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Justice League: The New Frontier (2008) Movie Review By Stephen McLaughlin

Justice League The New Frontier.png

Director: Dave Bullock (as David Bullock)
Writers: Stan Berkowitz, Darwyn Cooke (additional material)
Stars: David Boreanaz, Miguel Ferrer, Neil Patrick Harris

Justice League: The New Frontier is set in the 1950s during the paranoia of the Cold War and it’s propaganda. A new generation of superheroes with a hostile government and population that doesn’t trust them must join forces with the community’s active veterans to fight a menace to Earth.

The opening narration comes from a mysterious force which has monitored humanity grow in strength and violence and on the brink of self destruction and it has decided it has to eliminate the problem. I liked this sequence which has become a common trend in movies of the past decade and in particular superhero movies with an opening narration before the proper opening titles and credits.

What I got out of this animated movie was a lot of short plots involving Superman, Wonder Woman, Bat-Man and The Flash. Most of this came across as a reason just to make sure the main heroes are there but for me it was really about condensed origin stories for Martian Manhunter and Green Lantern. I’m already familiar with the latter and I was intrigued to find out more about this mysterious alien that I can honestly say I knew nothing about.

Again I appreciated what the animators goal was for this film and that was to give the feel and look to the Golden Age of these classic characters which I felt they achieved. Yes, to be fair it is probably is a step down from the previous release Superman / Doomsday in regards to fluidity as that movie  ‘s animation was fast and slick. Justice League: The New Frontier was a little more rigid and compact with less angular shots on the drawings but I do feel this was to keep with the look and feel of the 1950’s versions of these characters.

One of the many things that I enjoy about the DC Animated Series is the array of actors the show up on these films. Justice League: The New Frontier brags the likes of David Boreanaz (Hal Jordan), Miguel Ferrer (J’onn J’Jonzz / Martian Manhunter), Neil Patrick Harris (Barry Allen / The Flash), John Heard (Ace Morgan), Lucy Lawless (Wonder Woman), Kyle MacLachlan (Superman), Kyra Sedgwick (Lois Lane) and Brooke Shields (Carol Ferris) this ensemble of talented actors lending their voices to the animated films speaks volumes of how far comic book films have came in the past 10 to 15 years. The cast across the board were really good and I appreciated the fact that for well known actors none of them were screaming for the limelight as all of their voices never stood out, and I mean that in a good and deliberate way from them.

Overall, Justice League: The New Frontier should be commended for keeping with a lot of comic book traditions and not feeling the urge to move away from its style. The main plot was fairly run of the mill and possibly a little predictable in a sense but that may have been down to try and cram as many characters into a 75 Minutes animated film, which I can equally appreciate the audience expects from a movie titled The Justice League and what was delivered by the film makers. Yes, it may have suffered a bit in its characters in this sense as the likes of Robin is merely a cameo and Aquaman only shows up at the end with one line, which is more than the poor Green Arrow gets with no lines whatsoever. Having said this, I still enjoyed it. Not as much as Superman/ Doomsday but nevertheless it was worth a watch but I do feel it was one made specifically more for the comic book fans. Recommendable.

RoboCop (1987) Movie Review By Stephen McLaughlin

Robocop Review

Director: Paul Verhoeven
Writers: Edward Neumeier, Michael Miner
Stars: Peter Weller, Ronny Cox, Miguel Ferrer, Nancy Allen and Dan O’Herlihy

Whenever I see the “Orion Pictures” logo appear on my screen I can’t help but think of “RoboCop” that is of course the 1987 version of the now classic movie starring Peter Weller as Officer Alex J. Murphy, a terminally wounded cop who returns to the force as a powerful cyborg named “RoboCop” haunted by submerged memories. Set in Detroit in the near future, the multi corporate OCP practically runs the city and plans to redevelop it into a futuristic landmark named “Delta City”. Dan O’Herlihy is “The Old Man” CEO of OCP and under him is his number two Dick Jones played by the brilliant Ronny Cox who is developing a robotic officer of the law that goes by the name of ED209. Jones’ plans do not go to well in his presentation when a malfunctioning ED209 doesn’t disarm in a trial run and guns down an OCP board member. Witnessing this is Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer) a younger and just as ambitious businessman who is ready to run his RoboCop programme and has a few deceased officers on the law on his list to run trials on to meet the requirements needed. 

It’s this sequence that shows the point of view of corporate ruthlessness between OCP’s Board Members and their ambitious driven goals that highlight the world we are witnessing in this film. Not only that but the corporation appears to rely and thrive on crime to control the city and this is more obvious in the relationship between Dick Jones and Clarence J. Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith) Boddicker and his gang are responsible for the death of Officer Alex J. Murphy in what must be one of the most remembered execution scenes to date that is still as shocking as it was back in 1987. The fact that Boddicker and his cronies take turns in shooting the isolated Cop is tragic and sadistic. It is only when Boddicker finally puts a bullet in his head that Murphy can find some peace….or so he thought…or so THEY thought. 

Having an outstanding record in the force Officer Alex J. Murphy becomes top of Bob Morton’s list and the creation of RoboCop begins. What I find most interesting about the RoboCop character is that we never leave Murphy behind. His mind is still holding on to past memories which adds to the character and we aren’t left with a hollow creation. RoboCop as the poster said is Half Man, Half Machine, All Cop. His conflicting thought process allows us to feel sympathy for the character and also root for him on his mission to seek out his executioners. It’s ironic that the main villain of the movie in-fact created RoboCop. 

Peter Weller has to be credited for making RoboCop a believable character. Yes for 75% of the movie he is behind the mask, but his motion and voice patterns is what adds to the character. I’m glad we had some screen time with Murphy before his tragic downfall to allow us to understand his brief relationship with his new partner Officer Anne Lewis played by Nancy Allen and to understand that he was a family man who sadly was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Weller’s portrayal allows you be angry with the men who murdered him in cold blood and also allow you to have satisfaction in Murphy’s revenge.

Kurtwood Smith is a terrific villain and it is the role of Clarence J. Boddicker that will always stick with me when I see the actor. It took me a long time to accept his role in the TV comedy “That ’70s Show” as Reginald ‘Red’ Forman. How could such a sadistic evil man be such a lovable Dad in a SitCom? Smith plays a terrific villain but also is a terrific actor. His line delivery is so memorable and quotable to this day from his “Can you fly, Bobby?” to his “Oooh. Guns, guns, guns! C’mon, Sal! The Tigers are playing…tonight. I never miss a game.” That you will enjoy his portrayal of Clarence J. Boddicker, not root for him but enjoy his performance.

Ronny Cox is probably best in his interactions with Miguel Ferrer. Both their characters are ruthless and as I previously mentioned ambitious. Cox’s Dick Jones is a focused cold blooded businessmen (a far cry from his Lt. Bogomil in 1984’s Beverly Hills Cop) that lets nothing stand in his way. His confrontations with Miguel Ferrer’s Bob Morton are intense and you can see how terrifying stepping on Jones’ toes is through Ferrer’s portrayal of the younger businessman. Morton has the swagger and front but Jones will go one stage further to get what he wants which results in Morton’s downfall.

Nancy Allen as Officer Anne Lewis although isn’t in the movie as much as Smith, Cox or Ferrer still has a role to play in the story. Lewis is Murphy’s link to his previous life and Allen does a job. Nothing outstanding but the character is necessary and you can sense Lewis’ guilt in letting her partner down in his hour of need, although it wasn’t her fault what happened to Murphy, Allen portrays the emotional baggage in not having her partners back resulting in his death. 

You can’t think of RoboCop without thinking of Director Paul Verhoeven. His building a world within a world is what makes RoboCop entertaining. From the News Reports to the Crazy Adverts on TV “I’d Buy That For A Dollar” and the “Nukem” board game is what makes Verhoeven’s movies so memorable. There is a fine line between comic book and serious storytelling, possibly more so back in the late 1980’s before Tim Burton’s Batman. The balance of action, storytelling and humour is just perfect here. Visually this film was groundbreaking. The stop animation of ED209 might appear dated now but back in the films release was realistic and terrifying. The look of RoboCop masked and unmasked was also impressive to witness. Add those sound effects of RoboCop’s footsteps and moving limbs and you would believe that RoboCop was a machine. Overall, after 30 years this film is a classic and has that rewatch ability to it. The acting is top notch, the look and pacing of the film by Verhoeven I would consider perfect and add that classic theme written and performed by Basil Poledouris and you have it all. If you haven’t watched the 1987 version of RoboCop, what are you waiting for? Highly Recommended.