Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Lego Batman Movie (2017)

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Image is property of Warner Bros, Warner Animation Group and RatPac Entertainment

The Lego Batman Movie – Film Review

Cast:  Will Arnett, Rosario Dawson, Michael Cera, Ralph Fiennes, Zach Galifianakis

Directors: Chris McKay

Synopsis: With The City of Gotham under attack from the schemes of the Joker, Batman must fight to defeat him, but must also deal with the young boy he has inadvertently adopted.

Review: “Always be yourself, unless you can be Batman, ALWAYS be Batman.” A saying that has been around for a few years now it would seem, and one that definitely rings true today. Given the phenomenal success of 2014’s The Lego Movie, of which Batman incidentally played a crucial role, a sequel was absolutely inevitable, but that is not this film. Yet the decision to make a spin off focusing on Batman absolutely made sense, given that Batman has enjoyed enormous popularity, hence the very sound advice, “Always be Batman.”

Batman of course has been an ever present in popular culture, from those ridiculously camp early Adam West years, to the Tim Burton/Michael Keaton era, and back to the ridiculous and frankly awful Joel Schumacher years, before thankfully being revived by one Christopher Nolan, who opted for the more dark and gritty take on the character, which Zack Snyder has since followed. History has shown that the comedy take on the character usually fails in miserable fashion, but thanks to a franchise that has also remained very dominant down the years, this of course being Lego, it demonstrates perfectly that this bit more light hearted approach can work if done in the right manner.

Right off the bat (pun absolutely intended!) even if you weren’t aware of this, you would get the impression that the team that worked on the Lego Movie has had some influence on the script. Though Lego Movie writers and directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were not involved, the films share a similar sense of humour. The jokes are more often than not great, you will find yourself laughing a lot in more than a few scenes. Gleeful pops are aimed at Marvel and some of DC’s own properties too, there are certainly no prisoners with this Batman. There are some great life lessons for the kids too, whilst the adults can enjoy all the cool little Easter eggs that can be found, old and new Batman alike, there is something for everyone.

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A lot of this is down to Will Arnett’s utterly tremendous voice work as the titular character. He emits this rather gruff growl whether he’s in Batman mode or just Bruce Wayne mode, although it’s not quite a ridiculous as the one Christian Bale occasionally used when he was in the cape and cowl. He’s ably assisted by Rosario Dawson as the spirited Barbara Gordon and Ralph Fiennes in a brilliant turn as the trusted butler Alfred. Michael Cera as the young kid that Bruce adopts can come across as a bit annoying at first but he earns his stripes as Batman’s trusty sidekick, and Zach Galifianakis gives a very interesting take on the Clown Prince of Crime.

The plot for the most part keeps moving along forward pretty neatly, but there are a couple of places where the plot does lose a bit of steam. However these are usually only momentary lapses. Villains are an essential ingredient of comic book movies and a great deal of them are unleashed, not just from DC Comics, but from, oh, SO MANY areas of popular culture, and while villain overload has been the kiss of death of certain superhero movies of the past, it only adds to joy and entertainment of the movie in this instance. If this were live action, it could and probably would borderline ridiculous, but here it’s just ridiculously entertaining.

No matter how many times he’s represented on screen, be it in animated, live action or Lego form, one thing remains pretty clear, Batman’s popularity among audiences will likely never diminish or waiver, and even if certain pieces of work do tarnish the legacy of the character. Batman is a staple of superhero culture that has stood for decades now, and with this film now under his belt too, it will only boost his popularity. The Dark Knight truly does rise to epic proportions.

Relentlessly funny, with some great jokes combined with terrific animation and voice work, all matches made in Lego Heaven for the Caped Crusader.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Tangled (2010)

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Image is property of Walt Disney Animation Studios

Tangled – Film Review

Cast:  Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy

Directors: Byron Howard and Nathan Greno

Synopsis: Rapunzel is a princess with extraordinary long hair who has been abducted by an evil witch, and raised in a tower, forbidden to go outside. Until one day she defies this rule, and experiences the world for the very first time.

Review: Whenever you sit yourself down for an animated film from Disney Animation Studios, you usually know what you’re in for. Musical numbers, great animation, and some well developed characters that you just want to root for, as well as an antagonist to boo and hiss it, as if you were at a pantomime. For their 48th animated adventure, check, check, check and check! Disney is well known for its princess stories, but what sets this princess apart is her remarkably long hair, that has magical healing powers. The ensuing adventure is familiar-ish territory, princess meets handsome man and they go on an adventure. Is this a problem? No, not at all, because it’s the usual magical brilliance that you expect from Disney.

Originally set to be called Rapunzel, but wisely changed to be the more gender neutral Tangled. The film focuses, as you might expect on the character of Rapunzel, the rather long haired princess in question. Taken from her biological parents shortly after she’s born by an evil witch, who uses her magical hair to stay youthful and beautiful. She is kept locked in a tower by said evil witch who has Rapunzel believe she is her actual mother. Until the mysterious and narcissistic Flynn (Levi) comes along and the opportunity presents itself for Rapunzel to leave her confinement and the chance for her to see something she has been dying to see ever since she was a child. Despite Flynn’s preening of sorts, he’s a man who clearly loves himself, but before long you will find yourself rooting for him as he joins Rapunzel on their adventure, with the usual combination of musical moments and emotional moments with characters you are absolutely invested in, from Rapunzel to Maximus, a horse who is quite the badass, and has quite the appetite for apples.

The chemistry between Rapunzel and Flynn is very strong and well realised, with the voice work from Moore and Levi excellent in bringing these characters to life. With Rapunzel, she her many locks of magical hair and lots of character despite spending, well pretty much her entire adult life confined to her tower. Flynn is of course the handsome, mischievous crook, who she uses as an opportunity to break free of her confinement. Both characters go on an emotional journey and their character development is very strong and excellently realises. With Disney you almost expect great music and they provide this once again with some superb tunes. Also well developed in her evil ways is Mother Gothel who has a few moments where she takes centre stage, and Murphy brings her to life tremendously well.

No one really does Princess films quite like Walt Disney Animation Studios, and here they produced another super hit to add to their remarkable collection of stellar animated films. With each Prince4ss film they tackle, the studio always manages to hit all the familiar tropes, that they have become well know for. However, they all manage to be wholly original and unique in many ways. In this instance, magical hair, a badass horses, great music, likable characters and oh yeah, beating up intruders with frying pans. What more could you ask for in a Disney movie?

The Mouse House brings the magic again with  its fiftieth motion picture, with a great story, terrific music and characters you genuinely have a connection with.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

John Wick (2015)

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Image is property of Summit Entertainment, Thunder Road Pictures, 87Eleven Productions, MJW Films and DefyNite Films

John Wick – Film Review

Cast:  Keanu Reeves, Alfie Allen, Michael Nvqist, Adrianne Palicki, Bridget Moynahan, Dean Winters, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo, Willem Dafoe

Directors: Chad Stahelski and David Leitch

Synopsis: John Wick is a former hitman who after falling in love seeks to leave the profession behind. After a brutal attack by some gangsters that takes those closest to him, he decides to suit up and take revenge.

Review: Cinema is not exactly short of complete badasses who can and will come after you, and kill you without mercy should you mess with them. The likes of James Bond, Ethan Hunt and Jason Bourne, or the Bride from the Kill Bill movies are a few names that might come to mind. Yet back in 2015, another name was added to that list of characters, who you dare not cross, this man’s name, is John Wick. Cross him at your peril, especially if you harm his pets, as he will rain a few hundred bullets in your direction.

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Keanu Reeves is no stranger to the action genre, what with The Matrix being arguably the most notable thing on his CV to date, and he’s a fitting choice to play this awesome badass hitman. He handles the stunts superbly well and as a protagonist, you just want to root for him and see him waste the bad guys. And, for first time directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, themselves former stunt men, they know and fully understand that you came here to see Wick waste some bad guys, and they certainly deliver the goods. The action is directed superbly well, and the stunt work is faultless. What’s more, there’s no shaky camera work of any kind. It’s all in the frame and all there for you to watch in all of its bloody glory as the bodies pile up.

Visually, the film is super stylish and everything is very well made, the lighting in some scenes is exquisite and it is edited together seamlessly. It is gripping stuff to watch, even if certain aspects of the plot are so paper thin. This is not an in depth character study, this is just a good old fashioned action flick, in which you throw popcorn in your face and enjoy the action. That being said, besides Wick, there’s not a great deal of character development, and there definitely could have been some more meat on the bones of these characters, their motivations, and why they do what they do.

The acting is functional from everyone involved except for Keanu of course, who stands out as a cut above the rest, as he should. But again, this is no Oscar bait movie driven by its screenplay, this is not what you came for. You come to see one man fight bad guys, and that is what you get. What’s more, with this fantastic introduction to this sort of hitmen underworld of hitmen hotels, bars and doctors etc might all sound ridiculous and dumb, but it most certainly is not! With Stahelski returning for the movie’s sequel and Leitch going off to direct the sequel to Deadpool, there’s plenty more to come from these two, and plenty more from Mr Wick too!

You walk into this film knowing what you’re about to see, and it’s nothing but damn glorious fun, with a terrific central performance from Keanu Reeves.

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Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

The Incredibles (2004)

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Image is property of Pixar Animation Studios and Disney

The Incredibles – Film Review

Cast:  Craig T Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L Jackson, Sarah Vowell, Spencer Fox, Jason Lee

Director: Brad Bird

Synopsis: After a public outcry, superheroes are forced to put away their capes and live in everyday society. However a deadly plan to wreak world havoc forces one super family to band together to help save the world.

Review: Largely thanks to the work of DC and Marvel, superheroes are currently enjoying a great boom in popularity in Hollywood at the moment. Yet back in 2004, the superhero fever hadn’t quite reached the level it enjoys at this moment in time. Nevertheless, it didn’t need to have the soaring popularity it currently enjoys for an idea about a superhero family, all with extraordinary abilities, in a world that has superheroes aplenty to gain traction. From an idea first spawned in 1993 by writer and director Brad Bird, after being brought on board the Pixar train that up to that point hit a home run with with all of its prior releases, and soaring critical praise, Bird’s superhero dream finally came to fruition, and soared spectacularly so.

Focusing on Robert Parr AKA Mr Incredible, a super strong superhero who after committing a selfless act of heroism leads to fierce criticism from the public and gives the government a great big headache, which ultimately forces the superheroes to relocate, and to become as they say “average citizens, average heroes.” So reluctantly, Bob settles down with wife Helen AKA Elastigirl who has the ability to stretch, and their three children, Violet who can create force-fields and turn invisible, Dash who has super-speed and Jack-Jack whose powers are somewhat undefined.

Bob is experiencing something of a mid life crisis, with a dead end career. This is until he has a chance to put on his mask and suit up once again, setting off a chain of events that lead to some super entertaining excitement from a studio that has almost always produced cinematic gold. Bird’s screenplay is witty, entertaining and slightly moving at times, with lots of gags aimed at adults for good measure, as one might expect from Pixar.

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Animated characters certainly have demonstrated in the past that they have the power to pull on the heartstrings of the audience and once again, Pixar nails this with flying colours, as it so often does. Bob is a character whom many could undoubtedly relate to, in terms of his career and his burning desire to put on his mask again, but not the cape, the cape must never be worn at all!

Each of the family members are well developed characters, and each absolutely gets their moment to shine, with tremendous voice work by all concerned, Bird himself lends his voice to the quite brilliant and eccentric Edna, yet Samuel L Jackson’s Frozone is in many ways the scene stealer, with some brilliant one liners and a fantastic exchange with his wife that surely ranks up there as one of the best scenes ever put to screen by Pixar.

Bird had animation experience after directing 1999’s The Iron Giant, and although that film suffered at the box office, his talent is undeniable. His script is matched by the film’s enthralling action sequences, whether its hero vs villain, or hero vs machine. It is faultless stuff and the detail on certain aspects such as the hair and the explosions is remarkable, almost as close to real life as it could get.

This pun probably has been mentioned in every review for this film ever written, but it really is incredible, and well recognised with the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, as well as one for Sound Editing, Throw in an excellent score by the ever excellent Michael Giacchino and you have all the ingredients to make a truly excellent Pixar film, and a studio that with this making it sixth big release, had six super hits, and only went from strength to strength.

The Incredibles really sets the standard for superhero movies, animated and live-action alike, with relatable characters, some great dialogue, and some truly enthralling action sequences.

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