‘Supergirl’ (1984)

Helen Slater in 1984's 'Supergirl'

‘Supergirl’ (1984)

Helen Slater in 1984's 'Supergirl'
Helen Slater in 1984’s ‘Supergirl’
  • Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
  • Written by David Odell
  • Starring Helen Slater, Faye Dunaway & Pete O’Toole
  • Released 21st November 1984

Before there was Melissa Benoist (first seen here in costume) and before there was Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot and Ben Affleck there was Christopher Reeve – sadly missing from this film – and Helen Slater who starred as the original super-cousins.

After the release of ‘Superman III’ came this first attempt to broaden the horizons of the franchise and bring in a wider audience to the notion of superheroes. It would be a further three years until Reeve would return to the screen in ‘Superman IV: The Quest for Peace’ and there was very little by way of live action female lead heroism aside from re-runs of the classic ‘Wonder Woman’ series.

Super girl, first known as Super-girl, made her debut in 1958 alongside her cousin in ‘Superman’ #123 before being rebranded to the now familiar Supergirl and given the Kara Zor-El mantle in 1959s in ‘Action Comics’ #252. Seen as a hugely positive role-model to young female readers Alexander Salkind and son Ilya had purchased the rights to the character at the same time as acquiring the rights to the Man of Steel himself.

‘Superman III’ had proven a flop with critics and it was decided to take the franchise in a new direction to breathe some fresh air to the box office before bringing end to the Superman boom.

Thus brings us to a film I haven’t seen in maybe twenty years but have fond childhood memories of the over the top spells and ‘cutting edge’ special effects. ‘Supergirl’ is by all accounts a box office flop, making $14 million off a $35 million budget but making a star of Helen Slater in the process.

In typical Super-origin style the film opens on an alien landscape and follows the story of how our Kryptonian hero makes his or her way down to Earth. Unlike the cataclysmic events depicted in Superman origins ‘Supergirl’ starts off on the floating city of Argo, a city which survived the death of Krypton and continues to live on. A clumsy Kara has a majorly coincidental mishap with a device called an Omegahhedron and has to leave behind her family to travel to Earth in order to find it.

This is where the first of my now adult issues with ‘Supergirl’ arise: my perception of Superman was that when landed on Earth as a baby he was powerless and that years under our red sun helped him develop the abilities he beings to display as a young adult. Kara lands on Earth and immediately has all the abilities of her cousin.

Separating the film from all the ‘Superman’ films past there’s no Kent-style family to take in Kara and raise her or shelter her from the human race, Kara has to find her way entirely on her own having arrived on Earth in her Supergirl costume.

She takes up the disguise of Linda Lee and moves into the dormitory of nearby girls school where she happens to share a room with Lucy Lane, younger sister of Lois Lane herself.

Sadly this is where the original Superman – Christopher Reeve – was due to join the film however sadly he pulled out. His lack of appearance anecdotally written over in a background new report stating that Superman is off-planet dealing with a crisis elsewhere however he does make one visual appearance in the form of a poster on Lucy Lane’s wall.

The absence may be notable but doesn’t derail the film as a whole. In a modern day adaption (take note CBS) the idea of Superman being on Earth and learning of another Kryptonian would be impossible to ignore but somehow the fact this film was made in the 80s makes it all the more acceptable.

Tying ‘Supergirl’ to the ‘Superman’ universe is an appearance by Marc McClure as Jimmy Olsen, he doesn’t have a huge amount to do within the story but his appearance does help to bring the films together and give that sense of an extended universe of heroes.

Slater carries the film along with Faye Dunaway as the evil Selena. Dunaway is undeniably over-the-top and her delivery of the witchy spells are nonsensical at the best of times but it’s all part of the charm of ‘Supergirl’. Peter O’Toole adds some serious thespian charm to the proceedings and Brenda Vaccaro brings the comedy. Together the elements work well and despite the cobbled together nature of it all ‘Supergirl’ actually works and could almost be considered a coherent piece of mid-80s science fiction.

Where Superman dealt with aliens was perhaps more direct comic-fare ‘Supergirl’ is much more science fiction with its magic, monsters and demons. The basic comic elements like the Phantom Zone still exist but they’re twisted to fit in to a film more akin to ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ style tale. With a higher budget this film could have been truly spectacular.

Super girl herself is not the hard and fast hero of her cousin, for much of the film she struggles to accept being the hero and is often very down on her luck whether being left without her powers in the Phantom Zone or being torn apart by the shadow demon during the climax of the film she is often screaming for help rather than leaping tall buildings in a single bound. This sadly makes her eventual defeat of Selena anti-climactic as it comes all too easily after the voice of O’Toole cheers her on from the grave one last time.

There’s still a great deal of conflict in ‘Supergirl’ but at the end of the day the stakes are not high as much as they are easy to circumvent.

The special effects don’t necessarily hold together well against modern films but of its age there’s a lot to enjoy on screen here right down to Kara flying around on the beach without so much as a single string visible on camera.

The biggest concern with ‘Supergirl’ is perhaps the running time. The cut I watched today was 1hr 59. There are varying degrees of theatrical and directors cuts varying from 105 to 138 minutes but it all depends on which release you happen to purchase. I would now like very much to see the extended directors cut to see what more could be brought to the party.

Sadly the film isn’t available on blu ray but there are various DVD versions out there and with the new CBS version on the way it’s only a matter of time before ‘Supergirl’ is given the BD treatment.

It’s not going to float everyone’s boat but fans of comic movies or a good entertaining Sunday afternoon film should really give this a watch. Even if it’s just for nostalgia.

3 stars

 

 

 

3 stars

Title card for Batman the Animated Series S01E02 'Christmas with the Joker'

‘BtAS’ S01E02 ‘Christmas with the Joker’

The second episode produced for ‘BtAS‘ was planned as the big introduction for two major characters to the animated universe: The Joker and Dick Grayson/Robin. The episode would also the first starring role for supporting cast member Summer Gleason, the ‘BtAS‘ equivalent of journalist Vicki Vale from the comics and ‘Batman‘ 1989.

Christmas with the Joker‘ first aired on 13th November 1992 as the series 38th episode putting slightly closer to Christmas than the shows September debut on US screens.

The story sees Joker escape Arkham Asylum on Christmas Eve and he has a special Christmas planned for Batman and Robin. Kidnapping Commissioner Gordon, Summer Gleeson, and Harvey Bullock, he threatens to kill them at midnight. Of course, things are never easy with the Joker and he sets a few disasters in motion to keep Batman and Robin busy that Christmas night.

In stark contrast to ‘On Leather Wings‘ (reviewed here) this episode is much lighter in tone and successfully shows a lighter side to the ‘BtAS‘ world. Any fan of comics is aware of The Joker and what he stands for and also aware that it wouldn’t be appropriate to depict his true character in animated form so instead what we get is a brilliant construct of manic and clown. His actions can cause laughs from the audience but at the same time he remains a threat.

Robin’s character does feel a little shoehorned in to this episode but mainly due to the last of a proper introduction, something with the show then rectifies during the brilliant ‘Robin’s Reckoning‘ two-part episode later in the season. After only one episode he appears as though he has always been there only which is just a bit jarring.
Voiced by Loren Lester Dick/Robin has the right mix of youthful energy and angst to fit in well with Kevin Conroy’s iconic Batman without resulting on becoming an annoying Scrappy Doo type character.

The character design for Robin also fits in well with the rest of the series design. His colour scheme stands out more against the dark backdrops but less so than an animated representation of Burt Ward would.

The animation continues to be top-notch for a show of it’s era with the episode taking the Dynamic Duo out of Gotham in to the hills following the train giving the animators chance to contrast the dark deco city with a more snowy countryside appearance… still at night of course.
Much like Robin does the Joker brings more vibrancy to the show. We’re not yet fully introduced to his purple suit due to the Christmas jumper he wears to celebrate the holidays but still his nature is colourful in visual and metaphoric terms.

Musically this episode follows the Elfman-inspired feel of ‘On Leather Wings‘. Shirley Walker has done a brilliant job working on DC/Warner properties over the years and the recent soundtrack album releases only serve to prove this more.
The Joker theme…..

This episode could have been used as the first in the series, playing on the familiar villain and using Robin to identify more with the young audience but it plays well where ever you might watch it in ‘BtAS‘ rewatch.

4 stars

 

 

4 stars

S01E01 'On Leather Wings'

‘Batman tAS’ S01E01 ‘On Leather Wings’

Where better to start with ‘Batman the Animated Series‘ that with the original pilot episode ‘On Leather Wings‘. Although the episode appears on home video releases of the series as the first episode it was screen as the second episode, the first aired being ‘The Cat and the Claw pt1‘ which was bumped up from episode 15 due to the popularity of the Catwoman character portrayed by Michelle Pfeiffer in Tim Burton‘sBatman Returns‘ released a mere 11 weeks before the episode aired.

Whilst the films of Tim Burton were rated 12 in UK ‘BtAS‘ shutting out the younger audience to the darkly gothic take on the franchise the TV series offered younger audiences a chance to emerge themselves in an equally dark but animated version of Gotham.

On Leather Wings‘ took a bold move in setting up Man-Bat as the first villain for the cartoon series rather than diving in with one of A-list villains which would so obviously appeal to young audiences with a knowledge of Batman’s most famous villains. The choice of villain sets up the excellent opening sequence which brilliantly deceives the audience by introducing the villain rather than right away bringing the titular hero to the screen.

The opening sequence also brings out all of the best aspects of the show one after the other from the outstanding dark deco style to the completely unparalleled score which takes more than a little inspiration from the work of Danny Elfman on both Burton movies in the ‘Batman‘ franchise.

The visual style of ‘BtAS‘ is one of the many aspects which set the show apart from everything else on TV at the time with the art team taking a huge leap-of-faith in deciding to paint many of the shows backgrounds on black paper in stark contrast to the usual white. The decision instantly gave the show the much darker appearance that the creative team were looking for and set them on track to defining the style of an entire generation of cartoons.

In ‘On Leather Wings‘ it is most notable that there are no scenes set during daylight hours despite the Bruce Wayne character making several appearances. In later episodes the show would venture out to see Gotham during the daylight but in enhancing the Jekyll and Hyde atmosphere of the episode the script was written to reflect the darkness of the subject matter.

Running to approx. 15mins 30secs the episode sets up the urban legend that is Batman whilst also introducing most of the shows supporting cast including Commissioner Gordon, Detective Bullock, the Mayor and of course Alfred Pennyworth. There are glimpses of the Batcave and Batmobile and all the while Batman has time to flex his detective muscles.

One day we’ll hopefully get to glimpse these episodes in high-definition but for now the episodes hold-up well via individual and complete season box sets all available via Amazon. The animation style even now holds up well in comparison to the CGI animated styles of many of todays cartoon series, there are a few pops and crackles here and there but those aside this show is as stunning to watch today as the day it first aired.

The script for ‘On Leather Wings‘ was provided by Mitch Brian who would go on to write 1994 episode ‘Bane‘. There’s a good mix of dialogue and action and sets the tone well for the ongoing series. What ‘BtAS‘ does so well over any other series it not treat the audience as children, ironic for a series marketed to them in the first place. ‘BtAS‘ knew that it would be watched by Bat-fans old and young and caters to all of them in spades by not dumbing itself down.

On Leather Wings‘ might not roll out the pomp-and-ceremony of The Joker for it’s opening episode but what is does bring is buckets of character and style and it will forever remain and an episode that I jump back to when I feel a craving to watch the series.

4 stars

 

 

 

4 stars

‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ Season 1 DVD

CLASSIC REVIEW: ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ Season 1 DVD

‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ Season 1 DVD
‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ Season 1 DVD

Created by Joss Whedon

Written & Directed by Various

Purchase your copy on DVD @ Amazon.co.uk now!

Long before there was ‘True Blood’ and ‘The Vampire Diaries’ there was ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ a little midseason replacement show that went on to run for seven seasons across two networks and will live on in the hearts and minds of pop culture fans all over the world.

The show catapulted the already successful Joss Whedon to the stratospheric heights that would eventually land him the gig of directing a little move called ‘The Avengers’ (or for those of us in the UK ‘Avengers Assemble’).

For those who may be coming to the part late on ‘BtVS’ it was originally shown on the predecessor to The CW which was The WB. When The WB wanted to lower the licensing fee for the show at the end of its fifth season it was decided to take the show elsewhere and the finale two seasons aired on the UPN network. It was the merger of UPN and The WB which brought about the network we now know as The CW.

Whedon often comments in interviews that the decision to make ‘BtVS’ a midseason replacement was one which enable to make the show such a massive success by allowing the creative team to put together almost the entire twelve episode season before any episodes had actually aired.

The complete season one box set was released on DVD in the UK on 18th October 2004 in an awesome crucifix style box but we’ll get to that in a minute. The episodes released in this box are:

  1. Welcome to the Hellmouth
  2. The Harvest
  3. Witch
  4. Teacher’s Pet
  5. Never Kill a Boy on the First Date
  6. The Pack
  7. Angel
  8. I Robot, You Jane
  9. The Puppet Show
  10. Nightmares
  11. Out of Mind, Out of Sight
  12. Prophecy Girl

High points of the season are difficult to pick out because there are just so many. Two part opening ‘Welcome to the Hellmouth’ and ‘The Harvest’ brilliantly setup the characters and their universe, taking points from the not-so-successful movie and rewriting them in Whedon’s original vision.

The only real low point in the season for me was ‘I Robot, You Jane’. I was never a fan of the story as it seemed like a tenuous reason to have a robot villain. The concept was greatly improved upon in the season 2 episode ‘Ted’.

‘BtVS’ became famous for the format of its story arc, often introducing ‘big bad’ characters early in the season and escalating their story until reaching a massive climax in the season finale. Due to the truncated nature of season one there’s not as much room for the long running arc but Mark Metcalf’s character of The Master does manage appearances in six episodes.

From the outset the writing on ‘BtVS’ is outstanding. The pop culture references have become the stuff of legend and often written about in dissertations of its generation. The analogy of real demons alongside the demons of life struck a chord with audiences thanks to the balance of comedy, drama and horror.

‘BtVS’ never strayed away from tough subject matter but aside from events in later seasons when it really began taking massive creative leaps there was always a supernatural element to cushion the blow of major plot twists.

Extras on this box set are:

  • Commentaries on ‘Welcome to the Hellmouth’ ‘The Harvest’ ‘Witch’ ‘Never Kill a Boy on the First Date’ ‘Angel’ and ‘The Puppet Show’
  • Interivew with Joss Whedon and David Boreanaz
  • Hepburn music video ‘I Quit’
  • Cast biographies
  • Pilot script
  • Screen saver
  • Trailer
  • Photo gallery

‘BtVS’ was never famous for having a wealth of extras on its DVD releases but it was always made up for by the quality of a Whedon commentary. These are always worth a listen for both their humour but also the anecdotes on shooting the episodes themselves.

Technical specification wise the show is in the original broadcast 4:3 aspect ratio and sound is 2.0 surround. Video transfer holds up well for a show from 1997 but effects look a little dated.

Aside from the show itself the star of this DVD is the brilliant crucifix style packaging it comes in. Later season of the show would be housed in a stylish book but season one was given the special treatment it deserved.

Checkout this image of the unfolded packaging:

image

Many of the shows on TV today wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the trail blazed by ‘BtVS’ and you can now pick this DVD up second hand for under £3 on Amazon so if the show has alluded you up to this point it’s time to start the marathon.

Complete series box sets and slimline editions of individual seasons are also available.

I watch the show from start to finish annually so its time for me to grab the popcorn and my steak and dive back in to the hellmouth for 2013.

9/10

‘Star Trek’ (2009)

CLASSIC REVIEW: ‘Star Trek’ (2009)

‘Star Trek’ (2009)
‘Star Trek’ (2009)

Directed by J. J. Abrams

Written by Bob Orci & Alex Kurtzman

Get it on Blu-Ray @ Amazon.co.uk now!

As always: beware of spoilers!


With sequel ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ released on blu-ray/DVD in the UK on September 2nd I thought I’d jump back to the 2009 reboot that kick-started this new version of the franchise.

I’ll start out by saying that I’m a little too young for the original ‘Star Trek’ series. That’s not to say I haven’t gone back and watched it but my Trek was ‘The Next Generation’ through ‘Deep Space Nine’ and the beginnings of ‘Voyager’ which I have also gone back to watch. Still on the list of ‘Trek’ to go back to… ‘Enterprise’ which so far I’ve only managed to watch the first four episodes of.

Like many I was dubious about the idea of going back to the series that started it all and remaking it for a modern audience. Unlike many others the idea that this reboot would be captained by J.J. Abrams and his Bad Robot production company actually put me at ease.

One thing that you’ll probably come to learn about me is that there isn’t a huge amount of Bad Robot productions that I don’t like… okay don’t mention post season 3 ‘Lost’ or even start on ‘Undercovers’. Highlights for me are ‘Alias’ and most definitely ‘Fringe’.

There are many out there who still don’t agree with this reboot and as has been featured in the press several times recently as a ‘Trek’ convention in Las Vegas ‘Into Darkness’ has been voted the worst ‘Trek’ movie of all time.

NB: we’ll discuss this above point when I get around to reviewing the ‘Into Darkness’ blu-ray.

No matter what your feelings are about recasting beloved characters from the past I think you have to admire the respect that has been given to the franchise. Rather than rewriting over history or simply re-telling history what Orci and Kurtzman cleverly (in my opinion) did was to tie the current Trek present to the Trek past via time travelling villain Nero (Eric Bana). Essentially the film starts out in the universe that we know and love but as soon as Nero arrives the timeline is instantly changed and from a writing standpoint nothing that happens from here negates the original series in any way.

Having watched the extras on the ‘Trek’ blu-ray from start to finish I am a little disappointed that it’s not mentioned in the film that the Romulan ship Narada has been enhanced using Borg technology.

As a big fan with a slight fear of the Borg this is closest we’ve gotten to having the original series crew come across the Borg and the prospect of a full on meeting just blows my mind.

The production design on this film is immense. There’s a level of expectation when Bad Robot is involved in a production and this film doesn’t disappoint. Every element of the old series has been taken in to great consideration and redesigned for a modern audience whilst remaining recognisable for older fans.

The hardest part of taking on a project such as rebooting ‘Trek’ – more so than with comic book properties which continue exist in other forms in the public zeitgeist between times when films are in production – is balancing pleasing old fans with making new ones and this film does it well.

One of the biggest criticisms of the Abrams era ‘Trek’ has been the amount of action on-screen against the ethos of exploring strange new worlds. It is fair to say that this modern era crew have done very little exploring and even less in the way of diplomatic missions for Starfleet.

What I would say to those critics is that in the past when ‘Trek’ movies have veered towards diplomatic missions, particularly in the ‘Next Gen’ movies is when the franchise has connected less with movie-going audiences. There’s no denying that the diplomacy of ‘Trek’ works incredibly well in a serialised TV format but in movies there needs to be some action to drive the film.

Don’t get me wrong, if there’s a director out there who can take the ideals of ‘Trek’ and put them in to a two-hour movie which dispenses with action but remains as gripping to watch then I’m there on opening night but I don’t think that modern audiences will connect with a film-version which doesn’t at least bring a showdown with the Klingons.

What Abrams does do here is bring together a stellar (pardon the pun) cast who embody modern versions of the classic characters incredibly well and place them in a universe which echoes Trek but in a post-9/11 word (more on that next time).

If you’ve somehow not seen this movie yet then it’s only £8 on Amazon for the blu-ray. Check it out now and then dive ‘Into Darkness’ next week with its home video sequel.

9/10

The cast of ‘Tru Calling’

CLASSIC REVIEW: ‘Tru Calling’ DVD

The cast of ‘Tru Calling’
The cast of ‘Tru Calling’

Written & Directed by Various

Created by Jon Harmon Feldman

Purchase your copy on DVD @ Amazon.co.uk now!

I highly doubt anybody will be spoiled but beware!

I was wandering around a cut-price music and DVD shop a couple of weeks ago when I spied a copy of the ‘Tru Calling: Complete Series’ boxset sitting on a shelf next to some of the original deluxe boxsets of ‘Buffy’ and ‘Angel’. Believe me this is not a normal occurrence in this day-and-age and it was a major trip down memory lane.

The original pilot for ‘Tru Calling’ had appeared online the summer that I was prepping to move away to university and from there friends and I struggled to get hold of episodes on our blocked network in halls of residence but we did and we watched it religiously.

The premise: Tru Davies lost her mum at a very young age. All grown up she’s preparing to go to medical school when her work placement gets ripped out from underneath her. Forced to work graveyard shifts at the morgue she discovers a weird new ability… the dead ask her for help and she’s transported back 24 hours and given the chance to save them.

‘Tru Calling’ was one of the first post-‘Buffy’ shows to his network TV. It would be a year until ‘Lost’ would come along and revolutionise serialised TV and left behind on The CW ‘Angel’ was struggling and about to find itself cancelled.

‘Tru Calling’ has gone on to become a bit of a cult hit, not due in-part to the fact the final episode of its incredibly short six episode second season failed to air until almost three years after the previous episode had premiered. At the time fans clamoured to get copies of the second season which had not aired properly in other territories. I ended up catching copies from New Zealand if memory serves.

What was the  problem with ‘Tru Calling’ I hear you ask? Inconsistency would be my answer. I never felt there was a lack of quality to the show it was just that it was somewhat derivative and a little generic. Stories were often predictable and so there was a lack of suspense which could have elevated the show to much higher acclaim.

All TV shows suffer a little in their first season when trying to find what works and what doesn’t and ‘Tru Calling’ was no different. Going back and reading quotes and interviews with cast and crew it’s not hard to notice there is a whiff of network involvement which clearly affected the kind of show that was conceived compared to what appeared on screen.

There’s a very interesting piece of trivia on the shows IMDB.com page, the story is uncorroborated but seems to echo comments made in other interviews:

At the The University of Colorado at Boulder’s 57th Annual Conference on World Affairs in 2005, star Eliza Dushku‘s mother Judith Dushku (a Professor of Government at Suffolk University) told a story about her daughter’s growing dissatisfaction with the writing and her character as the show went on. According to Mrs. Dushkhu, Eliza had been promised that Tru Calling would be another “strong girl” show, in the tradition of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and that her character would be a role model for young women. However, by about the sixth episode, Eliza was calling her mother to complain about egregiously weak and dumb traits in her character. Examples given by Mrs. Dushku include: an argument that Eliza had with the showrunners because she refused to play a scene in which Tru did not know what a map was (and she had to have a man tell her) and Eliza being told that Tru shouldn’t be seen studying for her MCATs (even though she was supposed to be a medical student). Eliza also made a list of all the script instructions written to describe Tru’s state of mind, and they always included words like “overwhelmed,” “surprised,” “shocked,” and “bewildered,” but never instructions for Tru to be strong, confident, or sure of herself. 

It doesn’t paint a great picture of a harmonious set and strong production team but nevertheless the show still comes off an enjoyable and is often discussed in high regards by fans of genre TV.

The complete series DVD features – as the title suggests – both the first and second seasons of the show including the previously unaired series finale. Despite the way that Fox shrugged the series off the air without a second thought the box set is nicely put together and the packaging is one of the better designs of its time.

Note for UK fans: the second season had not aired at this stage so those purchasing the first pressing of this boxset will have a sticker on the cover stating ‘includes: six episodes never before seen on UK TV’

The slip-cover gives way to a heavy duty book made up of wraparound artwork and eight disc holders which make up the internal pages. Discs 1-6 make up season 1 whilst 7 and 8 complete the series.

There’s also a nice booklet giving a synopsis on each episode and also listing the bonus features.

Features include: deleted scenes of which there are over 20; four featurettes, a music video for the shows theme tune and also an easter egg.

As Fox took the time and effort to give this show a great home video presentation it would be good to see them put a similar effort in to re-releasing this show on Blu-Ray.

For fans of Eliza’s work on ‘Buffy’, ‘Angel’ and most recently ‘Dollhouse’ this set is a brilliant addition to your collection. For fans of nostalgic early 00’s genre TV this is a perfect example of a show cut down before its time.

7/10

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie (Shout! Factory)

‘Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers The Movie’

‘Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers The Movie’
‘Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers The Movie’

Directed by Bryan Spicer

Written by John Kamps (Story) & Ame Olsen (Story & Screenplay)

Buy it now on DVD @ Amazon.co.uk

Beware of some very old spoilers!

Decided to go right back to childhood again for a classic review this week and stick with the non-DC Comics related theme started with TMNT last week.

Just like I was an obsessive fan of TMNT when I was little when MMPR first appeared on Sky I was hooked. The colours, the monsters the Zords oh man it was like nothing I had ever seen before yet amazingly compared to kids TV these days it seems relatively calm and docile.

After a massively successful first season worldwide MMRP was deep in production of its second season when it was decided to move the cast over to Sydney, Australia to film a movie (plus a couple of episodes of the series as the cast were in Australia for some time).

I still love this movie even as a grown up and I still watch it from time-to-time alongside re-watching classic episodes on Netflix but it always bothered me that it was decided the film would never be canon.

There was always a strong feel-good factor to MMPR and it translated perfectly in to a movie. Yes, it was cheesy and the acting was never going to win any awards but there were always such strong morals in the show that you couldn’t fault the lessons that it taught the millions of kids who watched it.

The film sweeps aside the TV baddies Rita and Zedd to make way for Ivan Ooze, an original villain who in this universe had the potential to translate back to the TV series and run on for quite some time if the Super Sentai footage had existed for it.

Note:  I read in the Sky TV magazine when I was 7 or 8 that MMPR was a mix of American teen show and Japanese fighting drama. For years I didn’t know if that meant it was a genre mashup or genuinely a mix of two shows. I was shocked when I found out the real answer… so obvious now!

Along with creating an all new villain the film goes to great lengths to separate itself from the TV series. The bigger budget afforded to the film is almost all on screen with new costumes, weapons and rebuilt sets all on show.

The new costumes look a little awkward but on the whole work well in the big screen format and there was no way that the TV sets would have passed as convincing on film, they barely pass as convincing on TV. No self respecting MMPR fan can say they haven’t word a Megazord costume made of cardboard boxes that looked identical to the costume on TV!

My only complaint is the style of the CGI used for the Zords in this film. I don’t doubt for a second that as much of the budget as was available was spent on the graphics but it’s just not enough to make them look convincing to fans of any age.

The quest for the ninja powers makes for a compelling movie and nobody would begrudge you the fact that you worry for the teens when they lose their powers and all hope seems lost.

If you’ve never seen this movie before (WHY?!!!) then check it out. It would give you a good all round impression of what the original MMPR was like almost 20 years ago now.

There’ll be celebrations this year for the 20th anniversary of the first season of the show and so for those of your joining the party a little late go back and check this out.

8/10

‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ (1990)

CLASSIC REVIEW: ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ (1990)

Kowabunga dude! We flash back to 1990 with a review of the movie that brought the NInja to the UK.

‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ (1990)
‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ (1990)

Directed by Steve Barron

Written by Bobby Herbeck (story) & Todd W. Langen

Pre-order it on Blu-Ray now @ Amazon.co.uk

Beware of spoilers!I thought it was about time that I reviewed something which wasn’t DC Comics and didn’t involve Batman… having recently viewed a copy of this film in it’s 1080p transfer it was naturally high on my list to review.

Back in 1990 I was turning 5 years-old and like most other 5 year-olds I was obsessed with the Turtles only in the UK you had to call them Teenage Mutant HERO Turtles… TMHT doesn’t quite have the same ring to it!

I had all the toys, the clothes, a turtle camera and there was an abundance of ooze especially with my catapault garbage thrower. My favourite was Donatello and I was confused why the toys had them all shaded different colours of green when that was note the case in the cartoon.

It wasn’t until a decade later that I finally picked up a proper adult TMNT comic and began to understand the wider universe that these characters inhabited.

What I can’t remember is if I saw this film at the cinema. I do remember seeing the second but wonder if perhaps I was deemed too young for the first despite its PG classification.

The sheer fact that they could invent live-action turtles that I could see on screen what mind boggling and I’m sure I will have had a nightmare or two about the fact that Shredder could also be on screen.

On a side note: why did nobody attempt to recreate Krang in live action? A puppet brain would have been amazing!

I digress… on to the film. We all know by know that TMNT 1990 retells the origins of the turtles and their sensei Splinter and pits them against arch nemesis Shredder in their first battle which brings them out into the open of the human world. Not to forget the shady ‘Foot Clan’ are also involved in all the furore.

Back in 1990 this film was budgeted at a hefty $13.5million by New Line Cinema only to pull in an estimated $200million at the box office and was a massive hit with fans and less of a hit with critics due to the violence portrayed.

In the UK we had to wait until 2004 for an officially sanction ‘unedited’ version of the film with all previous releases omitting the word ninja as and where possible and also dispensing with any shots of Michelangelo with his nunchaku.

Finally seeing this film in glorious 1080p is pretty awesome. I remember the film being a little more colourful than it appears here but as this is just a transfer for and not a restoration I had expected the film to look a little ‘lived in’ by this point in its life.

What I hadn’t expected was the level of detail hiding in the VHS and DVD transfers. Anybody who is approaching this film expecting a flat upscaling is going to get a pleasant surprise. The level of costume detail is nigh on unbelievable. The turtle puppets look impressive still to this day, the biggest let down still being their mouths. I found myself often pausing the film to take in the details around their features.

Forgetting the puppets for a moment we can’t forget about Shredder, his costume also reveals a massive amount of detail that has not previously been noticed and I’m looking forward to seeing the improvements made for ‘TMNT 2: Secrets of the Ooze’ which had a higher production budget.

A box set of all three TMNT movies is available to import now form the US but stand alone releases and a budget box set come to the UK on Blu-Ray in October of this year.

If you want to evoke some fond childhood memories or, like me, you are still as obsessed with the turtles as you were at 5 years old this new transfer is well worth checking out as it breathes a new life in to an old favourite.

8/10

‘Lois & Clark’ Season 1 DVD

CLASSIC REVIEW: ‘Lois & Clark’ Season 1 DVD

Up, up and away with season 1 of the classic 90s TV series on DVD for our first classic review.

‘Lois & Clark’ Season 1 DVD
‘Lois & Clark’ Season 1 DVD

Directed by various

Written by various

Purchase your copy @ Amazon.co.uk now

Beware of spoilers… if that’s still possible 20 years later!It’s Friday; it’s the end of the week so why not dive in to the vault and review a good old blast-from-the-past TV show that was a big part of my childhood.

It’s hard to believe that this show first premiered 20 years ago – September 12th 1993 to be exact – and still holds up well against modern day shows. This DVD set was released in 2006 and contains the first 21 episodes (click here for a complete list) across 6 discs and includes a small amount of bonus features:

  • Commentary on the pilot by Dean Cain, executive producer Deborah Joy LeVine, and director Robert Butler
  • From Rivals to Romance: series retrospective documentary
  • “Taking Flight: The Visual Effects of Lois & Clark
  • Original pilot presentation introducted by Deborah Joy LeVine
  • Interviews with Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher

The premise of the show is to skip the years that Clark (Dean Cain) lived in Smallville and pickup the story as he arrives to start a new life in Metropolis. The usual cast of characters are present: Lois Lane (Terri Hatcher), Jimmy Olsen (here played by Michael Landes) and of course Perry White (Lane Smith). Also present is Martha Kent (K Callan) and in a change to the Superman mythos also Jonathan Kent (Eddie Jones).

It doesn’t take a genius to work out who the big-bad for the first season of the show is: Lex Luthor (John Shea).

The arc of the season follows the growing reputation of Superman and the burgeoning love triangle between Clark/Superman, Lois and Luthor. Thrown in for good measure are a whole load of brilliant villain of the week characters including: cyborgs, evil clones and Federal Agents working for the shady Bureau 39.

I’ve recently been re-watching this series and even upscaled through a blu-ray player the image holds up well. The special effects, as expected look pretty crude in places but are now just part of the charm of this little series. Much in the way that we look back at old episodes of Star Trek and fondly remember how the effects were at the forefront of technology available at the time.

The chemistry between Cain and Hatcher is the crux of the show but actually the relationships between all the characters function brilliantly thanks to the diligent work by the various writers who passed through the series during its run.

The show feeds off the will-they-wont-they which was such a draw for ‘Moonlighting’ before it and most recently ‘Bones’ which much like ‘Lois & Clark’ continued to be a success after the will-they-wont-they is resolved.

The DVD itself is a slip cover containing three small cases, each containing two discs and brief episode details on the slipcover. The artwork here isn’t outstanding but it never is for shows of this magnitude.

The special features are brief but it’s nice for me as a viewer who was too young to be interested in following behind the scenes of the show have a little insight in to the hysteria that surrounded the show.

For younger audiences who are perhaps more familiar with the ‘Smallville’ series or even just the ‘Superman Returns’ and ‘Man of Steel’ movies this would be a great insight in to Superman history as well being an all round enjoyable 90s TV drama.

I suggest you run out and pick this up if you haven’t already.

7/10