Cover Art and Menu: 10/10
Whew….I thought I was gonna have to stop looking at DVD covers for a while. I am so sick of boring old covers with no pinash or style. Leave it to a comic book artist to bring some life back to the shelves of our DVD collection. With the iconic “pow” “bang” “splat” style that has become a comic book standard, this cover brings the real life folks of the movie tearing through like the Hulk on a bad night…literally. The cover is a very cool drawing of Mark Hamill, amongst others, as comic book characters busting through, um, something. With the likes of Stan Lee and Kevin Smith tagging along for the four color ride. We have a new display to show off the upcoming we are reviewing and this time I didn’t want to take it down. I love the artwork and the fact that they took the time to do the whole DVD with such style and amazing artwork scores big with me. The menus are just as colorful and intertwined with the movie. I’m so blubberingly happy about the cover I am hoping to find a movie poster to adorn the great halls of our humble home.
Extras & Features: 10/10
- Audio Commentary with Mark Hamill & Cast – Mark Hamill has completely redeemed me with Comic Book The Movie. I apologize if I have not been obsessed with him for the past 20 odd years like some of you might have been. I love Star Wars, it’s just that I am not a fan of most of his other work for one reason or another. I guess I have never found him as genuine or as passionate in any other project as he is in Comic Book The Movie. That is the theme of the review today boys and girls, Passion. Not the Ron Jeremy brand of passion..oh no, you can find reviews of that someplace else. This passion is for the love of something, anything, it can consume your senses and make you seem like an oddball to the rest of the world. But, as his commentary, and the rest of his participation in this movie show, this is a man with a mission. He wants to celebrate the passions fans have for comic books, dare I say, passion any fans have for what they truly love. You can hear it in his voice while he talks, which makes listening to the commentary that much more interesting.
- “Four Color Frenzy” – The Making of Comic Book: The Movie -Follow through the phases of how this movie got made and enjoy the ride. Interviews with various cast members as well as the friendly, and never sarcastic, celebs who jump the band wagon for this fun project. From the original idea, born on a plane ride to the gathering of the minds, this extra is as entertaining and intriguing as the movie itself.
- “Behind the Voices” Featurette with the Top Voices in Animation – Fantastic! It’s always wonderful to see the faces behind some of the most beloved voices I have heard coming from the world of animation. A panel of everyone from Sponge Bob Square Pants to our cherished announcer Gary Owens, these folks know how to put on a good show. Believe it or not, I don’t think they are putting on much of a show, it’s just them being themselves. Some of the most hyperactive, untamed, medicated, caffeinated folks you will see in a long time, they take can still take the time to be gracious and adoring of the fans who fill a conference room at Comic Con. They introduce each other for about a half an hour, and then do some fun stuff with stories and other big personality, AADD rattlings and so forth. At some point they slip into a Q & A session with the audience, which is brief, but interesting. These folks are priceless with their impersonations and the voices they have made so famous flying around like doves at a magician convention. It is a bit demystifying to see the voices of Pinky and the Brain come out of two middle aged men wearing jeans and t-shirts, but it’s very cool to say the least.
- Don Swan In-Depth with Kevin Smith – Don Swan is the character Mark Hamill plays in the film. Part of the story is Don Swan interviewing famous folks who may or may not be involved with the making of a Hollywood flick based on his favorite classic comic book character, Commander Courage. Don is passionate, to say the least, and he has a long discussion with Kevin Smith that includes a lot of Smith’s rye humor, Hamill’s enthusiasm for real life comic collecting and a few digs at the Hollywood movie making machine just for added fun. This is nearly 40 minutes of banter between the two which makes it more than just out takes from the film footage, but a pretty good interview in its own right. Even if it’s a mock interview.
- Commander Courage Radio Show – I did close my eyes and listen as if I were sitting beside the radio back in the, oh when was it before TV? 1970 or so..haha This is just a little bit of a script written to be what the Commander Courage radio would have sounded like back before the days of animation and comic books. Eh hem..Commander Courage is a fictional super hero made up for the movie people, just so you know. Some members of the beforementioned panel of voice artists do the brief but entertaining radio show that tells of the origin of Commander Courage.
- Stan Lee on Comic Book Movies – A really good dialogue from Stan Lee about the industry, the history of comic books, his take on Hollywood’s translations of comic to film, etc. Stan has a knack for being a great interviewer. Remember that word for the day? Passion. This is a guy who has not only sparked the hidden OCD in many collectors, but he seems to always have that gleem in his eye when he talks about the comic book industry, or the heart of it anyway. Gotta love a man who takes time to do a Kevin Smith movie (Mallrats) before Kevin Smith was the big fancy mogul of a writer director he is today.
- Don Swan’s Complete Bruce Campbell Interview – Another mock interview meant to get footage for the movie that goes above and beyond the call of duty. This is another almost 30 minutes of tit for tat between Bruce, king of the Evil Dead empire, and meek mild high school teacher played by Luke Skywalker….um, I mean Mark Hamill. Sorry I slipped to the dark side there for a minute. Campbell is hysterical and is a completely PASSIONATE guy when it comes to telling stories and making crowd pleasing flicks. He steps into the semi-fictional interview with a whole heart and you almost forget they are talking about something that does not exist.
- Hugh Hefner on Comics and Women – Absolutely fantastic. This was more than a mock interview. It is one of the best sit down sessions I have ever seen with Mr. Playboy. It’s almost an hour long and for most of it I think Mark Hamill is enamored with Hef as he discusses, in depth, the history and state of comic strips in his magazine and in our society as a whole. They start all the way back with Heffner’s feeling that having grown up in the 30’s, he “missed the party” of the 20’s and how that molded, at least in part, his desire to find a new party, so to speak. The conversation takes them through the first day that the new super hero who could lift cars was announced (that would be Superman) and up to today’s social and cultural awareness of sex, humor, and humanity as portrayed in modern entertainment and media. I have to say that Hamill seems to know his stuff. He rattled off names and dates and historic figures in the comic world that Heffner obviously knew personally and may even have had some part in their careers. They discuss the creation of the TV Batman series as it originated in the Playboy mansion, of all places, and the birth of Mad Magazine. It’s meant to be a whimsical interaction about a fictional comic book author, instead it is one of the best and most enthusiastic discussions I have heard from Heffner since his two hour special A&E Biography a few years ago. Not to mention I think I actually learned a few things. Jess Harnel, one of the starring faces of the movie, is also hysterical as the overly impressed camera man who begs to sleep on Hef’s couch and even clean bird doo-doo off the mansion just to get to stick around for a few more days.
- Deleted Scenes & Bloopers – No Play-All feature, which is not making me happy, but hey, it’s well presented and the scenes are just as excellent as the final cut of the movie. I felt like I didn’t want the movie to end, so these scenes gave me some extended life, just to keep me happy a while longer.
- Cast & Crew Biographies – I think we can all figure out what this is…right kids? It’s very cool to see the faces behind the voices, and in this section you can read the résumé’s of some of the most well known voices of the late 20th and 21st centuries.
Picture & Sound:
The movie was shot with hand held digital video cameras, it’s hard not to have a good picture by the time it gets to DVD. The only complaint, if you call it that, is that it’s full screen. I know it’s not everyone’s favorite thing to have the black bars top and bottom of the screen, but I’m one of those who does appreciate the wide screen format. I guess I should thank them for putting every bit of screen goodness of my 32 inch TV to use. So, thanks.
Sound is great, just don’t look for a big time surround sound experience. This is not a soundtrack laden or score driven movie with sound effects and little bits and bobs that will be floating out of your rear speakers just to please your little ears.
The Movie: 10/10
I think you can guess by now that I love this movie. It’s the story of a man who’s passion (there’s that word again), for comics has come to the point of him being considered an expert. He is called upon by a Hollywood film company to be an advisor to the film version of his obsessively favorite comic, Commander Courage. However, the powers that be are pushing for the more modern, more violent version of the hero who used to be all about honor and patriotism. Don Swan is a high school teacher whose hobby of comic book collection has lead him to own his own shop and now become the leading authority on Commander Courage.
He says at one point that he does not see things through rose colored glasses, but as the story goes, he does not even start out with a lot of respect from the film’s producers. He is summarily dismissed as an over zealous fan and as time goes on scrapes all the wrong people, all the wrong ways.
Swan and the producers go to Comic Con along with a documentary film crew of one hairy dude, and plan to make the film announcement to the adoring fans.
As the time draws near Swan knows his childhood hero is getting lost in the fray and has to put up or shut up to protect the values from a time when the world was more innocent and less jaded.
It all sounds kind of deep and highly political, but it’s done so well that the mockumentary style keeps you hooked while the talent of every single person on the cast keeps you entertained, second by second. The theme of the movie is all about acknowledging the people who pour their hearts and souls into things like their comic book heroes and how that cannot just be turned into a commodity at the whim of some greedy film producers hoping to cash in on a few burger tie-ins and DVD sales down the road.
With everything else going for it, this film is damn funny on top of it all. I laughed all the way through. It wasn’t the costumed fans at Comic Con with their winged maidens and full facial make up. These people have passion with a capital P that I could only hope to have for something in my life. What makes this movie so hilarious is the ad-libbing that is done interspersed with a loose script. The cast is ripe with energetic performers who take every scene and run with it to make it a blast to get lost in.
I will give serious credit where credit is due and say that Mark Hamill is now one of my film making heroes. It’s a bold format to make a film with, not to mention using the skills of voice actors, who are usually kept in sound booths for most of their natural lives. The look of the film is in your face honest and stark with footage from a real live convention floor jam packed with thousands of adoring comic book fans. It also has so much detail like the invented history comic books from the golden age of Commander Courage, the drawings by Hamill himself as visual snacks here and there for us to feast our eyes on, and the KID..oh yes, that kid.
At one point the small son of Swan’s partner is exhausted from a day of walking the beat of the comic book convention and his legs finally give out. He succumbs to “rag doll” syndrome, as those of us who have dealt with children know it as, and proceeds to let his parents drag him along gingerly as his feet and legs become useless. Unless you see it, you won’t know what I mean. I laughed so hard we had to pause the movie. He, the kid, also has a great line where he proclaims he will not open a new toy someone gives him because it will lower the collector’s value. Oh God, that’s funny stuff.
Speaking of funny stuff. There is a segment in the movie that features a comic book stall where some young men are selling their one and only comic book, Robots are Cool, Zombies are Jerks. Devin Quinn does his best to unwittingly play the part of snake oil salesman while he poetically bellows out his sales pitch to the crowd. With a few comments about being the American dream, the costly impact of Comic Con on the little comic guy, and his eventual surrender to the fact that people are not buying his book, this guy caught my attention. He is a real life conventioneer who brought his book to Comic Con to sell it right along side the bigger, more established titles. He just happened to get caught on film doing his best to keep his $1.75 book alive. Right after we watched all the extras, which included the full version of his speech to the crowd, I came to the computer and tried to buy his comic. I wrote to him directly and he was gracious enough to write back! Soon I will be the proud owner of a comic book about robots, zombies, muffins, talking frogs, and outer space. I’m not a comic book fan folks, but I love a man with passion…and Devin is just that. Check out Dead Fish Comics ASAP to get your own little slice of the Quinn & Company creativity. Hey, come on, it’s a buck and three quarters. We all have that much to spare to help make an American Dream come true!
So, to sum it all up. I loved this movie. I might have forgotten something along the way, but it’s all good. I’m a 36 year old woman who has never read beyond my weird fascination with Archie when it comes to comics, and yet this movie makes perfect sense to me way beyond the comic book theme. Some nostalgic things are not meant to be ripped apart, revamped, reworked, and repackaged for demographic purposes. Some things mean something more than the marketability of an action figure or a Happy Meal toy. A few things are meant to be believed in, not just bought and paid for.
Great value for the money on this one. We got nearly 5 hours of viewing out of this two disc babee..and that does not include the second viewing of the movie with the commentary. For around 20 dollars, (PLUS the $1.75 when you go to Dead Fish Comics to get their cool book) you are getting a ton of entertainment, great performances, not to mention it might just lift your spirits a bit.
Ok, let me get this straight….. First I like the cover, then I love the movie, the extras are great and now I think it’s a good value as well? Hmmm, I think they must have hypnotized me with clever comedy and some subliminal undertones, I never like the cover, the extras, the movie, AND the price!
Overall Score 10/10