Sky High (2005) mini review

superhero film not based on a comic

Will Stronghold is the son of Steve and Josie Stronghold, who are Commander (Kurt Russell) and Jetstream (Kelly Preston), the world’s foremost superheroes. Will is about to start high school, but unfortunately his powers haven't yet developed. I'm not sure why I relate so well to the kid who is going to a superhero high school and is the only one there who hasn’t developed extraordinary abilities. Maybe it's because I hated high school. Maybe it's because I never felt like I fit in. Maybe it's because I still don't have my super powers.

Whatever the reason, there’s something about any coming-of-age film that allows you to relate to the characters, and Sky High is wonderful as a superhero coming-of-age film that doesn't take itself too seriously.

Though Sky High is a light, fun film, it explores tough issues like growing up and the labels that we tend to place on people, mainly to make it easier to judge them. It’s got great superhero action, awesome 80s music covers (I Melt with You, Everybody Wants to Rule the World, Voices Carry, Just What I Needed, and And She Was for starters), and Bruce Campbell (Darkman, Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3, and even an episode of Lois & Clark), who is hilarious as the coach, Sonic Boom.

Other notable cast members include Lynda Carter (Wonder Woman - duh, and an appearance on Smallville), Cloris Leachman (who did a voice in the failed Gen 13 animated pilot, and appeared in an episode of Wonder Woman), Dave Foley (Monkeybone, and voices for The Tick and The Batman), and Patrick Warburton (Men in Black II, The Tick (live action), an episode of The Batman) as the voice of Royal Pain.

See it if you want to watch a fun superhero film that can appeal to the whole family.

Don't see it if you're not in the mood for something light.


Updated Movie Dates and Fall Premiers

Some hard and fast dates for upcoming projects.

The Watchmen movie apparently has a website, a date (3/6/09), and a production blog. Take a look at the right. (thanks to Comics2Film)

A date's been set for The Spirit (1/16/09). (thanks to SuperheroHype)

I scoured the 'net for the fall premiers...scroll down a bit on the right to the Premiers / Releases section to get a complete list of superhero and comic project premiers next month.


Priest Pushed Back

So that's why it didn't come out last weekend.

Apparently, release of the Priest film (based on the Tokyopop manga) has gotten pushed back to the first quarter of 2008. I'll pop it back into the list of upcoming films (right) when I hear of a more solid date.

Thanks to E. Favata.


I'm a Marvel...I'm a DC Interview

Have you had a chance to check out the I'm a Marvel...I'm a DC videos I mentioned a couple months ago? Well, Marvel's got an interview with the creator, Michael Agrusso. If you enjoyed the videos, I thought you might like to take a look...


"This isn't good. Yeah...definitely not good."

Ironically, while Flash Gordon was laying in his torture chair, saying these words, I was watching the pilot of this new Scif Fi series, thinking the same thing.

I don't know - it just seemed a bit hokey. Bad acting, poor dialogue. Kind of like a poorly made 80s scif fi film. But it definitely doesn't have the heart of the 1980 incarnation. They are trying to put that feel into it. The commercials for the show look much better than the pilot - and feature a remake of the Queen Flash Gordon theme song. (But I do love how they advertised the Flash Gordon (Saviour Of The Universe Edition) DVD during the show.)

This isn't the only crappy new comic-book-related Sci Fi Channel premier in the last couple of weeks. Stan is once again showing the world how stupid comic books can be. Who Wants to Be a Superhero? season 2 has started, and it looks like it's going to be the same insipid reality show as last time. The thing is, it has a lot of potential. It just seems like whoever is the creative brains behind the show is just going to be stuck writing Stan's corny "comic book" dialogue.

I still can't believe Hygena (Fighting Grime and Crime!) is the name of a superhero that made it onto the show.

Hmmm...right now I'm watching the second episode of the season and Stan just told one of the superheroes, "No one takes a superhero seriously without his pants on." I think no one who sees this show will ever take comic books seriously...


Stardust (2007) mini review

based on a comic

So, technically, is Stardust a comic book movie? Well...it's actually a storybook, laden with illustrations. Not the same form of sequential art as you're used to seeing in a comic. However, it was published by a comic book company, written by a comic book writer (though he has also written several novels), published under a comic book imprint, in a comic book format, as a comic book mini series.

Close enough.

Stardust (Being A Romance Within The Realm of Faerie) was written by Neil Gaiman, and published by DC Comics under the Vertigo imprint as a 4-issue mini-series in 1997, illustrated by Charles Vess. The mini was collected, then novelised by Gaiman, with some modifications (take a look at some of the questions Gaiman answers at that last link). And if you watch the film, it notes that it's based on the novel. I was able to pick up the original series and am excited to read it now that I've seen the movie. Unfortunately, the film didn't meet the extremely high hopes I had for it; my wife on the other hand (not into comic book movies or fantasy) was not expecting much and was pleasantly surprised. I guess it depends on what we take into it.

Stardust is the story of Tristran, who crosses the wall at the edge of his village into a magical realm in pursuit of a fallen star for his true love. Easier said then done, when a trio of witches and a bevy of princes are after the same thing. It's a magical tale which I'm sure doesn't do the original justice. That's a pretty big assumption, given that I haven't read the original and that I'm not even overly familiar with Gaiman's work (*gasp*), but I just have a feeling. Directed by Matthew Vaughn (in negotiations to direct the upcoming Thor), the overall idea was amazing, and the acting was excellent. Charlie Cox was good as Tristran, and Claire Danes was great as Yvaine. Some of the bigger names in the film include Robert Deniro, Michelle Pfeiffer (Batman Returns), Peter O'Toole (Supergirl) , and Rupert Everett. Other parts include Jason Flemyng (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, From Hell) and Melanie Hill (From Hell).

But, the movie was just ok; it really seemed to be missing something. The humor seemed shoehorned in, as if the funny parts were added in later to make it appeal to a larger audience. And the story just didn't seem to flow well, as if parts were cut from a larger story and sewn back together.

It was good, but it just should have been more. I think I was also disappointed in the fact that it didn't seem like the Realm of Faerie was truly a different world from ours. It just seemed like our world with a bit more magic.

You might ask how I can give Stardust and Underdog the same rating. Part of my philosophy for rating movies is to understand the genre. The latter is intended to be a silly family movie based on a corny old cartoon. The former is a serious fantasy based on a story by one of today's foremost authors and comic writers. I think they succeeded at about the same level.

See it if you you're jonesing for a light-hearted fantasy film.

Don't see it if you expect to be blown away by a film adapted from Gaiman's work; maybe you should just rent Mirrormask or wait for Death: The High Cost of Living.


Underdog (2007) mini review

superhero film not based on a comic

In the classic superhero tradition, a failed police dog ends up in the hands of mad scientist Dr. Simon Barsinister, and in an accident with some experimental chemicals, he becomes the rhyming canine superhero, Underdog!

Well, it's not Oscar material, and it's not the pinnacle of filmmaking, even if you consider that it's based on a 60's cartoon, but it is a lot of fun. Several laugh out loud moments and a number of references to the old 'toon serve to make an enjoyable family film. Of course, the ending was completely anti-climactic, with a bunch of sappiness to top it off, so that was a bit disappointing.

Jason Lee (Chasing Amy, The Incredibles), is a decent Underdog, and Peter Dinklage (from the amazing non-comic movie, The Station Agent) plays a wonderful Barsinister. Though I'm not normally a fan of the live action stuff we've seen from Patrick Warburton (The Tick live action series, Men In Black II; also voicing a police detective on The Batman and the voice of Royal Pain in Sky High), he plays a pretty good part as Barsinister's lackey. Jack, the boy who befriends Underdog is could have been better, and even Jim Belushi (who actually did a voice for The Tick cartoon) should have done a better job. Amy Adams (from an early episode of Smallville) plays Polly Purebred, Underdog's love interest; Jim Garret (who's had voice parts in Justice League, Superman: The Animated Series, the '05 Fantastic Four cartoon, Batman: The Animated Series, The Tick, and even played a part in Lois & Clark) voices Riffraff.

On a side note, one of the screenwriters (Adam Rifkin) happened to also work on the comic movie Zoom.

See it if you want to take the kids to an enjoyable superhero film.

Don't see it if you won't take it for what it is - a goofy family movie based on a goofy 60's cartoon.