October 12, 2009
Superaman/Batman: Public Enemies Blu-ray Disc

SUPERMAN/BATMAN: PUBLIC ENEMIES (2009, Blu-ray released September 29, 2009 - MSRP $29.99)

You know I've got a soft spot for these DC Comics animated adaptations. I've given fairly positive reviews to the two previous efforts in the series - Wonder Woman and Green Lantern: First Flight. So you're probably expecting more of the same from my review of Superman/Batman: Public Enemies on Blu-ray disc. And you'd be right! In fact, I think it might be the best of the bunch!

From what I can tell, that's probably not the popular opinion. I got my copy of the Blu-ray disc quite late and so had the opportunity to browse other reviews kicking around internets. While the disc itself would be constantly highly rated, reviewers seemed unanimous in slamming the simplistic story. I felt like the simplicity really worked in this case!

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies is essentially a one-hour fight scene. There isn't much character or story. But plenty of excitement. And, at the end of the day, isn't excitement what draws us to a superhero adventure? Here's the setup, in a nutshell - Lex Luthor has swindled his way into becoming the president of the US and declares Superman and Batman public enemies. Villains and heroes alike hunt them down and try to beat the crap out of them. Awesome! That's pretty much all there is to it. But you know what? With such a a short runtime, that's okay. What drags the production down for me is the character designs. Superman/Batman: Public Enemies is an adaptation of a DC Comics miniseries (I didn't read it so I can't comment on how faithful the script is to the original Jeph Loeb story.) As such, the filmmakers attempted to mimic the character designs of the comics' artist, Ed McGuinness. To the productions detriment, if you ask me. The designs, while looking a whole hell-of-a-lot like McGuinness' are too chunky and muscled and despite some champion work by Lotto Animation, the characters don't animate very well. Give me the old, simplified Bruce Timm models any day!

The Blu-ray looks fantastic! Really well done. Probably the best looking disc of all the DC Comics adaptations that Warner has released thus far. And, despite the lack of an uncompressed soundtrack, it sounds strong and pretty dynamic! Where the Blu-ray fails for me is in the bonus feature department. Aside from the requisite collection of trailers and six Bruce Timm best-of-Justice-League episode picks (all looking better than ever compressed with the VC-1 codec, I might add), the only extra materials on the disc are a short featurette exploring the relationship between Superman and Batman, and a sit-down dinner with the actor who performs the voice of Batman. Don't get me wrong, what we're given is pretty cool. I can take or leave the featurette but the dinner chat, running almost an hour long, is really great. Just like the Green Lantern: First Flight disc, however, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies is sorely lacking in any detail on the production itself! One again, we're robbed of a commentary track, or making-of featurette. Come on, guys! As cool as it is to hear Kevin Conroy chat about his almost twenty years voicing Batman, I'd rather know something specific about the film I just watched. How about an interview with Sam Liu? If this Newsarama interview with the director is any indication, he has a lot to say about the production. What about Stan Berkowitz? Having adapted the comics to screen, he most likely has a few insights to share. Urgh...It's so frustrating to feel like nobody at the studio cares about this end of things anymore. Here's hoping they rethink their position of avoiding production docs and commentaries for next years Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths Blu-ray Disc release.

Also on The Bllu-ray Blog: Superman/Batman: Public Enemies Blu-ray Disc review

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July 28, 2008

- BET has released the trailer for their upcoming animated adaptation of Marvel's, Black Panther. It looks suspiciously like John Romita, Jr.'s artwork given the old 60's clip and move treatment of Marvel's "animated" series' of old.

- The recipients of the 2008 Winsor McCay Award have been announced: Mike Judge, John Lasseter and Nick Park. Award recipients will be celebrated at the 36th Annual Annie Awards scheduled for Friday, January 30, 2009, at UCLA's Royce Hall in Los Angeles, California. Via AWN.com

- ToonZone has the trailer for the upcoming animated series, Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Via Toonzone.com

- A list of the selections for this years Ottawa International Animation Festival is posted here: OIAF Selections. Peur (s) du Noir, Idiots and Angels (both recently screened by fps at Fantasia) and the critically acclaimed animated documentary, Waltz With Bashir are among the films chosen for competition.

- Sony announced at Comic Con that a 3-Pack of Ray Harryhausen films will be making it's way to DVD and Blu-ray. Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, It Came from Beneath the Sea, plus the previously-released 20 Million Miles to Earth will be available individually and packaged together this October. Via High Def Digest.com

Previously on fps:
Robot Chicken and Nickelodeon at Ottawa Animation Festival '08
The Secret Garden of Ray Harryhausen

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July 17, 2008

If you haven't heard about the new Wonder Woman animated film, then you clearly haven't picked up the fantastic Batman: Gotham Knight DVD or Blu-ray and fired up the sneak peek included as one of the multitudinous special features. Lauren Montgomery (Ben 10, Justice League, Legion of Super Heroes) is the lady in the captain's chair of the upcoming DTV feature, sharing credit for the updated design of DC Comics' amazon princess with Mister Animated Super-Hero, Bruce Timm.

Check out her blog, This Sucks for some production and design insights, along with some fantastic art.

Via ComicsToFilm.com

Previously on fps:
Batman: Gotham Knight

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July 2, 2008
There is a reason Batman has his own label on fps. Besides many of us being big comic fans, many of us are huge fans of the Bat specifically. He has numerous animated interpretations and the notable incarnations in the 90s and 00s have definitely left their mark on (what was) Saturday morning television, cable television, comic book adaptations, and Warner Bros. television animation.

So people are a little nervous about an anime version of Batman since Batman: Gotham Knight was announced. I am a huge Batman fan and a huge anime fan, but I won't champion one at the expense of the other. After hearing about the talent behind the series of interrelated shorts, both American and Asian, I was somewhat relieved, but I was also willing to wait for a final verdict once I'd actually seen the shorts. After getting a peek at the soon-to-be released DVD in a theatrical setting gearing up for the 2008 edition of Fantasia, I think people's fears are largely unfounded.

Disliking the stories because they use the visual style of anime is just as bad as only liking it because it is anime. What you need to know is the stories are told well. What you need to know is these stories all embody something about the Legend of the Bat and are consistent with the characters that have already been established. It does look great!

And the same people that dismiss the anthology because it is anime will probably be the ones who refuse to notice that there are six very distinct visual styles that are employed to tell each story. The level of interestingness does vary depending on the style you are drawn to, but this is also the case of a decades long comic-collector who has some artists they prefer over others. Like these artists, Batman's look changes at the whim of the artists involved. The two stories with styles I found the most recognizable and distinct from the others were produced by Studio 4°C. They were even distinct from each other. Selecting one of these as the first story in the set was a great choice as it breaks conventions of what people consider the "anime style."

There are no spoilers in this entire post. I am not interested in ruining it for anybody, especially the die-hard Batman fans. However, if you are told or read spoilers elsewhere, you will not find out anything new about Batman if you already know his character. You will feel comforted by the way the stories fit easily into the mythos that has already been created from past stories. Just go and watch the stories unfold, and enjoy another glimpse of Batman's early days as he tries to learn the ropes of crimefighting.

You can catch a theatrical screening of Batman: Gotham Knight at Montreal's Fantasia festival on Saturday at noon, before it is released on DVD next Tuesday.

Previously on fps
2008 Fantasia Festival Animation
Batman: Gotham Knight Promo Video Online
DC Comics OAVs
Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo
The End of Justice League

Previously on The Critical Eye
Batman Animated
Batman & Batman Beyond
Paul Dini
Bruce Timm & Glen Murakami

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July 1, 2008

It's a week of firsts for this blogger - this is my first post on fps and my first experience with Montreal's famous genre spectacle, the Fantasia Film Festival. Illustrator and fellow fps blogger Matt Forsythe and I attended the press symposium and were treated to a preview of what we can expect from July 3rd-21st.

This year's animated offerings feature an unusual and unintentional focus on collaborative efforts and collections of short films, from DC Comics' Batman: Gotham Knight, Studio 4C's aptly named anime extravaganza, Genius Party, and the cutting-edge showcase, Best of Ottawa Animation Festival 2007. There are only two single-narrative feature-length animated presentations in the entire fest - Bill Plympton's poetic, pencil-scratch surrealist vision, Idiots and Angels and John Bergin's bleak, post-apocalyptic fable, From Inside. We'll cover each entry in more detail throughout the festival.

Continue past the jump for a full schedule of the animated films screening at Fantasia 2008:

July 4th - 7:30PM - Hall Theatre - Genius Party
July 5th - 12:00PM - Hall Theatre - Batman: Gotham Knight
July 5th - 1:00PM - J.A. De Seve - Best of Ottawa Animation Festival 2007
July 6th - 1:00PM - Hall Theatre - Genius Party
July 7th - 9:45PM - Hall Theatre - Peur (s) Du Noir
July 9th - 3:00PM - J.A. De Seve - Peur (s) Du Noir
July 9th - 7:30PM - Hall Theatre - Idiots and Angels (Hosted by creator, Bill Plympton)
July 12th - 2:40PM - J.A. De Seve - Outer Limits Of Animation 2008 (Shorts from around the globe)
July 13th - 9:40PM - J.A. De Seve - From Inside
July 14th - 3:00PM - J.A. De Seve - From Inside

(Okay, who's the putz that programmed Batman: Gotham Knight to screen at the same time as the Ottawa Festival shorts?! ...sigh... guess I'll have to watch you at home on Blu-ray, Batman...)

Tickets go on sale July 2nd at 2PM at the Concordia Hall Theatre (Guy-Concordia Metro) and throughout the Admission Network at $7.50 each.

Directions:Hall Theatre - 1455 Maisonneuve O. (Guy Metro) Map and Directions
DB Clarke Theatre - 1455 Maisonneuve O. (Guy Metro) Map and Directions
J.A. De Seve - 1400 Maisonneuve O. (Guy Metro) Map and Directions

Previously on fps:
2007 Fantasia Line-Up
Batman: Gotham Knight Online
Genius Party Trailers
Plymptoons: The Complete Early Works of Bill Plympton

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April 9, 2008

I've been catching up on what's been going on in the entertainment world and just discovered today that Warner Bros. Animation's Batman: The Brave and the Bold is premiering on Cartoon Network this fall. Featuring weekly team-ups with characters from the DC universe, Mediaweek describes the new show as "a more lighthearted throwback to the Batman of the 1960s and '70s, before The Dark Knight franchise turned the cowled crime fighter into an angst-ridden existentialist."

Well. As any Bat-fan worth their salt knows, the lighthearted phase of the caped crusader's career was an aberration (albeit one that lasted about 20 years) in the character's 69-year history. Prior to the evisceration of superhero comics after World War II, Batman's roots were firmly in the pulps, a "weird creature of the night" in the spirit of the Shadow.

Now, I'm a firm believer in the malleability of even established characters. None of the currently popular superheroes in comics or onscreen is exactly as they were when they made their debuts. And witness my praise of derivatives like Batman Beyond, among other things. But this still strikes me as a curious step. As a brand—and marketing people and execs are always all about the brand—Batman has been the Dark Knight for over twenty years now. In comics, he gradually started returning to his more grim roots in the 1960s; in animation, his last appearance as "chummy Batman" was in 1986.

So at this point, everyone of voting age pretty much knows Batman in his new (or, if you like, old) persona. How exactly does it promote the Batman brand to make him more "lighthearted," especially on the heels of a new Christian Bale movie? For this they axed The Batman, which I thought walked the line between Saturday morning-light and Dark Knight-sombre pretty well?

I guess we'll have to wait and see how this latest incarnation of Batman turns out. Handled well, it could work out. There's a precedent: when the Justice League comic was rebooted in the 1980s with Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis at the helm, it featured as much comedy and slapstick as it did action. Batman's character (or, in marketspeak: brand) was completely intact, and the contrast between him, his teammates and the situations they found themselves worked brilliantly. Let's see the Brave and the Bold team can be as creative as that when they go "lighthearted."

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February 18, 2008
Batman: Gotham Knight, the anthology of US-scripted, Japanese-animated Batman stories occurring between the most recent and forthcoming live-action Batman films has a promo video circulating online.

While everyone in the promotional video is extremely articulate, I'd still recommend listening to it with the sound off. You may miss one or two insightful comments, but most remarks are things we all know about the Batman character. The commentary about the Japanese aspect of the production may have been more interesting if one of the Japanese participants actually got a chance to describe it, instead of it being distilled for us by Westerners.

Previously on fps
DC Comics OAVs
Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo
The End of Justice League

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March 19, 2007
Batman Beyond Season 3 (DVD)
Batman Beyond Seasons 1-3 (DVD)
Arguably the weakest of Batman Beyond's three seasons, these final thirteen episodes still feature some of the series' better ideas, along with great character interplay and dialogue. Old and new nemeses return, including favourites Inque and the Royal Flush Gang, but the best are those from Bruce Wayne's past: Ra's Al Ghul (as always, given sinister voice by David Warner), Kobra and a silent, but no less dangerous, Starro. This season also marks the first animated appearance of the Justice League in the Timm universe, a two-episode thrill ride that set fanboy hearts racing. —Emru Townsend

Justice League Unlimited: Complete Season 2 (DVD)
Justice League Unlimited: Complete Seasons 1 & 2 (DVD)
The Second Season of JLU is fantastic to say the least, and truly offers a drama and an adventure for animation fans keen on more mature themes. Settling fierce internal conflicts, re-aggravating in-group rivalries and trying to figure out just what in the heck should be done about the Cadmus project; some of JLU's most interesting animation direction and much of the series' development of secondary characters occurs here. —Aaron H. Bynum

Shana Vol. 4 (DVD)
In the middle of this anime about a kid whose run-in with a flame-haired, crimson-eyed female demon slayer, things are starting to slow down a bit and the characters are beginning to find some comfort with one another. Though the action seems to be rather sparse at this point in time, the addition of strange villains and much fuller background artwork are a plus. —Aaron H. Bynum

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October 23, 2006
Batman Beyond Season 2 (DVD)
Batman Beyond Seasons 1 & 2 (DVD)
Faced with a mandate to create a teen-centric animated Batman to appeal to the WB's core audience in the late 1990s, Bruce Timm and the rest of the Superman and Batman crew took what could have been a terrible concept—a troubled teen inherits the Bat-mask and a souped-up costume in a cyberpunk future under the tutelage of an elderly Bruce Wayne—and made it must-see television. The first season spent most of its time introducing new villains and showing the young Terry McGinnis trying to master the delicate (and often indelicate) art of being the Bat, but the crew pulled out all the stops in the second season, with both Bruce and Terry growing and facing each other's pasts and futures together. —Emru Townsend

Creature Comforts Season 2 (DVD)
Creature Comforts Seasons 1 & 2 (DVD)
Creature Comforts: Merry Christmas Everybody (DVD)
I'm sure there are many people who equate the "Aardman style" (not that there's just one) with Nick Park's design and animation tics, but I'm not sure that's an altogether bad thing—they're ridiculously expressive, and just as ridiculously funny. Park started A Grand Day Out, the first Wallace and Gromit short, first, but the original Creature Comforts short was more polished when it came out, beating A Grand Day Out in the race for an Oscar. The TV series has proven to be just as much fun. —Emru Townsend

The Dream Team: The Rise and Fall of DreamWorks: Lessons from the New Hollywood (Book)
In the introduction to Tex Avery, King of Cartoons, Joe Adamson bemoans the way animation is often dismissed by film historians. Not so in this case. With plenty of enthusiasm for his subject matter, Daniel M. Kimmel covers the history of Dreamworks and doesn't neglect the animation released by the studio that was going to change Hollywood. —René Walling

Eureka Seven Vol. 4 (DVD)
Volume four of this intricate and entertaining mechaanime series reveals more about its world and sets the stage for the push to the series' half-way point. —Brett Rogers

Justice League Unlimited Season 1 (DVD)
JLU is without a doubt one of the most complexly written and sharply directed animated television programs in recent years. The program has wonderful characters and a plethora of internal conflicts so honest it's really quite frightening. —Aaron H. Bynum

Macross Vol. 6: Eve of Destruction (DVD)
Like the rest of the Macross series, this disc is wildly uneven. The best two episodes are the first and the last. The first is, literally, Earth-shattering—one of the most epic last-ditch-effort-for-humanity battles ever, if you can tolerate the singing; the last is where the pieces finally fall into place to lead to the final volume, the series' best five-episode run. —Emru Townsend

Saturday Night Live: The Best of Saturday TV Funhouse (DVD)
I haven't looked at superhero duos the same way since. —Aaron H. Bynum

The Snowman (DVD)
A wonderful film based on a book by Raymond Briggs (better known for When the Wind Blows). One of those Christmas specials you wish you'd get to see more of, this beautiful, quiet tale could not contrast more with the hustle and bustle usually associated with the holidays. A definite must for the whole family this coming winter. —René Walling

Witch Hunter Robin Complete Collection (Anime Legends) (DVD)
The methodical tracking and presumed execution of beings that are fundamentally different, flawed or unluckily defective by birth—witch hunts—are pieced together with a science-fiction mindset. The program has its pacing issues, but is worth the wait for viewers patient and eager for that one moment where everything clicks. —Aaron H. Bynum

Previously covered on fpsmagazine.com:
Review: Creature Comforts: The Complete First Season
Commentary: Justice League Unlimited
Review: Witch Hunter Robin Vol. 1

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