REVIEW: PLANET HULK

CAST (VOICES)

Rick D. Wasserman (The Avengers: EMH)
Lisa Ann Beley (Dragon Ball Z)
Mark Hildreth (V)
Liam O’Brien (Ultimate SPider-Man)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Sam Vincent (Martin Mystery)
Michael Kopsa (Dark Angel)
Lee Tockar (Bast Wars)

With Planet Hulk, an adaptation of the like-titled comic book series, the studio delivers an above-average hit — a movie that doesn’t shy away from the fact that it’s basically Ridley Scott’s Gladiator, with Bruce Banner’s gamma-irradiated alter ego stepping in for Maximus.For comics fans seeking a pleasant distraction or looking for something to tide them over until the next live-action Hulk movie arrives, one could do worse than watching this gory, action-packed Marvel story.When Iron Man and Reed Richards deem Hulk too dangerous to remain on Earth, he is exiled into space and set on a course for an uninhabited planet. But our heroes never cleared that destination with the green guy, so he goes all smashy in mid-flight and ends up crash landing on the planet Sakaar. Here, Hulk is taken as a slave and forced to pla in the evil Red King’s gladiator arena. At first, all Hulk wants to do is pummel, brood and repeat, but then he joins forces with his fellow slaves in an attempt to take back the planet from Red King’s tyranny.Despite an obvious need for a bigger budget to fully realize the scale of the battles, Hulk manages to streamline the source material into a fast-moving 80 minutes that taps the necessary action beats to satisfy the Hall H attendee in all of us. Those looking for serious pathos will be disappointed, but that’s not to say that Greg Johnson’s screenplay is void of any character drama. Two of Hulk’s fellow slaves are provided decent flashbacks that add some depth to their otherwise 2D characters, but the script’s “telling tales around the campfire” approach to these flashbacks grows a bit redundant. Still, these character touches make us care more about Hulk’s fight to save a world, and maybe find peace, once the dust settles.

Fans of the comic will be glad to see that most of the original storyline and brawls are intact. One of the biggest changes from the comic has to be (spoilers) swapping out Silver Surfer for Beta Ray Bill as an opponent during a key fight. The swap, dictated mostly by the fact that 20th Century Fox has rights to the character, works well onscreen, and Hulk seems better matched to fight Bill than he did Galactus’ herald.For the most part, the core of the original story remains intact, which leads to a third act that feels separate from the main arc, but nonetheless entertaining. It’s Hulk vs. an invasion by the Spikes, which turn everyone into zombie porcupines. The climax provides us with the movie’s darkest beat, where a character carries a smoldering child who turns to ash, following the aftermath of a nuclear attack. The movie retains this darker edge leading to the final showdown between Hulk and the Red King, which feels a bit rushed.Planet Hulk (2010)Planet Hulk is a great movie that provides several graphic “Hulk Smash!” moments without forgetting to link them to some semblance of characters that we care about. It’s not a perfect movie to be sure, but it certainly qualifies as one of Marvel’s better efforts in the direct-to-DVD realm.

REVIEW: THE AVENGERS: EARTH’S MIGHTIEST HEROES

MAIN CAST (VOICES)

Brian Bloom (Vampirella)
Chris Cox (All Star Superman)
Jennifer Hale (The Rick)
Peter Jessop (Jla Adventures)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterprise)
Eric Loomis (Shin Chan)
James C. Mathis III (Undercover Brother)
Colleen Villard (Duel Masters)
Fred Tatasciore (Hulk Vs)
Rick D. Wasserman (Planet Hulk)
Wally Wingert (American Dad)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST COICES

Gabriel Mann (Cherry Falls)
Drake Bell (The Reef 2)
Bumper Robinson (Sabrina: The Teenage Witch)
Steven Blum (Wolverine and Teh X-men)
Alex Desert (The Flash 90s)
Vanessa Marshall (Duck Dodgers)
Kari Wuhrer (Eight Legged Freaks)
Elizabeth Daily (Valley Girl)
Troy Baker (Lego Batman)
Nolan North (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Crispin Freeman (Hellsing)
Scott Menville (Teen Titans)
Grey DeLisle (Danny Phantom)
Cam Clarke (He-Man)
Lance Reddick (Lost)
J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Nika Futterman (Hey Arnold!)
Lance Henriksen (The Terminator)
Jonathan Adams (Bones)
Jeffrey Combs (Gotham)
Graham McTavish (The Hobbit)
Dawn Olivieri (The Vampire Diaries)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Dwight Schultz (The A-Team)
Keith Szarabajka (The Dark Knight)
Lacey Chabert (Mean Girls)
Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
David Kaufman (Superman: TAS)

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Both Marvel and DC have to an astonishing degree started to pick up these last few years, with several well-appreciated shows that I really enjoy: Young Justice, The Spectacular Spider-Man, Iron Man: Armored Adventures, Green Lantern TAS, and now this; The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. It’s very rare indeed for a superhero cartoon of this magnitude to be  great from start-to-finish, but that’s what Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is, right from Episode 1 `Iron Man is Born’ to the finale `Avengers Assemble!’. There are literally no dud episodes whatsoever! The whole series is infused with tremendous intrigue, exceptional plotting and some of the tightest continuity I’ve ever seen in a TV series. The number of sub-plots and story-arcs that are juggled here is staggering, but the creative team handled it all with such precision. The coherency, intricacies and pacing is nothing short of exemplary overall. This isn’t just essential for kids; adult Marvel fans will get bags of satisfaction from watching this cartoon!MV5BMTgxOTA1Nzk3OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDk0MzY2MjE@._V1_So what exactly can folk expect? Well, as I said, the choicest pieces of Marvel history (be it in comics or on film) have been successfully adapted and utilized here. From how the Avengers banded together to life-changing events like the Civil War threat and the Skrulls’ Secret Invasion (adapted beautifully here!). Iron Man, the Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Ant-Man/Yellowjacket, the Wasp and Black Panther are all superbly established before `Assembling’ for the first time, members come-and-go, characters undergo changes, Hawkeye, Ms. Marvel and the Vision join the ranks, and all-manner of superb guests join the party, such as Spider-Man, Wolverine, the Fantastic Four and even those Guardians of the Galaxy!

And on the villains-front, you can be subjected to a cracking-bunch of dastardly rogues, such as Loki, the Red Skull, Hydra, A.I.M., Baron Zemo, the Enchantress, the Masters of Evil, Kang the Conqueror, Doctor Doom and (of course!) chief arch-nemesis Ultron. And it’s not all just for window-dressing. The depictions of all these characters (hero, villain and otherwise) and their worlds is just pure gold. It’s perhaps the most faithful animated portrayal of the Marvel Universe.
Really, The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes could (and should) have gone on for more seasons. Instead, Marvel pulled the plug in favor of the replacement show Avengers Assemble. Thus in the last batch episodes, you DO get the feel that the writers were trying to wrap things up and give the show a grand swansong to make way for the next-cartoon-in-line. Admittedly, there are a few loose ends left over, but the series is mostly wrapped-up in winning style with a very acceptable conclusion. And in an age where too many shows are cancelled prematurely/end on a sour note, it makes that final moment of `Avengers Assemble!’ all the more of a triumph, just like the entire series itself.

REVIEW: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

 

CAST

Chris Pratt (Jurassic World)
Zoe Saldana (Avatar)
Dave Bautista (Riddick)
Vin Diesel (The Fast and The Furious)
Lee Pace (The Hobbit)
Bradley Cooper (Joy)
Michael Rooker (The Walking Dead)
Karen Gillan (Oculus)
Djimon Hounsou (Stargate)
John C. Reilly (Step Brothers)
Glenn Close (Hoodwinked!)
Benicio Del Toro (Traffic)
Lauda Haddock (Luther)
Peter Serafinowicz (Spy)
Gregg Henry (Payback)
Brendan Fehr (Roswell)
Nathan Fillion (Firefly)
Alexis Denisof (Angel)
Ophelia Lovibond (4.3.2.1.)
Rob Zombie (Super)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
John Brotherton (Fuller House)
Josh Brolin (Jonah Hex)
Seth Green (Family Guy)

Lee Pace in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)Guardians of the Galaxy stars are a loosely shaped band of intergalactic scoundrels who go from being bad guys to heroes despite their own penchant for greed and self-preservation. Amongst them is a cosmic kidnapping victim who goes by Star-Lord, a terrible alias, which is why most folks call him by his Earth name, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt, Parks and Recreation). Stolen from his parents in the movie’s prologue, Quill has become a spacefaring thief and scavenger. He has recently struck off on his own, betraying his adopted crew to sell a mysterious metal orb and pocket the profits. This action sets off reverberations, angering the orb’s intended recipient, a brutal thug called Ronan (Lee Pace, Pushing Daisies), and landing a rather large bounty on Quill’s head. Ronan dispatches one of his minions, Gamora (Zoe Saldana, Star Trek), to get him the object. Blows are exchanged. Chris Pratt manages the physicality with a surprising ease, while also making it okay for those of us sick of Andy Dwyer to like the perfomer again. Zoe Saldana is at her most badass, continuing to prove that she should be the star of her own action franchise. (She was the only thing good in Colombiana). Further complications arise, however, when her efforts are derailed by the presence of the aforementioned raccoon and tree.Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)Rocket Raccoon and Groot (voiced by Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel, respectively) are misfit bounty hunters who intend to collect on Quill’s head. Rocket is a violent little bastard who is the product of some sinister experiments, and Groot is a kindly wood creature who comes from parts unknown. These two steal the movie, I promise you. Cooper’s vocal performance has a glee and abandon I’d like to see from him in the flesh, and those who remember how Diesel tugged at our heartstrings doing similar work in The Iron Giant will be pleased to have him work his magic here, too. Groot can only say one phrase, “I am Groot,” and like Woo shouting out a certain obscenity when talking to Al Swearengen in Deadwood, how he says it is indicative of its meaning. The computer effects team for Guardians easily bests even Dawn of the Planet of the Apes for creating believable, fully realized creatures that simply should not be.Lee Pace in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)The four bad guys tussle on a peaceful planet, and end up arrested. It’s in prison that they find their fifth Guardian, a shirtless bruiser called Drax the Destroyer (wrestler Dave Bautista) who has a grudge against Gamora’s former employer. He agrees to stave off killing her and go along with their prison break if it means they’ll take him to Ronan. And so an unlikely group of heroes is born.Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)The basic plot of Guardians of the Galaxy, which was co-written by Nicole Perlman and director James Gunn (Slither, Super), follows the Guardians as they first try to keep the orb out of Ronan’s hands and then, after they simultaneously lose it and discover what it really holds, get it back before he begins a path of destruction across the universe. The main genre is more adventure than sci-fi, and the tone lighter and more comic than a lot of recent superhero movies, but that’s what makes Guardians of the Galaxy so refreshing.