Justice League Dark: Apokolips War Review

Magic can be such a bitch.. – John Constantine

So here we are, the final film in the DCAU series that started with Flashpoint Paradox, challenged for the Throne of Atlantis, dealt with some Bad Blood, survived a Judas contract and went through a Reign of Supermen is here in Justice League Dark: Apokolips War. Its been 7 years and 15 films in the series building to this epic finale and I promise you this film is EPIC!!

There will be no spoilers in this review because I think you need to watch this film, so just a quick synopsis of where we’re at, Darkseid is coming, his plan to take over the universe is in full affect and his parademons have been upgraded! The Justice League with help from all their new members including John Constantine are planning an all out attack on War World to end Darkseid’s reign of terror for good, but are they jumping in at the deep end without a rope and what happens when you attack someone who knows every move you’re about to make…..

So this being a Justice League Dark movie this doesn’t exactly focus on the main Justice League as such, like the first Justice League Dark movie (find our recap of that movie here) Constantine is the main character for this movie once again voiced by the amazing Matt Ryan reprising his role from previous films and of course playing Constantine in the Arrowverse’s Legends of Tomorrow, Matt just gets this character and you can tell he enjoys every minute of it and in these films there’s always a little more crazy magic than you can expect on a TV show and he just revels in it, along with Constantine is Etrigan The Demon and Zatanna as expected in the magical realm of the JLA Dark but due to enormity of the challenge they face they are joined by a whole slew of other characters from across the DC Universe, that’s one thing I really love about these films, you get to see how all these different characters that you wouldn’t normally put together interact with each other. Things happen in this film that blew me away, totally came out of left field and floored me, I had no idea what was going to happen next and that’s what made me love it.

The voice acting in this as usual is phenomenal I’ve already mention Matt Ryan as Constantine but others reprise their roles like Jerry O’Connel as Superman, Rosario Dawson as Wonder Woman, Jason O’Mara as Batman and of course Tony Todd as Darkseid, who already has DC cred as the voice of Zoom in The CWs The Flash. But that’s not all of the heavy hitters you have Nathan Fillion, Rainn Wilson, Rebecca Romijn and Sean Astin to name a few, this film is stacked with star voice power and they all do it so very well. Also shout-out to John DiMaggio as King Shark who is a shark…

If you’re like me and you’ve kept up with this film series you’ll know how amazing they’ve been and how DC and Warner Bros have just been knocking them out the park and this film is no different, the level of insanity is ramped up so much that so many times while watching this i kept saying ‘Holy crap!!!’ I loved every minute of it. So m I happy with this finale? Absolutely! it was a suitably epic finish to an incredible story and journey! Am I happy its over? No I wish they could continue this universe but I get they want to go to different places, do different things and I’m all for that too, as long as DC and WB keep making animated movies I’m going to keep enjoying each and every one!

Justice League Dark: Apokolips War is out now to own on Digital and on Blu-ray/DVD on Monday (18th May) Pre-Order here at Warner Bros Store UK

 

 

An Interview With Fernando Argüelles

In another of our ‘Interview With’ series, Steve was lucky enough to chat to Fernando Argüelles, the incredibly talented Director of Photography who has worked on many amazing tv shows including Grimm, Hemlock Grove, Prison Break and more recently DC’s own Swamp Thing! Such a great show that not only was a great story but looked absolutely stunning and that is where Fernando Argüelles comes in….

Steve: Hello Fernando, thank you for taking the time to chat with us, we’re huge fans of Swamp Thing and your work on the show is exceptional! Our readers would love to know more about you and your work, so feel free to expand on any of the questions below 🙂 For you what are some of your standout moments from the show?

Fernando: There were two moments: The first time I saw the swamps being built on the set, and the first time I saw the Swamp Thing character. The suit was fantastic and realistic… In those moments, I was certain we were going to produce a great looking show.

Steve: What do you feel a good cinematographer contributes to a finished film/TV show?

Fernando: A cinematographer offers an essential contribution for the look of a finished show. From the moment the cinematographer receives the first script in pre- production, he/she starts to interpret the words into images. From there, these images and ideas begin to evolve through collaborative conversations with the director, production designer and creators. As the creative vision unfolds, we begin to delve into lighting choices & design, selection of cameras, lenses, cranes, dollies, filters, etc. Many of these decisions are made based on locations, so it is crucial to imagine how lighting and equipment might be affected or manipulated per location or sound stage.

Next comes fine tuning and collaboration with the director during production. A cinematographer will often make tweaks with the director on the spot… often we find those “light bulb” moments when we are fully immersed in the process.

Once we reach post production and the show is locked, we ready for color correction. For me, this is a very important part of the equation, and the Director of Photography plays a very important role.

Steve: How much responsibility or pressure do you feel to bring the director’s vision to life?

Fernando: The pressure is very high of course… everything that has been discussed in preproduction has to then be made into a reality. You have to be flexible enough to anticipate & make changes on the fly if needed, yet, the trick is to do so without losing the integrity of the look. This intensifies more in TV because we often have a different director for each episode, unlike features where the same director is part of the vision from start to finish. In television, guest directors come to the table with their own perspectives; the challenge in this is that it may differ from the way the show has been shot in previous episodes. In this situation, a cinematographer must respect both the new vision of the director as well as the integrity and look of the show as a whole.

Steve: You’ve done quite a lot of action shows, and with Swamp Thing and Grimm, a fair amount of fantasy/horror. are you a fan of the genre?

Fernando: Yeah …. My first fantastic/horror/fantasy show was actually “Hemlock Grove” for Netflix, I like fantasy and surrealism. “Hemlock” was my introduction to the genre … and as long as there is a significant point and statement, as in the case of The Swamp, I am all in. I felt connected to the message & the implicit moral importance of protecting the environment.

I also find that fantasy shows offer a lot of room for visual creation; there is a surreal element that gives a tremendous platform to be imaginative and creative. My mind thrives in a space where creative freedom can evolve.

Steve: Are you a comic fan and if so which ones?

Fernando: I love some comics… I remember reading a lot of them back in Spain when I was very young. I believe I had gotten my hands on Red Ryder a bit before my time, but loved it! Later, I discovered Spiderman, Batman, Thor and Swamp Thing.

I have always had a certain fascination with movies about jungles, forests and swamps. I love I Walked With a Zombie, directed by Jacques Tourner, released in 1943; the excellent cinematography by J. Roy Hunt, ASC features deep shadows and high-contrast photography. With Swamp Thing, I saw the possibility of doing a series set in modern times with visual aesthetics that could be a bit old- fashioned. It promised to be both an adventure and a great creative opportunity.

Steve: Who are your inspirations?

Fernando: Everything that Art has produced in the last 2019 years and before, from the Paleolithic paintings of the Altamira caves to Picasso. Movies, paintings, sculptures, architecture, design, etc., I take inspiration from everything I see that I consider artistic and interesting.

In terms of cinematographers, Carlo Muntuori, Gregg Toland, Luis Cuadrado, Gianni di Vennanzo, Karl Freund, Gordon Willis, Raoul Coutard, Roger Deakins, and many more. Gregg Toland was a genius of composition with wide angel lenses, his b&w cinematography was brilliant & his framing was superb. Gianni de Venanzo was one of the leading cinematographers of Italian neo- realism, working with such director’s as: Federico Fellini and Michelangelo Antonioni. Raoul Coutard was the cinematographer of the “nouvelle vague” in new French cinema of the 60’s. Godron Willis who “The Godfather”, was one of the best American cinematographers, and Roger Deakins is responsible for some of the best visual films of the decade.

Steve: Which recent films have impressed you, in terms of cinematography?

Fernando: Blade Runner 2049, Ex Machina, Sicario, Phantom Thread; Ex machina has an exquisite framing coupled with a lighting style that really transports us to a different time and space… we find ourselves in a robot reality that feels somehow quite natural and non-contrived. The subtlety of the style is what makes it truly spectacular.

Blader Runner 2049 is a highly stylized visual movie, wherein a unique world is created, the production design and photography are very special.

Steve: With Swamp Thing now over, though we hope it still has life somewhere else, whats your next project?

Fernando: At present I am in Edinburgh, Scotland, believe or not, doing a romantic comedy after Swamp Thing …. Hahaha, quite a change!

Steve: Haha quite a change indeed, thank you for chatting to us and letting our readers get to know a little more about you!

Once again thank you so much to Fernando Argüelles for taking the time out of his busy schedule to chat to us here at Earth9, we are massive fans of his work and are very much looking forward to seeing his next projects, so be sure to head over to fernandoarguelles.net and Instagram to keep up to date with all of his projects!

Earth-9 Podcast – Ep9

We are back!! Its been a crazy couple of months for Jim and Rob but they are back in the swing and we will be back with you regularly!!
This week we talk all the info coming out of SDCC and our own experiences at this years LFCC, with a comic recommendation and results from our twitter question, so come and stop by!

         

Swamp Thing – S1 Ep10 – Loose Ends Review

Director: Deran Sarafian

Writers: Rob fresco, Erin Maher and Kay Reindl

Starring: Crystal Reed, Derek Mears, Andy Bean, Will Patton, Jennifer Beals, Kevin Durand, Henderson Wade, Jeryl Prescott, Virginia Madsen, Maria Sten, Ian Ziering, Selena Anduze, Given Sharp, Al Mitchell, Michael Beach, Jake Busey and David Kallaway

So that’s it… it’s all over. I’m so happy that this series got made, but sad that it was taken away, far too soon. Not only has this been one of the very finest comic-book adaptations I’ve ever seen, it’s one of the best TV productions, in terms of quality, passion and performance, that I believe has ever been committed to screen.

From the very first episode this show has delivered horror, worthy of being seen in theatres and given the full IMAX and THX surround sound treatment. Swamp Thing’s cast have given performances that deserve globes, masks and statuettes galore. This is the kind of TV that proves comic-books, and fantasy/horror/sci-fi have all well and truly come of age.

The Future’s Not Set

The title “Loose Ends” is very fitting, not just as a tribute to the comics’ source material, but because there’s still so much story left to tell. The show does get a somewhat satisfying ending, but the mysteries, machinations and monsters that started the whole story rolling are still out there, and need to be addressed. Rather brilliantly the show feels more like an opening chapter, or prologue for what is yet to come.

Let’s not forget that the Swamp Thing comic book series was initially cancelled after just 24 issues, only 13 of which were written, and 10 drawn by the character’s creators, Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson. Volume Two, Saga Of The Swamp Thing was close to being shut down too and was only saved by writer Alan Moore, who was brought on with issue 20 – also titled “Loose Ends.” Moore’s 50 issue run (49 regular and one annual) not only changed the character forever, but all of comics too.

Since that time the series has been cancelled and brought back many times, proving that you can’t keep a good monster down. Who’s to say that this show may not come back one day too?

Fan Power

The power of fandom is immense. The show Lucifer was cancelled, but was given two more seasons on Netflix, thanks to fan support. The legendary Firefly was cancelled after one joyous, masterful series, but came back as a full length theatrical feature film, with Serenity.

The Swamp Thing season and series finale contains all the scares, thrills, visual excellence and powerhouse performances that one has come to expect over the last ten weeks. Crystal Reed and Derek Mears have shone throughout. Will Patton, Virginia Madsen, Maria Sten, Jennifer Beals and Henderson Wade have been far more than supporting characters, they’ve been real people throughout. Even the guest stars, DC Comics’ supernatural heroes like Blue Devil, Madame Xanadu and the Phantom Stranger have all been given seriously great screen time.

Andy Bean’s Alec Holland received a fond farewell, and Kevin Durand as Jason Woodrue had a hunger for knowledge that went straight to heart of the matter; proving that sometimes you really are what you eat!

Swamp Things

Yes, some loose ends have been left dangling, but in a way that leaves the audience hopeful. Certain characters receive their just desserts, and others get to see their dreams come true… sort of.

With this episode, just like with summer blockbusters, don’t switch off when the titles start rolling, make sure you stay on right to the end. Trust me, you’ll receive a great big bunch of flowers as a thank you. Well… you’ll get something floronic.

Conclusion

For the last three and a half months the DC Universe service has given us one of the finest examples of horror ever to grace the screen. In this episode we saw a Devil released, flowers bloom, one mother made whole while another was made holey. We’ve seen the Swamp Thing unleash his true power and form a partnership for the ages. The seeds of love have borne strange, but ultimately beautiful, fruit.

While some may paint themselves as heroes and saviours, all the while they are being consumed by the darkness within. Others may look like monsters on the outside, but are beautiful inside… where it really counts.

Alan Moore once wrote, “In the heart of darkness, a flower blossoms, enriching the shadows with its promise of hope… in the fields of light, an adder coils, and the radiant tranquility is lent savor by its sinister presence. Right and wrong, black and white, good and evil… all my existence I have looked to one or the other, fully embracing neither one… never before have I understood how much they depend on each other.”

That, in a nutshell, is what this series has taught us. I’m hopeful that the the lesson isn’t fully over, just yet.

Swamp Thing – S1 Ep9 – The Anatomy Lesson Review

Director: Michael Goi

Writer: Noah Griffith, Daniel Stewart & Mark Verheiden

Starring: Crystal Reed, Will Patton, Derek Mears, Maria Sten, Ian Ziering, Virginia Madsen, Henderson Wade, Kevin Durand, Selena Anduze, Al Mitchell, Macon Blair and Jason Davis

The way episode 8 ended, I had a feeling about where this chapter would take us, and what it might be called. It’s so nice being right. “The Anatomy Lesson” does a fine job of translating one of the greatest comic-book stories of all time to live action.

The plot by Noah Griffith and Daniel Stewart, with a taut, suspense-filled script by Mark Verheiden, manages to combine the vintage re-telling of Swamp Thing’s origin from Saga Of The Swamp Thing #21 (also called “The Anatomy Lesson”), issue #28 (“The Burial”), the first hints at Matt Cable’s fate from issues #26 and #27 (“A Time Of Running” and “By Demons Driven). This instalment also finally gives us the live action Blue Devil that fans have been clamouring for, since the first trailers for the show aired.

Yep. To say that this episode is jam-packed is an understatement.

The Kid’s Got Heart

The horror aspects of the series are extremely prevalent this week, as this episode is even more graphic than the source material. The way Woodrue performs what should’ve been an autopsy on a wide awake Swamp Thing is as chilling as Blue Devil’s handling of the trigger-happy thugs at the Sunderland medical facility. That dude’s on fire!

Derek Mears impressed the heck out of me this week. His anguish and torment, both physical on the operating table, as well as emotional throughout the episode, were palpable. To deliver that much range and emotion through that much make-up, blood red contact lenses and a ton of prosthetics never ceases to amaze.

Ian Ziering’s transformation into the Blue Devil is – quite literally – killer. The enigmatic Stranger’s prophecies bear fruit in this chapter, and a hot-headed supernatural hero for the ages finally receives the live-action treatment… with action being the operative phrase.

Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves

Of course Crystal Reed delivers another great performance this week, but her best friend and partner in crime, the brilliant Maria Sten as Liz Tremayne, shows us true girl power too. This series has some incredibly strong, and real, female characters, both on the side of the angels and as villains. Virginia Madsen’s Maria Sunderland gets a surprise visit from Avery this week, and to say that she’s committed to the relationship can be taken in many different ways.

Selena Anduze has been giving us some heartbreaking and subtle performances for weeks now. Her portrayal of Dr. Caroline Woodrue has been delicately and beautifully handled. Having seen what Alzheimer’s does to a loved one first hand, her character both breaks my heart and makes me respect her as an actress.

Conclusion

I don’t know where the time’s gone. Next week will give us the final episode of this masterful show, and it looks like it’ll be crammed full of even more yummy goodness than this one was. The evil of the swamp, the final fates of Matthew Cable and Jason Woodrue still need to be addressed, and those are stories that may feel rushed if they only have an hour devoted to them.

Having said that, this episode was crammed to the gills, but was an absolute joy to watch. I will continue to have faith in the talented cast and crew that bring us the Swamp Thing’s adventures.

In the words of ol’ blue eyes, “And now, the end is near…” The DC Universe really is doing it their way.