The Wolverine (2013)

The Wolverine (2013)

A mentally-wounded Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) takes to the hermit life in a rugged, backwoods mountain town after the events in X-Men: The Last Stand. When he is approached by associates of an old friend from Japan to come to Tokyo, he reluctantly agrees to fulfill a dying man’s wish. Once there, he finds himself embroiled in a fight between ninja and Yakuza on which the fate of a young woman, Mariko (Tao Okamoto), rests.

I have to admit that I had a lot of apprehension going in to see this film. X-Men 3 and X-Men Origins: Wolverine had both really, REALLY let me down. In a big way. So, I didn’t really have much in the way of expectations.

With that said, the movie turned out to be actually good, and I was pleasantly surprised, especially since a lot of it was true to the Miller/Claremont miniseries from the 1980’s.

We get to see the badass Wolverine/Logan that we want to see, slicing up Yakuza and ninjas in all his adamantium glory. BUT – even though we get to see him slice up SOME ninjas, I really wanted to see more of a fight instead of having to see Logan turned into a parody of a porcupine. C’mon, man, where was your rage?

There were many nods to the comics, as I said before, , which was a nice touch and something that Fox has been lacking lately. This time, they did a lot of things correctly and they also made it accessible enough for casual viewers who just want to see a good action flick or want to see shirtless Hugh Jackman flex his muscles.

The characters were all really nice, and the movie being set in Japan gave the aesthetics a distinct quality that was very appealing to the eye.

All in all, this movie is decent. It’s not perfect, but it’s definitely not X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Go see it if you liked the earlier X-Men films and wondered what happened to the once-mighty franchise. This installment definitely makes some amends.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

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Dead Or Alive 5 (PS3 – 2012)

Dead Or Alive 5 - PS3 (2012)

The Dead or Alive crew is back in an all-new installment that features MMA fighting techniques blended with the same old Dead Or Alive style we’ve seen in the past. Take on the role of some of your old favorites like Lei Fang, Jann Lee or Gen Fu – or try out some of the newcomers from the Virtua Fighter series such as Brad Wong or Eliot.

Each level comes to life with interactive environments which you can use to your advantage in the right situations. Multiple unlockable outfits and some unlockable characters round out the replayablilty factor while online modes and a robust story mode should keep you entertained for a long while.

Everything I love about this game franchise was still there in this incarnation. The fighting system is still the same as the one found in Dead Or Alive 4, with the “paper, rock, scissors” style mechanics. Button mashers will have a tough time duking it out with more skilled gamers due to this, but the game doesn’t have a massive learning curve.

The graphics are amazing, as usual. Fabric flows, animals move around, sweat glistens as your characters exert themselves and hats fly off heads with strong blows.  The music and sound effects were decent enough, too.

The only thing I didn’t really like about this was that the story mode was a little bit incoherent, but it’s in the same way that a lot of Japanese animation feels. It’s chaotic, you’re not QUITE sure what exactly is going on and then WHAMMO – you finally get it. It didn’t really detract a whole lot from my experience, however.

This installment focuses less on the T&A that first drew attention to the series, although that aspect is definitely still present in the form of constantly-jiggling boobage – and make no mistake, the updated facial models and graphics have the characters looking better than ever. And for ladies who appreciate some man-skin, there are also unlockable outfits for the male characters, as well.

All in all, this is a great title and probably one of the best entries into the Dead Or Alive franchise. Learning the game’s nuances is fun and never tedious. The fights and characters are flashy and likable, and the kinetic pace will have you coming back for more. Hands down my favorite fighting game, ever.

JOE Rating:  ★★★★★

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Change Is Constant, Vol. 1 (2012)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Change Is Constant, Vol. 1 (2012)

Publisher: IDW Publishing
Creative Team: Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz, Dan Duncan

This TMNT reboot is set about fifteen months after the Turtles and their master, Splinter, were exposed to some slime which mutated them into humanoids. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Change Is Constant, Vol. 1 collects issues 1-4 of the new IDW series, written by Kevin Eastman (co-creator of the TMNT) and Tom Waltz (Children of the Grave, Silent Hill: Sinner’s Reward) with art by Kevin Eastman (layouts) and Dan Duncan (Hulk And The Agents Of S.M.A.S.H.).

The Turtles, as you knew them, are no more. This new incarnation has the team split up after the ooze transformed them into humanoid creatures, but this time, along with a cat named Old Hob – who may turn out to be the TMNT’s greatest enemy. Raphael is split from the team and has amnesia and the others are searching for him before Old Hob finds him first to settle an old score.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this. I wasn’t aware that it was supposed to be a complete reboot, but with Kevin Eastman involved, how could I say “no” as a true TMNT fan?

I appreciated being able to see Eastman’s influence in the art style as well as on some of the covers and Dan Duncan did a good job trying to emulate the feeling of Eastman’s gritty art. The colors were okay, but they were sort of too muted or not muted enough to be super-effective.

The writing was decent enough, but I have to say that I wasn’t really surprised with where the story took me, even being a reboot. No big surprises, but that didn’t make it unbearable. It was just sort of predictable. (And somewhat anti-climactic.)

All the familiar faces can be found within the pages; Casey Jones, April O’Neil, Splinter, Raphael, Michaelangelo, Donatello, Leonardo.

One thing I didn’t really like, and I need to read further on to make sure I really feel this way for sure, is Old Hob. Yeah, it’s cool to see another humanoid creature running around, especially if it’s an enemy of the TMNT, but Old Hob was not especially intimidating or powerful. Also, I thought it was really weird that nobody cared about a bunch of humanoid monsters walking around.

I’m pretty sure fans of the original TMNT comics might be a bit let down, but c’mon…it’s the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I’m sure it will only get better.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Here’s A Sample Page From Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Change Is Constant Vol. 1
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Hulk Vs. (2009)

Hulk Vs. (2009)

Original Theatrical Release: January 27, 2009
Director: Sam Liu, Frank Paur

The Incredible Hulk (Fred Tatasciore) is one of Marvel Comics’ most powerful and dangerous characters. In this animated double feature, the Hulk goes up against The Mighty Thor (Matt Wolf) and Wolverine (Steve Blum) in two separate vignettes.

In the first, Hulk is transported to Asgard by the mischievous Loki (Graham McTavish), Thor’s jealous brother, and placed under a spell with the help of Enchantress/Amora (Kari Wahlgren). With Bruce Banner (Bryce Johnson) separated from his monstrous other half, the Hulk, he can only watch as Loki uses Hulk to smash his way through Asgard with only Thor and his Asgardian friends to stand in the way.

In the second, the Canadian military is after the Hulk when he is suspected of making attacks on defenseless wilderness homesteads. They call in Wolverine, who uses his superior senses to track Hulk down. However, as the two rage away at each other in the forest they are both attacked by members of the Weapon X program which created Wolverine’s adamantium-laced bones and claws and Wolverine is left to fight Sabretooth (Mark Acheson), Lady Deathstrike (Janyse Jaud), Omega Red (Colin Murdock) and Deadpool (Nolan North) all at the same time, with Hulk as the wild card.

It was an interesting choice to package this as a double feature. The whole thing, with both movies, runs to about an hour and a half.

I found the first story with Thor to be a little underwhelming. It’s always cool to see Thor go up against Hulk, but this one wasn’t as exciting as I thought it was going to be. There were a few instances in which Thor really went to town on Hulk, but overall, to create more drama, the writers sort of overpowered Hulk a little bit. I felt like with these two titans beating on each other, there should’ve been more destruction, more action.

Luckily, the second story redeemed the entire movie.

Wolverine versus Hulk, to me, is always really great…and this one tried to re-create, at least a little bit, the fight they had in Incredible Hulk #180, which was Wolverine’s first appearance in 1974. Notable differences being the involvement of Omega Red, Lady Deathstrike, Sabretooth and Deadpool. For the movie version, it worked however because a fight between Hulk and Wolverine would be pretty brutal but also pretty short, so having the villains show up enabled the pacing to be the way it was.

Overall, it was a fun watch. I just wish they had tweaked the Thor section a little bit more.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Also, just a side note: If you’re interested in all-things-Hulk….check out The Collectionary, which features tons of Hulk-related merchandise to peruse and consider purchasing for gifts or for yourself.

Trailer For Hulk Vs.

Batman Begins (2005)

Batman Begins (2005)

Original Theatrical Release: June 15, 2005
Director: Christopher Nolan

Billionaire playboy, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), was made an orphan when his parents were brutally murdered in the streets by a common thug. Vowing revenge, as an adult he began training himself to fight before ending up as a student of Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson) and Ra’s Al Ghul (Ken Watanabe) – both in a shadowy group dedicated to eradicating evil called the League of Shadows. When Bruce disagrees with their methods, he takes what he’s learned and finances himself as a vigilante superhero called Batman. With enemies from his past and present arrayed against him, Batman has a lot of work to do to clean up Gotham.

This isn’t your 1989 Batman, that’s for sure.

This movie starts and ends with a bang. There isn’t much time to think about anything except for the awesomeness up on the screen, but there are just a couple of scenes that are a little too slow or bog down the action.

The acting is all top-notch (aside from how anyone looks at Christian Bale’s Batman voice) and the characters from Batman’s canon were all brought to life, more vibrant than any incarnation that came before it. We had the amazing Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, Michael Caine as Alfred. Not as great was the wooden Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes, but hey, she’s still easy on the eyes.

Nolan’s vision ties everything together and by the end of the film, we see a story that has been artfully pieced together that leaves us nodding our heads in appreciation as the credits roll. I still think the second film, The Dark Knight is the best in the trilogy, but this is a close second.

All in all, this is a wonderful start to the Batman Trilogy by Christopher Nolan, and I’m glad that we’ve gone away from the campy nature of the Batman films of the 1990’s.

Batman is pretty damned serious.

JOE Rating:

Movie Trailer For Batman Begins

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Smash-Up (2009 – Wii)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Smash-Up (2009)

Release Date: September 22, 2009
Developer: Game Arts
Publisher: Ubisoft

In this game, you can take control of any of the TMNT foursome (Leonardo, Donatello, Michaelangelo or Raphael) or some of their allies (April or Casey Jones). In story mode, Splinter decides to have a tournament with the winner being able to pick something from his private treasure stash. As you move ahead in the tournament, however, Shredder (as usual) shows up to put a damper on things.

This game essentially ends up being a Smash Brothers knock-off. While it’s fun to play it, you begin to just start wishing you were playing Smash Brothers instead.

There isn’t a ton of variety in the move sets and when I used different characters, I didn’t really get a feel that any of them were terribly different other than aesthetics.

The cut scenes aren’t even animated, which they could have definitely done more with. It was a perfect opportunity to tie it in to the TMNT movie with the same artwork style. (I have the review for that movie here if you want to read it)

The levels don’t seem to have a lot of punch other than the interactive environments that hurt your characters, and that was a neat addition.

Overall, the game was okay but it wasn’t good enough to be better than Smash Brothers or different enough to make me want to play it instead.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Game Trailer For Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Smash-Up

 

TMNT (2007)

TMNT (2007)

Original Theatrical Release: March 23, 2007
Director: Kevin Munroe

The movie takes place after Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, and is the fourth and final movie in the series, (at least for now) though this entry disembarks from the live-action method of the previous three films and goes to CGI. The plot revolves around ancient creatures coming to wipe out mankind, starting with New York City, and the TMNT must fix their differences if they don’t want to end up as turtle soup.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are pretty hard to mess up.

Initially, I was dubious about the CGI. My worries were unfounded, however, as the CGI was one of the best things about the entire movie. As much as the animatronics and rubber suits get me all nostalgic, the TMNT were brought so much more to life and we could actually get a better picture of their ninja skills.

Almost all of the best scenes in the movie were fight scenes, and I felt like there was a lot of wasted opportunity with the story. Sure, it’s nice to see the Turtles in action but the majority of the attention focused on Leonardo and Raphael. Not that those two aren’t cool, but I always hated how the wooden-weapon-wielders, Donatello and Michaelangelo, (say that five times fast) are never shown kicking shells as much as Leo or Raph.

Some of the voice talent was awesome like Sarah Michelle Gellar (April O’Neil), Chris Evans (Casey Jones), Patrick Stewart (Winters) and Laurence Fishburne (Narrator) but again, lots of it wasted on no story. I did like Leo and Raph’s standoff but it took too long to come to a head and the other characters seemed largely ignored. Kevin Munroe, the writer/director, seemed to have a clear vision of what he wanted to do but it doesn’t seem like it was enough to satisfy.

Overall, it’s fun (and is better than Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III) and your kids will love it because it’s very much a cartoon in guise of a full-length feature film. It’s worth watching if you love the TMNT but in the end, you’ll be wanting to just go back and watch the older stuff.

Also, check out my review of the Nintendo Wii game tie-in (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Smash-Up) that smacks of this movie’s artistic style, HERE

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For TMNT