THE CAPTAINS

THE CAPTAINS
Written and Directed by William Shatner
Available from Entertainment One


Reviewed by Marc Mason

On a personal quest to understand his life in relation to his work in playing Captain James Tiberius Kirk in multiple incarnations of STAR TREK, William Shatner flies across the world and sits down with the members of one of the most exclusive clubs in human history: actors who have assumed command of the captain’s chair on a TREK TV show or film. Patrick Stewart, Avery Brooks, Kate Mulgrew, Scott Bakula, and Chris Pine all chat with the man who started it all, giving Shatner a look inside the minds of this small band of actors and granting him an insight about their choices and what they have in common.

THE CAPTAINS is an interesting film, if a slightly odd one. On the one hand, much of it is fascinating- Shatner picks interesting places to do his interviews, and it helps to relax his subjects. Mulgrew he meets up with on an empty stage on Broadway, while he beards Stewart in the den of his own home. Bakula catches up with Shatner at the beach. Amusingly, he initially meets Pine on a public street corner in front of Paramount Studios, challenging him to arm wrestle in front of passing crowds. Most of the time with Brooks is spent sitting at a piano, allowing DS9’s captain to free associate his interview in jazz fashion, tinkling away at the keyboard. It gives the film a look and feel that you don’t expect going into it, hooking the audience as well as the actors. Shatner also does a decent job of asking questions- the best part of the film, unquestionably, comes when he talks to each of them about the toll that acting in general and playing on TREK had on their families. Suffice it to say, none of them (save Pine, who didn’t face this line of inquiry) has joyous or happy things to share on this topic, reminding you of the personal toll that comes behind the scenes of producing entertainment.

The gist, as we get to the end of the film, is that Shatner still struggles with being known as Kirk and whether or not he should be embarrassed by it or embrace it. Through his talks with the others, you see his emotional landscape shifting, giving the movie a narrative through-line. It’s almost unnecessary- the pieces of the film and the interviews would hold up nicely without it. Nothing in this documentary is going to shake the world to its core- that’s what all of those TREK shows and movie have already done. But it does entertain and grant some insight, and that’s more than good enough.

SUPERMAN/SHAZAM

SUPERMAN/SHAZAM: THE RETURN OF BLACK ADAM
Written, Directed, and Voiced by Various
Available from Warner Home Video

Reviewed by Marc Mason

The story of modern comics is almost always the battle between Marvel and DC, and that battle spilled over into other media in a huge way over the past decade. Unquestionably, Marvel has done better on the whole with live-action film (Chris Nolan’s Batman movies not withstanding). But on the animated side, DC has absolutely pummeled Marvel, and the series of direct-to-DVD films that DC/Warner has produced over the past five years has been almost staggering in its consistent excellence. This DVD is no exception.

Instead of one film this time, we get four short ones. The one new piece is the lead- SUPERMAN/SHAZAM, and oddly enough it’s the weakest part of the deal. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, mind you. The story finds Clark Kent interviewing a young homeless boy named Billy Batson prior to his meeting the wizard Shazam. But that meeting’s importance is elevated once Black Adam shows up and tries to kill the boy before he can ever gain the power of Captain Marvel. The story works as a solid punch ‘em up, but there isn’t a lot of excitement to it beyond that. However, for many viewers, that will be plenty.

The other three shorts, which have appeared elsewhere, held the real appeal for me, though. The SPECTRE one is written by comics scribe par excellence Steve Niles and finds the spirit of vengeance working the Hollywood beat and delivering death and terror to the bad guys in wonderfully awful ways. It’s clever, gruesome, and loads of fun. The GREEN ARROW short may be the best thing on the disc- the emerald archer heads to the airport to pick up Dinah (a/k/a Black Canary) and ask her to marry him. Unfortunately, trouble arises when the League of Assassins shows up to kidnap and kill a yen-year old girl who is also the princess of a small nation. Wounded and outgunned, our hero has only his skill and his wits to rely on, and the excitement is palpable. Great, great stuff. And closing it out is a terrific JONAH HEX short based on an issue of the comic and penned by the amazing Joe Lansdale. Voices, story, and animation all work together perfectly here, and it’s almost a shame. If the makers of the live-action film had stuck to this version of the character, they would have made something worth actually watching.

Even the bonus materials here are terrific. Producer Bruce Timm picks his top episodes from the earlier DC animated series (BATMAN, BATMAN: BRAVE AND THE BOLD, JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED) that focus on the characters presented in the shorts, doubling the amount of strong material on this disc.

Taken together, this package is a really, really good one, and I recommend it without qualifications.


HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE: DOLLHOUSE SEASON 2

DOLLHOUSE: SEASON TWO (Blu-Ray)
Starring Eiiza Dushku
Available from Fox Home Entertainment

Reviewed by Jessica Blackshear

Oh, Dollhouse. It seemed like such a perfect plan, giving fan-favorite creator Joss Whedon a new Fox sci-fi series commitment after the much-lamented, clearly-misguided demise of Firefly. Joss gets what he wants, Fox makes nice with the fans, and genre icons Eliza Dushku and Tahmoh Penikett topline the gig. What could go wrong?

I’m honestly not sure if I can point to the exact moment when the show went off the rails. There were signs pretty early on, the most significant of these being the scrapped pilot episode that was later chopped up and used for parts throughout Season One. Personally, I found myself quite concerned by the fetching-but-ultimately-lifeless Dushku’s inability to play one role convincingly, much less deliver on the roulette wheel of personality that served as the show’s central storytelling device.

Still, a less-than-stellar lead actress can be overlooked if everything else is running smoothly; unfortunately, the ship was already taking on water by the beginning of the second (and final) season.

The series finale (“Epitaph Two: Return”) is the best of the offerings here, but even that’s not saying much. “Return” attempted to deliver on the promise of a big, over-arcing ‘future-shock’ story first glimpsed in the “Epitaph One” episode that Whedon cobbled together as a pyrrhic victory after successfully disputing the show’s original season order. There may have been a long-term plan for DOLLHOUSE, but it seems clear to this reviewer that the show’s creative brain trust should have concentrated far more on a creative and cohesive short-term plan.

From an aesthetic standpoint, the show is gorgeous and ably served by the Blu-Ray format. The set itself is short on extras, but that’s no surprise; this DOLLHOUSE is empty, and no amount of added gimmickry can change that.


SUPERMAN/BATMAN: APOCALYPSE

SUPERMAN/BATMAN: APOCALYPSE
Starring Tim Daly, Kevin Conroy, Susan Eisenberg and Summer Glau
Available from Warner Home Video

Reviewed by Marc Mason

In the wake of SUPERMAN/BATMAN: PUBLIC ENEMIES, life on Earth is returning to normal. Lex Luthor has been removed from office, the heroes are back in the public’s good graces… things should be going swimmingly. But as the remnants of the kryptonite asteroid that Batman destroyed at the end of that film hit the atmosphere, they bring a new challenge for the world’s finest in the form of a young girl claiming to be another survivor of Superman’s home planet. Her name is Kara, and according to her memories, she is the big blue boy scout’s younger cousin. Suddenly the man with the ‘S’ on his chest is no longer alone. But is it really that easy? Batman doesn’t seem to think so. Neither does Wonder Woman. And even if they believe that Kara means no harm, itmay be all for naught, as Darkseid rears his ugly head and decides to claim the young girl for his own nefarious purposes.

This is the first sequel that the animated DCU has produced, and APOCALYPSE is superior in every way when compared to PUBLIC ENEMIES. Let’s talk about what works here, starting with the voice talent involved. For this film, the production team went back to the classic voice actors that fans have loved for so many years now. Kevin Conroy is the definitive Batman; Tim Daly’s take on Superman has never been equaled, and it is a delightful bonus to have Susan Eisenberg back as Wonder Woman. Throw in Ed Asner reprising as Granny Goodness and this is a JLU cartoon smorgasbord of delight. The only misfire is the presence of Andre Braugher (an amazing actor) as Darkseid; with the rest of the classic cast onboard, it sort of stuck out like a sore thumb not to have Michael Ironside voicing DC’s greatest villain once again. Balancing that, though, is Summer Glau stepping in as Kara/Supergirl. This version isn’t really the same one that appeared in the Superman and JLU cartoons anyway, so the change in actor isn’t jarring.

What else works? Action. The plot kicks in quickly here, and once it does, the action sequences come fast and furious. One of the great thing about cartoons is how they allow the creative folks to not have to worry about budget- anything is possible, and the level of destruction and devastation rendered in multiple locales is impressive. The fact that this is meant to be epic never gets lost, and the writers and animators work hard to deliver (literally) a tremendous amount of bang for the buck.

I wasn’t fully keen on the slight change in animated style working here. The characters go slightly off the Bruce Timm model, attempting to adopt some of the late Michael Turner’s comic art tics, as he drew the original tale this flick is based on. It doesn’t really fully translate, though, and the only “Turnerism” that really works is his emphasis on Kara’s bright, wide eyes. They also keep intact Turner’s tendency for lots of bare flesh, which in the comics comes across as desperate fanboy pandering, but here manages to feel kind of right. This is a movie, after all, which has different standards.

There’s also a decent level of humor here, including a terrific scene where the DC trinity visits the suburbs to pop in on another hero that will play a huge role in the plot. It’s bits like that one that elevate APOCALYPSE above its predecessors and place it in the running for best DC animated movie to date. Recommended.





NINJAS VS ZOMBIES

NINJAS VS ZOMBIES
Written and Directed by Justin Timpane
Available via Endlight Entertainment and Seminal Pictures

Reviewed by Marc Mason

NINJAS VS ZOMBIES should have been the hands-down, no-brainer fun DVD of the the year. The concept at its core is nifty: after a séance gone bad, a young man’s brother returns from the grave with the power to suck out souls and create zombies. Stuck for ideas, the guy responsible for unleashing this plague of horror happens upon a spell that turns his three best friends into ninjas and joins them in the fight against a growing zombie army. When you’ve got a title and an idea like that, you’re halfway to glory.

But you have to finish the other half. And unfortunately, NINJAS VS ZOMBIES doesn’t.

Two things hamper the execution of the idea, and both are things you cannot easily maneuver around when shooting a low-budget film. The first is casting. Some of the players here are genuine naturals. Timpane is given a couple of players that have a real gift for capturing the screen and creating characters that you can invest in and get behind in their arc. The problem, though, is that a good chunk of the cast does not have that gift. And when those two “camps” interact on screen, the scenes between them come off wonky. It feels like people are acting in different films at the same time. This jarring juxtaposition hurts momentum and whatever chance of emotional depth that the film is trying to have.

This leads to the other primary problem, which is in the direction itself. Too often it feels like Timpane doesn’t really know how to stage what he wants to get across on the screen. Moments meant to evoke connections between the characters go flat not only from performance, but because they’re not framed in such a way as to suggest intimacy or intrigue. Also, a number of moments in the fight scenes are done so slowly that it takes you out of the picture and breaks suspension of disbelief. I kept hoping that Timpane would stop and shoot at 16 frames per second and then speed up the film to 24fps during the fights in order to give them locomotion, excitement, and immediacy, but it never happens.

I’m sure that many people will castigate me, saying that I should go easier on a movie that was put together by friends and made for a paltry $300K. After all, it’s meant to evoke the classic grade-B flicks of the 50s, and they didn’t exactly have a budget back then, either. I could let that thought stand and pat the filmmakers on the back, sure. But the real issue is that the potential to do something truly better existed here, making a movie that had legitimate impact not only as a B-level flick but as a way to show that you can do something truly amazing without spending millions. (see: Smith, Kevin) But it didn’t happen, and I can’t ignore that. We only improve when we get take legitimate criticism to heart and use it to grow. Good luck to the NVZ crew in their next endeavor.

ADOPTED

ADOPTED
Written, Directed, and Starring Pauly Shore
Available from Hunta Films

Reviewed by Marc Mason

One of the hottest trends amongst the Hollywood elite over the last few years has been the practice of foreign adoption. Stars like Angelina Jolie and Madonna have made plenty of noise by bringing orphans from Africa and Asia into their homes and giving them new lives. But what happens when someone not on the A-list heads off to Africa and tries to adopt a child? That’s the question posed in this mockumentary by controversial comedian Pauly Shore.

Shore has always been a tough one to figure out. He comes from a family steeped in the comedy scene, and having seen him perform live eons ago, he isn’t without talent. Yet he’s never quite seemed to be able to isolate what makes him appealing and translate it into a grander career. Instead, he’s seemed quite content to live a life of non-stop partying, stopping only to occasionally do a stand up gig or make another schlock movie. ADOPTED, at least, is something of a step forward.

Here he takes a camera crew and heads off to Africa for a series of scripted and unscripted adventures. He alights at Oprah’s academy for girls in his quest to find a baby to adopt and exposes the ridiculousness of the staff’s behavior and panic, not to mention the bizarre way they are forced to kiss the media titan’s ass when she’s around. He explores the streets and meets people, using his repertoire of tics and mannerisms to have odd encounters with the African locals. He makes some amusing and sharp observations about what he sees, and you see the clever writer in Shore come out. You watch this stuff and think: this is the guy that we should have gotten more of after SON-IN-LAW, not the one that made BIO-DOME.

But Shore undercuts himself. The actual plotline, where Shore takes on three different African orphans in order to “find the right one” for him, falls flat. He shows some chemistry with the kids, but he inserts some artificial obstacles (including have one rob him while he’s attempting to set up a threesome with two locals) that grind the movie to a screeching halt. It feels obvious that he’s trying to take the piss out of his own image as a poon hound, but on film it just doesn’t play that way. It just feels douche-baggy.

Indeed, the over-arching sense one gets from ADOPTED is that Shore doesn’t trust himself enough as a performer. When he’s genuine, when he’s himself, Shore comes across as a clever guy, someone that has learned from his mistakes and is turning a corner in his life. But each time he steps back into the persona, the movie goes flat. It’s too bad, really. Shore is easily the kind of guy that could rehab his career for a strong second act. Maybe next time?

YESTERDAY WAS A LIE

YESTERDAY WAS A LIE
Written and Directed by James Kerwin
Starring Kipleigh Brown and Chase Masterson
Released by E1 Entertainment

Reviewed by Marc Mason

Detective Hoyle (Kipleigh Brown) is having an existential crisis… quite literally. She’s on the trail of a man named Dudas, a man she believes can tell her why her life seems disjointed and time itself seems out of whack. But catching up to Dudas isn’t as easy at it sounds, and things around her keep getting stranger at every turn. Will the beautiful lounge singer she meets at the bar (Chase Masterson) hold the key to the mysteries of Hoyle’s life. As it turns out, she just might. Perhaps even literally.

YESTERDAY WAS A LIE is an interesting piece of sci-fi noir, a film that ruminates on the nature of nonlinear time while slathering quantum physics in the trappings of film noir. Writer/director Kerwin delivers the tale in stunningly shot black and white, liberally using lighting to tell his story and evoke Hoyle’s mental state at any time during the story. No question- this is a film about atmosphere, first and foremost. It wants to be a metaphoric love story, but unfortunately, the atmospherics completely overwhelm that aspect of the film. You never get quite as involved in Hoyle’s quest as you’d like because the look and the mystery shove the human heart to the side.

That isn’t to say that the film completely falters. Beyond the look, there are other things worth checking out here. Masterson’s chanteuse delivers the goods whenever she’s on screen, and her voice is really excellent. The soundtrack, as a result, is a total winner. Brown has her moments; at times she seems really confident in herself and the material, and it shows. Those scenes crackle, and when you throw in that she’s a Katee Sackhoff lookalike, you get the sense of what she might really be capable of. Yet in other spots she seems confused, perhaps trying to match what the character should be feeling, but it becomes too literal of a performance and knocks you out of the movie. Still, Brown mostly holds her own as the center of this complexly plotted piece.

What the film’s ending really means is ultimately left up to the viewer, which is a brave choice at the very least. And that seems to be the overall reaction I had to the film as a whole. It’s an attempt to do something different and away from the norm of indy filmmaking, and even though it doesn’t fully succeed, that’s still something worth appreciating. I’d like to see more like it.

SILBER STUFF

SILBER MEDIA MINIS
Written by Brian John Mitchell and Drawn by Various
Published by Silber Media

Reviewed by Marc Mason

Another round of Brian John Mitchell’s matchbook-sized minis has arrived, along with an unusual bonus. Taking a look…

The biggie in this set is ULTIMATE LOST KISSES #11. Why? Rather than Mitchell’s traditional stick figure art, Dave Sim! steps in to handle art chores. Mitchell also tackles a serious story here, which hasn’t been the case in earlier efforts. A woman in her mid-30s receives a letter from the child she gave up for adoption as a teenager and goes to visit him on death row, and what she discovers is a grand loss of life in more ways than one. Even without Sim on the art, this is easily the best work Mitchell has produced in these minis, and I was pretty pleased to see it. Without some growth, this series was going to get stale in a hurry. And if you’re a fan of the artist? This might be the most unusual collectible out there where you can find his stuff.

Jeremy Johnson handles the art chores on MARKED, one of the more commercial concepts Mitchell has produced. A retired demon hunter (with a secret of his own) begins investigating the death of his girlfriend’s sister, which sets him back on a path for justice. This book is very high concept, and the ending leaves it wide open for further adventures of the main character. Johnson’s work is a little on the inconsistent side, vacillating between easy to follow and somewhat obtuse in its choices of angle and p.o.v. If there are to be further installments, that’s something that would need to be worked on.

WORMS #5 is drawn by regular series artist Kimberlee Traub, and as opposed to Johnson’s work, hers shows a real air of confidence about it. The story, involving a young woman imprisoned in a strange hospital and injected with strange alien worms, picks up the pace a bit, as she finally makes good (sort of) on an escape attempt. However, it’s how the story is told that makes it work. Traub’s art is blocky and heavy with its lines, and she defies the use of deep detail; however what she does perfectly is use the matchbook format to perfect effect. She’s adapted to the limitations of size and scope and tells the story as cleanly as possible. Not an easy task.

I received two new issues of JUST A MAN, numbers 2 and 3. When last we left our vengeful cowboy, he had killed the man that was responsible for the death of the cowboy’s wife and kids. Now he’s on the run, and he takes a gig as a hired gun to retrieve a young woman stuck in a brothel. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been told the entire truth… about the girl, and perhaps a great many other things. Either way, his sanity might also be at risk. Artist Andrew White uses thin linework and as much detail as he can fit into the small panels in order to set the mood and make sure the old west milieu shines through. The story here is also pretty decent. I’m liking this one.

Finally, there is now a LOST KISSES: MY LIFE IS SAD AND FUNNY DVD that holds the first ten issues of the book (along with a couple of other Mitchell matchbook works) and presents them as not quite a “motion comic” or cartoon, but does set them in motion and to music. Like the books themselves, the setup is simple, and it plays cleanly on screen. However, I had issues getting the menu to work right in allowing me to select the material and had to break it down by chapter pieces using Windows Media Player. Your mileage may vary, as it will with the content of the comics themselves; LOST KISSES, until #11, has traditionally been Mitchell’s weakest work.

 

DOLLHOUSE SEASON ONE

DOLLHOUSE: SEASON ONE
Created by Joss Whedon, Starring Eliza Dushku
Available from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

A young woman named Caroline has seen her life hit rock bottom. Feeling as though there is nowhere else to turn, she makes a bargain with a mysterious organization known as the Dollhouse: in exchange for giving five years of her life to be one of their “Actives”, her slate will be cleared and she’ll be a rich woman when it’s over. But what does it mean to be an Active? Simply put, they are blank slates, their personalities essentially missing until they are given a mission and have new ones (along with requisite skills) downloaded into their bodies. It might be hostage negotiations, or it could be master thief, or perhaps just the weekend sexual escapade of someone’s dreams. But no matter what, Caroline will have no memory of the things the Dollhouse has her body do during that five year period.

In theory. But with a dogged F.B.I. agent on the Dollhouse’s tail, and a rogue active doing his level best to destroy the organization and Caroline along with it, she’s going to have plenty of obstacles in her way to fulfilling that five-year contract.

When word broke that televisionary Joss Whedon (BUFFY, ANGEL, FIREFLY) was returning to the small screen with a new vehicle for Eliza Dushku, fandom exploded with excitement. Her turn as Faith in BUFFY and ANGEL was the stuff of legend, and Whedon’s rabid fanbase was ready for another weekly dose of his creative work. But DOLLHOUSE faced challenges both immediate and long-term that threatened to derail the show’s chances to find itself, ultimately finishing its first season as a show very much reflecting the dichotomies of its Actives: half the season was completely missable, and half was as good as television gets. And now both halves are available together on DVD, along with some of the strongest extras of any series set in recent memory.

Episodes one through five get off to a roush, slow start. A formula quickly falls into place: something goes slightly awry in Echo’s (Dushku’s) programming or mission, causing unexpected complications. What grates about this formula is the way that her bosses react as though this sort of thing has never happened with any of their other Actives. Which raises the question: why not pull her out of the field until they can figure out what’s wrong with her and why this stuff keeps happening? It comes off as contrived that they keep running Echo out on engagements, which comes off as surprising. DOLLHOUSE has one of the absolute best writing staffs on television. Beyond Whedon, there’s Tim Minear, Jane Espenson, Sarah Fain and Elizabeth Craft, Steven DeKnight… people that have written some of the best TV has to offer over the last fifteen years. But it was clear that they were struggling to figure out what the show was going to be during these early efforts and it put a lot of doubt in their viewing audience.

I chalk up some of this directionless work to the decision to scrap the initial pilot episode written and directed by Whedon. This episode is included as an extra on the DVD, and watching it, it’s clear that somebody should have stopped the second-guessing bug that was going around the Fox offices and in the DOLLHOUSE writer’s room. “Echo” (the episode title) is a strong effort and kicks the plot into motion immediately. Dushku’s character meets her F.B.I. pursuer (played by BATTLESTAR GALACTICA’S Tahmoh Penikett) immediately. A revelation about one Active’s identity comes sooner. And there’s a sense of immediacy that isn’t there in the revamped series and it’s opening effort, “Ghost.” Had DOLLHOUSE stuck with its initial pilot, the show might have gotten off to a stronger start with the fans and began building a better base. Oddly enough, pieces of the original pilot were used throughout the season in other episodes, but they lose the impact they might have had if the show had aired as filmed. Ultimately, Dushku looks more confident in her portrayal of Echo in the unaired pilot as well; the subsequent episodes, she’s shakier, making you wonder if she’s lost as to where things are going… just like the audience.

But with episode six, “Man On The Street” the show began to find itself and went on a sold run through its final seven episodes. The character arc of the F.B.I. agent finally got rolling, Dushku’s Echo began to sprout seeds of self-awareness, we learned more about the Dollhouse and its true purpose… in short, the mythology of the show began to spread its wings, and the show soared because of it. The superior “Needs” allowed the principal Actives to gain closure on their real lives; “A Spy In The House Of Love” broke open a conspiracy and saw a stunning fate for a main character, one that horrified even the toughest of viewer; and the two-part season ender (“Briar Rose” and “Alpha”) brought renegade Active Alpha back into the mix and explained his obsession with Echo. It’s seven hours of terrific television that make this set easily worth your money.

But if that wasn’t enough, you get the single most important aspect of this collection, the unaired episode thirteen, titled “Epitaph One.” Needing a thirteenth episode to complete a DVD set and for foreign sales, Whedon produced a post-apocalyptic coda that finds a world in ruins because of Dollhouse technology, and a band of rebels breaking into the facility looking for sanctuary. Anchored by Whedon vet actress Felicia Day, the starkly grim look at the future gone wrong, amid flashbacks and flash-forwards of things to come in the series, plays as a tight horror film, and revelation of who the boogieman is turns out to be quite chilling. The episode was shot not knowing if the series would get picked up for a season two, so it serves as a perfect capper to the series itself (if that had been needed) and as an exciting springboard for season two. The episode is completely in continuity, so the desire to see how it all fell apart is strong.

Other extras include deleted scenes, episode commentary tracks, a look at the production design, and a terrific docu-short about how the writers and crew have almost all worked on one of the previous Whedon series. (You also learn how to pronounce Dichen Lachman’s -she plays an Active named Sierra- name properly; it’s “dee-shin” NOT “dye-kin.” Glad we cleared that up.).

DOLLHOUSE is a morally complex show, and the series really only scratched the surface of the nature of the compromises and evil that the Dollhouse forces upon people in year one. As it moves forward into season two, I’m hoping to see it dive deeper into the quandary of using bodies without souls to commit the acts these young people do. Season one, though, is certainly worth your time. Even the first half, when the show was floundering, still offered intrigue and quality. That’s Joss Whedon for you- even when he’s bad, he’s very, very good.

Marc Mason

HELL GIRL VOL 1 BUTTERFLY

HELL GIRL VOL 1: BUTTERFLY
Episodes Showing on
IFC FREE VOD
Episodes Showing on Independent Film Channel Beginning 10/3/08

Is someone tormenting you? Making your life miserable to the point you don’t know how to cope? Are you beset by someone who wants to do you harm just because they can? If so, Hell Girl is ready to listen. At midnight, you can type the name of your tormentor on Hell Girl’s website and she’ll show up to hear your plea. The deal sounds good up front- she’ll immediately take that person straight to Hell if you want. But then there’s the catch: after you finish your own natural existence, you’ll find yourself in Hell as well, no matter how good a person you might have been in life. So what do you do?

What do you do?

A few weeks back, I reviewed volume two of the manga and found it to be a bit inconsistent in how it drew in reader interest in the characters who crossed Hell Girl’s path. But that’s not a problem here; not at all.

Sometimes the manga is much better than the anime because it can capture certain aspects of the story better and take more time in development. Shows like SUZUKA come to mind. But there are times when the anime is WAY better, and HELL GIRL is one of those.

What makes it better? A number of factors. The stories are tighter and more interesting. Having color gives more dimension to the stuff Hell Girl puts the bad guys through. The voice actors give extra depth to the characters on screen. So in the end, this series comes across as a dark, creepy, disturbing piece of entertainment about very sad and very damaged people. I’ll be watching… but only in daylight.

Marc Mason