Monday, February 27, 2017

ANI-MOVIES, *Justice League Dark

Trying to keep up with Marvel's Cinematic Universe release of Doctor Strange, DC Universe through in their own animated feature of supernatural superheroes, Justice League Dark. Even though the actual comic book series this movie was based on was cancelled nearly two years prior to its release, DC still felt confident enough to have this be part of their "post-Flashpoint" line of titles.

Individuals from all over are suffering from temporary insanity causing them to see everyone around them as demons, the Justice League grows concerned, so Batman tries to make contact with John Constantine, a "Hellblazer" with an expertise with for the paranormal. The professional magician Zatanna happens to be a colleague of Batman's, and she leads him along with Deadman to the House of Mystery where Constantine hangss, which is an old mansion that acts like an interdimensional Tardis. Hosted by Black Orchid who is a living personification of the House, the gathering of heroes decide to work together to solve the mystery of these strange killing. They go to Constantine's old accomplice Ritchie whose suffering from a cursed form of cancer to get a magic coin which allows them to see inside the minds of the demonic victims. After an attack by a rampaging poop monster, the JLD goes back to Ritchie for answers on a magic ring Constantine found in one of the victim's memories, but discover that immortal knight Jason Blood is there as Ritchie starts to succumb to his illness. Jason reveals his origin of becoming bonded to the demon Etrigan by Merlin back in the middle ages in a fight with the warlock Destiny, and hopes to gain the fabled Dreamstone from the House of Mystery to free himself. Ritchie awakens briefly to tell them the ring comes from supervillain sorcerer Felix Faust, so Constantine persuades Swamp Thing to lead them to Faust's lair, where a tussle between the heroes and the Demons Three + Faust, but Zatanna going all Dark Phoenix jams the tide in their favor. Their win is short-lived as they realize Faust had nothing to do with the conspiracy, and that Ritchie was the one behind it all to gain access to the House of Mystery and get the Dreamstone for himself to cure his cancer. However, the whole thing was a plot by the remaining spirit of Destiny(here an ancient version of Dr. Destiny from the comics)to possess Ritchie's body and go on a rampage by causing people from all over to start going totally psycho, including some of the other Justice Leaguers. After removing Etrigan from Jason Blood, and Swamp Thing's human spirit(supposedly killing him!), Deadman knocks Destiny out of Ritchies, while Constantine sends him to Hell, while allowing Ritchie to be carried off by shrouds. Later on, Constantine and Zatanna bury Jason's remains, while contemplating taking up Batman's offer on joining the regular Justice Leauge.

This was an original story based on the JLD comic, leaving out some of the other team regulars like Princess Amethyst, Pandora, and Shade, it manages to briefly debut a few new Leaguers like John Stewart, Hawkman, and Martian Manhunter who mainly just fill up the background in a few scenes. The movie does have some above par voice acting, especially from Matt Ryan reprising his roll as Constantine from the cancelled live-action TV series, although Alfred Molina playing yet another evil DC entity as Destiny was mostly drowned out by voice modifications. It's a deep analysis into the otherworldly events going on in the DC Universe, but is largely intended for hardcore comics fans, mostly of their Vertigo line.

Monday, February 20, 2017

OBSCURE O.V.A.S, *Project A-ko

In what could be considered the first official anime parody, Project A-ko(named after one of Jackie Chan's earliest flicks)is combo of several anime genres and titles that were popular during the early-to-mid-80s. This was one of the first anime productions by APPP, who still do work today on various TV shows.

Starting out around the mid-21st Century, a tremendous alien craft crashes on Earth creating a huge crater. Using technology acquired from the wreckage, the new Graviton City is constructed over the remains, which is a new bustling high-tech metropolis. A new school semester begins at the local high school where longtime buddies A-ko and C-ko start attending. A-ko is a spunky redhead with incredible super-strength, enhance speed, and near invulnerability(the answer to why is hinted at during the end of the first chapter), while C-ko is the single most annoying character in the history of anime, plus it's shown in the spinoff series that she's also the single most dangerous character too. All seems like plums and pudding for the old school friends, but the snobby B-ko has some kind of "romantic" fixation for C-ko, and was odd considering the whole shoujo-ai genre didn't really start up until the early 90s. So, B-ko uses her unlimited resources and genius intellect to constantly act as A-ko's personal Lex Luthor, even to the point of creating a scantily-clad power suit to match her strength. They have an overly-extended battle throughout the city, which is conveniently getting invaded by an alien armada searching for their long last princess, who they believe is C-ko. After the shrieking blonde hellbeast is capture by space invaders, A-ko leaps up several oncoming missiles to the mother ship to rescue C-ko. A-ko eventually grounds the giant spaceship, resulting in dozens of male-looking female aliens getting stranded on Earth.

The original first chapter spun-off three more OVAs, mostly dealing with B-ko and her gang trying to separate A-ko and C-ko, or fighting over a newcomer bishounen named Kei. There was also a spinoff OVA titled Project A-ko Vs. Battle which is one of the first anime reboots that definitively takes place in another universe and not just another remake. The first chapter of the original OVA was dubbed in English with a very questionable script, while the rest of the anime was dubbed by the Ocean Group from Canada which is a big of an improvement. There's also been an American comic adaptation of the first two OVA chapters, and spinoff by Ninja High School's Ben Dunn. The original OVA is pretty much mandatory for old school otaku to have seen at least once, but might be lost to some of the millennial anime fans.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

ANI-MOVIES, *Lego DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League-Gotham City Breakout

Even though there's a new theatrical film featuring Lego versions of Batman, that's a spinoff of The Lego Movie, which is inside the imagination of a young boy, so technically that one is "Bootleg Batman", while the one featured in the Lego Batman video games and DC Comics Lego animated movies/TV specials are considered to be the more canonical. This latest one mixes in the standard Justice League with the extended Batman cast.

Starting out in Gotham with Batman breaking in a new Robin(no specifics as to which of the multiple Robin understudies it is)while thwarting a supervillain team-up of Penguin and Harley Quinn. After arresting them, Batman is surprised by his allies from the JLA and Teen Titans for his anniversary as a crimefighter, and allow Batman to take a vacation with Nightwing and Batgirl while Superman watches over Gotham in the meantime. The movie then splits up into two recurring plots, with Batman and his former proteges chasing Deathstroke, and Superman bungling by releasing the inmates from Arkham. The story with Batman after Deathstroke leads into Bane and a completely made up for the "DC Legoverse" plot of Batman's old martial arts teacher Madame Mantis and an underground civilization of cave people. The other and better plot has Superman, Wonder Woman, and Cyborg being completely inept at dealing with Batman's rogues gallery despite their incredible powers, so Robin has to bale them out in the end.

Gotham City Breakout is a textbook example of what to take or leave in an all-ages production. The portion with Batman on vacation is like some abandoned Ninjago plot that Lego didn't bother with, while the parts of the Justice League succumbing to villains using laughing gas and robot penguins is much more enjoyable. The film is good enough for kids to wet their appetites for The Lego Batman movie, but most standard DC fans could pretty much skip it.