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+

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Pacific Rim (2013) movie review

Overall verdict: 8/10

The Good: Original screenplay not based on an existing franchise, explores a rarely seen deeper understanding of the human relationship concept, astounding giant robot vs monster combat scenes, flawless special effects, numerous references for fanboys, memorable side characters, brisk but satisfactory character development.

The Bad: Predictable plot, mediocre performances of main characters, forgettable monster designs, soundtrack too familiar.

3D Readiness: post production 3D conversion
IMax-ability: wide angle combat and large scale destruction may contribute to IMAX enjoyability

Welcome to the ultimate giant monster and mecha fanboy's dream come true. A mysterious rift under the pacific ocean allows giant monsters (termed "Kaiju") to enter our world. When conventional weaponry proves ineffective, the Jaeger programme was launched to create massive metal titans with the sole purpose of protecting earth's surviving cities. As years pass, the war shifts. A stalemate turns into a losing battle as each subsequent monster seems to evolve to better tackle Earth's defenses. With the Jaeger programme at risk of being discontinued, and a startling revelation about the nature of the monsters, Marshall Pentecost (leader of the programme) brings in former pilot Raleigh Backett for a perilous final strike against the Kaiju. Now Backett must learn to work with his new pilot partner Mako Mori, as well as the last of different country's Jaeger teams, and literally "cancel the apocalypse".
 Yes, we have seen this plot before many times. It is Independence Day. It is Battleship. It is every single alien invasion/end of the world scenario. You have people of clashing personalities made to work together, the hot headed rookie, the cynical veteran, charismatic military leader, racial stereotypes, everything. Yet with the giant monsters and mecha, Director Guillemo Del Toro not only gives a fresh take on a tired old genre, but he ups the ante on action and entertainment. Pacific Rim is steeped in a palpable air of hopelessness as seen in the increasingly brutal beatings the Jaegers take at the hands of the Kaiju. To realise these battles, the special effects  by ILM and Legacy Effects are flawless, realistic and breathtaking to behold. Action is awesome, epic in scale and scope.

 The creative team tackled the film with the mind of a fanboy. For instance, the numerous monsters seen are obvious homages to famous monster movies of old and new. A lumbering beast that moves like a fat ape is no doubt a homage to King Kong. This crustacean based Kaiju seems to evoke memories of a monster from the Godzilla films called Ebirah. And an agile, skinny, long armed creature with parasites on its skin seems to be a reference to the similarly designed monster from the movie Cloverfield. Other references to the winged Rodan, split tailed King Ghidorah and more abound.  The Jaegers themselves seem to reflect qualities of their countries of origin with Russia's looking like a nuclear cooling tower and America's having a typical superman physique with it's wide chest and "Y" shaped body.

 Still, beneath all the eye candy and behind the seemingly unoriginal plot lies some rather unique themes rarely expounded upon in film. We delve into some philosophy of war with regards to the Jaegers being on the losing side. When a weapon fails, is it the fault of the weapon or the one using the weapon? And what about hope? Can hope truly unite people of different ideals?The Jaeger are piloted by two pilots who have to be joined through what is called the "Neural handshake". The pilots, be it complete strangers, best of friends, brothers or father and son open themselves up to each other and share their most intimate memories and everything that makes each individual who they are. They can feel each other's pain if one is hurt, they know what each other is thinking. They become "one" and work as one, connected physically, mentally and emotionally. This concept is very similar to a deep concept about the nature of love. Brotherly love, family love, romantic love, it is all about that connection between individuals. This film is a clever metaphor for such a connection. It is a movie about love without any actual physical display of romance: Not a single kiss in the whole movie.

 Who needs sappy romance anyway when you have such "larger than life" characters. All of them are given little character arcs that are developed fully. A champion learning respect for his superiors, a father letting go of his child to walk her own path, a soldier nursing scars of the past, all of them come to satisfactory resolution. Idris Elba steals the show as the bada55 commander Pentecost. His performance is so memorable, as is his "cancelling the apocalypse" speech repeated in almost every trailer. Oh, and the almighty Ron Perlman as Hannibal Chau, the leader of a black market syndicate selling Kaiju parts is marvellously cast in this surprising role. Special mention also goes to Charlie Day and Burn Gorman who are hilarious as the bickering Doctors Newton and Gottleib. Incidentally, it is the side characters that end up more memorable than our main characters. Rinko Kikuchi does her best but her command of english makes her character Mako Mori's dialogue sounds almost dubbed in some scenes. But the low point of the show is Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh Backett whose monotone droning narration just comes across as bad acting.

Well, nothing can be perfect. A more original soundtrack would have benefited this show though. Ramin Djwadi does instill the Kaiju themes with a classic giant monster movie feel but the rest of the soundtrack sounds like a retread of Iron Man with its electric guitar and heavy metal vibe. Still, Pacific Rim no doubt succeeded at what it intended to do. Guillermo Del Toro took two floundering genres and gave them a much needed face lift in the minds of movie going audiences everywhere. Mecha CAN be realised in live action, convincingly and awesomely without power ranger style puppetry. Giant Monsters can be taken seriously with none of that rubber suit crap. Pacific Rim also brings hope of more original screenplays and actually world-building in an industry dominated by movies based on pre-existing franchises.

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

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

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Movie Tweaks: MAN OF STEEL

In movie tweaks, we give little tweaks to movies that I feel could have improved the overall film.

Today, it is MAN OF STEEL.

Man of Steel was awsome. It was emotional, deep and action packed. However, I gave it a 9/10 for a reason. Mainly that it seemed truncated and that more could have been done to drive home the deeper themes about choice and consequence.

See my review here

So here are the small little changes that i would have made in order to make it a 10/10 rating movie

1) An additional flashback to young Clark's encounter with a wild dog
In this flashback (placed before the flashback to Clark's encounter with his junior high school bullies) it begins with flashes of a distraught Clark standing over the bloody corpse of a wild dog. His mother Martha standing in front of the scene, speechless with shock. Jonathan Kent runs to his son and embraces him.
Voiceover of young Clark: "But i didnt do anything! It was biting this kitten and..........."
Jonathan: "Son. It's dead."
Flash to the bloody corpse of the dog and a twitching barely alive kitten next to it
Clark: "I didnt mean to, i just.........i wanted to help......."
Jonathan: "Listen son, I know you meant well"
Martha: "jonathan, now's not the time"
Jonathan: "Son. Listen to me. You couldn't save a life, i understand. But you have a strength in you that no one else has. You must never abuse that strength to hurt others, much less kill.
Clark (in tears): I didnt mean to. I was too late and............I was angry.
Jonathan (hugging his son): We can't save everyone Clark.

2) Jonathan's advice to Clark on choice
Original quote: You're not just anyone. One day, you're going to have to make a choice. You'll have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be. Whoever that man is, good character or bad, he's going to change the world.

Replacing Quote: One day, you're going to have to make choices. Tough choices. Choices of good and bad, life and death. And whether those be right or wrong, we have to bear the consequences of our choice. And the judgement of our conscience.

3) The moments before Zod's death
Kal-El: "Zod stop"
Zod: "Never"
The trapped family cowers in the corner as Zod's heat vision creeps closer. Kal El is losing his grip on the crazed Kryptonian warrior.
A tear drops from Kal-El's eye as time slows to a standstill.
Flashback to the school bus rescue

Clark: "What was I supposed to do? Let them die?"
Jonathan: "Maybe"

Flashback to the dead dog

Clark: "It was biting this kitten and..........."
Jonathan: "We cant save everyone Clark."

Events of his life flashes before his eyes in quick time. The smiles, the tears, the surprises, everything

Jonathan: "You must never abuse that strength to hurt others, much less kill."
Clark: "My father believed..........the world........ reject me out of fear."
Jonathan:  you're going to have to make choices.......Tough choices......life and death.....we have to bear the consequences.........judgement. 

Flashback to Jonathan Kent's death and Clark's cry of anguish and being unable to save his father

Tears stream down Superman's face as he makes his choice to take Zod's life.  The music reaches a sad crecendo and all sound is silent.
Neck snaps, and scenes play out as per the movie

Movie proceeds from there except we cut to the world media's reaction to Superman. As a clever metaphor of the audience's reaction to superman's suppposedly controversial act of killing to save others, the world media portrayed in the film is split in opinion on superman. There are those who welcome him as earth's new protector and there are those who warn "How far is he willing to go in order to protect?"

Will he destroy a rival nation to safeguard america?
Will he become judge, jury and executionor and kill a murderer?
Will he take the law into his own hands?

The movie ends with Clark deciding to join the daily planet newspaper in order to not just have his "Ear to the ground" but to work on polishing Superman's tarnished image through the media. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Justice League Blockbuster- First draft story

Dramatis personae
- Superman/Kal-El (Last survivor of the planet Krypton)
-Batman (unknown)
-Wonder Woman/Princess Diana (Envoy of Themyscria)
- Green Lantern/ Hal Jordan (member of intergalactic peacekeeper corp)
- Barry Allen (washed out private investigator out to expose Digger Harkness’s illegal business dealings)

-Lex Luthor (Businessman)
-Deadshot (Assassin)
-Priscilla Rich (animal rights activist and media mogul)
-Digger Harkness (Raw material supplier )
-Amanda Waller (former head of Department of Extranormal Operations)

- John Blake (Wayne Enterprises representative)
- Bill Miller (Wayne Enterprises representative)
- Carmine Kane (Rogue Wayne Enterprises executive)
- Neal Moench (Wayne Enterprises representative)
- Bob Bolland (Wayne Enterprises representative)
- Barbara Gordon
- Drake
- Gray Son

Story takes place over 2 weeks
A few cynical opinion leaders will curtail efforts toward the greater good
Film opens with a two silhouetted men meeting outside a dim café. One puts down a newspaper with a headline about Australian tycoon Digger Harkness and suspected human trafficking introduces himself as “Allen”. The other does not give his name and his face is not seen. As Allen makes a move toward the café door, the other man beckons toward a waiting limousine which eerily turns on its headlights at that very moment. The first man gets in.
*inside the limo*
Barry: “Are you……Bruce Wayne? You’re a little young for……..”
Blake: “My employer sends his regards. I represent Mr. Wayne, my name is Blake”
Barry: “Oh. Ok…….I’ll get right to the point”
Blake: “We know what you do. My employer is a big fan of your work”
Barry: “But I…..”
Blake: “I can help. You’re in over your head to tackle someone that big. Why? A Personal vendetta, Mr. Allen? ”
Barry: “The man is crooked, I know it. And I can prove it. But I can’t do it alone……...”
Barry: “……..I’m sure the guy you work for has his own reasons for………..”
Blake: “Purely business Mr. Allen”
Barry: “I’m sorry?”
Blake: “We’re not interested in the greater good. As far as my employer is concerned, Harkness is competition. The sooner he’s out of business the better. As for you……….I have what you need. All you have to do is give us what we need.”
Barry: “Fine” (reluctantly,)
Blake: “I’m not convinced”
Barry: (through gritted teeth) “Of course, Mr. Blake”
The men shake hands, the limo stops by the roadside and lets Allen off, then drives away. Allen looks down at the envelop in his hands with an expression of disgust. His altruistic good deed of wanting to expose a corrupt tycoon just became another tool in a business feud.
Day (immediately after the events of “Man of Steel”)
Following a mysterious alien attack on Coast city almost a year ago and the recent demolition of a whole city block of Metropolis involving the kryptonian criminal Zod and similarly powered being that the media has dubbed “Superman”, the world scrambles to come to terms with the existence of alien life far more powerful than earth’s current capabilities. Sure, The Man of Steel has his supporters, but these are mainly limited to those in metropolis and smallville, those who actually saw his acts of heroism.

Businessman LEX LUTHOR aims to cash in on this through supplying cutting edge weapons to the world governments. But first, Superman and potential superheroes has to be put out of action as he is the only one capable of defending the earth and thus negating the demand for anti-alien weapons. To this end, he enters into an alliance with fellow business people: media moguls like Priscilla Rich (Cheetah), unscrupulous raw material supplier like Digger Harkness (Captain Boomerang) and disgraced former DEO head Amanda Waller. Thankfully, the world is not entire trustful of the Man of Steel, especially after Zod’s kryptonian heritage is made public.

Luthor fans this fire. He is the one who calls Superman out and claims that with all his powers, Superman has done nothing to actually make the world a better place. Slowly the world is convinced of Luthor's stand and conspiracies arise that Superman was responsible for Zod coming to earth in the first place. Luthor champions the cause that Superman should work, like all others with special gifts, to use his gifts to improve the world rather than just deal with threats and keep the status quo; basically building a better house instead of just repairing it when it is broken. Although Forced into a corner (including an offhanded remark about whether Superman would just go on a "Exile in deep space for five years and hope people forget about this") Superman defends his stand that the human race will stagnate if they did not solve their own problems and learn from them; superman knows that such a path will just cause the human race to develop into a complacent species who depend on foreign intervention from “Alien” defenders to protect them. However, Luthor's skilled way with words tarnishes the Man of Steel's image, claiming him to be a lazy alien opportunist who cares nothing about Earth.

"Saving the world from a big bad alien sure is a lot more glamorous than feeding the starving or healing the sick. But we humans do what we can for each other. You can change the world for the better and all you do is put up a big fight, destroying homes and lives, then pose for the camera. "

Day + 2
Opinion is divided as to whether Luthor and the media are being too harsh on the Man of Steel. This is sadly a minority voice that spreads via YouTube videos and facebook. The media at large still conveys the negative image of the Kryptonian with the exception of a few including the Daily Planet. While at the same time, there is mention in the media about the “Themyscria envoy”. The report tells of the island nation having revealed themselves to the world about a week ago but this was overshadowed by the events of Man of Steel. Currently, an envoy from the island nation is visiting the White House. Satellite surveillance of the island has mysteriously been impossible.

Another fallout of the events of “Man of Steel” was that Superman’s status as the last remaining Kryptonian is brought to the attention of the Guardians of the Universe. Kal-El is wanted by the Guardians of the Universe for questioning with regards to the mysterious destruction of his home world eons ago and the chaos caused during the events of “Man of Steel”. Green Lantern Hal Jordan is tasked to bring Superman in. His ring allows him to scan for Kryptonian DNA. At this time, Superman is hiding out as Clark Kent but to protect his identity and his friends, Superman ditches his Clark Kent persona. They confront each other in the sky above the Arctic Circle.
Supe: “Do you also see me as a threat”?
GL: “Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a Locomotive. Sounds dangerous enough”

Superman denounces the Green Lantern corp as being like the dictatorial superpower imposing their sense of justice on others; something Superman never wants to do. He refuses to go to Oa and this is when Jordan’s impulsive hot headedness takes over.
GL: “Come quietly or there will be…….trouble” (parody paraphrase of Robocop quote)
Superman flashes him the “Jim Lee look” (face silhouetted in shadow against the sun, heat vision causing his eyes to glow a scary red)

GL tries to force the Man of Steel resulting in an all out super powered brawl that takes them from the Arctic to Canada before dropping down into Keystone city. This battle takes a lot of power of the ring. In the end, GL manages to subdue Superman and is overcome with media attention. AS usual, he screws up. On international TV, he reveals himself to be a member of an intergalactic Corp of law enforcers spanning 3600 sectors of the universe.


Bigger oops when GL reveals that he was involved in the Alien attack on coast city (Parallax). Just then, power suited soldiers turn up and surround the two superheroes. Using highly advanced technology, including force field generators and energy weapons, attack Green lantern. Of course, with his will broken, Superman is released and promptly escapes. Green Lantern tries the same but is severely weakened. In trying to defend himself against the energy blasts, the ring is on the verge of deactivating. The troops give chase but GL manages to put down in a back alley in time before the ring runs out of power. Unfortunately the ring is unable to rematerialize his clothing. Hal hides in a dumpster as the troops fly in, sweep the area, the leave. Hal stumbles out of the alley and into some cops who promptly arrest him. In his haste, Hal had dropped his ring.
Over the news these armored troopers, bearing energy weapons, are revealed to be Luthor’s new anti-alien weapons.

The media blitz condemning superheroes as being the cause of the extraterrestrial threats that they fought reaches the eyes of Diana, Amazon princess and current envoy from the island nation of Themyscria to USA.  She had come with the purpose to lend "a voice of wisdom amid the chaos that man has brought unto themselves". Her attitude is one that is slightly disconnected with the ways of the modern world; she is decked out in leather armor (see Xena’s outfit) reflecting the American flag colors as a courtesy to her host country. Diana Is currently stationed in the White House escorted by Senator Sam Trevor who was briefing her about why the world is not ready to accept Themyscria as a sovereign nation, nor the existence of the Amazons. Stubbornly, Diana asks to speak to the president. After being denied time and again, she decides to barge into a press conference and forces her way to the stand. In her speech, she calls for a mature stand toward aliens in their midst; that mankind seek to understand them and enlist them as allies rather than oust them as potential threats. Her intentions are well, but the chiefs are divided on this issue until Diana

Despite coming in peace and extending a hand of friendly diplomacy and mutual aid, the cynical world media (led by Priscilla Rich’s media empire which has effectively become the defacto opinion leader) condemns Diana’s “righting mankind’s mistakes” stand as condescending. Her idealistic assertions of making the world a better place and uniting the human race are embraced by some but mocked by others. The media starts to dub her “Wonder Woman” (with “Wonder” having the definition of “speculate” rather than” awesome”), calling her a dreamer who refuses to embrace the reality of the world. A little more support comes however when WW elects to confront superman in front of the media in order to allow Superman his say.

At this moment, Clark Kent advises Lois Lane to stay out of this debacle. He discards his Clark Kent disguise and says a final goodbye to his mother. The last thing Superman wants is for the current media frenzy to harm anyone closest to him. Kal El hears the Amazon’s promise to the UN and decides to take up her offer of a confrontation. WW is at least able to play on the ideals of democracy, that superman should have a “fair trial” to determine if he indeed is a threat, before the human race jumps to conclusions. This will be Superman’s chance to clear his name. But the world will be watching her and his every move.

Luthor’s cabal attends a meeting. The Department of Extranormal Operations (DEO) is reformed into an anti-alien taskforce. Lexcorp receives exclusive technology supplier rights. Priscilla Rich’s media empire gets exclusive coverage of all their activities and their publicity and Harkness continues to be Lexcorp’s unnamed beneficiary, supplying raw materials through cheap but illegal means. During the meeting, Luthor introduces the cabal to the key investor behind this whole scheme: Wayne Enterprises. A Mr. Carmine Kane is the Wayne Enterprises representative in the room.

A skeptical Barry Allen, who is washed out forensic scientist making ends meet as a private investigator has been investigating Harkness for a while, having suspected his criminal connections. Originally, Barry wanted to bring Harkness to justice out of his sense of duty. Now he has been unofficially hired by Bruce Wayne in a clandestine bid to take down the competition by exposing their underhanded dealings. This Cabal meeting is the payload of evidence Barry has been waiting for. Wayne had planned this from the start; to get all the “big dirty players” in one place together under the guise of profiteering from the anti-alien fear across the world.

With the incriminating evidence in place, Barry is impatient to expose this. He sends a letter to Clark Kent at the Daily Planet with his “Scoop” (This envelop arrives on a messy desk which is piling up with documents showing that Clark hasn’t been to work recently. Well duh, he’s superman) at the same time, he takes it upon himself to infiltrate Lexcorp research facility by posing as a employee candidate on a tour of the building. He manages to lose the group and stowaway in a locker room.

Come nightfall, Allen sneaks into a sub basement of Lexcorp building and manages to blend in among the overworked scientists. Barry Allen comes across a huge lab filled with other worldly creatures kept in stasis. Star Shaped creatures, a green humanoid, samples of flesh (taken from the body of Abin Sur). Basically a whole Easter egg scene with cameo appearances by known DC universe aliens.  He discovers that Luthor’s anti-Superman “innovations” were actually reverse engineered from tentacled Star shaped alien creatures (codename “Starro”) contained within Lexcorp’s research facility. The creatures’ bioelectric hearts providing the key to creating the energy weapons and powering the armor used by the DEO.

Barry is very tense. He backs away in a daze and hits against a large cylinder with what looks like Electricity running within. On its side is a plaque “Speed Force Channel”. Barry is mesmerized by it. Nearby, the green humanoid alien opens its eyes a bit and sees Barry. It directs a telepathic burst toward Barry causing him to have a sudden head ache. The telepathic burst seems to have disrupted the electricity within the Speed Force Channel. The electricity seems to congeal toward Barry and then stop. Barry’s erratic behavior does not go unnoticed however.  Suddenly someone taps him on the shoulder and he is questioned by a fellow scientist and almost discovered by a guard. Thankfully he gets let off when the guard is called away to deal with a “situation up top”.

Barry leaves the building and calls Blake wanting to tell him about his discovery. A “this number does not exist” message greets him. Little does Barry Know that this was all a set up. From a rooftop across the street, a masked assassin known as Deadshot contacts Luthor and Harkness. Harkness reveals to Luthor and he has known about Barry for sometime but now Barry is getting too close for comfort. Deadshot is given orders to terminate, but not before they discover who Barry’s secret collaborator is.
 Barry makes his way along the street, his head filled with flashes of white light, a bright electric tunnel. He passes a TV store and TV is on rebroadcasting WW’s UN appearance and appeal to Superman. Barry stumbles into an alley nearby and leans on pipe to catch his breath. (camera occasionally reveals random ribbons of electricity that seems to trail Barry along wires, street lamps and cracks in the pavement and stops in a puddle right along the alley Barry is in.)

Deadshot appears on the roof of an opposite building and takes aim at Barry’s head. As he pulls the trigger, a thrown object deflects his aim. The object imbeds into the brick roof and is revealed to be a BATARANG.

The bullet flies, time slows. As the bullet is about to hit Barry in the leg, the ribbon of electricity leaps out of the puddle and disintegrates the bullet. However, Barry is caught in the backlash and is seemingly electrocuted. Lightning streaks across the sky.

The lightning highlights A dark shape which descends on the assassin who is not fast enough to retaliate. Deadshot is knocked to the ground and looks up to see a man dressed in black and dark grey with what looks like a horned cowl and cape. A Bat symbol is displayed across his chest. Deadshot excels at ranged weaponry so he tries to put some distance between him and the Batman. Batman chases him across rooftops until Deadshot loses sight of him. Deadshot crashes through a window into an abandoned building, thinking he has eluded batman, but Batman ambushes him from the shadows. A flurry of blows are exchanged with deadshot trying to land a hit on Batman who continually deflects his aim with inhumanly fast reflexes. One deflected shot kills the only light bulb in the room. Now batman seemingly melds into the shadows, attacking Deadshot from all sides, almost as if he can teleport. He fires wildly, each muzzle flash revealing the Batman in a different pose either attacking or retreating or dodging, as if he could teleport (direct reference to Dark Knight Rises). Batman lands a direct hit to Deadshot’s face. Deadshot falls and the Batman is about to handcuff him when police and swat teams arrive in respond to the shots. The Batman lets Deadshot slump to the ground, seemingly unconscious. He slips something into Deadshot’s costume then disappears into the Darkness. However, Deadshot’s eyes open, showing him to be conscious.
Outside An unconscious Barry Allen is loaded in an ambulance as the police enter the building.  Inside, they discover the room where both Batman and Deadshot were in is empty. From across the street, a nondescript car drives off after the ambulance. The driver is Blake. He makes a call to an unknown person and says, “Plan’s been scrapped, Mr. Wayne. It’s time for more direct action.”

Next day, Hal Jordan is released from 3 days of custody over his accidental naked escapade.
In walks a man who introduces himself as “Bill Miller” and claims to represent Wayne Enterprises who has paid for Hal’s bail and settled all charges. Once inside Wayne’s limo Bill Miller then addresses Hal as “Green Lantern of sector 2814”. Hal denies it at first but Bruce then goes on to reveal details about Hal’s past. Hal relents and a flashback reveals that Bruce traced Green Lantern’s flight trajectory, did a little detective work on the scene , found the ring and put 2 and 2 together complete with how both Hal and Green Lantern has the same micro twitch in their cheek and goofy smile when they are nervous in front of scrutiny.

“That’s creepy. What are you? The World’s greatest detective?”
Miller’s mouth smiles, but his eyes remain as cold and analytical. “You want to be a hero? Now’s your chance. My employer will contact you shortly”. Miller hands Hal a ear piece

Afternoon, Wonder Woman stands in front of a tombstone in a lonely war cemetery in Starlington (reference to Starling City of Green Arrow fame).   The media is poised waiting for her as she exits. Her intentions in the cemetery are unknown. Just then, Superman arrives on the scene. The media attention and frenzy is ludicrous. Superman arrives, arms outstretched in a gesture of peace. But he does not fly in, he walks in. The world watches, not knowing what to expect as the Amazon princess faces down the man of steel.

WW introduces herself. They speak. Kal-El relates how he took a leap of faith with the human race and although they mostly do not trust him, he does not intend to back down. WW advises him that trust has to be earned and logically points out how kal-El’s actions seemed untrustworthy to the world at large.

“Why do you still fight for them?”
“I swore to protect them. To prevent what happened in metropolis from ever happening again”
“Yet you do so as a symbol. These days, a symbol is not enough. The worlds needs to know who you are”
“You expect me to turn myself in again?”
“No. But you should not run away. Cowardice breeds distrust.”
“I do not run”
“You are. You are running from bonds, earthly bonds. Bonds of kinship. Relationships. Make yourself known to the human race. Let them see the Man behind the symbol.”

Just then Barry Allen wakes up in a hospital bed. He is receiving flashes of images from that hidden lab from that night. They seem to be originating from that green humanoid he encountered. The accident seems to have given the two a sort of mental link and the creature introduces himself as “Jonn Jonzz”. The creature begs Barry to help him escape. He tells that the scientists are so far unaware of his telepathic ability and shares in flashes of images his origin story (the desolation of Mars, Jonn being trapped on earth in the 50s and captured by the government then sold to Lexcorp.) Barry is getting a splitting headache as he escapes the hospital. At the same time in the underground lab, Jonn Jonzz attempts to escape too as he finally reveals his true power. Using telekinesis, teleportation and psychic energy, he lashes out at the scientists keeping him captive. This is superimposed on Barry lashing out against the nurses attempting to recapture him. Suddenly in the lab, all security functions are deactivated leading to three of the tentacled starfish shaped creatures escaping and start assimilating the elements from the nearby structures. Upon assimilation, the creatures grow in size.

Kal-El Turns to face the world via the media cameras around him. But just as he is about to speak, an explosion rocks the city. The Lexcorp building crumbles as superman zooms into action. He manages to save the few that he can before the other people are killed when the building collapses. From the wreckage, one Starro creature rises to about 5 storeys high and rampages northwards toward Fawcett City with another smaller creature about 10 feet high makes a beeline for Gotham. The last One remains behind in the underground lab seemingly to go after the scientists.

In Lexcorp tower, Deadshot reports back to Luthor who is in the room with his associates and Carmine Kane from Wayne Enterprises. Luthor in a fit of anger has an outburst that reveals his plan to manipulate the world’s anti-alien sentiment in order to corner lucrative defense RnD projects for the military. Suddenly a voice rings out “And that is all I need to know”. Out from the shadows steps The Batman who quickly dispatches Deadshot and threatens all present claiming that he has all the evidence he needs to implicate every member of this gathering for an extremely long prison sentence. Carmine Kane reacts.
“How dare you. I don’t care what kind of psycho you are. You have no idea who you’re dealing with”
As quick as lightning, Carmine Kane draws out a pistol to shoot Batman but Batman reacts faster with a well placed batarang and a solid right hook, knocking Carmine out. Digger Harkness makes a dash for the door and he is brought down with a grappling hook around the legs.
Priscilla Rich attempts to attack batman from behind but is given a spray of knock-out gas from his utility belt. Only Luthor remains conscious. Batman picks him up and slams him into the table
Batman: “Now Lex, you squeal. Everything”

In Gotham the battle is joined as Wonder woman engages the smaller Starro creature through the streets of Gotham city. Superman attempts to beat back the giant Starro but after his first powerful blow sends the creature careering into a building in the nearby Fawcett city Superman stops. He remembers the destruction caused by his fight with Zod and vows that he will no longer allow such loss of life at the expense of defeating a threat.

Each time The Man of Steel tries to lure or beat the giant Starro into the ocean or away from populated areas, it returns to wreck more havoc. Each time Starro puts lives at risk, Superman saves them. When Starro hurls a bus full of people, superman catches them and sets them down, only to be caught unaware and attacked. Starro smashes into an officer building causing people to fall out. Superman manages to catch most of them but once again he is distracted from the threat and pays the price. Trying to save too many people and defeat Starro is taking its toll on Superman.
Slowly, Superman is starting to lose his cool as reality sets in: He is just not fast enough to save everyone. For every 5 people he saves, one more dies. In a fit of rage, he pummels Starro into the poorer part of town, nearly crushing a familiar street urchin kid. An old man calls his name “Batson”. Superman manages to pull the Batson kid to safety as he is crushed by one of Starro’s tentacles.

Starro moves on a nearby residential block and wrecks it with superman pinned. Suddenly, a green light appears and forms a giant net which ensnares Starro. The net reforms into a giant catapult of green energy and flings the giant into the nearby ocean. GREEN LANTERN appears! (now sporting the ear piece given to him by Miller)

GL: “I just saved your ‘S’, superman”
Superman (panting): “Get after it, now. Bring it down!”
GL: “Hey, you ain't gonna lend some help here?”
Superman (pointing to the civilians around the rubble with many still trapped inside): “They’re the ones who need help. You handle the monster.”

Overhead, the helicopters from the world media initially gathered to broadcast Wonder woman’s confrontation with Superman now broadcast this battle with the alien creatures over the globe. Lois Lane for the Daily planet is witness to superman’s acts of heroism in putting the lives of others before his own. This is also broadcast as Superman digs people out of rubble and ferries the injured to medical facilities.

Inside the underground facility, the last Starro creature slowly kills off the scientists by chasing them through the corridors and hunting them down (in the style of Alien 3). It is stopped by the green Martian humanoid Jonn Jonzz who effortlessly rips it apart, saving the life of the head scientist in the process. The scientist’s name is revealed to be Silas Stone. Jonn Jonzz subsequently escapes.

Back in Gotham, Wonder Woman is chasing down the second Starro through the streets, hacking at it with her sword while using her lasso to bind its flailing limbs. The local law enforcement also help, led by commissioner Jim Gordon. The police are subsequently incapacitated as Wonder woman is having more trouble trying to subdue the creature as she is unable to pin point its weakness. Barry Allen emerges from the hospital just in time to see the battle. Starro sees him and something draws the creature toward Barry. The creature extends a tentacle and suddenly the world slows. Barry dodges the blow with ease but careens into a nearby wall. He gets up, perceiving the world at a slower speed as if everyone were moving ins slow motion. His body is slowly encircled with a weird electric fire. He runs to avoid another strike from the creature, and then Barry picks up a piece of nearby rubble and in a state of panic, hurls it at Starro. The resulting projectile, traveling at supersonic speed spears through the creature like a bullet. Wonder woman thrusts her sword into the hole and rips the creature in two, exposing it’s energy powered heart which Wonder woman then impales.
One creature down. Wonder Woman looks in amazement at Barry who is just as astonished as his newfound speed powers. Just then, a familiar looking black flying machine descends on the scene.

In the bay, Green Lantern is having a hard time subduing the creature but manages only to drive it toward the pier. In flies “The Bat”, which is that aforementioned familiar looking flying machine which drops off wonder woman right into the middle of the creature. WW had been given a ear piece by Batman for communication. Methodically, WW weaves among the slithering appendages, slicing and stabbing as she lassos each of the Starro’s tentacles while in The Bat, Batman strafes the creature with his arsenal of miniguns and missiles. With some of it’s tentacles incapacitated, Green Lantern rejoins the fight and forms handcuffs to bind the remaining tentacles to the pier.

In Fawcett city, Superman is still assisting the wounded and finishes putting out a fire with his freeze breath. He hears the battle in Gotham harbor and sees through the buildings with his X-ray vision. 
A paramedic assures Superman “We’ll take over from here sir. Go get’im”
As superman lifts into the air, the people whom he has helped cheer him on.

Faster than a speeding bullet, Superman races toward the giant Starro and proceeds to fire his heat vision at the creature. The battle is joined as the four heroes, Superman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and Batman subdue Starro on the pier. The world media broadcasts the battle.

Just when victory seems within reach, Starro destroys the pier foundations and is once again loose.

Inside the Bat, Barry tells Batman of Starro’s bioelectrical heart and how only he has the speed required to put a well placed strike and expose the heart to attack. Batman transmits on a signal that Superman is able to hear and tells Wonder Woman and Green Lantern, who hear the plan over their earpieces, to listen up.

Cut to the battle once again, then cut back. The plan goes unheard by the audience.

Without hesitation,  batman flips The Bat  over, the hatch opens and a shocked Barry falls out. Just in time, one of Starro’s tentacles hits the Bat, destroying it but Batman is able to eject in time. Time slows as Superman manages to catch Barry and land him next to Wonder Woman on the wrecked pier. Barry quickly picks himself up, runs by WW who tosses him her Sword

Barry runs, faster and faster toward Starro. Time comes to a standstill in the following homage shot

Batman replaces Martian Manhunter and Superman replaces Aquaman. Barry is still in his civilian clothing, now torn and tattered. The resulting friction shears more of his clothes off.

As Barry stabs the heart of Starro, a blinding flash engulfs the screen.  We cut to news footage from across the globe and news paper clippings hailing the mysterious heroes who saved America. Through these snippets of news, we see that the cabal of Lex Luthor, Digger Harkness and Priscilla Rich has been put on trial for their crimes. Carmine Kane was revealed to have been an independent party who was not working in the interest of Wayne Enterprise.

Superman is hailed as the all American hero for his efforts in saving lives and helping rebuilding efforts.
Wonder Woman has heralded Themyscria’s entry into the united nations
Sightings of a mysterious creature wandering the woods on the outskirts of Gotham. (Martian Manhunter)

Then articles and editorials exclaiming how the heroes working together should be a better thing.
“Heroes team up. Imagine what they could achieve”
“We are not alone in this universe, and we need all the help we can get”
“They are here to protect us. They can protect us”
“Who is this blur who landed the final killing blow to this alien creature”
“They will change the world”

We pull back to reveal that all this is going on over a giant screen in a darkened room. Pull back more to reveal it is the Bat Cave. Seated in the seat is none other than Blake. (Joseph Gordon Levitz).
“Change the world indeed. Status”

Out from the shadows steps Bill Miller and a few other individuals including a young teenager and a young woman.
Blake: “Barbara”
Barbara: “Public opinion is near unanimous. Heroes are in fashion once again. Now we got a lot of work cut out for us”
Blake: “Excellent. Tim”
Tim Drake: “Hong Kong, China, Europe, and Brazil sectors reported in. They are ready”
Blake: “Our finances Mr. Miller?”
Miller: “Unlimited following the takeover of Harkness Inc and Lexcorp. About Carmine sir.....”
Blake: "Carmine played his part well. Do we have Gray Son taking his case?"
Barbara: "We do"
Blake: "Carmine will be cleared then. His family will recieve their due compensation"

“Now, on to phase 2”

Cut to credits.


Thursday, July 4, 2013

My Little Pony: Equestria Girls (2013) animated movie review

Overall verdict: 6.5/10

The Good: Retains the captivating personalities of the original characters, top notch voice acting, seamless animation despite technical limitations, catchy teen pop music,  
The Bad: trivialises its themes and core morals, lacks a credible story villain, much wasted potential, plays 'safe' with the status quo

3D Readiness: none
IMax-ability: none
For years, fans of the weirdly popular "My Little Pony Friendship is Magic" series have been flooding the Internet with fan art of the main characters in human form. In perhaps the biggest piece of fan service ever, the creators of the original TV series have produced a whole new movie with the very premise of your favorite characters in human form and going to high school. Yes, we all want to see our favorite characters go to high school (or turn human if they aren't already). Greek Legends go to high school in Class of the Titans, Rugrats go to school in All Grown Up,Transformers became humans at one point. Heck there was even a "Gotham High" cartoon series planned which recasts Batman and his villains as high school students..

Our story follows Twilight Sparkle as she pursues a previously unheard of rival named Sunset Shimmer through a magic portal in order to recover her magic crown that was stolen. Twilight ends up in another world where she is a human, there are human equivalents of every pony she has known in Ponyville and they all go to the same Canterlot High school. Once again the fish out of water, Twilight must start from scratch to try and fit in with this new world and make friends with these familiar characters all over again. Now here comes the stinker. Sunset shimmer has apparently been manipulating students against each other through social media. an embarrassing youtube video, photoshopped pictures and anonymous text messages are enough to break up a group of girls who have been best of friends since grade school. So Twilight would help to mend friendships that were torn because the most gullible girls in the world believed some fake phone messages over actually talking to each other and ascertaining the truth. Heck even the vice principle is fooled by some badly photocropped (as in physically cut and paste) pictures. Is this the most gullible school or what. fine. Now we have the big prom, which is one huge popularity contest. instead of showing twilight winning over the hearts and minds of her school mates through her honesty, sincerity and helpfulness, she wins them over through the magic of song and dance.

Yes, the synopsis sure does sound shallow. Alas, the movie itself is shallow and that is its main sin here. But before harping on that, one must acknowledge how true to the original series this movie is. Other than cosmetic changes, all your favorite characters are exactly the same as they were when they were ponies. Fluttershy is still the little shrinking violet with an obsession for cute little animals, Applejack is still the country bumpkin, Rarity still the glamor queen, Pinky Pie still the wacko psycho and Rainbow Dash the tomboy sporty one. Their new designs as human beings take bit of getting used to with the whole quasi-japanese-anime look with their oversized heads, tiny bodies and weird skin colour (including purple, green, pale blue etc) but once you do, they do have a certain adorable quality to them. The animation is smooth and surprisingly good considering it was animated in adobe flash. This pushes the envelope on what can be done with the over-the-counter animation software.

Now compliments aside, Equestria girls is still a disappointment because it has so much wasted potential. When twilight first steps into high school, her culture shock and the montage that accompanies the inner monologue song she sings seems to paint the premise as a clever metaphor for growing up and transitioning from the magical innocence of early years (ala ponyville where all kinds of wonders exist) to the harsher reality of school politics, competition and boy/girl relationships. That is never developed any further. Also as mentioned before, the story has many lessons to teach but glosses over them in the short 70 odd minutes run time. Trivial lessons at that. If you realise, all she did was bring the 5 main friends back together by showing them how stupid they've been in believing anonymous text messages instead of talking things out like sensible people. Or how Twilight won over Rainbow Dash by stroking her ego and losing in a soccer game.

 A much greater impact would be felt if the main 5 friends were never friends to begin with and Twilight helped bring them together despite their differences (this is hinted in one of the songs where it speaks about how twilight sparkle helped them look deeper and find the qualities that united them instead of those that separated them).  If it were not for the top notch voice acting, the characters would come across as bland and just, once again, shallow.

Then we have the silly side plots that make no impact on our main storyline. First off, twilights new romantic interest is Flash Sentry who is apparently Sunset Shimmer's ex boyfriend. That's it. No love triangle rivalry, no elaboration other than a few awkward stares and stammers. A much greater impact would be felt if Flash Sentry came to like twilight for her sincere personality or kind innocence and not just her looks. Twilight goes from odd ball outcast to most popular girl in school in a single day just because she can get her friends to put on a rousing musical number? How shallow. Then there is the hint that bringing the magical crown to the human world would have a certain effect on the magic. Never elaborated.
Thus, wasted potential all around.  we get good animation likable characters who are easy to relate to, and catchy tunes by composer Daniel Ingram which hardens back to the best of Disney animated musicals but that's about it. the movie had so much potential yet ended up trivializing many potentially deep themes on growing up, making friends and settling differences. With an all new premise the creators do nothing new with the story.Here we have an opportunity to do something different, to take the franchise one step further. Sadly there is nothing other than the premise to justify a full length feature film. Other movies based on ongoing TV series feature pivotal moments in a character's journey or a irreversible change to the status quo of that show. Nothing changes here. If not for the fact that the ponies are now human, the story would serve well enough as a 3 episode arc in the tv series. 
*****************************Review End***************************

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