Tag Archives: Lauren Montgomery

Batman: Year One (2011) Movie Review By Stephen McLaughlin

Batman Year One

Directors: Sam Liu, Lauren Montgomery
Writers: Bob Kane (Batman created by), Tab Murphy, Frank Miller (Based on the graphic novel)
Stars: Bryan Cranston, Ben McKenzie, Eliza Dushku

Batman: Year One is one of my most anticipated films from my recent DC Animated Movie Series splurge. I have actually held back on watching this film until I had caught up with the DC releases as I decided a few months back to watch these in sequential order of their release and what a wait it was. Thankfully this animated movie did not disappoint and I personally hold this up there with any of the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight films. Yes, that’s how good this is.

Based on the 1988 graphic novel by Frank Miller I was interested to read that Batman: Year One was almost adapted as a live-action film to be directed by Darren Aronofsky from a screenplay by Miller. The studio scrapped the project in favour of Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins (2005). I’m kind of glad as I loved Batman Begins and to be honest without that film we wouldn’t have The Dark Knight. You could say that fans of Batman got the best of both worlds in this case. I am intrigued and curious to see what Batman: Year One would have looked like as a live action movie. Certainly the casting of Bryan Cranston as Gordon would have worked in that format more than Ben McKenzie as Bruce Wayne / Batman. Interestingly, McKenzie would go on to appear as Gordon in the television series “Gotham” and did a damn good job of that. Appearance wise, he ain’t a Bruce Wayne / Batman sadly.

Batman: Year One is predominately about the characters of Jim Gordon and Bruce Wayne. It takes place when Bruce has returned from afar in what I can only assume as time away from Gotham to complete his training with The League of Shadows and his mentor Ra’s Al Ghul. It doesn’t focus too heavily on this part of his life but you get the jist of it. Jim Gordon’s story interested me more as we see another side of him. He isn’t the perfect person by any means and between the darkness it Batman and the white knight of Harvey Dent we have this character in the shadows who flits between black an white to adapt to the situation in Jim Gordon. I loved what the did with this character and how his personality was captured in the story.

The animation in this movie is, dare I say it. Classic comic book style. The colours and shading are perfect and the look of these characters was something different from previous Batman animation that I have witnessed. The look of Batman was the Grey suited crime fighter which isn’t my preference it seem to fit the bill in the style of the film. The cityscape and surrounding captured a very gritty and desperate Gotham that longed for a saviour, a symbol and they got that in Batman. Gordon’s obsession on tracking down “The Bat” was a big part of the storyline but overall it was about two men with the same ideology and purpose before they would work together. It was also interesting to see and pick up that we never see Batman use any fancy gadgets. Nor do we get to see the famous Batmobile make an appearance in the film. I didn’t mind this as it reminded us that Batman wasn’t superhuman, or as they like to say in this universe a “Meta-Human”. Here he is the skilled fighter with the same goal and intent as Jim Gordon.

Overall Batman: Year One is a complete film in what you hope and expect from this character story arc. The film was well received by critics and fans alike on its release and having Sam Liu and Lauren Montgomery in the Directors chairs makes sense to me with their previous experience in these films. As an animated film it is one of the best in my option. I’m unsure on if it is more difficult to translate a graphic novel into a live action film or animated as both formats would be challenging for different reasons. What I will say though is at some point I think this will be released as a live action film and if they stay true to the book then I’m on board. With the announcement of a stand alone Joker Movie separate from the DCEU, then anything is possible. I previously advised that if you are going into these animated series for the first time that I recommend watching them in their time of release. Here is the exception as after watching Batman: Year One you will be hooked. Highly Recommended.

Advertisements

Green Lantern: Emerald Knights (2011) Movie Review By Stephen McLaughlin

Green Lantern Emerald Knights

Directors: Christopher Berkeley, Lauren Montgomery
Writers: Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim 
Stars: Nathan Fillion, Jason Isaacs, Elisabeth Moss

I’m assuming that this was DC and WB preparing the world for the then upcoming live action version of The Green Lantern and ironically in my opinion this is way better than the Ryan Reynolds big budget movie. That’s not to say that Green Lantern: Emerald Knights is a great movie, nor is it a bad movie. My feelings are that this was made for the fans that perhaps may have felt the previous Green Lantern Animated Film “Green Lantern: First Flight” was made for a more widespread audience. Personally I really liked First Flight.

Green Lantern: Emerald Knights is really a well told story that is constructed into the pending threat as the home planet of the Green Lantern Corps faces a battle with an ancient enemy and Hal Jordan (Nathan Fillion) must prepare new recruit Arisia (Elisabeth Moss) for the coming conflict by relating stories of the first Green Lantern and several of Hal’s comrades. It’s a great method in embedding previous adventures from the comic books that casual fans may not have read or heard of and that applies to the characters too. If like me, a casual fan I am listening to Jordan’s tales in the same vain as Arisia. So I thought that was a neat way of storytelling. The sub stories are actually really good and remain interesting throughout the films duration. Yes some of the alien characters and the animation in these characters looks and voices could be silly at times but the storytelling remained consistent and made me understand this universe a little more. 

The cast again like most of these DC animated films are strong and Nathan Fillion is back (Last time as Steve Trevor in Wonder Woman from 2009) Jason Isaacs as Sinestro (last played Ra’s al Ghul in 2010’s Batman: Under the Red Hood) Elisabeth Moss as Arisia (I think this was his first and only time in the DC Animated Universe) Arnold Vosloo of Mummy fame playing Abin Sur (previously Bar-El in All-Star Superman from 2011) and Henry Rollins as Kilowog (Rollins has a long list of animated features including Batman: The Brave and the Bold Television Series. The majority of the cast have a history in comic book animations or live action and I feel this is important on how they come across in their voice acting. Here  the likes of Fillion and co get it and what they have to bring to the table. In all of the DC Animated Universe Films I commend the voice actors as they have all done a sterling job in their roles and once more show us that even in voice they must perform to the peak of their game.

The action sequences are fast and furious. The opening scenes are quite graphic and sets the tone to the movie which worked well as the movies colours where bright throughout and I think with Christopher Berkeley (The Batman (TV Series) and Lauren Montgomery (Superman/Doomsday, Wonder Woman,Green Lantern: First Flight, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, Superman/Batman: Apocalypse) in the Directorial chair I knew we were in safe hands on where we were going with this movie. It might have been my mind playing tricks on me but I am pretty sure all the flashbacks had a different animation style to differentiate the storytelling. Some of the animation at times made the alien creatures silly looking at not at all menacing or superior and thankfully this is just nitpicking because as I said the storytelling was dominant here anyway. The Hal / Arisia animation interactions in between the stories was more traditional comic book look and both characters came across as teacher and student as it was intended.

Overall, Green Lantern: Emerald Knights may have been created with the core fanbase in mind but newbies like myself will be able to pickup and understand the plot easily enough and be taught some of the backstory to the other characters within the Green Lantern Core and it’s universe.

Personally I enjoyed the First Flight film as an overall experience but storytelling wise Emerald Knights is one of the best in the DC Animated Universe out there. My advice would be not to start your DC adventures here. Go back and watch them chronologically and embrace the build up to this cracking film from Christopher Berkeley and Lauren Montgomery. Highly Recommended.

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (2010) Movie Review By Stephen McLaughlin

Justice League Crisis On Two Earths

Directors: Sam Liu, Lauren Montgomery
Writers: Dwayne McDuffie, Jerry Siegel (character created by: Superman)
Stars: William Baldwin, Mark Harmon, Chris Noth, Gina Torres, James Woods, Jonathan Adams, Brian Bloom, Bruce Davison, Josh Keaton, Vanessa Marshall

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths reminds me of a good episode of Red Dwarf, the highly successful and long running science fiction comedy from the BBC (2nd longest running Sci-Fi show after Doctor Who in the world) Here we have a good version of Lex Luthor from a parallel Earth who comes to the Justice League’s dimension for help to fight their evil counterparts, the Crime Syndicate. After witnessing Lex Luthor as President of the United States in Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009) I didn’t think the character could be more further away from his usual persona. Here he is the good guy and a version of the Justice League in his reality are the bad guys and in particular Owlman. This is what I am enjoying about these DC Universe Animated Films. They take risks that the live action versions have yet to take. Is it more acceptable in an animated film? perhaps yes for various reasons.

Revisiting the Justice League I must admit to being a little skeptical. The reason? Well to be honest I didn’t think anything would come close to the really good Justice League: New Frontier. I felt in that film they covered the characters well and I enjoyed the storyline. Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths may not be a good but its still a pretty good attempt from Director’s Sam Liu, Lauren Montgomery and Writer Dwayne McDuffie.

In what could have become an overblown and bloated cast as they are all here, Batman (William Baldwin), Superman (Mark Harmon), Lex Luthor (Chris Noth), Superwoman (Gina Torres), Owlman (James Woods), J’onn J’onzz (Jonathan Adams), Ultraman (Brian Bloom), The Flash / Aquaman (Josh Keaton), Wonder Woman (Vanessa Marshall), Green Lantern / Power Ring (Nolan North) and Johnny Quick / The Jester (James Patrick Stuart) at no point did it feel that way. One of the few negatives I got from New Frontier was the shoeing in of Arrow, Robin and Aquaman at the near end with no real purpose or contributions. Here that isn’t the case, everyone has a part to play and again the cast is amazing for an animated film. I know I keep saying this and it may sound like I should be surprised because it is “only an animated film” but that is not the case. I am just grateful that these fine actors are as dedicated and passionate about these films as much as the fans are.

Surprisingly I did read somewhere that James Woods phoned in his lines from an other location that wasn’t the recording studio, but hey ho. I used to be a massive fan of Woods in the 1980’s and still love those films from that era. Nowadays he is on some political rant via social media which seems to be the “thing” for actors of his era these days. Anyway, away from the politics and back to the film and as Owlman, a character that I wasn’t familiar with, Woods actually does fine here. That may sound patronising like I shouldn’t be surprised that such a fine actor is doing a “fine job” here, but what I mean is that Woods isn’t recognisable vocally in Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. In fact, if I didn’t read the credits I wouldn’t have known it was him. Was this deliberate on the actors part? who knows. As much as I enjoy the Kevin Conroy as Batman (and he is THE BATMAN in my book) and not forgetting Bruce Greenwood (Batman: Gotham by Gaslight (2018), William Baldwin is terrific as The Dark Knight, he brings that cynical moodiness to the character and Mark Harmon surprised me even more as Superman. I felt he understood the character and most of the dialogue for both these characters was written and delivered well by both Baldwin and Harmon.

I was just getting used to Clancy Brown as Lex Luthor and maybe not as prominent or recognisable in his voicing talents I felt Chris Noth did a good job. He is obviously most famous for his role as Mr. Big in the Television series Sex and the City and it’s movie spin offs. Here Noth isn’t given the chance to portray the evil elements of the character thanks to the story, but to be fair he delivers. Gina Torres as Superwoman is probably my favourite character in this film and Torres shows us why she is involved in this movie. Torres has a natural voice acting ability that works well in this character and the actor brings it to life. Having already portrayed Vixen / Mari McCabe in Justice League Unlimited (TV Series) from 2004-2006 and more recently Star Wars Rebels (TV Series) from 2015-2018 as Ketsu Onyo you can understand why the talented voice actor stands out in this film. The Character is prominent throughout the storyline and Torres just about owns every scene she is in.

Overall, I enjoyed the storyline and plot to Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. It wasn’t a patch on New Frontier but I never went into the film thinking it would top that anyway. I enjoyed the dialogue and the right on the money humour in particular between Batman and Owlman. The animation was pleasing on the eye and the action was cut almost like live action without any confusion or disorientation from the animation at any point. The pacing of the story wasn’t drawn out in anyway and at the same time although the running time was only 75 minutes it never felt rushed or crammed in anyway considering the lineup of superheroes and villains. Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths for me is an enjoyable comic book film that is justified in being up there with the releases around this time. I would recommend giving it a watch. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Green Lantern: First Flight (2009) Movie Review By Stephen McLaughlin

Green Lantern First Flight

Director: Lauren Montgomery
Writer: Alan Burnett
Stars: Christopher Meloni, Victor Garber, Tricia Helfer

The most noticeable part of the opening pre credit scenes to Green Lantern: First Flight is how Director Lauren Montgomery, breezes by the origin story before the opening credits. My initial reaction was, “Wow, they are not hanging about here.” According to Montgomery the Hal Jordan’s origin story had been previously covered in Justice League: The New Frontier (2008) and she didn’t want to spend too much time regurgitating the story once more. I’m already won over at this point as watching these in release order it makes sense not to repeat the same story over and over again, even if the previous film has nothing to do with the next film or any relation to it.

For those who aren’t familiar with Green Latern (and I include myself in this to a point) First Flight is about a test pilot who goes by the name of Hal Jordan who finds himself recruited as the newest member of the intergalactic police force, The Green Lantern Corps after coming across a dying alien who possesses a green ring on his finger which he entrusts to Hal. From this point on he becomes The Green Lantern and is met by Sinestro (part of The Green Lantern Corps) who fills him in on his role and introduces him to the Council who guide the Lanterns in their quests.

The plot is pretty simple in which they have to discover the “Yellow Element”, which is the one weakness of the Green Lanterns (basically this colour is the one thing that can block their power, and in the wrong hands it can be devastating to the whole universe.) Think Kryptonite to Superman. As I said, it’s a pretty run of the mill story. It’s the subplot involving Sinestro who is manoeuvring behind the scenes and in pursuit of Kanjar Ro that interested me more as I suspected there was more to Sinestro than first thought. Kanjar Ro played by the brilliant Kurtwood Smith was more a cardboard gangster to the more mysterious phantom menace that was Sinestro, who was more a conflicted and complex character.

I actually appreciate Alan Burnett’s (Writer) intentions here for a storyline. Anyone coming into this movie who isn’t familiar with the character will enjoy this and perhaps delve more into the characters arc in other formats having watched this. I have to admit, my exposure to the character was though the live action Green Lantern (2011) staring Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively and Peter Sarsgaard and that particular film left a bad taste in my mouth. There is none of the generic cheesy cinema feel from that film here. It’s grim, gritty and pretty violent at times for an animated movie. I particularly enjoyed the pursuit of Kanjar Ro, it had almost a Blade Runner / Star Wars feel to it (particularly the interrogation scene that did look like a Cantina scene rip off but I didn’t mind.

The look and feel to the animation and the surroundings to the storyline perhaps took a little bit of time to get used to, it did however have that other world feel to it. Most of the animation team have previously worked or went on to animate more DC Animated films as well as having a strong Japanese Anime background. I liked their style and felt it was relevant for this character and this story. An impressive ensemble of talented Actors contributing their energy into bringing the characters to life. Christopher Meloni (Hal Jordan / Green Lantern), Victor Garber (Sinestro), Tricia Helfer (Boodikka), Michael Madsen (Kilowog), John Larroquette (Tomar-Re), Kurtwood Smith (Kanjar Ro) and Larry Drake (Ganthet) all made valid contributions to the characters and to the story.

Overall, i thoroughly enjoyed Green Lantern: First Flight as a proper introduction to the character and his world. Justice League: The New Frontier may have given us the origin story strung out over the 75 minute duration of that particular animated film but I felt it was in First Flight I got to understand what motivated Jordan and where he is at. Green Lantern: First Flight delivers us interesting and fleshed out characters and is has some really intense action scenes in storytelling and in animation. Highly Recommended.

Wonder Woman (2009) Movie Review By Stephen McLaughlin

Wonder Woman 2009

Director: Lauren Montgomery
Writers: William Moulton Marston (creator: Wonder Woman), Gail Simone (story)
Stars: Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, Alfred Molina, Rosario Dawson, Marg Helgenberger, Oliver Platt, Virginia Madsen

I think it’s fair to say that Wonder Woman (2009) was possibly a little overshadowed by the higher profile Batman: Gotham Knight due to its release in the midst of the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight Trilogy and although the more prominent live action film from 2017 grabbed all the headlines, I think it’s clearly obvious that the Warner Premiere produced animated Wonder Woman aided the plot and Patty Jenkins would be able to cherry pick the best of this 2009 release. If it were me, I would be using the animated version as my story board if this wasn’t already done as many of the sequences from the 2017 movie are here to see 8 years previously. That isn’t a dig at the 2017 filmmakers in anyway, just my opinion and observations.

Wonder Woman (2009) is about a modern man’s trespass (Steve Trevor) who survives a frantic mid air battle and crashes on the island of the Amazons and enables an imprisoned war god (ares) to escape and Princess Diana wins the responsibility to recapture him. Not surprising Wonder Woman (2009) is a well made film that is both energetic and thought provoking and personally I felt it deserved more recognition on it’s release. Those opening sequences drew me in from the beginning. I was intrigued how Diana came to be and her backstory. The bloody war from ancient times is won by the amazon women and as a reward from the gods the Queen Hippolyta is granted a child fashioned from clay. The amazons flourish in isolation on paradise island where Diana grows up into a fine young warrior. But a part of her seeks greater adventure outside the boundaries of the island. (Sounds bit like Moana here doesn’t it)

The Amazons hold a contest to decide who will escort Trevor back to the USA after discovering he is of no threat to them and during the contest we flit back and forth as an amazon traitor releases Ares from capture as Diana wins the contest and now as well as seeing Trevor off the island her main mission is to track down Ares who has a far more sinister plan in the work, one that could spell the doom of the world and the extinction of the amazons before it is too late with the help of Steve Trevor. 

I must commend the writing on this fine animated film. The Dialogue between the characters by Gail Simone, brings to life the story with it’s clever and witty lines that keeps with the spirit of the comic books but also has a level of maturity that you will almost forget you aren’t watching a live action movie. I’m nitpicking here but the one thing that I was a little let down with was the visuals and the animation. I’m not familiar with Moi Animation, the Korean studio who worked on many critically acclaimed works that I have to admit not nothing enough about. What struck me was that some of the fight scenes weren’t that dynamic as I felt there were too many cuts leaving the audience member dazzled and sometimes confused.

I was particularly impressed with the cast once more in my DC Animated Universe Marathon and I felt Keri Russell (Wonder Woman), Alfred Molina (Ares), Nathan Fillion (Steve Trevor) Rosario Dawson (Artemis), Oliver Platt (Hades) and Virginia Madsen (Hippolyta) were a strong ensemble of talent. These actors really just absorbs their characters and you forget the voices behind them are established live action actors who are so familiar. Nathan Fillon fits into his role perfectly and his delivery in the most natural way, sharing a tremendous chemistry with Russell. 

Overall I enjoyed Wonder Woman (2009) very much and I was satisfied with the work that went into bringing this character to life. My only gripe would be the animation at times and some of the characters looked too similar and in particular on the Island of the Amazons. Ironically, the best part of the film was set here at the beginning of the film and I loved the origins part of the tale. It wasn’t forced or drawn out and felt enough to understand what the amazons were and how Diana’s story of a more innocent nature contrasting with the ways of the modern world  and this works to develop her character from a naive and contained princess into a true warrior and finally a hero. Wonder Woman (2009) is a typically 75 minute film by DC and if you are enjoying it, it feels too short. But in this instance I think the storyline was simple and it worked just well.

Recommendable.

Superman/Doomsday (2007) Movie Review By Stephen McLaughlin

Superman Doomsday.png

Directors: Lauren Montgomery, Bruce Timm
Writers: Jerry Siegel (character created by: Superman), Joe Shuster (character created by: Superman)
Stars: Adam Baldwin, Anne Heche, James Marsters

When LexCorps accidentally unleash a murderous creature, Doomsday, Superman meets his greatest challenge as a champion. 

I read that Superman / Doomsday is based on the “The Death of Superman” storyline that appeared in DC Comics’ publications in the 1990s. Having said that, I have also heard that not a lot of the source material is actually used in this animated movie from 2007. Superman / Doomsday kicked off the DC Animated Film Universe over a decade ago and i’m pleased to see it is still continuing  with fresh storylines and inspiration from the comics.

Adam Baldwin is Superman / Clark Kent and yes Dark Superman which I will go into shortly. Baldwin does a good job here in portraying the mild manner reporter briefly as this film doesn’t focus too much on Kent, which I felt was a wise decision. Clark is “shipped off” to the middle east to report and this allows us to get to know the Son of Jor-El and his relationship with Lois Lane (Anne Heche) Baldwin’s tone to the character is dark and moody, almost like The Dark Knight.

Anne Heche who is a terrific actress and more lately is appearing mostly on our television screens is a variety of shows. My introduction to the actress was in the decent 1998 film Six Days Seven Nights along with Harrison Ford. Here I’m glad to say that Heche has a lot of “voice time” and this is possibly the first time that I have seen Lois in a prominent role since 2006’s Superman Returns. As I am typing this, sadly the actress synonyms with the iconic character Margot Kidder passed away and she is the first person I think of when I hear the name Lois Lane.

James Marsters as Lex Luthor is good I guess. Honestly Luthor pops up in some key scenes but not enough for me to judge the voicing talents of Marsters. I can say he does a job. Luthor at the beginning really is just there to serve the plot and the creation of Doomsday, the main villain in this film. In fact, strangely Luthor is the victim of his own accidental experimentation and distances himself and Lexcorp from the murderous creature. Although he does pop up again in the films final third and it key to the plot for the final battle

Toe for Toe, Doomsday is a great match for the Man of Steel. Recently this generation is perhaps became a little bored with Superman as his super power strengths have become a little predictable to new audience members who have been brought up on more complex, tortured and darker anti-heroes in comic book characters like in Watchmen and The Dark Knight. I get that and thankfully so does the writers here and the directors. This is the first time I have witnessed Superman struggle with his arch rivals. The battle across Metropolis is amazing to see in an animated film and credit to the animation team as this movie is well presented.

Without giving too much of the plot and reveals away (although this film is over a decade old and you should have saw this by now) as I don’t want to spoil this for anyone who hasn’t saw the film yet. We get to see the Dark Superman and it is great to see. Last year I was excited to see the leaked photographs of Henry Cavill’s Dark Superman for the then upcoming Justice League film. Yes it’s been done on the big screen before in the now well known and disappointing Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3. Here it doesn’t make that much of a big deal about it. It really is just to differentiate between two battling “Supermen” in the final battle scenes.

Overall Superman / Doomsday is an enjoyable take on the Man of Steel and I think it’s fair to say that although enjoyable, once Superman has dealt with Doomsday the pacing of the movie and it’s overall tone changes and possibly not for the better. It is still a worthwhile watch and I can honestly say that it is recommendable.