REVIEW: HULK: WHERE MONSTERS DWELL

CAST

Fred Tatasciore (Hulk Vs)
Jesse Burch (Avengers Assemble)
Liam O’Brien (R.O.D.)
Chiara Zanni (Stargate Atlantis)

maxresdefaultThe latest installment in the Marvel Animated Universe is a new feature, Hulk: Where Monsters Dwell The film teams The Hulk and Doctor Strange with a positively spooky version of the Howling Commandos of S.H.I.E.L.D. to do battle against Nightmare, ruler of the Dream Dimension, and stop him from invading our reality on All Hallow’s Eve. It’s a Halloween special perfect for those who like monsters that don’t just go bump in the night, but smash..
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The story, for the most part, is simple and linear. Strange has summoned The Hulk to help him contain several monsters rampaging through New York City. The monsters weren’t always monsters, however, but young teens trapped in a dream state and transformed into their worst fears. Strange believes The Hulk might be connected with this phenomena, too, because seemingly at random Hulk is transforming back into an unconscious Bruce Banner during battle. Needing to venture into the Dream Dimension with The Hulk/Banner, Strange enlists Warwolf, Vampire By Night, Manthing, and the zombie version of Agent Sitwell (the Howl-ing Commandos, get it?) to guard their slumbering corporeal forms while they investigate.

At just over 70-minutes long, Hulk: Where Monsters Dwell has plenty of time to dive into the dual nature of its monster characters, specifically The Hulk, but instead the film mostly plods along from one action-packed encounter to the next. Strange, Hulk, and Banner in the Hulkbuster armor (which is possible because dream logic?) battle against Nightmare in the dream realm, while the Howling Commandos do their best to keep the monsters contained in Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum. The action is entertaining enough and capably animated, but missing from Hulk: Where Monsters Dwell is the opportunity to really explore what it’s like for heroes who are only seen as monsters.

Strange comments that he’s been counseling the Howling Commandos, helping them come to terms with their monster selves, but it’s mostly lip service. None of the monsters featured, like Warwolf or Vampire By Night, ever really confront or deal with accepting their true natures, and only occasionally complain that Halloween is the one night they can freely walk around. The same can be said of ongoing struggle between Banner and The Hulk, which though presented in an interesting light (here, Banner is accepting of Hulk, but Hulk isn’t so accepting of his inner puny human) is resolved fairly quickly in order to move on to the next fight.

The characters are presented fairly well, too. Nightmare is creepy, but he’s never too scary, and the Howling Commandos are an interesting bunch who will hopefully appear more throughout Marvel’s animated slate. Unsurprisingly, Doctor Strange and The Hulk get the most screen time, and outside of the uninspired costume Strange wears, they both look and sound pretty great (not too surprising since regular Strange and Hulk voice actors, Liam O’Brien and Fred Tatasciore reprise the roles). The animation is a step or two above what’s seen on television, but its style doesn’t vary much from other properties in the Marvel Animated Universe. All in all, Hulk: Where Monsters Dwell isn’t nearly as thoughtful a story as it could have been, but for a superhero adventure that’s loosely tied to a holiday, it works. Kids will enjoy themselves, while adults may struggle to make it through the whole film. And including Strange was certainly a masterstroke of corporate synergy, whetting appetites for his arrival on the big screen.

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REVIEW: MAN-THING

CAST

Conan Stevens (The Hobbit)
Matthew Le Nevez (Fred)
Rachael Taylor (Jessica Jones)
Jack Thompson (Broken Arrow)
Rawiri Paratene (Whale Rider)
Alex O’Loughlin (Moonlight)
Steve Bastoni (Suburban Mayhem)

https://horrorpediadotcom.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/manthing4.jpg?w=520Man-Thing is set in a backwater Leeziana town with an unusually large number of unexplained disappearances, the previous sheriff among them. Kyle Williams (Matthew Le Nevez) isn’t on the job as Bywater’s new sheriff long before he’s saddled with a murder investigation, one that’s interrupted by a squabble involving protestors at Schist Petroleum. Schist has set up shop in swamplands held sacred by the three…well, two, now…Indians that call Bywater home. Schist’s buyout happened under extremely suspicious circumstances, and townsfolk like schoolteacher Teri Richards (Rachel Taylor) aren’t going to stand for it. So…you know the drill. More unexplained murders. Kyle and Teri fall madly in love inexplicably quickly as they investigate. Can’t trust rednecks or blustering corporate weasels. Climax when the Man-Thing finally comes.For a movie titled Man-Thing, the plant-like creature almost seems like a minor supporting character. Sure, there are plenty of P.O.V. shots. A hand. A briefly glimpsed arm. A fuzzy photo. You don’t really get a full-on, unobscured look at Man-Thing until the last fifteen minutes or so of the movie. Sure, a “less is more” approach can work extremely effectively in a movie like Jaws, but Man-Thing isn’t Jaws. Wow. It really, really isn’t Jaws.Very loosely based on “Cry of the Native” in Adventures into Fear #16, the basic story is a mishmash of clichés — amorous kids who stumble into the path of a killer before the opening titles, the new cop in town, the corrupt, murderous businessman, a wronged man wreaking havoc from the grave, the quarreling, determined woman who gradually steps into the role of love interest, two scoops of cryptic Native American hokum… The creature looks like Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway’s creation, and a character named Ted Sallis does factor in, but the origin and motivations are both completely different. Nothing that happens bears much resemblance to the comics; the creature is practically a guard dog, killing pretty much everyone who crosses his path indiscriminately. No one who knows fear even burns at the Man-Thing’s touch. Violent shaking and stabbing vine-tentacles, sure, but no burning touch. I guess even if he is a second or third-tier character, “Man-Thing” still carries more marquee value than “Boring Sheriff”, the bland character who winds up snagging most of the screentime. The cast as a whole ranges from mediocre to there-are-twenty-million-people-in-Australia-and-I’m-pretty-sure-you-could-find-someone-better-than-this-guy. Also, Australians attempting a Southern accent are about as convincing as me trying to adopt an Australian accent. Stop it.Although Man-Thing debuted on the Sci-Fi Channel, this DVD has the full R-rated version of the movie, complete with a little bit of silicone-enhanced nudity and plenty of profanity. Some of the special effects wound up looking reasonably nice, and it’s unflinching about lingering shots of mangled corpses and skewering much of the cast. Doesn’t do much to redeem the movie, tho’. If I were watching Man-Thing on television, I’d have given up before the opening titles.  There’s no sense of tragedy or emotion or fear or excitement or…anything. Man-Thing isn’t unendurable or unwatchable, but the movie’s so bland, so uninteresting, and so sluggishly paced that it’s nearly impossible to recommend.

REVIEW: THE SUPER HERO SQUAD SHOW – SEASON 1-2

CAST (VOICES)

Charlie Adler (Wall-e)
Alimi Ballard (Sabrina: TTW)
Steven Blum (Wolverine and the X-Men)
Dave Boat (Ultimate Spider-Man)
Jim Cummings (Darkwing Duck)
Grey DeLisle (The Fairly Oddparents)
Mikey Kelley (Gravity Falls)
Tom Kenny (The Batman)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
Tara Strong (Batman: The Killing Joke)
Travis Willingham (Dragon Ball Z)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Shawn Ashmore (X-Men)
Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
John Barrowman (Arrow)
A.J. Buckley (Disturbing Behavior)
Ty Burrell (Muppets Most Wanted)
LeVar Burton (Star Trek: TNG)
Taye Diggs (Private Practice)
Michael Dorn (Ted 2)
Suisan Eisenberg (Justice League)
Carl Lumbly (Alias)
Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street)
Jonathan Frakes (Star Trek: TNG)
Greg Grunberg (Heroes)
Nika Futterman (Futurama)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Lena Headey (Game of Thrones)
Tricia Helfer (Powers)
Cheryl Hines (The Ugly Truth)
Josh Keaton (Justice League: Gods and Monsters)
Wayne Knight (3rd rock from The Sun)
Maurice LaMarche (Futurama)
Phil LaMar (Free Enterprise)
Jane Lynch (Glee)
Jason Marsden (Full House)
James Marsters (Smallville)
Jennifer Morrison (Urban Legends 2)
Scott Menville (Teen Titans)
Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory)
Adrian Pasdar (Heroes)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica)
Kevin Sorbo (Hercules: TLJ)
Ray Stevenson (Divergent)
Fred Stoller (Little Man)
George Takei (Star Trek)
Cree Summer (Batman Beyond)
Michelle Trachtenberg (17 again)
Hynden Walch (The Batman)
Jim Ward (Danny Phantom)
Adam West (Batman 60s)
Nina Dobrev (The Vampire Diaries)

When I saw a preview of The Super Hero Squad Show back in February of 2009, I thought it looked pretty interesting, but certainly aimed at the kiddies, and as it aired on Cartoon Network, I never saw an episode. In fact, I forgot all about it, and when I got my hands on this disc, I thought it was an animated take on the old Fisher-Price Marvel kiddie figures. So I had no expectations coming in. Well, my only expectation being that it would be bad. So it was with a good deal of shock that I found it to be a pretty entertaining action-comedy series, if you don’t mind the cheese-level of many of the jokes.

The Super Hero Squad (sort of a loose version of the Avengers) is made up of an assortment of Marvel heroes, including Iron Man (as the leader), Captain America (who provides aid on a regular basis), Wolverine (adding the X-Men’s popularity,) The Hulk, Thor, a spacey surfer-dude version of the Silver Surfer, and Falcon (obviously added to bring some diversity.) Joining them is the mostly unknown Reptil (a dinosaur-powered bit player from the Avengers comics) who is both a young guy and Hispanic, helping fill out the P.C. scorecard a bit more and give younger viewers a stand-in.  They go up against Doctor Doom and his legion of bad guys (and ineffective henchmen), as he searches for the Infinity fractals, shards of the Infinity Sword (which seems connected to the Infinity Gems of the Infinity Gauntlet. Infinity.)


Though the storylines are pretty solid and offer big action-packed battles, the bulk of the show is comedy, with the character’s out-sized personalities carrying the jokes, be it Thor’s overwhelming concern about his appearance or Captain America being stuck in the ’40s. Maybe I don’t give kids a lot of credit, but I can see a large portion of these gags flying over their heads, which will make the show far more enjoyable for adults than one would have expected. There was more than one joke that got a genuine laugh out of me, though many of them rely on bodily functions or pratfalls for the punchline. The wordplay and character-generated jokes are much more entertaining and fun, especially Thor’s Asgardian versions of modern language, the Silver Surfer’s alien view of Earth life, and anything involving the always-ridiculous floating head known as M.O.D.O.K. (voiced hilariously by Tom Kenny.) One joke about the Hulk swallowing a yo-yo is technically genius. The only thing about the show that doesn’t really work is Reptil, who feels like the Poochie of the show, coming off as a bone tossed to kids, with his dino-focused power, youthful role and extreme behavior.


This version of the Marvel Universe smartly keeps the same look for its characters, giving long-time Marvel fans an in for the series, but presents them in a super-deformed style (squat bodies, large heads and feet, four fingers) that’s kid-cartoon friendly and which easily separates it from any other version of the Universe you’ve ever seen. That way, there are no issues with continuity or previous incarnations, and the show can be enjoyed on its own merits (allowing them to do something like make Dr. Strange a complete lunatic.) That’s a good thing, because the show is loaded to the gills with fan-service goodies, like the episode titles (which reference famous comic titles) and title cards which replicate memorable cover art. The show also pulls characters from the depths of the Marvel roster, like Screaming Mimi and the Melter, and having silly cartoon fun with them. Taken simply as a silly, almost What The–?! treatment of the characters, it’s well worth a look for comic-book fans out of grade school.

On a non-story note, the theme song, provided by Parry Gripp of Nerf Herder, is an energetic blast, while the voice cast for this series has to be one of the best for a non-prime time animated series, with tons of veterans of the cartoon industry, like Kenny, Tara Strong, Jess Harnell, Grey DeLisle, Cree Summer and Charlie Adler, along with plenty of genre stars, including Robert Englund, Tricia Helfer, Jennifer Morrison and Adrian Pasdar. It’s rare to see a show like this pull this kind of voice cast.

the overall plot of the cycle will feature the villain Thanos seeking the six stones of the Infinity Gauntlet, a powerful cosmic weapon. Opposing him will be the titular Super Hero Squad, which is made up of goofball takes on Iron Man, Thor, Falcon, Wolverine, Hulk, Ms. Marvel, original character Reptil, Scarlet Witch, and sometimes Captain America. While the first two shows focus specifically on the Thanos plot, other episodes detour into one-off excursions. For instance, “World War Witch!” takes the heroes back in time to when Cap was fighting the Red Skull alongside the Invaders in WWII, while “Support Your Local Sky-Father!” pits Olympus vs. Asgard, and it features the Marvel Universe rendition of Hercules.