note supporting characters.

3D Readiness: none
IMax-ability: none

The Flash is the fastest man in the DC comic universe and also, apparently, has an origin story copied from Peter Parker. His heroic motivations stemming from one fateful night where he returned home to discover his mother murdered. Then as an adult, A freak science accident grants Barry Allen the ability to tap into the mysterious Speed Force. With his super speed, Barry fights injustice as The Flash along side the worlds greatest Superheroes in the Justice League. But one day, Barry unknowingly changed the past, and rewrote time. Now, Bruce Wayne does not exist, WonderWoman and Aquaman are in the middle of world war three, and Cyborg is America's greatest law enforcer. The only way to put things right is to track down the evil Professor Zoom aka Reverse Flash, a fellow speedster from the future.

Though tagged as a Justice League movie, The Flashpoint Paradox is a Flash movie with the Justice League in supporting roles. Barry Allen is the main character and we really go into his head, deconstruct his personality, and see this twisted new world through his eyes. The writers and talent voice cast lend a good deal of realism to the characters, never over-acting but always keeping it real. They speak like how they would in a live action movie. And personally, I would have liked to see this as one. Sadly, no matter how well the voice cast do, they are hampered by th writers turning all the other heroes into one-note supporting characters. Then again, this was a flaw of the original source material.
The story gets an immediate "A". Like "The Dark Knight Returns" that came before this, It is a faithful adaptation of the hit miniseries that forever changed the status quo of the DC universe. The scope is epic, the scale is grand and the death toll is catastrophic. The Flashpoint Paradox gets Credit for being the darkest, bleakest DC tale ever seen in animation. Fans of the video game "Injustice: Gods Among Us" will definitely be pleased. Familiar heroes are recast in unfamiliar roles.

They clash and a lot of people die in rather gruesome ways.
Some lose their arms,
others lose their heads,

heroes are burnt,
gutted and skewered in ways that would make Mortal Kombat proud.

Now, Dc Animated movies has a reputation of having good stories and looking good at the same time. But The artwork here comes across like a tribute to everything 1990s; in particular, that era of anime

 and Rob Liefeld.

Elongated torsos, exaggerated expressions, and "bishonen" looking character designs are spliced with bulging anatomically impossible musculature, tree trunk think necks and over the too violence. Seriously, Wonder Woman looks like a CLAMP manga character,

Superman and Aquaman look like they stepped out of dragonball z or Fist of the North Star,

skinny characters look like Aeon Flux

and Batman looks like some bad cosplay.

The animation itself is good but could be better. Japanese anime studio 4C animated this piece and while action scenes are dynamic and a thrill to watch, there is a certain feel of "cheapness" to the animation. We have creative shot angles that mimic the best of anime action yet the actual animation lacks the smooth fluid character movements that previous studio Moi Animation did. Here the characters seem stiff, art tends to go off-model, movements seem unnatural and motion blur is used to hide animation short cuts.

A huge pity though. If DC had allowed Moi Animation to do this movie, better quality control and perhaps  character designs that were not so hilariously wonky, this movie would have been perfect. Accepting it for what it is, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox is a solid entry in DC's animated movie library. This show also hints at the start of a shared DC animated movie universe. For those who read the comics, we all know where this would be heading.

Even if DC cannot get their shared live action movie continuity going, I'd settle for animation.

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

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