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Showing posts with the label Superhero

La Befana Vien di Notte [The Legend of the Christmas Witch] (2018)

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La Befana Vien di Notte is a live-action Italian fantasy/superhero/comedy/adventure/children's movie about Befana. I probably shouldn't assume everyone reading this is familiar with Befana: she's a legendary witch who delivers gifts to the kids of Italy on Epiphany Eve (January 5th). The easy explanation is she's "like Santa," which isn't inaccurate, but feels reductive. There's a lot of debate over just how old the legends are and where they come from: I'm not going to get into any of that here. What's important is this idea isn't invented for the movie, and in Italy this would come across like a big-budget Santa Claus movie. The problem we ran into trying to watch La Befana Vien di Notte is that this isn't Italy, and the film hasn't received a proper US release. Amazon has a version up, but the language options are limited. There's of course a dubbed English track, but... Okay, side note. I'm pretty firmly entrenched on th

Hawkeye: Season 1 (2021)

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So far, the Disney+ MCU shows have been something of a mixed bag. I don't think any have been awful, but the level of quality has fluctuated wildly from series to series, with WandaVision being by far the best and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier being the most disappointing. Good or bad, they've all boasted impressive production values and have all delivered some of the quippy dialogue that's become a hallmark of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Hawkeye joins Iron Man 3 in sporting a Christmas setting. Between the two, I think Hawkeye makes better use of the holidays -  in Iron Man 3, it mainly just felt like a callback to the director's filmography. Here, it serves to heighten the tension, tie in to themes of family, build up a sense of the surreal, and... well... okay, it's also kind of making a bunch of allusions to Shane Black movies, but it's not like I mind. Of course, the Christmas setting also means it's fair game here, so let's dig into the sec

Elf-Man (2012)

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I was genuinely shocked when the end credits for Elf-Man rolled and revealed a full cast worked on the picture. With the exception of a few decent shots and a couple actors who deserved better, this thing looked and felt less like a "real" movie than... God, I'm struggling to find some point of comparison. Some of it felt like the low-budget direct-to-video production it was, but it was rare for the movie to hit even that mark. More often it felt like a cheap sitcom, and even those sequences accounted for fifty percent or less. Most of the rest felt like a college project. At times, I'd have believed a handful of high schoolers were somehow calling the shots. Now that we've got that out of the way, let's talk about the premise of Elf-Man, a 2012 fantasy/superhero/comedy serving as a vehicle for Jason Acuña, here credited as "Wee Man." The story centers around two kids and their father, an inventor whose wife died a few years before. On Christmas Eve,

Fatman (2020)

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I held off on this one when it came out last year, because I didn't want to contribute anything towards salvaging Mel Gibson's career. He's had more chances than damn near anyone, and he doesn't deserve another. At the same, this is a bizarre spin on Santa, so I felt like I had to get to it eventually. And of course, I was incredibly curious. If you missed the trailers, Fatman is a dark comedy-action-drama-superhero movie about an aging Santa and Mrs. Claus trying to keep their Alaskan factory afloat through difficult times, and also Santa's being hunted by a sociopathic hitman hired by a kid seeking revenge over a lump of coal. So, yeah, that at least sounds like something I'd be interested in. The problem for me is the movie works so hard doing all that competently, it doesn't actually get around to justifying the premise in the first place. In other words, this movie is fine but ultimately forgettable, which is kind of a major failing in a premise that ba

Guardians of the Galaxy: Jingle Bell Rock (2016)

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My continuing quest for more science fiction holiday content led me to this episode of the Guardians of the Galaxy animated series. The series uses the team from the movies, but as far as I know, it isn't in continuity with anything else. The episode opens with the team tracking down a fugitive alien. Peter Quill is in a bit of a funk because it's Christmas back on Earth (how or why he knows this isn't clear from this episode), but he still gets the drop on their bounty. The alien begs for mercy and claims that the charges against him aren't fair, but they set off for their reward. The other team members do some research on Earth Christmas in the meantime, but other than briefly decorating Groot, this doesn't come to much. Quill claims that everything is fine, Christmas isn't worth being upset about anyway. When they deliver the fugitive to a snowy planet, he asks once more for their help, then asks them to at least tell his family where he's gone. T

Comic Book Review: Klaus (1-7)

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Note: Image not actually a good representation of the story. Klaus (Issues #1-7) Grant Morrison and Dan Mora, 2015-2016 I remember seeing this title about a reimagined Santa hit stores. I've always been intrigued but also very tentative about it. A big part of why I never read this book before now is that I've been burned before on Santa retellings, and the cover art was fairly realistic/Conan in style, making me think it would be too dark. I have strong opinions on what is appropriate Santa behavior and what is not. I have a history with this character that I'm protective of. In short, I have FEELINGS about this topic. Now I've read it, and... y'all, this might be a new favorite. I love the ridiculous line the book tries to walk from the first page. It's not actually realistic in any sense, but it's treating ludicrous situations and characters seriously. It's practically pulling from Santa Claus Is Coming to Town , with a town under the t

Shazam! (2019)

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Before I get started, I just want to take a minute and acknowledge how surreal it is that you can go to the movie theater this weekend and watch both Captain Marvel and Shazam. Billy Batson and Carol Danvers are two characters I never thought we'd see on the big screen - Batson because he's silly and Danvers because I'd have sworn the one line Marvel would never cross would be putting out a movie with their company name embedded in the title - but here we are. And both of them are good. Really good, in really different ways. But not for different reasons: both Shazam! and Captain Marvel were made with respect and love for the characters being adapted, and it comes through in the finished products. I'll set Captain Marvel aside. Aside from sharing a convoluted history with Shazam! (if you have no idea what I'm referring to, pour yourself a Scotch when you've got an hour to kill and go read the Wikipedia histories on the characters calling themselves "

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Chapter 11: A Midwinter’s Tale (2018)

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A Midwinter’s Tale is, depending on your point of view, either the eleventh episode in the first season of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina or the series’ holiday special. It continues the plot of season one while adding the usual seasonal tie-ins you’d expect from a genre show’s Christmas episode. First, a little about the series as a whole, since I’ve got a few things I want to get off my chest. It started out extremely promising, pulling in elements from John Hughes and 50’s Americana, then blending that with surprisingly dark horror elements. It was never great, but it was intriguing… for a couple episodes. Then it did something I didn’t expect. It dropped everything but the horror and devolved into a Buffy clone. Everything unique about the tone and setting got sidelined to focus on the macabre, horrific elements. And, for what it’s worth, it wasn’t a bad facsimile of Buffy’s later seasons. There were some fun moments and cool visuals, and some of the characters were neat.

PJ Masks: Gekko Saves Christmas/Gekko's Nice Ice Plan (2015)

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The only thing we knew about the animated show PJ Masks before turning on this episode was that it has a lot of toys targeted at the preschool set. The premise is that three kids turn into animal-themed superheroes at night (once they don the pajamas of the title) and defeat super-villain kids while learning simplistic morals. It's based on a series of French picture books, and the show is a collaboration between Canadian and French animation companies and is distributed in the U.S. by Disney. It's visually and structurally somewhat reminiscent of  Super Why . Each 15-minute story has a clear moral from the beginning and a repetitive structure that will have some kids yelling at the characters in frustration. In Gekko Saves Christmas, the villain Luna Girl is stealing all the Christmas decorations and presents. Catboy and Owlette easily stall the villain several times, but they need Gekko to take her hoverboard. He's too frightened of failing to really try to stay o

Teen Titans Go!: Second Christmas (2013) and The True Meaning of Christmas (2015)

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In case you're not a cartoon aficionado, Teen Titans Go! is a wacky comedy starring highly stylized versions of the characters from the original Teen Titans show. It's much, much sillier, and has no or next-to-no continuity. It is not connected to the previous shows Young Justice (a serious action show about young superheroes) or Batman: The Brave and the Bold (a mix between wacky tropes and serious superhero action), or the current show Justice League Action (mostly comedic superhero action). Erin covered some of the mixed feelings we, and many fans, have about this show. I'll only add that I am personally inclined to give this a good deal of leeway. I loved the original Teen Titans, but I also like having the option of complete zaniness. Anything that punctures the self-important grimdark that has recently been a big part of DC comics is a good thing. Okay, on to the episodes! Second Christmas (2013) The Titans are celebrating Christmas with enthusiasm: food

WordGirl: Oh, Holiday Cheese (2009)

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WordGirl is my go-to example when I want to argue good superhero stories can be told at any level of maturity. The series is unequivocally targeted at young kids - it's edutaiment, through and through, complete with vocabulary lessons repeated multiple times to the viewer. It's the kind of show you'd expect to be tedious and pedantic. Instead, it's ridiculous fun. The reason WordGirl works is it understands its genres. The writers clearly understand the conventions of both kids television and superheroes, and they're eager to play with both. They're willing to mock PBS conventions in a good-natured way, and they're more than happy to embrace comic book tropes. The result is a series that plays like a pureed homage to Sesame Street, Powerpuff Girls, and Superman. The holiday episode is a fine example. After the narrator introduces the episode's special words (curmudgeon and festivity, in case you were interested), the episode shifts to a brief b

DC Holiday Special 2017

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I picked up DC Comics' Holiday Special this year, but it's kind of a rip-off. Unlike the pleasant surprise of last year , most of the tales in this one feel cramped and one-note. The 90ish-page special opens and closes with a frame story of Clark Kent and Constantine in a bar, arguing with "Bibbo" Bibbowski over whether Superman (or anyone) is really making a difference in the world. Bibbo's an optimist and reassures Clark with a bunch of stories. Not that the stories which follow make any sense in that context. Most of the stories are just too short to have any impact. I was thinking that I would have rather they had cut one or two and let the others be longer. However, it's not actually that they're all short on space; some of them just aren't paced well for the space they have. Worst of the bunch:  There's a weird, surreal, fatalistic Swamp Thing piece that doesn't end with much. Something called Atomic Knights wasn't so terrib

Toy Review: Holiday Joker

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Christmas With the Joker , the second episode made of Batman: The Animated Series, is something of a guilty pleasure. I know there are some fans who consider it among the series's worst, but I love the episode's spin on the Joker. There's something both endearing and unsettling about his attempts to crack jokes involving destruction and danger. We see him playing more in this episode than we ever would again, poking at Batman with jokes only he seems to understand. Over the past few years, DC Collectibles has been producing six-inch figures based on the show. Last year, I was pleasantly surprised to see them add a version of the Joker from that episode. It's branded "Holiday Joker," despite the episode's name having "Christmas" in the title (quick! Call Fox News!). I ordered it and waited, hoping to get it in time for a Christmas review. Unfortunately, I missed it by a few days. Oh, well - there's always this year. The line this i

Teen Titans Go!: Black Friday (2015)

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I wanted to hate this. I'm getting that out of the way first, so you have some idea of where I'm coming from. On principle, I dislike this series, not so much for its content but for what it represents. I liked the original Teen Titans, as well as Young Justice - the last thing I wanted was a hokey show that reduced the characters and premise to cheap jokes. So I set out to hate this. But then... then something went wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong. This episode elbowed me in the gut, kicked me in the shin, then reached in through my cold chest and violently wrenched my heart away from me. It made me love it, whether I wanted to or not. That's also a fairly good synopsis of the premise. As the title suggests, this episode focuses on Black Friday, presented here as the cultural juggernaut it truly is. The Titans are preparing to shop by gorging on turkey. With one exception, they're eagerly awaiting their favorite day of the year, when they'll charge into st

The Flash: The Present (2016) and Arrow: What We Leave Behind (2016)

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I thought I'd package this year's WB DC superhero Christmas episodes together instead of doing them individually. Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow didn't produce holiday episodes, so that leaves us with the original two: Arrow and Flash. The Flash: The Present (2016) While the previous seasons of The Flash focused on season-long plot arcs built around evil speedsters trying to kill Barry, the third is built around Savitar, an... ugh. Yeah. At least this time the evil speedster looks different. I'm going to skip the rehash of Flashpoint, the timeline-breaking event that kicked off the third season. The only part that's actually relevant is that Cisco's brother is dead now. The episode opens with a flashback to Julian discovering the artifact that turns him into Doctor Alchemy and allows Savitar to manifest (or whatever the hell is going on with that). After that, we jump the present day where Earth-3 Harrison Wells (again, I'm not going to bother) i

Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir: Pire Noël (2016)

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If you like crazy Christmas stuff the way we do, or if you like zany superhero/magical girl hijinks, you should probably go ahead and see if you can find a copy of this on YouTube. This was a ton of fun. Miraculous (for short) is a CG show from France about two superhero teenagers. Marinette is an aspiring fashion designer, and she transforms into Ladybug. Adrien is a young fashion model, and his superhero identity is Cat Noir. They don’t know each other’s secret, which leads to a classic secret identity plotline where Marinette has a crush on Adrien, but Cat Noir has a crush on Ladybug. Their powers come from little (alien?) creatures and are channeled through items known as the Miraculouses: Marinette’s earrings and Adrien’s ring. There is a villain (Le Papillon in the original French) who wants to steal these items. In each episode, the villain senses someone feeling a strong negative emotion (anger, fear, jealousy, etc.) and sends an evil butterfly to possess them. That’s wha