WWW: Weekend Wrental Wreviews 11

Let's see what I saw this week for Weekend Wrental Wreviews in my eleventh WWW:

1) Battle Royale II: Requiem:
I wasn't sure how the sequel would hold up against the original. It seemed like it was simply going to tread over the exact same ground with a new cast. Another class of students goes into this program within which they're fitted with exploding collars and send to an island. But rather than fight each other to the death until only one is left standing, they're instead sent after a resistance movement led by the survivors from the first film. So after a tease that feels like a bad remake, it very quickly becomes a true sequel. There's a “buddy system” implemented this time whereby the 42 students are paired up, one boy and one girl, with collars linked remotely. If one dies or gets out of range of the other, the collar detonates. This sets up a higher and earlier body count, which in hindsight didn't seem practical if they wanted these kids to take down the other ones. The tone of the film definitely feels like a war picture, made more powerful by the youth of the soldiers, but the logic behind the Battle Royale act does seem to unravel since we question it more. Adults wanting to control and discipline children through extreme measures is one thing, but if you kill all the kids none of them will grow up to be adults. It seems like a plan for extinction, which may actually be the message of the film. There's a thinly veiled anti-American sentiment, when an unnamed country launches a missile strike against the island where the collared kids are battling the terrorist kids. The subtitles refer to the attack as coming from “that country” while some of the Japanese military question who put “that country” in charge of the rest of the world. Our own world is pretty insane sometimes, but the one within the universe of these films is really insane. There are heroes within the bloodshed, and a glimmer of hope, along with the observation that, even in countries ravaged by war, you can still see smiles on the faces of small children.

2) Universal Solder: The Return:
I have to say I'm a little torn. This is clearly, clearly, the textbook example of a bad movie. Jean Claude Van Damme reprises his role as Luc Deveraux, but is no longer a UniSol. Somehow cured of being a reanimated dead soldier with accelerated speed, strength. and tissue regeneration, he now acts as a consultant for a new UniSol project that includes beefy wrestler and comic relief Goldberg. There's also a supercomputer voiced by Michael Jai White of Spawn infamy, and having a sentient program in charge of living killing machines works out about as well as it ever does in these types of movies. To his credit, Van Damme seems to just smirk and have fun with the role, clearly aware that he's in a bad movie that includes a trip to a strip club because it's the nearest place with internet access. “How do you know that?” asks the female reporter love interest in this movie. “Oh...uh...I saw it on 60 Minutes.” I generally like his movies, but he definitely shouldn't do comedy. I can understand some of the bumps his career hit that led him to reinvent himself in JCVD. A featurette on the disc also includes some of his more dubious costars, from Dennis Rodman to my twin brother from another mother, Rob Schneider. So there are at least two Van Damme movies I can probably skip. And after this movie, which is technically the fourth Universal Soldier film but the only official follow-up to the first one, I don't think I'll be tracking down the two direct-to-video sequels without Van Damme. The real question is whether or not I'm going to subject myself to Universal Soldier: A New Beginning, which somehow will reunite Van Damme with Dolph Lundgren. Oh, I'm wasting my life....

3) Superman/Batman: Public Enemies:
Here's what you need to know: Tim Daly is Superman, Kevin Conroy is Batman, and Clancy Brown is Lex Luthor. The reason this is so important, beyond the fact that they're so good as the voices of these characters, is that this is the first feature length project the three have collaborated on in these roles since 1998's World's Finest television miniseries. Conroy and Brown reprised their roles in the Justice League series while George Newbern took over as Superman. Daly returned as Superman in the 2006 Brainiac Attacks, but with new costars. So reuniting all three for this project was a pretty big deal. As for the story itself, it adapts an arc from the comics in which Luthor becomes president, and through some manipulation frames Superman for murder with Batman as an accomplice. With a price on their heads, the two are now pursued by every villain imaginable as well as a few heroes on the government payroll. You'd have to be a true comic nerd to recognize all the characters that show up, and even I didn't recognize a few. At its heart, the film is kind of a ”bromance”, with the occasional mention of Lois thrown in so viewers don't think there's anything more going on between our heroes than mutual respect. The dialogue is great, with some particularly hilarious exchanges. “Do me a favor and lose the sense of humor,” snarls Batman while trying to remove a shard of Kryptonite from Superman's chest. “Do us both a favor and buy one,” is his comeback. Later, surrounded by villains, Batman tells Superman that it's his funeral when he refuses to leave. “Already had one.” he quips back, referencing his now infamous death. I can't believe anyone thought that would be permanent or that those comics would ever be worth anything. I can't believe I own more than one unopened copy. But that's not the point, and I digress. This is a short but enjoyable animated feature that takes two iconic heroes, and pits them against everyone else. And with a chunk of Kryptonite the size of a small country hurtling through space toward the Earth, the stakes have never been higher.

More reviews to follow next week after I've spun a few more discs!



Blogger Lorna said...

What do you call a person who punishes himself?

10/04/2009 7:14 PM  
Blogger MCF said...

That would be a masochist, supported by the fact that I'm currently subjecting myself to a C-or D- movie called Universal SoldierS that's low budget and apparently has no connection to the Van Damme series...

10/04/2009 7:42 PM  

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