Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (2010) - Recap and Review

Batman Superman Wonder Woman Justice League poster wallpaper image picture screensaver

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (JL: CoTE) is inspired by “Crisis on Earth-Three!” (written by Gardner Fox) and JLA: Earth 2”, the graphic novel by Grant Morrison.

As the movie's title indicates, there are alternate earths, each with its own version of our DC Comics heroes and villains. Of course, in other realities, the roles are reversed.

In one such alternate universe, Lex Luthor and Joker are the good guys in charge of the Justice League. The villains are bad guy versions of our regular Justice League members. We have Ultraman, Superwoman, Owlman, Power Ring and Johnny Quick. These super villains are members of Crime Syndicate”.

In one such encounters between the heroes and villains, the Joker sacrifices himself in order to save Lex Luthor's life. Lex travels to our Earth and requests our set of Justice Leaguers to help save his planet. The rest of the movie is about how our regular heroes fight their evil counterparts and save the alternate Earth.

This is a movie that gives equal  importance to all Justice League members. This means in addition to Supes, Bats and Wonder Woman, Flash and Green Lantern, we get a good look at the most (criminally) underused Justice League member of all time: J'onn J'onzz, better known as the Martian Manhunter (MM).

Jonn Jonzz Martian Manhunter Justice League poster wallpaper image picture screensaver

MM is one of the coolest and the most powerful heroes among the entire lineup of DC Comics characters.

To give an idea of the insane arsenal of powers that MM possesses, I have also mentioned another Comic Book character who has the same power:
1. Intangibility (Kitty Pryde)
2. Shape-shifting (Mystique)
3. Super-strength (Superman)
4. Telepathy (Professor X)
5. Flight (Wonder Woman/Rogue)
6. Martian Vision/Optic Blasts (Cyclops)
7. Telekinesis (Jean Grey)
8. Invisibility

It is almost impossible to best him in a physical confrontation and deserves top billing in any DC Comics adaptation (animated or real life). But fate has dealt the Martian a cruel hand and he still lingers on the sidelines, waiting for his spot in the limelight.

MM has not got much of exposure except for a few rare animated movies like this and the Justice League series that ran from 2001 to 2006. Phil Morris played J'onn J'onzz with a healthy dose of humor, intelligence and the requisite air of mystery in Smallville. His MM had an excellent chemistry with Tom Welling's Clark Kent and this remains one of my favorite parts from the TV show.

Getting back to the movie under review, MM gets enough moments to showcase his amazing powers. Credit to Dwayne McDuffie for his script that helps MM get his much deserved screentime.

Batman Owlman Justice League Crisis on Two Earths poster wallpaper image picture screensaver

Obviously, any DC Comics adaptation cannot do without the Batman and this movie is no exception. The Dark Knight and his evil doppelganger, Owlman arguably have the best written parts. Owlman is a nihilist and his motto is Nothing matters. He means to destroy Earth-Prime and with that, all life that exists on various alternate universes (including our Earth).

Other Crime Syndicate members that get to leave an impression are Superwoman and Johnny Quick, the alternate versions of Wonder Woman and The Flash. Another common feature to these three characters is that they get to bash around Batman quite a bit. The Caped Crusader gets even with a couple of them and I will leave it to the readers to enjoy these surprises for themselves.

Sam Liu and Lauren Montgomery have co-directed this movie that stars the voice talents of Mark Harmon as Superman, William Baldwin as Batman, James Woods as Owlman, Vanessa Marshall as Wonder Woman, Gina Torres as Superwoman and others.

The direction and voice acting is the kind of work that makes DC Animation stand heads and shoulders over their competitors. Lauren Montgomery has also helmed Justice League: Doom, Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, Green Lantern: First Flight and Wonder Woman. Sam Liu has Superman/Batman: Public Enemies and The Batman vs. Dracula to his credits. Goes without saying that these are some of my favorite DC Comics adaptations.

Owlman Superwoman Johnny Quick Ultraman Crime Syndicate members Justice League Crisis on Two Earths poster wallpaper image picture screensaver

The acting ensemble does a good job. I personally liked James Woods (Owlman), William Baldwin (Batman) and Jonathan Adams (Martian Manhunter).

The animation quality ranks among the best in the DC Universe Animated Original Movies. Hats off to the animators and other artists who have worked on the movie. The output is top-notch.

The action/fight sequences in this movie are just amazing. There are a bunch of them and each and every one of them have been lovingly choreographed and executed.

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Like the other alternate universe movie, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, this one too features familiar characters in a different perspective. I particularly liked Harley Quinn and Jimmy Olsen of the alternate Earth. Jimmy is referred to as Ultraman's Pal, in an obvious reference to “Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen, the famous comic book series that ran from 1954 to 1974.

This is DC Comics at its peak, right on par with the Christopher Reeve movies and Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Trilogy.

Needless to say, a must watch for fans of DC Comics.

Check out the trailer below:

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Image Sources: Warner Premiere, DC Movies Wiki

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Terminator Genisys (2015) - Recap and Review

Arnold Schwarzenegger Guardian Terminator T-800 Terminator Genisys movie poster wallpaper image screensaver picture

This post contains spoilers. Readers who are yet to watch the movie might want to skip the review.

The latest entry in the popular Terminator series is a major disappointment. The trailers were pretty accurate in their depiction of the movie. The movie is indeed a damp squib. 

This is coming from a fan of James Cameron's first two entries: The Terminator (1984) and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991).

The plot goes like this: John Connor (Jason Clarke) is about to win the war against the machines in 2029. But, the crafty Skynet initiates a counter-offensive by sending back a Terminator to kill Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) in 1984. This is being done with the specific intention of preventing the birth of their current human nemesis.

The evil T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) lands in Los Angeles and is received by The Guardian”, an aging T-800 Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who has been Sarah's protector since 1973. This fight between the good but old T-800 vs the young but evil T-800 is brief and not that good either. In the end, Sarah finishes off the bad robot with a sniper shot. So much for Arnold's planned grand return to his glory days through his signature role...

Meanwhile, John also sends his trusted lieutenant, Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) to save his mother's life. Just as he is about to be transported back, Kyle sees John being attacked by an unknown man.

Kyle also lands in 1984 Los Angeles and is greeted by the not-so-lethal T-1000 (Byung-hun Lee). The Robert Patrick version managed to stab Sarah Connor and beat the pulp out of Arnold Schwarzenneger's T-800, before biting the dust.

This particular version just flays in the air, just close enough to Kyle so that he can make his escape. 

Emilia Clarke Sarah Connor Terminator Genisys movie poster wallpaper image screensaver picture

But help is at hand. Sarah is already a female warrior, thanks to the training she has received from “The Guardian”, she affectionately refers to as Pops”. No, she actually does in the movie... She also looks like a teenager with a lot of baby fat. In other words, she lacks the tough-as-nails looks that Linda Hamilton famously had in her definitive performance in the role.

Sarah rescues Kyle from the relatively harmless T-1000, who does kill two cops who are not relevant to the movie anyway. The T-1000 gives chase (as they usually do) and follows them all the way to their secret hideout. There is not much of a fisticuffs going on between the old T-800 and the T-1000. This time too, Sarah plays a major role in defeating the enemy with T-800 chipping in at the end.

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With this, the T-1000 goes out of frame and with him vanishes any chance of fun or excitement that the movie might have had.

From here, it is strictly downhill as the teen-aged looking Sarah and bland Kyle travel to 2017 to stop the Judgment Day. This new apocalypse happens when billions of consumers start using Genisys, a new operating system. Best not to think too much as much of the plot does not make sense.

Of course, John Connor is himself a Terminator now, T-3000, an even more advanced nanomachine hybrid. And to complete the party is Detective O'Brien (J.K. Simmons), who is probably the only cop who believes in the concept of time travel and machines being sent back in time to kill humans.

The climax takes place in Cyberdyne's headquarters. Instead of the T-1000 we have the T-3000 on the trail of our heroes, as they attempt to stop Skynet from annihilating mankind (again).

Byung-hun Lee T-1000 liquid Terminator Genisys movie poster wallpaper image screensaver picture

If there is one saving grace in the movie, it is Byung-hun Lee as the latest incarnation of the liquid terminator T-1000. Despite his very limited screentime, Lee leaves a strong impression with his stares and body language. Wish there was more of him in the movie.

It is a sad story as far as the rest of the movie is concerned. The casting choices look inspired on paper, but somehow do not work on screen. Emilia Clarke must have looked to be a good choice for Sarah Connor after her performance as Daenerys Targaryen on Game of Thrones. But surprisingly, she is unable to command the role as Linda Hamilton did unquestioningly 24 years back.

Perhaps, it is her girlish looks or her short stature - somehow the aura of a strong female warrior is missing.

Same goes for Jason Clarke. He fared much better as Malcolm, leader of the human resistance in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Here, his role as the leader of human resistance is very less and much of his screentime is spent trying to look menacing as T-3000. And he fails spectacularly in creating any sense of dread, whenever the T-3000 is onscreen.

Jai Courtney does what Jai Courtney does. Nothing more nothing less. And he is as bland a hero here as was Henry Cavill was in Man of Steel. His Kyle Reese shares absolutely no chemistry with Emilia's Sarah Connor. The less said about his acting performance, the better.

Arnold Schwarzenegger Terminator T-800 Terminator Genisys movie poster wallpaper image screensaver picture

At the end of the day, it is Arnold Schwarzenegger who has the most vested interests in the success of this movie. Jai Courtney has Suicide Squad lined up for next year. After this and Thor: The Dark World, Alan Taylor will jump on the bandwagon to direct the next movie in any one of the many ongoing franchises in Hollywood.

Arnold has been struggling to find box office success, since his return to acting after completing his terms as Governor of California. And if this movie is any indication, success is still a bit far away.

Age has caught up with him and he does not have the vigor to pull off the stunts. It does not help that the special effects and the action sequences are dull also. The action scenes, in particular, are unimaginatively executed. This is significant, since James Cameron brought such energy and visual spectacle to the action choreography, especially in T2: Judgment Day.

Arnold might find better success with comedy. Perhaps, the recently announced sequel to Twins, titled Triplets might do the trick. And I would like to suggest one more candidate for a remake/sequel/reboot: Kindergarten Cop.

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Image Sources: Paramount Pictures, Skydance Productions 

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