Monday, November 16, 2015

ANI-MOVIES, *Batman Unlimited: Monster Mayhem

Ol' Longears returns in a second installment of the Batman Unlimited franchise based on the action figure line in this made-for-video animated movie. Monster Mayhem takes place sometime after Animal Instincts with some of the characters and events crossing over to this film, and put together by the same production crew as the previous one.

On Halloween night, Silver Banshee(one of Superman's baddies)and Solomon Grundy escape from Arkham Asylum(although I don't know why a zombie was in Arkjam)and team up with Scarecrow, while Clayface kidnaps a young computer genius, Gogo Shoto, who in this story is some sort of rewrite of the younger version of Toyman. All of the monstrous villains are working with the Joker to launch a killer "Joker Virus"(similar to the Batman: Digital Justice comic)which includes reprogramming Teen Titan Cyborg to be their own war machine. Batman gets Nightwing and Red Robin to help, along with Green Arrow who seems to be on a long leave from Star City in this universe. Joker unleashes his virus on Gotham City, declaring himself "King Joker, and the rest of his crew the new city board. After rescuing Cyborg and Gogo from Joker, the Batman Family takes the fight to Team Joker as the Clown Prince of Crime plans on infecting the entire world with his virus. Batman goes into the digital realm thanks to a virtual reality visor, where he uses a conjured up robot T-Rex to stop the multiplying Joker clones. The offline Joker then uses a giant robot and repainted mecha suit for one last chance, but Cyborg and Batman manage to stop him in time.

This was a pretty good feature, even though this movie is geared more toward selling Batman toys, even to the point that in one of the online Batman Unlimited animated shorts that the Dark Knight now has a working robot T-Rex. The DVD does feature some DC Nation shorts, with the Blu-Ray having more, but so far none of the Batman Unlimited animated shorts, although the same can be said for the Justice League: Gods And Monsters shorts, so maybe they're saving them for a future collected video release. Monster Mayhem has a pretty good cast, including Troy Baker recurring his role as Joker from Arkham Origins, plus some of the animation is a little above average from Animal Instincts. If you're a major Bat-Maniac then you'll want to put this one in your Bat-DVD Player!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

ANI-MOVIES, *Sleeping Beauty

Disney has had the most impressive catalog of animated movies in the world, but when they got around to doing Sleeping Beauty, they really pulled out all the stops in this pure feast for the eyes. As their 16th full-length animated feature(which includes anthology movies like Melody Time), this was also the last one they did based on a fairy tale for at least 30 years until The Little Mermaid came out, mostly because the movie surprisingly didn't initially do to well at the box office, despite how much work was put into.

Based on the Grimm Fairy Tale, a princess named Aurora is born in a faraway kingdom, and her coronation is blessed by three fairies: Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather. Flora and Fauna bless her with magically endowed beauty and singing talent, but are interrupted by the wicked fairy(even though she's more like somekind of she-demon)Maleficent who was seriously ticked for not being invited to the royal shindig, so she curses Aurora with being killed getting pricked by a spinning wheel when she turns 16. Merryweather counters this by having the spell broken not with the princess' death but by sleep awoken only by love's first kiss. The good fairies convince the king to let them take the princess into hiding in a cottage in the woods for the next 16 years, where Aurora is called Briar Rose, and totally unaware of her royal heritage. Cut a decade and a half, Aurora grows up to be quite the looker(although being magically endowed didn't hurt), and an excursion into the woods has the now teenage "Brair Rose" encounters the wandering Prince Phillip, her unknown soon to be husband. The two fall stereotypically for each other, and Brair Rose heads back to tell her caretakers the good news, however the shock of learning that she's really a princess betrothed to someone else puts a serious damper on her birthday. After becoming far too impatient with her bungling underlings, Maleficent sends familiar out to find Aurora, and he hears the whole scoop from spying on the fairies. Maleficent sets an ambush for Aurora(instead of the old "poisoned apple" gag)at her cottage, but ends up capturing Phillip instead. Aurora and the fairies had instead left earlier and headed to the castle, where Maleficent hypnotizes her into touching a conjured up spinning wheel, and sending her into her a magical coma. The fairies put the whole kingdom to sleep in order to shorten the damage, and free Phillip. He makes a dashing escape thanks to a some suped-up weapons they pulled out of hammerspace. Maleficent furiously turns into a nightmarish dragon, but gets impaled by Phillips "magic sword". The Prince then kisses Aurora and everyone else wakes up and live all happily ever after.

Sleeping Beauty is a fantastic visual marvel as it was one of the first animated movies done in widescreen, plus one of the few movies done in Technirama. There is some roto-scoping involved, but this more helps the movie than hinders it. The only downside is there isn't much actual development with the title character as its mostly centered on the good and evil fairies, but as usual the Disney Princess gets all the hype. This is partially why exchanges like the kings arguing over where their children will live or the fairies bickering over dress colors take up a good portion of the movie's run time. The animated movie is more of a necessity to see than the live-action Maleficent reboot, but also for being a major chapter in cinematic animation.

Friday, November 6, 2015

ANI-MOVIES, *Houdini

This French-animated movie originally titled Little Houdini shows a revisionist origin to Harry Houdini as a he was just getting into learning magic as a child.

Houdini is brought in by none other than Nikola Tesla during his unknown magician period. Along with his niece and his clockwork oven robot, Tesla teaches Harry to take part in an upcoming premiere for young magicians at the grand opening of the Statue of Liberty. However, Tesla’s former student dupes Harry into helping him make off with Tesla’s notebook containing all his scientific secrets.

This was mostly put together as a pilot for a possible TV series, but still maintains a truly unique art style, with hints of anime influence here and there. The dub is passable, although it might be worth hearing it in the original French as well.

Star Wars Battlefront will only be cool when it has anime bunnygirls!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

MISC. MANGA, *Saiko & Lavender

Saiko & Lavender was a mini-series was created by "Ameri-manga" veterans Diana Sprinkle and Michael Vega originally printed by Anti-Ballistic Pixelations, whose only other title was the exceptionally decent manga-styled comic Gremlin Trouble. This was later collected into a trade paperback by Radio Comix, followed by an original Halloween special.

Set in an anthropomorphic world where magic is a common everyday thing thanks to the Magi-Cal corporation selling special potions and other magical items, sort of like Materia from Final Fantasy. However, this doesn't stop small-time brick and mortar shops from selling homegrown spells, like the money-grubbing purple catgirl Lavender and her partner, the hyperactive super-speed bunnygirl Saiko who can move so fast it appears as if she's just replicating all over the place. The make a delivery to some needy clients who need a pocket monster to defeat a rival kaiju, but their trip gets held up with Saiko getting abducted by aliens and taken into space, despite being able to move so fast in between both there and space so she's simultaneously in two plotlines, but Saiko is also infatuated by their old car which is fueled by love potion. Are heroines then have to try and get their shop back from overzealous superheroine mousegirl Veronica working for Magi-Cal who confiscates their store in a snowglobe. After a visit from the devil(the same one featured in Monsters Of Rock)they manage to get their store back, take down Magi-Cal, and stop an infestation of obnoxious miniature elephants.

The mini-series had a one-shot titled Saiko & Lavender Spooktacular Special, which shows the girls getting their store ready for Halloween as it brings in a bunch of Harry Potter fanatics. We also get a cute flashback sequence with Saiko & Lavender as kids experiencing their first Halloween.

Even though the comic is well over a decade old, it's really worth looking into. It was available for free on Webcomics Nation, but the site has been taken down, so try to see if you can locate a copy of the graphic novel or the one-shot.