REVIEW: THE SILVER SURFER

CAST

Paul Essiembre (Chloe)
James Blendick (Tommy Boy)
Colin Fox (Goosebumps)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Dennis Akayama (Wild Roses)
Lawrence Bayne (Muatnt X)
Christopher Birtton (X-Men:TAS)
Alyson Court (Elvis Meets Nixon)
David Hemblen (Earth: Final Conflict)
Don Francks (La Femme Nikita)
John Neville (Odyssey 5)
Cedric Smith (Mutant X)

Image result for silver surfer cartoonOne of Marvel’s best ever in the animated arena. Yes, they only made one season and it ended on a cliff-hanger, but that had precious little to do with the series itself. Apparently it rated rather well. The problem was never with the show, but with the company that made it. Unfortunately that went belly-up.For the purists, it is true that this show isn’t strictly in accordance with cannon. But then, what superhero cartoon is? Like most animated shows derived from comic books, this production re-imagines the universe on which it is based in accordance with its own needs. While it can’t match the sheer intricacy and detail of the comic book universe with its decades of backstory, it does make good use of the time and space available.

My only real issue with the show’s departures from cannon is that for some reason its creators decided to make Thanos a worshipper of Chaos rather than of Death. I’m not sure if the worship of Death was considered a bit too strong for what was at least nominally a children’s show, but from an adult perspective, I do consider that a mistake. That one issue aside, the story can hold its own when compared to Marvel’s comic book epics. I’ve always loved the way Marvel does cosmic, and this show does not disappoint. It positively explodes with all the electrifying energy, godlike power, and inhuman solemnity and portent that makes all of Marvel’s best cosmic epics what they are. When you’re watching this show, you do buy into the idea that these are indeed cosmic beings whose deeds shape and destroy worlds, thence echo throughout their universe, and even perhaps throughout other universes as well.

But where this show really excelled was on a visual level. Although the CGI may be technically a bit on the crude side by today’s standards (remember, this is a show made in the late 90’s), on an artistic level it is a triumph. The show’s creators did a magnificent job of integrating Jack Kirby’s original vision with the latest technology available at the time of the show’s creation. The integration isn’t as seamless as that to be found in more modern efforts, but then, it doesn’t try to be. The 2D and 3D artwork are at all times clearly distinguishable from one another, but the overall effect is still glorious.

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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.

REVIEW: AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON

CAST

Robert Downey Jr. (Sherlock Holmes)
Chris Evans (The Losers)
Scarlett Johansson (Lucy)
Chris Hemsworth (The Huntsman: Winter’s War)
Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight)
Jeremy Renner (The Bourne Legacy)
James Spader (Stargate)
Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother)
Samuel L. Jackson (Snakes On A Plane)
Paul Bettany (Legion)
Don Cheadle (Traffic)
Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass)
Elizabeth Olsen (Silent House)
Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker)
Hayley Atwell (Agent Carter)
Idris Elba (Pacific Rim)
Linda Cardellini (Scooby-Doo)
Stellan Skarsgard (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)
Thomas Kretschmann (Dracula)
Andy Serkis (The Hobbit)
Julie Delpy (Before Sunset)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
Josh Brolin (Jonah Hex)
Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk)In the Eastern European country of Sokovia, the Avengers – Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, Thor, Bruce Banner, Natasha Romanoff, and Clint Barton – raid a Hydra facility commanded by Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, who has been experimenting on humans using the scepter previously wielded by Loki. They encounter two of Strucker’s experiments – twins Pietro, who has superhuman speed, and Wanda Maximoff, who can manipulate minds and project energy – and apprehend Strucker, while Stark retrieves Loki’s scepter.
Stark and Banner discover an artificial intelligence within the scepter’s gem, and secretly use it to complete Stark’s “Ultron” global defense program. The unexpectedly sentient Ultron, believing he must eradicate humanity to save Earth, eliminates Stark’s A.I. J.A.R.V.I.S. and attacks the Avengers at their headquarters. Escaping with the scepter, Ultron uses the resources in Strucker’s Sokovia base to upgrade his rudimentary body and build an army of robot drones. Having killed Strucker, he recruits the Maximoffs, who hold Stark responsible for their parents’ deaths by his weapons, and go to the base of arms dealer Ulysses Klaue to obtain Wakandan vibranium. The Avengers attack Ultron and the Maximoffs, but Wanda subdues them with haunting visions, causing the Hulk (Banner) to rampage until Stark stops him with his anti-Hulk armor.1

A worldwide backlash over the resulting destruction, and the fears Wanda’s hallucinations incited, send the team into hiding at a safehouse. Thor departs to consult with Dr. Erik Selvig on the meaning of the apocalyptic future he saw in his hallucination, while Romanoff and Banner plan to flee together after realizing a mutual attraction. However, Nick Fury arrives and encourages the team to form a plan to stop Ultron. In Seoul, Ultron forces the team’s friend Dr. Helen Cho to use her synthetic-tissue technology, together with vibranium and the scepter’s gem, to perfect a new body for him. As Ultron uploads himself into the body, Wanda is able to read his mind; discovering his plan for human extinction, the Maximoffs turn against Ultron. Rogers, Romanoff, and Barton find Ultron and retrieve the synthetic body, but Ultron captures Romanoff.

The Avengers fight amongst themselves when Stark secretly uploads J.A.R.V.I.S. – who is still operational after hiding from Ultron inside the Internet – into the synthetic body. Thor returns to help activate the body, explaining that the gem on its brow – one of the six Infinity Stones, the most powerful objects in existence – was part of his vision. This “Vision” and the Maximoffs accompany the Avengers to Sokovia, where Ultron has used the remaining vibranium to build a machine to lift a large part of the capital city skyward, intending to crash it into the ground to cause global extinction. Banner rescues Romanoff, who awakens the Hulk for the battle. The Avengers fight Ultron’s army while Fury arrives in a Helicarrier with Maria Hill, James Rhodes and S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to evacuate civilians. Pietro dies when he shields Barton from gunfire, and a vengeful Wanda abandons her post to destroy Ultron’s primary body, which allows one of his drones to activate the machine. The city plummets, but Stark and Thor overload the machine and shatter the landmass. In the aftermath, the Hulk, unwilling to endanger Romanoff by being with her, departs in a Quinjet, while the Vision confronts Ultron’s last remaining body.
Later, with the Avengers having established a new base run by Fury, Hill, Cho, and Selvig, Thor returns to Asgard to learn more about the forces he suspects have manipulated recent events. As Stark leaves and Barton retires, Rogers and Romanoff prepare to train new Avengers: Rhodes, the Vision, Sam Wilson, and Wanda.
In a mid-credits scene, Thanos, dissatisfied by the failures of his pawns, dons a gauntlet2 and vows to retrieve the Infinity Stones himself.The Avengers: Age of Ultron is solid entertainment and best experienced on the big screen. Long-running trappings of shared movie universe storytelling remain, and the novelty of seeing iconic comic book characters together onscreen is just as impressive as it was in The Avengers.

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 Tori (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)

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.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.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.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.

 

 

REVIEW: AVENGERS ASSEMBLE

CAST

Robert Downey Jr. (Sherlock Holmes)
Chris Evans (The Losers)
Scarlett Johansson (Lucy)
Chris Hemsworth (The Huntsman: Winter’s War)
Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight)
Jeremy Renner (The Bourne Legacy)
Tom Hiddleston (Crimson Peak)
Clark Gregg (Agents of Shield)
Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother)
Stellan Skarsgard (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)
Samuel L. Jackson (Snakes On A Plane)
Gwyneth Paltrow (Contagion)
Paul Bettany (Legion)
Alexis Denisof (Angel)
Powers Boothe (Sin City)
Ashley Johnson (What Women Want)
Enver Gjokaj (Agent Carter)
Stan Lee (Thor)
Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk)

Avengers Assemble  brings together many of the heroes from the Marvel universe who have already been featured in their own various films. The pictures have been constructed in an engaging web that, in some ways, is tied together in “The Avengers”


The Avengers opens with Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor’s adopted and power-mad brother, breaking into a secret lab and taking the tesseract, a glowing blue cube that has the power to open gateways to other universes. He brainwashes Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Professor Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) so that he can have both a worker and a warrior, and goes about a plan that will open a doorway so that an alien army can begin to take over Earth.

So, Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) calls in all of the various heroes, including Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Captain America (Chris Evans) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), who – carefully – goes to pick up Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) Additionally, Thor (Chris Helmsworth) pops in when he hears that his brother is up to no good.

The film is enjoyable as a popcorn action flick, with solid performances and an impressively skilled level of organization of several main characters. However, the real surprise is the humor – while Downey, Jr’s character gets all the great one-liners, there are little moments that are some of the funniest of the year, including a nod to a particular early ’80’s video game (and what makes the humor of the film work are moments like this, which could have just been the reference, but go the full way and use the visual of the game as the punchline for the joke).

The performances are all excellent good, although particular note has to be paid to Mark Ruffalo as Banner/The Hulk. Now the third different actor (after Eric Bana and Ed Norton) to play the role in recent years, Ruffalo really – even with limited screen time – proves himself to finally be a great choice for the role, getting the character’s inner turmoil and sadness. Downey, Jr’s wisecracking Iron Man persona continues to entertain and supporting performances are fine, as well, including a very different performance from Cobie Smulders (Robin from “How I Met Your Mother”) as Agent Maria Hill.