Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Review: Batman '66 #11

Issue 11 features a book length novel. Jeff Parker's script is a mixed bag.  The first part of the story deals with a talent show Harley Quinn organized at Arkham Asylum, featuring all the super villains. This part of the book is very much like "The Roast" episode of Legends Of The Super Heroes. Joker and Catwoman escape with a version of Professor Overbeck's brain regulator, seen in issue 3, which leads the Terrific Trio to investigate. Joker and Catwoman attack the Mayor (no longer Mayor Linseed from the TV show, but the George Wallace played mayor from Batman Forever) on a golf course.  Its revealed Quinn has been helping Joker and Catwoman, as they use the brain regulator to turn citizens into mind controlled laughing henchmen.  Ultimately, Quinn, feeling guilty over her part in this, uses the brain regulator to nullify its effects, but loses her own sanity in the process.

The one villain noticeably absent in an issue riddled with cameos, is the Riddler.  In fact, the Riddler hasn't made much of an impact in the series, save for the debut issue.  The Riddler dominated the first season of the TV series, but went missing for most of the second and third seasons, when the show went downhill.  It seems somewhat appropriate since Parker has modeled his stories on the lackluster second and third seasons (and even the Joel Schumacher movies) rather than the excellent first season.  It also appears Parker's main objective for this series is to make the 66 Universe conform with standard modern DC continuity, by bringing in Harley Quinn, and fostering a Robin crush on Batgirl, among other little bits he has thrown in over the course of 11 issues.  This is the opposite of what this series should be doing.  It should be exploring and expanding the 66 Universe, without forcing it to conform to standard modern DC continuity. And this all leads to the fact Parker should be replaced on this series by someone like Andy Fish, who understands the differences between season one and the other two seasons.  On the other hand, Jonathan Case returns to do the art, and does an excellent job, making the story seem better than what it is.  Overall, what was supposed to be a full length epic novel falls flat due to a poor script, and earns this issue a C.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

First pic of Affleck as Batman revealed

My observations? While I still haven't quite warmed up to the fact Ben Affleck is playing Batman yet, I do think the photo shows an improvement over Christian Bale.  I always thought the cowl on Bale's costume made his jaw look way too narrow.  That's certainly not the case with Affleck. While I'm not a fan of short ears or the squared off fins on the gloves, I like that they departed from the Nolan-Bale era pad covered suit that made Batman look like a motocross rider or skate boarder at times.  I kind of wish the chest emblem was a little less Frank Miller like, but its still an improvement over the weird Nolan-Bale era emblem.  I'm also glad to see a Keaton-era leathery cape back, instead of the Bale era Liberace-like velvet cape. I'm very optimistic the suit will be blue and gray... if it was black and gray, or solid black, or shades of gray, there would be no point in releasing the first photo without color.  It has to be to keep the fact the costume is blue and gray a secret a little longer for a bigger reveal later on.  As for the Batmobile, it looks to be a good middle ground between the classic Burton-Keaton era Batmobile, and the Nolan-Bale era Tumbler.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

movie review: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2

When I wrote my review of The Amazing Spider-Man, my main complaint was that it felt like watching a rerun.  While there is still a "been there, done that" feel to the sequel, it is better than its predecessor. First the pros. The script had some good moments. Some big action sequences, although not as masterful as either The Dark Knight or Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but not nearly as sloppy and overbearing as Man Of Steel.  The scenes with Electro are great visuals, with lightning bolts striking all over.  It confirms how great a Shazam movie could be. Actually, there is very little action in the first part of the movie, as it plays more like a teen drama, concentrating on the Peter-Gwen relationship.  Last time, I felt the humor fell flat, but this time Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone really get the humorus moments down, and director Mark Webb also includes a lot of inspired physical comedy. Webb introduces Felicia Hardy (Felicity Jones), soon to be the Black Cat. The death of Gwen Stacy plays out well, altered slightly from the comic book source material.

The cons: the foreshadowing of Gwen's death is about as subtle as sledge hammer to the head.  From Gwen's graduation speech, to bits of dialogue by both Gwen and Peter, to the most outlandish, random shots of Gwen's dead father (played again by the lubberly Dennis Leary) as a ghostly image shaking his head at Peter.  Jamie Foxx's Max Dillon seems like the part was a cut and paste from the Edward Nygma role from the Batman Forever screenplay. One of my other gripes about the first movie was how they embellished the Parker parents, into making them more important to the Spidey origin than they traditionally were.  That continues in this movie, and those moments drag the movie down, most notably the lackluster opening sequence.  Thankfully this storyline seems to have been wrapped up in this movie.

Dane DeHaan as Harry Osborn.  The advance reviews said he was the best part of the movie, giving a near Health Ledger performance.  Wrong.  He played the part rather mediocre, the most notable thing about his performance being that he looked like he just stepped out of a German nightclub in 1962. As the Green Goblin, he overacts. As with The Dark Knight focusing so much of the movie on Harvey Dent, only to shoehorn Two-Face's entire career into the last 10 minutes, this movie does the same with Harry, then shoves in the Green Goblin after you think the movie has ended.

Mary Jane Watson was to be introduced in this movie, but the role was cut at the last minute after the scenes were already filmed.  My guess is, the MJ scenes would have appeared after Gwen's funeral, in place of the montage of Peter at Gwen's grave through changing seasons in the final edit.

One of the most mystifying things in the movie is the mid-credits scene.  It's about the X-Men.  20th Century Fox is setting up an alternate Marvel cinematic universe grounded in their X-Men continuity to include the rebooted Fantastic Four.  Doe this scene mean they also cut a deal with Sony to include this Spidey franchise into the competing Marvel universe?

While this movie may be worth seeing in the theatres, at the end of the day, all three Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies are still better.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Review: Batman '66 #10

This issue opens with a Mr Freeze story that seems to be more influenced by Joel Schumacher's Batman & Robin than with the 1966 TV show. Jeff Parker's script is kind of a let down, as so many things in it echo the Schumacher movie.  Its stories like this that make me wish DC would look to other writers to contribute to the series.  As I said in my previous review, Andy Fish would be a perfect writer for Batman '66. David Williams' art is good but not outstanding.  It's a rare occasion when the shorter second story is better than the lead.  Focusing on Batgirl, and bringing back TV character Lisa Carson, whom King Tut once kidnapped, she now has a similar split personality, believing herself to be Cleopatra.  Parker turns in a script that is much better than his lead story, and the art by Joelle Jones is superb, with some excellent renderings of both Batgirl and Cleopatra. The second story is strong enough to pull the whole issue up one full grade, earning it a B-.