The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 (2012)

Posted in Uncategorized on October 5, 2012 by dpallee

An aged Batman at the helm of the batmobile from “The Dark Knight Returns Part 1”.

 Hold onto your seat viewers because this is not your father’s Batman. DC Universe Animated Original Movies unleashed a gritty direct to video masterpiece that will amaze you and leave you pining for more. The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 was adapted from the graphic novel by Frank Miller. DC Universe decided to take a risk and release what fans had been asking for, the story of an aging Bruce Wayne dealing with a brand new group of criminals, a changed Gotham City, coping with his demons from the past and limitations from his age. The dark mood of this animated movie is more pulp-like than any previous attempt at bringing the iconic hero alive. This Batman holds no punches back as he comes to the aid of his city.

 The story follows a 55 year old Bruce Wayne (voice of Peter Weller) who retired ten years ago following the death of his sidekick, Robin (Jason Todd, the second Robin). A new reign of criminals is stirring in Gotham City and the need comes once again for Wayne to don the cowl and become Gotham’s crime fighter, but is the older Bruce Wayne up for the challenge? Familiar figures from the Batman series are showcased here, such as Commissioner Jim Gordon (voice of  David Selby), Alfred the butler (voice of radio commentator Michael Jackson) and the notorious criminal, Two-Face (voice of Wade Williams). New twists are added in the Dark Knight Returns with the introduction of an evil Mutant Leader (voice of Gary Anthony Williams) and a brand new Robin-a female Robin (voice of Ariel Winter) who brings the sidekick a revamp-and of course, what Batman story would be complete without the infamous Joker.

 Fans of the Caped Crusader should love this adaptation of the Miller story as the movie direction stayed quite true to the feel of the original artwork. The stylized versions of characters and backgrounds work perfect with this storyline and newcomers to the Miller adaptation of the Dark Knight should get a kick out of the new Robin design overhaul. Updating visual props, such as the batmobile and the batcave worked seamless in the timeless Gotham setting. This movie is a bit adult with some language and very heavy on the violence (by comparison to other Batman animated movies children are used to seeing) so keep this in mind when considering young viewers in your home. The second part is scheduled for release in 2013 which should give you some time to watch the first part over and over, as I will be doing. Bravo DC Universe for another great movie.

The Aristocats (1970)

Posted in Uncategorized on September 23, 2012 by dpallee

(left to right) Toiulouse, Marie and Berloiz from "The Aristocats".

 One of the great Disney eras of animation sadly came around the time of Walt Disney’s death. The last movie approved by Disney was the 1970 classic The Aristocats. This film is a model example of Disney style and technique in this era, giving us such timeless movies as 1012 Dalmations, The Jungle Book and The Sword in the Stone to mention a few. The formula for these animated films worked well and stand the test of time with people of all ages.

 This adventure tells the tale of four felines in 1910 France. The mother cat, Duchess (voice of Eva Gabor) and her three kittens, Toulouse, Marie and Berloize live a luxurious life with an aristocratic woman. When she passes away, her will reveals she left all her fortune to her cats; second in line to her inheritance is her long employed butler,  Edgar (voice of Roddy Maude-Roxby). The butler schemes and plans to get the inheritance by disposing of the cats. The pampered felines end up in the country where a street-wise alley cat named Thomas O”Malley (voice of Phil Harris) helps bring Duchess and her family back to Paris. Song numbers in this movie reflect a more upbeat range, enhanced by the singing legend Scatman Crothers. This is not the first time Crothers and Harris teamed up for a Disney classic. Their voices are also main characters Baloo the Bear and King Louie in Disney’s The Jungle Book. Crothers and Harris were accompanied by a huge list of notable voice talents for this film, including Sterling Holloway (the voice of Winnie the Pooh), Paul Winchell (famous ventriloquist of Jerry Mahoney), Pat Buttram (Mr. Haney of the tv series Green Acres), George “Goober” Lindsay and Nancy Kulp (Miss Hathaway from the tv series, The Beverly Hillibillies) to mention some. Each generation will delight in this tale so watch it with a younger audience and enjoy it one more time

 A quick note to viewers of this blog. If you are a fan of webcomics, please feel free to view my online comic series, Space Farmer. BE FORWARNED the content is of an adult nature (violence, language) but I hope you can enjoy it..you can view it online here.

Akira (1988)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on September 10, 2012 by dpallee

Shotaro Kaneda from the anime classic,
Akira”.

 Arguably one of the most influential anime films to be created is the 1988 cult classic Akira, which I herald as a milestone achievement in animated movies. Manga artist and film director/screen writer Katsuhiro Otomo worked eight years on this story’s screen adaptation and without hesitation, I rank this among the five best animated films of all time.

 This science fiction tale takes place in a post apocalyptic Neo Tokyo, where motorcycles gangs roam the street in battle against other gangs. Kaneda (voice of Mitsuo Iwata) leads his gang in a brawl against the rival ‘Clowns’ gang that ends with Kaneda’s good friend, Tetsuo, (voice of Nozomu Sasaki) hospitalized. Tetsuo is monitored by a secret government agency that discovers the boy has incredible psychic powers, powers similar to a young boy in their possession named Akira. Tetsuo struggles to keep control of this new found power of his but slowly turns into a raging, seemingly unstoppable force. The portrayal of this out of control teenager is all too human and Tetsuo’s shortcoming with his own temper lead to a dramatic conclusion, but the storyline is just one piece of what makes this a must see film. The color and animating styles used in Akira set the tone and pace for future films to incorporate with dramatic timing of explosions, representational force enhanced with lines and color-a real eye opener for anyone to watch.

 For American audiences (or anyone unfamiliar with Japanese audio) used to reading subtitles I would suggest getting the original version to watch, as the original actor’s voices enhance the emotions and angst behind the characters. I have watched 3 versions of this film, the original release and the two English dubbed versions (the last being released in 2001) and gave noticed slight differences in the dialogue of all 3 films, however, it has not distracted from the entire experience of this film in any way. Watch this one a few times and take in all the arduous work that went into this movie.

Wonder Woman (2009)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on August 26, 2012 by dpallee

Princess Diana, aka Wonder Woman

 One of the best story reboots I have come across in a while is the Warner Premiere DTV (Direct To Video) release of Wonder Woman. Cartoon superheroes offer few female figures as powerful in notoriety as the Amazonian Princess Diana, with her magic lasso, iconic outfit and superhuman abilities. The role of Wonder Woman as been adapted in a few Justice League movies but this feature length adventure gives audiences a great story of origin told in a superb script written by Michael Jelenic, William M. Marston and Gail Simone.

 The story begins in a battle between Queen Hippolta (voice of Virginia Madsen) and the Ares ( voice of Alfred Molina), the god of war. The queen defeats Ares in battle and imprisons him for the atrocities he unleashed on her tribe of Amazon warriors. The gods offer the queen and her people special powers to hide the island they live on, away from the eyes of mortals. Here they live in peace until years later when American fighter pilot Steve Trevor (voice of Nathan Fillion) crash lands on the island, forcing the Amazons to return him to the United States. A contest ensues to determine which warrior will take him back and it is the queen’s own daughter, Princess Diana (voice of Keri Russell) that wins the contest, dons the infamous Wonder Woman outfit and takes him back. The imprisoned Ares escapes and plots a new threat to the Amazon and the world which gives a well rounded story for this classic cartoon character.

 Warner Premiere animated feature length films have done a tremendous job giving their audiences good story lines on a few different DC Universe characters and Wonder Woman is no exception. The animation and illustration is not mind blowing but the chiseled inking of the figures plays fine within the context of a fantastic script. Watch this one for the story and enjoy.

Lupin III; The Castle of Cagliostro (1979)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on August 19, 2012 by dpallee

Daisuke Jigen (left) and Arsene Lupin III (right) from The Castle of Cagliostro

 A great way to introduce yourself with this classic anime character is to watch The Castle of Cagliostro (original title Rupan sansei: Kariosutoro no shiro) , currently being shown on Hulu. I get a kick out of the Lupin III series and after watching this movie, I think you will be able to tell if this is the style story you like. Lupin may not be to every taste but I have to applaud the consistency of characters and appeal they bring to the screen with this action packed comedy.

 The full cast of regular characters are in The Castle of Cagliostro; the wily master thief Lupin III, his friends Jigen, Goemen and Fujiko, as well as the bumbling police Inspector Koichi Zenigata, who constantly chases the criminals no matter where their adventures land them. The Castle story revolves around a mysterious girl Lupin rescues, only to have her taken once again by the powerful Grand Duchy of Cagliostro, who plans to marry this girl. The girl is but part of the story-the Grand Duchy is a top notch counterfeiter, which just happened to make the booty Lupin collected from his last job . The plot goes from there with more twists and turns and of course, the Inspector chasing Lupin all through the film. The story is a mix of a little part Get Smart, a bit of the Top Cat (or Sgt. Bilko for you really old tv buffs) , some Inspector Clousea, topped off with a bit of It Takes A Thief. I don’t mean this analogy to be offensive by any means-I find all the Lupin films to be enjoyable, great fun to watch, but they may not be for every taste. Parents be aware that these films do contain some adult language and situations but tend to border on titillating material rather than over the top adult entertainment. Watch this movie and if you find yourself enjoying it as much as me, know that there is a large collection of Lupin III films-as well as a television series-to watch.

All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on August 16, 2012 by dpallee

Itchy (left) and Charlie (right) from All Dog Go to Heaven

  Don Bluth has been attributed with a number of outstanding animated films, some more successful at the box office than others, but always entertaining for the young and young at heart. His 1989 film All Dogs Go to Heaven is no exception. This movie was produced in Dublin, Ireland and released in the U.S. and gained enough popularity to spur a sequel, a television series and a direct to video holiday film.

 The story revolves around a stray German Shepard named Charlie (voice of Burt Reynolds) who leads a carefree life on the streets of New Orleans. A plot to kill him sends Charlie to heaven where he cheats death by taking his ‘life watch’. Charlie comes back to Earth and with the help of his friend, Itchy the daschund (voice of Dom DeLuise), and an orphan girl named Ann Marie, plot revenge on the dog who had Charlie killed. This isn’t the only film by Bluth that handles the subject of Death (The Land Before Time, Rock A Doodle) and his sensitivity to the subject brings it to light in a way that makes it more a learning experience for a young child rather than something to frighten them-an almost magical quality to it.

 The colorful backgrounds and lively characters are of the high standard work I have come to expect from Bluth Studios-never disappointed. The voice talents for this film include Melba Moore as a whippet dog angel,  Loni Anderson as one of Charlie’s friends, Charles Nelson Reilly and the gruff voiced Vic Tayback as the thug dog Carface. As with most films honed into sequels, the original is the best and this is no exception. This is an entertaining film for kids of all ages and although the storyline does deal with serious subject matter, the writing handles it in a unique and non-frightening manner for children.

Children Who Chase Lost Voices (2011)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on August 11, 2012 by dpallee

far in the distance, Morisaki (left) and Ansuna (right) in the 2011 film Children Who Chase Lost Voices.

 To date, this is the longest film created by Japanese Anime film creator/director Makato Shinkai. Children Who Chase Lost Voices (From Deep Below) is a fantastic film detailed with the most impressive background art I have seen in an animated movie. Released in Japan in 2011 and available on DVD and Blueray in Japan in November 2011, this masterpiece was picked up for distribution by Sentai Filmworks in 2012 and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it re-released-complete with English dub-by a larger company.

 This epic adventure is a somber tale of a young girl named Asuna (voice of Hisako Kanemoto) who, with the aid of her substitute school teacher, Morisaki (voice of Kazuhiko Inoue), discover a world of wonder and beauty called Agartha through the aid of a magical crystal. This magical land is hidden from the outside world and protected by mythical guardian creatures called Quetzalcoatls. The story is both sad and exhilarating but what was most enjoyable for me was the scenery sequences that were beautifully treated and animated leaving the viewer to marvel at the vibrant colors and bigger than life landscapes throughout the film. The treatment given to detail adds a level of perfection I would rank as the best I have seen yet.

 Before the movie’s release in 2011, groundwork was already being laid to send this Manga adaptation into serialization so I am sure there will be more tie-in films or possibly a series to this grand scale movie. For now, audiences can be satisfied with this wonderful keystone of Inhoue’s work. The story adaptation has some weak plot explanations that could certainly be pointed out but I can easily overlook those issues and simply enjoy the film as it manages to entertain through visuals at a level of the highest quality. A must to be placed in your collection alongside any classic anime films.