The Wolf Man – The Legacy Collection [DVD Review]

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The Wolf Man – The Legacy Collection
(2004, Universal Studios Home Video)
Buy the collection at Amazon.com

I can’t believe I haven’t discussed this one yet. After all, I’ve discussed the Mummy and Invisible Man collections and those two franchises weren’t anywhere near as integrated into the Universal Monsters universe as the Wolf Man was.

In truth, I’ve never been a huge fan of werewolf movies. Yes, I know the werewolf is an iconic figure for horror and Halloween but it’s never appealed to me much. Honestly, my favorite werewolf movie is Teen Wolf, if that tells you anything.

I’m not saying a great horror movie based on werewolves can’t be made, but I haven’t seen one yet. I generally think werewolf movies have a very slow pace. For such a primal, powerful monster, it seems like there isn’t much action in these types of movies. It’s more about the curse and torment of being a werewolf or the mystery of exactly what is killing people. Half the movie (or more) is spent building up to the werewolf. You never even see it much. I want a Wolf Man that revels in being Wolf Man, kills often and is shown doing it often as well.

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The Wolf Man (1941)

This one features an all-star cast: Claude Rains, Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr. Junior wasn’t famous yet but he would be after this movie was released. I’ve always looked at The Wolf Man as the second phase in Universal horror. Universal seemed to ramp up their horror output once they had this success on their hands. And with that increased activity, it was the tragic werewolf curse of Larry Talbot that was the one continuing story and driving factor for the brand throughout the 1940s in all of the monster mash-ups.

Of course, Lon Chaney Jr. himself became the studio’s most dependable horror actor (much to his dismay) during this time as well. In addition to always reprising his role as the Wolf Man, he had his turn at playing Frankenstein’s Monster, the Mummy and Dracula during the ’40s.

The Wolf Man is a classic movie with that great gothic Universal horror feel but it’s not on the level with DraculaFrankenstein or Bride of Frankenstein as far as I’m concerned. I can’t help but wonder if maybe that’s because of Lon Chaney Jr. I’ve never been a big fan of his. He’s always seemed a bit overweight and too average in every aspect to really pull off these roles but I guess that’s why he found success as Larry Talbot/Wolf Man because he was the everyman that the story called for.

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Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)

This is the very first monster mash-up that Universal attempted. It’s considered a sequel to both The Wolf Man and 1942′s The Ghost of Frankenstein. Chaney had played the Monster in the previous Frankenstein film and while the idea of him playing both leads (with cut-scenes and trick photography) was considered, it was ultimately decided Chaney should concentrate on playing the Wolf Man and another actor should be brought in for the role of Frankenstein’s Monster.

Unfortunately, the studio decided to go with a 60-year old Bela Lugosi. It’s just ridiculous to think of the tired Lugosi playing such a hulking brute, but here he is giving it a go. Ideally, it would be Boris Karloff as the Monster squaring off against Chaney’s Wolf Man but Karloff had smartly decided to stop playing the role after 1939′s Son of Frankenstein.

With the first half hour devoted entirely to the tale of Larry Talbot before Frankenstein’s Monster makes an appearance, this almost feels like two different movies. And sadly, the Frankenstein/Wolf Man battle at the end of the movie is extremely short. Then again, the climax for most of these old horror movies were delivered rather quickly.

Enjoyable, but better and even sillier monster rallies were to come.

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SUPERMAN: UNBOUND and JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE FLASHPOINT PARADOX

Gotta give DC Comics & Warner Bros. some credit. They may not be able to get many (good) superhero movies into production but they almost always deliver when it comes to their direct-to-video animated movies. That’s one area Marvel Comics hasn’t been able to get an iron grip on (yet).

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Superman: Unbound
2013, Warner Home Video

Unfortunately, I don’t feel Superman: Unbound is anything but passable, but If you’ve ever had a Superman/tentacle porn fantasy, this is the movie for you! At least DC/Warner is taking inspiration from actual story lines from the comic books. The movie is based on the “Superman: Brainiac” story line that ran through Action Comics issues #866-870 in 2008. That’s right about the time I was getting out of reading comic books on a weekly basis so I’m not familiar with the original story.

It’s not a bad movie, just nothing special. I have nothing more to say because it’s been awhile since I’ve seen this movie!

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Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox
2013, Warner Home Video

I’ve read a lot of positive reviews online for this one and they are well deserved. This is probably the strongest animated DC movie in quite some time. Again, the inspiration was taken from an actual story in the comics. “Flashpoint” was a big story going through the DC Universe back in 2011. It changed everything that we knew and loved about the DCU. It was a reset/reboot button for DC Comics universe and gave us “The New 52″.

I haven’t read “Flashpoint” yet so I was definitely interested in this seeing this movie. It’s a good story although it feels like they probably skipped some important moments like why Aquaman & the Atlanteans and Wonder Woman & the Amazons went “bad”. Even the reason of why they went to war against one another seemed a bit off to me, but at least that’s explained.

I like that Flash is the central figure in this story. All of the events that take place were caused by him and it’s up to him, along with the help of a few allies (Thomas Wayne as Batman, Cyborg and a very alien-looking Superman), to set things right. The aftermath and creation of “The New 52″ is cleverly avoided in this movie.

This one is definitely worth checking out.

Amazon.com gave me a gift card… and here’s what I did with it!

So last week I got an email from Amazon.com stating that Amazon.com was giving me a gift card in the amount of $22.62. Well, more like a gift code that I had to redeem. I still haven’t been able to figure out why I was given this. I thought maybe it was from the Amazon Affiliates program I’m apart of (that’s when I drop those links for various DVDs/CDs on my blogs after reviewing something), but nope. It just doesn’t add up!

Well, for fear that maybe this gift from Amazon was a mistake, I quickly made sure I spent the money.

Here’s what I bought (and I will admit I went $2 over the gift amount and had to spend my own hard-earned cash :( ):

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Item #1: Transformers – The Japanese Collection: Headmasters

I’ve been wanting to pick this one up for awhile. This series was aired only in Japan, ignored the 3-episode Season 4 of the original U.S.-produced Transformers cartoon and introduced TONS of new characters and concepts to the TF line. Someday, I will review this series on this very blog.

Item #2: Mom and Dad Save the World

This wacky sci-fi/adventure comedy is a very guilty pleasure much in the same way that Stay Tuned starring John Ritter is. And hey, they both came out in 1992 and featured Jeffrey Jones!

Item #3: The Untold Legend of the Batman

This is a black & white paperback that collects the original three issue mini-series that was released in 1980. This series was later reissued in the late ’80s as audio editions and I had the second issue of that. Someone was kind enough to upload the audio cassettes and sync them with the comic book panels on YouTube though: http://youtu.be/K92KciDNWoY

I have STUFF to say about THE STAND UP GUYS, SNITCH and A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD

I watched movies this past week (surprise, surprise)! Here’s what I have to say about them…

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The Stand Up Guys
2013, Lionsgate
Buy it at Amazon.com

While I didn’t think this one looked good enough to see in the theaters, I was looking forward to it being released on video. I never watched a trailer for it but I assumed it was going to be more of a comedy about a couple of senior citizens having to commit one last heist. It’s not that at all (but, yes, crimes are committed by old men). THE STAND UP GUYS does have some humorous moments but it’s more of a drama with a sense of impending doom. It’s a somber tale about friendship and growing old. Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin (who is not in this movie enough) are all great in their roles. It was fine but I don’t necessarily recommend it. It’s too bad this wasn’t more light-hearted because I feel using the premise and the cast would’ve really excelled more as a comedy.

Probably the best thing that came out of this movie was the song “Not Running Anymore”, which was written and performed by Jon Bon Jovi. The song is on the soundtrack for the movie but also appeared as a bonus track on Bon Jovi’s What About Now album.

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Snitch
2013, Summit Entertainment
Buy it at Amazon.com

Snitch was actually a bit better than I’d thought it’d be. It’s a different type of role for The Rock though because he’s not playing a wise-cracking hero. He’s just a dad trying to help his wrongfully jailed son avoid a ten year stretch in the pen. Okay, he’s helping his son by joining a drug cartel so he can get evidence against them but he’s still not playing that typical action hero role. There’s also the B-plot of Jon Bernthal’s character as a reformed criminal helping the Rock’s character get into the criminal world and how he’s dealing with trying to make an honest living and keep his family safe. It’s deep, man.

The movie is fine but gloomy and somber and I’d rather watch the Rock smack a guy upside the head with a 2×4 and crack a joke rather than watch him hug his ex-wife while she’s crying.

By the way, Susan Sarandon’s a total GMILF in this movie.

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A Good Day to Die Hard
2013, 20th Century Fox
Buy it at Amazon.com

This is a generic and ridiculous action movie that does not deserve having the name DIE HARD attached to it. A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD totally lacks the charm of the first three DIE HARD movies. The character of John McClane exists here in name only. You could’ve easily given him any other name and made this yet another direct-to-video release for Bruce Willis. Willis seems to be doing DTV more and more these days… seriously, go check out your local Redbox and count the Bruce Willis movies. He’s in Nicolas Cage/Samuel L. Jackson territory now.

There were a number of ridiculous action sequences in this movie and they relied on CGI too much as well. Die Hard is not about CGI! LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD was not very good and A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD is even worse. It’s time to put this franchise to bed (well, until Fox decides to remake the first one in about 5 years starring either Channing Tatum or Chris Hemsworth, I’m sure). The film did okay at the box office but is the lowest-grossing film in the series. I hope that tells the studio something. I’m definitely glad I didn’t end up going to the theaters for this one.

Oh, and Russia? Seriously?

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Okay, so I didn’t watch great movies or anything but you didn’t pay a dime and no one forced you to read this, so what do you want from me? Hey, stick around — I’ll post my thoughts on Identity Thief and Superman Unbound later this week and then I hope to dive into my childhood once again.

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (Series 2) – Season 2 [DVD Review]

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G.I. Joe, Series 2: Season 2
2012, Shout! Factory
Originally Aired: September 23, 1991 – January 20, 1992

“This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.” - T.S. Eliot

So I’ve finally wrapped up watching Series 2 of G.I. Joe and I’m happy for it to be over. DIC’s Series 2 Season 1 was a big enough letdown compared to the original Sunbow era of the show that ran from 1983 to 1987 but Season 2 of Series 2 continues the decline in quality. Last season’s saving grace, Chris Latta (the voice of Cobra Commander), is gone. Scott McNeil actually does a fine job as Cobra Commander but the stories are so juvenile and stupid, the animation sub-par, the character redesigns are poor and most of the rest of the voice acting is so bad that this season is a dud. In fact, you can say that about the whole DIC run.

If I thought DIC’s first season was dumbed-down, at the beginning of Season 2 they must’ve taken their audience for complete idiots. Just look at the episode “Kindergarten Commandos” where a bunch of little kids kick Cobra’s butt at an elementary school. Probably the worst episode ever out of the Sunbow/DIC years. “El Dorado: The Lost City of Gold” was pretty awful as well. So was the two-part “Long Live Rock ‘N’ Roll” (Cobra has the bright idea to use GUITARS to level entire cities). Some of the episodes are just plain lazy like “A is for Android”, which is take-off of 1985′s “The Synthoid Conspiracy” two-parter.

I won’t say there aren’t any good episodes in this set. A few are decent with the best probably being “Messenger from the Deep”. It’s no coincidence that this episode was written by legendary comic book scribe Marv Wolfman, who previously wrote a few episodes for Sunbow’s second season. This episode has a strong sci-fi vibe to it that would make it right at home with the 1986 Sunbow season. If the voice acting was better, this episode could’ve shined even brighter.

Other episodes I somewhat enjoyed was the two-part “The Sludge Factor”. These episodes introduce the new eco-terrorist Cesspool along with his Toxo-Vipers and Sludge-Vipers and the Joe sub-group the fluorescent attired Eco-Warriors. Well, at least Flint is back, even if the voice is totally wrong and he looks radioactive. Cesspool is a genuinely creepy villain with his facial disfigurement and weird breathing/speech and he’s also completely insane. He doesn’t want to conquer the world, he wants to destroy it. In the hands  of more capable writers, they could’ve taken this character into some very dark (but good) areas.

“Shadow of a Doubt” calls Storm Shadow’s loyalty to the Joes into question but doesn’t get too in-depth with it. I liked it for what it was though. Oh, you didn’t know he joined the Joes? Yeah, that’s only briefly touched upon in the in this episode. They should’ve made an entire two-parter based on Storm Shadow turning against Cobra! “The Sword” could’ve been another good episode if handled by Sunbow.

“The Greatest Evil” two-parter is okay and features the debut of another Joe subgroup the DEF (Drug Elimination Force) and the drug-dealing Evil Headhunters lead by the Headman. The Joes & Cobra team up to battle the Headhunters and that usually makes for a fun episode when G.I. Joe and Cobra are forced to work together. The story is actually pretty dark because it shows you basically go insane from drugs and the Headman actually dies at the end thanks getting an overdose of his own merchandise blasted in his face. Then his whole factory blows up for good measure.

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Headman the Deadman

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Mmmkay?

Sgt. Slaughter doesn’t appear at all in this season :( and a lot of the main characters from Season 1 are reduced the supporting roles or simply background characters. In fact, I don’t know why Lady Jaye and Gnawgahyde on the cover of the DVD because I don’t even think they appear as background characters this season. Destro is also back in his traditional silver mask for the entire season.

Season 2 is a bit more varied with who gets a starring role (just like the Sunbow episodes were). Throughout the majority of the season, Duke, Scarlett, Wet-Suit, Big Ben, Skymate, Snake-Eyes, Big Bear, Storm Shadow, Falcon, General Hawk, Grunt, Mercer, Rock ‘N’ Roll, Tracker, Falcon, Roadblock, Flint, Pysche-Out, Mutt, Shockwave, Low-Light, Ozone, Clean Sweep, Major Altitude, Dusty and Captain Grid-Iron play a major role at one point or another. So it’s a good mix of old and new. Thankfully, Grid-Iron only stars in one episode and the rest of the time he doesn’t have a speaking role.

For the Cobras, Destro’s role is beefed up again and we also have Cobra Commander (of course), Overkill, Metal Head (UGH! Possibly the worst Joe character ever… or maybe Overkill is…?), Road Pig, Major Bludd, Baroness, Sky Creeper, Slice, Dice, Night Creeper Leader, Interrogator (who they should’ve used a lot more) and Cesspool. There’s still a variety of troops being used by Cobra in this season: Incinerators, Sludge-Vipers, Range-Vipers, Flak-Vipers (love these guys), Toxo-Vipers, Crimson Guard Immortals, Night Vultures, Cobra Eels, Snow Serpents, Desert Scorpions and last but not least… the B.A.T.s. The B.A.T.s were generally used this season as the standard Cobra soldier. Those classic, cool Cobra Troopers, Officers & Vipers are a distant memory. :( All of the troops used this season were mindless and mostly voiceless. In the past, Sunbow made an attempt to give various soldiers a personality but these guys are just fodder this season.

The things this season did right was bring back some of the older Joes like Flint, Duke, Roadblock, Wet-Suit, etc. and increase the amount of name-villains for Cobra but it was obviously all around they they were working with a smaller budget this time. Further proof of that is that the last two episodes of the series were clip shows! What a sad way to end the run of one of the greatest ’80s cartoons. I’m just glad the show was ended before the 1993 line of Joes came along that introduced the Mega Marines (Joes vs. monster aliens!), Star Brigade (Joes in space!) and Street Fighter 2 figures. The entire series was getting way too wacky for its own good. It would’ve been neat to see the Battle Corps versions of Joes used though.

Ultimately, Season 2 is probably a slight bit better than Season 1. But I’m really only saying that because I they had a wider and better selection of (old) characters this season. Much like Season 1 though, this season is something for Joe completists and certainly not anything I would call “good”. I will probably never turn to the DIC episodes again but I know I will be watching the Sunbow episodes for years to come.

So, um… I guess I’ll be reviewing G.I. Joe Extreme next? Or maybe I’ll go back and discuss Series 1, Season 1… Yeah, that’s the ticket!

Season Highlights: “The Sword”, “The Sludge Factor”, “Messenger from the Deep”, “The Greatest Evil”, “Shadow of a Doubt”, “Keyboard Warriors”

Buy Series 2, Season 2 at Amazon

More Joe cartoon talk from me:

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (Series 2) – Season 1 DVD Review

G.I. Joe: The Movie DVD Review

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero – Season 2.0 DVD Review