Justice League: New Frontier
Justice League: The New Frontier on Blu-ray

by Johnny Bray

It's no secret that, with the exception of Batman and Superman, DC Comics' slate of superheroes is not as popular (or cool) as Marvel's.

In fact, the aforementioned do-gooders are arguably the only DC characters to have been given decent big-screen, live-action movies.

Now, with a Justice League movie stuck in a stop-and-go situation, fans will have to make due with The New Frontier, a direct-to-disc animated original movie. In the same, ahem.league as The Ultimate Avengers, New Frontier does an admirable job of simultaneously introducing us to the characters (many of whom most of us might not know) and the impending threat to global existence.

Basically, there's a great big island that wants to devour/destroy all life on Earth. Pretty standard stuff, really. Meanwhile, the world's superheroes are clashing with the U.S. government for reasons I must have missed somewhere. Fortunately, such details are moot. We're watching this little movie because we want to see a bunch of dudes (and dudettes) with cool powers get together and save the world. And save the world they do.

New Frontier's greatest asset, in my (humble?) opinion, is that it doesn't give the more famous heroes the limelight. We'd go so far as to say that Batman and Superman could have been completely excised from the film and, despite a shorter runtime, very little would have changed. As a result, I now have respect for characters such as The Flash and The Green Lantern, whereas I never previously found them interesting in the least.

Even the voice talent is surprisingly effective. When you see the list of names, you assume it's one of those "trying too hard to appeal to a demographic" situations, but they all do a pretty good job. Plus, anything that features Neil Patrick Harris is automatically a little bit cool.

At a brisk 75 minutes, the whole thing moves along pretty quickly. Less a complaint and more an observation, it's quite obvious how much was cut out. There's a mention of John Henry, which is obviously some dramatic racial interlude, but in the film it's merely uttered and forgotten. Many of the characters who show up for the climax are just sort of.there. I'd never seen or heard of them before, but there they were all ready to help out. What swell fellows. And I'm sure there had to have been some sort of introduction for the Monster Island. As it stands, it, much like half the Justice League, just sort of shows up.

But hey, if you're looking for complete closure in an animated super hero movie, you have a lot of looking ahead of you. The point is, I'm a comic book fan, but not a DC comic book fan. Despite that, I really enjoyed The New Frontier and might not be so quick to scoff at the DC Universe in general from now on.

The Blu-ray presentation is solid. Admittedly, I haven't seen enough animated fare on the format to really be a pro yet, but I compared Justice League to The Simpsons Movie and liked the former better. Whereas The Simpsons Movie looks good, there's something about it that doesn't seem impressive. New Frontier, however, has great color and lacks the slight grainy touch of The Simpsons. The audio, available in regular Dolby Digital or TrueHD 5.1, is perfectly crisp and makes good use of the surrounds.

Perhaps to compensate for the short runtime, the disc features a better boatload of bonuses than many more deserving flicks. There are two audio commentaries, one by the filmmakers and the other by original graphic novel creator Darwyn Cooke, a 10-minute featurette, and three (kinda lame) Justice League Episodes. The real meat, though, is the pair of documentaries: "Super Heroes United!" chronicles the history of the Justice League (informative for former non-fans such as myself), while "The Legion of Doom" examines comic book villains and their connection to real-life.

All around, an admirable Blu-ray endeavor.

Justice League: The New Frontier, from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
75 minutes, 1080p 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, Dolby TrueHD or Digital 5.1

Kung Fu HustleKung Fu Hustle on Blu-ray

by Johnny Bray

Kung Fu Hustle manages to be completely awesome while being almost completely silly.

It's a brilliant film with infinite rewatchability thanks to its many, diverse charms.

Director (and star, and co-writer) Stephen Chow plays Sing, a guy who wants to be part of the infamous Axe Gang and who will do almost anything to do it. The plot takes elements from several genres and interweaves them flawlessly into a funny, action-packed romp that few wouldn't love.

Did we mention it's almost completely silly? Oh, sorry.

Anyhoo, despite its inherent silliness, there are also several beautifully shot and choreographed action sequences. The ideas of the writers crossed with the choreography of Yuen Wo Ping (the guy who did all those other awesome movies) makes for some very creative fights.

Possibly the finest moment, however, is the Looney Tunes-esque chase sequence. You really have to see it to appreciate the genius of it.

We could gush all day about how utterly enjoyable Kung Fu Hustle is, but it wouldn't do it justice. Buy it, rent it, whatever. You needn't be concerned with not getting your money's worth.

Now on Blu-ray, Kung Fu Hustle was one of the titles we were a little worried about because of its excessively mediocre DVD presentation. However, as a result of our reservations, it now ranks as the most pleasant surprise we've had with the format thus far. The picture quality is stunning, with amazing detail and shading. Even the special effects look more seamlessly integrated. The audio improves the overall separation a little bit, but doesn't really change much.

The collection of extras is identical to that of the DVD incarnation, and yes, still in standard definition. It includes an audio commentary, behind-the-scenes footage, deleted scenes & outtakes, and an interview with Stephen Chow.

A worthy addition to the Blu-ray camp.

Kung Fu Hustle, from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

99 minutes, 1080p 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen, Chinese Uncompressed PCM 5.1 or English Dolby Digital 5.1
Starring Stephen Chow
Produced and directed by Stephen Chow

Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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