INVASION OF THE SECRET SANTAS
Corey Burton (Transformers)
Will Friedle (Batman Beyond)
James Arnold Taylor (Star wars: Clone Wars)
Thomas F. Wilson (Back to The Future)
Once a movie that i was extremely nervous about stepping into, just happened to turn out to be my favorite superhero movie, and probably will for years to come, very interesting aspect of the movie was using the flaws of the first installment of the comic book universe and building upon those mishaps to create a much better and more compelling story. In this Ultimate Edition, there are both Theatrical Version (151 mins, in both 2D and 3D) and the Ultimate Version (extended Cut, 182 mins, only in 2D). I would strongly recommend the Extended Cut, because the extra information is helpful to tie in different events.
Michael Dobson (Dreamcatcher)
Janyse Jaud (Hulk vs)
John Fitzgerald (Mon Ami)
Adam Fulton (Broken Saints)
Motion comics aren’t an itch many casual superhero buffs would take the time to scratch, but Batman: Black and White is an enticing collection that might sway some leery minds. I can understand the logic behind it: with one of the chief complaints about comic-to-film adaptations being a lack of faith to the source material, why not put those printed pages front and center? With a minimum of animation, motion comics can show classic heroes and their exploits in an interesting perspective, which Black and White does for the Caped Crusader with all the pitch-dark atmosphere you’d expect.
Twenty brief adventures set in the thick of Gotham’s seedy underworld are presented in Black and White. Bringing the work of writers like Bruce Timm and Alex Garland to life is striking art as provided by Dave Gibbons, Alex Ross, and others. There’s no shortage of the Dark Knight’s dynasty to cover, as we bear witness to stories ranging from macabre fantasy (“Monsters in the Closet”) to heartwarming and thoughtful (“Sunrise”). Batman combats street thugs, Nazis, mad scientists, and the most notorious members of his lengthy rogues gallery. A few of these villains even get their own turn in the spotlight, showing more than mere greed gnawing at their psyches. Fleeting as their lengths may be, these tales each do their part in shining a light on what’s made Batman’s crimefighting legacy endure for so long.
The DC Animated Universe has given fans some of the best superhero media in recent years — Wonder Woman and Justice League: Doom can stand toe to toe with Captain America or The Avengers, if you ask me. But what sets Batman: Black and White apart is that it’s not a linear narrative (or a single, connected story whatsoever). Every vignette is self-contained and lasts a few minutes at most, leaving next to no elbow room for grand, epic plotlines. This doesn’t always play out well, with some stories (“Hands,” especially) suffering abrupt anticlimaxes after a marathon of build-up. Black and White is staunchly economical and only so effective when its entirety is viewed in succession, but on their own, the bulk of the stories stand as distinct, eye-catching, and emotionally fulfilling. The wide range of art styles and environments each short incorporates (from a futuristic police state to a WWII-era Gotham) is impressive, as are the tones they adopt. We get some light-hearted escapades (as when Batman gets the jump on a trouble-making Harley Quinn), although most delve into its protagonist’s psychology to intriguing effect. It says a lot when a three-minute hostage crisis or quick encounter with a certain man of steel lingers in your mind as much as a grandiose Christopher Nolan opus.
Batman: Black and White might appeal most to those fans who’ve pledged complete allegiance to the cape and cowl, but there’s no reason outsiders shouldn’t find something to rile them up. With each scenario possessing a unique presentation and its own brand of derring-do, this omnibus has no trouble packing a collective punch. Batman: Black and White does just right by Bob Kane’s legendary guardian of the night.
During an investigation of missing children, Damian Wayne, AKA Robin, Batman’s son with Talia al Ghul, has taken the Batmobile out to an abandoned toy factory without Batman’s consent. He finds the perpetrator, Anton Schott, who has mutated some of the victims into dolls. Batman arrives, and in the resulting battle, Robin chases Schott while Batman knocks out the dolls with gas and frees the remaining children. Upon defeating Schott, Robin chooses to spare him, but an owl-masked assassin named Talon suddenly kills Schott and frames Robin for the murder. Batman is eventually convinced of Robin’s innocence after finding an owl feather at the crime scene.The next night, Bruce has dinner at Wayne Manor with fellow wealthy socialite Samantha Vanaver, who meets Damian. Later, he tries to connect with Damian, but he voices his frustration towards Bruce for never trusting him. Bruce goes out, leaving Damian with Nightwing to look after him (and calling off his date with Starfire in the process) and starts to investigate the owl feather, which leads him to the Gotham Museum of Natural History’s Hall of Owls. He is reminded of a childhood story about the Court of Owls, a secret society of wealthy men who ruled Gotham from the shadows and killed any who opposed them by sending agents called talons. On the night his parents were murdered, Bruce had seen an owl clutching a bat flying away from the crime scene. He became convinced that the Court of Owls was to blame, but after finding no evidence of their existence, Bruce dismissed the legend.While continuing to investigate, Batman is attacked by three undead, owl-masked assailants. After killing one, Batman witnesses the other two suddenly liquefying into black ooze. Meanwhile, Damian, having escaped Nightwing and fled the mansion, is approached by Talon, who encourages Robin’s choice of punishing criminals and offers Robin a chance to join him. Unsure of the decision, Robin returns home, where Bruce discovers him and warns him that he will be sent away to a school in Switzerland unless he learns to discipline himself.While driving to a date with Samantha, Bruce is kidnapped by white owl-masked people and he is brought before the Court of Owls, who offer Bruce a chance to join them. After Bruce leaves, given time to consider the offer, Talon reveals himself to be working for the Court of Owls, who are secretly raising an army of inhuman, undead talons to destroy Gotham City and allow the Court to rebuild it in their own image. However, their current talons are imperfect and dissolve after a period of time. It’s also revealed that Talon’s in a romantic relationship with Samantha, who’s secretly the Grandmaster of the Court of Owls. While the Court is planning for Talon to become one of their undead soldiers, with Robin serving as Talon’s replacement, Samantha’s secretly planning to save Talon from this procedure and have him become a member of the Court, so he can rule Gotham by her side.Damian, having contacted Talon, starts accompanying him to take out criminals, though he hesitates to kill them, which frustrates Talon. Sensing how Robin looks up to Batman as a father, Talon explains that after he gave his abusive thief father up to the police, who shot him, Talon was recruited by the Court of Owls. Batman shows up, having tracked Robin’s activity, but is blocked by Robin from capturing Talon. Batman tries to convince Robin that Talon and the Court of Owls are using him, but Robin is unconvinced, believing Batman is trying to hold him back from his potential. A confrontation breaks out between them, with Robin nearly getting the chance to kill Batman before leaving.Batman sneaks into the Court of Owls’s headquarters through the sewers, but is exposed to psychotropic gas by the Court, causing Batman to hallucinate. He is rescued by Nightwing and Alfred Pennyworth. Meanwhile, Talon introduces Robin to the Court and the Grandmaster. When Damian reveals himself to her, Samantha deduces that Batman is Bruce. When ordered to kill Damian, Talon instead turns against and overthrows the Court and kills every single member, including Samantha. Now in control of the Court’s army of talons, Talon leaves Damian behind, offering him another chance to join him once he has killed Batman.Talon and his soldiers attack Wayne Manor, breaking into the Batcave as Batman, Nightwing, and Alfred fight them off. Batman and Talon battle each other. Talon gains the upper hand until Robin, who escaped from the Court’s headquarters, intervenes and fights in Batman’s place. He eventually defeats Talon and holds a sai to his throat. However, Talon commits suicide by forcing Robin’s sai through his own neck, leaving Robin stunned and confused. Batman tries to welcome Robin back home, but Robin refuses, claiming he needs to sort out who he is. He leaves for a monastery in the Himalayas that Batman suggested to him.Considering he began as the spawn of what was first considered one of DC’s non-canonical “Elseworlds” stories, Damian Wayne’s perseverance throughout the Batman narrative comes as a bit of a surprise, largely on the steam of Grant Morrison’s fondness for the character. Damian’s lineage and ruthless perspective add a dose of ideological conflict to the Batman formula that works towards justifying those misgivings. The key aspect of Batman vs. Robin comes, obviously, in that conflict between this volatile assassin-trained Robin and the life-preserving Batman, feeding into the rocky father-son relationship between the Waynes.
Justin Chambers (Grey’s Anatomy)
C. Thomas Howell (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Kevin McKidd (Kingdon of Heaven)
Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
Steve Blum (Wolverine and The X-Men)
Kevin Conroy (Batman: TAS)
Sam Daly (Red Tails)
Dana Delany (Desperate Housewives)
Cary Elwes (The Princess Diaries)
Nathan Fillion (Firefly)
Grey Griffin (Ultimate Avengers)
Jennifer Hale (Batman Beyond)
Danny Huston (The Number 23)
Danny Jacobs (Futurama)
Vanessa Marshall (The Zeta Project)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Hynden Walch (The Batman)
James Patrick Stuart (Batman: The Brave and The Bold)
The early sequence in Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox is nothing but bright, vivid, four-color superheroics. The Rogues are pretty much harmless goofballs with Silver Age gimmicks. Professor Zoom’s genocidal agenda casts a darker pall onto what could otherwise play like an episode of Challenge of the Super-Friends, but the dialogue is still gleefully comic book-y. ” The rest of the Justice League swoops in just in the nick of time, It’s a big, triumphant display of Saturday morning superheroics, but one snide little comment Professor Zoom made before being dragged over to a holding cell at S.T.A.R. Labs keeps rattling around in Barry Allen’s head. The Flash runs towards the screen at impossible speed. Barry Allen is startled awake in the forensics lab, halfway-glancing at a PC with some ominous headline splattered across the screen. He catches wind of some villainy that only the Flash can handle, makes a mad dash towards the front door, strikes his usual heroic pose, and…stumbles down a few steps and falls flat on his face on the pavement. Before Barry can even try to make sense of whatever it is that just happened, he looks up and sees his his mother smiling down on him. She’s there for her birthday dinner with her baby boy, and she doesn’t even mind that it apparently slipped Barry’s mind. It’s not that Barry forgot, exactly; it’s that his mother had been brutally murdered decades earlier.
Everything has changed. A war between Atlantis and Themyscira has claimed more than a hundred million lives. The only ‘Man of Steel’ most anyone has heard of is Cyborg, someone most cape-‘n-cowl types sneer at as the President’s lapdog. Batman looks to be a hell of a lot older, gunning down costumed freaks atop the Wayne Casino with a semi-automatic pistol in each hand. The power of Captain Marvel…errr, Captain Thunder is wielded by six children. Someone or something has tampered with the past, and everything Barry Allen knows is wrong. His memories of the world he once knew are beginning to fade, and the post-apocalyptic wasteland that’s taken its place may not be around long enough for the former Flash to find a way back home.
I’m astonished by how effective Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox is. this readily ranks among one of the best animated DC animated movies. I love the contrast between the classic superheroics that open the movie and the bleak, dystopian world that soon takes its place.The acting weaves together established talent in DC animation with several new voices, with the ensemble cast featuring Kevin Conroy, Dana Delany, Nathan Fillion, Justin Chambers, Vanessa Marshall, Kevin McKidd, James Patrick Stuart, Cary Elwes, Ron Perlman, and Michael B. Jordan, among many others. The performances are generally outstanding. The anime-influenced character designs look incredible, especially when animated with such polish and fluidity. It’s a daunting challenge to effectively realize the Flash’s impossible speed on a direct-to-video budget, but the animators at Studio 4C do a brilliant job with this as well, especially throughout the awe-inspiring final moments of the film. The Atlantean/Themysciran war is addressed in a far superior way here than in the core “Flashpoint” comics.The Flashpoint Paradox is genuinely horrifying. Heroes we once looked up to now murder one another without hesitation, and the body count is staggering. Aquaman skewers a freedom fighter with his trident. A severed head is held up as a trophy. Wonder Woman strangles a spy, and the movie doesn’t turn away from the sight of his neck snapping and blood spurting from his mouth. This may be the single most brutal superhero movie I’ve ever experienced, animated or live-action. There’s an emotional core to the story that transcends the hero-trapped-on-an-alternate-Earth premise, delivering levels of joy, hope, determination, and heartbreak that are remarkably powerful. That Flashpoint takes place outside of established continuity allows it to better explore these characters — or what we’ve come to think of these characters — in an entirely different context. Because there are no concerns about marketing to kids, how anything that happens here will impact the next installment in the franchise, or whatever else, these twisted reinterpretations of iconic heroes can kill and be killed.There are stakes that go far beyond what’s generally felt in direct-to-video superhero animation. The Flashpoint Paradox is unnervingly intense, and yet it’s hardly masturbatory brutality or grim and gritty just for the sake of being grim and gritty.
Kevin Conroy (Batman: The Animated Series)
Jason Marsden (Young Justice)
Scott Menville (Teen Titans)
George Newbern (Justice League)
Alanna Ubach (Legally Blonde 2)
Hynden Walch (The Batman)
Corey Burton (Critters)
Gary Dourdan (CSI)
Ana Ortiz (Ugly Betty)
Will Friedle (Batman Beyond)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Parminder Nagra (Bend It Like Beckham)
Gotham Knight does something a little bit different from before. Basically this is a collection of six short films, all produced by different, independent Japanese Manga studios. The premise of the films is that they take place in-between Batman Begins and its sequel The Dark Knight. While no major events happen, the stories are separate, very enjoyable one-offs with a continuity that nicely links them all together. Right away, the whole thing screams `Animatrix’, and like The Animatrix, it gets a lot of stuff right. First of all, is the fact that they’ve brought in Kevin Conroy to reprise his role as the voice of Batman. And it’s as though nothing’s changed at all. Conroy has still got it, the darkness, the brooding, the menace; his Batman remains as perfect as it ever was.Another merit for Gotham Knight is that they’ve brought in such acclaimed talent like David Goyer, Brian Azzarello, Alan Burnett, Greg Rucka, Josh Olsen and Jordan Goldberg to write the different stories, and they all deliver some cracking stuff, each pinning down the basics of what makes the Batman (and Bruce Wayne) such a fascinating character; the urban myth of the Dark Knight, his relationship with the police, his `mask’ as Bruce Wayne, the road he embarked on to become what he is, his war against crime, the developing and refinement of his technology, hard learning curves and his code of honour.
The films also use the continuity established by Batman Begins to great and creative effect. Along the way, we see how great the ramifications of the events in Batman Begins truly are. The Arkham Asylum breakout making the whole Narrows island abandoned to madness is such a haunting premise, along with the Scarecrow’s reign of terror and still-at-large threat. The realistic approach established by Batman Begins is also utilised brilliantly, as we get fantastic incarnations of Killer Croc and the assassin Deadshot to provide the Dark Knight a real challenge.As for the supporting cast, we obviously have our favourites Lt. James Gordon (now in full swing with his alliance to Batman) and Alfred. We also have Detective Crispus Allen (a great favourite of mine from the comics) and Detective Anna Ramirez (a new character that appears in The Dark Knight). Both characters are used very well in the films, becoming nicely established as a result. Lucius Fox also plays a guest role here, and his sardonic friendship with Bruce Wayne is mirrored to great effect. We also have local crime bosses Sal Maroni and The Russsian serving as minor antagonists, with their war acting as a good little sub-plot. The writing is excellent, soundtrack is excellent and the voice-work goes without question. But how does the animation fare overall? I have a great deal of respect for Anime and the whole Manga style. While it personally isn’t my favourite, it can be truly spectacular.It’s a great tie-in product to the film franchise.