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Review: Superman/Batman: Public Enemies

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Lex Luthor is the beloved President of the United States.  Most of the world’s superheroes, including Power Girl and Captain Atom, are agents for his government.  Refusing to join up, Superman and Batman are wanted criminals in the Warner Bros. animated movie Superman/Batman: Public Enemies.Based on the graphic novel by Joseph Loeb and Ed McGuinness, this alternate-universe story creates a low barrier of entry for any fan.  I didn’t have to watch all the previous DC Universe animated films or the Batman and Superman animated series to follow what was going on.  An engaging opening montage sets the stage for this alternate universe, and the focus is on the most well-known characters Luthor and Superman.
But as the story progresses, Superman and Batman teaming up against heroes and villains alike.  There are characters in this movie I’ve not thought of since I watched Challenge of the Super Friends in the 70s, including Solomon Grundy, Captain Cold and Black Manta.  For fans of the DC universe this deep roster of characters including Starfire, Bane, Metallo, Giganta, and dozens moren.  Plus there were many more characters I didn’t know but the comic fans would likely will be a treat to see in full-motion animation.  Power Girl, voiced by Allison Mack, gets a critical role as well in her first film appearance (boob window in full effect).The story reminds me of the video game Injustice: Gods Among Us where heroes fight heroes and villains in mortal combat.  It may be base, but it’s really fun to watch Superman punch out Shazam and Batman taking on Captain Atom.  The story is not what keeps me engaged–it’s the action.  In the end, it’s simply a fun film.
The animation is detailed, not feature film quality but better than most TV shows.  More than serviceable, it has moments of beauty.  With so many character designs it’s impressive that each get detailed representations.The ending is very silly (involving a robot that is literally half Superman and half Batman, split down the middle like Prince in the “Batdance” video), but getting there is fun.

I finished this movie thinking next year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice  will be damn lucky if it is as good as Public Enemies.  Recommend.

Arnie is a movie critic for Now Playing Podcast, and host of the Marvel collecting podcast Marvelicious Toys.Hear Arnie review every Marvel Comics based film, and most DC Comics films, in the Archives at

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February 21, 2015 Posted by | Comic Books, Movies, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Review: The LEGO Movie — Everything Isn’t Awesome.

LEGO-Movie-Poster-2014-HIgh-ResolutionThe rise of LEGO from brick-building toy to multimedia empire has been fascinating to watch.  For almost 50 years LEGO was a staple in every boy’s toy box, but that’s where it ended.  In the 1990s, though, LEGO started to branch out with video games, television specials, and more.  As an adult Star Wars and Marvel LEGO collector I’ve watched with great interest as the toy company produced several amusing TV episodes and the video games, though some of their productions clicked with me more than others (the recent Marvel Superheroes: Maximum Overload was a rare misstep).  Still, I always saw LEGO as leveraging their licensed titles for multimedia projects rather than creating their own characters and situations.

As such, I wondered what plot could propel The LEGO Movie.  LEGO has no characters, their sets exist to stimulate the imagination of the builder.  Despite having a strong voice cast, including Morgan Freeman, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Liam Neeson, and Guardians of the Galaxy‘s Chris Pratt, this is a movie I would likely have skipped were it not for the strong word of mouth.  On Twitter, Facebook, and elsewhere I read great praise for The LEGO Movie and so I decided to give it a chance.

Thirty minutes into the film I was regretting that choice.

As I’ve heard nothing but praise sung from the heavens since The LEGO Movie opened I do realize mine may be a minority opinion.  That said, I cannot get past the film’s rote storyline.  The movie follows Emmet Brickowski (Pratt), a LEGO minifigure who’s only remarkable quality is how average he is.  Early in the film the character’s desire to build friendships comes off desperate and pathetic.  The film quickly introduces other stock characters including the love interest, the bad guy, and the henchman,  and even an eight-year-old could see where this story was going.

But only a child who skipped his Ritilin would want to see it through.  The loud, garish editing of the film’s opening could appeal only to the most ADHD-addled minds.  Worse, the opening montage is a musical number set to the irritating Disney Radio-esque earworm “Everything is Awesome.”  One-third of the way into the film I strongly considered turning it off and forfeiting my $5 iTunes rental fee.  LEGO had finally created their own characters, but failed to create a single one I wanted to watch on screen.

Then Batman showed up.

I have seen Batman save thousands of lives in television and film, but no rescue is more impressive than the way The Dark Knight (voiced by Will Arnett) salvages The LEGO Movie.  Soon after Batman appears more LEGO licensed properties arrive,  from Star Wars to the LEGO NBA All-Stars to “Middle Zealand” (did Weta not want to share in the fun by letting LEGO use the name Middle Earth).  While the story of The LEGO Movie was beyond repair, the inclusion of these licensed LEGO characters brought to the film some of the winking, good-natured fun I had seen in the licensed LEGO games and TV specials.  Finally some of the jokes really started to hit (the one about Batman only using black or dark gray bricks was one of the laugh-out-loud moments in the film).

Anyone who has seen Toy Story could figure out where this movie was going, especially when real-world, non-LEGO items like Band-Aids, golf balls, and Krazy Glue start to appear.  Yet despite figuring out the world these LEGO builders had crafted, even I was shocked by the schmaltzy, live action ending the film had in store.

The true irony is that the film seems to be mocking commercialism while, at the same time, being a giant commercial.  The song “Everything is Awesome” epitomizes this theory–it’s mocked in the film for its banality, while the movie plays it endlessly and sells it as the title track on the movie soundtrack.  More, a LEGO movie exists to sell kids LEGO toys–there are LEGO Movie licensed building sets.  As such, the hypocrisy on display with the film’s demonization of commercial culture is astounding.

In the end, LEGO is a pretty average film. It has a strong “believe in yourself” message that I’m sure is great for those of single-digit ages, but unlike some of the Pixar or recent Disney animated films I felt LEGO lacked in broad appeal. Perhaps this is because I was never deep into LEGO (though I did own the red and blue spacemen in the 80s).  The only thing that saved this movie for me was the humor.  Superman’s loathing of Green Lantern was a high point (especially given how Warner Bros. has seemingly disavowed the Ryan Reynolds film) as was the mispronunciation of everyday items.

Because I did laugh out loud several times during this film I give it a RECOMMEND, but this film, like its main character, is nothing special.

As for that ending, I have a personal story to share


The most shocking thing about the film is that, in the end, it is a corporate statement against those who want to glue their LEGO sets together.  Unlike many toy companies who are happy to have customers buy and collect their toys for whatever reason, The LEGO Movie states clearly there is a right way and a wrong way to play with LEGO.

As stated earlier I am an adult LEGO collector.  I spent a week building a LEGO Star Wars AT-TE and had it on display for quite some time, though I’d sometimes return to find bricks had fallen off.  After moving to a new house I unpacked my AT-TE to find it as a pile of bricks not too unlike what had originally come in the box.

Frustrated by this, in 2009 while covering a toy event I asked a LEGO Master Builder which glue they recommended to keep LEGO sets whole.  The LEGO builder refused to recommend a glue and said the intent of LEGO is to build them again and again.  I pressed on the issue, though, pointing out the impressive display LEGO had.  I asked, honestly curious, if that was built on-site.  He admitted that the set was built and transported.  Though he wouldn’t admit the displays were glued, it was strongly implied.  Eventually he relented and told us that most forms of super-glue will keep the sets together.

But now I see that corporate anti-glue attitude on display in a full film.  I wonder if I was the only one audacious enough to ask a Master Builder how to glue my sets together or of the question may be common.  Now, rather than have to answer us one-by-one LEGO has answered as a company with this movie.




July 5, 2014 Posted by | Movies, Now Playing Podcast, Podcasts, Reviews | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pre-Order Alert: Sideshow 12-inch Cade Bane – Denal Disguise




Up for preorder now at Sideshow Collectibles is one of the most accessory-laden 12-inch Star Wars figures to date!  From the Clone Wars series you can now order Cad Bane in Denal Disguise!

From the Season 2 Clone Wars episode “Cargo of Doom” Cad Bane donned the clone armor to infiltrate Anakin Skywalker’s ship.  Now you can have this variant of the blue Duros bounty hunter.

But more than just swappable heads on the figure, this set comes with 13 different interchangable hands, action feet, two blasters, plus two different backpack types.

And if you hurry and order the exclusive version you also get a special Clone Denal themed figure stand.

This is up for order now at Sideshow’s site.  So get yours while you can!


June 12, 2014 Posted by | Movies, News, Podcasts, Star Wars Action News | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Pre-Order Alert: Sideshow 12-inch Cade Bane – Denal Disguise

Review: The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury

At the end of Pitch Black only three passengers of the spaceship Hunter-Gratzner were still alive.  These three, Riddick, Jack, and Imam, took to space, destination unknown.  Possibly New Mecca, if their little shuttle could make the trip.  At the beginning of Pitch Black’s follow-up film, The Cronicles of Riddick, Riddick is a shaggy haired, scruffy bearded refugee on U.V. 6 chased by a bounty hunter named Tooms, Imam is on a planet called Hellion Prime, and Jack is a captive on the prison world of Crematoria.

Did you wonder how these three survivors split up?  Why they were not all living happily together on New Mecca?  Nope, those questions never crossed my mind either, but continuing to answer questions fans never asked come DVD bonus features and animated interquel films, such as The Chronicles of Riddick:  Dark Fury.

This direct-to-video animated short picks up immediately where Pitch Black left off.  We see Riddick’s shuttle had barely left the planet when a mercenary ship arrived and captured the three survivors of the Hunter-Gratzner.  But this is no ordinary merc troupe—this cadre is led by Antonia Chillingsworth, a psychopath who equates murder with art.   She has traveled the galaxy collecting the most notorious killers and turning them into frozen, living statues in her gallery, cherishing the artistry of homicide.

What are the odds of such a collector randomly stumbling across Riddick, one of the galaxies most infamous killers?  Slim.  But logic goes out the window early in this action-fest who’s real purpose is not to tell a story but to entice Pitch Black fans with more of Vin Diesel’s monotone lines, and more of Riddick’s talent for killing.

The short was directed by Peter Chung, and without knowing his name I knew his work—the animation style, violence, and sensibility of Dark Fury closely mirrors that of Chung’s best-known creation Aeon Flux.  Despite being based on a story by Riddick’s creator David Twohy, the film has Chung’s fingerprint on every frame.  As such, your opinion of Chung’s old Liquid Television action heroine will likely influence your viewing experience of this Riddick animated movie.

With Chung’s style-over-substance approach Dark Fury’s 35 minute running time drags despite being almost nonstop action from start to finish.  The fights are inventively staged; Riddick’s final showdown with Junner, Chillingsworth’s lover and chief lieutenant, is a highlight.  But for me the animated violence fails to adrenalize.   Like the merc leader I appreciate Chung’s artistry but feel no passion for it myself.

And if the action doesn’t work there is little else in the movie.  The character moments entirely reprise those from Pitch Black—Jack idolizes Riddick; Riddick will risk his life to save Jack and Imam despite seeming to care for nobody but himself.  We’ve seen it all before, done better.  The film also introduces a new nemesis for Riddick:  Tooms.  This establishes Tooms as a soldier for Chillingsworth before we see him as a merc in The Chronicles of Riddick film, creating an unnecessary bridge between the two films.

But despite being unnecessary, I enjoyed this short far more than the film that succeeded it.  It is stylized and violent with a good hint of dark humor as well.  I have long been a fan of Aeon Flux and appreciate Chung’s return to form.  It’s something only a fan of Chung or Riddick can appreciate, but as a fan of both I give it a recommend.

September 6, 2013 Posted by | Movies, Now Playing Podcast, Podcasts, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Review: The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury

Movie Review: Despicable Me

Despicable_Me_2010Despicable Me is not a Pixar film.  It is not Toy Story where adults and children alike can be swept away into a colorful computer-animated world, both generations equally entertained by the multi-layered storytelling.

Despicable Me is also not a DreamWorks Animation film.  It is not Shrek where kids laugh at the toilet humor while adults are mildly entertained by the endless barrage of modern pop-culture references.

No, Despicable Me is the first film from Illumination Entertainment, Universal Studios’ attempt to cash in on the computer-animated film market.  This studio also released the forgettable Hop and The Lorax (do you even recall either in theaters?  I remember The Lorax more from the “turn off your cell phone” ads than the film itself).

Like Illumination’s other two titles, Despicable Me focuses its energy entirely on the youngest segment of the audience.  Adults, and even older children, will be familiar with the tropes of the story in which a super villain named Gru adopts three lovable little girls to use as pawns in the crime of the century.  Nevertheless, while entertaining the children with bedtime stories and trips to amusement parks Gru finds his nefarious plot mattering less and less while these children become more and more important.  The climax of the film is will Gru steal the moon, or will he give up that lifelong dream and attend the children’s Swan Lake ballet.

Gru’s crimes are so soft-core that never is a person hurt, his primary crimes seem to be using a freeze ray to cut in line at the coffee shop while driving an obnoxiously large vehicle.  He is more a comment on Hummer-driving, Starbucks swilling suburbanites than criminals.

Given this, I found myself relating very much to Gru in a scene where he is forced to read the three children a bedtime story.  “This is literature?” Gru exclaims in disgust, “A two year old could have written this!”  Indeed, Gru could be speaking about his own film.

More, an A-list voice cast is wasted.  Every role feels written for a different, less famous actor.  In the lead role of Gru is Steve Carell.  Gru does not speak in the oddly-inflected stammer that is Carell’s trademark in films like The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Anchorman, and Dinner for Schmucks.  Instead, Carell adopts his worst brogue accent.  In voice and in inflection he comes across as a poor man’s Mike Myers.  Jason Segel is unrecognizable voicing Gru’s nemesis Vector–twisting his windpipes into a lame Andy Dick impersonation.  Even astute audience members will only be able to discern Russell Brand as he voices the one character with an English accent, his voice affected (or digitally altered) to the point of sounding like any generic Cockney.


But despite breaking no ground in storytelling, Despicable Me is not without its charm.  While the primary plot and the characters of Gru and the children are all adequate, the film’s spark of originality come from Gru’s minions–a drove of mostly indistinguishable short, yellow creatures that aid Gru in his plots.  They speak in unintelligible babble, but their giant eyes, wide smiles, and good nature light up the screen (sometimes literally).  They engage in wacky slapstick, dressing up in human clothes to go shopping, and engaging in Gru’s wild experiments.  It is physical, silent comedy in the tradition of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.  Their jokes come in a rat-a-tat manner while also including wonderful callbacks.  The creatures also have a blind adoration of their master, which makes them lovable like pets.   I was far more satisfied at the end of the film by the minions finding their place in Gru’s heart than the three generic children.

It is no wonder that the ads for Despicable Me 2 focus so much on the Minions while the three little girls are nowhere to be seen.

For all its hackneyed, recycled plot devices, Despicable Me is far from despicable.  Young children ignorant of common story tropes will undoubtedly be entertained.  Adults will find enough here to pass the time, if not hold their full interest.  I give this film a mild recommend for adults, and while I will be skipping Despicable Me 2 I anxiously look forward to next year’s Minions film.

When not gushing over the cuteness of Minion bobble-heads Arnie is co-host of the movie review podcast Now Playing.

July 3, 2013 Posted by | Movies, Now Playing Podcast, Podcasts, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Movie Review: Despicable Me

Rare X-Men Art Goes to Auction Dec 1, 2012



LOS ANGELES- OCT 9, 2012- Profiles in History, run by Joe Maddalena, is proud to announce the auction of over 500 Marvel animation cels at their online auction, December 1. The 500 animation cels presented in this auction are from the 1990’s Marvel Animated Series broadcast on Fox. One of the most popular animated series of the 90’s, the X-Men series, was the longest running Marvel Comics based TV show. Keepingin the tradition of the original comic book story lines, these cels were based on Jim Lee’s character designs. In the past few years, similar cels have sold publicly at auction for up to $1,500 with the average sales being in the $500 to $600 range. All are expected to fetch between $100-$300, a rare opportunity for any collector to own a piece of Marvel history.  For more information visit  Some highlights from the collection are below.A 1997 original production cel on key matching background of “Captain America” and “Wolverine” from the episode, Old Soldiers. Pictured above.A 1993 original production cel and key matching production background featuring “Rogue”, “Omega Red”, “Jubilee” & “Gambit” from the episode Red Dawn.

A 1994 original production cel and key matching production panoramic background featuring “Gambit” from the episode The Dark Phoenix Saga (Part 4): The Fate of the Phoenix. Pictured right.

A 1992 and 1997 original production cels and original production background featuring “Rogue”, “Wolverine”, “Storm” & “Gambit”.

A 1995 original production cel and production background featuring “Terrax”, “Thor” & “Galactus” from the episode To Battle the Living Planet.

A 1992 production cel progression and background featuring “Rogue”, “Jubilee” & “Wolverine” from the episode Savage Land, Savage Heart (Part 2). This set up is on an original panoramic background from the studio. Pictured below.

Founded in 1985 by Joseph Maddalena, Profiles in History is the nation’s leading dealerin guaranteed-authentic original historical autographs, letters, documents, vintage signed photographs and manuscripts.  Born into a family of antiques dealers in Rhode Island, Joseph “Joe” Maddalena learned early on how to turn his passion of collectinghistorical autographs into a career. Needing to support himself, Joe turned to his hobby of buying and selling historical documents as a potential way to earn revenue. On weekends he scoured old Hollywood bookstores for letters and rare books. Upon graduation from Pepperdine, Joe pursued his passion to become a full-time dealer ofhistorical documents, and opened his first office in 1985. A lifetime member of the Manuscript Society, Joe is widely recognized as the nation’s leading authority on entertainment memorabilia and historical documents. Profiles in History has established itself as the world’s largest auctioneer of original Hollywood memorabilia, having held some of the most prestigious and successful auctions of Hollywood memorabilia and owning virtually every Guinness Book record prices for original screen-used memorabilia. With an extensive network of dealers, collectors, and institutions, Profiles in History is proud to play an important role in the preservation of motion picture history. PriorProfiles in History Hollywood auctions highlights include the “Cowardly Lion” costume from The Wizard of Oz ($805,000); Steve McQueen’s “Michael Delaney” racing suit from Le Mans  ($960,000); a Panavision motion picture camera used by George Lucas to film Star Wars  ($624,000); a full-scale model T-800 Endoskeleton from Terminator 2: Judgment Day ($488,750); Marilyn Monroe’s platinum & diamond wedding band from her marriage to Joe DiMaggio ($504,000); Marilyn Monroe’s “Diamonds” dress from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes  ($356,500); a King Kong 1933 six-sheet movie poster ($345,000); Luke Skywalker’s light saber from Star Wars  ($240,000); Margaret Hamilton’s “Wicked Witch” hat from The Wizard Of Oz ($230,000); and The Invisible Man 1933 one-sheet movie poster ($230,000). From the history-making Debbie Reynolds Auction in June 2011,Profiles in History sold the Marilyn Monroe “Subway” Dress from The Seven Year Itch for $5.52M, the Marilyn Monroe signature red-sequined showgirl gown from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes for $1.44M and the Audrey Hepburn Ascot Dress from My Fair Lady for $4.44M. In February 2012, Profiles in History arranged the sale of a pair of Judy Garland screen-used Ruby Slippers from The Wizard of Oz  to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. In addition, Joe Maddalena is the star of Hollywood Treasure, which just ended its second season on Syfy.  Hollywood Treasure  takes viewers into the fascinating world of showbiz and pop culture memorabilia. For more information visit

Media Contacts:

Nancy Seltzer, Nancy Seltzer & Associates
Phone: 323 938 3562, e-mail:

October 9, 2012 Posted by | Comic Books, Marvelicious Toys, News, Podcasts | , , , , , , | 1 Comment