REVIEW: THOR & LOKI: BLOOD BROTHERS

CAST (VOICES)

Daniel Thorn (Technobabylon)
Jennifer Spriggs  (The One I Love)
Roger Clark (Perfect Disasters)

thor_loki_bloodbrothers_preview_01Loki has become the ruler of Asgard. However, he doesn’t have dominion over Hela, the goddess of death. Loki is demanding fealty from everyone in Asgard. Hela asks Loki for the soul of Thor for her “legions in Nifelheim”. Lady god Sif is imprisoned at the ending of the first segment. Karnilla, the queen god of Nornheim meets Loki in the second segment. She pleads for the release of Balder from imprisonment. In the third segment, Loki orders the destruction of the Rainbow Bridge. In a flashback, Odin defeats Laufey in battle. In the final segment, Loki refuses to execute Thor and spurns Hela.cbr-thorlokibloodbrothersclip118-1024x577To say this is “inspired by” the four-issue Loki graphic novel series of 2004 is a little misleading. The scripting, story and artwork are identical, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The animation is a more than a little stifled, mostly relying on computer technology to manipulate a single static image rather than produce extra frames. I find this adaptation to be fascinating. The transfer from graphic novel to albeit limited animated feature showcases the original artwork in an incredible way, adding a vibrancy to the work. The addition of the more traditional elements of Norse mythology and it’s clever integration is a very nice touch. If you liked the original source material then this you will love. thor_loki_bloodbrothers_preview_03

REVIEW: THE INCREDIBLE HULK RETURNS

CAST

Bill Bixby (My Favorite Martian)
Lou Ferrigno (I Love You, Man)
Jack Colvin (Child’s Play)
Lee Purcell (Valley Girl)
Charles Napier (The Silence of The Lambs)
John Gabriel (General Hospital)
Jay Baker (April fool’s Day)
Tim Thomerson (Dollman)
Eric Allan Kramer (American Pie 3)

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Two years after the episode “A Minor Problem”, Dr. David Banner has been gainfully employed at the Joshua-Lambert Research Institute (as David Bannion) where he and a team of scientists are putting the final touches on a Gamma Transponder, which he intends to use to cure him of his ability to turn into the Hulk. He has not changed into the Hulk for two years since he met a young widow, Maggie Shaw, with whom he is romantically involved. By chance, he is recognized by a former student of his, Donald Blake. Blake claims that, on an expedition in the Norwegian mountains, he found an enchanted hammer containing the soul of Thor, an immortal Norse warrior banished by Odin to Earth to earn worthiness into Valhalla.
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Thor is reluctantly compelled to serve Blake, who is unnerved by this. Banner does not believe him, so Blake summons Thor into Banner’s laboratory. Thor damages equipment and angers Banner until he turns into the Hulk, who easily fights him off and leaves.Image result for the incredible hulk returnsIn the morning, Banner scolds Blake for setting back his experiment and demands that he and Thor make amends. Journalist Jack McGee, who once spent years chasing the Hulk, hears about the sightings of the Hulk and Thor and vows to expose them. Thor laments the misery of his banishment and he and Blake attend a tavern where he can fight, drink and embrace the company of women as he would do so in Valhalla. The two become friends and briefly entertain the possibility of Thor using his powers to fight crime. A criminal organisation within the Joshua-Lambert Institute seek to kidnap Banner and the Transponder, but the Hulk effortlessly dispatches them. The mob leader LeBeau targets Dr. Shaw instead of Banner. Mob members disguised as police officers ambush Banner and Shaw and kidnap Shaw despite the combined efforts of the Hulk and Thor.
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LeBeau blackmails Banner into handing over the Transponder in return for Shaw’s life. Banner sabotages the Transponder so it cannot be used as a weapon, essentially destroying his chance of curing his condition. Lambert, a mob informant within the company, outlives his usefulness and is shot, but asks to see Banner, revealing where Shaw is being held, in an abandoned warehouse. Hulk, Blake and Thor ambush the warehouse and fight off a small army of gunmen to rescue Shaw. McGee is once again the subject of ridicule for his obsession with the Hulk and now Thor. Blake and Banner both agree that Shaw has likely figured out that Banner and the Hulk are one and the same and that Banner should leave to protect her. Thor and Blake, now at peace with each other, say their goodbyes to Banner. Banner is forced to end his relationship with Shaw and, as ever, walks alone into the distance.Bill Bixby once again delivers nothing short of superb excellence in his performance as Dr. David Banner (or David Banyon to everyone around him).
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Lou Ferrigno was bigger and bulkier than ever as the Hulk and gave an outstanding performance. I enjoyed seeing Jack Colvin one more time as Jack McGee, but only wished he had been in there more. Noteworthy villains were Tim Thomerson and veteran Hulk guest actor Charles Napier. Lance Rubin was the right man to succeed Joe Harnell in the musical score and gave it a more technological late 80’s sound. What I didn’t care for was the addition of Thor and Donald Blake. This movie did not need that. But for what it’s worth, Eric Allen Kramer was fun and amusing as Thor, the Norse God and Steve Levitt’s Don Blake was pretty much a geek. It was like the Geek and the Jock as best friends.Image result for the incredible hulk returnsI would definitely recommend this reunion movie to anybody who has never seen it. Even though it’s a little more comic bookish in story than the old series, it’s still worth watching. I give it two thumbs up.

REVIEW: FANTASTIC FOUR (1994): THE COMPLETE SERIES

CAST
Beau Weaver (Transformers)
Lori Alan (Family Guy)
Chuck McCann (Ducktales)
Brian Austin Green (Anger Management)
Quinton Flynn (Digimon)
Neil Ross (Being John Malkovich)
Tony Jay (Lois & Clark)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Robin Sachs (Buffy)
John Rhys-Davies (Lord of The Rings)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Michael Dorn (Ted 2)
Jane Carr (Star Trek: Enterprise)
Edward Albert (Power Rangers Time Force)
John Vernon (Batman: TAS)
Simon Templeman (The Neighbours)
Brad Garrett (The Crazy Ones)
Richard Grieco (21 Jump Street)
Clyde Kusatsu (Bird on a Wire)
Kerrigan Mahan (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers)
Alan Oppenheimer (He-Man)
Gary Owens (That 70s Shows)
Bill Smitrovich (Ted)
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Launched in 1994 as part of Marvel’s Action Hour in the USA (alongside Iron Man), this then new cartoon attempted to bring Marvel’s First Family  to the attention of a new generation. The main US comic book of the time included a free ‘animation cel’ with #394 to promote the series and later a spin off comic book of the cartoon was launched. In its first season, the show is disappointing. Reduced to a crude sitcom, the show is creaky, toe curling and cheesy beyond belief.  Worst of all, Sue Richards is reduced to mere ‘damsel in distress’ for the entirety of the season, functioning only as a simpering wife and mother to the men on the team. Compared to the superior Batman: The Animated Series of the time and even Marvel’s other cartoons of the period Spider-man, X-Men and Iron Man, its not hard to feel disappointed with the translation of the Fantastic Four to the small screen.

Thankfully, the approach of Season One , with its comedy landlord and irksome stereotypes don’t seemed to have found favour with audiences either and the show was given a serious overhaul for Season Two. The improvement in storytelling is immense and does a much better job of servicing the characters and situations they find thermselves in. The theme tune and accompanying score are still pretty naff though, all synthesized fanfares and flat sounding parps.
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The Inhumans three parter is my favourite, giving all its key characters a chance to shine and the romance between Johnny Storm and Crystal is nicely done, There’s also some neat guest appearances for The Avengers, Black Panther and even Ego – The Living Planet. As with all of Clear Vision’s Marvel releases, the set is attractively packaged with some nice artwork by Simon Williams and the picture is pin sharp and vibrant. The sound is superb as well, being dolby 5.1 stereo. There’s nothing in the way of any extras though, just the usual language and episode selections.

REVIEW: X-MEN: THE ANIMATED SERIES – SEASON 1-5

CAST

Cedric Smith (Mutant X)
Norm Spencer (Rescue Heroes)
Catherine Disher (The Good Witch)
Cathal J. Dodd (Goosebumps)
Iona Morris (Robotech)
Alison Sealy-Smith (This Is Wonderland)
Chris Potter (The Waiting Game)
Tony Daniels (Yin Yang Yo!)
Alyson Court (Elvis Meets Nixon)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

John Colicos (Battlestar Galactica)
Jeremy Ratchford (Cold Case)
Lawrence Bayne (Highlander: TAS)
Barry Flatman (Odyssey 5)
Richard Epcar (Power Rangers)
David Hemblen (Earth: Final Conflict)
Don Francks (La Femme Nikita)
Frank Welker (The Simpsons)
Len Carlson (Swamp Thing: TAS)
Susan Roman (The Racoons)
Dennis Akiyama (Pxiels)
Nigel Bennett (Andromeda)
Maurice Dean Wint (Robocop: Prime Directives)
Philip Akin (Highlander: The Series)
Tara Strong (Batman: The Killing Joke)

X-Men (1992)I recently watched through the entire 90’s x-men Animated Series for the first time. So does the show hold up for someone who didn’t watch it when it first aired? Is it still a good show? Overall, the show is really good. It was also revolutionary as it was one of the first animated TV shows to have a continuing storyline throughout the first few seasons.X-Men (1992)Rather than creating exclusively new story lines, the show based most of its episodes on well known events from the comics. Stuff like the ultra-famous dark phoenix saga all the way to a modified version of Days of Future Past that included the time traveling mutant Bishop. Most of the episodes changed details here and there to keep thing simple, but the basic premise remains the same.The animation is a mixed bag. On the one hand, still shots look very good for a 90s cartoon. Both characters and environments are finely detailed and even facial expressions are usually well done. On the other hand, it doesn’t look too good in motion. The frame-rate is often choppy and at times characters in the background are just standing still. There are occasional continuity errors as well, like characters swapping outfits between shots (the episode titled “Nightcrawler” comes to mind).Characters are generally portrayed well in the TV show. The main team consists of Professor X, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Wolverine, Beast, Storm, Gambit, Rogue, and Jubilee. Professor X, Wolverine, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast and Gambit are all portrayed well in the show. I found some of their voice actors were a little off-putting at first, but as I watched they grew on me. Rogue probably has the best voice acting of the bunch.X-Men (1992)I wasn’t quite as fond with the portrayal of Storm or Jubilee however. Storm was alright, but having her constantly talk about what she was commanding the weather to do is annoying at times. Does she have to verbally command the wind every time she blasts enemies with it? I get that she’s a bit of a showoff and that’s part of her charm, but still.X-Men (1992)The show has a great spotlight of different villains as well. It features everyone from mega villains like Magneto, Mr. Sinister, and Apocalypse to smaller villains like Vertigo, the Juggernaut, and even the Brood. The show even mentions the Juggernaut’s relationship to Xavier (they’re step brothers). Mr. Sinister in particular is very well portrayed in the series, and we even get an origins episode in season five (heavily modified of course).If you have any interest in the X-men and want to try out the comics, this is a decent show for finding out some of the franchises back-story. It’s rarely as good as the original stories it’s based on, but it’s easier to find and for the most part, it’s an easy watch.

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: THOR: TALES OF ASGARD

CAST (VOICES)

Matthew Wolf (The Fault of Our Stars)
Rick Gomez (Sin City)
Tara Strong (Batman: TAS)
Alistair Abell (Freddy vs Jason)
Paul Dobson (Chappie)
Brent Chapman (Big Eyes)
Chris Biritton (Carrie 2013)
Mark Gibbon (Man of Steel)
Ty Olsson (Battlestar Galactica)

Tales of Asgard takes place well before Thor would become the mighty God of Thunder. His strength is anything but superhuman. He wields no otherworldly powers. This teenager has yet to seize hold of Mjolnir, the mystic hammer that would go on to be the adult Thor’s weapon of choice. There’s nothing vaguely heroic about him at all, really. The Thor we’re introduced to at the outset is a sheltered, arrogant whelp. He’s never stepped foot outside the palace grounds of Asgard. He’s so wrapped up in himself that Thor fails to recognize that the warriors he battles in the arena are letting him win.

His father Odin and brother Loki do their damndest to keep propping up that façade. When Thor with his masterfully crafted, jewel-encrusted sword is effortlessly bested in battle by Sif — a teenaged girl with nothing more than a bucket and a broken pitchfork — his illusions come crumbling down. Thor thirsts for a real adventure, so he and Loki stow themselves away on the flying ship of the Warriors Three. The prize is the legendary sword of the fire giant Surtur…a treasure that countless Asgardians have chased but never been able to unearth. The treasure hunt at first glance seems to go according to plan, but the sword’s dark power proves to be more than Thor can handle, and a war between the Frost Giants and Asgard quickly erupts because of it. Returning the sword should quell those fires, but Thor and his companions are still a world away.

As much as the Star Wars prequels have trained me to wince at the prospect of a “when they were young” story, Thor: Tales of Asgard pulls this off remarkably well. It’s intriguing to see how different these characters are at the outset. Loki would in later years be Thor’s arch-nemesis — responsible for the deaths of untold legions, to blame for the destruction of Asgard — but here he’s easily the more likeable of the two brothers. He’s fiercely protective of his family, genuinely innocent, cautious, and only just now dipping his toes into sorcery. Thor, meanwhile, is an arrogant, impulsive braggart incapable of looking far enough ahead to think about consequences. At least at first, no one would mistake him for a hero. The events of Tales of Asgard nudge both of Odin’s sons towards the directions they’d take later in life, but instead of feeling like a heavy-handed origin story, it’s a really well thought out and very effective chapter from these early years. Both Thor and Loki are believably fleshed-out as characters, and their arcs feel meaningful and wholly earned.

Asimpressed as I am with the way both of them are presented, the Warriors Three completely steal the movie, overflowing with personality and scoring all the best lines. Also putting in appearances here are Odin himself, The Enchantress, a Fenris Wolf, the Dark Elf Algrim, Brunhilde, and the warrior goddess Sif, among many others. As sprawling as the cast is and as dense as the mythology can be, Thor: Tales of Asgard is never overwhelming. The point of it all is to introduce neophytes to the realm of Asgard, and the movie deftly juggles all of these many different elements and with a minimum of exposition to boot.

The pacing is kept nimble with a constant sense of forward momentum too, so things never have a chance to drag. I’m also intrigued by how even-keeled Tales of Asgard is with these characters. There really is no overarching villain. There are characters who do terrible things, of course, be it willfully or out of ignorance, but there are no nefarious, moustache-twirling schemes or anything like that. Everyone is shown as having a sympathetic, justifiable point of view. Its primary interest is in showing the transformative effects of great power, and in keeping with that, the finalé even takes care to define heroism in terms other than people hitting each other. Even better, the movie manages to make these points in the scale of a colossal battle, never at all feeling preachy, heavy-handed, or anticlimactic.

Thor: Tales of Asgard takes a lot of chances, presenting such familiar characters in very unfamiliar ways and veering away from the traditional superhero formulas. I mean, this is a movie where Thor is kind of a prick, can’t fly, lacks any superhuman abilities, has never held his iconic stone hammer, and is the best of friends with a character we’re so used to seeing as his mortal enemy. It’s impressive enough that Tales of Asgard doesn’t play it safe, but also that it pulls all of this off so well.

REVIEW: HULK VS

 

CAST (VOICES)

Fred Tatasciore (9)
Matthew Wolf (The Fault of Our Stars)
Graham McTavish (The Hobbit)
Grey Griffin (The Replacements)
Kari Wahlgren (Rick and Morty)
Bryce Johnson (The Skulls 3)
Steve Blum (Wolverine and The X-Men)

Hulk vs. completely lives up to its title. There are no long, tedious origin stories. Neither half of this double feature is bogged down by any meandering, who-really-cares filler subplots, clunky romances, or triple-underlined moral messages. These two mini-movies chuck viewers straight into the action and never let up until the end credits roll. Marvel and Lionsgate haven’t watered it down to play to the lunchbox crowd either; these battles against Thor and Wolverine are intense and unflinchingly violent.As a nod to the comics that first introduced Wolverine to the world, he and the Hulk square off in — where else? — the desolate Canadian wilderness. The Hulk has been carving a path of destruction throughout the Great White North, and Department H drops Wolverine in to stop the beast dead in his tracks. The two are fairly evenly matched: Wolverine’s healing factor can take all of the abuse the Hulk can dish out — flinging him what looks like miles away, smashing his hairy little body into the ground over and over again with a three-ton rock — and although those adamantium claws sink deep into the jade giant’s hide, all it really seems to do is piss the Hulk off even more. Just as the tide starts to turn in this brutal, bloody brawl, the Hulk’s back is peppered with a stream of oversized tranquilizer darts. The Weapon X program sees the Hulk as the ultimate weapon in its arsenal, and as the sleeping giant is being prepped for a mindwipe, Wolverine escapes and slices through the small army of seasoned killers that stand in his way.Barely breaking the half hour mark minus credits, the core of the story is lean and uncluttered, and the whole thing is devastatingly brutal wall-to-wall action. Hulk vs. Wolverine draws deeply from imagery from the comics, from that iconic McFarlane cover of the Hulk reflected in Wolverine’s gleaming claws to entire pages of Barry Windsor-Smith’s Weapon X origin translated verbatim. The movie doesn’t take any undue liberties with its characters or their powers; I really do get the sense that this was written, directed, and animated by lifelong comic fans making the sort of movie they’d want to watch instead of just trying to cast a wide net and disinterestedly hit the studio’s numbers. A movie about Wolverine recaptured by Weapon X can’t be saddled with a PG rating, and this is so hyperviolent and sopping with blood that I’m really not sure how it managed to just score a PG-13. I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s more brutal and unflinchingly graphic than a lot of slasher flicks I’ve seen. I love the skewed, stylized character designs, and from Wolverine’s half-growled dialogue to the Hulk’s thunderous roar, the voice acting is absolutely perfect. I don’t want to spoil the reveal of who all is part of Weapon X’s superpowered black ops team — the surprise is a huge part of the fun — but I have to give

The title Hulk vs. Thor doesn’t really convey the scale of the second half of this double feature. The Hulk isn’t just pitted against the Norse god of thunder; he singlehandedly takes on the entirety of Asgard: the Warriors 3, legions of valkyries, frost giants, Odin’s ravens, Hel itself, and virtually every last iconic character from the pages of the comics. The movie is set in the waning hours of the Odinsleep: the annual slumber of Asgard’s greatest protector that leaves the realm most exposed to assault from its enemies. Every plot, scheme, and army to have ever been unleashed during the Odinsleep has been handily defeated over the years, but the warriors of Asgard have never been pitted against a force as unstoppable — the embodiment of rage — as the Hulk. An embittered Enchantress uses her dark sorcery to bring the Hulk under Loki’s thrall, and the god of mischief pulls the beast’s strings to effortlessly pummel his brother Thor to within inches of death: no small feat for an immortal god. The Hulk’s thundering rage proves too difficult for Loki to control for long, though, and with his ferocity fully unleashed as never before, he’s not going to stop until the entirety of Asgard lays in ruin.It’s as if the writers behind Hulk vs. Thor couldn’t figure out what Asgardian lore to mine from the hundreds of issues of the comic, so they opted to throw in everything. Virtually every recognizable character and iconic image from the greatest of the Nine Worlds is featured here at some point. Its story is more involved than Hulk vs. Wolverine and is given a few extra minutes to breathe, but the action never lets up here either. Dark magicks rend Bruce Banner from the Hulk, removing the lone spark of humanity keeping the beast’s colossal rage in check, and his path of destruction is unreal, even threatening to topple Hel itself. The imagery isn’t nearly as graphic as Hulk vs. Wolverine, but there’s still an enormous amount of carnage, and the sight of Thor’s arm being shattered or the god of thunder laying limp and lifeless after being punched clean through a mountain is still remarkably intense. I have to admit to not being quite as dazzled by Hulk vs. Thor as I was with the first half of this double feature; dialogue like “You are no troll, monster!” doesn’t sound quite as effortless, the voice acting is perfectly fine but more straightforwardly proper and British, and the celebratory ending seems a little forced. Still, its ability to draw so deeply from some four hundred issues of Thor ought to astonish even casual fans of the comic, the scope of the movie is truly epic, and the torment and anguish inflicted on Bruce Banner pack about as much of a wallop as a roundhouse from the Hulk.Hulk vs. is the first of Marvel’s direct-to-DVD animation to really feel as if it’s targeted squarely at  fanboys. There’s no filler or tedious origin stories here: both halves of this double feature dive headfirst into the action.