“Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One” Grade 4 stars: Once again the animation wing at Warner Bros shows it has a far better grip on how to transfer the characters from DC Comics to the big screen than those doing live-action films. This offering based on the much-heralded series of Batman comics from the mid-1990s from Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale eclipses any of the live versions of Batman.
The holiday-linked story begins with a brutal murder on Halloween. Batman, Police Captain James Gordan and District Attorney Harvey Dent join forces to take down The Roman, head of the notorious and powerful Falcone Crime Family. Their efforts fail as more deaths occur on Thanksgiving and Christmas. There’s also a famous Batman villain who laughingly arrives to make matters worse.
What makes this new release so good is the combination of the compelling story that mirrors the comics and the use of the kind of art deco-style animation that made the animated Batman TV series so strong. Don’t dismiss this offering because it owes its roots to comic books. It deserves deep respect because it is so well-written by Tim Sheridan and beautifully shot by director Chris Palmer.
The voice casting is equally strong with Jensen Ackles (“Supernatural”) providing the voice of Batman. He has found the right commanding tone for the character. Other strong voice work comes from Josh Duhamel as Harvey Dent and the late Naya Rivera as Catwoman.
“Batman: The Long Halloween” is as good as comic books get and this film only adds to the quality.
You won’t have to wait too long for the second half as “Batman: The Long Halloween: Part Two” will be available through digital platforms on July 27 and on Blu-ray starting Aug. 10.
“Nobody” Grade 3 ½ stars: Bob Odenkirk plays Hutch Mansell, a man who spends his days going unnoticed. He’s an average husband, dad and employee. At least that is what he wants you to think. It seems Mansell has a special set of skills that make him very dangerous.
He may see himself as a nobody but that changes and he becomes a killing-machine when he confronts five thugs on a bus and leaves them battered and bruised. One of the thugs who takes a major beating is the brother to a notorious gangster – played as a snarling stereotype by Aleksey Serebryakov – and that sets off a war.
“Nobody” comes across as a 21st Century version of that addictive Liam Neeson film “Taken.” Both productions feature unassuming mature men who have a special ability to deal with very bad people but only use them when necessary.
And just like casting Neeson in “Taken,” Odenkirk is a perfect pick for this non-stop action-packed joyride. He certainly has the everyday man look but there’s something a little questionable behind his eyes that makes his performance in “Better Call Saul” work as it also does in “Nobody.”
Director Ilya Naishuller – the man behind the quirky “Hardcore Henry” – shows a real understanding of how to stage over-the-top action in a believable world. He puts Odenkirk’s character through a bevy of fight sequences that are choreographed to near perfection.
Naishuller also understands these kinds of heavy action films need lighter moments. The family scenes come across as a little stilted but there are moments when Hutch is allowed to dip into some dark humor that really works.
A lot of that is because of Odenkirk who has shown over the years an ease playing both comedic and dramatic roles. And, Christopher Lloyd also helps by providing some lighter touches.
Also new on DVD and Blu-ray
“Blurred Vision”: What seems to be a perfect pregnancy, starts to unravel as the mother develops psychosis and the father begins to question his own sanity.
“Cancer: The Integrative Perspective”: Health experts, researchers, master teachers and scientists share new evidence about the power of the mind, ancient Eastern traditions and the incredible capacity of the human immune system.
“The Paper Tigers”: Two friends reunite when their martial arts master is murdered.
“Last Request”: The last request of a loving husband diagnosed with a life-threatening brain tumor sends his family into disarray.
“Siberia”: Keeper of a snowbound bar is pursued by sinister phantasms.
Available through digital platforms
“Bob Dylan: Odds and Ends”: The compilation film features rare elements from throughout the artist’s career.
“Bad Detectives”: Nic O’Connell and Ping Liu discover that the deaths of their detective grandfathers were calculated murders.
“Miranda Veil”: Serial killer discovers his latest victim can’t die.
“Diana at Sixty”: Look at the People’s Princess, Lady Diana, with interviews from those who knew her best looking at her life, loves and where she might be today.
“Life in a Year”: High school track star (Jaden Smith) wants to give his dying girlfriend a lifetime of experiences in a year.