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A couple of mainstream comic-based DVDs have come out lately, and though I purchased them immediately I have failed to report on them. That is fixed now.


Hulk vs.
It contains two short movies, one is around 45 minutes and the other around an hour. The stories are Hulk vs. Wolverine and Hulk vs. Thor. Neither one, though, is really much of a Hulk story due to the co-starring character garnering most of the story.

First off, Hulk vs. Wolverine is the better of the two, not slowing down for a moment as it earns its PG-13 rating in spades with the most brutal animation I've seen in an American piece since Heavy Metal 2000. It also features an extended sequence beautifully ripped from the pages of Barry Windsor-Smith's glorious Weapon X graphic novel. And for all that it will please fans of Wolverine, and not appeal to people that aren't, Deadpool steals every single scene he's in with brilliantly hilarious dialog and line readings as well as wonderfully frenetic animation. The price of the set was paid for with the glory of Deadpool, because, as the writers/producers wisely said, there's no way the joyfully sadistic madness of Deadpool could ever be done justice in animation done for television. Overall, the character designs by Jeff Matsuda worked perfectly and the voice acting was all top notch. 

Hulk vs. Thor is, well, so-so. It was worth watching for the refreshingly serious take on Loki. I was expecting a high pitched voice somewhere between Skeletor and Snidely Whiplash, but was instead treated to a voice quite evilly Kevin Kline in tone. It was also nice to see the Warriors Three in action (they've been a favorite of mine since the X-Men's Asgardian Wars saga), but overall it was missing something. And that something was a sense of peril. Dude, it's Hulk versus a bunch of gods, are you really worried about anyone in this equation?

The 2-disc edition has a lot of making-of pieces, interviews with the crew and voice actors, and a bit on Jack Kirby that are well worth checking out.


Wonder Woman
Kerri Russell did a better job voicing the Amazon princess than I expected, but I wouldn't have picked this DVD up if it hadn't been for Nathan Fillion as Steve Trevor and Alfred Molina as Ares. And Nathan Fillion made me love it. Really and truly, the man got a deliciously amusing role with line after line that had me laughing out loud. Sure, they would have been amusing said by anyone, but Nathan made them, well, wonderful. He's dreamy.

I don't know if current WW scribe Gail Simone was responsible for all of the comic gems, but it was nice to see her as part of the project. The animation was mostly good, with a few moments of greatness, while the voice acting was consistently well done. The 2-disc edition has some good featurettes, including ones on the creation of Wonder Woman as well as Wonder Woman throughout the years. Worth the extra price for the comic book nerd.


Punisher War Zone
I liked the second Punisher film from a few years back, but it wasn't perfect. I really like Thomas Jane as the Punisher; I liked the way he acted and moved, and I loved his voice. He was the perfect representation of the Ennis and Dillon version of the Punisher. I also loved the housemates, seeing as they were taken directly from Ennis and Dillon's glorious Welcome Back, Frank series. But the movie took far too long to get through his origin - PWZ does it in a still flashback and a 20-second recap of one character telling another. The TJ Punisher film also went so far with what happened to Castle's family that it could skew audience members to root for him, which isn't the point. You're supposed to see him as having gone off the deep end; if that isn't communicated, then it is failing. The film also suffered from an overlong and over-complicated payback scheme. The real Punisher knows that when he kills people they are going to hell so there's no point in torturing them here; his typical m.o. is to just slaughter everyone between him and his target, and then take out his main target without a second thought.

Additionally, John Travolta sucked as much as he typically does.

Punisher War Zone fixed all the problems of the previous film, but also got rid of most of the intentional humor. Dash Mihok provides a vast majority of the intentional humor with his portrayal of Detective Soap, another character from the Ennis and Dillon run. I'm not saying the movie wasn't funny, I'm simply specifying "intentional humor" because I wasn't sure that I was supposed to be laughing at a vast amount of what left me laughing. The violence was so absurd it reminded me of some sort of bizarre amalgamation of Sam Raimi's Evil Dead, the Dirty Harry genre of ass-kicking loners, and The Three Stooges. Chew on that for a moment. Punisher may take a hit and keep on ticking, but almost everyone else pops like an overripe melon smashed by Gallagher.

Meanwhile, consider that if the TJ Punisher was the Ennis and Dillon Punisher, then his one goes back to the eighties and nineties Punisher with the ultra tight-lipped, ultra bad-ass, kill 'em all style featured in the comics by Carl Potts, Chuck Dixon, and Steven Grant. His first kill is only seven minutes into the movie but his first word isn't spoken for almost another ten. On top of that, the bulked upped, padded-for-battle costume worn by Ray Stevenson is straight from the pages of Punisher: Year One (a great but often over-looked tale by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, and Dale Eaglesham), and his slicked-back black hair and prominent widow's peak make him look exactly like the original illustrations by John Romita Sr and Ross Andru.

Stevenson's portrayal of an unstoppable mass murder is a believable one, this man looks and acts like he could kill anyone. Seriously, anyone. Even Robot Nixon. Becca didn't buy his emotional moments with the young girl in the movie, but it got me, who's familiar with the softer side of Frank Castle, hook, line and sinker. Still, his tough-guy deadpanned lines like "Sometimes I'd like to get my hands on God," are priceless pieces of movie cheese.

Dominic West's portrayal of Jigsaw is as over-the-top as any comic book villain put on film, but he was outshone by Doug Hutchison's performance as Jigsaw's brother, Loony Bin Jim. LBJ is an original character for the film, a cannibalistic psychopath that quite literally bounces off the walls. You may remember him as Tooms from a pair of classic X-Files episodes, and he's just as creepily crazy here. It would have been nice to see Jigsaw and LBJ play off each other with different forms of insanity, but the inclusion of LBJ in the story did help give Jigsaw moments of vulnerability that the character wouldn't have shown to anyone other than his dear brother.  

Good movie? Hell no. This isn't winning any awards whatsoever. But it is a good time and heavily true to the source material of a decade past.

Don't bother with the single disc version, its only features are that it includes both the widescreen and fullscreen versions, as well as the theatrical trailer. The 2-disc version may be hard to find (I had to hit two Best Buys on the day it came out to score a copy), but it features thirty-some minutes of behind the scenes footage, most of which is pretty good, and a director's commentary. Admittedly, I haven't listened to the commentary yet. There was some controversy between the director and the studio, so it could be pretty good... or it could be a boring wankfest like the vast majority of commentaries.
 
 
 
 
 
 
God I love punisher War Zone. It's a guilty little pleasure but it's really good in my mind. :)