Some microreviews of a bunch of stuff I’ve streamed lately on Netflix.

redhoodCOVER[1]Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

I haven’t read the comics upon which this film was based, but I put off watching Under the Red Hood, because as I recalled, the Red Hood plot line hadn’t gone over very well with some fans. I can’t speak to why, however, because I felt this turned out pretty well for all characters concerned. There’s a very problematic plot point with regards to the ulterior motive behind the Red Hood’s actions, but it’s forgiveable.  The narrative delivered a twist when, perhaps, it didn’t need one, but at least it helped get the story to its logical conclusion.

Any writing issues are more than made up for by very well-executed action sequences (the way Nightwing moves in this film is brilliantly animated) and great voice acting turns by Bruce Greenwood as Batman and Jensen Ackles as the Red Hood.

220px-Planet_Hulk_DVD[1]Planet Hulk (2010)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

This probably deserves a slightly better rating on its own merits, but I felt that the translation from comics to film probably excised a lot of explanatory details that could have brought this story up to the next level. To be sure, I haven’t read the Planet Hulk comics, and I don’t necessarily feel compelled to do so after having seen the film, but I am willing to believe it’s probably a very decent storyline when told in its entirety. All of the elements for a great story are there, but I simply felt slightly irritated by a bunch of small things.

For example, I really didn’t feel that the opening sequence with Tony Stark narrating his reasons for sending the Hulk into space was an adequate explanation, especially given the characterization of the Hulk that followed, which actually made him seem rather rational and at times compassionate. And on that score, this isn’t the classic Jekyll/Hyde portrayal of the Hulk, but the film never bothered to address that.

DC-Showcase--Superman-Shazam--The-Return-of-Black-Adam[1]DC Showcase: Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam (2010)

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

This actually contained four different short features, all roughly the same length. The lead-in feature is the Superman/Shazam short, and I was looking forward to this, because Jerry O’Connell was reprising the role of Captain Marvel that he so perfectly voiced in Justice League Unlimited. This was a lot to like about this, but sadly, Jerry O’Connell didn’t get much to work with. It’s an origin story, so Captain Marvel is only in about half of it, and during that time, the story asks him to go a little dark for the climax, and that works against the earnestness and incorruptibility that the actor sold so well in JLU.

My favorite short in the set was easily the Green Arrow one, which had some really nice action set-pieces, and was simply a ton of fun. The Jonah Hex short was also fantastic. Of the four, the only one for which I didn’t really care was the Spectre short, if only because it seemed out of place. The other protagonists–even Jonah Hex–are all heroic, but the Spectre is just really sadistic, and would have worked better in, say, a horror anthology.

220px-DoctorStrangeDVD[1]Doctor Strange (2007)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 

Just too melodramatic to be much fun. In my opinion, it didn’t manage to capture the weirdness of the world of Doctor Strange. It leaned too heavily on standard horror movie beats and imagery. For me, it’s just not Doctor Strange unless you have something that looks like this. I just wanted something more exotic, and maybe something that tried a little bit less to be a stand-alone film and origin story.

11153114_800[1]Hulk Vs. (2009)

Rating: ★★½☆☆ 

This contained two mini-features: Hulk vs. Thor and Hulk vs. Wolverine. Of the two, the latter was probably more interesting, though it probably tried a little too hard to mesh together every major Wolverine plot line form the past 30 years. Both features wisely (I think) understood that the Hulk was the least interesting character in the cast, so they made the narratives more about the other characters. I felt Hulk vs. Thor was a little awkward in the way it physically separated Banner from the Hulk–it isn’t the way that I think of the character. For me, Banner is the Hulk, not just a trapped soul inside some rage monster with a soul of its own.

1344701352_iron[1]The Invincible Iron Man (2007)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 

I didn’t really care for it, to be honest. It changed up the Iron Man origin too much in order to shoehorn in a plot about the resurrection of the Mandarin. In addition, the CG-rendered Iron Man armors were a jarring distraction. Additionally, the denouement hinges upon a romance between Tony Stark and another character that just seemed false–but worse, it doesn’t allow Stark to really do anything directly to defeat the Mandarin, such as he is in this film. Amidst other problems.

600full-hellboy-animated--blood-and-iron-posterHellboy Animated: Blood and Iron (2007)

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

If you can get past the Saturday Morning Cartoon style of the animation, this is pretty neat. Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, and John Hurt lend their voices, but I don’t know if this is in the continuity of the films or the comic books or just some sort of hybrid. Perlman is great as Hellboy, as usual, and the narrative is interestingly ordered, with flashbacks in reverse chronological order interspersed between segments of the main action.

I wish the animation had been up to the task of attempting to reproduce the distinctive atmosphere of a Hellboy comic book. A property as stylistic as this deserved better.

155356.39026146[1]Justice League: Doom (2012)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

The underlying plot is flawed, I think. Is Batman really the only person on Earth (and beyond) capable of inventing a plan to take each member of the Justice League out individually? But I suppose if you can accept the fact that Vandal Savage would go out of his way to steal Batman’s failsafe plans and put together a legion of doom in order to implement them, this is rather enjoyable.

There’s something rather odd about watching this, however, when one has seen the Justice League Unlimited cartoon, as this film uses the same voice actors. As a result, it felt kind of weird that this story should have been told in the continuity of the mainstream DC universe. Also, the climax was kind of ridiculous, even for a comic book film.

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