Saturday, January 15, 2011

Can't we all just get along?

As many of you know, something tragic happened last week in Arizona. I'll spare you all the details, mainly because the 24-hour news cycle has come at this story from every angle they could. Suffice to say, the events of the past week has caused many to take a good, hard look at several issues.

One of the issues that has come up is that of violent rhetoric in today's political discourse. It didn't take a tragedy for anyone to know that things are pretty bad, but it has highlighted just how bad. However, there are some who are putting logic through the wringer to avoid having the discussion.

Quite frankly, violent language in what's supposed to be a civil discourse is wrong. And for those who say otherwise, they should be BEATEN IN THE FACE WITH WIFFLE BATS! THEIR KNEECAPS SHOULD BE SET ON FIRE! AND THEN... THE BEES!

Not the bees!!!


Hold on there, son! You need to simmer down!

What?!? Who said that?

Me! Your Uncle Sam!

What are you doing here?

I appreciate what you're trying to do, but it seems you've gotten yourself a bit hot under the collar. Why don't you rest a spell and let me take it from here?

Sure thing, Uncle Sam!*

There now. Our 1st Amendment is a wonderful thing. If'n you don't cotton to the way government is run, you're allowed to speak your piece without fear of being taken to the woodshed. But there are limits. When you start talking about "2nd Amendment options" because you don't like how a lawful election turned out, well, that's sedition, and that gets me all riled up.

We're all Americans and, goshdurn it, we should be more neighborly to each other. Now, I can hear some of you say, "But Sam, it looks like the tragedy in Arizona wasn't motivated by politics, so why should we tone anything down?" To that, I say hogwash! True, that shooter in Arizona looks to be goofier than a rattlesnake with a toothache, but what does that have to do with folks bein' nicer to one another? Just because the house is cold because the front door is open don't mean I ain't gonna check to make sure the back flap on my longer underwear is buttoned up.

Other folks are flapping their gums saying, "But the other side uses that kind of talk all the time!" Well, to that I say balderdash! There's a little thing called the Golden Rule, which says treat folks how you want to be treated. There's no conditions on that rule either. It's a simple enough thing, so I get plum befuddled as to how folks look it over so often.

Short and sweet, we're all just folk. And whether we realize it or not, what we say has a powerful effect. Sure, they're just words, but then, so's what's in the Declaration of Indepence, and there ain't no one who'd say to my face that those ain't some of the most powerful words ever put to paper.

There's a little lady who's an acquaintance of mine by the name o' Starfire. In that cartoon she was in with her friends, the Teen Titans, she once said something that stuck with me: "Your democracy is not merely about voting. It is about compromise. Out of many different people, you make one country. Out of many flawed ideas, you create one that works." And that's what it's all about folks- finding that middle ground in this great melting pot of ours to make one delicious meal. And that meal is called America. Call me old fashioned, but I got a hankering for seconds with a side of biscuits.

*For best effect, please hum "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" or patriotic tune of your choice while reading. Thank you.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies- A Review!

Today, I'd like to talk about another of DC's direct-to-dvd animated features, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies. Adapted from the story by writer Jeph Loeb and artist Ed McGuinness, the story revolves around Superman and Batman trying to blow up a meteor while being branded as outlaws by President Lex Luthor. This film is notable for the voice cast; many of the voice actors from previous series produced by Bruce Timm have returned to once again portray their characters. They are Kevin Conroy (Batman from pretty much everything produced by Bruce Timm), Tim Daly (Superman from Superman: The Animated Series), Clancy Brown (Lex Luthor from the same Superman series, plus the two Justice League series), and CCH Pounder (Amanda Waller from Justice League Unlimited). So, yes, the cast is very good. But how's the movie.

In short, Public Enemies is very, very, VERY gay. I don't mean "gay" in the perjorative sense, mind you. Though I, on occasion, use "gay" as a negative term (mainly because I went to a public high school), in general I think it's in poor taste. The gay and lesbian community in this great nation of ours helps to maintain our cultural diversity, and their contributions cannot be overstated.

When I say that Public Enemies is gay, I mean that the theme of the film appears to be about how much Superman and Batman desperately want to have sex with each other. Now, the original comic had some homoerotic subtext, as has been commented on by very scholarly works, but the animated feature cranks it up to eleven. Public Enemies is like the Elton John Birthday Party of animated features. There's Batman's sudden shift in attitude whenever Lois gets mentioned, for instance. Or, the thrilling conclusion, where the two protagonists shoot each other a look that suggests that Superman is about to crash land his rocket into the Batcave, if you catch me drift.

Now, overall, Timm and company are generally faithful to the original story, though it's trimmed down a bit for time. There are two major changes to the plot, however. First, they changed why Superman is branded an outlaw by Lex. In the comics, it goes a little something like this...

LEX: You know kryptonite, that rock that's basically poison to Superman? There's a HUGE chunk of it coming to Earth that will kill us all; Superman is clearly behind it- ARREST HIM!

Granted, the populace of the DC Universe has never been known for being overly intelligent, but I find this a bit much. In the film, they change it to Superman being framed for murder, and do so in a fairly clever fashion.

The other major change regards Captain Atom. In the comic, he's arguably the most important character after Supers, Bats, and Lex; he ultimately saves the day. However, that would fail to impress upon the viewer how awesome the power of Superman and Batman's bromance truly is, so Cap is pretty much relegated to background duty.

They kept most of the choice bits of Jeph Loeb's dialogue, and there are some great action scenes, but for the most part, this film feels like it's missing something. Maybe it's the run time; it's only about 10 minutes shorter than the average for the rest of the DC features, but it feels really rushed. Or maybe it's because a lot of the big moments have been done better before. President Lex vs. the Superheroes was better on Justice League Unlimited, and Superman saving Batman after Batman saves the world was done better in the Justice League episode Starcrossed.

Honestly, I didn't love this. It's not bad, but I wouldn't recommend buying it. It's good for a rental, but that's about it.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Green Lantern: First Flight- A Review!

Hello, all! I hope everyone had a Mighty Christmas! Anyway, now that the festivities have died down, I've decided to get started on one of my New Year's Resolutions- to get caught up on reviews for the DC Direct animated features. Since I left off with Wonder Woman, logically, the next review should be for the next one in the series, so here's my review of Green Lantern: First Flight.

Now, before we really begin, let me state that I'm not a huge fan of either Hal Jordan or the Green Lantern Corps, and this movie features both in abundance.

With Hal, I don't necessarily dislike him; he's just always come across as REALLY dull. The CONCEPT of Green Lantern is awesome, but Hal is as bland as white bread. He's basically a blank slate of a character who's easily adapted to whoever he's paired with, which is why he's a free-willing guy with Barry Allen, a straight-laced guy with Green Arrow, and a witless punching bag with Batman. (Seriously, Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner have a more nuanced relationship dynamic than Hal and Bats.)

Oh, Frank Miller. To think there was a time when your stories weren't (pardon the expression) bats*** crazy.

Honestly, he was only interesting with Emerald Twilight and beyond. My real hatred lies with the Hal fanboys, who blatantly ignore past continuity and characterization and continue to proclaim how great Hal was. Seriously, they even spent thousands of dollars to clear Hal's good name (but that's a blog post for another day).

So, I don't like Hal, but I don't hate him. However, I HATE the Corps. Every lame alien concept EVER has showed up there. They've had dogs, chipmunks, talking mushrooms, fish guys, and I think something that looked like a carrot, and that's just the tip of the fecal iceberg. The real tragedy of Emerald Twilight is not that Hal went crazy and killed them all, it's that it took him that long to do so. The Corps is awful, and I hate them. Except Mogo. Mogo is the bomb, yo.

Having said all that, I have to say that both Hal and the Corps are used to good effect in this movie. Now, on to an actual plot synopsis.

Hal, hotshot test pilot, gets a magic ring from a dying alien. He's taken into space to meet the Green Lantern Corps, a group of space police, of which Hal is now a member. He's trained by Sinestro who, as luck would have it, is actually EEEEVIL. Sinestro gets a yellow magic ring, hijinx ensue, and Hal saves the day. Spoilers!

Playing Hal Jordan is Christopher Meloni, who you might remember from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. The role of Hal fits Meloni like a pair of comfy jeans. Makes sense, as Hal's basically a cop, and Meloni's been playing cops for something like a decade now.

And then there's Victor Garber as Sinestro. I'm not sure what you would call the voice acting equivalent of chewing scenery, but Garber does it marvelously here. Then there's Michael Madsen as Kilowog; he doe a good job, but I get the feeling he just showed up, read his lines, and collected his paycheck. A harsh statement, perhaps, but he IS in the "Anything for a Buck" phase of his career (how else do you explain Bloodrayne?). There's quite a few more name talents in this, but those are the most notable performances.

As for the style, the animation kicks ass, and the artists really go nuts with the GL ring constructs. While there are a few giant fists, generally, Hal is shown to use his ring in a very creative fashion- at one point, he makes a steel chair to whallop an alien criminal (ECW! ECW!). And the climactic final battle is everything you would hope it would be in a Green Lantern feature- giant energy constructs, cosmic whoop-ass, planets getting thrown around... It gives me a shudder of nerd-ecstasy just thinking about it!

Now, some folks have criticized how the film is practically ALL in space. Take this quote from's review- "The filmmakers seem less interested in his transition from an ordinary man into a intergalactic superhero, and in their eagerness to get him up into space and fighting aliens right away, the charm of the origin story is somewhat lost." They're absolutely right! Oh, if only Bruce Timm and company had made an animated feature that showcases how Hal goes from test pilot to space hero!!! The folly!

Really, the only problem I have with the film is a little change to the mythology. In the film, when a Green Lantern dies, their rings fly back to Oa. This BLATANTLY contradicts the opening scene, where Abin Sur dies and the ring goes off to find a successor. The whole things seems concocted to sidestep the "Well, why doesn't Sinestro just kill so-and-so when he has the chance?" argument. On the other hand, there's a really neat scene after Sinestro gets his yellow ring and scores of rings start falling on Oa. Still, I don't think that was terribly neccesary.

Overall, First Flight is a solid piece of animation. It's fun, action-packed, and not nearly as violent as previous endeavors (no one vomits blood or gets decapitated; most of the deaths occur off-screen). I may not be the biggest Hal fan, but he makes being green seem easy.