The Killing Joke Review

Two Opinions I hold about the Dark Knight

Opinion the first: My favorite Batman is Adam West. With the immortal line “Hand me down the shark repellent bat spray” never failing to me me smile.

Opinion the second: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is the best Batman movie of all time. The voice acting, the music, the plot, the voice acting, the complexity, I really truly do love this film and cannot urge you enough to see this film if you haven’t already done so.

Because there was something about The Killing Joke that just didn’t click for me.

And believe me, this should have clicked big time. I love Bruce Timm’s take on the Batman mythos. Mark Hamil and Kevin Conroy are amazing voice actors who know their characters inside and out- Hell this is the team that made Batman: The Animated  Series which is arguably the greatest animated series of all time!

Its also based on the graphic novel written by the Alan Moore, who wrote not only The Watchmen, but V for vendetta as well as working for Marvel, DC and 2000AD over here in the UK.

Why then, with this much talent and money behind it was my reaction merely lukewarm?

Well, the pacing is really bad. The first 28 minutes of this 76 minute film is basically a prologue that could so easily have been cut to ten or even five minutes as it has very little impact on the actual story that I paid my money to go and see.

Which means that the central ideas- can one bad day change a mans life for good or ill, are Batman and The Joker really two sides of the same coin condemned to eternal war or can there be peace? Hell, even The Jokers possible origin story feels slightly rushed.

And, at the risk of sounding slightly ghoulish, the torture that Commissioner Gordon (a miscast Ray Wise) goes through doesn’t really seem to be that extreme, and again, there are good ideas here- watching what happens to his daughter, his support for Batman’s methods even though they show complete disregard for the law that he’s sworn to uphold that are barely even scratched.

About the only thing that does work is a random song that gets stuck in there for good measure, comes out of no-where and is the most cartoony part of the film. But, it features some of the most striking images of the film. Alas though, it’s also over too soon.

Strip down the prologue, allow the ideas to breathe and this could have been the classic that it so clearly wants to be. As is?

My Score- If Nothing Else

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Zootopia/ Zootropolis Review

Cast-

Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Ginnifer Goodwin Ginnifer Goodwin
Judy Hopps (voice)
Jason Bateman Jason Bateman
Nick Wilde (voice)
Idris Elba Idris Elba
Chief Bogo (voice)
Jenny Slate Jenny Slate
Bellwether (voice)
Nate Torrence Nate Torrence
Clawhauser (voice)
Bonnie Hunt Bonnie Hunt
Bonnie Hopps (voice)
Don Lake Don Lake
Stu Hopps (voice)
Tommy Chong Tommy Chong
Yax (voice)
J.K. Simmons J.K. Simmons
Mayor Lionheart (voice)
Octavia Spencer Octavia Spencer
Mrs. Otterton (voice)
Alan Tudyk Alan Tudyk
Duke Weaselton (voice)
Shakira Shakira
Gazelle (voice)

Plot- In a city of anthropomorphic animals, a rookie bunny cop and a cynical con artist fox must work together to uncover a conspiracy.

Review- Just because a film has gotten rave reviews across the pond doesn’t mean i’m going to give it 5 stars.

And so what if its in IMDB’s top 250, so was Snakes in a Plane for a short time. (Don’t judge us, it was a different time.)

No, what makes this an amazing time is the sheer amount of time, effort and ingenuity that has gone into this.

Seriously. Not only is this pretty much the only original big-budget film that’s due out this year, its funny, adventurous, exciting, touching and has an incredibly timely moral. The film follows a rookie bunny cop (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) who teams up with a smooth-talking fox (voiced by Jason Bateman) in order to solve a rash of kidnappings.

What follows is a slightly deeper film than you would normally expect for this genre and at times is almost ‘babys first film-noir’ whilst moving fast enough to ensure that the darker moments shouldn’t upset any of younger viewers.

I came out elated, excited, desperate for a sequel/tv series and with one burning question

What exactly do the predators eat in this city?

No, seriously, in this world where all of the different species (all with their own customized living are which makes for some amazing visual gags and moments, are all sentient, what exactly do the predators eat? Have they all gone vegetarian? Do they eat reptiles and fish?

Anybody?

I’m just going to have to see it again then.

My Score- SEE IT NOW 

What Happened to The Good Dinosaur?

A Pixar film is about to bomb.

Since that’s a sentence I never thought I’d type (Up there with “If Sandler doesn’t win the Oscar then he’s been robbed!” ) I’m going to type it again.

A Pixar movie is about to bomb.

And no, it’s not  a Cars film.

The Good Dinosaur a film that cost 200 million dollars and took 6 years to make, has – at time of writing grossed less than 135 million dollars worldwide. (Note: in order for this film to break even it needs to take 500 million)

From the off, the signs were that The Good Dinosaur was in trouble. I flatter myself to be relatively in tune with what films are about to come out and to be honest, even I was barely aware of the film. The marketing budget appeared to be £8.37, meaning that none of my family or friends (when asked) even knew that there was a Pixar film coming out. (Note: apparently the marketing budget was 150 million dollars. I have absolutely  no idea where any of it went.)

But in this modern age a poor marketing campaign can be overcome via word-of-mouth, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc. And this film did get some pretty solid write ups currently sitting at 76% on Rotten Tomatoes  (Not from me, I rated it as POOR) But after a year in which Pixar reminded us of what it can do with the sublime Inside Out and coming after a slew of tolerable animated films such as Minions and Hotel Transylvania 2 this film just didn’t stand out. It wasn’t very inventive, it wasn’t well scripted, and it was very scary for its target audience of ankle biters.

Now I have no doubt that this film will eventually come good and make a profit. With DVD’s, television, merchandising and the like very few films stay flops for long. Also, this film has only been released in 59% of the possible worldwide market, although there are doubts about whether or not it will get a release in China which is the worlds second largest market.

Apparently the hope now is that this film will endure until mid Deecember making back its money in a marathon and not a sprint before the new Alvin and the Chipmunks film kills it off completely.

Finally, every studio releases a flop every now and then, and with a success rate of 15/16 Pixar isn’t really in any danger. Or is it?

 

 

The Good Dinosaur Review

Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Jeffrey Wright Jeffrey Wright
Poppa (voice)
Frances McDormand Frances McDormand
Momma (voice)
Maleah Nipay-Padilla Maleah Nipay-Padilla
Young Libby (voice)
Ryan Teeple Ryan Teeple
Young Buck (voice)
Jack McGraw Jack McGraw
Young Arlo (voice)
Marcus Scribner Marcus Scribner
Buck (voice)
Raymond Ochoa Raymond Ochoa
Arlo (voice)
Jack Bright Jack Bright
Spot (voice)
Peter Sohn Peter Sohn
Forrest Woodbush (voice)
Steve Zahn Steve Zahn
Thunderclap (voice)
Mandy Freund Mandy Freund
Downpour (voice)
Steven Clay Hunter Steven Clay Hunter
Coldfront (voice)
A.J. Buckley A.J. Buckley
Nash (voice)
Anna Paquin Anna Paquin
Ramsey (voice)
Sam Elliott Sam Elliott
Butch (voice)

Plot- An epic journey into the world of dinosaurs where an Apatosaurus named Arlo makes an unlikely human friend.

Review – It’s fair to say that the once untouchable Pixar has had a few quality control issues as of the last few years most of which I have avoided like relatives asking when i’m going to get a proper job. But, Inside Out  was legitimately amazing, so was it a blip on Pixars road to mediocrity or are they now back on top?

Blip

No, seriously, Inside Out was a blip, the seemingly last great work of a master because this… this… isn’t as bad as it could have been.

Not to say that it’s good, not by any stretch of the imagination. I went in half expecting some sort of Ice Age rip off, but this film did something far, far worse.

It’s trying to be this generations Land Before Time. 

And it isn’t. Not by a long shot.

Lets get the good out of the way first.

The backgrounds are some of the most beautiful that I’ve ever seen, and when the camera  pans over shots of just the backgrounds then you are truly reminded of why Pixar was once the undisputed master of CGI films.

It’s got some amazing moments, as well as some that traumatized younger members of the audience. So mum and dad, please be aware. I also liked some of the side-characters that the two main characters interact with.

But then we get to the main characters. And boy, did Pixar screw up there. For a start, they look really bad compared to the background. You know how FPS shooters have amazing skyboxes and really mediocre graphics? It’s the same here.

Also, this film should have been without dialogue. maybe a few grunts here and there but absolutely not words. And certainly not the dialogue given to the main dinosaur as he seems to only have 4 lines “Ma-ma” “Pa-pa” “I’m scared” And “I need to get home”

Also, Pixar seems to have picked up dream-works trick of getting celebrities to do the voice-work instead of actual voiceover artists. Which, inevitable means that the actual voicework is pretty mediocre. And of course, being Pixar, they refused to then mention any celebrities in the  advertising.

I mean the plot jogs along pleasantly enough, but there’s no surprises, most adults will have worked out the whats going to happen within about 5 minutes and dozed off after 15, whilst the children will be too traumatized after 30 to even notice that this is a story they have head 1000 times before.

Summing up, amazing backgrounds and some good moments fail to make up for a predictable plot with boring characters speaking woeful/poorly delivered dialogue.

My Score- Poor 

 

 

Should VHS make a comeback?

I recently attempted to introduce my better half to the original Star Wars trilogy via the wonders of a VHS box-set (long story, don’t ask.) And, as I did so I began to feel nostalgic for the days of the video cassette.

The weight of it, the satisfying clunk noise it made as the video player decided whether or not is was going to work today, the anticipation of where exactly in the film it was going to stop and how long it would have to be rewound for. It was all a much more satisfying experience that getting the DVD out of its case, placing it in the drawer and the disk going back to the beginning like it always did. This VHS experience was unique to me.

And Vinyls are coming back into fashion now! Hipsters have decided that they love the crackle that comes from the record as apposed to the sterile sound of a CD and I assume there are some DJ’s out there still using records as opposed to music playlists.

And so, with popcorn at the ready we settled down adownloadnd pressed play.

And…. it was awful.

The picture quality was grainy, the sound kept dropping in and out and it kept freezing up every two seconds! After five minutes I was yearning for the picture and sound quality of the DVD.

We gave up after 35 minutes and wound up watching JFK instead.

And what did I learn? That some things belong in the past.

The very distant, never to actually be experienced in the real world ever under any circumstances past.

Hotel Transylvania 2 Review

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Adam Sandler Adam Sandler
Dracula (voice)
Andy Samberg Andy Samberg
Jonathan (voice)
Selena Gomez Selena Gomez
Mavis (voice)
Kevin James Kevin James
Frankenstein (voice)
Steve Buscemi Steve Buscemi
Wayne (voice)
David Spade David Spade
Griffin (voice)
Keegan-Michael Key Keegan-Michael Key
Murray (voice)

Plot- Dracula and his friends try to bring out the monster in his half human, half vampire grandson in order to keep Mavis from leaving the hotel.

Review- Were I to damn this movie with the faintest praise imaginable, I would say that it’s better than Pixels. And that for an Adam Sandler film it has something approaching a plot and consistent characters, as well as decent animation.

And since this is probably the last time I’ll tangle with Sandler before he slithers off to pollute Netflix, I should probably just say that you shouldn’t see this film under any circumstances. Ever. Not one second or frame.

But since a 78 word review looks like bad form I should probably expand on why this wretched thing should be staked through the heart.

Lets start with the basics and move on. These characters are nothing like their literary or previous film incarnations. Aside from a slight physical resemblance, characters that were (originally)  tortured, misunderstood or just plain evil are now all wisecracking… things that won’t inspire children to track down the original novels/films.

The voice acing is weak and uninspired. This is to be expected, since instead of hiring trained voice actors to the roles, Sandler instead got loads of his mates in. Now, I could understand this if they mentioned this fact in the advertising a la Dreamworks but they can even be bothered to do that.

The jokes aren’t funny, the characters aren’t developed, the jokes aren’t funny, even at 89 minutes this feels desperately padded and did I mention it wasn’t funny?

And then we get the big one, the moral of the film. At first the film seems to be going for the traditional, accept everybody/be yourself kind of moral that we get in a lot of films. Then (SPOILER WARNING) at the end, it switches the moral to “A woman’s opinion isn’t valid. She should just do as the men in her life tell her.” I wish I was joking.

And the plot holes, my god, the plot holes. To pick just one- If a human (mortal) marries a vampire (immortal) then one will age and die within 70 years and the other will live on forever. And yet no-where is this discussed. Or even mentioned.

And I’ll quite happily do without the threatened sequel to this thing please.

Short on jokes, characters or any sense of the history behind these monsters of legend, what can I say other than

My Score- Fire 

Where did all the good films go?

I’ve started to look towards my end of year lists and have come to a realization.

This year has been awful for films.

I mean it! Looking over my reviews for the year, i’m struck by just how many films I’ve rated as “Poor” or “If Nothing Else,” I mean I wasn’t expecting every film to be awesome but I was hoping for more than this. Almost all of the big films have been huge CGI set pieces that I’ve forgotten not long after uploading the video and even the smaller films have been disappointing, staying within their comfort zones and not trying anything new or exciting.

Partly this is my own fault, there are on average 20 films released in the UK every week of which I normally see 2, giving me a viewing rate of about 10%, so I know that I’ve missed at least some good films. But that doesn’t solve my issue.

This isn’t to say I haven’t enjoyed this years films. Because I have, it’s just that now i’m starting to look at my year end lists, I’m starting to realize that my top ten list is pretty threadbare compared with the ample pickings for my bottom ten. (Does Fantastic Four even count as a film?)

Are my standards just too high? I expect a film to tell a story, have interesting characters, effect me in an emotional way, and so many films this year just haven’t done that. Looking ahead, there are very few films that i’m excited about (The Martian, In The Heart Of The Sea) but for the rest i’m either indifferent or just confused by their existence (Peter Pan doesn’t need a!”@!!@”! origin story!)

And that not forgetting the cash grabs, who’s reason to exist is purely to wring some more blood from a pretty dry stone. (looking at you Hunger Games and Transporter)

But actual films? Good, well made, thought out films? Where are they? How do I get them to come back? And, would you lot mind if I just a did a bottom 20 and skipped the top ten this year?