An Awful Week for Horror Fans

There is no doubt this week has been an epic bummer.

First, we lose comic writer/ creator Len Wein:

Len Wein


Wein delivered many awesome comics and created two super-important characters in Marvel’s Wolverine and DC’s Swamp Thing, and could regularly be seen on extras to many movies discussing various subjects as his knowledge of the history of comics was quite extensive.

Swamp Thing


Next, and for me this was one that really stung, we lost artist Basil Gogos. 

Basil Gogos


One of the reasons I love to draw monsters is from growing up with Gogos’ garishly coloured and totally amazing covers of Famous Monsters of Filmland. His capacity to add an amazing depth of varied colour to portraits of characters who only have photographs in black and white was amazing!

Basil Gogo’s portrait of Frankstein


Finally we get news today that cinematic legend Harry Dean Stanton has left us!

Harry Dean Stanton as Brett in Alien.


I was first introduced to Stanton when I first read the photo novel of Alien which I received before I got to see the film, but over the course of his career I enjoyed seeing him in things like Repo Man and The Green Mile, and even got a small shiver of excitement when he cameoed in things like The Avengers.

The To Watch Pile would like to forward our condolences to the respective families of our departed idols.

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XX (2017) Review

One from the to watch pile…
XX (2017)

Monster Pictures Australian Bluray release of XX


Film: I have said previously that I love anthology films (the last time with the anthology Torture Garden): one of the things I love about horror is that there is a capacity to tell a quick tale of terror, be it in this way, or even with some of the YouTube shorts that get developed into full length features, like Lights Out, or TV shows like the Twilight Zone and Masters of Horror.

Horror: yeah! Most anthologies have a thematic similarity, like Creepshow’s comic tales from the pen of Stephen King, or Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors train-bound tarot reader of doom, and XX is no exception. As the title may suggest, all the directors of this anthology have a double xx chromosome, or in more general terms, are women. Our directors are writer/ director of Southbound, Roxanne Benjamin; director of Jennifer’s Body and Aeon Flux, Karyn Kusama; musician St. Vincent aka Annie Clark and writer/ director of The Guest, as well as former editor-in-chief of horror magazine, Rue Morgue, Jovanka Vuckovic.

Quite a line up of impressive talent, for sure.

Most anthologies have some kind of connective narrative and in this case it is a mysterious, almost Jan Svankmeyer-ish stop motion of a walking dollhouse created by artist Sofia Carrillo that connects the tales, not so much as an introduction to each one, but instead just as a break in between each story. It looks incredible but doesn’t really seem to have any kind of reverence to the story, though each story seems to be a ‘room’ of the dollhouse.

The stories, though are mostly wonderful.

Danny (Peter DeCunha) looks into terror


First cab off the rank is Vuckovic’s The Box. Based on a story by Jack Ketchum and adapted by Vuckovic, The Box tells of a boy named Danny (Peter DaCunha) who asks a strange man (Michael Dyson) on a train what is in the box he is nursing. The man lets him sneak a peak, and this immediately stops Danny from wanting to eat. Danny slowly starves himself and as he shares his secret, other family members stop eating as well. Will his mother, Susan (Natalie Brown) be able to save her family? Vuckovic has created a true tale of fear here that’s told very matter-of-factly and leave you with a sense of dread, and is probably my favourite of the collection.

The second story is The Birthday Party, co-written by Roxanne Benjamin and director Annie Clark. This is black humour at its finest as it tells the tale of a woman, Mary (Melanie Lynskey) who is holding a party for her daughter Lucy (Sanaa Victoria), when she discovers that her husband, David (Seth Duhame) has inconveniently passed away. The tale then leads into her attempts to hide the body so that Lucy’s party can go on without any interruption… will she be successful? Annie Clark directs Lynskey into some funny physical situations which she takes too like a duck to water, and the whole tale is told with a colour palette that suggests a sugary 60s sitcom. It’s heaps of fun, and a nice break after Vuckovic’s dense tale.

Next is Don’t Fall, written and directed by Roxanne Benjamin, which tells of four friends, Paul (Casey Adams), Jess (Angela Trimbur), Jay (Morgan Krantz) and Gretchen (Breeda Wool), who has an abject fear of heights, on a camping trip. Whilst resting against a shallow cave wall, they find an image of several figures painted on one of the walls. During the night, Gretchen is attacked by a creature who looks like one of the painted figures, and she attacks her friends with an animalistic ferocity… will they survive her?

This was my least favourite of the tales as it after the complexity of the first two, it felt a bit empty. If Benjamin was influenced by films like Primal or Dying Breed, I wouldn’t be surprised. It’s nicely filmed, but essentially below average.

Last is Her Only Living Son, written and directed by Karyn Kusama, and it’s a tragic tale of a single mother, Cora (Christina Kirk) who is called up to the school as her son, Andy (Kyle Allen), has assaulted another student, but it would appear that the staff of the school aren’t too worried about it… which leads Cora to suspect that he somehow has them under his thrall. She has a horrible suspicion about her boy, which becomes greater when she sees he is developing talons on his hand and feel… could her only son be a Spawn of Satan?

Mary (Melanie Lynskey) has a horrible secret revealed


Kusama’s story is steeped in tragedy, and is well shot and acted well, and is a great way to finish the film after the disappointing third entry.

All in all, the parts of this film make up for a greater whole, and I certainly hope we see an XX2 down the track with some of the directors who were originally proposed when this movie was first announced, like American Mary’s Soska Sisters, Boxing Helena’s Jennifer Lynch and American Psycho’s Mary Harron.

Score: ****1/2

XX Bluray menu screen


Format: On the Australian bluray, this disc runs for approximately 80 minutes and is presented in a perfect 2.39:1 image with a matching DTS Digital Surround 5.1 sound.

Score: *****

Extras: This disc is bloated with extras, and it starts with a trailer for the film Raw, before we get to the menu.

The extras are:

Making of the Box looks not just at the making of Vuckovic’s entry, but also the proposal for making an all-female director horror anthology.

XX Set Visit in 360: A Behind the Scenes Look at the Birthday Party takes a look at some of the filming of The Birthday Party with pop-up bits saying who did what… like those old pop-up videos.

Don’t Fall Stunts and Special F/X is a series of stills and behind the scenes stuff on how the effects were done for the Don’t Fall entry.

Behind the Scenes of Her Only Living Son is really just some behind the scenes footage of the cast and crew at work (but with a cool synth score!)

Making of XX: Directors Interviews is a series of interviews with the directors, but what’s great is immediately after that we have Extended Interviews with Karyn Kusama and Jovanka Vuckovic, Roxanne Benjamin and Annie Clark and Sofia Carrillo

Trailer: I bet you can guess what this is.

This package also contains a reversible slick for the bluray.

Score: *****

WISIA: Loved it, and I’ll definitely watch it again.

Cora (Christina Kirk) is concerned for her son…

A Cure For Wellness (2016) Review

One from the to watch pile…
A Cure For Wellness (2016)

The Australian Bluray cover


Film: I love it when you get an opportunity to see a film you barely know anything about but surprises you. Especially when the surprise is a weaselling un-nerving that gets under your skin.

I had seen half a trailer for this film A Cure For Wellness, and had decided it was the type of film I’d like to see at the movies, and yet it slipped by quickly and I didn’t get an opportunity to see it until it’s release on bluray.

A Cure For Wellness was written by Justin Haythe, with director Gore Verbinski, who last worked together on Disney’s The Lone Ranger… but don’t let that jade your judgement, or allow it to be used as a deterring factor to watching the film. Any mistakes they may have made together on that film aren’t evident here.

The mountaintop retreat.


Dane DeHaan plays Lockhart, an ambitious executive at a large international firm that is in trouble. He has been employed by the people upstairs to track down the CEO, Pembroke (Harry Groener) who has retreated to a mountaintop wellness facility in an attempt to ‘get better’.

The facility, run by Volmer (Jason Isaacs) in what used to be a castle, seems to be trying to stop Lockhart from seeing Pembroke and soon, after a horrific car accident, Lockhart finds himself with a broken leg, and interred at the facility. 

During his stay he is offered treatments, but the longer he stays, the more he thinks there is something more happening at the facility, something sinister, something involving the youngest patient, Hannah (Mia Goth)….

Immediately, and as can be read by my synopsis, what we appear to have here is a modern-day retelling of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, with the young executive investigating a colleague’s disappearance, only to find that ‘something’ (in Stoker’s case, but not here, a vampire) may have taken them hostage, or performed some other sinister act upon them. The difference is shocking and makes for a kick-ass, slick horror movie.

Typically, Verbinski’s primary skill lies in how damn beautiful the film looks. It is extraordinarily beautifully shot, every scene is like a painting. This isn’t hurt by how damned clear the entire film is too. For the most part it has a very blue and cool palette which is truly stunning, but that colour plate also changes depending on the part of the story that is being told, and looks amazing at every point.

The soundscape is preposterously amazing too. For example, the creak of DeHaan’s crutches are a constant reminder of his temporary disability but every sound has an echoing eeriness to it, and that whole is also made effective by the wonderful presence of Benjamin Wallfisch’s score.

Dane DeHaan as Lockhart


For the most part the cast is fantastic but they have a collective atypical look: there are no traditional Hollywood hunks or beauties in this flick, but this unusual anti-movie star face of the film makes it feel both more real, and surreal at the same time. I admit I had my doubts about Dane DeHaan being the leading man in this film, but he ‘looks’ right for the film.

It seems to me this was mistreated by its advertising as a thriller, when in actual fact this is a flat a gothic horror, with many scenes that look like someone like Mario Bava was the cinematographer. It sits well beside things like Shutter Island and it’s has everything you want from a horror film, though it might be a touch overlong.

Score: ****1/2

The Australian Bluray Menu screen.


Format: This film was reviewed on the Australian, region Bluray, which is presented in a totally amazing 1.78:1 video with a matching DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1.

Score: *****

Extras: There’s a small collection of extras.

First, there is a deleted scene, and with a film as long as this one is, I don’t know why it was excised.

Meditations is a series of 3 guided meditations relating to 3 of the 4 elements: air, water and earth. These aren’t your traditional meditations as they have a distinctively sinister nature. They are interesting and creepy.

The Score addresses the totally impressive score of the film by Benjamin Wallfisch, a score so impressive I immediately bought the record as soon as I finished watching the film.

There is also three trailers for the film.

I should also point out the menus are special too. They have a feeling of being stuck, which is perhaps one of the themes of the film.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: It is such a deep and detailed film that I feel several watchings are in store, and it’s a great story with an amazing look too.

Pembroke (Harry Groener) enjoys a ‘treatment’.

The Cheerleaders (1973) Review

One from the to watch pile…
The Cheerleaders (1973)

The cover of the UK Arrowdrome DVD release


Film: The teen sex comedy was a huge thing in the 80s, and I reckon as a teenager I saw most of them, which were basically stupid jokes mixed with hot half-naked girls in a soft-porn environment. 

As a teen in those days it was hard to get your hands on prom so this was as close as you could get… you kids have it so easy these days.

The film, The Cheerleaders, from 1973, clearly inspired by the films of Russ Meyer, were personably an inspiration to those eighties films and there is a lot of the bare bones of them in this. 

Written and directed by Paul Glickler, this film was also a clear influence on 1978’s Debbie Does Dallas not so much plot-wise, but certainly with the environment and the over-sexed teenaged girls.

The Cheerleaders of Amorosa High need a new cheerleader to make up their squad, seeing as how one of them has ended up pregnant. Now these Cheerleaders are, well, somewhat slutty, and so the head (heehee, ‘head’) cheerleader Claudia (Denise Dillaway), in cahoots with the ladies physical education teacher, decide to get a virgin to be their replacement so they don’t have that problem of pregnancy flare up again.

Claudia (Denise Dillaway) is concerned about something over there.


The problem is Jeannie (Stephanie Fondue) is desperate to ‘lose her cherry’ and the rest of the team want her too as well… and she does! Very soon the team are caught up in a match rigging exercise where their team are tired out by a massive orgy organised by an unscrupulous crook, but to make things even the Cheerleaders kidnap all the opposing team and proceed to have their way with each and every one.

Jeannie (Stephanie Fondue) does her best Jan Brady impression


The acting is terrible and the jokes are sophomoric at best, but it has a weird charm to it, which honestly might just be due to its age, rather than actual quality… the fact I love 80s teen sex comedies probably play into that as well. Heaps of ‘ nice balls’ and businesses with the names ‘Beaver Wash ‘ (a car wash) styled jokes run riot. Its Carry On and Russ Meyer all mixed together.

The weird thing is the world in which this movie exists. All teenage girls are oversexed, men are dumb crooks, and every adult male is an ephebophile.

It’s fun and dumb and I reckon an absolute influence of the biggest teen sex comedy of the 80s, Porkys, but it doesn’t necessarily hold up like Porkys does.

Score: **1/2

The DVD menu screen for disc one


Format: The reviewed copy of this film was on the UK Arrow films release DVD, and was an ok image, but far from great. The films image is a 1.78:1 aspect and has heaps of artefacts and some streaks, but everything that needs to be seen, can be, so it’s not too detrimental to the viewing experience. The audio is in 2.0 stereo and is just fine.

Score: ***

Extras: This disc was one of Arrow Films’ ‘Arrowdrome” series of releases, and comes with a reversible cover, an Arrow Films catalogue and a booklet featuring an essay from Cinema Sewer legend, Robin Bougie.

There are two extras on disc one: the trailer and a radio spot for the film.

Disc two though, has the full feature length sequel Revenge of the Cheerleaders, and includes trailers, radio and TV spots for the film. Make sure you watch this one too as it does feature Cheryl ‘Rainbeaux’ Smith, and a young David Hasselhoff as ‘Boner’.

Score: ****

WISIA: Once was enough for me.

Peripheral vision was at an all-time low in the early 70s.


Comic Book Confidential (1988) Review

One from the re watch pile…
Comic Book Confidential (1988)

The Australian DVD cover


Film: I am and always will be a comic fan. Sure there have been periods of time where I haven’t collection, the post-Image world of the 90s for example (I’m sorry guys, I like the old artwork, and the anime/ graffiti styled artwork of those guys never rubbed me the right way… I want my superheroes to be done by the old masters like Jack Kirby, Gil Kane, John Buscema and their ilk) and recently I’ve become disappointed with the storylines which seem to be repetitive and basically made to sell the movies. I understand it’s a business but there seems to be a creative lull, which has happened before as the history of comics is circular and fad based. Something hot today will not even be published tomorrow.

Hell, as of this review we don’t even have the cornerstone of the Marvel universe, the Fantastic Four being published, and that was once taglined as ‘The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine’.

I do still however get collections of old stuff, and I’m fascinated by the history of the art form too, and my book collection has many ‘history of comics’ books amongst it.

William Gaines


This, however, is Ron Mann’s documentary of the history of comic books and it’s a pretty concise and interesting look at how they came about, but the best thing about this doco is the absolutely essential stories from some of the old men, and young guns, of the industry.

It’s pretty special to know the history of Bill Gaines, and then hear him tell stories himself, and to actually hear my hero, Jack Kirby’s voice, is amazing. 

This doesn’t just look at the history of the art of comics, it also takes a walk down the history of comics legacy, and how it was effected by, and how it effected society. There is some great archival footage of the Senatorial Commitee on Juvenile Delinquency and some disturbing stories about court cases where artists and writers were sued for things they wrote or drew.

There is some cool presentations of classic comic covers rarely seen, but occasionally that footage is spoilt by some poorly executed, amateurish animation of the covers which was unnecessary and detracts from the amazing original art.

Harvey Kurtzman


If you want a brief history of the industry, and one that is American centric as none of the great European or Asian artists really get a look in, this is your place to go, but there is so much more to many of the stories discussed in this doco. Honestly. This doco could do with a 1988 to now sequel!

Ron, are you listening?

Score: ****

The Australian DVD menu screen


Format: This documentary was reviewed with the Australian DVD release which runs for approximately 85 minutes. The film is presented in 4:3 and has a 2.0 audio track, both of which are of various degrees of quality due to the historical nature of some of the footage and audio. It doesn’t really detract from the enjoyment of the film though.

Score: ***

Extras: There is several extra on this disc though the first couple are a bit Kevin Smith indulgent. I guess if you pay someone to turn up you take advantage of the time.

The first note is that this doco from the 80s has a new introduction by Kevin Smith, where he basically points out that even ten years later when his introduction was done, it was still relevant.

A Conversation with Kevin Smith is more ‘ a justification for reading comics by Kevin Smith’ and whilst I get the heart of where it’s coming from I don’t get why I have to justify, or convince someone that adults can read comic, the same as a cricket fan does have to justify to me why he likes it. It doesn’t matter what you dig, just respect each other, and if you think you have to justify your passion to a friend, you need new friends.

Silent Bobs Speaks is a not very funny series of questions aimed at Smith’s ‘Silent Bob’ character. Lame.

There is also a trailer for the film.

The is an interview with director Ron Mann who talks about the making of this film and his career in general.

Last there are text biographies of some of the artists featured in the doco, including Robert Crumb, Will Eisner, Frank Miller, Jaime Hernandez, Shary Flenniken, Lynda Barry, Victor Moscow, Bill Griffith, Jack Kirby (of course), William M. Gaines, Francoise Molly, Al Feldstein, Art Spiegelman, Sue Coe, Gilbert Shelton, Dan O’Neill, Stan Lee, Harvey Kurtzman, Harvey Pekar, Spain, Charles Burns and Paul Mavrides. They are single paragraph bios so don’t expect an entire indepth history of each person.

Score: ***

WISIA: I have watched this many times and will probably continue to watch it many more times.

Robert Crumb

Superman/ Batman: Apocalypse (2010)

One from the re watch pile…
Superman/ Batman: Apocalypse (2010)

The Australian Bluray cover


Film: As a comic fan, I possibly love these DC animated features more than the Marvel movies. I like the fact that every film doesn’t require an origin story of the character, and there is an assumption that the viewer KNOWS who Batman and Superman and Power Girl and whomever else is. Throwing out the need to have an origin story makes for a quicker start to the tale, and the DC universe creators are clever with their introductions as sometimes they are as simple as just sitting at a table in JLA headquarters!

The other thing is unlimited budget. The beautiful thing about animation (and comics) is it takes about the same amount of budget to create one explosion or fifty of them, also, it’s a lot easier to change a cast member when all you hear is their voice.

There is also the fact that they just tell good stories almost every time, and that is because they are based on the stories told in the comics, which were far better than any ‘live action’ adaptation. This in combination with some spectacular character design, and the inclusion of one of Jack Kirby’s greatest creations, Darkseid, and other denizens of his awesome Fourth World Saga characters, make for an epic tale.

During a meteor shower, ‘something’ crash lands in Gotham Harbour, making Batman go to investigate. Batman finds a spaceship of Kryptonian origins, a bunch of kryptonite, and a girl, Kara, the cousin of Superman!

Batman prefers hard rock over heavy metal.


Superman and Batman become an unusual parental unit for Kara, who we quickly find out was sent with baby Superman to protect him on Earth, but her ship was knocked off course, arriving so much later that Superman is now older in body that her, as her ships suspended animation kept her at a 16 year old girl’s age. Unfortunately, Batman’s mistrust causes a rift between them and her.

Meanwhile, on the God-world of Apokalips, the evil ruler Darkseid, is attempting to replace the traitorous Big Barda, who left his royal guard as its captain. He is entrusting Granny Goodness, the trainer of warriors, to find her replacement, but she is repeatedly failing. Darkseid has seen Kara fall from the sky too, and entrusts Goodness to capture her so she can become his new Captain.

Meanwhile, again, Batman has employed Wonder Woman to take her Paradise Island to receive proper training, which Superman agrees to, causing a rift between her and him.

With Kara’s disappointment in both her ‘parents’, once captured she is easily swayed to Darkseid’s manipulations… but will she become Darkseid’s greatest warrior?

Supergirl under Darkseid’s thrall.


This is a really cool story, and it shows a lot of the strong women that DC has to offer all in one story, although as a weird juxtaposition, it also has a bizarre sequence where Kara goes shopping in a Pretty Woman styled sequence, which seems to show that even above all the powers, she’s still ‘just a girl’. I don’t know why such a sequence exists in this film, and the film comes to a sudden stop to show it. I have to admit that when we see what she ultimately decides as her outfit, it’s a nice tribute to Laura Vandervoort’s Smallville outfit.

Another thing I like about it is how it links loosely to the previous Superman/ Batman movie, Public Enemies, with a mention of ‘President Luthor’s impeachment’.

There’s some awesome voice casting in this film as well. Kevin Conroy returns as the angry voice of Batman, as does Tim Daly as Superman. Summer Glau from Firefly performs Supergirl but the most inspired vocal choice is TV legend Ed Asner as Granny Goodness, it makes her look even weirder with his deep attempts at a woman’s voice.

All up, this is certainly one of the better DC animated features and for me being a big Kirby fan, it was a pleasure seeing so many of Kirby’s creations, like Big Barda, Granny Goodness, the Female Furies, Parademons, Hunger Dogs… just so many, on the screen.

Score: ****1/2

Format: The reviewed copy of this film was the Australian Bluray which runs for approximately 78 minutes and is presented in a crisp 1.85:1 visual with an clear cut and crisp DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track.

Score: *****

The Australian Bluray menu screen


Extras: The disc opens with previews for Batman: Under the Red Hood and The Lost Boys: The Thirst before making its way to the main menu.

Under the Special Features banner though is a huge bunch of stuff:

DC Showcase: Green Arrow is a cool 10 minute short highlighting Green Arrow. This is a really cool short that introduces the character of Green Arrow and also features other characters like Black Widow, Count Vertigo and Merlyn. DC only made a few of these and it’s disappointing that they dumped them. This features an awesome line up of actors doing the voices too: A Clockwork Orange’s Malcolm McDowell, Captain America: The First Avenger’s Neil McDonough, Scooby Doo’s Grey Delisle, Futurama’s John DiMaggio and Modern Family’s Ariel Winter!

Bruce Timm’s Top Picks features four episodes taken from Superman: The Animated Series: Little Girl Lost Part 1 and 2, and Apokalips Now! Part 1 and 2.

The Fourth World: The New Gods investigates Jack Kirby’s creation of the New Gods in the early 70s, and how important their creation was to DC at the time, and explores Kirby’s history as well, and how important he was to the history of comic books.

New Gods: Mister Miracle Pod is a distillation of Miracle’s origin.

News Gods: Orion Pod is the same as Miracle’s, but for Orion.

Supergirl: The Last Daughter of Krypton explores the history of the character of Supergirl, why she was so important to the DC universe, and why she continues to be relevant and popular today. Unfortunately this was made before the new TV series starring Melissa Benoist so there’s nothing included from that (at this point, Laura Vandervoort was still Supergirl from the Smallville TV show).

There are also trailers for the Lego Universe, the Jonah Hex motion comic, Batman: Under the Red Hood (again), Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths and Superman/ Batman: Public Enemies.

The final extra is a sneak peak at what was the next release in the DC Animated Features, All-Star Superman.

Score: *****

WISIA: I love these DC animated features, and ALL of them get regularly watched… including this one.

Big Barda expresses her point.

Necessary Evil: Super-villains of DC Comics (2013)

One from the re watch pile…
Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics (2013)

The cover of the US DVD


Film: I’ve been collecting comics for well over 40 years, and I still love them to death. I do admit that I did have a period in the 90s where I did not buy any, but that was due to Image comics; not the comics or artists themselves as what they did for artists and writers in the industry was long overdue, but the style of their art.

I’m an old school, Jack Kirby, John Buscema, Bernie Wrightson, Richard Corbin, Robert Crumb guy, so these new flashy artists had no interest to me, and when Marvel and DC started emulating their style, I was out!

Thankfully this didn’t last too long and soon I was back in the fold, enjoying the adventures of masked heroes fighting the good fight against evil, and being a bi-fan: that is, I buy both Marvel and DC comics… but why both? Why in a world where most people buy one or the other, would I get comics from both universes?

The answer is this: I love the realism of most of Marvel’s heroes having a basis in science rather than magic, and without a doubt, Jack Kirby and Stan Lee’s Fantastic Four is still the World’s Greatest Comic Magazine, even though as of the date of this review it hasn’t been published for several years. 

On the flip side of that, I think that DC’s bad guys are greater than Marvel’s. Lex Luther is a great example: in Marvel comics, his equivalent is a good guy, Tony Stark, a weapons manufacturer who became Iron Man. In reality, those sorts of people are seen by the general public as villains, like Luthor. Luther doesn’t hate mankind or want world destruction, he’s xenophobic against Superman.

The man responsible for some of the greatest Batman comics ever written, Scott Snyder


In reality, what would mankind do if an alien came to earth? Luthor’s actions are probably more accurate. Acceptable? No, but when are mankind’s actions acceptable?

Another DC villain that I think is possibly the greatest villain of all time is Jack Kirby’s Darkseid. Darkseid is the dictator of a world called Apokalips, and is at odds with the ENTIRE DC universe. You Marvel fans think Thanos is something to be concerned about? Darkseid would eat Thanos for breakfast!

Anyway, this documentary, Necessary Evil, sits as a great companion piece to the previous documentary Secret Origins: The History of DC Comics, which was released three years earlier. Necessary Evil is hosted by Christopher Lee (the ultimate super villain?) and has interviews with creative types from all walks of life. From psychologists to actors, including but not limited to director Zach Snyder, screenplay writer Geoff Boucher, co-creator of Harley Quinn Paul Dini, DC editor Bobbie Chase, DC editor in chief Bob Harras and many many more.

Producer and author of The Boy Who Loved Batman, Michael Uslan


The film features clips from comics, cartoons, video games, animated films and major motion pictures, and displays many incarnations of the various villains, and is not just a great history of the villains of the DC universe, but is also an interesting psychological look at why we love heroes, but love villains even more.

Recommended, but it’s really only for the most devout of DC comics fans.

Score: *****

The US DVD menu screen


Format: Necessary Evil was reviewed on a region 1 DVD which runs for 99 minutes. The image is presented in a 1.78:1 image and a Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, both of which are pretty good.

Score: ****

Extras: The disc starts with a trailer for DC’s We Can Be Heroes incentive (which is a pretty cool cause http://www.wecambeheroes.org), Man of Steel, the video game Batman: Arkham Origins, the DC animated feature Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox and the DC animated TV series, Green Lantern, Young Justice and Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and that’s the entirety of the extras.

Score: **

WISIA: Being a comic nut, I have to admit to watching this many many times.

An animated Green Lantern villain: Star Sapphire

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) Review

One from the re watch pile for Jack Kirby month…
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

The Australian Bluray cover


Film: Captain America has always been ‘my’ superhero. When I was a early teen, which is when I really started to collect comics properly (before that I just bought them at random, rather than collect a series consistently), and that first series that I couldn’t do without was Cap’s. I remember clearly that it was issue 262, drawn my Mike Zeck and it had Cap being held aloft by a giant version of himself known as ‘The Ameridroid’. I had a great friend in high school and the two of us were ‘the comic nerds’ though he was an Iron Man guy, whilst I was all about Cap.

He was my friend regardless of his bad taste in heroes.

My father one day took me to Comic Kingdom in Sydney, and bought for me a full second run of Jack Kirby’s Captain America from the 70s (and a full run of Jack Kirby’s The Demon from DC) and I was totally enamoured by how awesome Kirby’s art was and became a lifelong fan. I did have other Kirby comics in my collection, I quickly discovered, and they became the jewels in my comic crown.

So fast forward to about 30 years later, and I hear that a ‘proper’ Captain America film was being made that would be part of a greater collective of a Cinema version of the Marvel Universe, and am stoked that the guy who was cast as Johnny Storm in a substandard Fantastic Four movie previously.

More importantly, I heard it was going to be pretty true to the comic, and the lack of an Italian Red Skull made my heart flutter.

… and boy, was I not disappointed!

The Captain (Chris Evans) is somewhat disappointed in his way effort as an entertainer.


Captain America: The First Avenger tells of a young man Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) during the Second World War who, due to a lack of physical prowess, was rejected to join the army, though he is eventually accepted to join a test program to create the perfect ‘super soldier’. 

When he proves himself not in strength or skill, but in mind and heart, he is accepted into the experimental program, overseen by Colonel Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones), Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) and scientist Dr. Erskine (Stanley Tucci). He finds that he is not the first to undergo such a procedure, and that a German soldie, Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving, who I still think would be an amazing Joker in a Batman film), went through an imperfect version of the process which caused him to become deformed with a red, skull-like visage.

Unfortunately, Dr. Erskine is killed by a German spy during the procedure and when Steve emerges as a muscular heroic figure and pursues him, he kills himself with a cyanide pill. With Erskine dead, Rogers is not used as a soldier, but instead a promoter of war bonds and a part of the war effort entertainment troupe, until he is caught up in a rescue mission which not only reunites him with his childhood friend, Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) but puts him at odds with Schmidt, and his collaborator, Arnim Zola (Toby Jones).

Will Captain America survive his first mission, or will he end up in a plane crash and be frozen for 50 years…?

Achtung, Baby! It’s the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving).


They nailed the entire creation of Jack Kirby and Joe Simon’s character in this film. The beauty of do a film set in the past is you don’t have to ‘update’ it like they did with Iron Man, who got his chest injuries differently in the comics (well, basically the same, but in a different war) so there is no part really where the comic fan might get a cringe… like the Joker killing Batman’s parents in Tim Burton’s Batman…

Sigh.

They do modernise Bucky though, as the concept of a young boy being sent to war to fight alongside men would have child endangerment groups livid, and let’s face it, the kid sidekick is a terrible idea (sorry Robin, Wonder Girl, Speedy, Aqualad, etc). Any ‘hero’ who puts kids in danger is no hero at all!

The amazing thing is that this film never really falls into the trappings of what could make it a bad movie. Captain America is seen as an icon of good, rather than a pro-America cheerleader, and that is something that could have very easily been mistakenly done. This is due to the excellent writing from Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, which never talks down, nor does it feel comic-y: it’s a war movie with a superhero in it! The only time it goes into melodramatic areas is with the Red Skull, which it has to as he is an over-the-top supervillain!

The direction is really good too. Joe Johnson didn’t just set this film in the 40s, sometimes it even is filmed like a movie of that era, and I got bits and pieces of things like Raoul Walsh’s White Heat out of the occasional visual. He didn’t copy scenes, but there is an occasional stylistic emulation, which never becomes parody which is a nice touch.

Anyway, this is a great superhero movie and a pretty good war movie too, and throw in a brief cameo of Doctor Who’s Jenna Coleman just to make the nerd in me jump up and take notice!

Score: ****

The Australian Bluray menu screen


Format: This Australian bluray copy of the film runs for approximately 124 minutes and is presented in an impeccable 2.35: 1 image with an astonishing Dolby DTS-HD 7.1.

Score: *****

Extras: Heaps of cool extras on this disc!

Commentary by Director Joe Johnson, Director Of Photography Shelley Johnson and Editor Jeffrey Ford which is a good one, insomuch as it’s informative and conversational.

Marvel One-Shot: A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Thor’s Hammer is, upon reflection, a tool to prepare us for Coulson’s character becoming a bigger part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s an entertaining short, in the vein of ‘bully gets his just deserts’ styled YouTube videos.

Next there is a bunch of really interesting featurettes:

Outfitting Cap looks at the entire design process and styling of Cap’s outfit and his shield.

Howling Commandos looks at the actors who played Cap’s platoon, the Howling Commandos, firmly placed in comic lore, though Nick Fury is absent (he was their sergeant in the comics).

Heightened Technology looks at the tech used in the film, which needed to look like ACTUAL WWII technology, but still have a scifi element to it.

The Transformation tells of the special effects needed to make ‘skinny Steve’, the pre-super soldiered Steve Rogers, on Chris Evans’ muscular body/

Behind the Skull explores the performance by Hugo Weaving and special effects of the Red Skull, Cap’s arch enemy.

Captain America’s Origin is a discussion with Captain America co-creator Joe Simon about his and Jack Kirby’s creation.

The Assembly Begins is, of course, a first look at what would become The Avengers.

Deleted Scenes has 4 deleted scenes which can be watched with a commentary by the previously mention members of the film commentary team (for some reason one doesn’t have the commentary, but you’ll have to deal with it).

There are four trailers: two for the film, one for the video game and one for the Avengers cartoon.

This version of the film also came with the film on DVD and a downloadable digital copy as well.

Score: *****

WISIA: It’s Captain America; you bet I’ll watch it again… and again…. and again….

Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) takes aim…