We Want Action: Batman Under The Red Hood (2010)

At this point, I’m solidly in love with Warner Bros.’ animated DC movies. Check out my post about Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, which I just reviewed recently. When I first heard that the Red Hood story which brought formerly dead Robin Jason Todd back from the dead after being pummeled to death by the Joker. His return was explained by the fact that Superboy Prime was punching walls leading up to Infinite Crisis which sent shock waves throughout reality that changed it in various ways. I actually dug the story which was written by Judd Winick, a favorite of mine, though it was one of the worst kept secrets in comics when the issues were coming out. Who was under the red hood? Who else? Of course it would be Jason Todd. To call the story controversial would be an understatement, but even worse has been Todd’s treatment since he returned. Bruce Jones wrote some of the worst comics of all time with the One Year Later Nightwing issues which starred Todd taking on Dick Grayson’s identity to fight crime. He then got sucked into the pointless nonsense that was Countdown which eventually turned him into Red Robin, which referred to Dick Grayson’s Kingdom Come identity. Now his early days are being retold thanks to Winick in a mini that I’ve enjoyed from the few issues I’ve read. It would actually seem that Winick incorporated elements from that mini in this movie, which he also wrote the scripts for.

I watched the movie with the missus and we can’t remember if she read the issues or not, but she remembered at least parts of the story from flashbacks and whatnot. My main worry was that this story might be a little too inside comic ball to work for the uninitiated, but she enjoyed the movie as much as I did. The inclusion of our shared favorite actor Neil Patrick Harris as the voice of Nightwing helped a lot and was an interesting take on the character: that of brash hero that reminded me of how much I actually miss seeing Nightwing in the DCU. Dick as Batman makes a lot of sense, but I always liked the lighter version of Batman that he created for himself as Nightwing.

Anyway, the story follows along pretty closely to that of the comic with just a few changes to streamline things and take out all the Infinite Crisis references. There isn’t a box full of colored Kryptonite and Nightwing doesn’t come into the fight hurt, though he does leave it that way. And, most importantly, Jason wasn’t resurrected by other-dimensional wall-punching but thanks to Ra’s al Ghul who hired the Joker to distract Batman but never expected or wanted Robin to be murdered. In an attempt to make it up to Batman, Ra’s switched Jason’s body with a double and put the actual corpse into the Lazarus Pit which turned the boy quite mad. Soon enough he showed up in Gotham making a play for Black Mask’s territory and having all kinds of run ins with various hoods.

Action-wise, there’s equal amounts of good and bad. When it comes to the bad, the moments aren’t super important, but did rub me the wrong way a little. There’s a scene where Batman’s chasing the Red Hood. Bats is driving the Batwing while Todd’s in a car speeding along. The scene is well choreographed, but my problem lies in the fact that they used CGI vehicles instead of traditional animation like the rest of the movie. That always bugs me. The other sticky situation was when Batman and Nightwing were chasing Red Hood on foot over various rooftops. Anything through the air looks awesome (I actually really like how acrobatic Nightwing comes off), but when the characters are actually running they look kind of ridiculous. I think it’s their arm movements, but those scenes took me right out of the moment.

Aside from those quibbles, though, the movie’s damn good. The fight where Batman and Nightwing square off against the Amazo robot was tons of fun. The animation choreographers did a great job of showing how in-sync these two fighters are. There’s also a scene where Batman and Red Hood fight a quartet of armored foes with various abilities that was a lot of explosive fun. But the real fulcrum of the story rests on the relationship between Jason and Bruce. Jason blames Bruce not so much for his death, but for letting the Joker run around after he killed Jason. Jensen Ackles, an actor I’ve only seen in My Bloody Valentine 3D, does a surprisingly good job with the speech that actually hit me in the gut a little. I was kind of surprised they didn’t shy away from this and now have even more respect for these movies. They’ve got home runs in both original interpretations of characters like Green Lantern and Wonder Woman and straight-up adaptation of stories like the various Superman/Batman arcs and now Red Hood. I’m extremely looking forward to whatever comes out next.

Season Premiere: How I Met Your Mother Season 6 “Big Days”

Good fiction is like a house. Complex characters make up the foundation of the house and then the story is built on top of them. Good storytellers really engineer this and crappy ones kind of pile things up making shakey houses that might seem okay, but don’t hold up. If the characters aren’t solid the house falls down. Luckily CBS’s How I Met Your Mother has an incredibly solid foundation with it’s leads Lily (Alyson Hannigan), Marshall (Jason Segel), Ted (Josh Randor), Robin (Colbie Smulders) and Barney (Neil Patrick Harris). What worries me is that series creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas are spending TOO much time solidifying the foundation and working on the walls, but don’t have a plan for the roof.

Okay, I should explain myself. The conceit behind HIMYM is that Ted in the future (voiced by Bob Saget) is explaining to his son and daughter how he met their mother. It’s been going on for six seasons starting tonight. I love the show because the characters are fantastic and the show has a lot of heart without being too corny. They also use a lot of storytelling methods that really borrow well from previous works in film and television. We’ve seen Ted move his way through plenty of relationships with many of hints as to the identity of his future wife. In Season 3 we were told that Ted’s future wife would have a yellow umbrella. In 4 Ted got the umbrella. That same season we also found out that Ted’s one-time girlfriend Cindy lived with the woman who would be his wife.

So, tonight’s season premiere started with quite the tease (SPOILERS AHEAD): some time in the future we see Ted in a tux at a wedding and Marshall bringing him a beer. It appears to be his wedding. Then, the episode jumps to the present. Most of the episode takes place in MacLaren’s (the bar our characters frequent). Lily and Marshall were planning on trying to conceive that night, but Marshall’s dad sent a crib and Lily got angry that Marshall was talking to him about their baby plans. Out of nowhere, we find out that Marshall’s really close to his dad (I don’t believe this was an aspect of the character before today, more foundation building). There’s lots of fun here with Marshall doing a little Cyrus-from-The-Warriors impression and bits with Marshall warning everyone from touching him because he’s been saving up for the night. There’s also a really sweet moment at the end where Marshall tells Lily she could never disappoint him.

The thrust of the episode involves Ted scoping a hottie at the bar out for a while. Barney comes in and calls dibs. Then, it turns out that the girl knows Ted’s ex Cindy. Is this the wife?! Nope, it’s not. Turns out, Ted never saw the roommate (just her ankles and she was wearing boots at the bar, so no chance of IDing her) and his breakup with Cindy made her reevaluate her life. She tells Ted this and it all felt very obvious that she was now a lesbian, presumably with the girl at the bar, but they wait another commercial break to tell us this. Meanwhile, Robin’s still bummed that her boyfriend Don left and has turned into what looks and apparently smells like a homeless person. Barney gives her some trouble, saying she’s lost her hotness. Robin disappears and comes back all sundressed-up. Methinks Barney did all this on purpose and might be smitten with Robin again (the two dated for a while, but broke up).

But then, we get the big surprise at the end (I think they telegraphed the lesbian thing, so you’d guess that and then not expect yet another surprise). Future Ted explains to his kids that he didn’t meet their mother that night, he met her at a wedding. They then cut to the wedding from the beginning of the episode and it turns out that Ted’s the best man at the wedding, not the groom. So, unless Bays and Thomas want to bring up another character who would randomly have Marshall and Ted as groomsmen (they were wearing matching tuxes) and Lily as a bridesmaid (ugly purple dress with a bouquet of flowers), it’s got to be Barney, right? Let’s hope so. The missus and I are hoping he’s marrying Robin who was conspicuously missing from the flashforward (it’s weird how Lost-like the show is starting to feel in my head).

Back to my initial metaphor, we got a lot more foundation with some more structure building. There’s enough to support that damn roof, so it’s got to be time soon to put it on right? Contrary to the title of the show, I don’t think it needs to end once Ted meets the wife. Part of the mystery might be gone, but then we get to see what happens between Young Ted and his new bride, plus all those other characters who can support their own roof. Hell, you can always put an addition on right? On the other hand, I’m a big fan of the British Office model of finishing a show when it makes sense. Much as I would miss How I Met Your Mother if it were to end, I’d be more upset if it ended poorly and I felt like I wasted all these seasons watching (something that some Lost fans felt, though not me). Here’s hoping the sixth season actually introduces the friggin’ wife!

Web-Based Shows On DVD: Dr. Horrible & Angel of Death

dr horrible In an odd twist of fate, I watched two DVDs made up of material that was originally intended for the internet. First up, Em and I watched Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. I remember when it was coming out online, but I wasn’t really high on Whedon at that point because I didn’t love Astonishing X-Men and I hadn’t yet watched Firefly, so I didn’t mind skipping it. But, after watching through Buffy all the way through again and really enjoying the Firefly/Serenity world, I put the DVD on our queue. Of course, after the slew of horror movies I watched in October, it got pushed back. Anyway, we finally watched it and both really liked it.

But really, this thing was designed for us to like it. It’s written by Whedon and stars two guys from shows we both love: Neil Patrick Harris from How I Met Your Mother and Nathan Fillion from Castle and Firefly. Plus, there’s singing, which Em loves. And superheroes which we’re both fans of. So, yeah, you couldn’t get much more inside our wheelhouse. I’m sure everyone’s already seen it and I’m the last person on the planet to check it out, but I will say that the ending really surprised me. Here you think you’re watching this fun, light goofy movie and then kablammo. I guess I should have expected it from Whedon (this is the guy who now has me looking at every horror scene and trying to figure out what the twist will be – the GIRL is the vampire, not the guy!). But still, wow. I didn’t see that ending coming.

angel of deathThe other web-based movie I watched was Angel of Death and this one was completely random. I added the movie to my queue solely because Zoe Bell is in it and I find her incredibly attractive and she’s an ass-kicker, so I figured it would be a good action movie, even though I wasn’t familiar with it. And yeah, even though I didn’t like Death Proof and I’m still not sure if I like her acting (I can’t tell if her delivery is off just a tad or if it’s just her accent), I was still excited. Then I popped the DVD in and it said “Ed Brubaker’s Angel of Death” and I freaked out a little bit. I can’t believe I haven’t written more about Brubaker on this site, but his Captain America is one of the greatest long-term comic book series’ of all time. You’re doing yourself a disservice by not reading that comic.

So, I did a little searching online and remembered when this thing was coming out. I guess it was webisodes or whatever. But, watching it all together on the DVD, it really did feel like a movie instead of a serial. Plot-wise, you’ve got Bell playing a hitwoman who gets stabbed in the head and starts feeling bad about accidentally killing a little girl, so now she goes on a revenge kick killing the bad guys. I can’t say I was paying 100% attention, but I didn’t really have to. Aside from Bell, Doug Jones and Lucy Lawless were in it. Ted Raimi’s also in it, but I honestly didn’t see him. I really should pay more attention.

Anyway, I’m torn about the movie. It’s nothing spectacular, though it LOOKS fantastic. Like I said, it doesn’t feel like a web-based series (though neither does the Totally Rad Show podcast, so take that for what it’s worth), but it also doesn’t feel like the high caliber of story I’m used to from Brubaker. Maybe that’s because his comics deal in genres that aren’t as popular in comics as they are in movies. The noir thing is pretty common in films, but not comics. So, Bru writing a noir/70s-ish movie doesn’t seem as groundbreaking as his comics. To be fair, though, I probably should give the disc another watch (I’m not going to now though).

I also watched a few of the special features on the DVD (there are a good number) which were kind of interesting. There’s a whole feature about Bru which is cool, though listening to Bell call him a geek is both funny and a little cringeworthy. I also had a much more curmudgeonly view of Bru from my days at Wizard, though he was incredibly nice the time I talked to him for a big Captain American retrospective Wizard did about three years back. I guess you just assume he’s grim and gritty because he does that so well, but in the doc he comes off as a dude whose dream is coming true by being able to jump from comics to movies and I certainly can’t blame him. As a hopeful comic writer myself (I’ve finally getting some outlines together for submissions) he’s absolutely one of my heroes and I can only hope for a career (if it happens) even remotely similar to his. Well done Ed!

Seanson Finales: How I Met Your Mother

So, as Ben so astutely pointed out last week, this week actually had the How I Met Your Mother season finale (hey, we all make mistakes, right?).

So, we got the full cast back for the season finale which actually didn’t deal with Ted’s search/discovery of his future childrens’ mother, but on the other characters. We had Barney and Robin dealing with their potentially budding relationship, Ted trying to design a BBQ restaurant, Marshall wanting to take a literal leap of faith, Ted fighting a goat and, most importantly, Ted deciding to take on a new career, a career we are promised will lead directly to meeting the woman he will marry.

I liked the season finale because I like all these characters (Marshall really got to shine in my opinion) and it even referred back to its own continuity (the goat and Ted’s birthday). I do feel a little peeved at the fact that we’re kind of left at the same place we were last season. Last season they showed us that Ted’s future wife would be sporting a yellow umbrella like his. Then we got teased with Stella coming back, but she doesn’t have the right umbrella. So now, we end another season by showing us a big space and telling us that the mother is in the group.

It’s not a huge deal, and like I said I really like the show, but I hope they actually introduce the mother early next season. I’ve talked to some people who say that that will be the end of the show, but come on, it’s just the basic premise and that can change. As a fan, I’d have no problem watching Ted and his future wife go through all the bullshit that couples do, especially if the writing stays consistent and we get to see even more development with all the characters. I’ve got faith because I think these guys put on a really good, well-thought-out show. In a weird way, it’s actually kind of like Lost because you’re got these interesting ways of telling a story and playing with structure telling a long-term story with an end goal in mind that will take some twists and turns along the way, while always remember where it came from. Good stuff.