Animation I: Hellboy: Sword of Stones; Open Season; Avatar – Book 2: Earth, Volume 1

Sword of Stroms Box ArtAnimation freaks will be pleased by the amount of quality DVD releases to hit stores over the last few weeks. This week's Hellboy: Sword of Stones; last week's Open Season, and Avatar – Book 2: Earth, Volume 1 are all terrifically entertaining works that will appeal to fans of all ages. CLICK THIS LINK TO SUBSCRIBE TO EMTV, OUR iTUNES VIDEO PODCAST!!

Sword of Storms Box Art

Hellboy: Sword of Storms

In his latest incarnation, Mike Mignola's Hellboy has become even more animated than usual – though he remains, in essence, a twelve-year old boy in a hulking, red demonic body. The character [voiced by Ron Perlman] may be, basically, the same, but there are differences from the version in Guillermo Del Toro's hit movie.

The relationship between Hellboy and Liz [voiced by Selma Blair] is more or less a purely professional one [Liz actually seems to be better friends with Abe Sapien – who's voiced by Doug Jones here]. Professor Bruttenholm [John Hurt] may have died in the movie, but he's very much alive and kicking [or at least directing traffic] here. And Agent Myers is nowhere to be seen…

The Sword of Storms plot revolves around a pair of doomed Japanese lovers, a Lovecraftian take on dragons, and Hellboy's living through a series of Japanese folk tales [mostly gruesome in nature] in a manner that suggests an Asian take on the twelve tasks of Hercules – though there are fewer tasks here, the mythic nature of his adventures is pretty obvious.

Beyond those few lines, I refuse to divulge any plot points because this little animated film is such fun that I wouldn't want to give away anything. It deserves to be seen with completely fresh eyes. I can tell you that the writing is as sharp and crisp as the of Mignola's comics issues and, perhaps, even more pure fun than the excellent live-action film.

Features include: a remarkably candid commentary with Mike Mignola, Director Tad Stones and Director Phil Weinstein [they are quick to point out areas where they think the film could have been better, and point out its flaws, as well as talk up the good stuff]; To Hell and Back – how Mike Mignola created Hellboy; A New Breed – the creation of the animated version of Hellboy; Conquering Hellboy – the actor's role in making the film, and the job of adapting to a new medium; A View From The Top – a closer look at a key sequence from the movie; Keepers of Hellboy – a ComicCon 2007 panel discussion featuring most of the creative team; Hellboy Goes East: how Hellboy went to Japan, and why he encountered the things he did; DVD-ROM: weblinks, storyboards and more; plus a thirty-two page Dark Horse Hellboy mini-comic.

Hellboy: Sword of Storms – Grade: A

Features – Grade: A+

Final Grade: A

Open Season Box Art

Open Season

Open Season is a strange beastie, indeed. Based on the daily comic panel, In The Bleachers, the movie takes some of the recurring characters from the panel [the one-antlered mule deer, for example] and weaves a story of rebellion against human hunters around them. By making one of the leads a grizzly bear [Boog, voiced by Martin Lawrence] who has been raised in captivity by a park ranger [Debra Messing] who should've known better, and one a mule deer [Elliott, voiced by Ashton Kutcher] who's been recently run over by an unscrupulous hunter [Gary Sinise], the film's writers [Steve Moore and John Carls, story; Steve Bencich & Ron J. Friedman & Nat Mauldin, screenplay] give us two opposing perspectives: one of naivet

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