Sunday, April 4, 2010

TV REVIEW: STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS: THE BOUNTY HUNTERS

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Bounty hunters have been a part of Star Wars since A New Hope was released in 1977, with Greedo attempting to bring in Han Solo at the Mos Eisley Cantina. In 1980, The Empire Strikes Back introduced us to Boba Fett and his compatriots who were hired to track down the Millennium Falcon. Bounty hunters are part of the big Western influence on Star Wars but for people my age, when we think of bounty hunters chances are you think of Star Wars before anything else.




This season of The Clone Wars was billed as "Rise of the Bounty Hunters" but apart from the Cad Bane episodes at the beginning of the season, we haven't really that much bounty hunter action. "The Bounty Hunters" is a bit of a surprise, as there is not any bounty hunting going on in the episodes, and these bounty hunters are the most sympathetic we have seen in the the Star Wars galaxy.

Obi-Wan, Anakin and Ahsoka are investigating a clone medical facility that has disappeared over Felucia while they are attacked by vulture droids launched from a very dispenser pod. They crash land on the planet and encounter a group of farmers who have hired some bounty hunters to defend their settlement from a group of pirates who are lead by the Weequay Captain Hondo Ohnaka. The Jedi reluctantly join the bounty hunters to fight off the pirates and defend the villagers.The whole episode is a Star Wars version of The Seven Samurai, which was directed by the legendary Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurasawa, to whom the episode is dedicated. Kurasawa's movies have been a huge influence on the whole Star Wars series. It's safe to say that Star Wars is 1/4 American Western,, 1/4 Kurasawa Samurai movie, 1/4 Flash Gordon, and a mix of World War II movies and other miscellaneous stuff for the rest. There are whole sequences and plot lines taken directly from Kurasawa's movies (The Hidden Fortress was a huge source of inspiration for both A New Hope and The Phantom Menace). What with director's influence on Star Wars, I've always wanted to see The Seven Samurai given the Star Wars treatment, and with its relative freedom to explore different narratives and tones, The Clone Wars provides a perfect venue.


The episode feels strangely like last season's "Jedi Crash" and "Defenders of the Peace" story arc, which found Anakin, Ahsoka and Aayla Secura defending a village against a Separatist attack, although narratively much tighter without the thematic complication of the pacifist villagers. The villager's in "The Bounty Hunters" are not pacifists, just kind of beat down and victimized. The episode also brings back Hondo Ohnaka and his band of pirates from last season's episode "Dooku Captured," who has apparently still managed to elude Count Dooku's revenge. Hondo has a lot of old-school pirate swagger but is not really effective as a villain, particularly with his rapid and lame retreat at the end of the episode.



The bounty hunters felt a little off as well, and not at all what we have been lead to expect from the hardened, cutthroat Star Wars bounty hunters we have been shown up until now. That being said, some of the character design on these mercenaries is pretty cool. They are lead by a female Zabrak named Sugi. There is also cool new character named Embo, who wears an armored shield on his head like a hat. These bounty hunters have a pretty cool battle against the pirates at the end of the episode, and the action is quite good.

The setting is the planet Felucia, which appeared briefly in Revenge of the Sith and was featured prominently in The Force Unleashed. The Felucians seen in this episode, are nothing like the wild and strange creatures seen in that game. I suppose the story called for cuter less ferocious aliens. Personally, I would love to see some TFU characters or references in the series. Although, the big jungle rancors were a nice nod.

Overall, "The Bounty Hunters" is a decent episode with an interesting pedigree. Unfortunately, as we get towards the end of the season, the "decent" episodes are starting to outnumber the good and great ones. Lets hope the new month delivers the promised slam bam conclusion to season two of The Clone Wars.

Patrick Garone
Creative Director
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COMIC REVIEW: Disney's Hero Squad: Ultraheroes #3 (BOOM! Studios)

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Woefully unoriginal and rather unsatisfying

Boom Studios! often gives the impression of preferring quantity over quality. No sooner did they nab the Mickey Mouse/Donald Duck stable of comics than are they churning out a plethora of related titles, including Disney's Hero Squad: Ultraheroes.

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Divided into two parts, we first find the Duck Avenger in combat with the Ink Blot over an ultrapod (a sort of infinity fractal à la Mavel Super Hero Squad). Their sparring is mind-numbingly mundane, with the requisite near-misses with subway trains, super powers which permit freezing and melting, and inane chatter.

Now perhaps some comics fans will be content to see this same sort of super-hero clash over and over again like an overweight sports fan slogging down beer and chips as he whiles away the bright summer days watching baseball games. But I for one cannot stand for such lack of creativity in comic books, which are meant to be a creative medium and not a mere repetition of tasks as if they were mimicking a factory job.

The second vignette in the first half of the book has Mickey looking at security tapes then getting captured by a Doctor Octopus doppelgänger. While reviewing the recordings, Mickey's flashlight and pile of papers shift from one side to another, further proof of Boom! releasing a speedily-produced product into marketplace.

The second half of the book is a translated reprint of a story from Europe and is far superior to the beginning of the issue. It goes to show that the Duck characters can be made fascinating and loveable when in the hands of the right craftsmen. However, as soon as this origin story of the Red Bat really gets rolling, it's abruptly cut off by the book's page number limit - extremely frustrating for a children's book. There's a good reason why kid fare like DC Super Friends have one story per issue - because the wee folk want to know the ending!

Overall, the book is a letdown from an art and writing point of view in the first half and from an editing point of view in the second half. Makes one wonder why Boom! even bothers to release individual issues instead of Trade Paperbacks right off the bat.

Part One: Good & Evil
Writer: Alessandro Ferrari
Artist: Antonello Dalena

Part Two: Origin of the Red Bat
Writer: Ivan Saidenberg
Artist: Carlos Edgard Herrero

In stores March 31, 2010

Adam Paige
Senior Reviewer
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BLACKEST NIGHT REVIEW DISCUSSION

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A few of the Post staffers got together Wednesday night to discuss Blackest Night on the release day of Blackest Night #8, the final book in the event that spanned almost a year in the DC Universe. Would the Blackest Night be a bright spot in the realm of crossover events, or would it be a black mark on DC's record? After a few technological hiccups, Chip Carroll, Jake Johnston, and I were ready to get the discussion started. (Spoilers ahead, so make sure you've read Blackest Night #8 before you read on.)

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Stacey Rader: Alright, so Blackest Night--who wants to kick it off?
Jake Johnston: I was totally satisfied, but [I] have lots of questions. The Sinestro development got swept under the carpet too fast and whatever happened to Scarecrow?
SR: True, Jake. I was wondering the same thing about Scarecrow. Overall, I was impressed at how much they accomplished and how far reaching the consequences seem to be.
Chip Carroll: I agree with the questions. I picked up all the DC books that came with the story line, but like Jake said, [I have] many questions. It was one of the better series I have read over the past few years.
JJ: Agreed. I think it really raised the bar for major crossover series. It avoided many pitfalls we've seen in the past, like spreading things too thin and contrived plots just for the sake of including every title and character.
CC: This was a way for DC to bring back some of their old heroes using comic book logic.
JJ: Johns is such a student of old school practices and characters - the end results shouldn't be too surprising considering that.
SR: Totally. Some of them I was really excited to see, like Shiara, but others, like Max Lord, not so much. Maybe it's the Wonder Woman fan in me, but I wanted her Amazonian justice to stick.
JJ: Yeah - this will become frustrating if the Blackest Night consequences just rewrite everything that other plotlines have established.
CC: The last book had a better ending than most of the other big spotlight stories. The future of DC will change.
JJ: On a technical note, I love the surprise that a gatefold page can bring, but the placement between those sequential pages was a little awkward.
SR: So true, Jake. I was afraid it was going to be an ad, so I was glad it actually had something to do with the story.
LC: I can't wait to see what happens to the [Green Lantern] Corps. There were open stories with the Corps before Blackest Night and also Sinestro Wars.
JJ: I didn't read any of the side mini series - do you guys feel you got more out of Blackest Night for having read 'em?
SR: In some ways I think it did. Blackest Night: Wonder Woman really explained why making her a Star Sapphire made sense. Other titles, like the single issue relaunches, were just fun bonus stories.
CC: The side stories were good; the Teen Titans did play a part in the overall story.
JJ: I thought that the single issue revivals were one of the best marketing ideas we've seen in a long time - and it made total sense withing the context of the dead coming back to life.
SR: I didn't really read Green Lantern before this (much to my husband's dismay), but I think I'm going to stick with it. What about you guys? Did you read Green Lantern before? And does this make you want to keep up with it going forward?
JJ: I've always been a big Green Lantern fan, and really love Johns' work on the book - it's pretty exciting to see a b-list hero having such an effect on the rest of the DCU.
CC: I've been reading Green Lantern Corps since it came out a few years back. I have always like Guy, even back in the days when Guy had his own series. Probably will not continue to read Green Lantern; I don't like Hal.
SR: I'll say this, I have always been more of a DC fan, and this cements my love of the DCU. You can tell they really planned out this event and the repercussions. Well, except Scarecrow. But Johns is not one to leave loose ends, so I imagine Scarecrow is hiding somewhere with his Yellow Lantern ring waiting for his moment.
CC: The Blackest Night story has given me faith in DC again. [I] will start reading the major story lines.
SR: One of the biggest moments for me was in the last issue of Power Girl, where Palmiotti and Gray give a lighthearted nod to Blackest Night.
JJ: It's been really interesting reading this AND Marvel's Siege at the same time. I think they're both excellent examples of what a major crossover event can be - but they're both so different. Great illustrations of the difference between the DC spirit and the Marvel spirit.
CC: I have not read any Siege. I lost hope for Marvel over a year ago. The best part of the Blackest Night series was the rings the comic stores gave out with new issues.
JJ: The rings really were a great gimmick. Way to keep it fresh, DC.
SR: Agreed. I loved getting the rings. Definitely made for some fun pictures. From what I understand they're carrying that into Brightest Day.
CC: Yes, they are carrying the rings over.
JJ: At last year's SDCC, people at the Geoff Johns panel kept asking him to do an Aquaman Rebirth book and he kept tight lipped the whole time. Now we know why he was smiling.
SR: Reading Blackest Night made me wish Geoff Johns could write every title. I even bought the issue of Tiny Titans he wrote.
CC: Hell, i loved the Smallville [episode] Absolute Justice.
MassMessage: I did too, LC. Geoff Johns can make me care about characters I didn't care about before.
JJ: With Johns' new title [as Chief Creative Officer of DC Entertainment], it looks like we won't be doing as much writing. I don't see his name on as many books in the new issue of Previews.
JJ: From what I hear, Blackest Night was much better organized and edited than Morrison's Final Crisis crossovers - do you guys agree?
SR: I agree. It was good up until the last part of the last issue, when in typical Grant Morrison fashion, he just kinda goes a little off topic.
JJ: Let's talk about the amazing art - I think that Reis must be the new George Perez with all those massive group scenes. I liked the way that he seemed to be channeling Neal Adams when DM takes off his mask.
SR: The art was amazing, to be sure. Nice call on the Perez connection. I loved the spectral portrayals, as well. It was cool to see what emotions drove each character.
LC: The group artwork was great. The pages were easy to follow and read. The colors mesh so well together with the colors of the rings. Even the black gave life to the pages.
SR: I have to say that's not usually my favorite style, but it worked for Blackest Night.
SR: So here's a question: What do you think Boston Brand is feeling when he says he's not supposed to be here? Sadness? Bewilderment?
CC: He was feeling lost out of place. He did not belong.
JJ: That was weird and ominous - like he knows something that's wrong and they're setting us up to find out later there'll be some serious ramifications. Perhaps Deadman will be playing a bigger part in the DCU soon.
JJ: I'll be curious to find out why not everyone, like Ralph & Sue, came back. That's definitely a storyline waiting to happen.
SR: That's a good point--I wonder if that goes back to 52? I didn't read all of it, but I do remember an issue where Ralph messed with some weird forces to bring back Sue.
CC: There are a lot of new stories lines waiting to happen. That is why there are big gaps and small holes.
JJ: I think that one of Johns' major strengths is how he's able to end every issue with a big reveal that leaves you hanging. I think that with the popularity of trade paperbacks, that kind of writing is key to keep monthly books alive.
SR: I love Larfleeze. Such great comic relief, which was total Johns--right in the middle of something awful. I'll tell you a character I'd like to see more of is Saint Walker. His Tales of the Corps story was one of the best stories I've read.
JJ: Yeah, that Saint Walker story was amazing.
SR: I am excited to see what they do with Return of Bruce Wayne, and I love the nod to Bruce not being dead. I've been a Batman fan since I read Batman and the Outsiders as a kid.
CC: I cant wait to see what happens to Black Hand.
JJ: Do you guys think we're ever going to know what the Indigo Lanterns are talking about, or is it just always gonna be mysterious and open to interpretation?
SR: That's a good question. I tend to think we may never know what they're saying, but we haven't seen the last of them.
CC: I think DC has plans in the works.
JJ: The weakest point for me was in #8 when suddenly everyone just *becomes* a white lantern - as if the book was being written by a motivational speaker. A bit trite and abrupt.
SR: The whole "I want to LIVE!" bit was a little cheesy, but I get it. I had a total geek out moment with Halo in Outsiders, when she went back to her original form as an elemental. I told my husband before all this started that she would play a part somehow.
JJ: Yeah, that's definitely a trademark of Geoff Johns and I've learned to live with it as long as the rest of what he does has substance.
CC: Yeah, that was cheesy, but remember we are reading stories of adults in brightly colored spandex.
JJ: Touche.
SR: I get the impression he's a very happy-go-lucky guy. I follow him on Twitter, and his tweets are generally silly. (Like "Aw yeah, weekend!") But I mean, how couldn't you be if you were in his shoes? The guy gets paid to write comics and go to comic shows. He's living the fan's dream.
JJ: Yeah, he's absolutely a fan first. That's key to why his stories are the way they are - it's one of us writing these characters.
SR: So is Blackest Night something you would recommend to other comic readers?
JJ: Definitely! Although, there's a lot more satisfaction from it if you're familiar with past plotlines that Geoff Johns is obviously tapping. Like when Blackest Night started out, it was almost like a sequel to Identity Crisis.
SR: True. I don't think Blackest Night is what you hand to a non-comic reader as an introduction.
CC: Yes I would recommend.
SR: Is there anything else you want to say or discuss about Blackest Night?
JJ: Wow, it seems like there should be a lot to say about a series that packs so much into just 8 issues. But we all seemed to come away with is the questions and loose threads at the end. But in this case it's a good thing and I'm really excited that DC is letting Johns use their universe as his canvas with, apparently, no restraints.
SR: Yeah, this is the first time I've come away with questions after a series and seen it as a good thing. But maybe that should be the point of series like this--to set up new stories.
JJ: Again, this is his MO - Flash Rebirth did nothing but set up questions for the new regular series. It's as if Blackest Night was a way for Johns to introduce all these new ideas and fresh starts, and now the whole DCU is gonna have to run with it. Pretty impressive undertaking.
SR: Agreed. DC put its future in Johns' hands.
JJ: and that's a good line to end - it really sums it up. Fans of Johns could tell that for a while, but now everyone knows.
SR: So true. That's how we'll end it.

And there you have it. We at Pendragon's were impressed by the scope and influence this event had on the DC universe. Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, and the rest of the writers and artists (not to mention editors, inkers, letterers, etc.) who worked on this project are to be applauded for what they achieved. Blackest Night set the standard for what a universe-wide crossover event should be, and we are all looking forward to what's in store during the Brightest Day and after.

*Special thanks to Chip Carroll and Jake Johnston for making this discussion possible.
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DVD REVIEW: Lord of the Rings - Remastered Deluxe Edition (Warner)

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The Lord of the Rings animated will be available to own on blue-ray on April 6th on. This is the classic Tolkien fantasy tale told through the eyes of animator Ralph Bakshi. The animated tale of Lord of the Rings premiered in the movie theatre in 1978. The animation was cutting edge back in the late 70’s and today it still rivals most animated movies. This version of Lord of the Rings comes with both the blu-ray and DVD disc.

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Ralph Bakshi worked on and created many animated tales during the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. Bakshi was an innovator of animated tales during these eras. He directed such classical films as; Fritz the cat, Cool World, Wizards, and Fire and Ice. This style of animation of using models to help animate scenes in the movies is still used in the art of animation today to help create the CGI in the current films.

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This Lord of the Ring premiered 32 years ago on the big screen. During this time Fantasy fans of Tolkien were not disappointed with the big screen premiere. As fans of Tolkien, this was the only version fans would have until Peter Jackson retelling hit the big screen 20 years later. The Bakshi version of Lord of the Rings would be a re- imagination of the epic tale written by Tolkien.

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This blue-ray release of the animated Lord of the Rings is fantastic. Watching the Blu-ray in HD was amazing. Each scene is crisp and clean. This movie is 32 years old and on blue-ray it looks as if it was made this year. Compared to the DVD version this is much improvement. The DVD version seems blocky at time, but this is clearly cleaned up on the blu-ray version. If you still own the VHS version I would highly recommend that it is time to upgrade to the Blu-ray version. The different in watching the VHS version verses the Blu-ray version is as obvious as night and day. The dark and shadows scenes are cleaned up and are much easier to watch than on the previous release of the VHS version.

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The Lord of the Rings Animated is a classical masterpiece. The bad part is that Baskshi did not complete this trilogy. The animated version leaves more to the imagination than the newer Peter Jackson version. Don’t get me wrong the Jackson telling of this classic epic is amazing, but the Bakshi version is still better. Also check out other films by Ralph Bakshi. When the day is complete, I prefer the books to the movies any day. Look for books by J.R.R. Tolkien in your local bookstore. Tolkien did write more than just Lord of the Rings trilogy.

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Don’t watch reality television read a book

Chip Carroll
Staff Reviewer
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