Category Archives: DVD

The Best and Worst of DC Universe Animated Original Movies

General Rules

As promised, I am beginning my revisting of the superhero/comic-book genre by splitting things up into categories.  The easiest of the categories with the most substance has to be the work DC has done in animation between 2007 and now.  The key to these movies is that they are geared to the PG-13- or R-rated crowd versus family-friendly. For the purposes of these rankings, I am making the following caveats:

  • Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is excluded due to it being released in movie theaters first.  I will address it as part of the DC Theatrical Releases rankings.
  • While they were released in the 90s, I will include the direct-to-video Batman animated movies that preceded the bulk of what is known as the current DC Universe Animated Original Movies as par tof my evaluations.
  • The DC Showcase Original Shorts Collection will be included for evaluation since it was released on its own despite three of the shorts appearing as extra features on 3 of the main movies.
  • The following are excluded due to my rule of not having watched them yet:
    • Teen Titans: The Judas Contract
    • Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay
    • The Death of Superman
    • Reign of the Supermen
    • Justice League vs. the Fatal Five
    • Batman: Hush
    • Wonder Woman: Bloodlines
  • As much as I will try to avoid it, I do have a natural tendency to be biased for Batman, and biased against Superman.  It’s not that Supes is a bad character; it’s more of a case that he has been better served in these movies when shown as part of the Justice League versus his solo efforts.

Best of

When I think of the term “Best of”, I equate it to terms of quality and rewatchability.  Think of this list as the ones I would have with me on a desert island, with the others gone the way of the dodo.  Rather than ranking them 1 to x, I will simply list them in chronological release order.

Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker

This was DC’s first direct-to-video flirtation with a PG-13 or R rating.  The release was initially delayed due to concerns from WB about its dark nature.  Thankfully DC released a “director’s cut” a few years after Batman Beyond left the airwaves.  A solid story with great voicework that does veer into the darker side of Joker and Batman.

Justice League: The New Frontier

This was one of the first reviews I wrote regarding DC’s animated movies; click the title to read more detailed thoughts.  That said, I do wish DC would invest in doing other animated features similar to this in artwork and Silver Age stories.

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths

A good introduction to the Injustice League from a different Earth, as well as the concept of the Multiverse.  James Woods makes a good Owlman, and is easily the standout for this movie.

Batman: Under the Red Hood

An iconic Batman storyline adapted faithfully for animation.  This was the first attempt at adapting a lengthy storyline to animation since DC’s first attempt with Superman:Doomsday (read the Supes review to see how not to do it), and you can tell they learned from previous mistakes.  While Bruce Greenwood is not Kevin Conroy, he is still a good choice for the Dark Knight.

DC Showcase Original Shorts Collection

Headlined by the short Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam, DC wisely put this collection out so that people could enjoy the small stories that they had brought to life via animation.  My favorite is The Spectre, with some great vociework by Gary Cole.  The shorts for The Spectre and Jonah Hex are definitely more adult, but serve as morality tales.  The Green Arrow short helps lighten things up within the collection.

Batman: Year One

While the title leads you to believe it is about Batman’s introduction to Gotham City, it is most definitely Jim Gordon’s story, just as it was in the comics.  Between this and UTRH, you can tell DC is hitting its peak with quality in animation and story-telling.

Justice League: Doom

What I like about this movie is that it shows that Batman trusts no one and has contingency plans for dealing with all of the heroes, including himself.  While the team feels rightly betrayed, one can’t deny that Bats makes some solid points at the end.

Batman: Gotham by Gaslight

Based on one of the first Elseworlds graphic novels DC ever published, this turn-of-the-century take on Batman is enjoyabel for both Batman fans and Sherlock Holmes fans.  DC did a great job in bringing this story to life.

Honorable Mentions

While the following are good, I had to draw a line somewhere.  Here are some decent almost-made-its:  Wonder Woman; Green Lantern: First Flight; Green Lantern: Emerald Knights; Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox; and Justice League Dark.

Worst of

If “Best of” is evaluated in terms of story and rewatchability, then “Worst of” has to be those that DC seemed to rush into production or not really care about the quality of what was being produced.

Batman: The Mystery of the Batwomen

A forgettable feature set within the Batman: The Animated Series universe.  About the only thing I remember from it is the use of Kelly Ripa’s voice.  It has been several years since I watched this.

Superman: Doomsday

DC almost killed off this run with its first entry.  It has not held up well through the test of time and even caused to DC to revisit it by remaking it into The Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen.

Justice League: War

A case of DC trying to tie into the New 52 by adapting the first 6 issues of Justice League from that run.  It was a weak story in print, and even weaker in animation.

Batman: The Killing Joke

This was a tough selection.  While the animation quality is good and the voicework is superb, one cannot ignore other issues.  In order to flesh out the movie to be animated-feature-length, the storytellers decided to add in a controversial storyline revolving Batman and Batgirl.  While I am not a prude and one can see at times that there was some possiblity of romantic entanglements for the two, what was presented was done simply for additional shock value in a story that already dealt with possible rape and severe mental trauma.  While I am glad that I watched it and while there may be parts I appreciate, this is one storyline that should have remained in print and not been adapted.

“Dis”Honorable Mentions

After peaking with Batman: Year One, DC definitely spenty the next few years being the “McDonald’s” of animated features.  Crank’em out, regardless of quality, and people will consume them.  I am as guilty as everyone else for feeding this mentality.  A number of releases after the peak could have been on the “Worst of” list.  That said, it seems that quality is improving and maybe we will see a new renaissance.

Foul Play

foul playThe night I introduced Lisa to Hopscotch is also the same night that I introduced her to Foul Play.  You could say the theme of the night was action/comedies that have faded from view but are still enjoyable.  Since “Quint” had not reviewed this one, I can talk more about the movie.

I have always mentioned how my parents, Mom in particular, have influenced my movie watching over the years.  There was a brief time in 1980 where I overdosed on movies due to the apartment we were living in at the time having HBO.  During that year, I caught up on James Bond, watched Grease way more than I should have, and watched movies my parents wanted to see.  Goldie Hawn was a favorite of both parents, so it was no surprise that they would watch a movie of hers when given the chance.  This was also the time frame that they started letting me watch more mature movies, where death occurred and certain situations were shown onscreen.  For the most part, I never realized those were there until I was older.

Foul Play is your typical tale of a person caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Goldie Hawn plays a newly single woman (never sure if it was a divorce or just a bad breakup, not that it matters) who is attending the engagement party of a friend.  She avoids being “picked up” by a clumsy stranger played by Chevy Chase.  As she drives home, she picks up a stranded motorist named Scotty.  From here, the story turns from a potential romantic comedy to a murder mystery that has Hawn reacting to upsetting events left and right.  That clumsy stranger played by Chase ends up being the police detective assigned to her case, and predictably, but gladly, becomes her romantic interest.

What makes this movie work is its cast.  Hawn is often portrayed as the ditzy blonde; here she is simply a caring woman reacting to all of the wackiness around her.  If this role were recast as a male today, it would easily go to Jason Bateman.  Chase used this movie to launch himself away from Saturday Night Live; his cockiness and smarm fits well with his character.  Amazingly, though, Chase does a good job of dropping the wisecracks and demonstrating genuine concern when needed.  Burgess Meredith turns in a great comedic turn as Hawn’s landlord and protector.  Brian Dennehy as Chase’s partner does the heavy lifting for the tough guy side of things.  What I always think of when I think about this movie, though, is Dudley Moore’s performance.  While he only has three scenes, those scenes are classic Moore.

My advice:  Pop this in the next time you have a date night where you are looking for something with a little more than the typical romantic comedy – and look for the scene where grandmothers play a form of Scrabble you would not expect…



One of the disadvantages to having a movie habit like mine is that you have to have a job that pays for said habit.  Periodically my job requires me to be available in off-hours, limiting my social options for that time frame.  Thankfully, I had a friend recently offer to cook me dinner and watch a couple of movies on DVD while I was tethered to my computer.  At the same time, “Quint” from Ain’t It Cool News was reviving his “A Movie A Day” column and wrote an interesting piece on a movie that I had in my collection, The Criterion Collection version of Hopscotch.  I wish I could say I could top Quint’s review, but sadly I cannot.  Here is a link to it for you to read after you finish this piece (there is strong language in his review): .

I remember when I first got this DVD.  It was in 2008 and was a free selection from a promotion that I do not remember.  I do remember being the most intrigued by it out of all of the other choices.  The fact that it was part of the Criterion Collection helped convince me.  For those not familiar with Criterion Collection, these are DVD and Blu-Ray releases that have been selected by an independent process to highlight story, visuals, and other examples of movie-making.  Most choices tend to be art-house movies or foreign films, but there are some more mainstream choices available.

Lisa had not seen this movie as it was not something she would have normally picked.  I chose it as one of the movies I would share with her in return for dinner.  So we settled in with some jambalaya and set our time machines back to 1980.

Walter Matthau plays our hero, a spy nearing the end of his years in the field.  He has spent years in Europe working against the KGB to further the American Way.  After completing a mission, Matthau finds himself benched by his pompous boss, played to perfection by Ned Beatty.  Matthau responds by doing what we have all wanted to do to our bosses at some point: give him his comeuppance.  Throw in a young Sam Waterston (Law and Order) and Glenda Jackson, and you have yourself the makings of a cast made to take advantage of the story.

Having seen it before and owning it, I obviously enjoyed it.  Lisa found it ok, but did remark that the pacing was slower than expected.  I would agree with her that the pacing is slow, but it is not a detriment to the movie.  Instead it allows the viewer to enjoy the setup of each scene and the performances contained in each one.

My advice:  Give this one a try if you are looking for a comedic look at the spy world that does not lampoon it like Austin Powers – if anything, it is a good reminder of how much the world has changed in 33 years…

Mickey Donald Goofy: The Three Musketeers

When Disney announced in the mid-90s that they were going to start making direct-to-video animation releases, I was not a happy camper.  I felt that the very idea cheapened what the Disney name brought to the field of animation.  Of course it did not help that 99% of these releases were going to be sequels to timeless classics.  That went against what Walt always talked about, which was there should be no animated sequel except for Fantasia.  That said, there are always exceptions.

The Three Musketeers is a familiar tale, and in my opinion, should be required reading for 4-6 graders.  While many versions have been seen on film and TV, none have featured the core characters of Mickey, Donald, and Goofy.  The nice aspect of our story is that our heroes are inspired by D’Artagan and his pals versus actually playing those roles.  Mickey  and his pals are rescued as kids by the real musketeers and are inspired to try to become musketeers.  Blocking their progress is our favorite Mickey foil, Pete.  Hijinks ensue as we welcome other favorites such as Minnie, Daisy, and Clarabelle; even Pluto is there to help out.  Our guide through the story is a turtle who evokes memories of the Allan A’Dale character from Robin Hood.

The truly imaginative part of the feature is the pairing of lyrics to some of the greatest pieces of classical music.  These lyrics help stitch together our scenes, as well as help bring the environment to full color.  I also enjoyed the fact that all of the originals were gathered together for this feature.

The DVD had the typical Disney features for kids.

My advice:  Check this out sometime, even if you don’t have kids…

Beverly Hills Cop 3

With any Halloween marathon, you need at least one scary movie; thus we have the final chapter of the Beverly Hills Cop trilogy.  Cop 3 came out 7 years after Cop 2 and eliminated half of the original cast.  The story has Murphy tracking down his boss’s killer to LA and invading a theme park.

I get what they were trying to do from a broad perspective: BHC showed a cop just starting out and making rash decisions; Cop 2 showed some maturity in some of the actions; and Cop 3 would show how he had fully matured and could lead a whole team.  Unfortunately, Eddie Murphy was no longer believable as Axel Foley.  BHC gave him an “everyman” look that matched his character; however the looks in 2 and 3 have shown an actor enjoying success when his character shouldn’t be that slick.  Combine this with jokes that do not work and yet another new director and it becomes painfully obvious that what made BHC work was a combo of director, cast, writer, and producers that needed to remain the same.  You can tell that Paramount does not think much of 3 either since there is only one featurette.  I did think it was interesting that the interviewees knew they had a shaky product based on their answers.

There is a rumor that Cop 4 is being shopped around/developed.  I hope this rumor is false.  Paramount needs to let the series remain “finished” and be satisfied with one great classic.

My advice:  See it only if you are bored or want to do your own comparison – if you hate it, you can’t say I didn’t warn you….