DVD Round-Up: 'Superman vs. The Elite,' 'Sherlock Holmes,' 'Ghost Rider'
Week of June 12th
Published: 06/10/2012, Last Updated: 06/11/2012 12:54pm
Direct to Disc
The latest DC Comics-based direct-to-disc "PG-13" animated feature Superman vs. the Elite (Warner Bros. "PG-13," $19.98, BD $24.98) comes as something of a surprise. The first clip released by Warner Bros. was not very promising (see "First Clip From 'Superman vs. The Elite'") especially with its clumsy animation of The Elite who just hover and move stiffly through the air. With that kind of lame animation in the promo, it is surprising that Superman vs. The Elite turned out to be one of the best DC animated movies yet. Though it does have its moments (usually during the many fight scenes), the animation and character design (check out the dumpy Supes on the cover) are definitely not this film’s strong points, it’s the story, Joe Kelly’s "What’s So Funny About Truth Justice and the American Way?" from Action Comics #775, that makes this the best Superman animated movie yet and one of the best in the current series produced by Warner Animation. Kelly adapted his story for film with Michael Chang directing and the movie for the most part faithfully reflects the original story.
The voice acting is another of the film’s strengths. George Newbern who voiced Supes in the Justice League animated movie returns to the role with ease while Polly Perrette (NCIS) is equally good as a raspy-voiced and spunky Lois Lane. Robin Atkins Downes is particularly effective as Manchester Black, the leader of The Elite, and Melissa Disney has a sexy old time with the role of Menagerie.
The Superman in this film is not your father’s Man of Steel. He is living with Lois Lane and she knows that he is Superman. Superman also appears far more vulnerable than in previous incarnations in spite of the fact that the Fortress of Solitude is populated with a horde of useful Superbots. Superman also appears a bit stodgy and defensive as he comes down firmly on the side of justice in this saga, which is an interesting exercise in superhero ethics in the modern age. The Elite is a self-proclaimed group of would-be do-gooders who are completely untroubled by any concept of due process. Though they are uneasy allies at first, conflict between Superman’s old school ethics and new quartet’s morality of convenience is inevitable. The Elite represent a sort of "post 9/11" ethos, the "kill them all and let God sort them out" mentality. Thankfully it’s the Man of Steel who sorts them out in Superman vs. The Elite in numerous action sequences that build to shattering, earth-shaking climax. A solid story plus more than enough action for even the most diehard comic book fan makes Superman vs. The Elite well worth owning, and gives hope that the DC/Warner Animation adaptation of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight will be worthy of its source material and complex themes (see "First Images From 2-Part Animated 'Dark Knight Returns'").
The highest grossing release of the week will undoubtedly be Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (Warner Bros., "PG-13," $28.98, BD/Combo $35.98), the second in the series of Holmes films starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law directed by Guy Ritchie. Game of Shadows, which received a 61% positive rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, is a slight improvement over the original, which had a ridiculous plot driven by a megalomaniac villain transplanted from a James Bond movie. Yes, the interplay between the two leads is just fine, and they do provide some leavening humor, but there is way too much of the thump and bluster of the second rate video game in the movie’s overblown action scenes. Despite its modern day setting, the BBC’s Sherlock is much closer in spirit to Conan Doyle’s original than these pandering Guy Ritchie Holmes movies..
Somebody at Sony decided to try to breathe life into the corpse of a franchise that the studio had made out of Marvel Comics’ Ghost Rider by hiring the turbo-charged helmers of Crank, Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor to direct Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (Sony, "PG-13," $30.99, BD $35.99, 3-DBD $45.99), a largely leaden sequel that earned a pitiful 18% positive rating from Rotten Tomatoes. Given star Nic Cage’s loopy performance the studio would have been better off with a director who could draw a "method" performance from the former Oscar winner, not this "meth-head" scattershot effort from Cage, who is becoming a parody of himself.
For those who enjoy an old-fashioned heartwarming melodrama there is Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds (Lionsgate, "PG-13," $29.95, BD $39.99), the story of a successful businessman, who has always done what his family has expected of him, but who rejects the woman that his family wants him to marry when he falls in love with a single mother who works on the cleaning crew that tidies up his office.
TV on DVD
There’s not a lot for geekcentric viewers in this category this week, but there are a couple of interesting vintage Doctor Who releases including Doctor Who Story #48: Seeds of Death Special Edition (BBC, 145 min., $34.98), the fifth serial from the sixth season of the long-running series. It features the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) and is notable for the first appearance of the Ice Warriors.
Those who enjoy the Doctor’s companions may also want to check out The Sarah Jane Adventures: The Complete 5th Season (BBC, 156 min., $19.98), which follows the adventures of the one-time Doctor’s companion. This series was produced by Russell T. Davies, who successfully revived Doctor Who.
Another interesting release this week is G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero: The Complete Series (Shout Factory, 2190 min., $89.95), which includes all 95 episodes of the 1980s G.I. Joe series that was as responsible as anything for the revival of the property.
Top contemporary series due out this week include Scandal: The Complete First Season (Disney, 300 min., $29.98), the smart serial drama created by Shonda Rhimes about a "crisis management" firm in Washington DC., the soapy and outrageous GCB: The Complete 1st Season (Disney, 430 min., $39.99), and the always entertaining HBO series, Entourage: The Complete 8th and Final Season (HBO, $39.98, BD $49.98).
One interesting British/American co-production worth checking out is Episodes: The Complete First Season (Showtime, 202 min., $29.98), a wry saga about a couple of British writers in Hollywood who are trying to adapt their hit Britcom to American audiences.
Fans of Web-based comedy will certainly be interested in Comedy Central’s Tosh.0: Vol.1: Hoodies (Comedy Central, 220 min., $19.99, BD $22.98), while fans of The Hunger Games, Battle Royale, and Lord of the Flies should check out the post-apocalyptic New Zealand-produced series The Tribe, Series 1, Part 2 (Shout Factory, 600 min., $29.93) that takes place in a world where a virus has wiped out all the adults.
Fans of major anime series will also be interested in One Piece Collection 6 Uncut (FUNimation, "14+," 625 min., $34.98), a first re-priced edition of the popular anime series that includes 25 episodes of the rollicking pirate saga at a very good price.
The other major release this week is Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works (Sentai Filmworks, "14+," 105 min., $29.98, BD $39.98), a 2010 animated movie produced by Studio Deen and employing the staff from the Fate/Stay Night TV anime series led by director Yuji Yamaguchi. Sentai’s version includes an English dub produced at Bang Zoom! Entertainment.
The other new release of the week is the single-disc Puella Magi Madoka Magica Vol. 3 (Aniplex, "13+," 100 min., $39.98, BD $49.98), which includes episodes 9 through 12 of the contemporary magical girl anime series.
Re-priced re-issues include the Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad Complete Series (FUNimation, "17+," 625 min., $29.98) and the Simoun Endless Melody Collection (Anime Works, 13+, 650 min., $19.99), which collects all 26 episodes of the yuri steampunk coming-of-age drama.
Classics on DVD
The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.
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